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Malaysia's rights record under fire

Posted: 22 Oct 2013 09:11 PM PDT


The country's own human rights commission, which will send a delegation to Geneva, has already warned that the latest law enforcement legislation will "open the country to scrutiny and criticism by the international community," describing the provisions as "retrogressive" and "inconsistent" with accepted international principles on human rights.

Kate Mayberry, Al-Jazeera

After a 30-minute briefing at Malaysia's police headquarters where he was measured for a bullet proof vest, although not, apparently, a helmet, opposition politician and human rights lawyer N Surendran is ready to join officers at their next confrontation with armed criminals after an invitation from the country's top policeman to get a "feel" for what happens.

The offer, made via Twitter over the weekend was criticised, as was Surendran for accepting, but the Member of Parliament says it's an opportunity to highlight the potential dangers to Malaysians from a force seen by some as the country's most corrupt institution.

"It's not about the risks to me," Surendran said as he arrived for the briefing last week. "It's about the risks being faced by everyone. We cannot have trigger happy enforcement officers. They keep saying they're shooting criminals, but how do they know that? They are suspects and, what do you do with suspects? You try your best to arrest them. "

Surendran doesn't know when he'll join the patrol - he's been told it could happen any time of the day or night - but he may well find himself face-to-face with a potential criminal at the same time as Malaysia's diplomats sit down at the United Nations in Geneva for what is expected to be a frank discussion on the country's human rights situation.

The government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, in its submission to the UN, highlighted its moves to repeal anti-democratic laws, but activists are likely to focus on a spate of recent decisions that have cast doubt on the government's human rights record.

An 'astounding turn'

Last month, just a year after detention without trial was ended, the government pushed through amendments to the long-forgotten Prevention of Crime Act 1959, in a move that effectively reintroduced the measure and also limited the scope for judicial review.

An apparent surge in serious crime and concerns about public security were used to justify the decision, the same reasoning behind a police crackdown in which more than 400,000 people have been "screened" since the middle of August and nearly 16,000 detained, according to official figures. More recently, the Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, told a closed-door meeting that he supported a "shoot first" policy in dealing with criminals.

"Malaysia's human rights record has taken an astounding turn for the worse in the past six months that should not go unnoticed by countries at the Human Rights Council," Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch wrote in a statement released ahead of the UN review set for October 24. "The UPR session is a moment for concerned governments to tell Malaysian policymakers to reverse course."

The country's own human rights commission, which will send a delegation to Geneva, has already warned that the latest law enforcement legislation will "open the country to scrutiny and criticism by the international community," describing the provisions as "retrogressive" and "inconsistent" with accepted international principles on human rights.

Malaysia is a signatory to just three of the United Nations' core conventions on human rights; those relating to the rights of the child, the disabled and women. At the 2009 review, Malaysia's first, the government accepted 62 of the 103 recommendations made by the UN body and "noted" 22 others. 

This year's submission, compiled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stressed the government's "strong commitment to the rule of law, to upholding respect for human rights, and widening the democratic space," noting a series of initiatives to tackle poverty, build more affordable homes and improve access to education and healthcare. It highlights too, the July 2012 decision to repeal the Internal Security Act, which was used frequently against government critics, and assures the UN that its replacement, the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act was consistent with international human rights standards.

"The UPR process is a positive and constructive mechanism, which allows for a substantive exchange of views aimed at improving the human rights situation in the country," the Ministry said in a statement. Its delegation will be led by Ho May Yong, a senior civil servant. 


What Now After the Umno Elections?

