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Thursday, October 11, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Pakistan ‘Blasphemy Girl’ In Norway, Official Says

Rimsha Masih has fled to Norway, well-informed sources say.

ISLAMABAD/OSLO (BosNewsLife)-- A mentally challenged Christian girl who was detained in Pakistan on charges of 'blasphemy against Islam' has fled to Norway with family members, a Christian official involved in the operation confirmed Monday, October 8.

Rimsha Masih, 14, arrived in the Scandinavian nation with support from the Norwegian government, said Farrukh H. Saif, executive director of the Pakistan-based Christian aid and advocacy group World Vision In Progress (WVIP).

"She is accompanied by her parents, two sisters and one brother," Saif explained in an interview with BosNewsLife. "European Pakistani Christians arranged her asylum", he added.

Norway's Foreign Ministry and immigration authorities declined to comment, but Pakistan's prosecution office also said she had left for Norway.

Rimsha Masih was jailed August 17 in a prison near Islamabad after allegedly burning pages with verses of the Koran, viewed as holy book by Muslims.


Her detention at Adiala Jail sparked an international outcry because of her age and a medical report confirming that she was mentally handicapped.

Amid mounting pressure, Rimsha was eventually flown to safety on September 8 after an Islamabad court set the bail of one million Pakistani rupees ($10,600), Farrukh said.

"She was held at the Norwegian embassy as Norway was among six countries that wanted to help her and the family," he added.

Aid groups in the United States, Italy and Canada also offered the teen and her family a home outside Pakistan, a family representative said.

Eventually "some 20 days ago" she and her family were secretly flown to Norway, Saif explained.


Pakistani authorities allowed the flight after a Muslim leader who accused the girl of burning pages of Koran verses, was himself detained on charges of blasphemy.

Imam Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chisht allegedly stashed Koranic papers in the girl‘s bag to ensure her conviction and push out Christians from the area, charges he strongly denied.

Three witnesses who initially confirmed Chisht's actions later withdrew their statements saying they were recorded under police pressure.

Masih and Christians supporting her have denied she knowingly burned the Koranic verses.

Rimsha said in published remarks last month that she had not defiled the Koran. She said she was happy to be with her family, but feared for her life. "I'm scared. I'm afraid of anyone who might kill us."


As a juvenile, Masih could face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison under controversial blasphemy legislation in this heavily Islamic nation, according to trial observers.

If she had been tried as an adult, she could have faced life imprisonment or the death penalty.

"But no harm can be done to the girl now as she is safe in Norway," Said said, without revealing the city or town, amid security concerns.

Yet, Rimsha has made clear she would prefer to stay in her home country though she grew up in a slum area of Islamabad.

Saif said a return seems to dangerous. Thousands of Christians were initially forced to flee the colony of Meherabadi where the girl grew up and several houses were burned and a church was destroyed by Muslim mobs angry over the alleged blasphemy, he told BosNewsLife.


With the girl now in Norway, Saif said there was concern for family members still staying behind in Pakistan, adding that WVIP cares for a paternal uncle of the girl.

The girl's case has renewed calls to overturn the blasphemy legislation. There have been 1,400 blasphemy cases since the laws were first enacted in 1986, according to the Human Rights Watch group.

Rights activists say there are over 15 cases of people on death row for blasphemy in Pakistan, and 52 people are known to have died while facing trial.

The case against Rimsha has also underscored concerns over the treatment of children by Pakistan's judicial system. Kids as young as seven can spend years behind bars - before the courts have even decided if they are innocent or guilty, according to observers familiar with the case.

"We estimate that there are as many as 4,500 juveniles in Pakistani prisons," said Ansar Burney Trust, an advocacy group supporting various projects in Pakistan and abroad.

Faisalabad: 24-year old Christian abducted, forced to convert to Islam and marry her abuser

by Shafique Khokhar
Shumaila Bibi kidnapped by a 26 year old Muslim Muhammad Javed Iqbal on the way home. Subjected to sexual assault and forced to study the Koran. On a pretext she managed to escape and return to her family. Her captor denounced the girl's father for "kidnapping" her. Shumaila's future hangs in the balance.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Seized at dawn, forced to endure sexual abuse and to marry the young Muslim man who abducted her with the help of his family and convert to Islam. This is the dramatic story of Shumaila Bibi, a 24-year old Christian who worked in Nishatabad, a suburb of Faisalabad (Punjab), in a textile company. The episode dates back to September 24, and for days she was subjected to a daily nightmare with her tormentor; on October 5, using a ruse, she managed to escape. However, her so-called "husband" denounced her flight and with his parents - reversing the facts - reported her family for "kidnapping" her. The police accepted his version of the facts and have opened an investigation claiming that the girl converted and married "of her own free will." The future of Sumaila is hanging by a thread and will depend on the decisions of the justice of Pakistan, who on more than one occasion have failed to protect the rights of religious minorities in the country.

At 6 in the morning of 24 September Shumaila Bibi, who worked in a textile company, had just finished her shift and was about to return home. On the way she ran into to the 26 year old Muslim Muhammad Javed Iqbal, who had approached her family with the intention, over time, of establishing an engagement (though "I refused and I have repeatedly discouraged it" the young woman tells AsiaNews). Despite all this, with the help of his mother, two brothers, some uncles and the threat of a gun, Muhammad dragged the girl into a nearby vehicle.

At the time, there was only the guard of Millat Textile Mills factory to witness the scene. Threatened by the abductors family he did not intervene. The next day, Muhammad Javed Iqbal - along with 25 relatives - led Shumaila to a lawyer, Muhammad Tanveer Aslam. In his office, he forced her to sign a statement of intent, under which she declared her marriage to the young Muslim and conversion to Islam.

For days she was sexually abused, harassed and forced to study the Koran and the precepts of Islam. During one of these lessons she asked her Muslim teacher to be able to go home earlier than the scheduled time. Free to move, Shumaila escaped and returned to her parents' house. This, however, infuriated the groom who immediately reported the girl's parents to the police for ... "Kidnapping." The officials upheld his complaint because the young woman converted and consented to the marriage "of her own free will" and without compulsion.

