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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Teksi: Beri permit individu tanpa syarat

Walk the talk, sell IPP and tolls stakes, KJ tells S'gor

President of India greets countrymen on the occasion of Durga Puja.

Online_news_of_india:: The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee has sent his greetings to his fellow countrymen on the occasion of Durga Puja.

In a message, the President has said, “On the auspicious occasion of Durga Puja, I extend warm greetings to all my fellow citizens.

The festival of Durga Puja marks the victory of good over evil. It is the celebration of Shakti and Bhakti and symbolises our inner struggle to rise to higher levels of consciousness. This is a festival in which every household brims with worship and merriment.

Let us pray to Mother Durga, who epitomises female dynamism that she guide us in the path of righteousness and blesses our land with peace, happiness and prosperity. .
The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee has sent his greetings to his fellow countrymen on the occasion of Durga Puja.

In a message, the President has said, “On the auspicious occasion of Durga Puja, I extend warm greetings to all my fellow citizens.

The festival of Durga Puja marks the victory of good over evil. It is the celebration of Shakti and Bhakti and symbolises our inner struggle to rise to higher levels of consciousness. This is a festival in which every household brims with worship and merriment.

Let us pray to Mother Durga, who epitomises female dynamism that she guide us in the path of righteousness and blesses our land with peace, happiness and prosperity.

May this festival strengthen bonds of brotherhood and may Goddess Durga shower her blessings on all our people for years to come”.

Fresh violence in Myanmar leaves mosque, monastery burned

An injured Buddhist man lies on a bed at the hospital in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine state, on October 23, 2012.
An injured Buddhist man lies on a bed at the hospital in Sittwe, capital of Myanmar's western Rakhine state, on October 23, 2012
(CNN) - Fresh sectarian clashes in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine killed three people and left more than 400 houses, a monastery and a mosque burned to the ground, authorities said Tuesday.

The clashes began Sunday night and spread to four townships, said state Attorney General Hla Thein.

Rakhine is home to the Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim minority who say they have been persecuted by the Myanmar military during its decades of authoritarian rule.

More on Myanmar: Leader holds landmark press briefing

The unrest between the majority Buddhists and the Rohingya minority began five months ago and has tested the efforts of President Thein Sein's administration to seek reconciliation with Myanmar's different ethnic groups and move the country toward more democratic governance.

Authorities have declared at state of emergency in two of the townships, with the state's prime minister instructing that medical teams be accompanied by security personnel when they visit them.

The situation in the region has been tense since May when police detained three Muslim men in relation to the rape and killing of a Buddhist woman. Two of the men were sentenced to death; the third hanged himself while in detention.

News of the crime appears to have motivated several hundred people to attack a bus in Rakhine in early June, killing 10 Muslims who were on board.

The violence then spread across the northern part of the state, resulting in the destruction of thousands of homes and the deaths of dozens, according to the government.

The national government declared a state of emergency in Rakhine, bringing in the military to help restore order.

Hundreds of Rohingyas tried to cross the border into neighboring Bangladesh, but were turned back.

Bangladesh said it already has too many Rohingya refugees, estimating that about 300,000 live in the country.

Afghan husband stabbed wife to death 'for working'

German soldiers on patrol walk past a woman wearing a burka in Balkh, Afghanistan. Picture: AFP Source: AFP

AN AFGHAN man stabbed his wife to death because she worked for an NGO outside the home, police said on Monday after arresting the suspect in the western province of Herat.

"Kulsoom was stabbed eight times by her husband on Friday afternoon because she was working," provincial police spokesman Noor Khan Nekzad told AFP.

"We have arrested the murderer, Abdul Rahim, who killed his wife," Mr Nekzad said.

The couple had been married for six years and had two children.

The killing occurred nearly a week after a 20-year-old woman, Mah Gul, was beheaded in the same province by her in-laws after she refused to go into prostitution.

Abdul Qader Rahimi, the regional director of the government-backed human rights commission in western Afghanistan, said violence against women had dramatically increased in the region recently.

"There is no doubt violence against women has increased. So far this year we have registered 100 cases of violence against women in the western regions," he said, adding that many cases go unreported.

Last year, in a case that made international headlines, police rescued a teenage girl who was beaten and locked up in a toilet for five months after she defied her in-laws who tried to force her into prostitution.

Pakatan divided on secular state issue

While DAP insists Malaysia is a secular state, PKR says it is a non-issue while PAS says the matter is best debated when the political climate is more 'free'.

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakatan Rakyat MPs are divided on the issue of whether Malaysia is a secular state or otherwise.

While DAP insists that Malaysia is a secular state, PKR and PAS MPs were non-committal, saying what matters most is to rejuvenate Malaysia democratic space.

Yesterday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz told the Dewan Rakyat that Malaysia is not a secular state as the Federal Constitution is “silent” about it.

But the Padang Rengas MP did not state if Malaysia was an Islamic state either.

However, he added that the country had been using secular laws which had been brought over from before Independence, through Article 162 of the Federal Constitution.

Petaling Jaya Utara MP Tony Pua was not impressed with Nazri’s answers and accused the minister of being in denial syndrome, to serve the political interest of Barisan Nasional.

“It’s like saying you’re neither a man nor woman,” said Pua.

The DAP publicity chief also said that Nazri’s refusal to recognise Malaysia’s secular constitution was a clear attempt to influence the Malay voters.

“There is nothing wrong with a secular state having Islam as the official religion. It just means that everyone is free to practise their own religion,” said Pua.

Respecting the constitution

Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar said that BN had always used the secular state and Islamic state argument to confuse the masses for its own political advantage.

“I think it’s a bait. As far as we are concerned, we will continue to uphold and respect all that is enshrined in the constitution,” said Nurul.

