30 November, 2008

Najib will be no different from Dr M

PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail likened the incoming administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak to something "which is no different from the old regime" of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Articulating a widely held view that the impending departure of Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi next March has already seen a return of "Mahathirism," she said the new administration will bear many similiarities with that of Dr Mahathir's.

She expected more arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA), more corruption and the continued erosion of public institutions, all of which she said were the hallmark of the Mahathir era.

"The transition plan between the prime minister and his deputy will not bring any positive changes to the damage done to the judiciary, the police, the Anti-Corruption Agency and parliament," she said.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim assured supporters that he was still determined to unseat the government, which foiled his bid to seize power more than two months ago.

Political observers say it remains unclear whether Anwar ever had sufficient support to oust Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration, which rejected Anwar's demands in September to discuss a voluntary power transfer or to call a special Parliament session to hold a vote on confidence in Abdullah's leadership.

Anwar reiterated his pledge to implement fair economic and social policies if the opposition takes power, but he did not set any new deadline. Malaysia's next general elections are scheduled to be held in 2013.

"We promised change ... but the change has not yet been achieved," the former deputy prime minister said. "Our future is bright."

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29 November, 2008

Job Losses Feared as Recession Bites

PENANG, Nov 26 (IPS) - The global economic slowdown is slowly creeping onto Malaysian shores leaving many worried about the impact it will have on workers.

Although Malaysia's financial institutions and banks are in better shape than they were during the East Asian financial crisis in 1997, the economy is already feeling the effects of the recession in the West.

Economic growth for the country is projected at 3.5 percent for next year but even that could be optimistic. Some analysts are not ruling out an economic contraction and there is growing concern that workers, both Malaysian and migrants, could be vulnerable.

''The recession here next year could be worse than the Asian crisis in 1997,'' warns economist Subramaniam Pillay, an associate professor in international finance at Nottingham University's campus in Malaysia. ''It would be more like 1986, when commodity prices slumped and exports weakened, prompting factories to retrench workers."

Now there are similar fears that as consumer demand in the West falters, exports here could slide and factories could once again shed workers before long.

With the experience of the recession of the mid to late 1980s in mind, activists have been calling for a comprehensive social security plan. Increasingly, calls are being heard for a national retrenchment fund to protect workers in anticipation of possible job losses. The government has said it is considering this ''but even if they start it off now, the fund won't be big enough to handle the recession next year,'' warns opposition parliamentarian Jeyakumar Devaraj.

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress has proposed that employers and employees should each contribute one ringgit per worker to the fund. With around five million salaried workers in the private sector, such a retrenchment fund could collect more than 100 million ringgit (27 million US dollars) in a year.

"But there is no commitment frorm the government up to now," laments Devaraj. "Instead, we see them injecting 5 billion ringgit (1.38 billion dollars) from the (state-managed) Employees Provident Fund (a retirement fund for workers) into the stock market.''

Some have pointed out Malaysians will be cushioned from job losses by the presence of these migrant workers who could be the first to lose their jobs. But that may give a false sense of security as thousands of Malaysians are also employed in free trade zones especially as operators in the electronics multinational corporations.

Subramaniam feels that the government should review its low-wage policy in attracting foreign investors. Local wages are suppressed by the presence of some three million low-wage migrant workers, about a third of them undocumented.

''What's the point of being among the world's top trading nations when your workers are being paid peanuts?'' he asks.

Meanwhile, economic analysts have noted that a revised budget for next year is necessary as the present one tabled earlier this year was calculated based on an assumption of a global oil prices for next year of 125 dollars -- whereas the price now has plummeted to around 50 dollars now.

About 40 per cent of the national budget is traditionally funded from petroleum revenue - Malaysia is a net exporter of oil - with the remainder coming from taxes, observes Subramaniam. A sharp drop in the prices of oil and palm oil products will erode Malaysia's earnings and affect the budget - though the country has ample foreign exchange reserves.

Meanwhile, the government has announced a 5 million ringgit allocation to re-train retrenched workers. Human Resources Minister S. Subramaniam said the government would top up 1 ringgit for every 1 ringgit spent by employers to retrain workers and upgrade their skills. From Nov 1 this year, all skills upgrading retraining programmes would receive full financial aid.

In addition, the government has also announced a 7 billion ringgit (1.93 billion dollars) economic stimulus package of pre-emptive pump priming.

Devaraj says instead of giving out large infrastructure contracts to private contractors who may hire low-wage foreign workers, the Public Works Deparment could hire temporary local workers directly as ''work brigades'', which he says would be a more effective way of creating a multiplier effect for the local economy.

Despite the fall in oil prices, many Malaysians are still finding it hard to cope with the cost of living especially higher food prices, which particularly squeezes the poor.

On Nov.17, the government slashed the pump price of petrol from 2.15 ringgit per litre to 2 ringgit -- the fifth reduction in recent months as global prices sank to 55 dollars per barrel.

But many noticed that the local pump price is now still higher than it was on Jun. 5 when petrol prices were then raised by 41 percent to 2.70 ringgit (75 US cents) at a time when the global oil price was around 125 dollars.

The effect of the Jun. 5 oil price hike is still being felt. Even as the pump prices locally were reduced, food prices -- driven up by commodity speculators and local retailers -- have not fallen correspondingly.

''It may be true that the price of oil has gone down but the prices of rice and other basic necessities are still sky high,'' complained one reader from Sabah in North Borneo of the popular Malaysia Today website.

"I was in Kuching (in neighbouring Sarawak state) a month ago and I noted that the price of Beras Malaysia (local rice) was only 15 ringgit (4.1 dollars). Here in Kota Kinabalu (in Sabah) it is sold at 18 ringgit (4.9 dollars). Why is the difference so big?''

Even the poverty line has come under scrutiny. Though the official threshold for monthly household income was raised a couple of years ago from 588 to 691 ringgit (162 to 190 dollars), many analysts feel that that benchmark for measuring poverty is grossly understated. A more realistic poverty line could be double that figure, putting many more Malaysians -- up to 30 percent in the industrialised state of Selangor -- in the poverty bracket.

Concerned that workers rights could be affected as the economy slides, a coalition of civil society groups, the Oppressed People's Network (JERIT), is organising a nationwide bicycle campaign to highlight their concern about the more difficult conditions for workers.

Scores of cyclists from three main locations in the north, south and east coast of the peninsula will be flagged off simultaneously on Dec. 3 and they will pedal towards the Federal Parliament, converging there on Dec. 18. There they will be present a memorandum to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, highlighting their demands.

Their main demands include the introduction of a minimum wage, decent housing, price controls for essential goods and an end to the privatisation of essential services. They are also linking this to broader civil and political rights including the restoration of local government election and the repeal of the draconian Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.

Along the way, they will also distribute leaflets to the public and present similar memorandums to the chief ministers of the various states.

