Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Pak Pandir Moden and His Mega Ego Tower: Talked like Me, Sounded like Me, Spoken Like Me, but was it really Me?

Harakahdaily

KUALA LUMPUR, 20 Okt: Kenyataan Datuk Seri Najib Razak yang menyatakan beliau tidak mengarahkan membina Menara Warisan sebaliknya ia dicadang oleh Pemodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) adalah alasan Pak Pandir.

“Ini adalah alasan ‘Pak Pandir’ dan melucukan daripada seorang Perdana Menteri,” kata Ketua Penerangan PAS Pusat, Ustaz Idris Ahmad.

Baginya, kenyataan itu seolah-oleh hendak melepaskan bebanan kepada PNB, bukannya kepada Najib sendiri.

Ini, menurutnya kerana ia mendapat kritikan yang hebat daripada berbagai pihak.

Tambahnya, wang sebanyak RM5 bilion untuk membina menara setinggi 100 tingkat itu mampu membina 1,667 buah sekolah yang bernilai RM3 juta sebuah dan mampu memberi biasiswa pelajar perubatan seramai 5 ribu pelajar dengan kos RM1 juta di United Kingdom.

Katanya, PAS berpendapat, kalau pun benar itu cadangan daripada PNB kenapa Najib sebagai orang yang berkuasa dan tahu bagaimana kedudukan kewangan negara sekarang, yang lebih perlu kepada projek yang lebih bermanfaat kepada rakyat dan negara.

“Sejak bila pula pula beliau begitu lemah sampai terpaksa mengikut cadangan PNB,” ujarnya sinis.

Soalnya lagi, bukankah Najib selama ini begitu gagah sekali membuat keputusan yang merugikan negara tanpa meminta pandangan orang lain termasuklah ahli Parlimen, ketika melepaskan khazanah berharga 217 hektar tanah KTMB kepada Singapura dan telaga minyak blok L dan M kepada Brunei yang bernilai RM320 bilion.

“Nampaknya pemimpin Umno cuba hendak menyalahkan orang lain ketika tidak mampu menghadapi satu situasi,” katanya lagi.

Ini, tambahnya samalah dengan Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin ketika ditanya apa tindakan terhadap dua orang pengetua yang dituduh rasis menyatakan beliau tidak ada kuasa sebagai seorang menteri kerana bukan bidang kuasa menteri.

“Sedangkan jawapan ini, orang buta dekat Pagoh pun ketawa,” ujarnya.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Najib and his 100-storey Mega Ego Tower: 1.6 billion dollars to build this but only RM500 for Malaysian Civil Servants 2010 annual bonus? Nonsense!

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 10/19/2010

Malaysia's mega-tower plan faces online backlash

Malaysian premier Najib Razak Tuesday defended his plans for a 100-storey megatower in Kuala Lumpur after a backlash on a fast-expanding Facebook petition and criticism from the opposition.

Razak unveiled plans for the tower, to be built by 2020 at a cost of 1.6 billion dollars, during last week's budget speech, which included a number of grand infrastructure projects.

The building, named "Warisan Merdeka" or "Heritage of Independence", would be the tallest in Malaysia, dwarfing the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, which were the world's tallest buildings at 88 storeys when completed in 1998.

Najib has said such projects exemplify the spirit of "Malaysia Boleh" or "Malaysia Can", a national campaign conceived by former premier Mahathir Mohamad, an advocate of mega projects.

Mahathir, whose own schemes included the Proton national car and the multi-billion-dollar administrative capital Putrajaya -- both of which have failed to thrive -- has warmly endorsed the new skyscraper.

But a Facebook page created last Saturday, to which about 11,000 people had signed up by Tuesday afternoon, has seen an outpouring of criticism from Malaysians who say the money would be better spent elsewhere.

"Malaysia needs better education, better health care, better public transportation, safer neighbourhoods, cleaner water, but not a taller building. We don't need another white elephant!" said the page, which was receiving hundreds more members each hour.

Many of those posting comments accused the ruling coalition of spending taxpayers' money to boost its own standing, which has slipped badly in recent years in the face of a resurgent opposition.

"I will support this project if you give me the contract!" said a Facebook user named Chee Chuan Tat, referring to endemic cronyism linked to the Barisan Nasional coalition.

"It's taxpayers' money, and taxpayers say NO," said Adrian Matthew Yee.

Najib stoutly defended the project, and said the Petronas Towers -- now a much-loved national symbol -- had originally attracted similar criticism.

"We want a building that will be a symbol of the country that is not only modern but progressive and it will have a multiplier effect on the economy," he told a press conference.

"We want the area to become a business hub," he said. "So this project is not a waste but is one which will benefit the people."

Opposition lawmaker Fong Kui Lun, in whose constituency the building would be located near the city's Chinatown, said it would be an eyesore and totally unsuited to the crowded downtown district.

"What the building will do is to destroy the character of the area while creating a traffic nightmare for all," he told AFP.

"There are more than enough office spaces in downtown KL and this will cause a glut of office space, becoming a white elephant like many of the other government projects."

Tony Pua, also from the Democratic Action Party which is part of the opposition alliance, said the online criticism was a sign that people were concerned.

"The country does not need another mega project as the era of mega projects is gone and most Malaysians are not impressed by them any more," he said.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Malaysia, Budaya Populer dan Media Massa: Sysssshhhhh Jangan Ketawa, Tertawa dan Mentertawa...we are Malaysians

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 9/24/2010

Malaysian cartoonist arrested over comic book

A Malaysian political cartoonist said Friday he had been arrested under the Sedition Act and his offices raided by police over his new book, just hours before its planned launch.

Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque -- better known as Zunar -- uses cartoons to highlight contentious issues such as the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and police shootings.

Zunar said police seized 70 copies of his latest book, called "Cartoon-O-Phobia", at his home and held him ahead of its scheduled launch Friday evening.

"Police came and raided my office in the afternoon... now they said I am arrested under the Sedition Act," he told AFP by telephone while in custody at a police station.

"They say my new book is seditious. Certainly this is intimidation of cartoonists," he said, adding that police had not told him which cartoon in the book was considered seditious.

Police officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

In July, Zunar launched a legal battle against the government in a bid to lift a ban on two earlier comic books which authorities said threatened public order.

"The raid at his office and his arrest only go to prove that the authorities are cartoon-phobic," said Steven Gan, chief editor of online news portal Malaysiakini, the publisher of "Cartoon-O-Phobia" and some of Zunar's earlier books.

"This is an attack on freedom of expression, it again shows that the authorities have no sense of humour," he told AFP.

Gan said the 80-page book had a caricature of Prime Minister Najib Razak's wife on the front cover and contained cartoons that touched on numerous controversial issues.

Najib, who took office in the mainly Muslim country in April last year, had promised to promote openness and transparency but has since faced accusations that his administration is trying to silence critics.

Major newspapers and broadcasters are closely linked with the ruling coalition, so the Internet has become a lively forum for dissent and debate.

Unlike the mainstream press, the web and online media in Malaysia have remained relatively free, despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism.


MSN News

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Would this Big Dam make us all live happily ever after?

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 9/12/2010

Malaysia dam faces 'white elephant' claims

The multi-billion-dollar Bakun dam in Borneo, already condemned as a catastrophe for the environment and tribal people, is now battling suggestions it could become a giant white elephant.

The dam, which will eventually submerge an area the size of Singapore, is finally nearing completion after suffering a series of setbacks and delays since its approval in 1993.

But at the last hurdle the project has stumbled again, with delays in winning the state government's permission to begin the flooding process and no deal yet on purchasing its hefty 2,400 megawatt output.

With ambitious plans for an undersea cable to feed the Bakun's electricity to the Malaysian peninsula now abandoned, the Sarawak state government is the only feasible buyer -- leaving it with a very strong hand.

Negotiations with the dam developer Sarawak Hidro, a subsidiary of the national finance ministry, have reportedly been tough.

"It's a case where the owner of the project is naming an asking price that is very different to what the buyer would want," said Wong Chew Hann, an analyst at Malaysia's top bank Maybank.

"I understand there's quite a huge mismatch," she said. "I'm not sure what they've incorporated into the pricing, but the cost of the project has gone up so much since it was started."

As well as the cost of construction, there is the expense of compensating tribal people for their forced relocation from ancestral lands, and suppliers affected by the long delays.

"So the question is, are you going to incorporate all the compensation costs in the tariff price?" said Wong.

With the indigenous people from the Bakun catchment area long since resettled and its valuable timber resources long since felled, the dam has been ready to be flooded since April.

The state government had delayed permission, saying it was still evaluating river levels and the impact on boat transport.

A Sarawak minister reportedly said last week that the necessary permit has been granted, denying both that it had been used as a bargaining chip to lower the tariff and that Sarawak was facing an energy glut.

Sarawak Hidro managing director Zulkiflie Osman played down suggestions that he has been held to ransom by the state government.

"Both parties are working together and want it to be settled amicably, with a tariff acceptable to both parties," he told AFP, adding that he expected to strike a tariff deal before December.

The next of Sarawak's mega-dams, the Murum, which is being developed by the state government, is due to come online in 2013 but Osman said he was convinced the state authorities will not bypass the Bakun in favour of its own project.

Alongside the power purchase negotiations, the federal government is also said to be discussing selling the entire Bakun facility -- built at a reported cost of 7.3 billion ringgit (2.4 billion dollars) -- to the state government, but pricing and finance problems have emerged.

The Star daily reported in July that the federal government was seeking 8.0 billion ringgit while the state government offer was just 6.0 billion ringgit.

The Bakun's output far exceeds existing energy needs in Sarawak, a relatively undeveloped Malaysian state, and is mostly destined for industrial users such as aluminium smelters, but these are still on the drawing board.

"The main problem is that currently there is no demand for such a big capacity yet, and in order for Sarawak Energy to purchase the dam they would need adequate funding," said an analyst with a major research house.

"The banks would ask for some kind of feasibility study, and as there is no real demand yet this project risks becoming a white elephant," said the analyst, who declined to be named.

