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Monday, August 22, 2011

Hindraf’s lawyer demands apology

Imran Khan wants the Malaysian government to apologise to him and all Indians here for barring him from entering the country.
GEORGE TOWN: Apart from seeking compensation, Hindraf Makkal Sakti lawyer Imran Khan also wants Putrajaya to apologise to him and all Malaysian Indians for refusing him entry into the country on Aug 12.

He also wants the British government to pressure Putrajaya to allow him to discharge his duties as a legal professional here. He has already forwarded his case to the Malaysian high commissioner in United Kingdom.

The award winning human rights lawyer plans to come back to Malaysia soon pertaining to Hindraf’s US$4 trillion suit against the British government.

Imran wants an apology from the Malaysian government for the way it treated him when he arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Aug 12.

“I also want the government to apologise to Malaysian Indians for depriving their legitimate right to legal advice and representation from me.

“I want the government to publicly give reasons to my clients on why I was banned from entering Malaysia,” he said in a video interview with London-based Hindraf chairman P Waythamoorthy.

The British lawyer was forced by Malaysian authorities to fly back to England.

Imran said he felt disappointed, embarrassed, humiliated and angry over his deportation, for which reasons were not given until now.

He only learnt that he was a “prohibited immigrant” to Malaysia when he arrived at the Dubai international airport on his return flight transit.

“I was never refused entry to do my legal work before… even in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. No government should interfere in the fundamental rights of individual to seek legal address,” he insisted.
Imran has already submitted an official compensation demand from the Malaysian government for his ordeal at KLIA. He wants to donate the sum to a charity of his choice.

Imran was scheduled to meet clients in Malaysia to consider them as co-claimants for the suit and provide legal advice, assistance and representation to them.

Hindraf’s class action suit was against the British government’s negligence and failure to protect the rights of minority Indians when independence was given to the country.

Imran and his colleague, Suresh Grover, who was surprisingly allowed entry, were to also collect evidence, if any, to back the claim against the British government.

Pre-meditated ploy

Imran believes that it was a pre-meditated Malaysian government ploy to stop him from meeting his clients and collect evidence.

“I was specifically picked out at the airport immigration check point. They knew I was coming and were waiting for me. The decision to refuse me entry was deplorable and outrageous. I was not given any reasons.

“The Malaysian government made the wrong decision to disallow me entry without any legal foundation. It was fait-accompli,” stressed the lawyer.

Imran said for a British citizen, Malaysia from the outside looked like a progressive country but the government’s action had altered this view.

The lawyer said he would be concerned if the Malaysian government thought his work would cause Putrajaya considerable embarrassment.

“If it does, it does. If the case exposes injustice in Malaysia, so be it. I am not there for political reasons. I am there representing my clients.

“I am not there to interfere in the political make up or processes in Malaysia,” he pointed out.
Imran said he used to represent minorities, who fight for their rights under a majority government, similarly like in Malaysia.

After examining what happened in Malaysia over the past 50 years, he concluded: “It’s worse in Malaysia.”
He pointed out the stateless status of many Indians and the fact that 76% of them are living in abject poverty was outrageous and unacceptable in any country, especially so in a rich Malaysia.

“My colleague Grover has expressed to me that he has evidence to support the case. There are some foundation and truth of what I been told taking place. The evidence would support the action. I am disappointed that I was not there to get it first hand,” he said.

Imran said a good government should not fear any legal action if it operated fairly.
He said the Malaysian government’s attempt to stop him from doing his legal work indicated that the class action was based on legitimate grievances.

“I’m more determined now because I sense there are attempts to stop me from doing this work,” he said.
Waythamoorthy originally filed the class action suit on Aug 31, 2007, the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence.

However, it was stalled following the Malaysian government’s clampdown on Hindraf and the arrest of its lawyers under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA).

The suit was to demand compensation for Indian Malaysians whose ancestors were brought in by the colonial government as indentured labourers.

The suit claimed that after granting independence to Malaya, the British left the Indians without representation and at the mercy of the Malay extremism practiced by Umno government.

MRT, UDA delays necessary to ensure Bumi agenda, says Teraju

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — Putrajaya’s Bumiputera business co-ordinator Teraju has insisted that delays to big-money government deals are necessary to ensure that Bumiputera interests are protected.
The unit under the Prime Minister’s Department that co-ordinates the so-called Bumiputera Agenda said that revisions to pre-qualifying criteria for the RM50 billion Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project and sale conditions of prime land worth over RM2 billion by UDA Holdings were made to ensure “growth with equity.”

“It’s better late than sorry. After you dish out the contracts, how are you going to roll back?” Teraju chief executive Husni Salleh (picture) told The Malaysian Insider.

The government had eased the pre-qualification criteria for the MRT project to allow joint ventures, and made the minimum paid-up capital non-mandatory following complaints from Perkasa and the Malay Chamber of Commerce that conditions imposed were too restrictive.

A new company, MRT Co, has also taken over as the project owner from Syarikat Prasarana Negara Berhad (Prasarana) and this move could also ease procurement from Malay businessmen, said analysts.
The sale of 3.6 acres of land in Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur by UDA — a government agency tasked with encouraging Bumiputera participation in the urban economy — was also rejected by the Finance Ministry after the buyer, 54 per cent Bumiputera-owned Nadayu Properties, was considered not “Bumiputera” enough.

According to Teraju, a Bumiputera company is defined as one that has at least 35 per cent or 51 per cent Bumiputera ownership for public listed and private companies respectively.

However, they must also have Bumiputeras making up more than half of the staff and board members.
The Malaysian Insider also reported that a RM2 billion partnership deal to develop the Pudu Jail site with a China-based firm is also being held up by Putrajaya due to continued pressure by the hardline Malay rights lobby.

Although pressure from these right-wing groups is threatening to derail the Najib administration’s commitment to economic reforms, Husni said that “being inclusive in promoting growth as a whole... has to be taken into consideration if you want to move to the next level.”

He also insisted that “slowing down is not the right word to use” with regards to the new guidelines for the MRT project.

“Many projects do not get delayed but the big projects, you have to put it right. If you don’t do it properly, you can’t ask after that, where’s the Bumi agenda?

“You can’t stop it then. You have to recognise all the important elements and factors before you take off,” he said.

Husni also said that to ensure that these projects are executed smoothly, Teraju has been in consultation with stakeholders such as Prasarana, the government-owned company that will operate the MRT. - TMI

LDP slams Perkasa for teaching intolerance

The party also wants state leadership to take action against a local Umno leader who has been acting as a "little Napoleon".
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Barisan Nasional coalition member, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), has ridiculed Malay rightwing group Perkasa for its call to bar non-Muslims from teaching in national schools.

LDP secretary-general Teo Chee Kang said the whole concept by the peninsula-based NGO was shortsighted and against national integration.

He was commenting on a report which quoted Perkasa secretary general Syed Hassan Syed Ali as saying that Muslim leaders in the country were ‘starving’ for Christian votes and as a result had compromised their dignity as Muslims.

Syed Hassan was also reported as saying that as “there are only 9% Christians, why bother with their votes?”

He also reportedly demanded that Christian teachers should not be allowed to teach in national schools.
The open hostility to other communities in the country by the NGO has made many within the ruling coalition uncomfortable and whittled away at their support base.

Perkasa’s call is seen as a direct challenge to the status quo in Sabah and Sarawak where the various religious communities have lived in harmony despite the best efforts of some politicians to drive wedges between them over the years.

“Whatever it is, a democratic country must not allow prevalence of the majority’s interests at the expense of the minority, otherwise democracy would be used as a tool by the majority to oppress the minority,” said Teo at the LDP Tanjung Aru and Petagas joint-annual division conference over the weekend.

“In our multi racial, multi religion and multi cultural society, if all communities are racial supremacists who only care about their own interests and nothing else, we will not lose dignity as Muslims, Christians, Buddists, Taoists or Hindu, but we all will lose our dignity and pride as Malaysians,” said the LDP Tanjung Aru chief.

