Sunday, December 31, 2006

Filtering the Asian Internet

Here's an interesting article from the Far Eastern Economic Review about the activities of various Asian govts trying to fiddle with the free flow of internet information.

Perhaps the best window on the dark underbelly of the Internet comes from the research of a project I direct: the OpenNet Initiative (ONI)—a collaboration among the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, the Cambridge Security Programme, the Oxford Internet Institute, and partner NGOs worldwide. The aim of the ONI is to document empirically patterns of Internet censorship and surveillance worldwide using sophisticated means of technically interrogating the Internet directly.

When the ONI was formed in 2002, only a handful of countries were known to engage in Internet content filtering, most prominently China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Now more than four years later, the ONI is presently testing in more than 40 countries worldwide.

However, China is not alone. Among countries that the ONI has researched in Asia, we have technically confirmed Internet content filtering in Burma, Vietnam, the Maldives, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Pakistan and India. Although we have not yet conducted tests in North Korea, it is well known that what little Internet exists in the country is heavily filtered. Likewise, Australia filters Web content through official takedown notices issued to ISPs by the government. In Central Asia, we have also identified extensive Internet censorship practices in Uzbekistan, and intermittent or targeted filtering in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan

Hah... Malaysia not on the list??? Semua OK?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Lorrymen to pass on higher toll rates to clients

According to theStar:

Heavy vehicles entering Singapore will have to bear the higher toll rates charged at the Second Link when they are restricted from using the Causeway from March 2008. Lorries weighing more than 16 tonnes will have to pay RM160 for a return trip, which is a more than a 600% increase compared with the RM22 paid by lorries for a return trip via the Causeway.

To cope with the higher toll, lorry operators said they would pass on the extra costs to customers although lorries are only compelled to use the second link for six months from March 2008 until the permanent link to the new CIQ complex is ready.
When contacted, Pan Malaysian Lorry Operators Association president Er Sui See said he was not too concerned about having to pay higher toll charges.

“Yes, the toll at the Second Link is very high. And you have to consider the extra 50km, as it is further away from the Causeway.”But nothing to worry about. We will just pass the costs onto the customers,” he said.

About 2,000 lorries, each carrying 20 tonnes, ply the Singapore route daily, and Er said they are fed-up with having to ask for toll reductions.

Let me see, that 2000 lorries * (RM160-22) = Rm276,000 per day in additional tolls.

Over the period of 6 months, an additional RM50,370,000 of tolls would have been collected. This is simply by forcing lorries to use the 2nd Link, instead of the Causeway. There is naught increase in productivity nor services, and to rub urine into the eyes of efficiency, travel time & distance is increased by 50kms. Therefore this is a BUTA-BUTA price increase that's going into the govt's coffers.

And that's before the additional diesel that would have been burnt and paid for ie. 2000 lorries * 50km * 6 months = 18,250,000kms of fully laden lorry diesel consumption. That's a helluva lot of diesel. And this, again, would be a BUTA-BUTA cost increase that brings zero value.

Errr... so tell me... what's the new CIQ supposed to improve again? It's certainly not improving our quality of life at the moment.
Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has dismissed requests for toll rates to be lowered.

He said the public did not realise or believe that the rates had already been subsidised by the Government, as it was “invisible help”.

“I suggested to the Government that we stand by the toll gate and give people 50 sen each time they pass, then they will think that we are a good government,” he said.
NO. A good govt would have given the 2nd Link construction project and toll concession to a qualified and dependable company (instead of a cronie) who would have kept construction and maintenance costs down. If the construction and concession agreements were at arm's length and economically reasonable, high tolls and subsidies (or is it payouts to cronies?) would not be necessary in the first place.

Grand mufti idea not viable, say Najib and State Muftis

According the NSTOnline on 30 Dec 2006, [the] Grand mufti idea [is] not viable, says Najib.

Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) director-general, Dr Syed Ali Tawfik Al-Attas, was reported on Thursday in an English daily to have said Malaysia needed a grand mufti to prevent the teachings of the religion from being distorted. The person could be appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who is the head of Islam in the country.

An authoritative figure was needed to unite differing views among religious scholars on certain issues which caused confusion among believers, he added. A grand mufti would also ensure that religious enforcement agencies played a proper role in developing the faith of believers.
Sounds like a good idea, yes? It would get rid of all those disparate, local interpretations of religion & morality by the state authorities, local councils etc. Things might not necessarily liberalise if a Grand Mufti was appointed, on the contrary it might just get a lot worse. But at least, it would be a result of a consistent, nation-wide policy. At least the govt will no longer be able to use the "one bad apple doesn't mean the whole cart stinks" and "this independent action does not reflect the policy of the govt" excuses every time JAIS or MAIS or a far-flung Mufti or some local council suddenly goes Taliban.
"It will be difficult. It won’t be possible to implement this suggestion, based on what we have in our Constitution. The exclusive right to decide on Islam is with the ruler of each state," Najib said when asked to comment on the proposal for a grand mufti...

Malaysia cannot have a grand mufti as the Federal Constitution does not allow for one, the deputy prime minister said.
Well, we used to think the same thing about a couple of other things enshrined in the Federal Constitution, but the govt had no trouble changing it, even though the Constitution certainly did not allow for it.

For instance, how the explicit pre-eminence of the Civil Court was supplanted overnight by the raising of a religious court's stature. And how the protection of the special rights of bumiputeras and the status of Islam as the religion of the country, has been transmogrified to erode the basic Constitutional guarantee to freedom from discrimination based on race or religion.

So, don't tell us that the Federal Constitution is immutable or that it does not close one eye.
The proposal has so far drawn flak from Perak mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, who felt that a grand mufti would challenge the powers of state rulers in deciding matters of religion.
Ah.... the veritable Perak mufti again. Why did I get the feeling he would pop up somewhere in this whole issue?

Uncle, the grand mufti challenges the powers of the state muftis [ie. YOU lah], not the rulers.

State rulers don't usually go around making religious proclamations that are at odds with those of their brother rulers in other states nor with those of the King in the Federal Territories. To date, that's solely the purview of over-zealous state bureaucrats, not unlike yourself. In fact, I think the rulers see the value of streamlining religious affairs across the nation.

The grand mufti can be appointed by the King and directed by the Conference of Rulers, where all state rulers sit as equals. And each state will be in a position to appoint the grand mufti as they ascend the throne of the Yang DiPertuan Agung in turn. In fact, any permutation of arrangements can be designed to ensure that the state rulers lose none of their power and gain prestige as their wisdom in supporting the national streamlining of religious administration becomes apparent. The dignity and influence of the state rulers are not necessarily incompatible with better national religious management.

