31 January, 2009

No action against Ahmad Ismail !

Malaysia, truly Asia Absurd!

Datuk Ahmad Ismail, the man who put race relations on a knife’s edge with his comments about Chinese in Malaysia in August last year, will remain a free man — for the time being.

The police have wrapped up investigations into a sedition charge against him but thanks to the intervention of senior party leaders, the veteran Penang Umno politician is not likely to see the inside of the courtroom anytime soon.

Remember the Sin Chew reporter Tan Hoon Cheng,the person who first reported on Ahmad Ismail's racial remarks, was subjected to ISA though she did not commit anything seditious ?

Why spare Ahmad? He who started all is suspended from holding any positions in Umno for three years only, and the one who just did her job as reporter detained under ISA ? How about the one who said the reporter should be shoot?

Umno sources told The Malaysian Insider that several delegations of party officials from Penang made representations to the Umno leadership on behalf of Ahmad over the past week, arguing that he has already paid a severe price for calling Chinese “immigrants’’ and “squatters’’ during a political rally in the run-up to the Permatang Pauh by-election.

His supporters also pointed out that charging him in court would merely re-ignite debate on race and religious issues and further complicate relations between component parties in Barisan Nasional.

Party officials were also concerned on the impact action against Ahmad could have on the fluid political situation in Umno.

“There is still a concern that some state assemblymen and MPs may be considering jumping over to the opposition. Ahmad Ismail is a popular figure in Umno. He may be vilified outside the party but among party members, there is a great deal of respect for standing up for Malay rights,” said a party official.


30 January, 2009

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL OPEN LETTER to the Government of Malaysia , Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand.



Date 29 January 2009

AI Index: ASA 01/001/2009

To the governments of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand

Your Excellencies,

We write to you to raise our serious concern about the plight of the Rohingyas, a Muslim minority from Rakhine State, western Myanmar. Thousands of Rohingyas have fled in recent months on boats sailing for Thailand and Malaysia, and hundreds are missing, feared drowned. Their situation has reached a critical stage over the last two months, as the Thai military have forcibly expelled approximately 1,000 Rohingyas arriving in southwest Thailand by boat, while the Indian and Indonesian authorities have rescued hundreds of them.

In order to address this crisis, Amnesty International makes the following recommendations to the governments of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand as a matter of urgency:

Myanmar must immediately stop the systematic persecution of the Rohingya minority, which is the root cause of the crisis;

  • All governments should provide immediate access to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to all Rohingyas in their territory;
  • All governments should ratify the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
  • All governments should meet their obligations under the law of the sea and provide assistance to those in distress at sea, including search and rescue service;

With lives still at risk, Amnesty International reminds regional governments of their specific obligations under the law of the sea which are applicable to situations of migrants found or intercepted at sea. In addition to the UN International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR), both the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), to which Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Myanmar, Thailand and India are parties, include obligations to provide assistance to those found in distress at sea. These obligations exist concurrently to human rights obligations.

Specifically, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) obliges state parties to require the master of a ship flying its flag to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost and rescue persons in distress. The obligation to provide assistance applies regardless of the nationality, status or circumstances of the individuals. Moreover, all coastal states are obliged to establish and maintain search and rescue services for this purpose, including through regional cooperation arrangements.

Ensuring the safety and dignity of those rescued and of the crew must be the immediate consideration in determining where individuals rescued at sea are taken. Under international law, the state responsible for the search and rescue region in which survivors were recovered is responsible for providing a place of safety or ensuring that such a place of safety is provided. However, each state must ensure that individuals are not returned or transferred to a place where they may be at risk of serious human rights violations. Where individuals may be seeking or be in need of international protection, the rescuing state must transfer them to territory where access to a fair and satisfactory asylum process with full procedural safeguards is guaranteed.

Amnesty International calls on regional governments to cooperate in providing follow-up care for Rohingya survivors, deliver persons rescued at sea promptly to a place of safety, and ensure that they have access to a fair and satisfactory asylum process to assess their protection needs.

Amnesty International welcomes Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's stated commitment to convene a regional forum on the Rohingyas. Flows of Rohingyas from Myanmar to neighbouring countries present an enormous challenge which can only be addressed regionally. Any regional solution must ensure that those Rohingyas who have a well-founded fear of persecution in Myanmar are not returned there, and that those found not to be in need of protection are returned in a humane manner. Specifically, the Thai government must stop forcibly expelling Rohingyas and provide them with immediate humanitarian assistance and cease any plans to proceed with more expulsions, as has been credibly reported. Hundreds of Rohingyas are missing or have died after the Thai security forces set them adrift in unseaworthy boats with little or no food and water. Some of the Rohingyas reported being beaten by the Thai security forces, which the Thai government has categorically denied. On 29 January Indonesia announced it was still determining the fate of almost 200 Rohingyas and Bangladeshis, who had landed in Weh Island, Aceh province on 7 January. The Indian navy have rescued hundreds of Rohingyas on or near the Andaman Islands.

Amnesty International is encouraged by reports on 27 January that Prime Minister Abhisit invited UNHCR to participate in the proposed regional forum. This move is crucial given that the Thai authorities have not yet granted UNHCR access to all Rohingyas held in detention, so that their protection needs can be assessed. Most notably, UNHCR had requested access to a group of 126 Rohingyas reportedly detained by the Thai authorities. According to subsequent reports, the group may have been collectively expelled by the Thai military on 23 January. Amnesty International urges the governments of India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand not to return these individuals, to grant UNHCR immediate access to the Rohingyas in their countries in order to determine their protection needs, and to ensure that no one who would face serious human rights violations in any country be returned there.

It is only through a regional initiative, involving Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, and with the participation of UNHCR, that a durable solution can be found to the plight of the Rohingyas. For the last three decades hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled systematic persecution to neighbouring countries in Asia, the vast majority to Bangladesh. Moreover, within Myanmar, the Rohingyas suffer from specific deeply discriminatory policies targeting them. They are denied citizenship and are thus effectively stateless. Rohingyas who are returned to Myanmar continue to be at serious risk of human rights violations, including forced labour, forced eviction, land confiscation, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement. Such violations have had a severe impact on the group's livelihood and food security. It is imperative that the Myanmar authorities immediately stop subjecting the Rohingyas to these violations and change discriminatory policies aimed at denying them their fundamental rights. Until these root causes are addressed by the Myanmar government, Rohingyas will continue to flee to neighbouring countries.

Until the human rights situation in Myanmar improves, Rohingyas and others facing persecution in Myanmar will continue to flee their homes and seek safety elsewhere. In this context, Amnesty International also urges the governments of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand to ratify the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, and the UN Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons. Ratification of these Conventions will provide a suitable legal framework for a consistent, coherent regional approach necessary to address this growing problem.

We thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent matter.

Yours very truly,

Sam Zarifi

Asia-Pacific Director

Amnesty International

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29 January, 2009

Mahathir blasts Israeli terror.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad strongly backed the Saudi call for a probe into Israeli war crimes, and said that the UN must set up a war crimes tribunal against Tel Aviv to investigate what he called the genocide of innocent Palestinians. Speaking to Arab News yesterday, Mahathir said he supported the Arab peace initiative of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

“King Abdullah’s peace plan is a good initiative, but we are dealing with certain countries — especially Israel — that do not care about world opinion and peace,” he said. “So any effort to establish peace and to bring the warring parties together will fail, but that does not mean that there should not be any effort to resolve the issues.” Mahathir said that a Malaysian NGO is working to set up a tribunal to try, expose and punish several world leaders, especially the Israeli leadership, for their acts of terrorism.

“The Malaysian tribunal, for which we are now trying to find judges from different countries, will pronounce punitive judgment which may not be carried out because the culprits are high-profile world leaders,” said Mahathir.

He said the Malaysia-based tribunal would be able to try a number of leaders including those from Britain and the US.

“These Israeli, American and British leaders, including former US President George Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will be tried in absentia for their war crimes because we cannot get them and we cannot even carry out any punishment that will be handed down to them. But, it will have much more moral value as the world will recognize that these people are war criminals.” Asked how the Muslim countries can force international agencies to launch an investigation into Israeli crimes, he said: “Many governments don’t want to get involved because it affects their relationships not only with Israel but also with other Western nations.”

He blamed the US for backing Israeli aggression against innocent Gazans, saying it makes the US a bigger culprit than Israel. Speaking about the changes in the American policy with Barack Obama at the helm, he cautiously welcomed the closure of Guantanamo prison and said: “It remains to be seen how effective these steps would be.”

Asked about his call to stop buying American goods, he said that: “It is symbolic because we cannot have a total boycott.” In Malaysia, he said, we are even buying more arms and ammunitions from Russia than the US now. He said if many nations boycott American weapons, no matter how good they are, the US would feel the pinch.

Referring to the nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, Mahathir said: “The US and Russia each have 1,000 nuclear warheads ... they want to be deterrent to the whole world and so they will destroy the nuclear capabilities of any country that comes forward.”

He questioned the logic behind letting some countries go scot-free on the issue, and asking some to roll back their nuclear programs. “Israel has 200 nuclear warheads, why this discrimination...why so?”

Talking about the US dollar, he said: “We encourage to stop using the US dollar as a trading currency, and if you are using the US dollar, that means you are financing America to kill Muslims.”


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28 January, 2009

Kugan laid to rest, questions linger.

Suspected car thief A. Kugan was laid to rest at 5:20pm Wednesday at the Batu 14 cemetery here, more than a week after his death while in police custody had created a controversy.

He was buried in the presence of family members and hundreds of supporters and well-wishers.

The 22-year-old was laid to rest after his hearse and thousands of mourners travelled 20km through hot sun and driving rain from the University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) to the USJ8 police station where he died before finally making its way to the cemetery.

The Selangor government has undertaken the costs of the funeral on "humanitarian grounds", Kapar MP S. Manickavasagam said, adding he had thanked Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim for the gesture.

During the funeral procession, thousands of mourners who accompanied his grieving family and several lawmakers had shouted "Polis Pembunuh" and "We want Justice" with some unfurling banners that said "Polis Pembunuh Berlesen".

It was a day in which emotions were on edge. The drama started in the vicinity of the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) in Petaling Jaya when the Field Reserve Unit (FRU) and the Light Strike Force were deployed, creating a massive jam at about 9:30am.

The units were placed there in anticipation of a large crowd for the procession that would begin at the UMMC mortuary where Kugan’s body was being kept, Petaling Jaya police chief Asst Comm Arjunaidi Mohamed said.

By 11am, that expected large crowd had materialised, even before Kugan’s family arrived at about noon.

Five men were arrested, the first two at about 12:15pm for trying to get through a barricade at the mortuary despite orders to disperse.

These arrests came after Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid had made an announcement asking the crowd disperse.

“They have been taken to the Brickfields police headquarters for questioning,” ACP Wan Abdul Bari said.

Kugan, an insurance claims executive, was arrested on Jan 14 for allegedly being involved in a luxury car-theft ring. He died on Jan 20 after drinking some water, police claimed. An initial autopsy said he died of "fluid in the lungs".

But the Attorney-General's Chambers has classified the case as murder after an outcry by the family and lawmakers, and a second autopsy over the weekend found external injuries and phlegm in his lungs.

The family and authorities are waiting for detailed toxicological and tissue tests in the final autopsy report.

Critics have said Kugan's death is the latest in custody deaths in Malaysia, mostly among Indians detained by police.

In 2007, then Internal Security Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had stated there were 106 deaths in custody between 2000 and 2006. No updated statistics have been issued since then.

Lawyer N Surendan disagreed that it was a racial issue, saying it affected all Malaysians. "Deaths in detention happen to all races," he said.

Eleven police personnel from the USJ8 Taipan police station have been transferred to desk duties pending the outcome of the investigations. A special police team from the Bukit Aman federal headquarters is probing the case and authorities expect to make charges within a week.

Kugan's uncle, Ravi Roy, 42, had earlier told the media said that the family was not blaming the police force for Kugan’s death, but was merely seeking the truth.

“We are not blaming the entire police force, all we want is for the people who are responsible to be brought to justice,” he said at the Bandar Kinrara home here of Kugan’s parents on Monday.

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26 January, 2009


GONG XI FA CAI: HAPPY 牛 YEAR 2009 To All ... wishing all my readers a happy year of the ox, have a good year ahead.....

Year 2009 is a Chinese Brown Earth (Soil) Cow Year.

Why did the Chinese name the year 2009 as the Brown Earth Cow Year? Chinese calendar used the Stem-Branch system to count the days, months and years. There are 10 Stems and 12 Branches in this system. Stems are named by the Yin-Yang and Five Elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth). The Stem sequence order is Yang Wood, Yin Wood, Yang Fire, Yin Fire, Yang Earth, Yin Earth, Yang Metal, Yin Metal, Yang Water and Yin Water. Branches use the animal names.

The Branch sequence order is Rat, Cow, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Chicken, Dog and Pig. Stem and Branch are used together to form a cycle of 60 counting systems which begin with Wooden Rat and end with Water Pig.

