Thursday, November 30, 2006

Increasing toll rates

Increasing toll for increasing traffic woes

I refer to the front page report “Toll to go up” (The Star, Nov 28).

Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu may have many reasons to justify the planned increase in the toll rates come January 1, 2007.Some of his reasons may have merits and need to be considered positively.On the contrary as consumers, most Malaysians would vehemently oppose such moves.

Paying tolls, most would agree is inevitable for the convenience and comfort of travellers. The main question here for us as the road users is whether the prevailing traffic and road conditions really justify the frequent increase.

Road travel in our country has become the main, at times the only available mode of transport. Federal and state trunk roads used to be our main routes for travel for many decades. These became hazardous due to over congestion and as such highways were constructed at very high costs for the convenience of travelers, especially inter stare travel.

Because of the high cost involved in their construction, imposition of tolls was inevitable and most road users accepted it willingly. People did not mind paying a little for the great convenience and safety of the travel on improved highways.

With the passage of time these highways too became heavily congested and today traffic jams are common even on dual carriage highways and expressways. We have come to a situation as it was in the seventies when highways were not available. Despite the congestion and jams, we still have to pay the ever increasing toll charges.

Furthermore our highways are in a deplorable state, with potholes, poor drainage and visibility. They appear to be in state of constant repairs, which add to the traffic jams causing more inconvenience and added dangers to the road users.

The facilities along the highways too are grossly inadequate and not well maintained. The rest areas are overcrowded especially during festive seasons and long weekends. Most of these areas are inconvenient and conducive for rest when breaking a long journey.

In actual fact we are paying for increasing traffic jams and deplorable state of our highways leading to a unacceptably high accident and mortality rates. Is it fair to keep increasing the tolls without a parallel increase in the quality of the highways and associated facilities?

