Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Civil courts can't rule on conversion cases, declares Appellate Court

Zikri Kamarulzaman 30 Dec 2015, AM 10:33

The Court of Appeal has overturned on a technicality a High Court decision quashing the unilateral conversion of three children by their now Muslim father.

The three-man bench headed by Justice Balia Yusof Wahi ruled in a majority decision that the Ipoh High Court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the conversion of kindergarten teacher M Indira Gandhi's children by her ex-husband.

"The majority view this court is taking (is that) ... it is beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether or not a person is Muslim, (the case) falls under the exclusive jurisdiction of the syariah court.

"The validity of the conversion is also the exclusive jurisdiction of the syariah court," Justice Balia said in his judgment.

However, the court did not make a ruling on the eldest child's conversion as she is now 18 years old.

In 2009, K Pathmanathan @ Muhammad Ridhuan Abdullah had converted the three children - two daughters and a son - when they were 12, 11 years old and 11 months respectively, without their mother's presence and three other conditions as required under Section 96 of the Administration of Islam Perak, Enactment 2004.

Besides Justice Balia, the other judge who ruled in favour of the prosecution was Justice Badariah Sahamid.

Justice Hamid Sultan Abu Bacher was the dissenting judge.

Conversion matter void from the start

In his dissenting judgment, Justice Hamid said the matter of conversion was void from the start as under Perak state law, the children had to apply to convert themselves with the parents' consent.

"In this particular case it is the father who made the application; there is no provision for that," he said.

Justice Hamid (photo) also found the matter to be purely administrative, and therefore not under the syariah court's jurisdiction.

Indira, 40, was emotional when met by reporters outside the courtroom, and briefly broke down in tears as her lawyers spoke to the press.

"When is this going to stop [...] It has been seven years, I can't get justice in my own Malaysia.

"I have no clue after this what is going to happen to my children. When am I going to see my daughter?" she said, her voice quivering with emotion.

She then reacted angrily when asked if she would bring the matter to the syariah court.

"Why should I go to the syariah court? I am not a Muslim and my children are not Muslims," she snapped.

Her lawyer, Ipoh Barat MP M Kula Segaran, said he will file an appeal for the case to be brought to the Federal Court, after receiving instructions from Indira.

Indira's ex-husband, 46-year-old Ridhuan, and their children were not present in court.

Monday, December 21, 2015

In Ipoh land deal, shophouses take precedence over school field

December 15, 2015 2:27 PM MYT

IPOH (Dec 15): Parents of children at St. Philomena school on Jalan Silibin, Ipoh, are not happy with the state government for alienating a piece of land beside the school for a commercial development, rejecting their application to turn it into a school field.

R. Jeyaseelan, 43, chairman of the school’s Parent Teacher Association, said the school had been rejected, despite applying for the 0.6ha (1.5-acre) plot a number of times over the past 20 years.

He said many parents, as well as residents living nearby, were disappointed to learn that the land had been approved for a state foundation and a private property developer to build shoplots.

“There are 500 pupils in the school and, since the school’s formation in 1938, they have had no designated sports field.

“Every year, the sports day has to be held on the Tarcissian Convent field nearby.

“Their physical education lessons have also always been carried out on borrowed school fields or at Ipoh Stadium.

“We feel it is unfair that the school’s request for a field all these years has taken a back seat in favour of a commercial development project,” he said after attending a hearing on their complaint with Ipoh City Council (MBI) today.

Lim Garden resident, A.Jayanti, 48, whose house is nearby, said she and her neighbours were also opposed to the development because the area was unsuitable for construction.

“Previous work to remove the old buildings on the site caused the walls and floor in my porch to crack. This also happened to my neighbours.

“People from the state foundation have also come to take pictures of the ground, which has started to sink. We are afraid any development there will only result in adverse effects,” she said.

The former civil servant, who now teaches tuition classes, said a majority of the occupants in her neighbourhood were elderly citizens and some were bedridden.

“We do not want any accidents to occur from construction, or pollution we are not prepared to deal with,” she said.

Ipoh Barat MP M. Kula Segaran, who is assisting the residents and parents with their complaint, said building shoplots in the area would only contribute to already existing traffic congestion problems and create safety problems for the primary school children.

“As it is, they have to be extra careful crossing the main road near the school. Starting a commercial area there is also bound to add to parking congestion in an already saturated area,” he said.

He said a complaint had also been forwarded to Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir, adding that the state government promised to respond soon, as informed by State Housing and Local Government Committee chairman Datuk Rusnah Kassim, who chaired the MBI hearing today.

The Malaysian Insider attempts to contact Rusnah for a comment have so far not been successful. – The Malaysian Insider

Cadangan bina hotel bajet berhampiran sekolah dipersoal

20 DISEMBER 2015

Sinar Harian

Rusnah (tengah) ketika melawat kawasan berkenaan, semalam.

SILIBIN - Tak kena tempat! Mungkin itu ungkapan sesuai bagi menggambarkan projek pembangunan melibatkan pembinaan bangunan komersial bersebelahan Sekolah St Philomena, di sini.

Bangunan komersial berkenaan difahamkan bakal menjadi tempat pusat perniagaan dan menempatkan beberapa lot rumah kedai selain hotel bajet.

Cadangan pembinaan berkenaan mendapat bantahan daripada warga sekolah bersebelahan kerana mereka telah pun mengemukakan permohonan lot tanah berkenaan untuk dijadikan padang permainan, khususnya untuk tujuan riadah serta pendidikan jasmani murid-murid sebelum ini.

Namun mereka dimaklumkan, permohonan itu ditolak dan dimaklumkan bahawa tanah berkenaan diserahkan kepada sebuah syarikat anak negeri bagi tujuan pembangunan komersial.

Yang Dipertua Persatuan Ibu Bapa dan Guru (PIBG) sekolah berkenaan, R Jayaselan berkata, kewujudan bangunan komersial itu akan menjadikan kawasan tersebut lebih sesak berbanding sebelum ini.

Malah Jayaselan turut tidak menolak kemungkinan akan wujud pusat-pusat hiburan di kawasan sekitar.

“Saya berpendapat, kawasan ini tidak sesuai untuk dijadikan pusat komersial. Pertamanya, ia berdekatan dengan sekolah sudah tentu akan menambahkan lagi kesesakan lalu lintas di sini.

“Yang kedua, pihak sekolah telah membuat permohonan mewujudkan satu padang permainan untuk kegunaan murid-murid sekolah agar ia selaras dengan slogan dilaung-laungkan Kementerian Belia dan Sukan, 1Murid, 1Sukan.

“Bagaimanapun, permohonan kami ditolak dan kami dimaklumkan tanah ini akan digunakan untuk tujuan pembangunan bangunan komersial,” katanya.

