Monday, August 29, 2016

Petronas agreement too little too slow, says PKR

 | August 28, 2016

See Chee How says the state must be the ultimate decision-maker and not allow the Federal Government and Petronas to dictate the exploitation of Sarawak's resources.

PETALING JAYA: Federal government concessions to provide better employment opportunities for Sarawakians in Petronas operations come “too little too slow”, according to Sarawak PKR vice-chairman See Chee How.

In a statement issued today, See congratulated the state government for the outcome of negotiations with the Federal Government and Petronas but called for greater efforts to reclaim what “belonged” to Sarawakians in the first place.

He applauded the working plan to increase the number of Sarawakians employed by Petronas by 2020, but regretted the lack of agreement on a Sarawakian as general manager of Petronas operations in the state.

He said Sarawak had many capable candidates to fill the position.

He called for a Sarawakian to be appointed as human resource manager for Sarawak operations, and a recruitment body under the State Secretary to implement the localization plan.

See said the promise of 50 places for Sarawakian undergraduates in University Technology Petronas fell short of the demand for a Sarawak campus of the university to be set up.

He also called for the state government to be involved in the award of all licences and production sharing contracts.

“We have lost much over the last 50 years and Sarawak has suffered as a result of it,” he said, “We must not leave it to the Federal Government and others to further dictate and consider giving us some concessions.”

He called for the state to be the ultimate decision-maker, although Petronas was a “preferred partner” in the state’s ventures.

The state has been at loggerheads with Petronas over the number of Sarawakians employed by Petronas, and has frozen the issuing of work permits, which are required by Malaysians from outside Sarawak as well as foreign nationals.

Yesterday, Chief Minister Adenan Satem said an agreement had been reached with the Federal Government and Petronas on employment of Sarawakians by Petronas, which included the appointment of a Sarawakian on the Petronas board of directors.

~ Free Malaysia Today

Court declares ban on Bersih yellow T-shirt 'unreasonable'

Hafiz Yatim     Published     Updated

The Court of Appeal today allowed the appeal by Bersih 2.0 and declared that the ban on the yellow T-shirt and pamphlet with the words Bersih on it was unreasonable.

Justice Mohd Zawawi Mohd Salleh, who led the panel, allowed the appeal in terms of law.

He said no order is made as to costs.

The other judges were Justice Abdul Rahman Sebli and Justice Asmabi Mohamad.

On Feb 19, the Shah Alam High Court has upheld the government’s decision to ban Bersih 4 T-shirts and related printed materials.

Bersih had applied to challenge the government ban announced in the run-up to the massive Bersih 4 mega rally last Aug 29 and 30.

Justice Mohd Zawawi said that a written judgment would be prepared on such an important issue later by Justice Abdul Rahman.

Bersih 2.0, through its chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah, and two other steering committee members Masjaliza Hamzah and Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, named the home minister and the government as respondents in the judicial review application following the ban of the words on T-shirts and pamphlet on Aug 27.
Bersih had applied to challenge the government's ban announced in the run-up to the massive Bersih 4 mega rally last Aug 29 and 30.

Maria said that today was the first anniversary of Bersih 4 and lauded the decision of the court as it recognised that people could assemble peacefully to protest.

She said this was an important decision as several people were arrested because they were in possession or were wearing the T-shirts.

“With today's decision, the order by the minister is declared null and void and hence they should not be worried over the arrest,” she said.
[More to follow]

~ Malaysiakini

More still needs to be done to resolve unilateral conversion of minors

G25     Published     Updated
COMMENT The G25 warmly welcomes the announcement by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak at the launch of the National Women’s Day celebrations on Aug 25, 2016, that the cabinet has agreed to amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 ( Act 164 ).

According to the prime minister, the proposed amendments are scheduled to be tabled by the Home Ministry at the next sitting of the Dewan Rakyat in October this year.

The prime minister said that Act 164 would be amended based on three core principles.

The first is that any issue relating to divorce where the marriage had been solemnised under civil law, must be settled in the civil court.

This is to ensure that ancillary matters such as child custody rights and child maintenance until higher education are protected and assured.

The second principle is universal justice, whereby the amendments to the Act will give both parties the opportunity to resolve civil marriage issues at the civil court.

The third principle is the resolution of conflicts between the civil court and the Shariah Court where one party converts to Islam.

The amendments aim to overcome legal loopholes and overlap in existing laws.

The G25 is hopeful that the amendments to Act 164 will put to an end the injustices suffered by non-Muslim wives in the numerous cases that have come before the civil court since the Shamala case in 2004, where the husband converts to Islam and, to compound matters, converts the infant children of the marriage without the consent of the wife.

The common factor in all these cases was that the unilateral conversion was done to spite the wife and deny her custody of the children.

The relevant provision of the federal constitution in respect to the religion of a minor is Article 12(4).
This provision states :-
12(4) For the purposes of Clause (3), the religion of a person under the age of eighteen years shall be decided by his parent or guardian.

However, the Federal Court decision in the case of Subashini in 2008, has compounded the problem for the mothers in such cases because it ruled that “parent” means either parent and not both parents.

The Bar Council and many legal experts are of the view that the Federal Court ruling in the above case is wrong.

Article 160 of the Federal Constitution explains the rules of interpretation .

The Eleventh Schedule under section 2 (94) and (95) state that words importing the masculine gender include females and words in the singular include plural and vice versa.

It is also to be noted that until 2002 , the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Federal Constitution, as published by the government printers, translated the word “parent” as “ibu bapa”.

However, in the 2002 edition, the word “parent” was translated as “ibu atau bapa”.

Clearly, for the word “ibu bapa “ to be changed to “ibu atau bapa” would require an amendment to the Federal Constitution.

But from what could be ascertained, there has been no such amendment.

In light of the above, the G25 would urge the government to amend Article 12(4) of the Federal Constitution in order to nullify the Federal Court decision in the Subashini case and make it very clear that the word “parent” in the above Article means both parents and not just a single parent.

In the meantime, we would also urge the government to rectify the mistake made by the government printers in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the federal constitution and restore the translation of “parent” to the original “ibu bapa”.

The G25 sincerely hopes that the government will at the same time address the controversial issue of unilateral conversion of minors by one parent without the consent of the other parent .

At present this is allowed under the existing Federal Territories Islamic Law Enactment and several other state Islamic law Enactments.

