Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Gandhi-inspired mass civil disobedience (Malaysiakini)

Yet again the Malaysian Government under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Malaysian police have embarassed MALAYSIA and Malaysians - by their display of intolerance and unreasonableness - and a blatant disrespect for human rights.

Their intolerance to peoples' rights of assembly and expression, and the use of unnecessary "violence" - in the form of tear gas and water cannons on ordinary un-armed non-violent Malaysians is SHAMEFUL. (Hopefully this time there will be no Minister or Human Rights Commissioner coming out and proclaiming that there was no violence on the part of the police)

It is said that about 400 persons have been arrested - another embarassment.

Who can now not say that the Malaysian government (and its police force) is not just like the Burmese government and its police force?

Malaysian government likes to campaign for PEACE and UNITY - and it is the peace of docile lambs that they want. It is the UNITY of wearing "Unity Bands" and singing "Unity Songs". But Malaysians are waking-up from their slumber and are no more FOOLS.

Now what we want is human rights and JUSTICE - and that is first. We want PEACE and UNITY but a peace and unity, which has as its foundation Justice and Human Rights and FREEDOM.


(tomorrow's papers - we wonder what it will say or maybe there will be no report about any protest in Kuala Lumpur...or maybe it will be in page 2_...)

A Gandhi-inspired mass civil disobedience
Andrew Ong
Nov 25, 07 5:38pm

Hindraf legal advisor P Uthayakumar, has declared the movement’s rally today “a success” despite not being able to hand a petition to the British High Commission.

In addressing one of the last large group of Hindraf supporters to disperse from the rally, Uthayakumar, who is Hindraf’s most recognisable face, said the Indians had succeeded in sending their message regardless of the status of the petition.

“Despite the police attempts to torture us, we still manage to gather peacefully as united Indians. We have succeeded, the police have failed,” he told a crowd of nearly 2,000 supporters who clap and cheered whenever he finished a sentence.

Tear gas and chemical-laced water were fired on Hindraf supporters who defied police orders to disperse from the banned rally for nearly six hours.

Crowds comprising of Indians from all over the country have gathered today in support of a class-action suit against the British government for bringing the Indians here as indentured labourers.

Many observers have noted that the petition part of a new movement aimed at empowering the Indian community - the third largest yet among the poorest ethnic groups in Malaysia – in giving a voice to their discontent.

Emulating Gandhi

Numerous Hindraf supporters wore saffron headband or T-shirts. Dozens more were wearing a portrait of Indian independence activist and pacifist, Mahatma Gandhi.

Like Gandhi, the Hindraf supporters were out to show mass civil disobedience and it was prominently shown by a crowd of almost 5,000 near the Hotel Maya at Jalan Ampang.

For at least five times, the crowd would run helter-skelter at each ‘water canon charge’, only to defiantly claim back their original positions, chanting “We want justice!” in both Tamil and English.

A Tamachelvy, from Klang, told Malaysiakini that she, along with her 60-year-old father, attended this rally after hearing about the spate of Hindu temple demolitions.

“We felt very hurt after watching VCDs about how the government would destroy our temples. We are Malaysians but our government treats us like foreigners,” she said.

Tamachelvy, like many other Hindraf supporters, said that the government ban on the rally was unjust, as they have limited means to collectively voice their grievances.

IGP: Police exercise restraint

Meanwhile, in some instances the police appeared to exercise their duties with obvious signs of restraint, when compared to the many past brutal crackdowns on public dissent.

At about 8am today, police issued repeated warnings to a group of roughly 2,000 Hindraf supporters who had gathered near Plaza Ampang along Jalan Tun Razak, a stone’s throw away from the British High Commission.

Each of these warnings went unheeded, resulting in the crowd being showered twice with water.

But when a third warning was ignored as well, the police fired streams of chemical-laced water at the protestors - many of them seated - before sending in plainclothes police personnel to arrest several dozen Hindraf supporters.

There were several reports of police personnel beating Hindraf supporters.

In addition, tear gas were liberally used by the police and often with prior warning given.

However, inspector-general of police Musa Hassan told Al Jazeera in a live telephone interview that the police had exercise restraint in controlling the crowd.

“We were restraining ourselves not to use force. There was no body contact,” said Musa, who was heavily rumoured to have overseen police operations in a helicopter.

More than 400 detained

It is believed that the police - a Muslim-Malay majority outfit - had intentionally restrained themselves to avoid turning the event into a racial clash.

Unlike previous demonstrations, media personnel also expressed appreciation over the police’s directive specifically for the media to get out of harm’s way when they take action.

According to the Bar Council team of observers, police detained more than 400 people during the rally today.

Lawyer Edmund Bon told Malaysiakini that more than 400 people are being detained at the Jalan Semarak police academy (Pulapol) while at estimated 69 others are detained at the Kuala Lumpur police contingent headquarters.

“(At about 3.30pm) they finally allowed us in at Pulapol to see the detainees. The police have promised to feed the detainees and release all of them this evening,” he said.

20,000 Hindraf protesters rally in KLCC (Malaysiakini)

I was in Sri Lanka a couple of years ago and witnessed a large protest rally - which was a procession not just a gathering in one location. It was an opposition protest, and the chants were against the then current government and the police. The police, unlike the Malaysian police, was present 'unarmed', with no water canons or tear gas, and they just stood peacefully by the side monitoring ensuring that all went well. Business operated as usual.

Several years ago, in South Korea, again I witnessed another massive protest and demonstration - and again the police were on the fringes - ready and waiting to get into the picture if maybe things started going wrong. Business went on as usual ....

The protest starts..ends....and all was peaceful....

In Malaysia, however, the problem is the police - who, by their very actions, cause traffic jams, get businesses to close down and violate the human rights and fundamental liberties of Malaysians.

Now, one thing about Malaysians, when they come out to protest, is that they behave very responsibly and in a peaceful manner

Most protests in Malaysia have been on Saturdays at about 3pm or on a Sunday or on a Public Holiday or during lunch-break - and that, by itself, shows a high level of maturity and a great sense of responsibility - Malaysians protest and strike during their "rest time" not during "working hours".

Malaysians also protest because they really have no other effective avenue of expression.

Letters to the Prime Ministers and/or Ministers and/or government departments generally do not even receive any response - not even a response that we have received your letter OR that we are looking into it.

Try to get it into the newspapers through letters to the editor, press releases, etc - and you find that it is never published.

Ask your member of Parliament or State Assemblyman to raise it - did I suggest that, oh no...just forget it (total waste of time most of the time..)

Let us take the fuel-hike protests - If you were to look at the Malaysian newspapers and other media, the impression that one will get is that Malaysians accepted the price increase (and all its consequences) and were happy and fine with it.

