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Monday, March 5, 2012

Imam rapes his student

Isiaka Salimonu confesses to raping Yetunde because she had poor grades

By Jewel Stephen

A 15-year-old Junior Secondary School Student of Educational Legacy College, Ibadan, has been raped by a teacher because she had poor grades.

Isiaka Salimonu, 43, who teaches Arabic, allegedly promised to give Yetunde holy oil for prayers to improve her academic performance, and raped her when she came for the oil. Salimonu is also an Imam and regularly conducts Friday Jumat prayers in the local mosque.

The suspect, who is being quizzed at the State Criminal Investigation Department(SCID) Iyaganku Ibadan, has reportedly owned up to the crime.

"On December 15, 2011, when I collected my report card, he was in the mosque, and he called me and asked for my report card and I gave him," said Yetunde. "He said my performance was poor and that he was going to help me, by giving me some charms which would help me perform better academically. He asked me to wait for him at Ikumapayi Junction Bus Stop but I refused to go there."

The teacher did not give up. When school resumed on January 5, 2012, he sent somebody to call her. "He asked me why I didn’t go to the place he told me last time to wait for him or at the mosque, to collect the charm he promised me," said Yetunde. "He told me to wait for him at a bus-stop at about 4.00p.m. and I waited as directed. He came and told me the charm was in his friend’s house. I followed him and when we got to the house, we didn’t see his friend. He knocked on the door but nobody responded.

Later, he told me to follow him to collect the charm; and he took me to a small hut and asked me to remove my clothes. I refused, but he forcibly stripped me naked and thereafter, raped me. I started shouting for help. That was about 5.00p.m. I was angry and left. He gave me N2,000 but I rejected it. I also rejected the holy oil. When I got home, I reported the matter to my elder brother and it was later reported at the Olodo Police Station.

The suspect, whose daughter is a classmate of the victim, said he been wooing Yetunde since September last year. "I always noticed her whenever I was conducting Jumat for them every Friday," he said. "I have confessed to the police that I raped her. It was the devil that pushed me into this."

The state's police spokesperson, Femi Okanlawon, confirmed that the suspect has confessed to the crime and said he would be prosecuted.

The father of the victim, Adegbola, said he was shocked that a religious leader could rape his daughter. "I took my daughter to Adeoye General Hospital for treatment and the hospital confirmed that she was actually raped," he said.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the State CID, Funmilayo Egbemi, said investigation was still going on in the matter. She said the suspect would appear in court soon.

Quitting Quetta: Abductions spark exodus of Balochistan’s Hindus

Officials say kidnappings for ransom have increased during the last four years.

KARACHI: Over 50 members of the Hindu community across Balochistan have been kidnapped in the last four years, compared to seven instances of kidnapping during former president Pervez Musharraf’s nine years, said Basant Lal Gulshan, the human rights and minorities affairs minister for Balochistan.

“Among those are two assistants from my own pharmacy, abducted two days ago,” the minister said.

The alarming rise in kidnapping of Hindus across the province was confirmed by Balochistan Chief Secretary Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri while speaking to The Express Tribune.

Out of a total of 72 people kidnapped in the past few months, 24 were Hindus, Lehri said.

Of them, 21 have been either released or recovered through the efforts of the community itself, he added.

The chief secretary admitted that the incidence of kidnapping has increased under the present government, compared to the Musharraf era.

Over the edge

Why this particular community though?

Because it is perceived to be financially well-off but weak, said Gulshan.

Settled Hindus are mostly traders and businessmen, and the community comprises two-thirds of the province’s total minorities’ population of 300,000, he said.

Most of them live in Baloch-settled districts of Sibi, Nasirabad, and Bhag and Dhadar in Bolan district, added Lehri. He put the total community’s number at 45,000 though.

Most of the kidnappings, however, take place in Kalat which is home to a major Hindu temple dedicated to goddess Kali, said the chief secretary.

Those abducted are then taken to neighbouring Khuzdar, a tribal district bordering Sindh, which has limited police presence, he said. The district has Levies force but they are too ill-equipped to confront kidnappers, he added.

Contrary to popular perception, the abductors are not separatists, the chief secretary maintained. These are common criminals, mostly unemployed men, who demand a high ransom for the Hindus, he added.

The constant targeting has pushed the community, quite literally, over the edge.

