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news without borders


| THURSDAY MAY 21 2009

State government silencing critics: Khir
SHAH ALAM: The Pakatan Rakyat state government does not practise what it preaches when it comes to freedom of information and open discussion, says former Selangor mentri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo. The decision by Selangor assembly’s rights and privileges committee to suspend him and four other Barisan Nasional assemblymen showed the administration was bent on silencing its critics, he said. The Sungai Panjang assemblyman also said the move reeked of revenge. “We regret the speaker (Teng Chang Khim) has resorted to this cruel act of muzzling assemblymen who give constructive criticism,” Khir told newsmen at his office in Glenmarie. “I can take it if they want to suspend me for one year for not attending a select committee on competency, accountability and transparency (Selcat) hearing, but suspending the four other assemblymen for suggesting the hearing be held behind closed doors and not be made a political game is not right. “What they have done goes against all they have been proclaiming about freedom of information,” he said, adding that the move would, however, not stop BN assemblymen from speaking up. Khir faces up to a year’s suspension and stands to lose his allowance of more than RM4,000 a month and other perks including claims for calls made on an office phone, a driver, entertainment and special allowances. He also faces a six-month suspension for each of three statements he made insulting the Selcat in his blog and the media. Assemblymen Datuk Warno Dogol (Sabak), Mohd Isa Abu Kasim (Batang Kali), Datuk Marsum Paing (Dengkil) and Datuk Mohd Idris Abdu Bakar (Hulu Bernam) each face a six-month suspension and loss of allowances and perks for making statements defaming the assembly. The Selcat hearing was held to scrutinise excesses of the now defunct welfare organisation of the wives of Selangor BN MPs and assemblymen (Balkis) which was headed by Khir’s wife Datin Seri Zahrah Kechik. “If Selcat is serious about upholding transparency and accountability, it should check on several matters in the state government,” Khir said. Meanwhile, Puchong MP Gobind Singh Deo said Khir should not have his allowances and privileges as assemblyman suspended. In statement yesterday, Gobind said an assemblyman remains one even when he is suspended and is duty bound to attend to serve his constituents. As such, he said, Khir should be accorded the privileges he is entitled to and paid his salary and allowances. Gobind said many assemblymen, faced with the prospect of suspension of allowances and privileges, will not feel free to speak their mind.

Effort to prevent sale of alcohol to minors
by Maria J. Dass

SHAH ALAM: A meeting between owners of outlets selling alcohol, state executive councillors and nongovernmental organisations has been called today to address the problem of the sale of liquor to minors. “The social argument is that without the proper controls in place, liquor is being sold to and abused by young buyers,” Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim said after a state executive council meeting yesterday. This was cause for concern, he said. “Through open discussion with stakeholders, we want to reach an equitable balance that will allow the right people to purchase liquor, while imposing restrictions on those not allowed to do so.” Asked about former mentri besar Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Khir Toyo’s allegation that his suspension from the state legislative assembly was a form of political

prosecution, Khalid said: “He must be able to relate to the experience of the speaker (Teng Chang Khim). “Both of them can meet and discuss their experiences and see if the relevant laws are adequate or if their suspension is the same.” Teng was suspended from the state assembly for 30 months in 2005 for throwing a copy of the Standing Orders in a rubbish bin. He was the opposition leader at the time. Responding to questions on the progress of negotiations between the state and federal governments on the restructuring of the state’s water industry, Khalid said: “Tomorrow, a team from Selangor will meet with a committee set up by the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry. “The committee is headed by the ministry’s director-general and discussions will focus on the modus operandi and steps to finalise restructuring.”

He said the state executive council had also set up a committee to investigate any misappropriation or fraud involving the award of land to Bukit Botak residents in Selayang. “We want to ensure that those who got the land were qualified to get it, and that those who were supposed to get land but were sidelined will receive what is due to them.” The committee will comprise officers from the Gombak Land Office, the housing executive councillor’s office, lawyers and public representatives. “We expect a report on the matter to be ready by Aug 20,” Khalid said. The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission has also started an investigation into the land scam that goes back 20 years. Among the recipients of 1,634 plots of land were non-residents of the area, underaged people and grassroots politicians.

Hold inquiry into lawyers’ arrests, Suhakam urged
PETALING JAYA: The Bar Council yesterday submitted a memorandum to the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam), urging a public inquiry into the arrests of five lawyers during a candlelight vigil on May 7. Bar Council president Ragunath Kesavan said Suhakam should hold an immediate public inquiry to investigate several police officers who were involved in the arrest, detention and interrogation of the lawyers. The memorandum was received by Suhakam commissioner Chiam Heng Keng. Kesavan also singled out Brickfields police chief Assistant Commissioner Wan Abdul Bari and Deputy Superintendent Jude Pereira as among those who should be investigated. The arrest and detention of the lawyers was unnecessary as the police had merely recorded statements from them, he said. Kesavan also said the police had wanted only to “punish and humiliate” the lawyers and to discourage lawyers in general from being present at police stations to assist detained persons. The five lawyers were arrested for “illegal assembly” after attempting to provide legal aid to a group of individuals who were detained during a candlelight vigil in support of Bersih activist Wong Chin Huat, who himself was detained under the Sedition Act. All those detained were released the next day. Chiam said the commission would investigate the incident from all angles before deciding on a public inquiry.

Another candlelight vigil but no arrests
by Charles Ramendran

KUALA LUMPUR: Another protest to mark the “death of democracy” in the Perak state assembly was held last night, at the service centre of Serdang MP Teo Nie Ching in Seri Kembangan. This time it went on smoothly as opposed to the first on Tuesday. Teo, who was detained at Tuesday’s protest at Seputeh MP Teresa Kok’s service centre in Kuala Lumpur, Seri Kembangan assemblyman Ean Yong Hian Wah and Teratai assemblyman Jenice Lee were joined by about to people at last night’s protest. Wearing black as a mark of their protest, they held a candlelight vigil under the watchful eyes of at least 50 policemen including the Light Strike Force from the Subang Jaya district police headquarters. With about 150 curious onlookers, Teo, Yong and Lee spoke for several minutes before being ordered to disperse. They complied

and left the place. “We wish to thank the Subang Jaya police for giving us the few minutes to exercise our democratic right to stage a peaceful assembly, unlike the Brickfields police who were rash in detaining us on Tuesday,” said Teo. She said Malaysians were mature enough to not create a ruckus when assembling in such manner and the police should not waste their resources focusing on the gathering but carry out their crime prevention work. Subang Jaya police chief ACP Zainal Rashid said the group followed orders to disperse and there were no untoward incidents. At the candlelight vigil on Tuesday, Teo, Lee and nine supporters were detained after they allegedly defied orders by police to disperse at about 8.30pm. They were released on bail by 4.30am yesterday after they had their statements taken at the Brickfields district police headquarters.