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Friday, August 31, 2012

'Merdeka March for Jalan Sultan'

Supreme Court upholds Kasab's death sentence. Hang Kasab Immediately.

26/11: Supreme Court upholds Kasab's death sentence.
NEW DELHI | Aug 29, 2012 : The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the plea of Ajmal Kasab in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks case and upheld the sentence of death penalty awarded by the Bombay high court. 

Kasab and his nine fellow jihadis had attacked CST railway station, Cama Hospital, Vinoli Chaupati junction, Oberoi Hotel, Taj Hotel, Nariman House and Leopold cafe in Mumbai on November 26, 2008 resulting in killing of 166 people and injuring 238 others. 
A two-judge bench of the apex court pronounced the judgement at 10.30am. 
The bench said the first and foremost crime committed by Kasab was that he participated in a conspiracy to wage war against India. 
The apex court rejected the Kasab's plea that he did not get a fair trial and observed that there is no prejudice that has been caused to him. 
The apex court said the trial court had made repeated attempts o provide him with a lawyer but he had spurned the offer initially and said he did not want to accept Indian lawyers.
The judges said that in the totality of facts, evidences and circumstances the court had no option but to impose death sentence on Kasab.
Earlier, the Bombay high court had upheld the trial court's verdict to award death sentence to Kasab, the lone surviving gunman who was part of the 10-member fidayeen team that attacked Mumbai. 
Kasab was convicted of criminal conspiracy, waging war against the nation, Section 302 of IPC (murder) and terror related provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The HC had agreed with the trial court that the case against Kasab fell in the rarest of rare category and upheld the decision to award death penalty to the Pakistani.[TOI].Courtesy: TOI | Jagran.

Men shave off woman's hair, parade her in streets

Lahore: Five men allegedly shaved off the hair and eyebrows of a young woman and paraded her in the streets of a village in Pakistan's Punjab province, police officials said Tuesday.

The incident occurred yesterday in Layyah district, 350 km from Lahore, after the married woman was accused of having "illicit" relations with a man.

According to an FIR registered by police, Parveen Bibi, 25, the wife of Sabir Husain, had a quarrel with her sisters-in-law.

Yesterday, her brothers-in-law Muhammad Pervaiz and Muhammad Zafar and three other men shaved off her hair and eyebrows. They then blackened her face and paraded her through the streets of their village.

Police arrested Parveen's sisters-in-law and a man named Muhammad. The woman’s brothers-in-law are still at large.

Shafiq told police that Parveen had developed "illicit" relations with a man of her neighbourhood.

"We stopped her from meeting him but she continued seeing him," Shafiq, who is related to Parveen, told the police.


Youth group: Don’t vote Pakatan Rakyat

A vote for Pakatan Rakyat is a vote for PAS, which could spell an end to personal liberties, says the Malaysian Youth Rights Movement.

PETALING JAYA: A youth group is urging Malaysians not to vote for Pakatan Rakyat during the next general election as it claims that PAS, which is a member of the opposition pact, will endanger non-Muslims’ personal liberties.

The Malaysian Youth Rights Movement said this in light of the deputy PAS Youth chief Nik Abduh Nik Aziz’s statement yesterday, who likened a pool party held last night to a “sex party” due to the dress code allowing participants to don swim wear.

Its president Shen Yee Aun pointed out that not only was swim wear optional, the emcee for the “Wet and Mad Wednesday” party had also announced that Muslim women should refrain from wearing outfits deemed inappropriate to the Muslim faith.

“The pool party had a dress code stating ‘stylish, sexy, trendy and tasteful swim wear allowed”, but swim wear was not a requirement – participants could choose what to wear and whether to enter the pool or not,” Shen said in a statement.

“The event is basically just a pool party. It is out of line for PAS to even bring up things like prostitution, abortion, abandoning babies while condemning the event, all because of an event at a licensed entertainment outlet that caters to people of legal age.”

Shen said that PAS’ reaction to the event was just another addition to the Islamist party’s “dangerous track record” of encroaching on non-Muslim’s lives – a record that he claimed included attempts to ban Valentine’s day celebrations in Malaysia, the segregation of men and women in Kelantan, as well as the banning of bikinis in Terengganu and Kelantan.

