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Monday, November 7, 2011

Mum of nine-year-old suicide bomber arrested in Iraq

IRAQI security forces have arrested a woman whose boyfriend convinced her to send her little boy on a suicide mission and then failed to stop the attack after she had a change of heart.
Sunni widow Suad al-Obaidi, 47, was arrested on Friday along with her allegedly al-Qaeda boyfriend, a Diyala police officer said.
She was arrested in Diyala province, while the boyfriend, Hamid Alwan, 53, was detained in Baghdad.
According to the officer, Alwan convinced Obaidi to send nine-year-old Murtada Latif Kadhem to bomb a Shi'ite mosque in Khales, north of Baghdad, several years ago.
Alwan "took her son with her ... by car to the Shi'ite mosque but, on the way there, she started to cry about her son," the officer said.
"He put her out of the car, and took the son, who was wearing an explosive belt, to the mosque, where he blew himself up."
Security officials said the December 29, 2006 attack killed at least nine people, including the imam of the mosque, and wounded at least eight.
A few months later, Alwan tried to convince Suad to send her 18-year-old son Kadhem Latif Kadhem on a suicide attack, but he fled to the home of his married sister, Hanna.
Diyala province, north of Baghdad, was the scene of bloody sectarian fighting that left thousands dead.
The arrests were the result of information received by police after attacks on anti-Qaeda Sahwa (Awakening) militia in Diyala province on Thursday.
"We arrested a group of terrorists and through the investigation we reached Hamid and arrested him in Baghdad Friday," the officer said.
On Thursday, a suicide bomber and a car bomb targeted Sahwa militiamen near Baquba, north of Baghdad, killing five people and wounding 26, an army officer and a doctor said.

A long battle against Indian 'army impunity'

Activist on hunger strike for 11 years in northeast to press for scrapping of a wide-ranging security law.

Irom Sharmila, an activist, has been on hunger strike since 2000 in protest against the killing of 10 civilians by the Indian army.

Sharmila's demand is the scrapping of a security law, imposed in 1958, in her home state of Manipur.

The law, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, is only in effect in India-administered Kashmir and in the country's northeastern region.

Under it, Indian soldiers can arrest, search and even shoot to kill suspects, and also gives troops immunity from prosecution.

The Indian government says it is necessary to fight a number of armed groups, but human-rights groups have criticised the law, saying it goes against the Geneva Conventions.

Al Jazeera's Prerna Suri reports from Imphal, India.

