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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

PSM 6 charged for subversion

PSM members react after the release of six of their own from under EO detention. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — The six Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) members who were released from their Emergency Ordinance (EO) detention last Friday were charged today for possession of subversive documents.

The six, including Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Devaraj Jeyakumar, claimed trial to the charges under Section 43 and 48(1) of the Societies Act as well as Section 29(1) of the Internal Security Act.
Butterworth Sessions Court judge Kamal Hisham Mohd Tajuddin set bail at RM8,000 each, and fixed hearing for October 10.

The charge was also read to another 24 PSM supporters who were also arrested on June 25 in the run-up to the July 9 Bersih rally for attempting to revive communism and “waging war against the Agong.”

Although the two dozen were later released, the six were rearrested under the EO on July 2 before being released on the second day of Dr Jeyakumar’s hunger strike against his detention without trial.

The 30 people facing the two charges under the Societies Act could end up being jailed for a total of eight years and/or a combined fine of RM10,000 if convicted.

The detention of the six under the EO was met with loud protests from opposition figures and human rights activists, with regular candlelight vigils held nationwide calling for their release.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, already stung by severe criticism from international media over his administration’s handling of the July 9 rally for free and fair elections, was also pressed to “rethink” the use of EO by other Umno leaders who feared further damage to the ruling coalition.

EC denies permanent residents enlisted as voters

(Malaysiakini) The Election Commission (EC) has denied that permanent residents (PR) have been registered as voters, saying that the cases exposed yesterday could be a result of technical negligence on the part of National Registration Department (NRD).

NONE"I think the list of PR names in the NRD's website was the old one and not updated," said EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Yusof (left) in a text-message to Malaysiakini late last night.

Abdul Aziz was responding to the controversy that PRs are registered as voters in the latest draft supplementary electoral rolls and that their status had been 'upgraded' to that of citizens in just a few hours in the NRD online verification system.

He reiterated that only Malaysians can apply to register as voters.

"PRs are not allowed unless the Home Ministry has approved their application as citizens. Otherwise their application to register as voters will be automatically rejected by (the) EC screening system after checking their status with NRD Agency Link-Up System (Alis)," he said.

However, Abdul Aziz stressed that EC will continue to display the quarterly supplementary electoral rolls to the public for a period of one week.

NONE"The voters of that area can object (if they find any irregularity)," he added.
Yesterday morning, Malaysiakini reported that the NRD online verification system confirmed that a voter registered in the Selangor state constituency of Ijok was a PR-holder with a MyPR card.

However, a second check after four hours found that the voter named Mismah had become a citizen with a Mykad.

Members of PAS had informed Malaysiakini yesterday that they too had discovered the same situation. In their case, as many as 52 voters who were PR-holders in the morning had, by about 3pm yesterday, become citizens.

The 52 voters found in the latest draft supplementary electoral rolls, which is currently on public display, are registered in six parliamentary constituencies in Kuala Lumpur, which were won by the opposition in the last general election.
Malaysiakini has conveyed the matter to the NRD, but has yet to receive a response.
Continuously raised, consistently denied
According to election laws, the EC updates the electoral roll every three months with a quarterly draft supplementary electoral roll.

kuala terengganu by election voting day 170109 wahid checking electoral rollThe names of all newly-registered voters, voters who have changed their residential addresses and voters who have been removed from the electoral roll, make up the list in the draft supplementary electoral roll.

The roll is then displayed, usually for one week, for public scrutiny, before it is gazetted and used in the next election.

During the display period, members of the public can raise their objections to the names listed in the supplementary electoral roll.

Allegations of foreigners being illegally registered as voters to shore up the support of certain political parties have been continuously raised by the opposition parties, but consistently denied by the EC.

PR becomes citizen ... in four hours

(Malaysiakini)Less than four hours after Malaysiakini reported that a permanent resident (PR) holding a red MyPR card had been registered as a new voter, she has apparently become a citizen.
NONEShe now has a blue Mykad, based on a check of the same online system of the National Registration Department (NRD) where her identification details are recorded.

A check of the NRD online verification system twice - at 5.48pm yesterday and 11.30am today - had shown that a person named Mismah was a PR holder who had collected her MyPR card (No. 640704715238), an identification card for PR.

When the same number was entered into the Election Commission (EC) online verification system, Mismah appeared as a newly-registered voter.

However, another check with the NRD system at 3pm returned a shocking result - the same Mismah has become a citizen who has collected her blue Mykad.

Her status on the EC online verification system remained the same as at 3pm - a newly-registered voter in the latest supplementary electoral roll draft which is now on display for public scrutiny.

Despite the fact that non-citizens cannot be registered as voters, she was registered in the Ijok state constituency and Kuala Selangor parliamentary constituency, which are respectively held by Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid from PKR and Dzulkelfy Ahmad from PAS.

It appeared that Mismah's is not an isolated case.

Federal Territory PAS has claimed to have encountered 52 such cases when filing complaints with the Federal Territory EC today about the supplementary electoral roll draft.

Titiwangsa PAS division secretary Hedzer Ibrahim, who went to the EC office with other party leaders, said the first check with the NRD online verification system from 9-10am today showed that the 52 were PR who had collected their red MyPR card.

However, when the PAS team conveyed the result to the Federal Territory EC officials about 3pm, the latter checked the NRD database and found the 52 names to be those of citizens.

NONEHedzer then instructed the party technician to check the NRD online system again and obtained the same surprising result.

Fortunately PAS had screen-captured the result accessed this morning and a copy was given to Malaysiakini.

The 52 voters are registered in six parliamentary constituencies in Kuala Lumpur that were won by the opposition in the last general election.
These are Lembah Pantai (6 voters), Bandar Tun Razak (1), Segambut (5), Titiwangsa (28), Batu (8) and Wangsa Maju (4).

Malaysiakini is attempting to seek comment from the NRD.

Voter registration procedures

According to election laws, the EC updates the electoral roll every three months with a quarterly supplementary electoral roll draft.