Dr.Chris Anthony

UMNO General Assembly 2006

27 November 2006

Fear-mongers drown out genuine issues

It would be an understatement to say that the just-concluded Umno General Assembly has caused a great deal of concern among right-thinking Malaysians, regardless of race. The language by many of the delegates was disgraceful. Although the prime minister did make conciliatory gestures in his closing address, the fact remains that not one of the Umno delegates, with the exception of Markiman Kobiran, publicly said anything against such behaviour. This to me indicates that such thinking is reflective of the thinking of the rank and file and that is worrying. This is not some fringe group we are talking about here, this is Umno and it is the ruling party.
However, let us look upon the positives. I remember many years ago in sunny England, talking to a South African friend and we both agreed that the thing about apartheid era South Africa was that at least you knew exactly where the racism was, unlike in Britain where it was more insidious. The same can be said in our situation now, the blatant bigotry and the racism have risen to the surface. It is there in plain view and should now be dealt with.
The language used in the general assembly was the language of war and death. Blood was a recurring theme and there was even a call to "use the keris". Now, no matter what Hishammuddin Hussein might say about the keris being merely a symbol, it is still a weapon and the imagery of him being asked to use that weapon is quite simply one of violence.
When there is talk of war and threats, the purpose is to frighten. And the purpose of frightening people is so that they, in their fear, will turn to a saviour. The fear is that of the non-Malay (and some "traitorous" Malays of course) and their ever-present threat to Malay privileges and Islam. The saviour naturally is Umno.
A point not only made by the delegates but also by the RTM presenter covering the general assembly. Therefore, it must surely be true.
But let us first see whether this fear is justified. Just as the American and British public should have demanded more firmly from their governments "where are those weapons of mass destruction that is going to destroy us?", we the people of Malaysia, particularly the Malay people of Malaysia, should be asking "where is the threat to our constitutional privileges and the religion of Islam?"
Rights vs privileges
Firstly, let's examine the issue of Malay privileges. Incidentally, it is not "Malay rights". There is no such thing as a racial "right" to be given special treatment. And that is not me being argumentative, it's the Constitution. You won't find "Malay rights" in the supreme law of our land, instead, you will find terms such as "special position" of Malays. The difference is more than semantics. A right implies something inalienable. A privilege on the other hand is a benefit, presumably given to those who need it.
It is inconceivable that discrimination, whether affirmative or not, can be considered a right. It is in direct contradiction with that most fundamental of true rights, equality among all human beings.
This privilege was made a fundamental part of the Constitution to protect the Malays from being overwhelmed economically, administratively and politically from the immigrant ethnic groups of the time. In return those groups were given the protection and security of citizenship. This is our famous social contract.
How is this constitutional provision being threatened? By people merely questioning it? Is that a threat? Have questions become a threat in this country? What the delegates did not bother pointing out to the people of Malaysia is that for such privileges to be taken away would require a constitutional Aamendment that would need the two-third support of the Dewan Rakyat, the Dewan Negara and approval from the Conference of Rulers. Hardly likely, no matter who is in government. So why is there such a fear?
'Threats' to Islam
With regard to the threat to Islam, again, it is merely fear mongering. A so-called danger is the matter of apostasy. The official numbers of converts out of Islam is miniscule and a large percentage of those are for people who had to embrace Islam because of marriages which have since failed. Shafee Muslims are given every single opportunity to practise their faith in this country and their perpetually delicate sensitivities are guarded to the point of comedy. For example, when was the last time you saw a pig on the cinema screen? So again, my question remains, where is the threat?
The so-called threats are made up based on narrow-minded thinking and untruths. For example, the Konrad Adenaur Foundation programme in Penang where people are brought around on a tour of various houses of worship is apparently a serious threat. How can it be? Unless your faith is so weak that the visiting of a temple would turn you into a Hindu.
The idea of such programmes is to emphasise the peaceful and neighbourly intent of all religions. And what is wrong with that? Are these so-called "defenders of Islam" saying that only Islam promotes such values? If that is the case, all other religions must surely be solely about evil practices. Only the most bigoted can possibly believe that.
The Interfaith Commission is another handy bogeyman. The IFC is not an NGO or an organisation of any kind; it was a proposed statutory body. The purpose of this body was to provide a forum where interfaith issues could be discussed and advice given to the relevant bodies in the event of conflict. It was not a judicial body with authority to make binding decisions. It can in no way usurp the jurisdiction of the syariah court, the civil court or even the penghulu court.
But the Malay press painted a different picture. The IFC was going to emasculate the syariah court and it was going to encourage and enforce the conversion of Muslims out of the religion it seems. Either the writers of such slander did not read the Constitution of the proposed IFC or they did and they decided to just write what they wanted anyway. Besides, the idea has been all but scrapped and for it to work it needs to be passed by Parliament.
I don't think that this is going to happen. So what we have here is delegates raising the ghost of the IFC as a threat when in fact it never was a threat and having been shelved by the Umno-led government, it's effectively dead anyway. How much simpler can this be put? There was no threat.
In the face of such bigotry, I am reminded of Akbar Shah, the greatest of the Moghul emperors. He protected people of all faiths and protected the freedom of worship for all. And he encouraged debate and communication between religions as well. It's a good thing that this man, the leader of one of the greatest Muslim empires ever known, was not Malaysian because he would have probably been branded a threat to Islam.
Genuine issues ignored
All this fist-waving and calls to arms is sad not only because it shows the unacceptably ugly reality of prejudice in our country, but more importantly, by raging against imaginary dangers and shooting at shadows, time is wasted and genuine issues are not being properly debated. Even the prime minister bemoaned the fact that the true threat of corruption was not discussed in any depth.
And why was the issue of the wastage of public funds not discussed? For example, the spending of millions of public money to send Malaysian astronauts to space to play batu seremban. Supposedly it is to encourage interest in science. Perhaps it would have been better to debate whether this will promote interest in science or maybe, just maybe, using the money to build proper science labs in government schools, would be a better option.
And if the issue of apostasy has to be debated, instead of vicious calls for punishment (as if cruelty is going to make one's religion more endearing), maybe the debate should be why are those Muslims who are converting out of Islam so disillusioned? When looking at a problem, the first port of call should be oneself. It's a lot harder than pointing accusatory fingers quivering with rage at others, but ultimately more meaningful.
Issues such as the Asli (Asian Strategic and Leadership Institute) report must be studied with cold reason and not emotive screaming. It is of vital importance to know the truth and that means looking at works from independent bodies like Asli. It is important because we need to know what is working and what is not in order to make sure we do not head towards economic and social meltdown.
It is the future of Malaysia that we should be concerned about and honest discussions about what we can do to secure that future is what we need to hear from the so-called leaders of the country. Not the scoring of cheap shots and not the obtaining of political mileage from appealing to the lowest and basest instincts of man.
If we are not mature enough to rationally examine what this country truly needs, and more importantly, if the leaders of the nation are not mature enough to do this, all of us, Malays, Indians, Chinese, indigenous peoples, all us ordinary Malaysians, we will suffer.
Azmi Sharom
Kuala Lumpur

Monday, November 27, 2006

Live telecast – a right move

Openness would act as restraint

The recently concluded UMNO General assembly may have caused a lot of controversies and negative impressions of the ruling party, but the one most important point in its favour was the decision to telecast its proceedings live. It is a step in the right direction in line with our Prime Minister’s call for a more open and accountable administration.

