Saturday, September 30, 2006

Number of illegals set to reach critical stage (Star)

Number of illegals set to reach critical stage

KAJANG: The number of illegal immigrants in detention centres nationwide is expected to reach critical stage by January next year.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said: “There are about 7,467 illegal immigrants detained in 15 centres around the country and based on the progression of arrests made by Rela, we are expected to face a crisis for space by January.

“I am now touring the country to see the conditions of the centres and preliminary observation shows that we need new centres to take in the growing number of detainees,” Radzi told reporters after visiting the Semenyih Immigration Detention centre here yesterday.

The minister added that one of the biggest centres like the one here could only take in a maximum of 1,500 detainees while smaller ones could accommodate up to a maximum of 500 people.

He said his ministry had no intention to build lavish-looking new centres but would invest in simple and practical ones to save costs.

To a question, Radzi said it was not an easy task to just deport illegal immigrants to their countries of origin to solve the problem.

“We need to liase with the authorities of the respective immigrant and this process takes at least three months to be resolved,” he said.

Later, Immigration Department head of enforcement Datuk Ishak Mohamad said the department was now looking for at least 200 Bangladeshi illegal outsourcing agents who were responsible for bringing in Bangladeshi workers using forged working permits.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Rela arrests 17,700 suspected illegals (Star)

Rela arrests 17,700 suspected illegals

PETALING JAYA: Rela arrested a total of 17,700 people believed to be illegal immigrants and screened 94,010 people up to Sept 26 this year.

In a statement issued here yesterday, Rela said that out of the figure, Indonesians comprised the highest number of those arrested at 12,076, followed by those from Myanmar (2,089), Indians (963), Bangladeshis (923), Thais (402), Chinese (43) and others (1,200).

In addition to that, four employers were also arrested.

The statement added that Rela would intensify operations to help reduce the number of illegal immigrants during the Ramadan month up to Hari Raya.

The statement also said that state Rela directors and district Rela officers had been ordered to proceed with the usual operations.

Employers were also warned not to employ illegal immigrants or harbour them because it was against the law.

Friday, September 22, 2006


(Extracts on MALAYSIA)


UN Convention against Corruption (signed December 2003; not yet ratified)
UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (ratified September 2004)
ADB-OECD Action Plan for Asia-Pacific (endorsed November 2001)

Legal and institutional changes
• The Central Bank introduced two public complaints and redress forums in 2005. The Financial Mediation Bureau (FMB), launched in January, is an integrated dispute resolution centre for financial institutions. The FMB’s predecessors, the Banking Mediation Bureau and the Insurance Mediation Bureau, handled a total of 1,515 cases in 2004. The FMB provides an avenue of redress for a wider spectrum of the public since it covers the consumer areas of Islamic insurance, development finance institutions, as well as nonblank issuers of credit and charge cards. In February, the Central Bank set up a website, LINK, to facilitate a rapid response to the public, as well as small and medium enterprises, on matters related to the financial sector. LINK also has the potential to encourage internal and external whistleblowers to disclose corruption in the financial sector.

• In December 2004, the Treasury issued new guidelines for public procurement on infrastructure maintenance projects that outline the selection process for contractors, the use of open tenders and the participation of a broader group of public officials to ensure transparency. Though the guidelines cover one area of public procurement only, they apply to all departments of government (see below).

• The Anti-Corruption Academy, first announced in December 2003, is expected to become operational in September 2005. Its main role is to train officials of the domestic Anti-Corruption Agency, but it will function as a regional centre for anti-corruption capacity building, promoting best practice in investigation, monitoring and enforcement, as well as forensic accounting and engineering (see below).

Country reports Malaysia
• A number of civil society organisations, including TI Malaysia, formed a lobbying group in October 2004, Infokl, to press for greater freedom of information. Housed at the Centre for Independent Journalism, Infokl will draft a freedom of information bill, including provisions for whistleblowers, for submission to government. It will also call for a review of the Official Secrets Act, which inhibits comment on many public sector activities.

The government’s anti-corruption campaign
The fight against corruption has been the centre piece of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s government since it came to power in October 2003. The campaign has focused on prevention, including the formation of the National Integrity Plan (NIP), the Integrity Institute of Malaysia (IIM) and the Anti-Corruption Academy, but it has punitive aspects as well. It is too early to assess the real impact of the campaign but the signs are encouraging.

