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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Parents, Islamic Extremists Beat Young Woman in India

NEW DELHI, March 20 (CDN) — A young woman was thrown out of her home this month for daring to give thanks for healing in Christ’s name in a predominantly Muslim village in India’s West Bengal state, and then her parents helped Islamic extremists to beat her nearly unconscious.

The attack on Rekha Khatoon, 22, took place on March 9 in Nutangram, Murshidabad.

“I boldly told those who beat me up that I may leave my parents, but that I will not leave Jesus,” Khatoon said. “Jesus has healed me, and I cannot forget Him.”

In a village where hard-line Muslims have threatened to kill the 25 families who initially showed interest in Christ, leaving only five frightened Christian families, Khatoon was returning from worship with Believers Church at Al Hamdulillah Hall when her parents and Muslim extremists attacked her, she said. They called her a pagan, among other verbal abuse.

The mob also harassed the Christian woman who encouraged Khatoon to trust Christ as Lord, Aimazan Bibi, said Bashir Pal, pastor and founder of the village Believers Church.

“On the same night, Rekha Khatoon’s father, Nistar Shaike, and about 20 Muslim radicals surrounded Aimazan’s house, shouted anti-Christian slogans, threatened to harm her and her family and falsely accused her of ‘luring’ Rekha to convert to Christianity,” Pastor Pal told Compass.

After finding herself alone on a road after the beating, Khatoon had taken refuge in Aimazan Bibi’s home.

Khatoon had met Amaizan Bibi last year and told her about a reproductive ailment that caused her to bleed heavily, and the older woman had shared both the gospel of Christ and His healing power with her, Pastor Pal said.

“After Rekha Khatoon came to know about her ailment, she met one of our church members, Aimazan Bibi, and she shared her physical problem with her and told her that her illness was getting worse as she was not able to purchase medicines anymore,” he said.

Aimazan Bibi also invited Khatoon to attend church. On Dec. 23, Khatoon came to the worship center, where Christian women laid hands on her, he said. The pastor and congregation prayed for God’s healing touch in Jesus’ name.

“She received healing from Christ, and thereafter she attended the worship services whenever she could,” Pastor Pal said. “On Jan. 17, Khatoon attended one house church meeting in her village and once again testified that Jesus has healed her, and that she had not taken any medicine since Dec. 23.”

He said the Muslim extremists warned Khatoon not to have contact with Christians. West Bengal is 25.2 percent Muslim, with Hindus in the predominantly Hindu country making up 72.5 percent of the population in the state, according to Operation World. The state, which borders Muslim-majority Bangladesh, is only 0.6 percent Christian.

Upon learning that she was attending Christian worship meetings, her parents had strictly warned her not to have any relationships with Christians and not to attend their fellowship, Aimazan Bibi said.

“However, she told them that she cannot forget Jesus and His love for her,” she said.

Pastor Pal’s wife, nurse Anasea Pal, added that at another house church meeting, Khatoon brought her sister and talked about the healing she had received from Christ.

Khatoon has since relocated to another area, where she lives largely confined for her own protection.

Khatoon and her mother had attended worship services at the church previously; they began there in 2009 until area Muslims, furious to hear that several women were attending worship services, warned them to cease all contact with Christians or else they would face harm. The local mosque then offered Khatoon’s mother a job carrying food for the local Islamic leader to ensure she stopped all contact with Christians.

She also stopped Khatoon from attending Christian meetings.

Tensions prevail in the area, with enraged Muslim radicals threatening to hurt the five Christian families on the slightest pretext. In addition to harassing Aimazan Bibi, Islamic extremists have ruined her son Sirajul Shaike’s business, throwing away all his vegetables and chasing him out of the village market.

“It is very difficult for them now, since selling vegetables was the main source of income for the family,” Pastor Pal said.

Christians in the village have endured all manner of physical torture and social boycotts at the hand of Muslim extremists, Pastor Pal said. He added that the extremists are not allowing Christians to enter the village.

c. 2012 Compass Direct News. Used with permission.

Publication date: March 21, 2012

Man held for taking obscene pictures of women devotees in temple

Madurai: A Muslim man was arrested here for allegedly taking pictures of women devotees inside the famous Sri Meenakshi temple using his mobile phone, police said on Tuesday.

Following a complaint from a devotee from Kerala that she saw a man taking pictures of women devotees, police detained him on Monday.

The pictures on his phone were found to be obscene, police said adding the man belonged to Keezhakarai in Ramanathapuram district.

