31 October, 2007

Stop Temple Demolitions in Malaysia !!

From Malaysiakini :

The Kampung Rimba Jaya in Padang Jawa, near Shah Alam was a chaotic scene last night when residents tried to prevent the Shah Alam City Hall from demolishing their houses.

The residents’ attempt to save their homes turned physical and bloody when scores were hurt in the ensuing melee.

Fifteen residents were also arrested and are now being detained at the Shah Alam Section 11 police station.

In the end, over 200 houses, a 100-year-old temple and a surau have been levelled to the ground by the authorities. Even the presence of MIC president S Samy Vellu could not save the houses and the temple.

The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has condemned the manner employed by the authorities to demolish a Hindu temple.

Temple Demolitions in Malaysia: Hindraf's Open Letter to PM

(Hindu Rights Action Force)

No. 135-3-A, Jalan Toman 7,
Kemayan Square,
70200 Seremban, Negeri Sembilan
Malaysia. Tel : 06-7672995/6
Fax: 06-7672997 Email waytha@hotmail.com

Prime Minister of Malaysia 30.10.2007
Block Utama, By Hand
Bangunan Perdana Putra, Fax: 88883444
Pusat Pentadbiran Kerajaan Persekutuan, VERY URGENT
62502 Putrajaya. Email: reduceredtape@pmo.gov.my
Email: abdullah@kdn.gov.my








Today marks a heightened racial and religious persecution against the Hindusin Malaysia with two Hindu temples being demolished in one day without a valid court Order or any Notice for that matter.

All roads to the said the 100 over year old Sri Maha Mariaman temple had been cordoned off by about 300 police personnel and the Shah Alam City Hall (MPSA) enforcement officials and their heavy machinery. A malay muslim mob and Indian gangsters are also present. All Hindus are excluded from entering the temple area to make way for the final onslaught. The area looks like a war zone.

At 4.15p.m the police, MPSA authorities and the others launched a brutal attack ala the military regime of Myanmar by hurling stones and beating devotees with sticks and batons. At least 20 devotees were injured and bleeding, some seriously injured. An MPSA enforcement officer even stabbed a devotee with a knife and he and at least three (3) others are now hospitalised. The temple is now completely demolished and deities smashed up. The police have told devotees that they have a shooting order to shoot (unarmed) devotees on sight.

Earlier at about 9.00 a.m this temple was partially demolished. The kindergarden in the temple compound serving the poor Hindu children was completely demolished.

A pre dawn attack was also launched at 4.00a.m on another 160 year old Jai Muniswarar Hindu temple in Taman Puchong Hartamas whereafter the same was completely demolished and the deities therein smashed up. Vide our hundreds of letters and memorandums to your goodself over the last few years we have repeatedly highlighted an average of one Hindu temple being demolished in every three (3) weeks in Malaysia. This is despite the fact that the same is in violation of Article 11 of the Federal Constitution and also a criminal offence further to Section 295 (defiling a place of worship), Section 296 (disturbing a religious assembly), 298A(causing racial disharmony) and Section 441(criminal trespass) of the Malaysian Penal Code.

In today’s media headlines as mentioned hereinbove “PM: We can still talk” and “Better to talk, PM tells Bar” is clearly and merely “paper talk” or “political gimmick” and not meant to be put into practice.

Is this the multi racial, multi cultural and multi religious Malaysia your goodself is projecting to the world Mr.Prime Minister? Malaysia truly Asia!

Is this how Malaysia is celebrating it’s 50th year golden jubilee independence celebrations this year!

Please urgently stop your atrocities against the poor marginalised, oppressed and suppressed ethnic minority Indian community Mr.Prime Minister!

We hereby seek an urgent appointment to meet and address the Prime Minister and the Malaysian Cabinet at the weekly cabinet meeting in Putrajaya on 31.10.2007 at 9.00a.m. there would also be a peaceful assembly further to Article 10 of the Federal Constitution on 31.10.2007 at 8.00a.m onwards.

Thank You,
Yours Faithfully

P. Uthayakumar
Legal Adviser

Yes, the people are fed up!


30 October, 2007

DEATH PENALTY-MALAYSIA: Sane Voices Amidst Hysteria

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 (IPS) - In a small dinghy community meeting room in Taman Kosas, a depressed working class suburb north of the city of factory workers and petty traders, Rohana Bakar, a 36-year-old mother of two girls, is trying hard to keep her ground.

Bakar tries to explain again but is greeted with cries of scorn and anger. About 30 women, some single mothers, and a dozen children, pack the room.

"We can’t save our kids by hanging the culprits. The death penalty is not the solution. The death penalty has been around for 50 years and but crime cases have soared," she persists in fluent Malay, clutching her six-year-old daughter.

"We must protect our children and teach them to protect themselves, but killing culprits is not going to save out children," she adds in desperation, pleading for support.

The reason they have come together is apparent from a glance at the front pages of the newspapers strewn on the floor. A killer, who it is believed has so far abducted and sexually abused three girls, murdering one of them, is still at large and the mothers are angry and frightened.

"This monster raped, abused and killed Nurin ... he must hang for the heinous crimes," one mother says, pointing to the newspapers on the floor. "We have to protect our kids from this monster ... only death for him will do."

Just as in that fear-filled room, everywhere in the country the debate is raging over how to deal with the gruesome death of nine-year-old Nurin Jazlin abducted in August and held for nearly a month, sexually abused and eventually murdered.

Her body was stuffed in a gym bag and left by a staircase in Petaling Jaya, a suburb south of the city, late September.

Outrage over Nurin’s death has been sharpened because a video camera mounted in the street caught a man on a motorcycle with a bag.

He was filmed leaving the bag with Nurin's body beside a staircase.

But the recording, although taken to the U.S. and enhanced by the FBI, is not clear enough to identify the culprit or his vehicle registration number.

Police have up to now drawn blanks, arresting several "suspects" and releasing them later. The public mood is for vengeance and a swift execution when the killer is eventually brought to justice.

