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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rights group: Saif Gadhafi should get lawyer


Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was captured in November 2011, months after the fall of his father's regime.(CNN) -- The son of Libya's former dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, should have immediate access to a lawyer, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Libyan government officials appear to be treating him well, and he "had no complaints about the physical conditions of his detention," the group said after being allowed to visit him for 30 minutes earlier this week.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi was captured last month after the fall of his father's regime in August. He is being held in the Libyan city of Zintan.

Also on Wednesday, the European Union announced it was unfreezing all Libyan Central Bank assets held in its member states, after blocking them to put pressure on Moammar Gadhafi.

The Human Rights Watch official who visited the man once considered Moammar Gadhafi's heir apparent said Gadhafi's main concern "was the lack of access to family and to a lawyer who can help his case."

"Saif al-Islam Gadhafi says he is getting good food and medical care," said Fred Abrahams in a statement.

Libya's general prosecutor, Abdelaziz al-Hasadi, said Gadhafi would have access to a lawyer as soon as the authorities prepared a secure detention center for him in Tripoli, according to Human Rights Watch.

The authorities want to protect Gadhafi from attack as well as to make sure supporters cannot free him, Human Rights Watch said the prosecutor them.

Human Rights Watch said Libya's criminal code required detainees to be given legal counsel.

"The world is watching how Libya handles this case, and Libya should prove that it will grant Gadhafi all the rights that were too often denied in the past," Abrahams said.

At least two of Moammar Gadhafi's children fled Libya as his regime crumbled, and two others have been reported killed.

Aisha Gadhafi fled to Algeria along with several other family members in August. She is a lawyer who assisted in the defense of ex-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was hanged in 2006, and a onetime U.N. goodwill ambassador.

Saadi Gadhafi has been granted asylum in Niger.

His brother Khamis Gadhafi, who led an army brigade blamed for the massacre of prisoners in a warehouse outside Tripoli, was killed in a late-August battle in northwestern Libya, rebel commanders said.

Gadhafi's youngest son, Saif al-Arab, was reported killed in a NATO airstrike in April.

Arabs Threaten MK for Anti-Noise ‘Muezzin Law’


MK Michaeli's vandalized Facebook picture
MK Michaeli's vandalized Facebook picture
Israel news screenshot: Facebook

Death threats, apparently from Arabs, appeared on Facebook pages of Knesset Member Anastassia Michaeli, after she submitted a bill to stop noise pollution from mosques. She has filed a complaint with police.

MK Michaeli, a member of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, has approximately 20,000 “friends” on her Facebook account, and after she wrote them asking for support of her bill, an “army of talkbackers took over three of her four Facebook pages, according to the Yisrael HaYom newspaper.

They deluged the website with insults in Arabic, Hebrew, Russian and English and sent her SMS messages as well as directing rude comments and threats to her via her computer in the Knesset.

They also changed her Facebook picture to show the Knesset Member as a Muslim woman.
The hate threats also included telephone calls to her office, with the background sound of the “muezzin” who announces prayer times through loudspeakers on mosques.

MK Michaeli said her bill is aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone – Jews and Arabs – and that she has traveled to Arab communities to explain her intentions. The bill would outlaw the use of loudspeakers at houses of worship.

She said she has received widespread support from residents of the Galilee, which is predominantly populated by Arabs, as well as from the Negev, Jerusalem and other regions.

She also has received widespread support from thousands of citizens who suffer from the noise, including those in the Galilee and the Negev, where there are large Arab and Bedouin populations.

The loudspeakers blare from every mosque five times a day, regardless of the time of night or day. They are particularly irritating to tens of thousands of residents in the pre-dawn hours before Muslim prayers.
The muezzin often drowns out prayers of Jews at holy sites, such as the Patriarchs' Cave in Hevron.

“I am aware of the image this bill has received,” she said during a visit to the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Ramle. “The term ‘muezzin law’ is inaccurate and has devastating consequences,” MK Michaeli explained. “If we let the term ‘muezzin law’ dictate the pace we turn the law from a matter of quality of life to a first rate political circus.

