Share |

Friday, December 30, 2011

Afghan girl 'locked in lavatory for 5 months'

Afghan girl 'locked in lavatory for 5 months'
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission logged 1,026 cases of violence 
against women in the second quarter of 2011 compared with 2,700 cases for the whole 
of 2010 Photo: EPA/ROB ELLIOTT

Afghan police have rescued a teenage girl who was beaten and locked up in a lavatory for over five months after she defied her in-laws who tried to force her into prostitution, officials said on Tuesday.

Sahar Gul, 15, was found in the basement of her husband's house in northeastern Baghlan province late on Monday after her parents reported her disappearance to the police.

"She was beaten, her fingernails were removed and her arm was broken," district police chief Fazel Rahman told AFP.

Three women including the teenager's mother in-law had been arrested in connection with the case but her husband had fled the area, he added.

The case highlights how women continue to suffer in Afghanistan despite the billions of pounds of international aid which has poured into the country during the decade-long war.

"The 15-year-old girl was brought to hospital with severe shock," said Pul-i-Khurmeri hospital chief Dr Gul Mohammad Wardak.

"She had injuries to her legs and face and the nails on her left had been removed."

Sahar Gul was married to her husband seven months ago in the neighbouring province of Badakhshan, but she was brought to Baghlan to live with her husband, said Rahima Zareefi, the provincial head of women affairs.

During this time her parents were unable to contact her, she said.

The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission logged 1,026 cases of violence against women in the second quarter of 2011 compared with 2,700 cases for the whole of 2010.

And according to figures in an Oxfam report in October, 87 per cent of Afghan women report having experienced physical, sexual or psychological violence or forced marriage.

Sahar Gul's case comes after a woman known as Gulnaz was pardoned and released earlier this month after spending two years in prison for "moral crimes".

She was jailed after she reported to police that her cousin's husband had raped her. Gulnaz gave birth to the rapist's child in prison.

Last month, the United Nations said that a landmark law aiming to protect women against violence in Afghanistan had been used to prosecute just over 100 cases since being enacted two years ago.

Russia court declares Hindu book Bhagvad Gita legal

Anti-Russian protest by Shiv Sena Hindus in Amritsar, 26 Dec 11 
Shiv Sena activists protested against Russia in Amritsar this week
A Russian court has dismissed a call to ban an edition of the Hindu holy book Bhagvad Gita, in a case that triggered protests in India.

Prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk wanted the edition to be ruled "extremist". That would put it in the same category as Hitler's Mein Kampf.

The Russian foreign ministry said it was the commentary on the text, not the text itself, that was under scrutiny.

The edition - Bhagvad Gita As It Is - is used by the Hare Krishna movement.

A lawyer representing the movement in Tomsk, Alexander Shakhov, welcomed the judge's decision, saying it "shows that Russia really is becoming a democratic society".

The controversial commentary on the text was written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the movement, whose full title is the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Hare Krishna followers in Russia saw the case as part of efforts by the Russian Orthodox Church to restrict their activities.

India voices concern

The trial began in June and had been due to conclude on 19 December, but it was delayed until 28 December at the request of the Russian ombudsman for human rights.

But neither the ombudsman Vladimir Lukin nor his Tomsk colleague Nelli Krechetova was present in court for Wednesday's ruling.

On Tuesday India's Foreign Minister, SM Krishna, complained to the Russian Ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, about the Tomsk prosecution.

Mr Krishna said Indians had reacted very negatively to the alleged infringement of Hindu rights in Russia.

The Bhagvad Gita, one of the most popular texts for Hindus, takes the form of a conversation between the god Krishna and prince Arjuna.

Earlier this month Indian MPs demanded the government protect Hindu rights in Russia, shouting: "We will not tolerate an insult to Lord Krishna."

Ambassador Kadakin, quoted by the AP news agency, distanced himself from the Tomsk prosecutors, saying "any holy scripture, whether it is the Koran, Bhagvad Gita, the Bible, Avesta or Torah cannot be brought into court".

