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Monday, February 13, 2012

Whitney Houston's storied career: A regal rise, a tragic fall

(CNN) -- The news broke on the eve of Grammy Awards, the music industry's biggest night: The woman with the pitch-perfect voice who once reigned as the queen of pop at the awards show had died.

Whitney Houston was found dead Saturday by her bodyguard on the fourth floor of an upscale Beverly Hills hotel where only hours later she was to attend a pre-Grammy bash hosted by her longtime mentor, Clive Davis.

Her death, at age 48, was the final chapter of a storied career that began with the nurturing by superstar cousin Dionne Warwick, soared in the 1980s and 1990s with one record-setting achievement after another, stalled as her drug use and marriage to Bobby Brown made for tabloid fodder and was on the rebound with a highly anticipated star turn.

"You're going to remember where you were when you heard the news. It's that significant. She was undoubtedly one of the greatest superstars of all time," music producer Simon Cowell said.

"One of the greatest voices in our lifetime we're likely ever to hear. And to hear this news, it really, really, really upset me."

Houston's voice, once described by The New York Times as "peerless," influenced and inspired a new generation of singers, from Mariah Carey to Christina Aguilera, and garnered a legion of fans.

"Her notes soared to places most singers dream of reaching," Aguilera said.

Houston seemed destined for stardom almost from the very beginning.

Born on August 9, 1963, in Newark, New Jersey, to gospel great Cissy Houston, cousin to both Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick and goddaughter to Aretha Franklin, Houston's upbringing was the embodiment of musical greatness.

Grief flows at hotel where Houston died

She honed her vocal skills from a young age, singing in the church choir and taking the stage occasionally with her mother. As a teenager, she sang backup for Chaka Khan on "I'm Every Woman," a song Houston would re-record in 1992 and that would go on to become one of her biggest hits.

As the story goes, Clive Davis spotted Houston in 1983 in a New York nightclub performing and signed her on the spot.

Houston released her debut album, "Whitney Houston," in February 1985 to wide acclaim. Rolling Stone magazine called her "one of the most exciting new voices in years."

With the release of the album, her commanding voice combined with a natural beauty and a clean-cut image made her an instant star.

Fans: Whitney Houston's music spanned an era

A generation danced their way through the 1980s to a string of her hits, including the poppy "How Will I Know," "Saving All My Love For You," "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" and "The Greatest Love Of All."

But it was in the 1990s that she shot into the superstar stratosphere with two songs that showcased her stunning octave range and her maturity.

On January 27, 1991, while the United States was at war in the Persian Gulf, Houston performed "The Star Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XXV to a record 79 million viewers.

During a time when the country seemed divided by the war, her searing, heartfelt performance seemed to unite a nation at least for a few minutes. Her rendition -- the gold standard by which all performances of the national anthem are judged -- was released as a single and reached the Top 20 on the U.S. Hot 100 Billboard.

Houston's version was re-released in 2001 following the September 11 terrorist attacks, and proceeds from the sales were donated to charity.

That was followed up by her cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" recorded for the movie "The Bodyguard," in which she also made her acting debut.

Stunned celebrities mourn Whitney Houston

While the movie received mostly poor reviews, the song went onto to sell 10 million singles, winning Grammy's record of the year and best female pop vocal. The soundtrack was named album of the year.

"I will always be grateful and in awe of the wonderful performance she did on my song and I can truly say from the bottom of my heart, 'Whitney, I will always love you. You will be missed,'" Parton said.

But by the time the movie opened, Houston's clean-cut pop image had begun to tarnish with her marriage to R&B bad boy Bobby Brown. The two met in 1989 and married three years later. What about Bobbi Kristina Brown?

Their relationship became tabloid fodder, with every misstep chronicled and the couple's relationship a subject of constant speculation. Brown's notorious hard-partying led him to several run-ins with the law and stints in jail.

While Houston managed to maintain a successful music and movie career through the end of the 1990s, starring in "The Preacher's Wife" and "Waiting To Exhale," her behavior turned increasingly erratic amid reports of heavy drug use.

By the 2000s, her career was in free fall as her album sales dropped off and her voice began to show signs of wear.

The rumors were further fueled by her gaunt appearance and crass behavior on the 2001 short-lived Bravo reality show "Being Bobby Brown," which she later said in an interview she only did to try to save her marriage. The couple, who had a daughter together, divorced in 2007.

Brown performed at a "New Edition" concert Saturday night in South Haven, Mississippi.

"The atmosphere felt bittersweet," said iReporter Moshiu Knox, who attended the concert with his wife. "Bobby was crying during his performance and at one point had to walk off stage. ... The crowd was emotional and tears were flowing all over the arena."

Video of the concert shows Brown asking the audience to pray for the couple's daughter. "If you find the time, can you say a prayer for me because I'm going to need it," he says.

In an infamous interview in 2002 with ABC's Diane Sawyer, Houston admitted to using drugs but denied the use of crack.

"Crack is wack," she said, quoting a line taken from Keith Haring mural painted in 1986.

It was during the same interview, she told Sawyer: "The biggest devil is me. I'm either my best friend or my worst enemy."

Houston bounced in and out of drug rehab twice, declaring herself drug-free during a 2010 interview with Oprah Winfrey, though an Australian tour that same year was fraught with reviews that she sounded "croaky" and, at times, appeared disoriented.

