31 May, 2007

Christian woman's conversion goes unrecognized

Lina Joy is probably Malaysia's best-known Christian convert. She also just lost a watermark case to change her religious identity.

The issue is the jurisdictive balance between civil courts and the Islamic courts.

The ruling has believers concerned over the damage this might cause to their right to practice and share their faith. Muslims, meanwhile, believe that civil courts have no right to meddle in Islamic affairs.

Religious laws cannot be applied to people who do not profess that religion, says Chee Peck Kiat, president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism , who reminds judges that they take an oath of office to uphold the Federal Constitution, which guarantees all Malaysians the fundamental liberty of professing and practising their faiths in peace and harmony....read more from Aliran here.

The woman at the centre of a religious controversy has accused the country's highest court of denying her fundamental rights in rejecting her bid to be legally recognised as Christian reports Malaysiakini.

"I am disappointed that the Federal Court is not able to vindicate a simple but important fundamental right that exists in all persons," she said, according to her lawyer, Benjamin Dawson.

"I am hoping that my case would have made a difference to the development of constitutional issues in the plight of many others."

Meanwhile, Suaram said Lina Joy’s Judgment is Unjust and Denial of Freedom of Religion.

"Justice eluded Lina in the 'Palace of Justice'" said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram).

"By directing Lina to return to the Syariah Court to leave Islam, the Federal Court is turning a blind eye to the fact that Lina Joy will most likely be convicted in the Syariah court since apostasy is a criminal offence in the majority of the states' Syariah law," said Yap.

In Malaysia, Negeri Sembilan is the only state that allows the conversion of Muslims from Islam.

"The ruling by the majority judgments of the Federal Court misses the point that there is no remedy present in the Syariah court," he added.

Suaram said the judiciary has once again failed in its duty in defending a citizen from unjust punishment for merely exercising her rights as enshrined in the Federal Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"Faith must be practiced through conviction and compulsion only renders faith meaningless," said Yap.

So far, it is believed that only 15 to 20 Muslims have been allowed to leave Islam officially through the Syariah Court, according to lawyer Pawancheek Merican.

Mr Pawancheek heads Defenders of Islam, a coalition of 80 Muslim non-governmental organisations, which was set up following a spate of religious disputes that have strained race relations in Malaysia.

To some non-Muslims, yesterday's judgment spelt a setback for religious freedom in Malaysia.

Law of Apostasy and Freedom of Religion in Malaysia

The right to freedom of religion is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed in Islam. This is emphasised in verse 256 of Sura al-Baqara: "Let there be no compulsion in religion". However, the majority of classical Muslim jurists opine that the right to freedom of religion is not applicable to Muslims, that Muslims who intend to leave the Islamic faith or who have apostatised should be condemned to the death penalty. In reality, punishment for apostasy is not prescribed in the Qur'an and had not been practised by the Prophet (S.A.W.). Instead, the Prophet (S.A.W.) had imposed the death penalty upon apostates because their acts were contemptuous of, and hostile towards, Islam. Muslims who merely renounced the Islamic religion were only required to undergo a process of repentance (tawba). The right to freedom of religion is guaranteed in Article 11(1) of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia. However, as Islamic matters belong to the state jurisdictions, most provisions in relation to apostasy are under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Shari'a Courts. Apostates are subject to punishments such as fine, imprisonment and whipping. This article makes an in-depth study of the right to freedom of religion and the issue of apostasy from the Islamic law perspective, and argues that Muslims who intend to leave the Islamic faith are only required to undergo a process of repentance (tawba), and any punishment prescribed for apostasy is contrary to the right to freedom of religion.

- Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil, MARA University of Technology, Shah Alam, Malaysia

(Mohamed Azam Mohamed Adil (2007) "Law of Apostasy and Freedom of Religion in Malaysia," Asian Journal of Comparative Law: Vol. 2 : Iss. 1, Article 6.
Available at: http://www.bepress.com/asjcl/vol2/iss1/art6)

Thanks Yeoh Chee Weng for the link. Read his comment posted below.

Read also : Lina Joy: “Freedom of conscience is at risk in Malaysia

The Christian woman whose conversion the Federal Court refuses to recognise speaks. Yesterday’s sentence practically obliges her to remain a Muslim and to marry a man of her same faith. Malaysian bishop: “An inhuman and uncivil decision”. Other minority religions express their concern. Catholic parliamentarian: “the government needs to clarify all doubts regarding the Constitutions prevalence over Sharia”.

From Asia News.it here.

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30 May, 2007

The bitter struggle for religious freedom ,no Joy !

A crucial turning point in Malaysia's culture war!

I was hoping that the court will decide in favor of freedom instead of intolerance, but the headline on Malaysiakini "No Joy for Lina" indicates the "Death of religious tolerance in Malaysia", and "Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim" ?

In what has been dubbed a blow to Malaysia's religious freedom, the country's highest court today denied an appeal by Christian convert Lina Joy to make her switch from Islam recognized by law. A multi-ethnic state comprised largely of Muslim Malays, Christian and Buddhist Chinese, and Hindu and Sikh Indians, Malaysia has long prided itself on its diversity of faiths. To safeguard this religious heterogeneity, the country's constitution sets out a dual-track legal system in which Muslims are bound by Shari'a law for issues such as marriage, property and death, while members of other faiths follow civil law., writes Hannah Beech, TIME.

But the parallel system has occasionally faced snags. Joy is a Malay originally known as Azlina Jailani, and by Malaysian law her ethnicity automatically makes her a Muslim subject to Shari'a law. In order to make her 1990 conversion to Christianity legal, she needed permission from the Shari'a courts, which consider a renunciation of Islam a major offense. But, since she is still classified as a Muslim by the state, Joy was not allowed to have her case heard by the civil courts. Her six-year-long campaign to convince the civil system to legalize her conversion failed, prompting her appeal to the Federal Court, after the Court of Appeal rejected her claim in September 2005.

On Wednesday, the Court announced that it had no jurisdiction over the case since it was under the purview of Shari'a law, effectively punting on any attempt to clear up the gray space that exists between Malaysia's two legal systems. The ruling was greeted by shouts of "God is great" from many in the assembled crowd outside the Palace of Justice in Kuala Lumpur. More secular observers were far less jubilant. "I see this case not just as a question of religious preference but one of a potential dismantling of Malaysia's democracy, which is based on a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state," warned Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a member of Joy's legal team, before the verdict was announced. "I fear the political process in Malaysia is overtaking the legal process."

