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

Sunday, September 30, 2007

38. Judges on Judiciary

Excerpts from an interview with three retired eminent judges, Datuk Shaik Daud Ismail, Datuk K.C. Vohrah and Datuk V.C. George. This interview is in an article by Shaila Koshy " Weighing the State of the Judiciary " in today's Sunday Star (30th September,2007). Read full interview here.

Are you in favour of a Judicial Commission?

George: I hope there will be an independent Judicial Commission to ensure an independent, incorruptible, and competent judiciary. I cannot stress more strongly the need to investigate and assess a person before they are appointed. Merit is not an issue in deciding promotions if the person was of good quality, character and morality at selection.

Vohrah: Definitely. After Suhakam's forum on the right to an expeditious and fair trial in 2005, we called for a commission in our report, saying the competency of judges had a bearing on the efficiency of the judicial system. I want to add that there have been some good people in the AG's Chambers who should have been made judges but they were not appointed.

Shaik Daud: A Judicial Commission would be a good start (to restoring public confidence in the judiciary). It can enforce the code.

A panel of inquiry is investigating the video clip but do you think there is a need for a royal commission of inquiry to examine the affairs of the judiciary in light of all the complaints that have arisen since 1988?

George: The panel is only looking at one issue. I think the Bar is on the right track in calling for a royal commission to look into all aspects of the judiciary.

Vohrah: Yes. A royal commission could explore all aspects of the ills besetting the judiciary. The problems are far-reaching and something has to be done fairly quickly before the judiciary slides further down the track.

What do you say to de facto Law Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz who insisted that everything was all right with the judiciary?

Vohrah: I think he's probably not aware of what is happening on the ground. In many commercial contracts, parties are including an arbitration clause to resolve disputes instead of the courts. That is a terrible blow to the judiciary because apart from a handful, the rest are good judges. In some states, there may be three or four judges but you will find that only one or two are doing all the work and carrying the whole burden.

Vohrah: ‘Judges should not be cowed by superior judges if their directions are not consonant with the principles of justice

Shaik Daud: ‘We have many cases where seniors and seniors with merit are not promoted but juniors without merit are’

George: ‘If you appoint the right people, You don’t need some code to tell them how to behave’

37. Nurin Murder Probe

Police arrested five people, one of them a woman, in separate raids in Shah Alam last night to assist them in their probe into the murder of an eight-year-old girl, Nurin Jazlin Jazimin.

Besides the arrests of the five, aged between 27 and 33 years, the police also seized two cars and five mobile phones, Bukit Aman CID Director Datuk Christopher Wan Soo Kee said in a statement.

He said the arrests were made following a public tip-off.

At about noon today, the Petaling Jaya Magistrate's Court issued an order to remand the four men for a week from today to help in the police investigation.

The woman was released by the police.

Meanwhile, from information obtained by Bernama, the arrests were the first made since "Ops Sunti" was launched to hunt down Nurin Jazlin's murderer after her body was found stuffed in a sports bag at a shoplot in Jalan PJS 1/48, Taman Petaling Utama, Petaling Jaya, on Sept 17.

The four men were brought to the Petaling Jaya Magistrate's Court in two police vans, the first vehicle with two men arriving at 11.30am and the second with two more coming 20 minutes later.

At about noon, Magistrate Nurmala Salim issued remand orders for a week from today on the four men.

Meanwhile, a visit to Nurin Jazlin's family home in Section 1, Wangsa Maju, here saw the front door locked from the outside, indicating that no one was in.

Nurin Jazlin, a Year Two pupil of Sekolah Rendah Kebangsaan Desa Setapak, was reported missing on Aug 20 when she went alone to a nearby night market.

The "Ops Sunti" special team comprises police personnel from Bukit Aman, and the Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Sentul district and Petaling Jaya district police contingent headquarters, and is led by the Federal CID director - Bernama.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

36. Mood darkens in Burma

1. Soldiers armed with rifles, batons and shields were deployed at strategic points in Rangoon.
2. The protests were sparked by the government's decision to double the price of fuel in the impoverished nation.

Security forces moved to crush protests in Myanmar's two biggest cities Friday, unleashing warning shots and baton charges, and cutting Internet access in the third day of a deadly crackdown.

The Internet blockage severely reduced the flow of video, photos and first-hand reports of the violence, which has left at least 13 people dead, galvanising world opinion against the ruling generals.

Up to 10,000 demonstrators surged onto the streets of the main city of Yangon Friday, playing a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as they repeatedly confronted police and soldiers.

With dozens of monks arrested, beaten or confined to their monasteries, the mantle has now been taken up by student groups and youths who dominated Friday's rallies.

"The monks have done their job and now we must carry on with the movement," said one student leader in downtown Yangon.

"This is a non-violent mass movement," he shouted as demonstrators tried to move towards the Sule Pagoda, one of the focal points of the demonstrations.

But since the crackdown was launched Wednesday, at least three monks have been killed and hundreds arrested, including eight more on Friday in Yangon and Mandalay.

At least two monasteries were raided Wednesday, including one in Yangon's northeastern satellite town of South Okkalapa, where about 100 Buddhist monks were arrested and eight people shot dead after protesting the action.

"We heard that some soldiers have refused to obey orders and that others were even willing to stand alongside the demonstrators," one Yangon-based diplomat told AFP.

A Japanese journalist was among those killed Thursday, and Japan's Fuji Television showed footage which appeared to show him being shoved down by Myanmar troops and then shot at close range.

US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown renewed their call to the Myanmar junta to end the violent crackdown, after discussing the crisis Friday.

The 47-member UN Human Rights Council decided to hold a special session on October 2 to examine the unrest in Myanmar.

And the Association of Southeast Asian Nations issued an unusually critical statement on its fellow member Myanmar, expressing "revulsion" over the use of force against demonstrators.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari was in Singapore on Friday, headed to Myanmar in a bid to convince the junta to open dialogue with democracy activists - BBC, AFP.

Friday, September 28, 2007

35. Blogs & Digital Democracy

The National Alliance of Bloggers (ALL-BLOGS) will hold a public forum on Blogs and Digital Democracy next Wednesday.

David Sasaki, Head of Global Voices Outreach ( Rising Voices ) -- an off-shoot project of a project initiated at Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard Law School -- will talk about blogs and how governments around the world engage digital democracy.

DATE: October 3, 2007 (Wednesday)

TIME: 7.00pm (Buka Puasa), 8.00pm (Forum Starts)

VENUE: Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club


1 ) Datuk A Kadir Jasin, Group Editor-in-Chief, Berita Publishing Group
2 ) Ahirudin Attan (Rocky's Bru), President, National Alliance of Bloggers

Moderator: Jeff Ooi, ALL-BLOGS Vice President and Head of Training & Development Committee

The forum is by Invitation only.

10 seats are for the public. If you are interested to attend the Forum, which will be preceeded by a Buka Puasa dinner, please email ALL-BLOGS exco members at:

1 ) jeffooi.screenshots AT
2 ) tony.yew AT

by Monday, October 1, 2007.

34. Video Tape Scandal

These are the highlights of what happened yesterday, from an article in The Sun by R. Manirajan.

At the ACA headquarters:

> Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah hands over the video clip to the ACA, but refuses to reveal the identity of the person who recorded it, in keeping with the person's request. This is the edited version that runs for about 8 minutes. The full version is about 14 minutes long.

> Sivarasa says: "The other part of the clip clearly shows a named lawyer and his telling the people in the room after the telephone conversation, that he was speaking to a named judge."

> He says they will cooperate with the Investigation Panel but will have to get permission from the source before screening the 14-minute long clip, which will compromise his identity.

At the Prime Minister's Office:

> Panel members met Najib and Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Mohd Sidek Hassan for an hour.

> Its chairman Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor says they use the Prime Minister's Department's legal department as its secretariat office and all logistic and administrative matters will be decided when they meet next.