Umno’s little Napoleon

Teo, who is also Tanjung Kapor assemblyman, further expressed concern that the state BN leadership was not taking any action against an Umno leader in his constituency whom he described as a “little Napoleon”.

“You will recall the incident that eight ketua kampung in Kudat were sacked without my knowledge as the Tanjung Kapor state assemblyman last year.

“After pursuing the matter, four of them were reinstated, one had since passed away, another one was not able to continue his service due to health reason, the other two subsequently obtained my recognition.
“However, the little Napoleon Haji Harun Bidin still sits as the district chief of Kudat.”

“I did raise this issue in the state BN meeting in August last year and was promised that a committee would be set up to handle it along with other issues in relation to political appointments.
“A year has passed and nothing has been done to date.”

“Sometime in June this year, this ‘little Napoleon’ again repeated his stunt and caused the replacement of a Ketua Anak Negeri in my constituency.

“The new appointee is one of his boys who followed him in sabotaging BN in the 2008 general election in Kudat.

“For this little Napoleon to be so arrogant, I think there must be another ‘Napoleon’ protecting him from behind.

“Whoever this ‘Napoleon’ is, if he sees it fit to sacrifice the BN interests for his private pleasure, then he is not fit to be a BN leader.”

Though Teo did not name the other ‘little Napoleon’, he is believed to be alluding to Chief Minister Musa Aman with whom LDP has had a prickly relationship.

Najib’s flip-flop to remain in power

Vote-rigging, phantom voting, postal voting and the irregularities of the system are what Najib is banking on to keep his top job in the country.
By Charles Santiago
Manipulation is a common tactic among dictators. In Malaysia, the guy who caricatures this is none other than Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

In a throwback to the 1980s Malaysia, which was ruled by Dr Mahathir Mohamad who pulled every string available to stay in power, Najib is conniving with his cohort of bully-boys to keep his position intact.

Unfortunately, this is the most sincere compliment I could pay the premier.

Before we could digest Najib’s announcement of setting-up a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms, he did the flapjack stunt and said general election could be held anytime and is not bound by the outcome of the PSC.

His statement gives us a clear indication that Najib is not serious about revamping the country’s electoral system. And why would he?

Vote-rigging, phantom voting, postal voting and the irregularities of the system are what Najib is banking on to keep his top job in the country.

Abuses in the electoral system are nothing new in Malaysia. It has been practiced, over the years, by Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders to cling to power without any legitimacy.

Through Najib’s statement we could arrive at a prognosis that the next general election would be the dirtiest in Malaysia’s political history.

Or we could drum up reasons for his flip-flop statements, which have been one too many the last couple of months, to say that there is a deep divide within Umno and the premier is facing immense pressure to toe the line from his own peers.

Not too long ago, the world witnessed the Arab spring revolution. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to demand their rights from leaders who were deemed indispensable. I am speaking of none other than Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

The protesters were motivated by a strong yearning not to live in submission. They were determined to stop any leader from trampling on their dignity and human rights.

These rebellions would not stop until leaders who rule through dictatorship, suppression and corruption are thrown out of power.

Admission by default

We too witnessed our share of history on July 9 this year, when thousands of Malaysians took to the streets to demand that their voting pattern tallied with the election results.

They braved tear gas, water cannon and baton-wielding anti-riot cops to demand the government does not tread on their right to vote in a system which is free from gross violations and abuses.

In response, we have seen nonchalant dismissal by Najib and his cabinet ministers when issues of permanent residence (PR) holders being registered as potential voters came to light. This bunch is also non-committal to the admission of army officers who said they voted for hundreds of people.

Through his latest stunt, Najib has shattered every illusion that the electoral system in the country is free and fair. It is his admission by default.

Now we, the rakyat, must rise and demand that the Umno-led Barisan Nasional government does not trample on our right to vote in a less hostile and corrupt electoral system.

For when the people rise, Najib and his government would fall.

Charles Santiago is DAP’s Member of Parliament for Klang.

‘I never had sex with Saiful’

Anwar starts his defence by giving a statement from the dock, which means he will not be cross-examined by the prosecution.
KUALA LUMPUR: Anwar Ibrahim today started his defence in the Sodomy II trial by denying that he had ever had sex with complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

“First and foremost, I categorically deny the charges against me. I never had any sexual relations with Saiful,” said Anwar who read from a statetement from the accused dock.

He had earlier opted to give his evidence from the dock, instead of from the witness stand. This means he could not be cross-examined by the prosecution.

Anwar said the charges were a “despicable attempt at character assassination”, but vowed that he would not be “cowed into submission”.

High Court judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah earlier allowed Anwar to take the stand from the accused dock. Anwar had three choices: to testify in the witness box, to speak in the accused dock or to keep silent.

On May 16, Zabidin ordered Anwar to enter his defence after ruling that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against the latter.

He ruled that Saiful was a “credible” and “truthful” witness whose testimony was corroborated by the evidence of expert witnesses, including doctors and chemists.

In 2008, Anwar was charged with having sodomised Saiful, his former aide, then 22, the same year. The incident allegedly occurred at a Desa Damansara condominium unit in Bukit Damansara between 3.10pm and 4.30pm on June 26.

If convicted under section 377B of the Penal Code, Anwar could face up to a maximum of 20 years in prison and whipping.

This is the second time the PKR de facto leader has been charged with sodomy, the first being in 1998 alongside charges of corruption. The Permatang Pauh MP has consistently denied the charges, saying they were a political conspiracy hatched to destroy his politcal career.



Speaking with reporters, Najib explicitly denied ever meeting Altantuya, and suggested Anwar's public revelations were an attempt to distract the public from the sodomy allegations against the Opposition leader. Najib, however, admitted that he had met Anwar's accuser, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who had come to Najib's home several days before filing a police complaint, but this did not reflect a conspiracy.
Raja Petra Kamarudin


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/07/2028


Classified By: Political Section Chief Mark D. Clark, reason 1.4 (b and d).

