Friday, October 20, 2017

Legal Action Filed to Seek Declarations that the Appointments of the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal are Unconstitutional and Void — Malaysian Bar

Press Release
Legal Action Filed to Seek Declarations that the Appointments of the Chief Justice and President of the Court of Appeal are Unconstitutional and Void

The Malaysian Bar has, pursuant to the resolution adopted by the Bar at its Extraordinary General Meeting held on 3 August 2017, filed a legal action at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on 10 October 2017 against YAA Tun Dato’ Seri Arifin bin Zakaria, YAA Tun Md Raus bin Sharif and YAA Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin.

The full text of the resolution, entitled “Resolution on Upholding the Supremacy of the Federal Constitution and Defending the Independence and Integrity of the Judiciary”, is available here.

The sealed Originating Summons has been served on all parties.

The Malaysian Bar seeks the following reliefs, inter alia, in the Originating Summons:
(1) A Declaration that the advice of YAA Tun Dato’ Seri Arifin bin Zakaria, as the Chief Justice at the material time, to His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on 30 March 2017, that YAA Tun Md Raus bin Sharif and YAA Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin be appointed as additional judges under Article 122(1A) of the Federal Constitution, is unconstitutional and void;
(2) A Declaration that the appointment of YAA Tun Md Raus bin Sharif as additional judge, announced on 7 July 2017, is unconstitutional and void;
(3) A Declaration that the appointment of YAA Tun Md Raus bin Sharif as Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Malaysia, with effect from 4 August 2017, is unconstitutional and void;
(4) A Declaration that the appointment of YAA Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin as additional judge, announced on 7 July 2017, is unconstitutional and void;
(5) A Declaration that the advice of YAA Tun Dato’ Seri Arifin bin Zakaria, as the Chief Justice at the material time, to the Prime Minister, upon consultation being sought, that YAA Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin be appointed as the President of the Court of Appeal under Article 122B of the Federal Constitution, is unconstitutional and void;
(6) A Declaration that the appointment of YAA Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin as President of the Court of Appeal with effect from 28 September 2017, is unconstitutional and void; and
(7) Orders removing YAA Tun Md Raus bin Sharif and YAA Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Zulkefli bin Ahmad Makinudin from their respective offices.
Case management for this matter has been fixed on 26 October 2017.

George Varughese President Malaysian Bar
17 October 2017


Press Statement

I refer to a press statement by an unnamed person from the so-called Media Dept of PBDSB dated the 18th of October 2017 on Malay Unity.

PKR has always been consistent with our stand, especially on the rights of Sarawakians. Our membership includes prominent activists and lawyers who have fought on regular basis for Sarawakians’ rights especially on our native rights over land, religious freedom and oil justice in Sarawak.

Our track record speaks for itself; the party may have started in West Malaysia, but the members in PKR Sarawak are truly Sarawakians and have always been at the forefront of Sarawakians’ struggles.

The idea of a regional based party may sound most romantic but the reality is that the party that has stripped away our rights is a Sarawak-based party. PBDSB should really look in the mirror and start asking themselves what is it that they are fighting for. It seems that PBDSB remains a BN-friendly local-based party whose only wish is to maintain the current Barisan Nasional government for the next parliamentary election, and to continue with the current Barisan Nasional government of Sarawak which consists 100% of local-based parties who have, over the years, taken away the rights of the natives over their NCR land and allowed the curbing of religious freedom in Sarawak.

PBDSB ought to be reminded that it is the current local-based party of BN Sarawak that has appealed the decision in TR Sandah and TR Nyutan, the latest judgments of which have effectively removed all the natives’ rights over NCR land altogether. And each time the State BN leaders declared that they recognise NCR of the indigenous peoples of Sarawak our Chief YB Baru Bian would challenge them to withdraw their appeals pending in Court. Sadly their lawyers have never done so, as proven in these two cases of TR Sandah and TR Nyutan, which resulted in putting the natives in the worst possible scenario with regard to their rights to their NCR land.

Rather than speaking only in rhetoric, PKR Sarawak has for many years fought tooth and nail in and out of Court, as well as in the political arena, for the full recognition of Sarawakians’ rights be in on NCR land, religious freedom and rights over oil and revenue.

We walk the talk and we suggest PBDSB do so too.

Simon Siah
Deputy Chief of PKR Youth (AMK) Sarawak.
18 October 2017


17 OCTOBER 2017

I refer to the article on page 11 of today’s Borneo Post, which quotes PBDSB president John Cobbold as saying that PKR President Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had expressed support for the implementation of hudud, which indirectly showed PH’s support for the Islamic state concept.

This statement is either made in ignorance or in malice. Cobbold John should check his facts before trying to mislead people by putting words in the mouths of others. He should know that one of the reasons PAS left the PR coalition was PKR’s firm stand against the RUU355 hudud bill introduced by Hadi Awang in parliament, which is yet to be debated. DS Wan Azizah had said that it is the right of any MP to submit a bill but she had also said on many more occasions that PKR MPs will vote against the bill if it is debated and put to the vote.

As for PKR Sarawak’s stand, it is clear from the many statements we have made that we are firmly against hudud and the attempts by certain parties, PAS and UMNO to turn Malaysia into an Islamic country.

The general election draws near, and many are now eyeing the opportunity to contest, and trying to increase their visibility and presence in the media and public. However, to do so by making untruthful statements is simply unprofessional and unbecoming of an aspiring politician. Let us not adopt UMNO’s brand of politics in Sarawak.

Baru Bian
Chairman, PKR Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan


17 OCTOBER 2017

The DPM’s announcement that the government will build a hospital in Bangladesh for RM3.5mil, and to be completed within a month’s time is a bitter pill for folks in Sarawak to swallow, especially those in the rural areas.