> Did not say when they will start and finish their investigation but asks for time

> On opposition parties and others questioning his credibility, especially in relation to his role in the 1988 judicial crisis, Haidar said: "We can't stop people from questioning our credibility. I have a job to do and I will do it."

33. What next for Burma?

by Jonathan Head,
BBC News, Bangkok.

Will Burma's military rulers listen to the endless pleas for restraint and dialogue? Could the regime crumble under the weight of popular anger, or through splits in the ranks of the armed forces? Or will they succeed in terrorising the population into submission again through mass killings, as they did in 1988?

We simply do not know which of these scenarios is more plausible, because it is impossible to know the thinking of the tight clique of generals who run the country.

But there are "end-of-regime" scenarios we can look at in other countries; specifically Indonesia, a fellow member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).

Military role

The Burmese junta, the SPDC, makes no secret of its admiration for the pseudo-democracy run by President Suharto, the former Indonesian strongman, so perhaps it is instructive to look at how the Suharto regime was overthrown.

Soldiers are taught that they are an elite class, entitled to special respect - and that anyone who opposes them is an enemy bent on returning the country to chaos and civil war.

The parallels between the two countries are striking. They are both large, tropical countries comprising many diverse ethnic groups and cultures that won independence from colonial rule in the chaotic aftermath of the Second World War.

In both countries, nation-building was hampered by strong separatist movements in their outlying regions.

In both the army became the dominant political force in the 1960s, arguing it was the only institution that could hold the country together.

Both countries' officer classes involved themselves heavily in business and politics.

Both Gen Suharto and Gen Ne Win, Burma's military strongman until the 1990s, were from humble, superstitious backgrounds, but had their worldviews profoundly altered when they were members of Japanese paramilitary units as young men during the Japanese occupations of their countries.

It instilled in both men a belief in martial values and the central role of the military in political life.

But there the similarities end.

'Tiger' economy

Perhaps timing was the reason - Indonesia nearly fell apart under its mercurial founding father Sukarno in the 1960s.

Suharto took advantage, after a failed coup, but needed rapid economic development to restore the government's legitimacy.

It was a time when Western governments needed Cold War allies - they were willing to overlook Suharto's horrific human rights abuses, and offered aid and investment.

At the time, Ne Win had taken Burma along what he called the "Burmese way" of socialism, a bizarre form of isolation.

As a result, by the 1980s Indonesia was being hailed as one of the successful "tiger" economies of South-East Asia with spectacular growth rates. Burma was a basket case. That led to two very different results.

In Burma, economic misery provoked massive anti-government protests in 1988, which were savagely put down by the army over a period of three months. Thousands died.

The regime tried to adapt itself. It held elections, but miscalculated disastrously, losing by a huge margin to Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD party.

It refused to recognise the results, but tried to win the population over by encouraging foreign investment in an attempt to stimulate Indonesian-style development.

But it was no longer the 1960s; it was the post-Cold War 1990s.

Western governments were no longer willing to overlook human rights abuses. They were charmed by the dignity of Aung San Suu Kyi, who had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, and imposed increasingly tough sanctions.

But President Suharto's successful development strategy came back to haunt him. When people began tiring of his corrupt and authoritarian ways in the 1990s, he reverted back to type, banning newspapers and locking up or intimidating his opponents.

In Burma, complete isolation means the generals have little to lose from international sanctions. He had skilfully managed promotions in the army to keep it loyal, and gave it a large slice of the economy to manage.

He created pseudo-parties guaranteed to win pseudo-elections to a pseudo parliament - all tactics now being copied by Burma's generals.

But rapid development had created a powerful new class of people who became rich through trade with the rest of the world, who sent their children to be educated in America, Europe or Australia.

Even some army officers enjoyed foreign contact and training.

'Elite' class

When the charms of the aging Suharto and his clique began to fade, this group was not prepared to risk international isolation; it didn't have the stomach for massive repression. Instead, it told Suharto to go.

In Burma, complete isolation means the generals have little to lose from international sanctions.

Nor is there a large and powerful middle class with a lot to lose. There is only the military - the most powerful institution in the country - with its fingers in every aspect of daily life.

It suffers little from isolation, except in the increasingly narrow view of its officers.

Soldiers are taught that they are an elite class, entitled to special respect - and that anyone who opposes them is an enemy bent on returning the country to chaos and civil war.

That will almost certainly be the warped instruction given now to the troops who have shot at unarmed monks and civilians in Rangoon - by Jonathan Head, BBC News, Bangkok.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

32. Panel Convenes

Meanwhile, according to a TV3 news report, a meeting of 2 of the 3 panel members was convened yesterday. The panel head, Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor met with Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye to discuss how to proceed with its work.

They want to get to the bottom of the issue. They are going with an open mind and have requested the public to come forward and give their views to verify the authenticity of the video clip.

They are expected to start their work soon and complete it within a few weeks.

31. Walk for Justice

About 2,000 lawyers and supporters converged today in a show of support as officials of the Bar Council handed over two memorandums to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, calling for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the controversial video clip, and a Judicial Appointment Commission.

The memorandum was handed over to Abdullah’s political secretary from his Internal Security Ministry, Senator Datuk Wan Ahmad Farid Wan Salleh by council president Ambiga Sreenivasan and three other members, including senior lawyer Datuk Shafie Abdullah, at about 12.30pm. They were in the office for about 40 minutes.

Earlier, the lawyers, non-governmental organisation members and well-wishers of all races turned up in this normally quiet administrative capital for a "Walk For Justice", causing a stir.

There was heavy police presence and roadblocks were set up at entrances to Putrajaya and about seven buses and cars with lawyers and civilians were denied entry.

The handing over of the memorandums followed Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s unveiling of a video recording of a telephone conversation between a senior lawyer and a "Datuk", that sounded like they were brokering the appointment of judges to important positions.

In a press conference later, Ambiga said the council has asked for a meeting with Abdullah and this was conveyed to his political secretary, adding that there were several recommendations made to the government on improving the judiciary.

Abdullah is in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly and will be back only on Oct 4.

Yesterday, the government announced the establishment of a three-man Special Independent Investigation Panel to determine the authenticity of the video recording.

The panel is headed by former Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor, former court of appeal judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar and Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. Their report will be made public, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak had said.

On the legal standing of the panel, Ambiga said there is no problem but it is not clear what sort of powers they will have.

She said that under the Commissions Act, members have the power to call witnesses and administer the oath and compel evidence but with this panel, they may not have such powers.

"But they may get the information in some other way ... there is no problem with regards to their legal standing ... it is perfectly legal," she said.

Ambiga thus said the sooner the panel completes its work the better.

She added the council is prepared to cooperate, adding that all three members of the panel are "of the highest integrity".

Earlier, about five bus loads of Bar members were not allowed to enter Putrajaya. They had to walk 5km from the highway to the Palace of Justice, the meeting point, where they were greeted loudly by others.

Advised by Ambiga to behave with dignity, the crowd began their walk about 11.20am to Dataran Putra, a distance of 3.5km.

There was no move by the police to stop the walk. As the crowd reached Dataran Putra, directly in front of the PM’s office, they were met by a phalanx of uniformed police officers and a FRU Light Strike Force Unit.

Mother Nature also greeted their arrival with a torrential downpour.

Another group of about 500 people were stopped at Parcel C, where the Public Services Department is.

Speaking to reporters, Ambiga said though police initially stopped the buses bringing their members, they allowed them to walk in a peaceful manner.

The previous time the Bar Council marched in solidarity was in 1978 for the Societies Act and in 1998 for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Others who joined in the march were officials from the DAP, PAS, PKR, MTUC and civil society organisations - by R. Manirajan and B. Suresh Ram of The Sun.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

30. The Burmese Struggle

Protests and demonstrations are spreading like wildfire throughout Myanmar, not just Yangon , the capital. They are demanding for democracy, reforms and release of Aung San Suu Kyi from the Military Junta.

1. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters led by Buddhist monks have rallied in Burma's main city of Rangoon.

