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Monday, November 21, 2011

Hindraf will join Pakatan on one condition’

Hindraf pro-temchairman Waythamoorthy said his party would only team up with Pakatan if the latter addresses Indian woes more effectively.

PETALING JAYA: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi is willing to join Pakatan Rakyat on one condition: the latter must look into the problems of the Indian community more effectively.

Hindraf pro-tem chairman P Waythamoorthy said Pakatan’s own lacklustre performance in dealing with the Indian problems had driven significant amount of the community’s support away from the opposition pact.

“This is why we had an ambivalent relationship with Pakatan for the past three years and they kept ignoring the Indians at their own peril,” he said.

He was responding to a call by DAP chairman Karpal Singh that all political parties opposed to the Barisan Nasional join Pakatan officially without any conditions attached.

“For now, there seems to be a 20% to 50% shift of the Indian votes away from Pakatan compared to 2008. This resulted in Pakatan losing several by-elections,” he added.

Waythamoorthy said that Pakatan should call for a meeting soon with Hindraf leaders to iron out details and take the matter to the next level.

Although the parties may have had their differences in the past, he said it was time for them to set aside their quarrels and unite to unseat the powerful BN in the next general election.

“There’s no way Hindraf or Pakatan by itself can remove BN from Putrajaya. Only a synergy between us will help us in the next polls,” Waythamoorthy said in a statement..

Karpal had set his sights on Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) and Human Rights Party (HRP) – the political outfit of Hindraf – to join Pakatan.

Socialist ideology

Waythamoorthy said that it was vital for them to enter a pact based on mutually agreed upon principles and not for convenience alone.

“With mutual understanding, we may see the scale being tipped back to Pakatan’s favour,” he said.

Echoing Waythamorrthy’s sentiments, PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvan also welcomed Karpal’s statement and hoped that Pakatan leaders would call for a meeting with them soon.

“Our position is that we will continue working with Pakatan to kick BN out from Putrajaya,” said Arutchelvan.

However, he rebutted Karpal’s statement on socialism, saying the world is seeing a revival of socialist ideology in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Karpal had reportedly said yesterday that “socialism is no longer a powerful political tool in the country as it was in 1960s. It’s about time PSM considered its socialist position to join Pakatan officially”.

Arutchelvan also said that many countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina are currently adopting socialist ideas in their policies to ensure that their people’s welfare is taken care of.

With Europe and the US going through a debt crisis, he said the people are aware of the mess the capitalist system had created for the world.

“Even in the US, there is a mass protest movement called Occupy Wall Street, which is taking place to oppose the capitalist system which only enriches a few.

“Even the superpower is talking about greater government involvement in regulating the markets, which is a socialist idea,” said Arutchelvan.

Death in custody – S Hendry (Pusat Pemulihan Akhlak Simpang Renggam; 19 Nov 2005)

Six years ago last week, 18-year-old Hendry s/o Sreedhran was found hanged in his cell at the Pusat Pemulihan Akhlak Simpang Renggam, less than 12 hours after he had been transferred to that detention centre.  

Prior to his arrival at the Simpang Renggam detention centre, S Hendry had already been detained at the Kajang police station lock-up for 29 consecutive days under four remand orders.  In each case, he was not charged in court due to insufficient evidence.  On the last day of the fourth remand period, he was released unconditionally but immediately arrested under section 3(1) of the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 (“POPOC”) and detained for a further 60 days at the same lock-up.  

Subsequently, S Hendry was transferred to the Simpang Renggam detention centre pursuant to an order that he be detained for two years under section 4(1) of POPOC.  Within 12 hours, he was found dead.

Pursuant to section 12 of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999, SUHAKAM established a three-person Panel of Inquiry, which conducted a public inquiry into S Hendry’s death in custody on 17 and 18 Feb 2006. 

The Panel found, among others, that:

  •  The continuous 29-day remand period was “excessive and too lengthy”;

  •  Various provisions of the Lock-up Rules 1953 had been contravened by the Medical Officer and the Police; and

  •  The personnel at the detention centre, including the warders, the Chief Officer and the Officer-in-Charge, had been negligent and/or had failed to discharge their obligations diligently with respect to many aspects of the detention centre’s operations.

  • The Panel’s recommended, inter alia, that:

  •  A legal provision be introduced to set a custody time limit to avoid an accused person languishing in jail for an excessively long period;

  •  There be strict compliance with section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code (“CPC”), “so that a remand order can only be granted if ‘investigation cannot be completed within 24 hours’ and (emphasis added) there are ‘grounds for believing that the accusation or information is well founded’";

  •  The Police be advised of the circular “issued in 2003 advising Magistrates that the onus is upon the Police to satisfy the Magistrate that more time is needed to complete investigations, bearing in mind the obligation to submit a diary of proceedings in investigations under section 119 of the CPC and if remand is necessary, short remand periods are to be given”; and

  •  Section 117 of the CPC be amended “to provide that the Magistrate who makes a remand order, must be satisfied, that upon material produced by the Police, there is sufficient justification linking the detainee to the offence being investigated”.

  • In July 2009, the Dewan Rakyat was told that some 2,029 detainees died in prisons, rehabilitation centres and immigration detention centres between 2002 and 1 June 2009.  This figure would mean that an average of one person dies in custody in these centres of detention almost every day!

    In addition, based on the statistics disclosed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, 156 persons died in police custody from the year 2000 until Feb 2011.

    We express our heartfelt condolences to S Hendry’s family and friends on this anniversary of his death.

    Death in police custody – R Sundara Raju (detained at Klang police station; 18 Nov 2002)

    Nine years ago last week, 32-year-old R Sundara Raju died of injuries sustained while he was being held in police custody at the Klang police station lock-up.

    He had been arrested on 11 Nov2002, and was admitted to the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang a few days later, after he had reportedly been beaten up in the lock-up.  He died in the hospital after being in a coma for three days.  It does not appear that the cause of his injuries has been made known.

    Despite the requirement that all custodial deaths be investigated by inquiries conducted pursuant to Chapter XXXII of the Criminal Procedure Code, it is not clear that an inquest has been conducted into R Sundara Raju’s death.

    Every death in custody must be thoroughly and impartially investigated.  R Sundara Raju’s death must not be relegated to a mere statistic. 
    Based on the statistics disclosed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, 156 persons died in police custody from the year 2000 until Feb 2011.

    We express our heartfelt condolences to R Sundara Raju’s family and friends on this anniversary of his death.

    BANGI, Nov 21 (Bernama) -- Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today instructed school teachers to hand over the one-off RM100 schooling aid in full to the parents of all students. "It is the responsibility of the teachers to hand over the RM100 to the parents of every student, no questions asked. There should be no deduction whatsoever. Just hand over the RM100," he said. Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said every student in government and private schools was entitled to the aid. "If there is any intention to deduct money for the parent-teacher association and such, that is secondary. For now, the RM100 must be handed over in full, nothing more and nothing less," he told reporters after handing over the "Ilham Desa" national awards, here. He said the RM100 must be handed over in keeping with the provision in Budget 2012 tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Muhyiddin was asked to comment on reports that some schools were making deductions from the RM100 for parent-teacher association fees and such. Under Budget 2012, the government has allocated RM530 million to give the one-off RM100 schooling aid to each of the estimated 5.3 million students in the country to ease their parents' financial burden in preparing for their next school year. Many schools began handing out the money last week before they closed for the year-end holidays. Muhyiddin said parents can complain to the headmasters/principals or the district education officers if deductions have been made from the RM100.

