Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Malaysian police shot dead 279...and another 147 died in police lock-ups [2000-2009]

279 persons shot and killed by Malaysian police in the 2000-2009 period. They call them all 'suspects' - but I am certain that many would have also been innocent persons (not even a suspect). Remember, all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Everyone deserves the right to defend themselves, a fair and open trial, etc... but these 279 persons have been deprived of all these rights. After killing them, police normally say they are 'criminals' - and hence their names and their family names are tarnished. 

Were these incidents even investigated by an independent body? No - we do not yet have such a body in Malaysia. 2 Royal Commissions recommended the formation of such a body but the UMNO-led BN government is obviously not interested. The law gives the police the power to arrest - and to use necessary force if needed - but we will never know whether the police went in to kill - or to arrest, and that their use of force was justified. Normally, all gets shot dead - seldom do we hear of persons being shot and arrested. Hence, no witness to dispute the police version of events in most cases.. and no compensation paid by the police(or government) to the families and dependents of those who lost their lives. Why not?

...and another 147 died (or were they killed?) in police lock-ups during the 2000-2009 period.

The numbers are rather high - and good people of Malaysia need to be more concerned.

A total of 279 suspects have been shot dead by the police between 2000 and 2009, while 147 died in police lockup during the same period, revealed Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein today.

NONEThe minister disclosed these figures in a written parliamentary reply to Teluk Intan parliamentarian M Manogaran.

Manogaran's question also demanded statistics for those injured during police shootings and custodial deaths at detention camps.

The minister's reply however did not address these two questions.

In another written parliamentary reply to Michael Jeyakumar Devaraj (PSM-Sungai Siput), Hishammuddin revealed that the police shot dead 82 suspects in 2008, and 88 in 2009.

He added that in those two years there was only one case of police injury in the shooting incidents. No police personnel were killed during the same period.

kugan family bukit aman 230109 bannerThese figures came in the wake of public outcry over the fatal police shooting of teenager Aminulrasyid Amzah, which re-ignited allegations that the police were trigger happy.

Opposition lawmakers and human rights activists have also long decried the issue of custodial deaths, often occurring under suspicious circumstances.- Malaysiakini, 28/6/2010,
426 deaths at hands of the police since 2000

PR Status: Categories Need Be Expanded, Minister's decision should be reviewable by court...

Spouses of Malaysians should be given PR Status upon the registration of their marriage in Malaysia - not only 5 years later.

* In the event of death of the Malaysian spouse, before getting the PR, it means that the foreign spouse have to leave Malaysia - what about the children? what about matrimonial property...home, etc, what about obligations to the deceased Malaysian spouse's parents and dependents. {Remember, a PR status can always be revoked - so there really is no need to worry about early issuance of PR to spouses..)
* There really should be another category added for those who should be given PR status - i.e. for parents of children who are Malaysians. If before getting PR status, the spouse dies or the marriage is dissolved, when there are children who are Malaysians involved, the spouse that has custody and/or visitation rights should be allowed tro remain in Malaysia with the Malaysian children - we do not want a situation where Malaysian children are forced to be removed out of Malaysia - hence not able to enjoy the benefits of Malaysian education and welfare/benefits...or do we?

The decision of the Minister should never be final - there should always be judicial review, where one can go to court in the event the Minister rejects one's application. This is the essence of a democracy with its 3 branches of government - the executive, the legislative and the judiciary - whereby one of the roles of the judiciary is to review actions of the executive to ensure that it has been done in accordance to law and justice.

Foreigners who wish to apply for a permanent resident (PR) status in Malaysia should acquire an entry permit first, the Dewan Rakyat was told.

Deputy Home Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop said the matter was clearly stipulated under Section 10 of the Immigration Act 1959/63.

"Only those who had acquired the entry permit are eligible to apply for the PR status and enable them to get the red-coloured identity card or MyPR," he said in reply to Dr Fong Chan Onn (BN-Alor Gajah) during question time today.

Fong wanted to know the requirement and procedures for acquiring the PR status for foreigners and the latest statistics on the applications.

Abu Seman said only six categories of applicants would be considered in the issuance of the entry permit as set out in the Immigration (Prohibition of Entry) Order 1963.

"The six categories are persons in possession of specialist or professional qualification, persons in possession of a certificate from the home minister certifying that their admission would be in the economic interest of Malaysia.

"Wives and children under six years of age of persons falling within the above categories, wives of citizens of Malaysia who have not been living separately from the husbands for a continuous period of five years.

"Children of citizens of Malaysia under six years of age, and those who are allowed by the home minister on special compassionate grounds," he said.

25,000 PR applications in eight years

Abu Seman said the application for the entry permit could be submitted at any immigration office and the applicants must posses valid travel document or passport.

"However, the consideration and decision on the applications are the prerogative of the Immigration director-general.

"In the event that their application is rejected, they can file an appeal to the Home Minister within 30 days and the decision made by the minister is final," he said.
Between 2001 and 2009, a total of 24,883 applications for PR status were received and solved, he said.

"At present, there are 521 new applications being processed by the Immigration Department and the ministry," he added.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Exploited abused workers building Malaysia's new Palace?? Shameful that UMNO-led BN government is allowing this...

Workers building the new palace for the Malaysian King are being exploited...this is an embarrassment. (see media reports below.)

