Anifah: Malaysia will continue to highlight issue of Rohingya Muslims

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Volunteers of the Malaysian aid ship Nautical Aliya waving flags as they anchored to Chittagong Container Terminal with relief for Rohingya refugees in Chittagong, Bangladesh, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

Volunteers of the Malaysian aid ship Nautical Aliya waving flags as they anchored to Chittagong Container Terminal with relief for Rohingya refugees in Chittagong, Bangladesh, February 14, 2017. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

PUTRAJAYA, March 15 — Malaysia, as a responsible member of the international community, will continue to play its part to contribute to efforts in addressing the plight that has befallen the Rohingya Muslims minority in Myanmar.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia was also trying to encourage members of the international community to contribute to the effort to alleviate the suffering of the Rohingyas.

“Malaysia and other countries sharing the same concern on the Rohingya issue have provided humanitarian assistance to our Rohingya Muslim brothers and sisters,” he said in his special address during dinner in conjunction with the International Conference on Rohingya 2017’ here tonight.

Among the assistance provided by Malaysia were a RM10 million contribution to assist in humanitarian efforts and social rehabilitation projects in Rakhine state, and a humanitarian mission called ‘Food Flotilla for Myanmar’ in February this year, he said.

Anifah believed that the international community’s efforts to urge and encourage the Myanmar government to alleviate the plight and suffering of the Rohingyas had borne fruit.

“It is reported the Myanmar army has halted its security operations in Rakhine and ended a four-month crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim community,” he said. Read more

Balu mahu siasatan bebas kematian suami dalam tahanan

 

Komen HAKAM: Setiap kematian dalam tahanan polis semestinya disiasat. Pihak Suruhanjaya Hak Asasi Manusia (Suhakam) dan Suruhanjaya Integriti Agensi Penguatkuasaan (EAIC) sedang menjalankan siasatan sedemikian.

Soalannya, adakah siasatan-siasatan begini mencukupi untuk meraih keadilan bagi pihak-pihak semati dan keluarga mereka? Sedangkan pegawai polis mungkin terbabit dalam kesalahan yang membawa kepada kematian-kematian ini, adakah wajar ataupun mencukupi kalau hanya pihak polis yang diberi kuasa rasmi untuk menyiasat dan menjatuhkan apa-apa kehukuman terhadap anggota mereka yang disabitkan bersalah mengabaikan ataupun melanggari SOP polis ke atas tahanan polis?

Memandangkan kejadian-kejadian kematian dalam tahanan polis masih seringkali berlaku, bukankah wajar pertimbangan yang lebih berat dan mendalam diberi kepada seruan berterusan untuk penubuhan Suruhanjaya Bebas Aduan dan Salahlaku Polis (“Independent Police Complaints and Misconduct Commission (IPCMC)“)?

Sumber: FMT News

PETALING JAYA: Balu Thanaseelan Muniandy, yang meninggal dunia dalam tahanan polis bulan lepas, mahu siasatan bebas ke atas kematian suaminya.

Piremilah Sinasamy membuat laporan polis di IPD Petaling Jaya hari ini, meminta Bukit Aman menyiasat kematian itu.

“Pegawai dari balai polis Bukit Sentosa tidak boleh melakukan siasatan ke atas kematiannya kerana mereka mungkin terbabit,” kata suri rumah itu.

Piremilah mendakwa keluarganya tidak diberitahu mengenai penahanan Thanaseelan sehinggalah selepas kematian. Thanaseelan ditemui mati di balai polis Bukit Sentosa, Hulu Selangor 25 Februari lalu. Read more

The politics of Himpunan 355 — Hew Wai Weng

Source: New Mandala

Hew Wai Weng reports on Malaysia’s recent rally for sharia law, and what it says about the prospects for Islamic party PAS in upcoming elections.

On 18 February, Padang Merbok in Kuala Lumpur hosted Himpunan 355, a rally to support the enactment of the 1965 Syariah Courts Act, best known as RUU 355. The rally was organised by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), together with a few Muslim organisations.