A few lone voices like Bakar are speaking up to argue that the death penalty is a cruel, state-sanctioned public killing that does not solve or remove gangsters and criminals from the streets.

"We are outraged by the brutal murder. This is a disgusting and terrifying crime and a sad reflection of how unsafe our country has become for girls and (the) young," said Shanon Shah Sidik, executive director of Amnesty International in Malaysia.

"Public outrage in this matter is understandable but calls for the death penalty to be applied are misplaced.

"Countless men and women have been executed worldwide for crimes of murder and sexual violence yet there is no convincing evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent.

"The nation mourns Nurin Jazlin. Let us never have to mourn another girl in these circumstances ever again," he argued.

But such words only invite more expression of public outrage.

People are writing to newspapers and calling up television and radio stations to say that "monsters" who kill children should be swiftly led away to their execution.

"Criminals who committed sexual crimes and murder should be given the death penalty," writes S. K. Mathews, a member of the public, in a letter to Malaysiakini.com, an independent online news provider.

"These monsters do not deserve to be among us in society," he continues, reflecting widely held public views. "The death penalty should remain."

Rising violent crime is fuelling demands for tough measures against criminals and many see the death penalty as the cure for all ills.

"The public are angry and upset because nearly nine women are raped every day and many see the death penalty as a quick solution," says opposition leader Lim Guan Eng.

"We must not rush to condemn," he says, advocating studies to determine the root causes of rising crime.

"There is no one-solution-fits-all here," he says, adding that the experience of other countries showed that crime was a complex issue and needed to be treated professionally.

In the first seven months of this year, there were 1,814 cases of rape compared to 1,362 during the corresponding period last year – an increase of 33 percent, according to official statistics.

But there were five times as many unreported rape cases, making Malaysia the "crime capital" of Southeast Asia, Lim says.

Malaysia imposes the death penalty for a raft of crimes from murder to drug trafficking (of more than 200 grams), terrorism and even poisoning of the water supply. Between 1960 and October 2004, there were 434 executions, according to the last available statistics.

"Malaysia should not execute, should not carry out state killing no matter what the crime," said human rights lawyer Charles Hector. "There is simply no justification for the state to kill."

The Malaysian Bar, which represents 13,000 lawyers, passed a resolution in 2006, urging Malaysia to emulate the Philippines, a fellow member of the ASEAN regional grouping, to abolish the death penalty.

"At the very least it can declare a moratorium with a view to abolishing the death penalty," Hector told IPS.

Human rights lawyer and executive director of Malaysians Against Death Penalty, MADPET, Surendran Nagarajan said the organisation recognized the "seriousness of violent crime and the extreme suffering it causes to victims and their families," but it was totally against the death penalty.

"It is a cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment," he told IPS. "There is possibility of judicial errors and the innocent would be killed."

He blamed politicians for the current hysteria among the public for the retention and use of the death penalty.

"This is the usual knee-jerk reaction fuelled by politicians who are exploiting public fear and revulsion at crimes against children," Nagarajan said. "We should not fall for this manufactured hysteria."

By Baradan Kuppusamy- IPS

And the Keris tradition to continue......that's Malaysia Boleh !!


29 October, 2007

SUARAM on the 20th Anniversary of Operation Lalang

Malaysia unveiled plans on Today to develop an international Internet exchange in the country's east, as part of a $34 billion state-led drive to develop the area.

"We will set up an international digital business exchange in Terengganu (state) that will emerge as the most important Internet exchange in this region," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in launching the development programme.

Twenty years ago, the Mahathir Adiministration unleashed "Operation Lalang" by using the Internal Security Act to arrest and detain without trial more than 107 Malaysians from a wide spectrum of our society. They included members of parliament, unionists, educationists, religious group members, social activists and academics.

In the whole dastardly career of the ISA since 1960, Operation Lalang was the last straw for Malaysian civil society which rose in unprecedented unison to campaign against this insidious suppression apparatus of the ruling coalition. SUARAM was subsequently formed in order to defend and uphold human rights and the rule of law.

Firstly, civil society could see that the so-called "racial tension" in October 1987 had been orchestrated by the ruling coalition to justify the crackdown.

The government started the controversy by sending unqualified school administrators to the Chinese schools, while the police allowed UMNO to organize a racist and seditious rally in Kuala Lumpur . This has become the method used by the ruling party to divert the peoples' attention whenever it faces a crisis.

The crisis in 1987 was again the result of a power struggle within UMNO as was seen in 1969 and 1974 and latterly in 1998. As the Tunku, our first prime minister put it:

"UMNO was facing a break-up. The Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad's hold on the party appeared critical when election rigging was alleged to have given him a very narrow victory against Tengku Razaleigh. The case alleging irregularities brought by UMNO members was pending in court. If the judgement went against him he would have no choice but to step down. So he had to find a way out of his predicament. A national crisis had to be created to bring UMNO together as a united force to fight a common enemy – and the imaginary enemy in this case was the Chinese community…If there was indeed a security threat facing the country, why was action not taken much sooner? (The Why? Papers by Suaram, 1989)

The crackdown against dissidents at the end of 1987 was the precursor to the assault against the Malaysian Judiciary in 1988 when the Lord President and several other Supreme Court judges were sacked.

As a consequence of those actions by the Mahathir government, the Malaysian Judiciary has not recovered its independence up to the present day. The most recent Lingam Tape scandal is surely a dramatic exposure of this corruption at the highest levels of Malaysian public office.

Furthermore, while the Operation Lalang detainees were at Kamunting detention camp, the ruling coalition amended the ISA at will to frustrate the detainees' attempts to apply for the writ of habeas corpus. In the process, they have made a mockery of the rule of law in Malaysia by removing judges' powers to decide the objective merits of the ISA cases.

Since 1987, the ruling coalition has continued to use the ISA as a convenient tool against dissidents – PBS in the early nineties, Al Arqam, the Reformasi movement and more recently, Islamic groups. None of these detainees have been tried in an open court and can only be presumed to be innocent.

