VIDEO: Riz Khan Talks To Anwar Ibrahim & Lim Kit Siang Thursday, Mar 13 2008
Southeast Asia 8:09 pm
Malaysia Opposition Win Shows Power Of Cyberspace Monday, Mar 10 2008
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s weak opposition was up against a hostile mainstream media and restrictive campaign rules, but it can chalk up much of its stunning success in Saturday’s election to the power of cyberspace.
Voters exasperated with the unvarnished support of the mainstream media for the ruling National Front furiously clicked on YouTube and posted comments with popular bloggers about tales of sex, lies and videotapes in the run-up to Saturday’s election.
Jeff Ooi, a 52-year-old former advertising copywriter who made his name writing a political blog, Screenshots, won a seat in northern Penang state for the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP).
Elizabeth Wong, a human rights activist and political consultant who runs a blog, won a state assembly seat in the central state of Selangor.
YouTube, the phenomenally popular video Web site, did as much damage as any opposition figure could hope to inflict, after netizens uploaded embarrassing videos of their politicians in action on hot-button issues.
One YouTube video in January showed ruling party MP Badruddin bin Amiruldin causing a ruckus in parliament over whether Malaysia was an Islamic state. “Malaysia is an Islamic state”, he declared. “You don’t like it, you get out of Malaysia!”
Muslim Malays form the majority in multi-racial Malaysia, but ethnic Chinese and Indians account for a third of the population and they deserted the ruling National Front in droves, partly in outrage over the religious debate.
Sex, Sleaze, Corruption
Another YouTube video that got wide distribution shows a rambling and incoherent Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin, in a live interview with al-Jazeera, excitedly defending a police crackdown against peaceful protesters calling for changes to the electoral process in November.
Zainuddin was one of several “big guns” in the National Front that fell to the opposition’s onslaught.
Sex, sleaze and corruption were election issues and they all had video soap operas on Web sites.
Malaysia’s health minister resigned in January after admitting he and a female friend were the couple in a secretly filmed sex video uploaded on YouTube. That cost some votes.
“We were concerned about the morality of our leaders,” said Maisarah Zainal, a 26-year-old teacher in Kuala Lumpur. “It didn’t help that Chua Soi Lek was involved in a sex video.”
Loh Gwo Burne, who secretly videotaped a phone conversation, allegedly showing a high-profile lawyer trying to fix judicial appointments with Malaysia’s former chief judge, was elected to a seat in parliament from a seat in suburban Kuala Lumpur.
The grainy video hit a nerve in Malaysia, whose judiciary has been under question since the late 1980s.
Malaysia’s blogging community offer alternative views in a country where the government keeps a tight control on mainstream media. The government said last year it might compel bloggers to register with the authorities to curb the spread of malicious content on the Internet.
Government backers doubt whether bloggers turned opposition politicians could make their presence felt. “Beyond the major cities like Kuala Lumpur and Penang, there’s not much the bloggers can really hope to accomplish,” says Mohamad Norza Zakaria, a leader in Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s UMNO party .
Even a barely literate 89-year-old grandmother running for parliament with little money and only a bicycle to get around on, hopped the cyberspace bandwagon with a Facebook profile and her own blog, courtesy of some Internet savvy supporters. Maimun Yusuf , however, lost. It wasn’t clear how many of her potential voters were hooked up to the Internet in northeastern Terengganu.
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Congratulations To Malaysia’s Opposition Parties On Their Wins AND Denying BN The Two-Thirds Majority!! Monday, Mar 10 2008
Southeast Asia 12:59 am
Will we ever see this happening here in Singapore? Hmmm….I hope so. 😉
Malaysia Needs A Strong Opposition; S’pore Govt Is A Glorified City Council Wednesday, Feb 27 2008
SHOULD Malaysians bother to vote? The corollary of this question is: does the Malaysian Government deserve to be re-elected? The answer to the second question is no.
In the past few years, the Malaysian Government has presided over an extraordinary number of scandals that are appalling by any standards: the trade minister’s allocation of car import permits to friends, relatives and supporters; the billion-dollar fraud at the Port Klang Free Trade Zone; the outrageous and much-flaunted wealth of ruling party politician Zakaria Md Deros; the claims that a High Court judge allowed the lawyer representing a rich businessman to write for him his judgement in a defamation lawsuit; an immensely rich chief minister in Sarawak state who is allowed to rule as if it were his; and so on.
The Malaysian Government richly deserves to pay for all of this at the ballot box.
So the next question is: should the Malaysian Opposition be elected to office? Again, the answer is no.