Recently, Houston was working to turn around her career -- and image -- with a star turn in the upcoming movie "Sparkle,'' the remake of a 1976 film that is said to be loosely inspired by the Supremes.

The night Houston died she was to be a guest of honor at Davis' annual pre-Grammy bash.

"She loved music and she loved this night that celebrated music," Davis told party-goers.

"Her family asked that we carry on."

She would have loved that, too.

Bangladesh: JeI activists vandalise Hindu temples

Bangladesh: JeI activists vandalise Hindu temples New Delhi: Fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami activists vandalised several Hindu temples in the Hathazari area of Chittagong in Bangladesh on Thursday and Friday, forcing the law enforcement authorities to impose Section 144 of the Bangladesh Penal Code that bans public gatherings in the affected area.

According to the website, Muslims, allegedly instigated by the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, first damaged a temple in the compound of the Loknath Sebasram at Nandirhat on Thursday evening and blocked the Chittagong-Rangamati Road on Friday morning in retaliation to a mosque being damaged by people coming out of the Loknath Sebasram.

The website report further said that at least three other Hindu temples were attacked by the Islamic activists.

It said that damage was inflicted on the Sri Sri Jagadeshwari Ma Temple, the Jagannath Bigroho Temple at Nandirhat and the Kalibari Temple in Sadar Upazila. The Sri Sri Jagadeshwari Ma Temple was also burnt, it added.

The Primary and Mass Education Minister of Bangladesh, Afsar-ul-Ameen, has visited the area and instructed local authorities to take steps to normalise the situation.

Local administration officials blamed the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing, the Islami Chhatra Shibir, for the incidents.

Reacting to the incident, liberal and secular minded people in Bangladesh said such events could pose a threat to the country’s secular fabric.

Haroon Habib, a 1971 war veteran and a senior journalist, told ANI in a telephonic interview that: “These are very tragic events. Bangladeshis were never communal even under military rule. People must see a definite political motive behind these events.”

He added: "There is a definite extremist political agenda behind these attacks. There are elements who want to destabilise the incumbent Hasina Government.”

Haroon also blamed the local administration for not acting tough against fundamentalist elements in the area.

Allegations have it that houses belonging to Hindus in the area were also vandalised. Leaders of the minority Hindu community have blamed the ''indifference'' of the administration for the prevailing situation.

Rejecting suggestions of fundamentalism being on the rise in Bangladesh, Haroon said there was no existential threat to the current regime, but he cautioned the Sheikh Hasina government not to be complacent.

He also opined that there were many elements in Bangladesh who were unhappy with Sheikh Hasina’s close ties to New Delhi, as also her move to make the Constitution of the country more secular.

Recently, the Bangladesh Army had foiled a coup attempt by retired and serving Army officers who had fundamentalist leanings.

India has said that it is keeping a close watch on emerging developments in both Bangladesh and Maldives.


Trouble in paradise: Maldives and Islamic extremism

MALE — At the Maldives' National Museum, smashed Buddhist statues are testament to the rise of Islamic extremism and Taliban-style intolerance in a country famous as a laid-back holiday destination.

On Tuesday, as protesters backed by mutinous police toppled president Mohamed Nasheed, a handful of men stormed the Chinese-built museum and destroyed its display of priceless artefacts from the nation's pre-Islamic era.

"They have effectively erased all evidence of our Buddhist past," a senior museum official told AFP at the now shuttered building in the capital Male, asking not to be named out of fear for his own safety.

"We lost all our 12th century statues. They were made of coral stone and limestone. They are very brittle and there is no way we can restore them," he explained.

"I wept when I heard that the entire display had gone. We are good Muslims and we treated these statues only as part of our heritage. It is not against Islam to display these exhibits," he said.

Five people have since been arrested after they returned the following day to smash the CCTV cameras, he said.

The authorities have banned photography of the damage, conscious that vandalism of this kind which echoes the 2001 destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan by the Taliban is damaging for the nation's image.

The gates of the two-storeyed grey building, which opened in 2010, are padlocked and an unarmed guard keeps watch.

The Maldives, a collection of more than 1,100 coral-fringed islands surrounded by turquoise seas, is known as a "paradise" holiday destination that draws hundreds of thousands of travellers and honeymooners each year.

Visitors' contact with the local population is deliberately kept at bay, however, with most foreigners simply transferring from the main international airport directly to their five-star resorts on outlying islands.

Few have any idea they are visiting a country of 330,000 Muslims with no religious freedom, where women can be flogged for extramarital sex and consuming alcohol is illegal for locals.

Islam is the official religion of the Maldives and open practice of any other religion is forbidden and liable to prosecution.

The religious origins of the Maldivian people are not clearly established, but it is believed that a Buddhist king converted to Islam in the 12th century.

Thereafter, the country practised a mostly liberal form of the religion, but more fundamentalist interpretations have spread with the arrival of money and ultra-conservative Salafist preachers from the Middle East.

In 2007, following a bombing that wounded a dozen foreign tourists, the former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom banned head-to-toe coverings for women as a sign of his intent to battle conservative Islamic thinking.

At the museum, another official said that fundamentalists had threatened to attack the museum on previous occasions unless it withdrew the Buddhist display.

The country's ultra-conservative Islamic group, the Adhaalath Party, condemned the attack, but said they remained opposed to Nasheed's decision to accept three monuments from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

"Our constitution does not allow idols and that is why we objected to the monuments," General Secretary Mohamed Muizzu said, referring to the gifts to mark a South Asian summit held in November in the Maldives.

