Media statements issued never do get media coverage, and if it does it often does not report all that is stated. Given the fact, there seem to be no real documentation of all these civil society voices, this Blog has been started hoping to capture and preserve the voices of civil society for all. Appreciate it if you could forward me ( statements that have not been picked up by this Blog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Open letter from Malaysian NGOs on genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

17 December 2010

Y.B. Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai, Minister of Health
Y.B. Dato Sri Douglas Uggah Embas, Minister of Natural Resources & Environment
Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Dr Hj Mohd. Ismail bin Merican, Director General of Health
Dato’ Zoal Azha bin Yusof, Secretary General, Ministry of Natural Resources & Environment and Chairperson, National Biosafety Board (NBB)
Mr Letchumanan Ramatha, Director General of Biosafety
Dr Shahnaz Murad, Director, Institute of Medical Research (IMR)
Dr Ahmad Parveez Hj. Ghulam Kadir, Chairperson, Genetic Modification Advisory Committee (GMAC)

Re: Open letter from Malaysian NGOs on genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquitoes

We, the undersigned organizations of Malaysia, representing the public health, environmental, consumer and other movements, are very concerned by the recent approval to release genetically modified (GM) male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes OX513A(My1), for the purpose of a field experiment. We are even more worried that the field releases may have already happened, without adequate notification or information provision to the public. We urge the government to be transparent on the issue and to immediately disclose the details and specific sites of the releases.

1. Risky approach to dengue control
While dengue is a very serious problem in Malaysia and needs to be urgently addressed, going down the GM path takes us into risky territory. Genetic engineering often results in unintended effects. We do not know enough about the GM mosquitoes and how their interactions with non-GM mosquitoes in the wild, other species in the ecosystem, the dengue virus and human populations, will be affected.

There are several health and environmental risks associated with the field releases. For example, a small proportion of the GM larvae will survive – some of which would be female – despite claims that the technology is safe because the larvae will die. As female mosquitoes bite humans and transmit disease, has the risk of an increased disease burden been assessed? The surviving GM larvae would also lead to the persistence of the GM genes in the environment, with unknown consequences.

2. Field trials a first step to large-scale release
Although the field releases are characterized as small-scale and limited, we are extremely concerned that they are but one step in a technological approach to dengue control that is based on dependency and ‘locking-in’. At the commercial release stage, the continuous release of millions of GM mosquitoes at several places in Malaysia would be needed in order to successfully suppress mosquito populations. The risks would be greatly amplified at such large numbers.

One serious concern is the likely possibility that other closely related and disease-transmitting species would take over the ecological niche of Aedes aegypti once its populations are successfully reduced. This would continue to cause, or even worsen, the dengue problem and may even cause a rise in other mosquito-borne diseases.

While we realize that large-scale and eventual commercial releases would have to undergo a separate approvals and risk assessment process, the government cannot afford to ignore the implications of going down the GM path and must consider these concerns, even at this early stage.

3. In the public or private interest?
We understand that Oxitec Limited, a UK-based company, holds the patents on the technology used in these GM mosquitoes. While Oxitec will presumably collect rewards for their invention, will they bear the liability should anything go wrong?

A review of Oxitec’s accounts (available from Companies House, which is the UK government agency responsible for registering limited companies) shows that it made losses in 2008 and 2009 of £1.7 million a year. While Oxitec has received grants for its research, it is clear that the company expects to gain income from continual releases of GM mosquitoes in large numbers in several countries.

4. Our demands

a. As citizens of Malaysia, we demand a wider and broader public debate on the issue than there has been to date. This field experiment will have tremendous implications for Malaysia’s health and environment. There must be a national discussion as to whether GM mosquitoes are indeed the right approach to address dengue. The general public are integral to effective dengue control and there must be consensus on this issue.

b. The prior informed consent of the communities living in and around the proposed field release sites must be obtained. This means that they must also have the potential risks of the study adequately explained to them, and information about the sources of funding and any possible conflicts of interest provided.

c. We ask the government to call off the experiment and field releases of the GM mosquitoes, and to instead invest in safer approaches to addressing dengue.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