The names of all newly-registered voters, voters who have changed their residing addresses and voters who have been removed from the electoral roll, are compiled in the supplementary electoral roll draft.

The roll is then displayed usually for one week, for public scrutiny, before it is gazetted and used in the next election.

NONEDuring the display period, members of the public can raise their objection to the names listed in the supplementary electoral roll.

Allegations of foreigners being illegally registered as voters to shore up the support of certain political parties have been continually raised by the opposition parties but constantly denied by the EC.

EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof has said that only citizens are allowed to be registered as voters, and that verification is done through the Agency Link-Up System (Alis) of the NRD.

Through the system, the EC cross-checks with NRD and employs 33 types of vetting before any application to become a voter can be approved.

“During the registration process, the applicant's identifier will be cross-checked with the NRD through Alis. The EC will only process the application if the details tally with the NRD records," he said.

“The system will automatically reject any fraudulent attempts to register a voter."

DAP warns of ‘dirtiest’ election ever

PR fears that BN will adopt a no-holds-barred approach to retaining power. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 — Pakatan Rakyat (PR) sounded the alarm today over its claims that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) is registering foreign workers and permanent residents as voters ahead of a general election expected by the opposition soon after the Hari Raya celebrations.

The opposition pact claimed to have evidence of permanent residents being given citizenships in exchange for votes, and will hold a press conference on the matter this afternoon.

DAP publicity chief Tony Pua said that news reports yesterday of permanent residents being granted voting rights are raising “alarm bells over the integrity of our national security systems because of the flagrant abuse and manipulation of our citizen data.”

“Based on the evidence of rampant cheating on the electoral rolls, the 13th general election will be the dirtiest election in Malaysia’s history,” he said in a statement this morning.

Sensing federal polls are near, PR has increased claims of electoral fraud this year and also backed the July 9 Bersih rally calling for free and fair elections, which saw tens of thousands pouring into the capital, only to be dispersed by police tear gas and water cannons.

In May, PKR women’s wing chief Zuraida Kamaruddin showed reporters a letter purportedly written by Hulu Selangor Umno to the home ministry asking for it to grant citizenship to a list of 2,000 foreign workers.

Both PAS and PKR have also claimed evidence of voters being registered in more than one constituency and dozens of voters said to be sharing the same address.

“The above cases prove beyond doubt that there is an unholy conspiracy between BN, the Election Commission as well as the National Registration Department to cheat their way to victory in the next general election,” Pua added.

The Petaling Jaya Utara MP also noted that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had called on BN to regain Selangor “at all costs”, and warned that if “intimidation and the buying of votes do not assure them of success, BN would blatantly cheat its way to victory.”

PKR vice president Nurul Izzah Anwar also said yesterday that it would be “immoral” for BN to call for elections before electoral reforms demanded by Bersih were met.

The ruling coalition suffered its worst ever electoral result in 2008, ceding five states and its customary two-thirds majority of Parliament after the opposition pact stormed to 82 federal seats.

‘Ku Li unlikely to join opposition’

Political analysts say the idea has some merit but there are too many obstacles and considerations to be taken into account for it to materialise.

PETALING JAYA: Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s stature is respected by both the Malays and the non-Malays but for him to take over as the opposition leader is most unlikely.

Political analysts while admitting that Tengku Razaleigh (Ku Li ) is the one man who has the credibility and respect to weld the opposition parties together, say it may however never materialise.

This speculation was started a few days ago by Independent MP Zahrain Mohamed Hashim of Bayan Baru.

He told Utusan Malaysia that the Pakatan leadership met Ku Li to convince him to head the opposition coalition for fear that Anwar Ibrahim may be jailed for sodomy.

“To even think of that… it’s not there yet. It is highly speculative at the moment but many things have to be in the right place.

“There have been rumours about Ku Li leaving Umno for a few years now but that has never taken place and he has stayed on. It will require something really dramatic for him to want to leave,” said Ooi Kee Beng, co-ordinator of Malaysia study programme at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

“Pakatan will also need to allow Ku Li to assume that position. There are so many other factors like Ku Li’s age for one,” he added of the politician who is in his seventies.

“We must also remember that for this to materialise, Anwar needs to be out of the ‘race’ legally,” he said.
However, Ooi added that Ku Li’s name is being bandied about as the Gua Musang MP was a Malay leader who was broadly acceptable by Malays and the non-Malays.

“PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang still requires a lot support. Ku Li can fill in the gap. He is someone of stature and moral standing and respected by Malaysians. He also has a record of being a competent statesman,” he said.

Crazy idea

Prof James Chin of Monash University said that the idea is “crazy” but admitted that Ku Li is one of the few politicians in the political scene capable of holding the opposition together.

“There are very few politicians in the Malaysian political landscape that can bring together DAP, PAS and PKR. Ku Li is one of the the few,” he said.

“He can be brought in to hold Pakatan together if Anwar is jailed. But I think all of this is just in anticipation of the election and thus people are pushing for this crazy idea,” he added.

Chin also shared Ooi’s sentiment saying that Ku Li’s political skills are “not questionable” but stressed that the switch is unlikely.

UiTM Assoc Prof Shaharuddin Baharuddin also brushed aside any such possibility because Ku Li is someone who “plays it safe”.

“Although he is a politician on par with Dr Mahathir (Mohamad), he is someone who likes to play it safe,” he said.

He also recalled that Umno once considered Ku Li as a replacement to former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, however that did not materialise.

He said Umno will be undermined if they lose Ku Li to the opposition.

“Ku Li is a giant, like Lim Kit Siang, Anwar, Mahathir. If Ku Li does leave, then it will undermine Umno and Najib will have to face another giant. I don’t think he can face so many giants,” he added.

Perkasa: It won’t happen

Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali is also confident that Ku Li will not accept the offer from the opposition.
Describing the Umno veteran as a wise statesman, he said the Kelantan prince will not falll into this political trap.

Ibrahim said if Pakatan was sincere, it should have made the offer earlier and not wait until Anwar is slapped with a sodomy charge.