UMNO-led BN government is, I believe, really pro-employer pro-big businesses ....and not pro-workers. Over the years, this government has, by their actions and omissions, demonstrated that they are  not concerned about worker rights or welfare. Under present laws and policies, it makes it so easy for employers to not only exploit workers.. but to get away scot-free. This applies to all workers in Malaysia - both local and migrant workers. We have a law that when a unionized worker gets wrongfully terminated by the employer, that worker is no longer a member of the union - and as such cannot hope for the assistance of the workers' union at the time the worker most needs it. [The Malaysian Trade Union Congress have been long campaigning for a repeal of this unjust provision in law.]

Labour suppliers....sub-contractors...outsourcing companies... - this has all made workers weak...unable to unite against a common employer. Further, it also 'blurs' the worker-employer relationship as currently enshrined in labour laws... ["...more than 1,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam hired by more than 130 sub-contractors..." This means less than 10 workers per 'employer', in fact  about 7.69 per 'employer' - is this number even enough to form a trade union? Divide...and oppress.

In the construction industry, it may make sense having to sub-contract different parts of the contract, i.e. one for the electrical people, one for the water/sewage systems, one for the elevators/lifts, one for those doing the tiling works, etc... but sadly the same thing is happening in the factories as well. 

The factory owners...or the main contractor...just turns around and say that they are not the employers...and that they own no obligations to the sad workers. What about occupational health and safety...? 

Living conditions of workers - Malaysia still does not have any law that stipulates the minimum standard of temporary housing for workers at construction sites... or even housings that is provided by employers in factories..for workers (migrant workers usually)... Why don't we have a regulation/law stipulating minimum housing standards...and food requirements? We have needed such laws for a very long time now...

Even, when there are laws stipulating worker rights - what happens when the worker tries to claim his/her rights  - they lose their jobs... and, in the case of migrant workers, they may even get arrested, detained and deported without getting paid their wages, etc... [Unscrupulous employers call the police, RELA...and they come arrest the migrant workers. Why? Because the migrant workers cannot show their passports and/or their immigration work passes...as their employer (or sub-contractors...or agents) are wrongfully holding on to these documents. Since the worker is a trouble maker for claiming rights, the employer just do not go get them out...and they languish in the detention centers,...sometime even get whipped...and deported.]. See recent media statement about this:- STOP PENALIZING WORKERS WHO WANT TO GET JUSTICE - MAXTER GLOVE SHOULD REINSTATE BURMESE MIGRANT WORKER WHO COMPLAINED TO LABOUR DEPARTMENT

Shouldn't Labour Department officials be making spot-checks at places of work to ensure that worker rights are being protected...and that employers are following the law. They do not generally ... but if they do, then more likely workers may get their rights reducing the risk of being terminated..discriminated against when they themselves go and make the complaint.  Now, in this palace case....the Minister has assured us that he will investigate. Will they?

KUALA LUMPUR: Many foreign workers hired to build the new RM800mil Istana Negara claim they have not been paid over the last three months despite working seven days a week.

Living in fear and frustration, the workers alleged they were exploited and cheated and held to ransom by their employers because many of them do not have work permits.

There are more than 1,000 migrant workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Vietnam hired by more than 130 sub-contractors who are involved in the Jalan Duta palace project.

Most of them stay in kongsi or long wooden houses near the construction site.
Eating sparingly: Workers having a meal at a stall in the kongsi during lunch time. Some claim they only have one meal a day.

According to workers interviewed by The Star, some employers threatened to call the police when they persisted in asking for their wages.

Several workers even claimed they were harassed by the police and Rela officers and that their possessions like mobile phones, cigarettes and canned drinks were confiscated.

When contacted, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said he would ask the Labour Department to investigate the matter and take immediate action.

Indonesian Punawi, 32, who does plastering work, said he had not been paid for five months and barely had any money left for food.

“I only manage with one meal a day and that’s because the foodstall owner allows me to eat on credit. My work permit has expired and I don’t have RM3,000 to renew it,” he added.
Jatim, 37, said their employer would hold back their wages for three to four months and they would subsequently be paid a month’s salary.

Some employers, he claimed, would extend loans of RM50 to RM100 per week to the workers, leaving them in debt.

Jatim’s wife, Salimah, 32, who lives with him at the kongsi near the construction site with their five-month-old baby, said they often lived in fear of police raids.

“Each time there is a raid, I grab my baby and run. Some of us have to spend the night in the jungle to escape the authorities.”

Brickfields OCPD Asst Comm Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said the last police raid took place several months ago to flush out illegals squatting in the jungles.

“Perhaps another agency was involved in the recent raids. If the allegations are true, the workers can come and see me and I will do what I can to help,” Wan Abdul Bari said.

Bukit Aman CID Director Comm Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Zinin said police would take take stern action against the employers if the workers’ claims were found to be true.

“We will also investigate the workers’ claim that policemen roughed them up during raids,” he said.

He urged the workers to come out of hiding and lodge police reports in order for justice to be done. - Star, 27/6/2010, Migrant workers claim they’re being held to ransom by bosses

KUALA LUMPUR: Many foreign workers hired to build the RM800mil Istana Negara claim that they have not received three months’ wages from some project sub-contractors.

There are over 1,000 migrant workers hired by 130 sub-contractors working at the project site.