That is what disturbs people because it is so far from the truth - and that is why they come out to protest - because if you protest, it gets the attention of the government and its leaders (and it also gets the attention of the local and international media) - at least then (even with the risk of arrest, being sprayed by the water-cannons, being tear-gassed, being kicked and beaten-up...), I have had my opportunity to express myself and be heard.. That is why Malaysians finally protest.

The government goes out and tries to brainwash us into believing that protest and demonstrations are "EVIL", "BAD" - and is "NOT PART OF THE MALAYSIAN CULTURE" - which is all UN-TRUE - for it is universally accepted as being an essential and fundamental human right especially in a nation that claims to be a democracy.

HELLO Prime Minister and Malaysian Government - we do not want "Malaysian Cosmonaut", Malaysians climbing mountains, Highest Twin-Towers, etc - all we want is a JUST and FAIR government that is really democratic and allows for freedom of expression, assembly ...freedom of the media..


BERSIH PROTEST - all they wanted was a clean-up of the election mechanisms ( a good thing, is it not?)

HINDRAF PROTEST - was it not a protest
against Malaysia's former colonial power (BRITISH) for bringing Indians to Malaysia as indentured labourers and exploiting them for 150 years - not even against the Barisan National government.

(Of course, I will also place BLAME on the Barisan Nasional government who have failed all Malaysians (i.e. all Malaysian individuals and families) in allowing us to now have one of the largest gap between the rich and the poor in Asia. The 10% richest in Malaysia is about 22 times richer than the poorest 10%, and control about 35% of our wealth...Of course the government hides this fact by only looking at race/ethnic classes..and not individuals/families.

20,000 Hindraf protesters rally in KLCC
Nov 25, 07 10:22am

About 20,000 protesters demonstrated under the shadows of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Twin Towers after their efforts to petition the British High Commission was thwarted by the police with tear gas and chemical-laced water cannon.

The protesters had attempted to gather outside the high commission early this morning but thousands were pushed back by the riot police to outside a two-kilometre radius of the venue.

However, the protesters later joined another crowd in Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) which surged to between 10,000 and 15,000 by 9.30am.

The protesters – a mix of young and old Indian Malaysians from all parts of the country - were addressed with loudhailers by Hindraf leaders, including P Uttayakumar.

In an attempt to disperse the protesters, the police fired tear gas and chemical-laced water into the defiant crowd every 10 minutes. Undeterred, the crowd retreated and then surged forward each time.

At 10.30am, the Hindraf leaders ended their speeches. But thousands of protesters continue to mill around the KLCC areas playing a cat-and-mouse game with the police water cannon.

However at 11am, the crowd has moved from KLCC to edge closer to the British High Commission. Thousands are facing off riot police at the key Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak intersection near Ampang Park.

At 1pm, after negotiations with the police, Hindraf leader P Uttayakumar gave a short speech and urged the crowd to disperse peacefully. The crowd was seen walking back down towards Jalan Sultan Ismail, away from the British High Commission.

'This is outrageous'

Hindraf leader A Sivanesan condemned the police for turning Kuala Lumpur into a war zone.

"Things are getting out of hand. We blame the police. They have beaten women and children. This is outrageous," he told Malaysiakini.

Lawyer Haris Ibrahim, who led a 10-member Bar Council monitoring team, was stunned by the heavy-handed police action against the protesters.

"I'm not happy with the way the police are handling the crowd,' he said.

DAP member of parliament M Kulasegaran was also upset with the crackdown.

"Over the last 50 years Indian have been marginalised in this country. And we now want the same rights as enjoyed by other communities," he told AFP.

"They have no right to stop us from protesting today. This is the will of the people," he added.

Petition to Queen Elizabeth II

The planned protest is to support a US$14-trillion lawsuit by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) against Malaysia's former colonial power for bringing Indians to Malaysia as indentured labourers and exploiting them for 150 years.

Furthermore, the suit sought a declaration that the Reid Commission Report 1957 failed to incorporate the rights of the Indian community when independence was granted, resulting in discrimination and marginalisation to this day.

The quantum being sought is about US$2 million for every Indian currently residing in Malaysia.

Following the filing of the suit, Hindraf held nationwide roadshows explaining to grassroots about the case.

Coupled with their work to prevent rampant state-sanctioned demolition of Hindu temples, Hindraf won over a wave of support for their cause.

Today's memorandum was to petition Queen Elizabeth II to appoint a Queen's counsel to argue the case on their behalf.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Rela to manage detention depots

It is sad that the Malaysian government, despite protests from various quarters calling for the abolition of RELA, a Volunteer-Corp, is proceeding to continue to use these volunteers. Allowances are paid to these volunteers.

And now they are to manage detention centres -- and they will be "..paid allowances to work full-time in shifts...". YES, they will still be volunteers being paid allowances.

Who then can work "full-time in shiftc"? And the answer can only be the unemployed in our community.

Rather than increasing the number of full-time professionally trained public officers, with regular salaries and other labour protetions, including pension rights - the Malaysian government is probably using RELA as a means to provide 'the unemployed' in the country temporary work and some financial relief... and this is very wrong.

Friday November 23, 2007

Rela to manage detention depots

PUTRAJAYA: Rela members will be trained to take over the full-time running of the country’s 14 immigration depots by the end of this year.

The Cabinet made this decision recently to give Rela control of all these detention centres, which currently house some 11,000 illegal immigrants.

Rela is a voluntary corps under the Home Affairs Ministry and is governed by the Emergency (Stipulated Powers) Act 1964.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said it would take about two years to train his ministry staff to run these immigration centres.

“So, for the time being, Rela members will be put in charge of these centres.

“They will be trained in aspects of crowd control, how to escort illegal immigrants and maintaining records, among others,” he told reporters at his office here yesterday.

Radzi added that Rela was already in charge of running two centres; one at the KL International Airport and the other at Pasir Gudang, Johor.

“And they are doing well there,” he said, adding that each centre run by Rela would have 20 to 30 of its members managing it.

They will be paid allowances to work full-time in shifts and members will be sourced from areas in the vicinity of the detention centres.

For instance, said Radzi, Rela members living around the depot in Lenggeng (in Negri Sembilan) will be given the opportunity to work there.

He said the running of the depots before this by the staff of the Prisons Department (which comes under the purview of the Internal Security Ministry) had made it difficult for Rela members to catch, detain and deport illegal immigrants.

This, in turn, had contributed to the overcrowding at the depots, he said.

So far this year, Rela had detained 30,332 foreigners for not having travel documents and had screened 156,070 others.