Devaraj notes that recent global events have proven that the neo-liberal model -- with its accompanying assumptions of deregulation and the unchecked pursuit of wealth -- has had adverse results ranging from climate change to worsening food security to imbalances in the distribution of wealth between and within nations. ''So we need to look at new and alternative paradigms of development,'' he says.

- By Anil Netto. IPS

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28 November, 2008

Brilliant one liners

A flight attendant was stationed at the departure gate to check tickets. As a man approached, she extended her hand for the ticket, and he opened his trench coat and flashed her. Without missing a beat she said, "Sir, I need to see your ticket, not your stub."

A lady was picking through the frozen turkeys at the grocery store, but couldn't find one big enough for her family. She asked a stock boy, "Do these turkeys get any bigger?" The stock boy replied, "No ma'am, they're dead."

The cop got out of his car and the kid who was stopped for speeding rolled down his window. "I've been waiting for you all day," the cop said. The kid replied, "Yeah, well I got here as fast as I could."

A truck driver was driving along on the freeway. A sign comes up that reads "low bridge ahead." But before he knows it the bridge is right ahead of him and he gets stuck under the bridge. Cars are backed up for miles. Finally, a police car comes up. The cop gets out of his car and walks around to the truck driver, puts his hands on his hips and says, "Got stuck, huh?" The truck driver says, "No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas."

Upon getting into an elevator a passenger asked, "Is this lift going up?" "No, replied someone at the back, "We're going to fool everyone this time and go sideways."


26 November, 2008

Islamic councils against Catholic magazine of Kuala Lumpur: forbidden to use the word "Allah"

The Islamic religious councils of seven Malaysian states are joining the lawsuit pitting the weekly of the diocese of Kuala Lumpur against the government. The object of the dispute is the use of the word "Allah" in non-Muslim publications. The Sikh community is siding with the Catholics.

uala Lumpur (AsiaNews) - The Islamic religious councils of seven Malaysian states and the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA) are turning to the federal court for the ban of the use of the word "Allah" in the weekly Catholic Herald. Muslim representatives from Terengganu, Penang, Selangor, Kedah, Johor, Malacca, and the Federal territory of Kuala Lumpur want the court to rule on whether the law relative to the case has been applied according to constitutional principles.

The Malaysian constitution guarantees full religious freedom for all confessions, but an ordinance from the interior security ministry issued in 1986 prohibits the use of the word "Allah" in publications of the non-Islamic communities. But the law has never been applied consistently. To complicate the case of the Herald, and of other non-Muslim magazines, there is also the fact that there are two parallel judicial systems in the country: one is federal-civil, regulated by the constitution, and the other is juridical-religious, which is supposed to apply only to Muslims and is regulated by Koranic law.

The affair of the magazine of Kuala Lumpur emerged in December of last year. The interior security minister had prohibited the Herald from using the word "Allah" in its articles, affirming that its use "by non-Muslims could increase tension and create confusion among Muslims in the country." The ban brought the risk of shutdown for the only Catholic newspaper in the country, which with its 12,000 copies and 50,000 readers is the only instrument of communication for the 850,000 faithful.

In the last few days of 2007, after the protests of the Catholic community, the interior security minister withdrew the injunction, but on January 5, 2008, the minister of Islamic affairs intervened in of the affair, upholding the ban. Claiming the right to use the word "Allah," the Herald then opted to take the legal route, and the archbishop of the diocese of Kuala Lumpur, Murphy Pakiam, took the government to court (in the photo, the bishop with his lawyers at a hearing last April).

Today, the seven states and the MACMA have been admitted to the court to intervene in the dispute, and have been named as parties in the case in the revision of the procedure initiated by the archbishop of the capital. In the meantime, the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC), a Sikh group, has informed the court that it intends to present the attorney general's office with documentation that would exclude the Islamic councils from the debate.

According to the documentation from the MGC, a request to ban the use of the word "Allah" for non-Muslims was presented in Perak ten years ago. The prime minister at the time, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, had communicated to the parties in the case that there was no cause for proceeding. Jagjit is now asking prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to use the same approach in the case of the Herald.

Jagjit has asked the court to update the hearing with the request of the MGC. Judge Lau Bee Lan has established February 27 as the date for deciding whether to permit the parties to present a deposition as requested for judicial review.


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25 November, 2008

War on yoga

Most people practice yoga as “a form of therapy” to enhance their well-being, said Leo Reyes in Digital Journal, but “if you are a practicing Muslim it may be bad for you.” That at least was the conclusion reached by Malaysia’s National Fatwa Council, which banned the exercise for the country’s Muslim majority because it “contains elements of Hinduism that could corrupt” them. The council’s fatwas are not legally binding in themselves, but are often followed.

“What is called ‘yoga’ in fitness centers,” said Malaysia’s New Straits Times in an editorial, obviously has no “relation to Hindu devotional practices.” In the end, the yoga fatwa just serves to drive a wedge between Malaysia’s Muslims and non-Muslims.

The council’s arrogant “lack of sensitivity” to Hindus is bad enough, said Farouk Peru in Malaysia Today. But its “lack of information” is appalling. The chanting they call sacrilegious is just a way to purify your being of things like pride and jealousy, or to signify “qualities of God such as wisdom.” What’s “so unislamic” about that?

People are upset because yoga has become very popular here, said Mazwin Nik Anis in Malaysia’s The Star, but it’s not like Malaysia is the only Muslim nation to declare yoga “haram,” or prohibited. Egypt and Singapore have reached the same conclusion. The Fatwa Council had to act, it said, because in Islam, “prevention is better than cure.”



24 November, 2008

Regional Muslim intellectuals regret decision to declare yoga as haram

GEORGE TOWN (Aug 23, 2008) : Muslim intellectuals from around South-east Asia have expressed reservations and regret on the Fatwa Council of Malaysia decision declaring yoga as haram.

Members of leading Islamic think-tanks and research groups who have converged in Penang said that the decision seems to have infringed on the freedom of Muslim citizens while being based on a narrow viewpoint of yoga.

Liberal Islam Network chairman Luthfi Assyaukanie of Indonesia described the fatwa as “a part of the conservative belief system that we are trying to deal with in the region”.

“Yoga is practised for physical health, not necessarily for religion,” he said when commenting on the National Fatwa Council’s announcement on Saturday of its decision to prohibit Muslims from practising yoga, citing that it is rooted in Hindu elements.

“But the clerics have tried to compress the understanding of yoga to a single perspective. When you live in a plural society you must respect the existence of various disciplines. If you believe in freedom, let them practise their freedom,” he said.

Malaysian Institute for Policy Research executive director Khalid Jaafar questioned the process in which the fatwa was decided, asking whether experts on yoga or Muslims who practised the exercise were consulted.

“To my knowledge there is no preaching of Hindu faith being done. There are no mantras or rituals that are invoked in the practice.”

