Saturday, October 29, 2016

3rd Penang International Fingerstyle Guitar Competition 2016

Click here for online entry form.

Click here to book your tickets.

Click here for Facebook page.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Transgender Symposium: Arrest and Detention

From left: Ms Chinta, ASP Riza, YB Lee Khai Loon, YB Teh Yee Cheu, Zulfakri, Ustaz Khairol

TG Symposium: Arrest and Detention

Transgenders fear harassment during arrest and detention, and a symposium organised by the Transgender Committee set up by the State Assembly of Penang brought both transgenders and the authorities together to discuss the situation. Also involved in the organising of this event was Justice for Sisters, SUARAM Penang and PACA.

Documented stories of how transgenders are being mistreated and ostracised by the authorities are plenty, and there should be policies and guidelines to resolve this issue. State Assemblyman for Tanjong Bunga, YB Teh Yee Cheu requested that the authorities invite a transgender to be present during body checks, to which the police replied that the suggestion will be forwarded to her superiors.

According to the Assistant Superintendant Rizatulmi Haizaran Binti Samat from the police forces’ sexual harassment department, five transgenders were detained so far this year, of which, 3 were foreigners and 2 were Malaysians. Detainees are separated in lock-ups according to their assigned gender registered on their identification cards. Presently, transgender women who are detained by the police are listed under the category known as ‘Mak Nyah’.

“Problems arise when the police need to make body checks,” she said. “Men are frisked by men officers, and women by the women officers.

“However, when a transgender is involved, and especially when sexual reassignment procedures are not complete… for instance, when the top resembles a woman, and the bottom remains a man, then the woman officer will be traumatised,” Riza explained.

The Department of Islamic Affairs in Penang (JAIPP) also gave an overview of the procedures during arrests. Ustaz Khairol Azman revealed that 10 transgenders were arrested this year by JAIPP.

“Our department arrests transgenders based on three criteria of the Syariah Law enacted in 1996. Usually, we act upon receiving complaints, prior observations and investigations.

“Transgenders are arrested if these conditions are fulfilled – that these men are cross-dressing, that they are in a public area, and that they are doing something immoral,” Ustaz Khairol Azman said.

When pressed for a definition of what immoral meant, Ustaz Khairol clarified that carrying condoms was considered as proof. He did mention however, that in Penang, unlike in other states, cross-dressing was not a major offence and that transgenders who are simply going about their daily routine should have nothing to fear.

ASP Riza also gave assured the transgenders that reports made against police officers who ill-treated the community would be taken seriously by the police force.

Both the religious department and police force may only detain their prisoners for up to 24 hours before producing them to the magistrate for further action. The statistics for the number of transgenders detained in 2016 differs from the statistics produced by Ms. Chinta Ardieyana, the president of PACA, an NGO actively involved in transgender rights.

Deputy Enforcer for the Prison Department of Penang, Zulfakri bin Ahmad was also present to brief the audience on the conditions of the Penang Prison. Presently, transgenders are placed separately from the men prisoners.
“This is to ensure the transgenders’ safety,” he said.

This symposium was attended by Penang State Assemblymen YB Teh Yee Cheu and YB Lee Khai Loon, Polis DiRaja Malaysia, Jabatan Hal Ehwal Agama Islam Pulau Pinang, UNAIDS (United Nations), MAC, ATPN and Penang Legal Aid Council (LAC).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bebas Lim Guan Eng

The arrest of Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng is totally shocking as well as heartbreaking to those who have been supporting his administration for the past 8 years. This political persecution is a big blow to the opposition leaders but is even far more damaging to the overall morale of opposition supporters. The rude manner in which the Chief Minister was treated during arrest is not justified, even with the accusations brought against him.

Firstly, he was not armed, did not resist arrest and had been cooperative with the MACC all along. Secondly, the Chief Minister should not be treated like a criminal before a guilty conviction has been passed.

He faces two counts under Section 23 of the MACC Act and Section 165 of the Penal Code.

Nonetheless, the MACC seem to be at the call and beckon of the UMNO chief. While RM2.6 billion transactions may be brushed off as a donation, the accusations against the Chief Minister pale in comparison to what seems to be an obvious play to ‘save’ the Prime Minister from all allegations especially the 1MDB scandal.

Unfortunately, BN-UMNO has all the unfair advantages and government machineries to carry out their wishes and bidding.

This senseless detention of the Chief Minister will not dampen the spirits of Penangites but rather, unite us all despite earlier differences and disagreements. This move to cripple the opposition pact is a rather desperate move on the part of BN-UMNO, especially during Ramadhan and just a few days short of Hari Raya.