Newspaper reports have questioned how the federal government can ever hope to recover the huge amount of money it has sunk into the project.

"Marred by too many disagreements, the 7.3 billion ringgit project could very well turn out to be a non-starter," the Star said last month, adding that with both the Bakun and Murum dams online there would be a "very real possibility" of a power glut.

Transparency International has labelled Bakun a "monument of corruption" in Sarawak, which has been ruled for three decades by the formidable chief minister Taib Mahmud.

There has also been fierce criticism over the botched relocation of 15,000 indigenous people, who have made an unhappy transition to life in drab resettlement areas.

Baru Bian, chairman of the opposition party Keadilan in Sarawak, said the Bakun project was designed purely to profit cronies, and not planned in the public interest.

"The dam is a waste of public funds, it's not necessary, and what is paramount is that it is disturbing and disrupting the lives of the natives and the environment -- the trees and the forests."

MSN News

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Gara2 Seekor Kerbau Malaysia: Seekor Kerbau Membawa Lumpur, Semuanya Terpalit

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 9/7/2010

Malaysian man charged with trafficking 63 Indonesian women

A Malaysian man has been charged with trafficking and exploiting 63 Indonesian women who were brought into Malaysia to work as domestic helpers, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Lee In Chiew, 49, a businessman and former teacher, was charged Monday in the northern state of Perlis for trafficking and "exploiting them by using threats and force", said his lawyer K. Kumarathiraviam.

"There were 63 purported victims. All of them are Indonesians aged between 21 to 33 years," he said.

Kumarathiraviam said three of the maids ran away from the accused and lodged a report with authorities, which led to his arrest on July 24. If found guilty he could be jailed for up to 20 years.

"We are confident we can succeed in the case. The charges against Lee are weak," he told AFP. "Lee runs a well-known maid agency. All of them were brought into the country legally."

No plea was recorded and Lee was freed on bail.

Malaysia has no laws governing conditions for domestic workers but the government has promised to draft legislation to protect them from sexual harassment, non-payment of wages and poor conditions.

Malaysia is home to some 1.2 million documented Indonesian workers, as well as about 800,000 Indonesians working illegally.

Cases of abuse of maids at the hands of Malaysian bosses are a frequent source of outrage in Indonesia, contributing to often prickly relations between the two countries.


MSN News

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Mesej Kelabu dan Simbol2 dan Sign Yang Salah dalam Iklan TV3: Bukan Semua Perkara Boleh diSensasi ...

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 9/6/2010

Malaysian TV pulls Ramadan ad over Christmas links

A Malaysian TV station said Monday it had withdrawn an advertisement marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr which was criticised as "un-Islamic' for having a Christmas-like theme.

The private TV3 channel started last week airing the one-minute commercial marking the end of the Ramadan fasting month, showing a man wearing an Islamic skullcap taking children on a magical trishaw for a ride through the sky.

Some viewers in Muslim-majority Malaysia said the character was reminiscent of Santa Claus, and several groups demanded it be retracted. There was also criticism that the ad featured a lotus flower, which is linked to Buddhism.

"TV3 apologises on the airing of the advertisement... which has offended many people," the station said in a statement, adding that it had been taken off air.

"We will be more cautious to avoid similar incidents to happen again in the future," it added.

Religion and language are sensitive issues in multiracial Malaysia, which was hit by deadly race riots in 1969.

Some 60 percent of the 28 million population are Muslim Malays, living alongside large ethnic Chinese and Indian communities who have expressed fear that the country is being "Islamised" and their rights are being eroded.

MSN News

Friday, 27 August 2010

Kisah Indonesia Mau Ganyang Malaysia Bulan Ramadhan 1431 Hijri Part II: Nampaknya hubungan kita sudah enggak bisa diatur ya?

Indonesian Lawmakers Still Waiting For Malaysian ‘Mea Culpa’

Armando Siahaan & Camelia Pasandaran | August 26, 2010

Jakarta. While a Malaysian minister said patience was running thin for Indonesia following an offensive protest at its embassy in Jakarta, lawmakers here on Wednesday demanded the government seek an official apology from Malaysia for the border incident that had sparked the protest.

The demand was made by members of House Commission I dealing with foreign affairs, in a hearing with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to discuss the arrests by Malaysia of three Indonesian maritime officers earlier this month.

“The meeting resulted in an effort to strengthen the diplomatic note [from the foreign ministry] with the aim of having the Malaysian government officially expressing its apology,” said Mahfudz Siddiq, the chairman of the commission.

“Let’s see if they will respond to the note or not.”

Marty had told the lawmakers that the Foreign Ministry was currently gathering evidence that would be included into a new diplomatic note of protest to Malaysia over the arrest of the three officers which Jakarta said took place in Indonesian waters.

He said that since Aug. 18 the government had sent the first diplomatic note of protest to the Malaysian government over the incident in Tanjung Berikat but the development since required further notes of protest.

“Since August 18 there have been developments. We will send a protest note to seek an appropriate response, an expression of regret or apology,” Marty said.

Marty said that even without evidence of physical abuse or mistreatment by the Malaysian authorities, the Indonesian officers had clearly been treated badly.

“Even without evidence of physical abuse or any mistreatment, the fact that they were handcuffed and had to wear prison clothing, that warrants a protest,” the foreign minister said.

The three maritime officers have said they had not been physically abused but had been mistreated, including by having to take off their official uniforms and being handcuffed.

Arguing that the government “needs more space in dealing with the issue,” Marty managed to convince the commission to cancel its intention to push for a demand by the legislature for official apology from Malaysia.

He also said that withdrawing the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia, as some individual lawmakers had suggested, may be detrimental to bilateral ties in a larger context.

“We need to put into consideration the greater national interest. If we withdraw the ambassador, it would reduce the weight of our diplomatic ties,” he said.

The absence of an ambassador in Kuala Lumpur could disturb other issues that needed to be dealt with between the two governments, including migrant workers, trafficking, illegal logging and border disputes, the foreign minister explained.

Mahfudz said that the commission would wait for Malaysia’s response before taking any further action.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman was quoted by news portal Star Online as saying that Malaysia had run out of patience and sent a protest letter to Indonesia over the arrest of seven Malaysian fishermen in disputed waters and the protest at its embassy in Jakarta on Tuesday that involved the throwing and smearing of human feces.

Mahfudz said it is hard to prevent such reactions, arguing that it was the result of an accumulation of anger and that unless Malaysia changed its attitude, protests may only escalate.

“It’s not just because of the recent incidents. It’s about foreign workers, cultural claims, illegal logging and other long-running issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, the government vowed to assure the security of the Malaysian mission here and its diplomats.

“As the host, we have to guarantee protection to foreign diplomats and their representative objects here,” Teuku Faizasyah, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, said at the President’s Office on Wednesday.

“We will coordinate with the police and other security officers to ensure the safety of Malaysian diplomats in Jakarta and other regions in Indonesia, as well as the security of their buildings.”

Jakarta Globe

Waah kita di Malaysia disebut "immature" but does Indonesia really know their Maids Real Story? Baling tahi di Embassy Malaysia itu "mature" Pak?

Only Maturity Will Solve Malaysia Issues

August 26, 2010

When a nation’s sense of pride and self-respect gets trampled, emotions can run high. That has been evident this week as the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta has attracted protests by various groups.

While we can empathize with the emotions of those who feel the nation’s pride has been hurt by the treatment of Indonesians in Malaysia, we do not condone the actions of groups who have thrown feces at the embassy.

This only casts Indonesia in a bad light and hurts the nation’s reputation.

There is no denying, however, that both sides need to sit down together and resolve the issues that have given rise to heightened tensions.

Talks are planned for Sept. 6, and they can’t come soon enough; the sooner diplomats from both sides talk, the better.

The fact that both governments have realized the mutual problems — disputed border areas and the ill-treatment of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia — is a good first step.

Both governments must now find a mature way of resolving these issues using diplomatic channels.

Both nations share a heritage which gives prominence to deliberations as a means of defusing conflicts and solving problems.

In this regard, we applaud Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa’s rejection of calls by some parliamentarians to recall the ambassador from Kuala Lumpur. Such a step would no doubt be tantamount to throwing fuel onto a fire.

For the Sept. 6 talks to be fruitful and meaningful, Indonesia needs to show more engagement with the issues at hand, and must present clear lines of argument.

We must make our stance crystal clear and have solid legal backing, especially on the border disputes. Resolving this dispute will require both political will and understanding.

For its part, Malaysia must show more respect to Indonesia, especially in the treatment of migrant workers. We cannot help but feel that in Malaysian eyes, all Indonesians are viewed as maids and plantation workers.

Some lawmakers are saying that the current passionate protests against Malaysia stem not only from the recent arrests of three Indonesian maritime officers.

Rather, they say the incident might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, unleashing accumulated resentment against Malaysia resulting from various incidents in the past.

Kuala Lumpur must show a greater commitment to prosecuting employers who mistreat Indonesian workers — especially domestic maids — and must recognize the economic contribution these workers make to their economy.

The media on both sides must also avoid getting caught up in the emotions. The news that Malaysia had slapped a travel warning on Indonesia, for example, proved false when both countries denied it.

It is important that both countries take a step back and review the situation calmly and resolve the problems amicably.


Jakarta Globe

Hubungan Malaysia-Indonesia: Angkara Siapa Indonesia Sentiasa Memilih Bulan Ramadhan Yang Mulia Untuk Bergaduh Dengan Saudara Sebangsa dan Seagama?

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 8/25/2010


Indonesia condemns Malaysia over border spat

Indonesia said Wednesday it is investigating reports that Malaysia abused three Indonesian officials after illegally detaining them in Indonesian waters, but called for calm on both sides.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told lawmakers that any abuse of an Indonesian official in Malaysian custody would be "unacceptable" under any circumstances.

In response to tough questioning from lawmakers demanding to know what action had been taken, the minister said Jakarta had sent a protest letter to Kuala Lumpur on August 18 in which Indonesia "strongly condemned the arrests".