“The yoga that they practise deal with things like exercises, internal muscles, breathing and control of mind,” he said, adding that the council should allow discourse and discussion on such a matter before making a decision.

Mindanao-based Amina Rasul, a convenor for the Philippines Council for Islam and Democracy, said although Muslims in south Philippines are not used to yoga, they would find such a ruling peculiar.

“To people in Philippines, yoga is about the practice of good health and clearness of thinking. It is hardly equated with religion.”

Jakarta-based Maarif Institute executive director Raja Juli Antoni said one should not generalise what the discipline is about.

He characterised the fatwa as not healthy in contributing to Islamic intellectual practice in the region.

The members were in Penang over the weekend to attend a workshop organised by the Southeast Asian Muslims for Freedom and Enlightenment.


Malaysian Islamic party slam's Indonesian singer's concert

Kuala Lumpur - The youth wing of Malaysia's hardline Islamic opposition party on Monday criticized government approval for a concert by Indonesian songstress Inul Daratista, saying her performances were unacceptable for Muslims.

The popular dangdut singer is due to hold a concert on Sunday, after two other shows were cancelled earlier this year.

'We are consistent in opposing things and activities which are not in line with the Islamic faith,' said Kamaruzaman Mohamad, head of the Parti Islam SeMalaysia's youth wing in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

'As usual, the first step will be to send a memorandum of complaint to the government which has approved this permit.

'If they will still continue with the show, we will use other methods which are more effective,' he said in a statement.

Dangdut, which is extremely popular among many Malaysians, is a genre of Indonesian popular music that incorporates Arabic, Indian, and Malay folk music with fast-moving dancing.

The statement said the party was 'disappointed that the sensitivities of Muslims' were ignored.

'We have sent several statements and memorandums, but its obvious that the government does not care for our advice,' Kamaruzaman said.

Malaysia is a secular state under its constitution, but Islam is the country's official religion.

While Muslims make up two-thirds of its 27-million population, there is a large minority of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.



23 November, 2008

Yoga and Falun Gong

Malaysia's top Islamic body has ruled against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims.

In 1999, the Chinese government, led by
Jiang Zemin, banned the practice of Falun Gong, began a crackdown, and started a "massive propaganda campaign."

Yoga, according to Wikipedia, refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India; to the goal achieved by those disciplines; and to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy.

The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning "to control", "to yoke" or "to unite". Translations include "joining", "uniting", "union", "conjunction", and "means". Outside India, the term yoga is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise. A practitioner of Yoga is called a Yogi (gender neutral) or Yogini (feminine form).

Meanwhile, Falun Gong ( 法轮功 )was introduced to the public by Li Hongzhi (李洪志) in Changchun, China, in 1992. Its teachings cover spiritual, religious, mystical, and metaphysical topics. Falun Gong is an introductory book that discusses qigong, which introduces the principles and provides illustrations and explanations of the exercises involved in Falun Gong practice.

It has five sets of meditation exercises and seeks to develop practitioners' hearts and character according to the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance (真,善,忍), articulated in the main books Falun Gong (法輪功) and Zhuan Falun (轉法輪). The teachings deal with issues such as "cultivation of virtue and character", "moral standards for different levels", and "salvation of all sentient beings."

The The Eight Limbs of yoga are:

(1) Yama (The five "abstentions"): non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness.

(2) Niyama (The five "observances"): purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to god.

(3) Asana: Literally means "seat", and in Patanjali's Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.

(4) Pranayama ("Lengthening Prāna"): Prāna, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, "āyāma", to lengthen or extend. Also interpreted as control of prana.

(5) Pratyahara ("Abstraction"): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.

(6) Dharana ("Concentration"): Fixing the attention on a single object.

(7) Dhyana ("Meditation"): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.

(8) Samādhi ("Liberation"): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.

The main body of teachings in Falun Gong is articulated in the core book Zhuan Falun (轉法輪), published in late 1994. According to the texts, Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) is a complete system of mind-body "cultivation practice" (修煉). Truthfulness (真 Zhen), Compassion (善 Shan), and Forbearance (忍 Ren) are regarded as the fundamental characteristics of the cosmos—an omnipresent nature that permeates and encompasses everything from the most minuscule particles to the most gigantic cosmic bodies.

In the process of cultivation, the practitioner is supposed to assimilate himself or herself to these qualities by letting go of attachments and notions, thus returning to the "original, true self." In Zhuan Falun, Li Hongzhi said that "As a practitioner, if you assimilate yourself to this characteristic, you are one that has attained the Tao—it's just such a simple principle."

Through cultivation, Falun Gong promises "personal harmony with the very substance of the universe."

Falun Gong teaches that followers should "rid themselves of unnecessary ‘attachments’, to do what they know is right and hence to return to ‘the origin’, to their ‘original self.’

On 20 July 1999, following seven years of rapid growth of the practice within mainland China, the government of the People's Republic of China issued a statement "banning" Falun Gong:

"China today banned the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization under its control after deeming them to be illegal.

In its decision on this matter issued today, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said that according to investigations, the Research Society of Falun Dafa had not been registered according to law and had been engaged in illegal activities, advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability.

The decision said that therefore, in accordance with the Regulations on the Registration and Management of Mass Organizations, the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization under its control are held to be illegal and are therefore banned."

Xinhua further declared that Falun Gong was a highly organised political group "opposed to the Communist Party of China and the central government, [that] preaches idealism, theism and feudal superstition". It sought to make a distinction between "ordinary core members" and the leaders, which it referred to as "a small number of behind-the-scenes plotters and organizers who harbor political intentions". It struck a warning-bell against some important Party and government officials who were practitioners.

Xinhua also affirmed that "the so-called 'truth, kindness and forbearance' principle preached by Li has nothing in common with the socialist ethical and cultural progress we are striving to achieve."

Meanwhile,Malaysia's top Islamic body on Saturday ruled against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims.

The National Fatwa Council's non-binding edict said yoga involves not just physical exercise but also includes Hindu spiritual elements, chanting and worship.

"It is inappropriate. It can destroy the faith of a Muslim," Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin told reporters.


21 November, 2008

Bid to refer dispute on use of word "Allah" to Federal court

Seven State Islamic Religious Councils and MACMA allowed by court to intervene and be named as respondents in judicial review proceedings initiated by archbishop of Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Gurdwaras Council want to submit a representation to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) to not make issue into a confrontation.

Justice Lau then fixed Feb 27 next year for mention of the case to enable the parties to file any affidavits required in the judicial review.

KUALA LUMPUR (Nov 21, 2008): Several State Islamic Religous Councils now want to refer the dispute over the usage of the word "Allah" in the Catholic weekly, Herald, to the Federal Court for determination on the constitutionality of law.

As such, eight intervenors have requested the High Court here to issue a stay of the judicial review proceedings initiated by the archbishop of Kuala Lumpur to challenge the Home Ministry's decision prohibiting the use of the word "Allah" in Herald.

