21 April 2014

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TMMO

The intense global scrutiny brought upon Malaysia’s government over the fate of flight MH370 has tossed a wild card into its controversial efforts to send opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim back to jail.

Just hours before the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on March 8, a court overturned Anwar’s 2012 acquittal on sodomy charges he says are false and part of a long-running government attempt to wreck his political career.

Sentenced to five years in jail, Anwar, free on appeal, would be expelled from parliament if the conviction holds — a severe blow for a fractious opposition that has enjoyed unprecedented success by uniting around his star power.

But Anwar feels the negative global attention due to MH370 could force the government to think twice.

“(MH370) certainly will have a bearing,” said Anwar, 66, when asked by AFP whether concern over international reaction to his jailing could make his political foes pause.

“The entire radar is on Malaysia — that it is opaque, semi-authoritarian, no transparency, no accountability.”

Fears of backlash

Unaccustomed to answering for itself at home, Malaysia’s government has faced a barrage of international criticism for the unexplained loss of the plane with 239 people aboard, and a stumbling response.

Anwar’s opposition says the saga has exposed institutional decay and incompetence in a government dominated since 1957 by the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which is widely accused of rampant cronyism and corruption.

A former deputy premier with UMNO, Anwar has cultivated strong friendships in Washington, where he is lauded for his calls for reform, and the US State Department has questioned the March 7 ruling against him.

However, President Barack Obama does not plan to see Anwar when he is in Kuala Lumpur next week, though US officials have not ruled out a lower-level meeting. It was not clear whether Obama would raise Anwar’s case with Malaysia’s government.

“Jailing Anwar will be a big mistake, as it will galvanise people around his struggle. The last time they did that we saw the biggest protests ever,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of Malaysian public policy think-tank IDEAS.

Anwar was sensationally ousted from the government in 1998 after losing a power struggle, and his subsequent jailing for six years on sodomy and corruption charges was widely considered politically motivated.

The biggest protests in Malaysia’s history resulted, and Anwar emerged as a formidable opposition campaigner after the sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004.

Jailing Anwar would heap further pressure on the government and make it “a laughing stock”, Wan Saiful said.

Current Prime Minister Najib Razak, a relative moderate, has consistently sought international favour, but is constrained by UMNO conservatives who deeply fear Anwar and the political threat he poses.

In elections last year, the opposition won a majority of Malaysia’s popular vote for the first time, though UMNO’s coalition clung to control of parliament.

The March ruling came just two weeks before Anwar was to stand for an assembly seat in Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state.

The seat was seen as a springboard to becoming the state’s chief minister — a powerful soapbox ahead of the next general election due by 2018 — but the ruling disqualified Anwar.

Influential conservatives may gamble that the long-term gains from jailing Anwar are worth any overseas backlash, said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia politics researcher at Singapore Management University.

“There clearly are people in that party who want Anwar in jail,” she said.

“The focus is the domestic arena and what they feel they can get away with.”

 ‘Major battle’

UMNO is widely believed to influence the courts in sensitive cases, though Najib’s government denies this.

No date for an appeal has yet been set.

Anwar, who brought tens of thousands to the streets after last year’s disputed elections, warned of a “major battle” if he is jailed.

“You can take me, beat me up — you can shoot me if you want to — but I’m not going to take this lying down,” he said, hinting demonstrations may be called.

Multi-ethnic Malaysia enjoyed rapid economic growth and rising living standards over recent decades while a controversial UMNO formula reserves political supremacy for majority Muslim Malays.

But voters have increasingly rebelled over endemic corruption, slowing growth, and impatience with UMNO’s authoritarian tactics and divisive racial politics.

Since last year’s elections, Najib’s government has shelved reform promises and brought sedition charges or other pressure against opposition figures and reform advocates.

21 April 2014

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TMMO

With five days to appeal against his conviction in the Sodomy II trial, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is yet to fill the gap left by the late veteran lawyer and ally, Karpal Singh.

The PKR de facto leader told a crowd of 800 here that he must look for a lawyer to take charge of the appeal against his second sodomy conviction by the end of today, in order to file the petition of appeal on time.

“Not only am I about to go prison but I also have to look for the money to pay legal fees,” said Anwar jokingly, at the Reformasi 2.0 ceramah at the Lembah Pantai parliamentary constituency.

