MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chinatown traders mulling judicial review to halt land acquisition

September 01, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — Jalan Sultan traders, whose properties will likely be torn down to make way for the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (KVMRT), are considering filing for judicial review to halt compulsory acquisition of their land by the government.

Jalan Sultan committee spokesman Judy Tan told The Malaysian Insider a decision on whether to go ahead with the legal challenge could be made known as early as next Friday, if not “within these (next) few days”.

File photo of two residents of Chinatown with posters protesting against the proposed acquisition of their property for the MRT project last month.
“It has to be agreed among all of us because it will be stronger if we come in as a group,” she said, adding that not all the 31 landowners who were served notices last month have given their reply.

The Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) had reportedly told traders whose land would be acquired for the underground KVMRT line between the proposed Pasar Seni and Merdeka stations they could hold on to their property at an August 23 meeting brokered by MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek.

The commission had earlier insisted it would have to demolish buildings within the corridor of the planned Petaling Street station and tunnel prior to construction to ensure public safety given their age and uncertain soil conditions.

“The government will proceed with acquisition but also strengthen the buildings that are affected for safety of the household,” Dr Chua had told reporters after the meeting, calling it a win-win situation.

But SPAD chief executive Mohd Nur Ismail Kamal told The Malaysian Insider the next day there was “no guarantee” the 31 Jalan Sultan landowners affected by the acquisition there will be able to return to their property, while stressing that the regulator was still working on a solution.

Outgoing KVMRT project owner Syarikat Prasarana Negara Bhd (SPNB) has also said 20 lots in Bukit Bintang, the capital’s main shopping district, will have to be acquired to make way for tunnelling works and an underground station.

Putrajaya’s powerful efficiency unit admitted, in a letter to Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (ACCCIM) president Tan Sri William Cheng, that Putrajaya needs to acquire and develop land along the MRT route as it cannot afford the multi-billion ringgit project otherwise.

In a letter obtained by The Malaysian Insider, Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) chief Datuk Seri Idris Jala told Cheng that the government was pursuing a “rail-and-property” model as it would not be able to recover the full cost of the first line between Sungai Buloh and Kajang through fares alone.

Disgruntled landowners and critics, including Cheng, have accused the government of abusing the Land Acquisition Act 1960 to acquire prime land for commercial purposes.

But Pemandu has denied the allegation, stressing that private land acquired will only be used for stations, car parks and other infrastructure necessary for the KVMRT.

Rosmah at Altantuya murder 'implausible'

The present of Rosmah Mansor, wife of premier Najib Razak, at the Altantuya Shaariibuu murder appeared “implausible”, according to a United States diplomat in a secret cable sent to Washington three years ago.

The diplomatic cable was dispatched by the United States embassy in Kuala Lumpur two weeks after controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin pledged in a statutory declaration that Rosmah was at the scene of the October 2006 murder of the Mongolian woman.

However, while the allegations against Rosmah “seem implausible”, the cable said that it would “nevertheless will have resonance with a Malaysian public that does not have confidence in the integrity of the Altantuya murder investigation.”

najib razak and rosmah mansor 1It also said that the continued public attention to such allegations also could damage Najib's chances, who was then deputy prime minister, of replacing Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the country's new leader.

On June 18, Raja Petra has sworn that he was "reliably informed" that Rosmah, together with her aide Norhayati Hassan and acting Colonel Aziz Buyong - who is Norhayati's husband - were present at the scene of the sensational murder.

The sworn statement came at a time of heightened political tensions in Malaysia where talk was rife over a possible change in government on Sept 16, 2008, through a mass defection of government MPs.

Two weeks after Raja Petra's revelations, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, an aide to Anwar Ibrahim, lodged a police report claiming that he had been sodomised by the opposition politician.

Soon after, on Aug 26, Anwar returned to active politics after winning a by-election in Permatang Puah, a parliamentary seat which was vacated by his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

However, Anwar's vow to take over Putrajaya fell flat when not a single BN parliamentarian changed sides.

