Wednesday 31 August 2011

Wikileaks: US cables portray Taib as 'highly corrupt'

Sarawak Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud and his relatives are widely thought to extract a percentage from most major commercial contracts - including those for logging - awarded in the state, the US State Department was told in a confidential cable.

According to Mark D Clark, then political section chief of US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, “the Sarawak state government remains highly corrupt and firmly in the hands of its chief minister”.

NONE“The US$82 million (RM300 million) state assembly building now under construction serves as perhaps the most obvious and extreme example of the self-enrichment of the state's chief minister and other senior government officials,” wrote Clark in an Oct 13, 2006 cable released last week by controversial whistleblower website Wikileaks.

In another leaked cable three years later, the US embassy reported that the Taib government “doles out timber-cutting permits while patrolling the under-developed state using 14 helicopters, and his family's companies control much of the economy.”

This cable was based on a visit by the embassy's political counselor to Sarawak on October 12-14, 2009.

NONEThe political counselor also reported that he was received by then deputy chief minister George Chan (right) “at his newly built mansion next to Kuching's most exclusive golf course”.

“Chan said that since the March 2008 general election, the federal government has been 'pouring millions of ringgit' for development into the state,” said the leaked cable dated Nov 2, 2009.

“He described the allocation as a form of 'gratitude' to the Sarawak state government for 'delivering the seats to secure the BN's majority at the federal level'."

The US embassy official also met with PKR operative Baharuddin Moksin, who lamented the opposition's inability to reach voters.

“(Baharuddin) Moksin said that even when the opposition parties managed to rent a helicopter during the Batang Ai district of Sarawak by-election in April, the state government refused to give their helicopter landing rights.

“Baharuddin explained that in Sarawak only three companies, Chahaya Mata Sarawak (which locals jokingly claim stands for 'Chief Minister's Sons'), Naim Cendera Holdings and Titanium Management Berhad, all associated with the chief minister's family, are the only
'big players in the state',” reported the cable.

“All major contracts and a significant portion of land to be converted to palm oil plantations (including on indigenous 'customary rights lands' that the state government has refused to recognise) are given to these three companies.”

FBI told to cut ties with Taib's family

The released of the diplomatic missives came in the wake of a campaign by NGOs to pressure the US government's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to cut its ties with Taib's family.

FBI refuses to meet anti-Taib corruption campaignersSwiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) and San-Francisco-based Borneo Project have written to FBI director Robert Mueller to suspend the agency's rental contracts for the Abraham Lincoln Building in Seattle that houses the FBI's Seattle Division headquarters.

The building is owned by Wallyson's Inc, which is linked to Taib's family.

The two NGOs also asked the bureau to ascertain if the Taib family's US investments are in line with the country's anti-money laundering legislation.

"While the fight against public corruption should be one of the FBI's top priorities, it is renting premises from the Taib family, one of South East Asia's largest corruption networks,” lamented BMF last week.

NONE“We are seriously concerned that the FBI appears to be unduly backing the Taib family and its illicit foreign assets."

BMF said the US embassy cables showed that the US government has for years been well-informed on the Taib family's corruption and abuse of power.

“The latest Wikileaks exposures are thus putting the American federal police, the FBI, in an uncomfortable position.”

The NGO also called on the FBI to investigate the Taibs' US corporations for money-laundering and to freeze all their assets in the United States.

Similar demands have been made by a number of NGOs to the governments of Switzerland, Germany and Canada.

A short rebuke of Ezam Mohd Nor by Art Harun

Dear Ezam,

With reference to your manic and almost maniacal spewing of hatred last Friday, I just have this to say to you.
You are an embarrassment. 

This is Ramadhan. Muslims fast during Ramadhan. Good Muslims do not only fast and suffer mere physical pain during the fasting – a 6 year old can do that – but they reflect upon themselves and upon their surroundings and they abstain not only from food and drinks, but also from all things evil and ungodly. 

The hunger pang and thirst which Muslims suffer during the fast are just the surface of  something which is deeper and more meaningful. Good Muslims correlate the mere physical abstention to a more meaningful spiritual experience. Without the spiritual experience and realisation of fasting, the act of fasting becomes and is reduced to a mere ritual and yearly routine.

Perhaps it was not a surprise that you did what you did last Friday. That is because, well, you are just being yourself.

Jihad in Islam has been totally misunderstood, by the non-Muslims and Muslims alike. And who is to blame for such misunderstanding when there are people like you going around running amok after Friday prayer and rabidly calling for jihad and threatening to burn down news portals? 

May I ask you Ezam Mohd Nor, exactly against whom were you going to jihad? All Christians in Malaysia? The Damansara Utama Methodist Church? Oh yes, against those Christians who are conspiring to proselytise all Muslims in Malaysia and elsewhere. Yes, I forgot. But exactly who are they? And where are they?

Jihad does not mean declaring a war. The word “jahada”, which is the base word for jihad simply means “to strive” or “to struggle”. Throughout time, this word has been twisted, manipulated and misinterpreted by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The result is that Islam has been painted with this black images of suicide bombers seeking martyrdom and of cartoons like yourself running amok after Fridar prayer and in the compound of a mosque no less. 

The Quran ordains:
"Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for Allah loves not transgressors." (2:190)
Yes. It asks us to fight and strive. But only in the cause of Allah and against those who fight us. We are not asked to look for fights. Even if circumstances require and demand us to fight, the Quran implores us not to transgress limits.
May I therefore ask you Ezam, were there any party fighting us last Friday? If so, who? And did you not stop to think that you were not transgressing the limits last Friday considering the nature of our society?
What is the best jihad of all jihads? You think it’s burning down other people’s office is the best? Well please go and study the Quran and the traditions. 
You gave a fiery speech. You called for a jihad. You threatened to burn down news portals (assuming it is possible to do so). Well, you could have used your speech in a better way, namely, to call people to the ways of Allah. That is true jihad. Allah commands:
"Who is better in speech than one who calls (other people) to Allah, works righteous, and declares that he is from the Muslims." (41:33) 
Do you know what are the best of jihads to Prophet Muhammad? On one occasion, a man asked the Prophet Muhammad :

“Should I join the jihad?' He asked, 'Do you have parents?' The man said, 'Yes!' The Prophet said, 'Then strive by serving them!” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, No. 5972)

Yet another man asked the Messenger of Allah :
What kind of jihad is better?' He replied, 'A word of truth in front of an oppressive ruler!'" (Sunan Al-Nasa'i , No. 4209).
So please Ezam, take your jihad away. Islam does not need your kind of juvenile jihad.

Who will help the poor?

Are we heading toward a world united by shared incompetence and inadequacy?

With the deepening of the economic crisis and the prospect of another recession looming large on the horizon, growing social inequality has become an increasingly urgent issue.

How does one reinforce a sense of solidarity and responsibility within a country? Who will protect the weakest?
As I ponder this issue, I am reminded of a debate that I had more than 10 years ago in Berlin with the German theologian Hans Küng and American and Asian participants.

The subject was “Globalization and Ethics” – specifically, a comparison of the ways that Europe, the United States and Asia protect the most fragile members of their respective societies.

All of the participants agreed that in Europe the state traditionally filled the role played by private philantropy in the US and by the family in Asia.

But we all hastened to add that no model was “pure,” i.e., the family was no longer what it used to be in Asia, the state was playing a bigger role than expected in America, and it was often underperforming in Europe.
Reality has become even more complicated since then: the family’s role continues to decline in Asia; philantropy, despite a few extraordinarily generous individuals, has more than met its limits in America; and, with the possible exception of the Nordic countries, the state in Europe, overburdened by debt, no longer has the means or the will to shoulder new responsibilities.

So who will take on the responsibility to protect the weakest if none of these three actors can do it properly? Are we heading toward a world united by shared incompetence and inadequacy?

Strong sense of social responsibility

In the Western world, the poorest are the worst affected by economic stagnation. But, in rapidly growing emerging-market countries, the rich tend to close their eyes to the suffering of the poorest, except when they feel threatened by the risk of political upheaval, as in, say, Saudi Arabia.

