31 January, 2008

Pro-Muslim tilt in Malaysia's courts

Observers say civil courts often defer to Islamic courts on key issues.

An Islamic court ruled last week that a Malaysian man receive a Muslim burial, despite insistence by most of his family that he hadn't converted to Islam. His son, a Muslim, maintained that he had.

Such cases have become more common in Malaysia, whose leaders tout their multiracial democracy as a model of Islamic moderation and economic success. It's a claim echoed by American diplomats and Muslim intellectuals seeking a credible counterpoint to extremist voices in the Islamic world.

But the promises of religious and ethnic pluralism that nurtured a generation of Malaysians have begun to unravel. A pro-Muslim shift among lawyers and judges is alarming Christians, Hindus, and other non-Muslims who make up about 40 percent of the population. The remainder are predominantly ethnic Malay-Muslims, who benefit from affirmative-action programs to redress historic economic disparities.

Diplomats, lawyers, and religious leaders say that Malaysia's race-based coalition government – a power-sharing formula unchanged since independence in 1957 – is failing to address growing ethnic tensions fed by pro-Malay discrimination and a growing stress on Islamic governance. Minorities are largely invisible in the ranks of police, military, and civil service, while schools are increasingly segregated by race and language.

Although religious worship is freely practiced in Malaysia, Christians complain they can't get permits to build churches. Last month, a Roman Catholic newspaper was barred by the government from using "Allah" – "god" in the Malay language – to refer to a Christian God. The previous month, tens of thousands of Indian Hindus clashed with ethnic-Malay riot police during a heated rally over alleged social and religious discrimination.

The tensions haven't led to mass unrest, though, allowing Malaysia to continue advertising its stability to foreign investors. Its capital, Kuala Lumpur, displays new suburbs linked by smooth highways and a modern skyline.

Critics argue that pro-Malay policies introduced in 1971 have served their purpose, while antagonizing minorities. But government officials defend the race-based allocation of resources. "Without political stability and socio-economic stability and consensus-based principles, there's not enough to distribute," says Nor Mohamed Yakcop, second finance minister.

The sharp end of the religious wedge is Malaysia's legal system. Assertive Islamic shariah courts, backed by Muslim bureaucrats, have forced civil courts to retreat on sensitive issues such as interfaith conversions. Lawyers say several recent judgments have eroded the civil rights of non-Muslims and highlighted a creeping Islamization in a secular judiciary.

A prominent case in 2006 pitted a Hindu widow against Islamic authorities who claimed the body of her husband, an Army corporal, for a Muslim burial. A civil court declined to rule on whether he had converted to Islam, deferring to the shariah court. Last year, a court refused to uphold a Malay woman's conversion to Christianity.

"We can't depend on the judiciary. Every case where a Muslim is involved in a dispute, the outcome isn't favorable for us," says A. Vaithilingam, a Hindu community leader.

Also troubling, say lawyers and analysts, is conservatives' reaction to public debate on such issues. A proposed interfaith commission was shelved in 2005 after Islamists objected to the inclusion of liberal Muslim organizations.

Far from confronting these extremists, Malaysian leaders have resorted to media blackouts on sensitive topics. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak tried to end the debate last July by saying that Malaysia was an Islamic state, not a secular state, raising eyebrows among constitutional lawyers.

The judiciary has also been tainted by graft allegations and political tampering. A royal commission began hearings on Jan. 14 into corruption in the appointment of judges.

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a human rights lawyer, traces the shift in the judiciary to the 1980s when the government tried to outdo political opponents by promoting Islam among civil servants and judges. At the same time, a purge of judges and a constitutional amendment to reinforce the jurisdiction of shariah courts removed a secular brake on Malay-Muslim policymakers. "We've let the tiger out of the cage, and we're trying to catch it by the tail," says Mr. Imtiaz.

Aides to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi say he's aware of the sensitivity of recent legal judgments but won't intervene in shariah courts. A better way, they say, is to gradually appoint senior federal judges who will defend civil safeguards on religious freedom.

Mr. Badawi, an Islamic scholar who took office in 2003, said at a UN conference this month that Islam respected cultural and religious diversity, and that Muslim governments should put social justice before popularity. "A true Muslim will also not abdicate the principle of fairness in managing ethnic relations even if it makes him somewhat unpopular within his own ethnic community," he said.

But his actions in office haven't spoken as loudly, says Bridget Welsh, a professor at John Hopkins University. "What you're seeing is a serious deterioration of race relations."

By Simon Montlake
(Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor)

Read also :-

"It’s not a plight that I’ll worry about" - By Dwain Walden ,editor/publisher of the Moultrie Observer.

"A few days ago there was a news story about a state in Malaysia where Islamic rulers have declared that the state will more strictly enforce separate lines for men and women at supermarkets."

"What they do in Malaysia is none of my business. All of this is happening in the state of Kelantan. Until now, I had never even heard of this particular place. It sounds like a land on the science fiction channel where people run around jumping in and out of time warps and passing through vortexes, and they fight with other people who have large symbols carved into their foreheads and they wear magic belt buckles."

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30 January, 2008

Malaysia Sucks 2

Malaysian Hindu woman in legal battle over dead Muslim son's insurance claims.

A Hindu woman has spurned an offer by Malaysia's Islamic authorities to settle a dispute over her dead Muslim son's insurance policy, a lawyer said Wednesday, in a case that highlights growing conflicts over religious rights.

The Federal Territory Islamic Council offered Tuesday to give Rukumony Muthiah two-thirds of the 56,300 ringgit (US$17,400; euro11,800) death insurance of her son, an army ranger and Muslim convert who died in 2000, her lawyer, Darshan Singh Khaira, said.

In his insurance policy, Rukumony's son, Ragu Ellaiappan, whose Muslim name was Mohamed Redzuan Abdullah, named Rukumony as his beneficiary, Darshan said.

But Islamic authorities have argued in court that under the country's religious laws for Muslims, a non-Muslim cannot claim inheritance from a Muslim, he said.


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Strong quake shakes Indonesia

Strong quake rocks Indonesia's Maluku, tsunami alert sounded

"The quake has tsunami potential because it was shallow, at 23 kilometres. The area that should be on alert is around Timor," Suharjono, from the geophysics headquarters here, told ElShinta radio.

A strong earthquake shook a group of islands in Indonesia Wednesday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Meteorologists in Indonesia said the quake had tsunami potential, but the U.S. National Weather Service has not issued a tsunami warning.

"We do not expect a tsunami from this event," said Dailin Wang, an oceanographer for the National Weather Service's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, told CNN.

The USGS put the earthquake's magnitude at 6.2, but the Web site for the Indonesian meteorological agency showed the quake at a stronger 6.6 and talked about its tsunami potential.

The quake was recorded in Kepulauan Barat Daya, a group of islands in the Maluku province of Indonesia. The islands are located about 262 km (163 miles) from the East Timorese capital of Dili.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates meet, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

The archipelago nation was hardest hit by the earthquake-triggered Asian tsunami in December 2004. Some 168,000 people alone were killed in Aceh province on the northern tip of Sumatra.


29 January, 2008

British Hindus liken Malaysian government to Taliban

British Hindus are to hold a silent protest outside the office of the British premier this week to highlight the 'new lite-Taliban' policies of the Malaysian government, an umbrella group for Hindus said Tuesday.

The Hindu Council UK (HCUK) said Hindus would present a petition to Prime Minister Gordon Brown Friday to protest the condition of Malaysian Hindus, 'who number two million and are suffering religious persecution' by the government in Kuala Lumpur.

It said Hindu temples have been razed and damaged in Malaysia, 'irrespective of their age' but added that the silent protest was against human rights violations of not only Hindus but also other religious minorities of Malaysia.