Radzi said Rela members carried out 30 to 40 raids a night, adding that the Cabinet had approved RM26mil to build two more detention centres and to expand an existing one to resolve the overcrowding problem.

Rela to manage detention depots

This is ridiculous - because RELA is a "voluntary corps" - they are not full-time public servants.

There is been great amount of criticisms about the RELA - and there are strong calls to disband RELA and/also to strip it of its powers. The Malaysian Bar in 2007 passed a resolution calling for the end of RELA..

Now the management of the immigration detention depots was transferred to the Prisons Department because of the experience and professional qualifications in managing prisons and detention centres - and this was done because there were complaints about the way the detention centres were being managed before. The Prisons Department, from what I know, have been doing a fine job so far.

Now, the government wants to transfer the management of these detention centres to the RELA and the reason for this is because when under the Prisons Department, it "made it difficult for Rela members to catch, detain and deport illegal immigrants. " Now, what happened to the Immigration Department - were they not the ones concerned and responsible about "illegal immigrants", immigration affairs and deportation. It looks like now, it is the RELA.

The government, rather than resolving the problem of inadequate number of immigration enforcement personnel by employing MORE public servants - is trying to possibly save money by using "volunteers" - who need to be given a mere allowance (and the government is saved the social responsibilities that it has to a permanent employee - which would include social security, employee's provident fund, etc...). Is this why RELA is being used?

Shocking that 2 immigration detention centers are already being managed by RELA...

I PROTEST - the immigration depot should be managed by the Prisons Department (or the Immigration Department) - definitely not the RELA.

Rela to manage detention depots

Friday, 23 November 2007, 08:33am

©The Star

PUTRAJAYA: Rela members will be trained to take over the full-time running of the country’s 14 immigration depots by the end of this year.

The Cabinet made this decision recently to give Rela control of all these detention centres, which currently house some 11,000 illegal immigrants.

Rela is a voluntary corps under the Home Affairs Ministry and is governed by the Emergency (Stipulated Powers) Act 1964.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said it would take about two years to train his ministry staff to run these immigration centres.

“So, for the time being, Rela members will be put in charge of these centres.

“They will be trained in aspects of crowd control, how to escort illegal immigrants and maintaining records, among others,” he told reporters at his office here yesterday.

Radzi added that Rela was already in charge of running two centres; one at the KL International Airport and the other at Pasir Gudang, Johor.

“And they are doing well there,” he said, adding that each centre run by Rela would have 20 to 30 of its members managing it.

They will be paid allowances to work full-time in shifts and members will be sourced from areas in the vicinity of the detention centres.

For instance, said Radzi, Rela members living around the depot in Lenggeng (in Negri Sembilan) will be given the opportunity to work there.

He said the running of the depots before this by the staff of the Prisons Department (which comes under the purview of the Internal Security Ministry) had made it difficult for Rela members to catch, detain and deport illegal immigrants.

This, in turn, had contributed to the overcrowding at the depots, he said.

So far this year, Rela had detained 30,332 foreigners for not having travel documents and had screened 156,070 others.

Radzi said Rela members carried out 30 to 40 raids a night, adding that the Cabinet had approved RM26mil to build two more detention centres and to expand an existing one to resolve the overcrowding problem.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

ASEAN Leaders Sign ASEAN Charter - The Official Media Release by ASEAN

Well, one development can be that if consensus cannot be achieved the matter can be referred to the ASEAN Summit (happens 2 times a year) for a decision. Maybe, after this there will be an ASEAN position on Burma, the happenings in Southern Thailand, etc...

Before this, the biggest FLAW in ASEAN was that the decision making is by way of consensus - and as such even when there is a gross human rights violations in one of the member states of ASEAN, there can never be a consensus and as such ASEAN cannot make a stance or take a position.

Likewise, when it comes to trade agreements, like the WTO - ASEAN could not take a collective position. Now, it is permissible for "ASEAN minus X" but that also depends on consensus. Will it work. To be an effective regional grouping - it must be able to also act as such where it matters.

Interestingly, the signing of the ASEAN Charter by the ASEAN leaders of the 10 ASEAN member states will not bring the Charter into force --- (only a P.R. exercise after all ????) -- it comes into force only after all ten(10) member state sign and submit their "instrument of ratification". ........

"After its signing, the Charter will have to be ratified (or formally accepted to be bound) in every Member State.

It will come into force on the 30th day after the deposit of the tenth instrument of ratification (or instrument of acceptance) with the Secretary-General of ASEAN."

Media Release

ASEAN Leaders Sign ASEAN Charter

Singapore, 20 November 2007

The ASEAN Charter was signed today, 20 November 2007, by the Leaders of the 10 ASEAN Member States at the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore. It comes as ASEAN celebrates its 40th anniversary of its founding in 1967.


For the first time after 40 years of regional cooperation, ASEAN Member States have codified organic Southeast Asian diplomacy, listed key principles and purposes of ASEAN.

The Charter represents a momentous occasion for ASEAN Member States to reiterate their commitment to community-building in ASEAN, as can be seen in the Preamble, and to reposition ASEAN to better meet challenges of the 21st century with new and improved ASEAN structure, as shown in Chapter IV.

ASEAN Secretary-General Ong Keng Yong says that “the ASEAN Charter will serve the organisation well in three interrelated ways, such as, formally accord ASEAN legal personality, establish greater institutional accountability and compliance system, and reinforce the perception of ASEAN as a serious regional player in the future of the Asia Pacific region”.


The ASEAN Charter is, therefore, an historic agreement among the ten Member States to establish the legal and institutional framework for ASEAN as the premier inter-governmental organization of the region.

There are 13 Chapters, 55 Articles, and 4 annexes in the ASEAN Charter.

It was drafted by the High Level Task Force on the Drafting of the ASEAN Charter, consisting of one representative from each of the 10 Member States.

After its signing, the Charter will have to be ratified (or formally accepted to be bound) in every Member State.

It will come into force on the 30th day after the deposit of the tenth instrument of ratification (or instrument of acceptance) with the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

After that, the Charter will be registered with the Secretariat of the United Nations.


ASEAN is moving from being State-centric to be more people-oriented. At least 10 of the 15 stated purposes of ASEAN in Chapter I concern the livelihood and well-being of peoples in ASEAN.


Adherence to democratic values, and respects for human rights and fundamental freedoms are stipulated in three separate places in the Charter : the Preamble, the Purposes, and the Principles.

This is to emphasize that all ASEAN Member States share the same aspiration and common desire to promote democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms, rule of law, and good governance.