1. Centre for Environment, Technology & Development, Malaysia (CETDEM)
2. Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP)
3. Institute for Development of Alternative Living (IDEAL)
4. Malaysia Youth and Students Democratic Movement (DEMA)
5. Parti Sosialis Malaysia - Cameron Highlands Branch
6. Penang Suya Meiyarivagam
7. Persatuan Kakitangan Akademik Universiti Malaya (PKAUM)
8. Persatuan Karst Malaysia
9. Persatuan Kebajikan Nelayan-Nelayan Pantai Pulau Pinang (Penang Inshore Fishermens' Welfare Association)
10. Persatuan Pengguna-Pengguna Pahang (PAC)
11. Persatuan Pengusaha Pertanian Kecil Felda Chini, Pekan, Pahang (Chini Smallholders Network)
12. Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN-AP)
13. Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)
14. Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA)
15. Secretariat Ulama Assembly of Asia (SHURA)
16. SOS-Selangor
17. Southeast Asian Council for Food Security & Fair Trade (SEACON)
18. Malaysian Physicians for Social Responsibility
19. Sustainable Development Network (SUSDEN)
20. TERAS Pengupayaan Melayu
21. Third World Network (TWN)
22. Treat Every Environment Special S/B (TrEES)
23. Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM)

Monday, December 13, 2010

CIJ : Pelan untuk undang-undang hasutan siber mengancam kebebasan ekspresi dalam talian

Pusat Kewartawanan Bebas Malaysia (CIJ)
27C Jalan Sarikei, off Jalan Pahang
53000 Kuala Lumpur
Laman sesawang:
Tel: 03 4023 0772
Faks: 03 4023 0769

2 Disember 2010

Kenyataan media: Pelan untuk undang-undang hasutan siber mengancam kebebasan ekspresi dalam talian

Pusat Kewartawanan Bebas (CIJ) amat membimbangi rujukan Menteri Dalam Negeri Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein mengenai undang-undang baru yang akan diperkenalkan untuk mengawal hasutan dalam talian.

Menteri berkenaan dilaporkan berkata bahawa ia berdasarkan Akta Hasutan (1948) dan akan membantu menentukan mana-mana perbuatan dalam talian yang boleh didakwa di mahkamah.

Berita ini merisaukan kerana undang-undang hasutan yang sedia ada dan kerap disalahguna sudahpun digunakan dalam alam maya, seperti yang dilihat dalam tuduhan yang dikenakan kepada blawger Raja Petra Kamaruddin dan yang selainnya. Tambahan lagi, penggubalan undang-undang hasutan yang baru ini, khusus untuk ekspresi dalam talian, nampaknya satu tindakan sengaja oleh pihak kerajaan untuk menapis Internet, walaupun janji “tiada tapisan Internet” diberi oleh Bil Geranti Koridor Raya Multimedia.

Hasutan ialah konsep kejam dan kuno yang merupakan penghalang besar terhadap kebebasan ekspresi, walhal kebebasan ini dijamin dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan. Demi demokrasi dan kebebasan ekspresi, kerajaan persekutuan patut berusaha untuk memansuhkan undang-undang yang sedia ada dan bukannya membuat undang-undang baru untuk mendakwa hasutan dalam talian. Sebarang langkah untuk menghalang kebebasan ekspresi di Malaysia, yang sudah begitu terhad, hanya menunjukkan ketidakrelaan kerajaan untuk menyertai perbincangan awam yang iklhas dan dipertanggungjawabkan oleh rakyat.

CIJ turut membantah cara undang-undang baru ini diperkenalkan. Ia telah dirujuk sebagai “garis panduan”, “peraturan” dan kini, “rang undang-undang hasutan siber”, yang akan dikemukakan kepada Kabinet pada 3 Disember 2010. Dalam negara demokratik, sebarang perkara yang memberi kesan terhadap kebebasan asas dalam Perlembagaan Persekutuan, termasuk penggubalan akta, mesti terbuka kepada komen dan cadangan. Namun hampir tiada maklumat dan tiada rundingan awam mengenai perkara ini.

Maka CIJ menyeru kerajaan supaya terbuka dan telus dalam pembentukan sebarang undang-undang, serta menghindari daripada menggubal “rang undang-undang hasutan siber” atau sebarang undang-undang yang akan mengekang kebebasan ekspresi di Malaysia.

