Share |

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mosque near Olympics site in ‘terror link’ investigation

A London mosque is under investigation over alleged links to terrorism.

The Charity Commission has launched a probe into Masjid-al-Tawhid — next to the Olympics site — amid concerns that it may be promoting extremist Islamist ideologies.

The investigation is understood to centre on sermons delivered at the mosque between 2004 and 2010 by Haitham al-Haddad, a preacher by whom notorious “underpants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab claims he was influenced.

The Leyton mosque, which propagates the extremist Salafi strand of Islam widely practised in Saudi Arabia, has also hosted several leading al Qaeda clerics in the past, including Abu Qatada and Anwar al-Awlaki.

In a letter leaked to the Standard and the BBC, the Charity Commission last week announced a “statutory inquiry” into Masjid-al-Tawhid. “The investigation will look at whether the trustees have allowed individuals with potential links to terrorist organisations to use the charity to promote and/or express extremist views and ideologies and/or controversial points of view,” it wrote.

Nigerian-born Abdulmutallab, 25, a London student who tried to detonate explosives hidden his underwear on a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009, was jailed for life by a US court in February. He has cited Haitham al-Haddad as an influence on his beliefs.

In 1998, radical cleric Abu Qatada, described as Osama Bin Laden’s “right-hand man in Europe”, held a study session at the mosque. He is now in custody in the UK fighting extradition to Jordan to face terrorism charges. Anwar al-Awlaki, an al Qaeda leader killed in Yemen last year, spoke several times at Masjid-al-Tawhid in 2003.

Former imam Dr Usama Hasan resigned from the mosque after 25 years last year after receiving death threats for teaching his congregation about evolution and women’s rights.

He said today: “These are very serious allegations and it is concerning that alleged links to terrorism have emerged so close to the Olympic site. The Charity Commission should pursue a full investigation to help the mosque congregation and its trustees deal with extremism and promote a moderate and inclusive Muslim community.”

Masjid-al-Tawhid did not respond to calls.

Malaysian deputy prime minister: Islam not compatible with freedom, liberal thought

Will the rampant Islamophobia never end? Malaysia's ruling Muslims, lauded by Senators McCain and Lieberman as a model government for all Muslims to follow, somehow have the mistaken idea that Islam is not compatible with 'Western liberal thought' and freedom. Imam Rauf, call your office! From "DPM: Nation's future depends on Malay unity", The Star, 9 June 2012:
PUTRAJAYA: Deputy Prime Minister [DPM] Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today said Malaysians cannot refute the fact that the future of the nation depended on the unity of the Malays and Muslims who formed the majority.
He emphasised that if the Muslims split due to differences in politics or other fundamental issues related to religion then it would be difficult to achieve peace and unity for the nation as a whole.
'No Muslim 'unity', no peace'. No, that did not sound like a threat.
"Therefore I'm of the opinion that efforts to strengthen the race is something very important in ensuring stability, peace and harmony in our country," he said in a speech to launch the "Upholding of Islam and Strengthening of the Race" Convention, here today.
The speech was read out by minister in Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and the event included the launching of a book by Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) [Muslim Association of Malaysia] president Ustaz Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman titled 'Melayu Sepakat Islam Berdaulat' [United Malays, Stronger Islam].
Muhyiddin said the Muslims of today faced various challenges, especially with confusing Islamic teachings stemming from the indiscriminate acceptance of liberal Western thinking and culture by a handful of Muslims themselves.
In fact, there have been efforts recently by these same parties to manipulate the struggle for freedom and human rights based on liberal Western ideas by challenging Islamic teachings, including campaigns for same-sex marriage and the practice of free sex, which are clearly prohibited by Islam and other religions.
"We definitely do not want to see the occurrence of confused thinking in our society which would ultimately cause the Muslims to split and break away from [Islam].
Muslims, despite being followers of the 'perfect religion', can get confused so easily, even by solar powered talking bibles, books by Muslim writers, and soccer jerseys (among other things).
"In the context of the Malay community, we do not want the liberal Western philosophy which places the desires and wants of an individual as life's priority, or to produce a Malay race which has no Eastern and Malay identity or losing their identity as someone who holds fast to the religion," he said.
Therefore, Muhyiddin said it is crucial for the Islamic race to create a united thinking (wahdatul fikr) based on true Islamic teachings from the al-Quran and Hadis [sic].
The Islamic race should immediately carry out a jihad of knowledge and thoughts to understand and appreciate Islamic teachings in depth and make [Islam] the axis of life, he added.
'Islam is the Axis of Life'. It's catchy. Perhaps we should call Muslim countries 'Axis countries'?
"I believe Isma and other Islamic bodies can play an important role in creating "wahdatul fikr" among the Muslims and thereby create a united race," he said.
"What's important is that we start working towards the unity of the race without taking into account differences in politics or other issues, solely based on Islam teachings. Furthermore, unity of the race is a critical requirement of Islam," he concluded. - BERNAMA
Since when is Islam a race?

