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Monday, October 17, 2011

‘Jirga’ orders marriage of minor brother and sister of ‘karo and kari’

Elders ordered eloping groom’s four-year-old sister to be married to eight-year-old brother of the bride. 

SUKKUR:The Ghotki police has yet to take action against the people who allegedly held a jirga in Gulzar Mahar village three days ago. It had ordered the eloping groom to marry his four-year-old sister to the eight-year-old brother of his wife and pay a fine of Rs300,000.

About three months ago Farida, the daughter of Sachal Mahar, eloped with Imdad Mahar, the son of Gulbahar Mahar. They got married by the permission of Sindh High Court circuit bench in Larkana. Their marriage sparked a family feud and Sachal Maher lodged a case against Imdad Mahar at the Khanpur Mahar police station, in Ghotki, for kidnapping his daughter.

The parents of the couple and relatives of Imdad Mahar left the village and went into hiding fearing repercussions. However, Sachal kept on warning Gulbahar Mahar, through middle men, to reconcile the matter through a jirga, otherwise be ready to face dire consequences.

Imdad’s father finally consented to resolve the matter and a jirga was supposedly held in the village. Two elders of the village, Rehmatullah Mahar and Sanjar Khan Mahar, presided over the jirga. After both sides were heard, they declared Imdad Mahar as karo, imposed a fine of Rs300,000 and ordered him to give the hand of his four-year-old sister, Sumaira, in marriage to Farida’s eight-year-old brother.

Gulbahar Mahar refused to accept the verdict and told the elders that he was ready to pay the fine but will not marry his young daughter. His refusal enraged the elders and they warned Gulbahar of dire consequences. However, Ghokti SSP took notice of the matter and ordered SHO Khanpur Mahar to probe the matter and report back.

The Express Tribune contacted Imdad Mahar on the phone. He said that after he married Farida, her father and other relatives attacked their house and took away two cows and two goats. According to him, his wife had appeared in district and sessions court Ghotki, one month after they got married for the hearing of the case filed by her father. The court allowed both of them to live together when Farida told the court that she wanted to live with him.

According to Imdad, the couple’s lives were in danger so they left their village and are living with some of their relatives. He refused to tell where, because of obvious security reasons. Imdad said that his father was missing for the past few days and feared that he might have been killed by Farida’s family. He registered a case against the two elders who held the jirga and another man, Jaffer Mahar. He accused Khanpur SHO of accepting a bribe from his wife’s relatives and hence, was reluctant to arrest them in spite of the fact that a case had been lodged against them.

Khanpur SHO Mahar Zahid Kamboh took another view of the matter. According to him, the matter was a matrimonial dispute and elders had stepped in to resolve the matter. He said that the meeting should not be called a jirga because they are chaired by renowned Sardars or influential landlords. Ghotki SSP Pir Mohammad Shah was not available for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2011.

Race quotas, politics led to falling UM standards, says World Bank study

 KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — A World Bank publication has found that standards at Universiti Malaya have fallen and the institution has been kept at a disadvantage because of race-based admission quotas and political interference in university management.

In contrast, Singapore’s decision to prioritise research, keeping English as the medium of instruction and a merit-based admissions policy have all contributed to the success of the National University of Singapore’s success, according to “The Road to Academic Excellence,” which studies what contributes to a world-class research university.

The study also noted that Malaysian secondary school students are not well prepared for tertiary education.

It points out that the Malaysian education system promotes rote learning, conformity and uniformity rather than fresh and creative thinking.

The study is led by two scholars — Philip Altbach and Jamil Salmi — while various chapters see contributions from various academics.

Salmi, a Moroccan education economist attached to the World Bank, also notes that “disturbing political developments, from the burning of churches to the whipping of a woman for drinking beer in public,” also cast a shadow on Malaysia’s “image as an open and tolerant society.”

The comparisons between UM and NUS is contained in a chapter entitled “The National University of Singapore and the University of Malaya: Common Roots and Different Paths.”

The chapter is authored by Hena Mukherjee, a former Universiti Malaya department head with a doctorate in education from Harvard University, and Poh Kam Wong, an NUS Business School professor.

According to the study, “at an early stage, the Singapore government realised the universities’ role in sustaining economic growth.

“In contrast, after 1970, UM’s institutional goals reflected the New Economic Policy, an affirmative action plan for ethnic Malays and indigenous groups, put in place in the wake of disastrous 1969 ethnic riots that took the lives of hundreds of people on both sides of the racial divide.,” the study found.

The authors said that apart from the student quota system, the NEP translated into more scholarships to Bumiputeras, special programmes to facilitate their entry into higher education institutions, and the use of the Malay language in place of English in the entire education system by 1983.

“In UM and in government, the policy impact spiralled upward so that Bumiputera staff members, over time, secured almost all senior management, administrative, and academic positions.

“As NUS kept pace with the demands of a growing economy that sought to become competitive internationally, with English continuing as the language of instruction and research, UM began to focus inward as proficiency in English declined in favour of the national language — Bahasa Malaysia — and the New Economic Policy’s social goals took precedence.”

The study noted however that there has been widespread recognition that the implementation of affirmative action policies in Malaysia has hurt the higher education system, sapping Malaysia’s economic competitiveness and driving some (mainly Chinese and Indians) to more meritocratic countries, such as Singapore.

In the broader study, the lead authors found that research was an important element in the making of a world-class university, as well as top-grade talent.

“We’re both convinced that serious research universities are important in almost all societies,” Altbach, who is the director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College, told the New York Times last week in an interview.

Said Altbach: “Independence, luck, persistence, some kind of strategic vision, adequate resources — usually, but not always, public resources — good governance structures, good leadership, the ability to attract good students and so on. But we have found that the quality of the faculty is really crucial.”

Salmi, who co-ordinates the World Bank’s activities related to higher education, told the same newspaper of their new 390-page study, which will be released later this month, that their advice is like that supposedly given for a rabbit stew recipe: “First, catch your rabbit.” Only in this case the advice would be: “First, catch your faculty.”