The Opposition is a shambolic assortment of the disaffected rather than a competent, alternative government. In no way is it ready to govern.
All these questions are pertinent because Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has called elections for March 8.
Elections are fought tenaciously in Malaysia as if the South-East Asian country is a fully fledged democracy. But it isn’t. It is democratic in that elections are held, but they are not fair. The ruling coalition has been in power in one form or another since independence 50 years ago. One reason for this longevity is that there are legal and institutional biases that favour the Government.
Malaysian electorates are severely malapportioned. The smallest electorates are rural; the largest are metropolitan. The largest have about six times the number of registered voters as the smallest. This means that the votes of those in the smallest seats count for many times those in the larger seats.
This sort of bias meant, for example, that in the last general elections held in 2004, the ruling coalition won 198 or 91% of the parliamentary seats with just 64% of the votes cast. The Opposition won only 21 seats or 9.6% of the seats compared with 36% of the popular vote.
Had the Parliament reflected voters’ actual voting intentions, there would have been 79 rather than 21 Opposition members elected.
Outright fraud is another way in which Malaysians are cheated when they vote. Tens of thousands of dead people are believed to have voted in the 2004 elections. Exit polling is difficult, but it is assumed that these voters overwhelmingly favoured the Government. Credit must be given when it is due — the Government did eventually remove hundreds of thousands of deceased voters from the electoral roles. But the damage had been done.
Also at the last elections, thousands of Malaysians who turned up on polling day found that the electorates in which they were registered had been changed without their permission or knowledge. Thousands of voters were shifted into Opposition-held or marginal electorates. Absurdly, even family members living in the same house discovered that they had been registered in different electorates. Most Malaysians do vote for the ruling coalition, so the effect of this was to swamp the votes for the Opposition.
Multiple voting is another problem. Indelible ink is used to mark voters when they vote, but it is not compulsory.
Next month’s election is being held a year early. Why? One reason is because Anwar Ibrahim, who was deputy prime minister until he was charged and convicted of corruption and sodomy in the late 1990s, will only be eligible to stand for election after April 8 because of the convictions. The sodomy convictions were overturned because of uncertainty about the dates on which the alleged acts were supposed to have occurred, but the corruption verdict stood.
Anwar is unfit to hold public office, regardless of the Government’s manoeuvring against him. The sodomy issue is irrelevant. The serious charges against him are the corruption charges, which relate to Anwar asking the police to heavy two witnesses into withdrawing their statements against him. On this, Anwar was convicted with irrefutable evidence.
That the deputy prime minister of any country should do such a thing is unforgivable and yet Anwar has his backers, mostly in the Western media.
Most Malaysians found his criticisms of their Government shortly after he was removed from office to be transparently opportunistic, given that he had been a senior minister in the Government for 15 years. But while Anwar is more popular outside Malaysia than inside, he is still a rallying figure for the discontented.
So what should Malaysians do? Firstly, in a country where voting is not compulsory, they should vote. There’s no point complaining on internet blogs but not bothering to vote.
Given the Opposition’s unpreparedness to govern, the Malaysian Government is best returned. But it does deserve a good, hard kick. Even more, it needs a significant and strong Opposition to help it govern better. It needs greater accountability and scrutiny, which a strong Opposition in Parliament will help provide. That is what good governments everywhere have and need.
Of course, tiny Singapore is an exception but Singapore is a country in name only. The reality is that the Singapore Government is a glorified city council.
Malaysia, on the other hand, is a diverse and complex country that wants to be modern. It needs to be governed like one.
VIDEO: Montage of Seelan’s 5-Day Hunger Strike Sunday, Jan 13 2008
VIDEO: Seelan Palay Ends Hunger Strike For Hindraf 5 Monday, Jan 7 2008
Read Seelan Palay’s message
A Singaporean artist calling for the release of five ethnic Indian activists detained in neighboring Malaysia ended his five-day hunger strike yesterday.
Seelan Palay, 23, had been camped outside the city-state’s Malaysian High Commission since Monday, consuming nothing but water. Seelan, an ethnic Indian, was protesting the arrest and detention of leaders from the Hindu Rights Action Force who led a massive rally on Nov. 25 in Kuala Lumpur to highlight what the group says is racial discrimination faced by ethnic Indians.
The group’s leaders were arrested last month under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial.
Yesterday, a crowd of supporters gathered around Seelan and presented him with a garland that he wore around his neck over a placard that read: “Give them fair trial.”