Around 50 Hindu families have moved from Quetta to Karachi in the last two months, said Gulshan, adding that more than 150 families across the province have moved out in the last few years. Most of them went to India on a visit visa, but have not returned, he added.

The exodus may still be reversible. Most have left their business behind under caretakers or managers, and not sold them off, Gulshan said.

Targeting others

Hindus are not the only targeted minority on their way out though.

Zoroastrians, almost negligible in the first place, no longer live in the province, said Tahir Hussain, vice chairperson for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Balochistan chapter.

The community had its share of targeting. Faridoon Abadan, a former provincial minister for minorities and owner of Quetta Distillery Ltd, was kidnapped over 10 years ago and is yet to be recovered.

His wife, Nilofer, was the first woman to be kidnapped in the province last February, but returned home after paying Rs30 million in ransom. The family is now moving out.

The targeting does not stop at religious minorities. After several high-profile targeted attacks, the Hazara community is quitting the province as well.

“Around 16,000 people from the Hazara or Persian-speaking community left Quetta last year,” Hussain said.

Their plight gained national prominence when a ferry, carrying asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, capsized off the coast of Indonesia. Around 55 young men from the Hazara community from Quetta were among those who drowned.

(With additional input from Qaiser Butt in Islamabad)

Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.

Indonesian embassy seeks new moratorium following fresh maid abuse claims

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — The Indonesian embassy here has recommended that its government suspend the placement of maids in Malaysia following fresh abuse allegations, barely months after a two-year moratorium was lifted to alleviate the shortage of domestic workers locally.

The New Sunday Times (NST) quoted Indonesian embassy Information, Social and Cultural Affairs Minister-Counsellor Suryana Sastradiredja as saying that the embassy has recommended an indefinite suspension although the maids began their compulsory training earlier this month.

“We received reports that two maids were physically abused by a senior government official and his wife,” Suryana told NST, adding that the two victims were also not paid their salary.

“The official did not respect the agreement made between the leaders of our nations,” Suryana said. He declined to name the official but said that the two maids were recruited eight months ago during the moratorium period.

He said that one of the maids sought shelter at the embassy on Friday night, while the other has already returned home at the request of the official’s wife.

Asked whether a police report had been lodged, Suryana said the embassy was still considering whether it should do so as the allegations involve a high-ranking official.

“Diplomatic channels will be used. We will send a note to the Malaysian Home Ministry on Monday and wait for a reaction. The Malaysian government should act accordingly.”

Suryana said the continuation of the agreement to send maids here would depend on the punishment meted out.

The Indonesian government banned its people from working as maids in Malaysia in June 2009, following numerous cases of maids being abused by Malaysian employers.

Indonesia officially withdrew the moratorium on the sending of maids to Malaysia on December 1 last year.

Human Resources Minister Datuk S. Subramaniam even said in February that the government was optimistic that the first batch of Indonesian maids would arrive in Malaysia this month.

He said at the time that a total of 121 Malaysian employment agencies were working with their Indonesian counterparts on the placement of maids from the republic to Malaysia.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met in Bali at the end of last year as part of efforts to resolve the issue amicably.

In an NST editorial today, the newspaper’s group managing director Abdul Jalil Hamid said that the embassy’s remarks raised the question of “how committed” Jakarta is to honouring its bilateral agreement with Putrajaya over the lifting of the moratorium.

The newspaper is seen as a reflection of the Najib administration’s stance as Abdul Jalil was Najib’s media strategist before becoming an editor.

“Jakarta should not unilaterally delay the lifting of the ban on sending maids to Malaysia.

“There are some 400,000 Malaysian families on the waiting list for Indonesian maids. Such unilateral action by Jakarta to prolong their agony is totally unacceptable,” said Abdul Jalil.

Indian support will tip the balance, says Palanivel

The MIC president is confident of the growing support of the Indian community in Penang for BN.

GEORGE TOWN: MIC president G Palanivel is confident of the growing support of the Indian community in Penang for the Barisan Nasional (BN), which would tip the balance in favour of the coalition in the coming general election.

“We want the Indians to come back to the BN fold. Even if we win one seat, we can help strengthen the BN’s position in Penang.

“MIC has been working hard day and night in Penang to regain the support of the people for the BN,” he told reporters after presenting awards to outstanding pupils in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah 2011 here today.

Palanivel, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said what was important for the MIC was to wrest two seats in Penang and help the BN win other seats.

