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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Aurukun: Mining for a future

One determined aboriginal woman fights for her destitute community's share in Australia's mining profits.

Aurukun in Queensland is one of Australia's most remote aboriginal communities. It is also considered one of the most destitute and dysfunctional. Unemployment hovers at around 80 per cent and the local school is one of the worst-performing in Queensland. Tribal violence is part of everyday life and there are around 100 government agencies for a population of only 1,200.

Gina is an aboriginal businesswoman from Aurukun and like her mother before her, she is not after hand-outs or hand-ups from the welfare system. She wants to make a meaningful difference in her community - the Wik people - by providing skills and economic opportunities for them.

"I believe in my people like they believed in me. I believe that we can have change, have a better life for our children. I don't want my daughter and her children to suffer from what we've suffered here. The social fabric of my community has deteriorated over the last 30 to 40 years and it will continue to deteriorate if we don't do something now .... We need to get onto it now, because we're burying people all the time, our people are dying," Gina says.

She is fighting for a seat at the table with the big companies that are making a fortune from bauxite mines on tribal lands. It is a long and sometimes lonely journey and Gina's work is constantly interrupted by the desperate realities of aboriginal life.

As she battles on, trying to get a group of young men prepared for training in the mines of far away western Australia, she witnesses the fall-out from the heritage of Australia's appalling aboriginal policies.

The ever-present alcohol, locally known as 'grog', the daily violence and the emotionally charged issue of aboriginal child protection are no side-show to Gina's work - they are the very reason she is passionately determined to build an economic base in Aurukun. And, small step by small step, she is getting there.

This Witness film gives us a rare insight into aboriginal life from the perspective of an empowered and determined community woman who is trying to make a real difference.

Turkish government ordered 2007 torture and murder of Christian publishers

On April 18, 2007, Muslims tortured and murdered three employees of the Zirve Publishing House, a Bible publishing house. "Who ordered the murder of Christians?," by Orhan Kemal Cengiz for Today's Zaman, July 3 (thanks to Twostellas):

I was telling you the story of İlker Çınar who was employed by the National Strategies and Operations Department of Turkey (TUSHAD), which is an undercover unit of the military, like JİTEM, which also has strong connections with TUSHAD.

Çınar penetrated the Christian community and gathered a lot of information, while he was pretending to be a missionary. He became a church leader, and upon receiving another order, he became “Muslim” again and launched a campaign against missionaries across the country.

From the second indictment of the Malatya massacre we also learnt that he was also ordered to work with the Malatya gendarmerie against missionaries. From the statements of Çınar, who is now a confessor trying to receive immunity in exchange for the information he gave, we understand that Malatya was one of the centers from which psychological warfare against missionaries and Christians was being lead.

Çınar gave quite a detailed account of how both the Malatya gendarmerie conducted this psychological warfare and how they paved the way for the Malatya massacre. Çınar told us that he traveled to Malatya many times to join these “workshops.” In these workshops they produced many documents to be used for disinformation against missionaries. For example, some of these documents “prove” that missionaries are connected to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), whereas some “show” some links between them and the CIA. In fact, from 2005-2007 there were a lot of these kinds of rumors circulating in Turkey.

What is also amazing to see is how much the Malatya gendarmerie spent on this “job.” Çınar said that he was given TL 100,000 (approximately equivalent to $55,000). Whenever he came to Malatya he stayed at the most luxurious hotel, and all his daily expenses were paid. Apparently, the Malatya gendarmerie spent a lot of money to monitor missionaries and to prepare black propaganda about them. Çınar was only one of the persons they worked with.

While he was visiting Malatya for these workshops, he also witnessed preparations for another “operation.” Çınar was not directly a part of this so-called operation, but through his frequent contacts with the gendarmerie, he became familiar with some details. In one of the meetings he saw that the gendarmerie commander took out large photos of Necati Aydın, Tilman Geske and Uğur Yücel, who were killed on April 18, 2007. The gendarmerie commander had allegedly stated that a strong “message” was going to be sent to all missionaries across the country through the ones in Malatya.

Çınar once witnessed Mehmet Ülger, gendarmerie commander, leave their meeting to talk to Varol Bülent Aral, who is now being tried in the Malatya massacre case for his role as an instigator. Çınar once witnessed Ülger praising Emre Günaydın, prime suspect in the massacre, for his bravery and said that he was ready for his “task.” Çınar found out that one of the workers at the Zirve Publishing House, in which the massacre was carried out, Hüseyin Yelki, was actually working for the gendarmerie as an informant. Immediately after the murders, theology professor Ruhi Abat, who was receiving a salary from the gendarmerie for his anti-missionary work, told Çınar on the phone, “We asked them to strike, but they went and killed them.” Abat is a close friend of Emre Günaydın’s father.

There are so many other details that basically show that the Malatya massacre was directly planned by the Malatya gendarmerie, apparently under direct orders by TUSHAD.

‘Probe Scorpene-linked firms, not us’

Authorities should investigate companies such as Terasasi and Perimekar, not Suaram.

PETALING JAYA: Authorities should investigate companies linked to the Scorpene submarine scandal instead of Suaram, said its director Kua Kia Soong.

