Monday, December 31, 2007

Let's strive to make 2008 a better year for all


Let’s strive to make the nation the pride of all

The year 2007 may have been a great year for many – blessed with all the good things in life, good health,peace,happiness and prosperity. To them the passing year would be such a memorable one that is sad to depart with. They hope that the tidings of joy would continue into the coming year.

To a large number of others the year 2007 could have brought all forms of miseries and even disaster - terminal illness, death of loved ones, financial losses, loss of jobs, failures in relationship, carreer and examinations. There may be some even struck by natural calamities that have shattered their hopes and left their lives in total disarray. There are a good number of those severely hit by the escalating cost of living and are toiling day and night to make ends meet. For these unfortunate people the year 2007 was nothing but a nightmare. For them there is not much hope and cheer in welcoming the New Year. They just hope and pray that the coming year will bring some fortune into their lives.

Our multi-racial and multi-religious nation too had its ups and downs during the year 2007.These trials and tribulations should make us more mature and tolerant in our thinking and attitudes towards one another. They should be a lesson for us on the importance of nurturing the peace and stability that we have achieved over the years. The greatest asset we have today is Prime Minister,Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. We hope with his wisdom and the moderate stand, Pak Lah will be able to steer the nation back on to a path of peace, goodwill and harmony.

As we bid farewell to 2007 and step into 2008, let us as all resolve to do the little we can to make Malaysia a better place for all. Let us resolve to make Malaysia the pride of all citizens irrespective of race, religion and political alignment. As we strive to improve ourselves, let us also do the little we can to make the lives of all Malaysians a bit better than it was.

Let us forget the differences of ethnicity that divide us and unite with the many common things we have as Malaysians. Let us do our part in the fight against corruption, abuse of power, crime and racism and religious fanaticism in whatever forms that threaten the security and peace of our nation.

The year 2008 is an important one for all citizens, a year of our general elections. It is the time when we will be called to do our part in deciding our destiny as a nation. Let us be responsible and do our part in electing only those who are capable and genuinely committed to serve the rakyat at all times, leaders who will place the interest of the nation above theirs. As we wish each other a ‘Happy New Year’, let us be determined to strive to make the nation the pride of all.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2008

Dr.Chris Anthony

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Uniting Malaysians for Malaysia

Top 10 news of 2007

Malaysiakini, Dec 29, 07 12:09pm

This was the year that tens of thousands of Malaysians broke free of mental chains and collectively thumbed their noses at those in control.

From courtly lawyers to cheesed-off car-tinters, there was a unity of purpose across their respective causes, as they claimed the right to speak and to be heard - and damn the consequences!

No, it had nothing to do with a government that “gave” them freedom to do so. It had everything to do with a citizenry that would not cave in to the commands of an overbearing government.

Malaysiakini
celebrates a year of definitive mindset change - so, it is apt that C-words rule our choice of Top 10 news issues of the year.

Think of that clip, corruption, clean-ups, conversions, courage, crackdowns, crime, conflict, commission, culling, chatterboxes and campaigns... caught on yet?


Correct, correct, correct

THE ISSUE:
Correct, correct, correct, ya, ya, ya! Our top story of the year couldn’t be any other than the explosive Lingam tape, revealed in part on Sept 19 by PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

The full 14-minute clip, said to be recorded in 2002, shows senior lawyer VK Lingam talking on the phone about appointing ‘friendly’ judges to the Bench. He claimed to be in conversation with then Chief Judge of Malaya - the judiciary’s No 3 - Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim Omar, who later became the chief justice.

The claims ignited an uproar, propelling some 2,000 lawyers into taking an unprecedented 3.5km ‘Walk for Justice’ in search of investigation of judicial corruption.

Despite clear public anger and concern, the government was initially reluctant to set up a royal commission of inquiry and offered only a three-member panel to probe the authenticity of the eight-minute segment of the clip.

When there appeared to be no longer any question about its authenticity, the government agreed to set up a full-blown commission, although criticism has continued over its choice of members and the still-limited terms of reference.

Ahmad Fairuz did not get his wish for an extension of service and retired on Oct 31 under a cloud of doubt, despite earlier denying involvement via de facto law minister Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz.

Anwar released the full clip on Dec 14. Prior to that, Lingam’s estranged brother had exposed more juicy details about the lawyer’s alleged relationship with judges - but the lawyer himself has taken a vow of silence until such time as the commission summons him to testify.

WHAT’S NEXT:
Possibly, some clarification of the murkiness surrounding top appointments in the judiciary. Sanctions, you say? Don’t hold your breath waiting. After all, the Royal Police Commission was unable to push through its own police watchdog proposal.


Hindraf emerges from the shadows

THE ISSUE: The Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) was relatively unknown until it provided Indian Malaysians the opportunity to vent feelings pent up over 150 years. The grouping is led by lawyers and brothers P Uthayakumar and Waythamoorthy, who have taken up issues that have plagued the grassroots of a downtrodden community.

From alleged police brutality and deaths in custody, they duo have zeroed in on marginalisation and discrimination of Indians. In defence of the right to religion, they have also been calling attention to the demolition of Hindu temples nationwide.

The first sign of Hindraf’s growing base of support was when it gathered some 2,000 Indians at Putrajaya to hand over a memorandum detailing the community’s problems. It did not even get the courtesy of a response.

Waythamoorthy then gave the campaign an instantly international image by suing the British government for RM14 trillion - on grounds that colonialists had brought Indians to Malaya as indentured labourers and later failed to factor in their interests when the Federal Constitution was being formulated.

The brothers, along with other Indian lawyers, began a nationwide roadshow to explain the suit and publicise Hindraf’s intention to petition the British Queen to support the suit by appointing a Queen’s Counsel to represent Indian Malaysians.

On Oct 29, about a week before Deepavali, a century-old temple in Kampung Rimba Jaya in Padang Jawa, Selangor, was destroyed as part of a wider operation by the Shah Alam Municipal Council to clear a squatter settlement which included a surau.

This proved to be the proverbial straw - it even produced a rare sighting of MIC president S Samy Vellu, as Hindraf lawyers pitched into the chaos that ensued.

It was a short hop from that incident to the Nov 25 mass rally at Kuala Lumpur, which saw some 30,000 Indians backing a bid by Hindraf leaders to submit a petition to the British High Commission.

The police response was a crackdown on protesters, followed by charges of attempted murder (since dropped), illegal assembly and causing mischief. Five Hindraf leaders have been detained for two years under the Internal Security Act.

The community’s cause has resonated with individuals, civil society groups and political parties, even if some have distanced themselves from certain Hindraf claims.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been pressured into meeting with Indian-based NGOs to hear the community’s long list of grouses.

WHAT’S NEXT:
‘Big Ears’ will have his work cut out for him to offer real forms of redress - and pronto - now that he realises that silence will no longer be met with silence.


Yearning for a ‘Bersih’ electoral system


THE ISSUE: All that the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) wants is an election system that is free of taint and above suspicion.