Simple pool party

“Malaysia has long enjoyed freedom – be it dress code and fashion, or even choices of lifestyle and entertainment. However in the states that PAS has held power for a long time, the freedom to dress and even mingle with others is severely restricted,” he said.

He said that the group was not alone in questioning PAS’ restrictions, pointing out a New Straits Times article in July which quoted 20-year-olds’ unhappiness that unmarried couples were banned from sitting side by side in Kuala Selangor’s sole cinema.

But the ruling was revoked within the same month, with Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad telling reporters that the enforcement was very unlikely to be implemented in the future.

Shen also flayed DAP and PKR for remaining silent on the issue and “failing to stand up for the rights of the youth, women and non-Muslim community in Malaysia”.

“We sincerely urge all Malaysian youth, women and non-Muslim community to vote against Pakatan Rakyat in the upcoming general election unless they clarify their stand,” he said.

“Pakatan continues to manipulate the public that hudud law is only for Muslims and non-Muslims will not be affected, but they have shown their intent by speaking out against a simple pool party,” he added.

He also said that the group would launch a campaign to “enlighten all Malaysian youths regarding the danger to personal liberties if they were to vote Pakatan into power”.

Janji Demokrasi: 10,000 near Dataran Merdeka

About 10,000 people gathered near Pasar Seni and Dataran Merdeka to remind the government of its unfulfilled promises.
KUALA LUMPUR: About 10,000 people gathered peacefully near Dataran Merdeka tonight where the Janji Demokrasi coalition and supporters of Save Jalan Sultan converged to remind the government of its unfulfilled promises.
While the Janji Demokrasi coalition wants electoral reform, the Save Jalan Sultan group is opposing the construction of the MRT. The crowd started gathering as early 9.30pm.
There was an air of fiesta despite police presence and Dataran Merdeka itself was cordoned off to facilitate the official Merdeka celebration tomorrow morning.
PAS deputy president Mat Sabu’s presence was greeted with cheers from the crowd. Also seen in the crowd was PKR vice-president and Batu MP Tian Chua.
National Laureate A Samad Said also arrived along with Empower executive director Maria Chin Abdullah – both also being the steering committee members of Bersih. Samad was expected to read out a poem before the gathering was officially called to an end just past midnight.
Earlier, more than 2,000 people from the Save Jalan Sultan group gathered at the Gospel Hall along Jalan Hang Jebat to protest the construction of the My Rapid Transit (MRT) line.
The crowd started congregating at around 8pm with many of them clad in yellow Bersih T-shirts. They demanded the government and the MRT project to stay away from the Jalan Sultan area.
Three demands

Their protest was part of a matter that dominated the area for the past 13 months: the building of underground tunnels, which some argued would put heritage sites there at risk.
Preservation for Jalan Sultan Committee chief Stanley Yong Yew Wei told the crowd: “If it is to be built, what will happen to the memory (of Jalan Sultan)?”
He was flanked by several Jalan Sultan landowners and DAP elected reps.
They were also supported by Himpunan Hijau Raub, Janji Demokrasi and other activist groups.
They then demanded three things:
  • withdrawal of the new gazetting of the land and its subsequent land acquisition.
  • for the importance of public consultation to be realised.
  • urging Malaysians to make a “wise decision” in the next general election.
Yong further warned that the committee would not hesitate to call for another rally to defend Jalan Sultan “if necessary”.
The crowd later marched from the Gospel Hall at around 9pm towards the Pasar Seni LRT station. They were accompanied by drummers and a lion dance troupe.
Along the way, they chanted “Defend our heritage!” and “Bersih!”
Many of them later made their way for the Janji Demokrasi rally, which started at nearby Dataran Merdeka at 11pm. The iconic square itself is cordoned off to facilitate the official Merdeka celebration tomorrow morning.
Asked later on what he meant by more rallies, Yong said: “Certainly one rally is not enough to translate our message clearly (to the government)… It is clearly a useful tool to bring solidarity among the people.”
He added that he did not see large rallies forming along Jalan Sultan in the future unless there was a need for it.
The committee’s supporters, he said, would gather at Parliament or at various ministry headquarters, instead.

