May 272010

Although a lot of the hype surrounding APCO seems to have died down a bit, I noticed this bit of news on TwitterJaya regarding the latest torture allegations against the Shin Bet by a woman Arab lawyer.

Those requiring a refresher can refer to an earlier post on the deep APCO – Shin Bet connections.

I’ve reproduced the article below with some highlights:


An Arab attorney from East Jerusalem has been charged with transferring funds from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to Palestinian prisoners in Israel. Two other Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, an Israeli Arab and a Gaza resident were also indicted in the affair.

The case was under a gag order until yesterday.

The attorney, Shirin Isawi, complained of being tortured, imprisoned in harsh conditions and even sexually harassed in a deposition she gave her attorney, of which Haaretz has a copy. The Shin Bet security service and the Israel Prison Service denied the allegations.

Isawi is charged with orchestrating the transfer of tens of thousands of shekels from Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip through the Qalandiyah checkpoint near Jerusalem.

Her brother, Madhat Isawi, allegedly deposited the money into the prisoners’ bank accounts.

Two other defendants are charged with bribing the final defendant – the director of an East Jerusalem post office – to deposit the money in violation of regulations. The post office director, an Israeli Arab who lives in Abu Ghosh, is charged with enabling the transfer.

The indictment says that on the day Isawi was arrested – April 22, 2010 – she was carrying $100,000 and NIS 53,000 in cash, intending to deposit it in prisoners’ accounts. Isawi is also charged with passing information between prisoners in different jails and between the prisoners and their organizations’ leaders.

A week ago, attorney Samah Elkhatib Aboub of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel sent a letter to the attorney general and the Prison Service demanding a probe into Isawi’s complaints regarding her incarceration and interrogation.

The letter is based on a deposition Isawi gave the attorney two weeks after her arrest.

Isawi said she was kept bound in a painful position for 10 to 19 hours a day during her interrogation. “When I reached the room, they made me sit on an uncomfortable chair. A warden bound my hands behind me, [using] two handcuffs and a 20-centimeter chain fixed to the back of the chair.”

The interrogators prevented her from going to the toilet or eating during the lengthy interrogations, she added. “Although I asked, they put food far away from me, without removing the chains,” she said.

She also said the interrogators threatened to deport her and her parents and mocked her faith and her head covering.

On one occasion, Isawi was sexually harassed: One of the interrogators, who called himself “Gil,” sat close to her, and when she tried to pull away, he put his hand on her thigh and shouted in her ear.

One day, after a particularly harsh interrogation, she started vomiting blood, she said. A warden dragged her to the infirmary, throwing her on the floor. During her two weeks in prison, she lost eight kilograms, she said.

Her lawyers accused the interrogators and wardens of violating Israeli and international law, citing the High Court of Justice’s ruling forbidding torture.

Jan 162009

You should really check out, a site that tracks the networks that connect some of the America’s most prominent (and often sketchy) individuals.

It’s like a brilliant cross between Wikipedia and Facebook, where people can add info about how the movers and shakers are all connected – politicians, business tycoons, etc etc. (Big Brother, Little Sis, geddit? haha)

I’m particularly proud of this effort because it was started by two gentlemen I lived with in uni – Matt and Kevin. They were model activists, dedicated to the cause, sharp as knives and great friends to boot. I remember a number of late nights at the Hong Kong (restaurant), the closest thing to a late night mamak I could get, basically :P :) My usage of the M’sian colloqialism ‘bosss’ even caught on a bit with the two of them and David :P :)

Matt was also kinda the first person I ever met at uni :)

…. anyway! reminisces aside, isn’t it such a cool resource? Imagine if we could map out all of Malaysia’s politicians and their cronies!

Nov 052008

I write this before the counting is done, but I’m absolutely confident about the result.

I wanted to talk about America and Malaysia, in terms of the politics of hope, the expectations incumbent on the new President, and of race.

My first fascination with Obama came when he decided to focus on politics of hope, and brand his entire campaign around the concept.

It’s fresh, sometimes perceived as naive, but it is something I have taken a great interest in. I was pleased that Pakatan ran on that same platform this last elections, and I think it paid off – as it did for Obama.

I like to see the triumph of hope over fear – the ascendency of the belief that we can be better than what we are, that we need not fear the unknown and the unfamiliar.

I have very little doubt that Obama will not do as well as he is expected to. Like Anwar, the amount of hope that is riding on him – the degree to which these men sometimes carry an entire nation’s hope for total redemption from dark days – is almost impossible to live up to.

The last thing this means is that Obama or Anwar will be bad leaders. It’s just that they won’t be as good as some people hope. I rather doubt any human can.

The good news though, is that I believe that they will try. That they will work hard and try sincerely to live up to that dream.

Naive? Yeah, so was the idea of a black president to some.

Which brings me to my last point.

Now all the non-Malays will want to ask: how about a non-Malay Prime Minister?

I will state unequivocally that I feel that this is the wrong question.

