Thursday, October 30, 2008

Theology Versus Secularism

Theology Versus Secularism


Raja Petra Kamarudin

It appears like the Turkish Prime Minister is in trouble with Turkey’s court. They have accused him of being anti-secular, which is a crime in Turkey. They say the Prime Minister want to abolish or remove the anti-tudung law, which means Turkey’s citizens will no longer be forced NOT to wear the tudung. If you remember, recently, a Turkish lady Member of Parliament was evicted from parliament for insisting that she wear her tudung in the building. University student too must remove their tudung before they enter the university gate.

Turkey is on the other extreme of Afghanistan where the “religious police” would throw acid on faces of women who do not wear the tudung.

Malaysia of 2008 is a far cry from Malaysia of 1958, the first Anniversary of Merdeka. Then, skirts and bare-backs were the order of the day and the tudung was a rare thing at best, the more “decent” Malay women would wear a selendang wit the front hair revealed. Today, women who wear bare-back clothes are arrested.

What happened over those 50 years? Have Malays become more religious and more conscious of their Islamic duties? Over the last month, three women have been charged for corruption and fraud. All are pretty senior Malay government officers. And all wear the tudung. So, the wearing of the tudung can’t be equated with being more religious or being a better Muslim. If not, they would not accept bribes or cheat. Wearing the tudung is merely a symbol. It is a symbol that you are very Islamic. But this does not mean you really are.

Malays, today, talk about restoring the Caliphate and implementing Islamic laws. In short, rejecting a Secular State in favour of a Theology State – meaning an Islamic State of course. But do these some people know what an Islamic State is? And do these people also know how the many experiments of Islamic States have gone horribly wrong and the new “Islamic” government was worse than the old government it replaced?

In a nutshell a Secular State or Theology State is just a name. Names are not crucial. What is would be the function rather than form. Form must follow functions, and not the other way round.

Let us examine some of the failed experiments. Some predominantly Muslim countries have flirted with the idea of changing their government and have discovered that the newly installed Muslim leaders were no better, or worse, that the “kafir” leaders. Millions have died because of this, Muslims killed at the hand of Muslims.

Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Armenia, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Sudan, Pakistan, Serbia, Gratis, Syria, Bosnia – just think of any country where either Muslims, Christians or Jews make up the majority population and I will show you a tragedy. No, theology is not the answer. We can’t solve problems by replacing a Secular State with a Theology State. History has shown us that, in fact, more damage is caused. The system is not the solution. It is those behind the system that matter.

A year after the end of the Second World War the Algerians wanted the French Colonialists out of their country. The eight-year war led to the loss of more than a million lives. Both sides wee equally guilty of the barbaric killings where old folks, babies and women were not spared. Finally, in 1962, the French decided to go home. But until today the killings continue; except now it is not Muslims killing Christians but Islamists killing Secularists – and vice versa.

The Turks too wanted the kafir out, so millions of Armenians were massacred. The Kurds were the willing servants to rape and murder the Armenians. This was ethic cleansing of the kind perpetuated by the Germans during World War 2; though maybe only a quarter in number died compared to the Jews.

Later the Kurds were themselves exterminated by the Iraqis and Turks. And the same went for the Afghans where they first killed each other to establish an Islamic State and then the Islamic State killed off as many as the previous “kafir” state did. In Iran, too, more died in the new Islamic State than in the Shah’s “kafir” state.

An Islamic State is no guarantee that you would get a good government. Neither would a Secular State. So it is best that the rhetoric and setting up an Islamic State be discarded and instead we focus on the issue of the setting up of a just state of whatever kind.

We have seen too many deaths over the last 60 years, people killed in the name of Islam. Tens of millions have been killed. Two million in Afghanistan. One million in Iran. One million in Iraq. One million in Turkey. More than one million in Algeria. Many more millions in other Muslim countries. The list goes on.

The Iranians say: those Iranians who died fighting Iraqis are going to heaven as the Iraqis are “kafir”. The Iraqis say: those Iraqis who died fighting Iranians are going to heaven as the Iranians are “kafir”. So, both Iranians and Iraqis are “kafir”. Or is it both Iranians and Iraqis who kill each other are going to heaven since both kill and die in the name of Islam?

With all this killing and the tens of millions of deaths over the last 60 years, all the so-called “Islamic States” are nothing short of failed states whereas “God-less” states like Sweden are heaven on earth.

Maybe you need to choose an Islamic State to go to heaven. But thus far all the Islamic States have proven to be hell. Maybe this is because they talk more about life after death rather than about life itself.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Singapore economy to remain weak in 2009: central bank

Singapore economy to remain weak in 2009: central bank
Oct 29, 2008

SINGAPORE - Singapore's economy, which is already in a technical recession, will remain weak in 2009 on projections the global economic outlook will deteriorate further, the central bank said Tuesday.

As a financial crisis evolves to impact economic activity worldwide, the city-state is likely to be hammered given its heavy exposure to external demand, the Monetary Authority (MAS) said in its Macro Economic Review.

"Looking ahead, the outlook for the global economy has deteriorated amidst heightened risk aversion and deleveraging in the financial sector," MAS said.

As a small and open trading economy, Singapore is vulnerable to any downturn in its major export markets such as the United States, Europe, China, India and Japan.

"The risks to external demand conditions continue to be on the downside, and a more severe global slowdown cannot be discounted," the MAS warned.

"Taking all these factors into account GDP growth is expected to be around 3.0 percent in 2008, and the economy will continue to grow below its potential rate into 2009," the MAS said.

Prospects for a recovery late next year hinge on the performance of key global economies, it said.

Singapore this month cut its economic growth forecast for 2008 to 3.0 percent from between 4.0 and 5.0 percent after the economy slipped into a technical recession, described as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

Real gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 6.3 percent in the third quarter after contracting 5.7 percent in the previous quarter, according to preliminary government data.

The MAS said Singapore's financial sector will suffer from a direct impact, while weakening consumer sentiment will affect retail trade and the property market.

Other segments of the econonomy like manufacturing and tourism will suffer from falling external demand, it said.


S'pore is 'most stable' in region
Oct 29, 2008
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE is well-positioned to weather the economic slowdown because of its political and social stability, said Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy.

Its analysts ranked Singapore as having the least political and social risks next year among 16 territories in Asia-Pacific, according to a summary of its 87-page report released to the media yesterday.The unlikelihood of sudden political changes, stable labour relations and sound policies, including measures to help the poor, were among the factors in Singapore's favour, said Perc's managing director, Mr Robert Broadfoot.

He told The Straits Times: 'Singapore's fiscal situation is strong enough for the fiscal incentives that are going to help the country get over the crisis and spread the pain of recession.'

DBS: Most of Lehman-linked notes valued at zero

DBS: Most of Lehman-linked notes valued at zero
Wed, Oct 29, 2008

Most of the $360 million of structured notes linked to Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. sold in Hong Kong and Singapore - including DBS High Notes 5 in Singapore and the Constellation series in Hong Kong - has been given a value of zero by DBS Group Holdings Ltd.

Bloomberg reports that Hong Kong investors were notified that the securities will be redeemed on or before October 31, while Singapore notes are expected to be redeemed on November 3. Letters are being sent to investors to inform them of the situation according to a Straits Times report.

In a statement posted on their website, DBS said that the credit redemption amount under the notes is worth "$0.00 per Note".

In reference to Structured Retail Notes Series 75 issued by Constellation Investment Ltd, DBS said: "The credit event redemption amount for the Notes has been calculated to be zero, and therefore no amounts are due and payable to the beholders of the Notes on the credit event redemption date. For the avoidance of doubt, no further payments will be made on the Notes after they have been redeemed."

Meanwhile, a DBS spokesman also told The Straits Times: 'Unfortunately the worst-case scenario has materialised and the majority of High Notes 5 investors will not be receiving anything back.'