"We are gathering information and interviewing the officials about what happened in the detention centre and on the boat," he said, amid conflicting reports about how one of the officials suffered head injuries in custody.

The officials -- arrested in disputed waters last week and held for several days before being released Tuesday -- complained of being handcuffed and given only one meal a day.

Natalegawa said Indonesia was increasing maritime patrols in waters claimed by both countries off the Riau islands after the latest in a string of incidents and alleged incursions.

"Indonesia never considers those zones as grey areas... On the contrary, we're increasing patrol operations to show our jurisdiction and sovereignty over them," Natalegawa said.

Police said they had boosted security at the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta after protesters managed to hurl a package containing human faeces at the building on Monday.

Three demonstrators were arrested and scores of police backed by water canons prevented them from throwing more, but Malaysia on Wednesday accused Indonesia of failing to do enough to protect the site.

"We're continuing to monitor the situation," police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said.

Despite the periodic escalation of tensions between the prickly neighbours, Natalegawa said relations remained strong and called for dialogue to resolve disputes, especially the maritime border.

He rejected a lawmaker's suggestion that Indonesia withdraw its ambassador from Kuala Lumpur, saying this would be counter-productive.

Officials from both sides would meet "in the coming weeks" to discuss the maritime border.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Monday there could be "no compromise" over Indonesian territory.


MSN News

Monday, 23 August 2010

Welcome to the Malay World of Witchdoctors, Spiritual Healers, Believing and Non-Believing Jinns

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 8/22/2010

The new face of Malaysia's Islamic witchdoctors

By day he is a BlackBerry-wielding computer analyst, but by night he destroys evil spirits using the Koran. Meet Mazlan Hakim, one of the new generation of Malaysia's "bomohs" or witchdoctors.

As in many parts of Asia, a belief in the supernatural is widespread in Malaysia, but the practice has a different twist in the Muslim-majority country where meddling with the occult is banned under Islam.

Mazlan Hakim is one of a new breed of bomohs who are well-educated, plugged-in to the modern world, and base their ghostbusting and healing on Islamic precepts instead of animist or otherworldly techniques.

The 56-year-old has been a bomoh for 30 years and unlike his non-Islamic counterparts who say they use demons known as "jinn" to do their bidding, he unleashes verses of the Koran to heal the sick and drive out evil spirits.

Dressed in a grey open-necked shirt and brown slacks, Mazlan sips a cafe latte and checks emails on his phone. He looks like a typical business executive but his conversation is anything but routine.

"There are two types of jinn, the Muslim and the non-Muslim jinn," he says.

"The worst is the Muslim jinn as the other jinns come out of the body when I read passages from the Koran, but the Muslim jinn are immune to the Koran so I have to use my telekinetic abilities to pull the demon out."

Mazlan says he has seen spirits since he was 15, but it was only after studying under religious scholars that he sharpened his mental powers and mastered telekinesis, which he claims to demonstrate by moving ping pong balls.

As he closes his eyes and his face scrunches in concentration, one white ping pong ball on the table somehow starts to tremble before moving slowly towards the other.

"This is not a parlour trick, I use my mind to chase out the spirits that have possessed people, this and the Koran give me success," he says.

"I have an almost 100 percent success rate and most of my clients are rid of the spirits or curses that plague them."

Such claims would seem to be at odds with Islam, and the religious authorities in Malaysia who are notorious for their hardline enforcement of moral and spiritual rules.

But Islamic bomohs are tolerated and even approved of, as a better alternative to old-style black magic practitioners who still do a brisk trade with their concoctions and incantations.

Local magazines are filled with advertisements for "love potions" and elixirs to "stop wandering spouses" and "get even with the neighbours."

Occult researcher Azizah Ariffin says Malays have long practiced the dark arts, originally derived from animist practices which were reinforced by Hindu beliefs before the arrival of Islam in the region.

"Black magic has been a part of Malay life for many centuries as the village bomoh still held on to animist beliefs and rites of earlier religions to cure people," she says.

"Upon the arrival of Islam, the Imam took care of the people's spiritual welfare."

"It was not until the 1980s that the Islamisation of the bomohs began, and only recently have many witchdoctors begun using Koranic verses to cure people instead of rituals."

Azizah says old-style techniques like burning aromatic resin to summon the jinn and commune with spirits, and brewing up magical medicines, are now less in favour.

"The Islamic bomohs are the ones who use the Koranic verses and they do no harm but help to cure ailments and remove black magic spells. It is the bomohs who don't use the Koran that are of concern because only some do good while others are the real black magic practitioners using animist rituals," she adds.

Leading Islamic cleric Mohammad Tamyes Abdul Wahid says although black magic is against Islam, it is widely used in Malaysia by those intent on controlling spouses or cheating others out of their possessions.

"We must differentiate between bomohs who use the words of the Koran and try to help heal people using these holy verses and phrases, compared to those who try to seek the help of jinns and ghosts to gain favour," he says.

"There has been a shift as many realise through education that these bomohs using spirits are evil compared to those using the Koran to help heal and do good things."

One example is Haron Din, a senior figure in the conservative Islamic party PAS, who is one of Malaysia's best-known bomohs and yet still part of the country's religious establishment.

Three decades ago he opened a clinic outside Kuala Lumpur where he and a group of faith healers exorcise demons and spirits using Koranic verses, and hundreds still flock there every day.

Mohammad Tamyes wants the government to introduce laws against black magic practitioners who use their skills for "evil purposes".

"Islam is against these practitioners who try to invoke the help of such beings in carrying out spells and attacks on people, this cannot be condoned," he tells AFP.

"Laws are needed to stop the practice of such black magic, but of course it is not easy to legislate against what you can't see."


MSN News

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Malaysians use social media to bypass censorship

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 8/18/2010


Malaysia bumps along the bottom of international rankings for press freedom, but the explosion of social media like Twitter and Facebook is revolutionising how journalists work.

Dissenting views, which for decades were screened out of the government-linked mainstream media, are now everywhere, including the blogosphere and mobile SMS messages, making repression extremely difficult.

One veteran reporter with one of the country's leading newspapers said that for most of his career it was virtually impossible to write about the opposition or any issues deemed off-limits by authorities.

"But today, government MPs are forced to engage and debate their counterparts across the aisle in social media like Twitter and Facebook, allowing us to report on the opposition and avoid much censorship," he says.

"Where previously we had to accept at face value a minister's version of events or policies, today their disgruntled aides and opponents are already tweeting or leaking details on Facebook, giving us uncensored access."

"Although the restrictions and controls are still in place, it's become much harder to censor what the opposition or rights groups say in the media," says the journalist who, due to the sensitivity of the issue, declined to be named.

Malaysia was ranked 131st out of 175 countries in the 2009 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index, because of its tight controls on print and broadcast media.

The watchdog says Malaysia prevents journalists from properly covering sensitive subjects such as corruption or human rights abuses, using a publishing permit system which allows it to shut down media outlets at will.

After decades of such policies, self-censorship became rife and political leaders hardly even needed to make the much-feared phone call to the news room.

But the seeds of change were sown in 1996 when the government pledged not to censor online content as part of a campaign to promote its information technology sector.

Despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism, the web and online media remain relatively free.

Today, Facebook fan pages highlighting political rallies and civil society forums, as well as Twitter exchanges with lawmakers, have reshaped the reporting landscape.

"All our reporters have BlackBerrys and use that to follow these tweets. The social media has changed the way journalists work in fundamental ways," says Premesh Chandran, the founder of pioneer online news portal Malaysiakini.

Chandran says the new immediacy hampers government attempts to "spin" or control a story as journalists get real-time reaction from the opposition and experts and use it to seek an immediate response from officials.

With the advent of Twitter, politicians from both sides of the aisle freely disseminate their views, so much so that legislators have been known to take debates out of the chamber and continue them in the Twitterverse.

Social media also have a knack of eliciting more candid commentary than politicians would usually choose to put in a regular press release.

That phenomenon was on display this week when Khairy Jamaluddin, influential leader of the ruling party's youth wing, gave a quick response to a government decision not to drop a ban on students joining political parties.

"Cabinet decision not allowing university students to be involved in political parties is gutless and indicates outdated thinking," he said in a much-discussed tweet.

Opposition politician Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, 28, tweets daily on his constituency work, lists all his public events on Facebook and even carries out interviews and dialogues online.

"Social media definitely gives the opposition and alternative voices a space to express our views without censorship," he says.

"The limitation is that we are restricted to 140 characters on Twitter so we can't really flesh out many of the arguments and positions but it at least allows people and the media to read and understand our perspective."

Malaysians have flocked to the Internet for news and views, a phenomenon credited with the opposition's stunning performance in 2008 polls when the government lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time.

RSF's regional correspondent Patrice Victor says the Malaysian experience could be replicated in other countries as they develop a potent combination of repressive governments and reasonable Internet access.

"We are seeing social media free the way journalists report in this region and the trend in Malaysia can also be seen happening in Singapore, Thailand and Burma (Myanmar)," he says.

"Governments here are slowly realising that it is very hard to censor and restrict information once people have access to the Net and this trend of using social media to break down censorship looks like it is here to stay."


MSN News

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Heart of Borneo: Hopes & Fears

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 4/22/2010

'Love-dart' slug, lungless frog among new species on Borneo

Wildlife researchers said Thursday they have discovered around 120 new species on Borneo island, including a lungless frog, the world's longest insect and a slug that fires "love darts" at its mate.

Conservation group WWF listed the new finds in a report on a remote area of dense, tropical rainforest that borders Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei on Borneo.

The three governments in 2007 designated the 220,000-square-kilometre (88,000-square-mile) area as the "Heart of Borneo" in a bid to conserve the rainforest.

"We have been finding on average three new species a month and about 123 over the last three years, with at least 600 new species found in the last 15 years," Adam Tomasek, head of WWF's Heart of Borneo initiative told AFP from Brunei.

