Friday, September 17, 2010

I found JUSTICE... almost a year later!

Apologies to South African cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (Zapiro)

Sometime last year Nathaniel Tan and John Lee came up with a cogent collection of essays on human rights and published it as a book called Where is Justice? Death and Brutality in Custody.

I ordered a copy almost as soon as I read about it on Nat's blog. I ended up paying way too much for postage (about RM11) but was happy to have the book in my hands anyway. After I read the excellently crafted introduction, I decided to promote the book by blogging about it. Then other stuff happened (including an unplanned 2-week vacation in Sungai Buloh Hospital) and when I returned to civvy life in January 2010, my entire house had been rearranged and I couldn't find the book.

It mysteriously reappeared a few hours ago and I decided, before Justice goes AWOL again, to simply reproduce the brilliant intro here, slightly abridged...

There are some fundamental human rights which we all recognize. The right of a person to their life is paramount and sacrosanct, enshrined in Article 5 of our Federal Constitution. We instinctively understand that it is wrong to arbitrarily assault and threaten the lives of other people. But in spite of this, every year dozens, if not hundreds of people die under mysterious circumstances while in the custody and protection of the Malaysian government.

When the government deprives its people of the freedom to move about and live their lives, it assumes the responsibility of protecting them. The authorities cannot disclaim responsibility for accidental deaths. Even if we give them the immense benefit of the doubt, and assume that no police or custodial officer has ever assaulted someone in their custody, the question still remains: why do so many Malaysians die in the custody of our government?

Four pivotal cases over the last decade have shaken Malaysians and opened our eyes to how deeprooted this problem is. In [
Where is Justice?] we scrutinize the real facts behind each of these four cases, followed by opinions from fellow Malaysians who demand answers.

We start with Teoh Beng Hock, a Selangor state government servant who fell to his death from a Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission building during a corruption investigation. People do not simply fall out of buildings - so why and how did Teoh die? What burning questions remain yet unanswered?

We move on to A. Kugan, an alleged carjacker who, according to the police, suddenly collapsed and died while in their custody. When his family claimed his body from the morgue, it was covered in blood and bruises, and now even the Health Ministry has confirmed that he was tortured. Months after his death, the police cleared Kugan of all charges against him, saying they could find no evidence he was complicit in any car thefts - meaning an innocent man suffered and died while in the custody of our government.

Our next case is an unforgettable one - that of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a Mongolian woman murdered by elite police officers assigned to then Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak. Her case remains shrouded in mystery - many believe someone must have ordered these commandos to kill Altantuya. Suspicion rested on Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib's, but the courts could not find sufficient evidence to convict him. Altantuya's family continues to seek justice for Altantuya, demanding the government get to the bottom of the matter.

The last of our major cases is that of another former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim. Beaten and brutalized by none other than the highest-ranking police officer in the country. Anwar's abuse in police custody shocked not only the nation, but the world. Although almost forgotten today, Anwar's case showed that even the most dedicated and highest of public servants can abuse their power and violate the sacred trust we place in them.

Buy this book online!

We close the book with the stories of countless men and women who have died while under the custody and protection of our government. Each and every one of these people was a human being - someone with parents, siblings, friends, and co-workers. Some were guilty, some were innocent. All were entitled to the protection of the law - not to be tortured and summarily abused by the authorities.

The government acts on our behalf - on the behalf of the
rakyat of Malaysia. It is a grave sin and injustice for our government to leave such abuses unchecked and ignored, and it is incumbent on every Malaysian to hold our government accountable for its actions.

John Lee Ming Keong
Nathaniel Tan

Thursday, September 16, 2010

On Malaysia Day, a lesson from America...

There is a great deal we in Malaysia can learn from monitoring the economic and political flux in America - and no one better qualified to inspire us in the right direction than the magnificent Swami Beyondananda aka Steve Bhaerman...

Obama or Nobama, It’s Still Up to Us
September 15, 2010

By Steve Bhaerman

With Obama AWOL, the Evolutionary Up-Wising Must Proceed Without Him

“For the past generation, the Republicans have been playing hardball … and the Democrats have been playing hardly-have-balls.” ~ Swami Beyondananda

Well, what do you know? It’s happened again. The hopium has worn off, and in the sober light of morning we see that the white knight we hoped would save us (albeit a slightly darker white knight) has left us bereft. And our wallet is missing.

Progressives are bewailing the betrayal of progressive principles, but it’s worse than that. From the very first appointments – or should we say, disappointments – the Obama Administration installed more of the usual suspects instead of the unusual ones we had hoped for. The economic elites in power simply switched uniforms from red to blue. Bottom line, Obama bailed out Wall Street and bailed on Main Street.

