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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Indian NGOs not convinced over Interlok withdrawal

Representatives of the Federation of Indian NGOs are “not convinced” the dispute over the problematic Form 5 literature textbook Interlok is over, just yet.

The novel, which was introduced into the syllabus early this year, was withdrawn last week after almost a year of discontent from various quarters, particularly the Indian community.

NONEThe group’s president, Victor Suppiah, said today that it was not certain that this was the case - until Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin “makes the announcement and provides a detailed reasoning as to why it was withdrawn” a year after it was introduced into the education system.

Suppiah said that he was “not convinced” the novel had been withdrawn and replaced with Konserto Terakhir as announced by Education Ministry director-general Abd Ghafar Mahmud.

“The announcement on the withdrawal was made by MIC leaders Dr S Subramaniam (deputy president) and then G Palanivel (president).

“Right after that Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi accused them of jumping the gun in making the information public when it is for Muhyiddin to make the official announcement, but several days later, Abd Ghafar said that it is withdrawn,” said Suppiah, who added that he was puzzled by all this.

“We want the deputy prime minister (Muhyiddin) to tell us for sure that the book has been withdrawn,” he said.

Suppiah reiterated that this new “decision” could e reversed at will, unless it came from a source of authority.

‘Konserto Terakhir’ to replace ‘Interlok’

NONEAbd Ghafar said Konserto Terakhir by national laureate Abdullah Hussain will replace Interlok which was in use for student in Selangor, Negri Sembilan and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Interlok, which is also by Abdullah, chronicles the lives of three persons - a Malay, a Chinese and an Indian.

It is deemed controversial because of certain phrases and words are considered racially insensitive by the Indian community, and following a public outcry some amendments were made.

Civil society groups representing the Chinese and Indian communities had launched a firestorm of protests against the government for endorsing the novel, which they said disparaged the minority communities and urged that it be withdrawn.

The withdrawal, which comes after a year, was criticised by Malay rights pressure group Perkasa, which accused BN for insulting the dignity of the Malays just so it could win points with the Indian community, especially with the general election looming.

Saeed motivated the 26/11 attack squad

"Gunshot will feel like a pin prick, blood stains will be like rose petals, and angels will come down to take your souls," said patron of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Hafiz Mohammad Saeed while motivating the 10 member suicide squad for the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, states the chargesheet filed by the
National Investigation Agency (NIA).

According to the chargesheet, once the LeT leadership decided that it would be a suicide attack, Hafiz Saeed himself motivated the 10-member attack squad.

The NIA chargesheet against Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley and his Pakistani-Canadian associate Tahawwur Hussain Rana has also named as accused two serving ISI officers-major Iqbal and major Samir Ali, LeT patron Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, his two trusted lieutenants Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Sajid Majid, former Pakistani army major Abdul Rehman Hashim alias Pasha and al Qaeda military commander Ilyas Kashmiri.

The chargesheet also makes it clear that despite international pressure immediately after the 26/11 attacks, LeT was ready with more plans to attack India.

A mail written by Hafiz Saeed's trusted aide Sajid Mir to Headley in July, 2009 says: "There are some investment (attack) plans with me."

"Just nine months after the Mumbai attacks, the LeT-ISI combine was ready with more plans. It shows the kind of adversary India is fighting against. The significance of the chargesheet is that it lays bare the conspiracy of Pakistan before and after the execution of the 26/11 attacks," said an official who didn't wish to be quoted.

The chargesheet also says that the NIA didn't receive any help from Pakistan. The probe agency had sent a letter rogatory (a court approved request for assistance in investigation) to Pakistan which, despite repeated requests, remained unanswered till the time of filing of chargesheet.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq says it was behind Baghdad blasts

BAGHDAD (AP) – An al-Qaeda front group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks that ripped through markets, cafes and government buildings in Baghdad on a single day last week, killing 69 people and raising new worries about the country's path.

The coordinated attacks struck a dozen mostly Shiite neighborhoods on Thursday in the first major bloodshed since U.S. troops completed a full withdrawal this month after nearly nine years of war. They also coincided with a government crisis that has again strained ties between Iraq's Sunnis and Shiites to the breaking point, tearing at the same fault line that nearly pushed Iraq into all-out civil war several years ago.

The claim of responsibility made no mention of the U.S. withdrawal. Instead, it focused its rage on the country's Shiite-dominated leadership, which Sunni insurgents have battled since it came to power as a result of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"The series of special invasions (was) launched … to support the weak Sunnis in the prisons of the apostates and to retaliate for the captives who were executed," said the statement in the name of the Islamic State of Iraq.

According to the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based organization that monitors jihadist Web traffic, the claim of responsibility was posted late Monday on militant websites.

The group said the attacks were proof that they "know where and when to strike and the mujahedeen will never stand with their hands tied while the pernicious Iranian project shows its ugly face."

The remark was in reference to accusations by Sunni militants that Iraq's Shiite-dominated government has allied itself too closely with neighboring Shiite power Iran, a bitter enemy of Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The Baghdad military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, said al-Qaeda in Iraq — no longer focused on fighting U.S. forces — is hoping to take advantage of the current political tension to re-ignite sectarian warfare.

