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Friday, October 14, 2011

Aid workers taken hostage at the heart of the world's biggest refugee camp

Two female Spanish aid workers have been kidnapped from the heart of the world's largest refugee camp, threatening relief efforts and raising fears that international staff treating Somali famine victims were now prime targets.

Two female Spanish aid workers have been kidnapped from the heart of the world's largest refugee camp, threatening relief efforts and raising fears that international staff treating Somali famine victims were now prime targets.
Foreign staff are already subject to security restrictions at Dadaab, including sunset to sunrise curfews and orders to vary their routine visits to clinics, feeding centres and meetings Photo: EPA
Gunmen believed to be from Somalia snatched the pair, who worked for Medecins Sans Frontieres, as they left a health centre in part of the camp flooded with new arrivals fleeing the dire situation in the war-torn country.
A cell from al-Shabaab, Somalia's Islamist jihadists, were immediately suspected of carrying out the attack, the first kidnap of Westerners from inside the camp's confines.
Kenyan police launched a land and air search for the two women. Their Kenyan driver was shot and wounded in the midday raid.
By last night, however, they had not been found and it was feared they had already been taken across the border into Somalia, which lies less than 60 miles east of the refugee camp.
The attack could jeopardise aid work in the camp, now home to half-a-million Somalis fleeing famine and war. Last night, all non-essential aid missions to Dadaab were cancelled.
"We are extremely concerned about this, and discussions on the next steps are ongoing at the moment," said Emmanuel Nyabera, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, which co-manages Dadaab.


"That may mean pulling some staff out, which is of course a last resort, considering the need of the vulnerable people there at the moment."

Foreign staff are already subject to security restrictions at Dadaab, including sunset to sunrise curfews and orders to vary their routine visits to clinics, feeding centres and meetings.

Veteran humanitarian workers in Nairobi had been warning for some time that the camp was becoming increasingly militarised, with reports of arms being sold and young men being recruited into anti-Western militia, including al-Shabaab.

Unlike most other charities, however, Medecins Sans Frontieres moves without armed guards in almost every area of the world in which it operates.

"For all of our people in charge of security, kidnap has been the top risk in Dadaab, and the surrounding region, for a long time," said one senior aid staffer in Nairobi.

"It's not a surprise that it happened. But that this took place in the heart of the camp, that was a surprise."

Until yesterday, Dadaab was seen as the safest place to treat the 1,000 Somalis a day still streaming over the border, fleeing a famine which was exacerbated in the first place by al-Shabaab's refusal to let Western aid into its territory.

It is understood the two women were taken hostage as they left a health centre in the so-called Ifo Extension, a new camp opened specifically for victims of the current famine in Somalia.

"We strongly condemn this attack", said José Antonio Bastos, the president of MSF in Spain.

"We are in contact with all the relevant authorities and are doing all we can to ensure the swift and safe return of our colleagues. Meanwhile, our thoughts are with them and with their families in this difficult time."

That the gunmen attacked in the middle of the day and in the centre of one of the largest aid organisations' operations shocked many working in Dadaab, and in Nairobi, Kenya's capital and headquarters of aid efforts for the Horn of Africa.

"We thought it was just a rumour at first, there's always some report that someone's been attacked, or there's a sudden increase in the kidnap threat," said one British staffer with an international charity in Dadaab.

"But then it was confirmed and everyone's just all over the place. I've had my Mum on the phone already bawling me out because I had told her this place was safe. It is supposed to be, we know there's a risk, but we take all the precautions. All that's being re-evaluated now as we speak."

The kidnapping comes less than a fortnight after Marie Dedieu, a 66-year-old disabled French woman, was taken hostage from her holiday home on Kenya's north coast.

There have been no reports of her whereabouts since.

Three weeks before she was seized, Somali gunmen shot dead David Tebbutt, a British publishing executive, and kidnapped his wife, Judith, on the first night of their holiday in another Kenyan resort.

Al-Shabaab has been blamed for both of those kidnaps, and was again suspected of yesterday's attack.

"It would be a pretty significant change in their M.O. to be kidnapping people, rather than going in with a bomb or with a lot of shooting," said Roger Middleton, senior Horn of Africa analyst with Chatham House, a London-based think tank.

"I suspect this was more likely pure banditry. But Shabaab have long been aiming at removing from their territory, or territory close to theirs, anyone who ideologically opposes them. In which case, this would fit."

As polls loom, DAP bids to reverse sliding Malay support

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 — A survey has shown that Penang DAP’s support among Chinese and Indians remains at over 80 per cent but less than a third of Malays now back the party, down from nearly 50 per cent just a few months after Lim Guan Eng took office as chief minister.

The Malaysian Insider understands that the findings by opinion researchers Merdeka Center has raised such concern among the state leadership that it has scrambled to organise a leadership retreat tomorrow.

A source said today that Lim Guan Eng believes DAP can keep Penang based on non-Malay support. — file pic
A top party leader said that although the survey it commissioned showed a slight increase in non-Malay backing, the slide in Malay support shows that the multiracial party needs to “go for broke” in courting Malays.
 
“We must learn from 2008 that there can always be black swan moments,” he said, referring to the unexpected gains made by opposition parties in the March 2008 election.

Pakatan Rakyat (PR) had denied Barisan Nasional (BN) its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament and won five state governments including Penang.

DAP made a clean sweep of all seats it contested in the island and obliterated Gerakan in the process.

But Umno has eroded Malay support for PR with repeated claims that the coalition is anti-Malay.
Its newspaper Utusan Malaysia also claimed earlier this year that DAP had conspired with the Church to turn Malaysia into a Christian state.

Despite this, the source said Lim, who is secretary general, believes that DAP can keep Penang based on non-Malay support.

But the party leader said that if the party has real intentions to form federal government, it cannot be on the defensive.

“The survey does not say these Malays now back BN. They are undecided and are there for the taking.
“Although in Penang we won 19 of the 40 state seats on our own, Malays make up 30 per cent of voters in some of these seats,” he said.

DAP has tried to reach out to Malays by recruiting Malay leaders such as Transparency International Malaysia founder Tunku Abdul Aziz Tunku Ibrahim and Zairil Khir Johari.

Tunku Abdul Aziz is now vice chairman while Zairil, son of former Education Minister Tan Sri Khir Johari, is Lim’s political secretary.