Observe how very little Obama made race an issue in his campaign. Of course, it was *always* there; but his campaign wisely avoided any focus or harping on the issue.

I think what Malaysia needs is good leadership. I really don’t care all that much if Malaysia is ruled by a Malay for eternity, as long as those leaders are good leaders.

I’m perfectly happy to have non-Malay leaders as well, but I think an obsession with putting non-Malays in higher and higher positions is sometimes done at the expense of focusing on quality of leadership.

So I think we should reject an MCA-style thinking about going on and on about a Chinese PM or whatever, and concentrate on getting a *good* PM.

Congrats Mr. Obama – bring good things.

Sep 062008

I couldn’t resist a quick comment after I happened to watch McCain and Palin during the Republican National Convention.

The Obama campaign has been something of interest to me because of the way it is built around hope, change and charisma (sound familiar?)

I was paying special attention to what the Republican response was in those narrow fields. I’m no expert in American politics, but that response seems to be built on a fair amount of attacks, using Palin as a primary hatchett woman, as well as painting McCain as an equally viable agent of change.

The latter is interesting; it appears to be a concession on the part of Republicans that America – perhaps like Malaysia – is so very hungry for it. Of course, they’re in a tough spot, given that the GOP is not only the party of Lincoln, etc, but also the party of Bush.

Thus, a major rebranding challenge exists, which of course reminded me of BN. I was reminded of the weight that legacy carries, and how time can cause serious structural damage that could perhaps be described is irrepairable. Also, there is only so far an incumbent party can go along on the theme of ‘change.’

Superficial though it may seem, especially to my friends who are policy nuts (you know who you are :) , I think charisma will factor strongly in this race.

My impression is that sometimes speeches contain just too many words. I think the middle ground is listening and watching to the delivery,  the trustworthiness and sincerity, when you smile, when you don’t, and all sorts of other body language. Most of all, does the candidate inspire and give confidence?

I think McCain is an eminently decent man, but I’d say the prospects ain’t lookin’ so bright for him. And the Palin attacks? Plain low-brow undignified stuff – they should take heed of the ineffectiveness of personal attacks against Anwar. Viva community organisers! :)

Jul 102008

Just a posting in solidarity with blogging brothers in Burma who were recently charged by the military regime :( –

YANGON: A Myanmar court has charged popular local blogger Nay Phone Latt with causing “public offence” by posting caricatures of the country’s ruling generals on the internet.

His friend Thin July Kyaw was also charged with violating video and electronic laws.

Latt, a former youth member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition National League for Democracy, ran three internet cafes in the former capital, Yangon.

The two were charged under the Penal Code for “inducing public offence to the state or against public tranquillity”, their lawyer, Aung Thein, said.

He said Latt was also charged under the Electronic Act “for posting caricatures of regime leaders on his blogs”.

The junta was caught by surprise last year when bloggers and citizen journalists relayed pictures and video to the outside world of the regime’s crackdown on monk-led protests against military rule and economic hardship. – Reuters

Apr 122008

Big thanks to all my hosts in Singapore, who took great care of me :)

In both presentations down south, I spent a lot of time talking about Singapore, even though everything I had learnt about Singaporean politics I learnt in about two days off Wikipedia :P

All I read though, I found thoroughly intriguing, and what I saw and heard during my visit was no less so.

At IPS, I had the good fortune – perhaps for my first time in any country –  of addressing MP’s and high ranking civil servants (I was glad to note that Opposition politicians were also invited :). While there, one analogy I used that people seemed to respond a little bit too is comparing the Singaporean government to a parent corporation, wherein each area of governance is a subsidiary company.

The ‘subsidiary’ of clean governance, economic management and such are clearly perceived to be doing well and earning mighty profits, as with most other subsidiaries, but there seems to be one subsidiary that is just spoiling it for the rest of the company: civil liberties and responsible free speech. This company is undoubtedly bleeding the whole corporation dry, in the eyes of the world.

There really aren’t many countries for which this can be said, but in terms of right to assemble, balanced media, right to trial, and so on, Singapore is a tougher place to live than Malaysia. If they turn this company around, I really think there’s nothing stopping Singapore from being considered one of the best run countries in the world, bar none.

The following night, I spoke at a small museum to people more from the civil society and opposition parties side, which was cool. Here I spent a bit more time on the need for well-crafted, non-self-indulgent campaign messages, as well as a cohesive and united movement for at least more checks and balances in the government. They seemed to appreciate my appreciation (based on the Malaysian experience) that such consensus building is one helluva headache to achieve :)

I could happily write so much more about Singapore and all the fun people I met down there, but my posts have been really too long as it is :P Suffice to say that I’d certainly be interested to explore ways of contributing further.

Special thanks to Pratamad (who I finally learnt should be read as Prata-Mad, and not as some Sanskrit reference, haha :)  and his family, who really went through a lot of trouble to accommodate me during my trip – was really fun catching up! :)

One of the other true highlights of Singapore? Coming home to polytikus, hehe :)