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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two humble words don’t make a convert

Umno and JAIS making much ado about nothing as it takes more than listening to the words ‘pray' and 'Quran' to denounce one’s religion.
The raid at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) under the pretext that the organisers of the fundraiser were attempting to convert Muslims is simply absurd.

Citing Section 4 of the Non-Islamic Religious Enactment 1988, the raid while causing an uproar among religious communities received the support of the Muslim lobby groups.

Among those ignorantly supporting the raid was Selangor executive councillor for religious matters, Dr Hasan Ali.

He defended the raid, claiming that the words “pray” and “Quran” were used in the presence of the 12 Muslims who were among the 100 who attended the dinner on Aug 3.

Are just two humble words “pray” and “Quran” good enough to turn the Muslims who attended the dinner into murtads or apostates?

If that is the case, let me then share my experience with Hasan and all those whose “iman” or faith” sways each time “pray” and “Quran” are recited by the Christians.

Some years back, I had befriended a Muslim woman and we soon became good friends, so much so that she on many occasions sought my help with baby-sitting her school-going daughter while she was kept busy with her local councillor’s job.

I was literally living with this single mother and while our religious sentiments differed, she perhaps took it for granted that I would someday open my heart to her religion of Islam and consider converting.

Show of support

In fact, there were times when she would tease me for not returning to the “true path”, that is, to Islam and even asked me if I was open to converting to Islam.

There were times when just as I was about to take my medication, this friend would ask me to utter “bismillah” only to realise she was going a little too far. Did I take offence? No, because I knew where I stood as far as Islam was concerned.

Likewise, I took no offence when she asked me to accompany her to Mecca, to perform her Haj pilgrimage. I told her I would if only a non-Muslim was allowed to set foot in Mecca, which sadly is not the case.

I remember the first time when I spent the month of Ramadan with her and her daughter. I decided I too would puasa or fast, as a way to lend my support to this friend. I fasted throughout the Ramadan month, like my Muslim friend did.

For the first time in my life I set foot at a Ramadan bazaar and for the first time, too, I ate the kurma or dates during “sahur” (meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting) and ate and drank next only at night when it was time for “iftar” or break fast.

I was not used to eating at 4.30am or 5am but nevertheless that was the least I could do as a show of support to my friend.

But did I convert to Islam? No, because I never was in love with the religion to want to make it a part of my life. But then this does not mean I respect the religion any less. The fasting was to show support and also to experience what the Muslims did during the month of Ramadan.

Umno, JAIS got it all wrong

Does the fact that this friend asked me to utter the word “bismillah” and point-blank asked me to convert warrant action against her for attempting to convert me?

When she or her daughter did their “puasa ganti”, that is, replace those days they could not fast, I, while under no obligation, joined them as well. Why? Because they were no less a family to me and my faith was not about to crumble just because I decided to fast as the Muslims do and listen to the television for the “azan” (call for prayer) indicating it is time to break fast.

As far as I was concerned, my friend had her freedom to fulfil her religious obligations and I had mine. To fast and listen to the religious talks on television was hardly going to make a “murtad”. It was done to enhance my understanding of what the month of Ramadan is all about.

When this friend of mine decided to go to Mecca, I remember getting all excited and going to bookstores to look for books that would help prepare her for that very important moment of her life.

I read just as she did about Mecca, the Kaabah, doing the “saie” (walking back and forth between Mounts Safa and Marwah) and “tawaf” (circumambulating the Kaabah seven times). In short, I was no Muslim but I knew a fair bit about Islam, because I chose to, for knowledge sake and not for any devious reason.

Back to the DUMC issue, for JAIS to issue a flimsy excuse that it was concerned that the Muslims who attended the farewell dinner would sway towards Christianity only reflects JAIS’ own insecurity over Islam.

As my experience of having lived with a Muslim friend shows, it was all about lending support to a friend in the month of Ramadan. There was no question of my becoming a murtad or embracing Islam. There was no such fear because the intention was clear – to understand and support.

So when the Malay-dominant party Umno and JAIS make “much ado about nothing” over the DUMC farewell dinner, they are only making a fool of themselves, for not having enough trust in fellow Muslims.
It takes more than listening to words like “pray” and “Quran” to denounce one’s religion. I should know, for I have been there and done that, and am still Jeswan Kaur and not the Malay name this friend so fondly wanted to re-name me with.

The question that begs a truthful scrutiny is – is it the non-Muslims who have an issue with Islam or is it the Muslim themselves?

By the way, last Friday, as I sat sipping coffee at a Muslim-restaurant, a young Malay couple walked in to have lunch. The girl, who wore a tudung, nonchalantly ate her lunch, indifferent to the glares of those left wondering at the audacity of this young lady.

Soon after, once the Friday prayer was over, several men with their sejadah (prayer mat) in hand walked into the same restaurant.

Instead of raiding premises of DUMC, the overzealous officers from the religious department should patrol places where they are most needed. But as always, they have a record of making a no show.

Jeswan Kaur is a freelance journalist and a FMT columnist.

‘Racism and fanaticism’ exploited in Malaysia for politics, Asri tells WSJ

Asri: Islam must be described as a religion of love for others, with a respect for rights, respect for knowledge, rejecting superstition and basing all practices on real arguments.
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 23 — Muslim scholar Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin took a swipe at Malaysia’s religious authorities in a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) interview, claiming that “racism and extreme religious fanaticism” are often used to protect certain political interests.

The former Perlis Mufti, who was recently placed on a terror watch list for Wahhabism, told the influential newspaper that the authorities here needed to be more open-minded, adding that the term “Wahhabi” was recklessly used in Malaysia as a derogatory term to slander others.

