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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Afghan woman's choice: 12 years in jail or marry her rapist and risk death


Kabul (CNN) -- The ordeal of Gulnaz did not simply begin and end with the physical attack of her rape. The rape began a years-long nightmare of further pain, culminating in an awful choice she must now make.

Even two years later, Gulnaz remembers the smell and state of her rapist's clothes when he came into the house when her mother left for a brief visit to the hospital.

"He had filthy clothes on as he does metal and construction work. When my mother went out, he came into my house and he closed doors and windows. I started screaming, but he shut me up by putting his hands on my mouth," she said.

The rapist was her cousin's husband.

After the attack, she hid what happened as long as she could. But soon she began vomiting in the mornings and showing signs of pregnancy. It was her attacker's child.

In Afghanistan, this brought her not sympathy, but prosecution. Aged just 19, she was found guilty by the courts of sex outside of marriage -- adultery -- and sentenced to twelve years in jail.

Now inside Kabul's Badam Bagh jail, she and her child are serving her sentence together.

Sitting with the baby in her lap, her face carefully covered, she explains the only choice she has that would end her incarceration.

The only way around the dishonor of rape, or adultery in the eyes of Afghans, is to marry her attacker. This will, in the eyes of some, give her child a family and restore her honor.

Incredibly, this is something that Gulnaz is willing to do.

"I was asked if I wanted to start a new life by getting released, by marrying this man", she told CNN in an exclusive interview. "My answer was that one man dishonored me, and I want to stay with that man."

Tending to her daughter in the jail's cold, she added: "My daughter is a little innocent child. Who knew I would have a child in this way. A lot of people told me that after your daughter's born give it to someone else, but my aunt told me to keep her as proof of my innocence."

Gulnaz's choice is stark. Women in her situation are often killed for the shame their ordeal has brought the community. She is at risk, some say, from her attacker's family.

We found Gulnaz's convicted rapist in a jail across town. While he denied raping her, he agreed that she would likely be killed if she gets out of jail. But he insists that it will be her family, not his, that will kill her, "out of shame."

Whether threatened by his family or hers, for now, jail may be the safest place for her.

Shockingly, Gulnaz's case is common in Afghanistan.

CNN asked a spokesman for the prosecutor to comment on the case. The reply was that there were hundreds such cases and the office would need time to look into it.

Najib says will lift student politics ban

Najib said the government will still appeal a court decision that ruled the section of the UUCA unconstitutional. — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today the government plans to lift the ban on student participation in politics, as part of his administration’s political reforms. The prime minister told Parliament today amendments would be tabled to amend the controversial Section 15 of the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA), to allow students above 21 to be active members of political parties.
“To respect the constitutional rights of our students who have reached the age of maturity, we will amend Section 15 of the UUCA to allow them to be members of political parties,” he said when tabling a motion to lift three Emergency declarations here.
The surprising announcement earned Najib a round of applause from the House, with lawmakers thumping on their tables to show support.
Najib confirmed, however, that the government would still proceed with its appeal of a recent court ruling that Section 15 of the law is in breach of the Federal Constitution.
MORE TO COME

People, not leaders, make a nation

Malaysians are at a crossroads and must decide between good values-imbibing leaders and materialistic ones.
COMMENT

Every country has its own human assets, namely the people and their leaders. The fate of a country then depends very much on the quality of these human assets.

The two can either make or break a nation – the power of the people and the role of leaders. The people and their leaders who possess the right qualities can together make a nation great.

A point to note is that while together, the two can make a great nation, alone a leader is nothing.

But the people, on the other hand, can still make a great nation.

How? You may ask.

Well, without a leader the people can on their own deploy their internal mechanism by organising among themselves to collectively manage a nation.

If the people themselves are capable of building a great nation, then they should not be too dependent on a leader.

Many nations suffer when they are too dependent on one leader. Such a scenario is inviting risks where the chances that the leader will take advantage of the situation are high.

Ultimate power

Malaysia suffered from this leadership dependence syndrome during 1981– 003 period when the people were led to believe that one man had turned Malaysia into a developed nation.

Similarly in Sarawak from 1981 until today, the Bumiputera races (not the Chinese) have been led to believe that only under one particular leader (we all know who this is) can development be implemented successfully.

But true democracy lies not on our dependence on a leader; it lies in the ultimate power in the country which is vested in the people. It is not vested in an elected government.

The people have the power to elect or reject a government. After all, elections in Malaysia are held in consistent cycles.

Conversely, the leaders and the people’s bad traits can break a nation even to the extent of ruining it and sometimes a villainous leader’s actions alone can break a nation.

Hence when we talk of good leadership, its role has to be complemented by the people for the well being of a nation.

If the teamwork brings progress and development to the nation, then the leaders will continue to be accepted and supported by the people.

‘Leadership drift’

However, a crucial issue takes centre-stage when a leader starts to deviate from the national agenda and pursue his own personal agenda.

This is what I call the leadership drift where he starts to detach himself from the common people and national interests to pursue his own personal interests.

This can happen because leaders and people are two different entities.

A leader is granted certain powers and rights as long as he does not deviate from the national agenda.

However, once he is chosen by the people as their leader who will make important decisions for the nation, a crucial issue sets in.