However, in April 2009 the cabinet had decided that children of parents where one of them chooses to convert to Islam, must continue to be raised in the common religion at the time of the marriage.

Enforce cabinet decision on conversion

In this regard we urge the federal government and the relevant state governments to translate the above-mentioned cabinet decision into law by amending the Federal Territories Islamic Law Enactment 1993 and the relevant state Islamic law enactments by making it a requirement for both parents to consent to the conversion of their child /children.

This would be in line with the third core principle announced by the prime minister of resolving conflicts between civil and syariah courts where one party to a marriage converts to Islam, and will put into practice the government’s intention to overcome legal loopholes and overlap in existing laws.

Our objection to the idea of unilateral conversion of minors to Islam, is that, besides being unfair to non-Muslims, it entrenches inequalities in Malaysia and does so in the name of Islam.

It implies that a Muslim parent, even if newly converted, has more rights than a non-Muslim parent.

This is contrary to Article 8 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees that all persons are equal before the law and entitled to the equal protection of the law.

This article further provides that there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the grounds only of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender, in any law.

We note that in all the cases of unilateral conversion of children following the father’s conversion to Islam, the Islamic authorities had allowed the conversion apparently without inquiring into the background of the husband involved and without giving the wife the opportunity to be heard.

In this respect, we would urge the Islamic authorities to undertake the proper investigations in order to determine the real reason for the person wishing to convert.

This may prevent would-be converts from using conversion to escape his responsibilities to his family under civil law, thus abusing the right to convert and making a mockery of Islam.
We would further urge the Islamic authorities concerned to guide the convert on the path of righteousness and prevent him from denying the rights of his non-Muslim wife and that of their children.
Indeed, good and righteous conduct on the part of husbands and fathers towards their wives and children are enjoined in the Quran.

Finally, the G25 also welcomes the announcement by the prime minister of the setting-up of a task force to study the issue of sex crimes, especially rape, involving children.

This is timely given the reported rise in sexual crimes against children.

We hope that the task force will recommend the setting-up of a register of sex offenders and to make it an offence to be in possession of child pornographic materials.

G25 is a group of retired Malay top senior civil servants.

~ Malaysiakini

Friday, August 26, 2016

Has Interpol M’sia requested for Lee Chee Kiang’s extradition, Baru asks

Baru Bian
Baru Bian
KUCHING: State PKR chairman Baru Bian wants to know whether Interpol Malaysia has requested for the extradition of Lee Chee Kiang (also known as Dato Stephen Lee), who is wanted by the Malaysian police for the murder of former PKR Miri branch secretary Bill Kayong.

Baru, who is Ba Kelalan assemblyman, also asked whether the Malaysian government had made a request for Lee’s extradition, especially now that the people had been informed that the Australian police were aware of his whereabouts.

“The information we have received is that the suspect is not in the Interpol wanted list, and we would like the police and the Attorney General’s Office to update us on the status of the case.

“Bill Kayong’s family and friends are still waiting for the arrest of the alleged mastermind behind the killing of Bill and they should be assured that all the necessary is being done to bring the suspect back to Malaysia, notwithstanding the provisions of the Australian Extradition Act 1988,” he said in a press statement yesterday.

Baru was responding to news report yesterday in which the Australian High Commissioner Rod Smith was reported to have said that the Australian authorities were aware of the whereabouts of Lee.

However, Smith said there was not much that he could say about the case because it is subject to the legal processes in Australia.

Despite the disclosure by Smith, state Police Commissioner Datuk Mazlan Mansor said the state police had not received any official notice from either the Interpol or the Australian authorities regarding the location of Lee.

Mazlan added that the process of arresting and extraditing Lee was currently out of the hands of the police here due to matters of jurisdiction and legality.

He also said the police had not frozen Lee’s assets as of now, although the matter was considered during the course of the investigation.

Lee, who is one of the two remaining suspects wanted by the police, fled to Singapore from Miri on June 23, two days after Bill’s murder on June 21.

On July 3, Lee flew to Melbourne, Australia from Singapore but his location was unknown.

On Aug 18, suspect Chin Wui Chung gave himself up in the company of his lawyer at the Krokop police station, leaving only Lee and Kong Sien Ming still at large.

~ Borneo Post

Baru hopes Masing’s statement on roads not mere rhetoric

KUCHING: State PKR welcomes Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing’s statement that the State is targeting to link all places by road by 2030 as it is better late than never.

However, its chairman Baru Bian hoped that it was not mere rhetoric and that the present government would be more serious than the last one in delivering its promises.

“We also note the deputy chief minister’s comment that we need the federal government to give the necessary funding of RM24 billion to enable these roads to be built.

“In Tuesday’s papers, Deputy Finance Minister II Datuk Lee Chee Leong declared that the federal government would give priority to Sarawak’s development and would continue to take proactive measures to develop rural areas.

“Sadly, we have heard this tune being sung by the federal government since the very beginning in 1963 when Sarawak agreed to join the formation of Malaysia. It has been a string of empty promises since then, and we have no reason to believe that anything has changed.

“Even Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem is facing problems claiming the rights promised to us,which has been eroded since then,” Baru said in a press statement.

Masing on Wednesday was reported to have said that at least RM24 billion was needed in the next 15 years for all areas in the State to be connected by road. He said this would be a big challenge to the State and urged the federal government to give the necessary funding.

Baru said the sad and inescapable fact was that the State was still dependent on allocations from the federal government for its much needed development.

 “This is the truth of the matter and people are beginning to see the reality of this federal-state balance of power situation. Where the opposition had been blamed for the lack of projects before, people now see that it is due to lack of funds from the federal government.”

He said one way of expediting the projects without relying on the federal government was to continue to fight for an increase in our oil and gas royalty to 20 per cent.

“I urge the chief minister and his ministers not to let up in their demands for what is owed to Sarawak and Sarawakians. As Aug 31 approaches and we are asked to celebrate the Malayan Independence Day, we should reflect on the price we have had to pay for the progress they have enjoyed since 1963.

“How much longer are we willing to put up with this inequality? I believe not much longer.”

~ Borneo Post

Tengku Adenan’s response prompts Baru to ask if govt serious in curbing corruption

Baru Bian
Baru Bian

KUCHING: Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s statement that he is in fear of being targeted by criminals if he declares his assets publicly, is unacceptable and a poor excuse for the lack of accountability and transparency that many public officials and politicians are guilty of.

