Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A ‘routine check’ after 31 years? What’s the real reason, Bible Society asks RoS


Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) board member Eugene Yapp and BSM honorary secretary Rev. Mathew K. Punnoose giving a statement on the Registrar of Societies (RoS) Selangor postponing their visit. — Picture by Choo Choy May Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) board member Eugene Yapp and BSM honorary secretary Rev. Mathew K. Punnoose giving a statement on the Registrar of Societies (RoS) Selangor postponing their visit. — Picture by Choo Choy May
PETALING JAYA, June 30 — The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) questioned today the Registrar of Societies’ (RoS) assertion in wanting to perform a “routine check” of its premises here, saying there has been no such previous visit since its establishment in 1984.
According to BSM, RoS was scheduled to visit today, but had called it off at the last minute without giving any reason.
“BSM welcomes the proposed visit of the RoS in the spirit of transparency and accountability but we would like to know the reasons for such a ‘routine check’ under Section 63 which does not provide for it.
“We have therefore requested the RoS Selangor give us the reason for such a visit,” BSM honorary secretary Reverend Mathew K. Punnoose said in a statement on behalf of its executive committee.
“This is the first time for such a ‘routine check’ since the formation of BSM in 1984,” Mathew added.
Mathew said Selangor RoS had abruptly called him this morning to postpone the visit until an undisclosed date.
Eugene Yapp, a BSM board member, confirmed to reporters here that no reason was given for the regulator’s abrupt cancellation.
BSM said it was notified through a June 23 email notice of the planned visit today, which it was later told was a “routine check”.
Yesterday, Malaysiakini reported that RoS did not provide any reason for the visit when it notified the BSM via an email, with the regulator reportedly telling BSM to prepare its membership roll, meeting minutes and accounts for inspection.
An RoS official told Malay Mail Online yesterday that the planned two-hour visit to BSM’s office starting at 1pm today is a normal procedure that is provided for under the Societies Act 1966, denying that it is related to a recent Court of Appeal ruling against the federal government.
The RoS insisted that it is merely exercising its rights under Section 63 of the Act ― which grants the registrar power of entry and inspection of a society’s premises, books, accounts, minutes of meetings and other documents.
The particular section, however, states that such powers are invoked if the registrar “has reason to believe that any society is carrying on activities in contravention of any provision of this Act or any regulations made thereunder or any of its rules” and after notice has been given.
A BSM member who declined to be named told Malay Mail Online yesterday that the society had already dutifully sent in its minutes, membership list and accounts as required.
In January last year, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) carried out a surprise raid of BSM’s Selangor office and seized over 300 copies of the bible in Malay and Iban, using a 1988 Selangor state law that prohibits non-Muslims from using “Allah” to refer to God.
The bibles were returned to the Christian community last November, albeit stamped in red with a warning that they were not to be published or used anywhere in Selangor. 
- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/a-routine-check-after-31-years-whats-the-real-reason-bible-society-asks-ros#sthash.2PgYMpnU.dpuf



The arbitrary enforcement of dress codes at various government offices and the suggestions that non-Muslims not eat in the presence of Muslims during the fasting month are disturbing in that they impinge on the rights of non-Muslims in this country. The mufti of Perak even went so far as to say that non-Muslims should dress more ‘appropriately’ in public places out of ‘respect’ for Muslims who will sin upon seeing people, including non-Muslims, who do not cover their ‘aurat’. The ongoing controversy stems from the mistaken belief that it is the duty of non-Muslims to remove all temptation from Muslims so that they are spared the necessity of mustering their self-discipline to resist normal urges of the flesh. Is this what the practice of Islam is about?

Many years ago, when I was a student at iTM, a fellow student from Sarawak was eating a slice of cake during Ramadan when a Muslim student approached him and knocked the cake from his hand. Needless to say, we were shocked by the assault as such things never happened in Sarawak. We view the recent incidents with alarm, as these are signs of the attempts to Islamise our secular country. Such attempts are getting more frequent, and the government appears to be succumbing to the voices of the extremists by allowing them to happen, such as the enforcement of dress codes by their security officers and allowing teachers and muftis to make unreasonable and offensive comments with impunity.