This follows a statement posted on the bank's website on October 22 wherein DBS CEO Richard Stanley said, "Regrettably, our initial expectations of the worst-case scenario whereby investors will lose their entire principal investment amount is likely to materialise."

Only two of the series sold in Hong Kong were given a monetary value. A Bloomberg report says that Series 36 notes linked to Lehman's $1.5 billion 6.625 percent bonds maturing in 2012 are worth $435.36 each, it said. Investors in series 37 will get HK$2,620.92 ($338).

The bank estimated that customer compensation in Hong Kong and Singapore will total $70 to $80 million. It says it will not gain from this process, which they had started last week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Separation of Islam And Justice

Separation of Islam And Justice


Raja Petra Kamarudin

It appears like Yang Berhormat Zulkifli Nordin, a Member of Parliament for Kulim has put his foot in his mouth again. After his very embarrassing performance at the Bar Council recently, one would imagine he would have learnt his lesson by now. Yesterday Zulkifli said he does not care about anyone’s opinion and he only cares about Islam. He gives an impression that he is an Islamic Mujahiddin who fights for Islam and who fights to uphold Islamic principles.

They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat its mistakes and I do not know whether Zulkifli Nordin is a student of history or not, but maybe he should brush up on his history, in particular history concerning Islam before he next opens his mouth and embarrasses the party that he is representing in parliament, which is Party Keadilan Rakyat. Party Keadilan Rakyat, as the name suggests, stands for justice. Islam and justice go hand in glove. You cannot separate Islam from justice or vice versa.

Let us look at just the last 50 or 60 years of Islamic history and try to get a good idea on what happens when Muslim leaders try to separate justice from Islam. Let us look at Algeria in the 1950’s and the 1960’s when they fought against French colonization or French occupation of Algeria. Both sides, the French colonists and the Muslim mujahiddins perpetuated crimes against humanity, to use the current key word that is banded about. Women were murdered. Women were raped. Children were murdered by bashing their heads on the wall. People were shot in cold blood and all sorts of crimes against humanity were perpetuated under the disguise of fighting for justice. What justice can there be when millions of citizens are killed in the struggle to gain a foothold in a territory? The French called it French territory and the Algerians said “This is free Algerian territory” and they wished independence. But in the fight seeking justice many, many people were massacred. It was almost like an ethnic cleansing.

Eventually the French decided to leave. Charles des Gaulle, the French who went on to become the French president made a decision that it was no longer tenable for the French to hold on to Algeria and they decided to give Algeria independence. But did the killings stop? No. A secular government was set up and the Islamists not being happy, decided they wanted an Islamic government. And the killing continued. This time it was no longer between the French and the Algerians but it was between the Algerians and the Algerians. And many Christians and many Jews were killed in the crossfire as well. Recently the FIS which is an Islamic party, won the elections and the military immediately walked in and took over and sacked the government. The killing continues into its 3rd phase since the fifties and sixties.

Look at other countries, for instance in Iraq. When Saddam decided to oppose the Shia Islamic government of Iran, he moved his forces across the border and the 8-year war that ensued resulted in 1 million deaths. 1 million Muslims, Muslims killing Muslims. And today those deaths continue as Iraqis now fight against the American occupation of their country. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were killed even before the American invasion of Iraq. And these Kurds were massacred, they were gassed. And entire colonies and community of Kurds who are Muslims were killed by their own Muslim government. The list continues. Afghanistan has resulted in 2 millions deaths. At first it was Afghans killing Afghans. Then it was Afghans killing Russians and vice versa. And now it is back to Afghans killing Afghans.

More Muslims have died in the course of struggling for justice. More Muslims have died in Muslim killing Muslim then in all the other Muslim-Christian wars over the last 1000 years.

Zulkifli Nordin is an Islamist. He probably claims he has been detained twice under the infamous ISA. The ISA is a law that stifles freedom of speech and freedom of association and Zulkifli Nordin says he does not care about other people’s opinions. The ISA therefore suits him well because the ISA also does not care about other people’s opinions. Does this mean that Zulkifli Nordin therefore supports the ISA? If so, let him speak now and make his stand clear as to what he thinks about the ISA. It is strange that a person like Zul who raids the bar council and who makes statements that he only cares about Islam and does not care about anything else would have that kind of mentality.

Was it not Abu Bakar, the first caliph of Islam who took out his sword and placed it before him and said, if he deviates from Islam, to take his sword and cut off his own head? Abu Bakar was responding to a question from the floor where one of the followers of Islam asked how can they be sure that Abu Bakar would be a good leader and will rule justly and will not deviate from Islam. And Abu Bakar’s response was, he offered his head to be executed with his own sword! That is a mark of a true Islamic leader, an Islamic leader who cares about other people’s opinion.

Zulkifli Nordin said he does not care about other people’s opinion. He is not a true Muslim and he is certainly not a true leader. He should redeem himself by resigning. Resign from the party and remain an independent candidate just like Ibrahim Ali who said he supports the ISA. Better still, Zulkifli Nordin should resign his seat in Kulim and allow for a by-election so that we can see whether the voters would like to continue to vote for a member of parliament who does not care about other people’s opinions. Zulkifli Nordin is a disgrace not only to Parti Keadilan Rakyat but also to Islam. A member of parliament who does not care about other people’s opinion should no longer remain a member of parliament.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Teacher posts her "Ah Lian" photos on blog

Teacher posts her "Ah Lian" photos on blog
Fri, Oct 24, 2008

Gwen posts pictures of herself in micro bikinis and blogs about her tattoos, piercings and her wild parties with friends at the pub.

She even admits that her actions are "very Ah Lian", which means 'gangster girl' in the Hokkien dialect.

Revealing photos of her in barely-there bikinis would have raised many eyebrows, what makes Gwen's blog stand out so much is the fact that she is a primary school teacher.

The blog came to the attention of the Singaporean online community last week when Netizen alvinology wrote on his blog that he found a Singaporean girl's photo in an Australian bikini contest.

alvinology identified the girl as Gwen and commented that the picture of her in a micro bikini was rather tame, though other pictures found on the contest site were not safe for work.

Another Netizen by the name of Steve Lee then revealed that Gwen is actually a teacher, and posted the link to her blog.

A Shin Min Daily News reporter visited the blog and found Steve Lee's claims to be true. According to information found on the blog, Gwen identifies herself as a primary school teacher, although there was no mention of the school she teaches in. She also said that she was born in the year of the dragon, and it is believed that she is 32 years old.

Tattoos, piercings and "Ah Lian" behaviour

Gwen's blog posts are peppered with profanity, and she reveals that she has tattoos, a nose piercing and often goes partying with her friends.

In a posted dated February 26, 2007, Gwen wrote, "I got myself a new tattoo, it's a picture of a dragon. I was born in the year of the dragon. I know this is typical 'Ah Lian' behaviour."

She also uploaded a picture of herself getting her nose pierced, and says that she is considering getting her tongue pierced as well but has second thoughts, "But my friend who did it had trouble speaking normally."

"I will call the whiteboard a f***ing idiot"

On her blog, Gwen says that she enjoys her job, but there are times when her students get on her nerves. Unable to punish her young charges, Gwen says that she will start hurling expletives at the whiteboard to relieve stress.

"Teacher Gwen will turn to face the whiteboard and start wiping the whiteboard clean (because she thinks this will help her calm down). Then she will start calling the whiteboard a 'f***ing idiot', stressing on the word 'f***'. Once she's done, she will turn around and say, 'Where did I stop just now?'"

Najib working towards easing of NEP

Najib working towards easing of NEP
Oct 25, 2008
The Star

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA: Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak says he is working towards the gradual liberalisation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and elements of this can be seen in the not too distant future.

The Deputy Prime Minister said there should be gradual liberalisation of the NEP as and when bumiputras begin to feel more confident of competing with others domestically and globally.

Najib added that he was glad to note more bumiputras were becoming confident of competing and doing well.