Mily cops accused of gang-raping tourist girls

Mily cops accused of gang-raping tourist girls

DERA GHAZI KHAN - The Border Military Police on Saturday arrested four men, including three colleagues, for gang-raping five female tourists in Fort Munro.

The accused kidnapped the victims from a checkpost and later committed the gang rape at a private house. Three of the culprits - Amjad Ali, Muhammad Zafar and Naveed Iqbal - are BMP personnel.

The victims were identified as Shama, Aalia and Guria, residents of the Data Darbar area of Lahore, and Saima and Sanam from Bahawalpur. On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif, while taking notice of the tragic incident, ordered the divisional commissioner of Dera Ghazi Khan to submit a detailed report on the issue within 24 hours.

Upon the orders of the judicial magistrate, a woman medical officer examined the gang rape victims and submitted her initial findings, while the samples were dispatched to a laboratory for further analysis.

According to police, the three officials of the BMP, responsible for maintenance of law and order in the tribal belt, stopped a vehicle, carrying five women and a man, for checking at the entry point of the hill station Fort Munro late Thursday night. As per the statement of the victims, they were allegedly kidnapped and taken to a private house where they were gang-raped by the three BMP officials and two others (one of them has been identified as Majeed Leghari while the other’s identity could not be ascertained). The victims told media that they were set free on Friday morning, after which they reached DG Khan city and submitted an application to the political assistant for the registration of a case.

A senior official of BMP told reporters that a case (No 1/12) had been registered against the five accused, including the three BMP constables, after a medical examination of the victims at the DHQ Dera Ghazi Khan.

It must be mentioned that the incident took place on Thursday night within the precincts of the Fort Munro Border Military Police Station.

According to a private TV?channel, Prezident Zardari has taken notice of the incident and sought a report.

Correcting the civil service racial imbalance

The steps to ensure higher non-Malay (and East Malaysian bumiputera) participation in the civil service are simple.

Once more the government appears to be clueless and befuddled as to why the non-Malay young do not want to take up civil service jobs.

Once more, there will be a taskforce and a high-level committee at work to produce yet another report on how to attract non-Malays to join the service.

Once more the almost obligatory letters are appearing in the mainstream papers applauding the government (in this case) the Public Service Commission’s new chairman for his bold initiative in proposing a study “to nail down…the reasons for the poor number of applications from non-Bumiputeras for public and civil service jobs”.

Do we need more studies?

Come on, we already have a plethora of research and studies on the subject. We have more than enough figures and data showing that the severely racially imbalanced civil service is not a recent problem but one going back more than 30 years. Do we need some more studies?

Everyone – well – just about, everyone knows the reason why non-Malays are avoiding joining what one of the top Barisan Nasional leaders has described as the best civil service in the world. As one cynic in the blog world recently remarked,

“Even the … office boys in those departments can see the unfairness [in promotions], and we have top civil servants wondering why. Please, just practice fairness and they (non-Malays) will come.”

Rampant racial discrimination

The most important reason why disparity in civil service participation amongst the races exists is the discrimination against non-Malays in recruitment and promotion exercises.

This explains why the numbers applying have dropped dramatically. If there is going to be an uneven playing field and if others less qualified or less capable than you are promoted ahead of you – and this is perceived to be a standard practice – why stay in the job, even if it may be a well paying or secure one.

Factors of pride, dignity and self-respect also come into play which explains why non-Malays refuse to remain in the service even when they have a good position.

After a few years of frustration and alienation with racially structured obstacles when they apply for promotion or other career opportunities, many see the writing on the wall and opt to strike out for the private sector or self employment even though they may have to make sacrifices.

This game of pretending not to know why non-Malay recruitment and enrolment is so low in the civil service has been going on for so long that many of its practitioners appear to believe their own fairy tales and prejudices about non-Malays being less patriotic (explaining their low enrolment in the military and police); or more grasping and calculating (hence, less attracted to teaching or other service occupations); etc.


Let’s do away with the pretense and acting dumb on this long-standing blot in our societal make up.

