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

Saturday, February 28, 2009

> Perak Speaker calls for emergency sitting

Perak State Assembly Speaker V. Sivakumar has called for an emergency sitting on March 3 to table two motions on the takeover of the state government. 
 
He said the first motion -- to reaffirm the support for Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the rightful menteri besar -- would be tabled by Titi Serong assemblyman Khalil Idham Lim Abdullah.
 
The second motion -- to seek for dissolution of the state assembly and pave the way for fresh polls -- will be tabled by Teja assemblyman Chang Lih Kang. 
 
At a news conference here today, Sivakumar said the emergency meeting, which was still in the first session of the state assembly, did not require the consent of the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah as it only needed a 14-day notice.
 
He said the Perak State Assembly secretary had been ordered to issue the notice of the meeting as soon as possible to all assemblymen, except Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and six executive council members, who had been suspended, and three Independent assemblymen who were deemed to have resigned.
  
To a suggestion his action was tantamount to showing disrespect to the Sultan for not getting his consent, Sivakumar said it should not be taken in that context as it was dispensed in accordance with Standing Order 27 (3) of the state assembly.
 
He described attempts to prevent him from convening the emergency meeting as tantamount to denigrating the state assembly.
 
On the possibility that all Barisan Nasional assemblymen would boycott the emergency meeting, he declined comment.
 
Present were DAP Perak chairman Datuk Ngeh Koo Ham and Sivakumar's legal counsel Chan Kok Keong.
 
Dr Zambry, when contacted, said: "That is their true colours." He declined to elaborate - Bernama.

Friday, February 27, 2009

> The scuffle at Parliament


Tug-of-war ... Selangor Umno Youth members (left) getting physical with Opposition MPs at the Parliament House yesterday as PJ Utara Umno Youth chief Latt Sharizan Abdullah tries to separate them. In the thick of the action is Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng and Bagan Serai’s N. Gobalakrishnan (right). The rowdy visitors had earlier confronted MP Karpal Singh - theSun pic.

> PM asks for a review of toll rate increase

In a surprising turnaround the prime minister has called for his Cabinet to review the new toll rates announced by his government today for five major highways.

Datuk Seri Abdulah Badawi’s remarks will raise the spectre of another flip-flop by the government, and suggests the Barisan National (BN) government has one eye on the up coming by elections.

He said the Cabinet should consider other methods to defer the toll hike as the current economic conditions were “not a good time.”

Just today, Works Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Zin Mohamed announced toll rates will go up at five major highways from March 1.

The government's announcement has already drawn sharp criticism from the Pakatan Rakyat, and is not likely to be received kindly by voters bracing themselves for the full impact of a global recession.  

( An extract from The Malaysian Insider ).

> Obama honours Stevie Wonder



President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and some lucky guests got to hear Stevie Wonder last night at the White House. The Obamas were awarding him the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. According to a report from the event, Michelle Obama said the first album she ever bought was Talking Book. She said she and her husband had chosen Wonder's song You and I as their wedding song. The president said Wonder's songs were "the soundtrack of my youth." - USA Today.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

> The Lingam Shocker !

If the Abdullah administration wants to spare itself and the Attorney-General’s Chambers from any odium and ridicule, it should spell out clearly the reasons why no action is being taken against three of the four actors in the V.K. Lingam video clip.

In Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said in a written reply that the three cases had been marked “no further action” as there was no evidence to charge them with corruption. He did not identify any of the four individuals.

The problem with that terse reply is that it leaves many questions unanswered, and leaves the administration open to charges of a cover-up.

Who are the four individuals? What section of the Anti-Corruption Act were they investigated under?

How did the A-G reach the conclusion that there was no evidence to charge them? Were the findings of the Royal Commission of any use or did it not meet the threshold of evidence expected in a court of law?

This was not a simple robbery or snatch theft case. The video clip was widely circulated on the Internet in 2007. It showed lawyer V.K. Lingam having a conversation with a senior judge and brokering appointments to the Bench.

Abdullah was forced to convene a three-man panel of investigation after a groundswell of protests about the video clip. When this move did not hush the criticisms, he agreed to the setting of a royal commission.

Considerable resources and time were spent to constitute the commission hearing and much muck was raked up about the alleged shenanigans of outside interference in the appointment of judges.

A few powerful individuals were implicated in the video clip, namely former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Cabinet minister Tengku Adnan Mansor, former Chief Justices Tun Eusoff Chin and Tun Ahmad Fairuz, prominent lawyer V.K. Lingam and corporate figure Tan Sri Vincent Tan.

Serious allegations were made about the fixing of judicial appointments and this cast a dark shadow over the integrity of the legal system.

The commission in its report last year said that “having regard to the totality of the evidence and for the reasons stated, we are of the view that there was, conceivably, an insidious movement by Lingam with the covert assistance of his close friends, Vincent Tan and Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, to involve themselves actively in the appointment of judges, in particular, the appointment of Ahmad Fairuz as the Chief Judge of Malaya and subsequently as Court of Appeal president.

“In the process, Dr Mahathir Mohamad was also entangled. That possibility was ominous when examined against the factual circumstances surrounding the rejection of Malek Ahmad as Chief Judge of Malaya. Their ultimate aim or purpose could not be ascertained with exactitude, given the limitation under the terms of reference. It could be related to the fixing of cases, as submitted by counsel for the Bar and others. Certainly, it is reasonable to suggest that it could not be anything but self-serving.

“It is sufficient for us to state here that the collective and cumulative actions of the main characters concerned, had the effect of seriously undermining and eroding the independence and integrity of the judiciary as a whole.

“For the moment, we would state that there is sufficient cause to invoke the Sedition Act 1948, the Prevention of Corruption Act 1961, the Legal Profession Act 1976, the Official Secrets Act 1972 and the Penal Code against some of the principal individuals involved. We do not discount the possibility of other laws being contravened. In any case, the findings have, at the very least, provided the catalyst for further investigations so that, hopefully, there would be complete transparency and full accountability.”

By relying on a bare bones written answer, the Abdullah administration has failed the test of transparency and full accountability.

Among members of the royal commission were former Chief Judge of Malaya Haidar Mohamed Noor, former Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Steve Shim, former Solicitor-General Zaitun Zawiyah Puteh and retired Court of Appeal judge Mahadev Shankar. They know the law and they know about evidence. They put their decades of experience and expertise on the line when they said that there was sufficient cause to invoke the Sedition Act and other legislation against some of the actors in the video clip.

If the A-G’s Chambers disagrees with their findings, then Tan Sri Gani Patail should come forward and explain why.

Did the commission members rely on hearsay? Did they overstep the boundaries of their terms of reference?

All along there has been a hint that the government would have liked this whole episode to vaporise.

Abdullah only consented to making the commission’s report public because there was overwhelming public pressure and he was in a weak position after Election 2008. Some senior members of his Cabinet were dead set against the public findings out the contents of the report.

Abdullah’s tepid written reply in Parliament yesterday will only provide ammunition for those who charged that the government was never really interested in what the royal commission had to say about the nasty video business - The Malaysian Insider.

> AG involved in Anwar's case

The Sessions Court exceeded its powers by reviewing a certificate to transfer proceedings to a higher court, the prosecution in Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's sodomy trial argued today.

In its submission in the High Court to reverse the lower court's decision not to transfer the trial to a higher court, the prosecution argued that the sessions court judge S.M. Komathy had exercised a "judicial review," which she is not allowed to.

By law, only the High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court can hear judicial reviews.

Solicitor-General Datuk Mohd Yusof Zainal Abiden argued that the Sessions Court was not the proper forum to decide on the validity of Attorney-General Tan Sri Gani Patail's certificate requesting the trial be transferred to the High Court.

Instead, he said, the defence should have applied for a motion to a High Court to quash the certificate.

"The Sessions Court has no jurisdiction to hear judicial reviews. Only the superior courts may do so," said Mohd Yusof.

However, the defence maintained that the validity of the transfer was questioned within the proceedings of the criminal trial.

"It can be done within proceedings. It was not a judicial review," said Anwar's chief counsel Sulaiman Abdullah.

"A criminal defence can use all manners of defence and this includes challenging the validity of a transfer," he added.

In November, the validity of the transfer was first challenged by Sulaiman in the Sessions Court. He argued that there was a conflict of interest on the part of the Attorney-General.