Whether Malaysia was a secular state or otherwise, Nurul said it was a non-issue.

“The point is that our constitution has helped navigate Malaysia as a moderate Muslim state. The most important thing now is to improve our democratic state to realise our potential to be a beacon of democracy,” said the PKR vice-president.

Meanwhile, PAS’ Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad said that it was best for everyone to leave the debate at an academic level as some quarters may politicise the matter for their own agenda.

“I also think that it’s best for us to debate the matter when the environment is more free. Currently, the situation is too politicised.

“So, it’s more important to get a good government to power that will make the enviroment more conducive for discussions and debates,” said Khalid.

When pointed out that two former prime ministers and a former chief justice had declared Malaysia as a secular state, the PAS MP said that the statements were made based on the situation back then.

“Tunku Abdul Rahman and Hussein Onn interpreted the constitution in the way consistent with whatever they were doing then.

“As for former chief justice Salleh Abas, you must remember that when he was a Terengganu exco, he agreed to the tabling of Syariah enactments by then PAS state government,” said Khalid.

Police report against Maicci chief

Kenneth Easwaran's remarks have riled up Bestino investors, who accuse him of being a busy body.

PETALING JAYA: A group of disgruntled Bestino investors today lodged a police report against the Malaysian Associated Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Maicci) president Kenneth Eswaran over “a slanderous” statement against them.

The report was lodged at the Ipoh district police headquarters by the Bestino Investors Action Committee, who wanted the police to investigate and initiate action against the businessman.

Yesterday Makkal Osai, a local Tamil newspaper, published a report quoting Eswaran who had said that it was unfair for the investors to ask the prime minister to settle their dispute with Bestino and repay their investment.

He was also quoted as saying that the investors had suffered due to their greed and that they did not seek Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) advice before investing in Bestino.

Bestino was a huge firm dealing with gold trading and investment, attracting nearly 6,700 investors who had invested to the tune of RM411 million. The company was raided and closed down by BNM in 2009, after it found some discrepancies in the firm’s dealings.

Since then, investors had been trying to get back their investment. The firm said that their money was safe in an account overseas. The company claimed that the funds could not be brought into Malaysia as the sum was too huge and needed government approval.

Both BNM and the Finance Ministry were reported to have given Bestino the green light to transfer the funds but the firm was still citing several obstacles in getting the money into Malaysia.

Dubbing Easwaran as a “busy body”, K Kunasekaran of the Bestino Action committee said the MAICCI head should stay out of the matter as he was neither an investor nor a Bestino director to comment on it.

“He has no right to talk about the thing since he is not the finance minister. Bestino is a legal gold scheme company which is registered under the Registrar of Companies (ROC). It is also endorsed by BNM. Let the authorities and the company do the talking, not outsiders,” he told FMT.

He said the company was established in 2006 and was giving dividends to investors until its accounts were frozen in 2009.

“It seems like Easwaran made noise just to satisfy someone who was not happy with our action to get back our investment. His statement has made many investors angry.

“He should be careful in making statements in the future. Please do not talk about something that does not concern you,” he added.

Stop work order for Bt Caves condo project

The state government has directed the Selayang Town Council to issue a stop work order until further tests are conducted.

BATU CAVES: The Selangor government has directed the Selayang Town Council (MPS) to issue a stop work order against a developer who is planning a condominium project just adjacent to the famous Batu Caves Hindu temple.

State exco member Ronnie Liu said the state government would conduct a soil test in the area to ensure that the development did not damage statues in the temple, before allowing the developer to proceed with the condominium project.

On Monday, the Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam chairman R Nadarajah raised concerns over the proposed construction of two 29-storey condominiums slatted for the land beside the temple.

The Sri Maha Mariamman Devasthanam manages the Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple in Batu Caves.

The temple management had planned for a peaceful protest on Friday to pressure the Pakatan Rakyat-led state government and the developer to stop the project, which could pose a danger to the temple caves and statues.

Speaking to reporters after visiting the site, Liu said the project was approved in Sep 27, 2007, when the state was under the Barisan Nasional government.

“We learnt that the Mineral and Geo-science Department had also given its approval for the project after conducting tests on the land near the temple,” he said after meeting the temple committee, MPS and the developer.

Also present was DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, Ipoh Barat MP S Kulasegaran, Teluk Intan MP M Manoharan, Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai, Subang MP R Sivarasa, Selayang MP William Leong, Sungkai, Perak state assemblyman A Siveneson, MPS chief Zainal Abidin Azim and several other Pakatan Rakyat leaders.

Liu said MPS had done three separate tests on the land of the proposed condominiums. However, MPS admitted that they did not conduct any tests on the temple caves or statues.

“The Pakatan state government is very concerned. We will look at it at from all angles before making a decision,” he added.

Liu also claimed that MIC’s P Kamalanathan and Gerakan’s A Kohilan Pillay were MPS councillors when the project was approved by the district council.

Kamalanathan is currently the Hulu Selangor MP and MIC Putera coordinator while Kohilan is Gerakan Selangor chief and deputy foreign minister.

It is learnt that the temple committee would stage the protest as planned on Friday.

“We will organise the protest as planned until the government gives us a final decision,” said a spokesperson, representing the temple committee.

Politicisation of hudud angers Dr M

But the former premier is vague if he objected to MCA's move to exploit the issue to gain Chinese votes.

PETALING JAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he detested the ongoing politicisation of the hudud debate but made no clear position on MCA’s move to exploit the issue to win the Chinese votes.

“I am disappointed that hudud is being used for the gains of certain quarters… the issue is not a religious one but a political one,” the former premier told reporters here today.

“I am against hudud being used as a political issue,” added the nation’s longest serving PM whose administration was known for its promotion of moderate Islam and anti-hudud stand.

