Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Palestinian who moved to Los Angeles several years ago, said he sees a compelling narrative film in that story and has already cast a “prominent Hollywood actor” in the title role of his film “Muhammad,” which has a proposed budget of $30 million.
The film will tell the story of the prophet from age 12 to his death, and will have the look and feel of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” Yousef said. “My goal is to create this big mirror to show the Muslim world the true image of its leader,” Yousef said.
A second film in preproduction is the work of Ali Sina, an atheist raised Muslim in Iran. A prominent critic of Islam, he maintains websites that promote what he calls “the truth” about the religion.
To date he says he has raised $2 million from Southern California investors for the film, which does not yet have a title but will portray the prophet as a cult leader in the vein of David Koresh or Jim Jones. He hopes to raise a total of $10 million, he said, and begin filming next year.
Now a resident of Canada, Sina began contemplating a biopic about Muhammad a decade ago, but stepped up his effort in the last two years as technological advances made it feasible to circumvent government censors and wary exhibitors.
“We can bypass theaters completely and sell the movie online with a profit to a large number of people, especially Muslims,” Sina said. “They can download it and watch it even if they are living in Karachi or Mecca or Medina.”
Ali Sina’s project seems more feasible because the budget is smaller and Sina has a longstanding reputation of taking on Islam, but there’s room for both movies at the table. What is truly important is getting a variety of these movies out there to neuter the notion Islamists and their leftist fellow travelers are perpetuating about Mo being off limits on the silver screen.
Paradoxically I suspect that the Muslim reaction to the Innocence of Muslims has kicked off a Streisand effect generating more interest in Mo movies than there would have been otherwise. And people may be ready for a higher quality cinematic treatment of the famed pedo cult leader.
“This is crossing a line,” said Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani ambassador to the United Kingdom and now professor of Islamic studies at American University. “If there is an actor physically portraying Muhammad, there will be a violent reaction.”
And if it’s Ramadan and everyone is bored, there will also be a violent reaction.
Maharaj Sunda, caretaker of Shri Krishna Bhagwan Mandir, shows a vandalised idol. PHOTO: EXPRESS
KARACHI: In an extraordinary turn of events, Section 295-A was used to register a blasphemy case against Muslim men for damaging a Hindu temple during riots on Ishq-e-Rasool Day.
Section 295-A is the lesser known, non Islam-specific clause of the country’s notorious blasphemy law.
The Shri Krishna Bhagwan Mandir, located in the Gulshan-e-Maymar area of Karachi, was vandalised by a mob rallying against the anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims’. They also ransacked nearby houses where members of the Hindu community reside, and looted jewellery and other valuables.
For its part, the Gulshan-e-Maymar police registered a case using 295-A (‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs’) along with other charges of looting, vandalism and theft, against the protesters.
Nine people, including one Maulvi Habibur Rehman and his accomplices, men from nearby residential areas, have been nominated. SHO Jaffar Baloch said, “For me, every believer is the same. The desecration of a temple meant blasphemy to me, and that’s why we inserted that section.”
While no one has been arrested so far because the accused are on the run, security has been beefed up in the Hindu locality.
Scenes of chaos
In the single-room temple, destroyed sculptures of Hindu gods lay scattered. Too devastated to pick up the smashed pieces, its caretaker Maharaj Sunda cried, “I devoted my life to serve the gods, and seeing them like this makes me wish for death.” When the attack took place at 8:30 am, the Maharaj was tending to animals near the temple. Frightened screams from within the temple brought him running back.
When he entered the temple, a scene of chaos greeted him. Six statues of Hindu gods were destroyed. An infuriated mob of 150 people, carrying rocks and sticks, had barged in chanting ‘Allah hu Akbar’, and took away gold adornments from the four-foot statues before smashing them to the ground. Worth more than Rs1 Lakh each, the sculptures were brought from India when the temple was made in 2000.
“It was terrible. Everyone was running to save their lives. Some like me got attacked by stones when we tried to stop them,” said one man named Govinda, pushing his hair back to show a wound on his forehead. The rioters then moved onto their holy books. Showing torn pages of Geeta, the Maharaj’s eyes welled up with tears. “They ripped pages from the old Geeta, and took away the new one.” A broken piece of Radha’s face lay on the floor. A picture of well-known philanthropist Ruth Pfau, who supported an NGO that built the temple, was also torn.
The protesters, who left no stone unturned, then entered nearby houses, snatching gold earrings from newly-married Lakshmi and mangal sutars from others. Another Pathani displayed a scar on her ear where men had ripped out her only gold possession, a single earring. Hurling stones at houses, they also injured a woman who was washing clothes.
The locals had no idea what the protestors were rallying about before they entered the area. All they knew that they were angry with ‘the Americans’. “We are not Americans. We have no link with them. Why were we attacked?” said a resident. This was not the first such incident in the area.
The mob finally ran away when Sikh men in the locality reached the spot with their traditional daggers, kirpans. Since the incident, no prayers have been held at the temple. Men have stopped going to work. Children are afraid to play outside.
“We are Pakistanis. We have never been to India. Let us live here,” said the Maharaj.
Long way to go
Welcoming the move by the local police, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairperson Zohra Yusuf added, however, that she had never heard of a blasphemy case registered against Muslims for damaging a house of worship.“When Ahmadi houses of worship are attacked, blasphemy sections are not inserted. Also, minorities are fearful to lodge complaints.”
