31 May, 2009

Najibism VS Mahathirism

The fear of this thing called Mahathirism that Tan Sri Muhyiddin had to assure the public that Najib's ascendancy to the Premiership would not bring back Mahathirism.

But, is the current government worse than the Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad administration in its response to dissent?

Consider the use, or rather abuse, of the police force to serve and protect the reputation of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Take into account how the police have used vague and controversial laws like sedition to arrest and charge nearly anyone who is unhappy, dissatisfied or critical of Najib.

Remember how it was decreed then by the authorities that the name of Altantuya Shaariibuu should not be mentioned by politicians while on the stump.

Step back and one could only come to one conclusion – that decision was to stop the further sullying of Najib’s reputation.

Be aware also of how the police came down hard on a campaign to mock Najib’s 1Malaysia slogan by having the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan literally declare black t-shirts illegal.

Contemplate too how Najib has played out the Perak crisis. While it started in February before he took over as PM, many Malaysians will remember how the three Pakatan Rakyat (PR) defectors were taken to Putrajaya to meet Najib, not Abdullah.

Consider then, that Dr Mahathir never ever presided over controversial and alleged disregard for the constitution by the judiciary until his seventh year in office after winning two general elections by crushing majorities.

Take into account, also, the fact that Dr Mahathir had also presided over mass arrests through the use of the Internal Security Act (ISA), but the fact remains that even then it could have been reasonably argued that there were serious racial and political tensions which merited the use of draconian preventive detention.

Be aware, too, of how Dr Mahathir was a man known for common sense who never went as far as to ban black t-shirts or prohibit the mention of certain names, which he would certainly have considered unnecessary.

Take heed of the fact that Dr Mahathir was always a fighter, that he would often take on critics head-on and argue his way to win the votes. It was not always about how he crushed dissent because Dr Mahathir recognised the importance of also winning the hearts and minds of voters.

Be mindful that Dr Mahathir, while loathe by many is probably equally loved by many too, just as he is respected and feared.

And he did not achieve all of that by having a police force that banned t-shirts of an unfavourable colour and prohibited names from being mentioned.

Consider too that Dr Mahathir was in power for 22 years.

It may be unfair to compare a man who has been in power for 22 years against one who has only been at the reins for 59 days.

But, so far, it is clear that Najib’s administration has not heralded the return of Mahathirism. So far, it is worse.

And, today is just Day 59 of the Najib era.

(Source:"On dissent, is Najib worse than Dr M?"

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29 May, 2009

Indonesian Navy Was Set To Fire on Warship

Surabaya. The Indonesian Navy has revealed that it was moments away from firing on a Malaysian warship that encroached deep into Indonesian territorial waters earlier this week, but called off the attack when the intruder retreated.

The latest incident highlights growing tensions in the disputed oil-rich waters of Ambalat in the border region between Malaysia and Indonesia in the Sulawesi Sea, with the Navy stating on Thursday that the Malaysian Navy and Marine Police had intruded into Indonesian waters at least nine times since the beginning of the year.

Lt. Col. Toni Syaiful, spokesman for the Navy’s Surabaya-based Eastern Fleet Command, said the Malaysian Fast Attack Craft Gun KD Yu-3508 vessel penetrated 12 nautical miles into Indonesian maritime territory at dawn on Monday, and called it the “worst incident” of its kind because Malaysian naval vessels previously only dared to intrude “several miles.”

Not only did the Malaysian warship penetrate far into Indonesian waters, but it had also ignored demands from the captain of the Indonesian KRI Untung Suropati-872 Parchim-class corvette to retreat, Toni said.

“[Despite] being warned twice, they just moved away several meters,” he said. “Eventually, the commander of KRI Untung Suropati, Capt. Salim, made the decision to assume combat readiness. Only then did the Malaysians decide to flee.”

Indonesian Navy Chief Adm. Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said earlier this week that he did not intend to bolster forces in the region by adding to the six warships it already had patrolling the area.

However, Toni said on Thursday that seven of the fleet’s 30 warships were on alert. “The placement of seven battleships has been thought out carefully and it conforms with the Navy’s preemptive measures to secure the Ambalat territory.”

The Eastern Fleet Command estimated that the Malaysian Navy had as many as four warships in the area.

“The Malaysian Navy should inform their personnel that the Ambalat area is still in dispute. Thus, they should not provoke our sailors anymore,” Toni warned, adding that the patience of sailors in the area was wearing thin because of the incursions.

Indonesian Army Chief Gen. Djoko Santoso said Malaysian warships had often violated Indonesian territory in the disputed waters because both sides had solid legal ground for their claims over the Ambalat area.

“So the disputed borders between the two countries in Ambalat should be resolved immediately,” Djoko said, adding that he hoped border negotiations could be settled soon so that the Indonesian military did not have to build up its forces in the area.

( Source:"Navy Was Set To Fire on Warship"- Jakarta Globe )

Read also from Unspun:" Indonesian Navy almost clashed with Malaysian counterpart?"

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28 May, 2009

Amnesty International Report 2009 - Malaysia

The government tightened control of dissent and curtailed the right to freedom of expression and religion. Bloggers were arrested under the Sedition Act, and the Printing Press and Publications Act (PPPA) was used to control newspaper content. Ten people were arbitrarily arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA). Security forces continued to use excessive force while the establishment of an independent police complaints misconduct commission was postponed. Immigration personnel and volunteers conducted mass arrests of migrant workers. At least 22 people were sentenced to death. The number executed was unknown.


During March elections, the opposition won control of five of Malaysia’s 13 states and 82 of the 222 parliamentary seats, ending the overwhelming majority held by the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition. In August, opposition leader and former ISA detainee Anwar Ibrahim was elected to Parliament.

Freedom of expression

Authorities suspended or threatened to cancel publishing permits under the PPPA, and arrested bloggers under the Sedition Act.

* In April, authorities suspended the publishing permit of Tamil daily Makkal Osai , allegedly for giving extensive coverage to the opposition coalition in the run-up to the elections.

* In May, authorities threatened to revoke the publishing licence of the Catholic newspaper The Herald for using the word “Allah” as a synonym for “God”.

* In September, blogger Syed Azidi Syed was arrested and detained for three days under the Sedition Act allegedly for posting an article that called on people to fly the Malaysian flag upside down as a protest against certain government policies.

* In May, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin was charged under the Sedition Act for an article in which he allegedly implied the involvement of the Deputy Prime Minister in the murder of a Mongolian woman. In September, he was arbitrarily arrested and detained under the ISA. Six days before his arrest, the Home Minister was quoted as saying that he could be arrested under the ISA for insulting Muslims and degrading Islam in articles that appeared on his website. The Home Minister issued a two-year detention order, which is renewable indefinitely. In November, after much public discussion, the High Court ruled that he be released.

Detention without trial

Ten people were arrested under the ISA in 2008. At year’s end, there were at least 50 ISA detainees, including 17 who had been detained for between four and eight years without charge or trial. Thirty-one detainees were known to have been released, including four Indonesian nationals who were deported.

* Mechanic Sanjeev Kumar, who became paralyzed and mentally unstable, allegedly as a result of torture while in detention, was released in September. At the end of the year he was under restricted residence orders.

* Five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force remained detained for organizing rallies against the marginalization of ethnic Indian Malaysians. In March, while in detention, Manoharan Malayalam was elected to the state assembly. In May, the Federal Court dismissed their appeal for habeas corpus saying that their arrest had been lawful. They have since appealed against the decision to the Federal Court. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience.

Excessive use of force

* In May, opposition MP Lim Lip Eng was beaten by security personnel believed to be from the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) after he attempted to mediate in a stand-off between police and residents in a road access dispute.

* In May, at least 10 uniformed men allegedly from the FRU forcibly dragged mechanic Chang Jium Haur from his car and beat him until he lost consciousness. To date, no one has been prosecuted for the incident.

Parliament postponed discussion on the Special Complaints Commission Bill, a proposal from government to monitor police misconduct that was highly criticized by local and international human rights groups.

