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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Malaysian legal process 'unfair to maids'

Malaysian legal process 'unfair to maids'

World News - Thursday, August 30, 2007

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

It's almost four years since Nirmala Bonat escaped from her Malaysian employer, who beat and burned her on a regular basis.

Since then, Nirmala, 23, originally from West Nusa Tenggara, has waited patiently for justice to take its course. But now she says she has almost lost hope.

An official at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, where Nirmala has lived since 2004, told The Jakarta Post by phone on Wednesday that the former maid had almost given up.

"It seems that the process has been deliberately slowed down by trial delays and the replacement of judges," Tatang B. Razak said.

"In fact, her employer has been released by the police. We face many similar cases here."

He said that the embassy had filed many complaints with the Malaysian authorities after looking after thousands of Indonesian maids fleeing their employers because of abuse or unpaid salaries.

He said no Malaysian citizen had ever been punished for abusing an Indonesian maid.

"Nirmala's abuse is the only case that reached court. Other cases are still in the hands of the police. This shows how slow the process is if it relates to abuse of Indonesians. But if an Indonesian is alleged with a violation or a crime, the legal process takes only days to arrive at the court," Tatang said.

He said that the case of how Indonesian maid Rini Setyowati was brought to trial without the Indonesian Embassy being notified just a week after she was accused of stealing her employer's jewelry illustrated the unfairness.

Tatang said that he could not provide data on how many Indonesian maids had died of abuse, but Migrant Care founder Wahyu Susilo said that in 2007 alone, some 46 Indonesian maids died in Malaysia without clear explanation of their cause of death from police.

The latest case is the unclear death of a 23-year-old maid from Ngawi, Central Java, identified as Sumarmi, who was found dead in her room last Saturday.

Just a week before, another maid, identified as Kunarsih from Demak, Central Java, was found dead in her room after suffering blunt force injuries to the chest and abdomen.

Foreign Ministry director for the protection of Indonesian citizens abroad Teguh Wardoyo said that weak law enforcement on the part of Malaysia had partly caused similar abuse cases to recur as it would not create deterrents to prevent similar abuses against Indonesian citizens in the future.

"We ask Malaysia to take the cases very seriously, and demand they punish all perpetrators in abuse and murder cases," he told reporters after filing Indonesia's complaints with Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Dato' Zainal Abidin Zain on Wednesday.

Teguh urged Indonesian agencies to coordinate among themselves and their monitoring activities to make sure that all migrant workers sent to foreign countries went through the correct legal channels and had the required skills.

Zainal Abidin, meanwhile, asked Indonesia to give Malaysia a chance to prove its seriousness in handling all the cases reported to them, including the assault of Indonesia's chief karate referee, Donald Peter Luther Kolopita.

"Give us a chance. We can't guarantee that similar incidents will not take place anymore as we are dealing with human beings. But we don't have a policy to beat people. We have taken action on the four police officials, such as reducing half of their salary and suspending them. We will take further action after completion of investigation," he said.

Also on Wednesday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia's Ambassador Abdulrahman Mohammed Amen Alkhayyat to explain why Indonesia had not been granted consular access to two injured citizens allegedly abused by their Arab employers and why the repatriation of the bodies of two other Indonesian maids had been so slow.

Monday, August 27, 2007

27,000 Aceh Refugees Must Renew Visas By Sept 27

Bernama.com

August 20, 2007 18:46 PM
27,000 Aceh Refugees Must Renew Visas By Sept 27


PUTRAJAYA, Aug 20 (Bernama) -- About 27,000 Aceh refugees here have been asked to renew their visas in one month starting Aug 27 to avoid over-staying.

Immigration Department director-general Datuk Wahid Md Don said this followed the government decision allowing Acehnese who fled the tsunami two years ago to stay for another year.

"The Immigration Department had asked 30 Aceh community leaders to inform members that the renewal period will end on Sept 27," he said after launching the Immigration Prosecution Journal here today.

Wahid said Acehnese should renew their visas at the Immigration depot of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

"They have to pay RM90 each failing which they will be overstaying and will be sent home."

He said the extension was made based on humanitarian grounds as many tsunami victims were reluctant to return to Aceh due to lack of job opportunities.

Wahid also said the department had implemented a screening system for passports of foreign visitors at 152 entry points starting last week.

"This means that my officers can now detect if tourists are using fake passports. The number of short-term visitors can also be checked via SMS."

He said some 13.4 million people had visited Malaysia since January and was confident that the 22 million target could be achieved.

Meanwhile, Immigration enforcement director Datuk Ishak Mohamed said in the first seven months, some 11,383 illegals were prosecuted in court and that 1,976 cases were still pending.

He said in the first eight months, Rela had conducted checks on 124,114 immigrants and that some 24,231 were detained.

-- BERNAMA

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Abused maids: Jakarta demands swift action

Abused maids: Jakarta demands swift action
Aug 23, 07 10:26am


The Indonesian government upped the pressure on Malaysia to take swift action against abusive employers after the death of an Indonesian maid working in Kuala Lumpur.

The beaten body of 24-year-old Kunasir was found last week. Police are currently investigating a Malaysian couple for her murder.

"We need the Malaysian government to take swift action on this case. This cannot go on as there are just too many cases where our people have been mistreated," said AM Fachir, the Indonesian deputy chief of mission here.

In another recent case, an Indonesian maid climbed out of the window of a high-rise apartment in Kuala Lumpur to escape an abusive employer.

Fachir pointed to another case of a Indonesian maid who escaped violent employers four years ago.

The abusers were charged by police but have not yet been tried in court, while the maid remains in limbo in Kuala Lumpur, Fachir told a press conference at the Indonesian embassy.

Employers not punished

Fachir also said the law seemed to be weighted against domestic workers, citing a recent case where a maid caught stealing 800 dollars was jailed for seven years.

"But serious cases involving Malaysia employers have yet to be tried and many times forgotten," he said.

Malaysia relies heavily on foreign workers for menial jobs, and the Indonesian embassy says about 300,000 Indonesian maids are employed here.

While local authorities have denied abuses are on the rise, the Indonesian embassy said more than 1,000 abused or unpaid workers seek refuge in its compound every year.

In the press conference on Tuesday, Zulkifli Dahlan, president of Malaysia's Foreign Workers' Agencies Association, said Kunasir had not gone through the proper training and was thus more susceptible to exploitative employers.