In aid of this, the grouping - comprising 67 NGOs and five opposition parties - has been active in canvassing voter support, while also lobbying the Election Commission (EC) to implement its ideas.

Earlier this year, it held low-key meetings with the EC and roadshows to educate the public about what should constitute clean and fair elections in Malaysia.

These efforts bore fruit - the EC agreed to use indelible ink to curb multiple voting and even to introduce transparent voting boxes in the next general election. Still, this apparently fell short of Bersih’s demands.

When the coalition took its case to supporters in Kuala Terengganu in September, its planned ceramah attracted action. The cops moved in, sealed off the venue, and used force to deal with resistance - ‘live’ bullets injured two people.

Not to be intimidated, Bersih reacted with plans for a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 10. Despite a police cordon and use of water cannon and tear gas, some 40,000 protesters managed to march to Istana Negara where a petition was handed to the King’s representative.

This was followed with another memorandum to the prime minister - via opposition MPs, amidst pandemonium outside Parliament on Dec 11 - and at a more sedate affair at his Putrajaya office on Dec 18. But it failed to end the tenure of EC head Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman because of his alleged failure to correct failings in the electoral system. Abdul Rashid has been given another year as EC chief.

WHAT’S NEXT: Bersih has threatened to step up pressure for electoral reform, although it is being cagey about the methods. All eyes will be on possible abuses, vote buying and fraud in the upcoming general election, which some expect will be held as early as March.


Subordinate brings down ACA head

THE ISSUE:
In his last self-proclaimed act of ‘national duty’ before he retired last year, Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) senior officer Ramli Manan did something that would eventually take down his boss in spectacular fashion.

The former ACA Sabah chief levelled several allegations against then director-general Zulkipli Mat Noot ranging from corruption to a sexual assault.

He sent his report to the police chief, the premier, attorney-general, auditor-general and director-general of the civil service, but the outcome was a deafening silence.

What he was unable to achieve behind the scenes had to be accomplished in public, after the corruption watchdog Gerak revealed the contents of his report in February this year.

In an exclusive interview with Malaysiakini, Ramli later said that, for six years prior to retirement, he had been consigned to ‘cold storage’ because he had persisted in investigating a corruption allegation against former Land and Cooperative Development Minister Kasitah Gaddam in 2000.

Ramli also said he was further victimised when his pension and salary were held back, and since filed a legal suit over this.

Under the circumstances, it would have taken a particularly thick-skinned politician to bear the risk of being associated with Zulkipli, so the prime minister and his ever-willing cabinet went into damage-control mode.

Zulkipli’s service, which had been extended twice since retirement in 2005, was unceremoniously terminated on March 31. However, four months later, attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail cleared him of all corruption allegations.

WHAT’S NEXT: Expect to hear the sound of the government laundromat in high-spin cycle to handle more dirty linen, should more whistleblowers come forth.


We’re no longer safe

THE ISSUE: Next to the state of the economy and retail therapy, Malaysians are apparently most concerned about personal safety.

And where they have feared to tread in criticising the state of politics, they have not held back in demanding responsibility and accountability of the police force in stopping criminals in their tracks.

The number of reported crimes went up over the first half of the year to 87,582, or an increase of 7,006 cases compared to the same period last year. The incidents included 1,507 reports of rape, as well as a spate of highway robberies and snatch thefts resulting in injuries and fatalities.

In June, some 200 people gathered in front of the Johor Mentri Besar’s house to protest the rising incidence of crime in the state. Although this turned ugly when the police moved in, it did result in the cabinet ordering additional police personnel to be deployed and approval for 11 new police stations in the southern-most state.

The same month, Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharum also assured the public that the police are viewing the crime situation seriously and that the government was stepping up responses.

As another step, the Parliamentary Caucus on the Human Rights organised public hearings in July to assist the police in curbing crime. Held in three states - Selangor, Johor and Penang - these allowed the public to raise problems and voice dissatisfaction, although the media were barred from covering the sessions.

Think-tank Merdeka Centre followed up on public perceptions, releasing findings in August that confirmed what everyone else already knew.

WHAT'S NEXT: Hopefully real action to prevent rapists, kidnappers, robbers, muggers and their ilk from running wild, instead of locking up protesters for claiming their constitutional rights.


Conversion confusion

THE ISSUE: Conflicts based in religion continued to grab the headlines, including several cases carried over from last year. Whether or not civil courts have jurisdiction over syariah matters remained the crux of the debate.

The much-anticipated Lina Joy decision saw the Federal Court decide that the issue of conversion lies with the Syariah Court, splitting the nation over the concept of freedom of religion.

Another shocker was when M Revathi, who was born a Muslim but brought up as a Hindu - and who married an Indian Malaysian - defiantly revealing the coercion she went through during at an Islamic rehabilitation centre.

The year ended with the Federal Court's landmark ruling that R Subashini, whose husband converted himself and one of their two sons to Islam, can seek divorce in the civil courts. But the controversial 2-1 decision also ruled that the husband can convert the son without informing the mother.

A global interfaith conference was cancelled at the last minute - with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi pulling out as keynote speaker - sparking criticism as to whether the government is as tolerant as it claims to be.

And when Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said Malaysia has never been a secular state, it further exasperated those still lay hope on the spirit of the Federal Constitution.

WHAT’S NEXT: Religion will remain at the centre of contention so long as it is politicised. The battle over religion will continue in the new year as two lawsuits have been filed over the right of Christians to use ‘Allah’ in referring to God in Bahasa Malaysia.


Drama in Year of the Pig

THE ISSUE: The Year of the Golden Pig saw an unprecedented stand-off between pig farmers and a combined force of law enforcers in Malacca.

The Malacca government had decided to close pig farms for reasons of environmental hygiene, just as other states had done over the last few years. The similarity ended there.

On Sept 4, thousands of enforcement officers from the relevant agencies made an attempt to cull pigs in Bukit Beruang, Paya Mengkuang, Kampung Man Lok and adjacent areas.

However, they were thwarted by angry farmers who set up barricades on all approaches to their farms. They were incensed over the high-handed and ‘secretive’ assault by the state government, especially since the notice period for eviction had yet to expire.

Farmers, villagers and family members - including the young and the elderly - took up position in front of the barricades, holding national flags and banners with messages celebrating the 50th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence.

Police cordoned off all major roads, isolating the villages. Hundreds of police and anti-riot personnel were armed with batons, canes, teargas-canister launchers and automatic rifles. Excavators were brought in to dig holes to bury the culled pigs, while police trucks - including some with water cannon - were stationed in the vicinity. Officers stood by, clad in white plastic-suits, waiting for the order to move in and cull the animals.

After 10 tense hours, state MCA officials struck a deal with the authorities and won a reprieve for the farmers, who were given up to Sept 21 to cull part of the livestock. However, they were unable to do so due to logistical problems.

Further discussions on Oct 2 led to a postponement of the deadline to March 3 next year, by which time the state intends to cap the number of pigs at 48,000. All 24 farms outside Paya Mengkuang must close by December.