Before and during Operation Lalang, affidavits have been produced to show that detainees were tortured and dehumanized. In the last twenty years, the cases of torture have not diminished and they include the highly publicized cases of Anwar Ibrahim, Munawar Anees and Malek Hussein. Contrary to claims by the ruling coalition, ISA detentions have been for punitive rather than preventive purposes.

Through the years, "state endorsed" torturers have been getting away with their actions, not unlike what has been happening at Guantanamo Bay . Until the Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC) are established as recommended by the Royal Commission, detainees will continue to be at the mercy of these torturers.

Thus, on this 20th anniversary of Operation Lalang,

1. We call on all Malaysians who cherish justice, human rights and the rule of law to demand the end to detention without trial and to restore the rule of law in Malaysia . Freedom from arbitrary arrests and detention, coupled with the right to challenge it in a court of law are sacred civil liberties which Malaysians are entitled to 50 years after Independence .

It is worth reminding Malaysians that the sixty days of solitary confinement allowed under the ISA and the removal of judges' ability to make an objective appraisal of the ISA cases are more draconian than countries facing terrorist threats, for example Northern Ireland in the 70s; South Africa under Apartheid, or even the US and Britain today.

2. We demand an apology and a sincere expression of remorse from the former Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad for depriving so many innocent Malaysians of their freedom and the torture they went through under Operation Lalang.
We would like to remind the public that even wartime detainees are afforded basic protections under the Geneva Convention, which condemns torture and inhuman treatment of detainees.

The National Human Rights Commission, Suhakam has also concluded that "there appears to be sufficient evidence to justify a finding of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of some of the detainees." SUARAM demands a thorough investigation into all allegations of torture under the ISA and for the torturers to be accountable for their actions.

Dr Kua Kia Soong
Director of SUARAM
29th October 2007

Read also :

Malaysia's former king grieves over public's loss of trust in judges - IHT

Another Promised Change! - M Bakri Musa

Is religion being used to divide Malaysia’s workers? - FARISH A NOOR


28 October, 2007

20th anniversary of Ops Lalang

October 27th marks the 20th anniversary of Ops Lalang.

Ops lalang ( Weeding operation) was carried out on October 27, 1987 by the Malaysian police to crack down on opposition leaders and social activists. The operation saw the infamous arrest of 106 persons under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the revoking of the publishing licenses of two dailies, The Star and the Sin Chew Jit Poh and two weeklies, The Sunday Star and Watan.

According to the White Paper explaining the arrests, various groups who had played up "sensitive issues" and thus created "racial tension" in the country had exploited the government's liberal and tolerant attitude. This racial tension made the arrests necessary and further, forced the government to act "swiftly and firmly" to contain the situation.

The sensitive issues were brought on by what appeared innocuously enough as Education Ministry appointments of some 100 senior assistants and principals to vernacular Chinese schools. This provoked a storm of protest when it was learnt that those appointed were not Chinese (Mandarin)-educated.

Operation Lalang resulted in the arrest of 106 people under the Internal Security Act. Among the more prominent detainees were opposition leader and DAP Secretary-General Lim Kit Siang, ALIRAN President Chandra Muzaffar, DAP Deputy Chairman Karpal Singh, MCA Vice President and Perak Chief Chan Kit Chee, PAS Youth Chief Halim Arshat, UMNO MP for Pasir Mas Ibrahim Ali, and UMNO Youth Education Chairman Mohamed Fahmi Ibrahim. Other prominent non-political detainees included Dong Jiao Zhong (Chinese Education Associations) Chairman Lim Fong Seng, Publicity Chief of the Civil Rights Committee Kua Kia Soong, and WAO member Irene Xavier.

Although most of the detainees were released either conditionally or unconditionally, 40 were issued detention order of two years. Included were Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh plus five other party colleagues, a number of PAS members and many social activists. A categorization of the initially named detainees, numbering 97, gives the following breakdown:

  • political parties: 37;
  • social movements 23;
  • individuals: 37.

The situation came to a head and then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad took advantage to round up political nemeses under the Internal Security Act in the eponymous operation.

Mahathir’s administration was then criticised for its poor human rights record, with the tightening and implementation of the Printing Presses and Publications Act, the Official Secrets Act and of the Internal Security Act (ISA).

While he received the backing of most Malaysians when he clipped the powers of royalty, the assault on the judiciary with the sacking of Lord President Tun Salleh Abas in 1988 remains one of – if not the darkest – episodes of his administration.

However, Mahathir’s supporters and the man himself saw these as necessary evils.

“For a country to progress, drastic measures need to be taken so that these efforts are not derailed,” he once said.

Twenty years after Ops Lalang, the dust has yet to settle for detainees who are still clamoring for the draconian ISA to be buried, as Malaysiakini put it.

Age columnist Michael Backman’s just written in his column his view of Malaysian Premier Abdullah Badawi, here is yet another foreingner's view, and this time touching Dr Mahathir :

(Read American Chronicle "Dr Mahathir's Blood" by Abbas Zaidi here.)


"During his 22-year rule as Malaysia’s prime minister Dr. Mahatir found himself at the centre of so many controversies that it is not possible to touch upon even a fraction of them in just one article.

Some of the controversies that earned him international attention were his claim that the Jews get others to fight and die for them, his denunciation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, his sacking of three deputy prime ministers that he had himself chosen to succeed him, and his dismissal of the Malaysian Supreme Court judges.

Hence when in October 2003 Dr. Mahatir stepped down of his own will, many Malaysians thought that the change of guard would not alter much on their country’s political scene. Abdullah Badawi, the new prime minister, had after all been a Mahatir protégé. Abdullah did not make any changes in the cabinet and political hierarchy that he inherited from Dr. Mahatir."


26 October, 2007

ACA Blitz

“We will continue with our investigations. If there is any basis for us to arrest and charge anyone for any corrupt practices, we will do it,” said Ahmad Said.

“There is no such thing as going after only the small fish and letting off the big ones. We do not discriminate when it comes to such matters.”

The blitz on civil servants and others allegedly involved in the irregularities highlighted in the 2006 Auditor-General’s Report continues with four arrests Thursday, and more likely to be picked up soon.