“But that is for me to worry. What I want from you here is to know the truth and judge accordingly,” he said.

Karpal was killed in a fatal accident last Thursday when the vehicle he was travelling in collided with a five-tonne lorry near Gua Tempurung in Gopeng, Perak. The accident also claimed the life of his long-time assistant, Michael Cornelius.

The former DAP chairman and Bukit Gelugor MP had been due to file the petition of appeal at the appellate court on April 24, a day prior to the expiry of the ten-day deadline on Friday.

Karpal had appeared as Anwar’s lead counsel since the former deputy prime minister’s first sodomy charge against him in 1998.

Karpal had taken up the case on a pro bono basis and fought relentlessly for the past 15 years, said the Anwar today.

Other speakers at the event last night alleged that the Court of Appeal’s ruling was politically motivated, accusing the judges of noting events irrelevant to the case.

PKR vice-president N. Surendran pointed to the pains the judges took to defend themselves against the accusation of having hurried the judgement.

“They were defending themselves as if they were politicians,” said the Padang Serai MP, after having studied the 85-page judgement.

PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli added that not content with the damage to Anwar’s reputation, the government was still appealing for a harsher sentence despite the victory.

“On normal circumstances it is the losing party that appeals but because this is Anwar they are after, the government is appealing,” he said.

Anwar was sentenced to a five-year jail term last month after the Court of Appeal overturned his second sodomy acquittal, ruling that the High Court judge erred in rejecting DNA evidence adduced.

On January 9, 2012, Anwar was acquitted of allegedly sodomising Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at the Desa Damansara condominium on June 26, 2008.

The appellate court’s full judgement, which was delivered to Karpal’s law firm last Wednesday, among others, questioned Anwar’s decision to give his statement from the dock, which the bench found to be nothing more than a bare denial.

The bench led by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi and assisted by Datuk Aziah Ali and Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh stated that Anwar’s statement of defence should have provided evidence with which to deflect the allegations made against him.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/on-borrowed-time-anwar-struggles-with-karpals-replacement#sthash.gBnW31rj.dpuf

21 April 2014

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TMI

Model dan pelaksanaan hudud yang bakal diguna pakai oleh kerajaan negeri Kelantan perlu difahami terlebih dahulu sebelum Pakatan Rakyat (PR) mengambil keputusan bersama untuk mempersetujuinya, kata Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Ketua pembangkang itu berkata, kerajaan perlu membincangkan beberapa perkara asas dalam Islam terlebih dahulu seperti masalah ajaran sesat dan anti hadis sebelum membawa hudud ke satu peringkat yang lebih serius.

“Kita sebagai orang Islam, kita tidak boleh pertikai undang-undang Al-Quran. Saya bukan Mahathir. Kita kena terima. Hal ini harus difaham. Kalau tunggu fatwa, semua fatwa kena pada kita.

“Curi duit tak nampak, kenyataan Mahathir tak nampak, Mahathir sokong Kassim Ahmad anti hadis tak mengapa. Kita yang kena,” katanya ketika berucap di hadapan kira-kira 1,500 hadirin dalam Himpunan Reformasi 2.0 di Kuala Lumpur, malam tadi.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pada Jumaat menyelar tindakan pihak berkuasa agama menangkap dan membicarakan Kassim kerana tindakan tersebut mencalarkan identiti Malaysia sebagai negara Islam sederhana.

Bekas perdana menteri itu berkata, dalam keadaan Kassim yang bertongkat dan tidak sihat, pegawai agama Islam dan dibantu polis tergamak menahan aktivis berusia 80 tahun itu.

“Saya sedih. Saya sedih kerana Kassim umur 80 tahun, bertongkat dan sakit ditangkap dan akan dibicara. Kenapa Kassim? Kenapa tidak orang lain? Yang menghina agama Islam di Malaysia ramai,” tulisnya dalam artikel di blognya chedet.cc.

Anwar berkata, hudud hanya dapat dilaksanakan sekiranya pembaharuan dilakukan terhadap jabatan agama Islam dan kaedah penguatkuasaan.

Katanya, hudud perlu dilaksanakan secara telus menepati kehendak ajaran Islam sebenar dan tidak memberi kepentingan politik kepada pihak tertentu.

“Kalau dilaksana digunakan undang-undang, curi RM500 juta dari Tan Sri naik Tun. Kamu curi motor, tangan dipotong. Dalam Islam bukan begitu.

