Monday, November 25, 2013

UN observers want Putrajaya to allow ‘Allah’ for all

By Ida LimNovember 25, 2013

'Herald, the Catholic Weekly,' is seen on the table at its office in Kuala Lumpur February 27, 2009. — Reuters pic'Herald, the Catholic Weekly,' is seen on the table at its office in Kuala Lumpur February 27, 2009. — Reuters picKUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Putrajaya should lift its ban on use of the word “Allah” in the Catholic Church's weekly paper Herald, the United Nations (UN) observers said today, as global concern grows over religious freedom for Malaysia's non-Muslim minorities.
Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, said the federal government and the home ministry should allow the Catholic Church to use the Arabic word to refer to their God.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Government of Malaysia should take necessary steps to secure immediately the right to freedom of opinion and expression of Herald – The Catholic Weekly and withdraw unconditionally from further litigation on this issue,” the UN expert said in a press release issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
La Rue was backing his colleague Heiner Bielefeldt's call today for the federal government to retract its decision, which was seen to limit the use of the word “Allah” to Muslims only - the country's largest religious community.
In warning of the court case's potential far-reaching impact on religious minorities in Malaysia, Bielefeldt also said that the government should not be dictating or interpreting on religious matters, stressing that freedom of religion belongs to individuals.
“Freedom of religion or belief is a right of human beings, not a right of the State,” said Bielefeldt, who is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
“It cannot be the business of the State to shape or reshape religious traditions, nor can the State claim any binding authority in the interpretation of religious sources or in the definition of the tenets of faith,” he added.
Last month, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Ministry’s decision to ban the use of the word in the Herald was justified, saying that the use of the word “Allah” was “not an integral part” of the practice of the Christian faith.
Rita Izsák, UN Independent Expert on minority issues, said the ban had effectively breached the local Christian community's freedom to practice their faith, expressing her concern that it could affect the interfaith relations here.
“Discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and in this instance is a breach of the rights of a religious minority to freely practice and express their faith as they have done for generations. Such actions may present an obstacle to friendly and peaceful relations between faith communities,” she said today in the same press release.
Since the Court of Appeal ruling, churches in Sabah and Sarawak have become more vocal in pressing for their right to use the term that they say is entrenched in the 20- and 18-point agreements with the two states, insisting they will continue their age-old practice of referring to God as “Allah” in their worship and in their holy scriptures.
On November 11, the Catholic Church filed for appeal at the country’s top court to seek clarity on the religious row that has drawn deep lines between Malaysia’s non-Muslim minorities and its 60 per cent Muslim population.
In its Federal Court filing sighted by The Malay Mail Online, the Church submitted a list of 26 questions that concern the Constitution, administrative law and the general conduct of the courts to decide on the dispute that has been left simmering for the last five years after the Home Ministry barred the publication of the word “Allah” in the Bahasa Malaysia section of Catholic weekly, Herald.
Several ministers also said recently that the 10-point solution issued by Putrajaya in 2011 - which allows the printing, importation and distribution of the Al-Kitab, the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Christian bible, containing the word “Allah” - should stand, despite the appellate court ruling.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also said previously that the ruling would not affect Sabah and Sarawak, while separately another Cabinet minister claimed that Christians from the Borneo states could also use the word in Peninsular Malaysia.
According to a 2010 census, Muslims are Malaysia’s largest religious group, followed by Buddhists. Christians are the third largest at 2.6 million, which comes up to about 10 per cent of the entire Malaysian population.
Bumiputera Christians, who form about 64 per cent or close to two-thirds of the Christian community in Malaysia, have used the word “Allah” when praying and speaking in the national language and their native tongues for centuries.

High-level Pakatan Rakyat GE14 Strategic Council to capture Putrajaya

Top priority for Pakatan Rakyat is to set up a high-level PR 14GE strategic council to plan for the capture of federal government in Putrajaya in next general elections

Congratulations are in order to PAS leaders and delegates for a very successful 59th Muktamar at national, youth and wanita levels, causing great disappointments to UMNO plotters and conspirators who had worked overtime through their printed or social media in cyberspace to sow dissension and distrust within PAS ranks and to sabotage the unity of purpose of Pakatan Rakyat and giving hope to enlightened Malaysians who comprise the majority of the electorate that two-coalition politics in Malaysia is here to stay as it is very much alive and kicking.
PAS Deputy President Mohamad Sabu struck the nail on the head when he pointed out in his winding-up speech at the 59th Muktamar that PAS would only be a regional party confined to the east coast of the peninsula if it had not entered into a pact with PKR and DAP in Pakatan Rakyat.
As Sabu succinctly said:
“Without Pakatan, our area of dominance would only stretch from Rantau Panjang (in northern Kelantan) to Kemaman (southern Terengganu).
“But with Pakatan, we conquered Selangor and, God willing, it will be Johor next.”
In 1999, when PAS benefitted most from the backlash against BN because of the 1998 political and economic crisis, it won 27 parliament and 98 state seats making it the largest opposition party.

