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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Foreign help, local strength (Star)



Foreign help, local strength

A choice must be made between convenience and self-reliance as far as foreign workers are concerned.

IT IS widely said that the three Telcos (Maxis, Celcom and Digi) have got a department each that specialises in creating jokes that are sent out as SMSes to their subscribers to circulate.

Sometimes the jokes fall flat but one of these jokers must deserve an A++ for their latest anecdote that was sent out a couple of weeks ago.

Entitled The Malaysian Dilemma, The tale goes like this:

Get Vietnamese workers, dogs missing;

Get Bangladeshi workers, Malay girls missing;

Get Indonesian workers, money missing;

Get Indian workers, jewellery missing;

Get Chinese workers, husbands missing.

(I apologise for the generalisation and any racist connotation in this joke but you must agree it is quite funny).

What is not funny, however, is not the dilemma of the missing stuff but rather we must be the only country in the world that has not achieved developed status but is so dependent on foreign labour.

According to the Auditor-General’s annual report that as of December last year, the number of foreign workers in the country was 1.87 million of which more than 66% were from Indonesia.

The audit also stated that there were 1.47 million foreign workers in 2004 and 1.815 million in 2005. These figures do not take into account the illegal ones.

However, it is estimated that there are as many illegal foreign workers as legal ones in the country bringing their total to well over three million.

With our own nationals numbering about 25 million, this means that foreign workers equal 12% of Malaysians. For that matter, at 1.87 million, the legal foreign workers already match the number of Malaysian Indians (1.88million).

I do not deny that the tremendous growth of our nation has been carried out on the backs of many of these foreigner workers.

The KLIA or Petronas Twin Towers would not have been built if not for the thousands of foreign workers brought in. Many of our huge factories would have ground to a halt if not for these people as well.

Many of us working parents (me included) would not have been able to raise our kids without the help of foreign domestic maids.

I have no quarrel with SMEs, huge factories and the construction industry hiring foreign workers. Of course selfishly I also am not against hiring foreign maids.

But, what about a Char Kuay Teow stall operator having an Indonesian worker as an assistant or even worse an entire food outlet run by ex-Filipino maids?

In my neighbourhood, there is a stall called the Bentong Chicken Rice and guess what? The eatery is managed and operated by three Myanmar nationals. I wonder if the three guys even know where Bentong is?

Is there any justification for foreign labour in such places?

The stall owners will claim that they have tried hiring locals but no Malaysian is willing to work such jobs with such a salary.

Of course, no Malaysian will take up such a job if the salary is low.

Street food stalls are supposed to be owner operated businesses and if these people can afford to hire foreign workers to work for them then they are no longer “poor hawkers.”

Therefore they should either declare themselves as restaurants or offer better salaries to attract locals to work for them.

Three years ago, the Treasury’s Economic Report acknowledged that the growing number of foreign workers was becoming a problem for this country.

“Their presence has also put stress on public amenities and services, such as the provision of public services, health and education facilities,” said the report, which added that these workers remitted RM11.2bil back to their home country.

As for rounding up illegal workers, the report stated that it was also a very expensive affair. On meals alone, the Government spent between RM3mill and RM4mil a year to feed those detained.

In this year’s Economic Report, the country’s labour force is given as 11.77 million people of whom 11.39 million are gainfully employed. This means that the number of Malaysians who are unemployed is about 380,000 or 2.6%.

If we discount the number of homemakers from this figure then the number of those really without jobs is very small.

Therefore are we prepared for more foreigners to come into our country to seek employment for jobs we are unable to fill or are we going to move our economy away from activities that are labour-intensive?

If we choose the former path then we must look at places like Dubai and Kuwait where the foreign worker population outnumbers citizens.

However, being oil rich states, they can afford to provide public services to their guest workers without strain on their coffers. Can Malaysia do the same?

A more logical but much more painful way is to steer away from dependence on foreign workers like what Australia is doing.

Just like Malaysia, this southern hemisphere country has a small population in relations to its land size. The local businesses there have learnt to make do with the number of people they have.

Check into any Australian hotel or service apartment and you will find only two people at the reception. One doubles up as the bellhop while the other will also be the maintenance person. A third person will be in the back office and also act as the manager and housekeeper.

They have learnt to be efficient and they have also learnt to pay their staff well. Actually, they are just paying their staff one-and-a-half salary for doing the jobs of two or three people.

However, from time to time Australia will “import” skilled workers that they find that the country is short of and will offer easy migration entry for people with such skills.

Maybe, this is the way to go..