In fact, wealthy elites in emerging countries live in a state of denial towards their poor, literally ignoring them. Brazil and India are particularly striking in this regard. Economic growth is necessary, but not sufficient: a strong sense of social responsibility is needed as well.

It would be absurd to condemn, as some do, globalization as the main and only culprit in the erosion of traditional sources of support for the poor.

Globalization is above all a context, an environment, even if the consequences of the first major financial and economic crisis of the global age will further deepen the gap between the very rich and the very poor.
But globalization makes the weakest among us more visible, and therefore makes the absence of social justice more unacceptable.

A world of much greater transparency and interdependency creates new responsibilities for the rich. Or, more precisely, it makes the old responsibility to protect the weakest both more difficult and more urgent.
In a world of increasing complexity, perhaps what is needed are simple solutions.

State, family and philanthropy

One could follow, for example, Adam Smith’s principle of comparative advantage: what Europe does best is the state, while Asia still relies on the family and the US continues to focus on individual initiative.
The problem is that in a world of universal benchmarking, the legitimacy of solutions will stem more than ever from their cultural acceptability and their efficiency.

In Western Europe, for example, the call for sacrifice from all citizens in order to resolve the debt crisis runs up against a lingering perception that not all will contribute equally, and that social inequality will be exacerbated by austerity.

Restoring growth in the short term while addressing debt problems in the medium and long term may well be the only valid response to the crisis.

But it will not work, in Europe or elsewhere, without a much greater emphasis on social justice.

While some of the very rich complain, as Warren Buffett did recently, that they do not pay enough taxes, the enlightened generosity of these happy few – who want to save capitalism and liberalism – is unlikely to be emulated by the new rich in the emerging countries, much less by the rich elsewhere.

Let’s be realistic: people like Buffett and Bill Gates have very few followers even among the very rich in the US. And can Asian societies really revive an effective sense of family responsibility?

Globalization does appear to have weakened cultural differences noticeably in the past decade. But, when it comes to the protection of the weakest and the struggle against rising social injustice, perhaps “global deculturation” creates an opportunity to combine the best of what remains in particular traditions.

Perhaps countries should seek to base their social-welfare systems on a new synthesis of the state, the family, and philanthropy.


The country's "racial splits are now more pronounced," and Malays still do not feel on par with other races. At times, the Malay youth became overly emotional regarding matters of race and religion, and needed to "release pressure," as they did during the November 2006 UMNO General Assembly (which featured heated racial rhetoric that was broadcast on national television). 

Raja Petra Kamarudin 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher J. LaFleur for reasons 1.4 (b and d). 


1.  (C) Education Minister and UMNO Youth chief Hishammuddin responded favorably to the Ambassador's call to expand dialogue between the Embassy and Muslim Malay youth during their January 29 meeting. 
Hishammuddin described the Malaysian political scene as "volatile" due to the increased racial divide and Malay insecurity over their relative economic status and the role of Islam.  Malay youth would continue to vent their emotions publicly, as they did during the 2006 UMNO General Assembly, but those on the receiving end, whether ethnic Chinese or the U.S. Government, should look beyond the rhetoric to the bigger and longer term picture.

In any event, the Malaysian Government would never allow anti-U.S. sentiment to get out of hand.  Hishammuddin strongly endorsed the U.S. English language assistant program and hoped that this could be expanded nationwide.  End Summary.

2.  (C) The Ambassador, accompanied by polchief, called on Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Malaysia's Education Minister and head of the UMNO party's youth wing, on January 29 and explored opportunities for expanded dialogue with the influential UMNO Youth.

The Ambassador explained our interest in conveying the U.S. perspective on issues of common concern, while acknowledging that U.S. and Muslim Malay views will differ on some important topics, like aspects of Middle East policy.  UMNO constituents and the U.S.-Malaysia relationship would benefit from direct information from the U.S. Embassy, rather than relying on sometimes inaccurate media reports.

Hishammuddin, accompanied by UMNO Youth Secretary General Abdul Rahman 

Datuk Hj. Dahlan and his personal Ministry senior staff, welcomed the Ambassador's call for expanded dialogue.  The Embassy and UMNO Youth would need to determine appropriate topics to address given UMNO Youth's sensitivity and "immaturity," avoiding, for example, the Middle East, but perhaps addressing the subject of Islam in some fashion.

3.  (C) Hishammuddin described the Malaysian political scene as "volatile beneath the surface."  The Minister, assuming a friendly and frank manner, went on to explain, "this is a difficult period for the psyche of the Malays, particularly because there is uncertainty about the role of Islam."  In the context of rapid development, the Malays had doubts about the foundation of their own country.

The country's "racial splits are now more pronounced," and Malays still do not feel on par with other races.  At times, the Malay youth became overly emotional regarding matters of race and religion, and needed to "release pressure," as they did during the November 2006 UMNO General Assembly (which featured heated racial rhetoric that was broadcast on national television).

Naturally, there would be a reaction to such venting.  In the case of the UMNO General Assembly, it was a shame, Hishammuddin added, that the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA, UMNO's partner in the coalition government) had not been strong enough to manage the reaction.

As a result, Hishammuddin admitted that UMNO still would not allow him to carry out public activities in ethnic Chinese areas.  The Minister confided that, in the wake of the controversial UMNO General Assembly, Prime Minister Abdullah had acknowledged his decision to allow a live, national television broadcast of the event as his worst decision in 2006.

4.  (C)  Hishammuddin argued that MCA and other non-Malay political partners needed to understand the emotional background behind Malay frustration and look beyond the heated words.  The Malay relationship with the U.S. featured "the same dynamic," and from time to time the U.S. would be the object of emotional public criticism.

"This will never get out of hand, the government will not allow it," Hishammuddin assured the Ambassador, but the U.S. would need to adopt a long-term view similar to that of UMNO's national coalition partners.

5.  (C) On the subject of Islam, Hishammuddin said, "the moderates don't speak out" and described Prime Minister Abdullah's "Islam Hadari" concept as an attempt to provide a useful platform for moderates.  While most Malays were not extreme in their views of Islam, "if you push us, we have no other choice," and the younger generation will begin to look to "tyrants" like Saddam Hussein as role models.

6.  (U) The Ambassador raised the U.S. English Language Assistant program, now in its second year with some 13 American assistants and one English Teaching Fellow deployed in the state of Terrangganu.  The Education Minister applauded this program and said he would like to expand it into a national effort, coordinated through his office.

The focus should remain on assistance and training of Malaysian English language teachers.  Hishammuddin said he fully supported increased exchanges between Malaysians and Americans at all levels, and he particularly valued the International Visitor Program.

7.  (C) COMMENT:  Hishammuddin, the son of Malaysia's third Prime Minister, Hussein Onn, has the pedigree as well as the personal standing to be a future prime minister. He is now punching important tickets on the way to that goal by holding down the Education and UMNO Youth jobs.
Hishammuddin is reported to be a strong Abdullah supporter and a key political ally of the Prime Minister's son-in-law and Deputy Youth Chief, Khairy Jamaluddin.  If and how Hishamuddin and Khairy will reconcile their prime ministerial ambitions remains to be seen.

We welcome the opportunity to interact more with UMNO Youth, which continues to brandish the banner of Malay nationalism and remains highly critical of the U.S. We intend to follow-up strongly on the English teaching program.  We welcomed the opportunity to meet with Hishammuddin, who, like his other cabinet colleagues, is not always easy to pin down.

Monday 29 August 2011

Revised law rewards judiciary’s top three, works other judges longer

August 29, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — Unlike his predecessors, Tun Zaki Azmi will retire on a full pension when he clocks out for the last time from the Palace of Justice on September 12 despite serving less than three years as Chief Justice, thanks to a recent revision of a remuneration law for the country's judges.

It used to be a minimum of 15 years for judges from the High Court upwards to get their full pensions but few in the courts appear aware of the revisions to the Judges’ Remuneration Act (JRA) 1971, passed in Parliament two months ago, that gave senior judges a shorter time to get pensions while junior judges now have to spend 18 years to get their full pension.