State PKR chairman Baru Bian who is Ba Kelalan assemblyman, said Tengku Adnan’s statement gave the impression that this country was overrun with gangsters and criminals, which did not reflect well on our law enforcement bodies.

However, he said that was not the point. “The issue here is whether the government is serious in its effort to curb corruption, and if it is, the starting point is with exemplary leadership.

“It is difficult to insist that all public officials declare their assets publicly when the No 1 public official, the prime minister, does not do so, unlike the top public officials in USA and Hong Kong.

“Top Malaysian government officials and cabinet ministers are required to confidentially declare their assets to the prime minister, which are accessible to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

“The question that needs to be asked – why declare to the prime minister and not to MACC directly? There is no independent mechanism to verify what is declared, according to the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS). So this practice defeats the purpose of the declarations.”

Baru pointed out that the necessity of a system for the declaration of assets was to prevent conflict of interest situations and abuse of power, and to detect illicit wealth.

“The reluctance of certain public figures to declare their assets is not surprising, given the system of patronage where development contracts and projects are politicised to support the cronies of those in power.

“These unjust methods of the government authorities in awarding contracts breed corruption. This is the heart of the matter, and as long as the BN/Umno government is in place, I do not expect the system to change anytime soon, and we will continue to hear excuses from these rich officials for refusing to declare their assets publicly.”

~ Borneo Post

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gov't cannot claim damages from Bersih, Court of Appeal rules

Hafiz Yatim     Published     Updated

The Court of Appeal in a landmark decision today affirmed that the government and police have no right to institute a claim under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 for damages allegedly incurred in the 2012 Bersih 3 rally.

In upholding the Kuala Lumpur High Court decision, the three-member bench dismissed the appeal by the government and police against the Bersih steering committee members, including its then co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan.

In an unanimous decision, Justice Rohana Yusof said the PAA cannot be used to institute a claim.
According to the judge, Section 6(2) of the PAA did not state the government's right to a civil action claim. Section 6 covers the responsibilities of organisers in having the rally.

"We find no reason to intervene with the findings of the trial judge (at the High Court), where the appellants have failed to prove their case.

"The trial judge having better advantage of (listening and perusing) the evidence (ruled that) the appellants failed to prove negligence by the respondents," she said.

Last year, High Court judge John Louis O'Hara ruled the PAA as constitutional but dismissed the claim by the government.

Justice Rohana sat with Justice Varghese George Varughese and Justice Mary Lim.

Each of the judges wrote separate judgments in the verdict, but Justice Rohana, who led the panel, read out the brief decision.

On the counter-claim by the sixth respondent, Wong Chin Huat, Justice Rohana allowed the government's appeal in part.

The appellate court affirmed the award of RM10,000 in aggravated damages and another RM5,000 for pain and suffering for Wong, who claimed that the police officers had assaulted him during arrest.

Landmark verdict hailed

Ambiga, who hailed the landmark verdict, said: "We are very pleased with the judgment and we are also pleased that each of the judges wrote separate judgments on different areas of the law.

"We are pleased that the court has taken the case seriously and came to a conclusion that the High Court judgment was correct."

Ambiga said the decision simply means that the government can't sue for damages under PAA.

"The court held that the government had failed to prove their case in any event," said the former Malaysian Bar president.

Quizzed whether the decision meant that the government can't file a suit under PAA, Ambiga said it appeared to be so.

Meanwhile, Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah expressed her delight with the decision which she said will have an impact on future rallies.

"The government can't sue for damages and under the PAA, the right to assembly is now protected and maintained.

"This is also an encouragement for Bersih 5 and Saturday's rally to arrest Malaysian Official 1. It's a big encouragement for the right to a peaceful assembly," she said.

Bersih 3 was held on April 28, 2012, and the rally calling for clean and fair elections was considered one of the biggest public assembly which attracted at least 150,000 people.

However, it was marred by violence allegedly carried out after Ambiga announced the end of the rally, where tear gas and water cannons were fired at protesters.

Following damages to police vehicles which amounted to RM122,000, a suit was filed by the police and government.

Initially Ambiga and Bersih were sued but the other steering committee members later made applications to be interveners.
An inquiry report by the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) released in 2013 said police had taken "unreasonable measures" which were not justified when trying to control the crowd during the rally.
The 80-page Suhakam report also said the police had acted in "bad faith" in the handling the rally.
Bersih and its steering committee members were represented by a team of lawyers including Tommy Thomas, Honey Tan, S Ravindran, Firdaus Husni and Lim Yee Chong.

Senior federal counsel Kamal Azira Hassan and SFC Normastura Ayob appeared for the appellants.

Monday, August 22, 2016

See calls for transparency on state’s negotiation with Petronas

KUCHING: Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How has expressed his disappointment with Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas for not being open and transparent with Sarawakians.

See, who is state PKR vice chairman, was responding to Uggah’s statement on last Saturday describing the second round of meeting between the state government and Petronas as “fruitful”, and urged the public to remain calm and patient and that “Sarawakians could expect good news soon”.

“One of the reasons for the state government to impose the moratorium on work permits for Petronas staff who are non-Sarawakians was that Petronas was ‘not open and transparent with Sarawak on its operations in Sarawak’.

“Now the state government is guilty of what they are accusing others of, because they are not open and transparent with Sarawakians,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

This prompted See to query the state government: “Are we finally going to get a Sarawakian to be appointed the General Manager for Sarawak Operation, after 40 years of Petronas operation in the state?”

He pointed out that when the national petroleum company embarked on its plan to implement the policy of Malaysianisation, replacing the foreign consultants and expatriates who were holding senior executive and managerial positions with Malaysians in 1992, there were plans and programmes to groom and train Sarawakians to eventually head the Sarawak Operation.

“Unfortunately, after 25 years, capable Sarawakians who are qualified for the position of the General Manager for Sarawak Operation were being overlooked, until today.”

See reiterated that the state government must make use of the opportunity of this series of meetings to insist on widening the scope of discussion with Petronas, to cover the other aspects of Petronas operation in Sarawak.

“Not only is Petronas not being open and transparent in its employment policy and practice in Sarawak. What we should be concerned most is the signing and award of Production Sharing Contracts (PSC) to explore, prospect and develop the fields onshore and offshore of Sarawak, at this time and with the state government being kept in the dark.