The Islamic religion as I understand it, is not a religion of compulsion. There is certainly no compulsion on people of other faiths to ease the religious duties of Muslims by removing so-called ‘temptations’ from their sight. Temptation is everywhere and cannot be removed. The purpose of fasting and the requirement of religious piety, as I understand it, is a testing of one’s faith and willpower in dealing with ‘nafsu’ and other external ‘disturbances’. Instead of asking others to remove the forces of temptation by covering up and hiding in the toilet to eat and drink, teachers and leaders should encourage adherents to delve into themselves to find the strength and willpower to resist temptation and to carry on with their normal daily activities. We live in a multi-religious country where Christians, Buddhists and Hindus also fast as a part of our religious practices but there is no demand that people of other faiths respect us by not eating in our presence. Therefore, the excuse of ‘not-respecting’ one’s religion cannot and should not be used to justify the on-going arbitrary imposing of dress codes and attempts to regulate the eating habits of non-Muslims in this country.

By demanding that non-Muslims mollycoddle and tip-toe around Muslims, the muftis and teachers are doing the Muslims of this country a disservice, and bringing their religion into disrepute. The only way to avoid temptation is to become cave-dwelling hermits, and even that is no guarantee, as the mind and imagination can be the most difficult to tame. I am thankful that there have been many articles and letters written by moderate Muslims speaking the voice of reason, and I am sure that the majority of our Muslim population have stronger faiths than what the ultra religious teachers and muftis give them credit for.

East Malaysians are sorely disappointed with the Prime Minister for his silence on these matters. Having visited Sarawak so regularly in the previous few months and basking in the support of the Chief Minister, he should bear in mind that we do not take kindly to having our constitutional freedoms and human rights threatened by the champions of Islamisation. We are still waiting for him to act like the Prime Minister for ALL Malaysians instead of a beleaguered party chief struggling for survival. His track record in defending our rights such as in the ‘Allah’ and Bible issue has been dismal, and we fear that racial and religious tensions will continue to escalate if he cannot find the testicular fortitude to lead this country out of this festering mess that is a consequence of the BN government.

Baru Bian
ADUN N70 Ba’ Kelalan
30 JUNE 2015

Sarawak Report wants cyber investigation firm to confirm quotes over ‘tampered’ documents

Published: 30 June 2015 1:21 AM
The Sarawak Report expose which was published in March with revelations on the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture and its links to Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho. – Sarawak Report screenshot, June 29, 2015.

The Sarawak Report expose which was published in March with revelations on the 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture and its links to Malaysian businessman Low Taek Jho. – Sarawak Report screenshot, June 29, 2015.

Sarawak Report is disputing news reports quoting a "cyber intelligence" firm on the veracity of its articles a few months ago pertaining to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) issue.
The London-based whistleblower site wants Protection Group International (PGI) to confirm quotes that had been published by the New Straits Times last week in reports following the arrest of PetroSaudi International Ltd's former director Xavier Andre Justo in Thailand.
Sarawak Report said PGI opted not to answer, saying it needed to check with its client PetroSaudi, which is one of the parties linked to the scandal-ridden 1MDB.
The NST had last week reported PGI as saying that Justo "tampered" with emails from PetroSaudi, and Sarawak Report had then published these "tampered" documents in "its claims of impropriety against 1MDB".
PGI was further quoted as saying, "Our analysis substantiates that Justo is the source of the data published by Sarawak Report.
“For example, when we looked into a PowerPoint file that was on one of the Sarawak Report’s blogs, we found evidence in the metadata of that file that it had been handled by a certain 'xavierj' in 2013; two years after Justo left PetroSaudi, and four years after the file had originally been created by a law firm that advised PetroSaudi.
“It is also clear that the stolen data sets are incomplete, and underwent an editing process after they were removed from PetroSaudi’s systems, and before they were published on the Internet. There are many inconsistencies between the published data and the data which still exists on files within PetroSaudi relating to that period of time. Simply put, it is incomplete data, creatively selected and edited to fit a desired narrative."
Over the past weekend Sarawak Report’s London lawyers sent an urgent letter via email to PGI to confirm the quotes attributed to them by the NST.
The company responded by saying they cannot say whether or not they made these statements to the NST without getting permission from PetroSaudi International, who are themselves under several investigations regarding the disappearance of millions of ringgit from 1MDB.
Sarawak Report questions how is the Malaysian government to rely on alleged statements from PGI, when the firm is not prepared to confirm whether or not they made them without permission from this interested party.
"In short PGI are not prepared to publicly go on the record and confirm that any of its employees made these remarks to NST," Sarawak Report added.
Sarawak Report had claimed in a February 28 report that the entire 1MDB-PetroSaudi joint venture deal was initiated by businessman Low Taek Jho and his team on September 8, 2009, less than a month before the deal was signed.
DAP lawmaker Tony Pua had also said, at the time, that PetroSaudi International had created the shell company, 1MDB-PetroSaudi, from scratch on September 18, 2009, just 10 days before its subsidiary received US$1 billion from 1MDB.
Four days later, on September 29, 1MDB bought 40% of new shares in 1MDB-PetroSaudi and injected RM1 billion in cash. The next day, US$700 million was taken out of 1MDB-PetroSaudi and given to PSI.
Following the arrest of Justo last week, PetroSaudi International released a statement saying "Xavier Justo was arrested at his home in Thailand by the Crime Suppression Division of the Royal Thai Police and charged with attempted blackmail and extortion against PetroSaudi International.
"We are relieved that Mr Justo will now face justice through the courts. We have been the victims of a regrettable crime that has unfortunately been politicised in Malaysia.
"We are happy to finally set the record straight and we apologise to the Malaysian people for the harm that one of our unscrupulous ex-employees has caused to them," he added.
However, a few critics of the government-owned investment firm, including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former information minister Tan Sri Zainuddin Maidin, are questioning the sequence of events leading to Justo's arrest, saying "it appears planned, as if to clear Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's name". – June 29, 2015.
- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/sarawak-report-wants-cyber-investigation-firm-to-confirm-quotes-over-tamper#sthash.6diRSgA9.dpuf