The enactment of RUU 355, proposed by PAS President Hadi Awang, is a contentious issue in Malaysia. PAS leaders have publicly reiterated that the main aim of the proposed amendment was not about hudud but merely to strengthen the sharia laws, while opponents claimed it is an unconstitutional move and a stepping stone for the implementation of hudud.

About 30,000 purple-shirted people attended Himpunan 355. This is slightly higher than the Malay crowd at Bersih 5. Yet, this should not be seen as indicative of the strength of PAS’s electoral support. While this figure reflects the ability of the Islamist party to mobilise a crowd, it also reveals its limitations. Read more

Malaysia on right track in human rights protection — Zulkefli

Source: The Borneo Post

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is already on the right track in protecting human rights with the establishment of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia Act 1999.

Chief Judge of Malaya, Tan Sri Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin said the Act had set out the powers and functions of such a commission for the protection and promotion of human rights in Malaysia.

He said amongst the functions and powers of the Commission were to promote awareness and educate the public on human rights and to advise and assist the government in formulating legislation and administrative directives and procedures, as well as recommend the necessary measures to be taken.

He was speaking at a session of the Asean Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights (AICHR) Judicial Colloquium titled “The Future of Judicial Cooperation on Human Rights Protection in Asean – Recommendations and The Way Forward” held at a hotel, here, today. Read more

Widow urges independent probe on husband’s death in lock-up

Source: FMT News

She files a report today stating police officers from the Bukit Sentosa police station should not be conducting investigations as they may be implicated. Pic from FMT News.

She files a report today stating police officers from the Bukit Sentosa police station should not be conducting investigations as they may be implicated. Pic from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: The widow of Thanaseelan Muniandy, who died in police custody last month, wants an independent probe into her husband’s death.

Piremilah Sinasamy lodged a police report at the Petaling Jaya district police station today, urging Bukit Aman to conduct investigations on the circumstances and cause of his death.

“The police officers from the Bukit Sentosa police station should not be conducting investigations into his death as they may be implicated,” the housewife said.

Piremilah also claimed that the family was not informed of Thanaseelan’s detention until after his death. Read more

Widow urges independent probe on husband’s death in lock-up

Source: FMT News

She files a report today stating police officers from the Bukit Sentosa police station should not be conducting investigations as they may be implicated. Pic from FMT News.

She files a report today stating police officers from the Bukit Sentosa police station should not be conducting investigations as they may be implicated. Pic from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: The widow of Thanaseelan MuniandyThanaseelan Muniandy, who died in police custody last month, wants an independent probe into her husband’s death.

Piremilah Sinasamy lodged a police report at the Petaling Jaya district police station today, urging Bukit Aman to conduct investigations on the circumstances and cause of his death.

“The police officers from the Bukit Sentosa police station should not be conducting investigations into his death as they may be implicated,” the housewife said.

Piremilah also claimed that the family was not informed of Thanaseelan’s detention until after his death.

Thanaseelan was found dead at the Bukit Sentosa police station in Hulu Selangor on Feb 25. Read more

How protecting native forests cost a Malaysian activist his life

Source: Aliran

Pic from Aliran

Pic from Aliran

Bill Kayong fought to save native forest lands from logging and oil palm development. Like a troubling number of environmental campaigners around the world, he paid for it with his life, notes Fred Pearce.

It was 8.20am on 21 June 2016. Bill Kayong, an up-and-coming political activist in Miri, a coastal oil town in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, was 15 minutes into his morning commute, waiting in his pickup truck at a traffic light across from a shopping mall. Suddenly, two bullets shattered the side window and struck him in the head, killing him instantly.

Full story: Yale Environment 360 website — Fred Pearce

It was 8:20 a.m. on June 21, 2016. Bill Kayong, an up-and-coming political activist in Miri, a coastal oil town in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, was 15 minutes into his morning commute, waiting in his pickup truck at a traffic light across from a shopping mall. Suddenly, two bullets shattered the side window and struck him in the head, killing him instantly.