"Malaysia is trying very hard to clamp down on this and the government has given us the authority to stamp out these problems," he said.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the rap song "Negara Ku" of NameWee (with Bahasa Malaysia translation)

The lyrics (with bahasa malaysia translation) of the rap song "Negara Ku" of WONG MENG CHEE ATAU NAMEWEE


NegarakuNegarakukuNegaraku
NegarakukuNegarakuNegarakuku

我爱我的国家 有国才有家
Aku cinta Negara aku ada Negara baru ada keluarga
有家才有我 站在这边跟你
Ada keluarga baru ada aku berdiri disini
大声唱歌 你麦惊
Nyanyi dengan engkau engkau jangan takut
虽然我每次骂粗话
Walaupun aku selalu cakap kasar
我的歌 就像榴莲一样
Lagu aku sama macam durian
硬硬尖尖 只是
Keras dan tajam tetapi
看你敢不敢打开 看看里面的真相
Tengok engkau berani buka ke tidak tengok apa yang ada di dalam
它可以很臭 也可以很香
Dia boleh dikatakan busuk dia juga boleh dikatakan wangi
只是看你又怎样的鼻抗
cuma tengok engkau ada macam mana punya hidung

我们的警察 叫做MATA
Polis kita panggil ‘mata’ (dlm bhs hokkien)
因为他们的眼睛很亮
Ini kerana mata mereka sangat tajam
新年一到 他们就很努力
Apabila raya mereka akan jadi rajin
拿住笔可是很会少跟你开单
Pen di tangan tetapi jarang bagi saman
因为他们口很渴 需要喝茶
Ini keran mereka dahaga mereka mahu minum teh
还有KOPI O 要不要加糖
Ataupun kopi O nak tambah gula ke tidak
如果加糖 他嘴巴会甜甜跟你微笑
Kalau tambah gula mulut mereka akan senyum dengan engkau
你要离开的时候
Apabila engkau nak pergi
他还会跟你TATA
Dia akan ucap TATA (maksudnye bye)

NegarakuTanah tumpahnya darahkuRakyat hidupBersatu dan maju

这种现象 不需要改善
Gejala ini tidak perlu memperbaikikan
也不用加强 警民合作
Juga tidak perlu memperkuatkan , kerjasama antara pihak polis dan rakyat
一杯咖啡感情不会淡
Secawan kopi hubungan boleh kekal
我西北suka
Aku memang suka
至少不会回家收到三万
Sekurang-kurangnya balik rumah tidak akan dapat saman
我爸爸一定赌懒
Ayah mesti geram
我一定欠干 没有车给我驾
Aku mesti kena marah tidak ada kereta untuk aku
怎么办 这次西北够力
Macam mana kali ini memang teruk
没有车 我要怎样出去玩
Tak de kereta macam mana aku nak keluar main
没有车 我要怎样打野战
Tak de kereta macam mana aku nak XXX
没有车 我要怎样看阿瓜
Tak de kereta macam mana aku nak tengok ah kua
这个国家 我很喜欢
Negara ini aku memang suka
早上五点pukul 5 pagi
还有morning call会叫我起床
Ada morning call akan suruh aku bangun
有时几间一起唱
Kadang-kadang beberapa ‘buah’ nyanyi sama-sama
听起来好像情歌对唱
macam tengah duet lagu cinta
声音坳来坳去像唱R&B一样
Suara tinggi rendah macam tengah nyanyi R&B
虽然他们有时唱到走声
Walaupun kadang kala sebahagian daripada mereka out of tune
虽然他们有时还会唱到破声
Walaupun kadang kala sebahagian daripada mereka pecah suara
有些声音像公鸡 可是比公鸡早起床
Ada juga suara yang macam kokokan ayam tetapi dia bangun lagi awal dari ayam
这样我们才会知道准备上课上班
Macam ini baru kite tahu mase untuk bersiap ke sekolah dan kerja

不要怪 政府只会照顾土族
Jangan salahkan kerajaan hanya akan jaga rakyat tertentu
不要怪 我们没有受到公平照顾
Jangan salahkan kami tidak dapat jagaan yang adil
这样才能证明我们华人不怕吃苦
Macam ini baru boleh menunjukkan yang orang cina tidak takut menderita
这样才能训练我们逆境寻找出路
Macam ini baru boleh melatih kita mencari jalan keluar apabila menghadapi kesusahan
不要邹德他们的标准 很奇怪
Jangan mengatakan standard ini sangat pelik
因为这样反而表现我们 很厉害
Kerana dengan ini baru menunjukkan kami sangat teror
没有被宠坏的小孩 才不会依赖
Anak-anak yang tidak dimanja baru akan menjadi tabah
不然你看有人到现在 还没有断奶
ada orang sampai sekarang masih belum berhenti minum susu

Rahmat bahagiaTuhan kurniakanRaja kitaSelamat bertakhtaRahmat bahagiaTuhan kurniakanRaja kitaSelamat bertakhta

躲在政府部门里面的人更厉害
Pekerja dalam kerajaan lagi teror
他们做什么事情都可以慢慢来
Apa yang mereka buat boleh slow slow
就算排队的人等到要骂 臭lelai
Walaupun orang yang beratur marah
他们心情还是一样自由自在
Mood mereka tetap rase bebas dan seronok
有时kuih都拿出来
Kadang-kalag kuih pun mereka ambil keluar
他吃他的娘惹kuih
Dia makan nyonya kuih dia
你的队继续排
Dan engkau sambung beratur
就算你真的骂臭lelai也不要紧
Walaupun engkau nak marah pun tak pe
因为旁边的guard他在做梦
Kerana guard kat tepi pun tengah bermimpi
他不会鸟你的啦
Dia takkan layan engkau
他们把头包起来 慢慢走慢慢过马路
Mereka yang memakai tudung perlahan-lahan melintas jalan
你驾车经过还要小小让路
Engkau yang memandu kenalah berhati-hati
最终要活得开心 最重要活得舒服
Asalkan hidup dengan gembira asalkan hidup dengan selesa
不要学华人一样
Jangan macam orang cina
整天忙忙碌碌 西北辛苦
Tiap-tiap hari sibuk sangat susah
这个精神我们真的不能不佩服
Semangat ini mesti kita kena kagumi
因为这个就是他们生活的态度
Kerana ini adalah sikap hidup mereka
(态度 态度)
Sikap sikap

这首歌我都在讲好话
Aku bercakap baik-baik dalam lagu ini
相信你们赌懒我的人现在一定很喜欢
Aku percaya orang yang tak suka dengan aku mesti sangat suka
世界很和平 很有希望
Dunia aman baru ada harapan
没有人受伤 也没有很乱
Tidak ada orang cedera dan tidak tak tersusun
你很高贵 你很高雅
Engkau suci engkau sopan
大便很香 不会骂粗话
Najis wangi tak tahu cakap kasar
你们最high class 每天耍浪漫
Engkau sangat high class tiap-tiap hari main romantic
听光良品冠
Dengar guang liang pin kuan (penyanyi malaysia)
可是人家都已经跑去了台湾
Tetapi mereka sudah pergi taiwan
独中生毕业了
Pelajar Sekolah Cina
要进local大学西北难
Nak masuk local U sangat susah
其实这件事情我们更不需要赌懒
Dalam kes ini, kita tidak patut geram
这个其实是政府的一个伟大的计划
Ini cuma satu rancangan yang mulia dari kerajaan
他要我们到处跑 出国自己找希望
Dia nak kami pergi merata-rata tempat pergi oversea mencari impian
然后学习东西回来报答国家
Lepas itu balik negara membalas jasa
这个计划真的是 好到没有话讲
Rancangan ini memang bagus memang bagus
世界各地都会看到malaysia的囝仔
Di seluruh dunia mesti nampak malaysia punya rakyat
好像逃难一样 西北爽
Macam melarikan dari bencana memang best
2007 马来西亚搞观光
2007 ialah tahun pelancongan malaysia
华人文化统统拿出来宣传
Budaya cina semua mengambil keluar untuk publisiti
独中生政府根本不相管
Pelajar sekolah cina Memang tak dilayan oleh kerajaan
文凭丢去longkang 像我一样
Sijil boleh buang ke longkang macam saya
中华毕业去了台湾
Lepas tamat persekolahan terus pergi Taiwan
学了东西 准备回去报答国家
Belajar di sana bersedia balik negara untuk membalas jasa
我站在台北路边拿住guitar
Aku berdiri di tepi Taipei memain guitar
可是我的嘴巴 还是一样唱
Tetapi Mulut aku tetap menyanyi