The Catholic activists of the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Church of Pakistan (NCJP) have taken up the defense of Mansha Masih, girl's father, 68, who now risks prison for kidnapping. The lawyers have filed a counter complaint and now seek justice, though on several occasions the will of the majority and Islamic law have dominated in spite of the rule of law, to decide on the matter. Her future is hanging by a thread and there is a real fear she will be returned to her torturers. Interviewed by AsiaNews, Shumaila confirmed that she wants to "live with my parents and practice the Christian faith." The young Muslim helped her find a job and with this "subterfuge" introduced himself into the family and tried to approach her. "But I refused - she clarifies - several times and I invited to desist" from his intent. "And for that, he ruined my life."

Fr. Nisar Barkat, diocesan director of NCJP in Faisalabad, said that "we do our best to provide aid and assistance to victims like Shumaila." The priest invokes the "intervention" of the police to "ensure the legality and freedom" of the community. "We have to be careful - he warns - of the manipulation of religion in the name of justice, and the state must guarantee religious freedom in the country."

Cops fired tear gas at trapped protesters, lawyer tells Suhakam’s Bersih inquiry

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 – Riot police fired tear gas at protesters trapped in a narrow road here during
Riot police are seen firing tear gas canisters at Bersih protesters in this file photo. – Reuters pic
the April 28 Bersih rally, a Bar Council observer told the Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) inquiry today into official violence at the electoral reforms rally.

Senior lawyer Christopher Leong’s testimony at the SUHAKAM inquiry is the latest in a series of eyewitness accounts of what appeared to be high-handed and frequently violent and aggressive action taken by police to break up the rally attended by thousands of Malaysians.

Leong was observing the protest on April 28 for the Bar Council.

He testified today that the police fired rounds of tear gas even though it was clear protesters could not disperse from Jalan Melayu, a narrow road near the Masjid Jamek LRT station.

Leong said the protesters could not move away as ordered by the police earlier because another group of demonstrators had approached the area from behind them.

“I saw the police approaching the protesters and firing tear gas right in the middle of the crowd. At the time, I was standing in the middle.

“We couldn’t leave. We couldn’t move at all. It was impossible to back away.”

Bersih has repeatedly argued that police had fired tear gas with the intention of harming participants of the April 28 rally for free and fair elections here, and used excessive force to make arbitrary arrests.

The electoral reforms group had previously submitted a report to SUHAKAM to back its claims with video and other documentary evidence.

Bersih had added that the police used indiscriminate, disproportionate, unjustified and excessive use of force against participants who largely did not display any act of provocation or misbehaviour.

The Bersih report added that participants who were having meals at restaurants were also arrested or assaulted.

Thousands of Malaysians gathered in the city on April 28 to mount a protest demanding free and fair elections.

The demonstration turned chaotic after police fired tear gas and protesters were unable to disperse because of the huge crowds choking the narrow streets.

The current inquiry is headed by Suhakam vice-chairman Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee and aided by commissioners Professor Datuk Dr Mahmood Zuhdi Abdul Majid and Detta Samen.

Perkasa vs Suaram: Of demons and lies

The statement by the French prosecutor, says an article published on the Perkasa website, can be considered as a full-stop for Suaram's 'web of deceit'.

PETALING JAYA: An article published on the Perkasa website has condemned Suaram as a thick-skinned manufacturer of fabrications while at the same time launched a salvo against its so-called demonic funders, the Zionists and George Soros, and their nefarious agenda.

Described as an opposition-infiltrated NGO, Suaram was also accused of orchestrating a mission towards regime change in this nation under the guise of championing human rights.

The article was responding to French government prosecutor Yves Charpenel who told Bernama that there was no ongoing trial in France with regard to the controversial Scorpene submarine deal.

He said that the matter was still being probed by two French judges.

“I am aware about all the fuss kicked up by certain media [organisations] in Malaysia over this matter but what I can say is that this is nothing more than a trial by the media,” he had added.

In an immediate reaction, Suaram’s lawyer William Bourdon said that there had never been a question of an ongoing trial as the investigating judges were still continuing their inquiry.

“The Tribunal deGrande Instance has convened a criminal inquiry of which Suaram has been accepted as a civil party since March 2012. Upon completion of the inquiry, the investigating judges will make the decision of whether the case goes to full trial,” he had explained.

The Perkasa article, however, claimed that Charpenal’s statement could be considered as the full-stop for Suaram’s web of deceit.

“Despite faltering numerous times, the thick-skinned Suaram will issue denials and is not ashamed to face the media, and the people of Malaysia, continuing with their lies and charades.

“Perhaps because Suaram has received enormous [foreign] funds, it has no choice but to continue peddling lies with the hope that Malaysia’s Islamic government will eventually collapse,” it read.

The article also noted that Charpenel had said that the investigating judges had no right to conduct cross-border probes or interrogations.

Launching a regime change mission

It pointed out that Suaram had, however, claimed in the past that a trial was underway and certain high-profile figures could be slapped with subpoenas as well as released documents in the French language purportedly as evidence to substantiate its accusations.

“This proves how low are the characters of those who are behind Suaram, which calls itself a defender of human rights.

“It is as if Suaram has made a fool of everyone and spat on their faces with its willingness to lie in order to fulfil the agenda of the ‘syaitan’ [demon] which brings destruction through war and murder with the help of another ‘syaitan’ which manipulates the world’s currency market,” it read.

In line with the “arrogance of the Zionist and Soros”, the article said that Suaram had also shown disrespect towards the Malaysian and French governments.

Even now with Charpenel’s statement, according to the article, the opposition refused to accept the fact that their lies had hit a brick wall.

“On the contrary, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim is attempting to bring in [Suaram's lawyer] Bourdon into the country…

“The attempt strengthens the fact that Suaram and the opposition are not championing human rights but are in the midst of launching a ‘regime change’ mission for Soros and the Jews to conquer the world through a strategy of unbridled lies,” it claimed.

