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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Syria to place blame for Houla massacre

(CNN) -- Syria will complete its official probe Thursday into a massacre in Houla last week, the country's U.N. ambassador said Wednesday.

Syrian officials have repeatedly rejected government involvement in the massacre that left more than 100 people dead, about half of them children.

"The national commission of investigation in Syria will terminate its investigation tomorrow or after tomorrow," Bashar Jaafari told reporters at the United Nations. "And then you will hear, all of you ... the results of this investigation. And all of us will know for sure the identity of the perpetrators."

Jaafari's legal adviser told CNN that Syria expects to have results of its investigation Thursday.

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the U.N. human rights office, announced Tuesday that it's "clear" government forces were involved.

Most died as a result of "summary executions" by "armed men going into houses and killing men, women and children inside," Colville said, saying the Shabiha militia, a government militia group, appeared to be behind the executions.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the United States also believes it is "not ambiguous" that the masssacre was carried out "by every indication by the Shabiha militias acting on behalf of the government. We think it's quite clear-cut, and we think there needs to be justice and accountability for those who committed these atrocities."

Throughout the conflict in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad's regime has blamed violence on "armed terrorist groups," a line Jaafari continued Wednesday.

Those behind the "heinous crime," which was "unjustified and unjustifiable," will be brought to justice, Jaafari insisted. He also argued that countries are harboring and supporting such terrorist groups that are smuggling weapons into Syria.

The remarks came after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, in which countries looked for new ways to pressure the regime amid growing international fury over the massacre and the growing death toll in the country.

Rice said after the meeting, "We certainly agree with Kofi Annan that this is a moment where we have reached, in effect, a tipping point."

Annan, special envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League, who has pushed a six-point peace plan, used the term "tipping point" Tuesday.

"I think we may be beginning to see the wheels coming off of this bus," Rice said. "And that means that what happens next and the steps that are taken by the Syrian authorities and by this council could well be dispositive."

"The political process which is so crucial to the success of any transition, which is the purpose of the Annan plan, is thwarted by the ongoing, escalating, expanding violence perpetrated by the government, and the reality that the opposition cannot possibly be expected to come to the table while the violence is intensifying, escalating and the government is lying about it," she said.

The United States and several other nations -- the Netherlands, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Bulgaria, and Canada -- announced Tuesday that they were expelling some Syrian diplomats. Turkey joined that list Wednesday, expelling the charge d'affaires in Ankara and all the other diplomatic personnel at the embassy.

Syria said Wednesday it was expelling the Dutch charge d'affaires in Damascus, giving her 72 hours to leave the country.

Russia called the expulsions of Syrian diplomats "counterproductive" and insisted that a U.N. Security Council statement Sunday condemning the incident was for now "a strong enough signal to the Syria parties."

A central question hanging over the Security Council meeting is what steps Russia and China will allow. As permanent members, they have veto power, which they have used previously to block two resolutions. Many world leaders assailed the two nations, saying they were preventing steps that could stop the violence. But the two countries said they were seeking more balanced resolutions.

Both have major trade deals with Syria.

While no nation is openly pushing for military action, French President Francois Hollande is among those who have said it cannot be ruled out.

China and Russia spoke out forcefully Wednesday against such an idea.

"China opposes military intervention and does not support forced regime change," said Liu Weimin, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. "The fundamental route to resolving the Syrian issue is still for all sides to fully support (Kofi) Annan's mediation efforts and push all the relevant parties to carry out diplomatic dialogue."

Air strikes would wreck Assad, says former Syrian general

"One cannot take decisions on military operations in Syria by being guided by only emotions," said Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov, according to Russian news agency Itar-Tass.

U.S. sticking with 'Plan A' for Syria

Denisov also said "the Russian position is not formed on the basis of emotions, which our respected French partners have unfortunately not escaped in the formulation of their position," according to Russian news outlet RIA Novosti.

The United States announced Wednesday it was sanctioning a Syrian bank that al-Assad's regime was using to circumvent other sanctions. The U.S. Treasury said its action will help isolate the regime "from the international financial system."

U.S. intervention: Damned if they do, damned if they don't?

Peter Wittig, Germany's U.N. ambassador, said he hoped the Houla massacre was "an eye-opener for some members of the council."

He said he hoped the council would consider whether to expand the U.N. monitoring mission in Syria. Also, he asked, "how does the council deal with violations of its own resolutions? Because the massacre in Houla was a clear violation of the Security Council resolution."

And, Wittig said, the massacre made clear that "we need mechanisms of accountability for those crimes. We think the last 15 months have shown that inaction of the council leads to this vicious circle of violence. We need to overcome that, and hopefully today's debate will make a contribution."

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, he added, "We have to exhaust all means to find a political solution," and "militarization, for us, is not an option."

The uprising in Syria began nearly 15 months ago. Syrian forces have engaged in a brutal crackdown on the opposition.

At least 13 people were killed Wednesday, including five in Douma, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. The LCC also said regime forces launched tear-gas grenades at Aleppo University students and made arrests.

Meanwhile, the head of the U.N. observer mission said 13 bodies were discovered Tuesday night in the area of Assukar, 30 miles east of Deir Ezzor in the eastern part of the country.

"All the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs and some appear to have been shot in the head from a short distance," according to a statement from the office of Maj. Gen. Robert Mood.

