Sarawak papers take on AFP

Two Sarawak newspapers have accused French news agency AFP of being “foreign instigators” responsible for Penan blockades in Sarawak. (For details as to how the AFP journalists had “instigated the Penans”, please read Malaysiakini.)

Here’s the background: The two newspapers are Borneo Post and See Hua Daily News. These are two wide-circulated newspapers and they both are sub-companies of the well-connected timber conglomerate KTS Group.

KTS Group and the government-linked company Sarawak Timber Industry Development Corporation (STIDC or Pusaka) have formed Pusaka-KTS Forest Plantation Sdn Bhd which have set up an acacia and eucalyptus plantation within the native customary rights (NCR) land of the Penans.

This has affected 3,000 people from more than 20 villages in the Apoh- Tutoh area. The Penans rely on the forest for survival and the Penans claim that this move by PKTS, which was done without their consent, has affected their food-gathering. And besides, no one is supposed to touch NCR land without approval.

The issue of credibility and objectivity: There is every likelihood that the reports by the two Sarawak newspapers will be seen as being politically and economically motivated to suit the needs and goals of the parent company. And so a story like this is bound to reinforce the notion that the political powers and the economic movers in Sarawak are beyond reproach.

At the same time, the action of the AFP journalists, which may seem insignificant when seen in a wider angle, raises the question of how involved should a journalist be with a story or should the journalist be involved at all.

The cardinal rule has always been – get the story and don’t be the story.

The Sarawak newspapers are also guilty of that – in that there is now a news story on Malaysiakini about their news coverage. Some media organizations are instructed to fight battles for their political masters – and this happens all over the world.

In the case of Sarawak, certain influential people in the state probably smelt a rat behind the AFP journalists’ action and wanted to get rid of them.

The French and several other European nations may have had a hidden agenda behind their barrage of criticisms over Sarawak’s timber and oil palm industry and that the state government had to go on a months- long campaign to clean its image.

But this is irrelevant at this point in time and the issue is far too complex for us to figure out who is right and who is wrong.

The issue here is plain and simple: the two Sarawak dailies should report matters as they are so as to maintain their credibility and the AFP journalists should do what they are paid to do – report.

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Plight of the Penans

In 2007, a 16-year-old student from Long Kawi, a Penan settlement in Middle Baram, claimed that she became pregnant after being raped, while returning to SMK Long Lama, her boarding school. She gave birth last year.

The Star newspaper reported that the schoolgirl had hitched a ride with a logging company vehicle on the last day of the school holiday. She was forced to stay a night in a logging camp. She says that night, she was dragged to some bushes behind the camp and raped by a man, whom she believed had been drinking.

This is not the only case. There are many others as reported here in The Star and here in the Bruno Manser Foundation website.

Sarawak state leaders denied the reports and claimed there was an international conspiracy to discredit the Sarawak government.

In November last year, the Federal Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development sent a team to investigate the allegations.

The report has been completed but it has been withheld by the federal government despite earlier promises of making the report public.

There was to be a joint police-NGO mission to probe the allegations but a Malaysiakini report today says that the police had reportedly told the NGOs that the force will not be able to hold its part of the bargain because of a lack of money. Malaysiakini report here.

Sarawak Criminal Investigation Department chief ACP Huzir Mohamed said the state contingent could only find and allocate RM100,000 for the investigation, which would cover only the expenses of the police personnel. He said the money would not be sufficient to cover the costs of Malay-Penan translators who would play an essential role in the investigations of the alleged rapes.

The CID chief did not elaborate in the kind of expenses the police would incur that would require all of the allocated RM100,000. Translators would hardly need

Meanwhile, according to Chee How of Hornbill Unleased here, the Sarawak government has arranged for transportation to pick up Penan students from school, before school term commences, and to return them home when the school term ends.

The Penans, however, are saying that there has been no such arrangement.

