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Friday, October 29, 2010

Bar: End police brutality now

Press Release
 
End police brutality now
 
The Malaysian Bar is deeply concerned with the “open verdict” delivered by the coroner’s court on 25 Oct 2010 in the inquest to determine the cause of Gunasegaran s/o Rajasundram’s death. Coroner Siti Shakirah bt Mohtarudin found insufficient evidence to record a conclusion.

The Malaysian Bar urges coroners to be bold in highlighting discrepancies and failings during inquests so that the truth of a tragedy will see the light of day. The inability of the coroner to make a definitive finding in this case, notwithstanding the strength of the evidence pointing to the culpability of the police, casts grave doubts on the effectiveness of the inquest mechanism and renders the whole process meaningless.

The three persons who were in police custody with R Gunasegaran consistently identified Lance Corporal Mohd Faizal as having physically assaulted R Gunasegaran. They did so despite threats to their safety by the police and despite the inducement that their cooperation would secure their immediate release. Their incontrovertible evidence stands in stark contrast to the inconsistent and conflicting testimony provided by the police witnesses.

This situation highlights, once again, firstly, the requirement for those in police custody to have immediate access to legal counsel upon arrest, and secondly, the need for an Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission, to function as an independent, external oversight body to investigate complaints about police personnel and to make the police accountable for their conduct.

The Malaysian Bar is also troubled that K Selvach Santhiran, one of the three witnesses who identified Lance Corporal Mohd Faizal, was arrested on the night after the inquest verdict was delivered. The police allegedly physically attacked him in front of his family before taking him away. He is reportedly being detained under the Emergency (Public Order and Prevention of Crime) Ordinance 1969 for 60 days and held at an undisclosed location. If true, such blatant abuse is clearly intended to intimidate those who speak up against injustices or wrongdoings perpetrated by members of the police force.

The Malaysian Bar calls on the Inspector General of Police to undertake a thorough internal inquiry and make public the findings. The conduct of the police officers in question is tantamount to acts of torture that must be penalised. Whistleblowers should be protected by the law rather than punished by law enforcement officers.

The Malaysian Bar urges that the police undergo more effective and holistic human rights education and practical training, with a view to changing the attitudes of law enforcement personnel and their methods in relation to detention, arrest and treatment of persons in custody.

The police cannot be permitted to continue to operate in an environment of impunity.

Lim Chee Wee
Vice-President
Malaysian Bar

29 October 2010

Not only MPs that are being discriminated against but the constituents more so.

The people exercise their constituitional right and elect their Members of Parliament(MPs) and State Assemblypersons (ADUNs) but alas, in Malaysia, these MPs/ADUNs are apparently not given  their annual financial allocations, if they are coming from political parties, not being the ruling party. These annual financial allocations are given to MPs/ADUNs not for their own pockets but for use for the development and welfare of their constituencies and constituents. Relatively, compared to Federal/State and even Local Council financial allocations, this is a small amount - and is meant to be used for 'emergencies', small development activities and welfare activities. and/or maybe for small supports for local activities organized by groups of persons in the constituency. Small pay-outs for assistance in funeral expenses, donations to flood victims, small repairs of homes of the poor, etc. are just some of the examples for what this money is expected to be used for by the said MP/ADUN. [Of course, there seem to be no clear provisions as to the amount and/or the amount that has been given to the individual MP/ADUN, and I wonder whether there is even any publicly displayed accounts of monies received/spend]

Apparently, to prevent 'discrimination' the BN government has also provided for similar allocations for constituencies that chose an Opposition MP/ADUN but the money is provided to the political parties of the ruling coalition who allegedly controls it and disburses for the good of the people in the constituency. [But, alas this is what we hear and again the lack of transparency and accountability is a problem]

Whose money is it really? The peoples' money...or government money, which is also the peoples' money; OR is it the money belonging to the political parties. If it is money belonging to the  political party, then naturally the party is wholly entitled to give the said monies only to their own MPs/ADUNs...but, I believe, this is the peoples' money (wang rakyat) and as such should be properly given to the duly elected MP/ADUN for them to spend for the cosntituency as they deem fit according to the guidelines for spending. Alternatively, the duly elected MP/ADUN should have control over how this money is spent - and ignoring this would be a slap on the face of true democracy. What use to have elections, but when the people chose their MP/ADUN, they are discriminated against by the Federal/State government if they are not MPs/ADUNs from the coalition that forms the government. It is not just discrimination against the MPs/ADUNs but a discrimination against the people in the said constituency. Our Federal Contitution guarantees equality, and, in my opinion, this practice is certainly not a constitutionally permissible discrimination.

I have always advocated for some Opposition MP/ADUN to take this matter to court but alas none have until now...  Better late than never.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) is to initiate a class action suit at the Kuala Lumpur High Court tomorrow at 10am against the federal government.

This is for allegedly not distributing the annual RM1 million allocations entitled to to each of the 74 MPs in the opposition camp, for the past three years.

psm gst forum 210110 d jeyakumarPSM Sungai Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar (left) told Malaysiakini this morning that he has not received any of the allocations since 2008 when he defeated MIC president S Samy Vellu in the general election.

In his class action suit tomorrow, the PSM leader wants the High Court to rule that the BN federal government must be accountable and transparent in its allocations of the MP annual funds as public funds are involved.

He is also invoking in his civil suit, Article 8(1) of the federal constitution, which states that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection. Hence funds should not be allocated only to BN MPs.

He said the aim of the allocations is for the MP to give public service to the parliamentary constituents.

At present there are a total of 222 parliamentary seats in the August House of which BN holds 140, whereas Pakatan Rakyat members hold 74. The remaining eight are held by independents who have defected from the opposition camp.