WHAT’S NEXT: Expect capitulation from the farmers, who have no other choice. This is one occasion where they will have to live to fight another day - and work on standards of hygiene, to keep the authorities well and truly off their back. But the high-handed manner in which the authorities sought to close the farms will be remembered when Chinese Malaysians go to the polls.


Port Klang project in choppy waters

THE ISSUE: When the flag of the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) development project was raised, eyebrows followed suit. The look of surprise soon turned into a frown for those attempting to unravel the tangle of political and corporate deals that followed.

It began with Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative Bhd (PLDCB), set up in 1989 and helmed by Selangor Speaker Onn Ismail, receiving 405ha of land on Pulau Indah from the state government.

It sold half of the land to Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd at RM30 million, following up with the balance at RM65 million - RM95 million in all. In 2002, Kuala Dimensi entered into an agreement to re-sell the whole land-bank to the Port Klang Authority (PKA) at an astounding RM1.81 billion.

Kuala Dimensi is linked to property developer and investment firm Wijaya Baru Global Bhd (WBGB), of which Onn's son-in-law Faizal Abdullah is deputy chief executive officer.

Amidst complaints of conflict of interest, Kuala Dimensi also signed an agreement with PKA to develop the land into PKFZ at the initial cost of RM500 million. This has since ballooned in excess of RM4.6 billion.

Soon allegations that PKFZ was plagued by red tape, interference by politicians and others with vested interests, inaccuracies in the minutes of meetings and attempted tax evasion began to surface.

These problems were cited as the cause of a split between PKFZ and the Dubai-based Jebel Ali Free Zone, which had been appointed to manage and promote PKFZ.

Following the spate of negative reports - and the government's decision to bail out the project - parliamentary Public Accounts Committee chairperson Shahrir Abdul Samad ordered a probe.

However, the PKA’s explanations left Shahrir a sunny bunny once more, seemingly satisfied that all’s well with the project.

WHAT'S NEXT: With the attorney-general yet to appear before the PAC and Transport Minister Chan Kong Choy having dodged all questions, on-going investigations could run into a convenient dead-end. Already, the mudah lupa syndrome is kicking in.


Sticks and stones...

THE ISSUE: Bloggers were subjected to much name-calling - among these, liars, unemployed women, goblok and monkeys. To add politically-motivated injury to insult, some have had to deal with lawsuits and police action.

In January, a defamation lawsuit was slapped on Jeff Ooi and Ahirudin Attan (or Rocky) by the New Straits Times Press Bhd and four others.

Nathaniel Tan was arrested in July and remanded for four days under the Official Secrets Act over an anonymous comment left in his blog.

Malaysia Today
webmaster Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Ooi were questioned separately by the police over alleged seditious comments - Raja Petra in July for postings on his blog, and Ooi in November for his comments on Al Jazeera during the Bersih rally for electoral reform.

Ooi also left Barisan Nasional component Gerakan to join DAP in July.

With free speech already deemed inappropriate - even dangerous - singing was added to the list in August. Taiwan-based Malaysian student Wee Meng Chee was rapped for his Negarakuku remix posted on YouTube. Politicians threatened to extradite Wee and shut down YouTube.

WHAT’S NEXT: Active interest in politics and citizen journalism will spill over into election campaigns and instant dissemination of information.


Real winners of by-elections

THE ISSUE:
In the first half of the year, three bitterly fought by-elections were held - Batu Talam in Pahang; Machap in Malacca; and Ijok in Selangor; all state seats that fell vacant on the death of the incumbents.

The Batu Talam affair was distinguished only by an opposition boycott and an Independent rookie candidate who turned all of 22 during the campaign. He lost to Barisan Nasional (BN), but kudos to him for filling the vacuum.

In Machap, the DAP candidate was defeated by MCA’s nominee for the second time.

The Ijok by-election on April 28 was the most hard fought and closely followed campaign, being touted as a gauge of the voters’ mood before the next general election.

It also marked the return of ex-deputy premier and PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim to the hustings - albeit on an opposition platform. The campaign was even said to be a ‘proxy war’ between him and Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

The intensity of the by-election was best illustrated by the presence of BN chairperson and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was roped in for the final leg of the campaign.

MIC candidate K Parthiban, a teacher and political novice, beat PKR’s Khalid Ibrahim - the opposition and a polls watchdog complained of heavy-handed tactics, intimidation, electoral irregularities and ‘missing ballots’.

However, the real winners were the bemused electorate who were recipients of government largesse on a large scale, as millions worth of ‘projects’ were rushed into all three constituencies and the big guns rolled into town to entertain them at ceramahs. It sure beats watching the news on RTM!

WHAT’S NEXT: A no-brainer - the general election lah!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Anwars's advice to PM - realistic

Anwar tells PM: Greater threat is negligence

Terence Netto Malaysiakini ,Dec 27, 07 1:25pm

Malaysia is in greater danger from the negligence of those in power than from the rage felt by its recalcitrants, said PKR's de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

"Our society is in greater danger from executive negligence than from the extremism of its recalcitrants,” he said in an immediate response to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Christmas Day strictures on religious extremism.

On Dec 25, Abdullah had taken the opportunity of his attendance at the Christmas Day tea party, jointly organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia and Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur Murphy Packiam, to inveigh against religious extremisn.

The prime minister called on moderates in Malaysia to speak up to pre-empt fanatics from taking centre stage.

This drew an immediate riposte from Anwar, who with his wife Wan Azizah, also attended the tea party at the invitation of Archbishop Packiam.

"On the birth celebration of the Prince of Peace, it is right and fitting to remind every citizen of his or her value as a channel of peace, moderation and tolerance,” said Anwar, who also former deputy prime minister.

"But bear in mind that peace is not just the absence of conflict; it is the presence of justice. Where there is little or no justice, there will be a deficit in peace."

Anwar’s advice to PM

Anwar observed that Christian social teaching held peace and justice to be obverse sides of the same coin.

Of Abdullah's strictures on extremism, Anwar opined: "He is a purveyor of platitudes. He keeps his counsel when he ought to speak up.

“When he does speak up, he mouths pious platitudes which are about as useful as buying an umbrella after it has started to rain."

Anwar offered this piece of advice to the prime minister: “Look to the causes of disorder and not its symptoms, just don't treat the bark when the roots need remedy, reach for the panacea and not be satisfied with the placebo."

Monday, December 24, 2007

We need national not ethnic champions

Whispering campaign: Anwar 'turned Hindu'

Terence Netto
MalaysiakiniDec 24, 07 12:33pm

PKR’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, on a seven-stop barnstorming swing through Penang on Saturday, drew crowds from a couple of hundred to a few thousand as he denounced the government over its policies and practices and called on the people to take charge of their destiny.

At all seven stops Anwar referred to what he said was a whispering campaign against him by Umno that he had "turned Hindu" because of his support for Hindraf.Hindu Rights Action Force organised a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur last month, gathering some 30,000 people, drawing attention to their agenda of fighting for Indian rights.