“The whole thing is purposely catered to Zaki,” DAP federal lawmaker Lim Kit Siang told The Malaysian Insider when contacted.The Ipoh Timur MP said the proposal had been debated in the Dewan Rakyat in June but that the costing was not known then.

The new law is effectively immediately. The few lawyers who know the amended law, also known as Act 45, have attacked it as being tailored to reward the outgoing CJ. They added that the changes are discriminatory to judges.

The most significant change involves enabling those holding the judiciary’s top three posts, namely that of the Chief Justice, the President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Judge of Malaya or Sabah and Sarawak, to be rewarded with a full pension.

A new provision rewarding the country’s top three judges was created under section 9 of the JRA, which reads: “Notwithstanding anything in this Act but subject to section 8, a person holding the office of Chief Justice, President or Chief Judge shall be entitled to maximum pension if he has held either office or all the offices for a period in the aggregate of not less than three years.”

For Zaki, the son of a former Lord President of the Federal Court, Tun Mohamed Azmi Mohamed, this amendment to the law is most opportune.

The former Umno lawyer was directly appointed into the judiciary as a Federal Court judge on September 5, 2007 and fast-tracked to the post of Court of Appeal President on December 11 that same year

Less than a year later, on October 8, 2008 Zaki was elevated to the judiciary’s topmost post as Chief Justice — setting a record for the fastest-rising judge in the country.
Under the new law, full pension now amounts to three-fifths of the top-ranking judge’s last drawn salary, revised upwards from half the amount.

Lim said the opposition pact had raised questions over the motive for the amendment, if it was to benefit “only Zaki”.

However, the veteran politician was silent when asked if there were objections to the second significant amendment, to extend the number of years of service for the other judges from 15 to 18 in order for them to qualify for full pension.

Former Bar Council chief Ragunath Kesavan said the amendment to section 5 of the JRA was even more unfair, contrasted against the acceleration of the judiciary’s top three while other judges saw their years in service added on to qualify for full pension.

“That is obviously unfair to the judges. If you’re a judge, you’re a judge. There should not be a distinction made between them,” he said, adding that few of those currently on the Bench were aware of this piece of news.

The lawyer said that 99 per cent of judges were promoted from the pool of government lawyers in the Attorney-General’s Chambers and spent an average two years as judicial commissioners (JCs) or probation judges before being confirmed.

The other one per cent were experienced lawyers from private practice. None of them had a choice in how long he could serve as a judge as the retirement age is set at 66, Ragunath said.

Veteran lawyer Sankara Nair echoed the Bar chief’s view, noting further that the discriminatory amendments appear to be in conflict with the Federal Constitution, the highest law in the country.

Article 147 of the Constitution, which provides for the protection of pension rights states that: “The law applicable to any pension, gratuity or other like allowance granted to a member of any of the public services, or to his widow, children, dependent or personal representatives, shall be that in force on the relevant day or any later law not less favourable to the person to whom the award is made.”

Sankara feels the government is trying to cut costs with the pension move.
Both Ragunath and Sankara explained that it meant a person who was currently a judge or a JC would be subject to these changes to the JRA, now in effect, despite it not being the terms of their deal when they accepted their appointment.
“This is when the Bar Council must come out and take a stand. The Bar Council must ask for a review. Even the judges must be protected,” Sankara said.
He said the judges have been “emasculated” by the amended law because they are unable to even hear the case if it was challenged in court because of the limits of their job.

Malaysian Bar president Lim Chee Wee has yet to respond to The Malaysian Insider when contacted last week for comment.

“I think the government is trying to cut costs,” Sankara replied to The Malaysian Insider when asked his view of the motive for such amendments.

“The cost of the judiciary is rising because the number of High Court judges has increased,” he said.

Records show that the federal government will incur extra spending of about RM1.854 million a year due to the increase in the number of judges, including those in the newly-formed special anti-corruption courts.

Most Malaysians agree with Bersih demands, poll finds

August 29, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 29 — Over two-thirds of Malaysians agree with the demands mooted by electoral watchdog Bersih while close to half disagreed with the way the government handled last month’s Bersih rally and the events leading up to it, a Merdeka Center poll has shown.

Seventy per cent agreed that foreign observers should be allowed to monitor elections while 68 per cent felt opposition parties should be given access to government-owned television and radio stations for at least one hour a day.

File photo of police shooting water cannons at people at the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur on July 9.
Use of indelible ink was supported by 70 per cent of those polled and a whopping 88 per cent agreed that the electoral roll must be cleaned up.
Support for foreign observers and greater opposition access to media were strongest among the Chinese (74 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively) while Indians were most likely to agree to the use of indelible ink (83 per cent).

On the other hand, support for the electoral roll to be cleaned up was fairly even across the three main races of Peninsular Malaysia — Malays (89 per cent), Chinese (85 per cent) and Indians (88 per cent).

Almost half of the respondents said they understood Bersih’s eight electoral reform demands, with more Indians claiming to know “a great deal” about them.

Forty-nine per cent of respondents were also dissatisfied with the government’s handling of the Bersih rally and issues surrounding it compared to 39 per cent who expressed satisfaction.

The Chinese were most dissatisfied with the way the government handled Bersih (68 per cent), followed by Indians (55 per cent) and Malays (37 per cent).

Malays were also the only group where more agreed with the way the Najib administration handled Bersih than not, with 53 per cent saying they were satisfied with how the government reacted to the rally.

Thousands of Bersih supporters flooded the streets of the capital on July 9 to demand for free and fair elections after talks between the election watchdog and the government broke down.

This was despite an unprecedented intervention by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who called on both sides to reach an amicable solution for the sake of national stability.

Bersih has demanded that Putrajaya execute eight electoral reforms before the next general election, expected to be called soon.

The survey of 1,027 randomly selected registered voters aged 21 and above was carried out between August 11 and 27.

Respondents were selected using the random, stratified sampling method and structured along the national electorate profile and specifically proportional to gender, ethnicity, age groups and state of residence.

Najib's approval rating dips 6 points

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's approval rating has declined six points to 59 percent, according to the latest report by independent pollster Merdeka Center for Opinion Research.

Merdeka Center attributes the decline to increased concerns over the spiraling cost of living as consumers begin to feel the impact of recent increase in fuel and electricity prices.

NONEThe pollster also acknowledged that the way the government handled the Bersih 2.0 rally had generated some "adverse" negative perceptions and eroded the prime minister's support.

The latest announcement puts the prime minister's approval rating at its lowest point in nearly two years.

Najib's approval rating has been on a steady decline since June 2010, after having achieved a record high of 72 percent.
This is the first time that his approval rating hits below 60 percent since September 2009 when he scored 56% - his second lowest after his not-so-impressive showing of 45% in May, a month after he took the helm from Abdullah Ahmad Badawi [see below].
On the up side, the number of people who are dissatisfied with the prime minister remained unchanged at 27 percent.

The survey period was between Aug 11 and Aug 27 which coincided with the announcement of the proposed parliamentary select committee on electoral reform, and a month after the Bersih rally of July 9.
Down three points
The survey, based on 1,027 respondents, found that slightly more than half - 51 percent - felt that the country was going in the right direction, down three points.

Along ethnic lines, Najib's support among ethnic Malays declined slightly by four points, down from 73 percent, whereas support from the ethnic Chinese tumbled, dropping a whopping 11 points to 38 percent.

The outlook of Indian Malaysians on the direction the country has taken also took a dive from 54 to 39 points, but interestingly, they are the only group to have increased their support for Najib, up two points from 67 percent.

Based on the survey, almost one third of respondents are worried about the rising cost of living, a concern that cuts across ethnic lines.