It is noteworthy that UMNO deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has admitted that some speeches during the just concluded assembly “have gone overboard" and were extreme. Even the PM has acknowledged that we have reached a dangerous point in the history of the nation as far as racial unity is concerned. He tried to calm the situation by his moderate stance at the winding up speech, asserting that Malaysia is for all races and that UMNO will take care of all.

If the proceedings were not telecast live, it would not have received so much adverse reactions from the public and our leaders will never realize that race relations in the country is not that rosy as had been painted all these while. It is regrettable that MCA and MIC have opposed future live telecasts. They should know that their closed-debate over the years have not brought the races together.

On the contrary, openness in the form of live telecast, could in fact restrain the delegates from uttering words and phrases that would be offensive to other races.

Some of the delegates especially from the youth wing were oblivious to the likely ill effects that their statements could have on other communities. They were least bothered that what they utter at the meeting could deeply hurt the feelings of fellow Malaysians of other ethnicity. This is the result of a system that encourages living cocooned within their own community with little or no interaction with others.

The only way out of our present predicament is open, rational and civil dialogue, bearing in mind the sensitivities, fears and anxiety of all the races. This may not be easy, and may take a long time, but with full commitment and the might of the government machinery we have a reasonable chance of achieving a certain degree success.

Our leaders of all political parties must impress upon their members that the Federal Constitution guarantees the right of all the citizens and that all races are here to stay, in the land they consider as their motherland. Nobody is threatening to rob others of their rights as all they ask for is their own rights as enshrined in the federal constitution. We should not over-react to imaginary threats as that would only create chaos.

In the meantime, steps to educate the future generation should also be implemented now without any delay. Children from all races must be taught to understand and respect the sensitivities of other races. Free mingling of people of all races from young, freedom of expression and open dialogue in a civil manner must be actively encouraged as these would help instill tolerance towards others.

We hope the leaders will not only continue with live telecasts of future UNMO assemblies but also encourage other political parties and even parliament and state assemblies to do likewise. In the long run only openness will act as a restraint on our words and deeds.

Our ethnic diversity is here to stay.Whether we build on it or destroy it,depends entirely on us and we alone can determine our destiny.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Friday, November 24, 2006

UMNO General Assembly 2006

Delegates scream, but PM decides
Dr A Mohanraj
Malaysiakini,Nov 23, 2006

For all those who have been shocked, shaken ,dismayed - or even devastated - by the outbursts at the recent Umno general assembly, I write this to pacify them. Some of the speeches were downright comical and certainly more in rhetoric than in substance.

This is nothing new at the Umno assemblies. The previous years and, in particular, in the early years of Umno, the assemblies must have witnessed even more vicious utterances by the delegates. Only then the public did not get to hear them.

The assemblies are perhaps the only opportunity for delegates who are otherwise non-entities to make their voices heard in a hall-full of passionate people in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Oratory flair, humour and sychopancy among others take precedence over substance. After the assembly, every delegate goes back feeling proud of himself having spoken his mind .

This ventilation can be healthy at times. This, however, is unwise and certainly in poor taste when done under the watchful eyes of local and foreign media, the diplomatic corps and the pathetic leaders of BN component parties. The Umno delegates chose to speak like school bullies.

The prime minister may smile, laugh, nod or frown at the speeches but ultimately he decides what to take seriously and what to ignore. He has no choice, because the seat of the prime minister comes with responsibilities and the mandate to make sound, practical and acceptable decisions for the betterment of the nation. Whoever who holds the position of prime minister knows that. At times, he has no alternative but to be a statesman rather than a politician.

Pak Lah, in his inimitable style, has assured us that he is prime minister for all and not just for the Malays. Delegates can scream their heads off but the prime minister decides when to hear and when to listen.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Marginalisation of minorities

Are we marginalised?

