December 21, 2007

PKFZ scandal re-visited

The following is a video of the press conference held by Anwar Ibrahim where he revealed that former transport minister Dr Ling Liong Sik and his successor Chan Kong Choy had allegedly abused their powers by sending letters of support committing the government as a guarantor for any financial liabilities of the Port Klang Authority (PKA) for the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ) project.

PKFZ scandal: Ling, Chan 'abused' powers

Anwar's statement on the PKFZ scandal

The Malaysian Government has yet to offer any explanation on the status of the Port Klang Free Zone project and to account for the huge cost overrun amounting to RM 3.5 billion. To cover the losses on this botched project, the Government announced it will extend a soft loan amounting to RM 4.681 billion to the Port Klang Authority “retroactively.”

This affair is one of the many examples from the present administration that reveals conflict of interest, corruption and mismanagement involving politicians, business interests and public officials. Despite directives from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, no explanation is yet forthcoming from the Chief Secretary to the Government. Not a single person has been held accountable for this fiasco.

While the project’s finances are beyond salvaging, an independent and transparent audit would be necessary to hold those guilty of malfeasance to account and rebuild some credibility in the Ministry of Transport.

Land Acquisition

PKA purchased 1000 acres of Pulau Indah land from Kuala Dimensi Sdn Berhad at RM 25 per square foot for a total consideration of RM 1.8 billion (inclusive of interest). Kuala Dimensi made a capital gain of RM 993 million because it had purchased the land from Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative Berhad for only RM 95 million (at RM 3 per square foot). This lucrative deal involved UMNO and MCA politicians including the current UMNO Permanent Chairman, Tan Sri Dato Seri Haji Onn Ismail; UMNO Treasurer, Dato Seri Azim bin Mohamed Zabidi; MCA’s Dato Chor Chee Heung who is the Chairman of KPA and former Deputy Minister of Home Affairs; Dato Seri Tiong King Sing, Barisan Nasional MP for Bintulu and their associates.

It is abundantly clear that the main losers from this land sale are the members of Pulau Lumut Development Cooperative Bhd. We can see the political promise to protect the poor and help the Malays remain unfulfilled and in its place the chosen few continue to amass untold wealth.

It is strange that the then Minister of Transport saw fit to reject the Attorney-General’s view that the land could be acquired for “public purpose” under the Land Acquisition Act at RM 10 per square foot. Instead, the Ministry of Transport and the PKA preferred to transact the land purchase on a “willing buyer and willing seller” basis and a price of RM 25 per square foot.. It is now known that this basis had been agreed to in 2002 between the Ministry of Transport and KPA and Kuala Dimensi without approval of the Treasury or the Cabinet.

Award of Contract

I find it very strange that PKA appointed Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd, the company that sold the land, the sole “turnkey contractor” for the Port Klang Free Zone project via the Land Development Agreement dated 27 February 2003. Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd in turn appointed Wijaya Baru Sdn Bhd as the main subcontractor. These companies are either owned or controlled by Dato’ Seri Tiong King Sing and Dato’ Abdul Azim bin Mohd Zabidi is a Director of Kuala Dimensi Sdn Bhd.

There is a total lack of transparency in the procedure in the award of contracts by Port Klang Authority and the Ministry of Transport.

Serious Violations of Financial Procedures and Abuse of Power

It is a matter of public record that the former Minister of Transport, Tun Ling Liong Sik, assured the Government that the Port Klang Free Trade Zone project was feasible, self financing and would not require government funding. Why is there then a need to extend a “soft loan” amounting to RM 4.6 billion to Port Klang Authority? Is this not further evidence of the rot within the present administration?

The Minister of Transport saw fit to issue four (4) “Letters of Support” to the lead arranger for the bond issues. Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik issued one dated 28 May 2003 and the other three by the present Minister, Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy dated 23 April 2004, 8 December 2005 and 23 May 2006.

These Letters committed the Government as Guarantor for any financial liabilities incurred by the Port Klang Authority for the Port Klang Free Zone project. It has been established that these Letters tantamount to guarantees as they contained words to the effect that “we shall at all times in the future ensure that PKA is in the position to meet (and do meet in full and on a timely basis) their liabilities in respect of the Repayment Amount for so long as an amount in respect of the Repayment amount remains outstanding…..”

It is standard Government policy that The Ministry of Finance is the only government agency which has the authority to issue any form of guarantee on behalf of the Government and that this must be endorsed by the Cabinet. The issuance of the “Letter of Support” is in violation of the Government’s rules and procedures. Under my watch when I was Minister of Finance, such infractions were not allowed to happen. What was worse is that the Treasury was not aware of these letters until they were alerted by the lead arranger in December 2006.

Based on the above, there is a strong basis to believe that Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik and Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy are complicit to the improprieties in issuing the “Letter of Support” which resulted in the Government having to bail out Port Klang Authority but exerting undue advantage to certain parties. These parties are also supported by the presence of UMNO stewards within their ranks.

Call for Full and Independent Investigation

I must state that I am shocked at the Abdullah administration’s continued disregard of mismanagement of public funded projects and basic tenets of good governance as well as the incompetence of public officials in their management of national projects.

I, therefore, call for a full and independent investigative audit by a firm of professional auditors into the state of affairs of the Port Klang Free Trade Zone project. The audit should determine the extent of the Government’s liability, pinpoint existing weaknesses in the system of financial and accounting controls, and ascertain whether there is evidence of financial improprieties, misconduct, and corruption. I further suggest that the Government declassify all records pertaining to this matter and make it public together with the audit report after it has been tabled in parliament.

I would like to repeat my earlier call for a Royal Commission to be established as well as getting the ACA and other relevant authorities to act and investigate without fear or favour on this matter.


December 16, 2007

Release or charge them in court

In an open letter to the government, an executive committee member of Aliran urges the government to review its current repressive actions in silencing dissent.

The letter further states that it "is also internationally embarrassing for Malaysia as an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council to violate basic human rights and fundamental freedoms without hesitation or consideration of the real situation."

It "calls upon the government of Malaysia to release all those unjustly detained for exercising their basic human rights and fundamental freedom of expression, political opinion and right to assembly under the Federal Constitution and international human rights law" and to release those detained under the ISA or charge them in court.


Dear Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers of the Malaysian Government,

Aliran Kesedaran Negara would like to directly express to you how appalled and alarmed we are at the recent actions of the police in the name of the government in efforts to suppress peaceful protests that are seen to be human rights violations. The protests are related to protracted problems within the country that have caused much hardship and discontent amongst the ‘rakyat’.

Honourable PM, you justified these actions in a statement on 11 December 2007 when you said, “If the choice is between public safety and public freedoms, I do not hesitate to say that public safety will win. My responsibility is to the greater public, especially in the face of police intelligence about planned violent intent.”

We appreciate that if the situation of alleged threatened violence were a reality, curbs on particular recognised human rights may be permitted (although doubtfully as a last resort) even under international law. Yet, in contrast, the recent protest marches held by organisations advocating human rights, good governance, fair and free elections, and just treatment of ethnic minorities in Malaysia, have to all intents and purposes been generally peaceful without any indication of violent intent or incitement of such intent.

The only tangible violence we have witnessed – which has been reported by national and international media – originated and commenced from the ranks of riot police present at these events in large numbers. Tear gas and water cannons are instruments of police crowd control; the power to arrest is a police power.

So far, we have only seen reports in the mainstream media of police allegations of attempted murder during one protest outside Kuala Lumpur City. We have also read of allegations of groups soliciting the assistance of overseas terrorist organizations but have so far seen no full and concrete information for public safety.

Moreover, we have not seen any promise by the government to look into and alleviate the problems a large number of people appear to be concerned about. Instead, the government through the police has sent out negative signals in effecting arrests of individuals the Barisan Nasional government sees as threats to national security.

Aliran expresses utter disappointment, that the government persists in turning a deaf ear to the obviously disturbing problems in the country. In response to the request to be heard by civil society, the authorities have launched heavy-handed crackdowns on particular organisations and individuals that are involved in trying reasonably to present their case in the form of memoranda to the government and other relevant authorities.

We also ask the government what threat the “Peoples’ Freedom Walk” on the eve of International Human Rights Day (10 December 2007) by lawyers exercising their basic human right to free expression and assembly posed to the nation at large.

Further, why was Bar Council human rights committee chief Edmund Bon arrested merely for protesting against the removal of banners on the Bar Council’s private property and charged with obstructing Municipal Council officers? Surely this is an over-reaction by Municipal Council officers and police. Being one person confronted by a team of “Perbandaran” officers, he could not physically do much to prevent them from carrying out their task, even though they were trespassing on private property.

It is alarming that the BN government has acted against and denied the exercise of human rights during the commemoration of the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This incident is even more historically significant having occurred on the eve of International Human Rights Day when human rights should have been celebrated and upheld.

