Monday, November 3, 2008

PS from WMP - On DPM Deepavali Open house pledge, another eyewash




We refer to DPM Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak’s Statement that a “the Indian community's plight was also being seriously looked into by a special cabinet committee, which he chairs, to ensure that it had participation in the national economy and equity”.

HINDRAF wishes to reiterate that the Indian community had heard enough promises for the last 51 years that would last them the next 3 generations of the Government’s promises that it cared for the plight of the Indian community and that they “would look into it”. The statement of the DPM is yet another eyewash during the festive Deepavali period to pacify and mislead the Malaysian Indian community as usual.

Every Deepavali open houses and MIC annual general assemblies the Indians are made to believe and given the assurances that their “plight are being looked into” and “help is just around the corner”. We have been hearing this for the past 51 years now and no Malaysian Indian would believe this apart from the MIC cronies who live and thrive on the “biscuits” thrown at them by UMNO.

The DPM must have thought the Indians could be fooled as usual and perhaps he would have received a “thunderous applause” for his “goodie announcements” which no doubt must have come from all the planted MIC cronies. The DPM who is also the Finance Minister should stop the “empty talk” and instead make a concrete announcement of an allocation of funds to uplift the socio economic condition of Indians in the country.

We want to know how serious the Government is in solving the woes of the Indian community in dollars and cents. Enough of setting up Special Cabinet committees and all the years of empty promises. The Malaysian Indians have woken up and can no longer be cheated with mere bare promises. The Government of the day has to be serious and solemn, come up with a concrete plan of how to address the issue instead of giving piecemeal solutions and empty promises.

P.Waytha Moorthy

Letter from FL to Malaysian King on recent Hindraf ban

Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud
Supreme Head of State (Yang di-Pertuan Agong)
Office of the Head of State
Istana Negara
50500 Kuala Lumpur

23 October 2008

Re: Family members of detained HINDRAF human rights lawyers arrested

Your Excellency,

Front Line is deeply concerned following reports that family members of detained Hindu Rights
Action Force (HINDRAF) lawyers were amongst 11 persons who were arrested on 23 October
2008, including the 6-year old daughter of HINDRAF Chairperson P. Waythamoorthy, as they
attempted to submit a letter to the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya.
On 23 October 2008, at approximately 3.15 pm, P. Vwaishhnnavi, daughter of P. Waythamoorthy
and niece of HINDRAF leader P. Uthayakumar, approached the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya together with her mother K. Shanti, S. Jayathas, P. Taramaraju, P. Waytha Nayagi, Poobalan, R. Kannan, Mary Shanti, Bala, Rajasekaran and Ravi Sundaram. They were there to accompany P. Vwaishhnnavi as she submitted a Deepavali card to the Prime Minister in which she called for the release of all those falsely imprisoned under the Internal Security Act (ISA), including five human rights defenders from HINDRAF and also invited the Prime Minister to her home for an open house to celebrate the festival. The 11 detained persons are currently being held at the Putrajaya district police headquarters.
Police Chief Abd Razak Abd Majid declined to comment on the arrests but reports indicate that the child, the two women and eight men are being held under either the Societies Act, for participating in an unlawful society, or the Police Act, for illegal

On 15 October 2008 the Home Ministry officially declared the HINDRAF organisation illegal, as a result of investigations by the Registrar of Societies (ROS) which reportedly found that 'the
organisation’s activities contravened the Societies Act 1966 and if left unchecked, the organisation could pose a threat to public order, peace, security and morality in Malaysia'.
Messrs P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, V. Ganapathy Rao, T. Vasanthakumar and
R. Kengatharan were arrested on 13 December 2007 and charged under the Internal Security Act (ISA) of Malaysia on the grounds of threatening national security by organising a peaceful
demonstration. All five human rights defenders had taken up and worked on, on a pro bono basis, many cases of death in police custody and police violence. They had filed many cases against the Malaysian Government and authorities. Chairperson P. Waythamoorthy remains in self-exile in the United Kingdom.

Front Line believes that the above-mentioned persons have been arrested and detained solely on account of their legitimate human rights activities calling for the release of Messrs P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, V. Ganapathy Rao, T. Vasanthakumar and R. Kengatharan. In addition Front Line believes that the five members of HINDRAF were targeted as a result of their work defending the rights of the ethnic minority Indians in Malaysia. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of all of the aforementioned human rights defenders.