“Religious authorities in Malaysia should be more open-minded. Their attitude is to force others to think in only one way, and that is not the attitude of a civilised people,” he said, according to an excerpt of the interview found on WSJ’s website yesterday.

He lamented that Malaysia’s more progressive Muslims were “marginalised” by the conservatives who controlled the religious institutions in government, and accused the administration of fearing criticism from the former group.

While Asri insisted that he was not a follower of Wahhabism, he noted that the teaching had its own distinctive contribution for Muslim societies across the globe.

“If ‘Wahhabi’ means inviting people to be fanatical, rigid, stern, uncompromising, and the like, I oppose it. (But) There are also a lot of sound and relevant opinions among them. However, even if we disagree with their views, that doesn’t mean we can accuse them of terrorism,” he said.

Asri was first linked to Wahhabism and the terrorists group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) early last year, along with PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, former Perlis mentri besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim dan Perlis Mufti Juanda Jaya.

Last month, the National Security Council (NSC) ordered religious authorities to monitor Wahhabism in the country, placing influential former Asri, Juanda and over 40 young Umno ulamas. Putrajaya, however, later agreed that Wahhabism is not a threat to national security.

“In Malaysia, the word ‘Wahhabi’ is quite a mysterious term. Many use the term or slander others by it, without a clue about its meaning.

“In some places, a person is accused of being a Wahhabi for disagreeing with superstitious rituals and beliefs.... When people begin to criticise the practices, they simply say, ‘you are Wahhabi’,” Asri told WSJ.

He defended his position on Islam, pointing out that the religion blesses everyone regardless of race or religion and that any other interpretation that leads to “injustice, oppression, hostility to other people, ignorance, caste systems in society, racism and fanaticism that doesn’t respect the rights of others” should be rejected.

“Islam must be described as a religion of love for others, with a respect for rights, respect for knowledge, rejecting superstition and basing all practices on real arguments,” he said, when pointed out that his interpretation of Islam has often been linked to Wahhabism.

Asri said Malaysia’s Muslim society needs “tajdid”, which he defined as the restoration of Islam’s original look and the innovation of certain elements to fulfil “contemporary needs”.

“A lot of the contemporary issues we are encountering these days were not known in the past. To ensure a continuous survival of society, various new opinions are required.

“The opinions of preceding theologians may not be wrong, but may have expired due to changes in time and circumstance,” he said.

Wanted – RM5b to help Indians, Orang Asli

Malaysian Indian Business Association says these communities need the money over five years to pull themselves out of their impoverished state.

KUALA LUMPUR: A call has gone out to help the Indian and Orang Asli communities to the tune of RM5 billion over the next five years. This is what the Malaysian Indian Business Association wants Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to include in his 2012 Budget.

Association president P Sivakumar said the coming budget must help improve the lifestyle of the minority communities.

He said although Najib has done something to help the minority communities, only a few million dollars have been given out, which is insufficient.

He added the new budget should pay special  attention to the minorities, especially Indians and the Orang Asli.

He said the government should allocate RM1 billion each year for the Indians and Orang Asli over the next five years.

“By allocating the proposed amount, five years will be time enough for the communities to catch up with the others.”

He said 80% of the Indians are in the urban and semi-urban areas and of this, 30% are in the lower income group.

Sivakumar said they do not own houses or given business opportunties to get out of their impoverished situation.

He also asked the government to open up the closed sectors like government contracts and job opportunities in government-linked companies (GLC) .

“After 54 years of independence the nation cannot be run on racial lines, ” he said.
He said Najib is trying to implement the 1Malaysia concept, but unfortunately the civil service has no intention of being flexible.

Why Anwar Ibrahim Made an Unsworn Statement From The Dock

Press Release
On 22nd August 2011, Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim made an unsworn statement from the dock during his second sodomy trial in just over a decade. He chose to do so knowing that less weight would be given to his testimony as compared to sworn testimony from the witness box. This decision not to testify from the witness box is at once a searing protest against an unjust legal and political system, an eloquent indictment of that system and a powerful call for reform and change. By refusing to testify and daring them to do their worst, Anwar Ibrahim has put the legal and political establishment itself on trial. Through this single, public act of principled defiance he has demonstrated the shocking extent to which our justice system has been reduced to being a tool of those who are in power now. His act echoes that of Nelson Mandela, who in a bygone era also chose to give an unsworn statement from the dock during his political trial. Mandela used his now famous statement in the Rivonia sham trial to expose the evils of the apartheid regime to the scrutiny of the world.The stirring conclusion to Mandela’s speech is quoted by Anwar Ibrahim in his own statement from the dock. Like Anwar after him, Mandela realised that the only possible verdict was ‘guilty’ and preferred to make a full and coherent statement of his struggle rather than let his argument emerge in ‘bits and pieces’ during cross-examination.

The unsworn statement as it is today is the fruit of several hundred years of development of the common law. In England accused persons were not allowed counsel in felonies until 1836 and the practice thus grew up of allowing the accused person to make an unsworn statement from the dock. When the Criminal Evidence Act 1898 finally allowed sworn evidence to be accepted by the court, the right to make an unsworn statement from the dock was expressly preserved so as not to compel an accused person to go into the witness box. This hallowed and time-marked right is invaluable to the victim of a political trial, fighting against the entire might of the State. What Nelson Mandela did in 1963, Anwar Ibrahim did yesterday. Used in a righteous cause, the unsworn statement from the dock is a powerful tool against an unjust legal and political establishment. Anwar Ibrahim has rightly said that the outcome of his sodomy trial is a foregone conclusion. Now he has taken this judicial persecution and turned it into a weapon for the betterment of the nation.