Migrants’ rights, refugees and asylum-seekers

One third of Malaysia’s three million migrants remained at risk of arrest and deportation due to their irregular status, including unknown numbers who feared persecution if returned to their home country. The government makes no distinction between migrant workers and asylum-seekers and refugees. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees had registered 41,405 people of concern as of August, of whom 11,172 were children. Eighty-eight per cent were from Myanmar.

In March, the Prisons Department completed the handover of 11 immigration detention centres to the Immigration Department. The 480,000 untrained volunteers from the Relawan Ikatan Rakyat (Rela, People’s Volunteer Corps) took over management of the centres. Reports of serious abuses against detainees by Rela members increased.

* In April, a riot broke out in Lenggeng Immigration Detention Centre in protest against the severe beating of some detainees and the deplorable conditions in the immigration centre.

Rela members, who can make arrests without a warrant or assistance from police or immigration officers, failed to distinguish between asylum-seekers, refugees, stateless persons, and migrant workers during their immigration operations. In one operation in August, Rela arrested some 11,600 people, to find out after processing that only 500 did not have a regular immigration status.

In June, the Home Minister announced a crackdown that aimed to deport 200,000 irregular migrants, mainly Filipinos. Philippine government figures suggested that 35,000 had been deported as of August. Thousands more had been deported by the end of the year. The Philippines Human Rights Commission was investigating allegations of beatings and overcrowded conditions of detention during the operation.

Freedom of religion

The politicization of religion markedly increased in 2008. People continued to face barriers to conversion from Islam.

* In March, Muslim-born woman Kamariah Ali was sentenced by a Shari’a court to two years’ imprisonment for renouncing Islam.

* In August, a Bar Council forum into legal conflicts faced by Malaysian families if a spouse converts to Islam was forced to stop midway through the event by police and Islamist protesters because the protesters were threatening to forcibly enter the venue. No action was taken against the protesters.


Racial discrimination remained institutionalized in Malaysia, particularly in government-backed “affirmative action policies” for Bumiputeras (Malays and Indigenous Peoples from Sabah and Sarawak) in land ownership, employment and education, which in some cases resulted in the complete exclusion of other groups.

* There was a public outcry in August after a state official proposed that the University Teknologi Mara (UITM) allocate 10 per cent of university places to non-Malays. The university, home to 120,000 students, has been open only to Malays for the last five decades. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Higher Education rejected the proposal.

Death penalty

In January, the NGO Malaysians Against the Death Penalty estimated the number of inmates on death row to be as high as 300, mostly for drug offences. Amnesty International is aware of 22 people sentenced to death by the High Courts in 2008, while the number of those executed was unknown.

In December, Malaysia voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments

Caning continued to be used to punish many offences, including immigration offences.



27 May, 2009

The mystery of Aminah's motives

Aminah Abdullah's audio recording of an alleged attempt to bribe her, and she is truthful in saying she was offered the posts of Penang deputy chief minister 1, president of a local council, and reimbursement of her RM80,000 campaign expenses. Lim can be heard explicitly offering these options to Aminah and Rofi.

But at the same time, Cheah and Lim are also truthful in saying that they were talking as personal friends who have known each other for nearly a decade. In between plotting about politics, they joke, talk about Aminah's daughter's upcoming wedding, and as Cheah emphatically says to the press, "everything under the sun".

PKR's internal bickering

Nevertheless, after listening to the entire recording, what is also noteworthy is that the "bribing" is but one of many complex issues that have brought this, yet another PKR spat, to public attention.

For example, immediately after enjoying a home-cooked fish head curry lunch, Lim launches into some serious ribbing of Zahrain.

In minute 54 of the recording, Lim says, "I asked Zahrain jokingly — I heard you want Mansor to lose in Penanti. Zahrain was seriously shocked, and said (PKR's Penang government exco) Abdul Malik (Abul Kasim) is the one sabotaging Mansor!" Everyone has a good chuckle over this.

And hence, what has not been reported is that the more than three-hour conversation is also a lament by four grassroots party veterans about what has happened to the party. They talk about Zahrain's dictatorial tendencies and alleged corruption; about Zahrain's strong connections to Anwar; about Mansor's incompetence; about Malik's disgruntlement within the party; about party activities having gone quiet ever since Anwar was released from detention.

It is clear from the recording that the four are united by a common enemy — Zahrain. But as Cheah and Lim try to explain to Aminah, her quitting the party in 2007 has not helped dislodge Zahrain.

Several times during the party, Lim can be heard telling Aminah, "Lebih baik Kak Nah masuk balik parti, lawan dari dalam. (It's better for you to rejoin the party and change it from the inside.)"

But why should such internal politicking be more damning to PKR than any other party? This is, after all, not only politics, but politics at a time when the Malaysian political landscape is shifting very rapidly. PKR has gone from a party with merely one seat in Parliament in 2004, to the biggest parliamentary opposition, and the leading Pakatan Rakyat partner in the Selangor government.

Perhaps this is also what Cheah, Lim, Rofi and Aminah are trying to grapple with. Time and again, Aminah says, both in the recording and to the press, "PKR is not the same anymore. Gone are the days when we used to shout 'Reformasi' slogans and served the party selflessly."

The insinuation seems to be that the party has grown too quickly — old friends have become political rivals, and young upstarts have joined the party and displaced party elders, all under Anwar's gaze. And perhaps the four are also yearning for a return to Parti Keadilan Nasional (KeAdilan), not the new party that was borne out of a merger between KeAdilan and a faction of Parti Rakyat Malaysia.

The mystery of Aminah's motives

The question now is, why did Aminah need to betray the trust of her friends and expose them to the country the way she did? She tells The Nut Graph, "I know Cheah and Lim are my friends, but there are just too many rotten people in PKR and I am sick of the party."

So although the spat between Aminah and PKR is now degenerating into he-said-she-said kindergarten-speak, perhaps this episode is a blessing in disguise for PKR. As the party contemplates how it is going to grow and be a democratic alternative to the Barisan Nasional (BN), it would be useful for the party to take stock of how it has evolved so far. As Lim says in the recording, "I don't want the party to be another Umno."

And whether or not Aminah is "sponsored" by the BN or ex- or even current PKR elements, the party still needs to reflect on why she was driven to do what she did. She was there when the party was born, and it is clear she gave her heart and soul to it. It is also clear that Cheah and Lim have the party's best interests at heart. And yet it has come to this.

It would be too convenient for PKR to deflect all responsibility and blame towards the BN. It would be more constructive, though, for PKR to genuinely reflect on whether its internal democratic processes and mechanisms are strong and functioning.

( Source:"Lunch, lies and an audio tape" by Shanon Shah )


26 May, 2009

Fasting is an offence in Malaysia !!

Nineteen people, including an MP and seven Perak assemblyman, were arrested over a planned hunger strike they organised in Wisma DAP near Jalan Istana here.

The seven assemblymen are former state assembly speaker V.Sivakumar (Tronoh) , Leong Mee Meng (Jalong), Chan Ming Kai, (Simpang Pulai) Thomas Su (Pasir Pinji), Keshvinder Singh (Malim Nawar), Lim Pek Har (Menglembu), Chang Leh Kang (Teja) and Ipoh Barat MP M. Kulasegaran.

The remaining 12 people arrested are DAP workers and staff members of an events management company hired to organise the event which was a call for the dissolution of the state assemby.

Sungkai assemblyman and former state exco member A. Sivanesan. who was in the Ipoh police headquarters seeking to meet the detainees in his capacity as a lawyer expressed disappointment.

"The police have denied those detained of legal representation by disallowing lawyers to meet them. They are yet to be remanded and we want them released.

"The whole detention is wrongful, it is a breach of freedom and rights. Do we need a police permit even for a hunger strike. This is a sign of great fear by Barisan Nasional (BN). The more they do this, the more we will too," he said.

