Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another reason to abolish RELA -----

Aliran media statement

Rela's behaviour does not inspires confidence
PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
A group of Burmese Zomi refugees was raided by Rela and Sepang Municipal Council enforcers on 21 January 2008 (NST, 24 Jan.2008). According to a Zomi spokesperson, about 34 enforcement personnel allegedly "rushed into" the Zomi refugee camp in Putrajaya and torched it, severely diminishing the supplies of basic necessities on which the Zomi refugees depended for survival.

The Zomi spokesperson said, "Clothes, food and every single thing became ash in a few minutes." Having lost a large portion of their possessions, including six of their 20 shelters (NST, 24 Jan 2008), the Zomi refugees were left destitute. According to the spokesperson, none of the refugees was arrested, but this was the third time the Zomi refugees had been raided by Rela. The torching of the Zomi village remains a mystery as neither Rela nor the Sepang Munucipal authorities have claimed responsibility for it.

Another Rela raid took place on 23 January on another Zomi refugee camp in Putrajaya. According to the spokesperson, none of the 150 Zomi could speak Bahasa Malaysia, so they could not make any understandable appeal to the Rela personnel. Twenty six members of this community were detained, including a mother with a four-month old baby. Rela personnel were alleged to have confiscated "whatever they wished".

Aliran views raids of refugee camps to harass refugees as unnecessary even if no obvious acts of violence are reported to have been committed, as in this case. The act of deliberately causing poverty and destitution is itself a human rights violation. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, "Poverty is the worst form of violence."

These kinds of actions do little to inspire any confidence in Rela as a legitimate or proper security force. It is ironic that the Home Affairs Ministry and the Immigration authorities in this country would want to upgrade and establish Rela as an acceptable security force to deal with undocumented migrants and refugees.

Although Rela is entrusted with the role of immigration enforcement, it has apparently failed to attain the standards of a proper security force similar to those required of the Royal Malaysian Police or any of the armed forces in this country.

Yet, Rela is treated as an elite force despite their track record of thuggish behaviour resulting in serious human rights violations. Over the past few years, many instances of Rela's hooliganism, brutality and criminal behaviour have been reported in the mainstream, international and alternative media. Not only migrants and refugees have suffered from the vigilante actions and hooliganism of Rela personnel, Malaysians too have witnessed their gangsterism.

Such misconduct and abuse of power raises serious questions over the wisdom of recent government proposals to make Rela another government department - putting it in charge of security in immigration detention camps (IDCs) – and legitimising it through legislation. Even before this is formalised, putting Rela in charge of IDC security has already been done - despite their lack of experience and proper training in such work, as clearly seen in the raids carried out.

The anticipated Rela Bill to be tabled in Parliament in the near future is shrouded in secrecy. According to a reliable source, the provisions of the Bill are classified secret under the Official Secrets Act.

We ask the government why any law to be legislated for the public good should be kept secret?
Neither civil society nor members of the public have been consulted on the Rela Bill. There has been no careful thinking or weighing of the pros and cons of legalising Rela. No referendum on the feasibility of Rela as a security force has been held prior to the creation of this Bill. Is the Bill also going to be passed without adequate notice and open debate?

Aliran urges the government to publish the Rela Bill for public scrutiny. This would be a step towards democracy, transparency and good governance. In the current run-up to the general elections, these principles seem to have been forgotten. Instead, Rela is being imposed on the public through the back door.

Further, in disagreement with the Director of Immigration Enforcement, Ishak Haji Mohamad, Aliran stresses unequivocally that undocumented migrants and refugees are not a threat to national security. They should not be treated as criminals.

Malaysia's police force including the Special Branch already have a mandate to fight crime, maintain law and order and monitor internal security in the country. Aliran contends that Rela is a redundant body, especially in the absence of any real national emergency. We support the call of the Bar Council of Malaysia, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) and other civil society groups for the abolition of Rela.

Aliran Executive Committee.
29 January 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

One month to decide on ISA case is very UNJUST...

5 persons are in DETENTION - not walking around free on Bail - and the Judicial commissioner Zainal Azman Abdul Aziz wants ONE month to make his decision - i.e. on February 26. This is TORTURE - this is an injustice. In this case, we need early dates, speedy hearings and quick decisions, and this inability to give a speedy decision has just added to the injustice faced by the detainees.

If you do not have the capacity to give speedy decisions, then you, Azman Abdul Aziz, is not fit to be a Judge and should just resign or just stop hearing cases which NEEDS speedy decision-making capability.

What exactly are you going to do that you need ONE month for you to come to a decision?

This is Detention Without Trial - and there is no charges, trial, conviction and sentencing. There is no question of being GUILTY or NOT GUILTY.

The decision to detain is "POLITICAL" and the Minister can give any kind of reasons like even "being an agent of the people of planet WAWASAN, who have plans to invade Malaysia" - and there is NO WAY for the detainee to challenge the 'stupid' or 'false' reason of the Minister in court.

A person arrested under the ISA is NOT guilty of any crime...he is innocent. He is NOT a criminal.

Hindraf 5: Decision on Feb 26
Soon Li Tsin | Jan 28, 08 3:49pm

It will be a month before the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders know if they can be brought to court for a proper trial as the Kuala Lumpur High Court set Feb 26 as the decision date for their habeas corpus application.

Judicial commissioner Zainal Azman Abdul Aziz said he needed more time to go through the documents before making a decision.

“Please bear with me as I would need some time to go through the authorities. I will need until the end of February to go through all the documents,” he told the packed court.

On the last day of the habeas corpus application, lawyer Karpal Singh argued that the Internal Security Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in his affidavits failed to prove ‘certain circumstances’ needed when issuing a detention order under Section 8(1) of the Internal Security Act 1960.

