It's official. It's historical. Opposition forms coalition

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 -- It's been floating around for some time now and Anwar Ibrahim has spoken about it to various media, but today it is official, he announced at a news conference that Malaysia's opposition parties have agreed to enter into a formal coalition.

The de facto leader of the opposition, whose wife Dr Wan Azizah will be the formal Leader of the Opposition in parliament, said the move to have a formal coalition is to present the parties as a credible alternative to the present ruling government coalition, Barisan Nasional.

A convention of all Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives of Parliament and State Assemblies will be held the 27th of April, 2008

This ushers in the era of a two-party system into Malaysian politics for the first time in its history. The name of the new coalition is Pakatan Rakyat.

The PKR-PAS-DAP group has proposed strengthening ties by forming Pakatan Rakyat, pending the agreement of the respective parties, said Anwar.

He dismissed the long-held position of Parti Islam SeMalaysia, or PAS, on making Malaysia an Islamic state as non-issue. The official press statement from the 3 parties follows:

1st April 2008
The malaysian Insider

Statement by the Leadership of KeADILan, DAP and PAS on the Formation of Pakatan Rakyat

The leaders of KeADILan, DAP and PAS met today in furtherance of the meeting held on the 18th of March 2008.

Today’s meeting was attended by, among others, Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim, YB Lim Kit Siang, YB Dato’ Seri Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang and YB Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

In today’s meeting, we have proposed to consolidate the cooperation between the three parties under the name “PAKATAN RAKYAT.” This name has been proposed pending confirmation by the respective parties.Pakatan Rakyat pledges to uphold the rights and interests of all Malaysians, regardless of religion or race, as enshrined in the Constitution.

With the results of the recent elections, the state governments of Kelantan, Kedah, Pulau Pinang, Perak and Selangor will be known as Pakatan Rakyat state governments. The policies of these governments will be conducted in accordance with the policies of Pakatan Rakyat.

To further mutual understanding regarding such policies, a convention of all Pakatan Rakyat elected representatives of Parliament and State Assemblies will be held the 27th of April, 2008.

We have developed and strengthened the structure of Pakatan Rakyat by creating under the Leadership Council, consisting of the leaders of the three parties, a Joint Secretariat consisting of three leaders each from each of the three parties. This Joint Secretariat will be tasked with building the foundation and framework of the Pakatan Rakyat for ratification by the Leadership Council.

YB Datin Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim
YB Lim Kit Siang
YB Dato' Seri Tuan Guru Haji Abdul Hadi Awang

Mydin stores mark protest against anti-Islam film

SUBANG JAYA: All Mydin stores nationwide have placed red labels on products from the Netherlands as a sign of protest over the release of the controversial anti-Islam film Fitna.

Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said they have put up notices in their two hypermarkets and 24 emporiums nationwide as a step to urge shoppers not to purchase the products.

Dutch legislator Geert Wilders released the 15-minute film on the Internet on Thursday.

“We have put up red labels with the words ‘Product from the Netherlands’ on the shelves and posters have been pasted around the mall and cashier counters to urge shoppers not to buy the products.

“This will give customers a choice to shop for other products, especially local products.

“One need not be a Muslim to refrain from purchasing the products, as nobody has the right to condemn any religion – it is time to show how united we are.

“Anyway, there are many other products to choose from, and people need not worry,” Ameer said in his speech before Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad launched the Product Malaysia Citarasa Kita promotion at the Mydin Hypermarket in USJ here yesterday.

He added that they were, however, unable to remove the products from the shelves as consumers had the right to make their own choice.

Shahrir commended Mydin and Ameer for speaking up and placing the labels to discourage people from purchasing products from the Netherlands.

He said usually businessmen preferred to stay neutral when it came to such issues.

“But I am surprised with the speech by Ameer and the willingness of Mydin to place the labels to show their dissatisfaction over Wilders’ act.

“We are not angry with the Netherlands Government but with Wilders’ act, which has created anger among the Muslims,” he said, adding that there was no official boycott of Dutch products.

Shahrir said even companies in the Netherlands had said that they would take legal action against Wilders if their businesses were affected.

“And since their businesses are now affected, I hope legal action will be taken,” he added.

“With the move, consumers will have a choice of products that can compete with foreign products,” he added.

By MANJIT KAUR
Star Online
01/04/08

Go back to basics, CIJ tells media

(Harakah) - The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) has told the media to "go back to basics" after a lopsided coverage before the last March 8 election day that could have "backfired" and contributed to the opposition making significant gains in about four decades.

Executive director Gayathry Venkisteswaran said an adherence to ethical values and high professional standards was really "the first step in improving the media's credibility".

At a press conference that unveiled the CIJ election monitoring of the media here March 29, Gayathry said the reviews and changes by the media must "hinge on the fundamental role and purpose of journalism".

She said improvements would require "the removal of blocks of old patronage mindsets and passivity in upholding journalistic integrity". She dismissed cosmetic moves such as putting a highlight on any opposition figure that now headed a state government to the front page as adequate enough in restoring the role of the media in providing for "check and balance".

"Visibility (of opposition leaders in the media) is not an indication of change," she said.

Gayathry who noted that the struggle for the free media started in the 60's following the take over of the then Malay daily "Utusan Melayu" however contended that the future of the media in the country rely on the "ideologically driven" path to be taken by each media outlet rather than striving to achieve the desirable percentage of coverage for contesting side.

Obvious bias

She also contended that the solution to the "death" of real media might not lie in its anticipated reform but rather that the existing media houses need a bit of competition to constantly check that they were "doing justice to the profession".

She hinted that restrictive law such as the Printing Presses and Publications Act could have contributed to the quagmire the media find itself in and said the Act "must go".

CIJ relied on a total of 3,808 items from six newspapers in English, Malay and Tamil to measure the media contents on elections, ranging from news articles, editorials, opinion pieces, photographs and letter to the editors.

Among the three English dailies, CIJ noted that the "most pro-ruling government" was the Star with 63.12 percent of its space dedicated to the pro-ruling party.

It also had the smallest proportion of pro-opposition stories at 5.5 percent. Neutral stories took up 31.31 percent of its space.

In addition to "obvious bias" in the media, it was also observed that little space was given to issues of critical that matters to voters including the voices from the minority community, analysis of parties' manifesto and the strength of the parties.

Instead the focus was on personalities, superficial analysis of candidates and their issues and "little" meaningful debate, "despite the number of columns and spaces for opinion pieces".

The monitoring was done from Feb 24 to March 8.

Posted by Raja Petra
Tuesday, 01 April 2008
Malaysia Today

Elected Hindraf leader now hero for jail mates

A Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leader in Malaysia who is being held in a detention camp under the Internal Security Act (ISA) has become a celebrity there ever since he won in the Selangor state assembly elections earlier this month.

M. Manoharan, a legal adviser to Hindraf, is at the Kamunting detention camp. His wife S. Pushpaneela says his peers in the camp cheered and congratulated him when they saw the general election results via news on TV March 8.

'Several camp warders also patted his back. It was a touching moment for him,' she was quoted as saying in The Star newspaper Thursday.

'Many who did not know him well in the camp would come up to him and greet him whenever they saw him,' she said.

Hindraf is an umbrella organisation that claims to speak for Malaysia's ethnic Indians. Manoharan and four other Hindraf leaders P. Uthayakumar, V. Ganabatirau, K. Vasantha Kumar and R. Kengadharan are under two-year detention for their role in a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur in November last year.

Manoharan had stood on a Democratic Action Party (DAP) opposition ticket and won the Kota Alam Shah state seat by a 7,184-vote majority over incumbent Ching Su Chen of Barisan Nasional, the ruling coalition.

Pushpaneela said when she visited her husband at the camp the last two Sundays, she was surprised to see several detainees showing the thumbs-up sign.

'Although he was not given any extra facilities by the camp, he has Ganabatirau, Vasantha Kumar and Kengadharan, who are living in the same dormitory with him, as his assistants,' she said.

His peers in the camp, especially the dormitory mates, had given him a lot of ideas and advice on how to run the constituency, she added.

Pushpaneela said everyone in the camp had been nice to her husband and he did not complain about any ill treatment. Pushpaneela said she has only one hope and that is to see her husband's release and him taking over his duties as state assemblyman.

Lawyer Karpal Singh, who is also the DAP chairman, has been conducting their case before various courts.

He said the hearing on the appeal against the high court's decision last month to strike out the order for release of the five ISA detainees has been fixed for hearing at the Federal Court April 2.

Phoenix Herald

Police report by P. Uthayakumar 8-12-07 (against Prime Minister, Law Minister, Attorney General, Inspector General of Police.

Police Report by myself P Uthayakumar against (1) Malaysian Prime Minister Badawi and UMNO Leaders (2) Law Minister Nazri, (3) Attorney General Gani Patail, (4) Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan and (5) the UMNO controlled print and electronic media namely The News Strait Times, The Star, Malay Mail, Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian, TV3, RTM 1 and 2, NTV 7 and Astro etc for making false, malicious, seditious, criminally defamatory, racially inciting and inflammatory statements and/or publishing and/or broadcasting and/or causing to be published and/or broadcasted and/or causing the same to be broadcasted that Hindraf has links with LTTE, terrorist groups and supports violence.

Over the last three (3) weeks the UMNO controlled Malaysian Government and authorities have been going on a smear campaign and/or Hindraf bashing sessions using their aforesaid print and electronic media and on a headlines basis almost every day.