We urge the government to review its current repressive actions in attempting to silence dissent through the denial of the exercise of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to restore the confidence of the public and safeguard them from violence committed by those who should be protecting the public.

In contrast to so many other countries where peaceful protests on various issues have taken place without a heavy police presence and without incidences of violence, the actions of the Malaysian Police have alarmed many, both locally and internationally, especially because the recent protest was in fact peaceful. It is also internationally embarrassing for Malaysia as an elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council to violate basic human rights and fundamental freedoms without hesitation or consideration of the real situation.

In the light of this, Aliran calls upon the government of Malaysia to release all those unjustly detained for exercising their basic human rights and fundamental freedom of expression, political opinion and right to assembly under the Federal Constitution and international human rights law. We urge that all charges brought by the Attorney-General against these persons be dropped and those detained under the ISA be released or charged in court.

We also call upon the government to honour its human rights obligations as a member state of the United Nations and to show itself worthy of its seat on the UN Human Rights Council.

Angeline Loh
Executive Committee member.
14 December 2007

December 14, 2007

All our freedoms have been criminalised

The following is a statement issued by Aliran condemning the arrests of the 5 Hindraf leaders under the ISA.

The statement also aptly described what is happening in the country:

"The BN has criminalised all our freedoms. We cannot walk as a group, we cannot put up a banner on our own building, we cannot have access to information, we cannot challenge any ministerial decisions in any court of law, we cannot have a reasonable campaign period prior to election, we cannot have equal radio and TV time for all registered political parties to reach out to citizens to explain party policies, we cannot have a licence as a matter of right to publish. Our basic fundamental rights and freedoms have all been taken away through subsidiary laws and regulations. We are reminded by what was said way back in 163 BC: Extreme law is often extreme injustice"

The full text of the statement is as follows.

Hindraf ISA arrests: BN govt has lost its moral authority
Thursday, 13 December 2007

Aliran condemns the arrest today of five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders under the obnoxious Internal Security Act. Those detained were Hindraf legal adviser P Uthayakumar, lawyers M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan, V Ganabatirau and organising secretary T Vasanthakumar. These ISA arrests are certainly a huge step backwards for democracy. When the Barisan Nasional detains its citizens under the draconian ISA, it concedes that it has lost its moral authority and has no justification to frame a valid charge and take them to court under the existing laws of the country.

There is no other conclusion especially when the government had earlier charged Uthayakumar and his friends for sedition. Why did it not allow the due process of the law to take its course? Is it because the charges levelled against them would not stand up to the scrutiny of the judiciary? And if the police really had concrete evidence to back up their allegations that Hindraf has links to terrorist groups, they should have charged the Hindraf leaders in court accordingly.

Many Malaysians are not surprised by the government’s latest move given the relentless campaign of vilification of the Hindraf leaders by several ministers with help from the compliant mainstream media. Through this single-minded effort over the last couple of weeks, the BN machinery prepared the ground for the use of the ISA by heaping all kinds of allegations against Hindraf. Using one-sided media reporting and official statements, they conveyed the impression that Hindraf was a threat to national security - without adducing sufficient evidence to justify this allegation.

Some Malaysians may believe that certain words used or claims made by the Hindraf leaders bordered on exaggeration. But the Hindraf leaders, like many others before them, do not deserve the unjust ISA. Nobody should be detained without trial. Detaining them under this undemocratic law will not resolve the underlying causes of the grievances and disillusionment that have been expressed by the Hindraf leaders and which have struck a chord among Indian Malaysians. By ignoring the root causes of the disenchantment, the government may well be putting its head in the proverbial sand again.

Concerned Malaysians and keen observers outside the country would be forgiven for suspecting that these arrests are aimed at suppressing legitimate dissent and opposition to the ruling party ahead of a general election. Malaysians will know that what the BN is trying to protect is its own security and interest and the survival of the MIC. It is the fear of the eroding loss of confidence that has driven the BN to take this desperate action.

When ordinary Indian Malaysians responded to the call of Hindraf on 25 November in an astounding number that ran into tens of thousands, it stunned and baffled the BN and the MIC. Ordinary Indian Malaysians, not withstanding the official statistics that have been dished out, understand their real economic status and position. Their desperate cry for help was conveyed through their participation in Hindraf activities. For them to have defied police warnings and political threats of BN leaders and to have faced the tear gas and chemically laced liquid sprayed by water cannons spoke of their utter hopelessness. It is a matter of grave regret that the BN failed to recognise this reality.

The BN has criminalised all our freedoms. We cannot walk as a group, we cannot put up a banner on our own building, we cannot have access to information, we cannot challenge any ministerial decisions in any court of law, we cannot have a reasonable campaign period prior to election, we cannot have equal radio and TV time for all registered political parties to reach out to citizens to explain party policies, we cannot have a licence as a matter of right to publish. Our basic fundamental rights and freedoms have all been taken away through subsidiary laws and regulations. We are reminded by what was said way back in 163 BC: Extreme law is often extreme injustice.

Aliran calls upon the BN government to immediately charge all of them in a court of law if they have flouted any of the country’s laws or release them unconditionally. This would be a decent thing to do especially when Malaysia occupies an exalted seat in the global Human Rights Council.

Aliran Executive Committee

13 December 2007

Portrait of an ISA detainee

The following is a portrait of one of the ISA detainees, V Ganabathirau written by Tony Pua. After reading this, I asked myself how can this government detain a true and selfless Malaysian like Ganabathirau for two years without even giving him the opportunity to defend himself in a court of law?

Thursday, December 13, 2007
V Ganabathirau - by Tony Pua

Today is another sad and black day for Malaysia. You would have read that 5 Hindraf leaders have been arrested without trial under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), exactly two decades after the last Operasi Lalang.

There appears to be plenty of such sad and black days in recent weeks. Who would have thought that the seemingly genial Prime Minister, Pak Lah, when he took over the reigns of the Government could have been such an incompetent, uninspiring, sleeping and heartless leader?

But enough about Pak Lah, I've ranted enough 2 days ago here. Now, I'd just like to provide a little more insight to one of those arrested, a little known unsung hero, 34 year old lawyer, V Ganabathirau, who hit the limelight recently as one of the core leaders of Hindraf.

As you may have read from the New Straits Times (NST) yesterday, Gana is a DAP member. What makes the whole ugly episode we saw today close to me, is that Gana is a member of DAP Damansara branch, of which I'm the chairperson. Gana joined me in March this year, and subsequently helped form the Taman Muda branch in Shah Alam, of which he is the advisor.

Having known him for the past 8 months or so, I can't claim to know him inside out. But there are somethings which I will vouch for him with my life.

Gana is not a racist. He is not a religious fanatic and neither is he in anyway at all, a terrorist as he is insinuated to be. Having known him well in recent months, he is the complete opposite of what the Pak Lah administration, through the mainstream mouthpieces will like to paint him to be.

Gana is a full-blooded Malaysian, who strongly believes that all Malaysians regardless of ethnicity must have equal opportunities to succeed. While some may quibble over the fact that Hindraf could have taken a greater multi-racial outlook in its position, no right thinking Malaysian will deny them the fact that the overwhelming majority of Indians in this country are severely marginalised and lives below or near the poverty line.

The way politics in Malaysia are framed at this point of time, it is unsurprising that the ethnic Indians found themselves having to stand up and be counted. They really have nothing else to lose.

Some will argue that I can afford to spend some time on politics today because I've made some money after having sold my company. However, Gana, despite having just started his own fledging law firm, found himself travelling frequently (i.e., at least weekly) between Teluk Intan, his hometown and Shah Alam where he now stays, in order to provide his community services to the needy and unfortunate. He even rented and refurbished a service centre in Teluk Intan with his own money, to carry out his services.

When I received cases at my own service centre in Damansara Utama, and was in need of legal services to assist the complainants, Gana offered his with absolutely no hesitation. For example, there was a group of 7 contractors who failed to receive payment from a housing developer, Gana took up their case and offered legal advise pro bono. When legal actions were required, I actually had to convince him to accept some payment from these contractors! Guess what, these contractors were all Chinese but race, as should be the case for all right-thinking Malaysians, never ever came into the picture.

Gana, the youngest of 3 brothers, is a son that would have made any family proud. He belongs to the Indian Telugu community and grew up in a poor family which just about made enough to survive. Gana never manage to have the privilege of completing his education at one go. After finishing Form 5, he had to take up various odd jobs to help support himself and his family.

That however, did not prevent him from investing his earnings and taking up part-time courses to pursue his ambition of becoming an officer of the court. His dream came true in his late twenties when he graduated with a law degree from the University of London external programme. He plied his trade as a legal assistant with a law firm in Teluk Intan before saving sufficiently to set up his own firm, having moved to Shah Alam late last year.