So when has fasting become an offence? – P. Ramakrishnan

MAY 26 — Aliran is terribly perturbed by the increasing role the police are assuming which is perceived to be undemocratic and very unfair. They have intervened whenever peaceful activities such as candlelight vigils are organised by civil society groups.

These activities have not threatened the security of the nation neither have they caused any traffic congestion. And yet, participants have been dispersed and arrested in a regrettable manner, causing pain and anguish for concerned citizens who mean well for this nation.

Recently, the police have become so intolerant that they have intruded with impunity into the harmless individual actions of Malaysians. According to the Taiping MP Nga Kor Ming, “put up tent cannot, gather cannot, wear black cannot, hold candles cannot, drink teh tarik also cannot”.

Indeed, the police action has only accentuated the political problem and added tremendously to the Barisan Nasional’s (BN) headache. It is unfortunate that the police are viewed negatively and no longer come across as a ‘people-friendly’ force.

It is of utmost importance that civil society must have some space to articulate and demonstrate their grievances to make known to the authorities what their complaints are. In all civilised and civil societies, this democratic space is accessible and even recognised as a matter of right.

This is why we are disturbed that the police deployed so much manpower and equipment to disrupt the fast that was scheduled to be launched today.

According to The Malaysian Insider, “a total of 40 policemen, two jeeps, four police cars, two vans and seven trucks were seen in the area”. Most people will view this as a waste of police resources when the rate of serious crimes is escalating and requires urgent attention. The police should be tackling this serious problem instead of harassing ordinary Malaysians.

It is also unfortunate that people are beginning to view the police as taking sides in the clash of wills between the BN and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

People are wondering whether the BN is putting pressure on the police, making it difficult for them to be neutral and to concentrate on their primary task of maintaining law and order. It would be more than a pity if Malaysians become disillusioned with the police.

The prime minister must ensure that as long as the peace is not breached and law and order is respected, the democratic space, which is a fundamental right, must be guaranteed to all Malaysians.

The PM should allow harmless activities, like fasting, to take place. The BN leadership must take note that the political turmoil resulting from the illegal takeover of the legitimate government of the people is unlikely to abate. If anything, it will continue to escalate to the detriment of our young nation.

The only way to overcome the Perak crisis is to dissolve the Perak State Assembly and to hold fresh elections so that the people of Perak can choose their government they want to administer their state. Anything short of a state-wide re-election is travesty of democracy.

* P Ramakrishnan is president of Aliran.



25 May, 2009

Prostitution is a recession-proof business ?!

Booming sex sector requires no stimulus package

While most industrialists can be seen craving for more and more stimulus packages amid the ongoing recession, solicited sex in Malaysia is one sector that seems far from going into a tailspin.

Sources in the local prostitution scene say that solicited sex is going through a boom.

They have revealed that they raked in more than RM3.2 billion last year, which is just the earnings of sex workers, not including those of pimps and other spin-offs.

Statistics from the international non-governmental organisation, Coalition Against the Trafficking of Women, suggest that there are about 150,000 prostitutes working in Malaysia, with over 10,000 in the Klang Valley.

According to information from the women rescued by local women's aid NGO Tenaganita, a prostitute usually works a seven-day week, charging RM150 an hour.

"Serving an average of eight clients a day, she ends up making RM1,200 daily and possibly RM36,000 a month," the New Strait Times quoted Aegile Fernandez, anti-human trafficking coordinator of the NGO who has had experience making women escape the sex industry for more than 20 years, as saying.

"But that is just full-time sex workers who enter the trade willingly. If the girls are forced into the trade via human trafficking, she gets nothing except a traumatic experience," Aegile added.

The syndicate running the brothels is said to usually have up to 100 girls under them, meaning that they could rake in about RM120,000 a day and a whopping RM3.6 million a month.

Information from pimps operating in the country suggests that Malaysia has hundreds of such syndicates, each operating several brothels in their designated areas. Many brothels in Malaysia double as "health centres" offering massage services.

JJ, a pimp for more than 10 years, says that clients are willing to pay from RM60 to RM100 for an hour of massage, followed by an additional RM150 for sex.

"Prostitutes who double as massage ladies also get a fee from their handlers for massage services, usually about RM20 per customer," JJ says.

So, in addition to as much as RM36,000 monthly from sex alone, a prostitute can add on another RM9,000 for offering "half services", bringing her monthly untaxed income to a whopping RM45,000.

"Don't forget their RM200 a day wages for massaging an average of 10 customers. That's a legitimate RM5,200 a month or RM62,400 a year. They can choose to pay tax on that, but most don't," says JJ.

He has also revealed that each sex worker pays RM3,000 a month to pimps "as tax or rent for using our centres to do business and for protection from aggressive customers."

According to him, prostitution is a recession-proof business.

"Things didn't slow down for us during the 1997 Asian financial crisis or any of the recessions before that. Sex, like food, is a necessity," he said.

Source:"Booming Malay sex sector requires no stimulus package"


22 May, 2009

Perak crisis deepens with court ruling against opposition

You can fool some of the people all of the time,
and all of the people some of the time,
but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

- Abraham Lincoln

MB Vs MB, the farce continues .....

A political and constitutional crisis that has crippled a Malaysian state for almost four months showed no sign of ending when the appeal court ruled in favour of a government takeover of the state.

The judgement put an end to the opposition's short-lived victory when the High Court decided earlier this month that the ruling National Front government had unlawfully ousted opposition Chief Minister Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin of the northern state of Perak in a controversial takeover in February.

The High Court earlier this month ruled that the power grab by the Barisan Nasional coalition, which rules nationally, was illegal and that Nizar was the rightful ruler.

However, the appeals court overturned the decision, and confirmed that the Barisan Nasional - which has sworn in a new chief minister and parliamentary speaker for Perak - remained in power.

"From the facts of the case, it is clear that the respondent (Nizar) has ceased to command the confidence of the majority in the state assembly," said Judge Mohamad Rauf Sharif.

The opposition, which has been pushing for fresh elections to resolve the impasse in Perak, said it would appeal the ruling.

"The public is not going to accept this," said opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang at the court. "There is no way but to go back to the people to end the political stalemate."

Hafarizan Harun, legal adviser for the ruling party UMNO which leads the coalition, said the decision was a "positive development" which made debate over fresh elections irrelevant.

Malaysia's top legal body, the Bar Council, has warned against a lengthy legal process and said that only new elections would resolve the impasse.

Many politicians have called for fresh elections as the answer to the problem, warning that both the opposition and government stand to lose in the continuing battle.

'Najib cannot win in the court of public opinion,' said Lim Kit Siang.

'All it means is that the restoration of national and international confidence in the independence, impartiality and integrity of the judiciary is still a long distance away.'


21 May, 2009

Sexual-Harassment Cases Plague U.N.

The Wall Street Journal.

The United Nations, which aspires to protect human rights around the world, is struggling to deal with an embarrassing string of sexual-harassment complaints within its own ranks.

Many U.N. workers who have made or faced accusations of sexual harassment say the current system for handling complaints is arbitrary, unfair and mired in bureaucracy. One employee's complaint that she was sexually harassed for years by her supervisor in Gaza, for example, was investigated by one of her boss's colleagues, who cleared him.

Cases can take years to adjudicate. Accusers have no access to investigative reports. Several women who complained of harassment say their employment contracts weren't renewed, and the men they accused retired or resigned, putting them out of reach of the U.N. justice system.

"No matter which way the cases go, they mishandle it," says George G. Irving, a former U.N. attorney who now represents clients on both sides of such cases.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has acknowledged that the system is troubled. "I fully share your concerns regarding sexual harassment and sex discrimination," he wrote in February to Equality Now, a women's rights group that had complained to him. "This scourge remains a high priority issue for me."

On July 1, the U.N. plans to make changes to its internal justice system for handling all employee disputes, including harassment complaints.

Yasmeen Hassan, an Equality Now attorney and former U.N. employee who met with Mr. Ban in December to discuss the issue, says she has "no faith" that the new system will be better, in part because complainants apparently still won't have access to investigative reports to help them with appeals.

