New Rules for Entertainers

April 18, 2015

COMMENT: My comment is short and simple. Just don’t come to Malaysia. Your Malaysian fans can go to Singapore, Bangkok, and Hong Kong, where the government is liberal and open minded. They can take the plane,train or bus to see you.

Visit Malaysia 2015Forget about Visit Malaysia, the Land of Endless Celebrations, Mr Tourism Minister, Dato Seri Nazri Aziz, because JAKIM, a unit in the Prime Minister’s Department, is sabotaging your efforts. It is sad that the Prime Minister, Najib Razak, is not cooperating  with you by allowing this to happen. Maybe Najib is too preoccupied with his own political survival to deal with this ruling and other matters.–Din Merican

New Rules for Entertainers

by Zurairi

Entertainers coming to Malaysia will now have to adhere to new rules prepared by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM), which impose limitations on stage performances, dress and behaviour codes and gender segregation for attendees.

The rules, which were released by the department this week, also stipulate that an artist should not have a criminal record, whether in a Shariah or civil court, and should maintain a “noble personality” and “good morals”, even outside the performance.

During a performance, the artist must “dress decently” in attire that covers their “aurat”, which refers to the “intimate body parts” that Muslims must cover with clothing. Performances, songs, events and music videos must not insult religious sensitivities, the nation and any race, while the use of any symbolism that go against Islamic teachings and faith is also forbidden.

For stage performances, JAKIM insists that jokes told should be “sparing”, must “toe the line”, and should not lead to “extreme laughter”. Entertainers are also forbidden from making light of “serious and mournful matters”.Meanwhile, song lyrics should contain “goodness and pure values”, in addition to “bringing awareness” and “leading to repentance”.

The music accompanying the lyrics, on the other hand, should “motivate positive atmosphere” and “bring peace”, instead of evoking “negative emotions that contradict Islamic teachings”.Finally, the rules also ban interaction between men and women attendees of any performance.

The new guidelines were drafted last year but were only approved in the 107th convention of the National Fatwa Committee on February 10 and 11 this year, and superseded the first version which was published in 2007.

The previous guidelines, which included none of the abovementioned rules, were focused on prohibiting elements of vice and idolatry in performances, in addition to ensuring that entertainment events “benefit the well-being of the public”.

According to JAKIM, the new list is meant to assist the authorities in ensuring that entertainment programmes are based on the Islamic faith and codes, and moral values.

Although the guidelines are not considered as binding law, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, had in January, advised approving authorities to remind event organisers to adhere to the list made by Jakim.

The new guidelines also specify that any entertainment events must be referred to the authorities for guidance.

Following a controversial mini-concert featuring South Korean band B1A4 which saw three-tudung clad Malay fans hugging on stage, Jakim had said that the Federal Territories Islamic Department (Jawi) was empowered to act on the organisers as it was under its jurisdiction.

“Did all the agencies and the organiser of the event take heed of this guideline? This concert was not referred to JAKIM, in fact JAKIM had no idea about the event,” said JAKIM Director-General Datuk Othman Mustapha.

Sedition in 140 Characters

April 17, 2015

Sedition in 140 Characters

by Azrul Mohd Khalib

EricThe next time I see Eric Paulsen of Lawyers for Liberty, I have to remind myself to congratulate him for being, if I am not mistaken, the first person in Malaysia to be charged for sedition based on a Twitter post back in January.

Worthy of an entry into the vaunted Malaysian Book of Records, don’t you think? He was also the first person to be charged for sedition this year. Pembuka tirai 2015. During the heat of the hudud debate last month, two other tweets from him attracted the IGP’s TLC resulting in his arrest, detention and investigation for, guess what? Sedition!

I once wondered, when Twitter was first launched, what on earth can a person say in 140 characters? Being someone who has been criticised as being overly verbose, who loves to beat the bushes and is totally incapable of saying something in five words when it can be said in 20, I found myself alien to the idea of such succinctness and brevity. You can say plenty, apparently, and piss people off.

Eric can not only express himself eloquently within those limits, his tweets can also cause noses to go out of joint, sphincters to spasm and contract violently, and hands to clutch hair (or empty air for some) under berets, kopiahs and songkoks.

Earlier this month, cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque better known as Zunar, was slapped with nine sedition charges for tweets critical of the conviction of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for sodomy. Nine! I think he makes it to the Book of Records for most sedition charges faced by an individual under this draconian law first enacted by the British during the colonial era.

Opponents of the right to freedom of expression (unless it is their own), supporters of the idea that “there is too much freedom and not enough limits and restrictions”, and advocates of cracking down on “troublemakers” are currently having a field day with the successful passage of Bills related to the diminishing and restrictions of constitutional freedoms sold as necessary for national security and fighting extremism.