They are from the State Islamic Religious Councils of Terengganu, the Federal Territory, Penang, Selangor, Kedah, Johor and Malacca, and the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA).

Counsel Mubashir Mansor, representing the Terengganu, Penang and Malacca State Religious Councils, informed the court that the intervenors intended to file the application to the Federal Court to define the constitutionality of certain laws relating to the case.

Mubashir said under Section 64 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964, the court was required to grant a stay of the proceedings to enable the parties to bring up the matter for determination by the Federal Court.

Counsel Haniff Khatri Abdulla, representing the State Religious Councils of Selangor, Kedah, Johor and the MACMA, and counsel Sulaiman Abdullah, representing the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Council (MAWIP), supported the application.

Justice Lau Bee Lan then ordered Mubashir to make a written submission pursuant to his stay application before she made her ruling on whether to grant the stay or not.

The seven State Islamic Religious Councils and MACMA were given the green light by Lau today to intervene and be named as respondents in the judicial review proceedings.

The court gave the order after hearing submissions today from parties to intervene in the judicial review.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC), through its counsel Jagjit Singh, informed the court that MGC wanted to submit a representation to the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) in not making this issue a confrontation.

Jagjit said the issue (the use of the word "Allah") had arisen in Perak 10 years ago (in 1988), but the then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had advised the parties involved in the case not to pursue the matter.

He urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to consider adopting the same approach.

Jagjit then requested the court to adjourn the hearing of MGC's intervening application.

Justice Lau then fixed Feb 27 next year for mention of the case to enable the parties to file any affidavits required in the judicial review.

The judicial review was sought by the archbishop of Kuala Lumpur to challenge the Home Ministry's decision to prohibit the use of the word "Allah" in Herald-Catholic Weekly.

Archbishop Datuk Murphy Pakiam, as publisher of The Herald, named the Home Ministry and Government of Malaysia as respondents in his action and obtained leave to seek the judicial review from the High Court on May 5.

The Selangor Islamic Religious Council's application was supported by an affidavit affirmed by its secretary, Datuk Mohammed Khusrin Munawi, while that of the Kedah Islamic Religious Council also by its secretary, Datuk Kharudin Zain.

They said that as statutory bodies set up to ensure the interests of Muslims in Selangor and Kedah specifically and in Malaysia generally, they were interested parties in the proceedings because Herald was also distributed in Selangor and Kedah.

Counsel Porres P. Royan represented the archbishop while senior federal counsel Nizam Zakaria represented the Home Ministry and the Government.

-- Bernama


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20 November, 2008

Truth, lies and blogs

"The 22 months in prison was the most stressful, anxious and sad period of my 48 years of existence," was how political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda described the time he spent under remand in his first press conference since being freed on Oct 31.

He was freed of abatement to murder of his Mongolian lover in a long and sensational trial.

Abdul Razak Baginda today broke his silence to hit out at bloggers who turned lies and assumptions into truth, so much so that the truth became irrelevant.

"I was shocked at the extent my case had been wildly exaggerated and that throughout his two years of imprisonment, lies and baseless assumptions have become the basis for truth, so much so the truth had become irrelevant and was lost in translation,"

"While some have told me to say nothing, I feel if I do not be brave and try to turn the tide in order to tell the truth, then I will be merely turning a blind eye and allow the liars to prevail."

“I told them what I told you all today, that Najib did not know or has met the deceased (Altantuya Shaariibuu)," said Abdul Razak:

“I implore all of you and the public to stop spreading lies about Datuk Seri Najib and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor as I know they have never met the deceased Altantuya.”

Saying that he had not been in contact with Najib since his release, Abdul Razak described his relationship with Najib as an official one and that he (Najib) was a friend whom he had personal contact with.

Asked about what he thought of Najib becoming the next Prime Minister, he said: “He (Najib) is a well read person and well in tune with what is going on in the world, and in terms of intellectual and experience, he will make a good Prime Minister.”

Asked if he would continue rendering his services as a political analyst to Najib when the latter becomes Prime Minister, Abdul Razak said: “I’m quite happy with my freedom at the moment and don’t want to be tied up with any appointment whatsoever...not that it’s coming.”

Speaking further about the trying time, Abdul Razak said his faith in God, firm belief in his innocence and support of family and friends helped him pull through it.

"The love and dedication of my family gave me the strength I needed during this very difficult time in my life," he said reading from a statement.

On blogs

People should start questioning the validity of the information they receive, especially from blogs.

We are supposed to be a knowledge-based society and a thinking people but now one or two bloggers form an opinion, and that becomes public opinion.

Bloggers could even be used as tools by enemies of the state to erode confidence. Then we are talking about something more sinister.

Most bloggers write based on hearsay and not based on what they themselves have seen or heard. This is just a phase that develop countries had gone through once and after some time the opinion of bloggers will have little effect.

I expect my statement to be twisted as well. But this is the truth and if anyone wants to twist and turn, then all I can say is that I have said my piece and to me this is the truth. Quoting Shakespeare, he said: “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”

No link between the murder case and the Scorpene and Agosta submarine deal

There are no linkages to this whatsoever. I’m appalled by the extent of lies, but the time frame between the striking of the deal and when I met Altantuya will explain this. The arms deal was signed in June 2002, I met the deceased on Nov 2004; so I fail to see the connection.

On claims of interference from the top

Referred to SMS exchanges between the first lawyer representing him (Datuk Muhammad Shafee Abdullah) and Najib, he said: “Let me just remind you that I was charged, imprisoned, waited for my trial, court started and went on for 151 days, I was separated from my family, I went through all that! So how can there be any interference if I went through all that, God Almighty! Come on!”

On public reaction to his release

To my surprise a lot of people came up to me and wished me the best- total strangers- came to say that they were happy that I had been released. I was pleasantly surprised because I thought I was going to be frowned upon, going to be a leper, that everyone will shy away from me.

What next?

I will be going to the United Kingdom (UK) to complete my doctorate studies. I’m going back to UK for a simple reason. Not many of you know this. I was a student at Oxford and on Sept 28, 2006, two weeks before I got arrested, I submitted a doctoral dissertation to Oxford having studied at Trinity College Oxford for a number of years.

The university put my dissertation on hold and now that I have been released, I have been informed by the university that I can be examined, so I’m now going back to be examined- and Insya Allah – I can get my doctorate by early next year. I am not running away. I wil be back, unless I can land myself a cushy job like prime minister over there.

On his ordeal

It is difficult for anyone to understand what I have gone through. When you are down you are basically alone, this is a lesson to me and I managed to get through this with the support of my family and God.

He attributed his several outbursts in court to frustrations over the delays in the trial and issues that he had to go through.

It was the most stressful, anxious and sad period of my life. The 22 months I spent in jail gave me a chance to reflect on life.