The Scorpene submarine contract continued to be a thorn in the flesh for Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who was serving as the defence minister when the deal was inked.

Apart from allegations of corruption, the deal had also been linked to the gruesome murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Despite Najib’s repeated denials of any wrongdoing on his part, the issue remained a potent weapon in the opposition’s arsenal.

Polls after Deepavali?

Is Pakatan facing a wipe-out in Selangor, given the innumerable number of 'new' names on the voter list.

According to DAP’s Teluk Intan MP, M Manogaran, sources are speculating that the 13th general election is targeted for November but before that a big national Deepavali celebration will be held by Barisan Nasional to woo the Indian voters.

Well, we will just have to wait and see if this is true.

If indeed the polls are to be held on the last weekend of November, Parliament will have to be dissolved latest by Nov 5 as the current Parliament sitting is scheduled to go on till Nov 27.

This means that the budget will have to be re-tabled in the new parliament term. The terminology used in this matter is: “to re-do the budget”.

In the meantime, the focus is still on the controversial electoral rolls and Pakatan Rakyat. Several non-governmental organisations will be seeking to hold a rally in the Bukit Jalil Stadium on Nov 3 to protest the fact that the electoral rolls have yet to be cleaned up.

Based on the current electoral rolls, there are 10 Pakatan MPs who are most likely to lose their parliamentary seats in the 13th general election.

The 10 are:

1. Nurul Izzah Anwar (Lembah Pantai, PKR)

2. R Sivarasa (Subang, PKR)

3. William Leong (Selayang, PKR)

4. Zuraida Kamarudin (Ampang, PKR)

5. Titiwangsa (a PAS seat. A young PAS lawyer will be contesting this seat.)

6. Dr Siti Mariah (Kota Raja, PAS)

7. Dzulkefly Ahmad (Kuala Selangor, PAS)

8. Khalid Samad (Shah Alam, PAS)

9. Charles Santiago (Klang, DAP)

10.Teo Nie Ching (Serdang, DAP)

Looking at the above list, one can see that eight out of the 10 seats are in Selangor. The two KL seats are Lembah Pantai and Titiwangsa which belonged to the late Dr Lo’lo’ Ghazali of PAS.

This simply shows that Selangor is under severe threat from the BN side.

As for Nurul Izzah, in 2008 she won by a majority of 2,895 votes. Currently, there are over 10,000 new names in her constituency. Dzulkefly won by a slim margin of 862 votes in the previous general election. He too has over 10,000 new names in his constituency.

Both will need a miracle to win this time around as all their efforts and hard work may not be sufficient.

Wipe-out ahead?

So is Pakatan going to face a massive wipe-out?

The Election Commission’s (EC) stubbornness in refusing to clean up the electoral roll certainly indicates that something is afoot.

Is the EC really impartial and independent?

The Pakatan MPs have written to the EC several times to initiate a meeting in regard to the electoral roll but all to no avail.

The EC officers’ reluctance to meet with the Pakatan MPs to discuss issues pertaining to the electoral roll does not reflect well on the former’s professionalism. These officers must realise that they are public servants. The rakyat pay taxes and pay their salaries. Therefore the EC’s duty is solely towards the rakyat.

This shows that under the the Najib administration, things have become worse and the same goes for the Auditor-General’s Report.

As at time of writing, the Auditor-General’s Report is still not out yet. Sad to say, the Najib administration has the worst performance in regard to the Auditor-General’s Report.

During Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure it was always on time, sometimes one, two or even seven days earlier. If not, then the Audit-General’s Report was always on the table of all MPs on the same day that the budget is presented.

During Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s tenure, it was late at times but not more than three days late.

Najib Tun Razak’s tenure is the worst. Last year, it was 17 days late. Looks like all the hype surrounding the Key Performance Index (KPI) is just for show only as even the crime rate seems to have worsened.

Najib’s lost control

Even the influx of foreign workers has become worse.

There are daily press reports of gangfights and killings among foreign workers and this gives a bad image to the country.

No one can really comprehend why there is a need to take in so many foreign workers. Many of these foreign workers can also be seen loitering around the KL Central Market area.

They can be a threat to the safety of Malaysians when they are jobless.

Is the prime minister aware of these goings-on?

Another issue which seems to have escaped Najib’s attention is the price of foodstuffs. It has been the norm before general elections that food prices are kept low so as not to anger the voters, especially the low-income group.

But under Najib’s tenure, food prices are going up even before the electionis held and that is the reason why there is a need to give the RM500 cash aid to stave off the anger of the low-income voters.

This is surely an indication that food prices will soar if BN wins at the polls again because it can already be seen now that Najib is not really in control in regard to food prices.

Perhaps he himself is being bothered by the “date-devil” and is not concentrating fully on the job at hand due to mulling over, thinking and pondering 24/7 on when to hold the general election.

November is near and as he has mentioned, the number “11” is significant to him.

That being the case, he should stop dithering, take the bull by the horns and hold the polls in the 11th month. The polls-date game has gone on long enough.

Selena Tay is a FMT columnist.

Stopped at KLIA: Ambiga cries harassment

The Bersih leader was stopped for about 10 minutes by immigration officers without giving any reason.

PETALING JAYA: Much to her chagrin, Bersih co-chairperson was stopped by Immigration Department officers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last night.

The former Bar Council president told FMT that she was stopped at the auto-gate for about 10 minutes.

And when she questioned their reason for doing so, Ambiga, who was to board a flight to Australia, said the officers could not provide an answer.

The Bersih leader was convinced that it was nothing short of deliberate harassment on the part of the authorities.

“I see no rational basis for the way in which Bersih steering committee members are being treated. This is harassment, pure and simple,” she added in a text message.

On a lighter note, Ambiga, who has become a household name after spearheading two mammoth protests for electoral reforms, also dismissed the possibility that the immigration officers were deliberating on whether to request for an autograph.

Ambiga was the fifth Bersih steering committee member to be stopped by immigration officers while travelling overseas.