The Star, responding to an SOS call, visited the site in Jalan Duta and found the workers living in frustration and fear as many do not have work permits or cannot afford to renew their permits which have expired.
Foreign workers seen at the construction site of the new palace in Kuala Lumpur recently. The workers allege that they are being exploited and held to ransom by their employers because many of them do not have work permits. — SAMUEL ONG / The Star

The project’s main contractor, Maya Maju Sdn Bhd, said it is the responsibility of the sub-contractors to pay their workers.

The Human Resources Ministry has asked the Labour Department to investigate the matter and take immediate action while the police has asked the workers to come forward to lodge complaints. - Star, 27/6/2010, Foreigners hired to build palace claim they have not been paid
KUALA LUMPUR: The main contractor for the new Istana Negara project claims it is the responsibility of the sub-contractors to pay their workers.

When The Star visited Maya Maju Sdn Bhd’s site office in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur, project manager Abdul Razak Mat Yunus said they paid their contractors on time and it was up to them to pay their workers.

Maya Maju’s contract is worth almost RM650mil, while the building of an elevated highway to the main entrance of the palace, awarded to Ahmad Zaki Sdn Bhd, costs RM130mil.

Abdul Razak referred the matter to the Public Works Department, adding that only the department could give an official comment on the issue.

At the PWD site office, construction manager Aidzil Adzahar Ahmad, however, said Maya Maju was responsible for the workers and the department was merely overseeing the project on behalf of the Government.

“It is their project,” he said, adding that he was unaware of workers being abused and not getting paid.

Human rights lawyer N. Surendran said these migrant workers were “tied” to their employers who would hold on to their passports.

“Such workers do not have much say or means to complain if they are not given what has been promised to them,” he said.

He said that if a worker dared to question his boss, his employment could be easily terminated and he could be sent back to his home country. The worker, he said, would have spent a lot of money to come here to work.

“Many are desperate to earn money and help their families back home. For fear of deportation, they are forced to abide by the circumstances that they are in.”

Although, the Malaysian labour law also applies to foreigners, there is always the practical problem.

“They are put in a tight situation. Lodge a complaint and the employer cracks down on you, terminates your employment and you’re sent back to your country. So there is no real protection.

“Eventually there is no one to turn to and that is why workers put up with the conditions they are in.” - Star, 27/6/2010, Firm: Workers usually paid by sub-contractors

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Malaysian Bar opposes proposed amendments to Labour Laws

There has been a lot of protest about the proposed amendments to the labour law - but unfortunately not much information as to what these proposed amendments are. The Bar Council's statement gives us some idea of what these proposals are. It would be good if some one post in the said proposed amendments...MTUC website should really have this information (but apparently it is not there)

Press Release

Malaysian Bar opposes proposed amendments to Labour Laws

The Malaysian Bar is concerned that the amendments being proposed to various labour laws will be detrimental to workers at large, and will give employers an unbridled hand to dismiss employees with impunity.  The Bar Council is surprised that it has not been consulted about these proposals despite having had numerous dialogues with the Minister for Human Resources. 
The key proposals are aimed at restricting the access of certain categories of employees to redress in the Industrial Court, and will effectively further erode the safeguards against wrongful dismissal by employers.  Employees who have fixed-term contracts, have less than one year of service, earn a basic salary of RM 10,000 or more, or who are past retirement age, will be prohibited from seeking relief, such as reinstatement, back wages and/or compensation, under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act 1967. 
There is no justification for removing the current protections for such employees.  By giving employers vast powers to dismiss employees at will, the proposed amendments will be open to abuse.  Employers will discriminate against vulnerable workers by reclassifying their workforce to come within these exceptions, in order to escape from their duties and obligations.

We would hasten to add that a vast majority of employers are responsible and do ensure that their employees are well taken care of.  The current safeguards only apply to a very small number of employers who are taken to the Industrial Court for exploiting or victimising their employees.
The proposed reforms are wholly pro-employer and are at the expense of public interest and social responsibility.  They are not significant in attracting foreign investments, as most cases filed in the Industrial Court involve local companies.  The proposals will deprive several hundred employees per year of any remedy in the Industrial Court, which is the only court that can order reinstatement.  The sole recourse for them will be in the civil courts, which offer very limited redress according to the terms of the employment contracts, which always favour the employers because of their stronger bargaining position.  
The proposals will defeat the purpose of the current social legislation, which was introduced by Parliament to prevent exploitation, and in recognition of the imbalance in the relative bargaining position between employers and employees.  They will negate the rationale for the establishment of the Industrial Court, which was to provide members of the workforce with relief from the harshness of the civil courts in relation to employment terminations. 
Our labour laws cannot be reformed purely by reference to the laws of developed nations, which are strong welfare-based states that have specific benefits to cater for the needs of workers who are unemployed or have been terminated.  The suggested amendments are altogether misconceived, and will sanction the statutory victimisation of employees.
The Malaysian Bar is also opposed to the proposal that human resource consultants be permitted to represent parties in the Industrial Court, as such consultants will not possess the necessary qualifications to practise in a court of law.  Furthermore, they are not governed by a regulatory regime, unlike lawyers, who are bound by strict rules on ethics to govern professional conduct and are subject to disciplinary proceedings if they breach these rules.  Lawyers are also covered by a mandatory professional indemnity scheme set in place to protect a client’s interest in the event of a claim of negligence against a lawyer.
Employees have far less bargaining power than employers and should be given additional protection.  The proposed amendments, however, will further tip the balance of power in favour of employers.  We urge the Government to make security of tenure, which is a fundamental tenet of industrial relations, the paramount consideration, and to not bow to the self-serving interests of the private sector.
Note: The Bar Council intends to organise a public forum on 24 July 2010 to seek views from stakeholders and members of the public on these amendments. 
Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar

23 June 2010


Friday, June 25, 2010

Health Minister's priority is not making money - but ensuring universal healthcare for all in Malaysia

What should be the focus and the priority of the Minister of Health?