The statements published and/or broadcasted and/or caused to be published and/or broadcasted that I and/or the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) have links with terrorist organizations, and/or supports violence, Nazri’s statement that “this was from statements of Hindraf leaders who went overseas to garner support that they would meet LTTE leaders” (“Links with Tamil Tigers and India’s RSS, says Nazri,” The Star 8-12-2007 page N10) and Gani Patail’s statement that “The AG had on Wednesday told the court that he had reports Hindraf members had connections with the LTTE” (“Hindraf has links with Tigers” (New Straits Times 8-12-2007 Page 6 (based on an alleged police report lodged by a member of the public which I now say is a false police report. Please investigate and let me know within 48 hours from the date and time herein) is false, malicious, seditious, criminally defamatory racially inciting and inflammatory.

This is a desperate attempt by UMNO and the Malaysian authorities to sidetrack and/or divert from the real issues Hindraf is championing that is the racism, marginalisation and permanent colonialisation of the ethnic minority Indians in Malaysia by the UMNO controlled Malaysian government for the past 50 years. This is especially so after 25-11-2007 whereafter Hindraf enjoys the support of at least 95% of the 2 million Indians in Malaysia and also has the support and sympathy of foreign governments, NGOs and the media.

This latest statement is also to falsely and maliciously build up a case against me and Hindraf leaders to detain me and other Hindraf leaders without trial under the draconian Internal Security Act and/or other laws and deny me and the others bail and lock us up and punish us even before we are being found guilty in a Court of Law as was done to the 31 peaceful assemblers and hindu devotees praying at Batu Caves by the Shah Alam Sessions Court on 6th December 2007.

The above is also a political ploy as the Malaysian general elections are around the corner. Hindraf and their members are victimized persecuted, maliciously and racially prosecuted to show to especially the 60% malay muslim majority that the Indians have been punished for their alleged “demonstration” on 25-11-07.

The News Straits Times in particular on the 7th and 8th of December maliciously did not publish the whole truth ie “Waytha Moorthy’s brother Uthayakumar had also told The New Paper in Singapore that he could not rule our violence if the demands of the Indian community were not met “(New Straits Time dated 8-12-07 page 6)
What was maliciously deliberately and intentionally not published was that I and Hindraf have always maintained that we are committed and that we would only persue our struggle through legal and peaceful means following Ghandi’s peaceful and non violent “ahiesma” struggle.

When asked by The New Paper reporter I expressed fears and concerns that the uneducated Indian masses who may not know of other avenues and having pushed to the wall may resort to violence which was more correctly reported in The Star on 7-12-07 but asserted once again that Hindraf on its part was committed to a legal and peaceful struggle. But this whole truth was never published by the New Straits Times.

I hereby challenge the Prime Minister, Law Minister, Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police to within 24 hours to produce to me, the local and foreign print and electronic media at a press conference the alleged hard evidence of Hindraf’s link to terrorism and violence failing which I and Hindraf shall presume that the alleged evidence does not exist.

I also challenge the aforesaid individuals to investigate and make public the real culprits who attacked and killed the 5 Indians and injured 100 over others in the Kg Medan racial attacks tragedy from 8-3-01 to 22-3-01.

Also investigate the 1,000 over police reports against the various UMNO leaders and Malaysian authorities for the shoot to kill of hundreds of suspects and the mysterious deaths of hundreds in police custody (60% estimated to be Indians who only from 8% of the population) and hundreds of Indian “suspects unlawfully arrested, detained, beaten-up and tortured, hundreds of hindu temples demolished at the rate of one hindu temple in every three weeks and scores of hindu temples forced to relocate next to sewerage tanks.

Kindly also investigate the truth of my 1,000 over letters, memorandums, appeals protest notes scores of Civil Suits etc to the Prime Minister Ministers, Attorney General, Inspector General of Police, Chief Ministers and the other Malaysian authorities about the racism, marginalization and permanent colonialism of the Indians in Malaysia which only proves Hindraf’s track record of legal and peaceful struggle and Hindraf being no where near terrorism and/or violence

Deputy MB issue on hold in Perak, Selangor

(The Straits Times) - SEVERAL issues remained unsettled three weeks after the opposition coalition won in five states, including the posts of deputy menteri besar and how to repair ties with the federal government.

The governments of Selangor and Perak have yet to appoint any deputy menteri besar, or deputy chief ministers.

Selangor Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has said that he may not appoint a deputy to prevent bickering between the coalition parties.

This is despite pressure from the Democratic Action Party (DAP) to appoint one of its leaders as his number two.

Tan Sri Khalid is from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), while the third coalition member is Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

In Perak, the initial plan was to have two deputy menteris besar, one each from the Chinese and Indian communities, but there has been no word on nominees up to now, and politicians there gave vague answers when questioned by reporters.

Another key issue to be settled is how to improve ties with the central government led by Barisan Nasional (BN).

This would ensure that federal projects such as the building of roads and schools, as well as other investments, are not delayed.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, from the DAP, has said that he planned to meet Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi on Thursday to thrash out these issues.

Another issue that could hamper the smooth running of the new states won by DAP-PKR-PAS is their different ideologies.

The centre-left Chinese-

based DAP has a vastly different ideology from PAS, which has in its constitution the formation of an Islamic state.

Bridging the two is the multiracial but Malay-led PKR.

Although these issues have not led to open protracted disputes, they might surface once the euphoria over winning five states is over.

Hindraf leader's wife denies seeing Samy Vellu

(STAR) KLANG: ISA detainee and Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M. Manoharan's wife S. Pushpaneela has denied seeking MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu's help for the release of her husband.

"I didn't go and see Samy Vellu," Pushpaneela said.

She was commenting on Samy Vellu's statement on Sunday that she had gone to see him to seek his help.

She added that she did not understand why Samy Vellu wanted to appeal to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for the release of the five Hindraf members detained under the ISA (Internal Security Act) at this juncture.

"Why now, when he could have done it earlier?" said Pushpaneela.

She added that the onus had been on Samy Vellu to advise the Prime Minister not to detain the Hindraf 5 under the ISA.

However she did not dismiss the possibility that their relatives had gone to see Samy Vellu to seek his help.

"We have many relatives who are MIC members and strong supporters of the party," said Pushpaneela.

Manoharan's father M.S. Malayalam is the Kanchong Laut MIC branch chairman while Pushpaneela's sister S. Thangeswari is the Perak MIC Wanita chief.

Pushpaneela also added that if she needed any help she would turn to DAP chairman Karpal Singh.

"Mr Karpal is my pillar of strength, and if I needed anyone's support or help, he would be the one would I turn to."

Meanwhile R. Kenghadaran's wife Dr M. Kalaivani said that she and her husband's family did approach Samy Vellu during the early days of the Hindraf 5's detention.

"It must have been two or three weeks after their detention, and we went to see Samy Vellu in his capacity as the leader of the Indian community," she said.

She said they had gone to see Samy Vellu in the hope of securing Kenghadaran's release.

By WANI MUTHIAH

Ministry refuses to release Hindraf leaders

MALAYSIA'S Home Ministry will not release the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders detained under the Internal Security Act, despite Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president S. Samy Vellu's call to do so.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar acknowledged the MIC leader's right to make the call, but maintained that the ministry had acted in accordance with the law.

'It was a decision made based on legitimate processes of the law before I took over the office of ensuring security and public order in the country,' he said, referring to the detention of the five men.

Datuk Seri Samy Vellu had on Sunday urged the government to release the five Hindraf leaders, who had been detained for their involvement in a large anti-government rally last November.

His call came as a surprise, as he had up to then been supportive of the detention.

Datuk Seri Syed Hamid, however, did not comment on the MIC leader's call, saying instead: 'I will not be judgmental, nor will I speculate. He is a politician, he has the right to voice opinions as he is the leader of a national party. But we have the duty and responsibility to perform better.'

Last year's mass rally by about 20,000 Indians on the streets of Kuala Lumpur in November to plead for the plight of the community was instrumental in turning the Indians against the Barisan Nasional government.

BERNAMA

Malaysia: Politics Not Dirty, Politicians Are!!!

The dirty part of politics starts with party leaderships. As long as crooks find their way into politics, there will never be peace in this country. How can we expect fair leadership in government or political parties from individuals who have been tainted by scandal? Given that politicians determine a country's pace of development, those who play this game must be women and men of integrity. Ultimately, we need to strive for economic development as it will empower our poor to be less amenable to the dirty tricks of dirty politicians.

There is need for some basic criteria for aspiring politicians (some form of certificate of good conduct) to ensure that dishonest, corrupt and individuals have no chance of competing for public office. Although this requirement is difficult to implement, we need to find a way of engendering it in our political culture.

It will be difficult to restore sanity in our national politics until we streamline party leadership and structures. Firstly, the Political Parties laws have to be revisited to inculcate brilliant system of rewards and punishments, checks and balances, and diffusion of authority.

The "education is the key to political victory" theory goes that if we educate people as to the problem and the solution, then the elected officials will fall in line.
In a perfect world, you would mobilize, the politician would immediately agree to do everything you want, the policy would be changed, and we would all live happily ever after. Of course, it rarely happens that way.

Many politicians,especially those used to being treated like royalty rather than public servants may try to threaten and intimidate you. Most likely, a politician (whether or not intimidation is attempted) will seek to placate you by "explaining" what he or she calls "the political reality." Sometimes the explanation may be made by a surrogate for the politician; in many cases the surrogate will be well known as an advocate for your issues.