The Russian translation of the book was at risk of being placed on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, which bans more than 1,000 texts including Mein Kampf and publications by the Jehovah's Witness and Scientology movements.

February date for indelible ink

The Election Commission has informed the parliamentary select committee that it would be ready to use the indelible ink in February.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Election Commission (EC) will make the necessary amendments to the election regulations to enable the usage of indelible ink beginning February next year.

This was announced by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reforms after holding a three-hour meeting with the EC.

The February deadline means the ink would be used in the next general election which is expected to be held within the next six months.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament after the meeting, PSC chairman Maximus Ongkili said EC was now in the midst of drafting the necessary amendments.

“The Chemistry Department is also studying the type of indelible ink that will be used and the final ink colour will not be announced until election is closer,” added the science, technology and innovation minister.

Ongkili said that EC was of the opinion that the ink would not be objectionable to Muslims.

“However we are still waiting for a final say from the National Fatwa Council as the previous fatwa was on a slightly different type of ink. The current one is an improved version,” he said.

After the meeting, the EC also demonstrated to the PSC members and the media how the indelible ink would be used on voters.

Members of the PSC, including Ongkili, PAS’ Hatta Ramli, DAP’s Anthony Loke, MIC’s P Kamalanathan and Umno’s Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, had their index finger painted to test out the ink.

The new voting process would have one extra election worker to apply the ink on the voter’s finger. The set up of the voting area had also been modified to allow officials to better see the voter’s face, and an improved process of sealing the boxes.

“Now the officials can face the voter and see the face clearer, before this there have been complaints that only the voter’s side or back can be seen. This will make the process more transparent. We have confirmed this as the final process, and will only make some improvements if there is a need,” said Ongkili.

Implementation of recommendations

He said that the sixth PSC meeting also discussed the steps EC was taking to implement the 10 recommendations that the PSC had made in its interim report.

“EC is looking into the details that this committee has recommended to Parliament. So far, out of the recommendations, seven items are being given positive responses by EC,” he added.

Ongkili said PSC would be discussing how these new changes could be implemented by the next general election, though he admitted that nobody knew when it would be held.

He said that on advance voting by the military and police that would replace postal voting, EC expected that its rules would be amended and gazetted by March 1.

“On overseas voting, EC said that they are looking at it, they need to look at the numbers and the process in how it could be implemented, especially conditions that need to be set,” he added.

Ongkili said the process of cleaning up the electoral roll was ongoing and today, EC handed over copies of 4,251 suspicious voters to the PSC and this list would also be available to all political parties and the public, to verify if they are valid voters.

On the recommendation to extend the display of the additional voters list from seven to 14 days, and to remove the RM10 charge for objections raised and to abolish the maximum number of objections which could be raised, he said these amendments to the EC rules would be done by Feb 1 as well.

Two more public hearings

Ongkili said PSC would function for three more months, until early April. There would also be two more public hearings, one in Kelantan (Jan 7-8), Johor Bahru (Jan 12-13) before PSC would fully focus on monitoring the implementation of the recommendations decided upon and also those recommendations not decided upon.

On Dec 19, the EC had announced three new developments in the election procedure. The first was a recommendation to use indelible ink in the next general election, which fulfiled one of Bersih’s demands.

The second was allowing the police and military to cast their votes at the ballot box two days in advance instead of through postal votes. And the third, abolishing the objection period for candidates.

The PSC’s interim report, which was officially tabled on Dec 1, touched on many contested issues such as the implementation of indelible ink, expansion of oversea absentee voters policy to all Malaysians living abroad and even the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) to look into alleged illegal immigrants offered citizenship and subsequently turned into voters.

It was reported that subsequent to the interim report, the PSC would be tabling another 10 other new recommendations in Parliament.