Left high and dry


The politician-cum-cardiologist claimed that while the BN MPs get their annual allocations, the Pakatan MPs are left high and dry.

He said that the BN is using this denial of public funds as a tool to tarnish the image of opposition MPs, so that they cannot serve as effectively as the BN MPs.

Jeyakumar said that the majority of voters are not aware that such funds have been purposely withheld.

The Sungai Siput MP claimed that this has been going on since 1975 and wants the court to force the BN government to give the funds legally due to the opposition MPS.

He said that he has been running from pillar to post for the past three years, trying to get answers from Prime Minister's Department and as well as the Perak State Development Department (PSDD) which handles such MP allocations, but only ran into brick walls.

According to Jeyakumar, whenever he presses for the details of the allocations of such funds for his Sungai Siput parliamentary constituency, he is only given vague replies.

He has no idea where the money has gone and suspects something is amiss.

At present PSDD does not give such funds to opposition-held MP areas but instead it goes to BN politicians in the constituencies for distribution. _Malaysiakini, 28/10/2010, PSM to file class action suit against federal gov't
But then, it is not just Federal government that allocates money to MPs, but State governments also do the same for the ADUNs. According to the Malaysiakini report, the Federal government provides this money which is allocated by the State Development Department, but I do not believe that this allocations come through State departments in States governed today by the Opposition, i.e. Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Kelantan.

Is it only going to be the PSM Sungai Siput MP Dr D Jeyakumar who is going to take this matter to court - or will the other 73 Opposition MPs join in? Given the unhealthy trend in our Malaysian courts, even if this may be a matter of public interest, the one who takes this suit may not only end up getting a judgment not in his favour but may also be ordered to pay a large sum in cost. In the past, and normally when the matter is one of public interest...or to seek a declaration of right, etc courts do not make orders as to cost, and even if the loser has to pay cost it is a nominal RM500 or RM1,000 - but things seem to have changed under the new Chief Justice. [See earlier posts:- Malaysian courts continue to deter people from claiming rights/justice through the courts]

But then, is the Pakatan Rakyat any different from the BN? Are the Pakatan Rakyat State governments behaving differently from the BN by providing allocations to all elected ADUNs irrespective of which party they come from? There is no justification for behaving the same as the BN, by saying that since the BN is doing this so will we. There is no justification to say that since the BN is paying ADUNs directly - thus the State government will not allocate funds to BN ADUNs...but only to the Pakatan ADUNs in the State. Hopefully, Pakatan Rakyat is practicing democracy as it should be and is all ADUNs in their state with the same amount of funds...


Thursday, October 28, 2010

90 Groups: JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights

Update: The good news is that negotiations have commenced and is ongoing between JVC and the affected workers, and we hope that JVC will act justly with regard all affected workers.We hope that the threat of further termination is behind us, and that JVC ensures that all workers' just claims are met.For those who have already be repatriated back to their countries of origins, adequate compensation should be given, together with the opportunity to return and work in JVC.

As of today, we have 90 groups that have endorsed the Media Statement.

Media Statement – 21/10/2010 (90)

JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant
Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights

We, the undersigned 79 civil society organizations and groups, would like to express our serious concern that JVC has indicated that they will not re-new the employment contracts of Pa Pa Aye and 15 other Burmese women migrant workers, who lodged a claim at the Labour Department claiming worker rights that the JVC company had violated, amongst them the wrongful deduction of their wages to recover levy that employers have to pay when they employ foreign workers. The other 7 workers, who complained, whose contract was renewed in August, will also be terminated and repatriated. The information contained in this statement has been provided by the affected workers.

JVC has its factory at Lot. No.1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Section 22, Shah Alam, 40702 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, and they manufactures cameras, video cameras and audio equipment components, amongst others.

On 21/7/2010, Pa Pa Aye and 22 other women migrant workers lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Office in Malaysia. Amongst their demands were for the return of monies wrongly deducted from their wages for levy the employer had to pay to the Malaysian government for employing migrant workers, other unlawful deductions like transfer fees, saving funds, etc amounting to about RM3,500-00, and for the return of the Passports which are still wrongly being held by  the employer . They were also claiming for the balance of the wages that they were entitled. According to the workers, the employer was to pay them much more about RM50 per day but they were only paid the sum of RM23.

On 6/8/2010, after night shift when the women workers were being transported back to their homes, their bus took a different route, and suddenly stopped where the agent was waiting. The agent then called one of the Burmese women migrant workers who had complaint to the Labour Department and asked her to leave the bus and follow him. The workers suspected that the agent was trying to get the worker sent back to Burma, and they stood together and prevented the agent from taking the worker. The workers then lodged a police report about this incident. There have also been other cases of harassment, whereby in one incident 3 men entered the women’s hostel and threatened them.

The workers, through their representatives, which included an officer from the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) also complained about this incident to JVC, and JVC gave the assurance that this will not happen again and they guaranteed that all workers could continue to work in JVC.

On 12/8/2010, the agent tried to force the workers to sign a new contract, but all workers refused to sign it. The pressure on the workers to sign the new contract took place at the factory compound. Later on the same day the JVC’s Human Resource Manager, one Mr. Mazlan, and the HR Assistant Manager, one Ms. Ida, also tried to pressure the workers to sign the new contracts. The new contract was written in English only (just like their old contract). The workers to date do not have a copy of their old contract, as they were never given a copy. The new contract allegedly stated that their daily salary will be reduced to RM21, which is RM2 less than what the workers have been getting until now.