Unpublished news: Malay rulers were against any move to turn the country into an Islamic state

rulers.jpgMalay rulers were against any move to turn the country into an Islamic state from the very beginning of Malaya independence talks, said Hindraf Makkal Sakti here today.

During the pre-independence talks for Malaya, Hindraf supremo P Waytha Moorthy said the rulers definitely backed for establishment of a secular state to safeguard rights and interests of all Malaysians.

He said documents on pre-independence talks disclosed that the rulers wanted Islamic religious matters to be under their jurisdiction.

He said Malaysians must know that during pre-independence days, all states in Malaya were identified and recognised as separate countries.

He said respective rulers wanted control over Islamic religious affairs and maintain a secular state in their respective “countries.”

He said the rulers submitted a collective representation on this to the Reid Commission through their legal counsel, a highly respected British Queen’s Counsel Neil Lawson, who was a member of British Communist Party.

Reid Commission was formed to receive recommendations and draft the Constitution for the imminent independent Federation of Malaya.

“The rulers unanimously agreed and accepted only the proposition and implication of parliamentary democracy and civil law to reign supreme over everything else.

“They never wanted an Islamic state,” Waytha Moorthy, pointing out that the system of constitutional monarch was a fundamental foundation of an independent Malaya.

He was responding to the political furore caused by PAS’s desire to turn Malaysia to an Islamic state and introduce hudud as the supreme legislation.

He said DAP national chairman and senior parliamentarian Karpal Singh was absolutely right to opposing PAS’s Islamic agenda as unconstitutional.

He charged that the Islamisation process of administration started by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamed was unconstitutional and disdainful against the spirit of country’s independence.

He said Umno had committed so much unconstitutional misconduct, intimidation and bullying via religious extremism and racism under its 55 years of misrule in the country.

He chided other Barisan Nasional component parties for having been politically impotent to stop Umno hegemony for half century.

Since pre-independence days, he said the rulers opposed Islamisation of administration and federal government interference or involvement in religious affairs.

Hence, he said an Islamic agenda would be unconstitutional and against interests of all Malaysians, the very spirit of independence and wishes of rulers to be just and fair to all Malaysians.

“This was well documented in Malaya pre-independence talks,” said Waytha Moorthy.

He said the rulers’ unanimous stand against an Islamic state was discovered when he scrutinised documents on Malaya pre-independence talks in London archives.

He extracted about 40,000 documents after perusing some half-million documents on Malaya pre-independence taks to facilitate Hindraf’s multi-million ringgit class action suit against the UK government.

Waytha Moorthy, who returned to Malaysia after five-years living in England, filed the suit in London High Court on July 2.

The suit was to seek justice for colonial wrongs done by the British government, the country’s former colonial government, on Malaysian ethnic Indians.

Waytha Moorthy rubbished suggestions that the country’s Islamic agenda was an exclusive Malay – Muslim issue and not for others to deliberate because of its sensitivity.

He said the agenda affects some 13 million non-Muslim Malaysians who have equal citizenry rights to oppose any attempt to establish an Islamic state.

He said the pro-Islamist groups should not foolishly talk as if only Malay – Muslims have dignity, rights and sensitivity while others don’t.

He said ethnic Indian and Chinese communities who represented the world’s earliest, greater and dominant civilizations have all rights to uphold a secular state and civil law supremacy.

“Islamic agenda was matter of national interests and the Malay – Muslims should realise they were not the only citizens in the country. 

The Special Position of the Malays (Part One)