He said that Abdullah failed to show exceptional reasons why he bypassed Section 73 which provided for a period not exceeding 60 days for investigations including the right of the applicant to put up his defence.

“The dire lack of material in the two affidavits filed by the minister to show certain circumstances for him to have acted directly under Section 8, makes the detention orders made by him on Dec 13 last year procedurally and fatally flawed,” he said.

The Hindraf five - P Uthayakumar, M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and T Vasanthakumar were detained under Section 8(1) ISA on Dec 13 last year under Abdullah’s orders.

As such they were immediately sent to under a two-year detention to the Kamunting detention centre without first having to undergo a 60-day investigative period.

Can’t challenge minister’s orders

Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail replied that the minister had made the detention orders after receiving a complete investigation report from the police.

“The minister is not solely reliant on police but also from other sources. In his affidavit, he said that the investigations were complete and perfect before he addressed his mind.

“He has a right to issue calls for investigation from his own people He has an unfettered decision on matters of national security which he would know best,” he said.

The senior lawyer added that Abdullah’s detention orders cannot be reviewed by the courts and the burden to prove any bad faith on the minister’s part lies with the applicants.

Before the court adjourned, Karpal made a plea to the judicial commissioner to consider the impact of allowing the minister’s powers go unchecked.

“This is a test case and its very crucial for every citizen in the country. Can the Internal Security minister act without investigation which the law requires and arrest anybody he pleases?

“What about the grounds of the detention order which cannot be questioned by the courts? Such dictatorial powers given to minister has far reaching implications and consequences,” he said.

He told judicial commissioner Zainal that the courts have to ensure that excesses of the executive does not go beyond the law.

“The little mercies left must be given attention to. The courts must apply detention laws strictly. The court must go into the position of legal implication and make a ruling that upholds the constitution.

“Detention without trial is a very cruel thing, only those who have undergone it would understand. I pray that the court would rise to the occasion and grant us our application.” he asserted.

Karpal also requested for the decision date to be as soon as possible because two detainees - Uthayakumar and Manoharan - have been warded in Taiping Hospital for dehydration after having gone on a hunger strike since Jan 22.

Wife’s plea to the AG

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, detainee Ganabatirau’s wife Puvaneswary was seen approaching Abdul Gani near the court lifts.

Covered in tears, she told the AG that her husband was innocent and expressed her concern over the fate of her two daughters.

Abdul Gani appeared calm and comforted Puvaneswary before telling her that she can get her lawyers to contact him and see what can be done for Ganabatirau.

After Abdul Gani disappeared into the lift, a teary Puvaneswary told reporters that her husband was not guilty and what was being done to him was unfair.

She left soon after with several companions.

Hindraf supporters who crowded the area outside the fourth floor courtroom also lingered at the Jalan Duta court lobby before leaving.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rela personnel would oversee the security aspect of the depots instead of prison officers.....

Handover of depots for illegal

KAJANG: Immigration depots holding illegal immigrants will be better managed since its administration has been taken over by the Immigration Department.

Home Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said Rela personnel would oversee the security aspect of the depots instead of prison officers.

For the time being, 1,840 Rela officers are being placed at 13 immigration depots nationwide while another 200 officers are on standby.

“It is a temporary measure until the allocation of 1,100 posts that had been approved by the Public Services Department are filled,” he told reporters after witnessing the handing over of the administration of the depots to the Immigration Department at the Semenyih Immigration depot near here yesterday.

He said the Government spent RM3 on each meal for every detainee in the depot while RM13mil was spent for deportation purposes last year. The depots are now holding about 10,000 detainees.

New management: Johor State Immigration officers bidding farewell to Prison Department staff members at the Pekan Nanas detention centre.
The depot is the transition point for illegal immigrants waiting to be deported after being convicted for immigration offences.

“All the depots are now having trials conducted in courts within the premises,” he said, adding that 11,175 court cases had been completed for last year.

He said the department was also making efforts to expedite deportation of the illegals.

Each detainee would not be held in the depot for more than three months, he added.

In Pontian, Johor Immigration director Mohd Nasri Ishak said the capacity of the Pekan Nenas detention centre for illegal immigrants would be increased by almost three times.

He said the centre could now accommodate about 700 prisoners.

The centre’s commandant from the Prison Department, Faisal Mohamed Noor, said large numbers of detainees were recorded just before every festive season.


MYT 6:56:45 PM

Pekan Nenas detention centre to increase capacity

PONTIAN: The capacity at the Pekan Nenas detention centre for illegal immigrants would be increased to accommodate 2,000 detainees.

State Immigration director Mohd Nasri Ishak said the centre, which was handed back to the State Immigration Department by the Prison Department, can currently accommodate about 700 prisoners.

"We will rebuild some of the blocks destroyed in the fire we had a while back.

"The safety within the premise would also be upgraded gradually," he told reporters Tuesday after the handing over ceremony held at the centre here.

Mohd Nasri added that the centre, which was the first of 11 centres in the country that would be handed back to the Immigration Department, currently has 507 detainees from 14 countries.

"A total of 126 Rela members will assist us in monitoring the safety of the place," he said, adding that 84 staff members would be running the centre.

The management of this centre was handed over to the Prison Department in July 2004.

The centre's commandant from the Prison Department Faisal Mohamed Noor said 115 department staff would be transferred to other prisons in Peninsular Malaysia after the handing over.

"The department spent some RM1.25mil on upgrading the centre after taking over management in 2004," he said.

Faisal added that the name and function of the centre would be maintained after the handover.

RELA - cheaper to use volunteers that to employ more police, immigration enforcement personell, etc...????