Tambah Jayaselan, kewujudan pusat komersial itu yang bakal menempatkan hotel bajet juga akan memberi pelbagai tanggapan negatif dalam kalangan masyarakat kelak.
Katanya, kewujudan hotel bajet di kawasan berkenaan juga dibimbangi mengundang aktiviti tidak bermoral.

“Kita khuatir kewujudan hotel bajet ini mengundang banyak aktiviti maksiat dan sudah tentu ia (maksiat) dapat dilihat oleh murid-murid sekolah dan kita tidak mahu ia berlaku.
“Kita sangat berharap agar tindakan berhubung perkara ini dapat dilaksanakan secepat mungkin,” katanya.

Guru besar bimbang keselamatan

Pendapat Jayaselan itu dipersetujui guru besar sekolah berkenaan, K Sanggari yang menyifatkan projek pembinaan itu juga dikhuatiri akan mewujudkan suasana tidak selamat.

Katanya, pembinaan itu akan memudahkan orang luar keluar masuk kawasan sekolah.

“Kita ada tiga guru serta 500 murid dan semuanya perempuan. Sudah tentu kita semua akan rasa tidak selesa dengan kerja-kerja pembinaan bangunan komersial ini.

“Kita bukanlah menentang pembangunan, tetapi ia perlulah seiring dengan keselesaan dan juga kerelaan rakyat,” katanya.

Dalam pada itu, Ahli Parlimen Ipoh Barat, M Kulasegaran yang sempat meluangkan masa untuk melihat sendiri kawasan di situ menyifatkan sekolah berkenaan perlukan satu pembangunan yang kondusif.

Tanah seluas dua hektar yang mahu dijadikan tapak pembinaan komersial situ sewajarnya dijadikan sebagai kawasan padang atau taman permainan agar murid-murid berpeluang untuk beriadah.

“Apa yang kita lihat, sekolah ini tidak ada kemudahan sukan dan mereka benar-benar mahu satu kawasan padang untuk aktiviti sukan.

“Setelah memohon sejak 2008, hanya pada tahun 2014 pihak sekolah dapat tahu permohonan itu ditolak dan kemudian kita diberitahu kawasan itu dah nak jadi kawasan komersial,” katanya.

Kulasegaran juga turut menggesa pihak berwajib segera menambah ciri-ciri keselamatan jalan raya di hadapan sekolah berkenaan.

Katanya, semua ciri berkenaan dilihat penting khususnya bagi menjaga keselamatan murid yang sentiasa melintas jalan ketika datang atau pulang dari sekolah.

“Sekarang kita dah ada bonggol dan sebelum itu kita juga ada garisan kuning untuk beritahu pemandu untuk perlahankan kenderaan.

"Tetapi, kita harap garisan kuning ini ditambah lagi selepas bonggol itu dan kalau boleh biarlah sampai melepasi kawasan sekolah,” katanya.

Kerajaan negeri beri perhatian serius

Sementara itu, Exco Kerajaan Negeri, Datuk Rusnah Kassim berkata, pihaknya akan memberi perhatian serius terhadap perkara berkenaan.

Beliau berkata, bagaimanapun pihaknya akan mengadakan perbincangan berhubung perkara berkenaan sebelum melaksanakan sebarang tindakan.

“Buat masa ni, kita akan berbincang untuk kenal pasti langkah terbaik. Kita tak boleh kata apa-apa lagi sekarang,” katanya.

Dalam pada itu, Majlis Bandar Raya Ipoh memaklumkan mereka menunggu laporan siasatan mengenai semua aduan berkenaan terutamanya kelulusan atau pembatalan permohonan pindaan tanah berkenaan.

Fate of Kuala Lumpur’s historic ashram hangs in the balance

Monday, 21 December 2015


The Star

Swami Vivekananda’s bronze statue stands in front of the Vivekananda Ashram in Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Kuala Lumpur. The ashram was built to honour Vivekananda, who visited Malaya in 1893. — filepic

AS WE sum up the year, StarMetro takes a look at some of the issues that dominated headlines throughout 2015.

This year, we saw the Government overturn unpopular decisions such as the multi-million ringgit Menara DBKL 2 redevelopment project.

Also much talked about was the gazetting of century-old Vivekananda ashram in Brickfields as a heritage site and the redevelopment of the Jalan Alor hawker street.

Heritage conservation is a subject that does not get much play in local newspapers unless there is a threat to old monuments in the city.
And Kuala Lumpur has lost many great buildings of its past.
A recent example is the famous Rumah Sultan Puasa, popularly known as Rumah Degil, in Chow Kit, which was built in 1926 by a descendant of Sultan Puasa, one of the founders of Kuala Lumpur.

The small wooden house was recently sold, dismantled and stored away for future use.

Bok House, a charming mansion that was demolished almost 10 years ago, is another example and the public outcry was a little too late.

In the past two decades, city folk have witnessed the destruction of many such sites in the name of development and commercialisation.

Now the fate of one of the city’s other treasures, the iconic Vivekananda Ashram, which is the last remaining heritage building in Brickfields, hangs in the balance as the gazetting of the site has stalled.

The management of the 110-year-old Vivekananda Ashrama building and the surrounding land has applied to initiate a judicial review to compel the National Heritage Department commissioner to gazette only the building as a heritage site.

The management wants to be able to develop the surrounding land and be allowed to use the property as it deemed fit.

Alternatively, the company is seeking more than RM60mil in damages on grounds that it had been denied its fundamental right to use the property for the purposes of development as initially planned.

It is also seeking an order to set aside notices from the department and commissioner for an interim protection order, dated Jan 5 and April 23, denying the company use of the property.

Unlike Bok House and Rumah Sultan Puasa, which were private buildings, the ashram is also a public trust.

Lawyer Sitpah Selvaratnam explained, “Based on the company’s articles, the trustees hold everything, including the ashram land, on trust for the community it is intended to serve.”

Sitpah said the trustees’ move to sell or develop the land would be contrary to the purpose and terms of incorporation.

“The Vivekananda Ashrama was a company limited by guarantee that had been exempted from using the word ‘limited’ in recognition of its charitable purpose and objectives.

“The ashram is meant to serve the community, which is why it got the exemption in the first place,” Sitpah said.

“As a company limited by guarantee, its capital is not paid by members and there are no shares. Instead, it relies on donations, subscription fees and charges,” she said.

She said the company’s articles clearly stated that the trustees were not allowed to return any form of income or profit from their activities back to members.

The ashram land was granted in 1895 for public and charitable purposes, with the condition that a building worth $500 (in 1895) was built on the land within a specified time frame.

“It was not intended for the land to derive commercial benefit and unlocking its commercial value is not the prerogative of the trustees,” said Sitpah.

According to Sitpah, the company’s functions were of a public nature, which is why the community had a say in the proposed sale and development of the land.

City dwellers, especially nearby residents, had a strong connection to the building and were determined to save it at all costs, including taking to the streets by the hundreds in a peaceful protest last year.

For now, only time will tell the fate of the building built in memory of the late Swami Vivekananda more than a century ago.

