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Acting Editor-in-Chief: Chong Cheng Hai Consultant Editor: Zainon Ahmad Executive Editor: Lee Boon Siew Deputy Editor: Patrick Choo (Production), Editor: R. Nadeswaran (Special Reporting and Investigation) General Manager, Advertising and Marketing: Charles Peters Senior Manager, Production: Thomas Kang Senior Manager, Distribution Channels: Joehari Abdul Jabbar


| FRIDAY MAY 22 2009

speak up!

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Reasonable heads must prevail
I RECENTLY returned Pah Perok lagu mano? from a weekend visit to (So what about Perak); Betol my kampung in Kelantan. koh cerito pasal budok MonThere’s not much to do golia tu keno bom? (Are the in Kuala Krai other than stories about the Mongolian taking nostalgic trips down kid who got bombed true?) memory lane to my school, are the usual enquiries made the old bakery for my fato me – I am still referred to vourite peanut butter bun as “anok Cikgu Jerome hok and the nasi dagang stalls at keno bede kat Iraq” (Cikgu “Payung”. Jerome’s son who was shot Of course no trip is in Iraq). Of course that was Down2Earth complete without a visit an exaggeration since I was to the Bradley Steps (since by Terence Fernandez not shot, only shot at! changed to the unimaginaAs the talk went on into tive Tangga Krai) for a view the wee hours of the mornof the Kelantan River, serene most times ing the shopkeeper would keep the but an intimidating monster during the green and brown bottles of beer commonsoon season. ing. Business is good they say – cukup Of course there are new “attractions” make. (Enough to make ends meet). for the local folk such as the KFC and 7There were never attempts to throw Eleven which made their appearances sand into their rice bowl as these shops a few months back – testimonials of the were frequented by non-Muslims, the progress the people have made from Chinese community making 30% of the the largely agriculture industry that township. The local authorities have made this town. never bothered them, they say, even if Thanks to my cousin Arick, I have some of the customers prefer to tapau now been introduced to the joys of Play(pack) their drinks wrapped in newspaStation to while away the time that goes pers rather than sit at the table for fear by so slowly, pausing once in a while to of being seen – both by wives and other catch a glimpse of the iguana that has persons of authority. made its home in the drain pipe behind Of course they cannot go to retail the house – to make sure it does not outlets or 24-hour convenience stores come any nearer to our home. for their brew. Since PAS took over 19 Nights are usually reserved for Uncle years ago, beer and liquor have been Luise and his band of madcap friends at taken off the shelves. But for a small the Chinese stalls for rounds of beers suburb, where one can circumnavigate where I catch up on small town gossip the town in 10 minutes, the kopitiams and they grill me on the stuff happening and Malakoff Club offer a steady flow in the rest of the country. of the brew at almost any time of the

day – although most of us call it a night by 1am. So when news got back that Selangor was trying to do a Kelantan, friends from home snickered at the idea. With a large non-Muslim population and a more urban characteristic, it would be downright ridiculous to control the sale of beer. People in the city are also more aware of their rights and will not take lightly any attempts to infringe on their liberties just because someone wants to be seen as a hero in the coming PAS general assembly. Pakatan Rakyat would definitely be putting one foot out the door if it were to adopt the proposals by PAS and some quarters to ban or even control the sale of the brew. Even the previous state government through local authorities, which acted as mini-kingdoms, had broached the idea and was hammered by all and sundry. A better approach would be to step up enforcement whether by the police or religious authorities. As executive councillor for local government Ronnie Liu said, one should be supportive of controls such as not allowing one to walk the streets with an open can of beer to prevent rowdiness – a law in many countries including Australia. Just because a minority of individuals cannot hold their drink and misbehave, that does not mean the rest of us who may need to rush out to the nearest 24-hour outlet at 3am for a responsible fix need to be penalised. So when the executive council meets next Wednesday to decide on the outcome of yesterday’s meeting with all stakeholders, reasonable heads must prevail. The warped wishes of the minority must never usurp the common sense and liberties of the majority. Terence would like to offer a toast to common sense and acceptance. He is deputy editor special reports & investigations and can be reached at terence@

