What is the state of freedom of religion in Malaysia? — Danny Lim

Source: Penang Monthly

BY DANNY LIM

Freedom of religion in Malaysia is a delicate matter – that is no secret. And with the marriage of religion and politics, along with “human rights-ism”, this freedom is slowly eroding.

In June, the Selangor Islamic Religious Council (Mais) and the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) refused to obey the Selangor state government’s order to return the Malay language Bibles that had earlier been seized from the Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM). The Mais chairman even decided that there was a legal case against BSM, contradicting the Attorney-General’s statement that there was none as the seized Bibles did not involve issues of national security.

So you have religious authorities vehemently disobeying and contradicting the state executive and the top federal legal advisor. This was only the latest of many instances over the years where legal, political and religious authorities have clashed over religious issues.

As always, there are political agendas behind such clashes. But the legal boundaries governing such matters are unclear to many. What does the Federal Constitution say about such matters? Law professor Dr Azmi Sharom provides some answers at the forum on “Colloquium on Freedom of Religion” in KL, which was jointly organised in May by the Penang Institute and the Islamic Renaissance Front. Read more

US’ withdrawal no cause for celebration with Malaysia’s anti-TPPA groups

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Protesters holding a TPPA protest poster and candles while sitting on the road at the entrance of Komplex Pejabat Kerajaan Jalan Duta, on February 13, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

Protesters holding a TPPA protest poster and candles while sitting on the road at the entrance of Komplex Pejabat Kerajaan Jalan Duta, on February 13, 2014. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — Although initially opposed to Malaysia joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), local critics are not rejoicing over the United States’ withdrawal from the 12-nation free trade deal, cautioning instead that the trade pact may be revived or survive in other forms.

Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, president of anti-TPPA group Persatuan Teras Pendidikan dan Kebajikan Malaysia (Teras), indicated that it was still unclear if the TPPA deal is truly called off just because the US decided to pull out.

“For me I’m not celebrating anything yet, as government has already started process of ratifying, the government have to announce what has been amended and how far we have gone, because we may have done some changes, amending policies and laws even though TPPA dysfunction.

“Now we only heard from America that it is withdrawing, but the other 11 partners they are just saying without US, it’s not workable. Have they actually dissolved it, have they actually come out with official statement of status of TPPA?” he said, questioning if the deal would dissolve on its own or if steps would have to be taken to officially dismantle it.

Noting that the agreements with the US allegedly tend to be biased towards the influential economic superpowers’ interests, he said Teras is urging the Malaysian government to stop any amendment of policies and laws in the country’s bid to bring them in line with the TPPA and to restore them to the pre-TPPA position. Read more

Flood victims worry about source of income

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Zulkhari Lan Abdullah from Senai, helps remove the mud and grime from his in-laws’ home in Spang Loi. — Pic by Malay Mail.

Zulkhari Lan Abdullah from Senai, helps remove the mud and grime from his in-laws’ home in Spang Loi. — Pic by Malay Mail.

SEGAMAT, Jan 31 — Rural communities hit hard by the floods will face a tough time ahead as the floods not only damaged their homes, but cut off their main source of income.

Villages such as Spang Loi, which rely heavily on the surrounding land to sustain themselves, now depend on the daily delivery of dry and wet goods.

A total of 225 victims from 69 families were evacuated to SK Spang Loi due to the floods since last Wednesday.

Spang Loi is a village located 40km from Segamat.

It was formed in 1950 during the Emergency as part of General Sir Harold Briggs’ forced resettlement plan to combat the communist threat.  Read more

Report: Penang-born stateless siblings now allowed back in school

Source: The Malay Mail Online

File picture showing Vengadeswaran’s family and friends holding placards in front of the state Education Department office in George Town, January 25, 2017. ― Pictures by KE Ooi for the MMO.

File picture showing Vengadeswaran’s family and friends holding placards in front of the state Education Department office in George Town, January 25, 2017. ― Pictures by KE Ooi for the MMO.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — Booted from school last year, three undocumented Penang-born siblings recently received the greenlight to return to SJK(T) Mak Mandin in Butterworth today.

The Penang Education Department was reported by theSun daily to have issued a letter to the children’s Malaysian father M Vengadeswaran, 44 allowing the three siblings aged 10 to 12 to continue their disrupted studies.

However, the news report added that Suriya, Agilandaswari, and Thuranayagi are only allowed to study there for six more months before they are required to produce new birth certificates issued by the National Registration Department (NRD) to continue their education at the public school.

The three children who were born to an Indonesian mother do not have their Malaysian father’s name or their citizenship stated in their birth certificates. Read more

Mentally ill need a social lifeline

Source: The Star Online

Learning to get by: Nurses conducting a domestic therapy class for recovering mental health patients as part of UMMC’s rehabilitation programme. Pic from the Star Online.

Learning to get by: Nurses conducting a domestic therapy class for recovering mental health patients as part of UMMC’s rehabilitation programme. Pic from the Star Online.

KUALA LUMPUR: Mental health patients who have just recovered from severe or long-term illnesses could be at risk of slipping back without psychosocial rehabilitation, a service that is sorely lacking in Malaysia.

According to the Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA), many hospitals and treatment centres focus more on symptom remission, but not all provide extended care to ensure patients can reintegrate into society.

MMHA deputy president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj gave an example of a schizophrenic patient who is brought in for treatment and given appropriate psychotropic medications to cure hallucinations and delusions.

“After a period, his hallucinations and delusions go away and symptom remission is achieved, but what about the skills lost in the process, the low self-esteem, the interruption in studies or work life, and social awkwardness? Read more

Putrajaya must be serious over ‘sex offenders registry’

Source: FMT News

Association of Women Lawyers says knee-jerk reactions not enough, as two cases in past 7 months highlight urgent need to monitor movement of such criminals.

