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Friday, November 25, 2011

Community rift over undercover police in mosques

Relations between the Muslim community and Greater Manchester Police are being strained after officers infiltrated mosques.
Muslim kneeling for prayer 
Some Muslims feel that non-Muslims posing as members of the faith within a mosque was disrespectful.

Some Islamic groups have told the BBC Asian Network that they are angry about undercover tactics used in recent counter terror operations.

Police deny relations with the community have deteriorated.

The North West Counter Terrorism Unit carried out an investigation which involved officers posing as Muslims.

They attended prayer meetings and services at a dozen unnamed mosques in Manchester after they befriended four Muslim men for more than a year.

Three of the men, Munir Farooqi, 54, Israr Malik, 24, and Matthew Newton, 29, were convicted of terrorism charges in September. Another man was acquitted.

The court heard Farooqi, a former Taliban fighter, had tried to recruit the undercover policemen to go to Afghanistan to fight British soldiers.
'It's alarming'

Malik and Newton worked alongside Farooqi at his bookstall.

Farooqi was given four life sentences, Newton was jailed for six years and Malik was given an indeterminate sentence and told he would serve at least five years.

But the covert nature of the operation has led to tensions between Greater Manchester Police and its Islamic advisory group.

Yasmin Dar, a member of the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) Mosques and Community Forum, said: "It's alarming, you've got one community that is being targeted.

"I've not heard of any cases of undercover officers going into churches or synagogues, so why a particular faith? Relations with the police have hit rock bottom. It's created a lot of mistrust with the police."

Another Forum member Rabnawaz Akbar said: "Mosques are a special place for Muslims and when people were told that this had happened they just felt betrayed. It's left a scar on the good relations that had been built over the years."

Ms Dar said this issue, coupled with the police decision to apply to confiscate the home where Farooqi's family live led to all 15 members of the forum walking out of a meeting with the police earlier this month.

At the meeting they had called on the Chief Constable Peter Fahy to reconsider the decision to apply to court for a forfeiture order.

The Muslim Safety Forum, a national organisation which advises the police on issues concerning British Muslims, says the way in which counter terror investigations are carried out must change.

However, Professor Eric Grove, from the Centre for International Security and War Studies at the University of Salford, believes that undercover investigations are necessary, including possible conversions to Islam.
'Part of counter terrorism'

"I don't think there's much alternative to the current tactics, in the current circumstances. Human intelligence infiltrating the society from which terrorists, sadly, do come, is a necessary part of any counter terrorism campaign.

"If people are converting for this, you can see why imams find this difficult and unwelcome, but on the other hand it's probably inevitable."

Imam Habib-ur-Rehman, of the Madina Mosque in Levenshulme, says that he feels insulted by the fact that non-Muslims pretended to be part of the faith.

He said: "We will never welcome such people who record our messages secretly, not such undercover activities, definitely not. We will never support them."

Members of the Islamic communities were angered when they heard that police officers had posed as Muslims, he said. He explained that things could have got out of hand had people started to protest on the streets.

"We were disappointed and angry but at the same time we remained peaceful, we tried to remain law abiding - an angry person can do anything."

The Muslim Safety Forum (MSF) represents more than 30 Islamic organisations including the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Parliament, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and mosques.

It offers advice to the Metropolitan Police and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on Islamic issues. Its counter terrorism spokesman Shamiul Joarder argues Muslims are already taking the lead in the fight against extremism.

"We've seen it through Finsbury Park Mosque - it was the Muslims who took out Abu Hamza."

He says the authorities need the support of the Muslim community in order to counter terrorist activity effectively.

"The police haven't managed to foster positive relationships with the Muslim community, otherwise they could use these channels to get the information they need. This kind of infiltration is not the way forward."
'Praised by the judge'

Greater Manchester Police declined to give an interview but issued a statement. It said: "There was simply no other way for this terror network to be uncovered other than the use of undercover officers, and the police were praised by the judge.

"We also do not agree with the view that relations with the Muslim community are at an all-time low - that does not reflect the numerous consultations, forums and public meetings we have had with members of the community since the convictions.

"We accept the forfeiture order is an emotive one and has engendered strong feelings, but the response we had to the convictions themselves was very positive."

PKR challenges Umno to guarantee Malay PM

JOHOR BARU, Nov 25 — PKR Youth dared Umno today to amend the federal constitution to state that the prime minister must be Malay.
Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Amin said in his policy speech at the wing’s national congress here that this was because “history shows Umno is willing to sell out everything.”
Shamsul accused Umno of ‘endangering the interests and position of Malays’.
“To ensure that the last Malay stronghold, that is political power, is not traded away by Umno, we challenge Umno to amend the federal constitution to insert conditions and guarantees that the prime minister must be Malay. “The excuse that the post is held by a Malay because Umno is in power cannot be accepted. To cover up their evil, those who question them are accused of betraying Malays,” he told over 800 delegates.
He accused Umno of “endangering the interests and position of Malays... for their own gains.”
Umno has repeatedly accused Pakatan Rakyat (PR) of selling out the Malays to Chinese and foreign interests, insisting that the Malays can only be protected if Barisan Nasional (BN) remains in power.
Since the landmark Election 2008 where PR denied BN its customary two-thirds majority of Parliament and five state governments, the Malays have swung back towards the ruling coalition even as Chinese support for the federal opposition has increased.
Racial tension has also heightened over the past few years especially with repeated allegations that Muslims are being proselytised.
Umno’s Utusan Malaysia accused the DAP earlier this year of conspiring with the church to turn Malaysia into a Christian state and install a Christian prime minister.
A coalition of Muslim NGOs known as Himpunan Sejuta Umat (Gathering of a Million Faithful) has also organised several gatherings around the country to “rise up to the challenge of Christianisation.”
Article 153 of the constitution grants the Agong di-Pertuan Agong responsibility to “safeguard the special position of the Malays” and has been interpreted by Malay rights groups to justify special privileges in the economy, religion and education.

‘What happened to Malaysia?’

