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Saturday, September 17, 2011

'Sex strike' by women brings peace to Philippine village

Women in the southern Philippines brought peace to their strife-torn village by threatening to withhold sex if their men kept fighting, the UN refugee agency reported Friday.

The "sex strike" in rural Dado village on the often lawless southern island of Mindanao in July helped end tensions and bring some prosperity to the 102 families living there, said UNHCR national officer Rico Salcedo.

"The area is in a town which is subject to conflict, family feuds, land disputes. The idea came personally from the women," Salcedo told AFP.

The idea was conceived by a group of women who had set up a sewing business but found that they could not deliver their products because the village road was closed by the threat of violence, Salcedo said.

Sporadic shooting incidents between men in the village had occurred especially near the road, the UNHCR said.

"There had been a string of clan conflicts. You would have a number of men who would go against another family. There were scattered incidents of shooting at each other," said UNHCR staffer Tom Temprosa.

The sewing group's leader, Hasna Kandatu, said they warned their husbands they would be cut off from sex if they continued causing trouble.

"If you go there (to fight), you won't be able to come back. I won't accept you," Kandatu recalled telling her husband, in a video on the UNHCR website.

Her husband, Lengs Kupong, recalled his wife telling him: "If you do bad things, you will be cut off, here," he said, motioning below his waist.

Feuds between Muslim clans over land, money or political influence have been a major source of violence in the southern Philippines, helping fuel a Muslim separatist insurgency and brutal crimes, rights groups and scholars have said.

In the worst case of such feuds, members of an influential Muslim clan are being tried for allegedly murdering 57 people in the south in 2009 to keep a rival family from challenging them in local elections.

ISA repeal: Our Mandela moment and thereafter

For national reconciliation to have a chance, we need to give truth a fair hearing.

By Helen Ang

The release of Nelson Mandela after a 27-year detention ushered in South Africa’s post-apartheid era where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established during his presidency.

It is hoped that Thursday’s watershed announcement on repealing the Internal Security Act will yield a similar milestone in our political landscape. And hopefully the same two keys words – ‘truth’ and ‘reconciliation’ – will be as significant for us.

Can this momentous move to sheath the ISA sword go some way in making Malaysians braver and more clear-headed in confronting self-evident truths?

Ex-ISA detainee P Uthayakumar is one of the foremost and forthright speakers of the truth today. I’ll share why I hold a deep respect for this man but first a few words on another political figure that played a recent role in carving out public space for the exploration of truth.

The Malay far right has been calling for Mohamad Sabu, better known as Mat Sabu, to be ISA-ed over his remarks on the Bukit Kepong episode. “Well over 900 police reports” were lodged against Mat Sabu for what is in essence a challenge to the Umno version of our Merdeka narrative.

Threat of police investigation is a same sort of weapon that the ISA is. And the ISA has been a blunt and brutal instrument to put the fear of government into the people. The almost one-party state is feared for its power to lock you up and throw away the key.

Umno controlling the Home Ministry not only has ISA at its disposal but the police and their lock-up facilities too. PAS secretary-general Mustafa Ali suggested that the large number of police reports against Mat Sabu were mobilised by Umno through the many NGOs connected to the party.

Punishing the truthseekers

We must take our hat off to Mat Sabu for sticking to his guns on the Mat Indera contentious comment and remaining unfazed by the almost a thousand police reports.

It is through Mat Sabu standing his ground despite ‘dikepong’ (being besieged) from all sides that paved the way enabling last evening’s forum in Petaling Jaya on the contributions of the left to the
decolonialisation process.

If Mat Sabu had succumbed to pressure exerted by adversaries and allies alike, the topic would have been closed prematurely. Members of the public could not then have heard Dr Rohana Arifin’s forum presentation telling how the Bukit Kepong hagiography – the eponymous film directed by Jins Shamsuddin – goes to serve the Umno propaganda.

A retraction by Mat Sabu as Karpal Singh had demanded would have shut the window of opportunity created and later kept ajar by PAS agreeing to back up their deputy president.

Umno is the devil we know that fails to mask its coercive nature in trying to silence Mat Sabu. Turning the complaints over to police opens the door to another facet of state intimidation, especially when sedition is invoked.

DAP is an equally treacherous devil. Coming on the heels of Karpal’s insistence that Mat Sabu should apologise was the hatchet job by Tunku Abdul Aziz. The party vice chairman had piled insult upon derision upon malice in tearing into Mat Sabu.

Karpal did not bother to hide the motivation for his attack. He declared upfront that the resulting backlash from Mat Sabu offending Malay ‘sensitivities’ would be “very damaging” to Pakatan’s prospects in the general election.

A parallel motive propels the attack by Aziz, i.e. DAP’s courting of the Malay vote. In fact, DAP stabbing Mat Sabu in the back indicates that the party is preparing itself to go direct to the Malay electorate and bypassing electoral pact partners PAS and PKR as intermediaries. The DAP plan to stand its own Malay candidates is no secret.

Note that on Sept 2, when Umno firepower in the form of pliant press and party proxies was trained on Mat Sabu, DAP international secretary Liew Chin Tong signed his party’s name to a Pakatan joint statement that condemned the Utusan Malaysia reports as “irresponsible spin-mongering being perpetrated by Umno leaders and the media”.

Yet a mere five days after the opposition’s purported defence of Mat Sabu, the New Straits Times on Sept 7 published Aziz’s vicious denunciation of the populist speaker’s historical reinterpretation. Tunku Aziz, Karpal and the party they chair don’t give a toss for any intellectual truth of the matter.

Granted, Mat Sabu’s off-the-cuff observation has an adverse impact on the potential votebank and Pakatan pursuit of the Putrajaya crown. However DAP pulling the rug from under Mat Sabu’s feet signifies how for them, truth is better off denounced if it gets in the way of fishing in Malay waters.

Painful but plain truths

Mirroring the ‘kepong’ of Mat Sabu, Hindraf’s Uthayakumar has long suffered being assailed from all sides as well. Circling the wagons were Umno who chucked him into Kamunting, the Barisan indoctrination apparatus demonising him and the chest-thumping Anak Malaysians relieving Uthaya of the need for having enemies (what with ‘friends’ like them).

Umno was plain nasty in portraying Uthaya as a ‘samseng’, which is a far cry from the truth. If anything, he is someone I laud for the courage of his conviction and for following the uncompromising path that he sees clear ahead.

The character assassination of Hindraf’s leading light draws on latent stereotypes. The Indian community, because of its numbers disproportionately making up the crime-and-prison statistics, has been tarred with a broad stroke as one producing gangsters.

Instead of addressing the grievances, which includes why Indians are the most in jails, the Umno-led establishment added more injury to an already wounded segment of the population.

Just as the poor championed by Parti Sosialis Malaysia were considered a destabilizing force during Bersih 2.0, and hence the Emergency Ordinance pre-emptively applied to the PSM Six, the Hindraf masses were also deemed dangerous game-changers in the immediate aftermath of Bersih in 2007.

Hence the ISA hastily and harshly applied on the Hindraf lawyers, and Uthaya’s subsequent 500-plus days in captivity.

The treatment of Uthaya by all those complicit with the Umno agenda was deplorable. His incessant vilification by Pakatan quarters which continues yet to this very day is equally despicable.

Uthaya is a genuine voice for the have-nots, whom the haves are unfortunately unable to emphatise with. And they misjudge and they wrong him.

The Umno-aligned authorities used the sledgehammer but the venom spewed against Uthaya by Pakatan, particularly their Indian politicians who consider him a formidable rival as well as the so-called multiculturalist opposition supporters, is equally loathsome.

One vile accusation is that Uthaya is racist. It’s an allegation easily rubbished by Uthaya’s track record as counsel to Malay and Chinese victims of police brutality. He took up their cases pro bono years before any of his present armchair cyber critics even acquired a pinch of political consciousness.

