23 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?

The Economist

Barack Obama is bound to disappoint on his forthcoming trip to Asia

A STRATEGIC “pivot” or “rebalancing” towards Asia and the Pacific is central to American foreign policy under Barack Obama. So it is more than embarrassing that the president has had to cancel trips to the region at short notice—most recently last October, when the partial shutdown of his administration forced him to pull out of two regional summits. This gives added significance to his tour of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines from April 22nd. It is the chance to reassert America’s military and economic commitment to three treaty allies, one prospective “strategic partner” (Malaysia) and to the region as a whole, as it struggles with the implications of China’s rapid rise.

That reassurance is needed all the more after America’s failure to intervene in Syria and, especially, its failure to contain Russian expansionism in Ukraine. Both episodes feed into a perception of a declining American appetite for keeping the peace, and of a declining ability to do so. Countries such as Japan and the Philippines, facing an assertive Chinese approach to disputed territory, are naturally concerned. If America will do so little for Ukraine, will it risk lives and treasure for uninhabited rocks in the East or South China Sea? In theory, circumstances are so different that America’s Asian allies should have no cause for concern. Unlike the Syrian opposition and Ukraine, the Japanese and Filipinos have mutual security treaties with America.

Indeed, if America did involve itself militarily in another conflict in the Middle East or in eastern Europe, its Asian allies would fret that the “rebalancing” was deemed, as they had feared, a lower American priority than other parts of the world. It is a battle for regional reassurance that America, it seems, simply cannot win.

Other problems complicate things further. One is the poor state of relations between America’s two most important allies, Japan and South Korea. Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, seems as unpopular in Seoul as he is in Beijing. His decision last December to visit the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo, where war criminals are honoured, confirmed South Koreans in their view of him as an unrepentant historical revisionist, in denial about the atrocities Japan inflicted on their country during its colonisation. So, rather than co-operating with Japan in dealing with an immediate threat from North Korea and a potential longer-term one from China, South Korea prefers to make common cause with China to condemn Japan for its failure to confront the past. It took a big effort to persuade Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s president, to join a trilateral meeting with Mr Obama and Mr Abe at a nuclear summit in the Netherlands last month. Coaxing them to work together when he is not in the room will be even harder.

Another difficulty lies in distinguishing strategic support for a country from political support for its current rulers. America finds much to admire in Mr Abe: his determination to drag the Japanese economy out of its deflationary morass; in particular, his promise to take on domestic lobbies by joining American-led regional trade talks, the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP); his desire to see Japan play a bigger role in its own defence. But it also deplores the often revisionist attitude to Japan’s history that, for Mr Abe and his supporters, animates these policies.

Similarly it finds Malaysia a model of moderate Islamic democracy and its prime minister, Najib Razak, the friendliest leader it has had in decades. But Malaysian politics is poisonous. Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition, which won the popular vote at last year’s election, is appealing against a sentence handed down last month of five years in jail for sodomy. Many Malaysians believe the prosecution is politically motivated.

Mr Najib has taken Malaysia, too, into the TPP. Another problem facing the “rebalance” is that this, its most important economic dimension, is in trouble. The impetus of Mr Obama’s tour itself may generate a breakthrough in the shape of agreement between the TPP’s two biggest economies, America and Japan. But ratification of the TPP will face domestic political obstacles in a number of countries, not least America itself. Many in Asia have noticed that Mr Obama seems loth to spend much domestic political capital on this or other aspects of American commitment to the region. Mr Obama may have trouble convincing his friends in Asia that America’s rebalance is genuine.

China, for its part, is keen to cast doubt on America’s regional staying power. Yet, oddly, its own government seems convinced by it. It sees the rebalance as an attempt to encircle China and counter its rise. Some of this resentment emerged in testy exchanges when Chuck Hagel, America’s defence secretary, was in Beijing this month. China blames America for encouraging Japan and the Philippines to confront it over disputed rocks. Its leaders worry that America’s decision to deploy two more Aegis-class destroyers to Japan to counter the threat from North Korea is in fact directed against China. It has noticed that America supports the Philippines in its legal challenge to China’s claim to most of the South China Sea, and has just signed an agreement with it allowing more of its troops into the country. And Congress is likely to authorise the sale of four pensioned-off frigates to Taiwan.

Be careful what you wish for

China’s reaction is perhaps the most fundamental of all the factors making the rebalance so tricky. America insists it is not trying to contain China or thwart its rise. But if that is so, how to convince Asian allies of an unshakable military commitment to the defence of islands, reefs and rocks of no obvious relevance to American security? And if America is in fact trying to stand in the way of China’s rise, then its Asian allies would also take fright at a dangerous confrontation between the region’s two big maritime powers. The rebalance, meant to reassure them without alarming China, risks the opposite: alienating China and scotching promising areas of co-operation, yet leaving its neighbours, America’s friends, more nervous than ever.

23 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?


22 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Despite 85 pages of rhetoric, the Court of Appeal’s written judgment (the “Judgment”) convicting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy has failed to establish the only corroborative evidence of the charge – the DNA evidence.

This is a case of one man’s word against another, with no eyewitness to the incident.

Without establishing the DNA evidence beyond reasonable doubt, the Court of Appeal has no business to overturn the High Court judgment acquitting Anwar on ground of doubtful integrity of the DNA samples.