Five of the movement’s leaders have since been detained under the Internal Security Act for being a threat to the national security."I intend to meet this whispering campaign head-on," said Anwar at his first stop in Sungai Nibong. "I have not abandoned my Malay and Muslim moorings but I believe in remaining open to the plight of all people who are faced with problems for which they need help," he added. "Under a PKR government, a Malay problem, a Chinese problem, an Indian problem, a Dayak problem and a Kadazan problem would be regarded as a Malaysian problem.

"We will work together to see that the wealth of this nation is shared more equitably and that no one race will remain helpless in the face of rampant poverty," he said in identical remarks in all seven stops, drawing rousing cheers for this particularly at Sungai Nibong and Sungai Bakap where Indians were present in disproportionate numbers in the audience. He rode pillion on a motorcycle to his Sungai Bakap engagement because the North-South Expressway was jammed between the Penang Bridge and Juru at tea time. A roar greeted his arrival on a bike ridden by a Keadilan youngster and the crowd later chuckled knowingly when Anwar said "as deputy prime minister I wouldn't have been allowed on a bike."

PKR policiesAnnouncing populist PKR policies such as the abolishment of fees from primary to tertiary level for students from poor families and the lowering of the price of oil, Anwar drew multi-racial crowds at Sungai Nibong in Bayan Baru, Sungai Bakap in Nibong Tebal, and Seberang Jaya in Permatang Pauh, and largely single race crowds in Bukit Gelugor (Indian), Penanti (Malay) and Permatang Beranggan (Malay) in Tasek Gelugor.All the seven stops were made in one day.

His longest speech, an hour-long excoriation of the misdeeds of the Barisan Nasional, particularly Umno's, was reserved for a 5,000 strong crowd, the biggest and last stop of the seven, in Permatang Beranggan where he threaded on all the themes he touched on earlier.He said that a Barisan Rakyat (People's Front) government would see that "people would be enabled to be rich and not ministers and their relatives as is the case with the present lot".

Penang is regarded as a frontline state by PKR as it attempts to combine with the DAP and PAS to capture more seats in the state assembly and in parliament at the next general election which observers expect will be called soon.

In his gruelling swing through the state, Anwar paused at two largely Indian settlements, the first in Bukit Gelugor on Penang island, and the second at Kampung Bagan Serai in Seberang Perai, to express sympathy for people threatened with eviction by developers.

He told them to expect in these times when the election is imminent that "representatives from MIC and Gerakan would come and assure you that something will be done for you but nothing will come of it"."So vote for us and vote for change to your fortunes," he urged the crowd at both stops.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Marginalization of minorities

Are we marginalised?

The Minister Mentor of Singapore,on his last visit to Malaysia, accused our government of systematically marginalising 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.

Lately the Indians claim they are also being marginalized, which again the government, including the sole Indian cabinet minister, has denied. In fact he had taken great pains to explain the numerous achievements of his Indian community. However this allegation of marginalization is the root cause of the recent Hindraf rally that had resulted in several Indians being arrested and charged with attempted murder, only to be swiftly released on the intervention of the executive, an example of the independence of the judiciary. The leaders of Hindraf who so passionately fought for the rights of their community were accused of being terrorists and detained under the ISA for two years, a move that is unpredented.The very people who wanted to be heard were excluded from the dialogue between the Indian NGOs and the Prime Minister.

The real issue here is marginalization which keeps coming up every now and then.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?

Year in and year out delegates at the Umno General Assembly make seditious speeches and instigating remarks against the minorities. The enforcement authorities seem to close one eye against these seditious acts. All they did was to stop the proceedings being telecast live to the nation, not stop them from making such seditious statements.

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 and school

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? When the child goes to school, again he is repeatedly asked to state his race and religion in all registration forms.

Even stream-lining 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 in these activities.

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

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.

Conclusion

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

Pretending to be sincere

Security for nation or security for Umno?

Ganesan Doraisami Malaysiakini Dec 17, 07 4:15pm

A peaceful street demonstration is not a threat to national security. Malaysia would not be celebrating 50 years of independence were it not for street demonstrations. Peaceful street demonstrations are justified when legitimate change cannot be achieved through a corrupt system of government.

It is a democratic way for Indian Malaysians to demand change from a government that neglects minorities, fails to address economic neglect of the Indian community and fails to stop temple demolitions.

Peaceful street demonstrations are a democratic way of asking for change and to show the people’s power when ballot boxes fail. Democracy allows peaceful street demonstrations when the majority enjoys preferential treatment at the expense of the minority. Democracy was born out of street demonstrations in many countries. Only in Malaysia can a peaceful protest become a national security threat.

Let us analyse the phrase ‘national security’. Generally, the phrase refers to the requirement to maintain the survival of a country through the use of economic, military and political power. National security is about securing a country and its citizens against aggression and invasion, both foreign and domestic.

All Hindraf members are Malaysian citizens. Their aim is to make the government pay attention to the problems of Indian Malaysians. Hindraf’s demands does not threaten national security. On the contrary, national security would have been strengthened if Hindraf’s demands are resolved. But for the Malaysian government, national security is only synonymous to bumiputera and Umno’s security. This is why the ISA was used over the last 25 years to silence political opposition in the name of national security. In reality, it is about the security of bumiputera and Umno.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has just arrested Hindraf leaders. They will be out of the public and media eye for at least two years but they will not be forgotten. The prime minister may appear to have the upper hand now but this will be short-lived.

Every Nov 25, Indian Malaysians must remind Abdullah about Indians’ security. Indian Malaysians must tap Abdullah on the shoulder at the next general election and show him that the Indians’ votes are stronger than the ISA. Indian Malaysians must remind him that the changes we hoped for from him did not happen.




Part II

One gets special privileges, another gets a hotline


Ganesan Doraisami Malaysiakini,Dec 19, 07 4:33pm

In the last Umno general assembly, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi claims that the Barisan Nasional and its power sharing approach have benefited the country. I don't remember the last time Malaysia had a non-Malay prime minister or deputy prime minister. Only Abdullah knows what power sharing he is talking about when power is never shared.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak claims that Indian are not marginalised. How do we explain the status quo of Indian Malaysians today? As long as government policies are race-based, marginalisation will happen. But then again, Najib's father is the architect of marginalisation.

The deputy prime minister thinks that Hindraf’s actions in voicing the plea of Indian Malaysians will tarnish Malaysia’s image. Here’s a novel idea. To prevent tarnishing our image, let’s have equal rights and status for all Malaysian citizens. Allow Indians to buy houses with 7 percent discount too.

Let Indian children enroll in government universities, in their first choice of degree programmes. Give Indian children government scholarship so that they can go overseas to further their higher education. Let Indians have high ranking positions in the civil service. Allow Indians to invest in Amanah Saham. Let’s give meaning to the word ‘citizenship’.

If Najib wants to have a good image then practice policies that uplift equality. There is nothing negative about Hindraf wanting to bring the plea of Indian people to the world stage. The world must know what is going on here. Maybe Najib can explain why government policies has created second-class citizens in Malaysia.