Should it not be to ensure the best free(or affordable) healthcare for all persons in Malaysia now and in the future?

Or should it be how to promote the healthcare industry - so that more money can be made?

As it is, people in Malaysia generally do not access to 'heart healthcare' ever since it has been taken away from the government hospitals, and placed under the National Heart Institute ( which really behaves like a private hospital despite being fully owned by the government) - whereby the amount of money it charges is beyond the means of most persons in Malaysia...and they do die sooner by reason of this. [Go visit the IJN website - and you will see that it is more interested in wooing foreign clients and paying clients - rather than providing healthcare for Malaysians generally]

Making money from healthcare should not be the priority of the Minister or the UMNO-led BN government  - it should be the universal healthcare of all persons in Malaysia...

In Thailand, ordinary people can go to some private hospitals and get treatment at the same nominal rate they pay at government hospitals. Maybe, Malaysia should also be looking at this especially for the Klang Valley region - where there really is a great shortage of government healthcare facilities. There is now no government hospitals in Subang Jaya, Petaling Jaya,....
Problems that people in Malaysia are facing today:-
- unavailability of sufficient medicine, so much so many a time people are asked to come back every 2 weeks (or monthly) to get the balance of their medicines. Sometime, some medicines are just not available. Doctors examine patients, prescribe the taking of certain medicines - but the government pharmacy does not have it (or is in short supply).
- when certain machines break down - there is just no funds to do the needful repairs, and hence blood tests etc just cannot get done.
- the new policy of the Health Ministry seem to be just doing the really necessary blood and other tests, and not like before, where it was the norm for doctors to order the patients (especially in certain categories like aged, diabetics, etc..) to be given full(or more comprehensive)  blood tests, etc periodically maybe once a year. Of course, this is important for early detection - which can be dealt with soonest.
- In government hospitals/polyclinics, the waiting time still is very long - sometimes up to 6-7 hours just to see the doctors, and that is proof that we certainly need more doctors. I invite the Minister to go incognito, and spend some time sitting in the waiting area of government hospitals to better understand the problems.

Care for the people of Malaysia should be the priority - and when you have reached the status of countries like Cuba, then maybe you could consider 'medico-tourism'. How much money has the Malaysian government been spending to attract customers for the private healthcare institutions in Malaysia? The Ministers priority must be government healthcare. With regards to private healthcare facilities, all that needs be done is to set policy, standards, etc... We do not want to hear of a case that an accident victim in serious condition was rushed to the nearest hospital, being a private one, who died (or became worse) because the private hospital doctors refused to treat....'no money...no treat' policy. Minister have to control these private institutions. Make sure that they treat locals...

Pharmaceutical - this would  be a good area that emphasis be given, but the priority must be for the production of cheap affordable medicine for the consumption of persons in Malaysia, and persons in other poor and/or developing countries. That means, we must be concerned in research and development - not merely the setting up of more factories of existing multi-national pharmaceutical companies in Malaysia. [Why don't the UMNO-led BN government confess that they are responsible for the increased cost of medicines in Malaysia. When they signed the WTO and other Free Trade Agreements, it was not really just about 'copyrighted' CDs/VCDs...it was also about computer programs, medicines, etc...and today Malaysia cannot even produce its own generic medicines...i.e. those tablets that had that "KK" on it]

Production of Medical Equipments - this too again may be good. But, important for us to have our own research and development and own products, rather than just housing a foreign companies factory in Malaysia. At the same time, it is important that we also ensure that the human rights of the workers are not just protected but at the highest standard. See earlier post:- STOP PENALIZING WORKERS WHO WANT TO GET JUSTICE - MAXTER GLOVE SHOULD REINSTATE BURMESE MIGRANT WORKER WHO COMPLAINED TO LABOUR DEPARTMENT[Well, this company produces medical gloves for the international market, and about 70 international and local groups have endorsed this media statement as of today]

Training of Specialist - well, if we have the capacity, let us do it. But, at the same time let us also not forget about the generating and training of more doctors, medical assistants, nurses, and other medical support staff. Why only specialists?

Medico Tourism - well, this should be given the lowest priority. The Ministry(government) can give its blessing and support - but no money should be expended on this. The day we find that our government doctors are sitting down with no work after 1 pm because all patients have been dealt with, we can start to think about medico-tourism. Private hospitals and clinics can use their own resources to woo foreign patients as potential customers of their service. The government need not expend the 'people's money' for the benefit of private institutions....despite the fact it may be the same politicians, their family and friends being the 'owners' of these institutions.

PUTRAJAYA: The healthcare industry has the potential to contribute RM10bil to the national economy by concentrating in four sectors, said Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

The areas are pharmaceutical, production of medical equipment, health tourism and training of specialists.