Najib had on July 27 announced that the seventh National Key Results Area will be introduced to the Government Transformation Programme to address the spiralling cost of living, but it appears to have done little to soothe concerns.
Najib's popularity rating (2009-2011)

May - 45%
June - 65%
July - 64%
Sept - 56%
Dec - 66%


March - 69%
May - 72%
Nov - 69%


March - 67%
May - 65%
Aug - 59%

Wikileaks: MCA can't admit Chinese being marginalised

MCA had in a private meeting with US diplomats conceded that the ethnic Chinese in the country was being marginalised but could not admit it as it was bound to support the government's position and by extension, Umno.

NONEThis is according to a confidential cable between Washington and its embassy in Kuala Lumpur released by whistle blower site Wikileaks, detailing a meeting with the embassy's political office with then MCA vice-president Ong Tee Keat (left).

The cable, dated Oct 19, 2006, was released this month.

"Of course we are marginalised, big business to small stall owners know that - but MCA cannot admit it," he was quoted as saying to US diplomats.

Ong who later went on to become MCA's president before being ousted by Chua Soi Lek, had, according to the cable, said that the party had to remain silent over Chinese discontent.

According to the communiqué, Ong was quoted as saying that "silence is sometimes the only valid response" in reaction to Chinese constituents' discontent over MCA and Gerakan's support of the government.

'MCA rely on Umno's crumbs'

The cable detailed the former MCA president's lament that the party could previously get Umno's "leftovers" for development projects but now had to rely on what little it could get from the dominant coalition partner.

"There was once a day in Malaysia when MCA would get the leftovers, but now we are just hoping to get some crumbs from the Umno table," Ong reportedly said in the cable.

An example cited was the Ninth Malaysian Plan where none of the 180 planned new schools were vernacular and only two were given after protests from the minority communities.

The cable also said Ong admitted to deep discontent among the Chinese community against the status quo and that MCA would face its greatest electoral challenge in the coming general election.

His concerns became real in the 2008 general election, in which MCA saw its seats in Parliament halved from 31 to 15, while Gerakan was swept out of its home state, losing all its state seats in Penang.

The cable is part of more than 250,000 US State Department communiqués with its embassies throughout the world, leaked to Wikileaks, which has been releasing them in stages since November last year.
Repeated attempts to reach Ong for comments have been futile.

Sunday 28 August 2011

TV3 news on proselytisation fake and made up, says NGO

An NGO has lodged a police report against TV3 for allegedly fabricating news of a tuition centre in Jalan Klang Lama, Kuala Lumpur, trying to convert Muslims to Christianity, on account that the surau whose members were shown protesting the centre appears to be non-existent.

jalan klang lama tuition centre tv3 report 3The group, Jingga 13, said the private TV station on Aug 21 aired a report during its main news bulletin (Buletin Utama) alleging that the tuition centre had been spreading Christianity to its Muslim students.

jalan klang lama tuition centre tv3 report 4
The news clip showed footage of a group of about 50 from the sarau.

Al-Musyrikin qariah (community) led by a Mustapha Kamal Mohd Yusof - believed to be an Umno branch leader in Seputeh - gathered in front of the centre, protesting the proselytisation of Muslims.

“The report is jalan klang lama tuition centre tv3 report 5meant to portray that there are efforts to spread Christianity through the tuition classes, to the point that it has caused the surau members to protest,” lamented Fariz Musa, Jingga 13's coordinator.

However, said Fariz, their checks suggest that no such surau exists in the area.

“From Jingga 13's investigations in the vicinity of the tuition centre in the Jalan Klang Lama squatter area, and from speaking with the locals there, we found that not a single surau exists in the area,” said Fariz, who is also a PKR exco member.

“The tuition centre is located in a squatter area populated mainly by Chinese and Indians, along with some foreign Indonesians.
“It was pretty clear the qariah and the surau reported on TV3 does not exist,” he said.

Surau name 'pokes fun'

Fariz also pointed out that the name of the reported surau itself is suspect, and appears to be aimed at poking fun.
“The name of the surau 'Al-Musyrikin' that was reported looks like it was intentionally conjured up.

“It is indeed impossible that someone would call their house of Allah with a name such as 'Al-Musyrikin' (polytheists).

jalan klang lama tuition centre tv3 report 6“It's pretty clear that TV3 cooked up the false news and at the same time poked fun at Muslim places of worship with that name Al-Musyrikin,” said Fariz.

According to him, the residents in the squatter area concerned told him that the tuition centre has been there for years for the purpose of teaching Christianity to the children living in the area who are Christians.

“They comprise students who are Chinese, Indian and a small number of Christian Indonesians.

“There are no Muslims who attend Christianity classes there,” said Fariz.

The NGO lodged a police report today at Shah Alam police district headquarters against the TV station for maliciously spreading false news, that it said aimed at stoking religious and racial tensions, that at the same time had ridiculed Islam.

Meanwhile, the news report concerned has apparently been removed from TV3's website.

Saturday 27 August 2011

Electoral reform: How does M'sia fare? by JOHN R MALOTT

COMMENT This is the second of two articles about proposals that have been made for electoral reform in Malaysia, counter-statements by the government, and how Malaysia's situation compares to that of other countries.

Allow overseas voting

Many Malaysians have called for voting rights for all Malaysians who live abroad, and not just for government workers and military who are assigned overseas or Malaysians studying in foreign countries.

There are over one million Malaysians living overseas, but according to Election Commission deputy chief Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, only 2,500 of them are eligible to vote.

NONEThe government has not provided any convincing reason why all Malaysians overseas should not be permitted to vote. However, two days ago EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Yusof (left) said that "hopefully" all registered voters living overseas will be able to vote in the next general election.

To date, the government has resisted allowing overseas Malaysians to vote out of concern that many of the Malaysians who live overseas do not support Umno or its coalition partners. In addition, the ethnic reality is that many of the Malaysians living overseas are non-Malay, and likely not to vote for Umno.

So Umno's conclusion is that permitting overseas Malaysians to vote therefore might work against its interests.

There is no clear international consensus on what right citizens who live overseas have to vote in their home countries.

The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network examined the practices of 214 countries and territories. It reports that 115 countries, just a little over half, permit their citizens to vote from abroad. Malaysia is one of those countries. The other 99 countries and territories do not allow overseas voters.

ACE says that 80 of those 115 "OK to vote" countries do not impose any conditions on overseas voting, except that the voter must be a citizen. However, the other 35 countries, including Malaysia, impose restrictions. Those restrictions concern either the reason or the length of time that a person is overseas.

Malaysia is one of a number of countries to impose "activity-based restrictions." Why are you overseas? In Malaysia's case, only diplomatic officers and students abroad may vote. A number of other countries have the same conditions, such as India, Singapore, and Israel.

pulau ketam village head election 310711 votingSome countries, usually those that do not impose "activity-based" or job-related restrictions, impose a time restriction. The assumption is that a citizen who has lived abroad for a number of years and perhaps become a permanent resident in another country should not be eligible to vote in national elections.

Australia, for example, denies the right to vote to any Australian citizen who has lived abroad for more than six years. For the UK, it is 15 years. For Germany, it takes 25 years before a German citizen overseas loses the right to vote.

In short, there is no clear international consensus. Half of the world's countries do not permit overseas voting. But of those that do, Malaysia has some of the more restrictive conditions.

A national discussion about the eligibility of Malaysians overseas to vote therefore would be a useful part of the dialogue on electoral reform.

Provide fair access to media
Well-informed voters - which can come only from the free flow of information about parties, candidates, and their positions - are essential to a healthy democracy. Bersih 2.0 has called for free and fair access to the media for all political parties.

There have been many international reports that support Bersih's position. Reporters without Borders places Malaysia 141st out of the 178 countries in its Press Freedom Index.

The US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices declares that Malaysian opposition parties are unable to compete on equal terms with the governing Umno-dominated coalition because of restrictions on campaigning and freedom of assembly and association.

The State Department reports that "news of the opposition is tightly restricted and reported in a biased fashion."

Let's take a look at the ways in which information about parties, candidates and their positions are disseminated in Malaysia.

1) The state-owned and controlled media, RTM and Bernama, are supposed to be public institutions for all citizens in Malaysia, because they are supported by all taxpayers regardless of their political affiliation.