1.  (C) As de facto Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim went on the offensive last week, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak wasted no time in denying any link to the Altantuya murder case, while diffusing another bombshell by admitting he previously had met the man accusing Anwar of sodomy.  On July 4, the private investigator who had implicated Najib in the murder case sat by silently as a lawyer read out a retraction of his statement publicized only 24 hours earlier.
The rising political boil led to rumors of potential arrest for Anwar the night of July 3.  A major Opposition political rally in the Kuala Lumpur vicinity failed to attract critical mass, as some supporters took heed of police warnings and talk of using the military to ensure order.  U.S. remarks related to the allegations against Anwar continued to generate opportunistic GOM criticism, including a letter from Foreign Minister Rais Yatim to the Secretary. 
Prime Minister Abdullah felt it necessary to announce that his government is stable, in the face of rumors to the contrary, while UMNO leaders prepared themselves for party elections.  A key lieutenant for Anwar Ibrahim assessed that PM Abdullah did not support use of emergency measures against the Opposition at this time, and said Anwar would continue with public rallies.  End Summary.
Najib: I Met Anwar's Accuser, But Not Altantuya
2.  (C) DPM Najib wasted little time in defending himself publicly following Anwar's July 3 press conference featuring private investigator Balasubramaniam and his explosive sworn statement linking Najib to the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya. 
Speaking with reporters, Najib explicitly denied ever meeting Altantuya, and suggested Anwar's public revelations were an attempt to distract the public from the sodomy allegations against the Opposition leader.  Najib, however, admitted that he had met Anwar's accuser, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, who had come to Najib's home several days before filing a police complaint, but this did not reflect a conspiracy. 
In a July 30 interview, Najib had insisted he was not involved in the case at all, while Opposition sources told us they had evidence and witnesses to the contrary (suggesting to us that Najib corrected the public record in order to preempt another disclosure by Anwar).
ISA Fears
3.  (C) In the immediate aftermath of the private investigator's statement tying Najib to the Mongolian murder victim, swirling rumors regarding Opposition protests, and public statements by the police alluding to a possible role for the military in maintaining order, Opposition sources told us Anwar feared he could be arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) as early as the evening of July 3.  As a precaution, Anwar completed a number of legal declarations with his lawyer during the July 3 afternoon. 
To mitigate risks that the planned July 6 anti-government rally could provide a pretext for a security crackdown, the Opposition decided to shift the venue from an open park to an enclosed stadium in Shah Alam in line with a request from police.
Investigator's 24-Hour Turn-Around
4.  (C) Najib's camp appeared to conduct a major counterstrike on July 4, as Balasubramaniam sat in a hastily arranged press conference beside a lawyer who read out a retraction of the private investigator's statement that he publicized only 24 hours earlier. 
The PI's new statutory declaration refutes all allegations connected to Najib, explicitly repeating each of the statements now declared false, and states that the earlier affidavit was completed under duress. 
Balasubramaniam remained silent and glum in the quick press encounter, in contrast to his open demeanor the previous day.  His about-face occurred after being called to a police station on July 3, shortly after the Anwar press conference.  Following his retraction, Balasubramaniam with his immediate family disappeared from public view, with some rumors that he is abroad.
Tepid Turnout for Key Rally
5.  (C) Rumored plans by the Opposition to stage a protest march in Kuala Lumpur on July 4 after Friday Muslim prayers failed to materialize, though police briefing detained two activists at the National Mosque.  Anwar traveled to Opposition-held Penang on Saturday, July 5, to preside over an Opposition rally there which drew an estimated 30,000 supporters. 
The big Opposition event, however, was slated for Sunday, July 6, in Shah Alam in Selangor state, also in Opposition hands.  Police issued warnings regarding the illegal nature of the July 6 rally, and set up road-blocks in the vicinity, actions that deterred attendance; however, police did not otherwise attempt to stop the event. 
The all-day affair, at one time billed as a "million-man" rally, attracted only a modest turnout of some 20,000, less than the 50,000 capacity of the stadium.  Anwar exhorted the crowd to throw out PM Abdullah's National Front (BN), but did not mention his earlier deadline of September 16 to bring down the government through the defection of BN members of parliament. 
The greatest stir of the rally came earlier in the day when a rock band singer flashed his buttocks to the audience during a performance, outraging the crowd and causing some conservative Muslim participants from the Islamist PAS party to abandon the stadium.
U.S. Remarks in the Mix
6.  (SBU) GOM and UMNO party officials continued to criticize both the U.S. and Anwar over the State Department Spokesman's June 30 remarks affirming our support for rule of law in light of the sodomy allegations against the Opposition leader.  Foreign Minister Rais Yatim over the weekend confirmed that he had sent a letter of protest to Secretary Rice over U.S. interference in Malaysia's internal affairs.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar called Anwar America's "snitch."  Education Minister and UMNO Youth leader Hishammuddin said the UMNO Youth wing would protest at the U.S. Embassy, as well as at the Turkish embassy (for sheltering Anwar June 29-30) and the Singapore high commission (for articles published in Singapore critical of DPM Najib's wife, Rosmah). 
Some 40-50 persons, purportedly from the Muslim Consumers Association, demonstrated briefly and peacefully at the U.S. Embassy on July 4; some carried signs equating the U.S. and Anwar with Zionism.  (Note:  We forwarded the Foreign Minister's July 4 letter to EAP/MTS. Despite the high-level criticism, we enjoyed good Malaysian official turnout at our Independence Day reception, held on July 3.  End Note.)
Prime Minister:  Everything Under Control
7.  (SBU) With the political scene buffeted by the Anwar-Najib maelstrom, and respected international media beginning to remark on Malaysia's "turmoil," as did the Asian Wall Street Journal, Prime Minister Abdullah tried to publicly reassure citizens and the international community alike. 
On July 3, Abdullah publicly stressed, "this government is a stable government, please believe that.... Don't panic about what is happening."  On July 6, the PM's comments turned more defense and emotional, as he hit out at "rampant" "slandering" and Opposition protests.  "I don't see the rationale for the continued demonstrations, or to play politics purely to create instability that could jeopardize the people's safety and it is also aimed at toppling the government elected by the people," Abdullah told reporters.
UMNO in Election Mode
8.  (SBU) Meanwhile, PM Abdullah's dominant UMNO party officially begins its election cycle in 10 days time, with the first phase, party branch elections, scheduled July 17-August 24.  Most senior UMNO leaders are devoting increasing time, particularly their weekends, to contact work with their respective party branches and divisions. 
While elections for the presidency, deputy presidency and other national leadership positions do not take place until December, successful candidates must lay the ground work now to ensure their nominations later in the process.  For example, internet journalists reported on July 7 that all 13 UMNO division leaders in Abdullah's home state of Penang had already decided to nominate Abdullah for reelection as party president, a move supposedly intended to forestall a push by Najib's supporters.
Down from the Boiling Point, for Now
9.  (C) Polchief met on July 7 with Sivarasa Rasiah, vice president in Anwar's Peoples Justice Party (PKR) and one of Anwar's lawyers.  Sivarasa said last week's political scene was volatile and "boiling," but the situation now had calmed down to a "simmer." 
He downplayed the immediate risk of the GOM employing emergency measures, such as ISA detention for Anwar and other opposition leaders, in large part because he believed PM Abdullah was not supportive of such measures at this stage.  Even though the police could arrest and hold Anwar for a period of 60 days, Abdullah would need to be on board with the decision. 
Second, Sivarasa argued that use of ISA against Anwar also entailed a willingness to declare a state of emergency to contain and tamp down street protests that would erupt, a step that again Abdullah, but also the King and fellow traditional rulers and perhaps the security forces were not backing at this time.
10.  (C) Sivarasa said Anwar would continue holding rallies, particularly in Opposition-held states, but would be careful to minimize the risk of these getting out of hand and creating a pretext for harsh government action. 
Sivarasa acknowledged that in the July 6 rally Anwar had not mentioned his now famous September 16 deadline for bringing down the BN government, and Sivarasa appeared to imply that this date did not reflect a particular plan, at least not one that he was privy to. 
Sivarasa downplayed the possibility of Anwar contesting in a by-election in the near future.
11.  (C) The PKR VP and lawyer thought that the police investigation into the sodomy allegations against Anwar had failed to turn up enough information for prosecutors to justify an actual indictment, though the police would never speak up to clear Anwar's name and the allegations, or an open investigation, would linger. 
Sivarasa stated that private investigator Balasubramaniam had confided in him, along with a number of others, some two months ago regarding information linking Najib to the Altantuya murder case.
Anwar would bring forward these witnesses to Balasubramaniam's remarks when needed.
12.  (C) Last week's palatable political tension, stoked by Anwar's offensive in face of the sodomy investigation and GOM counterattacks, has receded somewhat as of today.  The under-attended Opposition rally of July 6, considered by itself, failed to impress or convey a sense of popular momentum. 
BN leaders, Najib in particular, have been quick to conclude that the rally's failure to attract a packed crowd reflects a lack of support for Anwar.  Police warnings and reference to bringing in the military to ensure order no doubt dampened enthusiasm among Opposition supporters.  The political status quo threatens Anwar and plays into Najib's hands, however, suggesting that the Opposition leader will come out with fresh challenges to the BN government.
13.  (C) Najib and UMNO may have suffered longer term blows to their public credibility in the exchange of allegations with Anwar.  Detailed revelations about Najib, even retracted the next day, will tend confirm the widespread public belief that the DPM is linked to the Altantuya murder. 
The allegations against Anwar, however, appear as a repeat of the politically-motivated charges of 1998, even to those who put some stock in the reports.  For Najib this comes at the inopportune time with the start of the UMNO election cycle, and will dampen the possibility his camp can generate enough grassroots backing for a Najib bid to replace Abdullah as party leader come December.

Hisham: Setting up of panel shows we want fair polls

The New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: The formation of the parliamentary select committee on electoral reforms was the best platform for the government to answer all accusations hurled by the opposition, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

He said the move showed the determination of the government in having an open, fair and transparent electoral system.