The special position of the Malays is not a concept that was invented by the ethnic Alliance parties in 1957. The concept had existed at least as early as the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement, clause 19(i) of which provided that:
In the exercise of his executive authority, the High Commissioner shall have the following special responsibilities that is to say: …
(d) the safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities.
When, therefore, the Alliance parties agreed to preserve the special position of the Malays in 1957, they were simply continuing what had existed in Malaya the decade before Merdeka.
Between 1948 and 1957, the special privileges consisted mainly in reservations for the Malays in four areas:
  • estates in land;
  • positions in the public service;
  • scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities;
  • permits or licenses for the operation of trade or business, where required by federal law.
A memorandum prepared for the Reid Commission set out the extent of these privileges. In the area of landholdings, the special privilege consisted primarily in the reservation of land for Malays pursuant to State laws in gazetted areas in the Malay States (but not in Malacca or Penang). The specific provisions and the extent of the reservations varied from State to State; e.g. in Kelantan, nearly the whole State was reserved for the Malays, whereas in Trengganu, no reservations had been made.
Within the public service, qualified Malays were given preference over other applicants for employment. In addition, certain government departments applied a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio of Malays to non-Malays. But as the memorandum noted, these policies applied only to first appointments to the Service and not for subsequent promotions, pursuant to clause 152 of the 1948 Federation of Malaya Agreement, as ‘racial considerations cease to count in respect of the promotion of officers who are already in the Government Service.’
In education, similar quotas also applied. The memorandum states that in 1948, due to the fact that there were few non-Malays who were federal citizens (Malays formed 85% of the electorate in the first nationwide election in 1955) a 3:1 ratio had been proposed ‘to safeguard not only the special position of the Malays but also the legitimate interests of the other communities’.
Eventually, it was thought, the awards would be divided in accordance with the proportion of Malays and non-Malays among federal citizens as a whole. But the 3:1 quota came to be seen as fixed, and relaxing it required the consent of the Conference of Rulers.
Nevertheless, minimum standards were maintained: each year between 1952 and 1956, because of the shortage of qualified Malays in technical subjects, the British asked for, and Rulers consented to, the majority of overseas scholarships to be given instead to qualified non-Malays.
In the area of business licences and permits, the special privilege only applied to the road transport industry, where the policy was applied to licences and permits for taxis, buses and haulage lorries in each State or Settlement, in order to ‘render the proportion of [Malay operators] equivalent to their proportion of the population of that State or Settlement as a whole’.
It is with this background in mind that we can now consider the agreed position of the Alliance parties at the time of Merdeka. The Alliance memorandum to the Reid Commission on 25 September 1956 provided:
Special position of the Malays
While we accept that in independent Malaysia, all nationals should be accorded equal rights, privileges and opportunities and there must not be discrimination on grounds of race or creed, we recognize the fact that the Malays are the original sons of the soil and that they have a special position arising from this fact, and also by virtue of the treaties made between the British Government and the various sovereign Malay States. The Constitution should, therefore, provide that the Yang di-Pertuan Besar should have the special responsibility of safeguarding the special position of the Malays. In pursuance of this, the Constitution should give him powers to reserve for Malays a reasonable proportion of lands, posts in the public service, permits to engage in business or trade, where such permits are restricted and controlled by law, Government scholarships and such similar privileges accorded by the Government; but in pursuance of his further responsibility of safeguarding the legitimate interests of the other communities, the Constitution should also provide that any exercise of such powers should not in any way infringe the legitimate interests of the other communities or adversely affect or diminish the rights and opportunities at present enjoyed by them.
The first point that we may note is that the special position of the Malays was meant to be a limited derogation from the general principle of equality and non-discrimination.
The extent of the derogation was to be limited, firstly, by the specified areas to which reservations could be made, and secondly, by the requirement that such reservations must be reasonable.
The second point that we may note is that the special position of the Malays was not intended to ‘adversely affect or diminish’ the rights and opportunities that were then available to the other communities.
Further clarification was obtained by Lord Reid on 27 September 1956, during submissions by the Alliance before the Reid Commission:
Chairman: But you would be prepared to leave [State reservations of land for Malays] to the provision that an extension of the privilege is not to be increased substantially because you say at the end, the privilege “should not in any way infringe the legitimate interests of the other communities”. That would mean that you must not have more of these privileges than you have at present, I suppose.
Dato Abdul Razak: We do not want to reduce the legitimate interests of the others. What we have in mind is not to give Malay special rights by taking away the legitimate rights of other people.

Chairman: I think what you mean here—the Malays have certain rights at this moment, and of course every additional privilege is, to some extent, prejudicing the others because it is limiting the amount of land or the number of jobs they could get and so on; and I think what you have in mind was that there should be no substantial increase in the present rights and privileges but that they should gradually be diminished and that it should be the responsibility of the Prime Minister, in Federal matters, to regulate the way in which it should be diminished?