In April 2005, the government announced that the IIM would develop a National Integrity Index (NII), to assess progress in areas including corporate governance. The IIM was established in April 2004 to implement an NIP for 2004–08, aimed at reducing corruption and abuse of power, mainly through education and training. Since its inception, the IIM has conducted numerous courses on integrity for the private and public sectors, and in universities and schools.

The Anti-Corruption Academy, which is expected to open its doors in September 2005, is the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region. Established by the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to train anti-corruption officials in Malaysia and from across the region, the academy will function as a centre for anticorruption capacity building, promoting best practices in investigation, monitoring and enforcement, and in newer areas such as forensic accounting and engineering. Although it has yet to begin operations, it has been welcomed by the Asian Development Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Meanwhile, the ACA stepped up enforcement of the Anti-Corruption Act with a 47 per cent increase in corruption related arrests in 2004, compared to 2003, and 179 new cases registered for trial.1Among those charged in 2004 were the former land and cooperative development minister, Kasitah Gadam, and Eric Chia Eng Hock, a businessman closely associated with former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who retired in October 2003 after 22 years in office. The charges were remarkable since the agency had been criticised for targeting only ‘small fish’, with some observers blaming this on the lack of independence of the attorney general, who held the final decision to prosecute.2

Other anti-corruption laws have not been enforced so effectively. The first prosecution under the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 was only initiated in 2004, but a spate of prosecutions is expected in the near future.3

Despite this, there is continuing concern about the ACA’s independence. It forms part of the prime minister’s office and, though the king appoints the director general, he does so on the prime minister’s advice. This does not necessarily translate into executive interference with its investigations, but the former prime minister did remove ACA director general Datuk Ahmad Zaki in March 2001, in spite of his diligence and record of effectiveness.

Another aspect of the government’s strategy has been to limit the opportunities for corruption by improving public service delivery. To this end, an internal circular in November 2004 repealed the 1979 auditing system, setting out new objectives, functions and responsibilities. The new auditing regime will be responsible for all monetary and financial transactions, including verifying all the expenditure, profits, assets and stock managed.

In January 2004, the Public Complaints Bureau (PCB), which many had criticized for the complexity of its procedures, launched the MESRA Rakyat programme whereby it tours the country to listen to local complaints. Heads of government departments are also present at these meetthe-people sessions. At a session in Melaka state in July 2004, 278 citizens met 49 heads of department and raised over 40 issues.

The officer in charge reported that of the 40 cases brought up, 37 had been settled, while three were pending. All cases relating to corruption are referred to the ACA for further investigation. The PCB plans to monitor these investigations to ensure that action has been taken.

Procurement policies on the mend
In November 2004, a local newspaper published a front-page story on defective buildings and roads that had cost the taxpayer an estimated MYR2 billion (US $500 million).4 The response of the public works minister was that the fiasco was not the fault of his department, but of a group of contractors known as Project Management Consultants (PMC), set up in the 1990s and registered with the finance ministry.

PMC comprises several contractors who were awarded projects through direct negotiation, circumventing procurement regulations. A treasury circular in September 2000 sanctioned privileged consortia to cover five regions and exempted government departments from normal procurement procedures.5 This allowed agencies to implement their own projects through limited tenders or direct negotiations. The usual procedure had been to go through the public works department and, only if the latter were unable to take on the contract, could other contractors be selected. The justification for the new procedure was speedier completion of projects,6 but the cost doubled in some cases and the construction was seriously flawed. With a consultancy fee fixed at 1.5 per cent of a project’s cost, the PMC concept contributed to massive overruns and individual project failures.7

For example, the health ministry was forced to close the MYR500 million (US $133 million) Sultan Ismail Hospital on 27 September 2004 due to structural and design flaws. Repairs to bring it up to safety standards were estimated at MYR8 million (US$2 million).8 Work on the MYR167 million(US $44 million) Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation tower, due to have been completed in 1997, was not finished until mid-2005 and the costs rocketed to MYR400 million (US $106 million). Defects in the building were estimated to cost MYR28.4million (US $7.5 million).9 Even on modest projects, PMCs came in substantially over costs. According to Public Works Minister Samy Vellu, the ministry could construct a classroom for MYR55,000 (US $15,000), but when taken over by a PMC, the bill would soar to MYR120,000 (US $32,000).10 The public welcomed the new government’s move to abolish the PMC in March 2004.