Any arrangement of a grand mufti however, is greatly incompatible with the continued power and influence of state muftis. The role and powers of the state mufti will diminish considerably as they become implementors of national policy, rather than promulgators of state policy.

So, might it be your powers as state mufti that you're worried about, rather than the powers of the state rulers?

UPDATE:
Have a read of Marina Mahathir's view on this grand mufti proposal. She highlights some points which I completely overlooked, like how the most senior state mufti ie. mufti of Perak, whom I just bashed a 'lil bit in the preceding paragraphs, will most probably be named the first grand mufti if that eventuates.

A good viewpoint on how an all powerful grand mufti might actually serve to consolidate religious conservatism and be too powerful for the secular govt to comfortably cross swords with - although it doesn't seem too likely to me, that the govt will allow an uncooperative grand mufti to come about.

Hmmmm, stepping back on hindsight, sounds like it might be better to divide and conquer than to have them unite under a single banner.

Small Cars Come Up Short in Crash-Test Safety Study

Small Cars Come Up Short in Crash-Test Safety Study
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
By NICK BUNKLEY
Published: December 19, 2006

DETROIT, Dec. 18 — Small cars are back in vogue because of high gasoline prices but most fail to provide the same safety protection that buyers find in bigger vehicles, according to the results of new tests simulating crashes with sport utility vehicles or pickup trucks.

All eight models of small cars tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety received passing scores in head-on crash tests, but only one, the Nissan Versa, received high marks in both side- and rear-crash tests. The Versa is several hundred pounds heavier than competing models and therefore was better able to withstand the test impact.

Three other models — Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and Mini Cooper from BMW — scored well in side tests but received low ratings in rear tests.

[The Hyundai Accent (picture), was near the bottom among subcompact cars in simulated test crashes with sport utilities and pickup trucks.]

The results, which are being released Tuesday, show that some small cars offer significantly better protection than others, but experts caution that even the safest subcompact car cannot overcome its inherent size and weight disadvantage. On average, subcompacts weigh about 800 pounds less than midsize cars like the Toyota Camry and 4,000 pounds less than midsize S.U.V.’s like the Ford Explorer.

“A good-scoring small and lightweight car is not nearly as good as a good-scoring midsize car — that’s just the law of physics,” the insurance institute’s president, Adrian Lund, said. “If you’re really shopping for safety, then this probably isn’t your best choice.”

Small cars can be forced backward more easily in crashes with larger vehicles, and their crumple zones are less able to protect the passenger compartment.

As a result, fatality rates for drivers in multiple-vehicle crashes are higher for subcompacts than for every other vehicle category — 83 deaths per million registered vehicles, more than double the average for all sizes of cars and trucks.

Mr. Lund said he was particularly concerned that only the Versa performed well in rear-end crashes because that type of accident was common and can often lead to severe neck or head injuries, especially when the car is struck by a larger vehicle.

The tests show that as with other vehicle segments, air bags offer critical protection in a side-impact crash, the deadliest type of collision. The Yaris was rated “good” in side testing with its optional curtain and torso airbags but “poor” without them.

The size of subcompacts means that without the buffer a side air bag creates, the front end of a truck or S.U.V. could strike an occupant’s head. But dealers say their customers rarely are willing to pay more for side air bags or wait longer for a vehicle equipped with them.

Brett Younger, general manager at Champion Toyota in Philadelphia, said most shoppers wanted a Yaris “as inexpensive as we can get it in an automatic.” Parents buying the vehicle for a young driver child often request side air bags, which have been in short supply in parts of the United States since the Yaris went on sale, Mr. Younger said, but other buyers see the $650 add-on as unnecessary.

Although many consumers see subcompacts as a means of saving money on gas, Mr. Lund hopes the crash tests persuade them not to scrimp too much.

“It’s most important in this smallest class that you get all the safety features that you can,” he said.

Side air bags are not available on the Toyota Scion xB wagon, which was one of the lowest-rated subcompacts, with a score of “poor” in side testing and “marginal” in the rear.

The Chevrolet Aveo from General Motors, the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Rio also performed unacceptably in side-impact tests, even though side air bags are standard.

Related articles on this blog: Proton Waja crash test by Top Gear

KL - Singapore route to remain high cost only

Despite hints from AirAsia CEO, Tony Fernandez, that low cost airlines will be allowed to fly the KL-Sg route in early 2007, the latest comments from the govt seems to be quite negative.

More low-cost carriers may fly to Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia may allow more Asian low-cost airlines, including Singapore’s Tiger Airways and Thailand’s Bangkok Air, to fly to the country to boost Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Adnan Mansor said the government was in talks with Tiger Airways to fly to tourist destinations on the east coast of the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak.

But Tiger Airways was unlikely to be allowed to fly the lucrative Kuala Lumpur - Singapore route, he said.

Read the rest of the story on NSTOnline.
Here's a short academic paper by academicians from University Malaya and NUS, summarising the economic & political dynamics of the KL-Sg route. It has some interesting comments on the "National Welfare" argument that Malaysia routinely uses to reject any liberalisation to the 1980 Air Services Agreement that governs the KL-Sg route.
Take the cover of KL-S'pore route (pdf file)
At the end of the day - just like with Proton - the govt is trying to protect MAS by limiting competition and therefore the alternatives available, so as to drive up prices (and therefore profits). All at the cost to the customer ie. you and me, especially me.

And the dangers to MAS (ie. lower profits per passenger and more competition to put bums in seats from the budget airlines) are not just limited to the KL-Sg route alone. A more frequent, faster and cheaper shuttle service will also draw passengers (flying to destinations other than Singapore), away from KLIA in favour of Changi.

This is because flights to many destinations, are cheaper flying out of Changi than out of KLIA. There are simply more airlines flying out of Changi, meaning more competition and lower prices naturally.

What's stopping outbound KL passengers from flying out of Singapore now - is the high cost of getting from Malaysia to Singapore (thanks to the RM700 / S$300 ticket prices for the shuttle service). They need to add that RM700 or S$300 on top of whatever fare they pay to fly from Singapore to their final destination. As a result, the total cost of flying from KL-London (for eg.) is still roughly competitive with the total cost of flying KL-Sg-London, simply because of the artificial added cost of the KL-Sg shuttle.

Any reduction in the KL-Sg shuttle fares will erode the artificial competitiveness of flights of out KL vs those out of Sg - meaning more headaches for MAS and Malaysia Airports Bhd.

So, what is the solution? Continued protection for an inefficient airline and badly run airport at the expense of the Malaysian consumer?