“While this will be mostly private sector-driven, my ministry will facilitate and provide expert assistance to the concerned companies.

“It will be a challenging time for us but we are all excited and ready to help realise the Government’s aim of generating more income from healthcare services,” he told reporters after presenting excellence service awards to Health Ministry staff yesterday.

The industry contributes some RM4bil to the economy.

Private healthcare is one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

While the ministry targeted RM10bil in annual revenue by 2020, Liow said he was confident the goal could be achieved earlier.

One aim would be for local pharmaceutical companies to produce higher quality generic drugs which could be exported.

Liow said discussions would be held with medical equipment companies to see how his ministry could help boost production to increase export, adding that Malaysia has the expertise to provide training for foreign doctors and specialists.

“As for health tourism, we already have 35 hospitals and clinics, including dental clinics that are promoting their services.

“The ministry has also set up the Malaysian Healthcare Travel Council to promote the country’s healthcare services abroad,” he said.

Liow said the ministry would not abandon its core business of providing health services to the people.

The ministry had put in place a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the efficiency of its services – particularly in emergency assistance, pharmacy, counter service, clinic service and operations.

On another matter, the ministry refuted news reports about the outbreak of malaria in Sekinchan, Selangor, saying the recent death due to the disease involved a fisherman from Myanmar.

The three others warded in Sungai Karang hospital were also Myanmar nationals.

“They were all imported cases. We have also conducted blood test on 122 locals and 219 foreigners in the area. All tests came back negative,” he said. - Star, 25/6/2010, Healthcare can bring RM10bil to economy, says Liow

Pudu Jail: Government ignored National Heritage Board when they brought the walls down

Why did the our Minister of Culture....and the UMNO-led BN government did not listen to the pleas of the National Heritage Board to NOT demolish Pudu Prison ? Maybe still not too late...

Walls Come Tumbling Down, History Bypassed
21 June 2010
Badan Warisan Malaysia has for the past several years been advocating against the demolition of Pudu Jail. We have been led to understand that a small concession has been made to preserve a small section of the wall flanking the main gate, although we do not have any details on what the plans for this will be. This token concession makes a mockery of heritage preservation.
We wonder if a few years down the road, this may also be demolished to make way for further development, or will it, like the remnants of the old railway arches on Lebuh Pasar Besar, be left standing, ignored, with no explanation of its origins or why it is even there, and to suffer the same travesty of being painted some garish reddish purple colour, as it passes out of the memories of the local community?
The excuse that heritage enclaves or heritage properties have to provide the same economic viability viz new development in adjacent areas is surely passé. Everywhere else in the world, communities are striving to retain their heritage structures as physical, tangible evidence of their history and identity. Would this decision to demolish have been made were the building to have been the Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad? Both these buildings were built at the same time, and the design credited to the same engineer, C E Spooner. And yet one is retained, despite having had extensive changes made to its interior, while the other has largely retained its original form.
If the decision to retain or demolish one or the other was based on which has the higher levels of authenticity, Pudu Jail would come out on top. Unfortunately, Pudu Jail does not have the "wow" factor. It does not have the wholesome appeal being a building with a brutal and insalubrious story. But is this not a legitimate part of the story of Kuala Lumpur?
The latest news which we have read (The Malaysian Insider) is that it appears the government does not consider Pudu Jail to be a heritage building, and that it is not something which as a nation, we are proud of.
It would be useful to know what criteria a building or site needs to possess before it can be considered a heritage building by our government. In the case of Pudu Jail, is it not heritage just because it is a jail, with all its negative connotations?
Surely jails are a part of the tangible evidence of our penal history which is part of our justice system. I think that we should also not forget that in its over 100 year history, it was not only a prison where convicts were incarcerated, but also where, during the period of the Japanese occupation, allied servicemen from many different nations who had fought to defend our shores were also imprisoned. Is this a part of our nation's history which we are not also proud of?
Sadly, the custodians of our nation's heritage have not seen fit to respond to the many different voices which have spoken up against the demolition of Pudu Jail. The only official comments have been ones justifying the need for expansion of the roads to alleviate traffic congestion.
But traffic congestion is not something which those of us who live and work in KL are unfamiliar with. Would these same authorities be so quick to agree to demolish the old Railway Station so that we can widen Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin and help ease traffic? Or the Central Market building? I would be very surprised if the city's traffic woes just disappear with the widening of Jalan Pudu or Jalan Hang Jebat.
Badan Warisan Malaysia has highlighted the plight of Pudu Jail in various correspondences with the authorities and via letters to the press for the past decade. We have also formally advocated against the proposed demolition of this property, along with many, many other properties in KL via our commentary and recommendations for the KL Structure Plan and more recently the Draft KL Local Plan.
While it may be too late to save Pudu Jail, Badan Warisan hopes that the awareness raised by this will strengthen the resolve members of the public to be conscious of how fragile our heritage is and to speak up for its protection, conservation and preservation.
Badan Warisan Malaysia

Do we need a new Culture Minister?

He calls that hand-painted mural that made Malaysia proud- when it was acknowledged then as the longest hand painted mural in the world as insignificant...graffiti

He added that the drawings on the outer wall demolished on Monday night were not significant.