The Minister Mentor of Singapore accused the Malaysian government has systematically marginalized her citizens of Chinese origin. This was vehemently denied by the Malaysian government including its own Chinese Ministers in the cabinet. Since then there has been considerable debate on this issue of marginalization.

What is marginalization? Is it true that certain communities in the country are being marginalized? The Oxford Dictionary defines marginalization as 1.relating to or a situation at or in a margin. 2. of minor importance.

Therefore when we say a community is marginalized it means it is pushed to the periphery and given minor importance. In accordance with this definition we can safely say marginalization is a universal practice of the majority against the minority.

In a truly democratic state the minorities are protected by law against blatant abuses and discrimination against them. The ruling majority is entrusted to ensure that the minorities are really protected. The political system, the judiciary, police and armed forces are in place to ensure that the rights of the minorities are protected in accordance with the laws of the country. This is practiced more satisfactorily in most developed democratic nations of the West as compared to developing and under-developed nations.

Do we as the minority non-Malay and non-Muslim communities enjoy this protection from the government agencies? The unwillingness to act against the newly emerging mob mentality like the violent disruption of the peaceful Article 11 forum in Penang, the false SMS fiasco in Ipoh where, groups of Muslims gather in force to surround a church on mere speculation and rumours and against those who made seditious speeches at the recent UMNO General Assembly are indicators that we and our families will never be protected from these perpetrators of unlawful actions.

Let’s analyze what is taking place in our own multiracial and multi-religious country which our leaders acclaim to be a model for other multi-ethnic nations to emulate.

At birth

The first act after a child is born is the registration of its birth which requires one to state the ethnicity and religion of the child. So even at birth Malaysians are categorized as Malays, Chinese, Indians or others. Why can’t we do away with just stating we are Malaysian instead of mentioning our ethnic origin?

In school

When the child goes to school, again he is repeatedly asked to state his race and religion in all registration forms. Even streamlining of classes is based on race. It is not uncommon to group all Malays into one class and non-Malays into others. The reason given for this is to facilitate religious instruction for Muslims and moral for non-Muslims. Religious instruction for children should be encouraged but it should be for all, regardless of religion.

Moral classes, emphasizing universal values, should also be common for all, Muslims and non-Muslims, alike. Why are Malaysians at such a tender and innocent age exposed to separate moral and value systems?

Prayer sessions in schools, before important functions and examinations are held only for Muslims. The non-Muslims are left to idle away during these sessions. Isn’t this segregation of our children in schools for religious purposes amounts to discrimination?

Selection of students for posts as prefects, heads of clubs and sports are again based on race. Non-Malay students unless possess extra-ordinary skills, which not many do, are not selected to represent the school or state.

Teachers, who are predominantly Malays, these days don’t even know much about the background of their pupils of other races.

Then there is different dress code for Muslims and non-Muslims which further segregate the kids even at primary level.

At university level

Entry into public universities which is based on two totally different examinations, Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia(STPM) and Matriculation, is profoundly unfair. There is widespread perception that the selection process for university entrance favors the matriculation over the STPM students. Less than 10% of the matriculation seats are offered to non-Malays.

As STPM carries less weight for entry into public universities, many of the non-Malay students, even those from poor background, are forced to shun away from this once popular local examination in favor of A-levels, which is apart from being a foreign examination is also very costly, tuition fees alone coming up to more than RM13,000.By this unfair practice, slowly but surely the non-Malays are systematically eliminated from being considered for courses in public universities. Why can’t all races sit for the same common exam?

Every year we see numerous non-Malay students with maximum results in STPM exam being blatantly denied places in public universities for critical courses like Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Law and Engineering. Many of these students are from extremely poor financial background. Scholarships are not awarded to them based on merit as claimed. What do we expect them to do? Can we blame them if they resort to criminal activities to earn a living?

The vast majority on non-Malay students, including the brilliant ones from poor families, are forced to further their education in private institutions, with questionable credentials,at exorbitant costs, often amounting to hundreds of thousands of ringgit. Many poor parents have to mortgage their houses and properties to finance them. Highly precious EPF savings are utilized leaving the parents at the mercy of their children at the twilight of their lives.