Award-winning cartoonist Zunar revealed that during the Reformasi period when he was arrested for participating in street protests, it was Uthaya who fought his case.

Said Zunar: “Back in those days (1999), you seldom get lawyers willing to do so, unlike today. That’s why in terms of human rights, Uthaya has done a very good job representing every race.”

Learn to judge a person by his actions rather than be swayed by the pretty-sounding but ultimately shallow rhetoric of his detractors.

Uthaya survived a year-and-a-half under ISA and walked away with his chin held high, and on his own terms. He was the only Hindraf detainee who refused to accede to the restraining order on public appearances that was made a condition of release.

Readers may not be aware either that Uthaya grew up in Kelantan and consequently speaks our national language fluently. If he had ever wanted to pander to Malays like DAP counterfeits such as the hypocritical Hasnah Yeops are overdoing, it’d be a cakewalk for him. But he doesn’t care for such fake antics and nor has he the luxury.

Current political punditry is almost unanimous in decrying Malaysia’s increasing race polarisation.
For national reconciliation to have a chance, we need to give truth a fair hearing. Only if the compass is set true can we get our bearings right. Taking our next steps require the ability to recognise who are the truth bearers – more whom will be set free hopefully by a loosening on the ISA.

An ISA-less Malaysia? Hold the champagne, folks

Malaysiakini reports PAS’ Hadi Awang as saying that “PAS is taking the wait and see stand on the issue of the abolition of the ISA … because we have to first see what alternative laws that the government says will replace them are”.


Guan Eng is reported to have  expressed reservations as to whether this proposed repeal was genuine, or, with the new laws proposed to take the place of the ISA, Najib’s most recent move is no more than pouring “old wine into a new bottle”.

Zaid Ibrahim, on the other hand, seems rather enamoured by the prime minister’s announcement to finally rid the nation of this most foul law.

“I did not believe Najib had the courage to do something big. Today, I apologise to the prime Minister because he had done something meaningful and big in repealing the ISA”, Zaid is reported to have said.

I think that both Hadi and Guan Eng and every other person who greeted Najib’s announcement with a huge dose of scepticism have good reason to feel so.

As for Zaid’s perspective, well, what can I say?

Let’s keep in sight our real concerns thus far.

It has not been so much the ISA, a ‘detention without trial’ law, but its abuse.

It is the abuse of this piece of legislation almost from its very inception that has been our concern.
At least, that has been my concern.

I can envisage situations where a truly and fully responsible government authority may have legitimate need for the power to pre-emptively detain, but such laws must be countered with stringent checks and balances to prevent any likelihood of abuse.

Following the launch of BERSIH 2.0 on 19th June, and in the run up to the rally on 9th July, I had occasion to ask some in UMNO if we should anticipate the use of the ISA on any of us who were involved in the organisation and planning of the rally.

“No need”, I was told.

Najib, it seemed, had been appraised of an alternative piece of legislation that could be used to same effect without having to suffer further criticism both at home and internationally should he resort to the ISA.

This was section 122 of the Penal Code.

The offence of waging war with the Agung.

That same offence in respect of which the members of Al-Maunah were charged with and many from amongst them convicted.

A capital offence.

And non-bailable pending trial.

The same offence for which the 31 PSM members who were arrested in Juru  during the build-up to the BERSIH 2.0 rally were remanded by the magistrate for purposes of further investigation.

At that time, so the story goes, several DAP and PAS leaders and leaders from civil society were targeted for detention.

The idea being toyed with was to charge several, if not all, of the 31 PSM members arrested, together with DAP, PAS and civil society leaders with a conspiracy to wage war with the Agung, an offence under section 122.

Of course, all those charged would plead not guilty and claim trial.

Being a non-bailable offence, they would all have to be remanded pending trial.

And criminal trials, as many a lawyer and accused will tell you, get postponed incessantly.
And so, Najib would get detentions pending trial without having to resort to the ISA.

By abusing the law , specifically section 122 of the Penal code, and the prosecution powers.

He would be able to achieve what Mahathir achieved during Operasi Lalang in 1987 without having to resort to the ISA.

There is anther reason to hold the champagne.

What Najib announced the other night, by way of reforms, is nothing short of crumbs being tossed at us, the rakyat, from the BN banquet table.

If you ask me, more important than the repeal of the ISA, is the full and complete restoration of the judiciary as an honest institution of state serving the interests of justice and equality.

The recent scandalous decision of the Federal Court in the NCR case from Sarawak serves to demonstrate just how low this institution has sunk.

In short, we have no reason to jubilate over Najib’s announcement of his pre-Hari Malaysia reforms.

Nothing short of a comprehensive reform that gives full effect to the Malaysia Agreement of 1963 and promise of equality to Sabah and Sarawak as partners in the Federation of Malaysia, restoration of all institutions of state to the rakyat, repeal of all draconian laws, freeing of the media, and the establishment of an affirmative action program that effectively reaches out to and uplifts the lives of the 40% marginalised and impoverished rakyat, will suffice.

This, BN, will not do.

It was People Power that finished off the ISA

Aliran Executive Committee
Malaysia Day, 16 September 2011

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s announcement that the ISA and the Emergency Ordinance would be repealed has taken the nation by surprise. He also announced that Section 27 of the Police Act (on public assemblies) and the requirement for publishing permits to be renewed annually would be dropped.

Most people would be inclined to welcome these announcements. But we would be well advised to temper any celebration with caution. What will replace these oppressive laws is not clear and has not yet been revealed in much detail.

The repeal of the ISA and EO is an acknowledgement that the government can no longer sustain the use of these laws without strong public condemnation and opposition. The repeal of these two laws is the only logical move.

Massive public rallies have driven the final nail into the coffin of these obnoxious laws. The people, inspired and spurred on by the civil society Abolish ISA Movement (GMI), have won a remarkable victory through their persistent and determined opposition to the ISA. For that, the people have to be congratulated.

The repeal of the ISA and EO, however, will not erase the suffering of all the detainees down the ages who have unjustly suffered at the hands of an oppressive state apparatus. Countless lives have been ruined. An independent tribunal is needed to look into all cases of ill-treatment and torture, psychological or otherwise, that have surfaced over the years. Those who have been abused and ill-treated and incarcerated without trial for years – or their families – must be adequately compensated. Those responsible for ill-treating or abusing detainees must be brought to book as a lesson for others who may be tempted to continue in similar ways.

Meanwhile, other laws that restrict human rights such as the Sedition Act, the Police Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act and the Official Secrets Act must also be repealed as a sign of sincerity on the part of the BN. The same goes for other preventive detention laws.

As for publishing permits, do democratic countries really require permits for publishing newspapers and other periodicals? If the Minister revokes a “permit”, can it now be challenged in court? In the spirit of democracy and freedom of expression, the government should also make a commitment towards creating a Freedom of Information Act. If not, there is nothing to celebrate.

To demonstrate its commitment to international human rights norms, the Malaysian government must now ratify all UN human rights treaties such as the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Refugee Rights Convention. This will convince Malaysians that the BN is serious about respecting human rights.

It is also important to put in place a truly independent judiciary so that the courts will not be used to persecute political opponents. To restore the independence of the judiciary, appointments of judges must be made based on their merits and not on political considerations as perceived by a vast majority of Malaysians.

For now, in the spirit of these announcements and to mark Malaysia Day, Aliran calls on the Malaysian government to drop all charges against the PSM 30 and others arrested before and during the Bersih rally. This would be a welcome gesture on this auspicious day.

Nazri: ISA can only be abolished next year

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: There will not be enough time for the Internal Security Act (ISA) to be repealed when Parliament sits next month.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said new legislation to replace the ISA would only be introduced in Parliament next year.