I say if we don't need a bad national car, we certainly don't need a lousy national airline.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Ejection of Chinese CEO of Penang GLC not political worrr...

Here's what happened. A Chinese CEO of a GLC (Govt Linked Company) in Penang - which is a very rare species indeed - had 'resigned' and was replaced by a Malay chap. Of course, the opposition swung into action in protest.

The Opposition has accused the Penang state government of bowing to Umno pressure in forcing PBA Holdings Bhd (PBAHB) chief executive officer Datuk Liew Chook San to resign.

Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, upset with the allegation, said Liew’s departure had nothing to do with politics. He said Liew, in charge of the state’s water supply corporation, left the company as he wanted to spend time with his family and to pursue personal interests.

He said the PBAHB board of directors had appointed Jaseni Maidinsa as the PBAHB acting CEO and PBAPP acting general manager. Koh said his appointment was based on merit and the assessment of his capability to fulfil the group’s corporate goals and social obligations.

Read the rest of the story on NSTOnline.
Well, it's just too much of a coincidence for me to buy Koh's denials. Just a month or so ago, Koh himself was called to relinquish his Chief Minister's job to someone from UMNO. He was also roundly accused of sidelining Malays in the development of Penang.

Is Datuk Liew the unfortunate sacrificial goat that's being thrown into the mouth of the UMNO volcano... to keep it from erupting further? Will more Chinese leaders and businesses in Penang be turned in to goats? Is Koh suffering from mad cow disease?

The day the govt fires one of the Malay CEOs of a major GLC like Maybank or Tenaga and replaces him with a Chinaman, is the day I agree that politics is not involved.

2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 will be 600 hp

The 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 will debut at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

The 8.4-liter V-10 engine will output 600 hp and 560 pounds-feet of torque. That's 90 more horses than the previous Viper.

Dodge says the 0-60 mph will be sub 4 seconds, very comparable to the fastest Italian exoticars.

Source: Automotive News (www.autonews.com)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Taxis turned dens of sin

Just what do university students get up to these days?

Anyway, I doubt Harian Metro's claims are true. Firstly, it is hardly a confidence inspiring broadpage. It more or less publishes our local versions of "Elvis abducted by aliens" stories.

Secondly
, girls who don't mind going naked and doing the nasty in the presence of taxi drivers are usually porn actresses or girlfriends of taxi drivers, not tertiary students.

Thirdly
, and most compellingly, RM100 will get you a decent hotel room for the night. Why bother flagging a taxi and giving the driver a free show? And there's no place to take a shower afterwards.

Taxis turned dens of sin

SOME students from institutions of higher learning are willing to pay taxi drivers a hefty sum to use the back seat of their vehicles for a bit of hanky-panky, Harian Metro reported. According to the paper, they are prepared to fork out RM100 for a half-hour ride.

The students appear unembarrassed to remove their clothing while engaging in sexual activity the back seat, seemingly oblivious to the presence of the driver in front. At times, they are willing to pay more to the drivers when their 30 minutes are up so that they can continue with their activities.

Read the rest of the story on staronline.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

PAS 'ambassadors of love & relief' to help prostitutes

Another hairbrained idea, on par with the one to turn Mat Rempit into Mat Cermerlang.

Pas Youth has come up with an ambitious plan to persuade prostitutes throughout the country to leave their profession.

Pas Youth chief Salehuddin Ayub said the plan, called "ambassadors of love and relief", would bring volunteers among the party ranks to set up teams of counsellors for this purpose.

These counsellors will approach prostitutes and persuade them to stop providing sexual services to men and to return to the right path, he added.

Full article in theStar Online.
Hmmm... aren't they ignoring the other half of the problem? How come they are not trying to persuade men to stop demanding sexual services from women and return to the right path?

PAS seems to have a one track mind when it comes to social problems. It's never the man's fault. It's always a problem with women.

When women get raped, it's because she seduces and arouses men by dressing or behaving sexily. It's her fault for driving him out of control. Never mind the fact that men have the ultimate obligation to control themselves.

When there are too many single mothers, it's because she does not want to be married and have a husband. Never mind that many are single mothers only because they were cheated & abandoned by men. Do you see the men clamouring to take care and pay maintainance for those kids?

Now with prostitution, it's the woman's fault for wanting to be in this 'profession'. Do they really think that prostitutes want & prefer to do what they do? Do they think these women were once little girls who declared "prostitute" when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up? If they had good lives, enough money to support their families and no pimps to abuse & force them - would they be walking the streets?

The Chinese have a saying, "who would choose to have headsores, if they could instead choose to have hair?".
.

New Subaru Impreza WRX 2.0 Automatic

Subaru's finally done it. They finally have an automatic turbo WRX in Singapore.

As I've always said... if you want a fast automatic, you have to make it a turbo. Unless of course you want a large capacity engine starting from a minimum of 3.0 to be even slightly 'fast'.

Mitsubishi has always acknowledged the fact that expanding the lineup with automatic versions of their performance turbo cars will increase sales volumes by capturing the part of the market that likes to drive powerful cars in traffic jams. That's why they always had automatic versions of their Lancer GSR 1.8 turbos and Galant VR4s. And they even came up with an auto version of their Evolution VII ie. GTA.

Subaru has so far resisted automating the transmission for it's most potent model. There are auto Legacies and Forresters, but no auto WRX.... well, not in Singapore nor Malaysia anyway.

Here is a 250hp, 333NM WRX 2.0 turbo. Funny how they made this car the most powerful non-STi WRX ever, with a crank 250hp. The previous generation WRX 2.0 was only 220hp. Even the current WRX 2.5 has only 230hp. Mitsubishi's full blown Evolution VII GTA comes out of the box with a 260hp engine.

However, there is a considerable downside. All this power on tap and they decide to mate it to a 4 speed autobox. I drove a 260hp Mitsubishi 1.8litre 4G93 turbo with a 4 speed automatic for almost 5 years. 3rd gear is always the unitary gear with a 1.0 ratio. 4th gear is then necessarily a large jump from 3rd (typically around 0.75). 4th gear is always a difficult balance. If it's too low, then the car loses torque and tractability. Too high, and engine rpms will be too high during high speed cruising (negatively impacting engine refinement and fuel consumption). Having an extra gear (4th) between the ratios of 1.0 (3rd) and 0.75 (or even lower in 5th) solves this by balancing the 2 conflicting extremes of good torque spread and low revs.

I wonder why they didn't use an existing 5 speed autobox from the Legacies or Forresters.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Of Looters, Profiteers and Soldiers.

Disturbing reports of looting and profiteering from the flood hit areas of southern Malaysia from theStar Online.