The issue hit the headlines in November last year when Malaysian police used violence to break up a march by Hindus in the capital Kuala Lumpur and arrested 31 protesters, five of whom, HCUK said, were still in detention.

The police action was criticised around the world.

Last month, members of the British parliament demanded that the Malaysian government scrap plans to demolish Hindu temples and to allow legitimate protests against it.

In a strongly worded statement, they also urged the British government to take up the matter on their behalf and 'make the strongest possible representation' to Kuala Lumpur.

HCUK general secretary Anil Bhanot, in a statement Friday, likened the Malaysian government's attitude to that of 'the Taliban ideology which destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas (in Afghanistan),' and said it needed to be 'challenged for re-education.'

'We appeal to world communities to help stop the lite-talibanisation of the Malaysia government through trade and other means,' Bhanot added.

Meanwhile,A candlelight vigil at Hindu temples to protest the detention of five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) has been condemned by Malaysian minister of Indian origin S Samy Vellu.

The sentiments of two million-plus Hindus had been hurt by the "desecration of a place of worship", Works Minister Vellu said on Sunday.

"Hindus do not use candles in temples ... we use the kuttu vilaku (oil lamp). From the feedback I got, (other) Hindus are very unhappy over this," Vellu was quoted as saying.

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28 January, 2008

Correct! correct! correct ? II

PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim releases another five-minute clip. This time senior lawyer VK Lingam implicates former chief justice Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah.

Pada hari ini saya menerbitkan segmen ketiga rakaman video lawyer VK Lingam yang diberikan kepada saya pada Jumaat lepas, 25 Januari. Klip ini memberikan bukti tambahan bahawa konspirasi yang kini sedang disiasat oleh Suruhanjaya Diraja melangkaui usaha melantik Ahmad Fairuz ke Mahkamah Persekutuan. Segmen 5 minit ini secara langsung mengaitkan bekas Ketua Hakim Negara Dzaiddin Abdullah yang didakwa menerima rasuah dari VK Lingam dan Vincent Tan agar beliau tidak mengkritik kedua-dua individu tersebut secara terbuka. Dzaiddin Abdullah merupakan Ketua Hakim Negara antara Disember 2000 hingga 2003. Di dalam video tersebut disebut VK Lingam menyatakan: “Dan kita telah memberikan beliau hadiah paling mahal. Jangan tanyalah apa bendanya. Saya telah beri kepadanya dan Vincent Tan telah berikan kepadanya.”

Meskipun pada awalnya penubuhan Suruhanjaya Diraja telah memberikan rakyat Malaysia harapan agar kewibawaan dan integriti Kehakiman dapat dipulihkan, kami belum yakin dengan prosiding dan keputusan prosedur yang dibuat para Pesuruhjaya setakat ini. Suruhanjaya Diraja mestilah dapat menjunjung ketelusan dan integriti agar tidak kelihatan merosakkan lagi imej sistem kehakiman negara. Saya dengan ini menyerahkan bukti terbaru ini kepada orang ramai dan menyatakan kesediaan bekerjasama sepenuhnya dengan prosiding Suruhanjaya selama ini.



Lingam: The constitution judges said the constitution said, in the opinion of the prime minister he recommend. Who the prime minister recommend? So you are Dzaiddin, you are chief justice, you recommend 10 names, I consent, I said I want these 15 names, can’t do anything. He recommend to rulers, rulers only consulted, not approve, only consult. You Know?

[Voice off-camera]: Because if it goes up to the Court of Appeal…

Lingam: Now Dzaiddin wants to come through the PM because he wants his Tun-ship. So…he doing everything to please the PM lah, but he recommended five judges, three…three approved, which is Tun Eusoff Chin’s men, two not Eusoff Chin’s men which we objected. I prepared the report and rejected… but he wants to appeal again lah.

[Voice off-camera]: Can he appeal?

Lingam: He can appeal lah, but will be rejected lah.

[Voice off-camera]: I never know appointment can be rejected you know?

Lingam: No, recommendation can be rejected. The PM shall recommend so and so, after consulting so and so. So, PM suppose to consult Loh Mui Fah before he recommends. So Loh Mui Fah recommend 10 names, he in fact can say I disagree with your 10 names, I recommend Gurm…Lingam and so and so. Nothing you can do. You are only…you are supposed to be consulted, not to be approved. You see the point or not? The constitution said consult. I suppose to consult my father before I marry, I consulted him, he disagreed but still I married!

[Voice off-camera]: Because that is not final, ah.

Lingam: Right, consult is to discuss. That’s all. But if I must get my father’s approval before married, then different. Approval different from consult.

[Voice off-camera]: So, who is the lord president now?

Lingam: Now chief justice Dzaiddin.

[Voice off-camera]: Dzaiddin…

Lingam: But between you and me. We have taken Dzaiddin for dinner three times.

[Voice off-camera]: Three times already.

Lingam: And we have given him the most expensive gift. Don’t ask about it lah. I have given him and Vincent Tan has given him. So, he also cannot attack us. Tomorrow we go say we give you this this this. He cannot go and say you are a agent. Correct or not? So, he is neither here nor there lah. That’s all.

[Voice off-camera]: But… Chief Justice..

Lingam: But in the court when I argue with him. He said, Datuk Lingam you said you will take one hour. I said, my Lord, it is only 50 minutes, I got another 10 minutes. But…I appreciate. Thank you, thank you… He is very nice with me, very polite with me. I have been sending cakes every hari raya. Vincent has been sending. He can’t go and say he is very clean, correct or not?

[Voice off-camera]: But then he is…

Lingam: But he is playing his game lah. He got the job, that’s it. Now, September he is finished that’s all. Make sure he is not extended.

[Voice off-camera]: But, he may ask for extension.

Lingam: He is hoping… he told somebody that he likes the job very much. Then he likes…Let him dream lah.

[Voice off-camera]: Above him is the Lord President?

Lingam: He is the number one man, Dzaiddin.

[Voice off-camera]: Whose the Lord President?

Lingam: He is called… those days called lord president, now called chief justice, federal court.

[Voice off-camera]: Oh… it is the same title.

Lingam: Number two President Court of Appeal, that Wan Adnan, my personal friend. He was sick. Nobody knows he is close to me. Right, in fact, he never knew his name is going up until I told him. Then number three, Ahmad Fairuz, Chief Judge Malaya. Ahmad Fairuz is going to be acting, now acting…number two. Right? So, next minute, even Raja Aziz said he is going to be the next top job. He is…definitely number one lah. So, he told me I leave it all to you and you must help me and all…I said I’ll arrange for you to meet Tengku Adnan, Vincent and meet with PM lah…But this bugger is sometimes a bit scared. Ah…I must play shadow from the behind. Nobody should know I know you. Then you can help more. But people, see you know more, like Eusoff Chin, because I met him in New Zealand, became a problem. But if I didn’t meet him in New Zealand, it’s a… no problem. Correct or not? Unfortunate.

[Voice off-camera]: Then, in your…then they said you have taken photograph with him holidaying in…huh…huh…

Lingam: But unfortunately, I didn’t know. The worst thing I didn’t know Eusoff Chin put his hand like that! Alamak…so…I also didn’t know about it. What to do?

[Voice off-camera]: Then… then…

Lingam: Do you know, today one o’clock, Eusoff Chin having lunch in his house today. Hari Raya today. He called me and my wife to come. I told him we don’t go today, we make it another day. I don’t come but my wife and children will come. You know or not?
I told my wife to call…[unclear]… [phone rings]…

Lingam: Hello…Joe Ah…!

(Note: Because some parts of the recording are inaudible the transcript may not be 100% accurate.)