How is it that the cost of so many basic food items and day to day consumable items end up being so much more expensive in Malaysia compared to Singapore?
COMMENT
By Mimi Chih
How does one measure the success of a country? To the people, it is reflected in their overall standard of living.
Not every country is lucky enough to have a team of intelligent people whose passionate objectives drive them to make their country a better place to live – for everyone.
Singapore is one such country. Today this island republic has one of the highest standard of living in Southeast Asia.
When Tunku Abdul Rahman decided to expel Singapore from the Federation of Malaya leading to its independence on Aug 9, 1965, the world did not expect this tiny island republic with a population of 1.8 million then to stand tall as one of the original Four Asian Tigers, along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan 46 years later.
Which Malaysian could have imagined that some 46 years after the split, Singapore’s exchange rate to the ringgit would hit a dizzying rate of RM2.41 (as at Nov 11, 2011)?
The last time the Singapore dollar (SGD) was almost on part with the ringgit (RM) was in August 1972 when SGD 100 was equivalent to RM100.10.
For an average wage earner in Singapore, making SGD2,500 a month, going for a 10 days holiday to the US or Australia or Europe once a year is a relatively small matter.
Annoying issues
So what happened to Malaysia? In 1965 when Singapore was expelled, Malaysia had everything that the island republic glaringly lacked – ample land, a plethora of natural resources, an operating government, and 9.3 million people.
Unfortunately, in the 46 years that has come to past, Malaysia has been bogged down by a number of issues which are clearly distracting the government from doing what it is supposed to be doing.
The ruling government (Umno-Barisan Nasional) in Malaysia is debating whether education in English would be significantly beneficial to the rakyat.
The opposition PAS is vehement in wanting to forcibly implement the hudud laws and banning Elton John from performing in Malaysia because of his sexual orientation and the Obedient Wives Club’s proposition that Muslim women should be obedient and strive to approach sex with their hubbies not just on a physical level but on the higher spiritual realm.
Then there are also questions posed to DAP’s national chairman Karpal Singh by MCA’s leader Dr Chua Soi Lek.
Chua wants to know whether a non-Muslim should first convert to Islam if they wanted to be deputy prime minister should Pakatan become the ruling government.
These are just a handful of endless annoying issues which Umno has had to deal with on a daily basis.
RM pales to SGD
In 2011 Singapore’s population stands at 5.18 million (63% are Singaporean citizens while 37% are permanent residents).
Malaysia’s population as at July 2011 is 28.73 million. Without getting into advanced mathematical calculations, one would deduce that economies of scale would be more achievable in the country that has 28.73 million people versus 5.18 million.
But this is not the case.
The cost of living is relative to the ability to earn. Lets establish the value of currency in terms of the wage rate (Malaysia does not have a minimum wage rate yet).
In Singapore the average general worker such as a merchandiser in a supermarket or department store or the cashier serving you at Mc Donald’s earns SGD5.50 – 6.00 per hour.
In Malaysia similar positions start at RM4 – 6 per hour.
But take a look at how much things cost in Malaysia. A kopi si peng (iced coffee) costs between SGD0.90 to SGD1.20 in clean coffee shops or food courts in Singapore.
In Malaysia the same kopi si peng in coffee shops or food courts costs RM1.80 to RM2.00.
A Chinese roasted duck costs SGD18-25 each . In Malaysia, at the market rate of RM48 per bird, eating roasted duck is a luxury.
Better consumer value in Singapore
As my niece, who graduated with an accounting degree and ACCA cert from Sunway College two years ago, is fond of saying: “A person earning peanuts (SGD peanuts, OK) in Singapore can still afford to buy Peter Pan Honey Roasted Peanut Butter imported from the US.
“A Malaysian earning peanuts in Malaysia can’t even afford to smell any peanut butter…SGD10 in Singapore goes a lot further than RM10 in Malaysia!” says my niece.
Needless to say, Malaysia has already lost her to Singapore – talk about brain drain. More than 13 young accounting graduates from her circle of friends have eagerly taken the same path.
How is it that the cost of so many basic foods and day to day consumable items end up being so much more expensive in Malaysia?
Malaysian politicians need to start talking in a meaningful language to the people.
For a start, they can talk in terms of bringing down the cost of foods and consumables in Malaysia while striving for a decent standard.
The rakyat will surely want to listen to the party that can talk sense about making their RM10 go further than at its current limpy and lethargic rate.
It would be nice for average income earning Malaysians to be able to afford US made Peter Pan Honey Roasted Peanut Butter.
Don’t fret over issue
Forget the hudud laws for now. Being obedient wives is interesting…. but it’s not an urgent matter. Lets not fret on this issue.
And why must a capable non-Muslim candidate convert to Muslim to be the Deputy Prime Minister (of Malaysia)?
Also would converting to Muslim make the candidate a better Deputy Prime Minister?
Finally, do let Elton John dazzle the Malaysians for just one nite; he is not a terrorist. He is truly an accomplished, world class musician and entertainer.
This is an excerpt of an article which first appeared in Sabahkini.com

‘Tolak negara Islam tak sama dengan tolak Islam’

Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin menegaskan bahawa Islam menyambut baik kepelbagaian dalam pandangan seperti mana yang terserlah di dalam hukum dan tafsiran.

PETALING JAYA: Penolakan negara Islam tidak bermakna seseorang itu menolak Islam.

Dalam konteks politik Malaysia, PAS mahu menubuhkan negara Islam. Usaha yang dijalankan, antara lain adalah menerusi pengenalan sistem hudud di negeri Kelantan tetapi ditentang oleh golongan liberal Muslim.

Bekas mufti Perlis Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin di dalam blognya menulis bahawa tokoh-tokoh gerakan Islam seringkali menafsir nas-nas politik dalam Islam secara literal menyebabkan golongan Muslim lain menentang negara Islam.

“Disebabkan kecenderungan memilih ‘jalur keras’ dan literal dalam memahami nas-nas politik dalam Islam, maka ada tokoh-tokoh gerakan Islam menampilkan pandangan-pandangan yang dianggap terkeluar dari kerangka politik hari ini.

“Ini menyebabkan generasi baru, sekali pun bertudung dan bernasyid, belum tentu bersetuju dengan Negara Islam model tersebut.

Menolak Negara Islam yang ditafsirkan oleh sesuatu pihak, bukan semestinya menolak Islam,” tegas beliau.

Beliau turut menjelaskan apa yang disifatkan sebagai penolakan Islam iaitu nas yang jelas dari al-Quran.

“Nas yang tidak mungkin mempunyai lebih dari satu tafsiran seperti haramnya arak, judi, zina, homoseks, riba, rasuah, pecah amanah, bunuh dan seumpamanya.

Tafsiran ulama

“Adapun nas yang terdedah kepada pelbagai tafsiran, jika seseorang menolak salah satu tafsiran ulama, bukanlah bererti menolak Islam.

Beliau menambah bahawa Islam menyambut kepelbagaian dalam tafsiran dan hukum seperti yang diutarakan dalam mazhab-mazhab Islam.

“Hal ini hendaklah difahami. Jika tidak, semua Muslim akan terdiri dari kalangan yang menolak Islam. Ini kerana dalam ribuan hukum, yang mempunyai ribuan tafsiran, setiap orang akan memilih tafsiran tertentu. Mereka yang bermazhab Shafie, secara tidak langsung menolak pandangan mazhab-mazhab yang lain. Begitulah sebaliknya.

Tokoh agama tersebut turut menyalahkan pihak-pihak yang menggambarkan negara Islam sebagai negara pengamal hukum hudud tanpa menggambarkan wajah Islam yang lebih luas.

“Wajah Negara Islam itu mengelirukan banyak pihak, apatahlagi apabila ada yang cuba menggambarkannya sebagai negara hukum yang memotong tangan, merejam wanita, memancung kepala, mengharamkan itu dan ini, mengharamkan media, mengharamkan internet, mengharamkan pendapat yang tidak sama dengan kerajaan dan ‘mazhab’ kerajaan dan seterusnya.

“Tanpa terlebih dahulu menggambarkan wajah rahmat Islam yang lebih luas yang mengatasi segala unsur hukuman yang bersifat terpencil itu.

“Tuhan dalam sesetengah gambaran pejuang ‘Islamic State’ adalah Tuhan yang penuh bengis dan garang. Sedangkan Tuhan yang dikenali oleh Muslim adalah Tuhan yang memberi rahmat.”