“We can't repeal the act in October as we must ensure that those held under the various acts and who need to remain under detention are still held,” he told AFP.

“So we can't just abolish the Acts overnight without considering national security,” he said, adding that time was needed to work out the details.

Nazri, who is the minister in charge of legal affairs, said the draft laws would be tabled during the next assembly in March.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said those detained under the ISA would remain in custody until the two new Acts are enacted.

He said those who were currently placed under the ISA were linked to terrorism and that the new laws would still address such activities.

“Those currently under detention will remain so until the new laws are passed by Parliament and Dewan Negara.

“The new laws are being drafted by the Attorney-General's Chambers,” he said in a tweet.

Paris, France: Immediate ban on street prayers


The French government has introduced an immediate ban on public prayers in the streets of Paris, branding it against the principle of secularism. Every Friday the Muslim population causes traffic disruptions by blocking the roads as they pray.

The French government has introduced a ban on street prayers on the streets of Paris, which comes into immediate effect today. Street prayers are a regular Friday activity in the French capital when thousands of Muslims, who complain there are not enough mosques for their needs, disrupt traffic by blocking roads to pray. The government deems that the practice is against the principle of secularism which France abides by.
French Interior Minister Claude Gueant stated that the ban may be extended to the rest of France. According to the Telegraph he said

"My vigilance will be unflinching for the law to be applied. Praying in the street is not dignified for religious practice and violates the principles of secularism.”

He also said the ban had the support of all Muslim leaders. The minister said that the law will be applied by force if necessary but believes that agreements with Muslim leaders will prevent the necessity. Before the ban came into effect the Muslim community was offered the facilities of a large disused fire barracks to use as a house of prayer, which they accepted.

On Islam reports that Muslims in Paris only have 1,500 prayer houses and the Great Mosque of Paris is not sited near immigrant areas which tend to center around Paris’s eastern 19th arrondissement. France has the highest Muslim population in Europe at an estimated six million. According to Todays Zaman, the Muslim community complains that they were not informed that the ban would be implemented prior to today’s Friday prayers. Sheikh Mohamed Salah Hamza who runs a Parisian mosque emphasized that people do not want to pray on the streets and demand larger mosques.

The ban on street prayers follows the ban on head coverings in public places that the French government introduced in April which made it an offence to appear in a public place with a covered face. Although the ban covers other head wear such as motorcycle helmets it is generally referred to as the burka ban.


Islamic Sharia Law Court Opens in Belgium

An Islamic Sharia law court has been established in Antwerp, the second-largest city in Belgium.

The Sharia court is the initiative of a radical Muslim group called Sharia4Belgium. Leaders of the group say the purpose of the court is to create a parallel Islamic legal system in Belgium in order to challenge the state's authority as enforcer of the civil law protections guaranteed by the Belgian constitution.
The Sharia court, which is located in Antwerp's Borgerhout district, is "mediating" family law disputes for Muslim immigrants in Belgium.

The self-appointed Muslim judges running the court are applying Islamic law, rather than the secular Belgian Family Law system, to resolve disputes involving questions of marriage and divorce, child custody and child support, as well as all inheritance-related matters.

Unlike Belgian civil law, Islamic Sharia law does not guarantee equal rights for men and women; critics of the Sharia court say it will undermine the rights of Muslim women in marriage and education.

Legal experts say the Islamic court will also undercut the state's ability to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of so-called honor crimes. In 2007, for example, Belgium outlawed the practice of forced marriage. Those convicted of forcing someone into marriage by violence or coercion face a prison sentence of up to two years and a fine of up to €2,500 ($3,500). This law is likely to be undermined as Muslim marriage disputes come under the jurisdiction of the Sharia court.

Sharia4Belgium says the court in Antwerp will eventually expand its remit and handle criminal cases as well.

The Sharia4Belgium group consists of Islamists who are committed to bring everyone living in Belgium (including all non-Muslims) under the submission of Islamic Sharia law.

Although Sharia4Belgium's website recently was shut down by the Belgian authorities, a partial archive of the site can be found at the WayBack Machine. There Sharia4Belgium issues an invitation-cum-threat calling for all Belgians to convert to Islam and to submit to Sharia law or face the consequences. The text says:

"It is now 86 years since the fall of the Islamic Caliphate. The tyranny and corruption in this country [Belgium] has prevailed; we go from one scandal to another: Economic crises, paedophilia, crime, growing Islamophobia, etc."

"As in the past we [Muslims] have saved Europe from the dark ages, we now plan to do the same. Now we have the right solution for all crises and this is the observance of the divine law, namely Sharia. We call to implement Sharia in Belgium."

"Sharia is the perfect system for humanity. In 1300 years of the Islamic state we knew only order, welfare and the protection of all human rights. We know that Spain, France and Switzerland knew their best times under Sharia. In these 1300 years, 120 women were raped, which is equal to 120 women a day in Europe. There were barely 60 robberies recorded in 1300 years."

"As a result, we invite the royal family, parliament, all the aristocracy and every Belgian resident to submit to the light of Islam. Save yourself and your children of the painful punishment of the hereafter and grant yourself eternal life in paradise."

A cache of the background image for the Sharia4Belgium website has the black flag of jihad flying above the Belgian Parliament. Up until recently the Sharia4Belgium Youtube page (also shut down) was used to incite Muslims to Jihad, or Holy War. The group had posted videos with titles like, "Jihad Is Obligatory," "Encouraging Jihad," "Duelling & Guerrilla Warfare," and "The Virtues of Martyrdom."

Sharia4Belgium is linked to Anjem Choudary, a Sharia court judge based in London. Choudary, who was the leader of a group called Islam4UK before it was banned by British anti-terrorism authorities, believes in the primacy of Islam over all other faiths and has long campaigned for Islamic law to be implemented in all of Britain.

Choudary is also a leader of the British Islamic Emirates Project, a campaign to turn twelve British cities – including what he calls "Londonistan" – into independent Islamic states. The so-called Islamic Emirates would function as autonomous enclaves ruled by Islamic Sharia law and operate entirely outside British jurisprudence.

The guardians of European multiculturalism say Choudary is harmless and, in any event, does not represent the majority of Muslims living in Europe. But he has a considerable following in Britain and elsewhere, and his views on the role of Sharia in Britain are far more popular than many will admit.

For example, at least 85 Islamic Sharia courts are now operating in Britain, almost 20 times as many as previously believed, according to a study by Civitas, a London-based think tank. The report shows that scores of unofficial tribunals and councils regularly apply Islamic law to resolve domestic, marital and business disputes, and that many Sharia courts are operating in mosques. It warns of a "creeping" acceptance of Sharia principles in British law.

In an interview with the Belgian newspaper De Standaard (English translation here), Choudary said he would help launch Sharia4Belgium to prevent Muslim immigrants from integrating into Belgian society. "Belgium has an extensive Muslim population, especially in the cities. I therefore plan to come to Belgium myself in the coming weeks, or send a delegation to establish a branch of the organization," he said.

When asked if he wanted to convince Belgians to convert to Islam and to implement Sharia law, Choudary replied: "The implementation of Sharia will happen in one of the following four ways: either the majority of the population converts to Islam; or a foreign Islamic power conquers the country; or there will be a rebellion against the oppression of the Muslim people; or the Muslims will overthrow the ruling regime. Society will be united by Islam."

In November 2010, Belgian police arrested three members of Sharia4Belgium in a counter-terrorism sting operation. The suspects were using the Ansar al-Mujahideen Jihadist website to plan an attack on Belgian soil.

Muslims make up around 10% of Antwerp's population, and the city has long been a hotbed of radical Islam. According to some estimates, more than half of the mosques in Antwerp are controlled by Muslim extremists groups, including the fundamentalist Deobandi sect, which promotes Jihad and hatred for Western society.