Rahmat bahagiaTuhan kurniakanRaja kitaSelamat bertakhta

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Abdullah: Regain close communal bonds of 1957

Abdullah: Regain close communal bonds of 1957
By : Anis Ibrahim
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi receiving a standing ovation from the audience at the MCA annual general assembly yesterday. On the left is Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi receiving a standing ovation from the audience at the MCA annual general assembly yesterday. On the left is Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.
KUALA LUMPUR:

Malaysians should return to the spirit of 1957, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when the bonds between the three main communities were at their most potent.

"The British could not do anything but step down when they saw how united and strong the Malays, Chinese and Indians were. We had one goal — to achieve Merdeka," the prime minister told the MCA general assembly here.

"We have to return to and regain that same spirit of understanding and togetherness for our 50th year of independence."

Many challenges had been faced since, with more to come, making it essential that the sense of unity and togetherness of the nation’s founding be revived, he said.

"Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Tan Cheng Lock and Tun V.T. Sambanthan were united because they knew they had to work closely in the best interests of the country.
"This was when ties between the three main races were at their closest," he said.

Abdullah related the story of a meeting between Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tan and leaders of the Chinese community at the onset of negotiations with the colonial power.

"Tunku had just told Tan he wanted to go to London to discuss the terms of independence with the British when the Chinese leaders present began emptying their pockets.

"They handed over their money, rings and watches to Tunku and told him they wanted to help finance his trip to London.

"That was how united they were and how much they were willing to sacrifice in the name of liberty."

Speaking to the 1,738 delegates of the 54th annual party assembly at Wisma MCA yesterday, Abdullah stressed that Barisan Nasional’s strength depended on the combined might of the component parties.

"If the component parties are weak, we will lose out in the future. Component parties must be sensitive to and respect each other."

In standing for their individual causes, community leaders must not practise discrimination, he said.

"Those who discriminate are unworthy of being leaders. True patriots are those who consider the needs and feelings of others without discriminating."

Abdullah’s speech, which was off-the-cuff, was well received from the audience, which included other BN component party leaders and former MCA leaders.

At the close of his 45-minute speech, Abdullah replied to MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, who had spoken earlier on the fraternal principles required for the ruling coalition to endure for the next half century.

"On the issue of power-sharing, I have been fair, I want to be fair and I’ll always be fair.

"BN will stay on not for another 50 years, Ka Ting, but for more than 100 years. We will always stay together," he said to loud applause.

Abdullah was given a standing ovation as he returned to his seat.

LOOKING AHEAD: Genuine multiracial firms to get government contracts

2007/08/20
LOOKING AHEAD: Genuine multiracial firms to get government contracts
KUALA LUMPUR:

Genuinely multiracial companies will be given priority in the awarding of government contracts, the prime minister said.

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the joint ventures had to be bona fide with all parties sharing responsibilities.

"Only genuine joint ventures where every person has a role and works hard, shares in the profits and bears the losses equally, will be considered.

"I’m not saying there must be 30 per cent Bumiputera participation.

"Let the partners decide that for themselves, whether it is made up of Malay-Chinese, Malay-Indian, Chinese-Indian or even Malay-Chinese-Indian," he said at the 54th MCA annual general assembly at Wisma MCA yesterday.
The 1,738 party delegates responded with loud applause.

Abdullah had earlier stressed that Barisan Nasional believed in power-sharing, or muafakat.

"Power-sharing is an important principle in BN. We do not give 100 per cent to any one group. We believe in fair distribution."

"Ali Baba" arrangements, he said, were unacceptable.

"We once met a Bumiputera businessman who applied for a government contract but we discovered he was only a front for a Chinese company.

"Where mistakes were made in the past, now is the time to correct them."

More joint ventures comprising of the various communities should be set up, Abdullah said.

"I’ve always encouraged contractors to expand and go overseas. Create a truly Malaysian company and I will give you the support.

"If the public cannot share power at their level, we at the top will face problems."

Developing human capital was also one of the BN’s areas of emphasis, he said.

"We believe in enhancing human capital without discriminating on grounds of race.

"All our youths have a role to play in the country’s future, whatever their racial backgrounds."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

MADPET:- BEING SENTENCED TO DEATH AND DEPRIVED OF RIGHT TO A SPEEDY APPEAL IS VERY CRUEL & UNACCEPTABLE

BEING SENTENCED TO DEATH AND DEPRIVED OF RIGHT TO A SPEEDY APPEAL IS VERY CRUEL & UNACCEPTABLE

MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is disappointed and shocked by the revelation that two men are languishing on Death Row because the judge who convicted them at the Seremban High Court five years ago has not provided the grounds of judgment. (New Straits Times 17/8/2007, “Two languish on Death Row as judge fails to do his job”).

If languishing on death row waiting to be deprived of one’s life is already recognized as being “a cruel and unusual punishment”, how much more worse is it for a person who spend the last five years without even having the opportunity to appeal against his death sentence just because some judge was too lazy to write out his grounds of judgment. The torture that this victim, his family and friends have had to undergo for the last five years would have been intolerable and would never be justified.

Let us not forget that it is very possible that this judge who sentenced them to death may have erred in law and in fact, and the Court of Appeal may have put things right by acquitting him, maybe 5 years ago.

It is also a concern whether a judge, now writing his ‘grounds of judgment’ after the matter has been raised in the media is able to do so without being affected by irrelevant external factors. One also wonders whether he can even remember why he convicted those persons more than 5 years ago and sentenced them to death.

In criminal cases, especially those when the accused person is found guilty and sentenced to incarceration and/or death, the grounds of judgment must be immediately prepared and made available to the convicted person no later that three days. This will allow for immediate access to the right to a speedy appeal – more important when there was a miscarriage of justice at the court of first instance.

According to the New Straits Times report, this judge now sits in the Federal Court, and this is just another reason why there must be a new process put in place in deciding who is to be appointed judges and elevated to the Higher Courts. Lets us expose this judge and demand his immediate resignation – or at least a public apology for the great injustice that he has caused to these 2 persons.