He argued that as there was a police report filed against him by Anwar, who is the parliamentary Opposition leader, and in return, a civil suit by the A-G against the former deputy prime minister, that it went against the rules of natural justice.

Furthermore, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had given his assurance that the A-G would not be involved in the prosecution.

Mohd Yusof today, however, claimed that the PM had only made that promise with regards to the conduct of prosecution and not in an administrative role with regards to the ongoing case.

The case was adjourned until March 5 when Justice Mohamad Zabidin will decide on the application - The Malaysian Insider.

> MACC's funeral pyre

PKR Youth leader Badrul Hisham Shaharin or Chegubard (second from left) and other members of the party burn some documents at the entrance of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission headquarters in Putrajaya today - The Malaysian Insider pic.



> The overlooked Lankan genocide





The world should rightly be outraged by the horrors inflicted on civilians caught in Sri Lanka’s war zone, but in Malaysia do we care?

By all accounts, the end looks nigh for a bloody conflict which has gone on for a quarter of a century. The Sri Lanka army has all but caged in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) into a tiny strip of territory in the north-east of the island.

The world has been weary of this war long before the 2002 ceasefire collapsed in 2005. The fatigue has lingered despite the return of grim headlines from January last year when the Sri Lankan government launched its blitzkrieg against the Tigers.

After a year of vicious combat, government troops have seized all previously LTTE-controlled areas in the north known as Vanni, apart from a swathe of forested coastland where the Tigers face a do-or-die struggle.

At least they still have a choice: to fight to the death or swallow their cyanide capsules. As for the tens of thousands of unarmed civilians trapped between the Tigers and the Sri Lankan armed forces, they can only pray that they won’t be shred by shrapnel within the next few days.

No one knows how many civilians are caught in the area but recent estimates put it at around 70,000. About 36,000 people have managed to flee the battle zones.

Since Kilinochchi – the Tigers’ administrative hub – fell in January, some 2,000 civilians, most of them women, children and old people, have been killed and about 5,000 have suffered serious injuries. The numbers are the highest so far in what is increasingly being described as genocide against the Tamils.

Sadly, unlike the plight of Pales tinians in Gaza and the West Bank, this tragedy has largely been forgotten by most of the world, including us in Malaysia.

Can we blame others for accusing our leaders of hypocrisy and looking at injustices with blinkered eyes by only condemning atrocities committed against unarmed civilians in Gaza?

The United Nations hasn’t done much to protect the innocent from harm, except for making regular worn-out calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

And save for the lexis of outrage, the same could be said about the Tokyo Co-chairs of the conflict (Norway, Japan, the United States and European Union). As for Britain, Sri Lanka’s former colonial master, which should take blame for much of the problems, it should display some moral decency by doing more to stop the carnage.

The Tamil civilians, comprising Hindus, Christians and also Muslims, are being killed and maimed from shelling by the Sri Lanka army as well as from the brutality of the Tigers.

In a 44-page report issued recently after a fact-finding mission, the Human Rights Watch squarely accused the Sri Lankan army of war crimes – bombing hospitals and other supposedly safe zones and blatantly killing civilians.

It also didn’t mince words in charging the LTTE with equally appalling violations, resorting to so-called “human shielding”. They prevent civilians from leaving conflict areas; they shoot those trying to flee to government-controlled territory and do forced recruitment of teenagers and children to fight in the battlefields.

“The Sri Lankan armed forces and the LTTE appear to be engaged in a perverse competition to demonstrate the greatest disregard for the civilian population,” HRW said in the report titled “War on the Displaced: Sri Lankan Army and LTTE Abuses against Civilians in the Vanni.”

The government and the Tigers have strongly denied attacking civilians but with the government having barred journalists and neutral parties from entering the war zone, there is little to doubt HRW’s findings.

As the human rights organisation put it: “Instead of using its victories in the field to promote a more open and democratic nation, the Sri Lankan government has conducted a cynical campaign to prevent all independent public coverage of its military operations and the plight of civilians caught up in the war.

“While decrying LTTE abuses, it has kept out the media and human rights organisations that could report on them – and on government abuses. It has kept displaced persons who could describe the artillery bombardments locked up in camps and hospitals.”

Those who have managed to escape the fighting have found themselves virtually imprisoned in what the government calls “welfare villages”, but are in effect, razor-wired concentration camps.

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has repeatedly claimed that the civilians who escaped from LTTE captured areas are being treated “most humanely”. In the same breath, he has also maintained that the government “would not exhibit the troubled Internally Displayed Persons’ (IDPs) faces to gain international sympathy.”

Similar statements from government leaders give the impression that the ethnic Tamil population caught in conflict zones should be presumed to be siding with the Tigers and treated as combatants rather than people caught in the mayhem.

But for the record, one genocide indictment notice has already been filed in the US against Sri Lankan Defence Secretary Lt-Col (rtd) Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president’s younger brother, and the country’s army commander Lt-Gen Sarath Fonseka.

Bruce Fein, a lawyer for a group called Tamils Against Genocide and a former associate deputy attorney-general under President Ronald Reagan, has filed a 12-count war crimes indictment against them, charging violations of the Genocide Accountability Act of 2007.

The charges were filed in the United States because Gotabaya Rakapaksa is reportedly a US dual citizen while Sarath Fonseka is said to be US green card holder.

Fein claims that the degree of mayhem inflicted on the Tamil civilian population because of ethnicity or religion ranked with the atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo which led to genocide indictments against Serbs by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

He says a virtual re-enactment of the Bosnian Srebrenica genocide of more than 7,000 Muslims has unfolded, with the army employing indiscriminate bombing and shelling to herd 350,000 civilians into a government-prescribed “safety-zone”.

Let’s hope that such a comparison will at least help to invoke some empathy among Malaysians, especially from our usually vocal leaders, towards the plight of Sri Lankan Tamil civilians - The Star.

Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this quote from Martin Luther King Jr: " We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools."

Excellent Mr. Veera Pandiyan for your courage and conviction. At last an editorial by any newspaper in the country about the Sri Lankan war against the Tamils. For your information, Malaysia has a Tamil population of about 7%, and not a single politician has cared to voice an opinion of the atrocities in the war land. Talk about MIC, the champion of Tamils and Indians, who uttered not a word  besides two demonstrations by its youth wing. This is the type and calibre of Malaysian politicians. As rightly pointed out, a significant number of those killed are muslims. Talk of Palestinian and Sebrenican brethren, when nearer home, the genocide is even more bizarre - My Journal.

> Sultan says he is above politics


Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah has refused to involve himself in the controversy involving Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson Elizabeth Wong, whose nude photographs have been circulated in public.

In a press statement issued by the sultan’s private secretary Mohamad Munir Bani, the palace expressed sadness over the controversy which has roiled the state.

However, Sultan Sharafuddin said that he could not offer any guidance or advice over the issue because the case is still under police investigation.

"It is His Royal Highness' stance as the Sultan of Selangor to be above politics," said Mohamad Munir.

The Sultan added that he believes the decision to be made by Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim on the matter will be “fair and with wisdom” and will take into consideration the interests of the rakyat and the state.

"His Royal Highness is upset and worried as of late the intrusion into someone's privacy and private rights is being used to destroy (the individual's) dignity and reputation," said Mohamad Munir.

"It is a sad thing as one's life and private rights are being made public and subject to public scrutiny by publicising (it) in the mass media."

Royal sympathy for Wong

The sultan expressed sympathy for Wong and hoped that she will "remain calm and be patient in continuing with her life henceforth".

Wong, 37, was thrust into the spotlight following the circulation of her nude photographs, which is now being investigated by the police.

The Selangor exco, who has repeatedly maintained that she is a victim, has since offered to resign from her exco post as well as her state assembly seat.

She left the country last Thursday for a break, saying she could no longer stand the immense stress brought on by the controversy.

Khalid had last week said he would seek the views of the sultan on how to handle the matter.

The menteri besar had an audience with Sultan Sharafuddin today and briefed him on the issue.

No decision until police finish probe

In a press conference this afternoon, Khalid said that the state government would only be making a decision on Wong's fate of the police have completed investigations into the matter.

"After a discussion among all the exco relating to this matter at the cabinet meeting today, the state government has decided to extend Wong's leave while waiting for the police investigation."

