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Monday, May 16, 2011

Sodomy II: Saiful says ‘thankful’ for judge’s decision

KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan is thankful for the High Court ruling today ordering Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to defend himself on the charge of sodomising him.
In an immediate reaction to today’s ruling by trial judge Datuk Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah, Saiful (picture), the complainant in the Sodomy II trial, said he hopes further trial proceedings will be carried out smoothly.
“I am thankful with today’s decision... I hope that the next stage of the trial will be carried out smoothly. Will keep on praying religiously, will be patient,” said Saiful on popular micro-blogging site Twitter.
Mohd Zabidin concluded that there was a prima facie case against Anwar, the 63-year old Pakatan Rakyat (PR) de facto leader, who is facing a second sodomy case charge in 13 years.
He was sacked as deputy prime minister and finance minister after the first case came to light in 1998.
“Prosecution proven all facts to define charge. Prima facie case made out against accused. Accused therefore called to enter defence,” said Mohd Zabidin today.
MORE TO COME

Osama bin Laden’s reported porn video stash: Propaganda?

By Laura Rozen
A stash of pornographic videotapes was among the "treasure trove" of computer files, video tapes and documents U.S. forces scooped up from the compound where Osama bin Laden resided in Abbottabad, Pakistan early this month, Reuters reports, citing current and former U.S. officials.
"The pornography recovered in bin Laden's compound ... consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on condition of anonymity," Reuters' Mark Hosenball and Tabassum Zakaria write.
The officials told Reuters, however, they did not know who at the compound "had acquired or viewed the materials," and weren't sure where in the three-story compound the material was found.
The reported discovery has provoked more than a little skepticism among chroniclers of the war against terrorism. It's not unusual, after all, for U.S. intelligence officials to float claims such as this to sully the image of jihadist piety maintained by bin Laden and his al Qaeda operation. The idea is to demoralize al Qaeda adherents who might otherwise pledge themselves to acts of vengeance such as today's bombing in Pakistan.
U.S. officials declined to comment, although one source, who insisted on anonymity, said that the report of the porn stash at the compound is true, and not an intelligence-engineered propaganda claim.
But Wired's Spencer Ackerman is not so sure:
If this is a CIA information operation — and how could it not be? — it's the greatest one of all time. In public, bin Laden is the pious, self-proclaimed vanguard of a violent Islamic uprising. Alone in his compound, he's beating it like it owes him cash. ...
Are the reports true? You'll have to be the judge.
The Reuters report cites three U.S. officials saying "the discovery of pornography is not uncommon in such cases."
One regional expert said whether true or not, the report could inflame tensions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Muslims may perceive it as an insult against them.
(Undated image from video seized from Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, released by the Defense Department on May 7, 2011: Department of Defense, File/AP Photo)

‘Datuk T’ ready to be charged for sex video, says Shazryl

Shazryl is confident the police will soon reveal the identity of the man in the sex video. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, May 16 — Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah has declared “Datuk T” is ready to face charges for showing a sex video of a man resembling Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, his confidence fuelled by the police’s recent confirmation of the recording’s authenticity.

Shazryl also expressed confidence the police would soon reveal the identity of the man in the video first shown on March 21, despite acknowledging the law does not require the identities of those appearing in pornographic films to be exposed.

“I believe the police will soon reveal the identity.

“Just give them a little time since their team just got back from the US,” he told The Malaysian Insider in an SMS from China.

Shazryl, the key protagonist behind the video’s exposure, also asked in the SMS for any information on when he would be charged in court.

Asked if this meant he was prepared to face legal action, he replied. “Yes, Dato T will all be in court when they charge us.”

He was referring to the “Datuk Trio” behind the video, namely him, former Malacca Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Thamby Chik and ex-Perkasa treasurer-general Datuk Shuib Lazim.

Shazryl had earlier promised more exposes on Anwar once it is revealed the PKR de facto leader is in the 21-minute sex video which features a fair-skinned woman, believed to be a foreign prostitute.

When pointed out however that the police had already declared they would not reveal the man’s identity unless compelled to do so, Shazryl reiterated that he was sure they would.

“As I had mentioned earlier, let’s give them a little time since they just got back from the US. I think they will make that announcement soon,” he said in another SMS.

On April 14, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar declared the video as authentic, likely proving claims that the man featured in the 21-minute recording was indeed Anwar.