He has reached the crossroads – a move that will make or break the nation.

If the people put too much trust in him, there is a big possibility that he may start to abandon the national agenda to pursue his own personal interests.

Here is where the power of temptations set in. He will make his own independent choice – either to be the nation’s good leader or a bad one.

Awang Abdillah is a political observer and a veteran writer in Sarawak. He is an FMT columnist.

Let Parliamentary Select Committee review Peaceful Assembly Bill — Proham

NOV 23 — Proham views with grave concern the proposed Bill on Peaceful Assembly fails to reflect the true spirit of human rights that is consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Federal Constitution and the promise of the Prime Minister to institute democratic reform.

However, Proham acknowledges that the proposed bill recognises the citizen’s right to organise an assembly or participate in an assembly peacefully, although it makes it very difficult in practice.

The withdrawal of the permit to assemble is welcomed and reflects the PM’s commitment to further democratic reforms. However this is substituted by a whole range of pre-conditions and prior approvals, and restrictive legal provisions , including strengthening the powers of the police, that will severely discourage and dissuade the freedom of peaceful assembly, which is a basic human right.

Therefore, Proham proposes that the Federal Government delays the second reading of this bill and commits it to a Parliamentary Select Committee process, whereby there is maximum consultation with Members of Parliament, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) and civil society as a whole.

Proham truly feels that at this point of our nation’s history, we must build on our democratic tradition with consensus building from both sides of the parliamentary divide and the large majority of Malaysians. The rushing of such a bill can be construed as unnecessary unholy haste that will not be in the best interests of our nation and our people.

We appeal to the Federal government to consider Proham’s proposal to refer this bill to a parliamentary select committee and to consult our people more deeply and widely.

* Proham is a grouping of ex-commissioners of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.

PM Tables Motion To Revoke Three Emergency Proclamations

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on Thursday tabled a motion in the Dewan Rakyat to revoke three emergency proclamations.

The proclamations, issued by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, are the Emergency Proclamation 1966, Emergency Proclamation 1969 and Emergency Proclamation 1977.

The 1969 emergency proclamation was issued on May 15, 1969, following racial riots two days earlier.

The 1966 and 1977 emergency proclamations, issued on Sept 14, 1966, in Sarawak and Nov 8, 1977, in Kelantan, respectively, were aimed at resolving political disputes in the two states.

Najib, in tabling the motion, said the move to annul the emergency proclamations was made because the conditions which threatened security and public order then no longer existed.

Man kills childless wife

LAHORE –Kot Lakhpat Police have arrested a man who allegedly killed his first childless wife in connivance with his second wife.

Allah Ditta contracted second marriage with Zarina as he had no child from his first wife Yasmeen. After marrying Zarina, Allah Ditta often quarreled with his first wife.

On Tuesday morning, Allah Ditta phoned Emergency Police 15 and informed police that his first wife had committed suicide. Police reached the crime site. “There were several loopholes on crime scene, which made the incident suspicious so we have taken her husband Ditta for interrogation,” said a senior police officer, adding police have lodged an FIR against Zarina and her brother Younus Shah for further investigation. He, however, said policemen are waiting for an autopsy report to ascertain the real cause of her death. Further investigations are underway.

Woman stabbed to death: A 28-year-old woman was stabbed to by her brother-in-law over kidnapping accusations in Tibbi City police area on Tuesday.

Parveen Akhtar alias Moto alleged that her 13-year-old daughter Mehwish was kidnapped by her brother-in-law Ismail and his accomplices Nelo and Yousuf. On the day of incident, they exchanged harsh words with each other and later Ismail stabbed Parveen. As a result, she sustained critical injuries and was rushed to a nearby hospital where the doctors pronounced her dead. Police lodged an FIR against the accused with no arrest till filing of this report. Further investigations are underway.

3 dacoits arrested: Township and Raiwind police have arrested three dacoits and a drug peddler on Tuesday and recovered 163 bottles of liquor, motorbikes, looted cash, mobile and other valuables from their possession. Following special directives by the Operations Police Chief, DSP Jehangir Butt and SHO Raiwind Mahmood Bhatti raided a den and arrested a notorious drug peddler Mazhar Ali Machi red handed. “Yes, we have recovered 163 bottles of local made liquor and have lodged an FIR (877/11) against him,” an on duty ASI Rana Muhammad Ijaz said. Meanwhile, Township police arrested Mani dacoit gang comprising ringleader Imran alias Mani and his two accomplices Javed alias Jedo and Bilal and recovered five mobile phones, cash, gold ornaments and other valuables from their possession.

Talking to this scribe, Sadr Division SP Operations Shoaib Khurram Janbaz said the aforesaid dacoit gang was involved in dozen of criminal acts, which the have confessed of committing in various areas including Township, Sabzazaar, Johar Town, Mustafa Town, Manga Mandi, Raiwind City, Satukatla and Hanjerwal. “They have confessed their involvement in at least 24 felony acts,” he added. Further investigations are underway.

"Hudud is not PR's policy"

Sg Besi airbase deal: DAP queries discount for 1MDB

How electoral abuse fleeces Indians

COMMENT Electoral constituencies in Malaysia are determined in a two-step process. First, parliamentary constituencies are apportioned among the various states. Second, the parliamentary and state constituencies are delineated in each state.

