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Thursday, 25 September 2014

'Mediate religious conflicts instead of going to courts'





A Malaysian academician and activist has urged that religious conflicts and misunderstanding be settled through mediation rather than going to the courts or lodging “hundreds of police reports”.

Society for Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary general Dr Denison Jayasooria said that both sides of the conflict could appoint a mediator to resolve the conflict, as it is done in some cases in the private sector.

“Why can’t two religious groups sit down and mediate?” he asked, urging that professional mediators be trained and also be neutral to both parties in an issue.

“It must be someone that the state appoints and approves, and the communities must trust them,” he told reporters after a public forum on ‘Should governments control religious affairs?’ organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) and Coalition on Plan of Action for Malaysia (GBM).

He said that sitting down to have mediation would show that both sides “want” the conflict to be resolved.

“You cannot have a period of unhappiness and a stalemate. You don’t want one party to feel like they’ve lost,” he added.

Religious tension in Malaysia has increased in Malaysia following the actions of some state religious departments, which included raids on temples and seizure of Bibles. There were several cases in courts involving child custody, marriages and claims of dead bodies of converts which came into the limelight in recent years and which has been a concern for many.

In January, 321 copies of Malay language Bibles were confiscated by religious authorities at the premises of the Bible Society of Malaysia. A Hindu wedding was interrupted in June as religious officials took in a 32-year old bride on suspicion that she is a Muslim.

He said that the high-handed approach by Islamic authorities is a “great embarrassment” to the religion itself, and urged that more dialogue be held between religious leaders of different faiths.

“Islamic leaders, not NGOs, must sit down with the bishops and other religious leaders. It doesn’t make you subservient to the other, it is only fair (to do so),” he said.

He said that the decisionmakers and the authorities in charge of Islamic affairs in this country should sit down with other religious leaders.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Make interfaith dialogue about the common good, not heaven or hell, forum told

PAS Research Centre executive director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad says dialogues between people of different faiths is the way to debunk the paranoia and siege mentality held by some religions. – The Malaysian Insider file pic, September 25, 2014.

PAS Research Centre executive director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad says dialogues between people of different faiths is the way to debunk the paranoia and siege mentality held by some religions.

– The Malaysian Insider file pic, September 25, 2014.

Published: 25 September 2014

Muslims and followers of all religions must engage with each other, not to discuss who goes to heaven or hell, but on common issues that concern all citizens, a PAS leader said at an interfaith forum.

Dialogue between people of different faiths is the way to debunk the paranoia and siege mentality held by some religions, which are counter-productive to nation-building, said PAS Research Centre executive director Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

"The discourse should be premised on the role of one's faith in matters of good governance, rule of law and in establishing justice and equality for all.

"That is the need of our time, that is what the role of interfaith dialogue and religion should be, and not about who will be sent to heaven or hell," he said at the Council of Churches of Malaysia's Interfaith Conference in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

His topic "Light at the End of the Tunnel? – The prospects of interfaith dialogue in Malaysia" touched on the parameters for interfaith discourse. These should not be about whose religion was superior or on theological debate, but on things that all citizens hoped for.

Another speaker at the forum, Sisters in Islam founder member Sharifah Zuriah Aljeffri, said that despite the fact that all religions do not advocate violence, there are still groups that condemn others and are intent on destroying their existence.

"It is also sad when certain groups use religion to have control over a community, you see this happening with Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria) in Iraq and Syria.

"Closer to home, we have the banning of the Shia sect by the government, but such extremist action should not be tolerated and goes against the teaching of Islam, where the Quran consistently talks about human dignity, justice and equality," she said.

She said in recent years, there have been attacks on churches and mosques and insensitive remarks made against Christians and Muslims.

"These acts of terror by certain groups display arrogance and disrespect towards people of different faiths and should be condemned by all Malaysians.

"One has to remember the golden rule that is prescribed by all religions – do unto others as you would have others do unto you," she said.

Sharifah Zuriah, however, expressed hope that Malaysians could come together and advised each person to connect with those who are different from them.

"Do things together so that we can appreciate and understand each other's culture and are able to transcend all differences and celebrate diversity.

Professor James Chin, another speaker at the forum, however, said that interfaith dialogue in Malaysia was a political issue and not a religious one.

"If there is political will for successful interfaith dialogue, it will happen, if not, it will not take place," he said.

During question time, Dzulkefly was asked whether PAS was still a "party for all" in light of recent developments within the Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Disagreement between the component parties over the choice of a new Selangor menteri besar has strained ties.

The PAS central committee member explained that the party's friendship with DAP and PKR was reflected in its tagline  "PAS for all, and Islam for all".

"The justice of Islam is not only for Muslims, it is mercy unto all, that is why it is important for us to represent Islam.