But the message KL-ites want to convey is clear — the conservation of an iconic building that has inspired people from all walks of life for more than 100 years and continues to do so.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Yayasan Perak should focus on protecting and promoting educational issues and stay away championing commercial ventures

Media statement by M. Kula Segaran MP Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman together with YB Cheong Chee Khing (Bercham) in Ipoh on 16th December 2015

Yayasan Perak should focus on protecting and promoting educational issues and stay away championing commercial ventures.

Yesterday the objectors to the proposed rezoning of a housing area to Commercial zone presented their opinions as to why rezoning should not take place to the Committee of Inquiry(Town and Country planning) at MBI Ipoh.

Among the objections presented were:

1) It’s a unsound development;
2) Area not suitable for commercial development;
3) The purposes for rezoning are “perniagaan dan perkhidamatan”. These reasons/purposes are ambiguous and unclear;
4) Issue of density for use;
5) Traffic congestion;
6) The adjoining land being a girls school a commercial development will be hazardous for the students;
7) The school had applied for the land for usage as field some more then 20 years ago. But notwithstanding this the land was alienated to Yayasan Perak.
8) Insufficient buffer zone for commercial building more so the proposed are is a cul d sac
9) Local council failed to adhere to Local Agenda 21

We are glad today the Chairman of the inquiry Datuk Rusnah with the other members visited the area to witness the actual situation.

With the local residents and the school teachers, Headmistress M/s Sangree and PIBG Chairman Jayeseleen, we showed the committee the possible drawbacks if the proposed commercialization takes effect.

After more than an hour on the ground visit the Committee left promising a decision very soon.

What more should Yayasan Perak be obliged to promote other than its primary purpose and objective being to promote educational issues ? Why is it getting dragged into commercial dealings? What is the motive? and

A holistic view of the whole propose rezoning to commercial purposes need to be looked into throughly. Priority for the land to be maintained for the school as a field and for the local resident’s usage has to be the most relevant factor.

M. Kula Segaran and Cheong Chee Khing

Umno needs to learn accountability from China, Singapore

Ronald Benjamin Malaysiakini

Malaysian leaders are facing a crisis of confidence not only in its moral sphere but also justice system that is more tilted towards safeguarding the regime at all cost. The latest acquittal of National Feedlot Corporation (NFC) alleged culprits and the illogical reasoning of the attorney-general in its dealing with the 1MDB issue has dented the professionalism of those who are supposed to protect public interest through the justice system.

Perhaps Umno leaders could learn from nations which have autocratic elements but yet remain accountable for their performance in public office.

It is obvious that the latest Umno general assembly has produced nothing in term of addressing the trust deficit between the government and the people or its leaders and delegates working towards a clean and accountable government.

Sometimes it is good for the so-called Malay Muslim leaders to look at neighbours Singapore or even China on what it means to be accountable. These nations have autocratic tendencies in their political DNA but at least the leaders at its core are accountable, where tribalism of race and religion or its political dominance is not used to prop up corrupt leaders.

When Deng Xiaoping was at helm in China, his philosophy was it does not matter whether a cat is black or white as long it able to catch the mouse. Even though there has been widespread corruption in China due to communist elites’ involvement in capitalistic-related greed, its leadership has at least taken strong action against leaders at the helm who are involve in corruption.

The current President Xi Jinping has taken a tough line against corrupt governors and high-ranking military officials involved in corruption. According to political analysts, under current President Xi there has been a sustained drive against high-level corruption since the advent of economic reforms in the early 80s.

In Singapore the integrity and accountability of its ministers and a meritocratic system of governance has little place for tribalism. The PAP has a great track record for an honest and accountable government and it has won back its sceptics in the just-concluded general elections.

It is obvious that these nations have grown and Malaysia is still trapped in a time warp of ethno-religious tribalism. The zeal for accountability among the current leaders of China and Singapore has brought these nations to the forefront.

Therefore I believe the first step the Umno leaders need to do is at least learn from these imperfect nations on what it means to be accountable. The Islamic slogan that is used by Umno is basically for self-preservation rather than learning its tenets. So the least it could do is to learn from other nations.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Media statement by . Kula Segaran MP Ipoh Barat and DAP National Vice Chairman, Cheong Chee Khing ADUN Bercham in Ipoh on 15 the December 2015

St.Philomenia Tamil school was built some 100 years ago and has a student population of over 600 hundred students. It's the 2nd only Tamil girls school in the country. Adjoining this school is apiece of land measuring 1 and half acres which was a JKR quarters( hereafter called the said land).

For over 20 years the school has been writing to the State Governemnt to alienate the said land to the school. The school wanted the land to be converted into a a plying field as the school has no such available land.

Next to the said land is a big housing and residential area known as Lim Gardens.
Although the school has been applying for the said land suddenly recently the land was alienated to Yayasan Perak who have now proposed a commercial development to the said land
The school PIBG committee led by Jayaseelan and the neighbours have filed objection to the proposed development
An inquiry was held today within the requirement of the Town and country planning Act. It took place today on the 15th December 2015 at 9am at Dewan Azlan Shah, Tingkat 10, Majlis Bandaraya Ipoh in a hearing called Majlis Pendengaran Awan. The reason for this hearing is concerning the many objections 

This hearing was represented by the persons affected by the planned development as following:
1. Luis Alexander a/l Selvanathan 2. A. Jayanthi No. 6, Solok Segar, Taman Lim 3. Jayalachimi and M.Kula Segaran 4. Anbalagan a/l Appathurai 5. Sellamal a/p Arumugam of Kg. Tai Lee, MR Jeyaseelan a/l Raju PIBG chairman of St. Philomenia school 7) Seelvaganeasean a/l Subramaniam and concerned citizens

The Coram of the panel were as following:
1. YB. Dato Rusnah – Chairman 
2. Encik Ismail bin Abdullah – Pegawai Pejabat Tanah Galian
3. Puan Asni bin Mustafa – Jabatan Perancang Negeri Perak 4) Encik Zaquan Zakaria – Setiausaha MB Perak

Among the issues raised during the hearing were as following:

1. By proceeding with the development of land it would certainly be considered as unsound development in exchange with cost of public interest; and being a girls school it would be unwise and unhealthy to have a commercial compleat or ang business to be placed next to the school

2. If at all the area is ever developed then it would be subjected to many kinds of social problems as such would be instances where it would lead to traffic congestion and also further social problems; 

3. It should act as buffer to any persons that prevents incompatible or antagonistic people from coming into contact with or harming each other especially the young school girls studying at the school premises.

4. Once the commercial buildings be allowed to spring up then the parking facilities needed allocations for the employees at those premises and in a residential area certainly not feasible to allow for such developments as there would be massive traffic congestion.

5. There should be SLOPE allocations where every built up area for such upcoming commercial developments needed a necessary amount of spacing for approval but in such a development is there a space which could be allocated here.