In reality, RTM and Bernama have become propaganda arms of Umno and BN. RTM evens uses taxpayers' money to broadcast Umno's political assemblies. RTM and Bernama take their political direction from the prime minister and the Information Ministry. They praise the ruling parties and castigate and demonise the opposition.

In other countries with publicly-owned broadcast systems - for example, the UK, Australia, Japan, and the United States - access is provided to all political parties, and an effort is made to be politically impartial.

EC deputy chief Wan Ahmad has said that he cannot compel newspapers and television stations to report on the opposition. That, of course, is true. It is not within the EC's authority. But it is within the government's authority and therefore a legitimate topic for discussion.

NONE2) In Malaysia, privately-owned newspapers and television stations are owned by companies under the control of Umno, MCA and MIC, and can disseminate their views freely, to everyone.

By contrast, there are no television or radio stations owned by supporters of the opposition, and opposition newspapers cannot be sold openly. They can only be distributed to party members, a clearly discriminatory practice.

3) Wan Ahmad says that despite these restrictions, the opposition and its supporters have access to alternative media sources, meaning the Internet and its websites and blogs. That also is true. But it does not make for a level-playing field. The opposition is forced to campaign with one hand tied behind its back. They have a rifle, but the other side has a cannon.

Some alternative sites clearly are supporters of the opposition. Others (like Malaysiakini) try to provide a point of view that is more balanced than the mainstream media. As a result, their reporting does not always please Malaysia's rulers.

These alternative media outlets therefore have been subject to government harassment, such as the denial of service attacks that were launched against Malaysiakini during the recent Sarawak elections. This too cuts off the free flow of information to Malaysian voters.

Over two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press." Organisations and governments throughout the world have made it clear what they think about press freedom in Malaysia. It is no wonder that Malaysia ranks 141st in the world - even below Zimbabwe.

Ensure an impartial EC

Around the world, there probably are thousands of different ways in which governments at all levels - national, state, and local - organise and conduct elections. Because of this great variety, foreign analysts would not insist that there is one "right way" to organise and manage elections. Instead they would focus on some basic principles.

There are a number of questions that should be asked to determine whether elections are being conducted in a fair manner:
  • Is the organisation that is responsible for conducting the elections impartial, or does it favour one party over another?
  • Can the same be said about the leadership and staff employees of that organisation? Do they carry out their work in an impartial manner?
  • Is the organisation subject to political interference?
  • Are the decisions and actions of the organisation transparent, and are they fair? Do they treat both the government and the opposition equally?
Numerous academic studies conducted by both foreign and Malaysian academics have concluded that over the years, the independence and impartiality of Malaysia's election commission has been lost. In many cases, this is because its independence has been stripped by parliamentary action. So it is not fair to blame everything on the personnel who lead the commission.

However, various unfortunate statements by Malaysia's election officials have only reinforced the view that they favour one party over another. For example:

In 2007, then EC Chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said that "there is only one regime in this country that is capable of running (the country)."
Abdul Rashid went on to say that he was on the same wavelength as his friend, senior Umno leader Sanusi Junid, about what the country needs. "If we don't agree, then we are in trouble, because I run the elections," he said.

kuala terengganu parliament by election spr ec announcement  051208 wan ahmad wan omarEC deputy chief Wan Ahmad (right) has taken to writing articles in Utusan Malaysia, owned by Umno, saying that the opposition is engaged in 'dirty tricks' and trying to scapegoat the EC in order to promote their political ambitions.

Wan Ahmad added, "BN has never attacked or put down the EC. That is the difference between PAS, DAP, PKR and BN."

Critics of the EC say that BN has no reason to attack or put down the EC, as the EC is doing BN's work.

In response to Wan Ahmad's comments, Bersih 2.0 issued a statement saying that the EC "continues to make comments that are less in the spirit of working together towards cleaner elections and more in the spirit of defending an incumbent party against contenders."

Bersih called on Wan Ahmad and the EC to end their war of words with political parties.

"Recent comments that have been made threaten the public image of impartiality that the EC needs to have to maintain public confidence. It is more the job of the deputy chairperson of a political party to make political criticisms than it is the deputy chairperson of the EC."

That is a sentiment with which most of the world would agree.

JOHN R MALOTT was the US Ambassador to Malaysia, 1995-1998, and continues to follow developments in that country closely.

Aidilfitri - a time for forgiveness, reconciliation

Sim Kwang Yang
Aug 27, 11
Malaysia is poised on the eve of yet another Aidilfitri celebration, spanning the entire month of Syawal. It is a joyous occasion for Muslims, as it signifies a personal triumph, and a victory of self-restraint and abstinence, symbolising purification and renewal.

The 'balik kampung' exodus is underway, nearly reducing the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur to a ghost town, as the Malay Muslim population throughout the nation move back to their 'kampung' homes to renew their connection with their ethnic roots.

hari raya ramadhan stalls 021006 04Every year, I am deeply affected by this mood of national joy on the eve of another Aidilfitri. This is a fine multi-racial tradition in Malaysia, for we celebrate all the major festivals of the various races, with an abundance of joy.

For a few days at least, Malaysians will put aside their ethnic and religious divisions, and celebrate this, the most auspicious festival of the Muslim calendar, with one heart.

The average Malaysian Muslim is deeply religious. Usually, on the first day of the Aidilfitri celebration, after breakfast at home with the family, the Muslim faithful visits the graves of their departed forefathers, and offers up their prayers.

Asking for pardon from family members is performed with some ceremony, in order of seniority.

The younger members of a family approach their elders to seek forgiveness, to 'salam' (offer the Muslim equivalent of a handshake, a mark of peace) and then kiss the hands of the older person as a sign of respect.

Shared breaking fast feast

After a whole month of fasting, Aidilfitri is often marked by a real breaking of the fast, with each family serving up a feast prepared mainly by the womenfolk of the household.

This is a time when we invariably enjoy visiting our Muslim friends at their homes, for we can enjoy the secret recipes of so many different families, to our hearts' content.

Malaysia is still a paradise for people who love home-cooked meals, including the flavourful recipes of the Malays, which have found their way into the repertoire of all Malaysians.

In my home state of Sarawak, Aidilfitri is celebrated in a special way. Muslim homes are decorated by the full regalia of lights, lit up at the doorstep, and strung all along the front of the house.

You can see an outpouring of joy and a sign of welcome in these bright lights and twinkling oil lamps in every village throughout the vast state of Sarawak.

NONEIn Sarawak, this celebration will be shared by all the citizens. People of all races will visit their Muslim friends at their households, renewing old social ties and enjoying the incredible array of delicious and nutritious foods served up by the lady of the house.

A special mention must be made of the rich array of cakes and confectionary, often prepared at home with painstaking dedication, to entertain guests who come to visit the house.

Guests will also enjoy various tradtional festive delicacies, such as ketupat, lemang, rendang, curries, and various types of 'keropok' (prawn or fish crackers), 'kek lapis' (intricately made, multi-layered and near-kaleidoscopic cakes) and biscuits, specially handed down from generation to generation in Sarawak.

Children will be allowed to play with various sparklers and fire-crackers, although safety concerns are always on the minds of their parents.

This is also a time for children and old folks to be presented with 'duit raya' or gifts of money in small envelopes ('green packets') by their relatives and friends.

Throughout the country, all Muslims will visit their dear ones, families and friends, all dressed in their finest and most colourful clothes.

The joy that sweeps through the land, and her people, is so palpable that every visitor to Malaysia will be infected by the festive mood.

Muslims' toil through the years

The Malaysian Muslims have toiled through the years, in developing our nation and maintaining our political stability.

Despite some of the religious and ethnic flare-ups that beset our country from time to time, the social stability of the Malays still stands at the forefront of social progress in building our nation.

The average Malaysian Muslim has contributed in no small measure to our political progress and democratic awakening, and the physical development we have witnessed throughout multi-racial Malaysia.

libya gaddafi victoryAs we share the universal joy of Aidilfitri, our hearts must go out to the suffering people of the Arab World. As we write, the Muslims in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia are still trying to find their footing in their historic march towards democracy and progress.