Third Force to encircle Umno

The current political landscape in the country is fertile for all minority parties in Barisan Nasional or otherwise to opt for a direct coalition system.

After the 2008 general election, what we are witnessing are structural changes in the Malaysian political landscape: the emergence of a two-party system in Malaysia – Umno the main component of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, and the opposition pact led by PKR and PAS.

But this is unlike the two-party system in some countries such as the US, where either one of the two parties can win an election and form the government and the other automatically becomes the opposition.

In Malaysia, the dual party system is unique. Firstly, it is a Malay-based two-party system and secondly, neither party can form a government on its own without forming a coalition with the non-Malay minority parties.

Hence the political landscape in the country provides the right scenario for all minority parties in BN or otherwise to opt for a (direct) coalition system of government, whereby the minority parties will contest using their own party ticket.

And after the general election is over, these minority parties can negotiate to join either one of the two Malay-based parties. Thus, the formation of a federal government would be based on the two-party system and a coalition system.

It is common knowledge that there have been so many gross abuses committed by Umno under the name of the government and the BN entity.

Only Umno wields so much political and economic power, leaving the other minor component parties sharing the leftovers.

This has been Umno’s policy and practices since 1981 following the Mahathir undemocratic-authoritarian rule.

The other component parties, though members of the BN, are all tied down under the Umno system of controls which enables the latter to become the de facto federal government.

When Najib Tun Razak took over the premiership in 2009, he initially tried more democratic approaches such as the 1Malaysia slogan and economic, political and electoral reforms, but with little success.

Of late, it is getting clearer that Najib, like Dr Mahathir Mohamad, shares similar beliefs that only through undemocratic-authoritarian rule can Umno continue to hold such political and economic power and maintain its grip on other races and parties .

Two-pronged strategy needed

This special two-party political system requires a third force that has the two-pronged strategy to encircle Umno’s despotic power and to prop up the opposition – Pakatan plus coalition – and strengthen the system.

Let’s look at the components of the Third Force:

i) Direct coalition system at national and state levels.

Across the country there are many minor political parties, whether in the BN or opposition, that can team up and forge a common platform through the direct coalition system.

Parties like DAP, MCA, MIC, PRS, SPDP, SUPP, Pesaka, SAPP and others can contest in an election using their own party symbols.

I believe the people can accept such a united political body to break up Umno and PBB hegemony (in Sarawak). A direct coalition system acts as a check-and-balance against the dominance of an undemocratic, dictatorial kind of government.

After the 13th general election, these third force political parties can work out which of the two main Malay parties they wish to join en bloc or on individual basis.

Under a direct coalition system, a coalition partner is not tied down to a main or even a majority component party in the government.

It is a loose partnership whereby any partner can quit the government and join the opposition.

However, if the partners who quit have a majority of seats, they can proceed to form another new coalition government.

So there is freedom of choice – any party can join or leave the ruling party or the opposition.

Hence, in the formation of the federal government and the respective state governments in Malaysia, the direct coalition system is the best alternative for every minority party.

If all the minority parties in BN or opposition team up to join PKR and PAS, then Umno’s dominance is history at the national or state levels in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak.

ii) Cooperation pact in Sarawak

Within the state BN, especially for Sarawak, minor parties can work out a cooperation pact, namely with the newly revamped SUPP (Sarawak United People’s Party), PRS (Parti Rakyat Sarawak) and SPDP (Sarawak Progressive Democratic Party).

The latter two can even merge to form a stronger entity.

This kind of cooperation can form a Third Force at state level to counter PBB’s (Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu) hegemony of power.

If the Pesaka wing of PBB snaps and attaches itself to the grouping, the more the merrier.

If the state Pakatan wishes to join the pact, then PBB is completely encircled.

I believe a majority of the Malays would support such a pact.