On the MIC candidates in the next general election, he said they would be announced after Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak dissolved Parliament.

“Wherever I go, they ask ‘who are the MIC candidates?’ How can I answer you now? It’s not the right time to announce the candidates, but it is the right time to work hard to garner the support of the Indian community.

“We will introduce the candidates after Parliament is dissolved and the names are endorsed by the BN,” said Palanivel.

- Bernama

13-year-old claims abuse in police lock-up

The school dropout claims that he was assaulted by the police when he was detained for alleged theft.

BAHAU: A 13-year-old boy charged with jewellery theft on Friday has claimed that he was physically abused by the police while under detention.

S Sunther, from St Helier Estate here, claimed that he was assaulted by police personnel at the Jempol police station following his arrest on Feb 26 over his alleged role in stealing his neighbour’s jewellery.

The school dropout was charged with the theft at the Bahau Magistrates’ Court on March 2 and has been released on a RM3,800 surety. He is due to report back to the Juvenile Court on May 2 when his plea will be recorded.

He only informed his family of the alleged assault in the hands of the police after his court appearance on March 2.

“He told me that he was beaten with a rubber hose and there are injuries on his eyes and body,” his father AK Selvam told FMT today.

Selvam said that he immediately lodged a police report on the same day, March 2, asking for a thorough investigation into the allege assault on his son.

This incident has also caught the attention of Negeri Sembilan MIC chief T Rajagopalu and MIC’s Jeram Padang state assemblyman VS Mogan.

Rajagopalu told FMT that he was also unhappy with the fact that a juvenile was held in a police custody for five days.

“He is just 13-years-old. The police should have taken him to court as soon as possible. I have raised this matter with the state police chief Osman Salleh,” he said.

The MIC leader also said that the party made arrangements to send Sunther to Bandar Seri Jempol Hospital for treatment. He was later referred to an eye specialist in Kuala Pilah district hospital, he added.

“Yesterday (Saturday) we had to send him to Bandar Seri Jempol Hospital again as he was complaining of vomiting,” said Rajagopalu.

Home minister alerted

Meanwhile Mogan told FMT that he had informed Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein via twitter of the incident, and that the minister had responded by saying that he would ask IGP Ismail Omar to look into the matter.

Both he and Rajagopalu also gave assurance to Selvam that the state MIC would provide legal assistance to the family on the matter.

In another development, state police chief Osman was quoted in the Negeri Sembilan edition of Sinar Harian as urging the public not to speculate on the case as investigations were still under way.

“If the allegation is true, we will take action against anyone who is guilty,” Osman was quoted as saying.
He also said that Sunther had infact complained of pain in his eye while in custody, following which he was sent to Bandar Seri Jempol Hospital for treatment.

“He received out-patient treatment. According to the doctor, he was suffering from eye infection. He had not informed the doctor that his eye was hurt as a result of any assault.

“No x-ray was done at that point of time and there was no sign of bleeding,” said Osman.
The police chief also said that Sunther had not mentioned anything about being assaulted to the magistrate.

India's Delayed Trilateral Highway

New Delhi’s highway plan to draw Southeast Asia into its orbit hits snags
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government is attempting to resuscitate the 1,360 km India-Burma-Thailand Trilateral Highway – an ambitious US$700 million undertaking launched in 2004, but which stands crippled by financial and political bottlenecks.

The long-stalled highway was a major topic of discussion when Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made a state visit to New Delhi last month. Both Yingluck and Singh said it is urgent to rejuvenate the project and bring it to fruition as soon as possible. Interestingly, while New Delhi dithers on the highway project, China, India’s competitor for primacy in Asia, is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to lead the Trans-Asian Railway, a UNESCAP project to create an integrated freight railway across Europe and Asia on which 20 countries agreed in 2006.

Three major rail routes are planned, from Yunnan in Southeast China to Singapore through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia; from Urumqi to Germany through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey; and from Heilongjiang in northeast China to southeastern Europe via Mongolia and Russia.

It is not tough to see why India and Thailand would like to get the highway project moving. For India especially, the Trilateral Highway, launched under the auspices of the Mekong Ganga Cooperation, is crucial to Singh’s Look East aspirations. (The Mekong-Ganga Cooperation was signed in Vientiene, Laos in 2002, by six member countries – India, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, for cooperation in tourism, culture, education and transportation linkages.)