The Penan children have three options as far as transport is concerned:

  1. Those who go to the SMK Long Lama get to travel home and back twice a year through a bus service arranged by the school – but only twice a year and only one school seems to be doing that
  2. There is private transport but the trip one-way can cost between RM400 and RM500 for the two-hour or so journey.
  3. Most students wait by the roadside for the passing lorry or vehicle belonging to logging companies. It can take up to two days to travel this way – a student from Long Item, one of the Penan settlements, would have to wait all day by the roadside for such a vehicle and sometimes come back the next day to finally get to hop onto to a passing vehicle because these vehicles may not travel daily. Then the student would be dropped off at the village Ba Abang, stay overnight there and follow the kids from this village the following day by walking for two hours. Then they travel by boar for another two hours to get to their school.

It is during the travel by the logging company vehicles that the female students allegedly get raped.

This is Malaysia, folks. Students taking two days to get to school, police having no money to do a rape probe while money is going to be poured in by the thousands for Permatang Pasir by-election as it has been with the other by-elections.

Happy Merdeka!

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Not in our backyard

Sunday Star did a feature today on the viability of nuclear as an alternative source of power to oil and gas.

The lead story focused on two notable environmentalists who are strong advocates of the nuclear power – James Lovelock, a British environmentalist in his 90s and Bruno Comby, a 48-year-old French nuclear engineer.

Comby gave the interview via phone and he says the world should quickly embrace the nuclear energy otherwise civilisation will disappear.

His view was echoed by the Atomic Energy Licensing Board’s director-general Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan who believes the AELB will be able to regulate and ensure the safety operations dealing with nuclear power and radioactivity.

This is the AELB which had given approval for the setting up a rare earth processing plant in Bukit Merah, Ipoh years ago. The AELB that kept quiet when the people of Bukit Merah and its surrounding areas had severe effects on their health due to the radiation from the waste material from the factory – some even died.

The very same that has now approved another rare earth processing plant – by Lynas Malaysia – which will come into operation next month in Gebeng, Kuantan.

Here’s a bit of a background on Comby. He is a nuclear engineer for the top nuclear firm in France – Electricite de France (EdF). The Paris-based EDF Group ranks as the largest electrical utility in the world. It operates 58 nuclear reactors

Last September, EdF bought Britain’s leading nuke energy company – British Energy – and is about to move to US via the American Constellation Energy Nuclear Group.

EdF is now eyeing Malaysia – it’s offered to help build Malaysia’s first nuke power plant.

One of the sidebar’s to the story in Sunday Star has Elizabeth Wong, Selangor exco for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and Environment, strongly opposing any move to set up a nuke plant.

Then there were comments from Datuk Dr Ronald McCoy – a Malaysian environmentalist based who once led the group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. He basically said how can you trust a government that does not know how to build a stadium to ensure there will be no nuke leakages and be able to dispose waste properly.

Nuclear waste is an enormously difficult problem which to date no country has solved. Even France, the country where at least 80% of energy source is nuclear energy, has problems with waste. This despite the fact that their engineering is a point of national pride.

You can view Greenpeace’s concern in this video clip called ‘Would you like some nuclear waste in your champagne’.
So much for safe power.

There will be a public forum on nuclear energy this Tuesday at 7.30pm at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, KL. 

Please go and and find out how some people are gambling with our lives for a fistful of dollars.



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BJ study a hoax!

Mr Wong alerted me to the fact that the study on fellatio resulting in fewer breast cancer cases was a hoax.

Brandon Williamson, a student at North Carolina State University, apparently had written the phony CNN story as a joke and intended that it would be seen by only a few friends.

CNN and AFP were miffed.

Mr Wong says:  “This was a hoax report written by NCSU student Brandon Williamson back in 2003. It was ranked as top 25 urban legends then. Anyway, fella got into so much trouble with CNN that he retracted the article. Though it’s a good excuse which i don’t mind. My apologies for busting this but i don’t mind if my lady friend swallowing. It’s their choice.”

What a relief ! Looks like there is no need to add semen to my list of daily dose “supplements”. Thanks, Mr Wong.



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Scarred by the courts

Each time a 15-year-old girl looks at the mirror, she is reminded of how someone at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital administered a drip on the left side of her face by mistake when she was only a 65 days old.