“Semua perubahan baru kita kena bincang undang-undang itu macam mana. Saya saman Saiful, empat tahun Mahkamah Syariah tak sidang pun,” katanya merujuk kepada bekas pembantunya Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Anwar yang baru tiba selepas memberi penghormatan terakhir kepada mendiang Karpal Singh di Pulau Pinang berkata, pelaksanaan hudud di Kelantan akan diteliti dan Menteri Besar Kelantan, Datuk Ahmad Yakob akan memberikan penjelasan.

“Itu yang kita jemput menteri besar Kelantan untuk datang dalam mesyuarat kita mencari muafakat supaya (hudud) tidak digunakan untuk menekan sesiapa dan menjamin undang-undang itu difahami,” katanya.

Berhubung isu kehilangan pesawat Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370, Anwar mempertikaikan senarai kargo pesawat itu yang masih belum disiarkan kepada umum.

Katanya, ekoran daripada sikap kerajaan yang enggan memberikan lebih maklumat mengenai pesawat itu, Malaysia terus mendapat kecaman serata dunia.

“Mengapa cuba tutup maklumat itu? Apa barang yang dibawa? Saya tanya mana dia senarai kargo? Setiap kali ada penerbangan dikomputerkan. Bila tanya, sampai hari ini tak dapat jawab.

“Sekarang saya tuduh, kamu sengaja menyembunyikan bukti. Ada bukti, kamu padamkan. Dia kata ada manggis 4 tan tetapi tiada musim. Di Thailand pun bukan musim manggis,” katanya yang berpakaian serba hitam malam tadi.

Hujung bulan lalu, Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif MAS Ahmad Jauhari Yahya mengesahkan selain empat tan manggis yang dibawa di dalam pesawat itu, ia turut memuatkan bateri lithium-ion.

Katanya, bateri lithium-ion pada asasnya bukan barangan berbahaya tetapi ia diisytiharkan sebagai bahan berbahaya di bawah ICAO.

“Kami bawa beberapa bateri kecil lithium-ion, ia bukan bateri yang besar dan ia pada dasarnya diluluskan di bawah Pertubuhan Penerbangan Awam Antarabangsa (ICAO) di bawah barangan berbahaya,” katanya.

19 April 2014

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19 April 2014

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19 April 2014

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The Economist

KARPAL SINGH, who died in a car accident in the early hours of April 17th at the age of 74, was a rarity in the venomous world of Malaysian politics: a man respected by many of his opponents as well as those on his own side.

That side, for all of a long career in politics, was the opposition to Malaysia’s ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has held power ever since independence in 1957. Yet on Facebook and on Twitter condolences to his family have poured in from across the political spectrum, including from the prime minister, Najib Razak, who paid tribute to a “formidable opponent”. Known as “the Tiger of Jelutong” after the constituency on the island of Penang he long represented, Mr Karpal was indeed formidable.

Anwar Ibrahim, leader of an opposition coalition, of which Mr Karpal’s Democratic Action Party (DAP) forms part, mourned the passing of “my brother-in-arms for freedom and democracy, an inspiring symbol for the struggle against oppression and injustice and a man of unimpeachable moral integrity.”

For most of Mr Karpal’s political career, opposition politics has been a mug’s game, offering virtually no chance of winning power, and endless trouble, from petty harassment to, in Mr Karpal’s case, imprisonment.

He was one of 106 critics of the BN government who were locked up in 1987 under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act by the government of Mahathir Mohamad, a long-serving prime minister. The act itself was repealed in 2012. Mr Karpal also campaigned long and hard against the death penalty in Malaysia, which still remains on the books.

But Mr Karpal was no mug. He was recognised as a fine lawyer, even if he often found himself on the losing side. In one of his recent defeats, in March, an acquittal that had been won for his client, Mr Anwar, was overturned; a charge of sodomy was reinstated against him. Mr Anwar was sentenced to five years in jail, though he is appealing against the verdict.

A few days later Mr Karpal himself was found guilty—of sedition. Mr Karpal escaped with a fine rather than a jail term, but the conviction caused outrage. His crime was a remark he made during a press conference in 2009, when he merely expressed his legal opinion on a political dispute in Perak, one of the states in the Malaysian federation.