The Year 2009 (Brown Cow) is the 4706th Chinese year. The Chinese believe that the first king of China was the Yellow King (he was not the first emperor of China). The Yellow King became king in 2697 B.C., therefore China will enter the 4706th year on February 4th, 2009. Also, the Chinese Year uses the cycle of 60 Stem-Branch counting systems and the Brown Cow is the 26th Stem-Branch in the cycle. Since 4705 = (60 *78) + 26, therefore this Brown Cow Year is the 4706th Chinese Year.



22 January, 2009

Hamas and Its Discontents

By Rod Nordland | Newsweek Web Exclusive

Charges and counter charges about who's responsible for civilian deaths in Gaza.

It was 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 17, in a complex of apartment buildings at the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, and Israel had just declared it would impose a unilateral ceasefire to begin at 2 a.m. The incessant sorties of Israeli jet bombers stopped almost immediately, but then suddenly there was a terrific whoosh, louder even than a bomb explosion. It was another of Hamas's homemade Qassam rockets being launched into Israel—and the mobile launchpad was smack in the middle of the four buildings, where every apartment was full, most of them with newly made refugees.

On this occasion, fortunately, there was no Israeli retaliation. At places all over Gaza, however, Palestinian civilians have not been so lucky. Israel blames Hamas for using housing areas, hospitals, schools and mosques to launch attacks into Israel or against its soldiers, provoking defensive counter-fire that it says is responsible for most of the civilian casualties. Hamas retorts that Israel was using indiscriminate force with complete disregard for civilians in the way, especially in its efforts to assassinate Hamas leaders. There are plenty of examples to support both their contentions.

In eastern Jabaliya, just north of Gaza City, an entire neighborhood—at least 50 homes—had been bombed by the Israelis, then occupied with tank units, and then methodically demolished house-by-house, some of them with bulldozers, others with high explosives. In several hours of interviews, every one of the residents interviewed in eastern Jabaliya insisted that there had been no provocation from the area, no resistance fighters, and no rocket launchings. "They are punishing us because they can't reach the resistance to punish them," said Majdi Qatari, a lawyer whose home was one of those destroyed, leaving 13 people homeless. Near him, Najah Abd Rabo shook her head and said Israeli actions were beyond comprehension. "They were claiming there are tunnels under here," she said. Hamas fighters use tunnels, often short ones that are little more than bunkers, to pop out and launch attacks and then get back in, hiding from Israel's ubiquitous surveillance drones, reemerging in a house or backyard as an unarmed civilian. "There aren't any tunnels around here, we are not resistance," she said. Yet not more than 20 feet away from Najah, there was just such a tunnel, which Israeli troops had unearthed. Right in the middle of the road, it had a convincingly camouflaged roof that matched the rest of the road. Inside it was shored up with timbers and concrete.

Down the road from the non-existent tunnel was Khalid Abd Rabo, who claimed that Israeli troops fired on his daughters and mother as they left his home under a white flag, killing Suad, 9, and Amal, 2, and gravely wounding Samer, 4, who has since been evacuated to Belgium for treatment. "The children died before my eyes," he said. "Four days later they came back and destroyed the house." Khalid, who had been a policeman with the anti-Hamas Fatah party, said the Israeli troops fired at them from only 22 yards away. His mother was wounded; he could not explain why they spared him. Surrounded by neighbors, he had no criticism of Hamas, but later on one of his relatives took a journalist aside and said that Hamas's actions had brought retaliation on such communities, while accomplishing nothing militarily. "We blame Israel but we also blame Hamas, because Hamas was not able to defend the people," he said, asking that his name not be used for fear of reprisal by Hamas militants.

Hamas officials accuse the Israelis of reflexively blaming them for provoking attacks, and even when they are retaliating, using excessive force. "I don't understand how Palestinians would use other Palestinians as a human shield," said Ahmed Yousef, Hamas's deputy foreign minister. "They consider all Palestinians collateral damage."

The most notorious of attacks killing civilians was the bombing of a UNRWA-run school, Faqhourah School, which was being used to house people newly homeless from the fighting. Forty-three persons were killed in the attack, and some of them lay dying while troops denied them medical assistance. At least two other UNRWA schools were hit by Israeli bombs. UNRWA head John Ging said the Israeli excuse that the schools were being used as firing positions against them is implausible. "These people had already fled the fighting, some of them lost everything they had. Do you think they'd tolerate someone setting up positions there?" In addition, he said, UNRWA staff strictly controlled access to the schools and would not have allowed armed men in.

Isreali Defense Forces spokesperson Avital Leibovich, head of the IDF's foreign-press branch, counters that the military has documentary evidence including aerial surveillance tapes of the northern part of Gaza City "in which you can see schools next to [Hamas] training camps, launching sites in or near schools or from the streets themselves …When fire is opened at us and soldiers are in a life or death situation, we protect ourselves and Hamas is accountable for casualties if it chooses to put a launching site near schools and hospitals." She also gave NEWSWEEK a copy of what she said was a Hamas map which paratroopers recovered during ground operations inside Gaza. "It shows how a neighborhood was taken and divided into three war zones. Hamas centers were scattered over the neighborhood including a gas depot with explosive charges … On the map, you can see the Football Association and Technical School are surrounded by 45 Hamas positions, from which Hamas fired."

Many Gazans have no problem with the idea of Hamas attacking Israelis, but complain that they made a disappointing job of it this time. Only 10 Israeli soldiers were killed in the three-week-long operation, compared to more than 200 dead Hamas fighters, according to independent Palestinian figures. And thousands of rockets fired into southern Israel killed just three civilians there. "There's nothing in Gaza but buildings," said a former Fatah military commander, who gave the name Mahmoud Barbakh. "No fighter can fight except in the streets, we can't fight Israel in the open." Yet Hamas did precious little fighting, he said, while ticking off half a dozen cases of Fatah militants who were deliberately shot in the legs by Hamas during the Israeli war, some for violations of Hamas orders putting them under house arrest.

One of the most notorious incidents during the war was the Jan. 15 shelling of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society buildings in the downtown Tal-al Hawa part of Gaza City, followed by a shell hitting their Al Quds Hospital next door; the subsequent fire forced all 500 patients to be evacuated. Asked if there were any militants firing from the hospital or the Red Crescent buildings, hospital director general Dr. Khalid Judah chose his words carefully. "I am not able to say if anyone was using the PRCS buildings [the two Palestine Red Crescent Society buildings adjacent to the hospital], but I know for a fact that no one was using the hospital." In the Tal-al Hawa neighborhood nearby, however, Talal Safadi, an official in the leftist Palestinian People's Party, said that resistance fighters were firing from positions all around the hospital. He shrugged that off, having a bigger beef with Hamas. "They failed to win the battle." Or as his fellow PPP official, Walid al Awad, put it: "It was a mistake to give Israel the excuse to come in."