Ismail had said the identity of the man was verified based on strong evidence obtained during investigations, although he declined to identify he man in the video as it could interfere with the on-going investigation.

The police were also reported to have sought the assistance of experts from the United States to study the authenticity of the controversial video.

On Friday, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Khalid Abu Bakar said that new findings have backed up earlier conclusions that the video had not been doctored.

“We have received the report from foreign experts and from the report it reaffirms our experts’ findings about the authenticity of the video... that it is authentic, and not edited.

“If the video is authentic, you can make your own assumptions,” he told reporters.

Khalid, however, said current legislation does not require people recorded in pornographic materials to be exposed or charged, reiterating that the police were only investigating the public screening and distribution of the video under section 292 of the Penal Code.

“If there is a need under the law [to identify the people in the video]... if the law requires us to disclose, then we will disclose,” he said.

The video first made headlines on March 21 after it was shown to selected media outlets at the Carcosa Seri Negara here by an individual identifying himself as “Datuk T”.

Two days after the screening, the trio of Shazryl, Abdul Rahim and Shuib came forward to reveal themselves collectively as “Datuk T”.

Following a police investigation into the screening, the trio claimed to have surrendered the only extant copy of the sex video to the police.

The unedited video had also been uploaded to video sharing website YouTube on April 28, but was taken down shortly after for violating the site’s terms of usage. Prior to that, two “teasers” of the clip had also been uploaded to the same site.

Shazryl has since taken a “sumpah laknat” or an oath to swear on Allah’s name, declaring that he had spoken the truth when alleging that Anwar is the man in the video.

His challenge to Anwar to do the same was however turned down.

Melihat ‘Pandi Kutti’ dalam kerangka ‘Interlok’ dan ‘Kamus Dewan’

Walaupun kedengaran jelek, frasa itu adalah panggilan manja dan mesra Anwar kepada Najib.COMMENT

Perkataan Tamil, “Pandi Kutti” tiba-tiba menjadi sebutan di seluruh negara dan ruang siber sejak belakangan ini. Saya membaca berita di Free Malaysia Today (8 Mei 2011) bahawa Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim menggunakan istilah/frasa itu semasa berucap di Dewan Hamzah, Klang pada malam 7 Mei.

Perkara pertama yang saya lakukan adalah merujuk Kamus Pelajar Bahasa Malaysia (DBP: 1988) untuk mencari perkataan “Pandi Kutti”. Saya tahu makna frasa/perkataan itu dalam Bahasa Tamil tetapi saya juga teruja untuk mengetahui kalau-kalau ia sudah diterima pakai dalam konteks “bahasa Melayu, budaya Melayu” dengan konotasi yang berbeza.

Hal ini penting kerana portal rasmi Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia sudah menegaskan: “Sehubungan dengan perkataan-perkataan dalam bahasa Melayu yang terdapat dalam kamus-kamus bahasa Melayu terbitan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, ia hendaklah dilihat dari kaca mata bangsa Melayu, dan bukan dari kaca mata bangsa lain”.

Maka, tentulah saya tidak mahu masuk campur urusan “bangsa Melayu” jika “Pandi Kutti” adalah sebahagian daripada “perkataan-perkataan dalam bahasa Melayu yang terdapat dalam kamus-kamus bahasa Melayu terbitan Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka”.

Terbukti bahawa “Pandi Kutti” bukan perkataan bahasa Melayu; sekali gus tidak termasuk dalam kerangka “hendaklah dilihat dari kaca mata bangsa Melayu, dan bukan dari kaca mata bangsa lain” seperti dicadangkan oleh Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia.

Saya nyatakan demikian kerana Umno Online pada 9 Mei melaporkan bekas Mufti Wilayah Persekutuan, Profesor Datuk Dr Muhammad Yusoff Hussein sebagai berkata bahawa “tindakan Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim menggelar Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak sebagai ‘pandikutti’ atau anak babi adalah tindakan orang tidak berpelajaran”.

Turut dilaporkan bahawa “Islam melarang sama sekali perbuatan menggelar seseorang dengan panggilan yang mengaibkan” dan “Anwar sepatutnya tahu Islam melarang keras menggelar seseorang itu dengan panggilan yang tidak baik kerana ianya [sic] adalah satu penghinaan dan menjatuhkan maruah”.