I am truly disappointed at how BN-UMNO flex their muscles and unparalleled powers at the opposition pact. Voices of dissent are silenced and forced into submission, while corruption in the country remains rife and racism glorified. Political persecutions are not new to the country. First, BN-UMNO put the former opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim behind bars despite acknowledgement from the UN that the imprisonment was 'arbitrary'. The international community is well aware of Anwar's political imprisonment. Now, Lim Guan Eng is being detained. While government institutions systematically clamp down on its federal opposition leaders, the Prime Minister and his new cabinet rejoice at the pain they inflict on those who do not agree with him.

This is a sure sign of a failed democracy and a failed government with failed leadership. True strength is when a government is fair and decent. At present, BN-UMNO is despicable and very obscene. This is not how a multi-racial country should celebrate the upcoming Raya holidays.

Penangites stand in solidarity with YAB CM Lim Guan Eng.

#BebasLGE #BebasAnwar

Written by: Carolyn Khor
June 2016

Child's Act 2001 discussion by PWDC

The Child Act 2001 is inadequate to protect children’s rights – this was the opinion and outcome of a roundtable discussion hosted by the Penang Women’s Development Corporation under YB Chong Eng, the state executive councilor for Youth and Sports, Women, Family and Community Development. Members of Parliament from Pakatan Harapan such as YB Zuraida Kamaruddin, YB Sim Chee Keong and YB Teo Nie Ching received feedback from notable NGOs such as the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC), Service Civil International; and women advocates like YB Lim Siew Khim, DAP councillors Syerleena Rashid and Chris Lee, Aida Yusof Rawa from Parti Amanah, Lim Kah Cheng, and Priscilla Ho.

The objective of this meeting, held last weekend, was to work together towards eliminating sexual crimes against children. Lim Kah Cheng aptly pointed out that although the number of police cases have drastically reduced through the years, the number of cases admitted to hospitals remained the same. She also mentioned that according to international standards, for every reported case, between 8 to 10 cases goes unreported.

Also raised in the discussion was the importance of having specially trained personnel to handle cases for abuse victims to reduce the traumatic experience. Our society’s mindset is still very much bent on blaming the girls for untoward incidences. Many cases also go unreported due to shame and stigmatisation, and tedious procedure and court process.

Our Malaysian Child Act 2001 was amended in April this year to include a registry for sex offenders. However, this was done without consulting Pakatan Harapan’s leaders and the Child Act 2001 still needs elaboration for further protection of children’s rights.

The new laws introduced increased penalties for child neglect, exploitation and abuse to a maximum fine of RM50,000, 20 years’ jail or both upon conviction.

Who should report abuse cases?

At present, medical officers and medical practitioners, family members and child care providers are obliged to reporting suspected abuse cases to the Social Welfare Officer or risk being fined up to RM5000, imprisonment of up to two years, or both.

The question then arises: How about the duty of school teachers to inform the authorities?

To this, a teacher who was present in the discussion expressed that there were difficulties in reporting such cases especially if it involved school teachers as the abusers. Teachers accused of abuse are usually transferred elsewhere, however, the floor does not think that it is a good idea.

A lawyer who was also present informed the floor that in cases of child abuse, the perpetrators are usually coaxed to a guilty admission so that the victim need not relate the incident over and over again in court.

YB Sim Chee Keong recounted a few high profile cases regarding crimes against children including the Richard Huckle case, the murder of Nurin Jazlin, the ‘finger-rape’ case, and a few others. He also noted that there were 44 child marriages in Penang in 2010.

“The courts seem to be lenient towards child offenders, citing reasons like the abusers are still young and have bright futures ahead,” he said.

According to WCC, a total number of 7,240 reports were lodged of which 20 percent were charged in court. Out of these only 101 cases or 7 percent resulted in a conviction.

Registry for sex offenders

Section 118 of the Child Act states of the ‘The Register of Children’:

“The Register shall contain – 
(a) Details of every case or suspected case of a child in need of protection;
(aa) Details of persons convicted of any offence in which a child is a victim; and
(b) Such other matters in relation to such case or suspected case as the Director General may from time to time determine.”

In the above matter, YB Teo Nie Ching noted that the registry should rightfullyly be ‘The Register of Sex Offenders’ and not otherwise. The members of parliament present in the discussion will push for further amendments in this direction.

Two sets of law

Syerleena Rashid, highlighted that the problem of having two sets of law – Syariah and the Civil Court Law – and that it must be resolved to address issues like child marriages.

YB Zuraida Kamaruddin from Parti Keadilan Rakyat opined that children, especially girls, should have the opportunity to education, and not start a family before they are ready.