"I'm not saying PAS is perfect, no way, but we are trying to advocate and really hope to bring justice for all," Dzulkefly said in response to the question posed by a Malay youth.

He was also asked on PAS's stand on the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims, to which Dzulkefly replied that PAS had not changed its stand that the word could be used by all.

"Let me say this, we have not shifted on this, it is enshrined in the Quran, there are too may verses that would not allow for the name of Allah to be only limited to the proprietary of Muslims," he said.
When asked about the solution to the case involving the seizure of 321 Malay and Iban Bibles by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) from The Bible Society of Malaysia (BSM) earlier this year, Dzulkefly hoped that the new Selangor menteri besar, Mohamed Azmin Ali, would get to the bottom of the issue.

"I hope the new MB will take the bull by the horns and address the issue once and for all, we hope to see a solution," he said.

Another question raised was on the possible role of interreligious dialogue in defraying religious ill-feeling, where Malays and Muslims were constantly being told they are under threat and that non-Muslims were questioning their privileges.

Sharifah Zuriah said that this was a big problem that could also be traced to the religious authorities, who labelled everything as "haram".

"In terms of interreligious groups, we supposedly cannot form one because we have authorities who tell us that we cannot sit together with people of other faiths because we are superior.
"They have rules and regulations out of nowhere, telling what we can and cannot do and who can and cannot be our friends.

"And yet, in the Quran, God had said that he made us nations and tribes so that we can get to know one another," she said.

She added that some groups also went about telling others that they were insulting Islam, when in fact, they were the ones giving Islam a bad name.

The three-day conference in Petaling Jaya is a platform where Christian and Muslim groups have come together to discuss ways to promote interfaith dialogue in the country.

Multi-ethnic Malaysia has in recent years seen a rise in religious intolerance expressed both by certain politicians as well as ordinary citizens.

Critics blamed the government for failing to act decisively against conservative groups and for perpetuating tension, such as its insistence on appealing a court judgement that gave the right to non-Muslims to use the word "Allah". – September 25, 2014.
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Use dialogue, not aggression, to mend religious and racial conflict, says activist

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria says taking a high and mighty approach against another religion is not constitutional. – The Malaysian Insider pic by Zhafri Azmi, September 25, 2014.

Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria says taking a high and mighty approach against
another religion is not constitutional.
– The Malaysian Insider pic by Zhafri Azmi, September 25, 2014.

BY ELIZABETH ZACHARIAH Published: 25 September 2014

Religious authorities should opt for dialogue and mediation rather than resolve conflicts with a "high and mighty" approach, a human rights activist said. Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria, the secretary-general of the Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham), said that instead of lodging countless police reports or taking aggressive action when conflict arose, the religious authorities should try mediation as a solution.

"Don't use a high and mighty approach against other religions as it is not constitutional‎," he told reporters after a forum titled "Should government control religious affairs?" in Kuala Lumpur last night. He was commenting on recent issues involving religion and actions taken by Islamic religious authorities, such as the seizure of Malay and Iban-language Bibles by the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais), "body-snatching" or taking the bodies of those who supposedly converted to Islam away from their families for funeral rites, and raids on non-Muslim houses of worship.

"I think enforcement agencies need to be cautious about the issue of raiding places of worship and should follow the standard procedure of investigating or discussing with religious leaders before doing anything. "‎Accord respect to another religion.‎ These problems will cause, in the long run, greater enmity in society. Religious authorities can approach it by sitting down and talking about it," Denison added.

The forum was organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas). Besides Denison, French Professor Valentine Zuber who specialises in religious tolerance in Europe‎ also spoke.

Many religious conflicts in Malaysia involved Islam, which Denison said while it is the religion of the federation, did not imply a "secular state" or an "Islamic state". Malaysia, Denison said, was more of a "hybrid" – a model on its own – when it came to the question of whether it was an Islamic or secular state. "Islam comes under the state but the constitution is the supreme law of the land," he added.

He said in view of this, the amendment to Article 121 (1a) of the Federal Constitution ‎had caused a problem of jurisdiction between the civil and Shariah courts. "The issues that are emerging that needs clear resolution are ones that impact religious minorities or between a Muslim and a non-Muslim‎. "There were problems of how civil courts were overturning Shariah Court decision‎s. And the question now is when a new Muslim convert and non-Muslim spouse has a dispute, the constitution narrows the scope of the Shariah Court to only cover Muslims ," he said. ‎

These problems turn complicated as there are no proper avenues for conflict management and the practical problem of resolving a family dispute becomes more serious, Denison said. "We need community leaders to sit down and discuss‎ with one another when there are problems instead of all these police reports." – September 25, 2014.