The steps to ensure higher non-Malay (and East Malaysian bumiputera) participation in the civil service are simple.

Firstly, there must be a solemn declaration and promise by the prime minister and government that racial intake as well as all treatment after recruitment in the civil service will be fair and transparent and that racial or regional discrimination will not be tolerated.

Secondly, the Public Services Commission and Public Services Department must be a party to this declaration and should mainstream this declaration into all service manuals and directives. It is a fact that some of the major obstacles to making the civil service more racially representative comes from within the civil service itself.

Thirdly, all recruitment, appointment, promotion and other service related committees and boards should have full multi-racial representation. Inclusion of token non-Malays as we have seen in the past does not work.

Fourthly, a new civil service quota system – in this case specifically used as a temporary affirmative action tool to increase non-Malay numbers and reduce marginalization – should be formulated. This can be done in a way as to meet with the constitutional provisions providing for the special position of the Malays and bumiputera groups of Sabah and Sarawak.

A 60-40 recruitment system would be relatively easy and painless to implement. It would guarantee Malay dominance but not over-dominance and help to bring about a gradual increase in the number and proportion of non-Malay civil servants in the country.

Finally, we need a civil service ombudsman to act on cases of racial discrimination within the service as well as to respond to allegations of racially biased policies and programmes.

Make or break the nation

It is a truism that the civil service can make or break a nation, more especially in the case of multiracial societies such as ours where neutral stake players are necessary to play a critical role in balancing complex and contentious racial demands.

Democratic norms call for a representative, impartial and neutral bureaucracy to ensure that public policies are responsive to the needs of all citizens in a fair and equitable fashion.

A genuinely multi-racial civil service is also necessary to ensure that there is an absence of racial bias in the individual or collective manner in which civil servants formulate policies and conduct their work.

Unfortunately, we have moved away from these democratic norms for so long that nothing but a radical change in the mindsets and actions of our politicians and civil service elites can stop the rot.

A mono-ethnic civil service – which is what we are fast moving towards – is the single biggest obstacle to the goal of 1Malaysia.

The writer is the director of the Centre for Policy Initiatives. This article first appeared in the CPI website.

Anwar confirms talks with Sabah BN leaders

Online media reports have been repeatedly stating for several days now that several Sabah BN leaders would be joining the PKR.

KOTA KINABALU: PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim confirmed here this evening that the party had been in communication with some Barisan Nasional leaders from Sabah who are said to be on the verge of leaving the ruling coalition.

“Of course we have been in communication with many people including some of those people mentioned,” he said when asked to comment on reports that prominent leaders now in Umno and at least one other BN coalition party, UPKO, would be joining PKR.

Anwar’s arrival here this afternoon was delayed after his flight to the state capital was diverted to Labuan due to bad weather.

The delay caused him to miss a 3pm function in Kota Belud which he had been scheduled to attend together with Tuaran MP Wilfred Bumburing, one of those who has been vocal about the ruling coalition’s shoddy treatment of Sabah and is speculated to be in two minds about remaining in his party.

Anwar, when met at the airport, said the question of Bumburing’s status and if he would be joining PKR was best put to the MP himself.

He cautiously limited himself to adding that there had been “greater awareness in Sabah over the last few years” and that the people were being more critical.

“This (awareness and criticism) reflect not only on the failure of the state government of Sabah but also the national leadership … that no matter what, the present leadership must not be supported at all cost.

“You must accept the stark reality that Sabah and Sabahans are ready for change,” he said.

Online media reports have been repeatedly stating for several days now that several Sabah BN leaders would be joining the PKR and that Anwar would most likely be accepting them during his visit to Sabah this weekend.

Among them were Bumburing and Beaufort MP Lajim Ukim. Both could not be contacted for comment.

Other BN leaders named as possibly leaving the BN are former Sabah chief minister Osu Sukam, Upko vice-president Senator Maijol Mahap, former Banggi assemblyman Amir Kahar Mustapha, former federal minister Kasitah Gaddam and Upko Sepanggar divison chief Steven Kutai.

Rama rekindles KBP row, blames MIC Youth

The deputy chief minister says Mohan and his MIC youth members leapt into the fray and worsened the situation. Mohan rebuts by saying Ramasamy was cooking up lies.

GEORGE TOWN: Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy today blamed MIC national youth chief T Mohan as the man responsible for the nine families of now banished Kampung Buah Pala to be left in a lurch without proper compensation.

