Saturday, November 24, 2007

MORE PICS – 3 Hindraf Leaders Arrested & Released (but 1 refused Bail as protest, Hundreds Supporters at Court; 20 NGOs & MIC Say Don’t Go

Another Victory day for HINDRFA Leaders at the Court

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UPDATE: Nov 24 2007

November 24, 2007 13:53 PM
Hindraf Leaders Charged For Inciting Racial Issues - Najib
ALOR STAR, Nov 24 (Bernama) -- Three leaders of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) were charged in court yesterday for inciting racial issues and arousing the anger of other races, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said. The Deputy Prime Minister said Hindraf chief P. Waythamoorty, his brother Uthayakumar and V. Ganabatirau were not charged because of therally in front of the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow. He said anyone who fanned racial sentiments and instigated the people would be charged in court as their actions breached the country's laws. "No matter who they are, if they are found to be giving or have given seditious speeches that arouse the anger of the other races, they can be charged.

"They can speak up but cannot break the law. If their speeches are seditious and instigative and can spark racial clashes, legal action will be taken against them," he told a press conference after launching the Amanah Ikhtiar Entrepreneur Carnival. Najib said the country's laws explicitly state that anyone intending to organise a gathering must get a police permit but if they still went ahead with the unlawful assembly, they must be prepared to face the law for their defiance. Lawyers Waytha Moorthy,, 41, Uthayakumar, 46, and Ganabatirau, 34, were charged in the Klang Sessions Court with uttering seditous words in Tamil at a gathering in Batang Berjuntai, Kuala Selangor, on Nov 16. They claimed trial to the charge.

They were charged under Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 (Revised 1960), which states that anyone who utters any seditious words will be liable to a maximum RM5,000 fine or three years' jail, upon conviction. The seditious tendency includes inciting racial hatred and bringing the government and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong into contempt. It applies to an act, speech, words, or publication. It includes any phrase, sentence, or combination of words, oral or written. The three are also said to be key players in the Hindraf-initiated gathering tomorrow. Police have refused permission for the rally for fear of public disorder
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Roadblocks in Kuala Lumpur City

The road blocks started early for Hindraf but the queue seems faster as most are waved on if the occupants are not Indians. The most ridiculous is the Block at Jalan Pahang just after the KL Hospital. They are NOT coming to Kampong Baru; the Indians don’t go there. Maybe a check in Sentul would be appropriate.

The following are scenes of the slowdown check at Jalan Kuching coming into the City Centre from the North. We can observed the stoppage was only for

INDIANS Lorry drivers and those on Motorbikes.






= == = == = Original Post Below
Malaysiakini has early stories of the arrest & release of the Hindraf leaders and its latest
story Hindraf trio freed on bail with the earlier one On
Three Hindraf leaders arrested with
Malaysiakini.tv On Hindraf rally: Cops warn of 'stern action'

More arrested

ABOVE & BELOW: The police cars that brought the three arrested to court

Apparently they were arrested over remarks in Tamil made at a forum based on police investigations pertaining to reports lodged against them to their speeches made at a recent forum in Batang Berjuntai, Selangor. They were charged under Section 4 (1B) of the Sedition Act in the Klang sessions Court.

ABOVE: Lawyer M. Manoharan (left) for the Three released and Uthayakumar addressing a crowd in Klang

But they were released on bail in no time as the charge sheet was not in order to what the DPP was saying. N Surendran representing the three pointed out that the charge sheet stated that only one word was seditious whereas the DPP said everything in the Tmil speeches were seditious. The police bungled in this case and the Magistrate ordered the charges be amended. Hearing resumes Monday.

According to the latest Malaysiakini report the Trio was released but its chairperson P Waythamoorthy ( & preferred to sit it out at Sungai Buloh Jail and do a hunger strike) refuses to post bail as a mark of protest.

In the NST report (BELOW), Deputy Home Affairs Minister Johari was complaining about the text SMSes that were also seditious.
ABOVE: The supporters and protesters kept their distances from the well armed FRU personnel and BELOW: But continue their slogans shouting
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ABOVE & BELOW: More speeches & shouting
Meanwhile the other two P. Uthayakumar and V. Ganapathy Rao were on RM800 bail each.
Hundreds of supporters thronged the surrounding court house and FRU personnel and a water Cannon Truck was at hand to keep the peace.
ABOVE: DAP Leaders Ronnie Lui & Lim Kit Siang and another were at the Court to give moral support to V. Ganapathy Rao, a lawyer and a DAP active leader in Shah Alam

It has been a restless day for the 200 supporters the moment the Hindraf leaders were arrested and they have been keeping a vigil in front of the police station.
ABOVE & BELOW: More FRU on standby just incase the crowd got over excited
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ABOVE & BELOW: No action from the FRU present as the supporters were very well behaved and there were no provocations
= = == == NST has a detailed account on what happened on Friday 23 07

KLANG: Three lawyers, said to be key players in the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), were charged yesterday with inciting racial hatred. Hindraf is the organiser of a planned gathering in front of the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur tomorrow. Police have refused permission for the rally for fear of public disorder. P. Uthayakumar, 46, his brother P. Waytha Moorthy, 41, and V. Ganabatirau, 34, claimed trial to inciting a crowd through speeches in Tamil at a restaurant in Batang Berjuntai on Nov 16.

