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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Select committee a ploy 'to deflect heat from EC'

(Malaysiakini) Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has accused Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of deflecting the heat from the Election Commission (EC) by announcing the formation of a parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms last night.

NONEAnwar said Pakatan Rakyat agrees in principle with the formation of the committee, but claimed that the government has more insidious reasons for the move.

“What is important is that we want action now. Why is the EC given a reprieve? Why is fraud being condoned?” he said in a scathing attack on Najib.

Last night, Najib announced the government's plan to form the committee to discuss all electoral reforms needed to find a “bipartisan agreement without any suspicion that there is manipulation by the government”.

azlanAnwar stressed that the announcement amounts to an admission that Pakatan and Bersih 2.0 were right on the money in claiming there are serious flaws in the electoral system.
“... (Najib) has admitted (Bersih 2.0 was right), and the people have paid a price for that, getting beaten up and all that,” he said when contacted.

He said the issue now is for the government to work on making the EC truly independent so that the commission can start to fulfil its responsibilities.

“Notwithstanding the fact that even our parliamentary system also needs reform, the government must show good faith by getting the EC to act now.

“What is stopping the EC from cleaning up the rolls or reforming postal votes, registering overseas Malaysians as voters, and stopping (the registration of) foreigners as voters? Nobody in this country would feel that the EC is independent of Umno.”
Najib will 'drag' out issue
Anwar posited that the proposed select committee itself will pose a problem in implementation, as the government is not known for taking the role of Parliament seriously.
azlanHe stressed that Najib had not indicated the government's plans to hold an emergency sitting - which is necessary to form the special committee - and raised questions as to how far the premier and his administration are committed towards electoral reform.
“Look at Parliament in England - when the riots broke out they called an emergency sitting, when the News of the World exposé made the news they called an emergency sitting... in our case, Parliament is completely relegated to being a rubber stamp of the government.
“There was nothing in Najib's statement (last night) to suggest that action will be taken by the EC now. He will delay the matter in the committee.”

BN’s Perak assembly sitting just a rubber stamp

Former Perak Mentri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin claims the assembly had no agenda, with most questions unanswered, and claims it was a total mockery of democracy.

PETALING JAYA: All 27 Perak Pakatan Rakyat state representatives staged a walkout at the one day assembly sitting yesterday as the assembly has become a mere ‘rubber stamp’.

Former Perak Menteri Besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin said Speaker R Ganesan had also “disallowed debates and questions”.

“The sitting was called just to fulfill the requirement that it needs to be held every six months under the Perak constitution.

“There was no agenda of what was going to be discussed and most of our questions went unanswered. It was a total mockery of democracy; a contempt, and a shame to the house,” Nizar told FMT.

Nizar said he believed the mere three-hour sitting yesterday was the first of its kind and never occurred when Pakatan Rakyat ruled the state.

“During our time we had four days at least, I managed to convene sessions lasting five days with ample time for all parties to ask questions. Today (Monday), nothing of consequence was done, no bills were discussed.”

“What’s the point of having a meeting just for the sake of it? This was just rubber stamping… we couldn’t even ask questions, our microphones were turned off.

“We had to shout and yell. We couldn’t do anything,” complained the PAS Pasir Panjang assemblyman and Bukit Gantang MP.

MB not answering questions

Nizar said the “illegal” Speaker Ganesan had also brushed aside pertinent matters related to the welfare of the people.

“Certainly August is the time for a midterm review, but they had nothing. How could you run a state like this?”

“The Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir also couldn’t answer my question of his expenditures of overseas trips. Even (Prime Minister) Najib (Tun Razak) revealed in parliament that he spent RM17 million overseas trips with his wife, “ he said.

(Zambry had later maintained that he did not waste any government money for any holidays as all were important official trips.)

Nizar also said the current Perak state assembly disallowed online news portals to cover its sittings and only welcomed mainstream media such as Utusan Malaysia and Bernama. In addition, Nizar also questioned the constant presence of policemen.