It is perhaps human nature that when someone is in trouble, people shy away. Prior to my imprisonment, during the Hari Raya season, I would receive hundreds of cards but for the last two years I received a total of not more than 20.

My family, my close friends, my lawyers and my books have all added to my escape, for my mind was never incarcerated. To me this was my ‘great escape'.

The prison authorities demonstrated a high degree of professionalism and I thank my fellow inmates for their kindness.

On his relationship with Altantuya

The person has died; let the person rest in peace. I would like to emphasise that I did not commit any offence in respect of the deceased, nevertheless I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the family of the deceased for their loss.


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19 November, 2008

Today in History: Abraham Lincoln Delivers "Gettysburg Address "

The Gettysburg Address is the most famous speech of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and one of the most quoted speeches in United States history.It was delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863, during the American Civil War, four and a half months after the Union armies defeated the Confederates at the decisive Battle of Gettysbur.

Lincoln's carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln invoked the principles of human equality espoused by the Declaration of Independence and redefined the Civil War as a struggle not merely for the Union, but as "a new birth of freedom" that would bring true equality to all of its citizens, create a unified nation in which states' rights were no longer dominant, defined democracy in terms of government of the people, by the people, for the people, and defined republicanism in terms of freedom, equality and democracy.

Beginning with the now-iconic phrase "Four score and seven years ago," Lincoln referred to the events of the American Revolution and described the ceremony at Gettysburg as an opportunity not only to dedicate the grounds of a cemetery, but also to consecrate the living in the struggle to ensure that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Despite the speech's prominent place in the history and popular culture of the United States, the exact wording of the speech is disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address differ in a number of details and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



18 November, 2008

Afghanistan- Acid Attacks Keep Afghan Girls Away From Classes

Primitive Taliban sympathizers resort to terror and disfigurement to keep girls to stay away from school.....

No students showed up at Mirwais Mena girls' school in the Taliban's spiritual birthplace the morning after it happened.

A day earlier, men on motorcycles attacked 15 girls and teachers with acid.

The men squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school Wednesday, principal Mehmood Qaderi said. Some of the girls have burns only on their school uniforms but others will have scars on their faces.

One teenager still cannot open her eyes after being hit in the face with acid.

''Today the school is open, but there are no girls,'' Qaderi said Thursday. ''Yesterday, all of the classes were full.'' His school has 1,500 students.

Afghanistan's government condemned the attack as ''un-Islamic'' and blamed it on the ''country's enemies,'' a typical reference to Taliban militants. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, denied the insurgents were involved.

Girls were banned from schools under the rule of the Taliban, the hard-line Islamist regime that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. Women were only allowed to leave the house wearing a body-hiding burqa and accompanied by a male family member.

Qaderi said he believes there were multiple teams of assailants because the attacks took place at the same time in different neighborhoods. Provincial Police Chief Mati Ullah Khan said three people have been arrested. He would not provide further details because the investigation was not completed.

The country has made a major push to improve access to education for girls since the Taliban ouster. Fewer than 1 million Afghan children -- mostly all boys -- attended school under Taliban rule. Roughly 6 million Afghan children, including 2 million girls, attend school today.

But many conservative families still keep their girls at home and the acid attacks are a reminder that old biases remain.

''They don't want us go to school. They don't like education,'' said Susan Ibrahimi, who started teaching at Mirwais Mena four months ago. She and her mother, also a teacher at the school, were wearing burqas on their walk to work when the motorbike stopped next to them.

''They didn't say anything. They just stopped the motorbike and one of the guys threw acid on us and they went away,'' Ibrahimi said in a telephone interview.

The acid ate through the cloth covering Ibrahimi's face and left burns down her left cheek. The acid also burned her mother's hand.

''I am worried that I will have scars on my face,'' said Ibrahimi, who is 19 years old and not married.

Fifteen people were hit with acid in all, including four teachers, Qaderi said.

Ibrahimi said it was the Taliban that attacked her but then explained that she used the term to refer to anyone who was against education for women.

The United Nations called the attack ''a hideous crime.''

First lady Laura Bush on Thursday decried the attack as cowardly, saying in a statement the ''shameful acts are condemned by honorable people in the United States and around the world.''

The attacks are ''contrary to previous assurances Afghans have been given that there would not be further attacks against schools or students,'' the U.N. said in a statement.

Arsonists have repeatedly attacked girls' schools and gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls' school in central Logar province last year. UNICEF says there were 236 school-related attacks in Afghanistan in 2007. The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of attacking schools in an attempt to force teenage boys into the Islamic militia.

In Wednesday's attack, three young women were hospitalized for burns. Two were released Thursday morning, but 17-year-old Shamsia Husainai was still lying on a hospital bed unable to open her eyes. Her brother Masood Morbi said her body shook about every 10 seconds.

She could talk, but her brother said her words were mangled. Her face was covered with a cream to treat her burns. The doctors were giving her pills to blunt the pain.

Husainai's younger sister told The Associated Press on Wednesday that they had been walking on the street with a group of friends, all of whom were wearing a typical Afghan school uniform of black pants, white shirt, black coat and white headscarf.

Fourteen-year-old Atifa Bibi was also badly burned on her face but she was released from the hospital late Wednesday.

Qaderi, the principal, said no one in the school had reported any direct threats but one of the teachers attacked Wednesday had reported an incident two days ago in which two men threatened her.

''She told me when she was walking two men said to her, 'Oh, you are putting on makeup and going to the school. Okay, we will see you.'''

Husainai and Bibi's aunt, Bibi Meryam, said no one had threatened them but they would consider keeping the girls at home until it felt safer.

A handful of teachers showed up Thursday, but Qaderi said the only students who tried to attend were about 20 primary school students who arrived late in the afternoon and were sent home because the school had already decided not to hold classes.

Ibrahimi, the young teacher who was burned, said she and her mother stayed home.

''Yesterday we didn't go to school. Today we didn't go to school. I don't know about the future,'' she said.


Associated Press Writers Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez contributed to this report from Kabul.


Meanwhile, in Malaysia,
Syed Hamid said, economic uncertainty had led to an increase in crime, particularly with petty and transborder crimes, but claimed that Malaysia’s crime rate was still low compared with other countries.

Don’t condemn our cops !


17 November, 2008

Spam plummets as gang leaves net

Two US internet service providers have pulled the plug on the firm McColo following an investigation by the Washington Post newspaper.

Anti-spam firm Ironport has seen junk mail levels drop by 70% since McColo was taken offline on 11 November.

But, it warned, it will be a temporary respite from the menace of spam.

Plug pulled

"It is an unprecedented drop but will be a temporary outage as the networks move from North America to places where there is less scrutiny," said Jason Steer, a spokesman for Ironport.

The Washington Post has been gathering data on McColo for the past four months and passed the information to its internet service providers, Global Crossing and Hurricane Electric.

Both decided to pull the plug on the firm on Tuesday.