Malaysia have a lot of volunteer corps - we have volunteer police corps, volunteer (reserved) army, the rukun tetangga ( a community based volunteer corp who, amongst others patrolled areas around the community - and of course reduced crime rate in the community..) what is this making-a-big-deal of RELA members fighting crime by patrolling - is this not just an exercise now to clear the image of this particular "volunteer corp" - who was found to be very naughty in their dealings with foreigners - migrants and/or refugees, and even citizens. People allegedly died by reason of RELA.

I think it is OK if they are limited to patrolling neighborhoods - but then do we not have the Rukun Tetangga?

To "...assist the police and the Fire and Rescue Department..." what we need is more volunteer police personell and volunteer Fire and Rescue Department personell - no need for RELA.

Is there a need to have this now 500,000 strong RELA in excistence - does it have a "political agenda" - to assist to keep the BN in power. Is it just a mechanism to help our growing "unemployed" and/or "poor-incomed workers" - for after all at one time (if not still) there was this catch a migrant and get paid policy.

If there is a lack of immigration officers and/or police personell - then the government must just take in more public servants..... ooops that means commitment, regular salary, social security, pension/EPF, SOCSO/PERKESO... and security of tenure until retirement age..... might as well just save money and avoid responsibility by just using these 'volunteers', who are paid allowance, which we can get rid of when we do not need them anymore. I wonder ...


Rela members to help in fight against crime
By : K. Harinderan
Datuk Tan Chai Ho says the image of the corps is being improved with training
Datuk Tan Chai Ho says the image of the corps is being improved with training

KUALA LUMPUR: After helping to reduce crime in Cheras, Rela will be roped in nationwide to help fight the rising crime rate.

The number of burglaries and motorcycle thefts in Cheras has gone down since the People's Volunteer Corps began night patrols in apartment complexes and housing estates in the large suburb.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Datuk Tan Chai Ho said: "Over 490,000 Rela members nationwide can offer better security and assist the police in controlling the crime rate and improving public safety."

The first 250-member Rela Elite Squad was formed here last month and has been trained in enforcement and rescue skills.

The squad will assist the police and the Fire and Rescue Department in emergencies in all states.
Tan, who is Bandar Tun Razak Member of Parliament, was speaking at the installation of a 71-member Rela team at the Permai Flats in Sungai Besi yesterday.

Asked to comment on recent claims that Rela volunteers were indisciplined and had violated the human rights of migrant workers, he said the number of complaints had reduced significantly in the last six months.

"The image of the corps is being improved with training, focusing on the areas of discipline and integrity in serving the public," he said.

He added that Rela will soon be governed by the new Rela Act which is in the final stages of preparation. It will be tabled in parliament by the end of the year.

The law will enable the corps to operate as a full government department, operating independently of the Home Affairs Ministry.

Presently, Rela falls under the Emergency (Stipulated Powers) Act, 1964.

Time to close down RELA for good .....burning homes and property?

Until we put an end to this volunteer corps and insist that enforcement of laws with regard to migrants/refugees be left with the professional law enforcers, i.e. the full-time public servants, we will see this vigilante group called RELA out there committing all kinds of attrocities.....

Migrants and refugees are HUMANs - let us not forget this.

Conflicting accounts of Rela raid on refugees
Fauwaz Adbul Aziz | Jan 26, 08 9:59am

Did they or did they not burn down a makeshift tent settlement in Putrajaya in which Burmese asylum seekers - including about 20 women and children - had taken refuge the past four years?

Conflicting answers met this and several other questions following a joint operation on undocumented migrants by the People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) and the Sepang Municipal Council (MPS).

About four years ago, more than 70 Zomi refugees from the northern region of Chin State in Burma have lived as a community of sorts in makeshift tents somewhere within the jungle fringes of Putrajaya.

Subjected from time to time to raids by Rela - the previous one being in November last year - most had managed to escape arrest.

They survived on the earning of members of the community who had found informal work and pooled their meager wages to feed the others.

Tents were destroyed

On Jan 18 this year, Rela and MPS enforcement personnel conducted a joint operation on the settlement.

A New Straits Times report on the raid against the settlement - dubbed ‘Kampung Tengga Zomi - two Zomis were caught in the dragnet while the rest escaped into the surrounding jungle.

When they returned to their tents, they were shocked to find several had been burnt to the ground together with some other items.

According to the Kuala Lumpur-based Zomi Burmese, the burnt items included plastic sheets for shelter, pots and pans for cooking, donated articles of clothing and food rations, as well as Christian Bibles.

“All of these were reduced to ashes " said Thang Khawm Pau, a Zomi refugee himself, when contacted.

He supported his assertions by supplying photographs of the scorched pages of the Bible and the Zomis’ burnt tents.

Blasting Rela for the incident, the Chiang Mai, Thailand, office of the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) said today it was only “the latest of many well-documented acts of abuse committed by the authorities against the refugee community in Malaysia.”

“For a community already living on the margins of survival, the consequences are devastating,” it said in a statement.

Rela director-general Zaidon Asmuni (right), however, denied that any burning of tents or other items had taken place during the operation.

“We never commit such acts as burning the possessions (of undocumented migrants),” said Zaidon when contacted.

Zaidon suggested that ‘accidents’ may occur during such operations in the melee of fleeing migrants and enforcement personnel chasing after them.

Two separate operations

He reiterated, however, that this last operation by Rela did not result in the burning of the Burmese possessions.

When contacted, an MPS spokesperson said the council has no information on allegations that any burnings had occurred.

Adding to the questions, however, is the claim contained in the New Straits Times that the raid was conducted not last Friday - as asserted by the MPS spokesperson - but last Monday, Jan 21.