RPK put himself at great risk

According to the leaked cable, political observers had remarked that Raja Petra had “put himself at great risk, and therefore they speculated that he must have some evidence in hand.”

“If this is a bluff, 'it will cost him and his family,' one MP remarked,” added the confidential cable.

raja petra exile new scotland yardRaja Petra was eventually charged with defaming Rosmah, Norhayati and Abdul Aziz on July 17, 2008.

The blogger subsequently fled the country along with his wife, Marina, and both are living in United Kingdom (left).

In 2009, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court granted Raja Petra a discharge not amounting to an acquittal because the police could not trace him to serve the warrant of arrest.

Raja Petra has later distanced himself from the statutory declaration, saying that the accusations were based on information given by former deputy army special branch chief Kol Azmi Zainal Abidin.

The US cable said that most Malaysians would believe there was at least some truth in Raja Petra's allegations as they have no confidence in the integrity of the government's investigation into the Altantuya murder. - Malaysiakini

Quo Vadis Malaysia

by MP Lim Kit Siang

Never in recent decades had Merdeka Day on August 31 been marked with a greater sense of angst and disquiet by Malaysians than yesterday because of incessant disunifying developments not only over the past several months but also the past few days.

Malaysians flew the national flag yesterday but most of them have a common disquieting question – Quo Vadis Malaysia?

The third National Day of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak should have been celebrated as a high-water point of his administration, coinciding with Hari Raya Aidilfitri festivities, but this was not the case.

In actual fact, many of National Day messages intended to inspire greater national unity and to exhort moderation and tolerance among Malaysians fell flat, failing not only to inspire the people but merely achieved the opposite of evoking alienation and disaffection because they were so empty and hollow, shouting out the loud contrast between word and deed of those in power.

Calls for greater national unity only served to remind Malaysians as to how divisive and discordant the Malaysian landscape had become of late, while exhortations of moderation and tolerance served to highlight the great contradiction of the Prime Minister’s call for a global movement for moderates on the world stage with his dismal lack of political will to provide “moderate” leadership inside the country.

In the run-up to the 54th National Day, irresponsible and reckless attempts to polarize the country along race and religious lines continued unabated as when a government television station, TV1, made the false, sick and diabolical insinuation that a few DAP leaders and the Chairman of Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) were associated with a “Murtads in Malaysia & Singapore” facebook group.

Coming in the wake of an orchestrated mainstream media frenzy of Christian proselytization, including the fake news by TV3 of proselytization by a tuition centre in Kuala Lumpur based on complaints by a non-existent “Surau Al-Musyrikin”, the impunity and immunity with which such incitement and sedition could be hurled freely, irresponsibly and recklessly raises the fundamental question whether the Prime Minister and his administration really stand for the rule of law, moderation, an united and harmonious plural Malaysia.

How can the Prime Minister make his signature 1Malaysia slogan as a nationally unifying and inspiring theme when he dare not openly and courageously defend it in the face of dissent by his Deputy Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin with his infamous declaration of being Malay first and Malaysian second?

The MCA President, Datuk Seri Chua Soi Lek made the call to all Malaysians to come together to celebrate in the 1Malaysia spirit and strive for peace and harmony, but he chose to close his eyes to the fact that the very elements who had been systematically undermining the 1Malaysia spirit, inter-racial and inter-religious peace and harmony had come from within Barisan Nasional – Umno – for months and years.

Lies have become the staple diet served by the mainstream media, whether the canard that DAP wants to create a Christian Malaysia and have a Christian Prime Minister or the falsehood that the PAS Deputy President Mat Sabu glorified the communists and regarded Datuk Onn Jaafar and Bapa Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman as traitors.

This is not building a 1Malaysia but disunifying our beloved multiracial and multireligious Malaysia nation.