Perhaps a doctor at Shifa Hospital summed it up best. "Hamas doesn't care about anything," he said, "and the Israelis will kill anyone to get to Hamas." Today Hamas threw a victory parade. A few hundred young men with green flags marched through the middle of Gaza City, one of them riding on a cart at the head of the procession and holding aloft a chunk of metal, purportedly from an Israeli tank. No one lined the streets to cheer them on. No one poured out from his or her home to join the parade. Most Hamas critics in Gaza are afraid to openly say what they think, but sometimes actions (or the absence of them) speak louder than words.

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21 January, 2009

Israelis, Palestinians hand Obama first challenge

Israelis and Palestinians have already handed President Barack Obama his first international challenge.

In Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, people are waiting with cynicism, suspicion and hope to see how the new U.S. leader handles the issue.

Obama's inauguration became the lead story in Israeli media, which had been dominated by coverage of the Gaza offensive that began with a massive air bombardment on Dec. 27.

The front page of Yediot Ahronot, Israel's biggest daily newspaper, featured the smiling Obama and his wife over an English headline: "Good luck."

Seemingly timing its withdrawal to Tuesday's inauguration, Israel had already pulled most of its troops out of the ravaged Gaza Strip after a deadly three-week offensive aimed at halting years of militant rocket fire. But the crisis is not over, with reports of shooting along the Israel-Gaza border, and with Israeli soldiers poised to resume the assault if Gaza militants break a fragile cease-fire.

Gazans continue to pull their dead from the rubble. Across the region, rage at Israel has grown with a Palestinian death toll that Gaza health officials and the U.N. say has inched over 1,300, at least half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis were also killed during the offensive.

Palestinians largely see the U.S. as tilted unfairly toward Israel, and many remain pessimistic about the new administration.

"I'm sure that it's going to be the same. I never get any hope from the American side that they will give any peace for the Palestinians," said Mohammed Jabri, a physician in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The West Bank, led by President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, together with the Hamas-run Gaza is supposed to one day make up a Palestinian state.

Some of Obama's views, like his stated willingness to talk to Iran, have suggested to some that U.S. policy could shift, as have more ephemeral differences like his family's ties to Islam and his race.

Others have pointed to his expressions of support for Israel and the strong Israel backers — chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and Hillary Clinton for secretary of state, for example — he chose for key jobs in his administration.

Obama promised to be involved in Middle East peacemaking "from day one," and he might have to deliver. Strong U.S. prodding will be necessary for a long-term arrangement to keep the peace in and around Gaza and to move Israelis and Palestinians closer to a peace agreement.

The internationally backed agreements hammered out over the past week to end the fighting in Gaza remain vague, their crucial details apparently unresolved. Though Israel says it delivered a military drubbing, Hamas — which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization — is still in control of Gaza, has claimed victory and could emerge stronger.

Hedva Bar-Yohai, a 22-year-old supermarket employee in the southern Israeli town of Sderot, a favorite target for rockets from Gaza militants, said Obama would be jumping head first into the "sick bed" of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"He's getting a pretty shabby inheritance," she said.

Unofficially, Israel's government has been concerned that Obama might take a more detached approach, especially in comparison to the unyielding support the country received from his predecessor. But the country was enthusiastically following the lead-up to the inauguration.

"We, in our little corner, in the Middle East, in Israel, are tensely waiting to see whether you will continue the tradition of American presidents of recent generations and will view us as allies, as your forward aircraft carrier in this bloody part of the world," read an editorial in Yediot Ahronot.

Some in the Gaza Strip hope Obama will be more supportive of the Palestinians. "We hope his arrival will bring good for our people. We are optimistic and we hope that he could show sympathy toward us, more than others," said Hani Saad, 58, a tailor in Gaza City.

In Ramallah, Palestinian political analyst Ghassan Khatib said Obama would certainly be an improvement.

"The current administration has been so damaging to the Middle East, things cannot be any worse," he said. "You can't exaggerate expectations, but the little things will make a difference."

Both sides might have to wait before the new president can deal with their problems.

Obama faces more pressing issues and is likely hoping that the tentative Gaza cease-fire struck over the weekend will hold and give his administration some breathing room, said David Ricci, a political scientist at Hebrew University and an expert on U.S. politics.

"The American economy is on his mind, and I'm sure he thinks that if we in the Middle East have lived with this for 60 years we can handle it for a little while longer," he said.


Full text of Obama's inauguration speech

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America’s decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labour, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter’s courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent’s willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

( Source )


20 January, 2009

Martin Luther King’s Anti-Imperialism and the Challenge for Obama

The Martin Luther King, Jr. that most Americans know is the man who said, "I have a dream" at a massive rally 250,000 strong in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, while standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

That speech is about racial justice and ultimate reconciliation in the United States, and with the changes wrought in American law and practice by the Civil Rights movement, it is a speech that Americans can still feel hopeful about, even if we have not, as Dr. King would have said, "gotten there yet."

But there was another King, the critic of the whole history of European colonialism in the global South, who celebrated the independence movements that led to decolonization in the decades after World War II.

The anti-imperial King is the exact opposite of the Neoconservatives who set US policy in the early twenty-first century.

Barack Obama, who inherits King’s Civil Rights legacy and is also burdened with the neo-imperialism of the W. era, has some crucial choices to make about whether he will heed the other King, or whether he will get roped into the previous administration’s neocolonial project simply because it is the status quo from which he will begin his tenure as commander in chief.

The US so neglects its educational system that relatively few Americans are exposed to world history in school. Few of them know that roughly from 1757 to 1971 the great European powers systematically subjugated most of the peoples of the world. tiny Britain ruled gargantuan India, along with Burma (Myanmar), what is now Malaysia, Australia, some part of China, and large swaths of Africa (Egypt, Sudan, Gambia, Rhodesia/ Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Ghana, etc., etc.) The colonial system was one of brutal exploitation of "natives" by Europeans, who derived economic, strategic and political benefits from this domination.

Dr. King frankly saw this imperial system as unadulterated evil. In his "The Birth of a New Nation," a sermon delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama on 7 April 1957, King, just back from Africa, lays out his vision of the liberation of the oppressed from the failing empires.

He begins by celebrating the independence of Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast) on March 6, 1957, and praising the man who led his country to sovereignty, Kwame Nkrumah. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, had traveled to Ghana to attend the independence ceremonies. He saw the victory of Ghana over the British imperialists as exemplifying a yearning in human beings in all times and places for liberty: "Men realize that freedom is something basic, and to rob a man of his freedom is to take from him the essential basis of his manhood. To take from him his freedom is to rob him of something of God’s image."