Malaysia must also consider putting in place a compensation scheme to compensate victims of the criminal justice system who have had to unnecessarily languish in remand prisons and prisons only to be acquitted or discharged some time later. Time spend must be factor in the computation of the sum for compensation. The fact that one was sitting with a death penalty hanging over one’s head must surely mean a higher sum.

This compensation scheme is important now looking at the current state of police investigation, prosecution and even judges, which interestingly have received a lot of media attention over the past couple of months. Too many persons have ended up spending time incarcerated waiting for their trial only to be released later without being convicted. It is for this loss of liberty and movement that persons must be compensated.

MADPET also reiterates its call for an immediate moratorium on all executions pending abolition, and the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia.

Charles Hector

N. Surendran

for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

17th August 2007

Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries - July 2007

Abolitionist and Retentionist Countries

More than half the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The numbers are as follows:

Latest news


Abolitionist for all crimes: 90
Abolitionist for ordinary crimes only: 11
Abolitionist in practice: 29

Total abolitionist in law or practice: 130
Retentionist: 67

Following are lists of countries in the four categories: abolitionist for all crimes, abolitionist for ordinary crimes only, abolitionist in practice and retentionist.

At the end is a list of countries which have abolished the death penalty since 1976. It shows that in the past decade, an average of over three countries a year have abolished the death penalty in law or, having done so for ordinary offences, have gone on to abolish it for all offences.


1. Abolitionist for all crimes

Countries whose laws do not provide for the death penalty for any crime

(View this information in table format)

ALBANIA, ANDORRA, ANGOLA, ARMENIA, AUSTRALIA, AUSTRIA, AZERBAIJAN, BELGIUM, BHUTAN, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA, BULGARIA, CAMBODIA, CANADA, CAPE VERDE, COLOMBIA, COSTA RICA, COTE D'IVOIRE, CROATIA, CYPRUS, CZECH REPUBLIC, DENMARK, DJIBOUTI, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, ECUADOR, ESTONIA, FINLAND, FRANCE, GEORGIA, GERMANY, GREECE, GUINEA-BISSAU, HAITI, HONDURAS, HUNGARY, ICELAND, IRELAND, ITALY, KIRIBATI, LIBERIA, LIECHTENSTEIN, LITHUANIA, LUXEMBOURG, MACEDONIA (former Yugoslav Republic), MALTA, MARSHALL ISLANDS, MAURITIUS, MEXICO, MICRONESIA (Federated States), MOLDOVA, MONACO, MONTENEGRO, MOZAMBIQUE, NAMIBIA, NEPAL, NETHERLANDS, NEW ZEALAND, NICARAGUA, NIUE, NORWAY, PALAU, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, PHILIPPINES, POLAND, PORTUGAL, ROMANIA, RWANDA, SAMOA, SAN MARINO, SAO TOME AND PRINCIPE, SENEGAL, SERBIA, SEYCHELLES, SLOVAKIA, SLOVENIA, SOLOMON ISLANDS, SOUTH AFRICA, SPAIN, SWEDEN, SWITZERLAND, TIMOR-LESTE, TURKEY, TURKMENISTAN, TUVALU, UKRAINE, UNITED KINGDOM, URUGUAY, VANUATU, VATICAN CITY STATE, VENEZUELA

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mat Taib inciting ‘explosive' racial riots?

Mat Taib inciting ‘explosive' racial riots?
Andrew Ong & Hon Yi Wen
Aug 14, 07 3:43pm



Is Umno information chief Muhammad Muhd Taib inciting the recurrence of racial riots on a scale not seen since May 13, 1969? Two NGOs certainly believe so.

Their representatives lodged separate reports against him this morning at the Petaling Jaya district police headquarters.

Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (Madpet) referred to Muhammad’s remarks during a press conference on Sunday, after the Kelana Jaya Umno division meeting.

According to a report in The Sun yesterday, Muhammad had warned that riots could break out if no action is taken against those who touch on racial and religious sensitivities via the Internet.

“Do we want the situation to come to the level that is more explosive than May 13?” he was quoted as saying.

Lawyer N Surendran, speaking for Madpet, said Muhammad (photo), now a senator, wields considerable influence and that his comments cannot be taken lightly.

“His statement implied that another May 13 type incident might occur and this time more serious and explosive,” said Surendran in his police report.

Speaking to reporters later, he urged the police to take immediate action against Muhammad in view of their speedy investigations and eight-hour marathon interrogation of blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin.

Dang Wangi police called in Raja Petra for questioning within two days of Muhammad lodging a report against him for allegedly seditious postings on the Malaysia Today website. His wife Marina Lee Abdullah was subsequently questioned as well.

He was the second blogger to be investigated following an Umno diatribe against online dissidents. Blogger Nathaniel Tan had been remanded for four days last month.

In the other police report - also against Muhammad’s remarks - the Group of Concerned Citizens said many of the issues raised by so-called online dissidents warrant attention, not threats.

Spokesperson Charles Santiago cited the example of Taiwan-based Malaysian student Wee Meng Chee who had been critical of the government and police in a music video posted online.

“The inefficiency of the civil service, (alleged) corruption in the police force and plight of vernacular school students are issues that have to be looked into,” Santiago said.

“Wee should not be threatened for raising these... Is the government so fragile that it cannot take criticism from young people?”

Umno politicians have demanded an apology for Muar-born Wee, who has also faced intimidation in the form of calls to detain him under the Internal Security Act or to be charged with sedition.

ABDUL RAZAK AHMAD - A great loss

PERGINYA SEORANG PEJUANG RAKYAT

Oleh Hassan Karim

ABDUL RAZAK AHMAD bekas Timbalan Presiden Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM) dan peguam terkenal telah meninggal dunia pada 12 haribulan Ogos 2007 jam 1.20 petang di Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru dalam usia 62 tahun. Beliau meninggalkan seorang isteri Hajah Kintan Binti Hj Mohd Amin, empat orang anak. Mereka ialah Zulkifli, Julia, Faizal dan Azlina serta enam orang cucu. Jenazah Abdul Razak dikebumikan di Tanah Perkuburan Islam Mahmodiaah, Johor Bahru.

Razak dilahirkan di Johor Bahru pada bulan Jun 1945. Razak mendapat pendidikan rendah dan menengahnya di Johor Bahru.

Semasa hayatnya Abdul Razak telah berkhidmat sebagai seorang peguam dan ahli politik yang dikenang kerana kegigihannya membela hak dan kepentingan rakyat miskin dan golongan yang tertindas. Dalam satu wawancara dengan majalah Malaysian Business (October 16, 1994) Razak berkata: “At times I feel quite disheartened…whether it’s worth the struggle. But looking back, I have no regrets for not joining the mainstream. I would like to be remembered as someone who championed the underdog and who contributed towards the creation of a fair society,”.

Razak memasuki Universiti Singapura pada tahun 1963 dan lulus dengan kepujian dalam ijazah undang-undang pada tahun 1967. Beliau aktif dalam gerakan pelajar menentang regim Lee Kuan Yew semasa di Universiti Singapura. Akibatnya Razak ditahan dan dibuang dari Singapura. Walaupun pejabat guaman Razak terletak di tingkat 11 Merlin Tower, Johor Bahru yang dari tingkapnya boleh melihat Singapura begitu dekat sekali tetapi hingga kini Razak tidak dibenarkan masuk ke Singapura.