"The new discoveries just show the wealth of biodiversity on Borneo island and the promise of many more future discoveries that could eventually help cure illnesses like cancer and AIDS and contribute to our daily lives," he said.

The "Heart of Borneo" region is home to 10 species of primate, more than 350 birds, 150 reptiles and amphibians and about 10,000 plants that are not found anywhere else in the world, the report said.

Among the finds are a seven-centimetre (three-inch) flat-headed frog, known as "Barbourula kalimantanensis", discovered in 2008, which breathes entirely through its skin instead of lungs.

Researchers in the same year also discovered "Phobaeticus chani", the world's longest stick insect, with a body 36 centimetres long. Only three specimens of the creature have ever been found.

Another interesting find was a long-tailed slug that uses "love darts" made of calcium carbonate to pierce and inject a hormone into a mate to increase the chances of reproduction.

The WWF urged governments act sensitively when developing the area's economic potential.

"We know that it is impossible for the three governments not to have development in mining, oil palm plantations and logging in the area," Tomasek said.

"What we want to have is a balance so that we have a foundation of conservation and sustainable development in order to protect this unique site for future generations," he added.

Indonesia and Malaysia, the world's two largest exporters of palm oil, account for 85 percent of global production.

Palm oil -- used extensively across the globe for biofuel, processed food and toiletries -- has been vilified by environmental campaigners for causing deforestation and threatening the survival of near-extinct species.

Tomasek said the "Heart of Borneo" initiative is also important for protecting the habitat of endangered species such as the pygmy elephant, orangutan, rhinoceros and clouded leopard.

"In many ways this is the last stronghold for the long-term survival of these species," he said.

The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the world's most endangered species, with only about 200 remaining in the wild, up to 180 in Indonesia and the rest in Malaysia.

The Bornean sub-species is the rarest of all rhinos, with just 30 left in the wild on Borneo island.

Conservationists also warned the world has less than 20 years left to save about 50,000 to 60,000 of the charismatic red-haired orangutans left in the wild.


MSN News

Heart of Borneo: Nature and Culture

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 4/21/2010

Rare Borneo rhino caught on camera in Malaysia

A rare Borneo rhino, thought to be pregnant, has been caught on camera in Malaysia, and wildlife experts said Wednesday a new calf would be a lifeline for the near-extinct species.

Just 30 rhinos remain in the wild in Borneo island, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, and researchers are only able to monitor the population through images captured on remote camera traps.

Images of the rhino, "believed to be a pregnant female, estimated to be below 20 years" were captured by a camera trap in February, the Malaysian arm of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) - said in a statement.

"There are so few Sumatran rhinos left in the world that each calf represents a lifeline for the species," international rhino expert Terry Roth said.

The Borneo sub-species is the rarest of all rhinos, distinguished from other Sumatran rhinos by its relatively small size, small teeth and distinctively shaped head.

The Sumatran rhinoceros is one of the world's most endangered species, with few left on Indonesia's Sumatra island, the north of Borneo island and peninsular Malaysia.

Laurentius Ambu, wildlife director for Malaysia's Sabah state, where the female rhino was spotted, said two rhino calves had also been seen in a similar area and urged the government to do more to enforce laws against poaching.

"Habitat protection and enforcement have been recognised as the main strategies in ensuring the survival of the rhino population in forest reserves," he said.

The WWF said the rhino's future on Borneo island would depend on preserving sufficient forest reserves for the animal.

Raymond Alfred, head of the WWF's Borneo Species programme said data from an ongoing rhino monitoring survey programme showed the animal's home range was affected by the expansion of palm oil plantations.

Malaysia is the world's second-largest exporter of palm oil after Indonesia, and the two countries account for 85 percent of global production. **

**Blogger's note: It should be noted that a large amount of the palm oil cultivated in Indonesia is Malaysian-owned. Hence Malaysia may be considered as the world's largest producer of palm oil.


MSN News

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Polygyny in Malaysia: "Don't pray pray ..."

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 4/20/2010

Malaysia lawmaker pleads guilty to polygamy

A senior Malaysian Muslim lawmaker pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of polygamy after he married an actress without court permission, a court official said.

Muslim men in Malaysia are allowed up to four wives, but in certain parts of the country they must obtain written court consent or risk a fine or jail term under religious Sharia law.

Bung Mokhtar Radin, 50, a vocal parliamentarian from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, and his second wife, Zizie Ezette A. Samad, 31, both pleaded guilty to committing polygamy.

"They pleaded guilty and have been released on a bail of 500 ringgit (155 dollars) each pending a trial to be heard on May 18," said an official at a religious court in the central state of Selangor state.

They were married in a private ceremony in December last year, according to news reports.

Bung's lawyers could not be reached for comment.

Activists and women's groups say polygamy is cruel and has deviated from its original purpose in Islam, which was to protect widows and orphans.

Under Selangor state religious law, the couple could face up to six months in jail and a fine if they are found guilty.

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, where more than 60 percent of its 27 million people are Muslim Malays. Polygamy is illegal for non-Muslims.


MSN News

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Joke of the Month: Malaysia given the license to talk tough by the great Obama ...

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 4/16/2010

Malaysia warns Iran after cutting off gasoline supplies

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed Thursday that his country has cut off gasoline supplies to Iran, warning Tehran it was close to facing new international sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.

Najib's announcement came three days after he held talks with US President Barack Obama, who had called for the world to move "boldly and quickly" on tough sanctions against the Islamic republic.

"It's going to be quite inevitable that additional sanctions will be imposed in the near future unless there is some movement in the right direction by Iran," Najib said in Washington.

"The onus is on Iran now to react expeditiously to prevent additional sanctions."

The 15-member Security Council, including China, has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran over its refusal to halt sensitive uranium enrichment and is considering the prospect of a fourth round of UN sanctions.

The United States and its allies believe Iran is covertly working on a nuclear weapon, but the Islamic republic says it is pursuing only civilian power.

Najib said predominantly-Muslim Malaysia's state oil company Petronas decided to suspend gasoline supplies after consultations with the government.

He did not say when Petronas stopped supplies to Iran, but some reports said it was done in the middle of March.

Petronas is among a small group of non-Chinese oil companies supplying gasoline to Iran, the world's fifth-largest crude oil exporter.

A member of the OPEC cartel, Iran has seen investment in petroleum refineries shrink as a result of US sanctions. It has resorted to importing about 40 percent of its gasoline needs.

Najib said that while Malaysia maintained that Iran had the right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, Tehran must comply with the UN Security Council decision ordering it to suspend uranium enrichment activities until the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can verify they were exclusively peaceful as Iran claimed.

"They must earn the trust of the international community and the only way they can earn the trust is to be fully transparent in whatever they do and allow full verification by the IAEA," he said.

"There are some serious doubt as to whether this has been carried out or has been complied with by Iran," he added.

Asked whether Malaysia was reviewing any current projects or possible joint ventures in Iran, Najib said: "We will see how it goes, we do not want to send the wrong signals.

"We appreciate the importance of our economic relations with Iran as well."

Ambassadors from the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- plus Germany -- met for a second straight day in New York Thursday on the sanctions issue.

On the table was a US draft resolution outlining sanctions in five areas: arms embargo, energy, shipping, finance and targeted punitive measures against Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards, a diplomat familiar with the discussions said.

"Our sense is that countries of the Security Council, probably including China and Russia as well, there is a shift in their opinion to indicate they would go for stronger sanctions against Iran," Najib said.

Iran insists it needs the higher-enriched uranium to fuel a research reactor which makes radioisotopes for medical purposes, such as the treatment of cancer, where the current fuel is expected to run out by the end of this year.

But Tehran has snubbed an IAEA-brokered deal that would have seen Russia and France fashion the fuel out of Iran's own stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

Najib said Petronas would "certainly" lift its suspension on gasoline supplies if Iran complied with the IAEA.

"We believe in engagement but Iran has to respond as well and there are some clear indications of their non compliance."


MSN News

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Masyarakat Terpinggir - Bajau Pe' Lau

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 4/6/2010

Activists urge Indonesia to release sea nomads

Human rights activists on Tuesday called on Indonesia to release more than 100 stateless seafaring nomads who have been detained on Borneo island for alleged immigration and fishing offences.

People's Coalition for Fishery Justice coordinator Riza Damanik said 19 families with 45 children from the Bajau Pe'lau people were arrested last month as they travelled in Indonesian waters in 16 traditional boats.

"Some 103 seafaring nomads have been detained since March 10 by police in Berau district of East Kalimantan province, accused of an immigration offence and illegal fishing," he told AFP.

He said that when Indonesian officials asked them where they were from they "pointed in a direction assumed by the police to be the Philippines or Malaysia".

The government of those two countries have not recognised them as their citizens, he added.

"This is a humanitarian issue. They are now being held in poor conditions in the detention centre with insufficient food. We have to save them and return them back to the sea immediately," Damanik said.

At a meeting in Kuala Lumpur late last month, some 41 non-governmental agencies from countries including Britain, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States signed a statement urging the United Nations to give the nomads protection, he said.

"The Bajau people are known to have lived as nomads on the sea for thousands of years. Their tradition must be acknowledged and protected," Damanik added.

A police officer in Berau district confirmed only that a number of unidentified people had been "arrested for not having proper documents" and were still in detention.

Damanik said the nomads' boats had sunk due to neglect since they had been in detention.

MSN News

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

In Malaysia Semua Boleh ...

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 3/28/2010

Sex tape scandal politician wins Malaysia party polls

Malaysia's main Chinese political party Sunday elected a politician involved in a sex tape scandal as its new president, hoping to end months of leadership infighting.

The polls were triggered by the mass resignation of the leadership of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the second-largest member of the governing Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, earlier this month.

More than 100 candidates representing various factions within the party contested for 31 posts.

Deputy president Chua Soi Lek, who was suspended over a sex tape scandal in 2009, won the party election with a slim majority by securing 901 votes.

Chua's sacking had triggered bitter factional fighting.

Incumbent president Ong Tee Keat got 833 votes while former president Ong Ka Ting won 578 votes.