On 25/8/2010, the Burmese workers informed us that JVC had summarily dismissed 30 Sri Lanka women migrant workers in retaliation for their demand that JVC pay them their promised monthly salary of RM750. After the dismissal JVC and the agent, Fast Link Trans, began forceful repatriation of the workers. On 28/8/2010, 8 Sri Lankan workers were allegedly sent home. These workers apparently never received the amount owing them and/or any compensation for premature termination of their contract.

On 8/9/2010, JVC’s Human Resources Officer, in the presence of the Labour Officer and the agent’s representative from a company known as Fast Link Trans, tried to return to the Burmese workers the amount they said was the levy that had been wrongfully deducted from the wages and asked the workers to sign a document which was in English. The workers refused as the amount offered was far less than the sum deducted, and  they did not want to sign any document which was in a language they did not know.
The company also refused to give a copy of the document to enable them to get an independent person who spoke Burmese to translate its contents to them.

On 28/9/2010, the agent informed the workers that when their current annual contract expires, their contracts will not be renewed and they will all be sent back to Burma. The contracts of 15 of these workers’ contract will expire in October, and the rest by the end of the year. Pa Pa Aye’s own contract expires in early November. The contracts of 7 others which expired in August have already been renewed. Later, on about 7/10/2010, the agent informed the workers that all 23 of them will be terminated and sent back to Burma. The process of forced repatriation of the Burmese workers has already begun with one worker being sent back to Burma on 9/10/2010.

It must be stated that according to the workers, when they came to Malaysia to work with JVC the agreement was that they will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, but when they arrived and started working, they were made to sign 1-year contracts with the verbal assurance that it will be renewed every year for at least a total of 3 years. The threat of early termination and deportation is also wrong and discriminatory as JVC has continued to renew contracts of others who had started work around the same time as these Burmese migrant workers.

Any early termination, and/or non renewal of the 1-year employment contracts by JVC can reasonably be seen as a retaliation of the company against workers who have elected to claim their rights as workers. Their case at the Labour Department is pending, and a termination and repatriation back to Burma will mean that the workers will not be able to continue to pursue their claim in the Labour Department/Court as the presence of the worker in the hearing of their claims against the employer is compulsory, and their absence will mean that their case will just be struck off,

We, the undersigned groups, call upon JVC to respect worker rights and their right to access to justice and not cause these 23 Burmese workers to be terminated and deported.

We  urge that JVC to respect the law and the legal process initiated by the lodging of the complaint by the workers at the Labour Department, and to respect and abide with the outcome of the hearing at the Labour Court. Workers should not be terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they choose to demand for their rights or better rights as workers. For those who have already been repatriated back to their country of origin, including those workers from Sri Lanka, JVC must compensate them for their expenses in coming to Malaysia to work, and for the early termination of their employment.

We call on JVC to act justly and not to terminate these workers, and to renew their contract so that they can pursue their claims until completion. JVC should also adhere to their earlier promise that these workers will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, for migrant workers do expend a lot of money (850-1,000 USD) when they do come to Malaysia to work and any early termination and breach of rights will only leave these workers in a worse situation as they may not be even to settle the debts they incurred in coming here to Malaysia to work.

We call on Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to inquire into this complaint concerning the violation of worker rights by JVC.

We also call on the Malaysian government and the Human Resource Minister to ensure that no workers are terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they have stood up to claim their rights as workers.

The Malaysian government should also ensure that no migrant worker is terminated and/or repatriated back to their country of origins until the employer has fully settled all outstanding worker claims and/or payments. If migrant workers are terminated, the Malaysian government must ensure that these workers are allowed to stay and work legally in Malaysia until all outstanding claims and legal processes are settled. If special passes and visas are required to ensure workers ability to stay and work legally, it must be given gratis without requiring the workers to pay anything. Worker cases must be expedited, and independent translators should be available at all Labour Departments and courts.

Labour rights must take precedent over immigration law. Do not deport until worker claims are determined and settled by Labour Department and/or courts.

Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf of the following 90 organizations

ALIRAN,  
Asia  Pacific Forum on Women ,Law and Development ( APWLD)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Asian Migrants Center (AMC)
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
Bangladesh Burma Border
BAYAN USA
BUGKOS
Building and Wood Workers International Asia Pacific Regional Office
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burmese Women's Union (BWU)
Coalition To Abolish Modern-Day Slavery In Asia
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Communication Workers Union P&T Branch Victoria
Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)
Cordillera Alliance Hong Kong 
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Burma
FICAP – Aichi
Filipino Migrants Center – FMC
Filipino Migrant Workers Union Chapter Rd Chapter 
Forum for Democracy in Burma
GABRIELA – Japan
Gabriela-Taiwan
Grassroots Human Rights Education & Development (GHRE-FED), Thailand
HOME, Singapore
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
IHI Action Group (Iwi Have Influence), New Zealand
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Institute for National and Democracy Studies (INDIES)
Kachin Women's Association, Thailand
KAFIN – Nagoya
KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
Lawyers for Human Rights & Legal Aid (LHRLA), Pakistan
League of Filipino Seniors (LFS)
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
MADPET - Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
MAP Foundation, Thailand
May 1st Coalition, Co-Coordinator, USA
Mekong Migration Network ( MMN)
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) 
Migramte Australia
Migrante-Denmark chapter
MIGRANTE Europe (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
Migrante International
Migrante international - Hsinchuang chapter
Migrante International - Taiwan chapter
Migrante Melbourne
Migrante-Middle East and Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter
MIGRANTE – Nagoya
Migrants  Trade Union (MTU), Korea
Migrant Workers Network – New Zealand
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
Nepal Institute of Development Studies( NIDS) ,NEPAL
Network for Empowerment of Women in Vietnam
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Penggerak Belia Zon 23 MPSJ, Malaysia
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah, Malaysia
Persatuan Prihatin Komuniti KL & Selangor
Philippine Society in Japan – Nagoya
PINATUD A SALENG TI UMILI
PINAY (Montreal)
POURAKHI, Nepal
Pusat Komas, Malaysia
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
Rights Jessore, India
Shan Refugee Organization (Malaysia)
Shan Women Action Network (SWAN), Thailand
St. John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Tenaganita, Malaysia
The Communications Union (CEPU), Victoria Branch
The Development Action for Women Network (DAWN), Philippines
The Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB)
The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec
The National Human Rights Society (Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi  Manusia, HAKAM), Malaysia
The Shwe Gas Movement
Unite Union New Zealand
Women Empowerment Association
Women Petition Committee
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
Yaung  Chi Oo Workers Association  ( YCOWA)
Yayasan Annisa Swasti (YASANTI), Indonesia