6. Such compliance shall be followed within section 16 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1976 where such an approval or rejection of draft local plans should be allowed only after due consideration after the objections or representations which shall be modified accordingly and submitted to the Committee for approval. 

The proposed redevelopment is on the basis of "perniagaan dan perkhidmatan”. This proposal is vague and ambiguous.

Perniagaan means business and perkhidmatan means services. Now what type of business is proposed is not clear.? Is it shop lots are or a commercial complex and thus the residents are to guess on the proposed projects to take place.How many shop lots how big each lots?? How busy it would be? 

Perkhidmatan means service? What type of services has been proposed? Massage parlour services, snooker or the said area would be turned into and entertainment centre? All these must be made known for the objectors to clearly argue their case and put forward their grievances. But this was denied and thus unreasonable and unfair to the objectors as they have to play a guessing 
7. The school is the only girls’ school in that area and there is also a church next to the school. Currently the traffic flow is so heavy and there is already problems coping the volume of traffic and what more could be encountered should the development be allowed.

8. It would further lead to social problems where bad guys would be frequenting in that area and further encourage the social problems to increase in volume.

9. The adjoining area was also fenced up without further notice given by the relevant authorities and this is certainly a disappointment to those persons been affected in that area.

10. There was a recognition to promote “one child one sport” policy. How could it be implemented if the school does not even have a school field to call of its own thereby forcing the school has to look for other places to hold their activities elsewhere.

11. Under the Local Agenda 21, the local authorities should have gone to the ground to meet the residents in that area and find out the problems encountered by the surrounding residents where the authorities here have failed in their efforts to review the matter seriously and leading failure of justice. This failure todo consultations with stake holders is unacceptable.

Therefore the affected residents seriously hope that the planning authorities should view the plea of the residents and also that of the PTA of St. Philomena Tamil School with deep consideration where the residents affected hope for the proposed development to be cancelled. and be allowed for the approval to provide a space where the school and neighbours certainly deserves a field to hold their activities.

A win win formula is required here. Surely a commercial gains cannot and should be allowed to overtake the interest of our students and residents who want a quiet living.

M. Kula Segaran and Cheong Chee Khing

Monday, December 14, 2015

Unfazed, Kula presses his ICC and ATT briefs in Guyana


Unfazed, Kula presses his ICC and ATT briefs in Guyana


Terence Netto

13 Dec 2015, AM 11:23

Abortive may have been his quest to get Malaysia to sign on to a slew of international treaties aimed at keeping the peace, but DAP national vice-chair M Kulasegaran appears to have gained some headway abroad.

After attending a Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) meeting in El Salvador earlier this month, the MP for Ipoh Barat, who is secretary of the PGA chapter in Malaysia, made a detour to nearby Guyana, on the northern tip of South America.

He was pleasantly surprised to find that the Prime Minister was a fellow Tamilian, Moses Veerasamy Nagamoothu, a veteran journalist who took office in May after a long time as the opposition leader.

Guyana has a population of about 750,000, the majority being of Indo-Guyanese descent.

It is a former British colony and English is the official language.

In a 75-minute meeting with Nagamoothu on Dec 8 in the Guyanese capital of Georgetown, Kulasegaran pressed the case for Guyana's accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and for enlistment with the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), two instruments Malaysia signed up to join but is reluctant to ratify.

“He inquired about my involvement with the PGA and I took the opportunity to make the case for Guyana’s joining the ICC and ATT,” said the Ipoh barrister who returned last night from the trip.

“To my pleasant surprise Prime Minister Nagamoothu gave me his email address so that I can initiate the process of discussion towards Guyana’s eventual signing up and ratification of the two treaties,” he disclosed.

At the PGA conference in El Salvador, Kulasegaran was appointed to the board of the PGA which was a recognition of his efforts, albeit abortive, to get Malaysia to ratify the ICC and ATT treaties.

One hundred and twenty three countries have joined the ICC and 78 nations have enlisted wth the ATT and another 54 countries have signed but not ratified the treaty. Malaysia remains a signatory to both treaties, having balked at ratification.

In his talks with Nagamoothu, Kulasegaran was informed of the PM’s interest to visit Malaysia.

“I will convey his interest to the Prime Minister's Department here as I think there is much in the unexplored tourism industry in Guyana to interest Malaysian entrepreneurs,” he said.

Kulasegaran was interviewed on Radio Guyana during which he spoke of his pleasure at being able to visit the country whose racial diversity reminded him of his home country.

He said that ties between the Guyana and Malaysia should be forged for mutual benefit in tourism and mineral extraction.

Guyana is rich in bauxite and gold deposits.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

From Guyana, memorable echoes of Tamil

12-Dec-2015By YB M. Kula Segaran

Posted 11 Dec 2015

As a member and Secretary of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), Malaysian Chapter, I had the privilege of attending the recently concluded 37th PGA meeting hosted by the Parliament of El Salvador at their capital San Salvador. Parliamentarians from 140 countries are members of this august assembly.

The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘The Role of Parliamentarians in Support of Peace and Security’ with an overriding objective of promoting universality and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and separately, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC).

The author, YB M. Kula Segaran (fourth from left), a Member of the Malaysian Parliament with other Parliamentarians at the PGA

I have been a prime mover of the Arms Trade Treaty, which Malaysia has signed and I have been pressing Malaysia to sign up as a member of the International Criminal Court to benefit our people.

After a fruitful meeting at El Salvador, I was of the view that I should not return home after undertaking a painful 48 hours of journey without connecting with at least a part of my culture and ethnic brethren.

I had heard that the majority of people living in the nearby country of Guyana were Indians. Further, after the General Elections a politician from a Tamil descendant family had been elected as its Prime Minister.

It was enough motivation for me to visit Guyana and get a firsthand experience of the rich culture, its people and the natural bounty.

On landing at Georgetown, the capital, it was exciting to learn that Guyana is the third smallest country on mainland South America. The legacy of British rule is reflected in the country's diverse population, which includes Indian, African, Amerindian, and multiracial groups.

Guyana also has the distinction of being the only South American nation in which English is the official language. Guyana, a member of the British Commonwealth, got its independence from the United Kingdom on May 26, 1966 and became a republic on February 23, 1970.

The largest ethnic group in the country is the Indo-Guyanese (also known as East Indians), the descendants of indentured laborers from India, who make up 43.5 per cent of the population, according to the 2002 census.

They are followed by the Afro-Guyanese, the descendants of slaves from Africa, who constitute 30.2 per cent. Guyanese of mixed heritage make up 16.7 per cent, while the indigenous peoples (Amerindians) make up 9.1 per cent.

The Tamils from Tamil Nadu started arriving here from 1838 onwards.

Agriculture and mining are Guyana's most important economic activities, with sugar, bauxite, rice, and gold accounting for 70–75 per cent of export earnings. Other exports include timber, diamonds, garments, molasses, rum, and pharmaceuticals. There is a vast scope for developing the highly unexplored tourism industry.