Departments have been directed to comply with current procurement policies that use the tender system to ensure transparency and accountability. New guidelines may be issued to deal with specific contracts. For example, a treasury circular in December 2004 provides guidelines for the selection of contractors for public infrastructure maintenance, applicable to all government departments.11 The terms detail the use of open tenders and the participation of a more balanced group of public officials, including a representative from the public works department. These conditions comply with the ‘Model Law on Procurement of Goods, Construction and Services’, issued by the UN Commission on International Trade Law in 1995, but they do not divide the roles of selection and supervision, as outlined in TI’s ‘Minimum Standards for Public Contracting’.12 Even more significant is Malaysia’s failure to require companies to adopt a code of ethics against corruption, or to blacklist companies with a track record of corrupt practices.

Country reports
Mehrun Siraj and Sunita Chima (TI Malaysia)

Further reading
Tunku Abdul Aziz, ‘Fighting Corruption: My Mission’ (Kuala Lumpur: Konrad Adenauer
Foundation, 2005)
Zarinah Anwar and Kar Mei Tang, ‘Building a Framework for Corporate Transparency: Challenges
for Global Capital Markets and the Malaysian Experience’, International Accountant 18, 2003
Khaliq Ahmad Mohd Israil and Abul Hassan M. Sadeq, Ethics in Business and Management: Islamic
and Mainstream Approaches (Kuala Lumpur: Asian Academic Press, 2001)
Mazilan Musa, Izal Arif Zahrudin and Suzanna Che Moin (eds), ‘Ethics and Integrity in Malaysia:
Issues and Challenges’ (Kuala Lumpur: Integrity Institute of Malaysia, 2005)
TI Malaysia:

Police corruption under fire
The Royal Commission on Enhancing the Operations and Management of the Police (RCP), set up in February 2004 to reform the police force, submitted a report of its findings to the king on 19 April 2005. Of the 926 complaints the commission received from the public between March 2004 and March 2005, 98 concerned police corruption.

The RCP’s enquiries revealed widespread corruption within the police force, including: monthly kickbacks from illegal factory owners and employers of illegal immigrants; demands for payments in exchange for providing detainees with food, or allowing them to make telephone calls; and accepting bribes to detain innocent people, or to decline from taking action against guilty parties.

The report also accuses police personnel of bribing senior officers to obtain promotions or transfers. The report cited public complaints of the lavish lifestyle some officers enjoy. One is alleged to have declared assets of MYR34 million (US $9 million), but no investigation was conducted to determine how he had acquired such a fortune. Influenced by the finding that corruption awareness is low among police personnel at all levels, the commission recommended that eliminating it must rank high on the reform agenda. It made 125 recommendations, of which 10 relate to corruption.

There were some indications that the government may be ‘sitting on’ the RCP’s report, as it does with reports from the Human Rights Commission.

The deputy prime minister announced that it would have to be scrutinised by all central agencies, the finance ministry and the department for public works, before any of its recommendations could be implemented.13 However, in May 2005, Prime Minister Badawi announced that a task force would meet to determine an order of priority for implementation and, a few weeks later, police were reportedly investigating the corruption cases cited in the report. In late June, five sub-committees were set up to study the recommendations in greater detail. Civil society has welcomed the RCP’s findings and is monitoring its implementation.

1. Keynote address by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, World Ethics and Integrity Forum, Kuala Lumpur, 28–29 April 2005.
2. Transparency International, National Integrity Systems Country Study: Malaysia (Berlin: Transparency International, 2003).
3. Information provided by the deputy public prosecutor in the office of the attorneygeneral.
4. New Straits Times (Malaysia), 21 November 2004.
5. Treasury Circular, no. 4, 2000, at
6. Utusan Online (Malaysia), 14 November 2004.
7. New Straits Times (Malaysia), 21 November 2004.
8. The Star (Malaysia), 15 November 2004.
9. Bernama (Malaysia), 22 October 2004.
10. Utusan Online (Malaysia), 14 November 2004.
11. Treasury Circular, no. 7, 2004, at
12. See Global Corruption Report 2005, p. 4. (22/9/06)

(Source: Tables from GCR 2006)

