Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Jakarta Post: Malaysia Protest Backers Accused of Communist Plot

Malaysian authorities accused 30 detained opposition members Monday of conspiring to overthrow the government and to revive communist ideologies after the activists were arrested ahead of a banned political rally.
Opposition parties and human rights groups insisted it was a ludicrous accusation aimed at demonizing activists planning a massive street demonstration on July 9 to demand greater electoral transparency.
The detention of the 30 and the allegations against them mark a dramatic escalation in tensions between the government - dominated for decades by the ruling National Front coalition - and its political rivals before the rally, which could become Malaysia's biggest in nearly four years. It comes ahead of national polls widely expected by mid-2012.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim urged police Monday to release them, calling the communist claim "a flimsy pretext."
Since Friday, police have detained about 80 people who were distributing political pamphlets, wearing T-shirts that promoted the planned rally or traveling to publicity events in various towns. Some were later released, but police obtained a court order to hold 30 activists for up to a week in northern Penang state.
State police official Abdul Rahim Jaafar said late Sunday that the 30 - who include an opposition member of Parliament - were advocates of communist beliefs. He said they found in a bus with T-shirts bearing the names and images of key figures who waged a communist insurgency that ended in Malaysia decades ago.
The activists are being investigated under a rarely used law that makes it an offense to try to "wage war" against Malaysia's constitutional monarch. They face up to life imprisonment if charged and convicted.
Information Minister Rais Yatim said Monday that authorities needed to take stern action against those involved in the alleged plot, stressing that "communism is outlawed and not recognized in Malaysia," according to the national news agency, Bernama.
A group of independent political activists who are organizing next month's opposition-backed rally issued a statement Monday insisting its intention was not to oust the government but to "make the electoral system truly free and fair."
The arrest of activists was tantamount to a "stark and alarming lack of logic and common sense (that) will further tarnish our nation's image," the group added.
Prime Minister Najib Razak has told Malaysians to avoid what officials would consider an illegal assembly next month, saying it was an opposition scheme to create chaos and undermine the government.
Other Cabinet figures made more ominous warnings. Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Sunday he could not rule out arresting rally organizers under a law that allows detention without trial if they threaten public security.
The activists' demands include overhauling voter lists and introducing transparent procedures for ballots to be cast and counted. The opposition has long accused Najib's ruling coalition of manipulating election results to preserve its nearly 54-year rule, but the government says current election laws are fair.(Excerpt from the International Headline of Jakarta Post, 27 June 2011).
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Saturday, 18 June 2011


The name of the dead woman is Isti Komariyah, and she was 26. Regardless of whether or not there was an important MoU hanging in the balance, and regardless of whether or not she was a maid, her death would and should still matter. It does not matter that Indonesian maids are also abused and murdered in other countries. It does not matter that some employers or their babies also get abused or murdered by Indonesian maids. For, when it comes to human welfare, this is not a zero-sum game. And though any country can demand for the good treatment of its citizens as a condition of trade, it would be inappropriate to include a promise that justice will be done to those who are wronged as part of that trade agreement. Justice is not supposed to be a commodity that can be bid by the party with deftest negotiation skills or cards with the highest face value.

The role of the MoU should be to smoothen processes and reduce areas that could create friction. Indonesia must regulate maid agencies on its end and ensure that there is no misrepresentation between what was promised and what is delivered. And Malaysia must ensure that all employers understand that a licence to have a maid is not a licence to treat her as a slave. But as one of the biggest importers of labour in Asia, it is also important that Malaysia assure all contributing nations that, in this country, rule of law reigns, and that justice will not be denied to anyone. We must go beyond mere MoUs and institute in law that domestic workers, foreign or local, are workers, too; and that laws and protections apply to them, too. (Excerpt from "Editorial", New Straits Times, 16 June 2011.)


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