“They should investigate companies such as Terasasi and Perimekar not Suaram,” said Kua at a press conference today.

He added that the information disclosed by the French judiciary on the Scorpene deal was sufficient for Malaysian authorities to take action against the suspects.

Kua said this in response to Companies Commission of Malaysia’s (CCM) attempt to raid the Suaram premises yesterday afternoon.

It was aborted when the warrant was found to be flawed. CCM was supposed to have returned this morning to the Suaram office this morning but no one turned up.

“It is an anti-climax because they did not come,” said Kua who also denounced the raid as a form of harassment.

“Whistle blowers are supposed to be protected, not harassed and intimidated,” he said.

The attempted raid followed complaints from the NGO Jaringan Melayu Malaysia. It’s president Azwanddin Hamzah said that Suaram was registered as a company and not as an NGO.

Azwanddin also revealed that Suaram had raked in a revenue of RM497,137 in 2009 and RM411,226 in 2010.

Responding to this, Suaram chairman K Arumugam stressed that Suaram is a non-profit organisation. “Our promoters don’t receive monetary rewards.”

Suaram staff secretariat member Wong Kar Fai also denounced the allegation by JMM that Suaram was profit based.

“Profit doesn’t exist. It is a political attack on the integrity of Suaram. The monies are for our operating cost. Our only profit is that Malaysians are aware of their human rights,” said Wong.

Arumugam, meanwhile, explained that the amount revealed by JMM were derived from donations and grants from private organisations and the public.

“We have programmes and campaigns and it is all reflected in the accounts,” said Arumugam.

‘Suaram is impartial’

Kua, meanwhile, cast doubts as to whether yesterday’s raid was motivated by JMM.

“We don’t need to respond to JMM. We don’t know whether the CCM is responding to this type of mobocracy,” said Kua.

Questions were also raised about Suaram’s registration with CCM instead of the Registrar of Societies (ROS).

“If we can get immediate registration with the ROS, then why not?” Kua said, adding that registration with the ROS was done selectively.

On another note, Kua denied that Suaram was aligned to Pakatan Rakyat.

“Suaram is impartial. We level criticisms at Penang, Selangor, Kelantan equally when there is injustice,” Kua said.

Fear of arrest forces woman to stay home

T Kamala Devi is not a wanted criminal. The 49-year-old woman does not possess a MyKad and this has caused her much problems.

PETALING JAYA: For years, T Kamala Devi, who hails from Sungai Siput in Perak, hardly left her house due to the fear of being arrested for not possessing a MyKad.

Kamala’s case was unique as her application for a valid Mykad had been hampered for over 30 years due to her Indian-born mother’s legal entry permit to Malaysia issued in 1963 having gone missing.

The second of five children, Kamala was born in India and migrated to Malaysia in 1963 when she was a one year old toddler together with her mother Kaveri Ammah and older brother T Subramaniam who was five then. They entered the country with a valid entry permit.

Married to a Malaysian, her mother was issued a red IC given to permanent residents and later she managed to convert this to a blue MyKad. Even Subramania;postID=6064738563101825822m who has since passed away held a blue MyKad. He applied for his identity card using his mother’s legal entry permit.

Kamala however found herself in quandary when her mother’s permit went missing. Her numerous attempts to apply for a valid identification card since the late 1970s proved futile.

Mother is bewildered

Speaking to FMT, her mother said: “We have gone to every extent to prove that she is my daughter and we engaged a lawyer to assist us with this matter.

“We also spent RM1,500 on a biological test with the Chemistry Department to show scientific proof,” she added, expressing bewilderment as to why the authorities still emphasised on the missing entry permit.

Clutching a bag full of documents, she said: “I have an identity card, her brother who was not born here has an identity card. So what is the problem?”

Kaveri lamented that the money spent in pursuit of an identity card could have been used for her daughter’s future instead.

“I could have used that money for her wedding,” she said, adding that Kamala was still single because potential suitors were concerned about her not having a Mykad.

Life wasted due to red tapes

Sungai Siput MP Dr Micheal Jeyakumar, who had taken up the case, told FMT that this was unlike other cases of stateless persons.

The Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leader explained that in some cases, the parents might have been too apathetic to register their children.

“Due to substance abuse, living in isolated areas or even in some cases the parents may not be proficient in the Malay language and can’t follow the Malay spoken by [the National Registration Department] staff, so the parents give up.

“But in Kamala’s case, it is bureaucratic red tape that hinders her from getting a MyKad.

“The NRD acknowledged the existence of the entry permit because both the brother and mother registered using the same document. They issued identification cards to them. So why can’t they do the same for Kamala?

“Imagine, her whole life has been wasted due to a solvable bureaucratic problem,” he said.

Kamala had to drop out after a year in primary school due to family commitments. She was currently unemployed.

She told FMT that despite living in Malaysia all these years, she had never gone out for sight-seeing.

“There is a fear when I leave the house. What if the police or other authorities catch me? So I just stay home. But I am tired of this,” she said.

Hindraf re-files suit to highlight plight of Indians

Its supremo P Waytha Moorthy is suing the British government for abandoning the Indians when Malaya gained independence in 1957.