Mood called the act "appalling and inexcusable" and urged "all parties to exercise restraint and end the cycle of violence."

Syria, on state-run news agency SANA, said 25 "army, law enforcement and civilian martyrs" were buried Wednesday. Also, an "armed terrorist group" attacked an oil pipeline in Deir Ezzor, SANA reported.

CNN cannot confirm death tolls and reports of violence from Syria because the government limits access by foreign journalists.

Jaafari insisted Syria supports Annan's six-point plan to halt the violence in Syria, and that his government is only acting against terrorist groups.

Annan met with the prime minister and foreign minister of neighboring Jordan about the Syrian crisis, his spokesman said.

"It is important to find a solution that will lead to a democratic transition in Syria and find a way of ending the killings as soon as possible. And in that context, I am very grateful for the support I am receiving from the government of Jordan and other governments around the world. With goodwill and hard work, we can succeed," Annan said.

His deputy, Jean-Marie Guehenno, addressed the Security Council on Wednesday.

"I told the council that the parties need to recommit to a full cessation of violence," Guehenno said to reporters after. "We have seen that this cessation of violence is under threat. Today, as the stronger partner, the government needs to take steps to this end, but it is also vital that the armed opposition be ready to adhere to a full cessation of violence."

Christians Should "Convert, Pay Tribute, or Leave," Says Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Candidate?

"They need to know that conquest is coming, that Egypt will be Islamic, and that they must pay jizya or emigrate," Morsi reportedly said.
According to the popular Egyptian website, El Bashayer, Muhammad Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate, just declared that he will "achieve the Islamic conquest (fath) of Egypt for the second time, and make all Christians convert to Islam, or else pay the jizya," the additional Islamic tax, or financial tribute, required of non-Muslims, or financial tribute.

In a brief report written by Samuel al-Ashay and published by El Bashayer on May 27, Morsi allegedly made these comments while speaking with a journalist at the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, adding "We will not allow Ahmed Shafiq [his contending presidential candidate] or anyone else to impede our second Islamic conquest of Egypt."

After his interviewer pointed out that the first Muslim conquest of Egypt was "carried out at the hands of Amr bin al-As [in 641]," he asked Morsi, "Who will the second Islamic conqueror be?" Morsi, replied, "The second Muslim conqueror will be Muhammad Morsi," referring to himself, "and history will record it."

When asked what he thought about many Christian Copts coming out to vote for his secular opponent, Ahmed Shafiq, Morsi reportedly said, "They need to know that conquest is coming, and Egypt will be Islamic, and that they must pay jizya or emigrate."

If this interview is accurate, certainly Morsi would not be the first political Islamist in Egypt to say he wants to see the nation's Christians subjugated and made to pay jizya (see here for more examples).

However, considering that the English language media are currently reporting that Morsi is trying to woo Egypt's Christians and women to win more votes, it is difficult to imagine that he actually made those comments: one does not doubt that he favors the idea of a "second Islamic conquest" and the subjugation of Christians; one doubts that he would be so foolish as to reveal his mind now, publicly, and thereby jeopardize his chances of winning the presidency.

Then again, his remarks are reported in the context of a private meeting at the headquarters of the Brotherhood's political party. Perhaps Morsi thought he was speaking to a fellow Islamist who would not expose him? Perhaps he was frustrated at having to win Copts over and was "venting"? Stay tuned.

Probe into Nizar's 'WWW1 licence plate' remarks

Johor police have confirmed that they are investigating remarks made by former Perak menteri besar Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin in his tweet on the Johor sultan's purchase of the WWW 1 car number plate.

State police chief Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Sharif said the force has received eight reports on the matter and investigation will be conducted under the Sedition Act.

NONE"Police will complete the investigation papers after examining the reports and will forward it to the deputy public prosecutor," he told Bernama today.

Five police reports have been lodged against Nizar (left), who is Bukit Gantang MP, for saying that the RM520,000 spent to secure the licence plate could have been utilised to help the poor instead.

Malay daily Sinar Harian had today quoted Nizar as saying that he is willing to apologise for his tweet.

“If any quarter feels hurt by the message, I apologise,” he said, adding his message was not intended to question the Johor sultan's decision in bidding for the country's most expensive car number plate yet.

Nizar said it was only a general statement, and that he had no intention of insulting Sultan Ibrahim ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar.

Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Idris ibni Sultan Ibrahim has defended the bid, saying every single sen allocated by the government for the royal household has gone into Yayasan Iskandar and Yayasan Ibrahim.

"The Johor royal family has not taken any money from the government since the time of Almarhum Sultan Ibrahim.

"Feel free to ask the menteri besar or any government official," said Tunku Ismail in his tweet.
Nizar: Tweet was made in general
When contacted, Nizar said he had no intention of saying seditious things about the Johor sultan.

"If you look at my tweet which I sent, it did not refer to anyone and it was made in general, before it became public knowledge that it was the Johor sultan who had made the bid.

"However, I am surprised over the swift police action in responding to my tweets.

"There are other far more damaging tweets but no action has been taken," he said, adding that he had received a call from Skudai police station in Johor over the matter but has not been asked to give a statement.

Nizar said he is expected to give a statement later when called by the police.