    BANGI, Nov 21 (Bernama) -- Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today instructed school teachers to hand over the one-off RM100 schooling aid in full to the parents of all students.

    "It is the responsibility of the teachers to hand over the RM100 to the parents of every student, no questions asked. There should be no deduction whatsoever. Just hand over the RM100," he said.

    Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said every student in government and private schools was entitled to the aid.

    "If there is any intention to deduct money for the parent-teacher association and such, that is secondary. For now, the RM100 must be handed over in full, nothing more and nothing less," he told reporters after handing over the "Ilham Desa" national awards, here.

    He said the RM100 must be handed over in keeping with the provision in Budget 2012 tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

    Muhyiddin was asked to comment on reports that some schools were making deductions from the RM100 for parent-teacher association fees and such.

    Under Budget 2012, the government has allocated RM530 million to give the one-off RM100 schooling aid to each of the estimated 5.3 million students in the country to ease their parents' financial burden in preparing for their next school year.

    Many schools began handing out the money last week before they closed for the year-end holidays.

    Muhyiddin said parents can complain to the headmasters/principals or the district education officers if deductions have been made from the RM100.

    Standoff sets in at Egypt's Tahrir Square

    Thousands of protesters are regrouping in central Cairo after day of clashes with security forces that left 11 dead.

    A stalemate has settled over the Egyptian capital's Tahrir Square following a day of deadly clashes between security forces and protesters.

    The square, which has been the scene of street battles between riot police and activists demanding an end to Egypt's military leadership, was relatively calm on Sunday night after protesters regained control of the area and began calling for reinforcements.

    Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said all police and security forces had retreated from the square to side streets in the surrounding the area.

    Tadros estimated as many as 3,000 protesters had returned to the square just hours after being dispersed earlier in the day by riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

    Al Jazeera's security team in Cairo reported that sources in the city's morgue said they had received the bodies of 11 people killed when military and police forces made their assault on Tahrir Square.

    Protesters regroup

    Despite the harsh crackdown, demonstrators were regrouping in the square as the night continued. Many were seen clutching gas masks, apparently anticipating further clashes with security forces in the hours, or days, to come.

    "It is clear [the protesters] won't leave and they are very much trying to keep police from re-entering the square," Tadros said.

    She continued: "There is concern that the military government has hijacked their revolution and [the country] has swapped one regime for another regime, and they want an end to that."

    Meanwhile, witnesses said skirmishes continued to erupt in the alleyways and side streets of Tahrir under the dense fog of tear gas.

    The lull in violence in the main square came after police armed with batons and shields charged into the front lines of protesters who had been blockading the entrances to the square since Saturday.

    Police fired rubber bullets and forcibly cleared the area in an assault that sparked panic among the estimated 5,000 protesters.

    A short time after the offensive, a surge of protesters returned to the square, overwhelming security forces and retaking the area.

    Escalating violence

    "This is what the Egyptian army calls protecting the revolution," Salma Said, a democracy activist, told Al Jazeera. "We’ve lost so many people in the last nine months. We want [interim military leader] Field Marshall Tantawi gone. We’re going to keep fighting; we don’t have any other options."

    Before the protesters regrouped in the plaza, military police torched tents in the middle of the square, and witnesses reported security forces burning protesters' motorcycles and other belongings.

    As the events in Tahrir continued to unfold, Egypt’s Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and members of his government met the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. The meeting followed crisis talks between Sharaf and his cabinet ministers.

    Sunday's violence followed a day of clashes in downtown Cairo and other major cities, with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. At least two people were killed and hundreds wounded across the country on Saturday.

    As our correspondent pointed out, the escalating violence comes just eight days before the country's first national elections since Hosni Mubarak, the former president, was forced from power in February.

    Even so, she said: "People here are not thinking about elections they are thinking about their revolution and how to finish it."

    Gaddafi son's capture complicates struggle over cabinet

    (BBC)The capture of the late Libyan leader's second eldest son and heir apparent, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, is a boon for all Libyans - but a complicating factor in current negotiations to form a new government.

    A proper trial - either inside Libya or in the International Criminal Court in the Hague - is also likely bring to light the shadowy financial dealings of the previous regime.

    This process will not only help bring closure for many Libyans who suffered under the Gaddafis but could also unearth pillaged Libyan assets and corrupt former-regime officials who have until now escaped detection.

    However, more important than either of those outcomes may be the manner of Saif's capture.

    It grants even more power to the local militias in their bargaining with the central authorities of the National Transitional Council (NTC). That bargaining is now at its most intense.

    NTC tested

    Since Tripoli fell three months ago, the ruling NTC has struggled to figure out a magic power-sharing formula between local militias and seasoned technocrats.

    Its efforts to govern, centralise, and create a unified chain of command have been hampered by its lack of control over the militias and attempt to govern without a cabinet.

    Frequent delays in announcing a cabinet since its dissolution on 8 August have called into question the NTC's ability to rein in the militias and steward Libya through the transition phase.

    According to the NTC's draft constitutional charter, interim Prime Minister Dr Abdurrahim al-Keib has until 22 November to announce his cabinet, which will be subject to a confidence vote by the NTC.

    If that passes, the new cabinet will run the interim government until the election of a national assembly in about eight months.

    A poorly selected cabinet could fall immediately if public pressure against it mounts or if enraged militias cause chaos.

    But ripping up the NTC charter by ignoring the deadline would explode the NTC's carefully constructed constitutional edifice.

    Finding the right mix of cabinet ministers is crucial to addressing internal power struggles amongst existing Council members and to including previously sidelined local militia members.

    Militia's warning

    Key militias groups like the Zintanis, who captured Saif, or the Misratans, who killed Muammar Gaddafi, have both the organisational networks and the admiration of the Libyan people to demand key posts in the new government.

    One militia leader in Tripoli, Abdullah Naker, warned on Wednesday that "if we find we have the same dictatorship, we will respond in the same way".

    Therefore, the NTC's doling out of cabinet posts to Misratan, Zintani, and Tripolitanian revolutionary militiamen and extension of an olive branch to the former loyalist strongholds of Bani Walid and Sirte is unlikely to be sufficient to unite Libya or even lessen the prevailing centrifugal forces.

    The local groupings themselves need to align on a vision of a new Libya in which they feel comfortable giving up their arms and their effective veto on the NTC's ability to appoint a cabinet universally recognised as legitimate.

    However, since the start of November these groups have been involved in sporadic military clashes, so the NTC must tread especially delicately to avoid being seen to favour one group over the others.

    Yet, having captured Saif, if the Zintanis makes ultimatums the NTC may not be in any position to reject their demands. Leading Zintani militiamen have insisted that they will not turn over Saif to the NTC unless they receive assurances that he will be tried in Libya.

    They may also have planned to declare his capture right before the cabinet was set to be announced, to use as a bargaining chip for ministerial positions.

    From the NTC perspective, it would seem wise to give ministerial posts to a few popular Islamist, Misratan, and Zintani militia leaders even if they lack managerial experience.

    Yet at the same time, the NTC's inner circle of technocrats are clearly hesitant to pick militiamen and popular local leaders to run the ministries, because they know that precisely those groups which need to be appeased lack the skills required to run the ministries.

    Libya, much like Greece and Italy, is struggling to balance elite technocrats who bring stability with popular politicians who bring legitimacy.