Job opportunities

After completion of their studies job opportunities are also hardly available to non-Malay Malaysians. The posts in civil service, police, armed forces and even government linked companies(GLC) are “reserved” for bumiputras leaving the private sector highly competitive for the non-bumiputras.Forty percent of the population are given less the 10% of jobs in the government sector. If this isn’t discrimination what is it?

For those few, who are lucky to be employed in these services, promotions by real merit are difficult to come by. Heads of departments, state directors of the various departments, director generals, state secretaries and chief secretaries of ministries are all for bumiputras.

Religious segregation

During the sixties and seventies, school and office canteens sell food for all races. Today these canteens cater for Muslims only. Chinese and Indians are not allowed to sell their food even if halal.

In the years following independence Malaysians of all races mix freely, playing, eating and even praying together. They celebrate all the festivals together true spirit of muhibbah.Today each community celebrates its own festival among the members of its own community. In fact these days our Muslim friends are reluctant to dine in the homes of non Muslim friends.

Although Malaysia is a secular country where the federal constitution guarantees freedom to practice ones own religion, this freedom of religious worship, in actual fact, is greatly impeded. Local authorities are reluctant to approve the building of churches and temples let alone providing funds for such projects. There is blatant disrespect for non-Muslim faiths.

Civil laws are being replaced by Syariah laws that are slowly becoming the supreme law of the land. There seems to be 2 sets of laws in the country, Syariah for Muslims and civil for non-Muslims. Inter-faith problems are sensationalized and dialogues to solve them are denied. The non-Muslims are denied recourse to their problems that involve Muslims.


Don’t all these considerations amount to marginalization of the non-bumiputra minorities? If not then what are they?

Lee Kuan Yew said the Chinese are marginalized in Malaysia and in return the Malaysian government claims that the Malays in Singapore are marginalized. Both these may be true but what is also true is that the indigenous groups and Indians in both countries have been pushed out of the margins, a situation we call elimination, which is more extreme than marginalization.

We claim that Malaysia is a multi-racial and multi-religious country, and truly it is. Our leaders claim we are a model nation for the world to emulate as far as ethnic relations are concerned, sure enough it should be.

We have all the great religions in our country, Islam, Christianity, Hinduisms and Buddhism. All of them are unanimous in their teachings - to share what you have, however scanty it may be, with those who are less fortunate regardless of race or creed.

Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural resources and there is plenty of wealth for all its citizens. All we need is to be true followers of our respective religions and share what we have with fellow countrymen, regardless of color or creed.

Until and unless we get rid of our selfishness in accordance of our religious teachings, we will never be a model nation for the world.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Live telecast of UNMO General Assembly

Openness would act as restraint

I refer to the report “Rethink on live telecast” (Star Nov 21).

The recently concluded 57th UMNO General assembly may have caused a lot of controversies, but the one most important point in its favour was the decision to telecast its proceedings live.It is a step in the right direction in line with our Prime Minister’s call for a more open and accountable administration.

It is encouraging that UMNO deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has admitted that some speeches during the just concluded assembly were extreme. Even the PM has acknowledged that we have reached a dangerous point in the history of the nation as far as racial unity is concerned.

If the proceedings were not telecast live, it would not have received so much adverse reactions from the public and our leaders will never realize that race relations in the country is not that rosy as had been painted all these while.

Some of the delegates especially from the youth wing were oblivious to the likely ill effects that their statements could have on other communities. They were least bothered that what they utter at the meeting could deeply hurt the feelings of fellow Malaysians of other ethnicity. This the result of a system that encourages living cocooned within their own community with little or no interaction with others.

Children from all races must be taught to understand and respect the sensitivities of other races. Free mingling of people of all races from young, freedom of expression and open dialogue in a civil manner will help instill tolerance towards others.

In a similar way, openness in the form of live telecast, could in fact restrain the delegates from uttering words and phrases that would be offensive to other races.