Muslims in the unfortunate land of Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain are now trapped in the birth pangs of a new social order.

These good and courageous Muslims deserve our support, in prayer and in solidarity.

We should count ourselves lucky to be living in Malaysia. We should treasure our multi-racial brotherhood and sisterhood, especially on this eve of another joyous Aidilfitri.

To all Muslims out there, I would like to wish all of you 'Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir dan Batin'!

SIM KWANG YANG was member of parliament for Bandar Kuching, Sarawak from 1982 to 1995. He can be reached at All comments are welcome.

A-G denies Raja Petra’s bribe claims

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 27 — Attorney-General (A-G) Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail has denied claims by blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin that he was being bribed by former Ho Hup Bhd deputy executive chairman Datuk Vincent Lye in exchange for help in a boardroom tussle.

Raja Petra had alleged on his blog Malaysia-Today on August 23 that Lye had “bribed” Gani and used Ho Hup funds to pay for renovation work at Gani Patail’s second wife’s house in Negeri Sembilan.
In his first response to Raja Petra’s claims, Abdul Gani told The Malaysian Insider that he had never accepted any money from the construction company.

“I didn’t take a single cent from Ho Hup. I have a rule; I don’t take money,” he said.

When asked whether he owned a house in Seremban, he replied: “I don’t have a house in Seremban or anywhere in Negri Sembilan.”

“I don’t know what to say … all these things happened in 2009 but the case was from 2010, so it doesn’t make sense,” he added, apparently referring to the charges filed against Low.

Raja Petra had insinuated that the A-G used his influence on behalf of Lye to have his boardroom rival Datuk TC Low charged in court in January this year for non-timely disclosure of his interests in the company.

The blogger had also posted pictures on the website of what appears to be a computer-generated invoice dated July 13 2009 from a company in Petaling Jaya to Ho Hup for installation of lighting fixtures for “AG’s Bungalow at Seremban 2 — Sri Carcosa”; a handwritten invoice dated July 13 to Lye for renovation work for Sri Carcosa in Seremban 2; a cash payment voucher from Ho Hup dated August 12 for work done for “AG Tan Sri Ghani Patail Bangalow at Seremban 2 — Sri Carcosa” worth RM18,000; and a cheque made out to the renovation supplier for RM18,000.

Lye and Low, who had stakes of about 28 and 26 per cent respectively in Ho Hup at the time, were battling for control of the construction company boardroom.

The former, however, was voted out at an EGM in March this year.

In May, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) cleared Gani Patail of corruption allegations in relation to his recent haj pilgrimage last year.

MACC operations evaluation panel (PPO) chairman Tan Sri Dr Hadenan Abdul Jalil had said that the case had been dropped as investigations showed “no testimony to any criminal offence.”

The issue was highlighted by Raja Petra and former corruption prevention panel adviser Tan Sri Robert Phang who had said Abdul Gani’s explanation to the panel had failed to dispel suspicions over the pilgrimage.

Apart from the duo, former top cop Datuk Mat Zain Ibrahim has repeatedly attacked Abdul Gani for his failure to prosecute several high-profile cases and has called for the prime minister to axe the A-G.

FBI told to cut ties with Taib's family

Western NGOs are stepping up pressure on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to cut ties with its landlord Wallyson's Inc, linked to Sarawak Chief Minister Taib Mahmud's family.

NONESwiss-based Bruno Manser Fund (BMF) and San-Francisco-based Borneo Project have written to FBI Director Robert Mueller to suspend the FBI's rental contracts for the Abraham Lincoln Building (right) in Seattle, that houses the FBI's Seattle Division headquarters and is owned by Wallyson's.

The letter also asked the bureau to ascertain if the Taib family's US investments are in line with the country's anti-money-laundering legislation, said BMF in statement on Thursday.

"While the fight against public corruption should be one of the FBI's top priorities, it is renting premises from the Taib family, one of South East Asia's largest corruption networks.

“We are seriously concerned that the FBI appears to be unduly backing the Taib family and its illicit foreign assets", wrote BMF.

The letter to Mueller was copied to a number of US government agencies and top politicians, including secretary of state Hillary Clinton, treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, attorney general Eric Holder and the judiciary committees of congress who oversee the FBI.

BMF says anti-Taib NGOs had approached the FBI in March and protested in front of their Seattle headquarters over the Sarawak CM's alleged illegal activities, adding that the bureau had not answered their complaints and had refused to receive a delegation from the NGOs.
MACC investigating?
Wallyson's is one of five US companies that BMF has blacklisted, in a list of 44 companies worldwide released in February, for close links to Taib.
The company is a subsidiary of Sakti International Corporation, that owns an estimated US$80 million (RM258 million) in properties.
azlanWhistleblower website Sarawak Report claims that San Francisco Superior Court documents show that Sakti was initially managed by Mahmud Abu Bekir, Taib's eldest son, when it was established in 1987.
Sarawak Report says in 2006, Taib's son-in-law Sean Murray, married to eldest daughter Jamilah Hamidah, took control of managing Sakti.
It adds that all the original Sakti shareholders were related to Taib - his children Mahmud Abu Bekir, Jamilah Hamidah and Sulaiman Abdul Rahman, as well as his brothers Onn and Arip.
In June, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) told the press they had started the investigationpresumably on Taib, but had refused to divulge any details.

The country's longest-serving chief minister has been accused of power abuse and corruption. Several reports had been lodged against him but the MACC has been tight-lipped about its probe.

Opposition veteran Lim Kit Siang, however, questioned the anti-graft body's statement and commitment as vague and inconclusive.
“Is 'gathering more information' tantamount to a corruption investigation under the MACC Act 2009, or is it an activity which can be outsourced to any research organisation?” Lim asked sarcastically.

Harapan Komuniti target of death threat

Harapan Komuniti, which held a thanksgiving dinner at a Petaling Jaya church on the night that it was searched by the Selangor Islamic Department Affairs (Jais), yesterday lodged a police report following death threat.

According to a source close to the NGO, the threat was spotted at the entrance of its premises in Taman Sri Manja, Petaling Jaya, early yesterday morning.

"It was in a form of a package, with things like jangan cabar Islam (do not challenge Islam) and other threatening things written on a note on top of it. They did not open the package and surrendered it to the police when they reported the incident," he said when contacted by Malaysiakini today.

The source, who is also familiar with the case pertaining to the Jais harapan komuniti hiv aidssearch of the Damansara Utama Methodist Church on Aug 3, said the NGO lodged the report at the Sea Park police station at 10 last night.

This has been confirmed by the officer who received the report at Sea Park station, although the details of the police report cannot be revealed.

"The NGO runs an outreach centre for single mothers and people living with HIV/AIDS as well as a tuition centre for needy children. They are terrified for the safety of the children, especially, and have moved their operations temporarily," said the man who refused to be named.

The source also claimed that some of the 12 Muslims asked to attend counselling sessions by Jais after being spotted at the dinner at DUMC have also received phone calls late at night by a man purporting to be from Jais.

"Only the female individuals receive the calls. Of course we cannot be sure if this man is really from Jais," he said, blaming irresponsible parties who published the identity of these individuals.

The search has triggered much controversy, with some pointing the finger at the zakat authority for not assisting poor Muslims to the extent that they are forced to turn to churches and Christian organisations for help.

Church shouldn't be discouraged

In response to this, Selangor Islamic affairs exco Hasan Ali announced that government is setting up a service centre to receive complaints and requests for whatever form of assistance to ease the burden of underprivileged Muslims dubbed Unit Selamatkan Aqidah.

anwar dang wangi police station 290611Commenting on this today, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim (right) said that while the effort is good, such moves to assist the poor should not be in a form of a reaction to allegations of proselytisation.

"I have been informed briefly by (Selangor MB Abdul) Khalid (Ibrahim). I feel that this is the work of the Muslim community and should not be a reaction to what the church is doing," he said.