It is believed that it hosted gangs running botnets - networks of computers that have been taken over by criminals to send malicious software and spam.

According to MessageLabs, botnets are responsible for over 90% of spam.

Increasingly the tech industry is fighting back.

"All the US internet peering companies are under much more scrutiny. The authorities and the internet community have woken up to the problem," said Mr Steer.

But while it might make criminals think more carefully about what they do, it will not stop them, he thinks.

"Spam levels will come back to normal as we build up to Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said.

A recent study by computer scientists from the University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego (UCSD) found that spammers manage to turn a profit despite only getting one response to every 12.5m emails they send.



16 November, 2008

We have 50 words for ‘love’ – and we risk losing them all

Taryam al Subaihi
The National,Abu Dhabi.

The Arabic language possesses an unquestionable beauty and elegance than can be recognised by all. There are numerous stories about people who have fallen in love with Islam or Arab culture simply by being introduced to the perfect form of Arabic writing. A language filled with an endless flow of lines displaying a faultless structure of art, even in its simplest form: to see it is to witness writing that is almost being sung off the pages on which it is written.

To fully understand the meaning of its words is a complex, everlasting journey that many scholars have spent their entire lives travelling. Take just one English word – “love” – and you will find more than 50 Arabic words to appropriately describe it, each more harmonic than the last.

For centuries, Arabic poetry was the most respected form of communication in the Arab world and beyond. For this reason it is not uncommon in the UAE to find Arabic poetry being recited during a casual get together, an official ceremony, a wedding, or even a funeral. When Arabic poetry is heard, all Emiratis stop to listen out of respect.

However, throughout the Arab world, Arabic is struggling in a vicious battle against globalisation. Conferences are being held to support the language and to speak out against “language pollution”. To focus on matters closer to home, a new problem has risen for UAE nationals that threatens to grow if not resolved.

Emiratis are expected to know Arabic. That is a fair statement; after all, it is hard to imagine one without the other, and 10 years ago, it was a rare thing to find an Emirati whose first language was not Arabic – only, maybe, a small minority of people who were educated abroad or whose mother was from an another country. Nowadays, thanks to poor teaching in our schools and the minimal usage of Arabic in our daily lives, the language is beginning to disappear, even among UAE nationals.

This is a tragedy. It is heart breaking to see the language of our forefathers disappearing – especially among the young – particularly as there are so many organisations struggling to prevent this very thing from happening. Yet, it is clear that what is being done to preserve our language is simply not enough.

Today, it may only be a small percentage of our children who are experiencing this loss of language. But 10 years ago, they hardly existed at all; what is the situation likely to be in another 10 years? There is no denying that globalisation will take its toll on the language of the country, but that doesn’t mean we should simply do nothing.

I enjoy travelling to Malaysia whenever I find an opportunity to do so. In my opinion, the country displays a perfect blend of nature and technology intertwined brilliantly with the Muslim culture. I was talking with a friend of mine who is a Muslim Malaysian of Chinese origin. He tells me that the Chinese language among the younger generation of his ethnic group is facing the same problem as Arabic here but has reached a much further stage then our own. According to my friend, it has become socially acceptable for Malaysian-Chinese to not know how to write or read in any of the Chinese languages.

Yet in Malaysia and elsewhere, this erosion of language has happened over centuries. We Emiratis are fortunate to have had our years of development compressed into less than 40 years, and as a consequence we have only begun to see the impact on Arabic in the last decade or so. Which means that we still have a chance to prevent the ultimate catastrophe – the complete loss of our language – from befalling us.

We should take heed and begin building our defences. We need stronger Arabic curriculums in our schools, free courses offered in different levels across our major cities, and more up to date literature. Even in our public schools, when students reach a certain stage in many subjects they are asked to switch tuition from Arabic to English.

We need to find a way to bring life back to the Arabic language, to show its benefits and our involvement in its history. Our children continuously need to be reminded of the beauty of their native tongue and should be expected to express themselves in it with clarity and confidence.

It was shocking to read in yesterday’s The National how few of the novels shortlisted for this year’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction are stocked by bookshops here. But if you walk into any popular book store you will find that Arabic literature takes up only a small corner. Which is hardly surprising, as I recall the damning statistic from 2005 that revealed that the total number of Arabic language books published across the Arab world in one year was equivalent to the output of a small non-Arab country in the same time.

A strategy must be devised to preserve the Arabic language and to ensure that our children continue to speak their native tongue.

Taryam al Subaihi is a journalist from Abu Dhabi who specialises in human resources


11 November, 2008

Myanmar joins Malaysia in internet crackdown.

Myanmar, seems is taking cues from the Malaysian government in cracking down on internet freedom.

The dictatorship there has taken it upon themselves to decide, what is supposed to go online and what is not. This has led to sites and blogs being shut down and online dissidents being silenced. Raids on internet cafes have risen alarmingly.

A young Burmese blogger, a valuable source of information during the bloody repression of monks in September of 2007, has been sentenced to 20 years and six months in prison. According to the official charges, he is guilty of slandering a high state official.

28-year-old Nay Phone Latt was arrested on January 29, 2008, and found guilty by a tribunal set up in the prison of Insein, in Yangon, where he is currently detained; he is accused of publishing a cartoon considered "offensive" toward the head of the military junta, General Than Shwe, on his blog. The newspaper The Irrawaddy reports that Nay's colleague and friend, Thin July Kyaw, has been sentenced to two years in prison, while two weeks ago three defence lawyers were sentenced to between four to six months in prison. The latest episode of repression by the ruling dictatorship has been denounced by Nay Phone Latt's mother, Aye Than.

In September of 2007, on the pages of his website, the young man recounted the massacres carried out by the junta against Burmese monks, becoming a valuable source of information for the international media.

On September 26, 2007, the decision of military leaders to attack the protagonists of the "saffron revolution" left 31 dead - according to official estimates, although many more were killed - including a Japanese journalist, who was shot to death. Another 74 people are still "officially disappeared," in addition to thousands of arrests among monks and activists.

Sources in Yangon also reveal that the military regime has sentenced the dissident poet Saw Wai to two years in prison: he was accused of publishing a poem mocking Than Shwe in the weekly Love Journal. At the beginning of each stanza was the line "General Than Shwe is mad with power."

A GROUP of bloggers from Yangon have formed an online community called the Myanmar Bloggers Society with the aim of organising blogging enthusiasts both within the country and abroad.

The group is currently developing its own site, www.myanmarblogger.org, which members expect to come online soon.

Meanwhile, in a statement in Washington, the US State Department criticized the imprisonment of the four defense lawyers and urged the Burmese regime to drop all charges and release them.

Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood called on the junta to stop harassing and arresting citizens for peacefully practicing their internationally recognized human rights, to release all political prisoners, and to start a genuine dialogue with democratic forces and ethnic minority groups for democratic reform in Burma.