    Therefore, Prime Minister Keib has two options when he announces the cabinet: He can reappoint the same key players that have thus far led the interim government, or he can turn to the local leaders that have gained popularity because of their successes in killing and capturing the Gaddafi clan during the uprising.

    Either choice is fraught with peril, and the dilemma has been sharpened in the aftermath of Saif's capture.

    It is likely he will take a middle road, attempting to square the circle. It is unlikely that whatever he chooses will be satisfactory to most interested parties.

    Yet the price of inaction is far steeper still.

    Jason Pack is a researcher at Cambridge University on Libyan history. Shashank Joshi is an Associate Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

    Bangladesh finally confronts war crimes 40 years on

    Ferdousy Priyabhashini  
    Ferdousy Priyabhashini says she was a victim of Pakistani war crimes
    Like many other Bengalis, eminent sculptor Ferdousy Priyabhashini is happy to see those accused of mass murder and rape during Bangladesh's 1971 independence war finally stand trial.

    Ms Priyabhashini was 23 at that time, when a group of Pakistani soldiers and their Bangladeshi associates stormed into her house and dragged her away. Her husband and three children watched helplessly as she was bundled into an army jeep.

    For seven months, she was repeatedly raped and tortured at an army camp in the capital Dhaka, she says.

    "I was subjected to extreme physical and mental torture. They had no mercy. Many of my friends and relatives were killed in front of me," she said.

    "It is heartening to see, 40 years after those atrocities, that some of those responsible for those gruesome acts are in the dock," Ms Priyabhashini said.

    Violent birth

    A Mukti Bahini guerrilla about to bayonet  men accused of collaboration with Pakistan during Bangladesh's war of  independence, at a racecourse in Dhaka, 1971  
    Suspected collaborators were sometimes killed by their captors.
    Bangladesh is yet to come to terms with its violent birth in 1971, after the Pakistani government sent in 
    its army to stop was what was then East Pakistan from becoming independent.

    It is not exactly clear how many people died, but official figures estimate that more than three million people were killed and hundreds of thousands of women raped during the nine-month bloody battle.

    The minority Hindu community was particularly targeted. Many Hindus were even forcibly converted to Islam.

    The war ended with the surrender of Pakistani forces to India, which intervened after millions of refugees flooded its eastern states to escape the brutality.

    Soon after the war, there were demands from the victims and human rights groups to try those responsible for the slaughter, rape and looting.

    However, Delhi, Dhaka and Islamabad agreed not to pursue war-crimes charges against the Pakistani soldiers, who were allowed to go back to their country.
    Collaborators pursued

    Despite various attempts, efforts to try those Bangladeshis who allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani forces did not materialise until last year.

    In 2010, for the first time, the Awami League-led government set up the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) to try those Bangladeshis accused of collaborating with Pakistani forces and committing atrocities.

    So far seven people, including two from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and five from the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, have been arrested and are facing trial in Dhaka. All of them deny the charges.

    The Jamaat-e-Islami is the country's largest Islamist party and it opposed Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan at that time. Some of its members allegedly fought alongside the Pakistani army.

    However, the two opposition parties accuse the government of carrying out a vendetta and trying to use the trial to curb their political activities.

    "The trial will be transparent and independent. International observers will be allowed to come and watch the trial. The accused will be given full opportunity to defend their case," said the Bangladeshi law minister, Shafique Ahmed.

    Despite the overwhelming public opinion in support of the trial, there are some bottlenecks.

    Fair trial doubts
    Delwar Hossain Sayedee (C) emerges from the Bangladesh International Crimes Tribunal in Dhaka on August 10, 2011  
    The leader of Jamaat-e-Islami is accused of more than 50 killings during the war.

    First of all, this tribunal is almost a domestic set-up and the three judges sitting on the tribunal are from Bangladesh. The United Nations and other international agencies do not have any major role to play.

    Human rights groups said some of the rules were not consistent with international standards, as followed by war crimes tribunals in Rwanda or Cambodia.

    "Bangladesh has promised to meet international standards in these trials, but it has some way to go to meet this commitment," Human Rights Watch said in a statement issued earlier this year.

    Defence counsels also complained about a lack of time for their team to prepare for the case. They also argued that Bangladesh didn't have the expertise to try war crimes, so the trials could not be fair.

    "Both prosecution and defence do not have sufficient training in a trial of this magnitude," argued Abdur Razaaq, a senior lawyer for the accused and also a leader of the Jamaat.

    "Our legal infrastructure is also not adequate to handle this case. So, how we can expect a fair trial?"
    'Culture of impunity'

    However, the government vehemently argued that it had enough legal expertise and manpower to conduct the trial. It promised that there would not be any political interference or revenge.

    Despite the debate over whether or not the tribunal meets international standards, there is broad agreement in the country that the trial is long overdue. The consequences are likely to be severe if it doesn't go ahead this time.

    "The trial will put an end to the culture of impunity, said Aly Zaker, an eminent writer and director.

    "If not, the peace and harmony which the people of Bangladesh are trying to practise can be totally destroyed. So this trial is very important for our country and our people," he said.

    Subra in Coma for 8 days

    Sunday, November 20, 2011, 9:54:22 PM - Chances for regaining consciousness is slipping day –by- day for the former MIC deputy president. Today is the 8th day since the brain operation. Subra, who celebrated his birthday recently on 26.11.11 where PM Najib was the chief guest, was admitted to Asunta Hospital on 11.11.11 sometime after 11 PM.

    Read More

    Hisham rebuts Dr M, says Umno has improved

    Hishammuddin said Umno members must rise up to answer Dr Mahathir’s challenge. — File pic

    KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein dismissed today Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s claim that Umno has not improved since Election 2008 and was unable to garner Malay support.

    The former Umno president had said in an interview with Utusan Malaysia that Umno was a pale shadow of its former glory, and that it currently lacked good, credible leaders.

    But Umno vice president Hishammuddin told reporters “this is not something unique to Umno. I do not deny that this will hamper our process... but we are going through a revision and transformation.”

    He said that it was not unusual for Dr Mahathir to throw out challenges and ideas for the party ahead of a general assembly, and that party members would need to rise to the occasion.

    Hishammuddin said that today’s special presidential briefing by Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak showed that the party was getting ready for the upcoming general election.

    “This will answer a part of Tun’s concerns,” the home minister added.

    Dr Mahathir was quoted by Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia today as saying “Umno became badly damaged when Tun Abdullah Badawi took over.”

    “Because he prioritised his family and there were so many corruption allegations. And everyone knew about his son-in-law’s involvement,” he said, referring to Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.

    “This damaged Umno has been inherited by Datuk Seri Najib Razak for him to fix. Umno needs time before it can become stronger.

    “But he (Najib) is busy and does not have enough time,” he said.

    In one of his harshest remarks against his party, Dr Mahathir said the issue of credible leaders affected Umno’s divisional level as well as the central leadership.

    He said that some Umno leaders were only interested in holding on to a particular post within the party, or wanted to contest in the next general election and did not care about strengthening the party.

    The former prime minister remained sceptical about Umno’s upcoming assembly, saying that he doubted party leaders would actually use it as a platform to resolve outstanding issues.

    Umno goes into what is likely to be its last general assembly before a general election expected early next year.

    Prime Minister Najib is said to need a marked improvement from the last polls to retain his position and only a return of Barisan Nasional’s customary two-thirds majority of Parliament can guarantee he remains in office.

    BN ceded 82 federal seats and five state governments to the opposition in the landmark March 2008 election.

