The Coastal Gaslink pipeline infrastructure that will connect the PETRONAS’ North Montney gas fields to the LNG Canada export terminal on BC’s West Coast must pass through Wet’suwet’en territory and the Wet’suwet’en are objecting and resisting on the basis of Aboriginal title. In Delgamuukw v. British Columbia (1977) the Supreme Court of Canada court defined Aboriginal title as Indigenous peoples’ exclusive right to the land, and affirmed that such title is recognized as an “existing aboriginal right” in s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Canadian Encyclopedia notes however that, such rights as are recognized and affirmed are, however, not absolute and that Government regulation can infringe upon these if it meets the test of justification under s. 35(1).
Economic development through agriculture, mining, forestry and hydroelectric power, as well as the related building of infrastructure and settlement of foreign populations, are held to be valid legislative objectives that satisfy the justification requirement. These legislative objectives are, nevertheless, subject to accommodation of the aboriginal peoples’ interests in accordance with the honour and good faith of the Crown. Such accommodation of “aboriginal title” entails notifying and consulting aboriginal peoples with respect to the development of the affected territory, as well as providing fair compensation.
According to a report in FMT, on 18 January 2020, hundreds of people rallied to call for the release 12 Malaysian Tamils detained under the draconian Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (SOSMA) for alleged links to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). This gathering commemorated 100 days of detention for the 12 men who were arrested under the, commonly called Sosma.
The article also claims that the gathering called on Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and the Pakatan Harapan Cabinet to release the men and abolish Sosma in keeping with their manifesto promise. I would like to note that, while Harapan promised to abolish some laws SOSMA was not one of these. Indeed, the widely held notion that Harapan promised to abolish SOSMA is incorrect. Here is what Promise 27 of the Harapan Manifesto said on the matter –
…. The Pakatan Harapan Government will also abolish draconian provisions in the following Acts: • Penal Code 1997 especially on peaceful assembly and activities harmful to democracy • Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 • Security Offences (special measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) • Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 • Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) 2015″
So what exactly the people can hold the Harapan government to, depends on an interpretation of the phrase ‘draconian measures.’ In this regard, the manifesto itself states that a Harapan government would “ensure an effective check and balance” by revoking “all clauses that prevent the Court from reviewing decisions of the Government or the laws introduced by the Government.” I suggest that the provisions of SOSMA that allow for police detention without bail before trial are just such ‘draconian measures’, as they grant licence to the agents of the executive to incarce suspects outside of the ambit of judicial review.
In fact, as reported in Bernama, on Nov 29, the High Court ruled that this portion of SOSMA is unconstitutional “because it divests from the courts the judicial discretionary power to evaluate whether or not to grant or refuse bail.” These are the provisions that can be misused, and will be seen to be misused even when they are used with good intent. In the interest of all accused persons and for the good name of the Malaysian judicial process, these provisions must be revoked immediately.
As I have suggested before, the 12 Malaysian Tamils are being held on the basis of charges that, at best, seem to defy logic. As they sit out their 100th day in prison, and while their appeals for bail to work slowly through the courts system, there is, as yet, no credible sign that the LTTE exists. At worst, these charges are based on guile and malice. As Suaram executive director Sevan Doraisamy, is reported to have said on behalf of his organization, “We feel that these arrests are politically motivated.” Please see On Being Malaysian Tamil 7
In the Dari Pusat Tasek performance, I was assisted by Sang Nabil Utama who is musician, sound engineer, sonologist and a committed Malay culture activist. We were introduced by Azizan Paiman the afternoon before the event at which time we first discussed the underlying ideas and possible controversies of the performance. We refined and rehearsed the performance that night, and went on to execute the event the next afternoon (25 Dec 2019).
This intervention in the public space of the Lumut Waterfront, which was based on a Perak Malay cleansing ritual, was grounded and given poignancy by the fact that Sang Nabil Utama is a native orang Perak. It was also great working with Nabil as he showed great sensitivity to my approach and generously offered his own ideas about Malay ritual form in a way that brought the best out of the performance.
According to researcher Ariffin Mohd Dahlan, in 1528, on the request of some Perak nobles, Sultan Mahmud Shah, the deposed Sultan of Malacca, sent his son Raja Muzaffar to take over the Sultanate. As he made his way with the Malacca Royal accoutrements such as the nobat (drum), naifiri (woodwind), pedang Chura Simanjakini (sword) and the cop mohor halilintar (seal) and several other tools his vessel was hit by a storm as passed Pusat Tasek (Navel of the Seas) which was near the Beting Beras Basah at the mouth of the Perak river, and his vessel ran aground on the sandbank. They discarded all many weighty items and even the acctruments, but the vessel would not move. Finally, the Jin of the Navel of the Seas instructed the Raja to, throw his crown to the sea. Only when the Raja obliged the Jin, did the storm subside and the vessel move on to its destination.
According to some versions of this dynastic legend, the Raja had to dive into the sea at the Pusat Tasek and spend 7 days and 7 nights in negotiations with the Jins and other supernatural beings before this arrangement was arrived at. The prince was installed as Sultan and to this day the air to the throne of Perak is known as the Raja Muda (Young Raja) and not the Raja Mahkota (Crown Prince). It is also known that mysteries still abound in the area of the Beting Beras Basah which is a place where any new Sultan of Perak must perform a rite of passage (Istiadat Mencecah Kaki) in order to take up the throne.