But there is of course a third way. We can all work very hard and produce as many Malaysian babies as possible thus creating enough people as the future work force for all sectors. Say, a population of 50 million by 2020?

  • Senior News Editor Wong Sai Wan is neither xenophobic nor racist but wonders if the country can afford to continue to import workers.


  • Monday, September 24, 2007

    ALIRAN: Why is the Chief Justice whispering to Nazri?

    Aliran Media Statement

    Why is the Chief Justice whispering to Nazri?

    Monday, 24 September 2007

    It is indeed perplexing why Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim refused to respond to Malaysiakini when asked about the Lingam tapes. His reply was “No comment”. What does this indicate? It only encourages all sorts of speculation.

    By refusing to be forthright in his response, he only encourages Malaysians to believe even more that he was the one on the other end of the Lingam conversation.

    If he was not the person Lingam was speaking to, he should have categorically denied this immediately and put a stop to the guessing game. But he did not. Malaysians are now wondering why he did not state vociferously that he had nothing to do with the Lingam tape and that he was not even remotely associated with that conversation. Wouldn’t that be the natural reaction of a person who was being falsely implicated?

    Ahmad Fairuz owes an explanation to the nation. He is duty-bound to clear his name and uphold the integrity of the judiciary. Instead of doing this, he quietly rings up Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz to deny that that he was “the person at the end of a telephone conversation with prominent lawyer V K Lingam”. Why does he owe an explanation to Nazri and not to the nation? Does he think that Nazri is more important than the nation? Don’t the people count?

    In the tape, Lingam tells the person on the other end, “ Being the old man, he is 76 years old, he gets whispers everywhere, and when you don’t whisper, he gets taken away by the other side.” Did Fairuz heed this advice and choose to whisper to Nazri? Why should he whisper and not shout out loudly that he was not the person Lingam was talking to so that everyone can hear what he has to say?

    Why can’t he speak directly to the people who are devastated by the Lingam tapes. Why does he need a third party? Why does he need a messenger to convey this bit of news?

    And why does Nazri act as a messenger boy to tell the whole world that Lingam was not talking to Fairuz? Couldn’t he have advised Fairuz to communicate directly to the people who are anxiously waiting for word from Fairuz?
    We are still waiting to hear from the horse’s mouth. The longer he delays, the harder it will be for him to convince the people who are wondering what excuses are being cooked up in the interim.

    P Ramakrishnan
    President

    STOP DISCRIMINATING SARAH,AND GIVE THIS MALAYSIAN CHILD HER MYKAD

    MEDIA STATEMENT 24/9/2007

    STOP DISCRIMINATING SARAH,
    AND GIVE THIS MALAYSIAN CHILD HER MYKAD

    24th September 2007 is Sarah’s 14th birthday, and she, who applied for her MyKad (National Registration Identification Card) on 30/11/2005, has still not received her MyKad. All her other classmates and friends had got their MyKads about a couple of months after they made their respective applications.

    Sarah Nor Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib applied for her MYKAD (National Registration Card) after she reached the age of 12, as is required by law to be done by any Malaysian child, whereby Sarah’s application was made on 30/11/2005.

    Sarah Nor Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib and mother, Romita Hasibuan have repeatedly gone, amongst others on 14/2/2005, 15/3/2005, 20/4/2005 and 20/9/2006 to the relevant offices to collect Sarah’s MyKad but to date Sarah has still not been given her MyKad. Her original copies of her temporary identification papers have also been wrongly retained – and not returned to her.

    One officer also commented saying that Sarah Nor Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib is not entitled to be given her MyKad because her father has been declared a “Prohibitted Immigrant” (“imigran yang tidak diingini”) This is not right.

    For a child of 12 and above, the receipt of their first national registration identification card is a “big deal”. They show their friends and classmates their new Mykads – and for Sarah, it has been traumatic as she could not show her friends and others her MyKad.

    Recently, Sarah Nor Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib, was part of Malaysia’s 50th Anniversary celebrations whereby about 3 weeks was spent for rehearsals and all, and again when a teacher asked for her identification card (or MyKad), Sarah again could not show it to her. It was a very embarrassing and uncomfortable moment for Sarah.

    Sara’s status as a Malaysian citizen has also been acknowledged by the Minister in Parliament – and this DISCRIMINATION against this child must STOP.

    Rather than file yet another suit to get justice for Sarah Nor Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib, the family has decided to apply to amend the pleadings of Sivil Suit No: S4-21-239-2005, Maruly Azis & 5 Yang Lain -v- Dato’ Mohd Jamal bin Kamdi & 13 Yang Lain, and hope that the court will allow this amendment so that this matter could also be resolved in the same case. The application to amend pleadings has been filed today.