The longstanding controversy over the Islamic penal law resurfaced when the ruling coalition’s Chinese component party, MCA, at its annual general assembly last weekend played on the issue apparently aimed at shoring up support from the community.

MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek had said that a vote for rival DAP would mean support for PAS’ push for hudud to be implemented if the federal opposition bloc wins the general election.

Chua had also said that PAS condoned the rape of non-Muslims.

PAS and DAP are allies in Pakatan Rakyat but the two clash ideologically with one pushing for an Islamic state and the other being staunch secularists.

To date the hudud issue had not been resolved and political rivals have used the debacle to drive a deeper wedge between the two but PKR, the leading moderates in Pakatan, have so far been successful in containing the conflict.

PAS leaders said Chua’s comments were an insult to Islam and that MCA, with drastic drop in Chinese support, had played the religious card to stay relevant.

Malaysia a Muslim country

The Chinese form the second biggest electorate next to the Malays in Malaysia. Its support for the ruling

coalition had fast dwindled since the landmark polls in 2008 with analysts saying the worse is yet to come for MCA.

Mahathir too admitted that MCA had tried to use the hudud issue to scare the Chinese from voting DAP.

Meanwhile, the former prime minister weighed in on the Islamic state debate and said that Malaysia is by definition a Muslim country despite the absence of any mention of it in the Federal Constitution.

“It is not stated in the constitution but by definition we are a Muslim country and many Muslim countries out there see us as a Muslim-majority country.

“We don’t care if they want to make this a political issue or not,” he said.

The sensitive debate over the country’s status as a secular or Islamic country again made headlines just ahead of key polls when a minister said Malaysia is not a secular state, arguing that there is no mention of the term “secular” in the constitution.

His statement drew a huge debate over the unresolved issue that is often exploited by both sides of the political divide to sway the conservative majority Malay-Muslims.

What MAIKA could not do Tony Fernandes did

Senator S.Ramakrishnan,

Maika holding Bhd the flagship of MIC was started with great promise to the Indian community. But after 28 years of operation there was no hope of return. It became an embarrassment to BN, that PM Datuk seri Najib Tun razak found a way out to get rid of Maika Holdings Bhd.

Oriental capital insurance (OCI) of Maika holding was forced to sell by Najib government to G team resource of Ganalingam for RM106 million (80cents per share). Maika set up out of sweat and blood of Malaysian Indian community but cheated and ruined by Samy Velu and MIC.

UMNO and Najib couldn’t be bothered of the sweat and blood of Indian community but wanted to get rid of this MIC ruined company so that it won’t be an issue for PR to take a swipe at BN.
Oriental capital insurance Bhd was sold to Tony Fernandez of Air Asia for RM156.91 million by G resources. G resources never responded to calls on whether the RM50.91 million surpluses will be returned to shareholders.

Why is G resources of Ganalingam remaining silent about this RM50.91 million? Gnanalingam owe an explanation to MAIKA shareholders.

Within one year of purchase Tony Fernandez is able to apply for listing of OCI in bursa Malaysia. Tony plans to raise RM1 billion from the proposed listing. Maika holding or G resources could have done the same and saved the investment of poor people who responded to the call of Samy Velu and MIC to form an economic arm for Indian community.

MIC failed to float this one good investment and allowed it to slip away. Can MIC ever do anything proper and meaningful to Indian community? What one businessman can do within a short span of time, MIC as an important BN component party could not accomplish in 28 years.

Looks like MIC can only give out hampers and provide entertainment to Indian youths during election to get votes for UMNO. MIC wants to keep Indian community weak and ignorant so that they are subservient to BN and remain poor. This is the party created by UMNO to outsource Indian affairs to MIC.

Even the recent announcement by PM Datuk Najib Tun Razak that RM100 million allocated to repair Tamil Schools were withheld by ministry of education. Suria cooperative could only nominate names of contractors but MOE will decide whether to award the job or not.

It’s sad that Indian community with so much talent and able people could not build any economic vehicle with a RM100 million investment company in 1980s. MIC squandered away many opportunities.

Even without UMNO support, Indians could have built an economic empire with the Malaysian economy growing 8% to 10% continuously for about 20 years. MIC not only loss RM100 million of Indian community, the Indian community rights as citizens of this country were diluted and were on the wedge of losing it for good. Indians are doing well in all other countries except Malaysia due to the apartaid policy of BN government.

After years of suffering and erosion of basic human rights, the community woke up to the calls of NGOs and opposition parties in particular HINDRAF and the rest is history. Let’s hope and do our part to keep the community alert and be aware of the political developments.

As citizens of Malaysia we have equal right as any other citizens regardless of race or religion. UMNO using MIC has been cheating Indians all this while. Indian community is not beholden to them and it is time that we get rid of them in the coming 13th GE for a better future to our children and grand children.

The man who brought the Black Flag to Timbuktu

A new Islamist strongman has taken the stage in North Africa. His rising power is giving him a lot of bad ideas.

Ag Ghali has already begun to realize his dream of imposing sharia law. Music, TV, and smoking have all been banned in the areas under his control, and Ansar Dine troops have been punishing women for not covering up properly. The group's members have drawn up lists of unwed mothers and offering couples money to get married. Those who don't comply with their demands face harassment, torture, or execution.

William Lloyd-George, Foreign Policy

He was once known for his drinking habits, his stylish mustache, and his serial womanizing. Over the course of his colorful career he has served as a diplomat, a rebel chieftain, and a negotiator with al Qaeda hostage-takers. Today, however, Iyad Ag Ghali -- known within his community as the "Lion of the Desert" -- is winning new notoriety as a militant commander and Islamist powerbroker in a strategically sensitive corner of North Africa.