Apart from the normal looting of deserted shops and demands for 'rescue fees' from rescuers on boats, there are even lorries going around collecting iron and steel to be sold very profitably for scrap.

One of the more disturbing allegations is that soldiers, who are tasked and duty bound to serve the people, were the ones asking for the highest prices to rescue people. Civilian profiteers were apparently quoting RM50-400 to rescue stranded people with their boats. Soldiers were charging RM4,000.

Housewife Sandy Lim, 42, claimed that soldiers had asked her neighbour to pay RM4,000 to rescue her two-year-old granddaughter who was trapped along with her babysitter in the attic of a single-storey house in Kampung Abdullah.

“The flood came so quickly she (the neighbour) did not have time to collect her granddaughter who was being cared for by a babysitter. Her son was trapped in his shop elsewhere.

“How is she to raise RM4,000 when all the banks are closed?” asked Lim.

However, the babysitter and the four children she was caring for were rescued by others later.

Howzat for military entrepreneurship, at the expense of honour & discipline?

The Royal Malaysian Army, the Police, the Internal Security Ministry and Ministry of Defence must investigate such allegations quickly and thoroughly. If these allegations are found to be true, these soldiers must be dishonourably discharged, prosecuted to the full extent of the law and after that, persecuted by all of society (which they had pledged to serve and defend).

But Sandy Lim's neighbour must first come forward, make the proper complaint reports and make these allegations public. All others who were in the same situation must do the same. If you don't, nobody will know if you were lying or the soldiers were indeed profiteering.

Civil Servant Salary Data Flawed

The country comparative lowest & highest civil servant salary data presented in the article on Sun2Surf is flawed.

At least as far as the Singapore salaries are concerned. A top civil servant in Singapore earns much, much more than S$2442 per month. I won't be surprised if the top civil servant earns S$2442 each working day (ie. $600,000 per annum).

Typical CEO salaries of large listed Singapore companies are about a S$1 million per annum. And Singapore prides itself on a civil servant salary scale that is competitive with the private sector.

Have a look at the 2nd picture which is a screen capture of the Singapore Police Force (SPF) careers website. Entry level commissioned officers in the SPF ie. inspectors and above, already earn well above $2442 a month if they have NS (National Service) or if they have a good honours or higher degree.

Mr Lim Teck Ghee needs to look at his data again. I hope this does not reflect the rigour he put into his ASLI study that came up with the 46% bumi ownership of shares.



Update 25 March 2007

An interesting article in Today newspaper (below) about Singapore civil service salaries and how the top earners (superscale and above) are benchmarked against the top 8 individual salaries in each of 6 professions. Apparently top civil servants like senior parliamentary secretaries and ministers earn over a million a year (vindicating my earlier estimate of S$600,000 above).

What surprised me isn't the fact that a person in the first/lowest superscale rung (Superscale G or SR9) of Singapore's elite Administrative Service pulls in S$370,000 a year. It's the fact that it is the entry point for fast track civil servants aged from their early-mid 30's! Wow... that's a helluva fast track. Assuming they work another 20 years before an early retirement, they would have accumulated a nest egg of over S$7 million! (before tax). And that's if they never get promoted above SR9.

These civil salaries might sound exorbitant, but if you look at Singapore - with its approximately S$50 billion revenue and S$50 billion expenses & capital investment (source: http://www.singaporebudget.gov.sg/budget_2007/revenue_expenditure/toc.html) and the fact that the Administrative service constitutes only 0.43% of the total civil workforce or 270 individuals (2002. Source: http://www.jsscs.gov.hk/en/publications/pwc/appendix_d.htm) - it's really not so different from a normal MNC and it's corp of high-income senior managers and directors. But of course, we have not touched on the fact that the private sectors does not have a post-retirement pension and medical scheme. And the fact remains that the civil service has far more job-security than the private sector. A "cast iron rice bowl" (teet fan woon) if you will.

Followup blog: Paying the Piper: The great Singapore civil servant salary debate





Here's a handy table of civil service ranks and salary points:

Salary Points

Salary Ranges

Political Appointments

Staff Grade IV, V

MR1

Deputy Prime Minister/

Minister MR1

Staff Grade III

MR2

Minister MR2

Staff Grade II

MR3

Minister MR3

Staff Grade I

MR4

Minister MR4

Superscale B

SR5

Senior

Minister of State

Superscale C

SR6

Minister of State

Superscale D

SR7

Senior

Parliamentary Secretary

Superscale E

SR8

Parliamentary Secretary

Superscale G

SR9

 


Senior Principal Assistant Secretary*

R10

 


Principal Assistant Secretary

R11

 


Assistant Secretary

R12

 


Senior Administrative Assistant

R13

 


Administrative Assistant

R14

 


The Scope of Syariah on Non-Muslims?

According to Sun2Surf, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taosim (MCCBCHST) has come out to say:

"The MCCBCHST strongly protests any pressure that is brought to bear on non-Muslims to submit themselves to the syariah court's jurisdiction," secretary general R. Thiagaraja said today in a press conference attended by the heads of non-Muslim religious groups to commemorate the first anniversary Sgt M. Moorthy's passing.
I agree whole heartedly with this stand. Non-muslims should not be subject to Islamic law, and any court that derives it's power from these religious laws. I think that expresses the sentiment of every non-muslim in Malaysia.

However, what is more disturbing to me are the quoted statements of the Syariah Lawyers Assoc. in the same article:
In a Berita Harian commentary yesterday, Syariah Lawyers Association president Zainul Rijal Abu Bakar said the Nyonya Tahir case showed how a Buddhist family which cooperated with the syariah courts was able to achieve a favourable decision.
Point 1:
How can a non-muslim be expected to 'cooperate' with a syariah court? Why should someone be expected to abide by laws of a religion he does not profess, and subject themselves to judgements by the officers enforcing those laws?

Ponder this: will Mr. Zainul Rizal subject himself to 'cooperate' with the arbitration (not even rulings) of a non-Muslim body like MCCBCHST perhaps? If not, why the double standard? Is he not a 'cooperative' person?
"This case shows that syariah courts are just and don't only make decisions in favour of Muslims," he argued.
Point 2:
The point is not whether the syariah courts make decisions in favour of whichever party. The point is that the syariah courts are NOT entitled to make such decisions [affecting non-muslims] at all, in the first place.
Zainul added that non-Muslims' disrespect of the syariah court, as demonstrated by Rayappan's family which chose to ignore a syariah court subpeona, does not help amicably resolve cases where there is a dispute over a deceased's faith.
Point 3:
Where is the disrespect? What has respect got to do with it? How does the refusal to acknowledge the overstepping of authority by a body [that has no jurisdiction over one-self] amount to disrespect? Won't the resolution be even more amicable if the syariah court did not purport to exert authority over non-muslims in the first place by summoning them to appear in court?

