Thursday, January 31, 2008

Najib Not Aware Of Abdullah-Mahathir 'Gentlemen's Agreement'! Do You Believe That?

Stressing that he was not aware of any "gentlemen's agreement" between Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he was committed to support and be loyal to the prime minister.

"I don't know about that (gentlemen's agreement). I am committed to support the prime minister and be loyal to the prime minister," the Deputy Prime Minister told reporters after opening a seminar for Felda mosque officials.

Najib said his focus at the moment was on the soon-to-be-held general election and "I want to ensure the Barisan Nasional wins big."

Pressed further whether he knew about the gentlemen's agreement, Najib said: "I don't know. You have to ask the parties concerned."

He was asked to comment on the so-called "gentlemen's agreement" between Abdullah and Dr Mahathir as claimed by the former prime minister that Abdullah would serve as prime minister for only one term before passing the baton to Najib.

Dr Mahathir said yesterday that since Abdullah was older than Najib, he should be prime minister for one term and then Najib should be able to take over.

Dr Mahathir claimed the agreement was made in 2003 when he handed over the leadership to Abdullah. Dr Mahathir, however, admitted that he had no way of proving it. (Bernama)

****** My how innocent Najib is!!! This whole 'agreement' talk has all the ingredients of a sandiwara orchestrated by powerful people to pave the way for the DPM to take over the premiership. It is the beginning of a power grab and the PM should watch his steps very, very carefully lest he finds the ground from under him cut off.
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Antioxidants More Likely To Raise Cancer Risk

Taking antioxidant supplements won't reduce cancer risk, according to a new analysis of a dozen studies including more than 100,000 patients. In fact, the researchers found, smokers who take beta carotene supplements could be increasing their risk of smoking-related cancer and death.

While antioxidants have been touted for cancer prevention, different antioxidants have different effects, and their effects may also vary depending on the part of the body involved, Dr. Aditya Bardia of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and colleagues note in their report.

To investigate, the researchers looked at 12 trials that compared antioxidant supplements with placebo on cancer incidence and mortality.

Overall, the researchers found, antioxidant supplements didn't reduce the risk of cancer. When they looked separately at beta carotene, they found the nutrient actually increased cancer risk by 10 percent among smokers. There was also a trend toward a greater risk of dying from cancer with beta carotene supplementation.

Selenium supplements reduced cancer risk by 23 percent among men, the researchers found, but had no effect on women. While vitamin E had no anti-cancer effect overall, Bardia and colleagues did find that supplementation with the nutrient was tied to a 13 percent lower prostate cancer risk.

A large study looking at vitamin E supplementation for prostate cancer is currently underway, the researchers note. While future studies of beta carotene and vitamin E for cancer prevention are "very unlikely" to show effectiveness, they add, such studies of selenium "could be warranted." (Reuters Health)

***** Smokers beware. There is no alternative to preventing the ravage of cancers than to immediately stop the habit no matter how difficult or impossible it may seem. Others have done it in the past and there is no reason why you should not be successful. Remember, cessation of smoking is in reality an action which will determine a healthy life or a horrible death. The choice is yours.
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Takeover Of The Sun Newspaper Not Political, Says Vincent Tan

Malaysian tycoon Vincent Tan Chee Yioun says his takeover of The Sun newspaper was motivated solely by business considerations, dismissing widespread speculation that it was due to political pressure.

'This was purely a business transaction. We already own such a big stake, and it only made sense for us to take control,' he told The Straits Times.

Tan Sri Tan's flagship corporate vehicle Berjaya Corp last Friday announced a deal to acquire a near 36 per cent interest in Nexnews from businessman Tong Kooi Ong for RM139.24 million (S$61 million).

The sale of Mr Tong's entire stake in Nexnews pushed Berjaya Corp's holdings in Nexnews to over 54 per cent. The deal effectively ends the five-year media alliance between the two businessmen.

Nexnews is the holding company that controls The Sun, a feisty free tabloid that has become popular in recent years because of its often bold coverage of government corruption, politics and religious issues.

Mr Tong is the majority shareholder of the media group that publishes business weekly The Edge in Malaysia and Singapore.

Forbes magazine last year listed Tan Sri Tan as the 14th-richest Malaysian, with assets of US$380 million (S$540 million).

Financial executives close to the two businessmen say talks are under way for Tan Sri Tan to sell his interest in The Edge back to Mr Tong.

The main cause of the break-up was their disagreement over the newspaper's editorial stance, which had begun to irk Malaysia's political elite, the executives said.

But Tan Sri Tan said he had no plans to significantly alter the paper's editorial stance.

'It will be status quo. But as owners (of The Sun), we would prefer to be friends with everyone,' he said.

Tan Sri Tan started The Sun in 1993, but it struggled financially because it could not draw advertisers. In early 2003, he turned to Mr Tong, who had established himself as a serious media player because of his stewardship of The Edge.

The two men consolidated their respective media holdings under the management of Mr Tong and his team, led by senior journalist Ho Kay Tat.

The new team radically altered The Sun's business model, turning it into a free publication and boosting circulation to the current 265,000 copies daily.

The loss-incurring newspaper company turned a small profit last year by luring away advertising revenue from rivals The New Straits Times and The Star dailies.

In recent years, The Sun has distinguished itself from its two main rivals by its bold coverage of mismanagement at government agencies and municipal councils.

But these moves drew sharp attacks from politicians and government officials, who complained that the paper was prone to championing issues promoted by opposition parties and portraying the government in a less than positive light.

Executives at The Sun say Mr Ho was often asked by officials from the Home Ministry to explain the paper's independent coverage.

Tan Sri Tan has dismissed suggestions that he and Mr Tong sharply disagreed over how The Sun should be managed.