“The bill is simple. When a place of prayer becomes a nuisance to those around it, anyone who will not consider the way a civilized country should run would have to listen to the letter of the law. There are many simple options to regulate public address systems, such as directing the system into the community, using computer applications or simply lowering the volume. The solution is not the problem. Our problem is that half of the mosques in the country are working without a license, making their own laws and not operating out of religious interests but merely to be defiant of the law.”

No dignity even in death for Malay-sian Indians at general hospitals, flats and apartments: racist UMNO & P.R agenda.

kugan_funeral_march_280109_14

The then new Sultanah Aminah General Hospital in 2009 was reported to have a muslim death ceremonial hall but like in the colonial days one for non muslims were intentionally not built under the UMNO racist and religious supremacist agenda.

The mostly rich Chinese have the means to afford the services of a funeral parlour.

The UMNO government builds ample muslim death ceremonial halls and suraus at hospitals and in all high rise flats, apartments and condominiums as a basic public necessity.

But for especially the Indian poor even during a death they are unable to grief in peace and dignity but are humiliated to the brim.

Yesterday (20/11/11) was the death of a beloved family member. Ab Initio (from the beginning) the management of Pantai Hill Park refused to allow the Indian Hindu family to bring home their beloved deceased elder. For the Indian and Hindus death is very personal and it is customary to conduct the final rites from their homes. When told of this the management office did not agree. We were informed that at least in one previous case the condo management harassed the family into taking their deceased loved one away and out of the condominium by the Security guards harassing them and repeated written notices.

When questioned why there is a place for the Malay muslims at the Condo and never for the Indian Hindus there was no answer forthcoming.
In almost all the hundreds of low cost flats especially the ones built over the last 40 years, there is a death ceremony hall and a surau in all these flats. But there is none for the Indian poor. To the contrary the Sri Sabah flats in Cheras which was built during the immediate post colonial era there is a Hindu death ceremony hall.

The poor Indians are forced to conduct their elaborate last rites in a temporary make shift tent by the roadside of some back ally and many a time next to and beside the rubbish and garbage dump/disposal area. Why this level of humiliation and yet another of the scores of temporary solution for the Indian poor?

Why this level of state sponsored and institutional indignity and insult in victimising and targeted the Hindu Indian poor.
And this also happens in the new high rise residences also in the Pakatan Rakyat states of Kedah, Penang and especially in Selangor.
Our biggest fear yet again is the racist UMNO would be replaced with UMNO 2 @ Pakatan Rakyat.

A civil suit compelling the UMNO Federal and State governments and Menteri Besars and the Pakatan Rakyat Menteri Besars to compel the local authorities to set a precondition for building permission of a non muslim place for final rites and a place of worship in all apartment blocks, as done for Malay muslims, and the same to be implemented in all existing high rise residences, would not see justice done in the UMNO courts. But it would have the effect of naming and shaming both the UMNO and P.R. State governments.

Karunai nithi @ Compassionate Justice

Jamil wants Islamic units meet on sexuality, apostasy

Jamil said the enactment was still not widely known among Malaysians. — File pic
PUTRAJAYA, Dec 21 — Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom has called for a meeting of the various state Islamic religious departments to determine how to address cases of apostasy, homosexuality, and trans-sexuality among Muslims.


“I have asked Jakim to arrange the meeting soon so that we can inform the people about the law and on its enforcement to resolve the issues,” the minister in charge of Islamic affairs was quoted in a Bernama Online report today.

The minister was referring to the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religion to Muslims Enactment, which is applicable in all states aside from Perak, the Federal Territories, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak.

It is unclear how the enactment pertains to homosexuality, which is not an offence per se under any Malaysian law.

Jamil is outspoken on issues of sexuality, having previously been reported by Utusan Malaysia as saying that being homosexual was “unconstitutional”. He subsequently said he was misquoted and that he meant homosexuality was against the Penal Code.

The minister had also criticised Seksualiti Merdeka — the sexuality awareness event that was banned recently despite having run unhindered in previous years — for promoting “a deviation from society’s norms”.