Her concern is lent credence by the fact that four churches in the city have been attacked in 2012, but no FIR against their desecration has been registered. HRCP council member Asad Iqbal Butt, who visited the temple, called it the responsibility of the government to rebuild the temple. “We also demand a boundary wall for the Hindus.” Butt said he called up various Hindu panchayats for help, but no one responded. “Had it been a rich Hindu community, the panchayats would have reacted otherwise,” he said.
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims angry over an alleged derogatory photo of the Islamic holy book Quran on Facebook set fires in at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes near the southern border with Myanmar, authorities said Sunday.
The violence began late Saturday and continued until early Sunday, said Nojibul Islam, a police chief in the coastal district of Cox's Bazar.
He said the situation was under control Sunday afternoon after extra security officials were deployed and the government banned public gatherings in the troubled area.
He said at least 20 people were injured in the attacks that followed the posting of a Facebook photo of a burned copy of the Quran. The rioters blamed the photo on a local Buddhist boy, though it was not immediately clear if the boy actually posted the photo.
Bangladesh's popular English-language Daily Star newspaper quoted the boy as saying that the photo was mistakenly tagged on his Facebook profile. The newspaper reported that soon after the violence broke out, the boy's Facebook account was closed and police escorted him and his mother to safety.
Joinul Bari, chief government administrator in Cox's Bazar district, said authorities detained the boy's parents and were investigating.
Buddhists make up less than 1 percent of Muslim-majority Bangladesh's 150 million people.
The Bangladeshi violence follows protests that erupted in Muslim countries over the past month after a low-budget film, "Innocence of Muslims," produced by a U.S. citizen denigrated the Prophet Muhammad by portraying Islam's holiest figure as a fraud, womanizer and child molester.
Some two dozen demonstrators were killed in protests that attacked symbols of U.S. and the West, including diplomatic compounds.
If the government fails to provide the land to build a new building for a Tamil school in Kuala Pilah, parents have warned that they will go on a hunger strike.
KUALA PILAH: The 200 parents who staged a protest yesterday in front of Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil (SJKT) Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan; will not hesitate to go on hunger strike if the government ignores their request for a new school building.
T Paramanathan, a disgruntled parent, said: “We have been asking for a new school building for the past 10 years but the government appears not serious about the matter.”
“Genting Berhad already allocated RM1.5 million for the new building’s construction but how to proceed with the construction when the government does not provide the land.
“The classrooms and toilets [in the existing building] are not well lit. I don’t understand why the Education Department doesn’t take any proactive action,” he added.
Paramanathan also accused MIC of not doing anything to safeguard the education of Indian children.
“There are 27 MIC branches all over Kuala Pilah. If these branch, division and state leaders are concerned about the plight of the school and the children, I’m sure they can help to solve the issue because they are part of the ruling government,” he said.
He added that the issue had been brought to the attention of Negeri Sembilan MIC chief T Rajagopalu and state exco member VS Mogan.
“If nothing positive comes forward in two weeks, we will go for a hunger strike and send a memorandum to the Yang Di Pertuan Besar Negeri Sembilan Tunku Mukhriz Tuanku Munawir requesting for for his intervention,” he added.
What happened to the promises?
Another vexed parent G Naina also criticised Barisan Nasional and MIC leaders.
“BN and MIC leaders told us that only they can solve this problem during election season. So we supported them, we voted for them [in the last polls].
“What happened to their promises? How long must the children suffer? Do they think our children are cows and buffaloes? Do they think this is a cowshed?” he thundered.
“Look at the condition of the school! This school has been here since even before independence. They (BN and MIC) have cheated the people of Kuala Pilah,” he added.
Meanwhile, DAP’s Senawang state assemblyman P Gunasekaran gave a one-week ultimatum to the authorities to come up with a proposal.
“I will wait for another week and if the government keeps ignoring the matter, I will organise a trip of five bus loads of parents to stage a protest at the Parliament building,” he warned.
Gunasekaran said he sent letters to important officials in the Education Ministry, including its minister Muhyiddin Yassin, describing the condition of the school.
“Until now, I haven’t recieved a reply,” he added.
The school’s Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) president P Ganes told FMT that the presence of the toilets next to the classrooms was unhygenic.
“These students are also forced to deal with the foul smell. The Health Department also confirmed that all the classes do not meet the level of lighting specification.
“As you can see here there is only one door for the classrooms. If there is fire, there is no alternative door for the students to escape,” he added.
The plight of 31 families from Kg Railway in Sentul has now been brought to the attention of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
KUALA LUMPUR: The plight of 31 families from Kg Railway in Sentul has now been brought to the attention of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.
On Sept 25, the settlers sent a memorandum to the prime minister requesting that their settlement be gazetted as an Indian heritage site.
The Kg Railway settlers are the fourth generation of Malayan Railway workers who had been residing in Jalan 12, Sentul Pasar, since 1886.
“Kg Railway settlement is the last remaining Indian settlement in Kuala Lumpur and we want the government to recognise the housing area as an Indian heritage site,” said action committee leader Jaison Alex.
He added that the settlers highlighted several issues in their six-page memorandum to Najib.
Among the demands was to gazette the land into individual names, declare the settlement as an Indian heritage settlement, stop all development projects within one kilometre from the settlement.
If the government did not gazette the area, Alex said the alternative would be to build three-room and two-bathroom terrace houses costing about RM200,000 each for the settlers in the area.
“We hope the prime minister will heed our requests,” he added.
It was reported that YTL Corporation Bhd bought the land in 2002 from Malayan Railways Bhd and served an eviction notice on the settlers.
When the settlers refused to vacate their homes, YTL Corporation filed a case in court and the verdict was due on Oct 4.
“We are no squatters or trespassers. Our ancestors cultivated the land into a housing area,” said Alex.