Corruption Perceptions Index 2005

Country Ranking/ Country /2005 CPI Score
1 Iceland 9.7
2 Finland 9.6
3 New Zealand 9.6
4 Denmark 9.5
5 Singapore 9.4
6 Sweden 9.2
7 Switzerland 9.1
8 Norway 8.9
9 Australia 8.8
10 Austria 8.7
11 Netherlands 8.6
United Kingdom 8.6
14 Canada 8.4
15 Hong Kong 8.3
16 Germany 8.2
17 USA 7.6
18 France 7.5
21 Chile 7.3
22 Japan 7.3
23 Spain 7.0
26 Portugal 6.5
28 Israel 6.3
29 Oman 6.3
30 United Arab Emirates 6.2
32 Qatar 5.9
32 Taiwan 5.9
32 Uruguay 5.9
36 Bahrain 5.8
37 Cyprus 5.7
37 Jordan 5.7
39 Malaysia 5.1
40 Hungary 5.0
40 Italy 5.0
40 South Korea 5.0
43 Tunisia 4.9
45 Kuwait 4.7
59 Cuba 3.8
59 Thailand 3.8
70 Saudi Arabia 3.4
78 China 3.2
88 India 2.9
88 Iran 2.9
97 Algeria 2.8
98 Argentina 2.8
107 Vietnam 2.6
117 Afghanistan 2.5
117 Nepal 2.5
117 Philippines 2.5
126 Russia 2.4
130 Cambodia 2.3
137 Indonesia 2.2
137 Iraq 2.2
144 Pakistan 2.1
144 Sudan 2.1
155 Myanmar 1.8
158 Bangladesh 1.7

* ‘2005 CPI score’ relates to perceptions of the degree of corruption as seen by business people, academics and risk analysts, and ranges between 10 (highly clean) and 0 (highly corrupt).

* A total of 16 surveys were used from 10 independent institutions, and at least three surveys were required for a country to be included in the CPI.

• The survey involved 159 countries.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

2.4 judges to a million people

23 posts created to ease workload of judges

Wednesday, 20 September 2006, 09:28

© New Straits Times
by Anis Ibrahim

More judges to be appointedKUALA LUMPUR: Twenty-three new judicial posts have been created to help ease the workload of judges and expedite the disposal of cases.

The number of judges at the Court of Appeal will be increased from 15 to 22 while at the High Court, 16 new posts have been created.

This will bring the number of judges at the High Court of Malaya and the High Court of Sabah and Sarawak to 73.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz said the Cabinet had given its approval last week following a proposal from the Chief Justice’s office.

When pressed for details, Nazri said: "At this stage, only the new posts have been created. The names of the candidates will be put forward by the Chief Justice in due course.

"Candidates may be from the legal and judicial service or the private sector."

Constitutional law expert Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi said the new positions would be created by way of gazette notification by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the Prime Minister.

"This will not be the first time new posts have been created," he said.

This development is the latest effort by Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim to expedite the disposal of court cases.

Last month, he proposed that retired judges be appointed on an ad-hoc basis to ease the backlog.

According to Federal Court chief registrar Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat, the number of judges in the country was low compared with other Commonwealth nations.

The Malaysian ratio is 2.4 judges to a million people — a far cry from the ratio in India (10.5 judges), Australia (57.1), Britain (50.1) and Canada (75).

The increase in the number of cases has also aggravated the problem, which is at its worst at the magistrate’s courts.

Between January and June this year, 505,774 cases were registered at magistrate’s courts nationwide.

Another 475,507 cases were brought forward from last year, bringing the total number of cases to 981,281.

Of these, nearly 450,000 cases are still unresolved.

Monday, September 18, 2006

US releases International Religious Freedom Report 2006 on Malaysia

US releases International Religious Freedom Report 2006 on Malaysia
Sunday, 17 September 2006, 00:01

This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. The law provides that the secretary of state, with the assistance of the ambassador at large for international religious freedom, shall transmit to Congress "an Annual Report on International Religious Freedom supplementing the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom."

Malaysia: The constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the Government places some restrictions on this right. Islam is recognized in the constitution as "the religion of the Federation," but the practice of non-Sunni Islamic beliefs was significantly restricted, and those deviating from accepted Sunni beliefs could be subjected to "rehabilitation." Non-Muslims were free to practice their religious beliefs with few restrictions.

There was no material change in the status of respect for religious freedom during the period covered by this report.

The generally tolerant relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom.

