THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

37. Cure for AIDS?

A potential cure for AIDS patients is in the works. Current treatment methods are based largely on suppressing the the HIV virus to delay the onset of AIDS and hence extend the life of the patient. New research is however working on a method of removing the virus from the infected cells. Continue reading ...

In a breakthrough that could potentially lead to a cure for HIV infection, scientists have discovered a way to remove the virus from infected cells, a study released Thursday said.
The scientists engineered an enzyme which attacks the DNA of the HIV virus and cuts it out of the infected cell, according to the study published in Science magazine.

The enzyme is still far from being ready to use as a treatment, the authors warned, but it offers a glimmer of hope for the more than 40 million people infected worldwide.

"A customized enzyme that effectively excises integrated HIV-1 from infected cells in vitro might one day help to eradicate (the) virus from AIDS patients," Alan Engelman, of Harvard University's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, wrote in an article accompanying the study.

Current treatments focus on suppressing the HIV virus in order to delay the onset of AIDS and dramatically extend the life of infected patients.

"Consequently the virus becomes inextricably linked to the host, making it virtually impossible to 'cure' AIDS patients of their HIV-1 infection," Engelman explained. That could change if the enzyme developed by a group of German scientists can be made safe to use on people. That enzyme was able to eliminate the HIV virus from infected human cells in about three months in the laboratory.

The researchers engineered an enzyme called Tre which removes the virus from the genome of infected cells by recognizing and then recombining the structure of the virus's DNA. This ability to recognize HIV's DNA might one day help overcome one of the biggest obstacles to finding a cure: the ability of the HIV virus to avoid detection by reverting to a resting state within infected cells which then cease to produce the virus for months or even years.

"Numerous attempts have been made to activate these cells, with the hope that such strategies would sensitize the accompanying viruses to antiviral drugs, leading to virus eradication," Engelman wrote. "Advances with such approaches in patients have been slow to materialize." New experiments must be designed to see if the Tre enzyme can be used to recognize these dormant infected cells, he wrote.

"Although favorable results would represent perhaps only a baby step toward eventual use in patients, the discovery of the Tre recombinase proves that enzymatic removal of integrated HIV-1 from human chromosomes is a current-day reality," he said.

"The most important, and likely most difficult, among these is that the enzyme would need efficient and safe means of delivery and would have to be able to function without adverse side effects," wrote lead author Indrani Sarkar of the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden.

"Nevertheless the results we present offer an early proof of principal for this type of approach, which we speculate might form a useful basis for the development of future HIV therapies," Sarkar concluded - by Mira Oberman, AFP.

Friday, June 29, 2007

36. School Cheerleaders

CHEER 2007 INTER-SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP: Titans of SMJK Ave Maria Convent, Ipoh, put on a splendid performance and won the Best Showmanship Award - Starpic.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

35. Powerful British

Prime Minister Brown (left), and Middle East Envoy Blair (right)

Brown becomes British PM as Blair gets Mideast job

Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair as British prime minister Wednesday, finally stepping out of his predecessor's shadow after 10 years and vowing to lead the country into a new era of change. He has been Britain's Prime Minister in waiting all this while.

Within hours Blair had announced his resignation as a lawmaker, as the United Nations confirmed his appointment as international envoy to the Middle East.

Brown, who has been Blair's finance minister since 1997, pledged to lead a "new government with new priorities" after being asked to form the next government by Queen Elizabeth II.

"At all times I will be strong in purpose, steadfast in will, resolute in action in the service of what matters to the British people, meeting the concerns and aspirations of the whole country," he said.

Flanked by his wife Sarah outside the prime minister's official residence at number 10 Downing Street, Brown pledged to "listen and learn", to implement changes in areas like health and education and to build trust in government.

With a wave, the former chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) then disappeared into number 10 for the first time as prime minister, to finalise his senior ministerial appointments.
A major reshuffle is expected, with the main announcements Thursday.

Blair's decision to resign as an MP was confirmed by the Treasury, minutes after the United Nations in New York confirmed his nomination as Middle East envoy.

Brown said on Wednesday that he was "delighted" that Blair had been named to the post, adding that Blair was "exceptionally well placed" to take on the role, in a statement released by his Downing Street office.

He had left little doubt about his plans earlier in the day, refusing to confirm his appointment, but declaring a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an "absolute priority".
"I believe it is possible to do that but it will require a huge intensity of focus and work," he told parliament.

Blair's last appearance as premier before the House of Commons ended with loud applause and a rare standing ovation before he headed to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation.
"That is that. The end," Blair said, choking back emotion, after listening to a string of tributes to his decade in power that was marked by a booming economy but mired in controversy over the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

On Iraq and Afghanistan, where British troops are still stationed, Blair was defiant to the last, refusing to agree with critics that the troops were fighting in vain."I don't and I never will. I believe they're fighting for the security of this country and wider world against people who would destroy our way of life," he said.

In Northern Ireland's First Minister Ian Paisley, whose recent election was the climax to one of Blair's biggest achievements, wished him well in any Middle East role, although he acknowledged it was a "colossal task".

He drew a parallel with the reconciliation between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, adding: "I hope that what happened in Northern Ireland will be repeated."

White House spokesman Tony Snow led the international plaudits, describing Blair's relationship with US President George W. Bush as "extraordinary".

Brown took over from Blair as Labour Party leader on Sunday and has until May 2010 at the latest to call a general election, although opposition parties want him to call one immediately.

The man dubbed the "Iron Chancellor" stewarded Britain through record economic expansion. But his serious style is a marked contrast to Blair's eloquent and easy, media-friendly personality - AFP.

34. Death for Drugs

Amnesty International in Malaysia yesterday issued a statement on the abolishment of the death penalty for drug offences in line with world trends for the abolishment of capital punishment. AIM says there is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has deterred would be drug traffickers; and Governments have failed to deal with the underlying causes such as poverty, ignorance, desperation, lack of education and has hence precluded the possibility of reform and rehabilitation. I totally agree with them and the drug laws need a relook. Read on ...

On the occasion of the UN Anti-Drugs Day on 26 June, the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN)1, of which Amnesty International is a member, expressed growing concern that more people are sentenced to death for drug offences than for any other crime in a number of Asia Pacific countries. This is at a time when there is a worldwide trend towards restricting and abolishing the death penalty.

ADPAN recognizes that it is legitimate for governments to take appropriate law-enforcement measures against drug traffickers and related crime, and that states may be party to international drug control treaties which require them to do so. However there is no convincing evidence that the death penalty deters would-be drug traffickers more than any other punishment.

In China for example, police data shows that the number of drug users grew 35 percent in the five years since 2000. In Viet Nam, the BBC quoted an official who said in 2005 the quantity of drugs seized by customs had increased 400 percent year-on-year, despite its use of the death penalty.

Over the years, United Nations human rights monitoring bodies and experts have examined the scope of the death penalty as applied in different countries in the world. When it comes to the death penalty for drug-related crimes, legal definitions of the offences of possession and trafficking vary considerably from country to country.

Most recently, in analysing the practice, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, Professor Philip Alston, concluded in January 2007 that the death penalty should be understood to be "a quite exceptional measure" that can only be imposed on cases where "it can be shown that there was an intention to kill which resulted in loss of life". In a challenge to Indonesia’s Constitution, Professor Alston acting as a witness told the Constitutional Court in April that, "[d]eath is not an appropriate response to the crime of drug trafficking.”