“I know this effort (to rope in Ku Li) has been going on, but I am confident he won’t take up the offer. He (Ku Li) once told me that he is a Muslim, and his party is Umno,” he added.

The EO 6 freed – but are they free?

The six Parti Sosialis Malaysia members who were freed on 29 July after 33 days of solitary confinement are to be charged tomorrow at the Butterworth court. This comes as a complete surprise to many Malaysians.
Some of the detained PSM activists in a police truck

Considering the fact that all these six citizens were accused of very serious offences in the first instance and subsequently cleared, this news that they will be charged tomorrow is disturbing to Malaysians.

The police initially accused them of treason, which if proven would make them traitors to the country. This is a terrible accusation. One would think that without solid proof this accusation would not be levelled against them.

Mysteriously, this accusation simply disappeared into thin air. Next they were accused of posing a threat to public order. This, again, is a serious offence. Malaysians were anxiously waiting to be convinced in what ways these six were a threat to public order. Strangely, nothing was produced to support the police claim.

We understand that in the papers that were served on them they were accused of being prime movers of Bersih 2.0. But where is the evidence? Those responsible for the Bersih 2.0 ‘Walk for Democracy’ were 62 NGOs. No political party was part of the Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee. These six are members of a political party. How then could they have been prime movers of Bersih 2.0?

One accusation after another was resorted to in the vain attempt to incriminate the six. Some would even say that lie after lie were concocted to fix them. Unfortunately for the police, nothing worked for them.
Because the police were unable to produce an iota of evidence, they were compelled to release the six unconditionally.

As far as thinking Malaysians are concerned, that was the end of the story. The six were free to go without being further harassed. The state had nothing against them. The state had no hold over them.

This is why it is difficult to understand why the police would now want to charge them. Is this the vengeance of the state for failing to incriminate them?

P Ramakrishnan
President Aliran

Rights group: Sri Lankan war report is a whitewash

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — An international rights group on Tuesday called Sri Lanka's report on its 26-year civil war an attempt to whitewash growing evidence of alleged government atrocities.

Two years after the conflict ended, Sri Lanka conceded for the first time this week that troops caused civilian deaths in the last months of fighting against Tamil Tiger rebels. But its war report takes no responsibility for those deaths or for any alleged violations of the rules of war, New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

"This is just the latest and glossiest effort to whitewash mounting evidence of government atrocities during the fighting," the group's Asia director, Brad Adams, said in a statement.

Sri Lanka has been under increasing international pressure to allow for an independent investigation into alleged human rights violations by both troops and rebels, which a U.N. experts panel said could amount to war crimes.

The 161-page report released Monday by the Sri Lankan Defense Ministry reverses two years of government insistence that its troops adhered to a "zero civilian casualty policy."

However, it denies allegations that troops committed rights violations and executed prisoners, and says the civilian deaths were unavoidable given the magnitude of the fighting and ruthlessness of the opponent.

It does not say how many civilians may have been killed, though the U.N. panel has said tens of thousand perished in just the last months of the war.

The report says the government was forced to go to war after unsuccessful attempts to broker peace with the independence-seeking rebels, and that its military operation followed international laws while accusing the rebels of abuses including using civilians as human shields and conscripting child soldiers.

Human Rights Watch urged international governments to reject the "factually challenged report" and renew calls for government accountability, saying alleged rebel abuses did not justify violations by government security forces.

The government's report "is yet another feeble attempt to convince the world, despite growing evidence to the contrary, that government forces committed no crimes."

The troops are alleged to have deliberately shelled civilians in a no-fire zone, targeted hospitals and blocked food and medical aid, according to the U.N. panel.

Footage allegedly taken by front-line soldiers and aired on Britain's Channel 4 television appears to show blindfolded prisoners being shot at close range and the naked bodies of women being loaded into a tractor trailer.

Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa on Monday accused Channel 4 of "promoting baseless accusations whose sole purpose is to discredit Sri Lanka."

Hundreds of government supporters, including state-run media journalists, protested Tuesday in Colombo against the UK channel with placards reading "Stop Channel 4 dirty media tricks" and "Channel 4 — Enough is enough."


(ANSAmed) - ROME, AUGUST 1 - The local religious authority for the province of Kateef, in the north eastern part of the kingdom, has banned divorce during the month of Ramadan fasting, which began today, as the latter is meant to facilitate reconciliation among spouses.

''Allowing divorce during the month of Ramadan will not be possible'', Mohammed Al Jirani, a judge at the religious authority, told 'Al Quds Al Arabi' newspaper.

According to the judge, the body is convinced that the ban will help diminish separations, giving those with the intention to separate "more time to think".

The judge highlighted that ''some divorce cases, divorce being the worst of things allowed within the Muslim religion could end with the two people making up during Ramadan. This month, prayer activities which bring peace to the human being will increase".(ANSAmed).

Media Prima pulls out ‘racist’ Ramadan ads

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 — Media Prima Bhd was forced today to axe a controversial series of Ramadan commercials on its 8TV channel after heavy public criticism and claims that the advertisements were racist in nature.

Media Prima chief operating officer Ahmad Izham Omar announced the decision on micro-blogging site Twitter after coming under fire for the allegedly condescending tone of the public service announcements.

“Ok guys. We’re pulling out the ads. Thank you very much for your concern,” he wrote at 3.40pm today.
Ahmad Izham then appeared to make light of the matter by changing the topic just seven minutes later.
“And now to more important things... Does a horn section sound better with 4 trombones? Or would just 3 trombones be enough?” he wrote.

The former 8TV chief executive had earlier tried to deflect growing criticism by asking people to “chill” and not to “overanalyse” the commercial, which advises non-Muslims how to behave during Ramadan.

Released as a public service announcement on 8TV, the three commercials depict a socially-inept “Chinese” girl eating in public, wearing revealing clothing and being loud and obnoxious during the Muslim fasting month.

The advertisements then suggest that non-Muslims refrain from such behaviour while in public, urging them to “please understand and respect the significance of Ramadan”.