    Dr M says Umno must befriend Perkasa to regain Malay votes

    Dr Mahathir is patron to Perkasa. — File pic
    KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said Umno cannot afford to make enemies with Malay rights groups such as Perkasa if it is to regain the crucial Malay vote in a general election expected soon.

    The former prime minister said in an interview published by Utusan Malaysia today that the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) had suffered landmark losses in Election 2008 because “Malays did not support BN.”

    “If only Chinese support, it will not be enough. In many areas where Chinese are split, Malays will decide who wins,” Dr Mahathir was quoted as saying in the newspaper’s Sunday edition, Mingguan Malaysia.

    The former Umno president, who is still highly influential in Umno, said many Malay non-governmental organisations wanted to support the party but were forced to take up issues that were not championed by the senior partner in the ruling coalition.

    “Umno cannot afford to view Perkasa as the enemy. We cannot afford to have many enemies at this point,” Dr Mahathir, who is also Perkasa’s patron, said.

    He also said Umno had a problem attracting Malays as high-calibre members of the community “are not accepted in Umno, so they join PAS.”

    Umno goes into what is likely to be its last general assembly before a general election expected early next year.

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is said to need a marked improvement from the last polls to retain his position and only a return of BN’s customary two-thirds majority of Parliament can guarantee he remains in office.

    BN ceded 82 federal seats and five state governments to the opposition in the landmark March 2008 election.

    Fireworks guaranteed at Perak assembly sitting

    BN is set to keep the budget sitting on Monday short and sweet, coupled with sufficient dose of ammunition to hit at Pakatan reps

    It has been more than two years since the Perak power-grab orchestrated by BN enabled them to take control of the Silver State on Feb 5, 2009.

    Since then, the Perak State Assembly sittings have always been chaotic affairs due to the antics of the BN-installed Speaker who never fails to switch-off the microphones of the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers.

    The upcoming Perak State Assembly sitting on Monday Nov 21 promises to be exciting as the court-installed Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir will be presenting the Perak 2012 Budget.

    It must be mentioned that the Perak State Assembly is the only one of its kind in the world after the BN-masterminded power grab. Moreover, the BN speaker silences the voice of the PR lawmakers by switching off the latter’s microphones.

    In a Machiavellian and well-executed move planned during the 2009 Chinese Lunar New Year period, three state assemblymen from PR declared themselves to be BN-friendly and that was the coup-de-grace that toppled Perak.

    Subsequently, the court battles between the PAS Menteri Besar Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin and the BN-installed Menteri Besar Zambry ended on Feb 9, 2010 with the Federal Court’s 5-0 decision in favour of Zambry as the legal and valid Menteri Besar.

    Chief Judge of Malaya Justice Arifin Zakaria, who read out the decision said the Bench found that the Court of Appeal was justified in reversing the High Court decision which had earlier declared Nizar as the rightful Perak Menteri Besar.

    That the Court Of Appeal’s decision was expected was not surprising but what was surprising was the 5-0 verdict as many had expected it to be a close verdict of 3-2. Nizar had labelled the verdict as the death of democracy.

    Be that as it may, a recap of state assembly sittings post-Feb 5, 2009, revealed that after the coup on that said date there has been nothing but constant bullying of the Pakatan state assemblymen by BN lawmakers making it difficult for the Pakatan men to fulfill their duties.

    One of the most famous events that should be remembered by all those who fight for democracy is the Democracy Tree Assembly held on March 3, 2009, where the PR state assemblymen were forced to hold the Dewan sitting by assembling under a huge rainforest tree near the Perak DAP HQ due to being locked out of the State Secretariat Building where the Dewan sittings take place.

    The road leading to the State Secretariat Building was being barricaded by hundreds of FRU and police force personnel on March 3, 2009 in BN’s show of force in clamping down on democracy.

    This solemn yet moving assembly under the rainforest tree was really a people’s assembly as it was held alfresco with members of the public being present in the Dewan itself, standing together shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pakatan state assemblymen as the Speaker, DAP’s V Sivakumar called the assembly to order according to proctocol proceedings.

    Many of those present were moved to tears at this event which was later made into a DVD entitled ‘The Democracy Tree DVD’. A plaque mounted up at the assembly spot commemorating the event was vandalised and broken up but the broken fragments were later auctioned off for the purpose of fund-raising and Pakatan managed to collect a tidy sum of about RM40,000.

    Black Thursday

    Another memorable event was the ‘Black Thursday Incident’, otherwise known as ‘The Chair Incident’ which occurred on May 7, 2009.

    Black was the colour worn by those in solidarity with the PR state assemblymen to symbolize mourning for democracy which has died.

    Scores of people were arrested by the police for wearing black. Among those arrested were Wong Chin Huat (a university lecturer and social activist of Bersih), Pakatan MPs and state assemblymen from outside Perak and members of the public.

    This incident was also known as the ‘The Chair Incident’ due to the chaotic incident surrounding the Speaker’s Chair.

    While there was chaos outside the State Secretariat Building due to the mass arrests of protesters in black, inside the Dewan there was pandemonium as well.

    Dewan Speaker Sivakumar of Tronoh together with his chair was forcefully bundled out of the Dewan not only by Dewan personnel who took instructions from Zambry but also by ‘unidentified forces’ (there were many unidentified people in the Dewan at that material time) and locked up in the store room for about an hour while BN ‘installed’ MIC’s Ganesan as Speaker in an investiture ceremony (putting the Speaker’s robe on him).

    All hell broke loose as the Pakatan side protested strongly against what was going on although the situation was very intimidating with hundreds of policemen inside and outside the Dewan.

    It was absolute shambles on May 7, 2009! A black event indeed.

    There was also a nasty incident on Oct 28, 2009 called ‘The Ambush In The Tunnel’. In this incident, the PR state assemblymen were not allowed to enter the Dewan using the main door but were instead instructed to enter the Dewan via the tunnel from the car park.

    While walking in the tunnel passageway towards the Dewan, the Pakatan state assemblymen were beaten up and the worst to suffer were Sivakumar who was strangled and punched in the stomach while DAP’s Nga Kor Ming (state rep of Pantai Remis) had his testicles grabbed during the melee. Nga subsequently made a police report in regards to that.

    All the Perak State Assembly sittings after the BN power-grab has been lop-sided affairs.

    Only the BN lawmakers are allowed to participate as the Pakatan side have been silenced due to their microphones being switched off.

    These acrimonious sittings have also provided BN with an excuse to indulge in name-calling with Zambry calling Nizar ‘bangang’ and ‘bahlol’ (translated as ‘moron’ and ‘ignoramus’ respectively) in the state assembly sitting in April this year.

    Short meetings

    The assembly sittings during Zambry’s tenure also tend to be short, sometimes lasting about three hours only as the BN lawmakers took the opportunity to bulldoze everything through especially Supply Bills where additional allocation of funds are disbursed.

    These Supply Bills are an excuse for BN to obtain their budget allocations.

    During Nizar’s 11-month tenure, he managed to keep the books in the black but now the BN state government has already incurred a budget deficit although this was vehemently denied by Zambry who stated that the state had plenty of reserves.

    Zambry had claimed that the state had high reserves valued at more than RM800 million according to book value in the form of investment stocks and fixed deposits while Pakatan state assemblymen claimed that Perak has a record budget deficit of almost RM104 million.

    Under the BN administration, besides financial fiascos, there were other not-so-common mishaps (besides an increase in road mishaps) leading to loss of lives.