The Association of Women Lawyers' (AWL) President Goh Siu Lin. Pic taken from FMT News.

The Association of Women Lawyers’ (AWL) President Goh Siu Lin. Pic taken from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: The Association of Women Lawyers (AWL) wants more consistency in the government’s commitment towards the establishment of a sex offender registry.

Calling any efforts or statements out of Putrajaya currently as mere knee-jerk reactions to issues in the media, AWL said two cases in the past seven months highlight the more urgent attention that is required on the matter.

“So far, the government’s responses appear to be knee jerk reactions to issues in the media with an ‘international’ flavour to it.

“First, it was Richard Huckle whose conviction last June in the UK sparked off the sexual grooming laws and now, Malaysian Selva Kumar Subbiah’s imminent deportation from Canada has revived discussions on the need for a sexual offender registry,” AWL president Goh Siu Lin said in a statement. Read more

Strengthening regional cooperation to mitigate weather extremes — Shamshad Akhtar

Source: The Malay Mail Online

whatyouthink-new-logo_200_200_100-1JANUARY 29 — This month’s floods in Thailand are a worrisome reminder of the increasing uncertainty of extreme weather events. Thailand’s flood season usually ends in November, but this year, influenced by a low depression and a strong northeast monsoon, widespread flooding in the south of the country has killed more than sixty people, affected over 330,000 households, and resulted in widespread asset losses.

Far from being an anomaly, however, the unpredictability of these extreme weather events may become the norm.  Using a United Nations global methodology to estimate future disaster losses, we anticipate that average annual losses in Thailand due to floods will reach more than US$2.5 billion (RM11.1 billion) by 2030, or 0.65 per cent of the country’s 2015 GDP, which is the equivalent of 2.6 per cent of gross fixed capital formation, and 2 per cent of gross savings.

The final impact on Thailand’s GDP for 2017 will depend on the duration of the floods. To date, the worst affected sector is rubber, which accounts for 1.5 per cent of GDP and 2.4 per cent of export revenues. The Rubber Authority of Thailand estimates that approximately 10 per cent of the country’s rubber production has been lost so far. As Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rubber, accounting for 38 per cent of world exports, a tighter global market supply may result in an increase in prices, which would somewhat mute revenue losses.  Nevertheless, based on climate outlook forecasts expecting the floods to recede by the end of January, a loss of 10 to 15 billion baht could still be expected.  Read more

Four Indonesians lose bid to review Islamic deviancy charge

Source: The Malay Mail Online

Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan (right) speaks to journalists outside the courtroom at KL High Court in Kuala Lumpur January 27, 2017. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa for the MMO.

Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bolhassan (right) speaks to journalists outside the courtroom at KL High Court in Kuala Lumpur January 27, 2017. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa for the MMO.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 — The High Court today dismissed four Indonesians’ application for judicial review of Islamic authorities’ decision to prosecute them as followers of Muhammad Zubir Amir Amir Abdullah who claims to be the Imam Mahdi.

Imam Mahdi, in Islam, is the Messiah prophesied to come at the last judgement to save mankind. Islamic authorities have declared Zubir and his followers as deviants.

Speaking to reporters after the proceedings in chambers, Senior Federal Counsel Shamsul Bol Hassan said High Court (Appellate and Special Powers) judge Justice Hanipah Farikullah dismissed the application and ordered to four to pay RM3,000 as cost.

“The judge rules that the decision made at the Shariah Court cannot be challenged at the civil court,” he said. Read more

Death in custody: Govt offers lower compensation to man’s kin

Source: FMT News

The government admits responsibility in P Chandran's death but is appealing against the compensation awarded. Pic from FMT News.

The government admits responsibility in P Chandran’s death but is appealing against the compensation awarded. Pic from FMT News.

PETALING JAYA: Putrajaya has appealed against the award of RM200,000 in exemplary damages to the family of a lorry driver who died in a police lock-up after his medical needs were not attended to.

Lawyer M Visvanathan said the Attorney-General’s Chambers served his firm a copy of the notice appeal last week.

“The government has admitted responsibility for the death of P Chandran and is not appealing against liability.

“However it only wants to set aside the award of RM200,000 to the next-of-kin of Chandran,” Visvanathan told FMT.

In his judgment on Jan 9, High Court judge S Nantha Balan held the police liable for the death of Chandran in the Dang Wangi lock-up four years ago.

Nantha awarded a total of RM357,000 in damages to Chandran’s widow, N Selvi, and daughter, C Rita, for negligence and abuse of public office. Read more

Malaysia urged to stop rapists escaping by marrying victims

Source: FMT News

Human Rights Watch says certain Malaysian laws violate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Malaysia has ratified.

Human Rights Watch says certain Malaysian laws violate the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which Malaysia has ratified.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia should urgently reform the law to better protect rape victims and disallow child marriages, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

This is to prevent rapists from offering to marry their victims to escape punishment.

Noting that survivors of rape often say they are left with devastating, sometimes lifelong, trauma., HRW asks: “Imagine how much worse this pain would be if you were forced to marry your rapist and share a home and bed with him.”

HRW says local organisations have documented cases where men who raped underage girls – in one case a girl of 12 – have attempted to evade criminal charges by marrying the girl.

They are able to do this, it says in an article on its website, because marital rape is not a crime in Malaysia.

Although men who marry their victim can still be prosecuted for rape committed before the marriage, and this has happened in a few cases, the law makes it easier for rape to be swept under the carpet through marriage, it notes. Read more