On Thursday, the ACA picked up a former director, an assistant director and a technical officer – all from the Youth and Sports Ministry. The fourth person is a contractor.

The four arrests have taken to 17 the total number picked up so far.

Meanwhile, Michael Backman sings again, and this time he reviews Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s performance after been in office for nearly four years.

Malaysia's PM seems to be failing his people at every chance

by Michael Backman

The Age
Otcober 24, 2007

ON OCTOBER 31, Abdullah Badawi, Malaysia's Prime Minister, will have been in office for four years. Abdullah came to office promising to fight corruption and to be a breath of fresh air. He has failed on both counts.

But he has achieved one remarkable feat none of his predecessors could: he has united most of his country's elder statesmen, established businessmen and intellectuals.

They are united in their utter dismay at his performance, a point that many such individuals made to me on a recent visit to Malaysia.

The despair is compounded by the near impossibility of getting rid of Abdullah.

Before 1987, anyone who wanted to challenge the president of the ruling UMNO party (and hence prime minister), needed to get endorsements from just two divisions of UMNO. Previous prime minister Mahathir Mohamad had that changed after his finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah challenged him for the leadership and almost won.

Would-be challengers must now acquire the endorsement of 30 per cent, or 58, of 191 divisions. This means that the prime minister's office needs to pay off fewer than 150 division heads with government contracts and licences to ensure their support.

Critics within UMNO are anaesthetised by patronage and sadly the Prime Minister probably thinks that he is doing a good job because his inner circle constantly tells him he is. He is their ticket to riches, after all.

Ramadan has just ended and once again Malaysia has been treated to the spectacle of government ministers and other officials fasting and playing the pious Muslim on the one hand and stealing from their fellow Malaysians on
the other.

Abdullah has had three chances in recent times to show that times have changed in Malaysia and to clearly assert
his authority when presented with examples of such theft.
He has blown each one.

The first was when it emerged that his Trade Minister, Rafidah Aziz, had handed out to her relatives, government officials and former officials hundreds of lucrative licences to import cars - without any clear procedures or transparency. A good leader would have fired Rafidah immediately. She is still there.

Another opportunity arose with revelations by the auditor-general last month of fraud and corruption in government purchasing. Some of the more flagrant abuses were at the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs. It had wasted millions on purchases such as paying 224 ringgit ($A75) for sets of screwdivers worth 40 ringgit, or 1146 ringgit for a 160 ringgit pen set.

More seriously, the ministry's head, who had the authority to approve contracts worth less than 5 million ringgit, was found to have approved contracts for almost 450 million ringgit. The ministry claimed that the then minister and
now Education Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had written a letter of authority for the purchases but this disappeared during auditing. Despite all this occurring under Hishammuddin's watch, he remains in the cabinet.

The third incident relates to an ongoing scandal at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone - Port Klang is Malaysia's main shipping port. Essentially, the port authority was forced by well-connected individuals to buy far more land than
planned for the free trade zone and at highly inflated prices, even though it could have compulsorily acquired the land, literally saving billions.

This and development costs, and "professional fees", blew out the total cost for the zone from 1.845 billion ringgit to 4.2 billion ringgit. It is a scam of outrageous proportions and is just the sort of thing that is turning foreign
investors off Malaysia in their droves.

Rather than make arrests, the Government is using taxpayers' funds to bail out the authority. The auditor-general tipped off the responsible minister (a term I use loosely) - Chan Kong Choy, the Transport Minister - about the
problems, as did a foreign partner in the zone, but Chan ignored the warning. Has Abdullah fired Chan? Of course not. Has the previous minister Ling Liong Sik been questioned by the police? Of course not.

These three instances were good opportunities for Abdullah to show his ministers who is boss. Well, he certainly did that.

One might ask what on earth the Finance Minister has been doing in the face of all this waste and theft. Or, indeed, even who is the Finance Minister? Extraordinarily, it is Abdullah. In a break with tradition, he occupies that post as well as being Prime Minister. The firings should start with him.

After all, it's not as if Malaysia has a shortfall of ministers. On the contrary, Malaysia has no fewer than 72 ministers and deputy ministers at the federal level. By way of comparison, Australia has 32 ministers and assistant ministers.
Is the quality of public administration in Malaysia more than twice as good as in Australia? Let the facts speak for

Malaysia is truly at a cross-roads. It has many good people with great potential but it is slipping beneath the waves of mediocrity, weighed down by officials intent on an orgy of plunder while the ship's captain stands idly by.

The process of government needs to be dramatically and urgently overhauled. Malaysia needs a dynamic, strong visionary leader who is up to the task. Instead, it has Abdullah Badawi.


25 October, 2007

Malaysia’s success

Malaysia’s success

By Antonio C. Abaya
(Manila Standard Today)

Our neighbor Malaysia celebrated its 50th anniversary of independence last Aug. 31 and the months-long festivities that marked that event were highlighted by the launch into space of its first cosmonaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a 35-year old medical doctor and practicing Muslim.

“Muszaphar was chosen from thousands of hopefuls in a nationwide competition that generated tremendous excitement in Malaysia,” wrote the French news agency, AFP.

He was launched into space on Oct. 11 (while governors and congressmen were being bribed in Malacañang) from Russia’s Star City cosmodrome, with two others: an American woman astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut. The trio spent 11 days in space, including a sojourn in the International Space Station, and returned to Earth on Oct. 22.

A historic moment for Malaysia , said its deputy prime minister, Najib Razak, that made his countrymen “stand a few inches taller.”

“This is a very momentous and historic occasion for Malaysia. It will go down in the annals of our history because this is a first for Malaysia in space and he has returned safely,” gushed the understandably ecstatic Najib.

Now, how come the Philippines’ national leaders never ever thought of sending a Filipino astronaut into space? I know I made such a suggestion to one of President Corazon Aquino’s lieutenants sometime in 1990.

But either the suggestion was not passed on to her, or she did not think the idea was worth the bother. She had just survived Gringo Honasan’s two coup attempts against her, in 1987 and 1989, and she was probably too engrossed in trying to prevent a third coup to think about sending a Pinoy into space.