The Wall Street Journal examined the U.N.'s handling of five sexual-harassment cases, reviewing hundreds of pages of confidential U.N. documents and interviewing U.N. employees who brought the complaints, supervisors they accused, the lawyers involved and U.N. officials.

It is impossible to know whether sexual harassment is a bigger problem at the U.N., whose global staff numbers about 60,000, than at other large multinational organizations. Officials in the secretary-general's office say they don't know how many sexual-harassment cases are filed at the world body because each U.N. entity tracks cases separately, and confidentially. The secretariat, the U.N.'s main administrative body, says it handles between five and eight cases a year. But those figures include only cases referred to its human-resources department for possible disciplinary action, not complaints that have been dismissed.

A spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund, or Unicef, said it has handled 15 complaints since 2004. Five alleged perpetrators in those cases have been dismissed, and two others were issued lifetime employment bans from Unicef because they resigned during investigations. Disciplinary proceedings are being initiated against another accused staffer.

In one important respect, the U.N. handles such problems differently than other large organizations, such as multinational corporations. Many U.N. managers have diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution or civil litigation. Except when the U.N. lifts immunity, its internal justice system is the only one workers can turn to.

Bewildering System

The current system, which dates back to 1946, has a bewildering array of investigative channels and appeals processes. Many of the 10 U.N. agencies, programs and funds have their own investigative systems. A multilayered appellate process includes "joint appeals" boards that can review departmental decisions. The U.N. Administrative Tribunal is the final authority.

The system gives the secretary-general the authority to rule on appeals. Confidential U.N. records in two cases show that Mr. Ban rejected the recommendations of an appeals board and ruled against the women who brought those cases. A spokesman for Mr. Ban declined to discuss any specific cases. Under the new system, the secretary-general no longer will play a major role in the process.

Last year, Mr. Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister who became secretary-general in 2007, issued a bulletin stating that "any form of discrimination, harassment, including sexual harassment, and abuse of authority is prohibited." A spokeswoman for the secretary-general said in a statement that the U.N. has "zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace. And we take seriously every single case."

In 2002, Joumana Al-Mahayni, a Syrian, was working as a secretary to Yusuf Mansur, then chief of the Kuwait office of the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP, the U.N.'s global development network.

The following year, U.N. records show, she filed a complaint alleging that Mr. Mansur had made sexual advances, including grabbing and kissing her hands while saying "my darling, my darling" -- then refused to renew her contract when she didn't respond to his advances.

In an interview, Mr. Mansur, who now lives in Jordan, denied the allegations, calling them "baloney."

'Unnecessary Touching'

U.N. documents state that the UNDP's investigative report found evidence that Mr. Mansur had subjected Ms. Al-Mahayni to "physical assault," "verbal abuse," "unnecessary touching," "patting," "constant brushing against a person's body" and "pressure for sexual activities." The coordinator of the UNDP's investigative panel asked its human-resources director, Brian Gleeson, to take "appropriate action" against Mr. Mansur. In April 2004, 10 days after the investigative report was filed, Mr. Mansur resigned, U.N. records show.

Mr. Gleeson later told Ms. Al-Mahayni, in an email reviewed by the Journal, that the internal probe "vindicated your allegations and directly contributed" to Mr. Mansur resigning. Mr. Gleeson wrote that he "possibly" could have refused the resignation and pursued disciplinary action, "but advice from legal sources and past practice strongly suggested that it is better to get the person out of the office and the system asap" and avoid litigation. He also stated that "no further action can be taken after a staff member resigns." Mr. Gleeson declined to comment.

Mr. Mansur says he resigned because he was "disgusted" with the U.N., including its handling of the case. "The way the system deals with it, you become accused right away, the person becomes a monster right away," he says. He says he provided evidence that he wasn't in Kuwait when some of the alleged incidents occurred. "I should have hired a lawyer and sued back," he says.

Ms. Al-Mahayni requested compensation for being harassed and losing her job. UNDP rejected the request, saying, in part, that her contract had simply expired. She appealed. In April 2006, the U.N. Joint Appeals Board found that she had "no legal expectancy" that her employment contract would be renewed. But it unanimously recommended that she be awarded $10,000. Kofi Annan, then U.N. secretary-general, accepted the recommendation.

Ms. Al-Mahayni appealed the decision before the U.N. Administrative Tribunal. She argued the compensation was inadequate and she shouldn't have lost her UNDP job. She also requested reimbursement of $8,000 in legal expenses. On Jan. 30, 2009 -- more than five years after she first filed her complaint -- the tribunal rejected her appeal "in its entirety," arguing that the $10,000 award was "adequate in view of the harm caused to her."

Ms. Al-Mahayni, who in November 2006 got a job with the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations in Sudan, didn't respond to a request for comment.

In a written statement, the UNDP said it regretted that Ms. Al-Mahayni's supervisor "was allowed to resign before disciplinary action could be initiated."

U.N. records detail other cases in which internal probes supported women's claims of sexual harassment, but the employees they accused went unpunished.

A French woman who worked as a legal officer in Gaza for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East shared records from a case she initiated.

According to the records, in November 2004 she complained that she was sexually harassed by Lionel Brisson, then director of operations for the Palestine Refugees unit. She alleged Mr. Brisson had used binoculars to spy on her while she was in her Gaza apartment, and repeatedly made sexually explicit comments and groped her buttocks, according to a subsequent report by the U.N.'s main investigative unit, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS.

'Completely Ridiculous'

In a telephone interview, Mr. Brisson denied the allegations, calling them "completely ridiculous." He said he had tried to help the French woman advance her career, and "this is the kind of thanks you get."

At first, a probe by the Palestine Refugees agency cleared Mr. Brisson. An agency official says the man in charge of the investigation, the agency's health director, was a "colleague" of Mr. Brisson, and was assigned to investigate because he headed the agency's human-resources committee.

The French woman had also complained directly to the OIOS, which began its own investigation. Mr. Brisson reached his mandatory retirement age and left in December 2005, before that probe was complete. One month later, his accuser's employment contract ran out and wasn't renewed.

In February 2006, the OIOS reported that the evidence "tends to support a finding" that the complainant was sexually harassed. If Mr. Brisson "was still with the Organization," the report said, "we would recommend counseling."

Mr. Brisson, who is French, said the U.N. had rejected his requests for a copy of the OIOS report, and he hadn't seen it until one was provided to him by the Journal. He called its conclusions "very vague" and noted that it didn't recommend any disciplinary action. He said he had pressed the OIOS to investigate because "I wanted to clear my name."

In February 2008, Mr. Ban weighed in on the dispute. The French woman had appealed her case to the U.N. Joint Appeals Board, seeking an equivalent job and compensatory pay. It had urged Mr. Ban to allow her to pursue her case elsewhere in the U.N. system "to ensure both fairness and impartiality." Mr. Ban's office rejected that recommendation, saying that the secretary-general had no "competence" over the Palestine Refugee agency's internal justice system. Her appeal there is pending.

In another case, Fatima Moussa, a U.N. translator in Lebanon, had accused a U.N. security officer of raping her. A probe by the U.N. commission where she worked did not substantiate her allegations. She appealed, and calls the investigation a "travesty." The appellate board unanimously recommended that Mr. Ban extend her employment contract until her appeal was heard. On July 15, 2008, Mr. Ban rejected the board's recommendation and Ms. Moussa's contract expired. U.N. records show that Mr. Ban didn't accept the board's findings that Ms. Moussa would suffer "irreparable injury." The man she accused now works for the U.N. in Darfur.

Impetus for Change

Much of the impetus for the U.N.'s effort to change the way it handles sexual-harassment cases stems from a 2004 case. An OIOS investigation concluded that Ruud Lubbers, then head of the U.N.'s main refugee agency and the former prime minister of the Netherlands, had sexually harassed Cynthia Brzak, a longtime American staffer. The probe found that Mr. Lubbers engaged "in serious acts of misconduct" of a "sexual nature."