“What I have done is only what I can do as an individual. If we had a hundred, we could make a difference,” Seelan said. “One day, we will all achieve freedom.”
Seelan said he hoped his hunger strike would draw attention to the detentions.
“I hope that the international community, regardless of race and religion, to look into this issue and pressure the Malaysian government to release the Hindraf five,” he said.
Two men hoisted Seelan up and pumped their fists in the air as Seelan completed his protest.
“We are so proud that there is at least one Indian in Singapore supporting our cause,” said Mayil Sapapathy, 36, an ethnic Indian from Malaysia who works in Singapore. “Indians like us don’t get the same privileges in Malaysia like the ethnic Malays do.”
Ethnic Indians form about 8 percent of Malaysia’s 27 million people, and complain that the government denies them opportunities in jobs, education and business. They say that years of systematic repression have kept them at the bottom of society.
The government denies this.
Officials could not be reached yesterday at the Malaysian High Commission, which was closed, while Singapore police said they had no comment on Seelan’s protest.
Protests are rare in Singapore, where police permits are required for outdoor gatherings of more than four people.
Join Seelan Palay As He Ends Hunger Strike At 9am On 5 Jan Friday, Jan 4 2008
VIDEOS: First Day Of Singaporean Activist’s Hunger Strike Tuesday, Jan 1 2008
Videos from Seelan Palay’s Singapore Indian Voice blog
Singaporean Activist On Hunger Strike To Support Malaysian Hindus Monday, Dec 31 2007
SINGAPORE (AFP) – A Singaporean artist said Monday he had begun a hunger strike to seek the release of Malaysian Hindu rights activists detained under a tough security law.
“At 9:00 am (0100 GMT) I began,” 23-year-old Seelan Palay told AFP from near the front gate of the Malaysian High Commission.
Singaporean artist Seelan Palay, 23, sits outside the Malaysian High Commission on Monday, Dec. 31, 2007 in Singapore. Seelan went on a hunger strike Monday to protest the indefinite detention by authorities in neighbouring Malaysia of five leaders of an ethnic Indian group. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Palay said he would drink water but not eat during the hunger strike, which will last five days — one day for each detained member from Malaysia’s Hindu Rights Action Force.
The five are being held under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial.
“I’ll sleep on the ground on a straw mat,” Palay said, adding he was wearing a sign around his neck that read: “Give them fair trial.”
The activists were detained after they enraged the government in November by mounting a mass rally alleging discrimination against Indians in Malaysia, where the majority are ethnic Malay Muslims.
Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the street protest by at least 8,000 people. Palay said he attended that rally.
In a statement released before the hunger strike, Palay called for global pressure on the Malaysian government to free the five and to prove allegations against them in open court.
“In line with the greater focus on human rights in ASEAN today … we surely cannot turn a blind eye to this matter,” his statement said.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) last month signed a charter calling for the establishment of a regional human rights body.
Singapore currently chairs the 10-member ASEAN and Malaysia is a member.
By NELSON BENJAMIN and GLADYS TAY
SINGAPORE: A lone protestor is staging a “hunger strike” outside the Malaysian High Commission here against the arrest of the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) activists under the Internal Security Act (ISA).
The man, also carrying a placard containing photographs of the detainees, has been outside the commission at Jervois Road since early Monday.
This is the second protest at the high commission in the past month. On Dec 17, several members from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) presented a memorandum urging the Malaysian Government to respect human rights.
Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk N. Parameswaran when contacted confirmed that a man was holding a placard outside the high commission on Monday.
“This incident is the second protest at the high commission.
“We are not sure whether he is a Malaysian. We leave it to the Singaporean authorities to handle the matter,” he said, adding that so far the man has not passed any memorandum to the high commission.
On the SDP protest, Parameswaran only said that a memorandum was received and sent to Kuala Lumpur.
Pseudonymity: More photos, videos and reports HERE
Short Shrift For Human Rights In South-east Asia Sunday, Dec 23 2007
BANGKOK, Dec 22 (IPS) – For nearly 30 years Cambodians have grappled with a question that no one in the country could answer with certainty: will the surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge regime face justice for the genocide they perpetrated on their own people in the mid-1970s?
The wait may be over in the New Year. Events through 2007 suggested that the special war crimes tribunal established to try the Khmer Rouge leaders for killing nearly 1.7 million men, women and children is expected to open in 2008. Significant in this regard was the arrest this year of five major leaders of that extreme Maoist movement that ruled the country during 1975-79.