ASEAN Human Rights Body

The Charter calls for the establishment of an ASEAN human rights body as a new organ of ASEAN. This is a new and important commitment in ASEAN as far as promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples in ASEAN are concerned.

The terms of reference for the ASEAN human rights body shall be determined by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.


The Charter includes these two among the key principles of ASEAN : “shared commitment and collective responsibility in enhancing regional peace, security and prosperity“ and “enhanced consultations on matters seriously affecting the common interest of ASEAN”.


In Chapter II, ASEAN Member States confer on ASEAN a legal personality, which is separate from theirs.

Details of what ASEAN can or cannot do with its legal personality will be discussed and stated in a supplementary protocol after the signing of the Charter.


The membership criteria are stated in Chapter III, Article 6.


There are interesting institutional changes that the ASEAN Charter will bring about include. See details in the attachment.

Essentially, the improved structure will enable ASEAN to improve coordination, ensure prompt implementation of decisions and agreements, and speedy response to new opportunities and challenges.

Important changes include :

  • Convening ASEAN Summit twice a year, instead of once a year
  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers to serve as the ASEAN Coordinating Council
  • Single Chairmanship for key high-level ASEAN bodies
  • Appointment of Member States’ Permanent Representatives to ASEAN, to form a Committee of Permanent Representatives, in Jakarta
  • Establishment of an ASEAN human rights body


Chapter V of the Charter concerns engagement with entities associated with ASEAN. Five categories of these entities are listed in Annex 2. First on the list is the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), which is the key partner in government of ASEAN.

The Secretary-General of ASEAN is in charge of updating the list, upon the recommendation of the Committee of Permanent Representatives in Jakarta.


The Charter reaffirms as “a basic principle” decision-making in ASEAN by consultation and consensus.

Where consensus cannot be achieved, the ASEAN Summit may decide on how a specific decision can be made.

If there is a serious breach of the Charter or non-compliance, the matter will be referred to the ASEAN Summit for decision.


The Charter permits flexible participation in the implementation of economic commitments in ASEAN, including the use of the ASEAN Minus X formula where there is a consensus to do so.

Under the ASEAN Minus X formula, a Member State may opt out from certain economic schemes that it is not yet ready to participate, although it has taken part in determining and approving such economic schemes in the first place.


ASEAN may establish new dispute settlement mechanisms where necessary.

Disputes in the ASEAN Economic Community may be referred to the 2004 ASEAN Protocol on Enhanced Dispute Settlement Mechanism for some solution.

The ASEAN Chairman and the Secretary-General of ASEAN can be requested to provide good offices, conciliation or mediation in a dispute. This is a new initiative in ASEAN.

Unresolved disputes shall be referred to the ASEAN Summit for its decision.


Chair of the ASEAN Summit will be the same Chair of other key ASEAN bodies, including the three Community Councils, the ASEAN Coordinating Council, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM), as well as their respective Senior Officials Meetings (SOMs), and also the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN, to be established in Jakarta.

It is possible that the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) may also be included under the Single ASEAN Chairmanship.

The ASEAN Chairmanship will start on 1 January and end on 31 December.


The Charter reaffirms that English is the working language of ASEAN.

(This is one of the few things that ASEAN has outdone the European Union, where every official EU document must be written in at least three languages.)


Under Chapter XI, the following will add to the creation of ASEAN identity:

  • ASEAN Motto : “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”
  • ASEAN flag
  • ASEAN emblem
  • ASEAN Day : 8 August
  • ASEAN anthem (there shall be one)

(Two more things that ASEAN has outdone the EU : ASEAN will have the motto and anthem; whereas the EU has already abandoned its earlier plan to adopt “United in Diversity” as the European motto, and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy as the European anthem.)


States that are Dialogue Partners of ASEAN and relevant inter-governmental organizations, such as the EU, may appoint and accredit Ambassadors to ASEAN. But there is no Jakarta residency requirement for these Ambassadors to ASEAN.


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok by the five founding Member States, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam joined on 8 January 1984, Viet Nam on 28 July 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar on 23 July 1997, and Cambodia on 30 April 1999.
The ASEAN region has a population of about 567.5 million, a total area of 4.5 million square kilometres, a combined gross domestic product of over US$1 trillion, and a total foreign trade of over US$ 1.4 trillion.

The ASEAN Secretariat is in Jakarta. It was established in 1976, 10 years after the organization was founded.

Its homepage is at

The five-year term of the incumbent Secretary-General of ASEAN, H.E. Ong Keng Yong from Singapore, will end on 31 December 2007. He will be succeeded by H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, a former Foreign Minister of Thailand.

Interesting Changes to the ASEAN Institutional Framework

The ASEAN Charter will introduce the following institutional changes to ASEAN:

  • ASEAN will, for the first time after 40 years of existence, be conferred with a legal personality of an Inter-Governmental Organization. Details will have to be worked out in a supplementary protocol.
  • ASEAN Leaders shall meet (at least) twice a year : one among themselves to focus on ASEAN Community affairs; the other (the usual one) will include meetings with Dialogue Partners in ASEAN+1 (with China, Japan, RoK, India), ASEAN+3, and EAS.
  • Three ASEAN Community Councils shall be established
    • ASEAN Political and Security Community (APSC) Council [with 5 Sectoral Ministerial Bodies]
    • ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Council [12 ]
    • ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) Council [12 ]
  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers will form the ASEAN Coordinating Council (ACC) to assist ASEAN Leaders in preparing for Summits, with support from SG and ASEC.

    • The ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM of Foreign Ministers) will be renamed as “ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting” and will be one of the four Sectoral Ministerial Bodies of the APSC Council.
    • They will continue to participate in the ARF.
    • And they will also be Members of the SEANWFZ Commission (SEANWFZ is the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone. The Treaty on SEANWFZ was signed in Bangkok on 15 December 1995.)
  • Single ASEAN Chairmanship
    • Chair of the ASEAN Summit will be the same Chair of other key ASEAN bodies, including the three Community Councils, the ACC, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM), as well as their respective Senior Officials Meetings (SOMs), and also the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN [to be established in Jakarta].
    • The ASEAN Chairmanship will start on 1 January and end on 31 December.It is possible that the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting (AEM) may also be included under the Single ASEAN Chairmanship.
  • Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN
    • Each Member State shall appoint a Permanent Representative to ASEAN (ASEAN PR), who will reside in Jakarta.
    • Collectively the ASEAN PRs shall form the Committee of Permanent Representatives.
    • Essentially the new Committee will take over many of the regional functions of the ASEAN Standing Committee (ASC), including external relations, supervising the ASEAN Secretariat, etc.
    • Dialogue Partners and “relevant inter-governmental organizations” may appoint and accredit Ambassadors to ASEAN (but no residency requirement).
      Article 46 reads :
      “Non-ASEAN Member States and relevant inter-governmental organisations may appoint and accredit Ambassadors to ASEAN. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting shall decide on such accreditation.”
  • ASEAN human rights body
    • It will be a new organ of ASEAN.
    • The TOR will have to be formulated after the signing of the Charter, and approved by the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting.
  • ASEAN Foundation
    • The ASEAN Foundation, which is located in Jakarta, will be accountable to the Secretary-General of ASEAN. (It used to be directly supervised by the Board of Trustees, consisting mainly of ASEAN Ambassadors to Indonesia in Jakarta.)
  • ASEAN Committees in Third Countries and International Organisations
    • The important role of the ACTC is reaffirmed in Article 43 of Chapter XII : External Relations.
  • ASEAN National Secretariats
    • Article 13 of Chapter IV reaffirms the role of the ASEAN National Secretariats in serving as “the national focal Point”.
  • Decision-Making will continue to be based principally on consultation and consensus (Article 20, Chapter VII: Decision-Making)