He also acknowledged having apologised to anyone who were offended by his tweet.

According to the news agency, Johor Umno Youth chief Mohd Fadil Muskon today urged police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to act against Mohamad Nizar or anyone who supported his statement on Tweeter, Facebook or any other media.

"Johor Umno Youth consider this matter as defamatory and rude to the Sultan of Johor.

"This is provoking the people to hate the royal institution," he said after making the report at Johor Bahru central police station.

Johor Bahru Umno Youth and 20 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also made police reports at the same station.

Ex-estate residents camp outside PM’s office

In an attempt to save their homes, the residents take their grouses directly to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak's office in Putrajaya.

PUTRAJAYA: About 50 residents from the former Bukit Jalil estate gathered at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) this morning amidst a heavy downpour.

The residents, led by their committee treasurer K Balakrishnan, arrived at about 11am and camped at a nearby resting spot to avoid the rain.

Present by their side were Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general and treasurer S Arutchelvan and A Sivarajan.

Also present were Oppressed People’s Network (Jerit) propaganda coordinator S Mathavi and Warga Aman secretary-general S Bharatidasan.

The 41 families are embroiled in a tussle with the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) after the latter tried to evict them from their homes.

The land is slated to be turned into a Muslim burial ground. Subsequently, the residents took their case to the High Court and the Court of Appeal but lost their legal battle.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, on the other hand, instructed the Federal Territories and Urban Well-Being Ministry to find an amicable solution but nothing has come forth to date.

At about 12.30pm, an officer from the Federal Territories Ministry, only known as Amir, arrived and invited some of the estate residents for a meeting at the PMO.

Land request rejected

At 1pm, five of the residents including Arutchelvan and Balakrishnan went into the PMO after being promised a meeting with the prime minister’s officers.

However, Arutchelvan and the residents came out from the meeting about 30 minutes later, saying that they were disappointed.

“We went in after being promised that the prime minister’s officers will be there.

“Instead, we only had two officers from the FT ministry talking to us,” said an upset Arutchelvan.

The officers were the ministry’s deputy secretary Kasim Hamzah and another officer named Adi Roslan.

They told the former estate workers that the ministry had decided not to grant them the 4-acres land request.

Arutchelvan said the residents would continue to be there until Najib or his officers conduct a proper meeting with them.

“If Najib sticks to the FT ministry’s decision as well, give it to us in writing,” he said.

‘Give us the Buah Pala deal’

Echoing Arutchelvan’s sentiments, Balakrishnan also said he was upset over the matter, saying the residents had already informed the PMO of their arrival last week.

“If Najib can help residents from Kampung Buah Pala, why not us who are closer to home (Kuala Lumpur)?” he asked, referring to Najib offering double-storey houses to several residents of the former Indian settlement in Penang, in April.

Although one police officer tried stopping the residents from distributing leaflets in the afternoon, the policeman later backed down. Other officers kept a close watch on the residents and helped to clear the traffic.

There were also several children holding roses in the group, waiting to hand them over to Najib if he visits them.

The residents, numbering about 50, will camp outside the PM’s office overnight.

Air S’gor: MB mahu dedah kroni Umno-BN

Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim berkata, pihaknya mempunyai maklumat termasuk pembiayaan yang dibuat oleh syarikat terlibat.

SHAH ALAM: Kerajaan negeri Selangor akan mendedahkan syarikat didakwa merupakan kroni Umno-Barisan Nasional (BN) yang lemah dalam menguruskan air di negeri itu.

Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim berkata, pihaknya mempunyai maklumat termasuk pembiayaan yang dibuat oleh syarikat terlibat.

“Ada beberapa tender dan kontrak yang berbeza. Satu buat loji, terowong dan empangan. Kita sudah ada nama syarikat dan pembiayaan yang dibuat. Sebelum forum air kita akan didedahkan hal ini. Kita akan beritahu kepada semua masyarakat,” kata Abdul Khalid.

Dalam satu kenyataan Isnin lalu, Setiausaha Politik beliau Faekah Husin berkata, masalah air di Selangor berpunca daripada pengurusan air yang lemah dan menyebabkan rakyat terpaksa menanggung kos tarif air tinggi.

Faekah mendakwa pembinaan Loji Rawatan Air Langat 2 (Langat 2) yang melibatkan kos RM12 bilion sebenarnya dilaksanakan atas kepentingan kroni pihak tertentu dan bukannya untuk membantu rakyat.

Penstrukturan semula air

Abdul Khalid dalam pada itu menegaskan penstrukturan semula air adalah topik utama berbanding isu Langat 2 dan pengambilan air di Pahang.

Tegasnya penstrukturan semula air penting kerana ia dapat menyelesaikan pelbagai masalah yang wujud ketika ini.

“Perbincangan utama adalah penstrukturan semula air dan bukannya tentang Langat 2 atau pengambilan air di Pahang. Semua ini tidak akan timbul jika penstrukturan semula air dibuat,” katanya.

Ujarnya, sebarang pelaksanaan dan pengurusan loji mempunyai kaitan dengan kenaikan tarif air dan beliau mendapati ia mempunyai kelemahan.

“Pengalaman dari angka-angka yang diterima, pembinaan loji adalah dibina oleh Puncak Niaga. Dari segi kos pembinaan dan pembersihan loji adalah sangat tinggi. Jika kos tersebut tinggi maka rakyat turut menerima kesan melalui tarif air,” katanya.