Malaysia remains rich but also intolerant, says new study

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 — Malaysia maintained its rank as the 43rd most prosperous nation, trailing behind Singapore at 16th but the latest index of overall wealth also ranked the country among the worst countries for personal freedom and democracy, while also scoring poorly for security and the educational levels of workers.
It was also found that Malaysians did not trust each other and generally did not welcome outsiders.
Overall, Malaysia was a more prosperous nation than its other Asean neighbours such as Thailand which came in at 45 out of 110 countries.
File photo of cars for sale on display in a shopping mall in Putrajaya. Malaysia is a more prosperous nation than its other Asean neighbours such as Thailand, according to the London-based think-tank Legatum’s latest Prosperity Index. — Reuters pic
The London-based think-tank Legatum’s Prosperity Index assesses 110 countries based on performance in eight areas such as economy, personal freedom, health and social capital.
This year, Norway tops the list of 110 countries while Central African Republic came in last. Norway also topped the previous year’s list.
Malaysia’s economy is ranked at 17th, the strongest sub-sector, and the report said Malaysia’s economy performed well and there is a “high level of public confidence” in the financial sector.
Despite Malaysia’s positive ranking in the economy sub-sector, the country scored 35th in the governance sub-sector.
The report said that objective and subjective indicators give a mixed account of Malaysia’s governance.
“Malaysia places 72nd, globally, for the strength of its democracy. The bureaucracy is the 28th most efficient in the world; however, following a period of significant political unrest in 2008 the political system underwent substantial change,” the report said.
On entrepreneurship and opportunity, Malaysia ranked at 36th. The report said Malaysia’s ICT infrastructure encourages commercial activity.
“Although only 1 per cent of GDP is spent on R&D, Malaysia maintains a very high level of ICT exports, placing it third on this variable both globally and regionally,” the report said.
On the education and health indicator, Malaysia ranked 46th.
The report said the limited enrolment at high education levels means Malaysian workers are relatively poorly educated. The report also said that perhaps the low health expenditure per capita contributed to only “moderately good” indicators of public health, the report said.
However, Malaysia was let down by personal freedom — its worst-performing indicator — ranking only 96th in the sub-index.
The report said although Malaysians enjoy a fairly high level of civic choice, they do not welcome “outsiders”.
“In a 2010 survey, 77 per cent of respondents expressed satisfaction with their level of individual freedom, placing Malaysia in the top 50 countries of the index on this variable. However, this level of freedom does not create a tolerant society,” it said.
Malaysia is considered under the “weak” category in this sub-sector, along with Thailand, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, and Pakistan.
The safety and security as well as social capital categories also dragged down Malaysia’s overall ranking, with the country placing 53rd and 75th respectively.
The report said despite overall stability, Malaysia experiences some political pressures, and citizens feel unsafe.
“The average levels of internal displacement and communal conflict place Malaysia 53rd for demographic instability, which may result from border disputes, ownership or occupancy of land, access to transportation outlets, control of religious or historical sites, or proximity to environmental hazards,” it said.
The report also said Malaysians feel “unable to trust or rely on others”, indicating a lack of social cohesion.
“Malaysians are more likely to help others through formal structures: 37 per cent had donated to charities and one in five people volunteered their time over the same period, placing Malaysia 35th and 52nd, respectively,” it said.
Europe dominates the top 10 countries on the list in taking six spots. The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand make up the rest of the top 10, consistent with last year’s rankings.
The last three rankings were countries from Africa. Other Asia-Pacific countries that made the top 20 were Hong Kong (19) and Taiwan (20).
Malaysia also scored ahead of its neighbours like Vietnam (62), the Philippines (66), Indonesia (70) and Cambodia (94).
Malaysia’s average life satisfaction ranking is at 22nd, while the per capita GDP ranking is at 44th.
Overall, Norway, Denmark and Australia topped the table.
The US ranked 10th — the same as last year — and scored high in measures of public health and entrepreneurial environment.
While the shadow of the economic crisis still looms over many countries, the index shows some bright spots. The report noted that since 2009, 87 out of the 110 countries have seen a rise in their overall prosperity score.

GE13: Bersih backs MCLM’s stand

Malaysia cannot go to the polls with the electoral roll in its current state, says Bersih 2.0 chairperson S Ambiga

PETALING JAYA: Bersih 2.0 chairperson, S Ambiga, has thrown her support behind the Malaysia Civil Liberties Movement’s (MCLM) stand to prevent the next general elections from proceeding before the necessary reforms are put in place.

On Saturday MCLM president, Haris Ibrahim, said that MCLM had received “credible information” that Parliament will be dissolved on November 11 and that polling day would be fixed for December 10.

He pointed out that any elections called before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) had completed its work will not be free and fair.

Haris said MCLM will take all steps necessary to stop the general elections from proceeding before reforms are put in place.

“Bersih 2.0 completely understands why MCLM has taken this stand,” Ambiga told FMT.

“They had done so based on information that the prime minister (Najib Tun Razak) will be calling for elections before implementing electoral reforms.”
‘PSC an eyewash’

Last week the Election Commission (EC) told an online news portal that it would be conducting a briefing exercise for its electoral officers and is expected to complete it by the end of this month.

Previously the nation went to the polls five months after the training was completed but the EC has remained mum over whether it is at the tail-end of preparations for the next general elections.

Ambiga heavily stressed the importance of electoral reform and that Malaysia cannot go to the polls with the electoral roll in its current state.

“There is certainly a feeling that there was no genuine intention to reform and that the PSC was just an eyewash.

“The rakyat will definitely feel misled.”

“We accepted the setting up of the PSC in good faith and it will be a letdown for the rakyat if the elections proceed without any electoral reform,” she said grimly.

Ambiga confirmed that she, as well as other Bersih 2.0 Steering Committee members, will be turning up at Parliament on November 11 when the PSC holds its first public hearing there.
‘Rakyat will rise’

Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) meanwhile has warned of the “largest mobilisation of rakyat” if polls are held before any reforms are in place.

In a press statement SAMM reminded the government of the rising power of the people as clearly seen in Middle East earlier this year.