He also claimed that the nine families refused to sign on the dotted lines of the housing compensation offer even though he had begged them to do so.

At the height of residents protest against their village imminent demolition, Ramasamy said Mohan and his MIC youth members leapt into the fray and worsened the situation as the state government was working out a formula to reach an amicable solution.

Thus, he claimed Mohan had influenced the nine families to reject the housing compensation offer from the Pakatan Rakyat state government.

“It’s a fact that Mohan and his MIC youth blocked the residents from accepting the offer.

“Mohan is responsible … he has to answer,” Ramasamy told a public forum organised by DAP’s Lintang Delima branch in Chinese Town Hall here today.

The forum was on: ‘What is the position of Indian community in Malaysia today and their future after 54 years of independence.’

Cooking up lies

However, in an immediate response, Mohan slammed Ramasamy as “childish, inexperienced and immatured politician” who only knew to cook up lies to cover up his own weaknesses, blunders and wrongdoings.

“With his position as DCM2, he could have done a lot for the Indian community.

“He could have saved Kampung Buah Pala but he failed miserably,” Mohan told FMT, recalling Ramasamy’s ‘over my dead body’ promise to stop the village demolition.

The village residents association chairman M Sugumaran also rapped Ramasamy for spreading falsehoods that the nine village tol holders rejected the housing compensation offer.

“We were never offered in the first place.

“Ramasamy lied when he said he begged us … blatant lies,” insisted Sugumaran.

At the forum, a short video on Kampung Buah Pala was also screened, and it suggested that the previous Barisan Nasional administration and MIC were to be blamed for the village fiasco in 2009.

Mohan rebuked Ramasamy for wrongly blaming him, saying that the MIC’s main intention was to save the last Indian traditional village on Penang island.

He said the party’s offer to buy the village land at RM3.2 million was rejected by the state government which hiked up the land price at over RM140 million.

“Ramasamy is trying to save his near death political career by spreading lies. He is bankrupt of ideas,” said Mohan.

The KBP issue

Kampung Buah Pala, which was known commonly as Tamil High Chaparral due to the population of ethnic Indians, cattle and other livestock, was demolished in 2009 to pave way for a posh condominium project, the Oasis, by Nusmetro Venture (Pg) Sdn Bhd.

Originally the village had 33 households. After the land was alienated by the previous BN administration, between 2005 and 2007, nine tol holders accepted the original compensation package, consisting low medium cost flat unit and cash, and left the village for good.

The remaining 24 tol holders fought for the land rights until the village was demolished.

The village land title was transferred to the Penang Civil Servant Cooperative Society on March 27, 2008 after the DAP-led Pakatan took over state powers.

On Oct 31, 2009, the new landowner, the civil servants cooperative society agreed to build 24 double-storey terrace houses as compensation on part of the flattened village land.

But, an unanimous decision was also reached by 121 delegates at the cooperative society extraordinary general meeting (EGM) that out of the 24 double-storey houses, nine units must be given to the former residents, who have left the village after receiving the original compensation.

The remaining 15 houses were given to those among the 24 tol holders enlisted by the Pakatan government, leaving nine families in a lurch without a single compensation.

Although the state government announced in the media about the compensation offer, Sugumaran said the sidelined nine families were never allowed even to enter state government office in Komtar tower block.

“We were all banned and blacklisted as rebels. When we could not even enter the state government office, how then we could have rejected the offer.

“We were contemptuously denied the offer as the state government exacted revenge on us for being vocal in standing up for our rights,” Sugumaran told FMT.

Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has now given a double-storey house each via Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad to the nine tol holders and their nine immediate families.

The houses in Teluk Air Tawar were given on humanitarian grounds, not as compensation.

I said speak up, not talk c@#k!

By Haris Ibrahim,
“My response is simple. (The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) is super efficient…In cases like the National Feedlot Centre involving (former minister) Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, they had in a very short time closed the case and cleared her, although many questions are left unanswered…” – Azmin Ali responding to media questions on the old corruption investigation against him that went KUS ( kes untuk simpan ), whatever that might mean, some 17 years ago.

Malaysiakini has the report HERE.

Well, no more efficient than its predecessor, BPR, was, in KUS-ing his case, no?

Many questions remain unanswered in the NFC?

A case of the pot calling the kettle black, wouldn’t you say?

When asked why no disciplinary action had been taken against him in 1995 for allegedly living beyond his means, even though former BPR boss Shafee Yahya had then recommended the same to Anwar, Azmin had this to say :

“I don’t know. If any action needs to be taken, including disciplinary action…why wait until today? Even the investigating officer has passed away” .