We hope the leaders will not only continue with live telecasts of future UNMO assemblies but also encourage other political parties and even parliament and state assemblies to do likewise. Our ethnic diversity is here to stay and in the long run only openness will act as a restraint on our words and deeds.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Monday, November 20, 2006

Monday November 20, 2006
Dr M gets Mother Teresa award
Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is the first Malaysian to Tun Dr Mahathir
receive the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice.
The award was presented during a ceremony at Taj President Hotel in Mumbai, India, yesterday.
Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir received the award on behalf of his father, who is recuperating from a mild heart attack.
Dr Mahathir’s personal assistant Adzlin Azhar said the award was given in recognition of Dr Mahathir’s efforts in pushing through national unity in a multiracial and multireligious country.
“During his tenure as the Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir had ensured that economic development and progress was enjoyed by all, regardless of their ethnic and religious backgrounds,” she said when contacted yesterday.
“The award was given in honour of his achievement.”
Adzlin said the award, given by the Harmony Foundation, was to honour men and women of integrity.
Dr Mahathir, who suffered a mild heart attack on Nov 9, was discharged from Institut Jantung Negara on Nov 14.
A family friend said Dr Mahathir was feeling bored as he is accustomed to a hectic routine.
“He will probably start writing his memoirs again to keep himself busy.”

UMNO must be fair to all

Fairness is strength not weakness

The only reassuring statements for the non-Malay Malaysians were from the Umno president and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He persistently called for moderation before, during and after the recent UMNO General Assembly.

Unfortunately his appeals had fallen on deaf ears as throughout the assembly, speaker after speaker delivered fiery and emotional attacks on other races. This has caused a lot of anxiety, fear and alarm among us, who all these years have contributed so much to the development of the nation which we have come to regard as our permanent home.

What is happening to our major partner in BN? As the PM says Umno, and the Malays, as the dominant members of the ruling coalition, must always be fair and just to all Malaysians. The minority non-Malays have no one else to turn to if their dominant partner turns against them. Whether we like it or not we are Malaysians and are here to stay during bad and good times. This is a fact which must be accepted by all.

A large part of their criticisms are due to failure of dialogue and communication among the races. There is a dire need for dialogue not only to solve problems but also to merely understand and appreciate our differences. Unfortunately there are forces that are bent on opposing such dialogue because of misperceptions that have created suspicion in their minds.

There have been accusations that we are questioning the special position of the Malays and Islam. In fact the majority of us have come to accept these as a fact of life. We are merely asking for are our rights as enshrined in the constitution. We have come to a situation where all our rights in education, economy, culture and religion are denied and our future appears bleak and hopeless.

Our yearnings to serve the nation, in government service, police and armed forces are not appreciated and denied.

As the PM points out everybody wants fairness which was a strength and Umno being the dominant partner in the BN must use this strength to discharge its responsibilities in a trustworthy and responsible manner. UMNO must be responsible not only to the Malays but also to other races who have accepted its

God has bestowed us with a beautiful country, full of resources and devoid of natural disasters like earthquakes, draught, floods, forest fires, volcanoes, typhoons and hurricanes. He has also bestowed us with diverse cultures and faiths.

Let us appreciate His gifts and enjoy life to the fullest as one united nation and not fight each other in His name.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Mob rule

7 November 2006

Rule of law, not mob rule, should prevail

I refer to the report “Cops to probe baptism SMS” (Star,November 6).

The fiasco caused by the rumours through SMS, claiming that a group of Muslims will be baptised at a church in Ipoh caused a great deal of anxiety and tension. As far as investigations reveal, there is no truth in the rumour that is spread by irresponsible people out to create chaos in our multi-racial and multi-religious nation.

This particular incidence is not an isolated one. Of late this mob mentality appears to be gaining momentum and if not checked will become the norm for achieving the desires of a particular group.

We welcome the strong condemnation by the Prime Minister and his deputy of those responsible for the false SMS. I am sure peace loving Malaysians of all faiths will join them in their call for severe punitive action these people with skewed ideas. It is also reassuring to know that the police have taken this rumour mongering seriously and investigating to determine the source of it. The police must be commended for acting quickly to bring the situation under control without any violence.

We hope they act swiftly and professionally to trace and reprimand those responsible and take preventive measures to stop such dangerous actions of these irresponsible people out to cause trouble. Only a firm and uncompromising police action would act as a deterrent for others who may want to carry out such devious plots.

Action must not only be taken but must also be seen to be taken, without fear or favour, against those responsible. The rule of law must prevail under all circumstances. Mob rule for whatever reason must not be allowed by any community.

Spiritual leaders of respective religions must preach goodwill and tolerance among their followers. They should make them be more aware of the sensitivities of other religions and advocate respect and love for their followers. Religion should be always a means to peace never violence.