I don’t know about you but have you looked and heard this lot lately? Some seem to consist of people belonging to obscure NGOs which no one seems to have heard of, some wearing pseudo military uniforms, and who use threats and abusive language peppered with words of hate, violence, prejudice and racism. Others smile sinisterly in Parliament and celebrate while our rights are trampled under their jackboots.

Meanwhile the powers that be are apparently terrified of the written word, speech, thoughts and even cartoons which espouse and celebrate the freedom of expression and diversity of opinion, promote and defend moderation, demand accountability and transparency, and speak out against injustice and tyranny.

Cartoonists, writers, lecturers and lawyers are being arrested, detained, dressed up in stylish police lock-up purple and made to face charges of sedition. The loud defenders of Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), the Sedition Act and other measures to curtail fundamental civil liberties seem to be made of Teflon, impervious and able to act with impunity as they misuse and abuse the issues of race, religion and royalty for their own purposes.

Irony? More like tragedy.

Outside observers could be forgiven for asking what and whose side is the government on and what are they defending against from their own people? Make no mistake. We are at a point where we are starting to bear more resemblance to the society of George Orwell’s 1984 than the vibrant parliamentary democracy envisioned by our nation’s founders.

When the government begins to turn against its people, expecting to hear only compliance, obedience and assent, therein lies the danger of tyranny.

Draconian laws which act as “catch-alls” cannot and must not replace the need for diligent andKhalid Abu Bakar2 thorough professional police work. Above all, the maxim of “innocent until proven guilty” must continue to be part of the bedrock of justice in this country and not be sacrificed on the altar of expediency.

When laws are passed which prevent the possibility for any judicial review, presumes guilt over innocence, does not require to demonstrate intent, allows for the arrest and detention of a citizen without charge or trial and is deliberately vague in the description of the alleged crime, the question that needs to be asked is not if the laws are going to be used, but when they will be abused.

Is this the legacy that our politicians today aim to leave for the children of tomorrow’s Malaysia: the creation of a tyranny to maintain political relevance and dominancy and to defend us from the threat of extremism?

That to maintain power and be protected from terror and extremism, we must ourselves become a tyranny? Have we, by these actions, been defeated by doing precisely what those who live and thrive on terror and extremism expects us to do? Changing our way of life, viewing each other with suspicion and to live in fear?

All who voted for POTA and the amendments to the Sedition Act, remember this moment if the day comes that these laws are ever used on you. Those who use might to make right often fall victim to their own devices. For allegiances, alliances and loyalty are but fleeting concepts in Malaysian politics.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

Book Review: Hun Sen’s Cambodia

April 14, 2015


Hun Sen’s Cambodia

by John Bethelsen

In the western mind, as Sebastian Strangio so eloquently writes, Cambodia remains “nearly synonymous with the terror and mass murder that engulfed the country in the mid-1970s, when the Khmer Rouge seized power and embarked on a radical experiment in communism.”

Hun Sen's CambodiaThe country has struggled on from that period, modernizing and tearing down its forests, building dams and highways, destroying the gorgeous traditional architecture that once characterized Phnom Penh for the same faceless high-rises that have peopled so many Asian cities at the same time millions of tourists stream to the magnificent temple complex at Angkor Wat.

But in the 35 years since that devastating period, which took the lives of an estimated 2 million people in a senseless bloodletting on the part of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, the country has continued to attempt vainly to cope with its past. The United States especially, and other western powers should struggle with their own disgraceful role in that past, backing the murderous Khmer Rouge in a misguided attempt to contain the Vietnamese and their supposed ties to the then Soviet Union.

 Hun Sen, who has ruled the country for 25 of those years, has seen to it that except for one or two superannuated leaders, the rank and file have escaped judgment for their crimes. After negotiations got the trials back on track, “the only trial the United Nations wanted was one Hun Sen could not control.  The only trial Hun Sen wanted was one he could.”

The result is a country that has never come to terms with what happened. “There is no doubt Cambodia is in need of some sort of a reckoning, Strangio writes. “If there is one unifying theme to the country’s relationship with its ghastly past, it is this profound lack of resolution. After overthrowing the Khmer Rouge in 1979, the ruling CPP promoted rituals of remembering, but also of forgetting.”

Most of the survivors have simply picked up the pieces and moved on as best they could, some finding consolation in Buddhism and others simply choosing silence.