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Flawed conflict resolution, religious policing deterring Malaysia’s progress

Haji Zaid, Prof Valentine & Denison at the Public Forum (Sept 24, 2014)


KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 25 — Poor conflict resolution and religious policing are two key factors hampering Malaysia’s progress towards becoming a model nation for race relations, a human rights activist has asserted.

Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham) secretary-general Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria stressed that left unaddressed the two factors may cause greater enmity and disharmony among Malaysia’s races, ripping  society apart.

He said this is especially in the wake of several raids on houses of worship, the seizure of bibles and bitter custody battles pitting Muslim against non-Muslim spouse.

“The issues that are emerging need some clear resolution, as these  matters are not being handled adequately,” he told reporters after a late evening forum  yesterday.

Denison said that the amendment to Article 121(1) of the Federal Constitution has also led to complications pertaining to the jurisdiction of the civil and Syariah courts as there was a ‘particular’ problem in the way the Syariah courts decision were being overturned by the civil courts.

In 1988, the constitutional amendment to the provision saw the removal of the words “the judicial power of the Federation shall be vested in two High Courts” and the insertion of a new Article 121(1A).

Article 121 (1A) reads that the courts referred to in Clause (1) shall have no jurisdiction in respect of any matter within the jurisdiction of the Syariah courts.

He said that the question however, is not about which court is superior but establishing the jurisdiction of courts in family and religious matters.

“A practical problem of resolving a family dispute, a divorce,  a custody battle, death and burial or a verification of something then becomes a hugely complicated process because proper resolution and conflict management is not in place.”

Denison said that religious enforcement authorities also have to be more cautious in addressing concerns before raiding places of worship.
“Follow standard operating procedures of investigation, or discuss with the concerned religious leaders before doing anything that affects harmony and  mutual respect among those of different faiths.

“We want a mechanism to resolve this, so two communities who are upset with each other, don’t make hundreds of police report. You would want them to sit down and actually come to some consensus opinion.”

Denison said that the problem with interfaith related conflicts stems from the lack of discussion and negotiation between concerned parties.

“If religious authorities feel strongly about a particular practise of another faith, they should not rush into the matter by executing harsh remedies.”

Denison said that stakeholders in such issues should avoid high-handedness and discuss matters amicably while observing the spirit of the Federal Constitution

“We need Islamic leaders to sit down with leaders of other religions more,” Denison said, adding that  non-Muslim religious leaders often lament about the lack of Muslim leaders in such discussions.
“Sit down with the bishops and the priests. It doesn’t make Islam a subservient that way.”

Denison said that given the backdrop of increasing global hostility, Malaysia can be a model for multi-racial understanding and negotiation if things improve domestically.

Some reflections shared at the IDEAS Public Forum on Should Government Control Religious Affairs? held on Sept 24, 2014 at KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall KL


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Stop using repressive laws to stifle criticism, Bar tells Putrajaya

Its president Christopher Leong (pic) said they must not use such an abhorrent piece of colonial-era legislation to protect themselves from fair comment and criticism.

“The Malaysian Bar is appalled by the unrelenting misuse of the Sedition Act 1948 and other laws to stifle speech and expression over the past four weeks," he said in a statement today.

He said the recent reports of lawyer Edmund Bon being under investigation for expressing his legal opinion on matters in the public domain was deplorable.

He said the Bar also noted the prosecution of law lecturer Dr Azmi Sharom for offering an opinion on matters connected with the law and the Federal Constitution.

"It is unjustifiable and unacceptable that people are being placed under investigation or charged for expressing opinions or views with regard to or based on the law and the Federal Constitution," he said.

He said lawyers were duty bound by the Legal Profession Act 1976 and the Montreal Declaration of June 1983 to uphold the cause of justice without fear or favour and to assist the public in all matters.
Leong said the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers state that counsel should have the right to freedom of expression, belief and assembly.

He said they have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice, and the promotion and protection of human rights.

He said there were also various actions being taken by the authorities under the Sedition Act and the Penal Code against students, an academic, members of civil society, journalists and elected representatives.

"There was also the mass arrest of members of the Penang Voluntary Patrol unit immediately after the Penang State National Day parade," he added.

Leong said these actions had given rise to grave concerns that a culture of intimidation, fear and subjugation is being perpetrated and perpetuated.

On September 2,  Azmi was charged under Section 4(1)(b) and Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 over his comments in a news article headlined "Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told".

Sabah politician David Orok was prosecuted under the same law on September 3 for allegedly insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad on Facebook two months ago.

On September 8, activist Ali Abd Jalil pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court to a sedition charge for allegedly belittling the Johor Sultanate and calling for the state's royal institution to be abolished in Facebook postings in January.

He was re-arrested the same day, under the same law, after posting bail, for allegedly insulting the Sultan of Selangor on Facebook in August.