“Parents of young girls who are victims of sexual abuse should not be married off to the abusers as this will not solve anything,” she said. “The definition of rape must also be elaborated so that perpetrators will not get away with lame excuses like ‘no penile penetration’.”

YB Chong Eng closed the session expressing hopes that the parliamentarians are able to forward the details of this discussion to parliament in the next session, which will be in October, to counter the problems faced by victims of sexual abuse.

“Our main aims are to raise awareness about sexual crimes against children and also to work towards eliminating sexual crimes against children,” said YB Chong Eng.

The hotline for crimes against children is 15999.

Written by: Carolyn Khor
June 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Two term tenure for CM a good proposal

Letter by Carolyn Khor, Assistant to YB Teh Yee Cheu and Communications Chief for Wanita Keadilan dated 4 April 2016

The Speaker of the State Assembly wields great powers bestowed upon him through the state constitution which governs the house. The approval or rejection of a motion lies, ultimately, in the hands of the Speaker, who decides whether or not the matter reaches the State Assembly for debate during sittings.

Last week, YB Teh Yee Cheu, the state assemblyman for Tanjong Bunga submitted a motion to the Speaker’s office and the State Secretariat’s office to limit the Chief Minister’s tenure to two terms, each being not more than 5 years. He reiterated that he was submitting the motion due to public interest and is ready to face consequences from his party, if any. He also cited Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago as having practise two-term limits. Although the Westminster parliamentary system, which the Malaysian parliament is modeled after, has no fixed-term limit, unlike the United States, YB Teh opined that the State Assembly does have the powers to make the change possible. If the State Constitutional committee, which is headed by the Chief Minister agrees to study the matter in detail, have it refined, made into a bill, then debated during the State Assembly, the two-term limit might just be realised.

The Chief Minister, first of all, should not feel threatened by this two-term limit. It is common knowledge, that such gallant proposals are a herculean task, requiring no less than a few years to even a decade for it to be ready. Of course, this will also largely depend on when the incumbent CM is ready to move on to even higher grounds. But, during this time, it will bode well, both for the people of Penang and also the CM to consider the two-term limit, for the following successors. The CM may in fact, leverage on this two-term proposal to recover from his diving popularity among the Penangites given the recent bad publicity. This would, effectively, be like killing two, or even three birds with one stone, much in the way how Penang has the penchant for being the first in most things.

It takes a lot of courage and will-power to convince the authorities to give up their hold on power. Power, like heroin or opium, is intoxicating. As Penangites, we deserve good policies and good governance and this includes curtailing excessive powers given by the people to a selected few, empowering them to be representatives of the people.

Is conscience banned in the State Assembly or does this signal an improper execution of power? In all fairness, important issues that are of public interest should be debated, nonetheless, and the proposal for the two-term limit should be approved too.

Last night, a DAP veteran member held a press conference to condemn YB Teh Yee Cheu for his actions. Futher to that,the veteran club was quoted as saying: “If he continue [sic] to behave like this and used by umno and show no remorse, he should resign as ADUN and quit the party.”

As YB Teh’s assistant, I strongly condemn the actions of the veteran club members as this is out of line. A state representative is elected by the electorates and that is something which should be respected. We should be supportive of the only voice in the state assembly that dares to voice out against the executives. If all we want are yes-men, then we do not need 'UBAH' anymore. ‘Toeing the party line’ does not work if voices of dissent are not allowed.

How unbecoming of all those who step forward to condemn YB Teh without understanding the larger picture. Justice, fairness, good judgment and freedom of speech has been silenced. How different is this administration from BN? We used to condemn BN for the same actions but now the DAP leadership in Penang is no different. We need to save Penang from the grips of autocratic leaders who can no longer differentiate right from wrong.

People ask, “Why not just concentrate toppling BN? Why should we accept someone who seems to go against the state government?”

The answer is simple: If nobody took up the role of speaking out within the coalition, we are subjecting ourselves to dictatorship. Do not shoot the messenger. We should push for freedom of speech. And at what cost? Only our conscience.

The proposal of having a two-term limit is a noble cause. As we all know, Taib Mahmud governed Sarawak for 33 years. This would have been different if someone had dared to propose a two-term limit such as what YB Teh did. Instead of accusing him of being disloyal or a traitor to the party, Penangites should realise that YB Teh's actions are merely as an ombudsman and a defender of public interest. He is simply carrying out his duties as a people's representative.

I am certain that the Speaker would do the right thing by the people of Penang, provided that he does not receive unsolicited advise from people who think that they have a right to decide on everything.

Carolyn Khor
Assistant to YB Teh Yee Cheu
Communications Chief for Wanita Keadilan