"The country's election process has always been fair, democratic and clean but the select committee is the best avenue to show that the government has nothing to hide," he said in a statement yesterday.

Through it, the public would get a clearer picture about the electoral process.

"It is through such a committee that the government and opposition members will be able to discuss and reach a consensus on the matter.

"Not only that, any matters pertaining to election laws and regulations can be implemented in a transparent manner.

"It would be an excellent opportunity for young members of parliament to share their views, particularly on improving the electoral process."

Hishammuddin also said ministry officials had held talks with the Election Commission (EC) last week in an effort to update citizenship and voter records.

He said the National Registration Department and the EC were working together to update the electoral roll and verify claims on phantom voters.

"The government has a firm stance when it comes to voter registration. The ministry and NRD will ensure that these issues are addressed.

"I want the database on applications for citizenship, entry permits and late registration of births to be updated."

Museum exhibit highlights Pakistan's Buddhist roots

(CNN) -- A statue resembling the goddess Athena and jewelry bearing images from Greco-Roman mythology may not be objects you'd expect to see in a museum exhibit of Buddhist art from Pakistan.
Their presence among carvings of Buddha and Indian deities is meant to serve as a reminder of Pakistan's oft-forgotten multicultural roots, which form the basis of a new exhibit, "The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara."

The show, which runs until October 30 at New York's Asia Society, is the first to bring works of Gandharan art to the United States since 1960. The pieces, on loan from museums in Karachi and Lahore, highlight Pakistan's history as a crossroads of cultural influences, despite present-day associations of the country as an incubator of religious extremism, museum director Melissa Chiu said.

"When we think of Pakistan, Americans might associate it with the place where Osama bin Laden was captured, with terrorism and natural disasters," she said. "But actually, it has a much longer history that dates back to an ancient culture that gives us a sense of a pluralistic tradition that was all about tolerance."

At its height, Gandhara encompassed present-day Peshawar in northwest Pakistan and parts of eastern Afghanistan, the Hindu Kush, and northwest India, making it a major center of trade, commerce and the development of arts and education. Pakistan may be 95% Muslim today, but Buddhism flourished in Gandhara between the 2nd century B.C. and 10th century A.D., giving rise to a distinct style of Buddhist visual art.

The statue of Athena and a gold carving of Aphrodite in the exhibit demonstrate the early influence of Greco-Roman culture in the region, which began with its conquest by Alexander the Great. Themes from classical Roman art persisted in Gandharan art even as Buddhism began to flourish in the first century A.D., fostered by Silk Road trade and cross-cultural connections from the Mediterranean to China.

Depictions of the Buddha and the concept of bodhisattvas, or "enlightened beings," became the main icons of Gandharan art. A section of the exhibition, "Buddhas and Bodhisattvas," explores the diverse visual imagery of Buddha and bodhisattvas in Gandhara and how it relates to the multifaceted nature of Buddhism in the region.

A carving of a standing Bodhisattva bears drapery and folds reminiscent of what you might find in classical art; another flaunts a chiseled torso reminiscent of, well, a Greek god, Chiu said.

"A number of sculptures show us the narrative of the life of Buddha, where we see Buddha represented as person, in symbols, footprint, but it's his representation in human form that went on to influence art that went to China, Japan, Korea, other parts of Asia," she said.

Getting the pieces to the United States is a tale of bureaucracy in true form two years in the making, but the initiative never suffered from a lack of desire, Chiu said.

As an international team begins rebuilding two massive Buddha statues in Afghanistan destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, the exhibit also demonstrates Pakistan's dedication to preserving its multicultural heritage, Pakistan's representative to the United Nations said.

With Buddha at its thematic core, the exhibit also highlights lessons of tolerance and humanity of enduring relevance, especially in a time when relations between the U.S. and Pakistan are not at their best, UN Amabassador Abdullah Hussain Haroon said.

"Buddha represents a human being whose ethereal qualities were so magnified by his enormous wisdom that his values of himself, which were espoused by Gandhi and so many others, became his contributions to mankind," said Haroon, who was instrumental in helping secure the works on loan from the National Museum in Karachi and the Lahore Museum in Lahore.

"This was one of the great periods of the world of fundamental equity, of human rights and so many other important principles, which are important to Pakistan and the United States today," he said.

"We're constantly going to strive for a better understanding of each other and a better relationship, and despite what's happening between the U.S. and Pakistan, there are very strong grounds for us to coexist in peaceful fashion."

40pc of Kelantan bazaar food contaminated

Traders selling sugarcane drinks must keep the sugarcanes in storage containers and not leave them lying on the ground. —
NST picture by Aizuddin Saad
Traders selling sugarcane drinks must keep the sugarcanes in storage containers and not leave them lying on the ground. — NST picture by Aizuddin Saad
KOTA BARU: The state Health Department said 40 per cent of food in Ramadan bazaars are contaminated with bacteria that cause food poisoning.

Deputy director Dr Wan Mansor Hamzah said it had found e.coli, coliform, staphylococcus and bacillus in kuih and other food samples taken from bazaars when it began monitoring them at the start of Ramadan.

He said the contamination had reached a level that could trigger food poisoning.

“The contamination is a sign of food handlers’ poor personal hygiene,” he said yesterday It was reported that 15 food poisoning cases, involving 550 people, had been reported nationwide since the start of Ramadan.

Dr Wan Mansor said the bacteria could be transferred to food through dirty cooking utensils and unhygienic surroundings where the food was prepared and sold.

However, he said, there were no food poisoning cases that could be linked to eating contaminated food from hawker stalls.

“If we can establish that dirty food caused food poisoning in consumers, we can take food handlers to court.” He said health officers would continue advising food handlers and hawkers of the need to maintain a high standard of hyg iene.

Director-general of Health Datuk Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman urged traders to be hy - gienic when preparing food and drinks.

In preparing sugarcane drinks, he said, traders should wash sugarcanes first, but most did not do this.

“Placing sugarcanes on the ground is not a good practice, unless traders clean them first before processing them,” Dr Hasan told the New Straits Times yesterday.

He said traders should keep sugarcanes in a storage container and not leave them in the open as they might attract flies and other pests.

He added that district health officers would advise traders on food safety and hyg iene.

“And, if required by local authorities, our officers will join their teams during inspections and enforcement checks.”

Perception: Is PM Najib Under Seige?

‘Umno must compete without killing opposition’

Umno cannot bank its resurgence on the demerits of its opponents.

Umno must adopt elements of the new nationalism – declare war on corruption and mediocrity.

We know the Pakatan Rakyat people haven’t got superior quality people too. Even they are scrapping the bottom of the barrel which is abundantly clear when they are forced to accept renegades from ruling coalition partners.

Umno cannot bank its resurgence on the demerits of its opponents. It must rebound on its own native strengths and capabilities.

Hence rather than applying resources in trying to blow out its opponents, Umno better spend them on rebuilding Umno.

Most times the ‘win-win’ is the most effective approach: ‘You can compete without having to kill the opposition.’

The choice has to be made by ‘hard-headed thinking.’

So, the task for right minded Malaysians is to find hard headed thinkers.
Management authors Nalebuff and Brandenburger (1996) when advising on ‘co-opetition’ argued that a strategic and or tactical stance is decisive.

They said, and I quote: “For example, in many markets, it’s a positive gain when new competition arrives. If you’re running the only antique shop for miles around, far fewer people will call than if half-a-dozen others cluster round you.

“The more companies supply connection to the Internet, and the more sites that are established on the World Wide Web, the more users will pile in – to the advantage of everybody.

“You have to be both Dr Jekyll and MrHyde, because:
• There’s a bias towards seeing every new player as a threat
• But many players complement you as well as compete with you
• Look for complementary opportunities as well as competitive threats”.

‘Islam Hadhari bombed badly’

How do hard-headed and clever planners react to this kind of scenario?