The monuments, which included one of pillar featuring Buddhist motifs, and which had been on display in the southernmost island of Addu, have all since been vandalised.

The Adhaalath party supports new president Mohamed Waheed, who Nasheed accuses of taking part in a coup, and is due to join the new government.

Waheed called the museum attack "totally unacceptable" and denied there was religious violence in his country.

Former foreign minister Ahmed Naseem disagreed.

He said extremists were thriving in the Maldives and that they were partly responsible for the toppling of Nasheed and the installation of Waheed. "What we had was a military coup backed by religious extremists," he said.

"There is a strong influence of Islamic fundamentalists in the country and they will get stronger," Naseem told AFP. "These groups are funded from abroad. "This threat is not only to us, but the rest of the world as well."

The moderate Nasheed, who was educated in Sri Lanka and Britain, was consistently accused of being under the control of Jews and Christians by religious opposition parties now linked to the government

There were also demonstrations over proposals from the transport ministry to allow direct flights from Israel.

"We strongly condemn the anti-Semitic words and the other commentary recently," US assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs Robert Blake said during a visit to Male on Saturday.

"Under President Nasheed, the Maldives tried to improve relations with Israel and showed what a progressive country they were and we really commend them for that."

Shame covers sleaze

Many connected with the university admit that "seedy affairs had been going on in the holy precincts" for some time. – File Photo
ISLAMABAD: Sex scandals have rocked the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) in recent months, with several faculty and staff members accused of preying upon the vulnerable female students or juniors.
Many connected with the university admit that “seedy affairs had been going on in the holy precincts” for some time. But they did not speak on record.
Acting president Sahabzada Sajidur Rehman of the university, however, confirmed that recently a professor and a librarian left the university after allegations of rape emerged against them.
“We did not approach the police to investigate the allegations as it would have brought bad name to the university and set parents of the 9,500 girls studying here worrying,” he told Dawn on Thursday.
Sources in the university claimed that the professor of economics department used to offer his victims “good marks” in examinations in return for sex. He would even force himself upon the unwilling with threats of failing her.
It was shocking to hear the president of the University Staff Welfare Association, Chaudhry Mohammad Nazir, say “the situation is far worse than what you know”.
IIUI sources said the professor’s escapades came to an end after he landed his last victim on January 20, a Friday. The university asked the victim to file a formal complaint for initiating action against the accused but her family refused.
However, the students union took up her case and threatened the university administration it would go public with the evidence, the sources said.
It was claimed to be the same kind of evidence that had gone viral on the internet and forced the university’s old librarian to resign a few months earlier.
That was despite the university administration’s alleged attempt to make his victim – a female assistant – to resign on the charge that she was a willing partner. But she firmly refused and went on leave.
On her return, the administration assigned her to a new department, according to her colleagues.
It is not that families of the victims of coercive sex took their sufferings lying down. One father reported a senior faculty member to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat which instructed the Islamabad police to investigate.
When the investigators arrived to probe, however, the university officials pleaded with them to hush up the matter as “the accused has already been punished” and a probe would only tarnish the image of the university and scare the parents.
It is a different matter that for the librarian the punishment meant retiring six months before it was due, and for the professor resigning on his own and securing a new job in the National Agriculture Research Centre, allegedly with the help of friends in the bureaucracy.

Another ceramah aborted after 'gangsters' strike

A ceramah on academic freedom was aborted last night after a rowdy group of youths wrecked and blockaded the intended venue at Kampung Idaman, Klang.

When contacted, Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia (SMM) president Ahmad Syukri Ab Razab said the "gangsters" had broken chairs and strewn them in the multipurpose hall before the ceramah began.

smm klang ceramah 120212"They also surrounded the venue and we were forced to take refuge at a nearby food stall while waiting for the situation to calm down," he said.

However, the group of some 70 people, Ahmad Syukri said, refused to budge, prompting the students numbering, about 15, to lodge a police report at Pandamaran police station.

"We arrived at Pandamaran police station at about 10.30pm, the gangsters followed us and started to gather there on their motorcycles."

The incident was the second time a ceramah was disrupted in Klang, the first being a ceramah by Anything But Umno (ABU) where rowdy youths on motorcycles stormed the venue at Jalan Kebun and reportedly beat up a youth.

‘Hit by stones and sticks'

He said that due to the tense situation, local police decided to escort the students to the Klang district police headquarters for the report.

smm klang ceramah 120212"Three police cars escorted us in a convoy of five but when we came out they threw stones and hit our cars with sticks.

Thankfully the windows did not shatter but (Kumpulan Aktivis Mahasiswa Independen deputy president) Khalid Mohd Ismath's (left) car was badly dented, but there was nothing the police could do," he said.

The gangsters again followed the students to Klang district police station headquarters and their numbers swelled to over 100, claimed Ahmad Syukri.

smm klang ceramah 120212"After making the police report, we were advised not to leave the police station for our safety.

"Even at 4am, the gangsters were still outside, we had to escape through another door with the help of local residents," he said.
The students managed to leave without incident and no one was injured that night, said Ahmad Syukri.

The ceramah last night was part of the students' nationwide road show for academic freedom. However this was the first time it has been disrupted.

Despite virtual death sentence, Malaysia sends Saudi blogger home

Kashgari is alleged to have posted blasphemous comments on his Twitter account. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 — Malaysia deported a Saudi Arabian blogger today, police said, despite fears voiced by human rights groups that he could face execution in his home country over Twitter comments he made that were deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammad.