“I’ve asked Balai Seni Lukis (National Art Gallery), they said it’s graffiti with lots of scenery.

“It’s not something that is artistic in the real sense,” he said. - Star, 24/6/2010, Pudu Prison gate to be retained as memorial, says minister
Well, our Minister says that the Prison did not contribute to the welfare of society. Of course, it does, All prisons do.... and surely the British colonial power would have also used this prison to house...torture Malaysia's freedom fighters who were struggling for independence...(but maybe they were not from UMNO???) 

There so many prisons all over the world that are considered historical sites...and are today also tourist attractions. Pudu Prison if developed and promoted as a tourist attraction would have definitely seen a lot of tourist given its location in the heart of KL - and its accessibility by public transport.

At the end of the day, it was really about 'business', profits....and nothing else. Heritage sites etc... does not make 'big money' for anyone.

Dr Rais said the prison was not a building that was under the ministry’s heritage list.
“Pudu Prison is not something that should be made a national heritage.

“It’s a prison. You can commemorate it with an artefact and the entrance is good enough,” Dr Rais told reporters on Wednes­day.

He said that for a historical building to pass ‘the heritage test,’ it must have significance and contributed to the welfare of society.- Star, 24/6/2010, Pudu Prison gate to be retained as memorial, says minister

From the 17th to the 20th centuries, Robben Island served as a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment. Today it is a World Heritage Site and museum, a poignant reminder to the newly democratic South Africa of the price paid for freedom.  - Robben Island Museum

Bunce Island is a national historic site under the protection of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Tourism and Monuments and Relics Commission. There are substantial ruins on the island, including the factory house, fortification, slave prison, watchtowers, dormitories, storerooms, and power magazine. 

Alcatraz and history go hand in hand. Once home to some of America's most notorious criminals, the federal penitentiary that operated here from 1934 to 1963 brought a dark mystique to the Rock. The presence of infamous inmates like Al "Scarface" Capone, and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud helped to establish the island's notoriety. To this day, Alcatraz is best known as one of the world's most legendary prisons.

Former Australian prisoner-of-war Charles Edwards told AFP in 2008 that Pudu jail should be preserved.

Edwards was a private in the Australian 8th Division, part of Commonwealth forces that defended Malaya, as it was then known, at the outset of the 1939-1945 war.

He was captured by the Japanese and endured torture and deprivation while being held at Pudu along with thousands of other prisoners-of-war.

After the war Pudu continued to be used as a prison and in July 1986 Briton Kevin Barlow and Australian Brian Chambers were hanged there, the first Westerners to be executed under Malaysia’s anti-narcotics laws.

Pudu, built in 1895, was closed in 1996 to make way for a prison museum which shut in 2005. It was then used as a holding centre for prisoners undergoing trial before closing in 2008 - AFP, East Asian Times, Authorities begin tearing down historic Malaysian jail

"There are many other places in Kuala Lumpur that can be redeveloped for commercial and residential purposes but there is only one historic prison with such significance,” Singapore-based military historian Brian Farrell told AFP. - AFP, East Asian Times, Authorities begin tearing down historic Malaysian jail

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thai head of UN Human Rights Council must first ensure Human Rights in Thailand

There has serious violations of human rights in Thailand of late. People have been detained under the Emergency decree for long periods, no access to lawyers, etc...and ironically Thailand has been appointed head of the UN HR Council - believe decision may have been made  before Thailand became such a violator of human rights...

Thailand Must Take Clear and Decisive Action for Human Rights
as New President of the UN Human Rights Council

Asian NGOs Urge the New Asian Member States of the Council - Malaysia, the Maldives,
Qatar and Thailand to Strictly Comply with the Highest Human Rights Standards

(22 June 2010, Bangkok/Geneva) The UN Human Rights Council (Council) convened its organizational meeting yesterday on its fifth annual cycle (2010-2011) and elected Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, the Permanent Representative of Thailand to the UN Office and Other International Organizations in Geneva, as the President of the Council for a period of one year. We, the undersigned 55 national and regional human rights organizations across Asia, urge Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow to demonstrate his utmost leadership and competency in order for the Council to fulfill its mandate and responsibilities effectively and ensure meaningful participation of NGOs.

We are of the view that there are underused work formats and tools at the Council, which can be rejuvenated by vigorous and inspiring initiatives by the President. Specifically, we call upon the President of the Council to make the most use of a President’s Statement to ensure timely response to situations of human rights violations, but not in a manner of substituting or replacing resolutions. The urgent debate on the Gaza flotilla incident during the recently concluded 14th regular session of the Council demonstrated the creative capability of the Council in fulfilling its mandate. With the active facilitation by the President, such an example of a work format should be further explored and built upon consistently for other human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. Furthermore, we urge the President to concretely work on ways to better protect and enhance the space available to NGOs as well as for greater representation and effective engagement of national and regional NGOs in the Council processes including the 5-year review of the Council.

The Presidency of the Council is not limited to the personal capacity of the Ambassador; the government of Thailand too must play an exemplary role in upholding the highest human rights standards and fully cooperating with the Council and other UN human rights mechanisms. The public image and credibility of the Council will be seriously undermined if it is chaired by a representative of the State that continues to impose unduly prolonged state of emergency in the country. We urge the government of Thailand to lift the Emergency Decree without any further delay and ensure full transparency and accountability for those human rights violations committed during the recent unrest in its capital.