Vlaams Belang, a conservative political party that rejects multiculturalism and wants strict limits on Muslim immigration, has demanded that Belgian authorities shut down the Sharia court in Antwerp.

In an interview with Het laatste Nieuws, Belgium's most popular newspaper, Vlaams Belong leader Filip Dewinter says the Sharia court "is yet another step toward the Islamization of Antwerp." Dewinter says the constitution gives the secular courts a monopoly on settling disputes. "You certainly cannot have a parallel system of Sharia courts developing judgements based on principles that are at odds with the values of our constitutional democracy," he says.
Soeren Kern is Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.

ISA mansuh, GMI mansuh?

Nazri Aziz – the defective law minister

Taxi drivers, just like politicians, are a law unto themselves. There are also allegations that the taxi companies are controlled by corrupt politicians.
COMMENT

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohamed Nazri Aziz said that the government was serious in fighting corruption and announced the latest Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) initiative whereby taxi drivers would become mini-ambassadors and informers on behalf of the MACC.

He added that if the information the cabbies supplied was successful in securing arrests and convictions, they could also be rewarded for their efforts.

Nazri said: “The government is committed to battling corruption through its transformation plan by establishing a National Key Results Area for corruption and reducing corruption via increased enforcement and prevention, while improving the people’s perception of the government’s and public services’ integrity.”

The campaign was launched by Nazri at the MACC’s Hari Raya Aidil Fitri open house on Sept 13. He said that over 30,000 taxi drivers would be the MACC’s informers and that around 200 taxi drivers operating in the Klang Valley would start the campaign.

Why does Nazri participate in another thoughtless measure rather than confront the problem of corruption head-on? Nazri, who is also the de facto Law Minister, should perhaps be reassigned the title “Defective Law Minister”.

It is possible he is taking his cue from Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and also the former PMs who only pay lip service, when it comes to tackling corruption.

It appears that this latest measure to raise the public’s awareness, increase their responsibility, and hence engage the community in fighting corruption was the brainchild of the MACC.

According to Nazri, cab drivers made ideal informers because they would pick up information as they talked with their passengers.

Perhaps Nazri could tell us how many high-ranking politicians ever use cabs? These representatives of the people are some of those who are allegedly most corrupt. The big fish allegedly involved in corruption are driven around in chauffeur-driven cars.

He said: “They (the taxi drivers) are at the frontline of the tourism industry as they are the first group to interact with overseas tourists.

“They can be considered the country’s duta kecil (mini ambassadors) in disseminating information (about the country). Therefore, programmes like this are needed.

“They can be our whistleblower and can play the rôle as deliverer of information to MACC. We expect them to play a crucial rôle. I believe that after this, MACC will brief NGOs and government agencies and may even train them because we are serious in enlisting their help to fight graft.”

The MACC chief commissioner Abu Kassim Mohamed also said: “Taxi drivers will be MACC’s eyes and ears in reporting corruption. They pick up a lot of information from passengers’ conversations, or might even witness corrupt transactions in their taxis.”

Public being ripped off

When did Nazri and Abu Kassim last take a taxi? The last time I did, I was ripped off going from Medan Gopeng to my home which is just around the corner. The journey of 2.3km took less than five minutes but cost me RM30. The bus fare from KL to Ipoh was less than this last step of the journey.

Do these men not realise that the public is constantly being ripped off by errant taxi drivers and that passengers, especially tourists, are at their mercy?

Taxi drivers, their companies and the government agency under which taxis come, should be among the people to be investigated for corrupt practices. The drivers fleece the public with expensive fares, they refuse to use the meter and many of the vehicles they operate are unsafe.

The latest taxi I travelled in was not working, the boot would not shut and my suitcase balanced precariously on top of the taxi driver’s effects, which took up most of the space in the boot. The taxi was filthy and the driver refused to use the meter. He told me I could be dropped by the roadside if “kamu tidak suka”.

The belligerent attitude of some of our taxi drivers is similar to that of our politicians.

If Nazri were to read the newspapers, especially the mainstream media, he might realise the number of complaints which passengers, especially tourists, make against taxi drivers. The ambassadorial rôle played by the taxi drivers would drive tourists away.

As it is, locals have given up complaining as they do not see any action forthcoming from the authorities.

Taxi drivers, just like politicians, are a law unto themselves. There are also allegations that the taxi companies are controlled by corrupt politicians.

Why should Nazri and the MACC waste more taxpayers’ money on idiotic schemes? Why should we waste more of the public purse paying for the salaries of these dim-witted ministers and heads of public institutions?

If anyone wants to seriously tackle corruption, they need only go to the corridors of power, not the back of a filthy, unsafe taxi. In which case, they should make Putrajaya their first stop.

At the end of 2010, the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) concluded that Malaysia had been perceived as becoming more corrupt while other countries, such as China and Indonesia, had improved in their efforts to tackle corruption.

Nazri, however, maintained that the level of corruption in Malaysia was very low compared to developed countries.

It is outrageous how the de facto law minister disregards the feelings of the rakyat.

‘Not important’

Recently, he admitted that the five pre-conditions set by Pakatan Rakyat for its participation in the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform had not been deliberated by the Cabinet.

He said: “The Cabinet did not discuss them. They are not important.”

He also said that the reported review of the Internal Security Act (ISA) had been omitted from discussion by the Cabinet.

Nazri sees no importance in getting rid of corruption, wanting clean elections and repealing the ISA.

This defective law minister is only serious about things that do not matter and ignores things that do.

But it is interesting to note that Najib has announced that he intends to abolish the ISA (which he did yesterday).

Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist.

Najib and Malaysia's Civil Liberties


Image
Najib says let there be light
Seemingly dramatic changes may not be very dramatic but very political
The announcement Thursday of changes to Malaysian civil liberty laws appears to be a major coup for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, putting the opposition on the back foot by taking away long-standing demands for expanded civil freedoms that were potent campaign tools.

Much, however, depends on what replaces the laws. There is considerable scope for political theater and not much more in a campaign year, especially if, as expected, the replacements are modeled on US or UK laws, neither of which are particularly liberal despite the perception of liberal democracy in both countries.

National elections are expected in the first quarter of 2012, perhaps in March during school holidays when schools can be used as polling stations. The apparent changes need to be seen in the context of the elections, Najib’s rhetoric about freedom of expression to the contrary. There appears to be no move to abandon either the Sedition Act or the Official Secrets Act, for instance, which are routinely used against opposition figures and bloggers and journalists.

The reforms were announced by Najib on television Thursday night. They include abolition of the colonial-era Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention of suspects, as well as the repeal of the Emergency Ordinance allowing for detention without charge for two years. Another provision does away with the annual renewal of press and publication permits. Laws governing right of assembly are to be reviewed “to bring Malaysia into line with international standards” while ensuring that police retain power to prevent violence, he said.

“They will formulate other laws,” an UMNO source told Asia Sentinel. “Other countries have provisions for detention without trial. Since the ISA has been stigmatized as draconian, they can just get another law. The model they will take from America’s anti-terrorism law. The UK also has a new law for detention without trial.”

The US’s Patriot Act on which Najib may model his new laws was jammed through the US Congress amid hysteria surrounding the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, DC on September 11, 2001. The other possibility is that the security law would be modeled on the United Kingdom’s law, which allows for detention for 28 days without charge for terrorism suspects. In neither case are the laws particularly liberal, nor would they expand civil liberties by much.

The US’s Patriot Act has been under fire from civil libertarians since it was passed, as it vastly expanded police powers, creating new crimes, new penalties and new procedures for use against suspected domestic and international terrorists. It authorized the indefinite detention of immigrants, allowed for searches of homes and businesses without the owner’s or occupant’s permission or knowledge, expanded FBI authority for warrantless wiretaps and expanded access to business records, even including the authority to see what books suspects checked out of public libraries. Although the law has been amended slightly, it has been allowed to stand largely in its original form.