But DAP leaders see the July 9 Bersih rally, where Malay icon and national laureate Ahmad Samad Said marched alongside tens of thousands to call for free and fair elections, as a watershed moment for the party in terms of becoming acceptable to Malays.

The Malaysian Insider understands that in a central leadership meeting soon after the march, party stalwart Lim Kit Siang said that liberal Malays now see DAP as acceptable after public anger over BN’s clampdown on the rally.

“We are guided by that. The next six months may decide if we can become more than a Chinaman party,” the party leader said.

MIC: Pahang exco post for Indians possible

MIC state chief M Davendran says Menteri Besar Adnan Yaakob is a problem, and wants the prime minister to intervene.

KUALA LUMPUR: There is a possibility for an Indian to be appointed in the Pahang executive council under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, said state MIC chief M Davendran.

He said appointing an Indian to the state exco was no more a state issue but a national concern as it would convince Indians in other states that Barisan Nasional was indeed concerned about the plight of the community.

“The MIC president (G Palanivel) has raised this matter in various place. We have had numerous meetings with the BN top leadership on the matter.

“We hope under the 1Malaysia concept Najib would direct Menteri Besar (Adnan Yaakob) to appoint an Indian exco for the betterment of the community in Pahang,” he told FMT.

Davendran said the menteri besar was reluctant to allocate funds for temples in the state and this matter had been raised on numerous occasions.

A few months ago, at the Pahang MIC convention, Davendran had told delegates that the MB was hesitant to allocate funds for Hindu temples because “it was against his (Adnan’s) religion.”

The MIC state chief was also quick to point out that the federal government was doing well in helping the Indian community in the state.

“It is true that MIC is having a tough time with the state leadership, but the prime minister and Pahang being his home state had done extremely well for the community,” he added.

DAP: Exco seat if Pakatan wins

Last week, Pahang DAP deputy chief J Appalasamy was reported to have said that an Indian would be appointed exco member if Pakatan Rakyat won the state in the next general election.

He also said that BN had discriminated against the community by denying Indians a seat in the state exco.

Almost all states in the peninsula have an Indian representative in the state exco.

The only states which do not are Perlis, Kelantan and Terengganu, which have less than two percent Indians in total.

Although Indians constitute five percent of Pahang’s total population, they still have been denied this privilage.

A MIC division leader, who did not want to be named, admitted that the Indian community in the state were “fed-up” with the Umno-led state leadership.

He said in 2009, Adnan had appointed Davendran, who is also the Sabai state assemblyman, as his special officer to cater for the Indian community in Pahang.

However, the division leader said things turned bad when Adnan refused to listen to suggestions and requests made by Davendran regarding the community’s woes.

He said MIC was overlooked when the state exco was enlarged in 1995 from eight to 10 members.

“At that time they gave eight exco seats to Umno and two to MCA. I still remember the reason for not granting an exco post to the sole Indian elected representative then. They said that the then state assemblyman did not know how to communicate in Bahasa Malaysia,” he told FMT.

He said the possibility of Indians in Pahang crossing over to Pakatan at the next election was high because of this issue.

Unruly youths invade Little India


KUALA LUMPUR: Businessmen in Little India, Brickfields, hoping to cash in on the Deepavali festival are faced with a problem – unruly youths who are scaring away their customers.

Several businessmen said that the problem happens on an annual basis, when youths gather at the stalls rented by their friends in the late evenings.

“They get drunk and start behaving badly around our business premises,” said P Loga, who owns Saradha Silk, a saree shop.

On top of that, he claimed, the youths also harass his customers, especially girls, who patronise his shop.
“They come and complain to us but what can we do? Due to the harassment, many are not coming to my shop anymore, and this is affecting my business,” he told FMT.

Loga hoped that the police would beef up security in the area before Deepavali eve (Oct 25), when most people indulge in last-minute shopping.

“I have highlighted the matter to the Brickfields Business Council Association (BBCA) for further action,” he said.

Echoing Loga’s sentiments, florist J Annadurai said the youths also disturbed the peace in the area by playing loud music and reving their motorcycle engines.

“And they start their activity after 9pm all the way till the wee hours in the morning. They are entertaining themselves at the expense of our business,” he added.

Mobile phone shop owner P Ashok Kumar said the youths often parked indiscriminately along the roadside, causing traffic congestion.

“They don’t even fear the police as they rev their motorcycles in their presence,” he complained, adding that the youths littered the area, causing rubbish to pile up at their business premises.

Police: Lodge a report
BBCA secretary A Karuppiah said he had received numerous complaints from business owners there.
He added that the main culprit was a group of 30 youths, aged between 15 and 25.

“I suspect they are not from our area. As most people come here after work, a lot of shops here extend their operating hours to midnight to accommodate them. But due to this youths, their business are suffering heavy losses,” he said.

He also said that the boys congregated at unlicensed stalls and the BBCA had sent countless reminders to them to get their stalls registered with the council.

“While some of the stall owners will just delay, others claim they have the backing of a senior police officer from Brickfields,” he alleged.

Queried on whether a police report was lodged, Karuppiah said the council would lodge one soon.
He added that although the police increased patrol in the area, the youths would normally disappear when the police were around and re-appear about an hour later.

“Just day before yesterday, the boys got involved in a brawl among themselves,” he said.

Brickfields district police chief Wan Bari Abdul Wan Khalid said there was nothing the police could do if the traders only reported their grouses to the media.

“Is it wrong for someone to get drunk? That is his fundamental right but if he causes public nuisance, we can book them for it but that is a minor offence,” he added.

He said that the traders and shop owners in Brickfields could always lodge a report with the police whenever they find the youths behaving unruly.

“We even have a mobile police station there. But we can only book the youths if they behave unruly,” he added.

Indian firms seek direct TM contracts

The MITCA group suggests that Telekom Malaysia place five of its members on its A List.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Indian Telecommunication Contractors Association (MITCA) has asked Telekom Malaysia (TM) to certify five of its members as qualified for direct contracts with the government linked company.

They are asking TM to list the five contractors under its JKH schedule. JKH is the Malay abbreviation for Price Rate Schedule. It is a certification for telco contractors and is similar to Class A in other businesses. It is a rule among government linked companies to offer direct contracts to these companies.