But all these while, he held political ambitions, ambitions not to further enrich himself by illegal and unethical means, but ambitions to help play a part in the betterment of his marginalised community as well as Malaysians in general. Having set up his own firm, it provided him, for better or worse, the flexibility to spend time on social and political causes. And he did it with all his heart and soul.

Gana was married not too long ago to a school teacher. And only just on Merdeka day this year, his first, now barely 4-month old baby daughter, was born. If Pak Lah has his way, by the time Gana is released from ISA detention, his daughter would be more than 2 years old. When Gana first pointed out his wife to me sitting in the court stands when he was being charged with sedition in Klang sessions court, you could visibly see tears in her eyes. Her fears have unfortunately come true.

Gana told me that his wife was a former Tamil school debater and is very politically aware. In fact, in the earlier years, she used to tease him that he only knew how to "talk" politics but never got his hands dirty. More recently however, she will half-jokingly tell him that she regretted having ever encouraged him to join the fight for a just cause.

Gana is a good man. He has sacrificed selflessly to help create a better Malaysia for all Malaysians, particularly for the underprivileged and marginalised community. He has rose quickly to prominence through sheer tenacity, hardwork, eloquence and dedication to the cause. 30,000 Indians from all parts of Malaysia walked the streets of Kuala Lumpur not because they had nothing better to do, but because they shared his cause, and they believed that "enough is enough!"

For that, Pak Lah who is clearly unable to hear, accept and deal with the truth, invoked the draconian ISA in the hope of sweeping all under the carpet.

Thankfully, Gana has a kind and loving family members who will help take care of the needs of the mother and child. The DAP, as announced by the party secretary-general, will be setting up a fund to assist the families of those who have been detained without trial.

My eyes were moist as I wrote this post. I firmly believe that Gana will be a stronger man post-detention. You would not have heard the last of him for a long time yet. I expect him to be a future leader of this country, a rare breed of the much needed righteous, caring, intelligent and dedicated kind who will only contribute immensely to creating a better Malaysia for our future generations. His personal sacrifices must not, and will not be in vain.

Share this story with others who need to see the other side of the coin.

A Black Day For Justice

The draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) has once again been wielded by the government to silence dissenting voices in the country. This time to detain without trial 5 Hindraf leaders who are considered by the government to be threats to national security and public order.

The Hindraf leaders have been accused of sedition and of alleged terrorist links. However, as pointed out by human rights lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, "accusations remain mere accusations until and unless they are made out in a court of law. Every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law."

The full article by Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is reproduced below.

What need was there to detain the HINDRAF five under the Internal Security Act? - Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

The ISA is a draconian law. It has no place in the modern and mature society that Malaysia is. It has been condemned internationally and locally. The manner in which the ISA allows for subjective detention without trial is violative of the fundamental liberties of persons detained in a manner that cannot be justified in any circumstance.

The Government’s position is that the five are threats to national security and public order and that they are a menace to the public for having lied about the Government in accusing it of ethnic cleansing, for having organized illegal assemblies and for having had links with terrorist groups (‘5 Hindraf leaders a threat to national security’, NST, 14.12.2007).

These accusations reveal the possibility of the five having engaged in criminal activity. Three of the five have already been charged with sedition (though I wish to stress that I do not view the offence of sedition as being constitutional). Chapter VIA of the Penal Code was recently added to allow for the prosecution of persons involved in terrorist activity. Appropriate arguments could be mounted to oppose bail to ensure that pending the trial of the five, they would be prevented from fleeing the jurisdiction and, arguably, from repeating the offensive activity.

We cannot lose sight of the fact that no matter how heinous the activity complained of may appear, accusations remain mere accusations until and unless they are made out in a court of law. Every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The detentions are therefore clearly preemptive, allowing for a side-stepping of a criminal justice system that is aimed at ensuring that no person is denied his constitutionally guaranteed right to liberty save where it is denied through an exercise of judicial scrutiny replete with inbuilt safeguards aimed at ensuring that an innocent person is not mistakenly imprisoned.

The Government would have us believe that rather than preemptive, the detentions are preventive. The crucial question is on whose account. The Government can hardly be considered to be objective bearing in mind the cause HINDRAF espouses. We have heard much of the Government having taken grave exception to the positions HINDRAF has taken. In the very public fanfare surrounding the official reaction to HINDRAF, we have been made to understand that the Prime Minister is angry at the suggestion of ethnic cleansing. He is outraged at the lies that he feels HINDRAF has allegedly told of his Government ('Governmnent doing its best for Indians', NST, 02.12.2007; 'PM: They want to destroy the country', Malaysiakini, 13.12.2007). He is also, by virtue of being the Internal Security Minister, the authority responsible for the issuance of detention orders.

Anger is not sound basis for objective decision-making. It is further not a proper legal basis for the issuance of a detention order.

In the same vein, political expediency cannot be allowed to become a factor, more so where the detentions are a ‘face saving’ measure. And as much as the Government may deny this to be the case, the truth is that the Government is acting in its own cause. This is as compelling a reason as any to not invoke the subjective processes of the ISA.

The Prime Minister has publicly declared that the authorities have evidence of the alleged terrorist links HINDRAF is said to have ('Close watch on Hindraf', The Star, 08.12.2007). Minister Nazri has also publicly declared the existence of such links ('Link is with Tamil Tigers and India's Rss, says Nazri', The Star, 08.12.2007). If this is the case, then there is more reason for the five or any number of other persons involved to be appropriately charged and prosecuted.

The detention of the HINDRAF 5 may also have the retrogressive effect of, by reason of its ‘chilling’ effect, stifling genuine civil society efforts aimed at promoting discourse on the path this nation must take to ensure sustainable and inclusive development. This would include efforts by various interest groups aimed at addressing the underlying grievances that have caused citizens to peaceably assemble these past five weeks or so. It would be regrettable if these groups, in particular that part of the Indian community that, no matter the rhetoric and the politics of the situation, have felt represented in a way that they have not before were to take from the detentions a signal that the Government does not consider their situation and grievances as being of sufficient importance.

December 12, 2007

Memo which shook parliament

On Nov 11 2007, the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) planned to submit a memorandum to Parliament to protest against a hasty amendment to the Constitution. This amendment allows for the extension of the retirement age from 65 to 66 years for all members of the Election Commission (EC) which by itself is not a major issue. However, the hasty manner it was done and the fact that the current chairperson of the EC, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid is retiring on 31 December 2007 suggests that this is a "Save Rashid Amendment". By passing this amendment, it will be possible for his term as the EC's chairperson to be extended.

The strong reaction of the authorities to this planned submission of the memo to Parliament was unprecedented. The police obtained a restraining order from the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate’s Court to prevent Bersih from gathering at Parliament. Roadblocks were set up along roads leading to Parliament.

When people gathered to join Bersih in the submission of the memorandum arrests were made. Various people including opposition leaders were arrested in the vicinity of Parliament presumably using the restraining order as the excuse. Some members of Bersih managed to enter Parliament and handed over the memo to opposition MPs. However, they were also arrested when they were leaving Parliament after holding a press conference.

Read the full text of the Bersih memorandum below.

Bersih Memo: Top opposition leaders arrested
(Courtesy of Malaysiakini)

Siege of Parliament - 'the ultimate shame'
(Courtesy of Malaysiakini)


BERSIH Memorandum to the Parliament of Malaysia and All Its Members
11 December 2007

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) urges the Parliament of Malaysia, which consists of His Majesty the Yang diPertuan Agong, Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara to reject the proposed bill to amend Article 114 of the Federal Constitution, which will effect in Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman’s extension as the Election Commission (EC) Chairperson up to one-and-a-half years.

BERSIH stresses that Tan Sri Abdul Rashid, whose service is continuously marred with recurring electoral frauds and manipulations, is not fit for the job and must go immediately. All parliamentarians must therefore vote against this Constitutional Amendment Bill so obviously being rushed through to keep him the job is an insult to both the Constitution and Parliament.

1. In principle, BERSIH has no objection to the extension of the retirement age from 65 to 66 years for all members of the EC. The removal of an EC is constitutionally stipulated to be done in the same manner as a Federal Court judge, whose retirement age has been increased from 65 to 66 years, such synchronization is not objectionable.

2. The Constitutional Bill, if passed through both chambers of the Parliament and consented by HM the Yang diPertuan Agong by this December 31, will however become a back-door extension for Tan Sri Abdul Rashid whose birthday falls on the same day. In other words, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has to retire if Article 114 of the Federal Constitution is not amended in time. On the other hand, if the amendment is passed, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid may stay on effectively till June 2009 with the conventional half-year extension after retirement. In other words, this will ensure that Tan Sri Abdul Rashid oversees the next elections.

