Friday, January 27, 2006

'Crooked Bridge is not the Scenic Bridge'

"Singaporeans Are Straight While Malaysians Are Crooked" and "Malaysians Obsessed With Everything BIG"

Hey, I did not make up these headlines O.K. BeeBeeCee did. Check out these two BBC-worthy news:

Malaysia plans 'crooked' bridge

One Malaysian politician told the Star newspaper that the shape of the bridge would be a reflection of relations between the two countries.

Singaporean sources told the BBC that this statement implies the Singaporeans are straight while the Malaysians are crooked.

Satu lagi projek 'Phallic'...Auuu...I'm so fab now. Gimme a kiss babeh, gimme a kiss! Photo sourced from Screenshots...

Monday, January 23, 2006

"Submitting the memorandum to protect the rights of religious minorities is procedurally inappropriate"

Malaysian ministers pull minorities memorandum

Monday, Jan 23, 2006, Page 5

"As advised by the PM, submitting the memo is procedurally inappropriate. Following his advice, we have withdrawn the memo."

Ong Ka Ting, Malaysia's housing and local government minister

Malaysia's non-Muslim ministers have withdrawn a controversial memorandum which called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to protect the rights of religious minorities, local media said yesterday.

Eight of the Cabinet ministers who submitted the unprecedented memorandum -- which critics say constituted a breach of protocol -- have withdrawn it, with only one signatory remaining non-committal, said the New Straits Times.

"As advised by the PM, submitting the memo is procedurally inappropriate. Following his advice, we have withdrawn the memo," Housing and Local Government Minister Ong Ka Ting said in a joint statement to the official Bernama news agency.

But Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Bernard Dompok defended the memo, saying: "To my mind, it is an attempt by myself and my colleagues in the Cabinet to try to help in pointing out what are the possible things that had to be done in order to settle some of the issues that are involved."

"I think that is all contained in the memorandum and I don't think there is anything offensive in that," said Dompok.

The ministers came under fire from several colleagues at Wednesday's weekly Cabinet meeting after they submitted the memorandum, which calls for a review of laws and the constitution where they infringe on minorities' rights.

Their unusual move followed the controversial Muslim burial of well-known mountaineer M. Moorthy last month, despite his Hindu wife's protests, which sparked outrage among religious minorities.

Moorthy was found to have converted to Islam by a Shariah court in which his non-Muslim wife had no say. A civil court later refused to rule on the religious court's findings.

Abdullah said he met several of the non-Muslim ministers at his residence over the weekend to convince them to retract the memorandum.

"At the meeting, I said they should withdraw the memorandum and they agreed," Abdullah was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

"When we are members of the same team there is no restriction on what we discuss and talk about. Use this opportunity to the fullest. We are all in one team, have one goal, one ambition and a way to discuss," he told Bernama.

On Friday he called for calm over the issue, warning that the Malaysia's political stability could be threatened if tempers frayed.

Religious minorities in mainly-Muslim Malaysia say non-Muslims are increasingly losing out in legal disputes to Muslims, whose matters are heard in Shariah courts in the country's dual legal system.

Malaysia's constitution decrees that civil courts have no jurisdiction on matters under Shariah courts.

Abdullah has ruled out any change to the Constitution, but said his government would review laws relating to religious conversion.

Religion in the multi-ethnic country is a highly sensitive issue and tensions have been rising, with Muslim groups opposed to any changes.

The majority of the Southeast Asian nation's population are ethnic Malays who are Muslim, but there are sizeable non-Muslim minorities of Chinese and Indian origin.

From Doc Mave:

The nine who submitted the memorandum were Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting; Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy; Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn; Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek; Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu, Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik; Plantation Enterprises and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin and Tan Sri Bernard Dompok and Datuk Maximus Ongkili (Ministers in the Prime Minister’s Department). They called for a review of laws affecting non-Muslims and urged the Government to review Article 12(1)(A) of the Constitution. The section states that civil courts have no jurisdiction over matters relating to Islam. The ministers also wanted the conflicts between syariah and civil laws to be rectified.

MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, who is also Housing and Local Government Minister, submitted the memorandum on behalf of his non-Muslim colleagues to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at a Cabinet meeting. The memorandum, among other things, called for:

• The Government to review Article 121(1A) of the Federal Constitution, which stipulates that civil courts have no jurisdiction over matters relating to Islam, which fall under the purview of the Syariah Court;
• The Government to amend laws that allow only one parent to convert children below 18 years of age; and,
• Rectifying conflicts between Syariah and civil laws.

The call for a "review" of Article 121(1A) is said to have been precipitated by instances of judges allowing the Syariah Court to handle several high-profile cases involving disputes between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Umno Youth Exco member Datuk Pirdaus Ismail said as ministers, they had direct access to the PM and should have discussed such sensitive matters during the Cabinet meeting. "They are acting like the Opposition. They have the channel to voice whatever grievances or dissatisfactions yet they choose to adopt this immature and embarrassing way." Pirdaus said the ministers had failed to uphold the principle of collective responsibility. "Their actions reflect disregard and disrespect for the PM and their Cabinet colleagues. In so doing, they have tarnished their image as ministers. "It is as if they are questioning the sanctity of Islam in the Federal Constitution. We feel their actions have touched on the sensitivity of the Muslims in the country."

What is Pak Lah's response?

I have no time to read them. I am busy with the 9MP.

I said: 'OK, lah'. I did not say 'Saya tak mau ini.'
Good response? From a PM?
Is he being threatened?
Or, is this an opportunity for ball-carriers to win some points?

Friday, January 20, 2006

"No, I don't Know and We'll Investigate"

Pak Lah Has Finally Spoken!: "No, I don't Know and We'll Investigate"

UPDATED: No. 2 said: submitting a memorandum to the Prime Minister calling for a review of laws that affect the rights of non-Muslims was "improper" and "not nice"...

A Sotinathan-like suspension for them probably?

Wow! After a deafening silence from him, this is what we heard from him as reported in Bernama not too long ago:

On the amendment of Article 12(1a):
Article 121 (1a) of the Federal Constitution governing the powers of the civil and syariah courts need not be amended, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Friday.

"Only laws that can create problems and misinterpretations should be studied whether they should be amended to make them clearer," he told reporters after launching a book entitled Antologi Puisi Sasterawan Negara A. Samad Said.

On the ECM Libra Bhd-Avenue Capital Resources Bhd (ACRB) proposed merger:
"I am not involved in it in any way with the deal that ECM has with ACRB. I didn't know about it"

On the Metramac Corporation case:
"The government will investigate if there is a report and the matter considered unlawful"

Very inspiring indeed, innit?

To quote Kit:
Many must wonder whether the two demonstrations today had a more powerful impact than the unread memorandum by the 10 non-Muslim Ministers.

May the force be with the people? You decide...

Monday, January 16, 2006

"I Have My Own Style"

Pak Lah Own Style

"I have my own style", Dr. M has his own sytle, understand???

“We have our ways of doing things. I have been given the biggest mandate ever obtained by any Malaysian leader,” Abdullah said in the column “Global Viewpoint” in the Bangkok Post yesterday.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Abdullah is "prepared to wield the big stick as he moves into his third year in office"

Southeast Asia Jan 10, 2006

Nude gaffe exposes Malaysian press
By Baradan Kuppusamy

KUALA LUMPUR - News reports based on secret video grabs of a woman forced to do "nude squats" in police custody, which put the Malaysian government in a spot over human rights, has backfired on press freedom as it turned out that the victim's nationality had been wrongly identified.

The widely circulated Chinese-language daily newspaper China Press, which broke the story, has been obliged to publish its "deepest apology" on the front page for having wrongly identified the victim as a Chinese national when she turned out to be a local and ethnic Malay.

Worse, the newspaper had to sack its top two editors to stave off suspension of its publishing license, leading to speculation that this could be the beginning of tough measures against the press in Malaysia.

The China Press practiced a feisty "in-your-face" reporting style that won it public accolades but constantly angered the Internal Security Ministry, which regulates publications.

On November 23, the newspaper published an exclusive story and photographs lifted from the video clip showing police forcing a naked young woman to perform squats. But the paper also erroneously identified the victim as a Chinese national, sparking off a diplomatic row with Beijing.