LONDON Hindraf supremo P Waytha Moorthy has re-filed a lawsuit at the Royal Courts of Justice here, on July 2, to sue the British government for abandoning the Indians when Malaya gained independence in 1957.

The original lawsuit was filed in 2007 on the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence.

The exiled lawyer said, “This case is about restoring the lost dignity of the Malaysian Indians, who were brought into Malaya, as indentured labourers, by the British.

“Many of our forefathers did not know what they were getting into. They were illiterate, poor and vulnerable. Inhumane methods were sometimes used to transport people to Malaya, where the British had promised a new life in ‘paradise’. Children were kidnapped. Village heads were cheated or bribed, into sending men to the ships. False promises of pilgrimage were also made”.

During his self-imposed exile, Waytha Moorthy has compiled historical documents and traversed the globe, to garner support, for his cause.

“I do not wish to embarrass the Malaysian and British governments with the documentary proof that I have gathered. The collusion and intention to deny the other minority communities their fundamental rights were obvious.

“By the time Malaya achieved independence, up to three generations of Indians had been settled in the plantations. The children who were born in Malaya knew nothing about India. They considered Malaya, their only home. When Malaya was granted independence, the British conveniently forgot about their original promise to the Indians.”

Explaining the reasons for his lawsuit, he said: “My action is to bring attention to the world that we are a permanently colonised community. When India achieved independence, the country and its people were free. In Malaysia, the country and the Malays were free but we the Indians remain colonised by the neo-colonialist – the Malay ultras.”

Historical wrongs

The lawsuit is expected to be lengthy, possibly taking three to five years, with complex legal and constitutional questions to be raised.

Waytha Moorthy said that Hindraf “does not have the locus standi to take this action,” and added, “This is my initiative on behalf of descendants of indentured labourers.”

Hindraf, the NGO which is striving for equal rights for Malaysian Indians, is banned in Malaysia. Despite a warrant of arrest for him, Waytha Moorthy has resolved to return to Malaysia in the near future, to continue his struggle. In his absence, a legal team has been engaged, to continue his case, in England.

“It is time to correct historical wrongs. An independent commission should be formed, to review fundamental rights provisions in the constitution, and make amendments. There is no point blaming previous politicians,” he said.

In May 2012, the Royal Courts of Justice saw another landmark Malaysian case when the remaining survivors of the Batang Kali massacre of 1948 successfully held a hearing for the British government to hold an inquest into the unlawful killings.

Surrounded by his supporters outside court, Waytha Moorthy said: “By filing the case, I hope the world would recognise the entrenched apartheid-like provisions in the constitution. These racist provisions should be dismantled. Also, Britain should apologise for its colonial wrongs committed against the Indian community.”

One well-wisher said, “As we speak, many Malaysians of Indian origin are stateless, and deprived of any rights. They have no access to education, health care, housing or any of the services which you and I take for granted. They are forgotten by society. Their futures are bleak.

“To further their own agendas, politicians from both sides of the divide, will use and abuse, the marginalised Indians. So when will our leaders provide long-erm solutions for the Indians? At the very least, Waytha Moorthy’s actions will have created awareness and drawn attention to the plight of the Indians.”

Protesters denounce police’s BN bias

The demonstration at Bukit Aman was sparked by the recent attack on Guan Eng and the threat on Ambiga’s life.

KUALA LUMPUR: About 40 people demonstrated outside the Bukit Aman police headquarters today, alleging that the force applied a double standard in enforcing the law when the offences are tied to political issues..

The protest was sparked by two recent incidents—the physical attack on Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng by demonstrators affiliated with Perkasa and an Umno MP’s call for Bersih leader S Ambiga to be hanged.

Today’s demonstrators were led by the NGO WargaAMAN, whose secretary, S Barathidashan, told FMT afterwards that the police had lost credibility with a large section of the public.

“People are fed up with the police for always pretending to be in the dark when offences are committed by BN leaders or members or supporters,” he said.

He accused the force of dereliction of duty in its failure to take action against Lim’s attackers and the Umno MP who wanted to go after Ambiga’s neck, Mohamad Aziz of Sri Gading.

He said it was such negligence that had encouraged anonymous death threats against Ambiga.

“We have lodged police reports all over the country against Mohamad over his racist remarks, but there has been no action from the police,” he said.

Barathidashan claimed that the protest in Bukit Aman was successful despite the low turnout because the participants were able to voice out their dissatisfaction against the police.

Among the protesters was Teluk Intan MP M Manoharan of DAP. Several NGOs sent their representatives, Barathidashan said.

Be brave, Karpal tells Najib

He commends the PM for working hard for votes and advises him to hurry up in calling for the polls.

KUALA LUMPUR: The longer the 13th general election is delayed, the greater the possibility that Barisan Nasional will lose, according to DAP chairman Karpal Singh’s assessment of the political situation.

Speaking to FMT today, Karpal gave credit to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak for “practically living on the road” in campaigning for votes but urged him to be “courageous and decisive” in calling for the election.

He said Najib could not afford to wait much longer because the BN machinery might soon burn out from all the hard work.

But he gave Najib’s wisdom the benefit of the doubt and predicted that he would announce the election date soon.

