Din Merican’s blog
THE AUNG SAN SUU KYI VERDICT: ASEAN MUST
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (KEADILAN) condemns the guilty verdict and harsh prison sentence handed down by the Burmese court yesterday in the case against Aung San Suu Kyi and her colleagues, Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma.
While the guilty verdict was fully expected, it is nevertheless deeply disappointing, especially as the case had offered a precious opportunity for the military junta to gracefully make some significant steps towards change.
Instead, the junta continues to violate human rights and poses as a threat to regional peace and security (the military regime is suspected of secretly exploring nuclear capabilities).
The court decision came as the grand finale of a carefully orchestrated charade, with political manipulation being unconvincingly dressed up as a judicial process. The junta leaders evidently felt the heat of international outrage to the point that they immediately announced that her 3-year hard labour prison sentence was commuted to 18 months under house arrest.
Despite their reduction of the sentence, we believe the Burmese military regime acted with malicious intent.Their main aim has always been to ensure that Aung San Suu Kyi would not be able to play a role in next year’s general election, and they have not budged an inch on this.
The connection of this case to the elections was further underlined by the government’s justification of her continued detention, saying that true supporters of democracy do not want them to be marred by riots and unrest. It should be remembered that there are still thousands of political opponents languishing in prison, and it is safe to assume that they will remain there for the same purpose.
The world is again outraged, but it is ASEAN which stands to lose in real terms, being guilty by association. Thus, ASEAN must take firm and prompt action to bring their recalcitrant member into line, especially with the human rights principles stated in the ASEAN Charter – a major step which could improve the current poor standing of ASEAN nations in the world.
If ASEAN still wants to save the face of the junta’s leaders, they could do this by initiating a renewed communal effort towards enhancing standards of democracy and human rights in Burma.
WAN AZIZAH WAN ISMAIL
Parti Keadilan Rakyat
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
Villagers protesting the impending demolition of Kampung Buah Pala battle with riot police of the Federal Reserve Unit after heavy machinery was sent to the site today.
PENANG, Aug 13 — The controversial demolition of Kampung Buah Pala has been postponed to Sept 1, after a tense standoff today between villagers, the land owners and police.
George Town OCPD Azam Abd Hamid said today an agreement had been reached with all parties to postpone the court-ordered demolition.
Bulldozers were sent in this morning into the village to demolish the houses whose residents refused to move out of the disputed piece of land.
Police had earlier cordoned off the village as the deadline for the residents to move out ended today.
The residents had earlier refused to take up the developers’ offer of double-storey houses to move out.
Scores of residents and members of non-governmental organisations sat in the rain to form a human barricade to prevent the heavy machinery from destroying their homes.
Police presence was heavy and some villagers claimed that the police were resorting to “violence” to disperse them.
There was much shouting and pushing throughout the morning, with villagers, representatives of NGOs and political parties trying to prevent demolition work from starting.
Kampung Buah Pala residents have argued that they are victims of a land scam perpetrated by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration.
The DAP-led Pakatan Rakyat (PR) state government had negotiated an offer from the developer of double-storey terrace houses in return for the villagers moving out.
But this was rejected by a majority of the villagers.
Last week Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said his administration would wash their hands of the controversy since the offer had been rejected.
The land owners, who want to build apartments on the land, had won a court case against the villagers to have them evicted.
But the villagers, backed by Hindraf leaders who claimed the village of cowherds was an Indian heritage, wanted the state government to sign over the land to them.
The original settlers of the village had been workers in a British-owned plantation. When the planters left the original settlers were allowed to live on the land based on a trust administered by the colonial administration.
After independence the land was converted to temporary occupational licence (TOL) status as the new Penang state government in 1957 was unwilling to act as trustees.
During Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon’s administration, the land, which belonged to the state, was sold.
Hindraf and MIC leaders have attempted to turn the issue into a racial dispute, but the issue has not gained much traction, and public sympathy appears to have swung against the villagers after they rejected the offer of double-storey houses.
By Wong Choon Mei
The family of DAP politicaL aide Teoh Beng Hock has asked to meet Prime Minister Najib Razak to express their unhappiness over his “neither here nor there” proposals to investigate their son’s suspicious death after a marathon interrogation by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission.
“We hope the Prime Minister will not wait until the findings of the probes are completed before seeing us,” sister Lee Lan said on behalf of their parents on Thursday.
“If he is unable to visit us before that, then we are willing to see him personally in Putrajaya and ask him to change his decision and form a single commission instead.”