    Maruly Aziz Bin Abd Mutalib has got his Mykad – and as such it really makes no sense or justification as to why Sarah Nor Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib is being deprived her MyKad. Very soon the 3rd child, Yonatan Adam Fauzi Bin Abd Mutalib, will also be applying for his MyKad and we hope that he will not be subjected to similar difficulties and trauma.

    Thank you.


    Romita Hasibuan
    (also on behalf of Abd Mutalib Bin Taib,
    Maruly Aziz Bin Abd Mutalib, Sarah Nor
    Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib , Yonatan
    Adam Fauzi Bin Abd Mutalib and Ismael
    Syah Putra



    BACKGROUND
    Abd Mutalib Bin Taib, came to Malaysia since 1978. Since the early 80s, he had a valid Entry Permit and a “Permanent Resident” status. On 23-3-2005, while accompanying the eldest son Maruly Aziz for the application of his National Registration Card (Identity Card), Abd Mutalib Bin Taib was suddenly wrongly arrested, detained and deported back to Indonesia on 29/4/2005. Romita Hasibuan (the wife of Abd Mutalib, An Indonesian national, living in Malaysia since 80s by virtue of a spouse visa) and Abd Mutalib Bin Taib, have got 4 children - Maruly Aziz Bin Abd Mutalib (14+ tahun), Sarah Nor Varah Hanim Binti Abd Mutalib (13+tahun), Yonatan Adam Fauzi Bin Abd Mutalib (11+tahun) dan Ismael Syah Putra (8+ tahun). It is indisputable that the 4 children are Malaysian citizens.

    The public petition to Re-Unite the Family of Maruly Aziz collected over 7,000 signatures, and there are 2 court cases filed and pending at the Kuala Lumpur High Courts – i.e. Sivil Suit No: S4-21-239-2005, Maruly Azis & 5 Yang Lain -v- Dato’ Mohd Jamal bin Kamdi & 13 Yang Lain and Sivil Suit No S3 - 21 - 230 - 2005 Abd Mutalib Bin Taib & Romita Hasibuan -V- Dato’ Azmi Bin Khalid & 2 Lagi

    Monday, September 17, 2007

    Ministry Misled House on RELA (NST)





    ‘Ministry misled House on Rela’
    Thursday, 13 September 2007, 07:58am

    RELA©New Straits Times

    THE Home Affairs Ministry misled the Dewan Rakyat on Monday when it said it had not received any official complaints against Rela members, an opposition MP said yesterday.

    Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh) also said it was untrue that no Rela member had ever been charged with committing a criminal offence.

    "Based on news reports, there have been at least six cases where Rela members have either committed bribery, rape, theft or robbery, some of which led to prosecution in court."

    Speaking in the parliament lobby, Kok said non-governmental organisations like Tenaganita had written to the Home Affairs Ministry with complaints against Rela members.

    "We regard letters of complaint to ministries as official complaints.

    "How can the ministry say it has never received any official complaints?

    "By saying so, the ministry has misled the Dewan Rakyat. This is wrong, based on our Standing Orders," Kok said.

    During question time on Monday, Kok had asked the home affairs minister for the number of complaints received against Rela members for wrongdoings committed during raids and how many had been charged in court.

    Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, in a written reply, said there had been no complaints.

    "I will be raising this matter in parliament," Kok said.

    Tenaganita director Dr Irene Fernandez said it was irresponsible for the ministry to respond as it did.

    "Rela members have committed numerous offences in their raids against locals and foreigners.

    "Rela should be disbanded," she said.

    Alex Ong, the country representative of migrant rights NGO, Migrant Care, said he had received countless complaints against Rela members.

    Minister says NO formal complaints about RELA received

    Kenyataan Akhbar YB Teresa Kok, Ahli Parlimen Seputeh Pada 12 September 2007 di Bangunan Parlimen, Kuala Lumpur

    Jawapan Kementerian Hal Ehwal Dalam Negeri Mengenai Penyalahgunaan Kuasa Anggota RELA Adalah Tidak Bertanggungjawab


    Saya ingin merujuk kepada soalan Parlimen lisan yang saya tanya pada 10 September 2007. Soalan dan jawapan adalah seperti berikut:

    Tarikh : 10.09.2007
    Soalan : 20

    Puan Teresa Kok Suh Sim [Seputeh] minta MENTERI HAL EHWAL DALAM NEGERI menyatakan bilangan aduan yang diterima berkenaan dengan anggota RELA yang melakukan kesalahan semasa menjalankan operasi pengusiran Pendatang Tanpa Izin. Berapakah di antara mereka telah pun didakwa di mahkamah dan berapakah dijatuhkan hukuman oleh Mahkamah.