3. The Constitutional Bill, hastily tabled for first reading in Dewan Rakyat on November 20, 2007 and scheduled for second reading on December 11, 2007, is therefore a “Save Rashid” Amendment. Such “Save Rashid” Amendment, by reducing the Federal Constitution to a tool to serve the interests of one individual especially one unfit for the job, is an insult and assault to constitutional democracy.

4. Article 114(2) stipulates “the importance of securing an Election Commission which enjoys public confidence”, which Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has clearly failed. Here is a non-exhaustive list of 10 failures and scandals in the electoral process under his service in and leadership of the EC:

4.1 The electoral rolls is contaminated with the names of the dead, non-citizens, multiple registrations and the under-aged, allowing election outcomes to be determined by phantoms rather than citizens. In 2001, Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang nullified the election result of Likas state constituency in Sabah on the grounds that the 1998 state electoral roll was illegal as phantom voters, including non-citizens, had cast their votes on polling day.

4.2 The government responded to the Likas verdict by changing the Election Act so that election outcome can no longer be challenged on the grounds of electoral roll validity. All EC wrongdoings are now protected. In a manner amounting to contempt of court, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid attacked Justice Datuk Muhammad Kamil Awang on December 4, 2007, alleging that the judge took it out on the government because he was ‘frustrated with certain things’.

4.3 Voters are transferred from one constituency to another to secure victory for the ruling coalition. In October 2007, EC secretary Datuk Kamaruzaman Mohd Noor blamed some assistant registration officers for cases that happened before 16 July, 2002. If found guilty under the Election Offences Act 1954, those officers shall be liable for imprisonment up to two years, fine up to RM 5,000 or both. However, no names have been disclosed and no police reports lodged.

4.4 Such transfer or implantation of voters continues to happen after 2002. The latest case is the increase of 8,463 voters within three months at Ipoh Barat constituency which the Parliamentary Opposition Leader Mr Lim Kit Siang won with a margin of 9,774 votes in 2004.

4.5 The extent of irregularities and fraudulent registrations, seen particularly in the Ijok by-election on 28 April 2007, is shocking:
• Over 50 dead voters were still on the electoral roll and 12 of them, all of them Malays from the Jaya Setia polling district, rose up from their graves to cast their votes on polling day.
• Three Chinese voters at Pekan Ijok had their votes stolen by impostors, who had turned up earlier at the polling station.
• As many as 23 voters were registered without national identity cards.
• As many as 32 voters aged between 100 and 132 years old were still listed on the electoral rolls.

4.6 In the 2004 general elections, the use of three different versions of the electoral roll led to a breakdown and chaos in polling in at least 17 parliamentary constituencies in Selangor and three in Kuala Lumpur. EC then ordered an illegal extension of polling for two extra hours in some of these constituencies. No EC officers have been prosecuted or penalized for the chaos.

4.7 Also in the 2004 general elections, provisional results showed that 98% of the registered voters collected parliamentary ballots in Kuala Terengganu, but 10,254 ballots were not returned. Tan Sri Abdul Rashid offered an absurd explanation that KT voters had the hobby of collecting ballot papers. The final result published on the Gazette saw the reduction of turnout rate to 84% and the missing ballots to 240, with no explanation offered for this changes.

4.8 For years, elections have seen high number of missing ballots in many constituencies. Top on the list for four elections from 1990 and 2004 was the Lumut constituency, which saw the extent of unreturned ballots soaring from 2,763 in 1982 to 8,176 in 1999. Had these missing ballots found their ways to polling stations in other constituencies, they would have overturned outcomes in many marginal seats. Blaming it on the weakness of postal voting registration, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has failed to end this phenomenon so damaging to the credibility of the EC and electoral process.

4.9 Mal-apportionment and gerrymandering of constituencies have gone from bad to worse with the 2002 constituency re-delineation exercise. In 2004, BN won an unprecedented 91% parliamentary majority with a mere 64% popular votes. This effectively means that one vote for BN was equivalent for 3 votes for DAP, 8 votes for PAS and 26 votes for Keadilan. Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has made a mockery of the “one person, one vote” principle.

4.10 Ultimately, Tan Sri Abdul Rashid is unfit to chair the EC for he lacks the most fundamental quality: the moral courage and the commitment to act independently, guided only by the Constitution and the best interest of Malaysia’s democracy.

In 2003, he conceded that EC’s ability to carry out its task independently has been hampered by the government. In November 2007, he indirectly admitted that the election date was set by the Prime Minister. On December 8, 2007, he inappropriately said that the ruling coalition is the only regime capable of running the country.

5. On the grounds that Tan Sri Abdul Rashid is unfit to chair EC and his retirement on this December 31 in the best interest of the nation, BERSIH urges all parliamentarians to vote against the Constitutional Amendment Bill.

December 10, 2007

Reactions on Black Sunday

Lawyers, activists arrested: Innocent victims of a brutal state - P Ramakrishnan, Aliran

Aliran deplores the thoughtless and mindless reaction of the state against any democratic expression of our constitutional rights to exert our freedom. We are appalled that even a small gathering of marchers to a nearby destination in an orderly manner without obstructing the traffic or causing any chaos to the public cannot be allowed or tolerated by this oppressive regime.

If this little act of a democratic principle cannot be exercised in a responsible manner, can we pretend to be a democratic country any longer? This state abuse of our fundamental rights shames the country and condemns the leaders as hypocrites.

Aliran calls upon the government to immediately and unconditionally release all those brave Malaysians who have been unjustifiably detained. In the eyes of the ordinary Malaysians, they are innocent victims of a brutal state that does not respect the principles of democracy.

P Ramakrishnan
9 December 2007

Human Rights Day arrests - police takes off velvet glove to show iron fist - Lim Kit Siang, DAP

The high-handed and arbitrary police arrests of eight people, including five lawyers, for the peaceful march to mark the International Human Rights Day in Kuala Lumpur this morning has marred the celebration of Human Rights Day and blotted Malaysia’s international image on human rights.

The arrest of the eight, including five lawyers, N Surendran, Latheefa Koya, R Sivarasa, Eric Paulsen and Amer Hamzah, and human rights activists Anthony Andu and Norazah Othman in totally unprovoked circumstances is a great shame for the Abdullah premiership, as the some 100 people who had gathered at Sogo Department store in Kuala Lumpur to march to the Central Market in the federal capital clearly posed no threat to anyone, let alone national security, public order or peace.

Why couldn’t the police leave the marchers alone, only taking action if they pose a threat to national order or security, eschewing all forms of police over-reaction which can only add to the list of adverse international publicity which had been piling for Malaysia in recent months.

The police arrests of the eight on International Human Rights Day is doubly ominous for it is a clear symbol that the Abdullah premiership, which had started with the false promise of greater respect for human rights, has finally taken off its velvet glove to show the iron fist within to crush expressions of human rights in the country.

It makes total nonsense of Royal Police Commission headed by former Chief Justice, Tun Dzaiddin Abdullah which had identified upholding human rights as one of the three core objectives of the Police force in the 21st century – the other two being to keep crime low and to eradicate corruption in the police service.

Suhakam has also been calling for a revamp of police mentality on human rights, to transform the police stance of innate hostility to human rights to that of an agent and ally of change to promote and protect the human rights of Malaysians. Clearly, Suhakam’s various proposals to mainstream human rights in police mindset and strategy have fallen on deaf ears.

Abdullah has been Prime Minister for four years and is starting his fifth year as Malaysian premier. The institutions, instruments and mentality of repression of human rights have not been dismantled in the past four years of Abdullah premiership, which means that there has been no basic difference from the Mahathir premiership as the draconian laws and powers can be dusted off any time to crack down on human rights and democratic freedoms in Malaysia.

The eight arrested today in connection with the Human Rights Day march should be released forthwith and Abdullah should direct the police to undertake a full review of its mindset and modus operandi to ensure that the police are attuned to the Merdeka Constitution and Rukunegara principles which give pride of place to democracy and human rights as important national objectives.

I will raise in Parliament tomorrow the high-handed and arbitrary police arrests of the eight on international Human Rights Day and demand a public apology by the police.

Sunday arrests render hollow Prime Minister's claims of a democratic Malaysia - Anwar Ibrahim

The Sunday morning arrest of eight individuals leading a peaceful demonstration in observance of International Human Rights day renders hollow any claims that Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has made as to the laudable condition of Malaysian democracy.

On the contrary, the preposterous notion that this assembly of 100 marchers posed any threat to public safety offers incontrovertible evidence that the law is being used in Malaysia to subvert freedom and to suppress the people's fundamental democratic right to peaceful assembly.

The individuals who have been detained today are among the most patriotic Malaysian citizens and many have dedicated their life's work to upholding the Rule of Law. In the absence of any evidence that they planned to jeopardize the public's safety, their arrest represents nothing more than scare tactics we have seen used in the past by the Malaysian government as it prepares to unleash the draconian measures of the Internal Security Act.