The conviction meant Mr Karpal had to give up his chairmanship of the DAP, the ethnic-Chinese-dominated party that led the charge for the opposition in last year’s election. Their coalition actually won the popular vote. Gerrymandered constituencies mean it has something far short of a parliamentary majority, but death has taken Mr Karpal at a time when prospects for the Malaysian opposition look better than ever before in his long career.

It will be tested, however, by the loss of Mr Karpal, and perhaps of Mr Anwar, too, if he is again removed from the political fray and put behind bars.

Mr Karpal’s popularity was due to more than his tigerish courage and tenacity. His dignity, modesty, humour and courtesy, all played their parts. A BBC radio interview in 2011 demonstrated also the remarkable lack of rancour with which he accepted his life’s many travails—including an earlier road accident, in 2005, that left him in a wheelchair.

It was also a reminder that, though his death has been greeted with respect and regret (some nasty political jibes notwithstanding), that is not how Malaysia’s opposition politicians are treated when alive. Mr Karpal had described taunts about his disability and even death threats, in the form of bullets sent in the post. All this he dismissed as “professional hazards”. Many people, he said, wanted him dead. “I tell them ‘You have to join the queue’.”

19 April 2014

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Slate

Five weeks into the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, more than $30 million has been spent scouring great swatches of the southern Indian Ocean. Yet searchers have still not found a single piece of physical evidence such as wreckage or human remains. Last week, Australian authorities said they were confident that a series of acoustic pings detected 1,000 miles northwest of Perth had come from the aircraft’s black boxes, and that wreckage would soon be found. But repeated searches by a robotic submarine have so far failed to find the source of the pings, which experts say could have come from marine animals or even from the searching ships themselves. Prime Minister Tony Abbott admitted that if wreckage wasn’t located within a week or two “we stop, we regroup, we reconsider.”

There remains only one publically available piece of evidence linking the plane to the southern Indian Ocean: a report issued by the Malaysian government on March 25 that described a new analysis carried out by the U.K.-based satellite operator Inmarsat. The report said that Inmarsat had developed an “innovative technique” to establish that the plane had most likely taken a southerly heading after vanishing. Yet independent experts who have analyzed the report say that it is riddled with inconsistencies and that the data it presents to justify its conclusion appears to have been fudged.

Some background: For the first few days after MH370 disappeared, no one had any idea what might have happened to the plane after it left Malaysian radar coverage around 2:30 a.m., local time, on March 8, 2014. Then, a week later, Inmarsat reported that its engineers had noticed that in the hours after the plane’s disappearance, the plane had continued to exchange data-less electronic handshakes, or “pings,” with a geostationary satellite over the Indian Ocean. In all, a total of eight pings were exchanged.

Each ping conveyed only a tiny amount of data: the time it was received, the distance the airplane was from the satellite at that instant, and the relative velocity between the airplane and the satellite. Taken together, these tiny pieces of information made it possible to narrow down the range of possible routes that the plane might have taken. If the plane was presumed to have traveled to the south at a steady 450 knots, for instance, then Inmarsat could trace a curving route that wound up deep in the Indian Ocean southwest of Perth, Australia. Accordingly, ships and planes began to scour that part of the ocean, and when satellite imagery revealed a scattering of debris in the area, the Australian prime minister declared in front of parliament that it represented “new and credible information” about the fate of the airplane.

The problem with this kind of analysis is that, taken by themselves, the ping data are ambiguous. Given a presumed starting point, any reconstructed route could have headed off in either direction. A plane following the speed and heading to arrive at the southern search area could have also headed to the north and wound up in Kazakhstan. Why, then, were investigators scouring the south and not the north?

The March 25 report stated that Inmarsat had used a new kind of mathematical analysis to rule out a northern route. Without being very precise in its description, it implied that the analysis might have depended on a small but telling wobble of the Inmarsat satellite’s orbit. Accompanying the written report was an appendix, called Annex I, that consisted of three diagrams, the second of which was titled “MH370 measured data against predicted tracks” and appeared to sum up the case against the northern route in one compelling image. One line on the graph showed the predicted Doppler shift for a plane traveling along a northern route; another line showed the predicted Doppler shift for a plane flying along a southern route. A third line, showing the actual data received by Inmarsat, matched the southern route almost perfectly, and looked markedly different from the northern route. Case closed.