He added that according to the Land Act, the settlers had the right to hold the land title if they had been residing in the area for more than 60 years.
“In our case, we have been here for more than 120 years, and so the government must declare it as an Indian heritage settlement,” he added.
He called on the government to extend the same concern it showed for Malay heritage areas, Chinese new villages and Orang Asli settlements for Indian settlers as well.
“Are Indians third class people in Malaysia?” he asked.
Alex also said that the action committee would come out with a blueprint on how to convert the land into a heritage site.
“By turning the settlement into an Indian heritage site, the government can generate more income from tourism since Indians have a 2,000 year old history in Malaysia,” he added.
The party also says more than 200 Tamil schools have benefited from the RM100 million allocated in the previous Budget.
SHAH ALAM: MIC president G Palanivel today urged Indian entrepreneurs to expand their businesses through the special allocation of RM50 million for TEKUN under the 2013 Budget announced by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak yesterday.
He said the allocation was an extension to the continuous measures taken by the government to help the Indian community.
“In the previous budget, RM30 million was allocated for TEKUN for Indian entrepreneurs and now it has been raised to RM50 million under the 2013 Budget.
“I highly encourage all aspiring Indian entrepreneurs to take this opportunity to apply and grow their businesses,” he told reporters after officiating the ‘Road To England’ football tournament which kick-started today at a Tamil school, here.
Under the 2013 Budget, RM350 million was allocated for TEKUN Financing for small to medium entrepreneurs, including RM50 million for the Indian Social Entrepreneurship Scheme.
Apart from that, RM50 million was allocated for 3,200 poor Indian students to train them in industrial skills and RM100 million for upgrading and development for Tamil schools nationwide.
Palanivel, who is a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, said more than 200 Tamil schools had already benefited from the RM100 million allocation announced for Tamil schools under the 2012 Budget.
As such, he said, only the remaining Tamil schools which did not seek any allocation would benefit from the 2013 Budget allocation. There are approximately 523 Tamil schools in the country.
Palanivel also expects to receive an allocation of RM1 billion for Tamil schools in 10 years’ time.
Masalah utama dihadapi di SJKT Kuala Pilah ialah kawasan sekolah terlalu sempit, ruang bilik darjah sangat kecil dan tidak menepati skala luas (standard) sebuah bilik darjah.
KUALA PILAH: Hampir 200 ibu bapa dari Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan Tamil (SJKT) Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan menuntut kerajaan dengan segera memperuntukkan sebidang tanah untuk tujuan pembinaan sebuah bangunan sekolah yang baru.
Sejurus tamat waktu persekolahan pada pukul 12.30 tengahari semalam (Jumaat) ibu bapa kepada pelajar di sekolah tersebut berhimpun di padang di hadapan sekolah tersebut.
Mereka meluahkan perasaan tidak puas hati terhadap kerajaan khususnya Kementerian Pendidikan, kerajaan negeri dan MIC negeri di atas kegagalan membina bangunan sekolah yang baru walaupun sebahagian dari peruntukkan untuk membina sekolah tersebut sudah ada.
Penasihat Alumni Bekas Murid SJKT Kuala Pilah, Kevin Karu memberitahu FMT bahawa SJKT Kuala Pilah dibuka pada tahun 1954 dengan keluasan kawasan sekolah hanya suku ekar.
“Masalah utama dihadapi di sekolah ini ialah kawasan sekolah ini terlalu sempit, ruang bilik darjah sangat kecil dan tidak menepati skala luas (standard) sebuah bilik darjah.
“Laluan di sekitar bangunan juga sekolah sempit dan gelap. Ini menyebabkan cahaya matahari sukar masuk terutama sekali bilik darjah dan laluan ke tandas serta pejabat sekolah.
“Tidak ada padang sekolah sebaliknya padang milik Majlis Daerah Kuala Pilah. Tidak ada tempat letak kereta khusus untuk guru dan kakitangan sekolah.
“Justeru itu sejak 10 tahun yang lalu; kami (bekas murid) dan Persatuan Ibu Bapa dan Guru (PIBG) telah memohon kepada Pejabat
Pendidikan Kuala Pilah, Jabatan Pelajaran Negeri Sembilan, Kementerian Pendidikan, Adun Kuala Pilah, Ahli Parlimen Kuala Pilah, Menteri Besar Negeri Sembilan, Pengerusi MIC Negeri Sembilan dan Menteri Sumber Manusia untuk mendapatkan sebidang tanah yang baru dan seterusnya mendirikan bangunan baru sekolah.
“Malangnya sehingga hari ini tidak ada apa-apa usaha yang dijalankan pihak kerajaan untuk membina sekolah yang baru,” kata Karu.
Syarikat swasta sumbang RM1.5 juta
Pengerusi PIBG SJKT Kuala Pilah, P Ganes pula berkata sekolah tersebut menerima peruntukkan RM1.5 juta daripada sebuah syarikat swasta Genting Berhad di bawah entiti ‘The Community Chest’ pada September 2011 untuk mendirikan bangunan sekolah yang baru.
“Tujuan penyampaian wang tersebut ialah untuk membantu mengurangkan beban kewangan pihak kerajaan dalam membina bangunan baru SJKT Kuala Pilah.
Bagaimanapun ‘The Community Chest’ bersedia memberikan bantuan kewangan tersebut dengan syarat sekolah perlu ada keluasan tanah yang mencukupi untuk pembinaan bangunan baru.
“Syarat kedua ialah Kementerian Pendidikan perlu menanggung kos pembinaan bangunan sekolah baru yang selebihnya,” katanya.