Apa yang menarik, FMT pada 9 Mei melaporkan Setiausaha Agung Umno, Tengku Adnan Mansor sebagai berkata, “Anwarlah Pandi Kutti, bukan Perdana Menteri saya” pada sidang media di ibu pejabat Umno di Kuala Lumpur.

Umno Online pada 9 Mei pula melaporkan Ketua Pemuda Umno, Khairy Jamaluddin berkata, “Cercaan Anwar yang melabel Perdana Menteri sebagai ‘pandikutti’ atau anak babi, sebagaimana yang dilapor oleh Free Malaysia Today pada 8 Mei lalu, adalah suatu yang biadap dan sangat kurang ajar” serta “ia menampakkah kejelekan serta kedudukan beliau (Anwar) yang kini amat terperosok dan tertekan dengan permasalahan peribadi serta perbalahan yang meledak sesama anggota pembangkang”.

Di sebalik segala “kekecohan” itu, Perdana Menteri pula dengan tenang mengatakan bahawa kata-kata yang diucapkan oleh Anwar “has not caused me to lose sleep” (Bernama, 10 Mei 2011).

Saya tidak mahu masuk campur dalam hal-hal dalaman mana-mana parti politik kerana bagi saya, parti-parti politik umpama sarkas yang seronok disaksikan dari luar; tetapi menjijikkan kalau kita masuk menyertai dan menjadi sebahagian daripadanya.

Manja dan mesra

Sebaliknya, saya mahu mengekalkan sikap apolitikal dan meneliti secara ringkas isu “Pandi Kutti” dalam kerangka “Interlok” dan “Kamus Dewan” kerana amat sesuai dan wajar dengan konteks Malaysia.

Sudah terbukti bahawa isu “Pandi Kutti” tidak boleh dilihat dalam konteks “bangsa Melayu” dan “bahasa Melayu” kerana perkataan/frasa itu tidak (belum) terkandung dalam Kamus Dewan.

Sebaliknya ia adalah perkataan/frasa Bahasa Tamil dan “hendaklah dilihat dari kaca mata bangsa Tamil, dan bukan dari kaca mata bangsa lain” sebagai meminjam pendirian Kementerian Pelajaran Malaysia.

Saya merujuk “Kamus Bahasa Tamil – Bahasa Melayu – Bahasa Inggeris” (Fajar Bakti: 1998) dan mendapat pengesahan bahawa “Pandi” (panri) adalah “sejenis binatang” iaitu “babi” atau “pig”. Maka, “Pandi Kutti” bermakna “anak babi” atau “piglet”.

Ternyata tidak ada apa-apa unsur penghinaan dalam frasa “Pandi Kutti”. Malah, kedengaran “manja” dan “mesra” apabila diucapkan oleh dua individu yang rapat – atau pernah rapat seperti bersaudara.

Untuk berlaku adil, saya menggunakan “Pandi Kutti” dan bukannya “pandi kutti” kerana saya masih ingat akan pelbagai hujah yang digunakan (antara lain) oleh Datuk Zainal Abidin Borhan dari Gapena, Profesor Teo Kok Seong dari UKM dan Raja Rajeswari Seetha Raman dari Institut Pendidikan Guru Malaysia Kampus Bahasa Melayu.

Dalam mempertahankan novel Interlok Edisi Murid (DBP: 2010), mereka mengatakan bahawa penggunaan perkataan “P****” adalah tindakan memuliakan kaum India kerana menggunakan huruf besar “P”, sekali gus menjadikannya ‘kata nama khas’ dan bukannya ‘kata nama am’.

Dalam konteks ini, sedangkan perkataan “P****” boleh diterima dengan gembira – serta dipertahankan bermati-matian oleh kelompok akademik, persatuan penulis dan NGO – saya tidak nampak mengapa panggilan manja “Pandi Kutti” oleh Anwar kepada Najib dianggap menyentuh sensitif.

Jangan kita lupa (atau buat-buat lupa) bahasa Anwar tidak memanggil seluruh kaum dengan panggilan “manja dan mulia” itu tetapi khusus kepada seorang individu yang (pernah) rapat dengannya.

Bagi Khairy yang melihat penggunaan frasa “Pandi Kutti” sebagai “kejelekan” amat wajar segera bertemu Presiden Pena, Mohamed Saleeh Rahamad untuk memenangkan fikiran.