“The amount of campaigning he’s been doing for the last few months clearly indicates that the polls are around the corner, and he might go for it even before Budget Day on Sept 28,” he said.

The opposition strongman expressed doubt that Najib could make a major vote-catching announcement in the budget, saying he had already exhausted the government coffers with his “goodies”.

“There’s not much left to offer further to the voters in the forthcoming budget and it’s likely for him to go for the polls even before the end of September.”

Another indicator of an imminent announcement of the polls date, according to Karpal, is the currently escalating attacks on the Penang and Selangor state governments by the mainstream media.

He also noted that the Election Commission had been preparing for the election at full swing in the past few months.

He said Najib could not afford to wait much longer because he had used too much money and other public resources in his campaign. Furthermore, he added, the national economy was already in bad shape and likely to get worse.

“We in Pakatan can afford to wait it out, but he can’t.”

UMNO has revealed its true character yet again

Senator S. Ramakrishnan, 4/7/2012

PM Najib has been going around the country meeting Indian community asking them to have NAMBIKAI (trust) on him. But Najib’s complete silence after Sri Gading MP’s remark on Datuk Ambiga, has made MIC president to assure the NAMBIKAI of PM Najib is sincere. MIC president has to come out to reassure the Indian community that MIC does not endorse Sri Gading MP’s treason call to hang Datuk Ambiga. But Datuk Palanivel, why the PM who wants NAMBIKAI from Indians did not reprimand the Sri Gading MP for his vengeful remark on Datuk Ambiga? More insulting is the Sri Gading MP’s reluctant apology to please the Dewan Rakyat speaker. If PM Najib is silent and tolerate such an uncouth remark from an UMNO MP, how can the Indians have NAMBIKAI on PM, UMNO and MIC?

If asking for a free and fair election by a harmless Indian woman is such a treason charge for UMNO to call for hanging, can Malaysians ever trust (Nambikai) them. It only shows that UMNO is a racist, hate Indians and will stoop very low to punish anyone asking for fairness and justice. Political parties working with UMNO pretending all is fine are useless and spineless. The talk of Indians returning back to BN is to appease UMNO and to impress that they are still needed to win back Indians for UMNO. They are misleading UMNO to believe in their own lies.

UMNO goons started to show their true colour way back in 2009 by dragging a cow head to protest against shifting of temple in shah Alam. No PAS leader has ever done anything like that. It is only UMNO that has been calling non Malays by names, introduced the INTERLOK book to systematically derogate Indians and feels insulted when a Non Malay calls for free and fair elections. In any other country Datuk Ambiga will be a heroine. But in Malaysia UMNO cannot accept any Non Malay to be a hero or heroine. Can such a political party lead this country in future? The whole world is marching forward leaving behind racism, nepotism and corruption behind but UMNO cherishes all these evil qualities. By their acts and deeds UMNO is becoming irrelevant and losing the plot to lead this blessed nation.

UMNO is caught and wrapped up by their lies and propaganda. UMNO leaders don’t love their party but the power and wealth they inherit by being in the party. The same with other component parties too. Money is the glue that stitches and binds them together. UMNO/BN leaders will mudsling and hug each other as long as there is honey and penny. They will be the first to desert the party when the honey and penny dries up.

After 55 years in power, they have become very arrogant, violent and out of touch with the ground reality. Even Malays are deserting UMNO by the days. Malays too find UMNO loyalist intoxicated with power are abusive. Little do UMNO realize that the ground is shifting down and under? UMNO/BN will not be able to survive the 13th GE. So when will our PM call for election?

Senator S. Ramakrishnan, 4/7/2012

Timbuktu tomb destroyers pulverise Islam’s history

Over the last three days, Islamists of the Ansar Dine rebel group which in April seized Mali’s north along with Tuareg separatists destroyed at least eight Timbuktu mausoleums and several tombs, centuries-old shrines reflecting the local Sufi version of Islam in what is known as the “City of 333 Saints”.

(Reuters) - TIMBUKTU: The al Qaeda-linked Islamist fighters who have used pick-axes, shovels and hammers to shatter earthen tombs and shrines of local saints in Mali’s fabled desert city of Timbuktu say they are defending the purity of their faith against idol worship.

But historians say their campaign of destruction in the UNESCO-listed city is pulverising part of the history of Islam in Africa, which includes a centuries-old message of tolerance.

“They are striking at the heart of what Timbuktu stands for … Mali and the world are losing a lot,” said Souleymane Bachir Diagne, a professor at New York’s Columbia University and an expert on Islamic philosophy in Africa.

Over the last three days, Islamists of the Ansar Dine rebel group which in April seized Mali’s north along with Tuareg separatists destroyed at least eight Timbuktu mausoleums and several tombs, centuries-old shrines reflecting the local Sufi version of Islam in what is known as the “City of 333 Saints”.

For centuries in Timbuktu, an ancient Saharan trading depot for salt, gold and slaves which developed into a famous seat of Islamic learning and survived occupations by Tuareg, Bambara, Moroccan and French invaders, local people have worshipped at the shrines, seeking the intercession of the holy individuals.

This kind of popular Sufi tradition of worship is anathema to Islamists like the Ansar Dine fighters – Defenders of the Faith – who adhere to Salafism, which is linked to the Wahhabi puritanical branch of Sunni Islam found in Saudi Arabia.