If Najib sincerely and seriously believes in 1Malaysia and holds himself as the Prime Minister for all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region or political affiliation, the time is almost up for him to walk the talk to provide leadership or be exposed as an purveyor of empty slogans whether 1Malaysia, NEM, GTP, ETP, PTP, etc.

But all is not bleak and dark. The successful Bersih rally of July 9 is proof that if Najib and those in power refuse to act, then ordinary Malaysians whether Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans or Orang Asli, whether Muslims, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Toaists, Confucianists or Sikhs are prepared to act in unison to save Malaysia.

Let the overwhelming majority of Malaysians demonstrate that they are the true patriots and nationalists who will not succumb to the irresponsible and reckless politics of race and religion but are united by a common nationalism to work together as Malaysians to build an united, harmonious, just, progressive and competitive Malaysia.

Batu Pahat will never forget Bintang Tiga

The speech by Mat Sabu to claim Communist as independent fighter and accusing UMNO as British shows his ignorance of history.

It could be Mat Sabu's attempt to divert attention to stem the political and public pressure from the Muslim population on the Pakatan Rakyat government of Selangor on the Damansara Utama Methodist Church caught in the act of proselytising Muslims to Christianity.

However, his political rally at Padang Menora, Tasek Glugor, Seberang Prai on August 21st, 2011 will not go down well with the people of my hometown of Baru Pahat, Johor.

No effort by the former 10th Regiment of the Communist party of Malaya, still living in exile at border of Thai-Malaya border, attempt to spin history of Kiyai Salleh and Dato Onn Jaafar will convince the people of Batu Pahat that the Communist Party of Malaya masquerding as Malayan Party Anti Japanese Army (MPAJA) or notoriously known as Bintang Tiga were independent fighters.

The Bintang Tiga were dominated by Chinese who were not citizens of Malaya until the agreement to jus soli arrangement of citizenship pror to independence on August 31st 1957 but were population of Malaya as British subject. Thus, how could they be described as independent fighters?

The atrocities they committed during their "14 day rule" in the interim period between the surrender of the Japanese army on August 16th 194 and the return of the British colonial administration, particularly to the folks of Batu Pahat and Muar proves that they were no independent fighter but another cruel foreign invader.

Mat Sabu delivered his political rally together with Batu Pahat born Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng. His father, Lim Kit Siang hailed from the area of Lim Poon, Batu Pahat where many of his family members still reside and are former members of Bintang Tiga.

So, when DAP is called communist by certain segments of the Malays, it is not without it's reasons. Furthermore, DAP pursues a socialist ideology, just like PAP of old. However, former Communist activist not only infitrate DAP, but also other Chinese based party like SUPP, MCA, SAPP, and others.

Despite being dominated Chinese, there are Malay members in the communist Bintang Tiga. They were Malay ultra nationalist who were more driven by their anti-British stance than being attracted by communist ideology at the initial stage. Malays, like Kiyai Salleh who later lead the Malays against Bintang Tiga colonials in Batu Pahat and Muar, were forced to join the Bintang Tiga.

The Bintang Tiga atrocities were driven by their hatred for the Japanese as they took revenge on former Jookidam, or Malays who were members of Japanese Police. Former Jokidam were taken to the edge of jungle and forced to dig holes and were buried alive in these holes.

During the Bintang Tiga "14-day rule" rule, they instituted exorbitant tax, and rob their harvest. There were widespread indiscriminate killing, rape and violence on the women and men. People's Court established were dispensing unjust sentences.

Muslims were forbidden from group prayers and Islamic practices and rituals were ridiculed by the Godless communist.

In Zaharah Nawawi's account of the period in her book on the brave exploits of Kiyai Salleh, entitled Panglima Salleh Selempang Merah, she described an eerie feeling of kampung folks entering the Bandar Penggaram.

There were description of Malay kampung folks being captured and boiled alive in the premise current Chinese Chamber of Commerce building of Batu Pahat to scare off Malays from coming to the Bintang Tiga-infested town.

