Wednesday, June 24, 2009

DNA bill passed, Anwar cries foul - Malaysiakini

S Pathmawathy and Tarani Palani | Jun 23, 09 7:43pm

The Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) Identification Bill was passed at the lower House and will be sent to senate for approval.

The controversial legislation was passed today after two days of intense debate, mostly by opposition parliamentarians who did their best to delay bill's passage as they claim it would be a disaster for legal and human rights.

The bill specifically gives the police and authorities the power to obtain DNA samples from any suspects who have direct links to a crime.

The committee level debate saw amendments being made to nine sections of the bill, which includes the appointment of the head of the DNA Databank, the deputy head and other officers.

Deputy Home Minister Abu Seman Yusop told the House that the post of the head of Databank will no longer be helmed by a police official but by a public officer, who is sufficiently qualified and has the requisite experience in DNA science.

Prior to the amendments, the home minister had to appoint a police officer not below the rank of a Deputy Commissioner to head the databank.

Before the amendments were made, a police officer was allowed to use all means necessary for the purpose of taking or assisting the taking of a non-intimate DNA samples from a person.

Now, the amendments give the person the prerogative to refuse giving a non-intimate sample to the magistrate.

In the committee stage of the rounding up speech, Abu Seman also proposed to remove two sections of the bill.

They are Section 14, which holds a person liable to a fine not exceeding RM10,000 or a prison term not exceeding one year or both and Section 24, which states any information from the DNA Databank would be construed as conclusive proof in any court proceedings.

Anwar: This is a malicious campaign

Although the bill passed does not affect obtaining intimate samples such as blood and semen, the Magistrate's Court can issues an order to obtain non-intimate samples like saliva.

The bill, which is divided into six parts and contains 27 Sections, was tabled in August last year for a second reading.

The objective of the legislation is to enable the establishment of a Malaysian Forensics DNA Data Bank which is expected to store and analyse samples.

Speaking to reporters at the Parliament lobby, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim expressed disappointment with the passing of the bill.

"Pakatan Rakyat is convinced that the way they are rushing through and refusing to acknowledge some very (important) criticisms is clearly meant to be used during the my trial," said Anwar.

The Permatang Pauh MP suspects the bill is an attempt to trap him in his ongoing sodomy case which is set for trial in July.

"As far as I am concerned it is not an issue... we have to fight them with or without the bill. It is a malicious campaign, nothing more," he added.

Subang PKR MP R Sivarasa added that to be fair to the government, some proposals made by the opposition was taken into account.

Sivarasa also said that the bill will definitely have an impact on the Anwar sodomy trial as the prosecution would be able to use samples that have been collected way back, when Anwar was held under the Internal Security Act in 1998.

"They can use it to legitimise the illegitimate samples," said Sivarasa

Friday, June 19, 2009

Ong clarifies variation order - Star

June 19, 2009

PETALING JAYA: Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said that the RM1.2bil variation order for the Port Klang Free Zone project was approved by the Port Klang Authority board last year.

Ong said he received numerous queries on whether he had applied to the former prime minister to approve the variation order and that copies of official letters were also circulated on the Internet.

“The board had written to me, asking me to write to the then prime minister who was also the finance minister to apply for the additional funding,” he clarified in his blog posted yesterday.

“The authority was also at risk of defaulting payment as the deadline to meet its financial obligations was approaching,” Ong said, adding that he was merely relaying the decision of the board to the then PM.

He said he had just started his ministerial job less than two months ago at that time, and that the decision was made by the port authority before his tenure.

Ong also pointed out that PricewaterhouseCoopers had not even started its Position Review work.

“As the person who directed port authority to commission an independent report by a reputable international accounting firm, and asked for the findings to be made public, I have nothing to hide,” he said.

“If I did, I would not have commissioned the Position Review. From day one, I have requested nothing less than an impeccable level of transparency and accountability in tackling this issue and I mean what I say,” Ong stressed.

He said it was unfortunate that there were quarters who were uncomfortable with the matter and chose to spin “unfounded lies” about him.

“Many of them hide behind online anonymity to tarnish and discredit me, and even leak out official letters,” he said.

Ong added that it was deplorable that his representation in conveying the board’s decision could be spun by DAP adviser Lim Kit Siang as pressuring the Prime Minister.

From hare speed to tortoise pace. Why Not?

June 19, 2009 By WONG SAI WAN

Malaysia, once thought of as the forerunner in the multimedia sector, now lags behind on every front in what is supposedly our future.