The ruling party controls the apportionment among states through amendments to Article 46 of the federal constitution. The Election Commission (EC) then delineates the apportioned constituencies.

As there is a lack of specification of the rules governing the Election Commission on this particular function, the numerous delineation exercises that have been conducted in Malaysia since Merdeka have been carved to favour the ruling Umno-led government.

indian crowd malaysia 291107By way of this discriminatory process, the third largest ethnic community in the country, consisting of more than 2 million people, have been denied of even a single Indian-majority constituency.

This has been the single biggest contributory factor to ethnic Indians in this country being at the lowest rungs of the demographic index among all the races.

Even though there are several Indian elected representatives in Parliament as well as in state assemblies, the very fact that they are elected from constituencies where Indians form the minority, render them toothless to highlight or champion the gross marginalisation and discrimination policies of Indians by the government.

The representatives are dependent on the majority communities, mainly the Malays and Chinese, in their respective constituencies.

Apportionment, districting

Constituency delineation has two aspects that can affect electoral outcomes: the distribution of the total electorate among constituencies (apportionment) and the determination of constituency boundaries (districting).

azlanBoth have been exploited for partisan political advantage by the Umno-led government and are common and effective forms of electoral abuses that have been implemented to shortchange the Indian population and render them ‘voiceless’ at the ballot box.

The Umno-led government, through the Election Commission, has delineated constituencies with unequal electorates (mal-apportionment) to favour themselves with more Malay-majority supporters in the smaller constituencies.

The constituency boundaries have also been drawn to favour Umno and disadvantage the Indian community, a practice commonly known as gerrymandering. The manner in which the country’s total electorate has been divided into electoral constituencies over the years, has cruelly and crucially affected Indian electoral strength under plurality elections.

The biased application of rural weightage, which since 1973 has been constitutionally left to the discretion of the Election Commission, has also gravely contributed to rendering the Indian vote powerless.

This has aggravated the Indian political dilemma, heightened perceptions of political inequalities, particularly for Indians, and worsened racial polarisation among Malaysians.

indians rightsIt is indeed shocking and discouraging that, while Indians reside in large numbers in many areas, like Sungai Petani, Padang Serai, Batu Kawan, Nibong Tebal, Ipoh Barat, Bagan Datoh, Teluk Intan, Tg Malim, Sg Siput, Klang, Kota Raja, Kuala Selangor, Hulu Selangor, Kuala Langat, Kapar, Sepang, Kelana Jaya, Teluk Kemang, Rasah, Cameron Highlands and Lembah Pantai, the Election Commission has not seen it fit to carve out even a single Indian-majority constituency.

Instead, the commission has bent backwards to create Malay-majority constituencies like in Putrajaya, which consists of a miserable 5,096 voters, 95 percent of whom are Malay-Muslims.

Perlis, as another example, has 15 state assembly seats with each having less than 9,600 voters consisting again of mainly Malay Muslims.

Indians voters number more than 715,000 in total, but they have zero Indian-majority constituencies.

Sabahan voters number 802,000, and they have 25 parliamentary seats and 60 state assembly seats.

Tenang - Orang asli resident at kampung ulu juasehSarawakian voters number  886,000, and they have 31 parliamentary and 71 state seats. The Orang Ulu, meanwhile, who form just 0.005% of the Malaysian population, have four state seats created especially for them.

They even have the parliamentary seat of Baram, which is 42.8%-Orang Ulu within a voter composition of 24,398 in total.

Ethnic Indians make up 8% of the Malaysia’s population, but have zero Indian-majority constituencies.

All over the world , democracy is preserved and enhanced by giving a ‘voice’ to the minorities through the ballot by providing constitutionally and legislatively reserved seats so that their legitimate interests will be protected and not drowned by the majority.
'Nowhere but Malaysia'
In Singapore, the Group Representative Constituencies (GRC) provides for mandatory Malay and Indian candidates to be listed in singapore general election 270406order to total about one-third of the total number of Singapore’s parliamentary constituencies, with the view to protecting minority interests.

In India, the minority Anglo-Indians have been granted two Lower House of Parliament ‘Lok Sabha’ seats.

In Lebanon, Belgium, Cyprus and even in Zimbabwe, communal rolls and special electoral requirements to accommodate the representation of cultural groups based on religion or language are in place to protect minority interests.

Everywhere, it seems, are the minorities assured representation except in Malaysia.

Nowhere in the whole world do you find civilised nations professing to be democratic - except Malaysia - would you find the third-largest race, 8% of the population, who do not have even a single constituency composed of a majority of its ethnicity.

The state of Selangor has the highest concentration of Indians in the country. More than one-third of the Indian population in Malaysia resides in this state.

However, since 1974, through two successive delineation exercises in 1984 and 1994, the difference between the actual parliamentary seats allocated versus the number of parliamentary seats that Selangor should have been allocated has been reduced systematically to being the worst in the entire Peninsula.
'True' multiracialism
More than 70% of Indians in this country have been marginalised and are living in poverty.

azlanThis is due to the lack of appropriate representation. The voter make-up in present state and parliamentary constituencies make the Indian voters the minority. As such, their rights are not championed in the national and state legislative assemblies.