All legal proceedings, and particularly those related to capital offences, must conform to the minimum procedural guarantees contained in article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the right to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, the presumption of innocence, the right to adequate legal assistance and the right to review by a higher tribunal.

The failure to apply the presumption of innocence to those charged with drug offences, combined with the mandatory imposition of the death penalty, is an obvious violation of international legal standards. Often these violations are coupled with lack of adequate legal assistance at all stages in the proceedings including when defendants are too poor to pay for proper legal defence, compounding the unfairness of the trial.

In China, UN Anti-Drugs Day has been used by the authorities as an occasion for mass executions in recent years. In the period between 13 and 26 June 2006, Amnesty International recorded 55 executions for drugs offences.

Studies have shown that the death penalty is disproportionately imposed on the poorest, most vulnerable members of society. In many cases, people have become involved in drug trafficking out of desperation or ignorance. Executing these people not only fails to deter others, but also fails to deal with the underlying issues that drive them to offend, such as poverty and lack of education, and obviously precludes the possibility of reform.

ADPAN urges Asia Pacific countries to take the lead of countries such as the Philippines and Nepal and join the global trend towards total abolition of the death penalty -- starting by ending the use of the death penalty for drugs offences and studying and implementing alternative treatment to break the cycle of drug abuse and crime.

The sixteen Asia Pacific countries that still have the death penalty for drug- crimes are: Bangladesh, Brunei, China, India, Indonesia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

33. Employees Picket

Amended version at 10.10 am

This picket by private sector workers for a minimum wage of RM900 per month is long overdue and needs serious consideration. See here Bernama report.

It may not look the best way to solve the problem of minimum wage, but it certainly has highlighted and brought to attention "the long talked about and nothing done" situation into focus for a settlement.

In fact with inflation and cost of living creeping in, it is high time a minimum wage bill is introduced in the country. Looking realistically at wages and cost of living, even at RM 1000 per month, a worker today has to do more than one job to make ends meet.

What if he is married and with three (average) and not five school-going children. Do the the arithmetic and you will see that he needs a working wife and if possible doing another job.

With the latest pay revision, the Government on its part has ensured this minimum wage. Well done to the Government for taking the lead to be a model employer. If an employer cannot pay this minimum monthly wage of RM 1000/- he has no reason to employ a worker and to be in business. But if you employ, then pay him what he deserves to live.

We are today, in Malaysia, living in a very sophisticated world. Besides our basic necessities of living, we need to have a house (no more squatters) , have to travel to work (a motor cycle or bus), and some entertainment (a radio and TV). And what about all these for the growing children and elderly parents if there are any.

I am not talking about food and clothing any more as basic necessities. Can't the employers and politicians look at their brethren workers who cannot even make ends meet.

Don't think of unemployment and its consequences. This is where the Government should now seriously think of the social security benefits for the unemployable and unemployed as in the west.

Although the economy has to be stimulated for full employment but it cannot be done by exploiting workers below basic minimum wage. We are by no means chasing away foreign investors. We are just letting them know that this is the labour cost in this country. The labour cost in India, China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos will always be lower than Malaysia whether we impose a minimum wage or not.

If the diverse number of groups falling under the minimum wage for workers and employees is the concern, then categorise them by sectors and work functions and state the conditions for that minimum wage to be applicable. Don't dismiss outright the workers claim for higher wages. That minimum wage should come from profits, reserves and even at the cut of the high and excessive salaries paid to the directors and management of the companies.

Looking at developed nation status by 2020, workers and employees should not be left out and be exploited to achieve this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

32. Kee's World

A Star Cartoon

Monday, June 25, 2007

31. Johnston with Explosives

NEWS FLASH - 7.00 am

Alan Johnston 'seen with explosives belt' ( see right column )

Alan Johnston has been held since 12 March. Hamas leader Ismail Haniya has said the kidnappers of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston have made a new video showing him wearing an explosives belt. More...

30. Agnes Monica Concert

Agnes Monica, 21 year old pretty lass from Jakarta gave an otherwise star performance at Stadium Negara, Saturday evening to a crowd of about 10,000 people mostly teenagers. The show started around 9.30pm and went on for about two hours much to the enjoyment of the crowd who kept clapping, singing and cheering on the singer.

It was an energy packed, very physical show where this singer cum actress sang, danced and moved a lot on stage showing her youthful exuberance and enthusiasm.

She wore a black and gold blouse and tight-fitting black pants with knee high grey boots giving the show a western look. She sang her favourites from her album in Malay and English for a full two hours many times recharging herself with mineral water.

The stage props and lighting were good. And so was the band. But due to the poor acoustics at the stadium, the musical left much to be desired. The sound was a little muffled and with the annoying echoes, the concert was not outstanding.

Agnes Monica Muljoto, started her career at the age of 6 as host of a children's TV show and as a singer. Her first album was not a big hit in Indonesia since at that time not many children bought cassettes of child singers.

At the age of 12, she entered acting world. "Lupus Milenia" was her first series. Although not too successful, the series led her to other series that were big hits in Indonesia (and later on in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei). "Pernikahan Dini" (2001) had won many prestigious awards including Best Newcomer and Best Actress in a Drama Series. Since then she has acted in numerous series in leading roles.

In 2003 she released her first album called "And The Story Goes...". It was a big success in Indonesia and Malay speaking countries. The singles such as "Bilang Saja," "Jera," and "Cinta Mati" became instant hits. In 2005 she released her next album "Whaddup A...!"

She has acted in two Taiwanese series: Romance in the White House (with Peter Ho) and The Hospital (with Jerry Yan).

In addition to Bahasa Indonesia and English she speaks Mandarin.

Age is with Agnes and with more exposure and experience she has a bright and successful future ahead. She is talented and with good advise and management could take on more tours of asia and the world.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

29. Adam Air Diverts

This time around, good and quick thinking by the pilot to divert the aircraft from Polonia to Bayan Lepas in Malaysia. This was possible because there was sufficient fuel and had permission to land in Malaysia. This is the type of cooperation we need in times of an emergency and use each other's resources to save the people. Also aircrafts should make sure of sufficient fuel to land in the next nearest airport in times of an emergency. We do not want another air disaster in Indonesia, or anywhere else in the world.

Bad weather forces Adam Air to divert to Penang

An Adam Air plane from Jakarta with 184 people on board was forced to land at a Malaysian airport Tuesday due to bad weather in Medan, North Sumatra.The plane took off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport at around 2:30 p.m. and was scheduled to arrive at Medan's Polonia Airport at 4:40 p.m."The plane experienced turbulence several times while flying over Polonia. The pilot then notified us that the flight would be rerouted to Penang, Malaysia. Many passengers were already nervous," Rosadi, 30, one of the passengers, was quoted as saying. He said the Boeing 737-200 later landed at Penang's Bayan Lepas Airport, where the passengers waited for an hour before the plane flew to Medan at around 8 p.m. It eventually landed safely there after 45 minutes. The Adam Air district manager in Medan, confirmed the report. "The weather was so bad. Other flights were similarly delayed. We did so to save the passengers," she told - Jakarta Post.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

28. Maid Abuse

Ceriyati Dapin, 33, fled her employer's Kuala Lumpur apartment on Saturday by using a rope made from pieces of cloth to descend 3 floors outside before she froze from fear and was rescued by firefighters. Read Bernama report of cabinet discussion here.