Police seized the phone and produced him before a court which remanded him in judicial custody.

Read more at:

Kamalanathan: Selangor State gov't has misled Hindus

Subramaniam: Malaysians must prepare for life without maids

The minister said a day may come when foreign maids will no longer “want to come and work here.” — File pic
KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 — Malaysians must be prepared to “do their own work” should the time come when foreigners no longer wish to work as domestic help here, Datuk Seri S. Subramaniam said today.

The human resources minister said while foreign maids were readily available now, economic growth in source nations may mean foreigners will one day prefer to work in their home country instead.

“We have to learn how to do our own work. We have opened it so long as there is availability, it’s fine.

As countries evolve, we may not need maids or maids may not want to come and work here
“But... as countries evolve, we may not need maids or maids may not want to come and work here,” he told reporters at Menara Perkeso here.

He was responding to questions about the ongoing talks with Indonesia to send maids to Malaysia.
Jakarta banned its citizens from working as maids in Malaysia in June 2009, after numerous cases of maids being abused by their Malaysian employers.

Indonesia withdrew the moratorium on December 1 last year.

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

But Jakarta has yet to start allowing the return of Indonesian domestic helpers to Malaysia despite rescinding the moratorium, leading to confusion here.

Subramaniam added today that the government was strengthening “support mechanisms” for Malaysians now with an eye to a possible maid supply crunch in the future.

However, he did not elaborate on the support mechanisms in question.

Tamil school aid: Whither the millions?

The government has promised millions to upgrade Tamil schools, but one pertinent question remains.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has promised millions of ringgit to upgrade Tamil schools in the country but one question still remains.

Would the millions really be spent on the reconstruction of these schools or would it go to crony contractors; or be channeled back to the government?

The lack of transparency in releasing the funds had raised heckles from non-governmental organisations, who wanted a system to streamline funds to ensure it reached the “target” group fast.

Commenting on this, Malaysian Consumer Advisory Association (MCAA) president G Varatharajoo said apart from the Public Works Department (JKR), the Education Ministry and MIC were also to be blamed for the “improper” administration of the RM100 million set aside as special allocation for Tamil schools under the 2012 Budget announced by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is also finance minister, last year.

He said the Finance Ministry had yet to release the money to the affected Tamil schools because the Education Ministry was in the final stages of approving over 230 Tamil schools identified to receive the aid.

FMT learnt that all qualified Tamil schools were divided into three categories — relocation, additional building and upgrading of existing infrastructures.

According to documents furnished to FMT, about RM40 million had been allocated to 16 schools under the relocation plan, 20 schools stood to get RM38.3 million for additional buildings while another 173 schools would receive RM18 million for infrastructure upgrade.

Varatharajoo said although the Malaysian Indian community welcomed the government’s assistance with open arms, it was concerned over the delay in disbursing these funds and the estimated cost quoted by the JKR.

“The estimated cost set by the JKR is really absurd… for example JKR has fixed RM1.5 million for an additional building with six classrooms. This means each classroom costs around RM250,000 which is really too much,” he said.

“When we checked with a few private contractors, we found that a classroom will only cost between RM70,000 and RM75,000. So it is clear that the JKR quoted prices that have been ‘jacked-up’ three fold than the actual cost,” he added.

He said going by these estimates, in actual fact the government would only complete work amounting to RM33 million out of the RM100 million set aside under the 2012 Budget.

“This is because the relevant authorities especially JKR has quoted three-fold prices. While work will be done for RM35 million, the remainder of the allocation will either go back to the government or into the pockets of contractors or cronies given the contracts,” he added.

Set up board of governors

Negeri Sembilan Tamil School Board of Governors (LPS) coordinator R Sathiaseelan felt that the government should channel funds to a particular school’s board of governors instead of allowing JKR to deal directly with appointed contractors.

“LPS is the best way to channel the money. The board consists of representatives from the Education Ministry, the schools’ parent-teachers association, former students, the public and the headmaster or headmistress. They will know how to spend the money wisely,” he added.

He said efforts were underway to form a board of governors in all Tamil schools as they could act as the conduit between the government and the school.

“As the Negeri Sembilan coordinator, I visited all the Tamil schools in the state and received good response from parents and the public on this suggestion,” he added.

He also lashed out at MIC, touted to be the largest Indian based political party in the country, as it did not favour the setting-up of the board of governors in Tamil schools nationwide.

“With the LPS set-up, MIC feels it would lose its grip on Tamil schools as the government would be dealing directly with the LPS and not through MIC,” he added.