“The difference between a good university and great university comes down to talent.”

Muslim groups to flex muscle over alleged conversion attempts

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 17 — A planned gathering of a million Muslims here to rally against Christians
File photo of a Perkasa protest against Christians outside the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur in August 2011.
“challenging the sovereignty of Islam” this Saturday could raise religious tension that has intensified in recent months after alleged proselytising by Christians.

The Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Himpun), or Gathering of a Million Faithful, is being organised by various right-wing groups such as Perkasa with the backing of both Umno and PAS Youth in what appears to be a coming together of conservative Muslims.

About 1,000 Facebook users have confirmed their attendance so far but should Himpun draw much more to the Shah Alam Stadium this weekend, it could push Umno and PAS to seek relevance among more religious Malays.

With ethnic tensions already rising in the years following the 2008 general election, it could raise already simmering fears of Islamisation among non-Muslims and more liberal Malays.

“There is no other choice but to rally Muslims,” Himpun said in a video promoting the gathering.

Distrust between Muslims and Christians peaked when the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya on August 3, claiming it was proselytising Muslims.

This came after repeated disputes between church and mosque, such as the legal battle over the the use of the word Allah to refer to the Christian god.

An initial court ruling allowing the Catholic Church to use the term Allah had led to places of worship being firebombed in January last year.

The government also buckled under pressure and ordered the release of Malay-language bibles seized before Sarawakians, half of whom are Christians, voted in the April 16 state polls.

Before the Jais raid, Umno’s Utusan Malaysia and Malay rights lobby Perkasa accused the DAP of conspiring to turn Malaysia into a Christian state.

Although DUMC has denied Jais’ claims, Utusan Malaysia fanned the flames with allegations that Christian groups in Kuala Lumpur and Johor were actively trying to convert Muslims.

Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah appeared to close the case last week when decreeing that although Jais had found evidence of attempts to subvert Muslims, it was “insufficient” for further legal action.

But Himpun has insisted on following through with its plans that aims to “measure the level of unity and spirit of togetherness among Muslims especially towards Christianisation efforts including the August 3 incident.”

“The DUMC case shows how those trying to convert Muslims are becoming more aggressive,” Himpun co-president Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid had said earlier this month.

Recent years have seen communal politics being stirred up after the landmark Election 2008 — the stiffest contest in Malaysian history.

With Barisan Nasional (BN) losing its customary two-thirds hold on Parliament and five state governments, several political leaders have retreated into racial silos to drum up support.

A Merdeka Center poll in June found that only 66 per cent of respondents said ethnic relations were “good” — a 15 per cent decline from the 78 per cent who said so five years ago.

The opinion researchers also found that just over a third believed that there was “sincere and friendly ethnic unity,” down from 54 per cent five years ago.

Angry natives give BTN boss an earful

Biro Tata Negara director Ibrahim Saad was taken aback when he visited villagers in Tandek, Sabah, on a fact-finding trip recently.

KOTA MARUDU (Sabah): The director of the Biro Tata Negara (National Civics Bureau), Ibrahim Saad, was taken aback when he heard the grouses of the people in Tandek here last Thursday.

In a meeting with the residents there, Ibrahim was jolted when he heard stories of the systematic land grabs, government lies about MyKad and the illegal immigrants, and the long delay in processing the natives’ applications for land titles.

Ibrahim went to the ground to feel the pulse of the people – and got a earful for his pains. Now residents here are wondering whether Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak will get an unvarnished report from Ibrahim about his “bruising encounter” with the villagers here.

Ibrahim, who has served in the BTN as the federal government’s “eyes and ears” for 10 years, appeared shocked as he listened to about a dozen elders, including women – who took to the microphone in the new Tandek Hall here – tell sad stories of their long suffering.

As the villagers recounted their tales of woe, Ibrahim was seen assiduously taking down notes.

One resident said about 50 kampungs in Tandek are being threatened with eviction by a company that has been allotted 65,000 hectares of fertile land stretching from Beluran to the edge of Pitas and Kota Marudu.

One headman, KK Bandawa Sandigan, from Kampung Malangkap, Marak-Parak, said land applications by the natives dating as far back as 1973 were never processed, while similar application by a company was approved in “lightning” speed allegedly during Yong Teck Lee’s tenure as chief minister.

“Please do something about this. If our applications are not in order, please tell us so, guide us, don’t simply put our applications away.

“We have rights here,” said Sandigan.

Double standard on increments

An elderly resident questioned the 1Malaysia slogan – People First, Performance Now – saying it is “hollow and insincere”.

Yet another elder took Najib and the government to task for leaving Sabah out when announcing the the 2010 increments in allowances for ketua kampung (village headman) and Village Security and Development Committee (JKKK) chairman.

“While our counterparts from the Peninsula now enjoy a RM800 monthly allowance, in Sabah the JKKK chairman and ketua kampung are still receiving their old allowances (RM250 and RM400 respectively). Where is 1Malaysia?” he asked.

A woman leader from another village near Tandek told Ibrahim that it was very hard for her to go around explaining government policies when the only topic of interest to the villagers was the land grabs.

“There is no point (explaining government policies). We want developments but very little is coming while our lands are being threatened by big companies,” she said.

Another activist from Tangkarason, Jaipin Mohigal, told how 32 houses were razed to the ground in Kampung Koiboton, Tangkarason, in 2006, as the Sabah forestry officers tried to chase them out of their NCR (native customary right) land.

“Something must be done to solve these serious land grab issues in Tandek before it gets out of control…” he said.

Not convincing

Meanwhile, Ibrahim tried to explain to the residents the reason for the delay in processing their land applications – “insufficient documents” – and the issue of illegal traders. But the crowd was not convinced.

“Your land applications could be incomplete and not in order as every application needs the approval of six agencies. On the other hand, the application of the company was in order and thus approved.

“Also, there is no way an illegal immigrant would have his or her trading licence approved as he or she has no proper identification,” Ibrahim said.