Maybe Najib can explain to the international community why one citizen deserves special constitutional privileges while another citizen gets a hotline. Maybe Najib can explain to the world why not all Malaysian citizens are equal under the constitution. Maybe Najib can explain why the government arrests citizens under the draconian ISA to protect their power grips. Maybe Najib can explain why the printed media in Malaysia are controlled.

The reality is that no one can disagree with these oppressors. If this is not so, then why must Cameron Highlands parliamentarian K Devamany explain his remarks? The current policy is that anyone who slightly agrees with the core issues brought forward by Hindraf will face repercussion. Instead of addressing the message, the messengers are being attacked, silenced and marginalised. If Najib wants a good image, all he has to do is provide equality.

It is important that people do not only associate ethnic cleansing with act of violent killing. Ethnic cleansing can be carried over a few generations simply by neglecting an ethnic group or by having policies that overly protect one ethnic group’s economic interests and well-being. Ethnic cleansing can take its course through neglect and closing all avenues of hope. It can also be achieved by not providing solutions to the core problems and by marginalising educational opportunities.

My hope is that readers of Malaysiakini, both in Malaysia and overseas, will do their part to highlight the plea of Indians in Malaysia. You can do it by spreading the word to your local community at the very least. Hope for resolution lies in our hands. The next generation of Indians should not feel the hopelessness this generation feels.

Attack dogs like Nazri Aziz is calling those who want change “thugs”. I wonder if he feels that Malays are thugs for running amok whenever their status is questioned. The reality in Malaysia today is that you cannot gather without permit and these are always issued by the police, never on merit alone.

We must remember that the British did knock our door and offer independence. Independence took a few years of proactive fighting. We should remember how the British used laws against public gatherings because they wanted to protect their power status. Today, any gathering that challenges the ruling government defined as illegal. When people want change but cannot assemble to voice these changes, what other avenue is left? The truth is that every avenue has literally been closed.

Nazri has warned Tamil Nadu’s chief minister not to meddle in what he calls our “internal affairs”. Responsible leaders all over the whole have the right to voice their opinions. Someone once said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The truth is that politicians like Nazri are on the wrong side of social justice. The only way they can win any argument is by using the ISA, fear and authoritarian rule.

These guys will never be able to defend their position in a civilised public debate. And what do they do? They sweep everything under the carpet of sedition, sensitivity and harmony. The bottom line is that these attack dogs in Umno has always condemned any movements asking for equal status. What these attack dogs have failed to understand is that giving equal opportunity to Indians does not chip away their status.

The government is waiting for things to cool down a little. Next, the government will announce news about all kinds of programs to uplift the Indian community. The government will mellow down on its tone. We have already seen an attack dog like Nazri Aziz commenting that the Selangor Chief Minister Khir Toyo did not handle the temple demolition well, that the plan to demolish the temple right before Deepavali was an ill-conceived idea. Meanwhile, Khir Toyo is saying that only Selangor gives free land to temples. Where were Nazri’s comments the week after the temple was demolished? Nazri is only speaking up now.

People should watch the situation carefully as they are waiting to strike. Because the general election is around the corner, the government will take the high road and highlight its efforts for the Indian community. Their effort now is to mellow its tone and cozy up with the Indians. They will start announcing news about how they are looking to increasing our share in public sector hiring, giving more money to schools and other things.

A new set of illusions will be created in our minds that the government works for our well-being. So far, the government has only promised to look into our grievances. There are no guarantees that it will be addressed by these leaders after the elections. We should not buy in this unimportant gesture and be satisfied with their management.

The only way any meaningful change can take place for us is to deny Barisan Nasional a two thirds majority. Without a clear majority, the Barisan Nasional has to negotiate with the opposition and cannot pass any legislation unilaterally. They have created the illusion that without a clear mandate, people will suffer over the years. But without a clear mandate, only Barisan Nasional suffers because it loses its absolute power and has to compromise with the opposition to pass any laws.

The best way for the people to resist neglect and to negotiate a better future is by denying Barisan Nasional a majority. Without the Chinese and Indians’ support, Umno will never have a clear majority to run the country and will have to negotiate policies and programmes on the basis of economics, not race. Let’s not listen to Barisan Nasional’s lies again about what will happen if they are not in power.

The only ones who will feel the pinch should the Barisan Nasional lose power is the Malays. The Chinese and Indians can form a block equally formidable to Umno. A balance of power is the only way for all races to be treated fairly. It is the only way to bring Umno to the table to renegotiate terms of any future coalition.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Understand their plight not fear them

Activists rally for right to protest

Fauwaz Abdul Aziz and Khairil Zhafri Malaysiakini, Dec 19, 07 11:35am


More than 250 political and social activists demonstrated this morning outside the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur against the government’s recent clampdown on street protests.

About 30 police officers kept a close watch on the protest which began at 11am. No action was taken to disperse the crowd and there were no signs of water cannons or Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel being deployed either.

Even the appearance of about 20 Light Strike Force personnel about halfway through the event did not have an impact on the gathering.

This is a departure from recent demonstrations where the police used tear gas and chemical-laced water against the protesters, such as last month’s Hindraf and Bersih gatherings.

A senior police officer from the Dang Wangi district police station said his officers will not move in “as long as the crowd was peaceful and under control.”

Organisers of today’s protest - the Coalition to Defend Right to Assemble made up of four opposition parties and 46 non-governmental organisations - later handed a memorandum to Suhakam commissioners.

They demanded for the right to peaceful assembly as enshrined under Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, and backed Suhakam’s stand in calling for the repeal of Section 27 of the Police Act which stipulates the requirement of a police permit to hold a rally.

Suhakam was also urged to make representation to the Attorney-General with the aim of taking action against those parties - including the police - that have violated the people’s right to peacefully assemble.

It’s not haram

The memorandum further opposed the action of the government in undermining the right of citizens to assemble peacefully by using such means as obtaining unprecedented restraining court orders.

These injunctions - which give the police the right to ‘arrest on sight’ both organisers and participants of street protests - were invoked both on the Nov 25 Hindraf rally as well as on Dec 11 when polls watchdog coalition Bersih sought to submit a petition to Parliament.

Blasting the government’s denunciation of demonstrations and street protests as being against ‘Malaysian culture’, several speakers said it was only human to express grievances when other channels of redress had been closed.

Among them, PKR vice-president R Sivarasa noted that peaceful street demonstrations were held as part of the independence struggle more than 50 years ago.

Echoing his point, PKR supreme council member Badrul Hisham Shaharin said: “If peaceful assembly is not part of Malaysian culture, we say it is human culture to do so!”

Deputy chairperson of the Bar Council’s human rights committee Amer Hamzah Arshad spoke of the duty to protest when abuse was rampant.

“When justice is not upheld, dissent becomes an obligation,” said the lawyer.