The Human Rights Party proposes for the parliamentary select committee (PSC) on electoral reform recommend that 53 constituencies where Indians make up a significant majority of voters be established.

Thus, I am not proposing simply that more Indian representatives be elected, for I would support even that Malay-Muslim representatives be elected in such Indian-majority constituencies.

This would be truly ‘multiracial’, as opposed to false claim that Indians are being represented simply because they were elected by Malay-Muslim-majority constituencies.

It’s only through the creation of Indian-majority seats that all the woes of the Indian community can be highlighted.

P UTHAYAKUMAR is pro-tem secretary-general of the Human Rights Party.

Crisis in the Chambers

More and more senior DPPs are throwing in the towel and the list includes Solicior-General II Mohd Yusof. Sources claim that the AG is to be blamed for this.

PUTRAJAYA: Allegations of internal politicking, nepotism and cronyism are swirling in the Attorney-General’s Chambers and fed-up deputy public prosecutors (DPPs) are tendering their letters for optional retirement.

Those interviewed by FMT agreed to voice their grievances on condition of anonymity.

These legal eagles believe that the rot is beyond repair and pin the blame on Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail himself.

According to them, it is an open secret that those loyal to Gani rise up the ranks and are given key tasks irrespective of whether they are qualified for the job or otherwise.

Those considered hostile or critical of the AG’s decisions often land in cold storage.

“The only criteria (required) is that the DPP must be close to him (Gani) and not go against his or his men’s word,” said a former senior DPP who served for nearly 30 years.

Initially, only a handful felt upset with Gani but the number has grown over the years and they are tendering their application for optional retirement.

“The AG in his capacity as the head of the department is approving the applications without the slightest of hesitation,” said another vexed DPP.

In their application, most of the DPPS cite “personal reasons” for their decision.

“It’s very difficult for them to state the actual reason since only the AG has the discretionary power whether to approve their applications or not. They will be asking for trouble if they state ‘AG’s conduct’ as being the reason,” said the DPP.

Son, daughter-in-law promoted

Quizzed on their grouses regarding Gani and his men, one DPP cited the management of the International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (ICELLS), where the AG’s son and daughter-in-law are attached to.

“Both of them have less than five years experience in the service but have already been promoted to Grades L48 and L52 respectively. In our service, there was never such a promotion exercise.

“As far as I know, it is only in Malaysia that the AG and his next-of-kin are working in the same department and same building,” he said.

He added that initially research division head K Muniandy was slated to helm ICELLS.

“Muniandy was the former deputy head of prosecution and highly respected in the legal fraternity but he was sidelined, prompting him to put in his optional retirement papers at the age of 50.

“He was the only ‘Jusa A’ Indian officer in the Chambers and probably in the entire civil service. So there must be something seriously wrong when someone of his calibre and experience chooses to quit,” he added.

For the record, besides Muniandy, other senior DPPs who have left the service are S Devanandan, Ahmad Firuz Zainal Abidin, Dr Sabirin Jaafar, Shamsul Sulaiman and Sallehuddin Saidin.

Solicitor-General II on the way out

In a related development, FMT also learned that Solicitor-General II Mohamed Yusof Zainal Abidin, 56, has also submitted his application for optional retirement.

“This is the third time he has submitted his application. When he applied the first time in 2008, former premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi convinced him to stay while his second application was submitted a few months after Najib Tun Razak took over as prime minister. Najib also persuaded him to stay.

“But this time around, Yusof decided that he will not let anyone talk him out of his decision. He is frustrated with the empty promises of restoring the integrity of the AG Chambers,” said an officer.

He also disclosed that for the past three years, Yusof’s only task has been to handle Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim’s Sodomy II trial.

Other DPPs, he added, are told that Yusof’s offce is considered off limits and the latter is almost kept in “isolation” at his desk.

“Those in the Chambers are aware what is prompting senior DPPs to throw in the towel, while those who choose to remain, do so grudgingly. The country’s leadership is also aware of what is happening but no action is being taken to fix the problem.

“We fear that the situation has now come to a point of being beyond redemption,” said another former DPP.

Operasi sindiket kad pengenalan?

Pemimpin Pemuda PAS, Adram Musa percaya operasi di Salak Tinggi mirip operasi yang pihaknya bongkar tidak lama dahulu berhampiran Putrajaya

PETALING JAYA: Satu operasi sindiket yang dipercayai mengedarkan kad pengenalan kepada warga asing sedang berlaku berhampiran pusat latihan Kompleks Integrasi Warisan Arca, (KIWA) di Salak Tinggi.

KIWA merupakan kem kursus kenegaraan kendalian Biro Tata Negara (BTN) di bawah Jabatan Perdana Menteri.

Laporan polis sedang dibuat dan orang ramai turut berkumpul di situ.

Timbalan pengerusi lajnah pemulihan demokrasi dan mobilisasi rakyat Dewan Pemuda PAS, Adram Musa memberitahu FMT bahawa pihaknya masih menunggu pegawai penyiasat polis datang ke tempat kejadian.