Beliau berkata daripada 33 loji pembersihan di seluruh Selangor, 29 daripadanya dimiliki oleh kerajaan negeri, manakala empat oleh pihak konsesi.

Polis membisu terhadap penganjur Bersih 2.0, Patriot

Sehingga kini tiada sebarang tindakan walaupun laporan oleh 317 peniaga sekitar Kuala Lumpur dibuat sejak tahun lalu.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pertubuhan Ikatan Usahawan Kecil dan Sederhana Malaysia (Ikhlas) mempersoalkan sikap berdiam diri polis yang tidak mengambil sebarang tindakan terhadap penganjur himpunan Bersih 2.0 dan Patriot sehingga menjejaskan peniaga.

Presiden Ikhlas Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah berkata, sehingga kini tiada sebarang tindakan walaupun laporan oleh 317 peniaga sekitar Kuala Lumpur dibuat sejak tahun lalu.

Sehubungan itu, Ridzuan yang mewakili badan bukan kerajaan (NGO) itu hari ini mengemukakan memorandum kepada Ketua Polis Negara Tan Sri Ismail Omar di Bukit Aman untuk mendapatkan penjelasan tiada tindakan dikenakan terhadap penganjur Bersih 2.0 dan Patriot sedangkan Perhimpunan Bersih 3.0 telah pun diambil tindakan.

“Kami juga sudah menulis surat kepada Peguam Negara 15 September tahun lalu meminta pengesahan siapa yang perlu dipertanggungjawabkan supaya kami boleh tuntut kerugian tapi sampai sekarang tiada respon,” katanya.

Katanya, tindakan dan respon daripada polis amat penting kerana pihaknya merancang mahu membawa perkara tersebut ke mahkamah untuk membuat tuntutan sebanyak RM817,205 daripada penganjur Bersih 2.0 Datuk S Ambiga dan pemimpin Patriot yang juga Ketua Pemuda Umno Khairy Jamaluddin.

“Kalau Ambiga dan Khairy fikir sebagai pemimpin yang nak tolong rakyat jangan sampai rakyat naik mahkamah.

“Tak kisah berapa RM1,000 pun kami terima tapi saman tetap saman,” tegasnya.

Ikhlas mewakili kira-kira 80,000 peniaga kecil mendakwa sekurang-kurangnya 200 peniaga menanggung kerugian termasuk kos kerosakan akibat perhimpunan menuntut pilihan raya adil dan bersih, Bersih 2.0 Julai tahun lalu dan 3.0 April lalu.

NGO itu juga pernah mengadakan protes membuka gerai burger dihadapan rumah Ambiga 10 Mei lalu sebagai tanda protes.

Anwar to Najib: Re-table budget 2012

The opposition leader says the budget has failed to achieve its targets.

PETALING JAYA: Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim wants Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to re-table Budget 2012 in view of the slower economic growth of 4.7% in the first quarter of this year.

He said this was important because the Najib administration failed to achieve its target since 2011.

“It is the second time that Najib’s administration failed to achieve important economic targets which were the basis for Budget 2012.

“The first economic target missed was the economic growth for 2011, which at 5.1% was lower than the projected growth used by BN in the budget,” he said in a press statement.

The economic growth forecast for 2011 was 5.0% – 5.5% and for 2012, 5% – 6%.

To re-address the problem, Anwar wanted Budget 2012 to be re-tabled during Parliament session next month.

“I reiterate my call made in Dewan Rakyat previously that the Budget be re-tabled for a debate in the June session of the Parliament because the growth assumptions were wrong,” he said.

Yesterday, Najib announced that Budget 2013 would be tabled on Sept 28.

The prime minister, who also oversees the finance portfolio, said the new budget was themed “Driving Transformation Towards A Developed Nation.”

Bumi equity ‘hijacked’

Meanwhile, Anwar also criticised BN’s mishandling of the economy in achieving the 30% equity for the bumiputera and highlighted Pakatan Rakyat’s proposal to bolster the economic power of Malaysians.

“One of the most radical economic realignments proposed is to shift the policy focus from the much abused 30% equity target for the bumiputera currently pursued by BN towards an income-based economic target of RM4,000 minimum household income for each family within five years of Pakatan’s administration.

“The 30% equity target has been hijacked by cronies to enrich themselves at the expense of the general public,” he said.

“The disparity between the rich and poor widens significantly as a result of the abuses done in the name of achieving the 30% equity target.

“A fairer management of the country’s wealth should rightly focus on ensuring every family can prosper economically under the Malaysian sun.

“Every family’s income must rise in tandem with the rise in cost of living.

“Every family must earn above the poverty level so as to be able to invest in the future of their children,” he added.

‘Debate with me’

Anwar said the economic target set by Pakatan that the combined income of each Malaysian family should be at least RM4,000 a month was not only morally right but achievable through a combination of pro-people economic policies proposed.

He also reiterated his call for a debate with Najib on economic issues if the latter felt that the current economic policies were on the right track.

“If he is confident that Pakatan will not be able to deliver our economic promises, he must be bold enough to defend his conviction in a public debate.

“His refusal to debate with me on economic policies can only confirm the assertion that he is leading a weak government – economically, morally and intellectually,” he added.