The crucial question to ask is: have the samples become vulnerable to tampering after the sealed plastic bag containing individual receptacles holding the samples was cut open by the investigating officer without authority and kept for prolong duration before delivering them to the chemist?

The prosecutor said no, reason being that the individual receptacles were also sealed, hence, the samples were protected.

Sample tampering irrefutable

But the catch is: while the plastic bag which was heat sealed was tamper-proof, the seals to the individual receptacles were not tamper-proof.

Australian forensic pathologist Dr David Wells testified that the seals to the receptacles could be removed and resealed based on the materials used and the manner of sealing, after he had examined them.

Appeal Court judges of Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi, Datuk  and Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh, who took the highly unusual step of appending their signatures to one single written document, dismissed Dr Wells’ claim by saying “he merely looked at the containers in court and gave his opinion solely from the manner in which these containers were sealed and the type of material used as seals. That was merely his opinion pure and simple”. (para 121 of the Judgment)

It was, of course, Dr Wells’ opinion. What else could he do other than expressing an opinion?  If the seals were not readily removable, why didn’t the prosecution refute his claim?  As a matter of fact, according to Anwar, who saw the receptacles in coAziah Aliurt, these seals consisted of only “ordinary and easily removable tapes and easily removable KL Hospital paper seals” as stated in his statement in dock.

Is that the reason Dr Wells’ testimony was not challenged in court?  Would he have been let off the hook if in fact the claim was false, knowing the critical importance of the issue?

And why did Jude Pereira take the reckless step of cutting open the permanently sealed plastic bag? He said he wanted to put the receptacles into individual envelopes and re-label them. But that explanation was obviously phoney as rightly pointed out by High Court judge Datuk Mohamad Zabidin Mohd Diah for the simple reason that each of the receptacles had already been clearly labelled by the hospital doctors and Pereira’s mission was merely to deliver them to the chemist withoMohamad Zabidin Mohd Diahut any input of his own.

Shockingly, despite the opening of the plastic bag had opened the gateway for meddling with the samples in the unsecured receptacles, the judges declared such unauthorised action as not amounting to tampering with the samples, even repeating Pereira’s incredible claim that he was merely following standard operation procedure (para 85).

Talking about SOP, is it also SOP to place the samples in Pereira’s personal steel cabinet for 42 hours instead of the police freezer, which was a beach of police standard practice, as well as defiance of KL Hospital forensic pathologist Dr Siew Sheue Fong’s strict instruction that the samples be kept in freezer?

Why have the judges completely omitted to mention the defence claim that such prolong storage under room temperature would have damaged further the already much degraded samples?

Being a senior police officer familiar with forensic investigation, Pereira must have known that his reckless beach of discipline in his mishandling of the samples could fatally damage the integrity of the chain of custody as well as the quality of the DNA samples, both of which are of vital importance to the prosecution case.

Then why did he still do it?  What was it so compelling that he had to take such risks?  Why did he keep the samples to himself for 42 hours?  If he was not up to something sinister, what was he up to?

Dubious DNA samples

Could that explain the miraculous phenomenon that the these samples were later found to have suffered no degradation at all, despite being retrieved 56 hours after alleged sodomy and stored for another 42 hours under room temperature, something unheard of?

The two Australian experts held the view from their long careers that semen collected 36 hours after ejaculation could hardly be successfully tested for the sperm’s DNA due to degradation.

DNA expert Dr Brian McDonald testified from his observation of test reports handed to him that the profiles of DNA tests for various samples taken from the rectum including those showing DNA of Male Y (which prosecution claims to be those of Anwar) showed no evidence of degradation.

This contradicted with the samples’ history, inferring that they might not be the same samples that were retrieved from complainant Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan’s rectum by the hospital doctors 98 hours earlier.

In addition to such contradictions which cast serious doubt over the credibility of the DNA findings, the two Australian experts also pointed out many discrepancies, deficiencies and flaws of the chemist’s DNA reports and hospital doctors’ examination reports, including the exposure of the puzzling presence of DNA of multiple people extracted from Saiful’s rectum, which the chemist have overlooked, compounding the crisis of confidence in these reports.

These are, of course, serious challenges to the prosecution case, which stands or falls on the DNA evidence.

Slamming of experts childish

But instead of taking these Australian experts’ opinion head on with equally professional counter argument, the judges seem to have found a short cut by resorting to name-calling to devalue the Australians’ testimonies while simultaneously enhancing the status of statements made the government’s professionals.

Thus, the Australians have become “armchair experts” who have no practical experience (false, of course) to lend credibility to their argument, while the government chemists have “impeccable credentials” with competence in both the academic and practical fields.

The judges even went to the extent of concurring with lead prosecutor Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah’s submission that the Australians’ evidence were “speculative and theoretical if not hypothetical, thus lacking in probative value” (para 142).

In contrast, the evidence of the two local chemists was described as factual and based on their own analysis of samples.

Then, using the premise of “lacking in probative value”, the judges in one sweeping stroke, rejected the Australians’ critical testimonies on all the critical issues, which are sample tampering, doubtful DNA reports and penile penetration (para 150).

Presto! Problem solved! The Australians’ unfavourable testimonies are set aside in favour of the affirmative ones submitted by government professionals. The prosecution case is thus saved.

But what is the truth?

Dr Wells, a forensic pathologist, specialises in sexual assault cases. He is head of Clinical Forensic Medicine at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Associate Professor in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Monash Unviersity, Member of the Advisory Panel – National Institute of Forensic Science, Member of the International Editorial Board of the Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine.