Harap polis bertindak

“Operasi ini seakan-akan sama seperti operasi di kawasan berhampiran Putrajaya baru -baru ini.

“Kami berharap agar pihak polis akan mengambil tindakan segera,” katanya.

Adram berkata, beliau melihat kereta peronda polis berada di tempat kejadian.

Lajnah pemulihan demokrasi dan mobilisasi rakyat sebelum ini aktif mendedahkan kepincangan di dalam senarai pengundi terutamanya sejak perarakan anjuran Bersih yang turut disertai mereka pada 9 Julai lalu.

Bagan MIC duo issued show cause letters

Acting division chief M Letchimanasamy and secretary S Muniandy charged with undermining party leadership.

GEORGE TOWN: Two Bagan MIC division leaders have been issued separate show cause letters from the party’s disciplinary committee for alleged misconduct.

M Letchimanasamy, the division’s acting chairman, and secretary S Muniandy, have been given 14 days to explain as to why disciplinary action should not be taken against them.

The letters issued to them on Nov 14, was signed by disciplinary committee committee chairman KS Nijhar.

They have been charged with undermining the party leadership when they criticised the appointment of M Karuppanan as BN’s Bagan Dalam state constituency coordinator.

Lawyer Karuppanan, the MIC state secretary, was appointed last month to replace MIC state chairman PK Subbaiyah, who has been appointed as a senator.

Letchimanasamy and Muniandy were charged for press statements on Oct 12 and Oct 14 this year questioning Karuppanan’s appointment.

When contacted both Letchimanasamy and Muniandy confirmed that they have been issued show cause letters, but declined to comment further. They said they would reply to the show cause within the stipulated time.

On Nov 7, FMT reported that the two were in hot water for backing suspended division chairman and Subbaiyah’s arch rival Henry Benedict Asirvatham as BN candidate for Bagan Dalam in the 13th General Election.

Prai is the other seat in Penang allotted to MIC under the BN electoral arrangement.

Letchimanasamy and Muniandy had reportedly urged MIC’s national leadership to terminate Henry’s suspension and reinstate him as the rightful Bagan division chief.

Bagan MIC division faces closure?

They even called for Prime Minister and BN national chairman Najib Tun Razak to intervene and replace Karuppanan with Henry as Bagan Dalam coordinator.

It’s a BN practice that a constituency coordinator would be the front runner for candidacy in the next election.

The duo’s press statements infuriated certain quarters, who called on the party leadership to expel the duo.

The Bagan MIC crisis may undermine BN’s target to win back between 10 and 15 state seats it lost to Pakatan Rakyat in the last general election.

Bagan Dalam, which is among those seats, has 17,194 registered voters of which the Chinese account for 52.6%, Malays 24.3% and Indians 22.3%.

Bagan Dalam, which comes under the Bagan parliamentary constituency, is currently held by DAP’s A Tanasekharan, who defeated incumbent Subbaiyah in the 2008 election.

Disciplinary action on Letchimanasamy and Muniandy, on top of Henry’s suspension, would likely trigger the closure of Bagan MIC division.

If the division, which has 15 branches and over 2,000 members, were to close shop, party insiders said MIC chances of regaining Bagan Dalam will be “virtually zero.”

Malaysia : Back to the Dark Ages of sexual taboo


Since 2008, Seksualiti Merdeka (Independent Sexuality) festival, the LGBTiQ's main vehicle for awareness raising and education made its contribution to Malaysian society in a beautiful, intellectually artistic manner, devoid of vulgarity.

It made “straight” heterosexual society realise and appreciate that other forms of sexual love existed and that these could be as genuine as a woman-man love. It had been and still is a struggle for gay men and women to survive even in apparently liberal-minded societies.

Those from various sexual orientations and gender identities enjoyed this annual celebration of "love and understanding" for three blissful years without interference from any government quarter.

Yet, this year, when Malaysians are acutely aware that the ruling National Front (Barisan Nasional) administration is itching to call snap general elections before the contrasts between opposition administration, and government by rhetoric becomes too clear to most of the electorate, Seksualiti Merdeka and the LGBTiQ community suddenly become the demons of immorality that must be exorcised with a blanket ban.

After three years of peaceful festivity and celebration of different sexual orientations by people who have come to accept themselves as they are, through a hard dehumanising struggle with conservative, ridgid rejection of same sex relations and other gender identities, backed by goliath religious establishments expecting conformity to perceived morality in every way, they are seen as a threat to public order.

All media (including the mainstream, government controlled media) admit that Seksualiti Merdeka is an annual sexuality rights festival celebrating human rights of people of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity. A coalition of NGOs, artistes, activists and individuals have organised the event since 2008.

The celebration for this year, themed “Queer without Fear”, began on November 1 and was to continue until November 13 with “forums, talks, workshops, book launches, an art exhibition and stage

performances", the November 3 The Star Online, 3/11/11 said. How more civilised can any event get?

However, the police moved in to stop these festivities after loud protests by right-wing, ultra conservative organisations and Islamic NGOs (allegedly joined by non- Islamic NGOs). They alleged that these programs would incite disharmony, enmity and public disorder. How that would happen, nobody can say except those who have made these claims.