This may compel some of the PBB leaders who are not aligned with Taib Mahmud to consider crossing over to PAS or PKR to further strengthen the third force in the state before the 13th national polls, though the state would not be holding any state election.

iii) Minority parties

DAP is already a full partner of the Pakatan coalition. There are many third force minor parties, including those in the BN, which can join the Pakatan allaince before the 13th general election.

After all, the BN minor parties are good as dead in the BN and under the clutches of Umno.

iv) Bersih coalition of NGOs

Bersih can play a crucial role to ensure Umno and PBB loses its hegemony by being part of the third force.

Since its success in launching Bersih 1.0 (November, 2007) and Bersih 2.0 (July 2011) – overcoming all the fears and confidence barrier – it should undertake a bigger and more responsible role.

Definitely the movement will change the voting trend in the coming general election.

v) Young voters

The advancement of information technology has given bloggers and online news portals an avenue to link up with the young voters through cyber space to keep them informed of current affairs in the country that is not available in the mainstream media.

With a good feedback of information, many of the young voters who are not aligned with any political party can change the voting trend in favour of the opposition.

Their concern is mainly their careers and earnings. Under the present administration, the abuses of power are definitely going to jeopardise their future.

vi) Umno factions

There are factions within Umno which are not aligned to Najib. Pakatan can strike a deal with these factions within Umno on the appointment of the next prime minister in the event the BN wins.

In accordance with Article 43.2.(2) of the Federal Constitution, the leader of a majority party cannot automatically become the prime minister but has to go for voting in the Dewan Rakyat (Parliament).

Whoever commands the confidence of the majority of the MPs shall be appointed as the chief executive of the government, that is, the prime minister.

MPs from both camps can work out an amicable solution as to the best and right person to be appointed as the prime minister by the Dewan Rakyat.

vii) General community

Pakatan should also create greater awareness among the people of the gross abuses of power by Umno that are detrimental to the future of all Malaysians.

All civil servants, including the police and the army, and rural folks should be informed of the need to change the government. The people have nothing to lose but to gain if Umno is removed from power.

Ramasamy sends notice to Star

The deputy chief minister wants the English daily and its journalist to apologise within seven days, failing which, he will sue.

GEORGE TOWN: Embattled Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy has demanded an apology from English daily the Star and its journalist Ian McIntyre within the next seven days over an allegedly defamatory article published on Dec 23.

Failing which, Ramasamy warned in his notice of demand dated Dec 28 that he would sue both for defamation.

The DAP MP for Batu Kawan also demanded an undertaking from the national daily and journalist that the impugned statements “shall not be printed, published and circulated in future.”

Ramasamy also demanded that an appropriate sum be paid and/or offered as damages for the defamatory article.

In the said article, the Star quoted Ramasamy as saying that there was a plot to oust him because he turned down requests for projects and favours from the party grassroots.

The report prompted party supremo Karpal Singh to call for Ramasamy’s resignation from the Pakatan Rakyat state government. But Ramasamy has since accused the Star of publishing a baseless and frivolous report.

The notice of demand was sent to the Star head office in Petaling Jaya and the Penang-based journalist via AR Registered post by Ramasamy’s legal representative – A Sivanesan and Co.

‘Defamatory caption’

The notice also mentioned that the caption referred in the article entitled “Distress in DAP Continues” were defamatory to Ramasamy.

The notice claimed that the words referred bore and were understood to bear that DAP leaders were corrupt and abusing their power and office, and those impugned statements gave rise to adverse effects.

The notice said the article caused serious damage to Ramasamy’s reputation.

It insisted that the defamatory words on Ramasamy were baseless, unfounded, frivolous and tainted with falsehoods.

The notice also referred to Ramasamy’s denial of making the published statements via a press conference held on Dec 26, 2011.

The notice stated that despite Ramasamy’s denial, the Star on Dec 27 reiterated that Ramasamy had uttered those impugned statements during the interview.