'I have no problems with Tong. Overall, he and (Ho) Kay Tat did a great job to make The Sun the recognisable brand that it is today,' he said. (Leslie Lopez, The Straits Times)

***** Vincent Tan says that it is purely a business deal. While The Sun has been known to "irk Malaysia's political elite," the smart business tycoon "prefers the paper to be
friends with everyone." From that we can guess which direction the paper will take in the future. But if you wish to believe Vincent Tan, go ahead.
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

British Hindus Liken Malaysian Government To Taliban

British Hindus are to hold a silent protest outside the office of the British premier this week to highlight the "new lite-Taliban" policies of the Malaysian government, an umbrella group for Hindus said Tuesday.

The Hindu Council UK (HCUK) said Hindus would present a petition to Prime Minister Gordon Brown Friday to protest the condition of Malaysian Hindus, "who number two million and are suffering religious persecution" by the government in Kuala Lumpur.

It said Hindu temples have been razed and damaged in Malaysia, "irrespective of their age" but added that the silent protest was against human rights violations of not only Hindus but also other religious minorities of Malaysia.

The issue hit the headlines in November last year when Malaysian police used violence to break up a march by Hindus in the capital Kuala Lumpur and arrested 31 protesters, five of whom, HCUK said, were still in detention.

The police action was criticised around the world.

Last month, members of the British parliament demanded that the Malaysian government scrap plans to demolish Hindu temples and to allow legitimate protests against it.

In a strongly worded statement, they also urged the British government to take up the matter on their behalf and "make the strongest possible representation" to Kuala Lumpur.

HCUK general secretary Anil Bhanot, in a statement Friday, likened the Malaysian government's attitude to that of "the Taliban ideology which destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas (in Afghanistan)," and said it needed to be "challenged for re-education."

"We appeal to world communities to help stop the lite-talibanisation of the Malaysia government through trade and other means," Bhanot added. (IANS)
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"Pak Lah Overstaying His Welcome," Says Dr Mahathir. Is This True?

Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad said Wednesday he never intended his successor Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to serve more than one term and suggested he should stand down.

Abdullah, who has had a very public falling out with the veteran leader, will contest for his second term in general elections expected to be held in March.

Mahathir previously said he made a mistake in picking Abdullah, and should have opted for influential deputy prime minister Najib Razak.

"That was my thinking, since (Abdullah) was older than Najib, he should be PM for one term and then Najib should be able to take over," he told a press conference.

"I know it takes time to implement plans and projects but I think if that is to be used as an excuse to stay in power for 18 years then that will not be very welcome."

Abdullah won a landslide victory in 2004 polls when voters were enthused by his plans to fight corruption, but since then he has been widely criticised for inaction and suffered a steep tumble in popularity.

In recent months he has faced an unprecedented wave of public protests over the rights of minority ethnic Indians, as well as electoral reform and rising food and fuel prices.

"They see a government that is retreating and they want to take advantage," Mahathir said of the street rallies which would have been unthinkable during his term in power which ended in 2003 after more than two decades.

Abdullah was Mahathir's hand-picked successor when he stepped down, but after the new leader dumped several of his pet projects he began launching accusations of economic mismanagement, nepotism and corruption. (AFP report)

***** Who is more culpable for our national disunity? The choice is yours. If hypothetically Pak Lah does step down, would you agree to Dr M's choice of Najib as the next PM? Reading the above report many would be really glad that Dr Mahathir is no more in power and should remain quietly in the background without attempting to dictate terms and play kingmaker.

Dr Mahathir's attitude and intolerance comes out clearly when he speaks about street rallies, "
they see a government that is retreating and they want to take advantage." Taking advantage mind you! Not an iota of concern shown for the biasness of the Election Commission or the discrimination faced by minorities, which were the principal reasons for the rallies. But then again he can't directly discuss these issues as he was the one who nurtured these injustices into 'adulthood' while he was the undisputed ruler. And not to forget the whole Lingamgate controversy which dramatically showed the deep shit our judiciary is in, no thanks to Dr M's brand of politics. Retired he is and retired he should remain.
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Malaysia Bans 11 Books on Islam

Malaysia has banned 11 books for allegedly giving a false portrayal of Islam, such as by linking the religion to terrorism and the mistreatment of women, an official said Wednesday.

The government ordered the books — most of them released by U.S. publishers — to be blacklisted earlier this month "because they are not in line with what we call the Malaysian version of Islam," said Che Din Yusoh, an official with the Internal Security Ministry's publications control unit.

"Some of them ridicule Islam as a religion, or the facts are wrong about Islam, like associating Islam with terrorism ... or saying Islam mistreats women," he said. "Once you mention something which is not correct, it's not proper."

The banned books include eight English-language ones, such as "The Two Faces of Islam: Saudi Fundamentalism and its Role in Terrorism," "Secrets of the Quran: Revealing Insights Into Islam's Holy Book" and "Women in Islam."

There are also three books written in the local Malay language.

It was not immediately clear whether the books have ever been on sale in Malaysia, but government authorities regularly review the contents of books and publications that could have sensitive material, mostly regarding religion and sex, Che Din said.

About 60 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are Muslims.

***** "Not in line with the Malaysian version of Islam." Interesting. I wonder what 'Malaysian version' we would change to if PAS were to come to power.
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Can Malaysia Judge Its Judges?

A Royal Commission appointed to probe questions of political favoritism in the appointment of some top judges is threatening to spin out of control and envelop the entire Malaysian judiciary in charges of deceit, corruption and factionalism. Fingers are also being pointed at some of the would-be reformers in the Malaysian Bar Association.

The commission was appointed by the government last year after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim made public an eight-minute segment of a 2002 videotape purporting to show a prominent lawyer discussing the appointment of top judges.

With Malaysia’s courts often accused of being under the thumb of the country’s political leaders, the commission’s work offers up a tantalizing look into how the judiciary may be compromised by intervention from on high. It remains to be seen if there is any real appetite to rattle the skeletons in the judicial closet, however.