MITCA president P Puganeswaran said the association had seven members that were qualified for JKH certification.

“Why not allow five of them to have it?” he said at a conference held after MITCA representatives met TM’s chief procurement officer, Ghazali Harun, this morning.

MITCA’s secretary general, P. Punithan, noted that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak had announced the liberalisation of 27 subsector industries and that telecommunications was one of them.

“The awarding of the certification should be liberalised too,” he said. “Why hold us back?”
Punithan is also the secretary general of MIC Youth.

Puganeswaran also complained that the government gave high speed broadband (HSBB) contracts only to Bumiputera companies. The total worth of current HSBB contracts is RM2.4 billion.

“A total of 63 contracts have been given to Bumiputera contractors,” he said. “Give us five. We don’t want the subcontractor status because we can do the entire job.”

He said the figure five would adequately reflect the proportion of Indians in the Malaysian population.

Puganeswaran said MITCA was seeking a meeting with Information, Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim to discuss the issue. This would be a follow up to its meeting with Rais’s deputy, Maglin D Cruz, in July.

Keep to your word, HRP tells PM

HRP is raising a storm over public universities ignoring a government directive for a longer Deepavali break.
PETALING JAYA: The Human Rights Party (HRP) wants Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak, to put his money where his mouth is in ensuring Indian university students are granted a longer holiday for Deepavali.

During the launch of the 1Malaysia Indian Students Movement in University Malaya on July 27, Najib had announced that adjustments would be made to universities curriculum and schedule to enable Indian students to return home for Deepavali.

A circular from the Ministry of Higher Education followed this announcement and directed public universities to provide a longer break for Deepavali from Oct 25 to 28. Deepavali falls on Oct 26.

But according to HRP that directive has been largely ignored by a number of universities which have only exempted Indian students from attending lectures rather than declare those three days as festive holidays.

In an open letter to Najib, HRP’s pro-tem secretary-general P Uthayakumar, named Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) as among those defying the directive.

“UKM’s deputy vice chancellor, Professor Noor Azlan Ghazali, even told the student leader, Kok Kiong Lum, that there are too many holidays in Malaysia,” he stated.

“He said that even Hari Raya and Chinese New Year holidays are only two days long so it is only fair that just one day be given for Deepavali.”

Uthayakumar further said that UNIMAS was conducting lectures on Deepavali day itself as it isn’t a public holiday in Sarawak.

“The Indian students there must also be given the opportunity to return home and be with their families on this auspicious day,” he said.

Bad implementation

On another note, Uthayakumar pointed out that vegetarian food and university bus services to nearby Hindu temples each Friday as directed by Najib has also been ignored by universities.

He questioned whether this was part of a “good government policy, bad implementation” political gimmick.

In calling on Najib to intervene in both matters, Uthayakumar pushed not only for a longer Deepavali break but one that is an additional four days more than previously announced.

“We hereby call upon your goodself, in the true spirit of 1Malaysia, to issue a government directing all public and private universities and schools nationwide to grant a one week holiday from Oct
24 to 28 as has been granted for Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Christmas for every year in the future,” he said.

Why the hudud controversy will not die

The politicians, mullahs and kings do not know all the answers or what's best for society.
COMMENT
By Pak Sako

PAS and DAP’s decision to ‘agree to disagree’ on hudud must be taken for what it really is: a politically-motivated temporary ceasefire. It does not resolve the hudud controversy.

The controversy can never be resolved as long as the fundamental questions of the hudud debate continue to be avoided. The questions are:
  • What goals are hudud meant to achieve?
  • What are the pluses and minuses of hudud?
  • Do all Malaysian Muslims as well as non-Muslims want hudud?
A national dialogue on implementing hudud must exhaustively probe these questions before anything else.

An open and critical exploration of these questions will help the public learn and decide about whether hudud is necessary, worthwhile, appropriate or out-of-date. It will enable policymakers to discover whether the informed public desires hudud or not.

Without full public discussion and public consent, it is immoral for policymakers to presuppose the value of hudud and speak about its implementation.

It is also wrong to assume that a simple parliamentary majority (which is all that is needed) is an automatic mandate to incrementally amend the federal constitution to accommodate hudud.

The public on their part should not leave it to the politicians, the religious scholars or the royalty to decide matters for them.

The politicians, mullahs and kings do not know all the answers or what’s best for society; they have a personal or biased interest in the matter; and it is undemocratic to allow the preferences of these vested interest groups to influence a decision that should be in the hands of the people.

Special obligation to explain

The politician’s role should be confined to satisfying the independently determined wish of the people.
If after careful deliberation the people choose to reject hudud, this decision must be respectfully accepted.

The Islamic theologians are useful insofar as they can provide the evaluating public with technical input, such as the scope, workings and other details of hudud. Likewise with the political scientists and other relevant experts.

All members of the public including interest groups and civil society organisations should thrash out the questions about the purposes and worth of hudud.

The Muslims must be able to evaluate and decide on hudud free from social pressures and political or religious brainwashing. This includes the notorious ‘bad Muslim’ stigma that could prevent them from saying ‘no’ to hudud when ‘no’ is what they truly desire.

As for the non-Muslims, they are not free to wash their hands of the issue; they are responsible parties to any law that the politicians they had elected might enact and administer upon their fellow citizens.

PAS and all other proponents of hudud have a special obligation to explain the explicit and implicit aims they believe hudud is to serve and the rationales for these.

They must engage in discussions about the value of hudud and the problems and concerns associated with it. The burden of proof is on the shoulders of the proposers of the law.

Engage in talks

What is unacceptable is for hudud advocates to justify hudud purely on grounds of religious faith and conviction.

Statements such as ‘hudud is ordained by Allah’, ‘it is our duty as Muslims to implement hudud no matter what’ and ‘nobody on Earth can be fair, only Allah knows best’ are useless for assessing the strengths, weaknesses, impact and relevance of a law with far-reaching consequences for the lives of both Muslims and non-Muslims.

If hudud is God’s gift, let it stand on its own merit. A thorough assessment of the desirability (or undesirability) of hudud should be welcomed, not feared.

Issuing gag orders on hudud, sidestepping core hudud issues and whitewashing hudud-related statements — these are the behaviours of political plotters and ideologues for whom having things their way is more important than doing things right.