The notice said the Star’s statement on Dec 27 that the original interview was arranged and agreed upon by Ramasamy on two counts; including one on the allegation that he was having an extra-marital affair, was grossly false and calculated to disparage his reputation.

“Consequently Ramasamy’s reputation has been seriously injured and suffered distress and embarrassment,” said the notice.

Perkasa: Rev Eu’s Article 153 remarks ‘politically motivated’


KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — Malay rights group Perkasa today accused a senior Christian leader of creating intercommunal friction with his remarks on the constitutional protection for Bumiputeras, claiming the speech was politically motivated.

Calling it “provocative”, Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali claimed of a link between Reverend Dr Eu Hong Seng’s controversial Christmas Eve remarks and an impending general election.

“I believe Dr Eu’s statement is politically motivated in light of word of elections being around the corner. There is a political motive here to confuse the people into thinking that the government has not been fair to other races.

“That is Dr Eu’s motive. Article 153 cannot be questioned... there is a political motive (to) erode Malay rights,” Ibrahim told reporters here.

The National Evangelical Christian Fellowship (NECF) chairman had said on Christmas Eve that the Federal Constitution’s Article 153 was akin to “bullying” if it only protected the rights of one group.

Article 153 states that it is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s responsibility “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”.

In his speech, Eu had stressed that he did not have problems with rights of the Malays and the Sultans but “what irks many of us are the ‘shifting rights’” of the majority.

His remarks prompted demands from Perkasa chief Ibrahim for Eu and others like him to be probed by the police.

Ibrahim along with Perkasa deputy president Datuk Abdul Rahman Abu Bakar and 30-odd Perkasa members lodged a police report against Eu based on an article by The Malaysian Insider and several other publications.

The Pasir Mas MP said Eu’s remarks should be viewed by the police seriously, as it was said at a gathering that included non-Malay Barisan Nasional political parties like MCA and Gerakan as well as opposition parties DAP and PKR.

Abdul Rahman pointed out that Article 153 protected not only the rights of Malay, but also Bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak, many of whom are Christian.

He said Eu’s statement was seditious, and urged the police to charge the Christian leader under the Sedition Act.

Abdul Rahman also took a swipe at minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who was present at the Christmas eve function, and berated him for “not taking action” against Eu.

“We are disappointed with Koh for letting people do such things.”

Eu has remained adamant about his remarks, stating it was something that “needed somebody to say it.”

Amid the growing debate, opposition leaders have claimed that the constitutional provision has been manipulated by ruling Malay party Umno and was now being used as “a weapon of aggression”.

Constitutional expert Prof Abdul Aziz Bari had said that Article 153 meant the King must safeguard Bumiputera privileges without impinging on the legitimate interests of other communities.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin previously denied that the provision had been used to bully any community.

Ministry calls up editor on use of word Allah

(Daily Express) - The Home Ministry called up the Chief Editor of Nanyang Siangpau concerning the use of the word "Allah" in an article published by the Daily.

Deputy Secretary-General (Security) of the ministry Datuk Abdul Rahim Mohd Radzi said the article carried the word "Allah" in the form of a logo in the article entitled "Hudud Law Becomes Controversial Issue" on page A8 on Dec 27, 2011 and the article "Hudud Law Raises Concern for Non-Muslims" on page A8 on Dec. 28, 2011.

"The showing of the word is clearly against Section 7 (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 which can appal the people and jeopardise public peace," he said in a statement.

He said the Ministry also issued a show-cause letter to Nanyang Siangpau following the publication of the word which could cause tension and confuse the Malaysian public.

"KDN (Home Ministry) will take stern action on any press which commits this offence in future based on the provision in the Act," he said.

A change is gonna come

DEC 29 — An important time is arriving in Malaysia, and it does not matter if you are for it or not; that’s not material anymore. The growing fear is that the nation is about to enter this phase without a seat belt.

History students in the distant future will love 2011. When in doubt in a class history quiz, 2011 is, as they say in basketball, a high percentage shot (or guess in that situation). The world has plenty of discussion points from this year, with the death of Kim Jung-il tipping the year to epic proportion.