Mr. Annan, then secretary-general, didn't accept an OIOS recommendation that Mr. Lubbers be disciplined. He said at the time that the findings could not be sustained. Mr. Lubbers, who has consistently denied any wrongdoing, resigned in 2005. He couldn't be reached for comment.

Ms. Brzak said she faced retaliation, including threats to abolish her position. She filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan seeking damages from the U.N., Mr. Lubbers and others. Last year, a federal judge ruled that U.N. officials had diplomatic immunity, and dismissed the case. Ms. Brzak has appealed.

Diplomatic immunity also factored in a more recent case at Unicef in India. In October 2006, Archana Pandey, an assistant communications officer in New Delhi, accused Cecilio Adorna, then Unicef's top officer in India, of sexual harassment. She alleged he threatened not to renew her contract, which was due to expire at year end, if she didn't grant him sexual favors, according to U.N. records and Ms. Pandey, in an interview. She said she suffered an emotional breakdown and had to take sick leave. Mr. Adorna denied all the allegations. That December, Ms. Pandey's Unicef contract wasn't renewed.

Unicef investigated. On Jan. 16, 2007, the agency's top personnel officer sent her a letter stating that its probe failed to find "clear and convincing evidence" to support her claims. The letter, which was reviewed by the Journal, accused her of misrepresentation, and said "if you were still a staff member, Unicef could consider taking disciplinary actions against you."

U.N. records also show that the same Unicef personnel officer sent Mr. Adorna a written reprimand that same day. That letter, which was also reviewed by the Journal, stated that while nearly all the allegations couldn't be supported, the inquiry found that he "at times touched female staff in a manner they considered inappropriate" and had a tendency to tell jokes or make comments with sexual connotations.

"The Investigation Committee itself witnessed one of such comments during your interview when you stated that you would not have invited anybody for romantic drinks in your hotel room, because you 'can't do sex without food first,' " the letter said. "Such a comment is highly inappropriate, particularly in light of the fact that you were being interviewed on sexual harassment allegations." The letter threatened Mr. Adorna with disciplinary action for "any further misconduct."

In a written statement to the Journal, Mr. Adorna said Unicef later wrote to him stating that it couldn't find "clear and convincing evidence" to support Ms. Pandey's allegations. He said the Unicef letter also said: "Insufficient evidence does not necessarily mean that the allegations were found to be false." He accused Unicef of "negligence" for failing to defend him.

In 2007, Ms. Pandey, who is Indian, filed a criminal complaint with the New Delhi police that accused Mr. Adorna, a Filipino, of attempted rape, among other allegations, according to Indian court filings. The police declined to take action because U.N. employees have diplomatic immunity. She has continued to press her case in Indian courts. She also filed an appeal within the U.N. system.

In December 2008, the U.N. appeals board, while not addressing the sexual-harassment allegations, found that Unicef had "let go" Ms. Pandey "wrongfully" and "illegally" while she was on sick leave. It recommended that the secretary-general award her two years' pay, plus interest, or $76,800. In March, Secretary-General Ban accepted the recommendation.

Mr. Adorna retired from Unicef last month. He has filed an appeal with the U.N. seeking, among other things, a public statement of exoneration and monetary damages. He accuses Unicef of making him "its sacrificial lamb" and urging him to resign.

Unicef declined to comment on Mr. Adorna's appeal or his allegations.

Source:"Sexual-Harassment Cases Plague U.N."


20 May, 2009

Six days to Free Aung San Suu Kyi !

Burma's democracy leader and Nobel Peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been locked up on new trumped up charges, just days before her 13 years of detention was due to expire. She and thousands of fellow monks and students have been imprisoned for bravely challenging the brutal military regime with peaceful calls for democracy.

Risking danger to speak out for their jailed friends, Burmese activists are demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners and calling on the world to help. We have just six days to get a flood of petition signatures to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon calling on him to make their release a top priority -- he can make this a condition of any renewed international engagement. Follow the link to sign the petition, and forward this message to friends to ensure Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners are freed. Burmese activists will present the global petition to the media on May 26th:


On May 14th, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested and sent to jail, charged in connection with an American man who allegedly sneaked uninvited into the compound where she is being held in Yangon. The charges are absurd -- it is the Burmese military, now accusing her of breach of house arrest, that are responsible for the security of the compound. It is a pretext to keep her detained until after elections which are set for 2010.

The Burmese regime is renown for its vicious repression of any threat to full military control - thousands are in jail in inhumane conditions and denied any medical care, there are ongoing abuses of human rights, there is violent repression of ethnic groups, and over a million have been forced into refuge across the border.

Aung San Suu Kyi's is the greatest threat to the junta's hold on power. Her moral leadership of the democracy movement and the legacy of her landslide victory in 1990 elections means that she is the only figure who could face down the military in elections next year. She has been detained over and over again since 1988 -- under house arrest and allowed no contact with the outside world. But this scandalous new detention in the notorious Insein Prison without medical care could be very dangerous because she is seriously ill.

Sources say that the military regime is fearful of this unified and massive online call to the UN -- over 160 Burma exile and solidarity groups in 24 countries are participating in the campaign. And the Secretary General and key regional players that are looking to re-engage with the Burmese regime, can influence the fate of these prisoners. Last week Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said: 'Aung San Suu Kyi and all those that have a contribution to make to the future of their country must be free'. Let's overwhelm him with a global call to urgently act on his words and stop the arrests and brutality:


As with the release of Nelson Mandela from years of prison in South Africa, the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi from years of unjust detention, will bring a new beginning to Burma and hope for democracy. This week could be that historical time for change - let's stand united behind Suu Kyi and these brave men and women and demand their release now!


For more about Aung San Suu Kyi visit:


For more about the Global Free Political Prisoners Campaign visit:


A Letter from former Presidents for the release of political prisoners:


For the West and Asian countries reactions to Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest:


For the full statement from the UN Sectretary General on Aung San Suu Kyi's arrest:



Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.) Avaaz receives no money from governments or corporations, and is staffed by a global team based in Ottawa, London, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Buenos Aires, and Geneva.


19 May, 2009

Self-proclaimed Speaker of the Perak State Assembly R Ganesan's presence caused State Assembly ruckus ?

The claim by self-proclaimed Speaker of the Perak State Assembly, R Ganesan, that he had no choice but to summon the police into the House at the height of the ruckus during the May 7 sitting is dubious and deceiving (The Sunday Star, 17 May 2009). There is no merit in his claim.

In the first instance, his entry into and his very presence in the Assembly was questionable. How on earth did Ganesan get into the Assembly? The Assembly building was out of bounds to all except the elected members of the Assembly.

There was a police cordon to prevent all the others from entering the Assembly. A 500 metre no-access zone was declared, and anyone found anywhere near this perimeter was either chased away or was arrested when they resisted police orders.

Even Perak Members of Parliament were denied access to the Assembly. Veteran MP Lim Kit Siang was refused entry into the building despite coming with an invitation letter from the Speaker to attend the Assembly sitting.

Likewise, Kulasegaran and Dr Jeyakumar, both elected MPs from Perak, were turned away. That’s how strict the police were. They stringently enforced this ruling of refusing permission to all and sundry.

Smuggled in?

So the natural question is: How did Ganesan gain entry into the building. Who authorised his presence in the Perak State Assembly? How did he by-pass the police security arrangement? How did he hood-wink the police? How come the police did not detect him? Was he smuggled in? Was he planted in the building the previous day?

Is it possible that the police were working hand-in-glove with illegitimate MB Zambry and BN assembly members and facilitated Ganesan’s presence in the building?

Ganesan had no business to be inside the Assembly. One can safely conclude that his appearance and continued presence in the Assembly prompted and provoked a situation which went beyond control.

Secondly, contrary to his claim that he had no choice but to call in the police, if indeed he was the Speaker of the Assembly as he claims, he could have adjourned the Assembly sitting, following which he and his cohorts could have left the Assembly.