Lending strength to this possibility is the admission by Zaidon that two raids were conducted by Rela.

“There were actually two separate operations,” he said in a mobile text message to Malaysiakini.

He could not confirm, however, if the second raid had in fact occurred on Jan 21.

Pau said all the Zomi women and children who used to live in the settlement had been given shelter by a church-based NGO that assists refugees.

There are over 23,000 asylum seekers and refugees from Burma's Chin State living in Malaysia. Of them, Zomis account for about 7,000.

2008/01/24 NST
Struggling to survive in transit
By : Deborah Loh
The illegal Myammar settlement on the fringes of Putrajaya. (Inset) An  illegal settler taking his turn on the ‘guard tower’.   — NST picture by Ramdzan Masiam
The illegal Myammar settlement on the fringes of Putrajaya. (Inset) An illegal settler taking his turn on the ‘guard tower’. — NST picture by Ramdzan Masiam

PUTRAJAYA: A group of Myanmar refugees, fleeing uncertainty in their homeland, have set up an illegal settlement on the fringes of Putrajaya.

Living in makeshift huts in a secondary forest near Pre-cinct 14 and 15, their days are spent dodging raids by Rela and scraping together money from odd jobs at construction sites nearby.

Kampung Tengga Zomi -- Tengga named after a nearby village on the other side of the hill and Zomi, which is the name of their ethnic tribe -- is home to about 80 Myanmar Zomi people who left their country hoping for resettlement in a new land. They came here four years ago.

Malaysia is a transit point while they wait for refugee cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and for placement in another country.

Until then, the UNHCR here does not have the means, nor permission, from the government to provide them housing, and so they are left to fend for themselves.
Waiting is risky. The government does not recognise refugees, nor does it accept the UNHCR card.

The refugees are considered illegal immigrants and can be detained for trial and deportation.

Settlement leader, Khai Pian Thang, 30, accepts this as fate.

"We know we are wrong because we don't have passports. I don't blame Rela for conducting raids as there are laws in this country.

"Yet, life here is better than in Myanmar.

"If we get caught and locked up, we still have ways to be in touch with our community.

"If you are locked up in Myanmar, it is forever. No one knows about you anymore," Khai said in Bahasa Malaysia, which he picked up after arriving here in 2005.

Khai's settlement was raided on Monday in a joint operation by Rela and Sepang Municipal Council officers.

All but two of the refugees managed to flee into the surrounding jungle.

When the rest returned to their camp after the raid, they found six of their 20 huts burnt. It was Rela's second raid after one in November.

The New Straits Times visited the settlement yesterday.

It lies less than a kilometre off a main tarred road up a small hill inside the forest.

On the approach is a "guard tower" where the refugees take turns to man.

The makeshift huts straddle a now dried-up stream.

River water is dammed up in a small self-dug reservoir further up and channelled down to the settlement.

Khai said the 80 people in the settlement are supported by 20 of them who do odd jobs at nearby construction sites.

"Each person works about four hours a week and earns about RM20. The construction boss does not dare to give us more work as we are illegals.

"We do things like picking up stones or washing drains.

"We pool the money to buy food," he said.

Khai said the latest group of 10 Zomi refugees arrived in December after the "saffron revolution" when thousands of monks marched in defiance of the ruling junta.

Zomi tribe members have been arriving in batches over the past few years, helped by an existing network of refugees scattered across Thailand, Malaysia and India.

Khai said police had visited the settlement at least five times to warn them to "live quietly and not cause trouble".

Police sources here said although the settlement was on the fringes of Putrajaya, its location was within the Sepang border.

Monday, January 21, 2008

2.01 million foreign workers in Malaysia

2008/01/20 (NST - Sunday Times)
Employers defy ruling on hiring of foreign workers
MARANG: The Human Resources Ministry is unhappy that some employers continue to employ foreign workers in sectors which have a huge bearing on the country's image.
These include airports, hotels, restaurants, clinics and petrol stations, its deputy minister Datuk Abdul Rahman Bakar said yesterday.

"These are not suitable areas for foreign workers. They can be employed in sectors that are being shunned by locals such as in the plantation and manufacturing sectors or as domestic helpers."

He was speaking to reporters after officiating a parenting skills seminar at the Multimedia College here today.

Abdul Rahman said a more comprehensive policy to overcome the oversupply of foreign workers was expected to be completed in March.
"The workers' intake policy, covering foreigners and locals, will determine the country's actual labour requirement. Under the new policy, we will propose to the cabinet the number of foreign workers for certain categories."

Abdul Rahman said there were 2.01 million foreign workers in the country and that the number would be gradually reduced by half by 2015.

"The number will be reduced beyond 2015 so that the labour requirement will be filled by locals. We can employ foreign workers in certain sectors, for instance, in the construction and plantation sectors." -- Bernama

Monday, January 14, 2008

FUND ABUSE? Something new.....What happened to links to terrorist groups...

Well, what do you know - now they have got one of the the five arrested to go and allege that Uthayakumar mis-used the funds....

This is ISA and the Malaysian police is good - for after all when the Arqam leaders were arrested, it did not take very long for all Malaysians to see these persons confessing on television that they had deviated from the true path.

In the case of Dr Syed Husin Ali who was detained for about six years, he was asked to admit that he was associated with the Communist Party of Malaysia and to implicate Dr Mahathir Mohammad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia. The Home Minister at that time was Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie.

‘They wanted me to use the communist bogey on Mahathir and Musa [the then Deputy Prime Minister] ... they told me that I would be released if I implicated Mahathir and Musa. They slapped me, denied me sleep, spat in my face, told lies about my wife and even placed a pistol in front of me. It was a terrible lie and being a Muslim, I would not be part of it’[3].