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Paper Free Tuesday

Today at 11.00am at Bloghouse, the People's Parliament, thru a Press Conference will launch a boycott against the Main Stream Medias that for quite a while now have been pedaling lies, half-truths and blatant spins. The MSM have prostituted themselves to serve their political masters.

‘Boycott the Newspapers’ initiative launched at Blog House today January 28, 2008

The People’s Parliament


27 January, 2008

Malaysia Sucks !

He is the PRIME MINISTER of Malaysia? ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !!!!!

Can you imagine what the world thinks of us? That we are a nation led by….. this?

“It will be good to have a good mandate from the people so that the Government can go ahead with its development programmes,” said the Prime Minister when responding to a question in an interview on CNN’s World News Asia on why he would call for an early election.

Abdullah said the possible involvement of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in the next elections was not a factor on his mind.

"We will call for the election when I think everything is all right and at the moment I think people are ready for the election,"

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26 January, 2008

Controversy after Buddhist buried as Muslim, again ?!!

By now the whole malaysia and even the world knew that we have lost our battle to the so-called Syariah Court. This court are mend for Muslim and we being the chinese why should be have our case in Syariah court. Without our presence, the S***id court declared the my FIL is a MUSLIM. D**m you, where are all the democratic sound by the government. do you think you are fair to us as a Malaysian? Do you know that even a dead person have their right as a human to decide what or how he want himself to be buried when he died?

When the group of B****ard win the case, they rushed into the Rumah mayat and in the newspaper they claim that We have pushed them. When we told them that we are getting the court injuction in the high court, they do not willing to hear anything but to proceed with the preparation in accordance with the Islam. We have to shout and scream to stop them from doing it. We are given 10 minutes to get the Pengarah hospital to stop the process but the pengarah told us NO. Then they proceed down to the Rumah mayat again. I have scream and scream to asked them to delayed the process as in the court order does not state what time they need to complete the process. Why are they so rush? Are they scare if we win the court injuction? Are they scare that they do not have proof? No body knew why are they so scare. My bloody, heartless and so called holy man BIL have kept his head down like * so tou wu kuai * and dare not face us when we scream at him to come and talk to us. He is a b****rd. A real damn bloody no heart for his parent.

- From the blog :"My Family"

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the power-sharing concept of Malaysia's government had brought pro-gress to the nation because its leadership of various races and faiths believed in working together (LOL)for the good of all Malaysians.

"Because politics is the major factor that determines the pattern of development and future of the country, our consensus is wide-ranging. All aspects of the country's development receive the attention of the cabinet that represents different races and faiths,"(LOL) Abdullah said at a press conference on Thursday.

He said he made this point as an example of interfaith co-operation during the question-and-answer session on "Faith and Modernisation" at the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) here, where he was one of the speakers.

"We have succeeded because of our concept of sharing power and making decisions through consensus. We can proudly say that we have succeeded for 50 years. But, this does not mean that there are no problems to be addressed.

Mr Prime Minister, read this :

An ethnic Chinese man was buried as a Muslim following a court ruling, triggering angry protests yesterday from his family, who said he was a Buddhist and had never converted to Islam.

It is the latest in an increasing number of interfaith conflicts that have raised tensions in multiethnic Malaysia. About 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslim Malays and most disputes that have landed in court ended against non-Muslims, who feel their religious rights are under threat.

An Islamic Shariah High Court in the central Negeri Sembilan state ruled on Thursday that Gan Eng Gor, 74, also identified as Amir Gan Abdullah, was a Muslim and should be buried under Islamic rites. The burial took place late on Thursday in Negeri Sembilan.

The man's body was seized by police on a complaint by his eldest son, Abdul Rahman Gan, a Muslim convert. He claimed his father had changed his religion from Buddhism to Islam last July.

His other family members disputed the claim and the case was sent to the Shariah High Court.

Judge Mohamad Nadzri Abdul Rahman said he ruled in favor of the eldest son because Amir's wife and seven other children, who had disputed the conversion, were not in court on Thursday to present their arguments.

Gan Hock Sin, another son of the dead man, said the family did not go to the Shariah court because they felt it was unfair to hold the case there.

"It's not fair for us. I don't know how they say he converted. My father couldn't even talk [before his death],'' Gan said.

"Unfortunately we feel the way they do [these conversions] is not fair for non-Muslim people. The government should be more transparent," he said.

He said the police had seized the body when the family was carrying out Buddhist rites in a Chinese funeral parlor.

The family had asked the state's civil High Court to hear the case, but a judge ruled he had no jurisdiction in the matter as the Shariah court had already made a decision, said a court official, who declined to be named.

Malaysia has a dual court system for civil matters with secular courts for non-Muslims and Shariah courts for Muslims. In interfaith disputes, involving Muslims, the Shariah court usually gets the last word, making a decision in favor of non-Muslims less likely.

The latest case follows one earlier this month in which Islamic authorities claimed a woman's body, arguing she had converted to Islam.
(Taipei Times)

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25 January, 2008

Anwar plans Malaysia comeback

Anwar Ibrahim will kickstart his political comeback through a delayed by-election if the Malaysian government plans parliamentary elections in March, before a ban on the former deputy prime minister’s involvement in politics ends.

Speaking at a news briefing in Hong Kong on Thursday, Malaysia’s de facto opposition leader said that about 20 MPs had offered to stand down to clear a path for his return to electoral politics.

Mr Anwar was a leading figure in the ruling United Malays National Organisation until 1999, when he was imprisoned on corruption charges that he maintains were baseless. A subsequent sodomy conviction was overturned and Mr Anwar was released in 2004, but is banned from serving in any government or political positions until April 8. His wife, Wan Azizah Ismail, heads the opposition People’s Justice party and occupies the party’s only seat in parliament.

Abdullah Badawi, Malaysia’s prime minister, does not have to call elections until next year, but wants to hold them before, say government advisers, cutting popular fuel subsidies. An early election would also have the advantage of pre-empting Mr Anwar’s formal return to politics.

The opposition leader’s imminent return comes at an awkward time for Mr Abdullah’s Umno-dominated National Front coalition government, which is facing rising inflation, increasing crime and social tension among the country’s Indian minority over alleged racial discrimination. Only on Wednesday, Mr Abdullah warned his party leaders not to expect the landslide victory he achieved in 2004, when he took over as prime minister.

Last month, more than 10,000 ethnic Indians took to the streets of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, to protest alleged racial discrimination.

Indians account for just 8 eight per cent of the country’s ethnically diverse population and have traditionally been a quiet minority, overshadowed by Malays and Chinese, who account for 52 per cent and 25 per cent of the population respectively. Malays are the beneficiaries of the government’s New Economic Policy, an affirmative action programme designed to counter the perceived economic dominance of Malaysia’s Chinese minority.

“The government feels under siege because in the past they have taken the Indians for granted,” Mr Anwar said. “I don’t believe they will get anywhere close to 40 per cent of the Indian vote.”

He also criticised the government’s crackdown on the Indian protests, which included the detention of five leaders without trial under a draconian, colonial-era internal security act. “Can you imagine this small Indian majority threatening the majority,” Mr Anwar asked. “But that’s the [government’s] line.”

In its attempt to build a multi-racial coalition, the PJP has been critical of the NEP, but has stopped short of calling for it to be scrapped. “Only by protecting the Malays can there be stability in the country,” Mr Anwar said. “The benefit accrued to the cronies is far more than is benefiting the Malays … The reason Umno wants to preserve the NEP is to protect their turf.”

By Tom Mitchell in Hong Kong. Financial Times

24 January, 2008

Money flows 'round the globe; where it stops, no one knows

Investors are finding out what factory workers learned long ago: Globalization isn't always their friend.