Prime Minister Najib Razak has pressed the party to resolve the crisis, as his coalition attempts to regain the support of minorities -- including ethnic Chinese and Indians -- who dropped the BN in 2008 elections.

"The purpose of (Sunday's) election is to stabilise the party ahead of the next general election, which is likely to be held before the end of this year," said James Chin, a political scientist at Monash University's campus in Kuala Lumpur.

Chin said Chua won because he had "better organisational skills," and the party members realised it was a crucial element for MCA to have him at the helm ahead of the polls.

"The Chinese community are politically matured," he said, in reference to Chua being caught on video having extramarital sex.

After days of intense campaigning, more than 2,300 delegates picked their new leaders.

Chin said the results might ease tensions within the party, but the MCA would not be able to claw back the Chinese support it lost in 2008.

"The party is seen as unable to protect Chinese interest in the ruling coalition. The Barisan Nasional ruling coalition is too dominated by the United Malays National Organisation and Malay interest," he said earlier.

The MCA suffered its worst ever electoral defeat in 2008, winning less than half of the parliamentary and state seats it contested.


MSN News

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Most Often Forgotten West Malaysian Minority: Indigenous Malaysians (OA) protest proposed land bill

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 3/17/2010

Some 500 indigenous Malaysians on Wednesday mounted an unprecedented protest over a government bill they say will deprive them of land.

Activists for the Orang Asli, the term for the native tribes in peninsular Malaysia, say the legislation expected to be tabled this July will give them only 50,000 hectares (123,550 acres) of the 129,000 they claim.

"Who are you to give the land when it is already the Orang Asli's," said Colin Nicholas, coordinator for the Centre for Orang Asli Concerns, addressing the government.

Several protesters carried multicoloured placards saying "Don't take away our rights" and "We are willing to bathe in blood" as leaders handed over a memorandum to rural and regional development minister Shafie Apdal.

Some of the demonstrators, who gathered outside the prime minister's office in the administrative capital of Putrajaya, were dressed in loincloths and colourful headgear made of flowers, tree bark and coconut leaves.

"We open our ears to whatever grouses the public, in particular the Orang Asli, have. If anyone says we are depriving them, we are neglecting them, that's not true," Shafie told reporters.

Activists want Orang Asli claims to their customary land recognised, saying their continual occupation and economic activities establish their ownership.

Nicholas said the planned amendment to the Aboriginal People's Act would give each family between two and six acres of land.

"Once they get this plot of land, they will lose (their rights to) other plots of land," he said.

Shafie confirmed the proposed amendment would give each each family two to six acres but said the terms were not final.

"This is not finalised so that's why we need their views. We are willing to listen," he said.

The Orang Asli make up less than one percent of Malaysia's 28 million population and are generally disadvantaged in terms of income, health, education and living standards.


MSN News

Pasca-Konfrontasi: Remains of Australian soldiers found

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 3/16/2010

The remains of two Australian soldiers who died during secret operations inside Indonesia more than 40 years ago have been found and positively identified, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Tuesday.

Rudd told parliament the remains of Lieutenant Kenneth Hudson and Private Robert Moncrieff, both of the Special Air Service Regiment (SASR), would be returned to Australia.

The men were swept away during a river crossing in Indonesian Borneo on March 21, 1966 as they took part in clandestine border security operations.

"Despite extensive searches at the time they were not found," Rudd said.

"Now their remains can be brought home to their final resting place in Australia."

Australian and British troops were involved in secret border security operations from 1965-66 during a small, undeclared war between Indonesia and Malaysia triggered by the 1963 Federation of Malaysia.

The Australian soldiers conducted extensive operations on both sides of the border and were involved in clashes with Indonesian units as they attempted to ensure Malaysia's security.

The Australian army began an attempt to find the men's remains in 2008 and the Indonesian military agreed to assist in the search the following year.

Rudd thanked the Indonesian armed forces for their cooperation in helping find the remains of Hudson, who was 30 when he died, and Moncrieff, then 21, who had been respectfully buried by locals a few kilometres apart.


MSN News

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Manohara Odelia Pinot - Perlukah Indonesia mengistiharkan perang ke atas Malaysia kerana wanita berumur 18 tahun ini?

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 3/11/2010

Malaysian prince wins defamation suit against teen wife

The estranged wife and mother-in-law of a Malaysian prince were ordered Thursday to pay 1.8 million dollars after alleging he had raped and abused his teenage bride, his lawyer said.

Tengku Temenggong Mohammad Fakhry, a prince from northern Kelantan state, won the defamation suit by default last November after the two women failed to file a defence.

The prince's lawyer Haaziq Pillay said the High Court on Thursday set the compensation at 6.0 million ringgit (1.8 million dollars).

"The court took into account the special circumstances by virtue of the seriousness of the defamation and the high standing of the plaintiff in the society," he told AFP.

The suit was launched after Manohara Odelia Pinot, 18, slipped away from the prince's retinue during a stay in Singapore and returned to her family in Indonesia with tales of abuse, rape and torture.

The lawyer said the 31-year-old prince, whose father is the sultan of Kelantan, was "happy" with the ruling and would initiate similar legal action against Manohara and her mother in Jakarta where they live.

Manohara's lawyer Farhat Abas told AFP in Jakarta that the teenage model and socialite would "never" pay the compensation.

"This is a cruel verdict," Farhat said. "We will study the verdict first and then file an appeal against the ruling."

Divorce proceedings are still pending in a religious court to dissolve the 2008 marriage.

MSN News

Monday, 15 February 2010

Man and Nature in Borneo: First footage of new leopard species captured in Sabah

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 2/15/2010

First footage of new leopard species captured in Borneo

The Sundaland clouded leopard, a newly identified and little understood species of big cat in Borneo, has been filmed for the first time.

The leopard, a healthy-looking animal a metre long (3 feet) and weighing about 40 kilos (90 pounds) was caught on video at night at the Dermakot Forest Reserve in Malaysian Borneo's Sabah state.

"What surprised us was that while clouded leopards are very elusive cats, this one was not scared at all," said Azlan Mohamed, a field scientist with University Sabah Malaysia.

"Despite our powerful spot lights and the roar of our vehicle's engine, it walked around our vehicle calmly," he told AFP.

"It is rare to see the big cat in the wild. These cats are usually shy of humans, it was by chance we caught it on video."

The Sundaland clouded leopard was classified as a new species through genetic studies several years ago and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature designated it as endangered in 2008.

Previously all clouded leopards living across the Southeast Asian mainland were thought to be the same species.

Azlan said the Sundaland species is the biggest predator on Borneo, a resource-rich island split between Malaysia and Indonesia where wildlife habitats are under pressure from logging and plantations.

Because of their nocturnal habits, secretive behaviour and small numbers, little is known about the beast, including how many of them are living in Borneo.

However, Azlan said the researchers found the remains of a samba deer which had been killed by one of the big cats.

Azlan is a member of a research team focusing on carnivores in Sabah, led by Andreas Wilting of the Leibnez Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research based in Berlin, Germany.

This big cat can be found in lowland rainforest on Borneo and in small numbers in areas of logged forest.

But environmentalist say that the clouded leopard faces the threat of poaching while rapid deforestation and the creation of rubber and oil-palm plantations in Borneo is destroying its natural habitat.

Azlan said Dermakot Forest Reserve, a 500 square kilometre (190 square mile) area which had been commercially logged but where replanting is now underway, is also home to four other threatened wild cats.

Sixty cameras traps placed in Dermakot also captured images of the marbled cat, flat-headed cat, leopard cat and Borneo bay cat, all smaller in size than the Sundaland clouded leopard.

"These small cats feed on rats and mice," he said.

Azlan said the research team was "surprised" to find all five cat species in Dermakot and four of them in the neighbouring Tangkulap Forest Reserve.

MSN News

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Are We actually in The Bermuda Triangle? First our fighter planes engines went missing; now our submarine refuses to go diving.

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 2/11/2010

Malaysia says first submarine unable to dive

Malaysia's first submarine, a European-made Scorpene delivered last September, has developed problems that make it unfit for diving, the defence minister said Thursday.

The KD Tunku Abdul Rahman sailed into a grand reception last year as the first of two commissioned from French contractor DCNS and Spain's Navantia for a total of 3.4 billion ringgit (961 million dollars).

Named after the country's first prime minister, it was hailed as an important acquisition despite opposition allegations of corruption in the deal.

"The submarine can still dive but when we detected the defects, we were advised that it should not dive," Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters.

"The (parts found with) defects are still under warranty so the supplier and contractor are repairing them," he added.

Navy chief Abdul Aziz Jaafar said a problem first emerged in the submarine's cooling system last December. After being fixed, another defect was identified in a different system last month.

"We hope it can dive again after February 18 so we can carry out the tropical water trials," Abdul Aziz told reporters.

The navy chief said the second submarine, the KD Tun Razak which is named after the nation's second premier, is expected to arrive from France on May 31. It was originally scheduled for delivery in late 2009.

The two submarines have attracted controversy since the deal was signed in 2002.

Malaysia's opposition claims that a 540-million-ringgit commission was paid to a close associate of Prime Minister Najib Razak in brokering the contract.

Najib has denied there was any corruption in the deal, which was made when he was defence minister.




Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

In the forests of Peninsular Malaysia: Humans and Tigers Fight for Life

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 2/10/2010

Malaysian tribesman paid by syndicates to poach tigers: WWF

Tribesmen in Malaysia are being paid by syndicates to trap wildlife, including critically endangered tigers, to meet insatiable demand from China, a conservationist said Wednesday.

"Local tribesmen are being used by the middlemen to collect the forest products as they are familiar with the jungle," said Dionysius Sharma, executive director with WWF-Malaysia.

"The demand for wildlife from Asia's forests to be used in China for traditional medicine is strong," he told AFP.

As China's society becomes more affluent, the demand for exotic animals to be used in traditional remedies for illnesses such as heart disease and asthma is expanding rapidly.

Sharma said the poachers, often members of Malaysia's indigenous peoples, do not have the resources to market the animal parts, or smuggle them out of the country.