Anwar, even Azmin wants to know!

Why wait until today?

Why no action then, Anwar?

And to those who feel that ABU means get UMNO and BN out at all cost, irregardless of what we put in their place, I’ll disagree with you, but respect your sentiments.

I ask that you also respect that I am not prepared to go to the kampungs to urge the folk there during ABU ceramah, to get rid of a corrupt UMNO / BN regime come the 13th GE, and yet turn a blind eye to evidence that might suggest that those to whom we propose to hand over the mantle of leadership of this nation are no better than the scoundrels we now seek to depose.

If we have to put one over whom hangs the suspicion of past corrupt practices into such an office that lays before him immeasurable opportunities for financial impropriety, we are surely entitled to one of two things from such a person.

Lay those suspicions unambiguously to rest.

Or allow us the comfort that there is real and total regret and remorse for those past misdeeds.

To-date, we have received neither.

I cannot speak for the rest of you, but I do not think that we are a nation devoid of men and woman of unquestionable integrity such that even as we work to rid ourselves of this most foul and corrupt regime that now sits in Putrajaya, we must resort to replacements who cannot assure us that they are better.

I deserve that much.

You do, too.

Let’s not short change ourselves.

Anwar: Siapa bayar sewa rumah Muhyiddin

KAJANG: Ketua Pembangkang Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim mencabar Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin menjelaskan kepada rakyat siapakah yang membayar sewa rumahnya ketika dia mula-mula menjadi menteri di Kuala Lumpur.

"Saya nak tanya siapa bayar sewa rumah dia tatkala dia jadi menteri di Kuala Lumpur.

"Saya tahu sebab masa itu saya bos dia , saya timbalan perdana menteri.

"Jawab la...nak lawan sangat," katanya dalam nada mencabar.

Beliau berkata demikian sewaktu menyampaikan ceramah Merdeka Rakyat di Stadium Kajang di sini malam tadi.

Menurut Anwar, selepas menjadi menteri besar Johor, Muhyiddin dilantik menjadi menteri dan ketika itulah sewa rumahnya dibayar oleh orang lain.

Beliau membuat cabaran itu bagi menjawab gesaan Muhyiddin semalam yang mahu Anwar menjelaskan dakwaan yang dihadapinya 13 tahun lalu kononnya mempunyai aset dan wang tunai bernilai RM3 bilion.

Anwar turut mengulangi kesediaanya untuk sedia mendedahkan akaun banknya dengan syarat Muhyiddin yang juga timbalan perdana menteri sedia berbuat perkara sama.

"Muhyiddin Yasin, kamu nak siasat saya tiada masalah.

"Ok, cek akaun kamu, dan cek akaun saya," katanya.

Dalam pada itu, lebih 5,000 orang membanjiri stadium kajang malam tadi.

Biarpun hujan renyai-renyai, mereka tidak berganjak mendengar kupasan isu-isu terbaru dari pimpinan Pakatan rakyat.

Selain Anwar, antara pimpinan utama lain yang turut berceramah malam tadi adalah Pengerusi Solidariti Anak Muda Malaysia (SAMM) Badrul Hisham Shaharin, AJK PAS Pusat Dr. Mujahid Yusof dan Menteri Besar Selangor Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

Pada ceramah terbut juga menyaksikan 150 orang menyerahkan borang menyertai PKR cabang Hulu Langat.

Ceramah malam tadi diakhiri dengan tembakan bunga api sejurus selesai ucapan Anwar.

The big PTPTN blunder

Stephen Ng - The Malaysian Insider

JUNE 10 — I have been following the news about the PTPTN, and had previously written about it as well.

The latest development by the minister of higher education, Khaled Nordin, is one of the worst of Umno’s political games.

From the shared script with Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the victims were apparently the students and their parents.

This ploy did not take into consideration the younger generation of Malaysians who cannot afford the higher education under the present Barisan Nasional regime.

To play on their sentiments is something that most Malaysians will not forgive.

Sometimes, silence is golden. In this case, it only became worse when Khaled Nordin had the cheek to say that the freeze on PTPTN loans to Selangor-owned tertiary education institutions “was sparked by the Selangor government’s failure to find a permanent solution for providing free education.”

As an observer, I seriously doubt Khaled’s integrity as a minister. His remarks came when the Selangor government was prepared to set aside RM30 million to provide free education to the students of both universities.