Malaysia can leap into World Bank top 10 list in two years, says chief secretary

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Malaysia only needs two years to break into the World Bank’s top 10 list of most competitive countries in the world, Putrajaya’s No. 1 public servant told The Malaysian Insider.
In a recent exclusive interview, Tan Sri Sidek Hassan said for the country to be a top performer the private sector needed to grow in tandem with its civil service.
“Our country can become more competitive by having the public sector 20 to 50 years ahead and bring it to today; and have the corporate sector 50 years ahead and bring it to today. Then, our country Malaysia can indeed be Number 1,” the chief secretary to the government said.
By that, he meant both government and private businesses needed to devise ways to fulfil the customer’s existing needs and anticipate future requirements before anyone else did.
And Sidek (picture) believes that Malaysians are ready to take on the challenge.
He noted that Malaysia had jumped five spots to 18th from 23rd in the World Bank’s ranking for 2012 in ease of doing business on the back of Putrajaya-led reforms, coming in fifth among all East Asian economies behind Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea and Thailand.
This comes after the nation regained its 21st place ranking in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index this year after falling to 26th in 2010.
“We are there but we have not arrived yet,” Sidek said, acknowledging the government’s weaknesses in filing taxes and issuing construction permits for foreign investors as highlighted in the 2012 Ease of Doing Business report.
“Our challenge is to be in the top 10 and it’s not about the very distant future. I’m talking about the next couple of years,” he added, confidently.
He noted that reforms were already being rolled out across the civil sector and only needed continuous follow-up action across the board to bring all administrative levels up to par.
Putrajaya’s decision to raise the retirement age to 60, he said, was a boon given that many senior civil officials were still mentally fit and had the added edge of experience to complement the annual injection of younger blood.
The top bureaucrat added that the government’s push to bring in more hires from the private sector was another boon as it created what he described as “cross fertilisation” and stirred friendly office rivalry.
“It is always good to have people coming from outside… at a pretty senior level because it complements what we have in the areas that we don’t have yet. That competition is good [because] people compete to be at the top and [we] get the best out of everybody there,” he said.
Sidek explained that the bureaucracy, too used to obeying rules even when outdated, needed help to learn how to be innovative and recognise when rules needed to evolve to keep up with the changed times.
Civil servants by training are asked to follow the rules,” he said.
“Our challenge here therefore is to keep up with time. In fact, we should be ahead of the time, ahead of the curve. It is what we in the Malaysian public service should be doing and in many instance we have been ahead,” he said, pointing out as a model example the Immigration’s swift issuance of passports within an hour.
In contrast, he noted that airlines in the private sector could take more than two hours to issue travel tickets to their customers.
Sidek said he had advised colleagues stuck for ideas to improve the government’s service to put themselves in the customer’s position.
He related a past experience of being stuck in a non-moving line at the Road Transport Department counter to renew his driver’s licence as having inspired him to look into ways to magic away the physical queue.
“I think what’s most important is the mindset,” he said, adding bureaucrats now understood they gained by simplifying red tape.
“I’m sure things will improve even better in the future.”

Najib: Public peace comes first

The Sun Daily
by Karen Arukesamy and Himanshu Bhatt


KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 24, 2011): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak tabled the Peaceful Assembly Bill for second reading today despite a call by opposition parties and several non-governmental organisations for it to be withdrawn.

The bill, to be debated on Tuesday, is an extension to Section 27 of the Police Act 1967, taking into consideration Article 10 of the Federal Constitution on the right to assemble and putting a stop to street demonstrations.

"Although Articles 10(1)(b) and (2)(b) do not specify clearly on the rights and freedom of others in restricting assemblies, their rights must be taken into consideration for the sake of federal security and public peace," Najib said.

The rights and freedom of others include the right to enjoy one's property, right to freedom of movement, right to enjoy nature and the right to conduct business.

Najib said the government had studied the Police Act and the new bill allows the right to assemble in accordance with methods to be decided later, while taking into account international norms.

He said the Attorney-General's Chambers had studied the constitution, other related Malaysian laws and legislations in other countries.

Among others, they are the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 (Queensland, Australia), Public Order Act 1986 (United Kingdom), Assembly Act 2008 (Germany), Public Meetings Ordinance (Moldova) and Public Assemblies, Parades and Protest Bill (Northern Ireland).

"The bill regulates assemblies held in public places, whether they are static or moving. They are governed by restrictions needed or expedient to a democratic society for public safety and order, including protecting the rights and freedoms of others," he said.

Earlier, while tabling the motion to revoke the three Emergency Proclamations, Najib said the bill abolishes the rule to obtain a police permit to hold assemblies.

"One important point is that there is no incarceration term, unlike the provisions in the Police Act. The only punishment that will be posed is in the form of fine," Najib said.

However, the opposition has described the bill as being "more suppressive and oppressive".

In Bandar Baru, Kedah, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the opposition will not be satisfied with moves made by the federal government for a political transformation process.

He told a press conference after attending a 1Malaysia public gathering in Serdang here that the legislation would allow demonstrations to take place, with regulations provided for participants to adhere to.

"People are not comfortable with the opposition's behaviour, especially in things like street demonstrations," he said.

On the decision to amend the Universities and University Colleges Act 1974 to enable students to join political parties when they are 21 years old, Muhyiddin said the move showed the maturity of the Barisan Nasional government.

3,610 Evacuated In Four States As Floods Also Hit Pahang

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 (Bernama) -- The number of flood evacuees in the country stood at 3,610 this evening as Pahang became the fourth state to be affected by rising floodwaters.

Eleven people moved out of their homes in Pahang Thursday, 13 still remain at a relief centre in Johor and the number of evacuees in Kelantan has risen to 1,184 this evening from 1,132 in the morning.

Terengganu saw a decline in the number of evacuees, from 2,678 in the morning to 2,402 in the evening, but the situation in the flood-hit areas has changed little.

The floods have so far claimed three lives in Kelantan, two of them brothers aged 14 and 16 in Bachok and a two-year-old boy in Pasir Mas. A teenage girl is missing in Pasir Mas.

The weatherman has no good news for the people in Terengganu, Pahang and Kelantan, at least until tomorrow. The Meteorological Department has forecast intermittent heavy rain in the three states and warned of the possibility of floods in low-lying areas.

In KELANTAN, a spokesman of the state flood operations room said the 1,184 evacuees are being accommodated at 27 relief centres in seven districts.

"As of this evening, Pasir Mas is the worst-affected district where 11 relief centres have been opened," he said.

He also said that the level of two major rivers in the state were at the warning point, the Golok River at Rantau Panjang and the Kelantan River at the Guillemard bridge.

Kelantan education director Hussain Awang said only three of the 283 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination centres had been affected by the floods, they being Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan Al-Falah, Rantau Panjang; Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan Saadatul Qura, Kuala Krai; and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Tiang Chandi, Pasir Mas.

He said the 28 candidates at the Al-Falah school had been moved to Sekolah Menengah Agama Banggol Stol while 19 candidates at the Saadatul Qura school had been sent to Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan Darul Salam.

The 203 candidates of SMK Tiang Chandi are sitting for their examination at the school hall which is not flooded, he said, adding that the students are being accommodated at the school hostel.

In TERENGGANU, the 2,402 evacuees are in Setiu (1,540), Besut (573), Kemaman (166), Hulu Terengganu (112) and Marang (11).

The level of rivers at several places have breached the danger point in Setiu, Besut and Hulu Terengganu.

Terengganu Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Asha'ari Idris said coconut plantations over 200 hectares in Gong Terap and a large-scale prawn farm of 1,000 hectares in Kampung Nyatuh have been affected by the floods.

Some 60 padi farmers in Kampung Tasek and Kampung Buluh Hilir in Setiu reported losses estimated at RM500,000 after the floods damaged their crop over almost 200 hectares.

In PAHANG, 11 people were evacuated from Kampung Chendor Batu near Kuantan as the first of the flood victims in the state. A spokesman of the Pahang police headquarters said they were moved to the relief centre at the Kampung Chendor community hall after floodwaters rose to half a metre last night.