On September 10, Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin claimed trial to a sedition charge for having allegedly insulted the Sultan of Selangor in a Facebook post In November.

Padang Serai MP N.Surendran (PKR), Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, and Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N.Rayer (DAP) have all been charged with sedition.

Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (DAP), Batu MP Tian Chua (PKR) and activist Haris Ibrahim are also facing trial for sedition.

– September 18, 2014.
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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

How many more will be charged with sedition? – Ramon Navaratnam

Ramon Navaratnam condemns that such unfair and irresponsible remarks are unnecessary and uncalled for. - File pic

Most thinking Malaysians are getting increasingly concerned with the rapid pace of sedition charges levelled at well-known and well-meaning Malaysian personalities and intellectuals.

At the same time, there is considerable anxiety over the relative indifference and excessive tolerance shown to some obvious violators of the very open and loosely worded Sedition Act, which deeds urgent revision or replacement.

We therefore hope that the Attorney-General and the police will exercise more care to ensure that the growing public perception of practising double standards and selective justice will be addressed as a matter of high priority.
If honest opinions expressed in the interests of public debate and intellectual discussion on national policies and their proper implementation can be discouraged and even curtailed so harshly, then where and how is democracy to grow and mature in Malaysia?
We have been urged to think out of the box, innovate and give feedback to government and to help transform the economy and indeed our beloved country.
But how will this structural change be possible if honest dialogue is apparently stifled by the heavy-handed use of the powerful Sedition Act?
We may actually be using a hammer to hurt a fly. Judging from the Internet discourse, the public reaction to these rising cases of sedition charges are becoming very critical and caustic.
This is not healthy for the peaceful, harmonious and socio economic development of our nation.
The international community – particularly our real friends and foreign investors will not be encouraged by this wide and strong restrain on our basic needs and human rights.
It is therefore comforting that the A-G is reviewing all these sedition cases.
In the meantime, I have the following proposals to make:
1.  Can there be a moratarium on sedition charging?
2. Could the National Unity Consultative Council's proposed Harmony Bills be given greater priority for tabling in Parliament?
3. Would the A-G please review rapidly the present sedition cases, with a view to withdrawing the charges which appear to be weak?
This new sedition charging spree will have to be better managed. Otherwise I can envisage a large number of Malaysians ,who may want to test the system with spurious seditious statements and allegations that will make it very difficult for the hard working authorities to keep up with charging many more Malaysians with sedition.
If this kind of silent protest is posed by the silent majority, the credibility and confidence in good governance can be jeopardised and we will all become uncertain and unhappy.
On the contrary, we all want to be happy, peaceful, progressive and united Malaysians.
Let's resolve to be more democratic and to celebrate. A very Happy 51st Malaysia Day! – September 15, 2014.
* Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is chairman of Asli Center of Public Policy Studies.
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No issue too sensitive to be discussed, says Saifuddin

(Second from left) Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and some of the participants at the 'Masa Depan Malaysia discussions. — Picture by Melissa Chi
(Second from left) Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and some of the participants at the 'Masa Depan Malaysia discussions. — Picture by Melissa Chi 


BY MELISSA CHISeptember 16, 2014UPDATED: September 16, 2014 04:14 pm

Even as the government is flexing its muscle against individuals who dare question the status quo, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah assured Malaysians today that no issue is “too sensitive” to be discussed.

Speaking to reporters after the first “Masa Depan Malaysia” (Malaysia’s future) round of discussion among 30 civil societies, the former education minister encouraged Malaysians to speak up to discuss and ask the “hard questions” in order for Malaysia to move forward.

“Some of the those issues which are considered sensitive and taboo to some people, they were raising it in a very casual manner but still polite.

“And people can accept it, so I get this feeling  that there really is no such thing as sensitive issues that cannot be discussed because it can be discussed in a very civil manner, in a very casual manner,” he said.

The series of discussions are organised by the Global Movement of Moderate (GMM), of which Saifuddin is the chief executive officer, and by Akademi Belia.

The participants had requested that their discussions not be reported for fear of retribution, to which Saifuddin, as the moderator agreed, to encourage participants to speak their minds.

Twenty individuals from organisations including Persatuan Hak Asasi Manusia Malaysia (Proham), Sisters in Islam (SIS), Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia (PAGE) and youth-led groups such as Universiti Terbuka Anak Muda Utama, Sekolah Undang-undang Rakyat, Mahasiswa Progressive, Sudut Kiri, Buku Jalanan, Youth Today and Think Lab, spoke on various issues including on the current state of the education system, the need to understand the Federal Constitution, inequality and unity.

“There is the need for us to ask the hard questions because if we want to plan for our future, we need to ask what we want, what we did correctly and how we can expand on that.

“Secondly, the effort to define the true goals of the country; for example, we want to be a great nation but what does it take? That will further be discussed,” Saifuddin said.