Last week, Bersih steering committee member Andrew Khoo was also stopped on his way to Bangkok.

Steering committee members Maria Chin Abdullah, Yeo Yang Poh and Wong Chin Huat had also been subjected to similar treatment in September.

It was also reported that Khoo was stopped again when returning from Bangkok last night.

Speaking to FMT on the harassment, Wong said such acts of intimidation would not deter the spirit of Bersih’s leaders.

“Let the government do what it wants and bear the consequences. Intimidating us will not work as we are not afraid. But we want the Malaysian public to know what is happening.

“And if [Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein] does not understand what democracy is, then the people of Malaysia should send a strong message to him and his party in the next polls,” he said.

Bkt Jalil residents to meet PM’s special officer again

The former estate workers are not happy wih the lastest compensation offer from the government.

PUTRAJAYA: Former Bukit Jalil estate workers, who are in a tug-of-war with the government over the last two years, will meet Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s special officer Ravin Ponniah at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) tomorrow in an effort to reach an amicable solution to their problem.

Bukit Jalil estate workers committee treasurer K Balakrishnan said this was conveyed to him when he and four other committee members delivered a memorandum to the PMO this morning.

It is learnt that Najib had offered a low-cost flat and an additional RM35,000 to each family of the former estate as compensation as the land they are staying has been earmarked for development. The offer was RM9,000 more than the previous offer by the government.

However, the estate committee representing 250 members from 41 families are not happy with the latest government offer.

“The fundamental issue here is not about money but the land which we have been staying for more than four generations,” Balakrishnan told reporters when met outside the PMO.

Also present to pledge their support were Sungai Siput MP Michael Jayakumar, Teluk Intan MP M Manogaran, Party Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general S Arut Chelvan, Hindraf leader P Waythamoorthy and members from Jerit, Hindraf and several other non-governmental organisations.

Balakrishnan said the committee had met the prime minister on July 10, 2012, to brief him about their predicament.

He said during the meeting, they had asked for four acres from the 1,800-acre land, which would be developed. The development includes a golf course, stadiums and luxury bungalows.

On Oct 2, the estate workers met Ravin and were informed that the government has agreed to increase their compensation from RM26,000 to RM35,000.

“We had a meeting on Oct 2, where all the 41 families disagreed with the government offer. As an alternative, the estate committee suggested that the government build 41 terrace houses in the existing land. Give us four acres or build 41 terrace houses for all the 41 families,” Balakrishnan said, adding that the former estate workers would not budge from their stand.

Meanwhile, Arutchelvan said the prime minister should reconsider the estate workers’ request for land or terrace houses.

“It would only cost the prime minister four minutes of his time to end out plight,” he added.

Devamany up the wall over Cameron mess

He blames weak laws and poor enforcement for the constant land clearing that is spoiling the charm of the hill resort.

PETALING JAYA: Cameron Highlands has seen better days. Once an idyllic hilly retreat, it is now beset by deforestation, unchecked farming and other problems associated with haphazard development, looking more like a place one wants to escape from.

Its MP, MIC’s SK Devamany, says the issue is driving him up the wall. He has warned of the need to save the iconic holiday destination before it is too late.

“It is a constant war against deforestation and overdevelopment in Cameron Highlands,” he said, adding that these had been ongoing for the past few decades.

He complained of vast clearing of land, poor farming practices, growers overstepping their boundaries and issues associated with these, such as soil erosion and siltation.

He spoke of the failure of the responsible parties to abide by the Development Masterplan, a document that states how construction can take place in the area.

“Even though the structure plan is very clearly laid out, a lot of requirements for hill resorts are not followed,” he said.

He said the government was aware of these problems, but he admitted that enforcement was lacking, especially where land clearing was concerned.

One reason for this, he added, was that the law was not strong enough to deal with land clearers.

“If somebody clears land during the weekend, the land office might pull all the machines back from there,” he said. “But who is going to go to court because of this?”

Apparently, it does not do much good to seize the machines and arrest the arrest the persons handling them because the masterminds do not worry about losing their equipment.

“The use of machinery is not criminalised,” Devamany said. “It’s just a fine. That’s why they can get away scot free. Even if you impound the machines, they don’t mind losing them, because they’re making more money (than they can lose).”

The Land Conservation Act 1960, which covers the conservation of hill land and the prevention of soil erosion, provides for a fine not exceeding RM5,000. The default jail term is six months or less.

Devamany said he had spoken to Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail and National Resources and Environment Minister Douglas Uggah Embas about the need for a “serious review” of legislation and enforcement.

The Star today quoted district officer Ahmad Daud as saying that his officers were finding it hard to catch the culprits involved in illegal land clearing because “district office personnel are in cahoots with the culprits”.

According to the daily, Ahmad had said that his officers had been monitoring land clearing and had conducted raids of such activity.

“However, we suspect someone from within is leaking information to the culprits, resulting in unsuccessful raids,” he had said.

How to be a better Malaysian

These are the things you can do to become a better citizen, says blogger Thomas Fann.

By Thomas Fann

This article is not about Steve Jobs but I would like to start with a quote by him, made in 1994 during a TV interview.

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life.

Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.

The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mould it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

There you have it, a glimpse into the reason why Steve Jobs is, in my humble opinion, one of the very few people who ever lived who can claim that he has changed the world for the better.

Maybe not many of us will get to change the world the way Steve did, but all of us certainly has the potential to make our nation a better place. We need to shake off the erroneous notion that our sole duty as a Malaysian is to live a peaceful life, have a nice family, make some money, pay our taxes, and try not to break any law.

We need to believe that “if we push in, something will pop out the other side”, that we can actually make a difference in this nation by becoming a better Malaysian.

I would like to propose the following 10 things to do if we want to be a better Malaysian.

1. Be a Malaysian first – If you are serious about wanting a better future for this nation and making this the best home for all, then start thinking of yourself as a Malaysian and not as a whatever race or the identity of your grandfather’s homeland. All of us are migrants, it just depends on how far you want to roll back history. But due to various circumstances in history, our forefathers’ boats landed on this fair shore and made this their home. By being Malaysian first doesn’t mean we cease to be Malay, Indian, Chinese, Iban, Kadazan, etc., but that our identity is now firmly anchored to our nation.