The stories of Indonesian maids being abused and ill-treated is on the increase. Why is it other foreign maids are not reported or has there been no abuse?

Officials say about 1200 Indonesian maids run away each month because of abuse or long working hours or unpaid salaries. This is a worrying number and needs an explanation by all concerned.

Although various government to government agreements have been signed in the past regarding placement and requirements to qualify for jobs, they have turned out to be mere pieces of paper to pacify concerned groups.

A major reason if such a large number run away would be poor selection and lack of training of the workers sent to this country. It has to be noted that workers sent to Malaysia are in the US $150 per month category and hence sent here.

Workers for Middle East and Hong Kong and Japan fetch far higher salaries and are hence the better quality. At that salary level and higher agencies fees, most would be well trained and genuine workers and maids.

Many of those coming in to the country lack major skills currently in demand and there is little bargaining power. There is also poor Government supervision of the maids in Indonesia at the selection process and here at the homes they are working.

But that does not mean that the maids sent to Malaysia can be abused. And it also does not mean that bad and untrained workers can be sent here. If unsatisfactory work performance is the cause of maid abuse, then stop sending maids from Indonesia.

Friday, June 22, 2007

27. Near Tsunami

Near Tsunami: Fisherman Ang Kok Lai, 57, showing the remains of his boat which was destroyed by three-metre-high waves that pounded the Pantai Bersih beachfront in Bagan Ajam, on Tuesday 19th June. The waves also damaged 13 other boats during a two-hour storm which wrecked havoc in Penang and parts of Kedah - Starpic.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

26. Speeding Streamyx

It is high time somebody at TM did something to get the broadband (Streamyx) on its track in this country. Monopoly does not mean shoddiness. Finally something is being attempted. The report below indicates that the "last mile" solution is going to be fibre-optic. Let us hope that this is going to be done and it works to solve the problem i.e. that of congestion and slow speeds although each customer was promised more than three times the speed possible! For example, I live about less than a kilometre from a TM exchange. I subscribed for a 512kb/s broadband service to my house. A speed test by using TM's own meter now shows readings of 130 - 240 kb/s i.e. a third down. I hope that by using fibre optics we could at least hope for a 80% yield at the consumer's home. An better solution would be to upgrade all 512 kb/s to 1Mb/s for free so that at one third down the consumer gets about what he subscribed for! This would be to ensure standards and service to the consumer.

New Telekom Solution Expected To Reduce Broadband Cost

The cost of deploying broadband services is expected to be reduced by 30 percent when a Telekom Malaysia subsidiary rolls out its new fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) solution next year.

According to Telekom Research & Development Sdn Bhd (TMR&D), its FTTH solution, a form of fibre-optic communication delivery in which the optical signal reaches the end-user's living or office space, will also be able to provide higher speed digital access for broadband services.

Its chief executive officer Dr Shahruddin Muslimin said the solution will offer a new dimension for broadband services, which were currently using copper wire technology in their deployment.
"The solution will provide better services and higher speed for broadband services compared to copper wires," he said, adding that the company was currently carrying out trial services around Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur.

"We will initially introduce the services in places like the Klang Valley, Johor Baharu and Penang," he told Malaysian reporters after the company signed a memoradum of understanding (MoU) with Singapore's Aztech Systems Ltd at the CommunicAsia 2007 event here Tuesday.

Under the five-year agreement, both companies will work together to promote research and development, and collaboration activities through joint research, training and industrial attachments as well as consultancy- BERNAMA.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

25. Just for Laughs

Kee's World

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

24. Environment Conscious?

Here are some pictures showing some aspects of pollution in the country. Environmental education and enforcement is required to curb these problems.

Keep our beaches clean : A Johor Baru City Council worker collecting rubbish left behind by picnickers at Lido Beach - Starpic.

A massive clean-up of all rivers is needed : Kuching North City Hall workers clearing rubbish collected underneath a bridge along the Sarawak River - Starpic.

Stop Haze : Some farmers still practise open burning when clearing land for the next harvest in Sri Aman division in Sarawak - Starpic.

Monday, June 18, 2007

23. David Beckham to US

Beckham bows out with Liga title

David Beckham has capped his Real Madrid career with a league title. Beckham, 32, has been in Madrid for four seasons, but Sunday's 3-1 win over Mallorca sealed a first major Spanish honour for the US-bound midfielder.

Real came back from behind with two goals from Jose Reyes, who is on loan from Arsenal, and Mahamadou Diarra.

It is the club's first La Liga title in four years and they edged out Barcelona, who beat Gimnastic 5-1, because of their head-to-head record.

Beckham, who is set to join the LA Galaxy, was not on the pitch at the final whistle having been replaced by Reyes, but he joined the raucous celebrations at the Bernabeu.

"I couldn't have dreamt it any better," said Beckham. "It's been about winning the title for the last six months - and we've deserved it tonight. It's been an incredible experience, but all I remember now is the great things. Winning this tonight now puts to bed everything else."

The England star was joined by his three sons on the pitch and was given an emotional send off.

But for much of the night it looked as if Barcelona would be the team and city celebrating come the final whistle.

Meanwhile, Real were struggling and there was a growing edge of anxiety among a Bernabeu crowd that included actor Tom Cruise and tennis star Rafael Nadal.

Fabio Capello's team had an early scare when Juan Fernando Arango slammed a shot on to the Real woodwork in the opening minute and they fell behind when Fernando Varela broke the offside trap to score on 17 minutes.

And injury was added to insult when leading scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy hobbled off after 33 minutes with a hamstring injury.

After Beckham had curled an effort on to the Mallorca crossbar, Varela had a chance to put the visitors firmly in the driving seat, but he poked his effort wide and Real pounced on their lifeline.
Beckham, struggling with an ankle injury picked up on England duty, made way for Reyes who side-footed home with his first touch from Gonzalo Higuain's pull back on 68 minutes.

Diarra's header evaded goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya and defender Angelos Basinas before trickling over the line, before Reyes curled in a delightful third from the edge of the area.

While Real left it late with those two goals coming in the final 10 minutes, Barcelona were always in control at Gimnastic, with Messi and Gianluca Zambrotta adding second-half strikes - BBC.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

22. Father's Day 2007

Father's Day typically involves gift-giving to fathers and family-oriented activities. In Malaysia, it is on the third Sunday of June. Hence this year it falls today!

"Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!"
- Lydia M. Child

Saturday, June 16, 2007

21. Hamas demands Release


Hamas demands BBC man's release ( See right column for World Petition ).

The Palestinian Islamist movement, Hamas, says it has sent a message to the kidnappers of BBC journalist Alan Johnston, demanding his release.

A Hamas spokesman told reporters in Gaza - which is now controlled by the group - that it would not allow the BBC correspondent's captivity to continue.

Read more of the BBC story here.

20. Airbus goes Green

In a world now increasingly becoming aware and concerned with environmental issues as part of their corporate social responsibility, a most welcome news is from AIRBUS, the world's largest plane maker.

Very conscious of their moral duty to the citizens of the world and setting standards and targets for others to follow, they are committing a 25% increase in research and technology from next year so that by 2020 all new Airbus aircraft entering the market will produce 50% less carbon dioxide and 80% less nitrogen oxide than the 2000 levels.