Khalid also expressed appreciation for PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang's show of support over allegations that he was involved in abuse of power.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has said it found "good and strong" evidence against Khalid and would recommend that he face prosecution.

Khalid is accused of spending taxpayers' money to buy 46 cows that were slaughtered and distributed in his constituency during the Hari Raya Korban festival last December.

He was also reportedly accused of using funds belonging to state-owned firms to buy a Lexus SUV worth nearly RM1 million, and maintaining it at government expense.

Khalid has denied all the charges

According to the menteri besar, Sultan Sharafuddin was informed about the two issues at their meeting in Shah Alam's Istana Mestika.

"The sultan has stated his stand of not against the use of personal car as an official vehicle so long as all legal procedures are followed," said Khalid.

"With regards to cattle being sacrificed for meat for the poor, the sultan has no objection to such efforts and in fact, encourages such welfare work to be continued and expanded in all areas in Kuala Lumpur, including Bandar Tun Razak." - Malaysiakini.

> Bribed to join Barisan

Two Pakatan Rakyat state assemblypersons today filed a report with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) claiming that they were offered millions of ringgit to quit their respective parties and become Independents or join Barisan Nasional (BN).

According to a Bernama report, DAP's Keshvinder Singh (Malim Nawar) and PKR’s Abdul Yunus Jamsari (Kuala Kurau) filed the report at the MACC office in Ipoh.

Speaking to reporters later, Keshvinder claimed that he had received various offers from numerous agents claiming to represent Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

One of the agents, he said, was a local freelance journalist with the Chinese media.

The DAP leader claimed that he was offered RM20 million to quit his party and declare himself as an Independent as well as express support for BN.

The lawyer-turned-politician also said he had received other offers such as the prospect of being appointed Perak MIC chief if he joined the BN component party as well as being appointed a state executive councillor.

He said the exco appointment offer was the latest offer since the BN seized control of the state government earlier this month.

"I urge Najib to come forward and explain the matter because this shows that the federal government is corrupt and desperate," he added.

Logging concessions

Abdul Yunus claimed that he was offered cash of between RM3 million and RM8 million.

He also said he was offered logging concessions if he quit his party.

He alleged that the offer was made by several agents comprising businessmen who claimed to be representing the Perak BN leadership. 

When lodging the police report, the duo were accompanied by seven Pakatan Rakyat representatives - Ramli Tusin (Semanggol), A Sivasubramaniam (Buntong), Chan Ming Kai (Simpang Pulai), Chang Lih Kang (Teja), Sum Cheok Leng (Bercham), Leong Mee Meng (Jalong) and Khalil Idham Lim Abdullah (Titi Serong). 

BN took control of the state after four Pakatan Rakyat representatives quit their respective parties. Three later declared themselves 'BN-friendly' Independents while the other rejoined Umno.

Zambry chairs exco meeting

Meanwhile in Teluk Intan, BN Menteri Besar Zambry Abdul Kadir and his six state exco members held their meeting at the Hilir Perak district office.

Zambry later told reporters that the state government had decided to hold the exco meeting in each of the districts in the state on rotation basis.

This is to enable all exco members to better appreciate the problems of the people at the grassroots level, he added.

At the exco meeting today, Zambry said that the annual vacation allowance of RM20,000 for each of the six exco members will be withdrawn and utilised to overcome the people's problems.

He said it would not be appropriate for the allocation of RM120,000 to be used as vacation allowance in the wake of the uncertain economic situation currently.

"The money will instead be utilised for the people who are in need," he was quoted as saying in Bernama - Malaysiakini.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

> Demonstrations in Thailand

Several thousand protesters rally against the government of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in Bangkok today demanding dissolution of the House of Representatives to pave way for new elections. – AP pic.

> Serving justice, straight up


by Malik Imtiaz Sarwar

It took me a while to understand that in as much as contract, commercial, criminal, constitutional or any other field of law was important, the existence of a functioning system by which the law was applied and enforced was far more crucial. For without such a system, it would not matter at all that there were laws. 

When I first graduated from law school, I believed that all things said and done we had such a system. I am almost certain now that we do not. 

We have courts, some of them in very opulent buildings that are akin to palaces. We have judges at all levels, be it at the subordinate courts or into the dizzying heights of the judicial hierarchy. There is in place an Attorney- General’s Chambers from which spring a number of federal counsel and deputy public prosecutors who represent the State in its legal endeavours.

They are complemented by a host of lawyers who, together with their counterparts from the civil service, apply laws that have been duly enacted by legislative chambers and Parliament respectively.

Impressive, one could say. I however reserve my judgment. Just like cameras, there are “point and shoot” lawyers and judges, and there are the far more sophisticated and capable ones. Both serve their purpose but one category serves it far better, something to think about considering the legal system is one whose standard cannot be compromised for any reason at all. Lives, in the widest sense, are at stake. They are being put at risk by the kind of individuals being allowed into the system. 

All this, however, does not directly answer the question of whether the system is one that is functioning effectively.

In this, it must be understood that the ultimate arbiter of whether a legal system is effective is the public that the system is intended to serve. The level of public confidence in the system is the only yardstick by which this effectiveness can be measured. 

The stark reality is that the average Malaysian entertains grave doubts about the integrity or competence or both of those who make up the system (and in this, I tar lawyers with the same brush). From a public confidence standpoint, it could be said that the system is not functioning.

We cannot blame them for so doubting. Controversy upon controversy, many of which were unnecessary and avoidable, have impacted.

Suspicions have been given foundation by the findings and recommendations of a Royal Commission of Enquiry that lambasted the system and urged urgent corrective measures.

One cannot fault the average Malaysian for thinking justice is no longer the sacrosanct quality that it is meant to be, having instead transformed into something pliable that can be moulded to convenience.

This has had ramifications it seems. Malaysians have no alternative but to take their cases to the courts, it is the only way they can have their legal disputes resolved. Faced with a system that they have come to perceive as lopsided and pliable, it appears that they have attempted to improve, or at the very least even out their odds where they have been able to do so. If the system were seen and understood to be unyielding, this would not be occurring.

It is perception that fuels belief that the system is hardly working as it should. As a lawyer, this saddens me, not because I think it is an unfair assessment but because I can see why it is they might believe this to be the case. Over the last 20 years the Judiciary has taken a beating, inside and out. It seems like every Chief Justice since Tun Dzaiddin Abdullah started his term with laudable  declarations concerning the need for reform only to subsequently find that the problem areas were so entrenched that resolving them was neither easy nor possible in their limited terms of tenure.

Promises unfulfilled have deepened distrust. It is high time that those who manage the institutions in our system of  justice wake up to the hard truth that mere rhetoric and superficial changes will not serve any purpose in attempts to rebuild confidence. Efforts must be real and driven by a desire to deliver to Malaysians objective justice at its keenest. It is not enough to say that there are those in the system who do just that. Though that may be the case, there are seemingly those who do not. It must be understood why this is the case and what can be done. The situation is desperate and calls for extreme measures. 

Crucially, the system must be seen to be delivering justice. It is a cardinal rule of justice that not only must it be done, it must be seen to be done. The appearance of impartiality is paramount in building public confidence in the system. In this, standards must be seen to be applied uniformly, without exception. 

Explanations as to why they are not, do not go very far in explaining away the fact that they are not. Perception is key. Without the public having confidence in the system, justice will never be served - The Malay Mail.

● Malik Imtiaz Sarwar is president of the National Human Rights Society (HAKAM) and blogs as ‘Disquiet’ at www.malikimtiaz.blogspot.com.  He also is a columnist with the online The Malaysian Insider. 

> India mistaken on arms and talks

Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram’s call for the LTTE to surrender arms was not in keeping with international practice on conflict resolution, but an endorsement of the Sri Lankan government’s hardline position, scholars of conflict and peace said Monday. They pointed a number of successful peace processes, including those with the ANC, IRA and Nepal’s Maoists had proceeded without making arms surrender a precondition for talks. There had also been several peace processes involving the LTTE without this precondition, a scholar of Sri Lanka’s conflict pointed out. The Indian government was in effect supporting the Rajapakse government’s efforts to avoid negotiations on a lasting settlement by making talks conditional on a demand unacceptable to any party to a conflict, some academics opined. 