The state of being colonized, of being under the thumb of another nation, another people, is from King’s point of view an existential disfigurement, robbing human beings of their status as theomorphic or created in the image of the divine.

King recalled the ceremonials that he had witnessed with his own eyes on African soil:

'’ The thing that impressed me more than anything else that night was the fact that when Nkrumah walked in, and his other ministers who had been in prison with him, they didn’t come in with the crowns and all of the garments of kings, but they walked in with prison caps and the coats that they had lived with for all of the months that they had been in prison . . . at twelve o’clock that night we saw a little flag coming down, and another flag went up. The old Union Jack flag came down, and the new flag of Ghana went up. This was a new nation now, a new nation being born. . . And when Prime Minister Nkrumah stood up before his people out in the polo ground and said, "We are no longer a British colony. We are a free, sovereign people," all over that vast throng of people we could see tears. And I stood there thinking about so many things. Before I knew it, I started weeping. I was crying for joy. And I knew about all of the struggles, and all of the pain, and all of the agony that these people had gone through for this moment.
After Nkrumah had made that final speech, it was about twelve-thirty now. And we walked away. And we could hear little children six years old and old people eighty and ninety years old walking the streets of Accra crying, "Freedom! Freedom!" They couldn’t say it in the sense that we’d say it-many of them don’t speak English too well-but they had their accents and it could ring out, "Free-doom!" They were crying it in a sense that they had never heard it before, and I could hear that old Negro spiritual once more crying out:

Free at last! Free at last!

Great God Almighty, I’m free at last!’

It was as he stood in the square at Accra after midnight on the first day of the independence of a former African colony that he remembered those lines, to which he referred again in his "I have a Dream" speech some six years later at the Lincoln Memorial. For King, Kwame Nkrumah was the Great Emancipator as much as Lincoln, and the achievement of civil rights for African Americans was a sort of decolonization, replicating the miracle of Ghana.

King recalled, in his 1957 sermon, how the new parliament was opened on a Wednesday and "here Nkrumah made his new speech. And now the prime minister of the Gold Coast with no superior, with all of the power that MacMillan of England has, with all of the power that Nehru of India has-now a free nation, now the prime minister of a sovereign nation." That phrase, "with no superior" was central to King’s thinking, both about decolonization and about civil rights in the US. Colonized Ghanaians had had a superior in the form of the British high commissioner, who set policy for them by fiat. African-Americans under Jim Crow had a superior. But Nkrumah, as of March 6, "had no superior."

King took away from his experience in Africa the lesson that social mobilization was necessary to gain freedom. It would not be gifted from on high, since colonial officials had no interest in abolishing their own power. But King also said he admired Nkrumah’s deployment of Gandhian techniques of nonviolent noncooperation to win independence.

He said he learned from the experience of Ghana that the quest for liberation would always be resisted, and that freedom workers should expect to go to jail, and to face fierce oppostion. He recalled of his return journey through London,

'’ remember we passed by Ten Downing Street. That’s the place where the prime minister of England lives. And I remember that a few years ago a man lived there by the name of Winston Churchill. One day he stood up before the world and said, "I did not become his Majesty’s First Minister to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire."

And I thought about the fact that a few weeks ago a man by the name of Anthony Eden [then British Prime Minister] lived there. And out of all of his knowledge of the Middle East, he decided to rise up and march his armies with the forces of Israel and France into Egypt, and there they confronted their doom, because they were revolting against world opinion. Egypt, a little country; Egypt, a country with no military power. They could have easily defeated Egypt, but they did not realize that they were fighting more than Egypt. They were attacking world opinion; they were fighting the whole Asian-African bloc, which is the bloc that now thinks and moves and determines the course of the history of the world.’

King was referring to the Suez War of 1956, in which Israel, the United Kingdom and France conspired against Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had nationalized the Suez Canal that July. France feared Abdel Nasser because he gave hope and aid to the Algerian revolutionaries trying to end France’s empire there. Eden caricatured Abdel Nasser as a Mussolini figure needing to be taken down a notch lest the colonized countries get uppity in imitation of him. Israel, always expansionist and land hungry, sought to take and keep the Sinai Peninsula right up to the Suez Canal.

Although King attributed the failure of the tripartite plot to the "Afro-Asian bloc," it was actually President Dwight D. Eisenhower who intervened to push the three miscreants back out of Egypt. Ike was afraid that the Arab nationalists would go Communist if the colonial powers and Israel insisted on humiliating them or refusing to let go of Arab land under foreign occupation. Eisenhower pressured Israel to give up the Sinai, which it did sullenly.

It should be remembered that in 1956-57, Britain, France and many in the US viewed Egyptian leader Abdel Nasser as a fascist, a tyrant, a supporter of terrorism who encouraged Palestinians in Gaza to attack Israel. King was not taken in by the propaganda, which covered for neo-imperial acquisitiveness on the part of the aggressors.

We celebrate today the birth of a man who supported anticolonial trouble-makers such as Nkrumah and Abdel Nasser against the global forces of empire. I think we may deduce from this stance exactly how he would feel about Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s war on the people of Gaza.

King saw attaining civil rights in the US and decolonization in Africa and Asia as parallel processes. It could be argued that Nkrumah’s victory in 1957 was among the events that gave African-Americans hope in the Deep South.

Barack Obama told an anecdote about his father that reversed this causality. At the Brown Chapel A.M.E. church in Selma, Alabama, in March, 2007, 50 years after King saw Nkrumah become the ruler of a sovereign African country, Obama told the congregation:

You see, my Grandfather was a cook to the British in Kenya. Grew up in a small village and all his life, that’s all he was — a cook and a house boy. And that’s what they called him, even when he was 60 years old. They called him a house boy. They wouldn’t call him by his last name.
Sound familiar?

He had to carry a passbook around because Africans in their own land, in their own country, at that time, because it was a British colony, could not move about freely. They could only go where they were told to go. They could only work where they were told to work.

Yet something happened back here in Selma, Alabama. Something happened in Birmingham that sent out what Bobby Kennedy called, “Ripples of hope all around the world.” Something happened when a bunch of women decided they were going to walk instead of ride the bus after a long day of doing somebody else’s laundry, looking after somebody else’s children. When men who had PhD’s decided that’s enough and we’re going to stand up for our dignity. That sent a shout across oceans so that my grandfather began to imagine something different for his son. His son, who grew up herding goats in a small village in Africa could suddenly set his sights a little higher and believe that maybe a black man in this world had a chance.