S'gor PKR and DAP meet, no consensus yet

3:19PM Jun 30, 2015
By Alyaa Azhar
The Selangor chapters of PKR and DAP held a formal discussion on the current political situation in the state today, but no decision has been made yet.

After the meeting at the Selangor Menteri Besar's office today, Selangor DAP head Tony Pua (photo) was tight-lipped on details as further discussions will be held after the month of Ramadan.

"It was a constructive discussion, (an) exchange of ideas and on the status of the Selangor state governtment and the current crisis.

"After a 30-minute discussion, we understand each other's position better and we will meet again after Hari Raya," he said.

PKR's delegation included deputy-president Azmin Ali and women's wing head Zuraida Kamaruddin. Azmin is also the Selangor PKR head and Selangor menteri besar.

Questions on the tenability of the Selangor government arose after ties between PAS and DAP frayed. However, both parties have pledged their support for Azmin to remain as menteri besar.

PKR is unable to form a government in Selangor without the support of both PAS and DAP.

[More to follow]

~ Malaysiakini

New fuel prices? You'll have to find out yourself

5:11PM Jun 30, 2015
By Kow Gah Chie
Petrol dealers nationwide have welcomed the government's decision to cease the practice making prior announcements of the monthly fuel price changes.

“This is in line with our wishes as we have urged the government to do so.

"This is because early announcements of petrol price hikes will only interrupt the smooth operation of petrol stations," said Hashim Othman, president of Petrol Dealers Association of Malaysia (PDAM).

He said the disruption occurs when people rush to the nearest petrol stations whenever there is a fuel price hike often resulting in the petrol station running out of fuel.

The petrol station operators are also ultimately accused of hoarding stock, he added.

Likewise, consumers often stop purchasing fuel one day before the expected price increase and thus the delivery and stocking at the petrol station is interrupted, said Hashim Othman.

He was responding to the announcement made earlier today by Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Hasan Malek who said the government would no longer announce new fuel prices on the last day of the month.

"We have decided to stop the previous practice of announcing the new prices on the last day of the month.

"From now, motorists will only know at midnight on the last day of the month if the prices are going up or down or are maintained," said Hasan Malek as quoted by The Star.

The government adopted the current methods after it abolished fuel subsidies last December and adopted a managed float mechanism.

RON95 and diesel are currently priced at RM2.05 per litre while RON97 is sold at RM2.35 per litre inclusive of GST.

[More to follow]
~ Malaysiakini

Anwar stricken ill, lawyers moot house arrest

11:45AM Jun 30, 2015
Lawyers acting for PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim have urged the authorities to remove him from jail and place him under house arrest to enable him to have access to regular medical treatment.

In a press release today, lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah and Jared Genser said Anwar's health is deteriorating rapidly because he is being denied the appropriate medical treatment.