He also brought up the need to understand foreign policies as Malaysia takes on the role as ASEAN chair next year, and the government’s intention to sit on the United Nation’s Security Council for 2015/2016.

“There is also the need to expand the public sphere to give a chance for fresh discourse, participatory democracy etcetera,” the former Umno supreme council member added.

Saifuddin, who is known to be the voice of moderation within Umno, lamented the fact that the existence and the usage of the Sedition Act are hindering free reporting on important discourse needed in the country.

“We are unfortunately living a country where we still have the Sedition Act and sometimes, people tend to misinterpret [it].
“I know journalists will report based on what you hear and what you see but leaders may not understand it and then some people will get into trouble for what he or she said with good intention.

“That’s why some people are not very comfortable, so they requested if possible, what was said inside is not quoted,” he explained.

The Masa Depan Malaysia series is expected to wind up at the end of this year and the recommendations would be submitted to the government.

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Sunday, 14 September 2014

RTD on Religious freedom and secularism : The French Experience

IDEAS & PROHAM is hosting a discussion on issues of religion and secularism in France & drawing lessons for Malaysia. 
The current discourse on the role of  the state with regards to religion has inspired us to host this discussion to promote a culture of knowledge exchange, Hopefully this exchange will lead to discourse on the subject of religion and the state.
Date: 24 September 2014 (Wed)

Time:  8.00pm - 10.00pm

Venue: KL Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, Kuala Lumpur
Resource Persons:

The two guests are from France to speak on the issue of religious freedom and secularism.

Prof Valentine Zuber, professor at Ecole Pratique des Haute Etudes in Paris and is a historian specialising on religious tolerance 16th-21st Century France as well as French laicite. 

Mr. Yves Teyssier d'Orfeuil, Deputy Advisor for Religious Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

For more details and registration please contact :-
Amir Ridzuan Jamaludin (Email:
Senior Executive, Outreach and SEANET
Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS)
F4 Taman Tunku, Bukit Tunku,
50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tel (hp): +6 019 2702783
Tel: +60 3 6201 8896 / 8897; Fax: +60 3 6201 2001

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Irene Fernandez honoured at Suhakam Awards


By Anjulie Ngan (Malaysiakini, Sept. 9, 2014)
The late Irene Fernandez has received posthumous honours at the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) awards today.

The human rights activist was among eight winners awarded at the ceremony to commemorate Suhakam’s 14th year of establishment.

Fernandez (right), was recognised in the individual category for her outstanding and tireless efforts in defending the rights of the marginalised groups including domestic and migrant workers, women and refugees.

Accepting the award on her behalf, her widower Joseph Paul said that Fernandez had a "love-hate relationship with Suhakam" and "was never deterred in speaking out for the marginalised groups".

In 1995, Fernandez published a report on the living conditions of migrant workers and was arrested a year later for "maliciously publishing false news".

Thirteen years later, on 28 Oct 2008, her conviction was overturned and she was acquitted.

"A government official called her an immoral person for criticising governmental policies. Being a human rights activist is a continuous struggle," Paul said.

Fernandez, who was PKR founding vice president and director and co-founder of the NGO Tenaganita, died on March 31, 2014 of heart failure.

Balanced reporting

Suhakam also recognised Sarawak Women for Women Society (SWWS), Berita Harian's crime desk reporter Wan Noor Hayati Wan Alias, The Star's senior journalist Elantiraian Perumal, BFM89.9 radio station, the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), Deaf in Business (DiB) Coffees of Hawaii and Hafrulidzwan Mohd Isa, a teacher from SMK TTDI.

SWWS received an award in the organisation category for its significant work in promotion for women's equality and elimination of violence against women and children.

"We are the only NGO in Sarawak currently trying to uphold women and children's rights. It's an extremely difficult task to do since the women we are trying to reach live in remote and rural places," said SWWS president Margaret Bedus to Malaysiakini.

She added that she hopes that with more recognition, she will be able to reach more victims of sexual exploitation from irresponsible parties and help them.

Wan Noor Hayati and Elantiraian received awards for the print media category for excellence in investigative reporting, as well as for their bravery in uncovering the truths on human rights issues that have affected the rights of grassroots communities.

In the broadcast category, BFM89.9 radio station was awarded for demonstrating "fair and balanced" reporting on community, social justice and human rights.

Restoring dignity

Currently the first gourmet coffee chain in Malaysia operated fully by nine deaf personnel, DiB Coffees of Hawaii received the business entity award.

"We want to restore hope and dignity to all disabled people by improving their livelihood," said Allen Teh, CEO of the coffee chain.

The government agency award went to the ATM’s Markas Angkatan Bersama for providing informal education for the underprivileged children in Pulau Berhala, Sandakan since 2009.