The message usually takes the basic form of, "I've been doing this for nearly thirty years and believe me, I share your concerns but we just can't bypass things immediately, it may take some time but as an aside, verbal commitment to full fill the society’s desired requests would be agreed but private promises are worthless.

However, most of the time, a fight really to make a difference may take years.

There are more important questions in my mind. Has dirty politics have ever been employed so effectively at promoting the interests of a small group at the clear and thorough expense of the popular and national interest?

However the ugliest thing about the 2008 election was the treatment of the press, which can be remarked to an aide that “reporters are puppets,” and had provided misleading information.

Buntong assemblyman quits DAP


PETALING JAYA (The STAR): Buntong assemblyman A.Sivasubramaniam has quit DAP, leaving the DAP-PKR-PAS coalition government in Perak teetering on the brink of collapse.

In a letter to DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng dated March 31, Sivasubramaniam said he had had lost confidence in the Perak DAP as it failed to fulfill its promise to appoint two Indian state executive council members.

He added the decision was a "big slap" in the face of Perak Indians and tantamount to deceiving the community.

"My victory in Buntong was a mandate given by the Indian community in the area, and therefore I cannot accept the decision made by the Perak DAP," he added.

Sivasubramanian could not be reached for further comment.

Of the 10 exco members sworn in on March 29, six were from DAP, including one Indian representative, Sungkai assemblyman A. Sivanesan.

In the March 8 general election, the Opposition coalition won 31 state seats in Perak - 18 seats went to DAP, seven to PKR, and six to PAS - while Barisan bagged 28 seats.

With Sivasubramaniam's resignation from DAP, the coalition is left with 30 assemblymen.

Gerakan deputy sec-gen quits all posts

PENANG: Gerakan deputy secretary-general Datuk Lee Kah Choon has quit all party posts with immediate effect to pave way for the party to “get back on its feet”.

Lee, 48, who joined Gerakan in 1987, resigned as Jalan Jelutong branch chairman, Jelutong division chairman, Penang Gerakan assistant secretary, state working committee member, central committee member and central working committee member.

Lee said he had written a one-page letter, notifying the party of his decision.

“I relinquished all my positions in the party because as a leader, I want to take responsibility for the losses Gerakan suffered in the general election,” the former Health Ministry parliamentary secretary told a press conference at his service centre in Jelutong.

Trying to hold back his emotions, Lee said he did not want to be a stumbling block for other capable members to become party leaders.

Lee’s announcement came a day after his criticisms in a Chinese daily on Saturday that the party leadership should be more responsible for the election losses.

Lee, a lawyer, said he would continue to serve the party as an ordinary member, especially in Jelutong and Machang Bubok.

He defeated DAP’s Karpal Singh for the Jelutong parliament seat in 1999 and retained the seat in 2004. In the March 8 polls, he lost the Machang Bubok state seat to PKR's Tan Hock Leong.

Lee said he would not reconsider his decision.

“My decision is solely mine and it’s final. If the grassroots want me to stay, I can always make a comeback in the next party elections,” he said.

He denied his decision was linked to his criticisms in the Chinese daily.

“I don’t owe anybody any explanation. I felt responsible and I wanted to do it, so I did it,” he said.

Asked about his relationship with Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, Lee said it was cordial and a working relationship. “Yes, I was unhappy and didn’t agree with certain issues during the election but that has nothing to do with my decision.”

By K.KASTURI DEWI
Star online

Press Statement: “Zero Squatters”, a flawed policy

The Bar Council is deeply concerned that the new Menteri Besar of Selangor, Tan Sri Khalid has announced that he will continue on the path embarked upon by his predecessor to eradicate all squatter settlements in the State.

The “zero squatter” policy of the previous State Administration was in our view flawed and an unmitigated disaster from the high handed manner in which the forced evictions were carried out to the manner in which the State Government all too quickly defended the actions of the developer against the urban settlers. The inhumane treatment and the failure to address the basic housing needs of the poor and marginalised is of great concern. Rather than support such a policy, the State Government should abandon it and make an open declaration that they will desist from using the draconian Essential (Clearance of Squatters) Regulations promulgated under the Emergency Ordinance.

Any enlightened policy on urban resettlement should have at its core, negotiations and the willingness to give these settlers affordable and decent alternative housing. Human Rights norms decry forced evictions. They demand instead that no one should be left homeless or vulnerable to human rights violations. It is the responsibility of the state to ensure proper resettlement in such circumstances.

Foreign workers
We are also disturbed about Tan Sri Khalid’s comments on foreign workers and the possibility of imposing an additional levy supposedly to be paid by their employers. Such a levy would almost certainly be transferred to the worker by his employer.

There appears to be a long held, and wrongly held, view that decreased dependence on foreign labour will result in less crime and less social problems! Statistics show that foreigners only account for 2% of the crimes committed in the country, and while no one will discount that we have our share of social problems, it is unfair to lay the blame for them solely on foreign workers. Xenophobic responses such as these must be avoided. Our language, vocabulary and mindset must change. Rather than blame foreign workers for crime and social problems, the new State Government should focus on what it can do to ensure that all workers in this country receive fair treatment and equal access to justice. We must not forget that reliance on foreign labour is Government policy.

It is hoped that the focus will shift from coming down hard on migrant workers, urban settlers and other disadvantaged people to uplifting them and improving their lot. Nothing less is acceptable from any government.

Ambiga Sreenevasan
President
Malaysian Bar
28.3.2008

Lost in the courts: For the majority, justice is costly

• Important to have representation in court
• 'Comprehensive system needed'
• Legal Aid Bureau shackled by limited jurisdiction

'You have the right to an attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed by the court to represent you.' This oft-quoted statement may be the norm in homicide dramas but — with the exception of cases involving capital punishment — not in real life, as Sonia Ramachandran & Audrey Vijaindren learn

SHOCKING. Outrageous. Appalling. Scandalous. Any of these words could be used to describe the situation. And they would all be right.

Every year, more than 500,000 accused persons appear in court without a lawyer. This accounts for a shocking 95 per cent of those who are remanded, according to the Bar Council.

Also, there is nothing in our law which says an accused person has to be informed of, or provided with, the right to legal representation. And more than a few people under remand plead guilty just to get it over with.

This has led Bar Council vice-president Ragunath Kesavan to claim that the judicial system catered for those with money, not for those without.

"It presupposes an accused can afford a lawyer," he said, adding that the situation was worsening with the increase in population and a rise in social problems.

But all is not lost. The new Minister in the Prime Minister's Department tasked with handling judicial and legal matters, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, said he would look into the problem.

Ragunath said: "Most developed countries recognise legal aid as a basic human right. If you're arrested in Malaysia, you have a right to have a legal representative under the Criminal Procedure Code.

"But one is not necessarily provided for you. Unless of course, you have the money to pay for counsel yourself.

"The more money you have the better your chances of obtaining a lawyer. Eventually, this will increase your odds in the battle."

Due to financial constraints, he said, marginalised groups in Malaysia, comprising mainly of migrants and juveniles, were forced to represent themselves.

"People are charged in court daily. More often than not, they plead guilty thinking that is the only way out for them."

Often, those on remand are advised to plead guilty so that they can go home.

Ragunath said if, for example, an accused was remanded for three months before being brought to court and the sentence for the crime was also three months, he would likely be "advised" to plead guilty instead of claiming trial.

"He doesn't understand the charge and thinks that pleading guilty would be the fastest way out of his fix, not realising the consequences of his action.

"Pleading guilty means he will be stuck with a criminal record for the rest of his life. There are so many people with criminal records because they are not aware of their rights."

Thousands of accused, he said, were in the same boat due to ignorance of the law and the inability to engage a lawyer.

"Lawyers who have trained for years can face difficulty interpreting the law, what more the layman," said Ragunath.




Ravi Nekoo says only those facing capital punishment are assured of receiving legal counselIn agreeing with Ragunath, Legal Aid Centre chairman Ravi Nekoo said only those who were facing capital punishment were assured of counsel.

In this case, the court would assign a lawyer if the accused could not afford one.

There are two forms of legal aid in the country, namely those provided by the Bar Council's legal aid centres and the Legal Aid Bureau set up by the government.

The government-run Legal Aid Bureau, said Ragunath, mostly handled syariah and civil matters. For criminal cases, the Bureau's role was only to mitigate when the accused pleaded guilty.

Ragunath said legal aid centres run by the Bar Council were the only law society-financed legal aid scheme in the world.

With 13 centres throughout the country, it is funded solely by members of the Bar Council who contribute RM100 yearly, adding up to RM1.2 million.

"Our services are purely pro bono. A person seeking legal aid will first register at a centre before sitting for a 'means' test. Upon passing the test, they are assigned a lawyer," he said.

The problem was, he said, the Bar Council had set up this scheme in the 1980s as a "stop-gap" measure until a full legal aid scheme could be implemented by the government.

Volunteerism, he said, could only go so far. And although the centres are reluctant to turn away clients, they cannot cope with the volume.

"We can't provide services to all who seek help. We can only reach out to 20,000 people a year. This is only scratching the surface."

He lamented the fact that the government's Legal Aid Bureau received one of the smallest allocations under the Budget.

Ragunath urged the government to provide legal representation for the accused, irrespective of race, religion or nationality.

"Most inmates at the Kajang prison, for instance, are foreigners. The Legal Aid Bureau only provides aid for Malaysians."

Ragunath said most people who sought aid were insecure and frightened.