The three were brought under heavy police escort to the court at 4.20pm with a large group of supporters in tow. From the onset of the proceedings, there was controversy as the lawyers representing the three, M. Manoharan, A. Sivanesan and R. Kenghadaran, objected to the charge, claiming it was flawed. Manoharan said the charge was incomplete as the original copy of the alleged seditious speech, which was in Tamil, was not attached to the translated copy. Deputy public prosecutor Ishak Mohd Yusoff told the judge that the translation had been certified by a police officer, but it had yet to be verified by an independent party.

At this juncture, Manoharan interjected, saying the charge was not clear and that prosecution was not ready to charge the three. Judge Zunaidah Mohd Idris agreed that the original copy of the speech should have been attached to the translated text and said the prosecution should have also identified the words which were deemed seditious. Manoharan then urged the court to discharge his clients based on the groundless charge. He said under the Sedition Act, it was an offence to incite ill-feelings. In this case, he said the three accused were simply pointing out errors by the government.

Zunaidah: I do not want to go into the facts of the case. The charges are not purely groundless, let the prosecution do the necessary to the charge. Manoharan: The court should not fix another date for the DPP to correct the charge. Grant them a discharge. The prosecution can bring them again on Monday with the proper charge. Why the hurry to charge the lawyers? They are not going to run anywhere.

Zunaidah agreed that the charge was general, adding that it would be difficult for the accused to answer. She then fixed Monday for mention. When bail was proposed at RM10,000, Manoharan stood up again and said: "It is ridiculous enough that they are bringing an incomplete charge against my clients, now they are asking for RM10,000? "There is no way they can post bail. Since Monday is fixed for mention, the court should fix then to submit on bail." Manoharan also alleged that the clients were brought to court late on purpose so that they would not be able to raise bail and thus left in remand over the weekend. "This was done in bad faith," he said. It was then that a shouting match broke out.
Ishak
stood up and told Manoharan to shut up and stop throwing accusations at the prosecution. Kenghadaran lunged at Ishak and had to be restrained by the other lawyers. "We are the ones struggling. How dare you, you shut up," he yelled at Ishak who then told him to stop pointing fingers. Zunaidah had enough and told everyone to sit down. "We are here to carry out our duty. The prosecution is here following orders to charge your clients. I want this to be a fair trial. Do not put emotions into this."
But the court, she said, could not release the three accused without imposing bail. "Since it's already
6pm, I will allow the three accused RM800 bail each. The bail is to be settled by cash to the court, who will hold the amount until Monday," she said. Uthayakumar and Ganabatirau posted bail, but Waytha Moorthy refused as a mark of protest. He was sent to the Sungai Buloh prison where he has threatened to go on hunger strike.

The charge:
P. Waytha Moorthy, P. Uthayakumar and V. Ganabatirau were charged with uttering seditious words in Tamil during a speech at Restaurant Yun He,
Lot 293, Sungai Rambai, Jalan Batang Berjuntai in Kuala Selangor between 8.30pm and 11.15pm on Nov 16.
They were charged under Section 4 of the Sedition Act 1948 (Revised 1969), which states that anyone who utters any seditious words shall be liable to a maximum RM5,000 fine or three years’ jail. The seditious tendency includes inciting racial hatred and bringing the Government and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong into contempt. It applies to an act, speech, words, or publication. It includes any phrase, sentence, or combination of words, oral or written.