"Based on our latest consensus, out of 978 children on the island, only 170 or less than 10 percent are attending schools in Sandakan.

"Many are stateless and we hope through our project Jiwa Murni, we will be able to educate them in reading writing and counting, so they can have a better life," said Leftenan Jeneral Affendi Buang, who received the award on ATM’s behalf.

SMK TTDI teacher Hafarulidzwan won the Special Award for his continuous effort in promoting human rights and the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) among school communities.

Suhakam received 32 nominations from various stakeholders for five categories of which Suhakam chairperson Hasmy Agam said was extremely difficult to choose from.

"The eight who were chosen today displayed extraordinary commitment and had made a positive impact in preserving the rights of the various groups in Malaysia,” he said.

Each winner received RM2,000 in cash, a plaque and a certificate from Suhakam.

Monday, 8 September 2014



Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein assumed his functions as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on 1 September 2014, following the General Assembly’s approval on 16 June 2014 of his appointment by the United Nations Secretary-General. He will be the seventh individual to lead the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the first Asian, Muslim and Arab to do so.

A veteran multilateral diplomat, Mr. Al Hussein was previously Jordan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, a post he held from September 2010 until July 2014, and which he also held from 2000 to 2007. From 2007 to 2010 he was Jordan’s Ambassador to the United States of America. He served as Jordan’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, with the rank of Ambassador, from 1996 to 2000.

In January 2014, he was President of the UN Security Council and chaired the Security Council’s 1533 and 1521 committees with regard to two sanctions regimes regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia.

Mr. Al Hussein’s professional experience demonstrates his long familiarity with international criminal justice, international law, UN peacekeeping, post-conflict peace-building, international development, and counter- nuclear terrorism. He played a central role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court, chairing the complex negotiations regarding the elements of individual offences amounting to genocide; crimes against humanity; and war crimes. Courts around the world now cite as authoritative the definition for ‘crimes against humanity’ refined by the ‘elements’.

In September 2002, Mr. Al Hussein was elected the first President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. At that time, the Court was only a plan on paper, and over the next three years he oversaw the election of the first 18 judges, mediated selection of the Court’s first president, and led efforts to name the Court’s first prosecutor – laying out a functioning institution, despite considerable budgetary pressures and criticism of the Court from several leading nations.

Subsequently, in 2009, he was asked to chair the closing stages of the intricate negotiations over the crime of aggression -- identified by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg as that "supreme international crime" – specifically with respect to its legal definition and the conditions for the court’s exercise of jurisdiction over it. Those negotiations ended successfully and with consensus in Kampala, Uganda, in June 2010.

In 2004, Mr. Al Hussein was appointed by his government as Jordan’s representative, and head of delegation, before the International Court of Justice in the matter relating to the wall being built by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. He also represented Jordan before the International Court of Justice in December 2009 in the advisory proceedings relating to Kosovo's declaration of independence.

Mr. Al Hussein also represented Jordan on Nuclear Security following the Washington Summit on Nuclear Security, convened in April 2010, which kicked off a concerted international effort to blunt the threat of nuclear terrorism. In this context, he spearheaded work on one of the main pillars of the summit: the establishment of counter nuclear-smuggling teams.

Mr. Al Hussein’s knowledge of peacekeeping is extensive. He served as a political affairs officer in UNPROFOR, in the former Yugoslavia, from February 1994 to February 1996. In 2004, following allegations of widespread abuse being committed by UN peacekeepers, he was named Advisor to the Secretary-General on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. His report, produced in 2005, provided, for the first time, a comprehensive strategy for the elimination of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in UN Peacekeeping Operations, and has been called “revolutionary” by experts.

In 2012, Mr. Al Hussein was chosen by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as one of five experts to serve on his “Senior Advisory Group” regarding reimbursements to countries contributing peacekeeping troops.

He also chaired the Consultative Committee for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and led an effort to establish greater strategic direction for the Fund (2004-2007).

Mr. Al Hussein holds a Bachelor of Arts from The Johns Hopkins University and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Cambridge University (Christ’s College). On 14 June 2008, he was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by the Southern California Institute of Law for his work on international justice. In 1989, he also received his commission as an officer in the Jordanian desert police (the successor to the Arab Legion) and saw service with them until 1994.

Mr. Al Hussein has been a member of the advisory committee to “The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation” based in The Hague. He further served on the international advisory councils of “The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation”; the “International Peace Institute” and “The Security Council Report”. He has been an honorary member of the advisory board of “The Center for Global Affairs” at New York University; a member of the international advisory board of “The International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life” at Brandeis University; and a member of the Advisory Board for the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. He also served as a member of the World Bank's Advisory Council for the World Development Report 2011.