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of approximately 127 thousand square miles, and its population was estimated at 25.6 million. According to 2000 census figures, approximately 60 percent of the population practiced Islam; 19 percent Buddhism; 9 percent Christianity; 6 percent Hinduism; and 3 percent Confucianism, Taoism, and other traditional Chinese religions. The remainder was accounted for by other faiths, including animism, Sikhism, and the Baha'i Faith. Ethnic Malays, accounting for approximately 55 percent of the population, are legally classified as Muslims at birth.

Section II. Status of Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The constitution provides for freedom of religion, but it also recognizes Islam as the country's religion. In practice the Government significantly restricts the observance of Islamic beliefs other than Sunni Islam. The Government provides financial support to an Islamic religious establishment composed of a variety of governmental, quasi-governmental, and other institutions, and it indirectly provides more limited funds to non-Islamic communities. State governments impose Islamic religious law on Muslims in some cultural and social matters but generally do not interfere with the religious practices of non-Muslim communities. Prime Minister Abdullah is a proponent of moderate, progressive "Islam Hadhari" (literally "civilizational Islam"). Some observers believe support for this policy contributed to his 2004 election victory over the opposition Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), which advocated a stricter Islamic agenda.

Several holy days are recognized as official holidays, including Hari Raya Puasa (Muslim), Hari Raya Qurban (Muslim), the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad (Muslim), Wesak Day (Buddhist), Deepavali (Hindu), Christmas (Christian), and, in East Malaysia, Good Friday (Christian).

The Registrar of Societies, under the Ministry of Home Affairs, determines whether a religious organization may be registered and thereby qualify for government grants and other benefits. Various religious groups were not recognized as such by the Government, and they sometimes registered themselves under the Companies Act to operate legally. In June 2005 nine Falun Gong practitioners were fined for committing technical violations of the Companies Act, such as failure to provide minutes of the organization's meetings within the required time frame.

Public schools generally offered Islamic religious instruction, which is compulsory for Muslim children. Non-Muslim students are required to take nonreligious morals/ethics courses. Private schools are free to offer a non-Islamic religious curriculum as an option for non-Muslims. There are no restrictions on home instruction. The Government offered grants only to privately run Muslim religious schools that agreed to allow government supervision and adopted a government-approved curriculum.

In February 2005 the Malaysian Bar Council organized a forum to discuss the creation of an interfaith commission aimed at promoting better understanding and mutual respect among the country's religious groups. Several groups claiming to represent mainstream Islam refused to participate in the forum on the grounds that an interfaith commission would "weaken Islam." The Government subsequently announced that an interfaith commission was not necessary but stated that interfaith dialogue should be encouraged.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

In practice Muslims are not permitted to convert to another religion. In several recent rulings secular courts ceded jurisdiction to Shari'a courts in matters involving conversion to or from Islam. In July 2004 the Federal Court, 'the country's highest court, upheld a 2002 lower court ruling that only the Shari'a courts were qualified to determine whether a Muslim has become an apostate. In September 2005 'the country's second-highest court, the Court of Appeal, denied the request of a Muslim who had converted to Christianity to change the religion designated on her national identity card. The Court of Appeal ruled that a Shari'a court must first approve a request by a Muslim citizen to convert to another religion. In practice Shari'a courts routinely denied such requests. Citing the case as "a matter of general public interest," the Federal Court agreed in April 2006 to hear the woman's appeal and address the degree to which Shari'a courts have jurisdiction over determinations of Muslim apostasy.

In December 2005 a trial court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over Shari'a court decisions on matters that concerned Islamic family law. The case involved the disposition of the remains of a Hindu man who was alleged to have converted to Islam before his death. The man's Hindu wife, claiming that there was no clear evidence that he had converted to Islam, struggled with Islamic authorities over which religion's rites should govern his burial. A Shari'a court ruled that the Hindu man was a Muslim and ordered his burial according to Muslim rites. As a non-Muslim, the wife took her case to the secular High Court, but the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case because it involved a Muslim. She then filed an appeal, which was pending as of June 30, 2006. In January 2006, following the death of an eighty-nine-year-old ethnic Malay woman who had practiced Buddhism her entire adult life, Islamic religious authorities requested a Shari'a court to rule whether the woman's Buddhist family could be allowed to bury her according to Buddhist rites. The Shari'a court ruled in favor of the woman's family.