    Among these not-so-common mishaps were an old building which crumbled and fell on two Malay youths killing them while three Indian female pupils lost their lives doing a night crossing on the Kuala Dipang bridge in a school excursion and three Chinese youths lost their lives swimming in the waterfalls.1Malaysia indeed! All these catastrophes happened in the later part of 2009.

    However, the greatest loss of lives occurred was in the Simpang Pulai bus crash in in 2010 where 28 people (mostly tourists from Thailand) died in one of Malaysia’s most horrific road accidents in history.

    In regards to mismanagement, the proposal to turn Perak into a ‘shoe city’ for tourism purposes in December last year seem to have fizzled out from the radar.

    And the most recent fiasco was in early May 2011 where Zambry blamed the state’s investment arm, Perak State Development Corporation for failing to brief him on the now-cancelled memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a company from Hong Kong which had intentions to mine rare earth in Bukit Merah.

    Zambry being the said corporation’s chairman should have known what is going on and this indicates that he does not attend the board meetings eventhough this is such an important agency under his supervision.

    This whole incident simply shows that Zambry is sleeping on the job.

    Besides the above fiascoes, the more recent one earlier this year involves a snake. A village representative from Kampung DBI named S Subramaniam presented Zambry with a python as a means of attracting attention to their woes and also to seek assistance from the state authorities to get rid of the snake menace troubling the villagers and endangering their lives.

    Sightings of snakes are common in the village and according to online news portal TV Selangor, a villager had died recently after being bitten by a snake. The state authorities’ inaction despite many complaints was the cause of the villagers presenting Zambry with the python.

    It is high time Perakians wake up and vote in an efficient government if they want their problems solved quickly and the state’s finances to remain healthy, snakes notwithstanding.

    By the way, the forthcoming state assembly will predictably end up in shambles no thanks to BN running it in a haphazard manner. Imminent bombardment is in store for the PR lawmakers, though.

    Selena Tay believes that Pakatan Rakyat will be better at governing the nation. She is a FMT columnist.

    We’ll educate social media users, says Rais

    The government prefers to educate its citizens to be more responsible about what they post online.

    RaisYatimFeat1-621x443KUALA LUMPUR: It is impossible to monitor all the information on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and various other new internet mediums, especially so with an estimated 12 million users in the country, said Information, Communications and Culture Minister Rais Yatim.

    “It should not be monitored and no one can monitor Facebook or Twitter as the number of users are too big. No one can monitor 12 million users for example,” he said to Bernama after the launch of the 1Malaysia Social Media Convention by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak here, today.

    Instead, the government hoped that the network users would become more responsible through the education they receive periodically on the matter, he emphasised.

    He noted that, even in the United States, a debate has started as to whether the role of social media should be monitored, but the Malaysian government preferred to educate its citizens to be more responsible about what they post on these sites.

    However, not everything on social media networks is bad, as it has certain aspects which can raise the standard of living, he added.

    “For example, the Prime Minister has suggested that Barisan Nasional leaders who are internet savvy should use the social media in their careers,” he said.

    More than 2,000 social media users, particularly pro government bloggers attended the one day convention.

    IGP seeks public help to reduce crime

    The police chief says with help and support from the public, the crime index could be further reduced.

    KUALA LUMPUR: Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar has urged the public to provide police with new ideas or proposals on how to reduce crime rates in the country.

    Ismail said these could be forwarded to the respective state or district police chiefs, the police public relations officer or through Facebook.

    “Perhaps, there are some measures that we (police) have not thought about. If feasible, we will implement them and give the individuals concerned prizes as as a token of our appreciation,” he said after launching the Selangor-level Crime Prevention Awareness at the Curve shopping mall in Mutiara Damansara, near here, yesterday.

    The programme is jointly organised by the Selangor police contingent headquarters, Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation and the Youth and Sports Ministry.

    Ismail said with help and support from the public, the crime index could be further reduced.

    He said the 26 police initiatives under the National Key Result Area had shown some positive results, with the people themselves asking the police how they could help to reduce crime.

    “This means they are more focused and willing to cooperate with police for public safety,” he said, adding that the success of the initiatives had placed Malaysia 19th in ranking out of 153 countries on the Global Peace Index.

    Earlier, Ismail launched the book, ‘Beyond Policing-The Strategic Shift’ written by Selangor police chief Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah with independent speaker Khoo Kheng Hor.

    The 179-page book priced at RM25, contains tips on how the community can cooperate in combating crime. The book is available at all MPH outlets nationwide.

    - Bernama

    Unite under Pakatan, Karpal tells anti-BN parties

    DAP national chairman Karpal Singh urges political parties unhappy with Umno-BN to join Pakatan officially to face the 13th General Election

    GEORGE TOWN: DAP national chairman Karpal Singh urged all political parties unhappy with Barisan Nasional to join Pakatan Rakyat officially to face the next general .

    However, he said the parties should apply to join Pakatan without any conditions attached.

    He particularly had his sights on Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), Human Rights Party (HRP) and Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) who he said should join Pakatan now unconditionally.

    He said these parties should know that the 13th General Election presented a great chance for Malaysians to oust Umno and BN from federal power for the first time since the country achieved independence.

    “They should join us unconditionally and not become spoilers. Together we can replace BN in Putrajaya,” said Karpal, the Bukit Gelugor MP.
    Karpal assured that Pakatan leadership would give all unconditional applications from any party due consideration.

    However, he said any conditional application, especially those demanding seats, would not be entertained because it would put all anti-BN parties in a “no win situation.”

    Although PSM is Pakatan-friendly and contested in three seats under PKR ticket in the last general election, in which it won two, the party still remains outside Pakatan.

    In 2008, PSM national chairman Dr Nasir Hashim won the Kota Damansara assembly seat while another leader Dr Micheal Jeyakumar won the Sungai Siput parliamentary seat.

    PSM secretary-general S Arutchelvam lost in the Semenyih state seat in Selangor.

    ‘Socialism no longer a powerful political tool’

    PSM was also involved in a three-cornered fight in the Perak state seat of Jelapang when it fielded national deputy chairperson M Saraswathy as an independent candidate against DAP’s Hee Yit Foong and BN’s Loh Koi Pin.

    Hee, who won the contest, has since quit DAP to become a BN-friendly Independent.

    “Socialism is no longer a powerful political tool in the country as it was in 1960s. It’s about time PSM considers its socialist position to join Pakatan officially,” said Karpal.

    HRP has also stated that it would contest in certain federal and state seats against both Pakatan and BN if Pakatan refused to accept it as equal partner.

    PRM recently announced that it would contest Balik Pulau federal seat in Penang and, Petaling Jaya Selatan parliamentary and Selayang state seats in Selangor in the next election.

    Karpal cautioned that any multi-cornered contest in the next election would only benefit BN, hence nullifying an opportunity for Malaysians to see a new federal government.

    He said PSM, HRP and PRM should gauge their strength first before making demands in joining Pakatan.

    “They should join us first unconditionally and then request for seats. I’m sure the Pakatan leadership would consider their request in a fair and just manner,” said the Pakatan leader.


    1. Masyarakat mana-mana pun tahu adanya orang yang dilahirkan dengan jantina tidak menentu. Ada yang memiliki tubuh badan lelaki tetapi bahagian-bahagian tertentu lebih mirip kepada perempuan. Mereka dikenali sebagai pondan atau ponen dan ada yang sebaliknya, iaitu tubuh badan perempuan tetapi mirip lelaki.