Dalam isu Interlok Edisi Murid, pensyarah Jabatan Pengajian Media, Universiti Malaya itu berpendirian bahawa “Biarpun ada unsur kejelekan pada sesetengah tempat, pengakhirannya membawa kepada pemahaman bersama bahawa perpaduan antara kaum penting” (Berita Harian, 20 Disember 2010).

Berbalik kepada pandangan Datuk Dr Muhammad Yusoff (Umno Online, 9 Mei 2011) yang menegaskan bahawa “Islam melarang sama sekali perbuatan menggelar seseorang dengan panggilan yang mengaibkan” dan “sepatutnya tahu Islam melarang keras menggelar seseorang itu dengan panggilan yang tidak baik kerana ianya [sic] adalah satu penghinaan dan menjatuhkan maruah”.

Betapa baik jika beliau telah tampil mengeluarkan pandangan dan hujah yang sama sebaik kontroversi novel Interlok Edisi Murid bermula pada akhir Disember 2010 untuk menyedarkan orang ramai bahawa “Islam melarang sama sekali perbuatan menggelar seseorang dengan panggilan yang mengaibkan”.

Uthaya Sankar SB suka membaca dan menulis. Paparan mindanya boleh dilayari di www.uthayasb.blogspot.com

Hisham says newspapers should be given leeway

By Melissa Chi
The Malaysian Insider
May 15, 2011

SUNGAI BESAR, May 15 — Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said today that newspapers should be given leeway despite stringent laws under the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA).

“The law is very clear but everybody, every paper has crossed that line one time or another. This is probably Utusan’s time. Before this there was China Press, Nan Yang, I know, because it happened under my watch.

“But in such situations, we give them a little space. We find which is really news that can benefit us as one race, 1 Malaysia but they shouldn’t go past the boundaries which touches on sensitive issues such as religion and race,” he told reporters after launching the Sungai Besar Umno division meeting here at Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Cina Sin Min.

The latest controversy to rile the country’s dominant majority was the “Christian Malaysia” report first published by the Umno newspaper Utusan Malaysia on May 7.

The Umno daily 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.

Utusan Malaysia’s report had been based entirely on unsubstantiated blog postings by two pro-Umno bloggers, alleging that the leaders had taken a pledge during the gathering promising to take over Putrajaya, abolish Islam as the religion of the federation and install a Christian prime minister.

The paper also published a grainy photograph showing what it described as a secret pact between the DAP and pastors at a hotel in Penang last Wednesday.

DAP and Christian leaders have since voiced their rage over the allegations and vehemently denied taking any part in such a pledge.

Hishammuddin said he wants to call the chief editors of every newspaper for a discussion.

“There are times when the Malay community is not happy with the reporting of the Chinese papers. And now the Chinese community are not happy with the reporting at Utusan.

“I think it is time now for us to get together and get the chief editors to tell me this change that is happening in the world that we cannot stop information from going across borders if it doesn’t go through the main papers, it will go through Facebook, it will go through the multimedia context and it will go through SMSes,” he said.

Hishammuddin said that he had met with chief editors individually but now, he wants “them as a whole to be responsible for their actions”.

“So this new landscape will require some internal soul-searching of the mainstream papers and this I will talk to all the papers across the board.

Hishammuddin to meet chief editors of newspapers
Malaysiakini
May 15, 11


Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein plans to meet chief editiors of newspapers on the reporting of sensitive issues.

He said he wanted to ensure that the chief editors exercised caution in the reporting of sensitive issues on race and religion and that they understood they would be held responsible for their action.

Commenting on a report published in Utusan Malaysia recently alleging that certain groups wanted to make Christianity the official religion, Hishammuddin (right) said:

“There are times when the Malay community were unhappy with the reporting of the Chinese newspapers (on sensitive issues) and vice versa.

“It is the responsibility of the chief editors to ensure that their organisations do not go beyond the boundaries set in reporting such issues,” he told reporters after opening the Sungai Besar Umno division delegates meeting near Sabak Bernam.

Despite the clarity of the country’s publishing laws and guidelines, he said, “every paper has crossed the line (in reporting sensitive issues) one time or another. Now it’s Utusan (which has crossed the line).”

Hishammuddin said that it was difficult to control the flow of information on sensitive issues, especially with the emergence of the new media.

“If it (the information) does not make it to the mainstream papers, it will somehow or rather get to the new media like online news portals, Facebook and the short messaging service,” he said.