Media Prima previously attracted flak from Muslims last year for airing a Hari Raya commercial with alleged Christmas overtones on TV3, another channel in its stable which also includes ntv7 and TV9.
Like 8TV’s Ramadan commercials, the Hari Raya advertisement was taken off the air after it stirred a storm of protests online.

Prior to that, 8TV was fined RM50,000 by the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) for airing an advertisement by Danish beermaker Carlsberg during the Euro 2004 championships.

Ex-EO detainee: My 34 days of solitude

PSM's Choo Chon Kai shares his thoughts and feelings when he was detained under the Emergency Ordinance and placed under solitary confinement.
PETALING JAYA: He was kept in solitary confinement for 34 days, every detail of his life was brushed with a finetooth comb and he had to endure hours of daily interrogation.

But Emergency Ordinance (EO) detainee Choo Chon Kai has not been cowed by his ordeal. Instead, it has strengthened his resolve to be a more dedicated social activist.

The forced isolation has also brought out the humourous side of the 33-year-old Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) central committee member.

“They were asking me so many details of my life, perhaps they want to help me write my autobiography,” he said.

Choo said he used his days and hours of solitude as a retreat and to reflect on life. He even said that he looked forward to meet his Special Branch interrogators.

“There were times, at night, when the loneliness was unbearable because there’s not a single person to talk to. When I meet my interrogators in the morning, I was then able to assure myself of reality, that I’m still alive and conscious and not crazy,” he said.

Choo was among the six PSM members who were re-arrested and detained under the Emergency Ordinance 1969 without trial when their 24 comrades were released on July 2.

All 30 of them were first arrested in Penang on June 25 on suspicion of “waging war against the King”. The police had justified the EO detention by saying the six were involved in “foreign elements” and “had subversive tendencies”.

The six EO detainees were released last Friday after languishing in solitary confinement for 34 days – six days in police remand when first arrested, followed by 28 days under the EO.
“They gave me everything, except my freedom,” said Choo when asked to summarise his experience. He said the cops were actually quite soft in their approach, adding that the police on the street should be more polite like that.
War against the King?
Initially he was worried when accused of “waging war against the King”.
“I was shocked when told of the first charge under Section 122. Then when they used the Emergency Ordinance, I told myself ‘Okay, so they’re finally using the EO now’.
“Then after thinking to myself about how they don’t have anything against us, I relaxed and kept calm all the time, I didn’t fight back. Just cooperate, I thought,” he said.
Choo said he mentally prepared himself for the worst case scenario: two years in Kamunting; so he was pleasantly surprised when he was released last week.
Choo was first held in Penang in a small confined cell which he described as “very warm” and said the rooms during EO detention were actually slightly better.
He said during the detention in Penang, he was questioned by three or four officers from the special branch division as well as the criminal investigation department.
“They kept asking about Bersih: are we going, how are we campaigning, what was our plan, and why were there communism t-shirts. But we were not really the Bersih organisers, they got the wrong people,” he said.
Choo said he had nothing to hide and even told the police that he fully supported Bersih and would be there if he wasn’t detained.
“They just kept saying ‘Bersih is a threat to public order we cannot let people get in’,” he said.
Choo said there was drama when they were released and re-arrested on July 2 by plainclothes policemen but all he was worried about was the Bersih rally.
“At that time, when they used the EO, I worried it was going to be a major crackdown on Bersih rally supporters and leaders. I was worried that it (Bersih rally) won’t happen. But before I was re-arrested, I managed to tell my friends who saw me that they have to be there,” he said.
Choo said that he believed the police were simply using all sorts of “scare tactics” but these tactics didn’t work on the PSM EO6, as they are now known.
“We are not wrong. If you say that we are against BN government means we’re against the King…then that’s an insult against the King,” he said.
Choo, who only got to meet his detained PSM colleagues when they changed clothes or were brought out blindfolded, said the EO detention was much better than the police detention in Penang as they had soap and toothbrushes and two sets of lock-up clothes
“During the first detention, I didn’t brush my teeth for a week!” he said.
Choo said a normal lunch consisted of rice with fried fish, curry chicken and vegetables. On the types of questions they asked , Choo said it covered almost every minute detail of his life.
“At first it was very tense questioning. There was a team of interrogators, four of them, and they asked me about my involvement in my university days, my involvement in Suaram and PSM ideologies. At that point, they asked very little about Bersih,” said Choo.
Choo, who was born and raised in Penang, is a Universiti Sains Malaysia chemical science graduate and has been in student activism since his university days.
A one-semester suspension from studies when he was found wearing and selling anti-ISA badges in 2001 spurred him to further his activism instead of deterring him from politics.
The former Suaram Penang coordinator is also involved in helping local communities, especially plantation workers. He joined PSM in 2005 and worked for Dr Michael D Jeyakumar as his assistant in 2008.
Cold War mentality
Choo’s father passed away 13 years ago and his mother is retired but earns pocket money by doing odd jobs at a factory. His younger brother is a storekeeper in a factory.
During detention, Choo said that interrogators tried to change his ideologies but it hardly worked.
“Basically they said our actions bring disturbances to the country.They repeatedly advised me ‘You get so little here doing politics, why don’t you find a better life, get married?’” said Choo.
Choo also said the police had tried to ‘divide and conquer’ them by telling another detainee that Choo himself was untrustworthy.
“They say all sorts of things just to cause distrust among detainees. I think they used such tactics to get information,” he said.
Choo was also asked why he, as a Chinese, would want to join PSM.
“I joined them because I see good work done by the PSM and my race never mattered. I was really moved by their work with plantation workers and my reward, although not big, was the satisfaction of changing people’s lives that is better than money,” he said.
The focus of questionings also brought police to Choo’s overseas trips. They asked if he had ever been to the Southern Thailand to meet ex-communists.
“But I only went to Bangkok for a holiday,” he said.
Southern Thailand is now home to former leaders of the Communist Party of Malaya who gave up their struggle after inking a peace pact with the Malaysian government in 1989.
The police had seized T-shirts depicting ex-communist leaders and had accused PSM of seeking to revive communism.
Choo said interrogations during EO detention was on average six hours a day, from 10am after breakfast into the afternoon. After 2pm lunch, it would stretch up to 6pm and then detainees are allowed some free time.
Choo said the results of his daily questionings resulted in a 60-page “book” of his life.
He also said that he wasn’t allowed to bring even a pen or paper into his 2×2.5 metre cell. There were also two beds and a wooden floor board and a tiny box as a toilet.
“I don’t hate the police, there are good men out there. It’s the problem with the leadership, they still live in colonial era… with all these allegations of the threat of communism… it’s very Cold War mentality and too simplistic,” he said.
Choo, who is described by a friend as ”old fashioned and soft-spoken” but also “sincere and progressive” activist, said his detention has merely strengthened his resolve to continue his political career as he now has more “hope for advancing democracy and social justice”.