That's evident when people pay so much attention to plunging stock markets in places such as Frankfurt and Shanghai, and when the Dow Jones Industrial Average drops "only" 128 points, as it did Tuesday, after being down 465 early in the day after the foreign sell-off.

In the long run, free trade and international investment can promote wealth, create middle classes and foster democracy. Nonetheless, it's hard to look at today's international economy and markets and not wonder whether something's seriously amiss.

investors send vast amounts of money around the world, placing bets on things they might not fully understand — the turbocharged U.S. housing credit market, complex derivatives and frothy emerging markets, to name a few. This unfettered flow of capital has outstripped governments' ability to discourage foolhardy speculation, or even to provide a decent amount of transparency on what is being invested where.

In recent months, the Federal Reserve has taken a more interventionist approach, enacting emergency interest rate cuts, such as Tuesday's three-quarters of a point reduction, and adopting new rules on lending.

That's a good start. But in a world in which banks can have billions of dollars of potential losses hidden in "structured investment vehicles" and other esoteric securities, these actions seem minimal. In many developing-world markets, it's even harder for investors to know what they are getting into.

Millions of U.S. investors have been learning a lesson about these risks. They've been pouring money — 401(k) and otherwise — into international stocks and mutual funds in search of higher returns and greater diversification. But the relentless downdraft in markets virtually everywhere demonstrates just how undiversified the world has become.

The U.S. housing slump is dragging down European banks that invested in dubious mortgage-backed securities peddled by Wall Street. Asian economies, which had supposedly been maturing and becoming less dependent on the United States, have been sent into a panic over the thought that a recession might be imminent here. And markets everywhere rebounded when the Fed announced the latest rate cut.

For all the talk about growth in the developing world being "decoupled" from the United States, it's the global economy, stupid. And everyone's in this mess together.

(From USA today)


23 January, 2008

Malaysia, truly Asia?

India must engage Kuala Lumpur in addressing the marginalisation of its minorities

Speaking in 2002, at the fag end of his political career, Mahathir Mohammed said “We have tried to tell [the ethnic Malay majority] if you depend on subsidies, you are going to be very weak. But they don’t seem to understand. We tell them if you use crutches, you will not be able to stand up. Throw away the crutches, stand up straight …but they want the easy way out”

It was a spectacularly candid admission of failure by a man who was one of the most vociferous advocates of Malaysia’s “New Economic Policy”, a system of affirmative action that, despite its dubious constitutional validity, nevertheless dominates contemporary Malaysia’s socio-economic landscape. Malaysia’s Malay-Muslim majority — on account of being bumiputras or ‘sons of the soil’ — enjoys a comprehensive system of reservations and preferential treatment.

These include disproportionate quotas in educational institutions, public housing, and government jobs; car import permits and other licenses designed to generate easy economic rents; mandatory equity ownerships in businesses; and minimum ethnic-Malay shareholding to qualify for government tenders.

All these were part of a social contract stitched up in Malaysia’s first decade as an independent nation. Another part of the Malaysian social contract is reflected in the country’s politics.

The ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition comprises the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC). In an implicit but open entitlement system, leaders of these parties are not only accommodated in the Cabinet, but certain cabinet portfolios are also ‘reserved’ for them.

By virtue of being the MIC leader and the only ethnic Indian in the Malaysian cabinet, Samy Vellu is officially projected as the sole representative of the 1.8 million (7 per cent of the total population) ethnic Indians.

But the stability that Malaysia bought this way began showing signs of unravellings over the last decade. By the late 1990s, UMNO’s political dominance was seriously challenged by Islamic fundamentalist political parties. To ward off this challenge, UMNO itself significantly strengthened its Islamic credentials.

Islam as traditionally practiced in South East Asia has been syncretic, as the region lies at the crossroads of civilisations and trade routes.

But the assertion of the Islamic identity in recent years exacerbated the long-standing resentments among the ethnic minorities.

The ethnic Chinese who still control vast areas of the economy are safeguarding their economic future by migrating and investing abroad.

But for a majority of the ethnic Indian community (most of whom are Tamil-speaking Hindus), poverty and a lack of skills means that there is nowhere to go.

In many ways, the recent demonstration by this marginalised minority is a manifestation of its lack of faith in the MIC to represent its interests.

Despite the call by some protest leaders, the Indian government must refrain from officially intervening in what is essentially Malaysia’s domestic affair.

Indian civil society has been alert to the goings-on in Malaysia. Sections of the Malaysian civil society — cutting across ethnic groups — have also spoken out both against the affirmative action policy in general and the marginalisation of the ethnic Indian minority in particular.

Indeed, Malaysia’s policy of institutionalised discrimination is inconsistent with the ASEAN charter that it signed late last year. The Indian government must engage Kuala Lumpur to safeguard the interests of Indian nationals and investments.

Reports of Malaysia banning recruitment of Indian nationals must be taken seriously.

India must ensure that its nationals are fairly treated when reported plans to reduce the number of foreign workers by 0.5 million are implemented over the next few years.

The civil society and Indian diaspora organisations should make sustained efforts to enhance the capacities and skills of the Malaysians of Indian origin to improve their socio-economic position.

For its part, Malaysia must recognise that its public image in India has suffered a
severe setback in recent months.

This could prove costly to Malaysia, not least because negative public opinion can make it harder for the Indian government to make concessions in negotiations over trade and investment.

In this era of globalisation, whether or not its treatment of its minorities hinders its bilateral relations with India will primarily depend on Malaysia’s concrete actions to address the underlying issues.

By Mukul G Asher,DNA

(The writer is professor of public policy at National University of Singapore.)


22 January, 2008

Is Malaysia truly Asia?

A popular advertising campaign refers to Malaysia as ‘Truly Asia’, but the Malaysian government’s plan to send home up to five lakh foreign workers by 2009, to hire locals, may not only be unconstitutional but also spoil its tourist friendly image. writes Devesh, Merinews.

THE GOVERNMENT has decided to apply stricter standards for the hiring of foreign labour in Malaysia in order to reduce the number of non-Malaysian workers to 1.8 million by next year and to 1.5 million by 2015. Malaysia relies on foreign labourers for all the menial work, as it is one of the largest labour intensive markets in Southeast Asia. Foreigners make up more than two million of the work force of 11 million of Malaysia. Thus, almost one fifth of the work force is currently non-Malaysian.

Raja Azahar Raja, the home affairs secretary general was quoted as saying, “We have been lax with the ruling to allow employers to cut costs with cheaper foreign labour but now, they have to turn to locals and pay a reasonable salary based on supply and demand.”

Raja also said that the government would allow skilled workers to stay for up to 10 years, but would not extend the permits of unskilled foreign workers who have been in the country for at least five years. This measure is going to cut the number of foreign labour by about 200,000 this year. There is no limit to the length of stay for foreign maids but the ministry may raise the eligibility of employers, allowing only those who pay more than 5,000 ringgit a month to hire maids, compared to the current minimum of 3,000 ringgit.

In fact, the construction, manufacturing and plantation sectors would be exempt from these measures, because Malaysians do not want to work in these areas. For industries like the service industry and agriculture, the Malaysian government is expected to come down hard. The ministry also plans to increase the strength of its 1,500-member enforcement team for monitoring foreign labour to 5,000 officers

Cracking its whip on foreign workers, the Malaysian government had recently banned major foreign labour, which is being used at airports and hotels in an effort to ensure that tourists were greeted by Malaysian faces on arrival. There have been complaints from labour unions that Malaysian workers have been deprived of jobs because employers preferred to recruit cheaper foreign labour. But, some employers have said that local workers are unreliable.