    JAWAPAN

    Tuan Yang Di Pertua,

    Untuk makluman Ahli yang Berhormat, setakat ini tidak ada aduan rasmi yang diterima berkenaan dengan anggota RELA yang melakukan kesalahan semasa menjalankan operasi. Walaubagaimanapun aduan-aduan yang diterima hanyalah dibuat secara umum melalui akhbar-akhbar yang mendakwa bahawa anggota-anggota RELA bertindak secara kasar, mengambil harta milik Pendatang Asing Tanpa Izin (PATI) dan sebagainya semasa operasi.

    Setakat ini tiada seorang pun anggota RELA yang didakwa di mahkamah atas kes-kes kesalahan semasa menjalankan operasi.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Saya merasa amat hairan terhadap jawapan yang diberi oleh pihak Kementerian Hal Ehwal Dalam Negeri ke atas soalan lisan saya, di mana pihak kementerian tidak menerima sebarang aduan tentang penyalahgunaan kuasa anggota RELA semasa menjalankan operasi, dan kementerian malah berkata bahawa tiada seorang pun anggota RELA yang di dakwa di mahkamah atas kes-kes kesalahan semasa menjalankan operasi.

    Jawapan ini adalah amat tidak bertanggungjawab kerana ia menunjukkan pihak kementerian cuba menutup sebelah mata ke atas penyalahgunaan kuasa yang dilakukan oleh anggota-anggota RELA. Segelintir daripada mereka malah berlagak seperti penyamun, perompak dan perogol pada waktu menjalankan tugas. Di sini saya ingin menyenaraikan kes-kes jenayah yang dilakukan oleh anggota RELA yang disiarkan dalam akhbar semasa menjalankan operasi:

    1. Pada 30 Disember 2006, anggota RELA M Suresh (umur 20 tahun) , dan Norirwanshah Mat Nor (umur 21 tahun) merogol seorang gadis berusia 14 tahun di tandas awam di Taman Tasik, seksen 14, Shah Alam. Kedua-dua anggota RELA ini didakwa di Mahkamah Seksyen Shah Alam pada 28 Feb, 2007. ( Utusan MalaysiaFeb 28, 2007)
    1. Pada 17 April 2007, 10 anggota RELA yang berpakaian seragam telah pecah masuk ke rumah asrama pekerja asing di Taman Botani dan Taman Soon Choon. Mereka telah merompak barangan bernilai RM 1,800 dengan senjata api. Ketua Polis Daerah Ipoh, ACP Jalaluddin Ibrahim kemudian mendakwa anggota RELA ke Mahkamah di bawah Kanun Keseksaan 395 atas kesalahan samun berkumpulan.

    Polis juga mendapati dua daripada 10 anggota RELA berkenaan mempunyai kes jenayah dan pernah didakwa di bawah Kanun Keseksaan 379 (kecurian) sebelum ini. ( Utusan Malaysia April 17, 2007)

    1. Pada 4 April 2007, jam 10:30 pagi, 80 anggota RELA telah menyerbu pasar pagi Pudu. Mereka telah menangkap 200 pekerja asing, termasuk mereka yang mempunyai permit kerja 18 pemegang dokumen UNHCR. ( China Press April 4 , 2007)
    1. Pada 10 April 2007, 8 orang anggota RELA mengambil makanan dan minuman tanpa membayar di Restoran Golden Seafood di Tampoi, Gemas, Negeri Sembilan. Salah seorang daripada mereka malah mencabuli penghormatan seorang pelayan perempuan. Anggota RELA tersebut telah menahan 3 orang pekerja asing yang mempunyai permit kerja. Majikan restoran tersebut kemudian menghubungi balai polis dan imigresen Seremban tetapi tidak dapat mengesan pekerja asing mereka tersebut. ( Oriental Daily 10 April, 2007)

    1. Pada April 2007, seorang anggota RELA melarikan seorang pembantu rumah wanita Indonesia. Beliau kemudian merogolnya sehingga dia berhamil. Tangan dan kaki wanita itu diikat selama satu bulan di sebuah rumah kosong. Mangsa rogol ini masih di bawah perlindungan di Kedutaan Indonesia.(Malasyiakini Spetember 7, 2007)