"No government will have a dialogue with an outfit which refuses to give up arms. LTTE's willingness will pave the way for the Indian government to impress upon the island government to declare a cease-fire," Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram told a public meeting in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu Sunday night. 

“Simultaneously, the Sri Lankan Government should suspend its military offensive," he said.

The LTTE has repeatedly stated its readiness for a ceasefire that could pave the way for negotiations and reasserted it had been committed to the 2002 Ceasefire Agreement.

The hardline government of President Mahinda Rajapakse abrogated the Norwegian-brokered CFA in early 2008, having already conducted a series of offensives against the Tigers since mid 2006.

International scholars of conflict resolution said whilst ceasefires were often pre-requisites for peace talks between armed opposition groups and the states they were fighting, disarmament was rarely a pre-condition or even part of the negotiations until when much later, when substantial progress had been made.

They pointed to the conflicts in Northern Ireland (between the British government and the Irish Republican Army), South Africa (between the Apartheid government and the African National Congress) and Nepal (between the Maoists and the Royalist government) as typical examples.

Even in Sri Lanka, previous governments had signed ceasefires and held talks with the LTTE without disarmament being a stumbling block, a scholar of Sri Lanka’s conflict said.

Indeed, the Norwegian-led peace process had produced a peace process and substantive political discussion without the matter being insisted on by the Colombo government, he said. 

“Even the Co-Chairs and the rest of the international community accepted commonsensically that this was a matter to be raised only in the wake of a successful political settlement,” he said.

The present calls for the LTTE to surrender arms are thus unprecedented and out of step with conflict-resolution orthodoxy, he said.

Regarding disarmament, the IRA’s policy of “not one bullet” was accepted by the UK and Ireland governments until well into the peace process, one academic familiar with the Northern Ireland conflict pointed out. 

Indeed, disarmament came only after the ‘Good Friday’ peace agreement and eventually it was carried out after the Irish Nationalists were satisfied that the peace deal was being honoured by the British government and Protestants, he said.

“Whilst a ceasefire had been observed as a condition for talks, the IRA only began ‘decommissioning’ weapons much later in the peace process. Even then, it was not termed as ‘surrender’ but ‘putting weapons beyond use’”, he said.

The issue of disarmament in Nepal’s conflict was only taken up after the peace process had produced a power-sharing deal in mid 2006.

Even then, the Maoists did not surrender their arms, but put their weapons and their cadres under United Nations supervision.

Another academic familiar with the South African peace process pointed out that the ANC did not disarm not only till after the peace process was successfully concluded, but in fact not until the ANC had assumed power by participating in elections.

The military wing of the ANC was called Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) or ‘Spear of the Nation’ – it was also known as Umkhonto.

MK was only formally disbanded in December 1994, almost eight months after the installation of an ANC-led elected government in a new South Africa.

Indeed, it was during – and thus not before - peace talks with the Apartheid government that the ANC - unilaterally – suspended its armed struggle, according to Mr. Mac Maharajah, a lead negotiator for the ANC in the talks.

Indeed, according to Mr. Maharajah, the ANC continued to import arms and build up its forces during the talks with the Aparatheid government.

“The suspension [of armed struggle] did not mean that the ANC ceased other activities such as the smuggling of arms into the country, arming self-defence units to protect the communities who were victims of violence [by government-backed black paramilitary groups], etc,” he says in an account of the peace process.

ANC leader Nelson Mandela emphasized that a permanent ceasefire was only possible when all sides of a conflict could be trusted not to return to war.

“Embedded in the meaning of a voluntary suspension of anything is the possibility of returning to what you have volunteered to give up,” Mandela is quoted as saying. On the other hand, “a cessation of armed conflict involves all the parties to the conflict, without the conditionality of a possible return [to war]”

Indeed, when the Apartheid government began to use anti-ANC paramilitary groups to wage ‘black-on-black’ war, ANC leader Mandela had raised the question whether it was not appropriate for the ANC to lift its suspension and revert to the armed struggle.

According to Mr. Maharajah, “It would be a rare instance where a party to an armed conflict was to [disarm] without progress in negotiations to justify the suspension of armed activities.” - Tamilnet.

> Bar Slams police for questioning Speaker


The Malaysian Bar Council has denounced the interrogation of the Perak state assembly speaker by the police.

Its president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said yesterday's police questioning was “ill-advised” and “violates the doctrine of the separation of powers in the legislative assemblies”.

“It’s setting a dangerous precedent because the Speaker cannot be interfered with,” she told The Malaysian Insider today.

 “He enjoys certain privileges and immunities under the Federal Constitution and certain enactments in Perak,” she added.

Ambiga explained that the implications of the police’s action is very dire, even if the questioning appears to be a routine procedure.

“Once it starts, no legislative assembly is safe anymore. No speaker will have the freedom to carry out his functions and duties as speaker if he is subjected to questioning by outside forces,” she said, noting that V. Sivakumar was called in for questioning in his official capacity.

“Unless respect is given for certain basic, core principles, if anything goes, it will not promote the rule of law,” Ambiga concluded - The Malaysian Insider.

> Pakatan wants clarification on LCCT-Labu

The PKR MP for Gombak Azmin Ali questioned Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s credibility today for going back on a decision made by the Cabinet regarding the proposed Labu Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in December.

On January 5, Sime Darby had told Bursa Malaysia in a filing that the plan had been approved by the government.

In the statement to Bursa Malaysia, Sime Darby said:

“We refer to Sime Darby Berhad’s (“Company”) announcement on 23 December 2008 on the above matter. The Company wishes to announce that it had, today, obtained approval from the Government of Malaysia to proceed with the Proposed LCCT Project.

"The Proposed LCCT Project is an integral part of the Company’s development plan for its Negeri Sembilan Vision City (“NSVC”). NSVC is part of the Company’s Central Vision Valley (“CVV”) property development project spanning Selangor and Negeri Sembilan."

However a fortnight later, the deputy prime minister stated that no decision had been made yet.

“Last year, in November and December, the Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat made an announcement that Air Asia would build a new LCCT in Labu and that this was a decision made by the cabinet. But it seems that Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat’s announcement is invalid even though he is the Transport Minister.

So we would like to ask why the announcement he made was invalid and why the announcement he made has been denied by the deputy prime minister?” Lim Guan Eng from the DAP also asked.

Azmin argued that If Najib was not lying then actions must be taken by the Securities Commission against Sime Darby for making false statements to its shareholders.

“I ask the finance minister to come into Parliament and give a response towards this issue so that the people can get a proper explanation. For us it is clear, the government has already the master plan for KLIA which have allocated a designated area for the building of LCCT.

“Why was it not build in the early stages in which the government has already spent 268 million ringgit for building the temporary LCCT in KLIA?” he said.

Lim told reporters the current limbo of the LCCT Air Asia is confusing the people. This is because they are not sure if announcements made by ministers in the future could be trusted - The Malaysian Insider.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

> Perak Speaker quizzed by police

Police today questioned Perak State Speaker V Sivakumar for two hours over reports lodged against him in relation to political developments in the state.

The questioning was conducted by three officers officers from the state commercial crimes department from 3.20pm at the office of law firm Chan & Associates along Jalan Tun Sambanthan here.

A statement was also taken from Sivakumar who had engaged two lawyers Chan Kok Keong and Augustine Anthony as his counsel.

However the police did not allow the lawyers to be present during the questioning which was done in the library of Chan’s office.

According to Chan, the police initially said they wanted to question Sivakumar over a report lodged by Jelapang assemblywoman Hee Yit Foong (who has since quit the DAP to become a Barisan Nasional-friendly independent) against Sivakumar.

However, when the lawyers asked to see the report, the police declined to show it, Chan said, adding that instead of investigating Hee's report, police started questioning Sivakumar on other reports lodged against him.

Chan said he had advised Sivakumar that he need not answer their questions as he is protected under Item Three of the Legislative Assembly (privileges) Enactment 1959 which provides that "No member shall be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest, imprisonment, or damages by reason of any matter or thing which he may have brought by petition, bill, resolution, motion or otherwise, or have said before the Assembly or any committee."

However, Sivakumar chose to cooperate with the police and attended the session.

After the interview ended at 5.20pm, the police officers left, carrying a printer which was used to print the statement made by Sivakumar.