In my opinion, Khaled has lost his credibility and the people’s confidence in his ability to run an important ministry, no thanks to all the dirty politics that he and his comrades are willing to play in order to stay in power.

I wish to remind Khaled, Muhyiddin, and the rest of Umno’s ministers under the leadership of Najib Razak, of one of Bersih’s eight demands: Stop the dirty politics.

Picking on the right to choose

ImageMalay Mail 
by Terence Fernandez and Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani

Bersih 3.0 co-chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan tells Terence Fernandez and Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani that the people were punished on April 28 for voicing a simple request for a clean electoral process.

THE MALAY MAIL: It’s a dirty job but why do you do it? And when was your foray into activism?

DATUK S. AMBIGA: When I became the president of the Bar Council, that is not so much activism but advocacy for causes. So, it seems a short step before that, to do what I am doing now. But I never for one minute imagined that electoral reform would be such a hot issue. To me, it was a no brainer. Free and fair elections can’t possibly get anyone excited. But I could not have been more wrong!

When I took it on, civil society came to see me. I wasn’t involved in Bersih 1.0. I didn’t even attend Bersih 1.0. It took place in September 2007, then you had the elections.

Bersih 1.0 was driven very much by political parties and NGOs. So, obviously a lot of people won elections and became MPs, like those who drove Bersih 1.0. Then, things went quiet for Bersih for awhile.

I was approached end of 2009 after I finished my term at the Bar Council. I said “yes”, provided that it is purely a civil society movement.

TMM: Who’s “they”?

AMBIGA: Civil society advocates like Wong Chin Huat and Maria Chin Abdullah. We started by trying to engage the Election Commission (EC) and very quickly realised that they were humouring us. They were listening to us but they were not changing and the Sarawak state elections proved it: the amount of fraud and obvious vote buying that was taking place and a lot of other instances if irregularities.

That is when we decided to have Bersih 2.0. Of course the rest is history. I suppose I don’t consider myself so much as an activist but as an advocate still. However, I do think that we have had some positive results, setting up of the Parliamentary Select Committee on electoral reform and so forth.

TMM: What is your take on how Bersih 3.0 was handled and what’s happening now?

AMBIGA: I think the government is making a big mistake. I do not know what its end game is because it is not winning any hearts or minds. I cannot understand this, you see. Is this really what it wants?

TMM: One supposes, if you look at what happened on the streets, the message is that, if you are going to push the authorities to the limit, this is what is going to happen.


TMM: Were you surprised at how much the public has embraced the message?

AMBIGA: I am overwhelmed actually. This is the difference between Bersih 2.0 and Bersih 3.0. The demonisation in Bersih 2.0 took place before that rally. Again targeting me.

That actually moved quite a lot of the middle ground because we were wondering how we were going to get people interested in free and fair elections. But when the government came down so hard, I think a lot of people were horrified that it could go so far. And I think that was one of the reasons why we had the numbers that we did the first time around.

This time, the demonisation is taking place after. The first thing the home minister said was, there was no issue, there was no traction and so on but then why come down hard on the demonstrators?

Because they were … even I was, surprised at the numbers. And people came there not for violence. They came there peacefully. It wasn’t even on their minds ... for any untoward incident to take place. And as long as we were in control, there was no violence.

The violence occurred after the tear gas was shot, then mayhem ensued.

TMM: Did you send out a message to disperse?

AMBIGA: That was about 2.40pm, after the barriers were breached and the tear gas was shot. The barriers being breached is something that requires more investigation because it was reported that the barriers were already being moved and people were given the impression that they could go into Dataran Merdeka. We are getting those reports.

If you are looking at the issue of the barriers, we just don’t look at that incident where Azmin Ali was alleged to have instigated people to breach them. You need to look at the whole scenario because there was a lot going on and it’s clear to me that there were agent provocateurs.

I think the authorities had a different plan which was executed eventually and I think the ultimate plan was to teach the people a lesson. That was my reading to it.

TMM: We were told the main concern was the overwhelming numbers of Malays?

AMBIGA: There was this other issue, a rumour that a policeman was killed. Many people heard this and when Chin Huat was beaten up, he was told that they are angry because a policeman was killed.

That was the reason given to many people as to why they were beaten up. So who was responsible in spreading that rumour? That seems to have been used as reason for the anger shown by the police. Is that why the cops went on a rampage? There is no doubt a full investigation has to take place. If we have made mistakes, we are prepared to own up.

But there cannot be any reason for the violence. Unfortunately, the mainstream media only show the violence purportedly by Bersih supporters.