"I am working towards a gradual liberalisation. In the not too distant future, we will see the elements of it," he said during a televised Bloomberg interview.

He was asked if he believed in working towards the eradication of the NEP, an affirmative action introduced in 1970 to help bring bumiputras at par with other races in terms of business, education, economic participation and work opportunities.

Najib, who is expected to take over as Prime Minister in March, said the needs and legitimate concerns of every community in the country should be addressed and the Government should be seen as being serious about solving their problems.

"I welcome the challenge to make the Government and Barisan Nasional appeal to all sections of the community," he said.

Najib, who is the Finance Minister, denied that he was in a state of denial by saying that the country was not going to face a recession.

"I have the numbers. I have the figures. I am not in a state of denial. The International Monetary Fund has come out to openly say that we are likely to achieve 4.8% growth next year," he said.

He added that Malaysia was likely to achieve 5% this year and he would revise and announce next year's expected growth rate soon.

Najib said the economy remained the main issue for the people and they were looking to the Govern- ment for leadership.

"We must give the people a sense that while we are facing huge challenges because of the global situation, we are able to steer the country to a direction that will give confidence," he said.

Najib said there would not be any re-pegging of the Malaysian ringgit under any circumstances.

On his vision for the country

for the next five to 10 years, Najib said he would only state it after March.

"My concept is performance based. I believe a leader must perform. I would like to be seen as a transformational leader," he said.

Asked if was going to be a big projects man when he took over, Najib said he did not want to be put into a particular category.

Najib said he had his own concept of development and it had to be a balanced and holistic one.

On the murder case of Mongolian Altantuya Shariibuu, Najib again denied that he had anything to do with it and stressed that he did not know the woman.

"I wouldn't stay in office a day longer if I am involved," he said.

Asked why he did not sue those who claimed he was involved, Najib said: "I can sue people but the process is tedious. And witnesses can lie in court."

200,000 walking time bombs

200,000 walking time bombs
Fri, Oct 24, 2008
The Straits Times

By Salma Khalik

If you are 40 years or older and have never checked your blood sugar level, do it now. It could save you years of suffering.

It does not matter if you feel fine now. Most diabetics do - until it is too late.

That is why half the diabetics around the world, including in Singapore, do not know they have the disease.

In Singapore, close to 200,000 people are walking time bombs, unaware of the health risk they face.

According to data from the Health Promotion Board, more than 500 diabetics lose the use of their kidneys every year and will need either dialysis for the rest of their lives or a transplant. Diabetics are much more likely to suffer from heart attacks and strokes. Many go blind, suffer from kidney failure that requires transplant or dialysis, or need to get one or more limbs amputated following incurable gangrene.

This is because high blood sugar levels damage organs, nerves and blood vessels. The longer blood sugar level is left untreated, the greater the damage - and the destruction is permanent.

In the past, it was thought that once diabetics were treated, their risk of suffering from heart attacks, strokes or other problems associated with the disease diminished. That is true, but not as much as believed.

More recent information has found that late intervention is just not good enough. What happens in the early years matter.

Doctors call it the "legacy effect": What happens in the early years of the disease lives on to haunt patients later on.

Diabetics who were able to keep their blood sugar levels down in the early years of their illness will fare much better in later years, even if by then they have difficulty keeping sugar levels low.

A large study - the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study - which followed several thousand patients for 30 years found that half had good control for the first 20 years. The other half had treatment but still had less than ideal levels of blood sugar.

In the last decade, the sugar levels of both groups were similar.

Yet, the group that had fared better in the early years remained significantly better off, with fewer deaths and disabilities.

At a recent diabetes congress in Europe, 17,000 doctors from around the world heard that there have to be changes in the way diabetics are being managed.

Instead of trying to just get patients with mild diabetes to lower their blood sugar levels through exercise and diet - still the most effective and cheapest solution - doctors are now urged to put these patients on medication from day one.

This is to prevent even the minimal damage mild diabetes will do to their organs and blood vessels.

But more significantly, the UK study underscores the importance of knowing one has the disease as early as possible.

Unfortunately, no symptoms are seen in the early years of diabetes. However, a relatively cheap and easy screening method, the fasting blood test, which costs about $10 to $15, can tell you if you have it.

For healthy people, this can be done every three years from the age of 40. But for those with a family history of diabetes, are obese or suffer from high blood pressure, it would be prudent to start much younger and to do a check annually.

With more than 8 per cent of adults here suffering from diabetes and another 12 to15 per cent in the pre-diabetes stage, the chances of someone over 40 finding themselves at risk is fairly high.

More than 8% of adults in Singapore suffer from diabetes

This story was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times, on Oct 16, 2008.

4 myths about breast cancer

4 myths about breast cancer
Oct 24, 2008
The New Paper

MYTH: At least half the women surveyed thought that having a lump in the breast is painful. Even more men thought a breast lump is painful.

FACT: Many cancerous beast lumps do not cause pain.

MYTH: Half of the women surveyed think that when breast cancer is diagnosed, the only treatment is to remove the breast. Two-thirds of the men think that.

FACT: Not all cancer treatment involves a mastectomy or removal of the whole breast.

MYTH: Six in 10 women and men think that after a breast is removed, the arm on the same side will become crippled.

FACT: With newer and better surgery techniques, many women go through mastectomies without impairing the use of their arms.

MYTH: Four in 10 women think that radiation from a mammogram can cause cancer. Six in 10 men believe that.

FACT: It does not.


WHAT THEY KNOW: Only six in 10 women were able to list at least one symptom of breast cancer correctly. Fewer than five in 10 men could do so.

FACT: Breast cancer symptoms include a lump in the breast, rashes around the nipple and discharge from the nipple.

WHAT THEY KNOW: Only six in 10 women knew where to go for breast-screening or a mammogram. Only three in 10 men knew this.

FACT: All polyclinics and hospitals have breast-screening facilities.

WHAT THEY KNOW: Four in 10 women were not aware that with age, there is increasing incidence of breast cancer.

And four in 10 women believe that if they don't have any of the risk factors for breast cancer, they won't get breast cancer.

FACT: Being a woman and growing older are the risk factors for breast cancer.

The survey was conducted among 1,000 Asian women and 1,000 Asian men here.

This story was first published in The New Paper on Oct 22, 2008.

'Hired killers in Kelantan mostly Thais'

'Hired killers in Kelantan mostly Thais'
Oct 25, 2008
The New Straits Times

KOTA BARU, MALAYSIA: Thai police believe that most of the recent serious crimes in Kelantan, especially hired killings, were committed by Thais who had been living in the state illegally.

Sungai Golok deputy police chief Sub Colonel Wan Seman Wan Salleh said the crimes were carried out by Thais who came into the state since the unrest hit the southern provinces in 2004.

"We believe the Thais were hired by locals to do the job for them. Most of them are willing to become hired killers to get some extra money as they have no permanent jobs in Kelantan."

Wan Seman said there were also cases where the motive for the attacks was revenge.

He said firearms like pistols can be easily smuggled out from the country especially through the Golok river.

He added that Thai police would continue to cooperate with their Kelantan counterparts to nab the suspects involved.

Dr M says Umno will lose power because of corruption

Dr M says Umno will lose power because of corruption
By Adib Zalkapli

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said Umno will lose the next General Election if nothing is done to weed out corruption in the party.

“After the defeat there will be no Prime Minister, minister and other positions. No more contracts, APs and licenses. Everyone will suffer, and be insulted by others. And that is the end of Umno,” said the former Prime Minister.

In his latest blog posting he said that he believes that many people are disappointed with money politics in Umno now.

“I know a lot of money is being used. It used to be only the division Youth heads that received the money. But this had resulted in other office bearers of the movement not cooperating. But now everyone can get it and the return is very substantial for the bribers,” said Dr Mahathir.