He has worked with World Health Organisation in establishing medico-legal services for victims of sexual violence in developing countries.  He has written several books and articles on sexual violence and awarded the Order of Australia Medal.  He has testified in all levels of courts where his testimonies have been accepted.

Dr Bian McDonald, holding a PhD in pathology, is a consultant molecular geneticist.  He is a member of the Australian Forensic Science Society, member of the Australian Biomedical Society and served as committee member of the Human Genetics Society, a director of both DNA Consults and Molecular Genetics for the Sonic Clinical Institute.  He was also a head geneticist officer in New South Wales.  He has written books, papers and articles on the subject of DNA, a list of which fills up five pages.

Clearly, the above credentials speak for themselves, and show how utterly irresponsible is the act of rejecting those expert opinions en bloc with the cavalier and childish comment on those evidence being “mere opinion, speculative and theoretical”, which actually reflects the shallowness of the writer of the Judgment, whoever he is.

Penile penetration

On the subject of anal penile penetration, this is another major flaw of the prosecution case.  All the four doctors who had examined Saiful had reported no sign of penetration, which contradicted the latter’s testimony that the “fast and furious” act had caused him pain.

Though the three government doctors later changed their tune, however, their revised views were based on the subsequent report issued by the chemist, who claimed the presence of semen of “Male Y” in Saiful’s rectum.

Such revised view had, of course, zero value, as the doctors’ report must be based on their own observations and not on subsequent reports issued by others.

Anwar’s statement in the dock

Was Anwar a coward, scared of being cross-examined in the witness stand as insinuated by the judges, when he chose to give an unsworn statement in dock as his defence?

Anyone who has read his 9,000-word statement which took him an hour and 20 minutes to deliver in court, could not have failed to be moved by the endless series of injustice he has suffered and his cries of despair that he would ever receive justice in the court.

The long litany of unjust treatment he had received at every step of his judicial defence as enumerated by him has proved beyond the slightest doubt that this is political persecution, not a criminal trial, where the verdict is a foregone conclusion.

There is no better testimony to that than the shock with which the world greeted the acquittal of Anwar at the High Court three years ago, as the proceedings of the trial had been so manifestly unfair and vindictive that no one expected an acquittal.


That the prosecutor and the judges did not let go the slightest opportunity to build up the perception of guilt against Anwar is seen in its dishonest inference that Anwar didn’t call alibi witnesses because they couldn’t have substantiated his story of innocence.

This is double injustice to Anwar, because it was the powers that be that had put a spoke to his alibi defence.  Anwar said in his statement in dock: “My alibi witnesses made known to the prosecution were in fact included in the prosecution list of witnesses, which was not supplied to my lawyers. They were defence alibi witnesses. I am informed this is the first time this has been done.”

Anwar also gave the example of the owner of the condo where the alleged incidence took place, Hasanuddin Abd Hamid, who was harassed by the police for a total of 30 hours where his statements were video recorded. Another alibi witness, Fitria Dipan the maid, ironically offered by the prosecution, couldn’t even be traced.

Prosecution + defence v defence

A trial judge is supposed to be an umpire, taking a neutral position to weigh without prejudice the merits and demerits of facts and legal arguments presented by the prosecutor and the defence and deliver his decision at the end of the hearing strictly according to facts and relevant law, without fear or favour.

But this is distinctively not the case in the present trial. Reading through the Judgment, one can’t help but get the impression that there is an invisible dividing line separating the prosecutor and judges on one side and the defence on the other. With due respect, it looks like a joint effort to fix the respondent, and let the facts and law be damned.

In fact, the outcome of this trial was already self-evident when Anwar’s request to replace specially invited lead prosecutor Shafee was rejected all the way to the highest court. Being an Umno lawyer and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s confidante, Shafee’s role as prosecutor was to part of a political agenda.

Now that Anwar has appealed to the Federal Court, the nation will hold its breath at what will happen next.

Will it be another saving grace for the judiciary, or will it be another plunge that will trigger off a new phase of bruising conflict that will cause much suffering, but with the prospect of opening up a new era for the nation?

22 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Former Malaysian Bar president Sulaiman Abdullah is slated to replace the late Karpal Singh as Anwar Ibrahim’s lead counsel in the Sodomy II appeal in the Federal Court.

A source familiar with the case confirmed today that Sulaiman has agreed to act for Anwar.

“Ramkarpal, who played a pivotal role during the Sodomy II trial and in the appeal before the Court of Appeal, will also be part of the team,” the source revealed.

Sulaiman, who had played an initial role in the Sodomy II appeal before Karpal’s team took over, had a main role in the Sodomy I trial.

Karpal, 73, died in a car crash on April 17, that also killed his assistant J Michael Cornelius.

Anwar was found guilty by the Court of Appeal on March 7 and sentenced to five years jail for Sodomy II.

The written judgment was made available last Wednesday to Karpal’s firm. Appellants have 10 days to file the petition stating their grounds of appeal.

Extension of time

A source said Anwar’s legal team will seek an extension to file the petition of appeal which is due by Friday.

“Ramkarpal is scheduled to file an extension for the petition of appeal either today or tomorrow,” the source said.

“We are also preparing for any eventuality if this is not allowed and will make arrangements to file it on Friday.”

Anwar was acquitted by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on Jan 9, 2012, but the prosecution appealed the decision.