As such, lawyers representing them should be sensitive to issues involving sex workers, abused women, drug addicts and migrant workers.

"The Bar Council is working with non-governmental organisations such as the All Women's Action Society, Women's Aid Organisation and Tenaganita to help these people.

"We visit remand centres twice a month. We also go to juvenile homes. We are helping many, but our outreach is limited.

"Many who need legal aid don't come forward, especially those from rural areas and estates."

On the issue, Zaid said: "We may have to look again as to the eligibility, as to the scope that we can offer.

"It might be a bit restrictive now. If we have the means, we would want to expand legal aid to cover a wider net.

"I think it is important that people who are charged and cannot afford lawyers have some way to get legal representation. It's something that we have to look into."

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

ARTICLE 5 (3) of the Federal Constitution says: “Where a person is arrested, he shall be informed as soon as may be of the grounds of his arrest and shall be allowed to consult and be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice.”

Section 28A(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code 1999 says that where the person arrested wishes to communicate or attempt to communicate and consult with a legal practitioner of his choice, the police officer shall, as soon as possible, allow the arrested person to do so.

PUBLIC DEFENDER PROGRAMME

IN the United States, public defenders are available for any criminal defendant who cannot afford her/his own legal representation.

The US Supreme Court has determined that the Bill of Rights of the US Constitution, in particular the 6th Amendment, requires public defenders to be available in all criminal proceedings as one of the basic rights of all Americans.

That Amendment says: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favour, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.”

Source: Kathryn Taylor, US Embassy Press attache, Kuala Lumpur


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Important to have representation in court

WHAT started out as a normal day in court for lawyer Mohd Radzlan Jalaludin on Jan 11 turned into a full-blown drama, the likes of those shown on television.

For Mimi (not her real name), Radzlan and his friends turned out to be her guardian angels.

While the 28-year-old volunteer with the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre was waiting for the court to be in session, he noticed a woman sitting quietly near the dock gate.

Although her sad demeanour tugged at Radzlan's heart, he did not approach her as the legal profession ethics forbade touting.

" I just stared at her and suddenly she started crying. I felt bad, so I approached her," he said.
Then Mimi's story unfolded. She had been caught stealing but claimed not to have done it.

Mimi was buying things for her school-going children. While she was at the check-out counter, she realised there was a bottle of talcum powder costing RM48 among her things.

Mimi claimed she intended to put it back but "accidentally" took it with her. The security guard detained her and she was remanded for 12 days.

"She did not have a lawyer and did not know what to do. She said she was kept in the dark about what to do next," said Radzlan.

"Her remand period was extended three times causing her to be kept in jail for 12 days before she was charged."

Radzlan tried calming down Mimi but her wails grew louder as her husband and children arrived.

"I asked her husband if he could post bail for her but he only had RM50 with him.

"I told him the prosecution officer will usually ask for RM1,000 but that I would ask for a reduction of the amount but that it wouldn't be by much."

One of the senior counsel with Radzlan suggested they pool their money and bail her out.

"The senior lawyer, two dock brief students and I managed to raise RM300.

"The sympathetic magistrate set bail at RM300 and the woman was released that same day."

Her case is now fixed for trial on Monday.

And Radzlan is going to represent her again, pro bono (for free).


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'Comprehensive system needed'

THE Bar Council wants the Legal Aid Act to be amended and its jurisdiction widened.

"We are lobbying the government for a comprehensive legal aid structure as well as remuneration for legal aid lawyers who volunteer their services at the government bureau," said Bar Council vice-president Ragunath Kesavan.

The government should also waive certain fees if the case falls under legal aid.

" For example, the filing fee for a divorce case is RM700," said Ragunath.

"Imagine a woman seeking divorce. She is already suffering and is, in most cases at this stage, already deprived of her husband's income. Now she has to fork out RM700."

He said something akin to the United States Public Defender Programme, where anyone who wants legal aid can walk into a centre and take the "means" test to see if they qualified, was needed here.

"Although we currently have enough legal aid centres and bureaus, there are not enough lawyers or sufficient funds to man them," said Ragunath.

There should also be in-house lawyers and a panel of lawyers to do legal aid as well as a waiver of the "means" test for cases of public interest.

"Orang Asli land matters are one example of public interest cases. Others include cases where a large number of people have been arrested, like the Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force), Bersih and Reformasi gatherings. These cases involve a sense of urgency."

But why would the government fund legal aid cases where the accused is challenging the government?

Ragunath said: "Judges are government servants. So is the prosecution. They are all put there to play their individual roles without bias.

"Legal aid lawyers with the government should play their role in representing their clients irrespective of who they are and who they are up against."


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Legal Aid Bureau shackled by limited jurisdiction




Legal Aid Bureau director-general Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman says gross annual income must not be more than RM30,000 to qualify for aid.DOES the Legal Aid Bureau run by the government represent the accused in criminal cases only when a plea for mitigation is needed?

It is not "100 per cent true", said the director-general of the bureau, Dr Hassan Abdul Rahman.

"We have the jurisdiction to represent an accused who is going to plead guilty and mitigate for leniency.

"With regard to other criminal matters, our jurisdiction is limited. The other area of criminal proceedings we can handle is that under the Minor Offences Act 1955.

"If the client comes to us for a drug-related case, we don't handle it because it does not fall within our jurisdiction," said Hassan.

However, he said, anyone needing free legal counsel for such offences could write to the minister (Minister in the Prime Minister's Department tasked with legal and judicial matters).

"In cases where there is hardship, it is in the interest of justice to do so.

"The minister may authorise the director-general of the bureau to provide legal aid."

However, Hassan said appeals to the minister were rare.

"Since I took office in June last year, no one has written to the minister asking to be represented by the Legal Aid Bureau, and before that, it was very rare, too.

"It is difficult for us to represent criminal cases as we are with the Attorney-General's Chambers and so is the prosecution. It would be a conflict of interest."

Hassan said a person's gross income must not be more than RM30,000 a year to qualify for legal aid under the bureau.

There are 23 legal aid bureaus in Malaysia, including its headquarters in Putrajaya.

On whether legal aid was provided to foreigners, Hassan said section 29 (1) of the Legal Aid Act said they could provide legal advice to "persons resident and present in Malaysia".

"The legislation is silent on whether or not we can represent a foreigner."

On the Bar Council's statement that more than 500,000 accused persons a year go unrepresented, he said the bureau did not have any figures or records on it.

He declined to disclose the allocation the bureau received under Budget 2008.

Sonia Ramachandran and Audrey Vijaindren
NST Online

Samy Vellu calls for release of Hindraf leaders

MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu today asked the government to release the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders under detention, saying two of them should be freed sooner because one was ill and the other was now an elected representative.

He said R. Kenghadaran, 40, “is very sick” and M. Manoharan, 46, had won a seat in the March 8 general election. Manoharan had won the Kota Alam Shah state seat in Selangor on a DAP ticket.

Samy Vellu also said that V. Ganabatirau, 34, and K. Vasantha Kumar, 34, had not been very much involved in the massive rally organised by the unregistered Hindraf in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25 last year, which was a reason for the five to be detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The fifth Hindraf leader under detention is P. Uthayakumar.

The MIC president spoke at a news conference after opening a workshop on “Rebranding the MIC” attended by the party’s 150 divisional leaders, here.

He said Ganabatirau, and Vasantha Kumar were “not very much involved (in the rally), so the government has to make a decision.”

The MIC supremo also said that his asking the government to release the five Hindraf leaders was not for publicity or a move to win back Indian support for the party, touted to be the largest Indian-based political party in the country.

“This is done in fairness, sympathy and, also, we feel that we as Indians have to do something about it. It is not a publicity stint,” he said.

He said that though the party had received harsh criticism from certain quarters for failing to safeguard the welfare of Indians in the country, it would continue to do what it can on matters concerning the community.

“If they (those detained) go ahead with the advice of their lawyers, many things could happen. They should not simply be attracted to those people who want to argue for them. Many people like to argue for them so that they can get publicity. We don’t want the publicity, we want the truth,” the MIC chief said.

The Hindraf leaders were detained in December last year. Hindraf had also made several claims, which had been described as preposterous by most people and which were subsequently denied by the authorities.

Hindraf also submitted a memorandum containing various baseless accusations to the British High Commission here.

The five Hindraf leaders were detained under the ISA after the authorities found that they had touched on sensitive religious and racial issues and had made seditious statements against the government.

Manoharan has become the third ISA detainee to contest and win a seat in a general election.

Chan Kok Kit and Chian Heng Khai contested the Sungai Besi (Selangor) and Batu Gajah (Perak) parliamentary seats, respectively, on a DAP ticket in 1978 and won.

NST online
30/03/08

Opposition slams Malaysian government for refusing to free lawmaker

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian opposition party on Sunday condemned the government for its refusal to free an ethnic Indian activist who was elected earlier this month as a state legislator while in detention.

Lawyer M. Manoharan, standing for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), soundly beat the incumbent in Selangor state while being held under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said Manoharan and four other ethnic Indian activists should be freed.

"It shows that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration has not really heard the voice of the people in the March 8 political tsunami to change towards a more democratic and accountable Malaysian society," he told AFP.

"The ISA detentions are used as political instruments to suppress dissent. It has no relationship whatsoever with national security."

The five activists -- leaders of the rights group Hindraf -- were detained last December for organising an unprecedented mass rally the month before, claiming discrimination against ethnic Indians.

The Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), part of the multi-ethnic ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, on Sunday made an about-face and said it would now ask Abdullah to free the activists.