The Joy verdict, which will likely become a precedent for several other pending conversion cases, is seen by many in Malaysia as evidence of how religious politics are cleaving the nation, with a creeping Islamization undermining the rights of both non-Muslims and more moderate adherents to Islam. Last November, at a party conference for the Muslim-dominated United Malays National Organization ruling party, one delegate vowed he would be willing to "bathe in blood" to defend his ethnicity — and, by extension, his religion. In several Malaysian states, forsaking Islam is a crime punishable by prison time.

Earlier this week, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who in December acknowledged that race relations in his homeland were "fragile," hosted the World Islamic Economic Forum in Kuala Lumpur. In an era where Islam is so often partnered with extremism and autocratic governance, Malaysia was held up at the annual conference as a model of a moderate Muslim nation committed to safeguarding the rights of its diverse population. But the Federal Court's verdict on Joy's case, which represented her last legal recourse, may undercut that reputation. After all, what is religious freedom if a 42-year-old Malay woman isn't allowed to follow the faith of her choosing?

Outside the courtroom in Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya, more than 300 Muslims representing as many as 80 Islamic groups gathered to pray for the courts to deny Joy's appeal.

Yusri Mohamad, president of the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, welcomed the decision, saying that the court proceedings had been 'an attempt to deconstruct and revamp our current formula, a winning formula' for a peaceful multi-religous society.

Lawyers for Joy have declined to say what her next move would be, but Wednesday's court remains the last legal avenue for her.

'The outcome of this case has shown that we have a constitutional guarantee of freedom which cannot be enforced because our civil courts have no jurisdiction over religious matters,' said Leonard Teoh, a lawyer representing the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism.

'The only avenue now is for us to take a political approach. We will approach the political leaders,' said Teoh.

'People like Lina Joy should not be trapped in any religion.'

It was reported in Malaysiakini that Muslim groups nationwide have been told to be adequately prepared for the much-anticipated Federal Court decision on the Lina Joy case .

Mosques, surau, and non-governmental organisations have been urged to hold
special prayers so that the judgement is "in favour of Islam".

PAS Federal Territory Youth chief Kamaruzaman Mohamad strongly urged all parties to remain calm and warned against any attempts to provoke or raise tensions over the issue.

"The aim is not to antagonise any party or to create tensions. Any mistake
committed by Muslims present (at the Federal Court tomorrow) will be used to
denigrate the image of Islam and that of Muslims in Malaysia," he said in a

"It is also not impossible that certain parties will seek to provoke or
create tensions for that same objective."

He urged those who able to attend court to do so, as a demonstration of
their concern "for the future of Islam in this country".

Meanwhile, The ruling threatens to further polarize Malaysian society between non-Muslims who feel that their constitutional right to religious freedom is being eroded, and Muslims who believe that civil courts have no right to meddle in Islamic affairs.

"You can't at whim and fancy convert from one religion to another," Federal Court Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim said in delivering judgment in the case, which has stirred religious tensions in the mainly Muslim nation.

He said the civil court had no jurisdiction in the case and that it should be dealt with by the country's Islamic courts.

"The issue of apostasy is related to Islamic law, so it's under the sharia court. The civil court cannot intervene."

About 200 mostly young Muslims welcomed the ruling outside the domed courthouse with shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" (God is great), but Christians and non-Muslim politicians were dismayed.

"I think it's a major blow," opposition politician Lim Kit Siang said. "It casts a large shadow on civil liberties and the constitutional rights of Malaysians."

Malaysia's Council of Churches was saddened.

"We still go by the possibility that the constitution allows any citizen of the country to exercise his or her right to choose a religion and practice it," council secretary Rev. Hermen Shastri said outside the court.

"I don't think this decision is going to stop an individual from exercising that right for whatever reason.

Backward step

S Sharmila, a human rights lawyer and secretary-general of the National Human Rights Society, described Wednesday's ruling as a "very regressive interpretation of the constitution as a living document" and "backward step" for Malaysia.

"If there is any hope left, it is in the resounding dissenting judgement which is based on facts, law and logic," she told Al Jazeera shortly after the ruling was made.

"It is a very bold decision that signals a clear and unequivocal dissent which preserves the fundamental principle to choose one's faith based on the constitutional right of all Malaysians being equal before the law."

She said Malanjum held that the NRD policy was unconstitutional and should be struck down

Fierce debate

The case has triggered fierce debate in a country where just over half the 27 million population are Muslims with a sizeable number of Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

According to the latest US state department data on Malaysia, ethnic Malays – who are Muslims by law - make up about half the population but are officially grouped together as Bumiputera, or sons of the soil, with indigenous groups who make up 11 per cent of the population, not all of whom are Muslims.

Joy, her fiance and her lawyers have all received death threats, and streets protests have been held by Muslim groups including the Islam-based PAS opposition party.

Wednesday's ruling is seen as a landmark that will set the precedent for other cases where former Muslims have applied for legal recognition of their conversion to other faiths, several of which are pending in court.

Sa'adiah Din, a sharia lawyer in Kuala Lumpur, said Wednesday's court decision had determined that the country's civil courts do not have jurisdiction over Malaysian Muslims wishing to renounce their faith.

"The crux of this case is whether the apex court is going to uphold the apex law of Malaysia which is the [federal] constitution that guarantees the freedom of religion," she said before the ruling.

In July last year, the government in effect banned all public discussions on religious freedom amid simmering tensions between Muslim groups and rights activists.

The talks had been organised by a coalition called Article 11, named after the clause in the constitution which guarantees freedom of religion for all Malaysians.

Ivy Josiah, the executive director of Women's Aid Organisation (WAO), said the choice of life partners was an issue close to women's hearts.

"The fact that she wants to be a mother and her biological clock is ticking away is terribly unfair to her or anyone else," she said.

"The court obviously did not uphold human rights principles based on the federal constitution, especially on the question of whether we recognise that one has the freedom to choose one's religion and partner."

Josiah said many people, particularly non-Muslims, were concerned that Malaysia was slipping into an unconstitutional situation.


The three-judge appeal bench ruled 2-1 against Joy. The dissenting judge, the only non-Muslim on the bench, said the department responsible for issuing identity cards should have complied with Joy's request to remove "Islam" from her card.

He accused the National Registration Department of abusing its powers. "In my view, this is tantamount to unequal treatment under the law. She is entitled to an IC where the word Islam does not appear," dissenting judge Richard Malanjum said.

Malaysia's Muslim Youth Movement welcomed the ruling, which asserted the overriding jurisdiction of the Islamic or sharia courts in cases centering on a Muslim's faith.

"We hope that we have seen the last of such attempts," said the movement's president, Yusri Mohamad. "We invite anyone who feels that they are aggrieved or victimized within the current system to choose other, less confrontational and controversial attempts towards change and reform."

In practice, sharia courts do not allow Muslims to formally renounce Islam, preferring to send apostates to counseling and, ultimately, fining or jailing them if they do not desist.