However for Malaysians, despite its share of watershed moments this year, 2012 will be the one that is monumental.

Two inevitable events in 2012 will dictate life in Malaysia for some time.

A general election and a court verdict.

He will go to jail

With his declaration from the defendant’s dock of his innocence and that Sodomy II is an elaborate political attack, Anwar Ibrahim has announced his disbelief in the country’s justice system under Barisan Nasional.

Legal minds are divided on the strategy, but still it did more than suggest that the leader of the opposition is readying himself for what seems like a predictable verdict. Few of those legal minds, outside the employ of the Malaysian government, disagree with Anwar.

On January 9 when the verdict comes out, there will be a reaction. Not rage, but a quiet shrug of the shoulder by millions of Malaysians. This disgust may translate to votes in the coming general election.

The column is mindful that there will be many other developments between that January week and the general election, but none will capture the collective imagination of Malaysians as much as this. The spectre of a grandfather going to jail six months after Prime Minister Najib Razak promising to reform the country’s arcane and oppressive laws removes any semblance of reform from the present administration.

The administration’s fear of a free Anwar in an election year may be its undoing.

General election

This column made the prognosis last year that there will be no general election this year. It has been vindicated on that score.

Six months ago it would be outright optimism bordering on blind faith to expect Pakatan Rakyat to exceed its Election 2008 results.

Today, there is talk in saner political corners of a possible election upset.

Najib has a large party, but most are in for what Umno can give them and are led by very few charismatic leaders. It is a party of money, not a party of ideas.

It can only rely on the following: a good economy, the buzz of 1 Malaysia, mainstream media and its election machinery.

The economy is strong, and the planned handouts leading to the election will affect votes. Still, decades of poor wealth distribution are starting to bite all over, the emerging scandals are only confirming allegations of an elitist system run to please one class, not any race, religion or state.

Mainstream media has been less dismissive of Pakatan Rakyat, even if they’d rather have dead air than say salutary things about the coalition. Some of the commentaries have given way to doubt.

The buzz of 1 Malaysia is the random factor. No poll can gauge it. Only a fair election will. It is conceivable that this administration is leaking support.

The BN machine is a money machine. It is less incisive in a general election than in a by-election. It is about pump-priming activities based on money. The question remains, how many Malaysians are keen on appearing to openly support the BN in the coming election, even if the money is good?

There is an air of change in the country, and an Anwar conviction will electrify the country more and convince them that if they let this moment slip, then a reversal will occur.

The electoral maths then…

The dwindled support for BN’s Chinese parties will start to tell. The Indian votes are divided at best, not in Najib’s bag necessarily. It is curious to note that Najib, not the MIC, holds sway with the community.

It is the young vote which will determine the result. Anwar does not poll that well with women, but that does not discount Pakatan’s overall appeal to women.

Penang is destined to stay with Pakatan. The parliamentary seats will be status quo.

Kedah will copy Penang, and Perlis is on a knife edge.

Pundits will not be surprised if the northwest turns into a Pakatan surge.

Kelantan is a safe seat, and the vagaries of Terengganu Umno politics does leave more questions than answers. Umno may keep the state, but only a two-seat majority in the parliamentary count.

Pahang will be Peninsular Malaysia’s battleground. There were urban wins for Pakatan, but it is the reach to Felda areas that will be telling. Umno to keep Pahang, but to lose more ground.

Perak and Selangor will go Pakatan, the first is a bigger call but a call has to be made.

With the expectation of a slim Pakatan win in Negri Sembilan, that leaves Malacca and Johor as solid Umno states.

All eyes will turn to Borneo. It is a mighty ask to expect a lion’s share of the parliamentary seats there, but Pakatan might broach the 20-seat mark, though it might end up being 15. That would reduce BN’s majority from Borneo (31 seats in Sarawak, 25 in Sabah) from 54 in 2008 to a manageable 26.