Why does this UMNO/BN government persist in sending our money overseas when the people are still crying out for basic facilities in Sarawak? First the PM went to America and pledged to help Donald Trump strengthen the American economy by buying aeroplanes and investing our EPF funds there. Then the DPM went to Bangladesh and promised to build a hospital. Do they not know that there is urgent need for funds in Sarawak?

There are 1,454 schools in Sarawak, of which 1,020 are dilapidated and 415 in critical condition. The teachers, parents and students are crying out for better facilities. We need better roads in the rural areas, but according to the ministers, the federal government does not have the funds to pay for them. We need more rural clinics with trained staff, and more hospitals to serve the people, but there doesn’t seem to be any urgency on the part of the federal government to provide for us. Our hospitals do not even have enough funds to stock up on adequate medicines for patients’ prescriptions but the DPM is quite happy to dish out RM3.5mil to build a hospital in Bangladesh?

Sarawakians are beginning to wake up to the sad reality that we have been short-changed for 54 years, still being one of the poorest and least developed ‘states’, constantly having to ask the federal government for funds for our development. We are aware that the UMNO leaders come to Sarawak making many promises especially near election time, but conveniently forgotten once the election is over.

There is a saying, ‘Charity begins at home’, but we are not even saying that now – we just want what should be our rightful share of the funds and resources first. The actions of the PM and DPM clearly show that the UMNO/BN government is more concerned about building up their badly tarnished image than in providing for the people of this country.

What more reason to make sure there is a change of government at the upcoming elections?

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Jomo: Whither the Malaysian economy?

    Published     Updated

This interview with economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram, former assistant secretary-general for economic development at the United Nations, was conducted in August for publication in the run-up to the country’s next Budget for 2018 due to be announced next Friday.

Developed country status
Question: Malaysia is close to achieving developed country status and is growing at a reasonable pace. Why are you concerned then?

Jomo: Becoming a developed country involves much more than achieving high-income status. But even by reducing ‘developed country’ status to becoming a ‘high-income’ country, we are not quite there unless we resort to statistical manipulation, for an example: by using 2013 exchange rates, or by ignoring about a third of the labour force who are ‘undocumented’ foreign workers.
For example, the ringgit declined from RM3.2 against the US dollar in 2014 to almost RM4.5 before recovering to the current RM4.2! But then we continue to use the old exchange rate or purchasing power parity (PPP) to pretend that we are almost there. The only people we are cheating is ourselves. 

Also, if we continue to grossly underestimate the number of foreign workers in the country, then the denominator for calculating per capita income goes down. Similarly, by excluding the lowest paid foreign workers, income inequality has been declining when their inclusion may give a different picture. Thus, we can reach supposed high-income status more quickly if we pretend there are only one or two million foreign workers, when even the minister admitted last year to about 6.7 million!

Seven million, mainly undocumented foreign workers in Malaysia comes to over a third of the country’s total labour force. Many of them work and live in far worse conditions than the worst-off Malaysian workers. We are thus dependent on a huge underclass, largely foreign, whom we are in denial about.

New Economic Model
What do you think of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s New Economic Model?

Jomo: Let us be clear about this. The New Economic Model, or NEM, is really a wish-list of economic reforms desired from an essentially neo-liberal perspective. That does not mean it is all good or all bad. It contains some desirable reforms, long overdue due to the accumulation of excessive, sometimes contradictory regulations and policies.

Although the NEM made many promises and raised expectations, most observers would now agree that it has rung quite hollow in terms of implementation despite its promising rhetoric. As we all know, the NEM was dropped soon after it was announced for political reasons, and has never been the new policy framework it was expected to be.

Turning to actual policy initiatives, to the current administration’s credit, it accepted the minimum wage policy and BR1M (Bantuan Malaysia 1Malaysia) idea, both long demanded by civil society organisations, and supported by many, mainly opposition parties. The minimum wage policy has probably been far more important than BR1M in improving conditions for low-income earners.

Premature deindustrialisation
The contribution of manufacturing to growth and employment has been declining in this century. Yet, you seem to be nostalgic for industrialisation when the leadership wants to move to tertiary activities.

Jomo: Sadly, instead of acknowledging the problem, ‘premature deindustrialisation’ is being cited as proof of Malaysia being developed although services currently account for most job retrenchments.

Indeed, Malaysia has been deindustrialising far too early, even before developing diverse serious industrial capacities and capabilities beyond refining palm oil and so on. We have abandoned the past emphasis on industrialisation, but have not progressed sufficiently to more sophisticated, higher value-added industries.

In Japan, South Korea and China, policies to nurture industrialists and other entrepreneurs to become internationally competitive, enabled these countries to grow, industrialise and transform themselves very rapidly.

We are suffering great illusions if we think we can leapfrog the industrial stage and go straight to services. We should not try to emulate Hong Kong because we are a different type of economy. Even Singapore has not gone the Hong Kong way and continues to try to progress up the value chain in terms of industrial technology.

We need to stop blindly following policies espoused by international institutions. GST (Goods and Services Tax) is a variant of value-added taxation, long promoted by the IMF (International Monetary Fund). To accelerate progress, we need to develop better understanding of the Malaysian economy – of its real strengths and potential, rather than assuming that the current mantra in Washington is correct, let alone relevant.

Middle-income trap
According to the World Bank and others, Malaysia is stuck in a middle-income trap. The argument is that the NEM as well as financial services development are needed to get out of it.

Jomo: The idea of a ‘middle-income trap’ is due to Latin American and other countries uncritically following Washington Consensus prescriptions promoted by the Bank and the IMF. The promise is that following their prescriptions would lead to development.
Key elements of our own ‘middle-income trap’ are actually of our own making, e.g., by giving up so quickly on industrialisation. The prescriptions imagine we can somehow leap-frog to accelerate development without making needed reforms.