This girl has a horrible scar on her face and her schoolmates tease her all ime and she comes home crying, her mother said in today’s The Star (Pg25).  

About 11 years ago, her parents sued  hospital, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s medical faculty dean and the Government for negligence.

Yesterday, the High Court reduced the damages award from RM60,000 to RM30,000.

The mother was emotional outside the courtroom. She wanted to get facial reconstruction done on her daughter.

A mere RM30,000 after 15 years of living with a horrible scar on the face that would not have been there if the hospital staff had not been negligent.

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Swallow it, ladies, it’s good for you

This is just the kind of news you guys have been waiting for …

A study shows that women who perform a fellatio (blow-job) and swallow the semen have a lower risk of getting breast cancer.

A friend sent me an Oct 2, 2003 report by AP that says women who do this on a regular basis, one to two times a week, may reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 40%.

The study by the North Carolina State University was done on over 15,000 women suspected of having performed regular fellatio and swallowed the ejaculatory fluid over the past ten years.

“Only with regular occurance will your chances be reduced, so I encourage all women out there to make fellatio an important part of their daily routine,” said Dr. Helena Shifteer, one of the researchers at the University.

“Since the emergence of the research, I try to fellate at least once every other night to reduce my chances.”

The study is reported in the Journal of Medical Research.

Almost every woman is, at some point, going to perform the act of fellatio, but it is the frequency at which this event occurs that makes the difference, say researchers. Also key seems to be the protein and enzyme count in the semen, but researchers are again waiting for more test data.

“The findings do suggest that there are other causes for breast cancer besides the absence of regular fellatio,” Shafteer said. “It’s a cause, not THE cause.”

… I’m speechless – and not because my mouth is full but because the research seems a little hard to swallow but there could be some truth to it.


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A big name likely to join DAP

A retired high ranking government officer – a Malay – is likely to join DAP, according to a source close to the retiree.

This will be an interesting development because the civil service (and this includes the retirees) has always been seen as Umno territory and for an opposition party, especially a Chinese-dominated one, to have inroads is a clear breakthrough.

Sure, the person in question is no longer in the civil service but he was a prominent enough official and should he join DAP, he will send shock waves.


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Air in a balloon

Public opinion is like the air in a balloon. If you squeeze the balloon, the air will find a way out – either pop up in another spot or cause the balloon to burst.

I remember of a story of a woman who sold nasi lemak in Kajang during the early Reformasi days. Her nasi lemak was so laku – not so much for the nasi lemak. It was the wrapper that her customers wanted. Someone downloaded postings from mahafiraun and freeanwar sites (remember those?) and photostated them. This woman used these photocopies to wrap the nasi lemak.

My students are telling me about how some young people are using seemingly innocent websites to slip in political comments.

Then, there is the YouTube. Just as long as it is in video, it is bound to end up on YouTube. It can be hard-hitting or hilarious like this one by Comedy Court.

People WILL find a way to express themselves. They will either find a way around the Internet filter or resort to anarchy.

But Information, Communication and Culture Minister Rais Yatim does not seem to understand this fact. Otherwise he would not have proposed that Malaysia study the Green Dam plan to block out “undesirable websites” with the view to implement it at a later stage. Read here

Green Dam is the censorship software the Chinese government wanted to make mandatory for all PCs sold in the country as of July 1.

There are two major problems with this software:

  1. It blocks out material and content deemed sensitive by the powers-that-be — as if there aren’t enough controls and censorship already
  2. It allow malicious sites to steal private data, send spam, or enlist the computer in a botnet (usually associated with malicious software). The way Green Dam processes blacklist updates allows the software makers or others to install malicious code during the update process.

Interestingly, the Chinese authorities have indefinitely postponed the Green Dam plan – postponed, not cancelled.

The Chinese authorities were a lot of pressure from various trade groups, US, European and Japanese chambers of commerce, and the US National Association of Manufacturers, which sent a letter of protest against the measure, claiming it “raises significant questions of security, privacy, system reliability, the free flow of information and user choice.”