The level of four major rivers -- Triang in Bera, Belat, Lembing and Kuantan -- have breached the warning mark, said a spokesman of the Pahang Drainage and Irrigation Department.

"People living near these rivers have been advised to be on the lookout for floods," he said.

In JOHOR, 13 evacuees still remain at the relief centre at the Kampung Cahaya community hall in Air Hitam.

A spokesman of the Johor disaster operations room said the Johor National Security Council was monitoring the situation in view of intermittent heavy rain in several areas of the state.

Himalayan nations yet to break the ice

With global average temperature increasing, its most visible and direct effect can be seen on mountains.

 
Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has been using the iconic peak to draw global attention to the risks faced by its mountain community. [GALLO/GETTY]

Kathmandu, Nepal - Chungda Sherpa, a former herder from eastern Nepal, has a warning tale ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Durban.

At World Wildlife Fund-Japan's 'Climate Witness' programme in Osaka and Tokyo this month, to apprise communities around the world how climate change is threatening lives and livelihoods, the 48-year-old described how the glacier on Mt Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world, is shrinking rapidly.

"When I was young... I was told it was one of the largest non-polar glaciers in the world," he said. "But it has retreated now and I can see glacial lakes forming, which could grow larger over time and become GLOFs (glacial lake outburst floods), posing a threat to our lives and property."

With global average temperature increasing by approximately 0.75 degrees Celsius in the last century, its most visible and direct effect can be seen on mountains, says Pradeep Mool, remote sensory expert at the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD).

"The health of glaciers indicates the state of the climate," says Mool. "In 1957, when Swiss geologist Dr Toni Hagen took the photograph of the Gangapurna glacier on the northern slope of Mt Annapurna, it lay over the Manang valley. But recent photos show the glacier is now just a hanging strip. We have witnessed the change in our lifetime."

Shrinking glaciers

The shrinking and retreating of the Himalayan glaciers - which provide life-giving water to over a billion people - became visible after early 1970. Three decades later, the phenomenon accelerated, resulting in the formation of moraine-dammed glacial lakes which are swelling ominously.

There are over 20,000 glacial lakes in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas and a GLOF risk assessment report by ICIMOD in 2010 compiled a list of 179 potentially dangerous ones in China, India, Nepal and Pakistan. In addition, experts have identified another 25 in Bhutan.

So far, China has recorded the highest number of GLOFs (29), followed by Nepal (22), Pakistan (9) and Bhutan (4).

"There is a dearth of data," says Mool. "For instance, people talk of cold floods in India and Myanmar (Burma), which could have been GLOFs; even some satellite images indicate that. But there is no recorded literature."

The geography as well as geopolitics of the region comes in the way of extensive surveys and information sharing.

Disputed territory

The high altitude of glacial lakes and glaciers - 4,800m above sea level and higher - makes them virtually inaccessible. Also, many of them are near international boundaries or in disputed territory, like the Siachen glacier near India's boundary with Pakistan and Arunachal Pradesh state in India, part of which is claimed by China.

The disputes make them sensitive areas, often out of bounds for scientific surveys.

Political instability and ensuing violence, like in Afghanistan and Pakistan, also obstruct research. But despite the difficulties, ICIMOD has now for the first time conducted additional survey of GLOFs in Afghanistan and Burma.

The new inventory of nearly 1,700 lakes in the two countries, done mostly by satellite imaging, will be tabled in Durban during 17th conference of the parties (COP 17) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban.

Though most of the governments in the region realise the need to combat climate change and have individually formulated national action plans as well as laws on disaster management, there is still little collective effort.

Climate summit

For instance, on November 19, Bhutan hosted a 'Climate Summit for a Living Himalayas' to address climate change impacts on bio-diversity, food and energy security and the natural freshwater systems of the Himalayas.

However, only India, Nepal and Bangladesh participated, besides the host country, raising eyebrows at the non-participation of China and Pakistan.

"The meeting was intended only for countries from the eastern Himalayas," says Krishna Gyawali, secretary at Nepal's environment ministry. "We have to start somewhere and then gradually expand."

However, it is felt that India's uneasy relationship with China and Pakistan could have kept them out.

"Some of Asia's major rivers like the Ganga, Brahmaputra and Mekong flow through more than one country," says Mool. "Water-induced disasters spill over borders.

"Ten of the GLOF devastations experienced by Nepal originated in Tibet. The effect is long-lived. Besides the immense cost of rebuilding infrastructure in mountainous regions, there is the possibility of increasing landslide and avalanche. So, regional co-operation is a must."

Disaster management

What is promising is that some of these countries are working with multilateral donor agencies to lessen GLOF risks, create an early warning system in case of floods and devise optional livelihood means for displaced people.

According to Martin Krause, team leader at UNDP Asia-Pacific regional centre's environment and energy division, the agency is engaged in projects in Bhutan and Pakistan with a new one to start in Nepal next year.

In Bhutan, it is focusing on the Buddhist kingdom's two most vulnerable areas, the Punakha-Wangdi and Chamkhar valleys, home to 10 per cent of the country's population and important infrastructure.

The projects are co-financed by the UNFCC, Least Developed Countries Fund and the Austrian government. UNDP hopes that a component of the project - reducing the water level of Lake Thorthormi, ranked among Bhutan's most dangerous glacial lakes - will provide valuable experience to other countries like China, Pakistan, India and Chile

In Pakistan, UNDP is working with the government to create an institution to address GLOF risks and other issues affecting communities and livelihoods in northern Pakistan and help them respond.

Ironically, though Nepal remained closed to the outside world till the 1950s and was affected by a 10-year communist insurgency from 1996, it remains the most open to surveys, research and disaster mitigation projects.

Next year, UNDP will start a many-layered disaster risk management programme in Nepal that, among other things, will seek to reduce human and material losses from GLOFs in two mountain districts: Dolakha and Solukhumbu.

Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mt Everest, has been using the iconic peak to draw global attention to the risks faced by its mountain community.

"In 2009, the then government of Nepal called a cabinet meeting at Kala Patthar (a 5,242 m high plateau at the foot of Mt Everest)," says Ghana S. Gurung, conservation programme director at World Wildlife Fund Nepal.

"Later, at COP 15 in Copenhagen he gave rocks from Mt Everest to US President Barack Obama and the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to emphasise how the peak's snow cover was receding. It succeeded in drawing global attention to the peril faced by the world's highest mountain due to climate change."

A version of this article was first published on IPS.

Turkey Officially Apologizes for 1930s Mass Killing of Kurds

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 22, 2011.
Photo: Reuters
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, November 22, 2011.
Turkey's prime minister has for the first time officially apologized for the mass killing of Kurds in an uprising 80 years ago. The statement is seen by some as groundbreaking and the first step in the country facing up to its difficult past, but others see it as more to do with politics.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed a meeting of supporters holding a copy of an historical paper, which he said documents the killing of nearly 14,000 Kurds in a rebellion in the 1930s. He then went on to do what no previous prime minister has done.

Erdogan said if there is need for an apology on behalf of the state, "I will apologize and I am apologizing."

The killings occurred between 1936 and 1938 in Dersim province. It was renamed Tunceli as part of the suppression of the rebellion, which also saw tens of thousands Kurds forced from their homes.

The mass killings of the restive Kurdish minority in Dersim, most of whom were civilians, have until recently remained a largely taboo subject for mainstream politics.