As a way of setting an example as the Council President, Thailand should issue a standing invitation to all Special Procedures mandate-holders for official country visits, giving priority to the Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Executions, Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, Freedom of Opinion and Expression, Migrants as well as the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. We call upon the government of Thailand to remain seized of the persistent human rights trends such as the rights of migrant workers, the right to freedom of expression and the human rights situation in southern Thailand, with the view that these should not be neglected during the national reconciliation process. In addition, the National Human Rights Commission and the judiciary must be further strengthened to ensure their independence and effectiveness.

Lastly, we repeat our call towards Asian States to push competitive slates to enable the General Assembly to be given a genuine opportunity to elect the most qualified States to the Council. While we regret the last Council elections in May were characterized by a pre-determined process, we strongly urge the new Asian member States of the Council, namely Malaysia, the Maldives, Qatar and Thailand to strictly comply with international human rights norms and standards and fully commit to engaging with national and regional human rights NGOs during their 3-year term. They must set clear indicators and timelines for their voluntary pledges and commitment with concrete action plans rather than aspirational targets.

List of Signatories (55 National and Regional Human Rights Organizations in Asia):

Regional Organizations

1.      Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma), Thailand
2.      Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), Thailand
3.      Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD), Philippines
4.      Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Thailand
5.      Asian Legal Resource Center (ALRC), Hong Kong, China
6.      Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), India
7.      Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW), Thailand
8.      International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW-AP), Malaysia
9.      Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Philippines

National Organizations

10.  Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain
11.  Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh
12.  Odhikar, Bangladesh
13.  Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), Burma/Thailand
14.  Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
15.  Indigenous Community Support Organization (ICSO), Cambodia
16.  Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), India
17.  People’s Watch (PW), India
18.  Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India
19.  Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI), India
20.  South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), India
21.  Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Indonesia
22.  Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), Indonesia
23.  Indonesian Association of Families of the Disappeared (IKOHI), Indonesia
24.  International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID), Indonesia
25.  The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Indonesia
26.  The Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (IMPARSIA), Indonesia
27.  Centre for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC), Malaysia
28.  Education and Research Association for Consumer (ERA Consumer), Malaysia
29.  Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
30.  The Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN), Maldives
31.  Centre for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia
32.  Globe International (GI), Mongolia
33.  Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Coordination Committee (HRTMCC), Nepal
34.  Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), Nepal
35.  International Institute for Human Rights, Environment and Development (INHURED), Nepal
36.  National Alliance of Women Human Rights Defenders (NAWHRD), Nepal
37.  National Coalition for the International Criminal Court (NCICC), Nepal
38.  Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal
39.  National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), Pakistan
40.  Paglingkod Batas Pangkapapatiran Foundation (PBPF), Philippines
41.  Philippines Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Philippines
42.  PILIPINA Legal Resources Centre (PLRC), Philippines
43.  Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Philippines
44.  Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), Republic of Korea
45.  MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, Republic of Korea
46.  People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), Republic of Korea
47.  The Refuge P Nan, Republic of Korea
48.  Think Centre, Singapore
49.  Law and Society Trust (LST), Sri Lanka
50.  Information Monitor (INFORM), Sri Lanka
51.  Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)
52.  People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF), Thailand
53.  US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Thailand
54.  Working Group on Justice for Peace (WGJP), Thailand
55.  Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), Timor Leste

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

If only PKR could ALSO promote more democratic rights for people in places they rule...

It is good that PKR is now allowing all its members to vote for the President and the Central Committee... but alas that is just an internal party matter....and I do hope that they could also with the same commitment bring greater democracy to the places they now rule with other Pakatan Rakyat partners..

But it is sad that they still do not believe in the people of Malaysia and their right and ability to choose their own leaders at every level. 
- they can choose their own kampung, Taman, kampung orang asli, kampung baru, area leaders and representatives
- they can choose their own local council members
- they can even choose their own SENATORS...
....and it is here that PKR has failed to bring greater democracy to the places where they already rule...

PKR is gearing up for the massive undertaking of being the first political party in Malaysia to introduce direct voting, following amendments to its constitution last year.

tian chua media police suit pc 090307 latheefa koyaAccording to party information chief Latheefa Koya (right), the highly-anticipated move beginning July will see “a few hundred thousand” members voting in their leaders at national and division level.

“From July until the congress in November, the divisions will hold their annual general meetings as per their schedule and members will vote for division leaders then,” she said.

She added that all the members from about 200 divisions will vote for central leaders on a later date, with members divided into zones.

“We will split them into the northern zone, eastern zone, Sabah and Sarawak zone and Selangor and Kuala Lumpur zone. And they will all vote on the same day,” she said.

The move will see PKR eclipsing other parties which at present only allow a select number of delegates to vote for its national leadership, giving rise to money politics.

For example, last year Umno allowed only 2,519 delegates to vote for the deputy president, three vice-presidents, 25 supreme council members and the Umno permanent chairperson.

Internal 'election commission'

Latheefa said that state and division leaders will be briefed at the upcoming retreat in Shah Alam this weekend, to ensure that everyone understands the details of the procedures.

pkr congress agm kota baru 300510 crowdThe briefing will cover not only the daunting logistical issues but the rules and regulations of the election, she said.
“We will explain who can be nominated, the nomination process, what is the procedure for someone to accept or reject a nomination, how someone can protest a nomination, and all that.