What happened in Selma, Alabama and Birmingham also stirred the conscience of the nation. It worried folks in the White House who said, “You know, we’re battling Communism. How are we going to win hearts and minds all across the world? If right here in our own country, John, we’re not observing the ideals set fort in our Constitution, we might be accused of being hypocrites. So the Kennedy’s decided we’re going to do an air lift. We’re going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is.

This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country. He met this woman whose great great-great-great-grandfather had owned slaves; but she had a good idea there was some craziness going on because they looked at each other and they decided that we know that the world as it has been it might not be possible for us to get together and have a child. There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don’t tell me I don’t have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don’t tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama.’

Obama’s speech was also about the blessed estate of having "no superior," of not being a colonial subject, of not being called "boy" by one’s alleged social and racial "superiors."

Obama’s speech was an anticolonial one, which reversed the causation implicit in King’s description of the independence celebration in Ghana. Barack Obama, Sr., was the recipient of a scholarship from the Kennedy administration that was offered in part under the influence of the US Civil Rights Movement.

The Neoconservatives, like Winston Churchill himself as long as he lived, never gave up the imperial dream. They approved of the 1956 attack on Egypt by Israel, France and Britain. They approved of Western dominance of the countries of the global South. And Bush and his think tanks wanted to revive empire, to pretend it was 1920, and that the common people lacked the skills to mobilize to stop their project of domination.

Obama’s plan to order the beginning of a withdrawal from Iraq on day one of his administration is consistent with the anticolonialism of the King tradition and of Obama’s own autobiography.

But the dark clouds over the Obama administration are Afghanistan and Palestine. What Obama accomplishes on those two issues will powerfully shape his presidency. Only if he can avoid perpetuating colonial abuses in both can he hope to claim the mantle of anticolonialism from King and from his own father. For the Bush administration assiduously robbed other human beings of their status as images of the divine, and the US will not be whole until Afghans and Palestinians can say in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at Last, Free at Last, Great God Almighty, I’m Free at Last."

- Source: myjoyonline.com

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18 January, 2009

A horrible blow for Datuk Seri Najib Razak

Malaysia’s opposition Islamist party won a fiercely contested by-election on Saturday in a vote that was cast as a referendum on incoming prime minister Najib Razak.

The prime minister-in-waiting has now lost two by-elections in less than five months.

Both the by-election results saw higher majority votes for the federal opposition.

Najib, who will take office in March after the incumbent decided to step down early under pressure, had declared this seat a ”must win” ahead of polls for top party jobs in his United Malays National Organisation, the main government party.

The vote was seen as a test of Malay Muslims, UMNO’s core support, who account for 88 percent of voters here, well above the national average of 60 per cent, and some of whom have shifted support to PAS, which wants an Islamic state.

The result in Kuala Terengganu came with the National Front still reeling after big losses in the March 2008 general election and after Anwar, who was once deputy prime minister until his imprisonment on sodomy charges in the late 1990s, was returned to parliament with a huge majority in August last year.

Najib did his best for his beloved Barisan Nasional in the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election. Yet the voters in the BN stronghold decided to vote for Umno's arch enemy Pas.

He made many promises, granted many projects and offered a lot of goodies, and yet the voters rejected BN.

Is this a bad omen or merely another "minor" setback for the deputy prime minister who has a tough task ahead of him to take over from Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi this March?

Throughout the 11-day campaign period, Najib had worked diligently to ensure victory for BN candidate Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Salleh. According to journalists covering the by-election, he was one of the hardest working campaigners for the federal ruling coalition.

If it was not his fault, would BN leaders blame the voters? It may not be a smart idea to do so. After all, Terengganu voters were among those who helped BN increased its votes in the state when the political tsunami hit the country on March 8 last year.

What does the result mean for Umno and BN?

This dreaded question — is Umno still relevant — will continue to haunt its leaders. Since Abdullah is set to leave the political arena, Najib has to inherit all the misgivings and wrong perception brought about by his soon-to-be predecessor.

If Umno persists in blaming others in its post-mortem of the by-election, it would simply mean it does not want to address the root cause of the problem; and would further damage the image of the party.

Worse still, Umno will continue to lose its battle against perception of elitism, ignoring the people and too concerned with its own personal interests.

Yet in a more negative way, it can also push certain party leaders — particularly those entering the race for party posts in March — to be more insular and parochial in their racial approach to win the hearts and minds of their own supporters.

This could mean a more divided Malaysia. Unless the Pakatan Rakyat is willing to step in to provide a real alternative.


17 January, 2009

P 36 Kuala Trengganu By Election - a test of the Malaysian government's popularity ?

Latest: PAS Wins Kuala Terengganu By-Election

PAS candidate Mohd Abdul Wahid Endut today won the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary seat by-election with a majority of 2,631 votes.

Prime Minister-in-waiting Najib said that the defeat in Kuala Terengganu should not be interpreted as the voters having spurned Barisan Nasional.

While Najib conceded that this was a setback for the ruling coalition, he nevertheless played down the importance of the by-election.

"We accept this defeat. This is the decision of the people. In a democratic system, the people's voice is supreme," he said.

"I am confident that in the end the people will be confident of BN," he added.

"We will continue with our commitment to serve people even better, to bring them to a greater and higher level of success."

He denied that the poll was a vote of no confidence on his leadership.

- Malaysiakini

Malaysiakini SMS News Alert:

" KT by election - BN IS LESDING PAS slightly in early count.As at 7 pm, both key candidates are at neck-and-neck .

Following the political tsunami in March, which propelled a disparate opposition alliance to power in five of 13 Malaysian states, voters in the capital of oil-rich Terengganu state will determine if an 'east coast monsoon' will drive the alliance closer to national power.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is leading the ruling Barisan Nasional's campaign, is seeking to use by-election to hammer home his credentials as prime minister-in-waiting.

The by-election is also being seen as a symbolic barometer as to whether Malaysians are willing to shed ideological differences in a longer-term bid to break the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front or BN) coalition's stranglehold on power.

The ballot for a vacant parliamentary seat in Kuala Terengganu, the capital of Terengganu state, pits the ruling coalition against the conservative Islamic party PAS, a member of the three-party opposition alliance.

Both sides have much to win and lose, with the Barisan Nasional coalition under pressure to show it has clawed back support since disastrous general elections when it lost a third of its parliamentary seats and five states.

A win for the Pakatan Rakyat opposition would provide momentum that has flagged since the March 2008 national polls and show it is working effectively despite claims the alliance of three very different parties is under strain.