DAP’s Sungkai assemblyman A Sivanesan also asked why his question on Ramadan bazaars was rejected yesterday. “I was merely asking if the waiver they are giving to stall owners now would be extended during Deepavali and Chinese New Year,” he said.

Speaker: No urgent matters

Meanwhile, the Perak Speaker lashed out at the opposition for consistently “finding reasons for walking out of the house every single time”.

Ganesan explained that the original two-day session was finished in one day as there were no urgent matters or bills to be debated and passed, adding that there was nothing wrong in that.

“We have to fulfil the requirement under the Perak constitution. How could they complain about this as it was also the practiced in the Kedah state legislative assembly,” he said.

Ganesan also defended himself over allegedly being biased, saying: “I was giving them equal opportunities. Two extra question was also given to the Pakatan side. What they are claiming is all bullshit.

“People who are inside the dewan know exactly what happens… toward the end of the day the opposition always finds some excuse to walk out so they can blame Barisan Nasional. They are always misleading the Press and the public with their theatrics,” he said.

This was not the first time the BN-led Perak state assembly has been criticised for being a “rubberstamp house”.

Pakatan Rakyat has always complained that ever since BN wrested the Pakatan-led state government in 2009 following the defection of three Pakatan elected representatives, they have been “bullied”.

Muslim Supermodel Kenza Fourati Lashes Out At Critics! (PHOTOS)

Our interview with supermodel Kenza Fourati received such an overwhelming response, we thought we'd follow up with another story on the African beauty, who is also the first Arab muslim to pose for Sports Illustrated.

PHOTOS: Supermodel Kenza Fourati: "Women Are Very Powerful"

Kenza, a Sorbonne-educated politically conscious North African from Tunisia, is breaking barriers, encouraging discourse and exercising her right to do so.

Her actions, judging by the reactions from our interview, is not sitting well with conservatives here and in her native Tunisia.

These feelings about what a Muslim is or what a Muslim should do, although important to the conversation about Islam and the West, are not new.

However, what Kenza is doing is drawing attention to the diversity of Islamic thought and practice across multiple nations, as well as championing artistic expression in her country, which was the first Muslim nation to drive the present revolution.

As Kenza said during our interview, being Muslim and being a swimsuit model should not be mutually exclusive.

"We are at a point now in Tunisia where we are free," Kenza explained in our offices last week. "We should be able to portray art like this if we want to, as the extremists are allowed to express themselves, too. That is a debate that we want to create, but it must be a peaceful one."

We support her and couldn't agree more!

Felda loses RM200m suit against former deputy minister

Ex-Gerakan man Dr Tan joined PKR after the 2008 general election. — Picture by Choo Choy May
KUALA LUMPUR, August 16 — Felda has lost its RM200 million defamation suit against former Land and Co-operative Development Deputy Minister Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong, according to a court judgment today.

The federal land development agency and its investment arm Felda Global Ventures Holding Sdn Bhd lost their defamation case and were ordered to pay costs to the former Gerakan leader who joined PKR after the 2008 general election.

Felda had claimed in its filing on January 25 that Dr Tan implied it was corrupt and committed legal offences in an issue of Suara Keadilan published on June 22 last year.

But High Court judge Zabariah Mohd Yusof ruled today that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the PKR disciplinary chief had said any defamatory words.

She ordered Felda to pay RM70,000 in costs to Dr Tan who in turn has to cough up RM30,000 for a preliminary point he raised earlier in the suit.

In his statement of defence, Dr Tan admitted to giving an interview to Suara Keadilan reporter Faizal Zakaria but insisted he did not defame the two plaintiffs.

He claimed that what he said was true and was published based on qualified privilege, which permitted him as a former deputy minister in charge of the federal authority to relay such information to his party organ.

Felda had brought the suit over Suara Keadilan’s cover story in Malay titled “Kontroversi,” which continued on page three with the heading “RM662 construction only involved three individuals.”