Followers of all faiths should discard their egotistic attitude and refrain from actively propagating and converting others to their own religion as this will only create ill-feeling and suspicion. They must instill the concept that all faiths may differ in their approach but are equal and lead their followers to one same God. Moreover faith dwells in one’s heart and cannot be converted to another by persuasion or force unless he is willing to do so.

In a country like Malaysia, with its diverse religions and cultures, inter-faith problems are inevitable from time to time. They are best solved through dialogue in a civil manner and not through mob rule aroused by emotion. Mob rule and threat of violence are never the way to solve our inter-faith problems. Malaysia which is leading the call for inter-faith dialogue at the international level, must also promote such dialogue at national level, among the various religious groups in the country.

In the final outcome, true peace and harmony really depends not just our leaders or the police force alone but rather one the maturity and wisdom of our citizens. As peace loving Malaysians of all faiths, we must show that maturity and wisdom by rising up to say “NO” to religious fanatics and “YES” to moderation, tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. We should not allow the extremist minority in each of our religions to ruin the peace and harmony which we have cherished and nourished all these years.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Church ceremony brings in angry crowd

Malaysiakini,Nov 5

A false and malicious SMS sent out by unknown persons almost caused a racial incident in Ipoh, Perak today. Believing the content of the SMS, a large crowd of angry Muslim Malaysians, including several religious organisations, gathered at a church this morning to stop the alleged mass conversion of Muslims to Christianity. The SMS said that the conversion would take place this morning. By law, conversion of Muslims into any other religion is illegal.

However in actual fact, the church this morning was conducting a baptism ceremony for some 110 children of Indian origin. The gathered crowd however refused to budge, wanting to wait until the church function was over.

The police had to dispatch a team of the Federal Reserve Unit to keep watch on the situation. Perak police chief Abdul Aziz Bulat said that the FRU was stationed at the church compound from 7am till about 1pm. By then the crowd had dispersed without any incidents. Religious department to investigate Abdul Aziz said he will continue to monitor the situation and probe further into the malicious SMS. “We don’t know the source of the SMS.

Maybe there are people who want to cause religious disturbances,” Bernama quoted him as saying. He added that it was worrying that there are people who are keen in sending such malicious messages. It is the work of irresponsible people who just want to create racial tensions, he added. He advised the public not to be easily influenced by such mobile phone messages as it could cause unwanted incidents in the country.

Meanwhile Bernama also reported that the Perak religious department too will be investigating the matter and take appropriate action against anyone found sending the false and offensive SMS.
Iraqi tribunal sentences Saddam to hang

Associated Press Writer

Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced Sunday to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a single Shiite town, as the ousted leader, trembling and defiant, shouted "God is great!"

As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, "Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!" Later, his lawyer said the former dictator had called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces.

The trial brought Saddam and his co-defendants before their accusers in what was one of the most highly publicized and heavily reported trials of its kind since the Nuremberg tribunals for members of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime and its slaughter of 6 million Jews in the World War II Holocaust

"The verdict placed on the heads of the former regime does not represent a verdict for any one person. It is a verdict on a whole dark era that has was unmatched in Iraq's history," Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shiite prime minister, said.

Some feared the verdicts could exacerbate the sectarian violence that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war, after a trial that stretched over nine months in 39 sessions and ended nearly 3 1/2 months ago. The verdict came two days before midterm elections in the United States widely seen as a referendum on the Bush administration's policy in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials have denied the timing was deliberate.

In north Baghdad's heavily Sunni Azamiyah district, clashes broke out between police and gunmen. Elsewhere in the capital, celebratory gunfire rang out.

"This government will be responsible for the consequences, with the deaths of hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands, whose blood will be shed," Salih al-Mutlaq, a Sunni political leader, told the Al-Arabiya satellite television station.

Saddam and his seven co-defendants were on trial for a wave of revenge killings carried out in the city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on the former dictator. Al-Maliki's Islamic Dawa party, then an underground opposition, has claimed responsibility for organizing the attempt on Saddam's life.

In the streets of Dujail, a Tigris River city of 84,000, people celebrated and burned pictures of their former tormentor as the verdict was read.

Saddam's chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi condemned the trial as a "farce," claiming the verdict was planned. He said defense attorneys would appeal within 30 days.
The death sentences automatically go to a nine-judge appeals panel, which has unlimited time to review the case. If the verdicts and sentences are upheld, the executions must be carried out within 30 days.