But one disgruntled elder rebutted: “If our land applications were incomplete, the officer should tell us so and not throw away our files.”

The crowd was annoyed when Ibrahim denied the existence of illegal traders. Many in the crowd were heard saying: “He (Ibrahim) is telling us that those illegal immigrants now have MyKad – genuine or fake – and so we cannot allege they are illegal immigrants anymore…”

The three-hour gruelling session with the villagers ended with Ibrahim, a former teacher from Kedah, promising to look into their grouses.

Budaya Hindu: Pengajaran dari Ubud

Komentar ini khusus menyentuh soal agama Hindu dan mungkin tidak sesuai bagi kelompok tertentu.
Apa yang saya tahu mengenai Bali, Indonesia adalah bahawa majoriti penduduknya (hampir 93 peratus) beragama Hindu, tetapi amalan agama itu sedikit berbeza berbanding di tempat-tempat lain.

Berita yang masih basah dalam ingatan adalah mengenai serangan bom yang membunuh 202 orang di Kuta pada 2002; serta satu lagi letupan bom pada 2005.

Terkini, sekurang-kurangnya 50 orang dilaporkan cedera akibat gempa bumi melanda pulau pelancongan itu pada 13 Oktober 2011.
Oka Rusmini, penulis terkenal dari Bali yang saya temui semasa menyertai Program Penataran Sastera Mastera di Bogor pada Oktober 1997 memberitahu bahawa penganut agama Hindu di Bali mengenali Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva dan Ganesha, tetapi tidak mengenali Murugan.

Saya berpeluang ke Bali apabila diundang menyertai ‘Ubud Writers & Readers Festival’ (5-9 Oktober 2011). Penerbangan berlepas sekitar jam 9:35 malam, 3 Oktober dari LCCT dan saya mendarat di Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Ngurah Rai, Denpasar pada sekitar 12:30 tengah malam.

Ada petugas festival yang menunggu untuk membawa saya menaiki van ke Honeymoon Guesthouse di Jalan Bisma, Ubud. Perjalanan agak jauh tapi pemandangan sepanjang jalan amat mengagumkan; walaupun gelap.

Tentu sahaja papan-papan tanda menggunakan Bahasa Indonesia yang ada banyak pengaruh Bahasa Sanskrit; khususnya pada nama tempat.

Sepanjang perjalanan ke Ubud juga jelas kelihatan patung-patung dan berhala di tepi jalan. Pemandangan ini mungkin tidak sesuai bagi pelancong tertentu kerana segala apa yang ada di sini mampu menggugat keimanan mereka; bergantung pada tahap keimanan masing-masing, tentunya.

Saya berpeluang melihat lebih banyak keindahan tradisi Hindu-Bali apabila berjalan-jalan di sepanjang Jalan Bisma dan Jalan Raya Ubud pada siang hari.

Ada begitu banyak pintu gerbang yang menempatkan patung dewa Hindu; khususnya Ganesha. Di hadapan hampir setiap rumah dan kedai juga ada tempat puja bagi dewa pengawal. Sajian diletakkan di hadapan setiap kedai dan bangunan.

Terdapat juga banyak pura (kuil) di sepanjang jalan ini. Ternyata amalan agama Hindu amat kuat di sini; walaupun pasti sahaja amalan di sini berbeza dengan apa yang menjadi amalan dalam kalangan penganut agama Hindu di Malaysia.

Dari Jalan Raya Ubud, kelihatan Jalan Wanara Wana yang menuju ke Monkey Forest dan Nyuh Kuning. Selepas itu ada Jalan Gautama yang membuktikan pengaruh Buddha. Seterusnya Jalan Hanoman yang kemudian bersimpang dengan Jalan Dewi Sita dan Jalan Wanara Wana.

Terdapat juga Jalan Sugriwa, diikuti simpang Jalan Jembawan. Sesiapa yang gemar/pernah membaca Ramayana (atau mana-mana versi adaptasi) pasti mengenali nama-nama ini.

Ringkasnya, hari pertama di Ubud membuatkan saya seperti kembali mengenali agama Hindu dan Ramayana serta tradisi budaya India.

Bersatu dengan alam

Pada petang 4 Oktober, saya dibawa ke Hotel Alam Sari, Tegallalang, Gianyar. Kalau suasana di Honeymoon Guesthouse amat memikat, suasana di hotel ini lebih menarik! Apatah lagi saya tinggal di sebuah rumah kecil dikelilingi taman.

Suasana aman damai dikelilingi hutan amat menyamankan. Ternyata pengusaha hotel ini tidak memusnahkan alam sekitar untuk membina hutan batu yang dinamakan hotel. Semua ini berbalik pada ajaran asas dalam agama Hindu yang menjadi pegangan – malah budaya – di Ubud.

Pada setiap pagi, saya dan seorang penulis dari Australia, Martine Murray, menaiki van menuju ke tempat acara Ubud Writers & Readers Festival berlangsung di Jalan Raya Sanggingan.

Peluang perjalanan selama hampir 20 minit selalunya saya gunakan untuk berbual-bual bersama pemandu. Salah seorang daripada mereka ialah Dewa (foto) yang bekerja sebagai pemandu selama 15 tahun.

Sepanjang perjalanan, Dewa menceritakan – antara lain – bahawa “Dewa” adalah nama keluarganya. Sistem catur wangsa yang diamalkan penduduk Hindu-Bali tidak sama dengan sistem kasta yang berasal dari India.

Misalnya, dalam amalan di India, seseorang yang lahir dalam catur wangsa tertentu (Sudra, misalnya) akan kekal dalam kedudukan itu. Hal ini berbeza dengan Hindu-Bali kerana individu berkenaan boleh menjadi peniaga, misalnya, dan memasuki catur wangsa Vaisya.

Dalam agama Hindu, ada enam mazhab yang menyembah Tuhan dalam bentuk rupa Shiva, Shakti, Ganapathi, Murugan, Surya Narayanan dan Maha Vishnu.