A pity. I did mention that suggestion to a subsequent US Ambassador, Dick Solomon, and he thought it was a good idea that he would have endorsed to Washington if a request had come from the Philippine government. And he took a small notebook from his vest pocket and made a note of it. But the Philippine government obviously never made such a request, and that was the last I ever heard of it.

About 10 years ago, a Fil-Am woman in her late 20s came here and announced that she was making representations with the Russian government to enlist in Russia’s space program. Obviously she was looking for financial backing from the Philippine government: It would have cost several million dollars

But such backing never materialized, so she went back to the US , her dreams of orbiting in space discarded into her mental trash can.

Perhaps the post-Arroyo government will re-consider my suggestion. A Filipino orbiting in space would be a boost to our sagging national ego. After decades of almost endless defeats and humiliation, a Filipino astronaut in space would be a much needed victory and triumph that we all need to restore our sanity and self-esteem.

It would give Philippine media something worthwhile to focus on, aside from its almost exclusive fascination with scandals, predatory trapos, mercenary coup plotters, showbiz fornicators and tiresome communists.

And it could trigger a paradigm shift in our national psyche. Such as, for example, inspiring more Filipino students to take up science and engineering, rather than law.

I know it did something like that in the US when the Soviets launched their first Sputnik satellite 50 years ago last Oct. 7. I was a student at Northwestern then, and the success of the Soviet launch plunged American leaders, media and the public into much soul-searching and breast-beating, about how they had been overtaken by the Soviets, how their education system was inferior to the Soviets’, even to Western Europe’s and Japan’s, how they were not producing enough scientists and engineers etc.

Americans also became more cosmopolitan. I was enrolled in a Russian language course. When the course started in September, we were only six in class. But after the Sputnik launch in October and the subsequent soul-searching and breast-beating, our class ballooned to more than 60 and had to be divided into several sections.

The soul-searching did much good. The Americans were able to rebound from their collective depression and, prodded on by President John F. Kennedy (who was to be assassinated in 1962), went on to beat the Soviets in landing the first men on the Moon, in 1969.

We Filipinos have undergone years of soul-searching. What we need is a major symbolic triumph to lift us out of our depression. Manny Pacquiao is not adequate: His ill-advised detour into politics and his obvious lack of education do not make him a good role model. A Filipino astronaut in space would be a more compelling symbol of our aspirations.

(OK, OK, Some wise guys will suggest that we send GMA and her husband into space, and leave them there. But to be fair, we have to include some senators and congressmen, as well as some bureaucrats and generals. It would be too expensive, guys.)

But to get back to Malaysia, Boo Chanco e-mailed me a short article titled The Malaysian Miracle, written by Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank and outspoken critic of free trade and globalization. It can be accessed at www.project-syndicate.org

Stiglitz writes that at independence 50 years ago, Malaysia was “one of the poorest countries in the world.” Its gross domestic product then “was comparable to that of Haiti, Honduras and Egypt and some 5 percent below that of Ghana. Today, Malaysia’s income is 7.8 times that of Ghana, more than five times that of Honduras, and more than 2.5 times that of Egypt. In the global growth league tables, Malaysia is in the top tier, along with China, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand.

“Moreover, the benefits of growth have been shared. Hard-core poverty is set to be eliminated by 2010, with the overall poverty rate falling to 2.8 percent. Malaysia has succeeded in markedly reducing the income divides that separated various ethnic groups, not by bringing the top down, but by bringing the bottom up.

“Part of the country’s success in reducing poverty reflects strong job creation. While unemployment is a problem in most of the world, Malaysia has been importing labor. In the 50 years since independence, 7.24 million jobs have been created, an increase of 261 percent, which would be equivalent to the creation of 105 million jobs in the US….”

Stiglitz’s short article did not go into some details. In the 1980s, Malaysia followed the examples of South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong and geared its economy to the export of manufactured goods. The Philippines did not, until the presidency of Fidel Ramos in the 1990s.

In 2005, Malaysia’s exports totaled $147.l billion, compared to the Philippines’ $41.3 billion, or $105.8 billion more than the Philippines. Malaysia has been actively selling itself in the global tourist market since the 1990s, as anyone who watches cable TV can see from the ubiquitous “Malaysia Truly Asia” ads in CNN and the BBC. The Philippines had an ineffectual “Wow Philippines” campaign which, mercifully, was withdrawn about three years ago, but not replaced since. In 2006, Malaysia drew in 16 million tourists, the Philippines not even three million, or 13 million more than the Philippines.

If you convert into jobs Malaysia’s surplus over the Philippines of $105.8 billion in exports and 13 million in tourist arrivals, you will come up with millions of jobs that Malaysia generated, and the Philippines did not, in just two sectors alone. This would explain why the Philippines exports its people (eight to nine million) and Malaysia does not.

Another key ingredient in Malaysia’s success, which Stiglitz only briefly touched on, is the effective and total exclusion of Communists from their national life, through the Internal Security Act, which gives the Malaysian (and Singaporean) state the right to put them in jail indefinitely and without trial.

Unlike in the Philippines where Communists are and have been allowed to organize fronts among workers, peasants, fishermen, students, academe, public school teachers, government employees, medical workers, etc; to edit newspapers, write columns, host radio and TV programs; to become presidents of state universities; and even to run for Congress.

Guess which country has more peace and stability, and which country is bogged down in endless conflicts.

Stiglitz also did not mention in his article that much of the entrepreneurial activities in Malaysia came and come from its large Chinese community, estimated at 24 to 30 percent of its population (compared to only about 3 percent of the Philippine population). Without its large Chinese community, it is doubtful if Malaysia would be where it is right now.

Dear Malaysian Readers, what say you ?


24 October, 2007

No ISA detention under Pak Lah ?

The country has a more positive image with the rule of law being upheld under the present Government.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, who said this, added that as far as he knew, there had been no detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over as Prime Minister in 2003.

“This is a positive thing,” he said after opening a human rights seminar for supreme council members of his United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Organisation.