Front Line urges the Malaysian authorities to:

1. Immediately release the above-mentioned persons who were arrested on 23 October 2008,
as well as Messrs P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, V. Ganapathy Rao, T. Vasanthakumar
and R. Kengatharan as it is believed that they are being detained solely on account of their
legitimate human rights activities;
2. Immediately repeal the decision to ban HINDRAF;
3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological security and
integrity of the aforementioned human rights defenders and their family members;
4. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Malaysia are able to carry
out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals, and free of all
restrictions including judicial harassment.

Front Line respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and
Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally
Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN
General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals.
We would particularly draw attention to Article 5 “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”; and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present declaration.”

Yours sincerely,
Mary Lawlor

Doom, gloom and Deepavali

Mkini-Dean Johns Oct 29, 08 10:09am

Here’s wishing everybody - and especially my Hindu friends and colleagues - a happy and holy Deepavali.

With all the doom and gloom around right now, it’s the perfect time to hope and pray for what this ancient festival represents: the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.Not that I’m all that depressed about the economic meltdown, crunch, tsunami or whatever you choose to call the financial crisis currently sweeping the world.My personal economy has been in recession ever since I forsook a fat salary in advertising for the thin financial rewards but far greater fulfilment of freelance journalism, and so I find it comforting in a way to see the global situation catching up with my own.I take no responsibility for causing the recession to go global, however.

All credit for that must go to the bankers, traders and speculators who, emboldened by years of apparently limitless profiteering, stratospheric salaries and megabuck bonuses, upgraded their mantra from ‘Greed is good’ to ‘Greed is God’.And I have to say I feel very little sympathy for all these high-flying ‘victims’ now they’ve been panicked into crying poor and begging for taxpayer-funded rescue packages. In fact I’m with the US congressman I saw on the news one night declaring that the wizards of Wall Street and elsewhere should “suck up their own mess”.But not a chance.

Now banks and other financial institutions are sucking up untold billions of dollars in bailouts everywhere from the US to the UK, Iceland to India, Belarus to Brazil, Japan to Pakistan, and Russia to Argentina.Australia hasn’t seen the worst of it yet, but share prices have plummeted and the local currency has plunged from around US97 cents three months ago to around 62 cents today. Meanwhile Malaysia, so the Barisan Nasional government smugly assures us, is as safe as can be. Not that I personally believe a word the government says. And even if the nation is safe from economic recession, it’s still clearly in the grip of the usual BN-led ethical and institutional depression. How depressing it’s been in the past few weeks to see that, despite the prime minister’s repeated promises of reform, things keep going from bad to worse.

The judiciary appears more compromised than ever, with the appointment of the new chief justice, unresolved allegations of evidence-tampering by the current attorney-general, and the endless dragging-out of the Altantuya murder amidst suspicions of involvement by higher-profile figures [which they have denied] than those currently on trial.Also on the top-level corruption front, there’s been no proper investigation of alleged irregularities in the purchases of Sorkoi fighters and Scorpene submarines, yet now there’s a new scandal surrounding the agreed RM1.7 billion purchase price of 12 Eurocopter EC725 Cougars.As I’ve seen on Lim Kit Siang’s blog, similar questions surround Maybank’s recent acquisition of Bank International Indonesia for RM5 billion, or an astonishing five times its book value, and the awarding of a RM11.3 billion contract to TM Bhd for a proposed high-speed broadband network.

New wave of outrage

But an even more blatant new example of crony capitalism than these is the government’s recent decision to use RM5 billion of EPF funds to help some shadowy government-linked entity called ValueCap prop-up the prices of stocks on the KL stock exchange.This move has triggered a wave of outrage, on the grounds that, as Malaysian Trade Union Congress president Syed Shahir Syed Mohamud reportedly declared, “the provident fund is the custodian of the workers’ money and not some automated teller machine for the government”.Of course, the EPF management has denied any impropriety in this ‘investment’ and disclaimed any involvement in attempts to shore-up the stock market.But given the total lack of transparency in the government’s murky financial dealings, a great many people find such bland assurances increasingly difficult to accept.In fact BN’s credibility appears to be sinking even faster than the prices of crony companies on the KLSE.