Pathma denies conspiring to kill

SHAH ALAM: Former lawyer N. Pathmanabhan has denied planning and conspiring with three farm hands to murder cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya and her three companions.
The accused, who took the stand as the first defence witness yesterday, said he did not have any motive to kill her.
He denied owing her any money. Instead, he said, he had given a RM4mil loan to Sosilawati through two cheques.
“Even if I did not have the money to pay a person, I would not resort to killing,” said the soft-spoken man.
Pathmanabhan, 43, and farm hands T. Thilaiyalagan, 21, R. Matan, 22, and R.Kathavarayan, 32, are accused of murdering Sosilawati, 47, her driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, 44, bank officer Noorhisham Moha­mad, 38, and lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32.
The accused said he first met Sosilawati at a hotel in 2008.
The meeting, arranged by politician Datuk Suhaimi Mohd Ghazali and his personal assistant Datuk Sabari Misran, was over the purchase of three land plots owned by Indian national businessman A. Muthuraja, in Batu Feringghi, Penang.
He added that Sosilawati bought Muthuraja’s land through her company, Southern Symphony Sdn Bhd, for RM25mil.
She only paid RM1.2mil when the required 10% deposit was RM2.5mil.
“The balance was paid by me, Suhaimi and Sabari. Our names are not mentioned in the sales and purchase agreement but our interests are protected in a memorandum of understanding signed with Southern Symphony,” Pathmanabhan said.
Sosilawati, he said, then sold the land to Ample Quality Sdn Bhd – whose director is Sementa assemblyman Datuk Abdul Rahman Palil – for RM29mil.
However, Pathmanabhan said Ample Quality planned to sell the land to One United Sdn Bhd purportedly for RM200mil.
“When Sosilawati found out, she said ‘Why didn’t I sell this for RM150mil?’ She then asked me to prepare a new set of sales and purchase agreement,” he added.
The accused said the land transfer process could not be done as the land still had a caveat on it as of August 2010. The hearing continues today before Justice Akhtar Tahir.
01 May 2012 | NST , By RITA JONG |
'Sosilawati killed over RM3m'

N. Pathmanabhan (in long-sleeved shirt) leaving the Shah Alam High Court with his farm hands (from right) R. Matan, T. Thilaiyalagan and R. Kathavarayan yesterday. Bernama pic
SHAH ALAM: COSMETICS queen Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya was murdered over RM3 million which was owed to her by lawyer N.  Pathmanabhan.
High Court judge Datuk Akhtar Tahir found this to be a compelling motive for Pathmanabhan to commit the murders.
Sosilawati's three other companions, he said, were just "at the wrong place at the wrong time".
"They had to be killed," said Akhtar yesterday when he ordered Pathmanabhan and his three farm hands to enter their defence for the murders of Sosilawati and three others.
Akthar took 80 minutes to read out his judgment before a packed courtroom comprising family members of the victims and accused.
Pathmanabhan, 44, and his farm hands T. Thilaiyalagan, 21; R. Matan, 22; and R. Kathavarayan, 33, are charged with the murders of Sosilawati, 47; driver Kamaruddin Shansudin, 44, banker Noorhisham Mohamad, 38; and lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim, 32, at a farm in Tanjung Sepat, Banting, on Aug 30, 2010.
Akhtar said Sosilawati had gone to meet Pathmanabhan on the day of the incident to bring forward the date on a cheque to enable her to pay her staff bonuses.
He said Sosilawati and her three aides went to Banting intwo vehicles.
"A witness at the farm testified she saw three men and a woman at the farm on that day.
"She had also testified she heard a woman scream twice and saw a huge fire," he said, adding that the witness, placed under the "witness protection" programme, was not a partial witness as contended by the defence.
The judge said two other witnesses, U. Suresh and K. Sarawanan, currently serving 20-year jail terms, who were initially the prosecution's key witnesses, had also failed to explain their contradicting statements in court.
They had pleaded guilty at the magistrate's court to disposing of evidence but later challenged their own pleas, claiming that they were forced to plead guilty.
Akhtar said Sosilawati's family members lodged a missing person's report and that her ex-husband had called Pathmanabhan to ask about her whereabouts.
"The accused flatly denied meeting her. The missing person's report was significant as it showed that it was not normal for her to go away without informing her family.
"Pathmanabhan's outright denial of meeting Sosilawati clearly showed he was lying.
"It showed his guilt."
On the contention that interrogating officer Chief Inspector N. Govindan had used force against Thilaiyalagan and Kathavarayan, to obtain evidence, Akhtar said he found the officer to bear no malice against the two.
He also said the two were "chirping like birds" during the interrogation.
"I agree that there was a degree of degradation in the samples recovered, but the DNA of two victims were still obtained."
He said after total evaluation of the prosecution's case, he found that the farm belonged to Pathmanabhan, he had met with Sosilawati at the farm in an arranged visit and that Thilaiyalagan, Matan and Kathavarayan had unloaded logs, showing a pre-arranged plan.
"It is not necessary for me to prove who delivered the fatal blow but that there was common intention among them to kill."
The trial took 71 days with 108 witnesses taking the stand.
It will resume on May 28.
Meanwhile, outside court, Zaidah Shamsuddin, 53, cried when the decision was delivered. Her brother was Sosilawati's driver, Kamaruddin.
"I am happy with the decision."
Zaidah, who is looking after Kamaruddin's youngest son, said that she could not believe that it had been almost two years since her brother went missing. "He has entrusted his child to us, so life has to go on."
Sosilawati's daughter, Erni Dekritawati Yuliana Buhari, said that she had been following the progress of the case through her lawyer.
"I wanted to be at the court today, but had a meeting that I could not skip," she said in a telephone interview.
She said that the family was glad that the case was moving on swiftly. The-soon-to-be-mother said she was continuing her mother's legacy in the business world and was now busy being a wife and preparing for motherhood. Additional reporting by Elizabeth Zachariah and Liyana Jamaludin