“A Salafi would say that creating a culture of saints is akin to idol-worshipping,” Diagne said. Unlike Christianity, where the clergy formally confers sainthood, the veneration of “saints” in various, non-Wahhabi, strands of Islam largely arises from popular reverence for pious historical figures.

Rejecting a wave of outrage inside and outside Mali against the shrine destructions, an Ansar Dine spokesman in Timbuktu, Sanda Ould Boumama, defiantly told French radio RFI at the weekend that the actions were in line with the group’s aim of installing sharia Islamic law across all of divided Mali.

“Human beings cannot be elevated higher than God … When the Prophet entered Mecca, he said that all the mausoleums should be destroyed. And that’s what we’re repeating,” Boumama said.

In what she called a “cry from the heart” for world help to halt the destruction, Malian Culture Minister Diallo Fadima Toure told a UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting in St. Petersburg on Sunday that Ansar Dine’s depredations had “nothing to do with Islam, a religion of peace and tolerance”.

“Are we just going to let this go and stand and watch? Today this is happening in Mali, tomorrow where will it be?”.

Crime against history

Experts are comparing the Timbuktu tomb destructions to similar attacks against Sufi shrines by hardline Salafists in Egypt and Libya in the past year. The attacks also recall al Qaeda attacks on Shi’ite shrines in Iraq in the past decade and the 2001 dynamiting by the Taliban of two 6th-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff in Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.

“It’s against everybody and everything,” said University of Cape Town Professor Shamil Jeppie, an expert on Timbuktu who co-edited with Diagne a 2008 study, “The Meanings of Timbuktu”, on the city’s priceless archaeology and ancient manuscripts.

Mali’s government in the capital Bamako about 1,000 km (600 miles) south has condemned the attacks, but is powerless to halt them after its army was routed by rebels in April. It is still struggling to bolster a return to civilian rule after a March 22 coup that emboldened the rebel uprising further north.

Some believe the tomb-wrecking onslaught by Ansar Dine, which is led by Tuareg chieftain turned Salafist Iyad Ag Ghali, may have been directly triggered by UNESCO’s decision on Thursday to accept the Mali government’s urgent request to put Timbuktu on a list of endangered World Heritage sites.

“That is meaningless to Ansar Dine; what is UNESCO to them?” said Jeppie. Just as northern Nigerian Islamist militants are carrying out bloody bombings and shootings under the name Boko Haram (which broadly means “Western education is sinful”), so Ansar Dine’s fighters may see UNESCO as an emblem of Western heresy.

“They are not scholars; they are foot soldiers,” added Jeppie, adding they were probably unaware that Timbuktu, which was an alluring mirage of exoticism and remoteness for 19th-century European explorers, represented multiple and varied layers of Islamic tradition deposited like sand over centuries.

Its long history had tracked the turbulent rise and fall of the great African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai.

“Timbuktu was sacked many times before,” said Jeppie.

“But we have had no events of destruction of monuments, mosques and tombs. It never happened before.”

The UNESCO ambassadors meeting in St. Petersburg yesterday joined Malian Culture Minister Toure in appealing to global governments and organisations and “all people of goodwill” to act to prevent the prevent the destruction of the Timbuktu monuments by “vandals”.

“We consider this action to be a crime against history,” the appeal said.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee called on the agency’s director general, Irina Bokova, who has already roundly condemned the Timbuktu damage, to create a special fund to help Mali preserve its cultural patrimony from attack. It asked UNESCO members and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to provide financial resources for this fund.

Purity over popularity?

Just as gold-hungry 19th-century European travellers who first cast eyes on Timbuktu were disappointed to find, not glittering minarets and palaces, but a desert-rimmed cluster of dun-coloured homes and mosques, so some observers might view the city’s mausoleums and tombs as modest when compared with the architectural opulence of, say, Rome or Athens or Damascus.

The rectangular local mausoleums mimic the desert earthen architecture of the city’s still imposing and renowned Sankore, Sidi Yahya and Djingarei-ber mosques, the latter Timbuktu’s oldest, built in mud-brick and wood in 1325.

“They are mud structures, nothing fancy at all,” said Columbia University’s Diagne – and so the more easily reduced to dust by the pick-axes and shovels of the Ansar Dine combatants.

But rather than visual splendour, it is what the tombs represent for Africa’s history, and especially the history of Islam in Africa, than concerns historians and scholars.

They make the point that relatively few physical vestiges remain of the great Sahelian empire states that flourished and then died out centuries ago, and the damage inflicted in Timbuktu will reduce that archaeological heritage further.

They are scratching their heads as to why Ansar Dine and its well-armed allies, who hijacked a separatist uprising by local Tuareg MNLA rebels following the March coup in the Malian capital Bamako, would risk offending local sensibilities by destroying revered shrines in occupied cities like Timbuktu.

“They are more worried about purity than about being unpopular”, is the explanation Diagne offers.

Scholars are also fretting about the fate of tens of thousands of ancient and brittle manuscripts, some from the 13th century, housed in libraries and private collections in Timbuktu. Academics say these prove Africa had a written history at least as old as the European Renaissance.