Hindu-Bali pula mempunyai sembilan mazhab, iaitu Pasupata, Bhairawa, Siwa Shidanta, Waisnawa, Bodha, Brahma, Resi, Sora dan Ganapatya.

Ternyata budaya penduduk Bali menerima pengaruh kuat daripada budaya India (Hindu) dan China (Buddha). Akhirnya, lahirlah budaya Hindu-Bali yang amat unik; sebagaimana budaya masyarakat Chetti di Kampung Chetti, Gajah Berang, Melaka.

Dewa menceritakan bahawa pemerintah Indonesia mensyaratkan penduduk Hindu-Bali hanya boleh mempunyai dua anak. Namun, katanya, ilmu yang dipelajari menerusi Kamasutra sejak zaman berzaman membantu mereka menikmati keintiman alam perkahwinan sambil memastikan hanya ada dua anak.

Malah, katanya, penduduk Hindu-Bali bukan mementingkan kuantiti (jumlah) anak, tetapi kualiti anak-anak. Perkara ini turut diakui seorang lagi pemandu van, I Wayan Seraya.

“Anak-anak belajar dan bermain. Golongan pemuda dan orang dewasa bekerja untuk mendapatkan wang. Golongan tua berumur lebih 55 tahun selalunya kembali mengerjakan sawah milik keluarga dan banyak terlibat dalam upacara agama,” katanya.

Agak menarik untuk memperhatikan bahawa penduduk Hindu-Bali mahu sentiasa bersatu dengan alam, selain mementingkan aspek keseimbangan dan harmoni. Anak-anak bersekolah bukan untuk belajar menjadi pandai sahaja, tapi apa yang lebih penting adalah belajar untuk menjadi orang baik.

Kematian adalah proses kehidupan

Penduduk di Bali – khasnya Ubud – mengenal internet tetapi tidak pula meninggalkan amalan tradisi. Perkara ini amat menarik pada pandangan saya. Adat dan budaya Hindu-Bali mementingkan keseimbangan dalam segala aspek kehidupan.

Menurut Dewa, walaupun dua insiden letupan bom berlaku di Bali, penduduk di sini tidak mendendami sesiapa. Sebaliknya, mereka cuba melihat semua kejadian dengan minda positif.

Misalnya, kematian adalah sebahagian proses kehidupan; maka mereka memilih untuk tidak menyalahkan sesiapa yang menyebabkan kematian dalam insiden letupan bom itu.

Penduduk Hindu-Bali juga melihat semua agama di dunia ini sebagai agama yang menyeru kepada kebaikan. Maka, tidak timbul langsung keperluan untuk memperlekeh agama-agama lain. Agama Hindu tidak pernah mengatakan ia agama terbaik dan agama lain “salah”.

Hal ini juga terungkap kemas dalam doa umum yang menjadi ikutan para penganut Hindu di seluruh dunia. Saya juga melihat doa itu dipaparkan dalam Bahasa Sanskrit, Bahasa Inggeris dan Bahasa Inggeris di Hotel Alam Sari:

“Om shanti shanti shanti
Semoga damai meliputi Dunia
May peace prevail on Earth”
Dewa juga menjelaskan bahawa agama Hindu dalam kalangan penduduk Bali bukan berciri ‘religious’ atau ‘ritual’ tetapi berciri ‘spiritual’.

Saya yakin bahawa agama Hindu sudah bersatu dan sebati bersama-sama adat masyarakat di Bali. Maka, ajaran dan amalan agama Hindu sudah menjadi suatu ‘budaya’ sejak kecil.

Mungkin ciri seperti inilah yang kurang diberi perhatian oleh penganut agama Hindu, khususnya daripada kalangan kaum India di Malaysia.

Memanglah masyarakat India-Hindu hanya minoriti di Malaysia tetapi perlu disedari bahawa hak beragama dan mengekalkan budaya tradisi dilindungi Perlembagaan Persekutuan.

Uthaya Sankar SB boleh dihubungi menerusi e-mel bagi sebarang maklum balas.

Development? Really? For whom?