Remember these emissions, together with the deadly carbon monoxide from motor vehicles and other toxic gases from industrial pollutants contribute to global warming and hence to climate change and disastrous weather havocs.

Read here about Airbus going green.

Friday, June 15, 2007

19. Shakti - India Beat 3

I was at a Royal Charity Concert called SHAKTI, the day before yesterday evening at the Merdeka Hall of Putra World Trade Centre. An evening of Indian classical fusion and jazz music, the show was in aid of The Malaysian Tenpin Bowling Congress, The Taman Megah Handicapped & Disabled Children's Home and The Temple of Fine Arts.

It was a show with a difference. They were dubbed the ultimate carnatic band to have left the shores of India to tour the world. All its world tours have been to capacity audiences and standing ovations culminating in a Grammy award nomination.

The Quintet consists of John Mclaughlin on the guitar, Zakir Hussain on tabla, U Shrinivas on mandolin, Shanker Mahadevan - vocals, and Selvaganesh on percussion. The two and half hour show to a capacity audience kept them totally mesmerised from start to finish.

It was totally jazz fusion of sorts. The electric guitar and the madolin string sounds reverberated and added richness and depth to the tabla and percussion, bridging classical and non-classical in a very harmonious way known only to their exponents. It was a very skillful alchemy of jazz and Indian sounds producing an outcome both new and surprising

All five are world reknowned and are masters of their art and have performed world wide to capacity audiences, received numerous accolades and awarded highest honours in music by the Indian Government.They are musical giants in their field with many years of experience and experimentation, having grouped and ungrouped from many performers and instrumentalists throughout their careers. It was hence a blending of the best there is.

It was a delightful evening and a show to remember and I hope we have more such shows in Malaysia for all to enjoy and to appreciate the universality of music uniting peoples of the world.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

18. Climate Change?

Death toll rises in China floods

At least 71 people are now known to have died, and 640,000 displaced, after floods and landslides triggered by days of heavy rain in southern China. Some 56,000 homes and thousands of hectares of crops have been destroyed, bringing economic losses of 3.4bn yuan ($436m) to the region, officials say.

Guangdong, the heart of China's light industry, was among the worst hit. Meteorologists are warning of more rain to come as the storm season gets under way in the region. Rescuers are working to reinforce dams, restore power and help search for at least 13 people still missing. People who had been forced to flee their homes are seeking shelter in schools or with family and friends.

The provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hunan, Fujian and Jiangxi were among the worst-affected by the weekend floods.

Television pictures showed flood waters reaching the top of trees and homes.

In Guangxi, the rains destroyed 29 reservoirs and 162 roads and forced 59 factories to suspend production, Xinhua news agency reported. The coastal areas of Hunan, Fujian and Zhejiang could expect at least another couple of days of downpours and strong winds, the Chinese weather office said.

Seasonal rains bring flash floods to China each year. Although towns and cities are normally protected by dykes, smaller farming communities and mountain towns are particularly vulnerable to the sudden rise in water levels.

In the country's central and southern regions, many people farm on land reclaimed from the flood plains.

Last year some 2,704 people died in flooding and typhoons in China, according to the country's Meteorological Administration - BBC.

A Comment:
This is a huge catastrophe. Not only is China facing this problem, even Bangladesh, Australia, Kuala Lumpur and earlier Jakarta and Johore were not spared. All had more than their share of floods. It has brought misery and suffering to countless thousands of people. What has gone wrong? Has there been a climate change of late? I am sure there has been and the whole world is waiting for climatic disasters like this to strike before action is taken. What is the reason for this? It is definitely global warming and a melting of the polar caps causing unpredictable and unprecedented weather patterns. Go read Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" if you care about this world and mother earth. You can then see what all of us can do to save our world. He calls the 21st century a time of renewal and reminds the reader that global warming is a moral issue and not a political one and solving the problem is a GLOBAL EFFORT.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

17. Poverty Eradication

A forum on Poverty Eradication will be held on 19th June at Prince Hotel. This forum should interest particularly South Asian countries, Africa and some ASEAN nations. They could be represented by their respective High Commissions and Embassies.

To be officiated by Information Minister Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin, the speakers at the forum are as follows:

* Datuk Ahmad Tarmizi Alias, director-general of the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) which is one of the earliest and largest resettlement agency for the landless in the country.

* A.S.M. Mohiuddin, deputy general manager and head of the Co-ordination and Operation Department of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. The founder of the bank, which provides small loans to the poor without collaterals, Dr Muhammad Yunus, was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work last year.

* Datuk Dr Sulaiman Mahbob, director-general of the Economic Planning Unit, who had served primarily in economic-related agencies in his 33-year public career and who has amassed vast experience in poverty alleviation projects.

* Datuk Amihamzah Ahmad, chairman of Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia, a micro-finance agency, which is patterned after the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh.

The half-day forum will be moderated by Dr Chung Tsung Ping, the Assistant Resident Representative (Programme) of UNDP Malaysia.

For further details:

Dr Amerjit Singh (Tel 03 7968 3205)
Puan Suryani Nayan (Tel 03 7968 3243)
Puan V. Radha (Tel 03 7968 3364)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

16. Flash Floods hit KL

1. Members of the Fire and Rescue Volunteers Malaysia helping a motorist to evacuate from his multi-purpose vehicle which was caught in the floods in Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. The road was one of many in the federal capital which was inundated after three hours of heavy rain.

2. Jalan Tun Perak near Masjid Jamek submerged by floods.

3. Water level rose to knee-high around the Concorde Hotel's carpark.

( All photos courtesy of The Star.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

15. Karen Armstrong

Karen Armstrong of Stanford University, a religious historian whose books some Malaysians feared to read, will be in Kuala Lumpur to deliver a public lecture this weekend.

Armstrong was in the spotlight recently when her book, The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam (ISBN 0-00-255523-9) was banned by the Malaysian Government in July last year.

However, it needed to be told that Armstrong's lecture in Malaysia is part of her efforts in promoting peace and better understanding between Islam and the West.

She will also deliver a public lecture. Details are as below:

Title: The Role of Religion in the 21st Century
Date: 16 June, 2007 ( Saturday)
Time: 10.00am
Venue: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Admission is free.

14. G8 Summit

G8 leaders in $60 billion aid pledge to Africa to combat Aids, Malaria,Tuberculosis and other diseases. African leaders are however sceptical of the aid pledge - Al Jazeera.

13. Synthetic Life

This news report by BBC is preposterous.You may think of the superiority of man. The end of God. I think not. This could be the beginning of life creation by man. Using this line of bio-engineering and experimentation of Dr.Craig Venter and working earnestly and with sophistication, man creating man before the end of the 21st century or the following is a possibility. A major biotechnological advance could see man being created in the test tube. Do men need women anymore or do women need men anymore? That is left to be seen. But it surely does not mean we are not going to believe in God as man creator but praise him more for having given us enlightenment to do this. God is just not man creator but he created the world and the universe and we have to be thankful to him for all that and more.

Scientists working to build a life form from scratch have applied to patent the broad method they plan to use to create their "synthetic organism". Dr Craig Venter, the man who led the private sector effort to sequence the human genome, has been working for years to create a man-made organism.