Timeline:
• 7.30am — Hindraf legal adviser P. Uthayakumar woken up at his home in Bangsar by a chief inspector and six plainclothes policemen with magistrate's court order not to attend the rally.
• 10.30am — Five police officers from Selangor police headquarters arrest Uthayakumar at his Menara Mutiara Bangsar office under the Sedition Act. He is taken to the headquarters in Shah Alam.
2.45pm — V. Ganabatirau is arrested when he goes to the Selangor police headquarters to see Uthayakumar.
3pm — P. Waytha Moorthy arrested at Shah Alam toll plaza and taken to Selangor police headquarters in Shah Alam.
4.45pm — Trio charged at the Klang Sessions court.
6pm — Bail of RM800 is objected to by Waytha Moorthy, who says he wants to remain in custody as a sign of protest. He insists on being handcuffed on the way out of court. Request granted.
6.30pm — Uthayakumar, Ganabatirau, A. Sivanesan and M. Manoharan left the court. They are carried on the shoulders by supporters. Procession starts at the foothill of court at Jalan Datuk Hamzah and snaked through Klang town. Traffic came to standstill.
6.30pm — Waytha Moorthy driven away to Sungai Buloh prison in Proton Waja.
6.45pmScuffle broke out between supporters and FRU near the junction of Jalan Datuk Hamzah, but order restored peacefully without any arrest.
7pm — Procession arrived at Padang Chetty which is behind the Klang district police headquarters, and 750 metres away from the court.
7-7.20pm — All four gave speeches and explained what happened in court.
7.20pm — A press conference was held outside the Sri Thandayathapani Hindu temple which is adjacent to Padang Chetty.
7.30pm — All four entered temple and prayed before leaving.

= == = == = = from theSUN; Three arrested over planned Hindraf rallyR. Surenthira Kumar
ABOVE: A tight security was in place at the entrance to the Shah Alam Police Hq fearing that the supports might gate-crash into it

PETALING JAYA (Nov 23, 2007): Police have arrested three key officials of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) that is planning to go ahead with a mass rally on Sunday outside the British High Commission in Jalan Ampang although police had rejected their application to do so.
They are expected to be charged under the Sedition Act later today.

The three men are:
Hindraf adviser, lawyer P. Uthayakumar, who was picked up at his office in Bangsar at about 10.30am
Hindraf chairman, lawyer P. Waythamoorthy (Uthayakumar's brother), who was arrested at the Shah Alam toll plaza about 3pm
V. Ganapathy Rao,(BELOW, outside the Police Hq in Shah Alam, before the arrest) who was arrested when he went to the Selangor police headquarters to see Uthayakumar about 2.45pm


Lawyer N. Surendran (ABOVE, was denied a Pass to enter to see P. Uthayakumar) went to Selangor IPK in Shah Alam about 2.45pm when Uthayakumar was taken there by a police team. He was accompanied by Ganapathy Rao and Parti Keadilan Rakyat supreme council member S. Manickavasagam.

However, when Surendran came out 20 minutes later, he told reporters that Ganapathy Rao had been arrested as well. He said he was informed by a police officer with the rank of Assistant Commissioner that the three men would be charged in Klang later today.


ABOVE & BELOW: The crowd of 200 Supporters immediately gathered at the Shah Alam Contingent Hq when news spread that P. Uthayakumar was arrested.

Outside the IPK grounds, about 200 people had gathered (ABOVE) and when the police car carrying Uthayakumar drove past the gate, shouts rang out and some rapped on the car window. Several empty mineral water bottles were also thrown at the car. On Monday, a police team had raided Uthayakumar’s law office with a warrant, in search of a publication that he had authored. They found nothing there. Simultaneously, another team searched Waythamoorthy's office in Seremban, Negri Sembilan, where some 2,500 booklets, pertaining to a suit that Hindraf had taken against the British government, were seized.

Hindraf planned Sunday's gathering to hand a memorandum addressed to the Queen of England to support a class-action suit against Her Majesty’s government for bringing Indians to Malaysia as indentured labourers and exploiting them for 150 years. It is seeking RM27.7 trillion in compensation. According to Manickavasagam, the rally will go on despite the arrests. Yesterday, for the second day running, police security checks at a number of roads into Kuala Lumpur caused traffic congestion. Earlier today, lawyer M. Manoharan told theSun police had served him, Uthayakumar and several other Hindraf officials a restraining order to stop them from participating in the rally. Police got the order from the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court, which also restrains all Hindraf supporters from participating in the gathering, which police said could disrupt public order.
= == = == = =and MORE threats OR FRIENDLY Advices from the Police

2007/11/22; NST
Rally to petition Queen E 'stirring religious sentiments'

Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum says some text messages concerning the rally had gone overboard

PUTRAJAYA: Police will not be issuing a permit for the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) rally this Sunday. Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Mohd Johari Baharum said judging from text messages being circulated, Hindraf appeared to be playing up sensitive issues which included the demolition of Hindu temples. "Some of the text messages are overboard and can incite feelings. They are blaming the government, the police and Umno. If a rally is held in such a situation, it can lead to instability," Johari said yesterday.
Hindraf is planning to hold a rally outside the British High Commission in support of a class-action suit against the British government for bringing Indians to
Malaysia as indentured workers, for exploiting them for 150 years, and for failing to protect their rights as a minority in the federal constitution when Malaya's independence was granted.