Much of the country’s recent history has been dominated by the presence of hundreds, perhaps thousands of foreign NGO workers attempting to rebuild the institutions that were simply demolished as Pol Pot set out in his appalling attempt to revolutionize the country. About a third of the foreign aid goes ‘technical assistance,’ “the hiring of highly paid foreign development consultants to write reports and project assessments,” he writes. “In 2002, donors paid 700 international consultants an estimated $50-70 million, an amount roughly equivalent to the wage bills of 160,000 Cambodian civil servants.” Dependence on this foreign ‘consultariat’ means that large amounts of aid simply flow back out of the country.”

That has meant that the country today is stuck in what Strangio calls a “dependence spiral,” in which the lack of government capacity to run it is matched by continuing aid disbursals.

“What started out as an investment in Cambodia’s future has evolved into an entrenched development complex that has eroded democracy, undermined the livelihoods of the poor, and given powerful elites a free hand to keep plundering the nation’s resources for their own gain.”

Nonetheless, the presence of those myriad international aid workers has managed to keep some rein on Hun Sen’s proclivities towards dictatorship. Cambodian society, Strangio points out, is considerably freer than most Asian nations, with “fewer political prisoners than China, Vietnam or Burma.  It jails fewer bloggers than Thailand or Vietnam and prosecutes fewer journalists than Singapore.”

More than 2,600 NGOs are registered with the government, 80 percent of them local. Civil society groups employ 42,000 people “who are involved in every conceivable area of government from good governance land rights, environmental conservation and gender equality to health care, anti-human trafficking and wildlife rescue. They work tirelessly to monitor and document government abuses of every sort and their reports are transmitted via a vigilant English language press.”

But it is difficult to call Cambodia a democracy. “Twenty years after the UN jump-started civil society in Cambodia, it lives on under Hun Sen as a mirage for the benefit of well-intentioned foreigners and donor governments.  While Cambodia remains freer than many other Asian countries, the outcome is a purposefully selective freedom.  Indeed, few countries have seen such a wide gap between norms and realities.”

But, as he points out, the mirage of democracy is clearly better than no democracy at all although it is a mirage nonetheless. While the NGOs have fought to clean up the unspeakable disaster that Cambodia was left with in 1979, the country more than anything else has swung back to being what it was prior to the enlightened leadership of Norodom Sihanouk, the modernizing, quixotic and beloved king who walked a decades-long tightrope between the contending powers that sought to impose their will on it.

There is undeniable change.  The young have had enough of Hun Sen and, in 2013 elections, almost certainly would have thrown him out if the election had been anything near free and fair.

But today, “If the past 30 years of Cambodian history have shown anything, it is that political changes imposed from the outside are often superficial, and only last as long as foreigners can bring political leverage to bear on the country’s leaders,” he writes. “Outside attention is refocusing. With growing aid and support from China, Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party have an escape hatch from western pressure.  Twenty years ago it might have seemed if Cambodia lay in a democratic slipstream. Now it seems like the dream of a half-forgotten age.”

Cambodia has been the subject of a long list of very good books since William Shawcross published his brilliant “Sideshow” in 2002. This is an articulate and valuable addition to that library, by a longtime resident and former Phnom Penh Post reporter who struggles, in 322 pages, to come to his own conclusions about the cataclysm that overtook a gorgeous country and which continues to play itself out today as the Chinese especially increase their sway.

MACC on Trial: Let the truth prevail!

April 11, 2015

MACC on Trial: Let the truth prevail!

by Din Merican

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) has been running the story on the Trial of Rosli Dahlan against Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and its officials which link provided below and the story is reproduced below in full:

Witness: MACC can be overzealous, unprofessional

Rosli Dahlan (new)


What is startling to me, and perhaps  to other readers of this blog, is that we first have an ex- Advisory member of the MACC Tan Sri Robert Phang revealing that the MACC is not independent and has been used by the A-G Gani Patail to fix trumped-up charges against Lawyer Rosli Dahlan.

Then we have ex-DPP Shamsul Sulaiman revealing more of A-G Gani Pataiil’s abuses in using the MACC to keep victimising Rosli. The fact that Shamsul was warned to stay away from the case shows the level of fear permeating within the A-G Chambers and the MACC of the A-G’s awesome powers. It became more glaring when ex-DPP Shamsul had to even seek the court’s protection that the evidence he gives in court should not be used to later persecute him. This is  even more worrisome.

It is troubling when witnesses are afraid to tell the truth in court for fear that the A-G would later charge them. Apparently, this had happened to Brig-Gen Dato Yassin when he gave evidence in the Kota Kinabalu Sessions Court before Judge Supang Lian. After giving evidence favoring Dato Ramli, Dato Yassin was charged. Readers will recall that Dato Ramli Yusuff was acquitted after Judge Supang Lian found that then IGP Musa Hassan had lied. Strangely, Musa was not charged for being an incredible witness whose evidence is to be disregarded.