"I will raise it with the prime minister. If he wants to release all of them ... we have no objections. We also don't want them to be kept inside for too long a period," MIC president S. Samy Vellu told reporters.

The MIC was punished by the minority Indian community in the March 8 polls for deriding last year's protest by ethnic Indians, with a majority of its candidates losing.

Syed Hamid Albar, the home minister responsible for internal security, on Friday rejected opposition calls for the activists' release, citing security concerns.

Abdullah has been battling for his political life since the election, which saw Barisan Nasional lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time since 1969. - AFP/ac

Channel NewsAsia
30/03/08

Indians must initiate this change

Most of the articles talks about the non-partisan (race) electoral changes,but actual facts are yet to be confirmed. What's confirmed is that BN was rejected .

The mere suggestion for ending NEP, stirs many reactions. From street demo to politicians falling over each other trying to gain political mileage explaining pros and cons of the policy.

One wonders, that if an election in called today, will the reaction be the same. Will rakyat (the kingmakers) still vote on issues or racial line. It will surely put the much heralded "death of racial politics" statement through it's true test. But, for now, that test will have to wait.

If there is one segment of the society that can truly bury the racial politics without any reservations, it's the Malaysian Indians. We have got nothing to loose. On the contrary, still tagging on to MIC will further erode any gains made by this community in the recent election.

Samy Velu and his cronies are going to continue the same policy which has caused much anguish to this community. Race based, caste based, gangster based, etc., etc. Indians will still be in the fringes of economic well being.

It's interesting to note that those leaders within MIC asking him to quit, themselves has been in that position almost the same number of year. (eg. Wilson of Ampang).

It's interesting to note that the first guy Samy turned to was Subramaniam. And this spineless guy, who was trashed very recently by Samy, has agreed to patch up all "for the greater good" of the community. If anyone believes that, than believe that Raja Petra is pro-UMNO.

Let's for a moment fantasize that Samy Velu and Ong Kar Ting are true to their word (and Raja Petra is pro-UMNO) ie that they want to build back both political party to serve their community better. What message are they sending out? Is it that having been there they have realized that the only way a community is best served within Malaysia's political structure is to have race based representation?

This question can be answered by Indians. Desert MIC. Close it down. I will re-iterate, WE GOT NOTHING TO LOOSE.

(Based on articles published, it was never formed to fight for Malaysian Indians anyway. It was formed to support the Indian Congress Party).

The PKR-DAP-PAS coalition can help this cause by sending a clear message to the Malaysian Indians that their cause are being championed. Not because of them being Indians, but because them being among the less privileged. As there will be in other communities as well.

This will be tangible fact of the death of race-based politics.

Alan – from Ampang
Posted by Vineeth Menon
29 March 2008
Malaysia Today

Mahathir is another idiot and self centered person

Well, well, well, now! Look which pot we have calling the kettle black. Our 'beloved' retired - though I'm sure he wish he wasn't - ex-prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad is accusing Pak Lah of destroying the Barisan Nasional and asking him to step down.

I laughed so loud, I almost fell out of my chair. Dear Tun, Pak Lah did not destroy the BN. He just inherited the destruction process you had started during your 22-year dictatorship.

The corruption, the arrogance, the obscene megaprojects towering over slums populated by hard-done-by Malaysians, the brutal treatment of those who had an opinion contrary to yours - these are all things that were your legacy.

The thoroughly discredited judiciary, the instant-billionaire children of 'Umno royalty' - including your own - these are all your legacies.

The cronies who looted the country's treasury, the constant purges of Umno opponents, the shameful beating up of your most feared opponent - these are all part of what history will remember you for.

In fact, we all know what would have happened to leading opposition figures this past Sunday if you had still been prime minister. It would have been Operasi Lalang II.

Let's go back a bit further. It was your agitation during the late 1960s that played a big role in putting Malaysia on the racist path that has led to today's overwhelming problems.

The sheer arrogance of the man. Not only did he decide personally who would succeed him, but he even decided who would succeed his successor. Now that the prospects of his blue-eyed boy Najib look shaky, he's crying foul. Well, cry me a river!

Mahathir's sycophants drool over his supposed charisma. But the fact is, he's been nothing more than a lifelong opportunist who could always sense which way the wind was turning, and then used his oratorical and political machinations to take advantage of them.

Well, it looks like age hasn't diminished his ability to smell an opportunity. He knows Pak Lah is at his weakest now, and he has pounced right out of the gate to try and get his boy Najib installed in Putrajaya. Trouble is, he still needs to learn that loyalty in Umno is as fleeting as the post you hold. If he thinks Najib will be his hamba, he's sadly out of touch.

But I'm sure many Malaysians wish Mahathir nothing less than a long, long life - long enough for him to be around and watching when Anwar Ibrahim takes the oath of office as Prime Minister.

Whatever it is, don't listen to Mahathir

Before anyone gives any credence at all to anything that Dr Mahathir Mohamad may say, I would just like to say a few words of caution.

I am quite sure that Mahathir knows that it all started when he went against Tunku Abdul Rahman (who was until then by his (Tunku's) own admission 'the happiest Prime Minister in the world'). That was what they wanted after all, power and money.

It was not just him alone, but a whole group within Umno at the time who went by the name of the 'Contras' and who supposedly advocated an anti-Chinese stand (but nevertheless all had some Chinese tow kay or another behind them). Even today with their Hidup Melayu! while at the same time siphoning off as much money as they can through sheer abuse of their positions, both within and outside of government.

This marked the real start of money politics in Umno and Umno's foray into business and the corporate sector - so that not very long after the implementation of the NEP, the first victim of Umno's greed was the very bank set up to 'help' bumiputeras, Bank Bumiputra. Many other scandals involving enormous waste of government funds and mismanagement followed, all
of which could be covered up under the guise of the NEP and through control of all mass media.

Mahathir himself and his Umno (also MCA and MIC) cronies who got rich from all the money which they siphoned out of the system through sheer abuse of the NEP - and which was partly used to place him in power to take over as PM and to keep him there for 22 years, as well as to keep the BN in power for so long under Umno - are largely to blame for all these abuses.

Abdullah and Najib, who followed that lead and as inheritors of that systemic abuse are also responsible as serial abusers themselves. The evidence is clear - if only ACA was given a free hand to investigate.

It really does not matter whether Abdullah stays on or is replaced by Najib, as Mahathir wants. We all know that Mahathir is a man with his own agenda - national interest certainly being not a part of it. If they have not learnt their lesson and continue to abuse their positions, that will
certainly be the death knell of Umno and the BN with it. Then again, perhaps that will be better for this country.

Mahathir talks as if things would have beeen different under him or perhaps even under Najib (and the BN would not have lost so badly) and that Abdullah's arrogance and misplaced faith in his son-in-law was to blame. Perhaps this may be true, but that is the system which they inherited from Mahathir (and of course continued to abuse). I doubt if Abdullah's arrogance
could out-do Mahathir's anytime.

All I can say now is that if Umno and the BN and their leadership and members do not undertake the necessary self-reform at the federal level, they can expect to be overthrown in the next general elections.

However, if Sabah and Sarawak desert the BN now, which they should, the people will not have to wait for the next general elections for at least some hope of reform to begin so that all Malaysians can get on with life under more just, equitable and fairer conditions instead of letting all these elites continue to bleed the country dry while the rest of us and the country's resources pay for it.

Abdullah Junid

Results of space tests out soon” - Opinion

[Dr. Lee Wei Lim, a a Marie Curie Fellow and Malaysian brain scientist in Maastricht University, the Netherlands, has several queries on today’s Star report “Results of space tests out soon” re: Angkasawan Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor.

PENANG: The results of experiments carried out in space by Angkasawan Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor will be released next month.

The experiment was carried out at the International Space Station or in the “Space” ?

The results of various experiments with proteins and the effects of micro-gravity and space radiation on cells and microbes would be shared with international researchers soon, the country’s first cosmonaut said during the closing of Brain Awareness Week 2008 at Universiti Sains Malaysia yesterday.

How can an Orthopaedic surgeon carry out protein research in the field of molecular biology? Why do we have to focus on space radiation on cells and microbes since we are living on the earth? How does this contribute to the science?

“I have spoken to the scientists and researchers involved in the project and they said the results will be published soon – in about a month’s time,” he said, when responding to questions by students attending his talk on Brain in Space: Our New Frontier.

The results will be published in which international peer reviewed journal? What is the significant scientific background of it?
His talk on the “Brain in Space”, is he qualified to speak about that? Has he been trainned as a neuroscientist? Does he have strong background on the brain? Please see www.pubmed.com and type in “Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor”, no scientific publication related with the brain!

Asked why the experiments had to be carried out in space, the 35-year-old orthopaedic surgeon said it was because zero gravity allowed the specimens to be studied in their 3D form.

Just because to study the specimens in 3D dimension?? Would it be too costly? First of all, how can an orthopardic surgeon involves in scientific neuroscience research? What is the link between the brain and bone (orthopaedic)? Similarly, would you send a dermatologist to study the brain?
“Zero gravity allows specimens to be studied in 3D form”, why did this study have to be carried out in the “space” or the space station just for the cell 3D form investigation? In fact, on the earth, we have such “vacuum chamber model” to carry out research on the morphology of cells with “confocal microscopy”, “two-photon microscopy” or “electron microscopy” approach, this will give us even a better control view of the cells in terms the cell morphological changes and technical manipulation aspect. And again, how can an orthopaedic surgeon carry out such complicated and high technique on cells manipulation in the “space”? Is he a cellular biologist? Please look at the Harvard University website on Neurobiology.

