Friday, December 30, 2011

Remember not to drink and drive. Alcohol is so expensive nowadays 
you'll regret if you hit a bump & spill it.

A Smiling End to 2011

Its good to see that the MACC boys are ending the year with a positive note. They certainly have had a rough year. However its puzzling to see the arrested Datuk smiling broadly directly at the camera. Does he know something we don't? Does he have cow skeletons in his cupboard he can pull out to save his sorry @ss?

Datuk Shamsubahrin Ismail who was earlier questioned by police for the alleged attempt to bribe three police officers was today charged at the Jalan Duta Sessions Court with two counts of cheating a National Feedlot Centre (NFC) director.

The chief executive officer of Shamsulbahrin Ismail Resources Sdn Bhd was charged under Section 420 of the Penal Code with cheating Datuk Dr Mohammad Salleh Ismail, the company director of NFC, by promising consultation services and inducing Mohammad Salleh to agree to pay him at a restaurant in Bukit Tunku.

He was also charged with cheating and inducing Mohammad Salleh to hand over cheques for RM1.755 million at Solaris in Mont Kiara between Nov 25 and Dec 6.

Judge Ahmad Zamzani Mohd Zain set bail at RM300,000 and the case is set for mention on Jan 21 next year. The charges under Section 420 of the Penal Code carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail, whipping and fine, upon conviction.

The 45-year-old businessman was arrested initially by police investigating an alleged attempt to offer a RM1.7 million bribe to three police officers probing the NFC scandal.

He was detained at the federal commercial crimes investigations department at Bukit Perdana at 4pm on Dec 21 after being summoned by an investigation officer. He was later handed over to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

Shamsulbahrin is reported to also own a taxi company and runs an agency supplying foreign workers.

Four days ago, Mohammad Salleh, who is the husband of Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, had denied being related to Shamsulbahrin.

The NFC - which was meant to be the centre of production for beef and beef products in Malaysia - hit the spotlight following the publication of the 2010 Auditor-General's Report in October and disclosures by the Opposition of alleged misuse of funds involving the purchase of two luxury condominiums in Bangsar, luxury cars, office rentals and overseas holidays for the directors' family members. The NFC is managed by Shahrizat's family.

The A-G's report said that the NFC was in a mess and it had failed to meet its target. Following the report, it was claimed that the RM250 million loan allocated to the company by the government was used to buy property and holidays. Since the disclosures, there have been calls for Shahrizat, who is also Wanita Umno chief, to step down.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Holidays!

by all means eat, drink and be merry 
but please remember to be safe on the roads

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Civil disobedience cannot rule the law

Article reproduced from Sunday Star, December 11, 2011

By Roger Tan

IN 1996, when my clients and I were negotiating with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, led by its then head of the advisory and international division Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail, I warned that too high a rate might cause the public to refuse payment to privatised entities out of civil disobedience.

Then, both my learned friends across the table and my own clients were rather amused by my argument.

Today, this term “civil disobedience” appears to be the “in-thing” among politicians, particularly those from the opposition, backed by non-governmental organisations and civil rights and liberties movements.

It is becoming a popular tactical weapon used by them to justify their violation of laws which, in their view, are “unjust”, apart from indulging in some polemics.
Street protest: Civil disobedience is becoming a popular tactical weapon used by politicians and civil rights movements to justify their violation of laws. — Filepic

Hence, we saw various street protests being held without a police permit in contravention of the Police Act (1967).

So, what is civil disobedience? I would define it as an open and deliberate law-breaking or infringement of rights to get public attention that is often politically motivated, and normally is carried out because the civil disobedients conscientiously feel, whether sincerely or otherwise, that they are morally obliged to do so.

Pressure groups around the world have, over the years, resorted to this means to secure their desired legal and social changes. But for an act to be considered civil disobedience, the disobedients must also be prepared to accept punishment for infracting the laws.

This is, in fact, fine with them as the courtroom will give them the publicity they seek for the causes and issues which they are advancing.

The father of the modern concept of civil disobedience is said to be American Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). For six years, he refused to pay taxes because of his opposition to slavery and the Mexican-American War. For that, he was thrown into jail in July 1846, but he only spent one night in jail because the next day, his aunt, against his wishes, paid his taxes.

