MORE PICS & Video – Day 37 -Altantuya Murder Trial: ASP Zulkarnain: No inducements to Sirul Azhar to reveal her Jewellery & No setting him up
ABOVE: Malaysiakini also came out with a late report (details H E R E) on Day 37 Altantuya Trial due to the demands in the Budget reports
UPDATE: Day 37 Murder Trial
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Officer ‘showed respect to accused’ when searching house
A POLICE officer who led a team to recover Altantuya Shaariibuu's jewellery maintained his courtesy when searching the home of the person who allegedly murdered her.
Asst Supt Zulkarnain Samsudin, the “polite” officer, said he removed his shoes as he entered Kpl Sirul Azhar's flat unit in Kota Damansara on Nov 7 last year. He also instructed his subordinates from the D9 (serious crimes division) of the
The witness, who maintained that his team did not conduct any other searches apart from recovering the jewellery from Kpl Sirul Azhar's room, explained that one of his subordinates had picked up a piece of cloth from the floor and placed it on the bed. Kpl Sirul Azhar's defence team had previously argued that a blue cloth, which “suddenly appeared” on the bed in some of the photographs taken by the police that day, was an indication the room had been ransacked. “I ordered my subordinates to respect the owner of the house – Kpl Sirul Azhar – and not to mess up or step on anything in the room,” said the witness, who added that it could be the same piece of cloth.
ASP Zulkarnain also denied that he had set up Kpl Sirul Azhar and made him the fall guy in the murder case. He denied all the allegations Kpl Sirul Azhar made against him when the latter testified on Monday. Kpl Sirul Azhar, 36, had told the court that ASP Zulkarnain promised to help him out in the case if he agreed to point at some “items” and to be photographed with them. He also accused the officer of having tried to convince him to disclose everything he knew during interrogation at the
Zulkarnain Denies 'Setting Up' Sirul
SHAH ALAM, Sept 7 (Bernama) -- ASP Zulkarnain Samsudin today denied that he wanted to set Sirul Azhar Umar up and promised to free him if he disclosed where Altantuya Shaariibuu's jewellery had been kept. The 34-year-old officer attached to the Serious Crime Division of the Kuala Lumpur Police Headquarters' Criminal Investigation Department, also maintained his testimony given in previous proceedings that Sirul had voluntarily given information and disclosed to him where the accused kept the jewellery in his house in Kota Damansara. He said he did not threaten or persuade Sirul and did not rise from his seat and bang on the desk when Sirul replied "don't know" to questions posed during the interrogation at his office on November 7 last year.
Zulkarnain said he also had never told Sirul "you should speak the truth, what you know, tell. I know you are a member (of the force) also. So in this matter, we will try to help you, you say it". He also said he did not raise his voice at Sirul when he said "don't make me treat you like other accused". "I did not tell Sirul the matter would not be taken to court and he would be freed if he showed and identified the jewellery so that a photographer could take pictures," he said when examined by Deputy Public Prosecutor Tun Abdul Majid Tun Hamzah.(BELOW)= == = == = == = == = == = = = == = == = == = = == = =
ABOVE The trial judge Mohd Zaki revealed that Court would recess fro one week for the Conference of Judges and would resume on Sep 17 2007
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Merdeka, modernity and the Lina Joy controversy
Francis Loh looks at the controversy surrounding the competing civil-sharia jurisdictions in the light of the Lina Joy decision and other recent similar cases as well as the forthcoming 50th Merdeka celebrations. He argues that it is time to push for debate within our own religions and promote a wider notion of unity. Malaysia celebrates 50 years of Merdeka, 50 years of
New challenges That said, we face new challenges as well. Maintaining the same rate of
economic growth will become increasingly difficult - not simply because of a highly competitive globalised environment but also because the quality of our human resources needs to be upgraded, rapidly and comprehensively. Moreover, as the Ninth Malaysia Plan revealed, socio-economic disparities between states and regions have widened. Yet other studies report widening intra-ethnic disparities too.
In part, the disparities are due to the increasing adoption of neo-liberal economic policies, including privatisation of our utilities and services, which has led to rising costs for the poor. Rapid development has also resulted in unprecedented destruction of our environment. Our forests are getting depleted, our cities crowded and noisy, and our waters and air more polluted. In Kuala Lumpur, boasting 'the tallest twin towers in the world', flash floods create havoc every time there is a heavy downpour, even one lasting just a few hours, as we witnessed in mid-June. A heavy stench, the source of which is still unclear, welcomes visitors as they approach the
A major problem concerns the maintenance of not only our public buses and LRTs, but also highways and high-rises. Indeed, the brand new government complexes in Putrajaya have not been spared, what with ceilings collapsing! So, too, brand new hospitals and schools, which are deemed unsafe, even before they can be used. Other problems include corruption, rising crime rates and abuse of police powers. All these physical, environmental and even administrative problems threaten the well-being of Malaysians as the nation approaches middle-age. But they can be fixed.
Tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims have also been rising, most recently caused by a series of controversies surrounding competing legal jurisdictions between the civil court and the Sharia court, highlighted most recently in the Federal Court's decision in the Lina Joy case. It is understandable that many Muslims welcomed the decision while many non-Muslims felt the reverse. The 2-to-1 court decision epitomises this fault-line. In fact, because our religions are embedded in our ethnicities, the Muslim-non-Muslim fault-line reinforces the Malay-non Malay divide too.
The Lina Joy case and other related cases, however, should not be viewed through religious or ethnic lenses - nor even in terms of technical legalism as to the meaning of Article 121 (1A), introduced through a 1988 constitutional amendment. Rather, the Lina Joy case and other recent conversion controversies should be viewed in terms of our rights and responsibilities as citizens, as enshrined in the letter and the spirit of our Constitution. In turn, this Constitution is meant to represent our standing as a free and independent nation.
A living document
In this regard, it is important to remember that the 1957 Constitution, indeed any Constitution, is meant to be a living document. In
The Constitution also granted special status to the royalty, to Islam as the official religion, and to the Malay language as the sole national language, as well as 'special rights' for Malays. Why, the states of
Individual versus group rights
Viewed in this light, the Lina Joy and other conversion controversies highlight an emerging problem between the rights of citizens as individuals versus group rights. Any democracy worth its name must guarantee the fundamental rights of individuals. In
It is therefore pertinent to ask, where do individual rights end and where do group rights begin? The interface between the two is often blurred not least because it shifts over time. For this reason alone, a Constitution must be a living document. In Lina Joy's case, the Federal Court in a 2-1 decision ruled that Lina Joy does not have the right to move in and out of her religion at her own whim. Apparently, that undermined the rights of Muslims as a group. In fact, Lina Joy had brought the matter to court after she had converted to Christianity more than 10 years ago. She was now seeking removal of her designation as a Muslim in her Identity Card in order to marry the person of her choice, also a Christian. She was not acting on any whim or fancy. Nonetheless, for the Chief Judge, Lina Joy needed to seek the permission of the Sharia court before she could leave Islam to marry a Christian.
The Chief Judge obviously thought that the rights of Muslims as a group superseded Lina Joy's rights as an individual citizen. She needed first to appear before the Sharia court - for technically, she was deemed a Muslim. Put another way, in matters of conversion, Muslims have no automatic rights as individuals. Article 11, which provides for the freedom of religion, therefore pertains only to non-Muslims. However, for Lina Joy, now a Christian by conviction, there was no reason to submit herself to the Sharia to be recognised as an apostate especially since in most states apostasy is considered a crime requiring rehabilitation if not punishment.
Justice Richard Malunjum, the dissenting judge in the Lina Joy case, had stressed this point in his decision. In view of how the matter had generated such strong emotions among Muslims and non-Muslims, it has been suggested that all remain calm and the matter be laid to rest. Some suggest that the authorities ought to strengthen public confidence towards the Sharia courts not only to reassure Muslims that there is no attempt to belittle the importance of these courts but also to assure non-Muslims (or those wishing to leave Islam such as Lina Joy) that if and when they need to come before the Sharia courts, they should not fear recrimination since there is no compulsion in Islam. This is easier said than done in view of the decisions of the Sharia courts in several earlier conversion controversies.
Denial of Justice?
But there is a critical difference between the Lina Joy case and several other recent conversion controversies. Whereas the Lina Joy case highlights the conflict between individual versus group rights, the custody cases involving Shamala Sathiyaseelan and R Subashini, whose respective husbands had embraced Islam and converted their children as well, point to a denial of justice to the two women who had married their husbands under civil law. They were required by the civil court judges to seek redress over the disputed conversions of their children in the Sharia court. Being non-Muslims who feel that they do not need to submit to the Sharia, they have been denied their constitutional right. Then there are the cases involving the burials of Moorthy Maniam @ Mohammad Abdullah and Rayappan Anthony, whose bodies were claimed by the Islamic authorities on the grounds that they were converts.
To reclaim their bodies, their families appealed to the civil courts, which ruled that they had to submit before the Sharia courts instead. In these instances again, there was a denial of justice under the civil courts. More than that, the authorities concerned displayed a complete lack of compassion over the plight of the families, contrary to the teachings of our religions. Given these recent incidents, it will not be easy to instil confidence among non-Muslims in the Sharia. At any rate, it is still unclear whether non-Muslims have locus standi in the Sharia courts, whether they can take part actively and be represented. Contrasting views have been expressed by different Muslim jurists. The latest twist to these conversion controversies concerns the case of Revathi (born Siti Fatimah to Muslim parents but who was brought up as a Hindu by her Hindu grandmother).