A visibly-tired Sivakumar -- who had made headlines last week when he suspended Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and his six executive council members for 18 and 12 months respectively for contempt of the Assembly -- emerged five minutes later and told a large group of reporters that any investigation by the police against any member of the assembly in his capacity as legislator violates existing laws.

"The Legislative Assembly (Privileges) Enactment 1959 read together with Article 72 of the Federal Constitution makes it clear that the conduct of any member of the Legislative Assembly in his/her capacity as a member and the validity of their proceedings are absolutely protected by immunity from civil or criminal proceedings for anything said or done," he said in a statement.

As such, he called on the police to cease all investigations against him or any of the assembly members.

However, he said in the meeting with the police officers, he had given his "fullest co-operation, to the extent that my co-operation does not infringe or violate any provisions of the laws of this country".

Neither the police nor Sivakumar would reveal what exactly he was questioned on.

Sivakumar's press statement was distributed by one of his aides after he left hurriedly saying he had to attend another function.

Last Wednesday, Perak state assembly's committee of rights and privileges chaired by Sivakumar handed down the suspensions, throwing the state deeper into a constitutional and political crisis. Many constitutional lawyers have given their opinion on whether Sivakumar had the power to do what he did and Zambry has set up a legal team to advise him on his next course of action.

The only thing clear is that Sivakumar has to convene the state assembly to endorse the decision as the assembly was not in session when the committee met. He had written to the Sultan of Perak last week for consent to convene a special meeting - theSun.

Monday, February 23, 2009

> No confidence motion against BN

Pakatan Rakyat plans to table a motion of no confidence against the Barisan Nasional Perak state government headed by Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir at the next state assembly meeting.

PR also plans to table a motion to dissolve the assembly to pave the way for elections in the state, former PR Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin said today.

The next meeting is expected to be held in April, pending consent of the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah. Based on the state constitution, the state assembly must sit within six months of the last sitting. The assembly last convened in November last year.

Zambry had on Saturday said he will attend the assembly sitting although Speaker V. Sivakumar had taken action which was considered as not following procedure in suspending and barring him and six state executive councillors from attending the sitting.

"We expect chaos on the first day of the state assembly meeting as the three assemblymen whose state seats have been declared vacant by the Speaker, and the seven Barisan Nasional state executive Council members who were suspended for contempt of the House, may turn up and cause problems," Nizar told reporters today as he moved out of the Mentri Besar's official residence.

Mohammad Nizar, who had previously refused to do so, said he relented out of respect for the regulations and also due to a request by State Secretary Datuk Dr Abdul Rahman Hashim.

He stressed that the move was not a sign of defeat as the court process to decide his status as Mentri Besar was ongoing.

Nizar who yesterday moved out of the Mentri Besar's official residence has filed a suit in the Kuala Lumpur High Court to declare that Zambry’s state government is illegal. The case is due for second mention today, (Monday.)

The PR coalition comprising PAS-DAP-Parti Keadilan Rakyat pact lost the majority in the state legislative assembly when four of its assemblymen left their respective parties, paving the way for the Barisan Nasional to take over the state's administration.

The three who left their parties to become independents friendly to the BN are former PKR assemblymen Mohd Osman Mohd Jailu (Changat Jering) and Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi (Behrang) and former DAP Jalapang assemblywoman Hee Yit Foong. Bota Assemblyman Datuk Nasaruddin Hashim who had earlier defected from Umno to join PR also rejoined BN about the same time.

The seven BN exco members suspended by the House Rights and Privileges Committee were Zambry (Pangkor), who has been suspended for 18 months, and state executive councillors Hamidah Osman (Sungai Rapat), Datuk Ramly Zahari (Manong), Dr Mah Hang Soon (Chenderiang), Datuk Saarani Mohamad (Kota Tampan), Mohd Zahir Abdul Khalid (Kamunting) and Zainol Fadzi Paharudin(Sungai Manik), who were suspended for 12 months.

If the suspension of the seven exco members is upheld, PR would have 28 compared to BN's has 24 (inclusive of three independents supporting the coalition).

Last week, Sivakumar had sought Sultan Azlan's consent to convene an emergency sitting of the House to dissolve the state assembly, but there has been no reply from the palace to his request - theSun.

> Speaker has absolute immunity


Ousted Perak menteri besar Mohd Nizar Jamaluddin and his family today vacated the MB’s official residence in Ipoh, two weeks after the Pakatan government collapsed.

While Mohd Nizar, his wife and seven children have moved into a private home, the PAS leader vowed that he was not giving up on his claim to the state government.

According to him, the ousted Perak government will now work from Pakatan offices.

Yesterday, Mohd Nizar told a rally that the Pakatan Rakyat coalition was merely using the state assembly speaker’s wide-ranging powers formulated by Barisan Nasional, to suspend new menteri besar Zambry Abdul Kadir and his cabinet members.

In hiis speech, delivered last night at Felcra Serigala in Slim River before 1,000 people, Mohd Nizar said that Pakatan has now "decapitate" BN as the coalition controls 28 seats compared to 21 following the suspension.

"Given this, Pakatan is the valid government to administer Perak," Mohd Nizar said as reported by Harakah daily today.

"Today, if we want to topple the new government, we can do it... They forget that the powers given to the speaker by BN 50 years ago, is what we used against them now."

Felcra Serigala is located in the Behrang state seat held by one of the four Pakatan defectors, Jamaluddin Mohd Radzi, who left PKR to become a BN-friendly Independent.

Speaker requests sultan to reconvene assembly

Mohd Nizar emphasised that he is still the legitimate menteri besar who was appointed by the sultan.

"I still keep the appointment letter, and the instruments of power which has never been cancelled. The instrument and appointment was witnessed by the sultan and the High Court judge.

"I can only relinquish my post through three ways - by resigning, through the dissolution of the assembly or a vote of no confidence against me," said Mohd Nizar, who is also the Pasir Panjang assemblyperson.

He said that speaker V Sivakumar has written to the Perak sultan to request for a special sitting of the state assembly.

"We are ready to table a motion of no-confidence and we shall see who has the majority," he said.

The ousted MB said that according to the schedule decided earlier, the state assembly was to resume meeting in April. 

Mohd Nizar also accused Umno of running scared and challenged the party to face the Perak people in a snap polls.

"Umno is afraid. They are afraid of losing as in Permatang Pauh and Kuala Terengganu. That is why they are seizing power.

"If they are truly gentleman, let’s have an election. We are gentlemen and are prepared to face them in any situation," he said.

Speaker has absolute immunity

Meanwhile, DAP leader Nga Kor Ming in a press statement said the speaker has “absolute and total immunity” from any civil or criminal action.

"The vicious attack on the legislature by the BN executive is totally unacceptable in a country with the principles of separation of powers of the executive, legislature and judiciary as enshrined in our federal constitiution," said Nga, a trained lawyer.

Nga said it was within speaker Sivakumar's powers to issue contempt proceedings against state assemblypersons who defy his order.

He said section 3 of the Perak Legislative Assembly (Privileges) Enactment 1959 states "no member shall be liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, arrest, imprisonment or damages by reason of any matter or thing brought by petition, bill, resolution, motion, or otherwise, or have said before the assembly or any committee”.

Furthermore, Nga said the action to suspend Zambry is protected by the federal constitution where Article 72(1) states the “validity of any proceedings in the legislative assembly of any state shall not be questioned by the court."

On Thursday, Sivakumar, through the assembly’s special privileges committee, suspended Zambry and all his six state excos

Zambry was slapped with an 18-month suspension while the excos have been suspended for 12 months.

The latest development plunges Perak into another crisis following BN's seizure of the state government early this month.

In a statement to the media, Sivakumar said the decision was reached because the seven BN representatives had failed to provide an explanation for their contempt of the state assembly by declaring themselves menteri besar and excos.

The inquiry was convened after Wong Kah Woh (DAP-Canning) had made an official complaint - Malaysiakini.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

> MACC - Barisan lapdog

Karpal lodging police report with envelope of live bullets - Starpic.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) chief Ahmad Said Hamdan has violated the rule of law by a issuing public prejudgment that "there was strong and good evidence" against Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim in alleged wrongdoing in the maintenance of a luxury car and purchase of sacrificial cows.