We must first answer the question whether the syariah court has the powers to subpeona non-muslims [and indeed, does it have jurisdiction over the rights of non-muslims] before we can even address the matter of non-muslims ignoring directives from the syariah courts.

I believe the answer to that question is a resounding "NO"!

Refer to follow-up article here: Chief Syariah Judge concedes that Syariah Court has no power over Non-Muslims

Proton Waja crash test by Top Gear

Here' a crash test of a Proton Waja (Impian) by Top Gear. The Waja has a 3-star NCAP rating. They compare the Waja's crash performance to the Toyota Aventis which has a 5-star rating.

Note the very insightful comments about the crumpling of the passenger compartment, the movement of the steering wheel and brake pedal in a crash. The Waja fares ever so poorly compared to the Adventis. I wouldn't want to be in a Waja in a collision. The steering wheel breaks your face, the brake pedal breaks your leg and the rest of the cabin crumples around you into a tight steel coffin, where the doors jam shut when the firemen try to rescue you.

The test was a 40mph (60kmh) crash in to a deformable concrete block. Well 60kmh, isn't really that fast at all. The highway cruising speed is typically twice that. However, the big problem is the concrete block. Immovable objects like concrete blocks don't react like cars and pedestrians, when they are crashed into. They don't dissipate any energy by crumpling up or moving in the opposite direction to absorb the forces of the crash. Therefore your car is forced to absorb all the destructive energy. The concrete block just sits there.

But if you think crashing into immovable concrete blocks is a rarity on Malaysian roads, it is NOT! For some reason, a lot of Malaysians drive into parked lorries and tree trunks at highway speeds every year. Lorries are solid steel and trees are solid wood. Both are just as immovable as any concrete block.

And for those who think that big cars are always better than small cars in an accident (which is why you chose a larger 40year old design like the Proton Iswara instead of a newer but smaller Perodua Kelisa), you might reconsider your stand after having a look at how much better even the tiny Ford Fiesta (NCAP 4-star) performs compared to the Waja.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Teaser photo of Lexus IS-F

Following up on the news of Lexus' new performance brand, cryptically just called 'F', Lexus has released a teaser photo of the upcoming IS-F.

Who can miss the ultra conspicuous, if not unique, dual elliptical exhaust tips?

Previous blog on Lexus F:

New Lexus 'F' - as in 'FAAAST'

The Bloodied Streets of Singapore.

If you have a queasy stomach or very narrow viewing preference, DON'T PLAY the youtube.

It's a live video of a man stabbing a woman, right in front of passers-by, on the pavements of Block 146, Bukit Batok West Avenue 6 in Singapore.

It's something you'd think could never happen in super-safe Singapore. Dang.. it's something you don't expect to witness, even from our own car jack city ie. JB or snatch theft central ie. KL, much less record on video.

Have a read of the newspaper article here to get some background. And note the article's interesting angle on this incident... that the posting of the video on youtube might be construed as an illegal publishing of an uncensored motion video (movie), infringing on the privacy of the victim.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Nokia N95... the Holy Grail is near.

Update 31 March 2007:The N95 has finally been priced in Singapore at S$1,288 (USD 850 or RM3,000). Much, much too expensive if you ask me. I definitely won't be an early adopter.

>>>>>

I am a person who loves convergence of my electronic gadgets. I hate having to pocket multiple items in my pants for eg. a phone as well as a digital camera. That's why I bought a Sony Ericsson K800i in the first place. I didn't want to choose between carrying 2 gadgets (a phone and a digicam) + 2 chargers (when I'm travelling) vs taking lousy photos when the spontaneous moment matters most.

I'm also into mobile computing. I've got a 1.6kg 12" Lenovo X60 which I use as my main personal computer and I travel with it. But it's way too big to take along everywhere I go. Therefore, every time I want to do the free wifi thing at Starbucks or Coffee Bean etc., I'd have to plan ahead to bring my laptop with me. And that's a huge drag. And if you are going for a movie or a walk in the park after coffee, you'll have to lug the laptop with you... every step of the way until you get home. Like I said... it's a f*cking drag.

And in Singapore, with Wireless@SG, broadband is now available for free at over 500 hotspots in Singapore. The hotspots are set to mushroom over the next year to cover ALL (1oo%) public areas and as such, the coverage will overlap many residential areas as well. Many other cities are also mooting free wifi covering large areas using WLAN.

Therefore, it makes sense if we have something light enough to carry on our person all the time, using which we could wifi for free at any time... while waiting for the train, queueing up for tickets, whatever.

Enter the Nokia N95. Nokia calls it an all-in-one multimedia computer.

Here's a 120gm phone that combines (1) a quadband phone,
(2)
media player for MP3, MP4s, FM radio with a regular 3.5mm video/stereo audio jack,
(3)
Wifi/WLAN 802.11 b/g ala PC/PDAs, as well as traditional smartphone networking ie. EDGE, 3G WCDMA and 3.5G HSDPA,
(4) Bluetooth 2.0 and InfraRed.
(5) Mini-USB 2.0 (with Universal PnP controller!) opening up the possibility of myriad bolt on applications currently enjoyed by PCs,
(6)
MSOffice, PDF file support,
(7)
160MBs of internal memory, MicroSD (8GB and 10GB MicroSD cards will apparently be available soon),
(8) 5 Megapixel camera (Carl Zeiss optics and Tessar lens), and
(9) DVD quality video recording ie. VGA (640 x 480) at 30 fps (frames per second).

Oh, don't forget the (10) full fledged GPS navigation with voice instructions. Damn useful for people with no sense of direction.

What have we got? A smartphone, PDA, ipod video MP4 player, digital camera, DVD video camcorder and GPS navigator, all in one 120gm package. And with a USB controller, the possibilities could open up.

A must-buy for 2007, if there ever was one. Indications on the net are that the price will be US$700 or S$1050 or RM2500. That's a pretty good early adopter price for a nifty piece of kit like this.

I should mention though that the early impressions of battery life isn't so good. Most sites predict a need for daily recharging on moderate-to-heavy use. Hopefully Nokia will provide a higher capacity battery when the N95 launches in 1Q2007.

And with a 2.6" screen and no proper keyboard, you won't be able to perform the full range of online tasks... like writing a blog like this for instance. I'm also still skeptical about how fulfilling or frustrating an experience, surfing will be, with a 2.6" screen. You'll be scrolling and fiddling like mad with the magnifier box to read a blog page like this.