Monday, October 25, 2010

Embarassing that we need to import foreigners to teach us English...

As a Malaysian, I am embarrassed that Najib's government is looking overseas( ...Australia, England?? ) for English teachers...

375 native English speakers is to be recruited from United Kingdom and Australia to improve the teaching of English. 

We have ample persons proficient in the English Language in Malaysia. There are so many English speaking families in Malaysia. There are already so many Malaysians that are good in English ...maybe not Muhyiddin & Najib - but there are others. At a time when Malaysia is supposed to be going 'bankrupt'...where needed subsidies are being cut, we surely do not need to look outside for those proficient in English who do have capacity of training new English teachers...or 'monitoring the teaching of the language in schools'. 

If Najib & Muhyiddin is so desparate in bringing in 'foreigners' to improve the teaching of English in Malaysia, then why not bring them in from our ASEAN neighbours like Singapore, Phillipines, etc . 

Or are we still behaving like a neo-colony - and believe that only the 'white man (orang putih)' can speak and teach good English. Is that why, we are only talking about getting Australians...and British. What about Hong Kong? India? Pakistan? Fiji? What is 'good English'? Is it also speaking with the British...Australian slang?

I am certain that we have more than enough capable Malaysians - and there is no need for us in 2011 to be looking for experts in English beyond our shores.


MALACCA: The Education Ministry will hire 370 foreign English language experts from 2011 to monitor the teaching of the language in Malaysian schools.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the recruitment was in line with the implementation of the government's policy of upholding the Malay language and strengthening use of the English language (MBMMBI) for Year One pupils from next year.

"They (the experts) will see how our teachers teach their pupils English," he said at a Titipan Naluri dialogue programme with trainees of the Melaka, Johor and Negri Sembilan teacher training institutes, at the Melaka Women's Teacher Training Institute, here, Monday.

The MBMMBI was introduced to replace the policy of teaching of science and mathematics in the English language (PPSMI), which will be abolished in 2012 after discovering that the policy failed to achieve the objective of improving students' proficiency in English while affecting the performance of students, especially in the rural areas, in the two subjects.

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, said the government had no worries about upholding the status of the Malay language as most of the serving teachers were already trained in the language. 

"The challenge for us now is how to strengthen usage of the English language. That is why we need our teachers to be exposed again through courses during the holidays so as to be more proficient in the language."

He said the English proficiency of trainees at the teacher training institutes would also be improved so that they did not face problems when they started teaching in schools.

"We will soon explain to the public the MBMMBI policy so that they will understand it and help ensure its successful implementation."

Muhyiddin also said the ministry would be finding a way to balance the number of male and female trainee teachers because there were fewer male teachers.

He said that up to August, there were 34,512 trainees at the 27 teacher training institutes in the country, comprising 22,805 women and 11,707 men. - Bernama- Star, 25/10/2010, 370 foreign English language experts to be recruited from 2011


The following are the salient points in Prime Minister Najib Razak's 2011 Budget speech. The 2011 Budget is Najib's second since taking over as prime minister in 2009.