2. Uphold the Federal Constitution – There are many laws to cover all aspects of life but the Federal Constitution is the big one. Every Malaysian who can read should read it at least once in their lifetime. It doesn’t matter which Tun or Tan Sri or Prof say what, if it doesn’t say it in the FC, it doesn’t count. This document spells out our fundamental rights as a citizen and it is empowering to know it. Fear comes from ignorance. Don’t be ignorant and you will fear less. After you read and know what it guarantees, defend it and use it to defend others. Also, obey all the laws (if it doesn’t contradict the FC), even the minor ones like putting on your seat belts.

3. Remember who’s the boss: You! – That’s right, if you are a citizen, you are the boss in our democracy, which incidentally means “people” (demo) “power” (kratos) from the Greek origin. What about the Prime Minister, I hear you say. Well, the word “minister” is an old English word for servant. So, there you have it, another phrase for Prime Minister is Chief Servant, and all the other ministers are servants. After all, we are the ones paying their salaries. A caveat, if you are one of those Malaysians who treat your servants badly, don’t forget that the PM is also a fellow citizen.

4. Start building bridges – Let’s get out of our own community and start building friendships with other Malaysians of a different race and religion from your own. Invite each other to festivals, anniversaries and birthday celebrations. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out that there is a lot in their culture and traditions that you admire and prejudices you had were unfounded. You would probably find out that underneath all our differences we are just human beings who share common values and aspirations. Start tearing down those false barriers put up by politicians who can only stay in power by dividing us.

5. Be an active citizen – Stop complaining and start doing something. If you are feeling unhappy about the way this country is run and feel that we should be much better off, then get off your b*tt, (or your keyboard) and make a decision now – things are going to change and it is going to start with ME! Stop looking to the government, present or future, to solve all our problems because it ain’t gonna happen. Believe that you can do your bit to change your corner of the world. It doesn’t have to be things like taking part in the next big protest but it can be something as simple as reminding your town council to collect the rubbish or cut the grass at the park. And don’t forget to vote.

6. Use the national language (and other languages) – We need to talk to each other. Suspicions and strained relationships creep in when we don’t understand each other. We need to take pride in our National Language, Bahasa Malaysia. If you are not fluent in it, learn it and use it. It doesn’t mean we neglect our mother tongue or English. The way God wired us, we are capable of being fluent in multiple languages and we should go for it. Also, remember that learning doesn’t stop with schooling and it is never too late to learn the National Language, after all, it is one of the easiest languages to learn.

7. Be well-informed – In order to assess accurately, think critically and decide correctly, we need to have good and reliable information. Gather information from different sources, cross check them and then act on them. We are in the Information Age after all and information is just a click away. Read both pro-establishment and alternative media; read both local and international news; talk to people who are well-informed and get their perspective. James Madison said, “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

8. Reject corruption – Corruption is the scourge of any society and we must have zero tolerance for it or as the PM said, “…have a natural abhorrence of corruption”. The guilty is not just the person receiving the bribe or abusing his power but the one who gives or allows someone to abuse his power. We need to make a commitment to never offer a bride and if we have done it before, admit it to yourself or someone close to you that it is wrong and you won’t be doing it again. Report every corrupt person, from the junior officer to the most senior leader whether you believe action would be taken or not. To give bribe or do nothing to stop it is to be an accomplice to a crime and we are betraying our country.

9. Be a giver and not just a taker – Look for ways to go beyond earning a living for yourself or your family. Start a business, invest in one, have a farm or factory, provide a service, export your products and create jobs. We need to “add to” and not just “take out” of our economy. Whatever we do, consider the social and environmental impact of decisions. Will we give people fair wages and not just minimum wage? Will our working hours and conditions cause hardship for those working for us? Will what we do pollute the environment? Will it be sustainable? Success is not just about the money but the legacy we leave behind.

10. Care for those less fortunate than us – We are less than nothing as a society if we have not compassion for the less fortunate among us. If we do not rush to the aid of the weak, sick and dying, not only are we demonstrating our lack of cohesiveness as a society but our lack of a heart and soul. Being a family means to look after each other through thick and thin. Get involved with charities and organisation that reach out to the poor and needy. By doing so, you are not only a better Malaysian but also a better human being.

The above are by no means comprehensive but they should be a good guide on our journey to make a mark on our nation, however big or small. It may be just pure idealism to belief that we can change the world but it is better than just existing.

In closing, another of Steve Jobs’ famous quote – “The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Will you join me and be crazy enough to think that we can make Malaysia a better place for our children by becoming a better Malaysian?

Thomas Fann blogs at

Death penalty to stay

Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop says there are 930 people on death row as of August, this year.

KUALA LUMPUR: The government has no plans to abolish the death penalty, Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop said today.

He was responding to Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh during the question and answer session at parliament.

“The government had answered this question in the previous Dewan Rakyat session. However, we welcome the suggestion made,” he said.

Abu Seman also said that there are 930 people on death row as of Aug 31, 2012.

He said those who received the death sentence are mostly those convicted of drug trafficking, murder, kidnapping and for being a threat to national security.

He, however, said the inmates were yet to be executed as their cases were being appealed in courts and to the respective state Pardon’s Board.

“A total of 725 cases are still being appealed in courts. The balance of 205 are being studied by the Pardon’s Board, as stipulated under Clause 114 of the Prisons Act,” said Abu Seman.

With Affirmative Action, India’s Rich Gain School Slots Meant for Poor

Kuni Takahashi, The New York Times, October 07

 “Of the thousands of reasons to hate the government, reservations is definitely one of them,” said Sneha Sekhsaria, 25, of Calcutta, facing front at right, of the quotas used for university admissions.
Published: October 7, 2012

CHENNAI, India — The two women both claim that affirmative action cost them coveted spots at elite public universities. Both cases have now reached the Supreme Court.