PAS vice-president Mohamad Sabu, meanwhile, said the struggle of political and social activists was to restore what the government and police have deemed ‘haram’ (prohibited) to its rightful place in society as something ‘halal’ (permitted).

What is illegal is the police’ crackdown on peaceful gatherings, said Mohamad.

“There is no such thing as haram assemblies. They only become haram when the (police) use weapons and hard objects (to crackdown on peaceful protests),” said Mohamad.

On Suhakam’s agenda

Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (Dema) leader Simon Ooi said Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi should not issue challenges and threats to people seeking to exercise their rights.

“Peaceful assembly is as basic a right as the right to eat and drink,” said Ooi, adding: “Do not challenge the people!”

Malek Hussin, who heads independent elections watchdog Mafrel, said the right to peaceful dissent is enshrined in both the Federal Constitution as well as international documents on human rights.

“It is part of human culture to oppose oppression. It is part of human culture to oppose corruption. It is part of human culture to oppose the abuse of power,” said Malek.

Three Suhakam commissioners, Dr Denison Jayasooria, N Siva Subramariam and Asiah Abu Samah, were present to receive the memorandum.

Jayasooria has promised the protesters that he would convey the message contained in the memorandum to other commissioners at Suhakam's next monthly meeting.

He also said that the issue of the right to assembly will again be addressed in the commission's next annual report to Parliament.

Punctuating the calls for the right to public gatherings, Badrul Hisham announced that a peaceful assembly would be held this Saturday night at Dataran Merdeka to show solidarity for victims of the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial.

The gathering, organised by the anti-ISA movement GMI, is also aimed at pressuring the government to abolish the draconian law, said Badrul.

The protest today ended peacefully at about noon with the crowd dispersing soon after the memorandum was delivered to Suhakam.

Listening to the voice of the people

Providing mechanism for expressing dissent

I refer to the reportNGOs discuss Indian issues with PM in heart-to-heart chat” (Star December 15).

It was very encouraging that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took a personal interest in trying to understand the problems of the Indian community. His willingness to listen to the Indian NGO’s and his remarks that there will more such meetings is greatly appreciated. He even encouraged the Indian representatives to be frank even in raising “hard issues” as he was willing to listen to all their grouses. This willingness to engage in dialogue has taken away a great deal of anger from them.

This is what is required at all levels – mechanisms for people to channel their grouses and the willingness of the leaders to listen to them. Most Malaysians would agree that street demonstrations are not the way to highlight their plight or vent their grouses. Apart from being waste of time, money and energy, they are definitely prone to risks of violence and riots. This in a multiracial and multi-religious country this is the last thing we would want.

Every community has its own peculiar problems which must be solved by dialogue and discussion. Providing such avenues for civil dialogue and debate for the people will go a long way to avert such demonstrations. The authorities must be seen to be genuinely interested to understand their plight.

The Prime Minister has responded positively by his repeated reassurances that he hears the voice of all the people. He has now taken the lead in showing that he is willing to meet the people to listen to the grouses. It should be an example for leaders at all levels to change their mindset to be more receptive to the voices of the people particularly the dissenting and angry ones. The voices of the people must not only be heard but also must be seen to be heard and acted upon.

In a global world that is ruled by sophisticated Information Technology, the people especially the younger generation are more aware of developments around them. The demands for their voices to be heard and their rights protected will only continue to increase with time. The government is left with no choice but to make available proper mechanisms for the increasingly literate citizens to air their opinions and be more receptive to them, including dissenting ones.

Dr.Chris Anthony

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eradicating poverty regardless of race

Poverty sees no racial barriers

I refer to the report UNDP: Intense poverty among Sabah, Sarawak and east coast residents” (Star,Dec 12).

It is not surprising that United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report identified the indigenous groups from Sabah and Sarawak and the Malays living in the east coast as among the poorest people in the country.

While it is encouraging to note that Malaysia had successfully reduced the poverty rate from 49.3% in the 1970s to 5.7% in 2004, there is still much more to done especially for the hardcore poor in our country. The poverty rate of 8.3% among the bumiputras and 2.9% for Indians is still not acceptable and more serious efforts must be put it in to reduce the rate further. The poverty line that was determined some years back may not be relevant now due to escalating inflation. The poverty line for Peninsular Malaysia in 2004 was RM543, while it was RM704 for Sabah and RM608 for Sarawak. There is a need to revise the poverty line to a more realistic level as inflation is increasing at such a highly alarming rate.

Poverty is a social ailment that has no racial or religious barriers and the government is right in saying that poverty eradication programmes should be carried out irrespective of race. There is no doubt that the government is carrying out numerous programs to eradicate poverty among the people but still much more to be done. The poor of all races must be identified and special incentives provided to help them out of their poverty. The poor from all races should be given some priorities over others for education, scholarships, training and job opportunities.

In helping the poor to come out of their socio-economic doldrums care must be taken that they are not over-protected whereby they become permanently dependent on government aid to survive. They should be helped to become independent and the aid given should only be temporary until they can stand on their own feet.

Towards this end it would be useful to provide the education and training necessary to equip them adequately to compete in an open market system. Unless they are forced to compete with those better than them, no amount of financial aid is going to uplift them in the long run. It must be emphasized over and over that there are no shortcuts to come out of poverty other than hard work, commitment and perseverance.

Malaysia has abundant natural resources that, if properly managed and shared, are sufficient for all, for generations to come. Above all the greatest asset we have is our diverse cultures and traditions which give the unique advantage over many. All we need is to cherish and nourish this asset and harness the tremendous energy that radiates from our unity in diversity. Poverty of any sort, among any community, if allowed to perpetuate will ultimately be detrimental to all.

Dr.Chris Anthony


Please listen to the truth

I told PM the truth

RK Anand Malaysiakini,Dec 18, 07 11:29am

As citizens of Malaysia, Indians have the right to enjoy equal opportunities and must not be treated like third-class citizens.

This was the crux of Malaysian Indian Business Association (Miba) president P Sivakumar's hard-hitting speech during the special meeting between Indian non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last Friday.

"In the past, only the educated and middle-class Indians were unhappy about the difference in treatment. But over the last three years, every Indian in the country is unhappy and angry over the way we are treated," he said.

Sivakumar told Malaysiakini yesterday that at the onset of his speech, he sought permission from Abdullah to speak without fear or favour and to tell him the truth.

To this, he said, the premier replied: "Yes, please tell me the truth."

Following this, Sivakumar continued: "As you (Abdullah) are aware, the communities in Malaysia are affluent and very much matured after 50 years of Independence."

"The term bumiputera and non-bumiputera literally means 'son of the soil' and 'not son of the soil' (respectively). That means the Indian community was born where - in the sky?" he said, telling Malaysiakini that Abdullah tittered at this remark.

Sivakumar said in the past, the New Economic Policy (NEP) won the support of all three communities because it was initiated to address the socio-economic position of all races.

"So what is happening?" he asked the premier.

"What (is) 40,000 Indians? You should have given the (police) permit, there would have been more than 300,000 Indians on that day," he added in reference to the Nov 25 rally organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

The urban poor

Citing the agriculture sector, Sivakumar said there more than 70 percent Indians were involved in this sector.