Most probably, the hard-headed politicians will react to this seemingly gentlemanly theory by pointing to the innumerable cases where those thuggish competitors have attacked by undermining successful initiatives with me-toos.

They retaliate in kind, believing they are likely to win.

Take for instance the introduction of Islam Hadhari. Umno flooded the market with this brand hoping to undercut the Islam which PAS is offering.

PAS retaliated by offering its Islam through the usual and more cost effective method – that of ‘selling’ their products and services through the ubiquitous suraus and mosques.

Umno wanted to do it with much fanfare and festivity.

In the end, our understanding of Islam Hadhari is probably not much better than our understanding about it when Islam Hadhari the brand, was first announced in 2005.

I think, in the classic Hollywood terminology, this is one Islamic show that bombed badly.

No one talks about Islam Hadhari nowadays and the former major-general Jamil Khir Baharom, who now sits as minister in the Prime Minister’s office is left with the responsibility of how best to salvage the idea.

‘Learn new skills’

If he is a hard-headed and clever planner (not just hard-headed behind that steely persona), he copes with this by building defences against aggression and/or imitation into that hard-headed and clever thinking.
As Nalebuff and Brandenburger explained:

Build the strongest possible customer franchise, with the highest possible customer satisfaction translates politically into franchising all the suraus and masjids in this country with the same module and start selling it to the public.

All the imams and even the chairman of the management committee must be instructed with the same modules so that they speak consistently and with the same voice.

They must be turned into knowledgeable workers.

Nothing is more depressing, when imams don’t seem to know what they are talking and even worse by saying they admit they don’t know anything about this new product.

Your own people kill your product. This kind of honesty doesn’t come from the purest of intentions but results from stupidity- you simply haven’t learn the new skill sets.

Next support the franchise by investing heavily in the brand translates into saying you concentrate resources at the frontlines not in the backrooms. The ones needing resources and help are those in the frontlines dealing with customers on a day to day basis.

Raise volume to take advantage of the learning curve – which reduces costs as output increases.
This will entail doing the maximum number of programmes on a continuing basis. Remember, victory over an idea must be won over and over again.

Aggressively protect your market share/volume to prevent others from winning the above economies of scale.

This translates into leaving no room for your competitors to duplicate the steps you have taken because you have offered the public better services and products which are consistently supplied.

The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman and an FMT columnist.

I’m sorry, Najib, it was the AG and IGP

Yes, Rocky, my friend, I will certainly apologise if I had erred. But in the case of my Statutory Declaration it was the AG and IGP who erred. And this error of theirs distorted what actually happened. So THEY should apologise to Najib and Rosmah. In fact, they should also apologise to me for arresting and charging me for something I did not do just so that they need not admit their mistake and apologise to Najib and Rosmah.  

Raja Petra Kamarudin 

Let it not be said that Raja Petra Bin Raja Kamarudin is not man enough to apologise for any mistake he may have made.

So far, most of the articles I have written and allegations I have made have proven to be correct. So, I will not apologise for those, of course.

No doubt, some are yet to be proven. Nevertheless, history has shown that what I have written is always proven to be fact in the end. It may take a couple of years or maybe even ten years. But in the end what I said is always proven as fact.

Sure, some have not yet been proven to be fact. However, they have not yet proven to be false either. So, while we wait for what I said to be proven (or disproven), let us just agree that the jury is out until something transpires that proves things either way -- fact or false.

Now, one very ‘damaging’ issue -- to both Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak as well as me -- is the Statutory Declaration that I signed in April 2008. The Umno Bloggers say I should apologise for that lie.
I agree. If I lied or made a mistake then I should apologise. That is the noble thing to do. And I am sure if I apologise for that mistake then many would probably forgive me, Umno people included.

But that is just the problem. I did not lie or make a mistake. So how can I apologise for that?
You see: the AG and IGP made the mistake, not me. The AG and IGP do not understand English. They also did not read what I wrote in my Statutory Declaration. They just HEARD that I had signed a Statutory Declaration alleging something against the Deputy Prime Minister’s wife and, without reading what I wrote, they jumped up and screamed that I had lied and said that I would be dragged to court and charged for that lie.

Since they had already publicly alleged that I had lied and since they had already publicly said I would be charged in court for lying, they could not now do a U-turn and apologise. So, like it or not, they had no choice but to arrest me and charge me in court. If not then the AG and IGP would look like idiots -- not that they already do not look like idiots.

So the AG and IGP made this huge mistake. And because they refused to eat humble pie and instead wanted to stubbornly maintain their stand that they were right, they proceeded with arresting and charging me in court on the basis that I had lied in my Statutory Declaration.

Because of this, the whole world got the impression that I had alleged something against the Deputy Prime Minister’s wife -- now known as the FLOM (First Lady of Malaysia). If not, how could they arrest and charge me in court? And this was what was planted and ingrained in everyone’s mind -- that I had signed a Statutory Declaration alleging something against Rosmah Mansor.

Most people -- just like the AG and IGP -- also did not read my Statutory Declaration. Many, in fact, like the Umno people, do not even understand English -- just like the AG and IGP.

So they based their judgement on what they saw and heard on TV and what they read in the government-owned mainstream newspapers.

In fact, even many opposition people did not read my Statutory Declaration and they too based their judgement on what the mainstream media reported. And imagine these are the people we want to head the new government as a replacement to Barisan Nasional. I shudder to think we are going to entrust the country to these types of idiots. Hancur Malaysia!

So you see, the AG and IGP should apologise to Najib and Rosmah. I do not need to do so. The AG and IGP should admit that they made a mistake. They should confess that they did not read my Statutory Declaration before they jumped up and screamed that I had lied and that I would be charged in court for lying.

And they should come clean and tell Najib that, since they had already opened their big mouth, they could not then make a U-turn and admit that they were mistaken. They must confess to Najib that their egos would not allow them to admit their mistake so they had to proceed with arresting and charging me in court.

And because of this the AG and IGP created the wrong impression that I had signed a Statutory Declaration alleging something against Rosmah Mansor whereas this is not what actually happened. So, it was the AG and IGP who are the culprits that perpetuated this false impression that I had alleged something against Rosmah Mansor.

Yes, Rocky, my friend, I will certainly apologise if I had erred. But in the case of my Statutory Declaration it was the AG and IGP who erred. And this error of theirs distorted what actually happened. So THEY should apologise to Najib and Rosmah. In fact, they should also apologise to me for arresting and charging me for something I did not do just so that they need not admit their mistake and apologise to Najib and Rosmah. 
Ampun, Pak Najib .. (?) 
Rocky’s Bru
Indonesian newspaper apologizes to PM over lies and fabrication, says KJ. And they should, too, if they had lied and fabricated. The Malaysian Insider said sorry to Najib Razak just the other day.
Some bloggers should learn how ... Making mistakes, correcting them.
Najib denies Rosmah bought US$24m ring, Russian mob links for in-laws 
(The Malaysian Insider) – In his first comments on the issues, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has denied his wife bought a US$24 million diamond ring or that his Kazakhstan in-laws are linked to the “Russian mafia” as reported by Indonesia’s top-selling daily, Kompas earlier this month.

Kompas has since apologised to the prime minister for its August 4 report but mystery remains why the ring from New York jeweller Jacob & Co. was addressed to Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, according to pictures widely available on the Internet.

“I was surprised with the report. Because, the facts, I know is not true at all,” Najib told Kompas in an interview published in its Sunday edition today. The interview with Kompas journalist Jimmy S Harianto was conducted last Thursday.

“Furthermore, it links the name of a head of government of a country that we have important links with,” the prime minister added.

In a column on August 4, Kompas described Rosmah’s ties with soon-to-be in-law Maira Nazarbayev as close although it provided no evidence to back its claims and added, “Maira Nazarbayev, who lives a lifestyle ala Imelda Marcos supposedly has links to the Russian mafia.

Maira is the former wife of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Abishuly Nazarbayev’s brother Bolat Nazarbayev. Nooryana Najwa, the 22-year-old daughter of Rosmah and Najib, was recently betrothed to Maira’s son, Daniyar, who was her college sweetheart.