(see in this Charles Hector Blog, the article "Detention Without Trial Laws in Malaysia")

If it is true that this
Vasanthakumar made such a report - then the Malaysian police must be congratulated for succeeding in causing divisions between these 5 leaders of HINDRAF.

HINDRAF and its November rally that saw about 30,000 Malaysian, predominantly Indians, coming out to protest discrimination has really caused worry not just to the Barisan Nasional government - but also to other "self-proclaimed representatives and/or leaders of Malaysian Indians" like the MIC, etc...

Like UMNO and MCA, the MIC has failed the people they claimed to have represented - for after all the gap between the rich and the poor in Malaysia is one of the highest in South East Asia...and also ASIA. I believe that our PM, his immediate family and possible also the leaders of MCA, MIC, etc may actually be within the the top 10% that is richer by 22 times the bottom 10% poor Malaysians.

That is the issue - that should be the main focus - not any other things like alleged links to terrorist organizations, sexual escapades of leaders, alleged financial hanky-panky of some leaders of Hindraf, etc ...

After all the government's main object seemed to have been to stifle its own people's protests and voices including those who came forward during HINDRAF rally (30,000), BERSIH rally (40,000), Malaysian Lawyers - and let's not forget that the ISA was used for that very reason and 5 Hindraf leaders were arrested.

In any event, even if this Uthayakumar is guilty of mishandling funds, it matters not to the ISSUES that have been highlighted by HINDRAF.

I call again for the immediate release of Manoharan, Uthayakumar...all the 5 and others currently detained under the ISA and other laws that allow for detention without trial. I call for the immediate repeal of all laws that allow for Detention Without Trial.

Police report against Uthaya over fund abuse
Syed Jaymal Zahiid | Jan 14, 08 4:08pm

A police report has been lodged against Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) legal adviser P Uthayakumar by the movement’s secretary T Vasanthakumar over allegations of misuse of funds.

Both Uthayakumar (left) and Vasanthakumar are being detained under the Internal Security Act along with three other Hindraf legal advisers at the Kamunting detention centre in Perak.

It is learnt that, in the police report which was lodged at the detention centre on Thursday, Vasanthakumar has accused Uthayakumar of allegedly misusing money collected from the public for Hindraf activities.

Uthayakumar’s lawyer N Surendran, when contacted, said that the police report and accusation thrown against his client should not be taken seriously.

“Vasanthakumar (photo) had lodged the police report under detention and given the circumstances, his accusations cannot be taken seriously as it has no credentials or credibility,” he said by phone.

Explaining, Surendran said that “Vasanthakumar could have been manipulated by the authorities to lodge the police report after being subjected to severe stress”.

Part of the government conspiracy

Surendran also associated Vasanthakumar’s accusations with previous government efforts to discredit Hindraf through similar claims.

“As we all know, Hindraf has been accused by the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Musa Hasan of collecting funds from the public to supposedly finance activities of a terrorist organisation abroad," he said.

“And yet he has not come out with any evidence to support his claim. I believe this is a clear effort by the authorities to discredit and weaken the support for Hindraf."

The IGP on Dec 6 last year had accused Hindraf of soliciting support and financial aid from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Sri Lankan Tamil fundementalist terrorist organisation.

Uthayakumar in retaliation had filed a RM100 million defamation lawsuit two weeks ago against the IGP, the Attorney-General and the government for allegedly misleading the public by linking him and Hindraf with LTTE.

“So, as you can see, the accusations are centered on allegations of fund embezzlement. They cannot support their claim that Hindraf is linked with LTTE, they try to bring us down through another accusation,” said Surendran.

Hindraf halts donation drive

On a related development, Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy - currently lobbying global support for the movement from his temporary base in London - said in a statement today that Hindraf’s name is being misused by individuals to collect funds from the people.

He said that large sums of funds were collected in Hindraf’s name by these unauthorised persons and that these funds were not channeled to Hindraf.

“In these circumstances we urge all supporters and well wishers of Hindraf to immediately suspend collection of funds from members of the public either privately or publicly pending further instructions,” he said.

“In the interim we urge all well wishers and supporters to continue to offer prayers nationwide for the immediate release of the ISA detainees."

Opinion: Lofty Asean Charter hangs in the balance

Opinion: Lofty Asean Charter hangs in the balance

Monday, 14 January 2008 08:03am

ASEAN Charter Signing Ceremony©New Straits Times
by Michael Vatikiotis

The Asean Charter set out to recalibrate Asean and make it more robust and active. Yet, instead of rushing to find ways to assert these norms, the charter remains just a piece of paper, its ratification in question, writes Michael Vatikiotis.

AFTER the fanfare with which Asean heralded the framing of its first charter at the end of last year, it looks like this year will be a year of disappointment for those who had hopes of a more robust and active role for the 40-year-old regional association.

Not only does the new charter face ratification hurdles in a number of member states, it is also apparent that very little in the way of financial commitment has been made to prepare the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta for its new expanded role under the charter.

Unfortunately, this starts to look like another exercise in window dressing rather than substantial change, similar to the region's approach to creating a free trade area in the 1990s.

Asean leaders should show more commitment to a speedy implementation of the new charter, otherwise it would have been better not to raise expectations and simply reword the Treaty of Amity, which in itself is a fine expression of regional ideals. But the aim seemed to be to go beyond fine principles and create a body of rules for every member state to follow.

In case people have already forgotten, the new charter sets out to recalibrate Asean as a formal organisation, establish loftier principles to guide member states based on universal notions of democracy, freedom and human rights, and strengthen the institutional structure for implementing decisions and agreements.