He said the Education Act stated that a school’s LPS would be the authority when it came to matters relating to the infrastructure of a school.

There was also a need Najib to clarify his claim recently that RM440million had been spent on Tamil schools from 2008 to 2012.

The prime minister must reveal details of how the money was spent and which school benefited from the huge allocation.

Human organs harvested in M’sia

When a body organ 'agent' offered to buy his kidney, destitute and desperate Bangladeshi Mohsin Abdul's only thought was: “I could live with one kidney and having two of these will not help me ease my debts".

It’s a scenario that has taken many forms. It could be something we would have first heard many years ago from a friend who’d heard it from another friend, whose mother swore it happened to a distant cousin.

In that version, the victim — we’ll call him Bill — was on a business trip alone somewhere in Europe, and went out to a bar one night to have a cocktail. He wakes up the next morning in an unfamiliar hotel room with severe pain in his lower back.

He is taken to the emergency room, where doctors determined that Bill, unknowingly had undergone major surgery the night before. One of his kidneys had been removed, cleanly and professionally.

This is a chilling tale. With minor variations, the same story has been retold thousands of times by different people in many varied locales. And it’s always based on third-, fourth-, or fifth-hand information.

But while the ‘tale’ may be an urban legend for the rest of us, for 33-year-old Mohsin Abdul, it’s his story.

Mohsin had his kidney harvested almost 10 years ago when he was a 24-year-old farmhand in an obscure Dhaka village called Joypurhat in Bangladesh.

Joypurhat was featured in a report on illegal organ trafficking published by Bernama Online in September last year.

The report named Malaysia as one of the countries implicated in an investigation by Bangladeshi police into an international syndicate allegedly involved in the illegal kidney trade across several countries in Asia.

The news article also said that investigators were focusing on a reputable international hospital with a presence in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and India.

Initial investigations had revealed that donors from remote villages in Bangladesh had been flown to the various destinations to have their kidneys harvested.

Organ ‘agent’ offered plenty

Joypurhat Superintendent of Police, Mozammel Haque, told Bernama Online that each victim was paid between US$2,000 (RM6,000) and US$3,000 (RM9,000) for a kidney, but could not confirm the organ’s eventual black market price.

He added that at least seven cases involving the illegal sale of kidneys had been reported in the Joypurhat area in northern Bangladesh so far.

This is also where Mohsin is from and where he earned meagre wages toiling the land as a Bangladeshi farmer. Adding to this, was his struggle with repaying a series of loans worth about RM2,500.

This he said, was what made him take the advice of an acquaintance from a nearby village to sell one of his kidneys and get in return at least 130,000 takas (approx US$1,728 or RM5300).

He was told that there was an “agent” who was looking to buy kidneys and that he would be taken to a country called Malaysia where the surgery would be performed. Mohsin was informed that he would be paid half the amount before the surgery and the balance would be given upon his return to Bangladesh.

“I thought to myself that I could live with one kidney and having two of these will not help me ease my debts. With the amount they were going to pay me for one of my kidneys, there was so much I could do.

“To be honest, I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about it because I was convinced that this was a once a in a lifetime offer.

“I was actually afraid that the agent would go away and I would never see him again. I was desperate. Anyone who has ever been destitute and desperate will know what I’m talking about,” he said with unflinching frankness.

Kidney harvested in Malaysia

When asked if he was aware that it’s illegal to sell human organs and that violation of the law can lead to jail terms of three to seven years and fine of 300,000 takas (approx RM11, 200), Mohsin shakes his head in the negative.

So Mohsin flew to Malaysia, was picked up from the airport and brought to a house, which had a room converted into a surgery area. He remembers waking up the next day and being given RM500.

He was told that in three days, someone would come over with the plane ticket and take him to the airport where he would also be given the balance of the money owed for his kidney.

In three days, someone did come, but there was no plane ticket and most certainly no ride to the airport. He was left outside a 24-hour convenient store in an area Mohsin would later come to know as Chow Kit.

He was never paid the balance of what he was promised for his kidney.

Today, he works at a carwash and in a gas station.He also does other odd jobs to save up for a plane ticket home. It was one full year after his kidney’s were harvested when he was able to contact his family in Dakka.

A decade on, and his dreams of home are as vivid as ever, but the same is unfortunately true of the harrowing experience he encountered.

We are now in a tiny flat he shares with 15 other Bangladeshi immigrants, and the heat is stifling more so because all his flatmates are in for the day.