A national electoral win is possible, even if quite challenging, if the above inroad is achieved in Borneo.

Unlike Pakatan’s leadership conviction that the right candidates will win Putrajaya, this column is ready to call that it will be the national mobilisation of hundreds of thousands of Malaysians wanting a new Malaysia which will secure the change.

Side shows without Bob

Klang Valley residents will be in a “reign of fire” as MRT work goes warp speed in 2012. Prasarana’s failure to announce any adjustments, reroutes and realignments in bus transportation, and Selangor and KL traffic cops’ attitude of responding as necessary, together spells disaster.

There is no temporary transportation plan as the valley goes into construction mode.

Lynas starting Gebeng operation. The prime minister’s home state, Pahang, is fairly lackadaisical about the rare earth refinery, but Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh is thriving in the situation. Najib can only lose if things persist at the present rate.

Porn in the mail then. The election year will bring with it pornography. Since in Malaysia, there is no sex education in public schools, let alone educational videos, a nation has to rely on politicians to sate any need for graphical images. Trust more videos to emerge to tarnish the usual and not usual suspects.

Living with less. Not sexy, but quite pressing, the rising cost of living with no economic policy to stem it will bite more than the analysts in government think. Probably because over time it seems, they’ve actually started to believe their own spiel.

Brave new world

At the end of 2012, a different Malaysia might stand.

As tyrants around the world fall, die or assume a cheerful personality to the Western democracies they used to openly loathe, Malaysia will become a standout case if it remains in this political rut.

Even opposition politicians are puzzled by this column’s prediction, saying they don’t think they are worthy of the adulation.

Actually, the adulation is for the people of Malaysia long denied a government worthy of their aspiration and hope.

Time, technology, history and opportunity are actively conspiring to give, not to politicians but a larger Malaysian population, real voice for the first time.

It’s time they took it.

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

A year of many achievements

The New Straits Times

PM lists down significant events during this year

KUALA LUMPUR: PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has described this year as a very colourful year for him filled with many positive development and achievements.  

"... and I must take this opportunity to thank all Malaysians for your show of support," he said in his latest blog entry titled "2011 In Review" at www.1Malaysia. blog.

"Especially to my online friends,  rest assured that I do read all your comments, ideas, complaints and well wishes and I do my best to respond to them."

Najib hoped Malaysians would continue to join him in making more positive progress next year in the spirit of 1Malaysia.

In his review of the year, the prime minister listed down significant events for the country and its people that he had documented through the social media.

These included the 1Malaysia government efforts such as the 1Malaysia Housing Programme or PR1MA, 7th National Key Result Area to the Government Transformation Plan -- Tackling Rising Cost of Living, Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia or KR1M, Menu Rakyat 1Malaysia, 1Malaysia Youth Fund -- to finance ideas and projects by youths, and Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia programme or BR1M -- to assist households that earn less than RM3,000 a month.

On the economy, Najib said the World Bank's 2011  business report listed Malaysia at  the top 20 position, and ranked Malaysia as No. 1  in the world when it came to getting credit for businesses.

The Economic Transformation Programme's progress update in September reported that for the first-half of the year, Malaysia received foreign direct investments of up to RM21.3 billion.

By its first anniversary in October, the ETP had assisted Malaysia to achieve a gross national income of RM228.55 billion and committed investments worth RM171.21 billion, with an estimated total of 372,361 potential jobs.

Among Najib's international duties was  engaging the international market and strengthening Malaysia's networking.

His first official visit as prime minister to the United Kingdom, and his lecture on "Coalition of Moderates and Inter-Civilisational Understanding" which  he presented in Oxford contributed towards this.

During his visit to the United States, he attended Invest Malaysia New York 2011, an event that secured between RM5 billion and RM6 billion new investments for the next two to three years for Malaysia.