    “1. As a basic principle, decision-making in ASEAN shall be based on consultation and consensus.”
    “2. Where consensus cannot be achieved, the ASEAN Summit may decide how a specific decision can be made.”
    “3. Nothing in paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article shall affect the modes of decision-making as contained in the relevant ASEAN legal instruments.”
    “4. In the case of a serious breach of the Charter or non-compliance, the matter shall be referred to the ASEAN Summit for decision.”

  • As advised by the ASEAN Economic Ministers, flexible participation is permissible under Article 21: Implementation and Procedure, Paragraph 2, which reads:

    “2. In the implementation of economic commitments, a formula for flexible participation, including the ASEAN Minus X formula, may be applied where there is a consensus to do so.”

  • English is reaffirmed as the working language of ASEAN in Article 34, Chapter X : Administration and Procedure.
  • Under Chapter XI, the following will add to the creation of ASEAN identity:
    • ASEAN Motto : “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”
    • ASEAN flag
    • ASEAN emblem
    • ASEAN Day : 8 August
    • ASEAN anthem (there shall be one)
  • Enhanced Mandate and Role of the Secretary-General of ASEAN
    The Secretary-General of ASEAN will have enhanced mandate and role in :
    • Monitoring progress of implementation of Summit decisions and ASEAN agreements;
    • Ensuring compliance with economic commitments, especially those in the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint;
    • Reporting to the ASEAN Summit on important issues requiring decision by ASEA N Leaders;
    • Interpreting the ASEAN Charter if and when requested;
    • Interacting with Entities Associated with ASEAN;
    • Representing ASEAN’s views in meetings with external parties;
    • Advancing the interest of ASEAN and its legal personality.
  • 4 Deputy Secretaries-General (DSGs)
    • 2 DSGs from the usual national nomination under the alphabetical order, serving a one 3-year term.
    • 2 other DSGs from open recruitment, whose 3-year term may be renewed by another 3-year.
    • However, these 4 DSGs and the SG will have to come from 5 different Member States – to ensure equitable distribution of the senior posts.
    • Each of the three ASEAN Community Councils will be served by one of the DSGs.
    • The fourth DSG may concentrate on ASEC affairs and narrowing the development gap among ASEAN Member States.
  • No change to the equal sharing of the contribution to the annual operating budget of the ASEAN Secretariat.
    • In the current financial year, ASEC has been given US$9.05 million. Thus each Member State contributes US$905,000 to the budget.
    • The ASEAN Secretariat staff now consists of SG, 2 DSGs (from Cambodia and Indonesia—Lao PDR and Myanmar are next in line to nominate theirs), 60 openly-recruited staff from 9 Member States (none from Brunei Darussalam), and about 200 support staff (almost all are Indonesians).

Asean rights pact 'ignores migrant workers'

Asean rights pact 'ignores migrant workers'
Nov 22, 07 1:00pm

Migrant rights groups in Southeast Asia have slammed Asean leaders for signing a charter that ignores the issue of migrant workers.

The charter establishes the regional bloc as a rules-based legal entity, creates a single market and production base, and allows for the free flow of business persons, professionals, talents and labour.

Yet, there is “not one word” that recognises the contributions of migrant workers towards the economic development of member-states, and neither are there provisions for the protection and promotion of their rights and welfare, said the groups in separate statements.

“The Asean charter is not an instrument to achieve justice and equality for migrant workers,” said Migrant Care coordinator (Malaysia) Alex Ong in a statement jointly signed by Jakarta-based executive director Anis Hidayah and policy analyst Wahyu Susilo.

As such, Asean has failed to deliver its mandate as an organisation that purports to represent the people of Southeast Asia, Ong added.

Asean leaders signed the charter and unveiled it earlier this week despite protests by civil society organisations, who decried the lack of transparency and consultation over the document and the ‘toothlessness’ of its human rights provisions.

Kuala Lumpur-based Caram Asia noted that Asean is a mix of sending and receiving countries for about 5 million migrant workers - most of whom are from Asean countries - who have contributed to the region’s economic progress and prosperity.

These are “the very people who built the foundation of economic development and helped cushion lower production costs for countries to remain economically competitive,” it said in a statement.

‘Secondary citizens’

There are, for instance, about 3 million migrant workers (both documented and undocumented) in Malaysia who constitute over 20 percent of the work force.

Filipinos, furthermore, contribute significantly to poverty eradication in the Philippines by remitting 13 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

“Yet, the supposedly ‘people-oriented Asean’ does not make mention of the protection for migrant workers rights,” said Caram Asia.

“Despite clear promises toward community-building espoused in the charter, the process has in effect marginalised Asean citizens, more so vulnerable groups such as migrant workers.”

While labour is written only in the charter as a condition for Asean’s ‘single market’ and speaks of facilitating the flow of movement, it does not cover mechanisms to manage migration flows and does not address the realities of trans-border migration issues.

“Often treated as secondary citizens in foreign countries, migrant workers are most vulnerable to human rights abuses. Major receiving countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have countless reported cases of abuse of migrant workers,” said Caram Asia.

“(We urge) the new rules-based Asean to strengthen its commitment towards upholding social justice for the people of Asean, including migrant communities.”

Expediting remand cases (The Star)

This means that about 13,960 innocent persons are languishing in jail/prison - WHY Innocent - because everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Remand prisoners are those whose trial may not have begun, in the middle of their trial ---- but in all cases these are persons that have not been found guilty by a court of law and sentenced yet.