The NEM and current official development discourse emphasise modern services, especially financial services, for future growth. But why would investors want to come here rather than, say, Singapore? If they want lower costs, there are other locations.

To offer tax breaks or loopholes, or to make Malaysia a tax haven, the question again is why come here rather than Singapore.

And how much has the national economy really benefited from the Labuan International Offshore Financial Centre? Do we need to keep making the same errors?

Looking at other international financial centres, it is not clear that it will be a net plus for the country, and provide the basis for sustainable development suitable for an economy like ours. Remember, we are no Hong Kong.

Historically, we have been heavily dependent on foreign direct investment, not for want of capital, but for access to markets, technology and expertise. To make matters worse, over the last decade, foreign investors have taken a growing share in publicly listed companies, helped by the falling ringgit in recent years.

Arguably, foreign ownership of the Malaysian economy has never been as high since the 1970s. As large corporations are increasingly dominant, they have often crowded out small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and other Malaysian firms.

Macroeconomic management
In his recent book, Dr Bruce Gale (author of ‘Economic Reform In Malaysia: The Contribution Of Najibnomics’) has praised current macroeconomic management.

Jomo: Well, Gale is a political consultant and needs to ‘cari makan’. He is not a serious macroeconomist the last time I checked, but should nonetheless be taken seriously because he reminds us that well-managed ‘public relations’ influence market and public sentiment, including credit and other ratings. He heaps praise on ‘conventional wisdom’ which remains very influential, even if wrong.

Gale’s book reminds us that ‘creative accounting’, involving the transfer of debt and liabilities to state-owned enterprises or government-linked companies, has enabled the government to limit the growth of mainly ringgit-denominated federal government debt by rapidly expanding federal government-guaranteed ‘contingent liabilities’.

His defence and justification for GST ring quite hollow as his premise is that the middle class has been evading income tax, whereas it is mainly the rich who have successfully done so, whether legally or otherwise.

Although he has been writing on Malaysia for over three decades, he appears to have selective amnesia, only giving credit to the prime minister and his late father, whom no one would grudge, while ignoring other prime ministers and finance ministers, in line with the new official narrative.

Malaysians worse off?
Earlier, you acknowledged that Malaysian economic growth has continued, albeit at a lower rate, over the last two decades. Yet, you also argue that Malaysians may have become worse off in recent years. That sounds contradictory.

Jomo: Moderate economic growth has continued since the 1997-1998 financial crisis. More recently, this has been partly due to foreign financial inflows, helped by unconventional monetary policies in OECD economies.

Between 2012 and 2014, most people, especially low-income earners, became better off, thanks to the introduction of the minimum wage, continued ‘full employment’ and higher commodity prices.

Since then, commodity prices have fallen, unemployment has been rising (especially for youth), the GST was introduced, and consumer confidence has fallen lower than during the 1997-1998 or 2008-2009 financial crises.

However, consumer sentiment in Malaysia has been negative for some time according to CLSA and MIER (Malaysian Institute of Economic Research). Indeed, according to Nielsen, the international polling company, it has been poor since 2013, and is now the lowest in Southeast Asia.

Food prices have generally continued rising, as transport charges – for tolls, trains, etc. – have been increasing again, with floating petrol prices. Meanwhile, lower commodity prices and climate change have reduced many farm incomes.

Official unemployment has gone up from 2.9% in 2014 to 3.5% in 2016, still commendably low, although there are concerns about high youth unemployment, especially among the tertiary educated.

Retrenchments have been worst for services, casting doubt on future employment prospects as the authorities rely increasingly on services for growth and jobs. With unemployment low, but rising, wage growth has slowed after the initial introduction of the minimum wage, while real incomes have been hit by higher prices and taxes.                  

Wage depression
You seem to imply that Malaysian wages have been artificially lowered.

Jomo: Malaysians, in general, have higher incomes now than before. However, official numbers are misleading as we do not account for the massive presence and contribution of foreign labour, especially undocumented immigrant workers.

Their status has also served to depress wages for low-income Malaysian workers. Not surprisingly then, labour’s share of national income has gone down relatively.

This decline is not due to declining labour productivity, even if that may be the case. After all, higher labour productivity does not automatically raise workers’ incomes. Prevailing low wages retard technical change which would, in turn, raise productivity.

Thus, the unofficial low wage policy stands in the way of labour-saving innovation, such as mechanical harvesting, so necessary for development. We need a medium-term development strategy far less reliant on cheap foreign labour.

Consequently, wages and living conditions are too low, especially in agriculture. And even smallholder agriculture has been neglected by officialdom in Malaysia for some time, especially after Pak Lah’s (Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s) (photo) administration.

Fighting a jihad against middlemen was not only thinly disguised misinformed and misguided stunt intended to score ‘ethno-populist’ points, but also irrelevant to addressing contemporary challenges.

Shifting tax burden
How have recent tax reforms affected Malaysian households?

Jomo: Following the introduction of the GST in April 2015, tax revenue from households increased from RM42 billion in 2014 to RM67 billion in 2016, with GST more than doubling the contribution of indirect tax from RM17 billion to RM39 billion.   

At the same time, income tax revenue has risen modestly from RM24 billion in 2014 to RM28 billion in 2016. On average, Malaysian households paid taxes of RM5,600 each, more than ever before.

Meanwhile, government subsidies and assistance have declined, falling from RM43 billion in 2013 to RM25 billion in 2016, with most food price subsidies removed between 2013 and 2016.

Inflation numbers
Official inflation numbers are low. Why does the public doubt official inflation numbers?