With knowledge of the personality and operation of Bintang Tiga, Kiyai Salleh lead the unarmed Malays against the wellhttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=19741162 equipped Bintang Tiga. Armed with only parang panjang and ayat empat (read also here), the tentera parang panjang grew in numbers as Kiyai Salleh set out to free Parit Sulong, Semerah, Kangkar Senanga, and as far as Bakri, Muar.

If not held back by Dato Onn Jaafar, who was the then District Officer of Batu Pahat, at the Penambang, Kiyai Salleh and kampung folks of Bagan, he would have massacred the remain of Bintang Tiga hiding in Bandar Penggaram. This event was written by Zaharah Jawawi and told to this blogger by General (Retired) Jaafar Onn who was there to witness the event.

On that day, May 10, 1946, Dato Onn promised Kiyai Salleh that he would rerturn power back to the Malay. That could be the event that sparked the desire to struggle for Independence by Dato Onn by initially launching UMNO. UMNO started in Batu Pahat as UMO at the padang Batu Pahat. (Read about the event on blog Kuda Kepang)

The hidden strength of Kiyai Salleh lies in his late wife, Makcik Esah (who is a member of this blogger's mother's Yaasin readng group) who has the uncanny ability to determine the place and time to launch attacks.

Kiyai Salleh, Makcik Esah and others together with them has died but Alhamdulillah, their spirit of Selempang Merah seems to be very much alive.

For Mat Sabu to claim CPM as freedom fighter and accuse of the UMNO of being pro-British to side against the Communist, it is not only incorrect but shows he and PAS's pursuit for power has no limit and destructive.

To correct his deteriorating memory, UMNO was not yet formed during the Bintang Tiga's reign of terror. It was the majority Malay's decision to side with the "lesser of the two evils" between the two colonial powers.

In case he forget and it seemed regularly forget details of events he is present - he words at ceramah and the event of his accident at Bersih 2.0 - , the Bintang Tiga was formed with help from the British to train them at a Special Training School 101 in Singapore.

Even the Communist Party of Malaya was formed with the help of a Vietnamese who is a double agent for the British, Lai Tek.

Another important historical point for Mat Sabu to recall is that PAS was also formed with help of the British to be a permanent divisive element against Malay Unity and be constantly at odd with UMNO, as the conglomeration of Malay associations and political party including the Parti Kebangsaan Melayu (MNP).

- Another Brick in the Wall

Najib and the pirate ship Umno: Can he be saved and what for?

Najib and the pirate ship Umno: Can he be saved and what for?

The latest Merdeka Centre opinion poll has been nothing short of a political Tsunami for Prime Minister Najib Razak and his UMNO party. The steep 6 percentage point plunge in his popularity rating to 59 percent in just three months is an eye-opener and has already sparked debate within his party, the BN coalition and Malaysians across the country as well.

Among the first to rush to Najib's defense has been the son of former long-time MIC president S Samy Vellu. Central Working Committee member Vell Paari has asked MIC to reconsider its position in Barisan Nasional if Najib is toppled from power by certain forces within Umno.

He said there was intense speculation that Najib is facing a challenge in UMNO. If this was true, Vell Paari urged MIC to defend Najib. “He is the best prime minister we have in terms of catering for the Indian community, so we must stand by him. We don’t know if the rumour is true but MIC must protect Najib against those who are working against the prime minister."

Kind to the Indians, cruel to the Chinese

Wow, really hats off to Vell Paari, for his noble suggestion. Yes, why not? After all Najib may be the better Prime Minister in terms of catering for the Indian community as compared with his predecessor, Abdullah Badawi. Despite being a very mild man, Pak Lah left the unfortunate legacy of jailing the Hindraf 5 under the Internal Security Act. It was Najib who released them when he took over in April 2009.