True, the bail out was put in place by the Bush Administration. But it was given legitimacy by Obama, and in that one move Obama lost the independent voters who saw a glimmer of hope, a possibility that the unmitigated rule by the power of money could be counterbalanced, if not overcome.

He coulda been a contender. Instead, Obama took an apparent dive – and a bought us all a one-way ticket to palookaville. As to the “why,” take your choice. There is a really excellent article in the September, 2010 Vanity Fair that attributes Obama’s plight to a “broken Washington.” It’s a pretty inside-the-matrix analysis, but it’s valuable in showing the relationship between the American Devolution and the influence of money. In 2009, the article says, lobbyists spent $3.5 billion to leverage legislation. As an indication of how things have changed in just one “degeneration,” here is a quote from the article: “In the 1974 congressional elections, total spending on Senate and House races came to only $77 million. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, by 2008 the figure was $1.36 billion, with lobbyists providing a significant amount.”

In other words, Congressional campaigns cost seventeen times as much as they did 35 years ago. No wonder the Democrats have devolved into “Republican Lite.” They have felt obliged to follow the money instead of lead the conversation. As Ralph Nader wrote recently, “… the Democrats do not have a progressive philosophy.”

Other analyses are less forgiving, and portray Barack Obama as a Manchurian candidate riding the Trojan horse of “change” into the White House. A fact sheet distributed by St. Pete for Peace offers as much evidence as anyone needs to indicate that Obama’s prime allegiance is not to we the people but to the corporate state.

So … who or what is the real Obama? Is he an Aquarian visionary hamstrung by a dysfunctional system, or an inside player whose purpose all along was to low-jack progressivism on behalf of the corporate state?

And the answer is … it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because nothing could, would or will change without an independent political movement of “we the people.” Even Obama hinted at that during his campaign, telling the American people, “It’s about you.”

And now, nearly two years after the election, and more than a year-and-a-half since the inauguration, there is no independent citizens movement. We have the same third and fourth parties limping along, and the truth is we don’t need a new third party in America.

We need a new first party.

To have that, we must give up hopium, and end the dope addiction (i.e., our addiction to electing dopes who don’t really represent our true interests) that has so severely weakened the body politic that we the people have become a non-factor in governance, diverted from the real issues by bipolar politics and a media side-show.

Here is my declaration, prayer and intention:

May the 2010 mid-term election be the last bullshit election held in America.

May it be the last election, where “mosque-debating” obfuscates the real issues of who’s in charge, and who’s in charge of who’s in charge.

May it be the last election where people’s hard-earned money – not to mention the hardly-earned money spent by the economic elites – is used to perpetrate lies, distortions and manipulative misinformation.

May it be the last election where the mainstream corporate media calls the shots of what gets covered.

May it be the last election where only money talks, and where “free speech” is free – unless of course, you want it to be broadcast widely, in which case it costs lots and lots of money.

And the Good News Is…?

There is good news, folks … but only if WE make it.

[Read the rest here.]

Check out Swami Beyondananda's Ompage!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Face of Facebook

by Jose Antonio Vargas
The New Yorker

Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook in his college dorm room six years ago. Five hundred million people have joined since, and eight hundred and seventy-nine of them are his friends. The site is a directory of the world’s people, and a place for private citizens to create public identities. You sign up and start posting information about yourself: photographs, employment history, why you are peeved right now with the gummy-bear selection at Rite Aid or bullish about prospects for peace in the Middle East. Some of the information can be seen only by your friends; some is available to friends of friends; some is available to anyone. Facebook’s privacy policies are confusing to many people, and the company has changed them frequently, almost always allowing more information to be exposed in more ways.

According to his Facebook profile, Zuckerberg has three sisters (Randi, Donna, and Arielle), all of whom he’s friends with. He’s friends with his parents, Karen and Edward Zuckerberg. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy and attended Harvard University. He’s a fan of the comedian Andy Samberg and counts among his favorite musicians Green Day, Jay-Z, Taylor Swift, and Shakira. He is twenty-six years old.

Zuckerberg cites “Minimalism,” “Revolutions,” and “Eliminating Desire” as interests. He likes “Ender’s Game,” a coming-of-age science-fiction saga by Orson Scott Card, which tells the story of Andrew (Ender) Wiggin, a gifted child who masters computer war games and later realizes that he’s involved in a real war. He lists no other books on his profile.

[Read the entire feature here...]

Priscilla Chan has been Zuck's girlfriend since 2003

Read my 28 October 2007 post:
The Facebook Interview