They often end up in legal limbo, unable to register their new religious affiliations or legally marry non-Muslims. Many keep silent about their choice or emigrate.

Lina Joy, 43, was born Azlina Jailani and was brought up as a Muslim, but at the age of 26 decided to become a Christian. She wants to marry her Christian boyfriend, a cook, but she cannot do so while her identity card declares her to me Muslim.

In 1999, the registration department allowed her to change the name in her identity card to Lina Joy but the entry for her religion remained "Islam."

Malaysia, like neighboring Indonesia, practices a moderate brand of Islam, but Muslims account for only a bare majority of Malaysia's population and are very sensitive to any perceived threats to Islam's special status as the official religion.

Malaysia has been under Islamic influence since the 15th century, but big waves of Chinese and Indian immigrants over the last 150 years has dramatically changed its racial and religious make-up. Now, about 40 percent of Malaysians are non-Muslim.

While Lina managed – the second time around – to get the National Registration Department to change her name from Azlina Jailani in 1999, accepting that she had renounced Islam, it refused to remove the word “Islam” from her MyKad.

The NRD said it could not do so without a syariah court order certifying she had renounced Islam.

As long as the word “Islam” remains on her identity card, Lina cannot marry her Christian boyfriend, a cook, under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976.

In 2001, she took her case against the NRD director-general, the Government and the Federal Territory Religious Council to the High Court.

She lost – Justice Faiza Tamby Chik held that Malays could not renounce Islam because a Malay was defined in the Constitution as “a person who professes the religion of Islam,” adding it was the syariah court that had the jurisdiction in matters related to apostasy.

Lina appealed to the Court of Appeal and lost again, this time in a majority decision – Justices Abdul Aziz Mohamed and Arifin Zakaria upheld the decision of the NRD but Justice Gopal Sri Ram said it was null and void.

In 2006, she got leave to appeal to the Federal Court and asked the panel comprising Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Richard Malanjum and Federal Court Justice Alauddin Mohd Sheriff these questions:

# WAS the NRD entitled to require a person to produce a certificate or a declaration or an order from the syariah court before deleting “Islam” from his or her identity card;

# DID the NRD correctly construe its powers under the National Registration Regulations 1990 when it imposed the above requirement, which is not expressly provided for in the regulations?; and

# WAS the landmark case Soon Singh vs Perkim Kedah – which held that syariah courts have the authority over the civil courts to hear cases of Muslims renouncing Islam – correctly decided?

While Datuk Cyrus Das appeared for Lina Joy, Senior Federal Counsel Datuk Umi Khaltum Jamid appeared for the NRD director-general and the Government and Sulaiman Abdullah appeared for the religious council.

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29 May, 2007

Report fails Pak Lah over human rights

Human rights have regressed and protective systems for such rights have collapsed under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration in 2006, according to a Suaram report.

Human rights under the “Mr. Nice Guy” - Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration has regressed further in 2006 coupled with alarming collapse of the system and institutions for the protection of human rights, said Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), the leading human rights group during its annual human rights report launch today.

The Malaysia Human Rights Report 2006: Civil and Political Rights is an annual report released by SUARAM to take stock and analyse the human rights developments in Malaysia. The report was launched today at the Cititel Hotel, Kuala Lumpur by two communities who have won the 2006 Suaram's Human Rights Award, the Chin Refugee Committee and the Bukit Jelutong Plantation community.

According to the executive director of Suaram, Yap Swee Seng, the regression of human rights in 2006 are manifested in three regressive trends, namely the growing of the cultures of impunity, religious intolerance and vigilanteism. "If these trends are not checked, they will be detrimental to the protection and promotion of human rights in future," warned Yap.

"First and foremost, the culture of impunity is very prevalent in the law enforcement authorities, especially the police force and the immigration department, that they acted as if they are above the law and untouchable", said Yap Swee Seng, executive director of Suaram.

Yap cited the nine cases of custodial deaths that took place in 2006, a stark increase in comparison to the six cases in 2005. More alarmingly, none of the nine cases in 2006 have had an inquest conducted. There was also not a single policeman has been charged or disciplined for the excessive force and violence used in dispersing protesting crowds against the fuel price hike, toll hike and the forced evictions in Kampung Beremban.

Yap pointed out that systemic impunity continues in the indefinite detention without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the Dangerous Drugs Act (DDA) and the Emergency Ordinance (EO). "Despite the call of the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahamd Badawi to the United States to grant the right to trial for the two Malaysians held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, we regret that he himself has continued to perpetuate impunity with more than 2,000 people remain incarcerated without trial indefinitely in our own backyards."

The growing of religious intolerance, both by state actors and non-state actors has been highlighted by Suaram as the second worrying regressive trend. Cases documented in Suaram's report, including the suggestion of prohibiting casual greeting of "Deeparaya", by Takaful Malaysia, the denial of the right for non-Muslim to seek redress in a civil court in cases involving both Muslim and non-Muslim such as the case of Moorthy and Subashini, the denial of the right to choose a person's own religion such as in the case of Lina Joy, the violent protests staged by certain groups in stopping a peaceful forum in Penang, and the most serious intolerance being the death threats issued against Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a lawyer that acted in some of these cases defending the right to freedom of religion.

The third alarming regressive trend is the institutionalization of the culture of vigilante. This is especially evident and prevalent in the case of the recruitment of civilian into the People's Volunteer Corp (RELA) and the deployment of these untrained civilians in the hunting down of illegal immigrants in the country with bounty.

"Since the amendment in 2005 that gave powers to RELA to conduct raid on undocumented migrants, the government practically let loose the RELA to run wild with raids conducted almost on a weekly basis in 2006 and generated a stream of non-stop cases of RELA taking laws into their own hands in abusing not only the refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrant workers, but also the local residents and foreign tourists", said Yap.
(Read also Malaysiakini :
"Rela chief: Give us more power")

"Underlying these three regressive trends is the alarming collapse of system and institutions that are designed to check abuses and protect human rights", said the Suaram executive director.

"For example, the internal investigation mechanism by police has failed miserably in bringing corrupted cops to book and addressing the problems of impunity. The failure of conducting inquest on each and every custodial death is the norm of the day rather than exceptions. In the case of religious intolerance, the civil court has generally abdicated from its duty in protecting the right to freedom of religion and leaving the victims in legal wilderness with no protection. In the case of vigilante culture, the government has repeatedly defended RELA despite large numbers of complaints against the RELA."

Suaram said the check and balance systems and institutions must be strengthened if these regressive trends are to be reversed. It calls on the government to set up immediately the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) to end the widespread impunity in the police force and the RELA to be disbanded in preventing the growth of the vigilante culture based on emergency law that has outlived its original purpose. Recommendations and result of public inquiries conducted by National Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) must be respected and enforced.