Najib and Co spent millions for PR

Some months ago we noticed that the once secretive Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud was suddenly being featured in international TV news programmes.
Alongside this was also a number of positive reports about Sarawak’s development and the benefits of palm oil.

These reports were being featured in some of the major global news networks, without mentioning any of the state’s dire environmental, human rights and economic problems.

Our team at Sarawak Report decided to investigate what was going on and where the funding for all this lay.

Following hard on the heels of the current revelations on phone and computer hacking by some UK newspapers, we have exposed a disgraceful scam selling slots on TV news shows to the highest bidder.
We can also reveal that Barisan Nasional’s top leaders in Malaysia have been at the heart of the corruption, using taxpayers’ money to promote themselves on business shows and documentaries.

The evidence for these expenses has been written into the Malaysian government’s own budget records.
Huge sums of money, RM57 million over the past two years, have been paid out to a UK media company FBC Media as fees for a “Global Strategic Communications” campaign.

RM57 million for air slots

PKR general-secretary Saifuddin Nasution had in fact queried the amount in Parliament last year.
Well, in the absence of any answers from BN, we can now supply him with the reason.

FBC Media is not only a public relations company offering image-building advice to anyone rich enough to afford them but they also double up as a TV production company.

The company focuses on producing business and sports news programmes, as well as current affairs documentaries for some of the World’s top TV companies such as CNBC, CNN and BBC World.

Among its distinguished Malaysian clients are current Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Sime Darby chairman Musa Hitam. Taib has also now joined FBC Media’s stable of clients.

All these leaders have been corruptly buying, through FBC Media, airtime slots to promote themselves on these networks and channels.

Several top TV executives in the UK and the US and their company bosses are now going to have to answer some highly embarrassing questions from their licencing authorities.

How could these companies possibly commission such dodgy programmes from a PR company all these years?

The reason, of course, has been the scramble for cheap programming.

With too many competing TV channels chasing after diminishing advertising revenues, it is now a clients’ market and slots go to the highest bidder.

Dodgy dealings

FBC Media, which is part of a conglomerate with business links in India, Europe and the US, was able to offer tantalisingly low cost (and in some cases even free) programming because they were raking in money from their Malaysian political PR clients, who were queuing up to appear in those supposedly unbiased and impartial news shows.

It breaks every ethical rule in the book of broadcast journalism and CNBC, BBC, CNN and others will have to pay the price for allowing it to happen.

But from the point of view of the Malaysian taxpayer there is the question of: why are we paying for this expensive and illegal PR?

Why is there a need to improve the image of BN leaders at home and abroad?

Still, it may not come as a huge surprise that Taib, Najib, Abdullah and Musa willingly do business with an unscrupulous company like FBC Media.

We at Sarawak Report will slowly reveal the depth of FBC Media’s business ties with their Malaysian government clients under the pretext of the “Global Strategic Communications” campaign.

For now, we leave Malaysian taxpayers with a final thought.

Not only has BN been spending millions on a mean and dirty political campaign that has no place in the government budget, but they have funded a flop as well.

After all, we have exposed FBC Media without too much difficulty and in the process their multi-million dollar positive PR campaign looks set to spectacularly backfire on their gullible BN clients.

Monopoli BN punca kos sara hidup tinggi

SHAH ALAM, 2 Ogos: Pakatan Rakyat yakin kos sara hidup tinggi yang terpaksa ditanggung oleh setiap rakyat negara ini pada hari ini adalah akibat dasar-dasar Kerajaan Barisan Nasional yang mewujudkan sistem monopoli dan ketinggalan zaman.
Sehubungan itu, terdapat keperluan mendesak agar sistem permit terutamanya yang bersabit import barang keperluan utama dikaji keseluruhannya kerana ia meningkatkan harga barangan yang menekan rakyat.
Ketua Pembangkang, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim menegaskan, Pakatan Rakyat juga berpendapat harga petrol dan diesel yang tinggi di Malaysia adalah akibat perancangan guna tenaga yang lemah.
Menurut beliau, Malaysia dilaporkan masih menggunakan sehingga 70 peratus dari minyak mentahnya yang bergred tinggi dan mahal untuk diproses menjadi petrol dan diesel bagi kegunaan domestik.
Katanya, oleh kerana harga minyak mentah adalah komponen kos yang paling utama, sebarang usaha untuk menukar minyak mentah kepada gred yang lebih murah akan secara langsung menurunkan harga petrol dan diesel di Malaysia.
"Oleh sebab itulah, Pakatan Rakyat yakin bahawa harga petrol dan diesel boleh diturunkan segera. Salah satu caranya melalui perancangan guna tenaga yang lebih munasabah," katanya pada sidang media di pejabat Setiausaha Kerajaan Selangor (SUK), di sini, hari ini.
Sebelum itu di tempat yang sama, Pakatan Rakyat, menurutnya,  telah mengadakan Rundingan Ekonomi Buku Jingga yang pertama hari ini dengan ahli ekonomi, penganalisa pasaran dari bank dan firma kewangan, pimpinan kesatuan sekerja dan persatuan pengguna.
Katanya, rundingan tersebut antara lain membincangkan secara terperinci langkah-langkah segera yang boleh dilakukan untuk mengawal inflasi dan membantu jutaan isi rumah Malaysia yang terbeban dengan kos sara hidup mutakhir ini.
"Rundingan tersebut adalah yang pertama daripada beberapa siri selepas ini bertujuan untuk mendapatkan maklumbalas dan cadangan untuk digarap di dalam Belajawan 2011 yang akan diumumkan oleh Pakatan Rakyat dalam bulan Oktober ini.
"Setiap rundingan akan memfokuskan kepada persoalan dasar ekonomi negara yang utama, termasuklah dasar-dasar pertumbuhan dan persaingan ekonomi, menurunkan kos sara hidup rakyat dan reformasi sistem pendidikan supaya selari dengan keperluan modal insan negara," katanya.
Peluang yang diperolehi oleh pimpinan Pakatan Rakyat pada hari ini untuk bertukar-tukar fikiran dengan wakil-wakil dari pelbagai sektor penting ekonomi negara itu, katanya, akan dimanfaatkan sebaik mungkin, apabila pandangan-pandangan itu akan digarabkan di dalam Belanjawan 2011 oleh Pakatan Rakyat.
"Belanjawan 2011 oleh Pakatan Rakyat adalah satu lagi dokumen ekonomi yang memberi peluang kepada rakyat dan sektor niagawan menilai sendiri perbezaan pendekatan ekonomi yang akan diambil oleh Pakatan Rakyat dan kerajaan BN, sekiranya Pakatan Rakyat yang berkuasa selepas pilihanraya umum akan datang," katanya.
Turut hadir pada rundingan dan sidang media itu termasuklah Timbalan Presiden PAS, Mohamad Sabu, Ahli Jawatankuasa Kerja PAS Pusat yang juga Ahli Parlimen Kuala Selangor, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad serta pemimpin DAP.