Read "The Irrawaddy - " Young Burmese Blogger Sentenced to more than 20 Years in Jail"

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10 November, 2008

Selangor’s top cop: dispersal not during National Anthem

Despite video evidence, Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar has denied that the police moved in on participants at a candlelight vigil last night while they were singing the national anthem...more @ Malaysiakini

23 arrested during the vigil to commemorate the first anniversary of
BERSIH's rally

The authority's intolerance to peaceful assembly continued when the
police arrested 23 individuals, including Member of Parliament, State
Assemblymen, activists and journalists during a vigil to commemorate
the first anniversary of the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur last year.

The vigil was scheduled to start at 9.30 pm on 9 November at Padang
Timur, opposite the Amcorp Mall, Petaling Jaya. As the time
approaches, the police urged the gathered crowd in the field to disperse.

The crowd then walked over to the PJ Civic Centre, about a kilometre
away to continue the program. At 10.15pm, the police moved into the
crowd and made arrests just as they were singing the national anthem
and getting ready to leave.

"NegaraKu" at Amcorp Mall from Second Thoughts on Vimeo.

The people were singing the National Anthem “Negaraku” and were ready to go home. But before they could end ....read more @ Sivin Kit's Garden.

URGENT: CIJ condemns arrests at PJ vigil

The Centre for Independent Journalism condemns the arrest last night
of demonstrators at the anniversary of the free and fair elections
rally as well as a videographer from Malaysiakini.tv. We call for
their immediate and unconditional release and to respect their
fundamental right to gather and express themselves.

According to reports from news portals Malaysiakini.com and
thestar.com.my, riot police moved in on a crowd of 300 people in
Petaling Jaya where they had gathered to commemorate the one year
anniversary of the BERSIH rally. Police were reported to have arrested
23 people, including a Member of Parliament Tony Pua, state executive
councillor Ronnie Liu, state assemblyman Lau Weng San, a local
councillor Tiew Way Keng and videographer Shukri Mohamad.

Reports from citizen contributors to blogs said a simultaneous event
held in Ipoh, three hours north of Kuala Lumpur, went on smoothly
drawing a crowd of 350 people. The event also marked the release of
blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin on Friday by the courts, which found his
arrest under the Internal Security Act, unconstitutional.

CIJ calls on the Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan to
free those arrested and explain the use of the riot police in
controlling the crowd, which had planned for a peaceful gathering. The
continuous use of force against people expressing their views on
issues such as the need for free and fair elections and abolishing the
ISA is a demonstration of the intolerance for public criticism of the
status quo.

Issued by V. Gayathry, Executive Director, CIJ.

Read also jelas.info :" Videos of police attacking Negaraku singing crowd; Selangor police chief proven liar."

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09 November, 2008

Congo’s women mutilated, children sent into battle

The cease-fire collapsed in eastern Congo this week as fighting resumed.

As rebels make demands from the Congolese government, civilians are caught in between. Beyond ongoing hunger and starvation, crimes against humanity include the rape of women and the recruitment of children into war.

United Nations officials have called the epidemic of sexual violence in Congo “the worst in the world,” pointing to the 27,000 sexual assaults reported in South Kivu Province in 2006. Often, women are mutilated and left to die.

The “Healing trauma in DR Congo” blog writes about tackling problems like rape by supporting women empowerment programs.

The “generalspeaking” blog discusses the fate of women in wartime, and writes that both the military and militias in Congo use rape as a weapon.

Blogger “Amber” considers why rape is considered an acceptable tool in Congo and elsewhere.

Children, too, live in fear — Save the Children recently reported that amid the current conflict, armed groups attacked two schools in order recruit child soldiers. Here is a map of child soldiers fighting in Congo and around the world.

Chris Blattman of Yale University talks about his study on the motivation for child soldier recruitment in his blog.

Watch a documentary on the situation of Congo’s children — who are soldiers, prostitutes and refugees.



08 November, 2008

Jailed for her religion, forced to work 19-hour days making cotton buds

Chen Zhenping

The story of Chen Zhenping

Ever wondered where your cotton buds come from? (that’s Q-tips for American readers – the things you clean your ears out with but aren’t really meant to).
No, me neither. Maybe we should.

Amnesty’s just heard about the case of Chen Zhenping, an imprisoned Chinese woman who follows the Falun Gong spiritual movement (basically a fusion of Buddhism and Tai Chi – very popular in China, but banned by the government as an ‘evil cult’).

A fellow inmate told us that Chen is being forced to work a 19-hour day making cotton buds and rugs, with beatings if she fails to reach production targets. The remaining five hours are spent sleeping on the floor of a cell she shares with over 30 other prisoners.

Chen was arrested on 9 July, without a warrant. We suspect she had no legal representation at her trial. Her family have not been allowed to see her since the arrest, but they’ve been told that she was sentenced to between 7 and 15 years’ imprisonment (though no official notification has been sent to them).

It’s a really upsetting story, the worst I’ve heard from China for some time.

Her family are very worried about her, as they heard on 28 October that Chen’s signature had been forged in a register that detainees have to sign when they receive food from relatives. If she is being deprived of food, it sadly wouldn’t be untypical of the treatment of Falun Gong prisoners.

Falun Gong practitioners are frequently subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Many are held in Re-education through Labour camps, where people can be locked up without trial for up to four years. Falun Gong sources reported over 8,000 arrests of practitioners nationwide in the run-up to the Olympics, and say that in 2007 over 100 of them died in detention or shortly after being released due to torture, starvation and lack of medicine.

Amnesty members are writing to the Chinese authorities demanding guarantees of Chen’s safety, pending her unconditional release unless she’s charged with a criminal offence and give a fair trial.

I’m not suggesting a boycott of Chinese-made cotton buds, by the way – responsibility for what’s happened to Chen sits squarely with the Chinese authorities. But it does raise a few questions for consumers and retailers. I have no idea but I wonder how many of the big UK outlets do get their cotton buds from China? And of those, I wonder how many can demonstrate where theirs are made, and that people like Chen Zhenping aren’t making them?

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07 November, 2008

Raja Petra freed & Anwar's Sodomy Case To Be Tried At Sessions Court !

Raja Petra Kamaruddin was arrested in September for allegedly causing ethnic tensions, has sparked condemnation from the opposition and rights groups.

Malaysian authorities today freed the blogger, after a court ruled his arrest under a law allowing indefinite detention was illegal.

High court judge ruled that Malaysia's home minister acted outside his powers in using the Internal Security Act (ISA) to detain him.

" I am very glad its over!" said a beaming Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin upon being released by the High Court here which had allowed his application for a writ of habeas corpus today.

"But I have a few more cases to fight over the next few weeks," the Malaysia Today website portal editor told reporters after High Court judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad ordered his relase at 3.20pm today.

The landmark decision is a major victory for free speech, judicial independence and a blow to the Internal Security Act (ISA) considered by many Malaysians to be a draconian law.