Ganes menambah baru-baru ini pihak Jabatan Penyelidikan dan Perancangan Pendidikan (EPRD) dari Kementerian Pendidikan datang ke SJKT Kuala Pilah dan memaklumkan beberapa perkara, di antaranya:
SJKT Kuala Pilah tidak akan dibina sekarang dan mungkin akan dibina pada tahun 2014 atau 2015.
SJKT Kuala Pilah tidak akan dibina di atas tapak yang sedia ada iaitu di mana SJKT terletak sekarang.
Sumbangan ‘The Community Chest’ RM1.5 juta tidak dibenarkan untuk digunakan bagi tujuan pembinaan bangunan baru SJKT Kuala Pilah.
Beliau memohon agar kerajaan mengambil langkah sewajarnya dengan segera memandangkan ada bilik darjah yang tidak selamat apabila hanya mempunyai satu pintu keluar masuk dan persekitaran bangunan sekolah itu sendiri tidak kondusif.
“Pernah sekali ular liar masuk ke kawasan bangunan sekolah ini berhampiran dengan tandas sekolah,” ujar Ganes.
Turut hadir ialah Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri Senawang dari DAP, P Gunasekaran.
Prime Minister Najib urges rakyat to be wary of Pakatan's weapons.
KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak today urged Malaysians to be wary of the opposition’s three main “weapons” which were condemning, instigating and making all sorts of promises in trying woo the people.
“They must condemn (the government), they must knock you (government) down. After that, they must instigate (the people) and then they will promise. Like I said, they’ll promise the sun, the moon, and even the galaxy,” he said when opening Gerakan’s 41st National Delegates Conference here.
Najib, who is also Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman, said the people should ponder about the sweet promises made by the Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition which in the end were actually nothing more than venomous poison for them.
“Is it really something good for the people or will it lead to some catastrophic outcome for the nation. This is something the people must think about, because to become the opposition, the arsenal is three things — condemn, instigate, promise,” stressed Najib.
Najib said that to be a credible opposition in a parliamentary democracy, a few fundamental conditions must be fulfilled, one of which is having a common symbol.
“In other words, you must register as a party. But Pakatan Rakyat is not registered as a common party nor do they have a common symbol,” Najib said.
The prime minister pointed out BN had been using a common symbol, with electoral candidates contesting under the BN banner.
“We go and face the people as BN, but the opposition will go to the people with different faces.
“Symbol not the same …we are not sure whether they will table a common manifesto ,” he said, noting that squabbles over (the implementation of) hudud (Syariah laws) among the opposition pact had been conducted openly.
Najib said this demonstrated that they did not have a common position and common policy on how this country was going to be administered.
He also took a swipe at the opposition’s failure in unveiling its ‘shadow cabinet’.
Najib said the country should not be governed by the opposition pact who kept on making unfulfilled promises.
He noted that 75 per cent of promises in PKR-led Selangor, remained unfulfilled while the BN had to step in to resolve the Kampung Buah Pala (eviction of villagers) issue in DAP-dominated Penang.
The prime minister also said that a leader must be fair and just, traits which had apparently escaped an opposition leader when he tried to deprive a competent senior state Education official from being promoted in Penang some time ago because he was a non-Malay.
“When I checked on it, I took a risk. He was the deputy prime minister, I was the Education Minister…I said no, that man must be given the Pengarah Pelajaran (atate education director) post. And I was prepared to face the consequences because of principle. A leader must be fair and just,” he said.
Touching on the 2013 Budget he tabled on Friday, Najib said the underlying philosophy in its preparation was that the people must come first and all steps taken were for them.
“This budget is about the people as well as about moving the economy. You can’t just talk about the rakyat (people) without moving the economy, without attracting foreign investment, domestic investment, innovation and productivity.
“There are 111 initiatives or touch points in Budget 2013. Read them one by one,” he said.
Few places conjure up such contrasting images as Sri Lanka, the island nation of 21 million people off the southern tip of India. For the tourist in search of an exotic getaway—off the well-worn path of Bali or Phuket—Sri Lanka brings to mind pristine beaches, elephant safaris and therapeutic ayurvedic spas. But for much of the international community, the country stands for perhaps Asia's single most egregious human-rights violation in this century. The United Nations estimates that between 10,000 and 40,000 civilians were killed in the closing stages of a 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam that ended with the terrorist group's annihilation in 2009.
In "The Cage," Gordon Weiss, an Australian journalist and former United Nations official in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital, sets out to chronicle the conflict, with a particular focus on its gruesome dying stages. Tens of thousands of civilians found themselves crushed between one of the world's most brutal terrorist outfits—best known for perfecting suicide bombings in the 1990s—and an army willing to flout the laws of war by shelling hospitals, executing prisoners and blocking medical supplies.
Mr. Weiss lays most of the blame for the carnage at the door of the Sri Lankan government, which tends to dismiss virtually all criticism as propaganda by the country's enemies. He takes exception to Colombo's "insistence on cloaking its victory in a Potemkin-like pretense at bloodlessness." Instead he wants Sri Lanka to look its violent past "full in the face" in order to achieve a lasting peace. Mr. Weiss deplores the crude ethnic chauvinism of the ruling Sinhalese Buddhist majority government over the vanquished, and largely Hindu, Tamil minority, who constitute about a fifth of the country's population.