“The government alleged to have tremendous support but in truth the people have rejected the ruling regime on factors of oppression and abuse of public trust,” it pointed out.

“In the end the government collapsed even after it won a great victory in the elections of their own creation. This is what happens to regimes that deny democracy and sell the country’s sovereignty in order to remain in power.”

Both MCLM and SAMM slammed recent “negative developments” in the wake of the promised poll reforms such as the granting of citizenship to foreigners as well as directives for nurses and Rela members to use postal votes.

“Be assured that people are losing patience…,” SAMM warned.

“If no convincing electoral reforms are made before polls are called we promise the largest mobilization of people.

“We do not rule out the possibility of the people rising to ensure the collapse of the regime so that fair and clean elections can take place and this country can be saved.

“Thus we are giving an ultimatum to Najib to only call for elections after electoral reforms are in place or face the power of the people.”

Boycotting polls not the answer, says Fuziah Salleh

Sabahans were told that the ruling government cannot dismiss 'people power'.

PENAMPANG: Boycotting the general election as a means of expressing their dissatisfaction against the Barisan Nasional government is not the answer, said Kuantan parliamentarian Fuziah Salleh.

“A boycott is out of the question…We believe in the power of the people, the voice of the rakyat.

“So we would like to say to the government of day to think about the rakyat and do not underestimate or belittle the rakyat as they know better.

“They want to see a fair election,” said Fuziah, who was here recently.

She did not rule out the possibility of Bersih 3.0 (rally) taking place, if the government and the Election Commission (EC) failed to meet the peoples’ demand for genuine electoral reform, before the 13th General Election.

She was responding to speculations that Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak would likely dissolve parliament on Nov 11 and call for the 13th general election in December before electoral reforms are implemented.

She said among the far-reaching reforms that were proposed was the the use of indelible ink to prevent the casting of votes by phantom voters.

“By the time (if EC fails to carry out electoral reform) things will no longer be in our hands but in the peoples’ hands.

“The rakyat have shown what they are capable of (Bersih 1.0 and 2.0) so we don’t know what will happen.

“They want to see a fair election. It is not just Pakatan (Rakyat) but the people asking for it,” said Fuziah who is also a PKR vice-president recently.

Rakyat Reform Agenda

PKR is not the first group to warn of further demonstrations to press for electoral reform in the country.

Malaysian Civil Liberties Movement (MCLM) president, Haris Ibrahim, during a road show to introduce the group’s “Rakyat Reform Agenda” (RARA) here in late September also warned of an imminent Bersih 3.0 if the government falters on the issue.

Fuziah noted that a Parliament Select Committee (PSC) on Electoral Reform is being pushed to propose the use of the indelible ink to EC.

If adopted it will prevent voters voting multiple times as has happened in past elections.

However the use of indelible ink by itself will not be able to prevent phantom voters from voting as their names are allegedly already on the electoral rolls.

Only a thorough scrutiny and clean up the electoral roll can ensure a clean election, said Fuziah who also urged Sabah PKR to strive to beef up their election machinery in order to be able to thwart any fraud in the coming general election.

PKR is looking at putting up a strong challenge in Libaran, Batu Sapi, Penampang, Tawau, Sulabayan, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Pensiangan, Keningau, Kepayan, Kuamut, Ranau, Beaufort and Tuaran.

Pakatan Rakyat Sokong Protes Jika PRU Dipanggil Sebelum Syor Panel Khas

Datuk Seri Najib Razak kini berhadapan dengan protes jalanan besar-besaran kedua jika pembaharuan pilihan raya gagal dilaksanakan sebelum memanggil pilihan raya umum ke-13, langkah yang dijangka boleh mengganggu usaha pentadbirannya mendapatkan majoriti dua pertiga di Parlimen.

Semalam, Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) dan Pergerakan Kebebasan Sivil Malaysia (MCLM) memberi perdana menteri kata dua bahawa pihaknya akan mengadakan protes mirip Bersih 2.0 jika membubarkan Parlimen sebelum pembaharuan pilihan raya dikuatkuasakan.

Beberapa pemimpin Pakatan Rakyat (PR) hari ini melahirkan sokongan dengan pelan itu dan mahu Najib, yang juga Pengersusi Barisan Nasional (BN) menunaikan janjinya.