Najib had a day ago announced the formation of a much-awaited Royal Commission of Inquiry. He also said he would personally inform the family of the outcome of investigations.
But instead of tasking the high-level panel to investigate what caused Beng Hock’s controversial death, the PM said the RCI would only focus on the MACC’s standard operational procedures for interrogation.
An inquest would be separately conducted by a magistrate to investigate the cause of his death.
The PM’s announcements caught the nation by surprise and has drawn sharp rebuke from both opposition politicians and civil society leaders.
Even Beng Hock’s family harbors doubts. They expressed their disappointment and questioned the government’s sincerity to get to the bottom of their son’s death without bias or trying to cover up for the MACC.
“We were elated when we first got the news but then later felt disappointed when it became clear that the Royal Commission would only investigate MACC’s procedures while the inquest would be carried out to probe my brother’s death,” Lee Lan told a press conference.
“This is not what the family wanted as we had made our request known to several ministers including Najib’s political secretary when they visited us last week.”
The family had thanked Najib when initially informed of the move on Wednesday although they did not yet have the full details.
Sadly, he has not fulfilled their trust in him and the family now wants his assurance that Beng Hock will get the justice he is entitled to.
“We understand how they feel and will stand by their decision to reject the government’s proposal,” said PKR strategic affairs director Tian Chua.
“We hope the Prime Minister will heed their call and broaden the terms of reference for the RCI. Najib should not try to escape his responsibility. That would be totally unacceptable.”
Consultation with civil society vital for independent probe
The 30-year old Teoh was found dead on the 5th floor podium of an adjoining building to the MACC headquarters in Shah Alam, Selangor at 1.30pm on July 16.
He was called in on July 15 for questioning as witness in a probe over alleged misuse of state funds by his boss, Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong.
But there is huge politicking behind the scenes and it is an open secret that Selangor Umno – which Najib heads – has been trying hard to destabilise the Pakatan Rakyat state government through all ways and means.
Weeks before Beng Hock died, the MACC piled pressure on seven Chinese Pakatan assemblymen including Ean by raiding their service centres and questioning their aides and associates.
Kajang municipal councillor Tan Boon Hwa, who had supplied RM2,400 worth of flags to Ean, was also interrogated at around the same time as Beng Hock.
Tan has since blown the whistle on the MACC’s interrogating methods which he said included torture to force false confessions from witnesses. He has filed a lawsuit against the agency for illegal detention and for trying to extract a false statement from him to implicate Ean in corrupt activities.
His revelations sparked a huge uproar, forcing Najib to conduct a more thorough probe. The authorities had initially said Teoh had apparently “jumped” while the police were quick to deny foul play.
However, latest clues including the discovery of Beng Hock’s missing handphone have bolstered postulations that foul play was indeed involved in his death. The seat of his pants and his shoes were also badly torn when his body was found.
Civil society leaders have also urged Najib to consult the public before broadening and setting the terms of reference for the RCI.
This was to ensure that the Inquiry would be independent and that vested interests with the MACC and the government itself would not be able to mislead the direction and scope of investigation so as to deflect attention from areas they wished to keep under wraps.
“I hope the government will take into account the deep and wide concerns of the people. There is still time to review and expand the terms of reference before members of the commission are appointed. Let this opportunity be seized,” said Ramon Navaratnam, chairman of the MACC panel for prevention of corruption and consultation.
“In drawing up the terms of reference for any public commission, it is always better to consult people from outside and who are concerned with the future of the country because sometimes if done in-house, there can be unhealthy inbreeding.”
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
Anwar addressing the crowd in Sungai Besar last night. — Pictures by Choo Choy MayBy Adib Zalkapli
SABAK BERNAM, July 22 — In an attempt to stop certain quarters from turning the death of Teoh Beng Hock into a racial issue, opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim likened it to his black eye incident.
The former deputy prime minister was arrested soon after he was sacked in 1998 and was assaulted while in police custody by the then Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Rahim Noor, resulting in a black eye.
“I was beaten up to a pulp, but thank God I was rescued, but some people died in custody,” said Anwar to some 3,000 people at a public rally in Sungai Besar, near here.
The rally, held near the Selangor-Perak border, appeared to be an attempt by the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to mobilise the Malays to support the coalition in pressuring the government to form a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate Teoh’s death.
Anwar told the largely Malay crowd that it was hard for him to accept the outcome of police investigations.