(From The Star online here)

The Minister in the Prime Minister Department, Bernard Dompok's statement that the government has not arrested any person under the ISA since Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became Prime Minister, has caused quite a stir. His statement was published in The Star on 22 October and was refuted by the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA as well as human rights organization SUARAM. In the following letter, CIJ questions The Star for publishing the Minister's statement wholesale and why the basic practice of journalism, that is of fact checking, has apparently been missing in this case.

Minister erred, information must be corrected on ISA
by CIJ, 23 October 2007
Source : CIJ

Centre for Independent Journalism
27C Jalan Sarikei, off Jalan Pahang
53000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 4023 0772, 03 4024 9840
Fax: 03 4023 0769

23 October 2007

Dear editor,

Re: Minister erred, information must be corrected on ISA

We refer to the news report titled "Malaysia's image improves - No ISA detention under Pak Lah", published in The Star on 22 October on page 22.

In this article, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok was quoted as saying that the government has not detained anyone under the Internal Security Act (ISA) since the current Prime Minister took office in 2003.

Clearly, the minister has erred in his statement. For one, the latest detention was reported as recent as 29 August, in which the law was invoked against several persons said to be spreading rumors about a racial clash in Johor Bahru.

Further, other cases during the tenure of our present PM are amply provided by the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA, a coalition of civil society organizations for the abolition of ISA, in their statement released yesterday to refute the minister's claim.

There are two issues at hand. One is the sense of authority given to ministers and politicians who are quoted, and quite often, treated as the primary and only source of information by the media. In this case, the source himself was factually wrong in his statement. Secondly, the media has a role to play in checking and verifying information. This is one of the fundamental practices in ethical journalism. It will be useful to know if the minister was asked for clarifications or challenged for his data and how far the reporter and editor responsible for the story exercised rigour in their writing and editing. A quick research would have revealed the factual errors in the minister's statement.

We are also perturbed that the news headline is of such generality - "Malaysia's image improves" as to disregard Malaysia's performance in other indicators of international importance - the fall in the recent Press Freedom Index, and the slip in the Corruption Perception Index since 2005.

CIJ is concerned that the news has a misleading effect on the public. It certainly calls into question the credibility of your organisation in providing information to your readers.We hope that your organization will publish an article correcting the facts in the article as a measure to keep the public accurately informed.


Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Executive Director
Centre for Independent Journalism

Labels: ,

23 October, 2007

Genting founder dies

Lim Goh Tong ranked 245 among The World's Richest People In 2006, a high school drop out, who turned a jungle hilltop into one of the world's most successful casino resorts, died today.

Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, the patriarch of the Genting Group, died at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre, this morning. He was 90.

Lim, who was synonymous with Genting Highlands, the "City of Entertainment" which he built single-handedly died of old age, said his son Kok Thay.

Lim was a PWD contractor when he embarked on an ambitious plan to develop the hilltop overlooking Pahang and Selangor. He was granted a licence to operate the country's first and only casino on Genting Highlands and turned it into a premier tourist destination, drawing visitors from far and wide.

The idea of a hill resort was chanced upon by Lim amidst the crisp air of Cameron Highlands in 1964. Lim was then working on a hydro-electric power project at the popular hill resort, patronised mostly by British colonials seeking cool refuge from the tropical heat, when he foresaw a prosperous Malaysia of the future desiring a cool mountain holiday resort within the reach of all Malaysians.

To date, Genting Highlands Resort has five hotels and two apartment blocks at the hilltop and Awana Genting Highlands Golf and Country Resort.

The company, founded in 1965, has since expanded and diversified from its initial hotel and resort activities to plantations, properties, paper manufacturing, power generation, oil and gas, electronic commerce and information technology development under Genting Group.

According to Forbes Asia, the Genting Group founder was third richest in the country with a net worth of US$4.3bil (RM14.6bil).

Read the news from Malaysiakini here, The Star Online here, and Sun2surf here.


22 October, 2007

Anwar given 3 days to supply video clip or face arrest

PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim was slapped with a notice from the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) today compelling him to hand in the original Lingam video clip or risk going to jail.

The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has given Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim until Thursday to produce the original full-length video clip showing a prominent lawyer purportedly brokering the appointment of top judges.

The order was issued by ACA head of Special Tasks Branch cum assistant commissioner Sazali Salbi at Anwar’s office in Section 16 after a three-hour long meeting.

The ACA said if the Anwar failed to comply, action could be taken against him under Section 22 of the ACA Act (Order 22) which carried a sentence of not more than RM10,000 or not more than two years' jail or both.

Read the full report at Malaysiakini here.


21 October, 2007

Dr M Discharged From IJN

According to Malaysiakini, former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was today discharged from the National Heart Institute (IJN), seven weeks after undergoing his second coronary bypass operation.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was discharged from the National Heart Institute (IJN) this morning, 47 days after undergoing a second coronary bypass operation on Sept 4.

A cheerful-looking Dr Mahathir waved to the public at the IJN as he walked out of the VIP ward at 10.20am in the company of his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamed Ali, his children and doctors to a waiting car.

Dr Mahathir will continue with his physiotherapy exercises at home and come for periodic check-ups at the institute as part of his post-surgical rehabilitation process, it said.

His daughter, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, told reporters at the IJN lobby that doctors have advised her father to rest at home and continue with the rehabilitation programmes and follow-up treatment.

"My father is happy to be able to go home. He wants to be in a different environment and wishes to rest," she said, adding that the family would hold thanksgiving prayers soon.

Marina said Dr Mahathir expressed his gratitude to IJN staff who took care of him during his stay at the country's premier heart centre.

"We have agreed to discharge Tun Mahathir now that he has fully recovered," said Tan Sri Dr Yahya Awang who headed the panel of heart surgeons who operated on the former prime minister.


20 October, 2007

Spaceflight participant or astronaut?

ASK any patriotic Malaysian and he would say his countryman now orbiting the Earth is truly an astronaut or angkasawan, the Malay word for astronaut.