    2. Mereka diterima oleh masyarakat sejak dahulukala lagi tanpa banyak masalah.

    3. Tetapi di Barat, kerana gerakan bagi mendaulatkan kebebasan (freedom), mereka ini digesa untuk menuntut hak supaya diiktiraf sebagai sejenis yang berlainan. Mereka juga manusia dan manusia mesti diberi kebebasan untuk melakukan apa sahaja.

    4. Yang menjadi masalah ialah mereka yang tidak ada apa-apa kecacatan tetapi menuntut supaya larangan agama dan undang-undang terhadap perbuatan seks di luar tabii seperti meliwat dihalalkan.

    5. Dari sini tuntutan diteruskan untuk bukan sahaja dihalalkan seks songsang tetapi juga perkahwinan sejenis, lelaki dengan lelaki, perempuan dengan perempuan. Akhirnya perlakuan seks dibebaskan di Barat sehingga apa sahaja diterima oleh masyarakat sebagai hak seseorang manusia. Anak perempuan dan anak lelaki belasan tahun pun boleh tidur dengan siapa sahaja, melakukan apa jenis seks sesuka hati mereka. Tidak ada lagi anak dara atau teruna semasa berkahwin.

    6. Kita banyak terpengaruh dan menerima pendapat dan nilai hidup serta adat resam Barat. Kita hidup dalam dunia yang berpusat kepada Eropah (Eurocentric). Kita terima sistem pemerintahan demokrasi umpamanya.

    7. Tetapi perlukah kita turut dan terima segala-galanya yang dilakukan di Barat? Sebenarnya budaya dan nilai hidup Barat sudah runtuh, runtuh kerana terlangsung taksub dengan kebebasan (freedom). Apa sahaja yang hendak dilakukan oleh seseorang individu tidak boleh dilarang kerana larangan bermakna menidakkan hak asasi individu atau kumpulan.

    8. Sesuatu yang dilarang oleh agama memang mempunyai sebabnya. Mungkin kita tidak kenal atau tahu sebabnya. Tetapi kita harus ingat penyakit HIV Aids dahulu tidak ada. Ia mula dikenali dikalangan mereka yang mengamalkan seks songsang di California, Amerika Syarikat, secara pilihan walaupun tidak ada kecacatan apa-apa. Sehingga kini tidak ada ubat yang boleh menyembuh penyakit HIV Aids. Mereka yang mengidap penyakit ini bukan sahaja akan musnahkan diri sendiri tetapi juga isteri, suami dan anak cucu. Mereka tidak akan hidup sempurna.

    9. Manusia yang bertamadun tidak menurut nafsu semata-mata. Budaya Barat menggalakkan manusia mengikut nafsu. Kebebasan bagi mereka bermakna apa sahaja yang didorong oleh nafsu tidak boleh ditegah oleh agama atau undang-undang manusia.

    10. Sifat ini adalah sifat haiwan. Manusia memiliki akal fikiran. Orang yang bertamadun menggunakan akal fikiran untuk menghalang diri dari terikut-ikut dengan nafsu. Sebabnya nafsu perlu dibendung ialah sesuatu yang tidak baik akan menimpa mereka yang mengikut nafsu. Tamadun yang utamakan nafsu akan runtuh akhirnya.

    11. Kita sedang melihat keruntuhan akhlak dalam masyarakat Barat. Sementara agama mereka melarang seks songsang, paderi mereka secara terbuka mengamalkan seks songsang. Mereka ditugaskan untuk mengahwini sepasang lelaki dan perempuan. Apakah maknanya apabila mereka menasihati pasangan itu supaya setia kepada masing-masing. Sesungguhnya institusi perkahwinan dan kekeluargaan sudah luput dalam masyarakat Barat. Ramai daripada mereka tidak tahu siapa bapa mereka. Kemungkinan besar akan berlaku perkahwinan atau hubungan seks antara adik dengan abang, kakak dengan adik, bapa dengan anak, anak dengan ibu.

    12. Mereka yang taksub dengan kebebasan akan berkata apa salahnya jika ini berlaku. Percayalah, masyarakat selepas ini akan dipenuhi dengan manusia yang cacat tubuh-badan, cacat akal fikiran dan besar kemungkinan aneka jenis penyakit baru akan menyerang msyarakat itu.

    13. Sementara kita akui ada manusia yang jantina mereka tidak jelas, janganlah kerana ingin tidak memencilkan mereka, kita terima amalan Seksualiti Merdeka atau Free Seks dalam masyarakat kita. Amalan ini bukan sahaja berdosa tetapi akan runtuhkan masyarakat kita.