"The tribesmen receive a small sum of money but the middlemen reap lots of profit," he said, adding that the syndicates were not identified, but likely involved both foreigners and Malaysians.

Sharma's remarks come after a four-year-old male tiger which had injured a Semai tribesman in northern Malaysia last week was found dead with gunshot, spear and snare wounds.

Yok Meneh, who sustained a deep gash on his back and injuries to his hands and legs, said he fought off the injured beast armed only with a rock after it attacked him while he was out picking wild beans.

But Shabrina Shariff, wildlife department director in Perak state told AFP Wednesday that Yok Meneh was in fact part of a group of seven men who had snared the tiger but came under attack when they tried to kill it.

"He was among the tribesmen who trapped the tiger. They shot the tiger four times. Then they used the poisonous spear and blowpipe darts to kill it," she said.

Shabrina said the tribesmen were "promised thousands of ringgit", the Malaysian currency, by unidentified middlemen and admitted to killing another tiger and a panther previously.

Sharma said poachers from other nations were also hunting for wildlife in Malaysian jungles.

"There is a lot of evidence that hunters from Thailand and Vietnam are setting traps in Malaysia. We have found their camps and hunting equipment. They spend a long time in the jungles. They are very organised," she said.

Loretta Ann Shepherd, coordinator with the Malaysian Conservation Alliance for Tigers, pressed for swift action.

"It is a sad way to welcome the Year of the Tiger. The authorities should prosecute those responsible. Let it be a lesson for other poachers," she said this week.

Conservationists last month called for a war on the poachers who are undermining Malaysia's ambitious goal to double its population of wild tigers to 1,000.

With 2010 declared the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese zodiac, experts fear there will be a surge in tiger poaching.

In the 1950s, there were as many as 3,000 tigers in Malaysia but their numbers fell as the country opened up more land for agriculture.

MSN News

Monday, 8 February 2010

Food or Pets? China may ban pet meat from menus

Al Jazeera English - Asia-Pacific - China may ban pet meat from menus

Prehistoric human bones found in Malaysia: Any idea whether it was a Malay or Proto-Malay youth Prof Nik?

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 2/7/2010 Prehistoric human bones found in Malaysia: reports

Malaysian researchers believe they have discovered a new set of prehistoric human bones in a cave near the largest man-make lake in Southeast Asia, newspapers reported on Sunday.

The skeletal remains are of a youth who died 8,000 to 11,000 years ago, the Sunday Star quoted Nik Hasan Shuhaimi, deputy director of the Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation of the National University of Malaysia, as saying.

The bones were found in the Bewah Cave near Kenyir Lake in the northeastern state of Terengganu in November. DNA samples have been sent to the United States for radiocarbon dating with results expected in March, it said.

Nik Hassan said pieces of pottery, some bearing apparent rock paintings and believed to date back to the Neolithic Age, were also found in the area.

The oldest human remains in Malaysia were discovered in 1991 in the northern state of Perak. The skeleton of "Perak Man" was believed to be 11,000 years old, the New Sunday Times newspaper said.

Source: MSN News

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Even after 37 Years of Malaysia: West Malaysian Papers Still Reminded to Be Mindful Of Local Sensitivities

February 07, 2010 12:14 PM

National Newspapers Eyeing Sarawak Advised To Be Mindful Of Local Sensitivities

KUCHING, Feb 7 (Bernama) -- National newspapers planning to expand their operations to Sarawak have been reminded to be mindful of the state's social and political sensitivities and not incite racial disharmony by capitalising on racist issues.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said competition should be seen as a positive development for the media industry but outsiders or individuals who raised sensitive issues which could create havoc and racial disharmony would not be welcome in Sarawak.

"Members of the press must assist the government to preserve peace and racial harmony through responsible reporting. We must stand for truth, and rumours must not be a source of our news," he said at the Kuching Division Journalists Association (KDJA) Chinese New Year gathering, here Saturday night.

He said plans by the big peninsula-based dailies to expand to Sarawak was also a wake-up call for local companies to improve the terms and conditions for their employees, besides giving greater room for journalists to grow in their profession or career.

He also said that local journalists should also embrace social networks like Facebook and Twitter or even have their own blogs by utilising the tools available to them through the development in information technology, particularly the Internet.

"Through the social media, a journalist can become his own brand and feel the pulse of the society he works in," Dr Chan said, but advised journalists to be smart about it and not take everything on the Internet at face value.

He said that in disseminating news and information which were critical for creating a well-informed public, it was important for the media to understand the power it had to influence, shape and mould society.

The media had to realise that its reach was becoming even wider now because a local newspaper could be local for its content but its readership could reach beyond its circulation borders due to the Internet, he said.

BERNAMA

Friday, 5 February 2010

Ancient Andaman tribe dies out


UPDATED ON:
Friday, February 05, 2010
11:44 Mecca time, 08:44 GMT

Ancient Andaman tribe dies out

Boa Senior died last week, ending the existence of the Bo tribe in the Andamans [Survival International]

An indigenous tribe from India's Andaman Islands, thought to have existed for 65,000 years, has disappeared with the death of its last member.

According to the indigenous advocacy group Survival International, Boa Senior, the last known member of the Bo tribe, died last week at the age of 85.

She was also the last speaker of the Bo language.

"With the death of Boa Senior and the extinction of the Bo language, a unique part of human society is now just a memory," Stephen Corry, director of London-based organisation which lobbies for tribal groups, said in a statement.

"Boa's loss is a bleak reminder that we must not allow this to happen to the other tribes of the Andaman Islands."

The Bo are thought to have been among 10 distinct Great Andamanese tribes which numbered around 5,000 strong when the British colonised the Andaman Islands in 1858.

Most were killed or died of disease, with just 52 now thought to survive.

Tsunami survivor

Narayan Choudhary, a linguist at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University who is part of an Andaman research team, wrote on his website that Boa Senior "epitomised a totality of humanity in all its hues and with a richness that is not to be found anywhere else."


Andaman factfile

Island languages thought to originate from Africa

Some thought to be 70,000 years old, with links back to pre-Neolithic times

Bo was one of 10 languages spoken by the Great Andamanese group of tribes

Around 5,000 Great Andamanese lived on the islands when they were colonised by the UK in 1858

Most of the tribes were killed or died from disease brought by outsiders; today only 52 are thought to remain

Her death, he said, not only represented the end of her tribe, but was also "a loss of several disciplines of studies put together, including anthropology, linguistics, history, psychology, and biology".

Boa Senior survived the Asian tsunami of December 2004, which swept over the Andaman Islands less than an hour after the initial earthquake off northern Sumatra.

She reportedly told linguists afterwards: "We were all there when the earthquake came. The eldest told us 'the Earth would part, don't run away or move'."

At least 1,300 people are believed to have died in the Andaman and Nicobar islands when the tsunami struck.

Though Bo the language has been closely studied by researchers of linguistic history, Boa Senior spent the last few years of her life unable to converse with anyone in her mother tongue.

Boa Senior's follows the the passing last November of Boro Senior, another woman who was the last surviving speaker of Khoro, another Great Andamanese language.

Anvita Abbi, a linguist, who knew Boa Senior for many years, said that among the Great Andamanese population, there are only speakers of the Jeru and Sare ancient languages remaining.

There are up to five speakers of the languages on the islands and they have not been transferred to younger generations, she told Al Jazeera.

"These languages will live as long as they live, and it is a very sad situation," she said.

"Languages are not only a string of words, it exposes a different kind of society and worldview, and they were the only link to the past culture and ultimately, memories of that commuinity."

Lonely

Abbi said that since Boa Senior was the only speaker of Bo she was very lonely as she had no one to converse with.

"Boa Senior had a very good sense of humour and her smile and full throated laughter were infectious," she said.

"You cannot imagine the pain and anguish that I spend each day in being a mute witness to the loss of a remarkable culture and unique language."

Boa Senior also told Abbi she felt the neighbouring Jarawa tribe, whose population had not dramatically declined, were lucky to live in their forest away from the non-native settlers who now occupy much of the islands.

The few surviving members of the Great Andamanese tribes are now largely confined to one small island.

They are reported to depend largely on the Indian government for food and shelter, and abuse of alcohol is rife.

Source: english.aljazeera.net

Monday, 1 February 2010

Kelantan Vs The Federal Government: Former Finance Minister Ku Li Dares UMNO Over The Petrol Royalty Issue

Tindakan disiplin tidak relevan, Umno boleh lakukan apa saja

Sabah Leads The Way: Natives Settle their cases at Native Courts. What Happens to the Malay Courts and the Mahkamah Syariah in Borneo?

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 1/31/2010

Malaysian couple fined buffalo over affair : report

A tribal court in Malaysia's Sabah state on Borneo island has fined a man and his lover four buffalo and a pig for having an extramarital affair, a report said Sunday.

The pair were convicted by the Penampang Native Court after the man's wife lodged a complaint, the Star newspaper said. The wife said her husband and the woman were living together and were caught in shorts and sarong when she confronted them.

Judge William Sampil said the court had found evidence of an intimate affair despite their defence as being just "best friends."

The judge ordered the man and his lover to pay compensation of four buffalo, a pig and a fine of 2,000 ringgit (586 dollars).

Indigenous people make up less than one percent of Malaysia's 28 million population.

MSN News

On the native courts of Sarawak: http://www.nativecourt.sarawak.gov.my/services.htm

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The State VS DSAI: Malaysia Says Boleh Amnesty International Says Tidak Boleh

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 1/30/2010

Amnesty urges Malaysia to drop sex charge against Anwar

Human rights group Amnesty International has urged Malaysia to drop a "politically motivated" sodomy charge against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, ahead of the trial due to start next week.

Anwar lost his final appeal on Friday for access to the government's evidence in a case which could see him jailed for up to 20 years if convicted of sodomising a male former aide.

Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister and jailed a decade ago on separate sodomy and corruption charges.