His prominence is likely to increase in the months to come. The rebellion in northern Mali that began earlier this year, fueled by loose weapons from the revolution in neighboring Libya, has morphed over the past few months from an ethnic separatist conflict to one increasingly dominated by Ansar Dine, the radical Islamist movement led by Ag Ghali -- raising the possibility that the breakaway region could become a new jihadist safe haven and a lingering source of instability across northern Africa.

French President François Hollande has engineered a U.N. vote to consider intervention in Mali, and his defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, recently said it was "a matter of weeks" before military action. Washington has given its blessing to military involvement by a regional grouping of African states eager to staunch the possible side effects radiating out from Ansar Dine's new mini-state. And there's even been talk that the Obama Administration might launch drone strikes against members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a group that has sought refuge with the Islamists in northern Mali and which has been linked by U.S. officials with the attack that killed U.S. diplomat Christopher Stevens last month in Libya.

Much of what happens next will depend crucially on Ag Ghali's skills as a politician and a military leader. In recent months he has put his talents on ample display, stunning regional observers by engineering a convincing political and military victory over his erstwhile allies, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), the latest manifestation of a long line of rebel groups that have violently agitated for independence for the ethnic Tuaregs of the northern part of the country. While Tuaregs share Muslim beliefs with other Malians, the MNLA was never distinguished by religious militancy -- in stark contrast to Ansar Dine, which aims for the unification of Mali under Islam and sharia law. By contrast, the MNLA has committed itself to a secular independent state it calls Azawad (a word that translates as "Land of the Nomads") and opposition to Islamic groups operating in the North.

Ag Ghali has already begun to realize his dream of imposing sharia law. Music, TV, and smoking have all been banned in the areas under his control, and Ansar Dine troops have been punishing women for not covering up properly. The group's members have drawn up lists of unwed mothers and offering couples money to get married. Those who don't comply with their demands face harassment, torture, or execution. In the town of Aguelhok, a man and woman were recently stoned to death for adultery. In Gao a young man had his hand chopped off for stealing. And in the fabled city of Timbuktu, Ansar Dine units have demolished various ancient Sufi tombs -- part of a UNESCO world heritage site that is nonetheless derided by ultraconservative Muslims as a symbol of unorthodox belief.

Ansar Dine's ascendance is fueling worries in the West about the possibility of a new Islamist nexus in a part of the world that had long seemed dependably stable. For two decades Mali has enjoyed a reputation as a successful Muslim democracy, a status rewarded by the U.S. and other western donors with generous supplies of aid. But there was one source of potential trouble: The large and restive Tuareg population in the country's arid North, who have launched a series of haphazard revolts over the years, citing oppression and discrimination. During famines, for example, the central government looted funds for aid and resettlement camps, fueling anger amongst the Tuareg communities (often known locally as the "blue people," thanks to the indigo headscarves often wear, sometimes staining their skin the same color).

Many of the Tuaregs moved to Libya to escape drought and economic underdevelopment in their desert homeland; some of them even found jobs in the Libyan military. As it happened, the fall of Muammar Qaddafi last year gave fresh impetus to Tuareg separatists. As they watched Qaddafi's regime near its end, leaders from previous rebellions began plotting to return to Mali, now bolstered by cars and heavy weapons believed to have been largely swiped from Libyan government arsenals. Having formed the MNLA, which incorporated various Tuareg groups from around the region, the rebels launched an offensive and quickly took several major cities in the North.

Ag Ghali, who had been the instigator of a previous rebellion in 1990, quickly spotted an opportunity. At a meeting of rebel leaders last October, Ag Ghali offered himself as a leader of the MNLA. But the Tuareg leaders rejected him on the grounds of his increasingly ardent Islamist beliefs. "We want to be a secular group," MNLA spokesman Moussa Ag Acharatouman told me at the time. "Ag Ghali's desire to impose sharia does not fit the wishes of the people or the goals of the MNLA."

The leaders of the group have since had ample reason to regret their decision. Just weeks after they rejected him, Ag Ghali moved to announce the creation of his own group, which he dubbed Ansar Dine, or "Defenders of the Faith." Ag Ghali declared -- to the dismay of MNLA leaders -- that his group's main goal was the establishment of sharia law across Mali. The nationalist leaders suddenly found themselves outflanked. "We knew that with Ag Ghali, a famous Tuareg leader, running around shouting about sharia law and welcoming Islamists into the region, we had no hope," said one MNLA commander at the time, wishing to remain anonymous due to his physical proximity to Ansar Dine units.

This time the Tuareg revolt got off to a blazing start. The separatists took town after town with barely a fight; Ansar Dine and AQIM forces helped to push out the Malian troops. The Tuaregs' rapid success ultimately even triggered a military coup in the South, where disgruntled officers, enraged by the government's failure to support their efforts to quash their rebellion, toppled the civilian government in the capital of Bamako. Ironically, considering the plotters' expressed intent to maintain Mali's national integrity, their move ended up accelerating the Tuareg takeover of the North. Although barely in control of the region, the rebels' political wing announced the creation of the new state of Azawad on April 6. The declaration was aimed at trying to steal some of the thunder from Ag Ghali's group.

The leader of Ansar Dine wasn't prepared to let it go at that. He welcomed in Islamists from around the region, and, with Mali's borders unguarded by Malian troops, they began to flock to the North. The ranks of Ansar Dine, which had begun with just a few hundred troops, quickly swelled -- and the MNLA found its power slipping away. "One moment we were in control of everything," one MNLA fighter told me. "We thought this was it, this is set to be the most successful rebellion yet. Then suddenly it all went completely wrong. It's heartbreaking." The MNLA discovered that it didn't have enough troops to control all the territory it had captured. Ansar Dine began following it into captured towns, where they raised the black flag of the group and announced that they were in control.