Be careful what you wish for

On allegations by Malaysia-Today blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali was allegedly involved in corrupt practises when he (Azmin) was the private secretary to Anwar Ibrahim when Anwar was deputy prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Raja Petra must submit proof to back up his claim.
“Why should I explain to Raja Petra? Who is he? I've done my part, given full cooperation to the authorities 17 years ago and now you want me to repeat the same thing?” said Azmin Ali. 
“My focus is the election. I have (been) cleared, my conscience is cleared. They are not interested in the truth.” 

He said his constituents need no explanation from him as they know him “too well”.

“Don't undermine the wisdom of the people. They know who Raja Petra is, they can see the timing of these allegations and the people in my constituency know me too well. I have been there since 1968,” he said.

He said this latest attack is similar to allegations about his daughter's paternity, which he had answered via two DNA tests that proved he and his wife Shamsidar Tahrin are the biological parents.

“Are they interested in the truth? No. They are interested in repeating slander and lies to tarnish the image of Pakatan leaders.” 

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission will convene a meeting tomorrow to discuss whether or not to revive the investigations against Azmin.

The commission lodged a police report last night on the document ‘leaked’ by Raja Petra.  - Malaysiakini

Raja Petra must submit proof to back up his claim - Mahathir

(Bernama) - The government needs to be wise in entertaining various demands without forsaking certain principles, said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

"Before, when we were strong, there were not that many challenges. But when people perceive us to be weak, they will make all sorts of demands. This requires more deft handling as compared to before.

"I am not saying the current government is not efficient, it's just that I think it needs to be more effective," he told reporters after delivering his address at the 26th Asia-Pacific Roundtable here today.

Earlier, in his speech on "Governance in Asia: What's Best and What Works", Dr Mahathir said the government today needed to have a greater skill in managing the country.

He said democracy was not an easy system for administering and implementing policies because many things are added to it including human rights and many forms of freedom, which could lead to destruction and instability.

"A little democracy would be good. Today the minority is so powerful that the majority gives in. They don't like to do certain things but they are afraid of the minority which can be very violent.

"Today's democracy is not democratic. Today's democracy may be seen as being ruled by the minority and not by majority. We will not accept this," he said.

Dr Mahathir said the only good thing about democracy was the ability of the people to choose the government through the ballot box.

At the press conference, Dr Mahathir was also asked for his opinion on the resignation of Datuk Seri Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir as managing director of Proton Holdings effective July 4.
"Change inevitably brings about upheaval. It cannot be avoided but we hope it will not be prolonged," he said.

On allegations by Malaysia-Today blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali was allegedly involved in corrupt practises when he (Azmin) was the private secretary to Anwar Ibrahim when Anwar was deputy prime minister, Dr Mahathir said Raja Petra must submit proof to back up his claim.

New Revelations in Malaysia Sub Scandal

New Revelations in Malaysia Sub Scandal(Asia Sentinel) French defense giant said substantial amounts of money had to be channeled to UMNO

French prosecutors plowing through 153 documents seized from the French defense contractor DCNS have discovered a confidential report stating that in dealing with major defense contracts between Malaysia and France, substantial transfers of money had to be channeled to individuals and political organizations such as the United Malays National Organization.

Two of the individuals named were Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, and Mohd Ibrahim Mohd Noor, who was said to be close to Daim Zainuddin, the country’s finance minister at the time of the purchase of two Scorpene-class submarines by Malaysia from a DCNS subsidiary.

Details of the documents were made public at a Bangkok press conference by Cynthia Gabriel, the director of the Malaysian human rights NGO Suaram. The French prosecuting judges looking into the case allowed the lawyers to see and copy from the documents but they were not allowed to take physical possession of them. Also at the press conference, at the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand, was Joseph Breham, one of the two lawyers who have pursued the case for Suaram in France. Malaysian embassy officials were also in the crowd.

Gabriel said the notes dealt with two companies owned by Abdul Razak Baginda and his father, Abdul Malim Baginda. The companies are Perimekar Sdn Bhd and Terasasi Sdn Bhd. Included was a note “retracing the background of negotiations,” Gabriel said.

Document 87 was a fax written by an F. Dupont of the DCNS subsidiary Thales dated 1 June 2001 and addressed to D. Arnaud, and copied to two company officers with “Malaysia /Submarine Project as the subject, detailing the chronology if visits and actions. Dupont indicated a meeting with Najib in France on 14 July 2001 with the condition that DCNI offer a maximum sum of USS1 billion for Perimekart’stay in France.