Observers say Erdogan's groundbreaking statement has as much to do with party politics, however, with the prime minister pointing out that the main opposition People's Republican Party, or CHP, was in power when the killings occurred.

It was the leader of that party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who demanded that Turkey acknowledge its past actions. Kilicdaroglu, who is from Tunceli, accused Erdogan of seeking to undermine the legacy of the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, who was in power at the time of the mass killings.

The Turkish government currently is fighting against Kurdish rebels, who are waging a campaign for autonomy in Turkey's largely Kurdish southeast. The fighting has killed more than 40,000 people since 1984. It is the latest of several uprisings by the Kurds that span more than a century.

Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party, the BDP, has questioned the sincerity of the prime minister's move, pointing out that mass arrests of its members and sympathizers continue.

The government maintains the arrests are part of its fight against the Kurdish insurgency, led by the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. More than 70 Kurds were detained this week, most of whom were lawyers. More than 1,000 Kurds have been arrested since Turkey's general election in June.

Peaceful Assembly Bill ignites protest at Parliament



Umno allows all to cover AGM, says Hisham



Aunty Bersih: I’ll walk again

In an FMT Raw interview, she calls upon Malaysians to speak up and fight against injustice.
VIDEO INSIDE
PETALING JAYA: She became an instant celebrity when a photograph of her – a lone figure in yellow, soaked in rain and chemical-laced water, walking in front of a row of riot police – pulled at the heartstrings of the Malaysian public.
At first, retired English teacher Annie Ooi Siew Lan, 65, was a reluctant hero of the July 9 Bersih rally. She felt too ordinary to deserve the epithets “Aunty Bersih” and “Malaysian Lady of Liberty”.
But, although she still prefers to be called just “Anne”, she has since found her voice and is beginning to accept that she has an important role to play in improving democracy in Malaysia.
“I’m not a celebrity like Tiger Woods,” she said. “Am I a Bersih hero? I don’t think so. But I know now I have things to do. I have to speak up. I have to be the voice to speak for so many who cannot speak, who do not know the situation.”
She said she would always stand up for the “underdogs”, those who, like her, are bullied by the power of the state.
In a live interview with FMT Raw yesterday, Anne spoke passionately about being spurred to speak up for others.
Often grimacing and frowning whenever she mentioned the things the government does that she did not like, Anne said she was ready to walk again, especially after reading about the Peaceful Assembly Bill.
“Now you tell me, ‘Don’t assemble.’ I’m going to assemble. If they say don’t gather, I’ll gather,” she said.
“Now with the new bill, you don’t need a permit. So what? The police can arrest anyone. They can do a lot of things if the bill is passed.”
Najib should admit his mistakes
Anne said she was ready to gather a group of like-minded people soon and see what the police would do to deny them their right to assemble peacefully.
Asked if she had hoped for a better law for freedom of assembly, she said: “Hope always runs strong in every human heart. We hope until hope dies itself. I also always hope that Najib would understand the mistakes and just admit it lah. It’s to his interest.
“I do not know much about law, but hope was there that it would come out right. But no, it was ‘tipu’ (cheating) again, nothing was right. Nothing was good about it.”
She also said it was not right for the new bill to prohibit children below 15 from participating in public protests.
“Children will be everywhere the parents are. The parents don’t want them to put their children elsewhere, when they are doing something good. They want their children to learn too.”
Anne said her hobby was “pulling grass”, singing, and dancing.
But the feisty grandmother has also worked for the welfare of the poor as well as refugees. “If I was a politician, if I could walk with beggars every day, I would do it,” she said.
However, she dismissed any possibility of her being in active politics because that would mean associating with greedy, unintelligent people who did not care about the rakyat. “I’m not going to be among that group. Thank you.”
EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW:
How did you find out that your picture was online?
My daughter has all these gadgets. When she first saw it, she was very loud. She was looking at the numbers (of fans on a Facebook page). “Ma, look. Five thousand!” She was jumping and jumping. This was something new to me. My reaction was that I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe there were so many pictures. I really wanted to see more photos. But seeing those made the tears come, the anger come, all over again.
That day, from 11am, we didn’t know each other. We were still unaware, not looking at each other, like strangers to each other. But when the sound “Hidup hidup rakyat” came out, ooh, that magic thrilling feeling. Everyone caught it there that day. Of being one. So exhilirating. So indescribable. We were feeling so good standing with each other.
I know I’m not finished yet. Am I a Bersih hero? I don’t think so. But I know now I have things to do.
Right after Bersih, a lot of people wanted to interview you. You shunned the media. You shunned the publicity. But now here you are on a live interview with an online news portal. So what has changed?
What has changed? It was Occupy. (The Occupy movement is an international protest movement against economic and social inequality. An Occupy gathering was held in Kuala Lumpur last July). That’s one part. Seksualiti Merdeka. There are so many things.
Bersih has created so much fear. Bersih and Occupy have allowed people to gather inspiration from each other, to meet, and to talk and get out and stand up.
What were you hoping when the Peaceful Assembly Bill was tabled?
Hope always runs strong in every human heart. We hope until hope dies itself. I also always hope that Najib would understand the mistakes and just admit it lah. It’s to his interest.
What about the clause that children below the age of 15 cannot participate?
Children will be everywhere the parents are, especially if the family is close knit and want to do everything together. The parents don’t want to put their children elsewhere when they are doing something good. They want their children to learn too.
Is there nothing in this bill you find positive?
Nothing. It is urgh! Lawyers can give you good words. Wise people can give you good words. I can just say, “Urgh.” It is not for me.
Certain quarters have also said that the restrictions is a small price to pay for public order and security, and these restrictions can be lifted after 50 years, when society is more mature. What do you think of that? Society is never ever mature. A group of people may be mature. Society has different layers.
Will we be mature in 50 years? With these laws they are trying to impose? With all these restrictions?
Tell us more about your plea to the King?
The people are very angry. Your people are very angry. The people who know the wrongdoings, who know what has been going on, the scandals, the figures, the money that has been taken off. We are very angry.
The poor are not being attended to. There are injustices that are going on.
We ask the King now to step in, if you do not want us to step on the road again.
You’re prepared to walk again?
You must come out and walk. If just Twitter and Facebook, and you have a big group, and you do not appear in yellow on a Saturday, what exactly are you doing? Im going again,with permission from my daughter. With this bill coming out, I am going out on Saturday at KLCC. I’ve been invited and would very much love to be there.

Don’t offend other races, Umno delegates urged

The Malay agenda can be developed without hurting the feelings of the other races, says Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan.

KUALA LUMPUR: Delegates to the 2011 Umno general assembly which starts on Nov 29 have been advised not to offend other races when talking on the Malay agenda.

Umno information chief Ahmad Maslan said today that in the context of 1Malaysia, the Malay agenda could still be developed without hurting the feelings of the other races in the country.

“Do not forget the 1Malaysia policy when expressing views. We need to think of the feelings of the other races,” he said when met after opening the Universiti Tun Abdul Razak (Unitar) arts and culture festival, here.

Ahmad, who is a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said that as a principal party, Umno should provide guidance which is respected by all the races.

A total of 5,447 delegates will attend the 2011 Umno general assembly to be held at the Merdeka Hall of the Putra World Trade Centre from Nov 29 to Dec 3.

The delegates comprise 2,627 people from the party’s 191 divisions nationwide, 944 from the women’s wing, 942 from the youth wing and 934 from the Puteri wing.

Meanwhile, Selangor Umno liaison committee deputy chairman Noh Omar today said the Selangor Umno will raise issues on unity at the general assembly.