140418_FUT_ChartMeasuredTracksCourtesy Malaysia Airlines

The report did not explicitly enumerate the three data points for each ping, but around the world, enthusiasts from a variety of disciplines threw themselves into reverse-engineering that original data out of the charts and diagrams in the report. With this information in hand, they believed, it would be possible to construct any number of possible routes and check the assertion that the plane must have flown to the south.

Unfortunately, it soon became clear that Inmarsat had presented its data in a way that made this goal impossible: “There simply isn’t enough information in the report to reconstruct the original data,” says Scott Morgan, the former commander of the US Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. “We don’t know what their assumptions are going into this.”

Another expert who tried to understand Inmarsat’s report was Mike Exner, CEO of the remote sensing company Radiometrics Inc. He mathematically processed the “Burst Frequency Offset” values on Page 2 of Annex 1 and was able to derive figures for relative velocity between the aircraft and the satellite. He found, however, that no matter how he tried, he could not get his values to match those implied by the possible routes shown on Page 3 of the annex. “They look like cartoons to me,” says Exner.

Even more significantly, I haven’t found anybody who has independently analyzed the Inmarsat report and has been able to figure out what kind of northern route could yield the values shown on Page 2 of the annex. According to the March 25 report, Inmarsat teased out the small differences predicted to exist between the Doppler shift values between the northern and southern routes. This difference, presumably caused by the slight wobble in the satellite’s orbit that I mentioned above, should be tiny—according to Exner’s analysis, no more than a few percent of the total velocity value. And yet Page 2 of the annex shows a radically different set of values between the northern and southern routes. “Neither the northern or southern predicted routes make any sense,” says Exner.

Given the discrepancies and inaccuracies, it has proven impossible for independent observers to validate Inmarsat’s assertion that it can rule out a northern route for the airplane. “It’s really impossible to reproduce what the Inmarsat folks claim,” says Hans Kruse, a professor of telecommunications systems at Ohio University.

This is not to say that Inmarsat’s conclusions are necessarily incorrect. (In the past I have made the case that the northern route might be possible, but I’m not trying to beat that drum here.) Its engineers are widely regarded as top-drawer, paragons of meticulousness in an industry that is obsessive about attention to detail. But their work has been presented to the public by authorities whose inconsistency and lack of transparency have time and again undermined public confidence. It’s worrying that the report appears to have been composed in such a way as to make it impossible for anyone to independently assess its validity—especially given that its ostensible purpose was to explain to the world Inmarsat’s momentous conclusions. What frustrated, grieving family members need from the authorities is clarity and trustworthiness, not a smokescreen.

Inmarsat has not replied to my request for a clarification of their methods. This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that in recent days experts had “recalibrated data” in part by using “arcane new calculations reflecting changes in the operating temperatures of an Inmarsat satellite as well as the communications equipment aboard the Boeing when the two systems exchanged so-called digital handshakes.” But again, not enough information has been provided for the public to assess the validity of these methods.

It would be nice if Inmarsat would throw open its spreadsheets and help resolve the issue right now, but that could be too much to expect. Inmarsat may be bound by confidentiality agreements with its customers, not to mention U.S. laws that restrict the release of information about sensitive technologies. The Malaysian authorities, however, can release what they want to—and they seem to be shifting their stance toward openness. After long resisting pressure to release the air traffic control transcript, they eventually relented. Now acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein says that if and when the black boxes are found, their data will be released to the public.

With the search for surface debris winding down, the mystery of MH370 is looking more impenetrable by the moment. If the effort to find the plane using an underwater robot comes up empty, then there should be a long and sustained call for the Malaysian authorities to reveal their data and explain exactly how they came to their conclusions.

Because at that point, it will be all we’ve got.

19 April 2014

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PRESS RELEASE:
Court of Appeal’s Fitnah 2 written judgement is flawed, defensive and insupportable

I refer to the written judgement dated 11 April of the Court of Appeal in the Fitnah 2 case, which criticises Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s decision to give a statement from the dock, accepts Saiful’s evidence and claims that Anwar’s defence was not credible. The judgement is insupportable in law and fact, and fundamentally flawed from beginning to end.