8 demands included

The Sun

> Electoral reform demands made by NGOs to be part of committee’s framework, says Nazri

KUALA LUMPUR: The eight demands by several nongovernmental organisations and MPs will be included in the framework for the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reforms.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz said the demands by “legal” NGOs would be included in a memorandum prepared by the Election Commission (EC).

“The memorandum will be submitted for the cabinet meeting on Sept 7. Once it gets the cabinet’s approval, we will inform the Rights and Privileges Committee in Parliament,” Nazri told a press conference yesterday after meeting EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Yusof.

Asked if the NGOs referred to included the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih), Nazri refused to acknowledge it, adding: “I am sure some of them are legal.”

The eight demands put forth by the NGOs are on strengthening public institutions, stopping corruption, stopping dirty politics, giving free and fair access to media, cleaning the electoral roll, reforming postal votes and advanced voting (for those stationed overseas), the campaign period, the use of indelible ink and the EC’s counter-proposal to implement biometric system.

Nazri said once the memorandum is endorsed by the Rights and Privileges Committee, he will table a motion on the formation of the PSC on the first day of the Dewan Rakyat meeting on Oct 3.

Nazri said the PSC will have six months to deliberate on the framework.

The PSC announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak recently to put to rest any form of suspicion of manipulation of the election roll will comprise nine MPs – five from BN, three from the Opposition and an independent – and will be chaired by a cabinet minister.

Asked if the PSC will cease its duty should there be early elections, Nazri said: “That is not my problem. My concern is forming the committee to look into all the proposals given by the public and to work within the period of the Parliament, which should expire in April 2013. That is the perimeter that I’m working on because I don’t know when the elections will be held.

“We are looking into these things as a preventive measure. It doesn’t mean the polls before this under the present laws have been unfair. For example, there have been allegations that there were incidents of double voting but they have not been proven. However, the PSC is a preventive measure to stop these things from happening.

“What is the point of having a select committee if we don’t look into all these. We don’t want, as they claim, to be doing window dressing. We will look at this from the point of prevention.

On calls by the Opposition that its leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim head the committee instead of a minister, Nazri said it is easier for a minister to head the committee as he would have easier access to government departments.

“It will be much easier for the minister to give instructions to the civil servants. I think it’s a psyche that it is easier for civil servants to receive instructions from a minister, rather than someone else.

“Also, the chair must command the respect of the committee and we are in the opinion that in past practices, having a minister as the chair makes the work of the select committee much easier,” he added.

Antifreeze-tainted vinegar kills 11 in China, 120 poisoned

Vinegar contaminated with anti-freeze was suspected of causing the deaths of 11 people who ate an evening feast during the ongoing Ramadan holiday in a Muslim area of China.

Local police told state media that vinegar stored in two plastic barrels that had previously contained anti-freeze was thought to be the cause of mass poisoning after about 150 people ate together on Friday evening in a remote village in Pishan county in the western region of Xinjiang.

Investigations were continuing and toxicity tests had still not confirmed the source of the poisoning, the official Xinhua news agency quoted a police statement as saying.

The statement said about 120 people were poisoned with one person still in critical condition by Monday.

Anwar bela diri,tidak yakin proses Mahkamah

Malaysia trading 4,000 non-Muslims for 800 Muslims in asylum swap, says top Aussie paper

By Shannon Teoh

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 — The refugee swap deal with Australia is one of several immigration initiatives by Malaysia that will benefit the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), says Australia’s top-selling broadsheet.

Chris Kenny, a senior journalist with The Australian, wrote in his column yesterday that as the majority of Muslims support the Umno-led coalition, the deal, which will see 800 Muslims who arrive by boat in Australia being swapped for 4,000 non-Muslim Burmese, plays into “Malaysia’s explosive ethnic-religious divide.”

“In the ethno-religious politics of Malaysia, this is seen as a swap of 4,000 non-Muslims for 800 Muslims; as squeamish as we may feel about describing the equation in those terms, it is clearly one way in which the deal supports the interests of the ruling Muslim majority,” he wrote.

Most of the arrivals to Australia, including an initial batch of 54 whose fate is being decided by its High Court, are Muslims from Afghanistan and Pakistan via Indonesia and have “the unspoken advantage (of) their Islamic faith” which will “bestow on them social welfare benefits and financial advantages,” wrote Kenny.

With the Najib administration reiterating its commitment to the “Bumiputera Agenda” — affirmative action for the indigenous community and Muslim Malays — last weekend while the federal opposition pushes for a needs-based welfare system, the move will likely play to BN’s advantage.

Kenny also noted that critics of Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government see the current amnesty on illegal immigrants — its deadline was recently lifted indefinitely — “as a way of fast-tracking more Muslims on to government benefits and the electoral rolls, with the asylum-seekers from Australia expected to join that preferential queue.”

“The refugee swap plays directly into Malaysia’s explosive ethnic-religious divide, a fracture that continues to define the federation’s politics and deliver injustice to the country’s non-Muslim population,” he wrote.

“In recent weeks, protests for cleaner and more equal democracy — in part, code for an end to Muslim preference — have been met by government crackdowns and arrests,” Kenny wrote, referring to tens of thousands who flooded the capital in the July 9 Bersih rally but were dispersed by water cannons and tear gas as police arrested nearly 1,700.

The federal opposition has most recently charged BN of giving at least 1,600 foreigners citizenships and the right to vote, questioning further the Home Ministry’s motives for its current amnesty programmes.
Although Najib announced a parliamentary select committee to improve electoral practices last week, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammmudin Hussein has said that he believes these allegations to be “baseless.”

But the opposition has claimed that the parliamentary panel is just a political ploy ahead of a general election that must be called by early 2013.

An ignoramus or an idiot?

Since his appointment in 2009 as the Home Minister, Hishammuddin has been lurching from one self-inflicted debacle to another.
The statement by the Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein that the presence of more illegal workers compared to the legal ones is a cause of concern and could undermine national unity reveals either an ignoramus or an idiot.