The rally is to petition Queen Elizabeth II for a Queen's Counsel to represent the Indian community in the suit, which was filed on Aug 30 in the United Kingdom. The sum sought is STG4 trillion (RM27.7 trillion) in compensation for the community from the British government. Second political secretary to the British High Commissioner Dawn Houghton said they will be ready to receive the petition on Sunday. "We are aware of their plans. Any demonstration is between Hindraf and the local authorities. There should be someone receiving the petition," she added. The application for a police permit was rejected by Cheras police chief Assistant Commissioner Ahmad Amir Mohd Hashim who explained that the application had been made by an individual, rather than by the organisation. Under Section 27 of the Police Act 1967, any application for a permit to assemble in a public place must made by an organisation or jointly by three individuals. Police have expressed doubt as to the capability of the applicant to control the crowd, which could disrupt traffic as well as law and order.

In response, Hindraf legal adviser P. Uthayakumar described the reason cited by the police as "flimsy", explaining that the organisation is a coalition of NGOs and not a registered body in its own right. Uthayakumar also argued that the duty to control traffic and to ensure law and order lay with the police, not Hindraf. "In fact, we have told the police that we will have 100 people helping to organise this peaceful assembly," he said. Uthayakumar insisted the gathering would go on. It is expected to attract a large group of Indians. The MIC and police have warned the Indian community to stay away from the gathering, which is now deemed illegal.

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November 22, 2007 20:11 PM
Illegal Assembly Will Harm National Economy, Says IGP

MELAKA, Nov 22 (Bernama) -- The planned illegal assembly on Sunday by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) is merely to stage a street protest that will harm the national economy. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan (ABOVE) said Hindraf had ulterior motive in holding the assembly, taking the cue from the Nov 10 street march staged by the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) in collaboration with opposition parties. "To me, the illegal assembly will not only undermine internal security but also jeopardise the national economy. "Are they trying to show (to the world) that this country is in disarray, this is not right," he told reporters when responding to the protest gathering at the British High Commission at Jalan Ampang on Sunday.

The gathering is to submit a petition with 100,000 signatures to Queen Elizabeth II to appoint a Queen's Counsel to represent the Indian community in a class action suit against the British government for bringing Indians as labourers to the then Malaya and thereafter exploiting them. The suit, filed at the Royal Courts of Justice in London by Hindraf chief P. Wathyamoorthy in August, sought compensation of up to US$4 trillion (RM13.5 trillion), or US$1 million (RM3.4 million) for every Indian in Malaysia.

Musa advised the people to stay away from the gathering as police would take stern action against the protesters. Musa said based on the information he had received, Hindraf was fanning sensitivities of other races which may lead to racial clashes. "I understand undesirable elements will be used," he said.

The country's top cop also said children are barred from participating in the assembly and parents risk being charged in court if their children were caught attending the gathering. Under the Child Act 2001, children should not be manipulated for unlawful activities, he added.


In KUALA LUMPUR, City Police chief Datuk Zul Hasnan Najib( ABOVE) Baharuddin urged the public to steer clear of the gathering as no permit has been given by the police, rendering it illegal. He said Hindraf's second appeal to him for a police permit was rejected as police intelligence showed racial issues and sensitivities of other races that could harm prevailing racial harmony would be highlighted at the assembly. "We fear the gathering will spark racial friction leading to more serious crimes," he told a press conference. Zul Hasnan said people found to be directly or indirectly involved in the gathering would be detained and charged under Section 27 of the Police Act. He also advised the people not to wear orange colour clothing to avoid being mistaken as supporters and participants of the assembly.

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November 22, 2007 21:38 PM

Let Police Handle Illegal Assembly - Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 (Bernama) -- Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the police will handle any illegal demonstration held in the city over the weekend. "Let the police handle it. Illegal demonstrations only inconvenience the public," he told reporters here today. Najib was asked to comment on a protest planned by the Hindu Rights Action Force (HINDRAF) in front of the British High Commission's office here on Sunday. Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan said today police will take stern action should the planned demonstration proceed and urged the public to stay away from it as it could touch the sensitivities of other races and spark racial friction.

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007/11/21, NST

Hindraf claims absurd, says Samy Vellu
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Indians are free to join the demonstration planned by the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) if they believe its claims are true, MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said yesterday.
However, he described the statement by Hindraf that the status of Indians had not improved since independence and "our economic situation is likened to one living in the 19th century", as absurd. He was commenting on the planned gathering by the group in front of the British High Commission here this Sunday to hand over a memorandum to Queen Elizabeth II of Britain. Hindraf was luring Indians with a claim that they stand to receive a compensation of RM1 million each from the British government, said Samy Vellu, who is also Works Minister.