Sivarasa and Genser said Anwar has lost 6kg since his incarceration on Feb 10 and is suffering from irregular blood pressure, a 4cm growth in his kidney, muscle tear on his shoulder and chronic arthiritis.

Among other treatments, the lawyers said, Anwar required a gluten-free diet and intensive physiotherapy, which cannot be offered in the Sungai Buloh prison.

This was deduced after Anwar was sent to the Kuala Lumpur general hospital on June 2, where he was housed for two days.

"The doctors reported to him orally that he requires further evaluation and treatment relating to a number of medical issues

"(But) the prison says it has received no medical report from the hospital requesting further testing," the statement by the lawyers says.

Anwar's confinement cell is a solitary unit, where he bathes using a bucket and uses a squat toilet. The lawyer said the hot and humid conditions, with minimal ventilation, have exacerbated his health problems.

Sivarasa and Genser's statement appears aimed at an international audience.

Genser is the head of Washington DC-based human rights group Freedom Now, an independent non-governmental organisation that works to free prisoners of conscience worldwide.

~ Malaysiakini

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sarawak birds, mammals at risk of extinction from mega-dams, says study

Published: 29 June 2015 12:48 PM
 The clearing and flooding of forest lands to prepare for Sarawak's three mega hydroelectric dams in Bakun, Murum and Baram has impacted on an estimated two-thirds of all tree and arthropod species, says an American study. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, June 29, 2015.
The clearing and flooding of forest lands to prepare for Sarawak's three mega hydroelectric dams in Bakun, Murum and Baram has impacted on an estimated two-thirds of all tree and arthropod species, says an American study. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, June 29, 2015.

A study by the University of California on the direct impact of three of Sarawak's mega-dams on biodiversity has found that a number of mammals and birds on the critical and endangered species list would be affected, it said in a report handed to the Sarawak government over the weekend.

The clearing and flooding of forest lands to prepare for Sarawak's three mega hydroelectric dams in Bakun, Murum and Baram has impacted on an estimated two-thirds of all tree and arthropod species.

Facing extinction are four tree and 35 arthropod species, the study, "Integrated long-term energy planning for rapidly developing economies: a case study of megaprojects in Borneo" said.

It also found “at least” 331 bird species and 164 mammal species that would be affected by the land clearing and flooding.

The affected species include a number on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of critical and endangered species, such as the Sunda pangolin, bay cat (Catopuma badia), otter civet, grey gibbon, hairy nosed otter, flatheaded cat, smokey flying squirrel, and birds like the storm’s stork and Bornean pheasant.

“This represents 57% and 69% of Bornean bird and mammal species,” the study by Prof Daniel Kammen of the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California in Berkeley and Dr Shirley Rebekah of the Energy and Resources Group of the university, stated.

Both Kammen and Rebekah are also from the university's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory (RAEL) where Kammen is the director.

The 2,400-megawatt (Mw) Bakun dam on Sungai Balui in Belaga is now operational. The smaller 944Mw Murum will likely be commissioned later this year while the Baram dam is still at the planning stage.

Together these three dams hold about 4.5 gigawatts (Gw) of generation capacity and have flooded 1,355 square km of forested land.

If the Sarawak government were to complete development of the full 12 mega-dam portfolio as it has proposed, some 100,000 indigenous people could be displaced and at least 2,425 sq km of direct forest cover lost, the study said.

“Borneo’s forests are large stores of natural capital, from extractable forest products to the numerous direct and indirect ecosystem services they provide.

“These forests have undisputed global and local significance, however neither the economic value of its functional ecosystem services nor the economic value of its intrinsic worth to humans have been well documented,” the study stated.

Kammen, who met Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem over the state's plan for mega-dams on Saturday, said the state did not “need to build additional dams” to meet its projected power needs.

The study found that the first hydroelectric dam the state built in Batang Ai, the Bakun dam and recently installed combined gas and coal-fired generators were sufficient to meet demand for electricity.

It stated if the Bakun, Murum and Baram dams were all built and operational, there would a large excess of non-dispatched energy.

The study also found that the state's corridor of renewable energy (SCORE) project “has a greater total cost and levelised cost than other policy scenarios”.

“While it has a low fuel cost and low emissions cost, the high annual build cost and associated fixed costs are high since the system is overbuilt.”