Among other things, the charter provides for an Asean human rights body, twice- yearly summits, a more robust Asean Secretariat, including the appointment of permanent representatives from member states, as well as ambassadors sent by the association's dialogue partners.

Fine, but who will pay for the salaries and expenses of these new functions and posts? The secretariat is already woefully underfunded, with each of the 10 member states paying less than US$1 million (RM3.26 million) annually. There has apparently been no move to increase mandatory funding, or any rush to create new positions called for under the charter.

Asean's new secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan from Thailand has already started work in Jakarta, but has no idea whether he has the funds to appoint staff for the new charter mandates.

Embarrassingly, Asean may now have to go cap in hand to donor countries like Japan and the United States to seek funding for its enhanced functions. Given the healthy states of some Asean economies, this isn't necessary.

The Singapore summit at which the charter was unveiled and blessed by all 10 leaders last November, highlighted the key political challenge facing Asean as an organisation, which is the continued reluctance to intervene in the domestic affairs of member states.

It is hard to imagine any of the charter's lofty principles ever being upheld if the wider interests of the region can be held hostage by the objection of a single member.

This is precisely what happened in Singapore when, over an opening dinner for heads of government, the prime minister of Myanmar objected to a briefing by the UN Secretary- General's Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari. Right there, as the charter was born, its fundamental weakness was exposed. There was no question of Myanmar being overruled by a majority, for the charter reaffirms as "a basic principle" decision-making by consultation and consensus.

As one head of government said at that fateful dinner: "One of our members is objecting."

That was all it took for Asean to step back from defending universal principles of democracy, freedom and human rights in a member state, as the Asean charter so stipulates in its Preamble, Purposes and Principles.

So what needs to be done to make the charter more meaningful? One immediate priority is to make sure that legislators don't allow the charter to become a domestic political football in the course of ratification. The process for all 10 countries to ratify the charter is set to take a year. But this is far too long and puts the Asean Secretariat in a bind since none of the new provisions can be implemented.

Singapore has taken the lead and already ratified the charter. But Philippine legislators have threatened to stall ratification unless the military junta in Myanmar takes genuine steps towards reform, such as freeing Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Jakarta, a feisty parliament could exploit ratification to gain more leverage over foreign policy, and therefore hold up the process. Myanmar is still in the process of designing an elected assembly, under the much criticised road map, and therefore cannot ratify the charter. Delayed ratification by some members makes it doubtful that the charter will be legally enforcable by the next Asean summit in Bangkok this year.

Next, there is the urgent issue of funding for the secretariat. Even with ratification, the essence of the new charter demands a stronger institutional base, logically centred on the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta. The problem for Asean is that while some member states can afford to underwrite regional diplomacy, others cannot. Rather than force equality where none exists, a quota system should be devised to ensure that those member states that can afford it, pay more -- similar to the UN system.

Finally, there needs to be more active determination to set up the human rights body mandated by the charter. There is already a working group and plans to have terms of reference for implementation of this key article of the charter by July. But left to government officials, there could be some foot-dragging since some of these same officials could be targets of investigation of human rights abuses.

It is vitally important to define an effective role for this human rights mechanism to prevent disappointment. It certainly isn't going to be able to enforce very much, since the best foundation for respect of human rights is from within a nation, not imposed from without. Perhaps the Asean Secretariat should initially tap into existing national human rights bodies within member states, establishing and strengthening a regional network that can then become institutionalised at the Asean level.

Here lies the heart of the problem. For in many ways, the Asean Charter sets standards far higher than what is achievable in many member states, where democracy is flawed or imperfectly developed, freedom is still constrained, and respect for human rights for many people a distant dream.

That's not to say the charter exercise is futile. The challenge is to find the best way to persuade governments to adhere to these lofty norms and principles. Some hoped to arm the charter with the threat of force or sanction. This approach has clearly been rejected as we saw in the case of Myanmar at the Singapore Summit.

A more creative way would be to follow the tradition of the United Nations, where it has become the role of the secretary-general, often using only the force of personal persuasion, to convince member states to adhere to the principles of the UN charter.

If the Asean Charter is to have any concrete impact on the behaviour of member states, then the Asean secretary-general needs empowering and his good offices endowed with more weight in the region. Doing so would also help boost Asean's capacity for peacemaking in a region still beset by protracted internal conflicts.

Yet, instead of rushing to find ways to assert these norms, the Asean Charter remains a piece of paper, its ratification in question by some member states, with no budget in sight for creating the new structures it calls for and therefore with little hope of its humane and liberating spirit being applied to a country like Myanmar anytime soon.

Michael Vatikiotis is Asia regional director for the Geneva-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

Saturday, January 12, 2008

84% wants M Manoharan, P Uthayakumar, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau, T Vasantha Kumar released..

Should M Manoharan, P Uthayakumar, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau, T Vasantha Kumar and all persons being detained under the Internal Security Act and other laws that allow for detention without trial be released immediately and unconditionally?

YES 39 (84%)

NO 7 (15%)

I do not know 0 (0%)

I abstain 0 (0%)

Total Number of Votes = 46

Should the Internal Security Act (ISA) and other similar laws that allow for detention without trial be immediately repealed?

YES 34 (79%)

NO 6 (13%)

I do not know 2 (4%)

I abstain 1 (2%)

Total Number of Votes = 43

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Increase in CRIME - Why? Is it linked to the economic state of individual persons in Malaysia

Now, the increase of crime - especially theft and robbery (especially those involving weapons other than firearms) could be linked to the economic state of the people of Malaysia - i.e. poverty or let's just say "not enough income to live and support self, family and dependents". I reiterate again that the gap between the rich and the poor in Malaysia is amongst the highest in SEA and Asia (look at earlier postings). Hence, the increase of crime is a failing of the current BN government led by our beloved Prime Minister.

