Posts Tagged ‘Home Ministry’

Waytha free to return but…

March 12th, 2009
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Since Waytha was diagnosed with heart-related problem (rare heart condition known as Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC), an inherited heart muscle disorder where damaged heart muscle is gradually replaced by scar tissue and fat. A recognised cause of sudden death in the young, the condition may cause abnormal electrical heart rhythms and weakening of the pumping action of the heart), he has expressed his intention to return to Malaysia (“tanah tumpah darahku” – place of birth, I guess) to be with his family while he get more treatment and recovers. 2 days ago, the proposed surgery has been postponed to today due to his deteriorating health.


He has since been quarantined at a specialist heart centre on a 48-hour observational period, after which doctors will decide on whether or not to carry out the operation to place an implant in his heart. He had been advised that he would run the risk of complications such as cardiac arrest and puncture of the heart should the surgery proceed.

There some issues regarding the status of Waytha’s passport. Waytha said that his passport was revoked (and I got a comment posting the content of a memo supposedly ordering the revocation – but its unverified). This is rebutted by Syed Hamid who said that Waytha has returned his passport to the Malaysian High Commission in London and is travelling with British travel documents (issued by the British government so that he can move around). I still remember the home minister saying that the passport had expired and now saying its been returned to the High Commission. In fact, he was quoted in NST as saying “We have just sent his new passport to the Malaysian High Commission office in London but he has yet to collect it.” Which is which now? Our minister also goes off-tangent by saying that Waytha is still a citizen. Of course he’s still a Malaysian citizen. The issue is with is travel documents, not citizenship.

There were few “guarantees” that HINDRAF wanted from the government in order to ensure Waytha’s safe passage back and subsequent freedom from persecution. However, I reiterate that its wishful thinking. Its not possible for Home Minister Syed Hamid to offer any sort of concession, nor can his words be believed by Waytha’s team. The Home Minister gave a grim reminder (or warning):

Asked today at the Parliament lobby if action would be taken against Waythamorrthy if he returns, Syed Hamid declined to give a direct answer.

“Everyone is subject to the law… everyone has to face the consequence,” was all he would say.

So, Waytha is free to return but… he’ll be sent to Kamunting under ISA as it was already mentioned before. That’s what I think will happen.

Prabakar’s torturers to be charged

March 3rd, 2009
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Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar today revealed that investigation papers on the 27-year-old carpark attendant, B Prabakar, who was allegedly tortured by seven police officers have been referred to the attorney-general.

In a written response to M Manogaran (DAP-Telok Intan), the home minister said the A-G had also instructed that seven police officers involved, to be charged under Section 506 and Section 304 of the Penal Code.

In December 2008, Prabakar had alleged that he was tortured during interrogation by police who beat him with a rubber hose and splashed boiling hot water on his body.

From the parliament

Uthaya being treated at hospital says minister

March 2nd, 2009
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Two questions here:

1. If Uthaya is being treated at Teluk Intan hospital, why wasn’t it announced earlier before the gathering to do mass police report?

2. Is the treatment suitable and sufficient, with independent observers being present? I think to avoid any misconception and unnecessary anger of the community against the government, there should be some independent verification.

Perhaps Dr S Subra should follow up on Syed Hamid’s information to verify if indeed Uthaya is being given appropriate treatment for his complications.

Internal Security Act detainee P. Uthayakumar is being treated for his illness at a government hospital, Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said yesterday.

He was speaking after receiving RM170,000 from donors for the purchase of a building that will house an education centre under the administration of the Malacca Indians Development Association.

“It is the right of each and every Malaysian to be treated at the government hospital and in Uthayakumar’s case, I was informed by Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar that he has been receiving treatment at the Teluk Intan Hospital,” he said.

Dr Subramaniam said he hoped that the government would make arrangements should Uthayakumar need specialist treatment for his diabetes-afflicted foot.

He was commenting on Uthayakumar’s supporters lodging police reports over alleged improper medical treatment for his diabetic complications and the use of water cannon to disperse about 200 of them near the Brickfields police station on Saturday.

Dr Subramaniam said: “I just want the public to be aware that the government is giving medical treatment to Uthayakumar. If the need arises, I hope that the government will grant him permission to seek treatment at a specialist centre.”

Bloggers Buff 2008

November 23rd, 2008
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I was running late (isn’t that becoming a recurring theme of late?) for the Blogger Buff event today. Was in two minds on taking public transport. Since it was already 8.25am when I left home, decided to drive. Took me 40 mins via KL-Putrajaya highway to reach PWTC. Guess what – the place was full of people! They have Stamford’s convocation, GoMobile 2008 expo, Batik Fashion show, and a career guidance programme.