Did he expect many less illegals given the super-efficiency of his ministry and the other government agencies sharing responsibility on this vital matter of securing our borders against unauthorised intrusion and stay in the country?

According to the current ongoing exercise, as of Friday, a total of 2,088,358 foreign workers had been registered, of whom 1,135,499 were illegals.

Probably everyone else in the country, except Hisham, knows this number is an under-estimate and a very large number are still waiting to be processed or are avoiding being included in the count altogether.

Since his appointment in 2009 as the minister in charge of this portfolio, Hishammuddin has been lurching from one self-inflicted debacle to another.

From bending over backwards to defend the indefensible conduct of demonstrators in the infamous cow head incident to his most recent use of repressive force against the Bersih rally, he has shown a standard of leadership of this important ministry which must be plumbing new lows or matching those lows attained by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Perhaps he has not had time to study and understand the situation with illegals in Malaysia, given the many important distractions posed by alleged anti-national and possibly terrorist groupings such as those Parti Sosialis Malaysia members recently taken in under the Emergency Ordinance for having on their possession Che Guevara and other communist attire; or the Bersih supporters who needed tear-gassing and a big clout on their thick skulls for upsetting the traffic flow on a weekend; or the MoCS supporters who want to ungild the lily white and ‘incorruptible’ reputation of one of the country’s most trusted and respected leaders through their potentially inflammatory Kuching walk rally aborted on “friendly police advice” – and by  the way, is Hishammuddin related in any way to Taib Mahmud?

Summary of facts

If he has still not been briefed by his ministry officials on the foreign labour issue, this quick summary of facts, figures and other considerations may be useful.
  • The 10th Malaysian Plan document has a chart showing that the number of foreign workers in the country exceeded two million-plus in 2008. This figure has most likely increased rather than decreased.
  • The current hi-tech, super hi-cost biometric exercise seems to have registered only half of all workers with permits and probably fewer than half of those without.
  • The presence of so many foreign workers is not only due to economic factors but also to Umno’s political agenda which everyone in the country, except the non-Malay Barisan leaders and parties are aware of.
  • Thanks to ‘enlightened’ Umno and Barisan policies, the Malaysian economy and society is hopelessly and irredeemably addicted to foreign workers.
  • The great majority of foreign workers work a lot harder for a lot less than their Malaysian counterparts. They deserve to be treated with fairness and respect, and we should resist any witch-hunt aimed at blaming them for self inflicted socio-economic and political ills.
  • The profits in the foreign labour market have generated pervasive corruption amongst all levels of the police force, the Immigration Department, Rela, agents and other agencies – public and private.
  • The extortion of payments, services and loyalty from this marginalized segment and use of them as a pawn in the demographic and racial power game will continue whatever the changes in policy and new stances adopted for public consumption unless there is a regime change.
Some analysts who have observed the Home Minister closely – he is after all a graduate from the University of Wales and London School of Economics – are of the opinion that he is not an ignoramus or idiot.

He is a political animal aiming for the top position through scrupulous or unscrupulous means.
According to the latest hot news in the internet, there is more behind the Home Minister’s new found enthusiasm for pursuing the registration of foreign workers.

One is the claim that the new biometrics system is the cash cow for the coming Umno elections.  Much of this hot news cannot be verified but readers can visit this website for details.
Dr Lim Teck Ghee is the director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives.

MIC veteran Nijhar under fire

Following the suspension of the party's youth leader C Sivaraajh, several youth members are asking the disciplinary committee chief to step down.

KUALA LUMPUR: A group of MIC youth members have urged party disciplinary committee chief KS Nijhar to step down.

Speaking at a press conference over the weekend, Puchong Perdana MIC youth head A Subash Chantirabose took the veteran leader to task for suspending the party’s national youth secretary C Sivarraajh.

According to Subash, Nijhar’s decision was “unfair and ridiculous”.

Last Monday, Sivarraajh was suspended for one year for accusing the party of breaching its constitution by re-admitting several sacked members, namely KP Samy, G Kumar Amman and V Mugilan.

The trio were the brains behind the Gerakan Anti-Samy Vellu (GAS) movement which pressured the former president to step down.

Sivarraajh also lodged a report with the Registrar of Societies (ROS) in April regarding the readmission.
Subash claimed that the disciplinary committee chairman misled the CWC committee by sacking the youth secretary.

“Nijhar who has been the disciplinary committee chairman since 2009 once sacked the trio after GAS worked against the former president, then the same man again said that the decision to expel them was invalid.

“This is clear-cut that Nijhar misled the CWC members,” he added.

Over the years, Nijhar held various positions in MIC, including that of vice-president. He was also the MP for Subang and a GLC director.

Apart from the disciplinary committee, Nijhar also heads the party’s economic bureau and coordinating team.

In view of this, the MIC youth group urged him to quit in order to allow younger members to assume the posts.

Palanivel should seek fresh mandate

Meanwhile, Subash said the youth were saddened by Sivarraajh’s suspension.
“He was not acting against the party but only sought to clarify Article 61.5 in the MIC constitution which states that a sacked party member can only be readmitted after two years,” he added.

“The youth wing still loves Barisan Nasional and MIC but at the same time we will not hesitate to point out unfairness,” he said, adding that he too might be suspensed after this press conference.

“No matter what, justice must prevail,” he stressed, urging the party leadership to immediately revoke Sivarraajh’s suspension.

Another youth leader noted that the suspension came at the wrong time since the general election was around the corner.

He also pointed out that BN youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin had also expressed concern over the matter.
Kampung Meru MIC deputy leader G Kalaiselvan challenged MIC president G Palanivel to seek a fresh mandate.