Hamza Kashgari, a 23-year-old columnist, sparked outrage in the oil-rich kingdom with comments posted on the Prophet’s birthday a week ago that led some Islamic clerics to call for him to face the death penalty.

Kashgari fled the country, but was arrested by police in majority-Muslim Malaysia on Thursday as he transited through Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

“The Saudi writer was repatriated to his home country this Sunday morning,” a police spokesman told Reuters. “This is an internal Saudi matter that we cannot comment on.”

Malaysia has a close affinity with many Middle Eastern nations through their shared religion. But it is also a US ally and a leading global voice for moderate Islam, meaning that the decision to extradite Kashgari is certain to be controversial.

“Saudi clerics have already made up their mind that Kashgari is an apostate who must face punishment,” Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Friday.

“The Malaysian government should not be complicit in sealing Kashgari’s fate by sending him back.”

Kashgari’s lawyer in Malaysia, Mohammad Noor, told Reuters by telephone that he had obtained a court order to prevent the deportation, but had not been allowed to see his client.

“If the government of Malaysia deports him to Saudi Arabia, disrespecting the court order, this is clearly contempt of court, unlawful and unacceptable,” he said.

The Star newspaper quoted Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as saying that Kashgari had been repatriated and that the charges against him would be decided by Saudi authorities.

“Malaysia has a longstanding arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other,” he was quoted as saying.

Blasphemy is a crime punishable by execution under Saudi Arabia’s strict interpretation of Islamic syariah law. It is not a capital crime in Malaysia.

Reuters could not verify Kashgari’s comments because he later deleted them, but media reported that one of them reflected his contradictory views of the Prophet — that he both loved and hated him.

Kashgari later said in an interview that he was being made a “scapegoat for a larger conflict” over his comments. — Reuters

Kashgari deportation unlawful and cruel, says PKR veep

Surendran accused the authorities of rushing the blogger’s deportation in order to circumvent the legal process. — File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 12 — PKR vice president N. Surendran denounced the federal government for sending Saudi Arabian Hamza Kashgari home today, where he will likely be executed for alleged blasphemy.

“The deportation was unlawful, unconstitutional and a cruel act. The deportation was carried out in an unholy haste in order to defeat the legal process in Malaysia,” he said in a statement.

Surendran pointed out that a High Court had convened unusually on a Sunday to issue an interim order barring the deportation.

“The issuance of the order meant that the High Court judge had found basis in Hamza’s complaint that he was being illegally held by Malaysian authorities and that his deportation would be unlawful,” he said.

The human rights lawyer said there was no basis for the Malaysian government to deport Hamza as there is no extradition treaty between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Surendran added that the offence the blogger is accused of does not attract capital punishment in Malaysia.

He said the deportation was in breach of Malaysia’s legal norms and constitutional principles. It also violated international law and human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, continued Surendran.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak must be held accountable for this unlawful and arbitrary action by his government and must answer for the black mark upon Malaysia’s international reputation,” he demanded.

Faith is not a bottle of vodka martini

Najib's Islamic faith can neither be shaken nor stirred.

Faith is a belief system that comes from within. It is not something that can be, to paraphrase Britain’s fictitious spy, James Bond’s famous line, “shaken not stirred”.

In short, Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s faith in Islam is not a bottle of vodka martini.

Yes I am writing this in response to Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria’s remarks over Najib’s visit to Batu Caves in conjunction with Thaipusam.

An online media report quoted Harussani as saying: “Najib’s visit is blasphemous. I have been telling this to him for years.”

It also quoted Harussani as saying that Najib “sacrificed his faith” and that it was an “idolatrous act” on Najib’s part when he attended the Thapusam festival on Tuesday.

Najib has been visiting Batu Caves for the past three years.

How can Najib’s Islamic faith be shaken and stirred when his motive of being there is purely political, not religious?

He was there to announce about the funds for the temple and additional Tamil schools, hence Harussani’s contention that Najib joined Thaipusam celebration does not hold water.

From a political perspective, one can decipher Najib’s “nambikei” (trust) speech as a bait for election.

At the end of the day, Najib & Co must obtain the people’s trust to form the next government at the 13th general election.

Harussani does not need to do so since his appointment as mufti, by convention, is done by the sultan.

It is also vital for Najib to be present in Batu Caves, Selangor, since 52% of the voters in Selangor are non-Malays.

My second point would look at the issue from the Islamic perspective.

Islam is a religion of reason

The Islamic civilisation had world reknowned scholars such as Avicenna because arguments are based on facts and Muslim scholars then were able to reason.

Unfortunately, Harussani has not given any reasoning in lashing out at Najib.

Based on the news report, Harussani also did not present his argument by using the four sources of Islamic as his basis for argument. The four are Al- Quran, As-Sunnah, Ijma and Qiyas.

The Sunnah are actions and quotations of Prophet Muhammad that is recorded in the Hadith.

Ijma is the general consensus among Muslim jurists (ulama) on a particular issue whereas qiyas refers to process of legal deduction where jurists are allowed to argue by using the Quran and Sunnah.

As a mufti which is equivalent to the top most religious official, Harussani’s statement is detrimental to Malaysian Muslims as it gives the impression that the faith of the Muslims can be shaken and stirred.

It also serves to belittle Islam to the Western world that has not wholly come out of Islamophobia since the 9/11 incident in 2011 where Muslim terrorists crashed two airlines onto the World Trade Center in America.