“Though the state government has made it clear that Petronas has no more rights to make unilateral decision on the exploitation and development of natural resources within Sarawak’s territorial boundary, the PSC for the exploration of Block SK410B was last month awarded to PTTEP HK Offshores of Thailand and KUFPEC Malaysia of Kuwait. While Petronas Carigali has a 15% stake in the joint venture, Sarawak has nothing.

“It is reliably learned that Petronas is now vigorously promoting nine to 12 other focus blocks located in Sarawak, to foreign entities, though they have no right to do so.”

See said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem must immediately make a strong representation to the federal government, and initiate meetings with Putrajaya on this matter.

“Petronas is wholly owned by the federal government. It is obvious that the federal administration wishes for the national petroleum company to continue its monopoly on the exploitation of these valuable resources in the country, disregarding the detriment and prejudice to Sarawak.”

~ Borneo Post

No way out for Muslims in Malaysia

S Thayaparan     Published

“I will not change my ethnicity. I was born Chinese and I will die Chinese, I will not become Malay.”
- Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (Macma) Malacca president Lim Jooi Soon

Of the latest Court of Appeal decision in dismissing the attempts of three bumiputera converts to renounce Islam, DAP’s Zairil Khir Johari, the honourable gentleman from Bukit Bendera, claimed, “Central to this issue is the question of whether the civil or syariah courts should decide in such cases.”

I beg to differ. In my opinion, the central issue is how Islam has been weaponised in this country (and many parts of the world) by the state. This is not a legal issue but a political issue. Nowhere is this clearer in a constitution that privileges one community over the others.  Nowhere is this clearer when on the eve of an important election, the head of a ruling coalition makes it clear that he will use his influence - influence that I may add is supposed to be anathema to an independent judiciary - to correct a grave injustice that was the Rooney Rebit case.

If this was not clear enough, state PKR chief Baru Bian clearly states that the Rooney case was resolved politically which would mean - my opinion not his - that any such cases could be resolved politically. Of course, this whole issue brings up the question as to why Malaysia even needs a judiciary if the executive is going to step in whenever it is politically expedient to do so, but perhaps that is an issue for another article.

Baru as a Sarawakian has been in the forefront of the Umno’s state’s provocations against non-Muslims in this country. Unlike other oppositional politicians who find themselves shackled by allegiances or political correctness, the PKR operative has clearly articulated stands against the mendacity of the clerics and bureaucrats who would impose Islam on Malaysians even though many of us do not profess the faith.

An example of this would be the “dress code” advocated by Perak mufti Harussani Zakaria on non-Muslims out of “respect” for Muslims. Here is the exact response from Baru - "(There is a) 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?"

Unfortunately, for Baru and many of us, this is exactly what Islam is about. There are laws which could be introduced by Muslims courageous enough to propose them which would end this tyranny, however merely introducing more legalese into the matter would never suffice.

There are many Muslims in this country like Zairil, who because of religious beliefs, seek out justice for their fellow Malaysians when it comes to the way how Islam is practiced in this country. For example, Thasleem Mohd Ibrahim from Jihad for Justice in the Indira Gandhi conversion cases was quoted in the press as saying, “I’ve categorically told the Perak Islamic Religious Department that the unilateral conversion of the kids is haram because it’s an injustice.”

However, I am sceptical of Zairil’s proposed amendments to our current legal procedures. As I said this has more to do with the way how Islam is practiced in this country and the fallout from living in a country where race and religion are not mutually exclusive.

The converts

Furthermore, I wish Muslims would stop quoting verses from the Quran as evidence that there is no compulsion in Islam. I understand the need to speak the same religious language but has it ever crossed the minds of the so-called “liberal” Muslims that the people who control the religion, the people with actual power, are not speaking the same language?

A few years ago, I wrote this in one of my numerous articles about Islam: “What exactly is a ‘true’ Muslim or ‘true’ Christian for that matter? Someone who believes that religion should not be politicised? Someone who believes that you should not mock another’s religion? Someone who believes that religion should not intrude in the private lives of members in any given society? Someone who believes that there should be a separation of church/mosque and state? These are not ‘true’ religious values but rather true secular values or secular humanist values, if you like.”

It all goes back to how race and religion are entwined in this country. Last year, the Malay Mail ran an interesting article on Chinese converts resisting attempts to change their names upon conversion. According to one convert, “My name may change but my face remains the same. Here, Malaysians say that if someone converts to Islam it means they’re becoming Malay. If I do not change my name, then I remain Chinese.”

However, this goes beyond mere changing of names as another convert observed, “This cultural celebration does not go against Islamic law; the Mooncake Festival, the Dumpling Festival, the Chinese New Year celebrations, these are more cultural than religious… Judging from history when Ibn Waqas preached in China, he easily accepted the culture since Islam did not kill the culture; the faith changed, not the culture.”

As Hew Wai Weng observes in this article, “Unlike conventional dakwah activities, which aim at strengthening the faith of Muslims, Chinese Muslims dakwah movements aim to universalise Islam and invite non-Muslims to get closer to the Islamic faith. Differentiating Chinese ‘cultural’ traditions (budaya) from religious rituals (agama), Chinese Muslim leaders argue that Chinese culture does not contradict with Islamic principles. Instead, it can facilitate the spread of Islamic messages, which I call here ‘dakwah pendekatan budaya’ (preaching by using [Chinese] culture) or ‘cultural dakwah’.”

And while there have been moderate Muslim entities on a state and federal level who have embraced some of these activities as the article articulates, the tension between those who convert and the keepers of the faith are deepened by bureaucrats whose agenda is in keeping with the Arabisation of our country.

Furthermore, this cultural exchange through conversion when it comes to Islam in Malaysia is a one-way street. In 2006, the BBC did a piece on the life as a secret Christian convert. The article exposed the so-called “sensitivity” of those who leave the religion.

An interview with a secret convert revealed the danger of converting which Muslims converts are not exposed to. “If the authorities find out, I will be in big trouble. They will create hell between me and my family, and hell in my life so that I will no longer get any privileges or employment" not to mention the loneliness of her struggle “My church says if the authorities come, they are not going to stand up for me. I have to stand up for myself.”

But why doesn’t this convert just migrate? “I could migrate, but the problem is I want to stay in Malaysia, because this is my country. And I love my family. I just want to live peacefully.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to the way how Islam is practised in this country, living peacefully means never leaving the faith.