This simple action would have prevented the Assembly from becoming chaotic and unruly. Since he did not do this, it can be rightly construed that he had contributed to the topsy-turvy situation.

The illegitimate MB and the Barisan Nasional assembly members by smuggling in Ganesan had incited the unruly behaviour.

Illegally elected?

Thirdly, the way Ganeson was ‘elected’ Speaker was also questionable. According to Speaker V Sivakumar, the Assembly had not been convened. In other words, the Assembly was not in session.

Sivakumar had stated that he would not convene the Assembly as long as those ordered out of the House were still inside. That was his stated position. That being the case, how was Ganesan elected when the Assembly was not in session?

Could a group of BN assembly members get together privately in one corner of the Assembly building when the Speaker was still occupying his chair and elect someone else? We had a situation when an outsider appeared mysteriously in the building and he was elected Speaker when the Assembly has not officially convened.

This was not the only absurd situation we had on 7 May. On that day, we also seemed to have had two Speakers and two Menteris Besar at the same time in the same building!

The Standing Orders of the Assembly were thrown to the wind, and the proper procedures that had to be followed were totally ignored. And that was the reason why things turned ugly, unruly and chaotic on May 7.

A BN-Police conspiracy?

Ganesan further contributed to the chaos by ordering the police to forcibly evict Sivakumar from the Assembly. What were the police doing inside the Assembly? Ganesan did not send someone to invite the police to do his bidding. They were already there waiting for his orders. Isn’t that very strange!

By calling on the police to drag out the duly elected Speaker from the Assembly, Ganesan had defiled and desecrated the sanctity of the Assembly. It was an unforgivable sin that he had committed that must be roundly condemned. We should never introduce thuggish behaviour into the legislative assembly, where the rule of law should be paramount and should prevail at all times.

What transpired as a result of Ganesan’s conduct raises many serious questions. Why did the police obey him? How did they know he was the new speaker? Was there an announcement that Sivakumar was ousted?

Or was this part of a pre-prepared and pre-rehearsed script? The way things fell into place would indicate that there was a scheme to capture the Perak state government, if necessary, by force. The plot was hatched studiously and implemented without a care for the rule of law.

This is a dangerous precedent and it should not be tolerated. It must be condemned in the strongest terms. There must be retribution for this outrageous behaviour.

Perakians will remember this shameful episode in their proud history and they will punish all those who frustrated the democratic will of the people.

P Ramakrishnan


18 May 2009


18 May, 2009

BN NOT taking part in the "political game by the opposition".

Confirmed! BN not contesting Penanti - kiasu !!

Barisan Nasional will not field a candidate for the Penanti state by-election, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak announced.

The decision, so as to focus on public service and the national economy instead of taking part in a "political game by the opposition".

After a three-hour BN council meeting chaired by Najib yesterday afternoon, came as no surprise as Najib had recently said the coalition may not contest the by-election, the sixth after the general election, as it was "a waste of public funds".

"The vacancy was caused by Parti Keadilan Rakyat wanting to solve its internal problem, and it is a political game from the opposition.

"The BN would want to focus on the service to the people and efforts to improve the country's economy, so we have decided not to place a candidate for the by-election."

The seat fell vacant because former Penang Deputy Chief Minister (I), PKR's Mohammad Fairus Khairuddin, resigned after reports linked him to a probe by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC). However, the MACC later cleared him of any wrong-doing.

PKR has already named Mansor Othman as its candidate. Nomination day is Saturday (May 23).

Penanti is a state seat under the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat held by PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim.

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17 May, 2009

Thousands join Uthayakumar at Batu Caves

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid

KUALA LUMPUR, May 17 - About 1,000 Hindraf supporters gathered at the Batu Caves temple complex from as early as 9am to pray alongside their recently-released leader P. Uthayakumar.

Uthayakumar will shave off the long hair and beard he has kept since he was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) 17 months ago.

There was an air of festivity in the complex as the supporters, many wearing orange which is the official colour of the banned movement, marched some 300 metres to the river where the ceremonial shaving will take place.

Kapar MP M. Manickavasagam, who had had arrived earlier, waited with the crowd for Uthayakumar who finally arrived at 10.30am.

He was given a hero's welcome. The narrow street next to the river was crowded with his supporters and shouts of Makkal Shakti rang through the air.

A group of youths beating tablas accompanied him as he walked towards the spot for the ceremonial shaving where several supporters are also joining in this cleansing ritual by having their heads shaved as well.

Special Branch officers watched from nearby.

Shortly before noon, the river carried Uthayakumar's beard and hair shavings away.

His supporters, watching the shaving ritual of their leader every step of the way, shouted with joy at the sight of a clean-shaven Uthayakumar.

The Hindraf leader was then carried off to the streets and all the way to Batu Caves, as the crowd made its way to the Sri Subramaniam temple there.

By this time, the crowd had grown to some 2,500 people, causing massive traffic congestion just outside Batu Caves.

Uthayakumar then performed his prayers at the temple together with close relatives, including the wife and daughter of his self-exiled brother, P. Waythamoorthy.

He then climbed up the steep Batu Caves steps, accompanied by his supporters, to perform further prayers at another temple within the cave complex. As he walked up the stairs, he shook hands with bystanders, many of whom were keen to rub shoulders with the controversial figure.

After coming down from the cave complex at about 1.55 pm, Uthayakumar addressed his supporters from the back of a pick-up truck parked at the entrance of the stairs that led to the cave complex.

He recounted his days under detention saying that it was a mental torture for him but not once did he let it affect his perseverance to continue with the Hindraf struggle.

"They cannot scare us anymore," Uthayakumar told the crowd. "The number of people present speaks for itself," he added.

The crowd dispersed at about 3.30 pm.

Despite being a banned movement, no arrest was made.

(Source:"Hindraf supporters join Uthayakumar at Batu Caves"

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16 May, 2009

Stop the bloodbath !

A modern day bloodbath is unfolding on the small island of Sri Lanka, where a thousand civilians were reported killed over the weekend and tens of thousands of innocent people are literally at risk of being killed this week, as government and rebel forces battle it out over the last small patch of rebel held territory.

Now that the US has begun to increase its pressure, the solution to stopping this humanitarian disaster lies with Sri Lanka’s key donor and closest partner in the region -- Japan. It has powerful political and economic influence over the Sri Lankan government and a swing vote at the UN Security Council, which up until now has turned a blind eye to this mounting catastrophe.

Click here to send a message to the Japanese Foreign Minister, who is deciding his government's next steps. Japan cares about its international reputation and a flood of messages from abroad would encourage them to act. If Japan moves then the Sri Lankan government will be forced to immediately respond to protect civilians:


As last weekend´s carnage testifies, every minute counts for the estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped inside the shrinking conflict zone and for those 200,000 more who are barely surviving in overcrowded camps. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which rarely makes public comment, called this conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels, 'nothing short of catastrophic'.

Until now, the divided UN Security Council has abdicated their responsibility to protect Sri Lankans from war crimes and other atrocities. But in this conflict Japan cannot be ignored – it's powerful voice could tip the balance and influence the conflict dynamics, saving lives in the short-term and promoting peace and development in the long run.

Asia's longest-running civil war is entering its final stage – the only question is how many will die before it ends. Let´s send a powerful message urging Foreign Minister Nakasone to act responsibly and lead international efforts to push the Tamil rebels to release the remaining civilians, stop the government bombing and bring sustainable peace to Sri Lanka. Japan's political and economic weight means that they cannot be ignored:


As other donor nations increase the pressure behind the scenes this week, a truly global citizens' outcry can further turn the heat on the Japanese government to use its leverage and push for a robust and concerted international action that stops the bloodshed and protect the Sri Lankan civilian population at risk.