I was a bit lost in PWTC and asked the guards where’s the venue that Tun Mahathir will be attending. Guess what? those guards were blur! I got suspicious. Don’t tell me security is that lax until guards don’t know ex-Prime Minister is coming? Something’s not right here…..

Managed to find the venue and got myself registered. Said hi to Amutha, Novinthen and Mahendran. Met Puvanan and Kavilan as well. Then came the bad news. Mahathir not coming. He flew to Syria (???) yesterday. Hmm…how can this happen?

And guess who was the replacement? Syed Hamid Albar!!! I couldn’t stop smiling at this point 🙂

The crowd grew steadily till about 80% full. Syed Hamid came in at 10.20 or so I think. It was quite a late notice and he had to come all the way from Kota Tinggi this morning. With the formalities done by the emcee (Sarah), we got to hear Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar deliver his keynote address.

He spoke about many things – importance of bloggers, the need to be responsible, creating an ethics code, and so on. I had a feeling that he didn’t really understand or meant what he spoke. It sounded a bit unnatural for me. He read parts of his text and added some of his own points, but still didn’t really gel. You can read parts of it at The Star.

The Q & A session started off with a Putera MIC fella asking about ISA detention and the status of Hindraf 5. The minister gave an elaborate answer on how ISA works, and the possible ways for a detainee to be released. According to him, those detained under Section 8 will be facing a panel of 3 people after 3 months, and subsequently every 6 months. This panel will evaluate if a detainee is fit to be reintroduced into the community. He stressed that ISA is mainly for prevention. Then, there were questions on the MSC Bill of Guarantees and the arrest of the Sin Chew journalist. The Q & A time was limited thus not many questions were asked. For me, there were few points mentioned by the minister which is contentious or inaccurate. It was then time for tea break. Syed Hamid left after that, and so did about 15 % of the crowd. I met a participant from last year’s Blogger Buff –Dayah. She has completed her studies and is planning to further study. Wish she will succeed.

The next session was a dialogue kind of thing with Datuk Ahmad Talib (Pahit Manis) as moderator. Ahirudin Attan (Rocky Bru) and organising chairman P Kamalanathan were the panelists. Here the focus was on bloggers ethics, responsible blogging, role of bloggers, comparison between print media and Internet, citizen media, selective presecution etc. Again there were some inaccurate points mentioned.

I think the participants were not so interested in the sociopolitical angle so far. Some of the Indian participants perhaps were more interested, but I’m not sure about the rest.

So, it was a welcome relief for some when the third session started. Josh Lim of Advertlets provided some tips on blogging and the need to have the passion for blogging. Tim from Empower Lives also spruced up the environment a bit with his simple but meaningful game.

Lunch break was at 1.45pm (self-funded) and continued with another dialogue session at 2.30pm. It was moderated by Felicia Wong. The participants were Dr Sunny (Big Boys Oven), Jason (Jason Mumbles), Ka Ling (Ling) and Gina (Mini-Bites). Each were involved in different types of interest, nothing remotely sociopolitical. All four were asked questions on why they blogged, what they blogged about, how long they’ve been blogging and so on. Their shared their opinions on blogging about work/office (definite no no) and about politic (all of the seem to be averse to politics!). They tend to stick to “safe” things. Hmmm…takde oomph la. Where got fun 🙂 I guess for them, sociopolitics means saying something that may offend the authorities. Why want to go asking for trouble. Better keep the mouth shut. All four spoke about the need to have passion and interest. The money part is secondary.

The session ended at about 5.30pm, after which there were some photo session.

I was surprised that the crowd was less than last year. Probably the topics did not interest bloggers. Things like law, ethics, unity, accountability etc. doesn’t affect the non-sociopolitical bloggers much. The crowd was quite mixed – newbies, blogger hopefuls, experienced bloggers- all were there. Not sure how much each of them benefited. As for me, I think about 50 percent beneficial.

Some photos I took:

By the way, where’s the lucky draw prizes? 🙂

Syed Hamid’s statistics reanalysed

November 2nd, 2008
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If readers remember, Home Minister Syed Hamid, when announcing the banning of HINDRAF, rattled off some statistics that purportedly shows Indians are better off, thus negating the claims made by HINDRAF.Obviously we can see the holes in his arguments, so one wonders who he was trying to convince.

Further to that, the letter below is reproduced (source: Malaysiakini). It was written by a “H Lee”, a postgraduate student in economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He highlights one problem – lack of statistics (especially reliable ones by third parties) can only make us estimate or assume some of the possibilities or reasons.

Perhaps, few years back, Syed Hamid could have hoodwinked the public, but now people are more aware. With whatever available information at hand, concerned citizens try to provide alternatives, better analysis, and counter opinions. Let’s read how H Lee analyses the statistics on Indians given by Syed Hamid:

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-Bumiputera 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).