Dato Abdul Razak: In certain cases it should be increased—in business or trade the Malays have very few permits, and they should be given more, but by giving more we should not take away from what the non-Malays now have. That is the idea.
A third point that may be noted is that the special position of the Malays was not intended to be permanent, but on the contrary was to be regularly reviewed, and diminished over time:
Tunku Abdul Rahman: The suggestion is that there should be a review every 15 years.

Chairman: That would not mean, I suppose, that it was wrong to do anything before that?

Tunku Abdul Rahman: No. The present system of doing it is this: for instance there is a condition that there should be three Malays appointed to every one non-Malay, but that particular rule has been relaxed from time to time … the main thing is that we say here under general terms of the special position of the Malays that it should be reviewed every 15 years, but that does not prevent the government of the day from relaxing the rule from time to time.
In the next Part of this series, we shall see how the Reid Commission implemented the intra-Alliance bargain in the Draft Federal Constitution, on the basis of the Alliance submissions presented above, and how this came to be rejected by the Alliance parties.

Vigilante "Justice" in Pakistan

Holy man and his book
Holy man and his book
(Asia Sentinel) Murders for alleged Islamic blasphemy are on the rise 

Pakistani police and government authorities have remained silent over the recent immolation of a mentally disabled Muslim male near Bahawalpur, in the southern region of Pakistan, for alleged blasphemy against the Holy Quran.

It is the latest in a growing string of such murders. No arrests have been made since the July 25 incident, which took place in the South Punjab of Pakistan region. Ghulam Abbas, a homeless male in his 40s, was burned to death by a mob of 2,000 men for allegedly desecrating the Muslim holy book. Locals complained that he had supposedly ripped pages from the Quran.

Although he was arrested and taken into police custody, Muslim religious leaders began demanding on mosque loudspeakers that the people punish the alleged blasphemer. Within hours, a mob gathered outside the police station and demanded either police kill him, or hand him over for punishment The police were unable to control the emotionally charged crowd, mainly students from the neighborhood madrasahs, who attacked the police station, injured seven policemen, burned several police vehicles and broke into the jail. The mob also attacked the home of a police officer and burned his furniture.

The mob then dragged Ghulam through the streets, beating him, then doused him with petrol and set him alight despite his screams for help.

The case again highlights the dangerous nature of country’s blasphemy laws, under which anyone can be killed on a simple allegation of insulting Prophet Muhammad or the Quran. Human rights organisations, minority groups, and others have denounced the outrage. Although President Ali Zardari ordered an investigation of the incident, no progress has been made and none is expected. The absence of action by the Punjab government appears to endorse the vigilante justice and empowers those who make their own justice in the name of religion.

"It is upsetting that police did not arrest anyone even though a First Information Report has been filed against the attackers," a Christian leader said.

Local people say that fundamentalists were involved, making it unlikely that police will take action. It is also the act of an angry mob, making it difficult to identify a lone culprit. However, in previous cases, the culprits remained unpunished even after they were identified.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has demanded a credible inquiry and said its findings should be made public.

“The government must not only compensate the family of the deceased for its failure to protect the life of a man in police custody from ‘mob justice,’ but also take concrete measures to avoid such unfortunate incidents in the future,” the rights commission said. Since the introduction to the blasphemy laws, many people belong to religious minorities including Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis have been murdered. Although the laws are mainly used against religious minorities, many Muslims have been charged as well.

Mob lynching of alleged blasphemers has been on the rise. In the recent months, many incidents have taken place across the country. On June 17, for instance, a mob tried to storm a police station in Karachi to get hold of a Muslim, Saleem, who was booked and arrested for allegedly desecrating the Quran, but police fired into the air and threw tear gas to scatter the crowd. By the police accounts, the accused was a drug addict. The mob demanded that the police hand over the suspect so that they could hang him. Later, the police have put him in insolation as a protective measure.

On June 16, in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, a mob stormed into a police station and was intent on stoning a man to death accused of blasphemy, and desecration of the Quran. The police responded with tear gas and gunfire to restore order, with the result that two children were killed and around 15 people injured.

In April this year, in a similar case in Faisalabad another Muslim, identified as Imran, was also rescued by police from a mob, which was fired up by a local fundamentalist organization. Police sources said the man was mentally ill and had denied the charges. During the same month in Lahore, yt another Muslim man, Iqbal Butt, 80-year old, was murdered after having been released from jail after having been acquitted of the charge of blasphemy.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, introduced by the military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, blasphemy against the Prophet is punishable by death while blasphemy against the Quran is punishable by life imprisonment. Unfortunately, people have been killed despite the fact that the majority of charges have been proven false later.