"When the policies changed, what measures did the government take to address the thousands of Indians chased and driven out of the estates, with nowhere to go, and no housing left," he added.

The Miba president said this led to the emergence of urban poor, resulting in serious social problems like gangsterism.

"Indians killing each other for a living, who is to be blamed?" he asked.

"If only a Felda-type (scheme) had been extended to these Indians, with proper nurturing and with land given to develop small holdings and animal husbandry, they would have contributed well to the economy and even cut down our import bill, especially on dairy products. We need not depend so much on foreign workers," he said.

On the issue of funding, Sivakumar pointed out that MIC recently held seminars by calling Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Minister Muhyiddin Yassin who promised the Indian community help and support.

"But what happened? Let's take Johor for example, I personally followed up with the (state) Agriculture Department after Muhyiddin reminded the director to help the Indians.

"Nothing, not a single ringgit was given to the Indians," said the Johor-based businessman.

"Let's take other funding agencies, like MIDF, SMIDEC and SME. Yes, all (of them) like to hold seminars, (produce) good paper work. But nothing for the Indians," he added.

No help extended

As for privatisation, Sivakumar once again cited the situation in Johor.

He said the state government identified 43 projects. "The community was offered only one project, only to be retracted after two weeks. Why?"

Apart from this, the Miba president also reminded the premier that the latter had pumped RM100 million into a fund to help single mothers embark on business ventures.

"I checked with them (the fund), nothing was extended to Indian single mothers in Johor," he said.

Turning to the construction sector, Sivakumar said: "You (Abdullah) had offered 30,000 jobs, (but) when a group of Indians went to apply for tender, they were told to leave because it was only for bumiputeras.

"They had to leave the place with shame and tears. Is this fair? Aren't they citizens (too)?" he added.

Moving to the civil service, Sivakumar quoted Abdullah as saying that Indians make up five percent of the civil service.

"But our population is nine percent, what about the balance four percent? At least, place Indians where help is needed. For example, EPF in JB (Johor Baru), only one Indian, Socso none, post office none," he said.

The Miba president also highlighted that the scrap metal business, which involves many Indian businessman, is now under threat of licences not being renewed.

"Who will take care of their families and children if they cannot perform?" he asked.

Three-percent equity

On the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP), Sivakumar noted that it has been three years since Abdullah announced the three percent equity target for Indians.

"What are the steps and measures that you have initiated, please tell us. Even now, it is not too late, we have initiated an independent co-op for the community without any political group’s control. PM can help by funding this.

"I have even given (MIC president) S Samy Vellu a project paper on where Indians can go into - bio-tech business as a self-help programme. Why not help us because the Indians need the government's help. The Indians need opportunities," he said.

Sivakumar also highlighted the issue of temple demolitions and asked for temples constructed before Merdeka not to be demolished.

On that note, he also urged Abdullah to review the detention of five Hindraf leaders under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and called for them to be charged in court.

He also called for the release of the 31 people charged for the attempted murder of a policeman in connection with the Hindraf rally. Yesterday, Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail withdrew the charge.

Sivakumar told Malaysiakini that he wrapped up his speech by apologising to Abdullah if he had offended the latter with his remarks.

According to him, the premier replied: "Not at all, Thank you for telling me the truth."

The special meeting between the NGos and the prime minister was called following widespread debates on the allegation raised by Hindraf that Indians in Malaysia are being marginalised.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Anwar proving to be a leader for all

Anwar appalled by PM's ISA crackdown

Soon Li Tsin |
Malaysiakini Dec 15, 07 4:01pm

De facto PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim has expressed his disappointment over how Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is dealing with the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) issue.

Speaking to reporters after making public the full VK Lingam videotape at his Petaling Jaya office yesterday, the former deputy prime minister did not mince his words when ticking off his former cabinet colleague.

“I am disappointed and appalled at how the PM is acting right now. He is so gullible to succumb to the pressure of the extremist few.

“With the rhetoric of the government, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more arrests,” he said.

Anwar was commenting on this week’s arrests of five leaders of the

Indian-rights movement under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial.

On Thursday, Hindraf leaders - P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and T Vasantha Kumar - were sent to Kamunting for two years under the orders of Abdullah.

Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan said the arrests, under Section 8(1) of the ISA, were made against the five for carrying out activities that threatened national security.

In a rare move, the five were sent straight to the notorious detention centre in Taiping, Perak, to be detained there without undergoing the usual 60-day investigation period.

Anwar stressed that as a principle, he and the party is against the use of ISA against anyone.

“We have evidence, we have experienced the abuse of ISA against political personalities, civil society leaders throughout the years,” said Anwar, who himself was an ISA detainee for almost two years in the mid-1970s.

PKR members previously held under ISA include deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali, information chief Tian Chua, and supreme council members Dr Badrul Amin Bahron and N Gobalakrishnan.

I back Hindraf demands but...

The PKR leader said that while he supported Hindraf’s demands, he disagreed with some of the organisation’s wild rhetoric.

“I support their demands, legitimate grievances that they’ve been marginalised, very high crime rate, they’re very poor, their problems in Tamil schools and when old temples are demolished. I defend the right for Indians to make their demands

“(However), I do not agree (with) their rhetoric about ethnic cleansing, about Article 153 of the Federal Constitution (on special position of the Malays) and some of their racist statements,” he stated.

Anwar also lambasted Umno for seeking to make political capital out of the Hindraf issue.

“They use the ISA because there are some alleged Hindu fanatics or terrorists, and the fact people like us or I choose to defend them.

“They would then distribute pamphlets to show that I’m pro-Hindu or pro-Hindraf. Why do we choose to highlight on this when there are so many racists statements by Umno leaders?

“There are so many demonstrations organised by Umno Youth that you condone. Why do you choose to bully the minorities in this manner. This will not reflect well on Malaysia,” he lamented.

The ISA arrests and a slew of charges against protesters came in the wake of the Nov 25 rally which saw 30,000 disgruntled Indians taking to the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

They were met with chemical-laced water and a barrage of tear gas canisters fired by the police.

The Hindraf rally has also received worldwide media coverage bringing Malaysia’s race relations and Abdullah’s leadership into the spotlight.




Comments

I had been close following Anwar since his fall from grace.Yes,he made mistakes before,who hasn't?But he has learnt useful lessons from his fall which have made him a better person - a truly Malaysian leader.I think Mahathir has done a great service to Anwar and the nation as a whole by sacking and punishing Anwar.

Anwar now speaks for all Malaysians regardless of race.We need more leaders,especially Malays,like him to put a stop to the rot that is rampant today. He shouldn't worry too much if he cannot contest the next election as we need him as the icon of unity for the opposition.