Jomo: There are many reasons why the public doubts official inflation numbers, but perhaps most importantly for the country’s open economy, the ringgit exchange rate dropped from RM3.2/USD to RM4.5/USD before recovering to RM4.2 recently.

People presume that a decline in the international value of the ringgit by about a quarter must surely have inflationary consequences.

The GST of 6% has been imposed since April 2015, directly affecting about half of household spending, with up to a fifth more indirectly affected. Again, this is expected to have affected the cost of living.

Price subsidies for sugar, rice, flour and cooking oil have been removed since 2013, raising prices by 14% to 31%. Meanwhile, transport – including fuel and toll – prices have risen on several fronts.

Hence, you can understand why people are skeptical.

Transformasi Nasional 2050 (TN50)
After announcing and then abandoning the New Economic Model, there is now much ado about an economic transformation agenda for 2050.

Jomo: The TN50 exercise has been broadly consultative, involving young people, which surely is a good thing. Unfortunately, as with BR1M, it has been used to mobilise political support for the regime before the forthcoming elections rather than open up a more inclusive debate about where the country is headed.
The conversation should be about where the country should go and how to get there. It is still unclear to what extent we are going beyond the usual feel-good, futuristic sounding clichés, but this should open up an important debate to give serious consideration to actually achieving the transformation.
The country is presently mired in a political crisis that has paralysed effective economic policymaking. Malaysia desperately needs a legitimate and consultative leadership to implement bold measures to take the country forward.

Many people in the country know what ails the economy, but we do not have the open discussion needed to really tackle the challenges the nation faces.

For example, a free and independent media will not only improve the quality of public discourse, but also the legitimacy and acceptability of resulting public policy.

~ Malaysiakini


Monday, October 16, 2017

Documents leading to ‘Allah’ ban under OSA, court rules

    Published     Updated

Cabinet documents that led to the 1986 ban on the usage of the word “Allah” by non-Muslims cannot be produced in court because they are classified under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972, ruled the High Court in Kuala Lumpur.

Justice Nor Bee Arifin dismissed the application from Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) and its Sabah division president Jerry Dusing to have these documents produced, with no costs ordered.

The decision was delivered in chambers and conveyed to the media by SIB's counsel Annou Xavier and senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan (photo), representing the Home Ministry.

"One of the reasons given is that the document is classified under OSA. The court also feels that it is not necessary for the document to be disclosed under the judiciary application," Xavier said outside the courtroom.

SIB had filed the application of discovery to find out how the word “Allah” would cause confusion and be a threat to public security, as the government had cited at the time.
According to Xavier, the court ruled that the reasons given by the government to deem usage of the word a threat to public security were sufficient. 
Shamsul, meanwhile, claimed that the court said that it was in no position to ask the Home Ministry to produce OSA documents, as declassification is up to the government. 

The court also fixed Nov 1 for case management to set a proceeding date.

SIB and Dusing had filed a judicial review to challenge the seizure of religious books containing the word “Allah” brought in from Indonesia in 2007.

Although the books were returned to the church in 2008, SIB and Dusing sought the permission of the Court of Appeal to initiate a judicial review to seek a declaration that they have the constitutional right to use “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia translations of Christian prayer literature. 

They were granted leave to commence the judicial review by the court in 2014.



14 OCTOBER 2017

I am extremely disturbed and disappointed to read in the webnews portal Free Malaysia Today that Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki had said in Kota Bharu that the BN government's efforts at strengthening Islam from time to time was evidence it would not backslide from its responsibility to turn the country into an Islamic state.

This is the clearest statement yet on the federal government's stance on making Malaysia an Islamic state, despite all evidence that Malaysia was formed on the understanding that it would be a secular country. Needless to say, Wajdi's statement is a flagrant contravention of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement by which Sarawak merged with Sabah, Malaya and Singapore to form the Malaysian nation.

That Wajdi seems unconcerned about this contravention is yet more evidence that on issues of vital importance to Sarawak, the Federal BN is not bothered about the rights of the people of the state nor about the meaning and import of solemn undertakings. Perhaps he is unaware of the Cobbold Commission report, the Report of the Intergovernmental Committee, and the terms of the Malaysia Agreement.

There is enough evidence in our historical documents and legal precedents to establish that Sarawak had signed the Malaysia Agreement with a secular state. The founding father, BAPA MALAYSIA Tunku Abdul Rahman stated it plainly in Parliament: ‘I would like to make it clear that this country is not an Islamic State as it is generally understood, we merely provided that Islam shall be the official religion of the State’ [Hansard, 1 May 1958]. How much clearer can it be that the INTENTION was the establishment of a secular state? The fact that Malaysia is a secular country is recognized by the Supreme Court in Che Omar bin Che Soh v Public Prosecutor [1988] 2 MLJ 55.

The Sarawak BN ought to emulate the Sultan of Johor in the recent instance of the Ruler's reaction to the issue of a Muslims-only laundrette in Muar, which appears to be a campaign by stealth to make Malaysia an Islamic state. It has to draw an unequivocal response of repudiation – and that, too, with alacrity – by the Sarawak BN as otherwise people of this state will think the state government complicit in the federal endeavour to make Malaysia an Islamic state.

When we agreed to form Malaysia, it was with the understanding that we remain a nation governed by the rule of law and not by religious laws. Our forefathers placed such high priority and importance on the secularity of our country that it was one of the key findings of the Cobbold Commission that there was to be no official religion for Sarawak.  Any attempts to turn this country to an Islamic state would be a clear breach of a fundamental term of the 1963 Malaysia Agreement, for which Sarawak would have recourse in the courts of law.