It seems that the acceptance of the knowledge and recognition that human beings of different gender identity and sexual orientation exist threatens traditional ideas of morality and religious belief. If faith is an unchanging entity, it is a wonder how the world's greatest spiritual traditions continue to be practiced and propagated for centuries to this day.

The 'seksualiti' scapegoat

Having cut short the sexuality festival, and instituted investigations against the organisers -- Seksualiti Merdeka's founder, Phang Kee Teik, 10 campaign organisations including women's rights advocacy organizations, human rights organizations and the Bar Council -- deputy inspector general of the police, Khalid Abu Bakar, excused the ban on grounds of preserving public peace and that the organizers lacked a permit to hold the event.

This is a familiar ruse used by the police on so many occassions that any thinking Malaysian recognises it. It is also an unconstitutional denial of our right to freedom of expression and assembly under Article 10(1) (a) and(b) under the Malaysian Federal Constitution, and Article 19 and 20(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The country's law, according to him , “did not recognise any deviationist activity that could destroy the practice of religious freedom”. However, in the same breath, he assured the public that the police respected human rights and the right to freedom of speech.

Since when and by what authority did the police become judges of deviationist activity?

Further, in the previous three years, holding the festival had not prevented anybody from practicing their conventional faith. People always have a choice in spiritual expression.

Minister of Home Affairs Hishamuddin Hussein took an even more extreme view of Seksualiti Merdeka by calling this peaceful intellectual celebration of sexuality a threat to national security -- keeping a narrow focus on homosexual relations and ignoring other issues of gender identity.

Hishamuddin also homed in on the alleged involvement of S. Ambiga, chairperson of the Bersih 2.0 movement and former President of the Bar Council, The Star Online said on November 5.

S. Ambiga was accused of being "an organiser" of the sexuality festival. She vehemently denied this to the press on November 4, saying she was invited to officiate the Seksualiti Merdeka festival on November 9, in her personal capacity and not as chairperson of the Bersih 2 movement.

In clear contrast to the exaggerated condemnation of this year's Seksualiti Merdeka festival, no eyebrows were raised when Marina Mahathir, daughter of former prime minister Mahathir Mohammad, officiated at the same event when it opened four years ago.

Yet, this year, the retired PM was loud in his condemnation of gay relations, expressing unfounded fears of public love-making and people walking naked on Malaysian streets.

It is no surprise that the orchestrated protests against Seksualiti Merdeka came from far right groups in bed with the ruling Barisan Nasional, which also targeted S. Ambiga and Bersih 2. The opposition Islamic party -- PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (Peoples Justice Party), did not support the event or LGBT rights, but expressed support for their constitutional right to free expression and assembly.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who has been dogged by two sodomy trials since 1998, also voiced strong support for S. Ambiga and questioned why she had been targeted by right-wing religious extremists.

Across the water in Sarawak, assistant minister in the chief minister's department, Daud Abdul Rahman, gave stern warning that the government would “ go all out to stop any elements in Program Seksualiti Merdeka 2011 from entering the state”. The Sarawak State government would be working with Kuala Lumpur to terminate any gay rally or event held there.

He advised Muslim Sarawakians to withdraw or stay away from it, “ even though the programme is well received”, The Borneo Post Online said on November 8.

Rights violations are myopic

The current federal administration imagines that by nipping Seksualiti Merdeka in the bud, it will be forgiven for pandering to the rich and robbing the poor, gaining the approval of the Muslim and non-Muslim electorate. It imagines that this action will restore its respectability and self-righteous image nationally and internationally.

What it fails to notice is that the Malaysian people have long memories when they are hurt and that past human rights violations are not as easily forgotten now as they might have been in the past. More people are finding it increasingly hard to make economic ends meet and politicising the LGBT issue will not fill empty stomachs.

They have also overlooked the fact that the LGBTiQ minority are part of the electorate and, with advances in communications and information technology, the younger generation of computer savvy citizens is more familiar with sexuality and gender issues than ever.

The government has blinkered itself from observing that the de facto "age of consent" is no more 16 years but possibly twelve or less.

The suppression of the right to free expression of this crucial minority results in suppression and narrowing of knowledge that is key to our understanding of the root of sexuality problems and baby dumping rampant in the country.

Perpetuating outdated societal norms and moral traditions will not help society cope with present day realities. LGBTiQ has probably existed for as long as human life on earth, but have only started to be recognised since the later part of the 20th century.

These "queer" sexual orientations have always been shrouded in taboo, secrecy and fear. There are historical accounts of legitimate views of sexuality in various societies akin to LGBT dubbed perverted, "evil" or immoral by the pillars of society and established religion, seeking to condemn rather than to transcend the the problem. English literature would be impoverished if the writings of Oscar Wilde had been destroyed because he was a convicted homosexual.

The repressive actions of the government are like the Inquisition of medieval Europe that sort to consolidate the political power of the Roman Church using suppression of advances in knowledge, torture and capital punishment. If not for victims of the Inquisition like Galileo Galilei, the world wouldn't be as scientifically advanced as it is now.

In dismissing the importance of Seksualiti Merdeka and the LGBTiQ community, the government is driving Malaysian society back into a feudal time warp merely for consolidation of its own undemocratic, autocratic, dictatorial power.