Most observers date the formal start of the Sri Lankan civil war to 1983, when, in response to a Tiger ambush that killed 13 government troops, Sinhalese mobs lynched between 1,000 and 3,000 Tamil civilians in Colombo. "Black July" spurred a large-scale emigration of frightened Tamils to the West, where the diaspora now numbers about a million people. Another 60 million ethnic Tamils live across the narrow Palk Strait in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
But the roots of Sri Lanka's troubles go back to the country's independence. In 1948, Sri Lanka arguably had better prospects than the British Empire's only other multiethnic colony with a large Tamil minority: Singapore. Sri Lanka was blessed with an educated population, a history of limited self-government and a strategic location. Of the two countries, however, it is Singapore that has thrived while Sri Lanka has yet to live up to its founding promise.
Instead of embracing an inclusive view of citizenship—like Singapore or neighboring India—Sri Lanka marginalized its Tamil minority. Many Sinhalese chose to view their country primarily as the lone remaining outpost of South Asian Buddhism, once the region's dominant faith but long since extinguished by a combination of Hindu resurgence and Islamic conquest.
In the decades leading up to the civil war, successive governments in Colombo deported part of the Tamil population to India, declared Sinhalese the country's official language, and made it harder for Tamils to study medicine or engineering. In 1975, 20-year-old Velupillai Prabhakaran foreshadowed the future by assassinating the moderate Tamil mayor of the northern city of Jaffna. Over the next 34 years, Prabhakaran established a reputation as one of the world's most brutal guerrilla leaders. His fighters forswore cigarettes, alcohol and sex and wore a vial of cyanide around the neck as a symbol of their willingness to die for a separate homeland called Eelam to be carved out of the Tamil-majority areas of the island's north and east.
At his peak, Prabhakaran controlled a network of front companies around the globe, a small merchant fleet known as the Sea Pigeons and the world's only insurgent air force, which consisted of three converted Czech light aircraft. For a decade, the Tigers held almost one-third of Sri Lanka's territory, including a chunk of its best agricultural land and about a quarter of its coastline. From his jungle redoubt in the North, the Tiger leader unleashed a spate of suicide bombings whose victims included former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa.
In hindsight, however, the Tigers made several fatal errors. By murdering Gandhi in 1991, the group lost the goodwill of India, which had helped train and arm the first batch of Tamil fighters in the 1980s before setting the Indian army on them between 1987 and 1990 in a botched attempt to enforce a peace agreement negotiated with Colombo. Then, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the world became much less forgiving of national-liberation movements that embraced terrorism. International funding from the Tamil diaspora began to dry up.
Elected president in 2005, Mahinda Rajapaksa, along with his brother, Secretary of Defense Gotabaya Rajapaksa, began to put in place a military strategy to defeat the Tigers. Between 2006 and 2009, aided by massive arms purchases from China and Ukraine, naval intelligence supplied by India, and diplomatic cover from both China and India, the Sri Lankan army managed what many had declared impossible—a decisive military victory over a terrorist group embedded in a reasonably sympathetic local population.
To Mr. Weiss's credit, he appears to strive for even-handedness despite his obvious distaste for the Rajapaksa regime. (Under the president's rule, press freedom has withered, and cronyism has boomed.) Mr. Weiss accurately lays out the central challenges that regional actors, nongovernmental organizations and the international community face in Sri Lanka: ensuring accountability for possible war crimes, and a life of dignity for all Sri Lankan citizens.
In the end, though, Sri Lankans themselves, not impassioned outsiders, will decide what kind of country they want to build. They could learn a lesson from the divergent paths taken by Singapore and Sri Lanka. Where Singapore would set out to make the most of all its people on its path to prosperity, Sri Lanka chose petty ethnic chauvinism. This powerful book is a haunting reminder of the price countries in the developing world pay for the flawed choices of their founders.
With elections looming and the outcome probably closer than ever before, the government goes on the attack (In recent weeks, the Malaysian government has staged an
unprecedented number of attacks on various political reform NGOs in
Malaysia, accusing them of being in the pay of foreign forces – usually
the CIA or the Israeli government or that most prominent bete noir,
George Soros, attempting to destabilize the country. This suggests that
the US and Israel don’t have their hands full with Iran, China, Russia
and other problems. Malaysiakini, an online news publication with which
Asia Sentinel has a content-sharing agreement, has come under particular
attack. Premesh Chandran, the news portal’s CEO, takes on the
government in an op-ed piece which we are happy to reprint. If printing
the truth destabilizes a country, so be it – Eds.)
The attacks against Malaysiakini signal that the government is getting desperate.
For the past week, the mainstream media - TV3, Utusan Malaysia, New Straits Times and The Star - have launched an attack on Malaysiakini
and civil society organizations for receiving grants from international
foundations in what they claimed is a plot to destabilise the
Malaysiakini has been further attacked for having a foreign
investor which is allegedly linked to billionaire financier George
Soros. Further aspersions have been cast on Malaysiakini that some of our shareholders have political links.
I understand the reason for the attacks. After all, elections are around
the corner, and by all accounts, the results could go either way.
Hence, the mainstream media have been ordered by their political owners –
the United Malays National Organization and the Malaysian Chinese
Association - to attack and discredit voices that are calling for free
and fair elections, for investigations into various corruption scandals
and for democratic principles to be observed and upheld.
It is no surprise that they repeatedly report accusations, insinuations
and half-truths, along with an ugly dose of racism - a strategy
perfected by none other than Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels.
Let’s look into these accusations one by one and put them to bed:
1. Same accusation 11 years ago
Former Malaysiakini news editor YL Chong’s repeated accusations
that in 2001 we hid a RM188,000 grant from Media Development Loan Fund
(MDLF) and that he resigned after taking a stand on the matter. This
accusation is not new. It was paraded in the mainstream media 11 years
ago - back in 2001 - as “proof” of our links to Soros. We published our rebuttal shortly after those accusations were made.