"It has become a clear scheme to draw Iraq into a sectarian war again," al-Moussawi said. "Al-Qaeda in Iraq played a major role in 2005 and 2006 in pushing the county into a civil war and they succeeded."

On Tuesday morning, a car bomb exploded near a police station in the town of Hawija, 150 miles (240 kilometers) north of Baghdad, killing two civilians and injuring another, said Kirkuk police commander Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir.

U.S. and some Iraqi officials have warned of a resurgence of Sunni and Shiite militants and an increase in violence after the U.S. troop withdrawal.

Along with the security challenge, Iraq is facing an increase in political tension as Iraq's Shiite prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is engaged in a showdown with the top Sunni political leader in the country.

Al-Maliki's government has issued an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi on charges that he ran hit squads against government officials.

Al-Hashemi has denied the charges and said they are politically motivated. - The Associated Press.

No need for Race Relations Act if people behave, says Ibrahim Ali

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 — Putrajaya need not table a Race Relations Act to govern interaction between the communities and curb racial extremism if “everyone behaves”, Datuk Ibrahim Ali said today.

“If everyone behaves, if nobody touches on (Article) 153, nobody questions this and that, condemns this and that, and at the same time recognises the disparity of wealth between Malays and non-Malays, I don’t think we need any additional Act.

“We’ve lived harmoniously for the last 54 years. We faced a problem once during May 13 but after that, nothing has happened. So the system has worked well,” the Perkasa chief told reporters here.

The Malay rights leader blamed the rise in racial tension on the opposition’s big gains in Election 2008, saying politicians were now capitalising on racial issues for political mileage.

He also denied that the general election, which saw Pakatan Rakyat (PR) sweep into power in four states, amounted to a referendum on Barisan Nasional’s (BN) “well-received” policies.

“I still believe the people rejected Barisan Nasional in 2008 because of the weakness of (Tun) Abdullahj Badawi as a prime minister. Nothing to do with policies,” the Pasir Mas MP said.

But Ibrahim (picture) said he would wait to see the draft of the Race Relations Act that will be tabled in Parliament in March before he decides if he will support it.

“We will see the draft of the Act. If it is good for the country, we have no problem supporting it,” he said.

“But whatever Act is introduced... it must not encroach upon (Article) 153, Islam as the official religion of the Federation, Bahasa Melayu as the national language, the sovereignty of the Malay Rulers.”

Putrajaya will table a Race Relations Act, one of two replacement laws for the Internal Security Act (ISA) in March to govern interaction between the races and foster mutual respect.

Nazri told Sinchew Daily in an interview published today Malaysia needed race relation laws as it was important to regulate what people say and do in a multi-cultural country.

He added that the new Act will be modelled after the British law, which bars discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, nationality, ethnicity and nationality in employment, provision of goods and services, education and public functions.

Pakatan MPs claim Umno, Perkasa twisting Article 153

Khalid said Umno and Perkasa were intentionally conflating Article 153 with the concept of “Ketuanan Melayu”. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 27 — The constitutional provision outlining the special position of Bumiputeras has been manipulated by Umno and is now being used as a weapon of aggression, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers claimed today amid growing debate on the subject.

On Saturday, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) chairman Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng said Article 153 of the Federal Constitution is akin to “bullying” if it only protects the rights of one group.

Today, several PR lawmakers suggested that Article 153 was being intentionally conflated with the concept of “ketuanan Melayu”, or Malay supremacy.

“Reverend Eu mentioned it should be inclusive and I think it did try to cover it (inclusiveness),” PAS Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said today. “Fundamentally it is inclusive but has been manipulated and it is not about protection anymore but aggression.”

Eu’s remark sparked protest from Malay rights group Perkasa and drew a denial today from Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin that the provision had been used to bully any community.

On Sunday, Perkasa claimed the provision kept the country peaceful, further claiming that the race riots of May 13, 1969 happened because it was not implemented properly.

“This country is peaceful because of Article 153 which protects the rights of Bumiputeras who are the majority in this country.

“The reverend needs to remember that Christians are able to practise their religion without worry in this country because of Article 153,” Perkasa secretary-general Syed Hasan Syed Ali had said last week.

Article 153 states that “it shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.”

Constitutional expert Prof Abdul Aziz Bari also chimed in on Sunday to say this meant “the King must also make sure that (safeguarding Bumiputeras) must not be done at the expense of the legitimate interests of other communities.”

Today, Khalid echoed the view and similarly noted the inclusion of the phrase “other communities.”

“What you want to maintain in the Constitution is that it is recognition of historical facts and that Malays do not lose out even if citizenships were given to the Chinese and Indians.

“Unfortunately it leaves a lot of room for manipulation and it is manipulated by Umno and people such as those in Perkasa where they emphasise on Ketuanan Melayu instead of making sure Malays do not lose out,” said Khalid.

He also noted the Article refers to special privileges, and not special rights.

PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail agreed with Khalid and spoke of rampant abuse of Article 153 carried out under the guise of safeguarding Malay and Bumiputera interests.