"The Malaysian authorities have resorted to the same old dirty tricks in an attempt to remove the opposition leader from politics," Sam Zarifi, Amnesty Asia-Pacific director said in a statement issued late Friday.

"Malaysia's judiciary should throw out these charges."

Amnesty said it is "seriously concerned" over a fair trial for Anwar, especially after Friday's ruling which the watchdog described as an infringement of international fair trial standards.

"Anwar's case has rightly raised doubts among the international community and investors about Malaysia's commitment to justice and the rule of law," Zarifi added.

Anwar spent six years in prison after he was convicted in 1998 but the sex charge was eventually overturned. Amnesty had considered him a prisoner of conscience before his release.

After being freed Anwar reinvigorated the opposition and rallied it in 2008 to achieve its best ever results in national elections, when it won a third of parliamentary seats.

Anwar has accused the Malaysian government of seeking to convict him quickly as part of efforts to deflect attention against its own woes.


MSN News

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Leaders, here and everywhere: First 100 Days of SBY in Indonesia - Still Loud Speeches, Rhetorics and Much Ado about Nothing

Sabtu, 30 Januari 2010 , 09:35:00
SBY-Boediono Setelah 100 Hari Pertama Berlalu

SERATUS hari pertama duet SBY-Boediono pungkas kemarin. Penanda bahwa Presiden SBY dan kabinetnya telah melewati saat-saat krusial, seperti halnya pesawat yang sedang dalam lima menit pertama meninggalkan landasan, adalah aksi demonstrasi di berbagai penjuru kota di negeri ini. Meski demo marak di mana-mana, secara garis besar aksi-aksi massa kemarin relatif damai dan tertib. Presiden bisa beraktivitas seperti biasa. Dan, di Surabaya, misalnya, pengunjuk rasa malah ditemui Gubernur Jawa Timur H Soekarwo, tanpa rasa khawatir soal keamanan. Demonstrasi, kalau begini modelnya, pasti akan mendewasakan kehidupan demokrasi kita. Besar, tapi tidak menakutkan.

Lepas dari 100 hari pertama, bolehlah kita becermin ke belakang. Kata pemilik kuasa, kurang fair kalau kinerja pemerintahannya diukur dengan parameter waktu sesingkat ini. Tapi, bagi pihak yang mengkritisi jalannya duet SBY-Boediono, 100 hari pertama adalah cermin dari apa yang akan berjalan selama lima tahun ke depan. Keseriusan dan kesungguhan SBY dalam menjalankan semua janji indahnya semasa kampanye bisa terlihat dari kinerjanya pada 100 hari kemarin.Maka, layak tidaknya tiga bulan plus sepuluh hari pemerintahan kabinet SBY dijadikan refleksi untuk langkahnya ke depan bakal menjadi perdebatan kata semata. SBY akan mengerahkan semua kemampuan untuk menangkis penilaian minor akan kinerjanya, pengkritik bakal menyerang dengan segala sisi kekurangan selama ini. Celakanya, penangkal yang digunakan SBY, seperti biasanya, cenderung dalam bentuk kata-kata. Bukan berusaha sekuatnya dalam bentuk kerja konkret untuk mewujudkan keinginan rakyat yang membutuhkan perbaikan di berbagai bidang.

Satu hal yang tak boleh kita kesampingkan bahwa ini merupakan kali kedua SBY memimpin jalannya roda pemerintahan di negeri ini. Sesungguhnya, 100 hari kemarin mestinya tersambung dengan lima tahun kerjanya sebagai presiden terpilih periode sebelumnya. Dan, tentu 100 hari itu merupakan tahun keenam kerja SBY harus dicermati. Ketidakmampuan menunjukkan kepada rakyat tentang hasil-hasil riil dari upayanya dalam penegakan hukum, pemberantasan kemiskinan, peningkatan kesejahteraan, dan lain-lain tidak semestinya dilihat dari 100 hari pertama saja.Mengevalusai secara parsial, dengan mengabaikan apa yang telah dilakukan pada lima tahun sebelumnya, akan dijawab dengan enteng seperti dikatakan Andi Mallarangeng: Yang mengatakan 100 persen SBY gagal adalah bohong. Yang mengatakan 100 persen SBY berhasil juga bohong. Terus, bisakah kita berharap banyak dari kabinet SBY-Boediono selepas 100 hari pertama ini? Kita tak perlu menunggu, tapi harus mendorongnya. (*)

Source: Pontianak Post

Philippines: For so many years, so many series of Peace Deals and Still No Peace?

By Agence France-Presse, Updated: 1/28/2010 Philippine government meets rebels in Malaysia: mediator

The Philippine government and Muslim separatists have held two days of exploratory talks in Malaysia's capital aimed at starting negotiations on a new peace deal, officials said Thursday.

Malaysian facilitator Othman Razak said negotiators from the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest of the Philippines' Muslim rebel groups, met on Wednesday and Thursday to review each other's draft position papers and would meet again on February 18 and 19.

The meeting came after the two sides met in Kuala Lumpur last month in a resumption of talks that was hailed as having a good chance of achieving a "just and lasting" peace deal.

Othman said that the next meeting would be aimed at "discussing the draft texts and identifying the next steps towards achieving a comprehensive compact and a negotiated solution".

He said both parties also looked forward to an International Monitoring Team being deployed in Mindanao in the coming weeks.

The Philippines' chief negotiator, Rafael Seguis, said no agreement had been reached and that the two sides had only exchanged drafts.

"I wish to clarify that there is no agreement yet. Both sides are still in the early stages of discussing each other's position papers," he said.

The government's "draft is clear that discussions that will concern legislative and other policy actions will still be proposals which would be submitted to Congress," he added.

Earlier talks collapsed after the MILF launched deadly attacks across Mindanao in August 2008.

The 2008 attacks broke out after the Philippine Supreme Court rejected a proposed deal that would have given the MILF control over large areas of the south claimed by the rebel group as its "ancestral domain".

Over 700,000 people were displaced at the height of the fighting and nearly 400 were killed. More than 250,000 people remain in evacuation centres.

A new ceasefire was signed last September paving the way for talks to resume in December 2009 after the government approved the establishment of an International Contact Group (ICG) comprising Britain, Japan, Turkey and non-governmental groups.


MSN News

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Claude Lévi-Strauss Obituary by Maurice Bloch

The fame of Claude Lévi-Strauss, who has died aged 100, extended well beyond his own subject of anthropology. He was without doubt the anthropologist best known to non-specialists. This is mainly because he is usually considered to be the founder of the intellectual movement known as structuralism, which was to have such influence, especially in the 1970s. He was one of those French intellectuals – like Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jacques Derrida and Paul Ricoeur – whose influence spread to many other disciplines because they were philosophers in a much broader sense of the word than the academic philosophers of the British and American tradition.

As a result, these French writers have seemed more stimulating to some Anglo-Saxon thinkers, working in intellectually more imaginative, but perhaps less rigorous, areas such as literature, history or sociology than the home-grown product. Yet it is something of an irony that Lévi-Strauss should have been thought of in this way, as he considered himself, above all, a technical anthropologist, and he was a little surprised, if not also a little suspicious, of the enthusiasm for structuralism manifested by students of literature and others. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that he relished the literary fame that his work acquired, especially for his 1955 book Tristes Tropiques.

Lévi-Strauss was born in Brussels into a family of French artists, and followed a fairly typical career for a successful French humanities student. He attended the Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris, and then the Sorbonne, where in 1928, at an exceptionally early age and with great success, he passed the formidable philosophy agrégation examination. He consequently became a kind of high-level school teacher in Laon, in Picardy, a type of post that was often a first step towards becoming a university teacher.

He soon became disillusioned with philosophy, however, because of what he saw as its sterile self-reference and mannerisms. He especially disliked the utilitarian and moralistic forms of philosophy dominant in France at the time. For a while he also became active in the French socialist movement but, subsequently, he seems to have lost interest in politics and was surprisingly uncommitted during the dramatic events of postwar France. Instead he became interested in anthropology, after reading the American anthropologist Robert Lowie, partly because he realised that the richness of the cultures then labelled as primitive gave the lie to the optimistic evolutionism of writers such as Auguste Comte.

As a result of this interest in anthropology he was proposed by the sociologist Célestin Bouglé as a member of a group of French academics who were being seconded to the new French-sponsored University of São Paulo in Brazil. He accepted a professorship in 1935, largely in the mistaken belief that he would be able to study the Amerindians. He did attempt to carry out a certain amount of anthropological research from there, but it was difficult, and in 1939 he resigned from the post to carry out more systematic fieldwork among the Nambikwara and other indigenous peoples of the Mato Grosso and Brazilian Amazon. Although this field work has always been considered to be rather poor by many anthropologists, I find it rather impressive given the short time he spent with the Amerindians. More importantly it confirmed him in his sympathy and respect for the culture of the indigenous peoples of South America and also in his growing scepticism towards the philosophical and artistic achievements of the literate civilisations of the Old World.

This attitude must have been confirmed by the events of the second world war. First, Lévi-Strauss was called up for a very short time and experienced the humiliation of the fall of France and the armistice, and then he was faced by the growing discrimination and persecution against Jews in Vichy France. In 1941, he managed to escape and ultimately made his way to New York, where, the next year, together with other French intellectuals, he was given a post at the New School for Social Research. There, he, the theologian Jacques Maritain and others founded a kind of Free French university, the École Libre des Hautes Études. After the war he stayed on in the US until 1948, working as cultural attaché to the French embassy in Washington. On his return to France, he held a number of increasingly important posts at institutions, including the Museé de l'Homme in Paris, where he served as assistant director (1949-50), and the École Pratique des Hautes Études, where he was director of studies in anthropology (1950-74). In 1959 he was elected to a chair of social anthropology at the Collège de France. Among many other honours he was, in 1973, awarded the Erasmus prize and elected to the French Academy.