Kayong was one of dozens of people killed while defending environmental and human rights causes in 2016. His life was taken just one day after a report from the human rights group Global Witness revealed that the previous year had been “the worst on record for killings of land and environmental defenders,” with 185 people around the world killed while taking a stand against development projects ranging from dams, to mines, to logging, to agricultural plantations.

Five months later, in November 2016, three Miri men were in the city’s magistrates’ court charged with Kayong’s murder: a nightclub bouncer, a karaoke bar operator, and a man described as the personal assistant of Stephen Lee, the head of a Malaysian palm oil company called Tung Huat.

Kayong had come into increasing conflict with the company, owned by Lee and his father, who are members of the large, ethnically Chinese business community in the city. By the time of the court hearing, Lee was on the run himself in connection with Kayong’s murder, the subject of a global manhunt that began in Singapore, moved to Melbourne, and finally tracked him down in January in the Chinese province of Fujian.

A photo memorializing Bill Kayong by the road where he was killed. BINSAR BAKKARA FOR YALE E360.

A photo memorializing Bill Kayong by the road where he was killed. BINSAR BAKKARA FOR YALE E360.

Lee and the three others have all pleaded not guilty. Their trial was scheduled to begin later this month. Police believe Lee and his assistant hired the other two to carry out the killing, and the authorities have proudly boasted that with Lee behind bars, they have caught the “mastermind.” Company representatives at Tung Huat have not replied to a request for comment.

Kayong, age 43, had left his family that morning in the fetid tropical heat to go and work for his boss, the energetic local parliamentarian and medical doctor Michael Teo, a leader of the main Sarawak opposition party, the Peoples Justice Party (PKR).

Bill Kayong was no political visionary with a radical manifesto. But he was a political activist dedicated to protecting native communities in Sarawak, known as Dayak, from growing incursions on their traditional lands by logging and palm oil companies.

Increasingly, Kayong’s work had been concentrated on helping one community about 60 kilometers south of Miri, at Sungai Bekelit, a traditional longhouse. Longhouses are large wooden buildings raised on stilts and often up to 100 meters in length that have a line of apartments off a wide, covered communal area. They are also social units with a chief and communal lands controlled under customary law that dates back many centuries. The people of Sungai Bekelit had for eight years been fighting Lee’s state-supported takeover of their land to grow oil palm.

The dispute had become increasingly confrontational and, on the company’s part, violent. Lee and his father said they had duly issued licenses to farm the land; the community said their customary rights were paramount.

Environmentalists see Sarawak’s longhouse communities and their defenders as the last hope for the state’s dwindling forests.

Some in the media described Kayong after his death as a “dedicated environmentalist.” That’s not quite right. Above all, he was defending the rights of Sungai Bekelit, rather than nature. But after his death, Sarawak’s environmentalists joined land-rights campaigners to voice their outrage. Environmentalists see longhouse communities and their defenders as the last hope for the state’s dwindling forests, as loggers complete their destruction and trees are replaced by oil palm, one of the world’s most ubiquitous – and profitable – plantation crops.

“In the last few years, we have seen a spate of killings [of activists] throughout Sarawak, with the same modus operandi: drive-by shooting by criminals,” a group of local environmental activists headed by Peter Kallang of the Save Sarawak Rivers Network said in a joint statement. The group blamed the deaths on “companies that employ thugs in the guide of security personnel to look after the plantation estates.”

There were no international headlines when Kayong was shot. He was buried in a modest Muslim cemetery outside Miri. There are no public shrines to his life, and the tiny commemorative photograph of him, shrouded in plastic and pinned to a pole on the roadside where died, is now frayed, overgrown with grass, and largely forgotten.

But at the preliminary court appearances in November – beginning a process that could lead to a mandatory death penalty for the alleged shooter, nightclub bouncer Mohamed Fitri Pauzi, 29 – the new Dayak grassroots membership organization Kayong helped found had turned out. PEDAS, the Sarawak Dayak Association, alerts the police to attacks on their members, pays hospital bills for those who are assaulted, and gives rural longhouse people a political presence they have lacked.

