Don’t be a total sucker!


saiwan@thestar.com.my

There is no easy way to make a fast buck other than cheat and there is no such thing as love at first sight – a warning to people not to be so silly to believe whatever strangers tell them, especially through the Internet

MORE than 10 years ago when the Internet and e-mails first became popular, many crooks found them to be the most convenient way of cheating people, especially those living thousands of miles away.

The scams were simple ones that played on the element of pity and the sums asked for were small.

Some of the con-artists would pretend to represent certain well-known charitable organisations soliciting US$10 (about RM31).

Many kind-hearted and gullible people did reply to such e-mails and ended up sending cash by post.

If 1,000 people around the world responded, these crooks would get away with US$10,000 (RM31,000) but chances are they got a lot more.

However, people then wised up to such tricks and these criminals got more sophisticated.

While previously they preyed on people’s generosity, now they have turned to our greed.

Greed is what the “winning lottery ticket scam” is based on.

People would get e-mails informing them that they had won a lottery worth millions.

They would be convinced into paying some money in order to get hold of the bigger sum.

Of course, playing on greed is the surest way to make a scam work.

There have been various versions of this winning lottery scheme and they are so obviously tricks, yet

all sorts of people have been cheated.

I know of a doctor and a magistrate who lost hundreds of thousands of ringgit to these crooks, who more often than not originate from Africa or specifically Nigeria.

Apologies to any Nigerian who feels offended by this statement, but even the Nigerian Police Force (NPF) has set up many task force teams to tackle and arrest such cyber crooks.

Even 10 years ago, I had found that the NPF had set up a website to handle such complaints.

I even took to e-mailing all suspicious looking e-mails soliciting money or trying to tempt me with money to the NPF, which wrote me a letter of thanks for doing so.

The scams have got even more sophisticated and the crooks started registering e-mail addresses with names of people supposedly related to despots, dictators or deposed leaders from the continent. This was called the inheritance scam.

Their claim is that their father/mother/brother/sister/uncle/friend was that deposed leader and had stashed away millions in a secret account in an off-shore bank and needed to use your account to transfer the money out of that country.

They promised to share the loot and hundreds, if not thousands, have fallen for this trick all over the world.

How people can be so naïve and greedy is beyond comprehension.

Look, there is no such thing as easy money unless it is a trick by a conman to get your money from your wallet.

Just like the black money scam, where these people offer to sell you millions of US dollars for a fraction of the value. The catch was that you needed to buy special chemicals that would “wash specially treated black paper” into becoming US dollars.

Just on Monday night, 76 people, mostly Africans, were arrested by Federal police for cheating hundreds of people of RM29mil through various scams.

Bukit Aman commercial crime investigations deputy director SAC Datuk Rodwan Mohd Yusof said the police received 945 reports from January to October over con jobs that included parcel scams, black money, inheritance swindles and black magic.

A parcel scam is where the schemer would inform a victim that he or she had received parcels with expensive gifts, jewellery or cash, but the parcels had been detained by Customs.

The victim is then persuaded to make a payment to a stipulated account for the parcel to be released.

The schemers reaped RM19.6mil through this scam, the biggest loss suffered by the victims.

This was followed by the black money scam, which netted RM1.4mil.

“The crimes involving African scams are getting serious, with more people falling prey to them,” SAC Rodwan said.

This should be a warning to people not to be so silly to believe whatever strangers tell them, especially through the Internet.

But these scams only rob your pockets, unlike those who prey on innocent ones, especially young women, into becoming drug mules.

Again many Africans are being blamed for this.

They use the social media, namely Facebook, to befriend Malaysian women and lure them to carry a bag to a foreign country.

There are about 100 such women languishing in jails in places like Peru and China for trying to smuggle drugs into those countries.

Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohi­lan said these syndicates were targeting young women, aged between 20 and 35, without any criminal record.

Kohilan said he spoke to six women who were caught for drug trafficking in Peru during a bilateral visit there last year.

“They claimed that they were cheated. One said a man had promised to marry her and asked her to carry a luggage to Peru,” he said.