If PAS and DAP — and the Barisan Nasional too — truly hold the interest of the Malaysian people at heart, they should push for a national conversation that focuses on the core of the matter, that is, the pros and cons of hudud and whether the people want it or not.

To refuse to talk it out is to leave the door open to tyranny.

This article was first published in the Centre for Policy Initiatives website.

OWC book urges Muslim women to have joint sex


(The Star) - The controversial Obedient Wives Club (OWC) has set off another round of public outrage with an “explicit sex book” which encourages a Muslim husband to have joint sex with all his wives.

The 115-page book titled Seks Islam, Perangi Yahudi untuk Kembalikan Seks Islam kepada Dunia (Islamic Sex, fighting Jews to return Islamic sex to the world), has a picture of the late Asaari Muhammad, the banned Al-Arqam leader, on the cover.

An excerpt from a passage printed on the back encouraged Muslims husbands to have sex simultaneously with their wives.

The book stated that research showed women only gave their husbands 10% of what they wanted from their wives’ bodies, a local daily reported yesterday.

According to the report, chapter eight titled Bagaimana seks menjadi ibadah (How sex becomes worship), contained explicit descriptions of sexual acts.

Facebook page “We do not want sexist nonsense from Global Ikhwan Sdn Bhdfounder Matthew Ong expressed outrage over the book and urged Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil to intervene.

Image10 October 2011 marked the World Day Against the Death Penalty.  The trend worldwide has been to abolish the death penalty, as the execution of human beings by the State serves as an “example of barbarity” to society and legitimises the taking of human life.  Malaysia is one of the 32 remaining countries in the world that still provide for the death penalty for drug-related offences.  Out of these 32, 13 have the mandatory death penalty.  Malaysia is one of them.  In all Commonwealth countries except Malaysia and Singapore, the mandatory death penalty has been declared to be a “cruel and unusual punishment.” 

The Malaysian Bar advocates for the abolition of the death penalty in the belief that every individual has an inherent right to life.  This right is absolute, universal and inalienable, irrespective of any crimes that may have been committed.  There is no empirical proof that the death penalty is effective in deterring heinous crime.  In fact, drug-related offences and addiction have been on the rise in Malaysia since the 1983 amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which brought in the mandatory death penalty.

We also know that the vast majority of arrests for drug trafficking is usually of low-ranking “drug mules” who are the most visible and easy to apprehend.  In other words, while policymakers hope that the death penalty serves as a deterrent, the reality is that the majority of these arrests of “minor offenders” would not impact the scale or profitability of the drug market.

It is well-acknowledged that no legal system in the world is foolproof or error-free.  The opportunity to right a wrong is, however, not available if the death sentence on a person has been carried out; in such event we, as a society, will be collectively responsible for having sent an innocent man or woman to the gallows.  We should take no risks to subject a person to death, as the execution of the death sentence is irreversible.

The death penalty has no place in any society that values human rights, justice and mercy.  The Malaysian Bar has organised today’s public forum, together with the European Union Delegation to Malaysia and the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM), to hear the diverse views on this highly critical matter.  Two of our Members have also produced a short documentary focusing on the death penalty.  It is our sincere hope that the proceedings of this public forum as well as the documentary will further contribute to the debate on this issue in Malaysia. 

The Malaysian Bar reiterates its call on the Malaysian Government to immediately abolish the death penalty, and for an immediate moratorium on its use pending its abolition.

Lim Chee Wee
President
Malaysian Bar

General Election, Party's Future To Top Gerakan's 40th NDC Agenda

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 (Bernama) -- Party Gerakan's 40th National Delegates Conference (NDC) kicks off tomorrow with high anticipation for the party's plans and future in gearing up towards the 13th General Election (GE).

The annual NDC will start with its Youth, Wanita and the Life-long Members meetings held simultaneously, while the parent body's meeting on Sunday is expected to be opened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Party secretary-general Teng Chang Yeow said top on the agenda would be charting a roadmap for the party to face the upcoming General Election and beyond.

Apart from Najib's speech, he said party president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon's speech would also be much awaited by delegates and party members who are eager to know how the president would put in place a more concrete strategy to face the general election and chart the party's future.

"This NDC is important, considering that it is likely to be the last before the General Election is called.

"So this will be a very good time to build up the momentum and party's esprit de corps in preparation for the GE," he told Bernama here, today.

Teng said prior to the NDC, delegates had been requested to submit a question for the prime minister and after going through all the compiled questions, the secretariat had decided to sum it up into three main subjects, namely youth, importance of English and the New Economic Model.

"The questions will be submitted to the prime minister on Sunday and we hope he can deliberate more with us on these three subjects," he added.

He said 70 percent of the party's 2,200 odd delegates had confirmed their attendance to the NDC.

"As for the delegates, there will be no guidelines for them as to what to say and what not to touch on during the debate session. They can bring up any issue and concern pertaining to the party," he said.

Saudi-Backed Religious Tolerance Center Founded



VIENNA-- A Saudi-backed interfaith center was inaugurated Thursday in Vienna, igniting debate over the subject of religious tolerance.

Backers hope the center will promote increased tolerance in Saudi Arabia, a kingdom that now prohibits any religion outside of Islam. Detractors say the Saudis are the last people who should be hosting initiatives on religious coexistence.

Wahhabism -- the strain of Sunni Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia -- is considered one of the religion's most conservative. Strict interpretations of the faith have left Saudi women without the right to drive or to go out without permission from a male relative. They have also have tattered ties with Islam's other major branch, Shiism, that have exposed deep rivalries between Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shiite Iran.

Relations reached a new low this week after U.S. allegations that Iran was behind a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

In Vienna to launch the interfaith center, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal accused Tehran of "murder and mayhem" and said his country is working on a "measured response" to the purported Iranian assassination attempt.

But most of his comments focused on the "King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue" -- and he appeared keen to dispel skepticism about his country's commitment to make it a focal point of interfaith dialogue and tolerance.

"Saudi Arabia is willing to financially participate in this project, and to place all its moral and political resources behind such a center, without infringing ... on its autonomy or independence from any political interference," he told officials and reporters.

And he warned against "extremist minorities within every religious and cultural community ... seeking ... to propagate notions of intolerance, exclusion, racism and hatred.

"These tiny minorities," he said, "are trying to hijack and disrupt the legitimate identities and aspirations of people of all cultures and faiths."