Posted: 22 Oct 2013 12:50 PM PDT

Which system is more likely to discourage money politics? If every one of the 146,500 votes were to count, wouldn't it be much harder for candidates to buy even half that number than if it were a matter of just 191 divisions? 
Kee Thuan Chye
Mohd Ali Rustam lost badly in his bid for a vice-presidency at the Umno party elections last weekend. He managed to win only seven votes out of a possible 191. With the new system of electoral colleges, this means he got votes from seven divisions, as each division made up one electoral college.
In terms of number of votes from individual delegates, he obtained 15,294, which works out roughly to only about 10.4 per cent of the total of 146,500. Significantly, the people who voted are Malays, so Ali Rustam can't blame the Chinese for his loss this time, as he did for his loss at the recent general election (GE13).
Not only is this poetic justice; it is also a vindication of the fact that the outcome of GE13 was not, contrary to what Umno President and Prime Minister Najib Razak claimed, due to a "Chinese tsunami". Barisan Nasional (BN) did worse at GE13 because other races rejected it, including the Malays.
In Ali Rustam's case, he stood in the parliamentary constituency of Bukit Katil, which was made up of 53 per cent Malay voters, 41 per cent Chinese and 6 per cent Indian. So for him to blame the Chinese was simply unfair as the majority of the voters were Malays.
For his Umno vice-presidency defeat, whom is he going to blame? The delegates who didn't vote for him? Because they might have considered that in 2009, he was disqualified from contesting the same position for engaging in money politics? And that last year, he threw a lavish wedding for his son and incurred a hefty food and beverage bill of RM600,000, which prompted investigations by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC)?
What, by the way, has been the result of those investigations? Are we likely to get a report from the MACC at all, or will it – like many other investigations of protected species – be kept in the Umno skeleton closet? On the other hand, since Ali Rustam has fallen out of favour, perhaps any protection he enjoyed before may now be terminated?
Poor man. Having to suffer the vagaries of politics and the experience of defeat yet again. Worse, defeat within his own party. And a pathetic defeat at that. With only seven votes out of 191. I think the Chinese must have grouped together, raised millions of ringgit and bought off the other 184 divisions so that they would not vote for him. And that's how he lost so badly.
Speaking of the new voting system that was being adopted for the first time during these Umno elections, I wonder what is so revolutionary – or, rather, to use the fashionable word, transformational – about it.
Umno leaders make much song and dance about its now allowing 146,500 delegates to vote instead of only 2,500 before this. They say it shows how democratic the party is in allowing more people to decide who will fill the leadership positions. But does it really do that?
It would if every vote counted on its own. But that's unfortunately not the case. The votes are instead added up within each division and in the end represent only one vote from that division.
So let's say there are two candidates vying for a particular position, and 1,000 delegates of Division X are voting for candidates A and B. If 600 vote for A and 400 for B, A wins but only scores one vote from Division X.
Now, let's say from Division Y, which also has 1,000 delegates, 300 vote for A and 700 for B. In this case, B is the winner, but he also wins only one vote. For the overall contest, it doesn't help B in any way that in terms of individual votes, he would lead with 1,100 in comparison to A's 900. The individual votes count for nothing.
This means it all hinges on the division. It means the members of the division can still be influenced by the division chief. Worse, giving each division one vote is being unfair to divisions that are big. They get the same one vote as divisions that are small.
So why have the electoral college system? Why not make it one man, one vote instead of one division, one vote? Why not let it truly determine the outcome that the members want, rather than the outcome that could be influenced by the division chiefs?
Besides, which system is more likely to discourage money politics? If every one of the 146,500 votes were to count, wouldn't it be much harder for candidates to buy even half that number than if it were a matter of just 191 divisions?
In fact, this time round, Mukhriz Mahathir would have secured one of the vice-presidencies if the system had been one man, one vote. He obtained 57,189 individual votes in comparison to the 56,604 Hishammuddin Hussein got. The position, however, went to the latter because he won 100 electoral colleges to Mukhriz's 91.
That being so, how deserving does Hishammuddin feel about his victory, if he could even call it that at all?
Interestingly, Mukhriz must now know what Pakatan Rakyat feels for having won the popular vote at GE13 but failing to take over the government because they won fewer seats in Parliament.
In any case, now that the Umno elections are over, I wonder whether the intolerable ethnocentric posturing by some candidates during the build-up to it will stop. Or whether we will see a resurgence of Ketuanan Melayu (Malay Supremacy) agitation instead.
With Najib having done nothing to stem the ethnocentric tide and saying nothing to placate the anxieties of non-Malay Malaysians, the prospects of reconciliation and inclusiveness are not bright.
In fact, what he said about GE13 last weekend sounded ominous: "Umno was actually successful in that we managed to win 88 seats in Parliament. Our colleagues did not perform that well, but Umno remains the backbone of Barisan Nasional."
His rubbing this in nearly six months after GE13, issuing a reminder that the other BN component parties made up mainly of other races didn't do so well, is to assert the dominance of Umno. He, however, seems to have forgotten that in 2004, Umno won 109 seats on its own, 21 more than its current 88. But of course that's of no consequence now. He is setting the tone by warning of attitudes and policies to come.
This will be consolidated from December 2 to 7, when the party's general assembly is held. We can expect at the event big-time grandstanding by one and all, from the supreme leaders to the grassroots representatives. That's when Ketuanan Melayu could rear its hideous head. And the president might be the first to hold it up.
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.

Nasruddin and Ariff are wrong about Shariah laws

Posted: 22 Oct 2013 12:23 PM PDT


Ravinder Singh, TMI 

Sorry to say that both PAS MP Nasruddin Hassan Tantawi and DAP's Raub MP Ariff Sabri are wrong about what Shariah law could achieve that our criminal law has failed to. Their suggestion or proposal is based on perception as it does not take into account important factors leading to the breakdown of law and order. Any law can suffer the same fate when those factors are present.

Enforcement is the key to the effectiveness or otherwise of any laws or rules, at any level. I once heard a senior officer of the Housing Ministry relate what he discovered while on a study visit to Germany. His entourage visited a local authority and were told it had about 30 laws to enforce. When asked about the number of non-compliance cases, the answer was "zero".

The secret? When a law is passed and implemented (after being given wide publicity), there is full compliance because no second chance is given to any law-breaker. The full weight of the law is brought to bear on the lawbreaker the very first time it is broken.

How does this fare with our law-enforcement? Why is our law-enforcement not effective? This is what the proponents of Shariah law need to look at very closely.