Guyana’s Prime Minister, Hon. Moses Veerasamy Nagamootoo, a veteran journalist, and freedom fighter, had assumed office in May after a very long stint as the leader of the Opposition.

The PM has been in politics for a very long time having joined the freedom movement way back in 1964 at a tender age of 14 years.

We visited the PM’s humble office, which was a beautiful wooden building. Rev Father Britto SJ and Berk who hail from India and are serving in the local Church accompanied me. The meeting was not only warm, but very cordial.

The PM was equally excited by our presence and spoke on local and international issues. He inquired about my involvement in the PGA and I told him the significance of becoming a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).

The author with Prime Minister Moses Veerasamy Nagamootoo (left)

He was keen to start the process of discussion and eventual membership of the ICC and ATT. This gave me great satisfaction as these two issues are very closely connected to making the world more humane, just and peaceful.

I have now communicated this discussion to the PGA board, which will facilitate and work with the PM and his Government on these and other important issues undertaken by the PGA.

The PM acknowledged his ancestral connection with Tamil Nadu. He has written a book where he mentions the early settlement of Tamils as fishermen in Guyana. The PM also confirmed that his ancestral tombs had Tamil writings on it.

It was painful to see that Tamil language is hardly spoken in Guyana today and almost every Tamil has a mixed heritage now. Most of them have converted to Christianity, which has brought them closer to western culture.

I invited the PM to visit Malaysia. In principle he has agreed to visit Malaysia soon. I said I would officially convey to the Government of Malaysia about his intentions to visit Malaysia, as it could foster better understanding between the two countries and usher new business prospects.

I urged the PM to initiate a Tamil diaspora meeting and event in Guyana, as there are a sizeable number of Tamils in this part of the world especially in the West Indies like Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica etc. He was open to consider this idea and expressed the wish to visit India to explore his roots in Tamil Nadu.

He said that the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka has invited him to visit Jaffna to see the progress made by the new government. He empathized with the innocent Tamil victims of the civil war and hoped justice would be done to them.

I left Guyana with very pleasant memories and with hopes that Guyana and Malaysia would come closer to help each other.

YB M. Kula Segaran, an ethnic Tamil, is a Member of the Malaysian Parliament, and represents Ipoh Barat

Saturday, December 5, 2015


Recognizing the serious consequences of the inadequate regulation and oversight of the international
trade in conventional weapons
Taking note of the extensive panoply of international treaties and other agreements already in place
that seek to better regulate this trade, including the UN Programme of Action To Prevent, Combat and
Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects., the UN Firearms Protocol,
the International Tracing Instrument and the Arms Trade Treaty, as well as a number of Regional
Conventions worldwide that address the same challenges
Welcoming the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) on 2 April 2013 and its entry into force on 24
December, 2014
Welcoming Also the fact that 130 countries signed the ATT within the prescribed period and that, to
date, 78 UN Member States have ratified it and recalling with appreciation that Members of PGA have
played an important role in the domestic processes leading to 32 of the 78 ratifications to date of the
Arms Trade Treaty
Mindful of the importance, and many ways, that Members of Parliament can play in promoting
adherence to these international treaties and agreements by our respective governments
Mindful also of the importance of involving women in a prominent way, and at all levels, in the
negotiation processes leading to the ratification and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, given the
disproportionate negative impact of the illicit trade in conventional weapons on women
Recognizing Also the essential role that international and regional organizations, civil society as well as
other concerned stakeholders can play in providing information, advice and expertise to more
effectively address the inadequate regulation of the international arms trade
Acknowledging the importance of taking a holistic approach, mutually supportive steps at the national,
regional and international level to better regulate and control the trade in arms
Determined to improve the safety of our cities, the security of our peoples and to promote peaceful
societies, in accordance with Goals 11 and 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United

We, Members of Parliament from 50 countries worldwide gathered at PGA’s 37th Annual Forum, will
take one or more of the following steps, as appropriate, upon conclusion of this Annual Forum
1) Reach out to our colleagues in Government to encourage greater and improved compliance with
international treaties and agreements regulating transfer of conventional weapons, in
particular to promote ratification and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty in our
respective countries
2) Convene Committee, Sub-Committee Meetings or Caucus Meetings in our respective
Parliaments as a means of highlighting the important, and often essential, role that
Parliamentarians can play in promoting improved oversight of the export and import of
conventional weapons and their use
3) Reach out to media outlets in our respective countries to publicize our efforts to promote
improved regulation of the transfer of small arms and light weapons and to promote ratification
and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, highlighting its importance for all
4) Undertake to ensure that the victims of inadequate regulation of the international arms trade
are properly taken into account in the ratification and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty
5) Undertake Also to advocate for the destruction of any weapons that may be confiscated or
seized in the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty
6) Commit to share this Plan of Action with the Speakers of Parliament of all countries, including
the major arms exporting countries, that have not yet become a State Party to the Arms Trade
Treaty to encourage them to take this step and to also properly implement the Arms Trade
7) Consult further with PGA to develop national road maps or additional strategies to promote
ratification and implementation of the ATT in our respective countries and keep in contact with
and inform PGA within 2 months of the conclusion of this Annual Forum of steps we have taken
pursuant to this Plan of Action
8) Express our sincere appreciation to the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador and PGA for their
organization of this Annual Forum as well as to sponsor organizations and governments who
generously supported this event
Done this 30th day of November, 2015 in San Salvador

37th Annual Parliamentary Forum: 'The Role of Parliamentarians in Support of Peace and Security'

San Salvador, El Salvador - 30th November 2015 and 1st December 2015

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) is a network of more than 1200 parliamentarians from over 140 countries worldwide mobilized to use their legislative and political prerogatives for the solution of problems of international concern.
PGA convenes a high-level parliamentary forum on an annual basis, bringing together Parliamentarians from around the globe to exchange best practices and identify concrete steps they can take, collectively and individually, to effectively address problems with a global reach. 
PGA members are afforded an invaluable and unique opportunity during PGA Annual Fora to interact with other PGA members worldwide, as well as other parliamentarians who are not members of PGA, together with government officials and high-level experts from, inter alia, civil society and intergovernmental organisations.
Since 2000, PGA's Annual Fora have been held in Canada, Colombia, Dominican Rep., Ireland, Italy, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey and United States of America, as well as at United Nations Headquarters.
PGA's 37th Annual Forum | El Salvador | 30th November 2015 and 1st December 2015
The 37th session of PGA's Annual Parliamentary Forum was hosted by the Parliament of El Salvador from November 30- December 1, 2015.
The subject matter of this year's Annual Forum was 'The Role of Parliamentarians in Support of Peace and Security' with an overriding objective of promoting universality and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and, separately, the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). 
An additional goal of this year's Annual PGA Forum will be to identify linkages between the inadequate control/oversight/regulation of arms/weapons exports/imports on the one hand and the recent, serious up-tick in gang and gang-related violence in Latin America, including in El Salvador, on the other. 
In so doing, an assessment was made on how adherence to the ATT and other relevant international agreements/treaties may contribute, directly and/or indirectly, to positively addressing this grave situation.