Unprecedentedly, the judges go out of the ambit of the case before them by saying that ‘ it would be stretching it too far to say that this appeal has been disposed of in haste’. This appears to be a defensive response to widespread public criticism, including a censure motion brought in the Dewan Rakyat against the three judges. It is highly inappropriate for the judges to respond to criticism of their conduct in such a manner. The judgement in a criminal case must deal with the facts and law of the case, and not extraneous matters. Otherwise it raises questions about the Judges’ impartiality and objectivity; justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.

The judges drew legally untenable conclusions based upon Anwar’s decision to give an unsworn statement from the dock. They ‘ wonder why ‘ Anwar chose to make an unsworn statement, and suggest sinister motives. In fact, under the criminal law it is the hallowed right of the accused person to make an unsworn statement from the dock. Mandela did so when he was on trial for his life in the 1963 Rivonia case. Anwar did so in the Fitnah 2 trial, and thus put on trial the unjust legal and political system which had brought him to the dock. The Court of Appeal judgement has departed from all legal precedents by criticising Anwar for giving a statement from the dock.

The judgement says there is ‘nothing impropable about Saiful’s evidence’. How do these three judges reach such a conclusion when it is undisputed that Saiful met with Anwar’s political enemy, Prime Minister Najib, just 2 days before the alleged incident? Why did he also meet with top police officer SAC Rodwan, who was involved in the first sodomy case? How is that Saiful claims to have been sodomized several times whereas the GH medical report finds no such physical evidence? Why is it Saiful did not get away after the alleged incident although he had plenty of opportunity to do so?

Crucially, although the investigating officer Jude Pereira had cut open the sample bag P27, the judges say this does not ‘ amount to tampering of the exhibits’. This conclusion is against all legal principles governing the chain of evidence, and against all common sense.

In short, this is not a credible judgement; it disregards crucial facts and goes against accepted principles of law. This judgement purports to convict Anwar, but in fact it strengthens the general public conviction that Anwar Ibrahim is a victim of political persecution and a grave miscarriage of justice.

Issued by,
N SURENDRAN,
VICE PRESIDENT,KEADILAN
MP PADANG SERAI

18 April 2014

17 April 2014

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17 April 2014

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Asia Sentinel

US President set to arrive April 27 as KL faces increasing international criticism

US President Barack Obama is expected to visit Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia this month as part of his push to increase US diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region. But despite the relative size and strategic importance of the other countries, it is his April 27 trip to Malaysia that arguably gives the president his biggest problems.

Given the events of the past few months, Obama will visit a country that has earned some of the worst press in Asia, not only for its fumbling response to the loss of its jetliner, MH370, with 239 people aboard, but to revelations of growing racial and religious intolerance, blatant attempts to silence the opposition through spurious legal action and bizarre charges by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s own newspaper that the Central Intelligence Agency kidnapped the plane to foment trouble with China, 152 of whose citizens were aboard the missing craft. The same newspaper, Utusan Malaysia, also repeated as a real possibility speculation by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad that the CIA brought down the World Trade Towers in 2001as a plot to blame Muslims for the destruction.

In recent weeks, an appeals court has reversed a lower court decision against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, declaring him guilty of what were clearly trumped up charges of sodomy. The decision, apparently rushed forward, was designed to deny Anwar an almost certain win in a Kuala Lumpur suburban by-election that would have paved his way to becoming chief minister of the country’s most populous and prosperous state and would have given him a potent rhetorical platform to challenge the government. In an equally dubious decision, Karpal Singh, chairman of the Democratic Party, the biggest in the troika of opposition parties, was declared guilty of sedition for saying a decision by the Sultan of Perak could be questioned in court.

The international press that showed up in Kuala Lumpur after the disappearance of the airliner began asking questions that exposed an authoritarian regime unaccustomed to facing independent scrutiny – questions that a kept mainstream media, all of which are owned by the political parties in power, have ignored for decades. While a vibrant opposition press exists on the Internet, the government simply ignores it or tries to neutralize its reports. Those questions include crony capitalism, gerrymandering and political repression. CNN, the major US and British newspaper s and other media assailed the government as authoritarian, corrupt and befuddled.

The feeling in Washington, however, is that the cost of cancellation to the strategic relationship between the two countries would be too high. Obama reportedly is being urged to visit a Christian church while in the country to show US commitment to human and religious rights. Advocates say the President should make at least some gesture of recognition of the fact that a 50.87 percent majority of Malaysians voted against the ruling coalition in 2013 general elections at 47.38 percent but still hold only 89 of the 222 seats in parliament because of gerrymandering. It’s unsure if he will do so. There is speculation that he may just opt for a “meet and greet” and get out of town as quickly as possible to avoid international criticism for propping up a regime that is starting to assume Zimbabwean characteristics of repression and kleptocracy.