by Gan Pei Ling | The Nut Graph
MOST of us living in Peninsular Malaysia take electricity for granted as we have hardly experienced a blackout since the 1990s. But how many of us have stopped for a moment to think where the electricity, that allows us to turn on our TVs and computers, comes from?
What are the impacts of the power plants that generate our electricity — be they coal, hydropower and perhaps in the future, nuclear — on the environment and local communities living near these plants?
Coal plant and fishes
At a climate and energy forum in Universiti Malaya in Kuala Lumpur on 8 and 9 Oct 2011, Peninsular Inshore Fishermen Action Network president Jamaluddin Mohamad, from Johor, talked about the impact of the Tanjung Bin coal plant.
“They are using chlorine to prevent sea water from corroding the pipes in their power plant. But it is polluting the ocean, and the water that they use to cool the plant is being released back to the sea in high temperature. Our catch has been dwindling over the years,” Jamaluddin told the forum that was jointly organised by Third World Network, Consumers Association of Penang and Sahabat Alam Malaysia.
Run by independent power producer Malakoff Corp Bhd, the 2,100MW Tanjung Bin coal plant was built in 2003. The power producer intends to expand the plant’s capacity by another 1,000MW.
Jamaluddin noted that Tanjung Bin was rapidly developing into an industrial area: “The areas where we can fish are shrinking and becoming increasingly limited.”
He said none of the affected communities are against “development” but the coal plant and rapid industrial development are threatening their livelihoods: “That’s why we’re protesting against the coal plant’s expansion.”
Dams and livelihoods
Across the South China Sea, natives in Sarawak have been displaced by the Bakun dam and more will be displaced by 12 dams the state government is planning to build to boost its power capacity to 7,000MW, over 600% of its 2008 capacity.
Philip Jau
Philip Jau
Philip Jau, a Kayan from the Baram valley, said 20,000 people from various communities will be displaced by the Baram dam the Sarawak government intends to build. “This does not include those who are living downstream yet. Up to 38,900 hectares of our native customary land will be submerged. Our land is our life. We cannot live without it. It is as simple as that,” said Philip.
The Baram dam will also cause deforestation and biodiversity loss.
Philip said the communities affected by these dams are establishing a network to create a united movement against what he described as the “damned” dams. “We want electricity but we hope the government will explore other alternatives like micro-hydro, which is more environmentally-friendly, though it may not generate as much profit as building a mega dam,” he said.
Philip said he has been to the Sungai Asap settlement where the affected communities from Bakun were relocated to. “They’re suffering. Most of the villagers feel that they have no future,” said Philip. The communities in Baram do not want to suffer the same fate with good reason.
Of broken promises
The Bakun dam flooded 69,000 hectares of land, around the size of Singapore, and forced the relocation of 10,000 people. Construction began in 1996 and the project eventually cost RM7.5bil.
Wing Mikiu
Wing Mikiu from the Sungai Asap settlement told the forum the Sarawak government only allocated three acres of land to each family that were relocated from Bakun in 1999. “My family has eight children. Three acres of land is not enough for us. We’ve 2,000 new couples in our settlement to date and most of them have no land [to cultivate],” said Wing.
He said the government promised to build the villagers a new town with an airport, jetty, highway and even an international school in the effort to persuade villagers to leave their ancestral homes. But today, many youths have moved to Bintulu or other towns due to the lack of job opportunities in Sungai Asap.
To add insult to injury, Wing said the compensation villagers received for their now submerged native customary lands range from RM0.30 to RM3 million. “If you’re unhappy with the amount, you can bring it to court or complain to the district office, but you’ll have to pay for the cost to resurvey the land yourself,” Wing explained.
“Perhaps the project profited the company and the people in this state [when the dam starts producing energy], but what about us? Our people didn’t enjoy any development as promised, and we’ve lost our land and heritage,” said Wing.
Source of inspiration
Protesting against a coal plant or dam may seem daunting, but local communities can look to Green Surf for inspiration. Since 2007, the coalition has successfully pressured the government three times to cancel plans to build a coal plant in Sabah.
Wong Tack
Wong Tack from the Sabah Environmental Protection Society, which is one of the five environmental organisations in Green Surf, said it was most important for communities to be united. “Locals must take responsibility. If the people are united [in the struggle], then we can solve any problem,” said Wong.
Wong pointed out that it is also crucial to build partnerships with national and international partners. “When the government proposed to build the coal plant for the third time (in Kampung Sinakut in 2009), we knew this could no longer be a Sabah issue.  We had to turn it into an international issue.
“We went to the Parliament and built partnerships with international NGOs (non-governmental organisations) so that the government would have to listen to us, and finally they did,” said Wong. The government scrapped the plan to build a coal plant in Sabah for good in February 2011.
Development? Where?
Those with vested interests in mega projects have a tendency to demonise local communities and environmentalists who oppose such projects as “anti-development”.
But if there’s anything to learn from the stories of community leaders, it is not just about conserving the environment. It is about defending communities’ source of livelihood and preferred way of life so that they can continue to feed, clothe and shelter themselves, and continue to work and fend for their families.
Of course, the government and corporations involved can continue to ignore local communities’ interests and voices. But surely, they do so at their peril? If communities are adversely affected economically by development projects, surely these communities would have nothing else to lose in fighting back.

Fitnah II: Pendakwa mahu panggil 4 saksi balas

(Oleh: Ahmad Fadli)

KUALA LUMPUR 17 Okt: Kes Fitnah II yang kini di peringkat pembelaan di Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur, bersambung semula hari ini dengan pendakwa raya memohon memanggil empat saksi balas (rebuttal witness) mereka untuk memberi keterangan.

Peguam Cara Negara II, Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden berbuat demikian untuk membidas keterangan pakar tulang belakang Jerman, Dr Thomas Hoogland, yang merawat kecederaan Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim sebelum ini.

Pada perbicaraan sebelum ini, Dr Hoogland mengesahkan Anwar masih lagi menderita sakit tulang belakang yang mengehadkan pergerakannya.

Beliau juga mengesahkan Anwar tidak mampu untuk membongkok dan berlutut di atas lantai tanpa mengalami kesakitan teruk, sekaligus membuktikan Ketua Pembangkang itu tidak melakukan aksi fitnah seperti yang didakwa pengadu,
pengadu, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Sebelum ini, Mahkamah Tinggi Kuala Lumpur menolak permohonan peguam untuk mengeluarkan sepina terhadap Perdana Menteri, Datuk Seri Najib Razak danisterinya, Datin Seri Rosmah mansor sebagai saksi dalam kes itu.

Keputusan itu dibuat hakim Zabidin Mohamad Diah, meskipun jelas Saiful ada menemui perdana menteri dan isterinya, sebelum membuat laporan polis terhadap Anwar.

Peguambela juga pada minggu lalu memilih untuk tidak memanggil bekas Ketua Polis Negara, Tan Sri Musa Hassan dan Ketua Polis Melaka, Mohd Rodwan Mohd Yusof memberi keterangan kerana menganggap ia sudah tidak lagi relevan.

Berikut kronologi perbicaraan hari ini:

8.49 pagi: Pendakwa raya yang diketuai peguam Cara Negara II, Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden berada di bilik mahkamah Jalan Duta

9.05 pagi: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim bersama isteri tercinta, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah kelihatan tiba di perkarangan mahkamah.

9.22 pagi: Peguam Anwar, Karpal Singh tiba. Terdapat kira-kira 50 orang di galeri awam termasuk wartawan.

9.39 pagi: Kedua pihak dilihat masuk ke kamar hakim, Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah dna dilihat keluar semula.

9.58 pagi: Anwar dan peguamnya dilihat berbincang sesuatu.

10.38 pagi: Hakim Zabidin memulakan prosiding.

10.40 pagi: Yusof berkata terdapat isu yang dibawa oleh saksi ke tujuh peguam, Hoogland yang memberi keterangan terhadap tahap fizikal Anwar. Berikutan itu katanya, pihaknya akan memohon untuk memanggil saksi balas.