Doctor reports hundreds of bodies being brought to hospital as UN says feared bloodbath has become reality - 11 May 2009 -


Four leading international organisations call on Japan to play a more active role in confronting the unfolding catastrophe in Sri Lanka. Press release:


Full text of the letter at:


The US accuses Sri Lanka of causing “untold suffering” among civilians, and calls on rebels to release civilians stuck in the conflict zone:


For information about the UN Security Council discussions on Sri Lanka:


Avaaz.org is an independent, not-for-profit global campaigning organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people inform global decision-making. (Avaaz means "voice" in many languages.)


15 May, 2009

Malaysia confirms first H1N1 flu case

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) was informed that the first influenza A (H1N1) case involving a student was a passenger on board MH091 who arrived at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on May 13.

A 21-year-old student who arrived here from the United States on the morning of May 13 has been confirmed as Malaysia's first case of A(H1N1) infection, the Health Ministry said today.

Its director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said in statement the youth was warded at the Sungai Buloh hospital on May 14 after suffering fever, sore throat and body aches, and was given anti-viral treatment after tests confirmed the infection. He is now in stable condition.

He said the ministry has studied the history of the youth’s contact, including family members and passengers and cabin crew of flight MH091 that he arrived in at 7.15am that day and is contacting them for follow-up checks.

An alert has now been sent out to all passengers who boarded flight MH 091 from Newark, USA and arrived at KL International Airport on May 13 at 7.15am. They are advised to contact 03-88810200 / 03-88810300 and submit themselves for tests. This is important to contain the spread of the virus should they be infected.

Ismail said the public has no reason to panic as his department is collaborating with all relevant agencies to ensure monitoring works are intensified and other proactive measures are taken to protect public health.

"Apart from this case, till Thursday, the Crisis Preparedness & Response Centre (CPRC) has received 11 cases -- six at Sungai Buloh isolation ward, two at Hospital Tuanku Jaafar, Seremban, one in each Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainon, Ipoh, Hospital Pulau Pinang and Hospital Raja Perempuan Zainab II, Kota Baru.

"All of these showed signs of infection and had a history of visiting infected countries. Their clinical samples however tested negative," he said.

Todate, there are 20 thermal scanners installed at entry points of the country and some 9,324 individuals arriving from the infected countries have been checked.

In the student's case, it is not clear why his case was not identified at the entry point.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told Bernama from London that health personnel are tracking down all passengers on the flight and those who had come into contact with the student since his return.

"This is urgent and all have to work together to prevent the spread of the disease in this country. We have initiated various preventive measures and the health department is working hard on the ground," he said.

Liow also advised the public to be on high alert and immediately seek treatment if they feel unwell.

At least 34 countries reported more than 7,457 cases of the A(H1N1) infection worldwide, with 70 deaths.

The World Health Organisation has set the pandemic alert level is at phase 5 - out of a possible 6 - which means a global outbreak is 'imminent'.

He said the ministry also urged all clinics and private hospitals to be on constant alert and immediately notify the new cases of patients who just returmed from countries infected by the virus and those with similar symptoms.

The government has urged all passengers who travelled on Malaysian Airlines flight MH091 from Newark in the United States to Kuala Lumpur, that landed at 7.15am on May 13 to contact the ministry for further instructions.

"No passengers have been quarantined, we are still trying to trace them," acting health minister Kong Cho Ha said of the 199 passengers and crew onboard the flight.

"We will segregate them (when located). If they have no signs (of the disease) they can go after a certain number of days," he added.

However, he said there was a fear that some of those exposed to the infected patient may have gone on to Indonesia.

"We mention Indonesia because that flight is a code share with (Indonesian carrier) Garuda so the assumption is that there could be some passengers going to Indonesia," he added.

Officials could not immediately confirm how many Indonesians were on board nor if any passengers continued onto Indonesia.

Kong said Malaysia's alert level would remain the same despite its first confirmed H1N1 flu case as the country was already at its highest state of preparedness since the World Health Organisation raised its flu alert to phase five out of six.

"We have been on full alert," said Kong. "We are on a level of full preparedness."

Malaysia is also pushing for the WHO to get affected countries to implement exit screening in order to stop the spread of the disease amid concerns that a second wave of the H1N1 disease could be deadlier.

"If we can have travellers from affected countries screened before they are allowed to travel out, this will help us to contain the spread of such virus to other places," health minister Liow Tiong Lai told state media before heading off for the 62nd WHO General Assembly in Switzerland from May 18 to 22.

The world health body has not recommended travel restrictions following the outbreak but has advised those who are ill to delay their travel plans and urged returning travellers who fall ill to seek medical treatment.

Health officials could not immediately confirm if Malaysia would be implementing exit screening after confirming its first H1N1 case.

On Tuesday, the government urged its citizens to defer travel to the US, Mexico, Canada, Spain and Britain following reported cases of H1N1 flu in those countries.

Malaysian health authorities have installed 20 thermal scanners at the country's entry points to help detect cases with 9,324 passengers screened so far.

The latest World Health Organisation figures show the number of laboratory-confirmed H1N1 flu cases worldwide is 7,520 in 33 countries. A total of 65 people have died from the disease, most of them in Mexico, WHO figures show.


14 May, 2009

Dr M's logic

Pakatan Rakyat would win a snap state election in Perak and thus he is against it being held to resolve the political impasse.

"I think the opposition… well, not the opposition… I think Pakatan is going to win. So why have an election? We already had an election," he said.

Dr Mahathir admitted the Pakatan Rakyat will sweep Perak if fresh elections are called but recommended the state assembly meets to decide on the mentri besar post.

"It’s not good for the world to see the musical chairs in Perak where the MB is changing because of the decision of the courts," Dr Mahathir said.

When asked if the current impasse in Perak would affect the ruling Barisan Nasional's chances in the next elections, he said: "I hope people will have short memories."

“The outcome is a foregone conclusion” said Dr Mahathir if fresh elections are held, adding that it was his feeling after the by-election in Bukit Gantang and from talking to people.

“So why should we have fresh elections ?“ he asked, saying that it was costly and that he did not agreed will calls by other BN leaders for fresh state elections.

He added that the people had already voted and chosen people who are willing to defect.

He said the situation should be resolved by a vote in the Perak state assembly and the assemblymen should determined who should form the government.

“If BN really has a majority they can move a motion of no confidence and set up another government.”

Najib, however, pushed the ball to the sultan's court.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak said a fresh state election is only one of the options to resolve the Perak political crisis and not something that has to happen.

The prime minister said it was up to the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Azlan to decide whether a fresh election should be held for Perak.

''It is not for me to decide. It is for the sultan to decide,''

Sultan Azlan Shah was once a well-respected former top judge, but his image has suffered due to his unpopular decision to allow BN to form the government in February after it succeeded in obtaining majority support in the state legislature.

The sultan went a step ahead and ordered Nizar to step down and appointed Zambry. The High Court had ruled that Nizar could only be removed by a vote of no confidence in the state legislature.

Unless the sultan intervenes, Perak state would remain in limbo for months as the issue drags on in court. Even if the Court of Appeal expedites its hearing, whoever loses is bound to appeal again to the Federal Court, the country's highest court.

As the drama continues, Najib and BN could lose out in the long term. Already public opinion is against them. The repercussions extend beyond Perak, and Najib's colleagues in the BN are worried.


13 May, 2009

The Race Riots of May 13th still haunt Malaysia, 40 years on

In Malaysia, the coalition government dominated by the Malay UMNO party, is grappling with whether or not to dismantle the decades-old "affirmative action policy" favouring the Malays or Bumiputras.

Forty years ago today, race riots broke out in Kuala Lumpur - imprinted in the memories of Malaysians as "May Thirteen". The riots killed at least 200 people, and the trauma haunted Malaysians for years. Four decades later, have things improved, or is racial harmony being sacrificed for political expediency?

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speakers: Mohan Sankaran, director of the NGO, ERA Consumer Malaysia; Ibrahim Suffian is programmes director at the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research

SANKARAN: Looking at public opinion and how people relate to each other, race relations are much better than they were before, largely because more Malaysians now appreciate each other. The conditions which beset the various ethnic groups have largely improved, the level of insecurity is a lot lower now than it was before, at least within the dominant Malay community, but on the whole, I am optimistic that it is better.