We are undoubtedly more acquainted with celebrated modern-day civil disobedients such as Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Martin Luther King (1929-1968) and Rosa Parks (1913-2005).

Parks was fined for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white passenger but Gandhi and King were jailed for disobeying the law. There is no denying that Gandhi’s Satyagraha and King’s civil rights movements brought immense legal and social changes to India and the United States respectively.

These civil disobedients were much inspired by the words of St Augustine (354-430) that an unjust law is no law at all (lex iniusta non est lex). So, one is under a moral obligation to disobey such a law. King also added that “sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application”.

The story told by Professor Charles Lund Black (1915-2001) of Yale Law School, an outspoken critic of the death penalty, about one Pawnee Indian brave named Peshwataro, best illustrates the operation and benefits of civil disobedience:

“The law of the Pawnee commanded that on the summer solstice there take place the sacrifice of the star maiden. A girl was each year captured from a neighbouring tribe and bound to a stake. At dawn, the Pawnee braves would ride in a circle about her and shoot their arrows into her.

“This was not done for sport, but because, like so much that seems cruel in so many societies, it was thought to be a cruelty necessary to the maintenance of the moral and religious order.

“Many Pawnees, through what processes or influences I cannot say, came to disapprove of it and talked of doing away with it, but it was the law, and conservatism was too strong.

“Then one summer solstice at dawn this Peshwataro, a young man of high repute with the tribe, broke from the circle before an arrow was shot, rode furiously to the stake, freed the girl of that year, slung her in front of him, and escaped with her.

“He left her with her people and then rode back, much as Gandhi might have done, to submit himself to his fellows. As it happens, they did nothing. It was time, really, to stop this business; they had only needed an act of such courage to make that clear.”

Well, some of our local aspiring acolytes of Gandhi and King may want to courageously emulate Peshwataro as a knight in shining armour riding on the populist waves of civil disobedience.

But surely one must pause and rationally ask this pertinent question: “Can civil disobedience practised in the extreme be a potent threat to the rule of law in a democratic society?”

In this respect, many renowned jurists have stressed the importance of rule of law. According to the advice of St Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), while unjust laws do not oblige in conscience, obedience to law is still required to avoid disorder.

The United States Supreme Court Justice Abraham Fortas (1910-1982) had also argued that “each of us owes a duty of obedience to law. This is a moral as well as a legal imperative.”

The father of the concept of separation of powers, French jurist Montesquieu (1689-1755), once said liberty is the right to do as the law permits.

Hence, on Sept 30, 1962, President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) said in his radio and television address to his countrymen: “Our nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law is the surest road to tyranny ... Americans are free, in short, to disagree with the law but not to disobey it.”

It follows there are several valid arguments against civil disobedience. First and foremost, if the laws have been passed by a government democratically elected by the people, then it is undemocratic for anyone to disobey the laws.

As civil disobedients usually constitute a minority, it is also undemocratic for the minority to impose its view on the majority. Neither is this fair to the law-abiding majority.

Further, whether one likes it or not, disobeying the law is essentially a criminal conduct regardless of how novel is the motive of the civil disobedient.

In other words, one can only change the democratically-made laws and policies through the ballot box, and not by way of breaking the laws. If a civil disobedient goes unpunished, this will result in a general disobedience to law by the populace which will eventually lead to anarchy.

Some would call this concept an Occidental import which is alien to our Asian society. Yet other legal writers have equated civil disobedience with political brinksmanship capable of generating hostility in the community. It can also be prone to violence if some contumacious disobedients are incapable of controlling their emotions.

Furthermore, these acts committed in the name of morality are revolutionary in nature, and in that sense are more dangerous than a normal crime.

Proponents of civil disobedience obviously disagree. King argues that the actual impediment to freedom is from the moderates who are more devoted to “order” than “justice”.

Writing from the Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963, King had this to say about breaking the law: “One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.”

A fortiori, these proponents have also responded that if the laws passed by a democratic government are so undemocratic that they impede democracy, then it is the duty of every true democrat to disobey it.