Such charges go back a long way. In 1994, Hafiz Farooq Sajad, also a Muslim, was murdered by a mob in Gujranwala, Punjab province, because his neighbor had accused him of desecration of the Quran. He was burnt to death in the same manner as Ghulam Abbas was killed.

Two Christian brothers accused of writing a blasphemous pamphlet were gunned down at the session’s court in Faisalabad on July 19, 2010. In 2009, seven Christians, the majority of them women and small children, were burnt alive in Gojra, Punjab province, when a Muslim mob attacked a Christian church alleged desecration of the Quran in a village near Gojra City.

Minorities have been constantly living under pressure because they are the easiest target of blasphemy allegations. Many members of minority community have been jailed and executed. Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, has been imprisoned for more than three years and awaits a death sentence for alleged blasphemy charges. Last year, two prominent Pakistani political figures, Governor Salman Taseer and Minority Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were killed, raising serious concerns over the rise of religious extremism in. Ironically, Urdu media, especially electronic media, offered a platform for the justification of Taseer’s murder by inflaming passions.

Unfortunately, the nexus of bigotry between mullah and media promotes intolerance with pride, which is putting many innocent people’s lives on risk.

Although recently President Asif Ali Zardari has said that the government is determined not to permit anyone to misuse blasphemy laws against minorities or any other vulnerable groups, the misuse of the laws is on the increase. It is not only the government which has little appetite to save innocent people from the wrath of the fanatics. Regrettably, the majority of political parties are not ready to take the issue. For some, this is not even an issue.

For instance, emerging political leader Imran Khan, a famous cricketer, has no interest in the violent cases related to blasphemy laws because, as he told the BBC, only few hundred people are affected by these laws. People are not surprised over his thoughts because he is a major supporter of Taliban and their ideology. However, what he said, certainly, has serious ramification. Khan has also attended the rallies of the Defa-e-Pakistan Council, led by Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, head of a terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

When the establishment, a big section of the media, the judiciary, religious groups and many political parties have the same illogical approach towards blasphemy cases, asking rational questions about the laws are almost impossible. About a month ago, Gabriela Knaul, the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, criticized Pakistan’s application of its blasphemy laws.

“I am especially concerned regarding cases brought under the so-called ‘blasphemy law’ as it was reported to me that judges have been coerced to decide against the accused even without supporting evidence; as for the lawyers, in addition to their reluctance to take up such cases, they are targeted and forced not to represent their clients properly,” KNaul said during her visit. “In addition, judges, prosecutors and lawyers working on cases related to terrorist acts and organized crime are also often the target of serious threats and attacks from various actors, including non-State actors.”

She was further struck, she said by reports of existing laws, such as the blasphemy law, being misused to target women and strip them of their fundamental rights.

“Many stages of the justice system, starting with filing a case with the police, to accessing lawyers and appearing and testifying before courts, are gender-biased, and this impedes the full functioning of justice for women.”

Recently, the London based Minority Rights Group International said it was deeply disappointed at the failed efforts to amend Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which discriminates against and targets religious minorities.

“This law poses a serious threat to Pakistan’s religious minorities and should be removed,’ said Carl Soderbergh, Director of Policy and Communications.

Although the widespread misuse of the law remains a serious concern for human rights organizations in and outside of the country, the laws cast a murky shadow across Pakistan. The laws have become the source of intimidation, fear and violence. Minorities have been demanding the total repeal of them. If it is impossible at this stage, the laws must be modified to offer safety contrary to fabricated blame, and the victim should get free and fair trial.

(Aftab Alexander Mughal is the editor of the E-Magazine Minorities Concern of Pakistan)

TERUS TERANG : Sebangsa Senegara Sejiwa - ANWAR IBRAHIM

Regime change looms in Malaysia — Liew Chin Tong

AUG 30 — A very young demographic profile, a high urbanisation rate, ever increasing access to the Internet and extreme longevity in power, among other factors, will be working against the ruling coalition in Malaysia’s coming election.