Kompas said it was made to understand by the Prime Minister’s Office that the article was used by “certain political interests” and distributed with photocopies sent throughout the country ahead of elections that could be held as early as this year although Najib played coy over the timing of the general election.

The Indonesian daily said the report was said to be detrimental to the federal government as it linked Rosmah and Perimekar Sdn Bhd, the company involved in the controversial commissions for the Scorpene submarine deal.

“That is not true,” Najib stressed, adding, “The ring was not ordered by her whether to be bought or to be used for private display,” a reference to pro-Umno bloggers who had said the ring was brought in for private display for four days.

In its article today, Kompas also reported the prime minister as saying the issue of Maira Nazarbayev being linked to the “Russian mafia” is untrue.

Kompas chief editor Rikard Bangun also apologised today to Najib and his family over the report although it is understood that the Prime Minister’s Office has used back channels to threaten a suit against the Indonesian daily. However, the daily has not flinched except for the apology.

In the interview, Najib also touched on the impending elections by saying that his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has improved conditions for a better chance at the polls as it has done well in by-elections over the past two years. 

“But I am realistic. Because by-elections is not an absolute measure. The absolute measure is the general elections and the situation will be different.

“So we have to work with every effort for an agenda and programme that can satisfy and give confidence to the people. Not just government programmes, economic programmes but ones that touch the people. Programmes that can relieve and satisfy the people especially in the context of global inflation and price spikes in world commodities,” Najib said.

The prime minister also touched on democracy, saying the models varied from country to country and noted that Indonesia had experience from a restricted system to a more open democracy.

He said Malaysia’s system has evolved and the ruling party shared the same fate as the opposition among the voters. “The vote is decided by the people,” Najib declared.

Pilih Perdana Menteri Mengikut Perlembagaan

Oleh Aspan Alias
‘Semakin hari semakin lemah’. Begitulah pandangan orang ramai terhadap kepimpinan hari ini. Kalau dahulu kta beranggapan yang Abdullah Badawi merupakan Perdana Menteri yang paling lemah, tetapi rupa-rupanya pandangan itu samasekali meleset. Dengan keadaan sebegini jika pimpinan masih mengambil pengganti dengan cara konvensyen iaitu siapa sahaja yang menjadi Presiden UMNO dialah yang akan menjadi Perdana Menteri.

Pemilihan Perdana Menteri secara konvensyen ini menyumbang banyak masalah kepada negara kerana pimpinan UMNO akhir-akhir ini sudah tidak mampu lagi untuk mengekalkan kredibiliti sebagai parti yang unggul untuk dijadikan sebagai badan siasah yang mampu menjadi tunjang kepada pemerintahan negara.
Bagi saya kita perlu memilih Perdana Menteri mengikut peruntukan dalam Perlembagaan negara, iaitu Perdana Menteri dipilih di kalangan ahli-ahli Parlimen yang mendapat kepercayaan di dalam Dewan Parlimen itu. Dengan cara ini maka risiko rakyat mendapat pemimpin yang tidak bertanggungjawab akan berkurangan.

Jika pucuk pimpinan UMNO itu dipegang oleh seorang pemimpin yang terlalu di ragui oleh rakyat maka negara akan menjadi kacau bilau politiknya. Keadaan sekarang sudah berlainan. Dulu UMNO dipimpin oleh mereka yang mengutamakan negara tetapi sekarang UMNO di pimpin oleh mereka yang mahu jadi ketua kepada negara walaupun tidak berkepimpinan. Seorang ketua tidak semestinya mempunyai kepimpinan.

UMNO sudah tidak mungkin mampu untuk memilih kepimpinan yang betul kerana sistem pemilihan secara delegasi itu masih diamalkan. Dengan bercambahnya kegiatan rasuah politik sekarang ini maka, hanya mereka yang berkuasa dan mempunyai kewangan yang besar sahaja yang akan menjadi pemimpin. Pendeknya UMNO tidak lagi mampu untuk mempersembahkan kepada rakyat pimpinan yang benar-benar berkepimpinan.

Mereka yang jujur dan berkepimpinan yang sepatutnya di persembahkan kepada rakyat. Pemimpin-pemimpin yang berkepimpinan hanya duduk di tepian dan inilah masalah yang paling rumit dan sukar untuk di perbaiki. Yang hendak kita selamatkan ialah negara yang mempunyai penduduk yang berbilang kaum ini.
Bagi pandangan yang bertanggungjawab pemilihan Perdana Menteri melalui pemilihan di Dewan Parlimen itu lah yang paling sesuai untuk masa dan generasi sekarang. Hanya yang perlu di lakukan ialah untuk memilih di kalangan ahli Parlimen Melayu yang beragama Islam untuk di tonjolkan dan dan disokong oleh Dewan Rakyat itu, tidak kira dari parti apa sekali pun.

Pandangan ini jangan di anggap sebagai pandangan di luar kotak. Ianya ada termaktub di dalam perlembagaan negara. Tidak ada parti dalam negara ini samada di dalam BN atau pembangkang yang menolak kenyataan yang negara ini mesti di pimpin oleh seorang Melayu tetapi Melayu itu biarlah Melayu yang berwibawa dan di hormati serta diterima oleh semua kaum dan pihak. PAS mengakui yang pimpinan negara kita mesti di kalangan Melayu dan beragama Islam. DAP pun begitu. DAP tidak mahu mencuba untuk mengambil tempat Perdana Menteri atau Menteri-Menteri Besar kecuali di dua buah negeri-negeri ‘Straits Settlement’ iaitu Pulau Pinang dan Melaka.

DAP mengakui serta menerima yang negeri-negeri bersekutu dan tidak bersekutu mesti diketuai oleh seorang Ketua Eksekutif Melayu yang beragama Islam. Ini jelas tetapi pihak yang memerintah tidak mahu memberikan gambaran yang sebenarnya ini kerana permainan politik untuk mengelirukan pandangan ramai terhadap isu ini.

Cara konvensyen ini hanya boleh di teruskan jika UMNO berjaya mencari seorang pemimpin yang dihormati ramai. Memenangi kerusi Presiden UMNO itu hanya merupakan pilihan ahli-ahli UMNO tetapi dia bukan pilihan orang ramai. Sebenarnya pemilihan itu bukannya pemilihan ahli-ahli UMNO yang ramai pada hakikatnya tetapi hanya pemilihan dari delegasi seramai 3 ribu orang sahaja.

Masakan pilihan 3 ribu manusia Melayu yang menjadi delegasi dalam pemilihan itu merupakan satu representasi bagi 29 juta rakyat negara?

Yang 3 ribu orang itu pun selalunya dikongkong oleh permainan politik wang dan kuasa yang sangat merbahaya kepada masa depan politik dan kesetabilan negara. Ramai di antara delegasi itu memilih pada siapa yang membayar mereka. Itu sebabnya ramai di antara perwakilan itu boleh membeli kereta baru dan menyelesaikan masalah hutang rumah dan sebagainya.

Mahu tidak mahu kita wajar mengakui yang UMNO tidak memilih pemimpin yang berkemampuan tetapi yang memilih pada siapa yang paling berkuasa dan mempunyai wang yang banyak dan bertimbun. Selagi isu ini tidak dibereskan selagi itulah negara tidak akan dapat pemimpin yang sebenarnya.

Kita terpaksa memilih seorang Perdana Menteri ‘beyond the domain of political parties’. Kita perlukan pembaharuan yang drastik semata-mata untuk menjaga keselamatan dan keluhuran sebuah negara yang berdaulat seperti negara kita.

Apabila kita orang Melayu gagal untuk mencari kepimpinan ianya merupakan satu kegagalan yang sengaja di cari-cari oleh kita semua kerana kita tunduk kepada wang dan kuasa yang telah memecahkan rakyat dan negara kita ini.