Karpal berkata pihaknya tidak ada bantahan, tetapi ia tertakluk kepada bukti peraturan.

10.42 pagi: Yusof berkata terdapat empat saksi balas yang akan dikemukakan yang akan disoal oleh DPP Nordin Hassan. Hakim Zabidin akan mendengar keterangan mereka esok.

10.48: Mahkamah ditangguhkan.

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Home Ministry confirms no case in Christianity becoming official religion

The Star
by Aaron Ngui

GEORGE TOWN (Oct 16, 2011): Investigations have found no evidence to support allegations of efforts to make Christianity the official religion of the country, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed.

At a press conference today, Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi said this was in Hishammuddin's written parliamentary reply to Kulim MP Zulkifli Noordin, and therefore there is no evidence to incriminate any individuals in the matter.

Ooi pointed out that the investigation papers had been referred to the Attorney General's (AG) Chambers and the case has been classified as NFA (no further action) by the deputy public prosecutor.

Zakhir Mohamed, the author of the blog ‘bigdogdotcom’ first suggested the existence of the alleged conspiracy, reporting a hearsay account of a plan to make Christianity the official religion of Malaysia and for a Christian to be Prime Minister.

The allegation was then featured on the front page of Utusan Malaysia on May 7. Another blog ‘Marahku’ also carried the allegation but later removed the posting.

The allegation had implicated local pastors and Ooi who had attended a dinner in conjunction with the ‘Unashamedly Ethical Marketplace Conference’ on May 5 and 6.

The conference was organised by the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, Global Day of Prayer, Marketplace Penang and Penang Pastors Fellowship.

In a joint statement on May 8, the three groups refuted the claims as “unfounded and totally untrue”, pointing out that the conference was to discuss and address the issue of bribery and corruption, and Christians’ contribution in addressing such issues.

Ooi said Hishammuddin's reply to Zulkifli during the current Parliament session confirmed the allegations to be baseless and untruthful.

He urged the Home Ministry to revoke Utusan Malaysia’s printing licence and called on the editors of the paper to issue an unconditional apology.

Datuk Keramat assemblymen Jagdeep Singh Deo, meanwhile, said the paper should come out with an unconditional apology.

Jagdeep, a lawyer by trade, urged the Home Ministry to take immediate action to protect the peace and harmony of Malaysia.

Agong: Take Malaysia-Indonesia Relations To Greater Heights

By Ahmad Fuad Yahya

JAKARTA, Oct 17 (Bernama) -- Yang di- Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin has expressed the hope of seeing Malaysia and Indonesia making continuous effort to take their relations to greater heights, saying this will be for the benefit of both countries.

Speaking at a dinner hosted by the Indonesian government here last night, His Majesty said he wanted to see more active and productive efforts to promote cooperation at all levels and in all fields despite the numerous challenges.

"I appreciate the commitment and role played by Malaysia and Indonesia in handling issues of mutual interest either at the regional or international level.

"I believe the commitment of both countries will continue, for common prosperity and for stability in the region," he said at the dinner at Istana Negara.

He described the Kuala Lumpur-Jakarta relations as cordial and special.

"I'm satisfied with the efforts which have been, and are being, implemented by both governments to strengthen the political, economic and sociocultural cooperation," he said.

Tuanku Mizan, who is on a two-day visit to the republic, was earlier yesterday conferred the republic's highest award, the Bintang Republik Indonesia Adipurna, at Istana Merdeka, by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah, who accompanied His Majesty in the visit, was among those presence at the investiture ceremony. Susilo's wife Ibu Negara Ibu Ani Yudhoyono, Indonesian cabinet ministers and members of the Malaysian delegation were also present.

In his speech at the dinner, Tuanku Mizan expressed his gratitude for the award, describing it as a mark of appreciation for the good relations between both countries.

"I'm confident that this award will further strengthen the bonds of friendship among the peoples of both countries," he said.

Yang di-Pertuan Agong also expressed his gratitude to President Susilo and Ibu Ani Yudhoyono as well as to the Indonesian government and people, for the gracious hospitality accorded to him and Tuanku Nur Zahirah, as well as to the Malaysian delegation.

Newspaper sales continue to slide

Except for a handful of dailies, newspapers are struggling to arrest the slide in their sales.
The column in green shows the latest circulation figures. The column in yellow is the circulation after deducting copies sold at reduced (discounted) price or given out free.
In the peninsula, apart from a couple of gossipy Malay papers and certain Chinese-language papers, most of the other papers are unable to stem the slide in their sales.
That could either be due to the challenge posed by the Internet media as well as a the dwindling appeal of pro-government propaganda in the traditional media.
It’s a little more difficult to detect a trend over in Sabah and Sarawak (see table below).

Vendor who wore skull cap to 'protect' business goes missing

Vadodara This Friday he was to officially convert to Islam. But Sunil Bhalegare, who wore skull cap to make a point on the alleged bias shown by the BJP-ruled Vadodara Municipal Corporation in removing encroachments, has gone missing.

A roadside tea vendor outside the General post

office in Raopura area of the city, Bhalegare was under the impression that VMC’s anti-encroachment squad was targetting only vendors of a particular community.

So he wore a skull cap to protect his business and has now gone missing since Thursday.

He had claimed that Muslim vendors were spared by the encroachment removal squads.

When The Sunday Express team visited the spot where he was doing business till October 13, the place was deserted while other nearby vendors were doing business as usual.

His family says they will register a formal complaint with police if he did not return home by Sunday. They said they were not aware of his whereabouts.

“We never thought that such a small issue would become a serious problem in our family. He has not returned home for the last two days. We thought he must be disturbed and would come back after he would calm down but he has not returned,” said Nilesh Bhalegare, the eldest of the three brothers, who runs a tea stall near Kharchikar no Khancho in the same area.

“I think it is more of a political issue and I pray it ends soon. If God wills, his business would flourish again. We will discuss within the family and accordingly take the decision to approach the police,” he added.