It was reported that on Aug 30, it filed a class-action suit against the British government for bringing Indians to Malaysia as indentured labourers and exploiting them for 150 years, and thereafter failing to protect their rights under the Federal Constitution on independence. The sum sought was STG4 trillion (RM27.7 trillion) or about RM1 million for every Indian currently residing in Malaysia after paying for legal proceedings.

Asked what action would be taken against MIC members who joined the gathering, he said the party would decide later. Samy Vellu was speaking at the Tenaga Nasional Berhad Deepavali celebrations 2007 at TNB's headquarters here where 150 orphans from several homes in the city were given ang pow of RM50 each and guests entertained to traditional Indian dances and delicacies. Later, after closing the 7th National Symposium of Tamil school headmasters in Seri Kembangan, Samy Vellu said his lawyers in London had told him that Hindraf had not filed a case but had only given notice to file a case. "SMSes going around are saying that the British government wants the support of not less than 100,000 people to be able to take action against the Malaysian government.

"I spoke to the British High Commission and they said they have nothing to do with this," he added. Meanwhile, police have called on the public to stay away from the planned gathering. Cheras police chief ACP Ahmad Amir Mohd Hashim said yesterday that Hindraf's application for the gathering was rejected last Friday as it could lead to trouble and disrupt public order. However, he said the organisers could appeal to the Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Zulhasnan Najib Baharudin by today. Ahmad Amir also warned the public that action could be taken against those involved in an illegal gathering.

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ABOVE: NGO M Dharma and BELOW: NGO Ramesh Kodammal also advised "Don't Go", bad for businesses (opening on a Sunday?)
Stay away from Hindraf rally, Indians warned

KUALA LUMPUR: The MIC has called on the Indian community to stay away from a planned gathering in front of the British High Commission on Sunday.

It said the organisers of the rally, the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), was a front for the opposition.Disciplinary action would be taken against party members participating in the event, which had been widely covered in Tamil dailies.
MIC secretary-general Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said yesterday the organisers were irresponsible as they would not take the blame in the event of any untoward incidents. "In the end, the community will be the real loser."
The organisers plan to present 100,000 signatures in a petition to Queen Elizabeth II for a Queen's Counsel to represent the Indian community in a representative action filed on Aug 30 in the United Kingdom seeking STG4 trillion (RM27.7 trillion) in compensation for the community from the British government.

ABOVE: MIC Datuk M Sarawan, "don't go"

He said the MIC was not against social activism but felt it must be within reason. "They must be realistic and work towards objectives that are realistic." Subramaniam also said that several SMSes on the gathering were being circulated, with one stating that each Indian would get RM100,000 if the case was won. He said MIC was worried that irresponsible people would take advantage of the gathering to create trouble. MIC Youth chief S. A. Vigneswaran said the SMSes were dangerous as they fanned racial hatred. Meanwhile, police yesterday raided the Bangsar office of lawyer P. Uthayakumar, one of the leaders of Hindraf, in search of an allegedly seditious publication. City Criminal Investigation Department chief SAC II Ku Chin Wah said they had obtained a warrant to look for a publication titled 50 Years of Violation of the Federal Constitution by the Malaysian Government. He said the action was related to a function held by Hindraf at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall last July.

= == = == =CNN
November 22, 2007 -- Updated 0143 GMT (0943 HKT)

Malaysian news site strives for dialogue
By Kevin Drew; CNN

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (CNN) -- Inside a nondescript building in the gritty Bangsar district of south Kuala Lumpur rests Malaysiakini.com (Malay for "Malaysia Now"), a newspaper covering Malaysia that exists solely in cyberspace.

Steven Gan: Self-censorship "is an obsession" in mainstream Malaysian media.

Its goal, says co-founder Steven Gan, is straightforward: to report on Malaysian political and social issues critically and objectively.That can be a challenge in Malaysia. The media in the Southeast Asian nation face tough regulations from the government on what can be reported. And with ethnicity and religion as intertwining hot buttons, reporting on social issues in the multicultural nation of Malays, Chinese, Indians and other Asian groups can seem to be a tightrope.

Critical to its success, Gan says, is its reputation for accuracy. Malaysiakini has put itself on Malaysia's journalism map for its credibility and occasionally beating the competition. In 2005 the news organization made international headlines by breaking the news of a mobile phone clip showing a Chinese woman in police detention subjected to a humiliating search procedure.

As Malaysiakini celebrates its eighth birthday this month, Gan recently sat down with CNN and discussed the Web site and practicing journalism in Malaysia.

CNN: What is Malaysiakini.com?