Citing the award of contracts and licensing rights for example, Saifuddin said these appeared to only be given to a core group of politically-connected Malays rather than to the community at large.

“I am clearly guided by the stance agreed by Pakatan Rakyat on this Article 153 ... which is the position of the Malay rulers, Bahasa Malaysia and Islam as the official language and religion of the country and Article 153 as stated clearly in the Malaysian Constitution but at the same time to also look into the interest of minority including those in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

PKR vice-president Fuziah Salleh said that it was clear the provision was inclusive despite the specific mention of the Bumiputeras and Malays.

“When we give special rights to Bumiputeras, it does not deny the rights of the others as there are other parts of the Constitution that does not provide for discrimination,” the Kuantan MP added.

PAS Kuala Selangor MP Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad also said the clause is self-explanatory and that it provides a “very balanced and just” view of what it should be.

“I have had this understanding for a long time that Article 153 in no way compromises nor usurps any legitimate interests or rights of any ethnic group.

“So if only Perkasa or Ibrahim Ali would read this provision and not just selectively or preferentially highlight what he wants,” he said.

He also stressed that Malays and Bumiputeras had a “special position” that had to be guarded, and not special rights.

“We must move on to bring the nation, both BN and the opposition, forward to one that really confronts and faces the many challenges of the problems in our nation,” he said.

Najib’s early elections plan in disarray

Cowgate and civil servant's salaries issue are likely to send Najib’s political strategists back to the drawing board in terms of picking a date for the polls.
During the last few months, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has been pulling out one pre-election carrot after another from his inexhaustible supply of goodies aimed at persuading the electorate to vote BN’s way in the coming general election.

These range from indefinite postponement of the long delayed goods and services tax to financial grants and other handouts to Chinese, Tamil and Islamic religious schools as well as politically strategic groups including Felda settlers, Indian small entrepreneurs, low income communities, and imams and Kafa (religious) teachers.

Najib’s backroom boys must have been supremely confident that this mass saturation of money and handouts – so effective in past elections – would pave the way for a resounding victory as they plotted the timing of the next GE.

Two recent developments appear to have now derailed the BN’s plans for an early election to take advantage of the ‘feel good’ sentiments generated by the deluge of monetary incentives disbursed under the glare of fawning media coverage.

One is the spreading cloud of corruption and political irresponsibility associated with the National Feedlot Corporation’s (NFC) scandal-ridden project.

This is not only likely to result in minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil’s resignation very soon but is also causing consternation and reverberations among Umno’s grassroots members and supporters in the Malay heartland.

The arrogance and contempt displayed by Shahrizat, who received loud applause from Wanita Umno delegates for her bellicose speech, will not be easily forgotten.

If the elections are called during the next several months when the cattle-gate case reaches its expected climax, Malaysians going to the polling booths will not only have indelible ink on their fingers; they will also go in with the overpowering and indelible stench of the NFC fiasco influencing their choice of parties.

Game changer gone wrong

The other development is one which the prime minister’s think tanks and cronies high up in the civil service must be kicking themselves over.

The introduction of a new improved salary scheme for the country’s 1.4 million civil servants was to be the main ‘game changer’ in the 13th GE.

With a majority of the country’s voters coming from civil servant or ex-civil servant households – perhaps 60% or more of the electorate – it is easy to understand why the roll-out of the new scheme was timed to take place just before the election.

Its successful implementation would reinforce the BN’s image as a government with the best interests of the civil service constituency at heart.

It is possible that if given the thumbs-up by the majority of civil servants, the new salary scheme could have affected the outcome in many marginal constituencies where the civil service vote is critical to tilt in favour of the BN candidates.

It is no exaggeration to say that civil service voters comprise the kingmakers in the country and that any aspiring government has to pay special attention to courting and winning this massive block of votes.

Devil in the SBPA details

The new public service remuneration scheme (SBPA) is to take effect in January 2012. The Public Services Commission rushed its introduction without providing full details of the SBPA key components and without adequate consultation with stakeholders.

It was not surprising that the civil service trade union Cuepecs initially refused to be bulldozed into accepting what is now clearly emerging as “a half baked cake” with the icing of 7-13 percent salary increases prominently displayed but resting on a soggy base.

Among the scheme’s shortcomings is the lopsided salary increase that favours the top echelon.
One civil servant compared the impact of the new scheme on lower and higher rank staff. According to him:

“I am a civil servant at Grade E48, and reached my ceiling five years ago. Under the proposed new scheme (SBPA), I am told I will get 7 % increase. Overall, the quantum of increase is from 7-13 %. Now, the question I want to ask is: why do those in the Jusa [Jawatan Utama Sektor Awam] category get up to 100 % increase? They are already enjoying super-high salaries plus very generous allowances.

“Under the existing scheme, they are getting no less than RM13,000 (salary + allowances) and the move to increase their basic salary by 100 % (or even more in some of the Jusa grades) will mean their take-home pay + allowances will exceed RM20,000. And most of the time, these super-duper civil servants only act as ‘postmen’ in passing all the hard work and report-writing to their juniors. It is not fair at all. The Jusa people at PSD are rewarding themselves and throwing crumbs to the rest of the lower echelons of the civil service.”