Malaysia’s efforts to increase work being offered to ‘bhoomi putras’ or ‘sons of its soil’ should not be encouraged. The resident Malaysians already enjoy a comprehensive system of reservations. This ‘new economic policy’, had its share of criticism regarding its constitutional validity. There are quotas in educational institutions, public sector, government jobs and compulsory equity ownership in business. Almost 10 per cent of the Malaysian population is made up of ethnic Indians, most of whom are Tamil speaking Hindus.

The Indian Diaspora organisations should try and safeguard the interests of the ethnic Indians and enhance their capabilities and skills in order to increase its socio economic position. The affirmation policy and the marginalisation of the ethnic Indian minorities has become a cause for concern for the Indian government as well.

Malaysia has failed to realise that its public image in India has suffered a severe setback. It will also make it tougher for the Indian government to make concessions in negotiations over trade and investment. Malaysia’s treatment of the foreign minority groups has become a cause of concern all over Asia and will have a definite impact on its foreign policy.


21 January, 2008

Crackdown Averted Racial Violence ?

Malaysia on Monday defended its crackdown on dissent, including the arrest of ethnic Indian activists and suppression of street protests, saying it had averted a serious risk of racial violence.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak raised the spectre of the country's worst race riots, when almost 200 people were killed in clashes between ethnic Chinese and Muslim Malays in May 1969.

"If the Malays of Kampung Baru come out then we have the specter of a serious possibility of a racial clash in this country," Najib said in an interview with AFP. The Malay enclave was one of the flashpoints of the 1969 riots.

"There were signs that they were preparing to come out so we had to tell them, 'look, don't make the situation any worse'," he said.

"The government was actually taking action to prevent anything worse from happening." Unprecedented street protests by ethnic Indians, which police broke up with tear gas and water cannon, opened a new faultline in Malaysia's increasingly tense race relations last November.

Five leaders of Indian rights group Hindraf, who claim the community is the victim of discrimination at the hands of the majority Malays, are now being held without trial under tough internal security laws.

Najib -- who as deputy premier is expected to be Malaysia's next leader after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi -- defended the use of the much-criticized Internal Security Act (ISA) on the Hindraf leaders.

"A great deal of people thought we should have used it earlier, but if we had used it earlier there could have been pros and cons, those who say we are not tolerant, we are autocratic, we are not democratic enough," he said.

"So by allowing things to pan out and for us not to use the ISA early, I think when we used it the vast majority of Malaysians supported it." The Hindraf rally came two weeks after another rare demonstration organized by electoral reform campaigners, which saw 30,000 people take to the streets. They were also dispersed with tear gas and water cannon.

Emboldened by the new mood, civil society groups and non-governmental organizations have held several more smaller street protests in the capital, despite not having a permit.

Police have broken up peaceful demonstrations, and Najib said there was a limit to the government's patience.

"We are responsible for peace and harmony in this country and public order," he said. "We are quite tolerant in this country, but if it comes to the point I suppose when push comes to shove, we have to be firm about it." He declined to specify what action would be taken at that stage, saying: "We know what to do." Najib indicated the National Front coalition government could lose ground in general elections expected to be held in March, which follow a torrid few months that have included the protests as well as food shortages and a ministerial sex scandal.

After a resounding victory in 2004, which reversed losses in 1999, commentators say the pendulum is likely to swing against the government again.

"We don't want a dip (in seats), but our benchmark has always been a two- thirds majority," Najib said.

"Even during the worst of times, say in the 1999 general elections, we still managed to attain a two-thirds majority and I don't expect this time to be worse than 1999," he said.

Najib admitted that the race-based component parties that make up the coalition were "going through some problems" and that the government had a big job to soothe the public over forthcoming fuel price hikes.

"We have to manage it. We have to manage between good governance, good macro management of the nation, as well as possible reaction from the public. As long as it's seen to be equitable I think people will accept it," he said.

The ruling United Malays National Organisation has led the National Front coalition in government for half a century.

One thing for sure, the quick-fix declaration of a holiday for Thaipusam after it being shoved aside for many decades. Suddenly, we hear sober words from our power-drunk leaders.

The Hindraf serum is taking effect.

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19 January, 2008

Immersion is a difficult lesson

It was an ambitious plan pushed through by Malaysia's leader, Mahathir Mohamad, despite fierce opposition. Five years on the decision that all Malaysian children should be taught maths and science in English still causes heated debate.

With an election looming, nationalist politicians are again seizing on the charged issue of language in an ethnically diverse country of indigenous Malays, Chinese and Indian Tamils. In such a vital area everyone wants to be heard: newspaper letters pages are bursting with all shades of opinion for and against the policy.

Few doubt the wisdom that led Mahathir to his U-turn, reintroducing the language of the old colonial masters nearly 30 years after he, as the nationalist education minister, scrapped English-medium teaching in schools. He recognised his nation was falling behind in the globalised world and made an abrupt switch to try to redress the balance.

Yet the suddenness of the change, which led to the introduction of English maths and science teaching from primary level within just six months of the decision, seems to have played into the hands of the policy's opponents.

Even its advocates concede that teacher training to instruct in English and the availability of suitable course material have been patchy. Rural areas - where nationalist politicians trade on parents' disquiet - fared worst as English remains more of a foreign language there; in more sophisticated urban areas it is a second language to the mother tongue.

But after five years the government and most educationists accept it is still early in such a radical experiment. Despite strong opposition, even in the government's own ranks, the education minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein has declared it will remain in place for now. Education professionals argue it needs a full 11-year cycle of primary and secondary teaching to gauge success or failure.

Improving English standards, which had declined, was the obvious goal. But by using the concept of Content and Language Integrated Teaching (Clil) the aim was to give access to knowledge in maths and science. It is argued that Bahasa Malay failed to convey meaning precisely in translations from papers in English, if they were translated at all.

Educationists point to the success of immersion teaching techniques in Canada, where children whose mother tongue is English are taught subjects in French, Canada's other language.

"Cognitively there is no problem with children learning in a bilingual environment," said Professor Andy Kirkpatrick, an expert in English language training at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. "Most evidence shows that it is good for children. Malay and English are not that separate."

By enhancing the English capabilities of students and graduates, Mahathir sought to give Malaysia an advantage in a competitive world. He glanced enviously at former colonies such as Singapore and India, which have made huge strides in the knowledge economy because of their familiarity with English.

Professor Saran Kaur Gill, deputy vice-chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, who is studying the teaching policy in relation to higher education, interviewed Mahathir and his view was clear. "You have to be masters of knowledge, otherwise you will be slaves to those who have knowledge," she said, reflecting his opinion.

Little work has been done so far to monitor the policy's progress. But there are questions about its implementation. Most experts concede that many rural schools instruct in local languages because either the teachers or pupils cannot cope in English.

"Five years down the road is not very long considering the size of this endeavour," said David Marsh, a leading expert in Clil at Finland's University of Jyvaskyla.

"Still I think there is already grave concern that they will have a lost generation of Malaysians who will not learn content in maths and science because of this policy."

Professor Yoong Suan, an opponent of the policy and a director of United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia, says pupils "react" badly or even drop out if they fail to comprehend coursework taught in an unfamiliar language, although he stresses he is not against English.

"All of us realise the importance of English," he said. "We want English to be taught. But it's the one-size-fits-all policy that's the problem. We have a highly centralised education system that decrees all schools should teach maths and science in English. We should consider a more flexible policy that allows each school to make its own decision. There's also the problem of identity with parents fearing children will lose their social identity because of English."

The Malaysian English Language Teaching Association president, Dr Malachi Edwin Vethamani, shows sensitivity when he is quick to stress that Bahasa is not under threat or undermined because of maths and science instruction in English. He also believes the policy is beginning to show results as test scores demonstrate that more pupils are passing in English or choosing to answer exams in English, rather Malay, Chinese or Tamil as they are permitted to do.