“The winners can become lawmakers, Exco members, ministers, deputy ministers, parliamentary secretary, chairman of GLCs and receive contracts worth millions of ringgit,” he added.

He said corruption is expected to get worse by March 2009 when the General Assembly begins.

“Looking at the positions being contested, every delegate can receive up to RM20,000,” said Dr Mahathir.

He said that the Barisan Nasional's victory in the 2004 General Election was because the people believed that the new leadership was cleaner than the previous administration, but Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi had failed to walk the talk.

“Between 2004 and 2008, they could see that Abdullah's administration was full of corruption. They noticed the role played by his family members and cronies and also Cabinet members. What they saw convinced them that the administration is not clean. The result can be seen in the 12th General Election,” said Dr Mahathir.

Corruption or money politics is a thorny issue in the Malay nationalist party.

After the last party election in 2004, newly elected vice president Tan Sri Isa Samad was suspended for three years for his involvement in money politics.

Supreme council member, Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, who is vying for a vice president's post even suggested that the positions in the party be awarded to the highest bidder, since money politics is so rampant in the party.

At the Umno Supreme Council meeting on Oct 20, the issue was discussed at length and the party's highest decision making body is expected to announce tough measures soon.

Liu rips into Khir Toyo over Zakaria’s mansion

Saturday October 25, 2008

Liu rips into Khir Toyo over Zakaria’s mansion

SHAH ALAM: The late Port Klang assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Md Deros continues to haunt the Selangor state assembly.

Local Government Committee chairman Ronnie Liu lambasted state opposition leader Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo yesterday for challenging the Pakatan Rakyat state government to take action over the dead man’s mansion in Pandamaran, Klang.

“How can we initiate action against the ‘Klang king’s’ mansion when it was he (Dr Khir) who legalised the palace when he was Yang Amat Berhormat?” asked Liu.

He claimed it was Dr Khir, during his tenure as mentri besar, who provided Zakaria the land at below market price.

He added Zakaria was also let off the hook by merely paying a compound for failing to submit the building plan to the local council on time.

Now, Liu said, action could not be taken against Zakaria’s mansion as the compound had already been paid to the local council during Dr Khir’s time.

He also chastised Dr Khir for complaining about too many massage parlours in Selangor, saying the licences were issued by the former state government.

“We have not issued any massage parlour licence in the state,” said Liu, when answering questions yesterday.

In response, Dr Khir said he brought up the issue about Zakaria’s house because there was still an unresolved problem.

Dr Khir also took Liu to task for suspending Ampang Jaya Municipal Council deputy president Hamid Hussain over the demolition of a Hindu temple in Ampang.

“A government officer cannot be suspended just like that. Only the State Secretary has the right to suspend, not the exco members,” he added.

As Dr Khir continued to argue, Deputy Speaker Haniza Talha ticked him off.

“The opposition leader must realise that he now sits on the other side, and not on the state government’s to give clarification,” she said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

'Detention was to silence critic'

'Detention was to silence critic'
23 Oct, 2008

By Rita Jongritajo, NST

SHAH ALAM: The detention of Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Kamarudin under the Internal Security Act was not in the interest of national security but to silence a vocal critic of the government, his counsel told the High Court yesterday.

Counsel Azhar Azizan Harun contended that Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, who signed the detention order, could not hide behind the cloak of national security.

"The court has the power to examine whether his decision was based on national security," he said in Raja Petra's habeas corpus hearing.

"Based on the grounds of his detention, we submit that the order was mala fide and unlawful."

Raja Petra was detained on the grounds that he:
- owns and operates the Malaysia Today website;

- intentionally and recklessly published his articles as well as readers' comments on Malaysia Today that were critical and insulted Muslims, the purity of Islam and the personality of the Prophet Muhammad; and,

- that he published his articles concerning national leaders that were defamatory and false with the intention of undermining confidence and inciting public hatred against the government which could affect public order and prejudice national security.

Azhar's co-counsel, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, also argued that Raja Petra was arrested because he was critical of the government.

"Is it wrong for us to be critical of our leaders? If I am with a group of friends and, over coffee, I say I do not think the prime minister can lead the country, are they going to detain me too?"

Malik also submitted that Raja Petra had not been charged with the offence of insulting Islam by the religious authorities in Selangor or anywhere else.

"So how can the minister (Syed Hamid) conclude that Raja Petra had insulted Islam?"

He said the court had the jurisdiction to scrutinise orders that had been made in bad faith.

"This is not a situation like Jemaah Islamiyah or communists. This is just a man whom the government seems to think can bring it down to its knees."

Senior federal counsel Abdul Wahab Mohamad submitted that the onus was on the detainee to prove that the authorities had not complied with the procedural requirement.

"Section 8 of the ISA empowers the minister to make an order of detention without an investigation."

Judge Datuk Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad will announce his decision on Nov 7.

RPK's habeas corpus & Home Minister's power over Islam

RPK's habeas corpus & Home Minister's power over Islam
23 Oct, 2008

A big question for Malaysia's Home Minister and Islamic affairs.

If blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin had insulted Islam -- and Islam is the jurisdiction of religious authorities of state governments except the Federal Territories -- then, has the Home Minister the power to order for his two-year detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA)?

If RPK, a resident in Selangor, had indeed insulted Islam, shouldn't he be dealt with by the Selangor religious authorities?

That was the question posed to the Shah Alam High Court when the application for a writ of habeas corpus seeking RPK's release was heard yesterday. Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad set Nov 7 for the decision.

The Home Minister was named as the sole respondent.

Specifically, RPK's lead counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar questioned whether the Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, could order for Raja Petra’s two-year detention under the ISA.

As RPK resided in Selangor, argued Malik Imtiaz, it was clear that the Federal Government had no authority over the matter. Quote:

On this ground alone the detention ought to be declared unlawful. Issues pertaining to matters of Islam are within the purview of the state governments, save for the Federal Territories.”

Whether Raja Petra insulted Islam is a matter within the exclusive domain of the Selangor religious authorities.”


Raja Petra trial: ‘It should be handled by religious authorities then’

Raja Petra trial: ‘It should be handled by religious authorities then’
22 Oct, 2008

By LISA GOH in The Star

SHAH ALAM: If Malaysia Today editor Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin had insulted Islam, he should have been dealt with by the Selangor religious authority, the High Court heard.

His lead counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar argued that it was questionable as to whether the Home Minister could order Raja Petra’s two-year detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

“On this ground alone the detention ought to be declared unlawful.

“Issues pertaining to matters of Islam are within the purview of the state governments, save for the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan,” he said on Wednesday during an application for a writ of habeas corpus seeking the release of Raja Petra.

The Home Minister was named as the sole respondent.

Malik Imtiaz said that as Raja Petra resided in Selangor, it was clear that the Federal Government had no authority over the matter.

“Whether Raja Petra had insulted Islam is a matter within the exclusive domain of the Selangor religious authorities,” he argued.

The Malaysia Today editor was detained on the grounds that he had “intentionally and recklessly published articles which were critical and insulted Muslims, the purity of Islam and the personality of Prophet Muhammad.”

He was also detained for allegedly publishing articles concerning national leaders which were defamatory with the intention of undermining confidence and inciting hatred against the Government which could affect public order and prejudice national security.

Malik Imtiaz also submitted that the detention was unconstitutional -- as it contravened the Federal Constitution which guaranteed Raja Petra his rights to freedom of speech and expression, and to profess and practise his religion -- and was therefore void.

The Ministry’s Legal Adviser Abdul Wahab Mohamad argued that under Section 8 of the ISA, the onus was for the detainee to prove that the authority had not complied with the procedural requirement.

He added that it was clear that the Parliament had provided the power to the Minister to make the detention order without having to consider the police investigation process.

“Therefore, the detention order is valid and in accordance with the law,” he said.