GAN: The reason we set up Malaysiakini is because of the fact that we have tight control of the media in Malaysia. And we saw an opportunity here because of ... a loophole within the system. We disagree with him [Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi] on a lot of issues, but on the issue of freedom of the Internet, we should give him some credit. He promised not to censor the Internet. He realized that in order to set up the multimedia corridor here ... he would have to offer, among other things, not just tax breaks but the fact that he would not censor the Internet. So, we decided to see whether he would stick to his promise.

They [government officials] were having a difficult time with Malaysiakini. There were a lot of attacks from the mainstream media, which is government controlled, against us. Ministers from time to time would issue statements against Malaysiakini, questioning our credibility, saying that we were pro-opposition and also attacking how we were funded. And eventually it resulted in a raid by the police about two years ago. They took away 19 of our computers.But we have persevered.

CNN: Why in the English language?
GAN: We started off in English, partly because I'm an English (language) writer. That was a natural way for us to go. A lot of people here (in
Malaysia) speak English -- most of Malaysia can understand. But then we realized that to get across to more people, you would also need to have a Chinese as well as a Malay language site. So Malaysiakini right now has four sections: English, Bahasa (Malay), Chinese, and a video section, as well.

CNN: How has Malaysiakini grown from the early days?
GAN: We started out [in 1999] very much as a guerilla outfit in the sense we were only three journalists. That was just before the 1999 general election. Looking back, I never thought we'd manage to survive that period, because three journalists trying to cover an election was just terrible, almost impossible. But even with that we managed to break a few new stories and I think we got noticed.
When we first went live it was just basically collecting e-mails of our friends and just sending them a message saying, 'Hey, we have this new Web site, check it out.' Eventually it went from a few hundred people to a thousand, then 5,000, and now close to about 300,000 readers.
When we first started there were two major questions that we had to answer. One was how to make an impact politically in the sense of how to get readership. Our solution for that was to become a credible source of information.
The other (objective) was that if you want to set up independent media you need to have independent financing. We started off thinking advertising was a possible model. We managed to survive the first year - there was still an Internet boom at that time.
Of course, 2000-2001 was a major Internet crash and people who would normally advertise on Malaysiakini were Internet start-ups. They all disappeared. We really had to find another solution. That was when we decided to switch to a pay model. It was a painful decision. We saw readership drop like a ton of bricks, but we managed to win them back.

CNN: Can you explain the idea behind the Asia 24/7 TV service on Malaysiakini.com?
GAN: The idea is to basically provide a site for independent broadcasters all around
Asia. To post their videos and all that. However, I think that maybe that idea was a little ahead of its time. We launched 24/7 about two years back. We didn't manage to get enough content. There's just not enough independent broadcasters out there to sustain it. We are now trying to revamp that idea, but it's still too early to talk about it.

CNN: It's an intriguing idea, because most major news Web sites in North America and Europe are attached to either a print or TV organization, which feeds their sites' content. You tried flipping that model, where the Internet would be the primary carrier, and TV was simply a part of it.
GAN: I think there is no doubt that such a scenario will come. Maybe not now, but maybe in five to 10 years' time. The Internet will be the main medium where people get their content, whether it's text, video, whatever it is. It will not be TV or radio, per se, it will not be print, per se. I think all those elements will still be around, but in a different form. But they (other media) will have to evolve to survive. TV will have to evolve.
The Internet will eventually be the main medium. It will be the dominant medium, because it's able to deal with so many different forms of content in one place.

CNN: What is the level of traffic that Malaysiakini is currently attracting?
GAN: We are getting about 100,000 unique visitors a day. That would put us in the league with some of the major local newspapers out there. We are quite comfortable with what we have achieved. But for Malaysiakini to make another leap would perhaps require the country to have a higher penetration rate when it comes to broadband.
We've been waiting for that for the past few years. Broadband penetration in
Malaysia is still pretty low, we're talking about 5 percent. It is partly because of government policy. We have a government that is not too sure whether we should move into that.

CNN: How is the Internet regulated in Malaysia?
GAN: The only difference between the Internet and the so-called traditional media is that to set up a Web site you don't need government approval. You don't need to apply for a license. That is a major distinction, that is the crucial difference.
In a sense we have a little bit more freedom. But in
Malaysia, the Internet is not completely free. Because you still have laws out there that directly or indirectly infringe on press freedom, which has been used to check mainstream media and can be used to harass Internet media, as well. Things like being accused of spreading false news, the sedition act, malicious secrets act ... all those laws that exist apply for the Internet, as well.
On the police raid on Malaysiakini, the government used the sedition act, a law that is already in existence. We published a letter from one of our readers that they said was seditious. I think the idea that the Internet is completely free is hyped up. But then I think there's no doubt the Internet has made an impact and it has been a useful tool. But we recognize that the government still has a lot of control.