"Results from secondary school form three exams show more are passing English, although there was also a decrease in those getting A grades," he said. "So the quantity is up, but the quality is down. That's something that will have to be looked at."

But Kirkpatrick believes that despite the teething troubles and the continuing opposition, the tide is with those who favour pressing on with the policy.

"No doubt the disparity between the urban middle classes and the rural students who do not receive the same resources plays into the hands of the politicians who would like to go back," he said. "Certainly they tend to be loud and they tend to be heard, but I don't think they're winning the argument."

- Ian MacKinnon, education guardian

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18 January, 2008

MALAYSIA: Rampant Crime Turns Main Election Issue

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 (IPS) - As election fever grips the country, with polls widely expected mid-March, the country's seemingly unstoppable escalation in violent crime is turning into the main plank of the opposition's campaign.

Opposition parties have now launched a nationwide ‘Good Cops, Safe Malaysia’ campaign distributing leaflets, organising forums and holding ‘meet-the-people’ sessions to persuade voters to show their displeasure at the upcoming polls.

Several recent public opinion polls also indicate that crime has turned the voter's number one concern, followed by rising food and fuel prices.

For most Malaysians the country's racial and religious differences, that usually hog the domestic and international headlines, is not as worrying an issue as was previously thought.

"I am more worried about the safety of my children than ethnic strife," said accounts executive Melissa Chong, who works for a local bank.

"The crime rate has jumped 45 percent since Abdullah (Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi) took over in 2003," she told IPS when met at an opposition organised forum on safe living in the capital.

"The statistics show nine girls and women are raped every day," she said. "This is the scariest situation ever since independence 50 years ago."

Across the country ordinary citizens are forming voluntary neighborhood patrols called ‘Rukun Tetangga’ while others are cordoning off their areas with barbed wire and hiring private guards and guard dogs to keep safe.

The government, aware of the emotive impact of crime that affects all Malaysians irrespective of race or religion announced a raft of new measures this week aimed at bring down the escalating crime graph.

But opposition lawmakers say the measures are lukewarm and politically motivated in anticipation of the early general election.

"In 50 years of electoral politics this is the first time the opposition is putting crime as the top issue during an upcoming election," said parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang. "Discrimination, race, poverty and religion are all issues that have been in society for a long time but uncontrolled crime is now the top issue," he told IPS.

"Abdullah has failed miserably to curb crime which has almost doubled during his term as prime minister," Lim said adding that Badawi also holds the key finance and interior portfolios.

"Heavy responsibilities have overwhelmed him. He should give up the home ministry and appoint a dedicated crime fighter to curb rising crime," Lim said.

According to Lim the key reason why crime is rising is because of police corruption, inefficiency and unaccountability. "All these are part of the rampant crime problem which has become a top political issue," Lim said adding police have lost the ground to criminals.

Officials said the government is worried because crime has become an emotive issue and one that affects all races.

In an event widely reported by the country's mainstream newspapers, Badawi visited police headquarters, held discussions with police top brass and announced that he has taking personal charge of combating crime.

He also announced new measures like hiring more policemen, freeing others from office duties to patrol the streets, buying better equipment, and closed circuit TV surveillance cameras and rehiring retired police personnel.

But he has not offered any solution to combat corruption in the force and the lack of skills to fight crime -- two setbacks experts say is fueling the escalation in violent crime.

Under Badawi’s premiership the crime index worsened from 156,315 cases in 2003 to 224,298 cases in 2007 -- a rise of 45 percent over the past four years. It rose 13.4 percent in 2007 alone.

As if to mock Badawi’s measures, a five-year-old girl was abducted last week by an infamous serial killer and sexual predator. His fifth victim was abducted in the same depressed Kampung Medan area of the capital as the fourth one, sparking a massive public outcry.

Despite mobilisation of the national police force and technical help from the intelligence agencies, the killer is loose heightening the fear felt in many households that rampant crime has become unstoppable.

"The strategies announced are too little, too late and lack seriousness. The political will to bite the bullet is missing," said human rights lawyer Ramu Kandasamy. "When Mr Abdullah became Prime Minister in 2003 he pledged to curb crime but instead crime jumped 45 percent during his tenure," Kandasamy told IPS.

"This is a country with a modern economy and first world infrastructure and first world ambitions. It is sad but we will soon become the crime capital of Asia,’’ Kandasamy added.

Many experts say a key reason for the crisis is Badawi’s failure to set up an independent police misconduct commission, and follow a key recommendation made by a royal commission in 2005 to overhaul the police force.

In December, Badawi offered a heavily watered-down version of a independent oversight commission which was heavily criticised because senior police personnel would be running it.

"The key issue is who polices the police… surely not the police themselves," said opposition lawmaker Murugesan Kulasegaran. "It has got to be done by independent, non-police persons of high caliber and integrity."

"More policemen and more CCTVs are not going to automatically bring down the crime rates," he said. "These measures are aimed at the symptoms; it will not cure the infection."

"Police have lost the streets," Kulasegaran said. "They have to get it back by being better cops -- fast, efficient, skillful and free of corruption."

(By Baradan Kuppusamy)


Malaysia - ends row over dead woman's faith after Islamic officials retract claim over body

Malaysian court Friday ordered a woman's body to be released for a Christian funeral after Islamic authorities retracted their claim that she had converted to Islam.

The case of Wong Sau Lan, who died Dec. 30 at the age of 53, marks a small victory for Malaysia's minorities after a series of interfaith disputes, which sowed fears that religious rights of non-Muslims were under threat.

Wong's husband, Ngiam Tee Kong, will now cremate the body in a Christian funeral early next week, said his lawyer, Karpal Singh.

He said the Kuala Lumpur High Court ordered the hospital, where Wong's body was kept while the dispute was being resolved in court, to release the body to her husband.

The court order was based on a Jan. 16 letter by Islamic authorities sent to Karpal that said Wong's conversion to Islam on Dec. 24 was not carried out properly, and therefore was not valid, Karpal said.

"They've been negligent in saying earlier that she was converted lawfully. This is a serious matter," Karpal told The Associated Press. "They should have investigated first."

Karpal said Ngiam, who has maintained his wife was a Christian at her death, was suing the hospital where Wong died and the Islamic department for damages. The amount has not yet been specified, he said.

It was not clear why the Islamic authorities first claimed Wong's body, alleging she had converted lawfully, but then retracted their claims. Relevant authorities could not immediately be reached.

A national debate over religious conversions erupted in late 2005, when a court ordered Maniam Moorthy, a member of Malaysia's Mount Everest expedition, to be buried as a Muslim despite objections from his Hindu wife.

In other cases since then, Malaysia's secular courts have denied at least two women the right to convert out of Islam, passing the matter to the country's separate Shariah courts, which are unlikely to grant conversion.

Some 40 percent of Malaysians are Buddhists, Hindus or Christians from ethnic Chinese and Indian communities. The rest are Muslim Malays.
(From IHT)

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17 January, 2008

Malaysia - Is it truly Asia or sharia?

From :Anand Krishna, Jakarta

Several months back I wrote that Malaysia could no longer justify its use of the slogan "Truly Asia". This view is now confirmed by the latest events there.

Forget representing Asia, the Malaysian government today is unable even to represent its diverse society in its entirety. The uprising of the Tamil minority is but the tip of the iceberg. Underneath awaits a huge chunk of crystallized dissatisfaction and disappointment, which could result in the disintegration of Malaysian society.

Consider the story of Revathi Masoosai, an ethnic Indian, who is being forced to live as a Muslim by the Islamic religious department in southern Malacca state, after it was discovered that although she was born to Muslim parents, she had chosen to live as a Hindu.