The plaintiffs had alleged that the article defamed them as it implied the repossession and construction of Menara Felda on prime land in the capital’s “Golden Triangle” would benefit cronies.

Dr Tan had responded that it was fair comment on the plaintiffs’ financial standing, expenditure, management and activities made in the public interest and did not defame the plaintiffs.

Soi Lek shoots ‘loose cannon’ Nazri, silent on Chinese support

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 — Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek blasted Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz last night for criticising the MCA but sidestepped questions on his party’s eroding support from the Chinese community it is supposed to represent.

The MCA president dared the de facto law minister to start legal action against Sin Chew Jit Poh for falsely reporting the latter’s offer to the DAP to join the ruling federal coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) two days ago.

“If Nazri thinks Sin Chew had printed what he had not said, he should sue Sin Chew,” Dr Chua (picture) said.

The minister in the Prime Minister’s Department was reported by the Chinese daily to have made the offer on Sunday, which led Dr Chua to chide the Umno leader for saying that his MCA had lost Chinese support.

“Nazri is a loose cannon,” the former health minister dubbed his ex-Cabinet colleague when asked to elaborate over the Padang Rengas MP’s remarks that the MCA had lost its Chinese support.

Dr Chua refused to reply to questions on Nazri’s allegation, insisting that was not the main issue.
Nazri denied yesterday he had invited the DAP to join BN to shore up Chinese support for the ruling coalition.

But Nazri told The Malaysian Insider that he had merely responded to a question about falling Chinese support for the ruling coalition.

“No, it is not true. I did not invite DAP,” he said, adding that “MCA must work harder” when asked how BN will reclaim Chinese support.

According to Sin Chew, Nazri had said that based on the precedent of Gerakan joining BN after the opposition party had won Penang in the 1969 general election, “we cannot deny the possibility of DAP joining BN. What happens in the future, we cannot predict.”

The Padang Rengas MP had said there are no permanent enemies or allies in politics.

“Since independence, Umno is a party that has represented the Malays. During the last elections, Umno still won more than 80 seats in Parliament. PAS only managed 22. PKR’s Malay candidates only got nine seats. These two combined only have 31 seats. As such Umno remains the representative of the Malays.

“MCA in the last elections only won 15 seats in Parliament. Gerakan only won two seats and they were in Malay-majority areas. But the DAP’s Chinese candidates won more than 20 federal seats. MCA and Gerakan combined are less than DAP. As such, DAP is the most suitable party to represent the interests of the Chinese.

“We also want to understand what has happened. Umno has all this while represented the Malays. This is not the fault of Umno, it is their (MCA and Gerakan) problem,” he was quoted by Sin Chew as saying.

Nonetheless, Nazri also said in Sin Chew that no party could depend on just one race to win an election and Umno was no exception.

Gerakan was among a host of parties that joined the three original Alliance members — Umno, the MCA and MIC — to form the BN in 1973.

Nazri also said today that Umno had even opened its doors to PAS in 1971, indicating that the original Alliance parties should not be threatened by more parties joining the coalition.

But the DAP has swiftly shot down the idea of joining BN, telling Nazri to “dream on” as joining the BN would force it into a racial mould which went against its multiethnic beliefs.

The MCA had suffered huge losses in Election 2008, leaving it with only 15 seats out of a total 222 in the Dewan Rakyat and 32 state seats, less than half its tally in the previous polls.

Factionalism then reared its ugly head in the party’s October 2008 election, leading to two leadership changes in the last three years.

The MCA’s popularity with ethnic Chinese voters has nosedived as the party continues to be wracked with factionalism and scandals including the RM12.5 billion Port Klang Free Zone saga, leading many to question its relevance in the next general election.

When towns simply fade away…

A young working population seeking greener pastures in cities signals the death knell for economically-starved small towns.

PETALING JAYA: In the lifespan of many towns, it is a tale of two fates. Successful towns, backed by well-travelled roads and economic opportunities, will over time evolve into vibrant cities.