The founding document cites principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human rights, "in particular, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." It emphasizes "human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion."

Its board will consist of three Christians, three Muslims, a Jew, a Buddhist and a Hindu.

King Abdullah, who is regarded as a reformer by Saudi standards, is slowly moving to lift some restrictions dictated by conservative Saudi society. He recently decreed that women would be allowed for the first time to vote and run as candidates in elections for municipal councils starting in 2015. He also promised to appoint women after two years to the Shura Council, the currently all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.

At the same time, the kingdom continues to impose many religiously motivated social restrictions on women.

In Saudi Arabia, no woman can drive, travel, work, marry, get divorced, gain admittance to a public hospital or live independently without permission from a male guardian. Men can beat women who don't obey them and fathers or brothers can prevent their female relatives from getting married if they don't approve.

Any reforms at home must be cautious so as not to offend the country's senior clergy, which the Saudi royal family depends on for support, a fact that has apparently prompted the king to pave the ground for changes abroad.



'My husband made our child lick his boots'

New Delhi:  An Indian woman, married to a Jordanian national, has been given the custody of their 15-year-old son by a Delhi court after she alleged that her husband was a tyrant, even forcing their child to lick his shoes whenever the teenager stepped on them.

Guardian Judge Gautam Manan entrusted the boy's custody to his mother after she alleged abuse and exploitation by her Jordanian husband at Amman, where she had gone to live with him after completing her PhD at Delhi University.

"I have no reason to disbelieve the petitioner's testimony. It has come on record that the minor is in the company of her mother since his birth. The child is getting good education and has grown up well. The respondent (Jordanian) has not appeared in order to claim the custody of the minor and this shows he is not interested to contest the claim of the petitioner," the court said, entrusting the boy's custody to his mother.

"The petitioner being the natural mother is declared his (minor's) guardian," it added.

Narrating her tales of woes, South Delhi resident Dr Madhulika Verma (name changed) told the court that she was married to Jordanian national Atif M Jalbneh in 1995. She said she knew him since 1988 when he had come to Delhi for his studies.

She said she had converted to Islam before marriage and went to Jordan along with her husband, but returned here in January 1996 as her husband had to complete his PhD.

Cops probing PPR ‘scam’, to quiz deputy minister

The police have opened three separate case files concerning the scam which involved the alleged selling of PPR flats. MIC leader M Saravanan has been implicated.

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have launched multiple investigations into a scam purportedly involving Deputy Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister M Saravanan.

The scam concerned the alleged selling of Projek Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) low-cost flats on behalf of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), which falls under the purview of Saravanan’s ministry.

Sources close to the investigations told FMT that three separate case files have been opened, including one by the Bukit Aman federal police.

The case had been classified as cheating under Section 420 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail-term between one and 10 years, whipping and fine.

It is understood that the police recorded statements from several complainants and were currently interviewing more victims and witnesses.

“We received four reports alleging that one man is responsible for informing 41 different buyers that PPR flats are open for purchase and they needed to pay RM35,000 for the units and an additional RM10,000 as ‘back door’ payment to obtain the houses,” said a source.

“However, the same individual had also lodged a report naming Saravanan,” he added.

A check by FMT check revealed that the previous reports had also mentioned that the deputy minister was allegedly behind the dealings.

Asked if the police’s main suspect was the individual or the deputy minister, the source said that it was too “premature to say who is the suspect”.

However, he said the police would definitely need to record a statement from Saravanan.

“We are investigating this thoroughly. We would of course take statements from the deputy minister since he has been named… Datuk or no Datuk, whoever is wrong, must be brought to justice,” he added.

FMT also learnt that Saravanan had lodged a police report early last week denying any involvement in the alleged scam and urging the police to “investigate those involved”.

He also denied possessing a Facebook account as one of the reports against him claimed that Saravanan had been using the social networking site to negotiate the deal.

Saravanan: ‘They have political agendas’

When contacted, city deputy police chief Amar Singh confirmed that a report was lodged by the deputy minister on Oct 3 but declined to provide any details.

“Police are investigating the matter, I don’t think we can tell you against whom (the report was lodged), let us investigate the report,” he said.

On his latest police report, Saravanan told FMT that he did not want to publicise the matter or alert anyone.

“Why should I (tell you what’s the content of my report)? The matter is with the police and they are acting very fast,” he told FMT.

Saravanan claimed that those behind the allegations had political agendas. “Election is around the corner, I face this every time.”

Last week, Saravanan had cautioned the public against individuals claiming to be agents for the sale of PPR houses.

“I received two reports of individuals using forged documents and my name, as well as the names of several DBKL officers, to collect money purportedly to help them secure the purchase of PPR housing units in Kuala Lumpur,” he had said.

Saravanan added that DBKL had never appointed anyone to act on its behalf in the purchase of PPR houses.

FMT first broke the story on the deputy minister being accused of masterminding a scam to “sell” PPR flats. Over 40 people were allegedly cheated of some RM350,000.

Complainant had met deputy minister

In his police report, insurance manager M Vagindraj @ Christopher Raj Mohan had alleged that Saravanan had corresponded with him via Facebook.

He alleged that Saravanan asked him to be an “agent” to help sell the PPR flats.

Saravanan, Vagindraj claimed, asked him to get downpayments for the flats and bank in the money into the account of a DBKL officer, described as Saravanan’s trusted man, known only as Aru.

He said a total of 41 buyers had given RM357,000 but he later realised that he was swindled when both Saravanan and Aru cut off all communication with him.

The buyers never received their houses.

In the report, Vagindraj said MIC Cheras division chairman Peru Karrupan had helped arrange a meeting with Saravanan over the matter. Saravanan had also confirmed meeting the complainant.

Meanwhile, Peru told FMT that he was not involved in the alleged scam.

“Frankly, I have nothing to do with this story. If I wanted to make money I’d be smarter than this. This is stupid. Let God be the judge,” he said.

Peru said he merely arranged a meeting between Vagindraj and Saravanan when the former had complained to him about the issue.

“I was simply helping someone as a MIC man as my leader’s name was implicated. But I told him also, ‘why would people just call you and ask you to bank in money for this kind of houses?’ I scolded him for what he did,” he said, adding that he knew the complainant’s father.

Asked about the details of the meeting, Peru said that he could not recall much as he was not paying attention.