“If studied on earth under a microscope, the cells would have been flattened slightly because of the effects of gravity. In space, we can view the specimens as if they were in the human body,” he explained, adding that he was keen on returning to medical practice.

And again, the research was carried at the “International Space Station” or in the “Space”, there is a clear distinction between these two!

Cell flattened??? Please see my previous opinion on vacuum chamber model.
What type of cell did he want to study? What is the hypothesis and scientific support for such a huge cost of investment? “In space, we can view the specimens as if they were in the human body,” based on which scientific publication to support this notion of sentence?? If so, how about carry out such experiment in the vacuum chamber (low cost) of zero gravity with better manipulation on the cells and more scientifically grounded?

“I miss seeing my patients and being in the operating theatre. I also hope to one day find the cure for cancer,” he said.

Miss seeing patients? When a person left his medical career for more than 5 years, is he still eligible to perform his clinical works efficiently? May be, he is exemption.
To find cure for cancer? What is the link between his work in space and cancer as well as the brain?

The experiments were conducted while he was on the International Space Station. On Oct 10, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar made history by becoming the first Malaysian to fly to space.

The experiment was conducted at the International Space Station and not in the “Space”? What sort of experiment? Why can’t it be carried out in the scientific laboratory, with lower cost, more reliable internationally-accepted methods for scientific publication? He is an orthopaedic surgeon with no scientific publication in brain and cellular research, how on earth he knew the works of a professional histologist or cell biologist or brain scientist?

Lim Kit Siang
29/3/08

ISA release of Hindraf 5 - first post-March 8 test for MCA, MIC, Gerakan

The refusal of the Home Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar to release newly-elected Selangor DAP State Assemblyman for Kota Alam Shah and four other Hindraf leaders, P. Uthayakumar, V. Ganabatirau, R. Kenghadharan and T. Vasantha Kumar from Internal Security Act (ISA) detention should bring Malaysians back to reality – that the second Abdullah administration has not really heard the voice of the people in the March 8 political tsunami for change towards a more democratic, accountable, just and progressive Malaysian society. Hamid’s explanation is completely unacceptable. He said: “We cannot simply react to political parties’ calls. We have to give priority to public safety and peace and will give due consideration only if there is no threat to national security.”

This is because the ISA detention of the five Hindraf leaders last December – purportedly linking them with “terrorist organizations” which have proved to be completely baseless - was the result of calls by Barisan Nasional component parties, particularly Umno and MIC, and had nothing whatsoever to do with national security.

Having myself being detained twice for a total of 35 months under the ISA, I can vouch that ISA detentions had been used as political instruments to suppress dissent which have no relationship whatsoever with national security – and the ISA detention of the five Hindraf leaders fall directly under this category!

The first Cabinet meeting last Wednesday created all-round national disappointment as there were no positive indications that the second Abdullah administration would be a reformist one, to fulfill the Prime Minister’s many reform pledges - though four years late.

Proposals for far-reaching judicial reforms to address the two-decade long subversion of the independence, integrity and quality of the judiciary came up against a stonewall in the Cabinet – where even the unsatisfactory and inadequate proposal by the de facto Law Minister, Datuk Zaid Ibrahim that the government should apologise to the judges who were victims of the 1988 judicial crisis could find no acceptance.

Hamid’s refusal to release Manoharan, Uthayakumar, Ganabatirau, Kenghadharan and Vasantha Kumar from ISA detention despite the very clear desire of the Malaysian voters is the second solid proof that Abdullah’s claim that he has heard the “message” of the people in the March 8 political tsunami - that “Point made and point taken” – is clearly not the case.

After the March 8 political tsunami, the other Barisan Nasional component parties, particularly MCA, MIC and Gerakan had blamed UMNO for their electoral debacle – declaring that they would no longer stay silent against the arrogant, undemocratic and unjust policies and attitudes forced on them by Umno Ministers and leaders.

Let the immediate and unconditional release of the Manoharan and the other four Hindraf leaders from ISA detention be the first test of MCA, MIC and Gerakan post-March 8 political tsunami:

• firstly, whether the MCA, Gerakan and MIC Ministers and Deputy Ministers are prepared to ask the Cabinet next Wednesday to end the ISA abuse and detention of the five Hindraf leaders; and

• secondly, whether MCA, Gerakan and MIC national leaderships are prepared to submit a joint memorandum to the Prime Minister for the immediate and unconditional release of the Hindraf five from ISA.

Lim Kit Siang

Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy - Biography

Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy sometimes spelt Waythamoorthy (born 16 July 1966) is a Malaysian lawyer of Tamil origin who is currently a member of the HINDRAF campaign to fight discrimination against Malaysian Hindus

Waytha Moorthy Ponnusamy was born on July 16, 1966 to Ponnusamy Arunasalam who was a first generation immigrant. Waytha Moorthy mentioned in his statement of claim that his parents sold their home to finance his studies in the United Kingdom. Ponnusamy also stated that he was denied entry into a local university despite having all the requirements purely because he was an Indian.

Waytha Moorthy was a devotee of the Sri Siva Balamuniswarar Hindu temple in Setapak which was demolished using government bulldozers in 2006, the Sri Kumaravel Hindu temple Kampong Medan which has been relocated next to a sewerage tank in 2006, the Muniswarar Hindu temple in Midlands estate was demolished using a sledge hammer in 2006 and the Muniswarar temple in Seremban with a 100 year old rain tree which has been given notice to be demolished in 2006.

He is suing the British Government. He is accusing the British government, which was then managing British Malaya of "abandoning minority Indians to the mercy of majoritarian Malay rule while granting independence on 31 August 1957". Ponnusamy is suing for the British Government to pay £1,000,000 to each Malaysian Indian for the "pain, suffering, humiliation, discrimination and continuous colonisation". This extraordinary lawsuit is being backed by HINDRAF or Hindu rights action force.

As Malaysia was celebrating her 50th Independence on 31 August 2007, Waytha Moorthy led a team of lawyers to file a 4 trillion pound lawsuit against the British Government. "After a century of slaving for the British, the colonial government withdrew after granting independence and they left us unprotected and at the mercy of a majority Malay-Muslim government that has violated our rights as minority Indians," said Waytha after filing the suit, said Waytha Moorthy after filing the suit.

Waytha Moorthy left Malaysia on 23 November 2007 to avoid possible detention under the Internal Security Act and to obtain international support for HINDRAF's cause. He began with India and planned to proceed to London, Geneva, Brussels, Washington DC, New York and Atlanta.

Malaysian activist asks India to impose sanctions on Malaysia



India should impose trade sanctions on Malaysia to pressurize the latter to adopt affirmative policies to uplift the conditions of its citizens of Indian origin and to release Hindraf leaders detained under ISA, says a Malaysian leader of a movement demanding better opportunities for Indians.

P Waytha Moorthy, president of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), was one of the chief organisers of a protest by Indian-origin Malaysians Nov 25 in Kuala Lumpur against alleged government discriminatory policies, which was met with stiff resistance from security authorities.

Waytha Moorthy has made India the first stop in his multi-national journey across India, United Kingdom, Netherlands and United States etc. to garner pressure against the Malaysian government.

Waytha Moorthy said, 'India could do much more'. 'As an outsider, India is an economic superpower. I can tell you that Malaysia respects India due to business interest,' he said, urging India to impose trade embargo against the Southeast Asian country.

Moorthy believed that it would not be interference in Malaysia's internal affairs. 'It is a member of United Nations and if there is any violation in any state, then the international community can and should take action,'

He also asked Human Rights groups to send fact-finding missions to Malaysia, to drop charges of ISA against 5 Hindraf leaders.

'While our parents may consider themselves immigrants, but we are born and brought up in Malaysia and therefore want to fight for our rights,'

Malaysian Politics Motivational Posters




























Mahathir lambasts Abdullah over fight with palace

ANOTHER arrow was shot yesterday at embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi - this time, it came from his predecessor Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The former premier wrote a letter, published on the front page of the Sun newspaper, lambasting Datuk Seri Abdullah's clash with the palace in the appointment of the Terengganu chief minister.

The Sun, a feisty free tabloid, was in January bought by Tan Sri Vincent Tan, a tycoon said to be close to Tun Dr Mahathir.

Tun Dr Mahathir in his letter referred to talk about the Sultan rejecting Datuk Seri Abdullah's choice for menteri besar because the Premier had allowed a businessman with ties to the 'first family' to benefit almost entirely from the billions of ringgit squandered on lavish projects in the state.

'These are all rumours. It will be quite impossible to prove anything as the perpetrators are skilled at hiding themselves,' Tun Dr Mahathir wrote.

The former premier, who has called on his successor to resign after a disastrous March 8 election result, added that people were trying to find evidence of his misdeeds to 'ask me to shut up'.

ATTACK: Tun Dr Mahathir says the unnamed businessman benefited from state projects.

Unless there is a frame-up, I think there should be nothing to pin on me,' he wrote.
Tun Dr Mahathir's latest salvo piles the pressure on Datuk Seri Abdullah, who is fending off several attacks following the election, which saw his ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lose control of five states and its two-thirds majority in parliament. The former premier said billions of ringgit in oil royalties to Terengganu had been squandered.

He wrote, 'They say the contracts all went to one person and they are suspicious that behind this person are members of the first family', meaning Datuk Seri Abdullah's family.