Kammen said yesterday large dams, even though they appeared cheap in the beginning, would be expensive in the long run as planners were “not good at adding non-money costs, costs outside the basic economics” such as delays, problems with natural disasters, cost of methane emissions, loss of biodiversity, loss of the river systems and the cost on local people's health when they find they could no longer fish, hunt or do things they did before.

Following the researchers' meeting with Adenan, PKR Sarawak vice-chairman See Chee How said he was hopeful that Adenan would rethink plans to build a series of mega-dams, aimed at providing cheap energy for Sarawak's industrialisation plan. – June 29, 2015.

- See more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/sarawak-birds-mammals-at-risk-of-extinction-from-mega-dams-says-study#sthash.9JGhWnS7.dpuf

Putrajaya breathing down Bible Society's neck

10:00AM Jun 29, 2015
By Bob Teoh
Coming so soon after Prime Minister Najib Razak assured Christians of moderation, the Registry of Society (ROS) is now threatening to crack down on the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM), merely on suspicions of acts “prejudicial to public peace, welfare, good order or morality in Malaysia”.

According to those familiar with the matter, ROS in an email notice told BSM that a ROS team would be at its office, between 1pm and 3pm tomorrow, but it did not state just what the BSM has done  to bring about the call at its office.

BSM was only told to get its membership roll, minutes of meetings and accounts ready for inspection by ROS.

The BSM executive council is alarmed that ROS would resort to such high-handedness and is seeking legal advice. Its president, former Christian Federation of Malaysia chairperson and Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia, Rev Ng Moon Hing (photo), is out of town and could not be contacted for comments.

For good measure, the ROS is also roping some other societies for similar inspections, citing clause 63 of the Societies Act 1966 as grounds for its action.

This clause states that the registrar, if he has reason to believe that any society is carrying out activities in contravention of the law, may enter into any registered society and may search such places and inspect all books, accounts, minutes of meetings and other documents kept by the society.

Clause 64 further states that if the registrar has reason to believe that any registered society is being used for purposes prejudicial to public peace, welfare, good order or morality in Malaysia, the ROS may enter, with or without assistance and using force for that purpose, if necessary, into any place so suspected.

Further, the ROS may also seize and detain any books, accounts, writings, lists of members, banners, seals, insignia, arms or other articles belonging to the registered society which ROS has reason to believe may be required in respect of further proceedings.

The registrar of ROS and his deputies are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and have immense powers. No one can take them to court.

Provisions of Societies Act are very wide

The provisions of the Societies Act 1966 are so wide that the registrar can act merely on suspicions and he need not even have to say what his suspicions may be. If need be, he can even use violence to gain entry for his purpose!

The powers of the ROS are legendary. In the recent leadership dispute in the MIC, a component of the ruling coalition, the registrar can even determine who is qualified to be the acting MIC president.

In his speech at the launch of the Christians for Peace and Harmony (CPHM) movement earlier this month, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said he is “an advocate of wasatiyyah or moderation in everything we do. All religions preach moderation, but it is extremism that creates conflict, rather than unifies the multicultural society of the country”.

The latest move by the ROS against the Bible Society of Malaysia comes after the Home Ministry announced its intention to put in place new curbs on the Alkitab, the Malay language Bible, recently.

This comes in the form of the draft Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), which was done without consultation of the bumiputera Christians of Sabah and Sarawak, nor with the Orang Asli Christians, who are the main users of the Alkitab.

Under the proposed SOP, the import and use of the Alkitab is to be placed under the jurisdiction of the Quranic Text Division of the Home Ministry and subject to the provisions of the Printing of Quranic Text Act 1986, which is solely meant for Muslims.

The draft SOP is oppressive and it overrides the 10-point solution for the usage of the Alkitab that was introduced by Najib himself in 2011.

It looks like Najib needs to explain to Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is in charge of the ROS, the Quranic Text Division and the SOP, what exactly he means by wasatiyyah in the hope that moderation may prevail over extremism in Putrajaya.

Meanwhile, let us all hope that in the spirit of Ramadan, the suspicions of the ROS against the Bible Society of Malaysia are unfounded and the inspection may turn out to be just a routine one.

Malaysiakini has attempted to contact the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur ROS office for details but none have been forthcoming. A spokesperson for the ROS headquarters in Putrajaya said they were unaware of the matter.

BOB TEOH, a former secretary-general of the Confederation of Asean Journalists, is a contributor to Malaysiakini.

~ Malaysiakini