However, 93% and 86% of the parliament and state seats won by PAS was in its “Northern” heartland of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.
In 2004, as a result of the Pak Lah “Tsunami”, PAS was reduced to 6 parliament and 33 state seats (100% and 94% of which, respectively, were in the Northern states).
2008 marked a significant shift in PAS’s support outside the 4 Northern States. PAS won 23 parliament and 83 state seats in total, out of which 70% and 76% were in the 4 Northern States.
In 2013, PAS won 2 fewer parliament seats (21 vs 23) but won 2 more state seats (85 vs 83) and this time, 67% and 66% of parliament and state seats respectively were in the 4 Northern States (See Table 1 below)
Negeri Sembilan00000100
Perlis, Kedah, K’tan & T’gganu258463316631456
Northern %92.6%85.7%100.0%94.3%69.6%75.9%66.7%65.9%
Others %7.4%14.3%0.0%5.7%30.4%24.1%33.3%34.1%
Being part of Pakatan has helped PAS venture beyond its core 4 northern states.
The setback faced by PAS in Kedah in 2013 cannot be explained in terms of PAS participation in Pakatan but more so because of internal factors. Similar explanations can be used for the slight decrease in support for PAS in Kelantan.
If being part of Pakatan hurt PAS in the Malay heartland, then PAS would not have made gains in Terengganu.
Moving forward, it is clear that the states which have and will continue to experience the largest population growth in Peninsular Malaysia are Selangor, KL and Johor. These are where most of the new seat increases (parliament and state) will occur.
Many of the new seats will be ethnically ‘mixed’ seats.
Hence, if PAS wants to continue to make inroads beyond its 4 Northern States, it must work together in the context of Pakatan to maximize its Malay as well as non-Malay support. In the 4 Northern States, PAS must look internally to strengthen itself and Pakatan.
Another way of examining PAS’ performance out on a state by state basis is to analyse the % of votes obtained by PAS in the seats contested by PAS in each state.
This information is shown in Table 2 below.
StateParliament (As a % of Votes in PAS Seats)Change 1999 to 2013Change 2004 to 2013
Negeri Sembilan34.4%23.0%30.8%39.5%5.1%16.4%
PAS support in Kelantan and Terengganu reached its highest level in 1999 (60.5% and 58.7% respectively). PAS support in Kedah was the highest in 2008 when it won 50.6% of total votes in the seats it contested in. In 2013, even though PAS support is lower in Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu compared to 1999, it is still much higher than in 2004.
At the same time, PAS’ support outside the 4 Northern States have increased significantly since 1999 especially in Penang (16.8% increase), Selangor (11.0%), Negeri Sembilan (5.1%) and Johor (7.2%). This shows that being part of Pakatan has clearly paid dividends for PAS in these states.
Table 2: % of votes won by PAS in PAS contested parliament seats (1999 to 2013)
Being part of Pakatan definitely helped PAS win two new parliament seats in 2013 that it could not have won without Pakatan’s support.
In Temerloh, a 63% Malay, 26% Chinese, 9% Indian seat, PAS won with a 1070 majority with very strong support coming from the 35% non-Malay voters in this seat.
In Sepang, a 59% Malay, 23% Chinese, 18% Indian seat, PAS won with a 1142 majority against a former UMNO Minister again with very strong support coming from the 41% non-Malay voters in this area.
For PAS to win back some of the marginal seats which it lost such as Sungai Besar (34% non-Malay), Kuala Selangor (36% non-Malay) and Titiwangsa (32% non-Malay), it must utilize the strength of the Pakatan brand and cooperation.
It is not just PAS which had benefitted from its partnership in Pakatan Rakyat, as the same case can be made for both the DAP and PKR as well.
There can be no doubt that by forming the coalition, the three component parties of DAP, PKR and PAS could not only individually win greater number of parliamentary and state assembly seats than when they are contesting on their own, they could also achieve a greater sum total of the overall number of parliamentary and state assembly seats countrywide.
The top priority for Pakatan Rakyat at present is to set up a high-level PR 14GE strategic council to plan for the capture of federal government in Putrajaya in next general elections as well as to achieve optimum election results for PR in the various states.

Tax dodgers angered by corruption, says ex-NST boss

By Zurairi ARNovember 25, 2013

Blatant and excessive corruption is one reason why Malaysians are evading paying taxes, says Datuk A. Kadir Jasin in his blog today. — File photoBlatant and excessive corruption is one reason why Malaysians are evading paying taxes, says Datuk A. Kadir Jasin in his blog today. — File photo
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Blatant excess and corruption in government spending were why Malaysians sought to evade paying taxes rather than a purported sense of disloyalty, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin wrote in his blog today.