Hindu Influence and Southeast Asia

Bali Hindu festival
Did the Hindus get there first?
(Asia Sentinel)The flow of Indian cultural values and institutions into Southeast Asia is one of the most remarkable aspects of the region’s history and an intriguing counterpoint to China’s claims that the South China Sea is a Chinese lake because the diplomat and seafarer, Admiral Zheng He, sailed it sometime in the late 14th or early 15th Century.

In fact, an exhaustive study of the cultural values of the region makes it impossible to say that any one ethnic group or civilization has dominated. Hinduism has been a force in mixing distinctly disparate religions together for thousands of years in Southeast Asia to the point that often Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism and animism simply fuse so that one resembles the other despite their vastly divergent roots.

Buddhism is practiced in Hindu temples in Cambodia, Muslim wedding rituals and wedding dress in Malaysia are based on Hindu rites. The Garuda is the name of Indonesia’s airline; a likeness of the mythical bird sits proudly on the front of the Bank of Thailand headquarters in Bangkok. The Naga, the sacred Hindu serpent, is prevalent in both Buddhist and Hindi cultures. There are Mount Merus-- the sacred golden mountain in Hindu text--in many countries all the way to Tanganyika.

Despite a powerful onslaught by Buddhism between the first and fifth century AD, Islam in the 15th century and Christianity in the early 16th, Hindu influences have survived and remain visible, mixed as they are into Thai Buddhism and Indonesian and Malaysian Islam. By the beginning of the Christian era, Hindus had thoroughly colonized the region from Burma in the north to Java and Annam in the south and southeast. This is corroborated by the discovery of the Amravati style of images of Buddha on the islands of Sumatra, Java and Celebes and on the mainland of Siam and Annam.

Hindu social customs have also prevailed although they have been diluted by time and by interaction with other religions. The caste system, though not as rigorous as in India, was introduced to some degree in all the countries although more so in Java, Madura, Sumatra and Bali. The word Caturvarna, or four castes, occurs in early records of those Indonesian islands, and there are frequent references to the four castes in literature and inscriptions.

There are numerous inscriptions in these countries in addition to the Vedas, the sacred texts of Hinduism, leading to speculation that the Brahmins – the highest caste -- played a central role in the religious lives of the people from the very beginning of India’s influence. A sixth-century inscription in Kambuja, as Cambodia was once known, refers to a Brahmin who made a gift of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Purana texts to a temple and had them recited on a daily basis. The practice of reciting scriptures was well known in India, and it must have helped in influencing the religious life of the people.

Ashrams and monastic orders were also established, which then were used to diffuse Hindu culture in Kambuja. In the 9th century AD, King Yashvarman of Angkor is said to have built 100 ashrams, each headed by a priest, which were primarily centers for higher learning and promoting religious and spiritual practices, attracting large followings.

These ashrams offered hospitality to a variety of peoples in strict accordance with prescribed rules and regulations for each category of guest. One of the rules prescribed that with the exception of the king, anyone who passed the gates of an ashram had to get down from his chariot and walk covered under an umbrella. No one seeking refuge out of fear of being arrested needed surrender until proven guilty. However, there are no records about such religious institutions in ancient India, on which those in Kambuja were modeled.

Generally speaking, the position of women seems to have been better than in India, both in terms of social status and political rights. Javanese women could become rulers and occupied high office. Women also had property rights and could dispose of it at their own free will. There was no purdah (veiling of the face), it most likely arrived with the advent of Islam. Women mixed freely with men and were free to choose their own husbands.

Unfortunately, suttee, sometimes spelled sati – the tradition of a widow burning herself alive on the funeral pyre of her departed husband, was practiced, at least in Bali, though in later times the custom was confined to royal families, where even slaves and concubines committed sati. In some instances the widow would first kill herself with a sword and her body would be placed on her husband’s pyre.

The Javanese are known to have practiced some form of ancestor worship, though not as intense as the Confucian Chinese. They also accepted the theory of reincarnation, except for the santris -- fundamentalist Muslims -- who condemned it as heretic.

There is also evidence that the Hindu institution of the devadasi was also introduced into some countries of Southeast Asia. These women were known as “women who take to religious life.” In Khmer language, it literally means, “females who enter into religion for the sacrifice (yajamana) of the god.” Although the exact meaning is not clear, it is not difficult to find in them the devadasis of the Hindu temples in India. However, the Indian anthropologist and scholar D N Majumdar believes that there are no references to the devadasis in Hindu scriptures of early times.