The final appeal will be decided at the Federal Court.


22 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?

The last time Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s opposition leader, was sent to prison, he read the complete works of Shakespeare, (five times), wrote essays and treatises, gave interviews and strategised about how best to lead the opposition party to victory against the ruling party, which has governed this south-east Asian nation for nearly 60 years.

Ten years later, he once again faces imprisonment on sodomy charges, which he claims are politically motivated.

His case has gripped Malaysia in its range from the absurd to the bizarre. Charged in 2008 with sodomising a former male aide, Anwar was cleared in 2012 on lack of evidence. But an appeals court overturned the acquittal last month on the eve of a byelection in Malaysia’s richest state, Selangor, where he was tipped to become chief minister.

Not only did the conviction rely on a witness of doubtful testimony, the appeal was led by the government and the lead prosecutor suddenly did an about-face and switched to Anwar’s defence team.

“It’s a sign of desperation on the part of the government,” said Anwar of his conviction, in an interview in London, where he is visiting his friend and former American vice-president Al Gore, after being granted a stay of sentence. “They think because the (next general) elections are four years away they can literally get away with murder.”

Anwar, 66, is Malaysia’s longest-suffering political opponent and greatest threat to the incumbent Umno government, led by the prime minister Najib Razak, whose Barisan Nasional (National Front) alliance has ruled the country since independence.

Anwar is a polarising figure in a conservative nation of 30 million, where his political career has spanned formidable highs and lows: once serving as the deputy prime minister and finance minister, he was courted by international media and graced the cover of Newsweek, then fell out spectacularly with the premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Anwar has long contended that all the charges against him were politically motivated, with the sodomy convictions based on an archaic colonial law rendering sex between men a punishable offence, even if consensual. Very few sodomy cases ever make it to court and Anwar and his supporters believe his charges to be a political ploy to keep him out of politics in a conservative nation built on family values. He first spent six years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, until his release in 2004.

This second sodomy charge followed a stellar performance by Anwar’s three-party opposition coalition in the 2008 general elections, at which the opposition made huge gains against the Barisan Nasional – and was overturned in 2012 by Malaysia’s high court.

Analysts believe there was “no coincidence” regarding the overturning of that acquittal last month, with human rights groups, the US state department and UN all questioning the legality of the court decision.

“This trial was all about knocking Anwar Ibrahim out of politics, pure and simple,” said Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch. “The Malaysia judiciary … has shown how hard it is to get a free and fair trial when political issues are at play.”

Yet it is not just Anwar the government seems to be targeting, say civil rights groups, who point to the arrest and conviction of other prominent opposition MPs, such as Karpal Singh, who was convicted of sedition, under another ill-used colonial-era law, as a means to thwart an opposition that has had big gains in the last two general elections, as well as in the byelections last month.

“What’s alarming is the extent to which this government, which is supposed to have won the election, is going to undermine the opposition,” said Ambiga Sreenevasan, a lawyer and former chair of Bersih, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections. “This is really without a doubt a clear-cut case of selective – I’m going to call it persecution – not prosecution.”

Anwar’s conviction could once again be overturned, pending a federal court hearing expected within the next month. But in a nation where the definition of justice depends on “what the government of the day feels like doing”, said Ambiga, it was unclear just how far Malaysia would go to silence its opposition.

As for Anwar, who could well choose to never return to Malaysia, life in his home country, whether behind bars or atop rally stages, seems the only option for fighting for a democracy that he says will one day prevail.

“There is no benefit to going back to Malaysia,” he said. “(But) I decided a long time ago that I wanted to go back because it is my conviction, it is my firm belief, that Malaysia has to mature as a vibrant democracy that has no corruption, abuse of power or leadership that has been squandering billions of dollars.

“It’s tough when you consider my wife and children suffer, but they know, and I discussed it with them, they support me even though they are not happy for me to endure this again. But we have to weather the storm. I am always optimistic.”

A mass rally backing Anwar is planned for 1 May in Kuala Lumpur, where other rallies in support of Bersih, calling for clean and fair elections, have attracted hundreds of thousands of Malaysians to take to the streets in recent years.

“Tyrants, authoritarian leaders, are not permanent features. They are racing against time. Over the temporary setbacks, the clamour for reform or democracy is irreversible,” Anwar said.

Published in The Guardian UK, 20 April 2014

21 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Penghakiman Mahkamah Rayuan terhadap kes Liwat II Ketua Pembangkang Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim dibuat secara tergopoh gapah, kata Datuk Mat Zain Ibrahim.

Bekas ketua pengarah Jabatan Siasatan Jenayah Kuala Lumpur itu menegaskan, selain mahkamah melakukan kesilapan, prosiding rayuan berkenaan turut dicemari campur tangan kerajaan, terutamanya Peguam Negara Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail (gambar).

“Hakim Mahkamah Rayuan membuat keputusan tersebut secara tergopoh-gapah, tanpa memberi pertimbangan yang mendalam dan menyeluruh kepada keterangan-keterangan yang dibentangkan kedua-dua pihak sejak mula prosiding tersebut diadakan.

“Selain Mahkamah Rayuan sendiri ada membuat tafsiran silap menyentuh fakta mustahak, prosiding rayuan tersebut dicemari tindakan pihak kerajaan dan khasnya Peguam Negara,” kata Mat Zain dalam satu kenyataan di Kuala Lumpur hari ini.