In a nutshell, Malaysiakini was open with its staff about a
contract to build a software application for the Centre for Advanced
Media Prague (Camp), which is MDLF’s technology division.
Chong went to the media with the accusation that the deal was a grant and we’re hiding the deal. In fact, Malaysiakini had already made an announcement of the software deal on the site.
The question is, why would Malaysiakini be so open with its staff on the deal. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to keep Malaysiakini staff in the dark?
2. 'Soros man on Malaysiakini board'
On the back of successfully completing the technology development and
successfully launching a subscription model in January 2002, MDLF
decided to invest in Malaysiakini - their first in an online
medium, breaking away from their traditional investment in newspapers,
television and radio stations.
Malaysiakini received RM1.3 million for 29 percent of equity and
MDLF agreed to sign an editorial non-intervention agreement. Following
that, Malaysiakini held a press conference and made an announcement about the matter.
At the time of the investment, MDLF was led by its co-founder Sasa
Vucinic, a journalist whose independent radio station B92 in Belgrade
fought a long and hard battle to help bring down Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic.
Milosevic was subsequently charged with war crimes and crimes against
humanity in connection with wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
Sasa went on to set up MDLF with the strategy of helping independent
media in Eastern Europe grow following the fall of communism. Soros, a
Hungarian with a track record of supporting press freedom, was among the
many major donors of MDLF.
Do watch Sasa’s fantastic TED talk to know more about MDLF’s philosophy.
To date, MDLF is involved in 269 projects for 85 independent media
companies in 27 countries. Not only does MDLF have a right to be on Malaysiakini’s
board given its stake in the company, it is hardly business sense for
us to pass on the opportunity to have such distinguished individuals to
serve on our board.
The advice and guidance from MDLF and their current CEO, Harlan Mandel, have been a tremendous boost to Malaysiakini’s business strategy.
How is Mandel a Soros man? Indeed, using the tenuous link between MDLF
and Soros to argue that somehow MDLF is doing Soros’s bidding is
definitely straight out of the Goebbels handbook.
3. But why attack Soros?
The entire attack by the mainstream media is premised on a link between Malaysiakini and Soros. But why the hatred of Soros?
The Malaysian central bank chose to gamble our hard-earned reserves on
defending the pound. When the pound collapsed in 1992, Malaysia was left
with a major hole in the Treasury, and Soros made a name for himself
for breaking the Bank of England.
Instead of asking why was our central bank engaged in highly speculative and risky action, Malaysia attacked Soros.
Despite a heated exchange of words in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad later conceded
that Soros was not responsible for the damage to Malaysia. Mahathir
subsequently met Soros in Kuala Lumpur and asked for his support for his
global campaign to outlaw war.
During his visit to Malaysia, Soros met with a host of government and business leaders.
We have even heard of there were subsequent private meetings between
Soros and top Umno leaders, which to date have gone unreported but will
come to light soon.
4. Malaysiakini gets grants from foreign donors
The mainstream media have portrayed that Malaysiakini has been
hiding the fact that we receive grants from international donors and we
now “admit” to this long-hidden fact. The truth is that Malaysiakini has always declared the grants it receives.
Malaysiakini funds its core activities from subscription and
advertising revenues. Grants are used to fund projects that are of
social benefit but are not likely to be revenue generating or
So while Malaysiakini as a whole is a for-profit organisation, we do solicit funds to support our “non-profit” projects.
For example, Malaysiakini trained over 300 citizen journalists around Malaysia and established a website called www.cj.my. Malaysiakini also established Komunitikini.com to encourage local news coverage.
Malaysiakini built Undi.info to provide electoral information and Digitalibrary.my as an online archive of important documents.
5. Malaysiakini has opposition figures as shareholders
In order to start up Malaysiakini, the founders invested their own funds and appealed to friends in civil society for investment in 1999.
R Sivarasa, then a prominent human rights activist had yet to join any
political party; Sivarasa’s sister-in-law, Mary Agnes, who is a banker;
Bruno Pereira, a prominent trade unionist; and Joseph Paul, also a human
rights activist; took the risk to make the initial investment in Malaysiakini. Their contribution was converted to shares and they represent not more than a couple of percent of the company.
Up to this date, unfortunately, they and other shareholders have not
received any dividends but we hope their investments have been
worthwhile. In no way do any of the shareholders have an influence in Malaysiakini.
The Selangor MB’s press secretary, Arfa'eza Aziz, is a former Malaysiakini journalist, a fact conveniently omitted by The Star’s report. She, along with 50 other Malaysiakini staff, hold shares amounting to about 12 percent of the company.
6. Malaysiakini is controlled by outside forces
Nothing can be further from the truth. Despite many offers to buy Malaysiakini, the founders continue to hold on to their majority stake.
Malaysiakini asks our readers to pay a subscription fee so that Malaysiakini
remains financially independent and does not have to seek funding for
its core operations. Who would know best about how editorial decisions
are made but our editors and journalists?
Over 13 years, hundreds have worked on our editorial floor. If asked, I
believe they will tell a tale of hard work and long hours, but never a
tale of stories being spiked, censored or twisted to suite external
powers, something so prevalent in the newsrooms of politically-owned
Editorial decisions rest with the editorial desk and the editor-in-chief, and that is the way it should be.
We do not believe the accusations against Malaysiakini will
stop. After all, desperate times require desperate measures.
Nevertheless, for those who are really interested to know more about Malaysiakini, we are more than happy to talk to them.
Besides that, we need to get on with our job of reporting the news that matters, without fear or favour.