LAM: Okay, well that's the view point of a Bumiputra, Ibrahim Suffian. To Mohan Sankaran. Mohan, you belong to the minority Indian community in Malaysia. How would you rate race relations, do you agree with Ibrahim that it has improved?

SANKARAN: Personally, I think I have to disagree with him to a certain extent. Race relations, if anything has deteriorated over the years, particularly over the last two decades. You can see from the various incidents happening in Malaysia. For example, the uprising of Indians last year of the Hindraf movement and also a lot of issues in relation to issues of conversion and things like that, which has happened. It's happened because we are not very happy with the ways with a lot of things have been happening in the past, so this is a reflection of it, that race relations is actually deteriorated.

LAM: You don't think that people have become a little bit more sophisticated and therefore a little bit more understanding of the political situation in Malaysia?

SANKARAN: I mean I do, I mean they do understand in general the political situation we are living in. However, I mean these political situations should not also be used to also certainly depress certain groups you see.

LAM: And Ibrahim Suffian, do you think that the affirmative action, the pro-Bumiputra affirmative action policies of the past 30 years, that that in some ways have become counter-productive? There are certain quarters, including the Opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who say that perhaps it's time for Malaysia to rethink its affirmative action policies. What's your opinion?

SUFFIAN : I am in agreement with the view that affirmative action policy really needs a serious revamp, if not a total overhaul. I think what really has happened over the years in continuing from where Mohan left off, and I appreciate his comments, is that I think the Malay community, the Bumiputras in the country, is not a monolithic group. There is a significant proportion of the Malays who feel that there is a need for change in the way the country is run, that race is no longer the defining characteristic; that people should be assisted on the basis of need and merit and that's a growing view, and particularly being held by the younger generation of Malays, who were born after 1969. That's one thing and I think with respect to affirmative action, more Malays now, I mean from our surveys we have seen that more Malays are open towards having this policy as for all Malaysians, not just Malays, but all Malaysians who are need. And the main bone of contention, that colours the way people perceive race relations is how policies are being implemented by the government and the ruling party and then therefore there is a distinction between the actions of the ruling party, which frequently does things in the name of the Malay community, and the Malay community itself, so..

LAM: And, of course, the main ruling party, the primary component of the Barisan Nasional government is UMNO, the Malay based party. Do you think UMNO is fearful of altering the affirmative action program for fear of losing Malay votes?

SUFFIAN: I am pretty sure that is how they feel. The polling indicates that is how they feel as well, but I think what really is happening on the ground here in Malaysia, particularly over the last decade, over the last ten years is that more and more Malay feel that the assistance purportedly in their name is not reaching them, but reaching people mostly who are politically connected within the ruling party. So that is a distinction that at least we can see from the electoral results, at least about half of the Malays think otherwise from the main ruling party.

LAM: On Radio Australia, and the World Radio Network, this is Connect Asia and this morning we are looking at race relations in Malaysia 40 years after the 1969 May 13th riots. And our guests this morning are Mohan Sankaran, Director at ERA Consumer in Kuala Lumpur, and Ibrahim Suffian, a programs director at the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.

Mohan Sankaran, if I can move to you now. In some quarters it is felt that it's not helpful to have various language schools in Malaysia, where the medium of instruction is in Chinese and Tamil schools where the medium of instruction is in Tamil. Do you still see the need for language-based education, certainly at the primary level in Malaysia?

SANKARAN: I think there is a need to maintain this vernacular education system in a sense that it is also help these groups, to preserve their culture and identity. This has to be maintained in my view.

LAM: What about you, Ibrahim?

SUFFIAN: I agree, in a sense that vernacular education is part of the country's heritage and that the various communities, cultures in Malaysia need to have space for them to practise their language, learn their culture. But I think what really is at stake is the improvement in the quality of national schools, so that at the end of the day, Malaysians have a choice, on whether they want to send their children to vernacular schools or the national streamed schools, so I think people need to be given a choice and there is room for pluralism, not just in the politics, but also in the educational choices that families can encounter.

LAM: And of course the main medium of instruction in Malaysian schools as far as I understand is Bahasa Malaysia. Do you think it is helpful perhaps for the schools to offer more courses - courses perhaps to include the learning of Chinese or the learning of Indian, or the learning of Tamil. What do you think Mohan?

SANKARAN: Yeah, I think the national type schools should incorporate this as a mandatory subject, rather than leaving it optional, because right now what is happening is they do provide Tamil and Chinese language classes. However, these are optional. And also some schools, they offer, some schools they don't, because due to some of the students who are interested in taking up these courses. I mean the language classes. So I think if the government at one point in time, they were saying they were going to make it mandatory for all groups to learn their mother tongue.

LAM: So, but Suffian, I realise of course that you can't speak for the entire Malay community in Malaysia, but do you think there is interest there within the Bumiputra community to pick up Chinese as a second language or pick up Tamil as another language?

SUFFIAN: I think there is some space for that. As it stands right now, about 10 per cent of the enrolment in Chinese vernacular schools are actually Malays and that's a large number of people, several thousand. So there remains I think a significant proportion of the Malay community that can appreciate the value of learning another language. There is a growing sense of confidence within the Malay community that learning another language, being involved with in activities in students from another culture enriches them rather than takes them back.

LAM: Mohan, what is your anecdotal experience of the way Malaysian Indians feel? Do they feel hard done by, do they feel left behind in a way, by Malaysia's economic miracle?

SANKARAN: Yeah, because if you really look at the equity proportions, I mean I think the Indian minority groups they are the least group, which is benefiting from the equity of Malaysia. So in a way, I think the government should also look into ways to improve on the equity standing among these races, especially the Indian community, because that was one of the issues was raised at the last general election.

LAM: Mm, It has been said by some people that the Indians generally are not that interested in doing business. Do you think that's a misrepresentation?

SANKARAN: I think it is a misrepresentation, because we are working in the grounds with the community, so we actually know what is happening in the ground. And the general sentiment on the ground is that they are having a lot of difficulties in securing business loans. Banks are not coming forward to provide business loan and there is a lot of restriction in applying for loans. And the government has actually from time to time has announced that there is going to be these funds being set up to assist these groups. However, it has not been channelled down to the ground you see, so it remains as a policy, so the actual implementation is not being seen.

LAM: Gentlemen, unfortunately, I will have to wrap it up now, but when I was last in Kuala Lumpur, I was quite impressed by the fact that you go to any food court and you see Malays cooking Chinese dishes, but in a Halal way and Indians serving Malay food and then the Chinese doing food from another culture. Do you think perhaps the key might lie in the grassroots to encourage this kind of cross cultural exchange, if you like?

SUFFIAN: Well, I am of the view that I think there isn't much of a problem at the grassroots level, because the relationship between people-to-people is actually pretty good. But I think what remains in Malaysia is that there are structural impediments to improve race relations, largely resulting from state policies and the way state policies are being implemented. And I think the way forward is that if we have greater room for democratic change and reforms to take place is that the ordinary person on the street has a chance to have his or her voice heard, then I think there is more room for improvement in terms of the way all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion are being treated.

LAM: So that seems to be a fairly optimistic forecast there. But Mohan, I'll give you the last word. Are you optimistic that Malaysia would look to the future with greater racial harmony and if so, what are the ingredients you think that are needed to ensure that Malaysia faces the future with racial harmony?

SANKARAN: I think I tend to agree with Ibrahim, that at the grassroots level I think race relations is okay, but what I think we need is one national road map to replace the affirmative action which is currently being practised. It should be abolished and we need to replace it with a comprehensive and wholistic plans to help those marginalised in respect of race and religion. So in that way, I think we will be able to see more improvement in race relations in Malaysia, that will be a way forward.

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( Source:"
Race riots haunt Malaysia, 40 years on" )

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