Arms Trade Treaty (ATT)
Within the framework of its Campaign for Universality and Implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), and under the aegis of PGA's Peace & Democracy Programme, PGA Members have played an important role in support of peace and security by moving the ATT signature process forward in 44 of the 130 Countries worldwide that signed the ATT within the period prescribed by the this Treaty, prior to its entry into force on 24th December, 2014 and have also contributed in a measurable way to the processes leading up to, and whereby, 30 of the 75 Countries have ratified this seminal treaty to date.
Further information on PGA's Campaign for Universality and Implementation of the ATT may be found here
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC)
PGA launched its Global Parliamentary Campaign for Universality and Implementation of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Conventionon the second day of its Annual Forum this year.
The BWC of 1972 was the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the production of an entire category of weapons. 
The Convention was the result of prolonged efforts by the international community to establish a new instrument that would supplement the 1925 Geneva Protocol. 
The Geneva Protocol prohibits use, but not possession or development of chemical and biological weapons.
In recent months/years, and in the wake of the evolution of more sophisticated/complex terrorism threats and actions, a concomitant and renewed interest in ensuring greater global participation and implementation of the BWC has rapidly emerged.
In contrast to the Chemical Weapons Convention, the BWC has no verification mechanism and negotiations on the creation of such a mechanism have not proved successful to date.
Until such time as it may be possible for more formal verification mechanisms to be put in place, PGA believes that Parliamentarians, in exercising their unique powers/prerogatives of oversight, accountability and control over the actions of the executive branch of government, have an essential, but, to date, under-utilized, role to play in addressing – at least in part –this challenge.  
More broadly, during this year of the 40th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the BWC, and in anticipation of the 8th BWC Review Conference in December 2016, PGA is of the view that an important window of opportunity exists to mobilize its Members and other Parliamentarians worldwide to actively promote universality (new ratifications) and domestic implementation of the BWC. 
PGA also has an active Membership in 14 countries, in Africa, the Pacific Islands and Asia, not yet States Parties to the BWC.
Deliberations and Plan of Actions adopted at the conclusion of PGA Annual Fora have subsequently informed and inspired/resulted in key initiatives and activities of Lawmakers from around the world seeking to address some of the most intractable challenges facing the international community today. 
Joint Annual Meeting of PGA Executive Committee and International Council
On the occasion of the Annual Forum, the International Council and the Executive Committee (the Board) of PGA also held their annual joint meeting. 
The International Council and the Board are the governing and monitoring bodies of the PGA global parliamentary network.
Participants in Annual Forum
All democratically elected Parliaments worldwide have received from the President of the Chamber of Representatives of El Salvador, Hon. Lorena Peña, and the President of PGA, Dip. Minou Tavarez Mirabal (Dominican Republic) a written invitation to attend the 37th Annual Forum.
Parliamentary delegations were primarily composed of legislators working directly on peace-related topics, foreign affairs, defense, human rights, trade, justice, development and conflict management.
Speakers were invited to lead their respective Delegations and/or to appoint relevant Parliamentarians.
The Forum also invited all Members of PGA to attend, especially via its membership’s representative organ, the International Council, and via PGA’s executive organ, the Board (or Executive Committee).
Government Officials, NGOs and experts
The 37th Annual Forum benefited from attendance of El Salvadorian government officials. Selected NGOs representatives and experts were also invited to attend the Forum

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Rights advocates in M’sia should enlarge their minds and hearts

Ronald Benjamin

22 Nov 2015, PM 8:00

It is quite interesting to note as reported in online media, that Bersih has called the United States hypocritical in supporting authoritarian leaders. It is surprising that Bersih has taken a long time to understand that in reality, the US is more concerned about geopolitical and economic designs rather than democracy and human rights.

While US President Barack Obama and British PM David Cameron may come from democracies that practices transparency, it is their forefathers of democracy who created democratic foundations, and certainly not these leaders who are global authoritarians and imperialists that one should seek support to pressure Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak to come clean on human rights and corruption.

One has to congratulate Cynthia Gabriel from anti-corruption watchdog C4 for at least discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Human rights advocates such as Bersih should understand that there is something called hegemonic politics where leaders, whether authoritarian or democratic, will be targeted for regime change if they are not part or supportive of exclusive self-seeking imperial designs of the West or regional powers associated with it.

Saddam Hussein was toppled because of oil and he could not fit into the hegemonic politics of the US, Israel and US corporate lust for oil. Bashar Assad seems to be too close to Iran so he had to be disposed off, using his flaws as a dictator as a premise for regime change. Authoritarian Iran seems to be the consistent target of hawks in the US and Britain for its anti-Israel policies.

If one looks at the situation in West Asia, America and Britain are basically on the side of authoritarian leaders who have oppressed their own people, and paradoxically trying to topple authoritarian leaders who do not sing to their tune.

If the United States and Britain really care for human rights, they will not have Saudi Arabia as its ally, which is the greatest violator of human rights such as freedom of religion and expression, besides being an extremist nation which is the bedrock of the Sunni extremist movement in the Middle East.

Currently the US is providing weapons and military support for Saudi airstrikes in Yemen. Thousands of people are dead due to this war. The US, Britain and Saudi Arabia, in their endeavour to topple Bashar Assad at all costs, increased the sale of weapons in Syria, resulting in the growth of the uncontrolled barbaric organisation called IS or Islamic State, that has killed scores of Christians and Shiites in that country.

Today this brutal organisation has turned global without borders. Aren’t the rights to life and dignity the cornerstone of human rights? Is it not right to assert that narrow domestic focus of human rights could play into the hands of hypocrites like Obama and Cameron as they strategise the imperial design for Asean?

This clearly shows issues are indeed complex and not just about whether a leader is democratic or not. It is obvious that advocates of human rights in Malaysia should enlarge their minds and hearts to complexities of issues, so that they could appear credible and consistent in opposing both authoritarianism and imperialism which are antitheses to human rights.