CNN: Your Web site is now self-sustaining financially, correct?
GAN: It is self-sustaining. We have subscriptions, side businesses like book publishing. When we went to subscription service we had to develop our own technology, because the technologies for sale were too expensive. We have now perfected our own technology to a point to where we can sell it.

CNN: Tell me a little bit about your staff. Many look young. What is their background?
GAN: Most of the experienced journalists are from the print media. Many started at mainstream newspapers. But the journalists, many are fresh out of university. We decided that it's much easier for us to train them rather than hire people from mainstream media. Because when it comes to reporting, it sometimes is difficult for us to change the mindset of journalists who've been working for years in the mainstream media, coming from a very controlled environment to an environment that is relatively free. They find it very hard to cope with that kind of situation.

CNN: Can you explain that more? How much self-censorship is there in Malaysia?
GAN: Self-censorship is an obsession in the mainstream media. It happens every day. The editors will tell you what to write, what not to write. You get ministers calling up all the time. They issue directives. They sometimes send out letters, telling what the guidelines, what can be written, how it can be written. Sometimes they organize briefings for the editors. That's the kind of censorship you get.

CNN: How is the media world looking at you?
GAN: Internationally, people are interested in our model. Not our content, but our model. Our thinking is that we're not going to compete with mainstream media in sports coverage, for example, because sports is not something you can censor. If a game ends 2-0, it's 2-0, period. You cannot say it's 2-1. We compete in areas that we think we can do better, and that would be political news and social news. We're one of the few news Web sites that is able to survive based on subscriptions.

CNN: What is taboo to report on in Malaysia?
GAN: In Malaysia, religion, race ... those are the two main issues that we would be more careful with. It doesn't mean that we won't do them. In fact, we have a pretty vibrant debate in our discussion forum. I feel like we do need to talk about those issues. Malaysia is a very complex society. It is multiracial, multilingual, multi-religious ... multi-everything! The problems are so complex that I don't think we should allow the government alone to solve them. It is up to all Malaysians to come together, to come up with a solution. And to do that, they will need to keep talking to each other. We are providing that forum.
I think Malaysiakini will be one of the very few news media in
Malaysia that cuts across racial and religious backgrounds in a fair-minded manner, in an unemotional manner. In a way that they are all looking for solutions. In a manner where sometimes we have to agree to disagree. I think that's important. You cannot make compromises if you do not know how the other side feels.

CNN: Was there a moment when you realized Malaysiakini would work?
GAN: I don't think there has been any moment (laughs). I think we're still struggling, even today. I don't think we are successful yet. We're not making a hell of a lot of money. We're definitely not in debt, which is a good thing. We're getting there, but we're definitely not like Google.
We still need to ensure that we continue to come up with content that will appeal to Malaysians to the point where they are willing to pay for our content. Somehow we need to get through to advertisers out there. They're still not coming around, because they're scared. Because in
Malaysia, politics and business are closely linked. I'm happy we've managed to survive in a relatively unscathed manner. But I don't think we're at a point where we can say we made it.

CNN: Where do you see Malaysiakini in five-10 years?
GAN: It's really hard to say. If the broadband penetration is high enough - up to 60 percent, 70 percent -- than I would say our future would be very bright. But we'll have to wait for that to happen. It will take some years to go. It's inevitable.
I think we're already successful in terms of making an impact. But we aim to be successful financially. Making money is not really what we're in here for, I think. Our aim here is to play a role in the democratization process in
Malaysia, and that's always been our major aim.

CNN: One last question. What does it mean to be Malaysian?
GAN: I don't think you can get just one answer. In Malaysia the issues of race and religion are so overwhelming that if you ask a Malay Muslim you'll get one answer. If you ask a non-Muslim person such as Chinese, you'll get a different answer. I'd like to see the issues of race and religion not be the dominant criteria when it comes to how we live as Malaysians. I hope that I will see that day.
I want Malaysiakini to play a role in bringing Malaysians together and to talk and keep talking. I think problems will start if they aren't talking. What is important for Malaysiakini is to get them to keep talking to each other, which is something you don't see in the mainstream media.
I'd love to see the day when
Malaysia would not think about race and religion whatsoever. It would be like elsewhere, where religion and race just happen to be in the background. It won't be a major criteria when it comes to applying for licenses, applying for scholarships, whatever.

= == = =
For a read of the 18-Point Hindraf Memo Submitted to PM Abdullah on 18th Aug 07


Go H E R E

= = == =

or Go H E R E ON

Transcript – New Twist on IGP Interview Al Jazeera - No Intention to Give Memo;MIC Reactions: Samy Sad but No Regrets; MIC MP: Raises Indian Plight in Parliament told – RESIGN; PM Abdullah hasnever shut his eyes or ears to their plight”

10 Comments:

Blogger Crankshaft said...