    1. Pada 16 Feb 2007, 20 anggota RELA membuat serbuan di Medan Selera Cahaya dan menahan pekerja perempuan Indonesia. Majikan mereka terpaksa membayar wang rasuah RM2,000 untuk membebaskan pekerja mereka. Kes ini juga ditegur oleh YB Dato' Tan Chai Hoe, Timbalan Menteri Hal Ehwal Dalam Negeri. ( Thestar May 29, 2007)

    Kes-kes tersebut merupakan sebahagian kecil daripada jenayah dan salahlaku anggota RELA yang telah disiarkan dalam media. Pihak Kementerian Hal Ehwal Dalam Negeri tidak harus menutup mata dan mengendahkan kesemua penyalahgunaan kuasa yang dilakukan oleh anggota RELA yang telah disiarkan dalam media tanpa mengambil apa-apa tindakan.

    Walaupun pihak yang terlibat tidak membuat aduan kepada pihak Kementerian Hal Ehwal Dalam Negeri, pihak Kementerian tidak harus menganggap bahawa RELA tidak melakukan apa-apa penyalahgunaan kuasa semasa dan tidak mengambil tindakan terhadap anggota RELA yang melakukan jenayah semasa menjalankan operasi mereka.

    Jawapan YB Menteri tesebut sebenarnya adalah memesongkan Dewan Rakyat dan ini merupakan kesalahan dalam Peraturan Mesyuarat Dewan Rakyat.

    Akhirnya, saya juga ingin menyuarakan kebimbangan ke atas Rang Undang-Undang RELA yang dikatakan akan dibentangkan di Dewan Rakyat sebelum ini. Apakah rang undang-undang ini akan memberi lebih ruang kepada anggota RELA untuk melakukan jenayah semasa menjalankan tugas?

    Saya ingin menyeru Menteri Hal Ehwal Dalam Negeri untuk mengadakan rundingan dengan Ahli-Ahli Parlimen, NGO dan orang ramai sebelum membentangkan rang undang-undang tersebut, demi mengelakkan penyalahgunaan kuasa anggota RELA.


    Teresa Kok

    AG’s report: Haul errant ministers before PAC (Malaysiakini)

    AG’s report: Haul errant ministers before PAC
    Sep 17, 07 4:35pm


    Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi can stop the “farce” about accountability after each year’s release of Auditor-General’s report by directing all his ministers to appear before the powerful parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.

    “Otherwise, nothing has changed whatsoever in the past four years of the Abdullah premiership and what we are seeing is another annual season of farce and bellyaching about accountability after the AG’s report, but which means absolutely nothing,” thundered Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang in a statement today.

    Last Tuesday, Abdullah said he had directed all errant ministers to explain to the cabinet why their ministries have been accused of mismanaging funds and other irregularities. He added that “each and every matter raised must be explained in detail”.

    “(But) why are the ministers only required to explain to the cabinet and not to Parliament and the nation?” asked Lim.

    The Auditor-General Report 2006, which was released two weeks ago, detailed a litany of mismanagement of public funds by a number of ministries, including the Youth and Sports Ministry, involving the purchase of items and equipment costing more than triple their market price.(see chart)

    It has been widely reported that the ministry had paid RM8.4 million more than market price for 13 items included in its budget - everything from screwdrivers to crane towers.

    The ministry's secretary-general was also reported to have signed, on behalf of the government, 11 contracts worth RM8 million to RM74 million pertaining to the National Skills Training Institute.

    Meanwhile, several quarters have also asked Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who is also the defence minister, to explain the RM6.75 billion scandal of six navy patrol boats that are have either not been delivered or not operational.

    Malaysians getting weary

    Lim (left) said that Malaysians are getting “quite weary” of the AG’s report exposing year-in and year-out corruption, criminal breach of trust and mismanagement of public funds.

    He said this is often followed by the chorus of response from the authorities promising remedial action but only to see “all taper off into public amnesia after a few days of media banner headlines until the ritual is repeated in the following year”.

    “It is only when the cabinet is prepared to make such a decision requiring all ministers to appear before the PAC to explain why their ministries had been accused of mismanaging funds and other irregularities ... that Malaysians can believe that the prime minister is serious about accountability, transparency, financial probity and ministerial responsibility.”

    The 14-member PAC - which is headed by Johor Baru MP Shahrir Abdul Samad - does not have enforcement power, but it can publicly tick off errant ministers.

    It has four opposition parliamentarians, including Kepong MP Tan Seng Giaw, who is deputy chair of the committee.