Friday, December 14, 2007

ISA arrests : Aliran media statement


Hindraf ISA arrests: BN govt has lost its moral authority


Aliran condemns the arrest today of five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders under the obnoxious Internal Security Act. Those detained were Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasanthakumar. These ISA arrests are certainly a huge step backwards for democracy. When the Barisan Nasional detains its citizens under the draconian ISA, it concedes that it has lost its moral authority and has no justification to frame a valid charge and take them to court under the existing laws of the country.


There is no other conclusion especially when the government had earlier charged Uthayakumar and his friends for sedition. Why did it not allow the due process of the law to take its course? Is it because the charges levelled against them would not stand up to the scrutiny of the judiciary? And if the police really had concrete evidence to back up their allegations that Hindraf has links to terrorist groups, they should have charged the Hindraf leaders in court accordingly.


Many Malaysians are not surprised by the government’s latest move given the relentless campaign of vilification of the Hindraf leaders by several ministers with help from the compliant mainstream media. Through this single-minded effort over the last couple of weeks, the BN machinery prepared the ground for the use of the ISA by heaping all kinds of allegations against Hindraf. Using one-sided media reporting and official statements, they conveyed the impression that Hindraf was a threat to national security - without adducing sufficient evidence to justify this allegation.


Some Malaysians may believe that certain words used or claims made by the Hindraf leaders bordered on exaggeration. But the Hindraf leaders, like many others before them, do not deserve the unjust ISA. Nobody should be detained without trial. Detaining them under this undemocratic law will not resolve the underlying causes of the grievances and disillusionment that have been expressed by the Hindraf leaders and which have struck a chord among Indian Malaysians. By ignoring the root causes of the disenchantment, the government may well be putting its head in the proverbial sand again.


Concerned Malaysians and keen observers outside the country would be forgiven for suspecting that these arrests are aimed at suppressing legitimate dissent and opposition to the ruling party ahead of a general election. Malaysians will know that what the BN is trying to protect is its own security and interest and the survival of the MIC. It is the fear of the eroding loss of confidence that has driven the BN to take this desperate action.


When ordinary Indian Malaysians responded to the call of Hindraf on 25 November in an astounding number that ran into tens of thousands, it stunned and baffled the BN and the MIC. Ordinary Indian Malaysians, not withstanding the official statistics that have been dished out, understand their real economic status and position. Their desperate cry for help was conveyed through their participation in Hindraf activities. For them to have defied police warnings and political threats of BN leaders and to have faced the tear gas and chemically laced liquid sprayed by water cannons spoke of their utter hopelessness. It is a matter of grave regret that the BN failed to recognise this reality.


The BN has criminalised all our freedoms. We cannot walk as a group, we cannot put up a banner on our own building, we cannot have access to information, we cannot challenge any ministerial decisions in any court of law, we cannot have a reasonable campaign period prior to election, we cannot have equal radio and TV time for all registered political parties to reach out to citizens to explain party policies, we cannot have a licence as a matter of right to publish. Our basic fundamental rights and freedoms have all been taken away through subsidiary laws and regulations. We are reminded by what was said way back in 163 BC: Extreme law is often extreme injustice


Aliran calls upon the BN government to immediately charge all of them in a court of law if they have flouted any of the country’s laws or release them unconditionally. This would be a decent thing to do especially when Malaysia occupies an exalted seat in the global Human Rights Council.


Aliran Executive Committee

13 December 2007

ISA 5 : Let's pray for them

Families visit Hindraf 5 at Kamunting

Malaysiakini Andrew Ong | Dec 14, 07 1:40pm


About 30 relatives were able to meet five leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) this morning at the Kamunting detention camp, where they are being detained for two years under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasantha Kumar were arrested yesterday afternoon and immediately sent to the camp in Taiping, Perak.

Family members rushed in a convoy from Kuala Lumpur this morning to visit them.

Officers set up two tables in a room where the detainees were brought out two at a time to meet between five to six family members each.

Manoharan’s family members were the first to enter the visitation room.

“He said he was okay,” said a close friend of the family who also got a glimpse of him.

Lawyers were also allowed in, including N Surendran who had accompanied family members of Uthayakumar and Ganabatirau during the simultaneous visits.

“They are in very high spirits and determined to last it out,” he said when contacted.

He added that the five, who had arrived at the detention camp about midnight, appeared to be in good health.

A close relative of Uthayakumar told Malaysiakini that a handful of Hindraf supporters had gathered in front of the detention camp.

“We’re not asking anyone to gather here. Instead, we have encouraged them to continue their prayers for the safety and well being of the detainees,” she said.

Immediate visits upon detention under ISA are a departure from procedure.. Typically, family members are only allowed to visit detainees after two months of detention.

ISA arrests : The PM has listened

US demands due process for ISA arrests

AFP | Malaysiakini Dec 14, 07 10:28am

The United States demanded that Malaysia provide fair treatment to five leaders of a rights group held under a security law that allows for indefinite detention without trial.

The five from the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), pushing for an end to discrimination of ethnic Indians in multi-racial Malaysia, were picked up yesterday and ordered held under the feared Internal Security Act (ISA).

"Our expectation as a government is that these individuals would be provided the full protections under Malaysian law, that they would be given due process, that they would be accorded all the rights accorded to any other citizen, and that this be done in a speedy and transparent manner," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Hindraf enraged the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi last month by mustering at least 30,000 people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to highlight various issues facing ethnic Indians, including lack of economic opportunities and destruction of Hindu temples.

Police used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to break up the protests.

"It is our firm position that those individuals who want to peacefully express themselves in a political forum or any other forum should be allowed to do so," McCormack told reporters.

Human rights groups have campaigned for the abolition of the ISA, a law that they say has been abused by the authorities.

The ISA is currently being used to hold more than 100 people, including about 80 alleged Islamic militants.

Human Rights Watch, a US group, said the arrest was "outrageous."

"We have said over and over again that the ISA should be abolished and there is no room for holding people, never mind indefinitely, without charge and trial," said Mickey Spiegel, the group's Asia division senior researcher.

Erasing Hindu heritage

The Malaysian government has always used deadly race riots in 1969 as a reason for controls on freedom, even though some groups believe that after 50 years of independence, Malaysians are matured enough to discuss their grievances openly.

"Malaysian authorities are obligated, like any sovereign countries' government, to balance the need for public order with equally important need for robust and free debate of issues important to Malaysian citizens," a State Department official said.

"It is our hope that the Malaysia government will allow the freest possible debate," said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a US non-profit law firm that helps defend freedom of all religions, charged that the destruction of Hindu temples - some built before the start of the British colonial period almost two centuries ago - could be an attempt to erase Hindu heritage in Malaysia.

Hindraf claimed one temple was being demolished every three weeks.

"What I have heard from people is really that in destroying these temples, they are trying to destroy evidence of how long the Hindu faith has been a part of Malaysia, particularly in the context of advancing Islamisation and of the equation of Islam with nationalism in Malaysia," said Angela Wu, the Fund's international law director.

Hindraf has filed a four trillion dollar lawsuit against Britain for alleged atrocities suffered by Indians whose forefathers were brought as indentured laborers to Malaysia during colonial rule.

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