Other concerns relate to the lack of consistency in grade improvement under the new scheme; lack of transparency in promotion exercises; and risks to civil service tenure arising from the implementation of KPIs.

In the latest development, the government has agreed to a two-week postponement in the implementation of the new scheme. Following the prime minister’s intervention, the Public Services Department and Cuepacs met on Dec 23.

Cuepacs president Omar Osman has since gone on record that all outstanding concerns involving SBPA have been resolved.

Earlier, according to Bernama, the Cuepacs president had stated that some civil servants were unhappy with the upgrading and the salary increase because they claimed that the hike was too small.

Omar was also reported to have queried: “The grade improvement under the SBPA scheme is not consistent. There are improvements in some grades but not in others. Why is there an increase for some but not for others?”

Back to drawing board

Further details of how the contentious issues have been resolved are still to be unveiled.
It is surprising that the Cuepacs leadership has been able – in the course of a single meeting – to resolve all concerns.

This, however, will not quell the resentment amongst the lower level staff on their small quantum of salary increment and the growing income inequalities between themselves and higher level officers.  Such discontent is bound to simmer and may boil over during the coming GE.

Both Cowgate and the salaries issue are likely to send Najib’s political strategists back to the drawing board in terms of picking a date for the polls.

We can expect a barrage of political corrective actions to pacify the electorate, and a delay in the elections.

With an increasingly sophisticated electorate that is cynical of political spin and dirty tricks, whether this delay will make any difference to the voting outcome is the burning question.

Lim Teck Ghee is the director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives. This article first appeared at the CPI website

MCA slams ‘transparent’ DAP’s gag order

Taking a swipe at the opposition party, traditional rival MCA says the gag order over the Ramasamy-Karpal spat is unfair.

PETALING JAYA: MCA has criticised the gag order imposed by DAP on the spat between its national chairman Karpal Singh and Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy.

Silencing the disgruntled voices, argued the Barisan Nasional component party, was contrary to DAP’s aspiration for greater transparency.

In a statement today, MCA national organising secretary Tee Siew Kiong said the gag-order was imposed despite Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng’s “CAT” (Competency, Accountability and Transparency) policy,

This, he said, was “unfair” to the public as it “deprives” them of their right to information.

“Every time a dispute erupts within Pakatan Rakyat parties, Pakatan leaders will instruct all forms of gag orders to block any form of information from reaching the public.

“The on-going spat between Ramasamy and Karpal is not only about factional fighting, but possibly involves public funds, suspected graft and may even be a criminal offence,” he added.

The MCA leader also accused DAP of attempting to cover up its shortcomings and deceive the voters.

“If Pakatan really upholds openness and transparency and since this issue allegedly involves public interests and cronyism, DAP’s top leaders should reveal the truth.

“They should not use their influence within the party to hoodwink and deceive the public in an attempt to cover up their own internal splits,” he added.

‘Downfall being plotted’

The spat, which erupted earlier this month, took a fresh twist last week when Ramasamy was quoted by the Star as saying that his critics were trying to plot his downfall.

Referring to the party’s grassroots leaders and hinting at possible corrupt practices, he said: “I think you would be astounded if I relate to you some of their demands.”

Following this, Karpal lambasted Ramasamy and asked him to quit his post as the former claimed that Ramasamy defied the decision of the three-man committee set up by DAP to resolve the differences between the duo.

Ramasamy had since denied making the statements, but the Star said that it would stick to its report.

The initial spat concerned a report which appeared in the Tamil newspaper Makkal Osai, which quoted Ramasamy as naming several candidates for the upcoming elections.

This led Karpal to criticise Ramasamy as a political warlord while the latter branded the party veteran as a godfather.

However, Makkal Osai later admitted that it had misquoted Ramasamy and apologised for the error.

Palanivel is a ‘liar’, says Niat’s Thasleem

Niat, a coalition of Indian NGOs, has officially disbanded itself now that the government has agreed to withdraw the Interlok novel from schools.

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Interlok Action Team (Niat), which has been pushing for the withdrawal of the controversial Interlok novel from schools, has rubbished MIC president G Palanivel’s claim that Niat had prior knowledge of the government’s decision to remove the book from syllabus next year.

Its president Thasleem Mohd Ibrahim said that Palanivel was a “greater liar” who always confused the community.

Thasleem was responding to a new report which quoted the MIC president as saying that Niat had known all along that Interlok would be removed from the school syllabus.

According to a news report in theSun on Dec 19, Palanivel claimed that he had known since May that the controversial novel would be withdrawn from the Form Five sylllabus.

He also claimed that he had spoken to Thasleem regarding the government decision to withdraw Interlok.
Following months of complaints, the education ministy director-general finally on Dec 21 said that it would replace Interlok with Konserto Terakhir from next year.