Selepas lulus undang-undang Razak telah bekerja dengan kerajaan Johor sebagai Timbalan Pengarah Jabatan Tanah dan Galian (PTG). Semasa menjadi Timbalan Pengarah PTG itulah Razak mengetahui berbagai bentuk penyelewengan tentang tanah. Tidak lama Razaak di PTG. Beliau ditukar ke FELDA sebagai Setiausaha Kerja. Selama 5 tahun (1969 – 1973) Razak bertugas sebagai Setiausaha Kerja dan penasihat undang-undangnya. Ketika itu Dato’ Musa Hitam menjadi Pengerusi FELDA. Akhbar Watan (11-14 Februari 1986) dalam satu rencana mengenai Razak memetik kata-kata pemimpin PRM itu. Menurut Razak, “Dato’ Musa Hitam pernah menawarkan jawatan Setiausaha Politik beliau kepada saya. Tetapi saya menolaknya atas alasan saya hendak balik ke Johor.

Tetapi Razak memang benar balik ke Johor. Dia memulakan khidmatnya sebagai seorang peguambela dan peguamcara pada tahun 1974. Pada tahun yang sama Razak telah dipilih sebagai Pengerusi PRM Johor. Pada pilihanraya umum 1974 Razak bertanding di kawasan Parlimen Pulai. Beliau tewas. Itu adalah pilihaanraya pertama yang Razak bertanding.

Bagaimanapun, selepas kemenangan besar Barisan Nasional(BN) dalam pilihanraya umum itu, perkara pertama yang BN lakukan di Johor ialah merobohkan rumah setinggan-setinggan miskin di Tasik Utara, satu kawasan di pinggir bandar Johor Bahru. Tindakan itu telah mencetuskan bantahan yang kuat dari setinggan-setinggan miskin itu yang mendapat sokongan dari PRM Johor pimpinan Razak dan Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Malaya, Persatuan Mahasiswa Universiti Singapura, lain-lain persatuan mahasiswa, pelajar, badan-badan belia dan NGO.

Razak telah tampil bukan sahaja sebagai seorang pemimpin politik tetapi juga sebagai peguam yang membela 48 orang setinggan Tasik Utara dan para pemimpin pelajar serta aktivis-aktivis PRM yang ditangkap dan dituduh di Mahkamah Majistret Johor Bahru. Pada akhirnya, Razak sendiri turut ditangkap tetapi tidak dibicarakan kerana Razak ditahan di bawah Akta Keselamatan Dalam Negeri (ISA).

Tangkapan di bawah ISA itu tidak menjejaskan semangat Razak. Razak kemudian muncul lagi. Kali ini beliau memperjuangkan nasih nelayan miskin yang bernama Ismail di Sekakap, Mersing Johor. Ismail bertahun-tahun menunggu hasil permohonan tanah yang dibuatnya di Mersing, tetapi tiba-tiba Ismail mendapati tanah yang dipohonnya itu telah dianugerahkan oleh kerajaan negeri Johor kepada kroni-kroni pemimpin kerajaan negeri yang antaranya ialah Menteri kerajaan Pusat. Tiada tempat lain untuk mengadu, maka Ismail ke Johor Bahru minta bantuan Razak. Bergegar kerajaan Johor waktu itu apabila Menteri Besarnya disapena Razak supaya memberi keterangan dimahkamah. Nelayan miskin itu menang dalam kes tersebut.

Apabila siap laporan siasatan kes penyelewengan BMF oleh Ketua Audit Negara Tan Sri Ahmad Nordin pada tahun awal 1986 dan kerajaan BN pada waktu itu enggan mendedahkannya kepada umum, Razak secara peribadi telah pergi ke mahmakah untuk meminta satu perintah supaya laporan itu didedahkan kepada umum. Sebelum kesnya di dengar di Mahkamah Tinggi Johor Bahru Kerajaan Malaysia mengumumkan ia akan menyiarkan laporan itu sepenuhnya pada bulan Mac 1986 melalui Parlimen.

Apabila pada pertengahan tahun 1980-an kerajaan Johor melancarkan projek penswastaan yang dikenali sebagai Kota Terapung Selat Tebrau, PRM dibawah pimpinan Razak telah menentangnya dengan gigih dengan berhujah projek itu satu pembaziran dan merosakkan alam sekitar. Razak mencabar hingga ke Mahkamah Tinggi. Razak tewas kerana hakim berkata Razak tidak ada locus standi. Razak dianggap “busy body”. Tapi Razak berhujah dia adalah pembayar cukai. Dia penduduk Johor Bahru. Razak tewas dan terpaksa membayar kos mahkamah dalam kes itu. Razak lakukan itu semua kerana kepentingan awam. Tetapi lihatlah sekarang apa yang Razak cakap adalah benar. Projek Kota Terapun telah gagal. Yang Berjaya ditegakkan ialah besi-besi konkrit berceracak terbengkalai di Selat Tebrau terutama di kawasan berhadapan Istana Besar Johor Bahru.

Razak selalu berkata bahawa dia tidak menentang pembangunan. Tetapi pembangunan yang dilakukan janganlah sehingga merampas atau menindas rakyat. Pada awal tahun 1990-an, projek jambatan Lalauan Kedua menghubungi Gelang Patah dengan Singapura dirancang untuk dibina. Razak bangun bersuara. Dia tidak membantah membabi buta-membantah atas nama membantah. Razak mengadakan siri seminar di Gelang Patah. Dia turun menemui rakyat bersama-sama sahabatnya Prof. Dr Syed Husin Ali, Prof Dr. K.S. Jomo, dan Sdr Mohd Salleh Hj Ahmad menjelaskan apakah kesan projek besar itu kepada rakyat jelata.

Razak berhujaah atas nama projek jambatan dan buat lebuhraya tetapi dalam masa yang sama tanah rakyat akan dirampas seluas-luasnya oleh kerajaan negeri untuk diserahkan kepada UEM/Renong. Dengan menggunakan Akta Pengambilan Tanah kerajaan Johor bayar pampasan yang murah kepada rakyat. Kini UEM syarikat yang berkait rapat dengan Umno mempunyai tanah beribu hektar di Gelang Patah dalam kawasaan Wilayah Pembangunan Iskandar (WPI) menjadikan UEM kaya raya manakala tuan tanah asal ramai kembali menjadi nelayan miskin.

Sebagai seorang ahli politik yang menyertai pilihanraya, Razak bertanding hampir setiap pilihanraya umum sejak 1974 kecuali pada tahun 1978. Peluang yang paling hampir untuk Razak memasuki Dewan Undangan Negeri Johor ialah pada tahun 1988. Dalam Pilihanraya Kecil Tanjong Puteri Razak tewas hanya 31 undi sahaja. Pilihanraya kecil itu diadakan apabila Razak menang dalam petisyennya di Mahkamah bahawa berlaku penyelewengan dalam pilihanraya kawasan DUN Tanjong Puteri pada tahun 1986.