This is not a time for equivocation. Sarawak BN must repudiate Wajdi's statement and demand a denial of its claims by the highest authorities in federal BN.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan

Monday, October 9, 2017


8 OCTOBER 2017

I am amused that the group of community leaders should feel compelled to defend DCM James Masing’s miscalculation in sending 160 of them in a military plane to Putrajaya to pledge support for the PM. Temonggong Wilfred Billy Panyau is entitled to his opinion that it was not disrespectful to be flown in a military plane instead of a commercial plane. If he is happy to be treated like that, so be it.

However, Wilfred cannot claim to speak for all ex-servicemen. He and his other community headmen friends may be doing fine, having been appointed headmen and getting allowances from the government, but what about the other retired servicemen who have not been so lucky? It had been reported in 2012 that 60% of ex-servicemen live in poverty and are struggling to make ends meet. What does Wilfred have to say about these 60%? Are they being taken good care of by the government?

As for his claim that he and his friends were appointed because the government recognises their sacrifice and commitment to protect the country, that is just illogical. All the existing ex-servicemen made the same sacrifice and had the same commitment, where are their appointments? Many of them are just struggling to survive. If Wilfred claims that he and his friends deserve to be respected for their sacrifice and commitment, where is the respect for the rest of the retired servicemen? How should this respect be shown? I’m sure they would also like to know the answer.

In fact, last year, I had made a statement about the appointment of community leaders after I had received numerous calls expressing concern that the recent appointments of community chiefs and headmen had been of individuals who are chosen because of their affiliation with BN component parties. I had said in my statement, ‘Many of these appointees do not have the standing in the community, which is essential for those who hold this position. Many do not have the respect and support of their local communities that they are expected to represent.’

DCM James Masing’s initial statement was that he could not afford to fly them all on the commercial plane – that in itself implies that the commercial plane is the preferred option. He also said that the community leaders were there to pledge support to the PM. Only after the criticism levelled at him did he come up with the story about the flight being a reward for fighting communists. Which brings me to ask – exactly how many of these community leaders fought the communists in those days?

Whatever these community leaders may say, the fact remains that there was blatant abuse of power by the DCM in using a government asset for his political purpose in flying these people to Putrajaya. Moreover, it was disrespectful of him for using these political leaders this way.

Finally, I wish to say to Wilfred and his friends, who are ‘warning’ critics not to use them for political mileage, to please look at themselves square in the face and ask themselves what the DCM was doing, if not using abusing his powers by using them for political mileage? They have been politicised, no matter how much they deny it. When we in the opposition see something unethical, it is our duty to point it out. Sometimes the truth hurts, and it is easier for them to deny rather than to face the uncomfortable truth.

Wilfred and other community leaders would do well to remind themselves of the Community Chiefs and Headmen Ordinance 2004 which prohibits them from being affiliated with any political party. They are meant to be politically neutral, and their duties are to speak and act in the best interests of the people they represented. Why should they allow themselves to be used by a BN party to go to KL and pledge support for the PM?

It is a sad day indeed when community leaders cannot see that they are being exploited by political parties, and an even sadder day when they insist that they are being rewarded and respected even when others see it as blatant disrespect and an abuse of power. Worst of all, they do not even care that the law prohibits them from being affiliated with political parties. We again reiterate our call for community chiefs to be appointed by the communities and not by the government, so that the position can again be accorded the respect it once enjoyed.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak

M'sia education hub or dud?

"Two weeks ago, I was preparing the questions for the final semester exams when I was summoned to the president's office. He said: ‘Make sure all the students pass.’ I thought nothing of it although at the back of my mind, I knew what he had in mind.

"A week later, I told my class of 28 that there would be a special revision class before the exam. Attendance was poor. One third of them were absent but nevertheless, I went to on to discuss the eight questions I had prepared. They were only required to answer any four.

"On exam day, only 13 turned up to sit for their paper. Two days later, I sat down to mark the scripts. Only eight passed.

"I was again summoned to president's office where I was told that I had defied instructions. If they don't pass, I was told, they can't go to third year and they will drop out.

"Short of writing the exam for them, I told him, I did my best explaining the special class and the discussion of the questions. He wouldn't have any of it.

"Two weeks later, some of the students came to thank me and one of them remarked: 'The whole class passed and are going into third year.' I was told that there was a ‘special sitting’ where the absentees were given ‘a second opportunity’. I was to learn that the five who failed had their marks "reviewed" and ‘upgraded’.

"I marched to the president's office and demanded answers. He calmly said: ‘This is a business. We need the money from the students and their sponsors who in many cases are on scholarships provided by governments of countries in the African continent and the Middle East.’

"’This how the system works,’ I was told. I packed my bag and left, never to return to lecturing."

With the recent announcement by the Higher Education Ministry of Oman banning four Malaysian universities, the above paraphrased paroxysm, which took place about two years ago, came to mind.

The writer was a doyen in the advertising industry. After retirement, he consciously decided to impart his knowledge, skills and experience to young people. But he did not last, unable to be part of the system.

From the above outburst, it is obvious that there are certainly shortcomings in some Malaysian private colleges and universities - not necessarily the four named by the Omanese ministry.

Licenses dished out like cookies

When the government intended to make Malaysia the regional education hub in the Nineties, it offered unlimited licences and permits for the establishment of institutions of higher learning.

At the end of 2015, there were more than 600 private institutions of higher learning. Here are some statistics:
  • Foreign university branch campuses - 9
  • Private universities and university colleges - 42
  • Private colleges - 468
  • Polytechnics - 27
  • Community colleges - 39
According to Unesco's Global Education Digest, there were about 750,000 students enrolled in higher education institutions in Malaysia in 2009. The figure may have increased over the past eight years.