But constructing a primitive microbe from a kit of genes is a daunting task. Dr Venter says, eventually, these life forms could be designed to make biofuels and absorb greenhouse gases.
The publication of the patent application has angered some environmentalists. The Canada-based ETC group, which monitors developments in biotechnology, called on patent offices to reject applications on synthetic life forms.

The J Craig Venter Institute's US patent application claims exclusive ownership of a set of essential genes and a synthetic "free-living organism that can grow and replicate" made using those genes. It has also filed an international application at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which names more than 100 countries where the institute may seek monopoly patents.

Dr Venter's team intends to construct an organism with a "minimal genome" that can then be inserted into the shell of a bacterium. By removing genes, one by one, from a bacterium called Mycoplasma genitalium they identified the minimum number of genes required for this particular organism to replicate, or reproduce, in its controlled environment. They have been able to remove 101 of its 482 genes without killing the bacterium, meaning that 381 were required for replication.

But generating a man-made living organism from the bottom up requires much more than just its minimal genome. For example, in order to get the genes to do something, there have to be chemicals to translate the genes into messenger RNA and proteins.

Scientists around the world have been wrestling with the task of generating a so-called free-living synthetic organism for years.

The ETC Group says it will be writing to Dr Venter asking him to withdraw his institute's patent applications. "We don't want to engage in a long-term legal strategy to slap down bad patents. These patents must be struck down before they're issued," said Hope Shand, a spokesperson for the group. Jim Thomas, of ETC Group, added: "These monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesise and privatise synthetic life forms." It said the company was pressing ahead with its work despite the fact the public had not had the chance to debate the "far-reaching social, ethical and environmental implications".

Dr Venter maintains that artificial life forms could produce solutions to global problems such as green sources of fuel and climate change. The effort could result in "designer microbes" that produce biofuels such as ethanol and hydrogen. They could also be engineered to remove carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Dr Venter first announced that scientists were working on creating synthetic life forms at a conference in California in 1999 - BBC.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

12. Bird Flu Accord

APEC agree to share bird flu samples

APEC health ministers agreed Friday to share samples of the bird flu virus to help develop effective vaccines, setting aside disputes over who "owns" the disease.

The 21-nation group wrapped up a meeting in Australia by signing a declaration committing them to share samples of the H5N1 virus, which the World Health Organisation says has killed 188 people worldwide since 2003.

Indonesia refused to share bird flu virus samples with foreign laboratories last December in a dispute over intellectual property rights.

While Jakarta resumed virus-sharing last month, it remains concerned about the possibility that multinational drug companies would use an Indonesian bird flu virus to develop vaccines that poor countries cannot afford.

Australian Health Minister Tony Abbott said he had considerable sympathy for Indonesia's position but that research should not be hindered because the possibility of a pandemic was "very real".

Abbott said scientists needed access to the latest mutations of the H5N1 virus to develop a cure but also conceded it was important that those economies which provided samples receive tangible benefits in return.

"The last thing we want to see is the situation where some countries get the disease and other countries get the vaccines," he said.

But he said rapid virus-sharing was imperative.

"It would be tragic if there was any significant interruption in virus sharing and we weren't able to see what's exactly happening to this virus," he said.

Abbott said a pandemic could have a devastating impact on the 21 APEC economies, pointing out that the SARS epidemic cut East Asian economic growth by two percent in the second quarter of 2003 even though only 8,000 people were directly affected.

"Any flu pandemic would have a vastly greater impact," he said.

Scientists fear the bird flu virus could mutate into a form easily spread among humans, leading to a global pandemic with the potential to kill millions - AFP.

A Comment:
An interesting fact about a virus is its ability to mutate very fast into new forms and hence hampering efforts to find a cure for the deadly scourge. But that does not mean there should be no co-operation, sharing samples of virus for research and finding a cure. Whatever the outcome of the research, medication discovered should be easily and cheaply available to all countries, poor and rich alike so that sharing samples is not an issue. The sooner a cure is found the better. Until then we have to be satisfied with prevention and cause control. Let it not develop into a strain with a potential to kill millions of humans!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

11. Bird Flu in Malaysia

S'pore bans poultry, egg imports from Selangor

By Jessica Jaganathan of The Straits Times, Singapore

Singapore suspended poultry and egg imports from Selangor yesterday (June 6) after the deaths of 60 chickens in a village in the central part of the Malaysian state were traced to the bird flu virus.

The culling of chickens and birds within a 1km radius of the affected village began yesterday, with officials predicting that about 2,000 birds would be killed.

The outbreak of bird flu is the first in Malaysia since March last year.

Malaysian news reports said authorities had been investigating the case since last Saturday, and had run two separate tests before identifying the virus as the deadly H5N1 strain.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi warned against complacency in the war against the virus. 'They have to identify and quickly take whatever measures to prevent it from spreading,' he told reporters.

Datuk Zulkifli Idris, secretary-general of Malaysia's Agricultural and Agro-based Industries Ministry, said he hoped the situation would be contained within 36 hours.

Selangor is not the key Malaysian supplier of poultry and eggs to Singapore: Only 6 per cent of the Republic's chickens and 1 per cent of its eggs from Malaysia come from there.

But with Singapore being free of the disease, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) here is nevertheless on high alert and is working closely with Malaysian health officials to ensure that all poultry and eggs imported from the country are safe.

AVA said poultry imports from disease-free zones of Johor, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Perak will not be affected by the suspension.

An AVA spokesman said surveillance will be stepped up at border points so that the disease does not slip in. Immigration & Checkpoints Authority and AVA officers will check for the smuggling of birds and avian products. AVA also said it would step up inspections and sample testings at the slaughterhouses.

It said the suspension of imports of poultry and eggs will last until Selangor declares itself free of bird flu.

Poultry farms and slaughterhouses in Singapore are also on alert. They have set up netting to prevent wild birds from mixing with their resident flocks; vehicles which trundle in and out of these farms need to drive through disinfectant baths, and only employees are allowed in.

Countries in the region have been struggling to cope with the deadly bird flu. Indonesia, which reported its 79th fatality last month--a girl in Central Java who died after handling a dead chicken--has seen the world's highest death toll from the disease.

During the last bird flu outbreak in Malaysia, Singapore banned all poultry from Selangor and Perak for three months. This time, most merchants expect to escape relatively unscathed because Selangor is a minor supplier.

But egg importer Tan Kui Lai, who brings in 120,000 eggs from two Selangor farms every week, is staring at a potential loss of $10,000.

He told The Straits Times: 'I am worried how long this is going to last. I don't even know when my next truckload of eggs is going to come in.'

Friday, June 8, 2007

10. The Drama Unfolds

Top lawyers split over A-G's explanation

by Husna Yusop and Opalyn Mok of The Sun

Senior lawyers were split over the Attorney-General (A-G)'s explanation on his decision to replace the deputy public prosecutor (DPP) in the murder trial of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu at the last minute.

While former Bar Council president Datuk Kuthubul Zaman Bukhari said Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail's decision was based on reasonable grounds, other lawyers had different views.

Abdul Gani had said yesterday he made the change after he was informed that Salehuddin had been seen playing badminton with trial judge Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yasin.

"To ensure fairness in a trial, justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done," Kuthubul said. "If the DPP and judge have some kind of interest that would prejudice the issue, there is reasonable ground for the A-G's position."