Perimekar and Terasasi are at the center of charges that millions of ringgit were funneled through the two companies to top UMNO figures including Najib when he was defense minister. Perimekar was acknowledged earlier on the floor of Malaysia’s parliament as having received €114 million as a “commission” on the purchase of the two boats from Thales, a DCNS subsidiary, by the Malaysian ministry of defense.

Other documents made public earlier show that at least €36 million flowed from the DCNS subsidiary Terasasi Hong Kong Ltd., whose principal officers are listed as Razak Baginda and his father. Najib was defense minister from 1991 through the time when the submarines were delivered in 2002. Terasasi only exists as the name on the wall of a Wanchai district accounting firm in Hong Kong.

Suaram has been seeking to crack open the mystery surrounding the purchase of the submarines for more than two years, hiring French human rights lawyers William Bourdon and Breham, who have been investigating the case. A string of spectacular allegations has surfaced over recent months after Suaram’s lawyers were given access to the documents held by DCNS and its subsidiaries.

However, it is questionable how much traction the allegations are gaining in Malaysia, whose national coalition is preparing for national elections, now thought to be delayed until September or October. A survey of disparate sources in Kuala Lumpur indicates that generally the public has turned away from the story, which began in 2006 with the murder for hire of Altantuya Shaariibuu, Abdul Razak’s jilted girlfriend, by two of Najib’s bodyguards.

“There is hardly any news in the mainstream press and the only traction it gets is with urban class who are already anti-establishment,” said a businessman source. “Many of the urbanites have already factored it in and are not surprised anymore.” Another source said the allegations are perceived as stemming from the opposition and thus have mostly been discarded by ethnic Malays who will probably stick with UMNO because of the country’s racial situation.

Gabriel did reveal that an individual closely linked to former finance minister Daim Zainuddin is mentioned in the prosecution papers dealing with allegations of corruption in the submarine purchase. Gabriel said French police had seized documents including a note for the French defense minister dated July 2, 1999, relating to an interview with then Malaysian defense minister, Malaysia’s current Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak and dealing with French-Malaysian diplomacy on defense matters.

"The note mentions one Mohd Ibrahim Mohd Noor and Abdul Razak Baginda as points of reference for political network," Gabriel said. "It further states that both have strong political connections as Mohd Ibrahim is close to Daim, and Abdul Razak to Najib.”

She said the note explains that by early 2001, Mohd Ibrahim's influence had begun to decline in tandem with Daim’s waning power after a falling out with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Mohd Ibrahim's name then ‘disappeared’ both as shareholder and director from Perimekar Sdn Bhd, to be replaced later by those in Abdul Razak's network, Gabriel said.

Gabriel said consultants are used as "political network" agents to facilitate monetary transfers and to receive commissions from the principals. Abdul Razak eventually became the main point of reference for political network to facilitate the money transfer, Gabriel said.

"The note stated that ... Abdul Razak maintained excellent ties with the defense minister and the prime minister. Furthermore, his wife is a close friend of the defense minister’s wife. Therefore, Abdul Razak became the center of the network."

(With reporting from Susan Loone, Malaysiakini)

Proton is the price we pay for brainless patriotism

Koon Yew Yin

The founding of Proton National Bhd in 1983 was a big expensive mistake to begin with. Billions of ringgit from taxpayers have been lost in the process.

The haemorrhage could not be stanched until only recently when Khazanah Nasional Berhad sold off its 43 percent stake in Proton to DRB-Hicom a few months ago. Malaysians have been wondering – is this finally an end to the unhappy saga of the government’s foray into the production of a so-called ‘national car’ or will the burden on taxpayers and car owners be continued in other new ways?

A revisit of this white elephant project is necessary to generate a larger public discourse especially amongst taxpayers who should be more concerned as to where all the tax money they’ve been paying has gone to.

One simplistic assumption which appears to have been made by the initiator of the national car project Dr Mahathir Mohamad is that an industry that is growing yearly should be profitable. It is not. In fact, industry data shows that the total profits of all the car companies over the last decades amount to only a modest return, and that only for the fittest in the industry.

The British experience

Consider the case of British Leyland, a vehicle-manufacturing company formed in the United Kingdom in 1968.

It was partly nationalised in 1975 with the government creating a new holding company. The company incorporated much of the British- owned motor vehicle industry, and held 40% of the UK car market.

Despite containing profitable marques such as Jaguar, Rover and Land Rover, as well as the best-selling Mini, British Leyland had a troubled history. In 1986 it was renamed as the Rover Group, later to become MG Rover Group, which went into administration in 2005. This ended mass car production by British-owned manufacturers.

Today, many British car marques have transferred their ownership to foreign companies. For example MG and the Austin, Morris and Wolseley marques have all become part of China’s SAIC Motor Corporation Ltd.

Mistake avoidable

Why Dr Mahathir failed to learn anything from the disastrous British car industry experience is something that completely escapes many Malaysians. Surely any good leader would have gotten his officers to do due diligence.

If they had done so, they would have found that the industry even with year-on-year rises in sales is not guaranteed to generate good returns to shareholders. Notwithstanding its long tradition of successful car manufacture and the country’s highly developed economy, the industry in the UK still failed to make profits.