And while USB 2.0 UPnP is promising, Symbian and even Windows Mobile is definitely not the same as Windows XP. I don't expect at all, to be able to control my DVD burners, external hard discs etc., using any mobile phone's USB, anytime in the foreseeable future. So, there might be a need yet for me to replace my Lenovo X60 with a full fledged Windows XP, 8" screen, Pentium chipped, 800gm UMPC (Ultra Mobile Personal Computer) like Sony's UX, Samsung's Q1 or Asus' R2H.

Good writeup of the N95 by All About Symbian.

Official specs by nseries.com.
Here's a couple of interesting video reviews of the N95. One's about the N95 in general, the other's about the GPS functionality.



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BLOGGER SUCKS!

I've been trying to post in vain on Blogger/Blogspot since last weekend (16 Dec 2006). Blogger's been moving to the new version, but it's not fucking seamless, dammit.

Get it fixed, why don'tcha? What's the point of blogging if you can't post from the blog authoring page, can't attach photos and can't cut&paste?

Emailed in on Wed 08.34pm.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Indonesia - Burning the Candle at Both Ends

Indonesia is an immense contradiction. When it comes to multi-religiosity... it has the largest Muslim population in the world, but it is also a staunchly secular country as well.

The religious movement is strong and not averse to pressing its version of conservatism, piety and morality on 'non-aligned' Muslims and non-Muslims alike. They demonstrate with earnest (and not little violence) on issues like the sale of men's magazines, the US in the Middle East; or even against something rather more trivial like the appearance (in a bathing suit), of their country's representative to an international beauty pageant. Religious education supplants the national curriculum in many areas and the wanton interpretation of god's will by mortal men are widespread and commonplace.

But yet, the government is stubbornly secular, refusing to compromise the strict separation of state and mosque. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the secular Constitution, Pancasila and courts of law are supreme. There is no sanctioned shariah court (except recently in the troubled province of Aceh). Freedom of religion is zealously preserved. Muslims and non-Muslims are free to inter-marry without any legal requirement on either party to convert.

For a long while, this contradiction did not extend to multi racialism. But now, Indonesia is set to play its curious game when it comes to race and ethnicity as well.

A golden age for Indonesian Chinese
By Thomas Fuller
http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/12/13/news/chinese.php

"The situation of the Chinese has never been as good as today," said Benny Setiono, head of the Chinese Indonesian Association... "We feel more free, more equal."

One of the main reasons for the optimism is a fundamental change in Indonesian law: the country has redefined what it means to be a "native."

A citizenship law passed this year proclaims that an indigenous Indonesian is someone who was born here to Indonesian citizens...

Other laws have erased the preferential treatment for "pribumi," or indigenous groups, in bank lending and the awarding of government contracts...

The horrors of the anti-Chinese violence in 1998 were the prime impetus for the legal overhaul. But Indonesians also realized that espousing the concept of a "native" could be explosive for everyone, not just the Chinese.

"The question of who was here first became very dangerous,"...

"The logic has been manipulated by many politicians."...
Indonesia has long suppressed any expression of the culture, language and overt ethnic influence by its share of the overseas Chinese diaspora in it's midst. There are no Chinese schools, no Chinese TV programmes, no public celebration of Chinese New Year, no overt displays of Chinese culture nor literature, no Chinese words, signs, posters etc, not even the use of Chinese names by it's ethnic Chinese citizens.

In 1998, there were vicious attacks on the Indonesian Chinese community by non-Chinese Indonesians while the military looked on. (According to some accounts, the [renegade?] military did much of the slaughter and rape). Like many others in Malaysia and Singapore, I received pictures and first hand accounts of the gruesome events over the internet, and since then have met up with former university mates who fled the violence. I have found no cause to doubt the veracity of their testimony. Therefore, I too share the view that Indonesia has much to apologise for and much to be sorry about.

So, when I read that Indonesia had removed the distinction of 'native' or 'pribumi' by race, and had chosen to define it by citizenship, it took me some time to reconcile my feelings. How could a society so overwhelmingly hostile to it's Chinese minority, be so absolutely generous (by Malaysian standards) at the same time?

It seems to me like Indonesia tends to wander at both extremes when it tries to deal with its Chinese minority. It is guilty of nothing less than attempted genocide and yet, it seeks to instil racial equality and respect in it purest, most sincere form.

If Indonesia is burning the candle at both ends, hoping to one day reach eventual unity in the middle... Malaysia in contrast, steadfastly persists in burning up the middle, setting a gradual but steady course for both ends to separate and break off.

Honestly, I don't know which country has the better game plan.

Do I want the relative peace and stability of Malaysia - at the cost of Ketuanan Melayu / bumiputra / Malay Agenda, NEP and the overshadowing of the Constitution by Islamisation?

Or do I want the ideal of absolute equality of race and religion, but at a cost of sporadic breakouts of ethnic cleansing?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

All hail Datuk Seri Ferrari

Jean Todt officially receives his datukship from his highness the Sultan of Trengganu, who incidentally became the 13th Yang DiPertuan Agung today.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

It's all in the way you dress, baby.

How we dress is a funny thing. Depending on what you believe and what your social stance is, you can be wearing too much or too little. Rarely is what we wear 'just right' for everyone.

TOO MUCH!
Kelantan Dress Code. Nuff said.
TOO LITTLE!
Doha 2006 Asian Games - Beach Volleyball

Note the change in the Iraqi team's outfit during the few days of competition in Doha 2006. No more exposed navels.
WAY TOO LITTLE!
Britney 'Who needs underwear?' Spears.

All I can say is what the heck was she thinking? A short skirt (it's more like a waistband really), no underwear and getting in/out of a low riding car - is simply broadcasting your crotch, in all it's baby smooth, shaven glory, to every computer and tabloid in the world.If you want a look at the uncensored pictures (I'm not hosting those), please go here. Warning 18SX, R, Don't watch at work!

TOO RIDICULOUS!
Pomelo bra on the pomelos of the Pomelo farm girl.

Whose interests do MCA, MIC and Gerakan truly represent?

An interesting point of view of the current racial & religious divide, from the perspective of the non-Malay, non-Muslim Barisan National parties, namely MCA and Gerakan. By default, MIC as well.

"It's not that they are out of touch with the sentiments on the ground. Rather, they are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Speak up against UMNO and anger 'Big Brother', or keep silent and disappoint your constituency. It's obvious that the leaders of these parties have concluded it's far better not to cross Big Brother."
Sounds just about right, doesn't it?