By augmenting its links with its Asian neighbors, the project would help New Delhi feel strategically less vulnerable, especially in the face of China’s growing regional influence. The highway, analysts say, would also provide New Delhi with substantive economic linkages at a time when traditional markets in Europe and the US are wrenched by uncertainty.

“The Trilateral Highway will also go a long way in assisting New Delhi to forge a vital link between its neglected and insurgency-ridden northeast region and Southeast Asia,” said international policy expert Dr Pratham Kochchar. “This will usher in economic prosperity into India’s northeast and help transform the region into a regional trading hub.”

As the highway would also connect the Indian city of Moreh with Mae Sot in Thailand through Bagan in Myanmar, all three stakeholders would experience a surge in commerce with Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries as well, Kochchar said. Industry estimates suggest that seamless connectivity with the Asian Highway Network through the trilateral project would ratchet up India’s trade with ASEAN to about US$100 billion in the next five years.

“Trade between India, Myanmar and Thailand is currently sea-bound, which not only makes exchanges slow but also prohibitively expensive,” said a top official at the New Delhi’s Center For Policy Research. “The trilateral highway will whittle down costs stupendously, ushering in economies of scale and commercial prosperity for the beneficiaries.”

If the highway is of such monumental importance, then why is it not up yet? What are the bottlenecks that plague this pioneering project?

Finance has apparently been the big issue. While India and Thailand have upgraded some of the link roads, politically turbulent and financially-constrained Myanmar has not been able to fulfill its share of commitments. In fact there’s even been sporadic friction between the three stakeholders due to Myanmar’s demand that India and Thailand pay for road construction in its territory too.

Regional security concerns also bedevil the highway project. Illegal trade, drug trafficking and insurgencies thrive on the India-Myanmar border. New Delhi is also sensitive about China’s de facto control over Myanmar’s Kachin state bordering the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing claims as its territory. India fears the Trilateral Highway might inundate its side of the border with illegal migrants and Chinese weapons compromising its security interests.

In fact such has been the level of skepticism about the project that there is concern that the highway could create more problems than prosperity. According to Tanvi Pate of the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies, “the project also raises concern on its final destination -- i.e. the Myanmar-Thailand border – which hosts ethnic insurgent camps.” According to Pate, Myanmar has accused Thailand in the past of harboring groups like the Karen National Union and the Chin National Liberation Front while Thailand has been concerned about the access the highway might provide to illegal immigrants and narcotics from ASEAN countries. Due to these insecurities playing on the stakeholders’ minds, the project is still languishing, the scholar suggests.

The element of regionalism has been another spoiler, analysts say. The swift integration of the Greater Mekong Sub region has relegated work by other regional umbrella organizations to the sidelines. The GMS countries have been focusing more on upgrades and construction of new highways under the Asian Highway Project which has seen investment of US$2.7 billion.

The East West Corridor, the North-South Economic Corridor and the Southern Economic Corridor are the three major projects already being implemented by the GMS states. The upgrade of these highways and ratification of Cross Border Transport Agreement have since quadrupled the intra-GMS trade. Given this overarching narrative, the GMS nations currently don’t feel the need to make any political or capital investment on any other initiative.

However, Indian officials are convinced that enhanced connectivity through the highway initiative will open up avenues for cooperation with the neighboring states and provide effective mechanisms for dealing with cross border problems which have hitherto remained unresolved. India has already emphasized the historical and cultural links with the neighboring Southeast Asian countries for years and now must accord salience to physical connections like the trilateral highway project.

As Pate suggests, political and financial will remains a key to rejuvenating the moribund project and India needs to strive to create this will. In the event this does not work, then India could unilaterally shoulder the financial responsibility for the highway.

After all, US$700 million seems more like an investment than an `expense’ considering the host of tangible benefits that would come New Delhi’s way once the project is completed.

(Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based senior journalist)

Forgive and forget, the Umno Way

Gomen Man - The Malaysian Insider

MARCH 4 — This is the Umno way: Forget all debts and don’t bring up mistakes. And this enlightening statement is coming from Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the then-agriculture minister who approved the now-infamous National Feedlot Centre project.

This is a most self-serving and irresponsible statement, not to mention dangerous.

Is this what we are supposed to teach our children? Just say sorry and all will be forgiven. There is no need to show remorse, make restitution or pay a price for breaking the law.

