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