And no wonder, considering all the lies the prime minister has told, the empty promises he’s made, and the culture of secrecy and dissembling at every level of the administration.And I’m reminded that in the past the BN regime has presided over financial fiascos including the RM600 million Maminco tin-market scandal, the EPF-Makuwasa affair involving the illegal misuse of pension funds to recoup stock market losses, the RM2.5 billion BMF scandal, and the RM30 billion losses in a Bank Negara forex trading fiasco overseen by Nor Mohamed Yakcop, who has since, amazingly, been promoted to the post of second finance minister.But it’s not only money management - or mismanagement - that’s becoming more depressing than ever under the auspices of BN.

The nation is losing more freedoms than ever too, sinking to its lowest place ever on the latest Press Freedom Index following the growing harassment of dissenting voices on the Net and the incarceration of Raja Petra Kamarudin and the Hindraf 5 under the ISA, and the declaration of Hindraf itself as an illegal organisation.Never mind that Hindraf has always acted openly and peacefully in its efforts to draw the government’s and the world’s attention to the marginalisation and outright victimisation of Indian Malaysian citizens, in what to me reflects the true spirit of Deepavali.

Victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance are precisely what not only millions of Malaysians, but billions of people around the world have been crying-out for forever.Let’s hope that the global recession will hurt the needy less than the greedy, and help empower repressed citizens everywhere in their struggle to rid themselves of depressing ruling regimes.

Indian marginalisation clear-and-present

H Lee Oct 29, 08 12:06pm

So Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar – in a decision, as he puts it, of self-sacrifice for the sake of protecting society – has banned Hindraf.

Similar home ministerial valour must have been present when he chose to detain Raja Petra, Teresa Kok, Tan Hoon Cheng and hundreds of others under the ISA.

Many Malaysians have expressed their outrage at the latest cruel and callous act of repression against a civil group which has highlighted the continuing plight of marginalised Malaysian Indians.

I would like to examine an aspect: the assertion that Malaysian Indians are not marginalised and are actually doing better than Bumiputera Malaysians, and thus, they have no grounds to feel aggrieved, let alone angry. This is a cynical and specious claim.
We should first take note of the often ignored fact that the Malaysian Indian community is diverse, stratified and complex. Like any other.
Some are rich, some are part of the middle class, some are poor; some are posited in the mainstream, some are at the margins – and some are beyond the margins, trapped in urban squalor. The imperative question is whether the concerns of the Indian poor are being addressed by our government's attitudes and policies.

But the ruling regime would rather treat groups as monolithic blobs, then go about brandishing statistics to preempt debate - and stamp the lowly back into their place.
And so, in dismissing Hindraf's cause, Syed Hamid invoked the reality of high proportions of Indians among registered legal professionals (21.4 percent) and among doctors (18.4 percent), and the ratio of Indian to Bumiputera household incomes, of… 1.20. That's right, according to 2007 household income survey data, Indian households on average have 20 percent more income than Bumiputera households.

Is there something wrong with these figures? Why has the message of Hindraf resonated when official data paint opposing images of social mobility and nice averages?
There is no need to question the numbers, but every need to handle them responsibly, within context and in recognition of their limited scope. These bits of information provide no basis to conclude that all of the community is doing well and should therefore shut up and get on with their happy lives.

In fact, we do have evidence that Malaysians Indians are struggling as much as others to earn a decent living.

Averaging numbers

Of course there are many Indian lawyers and doctors – who's not cognisant of that? But there are far more Indian labourers, factory workers, and others at the low reaches of the labour market.

It is highly probable that the household income of the Indian community is propped up by the high earnings of professionals and managers.
Meagre family incomes of displaced agricultural workers and urban elementary workers get shrouded in the process of averaging the incomes of all Indian families.
Consider some changes that have taken place in the past decade or so.
In 1995, 17.7 percent of employed Indians worked as agricultural labor, while 8.7 percent were in professional and technical occupations.

By 2005, only 4.9 percent of employed Indians were agricultural workers, but 20.1 percent worked as professionals and technicians.
Albeit rather cursorily, we gain some impression here of developments at two ends of the socio-economic hierarchy: the continuous urbanisation of a low-skilled former plantation workforce; a steadily growing presence in highly qualified jobs providing middle class living standards.

In what sort of jobs are most Indians working? Within communities, Indians registered the highest proportion of persons classified as production workers.
In 2005, 45.8 percent of employed Indians fell in this category, compared to 33.8 percent Chinese and 34.1 percent Bumiputera.

Due to the unfree state of information in this land, the most we can do with officially disclosed statistics is make deductions and inferences such as these.

We are still left with a knowledge gap.