“The recent suspension shows the real face of Palanivel. He intends to ‘sweep out’ members who are not in his team,” he said, adding that the president could have used his powers to block the suspension.

Kalaiselvan, who is popularly known as “Alaram Kalai”, also challenged Nijhar to an open debate on the MIC constitution.

During the press conference, MIC Youth chief T Mohan was also criticised for keeping mum on Sivarraajh’s suspension.

Contacted later, Mohan said the press conference had nothing to do with the youth leadership but promised to raise Sivarraajh’s suspension during the next CWC meeting.

A class removed from the brighter students

Those familiar with the remove class system in Malaysian schools will appreciate the worries of parents.
PETALING JAYA: Latha Veerasamy sits with her 11-year-old son, Ashok, as he finishes his Bahasa Malaysia homework. The exercises are rudimentary and she patiently corrects him.

When he gets it right, there is relief more than pride etched on her face. Ashok attends a remove class in a Tamil medium school. Receiving two pages of homework a week is a common thing and Latha is worried for her son. Very worried.

“My office colleagues grumble about how much homework their children are given on a daily basis, and I am envious. I know this sounds cruel, but I am concerned as to how little attention is paid to the students in Tamil remove classes.

“The teachers at his school don’t seem to care and now at home, I force him to speak Bahasa Malaysia with me because he needs to pass it in order to progress to Form One.”

Lee Lee Wah would echo Latha’s sentiments. A mother of three, she is extremely concerned about what her 11-year-old daughter is learning in her Chinese medium remove class.

“I remember that she didn’t have a lot of school work when classes commenced in January. I dismissed it as a slow start and that the work will increase later. It’s already August and the situation is still the same. I can’t send my daughter for tuition, as she will not be able to follow the classes. Good personal tutors are expensive and I am anxious about her upcoming UPSR exams.,” she says.

Making the grade

Those familiar with the remove class system in Malaysian schools will appreciate the worries of both mothers. It is not uncommon for these schools to neglect the less academically inclined, and lack of homework is one of the signs. Teachers are too busy coaching the potential top-scorers to spend time on the weaker pupils.

The situation is worsened by the switch from Mandarin to Malay as the medium of instruction when the pupils go on to secondary school. Government primary schools use either Malay, Mandarin or Tamil as the medium of instruction. But all government secondary schools teach in Malay.

Pupils from Chinese and Tamil schools who fail to obtain a minimum grade “C” for Bahasa Malaysia in their Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR), are put in remove classes for a year before moving on to Form One.

Pupils in Chinese and Tamil schools take BM papers of a lower standard in their UPSR. That’s why their grades below “C” are considered not on par with the grade “E” obtained by pupils from national schools.

They are not eligible to go to Form One, where the medium of instruction is BM, because they are deemed to have insufficient exposure to BM in their primary school years.

The situation is given a further helpless edge when some parents refuse to send their children to remove classes, a year-long preparatory programme in secondary schools to bring children up to speed in the Malay language.

Pupils who fail their Malay language exam at Standard Six are required to go on this programme before they can start Form One. But those who do so are often perceived to be slow learners, so parents try to get their children exempted from it.

Latha says : “My son loves Mathematics and he is very good at it. Is he going to be ‘punished’ just because his command of Bahasa Malaysia is weak? After more than 50 years of independence, isn’t it about time that the Chinese and Tamil school pupils took the same BM papers in their UPSR as their counterparts in the national schools?”

Grasping Bahasa Malaysia

Looking out for these children is the educational non-governmental organisation Educational Welfare and Research Foundation (EWRF).

In its recent forum, “Remove Classes: To Remove or to Retain and Revamp”, (EWRF) head of research unit Shanthi Periasamy is convinced that students will eventually not benefit from the year-long remove classes.

The forum was held to gather views and information on whether to retain, abolish or revamp the remove class system.

With this in mind, EWRF is studying the possibility of abolishing or revamping the remove classes to help students from vernacular primary schools transition to Form One.

EWRF president A Yogesvaran adds that Chinese pupils have an edge on the Indian counterparts because, “after six years, these students will be able to read and write – the same is not true in many Tamil schools where students struggle with basic reading and writing”.

“There is a necessity to differentiate between students who had not mastered Bahasa Malaysia and those who simply cannot not read or write. Pupils who have not even mastered reading and writing in their own vernacular tongue cannot be expected to learn a second or third language.”

Educationist Goh Kean Seng, who is also principal of a private Chinese secondary school in KL, adds that the right environment must be created to assist students in picking up Bahasa Malaysia.

“Notice boards, done up well, are always very helpful and using the language natural to these pupils like Tamil or Mandarin as an aid should be allowed when explaining certain things.

“’Some schools are overly focused on those who can score a string of As. These are the students who give their schools a good name. But these academically advanced students are the minority. The result is that those who fail to keep up with their schoolwork drop out of school in later years,” he says.

The MCA estimates that 25% of Chinese students quit studying before they are 18, when they are due to sit for a government exam equivalent to the “O” levels. This estimate puts the annual dropout figure at over 100,000 – what the party’s Youth wing calls a “silent epidemic”. There are no official figures on the number of dropouts among the Indians .

All data collected from the findings will be compiled as part of a preliminary study into the issue which the organisation hopes to expand into a comprehensive report to be presented to the government.

This will be a a long-term project which is part of an overall effort to reduce the number of early school dropouts and which EWRF hopes will lead to an improvements in the system.

18-year old Malaysian girl at exclusive private college gang-raped

(Daily Mail) - Four wealthy Russians who used an iPhone to film themselves gang-raping a student at an exclusive private college were facing jail today.

The group had been in Britain for just two weeks when they carried out the horrific two-and-a-half hour attack on the Malaysian teenager at the £30,000-per-year college.