Beliau berkata, kerajaan dan peguam negara juga mengemukakan beberapa kenyataan tidak benar, dan/atau membenamkan keterangan mustahak atau yang memihak kepada tertuduh daripada pengetahuan mahkamah.

Dalam penghakiman setebal 85 muka surat yang diedarkan kepada media minggu lalu, mahkamah memutuskan adalah selamat untuk mahkamah mensabitkan  Anwar terhadap pertuduhan meliwat bekas pembantunya Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan kerana terdapat cukup keterangan untuk mengesah dan membuktikannya.

Mahkamah berkata, sekiranya diandaikan tiada bukti menyokong keterangan Mohd Saiful tentang fakta berlakunya penetrasi, adalah selamat untuk mensabitkan Anwar.

Panel tiga hakim Mahakmah Rayuan diketuai Hakim Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi dalam penghakiman bertulis bertarikh 11 April berkata, terdapat cukup keterangan lain yang membolehkan elemen pertuduhan dapat disah dan dibuktikan.

Penghakiman mahkamah itu turut memutuskan isu kemungkinan sampel DNA diambil daripada Mohd Saiful diusik oleh pegawai penyiasat kes Superitenden Jude Blacious Pereira dan tercemar juga tidak dapat dibuktikan.

Mat Zain berkata, sekiranya mahkamah rayuan tidak tergopoh-gapah membuat keputusan, sebaliknya meneliti mendalam keterangan yang dibentangkan oleh kedua-dua pihak, semenjak prosiding bermula pada 2008, mereka sendiri akan menemui fakta dan banyak lagi keterangan yang menunjukkan salah laku terancang pihak pendakwaan dan penyiasatan dalam prosiding kes tersebut.

“Pada pendapat saya, perkara yang terpenting dalam hal ini ialah Gani Patail hilang kelayakan dari sudut moral dan undang-undang, untuk terlibat dalam apa kapasiti pun, bersangkutan dengan pertuduhan yang dikenakan terhadap Anwar dalam kes ini.

“Apa-apa keputusan yang beliau ambil atas sifat Peguam Negara berkaitan perkara ini dan termasuk melantik Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah mengepalai pasukan pendakwaan di peringkat rayuan ini, boleh dipertikaikan dan wajar disemak semula,” katanya.

Beliau turut berpendapat, hakim Mahkamah Rayuan bergantung bulat-bulat kepada hujah yang dibentangkan Shafee sahaja, tanpa menghiraukan semua bantahan dan laporan polis yang dibuat berkaitan pemalsuan yang diikrarkan oleh Shafee, dalam afidavitnya.

“Hakim Mahkamah Rayuan sendiri mendedahkan tingkah laku dan tindakan mereka untuk orang ramai menyimpulkan mereka memang berada di bawah tekanan dan pengaruh yang kuat daripada tangan-tangan tersembunyi,untuk mensabitkan kesalahan ke atas Anwar dengan apa cara sekalipun,” katanya.

21 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?

Foreign Policy

Fame, acclaim, and a notorious friendship with Fidel Castro: The life of writer Gabriel Garcia Márquez was as fantastical and politically charged as his reality-bending novels.

Few contemporary writers and none from Latin America could match the scope of his influence or the radical inventiveness of his imagination. Affectionately called “Gabo,” Gabriel Garcia Márquez, the Colombian Nobel laureate, journalist and author, was the most celebrated Latin American cultural export of his era. He died, at 87, on April 17, in his home in Mexico City. His glamorous mystique — the houses and apartments strewn across Europe and the Americas, the glossy magazine profiles, the voluptuousness of his words – was offset by the author’s self-deprecating charm and humble back-story. The chasm between his socialist beliefs and the opulent lifestyle to which he ultimately grew accustomed attracted criticism, to be sure, yet his literary reputation never sagged under the weight of that paradox.

It was the 1967 publication and 1970 translation into English of his most famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude, that vaulted the author to stardom. In that novel, the head of the allegorical Buendía family interprets the world according to his own perceptions. In a warped chronology of events, Macondo’s founding family is regenerated ceaselessly, through revolution, natural disaster, and incestuous coupling. Translated into English by the peerless Gregory Rabassa, One Hundred Years of Solitude has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide. It gave exuberant voice to a region of the world that had previously been viewed as lush but inscrutable, best known by many Americans and Europeans for its political instability and violence.

As in most of his fiction, in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the author said he sought to destroy “the lines that separate what seems real from what seems fantastic.” He did so with rapturous virtuosity, emotional insight, and humor.

When the New York Times reviewed the book in 1970, the reviewer, John Leonard, described the work not so much as a piece of literature, but as an experience: “You emerge from this marvelous novel as if from a dream, the mind on fire. A dark, ageless figure at the hearth, part historian, part haruspex … first lulls to sleep your grip on a manageable reality, then locks you into legend and myth.”

While One Hundred Years of Solitude is a sweeping metaphor for Colombian cultural history — ghosts and modernity, colonialism and liberal reform, the introduction of railroads, the hegemony of American corporate interests and military jackboots — the mythical town of Macondo itself was inspired by Aracataca, the Colombian village where Garcia Márquez lived with his maternal grandparents until the age of eight. There, he absorbed his grandmother’s supernatural folklore. His left-leaning grandfather, a retired colonel, bequeathed the author a lifelong fascination with military and political power.