Selepas kalah pilihaanraya biasanya seseorang calon yang tewas itu mengambil masa beberapa hari untuk pulih semangatnya. Ada sesetengahnya langsung tak pulih-pulih semangat. Tetapi Razak hari ini dia tewas, besok dia tetap bangun dan berjalan dengan kepala tegak membimbit beg peguamnya ke mahkamah dan meneruskan kehidupannya seperti biasa. Ketabahan Razak itu menjadi inspirasi kepada penyokong-penyokongnya.

Razak jarang kelihatan mengeluh atau marah-marah. Dalam segi mengawal sabar Razak adalah seorang pahlawan. Dia adalah kawan kepada semua orang. Dia masuk ke kubu Umno di Johor Bahru seorang diri tanpa teman. Dia tidak pernah bimbang. Musuh politik Razak mungkin tidak mengundi Razak tetapi mereka menghormati peribadi Razak. Razak banyak kali bertembung dengan Dato’ Shahrir Samad dalam pertandingan merebut kerusi Parlimen Johor Bahru. Shahrir dan Razak dua tokoh yang amat memikat dalam politik Johor. Kedua-duanya ahli politik yang berpegang kepada prinsip.

Tetapi Razak kadang-kadang agak bravado tindakan politiknya semasa dia muda. Yang paling diingati orang ramai ialah peristiwa dia berbaring di atas landasan keretapi Johor Bahru bagi menghalang Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) bergerak ke Singapura. Ini berlaku pada tahun 1986 kerana membantah lawatan Presiden Israel Chiam Herzoq ke Republik Singapura. Tak cukup berbaring di atas landasan keretapi, pada keesokannya Razak berbaring di atas Tambak Johor. Untuk beberapa hari kecoh Johor dan Singapura dibuat Razak. Rakyat Singapura takut ke Johor untuk beberapa hari. Razak buat gimik itu semua kerana satu perkara. Sentimennya menyokong perjuangan Rakyat Palestin amat kuat. Duta Palestin ke Malaysia waktu itu Ahmad Al Farra turun ke Johor Bahru apabila PRM dibawah pimpinan Razak mengadakan siri tunjuk perasaan anti-zionis Israel bersempena lawatan Herzoq.

Tetapi isu berbaring di landasan keretapi dan tunjuk-tunjuk perasaan anti Israel memakan diri Razak dalam pilihanraya kecil DUN Tanjong Puteri pada 1988 yang menyaksikan Razak tewas hanya 31 undi. Di satu pihak Razak telah dapat memenangi hati pengundi-pengundi Melayu akibat perpecahan Team A dan Team B dalam Umno tetapi Razak kehilagan agak banyak sokongan tradisinya dari orang-orang Cina.

Razak menjadi ahli PRM sebaik sahaja keluar dari universiti. Waktu itu dia pegawai kerajaan Johor. Dalam PRM di peringkat pusat Razak telah memegang pelbagai jawatan. Antaranya beliau menjadi Timbalan Presiden (1990 – 2004) dan pernah menjadi Pemangku Presiden dari tahun 1988 hingga 1990.

Razak memang patut dikenang sebagai seseorang yang memperjuangkan golongan yang lemah dan tertindas. Rekodnya memang banyak. Apabila penduduk-penduduk rumah panjang di SEDC, Tampoi Johor Bahru hendak diusir oleh kerajaan negeri dan penduduk-penduduk Kg. Plentong Tengah pula mahu diusir oleh pemaju, Razak telah membela hak dan kepentingan penduduk-penduduk itu hingga ke Mahkamah Rayuan di Kuala Lumpur dan di Putrajaya. Walaupun dalam kedua-dua kes itu Razak tewas tetapi dia telah melawan untuk mempertahankan hak dan keadilan rakyat bawahan tanpa mengira kaum dan agama. Pada hari Razak meninggalkan alam fana ini dan disemadikan selepas solat Asar di bawah redup rumpun daun pohon-pohon tembusu maka berkampunglah seketika sana saudara dan sahabat handai Razak pelbagai kaum dan agama memberi penghormatan terakhir kepada pejuang rakyat yang gigih dan berani. Semoga Allah mencucuri rohnya. Amin.

Al Fatihah.

Bertarikh 12hb Ogos, 2007

Abdul Razak Ahmad - A Great Loss

Champion of the downtrodden
Aug 13, 07 3:02pm


Opposition politician Abdul Razak Ahmad died at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Bahru yesterday after he was admitted for pain in the back and chest. He was 68.

Below is an obituary by Parti Sosialis Malaysia to honour the “people’s champion”.

Abdul Razak Ahmad who died at the Sultanah Aminah Hospital on Sunday after complaining of chest pain would always be remembered for his courage and his desire to fight for the downtrodden and the marginalized.

Razak was a fighter even from his student days in University Singapore in the early sixties.

He has held the position of President of the Socialist Club in Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew banished Razak in 1966 for allegedly inciting student riots in the University. So fearful were them of Razak that he was never allowed to return to Singapore till his last breath.

Though Razak had the opportunity to be a very successful Umno leader when he held several high positions in the government yet he chose the path to be with the downtrodden and the opposition in politics.

Razak was at one time the Deputy Director of the Land and Mines Department in Johor. He also held the position as the legal adviser of Felda and was even offered the position of political secretary for Musa Hitam, which he declined.

He also made headlines for his courageous stunt when he laid down at the Johor Bahru rail track to block a KTM train bound to Singapore in protest of Israeli's Presiden Chiam Herzoq visit to Singapura in 1986.

He came close twice to be elected in the Tanjung Puteri state constituency election in 1986 which he lost by a mere 22 votes. He challenged the decision in court and forced a by-election, which he was again defeated by 31 votes.

To PSM and many people, Razak would always be remembered as a simple person who stood with the poor and the downtrodden.

A true champion

He has been consistently fighting and taking up issues of the urban settlers, fishermen and workers.

In 1975, he was arrested under the ISA and later put under the restricted residence for two years for his role in fighting for the settlers in Tasek Utara.

He camped with 200 squatters outside the government building where 83 settlers were arrested for rioting,

Politically he was a leading figure with Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM) which later became Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM).

He later joined Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and very recently re-elected as its state leader though he was very reluctant to take up the position.

The last time Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) leaders met him was on May 1 this year at the Dataran Johor Bahru.

He said the May Day event was fascinating as it brought back his memories to his early struggle days in the 70s.

He said what is missing today was mass action and there is no continuity. He said he has now retired from politics and have nothing to show for all the years of work done.

Razak need not apologize to anyone. He has always stood with the marginalized and the workers.