"The civil court should not shy away from religious freedom cases and must act to protect the rights of individual to freedom of religion, as entrusted to them under the Constitution," said Yap.

"Clearly, there is a need for a thorough reform of the system and institutions to halt these regressive trends and protect human rights. Abdullah Badawi's government must show greater political will in restoring public confidence in the system and institutions for the protection of human rights, failing which his own credibility would be seriously questioned and the people shall judge him in the coming general election."

More from Maslaysiakini here.

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Malaysia faces key ruling on religious freedom

Tomorrow, Malaysia's Federal Court, the country's highest tribunal, will be announcing a decision that will be crucial in determining the role of Islamic law in the country.

Multi-racial Malaysia faces a milestone legal verdict Wednesday, which lawyers and rights groups say will determine if Muslims can renounce their faith.

"Our country is at a crossroad. Are we evolving into an Islamic state or are we going to maintain the secular character of the constitution?"

The case, involving a woman who converted from Islam to Christianity, goes to the heart of a debate on whether civil courts should take precedence over tribunals based on Islamic Sharia law.

It comes at a time of heightened religious tensions in moderate Malaysia, and would address an issue - renunciation of the faith - that is one of the gravest sins in Islam.

The Federal Court will rule on an appeal by Lina Joy, who for a decade has been battling the government to have her decision to convert to Christianity officially recognized.

"Although it is not freedom of religion per se, the decision will determine if she can convert out of Islam without going to the Sharia court," said the vice-president of Malaysia's Bar Council, Ragunath Kesavan.

"Our position has always been that she should be allowed to do so, in respect to the constitution," Ragunath said.

Islam is Malaysia's official religion. More than 60 percent of the nation's 27 million people are Muslim Malays.

But while the constitution defines the ethnic majority Malays as Muslims it also guarantees freedom of religion, and the minority Chinese and Indians are mostly Buddhists, Hindus, or Christians.

Born an ethnic Malay Muslim, and called Azlina Jailani, Joy was introduced to Christianity in 1990.

It has left her fighting authorities, first for her new name to be put on her identity card, then to have her former religion removed.

Joy keeps a low profile, fearing retaliation, and cannot legally marry her Christian partner because the law requires non-Muslims to convert to Islam if they want to marry someone of that faith.

"Malaysians mostly want to know whether they can convert out of Islam, and if so what is the procedure. This verdict will clarify that," said her lawyer, Benjamin Dawson.

The appeal centers on whether Joy must go to a Sharia court to have her renunciation recognized before authorities delete the word 'Islam' from her identity card.

Malaysia's civil courts operate parallel to Sharia courts for Muslims in areas of family law including divorce, child custody, and inheritance.

But the question of which takes precedence is unclear in cases that involve both Muslims and non-Muslims, who have little say in Sharia courts.

Lower courts have so far rebuffed Joy's efforts, ruling that only Islamic Sharia courts can recognize her conversion - but the latter are unwilling to approve apostasy.

"The country has to be ruled by the constitution but we seem to have lost it," Dawson said. "In the growing prominence of the Sharia court, things seem to have gone into a grey area with competing claims to jurisdiction," he said.

"Our civil courts seem to think that conversion is a religious matter and not constitutional, which I think is wrong."

In recent weeks Malaysia has seen a string of cases in which Muslims and non-Muslim spouses have been forced apart by Islamic religious officials.

In another example last year, an ethnic Indian mountaineer was buried as a Muslim despite protests by his Hindu wife, who insisted that he never converted.

Ivy Josiah of the Women's Aid Organization, part of a coalition of groups monitoring Joy's case, said that Wednesday's decision could affect a woman's right to choose her life partner.

"When you take all the legalities away, here is someone who wants to get married, have children, and have her own set of beliefs," Josiah said.

Some Muslims have denounced Joy's legal challenge as a tactic to undermine Islam's status in the country, but Josiah said that misses the point.

"Certain groups fear that with Lina Joy leaving, it will open the so-called 'floodgates' of people wanting to renounce Islam," she said. "Let her be who she wants to be. It is between her and God. That is the spirit of the constitution, to have choices for our beliefs."

- Middle East Times

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28 May, 2007

Anwar Ibrahim has big hurdles to overcome

Barred from public office and beset by party grumbles, Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has big hurdles to overcome if he is to return to the political frontline.

Anwar's unexpected decision over the weekend to withdraw his candidacy for the presidency of the opposition Keadilan party has left both himself and the movement in a difficult spot, analysts say.

For now the party will continue to be led formally by his wife, Wan Azizah Ismail, after another contender also pulled out of the leadership race at its weekend national congress.

But in the longer term it puts a big question mark over Anwar's attempt to return to Malaysian politics.

Keadilan has been banking on Anwar's star quality to gain support for the party, whose profile has declined since its creation in the wake of his 1998 sacking from government.

Anwar said his decision not to run for the leadership of Keadilan, or the People's Justice Party, was because of fears its registration could have been cancelled.

"My problem is that the party comes first. 'Anwar' should not be the reason to sacrifice the position of the party," he told the 2,000 delegates.

However he said he would remain as the party's de facto leader behind the scenes, arguing he could still be effective without an official post....more from Malaysiakini here, CNA here.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (Keadilan) biennial congress this year turned out to be a huge disappointment for many -- for its adviser, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who had hoped to be elected president, and for the delegates, who had wanted the party to show that it is prepared for the next general election.

The focus of the three-day congress, which began on Friday, was clearly on Anwar, who is very much in control of the party set up in 1999 after he was removed as deputy prime minister.

On Saturday, when everyone expected Anwar to officially take over the helm from his wife, Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, he dropped a bombshell that he would withdraw from the three-cornered race against Wan Azizah and former deputy president Abdul Rahman Othman, better known as ARO.

On the sidelines earlier, Anwar had told reporters he would not be cowed by the registrar of societies (ROS) into withdrawing from the contest. Under the Societies Act, Anwar is barred from active politics for five years until April next year because of his conviction for corruption. The registrar rejected his application for an exemption on Friday.

After a break, an hour following his announcement, when some 1,500 delegates were ready to cast their ballots, Anwar asked to explain his position to the party.

"I am ready to face any risks (by accepting the presidency) despite there being a threat (from the registrar) that I will be jailed for three years or fined RM10,000 should I defy the decision by the ROS," he said to a round of 'reformasi' from the delegates.

No one expected what followed. "But now there is a problem. There is an implication and threat to the party. At the individual level, I am really to sacrifice, but for the party, I have to think (about my decision) carefully," Anwar said.

"I urge you all to support Wan Azizah. Choose her if you support my leadership. This was the most difficult decision in my life."

Throughout his speech, not once did he use the word "withdrawal".