"RIOTING" - what is this? Oh yes, these refers to the arrests made and/or the charges against the thousands who came out to streets to peacefully protest - about cleaning-up the election process and procedures, about fuel hikes and toll hikes..., about discriminations against Indians, about just the lack of Human Rights, about protests against Detention Without Trial laws.... Alas the figures, if it is those who have been involved in these peaceful protests in Malaysia, is wrong for it surely should be much more than 2,608 ..... I believe just looking at the past few in Malaysia - the figures were about 50,000.

And just look at what our PM wants to emphasize - the installation of CCTV ....i.e. the "compulsory" installation of CCTV - this is not cheap.

Just get the police to start their patrolling of the streets, etc - we do not see policeman patroling the streets nowadays....or the frequent drive-bys of police patrol cars and police bikes.....

There are still deaths in custody and the question that is asked is what happened to the CCTVs in the police stations - why is it not referred to to establish what happened in the lock-ups and the "interogation rooms". Are there CCTVs installed in our Malaysian police stations --- the answer is "YES"(or if not, we must ask WHY) - but alas it seems to usually not functioning or "not recording" . There are still deaths in custody and allegations of torture in the police stations. Look into this first Mr. PM.

13% spike in violent crimes: police
Andrew Ong Jan 8, 08 9:22pm

There was a dramatic 13.4% increase in violent crimes last year, of which rape cases were up by about 30% and gang robbery by a whopping 160%.

According to the latest crime index released by the police today, the average increase in overall crime in 2007 was 7.1%, but the jump in serious crimes was much higher.

The highest spike involved the category of gang robbery involving weapons other than firearms - from 2,723 cases in 2006 to 7,076 in 2007 - or a jump of 159.5%.

These are the percentage increases for a selected breakdown of crimes in 2007:

Rape - 3,177 cases (+29.5%)

Outraging modesty - 2,320 (+12.4%)

Night-time home break-in - 24,440 (+21.7%)

Day break-in - 9,159 (+4.2%)

Motorcycle theft - 67,854 (+3.2%)

Car theft - 12,427 (+11.4%)

Snatch theft - 11,127 (+0.5%)

Other theft - 44,617 (+5.1%)

Rioting - 2,608 (+13.8)

Amidst the mostly grim statistics, there was however a significant reduction in the number of non-firearms robberies by single individuals.

The figure dropped by 2,226, or 11.4%, from 19,467 to 17,241 in 2007. The statistics also show a reduction in murders, robberies involving individuals with firearms, and theft of heavy vehicles.

PM: Why is it so high?
In an immediate reaction, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that the crime statistics are worrying. “I was very worried. I ask ‘What’s going on? Why is it so high?’” Abdullah told reporters after being briefed about the crime statistics at the Bukit Aman federal police headquarters this afternoon.

According to Abdullah, the reason for the spike was that five new categories of crime - rioting, extortion, causing hurt, outraging modesty and criminal intimidation - have been added to the statistics since 2006.

He said the statistics would not worry the public and foreign investors if the situation is explained to them properly. “If they are not informed (properly) and they don’t know, of course, they would be worried,” he said.

The three-hour briefing, sought by Abdullah, was also attended by Deputy Internal Security Minister Mohd Johari Baharum and Second Finance Minister Nor Mohamed Yakcop.Interestingly, top editors from nearly every local media mainstream media organisation were present at the briefing. Police sources indicated that Abdullah had invited them. Drastic action needed. He said the situation must be urgently addressed.

"We need to take drastic action to stop the rise in criminal activities. I am very concerned about crime levels," Abdullah said.

"It can cause fear among the people, it can cause inconvenience to them because they'll be afraid to go out at night."More officers will be deployed to patrol the streets and close-circuit television (CCTV) cameras will be installed in buildings to enhance security.

Abdullah said the police would focus on four core areas:

• Re-hiring retired police officers and training new officers to increase the number of personnel by 60,000 in 2011

• Increasing the number of civilians in the police force (e.g. for secretarial work)

• Compelling private property owners to install CCTV camerass

• Constructing more police stations and beat-bases

Asked when these new measures would be implemented, Abdullah said, “beginning tomorrow”. On the installation of CCTV cameras, Abdullah said this would be coordinated by the Local Government and Housing Ministry. He added that property owners or tenants who refuse to comply with the regulation would have “appropriate action” taken against them. “If you want to fight crime, you have to pay,” Abdullah said.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A yellow pillow and bolster for the Malaysian PM

A very creative protest action by Badrul Hisham and friends ...continue all ye Malaysians to express yourself - that is your right.

But alas - our Prime Minister and his government is not LAZY or SLEEPY - but have just gone indifferent to the cries, concerns and needs of the common man, woman and child in Malaysia.

The government has effectively curbed most avenues of expression - and has used shamelessly the media it controls to propagate a false and warped picture of reality...

To those with the courage to express themselves - the response of the Malaysian government is not to listen, consider and act on the cries of the Malaysian people but to "punish" those that have had the guts to speak up --- the Malaysian government wants a silent docile population, who wants its people to only speak of praises and appreciation to the PM and the government. (Of course rallies and gatherings to praise the PM and its government thank the PM and its government...will all be allowed --- and the government will of course say that "this is freedom of expression..")

I worry that the pillow and bolster may be used to further suffocate the Malaysian people...and that yellow will just increase the FEAR in Malaysians - and keep them dishonest not just in word but also in deed when they again go to the polls and vote for the Barisan Nasional government....

(go to Malaysiakini - and have a look at the pictures....I could not download them this time...)