How about the common Malaysian? Just say sorry and there will be no need to be punished for cheating, theft, robbery, murder, criminal breach of trust, etc.

Muhyiddin’s statement is very much in keeping with the ridiculous stuff that we keep having to put up with. Don’t bring up my past transgressions even though I have not owned up to it because it is in the past.

OK, let’s for a minute accept his ridiculous proposition. Let’s not bring up the RM250 million fiasco called the NFC or implicate Shahrizat Jalil’s family in it.

Stop talking about the RM850 million court judgment that, because of the government’s intervention, Tajuddin Ramli does not have to pay to Danaharta.

Don’t make fun of the government transformation programme and ETP just because the figures used by Pemandu are intellectually dishonest.

Stop going on a witch hunt for the people behind the RM2.5 billion losses just suffered by MAS and the cost escalation to nearly RM5 billion for a low cost terminal in KLIA.

Don’t bring up the RM500 million commission paid to certain individuals for the Scorpene submarine deal.

And since we are in such a forgiving mood, we should also include the rakyat and not hold anyone accountable for any transgression. As long as they give a blanket apology, everything is OK.

This, in essence, is what Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Apology Shows Humility - Muhyiddin

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 (Bernama) -- The action by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in apologising on behalf of Barisan Nasional (BN) for its mistakes, including its dismal performance in the 2008 general election, reflected the party's humility, said Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Muhyiddin, who is also BN deputy chairman, said the crucial thing now was to look ahead, especially in the next eight years, towards making Malaysia a developed country by 2020.

"What is said by the Prime Minister shows humility. As human beings, we have weaknesses. The government, under Barisan Nasional, we know, also has weaknesses, and possibly several mistakes.

"Generally, during the 54-year period, no one can deny the fact, despite the weaknesses, we have made huge progress in the fields of socio-economy, culture, education, international relations and various others," he told reporters after opening the 2012 World Kidney Day at Dataran Merdeka, here today.

Yesterday, Najib extended an apology to the people on behalf of the Barisan Nasional (BN) for the coalition's mistakes in the last general election, which cost it several electoral seats and states, including Kedah.

Muhyiddin said he believed the people were beginning to understand the government's move in introducing various transformation programmes, as well as the 1Malaysia concept, which were aimed at rectifying weakness and improving efforts that had been carried out so far.

"Like the national transformation, it encompasses everything, economy, government, politics, rural and the new approach taken by the prime minister and the BN government.

"The people can now see the impact which is very effective and this has given a new hope," he added.

He said the people's understanding and acceptance reflected a new confidence among them on the capability of the BN government.

He said the dismal performance in the 12th general election was a lesson to BN.

Malaysians struggle as household debt soars

s not just household debt as a percentage of GDP that we should be concerned about, but household debt compared to disposable income is even more crucial. Take a look at the yellow bar to see where we stand.
Figure 3: Comparison of household debt/GDP and household debt/disposable income. Source: Yong, 2010; Endut and Toh, 2009; Bank Negara, 2010. - Graph: Penang Monthly
While our household debt as a percentage of GDP of 78 per cent may not be exceptionally high, our household debt to disposable income of 140 per cent is worrying.
Household debt to disposable income for selected countries:
  • UK – 176% (2007)
  • Malaysia – 140%
  • US – 130% (2008)
  • Japan – 120%
  • Singapore – 105%
  • Korea – 101%
  • Germany – 95%
  • France – 93%
  • Italy – 70%
  • Thailand – 53%
  • Indonesia – 38%
Source: Penang Monthly; OECD Factbook 2010/Finfacts Ireland; CAP/Malaysian Insider
Now you know why many Malaysians don’t feel so well off, with this level of household debt. About half our disposal income goes to servicing debt.
What are some of the factors driving the high household debt/disposal income ratio?
  • High growth in consumer-driven spending
  • Low interest rates encourages borrowing
  • East credit by banking institutions due to financial liberalisation (translating into fat profits for the banks?!)
  • Rising house prices especially in KL and Penang where the average house price to average income ratios are much higher
  • and of course, low income/wages
Below is another graph showing the rising household debt to GDP ratio over the last few years. Household debt now stands at 78 per cent of GDP.
Household debt/GDP. Source: Endut and Toh (2009); Bank Negara (2010; Chua (2010). Graph: Penang Monthly