Pemimpin-pemimpin PR yang dihubungi berkata perdana menteri harus membolehkan jawatankuasa pilihan khas, yang beliau telah bentuk, menyelesaikan fungsi mereka dalam tempoh enam bulan dan melaksanakan syor-syor yang dibuat sebelum pilihan raya umum ke-13.

Naib Presiden PKR Nurul Izzah Anwar memberitahu The Malaysia Insider, partinya akan memberi sokongan kepada satu lagi protes jika perlu.

“Saya percaya rakyat menunggu bukti janji-janji pembaharuan yang dibawa oleh perdana menteri,” kata Ahli Parlimen Lembah Pantai ini dalam kenyataan menerusi SMS.

Tegas Nurul Izzah, oleh kerana isu-isu pembaharuan pilihan raya berkaitan dengan perhimpunan Bersih 2.0, perlu ada gelombang ketiga.

Najib dan imej pembaharuan beliau berhadapan dengan kritikan banyak pihak termasuk media antarabangsa ekoran tindakan keras pentadbirannya menangani perhimpunan Bersih 2.0 pada 9 Julai lalu.

Dalam pada itu, Pengarah Jabatan Pilihan Raya PAS Dr Mohd Hatta Ramli juga berkata, partinya akan menyokong pendirian PR bagi memastikan pilihan raya umum ke-13 hanya akan dipanggil selepas pembaharuan pilihan raya dilaksanakan.

“Pada pandangan parti-parti, sepatutnya tidak ada pilihan raya sehingga pembaharuan dilaksanakan.

“Jadi dua kumpulan itu merasakan bahawa kita telah diperdaya, kemungkinan akan ada sokongan, Pakatan Rakyat akan mempertimbangkan langkah menyokongnya kerana kami telah pun menjelaskan perkara itu sebelum ini,” kata beliau yang juga anggota jawatankuasa itu.

Dalam pada itu, Ahli Parlimen DAP Anthony Loke berkata, beliau akan berusaha untuk melakukannya menerusi jawatankuasa berkenaan sebelum memberi kata dua mengenai protes.

“Pada masa sekarang, kami melihat pada opsyen-opsyen yang ada tetapi kita cuba untuk melakukannya menerusi jawatankuasa pilihan khas ini,” kata beliau yang juga anggota panel khas itu.

“Jika ia (pilihan raya) diadakan, kita perlu membuat keputusan kemudian. Kita tidak boleh membuat andaian sekarang, kami akan mengadakan mesyuarat susulan Khamis depan,” katanya lagi merujuk kepada pertemuan berkala jawatankuasa berkenaan.

Seorang lagi Naib Presiden PKR, Chua Tian Chang juga berkata, terlalu awal untuk mengatakan sama ada satu protes jalanan besar-besaran diperlukan pada masa sekarang.

“Saya tidak mahu membuat jangkaan buat masa sekarang, tetapi harapan rakyat adalah tinggi,” kata beliau yang juga Ahli Parlimen Batu. -TMI