Earlier on Dec 16, both Palanivel and his MIC deputy Dr S Subramaniam revealed that the cabinet had agreed to remove Interlok from schools. Both said that an official announcement would be made by Education Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

It was after this that Palanivel had told theSun that he had known since May about the withdrawal, prompting many to dispute his version of events as since May, there had been various statements from MIC as well as others, including Niat, to pressure the government to remove the offending novel.

NIAT infact had even considered hunger strikes and nationwide police reports if the government failed to budge from its decision.

As such, Palanivel’s disclosure that Niat and Thasleem had known of the withdrawal decision did not sit well with Thasleem.

Why was MIC silent?

Thasleem told FMT today that he had only met Palanivel briefly at the Pantai Hospital in early November to visit former MIC deputy president S Subramaniam.

“He (Palanivel) has not met us (Niat) until today in any official or unofficial meetings.

“Yes, I met him (Palanivel) in PMC (Pantai Medical Centre) but there were no discussions.

“He did however hint that Interlok will be removed.
“But the bigger question now is why did the Education Minister amend the book if it was to be withdrawn,” asked Thasleem who spoke to FMT from Australia.

He also urged Palanivel to explain why MIC took such a long time to announce the withdrawal when the decision was allegedly made in May.

Meanwhile, the Niat committee, in a press statement today, officially announced its dissolution now that the government has agreed to withdraw the Interlok from schools.

How we fail the Malaysian Indian poor

Among the reasons why the Indian community is still stuck in the trenches of poverty is because the NEP was not extended to help those in the estates

By Anas Zubedy
After 54  years as a country, it is unfortunate that a lot of non Indian Malaysians do not yet know the Indians.
For example, a lot of Malaysians still do not know the difference between Punjabis and Bengalis, and in some instances in recent years this confusion has been the topic of public discussion.

This goes back to the time of Independence and the formulation of our principal social engineering programme, the NEP.

With all due respect to the Tun Abdul Razak administration which created it, one of the main reasons why some parts of the Indian community is still stuck in the trenches of poverty are because the NEP was not extended to help those in the estates.

While the NEP helped the Malays and Bumiputera out of poverty and managed to create a group of middle class Malays, it overlooked the needs of the real composition of Indians.

The NEP was designed based on the per capita income of the Malay, Indian, Chinese and foreigner population. At the time, the Chinese had the highest percentage of per capita income, the Indians second, the Malays had the lowest.

However, as for the Indians, because we did not understand them, we grouped all of them in one big group.

What we did not realise is that the Indians are not a homogenous group, but made up of different groups that came in several batches. While there are a small group of Indians who were wealthier, about 10 million of them came to Malaya as buruh kasar.

Understanding in the Indians

Based on the average between the incomes of the small group of middle class Indians and the larger community of poor Indians, the statistics drawn were inaccurate.

It shows as if the Indians were doing okay, but in reality a big cluster of them were as poor as the Malays and Bumiputera.

It is sad that because we do not really understand our Indian brothers and sisters, we have allowed their poverty problem to continue as a legacy until today.

Now that our PM has vowed to address this issue, it is important that we know who they are, where they are and where they are going.

I recommend a book by Muzafar Desmond Tate called ‘The Malaysian Indians: History, Problems and Future’.

Here are several important points from the book. As I mentioned earlier, the Malaysian Indians are not all the same, but are made up of different smaller communities.

One major way the Malayan Indians were divided were the separation between Hindu and Muslim.
Another thing was social division into four major class groups:

’1) The elite, consisting of professionals, high government officials and senior executives in leading private firms;

2) An upper, English-educated middle class consisting mainly of government servants;
3) A lower, vernacular-educated middle class, comprising merchants, school teachers, journalists, smallholders, all largely outside government service;

4) Labourers in government  service – the PWD, medical services, railways, the docks and the municipalities of large towns – and in private employ, particularly on estates.’

Tate writes that the Indian community remained highly compartmentalised as there was very little interaction between these groups, and hardly any social mobility existed for them.

A large number of Tamils who arrived in Malaya during the British colonial period were drawn from the lowest ranks of Tamil society and came as contract labourers for tin mines and agricultural estates.

They were ‘virtually debt slaves’ from the point they came to Malaya, having to work off the costs of their passage and recruitment under the contract system. Their wages were so meager that this would take them their whole term of service.

The upper-class

Besides this large group of Tamil labourers, there was also a small group of upper-class Tamils who came by their own resources. These were men of trade, commerce and finance, and Tate writes that this upper class, though small in numbers, were very significant as they ‘exerted an influence out of all proportion to their numbers’.

After Merdeka, the rift between the more affluent middle class and the larger number of Indian estate workers who ‘hover on the borders of poverty’, continued to exist.

The middle class was doing fine, dominating certain professions like law and medicine.

The enrolment of children into primary and secondary schools also remained the same. But for those in the rural areas, especially in the estates, the problem of poverty seemed intractable.

At the same time, the greatest shift that happened post-independence is urbanisation, which brought new social problems with it.

This was the ‘new poverty syndrome’ of the rootless Indians in the town. While the strategies of the NEP brought growing industrialisation, the Indian workers who left the estates found that they were in no position to compete in the towns.