His younger brother Mahesh said, “We have no idea where he is. On Friday night, he went out as usual to his tea stall but did not return. I was in Pune but after learning about this, I came back immediately. He never portrayed this as a huge issue and his family also thought things would become normal. But instead, it has blown out of proportion.”

Temple celebrates Navaratri while demolition looms

DAP Kulasegaran’s Tamil School Stunt

All those friends of mine who went to a Tamil school are now either lorry drivers, labourers or in prisonKulasegaran
'There are few opportunities for anyone who goes to Tamil school. Generally speaking, these schools produce labourers' 
The Traveler, Sunday, October 16, 2011
Bayan Baru MP Zahrain Mohamed Hashim is a fading frog in politics. Many individuals and Tamil organizations have jumped to condemn his call for closing Tamil Schools in the country. By doing that, instead of ignoring him, these people gave more publicity to that frog.
Now, DAP Kulsegaran has jumped into the fray. According to Makkal Osai Tamil daily, Kulasegaran warned that legal action will be taken if Zahrain failed to apologize for his “irresponsible, offensive and unacceptable” remarks.
This is laughable. The Ipoh Barat MP should be the last person to defend Tamil Schools.
“All those friends of mine who went to a Tamil school are now either lorry drivers, labourers or in prison”, said Kulasegaran before becoming Ipoh Barat MP on Democratic Action Party ticket.
Did Kulasegaran ever apologize for his “irresponsible, offensive and unacceptable” remark uttered before becoming MP?
Kulasegaran is singing a different tune to suit his political career. Now he says Chinese and Tamil school students have become ministers, according to the same daily.
Be a gentlemen Kulasegaran! Before warning a frog to apologize, you as a responsible MP first apologize to the Indian community for your irresponsible, offensive and unacceptable remark.
Media statement by M.Kula Segaran in Ipoh on Sunday, 16th October 2011:
Bayan Baru MP Datuk Seri Zharain must withdraw and apologise over his seditious remarks or face punishment by law
On Tuesday October 12, Bayan Baru MP DatuK Seri Zharain Mohamed Hashim, while taking part in the 2012 Budget parliamentary debate, had made the offensive remarks about the closure of Tamil, Chinese and agama schools.
An extract of the Hansard (verbatim recording of parliamentary debates) is as follows;-
[Tuan Yang di-Pertua mempengerusikan Mesyuarat]
2.32 ptg.
Tuan Yang di-Pertua: Sila, Yang Berhormat Bayan Baru.
Dato' Seri Zahrain Mohamed Hashim [Bayan Baru]: Terima kasih Tuan Yang di-Pertua. Sebelum saya meneruskan ucapan, saya ingin menjawab apa yang telah dibawa oleh Yang Berhormat Kulim Bandar Baharu tadi sebelum saya akhir ucapan sebelah pagi. Isu sekolah-sekolah yang kita terima dari zaman penjajah dulu. Kita sedar bahawa sekolah-sekolah sekarang ini sekolah aliran Cina, aliran Tamil, aliran agama tidak sepatutnya dijalankan lagi sebab penjajah tinggalkan kita satu sistem yang isu dia divide and rule. Dia memecahbelahkan kita. Akan tetapi, kalau kita masih hendak teruskan bermakna ia akan melahirkan mereka yang pemikiran ekstremis.
Saya sebut Namewee tadi sebagai satu contoh. Akan tetapi kita boleh melihat bahawa ekstremis-ekstremis ini masih wujud. Yang pergi ke sekolah aliran Cina tidak memahami kebudayaan Melayu, kebudayaan India begitu juga yang aliran India dan aliran agama pun sama.
Zharain's remarks that the Tamil, Chinese and religious schools are dividing the people and producing extremists are totally without basis, offensive and unacceptable.
By calling for the closure of Tamil, Chinese and religious schools, he has in fact committed the offence of sedition and can be prosecuted in court if a police report is lodged against him.
When commenting on Jerlun MP Datulk Mukriz's call for the closure of the vernacular schools in 2010, DAP parliamentary leader, Sdr Lim Kit Siang had said the following: -
"The Constitution Amendment 1971 entrenching four sensitive issues and imposing an absolute prohibition from any questioning, even removing the parliamentary immunity in parliamentary debates, by classifying them as sedition offences under Section 3(f) of the Sedition Act, does not allow anyone to propose the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools so long as Article 10(4) on the entrenchment of the sensitive issues is not repealed.
If Mukhriz wants to be able to publicly pursue his proposal of a single education system resulting in the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, he must get the Constitutional provision on the four entrenched sensitive issues amended and repealed."
He further said:-
"The law is very clear as there had been decided cases - Melan Abdullah v Public Prosecutor (1971) where Utusan Malaysia was found guilty of the sedition offence for its editorial subheading, "Hapuskan Sekolah Beraliran Tamil atau China di-Negeri ini" and Mark Koding v. Public Prosecutor where the Sabah Member of Parliament was found guilty of sedition when he spoke in Parliament in October 1978 calling for the closure of Chinese and Tamil primary schools."
Zharain has not only made irresponsible, offensive and unacceptable remarks, he has committed sedition and can be punished by law.
Zharain must therefore withdraw and apologise for his remarks, failing which he must be prepared to be punished by law.

Dr M says Aziz Bari’s comments were disrespectful

SERI ISKANDAR, Oct 16 — Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad accused Consitutional expert Professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari of disrespect for not apologising and promptly retracting his statement over the Selangor Sultan’s opinion.

The International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) don had said that the sultan’s position on the State Islamic Religious Department’s (Jais) raid on a premise belong Damansara Utama Methodist Church was unusual and inconsistent.

Dr Mahathir (picture) told Bernama Online that the law lecturer’s statement in a news portal was opposed to Eastern moral values. He stated that though he was uncertain Abdul Aziz broke the law, but on the level of moral values, it was disrespectful.

He was speaking to media after the 11th convocation of Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) which he presided as chancellor.