He added that such efforts, even if it is using zakat funds, should not stop at "any race or any religion", and must not be seen as an act to discourage others from assisting, including the church.

He also stressed that as a principle, the zakat is not just meant for Muslims, but is "an institution for all deserving poor".

"In Permatang Pauh, we help everyone including poor Chinese and Hindus in our Ramadan programme, so I hope I don't get accused of proselytising too," he said.

Friday 26 August 2011

Bishop Paul Tan hails Asri, lauds Morgan

Catholic Bishop Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing today hailed former Perlis mufti Asri Zainul Abidin as an “emancipator” and lauded nominal Muslim Barry Morgan's “candor” in the latest round of exchanges on the vexed question of Christian proselytisation of Muslims.

Asri, fast gaining a reputation as a preacher of unconventional depth, chided the authorities for being negligent of the welfare of the Muslim poor, the more desperate of whom, he said, were forced to seek recourse in Christian charity.

Muslim apathy to their poor, said Asri, was what drove some desperate adherents of the faith to apostasy which was then blamed on aggressive Christian proselytisation.

NONEThe issue boiled up on the national horizon after an incursion by Jais on a fundraising dinner in aid of HIV/AIDS victims at the Damansara Utama Methodist Centre on Aug 3.

The presence of 12 Muslims among a crowd of 120 attendees has become a national cause celebre.

In an immediate reaction to Asri's remarks, Bishop Paul, who is head of Catholics in the diocese of Melaka-Johor, told Malaysiakini:

“When I read what Asri said, I felt the instinctive reaction one poet had for another's work when he said, 'I wanted to go to the man that wrote that and say something.' This from me to Asri would simply be, 'Thank you, emancipator'.”

Bishop Paul Tan, who is concurrently president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Malaysia, elaborated:

“If I were to say what he said, I would expose myself to accusations that I was intruding on Muslim affairs.

NONE“Asri has said what many of us Christians have wanted to say but could not for fear of offending Muslims: that they should look to their poor before accusing us of proselytising.”

The Jesuit-trained prelate added: “I call Asri an emancipator in the same sense of Christ's description of the truth as that which will set you free.

“What Asri has said is true and has set Christians free of bondage to a lie: that Christian charity, which is mandated by the faith and rendered to all who are in need, has in some cases led to Muslim apostasy, which some Muslims regard as subversion.

“This is the lie that Asri's remarks have nailed; hence my calling him emancipator.”'

Candid views by a Muslim

Bishop Paul Tan said he was delighted to read the comments of Malaysiakini reader Barry Morgan, a nominal Muslim, whose disclosure of his difficulties in nurturing an adopted child “helped to shed needed light on the same issue of Christian help to those in need.”

“Morgan's candor about his and his wife's difficulties spoke of the pain many feel in their personal journeys of faith in this world and their encounters with people willing to help.

“Morgan's story illustrates the insight of a saint Catholics revere. This is Francis of Assisi who said that it is in giving that we receive. Christians are encouraged to give because in doing so they feel they receive God's grace.”

The bishop concluded: “One can hide truth for a while but not for too long. Truth has a way of rearing its head and coming down hard on the one who hides it.

“I don't want to go further because it is in the peculiar nature of religion that it becomes feeble in the utterance. So I shall stop here except to once again iterate my salutations to Asri and my respects to Morgan.”

Bar council wants probe into Jais-DUMC video leak

The Bar Council today called for an investigation into last week's leaking on the Internet of the video recording of the Selangor Islamic Affairs Department's (Jais) raid on dinner at a church hall in Petaling Jaya.

NONEIn a statement today, council president Lim Chee Wee (right) said that the leak on YouTube on Aug 16, which was and later tagged to pro-BN blogs, has breached Jais' investigation into claims of proselytising.

"While it is perhaps too early to pinpoint the source of the leak, the fact that the information has been disclosed in such a manner suggests that the investigations have been critically compromised and the information used for partisan purposes," Lim said.

The investigation into how such a leak had occurred should be a "critical element" of the Selangor government's hearing committee to resolve the controversy surrounding the search at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) compound on Aug 3.
Call to include non-Muslims in panel

According to Lim, besides the video, the leak of personal details of the 12 Muslims who had attended the dinner at DUMC on blogs and in the print media also contravened the right to privacy of the individuals concerned.

NONE"It has exposed the 12 individuals to unwarranted and unwelcome scrutiny, in total breach of their right to privacy," he said.

Further, Lim said, the hearing committee should also look into the proper jurisdiction of Jais, which in letters to the 12 individuals had purportedly relied on non-syariah-based enactments to justify the DUMC search.

"This raises serious questions as to whether Jais over-reached itself and exceeded the extent of its authority, and whether its act of incursion into DUMC lacked proper legal foundation," he said.

Lim also called for the membership of the committee be extended to representatives of non-Muslim religions in Selangor as it involved "the interplay between two religions".

The Selangor hearing committee is headed by Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim, with Selangor mufti Mohd Tamyes Abdul Wahid and deputy mufti Abdul Majid Omar as members.

Churches want freedom to do charity work

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) called today for the freedom to help the poor regardless of race, amid accusations that Christians were trying to convert Muslims through welfare work.

The umbrella body representing various Christian denominations also told Malaysians to reject extremism ahead of Merdeka Day next Wednesday.

“Churches and Christians should continue freely to do works of charity to contribute towards nation-building in diverse ways, so that the benefits can be reaped by the poor and the needy, irrespective of race, religion or creed,” said CFM in a statement today.

“As Malaysians, we need to build on the positives that we have in our land, rather than the negatives that divide us on the basis of race, religion or creed... in particular, we reject extremist speeches and statements and irresponsible reporting in the media,” it added.
Pro-Umno newspapers have been highlighting alleged attempts by Christians to convert Muslims since the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raided an evangelical church in Petaling Jaya on August 3. Proselytising Muslims is an offence in Malaysia.

Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia also reported recently an allegation that underprivileged Muslims living in a squatter area near Old Klang Road were being proselytised by Christians under the guise of free English classes.

The tuition centre was subsequently shut down for purportedly not owning a valid permit.

Influential cleric Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, however, said yesterday that Muslims should take care of their own poor instead of accusing Christians of proselytism when churches helped poor Muslims.

Tensions between Christians and Muslims have heightened after Jais swooped on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC), on claims that it was investigating a complaint that Muslims were being converted at a dinner the church was hosting for a local NGO.

The Selangor state government met with Jais and representatives of the Harapan Komuniti NGO yesterday to resolve the debacle that has sparked attacks from both Muslims and Christians against the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration.

CFM pointed out today that religious freedom was enshrined in the Federal Constitution that ensured peace and harmony in multi-racial Malaysia.

“The diversity of faiths expressed in the many places of worship throughout Malaysia is a testimony to the spiritual vitality of all our peoples and their desire to be connected to the almighty God,” said CFM.

“Therefore, we must hold to the sanctity of all our places of worship, and also our freedom to believe and not allow such to be violated in any way,” it added.

Postal votes to be extended to all M'sians overseas

All Malaysian registered voters residing overseas will soon be able to vote via post.

According to Election Commission chairperson Abdul Aziz Yusof, this will “hopefully happen in the next general election”.

Speaking to reporters in Kuala Lumpur today, he said that the EC is currently in the process of amending the election rules to allow this.

The change in election rules will expand the postal vote from only civil servants and full-time students and their spouses."The most important thing is for the person to register as a voter. They can do this at the embassy. After that they can register as a postal voter," he said.

No postal votes for East Malaysians

He said once the person is registered as a postal voter, a voting slip will be sent to the voter's residence. The slip will then be returned to the embassy where it will be posted back to Malaysia at a specified date.

"The postal vote will be according to the address in the identity card. So if the voter's identity card states an address in Teluk Intan, the vote will go to that constituency," he said.

With the changes, Malaysians living and working abroad including part time students, workers with private companies and emigrants who chose to retain their Malaysian citizenships can now exercise their right to vote.