    Fakely popular Najib isn’t man enough for the PM’s job

    Fakely popular Najib isn’t man enough for the PM’s jobIsn't it odd that survey after survey released in the past week ostensibly indicates that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak - he with the effeminate pink lips and holding on thanks only to a few hundred semi-literate voters in Pekan - continues to remain popular.
    It’s more than a little difficult to swallow the results from such surveys, commissioned as they are by some moneybags, since Najib hesitates to secure his own mandate from the nation. Instead, he piggy-backs on the one obtained by Abdullah Badawi, his predecessor. This is indeed a contradiction in terms.
    For another, the surveys - some purportedly from opposition parties and some from the government-controlled universities - seem oblivious to the fact that he has so many skeletons in the cupboard that his conscience must surely be killing him, even if slowly, by now.
    To rub it in, his wife Rosmah Mansor is no asset to him in his political career. She has been implicated with him as well in his numerous scandals which have come to public notice.
    He seems unable for now to rein her in; much less tell her off for not knowing her place. She comes across to the public as stubborn, bull-headed, and having a fixation with leading a lavish lifestyle at the public expense.
    Altantuya will dog him for life
    To be fair to the man, he could claim to be as popular as Tunku Abdul Rahman and Badawi in their better moments if not for the fact that the ghost of C4-ed Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu hangs like the proverbial sword of Damocles over his head. He can’t wish it away however much he prayed.
    The killing follows him like a bad smell everywhere and that’s suicide in politics. He declined to come clean because there’s no way that he can explain himself. There is also the matter of possible corruption in the related RM7 billion Scorpenes deal.
    This is why he has so far trivialized the issue instead. But he’s kidding no one. Perception is all that matters in politics.
    An on-going case in a French Court is likely to make things even worse for Najib in the months to come and perhaps just before the forthcoming 13th General Elections (GE 13).
    The moment that we see even Najib’s deputy, Muhyiddin Yassin, keeping himself at a good distance in public from his boss, we will know that his (Najib’s) goose is about to be cooked.
    Patently, there are still many unanswered questions from the Altantuya killing: her role in the multi-billion ringgit submarine purchase from France and Spain; who erased the records of her entry into the country from the Immigration Department computers; the link between Abdul Razak Baginda, Najib’s aide and reportedly a cousin, and Altantuya; and why the two convicted killers of Altantuya are still behind bars after being sentenced to death. The Judiciary, where heads are long overdue for a rolling, will have much to explain in the wake of GE 13.
    These are all questions which will surface once more during GE 13.
    Sodomy II
    As if the stench from the Altantuya killing isn’t enough, Najib’s reported role in the on-going Sodomy II Trial is the proverbial millstone around his neck.
    It has been admitted by the parties concerned that Najib met with Saiful Bukhari, the man who has accused opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomising him. The allegation has been pooh-poohed by expert medical witnesses and seems to suggest, as Anwar has claimed, a high-level conspiracy against him along the lines of Sodomy 1.
    Sodomy 1, in hindsight, was engineered by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who had to pay the ultimate price when he was forced out of office by an Umno revolt in the Federal Cabinet led by present Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein Onn and present Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.
    Ultimately, the Court held upon appeal that Anwar did not sodomise Azizan Abu Bakar, his wife’s driver.
    Even those who detest Anwar felt sorry for him and abandoned Umno even if they still declined to vote for him. Sodomy 1 cost Umno deeply at the polls.
    Sodomy II, like Sodomy 1 engineered by Mahathir, will cost Umno even more dearly at the polls. Perak, stolen from Pakatan Rakyat by Umno several months after GE 12 in 2008, will return to the opposition alliance.
    Terengganu and East Malaysia while Najib frolics
    Perak aside, PR is set to re-capture Terengganu, add Negri Sembilan to its electoral haul, and make in-roads in Sabah and Sarawak, Umno’s so-called Fixed Deposit states because of the many illegal immigrants there on the electoral rolls. PR has been stepping up the registration of local voters to neutralise the number of illegal immigrants on the electoral rolls.
    Najib has also been unable to escape the public perception that Mahathir is blackmailing him into submission at every twist and turn and corner.
    This has not endeared him to the man in the street who has since come to see Mahathir for what he’s really like as a person and politician. This is a side that Mahathir kept hidden from the public for almost 22 years in public office i.e. until Sodomy 1.
    History has a nasty habit of catching up
    Other scandals dog Najib to complete with the Altantuya killing, Sodomy 1 and Sodomy II. These include Najib’s 11th hour betrayal of Kelantan Umno strongman Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah in the infamous 1987 Battle for the Umno Presidency with Mahathir.
    Razaleigh has never forgiven him and continues to withhold his crucial support, preferring not to stand in the way of Pas, a member of the PR coalition.
    The stench is equally strong as Altantuya from Abdul Razak, Najib’s father, over his (Razak’s) role in the searing Sino-Malay riots of May 13, 1969 in which Mahathir and former Selangor Menteri Besar Harun Idris were the other masterminds.
    All three were also the masterminds in the ousting of Tunku Abdul Rahman as Prime Minister.
    No magic can turn Najib from a Frog into a Prince
    That Najib is dying a slow but sure death can be fathomed from the hundreds of millions of taxpayers money he is pouring into public relations to air brush his image. Examples are obviously the string of popularity 'surveys'. This recent spate is with compliments from a duly thankful and grateful media chief, newly appointed and based at NST.
    But so pathetic is the effort, it is outright embarrassing. As they say, never flog a dead horse. Even Houdini could not transform Najib from a FROG into a PRINCE!
    Whether he admits it or not, Najib’s conscience cries out for punishment, and severe cleansing too, and it’s anybody guess how the timing and manner of his downfall will come about.
    Few will shed tears for Najib as Malaysia awaits a Messiah to lead her out from the troubles which have been storing up for more than half a century. The chickens are coming home to roost as the past has caught up with us in the present to haunt the future.
    Najib is the wrong man for the job.
    Malaysia Chronicle

    Hate language still holds sway


    Again and again in Malaysia, those who defend the rights of citizens to exercise their fundamental liberties are treated as offenders.

    WHERE should we draw the line between freedom of expression and incitement to hatred? This is a debate that occupies the international human rights system today as governments grapple with the need to fully respect freedom of expression as protected by international human rights law and comply with the prohibition of incitement to hatred.

    As democracy matures, the public space for debate opens up further. Citizens, educated and aware of their rights, begin to articulate their demands for justice and social change. Diverse voices will compete for public attention and support. Traditionally marginalised groups will assert their right to be treated as citizens with equal rights and dignity. This is all good for democracy, respect for human rights and the well-being of society.

    However, the problem arises when those identified as “others” are constructed by the dominant community “as people who do not share a community’s history, traditions and values” and, as a result, are “all too often perceived as predatory competitors, or at least a threat to the stability of that community’s belief system”, as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.

    And thus they get demonised, threatened, discriminated against and even murdered just because they are different.

    This is a global problem. In the name of “war on terror”, Muslims are vilified, attacked, or discriminated against. A whole community is demonised for the actions of a tiny minority who abuse Islam to justify their violence and terrorism.

    In the name of ethnic or religious homogeneity, whole communities are physically removed from a territory by driving them out, deported to concentration camps, or murdered. In modern times, the forcible expulsion and murder of Jews in Europe, Muslims in the former Yugoslavia, and Tutsis in Rwanda stand out.

    In the name of religion and culture, homosexuals are stigmatised, attacked and murdered.

    It is obvious that human beings are not born to hate those who think, act or look differently. Just look at a playground of toddlers of all colours and backgrounds playing together.

    All too often, hate, fear and insults are manufactured to serve a political agenda. And it is convenient to manipulate and abuse religion, ethnicity and culture to create fear and anxiety in order to delegitimise the rights and interests of the “others”.

    In modern times, the media have been used as tools to inflame perceived grievances and rouse emotions, escalating tensions and conflict that can result in violence. Much research has been done to show how in Serbia, Serb supremacists used television to stir up ethnic tensions prior to the civil war. In Rwanda, Hutu propagandists used the radio to lay the groundwork for genocide.

    While such atrocities seem impossible in Malaysia, the fact is in our country today, fear and hatred are manufactured on a daily basis and public opinion inflamed through screaming headlines in some mainstream newspapers and television stations, and in the venomous hate language in the alternative new media.

    Muslim feminists, human rights defenders, and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) groups and individuals are among those most vilified and demonised.

    Recent events are cause for much concern. Many feel we are on a slippery slope to potential outbreak of violence. A country that has thrived, celebrated and been enriched by its history of embracing diversity and pluralism is today dominated by extremists who manufacture threats to race and religion supposedly posed by those they disagree with.

    Thus, we see the demonising and defaming of Datuk Ambiga Sreenivasan for her courage and resolve to go ahead with the Bersih rally.

    The fact that government leaders took the lead in depicting Bersih as a threat to national security opened up the space and gave legitimacy to the even more belligerent voices among non-state actors.

    Death threats were sent; vile, abusive and hate messages proliferated by SMS and on the Internet, Bersih supporters were labelled “communists”, “anti-Islam”, or “funded by foreign Christian groups”.

    The attacks against Seksualiti Merdeka are yet another public contestation that swiftly escalated into a shrill and belligerent public discourse.

    First, a forum to discuss the rights of LGBTs was portrayed by the media as a festival to promote free sex and a threat to security. Ambiga who was due to launch the event was once again demonised, this time labelled the “anti-Christ” by the right-wing group, Perkasa, which demanded that her citizenship be stripped.

    Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, who defended Ambiga against these unjust attacks, in turn became the target of hate mail.

    As expected in Malaysia today, close to 200 police reports were lodged all over the country against the organisers and supporters of Seksualiti Merdeka. The police banned the event and many activists were called in for questioning.

    It is one thing to exercise one’s right to differences of opinion, but it is another when stigmatising, demonising, fear and hate-mongering language and accusations are hurled at marginalised and discriminated groups and human rights defenders.

    Irresponsible newspapers day after day use inflammatory headlines to build up the frenzy. Mobs are hired to intimidate organisers and the police intervene, not to disperse the hooligans but to raid legitimate meetings held indoors to discuss issues of public interest and concern.