There is probably one important change. The new laws will take powers away from the Home Ministry and its feared Special Branch police and vest them in the judiciary, as they are in the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries. That means law enforcement officials presumably would now have to seek the permission of the judiciary before conducting arrests or surveillance. Malaysia has a notoriously compliant judiciary, which bends to the wishes of the government and which means that probably there will be little change for now. But should elections deliver up a future government that appoints an independent judiciary, the changes could be beneficial.

The lifting of a requirement for media companies to renew their publishing licenses annually, as stipulated in the Printing Presses and Publishing Act, appears to be a bow to reality, although not a very deep one and probably results from the fact that Malaysia was deeply embarrassed when censors blacked out portions of a story in The Economist on the crackdown on July 9 demonstrations against marchers calling for reform.

“In no way is this going to transform Malaysian society,” said Masjaliza Hamzah, the executive officer of Malaysia’s Center for Independent Journalism. “Not the media landscape for sure.” The right to grant or revoke initial licenses remains with the home minister and can’t be challenged in court, she said. “There are all kinds of changes that his announcement didn’t address.”

The fact that all of the major media are owned by government parties means they won’t be changing their political tune anytime soon, licensed or not. And despite the current stricture that opposition party publications violate the terms of their licenses that they can only be sold to party members, in reality they are sold off the newsstands as well.

The government has hewed grimly to the promise by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the Internet would not be censored. As a result, news sites including the Malaysia Chronicle, Malaysia Today, Malaysian Insider and Malaysiakini have gained hundreds of thousands of readers while the mainstream media, all of which are owned by component parties of the ruling national coalition, have continued to toe the government line.

“I think UMNO feels that by trying to censor the news, it makes it even worse,” a Kuala Lumpur source said. “This is all a matter of defusing land mines ahead of the elections. A lot of burning issues are being defused.”

The ISA is particularly a detested law by large numbers of Malaysian citizens. It was instituted in 1960 by the British colonial government at the height of the Communist insurgency but has often been used against political opponents of the government. In 1987, the government ordered Operation Lalang , which resulted in the arrests of 106 people including Lim Kit Siang, the secretary general of the Democratic Action Party, his deputy chairman, Karpal Singh, Halim Arshat, the youth chief of Parti Islam se-Malaysia, and a flock of social activists. Lim, Karpal Singh and 40 others were ordered detained for two years under the ISA. In total, according to information supplied by the government in connection with Najib’s speech, nearly 4,500 people were detained as suspected terrorists between 2000 and 2010. Some 37 are currently being held.

Peanuts, not sweeping reforms

Let’s not be fooled, people. The changes Najib announced are merely cosmetic, and will have to be passed in Parliament first before they become effective.
COMMENT

By Kee Thuan Chye

PEANUTS. That’s what Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s so-called “sweeping reforms” are. They hardly amount to a political transformation.

While it’s cheering to note that the Internal Security Act (ISA) will be repealed – finally, after our many years of waiting – and that the Emergency proclamations are to be lifted – a decision that is decades overdue – it’s disturbing to be told that they will be replaced by two new laws aimed at preventing subversion and safeguarding public order.

And even though the detention period under these new laws may be shorter, with further extensions to be made by court order, the Home Minister is still the one to decide who gets detained for suspicion of being a terrorist.

This means, theoretically speaking, that although Najib has given the commitment that “no individual will be detained purely based on political ideology”, there is no stopping the government from branding a political opponent a suspected terrorist, whether or not he is one. Just to lock him away.

Another so-called “reform” is scrapping the requirement for publications to renew their printing licences annually.

This, also, is nothing to crow about. It still means that publications have to obtain a licence that the Home Minister may or may not grant. It still means the Home Minister has the absolute power to suspend or revoke a licence at any time. And his decision cannot be challenged in court. He does not even have to give a reason.

It also means the Home Ministry can still call up newspaper editors and cow them into submission for publishing something the ministry finds objectionable. Like what happened recently to The Star when it ran the heading ‘Ramadhan delights’ for an eating-out supplement that was not totally devoted to halal food.

The ministry can still practise the double standards it has been practising – turn a blind eye to the race-baiting and rabble-rousing of Utusan Malaysia but come down hard on the minor transgressions of other publications. So where’s the change?

If the government were truly sincere and had the political will, it should repeal the Publications and Printing Presses Act (PPPA) and no longer require publications to obtain a printing licence. That would be in keeping with the spirit of what Najib talked about instituting in Malaysia when he announced the “reforms” on Sept 15 – a “democratic system based on the universal philosophy of ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’”.

Vague reforms

None of the newly announced “reforms” fully cohere with this spirit.

On Section 27 of the Police Act, Najib said there would be a review to take into consideration the provisions under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees Malaysians the right to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.

But in the same breath, he said police permits would still be required for street demonstrations, subject to certain criteria.

If freedom of assembly, which should be a right of all citizens, is still curtailed in this fashion, what is that rubbish talk of Najib’s about forging a democratic system “of the people, by the people and for the people”?

He did say, however, that “permission to assemble will be given in accordance with procedures to be fixed later that will take into account international norms”. But this sounds vague. What international norms did he mean? And when is “later” going to be?

And speaking of Article 10, why doesn’t the government address the other impediments to freedom of speech, such as the Official Secrets Act (OSA), the Sedition Act, the Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA), the Multimedia and Communications Act, the Public Order (Preservation) Ordinance?

No wonder Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein was smirking and applauding when Najib made his announcements. His absolute powers remain intact.

Let’s not be fooled, people. The changes Najib announced are merely cosmetic. And of course they will have to be passed in Parliament first before they become effective.

Meanwhile, Articles 149 and 150 are still there to provide Parliament with the power to pass laws that do not have to be consistent with the freedoms guaranteed in Articles 5, 9, 10 and 13, and to allow the Cabinet to declare an emergency. The Emergency proclamations may go, but Article 150 is still around. We the people are still vulnerable.

Some of us may say that we cannot expect the government to make such truly sweeping reforms in one go, and that we should be thankful for the small mercies we are now getting. Some may say this could be just the beginning, and more reforms could come.

That’s well and good. But at the same time, we should give credit where it’s due for this beginning. It’s not Najib we should thank. What we are getting is what has been due us for a long time, what any concerned government should have given us even without our having to pressure them to do so.

We should instead acknowledge that the March 8 effect lives on, and therefore the credit for these changes should go to us the rakyat for voting as we did on March 8, 2008. We voted in a stronger opposition, we denied the ruling party the two-thirds majority that it had abused to increasingly curb our democratic rights over the decades. We sent them the message that enough was enough.

These “reforms” have now come about because Barisan Nasional (BN) wants to stay in power, and it has realised that we have the power to decide whether that will happen. The “reforms” are meant to win back our votes. Ever since Najib took over as prime minister, he has been doing things merely to ensure that BN’s goal is fulfilled, not because he is altruistic or benevolent in spirit. We have seen his meanness in numerous other ways.

Watching him speak on Sept 15 when announcing these “reforms” as part of his Malaysia Day address, we could have contrasted it with his speech to 6,000 Umno members and Malay NGOs at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) a couple of days after the Bersih 2.0 rally, and call him “two-faced”.

Contemptuous chauvinist

At that PWTC gathering, he was far from being the prime minister who cared about reform and the good of the entire country.

He was a truculent thug who roused the crowd with the boast of Umno’s ability to round up a million members to “conquer Kuala Lumpur”. He was a contemptuous chauvinist who exhorted the Malays to unite in order to teach the Bersih 2.0 protesters a lesson and “show them whose country this is”.