The Malaysian people, however, have expressed their disdain for that law recognizing that it has no place in a country which claims to be democratic. By raising its spectre, the government has hastened its rapid loss of support among the electorate.

I call upon the authorities to release all those detained today unconditionally and with immediate effect. I also call upon the government to end its attack on the constitutionally sanctioned right to peaceful assembly.


Crackdown will not deter future mass actions - Elizabeth Wong, People's Justice Party

The arrests of Tian Chua, the Information Chief of the People's Justice Party (KeADILan), Mohamad Sabu, the Vice-President of Pan-Islamic Party (PAS) and 12 other persons associated with the BERSIH rally on 10th November 2007 will not deter future mass actions, said Elizabeth Wong from the KeADILan Information Bureau.

Wong, who is also the Information Chief of the Women's Wing of KeADILan, said, "If the government believes its actions will frighten us from exercising our fundamental right to assemble peacefully, they are sorely mistaken."

Tian Chua was arrested on Sunday after his presentation at a human rights forum in Johor Bahru, while Mohammad Sabu was arrested amidst his daughter's wedding in Ipoh. Both men have been brought back to Kuala Lumpur under police custody, where they are expected to be charged together with 12 other persons from PAS's Unit Amal for 'illegal assembly' on Monday, 10th December at the Duta Magistrates Court.

Wong said, the TV3 report at 8 o'clock that Tian Chua was released on police bail was an outright lie.

"At 8:24 pm, Tian Chua sent a text message, stating that he was about to reach Nilai in a police car, and was heading towards the Jalan Stadium Police lockup."

Wong also slammed the arrests on Sunday morning of lawyers and activists during the march to commemorate World Human Rights Day and the harassment of the Bar Council.

Two KeADILan lawyers, R. Sivarasa, its Vice-President and Latheefa Koya, a member of the party's Supreme Council were arrested with 7 other persons.

Wong added that the Bureau had received information that another member of the Party's Supreme Council, N. Gobalakrishnan, was also arrested on Sunday and will be brought to the Shah Alam Magistrates Court on Monday, to be the 32nd person charged for attempted murder of a police officer during the HINDRAF rally.

"This is the biggest clampdown on democratic voices since Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi took power four years ago.

"It is not coincidental that in past weeks, there have been mass arrests and intense harassment, where the government has began their concerted operation to come down hard on all forms of dissent, from BERSIH and HINDRAF to the Bar Council and even bloggers such as Jeff Ooi.

"We believe Abdullah Badawi may be desperate enough to order the arrest of Anwar Ibrahim, together with other opposition leaders, Hadi Awang and Lim Kit Siang as they too were present at the Bersih rally," she added.

Wong called on the government to respect fundamental human rights, considering Malaysia is a sitting member of United Nations Human Rights Council.

"If they are unable to fulfill their obligations in the protection and promotion of fundamental liberties in Malaysia, it is only right that Malaysia seat be vacated in the Council," she said.

Elizabeth Wong
People's Justice Party

Black Day for Human Rights in Malaysia

Today 10 December 2007 is the United Nations World Human Rights Day but in Malaysia the government has made a mockery of this important day by showing its utter disrespect for the rights of its citizens by carrying out a string of arrests.

8 people were arrested on 9 December 2007 when about 100 people attempted to walk towards the Central Market in Kuala Lumput to join the “Festival of Rights” event to be held in the Malaysian Bar building. The Central Market was the original venue for the event but organisers were forced to moved it to the Malaysian Bar building when police insisted that a permit is required to hold the event at the Central Market. The arrests were made despite the police allowing the walk to proceed initially and despite the group agreeing to disperse when told by the police to do so before reaching their destination.

Among the arrested persons are 5 lawyers. One of them, Amir Hamzah Arshad, is the deputy chairperson of the Bar Council's Human Rights Committee. The chairperson of the same committee, Edmund Bon, was also arrested in a related incident at the Malaysian Bar building where the “Festival of Rights” was to be held. He was arrested for allegedly preventing some City Hall workers from removing posters put up for the event.

In addition, the police has also arrested 12 other persons in relation to the BERSIH rally held a month ago on 10 November 2007. These arrests were carried out in various states and include Tian Chua who was arrested outside the human rights organisation Suaram’s office in Johor Baru and PAS leader Mohamad Sabu who was arrested in Ipoh on his way to attend his daughter's wedding.

Another opposition leader, N Gobalakrishnan, was also reported be charged as the 32nd person involved in the attempted murder case related to the Hindraf rally held on 25 Nov 2007. Earlier 31 persons alleged to be involved in the Hindraf rally were charged with attempted murder when a policeman was injured in the rally.

It seems clear to many Malaysians that these arrests are made to intimidate and to silence dissenting voices which has been growing louder in recent days due to the many unresolved issues related to the judiciary, corruption, unfair elections and minority rights.

Human rights day celebration more of a wake
(courtesy of Malaysiakini)

November 29, 2007

Another BN politician speaks out

In the midst of the yes-men in the Barisan Nasional, we sometimes find rare BN politicians who are willing to speak out for the people even though he or she may be accused of breaking ranks. MIC parliamentarian K Devamany was the first to speak out about the Hindraf rally but was condemned by other BN politicians when he said that the rally reflected the failure of government policies to help the Indian community.

Another BN politician, Dr Toh Kin Woon, a Penang state executive councillor, has now spoken out in a strongly worded letter to Malaysiakini. With reference to the condemnation of the marches occurring in the past few weeks by BN leaders, he said "I disagree with the views of our country’s leaders."

"Instead of condemning, one would have thought and hoped that they should have been more concerned over the grievances, frustrations and disappointments that have brought so many thousands to the streets in the first place and to seek fair and just solutions to them."

He went on to say, "I find it extremely disturbing that a backbench Barisan Nasional MP who took a divergent stand on Hindraf should be so severely rebuked and chastised by a couple of BN leaders."

"The message sent seems to be that all BN elected representatives are expected to be meek and passive followers of the views of their leaders and that no space is provided for independent views, including those articulated by the larger civil society."

His letter is reproduced in full below.

I disagree with the country's leaders
Dr Toh Kin Woon

Several major marches and pickets, all peaceful, have taken place in our country over the last few months.

There was the ‘Walk for Justice’ organised by the Bar Council. This peaceful march called for a complete review of the country’s judiciary system with a view to restoring its independence, and hence put into effect the separation of powers so important for justice. This was followed by a march to the palace organised by Bersih, a broad coalition of political parties and NGOs, calling for free and fair elections.

The most recent, this time to hand over a memorandum to the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, was organised by the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, in short. Although the stated objective of this last demonstration was to demand compensation for the exploitation of Indians from the British government, it was in effect to highlight the socio-economic and cultural plight of the Indians, especially their lower strata.

To all these must be added the numerous pickets called by the trade unions for higher salaries just to meet rises in costs of living so burdensome to the workers.

All these marches and pickets, especially those organised by Bersih and Hindraf, drew tens of thousands of people. And this, despite the authorities warning the public not to take part as these assemblies were all so-called “illegal”. Participants were threatened with arrest should they take part in all these illegal assemblies.

These marches drew flak and condemnation from almost all Barisan Nasional leaders. Their criticisms centred on their illegality, potential threat to peace, the possible destablisation of the economy including frightening away foreign investors. I disagree with the views of our country’s leaders.

Instead of condemning, one would have thought and hoped that they should have been more concerned over the grievances, frustrations and disappointments that have brought so many thousands to the streets in the first place and to seek fair and just solutions to them.

Is it true that there are lots of defects in our country’s judicial system? If so, what are they? What must we do to overcome these so that we can restore its independence, and give real substance to the separation of powers in order to strengthen our country’s democratic institutions?

Likewise, what are the shortcomings in our country’s electoral system, especially pertaining to the electoral rolls, election campaigning, access to media, etc? And on Hindraf, what are the grievances, frustrations and unhappiness of the lower strata of the Indian community, and that of all the other communities, pertaining to housing, education, health, jobs, equity and religious freedom?

Until and unless these and many more issues concerning our country’s judicial and electoral systems as well as social justice for the poor are looked into seriously and satisfactory solutions found, the discontent that has brought thousands to the streets over the last several months will remain. To me, it is this discontent and unhappiness that will be a greater threat to our country’s peace and stability, rather than the marches, pickets and demonstrations.

To be fair, the government did finally agree to the setting up of a royal commission of inquiry to look into the Lingam case that triggered the outpouring of dissatisfaction over the state of our judicial system. The terms of reference of this soon to be set-up royal commission have, however, not yet been announced. Hopefully, its scope of work will include getting to the bottom of why our judicial system has declined so precipitously over the years.