Present in court for the hearing was Raja Petra’s wife Mable @ Marina Lee Abdullah, their two daughters Suraya and Sarah, and dozens of supporters who had turned up clad in t-shirts emblazoned with slogans such as “I’m with RPK”, “No to ISA” and “No Holds Barred.”

Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad set Nov 7 for the decision.

No wrongdoing in construction of ‘Istana Mat Deros’

No wrongdoing in construction of ‘Istana Mat Deros’
22 Oct, 2008


SHAH ALAM: The Selangor Government has not initiated any action over the mansion belonging to the late Port Klang assemblyman Datuk Zakaria Md Deros as it has not found any proof of wrongdoing.

Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said soon after Pakatan Rakyat came into power, a study was carried out on the legal, social and political aspects related to the construction of the mansion in Pandamaran.

He said however until now it had not found any proof of fraud or abuse of power involving the construction of the mansion.

“Whether we agree with it or not, we have to accept that a title for the land (occupied by the mansion) was issued by the previous state government so the occupation of the land is legal.

“We have to study whether any offence was committed in the other aspects of the construction of the mansion before taking any action and we cannot act as we wish,” he told a press conference in the lobby at the Selangor state assembly.

Khalid said the state government also wanted to do the right thing and not act in haste even though it could have won political mileage by taking action.

He was answering to a challenge issued by former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo to the state government on Tuesday to take action since many Pakatan Rakyat leaders had then slammed the previous government for failing to act.

The controversy began when it was discovered that Zakaria had built his palatial home in a low-cost housing area without submitting building plans to the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) for approval.

Zakaria, who died just days after the general election in March, had also operated an unlicensed satay restaurant built illegally on government reserve land and had not paid assessment for another property for 12 years.

All these occurred while he was an MPK councillor.

Lonely Tan Lian Hoe

Lonely Tan Lian Hoe
23 Oct, 2008

Gerakan Women's Chief Tan Lian Hoe cuts a lonely figure in parliament. She was humiliated today by the rowdy Sri Gading MP Mohamad Aziz who told her that the episode of her speech touching on Malays as immigrants from Nusantara is not yet over.

A police report against the Deputy Information Minister was lodged at the Cheras district police headquarters by Young Malay Graduates Pro-tem Committee president Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz on her statement.

Tan had mentioned that the three main races in Malaysia had come from the Malay Archipelago, China and India.

"Although the statement is historically correct, the general conclusion makes it seem that the Malays should be equally treated as the Chinese and Indians and there is no need for the Malays to have any special privileges."

"It is not right of Tan to make such a statement in her speech, and her remarks can stir up religious tension."

Khairul is showing us a prime example why some graduates are unemployable. Being a Malay nationalist and probably a UMNO sympathizer, I can understand Khairul's sentiment and anger.

But I cannot fathom his logic. If Tan is historically correct, she cannot be intellectually wrong. As a graduate, Khairul cannot accept and respect history but he expected others to accept the social contract as a historical fact.

A few months ago, at the Malaysian Youth Leaders Forum, I shared the same podium with the eminent Royal Professor Ungku Aziz who said there was no social contract. It was merely politicians mind game. Did Khairul or any UMNO members lodge a report against the academician?

Finally, I cannot understand how Tan's speech can stoke religious sentiment? Khairul's mumbling and bumbling suggests that he might have to go back to school again.

Sadly, Tan is a lonely voice. Helpless and overawed by her racist siblings in parliament. Where are big brother Koh Tsu Koon, new youth chief Lim Si Pin and others?

Najib misses the point, Malaysia misses the boat

Najib misses the point, Malaysia misses the boat
23 Oct, 2008


The much-awaited official response from the new Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on the global meltdown was nothing but a letdown. Najib’s response was grossly inadequate, and misses the point entirely.

The world’s financial system is facing the worst breakdown since 1929, with the banking sector in total disarray and all the advance economies — representing 55 per cent of global gross domestic product — entering recession, it is incumbent upon any government to respond quickly and effectively in order to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

While the crisis and its impact are discussed daily in detailed fashion everywhere else, for our government leaders the only relevant index in Malaysia now is the nomination tally for Umno leadership positions. Who bothers about the economy?

As a response to the challenge by the Opposition to announce a revised Budget taking into consideration the new circumstances, especially the fall in oil prices which formed 46 per cent of the budgeted revenue for 2009, Najib promised a proper response on Oct 20.

However, apart from saying that the growth rate would be revised downwards, Najib could only manage to announce that the Government would inject RM5 billion into Valuecap Sdn Bhd so it can stabilise the stock exchange, as well as a promise that rules for foreign investment will be further relaxed.

The other strategies include the liberalisation of the service sector to attract investment and generate local employment, re-positioning of government projects to focus on those that generate higher multiplier effects, as well as strengthening of small and middle-scale enterprises.

He also announced that there will be no reduction in budgeted expenditure for 2009, which means a much bigger deficit as a result of a smaller revenue base due to the fall in oil prices.

Najib said details would be announced on Nov 4 when he concludes the Budget debate in Parliament, almost two months after the initial collapse of the financial markets.

In a global crisis of such calamitous magnitude, the Finance Minister is duty-bound to explain to the nation through at least a ministerial statement in Parliament as soon as he and the Treasury humanly can prepare it.

But instead the Government is acting as if there is no crisis, thus a revised Budget or even a tentative plan of action is not needed.

Malaysia is fortunate that its banks are not yet exposed to the international banking crisis but no one is immune from the global meltdown.

A decade after the 1997/8 crisis, problems contributing to the last crisis — cronyism, corruption and nepotism — are still very much alive. The net effect is that the cost of running the federal government tripled that of in 1998.

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's final Budget as Finance Minister was only RM68 billion in total, miniscule compared to the RM207 billion Budget presented by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Aug 29.

The quality and availability of public goods like education, public housing, public health, crime prevention have all declined, while child and aged care and public transport are near inexistent, resulting in a Hobson's choice for the poor and middle class in either facing the decline in living conditions or an ever higher cost of maintaining a decent lifestyle.

A total of 57.8 per cent of the country's 5.8 million families live on a combined monthly income below RM3,000, including 8.6 per cent who make less than RM1,000 per month. The already skyrocketing inflation, and the impending crisis, has hit them really hard.

The dependence on government-related employment and foreign workers over the last decade stops the economy as a whole from moving up the value chain and to respond to a crisis effectively. One in four of Malaysia's labour force is a legal foreign worker while approximately one in four in the workforce works for the public sector directly or indirectly, for instance, in government-linked corporations. The private sector lacks the capacity to innovate and compete internationally, thus hindering its ability to weather the storm.

The challenge of our time is to ensure that there is sufficient food on the table of the almost 60 per cent of our nation's families, and to ensure that their quality of life does not descend further.

It is in this context that Najib's RM5 billion injection of capital into the controversial Valuecap misses the point. It is too little to boost the stock exchange in the face of the exit of foreign institutional players.

There is also a danger of throwing good money after bad money. The RM10 billion Valuecap possesses will not last for too many days if there is a storm while it may take years to recoup losses.

More importantly, it is, in the language of the United States, Main Street that matters, not Wall Street.

With Najib missing the point, the country risks missing the boat, of curtailing the fallout from the crisis.

How Much Longer can the Government Lie to the Malaysian Public

How Much Longer can the Government Lie to the Malaysian Public
23 Oct, 2008

Here we have ministerial executives lying through their teeth and misusing and abusing their people given authority to muffle the legitimate humanity recourse that HINDRAF wages against a system and policies that practices discriminatory, oppressive and bullying tactics against the Indian minority.

Read on for the proof.

On May 26, 2008, Bernama reported the following -

"The Ministry of Home Affairs has been informed by the Immigration Department of Malaysia that the Malaysian international passport issued to Waytha Moorthy s/o Ponnusamy is still active in our passport and travel document system.