However, a study by Branko Milanovic, a World Bank researcher and renowned scholar of global inequality, helps fill the void¹.
He analysed Malaysia's household income data of 1997. This is from the national survey that the Statistics Department conducts twice in five years, from which all the inequality measurements we know are calculated.
One difference with the official accounts is that Milanovic focussed on individual earnings (wages, salaries and bonuses) instead of household income (the sum of household members' earnings, property income and remittances) . His findings are therefore more reflective of the earnings capacity of Malaysians in the labour market.

The housewife factor
The study analyses inequality more generally, but in the process finds something very striking: in 1997, the ratio of Indian to Bumiputera individual earnings was 0.98.
The official figure for Indian: Bumiputera household income was 1.41. In other words, the average earnings of individual Indians was basically the same as the average earnings of individual Bumiputera, even though average household incomes were quite unequal.
How might this be possible?

In terms of the gap between individual earnings inequality and household income inequality, we could postulate that combined earnings of Indians, especially in households with both spouses in professional jobs, raised their income to levels significantly higher than Bumiputera households.
This is a guess, and that's as far as we can go with available data.
What's not a guess is this objective report that average individual earnings of Indians and Bumiputeras were equal in 1997.

In 2007, with an Indian-to-Bumiputer a household income ratio of 1.20, what might the inter-group earnings ratio look like? We don't know, but it is more than likely that the ratio is less than 1.20.

It is possible that earnings are on average close to equal, or that Indian earnings are less than Bumiputera earnings.

Consider recent data on the distribution of employed persons by occupation.
In 2005, with 45.8 percent of the total employed Indians engaged as production workers and 4.9 percent as agricultural workers, it is plausible that average individual earnings are on par with the average among employed Bumiputera, of whom 34.1 percent are production workers and 15.2 percent are agricultural workers.

These two low-paying occupational groups account for about 50 percent of employed persons of both race groups.
Again, we won't have a clear picture unless we have access to data and can engage in constructive discussion.

Hindraf has grounds

We have a clear enough picture, however, to affirm the plight of marginalised Indian households, whose tough circumstances in labour markets and poor living conditions are a shameful reality that cannot be garbed in middle-class statistics.
Hindraf has grounds for grievance – yes, even in the official data, if only we would take a more balanced and critical look.

And we could better understand this whole inequality thing, and devise fairer and more effective policies, if the ruling regime would release more information to our - um - knowledge society.
Resistance towards extending the same policies to members of the Indian community as currently provided to Bumiputera is partly predicated on official household income statistics.
But they give us an oversimplified and selective glimpse to a complex of problems.
It is high time to reevaluate the way we assess income and earnings and to aim assistance at the people who need or merit it most.

¹ Branko Milanovic (2006) "Inequality and Determinants of Earnings in Malaysia, 1984-97", in the Asian Economic Journal, 20(2).
H LEE is a postgraduate student in economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Hindraf's Review Adjourned, Federal Court Ordered To Write JudgmentBy

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 28 (Bernama) -- The hearing of an application for a judicial review by five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) leaders detained under the Internal Security Act was adjourned today because there was no written judgment by the Federal Court.
Federal Court judge Datuk Nik Hashim Nik Abdul Rahman, who presided over the hearing, ordered the previous Federal Court panel which made the decision to write the judgment as the court could not proceed without the grounds of judgment.Justice Nik Hashim, who sat with justices Datuk S. Augustine Paul and Datuk Zulkefli Ahmad Makinudin, then adjourned the hearing until the written grounds of judgment are ready.

Earlier, counsel for the five men, Karpal Singh, informed the court that today's hearing was for a judicial review of the Federal Court's rejection of their habeas corpus appeal to be freed but the grounds of judgment had yet to be written.On May 14 2008, a three-member panel of the Federal Court headed by Chief Judge of Malaya Datuk Alauddin Mohd Sheriff (now Court of Appeal President) dismissed their appeal after ruling that the order for their detention at the ISA camp in Kamunting, Taiping, by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was also the Internal Security Minister then, was lawfully executed.

The five are lawyers M. Manoharan, 46, who is also the state assemblyman for Kota Alam Shah, P. Uthayakumar, 46, V. Ganabatirau, 40, R. Kenghadharan, 40, and former bank officer K. Vasantha Kumar, 36.They were held under the ISA on Dec 13 after being involved in street demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 25 and issuing slanderous statements against the government.They took the case to the Federal Court after failing to get the High Court to release them.-- BERNAMA

Bernama-Will The Govt Be Able To Lift Gloom Off Malaysian Indians?