In taking Ahmad to task over his statement yesterday, DAP national chairperson Karpal Singh today demanded that the MACC chief publicly clarify the basis on which such public disclosure on the findings of a graft investigation were released before prosecution was even instituted.

"It’s a prejudgment that the MACC chief must explain immediately. I will bring up the matter in Parliament if he fails to do so," warned the Bukit Gelugor MP, a lawyer by training, at his office in Georgetown.

"Ahmad’s public statement would compromise and jeorpadise Abdul Khalid’s case," he stressed.

Yesterday Ahmad Said claimed that the MACC had strong evidence against Abdul Khalid, and that the case had been referred to the Attorney-General’s chambers for further action.

He also said even though the MACC has prosecution powers, the case was forwarded to AG’s chambers because it involved a VIP.

Karpal today rebuked Ahmad for lacking the necessary knowledge on the very law that governs the MACC, which arguably does not bestow any prosecution powers on the commission.

He pointed out that Section 58 of the new Malaysia Anti-Corruption Commission Act clearly states that, "A prosecution for an offence under this Act shall not be instituted except by or with the consent of the Public Prosecutor".

By virtue of Section 58, Karpal noted that the the power of prosecution had not been vested with the MACC and it could only be done with consent from the AG’s chambers.

"It’s shocking the MACC chief did not know about Section 58. It exposes his incompetence," said Karpal, who also questioned MACC’s double standard enforcement and selective prosecution.

VK Lingam case forgotten?

He called on Ahmad to initiate further action into the VK Lingam case, in which a Royal Commission inquiry had found strong evidence revealing misuse of powers and conflict of interests.

He questioned why even after a year, MACC was yet to charge anyone in connection with the VK Lingam case, while the commission had been "so efficient" in handling Abdul Khalid’s case.

Karpal also chided former Selangor Menteri Besar Mohd Khir Toyo for suggesting that Abdul Khalid should resign if he were to be charged in court for graft.

"Under the law, one is innocent until proven guilty. So I don’t think Abdul Khalid needs to step down as menteri besar here," he told newsmen.

Earlier, police officer ASP Ismail Jamaluddin recorded Karpal’s statement over the live bullets and life-threatening note sent to his home in Jalan Utama, Georgetown, on Thursday.

The police interview, which lasted some 80 minutes, was conducted following the DAP leader’s police report lodged at the Jalan Penang police station yesterday - Malaysiakini.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

> Anwar: 8 months and no action

Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has expressed disappointment that no action had been taken on the police report he lodged eight months ago alleging abuse of power by Attorney-Gereral Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan over his 'black eye' incident in 1998.

The Parliamentary opposition leader also expressed his disappointment with the newly-minted Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) for failing to take action despite promises of transparency.

Anwar said this after he lodged a second report at the Damansara police station about 11.30am today. He was accompanied by PKR vice president R. Sivarasa and dozens of supporters. The report was a follow-up to his first report lodged in June 2008 at the Shah Alam police station.

“I am disappointed that after eight months, no action has been taken against the AG and the IGP," said Anwar.

He acknowled that Minister in the PM's Department (Datuk Seri) Mohamed Nazri Aziz had informed him that the (investigation) papers are now in the AG's chambers.

In today's report, Anwar added some additional information to support his claim that Gani and Musa were responsible for falsifying a police report on his detention by ACP Koh Hong Sang on Sept 21, 1998.

"The report mentioned that I was arrested under ISA (Internal Security Act) and not for charges of sodomy as mentioned by Koh a few hours earlier.

"The AG and IGP conspired to do this because they wanted to hide information from the public that I was assaulted and injured...so that I could not be brought to court immediately."

Anwar was arrested on Sept 20 1998 and brought to Bukit Aman, where he was assaulted by then-IGP Tan Sri Rahim Noor, which resulted in the infamous 'black eye' incident. Rahim was charged in court for the assault and pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to two months jail and fined RM2,000

Musa Hassan was then the case's investigating officer while Gani was the prosecutor  -  the Sun.

Friday, February 20, 2009

> Anwar laments inaction by MACC

Malaysiakini grafic

Opposition leader and Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) de-facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim alleged that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) had yet to act against Barisan Nasional (BN) agents including former Kedah Menteri Besar and Kedah BN chairman Datuk  Seri Mahazir Khalid despite concrete evidence of enticement recorded by commission officers themselves.

Revealing this in the Dewan Rakyat during his debate on the royal address, Anwar in speaking about the alleged bribes, kidnapping and threats used to lure Pakatan Rakyat (PR) elected representatives to leave the party or jump ship said Kulim assemblyman Lim Soo Nee who was one of those who were lured had been used as a bait by the commission to gather evidence against the agents.

“On April 11, 2008, I received a report that BN agents representing Mahazir had offered Lim RM4 million to defect to BN, and this sum was later raised to RM5 million,” he said.

“Arrangement to introduce Lim to Mahazir and the Deputy Prime Minister were also promised,” he added.

Anwar said Lim who was harassed with this offers and persuasions throughout April, May, June and July 2008 lodged a report with the MACC and collaborated with the commission which made a CCTV recording of a meeting between Lim and Mahazir arranged at a hotel in Seberang Jaya at the end of 2008.

“However till today there has been no follow up and I understand that the officer in charge of the investigations had been transferred out of Kedah,” he said.

Anwar when met outside the Dewan was however non-committal when asked if he had a copy of the CCTV recording saying: “You will know at the right time.”

“Lim told us the ACA did it professionally- the voices and visuals are clear,” he said adding that the party lawyer was also present at the time the recording of the negotiations was being taken. 

Anwar claimed there was ample evidence, enough to prefer charge.

“This is a test for the MACC and its independence after all the support and belief that we have shown for the new council,” he said during the debate.

He said he had proof and statements to show that there have been attempts by BN agents to entice PR assemblymen in Kedah to leave the coalition and thus cause the downfall of the PR leadership in Kedah led by Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak.

Among these were Tan Wei Shu who received threats to his life in the form of bullets, while his colleague and Kedah executive council member V.Arumugam had received threats that he will face the same fate as the late Lunas assemblyman Joe Fernandez who was shot to death, harassed by two men and had the rear windscreen of his official car smashed with a brick. Anwar questioned the delays and lapses in police and MACC investigations into reports of these threats and harassment. 

Anwar also gave a lengthy history lesson on the immunity enjoyed by Malay Rulers quoting history books and his experience in drafting the amendments which led to the Rulers using this immunity when he was a minister in the government. “I know the history behind this and the discussions that went on in Cabinet pertaining this,” he said. 

Anwar also questioned Umno over their failure to address the disrespect to the rulers when their party members protested in front of the palaces of Perlis and Kuala Terengganu when they disliked the rulers choice for Mentri Besars.

Now you are talking so much about supporting the rulers following the protests in front of the palace in Kuala Kangsar following the Sultan's decision to appoint BN as the new state government following the resignation of three PR state assemblymen from their respective parties to become independents aligned to the BN - theSun.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

> Speaker's right to suspend

Sivakumar speaks to reporters after the state assembly’s Rights and Privileges Committeedecided to suspend Zambry and his six exco members - Sunpix.


The Perak Speaker acted within his powers when he barred Menteri Besar Datuk Zambry Abdul Kadir and six executive councillors from the next sitting of the state legislature, in the latest move arising from the constitutional crisis in Perak, said a law expert today.

Abdul Aziz Bari, a law professor at the International Islamic University here, told The Malaysian Insider that the Speaker’s authority covers a very wide area in matters involving the assembly’s regulations.

“That includes the finality on the interpretation of provisions in the Standing Orders, the rules which govern the House,” he said.

Veteran lawyer, Karpal Singh, concurred.

Karpal, who is also the DAP chairman, said that while V Sivakumar is a first-term Speaker, he is absolutely within his rights to act as he did today.

Earlier today, Sivakumar announced that Zambry would not be allowed to take part in the state assembly’s proceedings for the next 18 months, following a probe by the state assembly’s Special Privileges Committee.

Sivakumar added that six other BN state lawmakers would also not be allowed in for the next 12 months.

The committee had acted following complaints that the seven state assemblymen were appointed unconstitutionally.

Abdul Aziz observed that at the federal level, the Speaker of the Dewan Rakyat has previously made some “absurd and illogical decisions — rejecting motions and suspending members, among others”.