In January 2006 the non-Muslim members of the cabinet presented a memorandum to the prime minister calling for a review of constitutional provisions affecting the legal rights of non-Muslims. Following protests from several Muslim leaders within the governing coalition and a commitment by the prime minister to address the non-Muslim ministers' concerns in future cabinet meetings, the ministers withdrew their memorandum. The prime minister stated publicly that 'the country's constitution provides sufficient protection of religious freedom and should therefore not be reviewed or amended in that regard.

Control of mosques is exercised at the state level rather than by the federal government; state religious authorities appoint imams to mosques and provide guidance on the content of sermons. While practices vary from state to state, both the Government and the opposition PAS have attempted to use mosques in the states they control to deliver politically oriented messages. In recent years, several states controlled by the governing coalition announced measures including banning opposition-affiliated imams from speaking at mosques, more vigorously enforcing existing restrictions on the content of sermons, replacing mosque leaders and governing committees thought to be sympathetic to the opposition, and threatening to close down unauthorized mosques with ties to the opposition. Similarly the state government of Kelantan, controlled by the PAS, reportedly restricts imams affiliated with the Barisan Nasional (the ruling coalition) from speaking in mosques.

The Government opposed what it considered "deviant" interpretations of Islam, maintaining that allegedly deviant groups' views endanger national security. According to the Government's Islamic Development Department's (IDD) website, fifty-six deviant teachings had been identified and prohibited to Muslims as of June 2006. They included Shi'a, transcendental meditation, and Baha'i teachings, among others. The Government asserted that "deviationist" teachings could cause divisions among Muslims. The IDD has established written guidelines concerning what constitutes "deviationist" behavior or belief. State religious authorities, in making their determinations on these matters, have generally followed the federal guidelines. Members of groups deemed "deviationist" may be arrested and detained, with the consent of a Shari'a court, in order to be "rehabilitated" and returned to the "true path of Islam." In June 2005 the religious affairs minister told parliament that 22 "deviant" religious groups with an estimated 2,820 followers had been identified in the country. Neither the Government nor religious authorities provided data on the number of such persons who have been subjected to "rehabilitation."

The Government continued to monitor the activities of the Shi'a minority.

Proselytizing of Muslims by members of other religions is strictly prohibited, although proselytizing of non-Muslims faces no similar obstacles. In April 2005 two foreign Christian missionaries were arrested after distributing religious materials in front of a mosque. They were charged with "disturbing the peace in a religious manner." After ten days the Government dismissed the charges against the two men and released them.

The Government restricts the distribution in peninsular Malaysia of Malay-language translations of the Bible, Christian tapes, and other printed materials. In April 2005 the prime minister declared that copies of the Malay-language Bible must have the words "Not for Muslims" printed on the front and could be distributed only in churches and Christian bookshops. The distribution of Malay-language Christian materials faces few restrictions in East Malaysia.

According to the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs (MCCBCHS), the Government restricted visas for foreign clergy under the age of forty to inhibit "militant clergy" from entering the country. While representatives of non-Muslim groups did not sit on the immigration committee that approved visa requests, the MCCBCHS was asked for its recommendations. In August 2005 the Selangor state religious authorities announced their decision to withhold support for visa applications by foreign Muslim imams and religious teachers. Local media reported that the decision was largely targeted at the ethnic Indian Muslim community, in an effort to increase the number of "homegrown" imams. Ethnic Indian religious leaders expressed concern that some mosques and religious schools might need to be closed.

The Government prohibits publications that it alleges might incite racial or religious disharmony. In 2004 it prohibited Muslims from viewing the movie "The Passion of the Christ" but allowed non-Muslims to view the film at private screenings.

The Government continued to require all Muslim civil servants to attend government-approved religion classes.

State governments have authority over the building of non-Muslim places of worship and the allocation of land for non-Muslim cemeteries. Approvals for building permits sometimes were granted very slowly. Some religious groups complained that state policies and local decisions restrict the construction of non-Muslim places of worship. Muslim residents of a neighborhood in Kajang objected to the building of a church in a residential area that was predominantly Muslim. In May 2005 the local municipal council determined that the proposed site was designated for residential building and rejected the church's application. A Roman Catholic church delayed for more than fourteen years by the state government of Selangor was officially opened in September 2005. Church officials publicly accused state and local officials of intentionally delaying construction of the church by demanding relocation of proposed building sites and revoking previously approved building plans and designs.