Jamil said Malaysians had a responsibility to unite and stop any promotion of homosexual, lesbian or bisexual practices.

In today’s report, he also spoke of a need to inform the public that proselytising to Muslims was an offence in states where the aforementioned enactment was applicable.

PKR reveals new ‘proof’ in World Bank row

PKR says that a World Bank loan was sought through the National Economic Action Council, of which Mahathir was the chairman.

KUALA LUMPUR: PKR today continued with its attack on Dr Mahathir Mohamad by showing alleged new evidence to prove its claim that the former premier had asked for loan from the World Bank during the 1999 financial crisis.

PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli said in a statement today that a World Bank report coded “PID6999″ showed Mahathir asking for loans to support his administration’s National Economic Recovery Plan (NERP).

The loans were sought through the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) under the tenure of Mahathir’s strongman Daim Zainuddin. Mahathir was the chairman of NEAC.

Daim was the NEAC’s secretary and was also the director of the Economic Planning Unit that answered to the former prime minister himself.

The World Bank report read:

“In view of these circumstances in July 1998, the government announced a National Economic Recovery Plan to bring the economy back on a positive growth path.

“One of the six strategic objectives of the National Economic Recovery Plan is to continue the country’s equity and socio-economic agenda which had been instrumental during the past two decades, in maintaining social stability in the country.

“In line with this objective, the government has proposed a plan of action to mitigate the adverse social impacts of the crisis which threaten to reverse the gains made in the past. The government has approached the (World) Bank for help in strengthening this plan and implementing it through a Social Protection Project”

‘Asked for and not offered’

The NERP was introduced as a blueprint to steer Malaysia out of the Asian financial crunch in July 1998.

The report stated that Malaysia had first sought the loan on July 26, 1998. It further stated that the World Bank assessment team had departed for Malaysia on Nov 30. The negotiation began Feb 1, 1999.

Rafizi said the report clearly stated that the aid was “asked for and not offered”.

In his blog posting yesterday, Mahathir maintained that he had never written any letter requesting for loan from the World Bank.

He said that Malaysia had been taking loans from the World Bank since 1958, with the last being in 1997.

The funds, however, were only disbursed in 1999, which explained the records produced by PKR, he added.

Mahathir reiterated his allegation that Anwar had favoured IMF policies which he said were detrimental to Malaysia’s sovereignty.

He said he would swear on the Quran and dared Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who ignited the ongoing spat, to do the same.

Rafizi laughed off Mahathir’s statement, stating that “daring others to swear on the Quran would only lead to more expose of his family’s corruption”.

“I believe Tun Mahathir would find new excuses to defend himself although it is obvious that he admitted to taking the loans (despite denying before),” he said.

“This polemic of daring others can lead to other issues involving his (Mahathir) family members and it will be hard for him to deny them,” he added.

Konserto Terakhir to replace Interlok

The new novel has been screened and found to be suitable as a school literature textbook, according to the Education director-general.

KUALA LUMPUR: The novel, “Konserto Terakhir” by national laureate Abdullah Hussain will replace “Interlok” as textbook for the Malay literature component for Form Five students from next year.

Education director-general Abd Ghafar Mahmud in a statement today said the textbook replacement concerned students in Zone Two, covering Negri Sembilan, the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, and Selangor.

He said “Konserto Terakhir” had gone through the process of selection and screening set and was found to be suitable as a school literature textbook based on the values promoted and the quality of the work.

On Dec 14, the Cabinet decided that the novel, “Interlok”, also written by Abdullah, would cease to be used as a Form Five textbook from 2012.

The decision was made following feelings of uneasiness among some sections of society about the novel and to prevent certain quarters from continuing to turn it into a polemic.

“Konserto Terakhir” had been used before as a Form Five textbook in Zone Two from year 2000 to 2010.

The novel revolves around the struggle and resilience of a village youth who migrated to the city to look for a job and in the end becomes a big star.