2. Columns of protesters stretched for about a mile, some participants said.

3. They said as many as 100,000 people marched, making it the biggest protest in the past several days. Rallies were also reportedly held in other cities.

4. On Saturday, the monks managed to reach the home of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since 2003. She emerged to pray with them.

5. Demands ranged from calls for the military government to step down to requests for negotiations and economic reforms - BBC.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

29. Independent Panel

BREAKING NEWS, 2 P.M., updated 4 P.M.

The Government has set up a three-man independent panel to investigate the authenticity of a video clip featuring a lawyer allegedly brokering the appointment of judges with a senior judge, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the panel would be headed by former Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Haidar Mohd Noor, with former Court of Appeal Judge Datuk Mahadev Shankar and prominent social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye as members.

"This decision was made as the allegations and speculations on the video clip can arouse doubts on the credibility and integrity of the country's judicial system," he told a press conference.

Najib said the panel would start their duties soon and would prepare a detailed report to the government on the controversial video clip."The panel's findings expected to be known in a few weeks will be made public," he said.

The eight-minute clip, recorded in 2002, was posted on the Internet last week after an opposition party exposed the video recording.The Deputy Prime Minister said the panel would conduct full-scale investigations to establish the authenticity of the video recording.

Asked whether the people implicated in the video would be called up by the panel, he said the panel would do whatever necessary.

To a question, Najib said the Government had no intention to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the matter.The Government felt it was sufficient to set up the panel, he said.

On the Bar Council's plan to stage a protest march and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office here tomorrow, demanding the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the video clip controversy, he said it was up to the Bar Council and the authorities to decide on such actions - Bernama.

A most welcome and heartening news to the Malaysian Public. Thank you Deputy Prime Minister for reassuring us and putting back confidence in the system.

28. Malaysian Astronauts

I, on behalf of MY JOURNAL, wish Malaysian Astronauts, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Captain Dr Faiz Khaleed and the entire mission crew a resounding success in their space venture aboard spacecraft Soyuz 15-S. The launch at 9.21 pm on October 10th is to be broadcast live. So stay tuned.

The Malaysian astronaut to blast off to the International Space Station on Oct 10 will be decided at the last minute after both the country's candidates are recognised as astronauts.

Prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today that Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor would be placed with the first crew for the Soyuz 15-S mission while Captain Dr Faiz Khaleed would join the second crew ( 3rd and 4th respectively in picture ).
"All the final changes in the selection of the candidate for the mission will be decided by the Russians later. This process is necessary to ensure that the mission proceeds smoothly and successfully," Abdullah said when making the announcement live from his office here.

The two Malaysian astronauts will be at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, from Friday to undergo final training before the launch on Oct 10.

Abdullah said the selection of the two was on the recommendation of the selection committee chaired by Tun Haniff Omar based on a meeting of the working committee of the Russian Intergovernmental Board and the final assessment report on the preparation of the Soyuz 15-S mission by the Russian space agency (Roscosmos).

He said the government was very proud that the Main Crew Commissioning Board had acknowledged that both the Malaysian astronaut candidates had passed with distinction and were qualified to represent the country in its first mission to space.

"This means that the country has produced two Malaysians who can join a space mission at any time when needed and has been accorded recognition by an international astronaut training body," he said.

Besides Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, 35, a medical officer from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital (HUKM), the Russians have proposed that the first crew for the Soyuz 15-S mission comprise Yuri Malechenko of Russia and Peggy Whitson of the United States.

The second crew will comprise Sharizan Sharipov of Russia and Michael Fincke of the United States besides Captain Dr Faiz, 27, a dentist with the Malaysian Armed Forces.

"On behalf of the government and people of Malaysia, I wish the mission success and I pray that it will go smoothly as planned," Abdullah said.

The programme to send a Malaysian to space was conceived in 2003 when Russia agreed to send a Malaysian to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of Malaysia's RM3.4 billion purchase of 18 Russian-made Sukhoi 30-MKM jet fighters.

Meanwhile, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis said it was normal to name the crew at the eleventh hour as anything could happen between now and the launch date.

"Remember Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space) was not the first choice. He was the secondary choice but was chosen at the eleventh hour because the primary choice crew came down with measles," he said.

He said the final decision on who would be on board the Soyuz -- whether the first crew team or second crew team or mixed team -- would be determined by the Russian mission director
Dr Jamaluddin confirmed that at least one Malaysian would be on board the Russian rocket to be launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan at 9.21pm (Malaysian time) on Oct 10.

Dr Jamaluddin said Dr Sheikh Muszaphar and Capt Dr Faiz were chosen from a total of 11,275 candidates since the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa) started the screening campaign for the programme in 2003.

The Malaysian astronaut is expected to conduct scientific research on cancer cells in space to study the effect of a weightless environment on the cells.

He said the government planned to telecast the launch live through all the local television stations and the prime minister would also witness the historic moment through live telecast.

Dr Muszaphar and Capt Dr Faiz, both bachelors, who are currently undergoing a 12-month training at the Yuri Gagarin Aerospace Training Centre at Star City in Moscow, would be informed of the announcement later, he said - Bernama.

Monday, September 24, 2007

27. Address Concerns Promptly

Gerakan president-designate Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon Sunday called for immediate action to address concerns on the country's judiciary system.

If left unattended, the Penang Chief Minister said it could harm the credibility and integrity of the judiciary system, hence causing foreign investors to shy away from investing in Malaysia.

Malaysia has a good judiciary system and legal framework that were well understood by foreign investors compared to other developing countries.

"This has become an advantage for the country to attract foreign investments. But once we lose credibility, it is going to affect our ability to woo investors," he told reporters after opening the Johor Gerakan delegates conference.

Koh expressed Gerakan's support to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's order to the police to immediately start investigations into a video clip recording implicating a senior lawyer allegedly brokering the appointment of judges.

He said action must be taken against the individuals implicated in the issue if the contents of the video clip proved authentic.

The prime minister said on Friday that he viewed the issue seriously and had asked the police to investigate it as soon as possible.

He said the video clip bore a story that could harm the good name of the judicial system.

"We cannot take this lightly and the matter must be addressed promptly," said Abdullah, who is also Internal Security Minister.

Yesterday, the Bar Council, in an emergency meeting convened to discuss the video clip issue, called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the matter.

Council president Ambiga Sreenevasan said the commission should also investigate all problems concerning the judiciary.

On Wednesday, the Bar Council will submit a memorandum to the prime minister, calling for the cabinet to discuss the setting up of the commission - Bernama.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

26. Royal Commission

by Yoges Palaniappan of Malaysiakini

The Bar Council emergency meeting today called for a royal commission to look into the rot in the judiciary since 1988, and they intend to organise a rare march to the Prime Minister's Office next Wednesday to press their case.

The council meeting was hastily convened to discuss what should be done to safeguard the judiciary in the wake of an explosive video clip which showed one of their own brokering the appointment of judges.

Speaking to reporters after the two-hour meeting, Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan said the Bar, representing 13,500 lawyers, would be submitting a memorandum to the prime minister next Wednesday calling for the royal commission.

The outraged lawyers are expected to march a short distance from the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya to the Prime Minister's office to hand in the memorandum.

They are told to don their official court attire of black jackets and white shirts during the march.

The council also resolved to call an emergency general meeting (EGM) - which will involve all its members - at 3pm on Oct 6 at the Legend Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The main purpose of the meeting is to discuss the rot in the judiciary.

Ambiga said that the task of the royal commission would be to look into the state of the judiciary since the unceremonious sacking of the then Lord President Salleh Abas in 1988.

Many critics have claimed that the judiciary has been on a free fall since then.

“There's no doubt that all members are outraged at the emergence of this video clip," said Ambiga.

"A royal commission is also incumbent as we don't wish to see the matter (video clip) being swept under the carpet," she added.

Ambiga also said that the council would propose that the commission, if formed by the government, should comprise of former senior judges and lawyers.