Total budget - RM212 billion, 2.8% higher than the 2010 Budget
Operating expenditure - RM162.8 billion
Development expenditure - RM49.2 billion
  • 2010 growth is revised to seven percent from the previous six percent, fuelled by private investment growth (15.2%), private consumption (6.7%) and exports (11.6%).
  • 2011 growth is expected to hover between five to six percent supported by private investment (10.2%), private consumption (6.3%) and exports (6.7%)
  • 2011 per capita income is expected to go up 6.1% to RM28,000, while income in terms of purchasing power parity will hit US$16,000, tempered by moderate inflation (2-3%) and low unemployment (3.5%).
  • azlanBudget deficit is expected to go down to 5.4% of GDP, compared to 2010 figure of 5.6%.
  • Federal government revenue is estimated to increase by 2.3 percent to RM165.8 billion in 2011, compared to RM161.1 billion in 2010.
  • Private investment is expected to expand 12.5% to RM86 billion.
Emphasis on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects
  • RM12.5 billion worth of public private partnerships (PPP) will be implemented under budget 2011, with a RM1 billion facilitation fund from the government.
  • The Mass Rapid Transit project is to be implemented beginning 2011 with a private investment of RM40 billion and is targetted to complete by 2020.
  • The Academic Medical Centre, a joint-venture between Academic Medical Centre Sdn Bhd and John Hopkins Medical International as well as Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland, that will involve private investment of RM2 billion
  • Development of an International Islamic University Teaching Hospital in Kuantan and a Women and Children's Hospital
  • The construction of a 300MW combined-cycle gas power plant in Kimanis, Sabah.
  • The construction of highways such as the Ampang-Cheras-Pandan Elevated Highway.
azlanRM5 bil new tower in KL
  • A new landmark, the Warisan Merdeka, to be developed by Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), is expected to be completed in 2020 and will include a 100-storey tower, the tallest in Malaysia, which is to be completed by 2015.
  • It will stand on land adjacent to Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara. Both stadiums are to be retained as national heritage sites.
EPF to fund Sungai Buloh development
  • Development of the Malaysian Rubber Board land in Sungai Buloh covering an area of 2,680 acres will be funded by EPF with RM10 billion over 15 years.
  • EPF overseas investments will be increased from seven percent to 20 percent of total assets managed.
Investments
  • GLICs (government-linked investment companies) will divest shares in major companies listed on Bursa Malaysia to increase liquidity and trading velocity.
  • An International Board will be added onto Bursa Malaysia to increase foreign investment, especially to promote syariah-compliant products.
  • The Bumiputera Property Trust Foundation will be launched to enhance bumiputera ownership of prime commercial properties in urban areas.
Corridor projects not forgotten
  • Corridor and regional development will be accelerated with an injection of RM850 million
  • sarawak corridor of renewable energy score project 110208 data mapRM93 million will be allocated for Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy,
  • RM133 million for Northern Corridor Economic Region,
  • RM178 million for projects in East Coast Economic Region,
  • RM339 million for Iskandar Malaysia in Johor.
New private pension fund
  • To revitalise capital market activities, the government will launch a Private Pension Fund in 2011.
  • The existing income tax relief of up to RM6,000 for employees' contributions to EPF will extend to Private Pension Fund contributions.
Funds to help businesses
  • A RM146 million fund will be set up to support the oil, gas and energy industry.
  • RM857 million will be allocated for local E&E (electrical and electronic) companies to compete at the international level.
  • To help entrepreneurs that face financial problems, the Insolvency Act will be consolidated with the Bankruptcy Act 1967 and Part 10 of the Companies Act 1965, including the introduction of a provision relating to a relief mechanism for companies and individuals with financial problems. A review will also look to amend the current minimum bankruptcy limit of RM30,000.
Tourism
  • RM100 million will be allocated to support the tourism industry
  • RM50 million to construct several shaded walkways in the Bukit Bintang-KLCC vicinity.
  • A RM3 billion eco-nature resort Nexus Karambunai in Sabah will commence in 2011.
  • RM85 million will facilitate construction of hotels and resorts in remote areas.
IT development
  • The Multimedia Development Corridor programme will be allocated RM119 million. Focus will be on creating an innovative digital economy.
  • Import duty and sales tax exemption on broadband equipment will be extended for two years until 2012.
Minimum wage
  • A National Wage Consultation Council will be set up to determine the rate and mechanism of minimum wage for various sectors.
  • The basic minimum wage for security guards is to go up to between RM500 and RM700 depending on location, compared to RM300 to RM400 previously.
  • Fully-paid maternity leave for civil servants is to increase to 90 days compared to the previous 60 day.
  • Levy on foreign workers is to increase in stages according to sector. Health insurance for foreign workers is now mandatory.
Training
  • The Talent Corporation is to be set up under the Prime Minister Office in early 2011, that will formulate the National Talent Blueprint
  • A target to increase PhD-qualified academic staff to 75% in research units and 60% in other public institutions of higher learning
  • The 1Malaysia Training Programme will be launched in January 2011 with an allocation of RM500 million
Sabah and Sarawak
  • RM2.1 billion will be allocated to upgrade rural roads in Sabah and Sarawak, compared to RM696 million for Semenanjung Malaysia
  • RM1.5 billion will be allocated to develop rural electricity and water supply in Sabah, with RM1.2 billion for Sarawak and RM556 million for Semenanjung Malaysia
Allocation for ministries
  • RM15.86 billion will be allocated for the Prime Minister's Department. The allocation was RM14 billion in 2009 and RM12 billion in 2010
  • RM29.3 billion for Education Ministry
  • RM10.2 billion for Higher Education Ministry
  • RM1.2 billion for Women, Family and Community Development Ministry
  • RM627 million for Human Resources Ministry
  • RM111 million for Permata (Pusat Anak Permata Negara)
Other salient points
  • azlanThe scheduled hike in toll charges for four highways owned by Plus Expressways Bhd will be frozen for the next five years.
  • A RM500 Special Financial Assistance for Civil servants Grade 54 and below, including contract officers and retirees. Payment will be made in December 2010.
  • Maximum housing loan eligibility for civil servants will increase to RM450,000 from RM360,000.
  • First-time homeowners will enjoy a 50 percent discount on stamp duties for homes below RM350,000.
  • Young adults of household incomes under RM3,000 will be assisted through a first-home owner scheme where the government will guarantee a 10% down payment for homes below RM220,000. This means that house buyers will obtain a 100% loan without having to pay the 10% down payment.
  • Malaysian permanent estate workers will get a maximum RM60,000 housing loan to buy low-cost houses at four percent interest rate, with a repayment period of 40 years extending into the second generation.
  • Sales tax for mobile phones will be reduced by 10 percent.
  • RM350 million will be allocated to boost efforts to cut down the crime index, and establish 25 special courts to expedite prosecution.
  • Full import and excise duties exemption granted to franchise holders of hybrid cars will be extended to Dec 31, 2011. It extends also to electric cars and hybrid and electric motorcycles.
  • Import duty on approximately 300 goods preferred by tourists and locals, currently at 5% to 30%, will be abolished.
  • Service tax will be increased from 5% to 6%. The government proposes to impose service tax on paid television broadcast services.
  • azlanThe excise duty exemption on national vehicles purchased by the disabled will go up to 100 percent from 50 percent previously.
  • RM200 million will be allocated for the Distribution of Essential Goods programme, on top of the RM100 million allocation under budget 2010, to standardise prices nationwide for goods such as rice, cooking oil, sugar, flour, gas, petrol and diesel.
  • 375 native English speakers is to be recruited from United Kingdom and Australia to improve the teaching of English.
  • Monthly allowance of community leaders (JKKK, village heads, Tok Batin, etc.) is to be increased to RM800 from RM450. Meeting attendance allowance is also increased from RM30 to RM50.
  • Imams' allowance will be increased from RM450 to RM750, KAFA (religious school) teachers' allowance also goes up to RM800 from RM500.
  • RM1.9 billion will be allocated for environmental projects, including for the River of Life programme and the greening of Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, October 22, 2010