The sanctity of law
by Sonia Randhawa of protests, but due to a court decision on corruption. It was OVER the last the courts that year, we’ve paved the way seen scenes of for his ascenchaos, anger and sion. mayhem. People The problem stranded for days by this point was at airports, high that the courts level government were seen as meetings postmassively componed and the promised. They near collapse of a Where young views rule were placed in political system. the impossible Thailand is a position that whatever decisobering example of a flailing sion they made in these highly democracy. political corruption trials, the To prevent a recurrence of decision would be perceived the Thai calamity, it might be to be unjust, to be politically sobering to look at the roots motivated. The independof the crisis. Prime Minister ence, impartiality and fairness Thaksin Shinawatra came to of the judiciary, having been power with a huge mandate. tainted under Thaksin, was In both urban and rural areas completely compromised. he was greeted with masVarious authors have pointed sive support. There were, out that the judiciary could inevitably, some murmurings have escaped the problem, of unrest, academics and they could have referred journalists who were a little these cases to other bodies unhappy about the concentra(such as oversight committion of economic, social (partees, electoral bodies and ticularly through the media) the like), and retained their and political power that he impartiality. They chose not represented. But they were a to. And the result has been minority, and were to a large that the judiciary is tarred. part ignored. And initially it And this is bad for Thaiseemed with good reason. land, for the Thai people and Thaksin increased his for those in power. Because popularity and power with there is nowhere that legitieconomic reforms, directed macy unquestionably resides. at the rural sector, which The one possible exception in became the bulwark of his Thailand is the monarchy, but support. His disturbing camthe inability of the people to paign against crime, resulting discuss the role of the monarin widespread extra-judicial chy coupled with the unease killings, was also greeted with of the king’s role and the widespread support, even if it king’s inactions in the various violated the rights (including political dramas are eroding right to life) of a couple of faith in this one previously thousand people. Something unassailable institution. was being done. But it was It’s hard to see a way just part of an increasingly forward. The only path is to disturbing picture. rebuild faith in all the instituThe larger picture showed tions of government, from the this as just one part of an constitution onwards. There is increasing disregard for Thaian urgent need to rebuild leland’s 1997 Constitution. The gitimacy, to rebuild faith in the administration’s treatment of judiciary, in the police force, the media – the increasing even the medical services. concentration of ownership Perhaps the main lessons and refusal to institute the for Thailand’s neighbours National Broadcasting Comare to not let things come to mission which would have this impasse. Ensure that the dispersed this concentration institutions of government – were also symptomatic. – the judiciary, the police, the Thaksin was also perceived to army – are seen as impartial, be perverting the independapolitical and equally accesence of the judiciary. And the sible to all. To ensure that the urban elites were not the only monarchy remains untainted ones to be concerned that with political machinations. Thaksin was undermining the And, above all, to uphold the legitimacy of the very institusupremacy of the constitution tion from which he derived and the rights enshrined within his power – the constitution. it – the right to life, the right to It was this perception that freedom of speech, the right led to the popular (urban) to legal representation. And support for the coup of 2006. the right to a legally elected It may well have been one of representative democracy. the factors behind the coup itself. Of course, this in turn tumbled the house of cards. It Sonia thinks liberty and equalwas almost impossible for the ity are the only real guarannew system to have popular tors of security. Comment: legitimacy. The generals wanted to ensure that Thaksin would, and could, not return. The mass of the population still supWe believe that the young ported him, his policies should have a say in how and his party. things are run, because they But it should have everything at stake in be rememour future. This column crebered that the ates that space for our panel current prime minister came of bright young sparks to to office not debate issues that they feel on the power



US not financing Swat offensive
MAY I draw your kind attention to an article by Eric Margolis titled “Beware the vengeance of the Pashtun”, (May 18). I would like to add that the views expressed by the writer are totally unsubstantiated, baseless and without any substance, contradictory in nature and need clarification. At the outset, I like to dispel the impression created by the article that the Pakistan army has launched an operation in the Swat valley because it has been paid by the US to do so. On the contrary, the Pakistan army was summoned by the government of Pakistan strictly in accordance with the Article 245 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The relevant article is reproduced as under: “245. Functions of Armed Forces. [(1)] The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so.” The decision to call in the army was made by the government of Pakistan to safeguard the rights of the people of Swat valley and to enable them to lead their lives without any fear or compulsion, in accordance with their customs and social values, and not to suffer from inhuman dictates of militants and miscreants. The decision of the government enjoyed unprecedented support of the people in the conflict-ridden area, all political parties of the country and the people of Pakistan. The people of Swat valley are moving to safer places, on their own volition, and in their own country, en masse to isolate themselves from the armed militants and miscreants, and to give a free hand to the Pakistan army to flush out the militants from the hitherto peaceful and touristfriendly valley of Swat. They are also fleeing because the militants in their bid to impose a harsh form of Islamic law had made their lives miserable. The militants blew up schools, both of girls and boys, opposed education for girls and banned female education in Swat. Altogether they had destroyed 170 schools in the valley where about 55,000 girls and boys were enrolled in government-run institutions. They blew up or beheaded their opponents while broadcasting edicts and threats over their FM radio. The women were flogged in public and corpses of the opponents were mutilated and desecrated. They patrolled streets and markets, set up checkpoints and occupied mosques and above all, destroyed the tourism prospects in the valley, the mainstay of livelihood for the people of Swat valley. The cruel acts of the militants has turned public opinion against them. It is also clarified that the Pakistan army is endeavouring not only to protect its own people from excesses of militants and miscreants, but is also working as a first line of defence against the global spread of militant Talibinization. The impression created by the writer that Pashtuns are being killed in Swat valley is erroneous and based upon the writer’s tunnel view of Pashtuns in Pakistan. In Pakistan, Pashtuns are an integral part of Pakistan’s civil and military bureaucracy, and in fact almost all of the Frontier Corp and half of the Pakistan army is made up of proud, loyal and brave Pashtun officers and soldiers. These Pashtun officers and soldiers are fighting against miscreants and militants in Swat valley to enable the peace loving, courageous and proud people of Swat to lead peaceful and lawful lives. Furthermore, the writer used the word “refugees” for internally displaced people of Swat which is also inaccurate, as these people are called internally displaced people. The government of Pakistan, aided by philanthropic organisations from across the world is working day in and day out to mitigate the sufferings of these displaced persons This is also a manifestation of the fact that the people of Swat valley despise militants and miscreants. Had it not been the case, they would not have abandoned their hearth and homes to give a free hand to the Pakistan army, termed as saviours by the Swat people to flush out the militants and miscreants from their beloved and peaceful land. The Pakistan government is dealing with the situation in Swat strictly keeping the national interest supreme, as a popular public demand, after obtaining unprecedented political consensus within the political arena of the country, based upon strong reasons and logic and not because of arm twisting by any other country. Therefore, the fear expressed by the writer of rebellion by the soldiers and an uprising by the public are totally unfounded and baseless. Qamar Bashir Press Attache Pakistan High Commission

strongly about.