But ever since the US space agency Nasa described Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor as a spaceflight participant, the blogs have been buzzing.

The Nasa comment riled many Malaysians.

Malaysia's Science, Techology and Innovations Minister, Datuk Seri Jamaludin Jarjis, told Bernama that Dr Muszaphar would be recognised as a cosmonaut - the Russian equivalent of the astronaut - next month.

"Malaysia's first astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, who is scheduled to return to earth on Sunday, will be commissioned as a cosmonaut along with another astronaut candidate Faiz Khaleed, Science, Technology and Innovations Minister Auk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis was quoted by local media as saying on Friday."

The commissioning ceremony would take place in Russia two weeks after Sheikh Muszaphar's return as he has to be quarantined for one week after touchdown on Earth, said Jamaludin"

His comments came after Nasa had described Dr Muszaphar as a 'space flight participant' on its website.

Nasa described the Malaysian as a 'spaceflight participant... flying under contract with the Russian Federal Space Agency'.

The Malaysian minister told journalists: 'The Russians themselves had told our man that he is a cosmonaut, and that's the end of the story.'

He added that it was the Russians who had selected the candidate and will be sending the Malaysian angkasawan to space and therefore it is appropriate for them to give the recognition and not the US.

But the comments on the Internet did not die down.

Some Malaysians saw the trip as a waste of money.

The US$25 million ($37m) agreement for the Malaysian to fly to space was negotiated in 2003 along with a US$900 million deal for Malaysia to buy 18 Russian fighter jets.

Criticism of the cost of the trip led to officials avoiding any mention of it, other than to say it is part of a US$900 million defence deal.

The Malaysian government did not see it that way.

In an interview with the Voice of American, Science, Technology and Innovations Minister Jamaluddin Jarjis, said he hoped the space mission would inspire a new generation of Malaysian scientists.

'Putting our man, our Malaysian man in space, is basically - we want to raise the bar for Malaysia in terms of acquiring knowledge for the future, especially the young ones, the five million kids in school,' he said.

You might not know this, but there have been a lot of unhappy rumblings in Malaysian society regarding our paying the Russians buckets of money – the amount of which the Malaysian public is not 100% sure about – to train a bloke to be a spaceman (as accurate a definition I can think of, because he is a man and he is in space).

Going into space is a big deal. Just ask Dennis Tito and Mark Shuttleworth, two space tourists who did not have the luxury of buying Russian jet fighters to contra the costs of their cosmic flights. Coincidentally, one of the nasty things people are calling our Malaysian spaceman is “space tourist”.

For your information, unlike the two gentlemen mentioned above, our spaceman is not a tourist. No, no, no. He is going to do experiments, important experiments like main gasing,it's a physics demonstration to show the effects of microgravity.

Wah! We are now a space power?

As blogger Ahirudin Attan noted in his column, Rocky's Bru, after watching the rocket carrying Dr Muszaphar take off: 'There've been a lot of verbal fights about the decision to send a Malaysian up there. But to quote this person sitting across the table enjoying his glass of wine: 'Call him an angkasawan, a cosmonaut, a space participant, or whatever you like... that's the first Malaysian in space there!'


18 October, 2007

Gossip more powerful than truth ?

Gossip is more powerful than truth, a study showed, suggesting people believe what they hear through the grapevine even if they have evidence to the contrary.

Researchers, testing students using a computer game, also found gossip played an important role when people make decisions, said Ralf Sommerfeld, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, who led the study.

"We show that gossip has a strong influence... even when participants have access to the original information as well as gossip about the same information," the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Thus, it is evident that gossip has a strong manipulative potential."

In the study, the researchers gave the students money and allowed them to give it to others in a series of rounds. The students also wrote notes about how others played the game that everyone could review.

Students tended to give less money to people described as "nasty misers" or "scrooges" and more to those depicted as "generous players" or "social players," Sommerfeld said.

"People only saw the gossip, not the past decisions," he said in a telephone interview. "People really reacted on it."

The researchers then took the game a step further and showed the students the actual decisions people had made. But they also supplied false gossip that contradicted that evidence.

In these cases, the students based their decisions to award money on the gossip, rather than the hard evidence, showing such information is a powerful tool, Sommerfeld said.

"Rationally if you know what the people did, you should care, but they still listened to what others said," he said.

"They even reacted on it if they knew better."

Researchers have long used similar games to study how people cooperate and the impact of gossip in groups. Scientists define gossip as social information spread about a person who is not present, Sommerfeld said.

In evolutionary terms, gossip can be an important tool for people to acquire information about others' reputations or navigate through social networks at work and in their everyday lives, the study said.

One example could be using gossip to learn that a potential mate had cheated on others, something which could make that person an undesirable match, Sommerfeld said.(Source)

Shall we talk about the Yatch ? or Mongolian Beauty ? or perhaps What he did last summer.

Ya! The most powerful force in the Universe is GOSSIP !!


17 October, 2007

Malaysia down in press freedom index

Ministerial "advice" to media tantamount to interference

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) questions the Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin's "advice" to news editors not to play up news that put the government in the bad light. CIJ finds the advice by the Minister alarming as he continues to show little regard for press freedom and the role of the media in a democracy.

On 12 October, quoting sources, Malaysiakini.com reported Zainuddin as telling editors that the media need not report the truth, especially news that cast a negative light on the government. This was because the Prime Minister's pledge to hear the truth applied only among government officials. He told them at a special meeting that he would, under the instruction of the Prime Minister, give similar advice to the press regularly.

CIJ views such controls over the media as subverting their functions in informing society. It also goes against the journalists' code of ethics not to report issues of public concern, especially where it involves the government and public officials. Zainuddin's advice strongly suggests that he would not like to see the press to play the role of a watchdog. This is also against the principles of democracy in which governments should be open to people's scrutiny via a free press.

It is also questionable how limiting the task of "telling the truth" to government officials will be effective when the mass media does not function as a channel between the people and the government.

Zainuddin's advice to the press is at the expense of the people, who have the right to free press and information. We call upon the Minister to stop interfering in the press and to appreciate it as a valuable tool to improve public governance and accountability.