China is now regarded as the region’s role model for Internet controls. So what China does, the others tend to follow like Vietnam, Burma, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

The Malaysian government now wants to impose Internet filters when they promised they would not. It is clearly a sign of desperation. How many more can they continue to impose and how much can they control?

The public today is not the public of the 1950s. My granny used to vote for the Alliance and then the Barisan. She never wanted to vote for any other party because she was afraid they would find out and deport her to India – she left India in 1910 with her parents.

Each year, the Sultan of Pahang Sultan Abu Bakar would hold an open house in conjunction of his birthday and my granny would be there because she felt it was her duty. And she never condoned any negative talk about the royalty or the government. She is the product of a feudalistic conditioning which started in India and once she became an adult in Malaya, as a natural progression, she gave unwavering loyalty to the powers-that-be. Total submission.

The media in the 50s, 60s and to an extent 70s reinforced this – the then state-owned media told you how to vote, told you about the primary health care service, how to keep your surroundings clean, the need to send your children to school, Buku Hijau, how to live in harmony, etc. The media then told what to do, how to behave and how to think. And the people, like my granny, were comfortable with that. Their only source of knowledge and information was from the government.

This generation of people does not exist anymore. But the government is still speaking to us in this old manner through the state-controlled media. Like Raja Nazrin here.

The government’s method of engaging / addressing the public and methods used to gratify the insatiable need to control the minds of the people have not changed – but the people have. In other words, the government is shooting blanks because the people are not responding the way they used to years ago.

People are finding different ways of expressing themselves and the government does not know what to do. The convenient solution apparently is to impose more controls.

What happens if these controls push the people to anarchy? As it is a mere 30,000-strong peaceful march has made them sh*t in their pants. What would they do if they were facing something akin to the Storming of the Bastille or the Russian Revolution?

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The 11th Husband

Here’s something to make you smile … or cry … whichever way you want to look at it.


A young man married a beautiful woman who had previously divorced 10 husbands. On their wedding night, she told her new husband to “Please be gentle; I’m still a virgin”.

“What?” said the puzzled groom. “How can that be if you’ve been married ten times.?”

“Well, husband#1 was a Sales Representative; he kept telling me how great it was going to be.

“Husband # 2 was in Software Services; he was never really sure how it was suppose to function; but he said he’d look into it and get back with me.

“Husband # 3 was from Field Services; he said that everything checked out diagnostically but he just couldn’t get the system up.

“Husband # 4 was in
Telemarketing; even though he knew he had the order, he didn’t know when he would be able to deliver.

“Husband # 5 was an Engineer, he understood the basic process but he wanted three years to research, implement, and design a new state of the-art method.

“Husband #6 was from Administration; he thought he knew how but he wasn’t sure whether it was his job or not.

“Husband # 7 was in Marketing; although he had a product, he was never sure how to position it.

“Husband # 8 was a Psychiatrist; all he did was talk about it.

“Husband # 9 was a Gynecologist; all he did was look at it.

“Husband # 10 was a Stamp Collector; all he ever did was….. God I miss him.

” But now that I’ve married you, I’m so excited”.

“Wonderful”, said the husband, “but why?

“Your’re with the


This time I KNOW I’M gonna get screwed.”


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People power

Cory Aquino 

(Jan 25, 1933 – Aug 1, 2009)


No other profession takes on so large a province of truth as journalism, and that journalists are tasked to search for truth throughout the human condition wherever lies have made it worse. 

President Corazon C. Aquino, in a speech inaugurating Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism, on June 8, 2000 at the Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell Campus, Manila.

Cory had a conviction regarding freedom of speech that is not seen in many leaders in Asia, then and now. It is likely to have come her husband Ninoy Aquino Jr who was among others an award-winning journalist.

Ninoy was a former Philippine senator, governor, vice governor and mayor and a leader of the opposition to the rule of Ferdinand Marcos. He was assassinated at the Manila International Airport (later renamed in his honor) upon returning home from exile in the United States. His death catapulted Cory to the limelight and subsequently to the presidency, replacing the 20-year Marcos regime.

When Cory became the president, the first thing she did was to throw out the old constitution.