A dozen or so of its young members sat on benches in the court wearing black t-shirts in Kayong’s memory. They included his three brothers. And outside in the corridor, his wife was comforted by their two teenage children. “I didn’t know about any threat to him,” she told me. “He kept it to himself. He didn’t want us to be worried.”

That afternoon, by chance, another related court case got under way. The nightclub bouncer Fitri was back in the dock, this time accused with two others of an attack several months earlier on Sungai Bekelit longhouse headman Jambai anak Jali, who had been working with Kayong.

To the hushed court, Jambai, a mild-mannered, neatly dressed man in late middle age, described in painstaking detail how in November 2015, his car was followed, rammed, forced off the road, and turned over by two assailants. As he and his wife and niece lay stranded inside, the men beat their windshield with baseball bats and slashed him in the arm with a samurai sword.

It was the latest in a string of assaults since 2008, when Jambai went to court to contest a provisional license granted to Tung Huat by the state government to cultivate 3,361 hectares of forestland around five longhouses. Jambai had also had his house set on fire with a Molotov cocktail and his car torched. As in the morning hearing, the shaven-headed Fitri and his compatriots looked on impassively from the dock and pleaded not guilty. “We can prove it is our land. We have been there since 1934,” Jambai told me outside the courtroom. “But the company hired security guards to prevent us going to our land.” Tung Huat even took over the community’s own fields of oil palm. “They just harvest our ripe fruit,” he said. “Now all we have left is 380 hectares. Bill came to help us in 2014.”

Sarawak has an odd history, separated from the rest of Malaysia by the South China Sea. Dominated historically by the sultan of neighboring Brunei, it was run for decades by the Brookes, a family of British adventurers also known as the “white rajahs.” After World War II, it was briefly incorporated into the British Empire before being bundled up into independent Malaysia when the British finally left in 1957.

In recent times, Malaysia has been one of the booming “tiger economies” of Southeast Asia. But the province of Sarawak has for decades been a byword for the corrupt plunder of its rich rainforests – first for timber, and now for conversion to oil palm.

Some people have gotten very rich in this process. “And government politicians made millions selling the land,” Teo, the PKR leader, told me. Some who tried to protect the forests have been killed – most notoriously, the Swiss environmentalist Bruno Manser, who disappeared in the jungle in 2000 and was never seen again. But now, with most of the rich pickings of land taken by large companies, small-time racketeers, with more guns than sense, scrap for what remains.

Teo’s medical degrees and business and political connections have not protected him from the violence. In mid-2015, yards from where we sipped coffee at a café outside his clinic in November, someone assaulted him from behind with a baseball bat, breaking his collar bone in three places, before speeding off in a car without plates. “I was told I would be killed because I was involved with Bill. And then one morning someone phoned me and said Bill had been killed.”

Many in Sarawak have always wanted to be a separate state, and some still do. Many people in the longhouses say they yearn for the days of the white rajahs, who established village boundaries that included most of the areas that communities claim today as their traditional land. Many have ancient pictures of the Brookes on their walls.

“The British colonial authorities recognized the Dayak land rights,” said Nicholas Mujah, a former senior civil servant who now gives evidence in court for communities making land claims, emphasizing the long-standing nature of their customary land rights. But after independence, the new government began to claim that all forestland belonged to the state. Natives were left only with the land on which they grew crops close to their longhouses.

The result has been rampant corporate takeover of the country’s forestlands and endless disputes with native communities. International norms that give indigenous communities the right to give or withhold their “free, prior, and informed consent” for economic activities on their traditional lands fall on deaf ears in Sarawak. “When I raised this right to consent with the forest director here, he said he had never heard of it,” said Kallang, of the Save Sarawak Rivers Network.