Mohsin winces at the noise. It’s on days like this, he said, that he misses home even more and said that if all goes according to plan, he might be able to go home in a year.

His friend Abdal Musiri tells him, in laboured tones, that he will do this.

US$50 million industry

Abdal was also a victim of a harvested organ and with all he has encountered, Mohsin considers his fate better than Abdal’s.

Formerly a factory worker, Abdal sold part of his liver to a wealthy recipient in Kuala Lumpur. Abdal admits that back then, he did not know what a liver was. But the fact the broker told him the sale would make him rich was all the convincing Abdal needed.

After the transplant Abdal received only part of the money he was promised and is now too sick to work, walk long distances or even breathe property. He thinks often of killing himself, Mohsin said.

The illegal world of human organs trade was valued at around US$50 million in 2008, and involves a range of source countries.

Due to extreme poverty and high profits, illegal organ transplantations have risen in India and Pakistan over the past two decades.

The people selling their organs are exploited by unethical brokers and recipients who are often Bangladeshi-born foreign nationals living in places such as the United States, Europe and the Middle East.

Because organ-selling is illegal, the brokers forge documents indicating the recipient and seller are related and claim the act is a family donation.

Even so, like so many urban legends fueled by irrational fear and ignorance, the organ theft story continues to spread from person to person and place to place, changing and adapting to its surroundings over time like a very savvy and smart mutating virus.

And unlike many other urban legends, unfortunately, this one has put real people’s lives at risk.

Hindraf submits ‘racism’ memo to UN

Hindraf is asking the United Nations to help end institutionalised racism in Malaysia.

KUALA LUMPUR: Hindraf Makkal Sakthi submitted a memorandum today to the United Nations (UN) office here calling the world body to help end institutionalised racism in Malaysia.

About 12 Hindraf members, led by its national coordinator W Sambulingam, were taken into the premises by UN representative Devendra Patel for a five-minute meeting.

The memorandum, signed by Hindraf supremo P Waythamoorthy, called upon UN secretary- general Ban Kim Moon to engage with the Malaysian government to address the woes plaguing the local Indian community due to institutionalised racism.

The Hindraf leader also said that Malaysia was probably the only country in the world that practiced an affirmative action policy for its majority instead of its minority.

“And the institutionalised racism in Malaysia has accelerated to such an alarming stage that it continues to deprive Malaysian Indians even basic human rights,” said Waythamoorthy.

He added that the discrimination against the Indian minority in Malaysia was also unconstitutional as Article 8 of the Malaysian Federal Constitution guaranteed equal rights to all its citizens.

“But the New Economic Policy mooted in the 1970s, though mooted to eradicate poverty irrespective of races, was hijacked by the ruling government,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sambulingam criticised the UN officials for allowing the Malaysian Special Branch officers to be present at the meeting, although it was supposed to be between Hindraf and the UN staff.

“The security guards at the UN office didn’t allow us to register our presence in the attendance book. They told us to write our names on a piece of blank paper instead,” he said.

‘Back Sri Lanka and lose our votes’

Protesters warn the Najib administration that if it voted against the UN resolution to probe the war crimes in Sri Lanka, they will vote against BN.

KUALA LUMPUR: Some 50 people staged a protest outside the Sogo shopping complex here and warned the Najib administration that they will not vote for Barisan Nasional if it did not vote in favour of the United Nations probing the war crimes in Sri Lanka.

The protesters were from the Malaysian Tamil Progressive Team (Matsap) and several other NGOs.

“Vote for Sri Lanka and you will lose our vote. Our sentiments should be respected,” said Matsap chairman A Kalaimugilan during the protest.

He also justified the call for supporting the UN resolution that would be tabled on Friday on the ground that majority of the 1.8 million Indians here are ethnic Tamilians.

Kalaimugilan added that currently Asian countries, including Malaysia, were having sentiments to vote against the resolution simply because Sri Lanka was an Asian nation.

He warned the government of another Indian uprising akin to the Hindraf rally in 2007 if the sentiments of the Malaysian Tamils were not taken into consideration.

“Don’t make us rise again like we did in 2007,” he said.

Kalaimugilan also chastised the Najib administration for supporting a resolution in favour of Sri Lanka in 2009 shortly after Sri Lanka won the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“If (Prime Minister) Najib (Tun Razak) was concerned about the Tamils, why would he support (Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda) Rajapakse then?” he asked.

In a related development, MIC, MCA, Gerakan and PPP sent a joint memorandum to the Foreign Ministry calling for the Malaysian delegation to vote for the UN resolution.