And so he raises a question “whether such a pernicious custom originated in India or was it derived from contact with countries where moral laxity of this type among females is known to have prevailed in more obnoxious form even in later times.”

Another inscription refers to the dancing girls, musicians, slaves and servants. The name of dancing girls and the musicians emanated from Sanskrit, such as Charumati, Priyasena, Arunamati, Sarangi, Ratimati, and Ghandhini. The names of the slaves and servants were mostly indigenous, such as Bhagya, Dasami and Manjari.

The use of Indian names for the dancing girls and musicians and indigenous names for slaves and servants, both male and female, raises an interesting question. It is possible that the Indians who arrived from India occupied a higher position and status and did not work in these low professions.

Therefore, even the pure indigenous people, or those who were born of union with Indians, were given purely Indian names. This then could be interpreted that even one parent of the Indian origin meant higher position for the child in the society. At the same time, indigenous names were still used. The Kamboja inscriptions have preserved many personal names which inform us the extent of the Indianization of Kambuja (ancient Cambodian) society.

Taken together, the cultural influences that Hinduism brought have contributed enormously to the vast tapestry that is Asia.

(Alexandra Fic is a Canada-based scholar and author who has held a variety of teaching, research and international aid jobs through Asia. She currently lives and works in Niagara, Ontario, Canada.

For readers who wish to follow hindu influences more closely, Ms. Fic has written a 20,000-word study of the spread of Hinduism across Asia. It can be found here.)

End of the rope for Najib — Douglas Tan

AUG 2 — Over the past few months, we have all seen the steep decline of our Prime Minister. From calling on youth to “defend Putrajaya” as though the nation is expecting an invasion to being unable to back up his own 1 Malaysia policy when asked by a student at a recent Malaysian Student Leader’s Summit.

It truly seems that Najib is unable to do anything right at the moment. First he outright attacks the Opposition parties claiming that they would destroy this nation and that Barisan Nasional is the shining light to guide the nation forward. To ask the youth to help defend Putrajaya against the Opposition is nothing short of pretentious, as though UMNO/BN has the divine right to govern this country infinitum.

This was quickly followed by Bersih 2.0, where he exposed himself as a lame duck leader. Instead of assuming a non-partisan role and showing true leadership, he aligned himself more as Umno president than the Prime Minister of Malaysia by demonising the coalition as an “illegal organisation” and stooping so low to the extent of roping in mosque ceramah’s to spread their propaganda of the so-called “perhimpunan haram”.

His handling of Bersih 2.0 in itself was nothing short of despicable. If he truly recognised the event to be a national crisis, he himself should have been in Kuala Lumpur that day to defuse the situation.

Instead, he found himself in Terengganu, with his tail between his legs, smiling at the co-op event, as though he found the hyped-up illegal rally in Kuala Lumpur to be a mere inconvenience to his schedule.
In the lack of true leadership, he “tai-chied” all of the responsibility onto his cousin’s shoulders.

Hishammudin didn’t fair much better, especially with his justification of the clampdown on civil liberties, to the extent that those who knew him declared him as sounding “mentally impaired”!.

As though this was not bad enough, the cover up of Tung Shin Hospital, the police violence and the subsequent spread of lies through the media had caused a self-inflicted international black eye. Ignoring all of this, he proceeded to meet the Queen of England in a stunning yellow dress, just in case he failed to get the message.

Although he had managed to establish ties with the Vatican, his subsequent comments to the Christian community did little to them to endear him, especially when he implied that Christians were intolerant, when that clearly is not the case.

His wife’s extravagance would distance him further from the grassroots as allegations that she purchased a US$24 million ring had sent shock waves through the community, especially at a time that the Rakyat are told to tighten our belts in the midst of reduced subsidies and rising prices. Compound this with the Scorpene scandal and the announcement of the intent to purchase billions of Ringgit worth of fighter planes we do not need hardly resonates with his motto of “Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan” (People First, Performance Now).

The Teoh Beng Hock RCI report, the detention of the EO6 and finally his inability to back up his own 1 Malaysia concept as he does not want to be seen in conflict with his deputy, has earn him the title of “The Lamest Premier” by DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua. I am inclined to agree with Tony, as I doubt I have ever seen a less decisive head of state, who fails to get even his own cabinet to sing the same tune.

With impending polls ahead, Umno and Najib have good reason to sweat. The blantant inability to handle the affairs of the nation has stirred up the sentiments a generally politically-apathetic population.

As for all the hype with his Economic Transformation Plan and Pemandu, National Key Result Areas and what-not, all the Rakyat know is that the government is spending our hard earned money into the proverbial black hole. Our cost of living is on the rise, civil liberties are being trounced on, and corruption, deceit and lies are rampant in this government.

For those who have driven around Kuala Lumpur at night, you would be able to see the Umno building lit up by billions of LEDs proclaiming the achievements of the Umno-led government. One of them called Najib as “Bapa Transformasi”. As much as this may be a collosal joke to some, there may be a silver lining as he may inadvertently be responsible for the biggest transformation in the history of our beloved nation.

If Najib continues to delude himself that it is the minority that is vocal in their dissent, and that he has the support of a “silent majority”, he is in for a nasty shock come the next polls.

* Douglas Tan reads The Malaysian Insider.

Full House at Bar Council’s Public Forum Titled “Emergency Ordinance – The Other ISA” (20 July 2011)

Contributed by Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna, Executive Officer, with photos by Satha Selvan Subramaniam, Administrative Assistant, Bar Council 

The recent public forum on “Emergency Ordinance – The Other ISA” that was held at 8:30 pm, on 20 July 2011 (Wednesday) witnessed a full house at the Bar Council Auditorium!  The event, jointly organised by Bar Council, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (“SUARAM”) and Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (“GMI”), was attended by approximately 270 participants.  