The reason for this situation is because one of the forces that limit profitability is the intensity of rivalry between car companies from around the world. This leads to oversupply and pressure on prices, further exacerbated by a high degree of freedom for new competitors to enter the industry.

Unless there is an enormous internal market such as China’s or the United States, and we can take advantage of the economy of scale, small producers such as Malaysia are forever doomed to a minor placing, or bankruptcy, in the marketplace.

Played out by Mitsubishi

As far as Proton is concerned, Mahathir’s mistake in ignoring the economic fundamentals of the industry was compounded by our lack of expertise or comparative advantage to produce cars. The anticipated technology transfer from Mitsubishi did not take place.

This should have been anticipated. Why should Mitsubishi transfer their know-how to Malaysia when it can control the pace of transfer to maximize its profits? In fact, the top management of Proton should ask Mitsubishi to open their books to see how much profit they have made from Proton since it began operation.

Mitsubishi knew that Proton could not do without them and they were quite happy to continue making money from Proton while the company here continued to bleed to death.

Equally important was the poor quality of management. Just before the privatization exercise, Proton had accumulated RM4 billion during Tengku Mahaleel Ariff’s tenure as chief executive officer but its cash reserves had dropped to RM600 million during his successor Mohammed Azlan Hashim’s stewardship, according to Mahathir.

To encourage people to buy Proton, the government increased the import duty for other cars and car parts. As a result, the consumers have suffered. For over 30 years we have had to pay higher prices for all cars including Proton. Even this has not been sufficient to save Proton which has been sold five times already.

Another question to ask is why few car manufacturers, until recently, seem to get into bankruptcy? If so, then prices can rise relative to cost and shareholders can get a fair return.

There are two main reasons. In some countries there is always the perennial optimism of managers and shareholders. In Malaysia, the reason is different. Here, our government has been changing rules and regulations to obstruct other cars from entering our market whilst providing special favours including an ever ready supply of financial assistance to keep Proton afloat.

The end result is that some Malaysians have ended up with more expensive cars of other brands whilst most Malaysians have had little choice but to buy Proton – a poor substitute.

This is the price we have to pay for brainless patriotism.

Proton’s and our never-ending problems

Ours is a sorry saga which is a classic case study on how not to set up a car industry. As with the national airline, I propose that a special course on our experience with Proton be offered in the Institute of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Thoughts.

What better way to honour the ex-premier than a post-graduate course on his pet project – the National Car – and inviting him to be a guest lecturer. I am sure he will have lots to share and many people to blame as to why the project has failed.

Earlier this year tycoon Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary was allowed to take full control of Proton. Since the sale, Proton’s problems have continued through its loss-making subsidiary, Lotus. In March, the conglomerate was forced to put in place a team of consultants to conduct an audit on the Lotus group of companies.

The need for this review was pertinent in light of the financial obligation of Lotus in the form of a £270 million (RM1.3 billion) syndicated loan taken at the end of 2010, for which Proton had given its corporate guarantee.

In March, Proton, in its third quarter results, noted that its subsidiary was in a technical breach of certain post-drawdown covenants on its long-term loan. For now, the loan amounting to RM1.01billion has been re-classified as a short-term loan as at Dec 31 until the receipt of approval for the extension of time.

Although the new owner of Proton undoubtedly has deep pockets (he is the 7th richest man in Malaysia) and owns a business empire that covers ports, the postal service, power, defence and financial services, besides automobiles, we can expect him to recoup his losses by raising the prices further on Proton thus burdening our car buyers, and by charging higher prices for the other goods and services that he is involved with.

In any way, the Malaysian consumer will continue to be suckered by the national car debacle.

Bar: Why have two inquiries?

The Star 

PETALING JAYA: The Bar Council has questioned why an independent panel is conducting a probe on the Bersih 3.0 gathering when Suhakam is also holding its own public inquiry on the incident.

Council chairman Christopher Leong said it was strange that the panel was proceeding with the inquiry when Suhakam, a statutory and independent commission, had stated that it would undertake a similar move.

He added that the Bar Council had stated that it would take part in the Suhakam inquiry and that it would not serve any useful purpose to duplicate the process.

“What purpose will it serve to have two inquiries?” he said yesterday.

He said Suhakam was the proper body to conduct the inquiry given that the commission had the experience, statutory mandate and legal framework to do so.

Leong said the Suhakam Act also provided the commission with all the prerequisites needed to carry out the investigation into the rally.

He also reiterated the council’s opposition to former Inspector-General of Police Tun Hanif Omar’s appointment as panel chairman.

“This is not about his integrity. The Bar Council does not question his integrity and respects that Tun Hanif has given invaluable service to the country.

“It is, unfortunately, about the perception of independence and public confidence in the panel,” he added.

Leong, however, said the Bar was willing to meet Hanif to discuss the matter.

It was reported that Hanif was willing to meet the Bar Council as well as Bersih leaders as part of the panel’s investigation, saying he wanted the inquiry team to be given a chance to carry out its duties without “suspicion” from any parties.

Scorpene revelations from Bangkok

A French lawyer has updated an audience at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok on the latest revelations in the judicial inquiry into the Scorpene deal in Paris.
Today’s damning revelations can be found in a Suaram statement reproduced on the Aliran website.
Malaysian and French embassy officials were among the audience at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok this afternoon