"In other words, the Malaysian government has never made any cancellation to the mentioned travel document," Syed Hamid said in a statement today"

Syed Hamid said: "Waytha Moorthy is now believed to be overseas and is still free to travel internationally."

On July 14, 2008 – The Star reported the following –

The Immigration Department had never seized the passport of Hindraf leader P. Waythamoorthy although there were orders to do so.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the Hindraf chairman, who was reported to be in the United Kingdom, is still free to travel around.

"We had received orders to cancel his passport but no actions have been taken so far and Waythamoorthy still has his passport overseas, and moves around as a valid Malaysian passport holder," he said while replying to a supplementary question by Chua Tian Chang (PKR-Batu).

He also said the Government felt that it was not necessary to monitor Waythamoorthy's movements.

"Therefore, there have been no instructions for Malaysian Embassies to monitor the movements of Waythamoorthy," he said.

He said other Hindraf leaders were detained under the Internal Security Act as a preventive measure to ensure peace and stability in the country.

"But if he (Waythamoorthy) feels that he has done nothing wrong, he can come back," he said.

Here we have ministerial executives lying through their teeth and misusing and abusing their people given authority to muffle the legitimate humanity recourse that HINDRAF wages against a system and policies that practices discriminatory, oppressive and bullying tactics against the Indian minority.

From the letter addressed to the UK Home Office it is stated that the Malaysian authorities cancelled my passport as they are seeking my arrest for criminal activities. I challenge the Government to issue an extradition proceeding in the United Kingdom to prove their allegations. However I am confident that the Malaysian Government would choose not to take up this challenge as they are know pretty well they would not be able to meet the least standard of prove required in a country that truly practices Rule of Law.

In light of the lies by the Home Minister Dato Syed Hamid Albar, I call upon his immediate resignation from the cabinet.

The Malaysian Indians have been oppressed long enough although only what they seek is fairness and equality without infringing the needs of other nor crossing other's path in the spirit of the Constitution in this multicultural society.

The true spirit of the Constitution is trampled over with continues marginalization, discrimination, oppression and suppression that is directed towards particularly the Malaysian Indians in every aspect – ie socio, political, economics, education.

Enough is enough, truth and reality bites into every individual and the ability of the government and the public to recognize that our cause is translucent without any hidden agenda other than to seek what is fair and just for the mass of the Malaysian Indians who have deteriorated as Malaysians by operation of unfair and unjust policies is much heeded.

Now they have decided to ban HINDRAF but the battle begins for HINDRAF to continue our journey in addressing these issues. In spirit and moral justice we thrive for freedom of humanity and fair play to eradicate the socio-economic illness that plagues the mass Malaysian Indians through process of unjust policies and unjust laws.

Today HINDRAF's battle is just and fair for humanity to progress for the Malaysian Indian minority to contribute to nation building. Nothing personal but only what is pertinent is for our motherland, Malaysia irrespective of religion, race, creed or following in the spirit of the constitution.

Thank you

Waytha Moorthy
Hindraf – Chairman



Letter of demand issued to Dr Khir

Published: Wednesday October 22, 2008 MYT 4:13:00 PM

Letter of demand issued to Dr Khir

By DHARMENDER SINGH and EDWARD RAJENDRA at the Selangor state assembly

SHAH ALAM: Senior Selangor state executive councillor Teresa Kok has issued a letter of demand asking former Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohamad Khir Toyo to retract his statement, apologise and pay RM10mil over claims that she supported a petition to lower the sound of the azan (call to prayer).

Kok said she had sent the letter to Dr Khir by facsimile on Tuesday and personally hand-delivered a copy of the same letter to him outside the assembly hall on Wednesday.

The letter prepared by Kok’s lawyers claimed that Khir had posted an answer on his blog claiming there was a petition from the Chinese community in Kinrara calling for the volume of the azan to be lowered and this was supported by Kok.

It also quoted Dr Khir as saying that Seri Serdang assemblyman Datuk Satim Diman had raised the matter with the Selangor state assembly and he feared that no answer would be given because Kok had promised to help ensure demands were implemented.

Dr Khir was also quoted as saying that he would continue to protest the matter as the Opposition leader because Islam is the official religion of the country.

He is said to have also claimed that work to prepare a petition took place because DAP supporters had become “big headed” (too proud) of late.

Kok is claiming that the Dr Khir’s reply was understood to mean that she was a religious and racist bigot, untrustworthy and a politician bereft of integrity as well as intolerant, unprincipled and of low moral values.

The statement is said to mean that Kok is chauvinistic, anti-Islam, anti-Malay and had committed a serious offence under the Penal Code and other laws of Malaysia.

The words were said to be grossly negligent and irresponsible and aimed to disgrace and lower her reputation and expose her to public hatred. The letter also claimed that the comments were false, malicious and the attack on Kok wholly unjustified and were libellous.

Dr Khir is being asked to make a public retraction of his reply and impugn the words from his blog, other blogs and media and the removal of the offending and defamatory comments.

Kok has also called for an apology to be published in newspapers and an undertaking from Dr Khir not to repeat the allegations as well as pay RM10mil in damages for the injury caused to her. Dr Khir has been given seven days to reply to the letter of demand dated Oct 21 or legal proceedings will be initiated against him.

Syed Hamid's interview with The Star Online

Updated: Wednesday October 22, 2008 MYT 3:47:11 PM

Syed Hamid's interview with The Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR: Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar talks to The Star Online and mStar Online on current issues, including arrests under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the banning of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), race relations, racial politics and the role of the media (both print and online).

In this first of two parts of the interview, Syed Hamid says that the imposition of the ISA is not something he takes lightly. He also talks about the need for Malaysians to take pride in their diversity and promote shared values.

This is an excerpt of the interview.

The Star Online: Datuk Seri, there are a few issues we would like to address. The two main ones are the ISA and the banning of Hindraf.

Syed Hamid: There are two things that I am guided by in life. The first is to make sure I act justly and the second fairly. It is not easy to detain a person even though you’re acting legally because the law gives you that power. That power is not a privilege, it is a responsibility which I consider to be very heavy.

Everyone is discussing now how the ISA is outdated and not timely but we tend to forget the history behind it all. What we are able to enjoy today, we can get rid of all these things today and wait for things to happen. And when that happens, it is like what I always say - to build it takes time, you need the engineers, you need the architects and you need the contractors to build according to specifications. But when you want to destroy, it only takes minutes. The whole thing would crumble.

(It is about) ensuring law and order, peace and security, and comfort to the public. And we must ensure we are not guided by a need to be popular but by public interest. But people say what right have you got to decide what is a threat? Let the public decide. Let them determine it themselves. I think it’s a question of whether you want to govern or want to surrender governing. But you must ensure that there is good governance, subject to public scrutiny, public debate and discussion.

Under public discussion, the discourse must give both sides an opportunity to be heard. But if there is a judgemental issue, where it is already concluded that certain things are wrong, then we would be hard pressed. We would become defensive in areas where we are given the responsibility, where we take action because we believe that it is the right course of action.

That’s how I look at all the things that we do -- the bottom line is public interest, which is equal to maintaining public order, maintaining security and understanding perceptions and threats. If we are wrong, then the court can decide that we are wrong. But meanwhile, we cannot wait for things to happen in order for us to take action.

I’m actually very worried. I would not like to curtail freedom, people’s liberal thinking, but we must know where the demarcations are.

Syed Hamid: There are two parts to the ISA, one is the operational part and the other part is detention. The operational part is another form of remand, which the police are allowed (to use) under the law. This operational part is considered routine police work, which no Minister of Home Affairs should know anyway. I should not know, it’s operational field work. Even the IGP, he delegates the function to his officers, then he gets the total information.

In my case, I’m a policy maker looking at the macro situation. If there is a public interest matter, I will look into it. There is a case where Section 73 was interpreted by Federal Court. I think Karam Singh v PP where the court decided that the police have the right to arrest under ISA even on the basis of suspicion. The one in Johor (the arrest of the Johor Suaram secretary under Section 28 of the ISA recently), it is suspicion.