They were uneducated and had no command of English, they lacked technical skills and were once again forced to live under squalid conditions.

The NEP, on the other hand, did not extend its benefits to the estate workers. The official rationale was that these workers were employees of the private limited companies who owned the estates, and thus they did not fall under the scope of the NEP.

Living below poverty line

In reviewing the Second Malaysia Plan (1970 – 75), the authors of the Third Malaysia Plan concluded that the aim of eradicating poverty in the plantation sector did not make progress.

Two-fifths of the estate workers were still living below poverty levels and unemployment was high.
Even at the end of the term of the Third Malaysia Plan in 1980, very little progress had been made towards the eradication of poverty.

In other words, Tate concludes that due to the segregation between the middle class Indians and those in the estates, and the failure of the NEP to support the Indians below the poverty line, essentially, the major problems of the Indian community remained the same in 2000 as they were before 1957.

This problem of poverty has become the legacy issue that we have to urgently deal with, along with the contemporary issues of the social problems of the urban squatters.

To really move to help the Indian poor out of poverty, any action taken cannot be a once-off thing. We need to define a target, the same way we implemented the NEP with specific goals.

There are several mechanisms we can put into place. Education is the first thing we need to look into. We can open up boarding schools like Maktab Sains MARA to make sure the children are provided a level playing field in education.

We can provide channels for skills-based training and open up job opportunities. For those who are not able to read and write, we can perhaps provide vocational academies for them to learn the basic skills they need.

To help the poor Indians, there needs to be provisions for the whole process from homes to schools to jobs, so that within one generation we can reduce poverty among the Indian poor and move them into the middle class via education and support, just like what we did for the Bumiputera under the NEP.

We must remember and take to heart that the Malaysian Indian poor problem is not an Indian problem, but a Malaysian one.

Anas Zubedy is a unity advocate and founder of zubedy (M) sdn. bhd., a training provider with the mission to add value to society.

Legitimacy of the Judiciary: Political Foes, BN Businessman and You

Tay Choo Foo, a Barisan Nasional friendly business man, has lost all confidence in the Malaysian judiciary. When he was sued, he was sure the Courts will throw out the case. To Tay Choo Foo, the claim was a fabrication of lies. To his horror, the Court accepted the claimant’s witness hearsay evidence and threw out his testimony. The High Court ordered him to pay RM13 million. The Court of Appeal and the Federal Court upheld the High Court judgment. Tay Choo Foo feels like a victim of sexual assault, he feels violated except he does not have a video to prove it.

Tay Choo Foo now realizes from bitter experience what Alexander Hamilton warned Americans in 1787, more than 200 years earlier in the Federalist Papers, that:-

“A steady, upright and impartial administration of the laws” is essential because “no man can be sure that he may not be tomorrow the victim of a spirit of injustice, by which he may be the gainer today.”

Tay Choo Foo is writing a book entitled “Lawless” to warn Malaysians of the dangers of judicial corruption and to stir citizens into action. The question is whether Malaysians having been warned will act on it. When it mattered most Malaysians did not act.

In 1988, Malaysians did not speak out when Tun Mahathir sacked the Lord President and the 5 Federal Court Judges. In 1998, many stood by when he sacked his Deputy Prime Minister and the Courts convicted and put him in jail for 6 years. The Federal Court judges, who had dedicated their entire career to the principle of upholding the Rule of Law, became victims of the Rule of Man. They suffered a grave injustice in being sacked, disgraced and robbed of their personal dignity and self-esteem. The monetary payment given twenty years later can never compensate for their pain and suffering. An even graver injustice was visited on Anwar Ibrahim when he was arrested, beaten and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. All this was done for the purpose of destroying his political career in order to prolong that of others. It is not just heinous it is evil. The Federal Judges were sacked and the Deputy Prime Minster was imprisoned for political purposes.

Malaysians allowed political powers to exert influence over the judiciary for political ends. They did not realize that like in all usual public private initiatives, economic entities would also gain influence over the Courts. Thus were spawned judicial decisions:-

· That interfered with the shareholding control of a public listed company such as the infamous Insas Bhd v Ayer Molek Rubber Co Bhd [1995] 2 MLJ 833;

· That allowed multi-million ringgit defamation suits against MCG Pillay, Param Cumaraswamy, Raphael Pura, Tommy Thomas and Skrine & Co for writing about judicial corruption;

· That allowed contempt cases to be instituted against Zainur Zakaria, Tommy Thomas, Manjit Singh and prosecution of Karpal Singh who dared to challenge the unfairness of court proceedings;

· That allowed a forger to acquire indefeasible title to property such as the Federal Court decision in Adorna Properties v Boonsom Boonyanit [2001] 1 MLJ 241 that made our country a forger’s haven for 10 years until corrected by the case of Tan Ying Hong v Tan Sian San [2010] 2 MLJ 1 FC;

· That ordered an insurance company to pay an arsonist that set fire to his own factory to claim on his insurance policy and dismissed the insurance company’s application for review in Asean Security Paper Mill v Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance (Malaysia) Bhd [2008] 5 AMR 377