Upon the advice of the Malacca Islamic Religious Department, she applied to the Sharia court to confirm her status as a Hindu as she had lived most of her life as a Hindu and had married a Hindu man. Instead, she is now being held in an 'Islamic rehabilitation camp ' to persuade her to return to Islam. Meanwhile, she has been separated from her husband while her Muslim mother has obtained a Sharia court order granting her custody of the couple's 15-month-old baby. Needless to say, the family is now torn apart.
More cases in future?
To a certain extent, the occurrence of these conversion controversies is new. It is likely, however, that more cases will emerge in the future. There are two related reasons for this. First, there has been an expansion of the Islamic legal system and the related Islamic bureaucracy under the auspices of Pusat Islam in the federal government since the 1980s. This followed the launch of
To a certain extent, these are the people who are involved in the expansion and consolidation of the Islamic legal system and the related Islamic bureaucracy. It is only with an understanding of the growth and consolidation of this parallel legal and administrative system, and its fusion with the civil one in strategic areas, that we begin to appreciate why these controversies have occurred and why it is likely that they will occur more frequently in future. In essence, the laws of one religion, namely Islam, have increasingly assumed the authority of the civil state's laws. From this point of view, Dr Mahathir's proclamation of
Time to act
In spite of all the above, it is our belief that the tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims can also be fixed, just as the environmental, maintenance and administrative problems mentioned earlier may be remedied. Recognising the existence of this problem - rather than declaring it 'sensitive' and sweeping it under the carpet - is the first critical step. The Prime Minister should convene a meeting of legal experts, Muslims and non-Muslims, from a broad spectrum who can empathise with these kinds of dilemmas.
A way forward might be the setting-up of a
As for civil society, we have to begin to push for a permanent inter-religious organisation, whatever form it may take. Unlike the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) - with due respect to the work they are doing – this organisation must include Muslims as well. This will provide a forum where issues such as conversion controversies can be discussed and suggestions put forward to the government for action. No doubt the matter can be sensitive. But not acting is not an option either. It is in this manner, with the participation of civil society, that Muslims might begin to understand the anxieties of non-Muslims, and non-Muslims, in turn, understand why Muslims consider themselves as a people under siege globally.
The current modus operandi of conflict resolution behind closed doors has reached its upper limits especially when it comes to matters of religion. As responsible citizens, we must ask for something more formal, effective and efficient in dealing with our cultural fissures and, most of all, our faith-lines. We also need to strengthen our democratic institutions for they offer the best protection of the rights of all Malaysians, including those from minority groups. Judges must be courageous and dispense justice without fear or favour. There is a huge credibility gap vis-à-vis the justice system among ordinary citizens (not simply because of these conversion controversies) these days which must be put right. Likewise, legislators should wake up and challenge all bills which are unjust, not just those pertaining to matters of religion.
Above all, the executive must recognize the seriousness of the present situation and move fast, rather than politicise the situation. As the Raja Muda of Perak commented recently, all Malaysians - especially the political leaders - must defend and promote the integrity of the Federal Constitution and ensure that there is a place for all, regardless of creed, in
The interpretation of religious texts should bedemocratised instead of being the monopoly of conservative clerics and inward-looking scholars. We need the Malaysian equivalents of Abdurrahman Wahid ("Gus Dur") of Nahdlatul Ulama; Amien Rais of Muhammadiyah; Azyumardi Azra, the former rector of the National Islamic University in Jakarta; and the late Islamic scholar Nurcholis Majid of Himpunan Mahasiswa Indonesia - who have all dismissed the need to create an Islamic state in Indonesia - to speak out. Now, more than ever before, we should allow space for progressive and critical voices to be heard within our respective religions serious discussions on matters pertaining to religion (as narrowly defined) but also analyse and engage the other issues of socio-economic development and democratisation, as outlined in the first part of this article. Above all, progressives need to stress the importance of empathy, compassion and solidarity with the poor, the oppressed and those who are silently suffering for various reasons, regardless of race or creed.
These progressive elements from the various religious traditions can later build networks of solidarity with their counterparts in other religions so that the inner beauty and essence of spirituality - love, justice, compassion, deep peace, and oneness with Creation - can emerge and be the basis that underscores our pursuit of development and democracy. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of our Merdeka, it is time to push for debate within our own religions and promote this wider notion of unity.
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