- Bernama

Tamil announcements at KLIA, LCCT from Jan

Transport Ministry wants Tamil announcements at KLIA, LCCT during Chennai flights from Jan 1.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Transport Ministry has advised the KL International Airport (KLIA) and the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) to make announcements in Tamil beginning Jan 1 during the flights to and from Chennai, India.

Minister Kong Cho Ha said today the passenger volume on the KL-Chennai route was high and almost 90 per cent of the passengers better understood Tamil than English.

KLIA and LCCT handled a total of 434,050 passengers to and from Chennai this year, 207,697 outgoing and 226,353 incoming, he said in a statement, adding that they travelled in flights operated by Malaysia Airlines (MAS), AirAsia, Jet Airways and Air India Express.

“As such, the government has acceded to the request by several quarters for announcements in Tamil during the arrival and departure of flights on the KL-Chennai sector,” he said.

He also said that there would be no problem providing announcements in Tamil as Malaysia had a sizeable number of speakers of the Tamil language.

Several people had suggested having announcements in Tamil at the airport, among them Senator KS Nallakaruppan and former deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Department T Murugiah.

- Bernama

Dr M, in India we have bad roads but true democracy

Last week, Dr Mahathir gave a speech in India which stirred one Indian activist to retort in an open letter to the doctor.
COMMENT

By Siddharthya Swapan Roy

Dear Dr Mahathir,

A couple of days back I woke up to newspaper reports which quoted you as saying that India’s democracy is a hindrance to its development and, if we did away with the nuisance of democracy, we will become developed.

Well, sir, it is heartening to see your concern about India’s future, especially now that our own elected government has orphaned us. To read that someone from the outside cares about our development sounds so very nice.

But you see, sir, your (apparently) good intentions notwithstanding, your advice to Indians is, well how should I put it… ill-advised.

I’m not really sure if you know much about the history of our nation. Don’t get me wrong.

Going by facts like the general absence of news from Malaysian newspapers; the absence of anything but song and dance in your electronic media; the absence of bookstores that sell knowledgeable books (for example, ones from which you can learn about history and not how to get rich in six steps); the abundance of malls and the stark absence of libraries; the abundance of coaching centres that can make masseurs, air hostesses and a host of quick-fix technicians and the relative absence of centres of higher learning especially in the social sciences; and, above all, the fact that this insanely consumerist and hedonist Malaysia was made under your tutelage, makes me doubt your knowledge of the history of India or any nation for that matter.

So allow me to apprise you of the story of our independence.

We won independence from colonial rulers waging a long and tortuous battle. A battle that sought to replace a discriminatory, unjust and violent regime that had enslaved huge populations with one which was based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity.

India was home then, as is now and as will always be, to an immense diversity of people who spoke different tongues, prayed to different Gods, wore different clothes and had different political beliefs. These diverse people said to each other that – we, despite our differences, will strive to live and flourish together and make a sovereign nation which will be democratic, socialist and secular.

We did not anywhere say that we want to be Malaysia or for that matter China or the US.

In India, no one is above the law

We want to become a nation with a system that treats all its citizens as equal unlike your country that officially accords special rights to Malay Muslims calling them first-class citizens while relegating thousands of people of Tamil, Chinese and other ethnic origins.

Despite the fact that they have known no other land than Malaysia as their own, you denigrate them with the tag of being second-class citizens.

We try to work towards having a system wherein a person will grow according to his merit and hard work earning what she or he has rightfully earned.

You may be surprised to know that here in India making cartels based on identity, even if under the name of a holy cow called “Bumipuetra” or son of the soil is looked down upon by most of us.

Here, promoting the selective interests of one’s self or that of his kin is called corruption and nepotism and not, as you call it, development.

We are in fact fighting tooth and nail to arrest the scourge of corruption and (you’ll be shocked to know) get the guilty punished.

Here in India no one is above the law and many a times powerful public figures go to jail for being corrupt or subverting the law.

Now that we are at it, sir, I’m sure it would be interesting to know what the minorities of your country have to say – especially the jailed and beaten ones – about the development-democracy debate.

In fact, sir, your idea of development is largely at odds with many of us here.