Then, there are allegations that Chua Soi Lek and Liow Tiong Lai are cosying up to DPM Muhyiddin Yassin in anticipation of Najib’s uncertain political survival. If it’s true then it would be very unethical of them. How can you desert your boss when the going gets tough? It is the tough that must get going, just like Mr Eveready said. But I guess this two political clowns are not that tough. Even the Chinese want to get rid of them.

It may also be that under the Najib administration, the Chinese were not only systemactically neglected but also sought out for abuse and humiliation. As Badawi was to Hindraf 5, Najib will leave the same bitter aftertaste with the Chinese. They may not like MCA but they like even less the totally wild and uncouth comments from the likes of Nazri Aziz, Najib's spokesman, who had described the MCA as an abused wife, with the abusive husband being UMNO! Frankly, even if Najib comes up 2Malaysia or 3Malaysia, they won't bother with him anymore.

Meanwhile, UMNO is lurking silently and dangerously like a pirate ship about to prod Najib off its gangplank. No one is admitting mutiny or the existence of any rifts - officially that is!. Insiders however claim that the party is split between two major and many minor camps. The main faction opposing Najib's is the one led by Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Speculation is also rife that former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad is backing Muhyiddin in order to boost his son Mukhriz’s political fortunes. This is rather disconcerting if it is true and the final nail in Najib's coffin.

Fated, but fated to go right or fated to go wrong

But like him or hate him, as wife Rosmah Mansor has insisted, Najib was fated to be Prime Minister. Like his father, he was supposed to run this country and bring it to greater heights. Much faith and trust was placed upon him by the people, and 1Malaysia was warmly welcomed even though not many really understood its true meaning.

Everyone was shocked when things started to go wrong, but many people attributed it to unseen hands pulling the strings, while a helpless Najib looked on in horror, unable to address the situation. After riding a short-sghted and short-lived high from the Perak power grab, it was downhill all the way for Najib. The way the Malaysian courts bent their interpretations of the Federal Constitution to suit his will still sends a shudder across the nation. It was also the final straw as far as quality FDI was concerned. Who would ever trust such an administration, and on hindsight, it really was a stupendously stupid move.

Then Perkasa started to make its run. Racial and religious strife grew, allegations of electoral fraud boosed enormously by 'I help you, you help me' proclamations went viral, and the gradual but inevitable death of 1Malaysia sealed Najib's faith. These factors chopped down his popularity and when Bersih came, his administration was all but over. Even in Facebook, a mock-up Muhyiddin Administration 2012 is already easily available.

But let's look at Vell Paari again. He has said that Najib is a blessing to MIC and probably a blessing to the Malays and UMNO as well, although he may not have done much for the Chinese. So, does 2 out of 3 show that he still has more good in him than bad? And also, what makes Vell an authority on UMNO? Many UMNO insiders say no matter what, they want Najib gone and a fresh beginning is the only way forward for their party.

Will Najib play fair with the people

Whether Muhyiddin can be considered a fresh beginning is another issue, but the anti-Najib and anti-Rosmah sentiment in UMNO is now really fierce and those who don't admit it or wish to take note of it, do so at their own risk.

Even if we were to give Vell a chance and supported Najib, how are we supposed to effect that? Are we going to go against our conscience and give him our votes? Are we going to forgive him for all his past flip-flops? Are we going to close one eye on the many allegations against him? And the Scorpenes hearing is coming up this month!

Vell is now looking at me with reproachful eyes ... Iskandar, you are not trying hard enough! So, okay, let's show Najib some attentiveness and agree with everything the PM says. We will keep reminding him to keep his word, and to repay us, he must ensure that reforms are in place before the next general election is held. And that there is peace and harmony by keeping the barking dogs at bay. That would be one way for him to redeem himself and go down in history as the man who helped turn Malaysia into a functional democracy.

But would he? Or would he play us out to cosy up to his pals in UMNO? Your answer is probably the same as mine. So the best thing to do is que sera sera. Let what will be, will be. After all, Najib could have done so much for us, but didn't.