In Malaysia, Islamic law forbids people born to Muslim families to change their religion, hence not only was Revathi detained by the Islamic religious department and sent for "religious counseling in a rehabilitation center" (which translates to being forced to reconvert to Islam by the state authorities), her 15-month-old daughter too was taken away from her husband and handed over to Revathi's Muslim mother to be raised as a Muslim.

The constitution of Malaysia qualifies Muslims only as "Malay" (or bumiputera = son of the land). Non-Muslims have to forfeit their ethnicity. Indigenous people (the true sons of the land) who have lived in the country before Islam was introduced are declared non-indigenous. So, 40 percent of Malaysia's non-Muslim population are regarded as second class citizens by the ruling UMNO party, who uphold a policy called Ketuanan Melayu, which claims Malays (who are automatically classed as Muslims on their identity cards) are the original inhabitants of Malaysia, and deserving of special privileges.

Another very interesting story is that of Lina Joy, who is regarded as Malaysia's most famous apostate. I understand she is now seeking asylum abroad.

Lina Joy, who became a Christian in 1986, has for 15 years tried without success to have her status as a Muslim removed from her identity card. She took her case to the Supreme Court, but her appeal failed.

The court ruled, according to Islamic law: Once a Muslim, always a Muslim. She cannot legally marry her Christian fiance while she is classed as a Muslim. And although a practicing Christian, all her children from any marriage she enters into in Malaysia will be considered Muslim, they will be forbidden from attending a Christian education and when she dies, she will be buried a Muslim. She and her lawyer have received death threats.

The prime minister of Malaysia may very well understand that the gap between the peoples of Malaysia is ever widening. He may even voice his understanding. But he can not alter the rulings of what is understood as Islamic law. Malaysia has since its very conception, declared itself an Islamic State. So it must abide by its national commitment.

Actually, there is nothing wrong with sharia, which is often misinterpreted as Islamic "law" in the same way we normally interpret law. I may be wrong, but in my opinion what is called Islamic law is but a system supposedly based on sharia as advocated by prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Now, this supposition is totally at the mercy of the scholars who interpret sharia.

Sharia is a very dynamic way of life. It is based on the beatitudes and messages of the Koran, the holy and blessed scripture, and the equally blessed deeds of the prophet of Allah. It is the essence of all religions, the religiousness of religion. It represents all that is good in human beings, humanity and humanness.

This path is very, very broad -- based on the principles of oneness of God, submission to the will of God, charity, self-control and respect for that which is holy. All these are then applied in daily life. The application is supposed to be simple as advocated by the prophet himself. Religion is supposed to facilitate human beings in achieving their goals in a manner which is humane. It is not to complicate our lives.

This kind of understanding of sharia makes Islam truly universal, and a blessing for the entire universe, not just our world.

Alas, in the name of sharia, scholars often interpret the scriptures to suit their fancies and relate it to law. Then they enforce such laws for one and all -- at times with the consent of the state, at other times without such consent.

Once again, I must repeat this understanding of mine could be wrong. I am not a scholar. But I can clearly see that without such a broad understanding, sharia has been used and misused in such a way in Malaysia that the entire society is currently on the brink of disintegration.

Our people here, not only the so-called liberals and moderates such as Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, Dawam Raharjo, Djohan Effendy, Ainun Najib (Cak Nun), the late Nurcholish Madjid (Cak Nur) and others -- but also the somewhat conservative, like Yusril Ihza Mahendra who is still fighting for a Jakarta Charter which makes it compulsory for Muslims in the country to adhere to sharia-based qanun or law -- actually believe that the essence of Islamic sharia has already been incorporated into our Constitution and the basic principles of Pancasila. So what are we fighting for?

The enforcement of regional bylaws based on certain understandings of sharia has already triggered similar reactions from other religious groups, like the Christians in Manokwari.

We must understand and understand this well: Indonesia is not Pakistan, which was born out of religious sentiments. Indonesia is also not Malaysia, where the Hindus are of Tamil descent and most of the Buddhists are of Chinese origin, so the state could label one group as indigenous, therefore deserving special treatment; and the other groups as non-indigenous, therefore able to do without such treatment.

Here, in Indonesia, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians all are indigenous Indonesians, pribumi or bumiputera. They must be treated equally in all manners.

Not only that, since we are not a religious state, the government must firmly deal with the groups of our confused brothers and sisters who may not be sufficiently aware of our national commitment before even proclaiming the independence of the country.

We are committed to Pancasila as our binding force. Our culture is our mother. Without that, we have no identity. No wonder, some of us are searching for our roots and identities in China, Arabia, India, even in the western countries. We have forgotten our own roots.

Within 50 years of its independence, Malaysia faces the threat of disintegration. It must find its roots in the ancient Malay culture to re-unite its society or perish. It is high time we in Indonesia learned from Malaysia's failure to be truly Asia, the Asia of Muslims and Hindus, the Asia of Christians and Buddhists, the asia of all faiths and religions. But, above all the Asia of Asian culture!


Mayhem in Malaysia – The World's Greatest Masquerade.

Note: Contents might be offensive or discriminatory, if you are not mature enough, please don't read this article. ( This link will be removed soon)


16 January, 2008

Iran: death by stoning ' a grotesque and unacceptable penalty'

‘In Iran, stoning a person to death is not against the
law. Using the wrong stone is.’

- Amnesty International

‘The size of the stone used in stoning shall not be too
large to kill the convict by one or two throws and at the
same time shall not be too small to be called a stone.’

- Article 104 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code

Iran's penal code lays down the size of stones crowds should use to bludgeon adulterers to death, Amnesty International has discovered.

This regulation is "specifically designed to increase the suffering of the victims," according to an Amnesty report.

Article 104 of the Iranian penal code states the stones used should "not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones".

Typically, the victim takes 20 minutes to die. Under Article 102, men must be buried up to their waist for stoning, while women are buried up to their chest.

Although Iran imposed a moratorium on such executions in 2002, two people were stoned to death in 2006 and one last year.

Nine women and two men are under sentence of death by stoning. More women suffer this punishment because evidence from a man carries twice as much weight as a woman's in Iran's courts.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty UK, said: "Execution by stoning is a grotesque penalty which the Iranian authorities should abolish immediately."

Eleven people in Iran - nine of them women - are waiting to be stoned to death on charges of adultery. Many have been sentenced after grossly unfair trials. Amnesty International has called on the country's authorities to immediately abolish this grotesque punishment, which is specifically designed to increase the suffering of its victims.

Amnesty International is calling for urgent changes to Iranian law to ensure that no one can be sentenced to death for adultery, whether by stoning or any other means.

"We welcome recent moves towards reform and reports that the Majles (Iran's parliament) is discussing an amended Penal Code that would permit the suspension of at least some stoning sentences," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East Programme.

"But the authorities must go much further, and take the steps needed to ensure that the new Penal Code neither permits stoning to death nor provides for execution by other means for adultery."

Despite official claims that stonings have been halted - including a moratorium issued by the Head of the Judiciary in 2002 - several have taken place, with the latest only last year. Ja'far Kiani, a man, was stoned to death for adultery on 5 July 2007 in the village of Aghche-kand, near Takestan in Qazvin province. There are fears that Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, with whom he had two children, may suffer the same fate. She is in Choubin prison, Qazvin province, apparently with one of their children. A woman and a man are also known to have been stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006.

The majority of those sentenced to death by stoning are women. Women are not treated equally with men under the law and by courts, and they are also particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because their higher illiteracy rate makes them more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit.

Despite this bleak reality, human rights defenders in Iran believe that international publicity can help bring an end to stoning. Courageous efforts are being made by their Stop Stoning Forever campaign, whose efforts have helped save five people from stoning (and led to another sentence being stayed) since it began in October 2006.