He was their champion and he stood tall among many people. The future generation would definitely learn and gain and be humbled by his courage and his principles

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Debating an equitable Malaysia (ALIRAN)

NATIONAL UNITY

Debating an equitable Malaysia

Towards an alternative New National Agenda

by G Lim
Aliran Monthly Vol 25 (2005): Issue 8

indigenoussarawak (13K)
start_quote (1K)... a development strategy that focused on eradicating regional disparities would automatically also alleviate ethnic disparities.
end_quote (1K)
G Lim

At the recent UMNO general assembly, a kris-wielding Hishamuddin Hussein called for a renewal of NEP-style redistribution as part of a New National Agenda. One last push is required, we are told, for ethnic disparities to be a thing of the past. As Philip Khoo has pointed out in another Aliran article, this ‘one last push’ seems likely to benefit only those doing the ‘pushing’ – that small section of UMNO-linked politicians and businessmen who, although already rich, are not quite as rich as they’d like to be.

The truth is that the ‘New National Agenda’ is really just the ‘Old Ethnic Agenda’, dressed up and with shiny shoes. In this article, I want to think about what an alternative New National Agenda might look like, one that truly sought to create a just and equitable Malaysia.

Towards an equitable Malaysia

In the Mid-Term Review of the Eighth Malaysia Plan, the government boldly announced that Malaysia had made “further progress towards creating a more equitable society”. But quite what type of equality are we making progress towards? In Malaysia, we are used to talk of ethnic inequality – bumiputera-Chinese income disparities, distribution of corporate equity and so forth – but this is only one form of inequality. What about inequality between individuals regardless or ethnicity, or regional inequality between states, or gender inequality between men and women?

“Growth with equity” is one of the tenets of development agencies around the world. Certainly, Malaysia has achieved remarkable economic growth over the past decades, surpassed in the region only by Singapore. But has this growth been ‘with equity’?

Table 1: Human Development and Inequality in ASEAN Countries

Country

HDI

Gini

Singapore

0.902

42.5

Malaysia

0.793

49.2

Thailand

0.768

43.2

Philippines

0.753

46.1

Indonesia

0.692

34.3

Viet Nam

0.691

36.1

Cambodia

0.568

40.4

Laos

0.534

37.0

Source: UNDP Human Development report
Let us look at Malaysia’s position internationally. A commonly-used measure of development is the Human Development Index (HDI), devised and calculated annually by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The HDI is preferable to a simple measure of per capita income because it takes into account other factors as well, including life expectancy and other measures of general ‘well-being’. In the UNDP’s 2004 Human Development Report, Malaysia ranked 59 out of 177 countries for which the UNDP was able to calculate an HDI score. Within Asia, only Japan, South Korea and Singapore ranked better. Indeed, with an HDI score of 0.793, Malaysia is just on the threshold of the UNDP’s own definition of a ‘Highly Developed Country’, which is a score of 0.800 or above. From this perspective, it seems that Malaysia is indeed well on track for achieving Vision 2020.

But when we look at Malaysia’s international position in terms of individual inequality, the position is quite different. According to the latest internationally comparable data from the World Bank, individual inequality in Malaysia (as measured by the common Gini coefficient) is the second worst in all of the Asian countries for which data is available. Only Papua New Guinea ranks worse. In fact, out of 127 countries for the World Bank provides data, Malaysia ranks 101 in terms of the Gini coefficient – the commonest measure of inequality. Aside from Papua New Guinea, the only countries in the world with worse individual inequality than Malaysia are in Central and South America – a region of notoriously high inequality – and some areas of sub-Saharan Africa such as South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Generally speaking, countries with higher levels of human development have lower levels of inequality; Malaysia thus stands out as an exception as a country with relatively high human development but also with relatively high inequality. As Table 1 shows, Malaysia’s Gini coefficient is the highest in all of ASEAN (no data were available for Myanmar). While the government’s official data shows that inequality had reduced slightly since these measures were taken to around 46.1 in 2002, this would still place Malaysia alongside the Philippines as joint worst in ASEAN, assuming that the Philippines itself hadn’t improved its position over the same period.

Individual inequality in Malaysia, then, is a serious problem. Yet the government appears to pay little or no attention to it at all. The Mid-Term Review of the Eighth Malaysia Plan, for instance, makes no mention of individual inequality, except for reporting the Gini indices. No programmes or policies have been developed or implemented to reduce overall inequality. Instead, the focus of discussion for income distribution is almost entirely in terms of ethnic inequalities, with passing reference to regional inequalities between states. Have we let our obsession with our relatively successful experience in ethnic restructuring cloud the fact that Malaysia remains a deeply inequitable society?

Ethnic inequality: averages aren't the whole story

It is true that the average Chinese household income remains significantly higher than the equivalent figure for all other ethnic groups, including the bumiputera. In 2003, figures released in the Mid-Term Review of the Eighth Malaysia Plan showed that Chinese households earned on average 1.8 times what bumiputera households earned. But, as with all averages, these figures can be highly misleading. They do not tell us, for instance, how income is distributed within each group. They also do not tell us about the number of wage earners in each family. This is crucial, because the figures released by the government are household averages.

We would thus be wrong to assume that the ‘average’ Chinese earns 1.8 times the ‘average’ bumiputera. These household figures would be affected by, among other things, differing female participation rates in employment and differing practices in ‘leaving home’ among grown-up children. If more Chinese women tend to work than their bumiputera counterparts, and if the children of Chinese families tend to stay in the parental home longer, even after finding employment of their own, then the average income disparity between individual Chinese and bumiputera is likely to be much lower than suggested by these summary figures, which would then be more reflective of differing cultural practices. Conversely, if bumiputera wives work more than Chinese wives and bumiputera children stay longer in the familial home, the inter-ethnic disparity is likely to be worse than suggested here. Unfortunately, the government does not release these data, so we have no way of being sure.

Regional inequality

But taking these figures at face value for the moment, a number of points are worth making. Firstly, while the disparity between average household incomes based on ethnicity remain high, they are nowhere near as high as the disparity between average household incomes based on different places of residence. The average household income in Kuala Lumpur is more than three times the average household income in Kelantan, almost double the equivalent Chinese-bumiputera disparity. The poverty rate among the bumiputera may be around three times the poverty rate among the Chinese, but the poverty rate in Sabah is more than 30 times the poverty rate in Kuala Lumpur. Moreover, the disparity between states has been more-or-less consistently growing since 1970, while ethnic disparities have been significantly reduced.

The government, of course, talks the talk of ‘balanced’ regional development, but its action on this front has been far removed. Consider, for instance, the issue of the petroleum royalty. Most of the country’s oil revenue comes from the poorer states such as Terengganu and Sabah. A strong case could thus be made for increasing the royalty paid to the state governments where the oil is extracted – currently a paltry 5 per cent. But instead of doing this, in 1999 the government abrogated the royalty that Terengganu state received. Terengganu is one of the poorest and least developed states in the country and, moreover, is overwhelmingly Malay. Instead of helping out these people who are ostensibly those whom the government is most concerned about, they are denied what income they get from their natural resources, simply because they had the audacity to exercise their democratic right to vote against the federal government. Neither is this a one-off blip. When the PBS dared to leave the BN in 1990, the federal government blocked timber exports from the state, which was its main source of revenue. Again, a predominantly bumiputera state with high poverty rates was financially strangled because its representatives refused to kowtow to Kuala Lumpur.