A truly democratic society that allows peaceful marches, an independent and just judicial system, free and fair elections, equal respect by the state for all religious faiths and social justice for the poor are, among others, the key pillars of democracy, peace and stability. Without these, no amount of coercion, including the threat to use the obnoxious Internal Security Act (ISA), can bring us the lasting peace and security that all Malaysians desire.

Finally, I find it extremely disturbing that a backbench Barisan Nasional MP who took a divergent stand on Hindraf should be so severely rebuked and chastised by a couple of BN leaders. This clearly does not augur well at all for intra-BN democracy.

The message sent seems to be that all BN elected representatives are expected to be meek and passive followers of the views of their leaders and that no space is provided for independent views, including those articulated by the larger civil society. I wonder how such a stance by the leaders can attract people who want to seek changes from within!

November 27, 2007

What people say about Hindraf

Read what various people have to say about the Hindraf rally held on Sunday 25 November 2007 in the following commentaries.

Bersih and Hindraf gatherings: An awakening of the marginalised - Anil Netto

"I believe what we are witnessing now is the awakening of the economically marginalised and disempowered who are rebelling against the system, which has seen Big Business profiting at the expense of the people. I doubt there were many rich Hindus from the posh neighbourhoods of, for instance, Damansara and Bangsar at the Hindraf protest today… just as you didn’t see the wealthy bumiputera elite at the Bersih gathering.

While it is heartening that the marginalised are stirring, it is important that we realise that their suffering cuts across ethnic barriers. Many have simply been pushed to the periphery by our model of development, which is relentlessly driven by Big Business tied closely to the vested interests of the political elite.

More Malaysians must wake up from their slumber - and join hands with one another!"

The Hindraf Campaign: A Critique – Dr. Kumar

"We should not forget that apart from racial discrimination, the majority of Indians face economic discrimination because they are workers in a system that favours the businessmen and the capitalists. About 70% of Malaysian Indians are workers. The problem they face as workers include

- low wages. In many factories the basic pay in RM 18 per day, which works out to RM 468 per month.
- There is no job security. Outsourcing, the widespread use of contract workers, and the easy availability of migrant workers all weaken the bargaining position of Malaysian labour.
- Labour laws are being tightened and being made more pro management;
- Low cost adequate housing is difficult to find.
- Prices of goods is rising faster than wages! Petrol, toll and now flour.
- Basic services – health care, education, roads, water - which used to be heavily subsidized are now becoming increasingly expensive;

The problems listed above are also experienced by workers of all races in Malaysia – even the Malays, who are the beneficiaries of the Bumiputra policies. Only about 20% of Malay workers have jobs in government. The remainder have to work in the private sector where they too experience economic discrimination as workers in a capitalist economy. Malays workers are not exempted from the problems of low wages, job insecurity, rising costs of basic services, etc."

Why I will walk this Sunday - Nat Tan

"If we were to wait for another mass rally that will take a more mature, universalistic approach to race relations while actually having an impact in calling attention to the horrific living conditions facing Indian Malaysians today, we will wait forever."

I don’t believe that an Indian-centric approach alone will solve the problems of the Indians, but I do believe that they have been screwed over like few others have ever been screwed over. I don’t believe in sacrificing a more embracing conceptualisation (“Malaysian rights”) for an increasingly narrow one (“Hindu Rights”), but I do believe that some – if not all – of the grouses are perfectly well founded."

Why I walked on Nov 25 - Geetha K

"I was gratified to learn that the protest was not about the money, the queen or even the world learning about their plight. It was simply an act of breaking the shackles, which was something the average Malaysian who had never experienced life as a marginalised, ignored, economically, educationally and socially deprived Indian, could understand.

Against the backdrop of the gleaming, iconic twin towers, thousands of Indians had gathered, a sight never witnessed by our nation’s capital before. The few women present were mostly middle-aged, dressed not in the least like the swanky Klites.

It was quite painful to stand there and watch these women being hauled up and pushed into police trucks, with a look of fear etched on their faces - not unlike stray dogs rounded-up by local council officers."

Samy Vellu has failed Indian Malaysians - Dr CK

"If all poor Indians are taken care of, as MIC claims, then who are the thousands of Indians who turned up? There should not be anyone there. Do you think people will leave their jobs and come from all over the country to face the FRU and police? Don’t they have anything better to do? What about the poor Indians and the ones who could not attend but supports it 100 percent?

The Indians have joined the mass peaceful march because they have no other avenue, they have nowhere else to turn to because all the channels have been exhausted. It has been a long, depressing and frustrating journey for the poor Indians and we stand in one voice. It is about time the government looks into this. Please don’t turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to this. We are only seeking your help for the poor Indians. If you are really a prime minister for all the races, please look into this. Ask yourself, why?"

The Personal Dignity Of HINDRAF Supporters - Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

"How does this rally, planned for a Sunday morning, differ from the one organized by UMNO Youth during Condoleeza Rice’s visit to Kuala Lumpur on a Friday afternoon? That demonstration took place in the same vicinity, also had fiery and inflammatory speeches and was directed to a person or organisation other than the Malaysian government. That demonstration was aggrandized by the local media, with photographs of a defiant Khairy Jamaluddin, in arm sling to boot, gracing the leading pages (if not the front pages) of the mainstream print media

The UMNO Youth demonstration was as much about personal dignity as the HINDRAF Rally is. For, at the heart of the HINDRAF cause is a serious complaint about the marginalizing of the Hindhu community and a plea for recognition of the plight of this particular marginalized community

I do not necessarily agree with the manner in which HINDRAF has decided to espouse its cause. Though I recognize the point HINDRAF is making, I believe that we should be fighting for the cause of all underprivileged and marginalized Malaysians. Having said that, the apparently inconsistent stance of the Police and the Government where rallies are concerned can only lead one to a conclusion that there may be some truth to what HINDRAF is saying."

Are we not Indian enough? - Ananthi

"It was about being neglected, about not having a seat at the table to bargain, about having a national and communal leadership that we do not trust and is utterly discreditable. It is about saying no to being the forgotten Indians, and not enough of us in our comfortable houses, those of us who managed to work the system to our benefit - stood with the other Indians, who are not so different from us."

A report from Ground Zero, Jalan Ampng: Post assembly

"Our Malaysian brothers were out there, merely asking for their rights, tired of being suppressed and left out of the economic race. In a way, they were voicing out their needs to be considered an integral part of the economy. For too long their cries went unheard by the leaders. Did not see any one behave in an unruly manner, while many fellow Indians had fears that the crowd may go overboard, cause at times Indians are well known for their fiery tempers! Nevertheless, their behaviour as what I saw was exemplary."


I took the opportunity to engage my fellow-walkers. Palani, an electronic technician from Kedah volunteered, “We are here not for the money from the Queen. We are here my friends and I to ask for fair treatment and equal opportunities “ His friends echoed similar sentiments but the most vocal was Sundaraj from Sentul. “Our temples are torn down, our gods are bulldozed into pieces. Samy Velu did not protest for us, so we have to do it ourselves.”

November 25, 2007

Hindraf Rally - More reports

The following are more reports on the Hindraf rally held on 25 Nov 2007.

Malaysian police break up rally - BBC

Malaysian police have clashed with ethnic Indian protesters in Kuala Lumpur, the country's capital.

Tear gas and water cannon were used to disperse a crowd of over 5,000 people as they rallied outside the British High Commission.

The protesters are calling for reparations from the UK for sending Indians to Malaysia as indentured labourers a century ago.

The activists also demand measures to improve the living standards of Hindus.

At least 5,000 ethnic Indian men gathered outside Kuala Lumpur's famous Petronas Towers, carrying Malaysian flags and placards.

Some demonstrators were beaten and bundled into police vans, as tear gas and water cannon were fired into the crowd, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Unfair treatment

Organisers had pledged that the demonstration would be peaceful, but Malaysian authorities nevertheless banned it, fearing that it could inflame racial tensions.

The ostensible aim of the rally was to call on the British government to pay $4 trillion (£2 trillion) in compensation to the two million ethnic Indians in Malaysia whose ancestors were taken to the country as indentured labourers in the 19th century.

But the BBC's Robin Brant in Kuala Lumpur says the real goal of the demonstrators is to highlight what they see as the unfair treatment of minority Indians in Malaysia.

Ethnic Indians - mainly Hindus - form one of Malaysia's largest minority groups.

Activists say that many Hindus live in poverty, partly because of policies granting jobs and economic advantages to the ethnic Malay Muslim majority.

"Indians are treated like third-class citizens. The community has been suffering in silence for decades," said opposition politician M. Kulasegaran.

The government has rejected claims of unfair discrimination.

In advance of the rally, three leading members of the group behind the protest - the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) - were arrested.

The three men were later charged with making seditious comments - and could face up to three years in jail if convicted.