Najib also spoke about development of the Digital Malaysia Masterplan at the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council meeting at the New York Academy of Sciences, which he chaired, and attended the 17th International Nikkei Conference in Tokyo, during which some RM3.8 billion worth of investments were confirmed to come from Japanese firms.

Najib also attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth, Australia, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Asean Summit in Bali, Indonesia.

In Hawaii, he gave his views on the Global Movement of the Moderates at the prestigious East-West Centre.

This year, the prime minister had also been exploring a variety of ways to increase his interaction with the people, using social media platforms.

These included inviting the people to ask him questions on Twitter and Facebook, an afternoon tea session with 600 of his online friends, and introducing Mari Berjumpa, Mari Berhubung gatherings to meet his online friends living outside the Klang Valley.

"I had many opportunities to engage with the youth this year, most notably was at the Konsert Suara Kami which I attended after receiving overwhelming tweets and responses online asking me to  attend.

"Immediately after, I was invited to do a 'Gotcha' prank on radio by the morning crews of I also made appearances on the morning shows of Radio Era, and"

Najib introduced in June the 1Malaysia Roundtable, an interactive platform for Malaysians to provide fair and constructive comments, suggestions or ideas to better the lives of Malaysians.

He then introduced some official 1Malaysia merchandise and gave plenty away through the 1Malaysia Merchandise campaign over the Merdeka and Malaysia Day period.

In light of his busy work schedule, he started 1Week That Was, a short weekly update on his activities on his blog, in September.  

Another important milestone in his social media journey was when he introduced his very own Mobile App for smartphones recently, which can be downloaded from his Facebook page and 1Malaysia website.

Najib  said his 1Malaysia website would have a new look next year, based on  the feedback he received  from participants in an online survey.

Judiciary Not Intimidated By Street Demonstrations - Rais

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 (Bernama) -- The proceedings or decision of any case relating to the laws of the country cannot be amended or denied by demonstrations said the Minister of Information, Communications and Culture Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.

He said apart from considering their responsibility to the community, those who wished to demonstrate should be aware that their action would not influence or strike fear on the judiciary in making its decision.

"Demonstrations cannot change the flow or channels of the legal process of the country and if that is what they demand, it would destroy our nationhood," he said when commenting on allegations that certain groups are trying to hold a demonstration in conjunction with the decision of the court on the sodomy case involving opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Jan 9.

Speaking to reporters after launching the 2012 Istana Budaya programme here Thursday, Rais said the parties should in fact accept the fact as in the case of a former Menteri Besar who was found guilty by the court recently as a reference that court decision is not limited to certain groups only.

"They should accept the fact as judges are not intimidated by street demonstrations."

On the matter, he hoped the community would support the decision makers such as the Attorney-General and the judges.

"They are demonstrating for political mileage and not for improvement of the legal system," he said.

In another development, Rais said the Film Censorship Board (LPF) need to change based on current technology such as using full digitalisation method compared to traditional system where film was used.

He said the LPF should also be braver in curbing film not suitable to the Malaysian lifestyle and not just disallowing film based on superstitions from being screened in public.

On Wednesday, Home Ministry Secretary-General Tan Sri Mahmood Adam announced that all film operators in the country would be allowed to practise self-censorship without having to go through the ministry or any agencies under the ministry from next year.

On the Istana Budaya programme launch, Rais said the ministry was confident the 19 presentations could increase its audience size by another 15 per cent from its 2011 total of 156,000.

He said among the shows were Upin dan Ipin the Musical, Dr Siti Hasmah Musical and Asean Extravaganza Musical which combines the presentations of 10 Asean countries.

Among other attractive shows are Konsert Awie dan Ella, Cuci The Musical, theatre on Bahaman Orang Kaya Semantan, The Kichen Musical, P.Ramlee The Musical and Luna Latisya, comedy musical adapted from the movie Cun starring Remy Ishak and Maya Karin.