Unregistered religious statues and houses of worship may be demolished by the state. Several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) complained about the demolition of unregistered Hindu temples and shrines located on state and local lands. These structures were often constructed on privately owned plantations prior to the country's' independence in 1957. Around that time,' plantation lands containing many Hindu shrines and temples were transferred to government ownership. In March 2006 state officials in Negeri Sembilan announced their intention to demolish an unregistered Hindu temple believed to be 150 years old. The temple sits on state-owned land that was zoned for road construction in 1956. Approximately 300 worshippers regularly use the temple. In May 2006 the temple sought a court injunction against the pending demolition. The court case remained open as of June 30, 2006.

In family and religious matters, all Muslims are subject to Shari'a law. Some women's rights advocates asserted that women faced discriminatory treatment in Shari'a courts due to prejudicial interpretation of Islamic family law and the lack of uniformity in the implementation of such laws among the various states.

Government-controlled bodies exerted pressure upon non-Muslim women to wear headscarves. In November 2005 the minister of higher education stated that non-Muslim women students at the International Islamic University of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur must wear headscarves when attending lectures and during graduation ceremonies. In March 2006 the leader of the Royal Malaysian Police stated that all female police officers, including non-Muslims, should wear headscarves during public ceremonies.

Since the defeat of the PAS in Terengganu in March 2004 elections, state and local officials in that state have significantly reduced enforcement of dress codes for women. In Kelantan, the PAS also lost ground in 2004 but remained in control of the state legislature by a narrow margin. Many observers interpreted the result as a rejection by voters of the call by the PAS for the establishment of an Islamic state and of the strict form of Islam that it promoted. The PAS-led state government in Kelantan continued its ban on traditional Malay dance theaters, prohibited advertisements depicting women not fully covered by clothing, enforced wearing of headscarves by Muslim women, and imposed fines for violators during the reporting period. However, state authorities reversed several previously enacted Islamic law-related prohibitions. The PAS-led government allowed operation of gender segregated cinemas and concert venues, fashion shows limited to female attendees, and billiard/snooker centers for men only.

Abuses of Religious Freedom

According to the Government, no individuals were detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for religious reasons during the period covered by this report.

The Government is concerned that "deviationist" teachings could cause divisions among Muslims. Members of "deviationist" groups can be arrested and detained, with the consent of a Shari'a court, to be "rehabilitated" and returned to the "true path of Islam." In July 2004 the Federal Court dismissed an appeal by four followers of Ayah Pin, leader of a nonviolent religious group in Terengganu known as the Sky Kingdom. The appeal by the four former Muslims sought a statutory declaration that Sky Kingdom followers have the right to practice the religion of their choice. The Federal Court held that their attempt to renounce Islam did not free them from the jurisdiction of the state Shari'a court. In July 2005 seventy Sky Kingdom members were arrested at the sect's main compound in Terengganu. In August 2005 all nonresidential buildings on the compound were destroyed on the instruction of state officials, who asserted that nonfarming structures had been built on property zoned exclusively for agricultural use. The remaining individuals living on the compound were ordered to vacate their residences. No Shari'a law-qualified attorneys initially agreed to defend the Sky Kingdom followers, forcing postponement of their hearings. Ayah Pin and one of his four wives remained at large as of June 30, 2006, and were sought by religious authorities for supporting "deviant" religious practices. One of the seventy arrested Sky Kingdom followers agreed to undergo religious rehabilitation; the cases against the other Ayah Pin followers were pending at the end of the reporting period.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

The generally tolerant relationship among religious groups in society contributed to religious freedom.

Non-Muslim ecumenical and interfaith organizations in the country include the MCCBCHS, the Malaysian Council of Churches, and the Christian Federation of Malaysia. Muslim organizations generally do not participate in ecumenical bodies. In 2005 several Muslim NGOs boycotted and condemned the proposed formation of an interfaith council on the claimed grounds that "matters concerning Islam could only be discussed by Muslims."

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. government discusses religious freedom issues with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Embassy representatives maintained an active dialogue with leaders and representatives of various religious groups, including those not officially recognized by the Government. The embassy coordinated funding for a Fulbright scholar who addressed interfaith issues while in residence as a lecturer at a public university. The embassy sponsored visits by American Islamic scholars; it also funded civil society grants and exchange grants for representatives of NGOs working to promote greater religious tolerance, respect for diversity, and human rights and openness in the country.

Released by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor on September 15, 2006