The Russians, aged between 19 and 23, gave a sickening running commentary - and even filmed themselves boasting about what they were going to do to her the day before.

The prosecution fear that she may have had her drinks spiked as she was too drunk to consent. 
Oleg Ivanov, 23, Norayr Davtyan, 22, Armen Simonyan, 19, and 23-year-old Gregory Melnikov all denied rape but were unanimously convicted by a jury at Woolwich Crown Court today.

Davtyan described the girl as a 'machine' and in the witness box referred to her as a 'sl**'.
The court heard that Ivanov expressed 'pity' for the victim, when they noticed she was crying but was talked out of it by his friend Norayr Davtyan, 22.

Peter Clement, prosecuting, said: 'Various members of the gang of four watched each other, encouraged each other, and gave a running commentary as to what they had done and what they were going to do to their fellow student.

'They referred to merely in the abstract as "her" or "she" and in the course of the incident one of the four even has to ask another "What's her name?''

International water polo player Davtyan was holding a party at his dorm at the exclusive college in South London on January 21 this year which the girl attended.

She had a shot of whiskey at the party before going to a disco at the school.

Although there is no concrete evidence her drink was spiked she felt 'funny, dizzy and peculiar' and was clearly intoxicated before going back to the party and vomiting then falling asleep.

The next time she awoke a man was having sex with her but she was unable to move, the jury heard.

She told police: 'I just wanted him to stop, I couldn't wake up, I couldn't stand up, I felt really, really, really tired, I couldn't do anything I couldn't move my hand...

I just wanted to close my eyes, I just wanted to die, I did not consent to it.' 
Mr Clements added: 'Relatively early on in the footage Mr Ivanov says in Russian "She is crying" but it didn't deter him or any of the others at any point.

'He said "I feel pity for her" but this is only after he and others had had sex with her.

'As she left Davtyan told her that she should not tell anyone about what had happened because she would be the one who was "embarrassed" and "ashamed" but she ignored his warnings and went to a pal before calling the police.'

Despite Simonyan texting Davtyan the next day to tell him to delete the footage which spanned between 12.38am and 3.10am it was still on his iPhone when he was arrested.

Only Ivanov received Legal Aid and the rest of the group were able to pay for their own top QCs. They had denied raping the teen.

In the harrowing footage shown to the court, she can be seen barely moving.
They said she was a 'sl**' who 'willing consented' but they were unanimously convicted by a jury of seven men four women after an eight week trial.

They sat emotionless in the dock as the verdicts against them were read out but a cry was heard from the family members in the public gallery. 

Davtyan was convicted on two counts of rape, Melnikov was guilty of rape and attempted rape while Ivanov and Simonyan were both convicted of one count of rape.

They were remanded in custody until they are sentenced tomorrow.

Anwar Angrily Denies Guilt in Malaysian Courtroom

Anwar: J'Accuse!
Opposition leader accuses Premier Najib Tun Razak and his wife of framing him 

(Asia Sentinel) Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Monday delivered a blistering 8,700 word statement from the dock denying he had sodomized an aide in 2008. (Read Anwar's statement here.) He accused Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and government officials of framing him with the connivance of High Court Judge Mohamed Zabidin Mohamed Ziah to ruin him politically.

The court’s integrity, he said, “has been completely compromised and bears all the classic symptoms of a show trial where the script has been effectively written and the outcome a foregone conclusion.”

In the printed statement, which took more than an hour to read, Anwar said he categorically denied all of the charges against him. “I want to state in no uncertain terms that I have never had any sexual relations with the complainant Mohamed Saiful. His allegation is a blatant and vicious lie and will be proved to be so.”

Anwar’s decision to make his statement from the dock means that he can’t be cross examined. His defense team is asking that Najib, Rosmah and the former inspector general of the police be among the seven witnesses to be called in the case, which will be continued for two weeks to give his team the time to interview witnesses.

He called the allegations a “vile and despicable attempt at character assassination,” accusing the prosecution of consistently refusing to disclose critical material for his defense including a list of prosecution witnesses, hospital examination notes, witness statements and other materials.

In a courtroom packed with journalists and foreign diplomats, he spent much of his testimony accusing Zabidin of bias against him on a wide front.

At the time Anwar was jailed, it was impermissible for prosecutors to collect DNA samples without the approval of the suspect. After the opposition leader was accused of the crime, however, a law was rushed through Malaysia’s parliament reversing that law and making it permissible to take a suspect’s DNA. Zabidin first ruled that since the DNA was taken from Anwar prior to the passage of the law, it was not admissible. However, after a prosecution lawyer asked in court that Zabidin reverse himself, he did so.

Anwar also charged that the judge had allowed DNA evidence taken from Saiful’s rear end into the trial despite the fact that it was stored improperly and that up to 90 hours had lapsed between the time it was taken and when it was examined by laboratory technicians.

Zabidin, he said, “had the residual power and the jurisdiction to have invoked (his) powers relating to contempt of court.” The judge, he said, “chose not to do so for reasons best known to (himself). “What has happened is not in the best traditions of the Judiciary.”

‘The perquisites of a sound judicial system are independence and impartiality,” he said. “ For an effective and a strong judicial system, the impartiality of its judges is of paramount importance. But it cannot be denied that the public’s confidence in the judicial system is shaped and molded more by appearances. In view of this, how can I get a fair trial or even the semblance of one before the trial judge now who has been further put in a position to compound biasness against me?”

One of the witnesses who gave him an alibi, he said, was harassed by the police for a total of 30 hours in an attempt to scuttle his defense.