No doubt, he has since realised his mistakes in his handling of the Bersih 2.0 rally and is now making amends. His ratings have dropped and he’s trying to make them go up again. Hence these “reforms”. But let’s be wary of his sincerity and be clear about his real purpose.

Let us keep sight as well of the many more ills that the government has not comprehensively addressed, such as corruption, rent-seeking, wasteful spending, Umnoputraism, our pathetic education system.

Let us demand more reforms, especially those pertaining to our institutions, such as the judiciary, the police, the Attorney-General’s Office, the Election Commission, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

There is still a long road ahead. Unless and until the reforms are truly sweeping and the restrictive laws abolished, we should not put our trust in Najib and BN.

Make them sweat, make them work, and don’t let them take us for granted. Never again.

Dramatist and journalist Kee Thuan Chye is the author of ‘March 8: Time for Real Change‘. He is a contributor to FMT.

PM announces repeal of ISA, three Emergency proclamations

Malaysia Day Message by Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia

This post is reproduced from here.

Bismillahirahmanirrahim

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh, Good Evening and Happy Malaysia Day.

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia.

1.    Alhamdulillah with the Grace of Allah, we are able to celebrate the 48th anniversary of the formation of Malaysia as citizens of an independent, sovereign, democratic, peaceful and harmonious nation.

2.    The tale of Malaysia’s journey is indeed colourful. From its beginning as a low income agricultural nation at the time of its formation, today, as a result of systematic planning and sound implementation, we have successfully emerged as a moderately high income modern industrial nation. Moving on, although the success attained is monumental and very significant, it is not a reason for us to cease our effort, be comfortable, what more do nothing.

3.    What should be done for the sake of our survival and to enhance as well as ensure the well being of the rakyat in this very competitive world now, is, to continuously double our efforts to improve our competitiveness as a nation through the utilisation of creativity, innovation and by striving for the creation of new wealth based on self entrepreneurship. All these objectives would not be achieved without the existence of national unity, peace, stability and harmony.

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia.

4.    Looking at the pages of history, when our nation achieved independence 54 years ago until  Malaysia was formed six years later, with the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak, many then, whether foreign observers, or local inhabitants doubted and even questioned, a new nation with its States separated by the South China Sea, then threatened by communist insurgency, with its population living below the poverty level, exacerbated by the diversity factor in terms of demography which was extraordinarily complex, would this nation be able to remain strong as a  nation state as well as succeed?

5.    It is a fact, viewing Malaysia’s achievement up to now, from the first crawl to subsequent stumbles, the road to success had been full of challenges. Combing the annals of history, it is indeed miraculous that soon after independence, that fact, and with it the additional burden of the acceptance of the system and philosophy of administration of the country based on Parliamentary Democracy, Constitutional Monarchy and Federalism, was accepted by us even before maturity of the aculturisation process.

6.    Clearly, before independence, the people of the thirteen states which united to form Malaysia neither had the opportunity to elect a government into power nor determine the type of its administration. These people merely existed as people in protected states or colonized land who were accorded limited political privilege according to the discretion of the ruler in power. Surely, this was not real political right derived from nationality in an independent and sovereign country.

7.    Factually, before independence, the first political election which was held where the people were given the opportunity, albeit a limited one, to elect their representatives was at the election of several Municipal Councils in 1952 and subsequently the election of part of the Members of the Federal Legislative Council in 1955. In reality, only after independence were the citizens given the full right and responsibility to elect all the Members of the House of Representatives and the State Legislative Assemblies, consequently full discretion to determine the party or the coalition party which would form the government.

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia,

8.    Without doubt, we should be thankful because from time to time, whatever obstacles that had come our way, whether internal or external in their source, which threatened democracy and individual freedom be it communist insurgency, confrontation against the formation of Malaysia, race riots, economic downturn, religious extremism, and racial chauvinism, Alhamdulillah, each and every obstacle had been dealt with and faced within the framework of prudent action, democratically based on the principle of constitutional supremacy and the rule of law.

9.    It should be remembered that, during that period not once did it cross the government’s mind  to change the existing Parliamentary Democracy and Constitutional Monarchy system to an anti-democracy system, however great the challenge faced. As recorded in our nation’s history, as a result of the 13 May tragedy, Seri Paduka Baginda Yang DiPertuan Agong on the advice of the then Prime Minister had proclaimed emergency pursuant to the provision of Article 150 of the Federal Constitution.

10.      One of the consequences of the 1969 proclamation of emergency was the suspension of ongoing elections in Sabah and Sarawak. What happened thereafter  was that elections to the House of Representatives were only held twenty months later and the Parliamentary Democracy system was restored after peace and stability prevailed.

11.      Even though that was the case, the late Tun Abdul Razak as Deputy Prime Minister then cum Minister of Defence who was entrusted to lead the Majlis Gerakan Negara or MAGERAN, with absolute executive and legislative powers, never desired to retain those powers longer than was necessary.

12.      It is evidently clear, the late Tun and his colleagues then more than realized that the extraordinary unfettered powers in their hands must never be made the norm in their use for the sake of this beloved nation. On the other hand, they understood that such absolute power was a trust to contain and control tragedy and instability which occurred.

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia,

13.      Rightly, as a nation which practises parliamentary democracy, the power to determine the political party which will form the government whether at the Federal or at the state level rests absolutely in the hands of the rakyat. After more than five decades of independence and almost five decades after the formation of Malaysia, we find that, the experience, maturity and wisdom of the people of this country in electing the government to determine the future direction which they desire cannot be denied by anybody.

14.      In fact, I often opine that long gone is the era in which the government knows everything and claims monopoly over wisdom. The revolution in the field of information technology, progress in communication and the sophistication in transportation have opened up competition and extensive and dynamic comparison in the ideas market.

15.       In this contemporary time, the standards as well as peoples’ access to all levels of education have become more extensive . In addition, the  sound economic growth, reduction in poverty rate and social engineering initiative have succeeded in enhancing the standard of living and creating a big middle class. In recent times, the priority in terms of the wants and needs of the Malaysian citizens has undergone a big change compared to four or five decades ago.

16.      Going further, administering a country formed from the moment of independence out of the wishes of the people, the current government will continue to be commited to upholding the system of Parliamentary Democracy, Constitutional Monarchy, the rule of law,  the philosophy of federalism and the check and balance principle between the three branches of government.

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia,

17.      As many of you know, except for the proclamation of emergency of 1964 as a consequence of the confrontation which was impliedly revoked, all the proclamations of emergency subsist till today. Thus, realising that the reality in Malaysia has changed, feeling the pulse, agitation and aspiration of the rakyat who clamour for a more open and dynamic democracy, where, the opinions, ideas and concerns of the masses are given due attention, so as to be at par with other democratic systems in the world which are underscored by the universal principle from the people, by the people and for the people,  the government now under Clause (3) of Article 150 will table a motion before both Houses of Parliament to have the three Proclamations of Emergency annulled. In my opinion the time has come for the people of  Malaysia to advance to the future with the next paradigm based on new hope and not be bound by the nolstagic constraints of past history.

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia,

18.      In designing a civilised nation  to face extraordinary situations threatening the security of the nation and the well being of the people, unavoidably, the situation demands for special measures which sometimes are outside the democratic norms. An example is preventive detention. Indeed the astuteness in countering violence requires us to prevent the action before innocent lives and property are lost, or injury results. This is a global truth.

19.      From the Islamic law perspective, it is stipulated clearly in the  Maqasid Syariah which has as its objectives five main matters that is; firstly: religion, secondly: life, thirdly: the mind, fourthly: progeny and dignity and fifthly: property. In fact the principle of Usul Fiqah deals in a substantial way with the need to prevent a wrongdoing from occurring. Another principle stipulates that the decision of the ruler is a trust which must be implemented for the people being governed for their general benefit.