“Our ministers said do not politicise the issue, let the investigations be completed, but who is going to investigate? Musa Hassan?” said Anwar.
“Last time they said, ‘Anwar was safe and sound’,” he added, referring to Rahim’s remark soon after his arrest 11 years ago.
Pakatan has been accused of undermining Malay institutions by Umno-controlled newspapers because of their criticism of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over Teoh’s death.
It was an emotional moment for ordinary citizens and the families of the Mumbai martyrs when Ajmal Kasab confessed to his role in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Vijay Salaskar, Hemant Karkare and Ashok Kamte – three officers, all seated in the same car, drove down to confront the terrorists and were killed in a shower of bullets. The tragedy defines the losses of 26/11.
Kasab also shot at Abdul Qureshi at CST, and a bullet is still lodged in his shoulder.
”Kasab should be hanged. He did not differentiate between Hindus or Muslim, woman or children, just kept firing. He is not a Muslim,” said Abdul.
Karuna Waghela’s husband had offered Kasab water, and in return, Kasab killed him. She thinks the confession comes too late.
“Kasab’s confession is fine. But all this has come too late. My young children still ask about their father. I have nothing to say to them,” said Karuna.
During the trial that has completed 65 hearings, key witnesses have corroborated Kasab’s crimes – the doctors who treated him at Nair Hospital, the railway commentator who dodged his gunfire, and kept warning people to safety, the 10-year-old witness, who took Kasab’s bullet, and is on crutches, the photojournalists who captured his killing spree, and the constable who took him on with a gun that refused to work.
The terror attack in Mumbai was something all residents watched in shock and pain. And today as Ajmal Kasab has finally confessed his crime, this is what people have to say:
“The family members have already lost their loved ones. So what kind of justice is this?,” said a Mumbai resident.
“Still there are camps running in Kashmir and there are still blasts. So it will happen again,” said another.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
The MACC said it released him at 3.45am on the day he was to get married. His body was found sprawled on the rooftop of the block beside the MACC’s headquarters in Shah Alam at 1.30pm later that same day.By Debra Chong
KUALA LUMPUR, July 20 — With the public baying for blood over the mysterious death of political secretary Teoh Beng Hock, talk has been rife that the national anti-graft body’s top advisers might quit or demand changes to interrogation procedures.
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, who heads one of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s (MACC) five advisory panels, confirmed today that several of his fellow advisers have indicated they may quit their appointed posts to protest the methods in which witnesses are questioned for information.
While he said none have openly declared they would step down for certain, the chief of the Panel on Consultation and Prevention of Corruption seemed to feel the rising heat and pressure from the public.
“Speaking for myself, I want to carry on,” Navaratnam told The Malaysian Insider when asked if he would step down in protest.
“No point in resigning. That’s the easy way out. We’ve got a public trust to fulfil,” the former civil servant explained, stressing that the challenge was in taking accountability for something he had committed himself to.
Navaratnam said he fully backs the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the MACC, which is suspected to have had a hand in the death of Teoh.
The 30-year-old had been questioned for over eight hours straight by an MACC officer on a case of alleged fraud over state funds involving his boss, Selangor exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah.
The MACC said it released him at 3.45am on the day he was to get married. His body was found sprawled on the rooftop of the block beside the MACC’s headquarters in Shah Alam at 1.30pm later that same day.
Navaratnam pointed out he was the first among the 42 people who were appointed early this year to oversee the fledgling MACC to publicly condemn the manner in which the officers carried out their job.
Six months ago when it was launched, the MACC enjoyed the full weight of public approval behind it as it took over the anti-graft fight from disgraced predecessor, the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), although the personnel remained the same.
Today, the supposed giant of reform is reeling from the full weight of the public’s fury.
By Sad Cafe
He was being questioned as a witness to a corruption case involving RM 2,400. Yes two thousand and four hundred ringgit as opposed to the RM 4 billion (PKFZ) and many more millions exposed cases involving the ruling party (Khir Toyo) which the MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission) has chosen to conveniently ignore.
For RM2400 the MACC questioned Teoh Beng Hock, 30, an aide of Selangor state executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah, throughout the night and the next morning he was found dead apparently after falling from some floors up the MACC building. Now, a lot of questions are being asked. Who is responsible? What drove him to jump if he did jump?