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Wishing for an open society

After the interview in London where Nades is theSun correspondent
After the interview in London where Nades is theSun correspondent
R NADESWARAN, better known as Citizen Nades, has spent years as the heart of theSun newspaper’s special and investigative reporting team. An award-winning veteran journalist, Nades has reported about local government issues since he started his career as a reporter with The Malay Mail in 1978.
Born in 1952, the 59-year-old has dedicated himself to uncovering many hard-hitting truths about corrupt practices and the abuse of power within local councils and state governments in Malaysia. The Port Klang Free Zoneand Istana Zakaria mansion scandals are among the exposés he has written with his then partner, theSun‘s deputy news editor, Terence Fernandez, who has since left the paper.
Currently in London as theSun‘s UK correspondent, Nades shares his hopes with The Nut Graph in a 28 June 2011 interview on Fleet Street.
TNG: What are your earliest memories?
R Nadeswaran: I was born in Klang, and my earliest memories are of growing up in an estate. My father was an estate conductor, a clerk of sorts. I remember the whole family then had to move into town because we were going to school there.
I was brought up strictly on cow’s milk [laughs]. We had seven cows in our house, you see, and everything was about cow’s milk. While my dad worked in the estate, mum worked as a [homemaker]. With my sister and two younger brothers, we were a close-knit family. [And our] cousins would always come around during the weekends.
Can you trace your ancestry?
Yes, I went to Sri Lanka [to] the village of both my parents. They were all farmers, my family. Land was handed down through the generations. My parents and their parents came from Jaffna.
The caste system still exists in Sri Lanka, and we were all from the farming class. My father came to Malaya as a young man in 1934. He went back to Jaffna in 1936 and married my mother, and then brought her here. The Ceylonese Tamils who were brought into Malaya were either in the civil service, railways or the estates because we were English-educated and could do paper work.
Can you describe the community you grew up in?
In Klang, I stayed in a really cosmopolitan neighbourhood. I would stay next door at Manap’s house — he was my best friend — and then there was the Yap family nearby. They would come to my house, my mother would cook and we would spend the whole day there. They were fun times, and I never saw anything to do with race in my entire school life.
In those days I used to be a school debater and during the Bulan Bahasa Kebangsaan, my cikgu would help me through the paces in the debating competition. My Malay [Malaysian] friends would lend me their dress and songkok. Nobody ever bothered about race or religion.
I think this changed after 13 May 1969. I was 18 then, and I lost a classmate. In those days, there was no Form 6 in Klang. If you wanted to do it you had to go to KL, and this classmate did. He was caught up in what happened in the city.
On the brighter side, a week after the riots we all went around with bicycles in Klang and got everyone to play a game of cricket. We were all races, and everyone came out. There was no animosity, maybe because we were not in KL.
Nades, with Terence Fernandez, interviewing former Bumiputera Malaysia Finance (BMF) chairperson, the late Lorrain Esme Osman, in 2008
Nades (right), with Terence Fernandez, interviewing former Bumiputera Malaysia Finance (BMF) chairperson, the late Lorrain Esme Osman, in 2008 (pic courtesy of R Nadeswaran)
What are the stories or values you have carried on from your youth?
My mother always put a strong emphasis on being honest. And she always told me, if you owe someone money and you cannot pay it on that day, fix a new date instead of hiding from him [or her]. She was a stickler of a woman. I was only 13 years old when my father died, so from then on I was effectively raised by mum.
Another thing my mother taught us was the spirit of the co-operative. I used to buy back a hundred pounds of milk powder, sacks of potatoes and everything else, and the neighbours would all share this. We were very thrifty and would bulk buy. Also with the Ceylonese it was all about education, and the Jaffna community thought that education would get you everything else.
You are known to many as “Citizen Nades”. At what point did you start developing these concepts of being Malaysian?
It must have been in The Malay Mail. Those days in the 1970s, the paper was known for championing people’s problems and everything else. In fact, I conceptualised their hotline as a young reporter during a revamp of the paper. People would call the hotline, and we would take it from there. We understood the people’s frustrations.
You know, I pay £140 in council tax here in London. And the council gives me access to reports. I can inspect their accounts and contracts, and question their auditor. That is the basic thing people ought to have.
But in Malaysia, it is done in secrecy. As an example, this guy in Section 14 (in Subang) went and bought land along a road of single-storey terrace houses. The road is so small, and [yet] there is now a 20-storey condominium there, which cannot take the traffic! People’s participation was not there [during the planning stage]. But the project was approved, and so there are those traffic jams today.
Nades receiving the Journalist of the Year Award from former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1982
Nades receiving the Journalist of the Year Award from former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1982 (pic courtesy of R Nadeswaran)
What do you hope for in Malaysia?
I kind of have faith in what (Prime Minister Datuk Seri) Najib Razak is doing. He made some very strong speeches here in Oxford. Najib quoted from the Torah and the Bible, so if you have a prime minister who sees nothing wrong with using these words, what’s wrong with these other [people]?
I regret that a few people have changed how we interact with each other, such as the one who wrote that e-mail about it being haram to wish someone Merry Christmas? These are the individuals who make it difficult for all of us. Hypothetically, if the prime minister’s secretary is getting married in a church, shouldn’t he attend the wedding? So what is this paranoia about religious places?
I was with the imam of a mosque here the other day, and I asked him if I could attend Friday prayers. He said to come, and come clean and with a clean heart. I’d like to see that kind of thing in Malaysia because now everybody is seeing things with a religious or racial view — from what we eat, drink and wear.
Mohd Sidek Hassan (source:
Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan (source:
I would also like to be able to walk into a government department, and ask, “Can you please tell me how much of state land was developed in the past year?”, and get answers. If you have an open society and people who are careful with spending public money, your tax dollar will go a long way. I’d like to see that, and not civil servants treating us as if we owe them a living. Here [in London], the civil servants treat you as a customer or a client.
Having said that, I’d go on record and say we have the best chief secretary to the government now — Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan — a man who engages the people and encourages engagement.
What would be your advice to Malaysians who want to make their government more accountable?
I would start at the local council level. Demand to see their accounts. Push the councillors — ask them how they spend our money. If you want to fight corruption you cannot fight top down. I would suggest that we go to MBPJ (the Petaling Jaya City Council), which used to be one of the country’s most corrupt councils, and set all the rules, regulations, good practices and procedures. Experiment with it for two years, plug all the loopholes, and then you have a perfect system in MBPJ. Now you export and replicate that same system to the other 160-odd local councils.
When you have local councils covered, the next step would be the state, and then the federal [government]. When you get up in the morning and see uncollected rubbish or potholes you scream, “Useless government!” But this is not the government’s fault. It is the local council’s, [which is] the first form of government you will come into contact with.
Over here, my rubbish is collected every Friday morning. One time, it was still outside. [So] I e-mailed the local council and they replied immediately, saying their truck had broken down and that the rubbish would be collected on Saturday morning. If people can demand and get answers like that, I think that is the first step of getting a better Malaysia.