TMM: What measures were taken by Bersih to ensure safety on both sides that day?

AMBIGA: We had about 6, 000 people doing security and crowd control. Actually Unit Amal did a very good job. The question that needs to be asked is, if they say the intention was violence, there was no violence until after 3pm, after the tear gas was fired.

However, everyone seems to think that crowd control is entirely our responsibility. That is not the case. We are a group of NGOs. It is shared responsibility.

We have a responsibility to some extent but the major part of the responsibility has to be by the police because they are responsible for security.

They are the ones who have the means for crowd control.

But that day felt like we were left on our own. The police were taking a “wait and see” approach. You know, wait for them to make a mistake. To be fair to the cops, initially they were fine. They were standing in the periphery and not interfering, neither were they helping. And that was fine but suddenly something changed drastically after the tear gas was fired. They were different police all together.

It was like Jekyll and Hyde. So what brought that on? Just a few people breaching a barrier, whom they could have arrested?

The barrier was not guarded at all. The barbed wire was removed, which I think was the right thing to do because you don’t want people to get hurt. But if you really want to stop people going in, you just have to stand there and have a police cordon. So I am not sure what the intention was.

As far as we are concerned, the steps we took was there and we issued guidelines and in every place whoever spoke to the crowd, emphasised it had to be peaceful and orderly.

Quite frankly the people were wonderful because they were absolutely wellbehaved.

People came there to sit actually; in fact they were having fun. It was like a carnival. The food businesses were roaring that day.

TMM: Can you enlighten us on what steps you took to ensure that there was no breach of the Peaceful Assembly Act. Street protests are not allowed in the Act.

AMBIGA: It was not a street protest; people were moving to get to a place where the assembly was supposed to take place.

But here is the thing, they were all operating under different legislations. City Hall was operating under local council laws. The police got a court order under the Penal Code. I don’t know where the Peaceful Assembly Act came in actually.

The rally was on April 28 but the Act was brought into force on April 30. So, the way I look at the court order, it only said you cannot go into the green area. Therefore, anywhere else is fine. If you recall, the police said we could gather at the meeting points the day before.

So what breaches were we committing? And don’t forget they served us the order only on April 27, so we could not get the message out to everybody that we will not breach the court order.

When you say Peaceful Assembly Act, we gave notice to the police more than 10 days before the rally, but before the Act was enforced.

Under the Act if you give a notice, the police cannot reject. They can only impose conditions. They never imposed any conditions. If no conditions exist, it means we can proceed as planned. It is not so clear-cut that we fall under the Peaceful Assembly Act at all and if we did fall under the Act, why get the court order? Each authority seemed to be handling it under different legislation.

TMM: Was the choice of April 28 an attempt to circumvent the Act?

AMBIGA: Oh no! But the police although it was not brought into force, was more or less acting in accordance with the Peaceful Assembly Act. There were many rallies before this and the police handled them very well.

TMM: Critics say Bersih has too many generals and not many soldiers that is why there are allegations that Pakatan Rakyat had hijacked Bersih?

AMBIGA: In my view, there were 250,000 soldiers. You cannot hijack the agenda of Bersih or the agenda of 250,000 people.

TMM: But you can’t dismiss it completely as there is an association with the Opposition.

AMBIGA: They support us but we invite everybody. It’s like having a party, you invite group A and group B. Only group B comes. Group A stays out but whinges about group B being there.

TMM: Did you send out invites?

AMBIGA: No, we openly and always invited everybody. In fact, on that day if a Barisan Nasional (BN) MP had been there, we would have allowed him to speak as well.

When people talk about the Opposition, they forget that they are the elected representatives and these are people that the public had voted into office.

They have a right to hear them. But as far as we are concerned, our programme that day did not include any political leaders. It was entirely NGOs who were going to speak. Our programme didn’t have a speech by any politician.

Yes, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was at Masjid Negara. They were all over the place that day but they were talking to their supporters. That is something we can’t control.

But that was not our aim at all. The main stage where I was, there weren’t supposed to be any politicians speaking.

TMM: But there were!

AMBIGA: No, that was when Anwar came in later. I wasn’t aware he was coming to speak and I couldn’t stop him. As I mentioned earlier, even if a BN MP had been there, he would have been given the opportunity to speak.

TMM: But there lies the problem because of your association with Pakatan Rakyat. You seem to be one-sided and have your own political agenda.

AMBIGA: Look at the numbers. Look at the people.

Again, don’t look at that one moment when they were all on the stage. My own view is look at the 250,000 turnout.