    Thursday, September 13, 2007

    Bangladeshis' hunger strike enters Day 4 (Malaysiakini)

    Bangladeshis' hunger strike enters Day 4
    Andrew Ong
    Sep 13, 07 5:16pm



    Some 100 Bangladeshis are on hunger strike over the past four days inside the Bangladeshi High Commission in Kuala Lumpur over a wage dispute.

    Group spokesperson Jainal Abidin said they were left with no choice but to go on hunger strike in order to get help from their diplomatic mission.

    “We are waiting for death. Four days (without) food. Many (are) sick,” said Jainal 25, when met outside the High Commission’s compound today.

    He said they have lost hope in finding proper employment in Malaysia and want their high commission to arrange for their passage home.

    Jainal said the workers were brought into Malaysia in four batches between February to May, with promises of high-paying jobs but ended up doing manual labour in an acid factory.

    They were allegedly not paid for six months and were fed one meal a day. The group is holding their Bangladeshi agent responsible for allegedly misleading them.

    “We want our money back from (the agent). We had sold our goats, cows and even land to come here,” added Jainal.

    Typically, Bangladeshis have to pay about RM12,000 in order to obtain work in Malaysia.

    Human rights lawyer Renuka T Balasubramaniam who represents the group said a claim for back wages have been filed with the Labour Department last week against their former employers based in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur.

    Similar cases

    Meanwhile, another group of 50 Bangladeshis have been camping outside the high commission by the roadside over the past few days - there is not enough room in the diplomatic mission to house all the disgruntled workers.

    This group (photo above) claimed to have been misled by agents into becoming ‘salespersons’ as stated in their contracts but were made to do manual labour in a steel factory.

    Their spokesperson Mohammad Ibrahim, 30, said they were paid only half of what was promised to them since working in a factory over the past three months.

    Mohammad said the group had since left the factory and are appealing to the High Commission to arrange for alternative employment.

    Calls to both the high commission and its labour councillor for comments went unanswered.

    There is an estimated 300 Bangladeshis presently camping within and outside the high commission in Ampang. They survive on food occasionally brought by well-wishers.

    Such occurrences are not uncommon. On July 21, at least 200 Bangladeshis gathered outside the high commission to seek redress after being allegedly cheated by agents and employers.

    Rights group Tenaganita have repeatedly stressed that their predicament have been the result of policy loopholes which allows labour outsourcing companies to take advantage of Bangladeshis seeking greener pastures here.

    Friday, September 07, 2007

    Restore the ban on monkey trading



    Restore the ban on monkey trading

    THE recent decision by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to lift the ban on monkey trading comes as a shock to all Malaysians who are concerned for our wildlife and abhor cruelty towards animals.

    These poor animals are to be seized from their habitats and sold abroad where many will be slaughtered for the pot and for medical research.

    The reason the ministry gave for its decision is that this is the only way to overcome primate overpopulation.

    But what about humane culling? Surely it is immoral and callous to make money out of selling monkeys.

    To make things worse, the ministry will be encouraging the trade in exotic wildlife in Malaysia and in the region.

    Once the supply of “legitimate” macaques from Malaysia runs out, restaurants overseas serving exotic meat will surely turn to illegal traders in our country to satisfy the lucrative demand for monkey meat.

    This will lead to a huge increase in illegal hunting of macaques in our jungles.

    Another reason cited by ministry officials is that there have been incidences of monkey attacks on humans in urban areas. No empirical data was given as to the frequency of such attacks. In fact, one rarely hears of such attacks.

    In any event, mass capture and slaughter of wildlife is surely a disproportionate reaction to infrequent monkey attacks.

    It should also not be forgotten that indiscriminate development and human encroachment into monkey habitats is the real cause of these attacks.

    As a species, monkeys are quite similar to humans, both at a genetic and behavioural level.

    I hope the minister concerned will restore the ban on monkey trading.

    Any other course of action will shame this country in the eyes of the world and subject our macaques to a terrible fate.

    N. SURENDRAN,

    Kuala Lumpur.


    Thursday, September 06, 2007

    The long wait for justice: 1,000 behind bars and no appeal option

    The long wait for justice: 1,000 behind bars and no appeal option

    Thursday, 06 September 2007, 08:50am

    The long wait for justice: 1,000 behind bars and no appeal option©New Straits Times
    by V. Anbalagan

    PUTRAJAYA:
    More than 1,000 convicted prisoners in jail cannot appeal against their sentences as Sessions Court judges and magistrates have not submitted written judgments.

    Their failure to do so over the past two to eight years had resulted in the High Court being unable to hear appeals in the cases.

    Legal sources said the cases included offences such as rape and armed robbery.