“We will raise the issue on how to strengthen unity within the party for victory in the coming general election,” he said when asked on the agenda to be highlighted by the Selangor Umno at the general assembly.

He said this to reporters after presenting school aid to students of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Sungai Burong in Tanjong Karang.

Noh also said that Umno’s Youth and Puteri wings were directed to intensify activities in their divisions and branches to attract young voters to the Barisan Nasional.

“They need to carry out more programmes tailored for youths instead of leaders,” he added.

For the Tanjong Karang divison which he leads, the Umno Youth and non-governmental organisations had set up a Heritage Club made up of 1,000 youths with activities which encouraged healthy motorcycling activities and local cultural activities.

-Bernama

36 EO detainees to be released

This release is a continuing process, says Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

KUALA LUMPUR: About 36 people detained under the Emergency Ordinance (EO) will be released soon, Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said today.

He said the decision to release them demonstrated Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s seriousness in carrying out phase two of the government’s Political Transformation Programme by revoking three emergency proclamations.

“The police and home ministry will release not fewer than 36 people who were detained under the EO.

“This is a continuing process although it basically takes six months,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby, here.

At the Dewan Rakyat sitting today, Najib tabled a motion to revoke three emergency proclamations regarded as still being effective until today.

Hishammuddin said the task of the ministry and police was to ensure that national interest and public security were safeguarded, with people’s fundamental rights taken into consideration.

“I believe the work of the ministry and police through the Political Transformation Programme will be able to ensure that peace and public security will not be threatened,” he said.

The minister said in the transformation context, all peaceful assemblies should take into consideration the views of the relevant authorities so as not to jeopardise harmony, and national and public security.

“I believe the people are able to gauge the prime minister’s seriousness in carrying out transformation,” he added.

On the detention of 14 suspected militants under the Internal Security Act (ISA), by the authorities in Tawau, Sabah, he said the investigation was still on-going.

BN lacks innovative policies, sincerity for the people

By Jackson Ng, Retired Journalist

WITH the next and 13th General Election touted to be around the corner, the Barisan Nasional, especially Umno and MCA, is getting desperate. This is shown by the way Umno and MCA are dishing out goodies and financial aid to the people which they had actually condemned the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state governments for doing so after the 2008 political tsunami.

It also shows BN’s lack of innovative policies to help ease the financial burden of the people. BN is only good at copying the PR. That too is carried out without sincerity and sustainability.

Also, what the BN could not do or deliver in 54 years, the PR did in its maiden rule in its states. The following are three significant examples:
Ø The DAP-led PR Penang government implemented a policy to help senior citizens in the state by giving them a yearly cash aid of RM100 each;
Ø The PKR-led PR Selangor provided free water for all in the state who used less than 20m3 of water per month; and
Ø The then PAS-led PR Perak government implemented a policy to allow the conversion of leasehold land to freehold but this was retracted by BN who toppled the PR state government with the support of unethical political frogs.

The BN slammed the PR state governments’ innovative people-friendly policies and described the initiatives as just populist political gimmicks.

However, the “gimmicks” in Penang and Selangor have remained sustainable.

Compare what the PR state governments have introduced and implemented with the BN and MCA’s one-time financial aid to the people.

The BN and MCA’s recent announcement of cash aid to the people are clearly insincere, made just to “buy” votes for the coming general election.

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, in his Budget 2012 presentation, announced a RM100 aid to all public school children. He also announced a one-time payment of RM500 assistance to households with an income of RM3,000 and below.

This was followed by MCA’s announcement that it would allocate some RM30 million to distribute RM100 to help its members and RM200 for a new-born. This is only a one-time payment as it is unsustainable and a massive drain on the party funds.

Also, funds raised for the 1MCA Medical Foundation are now being described as just another mode of income tax collection and a twisted gimmick.

If not for the people’s support for the PR in 2008 followed by the political pressures from the PR’s style of governance, the BN and MCA would not have made the above people-friendly efforts.

In fact, the people should wisely accept and take the goodies from BN and MCA but continue to support the PR in the next general election.

Without the pressures from the PR, the BN and MCA will not bother to even consider any such massive financial aid to the people.

Should the PR secure federal power in the next general election, there is every indication that the people are set to benefit more with the PR’s access to federal funds.

This is just simple logic based on what the PR state governments had been able to do or deliver since securing the mandate to rule in 2008.

Malaysia's Civil Liberties Vow Under Fire

Image
Government delivers a carrot, tables a stick in parliament
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has moved to lift three long-standing emergency laws that allowed for detention without trial and to allow university students to participate in politics.

While rights groups have long called for such changes, the government’s commitment to boosting civil rights has come under fire this week after legislation banning street protests was tabled in parliament.

Najib is likely to win praise for his moves to allow university students to take part in politics and lift the emergency declarations, but the government’s tabling of the Peaceful Assembly Act has sparked complaints from rights groups who assert that the proposed law would be more repressive than current ones.

Their complaints come after the recent arrests of 13 people under a controversial security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial, another law Najib has pledged to abolish.

On Thursday, Najib called on parliament to revoke proclamations of emergency that had been issued in the 1960s and 1970s, and announced plans to amend the Universities and University Colleges Act to allow students to join political parties.

But it was this week’s tabling of the proposed law governing assemblies that prompted the opposition and rights groups to accuse the premier of reneging on his September announcement to provide better protection for civil rights.

“My immediate reaction is that it’s an insult to all Malaysians,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, a rights activist who led a rally calling for free and fair elections in July, referring to the Peaceful Assembly Act. “It flies in the face of what the prime minister promised. The impression given was that they were going to respect the right to freedom of assembly. This bill shows total disrespect for that fundamental right.”

While Najib has described the Peaceful Assembly Act as “revolutionary” and a “giant leap” towards improving individual freedom, according to online reports, the opposition has called for the bill to be withdrawn.

Under current legislation, Malaysians must apply for a police permit for gatherings of more than five people.

The Peaceful Assembly Act would not require people to obtain a permit but organisers would have to give 30 days advance notice to authorities, except for assemblies planned for designated areas. Police would be able to impose a number of conditions, including the date, time and duration of the assembly, the place of the assembly and the “conduct of participants during the assembly”.

The proposed law would prohibit street protests, and assemblies would not be permitted within 50 metres of prohibited areas such as hospitals, schools and places of worship. Anyone under the age of 21 would not be permitted to organise an assembly.

People who take part in street protests would be subject to fines of up to 10,000 ringgit. Anyone who brings a child to an assembly or allows a child to attend an assembly other than those stated in the legislation could be fined up to 20,000 ringgit.

Rights groups, opposition parties and the Malaysian Bar Council believe the proposed bill would impose more prohibitive restrictions than currently exist.

N. Surendran, vice president of the opposition People’s Justice Party, said that the law was unconstitutional and “makes a mockery of our democratic values”.

“It is clear that the real intention of Najib and his government is to make it as difficult and burdensome as possible for the people to peacefully assemble,” he said in a statement.

On Thursday, Najib said he was committed to making Malaysia “a modern, progressive nation”, which was why he was announcing an “end to the emergency laws, an end to regressive legislation that allows opposing voices to be stifled and an end to the ban on students in political parties”.

“All our moves are the result of the government's respect for the people's aspirations and listening and responding to the pulse of the people. It is not cheap rhetoric or false promises; it is one of taking a brave moral stand,” he said.

However, rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have also condemned the recent arrests of 13 people under the Internal Security Act on suspicion of militant activities in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

“The detention of 13 people under the ISA shows that it’s still business as usual in Malaysia when it comes to trampling suspects’ basic rights,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Najib has pledged to repeal the security law next year and replace it with new legislation. While detention without trial would still be permitted, Najib has said that the new law would provide for a “substantially reduced period of detention”.

Abolishing the security law was part of a raft of reforms Najib announced in September after the government suffered a decline in public support. Many commentators blamed the government’s handling of the July protest, where police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators, for damaging its public image.

Ms. Sreenevesan, chair of Bersih, the coalition of non-government organisations that led the July protest, said that she had initially been encouraged by the prime minister’s September announcement because she “assumed good faith on the part of our leaders”. She said she had been shocked this week upon learning about the “choking” restrictions in the Peaceful Assembly Act.

Analysts believe she won’t be the only Malaysian disappointed by the assembly law.

James Chin, a political science professor and director of the school of arts and social sciences at Monash University Malaysia, said the public, especially middle-class voters, had held high expectations for the promised reforms. He expects that the tabling of the assembly law will “backfire on the government” because the “overwhelming majority of the middle class think that the government has backpedalled on its promises of reform”.

Chin said the proposed law was likely to dent support for Najib among middle-class voters at the next election.

“It will damage his public persona as a reformer,” he said.

Chin believes that lifting the emergency declarations will not give Najib a boost, because he said “the overwhelming majority of Malaysians didn’t even know about the emergency declarations.

Ong Kian Ming, a political analyst and lecturer at UCSI University in Kuala Lumpur, said any boost in support Najib may have received with his September announcement would dissipate with the tabling of the assembly law.

While he believes the proposed law represents a “slight improvement” because demonstrators will no longer require a police permit, Ong said the common public perception of the law and the recent arrests under the security law was negative.

“Both of these things in combination don’t seem to herald a definite shift on the part of Najib to really liberalise political freedoms in the country,” he said.

Chin said that the prohibitive contents of the bill exposed divisions within the government.

“Although Najib wants to roll out the reforms, many senior ministers and the bureaucracy, especially the police and the Attorney-General’s office, are not in favour of reform. You can also read it as how difficult it is in Malaysia to reform the system that still very much reflects the iron rule of Mahathir,” he said, referring to former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad.

While analysts expect the bill to be approved during this parliamentary session, Ms Sreenevesan did not rule out the possibility that civil society groups may return to the streets to voice their opposition to the proposed law.

“We are looking into all possibilities. I think civil society will be discussing this and see what we can do to make our voices heard,” she said, adding that the government had failed to “read the people”.

“They think that by banning street protests it’s not going to happen. Well, they’re mistaken. If they think they can force people to shut up by having restrictive laws, that’s the totally wrong reaction.

(Liz Gooch is a Malaysia-based journalist. She can be reached at lizgooch@gmail.com.)

Why are you frustrated? — Shanker

NOV 24 — PAC Chairman Datuk Seri Azmi Khalid was reported to be frustrated, when giving his comments on the National Feedlot Centre controversy. “The public is fed up”, he told reporters.

Firstly, I would like to ask Datuk Seri Azmi: why are YOU frustrated? How could you lament at the inefficiencies, wastages and corruption which have become ingrained in our civil service’s DNA, when the nation’s CEO (who by extension, happens to be your boss) went to a by-election with his “I help you, you help me” tag proudly on display? Here’s a management lesson 101 then:- down-liners apply the same principles and work culture that the top adopts. The down-liners are also good at doing going to sleep with their eyes open, when the same top delivers speeches peppered with virtuous sounding jargons, because most of them could pick out a “do as I say, but don’t do as I do” type, when they hear one.

In fact Datuk Seri, I wish to ask you, is feeling frustrated ALL that you could muster? Pardon me, but frustrated sounds a little polite for me in the light of what is revealed, year in-year out, by the Auditor General’s report. Frustrated sounds muted when considering Barry Wain’s revelation that the Mahathir years have wasted approximately USD100 billion of our money.

I do agree with you on one thing, Datuk Seri, and that is that the public is fed up. In fact, they are fed up with a government that continues to tinker with public expectation, leading them to believe one thing and then running askew when the real deal is exposed. Such is the case with the proposed Peaceful Assembly Bill. The prime minister’s pitches by saying that the law is “revolutionary” and an “improvement on current laws”, but all I see is an individual who – together with his party – is simply bent on avoiding another Bersih.

The short end of it, then? He wants to remain in power. Somehow, Umno’s 54 years appears to have given them an illusion that Malaysians are adept to being humoured callously.

The public is fed up because, whilst Finance Minister II Datuk Seri Husni Hanadzlah appears confident that the nation will not be exposed to the euro’s debt crisis, unfortunately our public funds suffer a much more atrocious fate because nobody seems to be able to protect us from exposure to Umno’s greed.

The public is fed up with the hypocrisy emanating from Putrajaya, which has now descended into farcical levels. The public is fed up because the government has seen it fit to ignore the pleadings of the innocent for justice, as seen in conclusion of the Teoh Beng Hock, Ahmad Sarbani and Altantuya cases.

The public is fed up when they apply for scholarships for their children, they are told, “no more allocation”; and yet, they have to put up with lame explanations such as that offered by Khairy Jamaluddin in his defence of the NFC.

The public is fed up that the Inland Revenue Board continues to think of ways and means to impose even more onerous laws upon taxpayers, only to then find that their hard earned income ends up supporting an inefficient and corrupt system.

You know what I think, Datuk Seri? I think this government is inviting Bersih 3 upon itself. Because at some point, our distress can no longer afford to remain content at levels deemed polite. We need to do something to save our nation, and the masses may just decide that another Bersih is necessary to end Umno’s hegemony.

* Shanker reads The Malaysian Insider.

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

Press Release - Broken promise: Prime Minister has not lived up to Malaysia Day 2011 pledge


ImageThe Peaceful Assembly Bill (“Bill”) was tabled in Parliament for its first reading on 22 November 2011, which we believe was the same day that Members of Parliament first received copies of the Bill.  It must be noted that advance notice was not given, save for speculation in the media that the Bill would be tabled on 24 November 2011.  In addition, the second reading of the Bill began in Parliament today, merely two days after the first reading.

There appears to be unseemly haste in introducing this far-reaching and crucial legislation, without sufficient time for Members of Parliament themselves to review the Bill fully, and without adequate public consultation. 

The Bill, in replacing the present legislative provision in section 27 of the Police Act 1967, introduced several controversial and objectionable provisions.  For instance:

(1) Prohibition of street protests (defined widely as “open air assembly which begins with a meeting at a specified place and consists of walking in a mass march or rally for the purpose of objecting to or advancing a particular cause or causes”);
(2) Prohibition of organisation of assemblies by persons below the age of twenty one years;
(3) Prohibition of participation in peaceful assemblies of children below the age of fifteen years;
(4) Unduly onerous responsibilities and restrictions on organisers and assemblies; and
(5) Excessive fines for non-compliance of the Bill.

These restrictive provisions in the Bill effectively render meaningless our constitutional guarantee, by constraining assembly to very limited circumstances.  This stands in stark contrast to the words of the Prime Minister in his speech on the eve of Malaysia Day 2011.  That speech was widely applauded by the Malaysian Bar, and by Malaysians in general, in their honest belief that there would be real and genuine reforms.  The Prime Minister had stated:

I often opine that long gone is the era in which the government knows everything and claims monopoly over wisdom. . . .  