20.      This is not something strange, unusual or alien. It has been proven that developed democratic countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom had also enacted special legislative framework to deal with terrorist threats post the 11 September tragedy. 

21.      The fact is that, the balance as well as equilibrium between national security and individual freedom  must prevail in a modern democracy. It is the duty and responsibility of a government which has as its highest objective the welfare and well being of the people to find this right balance.

22.      For example, the right to free speech guaranteed under the Federal Constitution does not in any way mean that any body is free to  defame and stoke hatred. Another simple example is this, the government is also responsible to prevent a false cry about a bomb in a stadium full of people. This is because such uncontrolled freedom will only create panic which may lead to injury and loss of lives. 

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia,

23.      Pursuant to that, as I have promised in my maiden speech after first assuming the post of Prime Minister on 3 April 2009, that the Internal Security Act 1960 ( ISA) would be reviewed comprehensively, it is now my pleasure to announce on this historic night, that the Internal Security Act 1960 ( ISA) will be repealed entirely. To prevent subversive action, organised violence and criminal acts in order to preserve public order and security, legislation will be enacted under the umbrella of Article 149 of the Federal Constitution. In essence, the legislation will have the aim of maintaining peace, well being, tranquility and order in the lives of the people and the country.

24.      Over and above everything else, the Government will always ensure that   the fundamental rights of those involved are preserved. Any law enacted will take into account  rights and fundamental liberties based on the Federal Constitution. The new law will provide for a substantially reduced period of detention by the police compared to what we have now and any further detention may only be made with the order of the court except the law in relation to violence which is still under the power of the Minister. In general, the power to further detain will be transferred from the executive to the judiciary.

25.      In addition to repealing the Internal Security Act 1960, the Government will also repeal the Banishment Act 1959 as well as review several laws to ensure that these laws fit the present needs. In relation to that, we will not hesitate to amend or repeal laws which are no longer relevant.

26.      This comprehensive review will involve the Restricted Residence Act 1933 and the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 where the yearly renewal principle will be abolished and in lieu thereof a licence will be issued until revoked. The Government will also review section 27 of the Police Act 1967, taking into consideration Article 10 of the Federal Constitution regarding freedom of assembly and so as to be in line with international norms on the same matter.  

Ladies and gentlemen, beloved citizens of Malaysia,

27.      As a nation, Malaysia and all of her people now stand at a crossroads. The decisions we make today will determine the fate and shape Malaysia as it will be in the future, the homeland that we will pass on to our children and future generations. The question is, are we capable of surpassing and challenging the common suspicion that Malaysians with their diverse backgrounds, varying socioeconomic statuses and political understandings which are typical of human nature, can arrive at a consensus to not bow or surrender to the trappings of hate and distrust which would certainly drag us down into a valley of disgrace. Instead, let us all brave a future filled with hope and nobility together.

28.      Be confident that it is a strength and not a weakness for us to place our trust in the Malaysian people’s intelligence to make decisions that will shape the path of their own future. If we perceive it as a mistake, then what is the use of us planning our national development so meticulously since Independence, what is the use of us spending large sums of the nation’s treasury every year to provide quality educational access to all, freeing them from the clutches of poverty, and building world class physical infrastructure and information communication technology?

29.      It is absolutely clear that the steps I just announced are none other than early initiatives of an organised and graceful political transformation. It stands as a crucial and much needed complement to the initiatives of economic transformation and public presentation which the government has outlined and implemented for over two years in the effort to pioneer a a modern and progressive nation.

30.      It is neither too early nor too late, but this is the most suitable and precise time for such major estimations to be made and implemented. Though some parties opine that this is too risky, we will proceed with it for the sake of survival, as it has been fifty years since our nation achieved independence, and and nearly five decades since Malaysia was formed. Thus, we stand at the threshold of a vehicle that speeds towards its destination as a fully developed nation.

31.In closing, I wish to emphasise that free of any suspicion and doubt, the Malaysia that we all dream of and are in the process of creating is a Malaysia that practices a functional and inclusive democracy where public peace and prosperity is preserved in accordance with the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and respect for basic human rights and individual rights.

For the sake of Malaysia, have faith and place our trust in God.

Wabillahitaufik Walhidayah Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh. Thank you.

Please click here to view the Malay version of the speech.

Crystal-ball gazing: ‘ISA’ finally repealed in 2025

Half a dozen years ago, to mark Singapore’s 40th Independence Day in 2005, a Singapore website  invited me to write an imaginary news-report about Malaysia exactly 20 years into the future, more precisely 9 August 2025.
 
In keeping with the spirit of freedom and liberation, I chose the topic of the ISA and allowed my mind to wander and wonder what it would be like when the announcement finally came that this obnoxious law would be repealed. I imagined euphoric scenes of joyous celebration across the nation.

Back in 2005, the opposition parties were hardly united and I figured any repeal would only happen in 2025. But four years later, in 2009, 50000 people marched through the streets of KL under the banner of the Abolish ISA Movement (GMI), demanding an end to this much-reviled law. Yesterday, with a general election looming, Najib of all people pre-empted my 2025 forecast by announcing the ISA would be repealed.

But there are, of course, two provisos to his announcement. We don’t know when the statute will actually be repealed in Parliament. And we can bet that we have not seen the last of preventive detention or detention without trial laws. No wonder, unlike the jubilant scenes described in my article below, the public reaction to Najib’s announcement has been flat. Kamunting is still open for business; no ISA or EO detainees have been released. And Aung San Suu Kyi has not sent any congratulatory message following the PM’s announcement. Instead, the PSM 30 are facing trial on 10-14 October and the ISA will probably be “rebranded” and reincarnated into two new laws for anti-terrorism and “public order”.

(Who defines “terrorism” and “public order”, anyway)? Najib is smart but ordinary people have wisened up and they can see right through his “reform” package. An aunt of mine, not ordinarily interested in politics, remarked, “Ai-yah, you believe him ah? All this just for elections-lah.”

So, if we are talking about preventive detention laws, my 2025 prediction may still be valid! After all, no one is celebrating just yet – and rightly so. We can’t celebrate until the last of the preventive detention laws are finally repealed and our judiciary reformed so that it becomes truly independent. I just hope we don’t have to wait for 2025 for that!

This is my crystal-ball gazing piece written in 2005:
Kuala Lumpur, 9 August 2025 – In a stunning development, Malaysia has announced that it is repealing the Internal Security Act 65 years after its enactment.