Days after the rebels took Timbuktu, local academics, librarians and citizens were hiding away the manuscripts to stop them being damaged or looted.

Jeppie said researchers had since fled the city. Some collectors had smuggled their rarest documents out to Bamako.

Diagne said the biggest fear was that historic manuscripts and artefacts would become the object of looting and trafficking for profit – just another trading commodity in the trackless Sahara, where trafficking in drugs, arms and migrants has replaced the old caravans of slaves, salt and gold.

He found it deeply ironic that the Ansar Dine tomb destroyers, who said they were upholding the name of Islam, were ignoring and denying through their acts the rich layered history and geographical spread of this great global religion.

Noting the role Sufi believers played in spreading Islam beyond its Arabian heartland, Diagne said: “If it had not been for the Sufi orders, Islam would have been a local religion.”

ABU’s message to the people of Sabah : Kuburkan UMNO / BN, kembalikan Sabah, Sarawak dan Malaya balik kepada rakyat Posted on July 4, 2012 3

Anwar mulls 'retirement' if Pakatan loses GE13

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim said he is likely to retire from politics if Pakatan Rakyat does not take over in the next general election.

In an interview with Financial Times published yesterday, the man touted as the prime minister-in-waiting said that he may “return to teaching” if Pakatan tanks at the polls.

“We present our manifesto, our policies, and of course, if I get a mandate, I continue, otherwise I think I'll go back to teaching,” he was quoted as saying.

The London-based newspaper also quoted Anwar as admitting that the 13th general election will “probably” be his last shot at becoming prime minister.

All the same, the daily which is circulated internationally noted that Anwar, 65, appears “tired” for someone who is looking at his best shot to govern the country.

Anwar had previously been reported to have said that he is confident that the next general election will see a change of government.

Enough with the conspiracy theories

Dr Kamal Amzan - The Malaysian Insider

JULY 4 — Some say DAP is an ally of the PAP. Even if it is true, so what?

Yes, I am aware that PAP championed Malaysian Malaysia back in the 1960s, and was blamed for Singapore’s expulsion from the Federation of Malaysia. I also understand the politically correct term now is not Malaysian Malaysia, but instead a totally different, not straightforward meaning, not fully embraced concept of 1 Malaysia.

I am also very well aware that PAP led a Chinese-majority republic as opposed to an Umno-led majority Malay Malaysia.

Now, why is that a problem to us? Why did one newspaper dedicated its last weekly column to painting a racist picture of PAP, also insinuating a repeat of August 1965 in Penang?

Okay, first let us assume that PAP is racist and DAP is also racist by association, but which political party here isn’t? 1 Malaysia Barisan Nasional or the Muslim-Malay majority PAS who is bent on implementing hudud? Or perhaps MCA, MIC?

Who is the one supporting Perkasa and Pekida?

One BN minister even said that they are not ready for non-racial politics even if Malaysians are. Who is the pot calling the kettle black now?

So what if PAP and DAP are racist?

Leaders from PAP have visited Penang and have established cordial economic and social ties with the current state leaders. To be frank, I would want Malaysia to emulate Singapore, Australia, Japan, and Korea when developing the country instead of constantly comparing this country to Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Singapore has one of the highest per capita incomes in the world, with first-class infrastructure and an economy that is very resilient to the global climate. They are home to world-class universities, such as Nanyang Technology University and National University of Singapore that produces top notch graduates, who are sought after even before they graduate.

So why the egoistic stance towards PAP? And secondly, to insinuate that Penang may leave the federation of Malaysia because of the good relationship between PAP and DAP is just plain stupid.

We have witnessed our leaders shake hands with George Bush, Tony Blair and even Bashar Assad of Syria. Just because we maintain good working relationships with their leaders, does it mean we will bomb the innocent and fabricate evidence to support one war? Does maintaining a good working relationship with foreign powers spell a traitorous end on our part?

If no, then why such connection between PAP and DAP? But let me play the devil’s advocate and assume that it’s true. Don’t we have a Federal Constitution that will never allow a repetition of August 9,1965? Even back then, wasn’t it our Parliament that voted 126–0 in favour of a Constitutional amendment expelling Singapore from the federation?

Those with evidence and proof to suggest such a treasonous act should step forward and lodge a report so that these leaders can be put to trial and punished before the court of law.

Otherwise, enough with conspiracy theories and let’s get back to developing the country.

I read recently that the Chinese have succeeded in docking a spacecraft to another in orbit. Sometimes I wonder if the average school-going child out there even knows what a spacecraft or an orbit is, while our leaders bicker about who is more Malay/Chinese/Indian.

'Ensure laws are enforced'

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has more than enough laws to deal with serial criminals.

Universiti Malaya Law Faculty lecturer Datin Nor Aini Abdullah said a new law to punish serial criminals, therefore, was not needed.

Nor Aini, whose area of expertise include criminal law, said "what is more important is to ensure that the current laws are effectively enforced.

"The punishment under the Penal Code is more than enough for serial offenders.

"The courts have the jurisdiction to impose harsher sentence on such offenders."

She was commenting on the calls for the government to implement a habitual offender law, also known as the "three strikes law".