He added that, according to rumours, the former chief minister who was Datuk Seri Abdullah's candidate might have benefited financially, and that the Prime Minister may have influenced him into 'doing wrong things'.

Tun Dr Mahathir, 82, is clearly back in the fray after his second heart bypass operation last September.

He first launched an attack on his successor two years ago after several of his initiatives were scrapped, including a bridge to replace the Causeway to Singapore.

The government initially refuted some of his criticisms but eventually ignored them as Umno leaders rallied around Datuk Seri Abdullah.

There was a belief in the party that his influence had waned after he failed to win a low-level election for a delegate's post to the Umno General Assembly in 2006.

But this turned out to be erroneous.

A number of his complaints stuck, especially those relating to former minister of international trade and industry Rafidah Aziz's involvement in giving out car import permits, and the Prime Minister's family.

It was the former premier who first pointed a finger at the Prime Minister's son and son-in-law as having allegedly inordinate influence over him.

They became some of the biggest election issues.

Blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, a popular speaker at opposition election rallies, said one of Tun Dr Mahathir's statements asking people to vote for the best candidate had wide impact.

The implication was that party loyalty was of secondary importance.

'Whether you want to question his sincerity, that's beside the point. The message reached the ground,' Raja Petra said.

Part of Datuk Seri Abdullah's problems stem from his weak grip on power unlike his predecessor whose strongman abilities kept the country's institutions firmly under control.

Datuk Seri Abdullah's looser grip has allowed the monarchy to assert its power in recent weeks and rebellion to fester in his party and ruling coalition.

The Prime Minister is now facing a possible leadership challenge from Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. The prince's chances could be bolstered by an endorsement from Tun Dr Mahathir.

The former premier is, however, still holding off as he prefers Datuk Seri Abdullah's current deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Razak. But Tun Dr Mahathir has not ruled out endorsing Tengku Razaleigh.

Get credible foreign agencies to investigate, says Mahathir
ALL THAT GILTTERS: The Crystal Mosque and surrounding theme park in Kuala Terengganu were built after BN regained control of the state in 2004. Glass panels and lighting make the mosque glow and glitter like a crystal at night. --

EXCERPTS of the letter by former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, which was published on the front page of The Sun newspaper yesterday.
HIS Royal Highnesses have clearly refused to take the advice of the Prime Minister...

We hear a lot of opinions on the propriety of the action by the Sultan. Some say he has the right to do this while others point out that as a constitutional ruler he could not do this...

It should be noted that this kind of thing never happened during the premiership of the four previous prime ministers...

Is it just that the particular ruler is being difficult, unwilling to accept the principles of democracy, wanting to return to feudalism and the absolute authority of the monarch? I do not think so. There must be a reason why the ruler refuses to accept the candidate named.

But the ruler chooses not to reveal the reasons and indulge in public debates... There is a lot of talk in the town.

Terengganu is blessed with petroleum deposits. It should get 5 per cent of the total earnings from oil production...

When Barisan Nasional regained Terengganu, the money, now called 'Wang Ehsan' (Goodwill Money, in Malay) was lavishly spent by the federal government on Terengganu. Over these years, (it) totalled several billion ringgit...

Since Barisan Nasional regained Terengganu in 2004 all kinds of projects have been developed. These include The Monsoon Cup, luxury housing for sale to foreigners, Crystal Mosque and theme park, university, etc.

Some of these projects are very good but many are totally unnecessary and wasteful...

The Terengganu people say the contracts all went to one person and they are suspicious that behind this person are members of the first family.

The rumours also say that the previous menteri besar was responsible for these things happening and of course they think that he might have benefited financially. The rumours went on to say that the Prime Minister might have influenced the menteri besar into doing wrong things.

These are all rumours. It will be quite impossible to prove anything as the perpetrators are skilled in hiding themselves. This is not good for a government keen to abolish corruption and be transparent. To clear its name, an investigation should be made.

But the public is leery of investigations by government agencies and departments.

Even royal commissions are not highly regarded. The people believe, not true of course, that the government has been interfering with the work of the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), the police and the Attorney-General's Chambers. They say this is borne out by the results of investigations by these agencies.

When a deputy minister was accused of accepting money for the release of a detainee, the A-G said there was no case because the detainee said he did not give any money to the deputy minister. It is so easy.

If you have a case involving someone, all the enforcement agencies need to do is to ask him whether he was involved. If he says 'no', then there is no case.

For some reason, judges are finding that people accused of murder are not guilty because of insufficient evidence by the police. Yet people who are totally not involved in a case, who were not accused of any misdeeds and who did not appear in court at all and been given a hearing are found guilty and publicly condemned...

To clear its good name, the government should get credible foreign agencies to conduct the investigations. Of course they must be given full access to the documents, etc.

Now my detractors are going to say I did worse things when I was prime minister. Well if that is so let us have the foreign agencies investigate me also...

Carolyn Hong
THE STRAITS TIMES
29/03/08
Raja Petra
Malaysia Today

Malaysia rejects calls to release detained state legislator

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian minister responsible for internal security on Friday rejected opposition calls for the release of an ethnic Indian state legislator detained under a contentious tough security law.

"We must react to the country's internal security and public order," newly appointed home affairs and internal security minister Syed Hamid Albar was quoted saying by the state Bernama news agency.

Malaysia's opposition last week pressed for five ethnic Indian activists, including a man who won a seat in recent elections, to be freed from the Internal Security Act or ISA, which allows for indefinite detention without trial.

Lawyer Manoharan Malayalam, standing for the Democratic Action Party (DAP), was elected from his detention centre -- soundly beating the government incumbent in a central Selangor state seat in the March 8 general elections.

Syed Hamid said Manoharan will be forced to sit out of the newly formed state assembly when it convenes.

"You definitely can't be at two places at the same time," he said.

The five are leaders of rights group Hindraf who were detained last December for organising an unprecedented mass rally claiming discrimination against ethnic Indians.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the November protest, which drew at least 8,000 people.

The opposition, which now controls more than a third of parliamentary seats, has said it will seek to repeal the ISA -- which dates back to the British colonial era when it was used against communist insurgents.

It is currently being used to hold more than 100 people, including about 80 alleged Islamic militants. - AFP/ir

Chennek NewsAsia
28 March 2008

Terengganu MB issue can bring about complicated scenarios

PETALING JAYA: The stalemate in Terengganu over the appointment of the Mentri Besar poses extremely difficult and embarrassing questions, says UiTM Professor of Law Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.

The bypassing of incumbent Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh by the palace and its choice of Datuk Ahmad Said raises definite questions about constitutional propriety.

A Sultan is a constitutional monarch, and is not expected to rule in person, he noted.

Under Article 34(1) and 34(8) of the Federal Constitution, a Sultan who is elected as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is not permitted to perform the functions of the Sultan except in relation to Islam, amendment to his Constitution, and appointment of a Regent or Council of Regency.

In his absence, the Regent or the Council of Regency must make the necessary decision and appointments. However, it is understandable – and not legally wrong – for the Regent or the Council to consult with the Sultan.

Shad Faruqi discusses the various possibilities the issue can throw up. Among them:

Scenario #1: Ahmad could be suspended or expelled from Umno. Expulsion from Umno will not affect his position as assemblyman or as Menteri Besar.

Scenario #2: Under Article 44(4) of the Terengganu Constitution, Ahmad could delay the convening of the Assembly for 90 days from the date of its dissolution.

In the meantime, he could try to cobble together majority support – 17 of the 32 members – in the Assembly.

Even if the eight PAS members support him unconditionally, Ahmad would still need eight Umno members to “defect” to his side. Eight Executive Council posts plus one Speaker’s post would enable him to dangle the carrot.

Eight PAS and eight Umno defectors plus one Speaker and including Ahmad himself total 18 – which makes it a very tight, though nevertheless, workable situation.

Scenario #3: A compromise between the palace and Umno could see the withdrawal of the appointment letter to Ahmad.

There is a precedent involving revocation in Tun Datu Mustapha Datu Harun v Tun Datu Haji Mohamed Adnan Robert [1986] 2 MLJ 391.

But that Sabah case appears not relevant here because, unlike in Sabah, the palace was under no duress to appoint Ahmad.

A more relevant precedent is Stephen Kalong Ningkan v Tun Abang Haji Openg & Tawi Sli [1966] 2 MLJ 187 where it was held that once the Chief Minister is appointed, the Governor cannot dismiss him unless the Assembly passes a vote of no confidence.

Scenario #4: The Assembly passes a vote of no confidence in Ahmad. Under Article 14(6) of the state Constitution Ahmad will have two choices.

First, he can submit his resignation. The matter will revert to the Regency Council, which will have the discretion to appoint a new Mentri Besar.

Ahmad’s second alternative is to advise dissolution of the 32-member Terengganu Assembly under Article 14(6) of the state Constitution.

The Regency Council has the discretion to accept or reject the advice, as provided for under Article 12(2)(b). The Federal Government cannot stop the election.

If the Assembly is dissolved, Ahmad will remain caretaker Mentri Besar for a maximum of 90 days pending the election and summoning of the new Assembly.

The election results cannot be predicted. But what is certain is that the nation, Terengganu, the Constitution and parliamentary democracy will pay a high price.

Scenario #5: The Federal Government could declare an emergency or employ its powers under the existing 1969 emergency to tackle the “collapse of civil government” in Terengganu.