Ratify Refugee Convention, Govt urged

PETALING JAYA: Human rights activists and the Bar Council want the Government to be a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention before registering asylum-seekers and refugees in the country.

Suhakam commissioner James Nayagam said such a move would put Malaysia on a positive platform in the international scene.

He said the new registration exercise would lower the number of refugee and asylum-seeker arrests as law enforcers could verify their identities quickly.

“It will also help reduce cases of immigrants who enter the country to work but produce fake United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) documents when caught,” he said in an interview yesterday.

He hoped the registration process would be access-friendly for refugees and asylum-seekers and urged the Government to provide them with one-stop centres.

Bar Council president Lim Chee Wee said the registration exercise was a step in the right direction but more needed to be done.
“We need to enact laws to promote and protect internationally-recognised rights of asylum-seekers and their rights to livelihood, healthcare and education,” he said.

“The Prime Minister wants us to be the best democracy, and if this is to be so, then we must demonstrate compassion on how we treat the vulnerable and weak.”

Lim said amendments to laws like the Immigration Act was necessary to recognise the legal status of asylum-seekers.

Amnesty International-Malaysia executive director Nora Murat also said Malaysia should agree to the convention before proceeding with the new registration exercise.

Association for the Promotion of Human Rights president Tan Sri Simon Sipaun said it was ironic that even with the registration, asylum-seekers were not recognised as refugees.

“How can you sign an agreement when you do not recognise them as refugees?” he asked, adding that asylum-seekers would still be treated as illegal immigrants even if they were registered.

Chin Refugee Committee co-ordinator Henry Pin Maunt Shwe said the agreement between the Government and UNHCR was a step in assuring safety of asylum-seekers and refugees.

“When they have registered, they can get a proper job and provide for their family.”

Arab League plans emergency talks on Syria

Foreign ministers schedule new meeting for Saturday after Syrian government fails to implement league's peace plan.
The Arab League has called an emergency meeting on Syria's failure to implement its peace plan, as forces reportedly killed at least 15 demonstrators after prayers on one of Islam's holiest days.

The announcement that Arab foreign ministers would hold another gathering came on Sunday, the fourth straight day of deadly violence since Syria agreed to the league's peace blueprint aimed at ending eight months of bloodshed.

The Arab League said a meeting was called for next Saturday because of "the continuation of violence and because the Syrian government did not implement its commitments in the Arab plan to resolve the Syrian crisis".

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani said "if Syria does not respect its commitments, the [Arab)]ministerial committee will meet again and take the necessary decisions".

A human rights group said that security forces killed at least 15 civilians as anti-regime demonstrations were staged across Syria on Sunday, the first day of the Eid al-Adha.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the killings made it clear that President Bashar al-Assad's regime had no intention of ending its bloody bid to crush dissent.