Before the public forum began, a candlelight vigil was held for the six activists of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (“PSM”) – Dr Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj, M Saraswathy, Choo Chon Kai, M Sukumaran, A Letchumanan and Sarat Babu – who had been detained under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 (“EO”) since 2 July 2011.  The lively vigil, which took place at 7:45 pm in front of the Bar Council premises, was interspersed with the ardent cries of “Hidup! Hidup! Hidup rakyat!” and “Bebas! Bebas! Bebas tahanan!”, and ended with solidarity speeches.  A small team of police officers kept watch on the peaceful gathering from across the road. 

The candlelight vigil in front of the Bar Council premises

After the vigil, participants headed up to the Bar Council Auditorium for the public forum.  With practically all 250 seats occupied, the auditorium was almost filled to the brim, causing many members of the audience, including the media crew, to stretch out on the floor.  The event was also broadcast live on, an online radio station – the first time a Bar Council public forum was aired in real time., an online radio station, broadcast the public forum in real time

The public forum, which was moderated by Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, Chairperson of GMI, featured a panel of speakers consisting of Christopher Leong, Vice-President of the Malaysian Bar, S Arutchelvan, Secretary-General of PSM and Edmund Bon, Member of the Malaysian Bar.  Christopher Leong began by discussing the meaning and interpretation of article 10 of the Federal Constitution, on the freedom of assembly and its curtailment under the EO.  S Arutchelvan then gave a witness account of what had transpired at the arrest scene of the six activists and his encounter with the police at the police station.  Edmund Bon, on the other hand, updated the audience on the progress of the habeas corpus application filed on behalf of the six activists. 

The panel of speakers for the public forum

Although the three speakers relayed different aspects of the arrest, they spoke in unison when calling for the repeal of the EO.  The audience was reminded that while the Internal Security Act (“ISA”) had gained notorious publicity over the years due to fervent and incessant campaigning by anti-ISA groups, the EO was no less severe in its disregard for human rights and due process of the law.  Similar to the ISA, the EO allowed the police to arrest and detain a person without trial, in addition to denying detainees the chance to defend themselves in a full and fair hearing.  However, unlike the ISA, information regarding EO detainees has rarely been made public.  Edmund Bon revealed that a startling figure of approximately 1,000 to 2,000 detainees, including minors below the age of 18 years, were currently held under the EO.

The audience in stitches over a remark by one of the speakers

Observing the overwhelming turnout at the public forum, Nalini Elumalai, Programme Manager of SUARAM, commented that it was “the biggest show of support for the six activists so far”.  She elaborated that it also reflected the eagerness of the Malaysian public to learn more about the EO and its arbitrary use by the police and Ministry of Home Affairs.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that during the question-and-answer session that followed, several participants raised questions about the EO, in addition to discussing the best ways to repeal it and garner more support for the release of the six activists.  Anne Ooi, Malaysia’s very own “Lady of Liberty”, was also present to encourage participants to continue to rally for the release of the six activists.

Anne Ooi, Malaysia’s very own “Lady of Liberty”

In conclusion, the following excerpt from the Malaysian Bar press release dated 5 July 2011 (“Halt Assault on Rule of Law and Democratic Rights”) sums up the Bar’s position:

The Malaysian Bar reiterates its resolute stand that the EO, along with the Internal Security Act 1960 and other preventive detention legislation, are archaic and repressive laws whose continued use is repugnant to civil society… The authorities should charge the six individuals in open court and disclose the evidence against them so that they may receive a full and fair hearing, or release them without delay.

Click here to listen to a recording of the public forum.  

Note: On 29 July 2011 (Friday), the six PSM members were released unconditionally, after 28 days in detention.

PKFZ Case: Witness Says Did Not Bring Up Increased Cost At Post-cabinet Meetings

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 2 (Bernama) -- Valuation and Property Services Department (VPSD) former director-general (Valuation) Datuk Sahari Mahadi told the High Court here today that he did not broach the increased cost in the Pulau Indah land purchase during the post-cabinet meetings he attended.

Sahari, 63, under cross-examination by Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik's counsel Wong Kian Kheong, said he started attending post-cabinet meetings from November 2002 until 2003.

He said a letter dated Sept 29, 2000 proposing the purchase of land in Pulau Indah for the construction of a Transhipment Megahub called the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) had stated a proposed price of RM21 per square feet only.

"Using the "Discounted Cash Flow (DCF)" approach in which the target rate is determined at 8.25 per cent, coupon rate at six per cent and 10-year repayment term, the land price at RM25 per square feet over a repayment of 15 years was found agreeable and could be considered for the issuance of bonds even though the land value was only RM21 (per square feet)," he said.

The second witness said the DCF approach was based on the landlord's six terms, which were initial payment of six per cent in the first year, a coupon rate of 6.5 percent, repayment period of 10 to 15 years, interest-free payments for the first and second year, payment plus interest in the third and fourth year and yearly remaining payment including interest for six years, or 11 years and a period balance of 10 to 15 years.

On the purchase based on a proposed coupon rate of 7.5 percent as stated by the Port Klang Authority in the minutes of meeting about the land acquisition covering 1,000 acres for the Port Klang expansion project, Sahari said he was never informed about it.

The minutes of the meeting also stated the proposed RM25 per square feet based on the valuation by the VPSD, payment period of 15 years, 10 per cent initial payment and a moratorium of four years.

Dr Ling, 68, faces an amended principal charge of cheating the Malaysian government by concealing from the Cabinet the additional interest of 7.5 percent a year on the purchase price of a land in Pulau Indah as against the six percent rate set by the VPSD.

He also faces two amended alternative charges of cheating the government by not revealing to the Cabinet the facts related to the additional interest rate, and cheating the Cabinet into believing that the facts related to the purchase of the land were certified and agreed to by the VPSD when he knew there was no such consent.

The offences were allegedly committed at the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya between Sept 25 and Nov 6, 2002. Dr Ling faces up to seven years' jail or a fine, or both under Section 418 of the Penal Code for the main charge.

The alternative charge under Section 417 of the Penal Code carries a jail term of up to five years, or a fine or both.

The hearing before Justice Datuk Ahmadi Asnawi continues tomorrow.