Saudi journalist deported; court order comes too late

Injunction order obtained by Malaysian lawyers acting for Kashgari's family came too late to stop the deportation.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia today deported a young Saudi journalist wanted in his home country over a Twitter post about the Prophet Mohammed, defying pleas from human rights group who said he faced execution.

Hamza Kashgari, who was detained in Malaysia on Thursday after fleeing Saudi Arabia, has now left the country, national police spokesman Ramli Yoosuf said.

“He was deported to Saudi Arabia,” Ramli told AFP. A government offical said Kashgari was escorted back to his home country by Saudi officials.

“He has been deported. He was picked up by Saudi officials at the airport,” said the source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kashgari fled to Malaysia after making comments on the microblogging site deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, which triggered outrage and death threats.

Insulting the prophet is considered blasphemous in Islam and is a crime punishable by execution in Saudi Arabia.

Kashgari’s detention sparked outrage from human rights groups, with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch urging Malaysia not to send him back to face severe punishment and possibly a death sentence.

Malaysian rights activist Fadiah Nadwa Fikri condemned the move, saying that a court order to prevent Kashgari’s deportation was secured Sunday but that immigration authorities advised he had already been deported.

“It is a blatant violation of the law and human rights,” she said.

Fadiah said Kashgari’s mother and brother had arrived in Malaysia to seek his release and were distraught at the news of his repatriation.

“They are very distressed. They broke down in tears. They fear for his safety,” she said, adding that they will also return to Saudi Arabia Sunday.

Fadiah said Kashgari had been intending to travel to New Zealand where he planned to seek asylum. He flew to Malaysia via Jordan and was in transit when he was detained.

“He flew to Malaysia because there was no visa requirement,” she said.

Malaysia and Saudi Arabia do not have a formal extradition treaty but have close ties as fellow Muslim countries.

Long-standing arrangement

The home ministry defended its stance earlier Sunday.

“Malaysia has a long-standing arrangement by which individuals wanted by one country are extradited when detained by the other, and (Kashgari) will be repatriated under this arrangement,” it said in a statement.

“The nature of the charges against the individual in this case are a matter for the Saudi Arabian authorities.”

Human Rights Watch senior Middle East researcher Christoph Wilcke had said Saturday that Malaysia should not be “complicit in sealing Kashgari’s fate by sending him back”, where he would be unlikely to face a fair trial.

Kashgari’s controversial tweet sparked tens of thousands of responses, according to an online service that tracks Twitter postings in the Arab world.

He tweeted: “I have loved things about you and I have hated things about you and there is a lot I don’t understand about you.

“I will not pray for you.”

Kashgari apologised but a committee of top clerics branded him “an “infidel” and demanded he be tried in an Islamic court, while a Saudi Facebook page calling for his execution has attracted thousands of followers.


‘Najib guilty of blatant abuse of power’

DAP veteran Karpal Singh accuses the PM of misusing government facilities to canvass for votes and criticises the AG for keeping silent.

GEORGE TOWN: DAP chairman Karpal Singh has slammed Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of kickstarting his election campaign trail early by misusing government facilities and paraphernalia.

He questioned why the Attorney-General’s Chambers had not pressed any charges against Najib, who is also the Barisan Nasional chairman and Umno president, for blatant abuse of power.

He noted that Najib had been using government facilities to canvass votes across the country for BN and Umno.

Karpal rebuked Najib’s use of government transportation, bodyguards, state-sponsored functions and civil servants in his current nationwide ala election tour had infringed the election laws.

“This is blatant abuse of power and violation of election rules. I wonder why the AG has not taken any action. Why is the AG so silent and allows the prime minister to get away with it?” he asked.

AG quick to act against Pakatan leaders

Comparatively, he said the AG Chambers had been quick in taking action against Pakatan Rakyat leaders, even for merely suggesting that the Sultan of Perak could be sued.

Karpal noted that the Federal Constitution provisions allowed the royalty to be sued in certain issues.

“However, I am being charged with sedition for making a legal suggestion during the height of the Perak constitutional crisis,” he added.

Pointing out that Pakatan was a government in waiting, he cautioned Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail to carry out his public duty without fear or favour.

“The AG should be reminded that he is being watched closely,” said Karpal.

The DAP veteran also slammed MCA for making false claims that DAP supported PAS’ Islamic agenda.

MCA, he said, had resorted to the cheap political stunts of 1999 to avoid being completely wiped out in the next general election.

In 1999, he added, MCA deceived the people by ridiculing DAP’s electoral links with PAS.

As a result, he said the party suffered major electoral reverses including his and party adviser Lim Kit Siang’s shock parliamentary defeats.

“DAP has always categorically opposed PAS’ agenda of forming an Islamic state and implementing the hudud laws. MCA should stop the lies,” he added.

Who the fuck are you to tell me what to do?