S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

Monday, August 15, 2016


15 AUGUST 2016

The question of employment opportunities for Sarawakians in Petronas that has been in the news recently is not an isolated issue but has its roots in the 1963 Malaysia Agreement and the Petroleum Development Act 1974 that was passed during the time of the Emergency, and is related to the question of our territorial rights. This unfortunate situation that has evolved over the past few decades has led to the current tussle between the Sarawak government and Petronas, with the Chief Minister threatening to revoke the work permits of non-Sarawakians working in Petronas operations here.

Much has been said about the unconstitutionality of the Petroleum Development Act 1974 and the Territorial Sea Act 2012, the lifting of the Emergency Orders in 2011 and the right of Sarawak to ownership of our oil and gas resources. Sarawakians began to speak up for our rights as far back as 7 years ago and the government headed by the present Chief Minister has taken up the baton on this. This latest incident over the moratorium on work permits for Peninsula Malaysian Petronas employees is merely part of the struggle we are facing. The underlying intention of all the maneuvering is to finally address the issue of our rights over our own resources.

Ultimately, it is the Federal BN government that is to blame for this situation. Fundamental to this whole issue is the fact that the Federal BN government has never recognized the rights of Sarawak and Sabah as agreed under the MA63. In fact, what had happened was the erosion of our rights over the years, perhaps starting from the time when Singapore left the Federation and we lost our veto power of 34% representation in Parliament. Our Sarawakian MPs unfortunately did not do much by way of protecting our rights and interests.

This quandary must not be allowed to remain as such. The government must not allow it to carry on - now is the time for us to call a spade a spade. Let us cease calling the discussions with the Federal Government a ‘negotiation for devolution’. This is the time for the determination, confirmation and affirmation of what is ours. We must look at the original intention behind the formation of Malaysia and insist on the proper performance of the contract made between the parties. In this aspect, we are behind the Sarawak leadership in their efforts.

Sadly, it is perfectly clear that the Federal BN government, right from the beginning, had no intention of honouring the promises made under the MA63. It is also perfectly clear that as long as the BN is in power, there is no hope for Sarawak to reclaim what is ours. As I see it, there are two possibilities of ending this impasse. The first is a change in the Federal BN government during the next general elections. The second scenario requires the Chief Minister to seriously reflect on his position, knowing full well the BN/UMNO government will never give up their hold over Sarawak. It is up to him to leave the BN and work with the opposition to fight for the rights of Sarawakians, rather than to continue to be loyal to those who persist in thumbing their noses at us, while paying us lip service. Enough with their broken promises and enough of unreliable BN/UMNO Federal leaders.

Baru Bian
Chairman PKR Sarawak/ ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan

Time to be firm and resolute

KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem must be firm and resolute in safeguarding the state’s limited petroleum resources and securing the development of upstream petroleum projects.

Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How opined this could be done by using a sovereign wealth fund or state-owned State Financial Secretary Incorporated to set up a company to undertake and participate in upstream petroleum production operations, exploration works, and the development and production of petroleum from fields within the state’s boundaries.

See, who is PKR state vice chairman, noted that while Adenan had repeatedly said the state would no longer be satisfied with being a spectator, there had been no sign of any headway in becoming a participant in oil and gas projects in the state.

“We should not be contented with securing contracts and subcontract works from PSC (production sharing contracts) contractors if we are serious about being a participant and not a spectator,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

“We must show that we are serious and ready to undertake and manage the limited petroleum resources in Sarawak and to ensure that the State will enjoy its full benefits and its sustainability for the future generations of Sarawakians.”

See said Sarawak lagged behind Sabah in the state’s participation in developing upstream petroleum projects. “M3nergy Berhad, a subsidiary of the Sabah Development Bank Berhad, which in turn is owned by the Ministry of Finance of the State of Sabah, has direct participating interests in a consortium that has two PSCs on exploration, development and production of petroleum in Sabah.”

On Adenan’s stand that Sarawakians be given priority of employment by Petronas in its operations in the state, See reiterated his support for Adenan.

“However, we can expect that Petronas will insist on its corporate independence and prerogative to defend its recruitment and employment practices. The federal government will no doubt give its full backing to the national petroleum company, which it fully owns.”

The issue of Petronas’ preference for Peninsular Malaysians over Sarawakians for jobs in the state has been widely highlighted in the media of late.

The issue was raised when Suarah Petroleum Group (SPG) revealed that in a restructuring process, Petronas had abolished 29 permanent positions, which resulted in the retrenchment of 13 experienced staff from Sarawak.

On the meeting between Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and State Secretary Tan Sri Datuk Amar Mohd Morshidi Abdul Ghani with Petronas today to resolve this issue, See opined that the state should discuss more than Petronas’ recruitment and retrenchment practices affecting Sarawakians.

“It should have involved top federal ministers, and the discussion should be widened to include revisiting the tripartite agreement on the exploration, development and production of petroleum from the fields that are within the territorial boundary of Sarawak, in view of the recent changes in the laws affecting Sarawak’s territorial rights,” he said.

“We may get a little concession from the national corporation on its employment practices, but we are certainly far away from claiming our rights and entitlements and to safeguard the state’s limited petroleum resources.”

See said the state’s Achilles heel was the total void of a state-owned corporation to undertake or participate in the upstream petroleum production operations and works on exploration, development and production of petroleum in the state.

He said that the state would be in a stronger position to demand for the state’s rights and due claims from the federal government and Petronas if the state had such a resourceful state-owned corporation in its cards.

“I certainly hope our chief minister and his state administration will make a decision on it soonest.”

~ Borneo Post

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bar: Irresistible to conclude PM is MO1

Steven Thiru     Published     Updated

COMMENT The Malaysian Bar is deeply disturbed by the grim disclosures contained in the case filed by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) “to forfeit assets involved in and traceable to an international conspiracy to launder money misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB)”.

The DOJ has made serious allegations of siphoning or diversion of funds, fraud and the misuse of the banking system for illegal activities by the individuals and entities named in the complaint.

Various persons have in the past weeks sought to interpret the DOJ’s 136-page complaint.

It is appalling that some have deliberately set out to distort the proceedings, and have attempted to create confusion, ostensibly to protect­ wrongdoers.

In the interest of upholding the rule of law and the cause of justice, the thrust, purpose and ramifications of the DOJ proceedings must be appreciated.