Referring to the acid splashers who have been terrorising women in the Klang Valley, Hishammuddin urged people with information on the suspects to come forward and help police with their investigation.

He said he was making the appeal on behalf of the police who had so far received 22 reports on women being splashed with acid.

- Bernama

Ban wi-fi, mobile phones in schools: European body

Mobile phones and computers with wi-fi connections pose a risk to health and should be banned from schools, a committee of the influential Council of Europe has asserted.
The committee had examined evidence that the technologies have “potentially harmful” effects on humans, and concluded that immediate action was required to protect children.
See reports from the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.
This is an extract from the resolution adopted by the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs of the Council of Europe:
4. While electrical and electromagnetic fields in certain frequency bands have wholly beneficial effects which are applied in medicine, other non-ionising frequencies, be they sourced from extremely low frequencies, power lines or certain high frequency waves used in the fields of radar, telecommunications and mobile telephony, appear to have more or less potentially harmful, non-thermal, biological effects on plants, insects and animals as well as the human body even when exposed to levels that are below the official threshold values.
5. As regards standards or threshold values for emissions of electromagnetic fields of all types and frequencies, the Assembly recommends that the ALARA or “as low as reasonably achievable” principle is applied, covering both the so-called thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation. Moreover, the precautionary principle should be applicable when scientific evaluation does not allow the risk to be determined with sufficient certainty, especially given the context of growing exposure of the population, including particularly vulnerable groups such as young people and children, which could lead to extremely high human and economic costs of inaction if early warnings are neglected.
6. The Assembly regrets that, despite calls for the respect of the precautionary principle and despite all the recommendations, declarations and a number of statutory and legislative advances, there is still a lack of reaction to known or emerging environmental and health risks and virtually systematic delays in adopting and implementing effective preventive measures. Waiting for high levels of scientific and clinical proof before taking action to prevent well-known risks can lead to very high health and economic costs, as was the case with asbestos, leaded petrol and tobacco.
7. Moreover, the Assembly notes that the problem of electromagnetic fields or waves and the potential consequences for the environment and health has clear parallels with other current issues, such as the licensing of medication, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals or genetically modified organisms. It therefore highlights that the issue of independence and credibility of scientific expertise is crucial to accomplish a transparent and balanced assessment of potential negative impacts on the environment and human health.
8. In light of the above considerations, the Assembly recommends that the member states of the Council of Europe:
8.1. in general terms:
8.1.1. take all reasonable measures to reduce exposure to electromagnetic fields, especially to radio frequencies from mobile phones, and particularly the exposure to children and young people who seem to be most at risk from head tumours;
8.1.2. reconsider the scientific basis for the present electromagnetic fields exposure standards set by the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection, which have serious limitations and apply “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA) principles, covering both thermal effects and the athermic or biological effects of electromagnetic emissions or radiation;
8.1.3. put in place information and awareness-raising campaigns on the risks of potentially harmful long-term biological effects on the environment and on human health, especially targeting children, teenagers and young people of reproductive age;
8.1.4. pay particular attention to “electrosensitive” persons suffering from a syndrome of intolerance to electromagnetic fields and introduce special measures to protect them, including the creation of wave-free areas not covered by the wireless network;
8.1.5. in order to reduce costs, save energy, and protect the environment and human health, step up research on new types of antennas and mobile phone and DECT-type devices, and encourage research to develop telecommunication based on other technologies which are just as efficient but have less negative effects on the environment and health;
8.2. concerning the private use of mobile phones, DECT phones, WiFi, WLAN and WIMAX for computers and other wireless devices such as baby phones:
8.2.1. set preventive thresholds for levels of long-term exposure to microwaves in all indoor areas, in accordance with the precautionary principle, not exceeding 0.6 volts per metre, and in the medium term to reduce it to 0.2 volts per metre;
8.2.2. undertake appropriate risk-assessment procedures for all new types of device prior to licensing;
8.2.3. introduce clear labelling indicating the presence of microwaves or electromagnetic fields, the transmitting power or the specific absorption rate (SAR) of the device and any health risks connected with its use;
8.2.4. raise awareness on potential health risks of DECT-type wireless telephones, baby monitors and other domestic appliances which emit continuous pulse waves, if all electrical equipment is left permanently on standby, and recommend the use of wired, fixed telephones at home or, failing that, models which do not permanently emit pulse waves;
8.3. concerning the protection of children:
8.3.1. develop within different ministries (education, environment and health) targeted information campaigns aimed at teachers, parents and children to alert them to the specific risks of early, ill-considered and prolonged use of mobiles and other devices emitting microwaves;
8.3.2. ban all mobile phones, DECT phones or WiFi or WLAN systems from classrooms and schools, as advocated by some regional authorities, medical associations and civil society organisations;
8.4. concerning the planning of electric power lines and relay antenna base stations:
8.4.1. introduce town planning measures to keep high-voltage power lines and other electric installations at a safe distance from dwellings;
8.4.2. apply strict safety standards for sound electric systems in new dwellings;
8.4.3. reduce threshold values for relay antennas in accordance with the ALARA principle and install systems for comprehensive and continuous monitoring of all antennas;
8.4.4. determine the sites of any new GSM, UMTS, WiFi or WIMAX antennas not solely according to the operators’ interests but in consultation with local and regional government officials, local residents and associations of concerned citizens;