Dikeluarkan oleh:
Chuah Siew Eng
Pegawai Program CIJ

Pusat Kewartawanan Bebas Malaysia (CIJ) berhasrat untuk mewujudkan masyarakat yang demokratik, adil dan bebas, di mana semua manusia menikmati media bebas dan kebebasan mengutarakan, mencari dan menyampaikan maklumat.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Malaysian Bar : Respect public expression of dissent

Press Release
Respect public expression of dissent
Regrettably, the police persists in favouring a repressive and heavy-handed approach when, as was the case yesterday, numerous members of the public gathered to express their viewpoint on an issue of concern to them.

The Malaysian Bar deplores the police’s harsh treatment of ordinary citizens who showed up to support the handover of a memorandum to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, especially as access to water at an affordable cost is clearly a matter of great public interest. 
Intimidatory tactics were employed, including the dispersal and arrest of individuals even prior to the gathering. The police also displayed excessive and disproportionate force in their indiscriminate use of tear gas and water cannons on the crowd.

Repeated calls for the police to embrace the public’s increased articulation of viewpoints as a positive development in our society, and to accord it the necessary democratic space to flourish, continue to fall on deaf ears. The Government has indicated its intention to review section 27 of the Police Act to allow more latitude, but the actions of the police stand in stark contradiction to this avowed goal.

The police could have permitted the gathering to take place peacefully and with minimal disruption, while preserving public order and ensuring the safety of all participants. This approach would have dispelled any perception that the police behaves in a biased manner, and acts selectively to stifle only gatherings that voice dissenting views.

It is time for the police to take active measures to protect the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of speech and assembly. It is time for the police to exercise restraint, and to cease muzzling public opinion and persecuting those who speak their minds. It is time for the police to move away from a “police state” mindset and to accept, and work within, the current environment.

It is time, indeed it is long past the time, for the police to recognise and uphold the clear wish of the people to assemble peaceably and to express their opinions.

Ragunath Kesavan
Malaysian Bar
6 Dec 2010

CIJ :- Plans for Cyber Sedition law bode ill for freedom of expression online

Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia
27C Jalan Sarikei, off Jalan Pahang
53000 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03 4023 0772
Fax: 03 4023 0769

2 December 2010

Media statement: Plans for Cyber Sedition law bode ill for freedom of expression online

The Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) is greatly concerned at Home Minister Dato’ Seri Hishammuddin Hussein’s references to a new law that will be introduced to govern sedition in cyberspace.

The Home Minister reportedly said that it would be based on existing Sedition Act (1948) and would assist in determining what can be prosecuted on the Internet.

CIJ finds this highly disturbing since the much-abused existing law is already applicable online, as seen in the charging of top blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin and his peers. Further, the government’s formulation of this new sedition law, targeted at online expression, seems to be a deliberate act to censor the Internet. This is despite the “no Internet censorship” promise laid out in the Bill of Guarantees of the Multimedia Super Corridor.

Sedition is a draconian, antiquated concept that poses a serious curb on the freedom of expression guaranteed in the Federal Constitution. In the interest of democracy and the attendant freedom of expression, the federal government should be working to abolish the existing law instead of drafting new ones to assist in the prosecution of 'seditious' online content. Any measures taken to curb the already limited freedom of expression in Malaysia only demonstrates the government’s unwillingness to engage in genuine public discourse and to be held publicly accountable.

CIJ is also extremely concerned at the manner in which this new law is being introduced. It has been referred to as “guidelines”, “regulations” and now, a “cyber sedition bill”, which will be tabled to Cabinet on 3 December 2010. In a democracy, anything that affects the fundamental freedoms in the Federal Constitution, including the drafting of laws, should be open to comment and input from all interested parties. Yet there was little information and no public consultation on this matter.

CIJ therefore calls on the government to be open and transparent in the formulation of new laws and to refrain from enacting this “cyber sedition bill” or any legislation that will further curb the freedom of expression in Malaysia.

Issued by:
Chuah Siew Eng
CIJ Programme Officer

The Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia (CIJ) aspires for a society that is democratic, just and free, where all people enjoy free media and the freedom to express, seek, and impart information.