The legal proceeding commenced by the DOJ seeking the forfeiture of assets - including rights to profits, moveable assets and real property - constitute a civil action.

These assets, located primarily, but not exclusively, in the United States, are alleged to be proceeds from criminal conduct.

The DOJ maintains that this is the largest single asset seizure action ever brought under its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

The DOJ’s court document states that the assets to be forfeited represent “a portion of the proceeds of over (US)$3.5 billion misappropriated from 1MDB.

It has been reported that the United States authorities intend “to recover more than US$1 billion that was laundered through the United States and traceable to the conspiracy”.

In this regard, it would appear from the court document that the United States authorities possess comprehensive knowledge of the movement of the alleged misappropriated funds, have sighted relevant documentary evidence, and even reviewed telephone conversations.

Claims cannot be ignored

The substance, depth and reach of the allegations are compelling, and should not be ignored.

The affected parties will have the opportunity to challenge the DOJ’s action in court, hence the process is transparent and adheres to the principles of natural justice.

The complaint made by the DOJ does not preclude criminal action, as the forfeiture is but a first step to prevent dissipation of the specified assets.

The act of money-laundering, and involvement in a conspiracy to do so, are criminal offences.

Thus, upon forfeiture of the assets, it is likely that there would be criminal proceedings to prosecute those responsible for the alleged misappropriation of 1MDB funds and the laundering of those funds in the United States and elsewhere.

Not inteference of domestic affairs

Such proceedings in the United States should not surprise our law enforcement agencies or officers.

There are similar provisions in our law for the freezing or forfeiture of assets in Malaysia that are connected with money-laundering activities or are the proceeds of crime, whether or not any individual is prosecuted.

These have often subsequently led to the prosecution of individuals.

The laws in Malaysia also allow for criminal proceedings against individuals for alleged money-laundering activities, even if those activities occur outside Malaysia.

It is noteworthy that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has issued a statement confirming that it cooperated with the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation in the FBI’s investigations.

In international efforts to stop money-laundering and curb corruption, many countries - including Malaysia - have passed laws that allow for “universal jurisdiction” in respect of money laundering activities or corrupt practices.

Such legal actions cannot, in any way, be categorised as attempts to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state.

The principal aim of international crime prevention and anti-corruption treaties, such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which Malaysia ratified in 2008, are to specifically provide for the prosecution of those involved in international or transnational criminal activities.

No country that is a signatory to such treaties or conventions should attempt to hide or shield such persons, or permit such persons to evade or avoid prosecution, or to block access to evidence or information.

Cannot say no evidence of misappropriation

It is untenable to hold that the DOJ document does not show that money has been misappropriated from 1MDB.

The allegations of financial improprieties concerning 1MDB funds - described as having been “stolen, laundered through American financial institutions and used to enrich a few officials and their associates” - are referred to in no fewer than 193 paragraphs in the document.

Further, it has been reported that 1MDB is being investigated for alleged financial irregularities and possible money laundering in at least nine countries: Australia, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States of America.

It is significant that immediately after the DOJ announced its action, Singaporean authorities declared that they have seized bank accounts and properties amounting to S$240 million in total, as a result of their own investigations into the flows of 1MDB-related funds through Singapore, which began in March 2015 and are still in progress.

There are parties who have stated that 1MDB has not suffered any losses but only "has debts".

This is a perverse and unsustainable position, given that the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report named members of 1MDB’s senior management that it said should face a criminal investigation.

Five of the 12 members of the PAC have also reportedly stated that the PAC’s report shows that a total of US$7 billion have flowed out from 1MDB and were unaccounted for.

Irresistable to conclude PM is MO1

Several individuals have been specifically named in the DOJ’s court document, but not the prime minister.

However, this is not to say that he cannot be identified from the descriptive statements contained in the court document.

The conclusion - based on any clear reading of those descriptive statements - that the person named as 'Malaysian Official 1' in the court document is the prime minister appears irresistible.

The court document contains many other troubling disclosures.

It is alleged that in March 2013, US$681 million was transferred to a bank account belonging to 'Malaysian Official 1', and that this sum emanated from a 1MDB bond sale.

This allegation contradicts statements by our authorities that the funds were a “personal donation” to the prime minister from the Saudi royal family, given to him without any consideration.

In addition, the court document also alleges that US$20 million and a further US$30 million traceable to 1MDB funds, were transferred to the same personal bank account owned by “Malaysian Official 1” in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

It would appear that the transfer of these funds had not been previously uncovered or disclosed by any of our enforcement agencies.
These allegations therefore expose deficiencies and flaws in the investigations that have been conducted so far in Malaysia, and a lack of transparency regarding the findings that such investigations have yielded.
While the DOJ’s proceedings and any other possible related proceedings in the United States of America must be allowed to take their course and not be prejudged, a fresh and comprehensive investigation of all persons, directly or indirectly implicated in the allegations made by the DOJ, must be pursued.

These allegations must not be ignored or permitted to be swept under the carpet, as that would only fuel the already existing perception of a cover-up. In this regard, the recent statement by the PAC, in the wake of the DOJ proceedings, that any further investigation into 1MDB is unnecessary, is deeply disconcerting.

There is a palpable need for greater fervour, transparency and accountability in the investigation by our enforcement authorities, and for appropriate and concrete action to be taken against all wrongdoers, without delay.

The truth must be revealed and justice must be done.

STEVEN THIRU is the president of the Malaysian Bar.

Petronas’ claims of meritocracy hold no water: SPG

Yusuf Abdul Rahman
Yusuf Abdul Rahman

MIRI: Suarah Petroleum Group (SPG) said national oil corporation Petronas had forgotten its role and Sarawak’s sacrifice in making it a Fortune 500 company while its employment records contrasted sharply with its claims of meritocracy.

Speaking on behalf of SPG, its media communications officer Yusuf Abdul Rahman said Petronas’ claims that it’s latest manpower restructuring exercise was based on merit were off the mark and that there were plenty of qualified Sarawakians around.

He said Petronas owed a big chunk of its success to Sarawak; since its inception to a multi-national corporation listed in Fortune 500.

“Sarawakians are not asking or begging for jobs which they don’t deserve. All Sarawakians want is a fair chance. If that is denied to them because of pro-West Malaysian Petronas bias, then it has to answer to the state,” he said.