The hunger for justice among ordinary Cambodians, who lost relatives to Khmer Rouge brutality, was evident in late November when large crowds gathered at the special court on the outskirts of Phnom Penh to hear the bail hearing of Kaing Khek Eav, also known as ‘Duch.’ He headed the notorious Toul Sleng prison, where nearly 14,000 people were tortured before being executed. Duch’s bail application was rejected by the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal.
But such events are rare on South-east Asia’s political terrain. Acts by most of the ten governments in this region during the year confirm that a greater priority is placed on state security than human security. And those who campaigned for human rights and political and civil liberties were often at the receiving end of rough, and at times brutal, measures unleashed by elected and non-elected governments.
‘’Human rights have deteriorated across this region in 2007. Even the few signs of hope have vanished,’’ Anselmo Lee, executive director of Forum-Asia, a Bangkok-based regional rights lobby, told IPS. ‘’Governments are still interested in protecting themselves at the expense of the rights of their people.’’
Consequently, activists like Lee are pursuing a wait-and-see approach to judge the move by the Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN), a 10-member bloc of the countries in the region, to improve its human rights record through a new regional charter. At a summit in Singapore in November, government leaders backed the new ASEAN constitution’s call to protect and promote human rights and to create a regional human rights body.
‘’The inclusion of human rights in the charter and the plan to create a regional human rights body are positive developments. They offer a window of opportunity,’’ says Lee. ‘’But we have to wait and see how serious this language is and how effective the new human rights mechanism will be.’’
ASEAN’s members include Burma and Thailand, which were under the grip of military juntas, Singapore and Malaysia, which are one-party states where opposition voices are kept in check through harsh laws, and Brunei, which has an absolute monarchy.
The region also accounts for Laos and Vietnam, which have repressive communist regimes; and Cambodia, Indonesia and the Philippines, which have varying shades of democracy hampered by a culture of impunity that has enabled abuse of power by some quarters, including the military and officials in government.
Military-ruled Burma, in fact, emerged as a human rights embarrassment for the region, following a harsh crackdown of peaceful street protests in September. The anger in some South-east Asian capitals was palpable as officials, normally known for bland diplomatic statements, opted for sharp language to criticise their regional neighbour.
Vietnam escaped a similar rebuke despite Hanoi unleashing the police on anti-government protestors in Ho Chi Minh City in July. Thousands of uniformed and plainclothes policemen were used to crush a movement led by farmers demanding compensation for lands that were seized by officials for new ‘development’ projects.
Malaysia, one of the region’s more affluent countries, did not take too kindly to rare protests by the country’s ethnic Indian minority in November. Their complaints of economic, educational and cultural discrimination were met by police using batons and tear gas. Kuala Lumpur accused the leaders of this marginalised community of having ‘’terrorist’’ links and arrested them under the country’s harsh Internal Security Act, a British colonial-era relic that enables the authorities to keep detainees behind bars indefinitely.
The Philippines, on the other hand, was the subject of worry among human rights monitors for the spate of extra-judicial killings that continued unabated through the year. In November, a special U.N. investigator released a report that accused the country’s armed forces of killing leftist sympathisers in an effort to wipe out communist insurgents and left-wing activists.
The death toll in 2007 was 68 people, a dramatic drop from the 209 victims who were murdered in 2006 in that archipelago. At the beginning of this year, Filipino human rights groups like Karapatan revealed that over 830 people had fallen victim to extra-judicial killings since 2001, when the current president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo began her term in office.
Indonesia, an emerging beacon of democracy after ending a 30-year-long dictatorship in the mid-1990s, had a mixed record in trying to deepen its human rights culture. Jakarta won some praise by human rights groups for progress on two international human rights treaties, the 1996 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The region’s largest country took steps to implement both documents this year.
Yet Indonesian human rights activists castigated their government for dragging its feet on investigating rights violations and for failing to go after perpetrators while marking World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. ‘’We can still see a lot of impunities; there’s no significant improvement in human rights protection in the country,’’ Soetandyo Wignjosoebroto, a leading human rights activist, was quoted as saying during the occasion in an issue of ‘The Jakarta Post’ newspaper.
And the prospect of the region having a better record in the New Year appears remote because governments are reluctant to broaden the language of human rights, says Sinapan Samydorai, president of Think Centre, a Singapore-based rights lobby group. ‘’There is very little human rights education in the South-east Asian schooling system.’’
‘’It is a way of preventing people to know what their rights are,’’ he added, during a telephone interview from the city-state. ‘’And I don’t mean only political rights, but labour rights, economic rights and the rights to information.’’