One of the women, Abigail Fisher, 22, who is white, says she was denied admission to the University of Texas based on her race, and on Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court is to hear her plea in what may be the year’s most important decision. The other woman is from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and two weeks ago the Indian Supreme Court ordered that she be admitted to medical school pending the outcome of a broader court review.

“When I came to know that I could not get into any medical college, I was really shocked,” C. V. Gayathri, the Indian student, said in an interview. “I didn’t speak to anyone for a week. I cried. I was very depressed.”

Though the outlines of the two cases are similar, differences between how the world’s two largest democracies have chosen to redress centuries of past discrimination are striking. While affirmative action in the United States is now threatened, the program in India is a vast system of political patronage that increasingly works to reward the powerful rather than uplift those in need.

Indeed, the caste-based affirmative action here raises questions for nations like Brazil and Malaysia that have adopted anti-discrimination programs that are in some ways similar to India’s. Without diligent judicial oversight, experts say, the efforts can help perpetuate inequality rather than redress it.

In Tamil Nadu, for instance, 69 percent of university admissions are now set aside for what the state has determined to be “backward castes.” Many of those favored with these set-asides have controlled Tamil Nadu’s government and much of its resources for generations, but they claim special status by pointing to a caste survey done in 1931. (Ms. Gayathri, 17, is a Brahmin whose parents are civil servants with modest incomes.)

Five prominent university officials in Tamil Nadu said in interviews that those given set-asides at their institutions were generally the children of doctors, lawyers and high-level bureaucrats. The result is that rich students routinely get preference over more accomplished poor ones who do not happen to belong to the favored castes. None of the officials would allow their names to be used for fear of angering the government ministers who benefit politically and personally from the program.

India’s caste system was created nearly 1,500 years ago to organize occupations in a feudal agricultural society. Those at the bottom of the system, now known as Dalits, were forbidden in some places from even allowing their shadows to fall on those at the top, known as Brahmins. Most castes were deemed “backward,” which meant that they were consigned to menial jobs.

Over the last 30 years, however, India’s economy has been transformed, much of its populace has moved from villages to sprawling cities, and once distinct castes have been scrambled. That has led to the erosion of historic differences in education and increased income mobility within castes in India, recent studies have found.

“Caste is no longer an economic restriction,” said Viktoria Hnatkovska, an assistant professor of economics at the University of British Columbia, and a co-author of several studies on the changing role of caste in India.

Nonetheless, quotas have transformed the taint of “backwardness” into a coveted designation.

The Gujjars of Rajasthan, for instance, held violent riots two years ago to protest the government’s refusal to declare them as “most backward.” Politicians win elections in India by promising to bestow this one-time curse, which has led to a dramatic expansion in those considered backward decades after the designation had true economic meaning.

Indeed, caste awareness among the young is sustained in part because of set-asides, so a program intended to eliminate the caste system is now blamed by many for sustaining it.

“When I was filling out my college application forms, there was this box for caste,” said Sneha Sekhsaria, 25, of Calcutta. “I had to ask my dad what our caste was, and he had to think about it for 15 minutes before telling me that we were in the general category.”

The general category meant that she received no preference, a fact that Ms. Sekhsaria blames for her failure to qualify for medical school. She went to dental school instead.

“Being a doctor was always my dream, but I got a dental degree instead and that’s O.K.,” she said.

But she remains bitter that some of her friends who scored more poorly than she did on entrance exams were able to become doctors even though she and others in her circle were entirely unaware that they were “backward.”

Nonetheless, the benefits that flow from caste quotas have made them popular, and supporting them is one of the few issues on which the present government and its opposition agree. Within the next few months, the Indian Parliament is expected to overwhelming approve a constitutional amendment that would allow caste-based quotas not just in educational settings and in government hiring but also in government promotions.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly tried to curtail the scope of caste quotas, but the Parliament has passed amendments in response to protect and even expand them. The court has ruled that quotas should not exceed 50 percent of university admissions, but Tamil Nadu has ignored this restriction and a case challenging the state’s larger quota has been pending since 1994.

In the meantime, the court has ordered the state to provide extra slots to at least some students who contest the higher quotas, including Ms. Gayathri, who has been admitted to Tirunelveli Medical College. In an interview, Salman Khurshid, India’s law minister and minister for minority affairs, said that wealthy beneficiaries of caste quotas should acknowledge that they no longer need set-asides and voluntarily bow out of the system.

Some rules forbid the wealthy — or “creamy layer” — from taking advantage of quotas, but those rules have not been implemented in many states and are widely ignored in others.

D. Sundaram, a retired professor of sociology from Madras University and a longtime member of Tamil Nadu’s now-disbanded Backward Classes Commission, defended the state’s quotas by saying that even three generations of wealth and power cannot reverse centuries of backwardness.

“The system has not been in place long enough,” Dr. Sundaram said.

To be sure, many Dalits and people from tribal backgrounds are still overwhelmingly poor, and even many critics of India’s caste-based quotas acknowledge that set-asides for them may still be worthy.

Ravi Kumar, general secretary of a Dalit political party in Tamil Nadu, agreed that many of those who benefit from the state’s vast caste-based quotas are wealthy and powerful. But his party supports quotas, also known as reservations, for the wealthy “because if we opposed them they would stop all reservations,” Mr. Kumar said.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, said that caste-based quotas will gradually become less important as the quotas themselves make public universities less attractive to the most talented students. “The talented people will simply migrate away,” he said.

But that is no comfort to Ms. Sekhsaria, whose family ended up spending tens of thousands of dollars to send her to a private dental school after she was turned down for a government medical school, where the fees are modest.

“Of the thousands of reasons to hate the government, reservations is definitely one of them,” she said.

Niharika Mandhana contributed reporting from Chennai and New Delhi.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 9, 2012

An article on Monday about unintended effects of caste-based antidiscrimination efforts in India included an imprecise comparison among such efforts in other countries. Questions have been raised for nations like Malaysia and Brazil by the similarities between their antidiscrimination efforts and those of India, not those of the United States.