He is married to Princess Sarah Zeid, and they have two daughters and a son.

DurianAsean Radio Interview - Is Sedition Act The New ISA?

Sunday, 7 September 2014

More pressure on Malaysia’s rights record with UN seat

Malaysia has been lobbying extensively for support in its bid for a seat in the UN Security Council, a move which could see its crackdown at home facing some sort of global pressure. – Reuters file pic, September 8, 2014.
– Reuters file pic, September 8, 2014.


 Malaysia has been lobbying extensively for support in its bid for a seat in the UN Security Council, a move which could see its crackdown at home facing some sort of global pressure.

There will be greater international pressure on the Najib administration to respect human rights and end its crackdown on dissidents if Malaysia gets elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) next month, rights campaigners say.

However, those being charged under the Sedition Act shouldn’t jump for joy just yet, says one political analyst, because a country’s human rights record does not count for much on the UNSC, whose members also include China and Russia, both veto-wielding permanent members with worse human rights records than Malaysia’s.

But being on the world stage in such an influential body could mean that whatever Malaysia does back home will be under greater scrutiny as the nation “has to walk the talk”, said Bar Council member Andrew Khoo. “There will be even greater scrutiny of Malaysia’s human rights record than ever before,” said Khoo, who is the Bar Council’s human rights committee co-chair. “You can’t just sit on the council and rule on international law and human rights transgressions and at the same time have an appalling record back home,” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Malaysia has been lobbying extensively for support in its bid for one of 10 non-permanent Security Council seats, elected for two-year terms by the 193-member UN general assembly. At the same time, international rights groups have criticised the administration of Datuk Seri Najib Razak over the recent spate of prosecutions on opposition politicians and activists under the Sedition Act, which the government claims it wants to repeal.

Groups such as Amnesty International have said the arrests have created a “climate of repression” in Malaysia. The crackdown has fuelled questions as to whether Malaysia’s bid for a seat on the council, which includes the United States, United Kingdom and France, would be affected. Khoo believes that Malaysia had long ago started its campaign for a Security Council seat and the rash of arrests would not be enough to convince UN members states to rethink their backing for Malaysia.

Monash University political scientist Professor James Chin (pic, left) said Malaysia would likely get elected because of political considerations of UN member countries. “Asian members want countries who they believe will speak up on their behalf. Also Malaysia is a country with very few enemies. It never takes a strong stand on anything. It only wants to be moderate.”

 But Datuk Denison Jayasooria of Proham, a rights group made up of former commissioners of the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), believes that developed countries might not support Malaysia’s bid. “We have presented ourselves globally as modern and tolerant Islamic state. “Freedom of speech is a fundamental human rights position and what the global community is against is not freedom of speech but violence and hate (speech),” said Jayasooria, who is Proham secretary-general.

 “I think once elected into the UNSC, Malaysia will be obligated to meet global expectations and will be much more on the human rights watch list,” said Jayasooria. “There will be stronger international pressure for what it says and does.” A “credibility gap” between how the country acts and what is says on the world stage would have a negative impact, said Jayasooria.  “(Malaysia) plays a major role in championing the course of Muslim minorities around the world and these kinds of crackdowns contradict the global positions Malaysia takes.”

 An example of how amendable Malaysia is to world pressure, said Khoo, was how Najib had to change his stand on the militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis). In June, Najib said Umno members should emulate the group after it defeated the better armed Iraqi army. Najib has since come out with statements criticising the group, while the home ministry announced that it was actively hunting Malaysians who have joined Isis. “I think his recent statements are aimed at an international audience and its shows that there has been pressure from the world community”, said Khoo.

Chin agrees that human rights issues do not figure much in how UNSC operates. “The only time human rights enters into the Security Council is when it wants to censure a country. “Malaysia’s human rights record will not be used against itself,” Chin said. – September 8, 2014.

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Thursday, 4 September 2014


PROHAM endorses this statement and stands along side Azmi

We, the undersigned academics and concerned individuals stand united and in solidarity with
Dr Azmi Sharom whose only alleged ‘crime’ is to think and to publicly share his considered
opinion on matters related to his professional expertise as a law professor.

Reportedly, all Dr Azmi did was to caution the Selangor Pakatan Rakyat to not resort to the
Court of Appeal’s ‘landmark’ ruling of effecting a transition of government and Menteri Besar in
the Perak case but to revert to the universally accepted convention of testing its support and its
candidate for Menteri Besar in a vote of confidence in the state assembly. What’s so seditious
about that?