It is scary to see the same scenario unfolding in Rosli’s trial. If witnesses feel intimidated and are fearful for their safety, then they will be afraid to tell the truth. Then the truth will never be known. Is that why we never get to know the truth of who killed Teoh Beng Hock? Is that why we never know who killed Ahmad Sarbaini?

The MACC has to account for these two deaths ‎but until now no one has been brought to book. In Ahmad Sarbaini’s case, the MACC could conveniently erase the CCTV recording of the events and the great Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah dismissed it as just an accidental erasure.

Lawyer Rosli Dahlan was fortunate that he was locked up in the dungeon of the MACC, otherwise he might also have been another dead body thrown off the MACC’s building!

I am worried for Rosli that if this intimidating tactic of the A-G and counsel Tan Sri Cecil Abraham are allowed to continue, then no witnesses will come forward to tell the truth. Then Rosli’s case will fail and we will never get to know of this conspiracy. No wonder, cases of this nature always fail.

I say to the MACC and the A-G, fight fairly. Don’t intimidate witnesses. Don’t frighten them. Let the truth prevail!

Blogger Sakmongkol AK47 asks Mr. Clean Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to stay out of the Altantuya Murder Case

April 11, 2015

Blogger SakmongkolAK47: Mr. Clean Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, stay out of the Altantuya Murder Case


Raub MP Mohd Ariff Sabri Aziz has made a broad threat about exposing the secrets behind the controversial purchase of two French-built submarines, which has been linked to the murder of Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu eight years ago.

“We will dig out the story when we come to power,” said Ariff, a former UMNO member and one-time Najib Razak aide who joined the DAP in 2012. “Now you know why UMNO is fearful of losing power.”

abdullah badawiHe said a new Pakatan Rakyat-led federal government could also reopen the Altantuya case and order a fresh trial to settle outstanding issues. In a blog article on Friday, Ariff related political gossip that even Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was a “beneficiary of the spoils” of the submarine purchase, but made clear he was only recounting hearsay. “I don’t know about this – people tell me this,” he said.

He warned Abdullah against joining the fight to reopen the Altantuya murder case. Abdullah had said earlier that Najib did not know Altantuya. “People can be rude by asking, what does Pak Lah know?” Ariff said, before advising Abdullah not to get involved.

“Pak Lah is better off staying out of this fight, lest people start digging what he got when Najib took over as PM,” he said. Najib succeeded Abdullah as Prime Minister in 2009, a year after Barisan Nasional suffered humiliating losses to Pakatan Rakyat in the general election the previous year.

Ariff joined the chorus of opposition cries for a new trial into the Altantuya case, in which Najib, his wife Rosmah Mansor, and a Najib associate, Abdul Razak Baginda, have been implicated.

He dismissed Najib’s lack of a clear answer when asked in a television interview on Thursday about his connection to Altantuya, in the face of widespread political gossip that he had had a relationship with the victim through Razak. Ariff said Najib had not answered the question. He merely responded by telling the interviewer that he had taken an Islamic oath in a mosque that he did not know Altantuya.

“I think the answer was meant more for the folks in the villages and in the Malay heartland,” said Ariff and ridiculed the Prime Minister. “If Najib can prove his innocence by way of making the solemn oath, then anyone accused of any crime can avoid going before the civil courts by doing the same. Many wrongdoers will get away easily.”

The best way to solve the issue once and for all was a retrial, he said. “Bring in Musa Safri (a former aide to Najib at the time of the murder and who was implicated but never called to testify), Razak Baginda and others, investigation officers and everyone connected to the brutal slaying.” He said some evidence could be introduced, as well as people never called to testify, and the two policemen eventually convicted and sentenced to death for killing Altantuya.“The retrial can be done – if we have a new government, a properly constituted court,” he said.

One of the two convicted killers, Sirul Azhar Umar, has said that he and co-accused Azilah Hadri were only carrying out orders and had been made the scapegoats while the people responsible got away. Sirul is now being held in an Australian immigration detention centre after he fled there while awaiting a court decision.

His pleas have been taken up by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who has called for the case to be reopened and for Najib to answer whether he knew Altantuya.

Rosli Dahlan Vs MACC– Witness: MACC can be overzealous, unprofessional

April 11, 2015

Witness: MACC can be overzealous, unprofessional

Court grants ex-DPP Shamsul Sulaiman immunity from prosecution in lawyer’s suit against MACC.