Development is no substitute for values

What you did to the tropical forests and water bodies of Malaysia (that is, raze vast acres of them into oblivion to make way for big-buck oil palm plantations and piggeries and so on) would cause huge outrage among many of us who are looking for sustainable development.

We are yet to be unanimously convinced that making cemented roads – however broad, lining them with buildings, even if glass-covered and glossy, and putting cars on them, however fast – is a substitute for our valued bio-diversity.

Many of us are very convinced that displacing huge populations of native people for useless things like racing tracks is a blot on the word “development”.

There are many of us who find it a shameful and cruel hypocrisy that while your country has abundant and openly advertised sex tourism, it still whips women for being licentious!

Thanks to the culture of reading here, many of us know of your penchant for cruelty in your personal career.

A career during which you enacted despotic and violent acts at times in the name (your contorted version of) Islam and at times in the name of security and national interest.

We could recount how you rose to power annihilating huge numbers of your opponents and stayed there for over two decades, continuing your devious rule using tactics and schemes which are far beyond Machiavelli.

Many of us know about your vile Internal Security Act, which you used to crush political opposition – jailing them and putting in place a frail and near-sham democracy and placing the entire nation under a one-man rule of Umno for over two decades.

You will note that I have used words like “most of us”, “many of us” and have tried to stay away from absolute claims.

Misconstrued understanding of ‘development’

Besides the age-old Indian practice of accommodating different opinions, it is meant to recognise that there are people in this country, too, who think like you and will have applauded you for saying what you did.

They, too, think that roads are all that important and not the humans who walk on them or the ones who sleep beside them.

They have misconstrued the word development as development of personal wealth and that this “development” is a holy cow and everything including the rights and lives of fellow humans is of lesser priority.

Their money power helps them buy a lot of print space and electronic bandwidth so they may appear like the majority, but thankfully the truth is they aren’t.

The majority of us recognise and are willing to admit – and even discuss at length – that there are problems in our nation – including bad roads.

But they’ll quickly add that we intend to solve those not by lessening democracy but by ncreasing it.

The author is a freelance writer and activist based in Maharashtra.

Rifts Appearing in Malaysia's Islamic Party


Image
Hasan Ali wants Islamic law
Selangor conservative leads a revolt against modernizers
Strains are building in Malaysia’s Parti Islam se-Malaysia, the formerly conservative Islamic wing of Pakatan Rakyat, the three-party opposition coalition headed by the embattled Anwar Ibrahim, over the party’s fundamentalist roots.

The growing split could have ominous implications for the coalition’s ability to take on the Barisan Nasional, or ruling national coalition, in elections thought to be scheduled as early as March.

Anwar himself has been distracted by a year-long court drama in which he has been accused by a former aide of sexual perversion. The prosecution and defense staged their final arguments last week and the case is now scheduled to be decided by High Court Judge Mohamad Zabidin Mohamad Diah sometime in the next weeks. The trial has remained a major preoccupation for Anwar, taking time and focus away from his efforts to keep a fractious coalition together.

An UMNO source – with obvious relish – told Asia Sentinel that PAS is “imploding.” However, other sources say that while the squabble is troublesome, party commitment to the more moderate line remains intact.

“It's a bit premature to say PAS is imploding,” said a source with connections to both UMNO and PKR. “The mainstream media of course are highlighting the differences in PAS but within PAS itself, they seem to be okay.”

The controversy began in June when rank and file members staged a dramatic revolution at the party’s annual congress, electing secular leaders and abandoning the rural-based party’s traditional call to convert the country into an Islamic state.

The largest party in Anwar’s coalition, PAS had long turned off urban Malays and other ethnic minorities, particularly the Chinese, with its demands for observance of strict conservative Islamic laws. Given the size of its membership and its potential to take votes away from the United Malays National Organization, the country’s biggest political party, PAS unity and support are crucial to the opposition coalition.