A DOZEN years ago, the International Advisory Panel of the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) held its inaugural meeting at the Gates Building at Stanford University in Palo Alto, the heart of the US Silicon Valley which was, and still is, the heart of the cyberworld.

Then Prime Minister Datuk Seri (now Tun) Dr Mahathir Mohamad chaired the meeting and the members of the panel represented the who’s who of the electronic world then.

Sun Microsystems boss Scott McNeally was there. So was Acer founder Stan Shih and Sony’s Nobuyuki Idei. Also present were venture capitalist James Barksdale and then Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeifer and then Cisco Systems CEO (now chairman) John Chambers.

The only one missing was Microsoft head honcho Bill Gates. But Dr Mahathir had met him a year earlier and was to meet him again the day following the meeting.

Everyone was abuzz with Malaysia’s idea of a dedicated area just for the development of the cyberworld – which was then just known as multimedia. All of them wanted a piece of the MSC then.

It was a proud moment to be a Malaysian that week and I was fortunate to be there to witness the whole thing. Dr Mahathir was leading a huge business delegation to the United States to promote the MSC, then thought of by the world as a groundbreaking idea.

The concept of a triumvirate – the people, business and the Government – working in concert to make the MSC a reality sounded so attractive.

The Government also drafted laws to protect the MSC so that it would be a truly free environment that would allow ideas to bloom.

That was then. Along came the Asian financial crisis and the sacking of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (his black eye and the sordid trial put paid to the pride that was felt all those years ago). We had since been recovering slowly.

Then came last week. I met two Europeans at a golf game – one a Swiss whom I shall call Johann, and the other a French whom I will refer to as Pierre.

The two men are chief executives of multi-national companies with manufacturing plants in Malaysia and the region.

While Johann had arrived in the country less than a month ago, Pierre is a 10-year veteran who has seen Malaysia at its best and worst.

The two noticed me typing away on my Blackberry phone and inquired if I found the device useful. Their question set me off on how my life has changed with the BB (Blackberry for the uninitiated).

From there, our conversation turned to the Internet or more accurately, the lack of it.

The two men spent about 30 minutes bemoaning the lack of speed, and how their lives had been badly affected by the slow speed of Internet services in Malaysia.

“My kids made a video to wish their grandfather happy birthday. It was not a very big file – less than 120 megabytes,” said Pierre.

“It took me more than two hours to upload the file and send it to my brother in France so he can show our father.

“In France, my brother took just 10 minutes to download the same file.”

Johann’s crestfallen face spoke volumes when it came to his turn to tell his sad tale of Malaysia’s Internet services.

“I am so used to our Swiss speed. I only get 30 megabits per second when downloading. Malaysia’s Internet connection is just too slow,” he said.

At this juncture, my patriotism kicked in and I tried to justify the situation to these two Europeans, but after a while I found myself agreeing with everything they said.

There was nothing good I could say about Malaysian cyber connections.

The best I could come out with was to ask them to be patient as the Government had initiated the National Broadband Project and that in a few years the whole of the Klang Valley would be wired up.

Pierre and Johann both gave me that “you got to be kidding” look. The Swiss pointed out that all towns in his home country had put in fibre optics years ago.

“They just dug and dug and wired everyone up. What are you all waiting for?” he asked.

He was “very impressed” when he first came to Malaysia 10 years ago.

“You all then had ADSL lines when we in France were still using dial-ups,” he recalled.

“But what happened? We are now surfing at real broadband speed and not the ‘best service possible’ practice as you have here in Malaysia.

“Johann, if you get 50% of the promised speed in Malaysia, consider yourself lucky.”

The conversation went downhill from there on and all three of us took swipes at the various Internet service providers in Malaysia.

Whatever national pride I had for our cyber venture was shattered in my conversation with Johann and Pierre.

When I got home, I tested my 1-megabit-per-second broadband speed. The result was depressing – the download speed was 406 kilobits per second and upload was 307 kilobits per second. Pierre was right – I could not even get 50% of the speed promised.

On Tuesday, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili will be a guest on The Star Online Live Chat programme.

He can be sure that although I will be away in Sweden attending a global conference by Ericsson on the future of the communication world, I will be e-mailing him some questions and giving him my opinion of our tortoise-speed Internet connections.

Deputy Executive Editor Wong Sai Wan spends every free time Twitting, and is now totally dependent on his Blackberry to update his Facebook