My reasons as to why I wanted a change of government back in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2004 remain the same. That has not changed. I am not prepared to tolerate slight corruption. I am not prepared to tolerate slight racism. I am not prepared to tolerate slight extremism. I am not prepared to tolerate slight intolerance. I am not prepared to tolerate slight Talibanism. I am not prepared to tolerate slight whatever it may be.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
The year was 1976, mid-January to be exact. Tun Razak Hussein (current Prime Minister Najib’s father) had just died and Tun Hussein Dato’ Onn had just taken over as Prime Minister. I had just migrated to Kuala Terengganu barely two years before that in 1974.
There was a raging debate going on as to who will take over as Hussein Onn’s new Deputy. There were many theories and many names. I said: Dr Mahathir Mohamad. There was a minute of silence while everyone pondered on my choice before all shook their heads and said ‘no way’.
Dr Mahathir became Deputy Prime Minister and that launched my new ‘career’ as a political observer, analyst, commenter, and whatnot.
That was 36 years ago. I was only 26 then. Hence for more than half my life I have been doing what some would call ‘shit-stirring’.
It was a couple of years later that I first met Tok Guru Ayah Cik (Hadi Awang) in his house in Rusila. He had just come back from his studies in the Middle East. I liked Tok Guru the instant I met him. From then on I would make many trips to the Rusila mosque to hear Tok Guru’s usrahs (lectures) and kutbahs (sermons) about the struggles and sacrifices of Muslim freedom fighters over more than 1,000 years.
Then, in 1979, the Islamic Revolution of Iran exploded and I became ‘inspired’. I visualised a similar Islamic revolution in Malaysia. When a delegation of the Islamic Revolutionary Council came to Malaysia I attended the gathering and when they told us that the purpose of their trip was to export the Iranian Revolution to Malaysia my hair stood on end. I was practically getting an orgasm.
Well, I was only 29 then and at 29 you are always idealistic and a great romantic, if you know what I mean.
Anwar Ibrahim had been detained under the Internal Security Act in 1974 and was spending his time in Kamunting. On his release 20 months later he took his ABIM, which was formed in 1971, on a road show all over Malaysia.
The last I had seen Anwar was back in 1965 when I was still in school, the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. So it was more than fourteen years since I had last seen him. Now Anwar was visiting Kuala Terengganu and was speaking at a PAS ceramah and I just had to go listen to him.

I was smitten. Anwar moved me to tears. Anwar spoke about an Islamic revolution. Anwar was my hero, my alma mater, my prefect in school, and he was going to lead us on a jihad so that we can fight and die for Islam and get to go straight to heaven where 72 virgins were awaiting us. (Well, I did say I was idealistic and a romantic at that age).
In 1981, Dr Mahathir ousted Hussein Onn and took over as Prime Minister. In 1982, Anwar broke our heart when he joined Umno. This was the same party he had been condemning as ahli neraka (members of hell). Now he was joining these same people we had sworn to defeat even if we have to die doing so.
A couple of months later I went to Mekah with a few PAS leaders. I met up with Mustapha Ali, Fadzil Noor, and a few others and spent a week discussing Malaysian politics and Anwar’s betrayal to the cause. I also joined an anti-Saudi-anti-US demonstration organised by the Iranians.
Man, was it huge. There were easily more than 100,000 people. We practically took over the streets of Mekah. The Saudi army with guns just stood there and did not dare shoot at us. (The following year they did shoot and thousands from both sides died: but I missed that one…sigh….)
Soon after I returned from Mekah the Special Branch called me in. The Director told me that I had been identified as a threat to Umno and was just one step short of detention under the ISA. I was told to report back to the Kuala Terengganu police station the following day at 7.00am.
The following day they brought me to the Menteri Besar’s residence. Wan Mokhtar Ahmad, the MB, told me that they do not want to take action against me because I am the nephew of the Tengku Ampuan of Terengganu. But they warned me that if they were forced to detain me they would do so. Hence, I had better tone down my anti-Umno activities.
A few days later a judge phoned me and asked whether we could have lunch. I did not know this judge but had heard his name mentioned many times (he was a very close friend of a very close friend in ABIM).
We met for lunch at the Primula and the judge told me that the government wanted to detain me under the ISA but he had warned them not to. He said he had told them that since I was the nephew of the Tengku Ampuan that may cause a conflict between Umno and the palace. He suggested they just talk to me.
That explained why I was called in to meet the Director of the Terengganu Special Branch and the following day brought to meet the MB in his house.
I, of course, never did tone down. In fact, I did the opposite. I spoke to Tok Guru Ayah Chik and arranged to bring him to Kuala Lumpur. I told him that PAS should not remain just a kampong party. It needs to penetrate the urban areas and the big city. PAS needs to gain acceptance from the city dwellers and the non-Malays. If not, it will never become a national party and get to form the federal government.
Tok Guru’s first ‘big city’ ceramah was held in Masjid Mujahideen in Damansara Utama in 1983. The crowd was huge. Never before had that mosque seen so many people. From then on it became a monthly affair and PAS was soon on the way to conquering the city. Of course, it took 25 years before that would happen, as the 2008 general election proved. But it did eventually bear fruit. PAS is now a national party.
No doubt I now no longer believe in the Iranian Revolution. I also no longer believe that Malaysia should be turned into ‘The Islamic Republic of Malaysia’. I am now 62, not 32. But I sill believe in PAS as I did 36 years ago in 1976.
And, sure, I am critical of PAS. I whack them when they want to bar Elton John from singing in Genting. I whack them when they confiscate beers in Seven-Elevens. I whack them when they ask the government to ban Valentine’s Day celebrations. And so on and so forth.
And, sure, many of you whack me for whacking the opposition. But who the fuck are you to tell me what to do? I have earned my right to whack the opposition.
Where were you back in the 1970s? Many of you were not even born yet then.
Who were you supporting back in the 1970s? Many of you supported Barisan Nasional and voted for the ruling party in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2004. Only now, in 2008, did you vote for the opposition. And just because you voted opposition in ONE election you feel you have earned the monopoly to talk about the opposition and no one else should talk, especially if it is talk that is critical of the opposition.
Many wakil rakyat (members of parliament and state assemblypersons) who won in 208 were not even in politics yet in the 1970s. Hell, many were not even born yet then. But now that they are the wakil rakyat (because we voted for them, mind you) they feel we have no right to criticise them or chide them.
Let me make one thing very clear. We opposed Barisan Nasional and Umno back when Hussein Onn was the Prime Minister and Dr Mahathir Mohamad the Deputy Prime Minister because they were evil. They were corrupted. They were racists. They did not allow freedom of speech. They violated the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
Of course, they were not that bad then, back in the 1970s. They were only a shade of what they are today.  But we still opposed them nevertheless. But many of you did not oppose them. In 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2004 you voted for them. While we tried to kick them out you voted for them.
My reasons as to why I wanted a change of government back in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2004 remain the same. That has not changed. I am not prepared to tolerate slight corruption. I am not prepared to tolerate slight racism. I am not prepared to tolerate slight extremism. I am not prepared to tolerate slight intolerance. I am not prepared to tolerate slight Talibanism. I am not prepared to tolerate slight whatever it may be.
That was what you all said in 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999 and 2004. You were prepared to tolerate corruption, racism, extremism, intolerance, Talibanism, etc., as long as it is slight. Now that slight has become major. Now it is impossible to eradicate corruption, racism, extremism, intolerance, Talibanism, and more. Now is it almost impossible to kick Barisan Nasional and Umno out. You have allowed them to get a strong grip on the country that it is now almost impossible to kick them out.
I can see that many Chinese are prepared to accept the slight corruption and slight everything else in the interest of kicking out a Malay government. This sounds like this is not about eradicating corruption but about kicking out the Malays. From where I am sitting this sounds like it is about Ketuanan Cina versus Ketuanan Melayu.
Yeah, sure, the Chinese are practical and realistic people, not like the Malays who are emotional. The Chinese can accept slight corruption as long as Umno is kicked out. Just make sure the money is in a red and not white envelope.
Do you know that another word for realism is hypocrisy?