“Now it is the turn of the BN to taste that,” he noted.

Pakatan Rakyat’s (PR) Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin maintains he is still the lawful menteri besar of Perak as he has neither resigned from his post nor has he been voted out by the majority of assemblymen in the state legislative assembly.

His civil suit against Zambry, filed last Friday challenging the Pangkor assemblyman for usurping his authority, was heard this morning at the High Court here.

Abdul Aziz said that Nizar has a right to stake his claim in court as it is based on the “dubious position of Zambry’s government”.

He added that the state government “owes its position” to the majority in the legislative assembly.

“This is the problem as we are not sure whether Zambry’s got that,” the professor said - The Malaysian Insider.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

> Federal Court... End of the road


Under the Malaysian judicial system, the Federal Court is the final point of arbitration for legal disputes arising from decisions at the lower courts.

I went to two Federal Court proceedings earlier this morning as I don't have my oral questions cued for answer at the Parliament. Both proceedings were presided by Justices Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman and Augustine Paul, whom many feared, and Justice Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin.

The first sealed the fate of Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M. Manoharan, at least for the time being. This DAP colleague of mine will remain under ISA detention, imprisonment without trial. The Federal Court dismissed his appeal against the High Court’s decision that refused to grant him a writ of habeas corpus last year for his release.

'Kamunting Hotel'

The second involved Raja Petra Kamarudin's potential return to Kamunting Hotel if he loses in the current proceeding in which the Home Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, is appealing against the Shah Alam High Court’s decision on Nov 7 last year in allowing RPK’s application for release under habeas corpus.

During the morning session, RPK failed to recuse Justice S. Augustine Paul from hearing his habeas corpus appeal citing real danger of bias against him. Justices Nik Hashim and Zulkefli Ahmad Makinuddin said they were satisfied that RPK's application was made without any merit.

Incidentally, Justice Paul told the court that he wanted to disqualify himself from the proceedings, leaving the hearing to a 2-member panel. After he left the bench, RPK's counsel Malik Imtiaz Sarwar informed the court that the application for recusal could not be heard by the two remaining judges on the grounds that Section 74 of the Courts of Judicature Act requires the sitting of three Federal Court judges.

However, Justice Nik Hashim ruled that they were empowered to hear the application under Section 78 of the same act.

With that, Justice Nik Hashim invited Justice Paul to join the panel to hear two other applications by RPK, namely:

to have a panel of five or seven judges to hear the appeal on the ground that the case involved complex constitutional issues;

to adduce in the appeal his supplementary affidavit as well as the notes of proceedings of his ongoing sedition trial.

Both applications were dismissed by the bench unanimously.

The court was adjourned to next Monday, Feb 23, to hear the case proper in which RPK wanted the Shah Alam High Court’s decision on Nov 7 last year upheld to sustain his freedom from ISA.

I don't want to say both Manoharan and RPK have reached the end of the road in their appeals under the present judiciary system. But I must say I am gravely concerned.

I managed to hold the hands of Manoharan's wife, see her in the eyes, and to ask her to hold up the high spirits - by Jeff Ooi, Screenshots.

> Water back to Selangor?


Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim has accused water concessionaires in the state of practising “pure greed” as his administration tries to rally public opinion behind its bid to acquire the private companies.

Talks with the concession holders appear headed for failure, despite a combined offer of a whopping RM5.7 billion for the companies operating in Selangor.

Under the Water Services Industries Act, all water assets in Peninsular Malaysia must be transferred to the Finance Ministry’s wholly-owned Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB) before the agency restructures water supply in the state.

The Selangor government already owns 80 per cent of the state’s treatment plants, dams and pipelines.

Last Friday, the government offered RM2 billion to take over Syarikat Pengeluar Air Sungai Selangor Sdn Bhd (Splash) and RM3.1 billion for Puncak Niaga Holdings’s wholly-owned PNSB and its 70 per cent-owned Syarikat Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas), and the remainder of the amount for Konsortium ABASS Sdn Bhd.

The Malaysian Insider understands that PAAB has indicated it will be capping the deal to buy over Selangor’s water supply assets at under RM9 billion, meaning that the private companies will swallow the lion’s share of the deal.

The private companies are, however, demanding full compensation for losses of future profits derived from the concession agreements that will be cancelled after the restructuring.

Khalid told The Malaysian Insider yesterday that this did not reflect a proper risk-and-reward ratio.

He explained that the companies should not expect to be compensated for the value of profits that they were making previously without having to take any business risks now.

“If deprivatisation means guaranteeing risks, then this is unfair to the taxpayer. Is it fair to charge for 30 years of returns at no risk after doing business for just four years?” he said.

He said by normal standards, a 12-15 per cent per annum return on equity investment was considered a healthy rate and this was what the state government was offering instead of the full value of profits made so far and extrapolated over the length of the concession.

In view of this, the state government had last month tried to challenge the legitimacy of a proposed tariff hike.

It sent a letter to the Energy, Water and Communications Ministry asking for the concessions to be terminated, a move that could lead to a protracted legal battle.

Khalid had claimed that the National Audit Department concluded that Syabas had not met certain conditions of the agreement, such as engaging in direct negotiations instead of open tenders and exceeding capital expenditure allowances.

The state has organised a public briefing this morning to rally support. Another public briefing is scheduled for Feb 24.

Key to this battle is the fact that, under the Water Services Industry Act (WSIA) 2006, the federal government has the discretion to appoint a licensee to manage water supply in the state, and the state government needs to buy over all private water players to force the federal government to hand over the licence to it.

Failure to do so could very well result in the federal government simply handing the reins back to a private company and allowing it the same sort of agreement it used to enjoy.

Sources also told The Malaysian Insider that Puncak Niaga, a company close to Umno, would prefer to sell just its water assets directly to PAAB, whether or not there is a more generous deal on the table, in return for an appointment as water distributor in Selangor.

The private companies and the federal government hold all the cards as Selangor needs to complete the takeovers by March 31 to head off a possible water rate hike under the 30-year concession agreement between Syabas and the federal and state governments in 2005.

Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor had said that “according to the National Audit Department’s estimates, Syabas could increase the tariff by 30 per cent although the agreement stated 37 per cent because the company had met almost all the conditions.”

Some 1.5 million consumers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya face the increase which may, however, be revoked and restructured if water assets are handed over to PAAB before the hike takes effect in April, according to Shaziman.

Under the WSIA, all water assets in Peninsular Malaysia must be transferred to the Finance Ministry’s wholly-owned Pengurusan Aset Air Bhd (PAAB) before the agency restructures water supply in the state.

With the deadline looming, it plays into the hands of the private companies, which can sit tight and force the Selangor government to “take it or leave it” - The Malaysian Insider.

> Three battle to decide UMNO's Future

With less than two months before the departure of Prime Minister and Umno president Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi, his son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin said Tuesday night the transition of power to Datuk Seri Najib Razak scheduled for early April must be followed by promised reforms.

His opponents in the race for the coveted Umno Youth chief position, Datuk Mukhriz Mahathir and Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo, also spoke on the need for reforms to Umno and Barisan Nasional (BN) in a nationally televised debate Tuesday night.

But all three contenders agreed that the country's affirmative action policies favouring the Malays would have to be continued because they felt the community was still lagging behind economically.

“Do not think that the transition of power will solve everything. The transition is just like laying the foundation. Without reform, the transition will be meaningless,” said Khairy.

The Rembau MP was responding to a question from the host, Dr Agus Yusof on the reason why Umno performed badly in the general election last year, to which Khairy replied that the Malay nationalist party still managed to retain most of its support base.

The three candidates were subjected to a series of tough questions including one on which they were asked to comment on Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's Ketuanan Rakyat slogan.

“I am concerned that this Ketuanan Rakyat means Malays and other races, Islam and other religions will be placed on a level footing. The fact is Malays have a special position while Islam is the constitutional religion,” Dr Mohd Khir said, in what appeared to be an attempt to appeal to the more conservative Malay ground.

“The social contract is not unfair. I challenge those who do not agree to get into Parliament and change the Constitution then.”

Khairy said Umno's failure to maintain the support level it enjoyed in the 2004 election was because the party has failed to deliver on the promises of change it had made.

“We must return to the message of hope in 2004. In 2008 we failed because we failed to manage our biggest victory ever,” said Khairy.