· In Tay Choo Foo’s case, the administrators of the estate of Tunku Mansur (deceased) sued him for the purchase price of 1.2 million Harrisons Holdings Berhad shares. Tay Choo Foo contended that the shares were given to him by Tunku Mansur as commission for arranging an investor to participate in the management buy-out led by Tunku Mansur. The High Court allowed the hearsay evidence of a purported conversation between the witness and Tunku Mansur to be admitted under section 32(1) (b) of the Evidence Act. Until the Federal Court upheld the High Court decision, section 32(1) (b) of the Evidence Act is accepted of only allowing a statement made by a deceased clerk in the entry of account books and records kept in the ordinary course of business. Tunku Mansur was not a deceased clerk and the statement was not an accounting entry or documents kept in the ordinary course of business. The Federal Court held that section 132(1) (b) should be given a broad and liberal interpretation. The Federal Court decision adopted a new approach that differed from what lawyers and academicians knew about section 32(1) (b). The decision may be a development of the law but it gave rise to the issue of satisfying the requirements of certainty and predictability which is so essential to the legitimacy of judicial decisions.

There are many more cases that are not reported. I have a friend who lost his family business built over several generations to a third party despite non-compliance of the clear provisions of the law. He dared not challenge the matter in the courts because the third party is well connected. If the rich are fearful to fight for their rights, the weak, the poor and the disadvantaged have no chance at all. Many are suffering in silence. This is because we did not speak up when it was needed to.

In 2008, the cycle of political interference has been repeated. The 2nd edition of the Anwar Ibrahim trials is instituted to clip the opposition’s momentum after the 12thGeneral Elections. The Guardian in its editorial on 13th December 2011 described what the Courts will do to Anwar Ibrahim as an egregious travesty of justice. The last vestiges of the judiciary’s legitimacy will be lost on 9th January 2012 if Anwar is convicted.

The public knows there is a clear distinction between a legitimate system of law and a mere system of commands coercively enforced. It is not necessary for the public to be lawyers or legally trained to know whether a judicial decision is legitimate or not. Each of us has a built-in antenna that can sense the truth from a lie and whether a judicial decision is fair or unjust.

The public can detect judges, who while hiding behind a veneer of fairness make intellectually dishonest decisions. They make procedural and evidential rulings to admit into evidence facts favourable to the outcome they want. They shut out facts that would make it inconvenient for them to arrive at the desired outcome. They are thus able to write impeccable decisions by adopting the applicable laws to the selected evidence.

However, to the losing litigant and the public such decisions are complied with only because of the coercive force the court can bring to bear. The decisions are not accepted as expressions of legal and valid authority. They lacked legitimacy. It is public confidence that gives legitimacy to the judiciary and its decisions. To enjoy public confidence the judiciary must honour the values and principles of consistency, coherence, legal certainty, predictability and not the least justice and objectivity. The citizens must always be vigilant and remind the Judges of their sacred duty. Sandra Day O’Connor said:

“If judges are to be independent guardians of rule of law values, they must be incorruptible. Judges are entrusted with ultimate decisions over life, freedoms, duties, rights, and property of citizens. But judges will never win the respect of the citizens if they are subject to corrupt influences. Whenever a judge makes a decision for personal gain, or to curry favour, or to avoid censure, that act denigrates the Rule of Law… If the judiciary is perceived as being corrupt, biased, or otherwise unethical, society’s confidence in the legal system and its respect for the Rule of Law will crumble”

The public is aware that the Anwar Ibrahim trials lacked legitimacy:-

In the first Anwar Ibrahim trial for corruption, the Judge attracted adverse worldwide criticism for the manner he conducted the trial. The Judge threatened and charged defence counsel for contempt for complaining the court was not impartial and fair. The words “Irrelevant! Irrelevant! Irrelevant!” were uttered so often that it was only matched 10 years later by a subsequent refrain of “Correct! Correct! Correct!” The trial did not meet the requirement of impartiality, justice and objectivity;

In the second Anwar Ibrahim trial for sodomy, the High Court Judge applied the wrong law in convicting Anwar Ibrahim. It is a well established law that the court cannot convict on uncorroborated evidence of the complainant in a sexual offence. The Judge can only do so upon reminding himself of the danger of convicting on uncorroborated evidence. The Judge is required to set out in his judgment the reasons he found the complainant’s evidence were sufficiently convincing to establish the case beyond reasonable doubt. The High Court Judge failed to do this and the Court of Appeal did not pick up this error. It was only after the change of Prime Ministers that the Federal Court pointed out that the complainant’s evidence lacked credibility and that the confession of sodomy was extracted by torture and improper means. The second trial did not meet the standards of consistency and coherence to existing legal principles;

In the 2008 edition of the Anwar trials, Ragunath Kesavan, Chairman of the Malaysian Bar Council said that the Federal Court’s decision to dismiss Anwar’s application for access to key evidence was a regressive decision. The decision contradicted the clear language and intent of Parliament in section 51A of the Criminal Procedure Code. The section imposed on the prosecution a statutory duty to provide to the accused before the commencement of the trial the documents that the prosecution intended to use at the trial. This was made in the interest of enhancing an accused person’s right to a fair trial. By barring Anwar access to CCTV footage, medical reports, chemist reports and witness statements, Anwar was severely and unfairly impaired in defending himself. The Federal Court decision did not meet the standard of coherence, consistency, certainty and predictability, impartiality and justice;