There are many reasons for the international community to be deeply cognisant of this fact, and to prepare for a regime change in that country for the first time since it gained independence in 1957.

Soon after the government suffered severe setbacks in elections held on March 8, 2008, the country went into a permanent campaign mode, and has remained that way ever since.

A general election have to be called soon, since the Malaysian Constitution requires that Parliament be dissolved by 28th April 2013 upon the completion of its five-year mandate.

It may be true that the government won 140 of 222 seats in the Lower House while the opposition managed to secure the remaining 82. But a closer look shows that the actual gap between the two coalitions to be much smaller.

The ruling Barisan Nasional actually won only 51.4 per cent of the votes while the opposition gained 48.6 per cent. Of the 7.9 million effective votes, BN and the three national opposition parties were separated by a mere 313,509 ballots.

As of the end of June 2012, there are 12.9 million Malaysians on the electoral roll. As many as 2.5 million of these — about 20 per cent — are first-time voters; and it is these who will decide the outcome of the election.

The 13-party ruling coalition — the BN — will be highlighting past achievements in its campaign and playing on the appeal of the status quo while the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat, vows to improve governance in the country through radical policy changes.

The status quo message is however unlikely to have an impact on an almost Arab-spring demography: 48 per cent of Malaysia’s population are below 25 years old and 70 per cent are below 40 years old (though not all are voters).

The BN, especially its kingpin, Umno, has always relied heavily on a rural vote bank. It has therefore good grounds to worry since as many as 70 per cent of Malaysians now live in cities, compared to 11 per cent in 1957 and 35 per cent in 1980.

The young and urban are highly wired online as well. With 17.5 million internet users, Malaysia’s internet penetration rate is 61.7 per cent of the population and 81 per cent of the populated areas. On top of that, Malaysia is also one of the most active country on Facebook, with 12 million users, ranking 19th in the world.

The easy access to alternative information has undermined the efficacy of the control over the mainstream media exercised by the government, be it through licensing procedures, censorship or partisan ownership.

The BN has been ruling Malaysia ever since its earliest guise, The Alliance Party, won a self-government election under British auspices in 1955. It is now the longest serving elected ruling party in the world. The only longer serving ones, are the non-elected communist regimes in North Korea, China and Vietnam.

The many negative signs of this political longevity are all too visible to the increasingly sophisticated voters. Essentially, not only has the government over the years alienated non-Malay ethnic groups through its race-based politics, rampant corruption and intra-ethnic economic inequality, but have also driven Malay voters away.

BN had for quite a while styled itself as the moderating force in the ethnically charged population. However, after Umno began turning right in 2005 both in rhetoric and in action, it began losing ethnic Chinese and Indian support.

In 2008, significant numbers of ethnic Malays frustrated with corruption and cronyism joined this movement to vote against the government.

This sense of alienation has not diminished in the intervening years. On the contrary, more groups are showing open dissent against the central government. The Kadazan Dusun Murut group in the state of Sabah is strongly aroused and highly critical of the government’s handling of the long-standing citizenship-for-votes scandals that allegedly allow Umno to build up its support base in the state.

Umno strategists, using the party-controlled newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, and the affiliated right-wing group Perkasa, are working overtime to stop the dwindling of their Malay support base, and are doing all they can to portray the party as a fiercer ethnic champion than opposition Malay parties and leaders. So far, this seems to be alienating more middle-ground voters.

Across the board at the moment, what Malaysians seem to be seeking is greater economic equality as well as an open and clean government. And yet, Prime Minister Najib Razak continues with micro-level vote-buying measures such as giving cash handouts to strategic groups at a time when the country is in great need of macro-level reforms.

The long years in power has also seen the BN generate its own worst enemies. Many leaders in the opposition were formerly from the ruling coalition, including former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Their experience in government has been serving as a much-needed reassurance to voters that the opposition is ready to exercise power efficiently, while their personal networks within the system has brought valuable information and understanding of the system that had previously eluded the opposition.

Previous opposition coalitions (in 1990 and 1999) were hastily formed during election time and they easily collapsed soon after. An alternative coalition that has been tested for more than four years, with that has gained substantial administrative experience in governing four out of 13 states is in itself a novel — and critical — factor.