During the ceremony, he presented the Chancellor's Gold Award to Lai Chin Leong, 23, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering with honours with a cumulative grade point average of 3.89.

Muhammad Aiman Jamaludin, 22, and T. Kuhanesapathy, 23, won the silver and bronze awards, respectively.

‘I’m willing to sacrifice myself for Gerakan’

Amid heavy criticism against him, Gerakan chief Koh Tsu Koon says he is willing to sacrifice himself for the party, but remained silent on certain "tough decisions" he would be making.

KUALA LUMPUR: Embattled Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon has pledged to his party members that he was willing to “sacrifice” himself for the sake of the party, amid frustrations that the leader was “soft” and lacked decisiveness.

“Now, as far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to tell you today what exactly that I’m going to do, because I still need to do some checking and coordinating…but I’m going to assure you that I’m willing to sacrifice myself for the party,” said Koh in his winding-up speech during the 40th Gerakan National Delegates Conference today.

Koh, who received some applause from delegates when he made the statement towards the end of his speech, however did not specify how he planned to “sacrifice himself”.

“I will sacrifice myself for the party, in what way, and how, I will let you know, because this is a collective leadership.

“I cannot just charge ahead and sacrifice myself without the party to coordinate,” he said.

“We will never run away, once a Gerakanist, always a Gerakanist,” said Koh, who has for the past two days indicated that he would be making some “tough decisions” but would announce them only when the time was appropriate.

Koh vaguely explained that the “sacrifice” would come after “final assessments” by top leadership and himself, and that there were several options.

Not moved by emotions

He stressed that whatever he will decide won’t be based on emotions but pure reason.

“Top leadership is also exploring the possibilities in the interest of the party. Will take into account several different scenarios,” he added.

During his winding up speech, Koh also took pains to explain to delegates why he took more time in making decisions.

“We have different styles. Some people want fast, some people want slow. Slow sometimes more romantic… Its because before I make a decision I want everybody on board because when you make a decision, not everybody can be happy, I’ve seen examples of the past,” said Koh.

“It’s not because we don’t want to make decisions, but we want to hold everyone together,” he said.

Koh also took his hats off to the opposition, especially DAP and PAS, for their “fighting spirit”.

“Whatever I don’t agree with them, with DAP or PAS, we have to admire their fighting spirit when they are down, we have to pay some respect. But I believe that if they can do it, Gerakan can do better,” he said.

Must deliver results

Koh also stressed during his speech that “walking the talk” was not merely making fiery speeches but what mattered was delivering results.

“Gerakan has always been at the forefront of ideas. Gerakan is about principles and maintaining them. Often we are too busy working to publicise ourselves,” he said, adding that often Gerakan leaders in the government were the ones who worked the hardest.

Earlier, party secretary-general Teng Chang Yeow admitted that the burning question most delegates were asking was for the president to make a decision.

“Koh, please lah, make a decision– this is what is in the heart of everyone. But we must remember that Gerakan is a party that makes decision based on consensus,” he said.

Teng also made an indirect comment towards vice-president Tan Lian Hoe’s criticism towards the party president yesterday, saying:

“We should be careful when making statements, we must consider our party’s image. There’s a Malay saying that says we can spit in every direction but we should never spit upwards.”

Vice-president Mah Siew Keong also defended Koh’s “soft” image.

He said: “A president is elected democratically, if you want change, change next year lah”.

Mah also joked about how Koh has his weaknesses but also his strengths.

“I’ve known him very long, very intimately. Don’t take this the wrong way, but Koh can actually be hard lah, but in one week he is not too often hard. You want to see him being hard?”

“Koh, let the delegates see how hard you can be lah!” he said.

Nazri: People still want capital punishment

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: It will be difficult to abolish the death penalty as the public is still in favour of it.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz who said this pointed out that whenever a heinous crime such as rape or murder was committed against a child, the public would want the perpetrator to be sentenced to death.

He pointed out that even DAP chairman Karpal Singh called for the death penalty to be introduced for child rape last year.

“That is the reality on the ground. We have to handle that first,” Nazri, who is against the death penalty, said at the sidelines of a forum to promote the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia.

The event on Friday was jointly organised by the Delegation of the European Union, the Bar Council and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam).

Nazri said any move to abolish the death penalty would have to take into account public opinion and views.

Head of the European Union Delegation to Malaysia Vincent Piket said the abolition of the death penalty would be a challenging but rewarding process that might involve several intermediate steps.

BN To Make Adjustments On Electoral Seat Allocation - Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 16 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today the Barisan Nasional (BN) will make adjustments to the existing formula on allocation of seats for the next general election.

Najib, who is BN chairman, said the adjustments were necessary to adapt to the local circumstances due to a change in the political dynamics.

"The formula on seat allocation was drawn up in 2004 and applied in 2008. For the next general election, we have to consider whether there has been a change in the political dynamics requiring us to make adjustments.

"Leaders of the BN parties will hold discussions to come up with the best formula on the allocation of seats," he told a news conference after opening the 40th Gerakan national delegates conference at Menara PGRM, here.

He said the leaders of all the BN component parties agreed in principle and spirit to come to a compromise and that he would have discussions with them to work out the best formula.

"We will not do a complete overhaul, but make adjustments where necessary," he said.

Earlier, when addressing the delegates, Najib said the adjustments would enable the BN to review its strengths and weaknesses in drawing up its general election strategy, including selecting winnable candidates.

He said all BN members should place their trust in the BN top leadership to determine the winnable candidates, and support them.

"We will have to choose the best component party to represent us in each constituency; we will choose the best candidate because we want to win big," he said.

Najib, in his speech, also said that the BN is now at a major crossroads and that the next general election will be a big test which will determine its survival.

As such, he said, all BN leaders and members can no longer assume it is business as usual in the ever challenging political landscape of the country.

He said the BN must demonstrate to the people that it is the better choice for all Malaysians.

"We must prepare to walk the talk, walking the ground to meet the people and to get the support of the people," he said.