VK Lingam, the lawyer on the tape, is seen in conversation with Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim, then the country’s third-ranking judge who was in charge of most senior judges. The conversation seemed to indicate that Mahathir Mohamad, then the prime minister, was closely involved in the appointment of malleable judges. The videotape purports to show that some of Mahathir’s closest cronies, particularly gaming tycoon Vincent Tan, were involved as well. Ahmad Fairuz later became chief justice of the Supreme Court, now called the Federal Court.

However, Mahathir’s involvement has been largely pushed into the background as the case has gone well beyond Fairuz to reel in the names of other judges and attorneys, including some in the reform movement. The commission has widened its terms of reference to go well beyond the issue of a single lawyer – Lingam – discussing a limited number of judges to delve into wider allegations, including charges that the bar association is not above seeking favors itself.

A hearing by the commission turned into a free-for-all Monday when Lingam accused Robert Lazar, a lawyer representing the Malaysia Bar Council, of seeking Lingam’s help to become an appellate court judge, bypassing the lower courts. Lazar denied the charge.

Anwar, who made the original tape public on September 20, has not been asked to testify, adding to suspicions over its independence. In response, Anwar held a press conference Monday to release a five-minute continuation of the original 14-minute tape, showing more purported judicial chicanery.

Commission chairman Haidar Mohd Noor described Anwar’s revelation as “news” and questioned why he hadn’t forwarded the tape earlier. In a press statement, Anwar said that “the decision by the commission to arbitrarily disallow me to testify would certainly lead one to the conclusion that some unseen hand is at work. This hand is so powerful that the commission will stop at nothing to prevent me from giving evidence, even though the evidence concerned will definitely shed light on the testimony given so far. “

In one tape made public by the commission itself, Dzaiddin Abdullah, who served as chief justice between 2000 and 2003, is implicated for accepting gifts and payments from Lingam. In addition, as an example of the factionalism in the court, Dzaiddin was asked to explain yet another videotape, in which Lingam claimed that he hated his predecessor, Eusoff Chin, and that Chin had blocked his chances to become a candidate for state honors.

In the meantime, both Fairuz and Lingam have dodged all questions with a fusillade of excuses. Lingam has refused to acknowledged that it was his voice on tape although conceding that “it looks like me and sounds like me." In a kind of half admission that it could have been, he said he was “bullshitting and bragging,” and that “this is my house. I’m in the privacy of my home,” he was quoted as saying by local reporters. “I can talk rubbish in my own home.” On other occasions, he has said he might have been drunk when he made the call.

Fairuz has also denied he was the person that Lingam was speaking to when the tape was recorded. Both Lingam and Mahathir repeatedly told investigators they had no recollection of the events on the tapes.

In the instance involving Dzaiddin, Lingam was also said to have been videotaped by the son of a Chinese businessman alleging that he and Vincent Tan had given the former chief justice “the most expensive gift,” making it unlikely that Dzaiddin could “attack us.” Lingam also acknowledged meeting Eusoff Chin in New Zealand, saying that “people, see you know more, like Eusoff Chin, because I met him in New Zealand.”

Lingam said that when he argued with Dzaiddin in court, Dzaiddin was polite to him. “I have been sending cakes every Hari Raya (the feast day ending the Muslim fasting month). Vincent (Tan) has been sending. He can't go and say he is very clean, correct or not?”

In the latest clip, according to local media, Lingam also says he was close to the late Court of Appeal President Wan Adnan Wan Ismail and repeated how he had “helped” former Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz attain his position. “But he is sometimes a bit scared.” Lingam reportedly says on the tape. “I must play shadow from behind.”

“The whole inquiry puts the judiciary in absolute shame,” a senior lawyer told Asia Sentinel. “It’s all fault-finding and from hereon in the judiciary will continue its decline with no hope. This whole thing tarnishes lawyers and judges vis-à-vis the public.”

Malaysia’s judiciary has faced a long series of allegations over fairness and corruption. The independence of the court has been severely undermined since 1988 when Mahathir sacked the several top judges and effectively ended court autonomy.

The system largely remained under Mahathir’s control from that point onward. Some months ago, the Conference of Rulers, made up of the country’s nine sultans, stunned Prime Minister Badawi by refusing to ratify his candidate to become chief judge. The position remained vacant for several months. In addition, the Perak Sultan, Raja Azlan Shah, later made an unprecedented speech indirectly criticizing the judiciary.

Several recent cases, particularly the trial of three defendants for the brutal murder of Mongolian translator Altantuya Shaariibuu, have underscored the court’s problems. One of the defendants, Abdul Razak Baginda, is a close friend of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose name has surfaced during the trial but who has never been questioned. The case has droned on for seven months, raising suspicions that both prosecutors and defense would like to draw it out until it disappears. In addition, tycoon Eric Chia, a close friend of Mahathir’s, was abruptly acquitted last year of criminal breach of trust involving the scandal-tainted Perwaja Steel Corp. The judge summarily shut down the trial after the prosecution presented its case.

Prime Minister Badawi came to power in 2003 promising to clean up corruption and depoliticize the judiciary. So far, however, he has made little progress. The current panel cannot compel witnesses to testify or interview those implicated although it is questionable how far the probe would go in any case. (Asia Sentinel)

***** Can the judiciary recover from the disgrace it has become? Would the public accept unquestioningly the verdicts given by judges whose reputation have been so badly tarnished?

It is a sad time for all Malaysians that the judiciary, the one arm of government which they need very badly to check the excesses of a corrupt executive has been so severely compromised. Now to whom can we, the ordinary citizens, go to plead for justice and fair play?
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Report: Malaysian Teacher Reprimanded For Making Hindu Students Shave Religious Beards

A teacher in Muslim-majority Malaysia has been reprimanded for forcing six Hindu schoolboys to shave their mustaches and beards, which they were growing for a religious ritual this month, a news report said Tuesday.

The Star newspaper quoted State Education Director Hussain Harun as saying that the teacher in the
northern Perak state was enforcing school regulations that require students to be clean shaven. However, he was guilty of being insensitive to the students' feelings, and has been told off, Hussain was quoted as saying.

The teacher also forced the students to remove religious wristbands to enforce a rule that no ornaments be worn in school.
"If need be, the teacher would have to apologize ... for hurting their feelings by being insensitive to their religious and cultural needs. The best way is to ask for their forgiveness," The Star quoted Hussain as saying.

Hussain could not immediately be reached, and the education officer investigating the case declined to comment.

The students were growing their hair as part of a ritual for the Thaipusam festival that was celebrated on Jan. 23. Many ethnic Indians, who form 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million population, let their hair grow for a certain period and have themselves shaved on Thaipusam day.

The Star did not identify the teacher's religion.

The incident is a reflection of growing racial friction, which threatens to unravel the country's carefully nurtured ethnic and religious pluralism.
About 60 percent of the population is Muslim Malay, and the minority Indians and Chinese are concerned that a pro-Muslim tilt in the civil service and judiciary is eroding their religious rights.

Lok Yim Pheng, secretary general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession, slammed the teacher's actions. "Of course, we don't want the boys' beards to be too long, but we must understand these particular boys' religion," she told The Associated Press. "The teacher should be more sensitive ... They must act professionally. They cannot act out of emotions." (

'The Star did not identify the teacher's religion.' Hmmm.
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Pro-Muslim Tilt In Malaysia's Courts

An Islamic court ruled last week that a Malaysian man receive a Muslim burial, despite insistence by most of his family that he hadn't converted to Islam. His son, a Muslim, maintained that he had.

Such cases have become more common in Malaysia, whose leaders tout their multiracial democracy as a model of Islamic moderation and economic success. It's a claim echoed by American diplomats and Muslim intellectuals seeking a credible counterpoint to extremist voices in the Islamic world.

But the promises of religious and ethnic pluralism that nurtured a generation of Malaysians have begun to unravel. A pro-Muslim shift among lawyers and judges is alarming Christians, Hindus, and other non-Muslims who make up about 40 percent of the population. The remainder are predominantly ethnic Malay-Muslims, who benefit from affirmative-action programs to redress historic economic disparities.

Diplomats, lawyers, and religious leaders say that Malaysia's race-based coalition government – a power-sharing formula unchanged since independence in 1957 – is failing to address growing ethnic tensions fed by pro-Malay discrimination and a growing stress on Islamic governance. Minorities are largely invisible in the ranks of police, military, and civil service, while schools are increasingly segregated by race and language.

Although religious worship is freely practiced in Malaysia, Christians complain they can't get permits to build churches. Last month, a Roman Catholic newspaper was barred by the government from using "Allah" – "god" in the Malay language – to refer to a Christian God. The previous month, tens of thousands of Indian Hindus clashed with ethnic-Malay riot police during a heated rally over alleged social and religious discrimination.

The tensions haven't led to mass unrest, though, allowing Malaysia to continue advertising its stability to foreign investors. Its capital, Kuala Lumpur, displays new suburbs linked by smooth highways and a modern skyline.

Critics argue that pro-Malay policies introduced in 1971 have served their purpose, while antagonizing minorities. But government officials defend the race-based allocation of resources. "Without political stability and socioeconomic stability and consensus-based principles, there's not enough to distribute," says Nor Mohamed Yakcop, second finance minister.

The sharp end of the religious wedge is Malaysia's legal system. Assertive Islamic shariah courts, backed by Muslim bureaucrats, have forced civil courts to retreat on sensitive issues such as interfaith conversions. Lawyers say several recent judgments have eroded the civil rights of non-Muslims and highlighted a creeping Islamization in a secular judiciary.

A prominent case in 2006 pitted a Hindu widow against Islamic authorities who claimed the body of her husband, an Army corporal, for a Muslim burial. A civil court declined to rule on whether he had converted to Islam, deferring to the shariah court. Last year, a court refused to uphold a Malay woman's conversion to Christianity.

"We can't depend on the judiciary. Every case where a Muslim is involved in a dispute, the outcome isn't favorable for us," says A. Vaithilingam, a Hindu community leader.

Also troubling, say lawyers and analysts, is conservatives' reaction to public debate on such issues. A proposed interfaith commission was shelved in 2005 after Islamists objected to the inclusion of liberal Muslim organizations.

Far from confronting these extremists, Malaysian leaders have resorted to media blackouts on sensitive topics. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak tried to end the debate last July by saying that Malaysia was an Islamic state, not a secular state, raising eyebrows among constitutional lawyers.

The judiciary has also been tainted by graft allegations and political tampering. A royal commission began hearings on Jan. 14 into corruption in the appointment of judges.

Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a human rights lawyer, traces the shift in the judiciary to the 1980s when the government tried to outdo political opponents by promoting Islam among civil servants and judges. At the same time, a purge of judges and a constitutional amendment to reinforce the jurisdiction of shariah courts removed a secular brake on Malay-Muslim policymakers. "We've let the tiger out of the cage, and we're trying to catch it by the tail," says Mr. Imtiaz.

Aides to Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi say he's aware of the sensitivity of recent legal judgments but won't intervene in shariah courts. A better way, they say, is to gradually appoint senior federal judges who will defend civil safeguards on religious freedom.

Mr. Badawi, an Islamic scholar who took office in 2003, said at a UN conference this month that Islam respected cultural and religious diversity, and that Muslim governments should put social justice before popularity. "A true Muslim will also not abdicate the principle of fairness in managing ethnic relations even if it makes him somewhat unpopular within his own ethnic community," he said.

But his actions in office haven't spoken as loudly, says Bridget Welsh, a professor at John Hopkins University. "What you're seeing is a serious deterioration of race relations." ( Simon Montlake - Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor)
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Monday, January 28, 2008

"Conversation In Video Clip Is A Slander," Says Former CJ Fairuz. Is This True?

Former chief justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim described the conversation in the video clip purportedly linking his name in the appointment of judges was a slander.

Ahmad Fairuz, who testified before the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the controversial video clip, said he did not know why the man in the video clip, who was said to be lawyer Datuk V.K. Lingam, had linked his name in the conversation and slandered him.

"I don't know why he (Lingam) did it, may be he was merely trying to impress other people there that he knew the prime minister and other dignitaries, and that he knew the Chief Judge of Malaya," he said when replying to lawyer Salehuddin Saidin, who was representing him.

Replying to another question from Salehuddin, Fairuz said when he held the posts of Chief Judge of Malaya, Appeals Court President and Chief Justice, he did not know that there were people who had tried to help by lobbying for him to get the posts.

Ahmad Fairuz said he first came to know about the video clip through his former secretary on the same day that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim made the announcement to expose the video clip on Nov 19, last year.

He said that in the afternoon of that day (Nov 19), his former secretary had given him two articles obtained from the Malaysiakini website entitled "Video Link CJ To Judge Fixing Scandal" and "Transcript Of Lingam Conversation With Ahmad Fairuz".

When questioned by Salehuddin whether he had taken any action after reading the articles and transcript, Ahmad Fairuz said he had read the two documents repeatedly and on the following day, he had drafted a letter addressed to the prime minister, deputy prime minister and minister in the prime minister's department (Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz) to explain his views and position on the video clip.

"I chose to send a letter to the three individuals as they were members of the Executive Body where I, as head of the Judiciary, must inform the Executive Body on the allegations against me and what my stand was."

Ahmad Fairuz was later shown the letters he had sent to the prime minister, deputy prime minister and minister in the prime minister's department (all three letters carried the same contents and had the Malaysiakini articles and transcripts attached) which among others stated "Following is my explanation, I had never talked to "V.K Lingam".

Replying to Salehuddin's question why he wrote the name Lingam within inverted commas, Ahmad Fairuz said it was because he was not sure who was talking on the telephone in the video clip and he could not see clearly (the person in the video clip) at that time.

"In my explanation, I had also stated that I had never made such conversation. The contents in the transcript of the conversation were allegations that Lingam was talking to me on the topic, and I'm saying that they were all untrue.

"The recording of the conversation in the video clip was merely a monologue because my voice was not heard in the conversation and only Lingam's voice was heard," he said.

Ahmad Fairuz said that in his explanation in the letter, he said there were no indications that could link him to the video clip because his name was not mentioned as the other party speaking to Lingam on the telephone.

Asked by Salehuddin whether it had occurred to him to lodge a police report or to take legal action for slander, Ahmad Fairuz said: "I had never thought of doing so because the Malaysiakini article had already mentioned that there was a party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) which would lodge a report with the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) and also lodge a complaint with the Bar Council.

"In the newspapers published subsequently, no reference was made to my name but only that of Lingam who was reported to be conversing with a senior judge, therefore, if I were to lodge a police report, it would be misconstrued that I was the senior judge.

"I did not take any legal action for libel because I was not certain who was slandering me and that the ACA was also carrying out an investigation. So, it was not nice for me to take such action," he said. (Bernama)

***** Things are going on in the Royal Commission of Inquiry just as many expected it would. There would be denials by everybody and the former Chief Justice would scream "slander". The cunning and highly experienced Lingam would take exactly the stand he took that he was bragging and or inebriated and that in any case his house was a place where he could talk anything and everything he likes and it's none of anyone's business. Which is basically true.

At the end of the day, I feel that all those implicated in the video would be exonerated. The chap who took the video might come in for harsh words from the Commissioners though. Let's wait and see.
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Malaysian Opposition Calls For End To 'Body-Snatching'

Malaysia's government must halt "body-snatching" by Islamic authorities, opposition lawmakers said after a series of tussles with families of deceased people.

In the most recent case, an elderly ethnic Chinese man was buried as a Muslim last week after his Buddhist family lost a battle with Islamic authorities who said he had converted.

"The spate of 'body-snatching' cases is a blot to Malaysia's international reputation for inter-faith understanding, goodwill and co-operation," Lim Kit Siang from the Democratic Action Party said.

He accused the government of "an unprecedented and lengthening catalogue of incidents aggravating religious polarisation."

And he called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to end the practice immediately to prove it is not condoned by the progressive form of Islam that his government promotes.

Police seized the body of Gan Eng For, who died a week ago aged 74, after his oldest son - himself a Muslim convert - said he had switched to the religion last year.

Other family members said Gan could not have converted because he was senile and paralysed after suffering two strokes.

"He could not even move his arms or talk," his other son, 42-year-old Gan Hock Sin, said.

"It is shocking that Islamic authorities say he recited some Islamic words when he was being converted last year."

The dispute came shortly after a court ordered a Christian woman's body be returned to her family after Islamic authorities admitted she had not converted.

In many instances the row is decided by Islamic Sharia courts where non-Muslim family members argue that they do not get a fair hearing.

The cases have fed accusations over the growing "Islamisation" of Malaysia, where the population is dominated by Muslim Malays living alongside ethnic Chinese and Indian communities. (ABC News)

***** The spate of such cases has definitely put Malaysia in the spotlight and has damaged our reputation internationally. With government policies over the past four decades having resulted in serious racial polarisation, we, the citizens can ill afford religious discordance as well.

Umno has overseen the almost total ruination of the inter-racial unity which once existed and for us to allow them the continued opportunity to wreck our already fragile perpaduan through undisguised attempts to Islamise the nation, would be a highly irresponsible abdication of our duties as loyal Malaysians. We owe it to our country to boot out extremists, especially those masquerading in democratic clothing. The alternative would be to end up like Fiji, a hotbed of inter-tribal and inter-ethnic violence and an economic basket case.
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Doom Lies Ahead If Taliban Prevail - Afghan President Karzai

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said his country, along with Pakistan, faces "gloom and doom" from Taliban insurgents, and called for the world to "join hands" to defeat the Islamist rebels.

In an interview published on Sunday by the Washington Post, Karzai also said that the United States had been supportive of Kabul's positive relationship with Iran, despite the tension between Washington and Tehran.

Asked about the strength of the Taliban in their attacks inside Afghanistan, Karzai suggested that the group has external backers.

"They would not be strong without support," he said.

Karzai, who had just returned from Pakistan, declined to specify who is backing the Taliban, which US intelligence has said receives support from tribal areas on Pakistan's western border.

But Karzai said that "Pakistan and Afghanistan and the United States and the rest of the world must join hands in sincerity in order to end this problem."

He said that he found Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf "more cognisant of the problems of extremism and terrorism. And that's a good sign, and I hope we will continue in that direction."

"We have to end extremism. We have to end support to extremism in the region," he added. Unless we do that, the picture is one of doom and gloom - for Pakistan, and as a consequence for Afghanistan."

Karzai applauded the US support for his government in Afghanistan - including the planned deployment of 32 000 US Marines - and the battle against terrorism as "fundamental and strong".

But he added: "It will make a difference when the Americans are clear and straightforward about this fight," saying the US should "mean what they say and do what they say".

He said that Washington had encouraged Kabul in its close relationship with Iran, despite US-Iran tensions. "We have had a particularly good relationship with Iran the past six years. It's a relationship that I hope will continue," Karzai said.

"The United States very wisely understood that it was our neighbour and encouraged that relationship," he said.

"We don't like a nuclear region, of course. Nobody wants nuclear weapons... But the United States has been very understanding and supportive that Afghanistan should have a relationship with Iran." (Independent Online)
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Former Indonesian President Suharto Is Dead

Former dictator Suharto, an army general who crushed Indonesia's communist movement and pushed aside the country's founding father to usher in 32 years of tough rule that saw up to a million political opponents killed, died Sunday. He was 86. A statement issued by chief presidential doctor, Marjo Subiandono, said he was declared dead at 1:10 p.m. The cause of death was given as multi-organ failure.

Suharto was admitted on 4th January 2008 to Jakarta's Pertamina hospital with symptoms of anemia and low blood pressure. Apparently Suharto had told his family that he did not want to be taken overseas for treatment. He has suffered from various ailments, including intestinal bleeding and strokes, in recent years and been hospitalised on a number of occasions.

Suharto, a former general came to power after a botched 1965 coup attempt blamed on communists. He ruled the world's fourth-most populous country with an iron fist for 32 years, stepped down in 1998 amid political upheaval and a crippling economic crisis that triggered widespread opposition to his regime.

Suharto rarely appears in public. He has lived in seclusion in Jakarta's old money Menteng neighbourhood since he stepped down.

Last year, the Supreme Court ordered Time magazine to pay Suharto more than $100 million in damages in a libel suit.

Time, which is challenging the ruling, published a May 1999 cover story that said the former president and his family had amassed a fortune of around $15 billion. The former president and members of his family have denied that.

Suharto was put on trial in the years after he was pushed from power on charges of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars in state money, but the government dropped the case due to his poor health.


** Born in Java, June 1921

** Comes to power in 1965 after alleged Communist coup attempt

** Formally replaces Sukarno as president in March 1967

** Modernisation programmes in the 70s and 80s raise living standards

** East Timor invaded in late 1975

** Asian economic crisis of the 1990s hits Indonesian economy

** Spiralling prices and discontent force him to resign in May 1998

** Indonesia pulls out of East Timor in 1999

** Judges rule he is unfit to stand trial for corruption in 2000

** Transparency International says he tops the world all-time corruption table in March 2004

** In hospital intensive care unit with intestinal bleeding in May 2005

** 'Time' magazine ordered to pay $106m damages after alleging corruption in September 2007

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Research And Religion Can Be A Difficult Mix

In recognizing the top 50 scientific breakthroughs of 2007, Scientific American cites advancements in alternative fuels, treatment of Parkinson's disease and technology that would make consumer electronics easier to use.

Among those honored are researchers in Japan, Italy and the Netherlands, a country with a population of just 16-million. Yet the list does not include a single noteworthy breakthrough in any of the world's 56 Muslim nations, encompassing more than 1-billion people.

Dr. Essam Heggy has a reason.

"We don't live in an environment where we value science," says Heggy, a Muslim astronomer who left his native Libya and is working in Houston on NASA's Mars exploration program. "Science and intellectual presence have been seen as a real threat to governments that have no serious plans for democratic rule."

Why the dearth of scientific achievement in the modern Muslim world? Like Heggy, many critics blame authoritarian regimes that stifle independent thinking and limit contacts with the outside world. Most schools and universities in Muslim countries emphasize rote learning over debate and analysis. Defense budgets -- especially in the bellicose Middle East -- consume billions of dollars that might otherwise go to research.

And just as Christian conservatism in America has led to curbs on genetic research and pressure to teach alternatives to evolution, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism has turned many Muslims away from science and toward religion as a way to view and explain the world.

"Religious fundamentalism is always bad news for science," Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani Muslim physicist, recently wrote in an article on Islam and science for Physics Today.

"Scientific progress constantly demands that facts and hypotheses be checked. But there lies the problem: The scientific method is alien to traditional, unreformed religious thought."

While the reasons are many and often controversial, there is no doubt that the Muslim world lags far behind in scientific achievement and research:

* Muslim countries contribute less than 2 percent of the world's scientific literature. Spain alone produces almost as many scientific papers.

* In countries with substantial Muslim populations, the average number of scientists, engineers and technicians per 1,000 people is 8.5. The world average is 40.

* Muslim countries get so few patents that they don't even register on a bar graph comparison with other countries. Of the more than 3-million foreign inventions patented in the United States between 1977 and 2004, only 1,500 were developed in Muslim nations.

* In a survey by the Times of London, just two Muslim universities -- both in cosmopolitan Malaysia -- ranked among the top 200 universities worldwide.

Two Muslim scientists have won Nobel Prizes, but both did their groundbreaking work at Western institutions. Pakistan's Abdus Salam, who won the 1979 physics prize while in Britain, was barred from speaking at any university in his own country. Why? Salam belonged to what the Pakistani government had declared a heretical sect.

Vanguard of learning

Despite a popular myth, people in the Muslim world are not resistant to new technology. Even the poorest have cell phones, some with global positioning features that show the exact direction in which to pray to Mecca. Prayer rugs now contain computer chips that count the number of bend-downs. And as al-Qaida's frequent messages show, the Internet has been a valuable tool in spreading threats against the West.

But it is a far cry from Islam's early days when the prophet Mohammed said "the ink of the scholar is more sacred than the blood of martyrs."

As Islam spread from its birthplace on the Arabian Peninsula, Muslim scientists expanded on the knowledge gained from the Romans, Greeks and other cultures. The Golden Age of Islam, spanning the 8th through 13th centuries, saw major advances in mathematics, optics, chemistry, astronomy and medicine while Europe slept through centuries of intellectual darkness.

Over time, though, tensions grew between liberal Muslims, who had a flexible interpretation of Islam, and fundamentalists, who believed in predestination with all its chilling implications for learning and discovery. As reason bowed to faith, "science in the Islamic world essentially collapsed," Hoodbhoy writes. "No major invention or discovery has emerged from the Muslim world for well over seven centuries now."
Today, many of the brightest scientific minds leave their countries to study in Western universities like Virginia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, both of which have sizeable Muslim student associations. By some estimates, more than half of the science students from Arab countries never return home to work.

"Science has now been replaced by religious thinking," says Heggy, 32, the NASA researcher who got his doctorate in France. "Logic unfortunately is a smaller and smaller part of society."

Muslim scientists who do work in their native countries often find themselves embracing -- publicly at least -- so-called "Islamic science." Popularized in the '80s as an alternative to Western science and its perceived lack of moral values, the Islamic version tries to mesh religion and science with curious results.

"Some scholars calculated the temperature of Hell, others the chemical composition of heavenly djinn spirits," Hoodbhoy writes. "None produced a new machine or instrument, conducted an experiment or even formulated a single testable hypothesis."

Instead, fundamentalists typically view science only of value in giving more proof of God or showing the truth of the Koran. One oft-visited Internet site reveals this "astounding scientific fact" -- the Koran anticipated black holes and genes.

'Silent note-takers'

While critical of fellow Muslims, Hoodbhoy thinks the United States is partly to blame for the dismal record of scientific achievement. Western support for unpopular secular governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries has fueled a rise in fundamentalism that in turn discourages academic and cultural freedom.

At Hoodbhoy's own university in Islamabad, Pakistan, almost all female students now wear veils and have become "silent note-takers" who are increasingly timid and afraid to ask questions, he says. Movies, dramas and music are shunned as un-Islamic. The campus has three mosques, but no bookstore.

The picture is not entirely bleak. Saudi Arabia, though home to one of the most intolerant strains of Islam, is building a world-class research university in collaboration with Cape Cod's prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Turkey -- whose founder, Kemal Ataturk, wanted to Westernize his country -- has more than tripled its science funding since 2003 while under a religiously conservative prime minister. Tunisia, another secular Muslim nation, has largely rejected "Islamic science" in favor of practical research. The number of laboratories there grew to 139 from 55 in six years.

But far more needs to be done, says Hoodbhoy, who argues that arrested scientific development in the Muslim world is contributing to the "marginalization" of Muslims and their growing sense of injustice and victimhood. Muslim countries will continue to stagnate scientifically -- and in other ways as well.

"The struggle to usher in science," Hoodbhoy writes, "will have to go side-by-side with a much wider campaign to elbow out rigid orthodoxy and bring in modern thought, arts, philosophy, democracy and pluralism." (By SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN, St. Petersburg Times)
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Defunct U.S. Spy Satellite Falling From Orbit

The Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer, or EUVE which fell from orbit on Jan. 30. 2002

A defunct U.S. spy satellite is falling from orbit and could hit the Earth in late February or March, agencies reports said Saturday.

"Appropriate government agencies are monitoring the situation," Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters.

"Numerous satellites over the years have come out of orbit and fallen harmlessly. We are looking at potential options to mitigate any possible damage this satellite may cause," he said.

The satellite, which has lost power and propulsion, could contain hazardous materials, U.S. government officials said. Because the satellite could not be controlled any longer, it is unknown where the Earth it might hit, the officials said.

Asked whether it is possible to intercept the falling satellite with missiles before it hits the Earth, spokesman Johndroe refused to comment.

In 1979, Skylab, a 78-ton abandoned NASA space station fell from orbit in an uncontrolled manner. Its debris eventually dropped into the Indian Ocean and across a remote section of western Australia harmlessly. (Xinhua)

***** Let's hope it drops into one of the oceans far, far away from any inhabited area. It would be a terrible catastrophe if the satellite were to fall onto a city or any other densely populated zone.
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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Consequence Of Hindraf Rally - Sleepy Samy Vellu Finally Wakes Up And Works For Welfare Of Indians

Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu continued to juggle between his duties as the Works Minister, MIC president and Sungai Siput MP by criss-crossing the country to explain to the people and resolve their problems from clogged drains to community woes.

He met more than 250 MIC branch leaders in Ipoh yesterday to explain the true situation with regards to the Indian community, and moved to Sungai Siput today to meet his constituents.

Tomorrow, he will put on the Works Minister's cap to officiate at a programme in Seremban, which incidentally involved a group of young Indians.

"I have been meeting many Indian groups, not just MIC members, to explain to them the true situation and also gathering information from them as well as resolving their problems on-the-spot," he said in a statement today.

Samy Vellu said an effective leader would know how to spread his work and divide his or her time evenly to ensure they cover maximum places.

Samy Vellu said certain quarters, possibly aligned or with the opposition, have been spreading lies and propaganda, especially through the SMS, to win over the hearts of the Indians.

"I have met many groups of Indians in hot spots but after meeting them, I realise that things are not as what is being circulated via the SMS," he said.

He said the majority of Indians, especially the voters are "still very much with (supporting) the Barisan Nasional and the MIC" although some of them are not happy with certain policies which the MIC was correcting.

"Generally, they are happy with what the government and the MIC have been doing but they want us to do more. They said they will continue to support the Barisan but want their grievances to be resolved," he said.

Samy Vellu said during his meetings with several Indian groups, including youths, he assured them that the MIC had held several discussions and had proposed to the government several steps to remedy the dissatisfactions among Indians.

The Minister urged Indians not to gamble with their future by supporting the opposition in the coming general election.

He said they should not let emotions rule their thinking but cast their votes wisely.

"I want the Indian community to be rest assured that the MIC has been fighting for their cause and we will pursue them vigorously," he added. (Bernama)

***** No more arrogant pomp. No more scowling at those who complain of mistreatment or discrimination. No more leaving it to his subordinates to give a little bit of aid for poor Indians. Now Sam is going to the ground 24/7 and like a daily paid labourer he is slowly going to earn his dues and hopes to be given a bonus on election day.

More importantly he has to regain the respect of the Indian community and ensure that there is no repeat of the massive humiliation he was subjected to at Penang some time ago where he was publicly booed and cursed. In order to achieve this, he has to genuinely work on Indian misgivings about the MIC and the Umno-dominated BN government.

The old tactic of "I'll take it up with the PM" or "I'll bring it up at the Cabinet" won't work anymore. He must deliver the goods to the satisfaction of most Indians. That won't be an easy task on two counts. One would be the objection from stubborn racists in Umno who would bring his suggestions and plans to a screeching halt. And the other is the attitude of the average Indian who won't be satisfied with whatever good any party may bring their way. Perhaps understanding this perennial tendency among Indians to be discontented no matter what is done, that Hindraf fought for a million US dollars for each of them!
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Reconciling Ancient Beliefs With Modern Technologies

Cairo: The woman stared in disbelief at the text message in her cellphone inbox.

She and her husband, an Egyptian army officer away on duty, had just hung up after quarrelling on the phone. She ignored his return call, not wanting to continue the argument, the woman recounted in an interview.

The electronic chirrup of an incoming message signalled his response. "I divorce you," her husband had written. "That will teach you not to answer my calls."

Reconciliation followed, only to be broken by another quarrel, this one over the woman asking her family to mediate the couple's problems. "I divorce you," her husband wrote in another message. "Don't ask other people to interfere in our business."

Another reconciliation. Another argument. And another declaration of divorce from her husband, this time face to face, late last year.

Islamic law can make the act of divorce stunningly simple for men, even if the ensuing financial settlements often are not. A husband has only to declare to his wife, "Enti talaq" - "You are divorced" - three times, and mean it, to end their marriage.

But technology has introduced a complication that Egyptian religious authorities are now debating in the case of the 25-year-old Cairene, an engineer and an observant Muslim: How should Islamic laws that began to take shape in the 6th century apply to 21st-century text messages?

In Malaysia, the UAE and Qatar, where some of the first text-message divorce cases have arisen in recent years, civil and religious officials have arrived at varying conclusions.

Until Egyptian courts and religious scholars decide the fate of the woman's marriage, she lives apart from the officer with their 4-year-old son, but still wears her wedding ring. She asked that her name not be used to protect her privacy, because such cases are so rare in Egypt.

"What hurts me most is I don't even know if I'm divorced or not," she said.

Judicial officials confirmed her identity and the facts of the case, initiated in family court in December. Court officials could not agree on whether the case was Egypt's first or second text-message divorce. They said the army officer had not yet appeared in court.

Islamic institutions have adroitly adopted evolving technology to spread their message and tend their followers. Preachers abound on satellite television channels. Many religious institutions and shaikhs offer websites that provide their followers with online fatwas, or rulings, on religious questions.

Egypt's state-appointed grand mufti, one of the country's highest religious authorities, recently began offering online imam training. Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa's fatwa website receives 3,000 hits a day, and a similar hotline gets scores of calls a day, according to his spokesman, Ebrahim Negm. Almost all the inquiries have to do with family matters, including divorce, he added.

Spreading the message

Yet the proliferation of televised preaching and Islamic websites has produced a confusing array of voices competing for followers. Broadcast and internet media can amplify hate or oversimplify a complex religious point. Technology offers modes of communication that the first practitioners of Islamic law never could have imagined.

Conservative and liberal streams within Islam each have used technology to get their messages across. In Egypt, young members of the Muslim Brotherhood movement used blogs last year to urge that the Islamic organisation be more inclusive of women and less exclusionary of other religions.

Islamic institutions have adopted websites and other technology as a tool to show that Islamic law still provides "pragmatic solutions to contemporary problems," Negm said. "We also believe there has been abuse of technology," he added. "This does not lead us to say, 'Forget it.' That would not be possible."

But text-message divorces represent "a clear-cut abuse of the law," Negm said.

Religious authorities in the UAE and Qatar upheld divorce by text message in rulings between 2001 and 2003. Islamic officials in Singapore rejected it.

Government officials in Malaysia decried the first cases, promising big fines for any man who tried to shed his wife by impersonal text messages. Malaysia's religious leaders upheld the legality of text-message divorce, and government talk of bans and fines ended.

For the 25-year-old engineer, text messages have made the costs impossibly high.

Her husband wants her back, the woman said, but the religious scholars she consulted tell her she is divorced in the eyes of God and would be returning to him out of wedlock.

But if she refuses to return, and the courts rule the text-message declarations invalid and her marriage intact, she risks losing her claim to her young son.

With the text messages, she said, "the doors of hell have opened on my life." (Gulf News)

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