Again, everyone, even the Canadian Embassy asked me. When I was first asked that question (about the arrest), I said I do not know. Truly I did not know. Because in this particular case, for the police, how do you deal with people who allegedly reported falsely? The police take action accordingly. You have to go to court anyway (under Section 28 of the ISA). You have to charge the person in court. So, it’s not excluding due process. Even under Section 73, you can file a habeas corpus (application). Due process is there.

Even under detention by the Minister, the due process is that you can still bring habeas corpus in order to determine whether the grounds (cited) by the Minister is correct or not. If the court is not satisfied, they will release the person.

The other part that people seldom discuss is that after three months from the time of the arrest, there is an advisory panel in which the minister cannot be involved - to advise whether the person should continue to be detained. After that every six months, it (the order) is subject to review -- to see whether the person’s detention should be continued or not.

So, I think there are protective measures. But it’s always difficult, when you’re using preventive laws. It is not easy. When I do it, I have to search my conscience to make sure I do not do injustice.

There are various types of NGOs. Sometimes, a one-member NGO acts like it represent a 100,000. I think there is different thinking also among the urban population and the intellectuals and families and the media. How do you create that balance in order to ensure that everybody feels safe?

People say there will come a time when people want a total abolition of the ISA and preventive laws. Then, you do it at that time. But at present, we believe that the majority of the people feel that there is a need for preventive laws.

Syed Hamid: When other law enforcement agencies come here, they say ‘you’re lucky to have the ISA.’ They say, ‘because of your ISA there are so many things that do not happen - the Bali bombing, extremist groups.’

But in Malaysia, we take all this for granted because everybody can go around (safely). When they are not happy, they condemn the enforcement officers, the police, Immigration, all sorts of things. This is the beauty of living in a peaceful democratic country - to be able to live comfortably. They say we are wrong but when you’re put in a position to make decision ... . The government is sensitive to public comment, to protests, but it must be legitimate for us to respond to it.

People keep on changing their values. Do you remember at one time homosexuality in most countries was an offence. Now it is an accepted social norm -- some countries now have laws that allow for same-sex marriages. The values of society change with time. So somebody in the Opposition was saying, why don’t we make this homosexuality acceptable? After all people do it. But the fact that people do it, does not make it right. The Muslims would never accept it and neither would the Christians. The majority of conventions would tell you it is not allowed.

Our society is more mature but would this create more polarisation? We have to decide. Maybe not during my generation -- we might become so comfortable with each other that preventive laws are not necessary.

Q: Whenever a political party is having its elections or general asemblies, there are always some politicians who use the racial card to further themselves. What is your view on this?

Syed Hamid: It will be a long time before we de-racialise our thinking. My own view is that we must accept our diversity. Barisan Nasional in its true ideal always propagated the ideal of multi-culturalism. The rest of the parties follow this.

Opposition parties might say they practise this, but not in reality. Pakatan (Rakyat) needs to stay together in a marriage of convenience because they want to replace Barisan. But look at how they placed their candidates (in the general election), Chinese area -- DAP, mixed area -- PKR, Muslim area -- PAS.

Q:Do you think Barisan Nasional is becoming obselete now as it is a composition of race-based parties? Is it time to have just a single party to represent all Malaysians?

Syed Hamid: I think it’ll be a long time before that happens. More important to have the sense of cooperation and goodwill to each other. All the while if you look at the mix of Barisan today, it is a total representation of all its multi-ethnicity. But the problem is, as we face a serious political crisis since the last elections, everyone is trying to apportion blame to the other. That’s how you create the problem.

We should have done our soul-searching. Why did people reject us? We got so much development, so much improvement to the well-being of our multi-racial society, yet people voted against us. There must be something wrong within us.

There was less intolerance in the old days. Today there are more (racial) lines. We are suddenly more conscious of these racial lines. We need to rebrand Malaysian politics and review how we go about achieving our objectives.

All of us, let’s stop the blaming and talk about how to build a Malaysian nation, then there will be a mind set change. People say the politicians destroy unity, the politicians say the newspapers destroy unity, the papers look at the Internet and what is said there is worse.

Handle issues with care. Don’t let them catch fire. If we sit as friends and talk about sensitive issues, it doesn’t not create anger and animosity, we begin to understand each other’s problems. But if we discuss openly, the same subject becomes explosive. We must know the nature of our discussion. Anger could be physically expressed.

Take the May 13 issue, it had nothing to do with race. It had something to do with not resolving certain economic issues.

Syed Hamid: We are talking about the possibility of having a Race Relations Act. I was looking at all the Race Relations Acts. And before we have come to any decision, somebody reads the paper and said “Is this another ISA?” So suspicious of everything.

Our country has a Constitution. Certain things are entrenched. How do we go about achieving some of those objectives? I would like to open up a public debate. At the end of it, we must allow the Government to decide what’s best, what we should do.

Q: Has the Government decided yet on the composition of the Act?

Syed Hamid: We’re still studying the Act and discussing with the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry. I don’t consider it as a security issue but at present, a lot of questions are being asked about law and order, and peace and security relating to the Act. Ultimately, it would be the Unity Ministry (which decides on it).

We have to look at what the people want. We will take into account how it can match with the aspirations of the people. We have not made any final decision yet but the debate goes on - we have not even come up with any draft of the law. It was brought up in the Cabinet and we are discussing about certain sensitive issues.

In Part 2 of the interview, Syed Hamid talks about the banning of Hindraf and the responsibility of the media and bloggers

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Malaysian Murder Trial to Nowhere

A Malaysian Murder Trial to Nowhere
21 Oct, 2008

By Jed Yoong

Two years after Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu was murdered, her accusers continue to sit in a courtroom

Last Saturday it was exactly two years since a 28-year-old Mongolian translator, Altantuya Shaariibuu was executed and blown up with military explosives in a jungle on the fringe of Kuala Lumpur. And, despite what looked like a routine case in which abundant physical evidence and one confession would be enough for a guilty verdict, the trial of her three accused murderers has been droning on for nearly 18 months.

As the trial grinds on as it has for months, the elephant in the courtroom remains the deputy prime minister, Najib Tun Razak, who along with his wife, Rosmah Mansor, has so far escaped questioning or being called as a witness despite two statutory declarations and other evidence linking them to the dead woman. The questions over Najib’s involvement, or lack of it, are growing in urgency because he is now on track to become the country’s prime minister after Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi designated him last month as his successor.

The three standing trial are Abdul Razak Baginda, a 48-year-old former advisor and close friend of Najib’s, and two of Najib’s bodyguards, who were part of an elite unit specializing in protecting top political figures.

The latest twist is a set of text messages between Najib and Shafee Abdullah, who was represents Razak Baginda, according to an October 11 report on the website Malaysia Today, whose editor, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, currently is standing trial on sedition charges for accusing Najib of being part of the plot to kill Altantuya. In one piece, Raja Petra accused Rosmah of having been present when Altantuya was murdered. She has denied the charge and offered to sue Raja Petra.

One message from Shafee to Najib said: "We provided (the police) everything, including old PDAs and notebooks and a couple of bills. Nothing incriminating." Malaysia Today said the exchange raises questions if anything "incriminating" was kept from the police.

Malaysia Today also suggested that that the message exchange may indicate that Najib had abused his powers as deputy prime minister to interfere with the investigation. Najib subsequently denied that he had abused his power, told reporters the messages are "private" and refused further comment.

"Why do I need to comment? There is no abuse of power," the deputy prime minister told local reporters. ""Why should it be of major concern? The important thing is if there is abuse of power and, if you read it carefully, there is no abuse of power, period."

In any case, whatever the new revelations may be, Najib and Rosmah have remained above it all, gracing functions and appearing in feel-good articles in the government-controlled local media, dishing out platitudes on unity, friendship, integrity and economic management.