Anwar gave a detailed explanation of the night Saiful was said to have been sodomized, saying “He says he sat down at the same table and started the discussion. He told the court of the crude manner in which I had allegedly asked for sex…When questioned, he answered that he was angry and scared and that he was not prepared to do it but purportedly because I had appeared angry, he eventually obliged.

“It has to be observed at this stage the complainant could have, on his own admission in examination-in-chief, left the room as there is no evidence of any attempt by me to latch the door from inside,” Anwar continued. “He had further alleged that he was ordered into the bedroom and that he did enter out of fear. Even at this stage, the complainant had the opportunity to leave the living room. He did not do so. The rest of the evidence in this regard clearly showed that the complainant had every opportunity on every occasion to flee but he did not do so.

“His reason was that he was petrified by fear. But such a reason flies against the facts. Here is a man in his early twenties, a six-footer, physically fit and robust and with powerful connections in the top police brass as well as the political elite with access to the very inner sanctum of power. Additionally, he has also been a key UMNO student operative, having undergone the rigorous training conducted by the Biro Tats Negara of the Prime Minister’s Department.

“And here I was a 60-year-old man with a history of back injury who had undergone a major back surgery holding no position of power. If indeed I could have exercised any kind of undue influence or mental pressure on him, this could have been easily neutralized by a quick phone call to his connections. As regards the fear of physical harm, it would take a great stretch of the imagination to suggest that I could pose any physical harm to him.”

Saiful, Anwar said, “admitted that he had brought along lubricant and had himself voluntarily and without hesitation applied it. He claimed that carnal intercourse took place and that it was painful and coarse. However, this was clearly not borne out in the medical evidence in the prosecution case suggesting fissures or tears. After the alleged act, he testified that he had a drink and engaged in a friendly conversation with me.”

Rather than seeking medical attention, Anwar said, Saiful attended an opposition party function the next day, then showed up again at Anwar’s home the night evening. Saiful, he said, “neither made a police report nor sought medical attention, notwithstanding that two days prior to the alleged act, he had met with Najib and Rosmah” as well having talked on the phone with two top police officials after that.

The judge, he concluded, refused to order disclosure of material critical to his defense, refused to hold to account officials responsible for leaking and publishing in the media prosecution submissions before the matter was heard in court; his “utter indifference to my protestations about these transgressions has wittingly or unwittingly facilitated the conspiracy to vilify me in the court of public opinion even as the trial is in progress.”

Thus, he said, “you have deprived me of my constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair hearing the effect of which is to entitle me to an unconditional release with the charges leveled against me falling to the ground. Notwithstanding this, you have not only failed to order my release but have adamantly refused to recuse yourself from further presiding at the trial.”

The judge, he added, refused to call the first doctor to examine Saiful, who concluded that there was no evidence of sexual penetration,” calling it a “glaring error of law apart from it being in gross disregard of a finding of fact, that is, that the clinical finding had indicated no evidence of penetration.”

The entire trial, he said, “is nothing but a conspiracy by Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Najib Razak to send me into political oblivion by attempting once again to put me behind bars. I therefore declare that I have no faith whatsoever that justice will prevail in these proceedings notwithstanding the valiant efforts made by my defense team. As I have said at the outset, this is not a criminal trial. It is a charade staged by the powers that be to put me out of action in order that they remain in power.”

The conspiracy “was most elaborate and went all the way to the prime minister himself and his wife Rosmah Mansor both of whom by the complainant’s own admission had met him in their residence where he purportedly complained of being sexually assaulted…the main thrust of the conspiracy was to fabricate this sodomy charge in order to inflict maximum damage to my character in the run-up campaign to the by-elections.”

MCA Chua Soi Lek, Gerakan Koh Tsu Koon caught in a time warp?

Respectable and honorable leaders during the 20th century but what have become of them in the 21st century?

Are MCA Chua Soi Lek and Gerakan Koh Tsu Koon caught in a time warp? Both of them have to be reminded that we are living in the 21st century and the present political scenes and what the rakyat wanted are different from what they used to be. From their talks and political speeches one can see that they are truly out of touch with reality.

Since I am from Penang I will write and use examples from this state.

First, we must acknowledged that no government is 100 per cent perfect, it is just which government performs better than the other in terms of acceptability by the rakyat. Of course the choice of government elected must be from a free and fair election.

Penang is now under Pakatan Rakyat with YB Lim Guan Eng as the Chief Minister. After three years, CM Lim Guan Eng's performances are being challenged, not by the rakyat but from individual opposition party like MCA, Gerakan and Umno.

From local Penangnites and throughout most of the country and far beyond people are saying that Penang is performing better under PR and that is a fact. Can Chua Soi Lek and Koh Tsu Koon admit this fact is true?

Going down stream and into more details of policies and progress developments there are bound to be some dissatisfaction from the rakyat, some for personal reason that may have affected their lively hood, some not getting what they asked for and those opposing just for the sake of opposing.

There are surely some flaws in the state government if MCA and Gerakan were to really look into it. Instead of telling the rakyat the flaws of the government (if any) they rather wedged senseless and baseless accusations (or because they could not find any flaws?) against CM Lim Guan Eng.

Lets have a look at a few senseless and baseless accusations from MCA and Gerakan:

1) Insinuate that Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng wants to be prime minister.

I see nothing wrong if it is true that YB Lim Guan Eng wanted to be the PM. There is no law or any clause in the constitution that barred anyone that aspired to be a PM as long as they can get the mandate from the rakyat. But common sense tells us that it is not possible for a Non Malay to be a PM at least not for the next few decades. What purpose does it serves Chua Soi Lek, MCA or the rakyat for this stupid insinuation? (You can read CM Lim Guan Eng's reply to this here.)