The move to abolish the law, which allows indefinite detention without trial, came after years of campaigning by a coalition of civil society groups known as the Abolish ISA Movement.
The decision to repeal the ISA was also one of the central planks of the reformist election manifesto of Malaysia’s new prime minister, who won a general election earlier this year after promising to usher in a new era of genuine bottom-up democracy.
A couple of hours’ drive north of Kuala Lumpur, in the industrial town of Kamunting, there were jubilant scenes marking the end of an era as the last group of security detainees at the infamous detention centre here walked out. “It’s good to be free,” said Abdul Manaf Ismail, who was mobbed by reporters as he emerged through the gates tearfully. “I never expected this – I was prepared for the worst.”
He was greeted by his wife, Suraya, and their two children, Zulkifi and Shirleen, who had travelled all the way from Malacca.
The move to get rid of this archaic law is expected to ripple through ASEAN. Campaigners expect Singapore and Brunei to announce a repeal of almost identical laws in their respective countries while other ASEAN nations are also likely to abolish similar preventive detention laws.
Malaysian grassroots groups and activists in neighbouring ASEAN countries had strongly lobbied the Malaysian government to abolish the law, a relic of British colonial rule from mid-20th century Malaya. The law was initial used against communists and left-wing groups from the 1960s but was then expanded to zero in on an assortment of groups and individuals who were allegedly involved in actions “prejudicial to national security”.
After the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, the ISA and preventive detention laws received a new lease of life as hundreds of suspected militants, allegedly linked to Al Qaeda, were rounded up across the world. But preventive detention laws fell into disrepute in the years that followed after horrific accounts of torture and abuse of prisoners emerged from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, and Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
Burma’s former prime minister Aung San Suu Kyi, who has become an inspirational figure for the pro-democracy movement in ASEAN, sent a congratulatory message to the Malaysian government. “This is a great day for the Malaysian people and the people of ASEAN,” she said. “I understand full well what it means to be detained without trial and to be denied natural justice, so I want to salute the Malaysian government for doing away with the ISA.”
Suu Kyi, who recently celebrated her 80th birthday, spent more than a dozen years in detention after her pro-democracy movement was brutally suppressed by Burma’s military regime. Upon her release from house arrest 15 years ago, she contested in the country’s first free elections in years, going on to become prime minister of Burma briefly, before stepping down to make way for younger leaders in her party.
At the secretariat of the Abolish ISA Movement in Kuala Lumpur, Kamal Yusuf was euphoric. “We have waited a long time for this day,” he said, as colleagues sang and danced in their office. He pointed out that repeal of the ISA was a vindication of the principle of natural justice that a person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
“I wish to acknowledge the immense contribution of all those who took part in the struggle,” he added. “More importantly, this victory for freedom- and justice-loving people would not have been possible if not for the persistence and tenacity of all those have campaigned against the ISA down the years.”
In a related development, the ASEAN secretariat said plans for an ASEAN Court of Human Rights were well on course. The Court would hear appeals on human rights cases in the region and would itself allow further appeal to the newly set up Asian Human Rights Court.
The move follows the setting up of national human rights commissions in all ten ASEAN member nations. In recent years, the last three of the ASEAN nations without such bodies – Singapore, Brunei and Burma – announced they had agreed to set up commissions in their respective countries.

Legislation for Religious Envoy Lacks Focus

Washington, D.C. (September 14, 2011) - In a letter sent earlier this week to Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Richard D. Lugar (R-IN), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) conveyed its serious reservations with S.1245,the Near East and South Central Asia Religious Freedom Act of 2011.
 
The bill establishes a Special Envoy position within the U.S. Department of State responsible for promoting religious freedom for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. According to the Foundation, however, the bill is inequitable in its approach and will not effectively further America's interests in safeguarding minority rights around the world.
 
"There is no doubt that religious minorities in many parts of the Near East and South Central Asia face a multitude of human rights violations and restrictions on religious freedom," said Samir Kalra, Esq., HAF Director. "However, we believe that the mandate of any such Special Envoy should not be broadly based, but should instead focus on those countries with deplorable human rights records, including nations designated by the State Department as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’.”
 
The Foundation expressed further concerns about whether the Special Envoy position would pursue an inclusive approach to international religious freedom that protects the rights of all religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia. Alluding to language contained in the Findings of H.R. 440 (the U.S. House of Representatives version of S.1245), the Foundation noted with disappointment that while the genuine threats faced by Christian populations in the region were recognized, references to the plight of other persecuted faith groups, such as Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, were inexplicably absent from the bill. HAF has documented such human rights violations against Hindus and other religious minorities in its annual human rights report, entitled Hindus in South Asia and the Diaspora: A Survey of Human Rights 2010, as have other prominent human rights watchdog groups.
 
S.1245 was introduced in the Senate on June 22, 2011, after passing in the House of Representatives as H.R. 440 and has currently been referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kalra noted that the House version of the bill pinpointed Pakistan and Afghanistan as “priority” countries of concern.
 
"Focusing a bill with specific mention of countries such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Iran, for example, would strengthen this bill and narrow its sights on regions of the world where religious persecution is rampant,” added Kalra. “The bill’s Senate version is inexplicably devoid of the ‘priority’ language that risks creating a diplomatic position that may become sidetracked and politicized.”
 
HAF leaders also questioned the efficacy of creating the Special Envoy position when its role and duties would not be significantly different from that of the State Department’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom or the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), especially given the nation’s current debt crisis and budgetary constraints.
 
"Rather than enacting new legislation that needlessly duplicates the efforts of established positions and institutions, we implore Congress to address the urgent issues of human rights and religious freedom utilizing the existing government infrastructure and diplomatic missions,” said Jay Kansara, HAF Associate Director. “At the same time, it is crucial to strengthen the current structure by incorporating an equitable, comprehensive, and pluralistic paradigm.”
 
Please click here to read the letter.

SUHAKAM PRESS STATEMENT

With reference to the above, may I kindly append herewith a press statement titled "PEMANSUHAN ORDINAN DARURAT, AKTA KESELAMATAN DALAM NEGERI DAN KAJIAN UNDANG-UNDANG KESELAMATAN SEDIA ADA DAN UNDANG-UNDANG LAIN YANG BERKAITAN MERUPAKAN LANGKAH POSITIF KE ARAH PENINGKATAN KEADAAN HAK ASASI MANUSIA DI MALAYSIA" for your kind attention.

Kindly note that the English version of the statement titled "THE REPEAL OF THE EMERGENCY ORDINANCES, THE INTERNAL SECURITY ACT AND THE REVIEW OF EXISTING SECURITY LAWS AND OTHER RELATED LAWS ARE POSITIVE MOVE TOWARDS THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN MALAYSIA" was released this morning, which is also attached herewith for your kind information.

Thank you and kind regards,

"HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL"

NOOR AZIZAH HAJI ATDENAN
Bahagian Perhubungan Awam
Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia Malaysia (SUHAKAM)
Tingkat 10,Menara TH Perdana
50250 Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur
Tel: (603) 2612 5641 / 6012-206 7406
Faks: (603) 2612 5673

Happy Birthday Malaysia

16 September 2011

48 years ago we formed Malaysia in the spirit of unity, justice and liberty; today, Malaysians have much reason for celebration as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib bin Tun Razak publicly commits Malaysian government to sowing the seeds of a stronger human rights culture in the country.

Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) welcomes Datuk Seri Najib bin Razak’s announcement during his Malaysia Day 2011 address. History is a vital part of our existence from which we can extract lessons and the time has come for Malaysians to face our future with new hopes and aspirations, placing human rights and justice at the core of our nation’s system of administration.

Key reforms which the Prime Minister has announced are:

· The repeal of the Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA );

· The tabling of a motion in both houses of Parliament for the three remaining Emergency declarations to be lifted pursuant to Clause 3, Article 150 of Federal Constitution;

· To review Section 27 of Police Act 1967 with a view to adhering more closely to constitutional provision of Freedom of Assembly in Article 10 of Federal Constitution and international norms;

· The repeal of the Banishment Act 1959;

· The review of the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 and that the requirement for annual renewals of permits will be abolished; and

· Review of the Restricted Residence Act 1933.

Datuk Seri Najib has stated that ISA will be replaced by two new Acts of Parliament which seek to address subversive threats. Any endeavour taken must have Human Rights at its core and it is necessary for the government to include all stakeholders in the drafting of these Acts. These rights too have to be respected and adhered by all enforcement authorities; human rights based policing need to be incorporated into our policing system.

We urge Datuk Seri Najib to always uphold the spirit of our Federal Constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We need to remember the Proclamation of Independence as read out by Tunku Abdul Rahman that we are a, “…sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations”.

AIM extends its support and expertise in assisting the Malaysian government in bringing about these reforms. We hope that the process of reform and its results will be shared transparently with all Malaysians and we look forward to engage with these processes.

This historic moment is a testimony of all the nation could be. It is not a triumph which ought to be attributed to any one party; rather it is a birthday gift from each and every Malaysian to one another.

Nora Murat

Executive Director

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Amnesty International Malaysia
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Tel: 603 7955 2680
Fax: 603 7955 2682
www.aimalaysia.org