Anti-government protests

At least 10 of the civilians were killed in Homs, the flashpoint central city where protests against Assad's rule were held in most districts despite a military crackdown.

Most of the deaths occurred in the Baba Amro neighbourhood, where clashes have raged for days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement received in Nicosia.

Security forces also reportedly shot dead a civilian in the city of Hama, which lies further to the north, and another in Idlib province, near the border with Turkey.

In Talbi, a town near Homs, "four protesters were wounded, one seriously, when the security forces fired on a demonstration," the Britain-based observatory said.

"Dozens of people were injured by security forces who shot at a major demonstration in Kafruma, an area of the province of Idlib, in the northwest of Syria," it added.

Security forces also fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse a demonstration in Damascus's western Kafar Susseh neighbourhood, the watchdog said.

Five protesters were wounded and more than 70 people arrested during the Kafar Susseh crackdown, according to the observatory.

In other incidents, armed forces stormed and surrounded the villages of Zamalka and Irbin, in the province of Damascus, said the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an activist network spurring protests in Syria.

'Nationwide marches'

The latest reported crackdown on protests came as state radio said Assad attended Al-Nur mosque in the northern town of Raqqa for morning prayers to mark Eid al-Adha.

Following the prayers, nationwide marches were held in support of Homs and against the regime, said both the observatory and the LCC.

The latest deaths bring to at least 60 the number of people killed since Assad's government signed on to the Arab League peace plan on November 2.

The Arab roadmap calls for an end to violence, the release of those detained by security forces, the withdrawal of the army from urban areas and free movement for observers and the media, as well as talks between the government and opposition.

As a first step, Syria on Saturday said it had released more than 550 people who were arrested during anti-regime protests, to mark the Eid al-Adha feast.

However, the observatory said detainees in prisons across Syria had on Sunday begun hunger strikes in protest at the authorities "who are not keeping their promises of freedom".

The French foreign minister said it was now clear there was "nothing more to expect" from Assad's regime in terms of honouring its commitments under the Arab peace plan.

"Bashar al-Assad accepts the Arab League peace plan and the next day he massacres dozens more people in the streets," Juppe told Europe 1 radio on Sunday.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi had warned the failure of the deal would be "disastrous" for Syria and the region and demanded an immediate end to the bloodshed.

The UN estimates that more than 3,000 people have been killed in a brutal crackdown since anti-regime protests erupted in mid-March.

Man, 61, jailed for 'campaign of rape' against young girl

SEX offender Mohammed Eagle has been jailed for 16 years after repeatedly raping and indecently assaulting a young girl in a series of "grave and appalling" offences.
He caused her "humiliation and degradation" and forced her to commit sex acts with him, a court heard.
Eagle, 61, formerly of Milton Road, Grimsby, denied nine offences, including five of rape and four of indecent assault against the same victim. He was convicted by a jury after a trial at Grimsby Crown Court.
Judge Kate Buckingham told Eagle at a resumed hearing before Hull Crown Court: "You do not accept responsibility for the offences and consequently you show no remorse. Your current stance of complete denial does not bode well for your treatment. This was grave and appalling offending."
Eagle had "silenced" the girl by "warnings and pressure" and took advantage of her.
"The abuse has had a significant effect on her," said Judge Buckingham. "The effect of your offending on her has been very damaging."
Eagle, recently living in Bradford before being remanded in custody for 27 days, was given an indefinite sexual offences prevention order and was told to register as a sex offender indefinitely.
Nicholas Clarke, mitigating, said there had been a "campaign of rape" against the girl and the offences had affected the victim psychologically.
No violence, threats or particular pressure were used and the girl could now have some closure, said Mr Clarke.
Eagle was convicted after a second trial. A previous jury had been discharged in March after failing to reach verdicts. He had a previous conviction in 1978 for having unlawful sex with a 14-year-old girl and had been jailed for 18 months.
After the hearing, case officer Detective Constable Rebecca Houchin said: "It has been a long and traumatic time for the victim, but we will investigate thoroughly in cases such as this.
"It has been tough for her, but we will support victims through the prosecution and see them through to the end. We have got a good conviction on this occasion."