Resurrecting Afghanistan's Giant Buddhas

Resurrecting Afghanistan's Giant BuddhasBut as the war winds down, will there be the will and means to do it?

As one gazes up at the sandstone cliff face in Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province, today there is only empty space and rubble where two of the world’s largest Buddhist statues once sat.

The statues were built in Afghanistan in the 6th century – when the country was a center of Buddhist learning – and stood until they were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

“The Taliban saw the Buddha statues as symbols, as idols. They wanted to show their power in Afghanistan, especially in Bamiyan province,” said historian Ali Payam.

Merza Hosain Ahmadi, a prisoner of war at the time, took part in the destruction. He says the Taliban brought in heavy weapons, even tanks, to destroy the ancient monuments.

“They demanded all war prisoners like me to drill into the statues and put explosive materials there. Every day we made holes in the Buddha statues and put a huge number of bombs inside,” he recalls.

Ahmadi says the biggest statue was destroyed after 25 days of constant drilling and bombing.

After the fall of the Taliban in 2003, archaelogists and historians discussed the possibility of rebuilding the Buddhas. A year later, the Afghan government started the Buddha reconstruction project with the assistance of UNESCO and financial help from Japan and Germany.

But the project didn’t last long because the winter, which can run up to 7 months of the year, was too cold for the workers.

Murad Ali, 35, used to work as a guide for people visiting the Buddha ruins. He says excavators worked to rehabilitate the statues but didn’t have much success.

“They didn’t bring any big change to the destroyed statues. Everyday we can see big stones falling from the place where the biggest statue used to stand,” he says, “If nobody pays attention, the remaining parts will be destroyed too.”

But last year UNESCO decided to stop the reconstruction project and leave the statues in the hands of the Afghan government, which is reluctant to continue the project without any financial aid.

For now the site has been left as is as a way to remember the Taliban’s violence, but many would like to see the site rebuilt. A German group of archaeological conservationists, for example, are pushing for the Buddhas to be rebuilt. They have been working on the site to salvage any remaining fragments of the sculpture – some weigh up to 40 tons – and put them under a protective covering to preserve them as best they can.

Archaeology student Assadullah Husaini is convinced the Buddha reconstruction project is still possible.

“Our next goal is to rebuild the Buddha statues and challenge the Taliban with our work,” he says.

Many locals support reconstruction because the Buddhas were once a great source of income from tourists. Nasir Ahmad Bihzad, 25, is a university student who lives in the village near the Buddha statues. He says there is a good reasons to reconstruct the statues.

“Tourists who come to the site will pay money. And the benefit also goes to the local people, because tourists will buy food and other things here, stay in hotels,” he says. “We can also show our good culture to them too.”

But not everyone in Afghanistan agrees. Though many clerics and religious leaders may not have condoned the destruction of religious idols, they don’t support rebuilding them.

That includes former prisoner of war Husain Ahmad Ahmadi.

“In Islamic society, the existence of idols is haram or taboo. Especially in the society where the knowledge level is low like Afghanistan,” he says. “Some people might think that the statues are the real God and worship them.”

(This article was first broadcast on Asia Calling, a regional current affairs radio program produced by Indonesia’s independent radio news agency KBR68H and broadcast in local languages in 10 countries across Asia. You can find more stories from Asia Calling at

Masalah Negara Kalau Pemimpin Tidak Ada Ketegasan Dan Tak Berani

Mahathir lwn Soros — Sakmongkol AK47

Oct 10 — Kenyataan Dr Mahathir semakin hari semakin bizarre. Orang Melayu kata macam buang tebiat. Sewel, biul dan merapu. Terbaru Dr Mahathir berkata mengundi Pakatan Rakyat bererti mengundi Soros dan mengundi Soros bererti penaklukan semula. Re-colonisation.

Makna nya kalau Anwar PM- maka Soros dibelakang nya. Haji Hadi, Kit Siang semua menjadi antek neo-kolonialisme. Begitu? Rakyat Malaysia yang 29 juta ini apa pula? Anak kambing? Who are you trying to kid DR Mahathir? ( kid =anak kambing). Keluarga Shahrizat anggap kita lembu. Mahathir anggap kita anak kambing.

Siapa Soros? Kita tahu dia seorang yang kaya dan membuat pelaburan melalui beberapa syarikat milik nya terutama flagship company nya- Quantum Funds. Dia guna kekayaan nya untuk membantu pertubuhan dan gerakan2 mendapat kemerdekaan. Dia juga seorang dermawan yang terkemuka membantu rakyat yang buta huruf, kebuluran dan yang ditimpa mala petaka.

Dr Mahathir kata dia tak bagus dan penyangak. Tapi jutaan rakyat dalam negara yang duduk dibawah pemerintah yang zalim menganggap Soros sebagai anugerah Tuhan kepada mereka.

Kepada Dr Mahathir Soros penyangak. Tapi Dr Mahathir menulis suatu surat kepada Soros dengan nada yang merayu rayu ajak berjumpa untuk menyelesaikan masaalah ekonomi secara bersama. Kalau Soros ini jahat mengapa Dr Mahathir tulis surat kepada Soros dan kemudian nya berjumpa? Boleh jadi inilah agaknya maksud lebih baik berkawan dengan syaitan yang dikenali daripada malaikat yang tidak dikenali. Syaitan mesti kenal geng seangkatan dengan nya.

Dan bukan sahaja Mahathir jumpa Soros- beberapa menteri Malaysia pun turut bersalaman dengan Soros. Kalau tak jumpa manakan boleh berjabat tangan?