He accused Petronas in its quest to become a multi-national corporation of having forgotten its role as a national oil company and that citing meritocracy was only an excuse.

“Sarawakians were employed in the oil and gas business long before any West Malaysians and today are among the best. They can find employment in O&G worldwide, but strangely not in their home state for Petronas. Why?”

SPG pointed out that having sacrificed its petroleum resources to Petronas for the last 40 years, Sarawak had every right for priority to be given to Sarawakians for jobs in the state.

This entity was set up at the behest of Minister of Industrial Development Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan last year to gather engineers, lawyers, consultants, entrepreneurs, contractors and service providers in the oil and gas industry together as a body of knowledge and experience for the state government to tap into.

Yusuf said Malaysia was formed under the condition of Borneonisation and state rights, including control over its own immigration and priority for employment.

He said the condition had been flouted by Petronas, pointing to the lack of Sarawakians in senior management positions in Petronas itself, even at the boardroom level.

“While the HR department of Petronas must look at the larger picture, in doing so, it must not forget its roots and who it is supposed to look after,” he said, adding that even junior staff from Peninsular Malaysia were being given jobs replacing senior Sarawakians.

~ Borneo Post

Three plead not guilty to attack on village chief, fourth still at large

The fourth suspect, Kong Ching Bing, is still at large.
The fourth suspect, Kong Ching Bing, is still at large.

MIRI: Three of the accused in the alleged attack on Tuai Rumah Jambai Jali and his wife, Bibi Unding, on November 26 last year pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The three accused, Mohamad Fitri Fauzi, 27, Raymond Sim Yeat Choon, 27, Tu Kah Chiong, 27, were produced at the Miri Sessions Court this morning (Aug 11) and charged under Section 427 for committing mischief and Section 307 for attempted murder, read together with Section 34 of the Penal Code.

Sim was arrested on Wednesday night (Aug 10) while a fourth suspect, Kong Ching Bing aka ‘Ah Kiang’, 26, is still at large.

The Miri Sessions Court has set Sept 7 this year for case management while their trial will be Nov 14-16 and Dec 28-30.

Further investigation by police revealed that the attack was linked to NCR land disputes in Bekelit, Bekenu.

The suspects allegedly assaulted Jambai and his wife with a samurai sword and baseball bat at Jalan Pujut-Miri.

Mohamad Fitri has also been charged in the shooting murder of social activist Bill Kayong under Section 302 of the Penal Code.
Tu Kah Chiong
Tu Kah Chiong
Mohamad Fitri Fauzi, 29, (also the shooter that killed bill kayong) being escorted out after being produced at sessions court on Thursday morning (Aug 11).
Mohamad Fitri Fauzi, 29, being escorted out after being produced at sessions court on Thursday morning (Aug 11).
Raymond Sim Yeat Choon
Raymond Sim Yeat Choon

~ Borneo Post

BILL KAYONG MURDER: Three still at large

The suspects still at large (from left) Dato Stephen Lee Chee Kiang, Chin and Kong
The suspects still at large (from left) Dato Stephen Lee Chee Kiang, Chin Wui Chung and Kong Sien Ming.

MIRI: Three suspects involved in the shooting murder of Bill Kayong are still at large, with one believed to still be abroad and two in the country.

Arrest warrants were issued for the three suspects – Dato Stephen Lee Chee Kiang, 45, Kong Sien Ming, 35, and Chin Wui Chung, 50 – on July 19.

According to state CID chief SAC Dev Kumar, investigations had discovered that Lee had flown to Singapore from Miri on June 23 this year, two days after Bill’s fatal shooting.

“The subject (Lee) flew to Melbourne, Australia from Singapore on July 3,” said Dev when met outside Miri Court on Thursday morning (Aug 11).

“His current location is unknown,” he said, although he believed that the suspect was still abroad.

The investigating team have applied to Interpol to trace his whereabouts and are awaiting an answer.

According to a press statement issued by the Dev Kumar earlier today (Aug 11), the whereabouts of suspects Kong and Chin are also still being traced. Prior to the murder, Kong, who also goes by the nickname ‘Batu Ming’ or ‘Ah Ming’ was running a KTV lounge in Miri while Chin, also known as ‘Ah Chong’ has worked as a personal assistant to Lee.

Anyone with any information on the suspects are asked to contact the police.

On July 15, 2016, two suspects were charged in Miri Court Magistrate in relation to Bill’s murder.

Mohamad Fitri Fauzi, 29, was charged under Section 302 of the Penal Code while Lie Chang Loon, 37, was charged with abetment, an offence punishable under Section 109 read together with Section 302 of the Penal Code.

Lie was charged together with Lee, Kong and Chin for abetting Mohamad Fitri in the commission of the murder of the activist.

~ Borneo Post

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

DOJ's daunting legal challenges on 1MDB


The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) will face daunting legal challenges with regard to the case against 1MDB, according to the Financial Times.

Among them, it said, is prosecutors must struggle to convince witnesses to testify against powerful officials who are implicated.

"Obtaining documents from overseas also involves invoking mutual legal assistance treaties, a time-consuming process.

"In many cases, including the 1MDB affair, prosecutors have difficulty unravelling the web of shell companies and other legal ruses that mask ownership," Financial Times reported.

Even Kendall Day, who heads the DOJ's asset forfeiture and money laundering section, conceded that it would not be a walk in the park.

"I can tell you from personal experience that corruption cases of any stripe are hard," Day is quoted as saying by the UK publication.

It also quoted a Washington attorney, Jack Blum, who revealed that some American judges are reluctant to hear such cases as they believe the matter belongs in foreign courts.

On July 30, US attorney-general Lorretta Lynch revealed that DOJ would initiate court proceedings to seize assets allegedly procured with funds misappropriated from 1MDB

This renewed calls for Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who has repeatedly denied abusing public funds and was previously cleared by the Malaysian attorney-general, to step down.

Among others, the DOJ court filings named Najib's step-son Riza Aziz and Malaysian businessman Jho Low, who is said to be close to the prime minister’s family.

The documents also mentioned "Malaysian Official 1" 36 times, and alleged that the person profited from 1MDB.

The opposition said the official is none other than Najib.

Cabinet ministers and ruling politicians, on the other hand, offered mixed reactions - some denied, others claimed to be in the dark and one even proclaimed that only "idiots" would not know who this "Malaysian Official 1" is.