    Again and again in Malaysia, those who defend the rights of citizens to exercise their fundamental liberties are treated as offenders, while those who incite fear and hatred and inflame racial and religious sentiments are given the upper hand to dictate the agenda through compliance, support or inaction by key state institutions.

    While Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) protects the right to freedom of expression, Article 20 also requires governments to prohibit the “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred which constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.

    While striking the right balance is no easy task, the clear meaning is that freedom of expression is to be upheld for as long as it does not advocate hatred and incite discrimination, hostility or violence against an individual or group. Any limitations should take place only in the pursuit of justice and democratic principles, not against those who stand for justice and democracy.

    But all too often, restrictions on freedom of expression are enacted in order to protect the interests of those who benefit most from silencing criticism, dissent and public debate on contentious issues.

    That a group like Sisters in Islam which upholds equality and justice for Muslim women is demonised as anti-God, anti-Islam, and anti-Syariah, a coalition like Bersih 2.0 which demands for free and fair elections, is portrayed as a threat to national security and public order, or an event like Seksualiti Merdeka to recognise the human rights of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities is deliberately stigmatised as a “free-sex” festival, arguably does not constitute a legitimate exercise of free speech but incitement to discrimination and hostility that could potentially result in conflict and violence.

    The Prime Minister in his Malaysia Day speech promised the dream of a new Malaysia “that practises a functional and inclusive democracy where public peace and prosperity is preserved in accordance with the supremacy of the Constitution, rule of law and respect for basic human rights and individual rights”.

    How do the hate language and the relentless police reports by extremists against those demanding their constitutional right to fundamental liberties, and the continual phone calls to activists to visit Bukit Aman or a police station for yet another round of questioning under one restrictive law or another, create this democratic and inclusive Malaysia?

    A government that practises democracy must protect and nurture a public space that promotes justice, equality and democratic and human rights principles.

    Who’s afraid of Ambiga Sreenevasan?

    The Nut Graph
    by Shape of a Pocket by Jacqueline Ann Surin

    As published in The Nut Graph on 14 Nov 2011

    IF there is one word that best explains and describes the virulent reaction towards Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, that word, for me, would be fear. That’s right. Fear.

    In fact, it would seem from the continuing attacks against the Bersih 2.0 chairperson that this fear is such that she should be detained without trial under the Internal Security Act and/or denied citizenship. There is so much fear of the menace that Ambiga purportedly is that she, more than any other social or public health issue, has dominated headlines since Bersih 2.0 was launched.

    Indeed, Ambiga seems to be public enemy No. 1. And her decision to open a four-day human rights festival for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBT), known as Seksualiti Merdeka, has elevated this public-enemy status.

    Question is, who exactly is afraid of Ambiga Sreenevasan? And what are they so afraid of?

    The power of Ambiga

    Before Seksualiti Merdeka became the new cause for Ambiga’s continued vilification, the senior lawyer and former Bar Council chairperson had already been threatened with gang rape and death for being an “accursed infidel” (“kafir laknat”). All for leading the call for free and fair elections through Bersih 2.0. Apparently, calling for electoral reforms that could only strengthen Malaysian democracy constitutes being an “accursed” unbeliever. And being an unbeliever – in this case an unbeliever of the Malaysian electoral system’s integrity – deserves punishment by either rape or death.

    Since it was announced that Ambiga would launch Seksualiti Merdeka, which the police have since banned, the personal attacks against Ambiga have resumed with vengeance. This time round, she is a threat to the nation for purportedly violating the Federal Constitution and the “natural order” of human relations, and for insulting Islam while tempting Allah’s wrath.

    Ambiga must sure be one powerful woman if she really is capable of doing as much as her detractors say she is. Indeed, it would seem that Ambiga’s actions and the causes she supports don’t just have an impact on public order and national security. It would seem that Ambiga’s agreement to open a festival that helps a marginalised community learn about their rights would also shake the heavens where Allah must reside.

    What’s the real problem?

    What really is the problem that Ambiga’s detractors have with her? And it must be her they have a problem with, because the truth is, Seksualiti Merdeka has been an annual event since 2008. Up until now, it has not been considered such a danger that the police had to threaten arrests if the festival went ahead as scheduled.

    The way I see it, those who vilify, threaten and cast all manner of unsubstantiated allegations against Ambiga are saying only one thing: that really, they’re afraid. They are afraid of having an electoral system that is free and fair, and has more integrity and transparency than it has now. They are afraid that people with different sexual identities and preferences should and do deserve equal rights as Malaysian citizens even if the choices LGBTs make run counter to our hetero-normative culture.

    And why would organisations the likes of Perkasa and the police be so afraid of Ambiga? After all, she’s clearly stated she does not have the stomach for politics. She’s a woman in a country where we can’t even meet the government’s quota of 30% women’s participation in public leadership roles. She’s identified as being Indian Malaysian, a minority racial group that cannot wield the same kind of clout a Malay Malaysian leader could. And yet, she is deemed such a threat to the status quo that she must be destroyed, if not her reputation then her very person, including through deliberate misreporting and factual inaccuracies by the Umno-controlled media.

    For all intents and purposes, Ambiga is nowhere as powerful as she’s made out to be. Despite this, she has been able to galvanise thousands of Malaysians inside and outside the country without the need for a political party. These Malaysians cut across ideologies, age, race, religion, region and sexuality. And as the 9 July 2011 Bersih 2.0 rally demonstrated, these Malaysians are not afraid of the state’s threats of violence against them. Is that perhaps why Ambiga is such a threat – that she has become an icon for principled and honest leadership that this country is so in need of?

    Beyond Ambiga

    As Ambiga has rightfully pointed out, what is most shameful hasn’t been the personal threats against her. What has been shameful has been the bile and hatred that has been spewed against the LGBT community, which already faces regular threats of violence and injustice including from state and religious authorities. All done in an effort to further demonise Ambiga.

    That is the nature of the beast, isn’t it? Those who dare to stand up and speak up for a more just and compassionate social order, and equal rights and protection for all regardless of who they are, are the ones who will most likely be targeted with violence and threats. Hence, while we cannot condone what the state and non-state actors are doing to Ambiga, Bersih 2.0, Seksualiti Merdeka and the LGBT community, we shouldn’t be too surprised.

    After all, this wouldn’t be the first time human rights defenders and marginalised communities are demonised and threatened as being a menace to public order and religious or cultural norms. No less than Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad, women's suffragists, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Gandhi, to name but a few, were all vilified in their time for speaking up against the status quo.

    Within the current and local contexts, human rights defenders such as those in Sisters in Islam; opposition politicians such as Karpal Singh; and academics such as Prof Dr Abdul Aziz Bari have all been threatened with harm before. And yet, often it is the likes of these organisations and individuals who are internationally recognised for the value of their struggle and principles. They are the ones who, in time, will have contributed in real ways to the opening up of democratic spaces and to justice.

    Hence, what we should be fearful of aren’t the likes of Ambiga or events such as the Bersih 2.0 rally or Seksualiti Merdeka. What we should be fearful of is the state – in particular the Umno-led Barisan Nasional state – and non-state actors who would go to all extremes to deny us a better, safer, kinder and fairer Malaysia. 

    Jacqueline Ann Surin isn’t afraid of Ambiga Sreenevasan or the LGBT community. She is more afraid of a Malaysian police force and a government administration that cannot protect citizens’ rights to organise, assemble and express themselves peacefully and safely.