"The whole process has been quite satisfactory. We are quite optimistic as of now," said PAS deputy president Nasaruddin Mat Isa, citing positive results from its exit polls.

"As of now we are optimistic,"

A senior official in UMNO which leads the Barisan Nasional said one of the four constituencies in the Kuala Terengganu electorate had fallen to PAS.

"I'm quite happy with the support shown by the Malay and Chinese voters," PAS candidate Mohammad Abdul Wahid Endut said as he stood alongside his wife and five of his nine children.

"Whether it turns into votes is another matter. I leave the outcome of this election to the voters and to Allah," he said.

Barisan Nasional candidate Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh also said he was confident voters would back him.

"I have faith in the voters, I know they will vote intelligently. They will vote for continuity, they will vote for BN," he said.

The alternative front has accused the ruling coalition of resorting to bribing voters to vote in the Barisan Nasional candidate.

Several newsmen in town to cover the Kuala Terengganu by-election were surprised to receive a mystery “angpow”, several days before the Chinese New Year.

White, unmarked envelopes containing RM300 in cash were handed out to some 10 to 13 reporters and photographers this afternoon, while they were working inside the government-provided media centre at Jalan Pejabat, across the road from the state government offices.


16 January, 2009

M'sian election official quits !

A TOP Malaysian election official has quit after the opposition made allegations of government dirty tricks including vote-buying and coercion in a hotly contested by-election.

Mat Razali Mat Kassim, the mayor of Kuala Terengganu, whom the Election Commission had appointed to oversee Saturday's by-election, had been accused of pressuring civil servants to vote for the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Commission chairman Abdul Aziz Mohammad Yusof confirmed Mat Razali had quit late Thursday and said he had been under investigation, but declined to reveal the outcome of the probe.

'He has denied any wrongdoing but since he himself decided to resign, we have discussed it and we regretfully accepted his resignation,' he told a press conference.

The Islamic party PAS, which is fielding a candidate in the by-election on behalf of three three-member opposition alliance, had accused Mat Razali of abusing his position.

'On January 14, Mat Razali gathered about 593 voters in Kuala Terengganu comprising of civil servants and council workers,' PAS deputy state commissioner Wan Abdullah Muttalib Embong told a press conference.

'He told them that whoever does not vote Barisan Nasional is a traitor and whoever does not support Barisan Nasional can 'meet me and quit their jobs'.'

Deputy premier Najib Razak, who is leading the government's campaign in the by-election, welcomed the resignation.

'We don't want anyone to make allegations. We are afraid that if Barisan Nasional wins, (the opposition) will raise this as an issue. It's better that we solve this earlier with him withdrawing,' he told state media.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Thursday accused the government of buying votes for 300-400 ringgit (S$127-S$164) from Muslim Malays, who make up the majority of the electorate.

Opinion polls say that the Malay vote is split, and that the minority Chinese community, which makes up 11 percent of the population in the Kuala Terengganu electorate, is leaning towards the opposition.

Mr Wan Abdullah said the opposition is also now fearful of 'phantom votes' being cast by police who have been deployed in huge numbers in the capital of Terengganu state ahead of the vote.

'This is what we are worried about, there are so many policemen, some say there are about 7,000 to 10,000 of them,' he said, adding that many had been touring the city and playing beach football instead of manning their posts.

- The Straits Times

Malaysian by-election provides a crucial test of political strength

Malaysians are casting their eyes northwards this weekend to see where the political winds are blowing.

A by-election is being held in the seat of Kuala Terengganu which sits on Malaysia's north east coast. It's being seen as a test for both the government and the newly strengthened opposition, led by former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Will the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition overcome the drubbing from last year's general election? Or will it pave the way for Mr Anwar to proceed with his much-anticipated grab for power?

Presenter: Karen Percy
Speakers: Raja Petra Kamaruddin, Malaysian blogger; Professor Shamsul A-B, National University Of Malaysia

PERCY: There are three candidates running in Saturday's poll, but political observers see this very much as a two way race.

On the government's side, there is one Wan Rahid Wan Saheed, a 46 year-old senator and minister in the Barisan Nasional Government whose seeking a house of representative seat to help bolster the government's numbers there and there's Abdul Wahed Endud, from the Pan Islamic Party, who currently sits on the Opposition benches in the state parliament. It's likely to be a neck-and-neck race, that is signficant for both sides.

(Raja Petra Kamaruddin is one of Malaysia's leading bloggers.)

KAMARUDDIN: The Opposition is out to prove that the political tsunami, that the shift is still there and the ruling party is out to prove that the opposition winning streak is gone and now the opposition is going to begin going downhill. So I think both sides have something to prove here.

PERCY: In last year's general election, the government Coalition led by the United Malay National Organisation endured its worst electoral performance in 50 years what some called a "political tsunami" saw the Coalition lose its two thirds majority in parliament and control of several states.

Since then the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has taken some of the blame and after internal pressure has agreed to step down in March and handover to his deputy, Najib Razak.

(Professor Shamsul AB is from the National University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.)

SHAMSUL: I think that the attention has been shifted from the prime minister and to the so-called problem to UMNO, but now have a new one that everybody wants to give a chance. So I think this is interesting this forced transition I think is very critical for Barisan, and I don't think they have addressed all the issues yet, so this is why people think the election can be a measure of Najib or the prime minister-to-be popularity or accepted or so on.

PERCY: Mr Najib has been campaigning hard in Kalatwinganu in the hopes of keeping the seat in government hands.

In last year's poll in March, the government candidate, who has since died, won by fewer than a thousand votes. Mr Najib is also trying to assert himself as leader.

While the state of Terengganu has prospered on the back of the oil and gas industry, many voters in Kuala Terengganu are still desperately poor and live in rural areas.

Polls reveal that ethnic Malays who make up 87 per cent of the voters are spilt between the two candidates. That means the seat will be decided by the 9,000 Chinese voters. They swung away from the government in the March election last year, but there's no guarantee they will vote the same way this time.

Four months has passed since Anwar Ibrahim's self-imposed deadline to take over the government. He maintains he has the 30 plus members of parliament needed to bolster his ranks, but he has yet to act.

(Professor Shasul AB is from the Malaysia's National University.)

SHAMSUL: He has numbers, but I think he has problems with his numbers, because they need a lot of Malay-Muslim candidates, because otherwise his Opposition Party government will be dominated by non-Malay, non-Muslim candidate and I think this doesn't go well with probably with the ruling elite and the ruling royalties in this country. So these are things that was not explained to the public, nor to the international media why he is still not making the move, because he keeps shifting it. Because I think he may have got the support, but not really the quality of the supporters he needed.