Charging Dr Azmi Sharom with ‘uttering and publishing a seditious statement’ only shows up
the hypocrisy of this government. After all, does not this same government also employ Dr Azmi
to teach students about our legal system, to undertake research, to study judicial
pronouncements and to opine what constitutes justice within a democracy? Does it not defeat
the very purpose of his work and indeed the work of thousands of other academics within a
nationwide university system if he is to be summarily hauled up for merely doing his duty as an

Charging Dr Azmi Sharom with ‘uttering and publishing a seditious statement’ for his informed
views reveal the lack of respect this government has towards the universal principles of
academic freedom and freedom of expression. By its actions, this government reveals it is led
by politicians who are unable to appreciate civilized democratic values nurtured by enlightened
universal education. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s on-going mantra of commitment towards
academic excellence, democracy, government and economic transformation rings hollow.

We are of the view that, as long as one does not espouse violence or promote hate, there is no
law in our modern world that can justify the criminalizing of thought and public speech. Indeed,
the colonial-era Sedition Act 1948 under which Dr Azmi is being charged only indicates a painful
irony, namely after 57 years of Merdeka we remain shackled and oppressed by the very
government that claims to have freed us from British colonial rule.

There is no place in a modern, progressive and democratic Malaysia for an archaic, backward
and oppressive law that is the Sedition Act 1948. It is a repugnant law and must be repealed. It
runs afoul of the fundamental liberties as enshrined in the federal constitution. It runs afoul of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it runs afoul of our nature as enlightened
human beings with thinking minds.

Free Dr Azmi Sharom from this perversion of justice! Free Malaysia!
4 Sept 2014

Malaysian Bar: Sedition Act panders to extremists

Christopher Leong (right) answers questions during the launch of the ‘Mansuh Akta Hasutan’ campaign at the Bar Council, September 4, 2014. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

BY BOO SU-LYN (Malay mail)
September 5, 2014


KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 5 — The Sedition Act 1948 was never intended to create national harmony but it encourages extremism instead, Malaysian Bar president Christopher Leong said last night.

He said the colonial-era law panders to extremists and perpetuates disunity as it is wielded whenever others claim to be insulted or disrespected.

“The Sedition Act is the antithesis of democracy, rule of law and justice,” he said at the official launch of the #MansuhAktaHasutan campaign by the Bar Council’s National Young Lawyers Committee (NYLC) last night to repeal the Sedition Act.

“The use of the Sedition Act serves to perpetuate immaturity, lack of understanding, confusion and ignorance. It exploits insecurities. It was never designed to achieve national harmony; it was intended to suppress dissent and maintain power,” Leong added.

In a statement last night, the Selangor chapter of Malay rights group Perkasa argued to retain the pre-independence law, saying it was needed to preserve national unity, as a “weapon and shield” against “traitors”.
Leong expressed concern with the recent slew of sedition cases, pointing out that the government crackdown contradicted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 2012 pledge to abolish the Sedition Act.
“It is indeed ironic that as we now celebrate 57 years of ‘Merdeka’, we see the use of the repugnant and draconian Sedition Act to stifle fundamental freedoms and constrict democratic space in an independent Malaysia,” said the lawyer.
He stressed that the National Harmony Act, which has been proposed as a replacement of the Sedition Act, should only criminalise threats or incitement of violence on the grounds of race and religion, and that the element of intention must be included.

“The intended National Harmony Act should not seek to criminalise thought, speech and expression,” said Leong.

Former Malaysian Bar president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan urged the 300-strong audience at the forum not to be cowed into silence.

“Many call this Operasi Lalang 2. We are no ‘lalang’ (weed). We’re going to stand up today,” she said, drawing applause from the audience.

Operasi Lalang was the 1987 government crackdown that saw more than 100 opposition politicians and activists being arrested under the Internal Security Act during the 22-year-long Mahathir administration.
Ambiga also criticised the sedition dragnet that has mostly targeted opposition lawmakers from Pakatan Rakyat, calling it an attack on parliamentary democracy.

“Instead of taking on the opposition in Parliament, they choose to decapitate them by using the Sedition Act,” she said.
Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah speaks at the launch of the ‘Mansuh Akta Hasutan’ campaign at the Bar Council, September 4, 2014. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

Global Movement of Moderates chief Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who was invited to speak at the open forum, said the “culture of fear” was growing, amid the sedition crackdown that has claimed not only politicians, but also a law professor and even a teenager.

“What we are seeing today is that the government seems to be cracking down on dissent,” Saifuddin told the forum.

“At the same time, this is also the government that prides itself by calling for more political reform and supposedly appreciating the contestation of ideas,” added the Umno member.

Several members of the audience asked if the #MansuhAktaHasutan campaign would involve a mass protest, to which NYLC chair Syahredzan Johan said there were no plans to do so as yet.

“But when that day comes and the need for a walk arises, I’m sure we will be walking,” said Syahredzan.
The lawyer said the year-long campaign was focused on raising awareness nationwide, especially in rural areas, on the necessity of repealing the Sedition Act.