Poverty Transcends Race, Stupid

Here's an article by Johan Jaafar ('Squatters still peeking from behind skyscrapers') that appeared in The Sunday Times, 10 December 2006. An extract from it that I want to highlight:

"Poverty trancends race. So too, the squatter settlements in KL. In 1992, 44.5% were Chinese, 34% Malays and 17% Indians. Now the gap between Malays and Chinese is closing, meaning there are equally as many Malay squatters as there are Chinese".
So, how can they say that ALL Chinese are rich?

How can they say that just because the top 10 richest men in Malaysia are Chinese (this is debatable in my opinion, as maybe they don't hide their wealth as well as some others), that all the other Chinese are rich as well?

How can they say that all Chinese live in houses larger a former PM's?

How can what they say be true when Chinese make up more than their fair share of the squatters in KL?

Don't you think the poor Malay, Chinese and Indian squatters deserve help from the NEP to get decent accomodation more than rich bumis who enjoy the bumi discount when they buy bungalows?

Why the hell are politicians so fond of furthering their political ambitions by stereotyping and scapegoating a whole race?
Related previous articles:

...lesson-101-how-to-justify-racial-discrimination.html
...sean-the-man's-new-nep-is-it-palatable-to-all.html
...challenging-times-for-towkays.html
...proposed-trade-guidelines-nep-eeing-on-business.html

Didn't I tell you (AGAIN!) the conversion process needs to be tightened?

The conclusion to Rayappan's case is that the family buries him according to their wishes, after MAIS backs off.
I really didn't expect that the Mufti of Perak would agree with me. Hmmm, did he get the idea from reading this blog?













Related previous posts:

Whip'em Whores

On top of sexually abusing the poor unfortunate women, let's abuse them physically as well. That's the way, genius.

What about the pimps and the snakes? Those who traffic and force women into prostitution? No whipping needed? Is it because they are mostly rich, influential men in a position to dispense favours? Or is it just because it's just easier to target defenceless women?

But what I really want to know is why the veritable lawmaker has a habit of meeting transvestite prostitutes from foreign countries? Hmmmm....

Life in the Slow Lane - of Road Hogging and Part Time Traffic Enforcers

A good one from the irreverant Jeremy Clarkson, on the topic of why slow drivers road-hog. Some of his observations on slow drivers are rather insightful.

This comment...

"[Slow drivers] Like bell ringers, they wish to impose their beliefs and their way of life [in the slow lane] on everyone else"

- just about sums up why slow drivers always road hog and best of all, feel they are doing the whole world a favour by forcing everyone else to drive slowly behind them as well.

To all road-hogs and self appointed enforcers of the perceived speed limit (I say perceived because how do they know that their speedometers are correctly calibrated in the first place)... there's a ditch, drain or ravine somewhere with your name on it, and I hope you find out which one real soon.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Lexus 'F' - as in 'FAAAST'

F will be the moniker for new performance models from Lexus. According to the article below, it all comes true in 2007, and for US$50,000. At that price and with a 425hp V8 in an IS (which is the upmarket alter-ego of the Toyota Altezza), which is about the size and weight of a 3 series... you've got a car as potent as the likes of a M3 GTR.

The GS-F... up against the 500hp M5?

If the pictures I took of the Lexus LFA concept at the Singapore MotorShow 2006 - The Review & the Cars are anything to go by (you have to scroll down a bit, ok), the new F cars will be something else.

A new Lexus 'F' - as in 'faaast'
Mark Rechtin / Automotive News / December 4, 2006 - 1:00 am

LOS ANGELES - Lexus will launch a performance brand in late 2007 to compete with Mercedes' AMG and BMW's M divisions. Lexus will start with an IS sedan equipped with a 425-hp, 5.0-liter V-8. The engine is a retuned version of the LS 600h L hybrid's engine, dealer sources said.

The sedan will be called the IS-F. It will debut at the Detroit auto show in January.

Lexus likely will carry that nomenclature into other high-performance Lexus vehicles, a dealer said. He said a GS-F sedan and IS-F coupe likely will follow.

The IS-F - "F" as in "fast" - will go on sale in December 2007 and sticker in the low $50,000 range, sources said. Lexus told dealers of the plans at a recent national meeting.

Toyota Motor Corp. filed for a trademark for "IS-F" on Nov. 8 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It also filed for a trademark for a stylized "F" logo on Oct. 9.

A dealer source said Yamaha is tuning the IS-F engine's heads for more power. Brembo will be the brake supplier.

Lexus declined to comment.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Silibin Conversion SMS - A Perspective from Ipoh Echo

Below's a pretty comprehensive article about the Silibin Conversion SMS from Ipoh Echo - a little biweekly local Ipoh newspaper. You can download PDF copies of the rag from their site.

I would raise a couple of points though, on possible inaccuracies.

1. This and virtually every other article about this in the mainstream press has characterised the crowd outside the church as aggressive. Ipoh Echo used the term "near riot". It also reported placards in the crowd denouncing national mariner, Azhar Mansor. It even goes on to say that eyewitnesses saw people "scale the church gates".

However, have a read of another eyewitness account which has a totally opposite description of the crowd and the general atmosphere. According this account posted in Ipoh forums, the crowd was simply curious and placid.

hey hey let me correct that since i was there too..

i wanted to take pics of FRU in full gear but was disappointed.. there were no protest, demonstration, heckling, insults, stare-down contests, shoutings or anything that can spark tension. also, i didnt see any potential weapons, slogans, signs, posters, banners, etc.

i bet most of those who came were merely curious.. ya lorr, being a quiet town, anything 'sensational' is a welcome distraction..

the best part is that many groups of malays, indians & chinese were hanging around in one huge group beside each other rather than segregated into different 'camps'.. everybody was chit-chatting while waiting for 'the show'..

so where's the disharmony?

seriously, if you dont believe me, try check out the pics.. there were so many photographers around and i hope some will post the pics on the internet..

2. Secondly and on a lighter note, this article and the whole of Malaysia routinely state that Azhar Mansor sailed solo around the world in 1999.

But in fact, he experienced several mishaps and had to helped out of trouble, so much so that on 16 Apr. 1999, the World Sailing Speed Record Council reclassified his attempt from "Round the world single handed [ie. solo]" to "Round the world, assisted stops, Eastbound". Refer to the attempt's chronology of events here.


Read my earlier blog on this topic: Perak Mufti Harussani and the Silibin Conversion SMS

Perak’s Raja Izzuddin stripped of Raja Kechil Besar title

According to theStar Online, Raja Izzuddin has been removed as the Raja Kechil Besar last week.

"Raja Izzuddin Iskandar Shah Sultan Idris Shah has been stripped of his title of Raja Kechil Besar Perak.