“I don’t have any problem with Obama visiting Malaysia, provided he reaches out to Malaysians on both sides of the aisle and all sectors of society, including the Christian community, whose rights are being trampled on by their government,” said John Malott, a former career foreign service officer who served as ambassador to Malaysia from 1996 to 1998 and who has emerged as Malaysian government’s severest western critic. “But this has to be a visit that is based on the reality of what kind of country Malaysia really is today – and not to believe the talking points that Malaysia is still a tolerant multi-racial, multi-religious, harmonious, moderate Islamic nation, an economic success story, and a role model for others. It no longer is.”

Najib visited the White House in 2011 and was given a wholehearted endorsement by the President, who said Najib has “showed great leadership, I think, not only in continuing to show great leadership not only in Malaysia’s economy but on showing leadership on a wide range of multilateral issues.”

The president is said to like Najib personally despite the fact that a wide range of issues have never been cleared up, going back to allegations of Najib’s personal involvement in the US$1 billion purchase of French submarines that according to French prosecutors was said to have netted US$114 million in bribes and kickbacks to the United Malays National Organization. The case is still making its way through French courts.

There is also the matter of the still controversial 2006 murder by two of Najib’s bodyguards of Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu, who according to a now-dead private detective had been Najib’s girlfriend before she was said to have been passed on to his best friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, a key figure in the purchase of the submarines. The bodyguards were acquitted on appeal despite overwhelming evidence of their guilt, raising questions about Malaysia’s legal system as well.

There have been some rude shocks. Six months ago, in the run-up to his previous failed visit to the region, the US president hailed Malaysia as an “an example of a dynamic economy” and praised its multi-ethnic, moderate Muslim-dominated society only to see just three days later a court decision ordering Christians not to use the word “Allah” when referring to God, making it the only Islamic country in the world to do so.

After that, the government ordered the confiscation of Malay-language Bibles containing the word – but only in Peninsular Malaysia. Christians using Malay-language Bibles in East Malaysia were allowed to keep them. That is because most of the Christians are tribes indigenous to Borneo that are aligned with the ruling party. In Peninsular Malaysia, they form the bulk of the opposition.

“So the issue is — how can you talk about establishing a ‘strategic partnership’ with such a government?” Malott asked. “Maybe that is what will have to be downplayed or even canned for this visit. To me, the idea of a declaring a strategic partnership with a government whose faults have now been revealed to the world, day after day, seems politically unwise.”

Malott also questioned what strategic benefits the US can obtain from Malaysia.

“What strategic value does Malaysia have that it warrants America to hold its nose and ignore the trampling of democracy and political freedom, not to mention the corruption and cronyism that hurt American business interests there?” he asked. “And with Mahathir, the great anti-American, increasingly calling the political shots and Najib’s popularity the lowest of any Prime Minister in polling history, will a ‘strategic partnership’ with the US survive Najib’s departure?”

17 April 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

The Hindu

Veteran Malaysian opposition lawmaker Karpal Singh, an eminent lawyer who had been detained without trial under security laws and battled numerous sedition charges, has died in a road accident. He was 73.

District police chief Ng Kong Soon said Mr. Singh was travelling with four others when his car collided with a truck early Thursday on a highway.

Mr. Ng was quoted by national Bernama news agency as saying Mr. Singh and his personal assistant were killed immediately and his Indonesian maid was badly injured, but his son, Ram Singh, and the driver escaped unhurt.

Gobind Singh Deo, Mr. Karpal Singh’s son and also a political leader, posted a message on Facebook and Twitter announcing his father’s death.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Malaysia has lost an “indefatigable fighter for justice.”

17 April 2014

Pendapat

Pendapat Anda?

TMI

Karpal Singh – the prominent lawyer, lawmaker and DAP leader – died early this morning in a road accident while on the way to Penang, doing what he does best: going to court for a client. He was 73.

His reputation as a lawyer and politician had earned him the nickname the “Tiger of Jelutong” from the time he started legal practice in 1970 – which was also the year he joined the Democratic Action Party (DAP).