Raja Petra said he was surprised with the High Court's decision here to release him from ISA (Internal Security Act) detention as not many people had succeeded in their application to challenge the detention under Section 8 of the ISA.

"Therefore, I had not placed high hopes in being released early. It was 50-50," he said.

Asked how he felt, Raja Petra who was surrounded by his supporters, said: "I'm just too tired."

"I suppose we have to fight all out to get the ISA abolished. I'm not a terrorist. I'm not a dangerous person. I'm just a writer," he said.

Meanwhile, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy case will be tried at the Sessions Court after judge S.M. Komathy Suppiah ruled that the certificate to transfer the case to the High Court, signed by Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, is invalid. Komathy then fixed Nov 14 to mention the case.

In dismissing the prosecution's application (for the case to be transferred to the High Court) today, Komathy ruled that as the certificate was personally signed by Abdul Gani, it was tantamount to a breach of the legal expectation of Anwar that Abdul Gani would not be involved in the case.

Komathy in a 16-page judgment said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's assurance that Abdul Gani would not be personally involved in this case had created a legitimate and reasonable expectation to Anwar and the public.

The decision on the validity of the transfer certificate dated Sept 9, 2008, was crucial towards determining whether the case could be transferred to the High Court for trial.

Anwar had opposed the prosecution's application by questioning the validity of the transfer certificate signed by Abdul Gani.

Abdul Gani is still under probe by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) following a police report lodged against him by Anwar over fabrication of evidence in the investigation of the "black-eye" incident when Anwar was arrested in 1998.

Komathy in her judgment said it was not in dispute that the Prime Minister made this representation but the prosecution's contention that Abdullah was not legally competent to give the promise in view of Articles 145(3) and 145(3A) of the Federal Constitution.

She said these two provisions expressly provide that the discretion to institute prosecution and all other powers incidental to it, is vested in the Attorney-General.

"The prosecution glibly added that the Prime Minister being also a politician could have given the promise to please people he was addressing and the same was not binding on Abdul Gani. It was stressed that it was the AG who had the power under Federal Constitution to make such promise," she said.

Komathy said the solemn words of the head of the executive of this country on specific and serious matters such as those complained of in this case, cannot be trifled with.

She said on the contrary, the Prime Minister must have given the matter due consideration and must have had the overriding interest of justice and due process of law in giving his word that the AG would play no part in this case.

Komathy said the court also did not accept the suggestion that Abdullah was usurping the power given to Abdul Gani under the Federal Constitution when Abdullah gave the promise.

"It must be remembered that at the material time, Abdul Gani, as the principal legal officer of the Government, was the subject of a criminal investigation in relation to the police report by Anwar and the former had threatened the latter with civil action," she said.

Komathy added that Abdullah as the head of the executive rejected the opposition's demand to suspend Abdul Gani and gave the public assurance that the latter would not be involved in Anwar's case.

"I, therefore find that the Prime Minister was not playing fast and loose but gave his word and intended it to be taken seriously. That the Attorney-General's Chambers also took the assurance seriously is evident from the fact that when Anwar was first charged in this court, the Solicitor-General Datuk Idrus Harun led the prosecution team," she said.

Komathy also said Abdul Gani in exercising a quasi-judicial power when he signed the transfer certificate was grounded on a rule of natural justice and the rule against bias.

Komathy said the prosecution also failed to challenge and controvert the assertions by Anwar and his wife Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail in their affidavits.

Anwar filed two sworn affidavits dated Sept 22 and Sept 29, 2008, whilst his wife one on Sept 29. The prosecution only filed one affidavit dated Oct 8, 2008, sworn by Idrus.

She said it was trite that in a contest of affidavits, an affidavit must reply specifically to allegations, and if it does not, then those allegations must have been accepted.

Komathy said there was no explanation proffered as to why the facts asserted by Anwar in his affidavit were not refuted by the prosecution.

Before concluding her decision, Komathy also said the decision did not in any way detract or impinge on the absolute authority the AG enjoys under the Federal Constitution in the institution and conduct of criminal proceedings.

"However, this case raises a unique situation where it is evident that any involvement by the AG in this case would seriously undermine public confidence in the administration of criminal justice. That is the compelling and overriding factor that warranted the Prime Minister's promise which this court is prepared to uphold," she said.


06 November, 2008

Anyone can be PM ? Is this just cheap lip service ?

It is possible for anyone from a minority group to be a nation's leader, even in Malaysia, says Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi.

"It is up to the people to decide, just as the Americans had done through the democratic process," he said while extending his congratulations to Senator Barack Obama.

Can we ? I say Bull S**t !

UMNO-led Barisan government protest even at the appointment of Low Siew Moi, just an "acting general manager of the Selangor State Development Corporation (PKNS)." so you think it is possible "anyone can be PM " ?

Americans who have been sickened by the Bush administration, including the young generation and undecided voters, have cast their ballots in favour of Barack Obama to perpetuate liberalism and preserve the open society while reviving America's vibrancy.

This tide of change is not only taking shape in the United States, it is subsistent in many parts of the world. People in many countries are longing for change and their own versions of Obama.

The March 8 political tsunami here in Malaysia to some extent has been propelled by the same kind of social force.

Malaysians from all ethnic groups have got enough of racist politics. Authoritarian rule is no longer agreeable to our young voters, and many have longed for a fairer and more open government, and this has given rise to a more liberal and vibrant society.

Just as the US president-elect has said, "This is not a white America, or a black, Latino or Asian America. There is only one America; that is the United States of America."

Malaysia's Constitution does not impose racial or religious restrictions on the prime minister's post, but the country has always been run by Malay Muslim leaders of its biggest political party since independence from Britain in 1957.

"Can a Chinese, Indian (or a member of another minority) become prime minister?" senior opposition figure Lim Kit Siang wrote on his blog.

"There will be strong voices ... who would rise up to say 'no.'"

"Who is going against the Merdeka Constitution and the social contract reached by the forefathers of the major communities to achieve national independence half a century ago?"

"Why is Malaysian race relations and nation-building going backwards in the past 50 years as compared to the historic breakthrough in race relations in the United States with Obama’s historic victory in the US presidential elections?"

Barack Obama’s overwhelming win in the U.S. presidential race proves that the United States is really a democratic and peaceful nation. It is an historic achievement that symbolizes the end of racial prejudice.

The family tree: Dr Konrad Ng, Maya, Howard and Joan posing for a picture. Maya, who is Obama’s half sister, is married to Ng whose parents originally came from Sabah.

More importantly, Obama has links to Malaysia.

He has an Indonesian half-sister.

This sister is married to a Malaysian Chinese, Konrad Ng.

Not too long ago: Watching an Independence Day parade in the US four years ago were (from left) Michelle Obama, her daughter Sasha, Obama, Malia, Maya, Ng, and their daughter Suhalia. - AP

Let's wait and see if Obama visits Malaysia one day.

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