Cory adopted a new constitution in which she introduced Article IV, Section 4 of the Bill of Rights that says:

  • No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press.
  • No government body oversees or supervises the press.
  • No license or permit is required to publish a newspaper or magazine.
  • There is no prior review of censorship.

 This was so significant because she saw the need in giving people a voice. (maybe the constitution in all other countries should do the same; maybe the people of Malaysia should initiate action to have this bit included).


Here’s a bit of background – it’s from a paper I did a while ago on the press policies in the Philippines. You will find so many similarities with those in Malaysia and you would start to wonder if the guys here copied them from Marcos:

In the presidential election of 1965, Ferdinand E. Marcos became the youngest president, when he triumphed over then president Diosdado Macapagal (Arroyo’s dad who was said to be extremely partial towards US). 

In his first four years as president, he built more roads and installed more power lines than all his predecessors combined. He brought his country self-sufficiency in rice, formulated a national ideology that stressed pride in the country’s heritage, and initiated bold foreign policies. (the golden years of Mahathirism?)

 In 1969, he became the first president of the independent Philippines to gain a second term – the atmosphere of optimism that characterized his first years in power was largely dissipated. Economic growth slowed.

Ordinary Filipinos, especially in urban areas, noted a deteriorating quality of life reflected in spiraling crime rates and random violence. The Communist Party of the Philippines-Marxist Leninist was “reestablished” in 1968 and on Mindanao and in the Sulu Archipelago, violence between Muslims and Christians was on the rise.

On Sept 21, 1972, Marcos issued Proclamation 1081, declaring martial law over the entire country. Under the president’s command, the military arrested opposition figures, including his nemesis Ninoy, journalists, student and labour activists, and criminal elements (ISA and Operasi Lalang, perhaps?).

A total of about 30,000 detainees were kept at military compounds run by the army and the Philippine Constabulary. Weapons were confiscated, and “private armies” connected with prominent politicians and other figures were broken up.

Newspapers were shut down, and the mass media were brought under tight control. With the stroke of a pen, Marcos closed the Philippine Congress and assumed its legislative responsibilities. Prior to this there been no tradition of party or state ownership presses in the Philippines. (the press in the Philippines had a differnt history and role in society – it was started by activists and revolutionists and it acted as the voice of the people; in Malaysia most of the newspapers were started by the colonialists and businessmen, and the tv stations were state-owned, the media was regarded as a vehicle for control since the early days). 

On Sept 21, among the immediate targets of the military for arrest were journalists and other media practitioners who shared one characteristic – all had been critical of the Marcos government, including Luis V. Teodoro (who taught me op-ed writing when I was doing my MA in journalism at Ateneo de Manila Univ, where Ninoy had enrolled to do his BA in the early 70s but never completed it – writestreet).  

He said all media organizations were also shut down and in the morning of Sept 22 people awoke without a newspaper on their doorsteps and with only the hiss of empty air over their radios.

Only the Daily Express was allowed to continue circulation. Sometime later other papers and broadcast stations that belonged to Marcos family and friends, were allowed to be open but only under strict guidelines set by Marcos. (a case of media owned by the state of those linked closely to government officials – sounds familiar?)

Among the conditions were not to criticize the first family, not to jeopardize national security, not to publish stories that would peril military operations and police investigations, and not to report on matters that are in conflict with the interests of the Philippines, its culture and the people. (again- sounds familiar?)

We Forum was the first protest newspaper, and that it was allowed to exist as an example of freedom of the press and also because its low circulation did not make it seem dangerous enough to stop. (and that’s what they said about the internet several yaers ago)

However, in December 1982 (after martial law was called off), the paper’s equipment and office were sealed when the paper published a story on the false Marcos medals. This case along with others united the press, laying part of the foundation for the emergence of other alternative press – mosquito papers – especially after the Aquino assassination.

Support for these mosquito press mounted and so did the sanctions in the form of threats, arrests, detentions, closure of publications, firing of reporters, libel suits and deaths. Despite these, the underground press became vigorous, eventually assisting in the downfall of Marcos.

There is hope. People can move mountains, change societies and destroy tryranny – at the blink of an eye.


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