Unacceptable but telling

She said that many questions raised by the video cry out for answers.

“It underscores the need for a judicial commission. If there is no truth in the allegations or inferences arising out of the video, then the parties concerned must be vindicated,” she said.

“If there is truth in the allegations (or in some of them), stern and appropriate action must follow,” she stressed.

She also described the response of the judge yesterday that he has no comment as reported by Malaysiakini was “unacceptable but telling”.

"At present there's no denial of any form from the judge and that concerns us," she said, adding that the council will not press him for his explanations on the controversy.

Ambiga added that the council also felt that disciplinary charges should be levelled against the lawyer for his role in ‘judge fixing’ as shown in the grainy video clip.

She said the lawyer would be referred to the council's advocates and solicitors disciplinary board headed by Khalid Ahmad for further actions to be taken against him.

The eight-minute clip, which was revealed by PKR’s de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim on Wednesday, showed a lawyer on the telephone with what appeared to be a judge based on the context of the conversation, talking about appointing ‘friendly’ judges.

Ambiga added that the council also disagreed with Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail's statement that there were no criminal elements involved in the video clip.

"It is only timely for an thorough investigation to be conducted. The prime minister said that an investigation will be carried out. We just want the investigation to be in the form of royal commission."

Yesterday prime minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi rejected calls for a royal commission, stating a police investigation, which was already underway, was sufficient.

Don’t shoot the messenger

The Bar Council was also disappointed with the official responses that sought to divert attention to the whistleblower, and threaten possible action against such person should the allegations turn out to be untrue.

“To do so at this stage casts serious doubts on the willingness of the authorities to properly and impartially investigate the matter,” Ambiga said.

“It will instead be a case of shooting the messenger.”

She said that any hint of impropriety in the judiciary must be investigated swiftly and in a thorough and transparent manner, so that the public was assured that there was no cover-up.

“The Bar Council calls upon the government to immediately appoint a royal commission of inquiry into the incident and into the state of the judiciary,” she stated.

“Let us find out what really went on (and goes on) in the judiciary. Let us not continue to be in a state of denial,” she said.

The Prime Minister will have to seriously consider the setting up of a Royal Commission based on the recommendations of the Bar Council. The Bar Council, collectively representing 13,500 lawyers, after an EGM, decided on this course of action. They are a professional body representing and fighting for the interests of lawyers and the legal profession. They know best what is good for them and how best the issue should be solved. What happened in the video, if true, seriously undermines the public confidence in the Malaysian Judiciary. This has to be put right and only a Royal Commission of eminent judges and lawyers can do it. If a Royal Commission not now, then when?

Saturday, September 22, 2007

25. Bangladeshis at Airport

The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) today called on the government to revert to its old policy of allowing employers to recruit foreign workers directly on their own in accordance with their needs.

This was to ease the present high number of foreign workers now stranded in Malaysia without jobs because agents who brought them in could not emplace them, said MTUC Secretary-General G. Rajasekaran.

He told Bernama that since the government changed its policy in 2002, it had issued 220 permits to agents to recruit foreign workers.

Rajasekaran claimed that these agents had abused the permits by bringing in more workers than there were jobs available in the country for them.

He said some 3,000 workers from Bangladesh holding legal documents were now stranded at the KL International Airport in Sepang because the agents could not find jobs for them. These workers are being housed at the airport's car park and guarded by officers and men from the People's Volunteer Corps (Rela).

Rajasekaran said the Human Resources Ministry should take immediate steps to overcome the plight of these innocent workers and ensure that such abuses did not occur in future - Bernama.

Friday, September 21, 2007

24. PKR lodges Report

by Liew-Ann Phang and Suresh Ram of The Sun

A day after Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) revealed a video clip showing a lawyer discussing judicial appointments with a senior judge, its vice-president Sivarasa Rasiah led a group of 15 members to lodge a report on this with the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) today.

Sivarasa told reporters the party had arranged for an appointment with FT ACA director Acting Senior Commissioner I Abu Zubir Mahfodz @ Hatmon to submit a written report on the eight-minute video recording which showed a prominent lawyer discussing judicial appointments over the telephone with a senior judge, an audio recording lasting less than a minute and a copy of the press release PKR issued at its press conference chaired by party adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim yesterday.

Anwar did not reveal the source of the video but said it was recorded in 2002 and showed that judicial appointments could be fixed.

"This is a follow-up action by the PKR after the expose yesterday of the video which was recorded in the lawyer’s home in Kelana Jaya," Sivarasa said.

The content of the video, he said, was a telephone conversation between the lawyer and the then Chief Judge of Malaya – the number three position in the judiciary – who was also the acting Court of Appeal president.

"We believe that the content of the conversation involves corruption among senior judges.

"The audio recording exposes the political conspiracy between the lawyer and a top level Umno official to sack Anwar from his position," he said.

Sivarasa added that PKR president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had announced in an earlier press conference that the party would seek an audience with the Conference of Rulers to present them with the material and with Perak’s Sultan Azlan Shah, who was once head of the judiciary.

When contacted later, an ACA spokesman confirmed receiving the report from PKR and said the agency will be investigating the case.

Meanwhile, the senior lawyer could not be reached for comment. A staff in his legal firm said he was abroad and would continue to be away at least until the end of the month.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohd Nazri Abdul Aziz, who handles the law portfolio, said the case of various parties featured in the video clip and alleged conspiracy in judiciary appointments should go through the proper channels and the relevant authorities such as the police or the ACA.

He said if this was not done, the authorities would only treat the issue as nothing more than a media report.

"There needs to be a proper channel (for the video to be investigated and) for me to call for an explanation," he said, when contacted.

Nazri said he would wait for the ACA to complete its investigations before taking any further action on the matter.

"I would be able to say more … once the investigations are completed," he said.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council has postponed its meeting on the controversial video from today [Friday] to tomorrow [Saturday]. Its vice-president, Ragunath Kesavan, said the meeting would involve all the members of the Bar Council.

"We would be discussing the video in general," he said, when contacted.

Parliamentary Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang said in a statement he has written to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, calling on him to invoke Article 125 of the Federal Constitution to suspend the judge in question, as well as establish a judicial tribunal to investigate the matter.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia said the revelation would have serious consequences and affect public and international confidence in the judicial system in Malaysia.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

23. Villagers' Naked Truth

India practises a dual system of courts administration. One at the village level called the panchayat system and the other at the town level, normal English Law court system. Read here a case of rape and murder at a panchayat court.

Every man in an Indian village was made to strip to his underwear for inspection before village leaders investigating the rape and murder of a woman, police and villagers said today.

Members of the panchayat - or village council - publicly inspected the bodies of about 1,500 men and boys one by one for signs of a violent struggle as a crowd looked on in Boraj village in Rajasthan state yesterday.

"This is a very old tradition of the panchayat," Tara Rawat, the village's elected leader, said by telephone. "We always do this kind of thing if there is this sort of crime."

The disfigured body of a 35-year-old village woman was found on Saturday (Sept 8) night, police said, adding she was raped before being killed.

Every male between 10 and 60 was inspected yesterday, including the panchayat members themselves, Rawat said.

However they found no marks that might connect any of the men with the crime.

Police said the panchayat's actions were separate to their own investigation but welcomed the check - Reuters.

Read here a Malaysian Judiciary shocker.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

22. Accountability Index

A very bold, imaginative and excellent method to curb corruption and financial mismanagement in the Government. With ACA being given the powers to investigate and prosecute, I am sure this is the start of cleaning up the coffers and eventually leading to a clean administration. Justice must not only be done but it must seen to be done. The culprits must be booked and punishments meted out. There should be no recurrence of the same offence again the following year. It is no point doing an audit every year if the offence continues to be repeated. For example, on the issue of discounts and commissions, it should rightfully go back to the government and not the officer (a civil servant) approving the purchase. It is simple logic that monies received for what is paid for by the government should go back to the government. There should be a mechanism set-up for this purpose.The total government expenditure for 2008 is RM 177 Billion. This is a colossal sum to be spent in a year. The eagerness for corrupt practices is immense. But with prudence, effective supervision and audit, it is hoped that mismanagement is eliminated. We hope that similar clean-up practices and policies are set up in all the ministries and state governments leading to a Gemilang, Cemerlang, and Terbilang nation. The campaign starts now.