Most of these persons are poor persons - i.e. those who do not have a surety capable of raising the bail sum - and sometimes the bail sum could be only RM1,000 or RM2,000.

It is the cases of these persons that must be made PRIORITY - and should be disposed off soonest - definitely before SIX(6) MONTHS. How many have languished months(even years) in remand prison - only be later found to be innocent by a court of law and released. It is a sad state of affairs and the government must do something about this.

Expediting remand cases
Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 November 2007, 07:24am

Datuk Fu Ah KiowOsama freed

©The Star

THE Internal Security Ministry is working closely with the Attorney-General’s Chambers and courts to expedite the 13,880 remand cases or 34.2% of the total number of prisoners in the country.

Deputy Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow told Datuk Raja Ahmad Zainuddin Raja Omar (BN-Larut) that foreign prisoners could not be jailed in their home countries.

“This is because the foreign governments refused to accept them, and we cannot allow these prisoners to think that they can be sent back and be freed without being punished here first,” he added.

Fu said the prisons were now holding 40,821 prisoners, or 30% more than the ideal capacity of around 31,200 people.

In addition, 5,669 illegal immigrants were being held in 11 detention depots managed by the Prisons Department, he said.

Among the steps taken to settle the problem of overcrowding in prisons are increasing the capacity of existing prisons and constructing 16 more under the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

“The ministry hopes that the new prisons will be able to house 15,400 more prisoners by 2010.

“The Johor government has agreed to the reopening of the Johor Baru prison on Jan 1 next year, which will house about 1,000 remand prisoners,” he told Datuk Seri Mohd Salleh Tun Said (BN-Kota Belud).

Fu said the introduction of the parole system, which requires prisoners to do social services activities, would help to reduce overcrowding.

Renouncing citizenship: Chinese top the list (Malaysiakini)

Now the question that we must ask is WHY did they renounce their MALAYSIAN citizenship? The other interesting point is why over 1,000 Malays have also renounced their citizenship? Maybe it was just migrating to "greener pastures" - or maybe it was marriage, etc. I wonder whether the answers given by the government were "guesses" or really the answers given by those who renounced their citizenships.

Renouncing citizenship: Chinese top the list
Yoges Palaniappan
Nov 21, 07 2:14pm

Chinese Malaysians record the highest number of those who have renounced their citizenship, followed by the Malays and Indians, the Dewan Rakyat was told today.

The Home Ministry's parliamentary secretary, Abdul Rahman Ibrahim, said 14,316 Chinese (87%) have surrendered their citizenship, compared to 1,098 Malays (6.6%), 822 Indians (5%) and 238 (1.4%) others from 2000 to 2006.

He also explained that 106,000 people have renounced citizenship since Independence in 1957.

Abdul Rahman said these Malaysians had applied for citizenship to India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Japan, Canada and Indonesia.

"(Others) have applied to the UK and US, Taiwan, Thailand, Germany, New Zealand, France, Austria, Ireland, Sweden, Belgium, Brunei, Finland and Jordan," he said.

Living condition

As to why so many Malaysians have opted to leave for other countries, he replied: "The main reason is the (quality of life) in those countries."

"They also consider the working environment, such as better opportunities and better pay. And some consider education for their children as a reason to apply for a citizenship in a particular country," he said.

Abdul Rahman was replying Mohamed Aziz (BN-Sri Gading) who asked for a breakdown of the figures according to race and the country of destination.

On a related matter, Abdul Rahman said the government takes into consideration three things before stripping a person of citizenship.

"Firstly, we see if the person holds citizenship in another country. Secondly, we see if the person has voted in that country's elections. And lastly, we (check) if the person holds a foreign passport," he said.

He explained that revoking citizenship can be implemented under Article 24(2) and 3(a) of the Federal Constitution.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rights lawyer: KL lockdown illegal

Rights lawyer: KL lockdown illegal
Andrew Ong
Nov 14, 07 11:47am

Police acted illegally when they locked down Kuala Lumpur ahead of the massive Bersih rally last Saturday, claimed human rights lawyer N Surendren.

He cited reports that police had turned away certain vehicles from the city centre prior to the rally, and described this as a violation of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of movement.

“The police can only restrict the movement of citizens if we are under Emergency rule. The question I would like to pose to the police is: Are we under martial law?” he said.

Surendren said the police must invoke specific laws in order to claim specific powers to curb the movement of people.

“Those motorists had yet to commit any offence. So what business did the police have in turning them away from the city?” he asked.

On media reports that the police had also seized rally-related paraphernalia such as yellow T-shirts, bandanas and posters from those screened at road-blocks, he said the police were not allowed to do so because these were not hazardous items like weapons or drugs.

Surendren said the police have yet to show reasonable cause in erecting so many check-points around the city, which created traffic snarls.

“Not a single weapon was found during the road blocks. There was no reasonable cause,” he added.

Preventive detention

According to a New Straits Times report on Monday, Kuala Lumpur CID chief Ku Chin Wah said 192 individuals had been detained while trying to enter the city on Friday.

The report adds that seven buses from the East Coast were stopped after the police found yellow T-shirts and bandanas in the vehicles.

Contacted for clarification yesterday, Ku said the police took action against the 192 under Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code which allows arrests to prevent ‘seizable offences’.

The law states that a police officer may arrest, without a warrant, any individual who the officer thinks could commit a crime.

The 192 individuals were among the 245 detained before and during the rally.

Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan had defended the police move to screen vehicles entering the city on Saturday.

"We needed to filter any undesirable elements and check for weapons and arms... We had no choice as public safety was paramount,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.

He also said all those detained had been released but may be charged for participating in an illegal assembly.

BERSIH Gathering: Police blockades and use of force unnecessary

Malaysian Bar Council

No. 13, 15 & 17, Leboh Pasar Besar, 50050 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel: 03-2031 3003 (Hunting Line) Fax: 03-2034 2825, 2026 1313, 2072 5818


BERSIH Gathering: Police blockades and use of force unnecessary

The Bar Council sent a team of 40 lawyers to monitor the BERSIH gathering on 10 November 2007.

The gathering despite being attended by tens of thousands, was disciplined and peaceful contrary to recent statements by Ministers and the Inspector-General of Police. It proves once again that Malaysian citizens are rational and responsible people capable of exercising their rights of expression and assembly with mature restraint.

There were nevertheless several worrying features in the conduct of the police:

  1. The large number of police personnel deployed to man blockades, to inspect and detain vehicles and persons, and further to prevent persons from entering the city to join the gathering was unreasonable. It was also a disproportionate use of resources which could have been channeled to other initiatives of crime-fighting.