There may have been some Pakatan supporters but look at the rest of the people. The huge number of aunties, uncles and youths who came there just for free and fair elections.

My own view is look at the crowd and judge for yourselves whether you think this an Opposition thing.

Also, it is no surprise that they support free and fair elections. They feel they are hard done by the system. It is a way of demonising Bersih. I mean if BN was there, there wouldn’t have been any complaints.

TMM: Do you think you should consciously disassociate yourself from all political parties to maintain neutrality?

AMBIGA: We think that is what we are doing but if political parties support us, I welcome their support.

I have no issue with that, which is why BN should support us because they could reach 250,000 people if they did. At the end of the day, it would have been wonderful if they came and walked with the rakyat.

I honestly thought that it would be different this time. That they would say they are coming and hear the rakyat out. Instead, people were beaten and tear-gassed.

The supporters were punished that day. If the supporters were violent — and I don’t condone it — it’s because they saw the manner in which their friends were being treated. So that was their response. In fact, the tear gas itself was an act of violence because of the way it was shot. I was caught in that. It was shot straight into the crowd and the crowd was shoulder to shoulder. And it was tear gas after tear gas.

TMM: There were children in Bersih, you condone parents bringing children to rallies?

AMBIGA: I know it is in the Public Assembly Act but I don’t know we have an issue as long as the parents are responsible for them. We don’t have an issue with children.

TMM: Shouldn’t there be some guidelines or advisory because being a veteran of two rallies, you would have known what can transpire on the streets.

AMBIGA: The responsibility lies with the parents ultimately but I wouldn’t encourage small children. You see, a lot of people came out treating it like a carnival.

TMM: But you saw what happened in Bersih 2.0.

AMBIGA: But this time the authorities said it was going to be different and that was the impression given. As long as you don’t step into the green part of Dataran Merdeka, it was fine. They were laughing and joking with the public which is why we cannot understand when it turned.

I can understand if they shot one tear gas because of the breach and that was it. People would have moved. What was the need to go after them in the way they did? They had tear gas, gliders and pulled people out of shops.

This went on till 7pm. And nothing makes the people angrier than the Government pretending all of that didn’t happen.

You downplay injuries when the fact is that people suffered. They were only interested in the reporters who were injured because it is not good press.

TMM: Were you hit?

AMBIGA: Tear gas, yes. But beaten, no. I ran into Masjid India. I was with a group of women and we couldn’t come out because we could hear violence. I could hear people getting beaten up out of shape but I didn’t see it. The truth has to be told!

TMM: Let’s talk about the legal suit. Can a government sue its citizens?

AMBIGA: I have no issue with the government taking whatever action deemed fit. It is something you expect. You may be charged but I didn’t expect a civil suit.

So, they have to do what they have to do and we have to do what we have to do, defend it vigorously. A government can sue (its citizens) but whether it should, is a different thing altogether.

ON MONDAY: In the concluding part, Ambiga shares her thoughts on the worrying trend of political violence, rule of law and Bersih 4.0.

Penang BN To Use 'Attack And Explain' Approach

GEORGE TOWN, June 10 (Bernama) -- Penang Barisan Nasional (BN) will use the 'attack and explain' approach in countering the opposition's propaganda over various issues aimed at confusing the public.

State BN chairman Teng Chang Yeow said the strategy would be activated through the 'Semboyan Dibunyikan' (Sounding the Siren) programme from June 14 to July 15, which would be simultaneously launched in the state's 13 parliamentary constituencies.

"This approach will focus on exposing the truth on issues often played up by the Pakatan government to win public support.

"For example, the state government claimed that its debt had been settled but managing the settling of the debt had actually been left to the federal government," he told reporters after a briefing on the state BN general election strategies for the coming 13th general election, here, Sunday.

He said Penang BN would use various approaches including engaging the alternative media and the party leaders to "turun padang" (go to the ground) to distribute pamphlets which explained the real situation in Penang during the four years under the administration of Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Teng said Penang BN's information dissemination would be boosted by the participation of over 40 BN alternative media practitioners who were ready to help make the mission of wresting back Penang a success.

"This number is sufficient for the task of disseminating accurate information to the public, especially those who always use the Internet to access information."

Teng said among the issues to be focused on were press freedom, building of low-cost houses by the state government and traffic congestion.

He urged each BN component to treat BN's dismal performance in the last general election as a lesson, while they should also not doubt their own capability in ensuring BN's victory in the coming 13th general election.