On the first day of the high-profile case on Monday (June 4), Abdul Majid told the court he was only instructed to take over the case from Salehuddin the night before. As a result, the case had to be postponed to June 18.

Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenavasan could not be reached for comment today.

On Noorin Badaruddin, the other prosecuting lawyer who was replaced, Kuthubul said it was up to the A-G to decide.

Kuthubul said while it was not necessary for the whole team to be dismissed if the lead prosecutor was replaced, he believed Abdul Gani had made the right decision.

Salehuddin is the head of the Classified Cases Unit, and Noorin is head of the General Crimes and Sexual Unit in the A-G's Chambers in Putrajaya.

They had been handling the Altantuya murder case from the time Chief Insp Azilah Hadri Azilah and Cpl Sirul Azhar Umar were charged on Nov 15.

In Penang, lawyer Datuk K. Kumaraendran said most lawyers and judges knew each other, some from their college days, so this should not be the reason to disqualify lawyers from a case. He said it was common for lawyers and judges to know each other as most moved in the same social circles."Some of us even studied in the same colleges and universities," he said.

On Karpal Singh's appeal to disqualify Hazman Ahmad from representing one of the accused because Hazman's late wife was the judge's niece, Kumaraendran said this should not be grounds for disqualification.

Another senior lawyer, Datuk V. Sithambaram, said generally, it should not be a problem if a judge was distantly related to the lawyer. "If they are only distant relatives and there are no objections, it is okay," he said. However, he said it was up to the court to decide whether to disqualify Hazman or not. "The matter was already dismissed by the court, but Karpal plans to appeal so it will be decided by the court," he said.

Lawyer Karpal Singh is appealing against Shah Alam High Court judge Datuk Mohd Zaki Md Yasin's decision to dismiss his application to disqualify Hazman Ahmad from being a defence counsel in the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder trial.

Karpal, who filed the notice with the Court of Appeal today, said in a statement that Hazman's late wife was trial judge Zaki's niece, and therefore should not be allowed to represent Chief Inspector Azilah Hadri.

In our article "Karpal seeks to disqualify inspector's lawyer" today, we erroneously reported that Karpal was seeking to meet Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim about his appeal to disqualify Hazman.

Karpal is seeking a meeting with Ahmad Fairuz about re-appointing the initial judge Datuk K.N. Segara to the case, and not as reported today.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

9. PM to marry Jeanne

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will marry Jeanne Abdullah, 53, on Saturday, the Prime Minister's Office announced Wednesday.

The wedding will take place at the prime minister's official residence, Seri Perdana, here and will be attended by close relatives, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement.

Jeanne was born in Kuala Lumpur on July 29 1953 and is the eldest of four siblings.

She was educated at Sekolah Menengah Assunta and has wide experience in administration and hotel management and has worked as supervisor of the official residence of the deputy prime minister and manager of the Seri Perdana Complex.

Jeanne has two daughters, Nadiah and Nadene - Bernama.

Congratulations to the Prime Minister and Jeanne Abdullah on the occasion of their wedding this Saturday and wishing them a Happy Married Life.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

8. Farewell Loganathan

Loganathan Arumugam, vocalist of the legendary Malaysian band, ALLEYCATS, passed away yesterday morning at the age of 54. He was diagnosed with lung cancer.

In my message to his family, I said:
" Shocked to hear of Loga's passing away at this age. My heartfelt condolences to his family and members of the Alleycats. May his songs and music live on and bring warmth and cheers to Malaysians now and forever."

Among the group's hits, the songs I particularly like are Sampaikan Salam (Send my Regards) and Terima Kasih (Thank You).

Now here is Loga with Jika Kau Bercinta Lagi (If you Love Again) recorded at a Zoom-In show at RTM's Angkasapuri Studios.

( Best result, second and subsequent replay.)

7. The Altantuya Trial

The " Global Trial of the Century? " has descended in Malaysia.

The trial so far is just as bizarre as the murder itself.

> Case postponed to June 18th from yesterday, June 4th
> Family sues Govt. and Defendants for RM 100 million
> Razak (an accused) denied bail
> Interference in Murder Case - Defence Lawyer
> Change of Judge
> Police Security for Mongolians
> Lawyer related to Judge
> Crowds descend in Shah Alam

Read here the whole story.

6. The Lankan Conflict-2

This is the second part of the interview. First part was posted yesterday.

The message I am hearing from you right now is that your military strategy is going to continue until the Tigers come to the table and ask for negotiations and lay down their arms.

No. I am ready to talk even while they carry arms. Even while they fight, if they want to negotiate with me, and reach a solution, I am ready for that too.

Let me rephrase then. What you are saying is that the government’s military strategy will continue as is, until you get a signal from Prabhakaran that he is willing to talk and he is willing to stop his military action first?

If they do not attack me, I will not attack. If they stay where they are, keeping their arms, I have no problem with that. But, they must agree to a political solution. To achieve the aspirations of the Tamil people, and to achieve the aspirations of the people of this country, I am prepared. Because I will not divide people as Tamils, Muslims or Sinhalese.

Let’s assume that Prabhakaran is committed to a military victory against the government. Is it your belief that the government can defeat the Tigers militarily if it comes to the necessity?

Actually, the government has the capability to defeat them. The government is strong. Defeating terrorism is not only for the Sri Lankan government. To protect democracy, the whole world must act to defeat terrorism.

But we’ve had a year now of the government putting an all-out effort to counter the Tamil Tiger terrorism and in that time there has not only been no progress made, we now see they have an air force.

I must say this very clearly. We have cleared the east from terrorism. Today, they have been limited to Killinochchi and Mullaitivu areas. We have weakened them. They receive help from the European and other countries, they get strong. As long as they get this protection money they will carry this out as a business. We must keep that in mind.

Do you think Prabhakaran should admit finally that the ceasefire agreement is dead?

Prabhakaran is breaking it all the time. Prabhakaran is not talking about a ceasefire agreement. When it’s needed, he talks about it to the international community. Prabhakaran has completely forgotten about it, and is carrying out his terrorist activities.

As far as you are concerned it’s no more than a piece of paper now?

Even though I dislike saying it, the agreement has fallen to that state. This agreement is between us. We are prepared to renew the agreement at any time. But Prabhakaran does not honour that. We still honour it. We still do not send our police, our army to that side.

Richard Boucher visited Sri Lanka recently and he said there are two aspects that concern us, abductions and killings and the freedom of the press. Other human rights organisations have also levelled criticisms at the forces, armed forces.

Actually, today I am not prepared to accept that there are human rights violations as has been reported. When such accusations are made, I, the forces, the police …

Are you willing to accept that there are violations of human rights occurring?

Knowingly, a state will not violate human rights, abduct people. That must be stated very clearly. Our forces are a very disciplined force. Not seen in any other country. Not a single civilian was injured when we took Vakarai. We know that in certain instances when bombs are dropped in other countries, people are killed, children die. We do not behave like that. We did not do that. We protected every civilian.

But Human Rights Watch has documented at least 700 and more abductions during your term.

Many of those people who are said to have been abducted are in England, Germany, gone abroad. They have made complaints that they were abducted, but when they return they don’t say. Some talk of a few people abducted from Colombo. We do not know whether they are fighting in Killinochchi, we have no way of finding out. This is all against the government. We have seen this business. We have found out that under the same name, they have gone abroad. In these lists we have seen.