Be that as it may, the bulwark of our liberties is indubitably a fearless and independent judiciary. If not for this, civil rights movements in America would not have achieved that much notwithstanding King’s conviction and jail sentence were once affirmed by the Supreme Court.

So in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case of Brown v. Board of Education that it was unconstitutional to establish separate public schools for black and white students.

In his book, The Rule of Law, Lord Bingham (1933-2010) narrated that according to President Eisenhower’s biographer Stephen Ambrose, when the case was still going on in the Supreme Court, Eisenhower invited Chief Justice Earl Warren to the White House for dinner together with the Attorney-General, Hebert Brownell and John Davis, counsel for the segregationists and several other lawyers. However, counsel for Brown was not present.

Eisenhower not only had Davis sit near to Warren, but according to Warren, Eisenhower “went to considerable lengths to tell me what a great man Davis was”.

As they were leaving, Eisenhower took Warren by the arm and said, “These (the Southerners) are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes.”

But Warren did not yield to this presidential inveiglement. On May 17, 1954, the Warren Court (9-0) unanimously ruled for Brown. Even though Warren felt that was the end of the cordial relations between them, Eisenhower went ahead to implement and enforce the judgment – but not without him cussing that his biggest mistake was the “appointment of that dumb son of a ***** Earl Warren!”

In any event, one thing is for sure, that is, differences between proponents of civil disobedience and the rule of law appear rather irreconcilable, and the debate will rage on.

But to my mind, civil disobedience cannot be the order of the day, and it must not in the ordinary course of events rule and overrule the law. If it is to be justifiable, it is only possible under the most exceptional circumstances and that also, only if it is absolutely necessary in the interests of justice and nation.

Failure to recognise this is itself a threat to the rule of law upon which every modern society is founded, and this can transform into a perfect recipe for anarchy and tyranny.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Drama, Theatrics, Productions & Funding aka No We're Not Talking Malaysian Politics

Brunch With Susan Lankester

The Spanker recently had his favorite brunch of Dome Cafe’s Eggs Hollandaise with the multi-talented Susan Lankester, and was duly ashamed of his middle age spread compared to her lean and toned physique. It was quite an effort to suck my tummy in and eat at the same time. Who can resist Eggs Hollandaise?

Never quite the dainty English rose, Susan is the type who will take charge and kick butt if necessary, so her fit physique is no surprise given her passion for not only acting, directing, writing and voice overs but also for renovating and landscaping via her company Lankester Designs.

So what does the super fit Susan do to relax? Why wakeboarding and wall climbing, but of course! Susan is also active in promoting animal welfare issues.

We soon get down to brass tacks, and I ask about her recently concluded double bill “What’ll break you & Apocalips” which she produced via her company Catwoman Productions. I asked if she had problems sourcing funding. Susan explained that this particular production simmered for two years before fruition, and that she had duly made the rounds and engaged in all the yadda yadda with the usual suspects with the grand result of zilch.

They then decided to stage the play with their own limited resources, but a careless glitch in the ticketing system resulted in the online booking system only working a week before showtime.

“We lost money” Susan admits candidly enough, but we decided to dig deep into our pockets and still pay the venue rental and our cast and crew their dues. Why would they do such a thing, I ask, since it was plain that the lack of ticket sales was no fault of theirs?

“Call me old fashioned” Susan says “but we decided that we valued our names and reputations above any financial gains. We’re in this business for the long haul, and as actors ourselves we understand the sacrifices and efforts they put into their performances. They didn’t deserve to be given excuses.

Admirable qualities indeed, and seldom encountered in today’s dog eat dog world. I decided to change tack and asked what her favorite part of the play was, and received a rather surprising answer.

My mentor, Hafsham (the director) came to see the play with his entire family. At the end he simply said he had enjoyed watching it and told me to keep up the good work. That to me was priceless.

So why do you keep doing this if funding is such a pain in the ass, I ask.  
“Acting is my passion. I derive satisfaction from seeing the joy on people’s faces when they enjoy a performance. I feel happy that they are happy,” says Susan.

I probe again “What would you say is the main impediment to source for funding” and again receive an answer that threw me for a loop.

“The internet” Susan said, while I surreptitiously tried to slip my tablet under the table.