(Premesh Chandran is chief executive officer of Malaysiakini)
Barisan Nasional paraded its “55 years” of track record” in “fulfillment of promises” – Janji Ditepati – during the Prime Minister Najib Razak’s recent roadshows and on National Day 2012.
One would expect a government with such a long experience in office would have long term strategies for the nation. Unfortunately, apart from arguing that i) change of government is not good for the economy and ii) that it is better to elect the known devils than the unknown angels, BN offers very little beyond the status quo.
BN’s economic platforms today can be summed up as follow:
1) Criticising Pakatan Rakyat’s economic policies as populist (while not offering concrete economic policies and strategies);
2) Offering more handouts to win the general election (which will cost billions of ringgit);
3) Preparing to introduce Goods and Services Tax (GST) after the general election (GST means every single person in Malaysia will be taxed).
BN’s polls-driven handouts and Pakatan’s care for the people
BN launched its polls-driven handouts, Bantuan Rakyat 1Malaysia (BR1M), in the 2012 Budget. It was actually a response to policy ideas mooted by Pakatan Rakyat.
Pakatan Rakyat announced in August 2011 that its Budget 2012 aimed at uplifting families with household monthly income of less than RM3,000. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin replied that Pemandu was instructed to craft a response, which eventually becomes the RM500 per household aid.
In comparison, Pakatan Rakyat’s policies are well thought-out answers to the economic malaise faced by Malaysians.
The Malaysian economy is now serving the vested interests of a small group of cronies at the expense of ordinary Malaysians.
• 60% lives on a household income of not more than RM3,000 monthly; in fact, 40% are below RM1,500;
• Household debts is 77% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP); worse still, household debts is 140% to disposable income, second highest in Asia after Japan;
• 33% of workers earn an income of less than RM700 monthly.
Such dire situations require national attention. It is an impending crisis that has been swept under the carpet.
Economic policies must focus on improving the income and disposable income of the 60% at the bottom.
The basic idea is that when the ordinary folks have more cash in hand, they would not keep it in Swiss banks like the cronies; the lower income group would spend the cash in the economy, hence keeping the domestic economy afloat which in turn would benefit the businesses through multiplying effect from the expansion of aggregate demand.
It will be a rising tide that lifts all boats.
The global economic crisis has made it more urgent for Malaysia to focus on improving income and disposable income of its citizens. The most profitable economic activities of Malaysia and the rest of Asia for the most of the past four decades have been about exporting to the United States and Europe. Suppression of wages and currencies are typical policy tools to keep export cheap and competitive.
However, the advance nations are now faced with high unemployment rate which means diminished purchasing power.
What Pakatan will do for the people
Malaysia and other Asian neighbours need to ensure that its citizens have enough money to consume their own products to sustain a vibrant economy.
In the long run, huge income gap and a large section of the society being squeezed economically jeopardise cohesiveness and security of a society.
Hence, Pakatan Rakyat offers:
• A monthly minimum wage of RM1,100 (BN only announced the figure of RM900 a month but had yet to implement it);
• A commitment to reduce unskilled foreign workers who drive down wages and impede drive for automation;
• Through massive assistance to industries and businesses to encourage innovation, technological upgrade and automation to shift the economy away from its dependence on unskilled foreign labour;
Through various policy measures to increase female labour participation from 46% to 60% within five years. A bi-salary family generally means a higher household income.
Most Malaysians, especially the lower income and middle class, have to fork out large portion of their incomes to pay for transportation, housing, education, health and security, due to poor delivery of public services or outmoded public policies. Addressing policy gaps in these areas will help improve disposable income of ordinary Malaysians.
Pakatan Rakyat proposes:
• Transportation – to reduce excise duties for car in order to cut car price hence reducing debt burden while improving the disposable income of ordinary Malaysians; to develop a multimodal public transport system which is based on bus and bus rapid transit (BRT) to reduce dependence on private vehicles.
• Housing – apart from taming speculation, new concepts such as social housing for the poor that do not require them to own a house, shared equity for middle class households and other measures would be introduced to ensure the availability of housing for those who need them, as well as reducing indebtedness.
• Education – free university education so that the youth are not burdened with huge debts before starting their careers.
• Health – to improve public health care services and to require government linked corporations not to own shares of private hospitals with the aim to narrow the gaps between public and private provision of healthcare.
• Security – to ensure the full commitments of the police to crime prevention.
Demolishing monopolies, cartels and oligopolies also play an important role in the effort to improve disposable income of the ordinary folks. Abolishing tolls in stages, removing control of cronies over paid television, rice, sugar etc, will contribute to better disposable income.
It is clear that Pakatan Rakyat offers a better life for all of us. BN has the opportunity to do something good for the country but its leaders have chose to protect only their family members and cronies.
Without offering new ideas and initiatives, BN can only offer cash handouts now. After the general election (which is within the next few months), each and every one of us
Who will bankrupt the country?
BN has been attacking Pakatan Rakyat’s policies by claiming them to be mere populist measures without being fiscally responsible, and if implemented will bankrupt the nation.
Alas, typical propaganda from UMNO and BN leaders, as they are the ones who are controlling the media for many decades.
One of Pakatan’s key policy objectives is to see that Malaysian families live on a household income of more than RM4,000 a month at the end of PR’s first term as the federal government. The RM4,000 a month objective is not an income guarantee or a minimum wage.
PR is reshaping our economy to one that shifts from BN’s obsession with race quota and distribution of wealth to a select few, to one that helps everyone at the bottom 60% regardless of race to live a dignified life.
How the people will suffer under BN: Beware of GST
BN has no solution to finance the ballooning national debts.