Anwar's decision was said to have been made at the supreme council meeting at midnight before the election.

"Wan Azizah told the supreme council members she did not want her husband to take the risk of being put in jail again," one party insider said.

But not all were pleased with Anwar's decision, including information chief Tian Chua, who was absent from the meeting to attend a funeral in Malacca.

Visibly upset, Chua was overheard asking Anwar "How can you do this?" after the announcement was made.

While Anwar listened to his supporters debate whether he should defy the ROS, delegates who were dismayed at his decision walked out.

"Wayang! Wayang! Siapa nak tengok wayang boleh masuk sekarang. Free! (Show! Show! Whoever wants to watch the show can enter now! Free!)," one delegate declared before walking out of the hall with about five others.

A last-minute withdrawal by ARO from the presidency contest also raised eyebrows. Just three days earlier, he had challenged Anwar's legitimacy to contest because of the latter's conviction.

"The general election is very near now. I could see that the delegates supported Anwar's decision to withdraw and Wan Azizah as president, so I responded accordingly," he said when met after announcing his decision.

In her winding up speech yesterday, Wan Azizah tried to ease the tension. "I was a reluctant and novice politician, and I had to get advice from Anwar. But I have been party president for eight years now. Cacing sudah jadi naga (the worm has become a dragon)," she said to laughter from the hall.

At a press conference later, Anwar was asked why he had insisted on contesting the presidency despite knowing the ROS would likely turn him down.

"I thought the ROS would grant me permission," he said.

Asked how he was going to consolidate the party with the unhappiness over his decision to withdraw, Anwar said: "I can't risk the position of my party. There are many unscrupulous people waiting to tarnish the image of the party."

Those who had waited to see how the party would move forward to prepare for the next general election were also disappointed.

"The quality of debate for policies was poor and there was no intensive discussion on the strategy for the next general election. (The delegates) were not interested in the debate but in the party elections and positions as well as in whether Anwar is to be president," a political observer said.

There are doubts about the party's ability to face the formidable Barisan Nasional machinery in the next general election.

Events at the congress were disrupted and delayed daily as a result of poor coordination. The youth wing election on Friday was delayed several hours due to an allegedly missing voter list.

"I am not confident that they will be very organised in the next general election. They weren't even organised in their own congress," a political analyst said.

Meanwhile, Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin is unfazed by a Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) delegate's threat to throw rotten eggs or tomatoes at him to prevent him from speaking at public events.

“My responsibility is to destroy the opposition. If they want to welcome me with an eggplant or rotten egg and tomatoes ... let them do it. I am not afraid,” he told reporters.

He was commenting on the call made by PKR Federal Territory delegate Othman Karim during the debate on the president’s address at the party’s annual congress here yesterday.

Othman said Khairy was a destroyer and a “murderer” of opposition parties.

“Attack him. Arm ourselves with rotten eggs or tomatoes when he comes around and throw them at him. His voice must not be heard,” said Othman.

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27 May, 2007

Malaysia's religious identity ?

Lina Joy has been disowned by her family, shunned by friends and forced into hiding — all because she renounced Islam and embraced Christianity in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

After a 7-year legal struggle, Joy will be told by Malaysia's highest court on Wednesday whether her constitutional right to choose her religion overrides an Islamic law that prohibits Malay Muslims from leaving Islam.

Either way, the verdict in the high-profile apostasy case will have profound implications on Malaysian society where Islam is increasingly conflicting with minority religions, challenging the country's reputation as a moderate Muslim and multicultural nation that guarantees freedom of worship.

Malaysia's highest court will rule next week on whether a Muslim has the right to convert to another faith, lawyers said on Friday, in a test case that could shake society in the mainly Muslim country.

The Federal Court, the country's highest civil judicial authority, will announce on May 30 if it has decided to acknowledge the decision of Lina Joy to convert to Christianity and give up Islam, the faith she was born into.

'We're all awaiting with bated breath a case which has a great impact on the course that the country will take,' Benjamin Dawson, Joy's lawyer.

"Our country is at a crossroad,"

"Are we evolving into an Islamic state or are we going to maintain the secular character of the Constitution?"

Joy's case "will decide the space of religious freedom in Malaysia," said Dawson. If she wins, "it means that the constitutionally guaranteed right of freedom of religion prevails. If she loses, that means the constitutional guarantee is subservient to Islamic restrictions," he said.

Joy's decision to leave Islam sparked angry street protests by Muslim groups and led to e-mail death threats against Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a Muslim lawyer supporting her. The widely circulated anonymous e-mail described him as a "traitor" to Islam and carried his picture with the caption "Wanted Dead."

Proselytizing of Muslims is banned in Malaysia and apostasy — as in many Islamic nations — is regarded a crime punishable by fines and jail sentences. Offenders are often sent to prison-like rehabilitation centers.

Muslim groups, however, say Joy is questioning the position of Islam by taking the case to the civil courts.

"It is not about one person, it is about challenging the Islamic system in Malaysia," said Muslim Youth Movement President Yusri Mohammad, who set up a coalition of 80 Islamic groups to oppose Joy's case.

"By doing this openly, she is encouraging others to do the same. It may open the floodgates to other Muslims because once it is a precedent, it becomes an option."

" If Joy wins her case, he warned, it could rend Malaysia's multiracial fabric by fomenting Muslim anger against minorities, who have largely lived in peace with Malays. There has been no racial violence in the country since the May 1969 " Malay-Chinese riots that killed dozens.

Dawson said several other apostasy cases are on hold in the civil courts, pending a verdict in Joy's case.

"Both the man in the street and lawyers want to know once and for all how to draw the line between civil and Shariah courts — whether Muslims can convert and if yes, what are the procedures," he said.

Subashini's pain, Malaysia's anguish

Non-Muslim husbands who abandon their spouses and their families and convert into Islam have acted in an irresponsible manner leaving them in the lurch. When these wayward husbands convert their children without the consent or knowledge of their spouses, they inflict further trauma and pain on their spouses and leave them helplessly in an agonising situation. When these suffering spouses turn to the civil courts for justice, they are treated unjustly. The recent event involving R Subashini is a case in point. We carry three reactions from civil society organisations to highlight this problem..

There is also a larger moral question of the anguish suffered by R Subashini and other women in her position. Even if she were to eventually win custody of their children, she may be prevented from imparting the knowledge of her religious traditions to her children. This happened in Shamala’s case. Awam fears that every move she makes in bringing up her children may then be scrutinised to ensure that she does not “expose” her children to Hinduism. At a time when religion has become synonymous with ethnicity, unfortunately this may also extend to Indian culture.