For many, Ag Ghali's metamorphosis into a fervent defender of the faith came as a surprise. For years, locals say, he was well known for his love of women and alcohol. Chana Takiou, the chief editor of the Malian newspaper 22 Septembre, says that during Ag Ghali's earlier years he was well known for frequenting bars and drinking the night away. "He is shy, not very talkative, and rarely laughs," Takiou told me, though noting that Ag Ghali often prayed. He also recalls that Ag Ghali guarded his privacy.

Born in Kidal, a member of the Ifoghas clan, Ag Ghali was the son of nomadic stock farmer. During the 1980s, when he was still in his early twenties, Ag Ghali traveled to Libya, where he joined Qaddafi's Islamic Legion, a group of fighters recruited to defend Islamic causes (and bolster Qaddafi's religious credentials in the process). Ag Ghali was sent to fight against Christian militias in Lebanon.

After the legion was dismantled in 1987, Ag Ghali found himself back in Mali, now with a newly acquired taste for rebellion. On June 28, 1990, he launched the previously mentioned attack on the town of Menaka in the North, killing several Malian police and inspiring the first of many Tuareg revolts. Six months later, however, after intervention by the government of neighboring Algeria, he was pushed into signing a peace agreement without having attained any of his goals. Many of his supporters derided him for selling out, and accused him of stopping the rebellion just as it was getting under way.

Following the 1990 rebellion and a trip to Pakistan, Ag Ghali is reported to have become involved with the Dawa fundamentalist sect, an offshoot of the South Asia-based Islamic missionary association Jamaat al-Tabligh. He is said to have spent increasing amounts of time in mosques, and distanced himself from his previous social circles. Takiou, the Malian journalist, says that was the period when Ag Ghali became more of a hard-line Islamist. "He was spending time with a particular Pakistani preacher called Peshawar, who brought the Dawa movement to Kidal," says Takiou.

Mohammed Sylla, a member of the Dawa movement, who claims to have known Ag Ghali, tells me that he did not appear particularly militant, and was very friendly to all the members. "When some of our members realized he was going to take a rebel initiative, we tried to discourage him," says Sylla. "Our aim is not to attack any one or any country. We are friendly. Ansar Dine has nothing to do with the Dawa movement and we do not understand his objective or his vision." Sylla says that the members of the group "have no idea" why their former adherent embarked on his present path.

It was in 2003 that Ag Ghali began to make public statements of his following adherence to the fundamentalist cause (though he took care to reject terrorism and suicide bombings). He was chosen to be the government's intermediary to negotiate the release of hostages held by the Islamic Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), the primarily Algerian militant organization that has since changed its name to Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). His most significant success came in August 2003, when he negotiated the release of European tourists kidnapped in Algeria and held by Abou Zeid, a GSPC commander.

He has since been involved in a number of other negotiations with the group, sometimes accepting large commissions for his work, which has also brought him a reputation as a powerbroker. In 2006 he became involved again in plans for rebellion, contacting a veteran rebel Tuareg leader with who he started yet another uprising. Yet again, though, to the dismay of countless Tuareg separatists, Ag Ghali once again took the lead in negotiating a peace deal with the Malian government.

In 2007, as described by a leaked State Department cable, he even paid a visit to the U.S. embassy in Bamako, where he met with then-U.S. Ambassador Terence McCulley. "Soft-spoken and reserved, [A]g Ghali showed nothing of the cold-blooded warrior persona created by the Malian press," the cable notes. It also said that the "seemingly tired" Ag Ghali requested U.S. military assistance for special operations against AQIM. Despite his current efforts to impose sharia law, Ag Ghali admitted to the U.S. ambassador that "one of AQIM's weak points was that not many people in northern Mali buy into its extremist ideology." His ability to play off different sides against each other has long been one of his most famous traits, and has helped to accentuate the air of mystery that he has cultivated around himself.

Small wonder, then, that the Malian government was happy to get him out of the way. In 2007, after he told authorities he was fed up with the problems of the North and requested to leave Mali, the government gave him a job as a consular official and dispatched him to Mali's embassy in Saudi Arabia, though without giving him any real diplomatic responsibilities. The government in Riyadh eventually expelled him, accusing him of cultivating contacts with extremist groups. When he returned home, Ag Ghali spent even more time in mosques and grew his beard even longer, though his political motives remained opaque.

Ag Ghali's group has rejected repeated requests for an interview, informing me that he does not wish to receive non-Muslim journalists. While there has been some debate about the sincerity of his religious zeal, analysts note an increasingly radical tone emanating from Ansar Dine over the past few months (as well as from Ag Ghali's own statements).

According to Tinegoum Maiga, the director of the Bamako newspaper La Nouvelle République, Ag Ghali's stress on the imposition of sharia law is motivated above all by a desire to secure financing. "He just wants to make a safe territory for himself, and so he uses sharia law to justify his donors sending him funding," explained Maiga, who claims that Qatar has been subsidizing the group. Maiga also explained that Algeria has a very strong relationship with Ag Ghali and has funded several of his operations for years. "He is very impressed with his new role as spiritual guide, coupled with warlord," says Maiga.

After meeting Ag Ghali in the northern town of Kidal in June, Malian journalist Adama Diarra told me that the Ansar Dine leader appeared deeply committed to his goal of implementing Islamic law. Diarra says that Ag Ghali depicted his aims as modest, and claimed that he merely wished to unify all Malians around their common Islamic heritage. But he says that Ag Ghali also declared anyone who refused to fight under the black flag of his group as "our enemy," and denounced secularism as "rubbish." "Whoever is working with secularism is our enemy and we will fight against them by all means," the warlord declared, according to Diarra. Ag Ghali also went on to demand that Mali should prove its democratic bona fides by holding a referendum allowing the Malian people to vote on the implementation of sharia law.