Perak Dewan Negara secretary Datuk Ayop Hashim made the announcement in a press statement yesterday. Ayop said Raja Izzuddin Iskandar Shah, 53, who is the third in line to the Perak throne [after the Raja Muda and Raja Di Hilir], had been stripped of the title because he had been declared a bankrupt. He added that the Perak Dewan Negara had agreed with the decision when it sat on Nov 25. “The decision was gazetted on Thursday,” he said."

Read the full article here.

Maybe now would be a good time to go into the Perak sultanate's succession system for the throne. Here are some excerpts from the official website of the Office of the DYMM Sultan Perak.

"At present, the Sovereign shall be chosen and appointed by the Royal Council (Dewan Negara)... the Sovereign shall be a descendent acknowledged to be legitimately and lawfully begotten of the body, flesh and blood of the Eighteenth Sultan who shall be a son, grandson, great grandson and so on of the male line, first one generation after another until the last...

Once a Sovereign is appointed and installed, two Presumptive Heirs to the Throne are appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Council. The two titles bestowed upon the Presumptive Heirs to the Throne are Raja Muda and Raja Di Hilir... The choice and appointed of the Presumptive Heirs to the Throne are subject to conditions similar to those of a Sovereign... before they are appointed as Presumptive Heir they would normally have occupied the positions of the Titled Rajas first. The titles given to the Titled Rajas (Raja-Raja Bergelar) are Raja Kechil Besar, Raja Kechil Sulong, Raja Kechil Tengah and Raja Kechil Bongsu.

The system works such that on the demise of the Sovereign the Raja Muda would succeed the throne and the Raja Muda would be succeeded by the Raja Di Hilir whose place would be filled by the Titled Raja, the Raja Kecil Besar, and so on until finally the title of Raja Kechil Bongsu would fall vacant. Normally the vacant title of Raja Kechil Bongsu would be filled by the eldest son the the newly appointed Sovereign.

However, the Constitution provides that in choosing the Heir, first consideration is given to the most senior Heir in order of status before the Titled Rajas could be considered and the choice among the Titled Rajas need not necessarily be in order of seniority of the their title."

(Ref:http://www.perak.gov.my/sultan/english/raja.htm)

Currently, the succession hierarchy is as follows:
(ref: http://www.perak.gov.my/sultan/english/senarai_raja.htm)

From the 3 family lines descending from the 3 sons of the 18th Sultan (which gave birth to this unique system in the first place), the succession hierarchy now has 3 representatives from the line of the current sultan (Nos 1, 2 and 6).

And after the vacation of Raja Izzuddin as the Raja Kechil Besar, the other 2 families have one rep each (Nos 3 and 5).

The main task now facing the Royal Council will be naming the new Raja Kechil Besar (No. 4) and perhaps also a new Raja Kechil Bongsu (No. 7) which has been vacant for some time.

Friday, December 01, 2006

JAIS, Body Snatching, Conversion, Apostates and the Courts

The Selangor Religious Department (JAIS) is at it again. Fighting over the bodies of dead people with their families.

Read about the details here:

NST Online: Religious dept and family in tussle over body
Sun2Surf: Family, JAIS in tussle over body
We seem to be digging deeper and deeper into these pits of religious conflict. There was Moorthy, then Shamala and now, Rayappan. The circumstances of each case are slightly different, Moorthy - a deathbed conversion disputed by his family, Shamala - a case where the husband converted himself and his kids without his wife's knowledge and this one - the convert has reverted to his original religion.

One thing each case has in common, is the fact that there were unhappy conversions involved.

Back in July, after the whole mess with the aborted Article 11 forums, I wrote an article about how tightening up the conversion procedures would be beneficial in preventing all this unpleasantness.
Refer to my blog here: A Solution to the Article 11 Impasse
Recently, in a sometimes heated discussion in Ipoh forums, I found out that it's an obligation for Muslims to welcome new converts as long as they are willing. This point was clear. And I accept that. As long as a person is an adult of sound mind, the decisions they make are binding, no matter how stupid those decisions are. When you knowingly buy a one way ticket, you stay on the train no matter what happens.

Having said that, my original framework articulated in A Solution to the Article 11 Impasse must still apply. A self imposed difficulty in rejecting willing converts is no excuse for turning a blind eye to obvious injustices perpetrated, unintentionally or otherwise with an express intention to manipulate Malaysia's intersecting civil-religious framework for personal gain.

One area where the religious/conversion environment is somewhat unsatisfactory to me - is the position of minor children. It amazes me how the conversion of a minor can be upheld by a court of law when one of the two parents was not even aware of the conversion. Seems to me like the court hereto ignores Section 5 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961, which states that:
(1) In relation to the custody or upbringing of an infant or the administration of any property belonging to or held in trust for an infant or the application of the income of any such property, a mother shall have the same rights and authority as the law allows to a father, and the rights and authority of mother and father shall be equal.

(2) The mother of an infant shall have the like powers of applying to the Court in respect of any matter affecting the infant as are possessed by the father.
In the Shamala case, the high court upheld the conversion of minor children, even when they were converted by only the father, without the mother's knowledge. When asked to form a judgement whether an alleged conversion of a minor could be invalidated by a contravention of equal parental rights legislation (such as Section 5 of the Guardianship of Infants Act 1961 above), the civil court experienced osteoporosis of courage (ie. spinelessness) and without so much as a whimper, surrendered all jurisdiction to the Syariah court, on the strength of Article 121 of the Constitution.

To me, the civil court put the cart before the horse. Yes, Article 121 gives jurisdiction to the Syariah court in all matters concerning Muslims and Islam. But if we have reason to believe that the minor children were not legally converted (by the absence of the agreement of both parents), aren't they still non-Muslims until there is a [civil] judgement on the legality of a single-parent conversion of a minor child?

And to reinforce the partial jurisdiction of the civil courts in matters of conversion, we have to remember that a conversion is a 2 stage process:

1. The conversion out of a non-Muslim religion (civil jurisdiction), and
2. The conversion in to Islam (syariah jurisdiction).

If the conversion is being challenged at stage 1, shouldn't a judgement on stage 1 be issued first before proceeding to stage 2?

For reference, read this interesting article on the Shamala case:

Justice and jurisdictions
The Shamala Sathiyaseelan v. Dr Jeyaganesh C Mograrajah (Muhammad Ridzuan) custody case.

Rizal bin Chek Hashim
Aliran Monthly 2004:7
http://www.aliran.com/oldsite/monthly/2004b/7d.html

And just in case you were wondering, the resolution to Rayappan's case is simple to me. There is a set process of apostasy in order for a Muslim to renounce Islam. Did Rayappan fulfil and complete the process? It's that easy.