In The Sun today, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) advisory panel member Tan Sri Robert Phang, who revealed that the panel will meet on Thursday to discuss the case, said: “If a person has been detained and interrogated for more than six hours, past midnight and right up to early in the morning, I view this is abuse of power.
Teoh’s family has also been reported to distrust any investigation results by MACC and by the Malaysian Police. How can you not side with them with the overwhelming evidence of the selective prosecution by MACC and our Polis whom have always gone after the opposition members, and even more so recently as the Malaysian government try their utmost best to bring down the present Selangor state government which is under opposition rule. (Perak being the other state recently won back by the ruling party using highly questionable tactics).
Teoh Beng Hock- death occurred between 8.30 and 9.30am and most likely in the presence of MACC officials
“DAP aide who plunged to death last week did not jump but may have been ejected or pushed out.”
More shocking news to be revealed as investigation continues on the sudden and shocking death of DAP aide, Teoh Beng Hock.
By Wong Choon Mei
Selangor police chief Khalid Abu Bakar has confirmed that they have siezed Teoh Beng Hock’s mobile phone from an MACC investigating officer, supporting ongoing speculation that the DAP aide who plunged to death last week did not jump but may have been ejected or pushed out.
Khalid also said the recently completed post-mortem showed Teoh died between four and five hours before his body was found at 1.30pm last Thursday.
“If we follow the initial report of the doctor, about four to five hours before the body was found,” he told reporters on Monday.
This means death occurred between 8.30 and 9.30am and most likely in the presence of MACC officials.
There have been news reports suggesting that Beng Hock’s interrogation was due to have resumed at 8am Thursday.
Beng Hock, who came to the MACC Shah Alam office at 5pm on Wednesday, underwent a marathon questioning session. The graft-buster said he was released at 3.45am Thursday.
Amid pressure, details emerge. But will the truth be allowed to surface.
According to MACC investigations division director Shukri Abdull, Beng Hock was free to go home but he chose to stay and catch a nap on a settee in the office.
Said Shukri: “The man was asked to come to Selangor MACC last night at 5pm for his statement to be recorded and this procedure was completed at 3.45am.
“At 3.45am, he was allowed to leave, he promised to come today to bring some documents to assist in the investigations. At 6am, he was still seen to be sleeping at the couch but we didn’t see him until 1.30pm today when the body was found.”
Asked Lim Guan Eng, DAP secretary general: “The MACC office is not a six-star hotel, if you are allowed to go home, you would go home. There is no spa, no sauna. Why would you want to stay there?”
The discovery of Beng Hock’s handphone, which no one had owned up to holding last week, supports Guan Eng’s doubts.
Close-circuit TV also showed Beng Hock entering the building but not leaving. Amid pressure from Beng Hock’s family and Pakatan Rakyat leaders, more ‘acceptable’ details are now being revealed.
The police had initially said there were no signs of foul play and there were also suggestions that he had jumped from the un-occupied 9th floor of the building – implying that his death had nothing to do with the MACC office.
In fact, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Aziz actually said it was not the graft-buster’s fault that Beng Hock had jumped.
Fall was from 14th floor
Latest checks have debunked many of the earlier postulations. Khalid has admitted it was now “highly possible” that Beng Hock fell from the 14th floor.
“We were checking the 14th floor window because we found components of a window on the 5th floor (where Beng Hock’s body was discovered). We will take a closer look at the window. We suspect it is the window handle,” Khalid said.
He declined to give further details but said so far, 33 statements, including from 22 MACC officers, Beng Hock’s boss Ean Yong and lawyer M Manoharan have been taken.
He also said the police were now going through the call records in Beng Hock’s mobile phone.
Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan has said about 60 percent of investigations have been completed.
Meanwhile, Khalid attacked Kajang municipal councillor Tan Boon Wah for refusing to give the police his statement, saying that he risked facing charges for lodging a false report if he did not co-operate.
Tan – who also underwent interrogation around the same time as Beng Hock – had told a press conference on Friday that the MACC tortured him in a bid to force false confessions against Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong.
Ean is Beng Hock’s boss. Tan also complained that MACC officers threw racial slurs at him.
“I advise him to present himself to the police station to give a statement on the report he made. If not, we will have to issue a notice under Section 11 of the Penal Code to order him to give a statement at the station,” said Khalid.
Today is a sad day for the nation. DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock was laid to rest. An innocent man’s life has been taken away callously. The nation has risen in anger. They want answers to their innumerable questions. Will they find their answers, Will their doubts be answered? Will they be appeased? Will those in charge of MACC be accountable?