While Ag Ghali's relationship with the MNLA seems to have waned, and with most MNLA units either fleeing to the border areas or joining Ansar Dine's ranks, he has continued to build a strong network of Islamists in the region. Following the sightings of AQIM leaders around Timbuktu in April, members of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) also began to operate in the region. Although closely allied with AQIM, MUJWA is a jihadi group controlled by black Africans with an operational focus on the countries of West Africa.

In recent months, though, the lines between these Islamist groups has increasingly blurred. Oumar Ould Hamaha, previously a senior member of AQIM, recently began describing himself as an Ansar Dine commander. While AQIM has long operated in the region, this is the first time its leaders have openly appeared in public. In addition to his role as a negotiator, Ag Ghali is also closely linked to the group through a cousin who serves as one of its officers.

The MNLA leadership spent months demanding that Ag Ghali denounce the Islamist groups. But those hopes were dashed when MUJWA fighters clashed with the Tuareg nationalists on June 27. The head of the MNLA, Bilal Ag Acherif, was injured in the fighting and taken to Burkino Faso for treatment; he is yet to return to Mali. Soon after the event, Abu Omar, a senior member of Ansar Dine, sounded unrepentant. "If you want to know if we are in conflict with MNLA, just bear in mind we do not have the same goals," Omar told me. "We will not fight against those who want to make Islam the winner." He explained that Mali has long been dominated by "satanic policies" such as open access to alcohol, prostitution, non-Islamic banking, and tolerance of stark inequalities of wealth as well as "so-called democracy." "We will not go back to the kind of system that God helped us to destroy," Omar told me. Meanwhile, Tuareg sources say that Ag Ghali is pushing the remnants of the MNLA into joining Ansar Dine, threatening attacks if they don't merge with his group.

Local sources say fighters from Senegal, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia, are arriving in northern Mali and attending Islamist training camps. Just last month MUJWA reinforced their rule in the town of Douentza, pushing the boundary of Islamist-controlled territory even further south and raising alarms in Bamako. Already some are beginning to worry that Ansar Dine and its allies could start to launch terrorist attacks in other countries of the region. Such concerns are prompting members of the regional grouping of West African countries, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to consider calls for intervention. Responding to these moves, Ansar Dine spokesman Hamaha recently said: "We will conduct a war against all state members of ECOWAS and also France and the United States of America, the European Union which are supporting ECOWAS. We are ready to die for it."

The gravity of the situation has the attention of policymakers in the West, in Paris as well as Washington. The Malian government and ECOWAS military advisers are drawing up military plans for submission to the United Nations by a late November deadline. Those plans are likely to follow the model of the military intervention in Somalia by East African countries organized and supported by the West.

Talks between ECOWAS and Ansar Dine have so far brought little progress. When ECOWAS asked Ag Ghali to separate himself from "foreign" Islamist groups, he responded with fresh calls for the implementation of sharia. Malian Islamic officials have contacted the Ansar Dine leader to sound out possibilities for implementing some version of Islamic law, but it could already be too late for a peaceful solution. As his enemies marshal their forces, the enigmatic Ag Ghali will soon be forced to show his true colors. Either he will have to find an exit plan that plays to his well-versed strengths as a mediator or to go all the way in the fight for his religious beliefs.

Najib, Kalau Betul Kamu Pemimpin, Terima Cabaran, Debat Tajuk Ekonomi Malaysia

Mengapa Perancis Bersungguh Dengan Skandal Kapal Selam?

Oleh Subky Latif

Jika Suaram bersungguh-sungguh memanjangkan kes skandal pembelian dua kapal selam dari Perancis dapat difahami mereka tidak rela rakyat dan Malaysia dipelekuh oleh penyangak berbaju pemimpin.

Sebagai pembayar cukai, mereka tidak mahu duit mereka dirompak dan mereka mahu negara dan duit negara yang juga duit mereka diurus dengan baik. Binasa negara dan rakyat termasuk mereka jika negara ditadbir oleh orang yang mereka percaya sang penyangak.

Itu hak mereka yang dijamin oleh perlembagaan.

Tetapi puak-puak Perancis, terutama pengamal undang-undang seperti peguam dan pengendali mahkamah, mengapa pula beria-ia memproses aduan yang dikemukakan oleh Suaram?

Dalam apa yang dirasakan skandal ini jika benar-benar berlaku, yang tertipu dan yang kena perdaya ialah orang Malaysia dan negaranya. Ia hendak lingkupkah dan hendak mampuskah, ia masalah orang Malaysia.

Kalau orang-orang Malaysia bodoh hingga ditipu oleh pemimpinnya dan negaranya ditipu serta dipelekuh oleh penyangak dunia adalah masalah Malaysia. Kalau orang Malaysia dan para pemimpin Malaysia semuanya bodoh, bodohlah kalau penyangak dunia kalau tidak tipu mereka.

Bukan Perancis itu bangsa penjajah yang pernah menindas, memperbodoh, menipu anak-anak tanah jajahannya. Mana mereka belas kasihan kepada orang yang dijajahnya. Dan peguam dan pengamal undang-undang Perancis itu adalah keturunan puak-puak penindas belaka.

Jika betul Malaysia dan kerajaannya menjadi mangsa tipu syarikat pembuat kapal selam, maka kena tipu itu bukan Perancis dan bukan syarikat Perancis yang kena tipu. Lantaknyalah.

Dari apa yang saya faham, pihak bodoh dan kena tipu dalam skandal ini ialah Malaysia. Sama ada syarikat Perancis menipu, disengaja atau tidak sengaja, Perancis belum tentu jadi penipu. Yang mungkin menipu itu ialah pemimpin-pemimpin Malaysia sendiri yang dipillih oleh rakyatnya.