The Auditor-General will introduce a financial management accountability index for all ministries and state treasuries starting next year in an effort to curb financial mismanagement of public funds.

Announcing the move today, Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang said the index would be an objective financial management assessment of all ministries and state governments where marks would be awarded and star ratings given based on the marks.

"If they have 90 per cent marks and above then they would be given a 4-star rating but if their marks are below 15 then they would only obtain 1-star rating. Based on the rating they would be able to undertake corrective measures to boost their rating.

"Secretary-generals and top officers at a certain ministry must bear in mind that this rating would affect their promotions or if their contracts would be extended. This is bearing in mind that the Auditor-General's office is also consulted in the promotion of top officials of a ministry or state government," he told a press conference here today.

Ambrin hoped that the new system would result in greater transparency in the financial management of ministries and state governments, as the Auditor-General's office would monitor all financial dealings undertaken by ministries and state governments.

The Auditor-General also said that all other government agencies and local councils would be audited on a rotational basis every three years under the new system.

The Auditor-General's report this year caused a stir when it revealed glaring financial mismanagement in several ministries, audited by the Auditor-General's office, warranting the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) to investigate the cases concerned.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that the ACA was free to investigate any information contained in the 2006 Auditor-General's Report released last Friday.

Abdullah said the Auditor-General's Report was a source of information that could be scrutinised by the ACA to determine whether there was a need for investigation.

The 2006 Auditor-General's Report, among others, reveals several cases of mismanagement of public funds by a number of ministries, including the Youth and Sports Ministry, involving the purchase of items and equipment costing more than triple their market price.

The ministry's secretary-general was also reported to have signed, on behalf of the government, 11 contracts worth between RM7.99 million and RM74.2 million pertaining to the National Skills Training Institute.

Asked why the 2006 Report had made such an alarming finding, Ambrin said the media had played a visible role in highlighting certain mismanagement of funds contained in the newly released Report as "every year we have identified problems but this year the media picked it up".

Ambrin said one of the main issues in the Report was overspending by Ministries and this was because "they had a lot of ad-hoc expenditure".

"Sometimes they have to organise a programme based on the needs of that particular time. For this they have to use funds allocated to some other things. So when the time comes to implement the other things, they run out of money. I don't blame them. But this is the reason why the government has its supplementary budget from time to time," he said.

On procurement, Ambrin ruled out the possibility of coming out with more rules and regulations to make it more difficult for officers to mismanage funds.

He said the existing rules were clear, that if a ministry wanted to go into direct negotiation for purchase of certain things, it would need the approval of the Treasury and purchase the goods at the lowest price.

"After they negotiate, they should get back to the Treasury and seek approval. We have in some cases found that while the approval for direct negotiations were granted, they did not receive permission to go ahead and buy the goods.

Asked if he would lodge a ACA report, he said there was no need to do so as the Agency had already started its own investigations based on the 2006 Auditor-General's Report.

He said the Auditor-General's auditing was based on "value for money on how certain projects were planned, implemented and monitored while checking if the project was done efficiently and delivered on time and that the said project gave the desired result".

He said the Auditor-General's office also provided recommendations to ministries and other audited agencies on how they could improve their financial management skills and that it had a team to monitor the progress of the relevant government agencies - Bernama.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

21. Taiwan for UN Seat

Taiwan should first change its official name from Republic of China (ROC) to Republic of Taiwan to avoid confusion with the People's Republic of China (PRC) and then apply for UN membership under that name.

About 250,000 people have taken to the streets in two Taiwan cities to show their support for Taipei's efforts at securing United Nations membership.

An estimated 150,000 people, including Chen Shui-bian, Taiwan's president, marched through the southern city of Kaohsiung.

Political opposition forces in Taichung meanwhile marshalled at least 100,000 people. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) party is promoting a referendum on applying to join the UN under the name "Taiwan".

DPP supporters, many wearing shirts printed with the slogan "UN for Taiwan", gathered in Kaohsiung, waving flags in front of an arch with a huge "UN" sign on top.

Chen and Frank Hsieh, the DPP presidential candidate, are expected to address by videolink Taiwanese groups gathering in front of the UN headquarters in New York.

Yu Shyi-kun, DPP chairman, said: "We urge the public to participate in the event to support the UN membership referendum, to voice their wishes to the world and let the world see Taiwan."

Kuomintang (KMT), the opposition party responsible for the rally in in Taichung, is also calling for a return to the UN and is proposing its own referendum on whether the island should push to join as the "Republic of China", its official title, or "Taiwan".

Taiwan split from mainland China at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Beijing regards Taiwan as part of its territory, and says it will use force if it ever declares independence.

Beijing and Taipei both say they are the legitimate government of all China.

Taiwan has been a multi-party democracy since 1996.

Taiwan's defence ministry says China now has nearly 1,000 missiles aimed at the island.

The US is the major arms supplier to Taiwan and has warned China that any attack on the island would be viewed with "grave concern" Some 15 of Taiwan's 24 allies have proposed the island's membership application to the General Assembly, which will decide whether to discuss it when the annual session opens on September 18.

Chen has repeatedly vowed to press ahead with the planned vote despite warnings from Beijing and Washington, which says the move is move provocative and could heighten tensions in the region.

In a speech this week, Thomas Christensen, US deputy assistant secretary of state, said Washington "must strongly oppose" the vote, fearing downsides for both Taiwan and the US which is treaty-bound to protect the island.

"The frustrating truth is that needlessly provocative actions by Taipei strengthen Beijing's hand in limiting Taiwan's space and scare away potential friends who might help Taiwan," Christensen told the US-Taiwan defence industry conference in Maryland.

Hu Jintao, China's president, last week told his US counterpart that the next two years would be a period of "high danger" in the Taiwan Strait.

Shanghai, a city which Taiwan has threatened to bombard in the event of conflict, held a major air-raid drill on Saturday, a sign that China still views war as possible with the island.

In 2004, You Si-kun, then Taiwan premier, threatened to fire missiles at Shanghai if the island were attacked.

But business ties between Shanghai and Taiwan are booming. Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese live, work and even retire in the city.

Chen plans to hold a referendum next March on the UN bid, and Beijing could see the vote as a declaration of independence by the island.

Taiwan's president on Thursday defended the referendum, saying it would not alter the cross-strait status quo or imply a change in the island's official name.

Names and titles are highly sensitive in the row between Taiwan and China, which split after the end of a civil war in 1949.

The island, under its official name the Republic of China, lost its UN seat to China in 1971.

Its efforts to rejoin the world body using its official name have been repeatedly blocked by Beijing, which regards Taiwan as part of its territory awaiting reunification - Agencies.