Only time will be able to answer these questions. It will take honesty and responsibility by the government of the present Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato Najib Razak.
THE MIGHT OF THE PEN
20/07/2009: DAP political aide Teoh Beng Hock was finally laid to rest, buried at the Nirwana Memorial Park at Semenyih, Selangor on Monday afternoon. Thousands had attended his funeral which began early this morning at his family home in Alor Gajah, Malacca. Escorted by his siblings, fiancee, relatives, friends and well-wishers, his coffin was driven to his final resting place. And there, may he rest in peace and be with God always.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
JULY 20 — Whatever support Datuk Seri Najib Razak managed to gain for himself with his recent attempts at reforms has now gone out the window along with Teoh Beng Hock.
Teoh, the political secretary to Selangor DAP exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead on a neighbouring rooftop below the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s building in Shah Alam on July 16. According to reports, he had endured 10 hours of questioning by the MACC throughout the previous night.
Later that afternoon, his body was discovered on the roof of the adjacent building. The police have quickly announced that there is no evidence of foul play.
Teoh was apparently not even a suspect in the MACC’s fervent operation recently launched against Selangor state assemblymen belonging to the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition. What makes his death more painfully tragic is that Teoh’s fiancée is pregnant, and the couple was scheduled to register his marriage the following day.
Given the lack of public confidence in the police, the anti-corruption apparatus and the federal government itself, calls for a thorough investigation by an independent commission into the case can be expected for a long time to come.
When the anger and sadness that this incident is generating subsides, the fingers of blame cannot but point beyond the MACC officers involved, and at Najib himself. He will be called upon to clarify why his party and coalition should not bear the responsibility for failing to reform the police and the anti-corruption authorities from the bottom up, as recommended by an endless number of experts.
The suspicion will grow that the federal government under Najib — judging from the mix of tactical reforms and sly politicking — does not appreciate how badly compromised the federal apparatus actually is. Despite continuous defeats at the polls, his administration has continued to treat the success of the opposition as if it were the result of clever tactics on the part of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his allies, and not as a public outcry for clean and reliable government.
Criticism that his recent reforms are cosmetic and more tactical than sincere will continue to grow. Given the difficult times that the Pakatan Rakyat has had in recent weeks, Teoh’s death provides renewed focus for its disheartened supporters.
Unlike the few recent cases of deaths under police custody, this one at the Selangor MACC headquarters involves a young man known for his political engagement. His demise therefore carries great political implications, and will be a milestone in the nation’s painful history that future students of Malaysia will have to commit to memory for their exams.
It is a tipping point. “Remember Teo Beng Hock” will be a battle cry for a long time to come.
The ball has now landed squarely in Najib’s court. If he is serious about reforming Malaysia beyond foreign investment regulations and quota changes, he now has his chance of putting partisanship aside, seizing the moment, and acting as a national leader who realises how vital the integrity and professionalism of its investigative authorities are.
Teoh’s death is too big to be swept under the carpet, and will continue to arouse anger unless properly investigated. And even then, strong demands for some decisive action on the government’s part to make sure that no such thing will happen again are to be expected.
Needless to say, the many young activists who have arisen since the Reformasi movement started in 1998 will sympathise at a personal level with Teoh’s family. As long as the case is not openly cleared up, the misgiving will remain strong that it could have been any one of them who might have suffered — or may suffer — an end similar to Teoh’s.
Just a day before Teoh died, the ruling Barisan Nasional was asserting that the narrow margin of 65 votes with which it lost to PR in the Manek Urai by-election showed that the pendulum that had been swinging in PR’s favour for two years was now going the other way.
Indeed, Najib’s popularity had risen sharply according to a recent survey done by the Merdeka Center. Teoh’s death sends a reminder to voters that the police and the anti-corruption body are in pressing need of serious reforming. For PR supporters, their resolve to work for a change of federal government will be strengthened.
What one must conclude from this incident is that Najib’s chosen course of reform avoids his major challenge, which is to restore the credibility of the police, the judiciary and the anti-corruption apparatus.
As long as he sidesteps this duty, his other attempts at change will not be taken seriously. Indeed, even his allies within BN are feeling a greater need to put pressure publicly on Najib.
For starters, it would be wise of Najib to call off MACC’s blatant campaign against the Selangor government.
The writer is a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. His latest book is “Arrested Reform: The Undoing of Abdullah Badawi” (Refsa).