R Subashini’s case is symptomatic of problems in the everyday reality of negotiating rights and legal jurisdictions under the Federal Constitution. We agree with Justice Sri Ram’s dissenting judgement on this case that the Federal Constitution “confers jurisdiction on a Syariah High Court in civil matters where all parties are Muslim”, and that any other interpretation would be unjust towards non-Muslim spouses.

How could any non-Muslim woman feel secure in marrying and having children when her husband could potentially threaten to convert and thus take her children away?

The way with which cases such as Subashini and Shamala was handled does nothing to help the cause of national unity....

(Read more here.)

Islam:"Where Are The Voices Of Sanity And Reform?"

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Party divided over Anwar’s pull-out

Some PKR members are willing to risk the party being de-registered ahead of an expected snap general election...more on Malaysiakini here.

Live Telecast: Parti Keadilan Rakyat Kongres Nasional Tahunan Ke-4 here,and here

“Anwar is very prone to thinking with his heart but I think this time his head will rule his heart,” said Anwar’s long-time friend Datuk Ravi Dharan.

And just as everyone thought that the high emotions had come to a close, Abdul Rahman Othman, the third contestant to the president’s post, declared he was also withdrawing.

Rahman claimed it was a spontaneous act on his part after listening to Anwar’s appeal, although he admitted later that he had “accidentally met” Anwar at a local hotel the previous night and they had chatted for an hour.

Journalists watching the turn of events wondered if there was anything at all spontaneous that morning. There had obviously been quite a bit of choreography behind the scenes.

Anwar and those close to him were well aware of the perils of challenging the ROS. The law is the law, even if one deems the law unjust.

But posturing Anwar as the potential president brought the supporters out in droves. And challenging the ROS gave the party a huge boost of morale.

There was, said one journalist, lots of shock and awe and, if P. Ramlee were still alive, he would have loved to make a movie out of it.

It was superb political strategy and the outpouring of emotions confirmed his standing in the party.

On top of all this, the ROS played an unwitting supporting role to the political melodrama.

Anwar had accused the ROS and the powers behind it of silat and sandiwara in blocking him at the eleventh hour but he was apparently not above his own brand of silat and sandiwara. It was Anwar at his Machiavellian best.
- The Star

Anwar told an emotional crowd of almost 2,000 delegates at an annual gathering for Keadilan, or the People's Justice Party opposition party, that he will, however, remain its de-facto leader.

"I have withdrawn and decided to ask the party to give support to Azizah," Anwar told reporters at the sidelines of the gathering.

"I will lead but we need to follow the rules and law. So for the post of president, let us give way to Azizah. With that, it will be Azizah as president, and I will continue to lead as before," he said in his speech, despite repeated pleas from members.

The Malaysian Registrar of Societies, a government agency, on Friday rejected Anwar's attempt to run for president of Keadilan.

It was feared that if he had continued his bid, this could have led to the party being de-registered.

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Having A Bad Day At Work?

Try Working In ICU!

In a hospital's Intensive Care Unit, patients always died in the same bed,
on Sunday morning, at about 11:00 a.m., regardless of their medical

This puzzled the doctors and some even thought it had something to do with
the supernatural. No one could solve the mystery as to why the deaths
occurred around 11:00 a.m. on; Sunday, so a worldwide team of experts was
assembled to investigate the cause of the incidents.

The next Sunday morning, a few minutes before 11:00 a.m., all of the doctors
and nurses nervously waited outside the ward to see for themselves what the
terrible phenomenon was all about.† Some were holding wooden crosses,
prayer books, and other holy objects to ward off the evil spirits.

Just when the clock struck 11:00, Pookie Johnson, the part-time Sunday
sweeper, entered the ward and unplugged the life support system so he could
use the vacuum cleaner.


26 May, 2007

Wan Azizah Wins Unopposed After Anwar, Rahman Withdraw

Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail retained the seat unopposed at the party' election after two other candidates for the top post, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Abdul Rahman Othman, withdrew from the contest.

Anwar, who is also the party's advisor, said he took the action as PKR risked being deregistered by the Registrar of Societies had he done so.

He cannot hold any political position until April 14, 2008 because of the five year prohibition rule under the Societies Act pertaining to convicted persons.

"The party comes first. My personal ambitions are secondary.

"I expect the general-election to be held in early August as I am seen as a big threat," he told reporters here today. More from Parti Keadilan Rakyat's website here and Malaysiakini's news here.

Anwar Ibrahim withdrew from a party election Saturday, accepting a ban on holding political office because of a previous corruption conviction.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, told some 1,800 delegates of the People's Justice Party that he decided to pull out of the race for the party presidency to protect its future.

The party could have been de-registered had Anwar defined the ban, making it ineligible to contest the next general elections, widely expected to be called later this year or in early 2008, although they are not due until 2009.

Anwar said he was prepared to be jailed for three years or pay a fine of up to 10,000 ringgit (US$2,940; €2,150) for defying the ban, but didn't want to put the party, known by its Malay acronym Keadilan, at risk.

"This is not just against me but there is a threat against the party of being de-registered. ... I will continue to lead but we should not give them the weapon," he said after two hours of debate during which delegates tried to persuade him to run.

Anwar Ibrahim, Advisor of the People's Justice Party (KeADILan) and one of the three candidates for presidency of the party, received a notice from the Registrar of Societies (ROS) this afternoon, rejecting his application to contest.

Anwar has since filed an appeal to the Home Minister.

Under the Societies Act, the Home Minister has the right to grant him a waiver.

KeADILan strongly condemns such the move by ROS as a deliberate ploy to prevent the reemergence of Anwar Ibrahim into active political leadership.

He has expressed his intention to go ahead with the elections tomorrow.

Tian Chua
Information Chief
People's Justice Party (KeADILan)

The Registrar of Societies informed Anwar yesterday that it has rejected his application to be exempted from a ban on active politics.

Datuk Seri Anwar is currently banned from public office till April 2008 because of his six-year conviction for corruption.

However, he said yesterday that he will defy the ban in party polls today.

Meanwhile, Malaysiakini reported that
Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail reiterates her intention to give up her president's post but stresses that she will continue to serve and contribute to the party... more

"Anwar Ibrahim is seeking to make a comeback to active politics as the opposition party, led by his wife, on Saturday predicted general elections to be called by August.

Anwar, who was sacked from the government nine years ago on corruption and homosexuality charges, is running for the presidency in Saturday's poll in the People's Justice Party, defying a ban on him holding political office due to a previous jail term, officials said.

The Registrar of Societies on Friday rejected Anwar's application to exempt him from being barred in the party poll but he has filed an appeal to Home Minister Radzi Sheikh Ahmad.

Anwar is being challenged by senior member Abdul Rahman Othman for the presidency in the party, known by its Malay acronym Keadilan and formed in 1999 by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail after his arrest.

