REFSA Rojak: Crisps of the Week (25-31 May)

Foong Li Mei brings to you another edition of REFSA Rojak, a weekly take on the goings-on in Malaysia by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA).

REFSA Rojak – “trawl the newsflow, cut to the core and focus on the really pertinent. Full of flavour, lots of crunch, this is the concise snapshot to help Malaysians keep abreast of the issues of the day.”

Guilty until proven innocent

Burden is shifted upon the already buckling knees of internet freedom in Malaysia, as the newly amended Evidence Act 2012 presumes, should any dispute arise, that internet users are guilty until proven innocent.

Coming into effect today, this hastily rushed legislation holds internet users liable for any contentious content published through their registered networks or data processing device. This means that if someone posts an offensive picture on your Facebook wall, or starts a controversial blog in your name, or hitches a ride on your unsecured Wi-Fi to upload a seditious document, or hacks into your email to blast out libellous comments, you would be deemed responsible and accountable for these contents unless you are able to prove otherwise.

An article on Loyarburok frames the prickly Act succinctly – “If this amended law were to take effect, all 17 million internet users in Malaysia who post anything online – from emails to comments to status updates – will exist in a state of presumed illegality.” The writer further charged that the law actually protects hackers and punishes their victims.

Lawyer Foong Cheng Leong underlined the intricacies in proving one’s innocence. According to Foong, an internet user would have to “prove that he has no access to the computer at that time of publication and he needs to produce call witnesses to support his alibi”.

De facto law minister Datuk Seri Nazri denies that the Evidence Act is meant to silence online dissent. He claims that the amendments  will curb anonymous people from slandering or threatening others.

However, the government’s sterling track record in selective prosecution is unlikely to earn it many votes of faith. Penang chief minister Lim Guan Eng pointed out the double standards – netizens have been hauled up by the BN administration for ‘offensive’ statements but pro-UMNO bloggers who defamed him and his son for political mileage were still at large.

An interesting scenario would be if the BN lawmakers’ blogs, emails, or social media profiles are hijacked and slanderous content posted. Would they also be guilty until proven innocent? Nobody wins with a bad law, and those that passed it are shooting themselves in their own foot.

Join REFSA in signing the Netizens against Evidence (Amendment) (No2) Act 2012 petition!

No faith in polls

Our country’s election body has called a polling result into question. No, it is not one of their own, but rather a Merdeka Center poll involving 1,019 people that recorded 92 percent support for a clean-up of the electoral roll. Election Commission deputy chairman Wan Ahmad Wan Omar claimed that the results may be due to the ignorance of the respondents, and that the respondents’ perception “does not mean the truth”.

To the EC’s credit, it will hold an electoral checking campaign to enable voters to verify their status. From 1st to 30th June, those who had registered by 31st December last year can check for mistakes in the roll including missing names and change of address. Any complaints can be lodged via the complaints system on its website, call centre at 03-88856565, SMS, fax at 03-8889112, mail, or by going to the EC headquarters in Putrajaya or any of the state election offices.

Don’t whip the whistle-blower

Those who took the bull by its horns may find the beast biting back. The National Feedlot Corporation (NFCorp) scandal’s main whistle-blower, PKR strategic director Rafizi Ramli, was summoned by Bank Negara, a move described as “bizarre” and “politically motivated”.

Lawyer and PKR vice president N Surendran was baffled by Bank Negara’s investigations into Rafizi’s alleged breaching of banking laws, as the information disclosed by Rafizi has led to criminal prosecution of people involved. He also called the summons a threat to other potential whistle-blowers who may have information of corrupt officials.

Meanwhile, Rafizi urged the central bank not to practice double-standards, and investigate NFCorp chairman Salleh Ismail for money laundering.

While REFSA understands that Bank Negara has a duty to perform, we also hope that the central bank carries out its probes without fear or favour.

Supposed muck on Sharizat cleared; old case on Azmin emerged

The case of Datuk Seri Shahrizat’s alleged link to the NFCorp scandal is closed– an announcement which riled The Malaysian Insider enough to call it ‘MACC’s cow sense’. This is simply because no one has ever accused her of being involved in the loan disbursement process. What game was MACC playing at?

On the other hand, an investigation into PKR deputy president Azmin Ali’s 17-year-old alleged corruption case has been reopened. This is following the exposé by blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, who claimed to be holding incriminating documents acquired from an MACC ‘Deep Throat’.

Azmin, however, has denied the blogger’s allegation. He questioned Raja Petra’s timing, charging that the accusations were a ploy to distract PKR leaders so that they “lose focus on [their] agenda”.

Crippling Clamps

No love and liberty are forthcoming from the Home Ministry and Islamic authorities for the book, Allah, Liberty and Love, written by Muslim activist Irshad Manji. The Home Ministry has ordered a ban on the book on the grounds that there are elements that can cause Muslims to “deviate” from their faith.  The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) also conducted a raid on the book’s publishing house, ZI Publications, and detained its director.

Irshad, who also openly supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) lifestyles, criticised the ban, saying it is “an insult to a new generation of Malaysians”. She also defended her book as making the case for faith, as it empowers “readers to reconcile Allah and freedom, showing that Muslims can be independent thinkers and profound believers in a loving God.”

ZI Publications director Ezra Zaid slammed the raid, saying that “this is not about Islam; this is about abuse of power”. Asserting that it is the responsibility of every Muslim to facilitate discussions on differing opinions, Ezra called the conduct of the religious departments “lawless”.

The publisher had also earlier considered suing the Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) for its seizure of the books earlier from a bookstore in Bangsar without the required court order. Jawi responded that it does not need a court order to confiscate the books.

Here we go again. Allah, Liberty and Love joins a long list of  banned books aimed at ‘protecting Islam’. Many are irked by religious sentinels that relentlessly determine what the people can or cannot handle. Perhaps it is not Muslims’ beliefs that need upholding, but the religious authorities’ confidence in Muslim maturity and intellect.

 

Why ‘Rojak’? Disparate flavours and textures come together in a harmonious mix to make this delicious but underrated concoction. Our Rojak weekly is much like this mix, making sense of the noise of daily newsflow and politicking.

It is also our ultimate dream that our multi-ethnic melange of communities can be made richer within the unique ‘sauce’ that is Malaysia. Let’s take pride in the ‘rojakness’ of our nation!

[Pic credit: Arrested – mzacha/sxc.hu ]

Click here for previous issues of REFSA Rojak.

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REFSA is an independent, not-for-profit research institute providing relevant and reliable information on social, economic and political issues affecting Malaysians with the aim of promoting open and constructive discussions that result in effective policies to address those issues. Visit us at www.refsa.org

Posted on 2 June 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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