Anwar applied under Rule 137 of the Federal Court Rules 1995 to review the Federal Court’s decision in dismissing his application for disclosure under section 51A Criminal Procedure Code. The second Federal Court dismissed the application on the ground that the Federal Court does not have jurisdiction to review an earlier Federal Court decision. NH Chan said that the decision fly in the face of the plain words of Rule 137. Rule 137 provides that nothing shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the court to hear any application or make any order as may be necessary to prevent an abuse of the process of the court. The Federal Court decision was clearly incoherent and inconsistent with the clear words of the Rule;

The trial was filled with rulings on procedural and evidential matters that left the public with the distinct feeling that the decisions did not satisfy the standards and values of impartiality, legality, certainty, predictability, transparency and justice;

International and domestic observers with a sense of fair play have a bad taste in the mouth at the injustice perpetrated. The New York Times in an article published on 13th December 2011 reported that human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the trial. Condemnation has also come from Al Gore, the former US Vice President who with Paul D Wolfowitz, the former US Deputy Secretary of Defense wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the trial “threatens not just Mr. Anwar but all those who have struggled for a freer and more democratic nation.”

Malaysians had twice missed the call to stand up and speak out against injustice in 1988 and 1998. If we miss the third chance on 9th January, it will be strike three and Malaysia shall be struck out. It is therefore not inappropriate to recall the famous words of Martin Niemoller who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler:-

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist;

Then they came for the Trade Unionists and I did not speak out

Because I was not a Trade Unionist;

Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me- and there was no one left to speak for me”

Martin Niemoller’s quotation reminds us that the people were complicit through their silence in the Nazi imprisonment, persecution and murder of millions of people. We will similarly by our silence be complicit in the erosion of our society’s foundation. By staying neutral, by keeping silent, we will allow the rule of law to be replaced by the rule of man, criminals to go unpunished, the innocent to be deprived of a fair trial and the poor losing out to the rich. This country has deteriorated not because of bad people but because good people did not stand up and speak out against injustice. Tay Choo Foo is now standing up and speaking out. Many more must do so otherwise, they will take Anwar, then Tay Choo Foo and when they finally come for you, no one is left to speak for you.

William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament for Selayang
27th December 2011

Concern over effective implementation of Domestic Violence Act

The Star

PETALING JAYA: Women's groups say that much more has to be done before the Domestic Violence Act approved by Parliament recently can be effectively implemented.

They believe that related laws such as the Evidence Act and the Criminal Procedure and Penal Codes have to be amended to accommodate the numerous changes.

The groups are especially concerned with enforcing the amendments that include psychological abuse that can result in emotional injury as a form of domestic violence.

While welcoming the much awaited changes, they also express worry over the attitude of frontline agencies, including the police.

Association of Women Lawyers president Meera Samanther, who is also Women's Aid Organisation committee member and past president, wants to know who would be deemed qualified to determine whether psychological abuse has taken place.

“Do we need proper psychologists when this country doesn't have enough? Or will a normal medical officer do? And who pays for it (the assessment)?” she asked.

“Also, if we are to tender a report on psychological abuse in court, there should be correlating changes to the relevant Acts.”

Empower Malaysia executive director Maria Chin Abdullah said that all the legal amendments in the world would not make a difference if frontline personnel at police stations were not sympathetic and supportive.

She said her group was concerned about how sensitively the enforcement agency personnel would treat abused women.

“The supplements are overdue, but their effectiveness boils down to the government agency and how they interpret the law. Sometimes it's the police who don't understand the law and they will ask the abused wives to go back home.

“The police have to be more sensitive because time and time again we have had women complaining about their attitude,” she said.

All-Women Action Movement programme manager Betty Yeoh said Malaysian law did not recognise domestic partnerships between two unmarried individuals.

“There is an increasing number of couples who do everything as a married couple, although they do not have a marriage certificate.

“They do not get protection from the Domestic Violence Act,” she said.

The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry said counsellors and psychiatrists in government hospitals and clinics would determine whether psychological abuse had happened.

“Anything that can incite fear in the victim should be considered psychological abuse,” deputy minister Datuk Heng Seai Kie said.

The Domestic Violence Act was passed in 1994 and implemented in 1996 after tireless campaigning by women's groups, beginning in the 1980s.

The Act had not been amended until now despite several memorandums from the groups calling for it to be more encompassing to include marital rape and psychological abuse.

“It really took us a long time to have the Act in place. When it was implemented in 1996, there were still a lot of aspects that were left out,” Maria said.

Heng said the ministry had to wait for feedback from non-government agencies before sending a proposal to the Cabinet.

“The Cabinet rejected and accepted certain parts of the amendments, so we had to refer to the Attorney-General for advice,” she said.