Wan Azizah is also defending the post, although officials said it is a precautionary measure in case Anwar is disqualified. Under the party constitution, a person barred from holding posts at the national level cannot hold a party post."

Gus Dur akan hadir Kongres KeADILan malam ini (Sabtu)

Bekas Presiden Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) akan menghadiri sidang istimewa Kongres KeADILAn pada 9.30 malam ini, Sabtu 26/7/2007 di Sekolah Tinggi Chung Hua, Seremban. Beliau akan diiringi oleh tokoh-tokoh agama dari Indonesia. Orang ramai dijemput hadir.

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25 May, 2007

Anwar not eligible for PKR elections

The Registrar of Societies has informed Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PRK) that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is not eligible to contest in the party's elections this weekend.

Anwar, however, has said he would still go ahead and contest in the election, reports The Star.

Malaysiakini reported that, the elections for the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Youth wing has been delayed because the voters list went missing.

Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has denied being the “hidden hand” behind the aspirants for key posts in the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) elections.

“People are using my name for their own purposes. If I were the hidden hand, would people be contesting against me (for the president’s post)? I did not even tell (Abdul) Rahman Othman to contest or not to contest,” he said.

His wife and incumbent president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and former deputy president Rahman are the other two candidates vying for the president’s post in the party election this Saturday.

Anwar, who is slated to win the post, has come under the spotlight for allegedly exerting his influence over who should contest for some of the key posts.

Allegations of meddling in the elections have caused ripples ahead of a keenly contested poll.

Datuk K. Nallakaruppan, claiming that he felt betrayed, has threatened to resign from the party which he joined only in August last year at the invitation of his “good friend” Anwar.

Nallakaruppan, who received the second highest number of nominations among those vying for the three vice-president posts, said that Anwar had asked him to withdraw from the contest.

Anwar was also accused of meddling in the contest at the Youth wing level, drawing criticism from former Youth chief Ezam Mohd Nor.

Former deputy president nominee Azmin Ali was also said to have been pressured against challenging incumbent Dr Syed Husin Ali for the post, even though the former has denied it.

Anwar said all he did was advise those who wanted to vie for posts that he would not campaign for them and that they should be prepared to accept defeat and stay committed to the party.

“Those claiming that I am interfering should provide evidence to the party election committee. The fact that the mainstream media is so interested in our election shows that the party is not irrelevant as some people have claimed,” he said.

Malaysia ninth on list in Transparency International’s report

Transparency International’s 2007 Global Corruption Report: Corruption in Judicial Systems shows Malaysia coming out ninth from 62 countries surveyed.

It seems that Malaysians have a better opinion of their judiciary than citizens of most industrialised nations, and this has befuddled Transparency International (TI) Malaysia and the Bar Council.

According to those surveyed, we have a world-class judiciary....more here and here.

"Not a day passes without cases of teenage pregnancies, abandoned babies and abduction and rapes reported in the newspapers," said Dr Irene Fernandez, executive director of Tenaganita, a rights NGO.

"The World Health Organisation (WHO) has already warned in 2006 that Malaysia is on the brink of an HIV epidemic. We can't be in denial any longer,"

"Just worrying about it is not enough. Where are the tough measures?"

About 15,000 children have already been made orphans by AIDS in Malaysia, the WHO said. Full story here.

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Malaysia's Wealthiest Worth $43B

Malaysia's 40 Wealthiest Are Worth US$43 Billion, 65 Percent Up on 2006, Forbes Says

Malaysia's 40 richest business people are worth $43 billion -- a 65 percent jump from 2006 -- with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's son joining the list, Forbes Asia magazine said Thursday.

Their collective wealth in 2006 was $26 billion, Forbes said in a statement.

Sugar baron Robert Kuok, 84, remains the country's richest man with a net worth of $7.6 billion, up from $5.6 billion last year. The Kuok Group has interests spanning shipping, real estate, palm oil and the media.

The second richest, with a net worth of $7.4 billion, is telecom and TV tycoon Ananda Krishnan, who owns the country's second-biggest mobile phone company Maxis and the dominant cable television company Astro.

Krishnan was worth $4.6 billion last year, and recently announced plans to take publicly listed Maxis private in a $5 billion buyout.

Krishnan is followed by Genting casino doyen, Lim Goh Tong, at $4.3 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2006.

Forbes said the thriving economy has boosted the wealth of Malaysia's richest, along with recent government moves to reduce taxes, and a buoyant stock market, which has risen more than 20 percent this year -- Asia's third best-performing market behind China and Vietnam.

Eight newcomers have joined the rich list -- most due to recent offerings or dramatic gains in public holdings -- with Mahathir's son Mokhzani Mahathir, 46, ranked 28 with net worth of $220 million after publicly listing his energy company Kencana last December.

The petroleum engineer is also the sole distributor of Porsche in Malaysia, and personally owns four of them, Forbes said. An amateur race car driver, he chairs the country's Formula One race track.

The richest of the eight newcomers is Singapore resident Ong Beng Seng, worth $580 million at No. 12. Ong -- Malaysian citizen -- recently persuaded Formula One's Bernie Ecclestone to hold a Grand Prix race in Singapore at night, a world first if it happens.

Seri Eleena Raja Azlan Shah became the list's second woman after Chong Chook Yew, thanks to her shareholding in thriving construction firm Gamuda rising 90 percent in the past year.

A lawyer, Seri Eleena is at No. 25 with assets of $228 million, while Chong, an 85-year-old widow, is at No. 18 with assets of $320 million.

A Columbia University graduate, Chong took over as chairwoman of Selangor Properties after her husband, Wen Tien Kuang, Selangor's founder, died in 2000.

Forbes Asia said the country’s wealth creation was boosted by a thriving economy, which benefited from recent government moves to reduce taxes, and a buoyant stock market.

Worth reading : "Ten People Who Could Change The World" - Forbes . com


24 May, 2007

Can Malaysia's Sexist Parlimentarians Be Pardoned?

It seems that there are some elected representatives in the Parliament who have no qualms about ridiculing women at the drop of a hat.

Should no punitive action be taken against such loose tongues, the backlash will only besmirch the country's image in promoting gender equality and Malaysians with first class mentality.

The most recent incident involved two Members of Parliament, Datuk Radin Bung Mokhtar (BN-Kinabatangan) and Datuk Mohd Said Yusuf (BN-Jasin), both made an unwarranted sexist remark against a female MP, Fong Po Kuan (DAP-Batu Gajah) at the recent Dewan Rakyat sitting.

The MPs were debating on the lack of maintenance that resulted in leaks in the Parliament building after heavy downpours when Radin and Mohd Said were alleged to have said "where is the leak, the member for Batu Gajah also leaks once a month". And sadly, the two took much gusto in uttering that distasteful remark and refused to offer any apology to Fong in particular and women in general.