Blackout at KLIA disrupts flights

The incident resulted in several flight delays, and many baggages left behind.

KUALA LUMPUR: The KL International Airport (KLIA) suffered power breakdown this morning.
Although it was restored shortly after, the incident had resulted in several flight delays, according to a statement from Malaysia Airlines.

“Of the 42 scheduled flights, 13 were delayed and more than 300 bags were left behind due to the power interruption,” said the national carrier.

It said both Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad and Malaysia Airlines were currently working to sort out all baggage that were left behind during the interruption as well as making every possible effort to restore the flights and ensure minimal disruption to passengers’ flights.

The airline advised customers to check with the Malaysia Airlines office at their destination upon arrival in the event that they had missing baggage.

“Our representative offices would be able to advise on the arrival times or provide a status up-date of their baggage,” it added.

All passengers who have confirmed flights are advised to log onto the Malaysia Airlines’ website to check the status of their flights before making their way to the KLIA.
- Bernama

Religious issues not resolved by three PMs

Prime Minister Najib Razak's very responsible action in meeting both Muslim and Christian leaders separately has defused the unnecessary tension caused by the irresponsible journalism of a major national daily.

Failure to nip the problem in the bud by the authorities caused much uneasiness amongst the different communities.

Our young home minister (Hishammuddin Hussein) could have eased so much tension if he had made a statement calling for calm. He and a leading police officer instead cautioned those who were alleged to have brought the so-called 'Christianity as official religion' issue. This was done before conducting a thorough investigation.

Further, a surprise accusation by a veteran government leader Rais Yatim did not help.

Of late, the image of the Home Ministry and the Royal Malaysian Police leaves much to be desired. One gets the impression that they see in just one opposition leader a bogeyman, not realising that they are making him a hero to the new generation of young educated Malaysians.

As the tension increased with NGOs and other leaders 'lashing' at each other, the nation waited for the PM's timely involvement. The PM's assurance to look into outstanding religious issues is soothing.

But, although I welcome the assurance of the PM, it must be understood that most of the religious issues facing us today have not been resolved over a period where three PMs have been at our nation's helm. I sincerely hope that all parties show much greater understanding to reach a mutual agreement.

In my more than 50 years of religious and inter-faith activities I have not come across any non-Muslim NGO intending to change or replace the status of Islam in Malaysia. The Federal Constitution amply protects the rights of Islam and all other religions.
The writer is former president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST).

Deadly border clashes mark Israel's founding, Arab 'catastrophe'


Jerusalem (CNN) -- Clashes between pro-Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces erupted along Israel's borders Sunday, leaving at least 12 dead on a Palestinian mourning day marking the birth of the Jewish state.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried what he called "violent demonstrations" aimed at undermining Israel's existence.

"We hope for the peace and restfulness to return quickly, but no one should be mistaken -- we are determined to defend our borders and our sovereignty," Netanyahu said.

The conflicts broke out on "Nakba Day." Nakba -- Arabic for "catastrophe" -- marks the period when more than 700,000 Arabs were displaced from their homes during the fighting following the creation of Israel in 1948.

Two protesters were killed and 170 were wounded when fighting broke out in the Golan Heights area, the Syrian Arab News Agency said. And at least 10 were killed and 112 others were injured in clashes along the border with Lebanon, Lebanon's state news agency reported.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said troops fired on demonstrators who were illegally crossing the borders from Lebanon and Syria and damaging "security infrastructure." But Syrian and Lebanese officials criticized what they said were Israeli attacks, state media reported.