The same goes for Muhyiddin. Don't expect Malaysians to turn sentimental, they will rate you on hard facts and achievements. So think twice before you make a dash for the UMNO hot seat.

Most importantly, all this talk will be useless if Pakatan wins GE-13 and Anwar goes on to be Prime Minister. Then all the PM-wannabes will probably stay at home and watch TV, or make a beeline to join the Pakatan parties or jostle for the post of Opposition Leader of the BN in Parliament.

- Malaysia Chronicle

Johor considers improving water assets returned by Singapore

Johor considers improving water assets returned by Singapore

JOHOR BARU - The state will consider upgrading the water treatment plants handed back to it by the Singapore Public Utilities Board (PUB) today.

Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said the handover, to be carried out under the 1961 Water Agreement, would benefit local residents especially in Johor Baru and Pontian.

"The water treatment plants in Skudai and Gunung Pulai, and the two water pumps in Tebrau and Pontian will be upgraded if necessary to meet the needs of our residents," he told reporters at his Hari Raya open house here yesterday.

Abdul Ghani said Singapore, which had been enjoying raw water from the plants for about 50 years, had expressed its happiness that the move would benefit Johoreans.

Meanwhile, a joint statement issued by Johor government and PUB said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was informed by his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong that the treatment plants would be returned following the end of the agreement today.

It said the decision, which was made during the Singapore-Malaysia Leader's Retreat on May 24 last year, stated that the facilities would be handed over free of charge and in good working order.

The statement added that since May last year, a joint technical committee and a joint working group, comprising officials from both countries, had been working on the transfer, including training local staff for the takeover on Sept 1.

The handover ceremony, to be held at the Gunung Pulai treatment plant today, will be attended by officials from both countries including Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, Singa­pore's Environment and Water Resources Minister Dr Vivian Bala­krishnan and Abdul Ghani.

It had been reported that the handover of the treatment plants would result in the production of an extra 681 million litres of treated water a day for the state.

- Asiaone

Malaysian solution: always a bad idea

Malaysian solution: always a bad idea

The High Court ruled yesterday that the Malaysian Solution was not lawful.

The majority decision turns on the nature of Australia's obligations under the Refugees Convention. They held that, if Australia sends boat people away without considering their claim for protection, it can only do so if the receiving country offers the same protection as Australia is obliged to offer. The result is entirely consistent with the spirit of the Refugees Convention, which was designed to spread the burden of refugee flows, rather than leaving them to be borne by countries adjacent to trouble spots.

Leave aside the politics of it, the Malaysian Solution was always a bad idea. We can assume that the Australian Government intended to treat the 4,000 refugees resettled from Malaysia as part of our offshore resettlement quota. It presently offsets informal boat arrivals against the offshore resettlement quota. Accordingly the Malaysian arrangement was neutral on total refugee arrival rates. So it was not going to reduce the number of refugees received in Australia each year, but it was going to cost the Australian taxpayer about $200 million. Weird economics.

Paradoxically, the arrangement may have constituted a significant pull factor, at least for a time. The reason for this is that Malaysia does not allow refugees to work. The deal with Malaysia would have notionally allowed transferees to work. Refugees currently living in Malaysia waiting for resettlement would have had a powerful incentive to try to get to Australia in order to be transferred back to Malaysia and receive work rights. For a person who faces the prospect of waiting up to 15 years before being resettled, the incentive to act this way would have been very strong. If that pull factor had in fact operated, it is likely that the quota of 800 transferees would have filled pretty quickly, and would have achieved very little for Australia apart from adding significantly to the cost of deterring boat arrivals. If, as a result, Australia and Malaysia increased the quota under the arrangement, then the cost would have increased proportionally, but so would the pull factor.

So what should be done now?