Garcia Márquez was the eldest of 11 children (though his father, a pharmacist, also claimed several illegitimate offspring). In the fictional Macondo, the character Colonel Aureliano Buendía, “had seventeen male children by seventeen different women and they were exterminated one after the other on a single night before the oldest one had reached the age of thirty-five. He survived fourteen attempts on his life, seventy-three ambushes and a firing squad.” Such prose, at once epic and compressed, inspired an entirely new lit-crit lexicon, including terms like “Macondic.” Along with other Latin American writers, Garcia Márquez helped to popularize the genre known as Magical Realism.

But it’s the realism in his writing that’s often forgotten.

Garcia Márquez  was born in 1927, the year before the so called “banana massacre,” in which striking Colombian workers for the United Fruit Company were crushed by the country’s military, who were anxious to forestall a threatened invasion by the U.S. Marines — a scenario he recasts in One Hundred Years of Solitude. He was a gifted student and attended a state-run boarding school. Later, under pressure from his family, he studied law at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, but soon turned his attention to writing and never completed his degree.

When a Colombian Liberal Party member was assassinated, triggering La Violencia, a decades-long period of civil strife and violence that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and displaced citizens, Garcia Márquez gave up his legal studies completely and became a journalist. But he also read deeply the literature that would inform his development as a fiction writer. A particular obsession of young Garcia Márquez’s was William Faulkner, whose mythical Yoknapatawpha County in the American South has been called a precursor to Macondo.

As a columnist in Bogotá in the 1950s, Garcia Márquez wrote an expose about a naval shipwreck — the piece was later published in English as “The Story of A Shipwrecked Sailor” — that earned him the ire of the Colombian dictator, Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. To quell the fallout, the author’s newspaper sent him to Europe as a correspondent, but soon the government shut down the paper altogether. Garcia Márquez kept writing fiction while working as a journalist and moving frequently, with spells in Venezuela, Columbia, New York, and Mexico City. In 1958 he married Mercedes Barcha Pardo, who remained the unmovable pillar of his personal life until his death. The couple resided primarily in Mexico City and had two sons.

The left-leaning Garcia Márquez wrote admiringly of Fidel Castro, eventually befriending the dictator. Both trouble and fame attached to him; The Colombian government planned to have him arrested for his political activities, Mexico offered him refuge, and the French awarded him the Legion d’Honneur. In 1982, he won the Nobel Prize for literature. Later, he would say that he put the prize money in a Swiss bank account and forgot about it for years; he eventually used it to buy the weekly magazine Cambio.

While he was lauded for his literary achievement, there were those among even his most ardent admirers who were disheartened by his politics, particularly his cozy relationship with Fidel Castro, who showered his writer friend with gifts that included a house on the outskirts of Havana. He, in turn, described Castro’s “childlike heart … political intelligence, his instincts and his decency, his almost inhuman capacity for work, his deep identification with and absolute confidence in the wisdom of the masses….”

Critics and curious contemporaries reasoned that Garcia Márquez was simply star struck by a man in uniform. Others theorized that that the writer was using the friendship to bend the dictator’s ear, and help Cubans leave the island or avoid harsh treatment.

According to a 1999 New Yorker profile by Jon Lee Anderson, García Márquez, ”confirmed that he had helped people leave the island, and he alluded to one ‘operation’ that had resulted in the departure of ‘more than two thousand people’ from Cuba.

‘I know just how far I can go with Fidel. Sometimes he says no. Sometimes later he comes and tells me I was right.’

‘I know just how far I can go with Fidel. Sometimes he says no. Sometimes later he comes and tells me I was right.’” The White House, however, was not philosophical about the author’s political engagement, and for a period of years he was obliged to apply for a special visa to enter the United States. Garcia Márquez seemed able to live with the moral contradictions posed by his friendship with Castro. But, given the complex dilemmas he assigned his most compelling characters, it’s hard to imagine that he was a man who would fail to grapple with that relationship.

Take the journalist-narrator of Garcia Márquez’s slim, 2005 volume,Memories of My Melancholy Whores, who, nearing the end of his life, shares a ruthless self-analysis: “I discovered that I am not disciplined out of virtue but as a reaction to my own negligence, that I appear generous in order to conceal my meanness, that I pass myself off as prudent because I am evil-minded, that I am conciliatory in order not to succumb to my repressed rage….” Such honest writing is what makes Garcia Márquez’s characters so universally accessible, his fiction so humane.

But Garcia Márquez also embraced popular imagery, using melodrama, romanticism, and sentimentality unabashedly in novels like Love in the Time of Cholera, based on his own parents’ romantic history. He was a fan of telenovelas and boleros and even wrote a profile of pop-singer Shakira in 2002. The female characters in his fiction, while diverse, often fall into the category of dusky cat-eyed temptresses — the fiery Latinas of a good bodice-ripper. At the same time, child prostitutes and a scene during which a housemaid is raped while doing laundry, reveal a more pitiless and exploitative form of sexuality in his writing.

Through his fiction he undermined crude American stereotypes of Latin Americans and informed the world about the region’s recent political history. The author himself once noted, “For Europeans, South America is a man with a mustache, a guitar and a gun.” Perhaps not so much anymore, thanks in large part to what Garcia Márquez has left us.

21 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?

21 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?


The intense global scrutiny brought upon Malaysia’s government over the fate of flight MH370 has tossed a wild card into its controversial efforts to send opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim back to jail.