At the party congress, newer, urban followers of PAS, having fled both the racial stridency and endemic corruption of UMNO and the disorganization of Anwar’s PKR, in June elected a slate of officers headed by Mohamad Sabu, a galvanic public speaker from Penang and former member of Anwar’s Parti Keadilan who was twice detained under the country's Internal Security Act.

Sabu led the moderates' charge, winning the party deputy presidency and crucially defeating a minority of conservatives seeking to lead a splinter group to link up with UMNO. Salahuddin Ayub, Husam Musa and Mahfuz Omar, elected as moderate vice presidents, completed a leadership team reflecting the party's changing membership and leaving the Islamists out in the cold.

The strains have been there ever since. However, the controversy broke into the open earlier this month, with Kuala Lumpur’s pro-government mainstream media playing up comments by Hasan Ali, a member of the Selangor PAS executive committee saying he and his allies would seek to “bring the party back to the Islamic path, and claiming support particularly from Nasharudin Mat Isa, a former PAS deputy president who was supplanted by the new moderate team.

Later this week, Harun Taib, the head of the PAS Dewan Ulama, or council of religious leaders, announced it would support the two dissidents, who were called “fake members” by the party’s new mainstream leaders. Harun in turn, without naming names, called the Sabu faction “new immigrants who appeared to have no qualms deviating from the party's core principles.”

Both Hasan Ali and Nasharudin have been causing tension in the party virtually since the coalition took over the leadership of the state of Selangor in 2008 elections that shocked the Barisan Nasional. From his spot on the executive committee, Hasan sought to ban beer in the urban, relatively liberal state. He has also taken adamant positions against Christians. Both he and Nasharuddin paid for their conservatism during the June elections that brought Mat Sabu and his allies to power.

“Hasan Ali and Nasharuddin, who are at the centre of controversy and attacking their own party, lost badly in party elections last year, which means they have no support in their own party,” a Malay businessman told Asia Sentinel. “In fact, Hassan's actions against Christians and his banning of sale of beer in 7-11s in Selangor have been more damaging to the opposition than anything Umno has done. If I were the opposition, I would be happy to see their backs. “

Although Hasan has claimed support from Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, the party’s spiritual leader, other sources say he remains strongly allied with the modernizers.

“The factions within PAS have always been there, and they have come close to the surface several times in the past,” said a source with PKR. “They are appearing again now and much depends how it is handled. Nik Aziz’s official stand is important. It will of course affect the outcome of coming election if not properly handled and if the election is close.”

“PAS is doing some spring cleaning before the general election,” said another source, who described Hasan and his allies as “pro-UMNO elements” who needed to be cleared out and that “Once they’re gone, the coalition will be more consistent and stronger.”

Another neutral source called Hasan “essentially a lone ranger, and as such he has little grassroots support. But he does have some support within the leadership who are unhappy that the party is going soft on an Islamic state.” But, he continued, “When push comes to shove, they will stick with the party.”

Hasan himself stopped short of calling for PAS to pull out of the opposition coalition and told reporters that leaving the party and joining UMNO had never crossed his mind. But while that may true, it remains to be seen how the split will play itself out in the rural kampongs, or villages, particularly in the conservative eastern states, that traditionally formed PAS’s support base.

So, this is Malay leadership

By Farah Fahmy,

DEC 20 — If our politicians are to be believed, the Malays are under threat these days. Our religion, culture and power are steadily under attack from all and sundry. Everyone has it in for us, from Christians to the Chinese. We are even warned about a so-called “Malaysian Spring” being orchestrated by “anasir-anasir Barat” (and quite possibly, the Jews, who of course, have always had it in for us).

“We won’t surrender an inch,” said the Melayu champion-in-chief (who also finds the time to be our prime minister) during a speech to Pekida recently. Malays, we were told, will never be oppressed in our own land so long as Umno is in power.

Well, glory be. I’m sure there are many others who can sleep more soundly at night knowing that there are so many out there making sure we Malays are not stripped of our position and power in our land.

But ... hang on a minute.