Isu rasis yang subur di mainkan pada hari ini akhirnya akan berkesudahan juga. Parti-parti yang memainkan isu rasis ini secara deras akan di tolak rakyat terutamanya di kalangan rakyat yang ramai kerana ianya hanya membebankan kepada siapa yang mahu hidup dalam sebuah negara dengan aman, setidak-tidaknya dengan jiran dan tetangga kita.

Orang Melayu masih di berikan segala-galanya termasuk untuk menjadi tunjang kepimpinan negara tetapi tidak semestinya melalui UMNO yang kian hari kian merana dalam kebathilannya sendiri. UMNO mungkin wajar bersifat defensive tetapi orang Melayu tidak sekali-kali. Orang Melayu perlu berada dimana-mana.

Mereka wajar berada di dalam PAS dan juga DAP atau pun PKR. Yang tidak bersetuju elok berada di dalam UMNO dan jangan mencerca di antara satu dengan lain. cerca-mencerca yang dilakukan oleh penyokong UMNO telah menjauhkan UMNO dari hati rakyat yang inginkan kesetabilan politik yang meyakinkan.
Orang Melayu tidak mungkin dapat menyertai MCA kerana MCA hanya untuk orang Cina yang kesempitan pemikiran, Begitu juga MIC hanya untuk orang India.

Kita wajar sedar yang parti-parti rasis ini akan tamat riwayatnya kerana rakyat sudah berubah nilai dan budaya politik mereka. Rakyat sudah jemu dengan politiking perkauman yang tidak dapat dikawal oleh parti-parti rasis masing-masing.

The case for a third gender

The Star

Is there a need for a third category of gender for transsexuals?

ALL Win wants is to live a normal life.

From childhood to adulthood, he has had to endure countless taunts because of how he looks and acts.

“When I played with other kids in the park, they would call me bapuk or pondan,” says the 44-year-old transsexual, recalling the torment he went through, even at pre-school age.

Later, in an all-boys secondary school, Win avoided the canteen and toilets. “I was scared of being the butt of jokes. It was torture for me.”

Having experienced the discrimination, the health product executive says he understands why Mohd Ashraf Hafiz Abdul Aziz, who died on July 31 after a heart attack, had wanted to legally change his name.

After undergoing sex change in Thailand two years ago, Ashraf, 25, had applied to change his name to Aleesha Farhana but his application was rejected by the Terengganu High Court on July 18.

A day after his death, 17 NGOs called on the Government to have consultation with the transgender community who faces stigmatisation and discrimination.

Landmark case

Win, whose real name is Zaidi Zakaria, was legally recognised as Zareena Zakaria in Canada while studying there 20 years ago. Following a traumatic experience (he was raped at knifepoint), he was referred to a gender identity clinic in Toronto.

Two psychiatrists, a psychometrist, a psychologist, an endocrinologist and an internist carried out physical examinations and psychological tests on him and concluded that he suffered “gender dysphoria and appears to be transsexual”. (The American Psychological Association defines transgender as people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from birth sex. Transsexuals are transgendered people who live or wish to live full time as members of the gender opposite to their birth sex.)

Zaidi was told that if he wanted to pursue surgery through their clinic, he would need to live, study or obtain employment in the female role for a period of two years and change his documents to an unambiguous female name.

Win did not go through it due to legal and technical complications. But when he returned home, he was unable to find a proper job, despite having a degree, because of discrimination, he says. He ended up working either as a waitress or cashier for many years.

Win admits he has had relationships with men in the past but all left him when they got married or because he chose not to practise premarital sex, he says.

In April this year, the Pakistan Supreme Court made a landmark decision to allow an unspecified third category of gender for transsexuals. It also recommended that they be given opportunities in government jobs.

Sisters in Islam has described the court decision as a pragmatic one, made on the basis of social realities, compassion and humanitarian principles. However, it notes that concern may arise for transgendered persons who prefer to be identified as solely male or female.

Buddhist Research Society president Datuk Ang Choo Hong says that a third gender is in line with the early Buddhist scriptures that describe four types of gender male, female, male and female sex organs (upathobhajanaka) and no sex organs/sexless/eunuch (pandaka).

Nisha Ayub, coordinator of the Pink Triangle Foundation's Mak Nyah programme, highlights the problem transsexuals face at the Customs or airport.

“The passport says male' but the person looks female. The official will ask if the passport is fake,” says Nisha, who underwent sex change surgery a few years ago.

Kairos Research Centre director Dr Ng Kam Weng says the Pakistan court decision acknowledges a reality.

“If the purpose of the decision is to prevent discrimination in employment simply because they do not fit into male or female identity as traditionally understood, then I think it is a right decision,” he says.

Sexuality rights trainer Angela Kuga Thas says that while it is important to allow a change in the identity card because transsexuals look different from the gender stated on their identity cards, there is a need to indicate if a person has undergone sex change.

This is because transgender women have different health issues from women because of their different biological make-up.

Win, however, is not in favour of a third gender, saying he does not think it would remove discrimination.

Another transsexual, Hani, 27, hopes the government will allow male or female gender change in the identity card.

“I feel like a woman. I can't explain why I feel this way,” says Hani, who is in two minds on whether to pursue sex change if his gender cannot be changed in the identity card.

Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Professor of sociology and criminology Dr Teh Yik Koon, who has conducted research on Mak Nyah, says trangenders should be reassigned either as male or female. She too is not in favour of a third gender as she believes discrimination would still occur.

Win hopes the Government will set up a sexual change assessment centre. A person may want to undergo surgery not necessarily for sexual intercourse but to have the “right body” and to live a normal life, he says.

Dr Ng is in favour of a professional assessment mechanism.

“The Government should look at transsexuals sympathetically,” he says. “If the board says no' to the person assessed, then it should propose counselling. If the board says yes', then the Government should approve the change in the identity card.”

However, he draws the line at marriage for transgenders as the state must maintain heterosexual relationships for the perpetuation of society.

Association of Ulama secretary-general Dr Mohd Roslan Mohd Nor agrees that such a mechanism should be set up but stresses that sex change must be based on genetic or biological reasons.

He says that currently, only hermaphrodites (khunsa) are allowed sex change. In Malaysia, the National Fatwa Council allows sex change for khunsa wadhih (those with clear male and female sex organs at birth) and khunsa mushkil (those without clear male or female sex organs at birth).

With advice from the Health Ministry, the council has agreed to include ambiguous genitalia and testicular feminisation syndrome in the khunsa mushkil category, he adds.

UKM Medical Centre Department of Psychiatry head Prof Dr Hatta Sidi is calling on the government to have grants for studies in this area.

“We need religious and other relevant authorities to come out with some standard operating procedure. But a lot of insight research work must be done first,” he adds.

Dr Teh says that before a fatwa was issued in 1983, transsexuals could opt for sex-change operations and there was a panel that would interview and provide pre- and post-operation counselling for them.

“This should be brought back,” she suggests.

Society to be blamed?

Is transsexual orientation psychological, genetic or biological?

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia's health psychology unit head Assoc Prof Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon says it is psychological, has some evidence of being biological but not necessarily genetic.

He adds that biological research points to the likelihood of sexual hormone levels before birth.

If society accepts a whole spectrum of femininity and masculinity for men and women as they are, will transgenders be less rejecting of the sex they are made?

Dr Alvin says he sees more guilt than confusion.

“Children come up with all kinds of defence mechanisms. Sometimes, making up a certain safe' identity may help but in the long run, the internal conflict eats them up inside. For many children, adults are always right, and guilt puts them at risk of depression.”

He says there is no harm accepting men who are feminine or women who are masculine for they pose no threat to society. In fact, there is more harm in rejecting them.

“As for need of sex change, it depends on the individual. Not all want to go for a sex change. Some are happy enough with partial change, some are just happy being transvestites,” he says.

Dr Alvin believes that discrimination will likely reduce if transgenders are allowed sex change but not completely, because for some, masculine features may still be present.

Dr Hatta says society is partly to blame for labelling and reinforcing the confusion in a child.

A transgender's behaviour, he believes, is acquired and multi-factorial, not innate. Research in the area of genetics and biology is inconclusive or cannot be replicated.