    Similarly, judges in the High Court and Court of Appeal have also not provided judgments in at least 100 cases that carried the death penalty.

    Some of the prisoners convicted by the trial judges are languishing on Death Row.

    In criminal appeals, the appeal court will not hear cases unless there are written grounds of judgment.

    Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, when told of the matter, promised to investigate it.

    "I am looking into the matter to see what type of action can be taken," said the top judge after attending the promotion and elevation ceremony of judges to the High Court and Federal Court.

    He said any action permitted by the law and the Federal Constitution could be taken against judges, Sessions Court judges and magistrates for not writing judgments.

    "But I will not tell you (the form of action ). This is because it is governed by the Official Secrets Act," he said, adding that sacking could not be ruled out if the circumstances warranted it.

    He said lawyers and the prosecution would have to write to the trial judge and ask for grounds of decision if they wished to appeal.

    "We have procedures. We will have no difficulty if they are complied with," he said, adding that there were circulars which stated the period for the submission of written grounds to facilitate appeals.

    Ahmad Fairuz declined to comment on the issue of nine prisoners on Death Row who had filed action in the Court of Appeal to either set them free or substitute their death penalties with a prison term because the trial judges did not write judgments.

    "Well, it is sub-judice and I cannot comment," he said.

    On another matter, Ahmad Fairuz said he had written to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on the issue of a senior judge alleged to have failed to write grounds of judgments in over 30 cases.

    "But I cannot reveal the contents," he said.

    Abdullah had last week demanded an explanation on the matter which had been highlighted by the New Straits Times.

    He made the statement after Bukit Gelugor MP and DAP chairman Karpal Singh named Federal Court judge Datuk Hashim Yusoff in the Dewan Rakyat as the judge who had not written judgments.

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007

    Torturous wait on Death Row

    Torturous wait on Death Row
    Baradan Kuppusamy
    Sep 4, 07 12:19pm



    "Hang me or release me but don't leave me to suffer a slow death," is the cry of anguish from Baha Jambol, 45, who has been suspended helplessly on Death Row for nine long years, unable to appeal the sentence.

    He was sentenced to death in April 1998 for being in possession of 50kg of cannabis. He is unable to appeal because the trial judge has failed to put pen to paper and give the grounds sentencing him to ‘death by hanging’.

    Jambol's desperate predicament is not unique. It is the result of a serious flaw in Malaysia’s criminal justice system.

    "Without a written judgement, we can't appeal," Karpal Singh (photo), Jambol's lawyer and prominent human rights campaigner, told IPS.

    Jambol, a driver, was at the wheel of a car when the cannabis was found inside. But the car owner who was with him at the time was acquitted.

    The scandal of the ink-shy judge, who is loath to put his judgments on paper, has shocked the nation and led to renewed demands for a swift end to the death penalty.

    "This case is a severe travesty of justice. Jambol has been languishing on Death Row for nine years… what can be crueller than this? I urge the government to immediately abolish the death penalty and end the misery of people on Death Row," said Karpal.

    Others too wait in great misery in the country's overcrowded jails for the same reason.

    Aziz Sharif, 28, was sentenced to death in 2001 for murdering his girlfriend, a conviction that his lawyer Harbahjan Singh said is deeply flawed. Six years on, Harbahjan is still blocked from filing an appeal because there is no written judgement.

    Aziz is suffering severe mental torture while waiting to know his fate, according to his family, who are poor rice farmers from Negeri Sembilan.

    According to a New Straits Times report, they have appealed to the court numerous times to get the judge to write his judgment but without success.

    "I wrote five letters to the court over the matter and sadly they did not have the decency to reply to any of the letters," Harbahjan told the paper.

    Haszaidi Hasan, also sentenced to death for drug trafficking in 2001, is another case in point.

    Denial of justice

    Opposition politicians and rights activists are now pressing for action against Malaysia's indolent judges.

    "Their lackadaisical attitude has hamstrung the administration of justice to people who need it the most," DAP lawmaker M Kulasegaran said.

    "If the judges had done their basic duties the convicted persons could have speedily filed their appeals and probably been acquitted. A long delay is a mark of a poor criminal justice system.”

    He urged the government to set free Death Row inmates caught in this predicament, adding that “a more lasting and more humane solution is to abolish the death penalty".

    The cases have also been taken up by the rights group Malaysians Against the Death Penalty.

    "Prisoners facing capital punishment are under severe pressure if their appeals are delayed," said co-director and lawyer Charles Hector.