The Sarawak government cares little for the land rights of its citizens, says lawyer and parliamentarian Baru Bian, and ignores its role in creating and failing to resolve land disputes. According to the government, any conflicts between the “provisional” licenses it grants to companies and the customary land rights of communities should be resolved by the companies themselves. That is a breach of responsibility, says Baru, who maintains that the government “should establish the customary rights before issuing licenses to companies.”

In theory, there are native land dispute courts to settle such matters. But, says Teo, in practice these courts rarely sit. “Cases go on for 20 years or more,” he notes, “so even if the communities do eventually get their land back, it has been destroyed.”

Instead, when communities refuse to concede to the wishes of companies arriving in their midst, the result is conflict. At Sungai Bekelit, the three longhouses that held out against Tung Huat blockaded roads onto their land. The police moved in to break the blockades, says Teo, “and when Bill complained to the police department, the company started getting violent.”

Longhouse living is hardly idyllic. In remote upcountry regions reachable only by boat, life is still primitive. But nearer to roads, the residents may have pickup trucks parked outside, satellite TV dishes on the roofs, and cell phones in their hands. Some people with jobs in the cities only come home on weekends.

But the longhouses are a remnant of communal living, and they retain fierce loyalty among those who live or were raised there, especially when the government tries to sell off their traditional lands.

At Sungai Bekelit, the touchstone for Kayong’s slaying, the longhouse held 300 people in 63 families. When I visited, Jambai was still in court in Miri, but his mother-in-law, greeted us. Down a dirt track, we visited the blockade that the longhouse residents manned 24 hours a day to prevent the company from annexing more of their land.

“They were very scared of Bill,” said one of the women manning the wooden platform beside the barricade. “Everyone knew him. He was becoming powerful, and they wanted to silence him.” She passed around tea and biscuits. “They offered to pay him to control us,” said a man from a neighboring longhouse. “And when he recorded the conversation and played it to us, they accused him of treachery, and it got ugly.”

I asked about the company’s operation. “We never see them,” the woman said. “We think they have about ten Indonesian workers picking the fruit.”

The woman, Kudut Anak Tunku, was a palm oil entrepreneur herself, selling roughly 40 tons of fruit a month, worth $5,000 – half of it clear profit, she told me – and determined to defend her patch from takeover. She too employed Indonesians to harvest her crop. Out of the profits, she was building her own big new concrete house next to the longhouse.

An oil palm plantation that replaced a forest in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. BINSAR BAKKARA FOR YALE E360.

An oil palm plantation that replaced a forest in the state of Sarawak, Malaysia. BINSAR BAKKARA FOR YALE E360.

Twenty-five years before, on a previous visit to Sarawak, I had flown from Miri to Marudi, a tiny inland town 20 minutes away by 20-seater plane that had been the front line of deforestation.

I took the flight again. There I met Jok Jau Evong, long-standing boss of the local environmental NGO called Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM). The local chapter of Friends of the Earth, it has been helping communities fight deforestation here for decades by mapping and documenting their lands and going to court to secure their rights. “To win, they have to prove they have been there for many generations,” Jok said, “that their land rights extend far beyond the areas they directly cultivate.”

It has been a long, losing battle. On that first visit, the flight was still largely over forests. Now, the forests are gone. The deforested hillsides are covered in oil palm plantations. On the roads around Marudi, we drove through a landscape of plantations, smashed-up forest fragments and abandoned logging equipment.

During most of that time, Sarawak was run as a fiefdom by one man, chief minister Abdul Taib Mahmud. Under his rule, most of its rainforests were turned into logs by a handful of giant timber companies; much of the cleared land was converted to oil palm; and several rivers were dammed in an abortive effort to kick-start industrialization with cheap hydroelectricity.

Communities remain hunkered down amid the flattened remains of their old forests. But the economic whirlwind that has rushed through their forests does not seem to have left them any richer. The jobs are few, and the profits are all long gone.

Jok took me to see the longhouse at Sungai Buri, a 200-year-old village that has recently been reforesting part of its lands with saplings provided by SAM. On a short tour of the new forest, I saw some 500 different trees. It is a small gesture of defiance for a community that has lost most of its forests and most of its source of livelihoods.