Mukhriz promised to emulate the leadership qualities of his father Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who ruled Malaysia for 22 years, while Khir said Umno needs to return to the foundation which it was formed which is defending the Malay rights and Islam.

The Selangor Opposition Leader attributed the party's poor performance in the last election to its failuare to defend Islam and the Malays.

“When we are seen not to be fighting for religion, those who are religious would support Pas,” said Khir.

He added that the scheduled transition must emulate the similar hand over of power that took place after 1969 when the then Alliance lost its two-thirds majority in the Parliament.

“The renewal led to Pas joining the Barisan Nasional,” said Khir.

Both Mukhriz and Khir also expressed their disappointment at the government for not invoking the Internal Security Act when dealing with street protestors.

The Jerlun MP said the high number of protests led to BN losing the two by-elections.

Khir said that ISA would stop the proliferation of street protest.

“In the case of Karpal Singh, where more than 100 reports have been lodged, but no action has been taken. This is the root of people's disappointment leading to street demonstration,” said Khir referring to the treason allegation against the DAP chairman - The Malaysian Insider.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

> No to hillside development


The Bar Council is deeply concerned with the recent announcement by Works Minister Dato’ Sri Ir. Mohd Zin Mohamed that there will not be a blanket ban on hillside developments.  It is particularly alarming that this statement has been issued at a time when the many controversies surrounding hillside development still remain unresolved, without proper explanation by the authorities.  It is also understood that the Federal Government’s Commission Investigation Report into the cause of the landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa, which has been completed, has yet to be made public.   

The Bar Council released its Report of the Task Force on Bukit Antarabangsa today.  The Report identifies the key likely contributory causes of landslide tragedies, including:  

• The lack of competent expertise in design, construction, site supervision and maintenance and communication during the construction process; and
 
• The lack of strict compliance by state and local authorities, in giving approvals for hillside development, with the relevant regulations, guidelines, planning procedures and safety requirements.

The Bar Council calls for immediate and urgent measures to protect, as a matter of priority, people’s rights to sustainable development and environmental protection.  These include: 

1. The immediate setting-up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Bukit Antarabangsa tragedy;
 
2. The immediate discontinuation of all on-going hillside development projects that do not meet the minimum requirements of safety and/or have not complied with the applicable laws, regulations and guidelines. As a precautionary measure, all hillside development on gradients exceeding 25 degrees should be banned until proper laws are passed;

3. The immediate safety review of all existing hillside development; and
 
4. The immediate review of the legal framework and existing legislation on hillside development.
 
It is hoped that together we will learn from the bitter lessons of these tragedies and not allow them to swiftly fade into the past.  The Bar Council urges the authorities to be mindful of the many lives and homes lost and the harrowing memories carried by the loved ones left behind. We must act now if we are determined to ensure that mistakes are not repeated.   

I am pleased to attach here a copy of the Report of the Task Force.    


Dato’ Ambiga Sreenevasan
President
Malaysian Bar     

Dated 16 February 2009 

> Who took it?


Police have yet to identify the person behind the circulation of nude photographs of Selangor executive councillor (exco), Elizabeth Wong.

Petaling Jaya OCPD, ACP Arjunaidi Mohamed said police would record statements from the man soon and initial investigations revealed that the suspect had several nude photographs of the 37-year-old politician in his possession.

"We will be also calling a journalist, who informed the Bukit Lanjan assemblyperson about her nude photographs yesterday. So I hope everyone will be patient until we complete our investigations," he told a press conference here today.

Arjunaidi said the police have yet to receive the nude pictures and that it was too early to determine whose image actually appeared in the photographs.

He confirmed Wong had lodged a police report at the Damansara police station in Petaling Jaya at about 11.05 pm yesterday after a journalist informed her about the circulation of the photographs.

"However, the report was not complete as she was only informed by a third person (journalist) on the circulation of nude photographs. She (Wong) told the police the photographs were taken when she was sleeping.

"I would like to advise those having the nude photographs to surrender them to the police and assist us in our investigations," he said, adding that police were investigating the case under Section 292 of the Penal Code for possessing pornographic materials.

Stand by Wong

Selangor Menteri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in a media statement said the Pakatan Rakyat state government would stand by Wong.

"For the past 11 months she has carried out her duties diligently and I have confidence that she will continue to perform her duties and responsibilities in serving her constituents as (a state assemblyperson) and an exco.

"YB Elizabeth has a right to privacy in her personal life and that should be respected by all. My other exco colleagues and I will give her support during these trying times," he said.

He added that he believed "some irresponsible parties" would use the issue for political mileage.

"I appeal to the public not to make hasty judgments prior to full police investigations," Khalid said, adding that the matter would be discussed at the state executive council meeting on 18 Feb.

Meanwhile, MCA Wanita national chairperson Chew Mei Fun, in a statement said they empathised with Wong.

"We are outraged by such shameful acts of using women as sexual objects. It is an outright invasion of the privacy of women as well as an exploitation of women for political use.

"We condemn the actions ... because the taking of photographs of bodily parts without their consent or knowledge is against the law and punishable under the Penal Code (Act 574)," she said.

She added: "We would like to advise all women to be cautious. We also urge the government to strictly enforce implementation of the Act which provides for punitive measures so that it becomes a real deterrent against such detestable behavior."

"I am a victim"

Meanwhile, in a press statement released today, Wong explained that she is a victim in a brewing scandal involving the circulation of photographs and video clips featuring her in the nude.

"I am a victim in this incident," the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) politician said in a press statement today.

"The distribution and publication of these photos/video is a malicious attack on my personality.

"This constitutes a gross outrage on my modesty, a gross invasion of my privacy, and in particular the sanctity of my personal life," Wong, who is the first-time assemblyperson.

She condemned the distribution of the photos and videos, said to record Wong "asleep in partial nudity and also in intimate positions", which have been circulating via MMS. The photos were also made available to several publications, including the Malay Mail and theSun.

Wong, a former human rights activist turned politician, is also Wanita PKR information chief. In the Pakatan Rakyat-led Selangor government, she is the exco in charge of tourism, environment and consumer affairs.

Wong's statement revealed that Malay Mail journalists contacted her on 13 Feb to inform her of the paper's plan to publish a story about the photos.

Early reports indicated that the photos were taken without Wong's consent. She lodged a police report yesterday.

"I will fully co-operate with the police ... I will therefore not speculate publicly about those responsible," she said, adding that it was done by unscrupulous persons to "embarrass and discredit" her.

Wong said she would continue discharging her duties as assemblyperson in her constituency.

"I have received a lot of support from my supporters, friends, colleagues and members of my constituency. I wish to thank them for their concern, support and encouragement.

"My family members are standing behind me. I would like to appeal to the media to give me and my family members some breathing space in this trying time so that I can weather this huge challenge," she said.

Politically motivated

PKR information chief Tian Chua, in a statement earlier today, speculated that the salacious revelations were politically motivated.

"I do not discount the possibility that this is part of a plot to tarnish the image of the Pakatan Rakyat," Chua said, citing the case of former Kedah state assemblyperson V Arumugam as another example of a victim of a smear campaign.

"I appeal to the public not to be influenced by these tactics that are designed to shift attention away from core social and economic issues," Chua added.

In KUALA LUMPUR, Bernama reports that Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, when asked about it at Parliament's lobby, said the matter should be left to the police to investigate.

Members of Parliament when asked about it during a break in Parliament's sitting today, had varied comments on it.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz said something like this should not have happened to an elected representative like Wong and it did not augur well for her.

Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said spreading such pictures was unethical but Malaysians should also maintain a lifestyle that reflected Eastern values.

Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said in this age of technology, leaders irrespective of whether they were from the government or opposition, needed to be careful about their movements.

"If it is true (the case involves Wong), the people will be the best judge," he said.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said although it may be a personal issue, it was better for Wong to resign as exco and state assemblyperson as it would be difficult for her to discharge her duties henceforth.

Teresa Kok (DAP-Seputeh), who is a senior Selangor exco, said it was not necessary for Wong to resign as the circulation of the pictures was the work of irresponsible people.

PKR vice president, R Sivarasa said the case involved invasion of a person's privacy where the pictures had fallen into the hands of irresponsible people - The Nut Graph.