  2. The barricades around Dataran Merdeka with heavy police and FRU personnel aimed at prohibiting persons from entering the square forced large groups of people to be concentrated in the immediate vicinity of the square such as Central Market and Masjid Jamek. This caused more inconvenience to those who did not wish to be at the gathering, and strengthened the spirit of those who did.

  3. The use of force around the areas of Masjid Jamek, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and Jalan Raja Laut to disperse unarmed and non-provocative crowds without prior warning was unnecessary. Deploying physical aggression and violence, and spraying chemically-laced water and tear gas are measures of last resort, not of first instance. As a result, it was unfortunate that several people were injured and many others including bystanders hurt by the chemicals in the water and gas. It is noteworthy that the authorities initiated physical force on the crowds, and caused blockades and 'stand-offs' on the roads to prevent anyone from walking to Dataran Merdeka on to Istana Negara. Unsurprisingly however, and due to the sheer numbers of participants, the majority if not all of them found their way by different routes to the Istana Negara road.

  4. The deployment of several police helicopters flying very low to the ground was extremely dangerous in addition to being provocative and a form of intimidation. Further, the noise the helicopters created interrupted essential communications for those who were at the gathering and the authorities on the ground.

  5. Despite the recent introduction of section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code, the police refused to give the Bar's Urgent Arrest Lawyers Team access to those who were arrested and detained. No accurate and adequate information on the detainees and their grounds of arrest was forthcoming. Our lawyers had to force their way into the police station to seek further information. A police report has been lodged, and the Bar Council trusts the police will investigate the complaint immediately.

    At about 11.00pm on 10 November 2007, 34 persons were arrested and released in separate batches. There were several who needed medical treatment and were sent to the hospital by our lawyers.

The Bar Council reiterates its position that citizens must be allowed the right to peacefully assemble in exercising their democratic and fundamental human right. We urge the authorities to facilitate this fundamental right of freedom of expression and assembly.

The BERSIH gathering is clear evidence (a) that attempts to block assemblies would create greater unintended chaos than had the same be facilitated to proceed expeditiously and (b) that large yet peaceful gatherings may be organised in our country without the necessity of obtaining permits from the police. This requirement in section 27 of the Police Act 1967 that permits must be given before an assembly may be held must be repealed immediately.

Ambiga Sreenevasan
Malaysian Bar

12 November 2007

Migrant workers contributed RM1.9 bil

Migrant workers contributed RM1.9 bil
Yoges Palaniappan
Nov 1, 07 6:13pm

The government has collected RM1.9 billion in levy and other fees from immigrant workers last year, Parliament was told today.

Home Ministry parliamentary secretary Abdul Rahman Ibrahim said that the amount was collected in forms of levy, temporary working pass, and visa.

Abdul Rahman (BN-Pokok Sena) was replying a query from Mohd Zaid Ibrahim (BN-Kota Baru) who asked the Home Ministry to state the amount of levy and other fees collected from immigrant workers yearly.

Abdul Rahman said that in 2005, the government collected RM1.7 billion, whereas, as of August this year, the amount collected is RM1.5 billion.

Menial jobs

He explained that it does not come as a surprise that Malaysia, as a more developed nation among the poor and underdeveloped neighbouring countries, attracts foreign workers.

"Malaysians are not interested to do dirty, dangerous and difficult jobs. Also, they have many choices of the jobs they want to do. So we need foreign workers to work in our farms and plantations," Abdul Rahman explained.

However, he denied that the government has allowed many foreign workers in the country to collect more money from levy and other fees.

He said that the government's initiatives to promote Malaysia as an education and tourism hub was also a reason for the influx of foreigners into the country.

"We only have two million registered foreign workers. Many more are interested to work here but they are not allowed entry to this country," he said.

On the other hand, he added, students who come into the country with student visas and tourists who are granted visa on arrival are working here.

Regular inspections

In a separate development, the domestic trade and consumer affairs minister said it has taken several steps to control the price increase of essential food products.

In a written reply, Shafie Apdal said that his ministry has increased inspections on wholesalers, distributors and grocerers in the country.

"The inspections are done regularly so that businessmen would not increase the price of essential products," he said.

Shafie added that his ministry has also controlled the price of several essential items during the festive seasons.

Shafie was responding to Karpal Singh (DAP-Bukit Gelugor) who asked the minister to state the steps taken to halt the increase in prices of essential food commodities.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bersih slams gov't over rally crackdown

Bersih slams gov't over rally crackdown
Nov 12, 07 9:22am

Opposition and human rights groups condemned authorities for attempting to suppress the biggest political rally in a decade with tear gas, water cannons and arrests.

The Bersih organisers also said that at least seven people were beaten and kicked by police and that some needed hospital treatment including one man whose leg was broken.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had vowed to shut down Saturday's rally, held to campaign for electoral reforms as the nation heads for polls expected to be held early next year.

Police locked down the centre of Kuala Lumpur, throwing up roadblocks, searching vehicles and shutting demonstrators out of Dataran Merdeka where they had planned to gather.

Despite the tactics and the use of tear gas and water cannons at one of the rallying points, 40,000 protesters marched to the royal palace where they were briefly addressed by dissident former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

"Malaysians have spoken loud and clear," said parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang (right), part of an alliance of political parties and civil society groups which mounted the rally.

Lim ridiculed the police chief for claiming that only 4,000 people attended the rally and criticised the government for what he said was an order to the media not to cover the event.

"No newspaper dared to publish photographs of the mammoth peaceful gathering, which was a tribute to Malaysians for their love of peace and commitment to democracy," he said.

Sunday's newspapers instead ran photos of the traffic jams that the roadblocks generated.

"Abdullah should honour his pledge when he became prime minister four years ago to listen to the truth from the people, however unpleasant, and to introduce institutional reforms for justice and democracy," Lim said.

Police bloated number of arrests

Leading human rights group Suaram said that up to 40 people were arrested, far from the figure of 245 given by police.

"They are trying to portray an image of the gathering being unruly and chaotic and that's why they had to arrest 245 people, which is not true at all," said Suaram executive director Yap Swee Seng (right).

"Seven people were injured by the police and one suffered a severe injury," he added. "One person said he was handcuffed and had already fallen to the ground when he was kicked in the head."

Protests are rare in Malaysia, and the last major rallies were seen in 1998 during the "Reformasi" or "Reform" movement that erupted when Anwar was sacked and thrown in jail on sodomy and corruption charges.

The sodomy conviction has been overturned but the corruption verdict stands, barring him from standing for public office until April 2008.