After Beijing lodged an official protest, Malaysia sent across a mission, headed by Home Minister Azmi Khalid, to apologize for the mistreatment of its nationals. The reports of the video followed complaints by female Chinese visitors, held for visa violations, that they had been made to perform humiliating nude squats in custody.

Though China Press rectified the error, the damage had been done and the Malaysian government was angered at being compelled to apologize. Editor-in-chief Chong Choong Nam and executive editor-in-chief Wang Zhao Ping were sacked and the paper was made to eat humble pie. In a statement, the editors took "full responsibility for the glaring mistake in the report".

The alternative could have been far worse - the ministry has powers to suspend or cancel the newspaper's publishing license and the laws do not permit judicial review.

"The two editors were sacrificed to satisfy the demand for blood and injured ego," said James Wong, senior analyst for Malaysiakini, an independent news website. "They are the scapegoats."

Wong said the action is a "menacing message" intended to frighten all other editors into giving up their new-found boldness to practice limited press freedom. "They have been given notice to submit to the official line," he said. "As a Chinese proverb goes, they killed one chicken to warn the rest of the monkeys.

"The action also shows that systematic oppression continues and that all the rhetoric of transparency and accountability are just a politician's slogans," he said.

The paper, which sells about 300,000 copies a day and gives priority to politics and violent crime in its reporting, received two show-cause letters from the Internal Security Ministry, which is headed by Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, demanding explanations.

"It is too harsh a punishment for one small mistake," said Lim Guan Eng, secretary general of the opposition Democratic Action party. "An apology should have been sufficient."

The sacking has rallied democracy activists across Malaysia into protesting the lack of press freedom in the country.

The human-rights group ALIRAN said in a statement that the punishment meted out to China Press indicated that the outlook for media freedom is not bright. "What is disturbing about this episode is that the state has deliberately intervened in a journalistic matter that could have been handled by the management of the newspaper concerned.''

China Press is owned by Nanyang Press Holdings Group, which is directly linked to the Malaysian Chinese Association, the second-biggest party in the ruling National Front coalition.

Human-rights activists and press-freedom advocates argue that the mistake was a genuine and consideration had to be given to the circumstances under which China Press first broke the story.

"Tell me the truth," was Abdullah's famous phrase on taking power in November 2003, urging Malaysians to speak up against the injustice, corruption and abuse of power that had marked the long rule of his authoritarian predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad.

But activists have been warning that despite Abdullah's new rhetoric of transparency, accountability and freedom, the mailed fist was lurking nearby. And now it has struck.

The New Straits Times, regarded as a pro-government paper, saw the move as a signal that Abdullah is "prepared to wield the big stick as he moves into his third year in office".

Lim said: "The mistake was not malicious and an apology from the daily would have been sufficient ... this is the normal thing to do. There was no need to force editors to resign."

Sonia Randhawa, executive director of the Center for Independent Journalism, said: "It does not bode well for press freedom in the country.

"We strongly condemn the political interference in the newsroom that has resulted in these sackings and call for the repeal of the licensing provisions in the Printing Presses and Publications Act," she said.

More than a dozen laws curb press freedom, but the most draconian is the Printing Presses and Publications Act. This law requires all publishers to apply for a new publishing permit every year, which critics say forces them to toe the line or go out of business.

"Such laws have a chilling effect on media freedom and they deter journalists from carrying out independent, investigative journalism, while making editors exercise extra caution and frequently practice self-censorship," said Wong.

On Saturday, Deputy Information Minister Donald Lim Siang Chai said the government expected the mass media to be responsible and that those responsible for disseminating news also had to consider the sensitivities of the country's multiracial society.

Malays, who form 50% of Malaysia's 24 million population, and ethnic Chinese, who make up another 25%, are the two dominant communities in the country. Relations between them are uneasy.

Does the sacking of the China Press editors signal the end of a brief spring under Abdullah, coming after the heavy-handed rule by his predecessor Mahathir? Not just yet, says Wong.

"The battle between the conservatives in government who grew in strength under Mahathir Mohamad's long rule and the liberals is still raging," he said. "The liberals have suffered a defeat but the war is not over yet."

(Inter Press Service)