Tiada apa rugi Perancis dan jelas yang bodoh bukan Perancis.

Oleh sebab yang besarnya adalah masalah Malaysia, maka Perancis dipercayai tidak gatal untuk bersusah payah melibatkan diri dalam suasana orang-orang bodoh itu. Jika tidak melibatkan kepentingan Perancis, maka tiada sebab Perancis gatal mencampuri skandal itu.

Jika demikian mengapa mereka bersusah payah?

Mereka bersusah payah bukan masalah yang menimpa Malaysia. Kalau Malaysia hendak mampus, mampuslah. Tetapi mereka tampil ke depan kerana menjaga kepentingan Perancis. Mereka mahu memastikan Perancis tidak jadi tukang karut dalam skandal kapal selam itu. Mereka mahu menjaga nama baik, prestasi dan imej syarikat Perancis sentiasa baik.

Bukan saja mereka tidak mahu syarikat Perancis tipu bangsa mereka sendiri, mereka juga tidak mahu ada orang luar ditipu oleh syarikat Perancis. Jika penyangak Perancis tipu orang luar, mungkin payah sikit hendak mencegahnya. Tetapi syarikat besar Perancis terlibat dalam penipuan, maka Perancis akan malu besar. Mereka tidak mahu ada syarikat Perancis melakukan penipuan baik terhadap rakyatnya mahu pun orang.

Dalam sekandal ini, syarikat pengeluar kapal selam itu sudah disebut. Apakah betul ia skandal? Adakah syarikat Perancis itu berpakat dengan pemimpin Malaysia menipu rakyat dan kerajaannya?

Perancis tampil dalam kes ini adalah untuk memastikan ada unsur jenayah oleh syarikat Perancis itu. Soal berdepan dengan kerajaan dan pemimpin Malaysia adalah perkara kedua. Yang pertamanya ia hendak memastikan syarikat Perancis itu jahat atau tidak.

Ada pun usahanya untuk membabitkan Perdana Menteri Najib dan pegawai-pegawai ialah untuk mendapatkan bukti tentang pembuat kapal selam itu curang atau tidak.

Pemimpin Malaysia dalam masalah ini tidak sangat sebagai pihak yang dituduh tetapi lebih sebagai saksi.

Malaysia a secular state contrary to Nazri’s remarks, say law experts

The Malaysian Insider
by Debra Chong and Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 — Malaysia is and has always been a secular state even though not expressly stated in the Federal Constitution because the country’s supreme law and founding document is secular, several law experts say as debate continues to storm over the mainly Muslim nation’s status.

The legal pundits refuted minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz’s remarks in Parliament yesterday that Malaysia is not a secular state because it had never been declared or endorsed as such and is wholly absent in the Constitution though he stopped short of labelling the country an Islamic state.

“It’s absolutely untrue,” said Tommy Thomas, regarded as one of the country’s foremost authorities on constitutional law.

“To me, to say that Malaysia is not a secular state because the Federal Constitution does not say so is a real, oversimplistic argument. Just like the Federal Constitution does not say Malaysia is an Islamic state,” he told The Malaysian Insider last night. 

The veteran lawyer, who had studied the subject and presented an essay debunking Malaysia as an Islamic state at the Malaysian Law Conference seven years ago, said his research had shown that the country’s forefathers and the legal experts who helped draft the Constitution had intended the country remain secular even as it acknowledged the individual Malay state Rulers’ rights and power over religious matters which, he pointed out, was for the most part ceremonial.

Thomas pointed to a Pakistani Federal Court judge, Abdul Hamid, who was part of the five-man Reid Commission formed in 1956 to help draw up Malaysia’s Constitution and held the minority dissent on religion, did not go so far as to say Malaysia must have an Islamic state in its Constitution. 

He said Abdul Hamid’s remarks from then was the clearest indicator that the country should remain secular.

Abdul Hamid was the main proponent for including a provision that read: “Islam shall be the religion of the State of Malaya, but nothing in this Article shall prevent any citizen professing any religion other than Islam to profess, practice and propagate that religion, nor shall any citizen be under any disability by reason of his being not a Muslim.”

Thomas said Abdul Hamid, who was from Pakistan, which had gained its independence from Britain in 1947 — a good 10 years before Malaya — and had an Islamic Constitution that put it squarely as an Islamic state, had noted that such a proviso was “innocuous” and would not cause any “hardship” to anyone, but that the judge’s suggestion was rejected by the Conference of Rulers which was against the idea.

The lawyer of more than 30 years’ experience told The Malaysian Insider he still stands by his 2005 essay titled “Is Malaysia an Islamic State?” which concluded that the country was and remains secular, and that no one has disputed his argument to date.

“No one has ever written in to say it’s nonsense,” Thomas said, who blamed Malaysia’s fourth and longest-serving prime minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, for sparking the present confusion over Malaysia’s Islamic or secular state status.

The former Bar Council secretary-general noted in his 2005 essay that it was Dr Mahathir who unilaterally declared Malaysia to be an Islamic country in a political speech at the Gerakan party’s national delegates conference on September 29, 2001.

Dr Mahathir had single-handedly negated the secular pronouncements made by his predecessors including first prime minister and the country’s founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj and third PM, Tun Hussein Onn, by saying: “Umno wishes to state loudly that Malaysia is an Islamic country. This is based on the opinion of ulamaks who had clarified what constituted as Islamic country. If Malaysia is not an Islamic country because it does not implement the hudud, then there are no Islamic countries in the world.”

Thomas’ views on Malaysia’s secularism found strong support with three other legal experts.

Former de facto law minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who is among the most vocal opponents to the introduction of hudud law, the strict Islamic penal code, took to Twitter yesterday in an immediate response to Nazri’s remark.