When he died early today, Karpal had just let go of the DAP chairmanship as he battled a sedition conviction that risked his four decades of legal and political career.

But the controversial decision was nothing to Karpal. He had been thrown out of parliament, put in detention during Ops Lalang in 1987 and had faced previous sedition charges.

“Eliminating me from the political terrain will not be the end of Karpal Singh. It will in fact lead to the rise of many Karpal Singhs!” said Karpal, who was Amnesty International’s “prisoner of conscience” for his detention without trial.

His legal and political colleagues remember him as a fearless and smart lawyer and politician, but to the countless ordinary people in his Penang constituency and legal office in Jalan Pudu Lama, Kuala Lumpur – he was a friend.

This was the other side of Karpal Singh apart from his legendary roles as a DAP politician and remarkable lawyer – he was a gentle-mannered man who was always ready to help the ordinary folk he came across in his daily life.

They knew Karpal as a humble man with a ready smile, who was always ready to stop and listen, no matter how small you were. No question was too trivial or repetitive for him to answer, no hello was too unimportant to stop for.

His tragic death in a road accident today meant that he “died in his saddle”, a term he had used upon turning 70 when he said: “I’ve always said that a lawyer should die in a saddle. I think it equally applies to being a politician.”

An earlier road accident in 2005 put him in a wheelchair while this morning’s road accident occurred near Gua Tempurung when the veteran lawyer was on his way up north to Penang in his white Alphard for a court case.

Anyone who knew Karpal would easily attest to how he was probably the busiest 73-year-old around, often shuttling between parliament and court during the week, and on weekends, travelling up north, mostly to visit his constituency or for a court case.

Nothing stopped Karpal, who at 73 was still shuttling between parliament and court or travelling north to visit his constituency. – The Malaysian Insider pic, April 17, 2014.

Nothing stopped Karpal, who at 73 was still shuttling between parliament and court or travelling north to visit his constituency. – The Malaysian Insider pic, April 17, 2014.Nothing would stop him in court or politics. Not even the latest sedition conviction where he was alleged to have said that the removal of Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as menteri besar of Perak by Perak ruler, Sultan Azlan Shah, could be questioned in a court of law.

Karpal’s defence was that he had offered a legal opinion and not a threat to the ruler, who was once the Lord President of the Supreme Court. Charged for the offence in 2009, Karpal was acquitted by the High Court without his defence called in the first round.

However, the prosecution appealed against the decision and succeeded at the Court of Appeal, and even pressed for a deterrent sentence against the wheelchair-bound politician.

He was handed down a RM4,000 fine, which would have disqualified him as an MP if he did not succeed in an appeal which has not been heard.

Karpal joined DAP in 1970 and was first elected as a Kedah state assemblyman in 1974 before becoming MP for Jelutong in 1978, a seat he held until he lost in 1999.

He returned to parliament in the 2004 general election as the Bukit Gelugor MP, and although the motor accident in 2005 confined Karpal to a wheelchair, it did nothing to curb his spirit or vigour.

Karpal’s legal career started when he was admitted to the Penang Bar in 1969 after reading law at the National University of Singapore.

He was one of Malaysia’s most prominent lawyers, and had taken up numerous high-profile cases, including drug trafficking charges against foreign nationals such as Australian Kevin Barlow, and the sodomy accusations against former deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

He was a staunch opponent of the death penalty, especially for drug trafficking offences.

He was detained in the Ops Lalang government crackdown in October 1987 under the Internal Security Act which allows for detention without trial, along with DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang and 104 others. He was released in 1989.

Karpal was also known to be opposed to turning Malaysia into an Islamic state, often citing the Federal Constitution that provides for a secular nation.

“I’m doing it for the country. At the end that’s what it is for,” he had told The Malaysian Insider in an interview before his 70th birthday.

He had also said then that “one can’t always win,but should not stop trying either”.

Clearly, Karpal never stopped. He was and will always be a Malaysian hero.

He will be missed, never forgotten. He will always be loved, treasured and respected for decades to come.

But that cannot be said about the government which until the last moment was trying to put him behind bars for speaking the truth and speaking lucidly about something that mattered dearly to him: the law.

He leaves behind wife Gurmit Kaur, daughter Sangeet, sons Jagdeep, Gobind, Ramkarpal and Mankarpal, and a host of grandchildren. And Malaysians.

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