The counter movement for democracy and human rights led by S. Ambiga (Bersih 2) and the courage of the LGBT movement to openly seek societal acceptance, pulls towards a more progressive, thinking society in realization of a truly progressive and intellectually open-minded Malaysia by the people, for the people.

It is only by such progressive development that takes into account and respects human differences and the freedom to be different that could spur the country to developed nationhood.

Politics, Romance Intertwine in Indonesia

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Father, daughter in wedding rite (photo credit: Jakarta Globe)
Two powerful political families unite in matrimony
Indonesians are agog over the wedding of the century so far, traffic jams and all. It is a gala affair that began Tuesday in Jakarta and is due to span the next three days, with the union of the son of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the daughter of the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Hatta Rajasa.

Inevitably the nuptials have stirred gossip that the marriage is more political bargain than culmination of a love affair. It is being described as a “new Cikeas Dynasty,” a reference to the president’s home in West Java. The union is said to have been engineered by Kristiani Herawati, the president’s wife, in the hopes of eventually seeing the couple’s youngest son, Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, 29, follow his father to the presidency. The bride, Siti Ruby Aliaya Rajasa, was said to be studying in London when called home for the marriage.

Under this scenario, Hatta Rajasa, the chairman of the moderate Islamist National Mandate Party (PAN), would be nominated in 2014 to replace SBY, as the president is universally known, as the country’s chief executive in national elections. PAN has already announced that Hatta, a seasoned political veteran who has served in four different cabinets and is one of the president’s closest advisors, would be nominated as the party‘s candidate.

That works for the president. The Democratic Party, which he heads, is in a shambles over a continuing scandal involving bribes allegedly paid to some of the party’s top officials in the building of the athletes’ village for the Southeast Asian Games, due to conclude tomorrow in Palembang.

There appears to be nobody at this point in the party with the stature to succeed Yudhoyono as presidential candidate. There had been worries, in fact, that the scandal could destroy the party. Some of the reformers who came into politics with the president have been irrevocably tarred. Hatta appears to be the most credible alternative at this point to take on a resurgent Golkar, the party created by the strongman Suharto. Golkar is now headed by the powerful coal tycoon Aburizal Bakrie, who has made no secret of his ambition to run.

If Hatta can win, serves the theoretical and obligatory two terms and term limits then end his political career, Edhie, also known as Ibas, would be 39 and presumably seasoned enough to follow him into the presidency according to the gossip mill.

Whether the reports have any credibility, President Yudhoyono felt called upon Tuesday to deny that the pending marriage was indeed intended to cement a coalition between the Democrats and PAN. According to the so-called “love coalition” speculation, the marriage was designed to create a bond between the two parties.

Certainly, whether it involves the marriage of two political parties, it does involve the marriage of two cultures – Javanese and Sumatran. Yudhoyono hails from Pacitan in East Java while Hatta is from Palembang in South Sumatra, the site of the ill-starred games.

In any case, Yudhoyono told reporters, the marriage was his son’s personal choice. “We ask for Allah’s blessing upon our plan to marry our sons and daughters Edhie Baskoro and his choice Siti Ruby Aliya Rajasa on November 24, 2011,” he told reporters.

Political coupling or no, the three-day ceremony has Indonesians excited. Thousands of guests were invited, with an Islamic prayer and a siraman (translated as “splash of water”) shower ceremony at Yudhoyono’s private residence in Bogor, then followed by another at Hatta’s home in South Jakarta on Tuesday.

A convoy carrying the groom’s family visited the bride’s to formally seek her hand. Since the two homes are roughly 100 km. apart, Indonesians braced for traffic jams in an already chaotic city as the presidential convoy and ambassadors, politicians and dignitaries raced between the two locations. Police, however, said they would keep traffic distraction to a minimum.

Festivities are to resume tomorrow with the official union at the Cipanas Palace in West Java before 1,000 guests. The reception is to be held Saturday at the Jakarta Convention Center with 3,600 invited guests.

The president has said that no public funds are to be spent on the ceremonies, and that in fact he will be at his desk throughout.

“We all understand that for the ordinary citizen, it’s reasonable to take a day off for a wedding in the family, but as the head of state the president can’t do this,” a palace spokesman said.

The spokesman added that the stream of politicians, ambassadors and other VIPs would not disrupt regular traffic.

“We’ve planned it so that the guests first gather at a rest stop at the 45-kilometer point of the road. From there, they will head together in a convoy escorted by police so that there will be minimal disruption to the traffic,” the spokesman said.

(With reporting from Jakarta Globe)

Freedom of Assembly Bill is Unconstitutional and Worse Than The Existing Repressive Police Act

Lawyers For Liberty condemns the tabling of the Freedom of Assembly Bill in Dewan Rakyat today as the Bill clearly appears to be an affront to the constitutional guarantee of the right to peaceful assembly which is enshrined in Article 10(1)(b) of the Federal Constitution.

The Prime Minister has once again reneged on his public promise of reform announced on the night of 15 September 2011 where he said among many things “the Government will also review section 27 of the Police Act 1967, taking into consideration Article 10 of the Federal Constitution regarding freedom of assembly and so as to be in line with international norms on the same matter.”