The media, she said, should play their part to inform the public that Malaysia had ample laws to deal with habitual offenders.

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the existing laws should be fully enforced.

Najib Hails Taxi Drivers As Nation's Image Ambassadors

PUTRAJAYA, July 4 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today hailed taxi drivers as an important group which can portray a good image of the country.

He said they could form in the public, particularly foreign tourists, a perception of the country they visited.

The perception, either good or otherwise, was formed when these people used taxis and interacted with the drivers, he said when launching the Tourism Taxi Ambassador Programme, which saw almost 2,000 taxis at Dataran Putra, here.

Najib said that when tourists received satisfactory service, they would feel they were in a country of friendly people prepared to do their best to raise the nation's image.

The prime minister also said that the close to RM35 million in incentives for taxi drivers under the Teksi Rakyat 1Malaysia (TR1Ma) announced recently was preliminary assistance because the government was striving to provide a new development model for the taxi industry.

Najib said the new model would enable the government to better handle the welfare of taxi drivers.

The Tourism Taxi Ambassador Programme, which was started in March, is initially targeted at taxi drivers in the Klang Valley, and is intended to inculcate in them ethical values.

The selected taxi drivers would have to undergo a six-month course which would also incorporate information on Malaysia and the National Tourism Policy.

It is targeted that 4,000 taxi drivers would be appointed as the tourism ambassadors, and up to last month 2,315 taxi drivers had been selected to undergo the course.

Samy Vellu surfaces in Bangladesh over controversial RM9bn bridge

Hello, hello, hello, our intrepid Samy Vellu has surfaced in Bangladesh this time over a controversial RM9.1bn bridge project.

The Padma Bridge is supposed to be a two-level 6.2km long steel truss bridge that will have a four-lane highway on the upper level and a single track railway on the lower level. (Why didn’t we have rail links on our Penang bridges?) It will also have 15km of approach roads.

According to a report in the Daily Star of Bangladesh on 28 June, the Malaysian government will invest around Tk3bn for the construction of the Padma Bridge under an arrangement in a final draft proposal. Construction work will take three years and it will operate the bridge for 37 years before handing over the bridge to the Bangladesh government, the report said, citing sources. This was the proposal reportedly placed before Bangladesh Communications Minister Obaidul Quader by “Malaysian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for infrastructure affairs for South Asia” Samy Vellu.

Days earlier, the Bangladesh government had rejected compromise conditions imposed by the World Bank following corruption probes on the US$2.9bn (RM9.1bn) bridge project.

In September 2011, the World Bank suspended its funding for the project after committing US$1.2bn in credit for the project. (The other financiers were ADB, IDB and JICA.) The World Bank submitted two reports on the corruption allegations, the second based on the findings of a Canadian government probe into graft allegations over the appointment of a bridge supervising consultant.

In a letter to the Bangladesh PM in early June, the World Bank listed several key conditions/suggestions for the funding:
- form a high-power team to probe allegations of corruption in the bridge project.
- appoint an independent body to monitor the implementation of the project and make recommendations.
- do not allow those linked to the corruption allegations to be part of the project implementation.
- allow co-financiers to be actively involved in the procurement process for the bridge.
- increase the capacity of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in the long-term.

The World Bank also wanted to be kept informed of the progress of the investigation.

On 29 June, the World Bank finally cancelled its $1.2bn financing for the project, pointing out that it had “credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials”. This was reported by the Independent of Bangladesh.

On Tuesday, 3 July, Bangladesh Finance Minister AMA Muhith felt compelled to provide a lengthy explanation of the government’s version of events in Parliament. See his statement in the Daily Star. “The statement of the World Bank is not acceptable and the allegation that Bangladesh Government did not take appropriate action against corruption is also not correct,” he said.

“We prequalified five bidders and sent our recommendation to the World Bank in March, 2011. Without raising any objection against these firms they repeatedly advised us to prequalify a Chinese company named X. This advice was not accepted by our evaluation team comprised of specialists. The Bridge Division informed after an inquiry that X never applied for reconsideration and its Bangladeshi partner named Y resorted to fraudulent practice in this connection. This scheming firm established an office in China and applied for reconsideration in the name of X. On coming to know this, X informed in writing that they are not interested in this project. At the same time, they severed partnership with Y. The owner of Y is right now absconding. The World Bank went on repeatedly recommending X without examining properly the objection raised by X.”

The finance minister said the problem with the World Bank conditions was that “we were forced to admit the corruption allegations before they were substantiated. Therefore, we did not accede to their proposal and resorted to other means to dispel their concerns. Their second proposal was redundant as the ACC (the anti-corruption agency) formed their investigation team much earlier. Their third proposal is in contravention with the existing laws of the ACC which is independent and is not bound to be guided by the dictates of any foreign agency.”

For good measure, Muhith slammed the World Bank: “I consider that the statement of the WB has humiliated the whole country and the allegation labelled against us is not well founded. It is also not true that the Government of Bangladesh has not taken any appropriate action to avert corruption. I think we have considered courteously all the recommendations of the WB going well beyond our routine procedures.”

So now, enter the corruption-free Malaysians?!