Why don't the police find something useful to do like track down Nurin Jazlin's killer??

I passed 3 roadblocks on my way to work and the police weren't even paying attention to the cars - they were bored.

And what were they looking for? Weapons? If you were bringing in weapons to start a riot, would you do it last minute?? Heck, that would have been carried out a month ago!

And as for checking car boots, how stupid can anyone get? If I was carrying a gun, I'd hide it under my car seat or somewhere difficult to access. What are they going to do, strip the entire car?

The communist-dictatorship government is just so obviously trying to piss off the public and direct the anger to HINDRAF.

Judging by the people I've talked to and the blogs I've read, it's obvious that Malaysians aren't as stupid as the government thinks it is.

If there is a civil unrest because of demonstrations and stuff, it's the communist-dictatorship government that takes a bow, not the citizens.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the Indians have problems staying in this country, please, by all means, go back to India go go elsewhere. But if they were to go back to India, would there be any rich Indians like there are in Malaysia? For all I know lately, a lot of Indians come to Malaysia VOLUNTARILY to look for work. It goes to show life in India is even worse. So please BE THANKFUL ALL INDIANS IN MALAYSIA if not, just catch the flight back to India. There's no room for such people here.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Indians in Malaysia,

If you think that you are neglected, how come there is a Samy Vellu, Karpal Singh, etc...those who feel neglected are those who are lazy. That's why they think they are neglected. Why don't you start lifting your heavy butt and look for something meaningful to do to make better living than being a bunch of hoodlums?

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Xega said...

Dear Anonymouses,

Firstly posting as anonymous it self spells how credible you are, anyway I'll give you the benefit of doubt first.

Secondly, all your comments are in fact seditious, meaning etiher you lack education (I think if loosely translated in malay it means - kurang ajar) or were paid off to write such comments. Because it is the most insentive comment any learned person would make.

Thirdly, just because the Malaysian Indian's forefathers came seeking better life here in Malaya does not mean that their descendents should be forced to be beggars and be grateful about it. They are citizens with equal rights as to geting equal right admission in to local universities, equal employment rights (not Bumiputra Only or Mandarin Speaking Only Job adds), .etc. Just walk into any major banks and see how many Indians you see today (compared to the 80s and 90s). All the hard working and smart Indians are still there (I know many of them), it is just that they've been margnalised so bad that some are even rotting away on poorly paid jobs.

Furthermore, could you please specify what legal powers do you have to ask the Indians to catch flight back to India?

Lastly I hope you're not as dumb as how you comment, cos your IP will used to hunt you down for posting seditious and hate instigating comments.

Peace Out.
Xega

4:14 AM  
Blogger Crankshaft said...

Brave, brave Anonymous. How highly credible you must be under that cloak of anonymity.

Have a biscuit.

Good dog.

Now scat!

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So sorry for such comment, I was being insensitive. I was angry with something else at the time. Please forgive me. I'd be more careful next time.

11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know anything abt computers. I'm sorry. I promise I'll stay away from this. Didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just a housewife with a loud mouth. Didn't mean to hurt anyone by such remarks. I'm so sorry. It's just that I was angry of what is going on in this world lately. There's no happy & safe place to live anymore. What is going on? Can't go out without feeling scared anymore. I got family members & friends who have been assaulted & got they handbags snatched. Let's just pray that all of these will change for the better. Sorry again :-)

6:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The govt should wake up and see that its discrimatory policies is increasingly fueling bitterness and hatred. If the govt does not begin to dismantle its discrimatory policies, I fear that these bitterness and hatred might come to a point where people do not trust the law enough anymore and so take matters into their own hands. The police should not have made the demo illegal by not issuing a permit. Instead it should have given the permit and do the necessary to ensure that demonstrators are able to march peacefully with minimum hassle. Now, because of the police action, it has further tarnish the image of the country as a democratic one. Some of our leaders say that demonstration is not part of our culture. Well, even then demonstrations should be allowed because it is part of the culture of any country that professes to practise democracy. Ignoring this reality will be too high a price to pay and it will see the police beating up the very citizens it has sworn to protect.

10:29 PM  
Anonymous XeGa said...

Dear Anonymous,

I have no authority in judging ppl, as such I do apologize on my part if I was harsh on you and your comment and on my part your apology is sincerely accepted.

I understand your pain, and trust me many of us are having the same pain as you at many different levels and I sincerely feel for you. I know you do for others as well.

I too pray that all this will change to better and make our country a better place to live in and will do all my best to contribute to that achievement, at least for the sake of our future generations.

Regards,
XeGa

11:13 PM  

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