Bersih, a coalition of 70 political parties and NGOs, is calling for a reform of the electoral process including a review of the electoral roll, curbs on postal voting, which they say is being abused, and equal access to state media for all competing parties.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Journalists attacked by riot police (Malaysiakini)

Journalists attacked by riot police
Chua Sue-Ann
Nov 10, 07 8:21pm

A number of journalists covering poll reform group Bersih rally today were kicked and beaten by riot police as they sought to disperse protesters at the Masjid Jamek area.

Chaos erupted at around 2.30pm as riot police fired a torrent of chemical-laced water and discharged a volley of tear gas canisters at more than 2,000 people.

In the melee, members of the press, both local and foreign, were not spared.
A female journalist, who declined to be named, said she was hit with a baton by a police officer who was trying to drive away the crowd.

“He hit... my buttocks and he was telling me ‘Go, go, go, like I’m some donkey’,” she decried.

Another journalist, who also requested anonymity, reported being kicked twice by the police - on his back and his thigh.

He ticked off the authorities for using “unnecessary force” against the journalists. “I’m surprised at the brutality of the police.”

The duo were among five journalists who were standing behind police lines before they were suddenly assaulted by about 10 police officers.

One of them, a female journalist from a local newspaper, was injured by the beatings. A policeman kicked her neck as she lay on the ground, refusing to stop despite pleas from the other press members.

CPO not aware of violence

It is also claimed that Federal Reserve Unit officers attacked a Swedish journalist with their shields, while two others are said to have received injuries as a result of being targets of a tear gas canister and the water cannon.

Kuala Lumpur chief police officer Zulhasnan Najib Baharuddin, when contacted by Malaysiakini, denied knowledge of police violence against journalists.

“Are there reports? It has not been brought to my attention,” he said.

The Bersih rally calling for clean and fair elections has attracted an estimated 40,000 people despite heavy rain, government threats and police roadblocks.

Protesters were unable to congregate at Dataran Merdeka after the venue was sealed off by the police, and were forced to gather at four alternative meeting points at Masjid Jamek, Pasar Seni, Sogo department store and Masjid Negara.


Malaysia police fire tear gas at protest

Malaysia police fire tear gas at protest

By JULIA ZAPPEI and EILEEN NG, Associated Press Writers 1 hour, 46 minutes ago

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Police fired tear gas Saturday to disperse hundreds of activists demanding electoral reforms in Malaysia's biggest anti-government street protests in nearly a decade.

The demonstrators were stopped by a police cordon near a mosque in central Kuala Lumpur as they tried to march to a square. Police estimated the crowds at between 10,000 and 30,000.

Shouting "God is great," protests fled when police fired tear gas and a water canon, many of them running into the mosque. When they re-emerged, police fired the water cannon again.

Protest organizers said 10 people were arrested, though there was no immediate confirmation from police. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The protest was organized by some 70 non-governmental organizations and opposition political parties demanding reforms ahead of general elections widely expected for early next year.

They demanded the removal of phantom voters from electoral rolls, a crackdown on government workers using absentee ballots, access to state-controlled media by all political parties, and an end to vote-buying and other irregularities.

"This is our right," said Rosli, a 40-year-old government worker who refused to give his full name, fearing retribution. "We just want to correct what is wrong. We just ask for fair elections."

The government had declared the demonstration illegal and blocked all roads leading to Merdeka Square.

The protest was the biggest since supporters of former deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim took to the streets for several days in September 1998 to protest his dismissal by then-leader Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar subsequently formed the People's Justice Party, one of three opposition parties supporting Saturday's demonstration.

"It is a good signal that Malaysians want freedom and democracy, and they want free and fair elections," Anwar told reporters.

Mahathir retired in 2003 after 22 years in office, handing over the reins to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Who’s to blame for Asia’s highest income disparity? (malaysiakini)

Who’s to blame for Asia’s highest income disparity?
Charles Hector
Aug 27, 07 4:15pm

Since Malaya’s ‘independence’ from British rule on Aug 31, 1957, the control of the government has been in the hands of the Barisan Nasional. All prime ministers of Malaysia have been from Umno. Hence Umno, MCA, MIC, in short the BN government, is responsible for the manner in which our nation has developed economically, socially and politically.

The BN government has failed the Malaysian people when it was disclosed in the United Nations Human Development Report for 2004 that Malaysia is now embarrassingly one of the countries with the highest income disparity between the rich and the poor in Asia.

Malaysia has the largest gap where the top 10 percent is 22.1 times richer than the poorest 10 percent. Malaysia’s income gap is higher than Philippines (16.5), Thailand (13.4), Indonesia (7.8) and Vietnam (8.4). The richest 10 percent in Malaysia control 38.4 percent of the country’s economic income as compared to the poorest 10 percent controlling 1.7 percent.

Who is to be blamed for this state of affairs? It has to be the BN government and nobody else. Over the years, BN has embarked on an odd development strategy that has resulted in the rich becoming richer and the poor getting poorer. Interestingly, we have today a prime minister with a son and a son-in-law who definitely cannot be said to be poor and with the capacity of possibly plucking millions of ringgit when needed.

Taking a look at the political leaders in the BN, we cannot but wonder whether all of them are in that elite group of the 10% of Malaysians that control about 38% of the country’s wealth.

The New Economic Policy’s (NEP) primary objective for the eradication of poverty surely would not have been achieved. We really have to wonder as to the actual number of persons and families that are really poor even though the government says that poverty is being eradicated in Malaysia .

The Malaysian government has been playing smart by always talking about the big picture – the nation’s economy and not the individual or the individual’s family economy. The government’s resistance to the call for a minimum wage is just another indicator of a government not so bothered with the welfare of individual Malaysians.

Traveling along the many non-privatised highways, we see that the Malaysian roads have not been upgraded and look like they were 20 to 30 years ago. We also recall that in late 2005, the Education Minister had revealed that out of the 4,036 national schools, 794 were without electricity, and another 1,555 without toilet facilities. For this, there can be no other government to blame other than the BN government.

What about police stations and fire stations? Have there really been an increase in numbers over the years? But oh yes, this would not be a priority with a government preoccupied with the economy.

Then, we must note that the number of judges in the country is still too 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), Australia (57.1), Britain (50.1) and Canada (75). Of course, courts, judges and justice are not a priority for a government bent on making some individuals richer.

Most likely nothing much will change. In fact, many would just go the ballot box and vote for BN again. In the last general elections, it was ‘give the new prime minister a chance’. What will it be now? Give him another chance?

The biggest problem with Malaysians has been self-centeredness and fear. Fear of being persecuted if it is known that they voted for the opposition. To this, I would say think about the future of your children and their children (or just other Malaysians) and bravely express your dissatisfaction with the BN government with your vote in the coming election.