Malay group wants Ambiga cast out for Seksualiti link

Ambiga previously explained that she was not the event’s organiser. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 6 — A Malay education group today demanded for Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan’s citizenship to be revoked over her support of “Seksualiti Merdeka”, claiming her “wild” actions could cause chaos in the country.

Malay Education Movement (Gagasan) secretary-general Syed Anuar Syed Mohamad said in an Utusan Malaysia report today that the former Bar Council president should no longer be called a human as she had gone against “human norms” by raising issues deemed sensitive in a Muslim-majority country.

“She should be punished accordingly, like banishment or any other severe sentence, to make her realise her mistake,” he told Mingguan Malaysia, the paper’s Sunday edition.

The Federal Constitution, however, provides that no citizen may be banished or excluded from the Federation.

Today, Syed Anuar added Ambiga’s support for the banned Seksualiti Merdeka programme, which promotes sexual independence, advocates “a perverse sex culture” practised by lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT) in this country.

He said the Conference of Rulers could punish Ambiga, claiming she had touched on Islam when she “spread morality issues” banned by the religion.

“Although Malaysia is a democratic country, it does not mean Ambiga is given the freedom to do whatever she likes with her perverse ideology,” he said.

Police have already summoned the prominent lawyer for questioning on Tuesday in connection with her support for the banned sexual rights event.

Ambiga, the chairman of outlawed electoral reform group Bersih 2.0, had earlier agreed to launch Seksualiti Merdeka on Wednesday.

She stressed, however, that she did not organise the event and had only agreed to officiate the festival as a private citizen and not as a representative of Bersih.

Marina Mahathir, the daughter of former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was the guest of honour at the 2009 instalment of Seksualiti Merdeka.

Seksualiti Merdeka, a movement championing the freedom for sexual orientation and gender identity, has been holding the festival annually since 2008 but sparked a heated debate after the government banned the celebration on Friday.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Khalid Abu Bakar said the police were not against freedom of expression or human rights but had to step in because the organisers did not have a permit to hold the festival in public.

Khalid added the police were investigating the matter under section 298A of the Penal Code and Section 27A(1)(c) of the Police Act and had linked Ambiga to the movement.

Malay rights group Perkasa and other Muslim NGOs held small protests on Friday against the event outside mosques in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam, which they said insulted Islam as the religion of the country.

Seksualiti Merdeka’s organisers called off all public events yesterday in the interests of participants’ safety and are seeking a meeting with the Inspector-General of Police to explain the festival’s objectives.

Seksualiti Merdeka: I’m all ears, says IGP

But police would still carry out an investigation as provided for under the law, says Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar.

KUALA LUMPUR: Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar is prepared to meet with organisers of the “Seksualiti Merdeka 2011” and hear their explanation on the issue.

“I don’t have a problem meeting them. I am willing to meet anyone, as long as they have an objective… because we are talking about peace here.

“I don’t want to risk anything that might jeopardise peace in the country,” he told reporters after attending an Aidiladha function at Masjid Bukit Antarabangsa here today.

In a statement here last night, the programme organisers expressed a wish to meet with Ismail to explain their objective.

They regretted that the public, including the people’s representatives, had chosen to condemn the programme.

Ismail said police would still carry out an investigation as provided for under the law.

On the alleged involvement of former Bar Council president S Ambiga in the programme, Ismail maintained that the police would record her statement and those of the other organisers.

The programme, set for Nov 2 until Nov 13, was to have been held at the Central Market’s Annexe Gallery for the fourth time since 2008. It was cancelled after the police banned the functions organised by any group related to it to safeguard public order.

Various parties have also protested against the event which they saw as an attempt to promote lesbianism, homosexuality, bisexuality and transexuality, which they claimed were against society’s norm.

No publicity

Meanwhile, Federal Territories and Urban Well-Being Minister Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin said the government will take action against groups which organise functions related to the “Seksualiti Merdeka” programme here.

He said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) would periodically monitor the situation to ensure efforts to promote or encourage the programme was brought to a halt.

He said DBKL had the right to take action as such events were not given approval.

“If it is carried out at business premises, we can confiscate the premises, and if it’s held in public, we can take action against the organiser,” he said.

Raja Nong Chik was speaking to reporters at the Perdana Qurban Ceremony 2011 in Jalan Klang Lama here today.

He said although such programmes were carried out annually since 2008, DBKL had not received complaints as there was no publicity on the matter.