These efforts have come at a price, with campaigners facing harassment and intimidation by the authorities. Thirty-three women, including members of the Stop Stoning Forever campaign, were arrested while protesting in March 2007 about the trial of five women's rights activists in Tehran.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases. The report issued on 15 January, End executions by stoning, sets out the organisation’s concerns, including for the 11 people currently known to be under sentence of death and awaiting execution by stoning.

"We urge the Iranian authorities to heed our calls, and those of the Iranians who are striving relentlessly to obtain an end to this horrendous practice," said Malcolm Smart.

Stop Stoning Forever Campaign - The objective of this campaign is to change the Islamic Penal Code of Iran such that stoning will never again be issued as a sentence or practiced as a punishment.

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15 January, 2008

"Chindia" - a strategic partnership


As a portmanteau term for China and India considered together, this word has been around in the Western press since 2004, though it may have been used earlier in the Far East. The blend of the two names is intended to suggest that they are becoming a powerful economic force whose global influence may change the pattern of the world’s trade over the next couple of decades.

The credit of coining the now popular term goes to leading Indian economist and politician Jairam Ramesh.

While the 20th century was driven by political ideology of advanced countries, the 21st century will be driven by markets of emerging nations.

No matter what ideology one follows to uplift growth of emerging economies, whether Communism, foreign aid, or access to markets, it is not sustainable due to several reasons. First, all advanced countries are aging and aging fast. They have low to no domestic growth as exemplified by Japan, Germany and France. Thus market access in exchange for geopolitical alignment is also not sustainable. Outsourcing of work such as manufacturing or services will increasingly result in domestic political turmoil.

Second, political leaders of all advanced nations have realized that what matters most to people in elections across national and cultural boundaries, is hardcore realities of economic growth as manifested in jobs and wealth creation for the masses.

A third factor for the rise of market forces is the dramatic and sudden collapse of Communism as an ideological counterbalance to capitalism. Economic bankruptcy of Communist nations forced them to embrace capitalism. Despite all its ills, Communism created two key resource-based advantages for the nation. First, they made primary and secondary education mandatory and further invested in post secondary technical and vocational education to produce skilled workers for the factories and the military. Second, they made gender a non-issue. It did not matter whether you were a man or a woman; both had to go to school or work for the state. This resulted in an enormously large pool of talented and skilled people, both men and women, even in small countries, let alone China and Russia. If, in addition, the nation also has natural resources—especially industrial raw materials like coal, oil, gas and copper—it will provide additional resource advantages to these ex-Communist or ex-socialist countries. The final reason for the growth of emerging economies is easier access to global capital and technology...(read more)

China + India = Chindia, a strategic partnership

IN THEIR talks this week in Beijing, the visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao hope to unveil a new phase in bilateral relations.

After the unreal idealism of the 1950s, war and conflict during the 1960s and 1970s, and a wary normalisation of ties during the 1980s and 1990s, India and China are seeking to inject real strategic content into their relationship.

Both countries are today acutely aware of their own changing positions in the global power hierarchy. Self-assurance in both the capitals has begun translating into a new engagement that promises to transcend the traditional emphasis on contentious bilateral issues.

Although much of the world has been animated by the rise of China and the emergence of India, and their potential impact on the world - from global warming to the Asian balance of power - Beijing and New Delhi were burdened for long by a narrow bilateral framework.

To be sure, the idea of 'Chindia' - of China and India taking on the world - was invented a few years ago in New Delhi. On its part, China in recent years has repeatedly reaffirmed its desire for a genuine friendship with India.

Despite their aspirations for a strategic partnership, mutual suspicion over Tibet, an intractable boundary dispute, and differences over Pakistan were among the many issues that limited the scope of the relationship in the past.

It is only now, amidst a grudging acceptance of each other's rise, that China and India have begun to explore a broader agenda of regional and international cooperation.

Until recently, China used to view India as a mere regional power within the subcontinent. Worse still, the Chinese establishment was convinced that India, with its internal chaos, would never get its act together.

Over the last decade, India has surprised China in many ways. India not only defied the international system by conducting nuclear tests in May 1998, but it has also successfully negotiated its entry into the nuclear club by cultivating a special relationship with the Bush administration. India's unprecedented high growth rates in recent years have also made it clear to Beijing that the economic momentum behind New Delhi's rise is now real and consequential.

New Delhi's successful big power diplomacy - including a rapprochement with Washington and Tokyo - has made Beijing aware of India's potential to constrict China's room for manoeuvre. As India pulls away from its dispirited sibling Pakistan, China's traditional policy of balancing India within the subcontinent has become unsustainable.

India, too, has steadily come to terms with the implications of China's rise. The Indian industry, which initially feared economic competition from Beijing, now sees China as a huge economic opportunity. Trade between the two nations has increased about a hundredfold - from a measly $300US million ($430S million) a decade ago to nearly $38US billion in 2007. The Indian Prime Minister and the Chinese President are now expected to set more ambitious targets for bilateral trade.

India, which in the past was anxious about China's ties with its smaller neighbours, is now reconciled to the inevitability of Beijing's rising profile in and around the subcontinent. For the Indian strategic establishment, the answer lies not in a perennial gripe but in emulating China's forward-looking economic policies towards the neighbours.

Amidst its growing economic and military capabilities, India is now more confident of raising its own profile in the presumed backyard of China - East and South-east Asia.

Given the burden of the past, Dr Singh and Mr Hu are bound to pay some attention to the old bilateral agenda. In their joint declaration, the two sides are likely to review the progress made so far on the boundary dispute and reaffirm their political commitment to its early resolution.

Thanks to a reasonably stable frontier and the new breadth of the bilateral ties, the two leaders are expected to focus on the construction of a partnership that looks at a wider regional and global agenda.

One element of the putative strategic partnership lies in mutual political reassurance that they do not pose a security threat to each other. On the eve of his three-day visit to Beijing, Dr Singh had once again reaffirmed that India will not join any alliance aimed at containing China. Beijing, in turn, has recognised the dangers of pushing India into the arms of the United States and the importance of encouraging New Delhi to take a more relaxed view of China's rise.

Second, India and China are likely to emphasise their shared interest in regional stability in different sub-regions of Asia. The effect that a failed state in Pakistan would have on their own security is likely to nudge Dr Singh and Mr Hu to exchange views on the deepening structural crisis in India's very important western neighbour. While it is premature to talk of Sino-Indian cooperation in stabilising Pakistan, New Delhi's vastly improved relations with Islamabad have begun to alter the old triangular dynamic between India, China and Pakistan.

Beyond the subcontinent, India and China will have to work hard to harmonise their positions in the Central, South-east and East Asian regions. All indications are that there is a new political will in both the capitals to begin a serious conversation about their common neighbourhood.

Third, as their national interests turn global, India and China are beginning to bump into each other in different regions of the world.

Dr Singh and Mr Hu now recognise the importance of minimising the potential for future conflict, and maximising the prospect for greater cooperation on a range of issues - from global trade talks to international terrorism, and from African development to energy security.

As the two leaders work on a significant regional and global agenda, sceptics around the world will be looking for any movement on an issue that has cast a shadow over the future of Sino-Indian relations - China's ambiguity regarding India's nuclear deal with the United States.

An explicit signal from the Chinese leadership during Dr Singh's visit that Beijing will not oppose the implementation of the Indo-US civil nuclear initiative, and might even be prepared to embark on atomic energy cooperation with India, could fundamentally alter the popular Indian misgivings about China and pave the way for a real strategic partnership between the two Asian giants.


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chinese President Hu Jintao now recognise the importance of minimising the potential for future conflict, and maximising the prospect for greater cooperation on a range of issues - from global trade talks to international terrorism, and from African development to energy security.

BY: C.Raja Mohan

C. Raja Mohan is a professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.