Among these are allegedly fly-by-night operators who use such colleges as a front for student permits to enable foreigners to legally enter the country. Many of these permit holders are said to then engage in unhealthy and illegal activities, and the arrests by Immigration authorities attest to this. But the errant institutions get away unscathed.

These aside, the most important questions are: Who ensures the quality of education provided by these institutions? Who checks on the syllabi, the qualifications of teachers and facilities? During investigations, we discovered two such colleges operating on the first floor of shop houses near the Central Market. (They have since moved.)

What basic educational qualifications do foreign students need to enroll in local universities? What are the minimum requirements to get into local colleges and universities? Is being able to read and write English a pre-requisite, as it is the medium of instruction?

Quality assurance OSA?

The Quality Assurance Agency of the United Kingdom carries out audits on branch campuses of UK universities in Malaysia and local universities that offer UK degree courses. The information can be found online.

Because of the National Higher Education Fund Corporation (PTPTN) loans readily available to Malaysian students, there have been cases where enrolment in diploma courses are offered to students with just one credit in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia exams.

The Malaysian Qualification Agency (MQA), according to its website, among others states that it is "tasked to implement its framework as a basis of quality assurance of higher education" and "to develop with cooperation of stakeholders standards and criteria and instruments as a national reference for conferment of awards."

On paper, the MQA has a code of practice on criteria and standards for higher education in Malaysia, which encompasses student selection and support services; assessment of students and academic staff; and programme monitoring and review.

With 600 institutions of higher learning, the MQA should be checking on at least three, each working day. Is this being done? Does it have the manpower to do it? Previous dealings on reporting errant colleges were met with a laid back attitude.

If there are any such reports, have they been made public, or are they filed and declared "sulit" and classified under the Official Secrets Act?

So, if the MQA had lived up to its name and responsibilities, Malaysia's reputation would have remained untarnished and untainted as the region's education hub. Instead, there's a blot in our efforts. 

MQA's failure has prompted foreign governments and third parties to make their own investigations and conclusions on the quality of education here.

R NADESWARAN believes varsity licences have been handed out like cookies and monitoring private institutions have become almost impossible. Comments:
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

No end in sight to Dayak land rights dispute in Sarawak

No end in sight to Dayak land rights dispute in Sarawak
Sarawak PKR chief and Ba Kelalan assemblyman Baru Bian says he has been reliably informed that no amendments are being drafted to change to Land Code to circumvent a court decision declaring that native customary practices do not have force of law in the state. – Facebook pic, October 6, 2017.

SARAWAK'S indigenous native landowners could be in for more disappointment as an anticipated change to the state's Land Code at next month's legislative assembly session is unlikely to take place.

The amendment to the Land Code is required to circumvent last year’s Federal Court decision that native customary practices to land claims of "pemakai menoa" (territorial domain) and "pulau galau" (communal forest reserve) did not have force of law in Sarawak.

“(There’s been) No hint of a tabling to amend the Land Code,” Baru Bian, a legal expert on native land rights, told The Malaysian Insight.

“I've also been reliably told that no amendment had been drafted,” he said.

The state legislative assembly will sit from November 8 to 17 to pass the state budget for next year, and one bill certain to be tabled is for the establishment of the Sarawak Multimedia Authority.

Yesterday, Baru, who is the state PKR chief and Ba Kelalan assemblyman, discussed the issues of native land claims with Deputy Chief Minister Douglas Uggah, to whom Bian was paying a courtesy call.

“We registered our concern on the 'pemakai menoa’ issue. If they want our input we can give our views. He's open so I will send my opinion soon for their consideration,” Baru said.

Baru was accompanied by Batu Lintang assemblyman See Chee How and Krian assemblyman Ali Biju.

Uggah heads the Pemakai Menoa and Pulau Galau (PMPG) Committee set up by the state government to study how the Land Code should be amended

Two days ago, a group of native landowners in Miri lost a legal battle to claim such lands, adding to the Dayak community’s anxiety at the loss of their communal rights and practices due to the Federal Court decision last December.

Their territorial domain and communal forest reserve lands were alienated by the state government to a oil palm plantation company.

Wellie Henry Majang, the founder of a Dayak think-tank, had then ominously predicted that the issue “would not be ending soon”.

He claimed the PMPG not have a solution even after nine months of research.

“The Dayak are very, very angry,” native land rights activist Nicholas Bawin said.

“I cannot describe to you how angry they are,” Bawin, who attended the Miri case, said.

“How do you tell the native landowners that their way of life, their customary practices of 200, 300 years, long before any legislature or courts were established in Sarawak, have no force of law and therefore they cannot make all those claims?

“Our rights and practice to such claims were established before any legislature. Now they are being taken away and they tell us we have no rights.”

Bawin said the Dayak landowners who have cases before the courts could lose as long as the Land Code is not amended.

“I have been advised by lawyers to ask for a postponement on the  hearing of the cases until after the amendment.

“I told them 'no'. We fight."

Last June, a coalition of nine Dayak non-governmental organisations  asked the state government to direct the state attorney-general to put all native customary rights to land cases on hold while the  Land Code was being amended.

“I say we fight until we, the Dayak, have all our rights back,” the defiant Bawin said. – October 6, 2017.

~ The Malaysian Insight

Monday, October 2, 2017


2 OCTOBER 2017

The latest statement by DCM James Masing justifying the use of the military plane to bring the village chiefs to Putrajaya is turning this sorry saga into a comedy show. It is clear to anyone following the recent developments that the DCM has gone into damage control mode after heavy criticism on social media, but unfortunately his ‘sound reasoning’ of payback for fighting the communists many many years ago is just plain absurd. In the earlier reports, the DCM was noted to have said, “It was because I could not afford using commercial flights. We are talking about 180 people”. The purpose of the visit was said to have been as a show of support for Najib’s leadership. Nothing was said about payback for fighting the communists.