He, however, noted that the same will not be extended to voters from Sabah and Sarawak who reside in the Peninsular.

"By right, they should change their addresses on their identity card to reflect their current place of residence after staying there for more than three months," he said.

The EC is also looking to extend the postal vote to voters residing in Malaysia, who will not be able to vote as they are on duty.

"This will include journalists, doctors, nurses, flight attendants etc. We will make the announcement on this when the time comes," he said.

'Fair' campaign period for GE13

Abdul Aziz's announcement today was made at a three hour press briefing, where he addressed the eight demands of the coalition for clean and fair elections Bersih 2.0.

Responding to the demand for 21 days campaign period, the EC chief said that this would be addressed in the next general election, but refused to divulge the length of the campaign period.

"It will be fair, not too short and not too long," he said.

He explained that it would not be fair for the EC to only listen to Bersih 2.0's demand as other groups have also met with the commission to appeal for shorter campaign periods.

"Smaller parties and independent candidates prefer a shorter period, so we have to listen to them too," he said.

Among the eight demands by Bersih 2.0, four fall directly under the jurisdiction of the EC, he said.

They are 21-day campaign period, the use of indelible ink, clean electoral roll and review of postal voting.

The other four are free and fair media access, prevention of corrupt practices, putting a stop to dirty politics and the strengthening of public institutions.

Of the former three, Abdul Aziz said the EC meets with all media to "appeal" that fair coverage is given to all contesting parties, works with the Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission to curb corrupt practices and holds briefings prior to campaign period to remind all parties against dirty politics.

"I strongly support these demands," he said.

Asri: Woman denies embracing Christianity

Former Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin said that one of the 12 Muslims who were present at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church's Aug 3 event had denied having converted to Christianity.

While the woman did concede that there other others who have embraced Christianity, she had remained faithful to Islam.

NONEThe conversions, Asri (left) said, was the fault of the country's Islamic institutions for failing to help underprivileged Muslims.

"The single mother I met was deserted by her husband and had to raise three children. She could not afford to pay the rental for the house where she was staying and had gone to the Islamic authorities for help, but was turned away.

"Only after she got a support letter from a politician did she get zakat tithe. She was also turned down by the Welfare Department," he said.

Asri said that the woman had confided in him that a Christian friend had recommended her to seek help, which led to her relationship with the church, though there was no mention of which church it was.

"How can she experience the greatness of Islam when her fellow Muslims do not care about her and refuse to help her?... When her children are sick the church cares, her livelihood is supported by the church and even her daily needs were provided," he lamented.

NONE According to Asri, the DUMC dinner was not the first time that the woman was caught by the Islamic authorities.

Following the first incident, the Zakat Department promised to help her to open a kindergarden, but when it was not forthcoming, the church again stepped in to assist in paying the rent of the premises.

"Despite being a devoted Muslim, she often bring her children to church. Her children are instilled with Christian teachings by the church. They are taught hymns and certain moral values. For her, all this is done as a matter of survival."

Asri explained that he was told there were many other underprivileged Muslims who were in a similar position had allegedly converted because they were disappointed by the uncaring attitude of the Muslim community and were influenced by the church's goodwill, even though they were not forced to do so.

Do more to help poor Muslims

The former mufti urged Muslims to take responsibility for the situation rather than bashing Christians and churches.

"If we want to escape responsibility, it's easy, we blame it all on the church. We blame them for being the source of all problems. And then we demonstrate and fuel public sentiments against the church for carrying out charity and missionary work.

"But when we do not help and carry out missionary work, we do not blame ourselves. Is this what we have become?" he asked.

While acknowledging the good work of the Islamic authorities, Asri called on them to do more by seeking out poor Muslims and assisting them.

"If the zakat system is working, even non-Muslims will be attracted to Islam, but if the zakat system is not working, even Muslims will want to leave the religion," he exclaimed.

Early this month, Jais raided a dinner that was held within DUMC compound which was attended by 12 Muslims.

The raid has fuelled speculations of proselytisation among Muslims. However, the organisers of the event, Harapan Komuniti, had clarified that it was a HIV fundraiser event

Pemandu admits land acquisition only way to recoup MRT cost

August 26, 2011
Pemandu chief executive Datuk Seri Idris Jala said that Singapore’s MRT operators, who rely heavily on fare box revenues, were considered an exception. — file pic
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 26 — Putrajaya’s powerful efficiency unit has admitted that the Najib administration needs to acquire and develop land along the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) route as it cannot afford the multi-billion ringgit project otherwise.

In a letter sighted by The Malaysian Insider, Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) chief executive Datuk Seri Idris Jala told Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCCIM) president Tan Sri William Cheng that the government was pursuing a “rail-and-property” model as it would not be able to recover the cost of the first line between Sungai Buloh and Kajang through fares alone.

“For the government to manage the project efficiently and sustainably, fare box revenue will not be sufficient to finance the high capex and opex for the MRT network,” Idris said in the letter dated August 23, written in response to Cheng’s queries about the acquisition of Jalan Sultan land.

“Increasing the fares is not an option as the government wants to act responsibly by providing the rakyat with an affordable means of transport. Instead, the government is adopting a prudent approach towards a sustainable financial model for the MRT through a modified rail-plus-property model.”

The government has said a Ministry of Finance unit called Dana Infra will raise funds for the MRT, which is the country’s most expensive infrastructure project to date, but has yet to give any details of the funding apart from saying it will develop the land along the route.

The Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department pointed out that Hong Kong’s MTR Corporation, which has successfully applied the model to its Mass Transit Railway (MTR) network, would not have an “effective means of recouping the vast sums spent on developing the MRT” without revenue from property development as earnings from fares only made up 35 per cent of total revenue.

He stressed that Singapore’s MRT operators, who rely heavily on fare box revenues with minimal contribution from commercial activities, were considered an exception rather than the norm.

Chinatown traders see the Jalan Sultan land acquisition as a threat to the historic enclave. — file pic
But Malaysia would be using a modified version of the rail-and-property model with “some amount of land acquisition” as the Sungai Buloh-Kajang (SBK) line would traverse built-up areas unlike Hong Kong, which had access to several tracts of mainly reclaimed land that allowed for integrated station and property development, Idris said. 
“The government is thus not acquiring land banks for the MRT Co. nor abusing the Land Acquisition Act for this purpose,” he assured, referring to the new project owner effective September 1.

However, Idris also revealed that land along the SBK corridor that will be developed by government-linked companies (GLCs), including the Rubber Research Institute (RRI) and Kuala Lumpur International Financial District (KLIFD) sites, would not go directly towards offsetting the capital expenditure for the MRT.

The minister added that he would let the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) respond to Cheng’s concerns over the land acquisition on Jalan Sultan in Chinatown, which traders there see as a threat to the historic enclave.

“These involve technical details such as the design of the alignment, constructibility, the need for station integration and so forth and why land above ground is acquired (in respect to the National Land Code) even if the MRT tunnels are below for safety and security concerns,” he said.

“On this score, perhaps we may also see a more positive development from the proximity of the MRT line to Chinatown where opportunities for revitalisation and restoration of the area would benefit the Chinese community in this part of Kuala Lumpur.”

Outgoing project owner Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd (Prasarana) has said it needs to acquire the land above the MRT tunnel that will run along Jalan Sultan and demolish existing buildings in the interest of public safety.

Both Prasarana and SPAD have also said the government has to acquire the land before any subsurface work can begin as Section 44 of the National Land Code 1965 states that property owners not only have the right to the plot itself but also the air above and the ground below.

But DAP publicity chief Tony Pua has accused the Najib administration of using the project as an excuse to hijack prime land in the capital for profit, pointing out that the National Land Code had been specifically amended in 1990 to allow for the acquisition of underground land without affecting surface property.

SPAD CEO Mohd Nur Ismal Kamal said this week that the regulator was currently working on a solution to allow traders to return to Chinatown lots being acquired for the construction of the MRT but said there was “no guarantee” that they would eventually be surrendered to the owners.