“It was something to do with him (Vagindraj) asking about the houses… he wanted to find out if its true or not…,” he added.

Peru also said that it was unlikely for a deputy minister to be involved in such a scam and therefore this allegation “should not be entertained”.

Asked if he knew a “Mahendran” (mentioned in Vagindraj’s report), Peru said as far as he knew, the individual was Vagindraj’s friend.

Australia scraps M’sia asylum solution

Aussie Prime Minister Julia Gillard did not have enough backing to change the migration laws to allow the refugee swap.


julia-gillardCANBERRA: Australia’s prime minister has scrapped a plan to send asylum seekers to Malaysia.

The move keeps her fragile government from becoming the first in 82 years to have legislation rejected by Parliament’s lower chamber.

Julia Gillard had vowed to put legislation to a vote on Thursday that would enable her government to send asylum seekers to Malaysia in return for Australia resettling registered refugees from Kuala Lumpur.

Gillard says she canceled the vote because a nonaligned lawmaker doomed it to failure by declaring his opposition. Gillard’s minority government holds a single-seat majority in the lower chamber.

“We are not in a position to implement the arrangement with Malaysia,” Gillard told reporters, adding her government continued to support the plan. “It is apparent the legislation will not pass the parliament.”

It is Gillard’s second failure to secure an offshore asylum processing centre. This year, Gillard announced that East Timor would host a centre, but failed to gain East Timor government support for the plan.

Gillard had hoped the swap deal would stem the tide of asylum seekers making the dangerous journey by boat to Australia.

Gillard announced details of the refugee deal with Malaysia in July under a policy designed to deter people smugglers and asylum seekers from sailing to Australia in leaky boats, mainly through Indonesia.

However, the deal, which would have seen Australia send 800 asylum seekers to Malaysia and accept 4,000 refugees in Malaysia, was ruled invalid by Australia’s High Court because Malaysia has not signed the UN refugee convention. – Agencies

‘They have no right to question me’

Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party president RS Thanenthiran says allegations that he misused party funds does not stand to scrutiny as it was made by disgruntled party members.

PETALING JAYA: This could very well be a case of sour grapes.

Eight disgruntled and former members of Malaysia Makkal Sakti Party (MMSP) are now accusing the president of misusing party funds.

But MMSP president RS Thanenthiran argued that they don’t have a leg to stand on and he maintained that only party members could question him.

“I’ll sue them. They have no right to question me. Only party members can question me,” he said.

Thanenthiran was responding to allegations made by a coalition of eight NGOs called Anti-Thanentiran United Machinery (Jebat) which is led by former MMSP youth chief, N Ramu.

Thanenthiran also revealed that Ramu was booted out a month after the party was formed.

Jebat is made up of an eight man committee, all of whom were former MMSP state and national level leaders.

“There are allegations that Thanenthiran is squandering party funds as many complained that they have not been issued with receipts for annual party membership payment,” said Ramu.

Earlier this month, Ramu also questioned how central working committee member RS Ramesh had received a license to operate a shipping business in Port Klang. Ramesh is Thanenthiran’s brother.

Ramu also queried about Thanenthiran’s lavish lifestyle and his silence over issues concerning the Indian community such as Interlok and 10 subjects in SPM.

Ramesh said that he has been in business for more than 20 years and all the issues raised were resolved within a year after the party was formed.

‘Four acres for Deepavali’ campaign launched’

Although campaign was peaceful, the police instructed the Bukit Jalil residents and their supporters to remove their banners and did not allow them to use a loudhailer.
FULL REPORT

KUALA LUMPUR: The residents of Bukit Jalil launched their “Four Acres for Deepavali” campaign in Brickfields here today.

The launching was officiated by Lembah Pantai MP and PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar and Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) Sungai Siput MP Dr Michael Jeyakumar.

Also present were PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan, Hindraf Makkal Sakthi national coordinator K Balakrishnan, National Interlok Action Team (NIAT) chairman Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim and Bukit Jalil estate action committee secretary S Thiakarajan.

However, their programme was stopped short by the police who told them not to address the crowd with loudhailers but later allowed them to do so for five minutes.

The 41 families living in the former estate area are currently embroiled in a tussle with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) as the latter is poised to evict them from the land.

After losing their case at the High Court and the Court of Appeal, the residents’ fate now rests in the hands of the Federal Court.

‘Give them the land, Najib’

Earlier, about 30 residents erected a booth at the pedesterian walk to raise awareness of their plight.

They were also raising funds for the cause by selling Deepavali greeting cards, badges and T-Shirts.

Speaking at a press conference later, Arutchelvan said a police officer told the residents to remove their banner but they did not comply.

“They said the banner was seditious. But I asked him what is so seditious about asking people to save the estate land and he kept mum,” he said.

Nurul, in the meantime, called upon Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to grant the residents the four acres of land as they have toiled for the country for generations.

“The estate workers contributed so much for nation building. In my view, the four acres of land they are asking for is not much as compared to their sacrifice,” she said.

Thasleem, however, was more vocal on his calls saying as a Muslim, Najib should be just and ensure the residents’ request are met.

“If you (Najib) fail to heed the plight of the poor, your government will fall in the next general election,” he said.

Nepalese Women Guides


Image
One of the trekking expeditions organised by the Nicky, Dicky and Lucky Chetri, who run the Three Sisters trekking agency. (Credit: Asia Youth Leader.org)
Providing comfort and security for women trekkers
On the rocky trails of the world's 10th tallest mountain, porters carry wicker baskets packed with ice axes and climbing ropes. They are headed to Annapurna base camp, a mountain expedition outpost deep in Nepal’s Himalayas.

Among the lines of wheezing tourist trekkers and docile pack mules slowly ascending the trails, Januka Rai, in her 20s, skips up the mountain, ignoring the stares of the weathered porters she passes. A female trekking guide is a not very common sight at 10,000 feet.

Women in the guiding ranks remain a small minority in the massive Himalayan trekking industry, where the legacy of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, the world's first mountaineers to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953, looms large. In 2008, trekking accounted for 8 percent of Nepal's gross domestic product and was the third-largest revenue generator after agriculture and industry.

But in recent years, female trekking guides and porters have been gaining ground among the more moderate tourist treks thanks to three sisters: Nicky, Dicky and Lucky Chetri. The Chetris, natives of Darjeeling, India, opened a restaurant 14 years ago in Pokhara and catered to trekkers returning from long hikes.