“The election will be a lot of work, so we don't want things to not be done correctly and people questioning the results of the election,” she said.

She added that the party will also form its “own version of the Election Commission” to monitor and run the election, using party volunteers.

“The party secretariat is currently in the process of organising volunteer members and people with calibre who do not want to run, to be part of this committee.

“It will be hard work but we have committed to this, and so we have to deliver,” she said.- Malaysiakini, 22/6/2010,A first as PKR starts direct voting come July

Monday, June 21, 2010

Still wasting money for arms..unnecessary 'new Parliament' - and wanting to cut subsidies that benefit the people

Malaysia claims to be going 'bankrupt' - eventhough it is impossible for any government to go bankrupt, more so a country like Malaysia that has been bestowed with rubber, oil palm, petroleum, gas, .... and has a small population of less than 30 million.

And to reduce its spending - the government wants to reduce subsidies that now benefit all persons in Malaysia irrespective of ethnicity, religion, political affiliations. We are talking about subsidies for fuel, cooking gas, cooking oil, food items, electricity, water,....

But at the same time, Malaysia's UMNO-led BN government wants to waste money...by now building a new Parliament 

I really also wondered why Najib bought that very expensive submarine - are we going to war with anyone? We do not need submarines....fighter jets, etc Malaysia really do not have any enemies... and money presently wasted on these 'toys' could have been better spend for the welfare of the people...

We spend billions on the refurbishment of defence equipment; on fighter jets, frigates and submarines. When a supplier lays on an exorbitant commission to some shadowy middleman, that commission is built into the price the government pays. That money comes from the ordinary Malaysian.

Military toys

Military toys are very expensive. I remember from my time in the Finance Ministry. Even then, patrol craft cost about RM280 million each.

exocet AM-39missleWe loved Exocet missiles. As minister, I had to sign each time the military fired an Exocet missile for testing.
Every time, we test fired one of them, RM2 million literally went out with a bang.

When the UK went to war against Argentina, the UK government tried to borrow them from us because outside of the UK, we had the most of them in the world. We must have been under some extraordinary military threat which I did not understand.

The list is long: procurement of food and clothing for the military, medicine for hospitals and so on. In all these things, the government has been extraordinarily generous. And paid extraordinarily high prices. - Malaysiakini, 19/6/2010, Ku Li on corruption and Exocet missiles
And, now some facts about our present Parliament. We do not need any new Parliament buildings...and if there is a need for more space for a room/lounge for drivers of  MPs, and MPs themselves, then another building could be erected in the large area around the current Parliament...

"We have raised several issues many times. For instance, drivers don't have a waiting room, MPs don't have their own offices but only workspaces, and so on," Fuziah [Kuantan PKR MP Fuziah Salleh] told reporters at the Parliament lobby.- Malaysiakini, 17/6/2010, MPs cry foul over Putrajaya relocation plan
I believe MPs should be fighting for research assistants and staff for them to be better able to research matters that will enable to make more knowledgeable comments in the Dewan. Most MPs do not read even all the Bills that are being debated...that is why they are often silent. We need MPs of better quality...for the good of Malaysia. And better MPs need to have quality staff, research assistants, etc... and money is better spend for this rather than for new Parliaments..

The foundation stone was laid by the third Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Syed Putra Al-Haj Ibni Al-Marhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail, on Aug 31, 1962, and officially opened on Nov 2, 1963 – meaning construction of the iconic structure took only 14 months at a cost of RM18mil.

Parliament House is built on a hill 61m above sea level, and has grounds totalling 16.2 hectares.

The main block, where both Houses of Parliament sit, is three stories high, whereas the tower block is 17 stories high.

Over one million bricks, 2,000 tons of steel, 54,000 tons of concrete, 200,000 bags of cement and 300 tons of glass were used to construct Parliament House.

The triangular structure that is the roof structure of the Dewan Rakyat hall has 11 sections, representing the number of states in the then Federation of Malaya.

Malaysia, including Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, was only formed on Sept 16, 1963, less than two months before Parliament House was opened.
Aerial view: The rooftop of the main building of Parliament House, taken from the 8th floor of the tower building. — Pictures by RAJA FAISAL HISHAN/The Star

The Parliament ground has a Deer Park – there are currently about 30 deer still being housed there.

The total value of the paintings – of past and present Kings, Prime Ministers and Speakers of both Houses – is approximately RM4mil.

Parliament has a yearly allocation of RM60mil, but this includes allowances to Members of Parliament, which takes up about 70% of its budget.

The Royal Steps – only used once a year by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong when officiating the first sitting of Parliament – is covered up with plastic sheets the rest of the time. Apparently there have been cases of cats getting into the building and soiling the carpet.

The ornamental pattern on the exterior of parliament, also known as kerawang, not only adds grandeur to the structure but keeps the building cool as well.

There is supposedly a tunnel leading from Parliament House to the Lake Gardens to be used for emergency evacuation. However, its exact location is not disclosed, either on grounds of secrecy or due to disuse.

Parliament House graced the back of every Malaysian coin from 1967 to 1988.

The Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara are associated with the colours blue and red respectively, and the carpeting in both houses are so coloured.- Star, 20/6/2010, Quick facts about Parliament building