Another group led by Malaysian Indian Transformation Action Team (MITRA) handed over a memorandum to the High Commission of India, urging New Delhi to also support the UN resolution.

UN must investigate

Meanwhile, a group of non-governmental organisations today submitted a joint memorandum to the United Nations office here, urging the world body to investigate the war crimes of the Sri Lanka government during its offensive against the country’s Tamils.

The group led by Suaram president K Arumugam and Teluk Intan member of parliament M Manogaran handed over the memorandum to the UN representative Devendra Patel.

Also present were Charles Santiago, the Klang MP, Micheal Jeyakumar(Sungai Siput), M Kulasegaran (Ipoh Barat), A Sivanesan (Sungkai, Perak state assemblyman), M Ravi (Port Dickson Negeri Sembilan state assemblyman), town councillors and leaders from Pakatan Rakyat.

Speaking to reporters, Arumugam said the UN Panel of Experts (PoE) report on the issue stated that war crimes were indeed committed by the Sri Lankan military killing tens of thousands of Tamils during its offensive against the LTTE, which has now been disbanded.

“UN as an international body has an obligation to investigate the findings of the reports,” he said.

Indians back in BN, really?

What's suave Federal Territory and Urban Wellbeing Minister Raja Nong Chik doing with political operative Bangsar Bala?

Barisan Nasional must be really desperate. They have resorted to reading tea leaves and in some places, chicken entrails. Some whispers here and there are taken and read as signifying real and substantial progress.

Hence for example, some casual and insouciant intimation that Indians are coming back to support BN is treated as orgasmic news.

What are we to make of these innocuous remarks?  Should they be taken seriously?

The Indians are coming back into the fold of BN. Yes indeed, there are so many of them.

The Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) says it has one million members. That’s the figure from the president M Kayveas’ faction. T. Murugiah (formerly with PPP) said he commanded 600,000 members.
The MIC says, they have two million Indians. The Indian Progressive Front ( MG Pandithan’s party) says it has another 700,000.

Then we have the number claimed by the newly minted Senator KS Nallakarupan.
Geez! I am thinking, these parties must have counted those Malaysian Indians still in the womb.
Otherwise, how do you account for so many of them?

Bala, the operative

These encouraging numbers must have in turn encouraged and motivated thamby Najib (Tun Razak) to participate as a devotee in this year’s Thaipussam

This was also the information passed on by Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Minister Raja Nong Chik to former economic advisor Tun Daim Zainudin, who attended a overtly political function organised by the Lembah Pantai Umno last month.

And where does Raja Nong Chik get his source of information?

From Bangsar Bala – friend to RPK (Raja Petra Kamarudin) and resident politician at Plan B, in Bangsar village.

Yes indeed – the same Bala who mobilized thousands of Indians to press palms with Anwar Ibrahim when he came over to Brickfields the other day.

The same Bala who organized a large number of Indian NGOs to meet Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.
I know Mr Bala personally and am aware of his capabilities as a political operative.

The sting of my mention of  Bala isn’t Bala, but Raja Nong Chik.

Raja Nong Chik  doesn’t fraternize with people like Bala, and when given casual assurance that the Indians are back with BN, is easily over enthused.

His exuberance leads him to generalise on the thinking of Malaysian Indians.

Smart move

Anecdotal evidence on the other hand indicates that Malaysian Indians are not for BN.
But we’ll let the illusion permeate the BN camp.

If Raja Nong Chik contests in Lembah Pantai, that will be his Waterloo. As for the smart cookie Bala, he is hedging his bets.

And what Bala says, is taken as significant by Raja Nong Chik and surprisingly by Daim.

Personally I found it odd, the slippage on the part of Daim. Usually he takes statements and information as preliminary ‘noises’.

He will then investigate further by sending out the Baker Street Boys or the Baker Street Irregulars like Sherlock Holmes did.

It was unusual for Daim to accept what Raja Nong Chik tells him.

Daim, I thought, must be either be fatigued or looking out for his business interest that can be affected by the decisions of the FT minister.

It was a smart move I thought for Raja Nong Chik to bring on Daim, a real firepower.

Daim sought after

It can serve as an endorsement from the elusive Daim, whom many had discounted prior to the 2008 elections. In those days,  no one batted an eye lid about what Daim said.

Indeed many said he was a spent force and one past-shelf-life politician.

In 2008, Daim cautioned the government that it would lose five states. Umno people, in return lambasted him for saying those things.