But some other towns, placed far away from highways or neglected by private investors or governments, tend to fade away.

Monash University associate professor Phua Kai Lit said that Malaysia’s growing urbanisation often meant that other parts of the country, especially its rural areas, were left out.

“You have a lopsided and uneven development (taking place in the cities), so you may have depopulation in other parts of the country, especially in the rural areas,” he said.

Cities, he added, also acted as powerful socio-economic magnets, which ended up pulling youths and young adults from across the country there.

According to the recently released Population and Census Report 2010, 71% of Malaysians lived in cities, compared with 62% in 2000.

This translated to a 20.1 million urban population, compared with a much smaller 8.2 million rural headcount.

FMT previously reported that at least 40% of the Klang Valley’s current population were domestic migrants from other states in Malaysia.

While this trend led to rapid urban growth, smaller towns across Malaysia were left without a sizeable young working population.

“You may see young people leaving, and the population there (smaller towns) gets older and older. The old people are left behind,” said Phua.

With the towns’ senior citizen population slowly passing away, this led to some villages and towns disappearing off the face of the economic map.

“You’ll see depopulation in certain parts of Malaysia, such as places like Kelantan, Perlis and Pahang,” Phua added.

‘El Dorado of the East’

A sociologist by trade, Phua highlighted Sungai Lembing, a tin-mining town in Pahang, more than 40km northwest of Kuantan.

Once regarded as the “El Dorado of the East” , Sungai Lembing was in the past a vibrant tin-mining town.
However, the mine’s closure in the late 20th century led to the town’s gradual depopulation.

“You can see obvious signs of depopulation in Sungai Lembing. It used to have two streets of shops, but if you go there now, only a handful of shops will be open.”

“The population there is either the very young or the very elderly. The economic base is no longer there, so I think over time, the town will die,” he said.

Phua added that the town may only see its original inhabitants return there for good when they retired.
A Kuantan man himself, he, however, appeared reticent about such an idea.

“I’m from Kuantan, it’s a nice town, so when I retire I’ll move back there… but only if the Lynas project is stopped in its tracks,” he said, referring to the controversial rare earth plant due to be opened in September.

“But if you ask me to go back to Sungai Lembing, I’ll say forget it. It’s just two streets of wooden shops,” he said frankly.

“The worst scenario is that it’ll become a ghost town. Nobody is there, but you’ll be having all these buildings deteriorating.”

Nevertheless, Phua did not consider dying towns, or ghost towns, as a problem, calling it a natural matter.

Umno perlu kuasai media baru

"Kalau kita tidak menguasainya kita akan tertinggal orang muda akan membaca apa yang ditulis," kata Ahmad Maslan.

(Bernama) - Anggota Umno perlu menguasai kemahiran dalam dunia siber terutama berkaitan media baru bagi menangkis secara efektif segala tohmahan dan fitnah pihak tertentu terhadap parti itu dan kerajaan, kata Ketua Penerangan Umno Datuk Ahmad Maslan.

Beliau berkata kemahiran seperti itu amat penting bagi mengubah sebarang persepsi negatif masyarakat terhadap Umno dan kerajaan yang cuba dibawa pihak tertentu menerusi media baru.

“Kalau kita tidak menguasainya kita akan tertinggal kerana orang muda akan membaca apa yang ditulis,” katanya selepas menghadiri wacana politik bertajuk “Pembentukan Persepsi Politik” anjuran Jabatan Penerangan Umno di sini hari ini.

Ahmad, yang juga Timbalan Menteri di Jabatan Perdana Menteri, berkata kerajaan memandang serius terhadap persepsi negatif masyarakat terhadap setiap tindakan kerajaan dan sentiasa mengambil tindakan untuk memperbetulkan.