Group hands Pak Lah special gift
Andrew Ong Jan 4, 08 4:26pm

A group of disgruntled young Malaysians today symbolically handed a ‘gift’ to Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to express their disappointment with his administration.

The gift was in form of a yellow pillow and a bolster - both decorated with the Malaysian flag and the Petronas Twin Towers. Abdullah however was not on hand to receive the items, which the group left at the doorsteps of the premier’s office in Putrajaya this morning.

Spokesperson for the group Badrul Hisham Shaharin said he and his eight other friends had come to the conclusion that the government’s ineffectiveness was due Abdullah’s purported “sleepiness”.

He added that Abdullah had previously been allegedly caught nodding off at various official functions both locally and abroad. “So we wanted to send a ‘memorandum’ about what the youth wants. This memorandum is in form of a pillow... He can use the pillow to continue sleeping or wake up and realise that his administration is not efficient,” Badrul told reporters.

Badrul said the group consisted of artists, poets, bloggers, writters and activists but denied that the ‘pillow act’ was politically motivated.

Badrul (right) informs security guard on the group's intentions.

The group displays posters mocking Abdullah over his alleged ‘sleepiness’.

A poster referring to a 2006 report by Turkish newspaper Hurriyet regarding a luxury yacht allegedly linked to Abdullah.

“We don’t expect him to reply our ‘memorandum’. Thus far, he has never replied any memorandum sent by civil society groups,” Badrul told reporters.

Journalists and the police were stunned when the ‘memorandum’ turned out to be a pillow and a bolster.

“He can come and pick it up later if he wants,” said Badrul.

The pillow and several posters were left at the main entrance to the Prime Minister’s Department.

The banner reads, “The last hope of the young Malaysians: Continue sleeping O’Prime Minister”.
Security detail took a while to decide how to deal with the items.

More security detail arrive to deal with the items.

The pillow is scanned for dangerous substances.

Eventually, a security personnel removes the items.

Man: Only these group of persons can call ALLAH "Allah"

Most holy, onmipotent and omniscience Allah - the Malaysian Prime Minister and his cabinet has decided that only Malaysian Muslims can use the word Allah.... and to know call you "Allah" may cause this already oppressive government to arrest me - but, I, being being a believer, shall not cease calling you "ALLAH", my dearest Allah.

There are so many failings of the Barisan National government that have been recently highlighted - but yet again the BN government tries to distract the rakyat by creating "new issues" based on religion and race. What do they want now - to cause a Muslim - non-Muslim tension?

HINDRAF raised the issue of discrimination of a particular ethnic group - the Indians in Malaysia. And the government and its cronnies turned it into a "racial tension issue" - and even set up mechanisms on how to deal with him. Some Indian cronny organisation also assisted and tried to make it a religious issue - i.e. those odd proposals about the creation of a "non-Muslims Affairs department.."

The issue was economic in nature. It was socio-cultural in nature. It was about inequitable distribution of wealth and resources - in fact it not only affects the Indians in Malaysia - but all Malaysians --- we have after all one of the largest gap between the rich and the poor. (far worse than countries like Philipines, Indonesia, etc....). The Barisan National government has been shown to be a government that helped a few amass the wealth of the nation - and has failed to be a government of ALL the people of Malaysia. Sadly our Prime Minister, his chiildren and his son-in-law, our Deputy Prime Minister...etc may most likely be in that category of richest 10% of Malaysia....

And the trick used on the rakyat whenever these real issues are raised is ........"racial tension"..."religious tension"...."May 13"...and now this laughable issue of who can use the word "Allah" and who cannot.....LET US NOT BE DISTRACTED FROM THE REAL ISSUES..

Herald can’t use ‘Allah’ in its publications

Friday, 04 January 2008 08:59am
Cabinet: ‘Allah’ for Muslims only©The Star by Mazwin Nik Anis

PUTRAJAYA: The Herald - The Catholic Weekly publication is not allowed to use the word “Allah” in its publications, the Cabinet decided.

The restrictions on the use of the word “Allah” was still enforceable and shall be upheld as decided by the Cabinet in two of its meetings – on Oct 18 and Nov 1, 2006, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdullah Mohd Zin said.

Abdullah, who said the Prime Minister had instructed him to clarify the matter so the public would not be confused, told a press conference on Thursday:
“One of the reasons given to uphold the restriction is because that it has long been the practice of this country that the world Allah refers to God according to the Muslim faith.”

It was only proper for other religions to use the word "God" and not "Allah" when referring to their God in respective beliefs, Abdullah said, adding that the use of the word “Allah” shall not be made a public debate that may give the impression as if there is no freedom of religion in the country.

“The use of the word 'Allah' by non-Muslims may arouse sensitivity and create confusion among Muslims in the country,” he said.

On Dec 31, the publication’s editor Father Lawrence Andrew said the weekly was allowed to continue printing its Bahasa Malaysia section with no restriction on the use of the word “Allah” for God.

He said a representative from the Internal Security Ministry delivered a letter dated Dec 28 with the permit to print the newspaper and that according to him, the letter did not place any restrictions whatsoever.

The newspaper carries reports in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil and Chinese, about the Catholic community. It has a circulation of 12,000.

The ministry had earlier issued directives to the publisher to cease the use of the word “Allah” in the weekly, failing which its permit would either be suspended or revoked.

On Dec 5, the publisher filed a writ of summons in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to seek declarations of use of Allah.

When contacted later, Abdullah said that the Cabinet in the two meetings had decided that Herald - The Catholic Weekly should not use the word “Allah” in its publications.

“I would also like to remind the public that apart from the word 'Allah', three other words - Solat, Kaabah and Baitullah – are also prohibited and cannot be used in other religions’ publications,” he said.