The elections came and BN lost five states and its seats in Wilayah Persekutuan were almost decimated.
After that, people sit upright and at attention whenever Daim speaks.

Indeed, people are now desirous at wanting Daim to say something energizing about BN.

The writer is a former Umno state assemblyman and has now joined DAP.

Racial discrimination bleeding talent

Proham chief Simon Sipaun calls on the government to ratify United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

ProhamPETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s institutionalised racial discrimination is bleeding the nation of talent, said human rights group Persatuan Promosi Hak Asasi Manusia (Proham) chairman Simon Sipaun.

In view of this, the former Suhakam vice-chairman said it was important for the government to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

“If Malaysia ratifies the convention, it would show the world that we do not condone racial discrimination.

“What we have in this country is institutionalised discrimination and it has triggered things like the brain drain because meritocracy isn’t practiced,” he said at Proham’s first anniversary bash here yesterday evening.

Currently, 175 countries were parties to the UN convention. Only 16 countries had not signed or ratified the convention. Malaysia was one of them alongside Angola, North Korea, Myanmar and Singapore.

Launched exactly a year ago on March 21, Proham celebrated its first birthday with several youths from around the world calling for an end to racism.

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is observed annually on this day, in memory of the 1960 massacre when police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid pass laws.

Proclaiming the day in 1966, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.

The Proham event saw the participation of 20 youths representing countries such as India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Cyprus and also Malaysia.

Songs, poems, statements and declarations were used to voice their stand against racial discrimination.

Sipaun said the end to racial discrimination was a mission that youths should take up, adding that while racism was still very much alive in many countries, hope remained in the collapse of the Nazi and Apartheid rules.

‘Look at the company we keep’

Speaking at the same event, Suhakam vice-chairperson Prof Dr Khaw Lake Tee opined that if anything, Malaysia should lead the much needed awareness for the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination but instead there had been hardly a mention of it.

“There is a saying which goes that we reflect the company we keep. And if you take a look at the other countries that have not ratified the convention, you will realise that it’s nothing to be proud about,” she added.

Committee member Denison Jayasooria added that the presence of young people might do well in bringing about the said awareness with their savvy use of various social media avenues.

“The youth present at this gathering today will use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to share their views on the importance of ending racial discrimination.

“We have these young people who have made a commitment to the cause and their dedication to it should inspire the rest of us to do all we can do to ensure equality for all,” he asserted.

Valerie Siganga (photo), a 19-year-old Kenyan, perhaps summed up all the hopes and aspirations for an end to racial discrimination when she said: “I am against racism because I believe in open opportunities of love, sharing, education, resources and community for all.”

“I wish that political leaders around the world would realise that the colour of my skin, my religious background or my language do not mean I understand less.

“My background, my opportunities and my ethnic orientation do not prevent me from having feelings. I am like all people, I can give of myself and of my heart, and I can share love with everyone.

“Your race will not stop me from giving you a hug when you are sad, or for praying for your country when you are at war, or for celebrating with you in your times of joy. Let us learn that it really is okay for us to accept one another for who we are.”

Young voters want leaders from their own age group

FRESH BLOOD: Youth prefer leaders who can empathise with them

(New Straits Times) - YOUNG Malaysian voters have spoken up -- they prefer leaders from their age group.

In a survey by Universiti Sains Malaysia last year, more than half of the 1,500 respondents believed leaders of a similar age could easily relate to and understand them, said political analyst Associate Professor Dr Sivamurugan Pandian.

"This does not mean they no longer respect the older leaders, however," he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Sivamurugan said younger Malaysians just wanted to be included and consulted on certain issues.

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng shared similar views, too.

"Gone are the days when seniors would say, 'I know best and you had better listen to me'.

"At the end of the day, younger voters want responsible and responsive leaders," he said.

Khoo said the leaders had to reach out to the younger generation at places where they usually "hang out", such as at shopping malls.

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had done his best to get close to the youths, but he could only do so much, adding that everyone else must do the same.

United States President Barack Obama, said Khoo, managed to woo the youths because he touched on matters that concerned them, such as employment issues.

He said he felt the youths' voices in Malaysia had yet to be well represented.

Cheras Umno Division chief Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshee, meanwhile, when asked if he would let go of his post in favour of young blood, said: "I am ever so ready to do so if there is an interested and willing younger individual to take over the division chief post."

The veteran politician, who has dabbled in politics for about 30 years, since he was 19, said his main concern was to serve the people and not if he would be rewarded for what he had contributed.

Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran said it was an individual's choice whether to make way for younger blood in politics.