Islamic ideology and its desire to control and dominate are linked to these twin forms of oppression that we see in the world today.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

PGA Parliamentary Roundtable and Consultations on the Abolition of the Mandatory Death Penalty in Malaysia

November 23, 2015 | Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Roundtable, co-hosted on Tuesday, November 17th by H.E. Min. Dato Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz (Malaysia), Chair of PGA National Group and Minister of Culture and Tourism, was organised in the framework of PGA’s Global Parliamentary Platform for the abolition of the death penalty, created to support, enhance and maximise the impact of individual initiatives of parliamentarians worldwide on the abolition of the death penalty. Through the Parliamentary Platform, PGA also launched targeted campaigns in selected countries, including Malaysia, to raise awareness among Parliamentarians, strengthen political will and provide technical assistance for parliamentary initiatives on this issue
The Roundtable organised on 17 November 2015 was the outcome of several consultations held with PGA Members in Malaysia, as well as other parliamentarians, who helped conducting a first assessment of the death penalty situation in Malaysia as well as challenges to abolition. As such, in early June 2015, PGA had organisedConsultations on the abolition of the death penalty and the fight against impunity to present the PGA Parliamentary Campaign against the death penalty and elaborate strategies with PGA members to launch the abolition process. During the meeting, PGA Members, including H.E. Min. Nazri and H.E. Hon. Min. Nancy Shukri (Malaysia), Vice-Chair of PGA National Group and Minister of Law, highlighted their interest and support to work on this important issue and committed to organise a Parliamentary Seminar on this topic in November.
The Roundtable which took place in the Parliament of Malaysia on 17 November gathered more than 60 participants, in particular Malaysian and international MPs, high-level national authorities and stakeholders as well as experts and representatives of the international community. The roundtable aimed to analyse the situation of the national and international legal frameworks of the death penalty, as well as the particular situation of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences and firearms offences. The Roundtable was also designed to identify the role and contribution of Parliamentarians on this important issue, as well as strategies and measures to overcome any identified obstacle and challenge to abolition of the death penalty.