In fact, the poorer states in the country at the moment tend to be those that are predominantly bumiputera – Kelantan, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak and Terengganu. So a development strategy that focused on eradicating regional disparities would automatically also alleviate ethnic disparities. On the other hand, action to alleviate ethnic disparities would not automatically reduce regional inequalities, as the experience of the past 30 years have shown.

Federal solutions for a regional problem?

So what could be done about regional inequalities? Well, Malaysia is a federation, lest we forget – which is easy to do given the dominance of the central government in Kuala Lumpur. Instead of treating state governments either as an annoying thorn – as opposition-controlled states are treated – or as little more than a training ground for wannabe BNsters – as in BN-controlled states – we could consider giving real power and – crucially – finances to state governments. Currently, funding for state governments beyond a bare minimum stipulated by the constitution is pretty much at the whim of KL, and states are often denied extra funding – or threatened with such denials – if they vote against the BN.

Other federations like Australia operate a ‘equalization formula’, whereby federal funding for state administrations is calculated on the average income of the state. If such an arrangement were implemented in Malaysia, this would mean that poorer states would get more money per inhabitant, irrespective of which party forms the state administration. Regional development would be on the basis of need, not on the basis of petty party political considerations. From 1975 to 1985, net revenues from Sabah to the federal government exceeded federal disbursements to the state, while at the same time per capita incomes in Sabah fell from above the national average to significantly below the national average. This means that while Sabahans were falling behind in the country’s development drive, they were nonetheless giving more to the rest of the country than they were getting back. An equalisation formula would prevent such unjust absurdities occurring.

Once again, it is worth pointing out that the states that would benefit most from this approach would be the predominantly bumiputera ones, so the federal government could in effect kill two birds with one stone.

A new national debate for a New National Agenda

Hishamuddin and his supporters are right in one respect: it is time for a New National Agenda in Malaysia. We are on the verge of joining the ranks of the highly developed nations, well ahead of the 2020 target. But ours remains a deeply inequitable society, across many dimensions. I have not even begun to consider gender inequalities in this article, mainly for lack of data.

Yet the evidence shows that since 1970, ethnic inequalities have reduced significantly, while regional inequality has increased consistently and individual inequality has, at best, stagnated. Is it not about time we started thinking about moving past the more-or-less exclusive focus on ethnic inequality and started thinking about other forms of inequality and other forms of injustice?

In this article, I have made one simple suggestion for how we might start to address regional inequalities. This may not turn out to be the most appropriate way for resolving this problem. But let us at least have an open and frank national debate about this and other issues – and one that takes place not just within the elite halls of the UMNO general assembly. If we are to have a New National Agenda, let us have first a national debate in which all Malaysians can participate, instead of just the same old faces raising the same old issues in the same old places.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Gov't urged to halt crackdown on refugees

Gov't urged to halt crackdown on refugees
Aug 6, 07 3:14pm


Campaigners representing ethnic Burmese people today appealed on the Malaysian government to halt a crackdown on illegal immigrants which it said has also targeted political refugees.

The Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organisation said that close to 1,000 illegal immigrants were picked up by authorities in the past week alone, including 200 Rohingyans from the military-ruled state.

The Rohingyans are an ethnic Muslim minority in Burma (now renamed Myanmar)who have been denied citizenship status by the junta, forcing them to seek refugee status elsewhere.

"We came to this country because we have nowhere to go and although we were promised a chance in Malaysia, it looks like we are never going to get it," the group's leader, Zafar Ahmad said in a statement.

He said most of those picked up were not registered with the Malaysian government but were official asylum seekers given status by the UN Rights Council for International Refugees.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

'Give us a chance'

Kuala Lumpur last month launched a major operation to round up an estimated 500,000 illegal immigrants coming in from Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal and Philippines.

Close to 10,000 refugees have been picked up to date and the ongoing operation aims to haul in at least half the reported figures by October, reports said.

"In one week alone, almost 200 refugees of Myanmar origin had been picked up by the authorities and some of them were treated extremely bad at the detention camps," said Zafar.

"I believe the government should treat us better and give us a chance to live in this country," he added.

Malaysia is not a party to international refugee conventions, and illegal immigrants are often detained and later deported to their home country.

- AFP

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Statement of the Establishment of the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of

Statement of the Establishment of the ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers


WE, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Governments of Brunei Darussalam, the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Republic of Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, the Union of Myanmar, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, Member Countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), hereinafter referred to individually as “Member Country” and collectively as “Member Countries”;

RECALLING the purposes of, and the commitments contained in, the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers (the Declaration) signed by the Heads of State / Government of the ASEAN Member Countries at the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu, Philippines, specifically the mandate to task the relevant ASEAN bodies to follow up on the Declaration and to develop an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers, consistent with ASEAN's vision of a caring and sharing Community;

RECALLING also the relevant international instruments on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers, which can serve as a basis for enhancing international cooperation in this area;

DO HEREBY STATE AS FOLLOWS:

Establishment of the ASEAN Committee on
the Implementation of the ASEAN Declaration on
the Protection and Promotion of the Rights
of Migrant Workers

There shall be established an ASEAN Committee on the Implementation of the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers hereinafter referred to as the Committee.

Purpose of the Committee

The Committee, in accordance with the national laws, regulations, and policies of Member Countries, will serve as the focal point within ASEAN to coordinate the following:

1. Ensuring the effective implementation of the commitments made under the Declaration; and

2. Facilitating the development of an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.

Structure of the Committee

The Committee shall:

1. Be composed of one senior representative from each of the Member Countries, as well as a representative from the ASEAN Secretariat;

2. Be assisted by representatives from the concerned government agencies of each Member Country;

3. Report to the Senior Labor Officials Meeting (SLOM);

4. Be chaired by the representative of the country that holds the Chairmanship of the ASEAN Standing Committee; and

5. Be provided secretarial support by the ASEAN Secretariat.

Functions of the Committee

Subject to the national laws, regulations, and policies of the Member Countries, the functions of the Committee will be as follows:

1. Explore all avenues to achieve the objectives of the Declaration;

2. Facilitate sharing of best practices in the ASEAN region on matters concerning the promotion and protection of the rights of migrant workers;

3. Promote bilateral and regional cooperation and assistance on matters involving the rights of migrant workers;

4. Facilitate data sharing on matters related to migrant workers, for the purpose of enhancing policies and programmes to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers in both sending and receiving countries;

5. Encourage international organisations, ASEAN Dialogue Partners and other countries to respect the principles and extend support and assistance to the implementation of the measures contained in the Declaration;

6. Promote harmonisation of mechanisms between both sending and receiving countries that promote and protect the rights of migrant workers to implement the ASEAN commitment reflected in paragraph 17 of the Declaration;

7. Work closely with the ASEAN Secretariat in the preparation of the report of the Secretary-General of ASEAN to the ASEAN Summit; and

8. Work towards the development of an ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers.

ADOPTED in Manila, Philippines, this Thirtieth Day of July in the Year Two Thousand and Seven.