79 NGOs: JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights


Media Statement – 21/10/2010

JVC Unjustly Discriminates Against Burmese Migrant
Women Workers Who Claim Worker Rights

We, the undersigned 79 civil society organizations and groups, would like to express our serious concern that JVC has indicated that they will not re-new the employment contracts of Pa Pa Aye and 15 other Burmese women migrant workers, who lodged a claim at the Labour Department claiming worker rights that the JVC company had violated, amongst them the wrongful deduction of their wages to recover levy that employers have to pay when they employ foreign workers. The other 7 workers, who complained, whose contract was renewed in August, will also be terminated and repatriated. The information contained in this statement has been provided by the affected workers.

JVC has its factory at Lot. No.1, Persiaran Jubli Perak, Jalan 22/1, Section 22, Shah Alam, 40702 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, and they manufactures cameras, video cameras and audio equipment components, amongst others.

On 21/7/2010, Pa Pa Aye and 22 other women migrant workers lodged a complaint at the Subang Jaya Labour Office in Malaysia. Amongst their demands were for the return of monies wrongly deducted from their wages for levy the employer had to pay to the Malaysian government for employing migrant workers, other unlawful deductions like transfer fees, saving funds, etc amounting to about RM3,500-00, and for the return of the Passports which are still wrongly being held by  the employer . They were also claiming for the balance of the wages that they were entitled. According to the workers, the employer was to pay them much more about RM50 per day but they were only paid the sum of RM23.

On 6/8/2010, after night shift when the women workers were being transported back to their homes, their bus took a different route, and suddenly stopped where the agent was waiting. The agent then called one of the Burmese women migrant workers who had complaint to the Labour Department and asked her to leave the bus and follow him. The workers suspected that the agent was trying to get the worker sent back to Burma, and they stood together and prevented the agent from taking the worker. The workers then lodged a police report about this incident. There have also been other cases of harassment, whereby in one incident 3 men entered the women’s hostel and threatened them.

The workers, through their representatives, which included an officer from the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) also complained about this incident to JVC, and JVC gave the assurance that this will not happen again and they guaranteed that all workers could continue to work in JVC.

On 12/8/2010, the agent tried to force the workers to sign a new contract, but all workers refused to sign it. The pressure on the workers to sign the new contract took place at the factory compound. Later on the same day the JVC’s Human Resource Manager, one Mr. Mazlan, and the HR Assistant Manager, one Ms. Ida, also tried to pressure the workers to sign the new contracts. The new contract was written in English only (just like their old contract). The workers to date do not have a copy of their old contract, as they were never given a copy. The new contract allegedly stated that their daily salary will be reduced to RM21, which is RM2 less than what the workers have been getting until now.

On 25/8/2010, the Burmese workers informed us that JVC had summarily dismissed 30 Sri Lanka women migrant workers in retaliation for their demand that JVC pay them their promised monthly salary of RM750. After the dismissal JVC and the agent, Fast Link Trans, began forceful repatriation of the workers. On 28/8/2010, 8 Sri Lankan workers were allegedly sent home. These workers apparently never received the amount owing them and/or any compensation for premature termination of their contract.

On 8/9/2010, JVC’s Human Resources Officer, in the presence of the Labour Officer and the agent’s representative from a company known as Fast Link Trans, tried to return to the Burmese workers the amount they said was the levy that had been wrongfully deducted from the wages and asked the workers to sign a document which was in English. The workers refused as the amount offered was far less than the sum deducted, and  they did not want to sign any document which was in a language they did not know.
The company also refused to give a copy of the document to enable them to get an independent person who spoke Burmese to translate its contents to them.

On 28/9/2010, the agent informed the workers that when their current annual contract expires, their contracts will not be renewed and they will all be sent back to Burma. The contracts of 15 of these workers’ contract will expire in October, and the rest by the end of the year. Pa Pa Aye’s own contract expires in early November. The contracts of 7 others which expired in August have already been renewed. Later, on about 7/10/2010, the agent informed the workers that all 23 of them will be terminated and sent back to Burma. The process of forced repatriation of the Burmese workers has already begun with one worker being sent back to Burma on 9/10/2010.

It must be stated that according to the workers, when they came to Malaysia to work with JVC the agreement was that they will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, but when they arrived and started working, they were made to sign 1-year contracts with the verbal assurance that it will be renewed every year for at least a total of 3 years. The threat of early termination and deportation is also wrong and discriminatory as JVC has continued to renew contracts of others who had started work around the same time as these Burmese migrant workers.

Any early termination, and/or non renewal of the 1-year employment contracts by JVC can reasonably be seen as a retaliation of the company against workers who have elected to claim their rights as workers. Their case at the Labour Department is pending, and a termination and repatriation back to Burma will mean that the workers will not be able to continue to pursue their claim in the Labour Department/Court as the presence of the worker in the hearing of their claims against the employer is compulsory, and their absence will mean that their case will just be struck off,

We, the undersigned groups, call upon JVC to respect worker rights and their right to access to justice and not cause these 23 Burmese workers to be terminated and deported.