The last time I checked we Malays, along with the other Bumiputeras, make up about 60-odd per cent of our country’s population. Islam is not just our country’s official religion, it is also the religion professed by about 60 per cent of our people. Not only are we and our religion in the majority, but let’s see, we Malays also make up most of, oh, the civil service, police, army, ruling class and politicians.

Of course, you can say that there are plenty of Malays who still need help. This, I don’t dispute. I’ve seen rural poverty in our country, where people still live without basic amenities like constant water supply and proper toilets. I’ve also seen urban poverty, with families living in small, low-cost flats in the outskirts of KL making do with the little that they earn.

Yet poor Malays aren’t the only ones who need help. There are also plenty of poor people, non-Malays, who deserve help. My brother was once approached by a young Indian man late one evening. He had just arrived from Kulai and asked my brother for help; my brother pointed him in the direction of the nearest kedai mamak.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: not all Malays deserve to get the help that the NEP brings. I would hazard a guess that most Malays who live in exclusive neighbourhoods in KL do not need the Bumiputera housing discount, or government scholarships for their offspring.

Are we really throwing away our “power” and “position” if we amended the NEP so that it excluded rich Malays and was open to all of our country’s poor, regardless of their race? Yes, Datuk Najib, we’ve “willingly shared power with the non-Malays” since Merdeka, but why keep harping on the past? Why not share with us your vision for the future?

I should have expected it, but I’m disappointed all the same. Is this what Malay leadership is about? Is there such a dearth of good Malay leaders in Umno that only scare tactics will do? Where is the vision about what the Malays can achieve? Why is no one inspiring us to be better? Why, in fact, is there no Malay leader out there who has the guts to say enough is enough, we Malays will never reach our full potential if we keep harping on about the help that we need? Why is no one honest enough to say that not all Malays are equal, and the haves should no longer receive a handout?

Instead of leaders who inspire us and show us how it is possible for all of us — Malay or otherwise — to have a stake in this country, we have leaders like Datuk Shahrizat Jalil. The pity of it all is that I felt that Shahrizat had not done a bad job as the minister for Women, Family and Community Development. Yet the NFC controversy has made her position untenable and shown the ugly face of Umno and our government.

Why are our ministers allowed to run family businesses that are subsidised by the government? Even if ministers are not actively involved in running such businesses, how is it that businesses run by members of a minister’s family can qualify for government assistance? Why are the people who govern our country in our name not required to declare their interests in such companies, and the assets they hold?

There is also a failure of leadership over the whole NFC debacle. Najib should have taken decisive action when it first erupted, and demanded Shahrizat’s resignation. Not doing so would mean that he condoned what she did, no?

This was our PM’s chance to show that he meant business; that even the slightest whiff of misconduct would not be tolerated, be it at ministerial level or otherwise. Well, he’s flunked the test. What this shows us is that our PM and Umno as a whole are prepared to turn a blind eye to such things. Why? I don’t know. Is it because she’s “one of us”? Or perhaps because she’s a Malay?

Is this what Najib means when he tells us to choose wisely in the next general election? Is this what Umno means when it claims to be the only political party that can safeguard Malay interests? For shame, Umno. Out of all its members, only two leaders have called on Shahrizat to do the right thing, and recognised the damage the whole affair is doing to the party.

Let me remind you what Najib said at Pekida: Umno would not allow the Malays to be oppressed in their own land. Well, the vast amounts of money that have been reportedly spent buying expensive properties and cars could have been spent improving the lives of poorer Malays, so who’s oppressing who now?

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Opposition Pacts Will Not Undermine Work Of BN - Rosnah

PAPAR (Sabah), Dec 18 (Bernama) -- Pacts of opposition political parties will not undermine the work of Umno and other Barisan Nasional components in continuing to serve the people, said Puteri Umno chief Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin.

"We must have trust in the ability of the people to determine for themselves which party can serve them and champion their plight," she told reporters after launching a "back-to-school" programme, here Sunday.

She said the BN wanted the people to know that it had never ignored them throughout its years of administrating the country.

Rosnah, who is deputy health minister, was asked to comment on the formation of the United Borneo Alliance comprising opposition parties in Sabah and Sarawak.