Monday, September 17, 2007

20. Emmy 2007 Winners



My Name Is Earl

Broken Trail

KATHERINE HEIGL as Isobel “Izzie” Stevens ABC
Grey’s Anatomy



Tony Bennett: An American ClassicEMMY 2007 WINNERS

ROBERT DUVALL as Prentice “Print” Ritter AMC
Broken Trail

Stanley M. Brooks, Executive ProducerRobert Duvall, Executive ProducerRobert Carliner, Executive ProducerChad Oakes, ProducerWalter Hill, Produced ByDamian Ganczewski, Producer

The Sopranos Kennedy and Heidi

The Sopranos Made In America

Jon Stewart, Executive ProducerBen Karlin, Executive ProducerDavid Javerbaum, Executive ProducerKahane Corn, Co-Executive ProducerJosh Lieb, Co-Executive ProducerRory Albanese, Supervising ProducerJim Margolis, Supervising Producer

Danny Bennett, Executive Producer Jodi Hurwitz, Producer John DeLuca, Executive Producer Rob Marshall, Executive Producer

JUDY DAVIS as Joan McAllister USA
The Starter Wife

Tom Thayer, Executive Producer Dick Wolf, Executive Producer Yves Simoneau, Co-Executive Producer Clara George, Produced By

HELEN MIRREN as Jane Tennison PBS
Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre)

Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre)

Prime Suspect: The Final Act (Masterpiece Theatre)


Tony Bennett: An American Classic

Ugly Betty Pilot

The Office Gay Witch Hunt

Jerry Bruckheimer, Executive Producer Bertram van Munster, Executive Producer Jonathan Littman, Executive Producer Hayma "Screech" Washington, Executive Producer Amy Nabseth Chacon, Co-Executive Producer Phil Keoghan, Producer/Host Elise Doganieri, Co-Executive Producer Evan Weinstein, Co-Executive Producer John Moffet, Supervising Producer Bob Parr, Producer Allison Chase, Senior Producer Barry Hennessey, Senior Producer Bill Pruitt, Senior Producer Patrick Cariaga, Producer Jarratt Carson, Producer Cris Graves, Producer Jarrod Harlow, Producer Bob Mora, Producer Michael Norton, Producer Michael Noval, Producer Cynthia A. Palormo, Producer Giselle Parets, Producer Matt Schmidt, Producer Mark Vertullo, Supervising Producer


SALLY FIELD as Nora Walker ABC
Brothers & Sisters

Ugly Betty

Boston Legal

Lorne Michaels, Executive ProducerTina Fey, Executive ProducerDavid Miner, Executive ProducerJoAnn Alfano, Executive ProducerMarci Klein, Executive ProducerRobert Carlock, Executive ProducerJack Burditt, Co-Executive ProducerJohn Riggi, Co-Executive ProducerBrett Baer, Co-Executive ProducerDave Finkel, Co-Executive ProducerAdam Bernstein, Supervising ProducerJeff Richmond, ProducerJerry Kupfer, Produced By

David Chase, Executive ProducerBrad Grey, Executive ProducerIlene S. Landress, Executive ProducerTerence Winter, Executive ProducerMatthew Weiner, Executive ProducerHenry J. Bronchtein, Co-Executive ProducerDiane Frolov, Supervising ProducerAndrew Schneider, Supervising ProducerMartin Bruestle, ProducerGianna Maria Smart, Producer

19. The Emmy's Now!

The Countdown starts at 5a.m. and is broadcast live on Astro's Entertainment Channel 76, E! in Malaysia.

In their last hours as neither winners nor losers, Emmy nominees gathered to celebrate being in contention for American television's highest honour.

On Friday, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences hosted a party honoring nominees for Sunday's 59th Primetime Emmy Awards, which will air on Fox.

Denis Leary, who is up for lead actor in a drama series for "Rescue Me," said the select group of actors showed up to receive certification that they were nominees.

Leary said he's rooting for James Gandolfini, star of the "The Sopranos."

"They should give him an Emmy that's even bigger than him, a chocolate Emmy that he can eat," Leary said. "I just think he's the greatest character in the history of television."

The reception at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant in the Pacific Design Center also included supporting-actress nominees Sandra Oh ("Grey's Anatomy") and Holland Taylor ("Two and a Half Men"). Supporting-actor nominees T.R. Knight ("Grey's Anatomy"), Neil Patrick Harris ("How I Met Your Mother"), August Schellenberg ("Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee") and Jon Cryer ("Two and a Half Men") showed up, too.

Cryer revealed that he and fellow nominee Felicity Huffman (lead actress in a comedy series, "Desperate Housewives") would be participating in a 22.5-mile triathlon Sunday before walking down the red carpet at the Shrine Auditorium. He expected endorphins to help keep him calm on Emmy night.

Last year, Cryer said he was nervous as a first-time nominee.

"I didn't know how I was supposed to act," he said. "I would just sort of sit around, going, 'Am I supposed to be sitting here? What's going on? Is there something we're supposed to be doing now?'"

Oscar winner Anna Paquin ("The Piano") said she was just too busy to fret about her Emmy nod as supporting actress in "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee."

"I'm about to start shooting a new series for HBO," Paquin said. "So that's really distracting me from feeling nervous about Sunday night."

Last year's lead-actress drama winner Mariska Hargitay ("SVU") said her previous Emmy and a new baby helped keep the event in perspective. After a baby "decisions come so much easier," she said.

"This year, it was so easy," she said. "I tried on this dress. It was the first dress I tried on, and, I said, 'I'm done.'"

Finding red-carpet couture wasn't quite as easy for Conchata Ferrell (supporting actress, "Two and Half Men").

"Particularly for a woman my size, it's really very difficult to find anything," she said. "There's no designer knocking on my door, going, 'Oh, here. Wear this,' she said. Ferrell eventually went to the set's costume designer, Mary T. Quigley, who came up with a silver sparkling number.

For Masi Oka (supporting actor, "Heroes") clothes weren't the problem for Emmy night. Finding a date was.

Even his own mother turned him down, choosing to stay home in Japan.

"My mom is actually very superstitious," he said. "She tells me every time she's in Japan, she gets good news, like 'I got nominated for a Golden Globe,' or 'I got nominated for an Emmy.'

"Anytime she's in the states, she gets bad news, like, 'I want to be an actor' - Michael Cidoni, AP.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

18. African Flood Crisis

Several of Africa's poorest countries are in dire need of assistance due to severe floods that have killed more than 200 people and affected a million in recent weeks, officials warned.

The latest victims were reported in Rwanda, where officials from the northern region said floods killed 15 people and destroyed more than 500 homes since Wednesday.

In Sudan, the worst floods in living memory have left 64 people dead and displaced and affected several hundred thousand, mainly in the troubled south, according to the United Nations.

A cholera epidemic spread by floods has also killed at least 49 Sudanese in recent weeks, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"The response is still ongoing. Most of the 200,000 plus people who were homeless at the end of August have by now been given shelter," Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said.

In neighbouring Uganda, the minister in charge of refugees and disaster preparedness said that 300,000 people were in need of humanitarian assistance.

"The situation borders a crisis," Musa Ecweru said. He said nine Ugandans had died as a result of the floods, which he described as "a new phenomenon that we have not experienced for many years."

Kenya has also suffered from the downpours, a year after unprecedented floods displaced 700,000 people.

"We have activated our disaster response and the Government and aid groups are providing food, shelter and medicine to those affected by the floods," government spokesman Alfred Mutua said.

The UN's food agency (WFP) and the Ethiopian authorities announced Friday they had launched a programme of food assistance targeting some 60,000 people among the most affected by the floods across the country.

"An estimated 183,000 people have been affected by floods this year... 42,000 of which were displaced and are in temporary shelters," Ethiopia's WFP spokeswoman Paulette Jones said.

"The figures are only estimated, they could rise once an assessment team concludes its study,"
she said.

Western and central Africa were not spared, as floods there have affected at least 500,000 people, according to the UN.

At least 33 people have died in Burkina Faso, 20 in Togo and six in Ghana, according to figures released by the UN humanitarian affairs office in Geneva.

Torrential rains and floods have also taken a heavy toll on Nigeria, where 41 people have died in northern and central regions.

In Togo, non-stop rain over several days has washed away or damaged 22,000 hut homes, more than 100 bridges and 58 schools and colleges, along with 1,500 hectares of food crops and has left 34,000 people homeless - AFP.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

17. Japanese Lunar Probe

On its way … the H-2A rocket lifts off from the Pacific island of Tanegashima yesterday morning, carrying the Kaguya probe - AP Photo.

Japan has become the first Asian nation to send its wares to the moon, blasting a three-tonne orbiter called Kaguya into space and opening the way for a new space race with China and India.
After four years of setbacks, the Japanese H-2A rocket carrying Kaguya lifted off at 10.30 yesterday morning into blue skies over the small Pacific island of Tanegashima, almost 1000 kilometres south of Tokyo.