Greece set to agree to bailout as Germany demands action

By Harry Papachristou and Matt Robinson - Reuters

ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek lawmakers looked set to agree to a deeply unpopular bailout deal on Sunday to avert what Prime Minister Lucas Papademos warned would be “economic chaos,” and Germany demanded Athens dramatically change its ways to stay in the euro.

The austerity bill sets out 3.3 billion euros ($4.35 billion) in wage, pension and job cuts as the price of a 130-billion-euro rescue package from the European Union and International Monetary Fund – Greece’s second since 2010.

Greece needs the funds before March 20 to meet debt repayments of 14.5 billion euros and the bill has stirred anger on the streets and turmoil within the coalition government.

Addressing the nation late on Saturday, Papademos warned that failure to back the bill would mean a disorderly default and “set the country on a disastrous adventure.”

“It would create conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social explosion,” he said.

“The country would be drawn into a vortex of recession, instability, unemployment and protracted misery and this would sooner or later lead the country out of the euro.”

Greece’s Communist Party accused him of “lying and scaremongering.”

But euro zone paymaster Germany ratcheted up the pressure, saying Europe needed action, not words.

“The promises from Greece aren’t enough for us any more,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said in an interview published on Sunday in Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

German opinion polls show a majority of Germans are willing to help, Schaeuble said, “but it’s important to say that it cannot be a bottomless pit.

“That’s why the Greeks have to finally close that pit. And then we can put something in there. At least people are now starting to realize it won’t work with a bottomless pit.”

“Greece needs to do its own homework to become competitive – whether that happens in conjunction with a new rescue program or by another route that we actually don’t want to take…”

When asked if that other “route” meant Greece would have to leave the euro zone, Schaeuble said: “That is all in the hands of the Greeks themselves. But even in the event (Greece leaves the euro zone), which almost no one assumes will happen, they will still remain part of Europe.”


He said that the rescue efforts for Greece were proving more difficult than efforts to unify Germany in 1990.

“The reason is the realization that there is a need for change, and change dramatically, still needs to develop further with a lot of people in Greece.”

The 300-seat parliament is due to begin debating the bill at 2 p.m. (1200 GMT) before a vote expected late in the evening.

Demonstrators have pledged to turn out in force at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on the main square in front of the assembly, although rainy weather may limit the numbers of protesters.

The austerity measures include 300 million euros in pension cuts and a 22 percent reduction in the minimum wage from about 750 euros a month.

The bill aims to cut Greece’s bloated state sector workforce by about 150,000 people by 2015.

It also provides for a bond swap to ease Greece’s debt burden by cutting the real value of private investors’ bond holdings by some 70 percent.

On a day of dire warnings and stormy debate on Saturday, leaders of the ruling coalition told uneasy lawmakers to support the bill or be dropped from party lists for an election that could come by April.

At least 20 deputies from the two main parties in the Papademos coalition threatened on Saturday to vote ‘No’ – but the bulk of the coalition’s 236 MPs are still all but certain to approve the package. Six members of his cabinet have resigned.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said the deal had to be approved by Sunday or the country would miss a February 17 deadline to offer the debt “haircut” to its private-sector bondholders.