If the DCM is really serious about rewarding the village chiefs for their services rendered, flying them in a military jet not made for comfort or with amenities, and taking a longer time than a commercial plane, is not the right way. Surely they deserve to fly business class on a comfortable plane? It is the least the DCM could have done for them, after all the sacrifices they made. Did he make the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ and travel with the village chiefs in the military plane or did he fly in comforts on a commercial plane?

If the DCM is really serious about rewarding those who fought the communists, why be selective and only reward those from Song, Kapit and Belaga? What about those who live in other areas? I know a few ex Sarawak Rangers in Long Semadoh, who fought the communists. Why are they not similarly ‘rewarded’?

If the DCM is really serious about rewarding those who fought the communists, why not fight for their pensions to be raised? That would be fair to all ex-servicemen, and certainly that would be more useful to them. It is no secret that the ex-servicemen have been calling for their pensions to be raised as they cannot make ends meet on what they are receiving now.

As for him asking me to make up my mind whether I am accusing him of abusing the dignity of the village chiefs by taking them on the military plane or abusing his power by using the military aircraft, the answer is both. These two propositions are not mutually exclusive, and there is no contradiction in them, so I am saying he has done both.

His admission that he could not afford to fly them commercially and therefore used the military aircraft is a blatant abuse of power by using government assets for political activities. Not only was that an abuse of power, it was also a misuse of military assets, as this was not an emergency situation that required the use of the military aircraft.

The question is, who initiated this visit? If it was James Masing, he should have paid for them to travel in comfort. If it was Najib Razak, he should have paid for them to travel in style and comfort. Najib could have come to see them himself; why the need to bring them in such an undignified manner? I reiterate that it was appallingly disrespectful for the DCM or the PM to be so stingy and fly them in a plane not designed for commercial use. Sadly, I expect none of the village chiefs questioned Najib about the accusations levelled against him by the DoJ and other countries around the world about his involvement in the 1MDB corruption scandal. With all his billions, he could have easily chartered a plane to fly them to Putrajaya if he had any respect for them.

The irresistible conclusion in this farce, is that the DCM is playing politics, and is now just attempting to limit the damage by giving his post-event justification. Talk about grasping for straws.

Baru Bian
Chairman, KEADILAN Sarawak / ADUN N81 Ba’ Kelalan

Leaders must stand against intolerance in Malaysia, says Baru

October 2, 2017, Monday

KUCHING: The recent ‘Muslim-only launderette’ incident in Muar, Johor is another troubling sign of a country in which religious and racial intolerance is rising to alarming levels, says state PKR chairman Baru Bian.

He said the owner of the launderette, and those similar to him, are emboldened to act in such a way purely because the government has never taken any action against similar incidents in the past.

“To make matters worse, the Johor Islamic Council advisor and Johor Mufti supported his action. It looks like this is the tip of the iceberg, with another Muslim-only launderette being reported in Perlis,” said Baru in a press statement yesterday.

The Ba Kelalan assemblyman joined a chorus of rational voices in Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, Dennis Ignatius and the Rev Datuk Justin Wan in response to several recent incidents in Peninsular Malaysia.

“The telling thing about the state of the leadership of this country is that there were very few voices against this discriminatory practice; among the few who spoke up being Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, Perlis Mufti Datuk Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin and Parti Amanah Negara vice-president Hasanuddin Mohd Yunus.

“Where was the voice of the Prime Minister who is supposed to lead this nation, and who boasts to the overseas community about Malaysia being a model country of moderation? His squeak was only heard after the royal telling-off by the Sultan of Johor, who did not mince his words, saying the owner’s thinking was ‘sick’.

“Taking the cue from the Sultan, the PM could only offer his usual hollow platitudes about the ‘country’s desire to nurture a united, harmonious, moderate and tolerant society’. It has not escaped notice that he did not make a stand before the Sultan did – this is yet another sign of his lack of leadership qualities and moral courage.”

Baru added the cancellation of a beer event in Kuala Lumpur is also an indication of the slide towards intolerance and extremism.

“The initial reason given (for the cancellation) was that PAS had objected to the festival, saying that it was immoral, could lead to ‘un-Islamic acts such as sex outside marriage, criminal activity and even rape’ and turn Malaysia into the ‘largest vice centre in Asia’.

“These are spurious reasons and for DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Hall) to make their decision based on them is proof of the government pandering to extremist groups and their religious beliefs.

“The festival had been held at least twice before with no untoward incidents, and this cancellation has not only cost a huge loss of revenue to the organisers and the country, it has further damaged our image internationally as well.”

Baru said unsurprisingly, a few days after the cancellation, the police stepped in to explain that the reason for the cancellation was because of a security risk and that extremists were planning a terror attack on the event.

“This ever-evolving excuse game played by the authorities has become an accepted scenario and nobody bats an eyelid when this happens. It appears that only in Malaysia does the government cancel events for fear of terror attacks, and even then, these cancellations are selectively imposed. It is the job of the police to keep all these events safe.

“By recommending events be cancelled, the authorities are not only playing into the hands of these extremists and giving them unwarranted power, they are also taking the easy way out of their duties. What about standing up to these extremists and showing them that we cannot be cowed?”

He said renowned Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, who was recently detained in Malaysia, said it best when he wrote about his experience in the country: “By policing religion, the authorities are not really protecting it. They are only enfeebling their societies, raising hypocrites and causing many people to lose their faith in or respect for Islam.”

“I must applaud Minister (of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports) Datuk Abdul Karim Hamzah for the stand he took that Sarawak would have no issue with holding Oktoberfest; I urge more leaders to take this sensible and rational view.