We  urge that JVC to respect the law and the legal process initiated by the lodging of the complaint by the workers at the Labour Department, and to respect and abide with the outcome of the hearing at the Labour Court. Workers should not be terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they choose to demand for their rights or better rights as workers. For those who have already been repatriated back to their country of origin, including those workers from Sri Lanka, JVC must compensate them for their expenses in coming to Malaysia to work, and for the early termination of their employment.

We call on JVC to act justly and not to terminate these workers, and to renew their contract so that they can pursue their claims until completion. JVC should also adhere to their earlier promise that these workers will be employed for a period of at least 3 years, for migrant workers do expend a lot of money (850-1,000 USD) when they do come to Malaysia to work and any early termination and breach of rights will only leave these workers in a worse situation as they may not be even to settle the debts they incurred in coming here to Malaysia to work.

We call on Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM) to inquire into this complaint concerning the violation of worker rights by JVC.

We also call on the Malaysian government and the Human Resource Minister to ensure that no workers are terminated and/or discriminated against by reason of the fact that they have stood up to claim their rights as workers.

The Malaysian government should also ensure that no migrant worker is terminated and/or repatriated back to their country of origins until the employer has fully settled all outstanding worker claims and/or payments. If migrant workers are terminated, the Malaysian government must ensure that these workers are allowed to stay and work legally in Malaysia until all outstanding claims and legal processes are settled. If special passes and visas are required to ensure workers ability to stay and work legally, it must be given gratis without requiring the workers to pay anything. Worker cases must be expedited, and independent translators should be available at all Labour Departments and courts.

Labour rights must take precedent over immigration law. Do not deport until worker claims are determined and settled by Labour Department and/or courts.

Charles Hector
Pranom Somwong

For and on behalf of the following 79 organizations

ALIRAN,  
Asia  Pacific Forum on Women ,Law and Development ( APWLD)
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM)
Asian Migrants Center (AMC)
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
Bangladesh Burma Border
BAYAN USA
BUGKOS
Building and Wood Workers International Asia Pacific Regional Office
Burma Campaign, Malaysia
Burmese Women's Union (BWU)
Coalition To Abolish Modern-Day Slavery In Asia
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Community Development Services (CDS), Sri Lanka
Coordination of Action Research on AIDS & Mobility (CARAM-ASIA)
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), Burma
FICAP – Aichi
Filipino Migrants Center – FMC
Forum for Democracy in Burma
GABRIELA – Japan
Gabriela-Taiwan
Grassroots Human Rights Education & Development (GHRE-FED), Thailand
HOME, Singapore
Human Rights Education Institute of Burma
IHI Action Group (Iwi Have Influence), New Zealand
IMA Research Foundation, Bangladesh
Kachin Women's Association, Thailand
KAFIN – Nagoya
KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall Youth Section
League of Filipino Seniors (LFS)
Legal Support for Children and Women (LSCW), Cambodia
MADPET - Malaysians against Death Penalty and Torture
Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
MAP Foundation, Thailand
May 1st Coalition, Co-Coordinator, USA
Mekong Migration Network ( MMN)
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) 
Migramte Australia
Migrante-Denmark chapter
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
Migrante International
Migrante international - Hsinchuang chapter
Migrante International - Taiwan chapter
Migrante Melbourne
Migrante-Middle East and Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter
MIGRANTE – Nagoya
Migrants  Trade Union (MTU), Korea
Migrant Workers Network – New Zealand
National League for Democracy [NLD (LA)], Malaysia
Nepal Institute of Development Studies( NIDS) ,NEPAL
Network for Empowerment of Women in Vietnam
Network of Action for Migrants in Malaysia (NAMM)
Parti Rakyat Malaysia (PRM)
Penggerak Belia Zon 23 MPSJ, Malaysia
Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Persatuan Penduduk Taman Muhibbah, Malaysia
Persatuan Prihatin Komuniti KL & Selangor
Philippine Society in Japan – Nagoya
PINAY (Montreal)
Pusat Komas, Malaysia
Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor, Malaysia
Shan Refugee Organization (Malaysia)
Shan Women Action Network (SWAN), Thailand
St. John's Cathedral HIV Education Centre, Hong Kong
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Tenaganita, Malaysia
The Federation of Trade Unions Burma (FTUB)
The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec
The National Human Rights Society (Persatuan Kebangsaan Hak Asasi  Manusia, HAKAM), Malaysia
The Shwe Gas Movement
Unite Union New Zealand
Women Empowerment Association
Women Petition Committee
Workers Hub for Change (WH4C)
Yaung  Chi Oo Workers Association  ( YCOWA)
Yayasan Annisa Swasti (YASANTI), Indonesia

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Malaysia: Dictatorship or real Democracy?

Well, the people do elect their Members of Parliament(MPs) and the State Legislative Assemblypersons (ADUNs), but does that make Malaysia a democracy? The only real choice that the people have is in deciding who governs at the Federal level and the State level once every 4-5 years, and that seems to be all the 'democracy' that we have in Malaysia.

MPs and ADUNs - do they then represent the people who elected them in making known their decisions and choices in Parliament and/or the State Legislative Assembly? Not really...

Let me explain...