Does Malaysia have the political will to enforce laws strictly? Take the case of road-traffic summonses. It has become a culture to give discounts around festival times. What when our courts rule that "motive" is not necessary in a certain murder case, but is necessary in every other murder case. Or when the AG finds that the two young police palace guards against whom a report for snatch theft was made had a strong alibi that they were not at the place of the snatch theft, without allowing the court to put the alibi to test?

Then we have laws that have gaping loopholes. For example, overloaded lorries that stop short of the JPJ road block cannot be summoned as they are stationary! How did they get to that place if they had not been moving on the road? What is the extra weight doing on the lorries if not being transported from one place to another? Similarly with lorries using unapproved re-threaded tyres the torn-off casings of which can often be seen lying on the highways. They are only checked during the six-monthly Puspakom Inspection. So they rent good tyres for the inspection, then replace the bad ones. Why is it not an offence for the lorries to be using bad tyres between the Puspakom inspections? What is the logic of this?

It would appear that the loopholes are deliberate to provide an escape for the law-breakers. Is the theory of "presumption" only good in the case of drug-related cases where if you are caught with more than a certain amount of the stuff, you are presumed to be a trafficker? So if an overloaded lorry is stationary short of the road-block, why is it not presumed to be running overloaded on the road?

Then there is the question of corruption. Does it not affect the quality of enforcement?

Read more at: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/sideviews/article/nasruddin-and-ariff-are-wrong-about-shariah-laws-ravinder-singh 

A law that protects the crooks and punishes the good guys

Posted: 22 Oct 2013 12:15 PM PDT

Nancy said it was media exposes that motivated the government to push for the amendments of Section 203 of the Penal Code.

Section 203 states: "Whoever discloses any information or matter which has been obtained by him in the performance of his duties or the exercise of his functions under any written law shall be punished with a fine of not more than one million ringgit; or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with both."

Terence Fernandez, fz.com 

SO JUST who is Section 203 of the Penal Code (Amended) supposed to protect?

That those re-elected into power (albeit barely) are falling over themselves to suppress the flow of information, begs the question as to why the sudden need to threaten civil servants against leak information.
To put it bluntly, the August House has been raped to enable laws to be passed to protect crooks.
One does not see any other logic as to why a civil servant who provides information to the public or media on matters of public interest may end up in jail.
After all Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Nancy Shukri let the cat out of the bag that it was media exposes that motivated the government to push for the amendments.
"The leaking of information to electronic media with false exaggeration to tarnish the government needs to be handled seriously," she is reported as telling Parliament today.
Section 203 states: "Whoever discloses any information or matter which has been obtained by him in the performance of his duties or the exercise of his functions under any written law shall be punished with a fine of not more than one million ringgit; or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with both."
Datuk Paul Low, another Minister in the Prime Minister's Department told fz.com yesterday that he was going to bring up the issue at today's Cabinet meeting.
However it looks like whatever debate that will be taking place at the Prime Minister's office will be purely academic. This is because Low's colleagues including those from Barisan Nasional (BN) worked late into the night to amend the legislation, passing the second reading.
Hence one supposes as a member of the Senate, Low will be the only government representative who will vote against the amendment when it comes to the Dewan Negara.
Nancy tried some damage control "explaining" that the legislation is meant to be read together with existing provisions with regards to giving false information.
Section 203 states that "whoever, knowing or having reason to believe that an offence has been committed, gives any information respecting that offence which he knows or believes to be false, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both."
She said whistle-blowers who tip off the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be protected under the MACC Act itself.
Unfortunately, while the MACC is doing a lot of good work to change perception, the fact that whistle-blowers have flown off the top floors of the Commission's buildings is still a recent memory.
So one doubts if any government servant will be queuing outside the MACC's doors anytime soon.
Former minister Datuk Seri Noh Omar – dropped for not delivering Selangor to BN in the recent general election – argues that it is only applicable to information that jeopardises the country's security.
But in the vague big world of officialdom and self-serving politicians what is "national security"? A person's political future can also be a matter of national security!
I have had enough policemen coming to my office to take my statements on "national security" and public interest issues, including the Port Klang Free Zone (PKFZ).
The first question is always "who gave you the information" followed by "why you wrote this story".
That has always been the perception – that the authorities are never interested in investigating the message but rather shoot the messenger.
So here is also where Nancy's arguments is flawed where misinformation is reported.
In January, a criminal defamation report was filed against a reporter from my previous organisation for reporting on a shooting death case involving the police.
So, if there are any misreporting, the Press can be hauled up under provisions of Section 499 to Section 502 of the Penal Code, where we can face up to two years jail.
And along with the Official Secrets Act (OSA), there is already an arsenal of laws to suppress information and penalise those who make it public.
So again, for whose benefit is the amendment to Section 203 being done?
As Low says, any law that restricts information must also be in tandem with the introduction of the likes of a Freedom of Information Act.
Unfortunately we have people in power who use their positions to introduce new restrictions that only serves to protect crooks, while decent law abiding citizens such as civil servants end up paying the price for doing the right thing.

Kredit: www.malaysia-today.net

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