The orbiter's 21-day journey to the moon marks the start of a year-long mission that Japan hopes will strike a blow against China's rapidly expanding space program.

Japanese scientists say the ¥55 billion ($570 million) project to launch Kaguya, also known as the Selenological and Engineering Explorer, is the biggest and most technically challenging mission to the moon since the US Apollo missions ended in 1972.

But unlike America and the Soviet Untion, for whom the race to the moon formed part of their Cold War rivalry, Japan has "no military factors in mind at all" as it peers over its shoulder at its east Asian rival, said Shinichi Sobue, senior engineer at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. "We want to give children dreams."

China is expected to send its Chang'e 1 satellite to the moon by the end of the year and aims to land an unmanned vehicle there by 2010. India, which will launch its Chandrayaan 1 satellite next year, hopes to put a human on the moon by 2020.

America's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite are also scheduled to leave for the moon in a combined mission next year, while Russia plans to launch its Luna-Glob satellite in 2012.

Japan's space agency has said it would like to send humans to the moon by 2025, but officials are privately sceptical about such an expensive goal.

In the meantime, scientists hope that Kaguya, named after a moon-dwelling princess in an old Japanese folktale, can shed light on several mysteries.

The lunar explorer separated from its 53-metre-tall rocket 45 minutes after blast-off and orbited the Earth twice before beginning its 380,000-kilometre voyage to the moon.

As it orbits the moon from a distance of 100 kilometres, Kaguya's orbiter, two 50-kilogram satellites and 14 observation instruments will survey the distribution of elements and minerals, map uncharted polar areas, measure gravity fields and study the surface for clues about its evolution.

A high-definition television camera provided by the national broadcaster NHK will send back images of the Earth as it rises from the moon's horizon.

Scientists from the University of Tasmania will use the 26-metre Mt Pleasant radio telescope, south-east of Hobart, to assist one of Kaguya's experiments, measuring the moon's gravitational field.

Dr Simon Ellingsen, from the university's School of Mathematics and Physics, said new information could be used to test theories about how the planets formed.

Some reports have said that China's first lunar mission hopes to uncover uranium, potassium and helium-3, a rare element useful for nuclear fusion, prompting Japanese officials to speculate about its motives - AP.

Friday, September 14, 2007

16. Lawyers to Prosecute

A very senior malaysian lawyer, Karpal Singh, issued the following statement:

Senior lawyers should be allowed to conduct prosecutions, says lawyer Karpal Singh.

He said in a statement that the government should consider invoking provisions under Section 379 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

Citing the practice in England, he said the Queen's Counsel were often engaged to conduct prosecutions on behalf of the state. " We should emulate this example."

Section 379 of the CPC reads: " With the permission in writing of the Public Prosecutor, an advocate may be employed on behalf of the government to conduct any criminal prosecution or inquiry, or to appear on any criminal appeal or point of law reserved on behalf of the public prosecutor.

" The advocate shall be paid out of public funds such remuneration as may be sanctioned by the minister of finance and ... shall be deemed to be a ' public servant'. "

Karpal also said: " Perhaps the CPC should also be amended to allow lawyers holding watching briefs to take an active part in the prosecution to ensure success." - NST.

15. Earthquake Damage

1. The Indonesian island of Sumatra has been hit by at least two strong earthquakes, and several aftershocks.

2. When the first earthquake hit on Wednesday, buildings collapsed, sending panicked residents onto the streets.

3. US seismologists described the 8.4-magnitude earthquake as the strongest recorded anywhere this year.

4. The second quake, registering a magnitude of 7.7, hit as the government was arranging relief supplies and sending assessment teams to the area - BBC.

Indonesia, part of the seismically active Pacific "Ring of Fire", is very frequently shaken by earth tremors.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

14. Vitamin C fights Cancer

Vitamin C can impede the growth of some types of tumors although not in the way some scientists had suspected, researchers reported on Monday.

The new research, published in the journal Cancer Cell, supported the general notion that vitamin C and other so-called antioxidants can slow tumor growth, but pointed to a mechanism different from the one many experts had suspected.

The researchers generated encouraging results when giving vitamin C to mice that had been implanted with human cancer cells -- either the blood cancer lymphoma or prostate cancer.

Another antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine, also limited tumor growth in the mice, the researchers said.

Antioxidants are nutrients that prevent some of the damage from unstable molecules known as free radicals, created when the body turns food into energy. Vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene are among well-known antioxidants.

Previous research had suggested that vitamin C may stifle tumor growth by preventing DNA damage from free radicals.

But researchers led by Dr. Chi Dang, a professor of medicine and oncology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, found that antioxidants appear to be working in a different way -- undermining a tumor's ability to grow under certain conditions.

Figuring out how antioxidants impede tumors should help scientists figure out how they might be harnessed to fight cancer, Dang said. In addition to the cancer types involved in this study, others that might be vulnerable to vitamin C include colon cancer and cervical cancer, he said.

Dang said more research is needed and cautioned against taking high doses of vitamin C based on these findings.

"Certainly we would very much discourage people with untreated cancer to go out and take buckets full of vitamin C," Dang said in a telephone interview.

Linus Pauling argued in the 1970s that vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, could ward off cancer, but the notion has proved contentious.

Pauling, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry as well as the Nobel Peace Prize, died in 1994.

"Pauling actually had some good evidence that under certain situations vitamin C can prevent tumor formation. It's just the mechanism was really not that clear then," Dang said.

"Now that, I think, we provide relatively compelling evidence of how this works, maybe Pauling is partly right. We shouldn't dismiss him so quickly." Dang added - Will Dunham, Reuters.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

13. US remembers 9/11

Let not this ghastly horror be repeated or allowed to be repeated in any part of the world again. Ever. Let us share this moment of grief with the families of the departed. May their souls rest in peace.

The United States marked the sixth anniversary of the September 11 attacks Tuesday with solemn ceremonies but still haunted by Osama bin Laden, who used the anniversary to praise the hijackers who carried out the attacks.

In an overcast New York, families of the 2,749 people killed when two planes ploughed into the World Trade Center twin towers paid their respects near the site as rescue workers read the names of the dead, in what has now become an annual ritual.

With heads bowed, holding photographs of the dead and fighting to hold back the tears, relatives listened as the grim roll call was read out.

"We come together again as New Yorkers and as Americans to share a loss that can't be measured and to remember the names of those who can't be replaced," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, opening the commemorations.

As in previous years, Al-Qaeda leader bin Laden used the anniversary to release two videotapes, mocking the United States, threatening to escalate the unpopular war in Iraq and praising hijacker Walid al-Shehri as a "champion."

Shehri was on American Airlines Flight 11, the first jet to crash into the World Trade Center in New York. The video also featured Shehri, in the sixth such last will and testament issued by one of the 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001.

In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where hijackers brought down United Airlines Flight 93 in a field after a passenger uprising, tributes were held to honor the 40 passengers and crew killed there.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates meanwhile led a ceremony in Washington for the 184 people killed when American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon.

"The enemies of America -- the enemies of our values -- will never again rest easily for we will hunt them down relentlessly and without reservations," Gates said at the ceremony.

The Defense Department at the weekend honored the dead and showed support for US troops, more than 4,100 of whom have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since Bush declared a "war on terror" in response to the attacks.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said that Washington was still intent on capturing bin Laden, but said the war on terror was "not a war against one guy, Osama bin Laden. It is against a network."

The centerpiece of the commemorations in New York was more muted than in past years. Last year, President George W. Bush laid a wreath at Ground Zero but this year attended a private memorial service and observed a moment of silence in Washington.