Those who exposed the more gruesome aspects of the trial like Raja Petra Kamarudin, editor of Malaysia Today, and P Balasubramaniam, a private investigator hired by Baginda to keep watch on Altantuya, have come under scrutiny. In addition to the sedition charge, Raja Petra is facing charges of criminal defamation for publishing articles on the murder while Bala has gone into hiding after being pulled into a police station to hurriedly retract a statutory declaration which, among other things, claimed that Baginda told him that Najib introduced Altantuya to him in a diamond exhibition in Hong Kong and that she enjoyed anal sex.

Local bloggers are the most vociferous champions of Altantuya. One wrote a gruesome fictional first-person account of how Altantuya may have experienced the murder.

The local media, on the other hand, have buried stories on the murder trial to the inside pages and commentaries calling for justice are rare.

The usual reason given for editors for shying away from the issue is that it is subjudice although occasionally photographs of Najib holding a machine gun or detonating a bomb, and Rosmah aiming a rifle are published in relation to stories on the Defence Ministry, which Najib also heads.

Najib has been widely reported to have been involved as defense minister in a series of unsavoury purchases of submarines, jet fighter planes and other armaments on which individuals close to him, including Razak Baginda, and the United Malays National Organisation earned vast “commissions.” There is strong circumstantial evidence that Altantuya was the translator on at least one of the series of transactions involving the submarine purchases.

There are other questions over how somehow Abdul Razak was allegedly able to involve Najib’s bodyguards in the murder without Najib’s knowledge. Abdul Razak reportedly spoke with Najib’s chief of staff to ask for someone to “do something” about Altantuya, who was harassing him for money after he attempted to end their affair. One of the two bodyguards confessed to the murder, but the confession was stricken, allegedly because the statement wasn’t cautioned. Numerous amounts of other evidence have been tossed out in the marathon case, raising suspicions that the proceedings are being drawn out to prepare for either acquittals or diminished sentences for the three, perhaps to keep them from pointing the finger at Najib.

Now the former premier, Mahathir Mohamad, has come to Najib's defence. He told The Star on Oct 18, that there is a "concerted effort" to demonise Najib. "“I faced all that before. I was labelled many things and was accused of everything," Mahathir said, referring to the countless allegations levelled against him, including fomenting judicial corruption, since he retired.

- Asia Sentinel

Saturday, October 18, 2008

School examinations - Tested, and found wanting

School examinations

Tested, and found wanting

Oct 16th 2008
From The Economist print edition

The government does a U-turn on controversial exams for 14-year-olds

PERHAPS it was the praise showered on his boss, Gordon Brown, for getting on with rescuing banks that encouraged Ed Balls to take decisive action. On October 14th the schools secretary told Parliament that he was abolishing the “standard assessment tests” (SATs) in English, mathematics and science for 14-year-olds, which were, he said, “less and less relevant”. The SATs taken by seven-year-olds and marked by their teachers as well as the externally-marked ones for 11-year-olds would continue. But even this partial climb-down will have embarrassed a government that has long seen SATs as vital to improving teaching and informing parental school choice.

In reality, the decision had little to do with a dawning ministerial realisation that the tests are pointless: the arguments against SATs have been made loudly, often and long. Rather, it was forced by the chaotic marking of them this summer by ETS, an American firm. Requests for re-marks rocketed and some schools are still waiting for their results, three months late. ETS was fired in August, just one year into a five-year contract, losing £50m as a result.

That left the government scrambling to find a replacement. But two of England’s three big exam boards—the only candidates with the experience needed to hit the ground running—have ruled themselves out, so choice is limited. Since the tests for 14-year-olds are the hardest to mark, dropping them may have been the only way to salvage SATs for 11-year-olds.

Mr Balls has got rid of the weakest link in the long chain of tests taken in English schools (there are no SATs elsewhere in the United Kingdom). Pupils do not change schools at 14 and so do not need a portable record of their achievement at that age. And parents look at GCSE results, not SATs, when choosing secondary schools.

Some think Mr Balls should have gone further: “The government has missed an opportunity to sweep away the whole thing,” says Mick Brookes of the National Association of Head Teachers. He, and others, think the gains from SATs at any age are not worth the costs, which include a narrowing of the primary curriculum and ever-increasing teaching to the test.

The abolitionists have no chance of persuading the government to drop the tests entirely. Before they were introduced in the 1990s, no one—not teachers, parents or the state—knew just how many children left primary school unable to read, write or add up. But their arguments have persuaded the government to look for ways to mitigate the costs for schools and students.

One proposal is to replace the current exams-driven league tables with “balanced scorecards” which grade schools on a raft of measures, including exam results, attendance and pupils’ health. That may help: no more dropping sports in order to squeeze in extra drill on exam technique. Another, which is now being piloted, is to replace the SATs for 11-year-olds with “single-level tests” modelled on music exams, for which teachers can enter pupils twice a year at the level they judge appropriate. The idea is that rather than forcing all children to take a D-Day exam at the end of primary school, credit is collected along the way when it is earned.

But Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, warns that single-level tests are no panacea. Teachers will struggle to prepare children in the same classroom for different exams. Examiners will struggle too, to produce a single test that measures the same level of ability in children of different ages. (In music tests all candidates for a given grade play the same pieces: in an English test, quite different reading texts and writing topics would suit an eight-year-old than an 11-year-old.) The changes might even have the perverse effect of making children sit more tests. “To the extent that schools are judged on results, they have a vested interest in getting as many children through tests at as high a level as possible, as quickly as possible,” Mr Smithers says. “They may be tempted to test children repeatedly, knowing they can bank the passes, and ignore the fails.”

If you were a grapefruit, would you be seedless?

If you were a grapefruit, would you be seedless?

Oct 18, 2008
The New Paper

AND if you have trouble answering that question, sorry, but maybe Cambridge isn't for you.

Want another shot at this? How about: 'What you would do if you were a magpie?' or 'Should there be laws for the use of lightbulbs'.

Such bizarre questions are increasingly being used by leading universities in the United Kingdom (UK) to select the best students.

As another year of application deadlines for universities loom, such UK universities believe that A-level grades are failing to split students and discover potential, reported The Telegraph.

These questions were revealed when Oxbridge Applications, an independent education consultancy set up to help applicants fulfil their potential in the Oxbridge interviews, published some of the questions that students are faced with.

It said that the top universities use such questions as a way of discovering whether students are capable of thinking outside the confines of their subject's syllabus, how quickly they think on their feet, how ably they manage their own intelligence and how articulate they are in their answers.

Hence the choice of questions that can take the students by surprise and seem unrelated to their studies.

Oxbridge Applications surveyed more than 4,000 students who went through the interview process last year to get a glimpse of the wacky questions.

Ms Chloe Palfreman, the company's managing director, felt this form of testing was confusing students who no longer know how to prepare for such interviews.

She said: 'They are so committed to succeeding in their academic examinations that they sometimes lack the time and confidence to expand their knowledge outside of the classroom.

'They know that top exam grades are not all they need to get into the university of their choice but don't know how to prepare for the all-important admissions interview.'


  • Would you rather be a novel or a poem? (English, Oxford)
  • How many monkeys would you use in an experiment? (Experimental Psychology, Oxford)
  • How does Geography relate to A Midsummer Night's Dream? (Geography, Oxford)
  • How do you organise a successful revolution? (History, Oxford)
  • Talk about a light bulb. (Engineering, Oxford)
  • What would you do if you were a magpie? (Natural Sciences, Cambridge)
  • Should we have laws for the use of lightbulbs? (Law, Cambridge)
  • Instead of politicians, why don't we let the managers of Ikea run the country? (Social Political Science, Cambridge)
  • If I were a grapefruit would I rather be seedless or non-seedless? (Medicine, Cambridge)

This article was first published in The New Paper on Oct 16, 2008.