PERCY: Blogger. Raja Petra Kamaruddin, explains what the problems are.

KAMARUDDIN: There are mixed feelings about this. Many people feel it is unethical for Anwar to gain power through crossovers. They feel that if Anwar wants to form the Federal Government, he should do so in a proper general election and not on 30 members of parliament from the government crossing over. Then there are people who feel that why do we want to absorb government members of parliament, when all the government members of parliament are everything we are opposed to, you know corruption, you name it, you know. So here we are opposing them on principle, and yet we absorb them into our ranks. Wouldn't this be unprincipled? So again there are people who are against it. They feel it is immoral, it is unethical, but then there are people who feel that Anwar should gain power at all cost.

( Source )

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15 January, 2009

Altantuya case: Azilah says Najib's ADC instructed him to help Razak Baginda

Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri told the High Court that a higher ranking police officer DSP Musa Safri had asked him to help political analyst Abdul Razak Abdullah Baginda.

Musa gave him Razak's handphone number and told him to contact Razak to get details of the problem and the assistance he required, he said.

"DSP Musa told me that his friend, namely Encik Razak, had a problem because someone had threatened him.

"DSP Musa asked me to see Encik Razak to know more about Encik Razak's problem and introduced me to DSP Idris Abdul Kari

More than two years after the gruesome discovery of what remained of Altantuya Shaariibuu’s body in a forest just outside Kuala Lumpur, the High Court here finally began hearing testimony from one of the two police officers charged with the Mongolian’s murder in what has been one of the most politically charged trials ever in Malaysia.

Tantalising details emerged about how the two accused policemen got involved in the case on the instruction of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s aide-de-camp Musa Safri, including the emergence of a new character, identified as a “Chinese man,” in the saga which has gripped the nation.

The High Court also heard testimony regarding how a “Chinese woman,” presumed to be the deceased, and an unidentified and mysterious “Chinese man” were allegedly blackmailing Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of the DPM who was originally also charged for abetment in the murder.

These details emerged when Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri, one of the two men charged for Altantuya’s murder, took the stand this morning.

In his testimony, Azilah appeared to deny any involvement in the murder as he was not at the scene of the crime at the alleged time of the murder.

Azilah told the High Court that Musa had contacted him on Oct 17 2006.

The two met the next day where Musa asked him if he knew anyone in the Brickfields police station who could help Abdul Razak.

The Special Action Unit (UTK) officer replied that he knew one Deputy Superintendent Idris Karim who was the CID chief in the district.

Musa told him that Abdul Razak was being blackmailed and instructed him to meet Abdul Razak and introduce him to DSP Idris, according to Azilah’s testimony.

After contacting him through a phone number given to him by Musa, Azilah and Abdul Razak met the next day in the latter’s office.

During the meeting, Azilah testified, Abdul Razak told him that he was being blackmailed by a Chinese man and a Chinese woman.

Azilah said he was not told why Abdul Razak was being blackmailed and neither was he told the amount being demanded.

But Abdul Razak let Azilah listen to a voice message, allegedly from the “Chinese man.” In the message, the “Chinese man” said in Malay that “kasi pecah you punya muka,” which can be loosely translated as “I will smash your face.”

Azilah also testified that he heard another voice message in which a woman speaks in English, but he could not make out what she was saying.

Abdul Razak also told him that a “Chinese woman,” whom he identified as “Aminah” was “causing disturbances” in front of his Bukit Damansara home.

Azilah said he advised Abdul Razak to lodge a police report but the latter refused.

Abdul Razak then told him to advise the “Chinese man,” presumably against continuing with the blackmail.

Azilah was also told by Abdul Razak that the latter had hired a private investigator.

Azilah said he was given a piece of paper by Abdul Razak in which was written the address of Hotel Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and the room number 823.

However, Abduk Razak told him to go to room 512 and “advise Aminah.” The two men then concluded their meeting, Azilah said.

Azilah proceeded to call Sirul and the two arranged to meet in Central market, which is a stone’s throw from Hotel Malaya.

The two policemen then entered the hotel and went straight to 512. At this point, Azilah said he was confused with the different room numbers, and decided to leave the hotel without doing anything.

“I was afraid I might have the wrong room and be disrupting privacy,” he said.

After that, he said that he contacted DSP Idris to ask for help in arranging a patrol car to go to Abdul Razak’s house.

Idris agreed to help.

The next day, Oct 19, the night of the alleged murder, Azilah was contacted by ASP Azani Omar, and was told that he had been assigned to replace the latter as chief escort to Najib beginning the next day.

Azilah explained that this meant he would have to be on standby in Putrajaya that night.

Later, Abdul Razak contacted him to inform him that the “Chinese woman” was in front of his house with his private investigator.

Abdul Razak asked Azilah to go there to “advise” her.

Together with his then girlfriend Lance Corporal Rohaniza Roslan, he drove to Abdul Razak’s house.

He had also contacted Sirul who said he would meet him there.

At the scene, Azilah said he saw an Indian man and a Chinese woman standing next to a car.

After exchanging brief introductions with the Indian man, Azilah said he walked back to his car.

He then contacted Abdul Razak again, and the latter told him to send the woman back to the hotel.

By this time Sirul had also arrived at the scene.

As Azilah walked back towards the Indian man and the “Chinese woman,” they walked towards the policeman’s car. The woman voluntarily got into the vehicle, he testified.

“Nobody gave any orders,” Azilah replied when asked by his counsel Datuk Hazman Ahmad, if anyone had ordered her to get into the car.

He then drove off in the car with Rohaniza, Sirul and the “Chinese woman,” presumed to be Altantuya.

Sirul then asked to be dropped off at his jeep before the two vehicles convoyed towards Bukit Aman.

However, Rohaniza said that they could not drop the Chinese woman at her hotel as she needed to meet a friend in Petaling Jaya.

Azilah then called Sirul to ask if he could send the woman back and he agreed. They stopped the cars and moved the woman to Sirul’s jeep.

This was the last time Azilah mentioned the Chinese woman in his testimony.

After reaching Bukit Aman, Azilah then went to Wangsa Maju with his fiancee, Norazila Baharudin, to have char kuey teow.

It was 10.30pm at this point and Azilah claims that they spent 45 minutes eating.

By the time Azilah had returned to Bukit Aman, it was 12.20am.

He said that he then left with Rohaniza to Putrajaya to take up his assignment as Najib’s chief escort.

He added that when he arrived at the UTK transit house in Putrajaya, he saw another personnel in the living room and identified him as Che Kamarizaman.

Razak Baginda, was acquitted of murdering Mongolian Altantuya Sharibuu on Oct 31, 2008.