In the evening, a "Tribute in Light" was to project two massive beams of light into the night sky above Ground Zero to symbolize the collapsed towers - AFP.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

12. Beyonce told to Cover

Beyonce Knowles, singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, dancer, fashion designer, philanthropist is coming to Malaysia. She has 10 Grammy Awards to her name. But she's been told to cover-up. There's a reason to ask her to cover-up. Either she does so or she does not come. Meet them both half way. Be properly attired and COME. There are so many Malaysians who want to see her, hear her and probably even have her to autograph and have a photo with her. It's better this way than not see her at all. Many of the Islamic faith and like-minded others like her to be dressed properly for reasons of decency. Younger groups and others would think otherwise. More the exposure the better. So to please all crowds, the licencing authority has advised her to be fully dressed. Beyonce, you can be properly attired and still give an impressive performance. Your concerts will still be a sell-out in Malaysia. Please come.

Bootylicious R&B singer, Beyonce Knowles, has been asked to cover up during her debut concert here in November.

Pineapple Concerts chairman Razlan Ahmad Razali, who is the organiser of the show, said her performance would still go on as planned, but her dressing would have to be toned down and there would be less exposure of her body.

"As of now, her concert is still on, " he said, when contacted yesterday.

Beyonce, 25, from Houston, Texas, is not only famous for her powerful vocals but also her revealing costumes.

The Grammy Award winner, who has achieved superstardom with well-acclaimed solo albums like Dangerously in Love and B’day, is not the first foreign artiste who has been told to abide by Malaysia’s dress code.

Last month, Gwen Stefani had to endure a storm of criticism from various religious groups who called on the government to cancel her concert due to her "overly exposed dressing" which they claimed was too "sexy" and was inappropriate for the Malaysian audience.

Malaysia received a lot of negative publicity from the foreign media which sees Stefani as a role model.

Amid the controversy, Stefani went ahead with "The Sweet Escape Concert 2007" on Aug 21. Although she was dressed decently, the show was still a tremendous success with a sell-out audience - NST.

Monday, September 10, 2007

11. Climate Change Solutions

Hooray, a start has been made at the Sydney Summit towards the issue of Climate Change, and an awakening among the leaders of APEC to this very important global issue. Now let us pursue this matter very vigorously and concretise projects and percentages for nations to share and targets to fulfil. For example on the issue of 20 million hectares of all types of forest by 2020, what will be the share for each nation? And how is it to be enforced? We do not want a situation where one nation through neglect and non-compliance hits the others who are faithfully complying because climate change sees no borders.These and other matters of specifics and solutions are hopefully pursued further at the UN forum end of the year. This global phenomenon needs a fully committed global effort to overcome.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders have achieved a consensus on the contentious climate change issue, and agreed to work towards "aspirational" goals to tackle the problem instead of committing to hard targets on emission reductions.

According to the Sydney Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development adopted at their meeting yesterday, Apec leaders said that they -- without prejudice to commitments in other fora -- highlighted the importance of improving energy efficiency.

They agreed to work towards achieving an APEC-wide regional "aspirational goal" of a reduction in energy intensity of at least 25 per cent by 2030 with 2005 as the base year.

The leaders also decided to work towards achieving the aspirational goal of increasing forest cover in the region by at least 20 million hectares of all types of forests by 2020.

The phrase "all types of forests" was a latter addition to the document, according to officials, as countries like Malaysia felt it was necessary to make it clear that the word "forest" would not only mean tropical forest.

The goal, if achieved, would store approximately 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to around 11 per cent of annual global emissions in 2004, said the declaration which was released today.

Malaysia, according to officials, had also insisted that the word "voluntary" be included in a paragraph on energy efficiency issues where the leaders "agreed to facilitate and review progress through the voluntary APEC Energy Peer Review Mechanism".

The mechanism, established by APEC energy ministers in May, is to subject APEC members to undergo a voluntary progress review with regard to the implementation of measures to attain energy efficiency.

The ministers had also decided to establish an Asia-Pacific network for sustainable forest management and rehabilitation to enhance capacity building and strengthen information sharing in the forestry sector.

The leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and expressed support for a post-Kyoto Protocol international climate change arrangement.

The Kyoto Protocol requires developed and industrialised nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent below the 1990 levels by 2012. In December, the UN will convene a meeting in Bali to discuss a new arrangement to succeed the protocol.

The declaration said: "We (leaders) are committed to the global objective of stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system."

"The world needs to slow, stop and then reverse the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions," it said.

APEC leaders also called for a post-2012 international climate change arrangement that would strengthen, broaden and deepen the current arrangements, leading to reduced global emissions of greenhouse gases.

"APEC economies that are parties to the UNFCCC agree to work actively and constructively towards a comprehensive post-2012 arrangement at this year's UNFCCC conference," the statement added - BERNAMA.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

10. Afghanistan's Opium

Afghanistan is currently the primary producer of the drug. After regularly producing 70% of the world's opium, Afghanistan decreased production to 74 tons per year under a ban by the Taliban in 2000, although the ban may have been intended primarily to boost prices after the country accumulated a stockpile with over two years' supply. Besides Afghanistan, smaller quantities of opium are produced in Pakistan, the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia (particularly Myanmar), Colombia and Mexico.

Opium production in Afghanistan has soared to record levels.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime report says the amount of opium produced there has doubled in the last two years.

It says Helmand province is now the biggest single drug-producing area in the world, surpassing whole countries such as Colombia.

Afghanistan now accounts for more than 93% of the world's opiates.

Despite billions of dollars of aid and tens of thousands of international troops, the report says 193,000 hectares of opium poppies are being grown in Afghanistan.

"The results are very bad, terrifyingly bad, because cultivation has increased by 17% to an historic level," said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the Office on Drugs and Crime.

"No other country beside China in the 19th Century ever had such a large amount of land dedicated to illegal activities.

"The province of Helmand in the south has cultivated more opium than in the rest of Afghanistan. It has become the largest single entity in terms of both production and cultivation," he said.

Despite the overall increase, twice as many provinces are now drug-free in northern and central Afghanistan and the report says growing opium poppies is now closely linked to the insurgency and the instability in the south.

And what is to be done? The report recommends more determined efforts to bring that security.

It urges the government to get tough on corruption, which it says is driving the drugs trade and it lists poor governance, a weak judiciary and failing eradication programmes for these new frightening record levels - by Alastair Leithead, BBC.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

9. Budget 2008

Theme: Enhancing Competitiveness and Sharing Economic Prosperity

Development Expenditure: RM 128.8 Billion
Operating Expenditure: RM 48.1 Billion
Total: RM 176.9 Billion

Goodies at a glance:

no school fees
no examination fees
free textbooks to all students
more allowances for teachers

in local and foreign universities on government scholarships

26% in 2008
25% in 2009

RM 8 billion for infrastructure

RM 6 billion to combat crime

RM 1.1 billion for projects

RM 12 billion for K.L. and Penang

for lower income groups

to settle monthly housing loans installments
special fund for lower income groups unable to get housing loans




No bonus for civil servants
No sin tax on cigarettes and liquor

A realistic, progressive and robust budget to reduce fiscal deficit and more cash in the pocket for all.

Friday, September 7, 2007

8. Luciano Pavarotti: 1935-2007

1. The famed opera singer and maestro, Luciano Pavarotti has died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 71. He was regarded by many as the greatest tenor of his generation.

2. Pavarotti performed with some of the world's greatest opera singers. In 1966 he sang with Australian soprano Joan Sutherland and Spiro Malas in Donizetti's La Fille du Regiment.

3. In 1990 he achieved pop star status with Nessun Dorma, an aria from Puccini's Turandot, which became the theme song for the World Cup held in Italy.

4. The singer, on the right, found worldwide fame and commercial success when he teamed up with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to form The Three Tenors.
5. He brought new audiences to opera and performed with many pop stars, such as singer Mariah Carey. Pavarotti was a close friend of Princess Diana, and even attended her funeral in September 1997.

6. The Royal Opera House said Pavarotti's legacy would be that he brought opera to millions of people who may never have come across it otherwise - BBC.

May his soul rest in peace.

Now, here's a recording of Ave Maria (Shubert) by Luciano Pavarotti.