This is what happened in Sarawak and in Kelantan. In 1966, there was a stalemate between Sarawak Chief Minister Stephen Kalong Ningkan on the one side and the Assembly and the Governor on the other.

In Kelantan in 1977, PAS Assemblymen voted out their own Mentri Besar (Datuk Haji Mohd Nasir). He resigned but advised dissolution. The Regent refused the dissolution request. Instead, the King who, incidentally, happened to be the Sultan of Kelantan imposed emergency.

A top civil servant was sent from Kuala Lumpur to administer Kelantan for a few months before elections were called. The Barisan Nasional triumphed at the polls.

If the Prime Minister advises the King to declare an emergency, the King is bound by law to accept the advice: Teh Cheng Poh v PP [1979] 1 MLJ 50.

In the matter of declaration of emergency the King has no personal discretion. But what if the King refuses?

Scenario #6: Idris could go to the High Court to seek a declaration and or injunction that Ahmad’s appointment was not in accordance with the Terengganu Constitution.

The court may rule against Ahmad’s appointment but will almost certainly refrain from ordering the Regency Council to appoint Idris. The discretion to appoint remains with the palace.

Alternatively, the court may decline a ruling and say “a political question of this sort must be decided by the Assembly in accordance with the State Constitution”.

Scenario # 7: The Barisan Nasional and Umno could come to terms with Ahmad and accept him. A vote of no confidence, a new election and a confrontation with the palace will end. Hopefully lessons will be learnt about palace-politician relationships.

Whichever way things will turn out remains to be seen, said Shad Faruqi.

“Terengganu is a test of statesmanship,” he added. “It is a demonstration of the complex dynamics of decision-making. It is an illustration of the emergence of multiple sources of power and authority in the country.

“After all else is said and done, the diffusion and dispersion of power has to be regarded as a positive development,” said Shad Faruqi.

The Star
Malaysian Bar

Make CLP exam more transparent

I AM writing in regards to the mechanisms governing the CLP examination which are conducted in Malaysia annually. I feel that the exam is a discriminatory means against overseas graduates.

I only ask that the exam be more transparent and fair. Every semester, an average of 70% to 80% of the candidates fail the exam.

I am in the midst of studying for this exam. In Malaysia, this examination is surrounded by extraneous influences that tend to colour the issue of fairness.

More often that not, it isn’t the academic standard of the candidate but the ethnicity which matters. Furthermore, the majority of CLP students have been awarded law degrees from prestigious foreign universities which are intentionally acknowledged to be of reasonable standard while local university students are not required to sit for this exam.

Is the legal qualifying board trying to imply that our public university law graduates are better qualified to practice than foreign university graduates?

Personally, I think the CLP is a healthy learning process for whosoever having the intention to come back and practice law locally if it is fairly conducted.

I do not ask for the abolishment of such an exam. However, the standard should be maintained and such standard should not be intentionally and arbitrarily set to ensure that only a few students would be able to pass the exam. As it is, many talented aspiring lawyers are being deprived of a chance to practice law.

I am glad that Datuk Zaid Ibrahim has taken up the law portfolio. Please do something to improve the conduct of this examination as it is closely knitted to the judiciary’s integrity.

Evelyn Ng
The Star (Letters Section)

PAS may put up vote of no confidence against PM

KUALA LUMPUR - THE opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) may table a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister when Parliament is convened on April 29, according to a senior PAS leader.

And it appears the opposition Islamic party is counting on disgruntled members of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition for the motion to succeed.

But lawmakers from fellow opposition parties are more cautious about the move.

A senior member of the Democratic Action Party (DAP) described such a motion as a 'serious matter' that needed to be studied, while another from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) said his party would look into whether it was 'timely'.

PAS vice-president Husam Musa said many MPs were unhappy with the BN-led federal government following its dismal performance in the March 8 poll.

This was why his Islamist party wanted a change in the country's leadership, Datuk Husam was quoted as saying in The Star newspaper yesterday.

In the general election, the opposition won 82 of the 222 Parliament seats.

PAS won 23 while its opposition allies, the DAP and PKR, secured 28 and 23 seats respectively.

Even if all opposition MPs were to support the motion, they would be 30 votes short of passing it. So the opposition must rely on the possibility that some disgruntled BN MPs may absent themselves from the vote or, worse yet, defect to the other side.

Constitutional law expert Shad Faruqi said that, under the law, the king has two options once Parliament approves a motion of no confidence against a prime minister.

One is for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, as Malaysia's constitutional monarch is known, to appoint a new prime minister from among the MPs who have the support of the majority in Parliament.

'The other option is for the king to dissolve the Parliament and call for fresh elections,' the lecturer at the Mara University of Technology told The Straits Times.

A no-confidence motion has never been tabled in Malaysia.

Chow Kum Hor
The Straits Times, Singapore
Malaysian Bar

A Gerakan elder makes case for party joining opposition

Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia faces a watershed period in the near future that might be its most significant since joining Barisan Nasional in 1974.

Based on recent statements in the press, the party that was formed to espouse a multiracial and social democratic philosophy to government has floated so far from its founding ideals that it is now no more than a second-rate MCA that was tasked with securing Penang for the ruling coalition.

Now that it has failed, and failed utterly, to maintain the support of Penangites, what does the future hold in store for the beleaguered party?

There are many who believe that the future is bleak and that if the Keng Yaik-Tsu Koon axis is not done away with, the party will drift into oblivion.
In an article in the New Straits Times, political analyst Khoo Kay Peng (formerly with Gerakan think tank Sedar) believes that it must forge ahead with reforms and a new leadership while Tricia Yeoh (Centre of Public Policy Studies) believes that if Gerakan does not carve out a niche for itself, it may soon die a natural death.

Not much later, veteran Gerakan member Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon, formerly a state exco member, published his personal views, saying that it must go back to basics, in its effort to move forward. He even suggested that it should leave BN if reforms cannot be pushed through as “more of the same” was simply not an option if Gerakan wants to survive.

Adding fuel to the fire, Dr Choong Sim Poey, a former central committee member and state assemblyman for what was known as Sungai Nibong (now Batu Uban) replied to Toh's statement in the NST by saying that the idea of leaving BN was hardly radical and had been mooted repeatedly in closed door meetings since the party joined BN in 1974.

“There were heated discussions even in the '70s as to whether to join BN due to the differing views between us and Umno,” Dr Choong told The Malaysian Insider in a follow-up interview.

“When we joined we felt that there had to be mutual respect for each other's points of view as we recognised a lot of weaknesses in Umno. Even then we coined the phrase of being 'the conscience of BN'. Over the years, there was dissent within the party, there were voices saying that we have to put our foot down, even if we did not leave the coalition we had to speak up against some of the positions taken by Umno,” he said.

The personal revelations of these veterans in the party reveal a stark contrast from what goes on in the heads of its senior membership and the idea that finally goes out to the public. Many say the face of Gerakan that the public knows is that it continuously bows to pressure from Umno.

Toh also told The Malaysian Insider that Gerakan had lost its identity as a multiracial party with all its candidates in the recent elections being Chinese, when actually it was founded by leaders of all races.

“Gerakan has been assigned a mono-ethnic role within BN, which stresses on an ethnic approach. BN's neo-liberal policies has caused Gerakan to deviate from its proposed social democratic platform.”

Neither Toh nor Dr Choong suggests that Gerakan should leave BN immediately. Dr Choong stated that both Umno and Gerakan are in a state of review and will have to decide on a concrete direction before realising whether their future lies together.

Toh feels that because Gerakan leadership had not been more vocal on issues, it lost the moral authority to demand reforms but it would be to the coalition's benefit if “all component parties sat down and mulled over whether to dissolve into one multiracial party”.

“I'm not sure if they'll look at it positively, but by doing so, the issue of disparity between the races won't arise. The reason people didn't vote MCA, MIC or Gerakan was because we were seen to be subservient to the all-powerful, domineering and monopolistic control of Umno,” he said, although he admitted that it would take “a big step forward” for such a merger to happen.

Closer to reality, observers feel that Malaysians are finally beginning to accept multiracialism and that while DAP and PKR capitalised on this, Gerakan was not seen as a viable option towards pushing towards this agenda.

“This is where Gerakan could've played a useful role but unfortunately, it didn't lead that movement in its restricted position in BN. We are seen as condoning a racially-based and corrupt administration,” said Toh adding that it was fair that people decided to opt for DAP and PKR since Gerakan had ceded its role as a non-ethnic, social democratic party.

“When I joined Gerakan initially, the positions that were held in early 70s were very similar to the position held by DAP today,” observed Dr Choong. “We compromised that position over the years, feeling that it was more important to stay within BN but it is very clear that the public thinks that we've sold out our principles and ideology.”

For Toh, the tough decisions that Gerakan must make now are actually fairly straightforward.

If it cannot be part of a reformed BN, then it must look elsewhere for other parties that are like-minded.

Herein lies the crux of the matter. It would seem that the case for leaving BN is simple. Multiracial reforms, or else... but if it were to leave, then where would it go?

Toh believes that, ideologically speaking, it may find that the best course of action would be to throw in its lot with the opposition coalition.

“This is potentially the beginning of a competitive 2-party system. Whether it will be realised, only time will tell depending on how the opposition behaves and performs. The potential is there and it's what people want. They don't want to see concentration of power in one party,” observed Toh.

“Unless Gerakan can bring reforms in BN, then what PKR, DAP and even to some extent what PAS advocates, seems to be closer to Gerakan's constitution.”

The Malaysian Insider
27/3/08
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