Apa masaalah Dr Mahathir ini sebenarnya? Siapa yang beri dia otoriti untuk menentukan orang ini baik untuk Malaysia atau tidak? Setiap hari Dr Mahathir walaupun bukan lagi PM kita, insults our intelligence. rakyat bukan wanita Kemas atau anggota RELA. Ini bukan zaman Dr Mahathir ketika informasi dan maklumat bergerak sehala sahaja- dari dia kepada kita kita. Pada masa itu, apa cakap Mahathir semesti lah benar. Sekarang keadaan berubah. Kita dapat membentuk kefahaman dan pemikiran sendiri. Kita ucap terima kasihlah kepada Dr Mahathir- tapi biarlah kita rakyat Malaysia yang buat keputusan dan putuskan fikiran. Tak perlu Dr Mahathir. kita dah beri dia 22 tahun. Apa lagi yang dia mahu?

Dr Mahathir kata Soros jahat. Soros kata, Dr Mahathir is a menace to his own country. dan saya boleh senaraikan 1001 alasan dan keterangan untuk menyokong kenyataan Soros. Dr Mahathir pun is equally jahat punya orang.

Kita tak tahu apa masaalah Mahathir dengan Soros. Adalah sedikit orang kenal dengan nama Soros yang Dr Mahathir kata sebagai punca krisis ekonomi dunia suatu masa dahulu. Di Malaysia, Dr Mahathir menuduh Soros sebagai punca krsis kejatuhan nilai Ringgit yang mencederakan ekonomi Malaysia suatu ketika dahulu. Tapi pada masa itu, Dr Mahathir menyalahkan apa2 sahaja didepan mata termasuk tiang lampu TNB. Tapi kita tahu punca sebenarnya ekonomi Malaysia jadi kelam kabut adalah akibat dasar2 ekonomi yang dilaksanakan oleh Dr Mahathir sendiri. Apa yang terjadi kepada Malaysia pada ketika itu adalah akibat pembetulan kuasa pasaran kepada ketamakan dan penyelewengan dasar ekonomi DR Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir yang berkelahi dengan Soros .rakyat tak tahu pun. Dr Mahathir kelahi dengan semua orang. Dia kelahi dengan Musa Hitam. Dia sabotaj Tengku Razali. Dia kencing Ghafar Baba. Dia kelahi dengan Anwar Ibrahim. kalau dia kelahi dengan satu orang, mungkin orang terima boleh jadi yang berkelahi dengan Mahathir lah yang bersalah dan jahat. Tapi kalau DR Mahathit kelahi dengan ramai orang- there must be something wrong with Dr Mahathir. sebetulnya dengan Najib pun Mahathir kelahi tapi adalah seorang dua yang mengawal Dr Mahathir. agaknya, negara akan selamat dari gangguan Mahathir bila dia sudah meninggal.

Rakyat bukan inginkan neo kolonilisme. Rakyat mahukan keadilan dan perubahan. Rakyat menolak UMNO . itu sahaja. Tak perlulah Dr Mahathir mengaitkan gelombang kebangkitan rakyat dengan ejen2 luar negara. Dr Mahathir ni hidup dalam dunia paranoia yang berterusan atau dunia schizophrenia kah? Rakyat tidak gila, tapi mereka mahu membebaskan diri dari orang yang gila kuasa. Yang gila kuasa sekarang ialah Najib dan gerombolan UMNO.

Sekarang rakyat menolak UMNO bukan menyokong Soros. Isiu peribadi antara mereka berdua, biarlah Dr Mahathir sendiri selesaikan. Kita tak tahu pun apa yang Soros akan lakukan yang akan membawa kepada kolonisasi kepada rakyat Malaysia. Yang kita tahu ialah, pada waktu ini, gelombang kesedaran rakyat ialah menolak UMNO dan agenda parti tersebut untuk menghamba-abdikan orang Melayu dan bangsa Malaysia. Soros ada atau tidak, rakyat tetap diatas gelombang menolak UMNO yang rasuah dan pembelot!

Agenda rakyat sekarang bukan menyokong Soros tapi menolak UMNO. Sejak tahun 1981, Dr Mahathir, lebih daripada orang lain, menerbalikkan UMNO- kaki diatas, kepala dibawah. UMNO tidak lagi dilihat sebagai wadah membawa perubahan- tapi wadah mengukuhkan kuasa golongan elit menakluk pemikiran orang Melayu. Dalam zaman Mahathir lah, orang Melayu diajar berkelahi sesama sendiri- abang lawan adik, ibu lawan ayah, adik beradik bertelagah dan benci membenci. Itulah yang agenda yang dibawa oleh UMNO Mahathir. Dalam zaman Mahathirlah, orang Melayu diajar kurang ajar terhadap agama Islam. Islam dipersenda dan diejek oleh orang Melayu sendiri. Kalau hukum Islam dijalankan, ramai rakyat Malaysia akan kudung; orang Islam tidak bercukur kerana tidak ada pisau cukur. Kalau rejam batu, maka Malaysia kehabisan batu.

Jadi, apa yang dilambangkan oleh pemerintahan UMNO ciptaan Dr Mahathir? UMNO Mahathir lah yang sebenarnya melambangkan penjajahan keatas bangsa sendiri. Penjajah lama diganti dengan penjajah baru dan kemuncak penjajahan dan penaklukan keatas bangsa Melayu dimulakan oleh Dr Mahathir.

Malu kita terutama penyokong UMNO mahu mempertahankan kenyataan yang bizzare dan tidak masuk akal. Ini suatu lagi contoh kenyataan yang sengaja dikeluarkan untuk menakutkan orang Melayu. Macam lah UMNO sahaja yang boleh menjaga orang Melayu dan negara ini.

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

Umno Leader Urges Malays To Give Total Support To Party

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 (Bernama) -- The Malays cannot depend on PAS and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) to champion their cause, an Umno divisional leader said Wednesday.

Datuk Syed Ali Alhabshee, head of the Cheras Umno Division, said the Malays should give their total support to Umno.

"No Malay political party other than Umno has achieved an excellent record in administering the country based on the Federal Constitution," he told Bernama.

Syed Ali said that in the complex political environment of today, Umno required a bold shift to erase the negative perception some people had of the party, the principal partner in the Barisan Nasional (BN).

"Umno should change its approach and methodology in keeping with the shift in thinking of young people who are getting more critical. This must be done because the young will determine the course of the country in the future," he said.