Indian protest rocks Malaysia ahead of polls - Reuters

By Mark Bendeich and Clarence Fernandez
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's ethnic Indian community staged its
biggest anti-government street protest on Sunday when more than 10,000
protesters defied tear gas and water cannon to voice complaints of racial

The sheer size of the protest, called by a Hindu rights group, represents a
political challenge for the government as it heads toward possible early
elections in the next few months.

Ethnic Indians from around the country swarmed into Kuala Lumpur for the
rally, despite a virtual lock-down of the capital over the previous three days
and warnings from police and the government that people should not take

"Malaysian Indians have never gathered in such large numbers in this
way...," said organizer P. Uthaya Kumar, of the Hindu Rights Action Force

"They are frustrated and have no job opportunities in the government or the
private sector. They are not given business licenses or places in university,"
he said, adding that Indians were also incensed by some recent demolitions
of Hindu temples.

Riot police fired at the protesters with sustained volleys of tear gas and jets
of water laced with an eye-stinging chemical, but it took more than five hours
to finally clear the streets of downtown Kuala Lumpur, by then littered with
empty gas canisters.


Hindraf Rally

Thousands of Indian Malaysians came out on Sunday 25 November 2007 for a rally organised by Hindraf (Hindu Rights Action Force). The original purpose of the rally was to hand over a petition to the British High Commission for Queen Elizabeth II to protest against Britain's colonial policies in the past. Many people are sceptical of the demands contained in the petition. However, the large number of people turning up for this rally indicates not so much the support for the petition but more the simmering dissatisfaction and anger of the Indians towards the policies of the current government.

Some of the participants in the rally have gathered since the early morning in different parts of Kuala Lumpur despite the warnings issued by the police that protesters could be arrested on sight. The police had obtained an unprecedented court order on Friday to ban the gathering. Initial estimates of the number of people gathering in different areas of the city was 10,000 - the original target of the organisers - but it appears that there could be as many as 30,000 protesters who turned up for the rally.

The response of the police was heavy-handed using tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd. Numerous protesters were arrested. A video of the news report by Al Jazeera can be viewed here:

Hindraf Rally Report - Al Jazeera

For more details on the rally, please read a first-hand report by Nat Tan and Malaysiankini's report 30,000 Hindraf protesters rally in KLCC.

November 19, 2007

Royal Commission of Inquiry must be set up without delay

It is shocking to read about the serious allegations of judicial corruption revealed in the press conference held by Wee Choo Keong, secretary-general of the Malaysian Democratic Party on 18 November 2007.

These allegations have further implicated the lawyer appearing in the "Lingam video". They have now shown that other judges may also be involved in improprieties and the rot in the judiciary may be as extensive as claimed by various people. It is incredulous that the authorities have not taken any action on these allegations even though the police reports have been filed even before the emergence of the Lingam video. It seems like the statements made by various parties in the government about the Lingam video and the emphasis on establishing the authenticity of the video instead of verifying the truth of its contents are deliberate attempts to mislead the public.

These new allegations reinforce the urgent need for the establishment of a royal commission of inquiry which thankfully has now been agreed upon by the government. However, it is of utmost importance that the members of this commission be carefully selected and they must be independent of any political influence and must be well-respected and impeccable for their integrity. The royal commission must also be given the widest possible terms of reference so that a proper and full inquiry into the state of the judiciary can be carried out.

Valuable time has already been lost by setting up the shackled 3-member Haidar panel by the deputy prime minister. For the confidence of Malaysians to be restored, the royal commission of inquiry must now be established without any further delay. Only then will the people believe that there is a sincere wish to investigate the alleged rot in the judiciary and that there will be no cover-up of any sort.

More details on the press conference held by Wee Choo Keong, secretary-general of the Malaysian Democratic Party where these allegations were revealed are available at this blog and in this Malaysiakini report "More allegations of judicial graft emerge".

The following is the video of the press conference.

(courtesy of Malaysiakini)

Quotable Quote:

"When I am asked what I thought, my usual reply is that I wouldn’t like to be tried by today’s judges, if I am innocent." - Former Lord President Tun Suffian

November 15, 2007

The True Story of 10-Eleven - Part II

(Updated 17 Nov 2007)

Pathetic attempts have been made by various parties in the government to discredit the BERSIH rally held on 10 November 2007. These misinformation, lies and intimidations were reported and even highlighted in the compliant and politically-controlled mainstream media. In the face of these, one only needs to access the many other sources of information on the BERSIH rally available online to get a true picture of what really happened on 10 November 2007.

To facilitate this, the following is a compilation of a list of detail commentaries which I have found. I am sure there are others. My apologies if your commentary has been left out.

A big thank you to all those who have shared their stories enabling all Malaysians to get the true story of 10-Eleven.

(The following is a continuation of the list from the earlier post The True Story of 10-Eleven )

Rehabilitation for whom? - Farish A. Noor NEW!

"Unable and unwilling to accept the new realities on the ground the political elite of Malaysia has resorted to the same worn out clich├ęs and the call to rehabilitate the younger Malaysians who were present at the demonstration reveals the extent to which this ruling elite is so thoroughly bankrupt of ideas. No, it is not the younger Malaysians who are in need of rehabilitation- In fact the activist in me would say that activism and civic responsibility should begin from our school days and that every young citizen should be made aware of her and his rights and responsibilities as early as possible, as a rite of civic membership.

If anyone is in need of rehabilitation, it is the politicians and ruling elite of Malaysia themselves, who should learn that this diverse and plural society of ours happens to be a complex nation undergoing a slow democratic transformation and that the future of Malaysian politics should reflect this multicultural diversity. So I strongly suggest that the right-wing communitarian leaders of Malaysia sign up for their own rehab courses as soon as possible, for their and our own good,"...

Wake up Malaysia! - KJ John NEW!

"This past weekend more than 40,000 people marched for what seems to be a justified and good cause of freer and fairer elections.

Why should the government even seek to stop such an avowedly stated peaceful march?

Resistance of this mode creates even greater desire for change. If the government is not watchful or careful, the next movement of people may be even bigger and greater; for truth cannot be hidden or kept a secret.

Truth has a life of her own, unprotected or uncontrolled by any human person; she will reveal herself at the right times and in the right ways; as the Lingam tapes have so evidently demonstrated."

A Wake-Up Call for the Government: Malaysians Want Their Country Back - Farish A. Noor NEW!

"That elections should be free, fair and transparent is perhaps one of the most basic requirements of any workingdemocracy, and to demand that elections should be free, fair and transparent is perhaps one of the most fundamentalrights of any society. When citizens demand such things it can and should be seen as an act of civic responsibility andthey should be commended for it. Indeed, it ought to be seen as a test of civic participation and citizenship that allcitizens should demand that their state works and functions properly and accountably, to serve the interest of thenation as a whole and not a select coterie of landed elites and entrenched class interests."

"For a nation that has always been cast in a passive light as docile and apathetic, Malaysians defied their own stereotype by coming out in huge numbers and braving the rain from above and the tear gas and batons on the ground. Contrary to the scare-mongering campaign of the government, the rally proved to be ordered and peaceful. What does this say about Malaysia today and where the country is heading?"

"There is no telling how the Malaysian government and the UMNO elites will react to this clear demonstration of public disquiet in the once-sleepy streets of Kuala Lumpur. But what is clear is that Malaysia at least is no longer the kingdom of the blind that it was once made out to be."

Observing the Bersih rally - Yeo Yang Poh (former Bar Council chairman)

"Some ministers and politicians have said that there is no need for public assembly in a country that conducts elections. By their argument, it would follow that democracy is complete as long as citizens are allowed to vote once in a few years. Voting in a government would amount to giving it a blank cheque to do as it pleases (since it has “obtained the mandate of the people”). If anyone is dissatisfied, he or she can only wait for the next occasion of voting to express dissatisfaction. The ballot becomes the only permissible means of expression.

The absurdity of that argument is obvious. It is nothing more than a crude political exercise in insulting the people’s intelligence."

"In a true democracy, in order for stability and prosperity to last, people must be allowed to express their views freely, and to choose the manner in which they wish to do so, including choosing a public manner by way of peaceful assembly or procession. Allowing the weak to publicly speak out against the powerful is one of the hallmarks of a democracy. Smothering the voice of the minority is the trademark of dictatorship.

In political reality, however, the public expression of views by persons in large numbers, especially if coupled with a free media, is often a real threat, not to public order or security, but to the continuing maintenance of control by those currently in power."

Misinformation reigns on the Nov 10 march - Gayathry Venkiteswaran

"The attempts in the media to brush off the largest public rally in recent years is reflective of the government's lack of respect for the public's freedom of expression and the right to know. By tying the hands of the media with legal and political tools, the government has only tarnished its own reputation as the public sees clearly how information is distorted. The print and broadcast media will lose their relevance because of these controls. As it stands, they are fast overtaken by online and offline technologies like blogs, video sharing sites and mobile phones that disseminate images and text from the scene to thousands of people in real time."