Radin and Mohd Said subsequently came under attack from various groups and individuals and the matter was brought to the Cabinet's attention by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, who was then instructed by the Cabinet to deal with the problem.

A meeting between Shahrizat and the two MPs concerned saw the duo tendering an apology half-heartedly if "women were offended". Both Bung and Mohd Said however defended their words used in Dewan Rakyat as necessary to defend the government during debates. They also made no personal apology to Fong.


This recent incident is no isolated case. Back in 1995, Datuk Badruddin Amirulddin who was then the MP for Yan had remarked that Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang's debate was akin to "wanita putus haid" (a woman reaching menopause). Badruddin was also quick to blame women who wear "indecent clothes" for rape.

In 2000, Datuk Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) reflected his chauvinism when he started his speech by saying that "it is unusual for women's issues to be touched by men". After a pause he added "but women are supposed to be touched by men".

In 2005, Datuk Idris Haron (BN-Tangga Batu) had remarked that 'sexy uniform worn by Malaysia Airlines female cabin staff could arouse sexual desire in male passengers.

In April 2006, Abdul Fatah Harun (PAS-Rantau Panjang) had said that women divorcees are randy.

Just as the dust was settling after the ruckus caused by the duo, Works Minister Datuk Seri S.Samy Vellu who is also the Sungai Siput Parliament member kicked up a furore over his recent analogy regarding the leaks in the Parliament building.

"A women 50 years ago, she looks beautiful, but today she won't look so beautiful," said Samy Vellu justifying the Parliament building's current sad state of affairs.

This again angered some of the groups representing the fairer sex.


The "leak" incident is the testimony that chauvinism is very much alive in Malaysia and that the women might just be fighting their battles alone. This is concluded based on the reaction of other male politicians who thought the "leak" case was blown out of proportion and should have instead been swallowed with a taste of humour.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz had said that Fong should not have overreacted as MPs enjoyed immunity to speak about anything in the House. Nazri who is in charge of Parliament affairs added politicians must be able to take in criticism and be thick-skinned about it.

While Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad (BN-Johor Baru) felt that such a statement was uncalled for but he thought that Fong had blown it out of proportion by making it into a national issue, instead of just a personal attack.

The saving grace came thanks to Datuk Zaid Ibrahim (BN-Kota Baru) who displayed his gender sensitivity when he said that such a statement was not only derogatory but goes against basic decency.

"You don't talk like that about women. They should have been reprimanded," Zaid had said cautioning that similar remarks would surface time and again unless those in power took action.

Zaid also stated that the immunity given to MPs was not to ridicule anyone.

"It is to give freedom to MPs so that they are not fearful to say the right thing about policies for the good of the country."


Maria Chin Abdullah, the executive director of Women's Development Collective and representative of the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality (JAG) told Bernama it seemed that the public had elected 'unqualified' male representatives to represent their welfare.

"What is the point of having the Parliamentary Caucus on Gender Equality to end sexism and gender discrimination in Parliament when every other year the male politicians get away with their derogatory remarks hurled at women? This is yet another form of sexual harassment.

"Also, Malaysia has ratified the Convention on All Forms of Discrimination Against Women or CEDAW and yet we have gender discrimination taking place in this country," she lamented.

Maria and several other non-governmental organisations under JAG recently delivered a memorandum to Shahrizat after a protest over the incident outside her Ministry.

Said Maria: "Although the two MPs tendered an apology, it did not appear to be done sincerely. And I am disappointed with the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry for not thinking of long-term efforts to stop such incidents from recurring. A mere apology is no deterrent. That is why we demand that any MP who continues to ill-behave in Parliament be suspended for six months and his pay and allowances cut during that period. This disciplinary action with a penalty is what might teach such recalcitrant MPs a lesson."

--By Jeswan Kaur, BERNAMA


Malaysians Bloggers invited to join Contest !

AllMalaysian Bloggers Project (AMBP) is a project initiated by AllMalaysia.info (powered by The Star) and they are inviting all Malaysian Bloggers to join under one roof. Here’s a quote of the project purpose from its origin:

The objective of this little project is to gather ALL Malaysian blogs under one umbrella site from which (potential) readers can find the various blogs by theme.

Now with Genting as their sponsor, they are throwing a contest at bloggers as well as internet surfers. All you need to do is sign up, submit your blog, place a badge in your blog and continue blogging. Details here.

50 Years, 50 Heroes: Young Malaysians You Need to Know

Tell us about a local hero, and we’ll publish the story in a BOOK and reward you with cash! This is our second writing competition.

50 Years, 50 Heroes: Young Malaysians You Need to Know.

theCICAK, a Malaysian political and pop culture magazine, is on a global search for 50 young Malaysian heroes in conjunction with the country’s 50th Independence Day.

Participants will write about and photograph an unsung Malaysian hero who has persevered against all odds to succeed, or has helped his or her friends, family, society or country in unique ways. Be sure to include the challenges your hero faces, and how he or she will overcome them. Make your hero REAL to readers by including his or her goals, passion, ambition and life-experiences. And be creative!

The top 50 stories will be published in a book. Prizes worth RM1,000 will also be awarded to the winne Details here.

Then, we have BUM, we have AllBlogs, now an alternative blogger group set up called
PABS ? Read here and here .

First we have Bloggers United, then we have All-Blogs, now PABS ? Apparently it's a joke, nevertheless, a great idea, now we can form a Barisan Bloggers Nasional !


23 May, 2007

Dispute over Anwar’s eligibility

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s bid to become the next president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat is being disputed just days before the party's national congress and election in Seremban this weekend.

His rival for the top post, Abdul Rahman Othman, has lodged a protest with the party’s election committee, pointing out that Anwar’s nomination was not valid under the party constitution.

Rahman said the PKR constitution clearly stated that anyone who had been barred by the law from holding posts in any society could not be elected or even nominated to party posts.

“Our party constitution is even stricter than the Societies Act when it comes to this matter.

“The Societies Act only bars convicted persons from holding any posts whereas our constitution does not even allow nominations for such persons,” he said.

Anwar is disqualified from active politics until April next year as a result of his corruption conviction.

Abdul Rahman, Anwar and his wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is the incumbent, are vying for the PKR presidency. Rahman is a former treasurer and deputy president of the party.

Anwar, who received 120 nominations, is a shoo-in for the post barring any disqualification.

Meanwhile, Malaysiakini reports that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Azmin Ali today called on those alleging that PKR adviser Anwar Ibrahim was meddling in the party polls to file an official complaint.

Read also :

Amnesty International:"Report 2007: Politics of fear creating a dangerously divided world"

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