CIJ advocates the following to promote press freedom and freedom of expression in Malaysia:

* the repealing of the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984
* the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee on Media Freedom
* the improvement of journalism practices through adherence to code of ethics


Issued by

Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Executive Director


The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) notes with concern Malaysia's drastic drop in this year's Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in which the country now ranked at 124, a drop of 32 places from year 2006 where it occupied the 92nd spot. It is worrying to note that the decline has been precedented by an improvement in the 2006 index, in which Malaysia climbed up 21 notches from 2005.

However, CIJ agrees with the RSF's observation in its annual report about Malaysia, and our monitoring reveals a consistent trend in the following areas;

* the harassment of bloggers through police detention, questioning, defamation suit, as well as warning by the country's top leadership.
* constant interference by the Executive in editorial decisions, now in the form of official letters to editors from the Ministry of Internal Security and other verbal "advice"
* limiting certain topics, deemed sensitive to the administration, such as race and religion, corruption in the higher echelons, and the secular/Islamic state debate from public discussions through government directives to the media and the public.

The Index by RSF affirms our position that the administration of Abdullah Ahmad Badawi still has a long way to go to realizing its pledge for more openness and transparency. We recommend the following actions be taken immediately to arrest the declining levels of press freedom in the country;

* set up a parliamentary select committee on media freedom with a view, among others, towards repealing the Printing Presses and the Publications Act 1984
* stop Executive interference in editorial decisions
* stop using national security laws, such as the Sedition Act, Internal Security Act and Official Secrets Act, which are widely criticized for being extremely broad-worded, against bloggers.

Issued by
Gayathry Venkiteswaran
Executive Director

Bloggers now threatened as much as journalists in traditional media.

The Internet is occupying more and more space in the breakdown of press freedom violations. Several countries fell in the ranking this year because of serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information.

In Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), for example, bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible. “We are concerned about the increase in cases of online censorship,” Reporters Without Borders said. “More and more governments have realised that the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing new methods of censoring it. The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.”

At least 64 persons are currently imprisoned worldwide because of what they posted on the Internet. China maintains its leadership in this form of repression, with a total of 50 cyber-dissidents in prison. Eight are being held in Vietnam. A young man known as Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in Egypt for blog posts criticising the president and Islamist control of the country’s universities.

Reporters Without Borders compiled this index by sending a questionnaire to the 15 freedom of expression organisations throughout the world that are its partners, to its network of 130 correspondents, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It contained 50 questions about press freedom in their countries. The index covers 169 nations. Other countries were not included because of lack of data.

The ranking

1 Iceland
- Norway
3 Estonia
- Slovakia
5 Belgium
- Finland
- Sweden
8 Denmark
- Ireland
- Portugal
11 Switzerland
12 Latvia
- Netherlands
14 Czech Republic
16 Austria
17 Hungary
18 Canada
19 Trinidad and Tobago
20 Germany
21 Costa Rica
- Slovenia
23 Lithuania
24 United Kingdom
25 Mauritius
- Namibia
27 Jamaica
28 Australia
29 Ghana
30 Greece
31 France
32 Taiwan
33 Spain
34 Bosnia and Herzegovina
35 Italy
36 Macedonia
37 Japan
- Uruguay
39 Chile
- South Korea
41 Croatia
43 South Africa
44 Israel (Israeli territory)
45 Cape Verde
- Cyprus
47 Nicaragua
48 United States of America
49 Togo
50 Mauritania
51 Bulgaria
52 Mali
53 Benin
54 Panama
55 Tanzania
56 Ecuador
- Poland
58 Cyprus (North)
60 Kosovo
61 Hong-Kong
- Madagascar
63 Kuwait
64 El Salvador
65 United Arab Emirates
66 Georgia
67 Serbia
68 Bolivia
- Burkina Faso
- Zambia
71 Central African Republic
72 Dominican Republic
73 Mozambique
74 Mongolia
75 Botswana
- Haiti
77 Armenia
78 Kenya
79 Qatar
80 Congo
81 Moldova
82 Argentina
83 Senegal
84 Brazil
85 Cambodia
- Liberia
87 Albania
- Honduras
- Niger
90 Paraguay
91 Angola
92 Malawi
- Ukraine
94 Côte d’Ivoire
- Timor-Leste
96 Comoros
- Uganda
98 Lebanon
99 Lesotho
100 Indonesia
101 Turkey
102 Gabon
103 Israel (extra-territorial)
104 Guatemala
- Seychelles
106 Morocco
107 Fiji
- Guinea
- Guinea-Bissau
110 Kyrgyzstan
111 Cameroon
- United States of America (extra-territorial)
113 Chad
114 Venezuela
115 Tajikistan
116 Bhutan
117 Peru
118 Bahrain
119 Tonga
120 India
121 Sierra Leone
122 Jordan
123 Algeria
124 Malaysia
125 Kazakhstan
126 Colombia
127 Burundi
128 Philippines
129 Maldives
130 Gambia
131 Nigeria
132 Djibouti
133 Democratic Republic of Congo
134 Bangladesh
135 Thailand
136 Mexico
137 Nepal
138 Swaziland
139 Azerbaijan
140 Sudan
141 Singapore
142 Afghanistan
143 Yemen
144 Russia
145 Tunisia
146 Egypt
147 Rwanda
148 Saudi Arabia
149 Zimbabwe
150 Ethiopia
151 Belarus
152 Pakistan
153 Equatorial Guinea
154 Syria
155 Libya
156 Sri Lanka
157 Iraq
158 Palestinian Territories
159 Somalia
160 Uzbekistan
161 Laos
162 Vietnam
163 China
164 Burma
165 Cuba
166 Iran
167 Turkmenistan
168 North Korea
169 Eritrea

Read also Malaysiakini's :" Drastic drop for Malaysia in press freedom ranking"

Malaysia fell drastically by 32 spots to 124 in the latest worldwide press freedom ranking index released by Paris-based watchdog Reporters sans Frontieres (RSF, Reporters Without Borders).