However, they all agreed that the prime minister was not involved in the alleged abuse of funds.

DOJ has made life harder for kleptocrats

Meanwhile, Global Financial Integrity president Raymond Baker told the Financial Times that the DOJ programme has made life harder for kleptocrats.

At the same time, Baker noted, how less formal methods had succeeded in a more swifter manner.

In 2013, for example, Tunisia recovered US$28m stolen by the wife of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali, the dictator who had been deposed two years earlier, with a phone call.

"The governor of the central bank of Tunisia called the governor of the central bank of Lebanon.
They did it on the basis of personal connections. Lebanon went through some minor legal gymnastics, got the money and sent it back," said Baker.

Financial Times also noted that the US had a reason for targeting foreign officials who are believed to be involved in acts of corruption.
"The volume of dirty money flowing around the world threatens the stability of US markets, officials say. More than US$1tn in illicit funds flow out of the developing world annually, according to Global Financial Integrity," it said.
DOJ’s Day pointed out that stable and liquid US financial markets are a magnet for corrupt cash.

"There's a reason kleptocrats like to put their assets in the US. But hot money can really distort our markets and create risks for our financial institutions," he said.

According to Financial Times, there is also the security aspect.

Corruption flourishes under the same conditions that offer comfort to organised crime or terrorists, it said.

Khairuddin files DOJ docs in support of judicial review against AG

Hafiz Yatim     Published     Updated

Former Batu Kawan Umno division vice-chief Khairuddin Abu Hassan has filed the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit documents in support of his judicial review application against attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali.

Khairuddin's lawyer Mohd Haniff Khatri Abdulla confirmed that an affidavit was filed on Monday, together with the 136-page report of the US court action as an exhibit.

He said the affidavit was served on the Attorney-General's Chambers the same day.

"This is the first time that a US court action by the DOJ is making its way to the Malaysian shores," Haniff said outside the court in Kuala Lumpur today.

Khairuddin's application will be heard on Friday on whether leave (permission) can be obtained to initiate a full court proceeding.

Apart from Khairuddin, former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim and the Malaysian Bar have also filed separate actions against Apandi for his decision to clear Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.

When Zaid's application for leave was heard last July 29, his lawyers, former Federal Court judge Gopal Sri Ram and Americk Sidhu, submitted that the public expects an AG to act honestly in upholding the law, without fear of powerful national and local figures.

Haniff explained to reporters that the affidavit was filed to further strengthen the argument that Khairuddin has the locus standi (legal standing) to initiate the application for judicial review.

He said what is related in the DOJ court documents regarding the movement of money correlated with reports that Khairuddin had filed elsewhere.

The lawyer added that they have also written to the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur to certify the DOJ documents.

 On the US civil forfeiture action, Haniff questioned why the Malaysian authorities, namely the AG, have not taken similar action.
“My client is an interested party with the legal standing to initiate the action, as he is directly affected due to a court charge he is facing,” Haniff said.
It was reported that Khairuddin had filed reports in Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom. However, he was arrested just before leaving for the US to lodge another report there.

Khairuddin is facing a charge of disrupting financial institutions following the reports he lodged against 1MDB in those countries.

The Malaysian Bar's application for leave will be heard on Aug 25, the same day Justice Hanipah Farikullah is expected to deliver her decision on Zaid's application.

S’gor Indigenous Arts Festival ends with high praise

 Goh Cia Yee     Published     Updated

The Selangor Indigenous Arts Festival, held at the Shah Alam National Botanical Garden in conjunction with the International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples 2016, ended yesterday.

The week-long cultural gala was organised by Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Joas) in collaboration with Tourism Selangor and the regional Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP).

The festival saw the gathering of 21 domestic indigenous tribes from Malaysia, as well as indigenous tribes from Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Although the festival was only opened to the public on Aug 6 and 7, it has been ongoing since Aug 3, with various workshops and youth fora on issues faced by the various indigenous tribes.

With a record high attendance of more than 5,000 people over the two-day period, the event was aimed at increasing public awareness on the unique culture and heritage of the native peoples.

The closing ceremony was conducted by leaders of three domestic regions, with each leader performing a special ceremony.

Candles were lit and the smoke of a cigarette-filled the room as the heads of the peninsula region bathed themselves in cigarette smoke before proceeding to spray the attendees with water as a blessing for a safe journey home.

Ethnic songs were also played as as participants happily clapped and danced along to the rhythm of bamboos hitting the wooden floorboards.

Niloh Asun, 55, head of the group from Kuching, Sarawak, expressed her gratitude for being a recipient of an appreciation award from Tourism Selangor this year.

She also noted the difference in atmosphere in this year’s festival, compared with the previous ones.

This year a special one

“This year is quite special for us, as we were visited by Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin Ali, on our collaboration with Tourism Selangor,” said Niloh.

Zurdi Baharu, vice president of Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Joas) was also delighted with Azmin’s attendance.

“The thing that makes us the most happy was that during the officiating ceremony by Azmin, he said he was committed to supporting the rights of the indigenous people and cooperating with them in their efforts to win acknowledgement of their land,” Zurdi added.

Sipoh Dalian, 50, an attendee from the ethnic Murut group in Sabah, added that the festival was a great strategy.

“I attend every year. It is one of our strategies, for as we get to know one another, the future generations can continue at much higher level than before to preserve our culture,” Sipoh said.

The festival also saw the inclusion of foreign indigenous tribes for the first time.

Kim Chishi, 27, from India, praised the dedication of youths in their struggle for acknowledgement of their various rights.

“The main highlight is in the interest of the youth in trying to promote their culture, especially with the land rights struggle.

“In my place, we don’t have much struggles now, because the land is owned by the people so seeing here the problems that they are face, I think it’s kind of an encouragement for me,” Kim said.

During the closing ceremony, a delegation from the local indigenous community headed to Putrajaya to pass on a memorandum that they had discussed the night before.
Zurdi explained that the memorandum, which lists six demands from the community, is a representation of the voices of the indigenous people in Malaysia.
“We hope that with this memorandum, all our important assets will be preserved by the Malaysian government,” he said.

“Indigenous peoples’ rights are already acknowledged because the Malaysian government has committed to this by signing an agreement, twice, with the UN for the declaration of international indigenous peoples’ rights.

“The Malaysian government should follow the international will of the UN resolution,” Zurdi added.