The Freedom of Assembly Bill seeks to prohibit, among others, street protests, peaceful assembly in prohibited areas, and peaceful assembly organized by a person below 21 years of age. The Bill also imposes 30 days’ notice to be given to the Police prior to the planned assembly. The interpretation of “street protest” in the Bill is in fact a description of a peaceful assembly.

The Freedom of Assembly Bill in essence dilutes the right to peaceful assembly as it imposes unreasonable restrictions and conditions which render the right to peaceful assembly unattainable and therefore unconstitutional.

The Bill also confers wide powers to the Police in dealing with peaceful assembly where section 8 of the Bill clearly states that a police officer may take “such measures as he deems necessary”. This particular section is vague and open to abuse.

In relation to the right to peaceful assembly, it is to be noted that any law enacted for the purpose of preserving national security and public order must be in conformity with the international human rights standards and norms of a democratic society. Conditions to the right to peaceful assembly must be clearly spelled out, reasonable and minimal in order to ensure that the right can be exercised without hindrance.

The Freedom of Assembly Bill manifests the repressive nature of the government’s action which is deliberately aimed at amplifying greater assault on the people’s right to peaceful assembly which has already been trampled on by the repressive existing provisions in the Police Act 1967, Penal Code and Public Order (Preservation) Act 1958.

Lawyers For Liberty demands the government to immediately withdraw the repressive Bill and pay heed to the people’s resolve to challenge any regressive move by the government that infringes the fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed under the Federal Constitution.

Lawyers for Liberty

Najib has smashed to smithereens the mirage of political transformation and “best democracy in the world” which he created two months ago with a repressive and undemocratic Peaceful Assembly Bill

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has now smashed to smithereens the mirage of political transformation and “best democracy in the world” with the first reading of the undemocratic Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011.

The mirage created by Najib that he wants to make Malaysia “the best democracy in the world” lasted only two months as the proposed repeal of Section 27 of the Police Act requiring police permits for any gathering of three or more persons is to be replaced by a more undemocratic and repressive Peaceful Assembly Bill violating the constitutional right of Malaysians to freedom of assembly.

In many respects, the Peaceful Assembly Bill is even more restrictive and repressive than Section 27 of the Police Act. Under the new law, for instance, a person can be fined up to RM20,000 as compared to RM10,000 under the Police Act.

In banning “street protests”, restricting assemblies from “prohibited places” or “within fifty metres from the limit of the prohibited place”, requiring notice of 30 days for an assembly to be held as well as empowering the police which is a total stranger to the concept of “democratic policing” to impose arbitrary restrictions and conditions for an assembly, the fundamental constitutional right of freedom to assembly runs the risk of being grounded to ashes.

The Prime Minister should withdraw the Peaceful Assembly Bill in its present form to remove the undemocratic features to ensure that the new law does not end up as a more undemocratic and repressive substitute for Section 27 of the Police Act.

Flood In Kelantan Worsens, Two Siblings Drowned

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 (Bernama) -- The flood situation in Kelantan is getting worse with two siblings becoming the first casualty while two others are feared drowned although the situation in several other areas is reported to be improving tonight.

The Kelantan Fire and Rescue Department reported that two brothers died in Bachok this afternoon while two others were feared drowned in Pasir Mas.

The total number of evacuees in Kelantan had also increased from 227 to 416 at nine relief centres in the district of Kota Baharu (Sekolah Kebangsaan (SK) Mulong, SK Tiong and Sekolah Menengah (SM) Melor, Pasir Mas (SK Bukit Jarum and Masjid Gabus), Pasir Puteh (SK Bukit Awang) and Tanah Merah (SK Kulim, Madrasah Padang Kija and Madrasah Becah Palas Lubuk Agor).

In addition, several roads in Machang (Jalan Machang-Pangkal Meleret-Wakaf Bata), Pasir Puteh (Kilometer 1 Jalan Banir Belikong-Tasik Pauh) and Tanah Merah (Kilometer 3, Jalan Tanah Merah-Kusial-Kampung Ipoh) were closed to all traffic.

Four major rivers namely Sungai Lebir in Tualang, Sungai Kelantan at Jambatan Guillemard, Sungai Golok in Jenob and Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang were reported to be at the alert level.

In TERENGGANU, the flood did not prevent almost 50 candidates for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia examinations from taking a boat ride to go to the examination centre at Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Menerong, Hulu Terengganu.

The total number of victims evacuated dropped from 1,406 (Setiu, 671; Besut, 560 and Hulu Terengganu, 175) at noon to 1,296 (Setiu, 829; Besut, 362; and Hulu Terengganu, 105) tonight while 25 evacuation centres were still operating in Besut (12), Hulu Terengganu (2) and Setiu (11).

The water level in several rivers was also reported to be above the danger level in Setiu (Kampung Langkap, Jambatan Permaisuri and Jambatan Calok), Hulu Terengganu (Kuala Ping and Kuala Jengai) and Besut (Kampung La).

In JOHOR, 16 victims from three families were still staying at the relief centre at the Kampung Cahaya Community Hall, Air Hitam until this afternoon.