So this is a conspiracy?

Definitely, I don’t refute the fact that the LTTE is abducting people. The LTTE has abducted people and killed them. The state forces do not have to abduct people, because we have a law. We can question them, and remand them, imprison them. We can detain them under emergency laws. So there is no need to abduct someone, for the state. If we receive evidence about any incidents, I have appointed a commission to take action against such people. International observers have been brought in. That is what a state can do. If there are killings, we have a police, a law to stop that. For this too, we have a law and a commission.

Let’s move away from abductions, you said after your victory that your aim is to bring about an honourable peace. This has been a long-running problem. How long do you think it can continue to go on before something very serious occurs within the Sri Lankan society itself?

I would like to solve this problem today. This has gone on too far. We need to solve this as quickly as possible. That is why we are working very hard.

How do you propose to do that?

We have to discuss it, then we have to bring it before the people and we also have to eradicate terrorism. We cannot allow these criminals to dictate to us. We cannot have them join us. While we go ahead with our programme to control these people we will bring forward a solution. This way the people will be with us. If you ask the people whether they want LTTE rule, they will say they don’t want it. You go there and ask them. But the problem is that if they say they are opposed to the LTTE, they will be killed.

The ambassador designate to the EU from Sri Lanka has been speaking about his concerns with the situation; that perhaps Europe, and maybe even a Democratic US president after the next election, may begin to support either a humanitarian intervention in Sri Lanka, or a perhaps a slightly stronger intervention in Sri Lanka. Perhaps even ultimately a Bosnia-style solution. Is that a fear that you have?

I believe in this country, for the problem of this country, another country cannot force a solution. To find a solution for this country, it is not Europe that can help. It is India that can find a solution. India is our neighbour. It is essential for the people of India. Therefore I believe, that it is the Indian government that can help us with this question.

But what would you like India to do today?

To offer a solution to this problem, according to the present situation, to help the Tamil people, India’s support is necessary. India must work with this government. It has worked, and my belief is that there must be more support from the Indian government. Sri Lanka is not a colony of England, America or any other country. Sri Lanka is a sovereign state. So when they get involved it is important that they do not interfere in the internal affairs of this country.

Mr President thank you very much for talking to Al Jazeera.

Grateful thanks to Al Jazeera for this interview.

Monday, June 4, 2007

5. The Lankan Conflict-1

Today my post is on a forgotten war ... the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. The Tamils in the North and East are long suffering due the war fought by the Liberation Tigers with the Sri Lankan Government for regional autonomy and power-sharing in these two tamil-dominated areas. The Sri Lankan Government has till today not offered a viable solution to the problem! The International Communities of United States, Britain, Norway and Japan who have promised aid have not been able to force the warring parties to a settlement.

By reading carefully this interview you would get an idea of the thinking of a President and the reasons for the failure to find a solution to the conflict.

The Conflict Very Briefly:

30 years of war; 70,000 killed on both sides; no solution in sight; the electoral parties elected by the Sinhalese and the Tamils to form governments successively, on the election promise of a solution, have cheated the people all the time.

>Ethnic tensions first surface after independence in 1948
>Tamil minority make up 12 per cent of island's 20m population
>They complain of discrimination from strengthening Sinhalese nationalism
>Decades of protest erupted into civil war in 1983
>Up to 70,000 have died in fighting, both sides accused of atrocities
>Ceasefire in 2002 led to period of relative peace
>Rebel attacks surged in late 2005, intensified fighting since and renewed calls for Tamil state

The following is a transcript of an interview between Al Jazeera’s 101 East presenter Teymoor Nabili and Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president of Sri Lanka:

Teymoor Nabili: Mr President, the Tamil Tigers launched their first attack against your government and against the Sri Lankan people only weeks after you came to power. Why do you think it was, that after so long of adhering to the peace plan, they suddenly decided to start attacking again?

President Mahinda Rajapaksa: They would have thought it was a weakness of mine, that I could be defeated. That was a good opportunity for them to establish a separate state. They would have believed that.

Is it possible that for Prabhakaran, war or continuing conflict is actually a preferred option because only by convincing the northern population that they were under attack can he convince them to support his movement. If there were no attacks from the government the population would lose the need for his command ?

Like I said before, he thought that we were weak, that the state is weak, that he is strong. But now, he has come to a point, where he has accepted that. He has lost the east. Prabhakaran does not represent the aspirations of the Tamil people. What he represents, is the interests of a small group, not the needs of the Tamil people. The Tamil people do not want a war, they want peace. The government does not need a war, the government wants peace.

Is there any level of dialogue at all between your government and the LTTE right now?

Actually, at present there are no talks at any level. As a government we cannot have talks. We say that we are ready for talks always.

You don’t see any value in dialogue?

We are always ready for talks. Always, even today. Even while the fighting goes on, I am ready for talks. Even being armed, the way they are behaving today, we are ready to go forward.

When you say you are prepared to talk, you are prepared to instigate, to initiate dialogue?

Definitely, if the LTTE is ready. [It takes] two hands to clap.

Have you made the offer?

I am ready if Prabhakaran is ready. We have said that very clearly. I am ready, but I am not prepared to kneel before the terrorism of the LTTE. I have said that many times. If I am attacked, I will counter attack. That is what we have done at every occasion.

We have then, a face-off. How does one get around what seems to be an intractable problem?

Actually in this instance, and at every other instance we have said, come and commence talks with us, we are ready. We have offered a political solution to the people. Along with the political solution, we are prepared to talk. But what the LTTE wants, to keep their arms and divide the country into two. That I cannot allow.

Do you think the Sri Lankan people would rather see a victory against the Tamil Tigers or a peace agreement with the Tamil Tigers?

The people have been battered by the LTTE for many years. It has come to a point where the LTTE cannot be trusted. If the people are asked, they will say, defeat the LTTE and talk. But I am ready to talk with the LTTE. From the other side, this question is a question not faced in any other country. Where a head of state asks Prabhakaran to talk.

So you are saying that you think the Sri Lankan people would prefer a defeat of the LTTE first?

First. Opinion polls seem to suggest that peace is much more important to the Sri Lankan people. For the people, LTTE, peace - the people want peace, that is the truth, without defeating the LTTE, without defeating the terrorism of the LTTE. There is no politics in this. There is a political side and terrorism here. This is a terrorist group. The people are aware that as long as a terrorist organisation exists, that negotiations will not be successful. They are making use of the negotiations to strengthen themselves, to bring in arms. This is a historical fact, historically because the people have been battered. Today we have to be very careful.

So let me be clear on this: what you’re saying is that there must first be military victory and then peace talks?

No. That is not what I hope for. Until the terrorists are weakened, they will not come for talks. As long as they think they are strong, they will try to break up the country. Today, what we hope is to fulfil the aspirations of the Tamil people.

What do you mean by weakened? At what point will you accept that the Tamil Tigers are weakened because it’s now been almost a year of …

Even under today’s circumstances. Clearly said, what the people expect. But what I expect is not that. I said that even today I am ready to negotiate, very clearly. My argument is that terrorism has to be got rid off. We cannot kneel down to that. I am not prepared to kneel down to their arms capability. But I am committed to ensuring the rights of the Tamil people. That I will achieve, somehow.

I apologise, I am not really following you. You say that terrorism must be defeated but you don’t want, you don’t think that a military victory is necessary?