Dr Hatta, one of the experts consulted by the Department of Islamic Affairs in the Prime Minister's Department, says that as a psychiatrist, he does not judge trangenders or change them but counsels them for the problem presented.

Most transgenders who consulted him, he shares, do not want sex change.

“We also do not approach it as a sin because that can lead them into depression and suicide.”

Since Malaysians from various ethnicity and faiths emphasise compassion towards transgenders and believe that they must not be bullied or discriminated against, greater efforts must be made to stop the stigmatisation and discrimination.

Keep the censors away

The New Straits Times
by G.Shanti, Shuib Taib and Audrey Vijaindren

KUALA LUMPUR: Media censorship should be done away with, except in “extreme cases”, which can threaten national security, such as those which touch on racial and religious sensitivities.

Pornography and excessive violence should also be on the chopping block.
This is the consensus of a crosssection of Malaysians who feel that the government’s move to review its media censorship policy is timely, as freedom of communication and access to information is instrumental in the shaping of a nation.

They said any move to arbitrarily censor the media would be futile in this age, where information is available at the click of a mouse.

"Censorship is no longer effective, so why not embrace freedom in communication? 

"If freedom of communication is used with responsibility and respect, it will be a great tool in shaping our nation," said Alan Hoo, founder of the Malaysian Association of Brand Image Consultants.

But he stressed that the public must be held responsible for their actions. 

Concurring with him, AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said it was time for Malaysia "to get rid of media censorship", as it would ensure an open and transparent platform of communication which is important for national unity.

By having little or no censorship, he said the country would become more innovative, adding that freedom of speech was important for innovation.

"If someone makes defamatory or slanderous statements, there are legal avenues to deal with such matters. 

"And in the absence of media censorship, we can have media regulators to keep an eye on this." 

He was saying this in response to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's statement that the government would review its media censorship policy in line with the country's changing socio-political landscape. 

Najib said the measure was necessary so that the government would not be seen as failing to understand media censorship and how to deal with it.

Educational psychologist Kenneth Phun said there was a need for more balanced reporting by the media and not the kind that was based on political patronage. 

He said the media should provide honest news without treating its readers or viewers as children who did not know how to think. 

"However, I'm not espousing abandonment in terms of zero censorship because I believe that things like pornography should be disallowed."

Giving the media more freedom and allowing the public to express their views would also go a long way in moulding a mature society, said youth worker Michael William.

"Everyone has the right to be heard and hearing different viewpoints helps us make informed choices. 

"I think Malaysians are able to do this if people begin to trust us." 

Professional image consultant Wendy Lee agreed that people should be allowed to express their thoughts without the fear of being judged or penalised.

"Sometimes it's the bitter words that mould us into better people." 

While members of the film industry welcomed the review, they felt there was still a need to control pornography and extreme violence.

Film producer and director Saw Teong Hin said as much as directors like to complain, some degree of censorship was necessary for scenes touching on sex, extreme violence, and racial and religious intolerance.

"Having said that, I would like to qualify it by saying that if we were to ban violent or sex scenes, we need to see the context in which they are censored. It must be discussed. It is not as simple as black or white." 

Actor and writer Tam Suhaimi, who welcomed the prime minister's statement, said the film industry had long suffered from strict censorship. 

"Nevertheless, certain topics still need to be controlled such as pornographic flicks, sex scenes and things that can incite racial antagonism."

Actor Tony Eusoff, however, felt that the question of censorship should not arise in an era where the public had access to various sources of information.

"As far as film censorship goes, I don't think anything is worth censoring. After all, if we want to watch a pornographic movie, you can get it from the Net.

"However, I feel that moviemakers should be responsible enough to know when and how much love scenes they need to have in their movies. If I were to ban something, I would do it if I felt that it was done in bad taste."

Some, however, felt that existing censorship rules were still relevant, given the country's multi-ethnic and multi-religious mix, as issues deemed "sensitive" by some quarters could be blown out of proportion. 

As such, Hulu Selangor member of parliament P. Kamalanathan said media censorship was important because whatever was published or broadcast could be misconstrued. 

"If an interviewee has said something sensitive, the onus is on the writer to exercise some form of censorship so that it doesn't lead to a bigger problem. 

"The pen is mightier than the sword and that is why we need to be careful when we touch on race, religion, language or even culture." 

Prof Dr Suresh Govind, president of the Sathya Sai Baba Central Council of Malaysia, said media reporting should be done responsibly and with accountability, adding that "censorship should be part of journalism".

"The benchmark should be our own families. Would we write anything sensational about our families just to sell the story? 

"The same should be applied to those who we are writing about."

Najib Asks For Study On Abolishing One Of Two Tolls On Cheras-Kajang Highway

HULU LANGAT, Aug 21 (Bernama) -- The prime minister today asked the Works Ministry to study the possibility of abolishing one of the two toll collections on the Cheras-Kajang Highway.

Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the study should then be tabled to the Cabinet for perusal before the government could decide on the issue which had for long been a woe for residents living around the area.

"I mention this because I want to show to you that when we say 'people first', we really want to do whatever possible to lighten the people's burden," he told the crowd at the prime minister's breaking-of-fast with Selangor residents at Dataran Usahawan, Batu 14, Hulu Langat town, Sunday.

"On the Grand Saga toll, I will ask the Works Ministry to study the matter in depth and bring it up to the Cabinet for us to see whether we can afford to do something about the toll issue here.

Also present at the function were Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar and Semenyih assemblyman Datuk Johan Abd Aziz, who is also Hulu Langat Umno division chief.

The prime minister said he could not simply approved any application (to abolish toll) put forward to him as it could have a major financial implication.

Najib who is also Finance Minister, said as a responsible leader, he needed to study such an application thoroughly before making any decision and if the request was reasonable, it would be approved eventually.

"I know if I make an announcement now (on toll abolishment), I will get a thunderous applause. But as the finance minister responsible, I will have to study the matter thoroughly and if it can be considered favourably, an announcement will be made in due time."

Najib made the statement following the Semenyih assemblyman's request, as residents around the area have to pay toll twice to highway concessionaire Grand Saga Tol Sdn Bhd at RM0.90 and RM1.10 within a distance of two kilometres.

In his speech to the crowd of more than 5,000, Najib also assured that the government would consider upgrading Kajang Hospital which had been operating for over 100 years and could no longer cope with the rising number of patients due to increased population in the area.

"Many applications are made to the government and as a leader, I am willing to consider and its also my job, so that the Barisan National (BN) government is seen as one that really gives priority to the people."

Najib who is also Selangor Umno liaison chief, said Malaysians should be grateful as the BN-led government had proven to be effective in bringing change and tackling economic issues when many developed countries including the United States were facing an economic crisis.

"As Malaysians, we should feel fortunate and appreciate that we are living in a country where we can feel that the future will be brighter.

"If we ask the people, they will feel that their life will get better and have the confidence that if the government continues with the direction and plans like the GTP, ETP and 10MP, God willing they will have a brighter future."

He said the people should also realise that this situation did not happen on its own unless they voted in a government that had proven capable of administering and transforming the country.

The prime minister said the public confidence factor was there, otherwise they would not dare put forward any request to be fulfilled by the government.

He said this situation was different from that in some developed countries where the allocations and pensions were cut, and they were forced to depend on assistance from other countries for financial injections to solve their financial crisis.

"In Malaysia, we are not only able to pay salaries, but even bonus of half-month salary to civil servants and RM500 to the pensioners. This is the good thing about living on this blessed land under the BN government," he added.

Najib had earlier handed over Ramadan contribution from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) Foundation to the poor, orphans and senior citizens, as well as 1Malaysia laptop computers to selected residents in the Hulu Langat parliamentary constituency.

Najib later performed Maghrib prayers at the Hishamuddin Alam Shah Mosque here before going to Kg. Pasir Baru Jamek Mosque in Semenyih, about 25km away from here, for Isyak and Tarawih prayers and moreh with the congregation.