Open letter to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi - Beth Yahp

"Prime Minister Abdullah, one of the reasons we marchers, men, women, children, and even incapacitated old folks, braved confrontation in the streets of Kuala Lumpur last Saturday was to call for “equal access to the media” as part of BERSIH’s push for electoral reforms, including the use of indelible ink, clean electoral rolls and the abolition of untraceable postal votes."

"With all due respect, Prime Minister, your admonition on the eve of the march: “Saya pantang dicabar,” (Utusan Malaysia, 9 November 2007) is rather an odd thing for the leader of a democratic nation to say, given that the basic rule of democracy is the right of all citizens to challenge, and to defend against challenge. Everyone is entitled to this right, whether in their living rooms or in Parliament.

Challenges and debates also constantly take place in the media, whose fundamental role is to provide factual information and objective viewpoints by journalists and editors, as well as to allow equal access to publication and broadcast by proponents from either side of any argument.

Only in this way can we, ordinary citizens, partake in democracy. Only then can we weigh up differing statements and opinions against accountable facts. We may be allowed to vote, yes, but how can we choose effectively without freedom of media access and information?

When this integral pillar of any democratic system is obstructed, and belittled, as it is in Malaysia, we cannot claim to live in a democracy. Our mainstream media then becomes merely a tool of the State, used to hoodwink, brainwash and intimidate the people it should rightly be serving. Instead, we, the people, are spoon-fed, led and expected to go quietly like sheep to any foregone conclusion."

The time for change has begun - Mohd Kamal Abdullah

"The Bersih protest rally on Nov 10 witnessed the awakening of Malaysians from an illusion that only the Barisan Nasional can deliver every time. With more that 40,000 people participating without fear of police brutality and the on-going heavy rain that afternoon, these people had demonstrated the true meaning of democracy.

From now on, people will stand up to this ineffective, inefficient and corrupt Barisan Nasional government. The climate of change has prevailed and it is hoped that this will continue until the welfare of the people and the nation is managed according to the wishes of the people."

"The time for change has just began and I hope this ray of light will continue until we can be proud of a Malaysia where the welfare of every citizen and our nation is taken care of."

On Nov 10, the skies wept for the rakyat - JD Lovrenciear

"The Nov 10 rally for justice and democracy by tens of thousands of rakyat was embraced by the weeping skies. The torrential downpour echoed the rakyat's cries for a greater nation through better governance.

Unfortunately, as peace-loving men and women from all races and walks of life marched in fervor, the blockades and extraordinary presence of police only further drove home the widely-held perception that justice and democracy are at high risk in a nation that was often seen as a model nation not too long ago."

November 14, 2007

The True Story of 10-Eleven

Pathetic attempts have been made by various parties in the government to discredit the BERSIH rally held on 10 November 2007. These misinformation, lies and intimidations were reported and even highlighted in the compliant and politically-controlled mainstream media. In the face of these, one only needs to access the many other sources of information on the BERSIH rally available online to get a true picture of what really happened on 10 November 2007.

To facilitate this, the following is a compilation of a list of detail commentaries which I have found. I am sure there are others. My apologies if your commentary has been left out.

A big thank you to all those who have shared their stories enabling all Malaysians to get the true story of 10-Eleven.

And soon, you will not be able to breathe - Rashaad Ali

"Now there is something of great importance that I need to stress; in no way, absolutely none, did the demonstrators aim to incite the police. There was lots of chanting, of slogan shouting, of crowd rallying, but there was no hatred or contempt hurled against those in power. In short, we did not merit the treatment we received. One may say, "But it was an illegal gathering anyway." How can the executive issue a decree banning the people in a democracy from voicing their opinion? We are not looking for a riot. We're not looking for impeachment. We're not looking for a revolution. We want clean elections."

"Today serves as a landmark for my patriotism. Today serves as a landmark for the nation's patriotism, for in the face of such cruelty and opposition we prevailed and were crowned victors of the day. I also hope, that with the events of today, change shall, God willing, be effected."

The day I helped deliver the memo to the King - Ronald Quay

"It was a sensational feeling. To walk through this human corridor, with every person looking at you and, perhaps wondering who the hell is this Chinaman walking behind a PAS leader?"

"It was amazing to see the excellent coordination of the crowds that discipline was not an issue at all. They responded to the call of the leaders, ably marshaled by a disciplined bunch of volunteer wardens in maroon uniforms who made sure no one stepped out of line."

Remember remember, the 10th of November..- KLConfidential

"In my defense, the BERSIH rally did NOT cause the traffic jam all over KL. This was caused by the many roadblocks by the police. Yes, we delayed traffic in front of the palace, but that was all. I apologize to those who were harassed by the police when they had nothing to do with this united stand for justice and fairness."

"Don't worry, it's not over. It is far from over. If you love this country, if you call this country your home, don't fret. For those who wanted to be there but couldn't, don't turn the page yet, this chapter is far from finished."

10 November 2007 - Personal Passages

"It seemed as it the FRU fired at random, into groups of BERSIH supporters as well as innocent passersby.

And worst off, there seemed no reason for them to do it. No one was doing anything other than just stand clustered in groups of yellow and otherwise. There were no threats being made, nor were there any signs of imminent violence. The FRU did not even issue an audible warning, other than a badly distorted broadcast over their loudspeakers that I couldn't even hear, much less understand."

"But I am proud of it. I am proud of the people who were there, men and women of all ages and races, who stood firm by their beliefs in front of the police and the FRU."

An account of an unrepentant yellow splash - Sophia

"You know you're there because of a long list of dissatisfaction that goes on in the current administration. You know you're there because BERSIH fights for clean elections, is against corruption, and every single thing that's wrong with this country except mutual gluttony in nationwide festivals. You know that if the government truly commits towards good governance, they wouldn't condemn it as they did, in these critical months before the next election. You know that the mainstream news is not relevant anymore, and everything else pales in this moment when your fist punches the air and your voice rings loud in the crowd."

"Drivers rolled down their windows and greeted us, encouraging us, telling to us "Stay safe." Some said their thanks for doing our part in helping the people keep their liberties. It doesn't matter who they were; Indian lorry drivers, Malay families, Chinese Merc drivers, rich and poor (at least according to the model of their vehicles), hell, even bread lorry drivers waved at us. Many honked, not for us to get the hell out of the way, but grinning and smiling, giving us the Bagus sign."

Bersih march to Istana Negara: What really happened - Kuala Lumpur is Home

"The blind man who was in the light yellow shirt was holding very tight to the man in the grey shirt as he was bending down to tighten up his shoe lace I presumed.. I asked both of them where they had come from and the man in the grey shirt told me they were from Batu Tiga. In my awe, I thanked them for walking with the rest of the crowds and that it was good that they had played their roles in this effort to ensure clean and fair elections."

"I will always remember this day in my life for as long as I live. Malaysiaku Gemilang."

Provocation, Police, Peace -

"Not a single untoward incident. 50-100k people spread throughout the city, and not a SINGLE untoward incident."

10:eleven, Daulat Tuanku! The yellow wave. - As I See It.......Can You?

"But i have this to say, never have I seen so many people walked in solidarity for a justified reason. I did not at any point think that this would have ended the way it did. The fact is, its not ended. It has only just begun. Ensure that you take the next step to claim your right to vote. No to corruption. No to illegal mansions. No more cover ups. We want the truth."

We Know What We Want - Pinkpau

"this rally was more than just a demand for fair elections, it was more than just a lobby for indelible ink and abolition of postal voting. it was about the people’s dissatisfaction and their awareness. it was about democracy, it was about justice. it was a call for complete reform. and i hope this call is heeded. it NEEDS to be heeded."

The Yellow Wave - The Ancient Mariner

"It was basically a case of the rakyat exercising their right to free assembly to petition their sovereign and a lame duck prime minister trying his damnedest to stop them."

10-Eleven. - O.B.E.

"It will signify the beginning of civil society’s resolve to restore democracy, good governance and justice for all in this nation."

When we painted KL with yellow - dan-yel

"Just as we crossed the bridge over the river, on our far left, out of nowhere, there were stream of people, yellow masses, crossing the other bridge! Awesome! This is history in the making! There were, how can I say, too many of them, I have never seen such an unbreaking long moving crowd, amazing as it seems that they all wear the same colour, and moving in the same direction."

BERSIH Rally: A report of events - reduced and recycled

"Badawi pantang dicabar? Oh, please. Rakyat pantang dicabar!!"

A Yellow Day to Remember - Euphoria in Misery

"Now, the people have made a point. You can’t ignore the people anymore. To all the scaremongers who said that this rally conveys a bad image of Malaysia internationally, I have this to say; “It didn’t need to happen this way. It did because the authorities are deaf to the people’s needs.”"

8 March 2008

A New And Better Malaysia

Has Emerged