Just hours before the Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared on March 8, a court overturned Anwar’s 2012 acquittal on sodomy charges he says are false and part of a long-running government attempt to wreck his political career.

Sentenced to five years in jail, Anwar, free on appeal, would be expelled from parliament if the conviction holds — a severe blow for a fractious opposition that has enjoyed unprecedented success by uniting around his star power.

But Anwar feels the negative global attention due to MH370 could force the government to think twice.

“(MH370) certainly will have a bearing,” said Anwar, 66, when asked by AFP whether concern over international reaction to his jailing could make his political foes pause.

“The entire radar is on Malaysia — that it is opaque, semi-authoritarian, no transparency, no accountability.”

Fears of backlash

Unaccustomed to answering for itself at home, Malaysia’s government has faced a barrage of international criticism for the unexplained loss of the plane with 239 people aboard, and a stumbling response.

Anwar’s opposition says the saga has exposed institutional decay and incompetence in a government dominated since 1957 by the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which is widely accused of rampant cronyism and corruption.

A former deputy premier with UMNO, Anwar has cultivated strong friendships in Washington, where he is lauded for his calls for reform, and the US State Department has questioned the March 7 ruling against him.

However, President Barack Obama does not plan to see Anwar when he is in Kuala Lumpur next week, though US officials have not ruled out a lower-level meeting. It was not clear whether Obama would raise Anwar’s case with Malaysia’s government.

“Jailing Anwar will be a big mistake, as it will galvanise people around his struggle. The last time they did that we saw the biggest protests ever,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of Malaysian public policy think-tank IDEAS.

Anwar was sensationally ousted from the government in 1998 after losing a power struggle, and his subsequent jailing for six years on sodomy and corruption charges was widely considered politically motivated.

The biggest protests in Malaysia’s history resulted, and Anwar emerged as a formidable opposition campaigner after the sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004.

Jailing Anwar would heap further pressure on the government and make it “a laughing stock”, Wan Saiful said.

Current Prime Minister Najib Razak, a relative moderate, has consistently sought international favour, but is constrained by UMNO conservatives who deeply fear Anwar and the political threat he poses.

In elections last year, the opposition won a majority of Malaysia’s popular vote for the first time, though UMNO’s coalition clung to control of parliament.

The March ruling came just two weeks before Anwar was to stand for an assembly seat in Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state.

The seat was seen as a springboard to becoming the state’s chief minister — a powerful soapbox ahead of the next general election due by 2018 — but the ruling disqualified Anwar.

Influential conservatives may gamble that the long-term gains from jailing Anwar are worth any overseas backlash, said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia politics researcher at Singapore Management University.

“There clearly are people in that party who want Anwar in jail,” she said.

“The focus is the domestic arena and what they feel they can get away with.”

 ‘Major battle’

UMNO is widely believed to influence the courts in sensitive cases, though Najib’s government denies this.

No date for an appeal has yet been set.

Anwar, who brought tens of thousands to the streets after last year’s disputed elections, warned of a “major battle” if he is jailed.

“You can take me, beat me up — you can shoot me if you want to — but I’m not going to take this lying down,” he said, hinting demonstrations may be called.

Multi-ethnic Malaysia enjoyed rapid economic growth and rising living standards over recent decades while a controversial UMNO formula reserves political supremacy for majority Muslim Malays.

But voters have increasingly rebelled over endemic corruption, slowing growth, and impatience with UMNO’s authoritarian tactics and divisive racial politics.

Since last year’s elections, Najib’s government has shelved reform promises and brought sedition charges or other pressure against opposition figures and reform advocates.

21 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?


With five days to appeal against his conviction in the Sodomy II trial, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is yet to fill the gap left by the late veteran lawyer and ally, Karpal Singh.

The PKR de facto leader told a crowd of 800 here that he must look for a lawyer to take charge of the appeal against his second sodomy conviction by the end of today, in order to file the petition of appeal on time.

“Not only am I about to go prison but I also have to look for the money to pay legal fees,” said Anwar jokingly, at the Reformasi 2.0 ceramah at the Lembah Pantai parliamentary constituency.

“But that is for me to worry. What I want from you here is to know the truth and judge accordingly,” he said.

Karpal was killed in a fatal accident last Thursday when the vehicle he was travelling in collided with a five-tonne lorry near Gua Tempurung in Gopeng, Perak. The accident also claimed the life of his long-time assistant, Michael Cornelius.

The former DAP chairman and Bukit Gelugor MP had been due to file the petition of appeal at the appellate court on April 24, a day prior to the expiry of the ten-day deadline on Friday.

Karpal had appeared as Anwar’s lead counsel since the former deputy prime minister’s first sodomy charge against him in 1998.

Karpal had taken up the case on a pro bono basis and fought relentlessly for the past 15 years, said the Anwar today.

Other speakers at the event last night alleged that the Court of Appeal’s ruling was politically motivated, accusing the judges of noting events irrelevant to the case.

PKR vice-president N. Surendran pointed to the pains the judges took to defend themselves against the accusation of having hurried the judgement.

“They were defending themselves as if they were politicians,” said the Padang Serai MP, after having studied the 85-page judgement.

PKR strategy director Rafizi Ramli added that not content with the damage to Anwar’s reputation, the government was still appealing for a harsher sentence despite the victory.

“On normal circumstances it is the losing party that appeals but because this is Anwar they are after, the government is appealing,” he said.