Samy Vellu needs to brief Malaysians about what exactly is going on and who exactly will provide the financing for the project. Why go into such a project given the controversial background?

The larger question is, does Bangladesh really need a RM9bn bridge when there is so much poverty in the country?

Who or which company is ultimately going to profit the most?

Follow the money trail and see who benefits and who usually pays in projects like this:

Where is the money coming from?
Loans from (international?) financiers or government agencies. What do they get in return? Interest income.

Where does the money go?

Giant (foreign?) construction firms, often from the same country that provides the financing.
Design firms
Steel and concrete firms
Road builders
Toll concessionaires
Shareholders of these firms (including rent-seekers)
(Corrupt?) intermediaries (‘commissions’, ‘success fees’, ‘consultants’ fees’)

Who foots the bill in the end?
Ordinary citizens – through taxes and/or tolls

Thanks to blog reader Loke for the tip off.

Bernasib baik tak ke tali gantung

KALAICHELVI diiring keluar daripada Mahkamah Tinggi Ipoh selepas dijatuhi hukuman penjara dua tahun semalam
KALAICHELVI diiring keluar daripada Mahkahmah
IPOH: Seorang wanita terlepas hukuman gantung sampai mati kerana menyebabkan kematian seorang lelaki

yang menceroboh rumahnya sebelum cuba menidurinya yang ketika itu sedang mengandung tahun lalu, selepas pertuduhan terhadapnya ditukar daripada Seksyen 302 Kanun Keseksaan (KK) kepada Seksyen 304A KK.

Dengan penukaran tuduhan itu, S Kalaichelvi, 24, yang mengaku salah secara cuai menyebabkan kematian lelaki berkenaan, dijatuhi hukuman penjara maksimum dua tahun oleh Mahkamah Tinggi di sini, semalam.

Hakim Datuk Zainal Adzam Abd Ghani membuat keputusan itu selepas Kalaichelvi membuat pengakuan itu terhadap tuduhan pilihan mengikut Seksyen 304A KK kerana menyebabkan kematian M Kumaran, 30, menggunakan sebilah parang dan batang besi di rumah bernombor 124 Jalan Bistari 7, Taman Bistari, Ayer Tawar, Manjung pada kira-kira jam 3 pagi hingga 3.30 pagi, 7 Januari 2010.

Tuduhan asal dihadapi Kalaichelvi bersama suaminya, G Kalipar, 26, adalah mengikut Seksyen 302 KK, namun semalam, pihak pendakwa menukar tuduhan terhadap suri rumah itu kepada Seksyen 304A KK.

Tuduhan terhadap Kalipar yang sebelum ini bekerja sebagai pemandu feri pula digugurkan tetapi dia kemudian didakwa atas kesalahan melupuskan bukti mengikut Seksyen 201 KK di Mahkamah Majistret Manjung.

Zainal Adzam berkata, Kalaichelvi sepatutnya berdepan tuduhan lebih berat kerana fakta kes menunjukkan kesalahan dilakukan amat kejam, namun pihak pendakwa meringankan tuduhan.

“Dalam kes ini turut menunjukkan ada usaha membawa mayat dan membuangnya. Oleh itu, hukuman yang patut dikenakan terhadap tertuduh adalah dua tahun penjara (hukuman penjara maksimum) dari tarikh tertuduh ditahan,” katanya ketika membuat keputusan itu.

Pasangan itu ditahan tiga hari selepas kejadian iaitu pada 10 Januari selepas mereka menyerah diri di Balai Polis Sitiawan.

Terdahulu, peguam tertuduh, Charan Singh meminta mahkamah meringankan hukuman berdasarkan beberapa fakta iaitu tertuduh menyerah diri selain kesalahan dilakukan semata-mata bagi melindungi dirinya selepas Kumaran menceroboh masuk rumah tertuduh dan kemudian enggan keluar walaupun tertuduh mencurah serbuk kari ke muka dan memukulnya dengan batang besi sebelum menggunakan parang.

Bagaimanapun, Timbalan Pendakwa Raya, Nur Laila Mohamed Nazil memohon mahkamah mengenakan hukuman setimpal berdasarkan kecederaan berganda di kelapa si mati akibat tetakan bertubi-tubi oleh tertuduh.

Mengikut fakta kes, Kalaichelvi dan Kumaran yang mengenali antara satu sama lain, saling berhubung melalui telefon pada hari kejadian sebelum Kumaran memecah masuk rumah itu melalui pintu belakang pada kira-kira jam 3 pagi dan meminta tertuduh melakukan hubungan intim bersamanya dengan menarik baju dan rambut tertuduh memasuki bilik tidur.

Tertuduh sempat mencurah serbuk kari ke mata Kumaran sebelum mengambil sebatang besi di dapur lalu memukulnya bertubi-tubi di kepala mangsa. Apabila Kumaran merampas batang besi itu, tertuduh mencapai parang lalu menetak mangsa beberapa kali menyebabkannya berundur dan jatuh di ruang tamu.

Kira-kira sejam kemudian, tertuduh bersama suaminya membungkus mangsa dan membuangnya ke dalam air di kawasan pembetong di tepi Jalan Lekir, Sitiawan.

Artikel ini disiarkan pada : 2011/06/04 (