The BN Government claims that now “educating” the public on the impending implementation of Goods and Services Tax. It has also whispered to the financial market that the unpopular tax would be implemented in 2014. There are also talks about subsidy cuts which means higher fuel price.
Pakatan is not in favour of a higher fuel price until and unless public transport is adequate. The lack of decent public transport makes private vehicles almost a necessity.
Studies have shown that petrol price hike encouraged people to switch to motorcycle from cars, and, as a consequence, resulted in higher motorcycle deaths. Policy makers must be cognizant of the implications and impacts of their decisions on ordinary citizen.
Likewise, those who promoted the GST as the silver bullet to “get more people to pay tax” and solve the budget deficit are living in their own world. They said that there are too few Malaysians paying tax.
Certainly there are tax evaders and we have sufficient laws to deal with them. But the reason why the bulk of the population is not paying tax is because their income is too low to qualify to pay taxes.
Imposing a new tax on the lower income group is bad enough. A regressive, blanket tax like GST is going to hurt the bottom 60% badly. And with the bulk of the population having less disposable income, the rest of the economy would not do well either.
What must we do
BN should return to the root causes of high deficit – corruption and cronyism. In order to reduce the level of debts, the government must deal with corruption steadfastly. Unfortunately, UMNO and BN leaders are not interested in doing all these good things.
Why? Doing good for the people means putting aside their cronies. No, BN will never do that and has no intention of doing it.
The choice is getting clearer now. We voters of Malaysia have the power to decide what’s best for our family, our community and our nation.
TEMERLOH, Sept 30 (Bernama) -- MIC President, Datuk Seri G Palanivel
emphasised that the Indian community's support of the government was
increasing significantly as a result of the transformation programmes
implemented by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Indians were being provided with more business and educational opportunities, he added.
"Therefore, the Indian community is urged to continue supporting the
Barisan Nasional government as it has proven that it cares for all
Malaysians, regardless of race," he said.
He was speaking at a Family Day organised by the Temerloh MIC Youth and
Women movements, which was also attended by Temerloh member of
parliament and Higher Education deputy minister, Datuk Saifuddin
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 (Bernama) -- Gerakan president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu
Koon is asking Penang voters to give the party another chance at the
13th general election to serve them.
He said Gerakan was determined to do more and better to change the fate of the people in the state.
Koh who described the state as a Gerakan stronghold for 40 years before
losing in the 2008 general election as the heart of Gerakan, said the
heart and mind of Gerakan had always been with the state and people of
"We are asking for a chance to serve. We aim to do a lot more in
Penang. If we are really with one heart, the people will give us the
chance," he said in his presidential address at Gerakan's 41st National
Delegates Conference which was opened by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib
Tun Razak here today.
Therefore, Koh, who is the former Chief Minister of Penang, urged
Gerakan members at all levels to close ranks and put aside their
differences to ensure the victory of Gerakan and Barisan Nasional (BN)
candidates in the 13th general election.
"The 13th general election will see fierce fights but we're not afraid.
Let us put up the best possible. Let it be our finest hour," Koh said.
He also told the delegates that Najib was the best leader to push for the country's continued development and stability.
"A section of the community favours the opposition's head but for me, Najib is a far better choice.
He (Najib) is known as a friendly leader and what is important is that he is fair and firm. I can guarantee this, " said Koh.
Koh, who is also the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, also
touched on education by proposing that national education transformation
which will be implemented through the Malaysia Education Blueprint
consider several issues.
He said Gerakan wanted bilingual teaching of Science and Mathematics
with emphasis on English at the higher forms to prepare students for
their further studies.
The other requests forwarded related to students with Unified
Examination Certificate (UEC) and the subject of history as a compulsory
subject in school curriculum.
According to Koh, Gerakan would be organsing a workshop to discuss the
issues on the blueprint and would present concrete proposals on the
matter to the government.
The party annual conference, attended by 1,760 delegates or 76 per cent of the overall Gerakan delegates, ended today.
Speaking at press conference afterwards, Koh assured that the party's
main body and it's youth wing were not facing any conflicts and the
"bottle neck" issue raised by the Youth chief yesterday was a minor one.
He described it as a mere 'storm in a small teacup', adding that as a
democratic political party, its members are free to air any discontent
to the party leadership.
"We don't go and manage and control what they say, they say and we
reply, they show some frustration over one incident so we just advise
them to take it coolly," he said.
Asked about the issue of warlords in the party, Koh explained that it was over exaggerated.
"It may have happened in one or two divisions but I want to emphasise
that Gerakan is a very democratic party and our delegates are elected
direct from the main branches and not through divisions, so control by
the division is not as strong in Gerakan," he said.
Yesterday, Gerakan Youth chief Datuk Lim Si Pin announced that the wing
would not be participating in today's national conference's debate
session as a sign of protest to the party's main body because it was
being sidelined by the main body.
Koh, meanwhile, also appealed the Gerakan delegates present to continue fighting for the survival of the party.
"Although we suffered defeat in the last election, we whould move on, I
appeal the delegates to feel encouraged as our clarion cry (One heart,
one nation, one vision) is now a national agenda (1 Malaysia), a
national movement," he said.
Several thousand people gathered this morning for a rally in
Pengerang to protest against a massive RM60bn petrochemical project in a
move that could further loosen the BN’s electoral strangehold on Johor.
The rally in Pengerang this morning – Photograph: Harakah
The rally was dubbed Himpunan Hijau Lestari Pengerang.
A few thousand villagers will be displaced by the petrochemical
project. They have been offered alternative housing 15-20km away, but
the resettlement area lacks supporting infrastructure and public
Pakatan has vowed to cancel the project should it win power.