“Constitution don’t define lots of things. It doesn’t define democracy, so does it mean we are not democratic?” the former lawyer who started Malaysia’s biggest private practice posed on his microblogging account @zaidibrahim.

“If Malaysia is neither secular or theocratic, then its whatever BN says it is,” said Zaid, referring to the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Civil liberties lawyer Syahredzan Johan echoed the two law veterans.

“Just because the Federal Constitution does not have the word ‘secular’ does not mean that Malaysia is not a secular state. 

“Just like how the word ‘democracy’ does not appear in our Constitution, yet we are a country that practises parliamentary democracy,” he said in weighing in on the debate that raged in Parliament yesterday following Nazri’s remark.

Syahredzan stressed that Malaysia is secular because the Constitution is secular.

“An Islamic state would place the Quran as the highest authority, but our Constitution provides in Article 4 that the Constitution is the highest law of the land. 

“The validity of laws therefore must be measure upon the yardstick of the Constitution, and not Islamic principles, thus making the Constitution a secular one,” he said in an emailed response to The Malaysian Insider.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court had set a precedent in 1988 when it rejected an argument in the landmark case of Che Omar Che Soh, a Muslim drug trafficker facing the mandatory death sentence, that because Islam is the religion of the Federation, laws passed by Parliament must be imbued with Islamic principles and that the death penalty was void because it was not according to hudud, or Islamic law.

Tun Salleh Abas, who was then Lord President and head of the judiciary, had said in the landmark ruling that “however, we have to set aside our personal feelings because the law in this country is still what it is today, secular law, where morality not accepted by the law is not enjoying the status of the law.”

Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom also agreed with Syahredzan’s view and went a step further to explain the confusing dual-track judicial system that allows for an Islamic or syariah court to be practised alongside the civil courts.

“Malaysia is a secular state in my point of view because ALL laws must be in line with the constitution and the Constitution is a secular document.

“We have a syariah system because a secular constitution allows it. We have Islamic government agencies but their behaviour is governed by the principles of a secular constitution,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Azmi seemed confident that Malaysia’s secular status will remain unchallenged despite Nazri’s remark yesterday and Dr Mahathir’s 2001 declaration.

“The only way that Malaysia can lose its secular status is through a serious amendment of the Constitution and that will require two-thirds majority agreement in both Houses of Parliament and the agreement of the Conference of Rulers and the states of Sabah and Sarawak,” he said, and added: “Unlikely.”

But Syahrezan was less sure, noting that while legal eagles were splitting hairs over Malaysia’s Islamic versus secular state, a more worrisome trend had emerged in the courts whereby the civil courts appeared to be ceding their authority to the Islamic courts in disputes involving Muslims.

“We are seeing a trend lately to place what the authorities deem as ‘Islam’ on a higher pedestal, even higher than the Constitution itself.

“If the nation is as how the minister described it, ‘founded on the basis of an Islamic government’, then it makes it easier to justify unconstitutional laws and acts because they are ‘Islamic’,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

The up-and-coming lawyer said that the whole debate over the country’s secular or non-secular status was linked to hudud, which is being hotly debated in public in the run-up to the 13th general election that must be called by next April.

“Unfortunately, we seem to be dancing to the tune of those with political motives, who for whatever reasons want Malaysia to be transformed into a theocratic state, or at the very least be seen to champion such a cause.

“The fear is that these will be justified by ascribing extra-constitutional meanings to the words in Article 3, ‘religion of the Federation’, so much so that laws and acts that are unconstitutional would become permissible merely by attaching an Islamic label on them. 

“We may see more and more encroachments into the realm of fundamental liberties, and actions taken by authorities inconsistent with the Constitution or ultra vires their powers all in the name of religion,” said Syahredzan.

Khir Toyo Apologises To Ronnie Liu In Settling Defamation Suit

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 (Bernama) -- Former Selangor Menteri Besar Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo today apologised in open court to Selangor State Executive Councillor Ronnie Liu Tian Khiew in the settlement of a defamation suit against him over a newspaper article in which Khir had implied that Liu was involved in prostitution activities.

The apology was read out by Khir and recorded before Justice Datuk Nik Hasmat Nik Mohamad in the High Court here.

Khir said he apologised to Liu, who is the state assemblyman for Pandamaran, for having caused to be published an article entitled "Khir Membongkarkan Laporan Polis Liu Tian Khiew Pernah Bercampur Tangan Dalam Urusan Menghapuskan Kegiatan Pelacuran" (Khir Exposes Police Report that Liu Tian Khiew Had Interfered in Activities to Eradicate Prostitution) in the China Press dated May 9, 2008.

He said the article referred to Liu as the individual who had obstructed officers of the Subang Jaya Municipal Council and the police in an operation to close down a hotel in Puchong which he had insinuated was a centre for prostitution.

Khir said he also apologised to Liu for further insinuating that he was involved in such activities, which he added was totally untrue.

Education Plan To Be Presented To Conference Of Rulers

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 (Bernama) -- A completed Malaysian Educational Development Plan (PPPM) 2012-2025 will be presented to the Conference of Rulers for consent to implement the plan that can bring a major shift in the country's educational system.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said he appreciated the suggestions and views presented by the Regent of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah because every strata of society including the highest echelon must be directly involved in the plan.

"I appreciate his suggestion. It's our hope that the Rulers will give their endorsement to this plan. I will make a presentation to the Rulers if this is allowed to brief them on the contents of the PPPM," he said here Tuesday.

He disclosed this to reporters after closing the National Convention on the Educational Management of Malaysian Outstanding Principals 2012 entitled "Education in Malaysia Past 2020" and letters of appointment to 112 new outstanding principals.

When opening the convention yesterday, Raja Dr Nazrin suggested that the government presented the PPPM at the Meeting of the Conference of Rulers so that it would get the consent before its implementation.