Mengenai wacana politik itu, beliau berkata ia merupakan satu pembaharuan yang dibawa oleh Umno bagi meningkatkan pengetahuan anggotanya dalam pelbagai bidang politik menerusi pembentangan idea oleh pakar-pakar.

You are no better than a thug — Azrul Mohd Khalib

AUG 16 — I read with much disappointment and irritation at Senator Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor’s behaviour as reported in “Ezam threatens ‘jihad’ against those proselytising Muslims” (August 12). Malaysians should reject the politics of intimidation, scare mongering and violence which appears to be espoused by Ezam.

He has also misrepresented the Jais raid situation as one where Islam is under attack. Let us be clear: Islam in Malaysia is not and has not been under attack. Both Hasan Ali and Ezam know it.

It is not necessary to play the martyr (Hasan Ali) or the defender of the faith (Ezam). The latter’s threats to wage war and to burn the offices of both Malaysiakini and The Malaysian Insider are criminal in nature and I call upon the necessary authorities to address them appropriately.

It is not necessary to resort to such bullying tactics and to bring down the level of engagement to that of thugs, samsengs and Ah Longs in a back alley. Such a person is surely morally bankrupt.

If presenting the truth or an alternative perspective of how Malaysians view current events is considered by the senator to be attributes of being agents against Islam, then I shudder at how far we have gone to blindfold or gag ourselves in denial of the diverse realities which exist in this country.

I am also alarmed at the extent to which certain factions are willing to go to ensure that their views are the only ones which matter. Their determination to accuse non-Muslims of being disrespectful to Islam has become irrational.

“Jais woes” are of its own making. Jais or any religious department for that matter does not merit unthinking obedience by all and they must learn to be accountable for their actions. If Jais’ actions are valid and proven justified with the necessary evidence, then the law provides guidance as to what needs to be done.

If this is another knee-jerk reaction to an unsubstantiated accusation of proselytisation and conversion of Muslims and Jais acted wrongly, then the least it could do is to apologise. As Malaysians, we are a very forgiving society and understand that mistakes happen. However, what we must not and cannot tolerate are making threats to harm and inflict violence onto others, and placing arrogance, ego, pride before the peace of the country and her people.

The threats of Ezam are an embarrassment and disgrace to right-thinking Muslims in Malaysia and should be treated with the appropriate contempt.

Senator Ezam. As a member of our Parliament, you owe all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, an apology for your threats to inflict violence unto others.

* Azrul Mohd Khalib reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

Free legal aid for the low-income group

The Sun
by Azril Annuar

PUTRAJAYA (Aug 15, 2011): Malaysians who get hauled in court over criminal cases will be provided free legal aid if they have an income of less than RM25,000 per annum under the National Legal Aid Foundation (YBGK).

However, those earning between RM25,000 and RM36,000 will need to make a token payment of RM300 for the same benefit.

YBGK alternate director and former Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan who represented Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail told a press conference today that this legal aid will commence operation nationwide in October.

“Every Malaysian arrested and remanded will be given immediate legal representation. Currently we have around 1,000 YBGK lawyers and we are targeting some 3,000 lawyers to be YBGK members from our own pool of volunteers in the Bar Council, as well as from the government.

“YBGK is also targeting for around 500 lawyers to assist in Syariah criminal cases. Currently, 80% of Malaysians go unrepresented when they are arrested.

“This is also a good exposure for our young lawyers because they can earn up to RM250 a day handling remand cases and in a month earn around RM2,000 to RM3,000,” said Ragunath, adding that previously lawyers would handle the case on a pro-bono basis, making it difficult because resources are limited.

According to Ragunath, the lawyers attending to the remand cases will be paid by YBGK and it has already received a RM5 million launch grant by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.

Training will also be provided for YBGK lawyers as the Attorney-General wants quality legal aid for Malaysians.

However, he admitted, that he expects “hiccups and shortcomings” at the start of the operations.

“There will be short comings in between but when launch we want to make sure it will be a seamless nationwide service. In between, we will have issues to iron out and we accept whatever short comings and find ways to improve.