2) Tsu Koon claims sowed seeds of Guan Eng’s gains

What does this kind of statement proves "(But) I would say that if BN were to [have won] in March 08, based on the momentum we have created 21 years under Tun Lim Chong Eu, [and] 18 years under me, Penang would have achieved the same achievements (as the present DAP government.)" (Read the full press report here.)

Claiming credit is not wrong but you must question yourself why after 18 years the seeds that you sowed cannot grow and bear fruits. Does it really takes Koh Tsu Koon 18 years plus 21 years of Tun Lim Chong Eu's hard work to enable CM Lim Guan Eng to complete and achieve both previous CMs hard work within three years?

When the first three runners failed to reached their targeted time and lagging behind others in a 4 X 400 meters relay before the last runner pull in all effort to catch up lost time and still manage to win the race, whom do you think the spectators will praised?

3) Penang MCA has repeatedly accused the DAP-led state government of being anti-Chinese

Is this the best that MCA can do to stir the Chinese sentiment against DAP? MCA did not response to Umno's accusation of the Penang administration under Lim being racist for allegedly discriminating against the Malay community.

Now I put the question back to MCA, if CM Lim Guan Eng discriminate against the Malay community and is also anti-Chinese at the same time, whom then is CM Lim serving or favoring?

By now MCA and Gerakan should have known very well that the Malaysian Chinese can stand on their own two feet, work with their two hands using the brains inside their heads to survive without any handouts.

My personal views why the Malay contractors are getting the bulk of the state government projects are,

i) the tenders are open and transparent, no more cronies getting the jobs without tender hence better opportunities

ii) proves that the Malays are capable in a competitive environment and are willing to stand on their own two feet

iii) fewer Chinese tendering state projects most probably they prefer private projects

There is no point for MCA and Gerakan to use race, claiming historic credit or accusations as basis to win votes, its not going to work anymore but again they may still be caught in the time warp of the 20th century.

MCA & Gerakan should instead challenge CM Lim that they can perform better, by proving the following examples that;

1) BN can give RM500 to each senior citizen yearly instead of RM100 being given now.

2) All schools, government or private, religious or non religious as long as they are legal will be allocated RM2 million each, every five years

3) BN will subsidised 50K for first time house owner earning less than 3k and given priority to own an apartment costing less than 200k build by private developers

4) All straight A's student will received state scholarship for tertiary education should they failed to get from Federal.

The list can go on, just think of how you can assist the rakyat like what CM Lim has being doing and show that BN can do even better instead of all the silly and meaningless politiking.

Parliamentary Select Committee Members Line-up To Be Announced Oct 3

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 (Bernama) -- The line-up for the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reforms is expected to be announced on Oct 3, when the motion on the setting up of the committee is tabled in Parliament.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said the committee would then be given six months to make recommendations on electoral reforms in the country.

He said the Election Commission (EC) would prepare a memorandum on the setting up of the committee, including its framework, to be tabled to the Cabinet on Sept 7.

The framework, among others, would name nine members of the committee, besides taking into consideration all matters raised by non-governmental organisations earlier, he told reporters after attending a meeting with the EC concerning the committee's framework at Parliament House here Monday.

Present were EC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, his deputy, Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, EC secretary Datuk Kamaruddin Mohamed Baria, EC legal officer Mohd Azhar Mohd Yusoff, representative from the Attorney-General's Chambers and Dewan Rakyat secretary Datuk Roosme Hamzah.

Nazri said opposition parties would also be informed on the contents of the memorandum prepared by the EC.

The minister said, upon getting Cabinet approval, Parliament would be informed about the memorandum through the Rights and Privileges Committee chaired by Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia.

"Once the Rights and Privileges Committee endorses (the framework), then, the minister in charge of Parliament will table a motion," he said.

Mohamed Nazri said, only after the formation of the committee, a road show and public hearing would be held.

"During the road show and public hearing, we will hear suggestions and proposals from the public," he said.

On Aug 15, the prime minister announced the setting up of the committee to put to rest any suspicion of manipulation by the government in the country's electoral process.

The committee, he said, would comprise government and opposition members.

Text of Anwar Ibrahim’s statement from the dock

The full text of Anwar’s statement from the dock in court this morning.
It is highly unlikely that you will see it in the mainstream media tomorrow.
So read it at Anwar’s blog.
He concludes as follows:
But the zeal to consign me to political oblivion continues unabated. Najib seems to think that by destroying my political future, it would also destroy the prospects of Pakatan Rakyat ever coming to power.
Hence, nothing is spared to ensure that I will be convicted in order that the UMNO led Barisan government continues to rule.
Having regard to all the above, I now wish to state that this trial is for all intents and purposes a show trial. I say this not to mock your Lordship nor with animosity towards anyone personally but I sit before you in the dock only to speak what I know and what I believe with conviction to be the truth. And this conviction is borne by having been in public service for more than forty years a quarter of which was spent within the walls of incarceration in Kamunting and in Sungai Buloh. The fact remains that I was condemned to imprisonment not because of any crime that I had committed but for my political beliefs and convictions and more significantly because back in 1998 I had posed a clear and present threat to the more than two decades of autocratic rule of Mahathir.
I say it because as I’ve stated earlier, the court’s integrity has been completely compromised and bears all the classic symptoms of a show trial where the script has been effectively written and the outcome a foregone conclusion. I say it because as a presiding judge you have demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt your complete lack of impartiality. I say it because you have consistently refused to recuse yourself even in the face of mounting evidence of your bias against me. I say it too because you have persistently turned a blind eye to the gross violations of protocol and procedure committed by the prosecution while at the same remaining impervious to my protestations about these blatant irregularities that would have without more alerted any impartial judge as to the malice and bad faith of the prosecution.
In the matter of the duty of a judge, the Holy Qur’an commands:
“And when you judge between mankind
Then you judge justly”
Surah An-Nisaa:58