Rosli DKUALA LUMPUR: Stunning circumstances formed the basis on which former Deputy Public Prosecutor Shamsul Sulaiman gave evidence in court yesterday in the on-going trial of Rosli Dahlan’s suit against the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency (MACC) and the Government of Malaysia.The case is being heard before Justice Su Geok Yiam in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

Addressing his concern that his evidence may be self-incriminatory, Shamsul told the presiding judge, “I am now concerned after testifying in court [that] my statement will be used against me.” Section 132(1) of the Evidence Act, 1950 provides that a witness is not excused from answering questions on the ground that the answers will incriminate him.

The Court, however, exercised its power under Section 132(2) to compel Shamsul to answer, thereby granting him immunity from arrest or prosecution in respect of the content of his evidence.

During his testimony, Shamsul told the Court that Rosli and he were good friends from their days together at the International Islamic University and that the relationship had continued throughout their working careers.

He said that upon being issued with notices to declare his assets, Rosli discussed the matter with him, raising various issues which troubled him about the contents and effect of the notices. Shamsul said that he sought clarification on the notices with DPP Anthony Kevin Morais who issued the notices, and Nordin Hassan the then head of ACA’s prosecution unit.

Kevin Morais

Anthony Kevin Morais (above)

“I was advised to stay away from the case as they were taking orders directly from the Attorney-General,” his witness statement read. “I kept my peace within Chambers from then on, all the while disappointed that senior officers of the organisation which I was serving for so long did not behave in what I thought should be the professional way we ought to.

He went on to testify that two days before Hari Raya in 2007, he received two calls from Rosli. In the first call Rosli informed him that ACA officers had turned up requesting that he accompany them to their office to record a statement.

“He told me that he managed to negotiate with the officers to postpone the recording of the statement….., but at the back of his mind he was concerned and had the feeling that the officers would come back to arrest him.

“A couple of hours later, Rosli called me again in a very short and anxious call to tell me that the ACA officers were back and had announced to his office that they were looking for him to arrest him,” his statement went on.

According to Shamsul, he later found out that Rosli had been arrested that day and made arrangements to be present with Rosli’s wife at the ACA Headquarters that night.

Upon arriving at the ACA office, Shamsul joined Rosli’s wife and two other lawyers, Chetan and Harvey.

We just waited”.

“As we waited, I telephoned DPP Anthony Kevin Morais who told me that the investigators were going to let Rosli go once they finished recording his statement.

“Time passed slowly. As midnight approached we saw officers leaving and we thought our wait would be over soon. The officers left quite hurriedly and it seemed to me that they were avoiding us,” Shamsul testified further.

Calls to enquire went unanswered and security guards at the front desk were unhelpful.“We received no cooperation from them except to be told that we should just leave,” he added.

They eventually did. The next morning, he was surprised to find that Rosli had been brought by ACA to the courtroom via the public corridor instead of through the lock-up lifts system.

Noting that they had opted not to access the courtroom via the complex’s more private passageways as would usually be done in criminal cases, he added, “I have come to learn that the ACA are in the habit of parading the persons whom they prosecute, having tipped off the media who will turn up in full force.”

The next day, on Hari Raya morning, the newspapers carried news of Rosli being charged with large photographs on their front pages.

“I felt outraged at what I thought was unfair timing of (their) action,” he testified.He said that the whole experience had made Rosli a bitter, lethargic and dejected man who had lost confidence in the legal system to the extent of wanting to cease practice.

“Although he spoke well of his firm and partners throughout the ordeal, I sensed the pressure that Rosli’s prosecution had brought on the firm and I thought there almost came a time when [his] firm saw him as a liability,” he added.

Shamsul testified that he was in Court when Rosli was acquitted. The Sessions Court had ruled that he was not Ramli’s associate and was not within the category of persons who were required to declare their assets, he added.

These were the very questions for which Rosli had sought clarification from the ACA in the first place, Shamsul claimed.

Abdul Razak MusaHe said that subsequently, MACC’s Director of Prosecutions Abdul Razak Musa (left) sought his help to contact Rosli discreetly to set up a meeting to explore a possibility of settling Rosli’s suit. A meeting was eventually held between the two in Shamsul’s presence but no deal was struck, he testified.

He said that the prosecution’s appeal against Rosli’s acquittal was eventually withdrawn on the morning of the hearing.

“It was hard to see a close friend suffer at the hands of people whom I consider also friends,” Shamsul said in his Witness Statement.

“MACC can be overzealous to the extent of behaving unprofessionally,” he added.Under cross-examination by MACC’s counsel Cecil Abraham, Shamsul denied that his role in the episode placed him in a position of conflict of interest.

The trial continues.