But, he quickly added a caveat, saying this was so long as the leader was still relevant to the party and the people.

Politicians, said Kulasegaran, must be able to attend to the country's needs and understand the people's issues.

He said to be a politician, the only qualification needed was honesty.

India Grapples with Nuclear Fears

India's protesters say NIMBY
India protesters say no to nuclear power
India’s nascent nuclear power program, begun with great anticipation after the United States government lifted sanctions on the country during the Bush administration, is stalling out as emotional protest gets in the way.

In a sign that all is not well, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has alleged that American and European NGOs are funding protests against building nuclear plants, particularly at the yet-to-be operational and already-delayed Kudankulam plant in South Indian state Tamil Nadu.

“The atomic energy program has got into problems because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the United States, don't appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply,” Singh said in an interview to an international magazine last month.

It is not unusual for Indian politicians, including Manmohan, whose government is accused of massive corruption scandals, to blame “external factors” or a “foreign hand” to cover for their own failings and frustrations.

On a broader political level, New Delhi’s attempts to push reforms, including in the energy sphere, have been severely hampered by the intransigence of coalition partners, reducing the government to near lame-duck status. Defeats in the round of state elections this month, including the politically vital Uttar Pradesh, could turn the Congress Party-led government inward and to try and pass on its inadequacies to others, real or imagined.

Although New Delhi has ordered investigations into nearly 80 NGOs operating in India in the wake of the Manmohan assertions, the allegations have not found resonance with many. Rejecting Manmohan’s charge, a group leading the anti-Kudankulam protests has demanded that the charges be substantiated.

The US meanwhile has denied any role. In a statement, the US State department said: “We are supportive, as a government, of India's investment in civil nuclear power. That's not what we support NGOs to do in India. Our NGO support goes for development and it goes for democracy programs.”

Indeed, there may or may not be a basis for Manmohan’s allegations, but they definitely point towards deeper problems the country continues to encounter in the atomic field, especially concerning safety of nuclear reactors.

It is apparent that India’s political leadership has failed to convince its own people about the efficacy of atomic power as a clean and safe source of power, especially in the wake of Japan’s Fukushima crisis last March. If NGOs are involved in creating a negative atmosphere, as Manmohan has claimed, they can only fan angst and fears that already exists.

Tens of thousands of people in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Haryana where major new NPPs are planned have taken to the streets vehemently opposing atomic power generation. The concerns are about safety, adequate long term compensation for land acquisition and ensuring re-habilitation.

Among the plants that have been stalled include the two 1000MW Russia-backed Kudankulam NPPs. Frustrated with the delays, Russia's ambassador to India, M Kadakin, said last month: “We cannot allow our scientists to remain idle endlessly. For months together, they are without work.”

Meanwhile, concerned about the mounting protests, France has assured the most stringent standards at Jaitapur, Maharashtra, where a 9900MW French-backed mega atomic park is planned. Currently, French major Areva is in the initial process of building the first two 1650MW reactors in Jaitapur.

The Way Ahead

Last month, India’s commerce minister Anand Sharma said that the country hopes that US$100 billion in foreign investment will pour into the nuclear power sector in the next two decades, with a quarter coming from France.

Given its big electricity needs and in order to reduce dependence on coal, India has announced plans to raise nuclear power from current 3 percent of total power generated to 25 percent by 2050. By 2032 India’s nuclear power capacity has been targeted at 63,000MW from current 4,500MW.

India has found support for its atomic plans internationally, with companies from America, France, Russia, in particular looking to tap big business opportunities. New Delhi has meanwhile also signed civil nuclear deals with Namibia, Mongolia, Canada, Angola, Australia, Kazakhstan, South Korea and the European Atomic Energy Community.

The Manmohan Singh government has handled well the diplomatic aspect of India as a global “nuclear exception” despite being a non-signatory to proliferation treaties, to allow the country to trade in dual use atomic material and technology.

Further, Manmohan has reiterated, including in the latest controversial interview, that his government will continue its atomic energy push. In a reflection of such a mood, India's nuclear operator, the state-controlled NPCIL said last month that it expects normalcy to return at Kudankulam and the project would be commissioned by August this year.

NPCIL has also ensured that the routine annual International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection at Kudankulam last month was completed as scheduled. India has also officially assured France that it remains committed to Jaitapur.

But all is not going well on the domestic front. New Delhi has failed to convince its own people in a transparent manner of the efficacy and utility of nuclear power in India’s energy mix.