"Women would come into the restaurant and tell us terrible stories from the mountain, about harassment from their male trekking guides," said Dicky Chetri, 43, the middle sister. She wears the enthusiastic smile of a teenager and a long, thick braid held back from her face with a pair of sunglasses.

Before long, she and her sisters recognized an unmet business demand. "So many women came back with bad experiences, they would be alone on the mountain with these men and they were very vulnerable. We knew what we needed to do," she says.

But with no mountaineering experience of their own, the sisters were truly starting from the ground up. In a terrifying leap of faith, Chetri says, she and her sisters closed their restaurant and gathered all the women they could for a crash course in mountaineering.

"We went door-to-door looking for women. We told them just to give it a try, but their families resisted; they were very afraid. We could only convince 10 women," Chetri said. In the dining room of their restaurant, they learned about first aid, avalanche warnings, acute mountain sickness, tourism, trekking and women's empowerment. "We were laughed at by almost everyone. We had no idea if we were even doing the right thing by closing the restaurant."

The challenges ranged from a taboo on women wearing trousers to a deeply entrenched resistance toward wives earning money, from doubts about women's strength and mental acuity to a cultural belief that women are bad luck on the mountain. Few women in Nepal have jobs outside of agriculture, harvesting rice and wheat, earning about US$3 a day, Chetri said.

Today, the Three Sisters trekking agency trains about 50 women a year and leads hundreds of foreign trekkers - independent tourists from Europe, the United States, Japan and India - over the Annapurna mountain range. In fact, depending upon the level of difficulty and time available they have specially-designed treks called Tea House Treks to lower reaches on the mountain.
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Three Sisters trekking agency, run by the Chetri sisters, trains about 50 women a year and leads hundreds of foreign trekkers over the Annapurna mountain range. (Credit: Asia Youth Leader.org)
Mostly their clients are large women-only groups comfortable with the sisters' trained guides who generally are single college students or poor farmers' wives. The Three Sisters, which also runs a lodge and the reopened restaurant in Pokhara, operate an onsite child-care centre for guides working on the mountain. The training business has also spawned a local women's empowerment network aimed at low-income rural women.

"The majority of Nepalese women are entirely dependent on their husbands for everything," Chetri says. "That means they cannot leave abusive households; most cannot read or write and have no choice but to live at the mercy of their husbands."

Some women sneak out in the night to attend Three Sisters training. Others come over family objections that, according to Chetri, melt away when the paychecks arrive. Guides earn up to $10 a day, an impressive salary in a country with per-capita annual GDP of US$260. "Once they are trained, they can do whatever they like; they can support themselves and their children," she adds.

Many husbands have come to accept that their wives now earn more than they do. Property and inheritance rights for women are closely tied to marital status and almost half of all married Nepali women are wed before the age of 19. The country has one of the widest gender gaps in primary education in the world, with boys in secondary school outnumbering girls 2-to-1.

The empowerment program starts with confidence-building and education, including workshops on women's rights. "Many of the women have never even heard of rights. They don't even know that it's legal to live without a husband," Chetri said. But it's the opportunity for work paying twice as much as the daily wages in the rice fields that allows women their real freedom, she says.

Most women hear of the program via word of mouth in their villages and travel long distances to reach it. Some women shift the skills they learn in the trainings to unrelated fields, such as call centers or restaurants. But most work for the Three Sisters trekking agency, which has over 15 permanent guides and about 50 more on-call.

Work on the mountain still brings unique challenges for female guides. They typically work alone - not in pairs or teams - and often find themselves the only woman in crowded dining rooms, sleeping alongside male guides and porters, who are often drunk and occasionally resentful. They are sometimes heckled and teased and know that they are expected to prove their physical and mental capabilities each day on the trail, as they are scrutinized by their male colleagues.

Januka Rai, who comes from the eastern region of Nepal, funded her college tuition by working as a guide in the off-seasons. She recalls that every time she climbed the final stretch toward Annapurna Base Camp, she felt awed by the stunning landscape. But when asked about the best part of her work she didn't hesitate in answering: "My paycheck."

(Anna Sussman is a print and radio journalist. She has climbed Annapurna on a trek arranged by the Three Sisters. By arrangement with Women's eNews.)

Rich world economic malaise to endure into 2012: Reuters poll

By Andy Bruce

(Reuters) - Stagnation is probably the best many of the world's biggest developed economies can hope for over the next year, with several facing a significant chance of recession, Reuters polls of around 350 economists showed on Thursday.

After a promising start, 2011 has turned into an enormous disappointment for major rich world economies, which have been hobbled by a noxious combination of austerity, debt crises, natural disaster and political impasse.

Backed up by Thursday's weak trade figures from China, which pointed to profound global economic weakness, the October quarterly survey suggested a bout of weak growth in many G7 economies could extend deep into next year and beyond.

The world economy will grow 3.8 percent in 2011, the poll showed, and just 3.6 percent next year -- a stark contrast to the 4.1 percent and 4.3 percent forecasts from the last quarterly survey in July.

But even these tepid growth rates could depend on progress in clearing some of the world's biggest economic hurdles, like the euro zone sovereign debt crisis and finding ways to boost growth in the United States.

"Rarely has the economic outlook been so sensitive to the decisions of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic," said Peter Hooper, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, in a research note.

"Whether it is the complexities of reaching unanimous agreement among 17 euro area members regarding the resolution of the sovereign debt crisis, or the increasingly polarized U.S. political scene, political risk may be the greatest source of shocks to the global economy today."

Euro zone officials on Wednesday indicated they were willing to take at least a small step forward in plans to avert a potentially catastrophic Greek sovereign debt default, by asking banks to accept losses of up to 50 percent on Greek debt holdings.

In the United States, the Senate defeated President Barack Obama's job creation package in a sign that Washington may be too paralyzed to take major steps to spur the labor market before the 2012 elections.

CANADA BLOOMS, ITALY WILTS

Canada should see some of the strongest rates of growth compared with its G7 peers this year and next.

Although the outlook for growth has darkened in common with other major markets, its healthy banking sector and commodity-driven economy should give it an edge, with growth of around 2.2 percent seen this year and 2.4 percent in 2012.