While all the built-in advantages that favour BN in an election have not disappeared and those that remain will be put to full use in the electoral contest that is to come, the factors that work against the government have been gaining strength as well. For the first time ever, it does look very possible that the old government will be voted out. — New Mandala

* Liew Chin Tong is the member of parliament for Bukit Bendera

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.

13th General Election Will Determine Umno And BN's Survival, Najib Reminds

BALING, Aug 30 (Bernama) -- Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak today reminded party members that the upcoming 13th general election would determine Umno and Barisan Nasional's (BN) survival.

He also reminded them to learn from the experience of losing (five states) in the 2008 general election and not to repeat those actions which caused the loss.

"I don't want to see anymore politics of playing one against another and no more factions in the party...don't want anymore sulking and back-stabbing in the election campaign.

"If all the party members support the candidates chosen, it will be impossible for us to lose in the elections," he said when simultaneously opening the delegates meetings of six Umno divisions in south Kedah at the Rakan Muda Complex, here.

Also present were the prime minister's wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, Kedah Umno liaison chief Datuk Paduka Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah, his deputy Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir, Baling Umno division head Datuk Abdul Azeez and its Wanita chief Datuk Dr Mashitah Ibrahim.

The other five division chiefs present were Datuk Tajuddin Abdullah (Sik), Datuk Tajul Urus Mohd Zain (Merbok), Ali Yahya (Sungai Petani) and Datuk Abdul Aziz Sheikh Fadzir (Kulim/Bandar Baru), and acting chief Abdul Halim Saad (Padang Serai).

The prime minister said as an experienced and mature party, Umno should be able to resolve all its problems.

"It's already four years (since the last general election)...there should be no more problems, no more finger pointing...enough is enough. Time to close ranks. Too much already been said, until foaming at the mouth.

"If we love the party, we have to accept (the decisions) with resignation. If chosen (as candidates), we say alhamdulillah (Praise to God). If not chosen, we also say alhamdulillah. If that is the attitude, it means we are mature," said Najib who is also Umno president.

"When I say the party wants winnable candidates, all (aspirants) will claim they are winnable candidates but actually, only half of them can win."

Najib said although there were ups and downs in politics, Umno was still a relevant party and would live long.

"Learn from your success but the most effective lesson is failure. It is easy to make promises but difficult to fulfil," said Najib, adding that members must love the party unconditionally.

"I have been long (in the party). When I 'salam', I can read the person's feelings and in a tight grasp, I can read even more. All our election candidates must pass the test," he said

Najib said there were signs of public support returning to Umno as the government's various policies and programmes that were inclusive to assist the people, such as the Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M), were much appreciated by the people.

"We understand the needs and demands of the people, unlike the opposition which has chosen to raise the hudud issue close to the general election.

"We have built thousands of mosques, but PAS has built only two while ruling Kelantan for 22 years."

He said Umno would continue to stuggle for Islam and work at enhancing its civilisation.

"InsyaAllah (God willing), we place the right people, qualified and trustworthy. There is no wedge between the ulama and national leaders so that Islam will continue to flourish," he added.

On the general election in Kedah, Najib said south Kedah was the pillar for BN to wrest back the state from the opposition, but other divisions were equally important.

At the end of his speech, Najib said in jest that he had the urge to dissolve Parliament but added, "let me see first."

The prime minister and his wife than made time to attend a Hari Raya gathering with Baling folk before leaving for Alor Setar for another Hari Raya do with the people at the grounds of Darul Aman Stadium.

Ex-EO detainee gunned down outside school

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — An Emergency Ordinance (EO) detainee who was recently released from custody did not live long to enjoy his freedom.

K. Archuthan, 41, was shot dead at close range by a gunman in front of a secondary school in Selayang Baru this afternoon.

He died on the spot in the incident at about 1pm, while his wife sustained injuries to the waist.

The couple were waiting in their Toyota Camry for their 16-year-old son to finish school for the day when the gunman fired in their direction.

According to the couple’s close relative, the assailant, wearing a full-face helmet, escaped in a high-powered motorcycle ridden by an accomplice.

The body was sent to the Kuala Lumpur Hospital while the victim’s wife was warded at the Selayang Hospital.

Gombak police chief ACP Abdul Rahim Abdullah said the police found six 9mm spent shells at the scene of the shooting. — Bernama