* When they have to vote in Parliament/State Legislative Assembly, MPs (and/or ADUNs) generally are 'forced' to vote as what their party wants. They do not have a choice - Wrong, they choose not to express their own right to vote choosing rather to vote as they have been told to by the 'whips'...[We know that BN MPs are not allowed to support motions/positions of the Opposition - and when they do act independently according to their conscience, they are chastised...penalized by their  political parties -
I believe that all politicians, political parties and political coalitions (and others including the civil society) must listen and accept good suggestions and ideas irrespective of who it is coming from. That is mature politics.
In 2006, the UMNO-led BN came out with a public stand that all their MPs must fully support all that is BN, and reject (and not support) anything that is coming from the other side. Remember, that Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad who gave us a good example when he supported a motion by the Opposition leader because it was right.

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad (pic above) dropped a bombshell in Parliament yesterday by resigning as Backbenchers Club (BBC) chairman.

He had earlier walked out of Dewan Rakyat disappointed that his colleagues had distanced themselves from a DAP motion related to alleged interference by an MP in the work of the Malacca Customs Department.

The motion called for a newspaper report containing the allegation that the unnamed MP had asked the department to be lenient with those caught importing sawn timber from Indonesia to be referred to the Parliament Rights and Privileges Committee.

Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang had proposed the motion, which was debated for 20 minutes.

Voicing support for the motion, Shahrir, who is Johor Baru MP, said the matter should be investigated by the committee to clear the air as “integrity should begin in Parliament.” - Why call Najib 'copy cat' when he adopts good ideas - Reject “third-class mentality”. Support the good reject the bad...
Well, is Pakatan Rakyat any different?  I do not think so...

MPs/ADUNs chose to relinquish their freedom of expression, freedom of choice - and do vote not according to what their conscience tells them...but according to what their party tells them...and this really must change...for this is not democracy - but a form of dictatorship by Najib in Parliament ...by Khalid Ibrahim(PR) [or Anwar with the other PR supreme leaders]in the Selangor State Legislative Assembly as an example

While members of the Cabinet and State Excos are expected to adhere to and support the decisions of the PM (or the Cabinet) or the MB (or the State Exco), the same does not apply to other ADUNs and MPs not in the Executive. 

Even then, members of the Cabinet and State Excos can express their personal opinions....and/or resign from the Cabinet/Exco when they cannot agree with the PM and the MB. The Cabinet/Exco are chosen by the PM/MB not the people - not the party, and they are thus Najib's Cabinet and/or the MB's Exco after all.
That is why in Malaysia no one really bothers to lobby...influence with argument individual MPs/ADUNs - and tend to focus their attention on the 'Supreme Leaders' of the different parties. 

That is why many MPs/ADUNs may not even know what they are voting for and why they voted in such a manner. They vote as they have been told.....period. Is this democracy...or just another form of dictatorship?

At present voting is also usually done by loudness of voices....not even by counting. We do not know how many MPs/ADUNs voted for a motion...how many voted against...and how many abstained? In fact, most likely the voting on a item would most probably be Number of BN MPs for, No. of Pakatan MPs against, No. of Pro-BN Independent MPs for, Number of pro-PR MPs against...and maybe some Independent MPs voting this way or that or abstaining even.

There must be changes if we truly want to be a democracy - and MPs/ADUNs must vote in accordance with their conscience. The aspirations/views of their constituents must be taken into account - but then have we heard of any MP/ADUN who did in fact have a consultation with their constituents (or even their party members at branch/division levels) before they vote for or against a motion or a Bill? How many MPs/ADUNs even inform their constituents about the things that they have to vote for....and/or the reasons why they voted "Yes" or "No" or just abstained - something so easily done today through personal blogs, etc 

Really, votes need to be counted. Maybe, also good if there is 'secret ballot' when it comes to voting in Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies...[Real live telecast of Parliamentary sessions - Secret electronic voting need be introduced.]

Real live telecasts of Parliamentary proceedings would also help encourage a change in MP/ADUN behaviour in the Houses as then the voters will know whether their representative is participating or not.... [There are already live feed in Parliament, which could be seen by anyone in the lobby, canteen, etc - and what we need is for this feed to be broadcasted to the homes of Malaysians - there is no need for commentators, interviews, etc...The 'live telecast' we have for a short while now is a joke as we are forced to watch most of the time comments and interviews not the actual proceedings]

Why do MPs/ADUNs behave like this? Because they fear that if they do not follow the wishes of their 'dictators', then they may not get a chance to stand come next elections.

Sadly, the same seem to be happening at Local Councils - the fear being that if you voice your own opinion different from the position of the 'party dictators' you just do not get appointed for another term. Civil society councilors in small numbers in the PR State Councils also find that they cannot never win an argument against the 'party dictators'  because all party appointed councilors will just vote as per dictated by the whip.
Anwar, in a session at the Bar Council got blasted about his silence(and lack of protest) when the ISA was repeatedly used on different groups of people when he was in government...and his response was that he did indeed protest to Mahathir. Can we believe this? On the other hand, Nazri Aziz, a sitting Minister stands out as being different - he has come out in opposition to the death penalty twice now...stating also that it was his personal view, not the position of the government...[see earlier post:- Nazri reiterates call for abolition of death penalty...]. Maybe more MPs and ADUNs must emulate  Nazri Aziz...

So, was it only Mahathir who was the 'dictator'? Or are we in Malaysia really all still living under a kind of 'dictatorship' - not a true democracy? 
It is so easy to just blame the 'big bosses' - but do you, the MPs/ADUNs even promote and practice democracy at the level of your own constituencies? You have the capacity to be different - to be democratic, but you have chosen to relinquish your own god-given freedoms to the detriment of real democracy. You choose silence and 'loyalty' possibly just because you are only interested in securing your future as MPs/ADUNs, is that the case? I wonder also why some persons even chose to become MPs/ADUNs - and then sit by silently doing nothing to bring about real democracy, where there is openness,  transparency and accountability.