Disputing Putrajaya's view that tax evaders were unpatriotic for failing to add to the country's coffers, the former group editor-in-chief for English daily New Straits Times believed the public were sickened by the sight of their hard-earned tax payments falling victim to the government's profligacy. 

“More and more people, I believe, are reluctant and unhappy to pay taxes because they hold the view that the government is lavish and corrupt,” he wrote in a blog entry today.

“As a further proof, civil servants are paid bonuses. The poor are being promised higher BR1M. The government is spending billions engaging consultants. Ministers and their spouses are jetting around the world, purportedly promoting diplomacy and attracting investments.” The veteran newsman was referring to recent revelations in Parliament that appeared to show no slowdown in government spending despite a chronic budget deficit that has forced Putrajaya to roll out a new tax and slash subsidies for the public.

Among others, these include a RM7.2 billion bill for private consultants since 2009 and a disclosure that RM180 million was spent for flights on a private jet for government leaders last year alone. This were in addition to the annual teeth-gnashing by the public that greets the Auditor-General's Report on financial wastage to the tune of billions of ringgit that rarely, if ever, sees offenders punished.

Yesterday, state news agency Bernama quoted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak as saying that those who avoid paying tax can be regarded as having betrayed the country, and those who paid their dues were showing their patriotism. Najib's remarks were made when when outlining the government’s reasons to introduce the controversial Goods and Services Tax (GST), which was confirmed during his Budget 2014 speech last month.

The attempt to link tax contributions to patriotism also attracted a swipe by former Cabinet minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who dubbed Chinese Malaysians “true patriots” after claiming the minority group paid more taxes than any other race in the country, including the dominant Malay community. “I agree with PM that paying tax is patriotic act. Since more Chinese pay tax than the Malays they are true patriots,” Zaid said on his Twitter account, @zaidibrahim. Earlier, Najib was also quoted as saying the revenue was needed to continue developing the country, as Malaysians were now more demanding and had higher expectations of the government. Malaysia’s proposed GST rate of 6 per cent, which will be enforced from April 2015, is the lowest in the region, whereas most countries implement a 10 per cent value added tax (VAT).

The consumption tax was first announced during Budget 2005 and was originally scheduled to be implemented in 2007, and tabled for the first reading in 2009 for implementation in late 2011, but was withdrawn during the second reading in 2010 following fierce public resistance. Unlike income tax, which is only applicable after a certain salary level is exceeded, the GST means all Malaysians will be taxed according to their level of spending, regardless of income. Its introduction has met with vehement resistance from certain consumer groups and opposition parties, most recently PAS where its religious cleric wing called the GST “unIslamic” during its annual congress which kicked off last week.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Veteran journalist raps Shahidan for scolding reporters over Rosmah issue

NOVEMBER 21, 2013
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim has been reminded that a journalist 's job is to report the news, and not to represent the country to attract foreign investment.
Former New Straits Times group editor-in-chief Datuk A. Jasin (pic, left) said reporters could write positive reports about the country and this they had done many times over.
“Positive reports in the local media have helped to convince investors to pour capital into the country.
“That is the role of journalists – to present news and not to represent the country to attract foreign investment,” he said in a blog post.
The remark was made in defence of reporters who were scolded by Shahidan at the Parliament lobby yesterday over the bad publicity they had given the Prime Minister's wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, by highlighting the opposition's complaint against her use of a government jet to attend the Qatar International Business Women Forum in Doha last week.
"If you are a good person, you will bring investors into the country. You have created a lot of hatred towards her.
"I am sad because everyone is creating hatred towards her. How many investors can you bring to Malaysia?"
"Nothing! She has done so much for the country for free," Shahidan had told reporters at the press conference yesterday.
Pengerang MP Datuk Seri Azalina Othman also said in Parliament that Rosmah had been invited to the women's summit in her personal capacity and it was not an invitation to the government.
Kadir said although journalists did not have access to jets to move around and promote the country, they had done a good job promoting and writing about it.
"Anyway, are there any journalists who have their own private jets or can use the government's executive jet to encourage investors to come?
"They might get to ride on it once or twice. That also if the prime minister or any of the Cabinet ministers invite them," he wrote in his blog.
Kadir said Rosmah’s actions were open to debate by everyone as Malaysia is a democracy.
"Shahidan can defend Rosmah and the opposition can argue it on grounds of check and balance," he said, adding that with a bigger representation in the Dewan Rakyat, the opposition would be criticised if they did not speak out against Rosmah’s use of the government jet.
The former editor-in-chief of the New Straits Times also said that it was imperative for the public to debate the matter.
"We should let our voices be heard because this is our country and the money spent by the government is our money," he added.
Kadir, however, called on the people to not be depressed.
"In less than five years, we can vote again. It’s just that during this time, many more issues will be twisted," he said. – November 21, 2013.