“Sarawak and Sabah have many non-Muslims and our festivals, such as Gawai and Kaamatan, involve alcohol such as ‘tuak’. As far as I know, these celebrations have not brought about any of those problems that PAS is so concerned about. They (festivals) are an integral part of our culture and identity, and we must be vigilant to protect them from the creeping influence of the moral and religious policing that is happening in Peninsular Malaysia. Will we be told one day that Gawai celebrations must be stopped in order not to offend the Muslim sensibilities?” stressed Baru.

He also said Malaysians need their leaders to show by example that Malaysia still has the spirit of acceptance and harmonious co-existence that was evident in the early days.

“I believe that this is what most Malaysians wish for, but the majority does not dare to speak up for fear of being labelled un-Islamic or being targeted by extremist groups. Our leaders must follow the example shown by the Sultan of Johor, and emphatically reject extremist elements and discriminatory and bigoted practices that are creeping into our society.

“As said by the Coalition on Plan of Action for Malaysia (GBM): ‘Malaysians need to think hard where this country is going’. The longer we wait to take action, the more difficult it will be to undo the damage done to the country’.”

~ Borneo Post

Mustafa Akyol checks out and leaves Hotel California

    Published     Updated
COMMENT | Why should we be surprised that world-renowned Turkish author and journalist, Mustafa Akyol, was detained by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi)?

This incident was expected. His experiences are shared by Malaysians daily, in one form or another.

Are we outraged because Mustafa is a respected academician and a foreigner? Is expressing shock and horror the extent of our effort to demand a return to the true Islamic path?

Others who were detained in the name of religion, have ended up being rehabilitated, or their lives and those of their families, turned upside down. Ask Kartika Dewi Sukarno.

Ask the authorities why Ruth Hilmy, an Indonesian, is still missing. Ask the families of Pastor Raymond Koh (left in photo), Joshua Hilmy and Amri Cik Mat. Their disappearances are suspected to be linked to religious extremism.

The French lawyer, William Bourdon, and Imran Khan, the British lawyer, were deported after entering Malaysia for talks on Scorpene and the Hindraf suit, respectively.

Indonesian human rights activist Mugiyanto Sipin was deported in January last year. In 2014, Indonesian Muslim scholar, Ulil Abshar Abdalla, was denied entry into Malaysia.

Anyone who can liberate the Malay Muslim mind is a dangerous threat. That is why the authorities had to censure Mustafa Akyol. They detained him, interrogated him and made his immediate future uncertain.

Who knows what thoughts entered his mind when he was detained. He had probably heard what happened to various people who had been interrogated on the 14th floors of office complexes.

The authorities wanted to frighten Mustafa, but more importantly, to warn others, that religious topics are not for public discussion.

They were keen to prevent Mustafa from spreading his message. He had already done much harm by putting the seed of critical analysis, into Malay Muslim minds, with his first talk, about "the suppression of rational theology by dogmatists in early Islam". The thrust of his talk was that Muslims were still haunted by “intellectual suicide”.

If his first talk was bad, the authorities found his second talk unacceptable. In that talk, he told Muslims to uphold freedom of conscience and that there was "No compulsion in religion".

Mustafa disagreed with the death penalty for apostates in Saudi Arabia, just as he opposed the Malaysian method of "rehabilitating" those who had left Islam. He also criticised the policing of religion and morality.

Control of the Malay mind
Control of the Malay mind is the only way that Umno-Baru, PAS and the religious authorities can cling onto power. Power manifests itself in many ways. Position. Authority. Wealth. Manipulation of the identity.

In identity manipulation, the drip-drip indoctrination of religion on the Malays has resulted in many Malays forsaking their culture and adopting the Arab culture instead, in their mistaken belief that becoming more like an Arab will make them more Islamic.

Manipulating our identity has made us ethnically inclusive, with many Malays considering themselves Muslims first, Malays second and Malaysians last.

If Jawi had not interfered, Malaysians would have benefited from a discussion of Mustafa's latest book, “The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.”

Instead, we have been allowed to see what irks the Jawi officials. The person who questioned Mustafa said, "We heard that you will speak about commonalities between Islam, Judaism and Christianity.”

So, why should these Abrahamic faiths make Jawi anxious? They share the same origins and have many similarities. Is this what worries Jawi?

When one talks about Christians, one is reminded of love, forgiveness and compassion. Conversely, Islam, as it is practised in Malaysia, is more a numbers and manipulation game, an emphasis on rituals and more importantly, is defined by fear.

Religious zealots wreck families and split-up communities. Religious authorities seize dead bodies from funeral parlours. Women have had their wedding ceremony stopped. Children have been snatched from their mothers because their fathers converted. Children at residential boarding schools have been converted, without their parents’ permission.

Despite the constitution and civil laws which should protect our rights, syariah law appears always to triumph.

Religious fanaticism, if left unchecked, will ensure that the zealots have absolute power. It will destroy Malaysia's peaceful co-existence and has the potential to destabilise the nation.

To mistreat and further punish Mustafa, will result in an international outcry, aggressive intervention and increased, unwanted spotlight on Malaysia. Releasing him was part of the authorities' plan. Other people will now, not dare to enter Malaysia to talk about Islam, except Zakir Naik.

On the day he was detained, Mustafa Akyol said that the recording of a Quranic recital sounded like the voice of an oppressor.

Mustafa has "escaped", but the rest of us are still under the yoke of oppression. The Islamic fanatics will not yield until they have destroyed the nation, and sadly, the Malays, many of whom realise what is happening, are too afraid to seize back their right to be true Muslims.

MARIAM MOKHTAR is a defender of the truth, the admiral-general of the Green Bean Army and president of the Perak Liberation Organisation (PLO). Blog, Twitter.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.