“But for it to become successful we’re going to need the support of everyone and it is better that we have this instead of nothing at all,” he said adding that he encourage local universities to set up legal aid centres.

“We are starting this from university level, there’s a pool of legal qualified people who are lawyers in universities as lecturers so we see them as a waste of talent and resource. Now we are looking at how to handle this and take them as either a lawyer or adviser.

“We are encouraging universities to set up legal aid centres backed by Bar Council and Attorney-General Chambers. This is the first time we’re bringing in Academia into the legal services, it is an important step as well,” he said.

In arrest and remand cases, police officers or those arrested can contact YBGK at their toll free hotline of 1-800-88-92-45 or fax at 1-300-88-92-45 to receive legal assistance from the list of duty solicitors. The Foundation’s website is at

Najib: Censorship no longer ‘effective’, needs review

Amnesty International volunteers tie cloth gags across their mouths during a protest against censorship, in central Sydney July 30, 2008. — Reuters pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today the government would review its current media censorship laws, stressing that it was no longer an “effective” method in the current era.

“Censorship in this new era, it has to be asked. Is it effective, meaningful, relevant, or will it cause more damage,” the prime minister said today.

“I’ve decided the old ways of censorship needs to be studied. Censorship is no longer effective and should be reviewed.”

Najib cited the example of an article by British weekly The Economist on the July 9 Bersih rally, which was censored by his administration but readily available online, and admitted that the act of censorship brought about negative publicity.

“The very act of censoring (The Economist) made more news than the actual story,” added the PM.
Najib said that there were other methods to deal with “untruthful” or defamatory news, saying the government can resort to “legal means.”

“If the international media wants to criticise us, let them be. If it’s defamatory, we can resort to legal means,” said Najib.

Electoral reforms group Bersih marched the streets on July 9 to demand for fair and free elections, defying warnings of police action, which finally resulted in nearly 1,700 arrests, scores injured and one ex-soldier dead.

Malaysia’s print press is subject to the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA), which requires all newspapers and magazines to obtain an annually-renewed permit from the Home Ministry before they are allowed to publish print content.

Reporting in the print media can be punished under the “national security” clause in the PPPA.
Also, under the PPPA, inaccurate news is termed “false news” and is punishable with a one-year imprisonment.

Critics of the Act have described it as a sword hanging over the heads of publishers and editors, and exploited by the government to control dissent.

Najib Announces Parliamentary Select Committee On Electoral Reform

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 16 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced Monday the setting up of a parliamentary select committee on electoral reform to put to rest any suspicion that there is manipulation by the government in the country's electoral process.

The prime minister said the committee, comprising government and opposition members, would have its first meeting on Wednesday and would discuss "everything that needs to be done" and reach a consensus on the matter.

"This is so that we can reach a consensus in facing the next election without any suspicion about any manipulation by the government.

"That is why when the issue of free and fair elections was raised recently, the government's response was for us to tackle the issue which has spawned numerous views, and to a certain extent, disputes," he said in his speech at the breaking-of-the-fast with the media hosted by Bernama at Wisma Bernama, here.

He said the move was to dispel any misconception that the government was against a clean electoral process.

Najib said the government was committed to continuing the parliamentary democracy tradition that was started by the nation's forefathers.

"I have said it before and I say it again, that the cabinet members and I do not want to become ministers and prime minister without the support of the people. We will only form the government if it is proven that the people truly choose the Barisan Nasional as their government.

"Let no one misconstrue and say that we do not want a clean process to elect the government," he said.

Such commitment, he said, was not new but a tradition to be proud of and one that the present generation of leaders should strive to uphold.

Najib said that although democracy had its weaknesses, it was important to put in place an administration system which benefited the people because it gave them a choice.

He said the government will let the people decide whether it is for the good or bad.

"The most important is that our conscience is clear," he said, adding that the government was committed to serving the people, and that placing them first was what it always aspired for.