“People nowadays want instant entertainment, instant videos and instant movies in high definition. Theatre requires them to leave home, to think, to assess emotions. People nowadays have no time for this”.

You know what? Try as I might, I can’t fault her logic. It’s sad that corporate Malaysia does not do more for the arts other than the token sponsored performance now and then. We should take a leaf from the Singaporeans on this one. The tourism industry for one would benefit by leaps and bounds.

A Chat With Datin Seri Tiara Jacquelina Over Tea and Scones

The Spanker sits back and scoffs delicate scones with butter, jam and clotted cream washed down with Earl Grey as “Nora” gets serious about her chosen craft.

“Our arts industry is still in its infancy compared to our neighbors’. I want to make things happen while I’m still here to see the benefits of that effort – how art is going to impact our society and country, and our thoughts and behavior. That is why I am pushing out a lot of things at this kind of speed and drive,” says Tiara who is the managing director of Enfiniti Productions.

“This is one of the reasons I set up Enfiniti Academy Of Musical Theater and Entertainment Arts. Through the academy, I hope to spawn a generation of lovers and supporters of the arts.

“The little children we teach in the academy will one day be performers, directors, producers and writers. Even if they become accountants, businessmen, doctors or corporate giants, they will still be supporters of the arts because their lives were touched by them when they were young. They may find it in themselves to give back to the arts as philanthropists.

“Right now we are producing products. We need to find audiences, funds and support from not just the government but from private enterprise as well. If people are not exposed to the arts, they will not think that it’s important to give back to its cause.

“In life or business, I always believe that we need to have a higher purpose. I want to touch lives, change society and achieve racial unity through the work that I do and the person that I am. I feel that our strength as a nation lies in the fact that we are a people of such diversity.”

Tiara’s dream is that her company will have its own arts theater. “We really need to run a show for a year for it to be profitable because the production costs amount to millions of ringgit. Currently, we can only run a show in rented premises for just a few weeks because we then have to make way for someone else.

I also live in hope that one day, we can be that kind of society that always has a play on every night.”

Coming soon: A Heineken and Guinness fueled session with JD Menon, theater and stage veteran and Director of the upcoming Napoleon Hill A Musical. Spank his image for a sneak peek of what to expect. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Kedia Rakyat To Improve Labelling

It looks like the opposition’s perennial bitching about all things BN and UMNO has some collateral benefit for the rakyat in this instance. The Health Ministry has ordered all seven Kedai Rakyat 1Malaysia (KR1M) outlets and their suppliers to rectify labelling errors and re-adjust the composition of their food products.

This is to make sure they comply with the Food Act 1983 and Food Regulations 1985.

The order came following a meeting between health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman and MPs Tony Pua (Petaling Jaya Utara) and Nurul Izzah Anwar (Lembah Pantai) here yesterday.

Dr Hasan said the ministry ordered the outlets to rectify errors found in seven products that were brought to the ministry’s attention by Pua last week.

“The ministry has investigated Pua’s claims and confirms the seven products did not comply with some of the regulations stipulated in the two laws that govern the food industry.

“We have asked KR1M outlets last week to make the necessary changes.

“We thank them (Pua and Nurul Izzah) for bringing up this matter,” said Dr Hasan.

The seven products include ice-cream, mixed-fruit jam, evaporated milk and condensed creamer.

The others are canned sardines, canned curry chicken and instant whole milk powder.

Dr Hasan said the outlets had rectified its ice-cream labelling and he expected the other rectifications to be made by next week.

“These complaints are not about the safety of the food but, rather, about the quality of food that does not measure up to (industrial) standards,” he said.

Pua, who is DAP publicity secretary, was satisfied with the discussions and will wait for the ministry to take action.

“I hope Health Minister (Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai) will work towards ensuring compliance.

“I do not want to test all the products,” said Pua, who had complained that KR1M’s products were not cheap and some of them were of low quality.

To set the record straight, Pua and his cohorts resorted to digital media and went to town with the issue before calling for a press conference to again blow up the issue.

For me, a good opposition must not only highlight weaknesses in the system but must also offer solutions. Anybody can bitch about the state things currently. We need leaders who can solve our problems.

That having been said, in this particular case the rakyat benefit from the ongoing war for Putrajaya.