But Italy, racked by political fighting, austerity measures and market fears about its ability to finance its debt, looks set to linger in recession well into next year, and will miss government fiscal targets.

U.S. economic growth looks likely to pick up slightly by year-end, although analysts also reined in their expectations and there is a one-in-three chance the world's biggest economy will enter recession.

"We've stepped back from the abyss, the data that we're getting suggests certainly the economy isn't in freefall as yet," said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James.

The euro zone faces a 40 percent chance of another recession as fears mount that the debt crisis will escalate further.

Analysts expect the 17-nation currency bloc to post economic growth of just 0.9 percent next year, after 1.6 percent in 2011.

"Leading indicators point to weaker economic conditions. Sentiment surveys have deteriorated across key sectors of the euro zone economy, against a backdrop of unusually high uncertainty and financial market tensions," said Ken Wattret at BNP Paribas.

Japan, forced into recession by the March earthquake and tsunami, saw its economic outlook downgraded for a fourth consecutive month thanks partly to the escalating euro zone debt crisis.

"Japan's exports are seen weakening in October-December due to the economic slowdown in Europe and the U.S., which would affect corporations' capital spending," said Yuichi Kodama, chief economist at Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance.

Still, poll respondents predicted growth will pick up to 2.2 percent over the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

(Polling by Reuters Polls Bangalore, Additional reporting and polling by reporters in bureaux in London, New York, Toronto, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Berlin; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Powerful Earthquake Rocks Bali, 46 Injured 19 Buildings Damaged

By Ahmad Fuad Yahya

JAKARTA, Oct 14 (Bernama) -- A powerful 6.8 magnitude earthquake struck Indonesia's popular resort island of Bali, especially Nusa Dua, Thursday injuring 46 people, some seriously while 19 buildings were reported damaged.

Antara News Agency reported that those who were critically injured had been sent for treatment at the Umum Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar.

The agency also reported that 45 students and teachers of a vocational school in Denpasar suffered injuries in the tragedy at 11.16am but no fatalities were reported until press time.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency of Indonesia (BMKG) reported that the powerful quake was followed by at least 10 minor earthquakes that sent tremors in the island.

The earthquake's epicenter was located 143km South-West of Nusa Dua, Bali and reported to have struck 10km beneath but according to a BMKG report later the depth was 58km.

However, there was no potential of a tsunami.

Meanwhile, among buildings damaged were eight schools, Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah Bandar Denpasar, Bali Warriors Memorial Monument, Alam Puri Penatih Museum, Pos Pemadam Kebakaran Juanda, a hospital and six houses in Denpasar.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where the meeting of continental plates causes high seismic activity, and is frequently hit by earthquakes.

A giant quake off the country on Dec 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.

Umno yang hina raja Melayu







Ni puak haramjadah mana ni yang hina Raja-Raja Melayu semasa berlaku krisis perlantikan MB Terengganu selepas pru 2008 ?Puak Idris Jusuh mau Idris Jusuh dilantik sebagai MB Terengganu tapi tak dapat perkenan Sultan Terengganu lalu dilantik Ahmad Said sebagai MB Terengganu

Aziz Bari:Tidak salah kritik Raja-raja -Malaysiakini

Akta Hasutan 1948 memperuntukan bahawa tidak menjadi kesalahan bagi seseorang mengkritik Raja-raja Melayu asalkan mereka tidak menuntut pemansuhan institusi raja itu, kata pakar perlembagaan, Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari.

Sehubungan itu, katanya dakwaan bahawa beliau memburuk-burukkan institusi raja ketika mengulas kenyataan titah Sultan Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah berhubung isu pemeriksaan sebuah gereja di Damansara Utama Ogos lalu, tidak timbul.

NONE“Seperkara, sultan melaksanakan kuasa perlembagaannya dan rakyat - iaitu pembayar cukai - mempunyai hak untuk menilai prestasinya.

“Dari sudut pandangan Islam, seseorang akan mendapati peraturan yang lebih ketat apabila seorang lelaki bangkit dan mengingatkan Khalifah Umar al-Khattab bahawa beliau akan membetulkan pemimpin itu melalui pedangnya,” kata Aziz.

Menurut beliau seperti prestasi institusi awam yang lain, institusi raja-raja juga terpaksa berdepan dengan kritikan dan semakan sepanjang masa.

Justeru, bagi mengelakkan perkara itu, Aziz yang telah menghasilkan tesis, buku dan artikel mengenai peranan monarki dalam Islam dan demokrasi, berkata pihak istana mesti mendapatkan pandangan yang lebih luas dan bukan hanya terikat dengan kelompok kawan yang kecil.
Akhbar milik Umno, Utusan Malaysia hari ini menyiarkan beberapa artikel membidas Aziz dan Malaysiakini kerana didakwa memburuk-burukkan institusi raja.
Langgar garisan

Antara mereka, Yang Dipertua Pertubuhan Jaringan Melayu Malaysia (JMM) Azwandin Hamzah yang mendakwa Aziz tidak faham dan tidak menghormati kuasa yang ada pada Sultan.

Aziz menghasilkan tesisnya yang bertajuk ‘The Development and Role of Constitutional Monarchy in Malaysia’ di University of Birmingham pada 1996 dan pernah menerbit sebuah buku berjudul Majlis Raja-Raja: Kedudukannya dalam Perlembagaan (DBP, 2002).

Katanya lagi dalam kenyataannya kepada Malaysiakini, beliau mengambil pendirian yang kritikal semasa krisis politik di Perak pada Februari 2009.

“Saya mesti katakan, pendirian saya tetap sama. Pandangan saya terhadap raja-raja tetap tidak berubah.

“Saya cuma berpendapat bahawa sesetengah raja-raja telah melanggar garisan mereka dan membelakangkan perlembagaan.

“Walaupun ada yang mendakwa mereka hanya melakukan apa yang dibenarkan oleh perlembagaan, saya cuma kata mereka tidak patut membaca peruntukan itu secara literal atau di luar konteks,” kata Aziz.

Menurutnya lagi, pandangannya mudah, monarki mesti tidak terbabit dengan kancah politik.

“Raja Melayu tidak boleh membiarkan dirinya dilihat menyebelahi mana-mana parti tetapi yang penting, baginda mesti tegas di pihak yang benar dan berlaku adil,” katanya.