    "Judges should understand the tremendous pressure the death penalty generates… delaying the right to appeal is an act of utmost cruelty. Family members are also left emotionally drained by the uncertainties and the long meaningless delays. It is an intolerable form of torture.

    "This tragic delay is another reason to review the death penalty. We demand an immediate moratorium on all executions pending the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia."

    Amnesty International also wants an immediate moratorium on all further executions, while the Bar Council has asked lawyers to report back cases where clients are enduring a "slow death" because of long-delayed or non-existent written judgements.

    The Council plans to present Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim with a list of serious cases. The hope is that offending judges will be penalised, a sanction that might finally end such torment.

    Malaysia imposes the death penalty for a raft of offences, from drug trafficking (15gm of heroin and 200gm of cannabis) to poisoning the water supply. Murder, possession of firearms and treason carry a mandatory death sentence.

    More than 1,000 persons have been executed since independence in 1957 and some 300 are currently awaiting execution, many of them Acehnese from Indonesia convicted of trafficking cannabis. - IPS

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    MADPET:- DISCRIMINATION HAS NO PLACE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

    MEDIA STATEMENT – 3/9/2007

    DISCRIMINATION HAS NO PLACE IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

    - EXPEDITE NIRMALA BONAT’S ABUSE TRIAL –

    MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture) is shocked to hear that 23-year old Nirmala Bonat is still languishing in Malaysia, waiting for the criminal case against her former employer, who was charged with causing grievous hurt to Bonat, to be over. While the accused is out on bail, Bonat, the victim, has been confined to a shelter at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur since 2004, not being allowed to leave the embassy for security reasons.

    In May 2004, neighbours found 19-year-old Indonesian domestic worker, Nirmala Bonat, in her employer's apartment suffering from severe burns to her chest, back and legs, she alleged that she had been branded with an iron and scalded with boiling water by her employer. The skin over most of her body was knotted with scars, welts and burns, the alleged product of five months of abuse by her employer. The case provoked public outrage in Malaysia and her employer was charged in court.

    Hearings have been repeatedly postponed. An official at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Tatang B. Razak said. "It seems that the process has been deliberately slowed down by trial delays and the replacement of judges," (Jakarta Post (30/8/2007), “Malaysian legal process 'unfair to maids”).

    When it comes to criminal cases where the victims are foreigners, including migrant workers and even tourists, priority must be given to ensure that there is a speedy trial to ensure that justice is done. Alternatively there must be some procedure (with the requisite funds) for the prosecution to be able to bring back victims (and/or witnesses) to testify in criminal trials.

    In the case of Indonesian migrant workers, their embassy in Kuala Lumpur now provides shelter to victims of abuse and maltreatment while they await trial of their perpetrators, but with regard to other foreign nationals, there seem to be no similar mechanisms for shelter and these victims (and/or other important witnesses) end up leaving Malaysia and going back home – and without the evidence of these witnesses during the trial, the guilty may most likely get acquitted.

    MADPET is of the opinion that shelter and protection of witnesses in a criminal trial is primarily the duty and responsibility of the prosecution and the State – not embassies and/or some other bodies.

    MADPET also calls for a change in the current Malaysian position, that do not allow migrant workers who have made criminal complaints and reports against their employer to work with another employer until after these cases relating to their employer be tried and disposed off. This policy and practice is not only unjust for to the migrant would, in fact, deter future victims of abuse and crimes from coming forward and complaining.

    MADPET is also concerned of the alleged discrimination against migrant workers that was alleged in the same Jakarta Post report, whereby it was reported that despite the fact that the Indonesian embassy has filed many complaints with the Malaysian authorities, no Malaysian citizen had ever been punished for abusing an Indonesian maid, and that the Nirmala's abuse is the only case that have reached the Malaysian court.

    The Indonesian embassy official was also reported saying “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," As an example of this unfairness, he cited the case of Indonesian maid Rini Setyowati that was brought to trial just a week after she was accused of stealing her employer's jewelry illustrated the unfairness.

    Article 8 of our Malaysian Federal Constitution guarantees that “All persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law”, whereby it is most clear by the usage of the word “persons” and not “citizens”, this is a guarantee accorded to everyone in Malaysia irrespective of whether they are migrant workers or foreigners.

    As such, MADPET calls for an immediate investigation of the alleged discrimination that is said to be happening in our criminal justice system.

    MADPET calls for an immediate investigation into the reasons for the delays in the Nirmala Bonat’s abuse case, and ask that this case be brought to a speedy conclusion so that Nirmala Bonat can go back home and move on with her life.

    Charles Hector

    N Surendran


    for Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)

    3rd September 2007