Absolutely, a victory is essential against terrorism. That is a different story. But because we need to meet the aspirations of the Tamil people, I am prepared to go for talks, with the terrorists. I have come to that point. Has any other world leader said that?

Could you then describe a situation under which both those things can be achieved – defeat of the terrorists and representation of the Tamil people? What I am struggling to understand here is if the defeat of terrorism is a key element of your strategy and yet dialogue is also a key element of your strategy. How do you see those two working together? Which comes first and how do you proceed?

Now, we tried to talk at the beginning. While keeping their arms, we were prepared to talk. When we went to Geneva; they killed innocent people. Even while they were killing, I negotiated. I think, if you were to compare with other countries, you will see a difference. In other countries there will be no negotiations. But, we have been prepared, we have negotiated, we have shown that we are genuinely ready to do that. But they must give up terrorism. They must enter a democratic framework. Without that, that is what we expect to achieve through negotiations. It was clear during our negotiations with them, that they have no interest in negotiating because they believe they can win this war, that they can divide this country into two. That is their strong belief, Prabhakaran’s belief.

Second part of interview will be posted tomorrow.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

4. Goldmine in Kelantan

Goldmine in Kelantan: The directors of Hong Kong-based mining company, CNMC Goldmine Limited, trying out durians when visiting Pasar Siti Khatijah in Kota Baru yesterday. The delegation was here to sign an MoU for the development of a gold mine in Kelantan - Starpic.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

3. Lina Joy Migrating?

A woman who lost a court battle to change her religion to Christianity from Islam suggested she might leave Malaysia rather than stay without the right to practice the religion of her choice, her lawyer said yesterday.

Malaysia's highest civil court on Wednesday rejected Lina Joy's appeal to have the word "Islam" stricken from her national identity card.

The verdict was seen as a blow to religious freedom in this ethnically diverse country made up of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs.

"I am disappointed that the Federal Court is not able to vindicate a simple but important fundamental right that exists in all persons: Namely, the right to believe in the religion of one's choice," Ms. Joy said in a statement released through her lawyer, Benjamin Dawson. "The Federal Court has not only denied me that right but [denied it] to all Malaysians who value fundamental freedoms," she said.

About 60% of Malaysia's 26 million people are Malay Muslims, whose civil, family, marriage, and personal rights are decided by Shariah courts. The minorities — the ethnic Chinese, Indians, and other smaller communities — are governed by civil courts.

But the constitution does not say who has the final say in cases such as Ms. Joy's when Islam confronts Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, or other religions.

The founding fathers of Malaysia left the constitution deliberately vague, unwilling to upset any of the three ethnic groups dominant at the time of independence from Britain 50 years ago, when building a peaceful multiracial nation was more important.

The situation was muddied further with the constitution describing Malaysia as a secular state but recognizing Islam as the official religion.

In its verdict Wednesday, the Federal Court said Ms. Joy — who was born to Islamic parents and began attending church in 1990 — should seek permission to renounce Islam from Islamic Shariah courts.

Ms. Joy, however, has refused to seek the Shariah court's permission, saying she is a Christian and should not be bound by Islamic laws. If she continues to practice Christianity, she faces being charged with apostasy, which is punishable by a jail sentence and fine. She also has the option to leave the country.

Asked if she will take that option, Ms. Joy, 43, said in her statement: "It would be extremely difficult to exercise freedom of conscience in the present environment." Mr. Dawson, her lawyer, said members of the press are free to draw their conclusions from the statement.

Ms. Joy, who was baptized in 1998, was successful in getting the National Registration Department to change her name to Lina Joy on her identity card.

But the department refused to drop Muslim from the religion column of the card. A series of rejected appeals from 2000 onward brought her case to the Federal Court - AP.

2. Islam and Constitution

R. Manirajan and Liew-Ann Phang - The Sun

Islam is not above the Federal Constitution, and the decision by the Federal Court on Lina Joy's appeal was not politically motivated, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

"One must have a hole in the head to say it was a political decision. We've never asked or pressured the court to make political decisions," he said. "The problem here is emotion, and if one allows emotion to control [him/her], this is what will happen and one will have all kinds of things in the head, including suspicion." He was asked to comment on allegations that the court's decision was politically motivated.

The three-member panel of judges, in a 2-1 judgment on Wednesday, dismissed Lina's appeal to have the word "Islam" removed from her identity card after she converted to Christianity, without an apostasy certificate from the syariah court.

Abdullah said Islam was not above the Federal Constitution. "This country upholds the Constitution and supremacy of the law, otherwise, we would have become a failed state. "We must uphold our Constitution and all laws are made in Parliament and by Parliament. That is made of all sorts of members and it is a multiracial Parliament," he said after chairing the Umno Supreme Council meeting.

He dismissed allegations that the two Muslim judges on the panel - Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Datuk Alauddin Mohd Sheriff - had ruled in favour of their own religion.

He said he believed the judges would have made the decision after taking into account all the facts. Asked to comment on a foreign news report alleging that Malaysia did not favour Christianity, he said if that were the case, there would be no churches and Christians in the country. Asked about the problems faced by those who wanted to renounce Islam with the syariah court, he said this was a different matter and needed to be dealt with.

Commenting on Lina's appeal, several legal minds said a full bench should have been empanelled to hear it.

Former High Court judge Prof Datuk Seri Dr Visu Sinnadurai expressed concern that only three judges heard the appeal that resulted in a split decision.

"I am sure many were surprised that Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim did not empanel a full bench because this was a very important case - it was not any ordinary commercial law case - it involved several constitutional law issues and many other important questions of law. "Furthermore, the appeal before the Federal Court originated from a two-one (split) decision from the Court of Appeal," he told theSun today. "The case involves constitutional, administrative and human rights issues, and in most countries, including the US, India or Australia, such an important case would have a bigger quorum. "If there was a bench of five or seven judges hearing Lina's case, the decision may possibly have been different," he said.

Senior lawyer Karpal Singh said: "In view of the case's significance, the full Federal Court bench should have determined it." In as statement, he called for the landmark decision to be reviewed by a nine-member bench. "I call upon the government to repeal Article 121 (1A) of the Federal Constitution which came into force in 1988. Before then, there was no controversy of freedom of religion in the country," he said.

Meanwhile, Council of Churches of Malaysia (CCM) general-secretary Rev. Dr. Hermen Shastri clarified that he supported the dissenting judgment by Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Datuk Richard Malanjum.

"We have to live with the Federal Court judgment, but remember there was a dissenting judgment. I support that decision as the issue is in conflict with the Federal Constitution which allows Lina Joy to exercise her right to choose her faith and life."

The Centre for Public Policy Studies said in a statement the strong dissenting judgment indicates disagreement at the highest level and points to the urgent need to re-address the issue.

Bar Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan said the Constitution is and must remain supreme in law. "In the event of any inconsistency or conflict between the provisions of state enactments and of the Federal Constitution, the latter must prevail," she said in a statement.

"The religion that a person professes must be the religion that that person states he or she professes; since there can be no evidential difficulty in ascertaining this in the case of a living person.

"Asserting this right, and upholding it, in no way undermines the position of any religion under the Federal Constitution and is consistent with the position of Islam under Article 3," Ambiga said.

1. To Ponder

Do you think it is possible? ... I think it is an ideal everybody should work for! ... However impossible that might be.