Euro zone finance ministers also expect Greece to explain by then how 325 million euros from this year’s total budget cuts, as yet unspecified, will be achieved before it agrees to the bailout.

Bailout documents released on Friday left blank the amount of the full rescue package, and Venizelos said Greece might need 15 billion euros more to save the country’s banks, confirming estimates from EU officials.

The EU and IMF say they will not release the aid without clear commitments by the main party leaders that reforms will be implemented, whoever wins the next election.

Hearing date set for ex-professor

The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has set Sept 24 and Sept 25 to hear former Universiti Islam Antarabangsa (UIA) law professor Dr Abdul Aziz Bari’s defamation suit against Kulim Bandar Baru MP Datuk Zulkifli Noordin and Utusan Melayu (M) Bhd.

High Court judge Justice Zabariah Mohd Yusof fixed the date after issuing orders for the parties in chambers yesterday.

Lawyer Azhana Mohd Khairudin acted for the professor while counsel Rohanidah Shafie appeared on behalf of Utusan.

Rohanidah later said the judge had ordered the parties to file various documents including statement of agreed facts and issues to be tried by April 13.

She said the judge had set April 17 for case management of the civil suit.

Dr Abdul Aziz sued Zulkifli and Utusan for allegedly defaming him in relation to his remarks on the Sultan of Selangor’s decree over a church raid.

He also named Utusan Malaysia group editor-in-chief Datuk Aziz Ishak as a defendant in the defamation suit.

In his lawsuit, Dr Abdul Aziz said Zulkifli had on Oct 17 last year uttered slanderous words against him, which were published in the Utusan Malaysia newspaper the next day.

He said the words implied that he was rude and not qualified to be a lecturer or a professor.

He said the publication had caused him to suffer embarrassment, humiliation and torment in terms of dignity, credibility, character and reputation.

Dr Abdul Aziz said he had been insulted and ridiculed among society by the article.

He said Zulkifli had uttered such words which were published by Utusan on purpose, without any cross-checks and without considering his dignity.

He said he had sent a notice to the defendants to withdraw the allegations, apologise to him and pay damages but they did not.

In the statement of claim, filed on Dec 22 last year, he is seeking general, exemplary and aggravated damages, costs and further relief deemed fit by the court.

He is asking the High Court to direct the defendants to apologise to him and retract all defamatory words in the newspaper within 24 hours from the court order.

Malaysian Students Scramble Through Window As Roof Collapses

JAKARTA, Feb 12 (Bernama) -- Thirty female students, including 11 Malaysians scrambled to safety through the back window of their two-storey house in Grogol, North Jakarta when its front roof collapsed during a heavy downpour last night.

Neighbours came to their rescue by broking the window.

One of the Malaysian students, Nor Ubudiah Seti said they took some personal items and documents with them as they scrambled to safety.

"We heard a very loud noise from outside the home as if a cement truck had overturned before neighbours shouted to us to leave the house as the front roof had collapsed.

"We could not get out of the front door as it was blocked by debris from the collapsed roof and climbed out of the window," said Nor Ubudiah, a fourth-year medical student at Trisakti University here, Sunday.

The Malaysian students were putting up with their friends nearby and turned down an arrangement made by Malaysian Education Attache and First Secretary (Education) Ludinata Misnun to house them at the Malaysia Hall.

According to the students, the Malaysia Hall located in South Jakarta is very far from Trisakti University in North Jakarta and moreover they would be sitting for an examination this weekend.

‘Dr Rosmah’ and Curtin University

Back in Australia after a New Year’s jaunt in Sydney, Rosmah was awarded an honorary doctorate at Curtin University’s Bentley campus in Perth yesterday.
Rosmah receiving her honorary doctorate from Chancellor of Curtin University Jim Gill. Photograph: Bernama
Rosmah received her scroll along with 600 other graduating students.
What are Curtin University’s links to Malaysia?
In 2010, the Malaysian Qualifications Agency granted Curtin University of Technology in Sarawak self-accreditation status following an institutional audit that included a visit by an MQA panel of auditors to the university campus. The campus was opened in Miri in 1998.
Curtin Sarawak has received various sources of funding in Malaysia:
In August 2003, Curtin Sarawak became the first international university in Malaysia to be entitled to access the prestigious IRPA grants (“Intensification for Research in Priority Areas”) of the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment.
In December 2004, researchers at Curtin Sarawak were awarded their first IRPA grant.
In addition to sources of funding from the Federal Government, Curtin Sarawak has also access to funds from the Sarawak State Government as well as from various industrial partners.
If this is true, why are public funds going to a foreign university when many schools in Sarawak don’t even have basic facilities? How much has Curtin received in total?
In addition, the Sarawak government’s BioValley Park Project is to be developed at the Curtin Sarawak campus. The project is supposed to boost R&D to meet the state’s technological needs, particularly for the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).
Curtin Sarawak is also associated with the Sarawak leadership.
From the Curtin website:
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan, who is also the chairman of the Curtin Sarawak Council, said the first phase of the project spearheaded by the state Ministry of Industrial Development will be developed on a 10-acre site at the campus.
The Perth Now website reports:
LAST time Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Perth, he was met with angry protests during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Today, it was a far more peaceful visit as he slipped into Curtin University on a hush-hush private visit with his wife, who accepted an honorary doctorate…
The Prime Minister’s last visit to Perth for CHOGM in October was met with angry protests when a “Bersihkan Malaysia” group held a rally in Forrest Place to campaign for electoral reforms in Malaysia.