During the Opening SessionHon. Nazri, MP (Malaysia), Minister of Tourism and Chair of the PGA National Group, welcomed all the participants and expressed his support to PGA Campaign on the abolition of the death penalty. He highlighted that such issues should be discussed openly within Parliaments, and noted that there was a growing movement towards abolition in Malaysia, among parliamentarians but also the public and State officials, recalling his own support to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty when he was the Law Minister in 2011. Hon. Nazri said that one of the most important challenge at the political level was the public opinion, and added that it was now the State’s responsibility to show compassion and forgiveness to offenders, considering that the crimes are considered offences against the State. He underlined the responsibility and role of parliamentarians to have a concrete impact towards a society more respectful of human rights and human dignity, and declared that he personally believed that the mandatory death penalty should not be maintained and that he would introduce or support any bill introduced in this regard.
Hon. Shukri, MP (Malaysia), Minister of Law and Vice-Chair of the PGA Malaysia Group informed the participants that a draft amendment to the law on the death penalty had been prepared in order to remove the mandatory death penalty, an objective she could fully commit to. She considered that the aforementioned bill could be presented next year, and welcomed the organisation of the Roundtable, which provided a key forum to exchange and gather support on this issue.
Hon. Melissa Parke, MP (Australia), Chair of PGA Australia Group, presented PGA and its Global Parliamentary Platform for the abolition of the death penalty. She underlined the already existing movement towards abolition in Malaysia, particularly under the leadership of PGA Members who repeatedly expressed their strong interest and political will in achieving abolition of the death penalty. She also reminded the role of Parliamentarians in drafting and amending legislation and shaping national policies.
As the final remarks of the Opening Ceremony, H.E. Luc Vandebon, Head of the EU Delegation to Malaysia, recalled the position of The European Union on the death penalty, which is one of the main objectives of its human rights policy worldwide as it considers it to be a cruel, inhuman and irreversible punishment and thus has made its abolition. He welcomed initiatives involving parliamentarians who should be at the forefront of abolition reforms in order to secure ownership and meaningful support to achieve the process.  
The first session, dedicated to the Situation of the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia, was chaired by Hon. Nazri and focused on the relevant legal framework, the impact of the mandatory death penalty, the challenges to abolition and the role and contribution of Parliamentarians.
Hon. Justice Datuk Mah Weng Kwai, a retired Judge of the Court of Appeal, first reminded all participants that the aims of justice should not be vengeance. He then proceeded with a comprehensive presentation of the legal framework of the capital punishment in Malaysia, including both mandatory and discretionary death penalty. Under Malaysian law, the death penalty is thus mandatory for treason (Article 12A, Penal Code), murder (Article 302, Penal Code), firearms offences (Articles 57(1) and 59  of the Internal Security Act, as well as Articles 3 and 3A of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act) and drug-trafficking (Article 39B, Dangerous Drugs Act).  He also presented the crimes punishable with discretionary death penalty, that is some offences linked to treason (Article 121, Penal Code), mutiny (Article 132, Penal Code), giving false evidence to procure conviction of a capital offence (Article 194, Penal Code), abetment of suicide (Article 305, Penal Code), offences resulting in death or with intent to kill (Articles 307(2), 364 and 376(4), Penal Code), gang-robbery with murder (Article 396, Penal Code) and trafficking in firearms (Article 7(1), Firearms Act). With regards to the impact of the mandatory death penalty in Malaysian courts, Hon. Justice Datuk Mah Weng Kwai stressed that as a recently retired Judge, his experience was that most judges are in support of the reintroduction of their powers to decide on the relevant sentence.
The subsequent presentation by Hon. Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, MP (Malaysia) and PGA Member, stressed that the irrevocable character of the mandatory death penalty was a major issue considering the possibility for judicial mistakes, and declared that he personally did not believe that the mandatory death penalty had a deterrent effect. He thus recommended a Human Rights approach to the death penalty, while moving away from the idea of retribution and revenge.. He added that public policies should not be dictated by public opinion only and that it is the role of parliamentarians to act as visionaries and lead the society away from revenge and retaliation. Hon. Iskandar declared that he would support and promote the adoption of a bill abolishing the death penalty for drug-trafficking and firearms-related offences.
Lord Jeremy Purvis of Tweed, MP (United Kingdom) and Member of the UK All Parliamentary Group on the abolition of the death penalty, welcomed in his intervention the initiative to discuss the issue of the death penalty in the Parliament, underlining that it is the role of Parliamentarians to represent the best interests of the public, even when the issue seems to be contrary to the public opinion. He explained to all participants the abolition process in the United Kingdom, which was the result of long parliamentary campaigns, examining best practices and lessons learnt. He notably underlined that the process had been carried out in several stages, as discussed for Malaysia, and that abolition of the death penalty was achieved after a first reduction of the capital offences and two attempts in Parliament. Lord Purvis also recalled that at that time the public opinion was still in favour of retention and thus encouraged parliamentarians to focus on leading public opinion rather than following it.
Finally, Mr. Parvais Jabbar, Co-Executive Director of the Death penalty Project, emphasised that although there is a general trend to abolish the death penalty in Malaysia, the punishment still exists and there are many challenges to its abolition. He also mentioned the survey conducted in 2013 on the public opinion in Malaysia by the Death Penalty Project, with the support of the Malaysian Bar, SUHAKAM, HAKAM and the University of Malaya. Interestingly, he explained that when asking the question regarding the most effective way to deal with offences committed in Malaysia, the respondents generally put the death sentence as their last choice, after a better moral education and more effective policies.
The second session was entitled Towards the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences and chaired byHon. Kula Segaran, MP (Malaysia) and Secretary of PGA National Group.
Hon. Liew Chin Tong, MP (Malaysia) introduced the session by reaffirming his strong commitment to abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia. He underlined his concern regarding the lack of transparency on the number of convicted persons as well as on those in death row. As a parliamentarian he highlighted the necessity to use their prerogatives of parliamentary control of government to ask questions on the situation of the death penalty in Malaysia and encourage relevant reforms.
Mr. Philipp Hadorn, MP (Switzerland) gave a comprehensive presentation on the arguments generally invoked to retain the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences, while presenting counter-arguments.He also presented a comparative analysis of drug-related offences and their punishment in South-Eastern Asia, revealing that the amount of drugs that established a presumption of drug-trafficking – and thus punishable with death penalty – was generally lower in Malaysia compared to the others countries.
The last intervention of this session was given by Datuk Dr. Khaw Lake Tee, Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (SUHAKAM), who reaffirmed the right of every individual to life, to be free from torture as well as from cruel and degrading treatment, in particular for those waiting for years to be executed. She presented the position of the SUHAKAM, which opposed the death penalty but as it is a long process, strongly advocates for the instatement of a moratorium on executions pending abolition of the death penalty. SUHAKAM has also requested the commutation of death sentences for prisoners that have been in death rows for more than 5 years, considering that it is in line with many international human rights guidelines, standards and instruments
The last session was chaired by Hon. Thomas Su, MP (Malaysia) and Treasurer of PGA National Group, and dedicated to the abolition of the mandatory death penalty for firearms offences.
The session started with a presentation given by Mr. Steven Thiru, President of the Malaysian Bar. He started by mentioning the successive resolutions passed by the Malaysian Bar calling for the abolition of the death penalty, including mandatory. He then comprehensively explained the national legal framework on the death penalty for firearms offences, reminding that the capital punishment for firearms offences does not need them to result in death. He declared this fact unacceptable; as individuals can be convicted for offences where there was no intention to kill and that did not result in any death. Mr. Thiru thus called for, at least, the abolition of the mandatory death penalty so as to leave the appreciation of the facts to the discretion of the judges, even where there was intention to kill.  
Hon. Kasthuri Patto, MP (Malaysia), Secretary of the Women’s Caucus of the Malaysian Parliament and PGA Member, gave the last presentation and underlined the unfairness of the mandatory death penalty, stating it did not leave any space for justice and discussions in courts and adding that State-killing would never solve the problem of firearms offences. She welcomed Hon. Nazri’s commitment to ensure that the mandatory death penalty is abolished, and deplored the current status of the law, which provides for a very high burden of proof on the accused.
During the roundtable, the participants and panellist presented several argument in favour of abolition, namely the irreversibility of the punishment, the fact that it is contrary to shared human values of respect for human life, that it can be considered as torture and that the mandatory death penalty excludes all possibilities of redemption and rehabilitation. All panellists and most of the participants, in particular Hon. Tian Chang Chua, MP (Malaysia) thus called for a moratorium on executions, stating that it would otherwise be unfair for people to be executed while there were consensus and intentions among the Government, the Parliament and the public that the death penalty should be removed.
Similarly, they all declared that the issue of the public opinion was one of the main argument to retain the death penalty, but considered that there would actually  be no strong public objection to the removal of the mandatory death penalty, in particular in light of the Death Penalty Project’s Survey, which showed that respondents were prone to take mitigating and aggravating circumstances into account. In this regard, all participants recommended to raise awareness among the general public and educate the youth on the mandatory death penalty. They also strongly condemned the mandatory death sentence for firearms offences, considering that the mandatory death penalty for these offences was a formal preventive punishment, as people could be convicted without the actual commission of a crime and without established intention to commit such crime.
In general, during the roundtable, all participants agreed that the abolition of the death penalty altogether was the main objective, and that abolition of the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences and firearms offences was only a first step that would start the abolition process in Malaysia. They considered that the failure to take into account different circumstances and characteristics of each case rendered the capital punishment arbitrary and disproportionate, whereas it was necessary to protect the individuals from the arbitrary deprivation of life, considering it would otherwise amount to a violation of due process. They thus all acknowledged the importance for the judges to exercise discretionary powers should the death penalty not be fully abolished, as well as the necessity to halt all executions of inmates currently on death row until a review of the mandatory death penalty was conducted and achieved. The necessity for discretionary sentencing was particularly highlighted, as they emphasised that the mandatory death penalty had strong impacts on vulnerable individuals such as women and migrant workers. The participants expressed as well their opinion that the death penalty was a cruel punishment – even more so when mandatory – contrary to international Human Rights standards, particularly considering that drug-related offences and firearms offences did not meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’ as set out in the ICCPR.
The participants all acknowledged that the death penalty had no deterrent effect, whatever the crime, as there was no empirical evidence that it prevented the commission of crimes and that it was a stronger deterrent than imprisonment sentences. Furthermore, they added that it was costly for the criminal justice system, considering that there were additional expenses such as pre-trials and appeals, lengthy incarcerations, retrial and resentencing. They admitted that, as a leading country in the region, Malaysia should move away from it.
The participants thus highlighted the necessity for parliamentarians to act as leaders, use their political and legislative prerogatives to raise awareness, inform and educate on this issue to overcome the obstacles and challenges identified and to take the necessary measures to definitely abolish it.
As a result, during the Strategic Discussion on priority topics andAgreement on Strategies and Actions, a Declaration was adopted by the participants, including Pledges and an Action Plan was suggested as the way forward, which includes the following points:
  • To support the introduction by H.E. Hon. Nancy Shukri of a bill aiming at the abolition of the mandatory death penaltyfor all offences and maximum term of life for drug related offenses and to consider a review of existing death row cases which resulted from the imposition of the mandatory death penalty;
  • To create a working group under the leadership of the PGA National Group Chair in order to proactively engage with their fellow parliamentarians and other stakeholders to achieve national and multi-partisan consensus to remove the barriers towards abolition and ensure better standards for its use as well as to promote the drafting a study on the effectiveness of the death penalty;
  • To generate support and request our Government to instate an official moratorium on executions pending the assessment of the report on effectiveness of the death penalty;
  • To urge the Malaysian Government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in particular its Second Optional Protocol and to remove the reservation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child allowing for capital punishment for children to properly reflect the position of the law under the Child Act of 2001.
At the end of the roundtable, the situation of Mr. Kho Jabing, a Malaysian national sentenced to death in Singapore was presented by his legal representative and his family. Mr. Kho Jabing was to be executed on November 6 as his clemency petition was denied by the President but benefitted from a last minute postponement. His mother and sister, with the assistance of an MP from their constituency exposed their situation and exchanged with participants on the actions to be taken to save his life. Take action to stop his execution.