Local populations are clearly uncomfortable about plants being set up at their backyards, fearing radiation hazards to their families and the consequences of any mishap. Blaming NGOs is clearly an attempt to escape the real issues.

(Siddharth Srivastava is a New Delhi-based journalist. He can be reached at

Governing without a majority

ImageThe Star

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, when launching the Foreign Correspondents Club on Monday night, said a hung Parliament would be the worst possible result for the country. What does a hung Parliament entail?

In political science, the term hung Parliament refers to a fragmented parliament in which no party or coalition secures an absolute majority. In the context of Malaysia, an absolute majority would mean 112 out of the 222 seats in the elected Dewan Rakyat.

Hung parliaments are the norm in many democracies. In Britain, hung parliaments occurred in January 1910, December 1910, 1929, 1974 and May 2010. Australia has a parliament with no clear-cut majority for any party.

A legislature with no overall control by any party can also arise when a slim government majority is eroded by deaths, resignations, by-election defeats or by defection of government MPs to opposition ranks. This happened in Britain in mid-1978 and in 1996.

What happens if there is such a stalemate after the next general election in Malaysia?

The Constitution provides very little guidance about the murky world of government formation. A few tentative generalisations about Commonwealth conventions can be made.

First, the government that took the country into the election remains in the saddle during the interim period, but only in a caretaker capacity and with the implied understanding that its job is to hold the fort and not to undertake any radical initiatives.

Second, there is no strict rule that a defeated Prime Minister must resign immediately. In 1974, Ted Heath, and in 2010 Gordon Brown, though not victorious, stayed put in Downing Street while they attempted to forge coalitions with the Liberals.

In Australia last year, Prime Minister Julia Gillard hung on despite failing to secure an electoral triumph. Ultimately, however, she was able to strike a deal with independent MPs to keep her government afloat.

The Commonwealth convention seems to be that in a stalemate, the government in office gets first choice to form the government.

Third, if this effort to cobble together a new coalition fails, then the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may install a “minority government” that, while lacking a majority, will rely on ad hoc support from willing MPs to survive no-confidence motions, pass budgets and secure essential legislation.

Minority governments are, understandably, weak governments and generally lead to early dissolutions and fresh polls.

Fourth, if neither side succeeds in making an agreement with cross benches, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong may allow the caretaker PM to continue until he is defeated on the floor. In that case, a new election will be ordered.

Fifth, an untested and untried possibility is that if no party can put together a working majority, the King may exercise his influence to bring together a unity government of all parties to run the show for an interim period pending new elections.

In such a case, the PM must be from the previous Dewan Rakyat and must cease to hold office unless he is also an MP in the new Dewan Rakyat.

In a country with a hung parliament, can the King assume political control of the nation and rule by decree during such times?

Alluring though this proposition is, one must be reminded that in our system of constitutional monarchy, the King is not expected to rule in person.

He must have an interim caretaker government to advise him on all matters other than the limited areas of personal discretion permitted under Article 40(2).

The appointment of a prime minister is one such discretionary area. The advice of the previous or caretaker PM is not binding on the King.

However, the royal discretion is not absolute. Under Article 43(2)(a), the PM must be a member of the Dewan Rakyat who in the judgment of the King is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the members of that House.

In making his choice, the King must act impartially. He is not obliged to choose the leader with the largest number of Dewan Rakyat seats if the leader of any other party is able to forge a working majority.

In selecting the PM, the King is not required to take the percentage of electoral votes into consideration. It is the percentage of seats in the elected House that matters.

Under our winner-takes-all system, it is entirely possible that a party may have more or a majority of the popular vote, yet a minority or a lesser number of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Who decides when the new House sits? How and when is the new parliament convened?

The Constitution in Article 55(4) requires that the newly-elected parliament must be convened no later than 120 days from the date the previous parliament was dissolved.

This means that the defeated caretaker government is not obliged to throw in the towel immediately after the results. It may wait for negotiations to be completed before submitting its resignation.

New elections: After an inconclusive election result, can an immediate new election be called? Article 55(4) is explicit that after an election, parliament must be convened.

Only if the deadlocked parliament has met and the appointed PM has lost a confidence vote must the new House be dissolved and fresh elections ordered.

These are some of the issues a hung parliament may throw up. Of course, life is larger than the law and who knows what other interesting issues may crop up to challenge our imagination?

> Shad Saleem Faruqi is Emeritus Professor of Law at UiTM and Visiting Professor at USM. He is the author of ‘Document of Destiny: The Constitution of the Federation of Malaysia’.