Israel's military accused Syria of inciting a crisis to divert attention from its own clampdown on anti-government demonstrations.Ten Israeli soldiers and three officers were injured in the clashes, the Israel Defense Forces reported.

The Israeli military also was attempting to push back demonstrators near the Gaza border, where medical sources said at least 70 people had been injured. Large clashes broke out between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians near a checkpoint that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem as well.

Some protesters hurled rocks, while Israel's military met approaching protesters with volleys of tear gas and rubber-bullet fire.

"We tried as best as we could not to hit anyone innocent," said Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman. "At the end of the day, we are protecting civilians here in Israel."

Israeli soldiers fired warning shots in the air after dozens of Syrians broke through the border fence and entered the Golan Heights, she said. Israel captured the region from Syria in 1967 and has occupied it ever since.

A statement from the military said forces "fired selectively towards rioters who were targeting security infrastructure and some were injured as a result."

"The Syrian regime (was) attempting to divert world attention from their brutal crackdown and to incite violence on the Israel-Syrian border," Leibovich said.

Reports from non-government organizations suggest between 700 and 850 people have been killed since the start of anti-government protests in Syria and "thousands of other people have reportedly been arrested," the United Nations said Friday.

"Syria condemns Israel's criminal practices against the people in Golan, Palestine and South Lebanon which resulted in a number of martyrs and injured people," the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported, citing an official with the country's foreign ministry.

Syrian state television Sunday showed protesters along the border using Palestinian flags to fan an injured victim lying on the ground.

Different accounts were emerging Sunday of clashes along the Israel-Lebanon border, where ambulances stood by as the steady crackle of gunfire filled the air.

Lebanon's state news agency said five people were killed and 56 others were injured. The Israeli military said troops fired warning shots after protesters attempted to breach a border fence.

It was unclear who fired the shots that killed and injured protesters. The Lebanese military was also deployed along the border, Leibovich said, and they were using live fire to stop protesters as well.

"The IDF sees the governments of Syria and Lebanon as responsible for any violence or provocation towards Israel that emanates from their respective territories," the Israeli military said in a statement.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri issued a statement supporting the Palestinian cause and criticizing what he said was Israel's "blatant and intolerable aggression" toward peaceful demonstrators Sunday.

"On this day, we cannot but strongly condemn Israel's continuous violation of human rights, and the fact that it faces peaceful movements of the Arab citizens in Lebanon, Golan and Palestine with killing and murder," he said.

The commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon "urged antagonists to exercise maximum self-restraint," Lebanese state media said.

Israeli military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai told CNN affiliate Channel 2 that dozens of men had broken through a crossroad and entered the Erez crossing near Gaza. The Israeli military was trying to push back demonstrators using live ammunition and anti-demonstration weapons, he said.

Medical sources reported that 70 people had been injured there, and 15 of them were in critical condition.

"The Nakba is the defining event in our history and collective struggle," Chief Palestinian Negotiator Saeb Erakat said in a statement released Sunday.

"Once Israel recognizes the right of return, Palestinian refugees must be given options and allowed to choose how they want that right to be implemented. Those options must be meaningful and must include return to their original homes and villages," he added. "For there to be a just and lasting peace, their choices must be respected."

New questions about the viability of the stalled peace process were raised this month in the wake of a formal reconciliation agreement between the two largest Palestinian factions: President Mahmoud Abbas' party, the West Bank-based Fatah, and the Islamist group Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Both Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist organization and have voiced strong opposition to the inclusion of the group in any unity government, demanding that it first renounce violence, recognize the state of Israel and abide by all previous agreements.

Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian lawmaker who helped negotiate the Fatah-Hamas agreement, said Sunday that the reconciliation signaled a "golden opportunity to make peace" between Israelis and Palestinians.

An Israeli government spokesman said Sunday that the country would continue to push for peace, but he said the agreement with Hamas was a significant stumbling block.

"It's clear that there's really a problem here if the Palestinian leadership has chosen Hamas as a partner," he said.

Barghouti criticized Israel's reaction to the news.

"I think this Israeli government unfortunately is working against the interests of its own people, against the interests of peace and against the interests of Palestinians," he said.

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