A court official told The Associated Press that the appeals process was likely to take three to four weeks once the formal paperwork was submitted.

During Sunday's hearing, Saddam initially refused the chief judge's order to rise; two bailiffs pulled the ousted ruler to his feet and he remained standing through the sentencing, sometimes wagging his finger at the judge.

Before the session began, one of Saddam's lawyers, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, was ejected from the courtroom after handing the judge a memorandum in which he called the trial a travesty.

Chief Judge Raouf Abdul-Rahman pointed to Clark and said in English, "Get out."
In addition to the former Iraqi dictator and Barzan Ibrahim, his former intelligence chief and half brother, the Iraqi High Tribunal convicted and sentenced Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the head of Iraq's former Revolutionary Court, to death by hanging. Iraq's former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Three defendants were sentenced to 15 years in prison for torture and premeditated murder. Abdullah Kazim Ruwayyid and his son Mizhar Abdullah Ruwayyid were party officials Dujail, along with Ali Dayih Ali. They were believed responsible for the Dujail arrests.
Mohammed Azawi Ali, a former Dujail Baath Party official, was acquitted for lack of evidence and immediately freed.

He faces additional charges in a separate case over an alleged massacre of Kurdish civilians — a trial that will continue while appeals are pending.

The guilty verdict is likely to enrage hard-liners among Saddam's fellow Sunnis, who made up the bulk of the former ruling class. The country's majority Shiites, who were persecuted under the former leader but now largely control the government, will likely view the outcome as a cause of celebration.

Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, told AP his client called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and called on them to refrain from taking revenge on U.S. invaders.

"His message to the Iraqi people was 'pardon and do not take revenge on the invading nations and their people'," al-Dulaimi said, quoting Saddam. "The president also asked his countrymen to 'unify in the face of sectarian strife.'"

In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, 1,000 people defied the curfew and carried pictures of the city's favorite son through the streets. Some declared the court a product of the U.S. "occupation forces" and condemned the verdict.

"By our souls, by our blood we sacrifice for you Saddam" and "Saddam your name shakes America."

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad issued a statement saying the verdicts "demonstrate the commitment of the Iraqi people to hold them (Saddam and his co-defendants) accountable."
"Although the Iraqis may face difficult days in the coming weeks, closing the book on Saddam and his regime is an opportunity to unite and build a better future," Khalilzad said.

Two U.S. officials who worked as advisers to the court on matters of international judicial procedures said Saddam's repeated courtroom outbursts during the nine-month trial may have played a key part in his conviction.

They cited his admission in a March 1 hearing that he had ordered the trial of 148 Shiites who were eventually executed, insisting that doing so was legal because they were suspected in the assassination attempt against him. "Where is the crime? Where is the crime?" he asked, standing before the panel of five judges.

Later in the same session, he argued that his co-defendants must be released and that because he was in charge, he alone must be tried. His outburst came a day after the prosecution presented a presidential decree with a signature they said was Saddam's approval for death sentences for the 148 Shiites, their most direct evidence against him.

About 50 of those sentenced by the "Revolutionary Court" died during interrogation before they could go to the gallows. Some of those hanged were children.

"Every time they (defendants) rose and spoke, they provided a lot of incriminating evidence," said one of the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Under Saddam, Iraq's bureaucracy showed a consistent tendency to document orders, policies and minutes of meetings. That, according to the U.S. officials, helped the prosecution produce more than 30 documents that clearly established the chain of command under Saddam.

One document gave the names of everyone from Dujail banished to a desert detention camp in southern Iraq. Another, prepared by an aide to Saddam, gave the president a detailed account of the punitive measures against the people of Dujail following the failed assassination attempt.
Saddam's trial had from the outset appeared to reflect the turmoil and violence in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

One of Saddam's lawyers was assassinated the day after the trial's opening session last year. Two more were later assassinated and a fourth fled the country.

In January, chief judge Rizgar Amin, a Kurd, resigned after complaints by Shiite politicians that he had failed to keep control of court proceedings. He, in turn, complained of political interference in the trial. Abdul-Rahman, another Kurd, replaced Amin.

Hearings were frequently disrupted by outbursts from Saddam and Ibrahim, with the two raging against what they said was the illegitimacy of the court, their ill treatment in the U.S.-run facility where they are being held and the lack of protection for their lawyers.

The defense lawyers contributed to the chaos in the courtroom by staging several boycotts.

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