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. . . .  (emphasis added)

Be confident that it is a strength and not a weakness for us to place our trust in the Malaysian people’s intelligence to make decisions that will shape the path of their own future. . . .

It is absolutely clear that the steps I just announced are none other than early initiatives of an organised and graceful political transformation.  It stands as a crucial and much needed complement to the initiatives of economic transformation and public presentation which the government has outlined and implemented for over two years in the effort to pioneer a modern and progressive nation. . . . 

In closing, I wish to emphasise that free of any suspicion and doubt, the Malaysia that we all dream of and are in the process of creating is a Malaysia that practices [sic] 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.

The Malaysian Bar recommends that the Bill be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee, which would engage in a public consultation process consistent with the Prime Minister’s promise of “a Malaysia that practices [sic] a functional and inclusive democracy”.   

Further, the Malaysian Bar is now wary as to the form and substance of the two proposed pieces of legislation that will replace the Internal Security Act 1960, given this disappointing experience. We urge the Prime Minister to hold steadfast – with courage and determination – to his laudable Malaysia Day pledges, and fulfil the rakyat’s expectations.

Lim Chee Wee
President
Malaysian Bar

3,610 Evacuated In Four States As Floods Also Hit Pahang

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 (Bernama) -- The number of flood evacuees in the country stood at 3,610 this evening as Pahang became the fourth state to be affected by rising floodwaters.

Eleven people moved out of their homes in Pahang Thursday, 13 still remain at a relief centre in Johor and the number of evacuees in Kelantan has risen to 1,184 this evening from 1,132 in the morning.

Terengganu saw a decline in the number of evacuees, from 2,678 in the morning to 2,402 in the evening, but the situation in the flood-hit areas has changed little.

The floods have so far claimed three lives in Kelantan, two of them brothers aged 14 and 16 in Bachok and a two-year-old boy in Pasir Mas. A teenage girl is missing in Pasir Mas.

The weatherman has no good news for the people in Terengganu, Pahang and Kelantan, at least until tomorrow. The Meteorological Department has forecast intermittent heavy rain in the three states and warned of the possibility of floods in low-lying areas.

In KELANTAN, a spokesman of the state flood operations room said the 1,184 evacuees are being accommodated at 27 relief centres in seven districts.

"As of this evening, Pasir Mas is the worst-affected district where 11 relief centres have been opened," he said.

He also said that the level of two major rivers in the state were at the warning point, the Golok River at Rantau Panjang and the Kelantan River at the Guillemard bridge.

Kelantan education director Hussain Awang said only three of the 283 Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination centres had been affected by the floods, they being Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan Al-Falah, Rantau Panjang; Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan Saadatul Qura, Kuala Krai; and Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Tiang Chandi, Pasir Mas.

He said the 28 candidates at the Al-Falah school had been moved to Sekolah Menengah Agama Banggol Stol while 19 candidates at the Saadatul Qura school had been sent to Sekolah Agama Bantuan Kerajaan Darul Salam.

The 203 candidates of SMK Tiang Chandi are sitting for their examination at the school hall which is not flooded, he said, adding that the students are being accommodated at the school hostel.

In TERENGGANU, the 2,402 evacuees are in Setiu (1,540), Besut (573), Kemaman (166), Hulu Terengganu (112) and Marang (11).

The level of rivers at several places have breached the danger point in Setiu, Besut and Hulu Terengganu.

Terengganu Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Committee chairman Asha'ari Idris said coconut plantations over 200 hectares in Gong Terap and a large-scale prawn farm of 1,000 hectares in Kampung Nyatuh have been affected by the floods.

Some 60 padi farmers in Kampung Tasek and Kampung Buluh Hilir in Setiu reported losses estimated at RM500,000 after the floods damaged their crop over almost 200 hectares.

In PAHANG, 11 people were evacuated from Kampung Chendor Batu near Kuantan as the first of the flood victims in the state. A spokesman of the Pahang police headquarters said they were moved to the relief centre at the Kampung Chendor community hall after floodwaters rose to half a metre last night.

The level of four major rivers -- Triang in Bera, Belat, Lembing and Kuantan -- have breached the warning mark, said a spokesman of the Pahang Drainage and Irrigation Department.

"People living near these rivers have been advised to be on the lookout for floods," he said.

In JOHOR, 13 evacuees still remain at the relief centre at the Kampung Cahaya community hall in Air Hitam.

A spokesman of the Johor disaster operations room said the Johor National Security Council was monitoring the situation in view of intermittent heavy rain in several areas of the state.

Rakyat patut hukum siapa ahli parlimen yang menyokong rang undang - undang yang menindas dan menutup ruang demokrasi.

Kenyataan Media
Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM)
23 November 2011


Menyebut pembentangan Rang Undang-Undang Perhimpunan Aman di Dewan Rakyat kononnya bagi menjamin kebebasan berhimpun adalah retorik terbesar Kerajaan Najib Razak dalam merealisasikan apa yang dikata 'Transformasi Politik'. Memang ianya suatu transformasi, tetapi malangnya ia menuju ke arah yang lebih negetif apabila satu demi satu hak rakyat dinafikan terutamanya dalam tajuk berhimpun.

Rakyat negara ini seolah-olah diijanjikan sebuah sinar harapan apabila beberapa langkah Kerajaan Malaysia termasuklah pemansuhkan akta keselamatan dalam negeri (ISA), namun akhirnya rakyat sekali lagi ditipu atas nama transformasi Barisan Nasional apabila akta tersebut masih lagi digunakan di Sabah baru-baru ini menahan antaranya dikenali sebagai aktivis PAS.

Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) memandang serius pembentangan Rang Undang-Undang Perhimpunan Aman, melihat pembentangan RUU ini sebagai satu perangkap yang licik. Tiada lagi perhimpunan akan diberi laluan kepada pihak yang dicop berfahaman politik yang menentang dasar kerajaan walaupun perhimpunan itu di dalam kawasan persendirian, maka tiada lagi ceramah umum akan dibenarkan. Kita sebenarnya menuju ke pemerintahan kuku besi dalam bahasa lunak yang dicanang kerajaan pemerintah.

SAMM menyarankan semua pihak mengambil sikap berhati-hati dan setiap langkah kerajaan itu harus diterjemah dengan lebih berhati-hati kerana rakyat sudah muak untuk ditipu berkali-kali dan terus ditipu lagi. Rang Undang-Undang Perhimpunan Aman secara halus akan menyekat ruang demokrasi buat rakyat. Inikah Transformasi politik yang dilaungkan oleh Najib Razak? Ia lebih mencengkam dan menafikan ruang demokrasi dari undang-undang sebelum ini (akta polis) sebelum ini.

Akhirnya bila penguasa menggunakan undang-undang untuk menindas rakyat, perlawanan menjadi wajib. Lebih kuat rakyat ditekan dan dicengkam oleh regim pemerintah, maka secara langsung dan tidak langsung ia memupuk api kemarahan lalu semangat perlawanan itu meruncing ke penghujungnya. Rakyat harus sedar negara sedar mengundur kebelakang dalam perbagai bidang termasuk menutup ruang demokrasi. bangkit dan hentikan segera sebelum terlambat.

Pergerakan anak muda SAMM berpendapat, Rang Undang-Undang Perhimpunan Aman yang akan dibentangkan ini satu lagi proses penipuan regim penguasa. Rakyat diseru bangkit. Ahli parlimen yang menyokong rang undang-undang seperti ini harus dihukum.


che'GuBard
Pengasas
Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM)