Malaysia always in the News for Wrong Reasons


May 18, 2017

Malaysia always in the News for Wrong Reasons

by Dato Dennis Ignatius

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Malaysia’s disgraceful disregard for human rights

 

The  UMNO-led BN government seems to have a penchant for putting Malaysia in the international spotlight for all the wrong reasons. This time Malaysia is being widely criticised for the way it colluded with Turkey to detain and deport suspected opponents of the Erodogan regime.

Last week, three long-time Turkish residents of Malaysia – school principal Turgay Karaman, businessman Ihsan Aslan and academic Ismet Ozcelik – were surreptitiously detained and hastily bundled out of the country before their families could even mount a legal challenge.

The whole manner in which the Malaysian authorities handled the matter – the secretive way they were detained, the constantly changing reasons for their detention, the speed at which they were deported, the presence of Turkish agents – was deeply troubling.

Colluding with the Erdogan regime

It is now clear that their arrest and deportation was in response to pressure from the Turkish government.

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Since the unsuccessful coup in Turkey last year, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been on a witch hunt against anyone remotely connected with his political nemesis, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gueln. Thousands of military personnel, teachers, civil servants, judges, reporters and others have been summarily detained or dismissed. Turkish agents have also targeted Turkish nationals living abroad, many on spurious grounds.

While many countries have expressed alarm at Turkey’s slide towards authoritarianism, Malaysia apparently has no compunction collaborating with the regime.

The Home Ministry’s insistence that it acted on its own to deport the aforementioned Turks because they were “members of an organization deemed illegal in their country” is disingenuous to say the least.

 

Long history of dubious extraditions

This is, of course, not the first time that Malaysia has engaged in dubious extraditions.

In 2004, Libyan national Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq and his then pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, were arrested in Kuala Lumpur, detained for 13 days and then transferred to CIA facilities in Thailand under the now infamous rendition programme. In Thailand Abu Abdullah was tortured before being sent back to Libya where he spent years in prison.

Cynically, while Malaysia was publicly critical of the US war on terrorism, it was quietly cooperating with the CIA in extrajudicial renditions.

In 2012, a Saudi journalist, Hamza Kashgari, accused of insulting the Prophet, was detained while on transit to New Zealand. Despite not having a formal extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia and notwithstanding a high court injunction against his extradition, he was sent back to Saudi Arabia.

Since 2011, Malaysian Police have also been quietly working with Chinese authorities to round up and deport Muslim Uighur refugees fleeing the on-going crackdown in Xinjiang province. Many of these refugees had registered with UNCHR and were awaiting for their claims to be reviewed when they were deported.

It is more than likely that many others may have also been clandestinely detained and dispatched to uncertain fates in unknown destinations.

Transparent rather than secretive

Image result for Malaysia's Human Rights AbusesMalaysia’s  IGP Khalid Ashburn and his henchmen of the Royal Malaysian Police in Service of UMNO

No one is, of course, suggesting that suspected terrorists should not be deported or extradited. Malaysia has an obligation to cooperate with other countries in the apprehension of terrorists and criminals. What is important, however, is for the process to be open and transparent rather than secretive and ad hoc. And, of course, the decisions of the government should always be subject to judicial review.

In April this year, for example, an Iranian national accused of involvement in the 2012 bombing in Thailand was extradited after his case was heard by the Federal Court. Surely that is the way a civilized country does things.

A dumping ground for terrorists

Interestingly, while we oblige Turkey by doing their dirty work for them, they repay the favour by quietly facilitating the passage to Malaysia of known terrorists, as was reported recently. We have apparently become the dumping ground for terrorists that Turkey apprehends. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

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The Three Stooges of Islamic Extremism

In the meantime, while the government deports Turks whose only crime may be their dislike of Erdogan, it opens its arms wide to people like Zakir Naik, an extremist preacher blacklisted by several countries for spreading hatred, funding terrorism and money laundering. India has now requested for an Interpol red corner notice against Zakir, which, if granted, would make him an international fugitive in the fullest sense of the word. Let’s see how quickly the authorities will act to deport him and even strip him of his undeserved PR status, if he is still in the country.

 

A Secular Islam Possible for Malaysia?


May 11, 2017

A Secular Islam Possible for Malaysia?

by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee@www.malaysiakini.com

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The recent PAS Muktamar brings to the forefront – yet again – the question of whether secular Islam is a possibility in an increasingly racially and religiously acrimonious and divided Malaysia.

Secularism has been defined as the separation of public life and civil/government matters from religious teachings and commandments, or more simply the separation of religion and politics. It is an evolution that the great majority of the world’s nations have gone through – some quickly, others more slowly.

However, almost all nations, even as they develop at uneven speeds, have inevitably gravitated towards a separation of religion and state.

Today, except for a few countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran and Yemen, most nations – developed and developing – view a religiously-based state as a throwback to a more primitive form of government; and a historical era in which life was nasty, brutish and short, except for the religious elite.

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Secular states in which governments are neutral in matters of religion and public activities, and where the states’ decisions are not dictated or influenced by religious beliefs, are the opposite of theocratic states.

At the same time it needs to be noted that not all secular states are alike. Thus we find states with a comprehensive commitment to secularism; those that are more accommodating to religion; and others that, although committed to neutrality, will selectively actively cooperate with religions.

Whatever the degree of secularity, secular states, except those which morph into totalitarianism or autocratic systems, are committed to the implementation of national and international norms protecting the freedom of religion or belief, and abide by constitutions which guarantee the equal treatment of different communities of religion and belief within society.

In sharp contrast the theocratic state has a God or a particular deity to be the supreme civil ruler. Also the God’s or particular deity’s commandments are held to be the definitive law of the land; and the authorities and their representatives who interpret the commandments claim a superior or divine duty in running the affairs of state and society.

Debates on merits ongoing, but no poll held

Debate on the relative merits of theocratic and secular states has been ongoing for several hundreds of years in both Muslim and Christian worlds. In our era, a poll of the world’s foremost leaders – including religious – on what they may view to be a superior form of government – secular or theocratic – has never been held.

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The Late Karpal Singh is right but when he was Prime  Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir had the audacity to claim that Malaysia is already an Islamic state, while his successor promoted Islam Hadhari and Najib Razak embraced Hadi Awang’s Hududism and Zakir Naik.  As a result, the Malays have become a confused people.–Din Merican

But if one were to be undertaken today, I will not be surprised if the polled group of religious leaders – despite their concerns about the negative impact that a sharp break separating public life from religion could have on their congregations – will agree that a secular state is the correct path to progress and a better life for their religious communities.

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I expect too that few among the religious leaders would want a return to the days when there was a fusion of religious and political authority, even if they may personally benefit from the shift of power in society.

For, make no mistake about it, history – past and current – is replete with examples of how theocratic states, even after co-opting or hijacking secularised concepts of equality and justice, have invariably lapsed into religious tyrannies with dire consequences for all of the citizenry.

As Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of the United States noted, “Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst; every other species of tyranny is limited to the world we live in; but this attempts to stride beyond the grave, and seeks to pursue us into eternity.”

The crisis in Malaysia

Secular Malaysia today is facing a crisis with Muslim politicians from both sides of the political divide seeking to strengthen conservative Islam through castigating its moderate and liberal proponents, and by making the case that supporters of a secular Islam are kaffirs, traitors and enemies of the religion.

The situation has become so bad that few Muslims in the country are willing to take a public stand on the issue or declare support for secular Islam for fear of reprisal by religious extremists.

The sole exceptions that have stood out have been non-political figures, such as Mariam Mokhtar, Noor Farida Ariffin and some other members of G25, Syed Akbar Ali, Marina Mahathir, Haris Ibrahim, Din Merican, and Farouk Peru, and an even smaller number of politicians, notably Zaid Ibrahim and Ariff Sabri.

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One sees in their messages to fellow Muslims in this country some of the same concerns that are animating liberal and secular Muslims in other parts of the world, viz:

  • The rejection of interpretations of Islam that urge violence, social injustice and politicised Islam;
  • The rejection of bigotry and oppression against people based on prejudice arising from ethnicity, belief, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression;
  • Support for secular governance, democracy and liberty; and
  • Support for the right of individuals to publicly express criticism of Islam (see ‘Muslim Reform Movement’ by M Zuhdi Jasser and Raheel Raza et al).

Unfortunately, these messages – partly because they are communicated in English and partly because the mainstream Malay (and English ) media have chosen to ignore them – are unable to reach the Malay masses – whether in rural or urban communities. They have even failed to elicit support from the unknown number of open-minded and liberal Muslims who are now openly branded as “deviants” by Islamic religious authorities.

In the Malay world, it is Malay politicians and the Islamic elite and bureaucracy who have a monopoly over the variant of Islam that is propagated to the masses. It is a variant that is currently feeding on heightened ethnic and religious insecurities and jealousy, so as to make it much more difficult, if not impossible, to have a rational discourse on secular Islam, save that advocated by Umno and PAS.

LIM TECK GHEE is a former World Bank senior social scientist, whose report on bumiputera equity when he was director of Asli’s Centre for Public Policy Studies sparked controversy in 2006. He is now CEO of the Centre for Policy Initiatives.

Malaysians ready to discard racially-based parties


Study: Malaysians ready to discard racially-based parties

An Oxford University study funded by CIMB Foundation found that Malaysians generally want greater integration and unity.

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The  New Malaysia with a Conservative Arabist Mindset

An Oxford University study disproves the notion that Malaysians are not ready to discard racially-based parties.

Malaysians, in fact, prefer racially-mixed political parties to single ethnic parties, according to the study. Even rural Malays are for it. About 62% of Malays and 80% of non-Malays strongly agreed with the suggestion that political parties should be racially mixed.

The study’s authors say: “This is an extremely noteworthy finding. Malaysians are often told that they are not ready to move beyond communally-based political parties; that people will react badly to not having their interests championed by such parties.

“The explanation for this is that while the urban Malays may be comfortable with mixed-race parties, the rural folks are not. However, our data shows that 62% of rural Malays and 63% of urban Malays strongly endorse mixed parties.”

The study, carried out in Peninsular Malaysia in September-October last year, involved 503 Malays, 500 Chinese and 501 Indians.

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Prime Minister Najib and UMNO’s Islamic Guru–Zakir Naik

The study titled Attitudes and Ethnoreligious Integration: Meeting the Challenge and Maximizing the Promise of Multicultural Malaysia, was done by Dr Ananthi Ramiah, Professor Miles Hewstone and Dr Ralf Wölfer with a grant from the CIMB Foundation.

The study notes that across the board, a high percentage of people from the different  ethnic groups expressed strong agreement for better integration among Malaysians. The Indians were the most enthusiastic for integration.

The authors asked respondents how much they thought a series of possible changes to government policy and neighbourhood ethnic composition might improve integration.

On creating more racially-mixed neighbourhoods, there was a significant difference between the three ethnic groups in level of agreement. The Malays expressed a lower level of agreement than the Chinese and the Indians, and the Chinese expressed less agreement than the Indians.About 60% of Malays, 70% of Chinese and almost 80% of Indians supported mixed neighbourhoods.

There was also a significant difference between the three ethnic groups on doing away with vernacular education at the primary school level, with the Malays agreeing to a much greater degree than the Chinese and Indians. The Chinese, especially, were very supportive of vernacular education.Slightly more than 60% of Malays, 20% of Chinese and about 45% of Indians were for this.

On introducing fair competition for everyone so that no one group gets special privileges, Malays agreed to a lesser degree than the Chinese and the Indians.

On the suggestion that all religions should be treated equally in government policy, there was a significant difference between the three ethnic groups. The Malays agreed with this to a lesser degree than the Chinese and the Indians.

About 60% of Malays and 90% of Chinese and Indians agreed with this. “Thus, in general, we note the trend that the Malays expressed a lower level of agreement to most of the integration suggestions than the Chinese and the Indians, with the exception of the suggestion to do away with vernacular schools, about which the Chinese are substantially less enthusiastic than the Malays and the Indians.”

The study could not conclusively say that having friends from other ethnic groups influenced the answers to some of these suggestions.

Generally, the more friends they had who were of other ethnic backgrounds, the more they appeared to support integration. But this was not always the case. For instance, the study found that Indians highly endorsed mixed neighbourhoods regardless of the number of outgroup friends they had.

It found that the Chinese respondents expressed low levels of support for the dismantling of vernacular schools, regardless of the number of outgroup friends they had.

Thaqif: Case of Intellectual and Mental Abuse


April 29, 2017

Thaqif: Case of Intellectual and Mental Abuse

by Dean Johns@www.malaysiakini.com

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The recent tragic death of 11-year-old Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi following beatings he allegedly suffered at a private Islamic boarding school has apparently outraged a good many Malaysians.

And I see that the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has urged the government to abolish corporal punishment in schools on the grounds that it violates children’s rights by harming them not only physically, but also emotionally and mentally.

Morally too, I would add, in light of the fact that so many survivors of the same system of ‘religious’ schooling that proved fatal to Mohamad Thaqif are clearly left hopelessly confused between right and wrong.

Or perhaps not so much confused as seemingly highly selective and hypocritical in their moral judgments, as, for example, the purportedly ultra-pious members and supporters of PAS clearly are in their strident support for the corporal punishment of ordinary Muslims of all ages for a whole range of offences against shariah law, but shamefully silent in the face of alleged crimes against the Malaysian people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, by the ruling UMNO-BN regime.

And as for the ever-ruling regime itself, whatever ‘religious’ so-called ‘education’ that its members have received has apparently rendered them so hopelessly morally and ethically confused as to be capable of engaging in unholy degrees of corruption, criminality, secrecy and deceit, while simultaneously and hyper-hypocritically pretending to be engaged in a ceaseless ‘struggle’ to ‘defend’ Islam.

This pathologically paradoxical situation is by no means confined to UMNO-BN, or Islam, or Malaysia, of course, but prevails to a greater or lesser extent wherever in the world that the terms ‘religion’ and ‘education’ are employed in combination, be it unthinkingly or with deliberate intent to deceive the innocent, the ignorant and the incurably gullible.

An observation that leads me to my point here, which is that ‘religious education’ is a contradiction in terms, or in other words an oxymoron. Though I have to confess that I feel like a total Aussie moron to have taken so much of my life to arrive at this realisation.

By way of self-explanation if not justification, however, I was born so bereft of knowledge and power that I quickly came to perceive my parents as omniscient and omnipotent, and thus saw nothing amiss in their taking me to church every Sunday.

Same deal when they sent me off to school, where, since the nuns were called ‘sister’ or ‘mother’, and the male teachers ‘brother’ or ‘father’, and I heard lots about somebody called ‘baby Jesus’, I got the distinct impression that, along with my co-religionist classmates, I was part of some special extended family.

Later I felt somewhat let down to learn that this ‘family’ perceived itself as a more sheep-like ‘flock’ of which the formerly infant Jesus was considered the ‘good shepherd’, and whose authority was sometimes symbolised by a ‘crook’.

Long before I came to see the sinister ambiguity of this ‘crook’ concept, however, or started getting cross about this and pretty well every aspect of my own and other religions, I’d started my so-called ‘education’.

A process that, unlike the late, lamented young Mohamad Thaqif, I survived with all my limbs and my life, thanks to the relative mildness of the corporal punishment my teachers meted out.

And I never suffered any of the sexual abuse that has subsequently been alleged that a small but significant minority of Catholic clergymen committed back then and since on children entrusted to their charge.

Intellectual and mental abuse?

Nor, at least at the time it was happening, did I feel much if any pain as a result of what I later came to see as the intellectual and mental abuse arising from being fed a load of religious fantasies to accept as if they were facts.

Imparting the so-called ‘truths’ of religion to innocent, unsuspecting children, even to the point of forcing them to rote-learn and parrot allegedly ‘divinely-inspired’ texts, and requiring them to have ‘faith’ in such stuff on pain of ‘sin’ against some imaginary ‘almighty’ is an outrage.

As is thus indoctrinating them into any religion without also informing them about at least a selection of the countless atrocities that have been committed in the names of religions since time immemorial, and so appallingly continue to be committed today.

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UMNO religious Eggheads

And, despite such enlightened views as those brilliantly expressed by Azly Rahman in his recent Malaysiakini column in which he deplores the “heartless, mindless and soul-less system of schooling and learning”, even more of the same is threatened as recently by the allegedly ‘educated’ likes of Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

In a recent public speech, Zahid, who claims to have a PhD, but which to judge by the way he talks could well signify not a ‘doctorate of philosophy’ but a ‘phoney degree’, declared that “if our social contract is broken, there will not only be social disorder but worse than that, our streets will be littered with blood and dead bodies.”

“Those mad and irrational people out there who are propagating social disorder and tearing the fabric of our social structure must be challenged and overcome by our citizens who understand the reason for our being,” he ranted on, in support of his highly-debatable further proposition that “the emergence of social media has deeply affected belief systems, intellectual thinking and moral principles, with mankind slowly being made to lose its dignity.”

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This, I contend, is precisely the kind of maimed and misleading mindset that comes from the confusion, deliberate or otherwise, of mindless religious indoctrination or poisonous propaganda with true, enlightened education.

A concept that, as I recall from my school Latin lessons, is based on the word ‘educare’, meaning to ‘draw out’ as in liberate the young, indeed people of all ages, from ignorance, prejudice, irrationality and falsehood rather than to induce or further sustain such crippling mental blocks.

Though it’s possibly small consolation to Mohamad Thaqif Amin Mohd Gaddafi’s bereaved family and friends, at least he is free forever of such pernicious ‘religious’ and other similarly destructive so-called ‘educational’ influences, and we can hope that the memory of his sad fate will serve as a lesson that will help many other young Malaysian minds to survive.

Malaysia: Harassment of Critics intensified


April 24, 2017

Malaysia: Harassment of Critics intensified

by John Berthelsen@www.asiasentinel.com

http://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/new-round-repression-malaysia/

Image result for Najib Razak --Harassment of OpponentsSorry Dad, I messed up Felda and stole billions from the rakyat(people)

Malaysian authorities have increased the pace of their harassment of critics, according to human rights organizations in Kuala Lumpur, which political analysts view as a prelude to early elections.

Ominously, five people have been kidnapped or disappeared and people are being arrested over Facebook postings and held for three or four days, critics say. Opposition websites and independent news publications have been warned to mute their criticism or face being shut down. The Chinese-language newspaper Nanyang Siang Pau was warned over a cartoon satirizing the Speaker of Parliament as a monkey and told to suspend the staff involved.

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Hudud Monkees–Pandikar Amin (Tak) Mulia and PAS Hadi Awang

A general election must be held before August 23, 2018. However, Parliament is expected to be dissolved sometime in August or September of this year in preparation for the polls, to allow time for slippage in case unexpected events take place, such as the possible prosecution in the United States of the scandal-scarred Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is under investigation by the US Justice Department’s kleptocracy unit on suspicion that as much as US$1 billion from the Malaysian state-backed 1Malaysia Development Bhd. investment fund found its way into his personal accounts.

“They have been warning people, there have been many arrests over Facebook postings, things deemed to be critical, not only of government but of government leaders,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, one of Malaysia’s most prominent lawyers and civil rights advocates. “There is a general feeling that the government is not going to tolerate dissent.”

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By all rights, the government should be confident of a landslide in the upcoming polls. The opposition’s most charismatic figure, Anwar Ibrahim, languishes in prison on what human rights organizations have criticized as trumped-up charges of sexual perversion. Other leaders have been threatened with sedition or criminal libel. The opposition, led by Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat, is in disarray with one wing – the rural-based Parti Islam se-Malaysia, or PAS, having collapsed into two organizations, neither of which has much remaining clout.  The conservative wing has largely aligned itself with the government over religious issues.

Najib Running Scared?

But, according to Ambiga and other sources, the reason Najib may be running scared is Mahathir Mohamad, the 91-year-old former Prime Minister, Najib’s most implacable critic, who with other dissidents established Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and set to woo away ethnic Malays from the United Malays National Organization.

Image result for Mahathir takes on NajibThe Malaysian Kantoi All Party Team

From the start, it seemed a lost cause. Mahathir has been attempting to dump Najib since before the 2013 General Election, with little effect. His son Mukhriz has been fired by Najib as Menteri Besar (Chief Minister) of the state of Kedah. Muhyiddin Yassin, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy President of UMNO, was kicked out of the party. Others have been neutralized or driven out, while the remainder of UMNO chieftains have been bribed/bought to support Najib.

But, according to a political analyst, the key is the Federal Land Development Authority, or FELDA, which was founded to handle the resettlement of the rural poor, most of them ethnic Malays.

The government listed FELDA on the Malaysian stock exchange in 2012 and allowed the thousands of settlers – whose territory covers 54 of UMNO’s 86 seats in parliament – to invest in the shares. Because of a variety of missteps, the shares have fallen  in value steeply, impoverishing the settlers who bought into them. FELDA Global Ventures as the public vehicle is now known, may be forced to delist.

Mahathir and PPBM, which he calls Parti Bersatu against the wishes of the government, have capitalized on the discontent to the point where political analysts believe he will pull away a number of those UMNO seats, perhaps 10 or 11 – two of which are held by Najib’s lieutenants.

FELDA in Revolt

“Bersatu isn’t really viable, but he’s making inroads into the Malay areas,” said one knowledgeable source. “Two ministers – Ismail Shabri Yaacob in Pahang and Ahmad Shabery Cheek in Terengganu – could lose their seats. If they lose two ministers, Najib’s position is dicey.”

If the other opposition parties, including the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party and Anwar’s PKR, plus the shards of PAC – can do well, especially in the face of brutal gerrymandering by the government – perhaps they could pull 100 seats in the 222-member parliament.

That would mean the East Malaysia states of Sabah and Sarawak, whose representation in Parliament is outsized compared to their population, and which have been demanding a bigger share of oil revenues now flowing to the central government from their own areas, plus increased development, would be in a position to blackmail the government for more spoils.

Scorched-Earth Policy

New Round of Repression in Malaysia

 FELDA Settlers in Revolt–Costly to Najib Razak

Accordingly, according to Ambiga and sources who prefer not to be named, the government has embarked on a scorched-earth program to suppress dissent. The most troubling is the kidnapping or disappearance of five social activists, including the well-organized kidnapping and disappearance of a Chinese Christian pastor, Raymond Koh Keng Joo on Feb. 13 in the middle of Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, whose car was rammed and who was driven away in broad daylight. As Asia Sentinel reported, “His disappearance and the lack of any news or ransom demand suggest he has likely been killed and his body disposed of.”

The others who have disappeared are social activists Peter Chong, Joshua and Ruth Hilmy and Amri Che Mat.

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In addition, Nalini Elumalai, the Malaysia representative of Article 19, an international human rights organization with a Malaysia chapter, said that “recent arrests, investigations and charges under the Multimedia & Communications Act 1998 (MCA) are becoming more and more frequent. This is no longer just a crackdown on public figures (i.e. activists, human rights defenders, opposition politicians or journalists), but the targeting of ordinary social media users, in what appears to be an exercise in clamping down on criticism.”

Article 19 in particular identified one individual who was arrested last week for carrying a placard and wearing a yellow T-shirt identifying him as a member of the election reform organization Bersih. His phone and other articles were seized.

“The arrest and confiscations represent a violation of the individual’s right to privacy and freedom of expression, as it targets him for expressing his opinion on government corruption.

Article 19 also specified the cases of the graphic artist Fahmi Reza, Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, known as Zunar, and Bersih Chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah under the Security Offences Special Measures Act (SOSMA), the organization said.

“There is grave concern about how SOSMA has been extended for another five years,” Ambiga said. “Maria [Chin’s] detention was a classic example of the abuse of security legislation. The detention under SOSMA of Maria was completely unacceptable. I anticipate a worsening situation for human rights in view of the elections. It’s going to be even dirtier than the last.”

Xenophobic Najib Razak, where is Reverend Koh?


April 19, 2017

Malaysia: Xenophobic Najib Razak, where is Reverend Koh?

by Manjit Bhatia

http://www.newmandala.org

Manjit Bhatia asks who bears the answers to the Malaysian-Chinese Christian preacher’s disappearance.

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Is the Face of an Enlightened Leader or a Philosopher-King? No, he is known for the company he keeps

Eight weeks after the February 13 abduction of 62-year old Malaysian-Chinese Christian preacher Raymond Koh Keng Joo – in broad daylight on a busy outskirts Kuala Lumpur street – Malaysia’s Police still claim have no clue of his whereabouts. That’s in spite of nabbing a suspect six weeks ago who curiously, demanded only one-third of the $A29,500 offer for the pastor’s release.

Also curious: the kidnapping happened 70 meters from the Selangor state police building in Shah Alam. More curious still: it was filmed, as if the cameraman lay in wait, and the video was quickly uploaded to social media sites. By whom, nobody knows. Despite CCTV footage, Malaysia’s coppers can’t seem to identify the 10-15 criminals or their motive.

In Malaysia, where bigotry rules alongside traditional patrimonialism,  the   kidnapping hasn’t caused a ripple among Malaysians, who fear state retribution.  Religious xenophobia has been fueling political violence, especially as Muslims soon could be living under sharia and hudud – laws already before Parliament.

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So where is Reverend Koh?

So where is Koh? Is he alive? Or has he been killed? The case quickly became frigid. Police, however, are questioning Koh’s family and his “past”. Nothing unusual for Malaysia’s Police to pass the buck. But its history of unexplained deaths in custody speaks volumes about the rise of institutional criminality. So, too, the link between Police and Islamic authorities.  

Most early speculations about Koh’s kidnapping can be ruled out, including ransom demand by common thugs, and rogue military elements or Islamic terrorists having kidnapped the Christian pastor. The earliest speculation – that Koh is being held in a government gulag, undergoing “re-education” prior to his release – is improbable. It will give Koh opportunities to speak out. And the beleaguered UMNO regime wouldn’t chance its crooked arm on more damning exposés.

It’s no secret Koh has been proselytizing Christianity to Malay-Muslims while providing basic needs to all races, not just Malays, through his Komuniti Harapan charity. The gravest accusation against him is his converting Malays – a definite no-no in Muslim-majority Malaysia. To deter Koh, Islamic authorities raided one of Koh’s charity fundraising dinners. Koh also received a bullet in the mail.

Though one persistent speculation about Koh’s kidnapping won’t fizzle – his abduction was a calculated operation. The criminals drove black SUVs with heavily-tinted windows – the sort favoured by Malaysia’s Police. Several unmarked cars and motorcyclists accompanying the SUVs herded traffic procedurally like Police.

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If he does not care, why is he still Malaysia’s Top Cop?

The attackers wore hoods – attire favoured by Police on such operations. Recall 1998 when former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad ordered balaclava-clad police to invade the home of and arrest his ex-protégé Anwar Ibrahim. Recall also the murder of Mongolian socialite Altantuya Shaariibuu, who was blown up by army-grade C4 explosives in a jungle near Kuala Lumpur. The military-guarded explosives fell into her killers’ hands, two of whom were “high-level” Police bodyguards to VIPs.  

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Malaysia’s Home Affairs Minister

Malaysia’s Police has a record of a slew of abuses of power and criminalities – from unexplained and uninvestigated deaths in their custody amounting to murder and abuse of human rights to extortion, racketeering and unbridled corruption. Locals aren’t surprised by any of the Police’s antics. In 2013, Home Minister Zahid Hamidi, to whom the Police answer, praised the outlawed Malay criminals Tiga Line – without consequence to his position. It’s another sign of the growing criminalisation of Malaysia’s institutions by the ruling political elite and its doxy economic class.  

But Police wouldn’t have acted alone against Koh. JAKIM has been headlining Malaysia’s turn towards ultra-conservative religious intolerance. JAKIM is the federal Islamic religious department under Premier Najib Razak’s purview. JAKIM is renowned for its political ideology and racist recklessness. Like its lesser sister organisations JAIS and MAIS, JAKIM, with Najib’s blessings, has been actively pushing for the greater Sunni Arabist Islamisation of Malaysia, bankrolled by Saudi largesse.

JAKIM has banned Christians from using the term “allah” – apparently the exclusive preserve for Muslims. Since the 9/11 terrorists attacks, non-Islamic religious practices in Malaysia have been frowned upon, scrutinised and gradually proscribed through threats by Umno-funded ultra-rightwing racists, like dumping cow heads at Hindu temples and vandalising churches.

Besides the Police, Islamic bodies also help to anchor the Najib regime’s soft authoritarianism. In 2015 JAKIM’s junior partner JAIS, which operates in Selangor state and is answerable to the sultan, raided a Christian society warehouse. It confiscated mainly Malay-language bibles while police provided JAIS protection. JAIS escaped criminal charges but issued an edict against Christians using the “Allah” word.

Koh’s proselytisation of Christianity to Muslims and their conversion is no greater a crime than the UMNO regime’s band of Sunni Islamic “authorities” engaged in “body snatching”, mostly of deceased Hindus who are then proclaimed as Muslims and whose names show up on electoral rolls to protect the Najib regime’s moral bankruptcy and political illegitimacy and criminality. Police and JAKIM bear answers to Koh’s disappearance.

 Manjit Bhatia is an Australian research scholar who specialises in the economics and politics of Asia and international political economy. He is also research director of AsiaRisk, an economic and political risk consultancy.