“Before the logging company came, life was easy because we had the forest,” Gasah Anak Tadong, the longhouse headman, told me proudly. “We used to hunt wild animals; the water was completely clean. But it’s more difficult to feed our families now.”

Going back to a remembered past is clearly impossible. But there is a growing movement in Sarawak for independence, stirred by other independence movements in the region, such as in East Timor, but also by the belief that the state has never felt truly part of Malaysia, and never properly consented to join.

More and more opposition politicians, feeding on the discontent over land rights and the environmental destruction, discuss independence. “We say we are a nation, but we are not allowed to discuss it,” Mujah told me. “We need a referendum to leave. Like Scotland, or East Timor.”

One morning in Miri, I found myself accompanying Teo and others on a walk through the business district as they handed out leaflets for a meeting on democracy to be held in the state capital Kuching that weekend.

“We are like strangers in our own land,” Dennis Along, a secretary of the PKR party said as we walked. “The government doesn’t recognize our rights. They chase us away like dogs on our own land. We want to give back autonomy to traditional rural communities.”

In this claustrophobic political atmosphere, disputes over land are long-standing, toxic, and unresolved, and the environmental devastation continues. Bill Kayong may not be the last Malaysian activist to pay with his life.

 

Brothers executed despite pending clemency appeal

Source: The Malay Mail Online

File pic

File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — Two brothers were hanged to death this morning at the Kajang Prison for their 2010 murder conviction, before the disposal of their petition for clemency.

Rames Batumalai, 45 and Suthar Batumalai, 40 were initially scheduled to be executed on February 24, but the execution was delayed after their family filed the petition the day before.

“International law clearly states that executions may not be carried out pending any appeal or other proceeding relating to pardon or commutation of the sentence,” Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni said in a statement today. Read more

Five-star reviews flood ‘Hotline Jais’ app after claim it will be removed

Source: The Malay Mail Online

The Application has 4,803 five-star and 60 one-star user reviews at the time of writing. Pic from the MMO.

The Application has 4,803 five-star and 60 one-star user reviews at the time of writing. Pic from the MMO.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 — Over 4,000 five-star reviews were posted for the “Hotline Jais” mobile app after an online message alleged Google will remove it today over complaints of privacy violations.

The app by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), which enables the public to report suspected Shariah offences,

, giving it an average rating of 4.9 out of 5 stars.

“Very good app. It will help prevent immorality [sic] activities in the society. Easier for mosleem to get information about JAIS and other Islamic department activities. Good app to deal with.. keep it up. ‘Kafir sila jgn sibuk ya’.. mind ur own bussiness,” a user called Keroll Baree posted Monday. Read more

Disney refuses to cut ‘gay moment’ from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for Malaysia

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Director of the movie Bill Condon and composer Alan Menken pose with cast members Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Emma Watson, Josh Gad, Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw at the premiere of "Beauty and the Beast" in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 2, 2017.   REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Director of the movie Bill Condon and composer Alan Menken pose with cast members Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Emma Watson, Josh Gad, Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw at the premiere of “Beauty and the Beast” in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 2, 2017. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES, March 15 — Walt Disney Co indefinitely pulled Beauty and the Beast from theaters in Malaysia rather than remove scenes involving a gay character to placate local authorities.

“The film has not been and will not be cut for Malaysia,” Disney said in an emailed statement.

Golden Screen Cinemas, Malaysia’s largest theater chain, said Monday it postponed showings of Beauty and the Beast at the studio’s request. Golden Screen will offer refunds to patrons who purchased advance tickets to screenings and a related event, the company said on its website.

Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board approved Beauty and the Beast for a P13 rating after requesting cuts of about 4 1/2 minutes from a subplot with a “gay moment,” Abdul Halim Abdul Hamid, the film board chairman, said in a text message. Theaters can screen the film at any time after the deletions, he said. A P13 rating requires those below 13 years of age to be accompanied by a guardian. Read more