At present, Australia has a system of indefinite mandatory detention of boat people. The detention is mandatory, because the Migration Act requires that non-citizens without a visa must be detained and must remain in detention until given a visa or until removed from Australia. While the Minister has a discretion about the mode of detention, detention remains mandatory, and even "community detention" falls far short of actual freedom.

Detention is indefinite because it has no fixed end point: detention continues until the person receives a visa (which may take years) or until they are removed from Australia. Removal from Australia may not happen until after years of processing, and in some cases turns out to be impossible - for example, where a person is stateless. Where a person is refused a visa but cannot be removed from Australia, the High Court decision of al Kateb says that they may be held in detention for the rest of their life, notwithstanding that they have not committed any offence.

Changing policy in an attempt to deter boat people from seeking entry to Australia rests on several important assumptions. The first is that the fear of what Australia might do to them exceeds the fear from which they are fleeing. That proposition is quite implausible. In the past 15 years, most boat arrivals have been Afghan Hazaras fleeing the Taliban, Iraquis fleeing Saddam Hussein, Iranians fleeing the theocracy in that country, and Tamils fleeing genocide in Sri Lanka. Not surprisingly, a very high percentage (approximately 80-95 per cent) of boat people ultimately establish an entitlement to protection.

The second assumption is that asylum seekers have the wherewithal to research the treatment they are likely to receive if they seek safety in Australia. There is no evidence to suggest that people desperate enough to take the risks associated with unauthorised arrival in Australia have ever had the time or resources to investigate the many changes in Australia's policy settings concerning asylum seekers.

The third assumption, which is bound up with the second, is that people smugglers are a reliable source of information for their passengers. It is in the highest degree unlikely that people smugglers reveal candidly to their customers that they face mandatory detention, or removal to Malaysia, or any other hardship which the government of the day seeks to impose as a deterrent.

It is therefore difficult to assume that anything done by Australia will make any appreciable difference to the arrival rate of boat people.

If things are left as they are, Australia will continue to face the following problems associated with the present system: needless infliction of mental harm on detainees and damage to Australia's reputation as a nation which cares about human rights. And don't forget the huge cost: mandatory detention costs us about $1 billion a year.

There is simply no merit in the idea of detaining people indefinitely just because they have arrived in Australia by boat. Asylum seekers also arrive by air: typically they arrive on short-term visas such as business, tourist or student visas. Once in Australia, they apply for asylum. Once their initial visa expires, they are given a bridging visa pending assessment of their claim for asylum. This may take years, but they remain in the community while it happens. Most of these asylum claims fail on the merits (only about 20 per cent succeed). By contrast, about 80-90 per cent of boat arrivals ultimately succeed in their claim for asylum, but they are detained during the entire process.

The arrival rate of asylum seekers who come by air is two or three times greater than the arrival rate of boat people.

A question inevitably arises: what is the justification for detaining boat people indefinitely, at vast expense, when most of them will ultimately succeed in their claim for protection but will be damaged more or less severely by the process? To this question, it seems that the only genuine answer is an appeal to political advantage.

There was one interesting feature of the Malaysian deal. Australia negotiated an arrangement with Malaysia which involved minimal detention before the transferees were to be released into the community with work rights. What a cracking idea! If Australia capped initial detention to just a month for health and security checks, overcrowding in detention would be solved instantly; the cost of operating the detention system would reduce dramatically; and the foreseeable mental harm which is caused by indefinite detention would stop.

It is not clear why the Australian Government thinks it necessary or desirable to detain boat people indefinitely when they do not think it necessary or desirable for Malaysia to detain those same boat people (except for preliminary health and security checks), and do not think it necessary or desirable to detain asylum seekers who come to Australia by plane.

The big question is whether the Government or the Opposition can forget about populism and point scoring, and see their way clear to solving the detention problem by acting decently: they could save our reputation and our taxes.

Julian Burnside AO QC is an Australian Barrister and an advocate for human rights and fair treatment of refugees.