It was during Lévi-Strauss's period in the US that "structural anthropology" became constructed. This led to what has come to be known as "structuralism" – a term used for a variety of theories both in anthropology and beyond, which, although they claim to be derived from his ideas, do not always bear much relation to his work. It is striking how, in spite of the immense respect with which he is treated, especially in France, he has no direct followers or students. Many claim and have claimed to be structuralists but it usually turns out that only a limited aspect of his thought has an influence on them, and at worst the adoption of the label "structuralist" was merely a matter of passing fashion. He is a lonely, if imposing, figure in the history of thought.

Levi-Strauss's own structuralism is a personal amalgam of a naturalist approach to the study of human beings and a philosophical attitude derived from this. The strictly scientific aspect was largely the result of the combination of two types of theoretical influences. The first has to do with his contact with American cultural anthropology, a relation that is ambiguous since it is so much "at a distance", as was to be his attitude to all other contemporary theoretical influences. Secondly, he came into contact with structural linguistics, a behaviouristic amalgam of European and American theories, and particularly the more imaginative work of Roman Jacobson, the Russian theoretician of language who was also at the New School at the time.

While in New York, Lévi-Strauss immersed himself in the great body of anthropological accounts of North and South Amerindians that early US anthropologists and linguists had been accumulating for more than a century. The data collected from the Amerindians and its complexity delighted him, and made him react permanently against reductionist explanations of culture, which implicitly denied the intellectual achievement that indigenous mythology and social thought represented. The contact with the structural linguists suggested to him an approach that could both generalise and remain true to the richness and specificity of the original material. Thus Levi-Strauss adopted the term "structural" from a very particular school of linguistics that flourished in the 1940s and 50s, which combined the influence of the Swiss, Ferdinand de Saussure, with that of the American Leonard Bloomfield.

The basis of the structural anthropology of Lévi-Strauss is the idea that the human brain systematically processes organised, that is to say structured, units of information that combine and recombine to create models that sometimes explain the world we live in, sometimes suggest imaginary alternatives, and sometimes give tools with which to operate in it. The task of the anthropologist, for Lévi-Strauss, is not to account for why a culture takes a particular form, but to understand and illustrate the principles of organisation that underlie the onward process of transformation that occurs as carriers of the culture solve problems that are either practical or purely intellectual.

For him anthropology was scientific and naturalistic, that is scientific in the way that structural linguistics had become scientific. By looking at the transformations of language that occur as new utterances are generated, by using the tools that a particular language makes available, structural linguistics was able, so Lévi-Strauss believed, to understand not only the irreducible specificities of a particular language, but also the principles that made their production possible. In this way, linguistics, as he understood it, was a branch of the humanities and a natural science that is able to connect directly with psychology and neurology.

By studying the richness of cultural forms and their continued transformations, much the same was to be achieved by anthropology, which was to be both a cognitive and a historical science. Thus, the meaning of symbols and concepts had to be studied both within the context of the working of the brain and the specificity of the historical flow of a particular culture. Anthropology was for Lévi-Strauss one of the cognitive sciences. It was to be compatible with recent discoveries concerning the working of the brain, although as time went on he seems to have given up keeping up with developments in this field. He was, however, insistent that although the cognitive could explain structure, it could not explain content.

This is the programme lying behind all of Lévi-Strauss's major works. But, in a sense, it is also a manifestation of a much more fundamental approach and mood from modern English-speaking anthropologists. In contrast to most professional anthropologists, whose work often seems contained within the controversies of their time and which lacks a general theory of human nature, Lévi-Strauss writes as though he were a naturalist from far away, observing our planet and the ecology of its different species, including the human species, with an Olympian lack of involvement.

He was thus interested in the human species in general terms but, because he knew that for 99% of its existence, humankind has consisted of small groups with very low population densities living in close interaction with a multitude of other living species, he considered the study of peoples such as the pre-contact Amazonian Indians to be far more important and relevant than the details of the short-lived modern industrialised world.

This approach led him to pay particular attention to Amerindian myths, the study of which was the subject of most of his writing since the 1960s. In particular, it is the subject of the four-volume Mythologiques (1964-71). For Lévi-Strauss, Amerindian myths are the Indian's speculation on the condition of interdependence of living things. Thus a myth about the origins of wild pigs is related to marriage rules and to another myth about the benefits of cooking.

This is, for him, a speculation not so much utilitarian as philosophical. Human thought is, of course, governed by the structuring capacity of the human brain but not explained by it. In this light, the myths are the record of the true history of the principal philosophical endeavour of mankind, and Lévi-Strauss not only wanted to record this endeavour, but also to join it. The myths' subject matter is his subject matter. Thus, this most aloof of intellectuals saw himself as a participant in the Amerindian dialogues he analysed without claiming any kind of precedence for himself. Because the myths are about the interrelationship of living things, it is essential for him to understand the natural history of all species in order to understand our own natural history.

Understanding, or participating, in the ecological reflection of humans such as the Amerindians is not only what he considered most important to study for himself as an anthropologist: it also coloured his values. These, from time to time, particularly towards the end of his life, he allowed himself to make public. He repeatedly expressed his distaste for the narrowness and sterility of much post-neolithic thought, and its obsession with the exploitation of other living things rather than simply reflecting on the latter's complexity and mutual relationships. As a result, he became something of a hero to certain modern ecological ideologues. For Lévi-Strauss, writing and formal education are just as likely to lead to philosophical impoverishment as to anything else.

There is also another, even more fundamental, way in which his thought seeks to rejoin that of the mythology of the Amerindians as he understands it to be. Myths have no authors. Their creation occurs imperceptibly in the process of transmission or transformation over hundreds of years and across hundreds of miles. The individual subject, the self-obsessed innovator or artist so dear to much western philosophy, had, therefore, no place for Lévi-Strauss, and indeed repelled him. He saw the glorification of individual creativity as an illusion. As he wrote in Tristes Tropiques: "the I is hateful". This perspective is particularly evident in his study of Amerindian art. This art did not involve the great individualistic self-displays of western art that he abhorred. The Amerindian artist, by contrast, tried to reproduce what others had done and, if he was innovating, he was unaware of the fact. Throughout Lévi-Strauss's work there is a clear aesthetic preference for a creativity that is distributed throughout a population and that does not wear its emotions on its sleeve.

This central philosophical tenet of his approach has often been forgotten, partly because of some subsequent writers, such as Foucault or Derrida, who although they acknowledged his influence, were bizarrely labelled as post-structuralists, as though they differed from him in this respect. They were then credited with the idea of the "death of the subject" while, in this, they simply followed in his footsteps. Yet, the philosophical implications of this position not only implicitly underlay so much of his thought, but were made quite explicit in the polemic against Sartre's glorification of individual choice, which forms the final part of Lévi-Strauss's most adventurous book, The Savage Mind (1962).

Of course, his theories have been much criticised, and few would now subscribe to them in the way that they were originally formulated, but nonetheless many anthropologists, including myself, are continually amazed and awed by the fact that, through the use of a theory that many consider flawed, or at least rather vague, Lévi-Strauss gained the most illuminating and unexpected insights in almost all fields of social and cultural anthropology.

Given his personality and, indeed, his theories, the extraordinary lionisation he received on the occasion of his 100th birthday seems ironic. It was as if the French establishment and the French state had decided that he was suddenly a major diplomatic asset. He had received drawers full of medals and prizes from all over the world and, as the international fame of its public intellectuals is the kind of thing France has always prided itself on, it made sure the birthday did not go unnoticed. Lévi-Strauss had become the last survivor of these great beasts such as Sartre, Foucault and the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and, what was more, he was politically uncontroversial. Also, the genuine interest of the previous French president Jacques Chirac in the culture of native peoples and in the acquisition of "primitive art" encouraged this apotheosis of a person who, for the general French public represented, above all, the lure of primitive exoticism.

So, when the great date came, nearly every French magazine had his photo on the cover. President Sarkozy went to his flat to wish him a happy birthday, and the ministry of foreign affairs helped to finance seminars in his honour in places as far apart as Iceland and India. The imposing amphitheatre of the newly created collection of indigenous art at the Quai Branly museum, in Paris, was named after him. Most significant of all, a large part of his work was republished in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. This honour is normally reserved for dead greats such as Racine or Aristotle, whose writings are thereby placed in a kind of leather-bound bibliophilic mausoleum and printed on paper normally only used for bibles.

This treatment is significant because, as Vincent Debaene points out in a cheeky introduction to the volume, France much prefers to represent its scientists and thinkers as great literary figures, rather than celebrate what they said or discovered.

And indeed all this adulation hardly considered seriously the core of Levi-Strauss's work, the groundbreaking analysis of kinship systems that he published on his return to France in 1947 as The Elementary Structures of Kinship, consisting of a detailed study of those societies where family ties determine who people must marry, or the minute examinations of North and South American myth. All these public tributes seem to obscure his prime identity as a professional anthropologist struggling with the basic traditional questions of the discipline.

We do not know what he thought of all this, since by then he felt too ill to respond, but his often-expressed preference for the anonymous creator, which seems to accord so well with his personality, does not square with all this fuss. He hated public occasions and was a very private person. He loved to be out of step with the received "correct" view of the moment. He was uncomfortable with disciples and fled from adulation.

To the members of his team in Paris, the image he evoked above all was the nearly permanently closed doors of his study. This is not to say that he was in any way a recluse. He was secretly warm and had a delightful sense of humour. He was charming and very considerate and respectful towards whoever he was dealing with, irrespective of status. I remember him at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, on the occasion of his being given an honorary degree, listening to students telling him about what they got from his work and not allowing them to be interrupted by the French ambassador, who failed in the attempt to barge in and drag him away in the direction of more important guests. The nearest he approached discourtesy was a faint hint of irony, but on the whole he preferred to be alone, working, reading and accumulating ever more details about the lives of the native Americans whom he so admired.

He married Dina Dreyfus in 1932, Rose Marie Ullmo in 1946, and Monique Roman in 1954, and had a son by each of his second and third wives - Laurent and Matthieu. He is survived by Monique and his sons.

• Claude Lévi-Strauss, anthropologist, born 28 November 1908; died 30 October 2009


Courtesy of GlobalResearch.ca

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