By S. Retna

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 (Bernama) -- Last Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited Brickfields, an area inhabited mostly by Malaysians of Indian descent, to launch the Deepavali carnival organised by the Ministry of Federal Territories.The opening event attracted some 2,000 people and it seemed like a normal affair but Najib, who has been picked to succeed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in March next year, seized the opportunity to assure the 1.9 million Malaysian Indians in the country that their woes would receive due attention from the government.
Najib also announced the setting up of a committee to look into the issue of the "paperless" segment of the community, who neither have a birth certificate nor a Malaysian identity card or MyKad.He also promised that the Barisan Nasional (BN) government would look into issues affecting the Indian community.
While his speech was greeted by loud applause from the crowd, an event of a different nature was unfolding in front of the Prime Minister's Office complex in Putrajaya, the federal administrative capital.Ten people, who had called themselves "Concerned Indians", were arrested when they wanted to hand over a memorandum to the Prime Minister's Office seeking the release of five leaders from the so-called Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), a loose coalition of people which has been declared an unlawful organisation. The 10 were arrested under Section 48 of the Societies Act for acting on behalf of an unlawful society.News of the arrest only reached most of the Indian community the next day through newspapers and the efforts of Najib to seek their backing of the BN the previous day seemed to have gone to waste although the mainstream media gave prominence to what he had promised in their front pages.
Over the last 18 months, the Indian community has been rather vociferous in asking for more action by the government in terms of improving its delivery system, more Indians to be recruited into the government service, more business opportunities, an increase in their equity participation so that Malaysian Indians can be on par with the other races in the country.
The community, including the Malaysian Indian Congress or MIC, which is the Indian communitys representative party in the BN, has also asked the government to release the five Hindraf leaders held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after the quintet had organised a massive rally in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 26 last year to demand the rights of minority Indians although some of their demands seemed outrageous.Although Hindraf had, since its inception, done little to assist Malaysian Indians in the real sense, one cannot deny the fact that its voicing out of the concerns of the Indian community proved to be the trigger for it to receive such huge support from like-minded Malaysian Indians.
This support played a pivotal role in diverting the majority of Indian votes, which had traditionally gone to the ruling coalition, to the Opposition in the March 8 general election.In the elections, the BN lost its two-third majority in Parliament besides losing four other states -- Kedah, Penang, Perak and Selangor -- to add to Kelantan which was already in the hands of the Opposition.The government finally banned Hindraf on Oct 15, just 12 days before Malaysian Hindus celebrated Deepavali.Home Minister
Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, in declaring the organisation illegal, said his ministry was satisfied with facts and evidence that showed that Hindraf had been and was being used for unlawful purposes and posed a threat to public order.Some see the move as the government's retaliation against some Hindraf hardliners, numbering about 200, who had gone to the Muslim Cabinet ministers Hari Raya open house at the Putra World Trade Centre on Oct 1 and created a ruckus there.But some also see the decision to ban the movement as counter-productive as banning such a movement would force the sympathisers to go underground and operate under the guise of other organisations.
Security experts have said that banning such movements would only increase the security threat, especially when the movement comprises many factions and one group might just take things a step further by linking with terrorist groups abroad.Against this backdrop, how is the government, especially Najib, going to entice the Indian community to support the BN? Many are watching with great interest.
Although MIC leaders had openly wanted the government to implement policies and set up funds to boost Malaysian Indians economically, there is a school of thought that any action will never take root unless the core issues of Hindrafs more practical demands are resolved.An MIC leader, who declined to be named, feels that any government action taken against Hindraf may be construed as "an action against the community".
"Whenever they (the government) take drastic action against this group, the more the community moves away from us (MIC). The government should adopt a more consultative approach instead of the confrontational stance. No matter what, we need Indians and they should not be sidelined," he said.So, where can the government start to prove to Indians that it has their interests and welfare at heart?
For starters, a top MIC leader said, it would be a good gesture on the part of the government to free the Hindraf Five -- P. Uthayakumar, M. Manoharan, R. Kenghadharan, V. Ganabatirau and T. Vasantha Kumar -- now languishing in the Kamunting Detention Camp in Perak.
There was speculation that they would be released before Deepavali, but that has not happened.However, it is still not too late for the government to make the aftermath of this years Festival of Lights even brighter for Malaysian Indians in this auspicious Hindu month of Kartika.-- BERNAMA