Anwar was sentenced to a five-year jail term last month after the Court of Appeal overturned his second sodomy acquittal, ruling that the High Court judge erred in rejecting DNA evidence adduced.

On January 9, 2012, Anwar was acquitted of allegedly sodomising Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan at the Desa Damansara condominium on June 26, 2008.

The appellate court’s full judgement, which was delivered to Karpal’s law firm last Wednesday, among others, questioned Anwar’s decision to give his statement from the dock, which the bench found to be nothing more than a bare denial.

The bench led by Datuk Balia Yusof Wahi and assisted by Datuk Aziah Ali and Datuk Mohd Zawawi Salleh stated that Anwar’s statement of defence should have provided evidence with which to deflect the allegations made against him.

- See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/on-borrowed-time-anwar-struggles-with-karpals-replacement#sthash.gBnW31rj.dpuf

21 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?


Model dan pelaksanaan hudud yang bakal diguna pakai oleh kerajaan negeri Kelantan perlu difahami terlebih dahulu sebelum Pakatan Rakyat (PR) mengambil keputusan bersama untuk mempersetujuinya, kata Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Ketua pembangkang itu berkata, kerajaan perlu membincangkan beberapa perkara asas dalam Islam terlebih dahulu seperti masalah ajaran sesat dan anti hadis sebelum membawa hudud ke satu peringkat yang lebih serius.

“Kita sebagai orang Islam, kita tidak boleh pertikai undang-undang Al-Quran. Saya bukan Mahathir. Kita kena terima. Hal ini harus difaham. Kalau tunggu fatwa, semua fatwa kena pada kita.

“Curi duit tak nampak, kenyataan Mahathir tak nampak, Mahathir sokong Kassim Ahmad anti hadis tak mengapa. Kita yang kena,” katanya ketika berucap di hadapan kira-kira 1,500 hadirin dalam Himpunan Reformasi 2.0 di Kuala Lumpur, malam tadi.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad pada Jumaat menyelar tindakan pihak berkuasa agama menangkap dan membicarakan Kassim kerana tindakan tersebut mencalarkan identiti Malaysia sebagai negara Islam sederhana.

Bekas perdana menteri itu berkata, dalam keadaan Kassim yang bertongkat dan tidak sihat, pegawai agama Islam dan dibantu polis tergamak menahan aktivis berusia 80 tahun itu.

“Saya sedih. Saya sedih kerana Kassim umur 80 tahun, bertongkat dan sakit ditangkap dan akan dibicara. Kenapa Kassim? Kenapa tidak orang lain? Yang menghina agama Islam di Malaysia ramai,” tulisnya dalam artikel di blognya chedet.cc.

Anwar berkata, hudud hanya dapat dilaksanakan sekiranya pembaharuan dilakukan terhadap jabatan agama Islam dan kaedah penguatkuasaan.

Katanya, hudud perlu dilaksanakan secara telus menepati kehendak ajaran Islam sebenar dan tidak memberi kepentingan politik kepada pihak tertentu.

“Kalau dilaksana digunakan undang-undang, curi RM500 juta dari Tan Sri naik Tun. Kamu curi motor, tangan dipotong. Dalam Islam bukan begitu.

“Semua perubahan baru kita kena bincang undang-undang itu macam mana. Saya saman Saiful, empat tahun Mahkamah Syariah tak sidang pun,” katanya merujuk kepada bekas pembantunya Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Anwar yang baru tiba selepas memberi penghormatan terakhir kepada mendiang Karpal Singh di Pulau Pinang berkata, pelaksanaan hudud di Kelantan akan diteliti dan Menteri Besar Kelantan, Datuk Ahmad Yakob akan memberikan penjelasan.

“Itu yang kita jemput menteri besar Kelantan untuk datang dalam mesyuarat kita mencari muafakat supaya (hudud) tidak digunakan untuk menekan sesiapa dan menjamin undang-undang itu difahami,” katanya.

Berhubung isu kehilangan pesawat Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370, Anwar mempertikaikan senarai kargo pesawat itu yang masih belum disiarkan kepada umum.

Katanya, ekoran daripada sikap kerajaan yang enggan memberikan lebih maklumat mengenai pesawat itu, Malaysia terus mendapat kecaman serata dunia.

“Mengapa cuba tutup maklumat itu? Apa barang yang dibawa? Saya tanya mana dia senarai kargo? Setiap kali ada penerbangan dikomputerkan. Bila tanya, sampai hari ini tak dapat jawab.

“Sekarang saya tuduh, kamu sengaja menyembunyikan bukti. Ada bukti, kamu padamkan. Dia kata ada manggis 4 tan tetapi tiada musim. Di Thailand pun bukan musim manggis,” katanya yang berpakaian serba hitam malam tadi.

Hujung bulan lalu, Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif MAS Ahmad Jauhari Yahya mengesahkan selain empat tan manggis yang dibawa di dalam pesawat itu, ia turut memuatkan bateri lithium-ion.

Katanya, bateri lithium-ion pada asasnya bukan barangan berbahaya tetapi ia diisytiharkan sebagai bahan berbahaya di bawah ICAO.

“Kami bawa beberapa bateri kecil lithium-ion, ia bukan bateri yang besar dan ia pada dasarnya diluluskan di bawah Pertubuhan Penerbangan Awam Antarabangsa (ICAO) di bawah barangan berbahaya,” katanya.

19 April 2014


Pendapat Anda?

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