Police have found that these tricksters are usually good looking and had the gift of the gab.

Young women easily “fall in love” with them and end up willing to do anything for them.

Parents should remind their daughters that there are many predators on the Internet and all of them have no good intentions.

A recent survey by the Women’s Centre for Change (WCC) found 80% of 100 girls, aged between 15 and 17 surveyed over eight months, had received calls or text messages from strangers via mobile phone while 54% of them had chatted online with strangers.

The centre’s programme director Dr Prema Devaraj said the findings showed young women were now easily accessible to people whom they did not know, including potential perpetrators.

“Many of them don’t seem to understand the danger in making friends with strangers by chatting online or over the phone.

“They may feel ‘safe’ because they are not in the presence of the person they are chatting with,” Dr Prema said.

It is not enough to teach our children to be streetwise.

They must also be taught to be cyberwise. There are just too many crooks and monsters out there.

Malaysia’s ‘Peaceful’ Bill off to a rocky start, at odds with PM’s speech


‘Peaceful’ Bill off to a rocky start

Analysis By Baradan Kuppusamy

The Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 seeks to regularise public protests. The Opposition, however, claims the conditions are so strict it makes demonstrating even more difficult.

THE Peaceful Assembly Bill 2011 ran into heavy flak from the Opposition the moment it was introduced for first reading in Parliament on Monday by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (c) during a televised statement on security laws Prime Minister Najib Razak’s move comes ahead of a general election expected early next year

They want the law, which provides for public protest without the need for a police permit, withdrawn.

They say conditions attached to public protest are stiff and numerous; police are still the arbitrators and that the notion of allowing public assemblies is defeated by the new Bill.

At the same time the Bill was tabled, Nazri also tabled the amendment Bills repealing Section 27 of the Police Act that requires an organiser to get a police permit for any gathering of more than five persons.

In a nutshell, the need for a permit – one of the things the Opposition and civil rights groups have been campaigning for – has been removed.

They should be rejoicing but they are not.

Opposition MPs and civil society advocates say that although the provision for a permit has been repealed, the Peaceful Assembly Bill stipulates numerous conditions that hamper the people’s constitutional right to peaceful assembly and exercise their right to protest.

What the Government has done is to introduce a Bill that says you can protest and the need for a permit is repealed but only within the accepted parameters and without impinging on the rights of others who are not a party to the protest.

The Opposition and civil society’s immediate reaction is that the attached conditions are strict and makes public protest more difficult than under the Police Act.

Under Section 27 of Police Act you just organise a protest – with or without a permit – and subsequently face the consequences.

This is the preferred method of the Opposition and that’s why illegal assembly cases still continue in the courts for participation or organisation of the first Bersih protest in 2007.

Those involved were activists and rabble rousers but have since been elected MPs and will be voting to oppose the Peaceful Assembly Bill in Parliament!

Under the new Bill, public protest is regularised – while the right to protest over a certain cause is given, the right to not protest or to oppose is also given.

That’s why there are stringent conditions, sometimes impossible conditions, attached to the right to protest which includes that the OCPD should be notified within 30 days. He would respond within 12 days and children 15 years and below are barred from participating.

And then there are increased penalties for those who break the rules like up to RM20,000 for bringing an underage person to an assembly.

The OCPD can impose restrictions which, if not followed, would lead to fines of up to RM10,000.

There is an appeal clause to the minister on the restrictions within four days and the minister has to respond within six days.

Lastly some areas are off-limits for any protest – like places of worship, schools and hospitals.

On the face of it, the restrictions are stringent and probably unworkable especially the one requiring protestors to give 30 days’ notice but as Lord Denning said: “Your rights end where the rights of others begin”.

That’s exactly what the formulators of the law have in mind by imposing conditions that are deemed necessary to allow protest without needing to get police permits.

Unfortunately, one has to sacrifice something to gain something.

Even in some advanced countries like the United States and Britain, protests are only allowed at designated areas.

In New York, for instance, you can protest in front of the United Nations but some distance away.

In other places, too, police broke up the Occupy Brooklyn Bridge protest and Occupy St Paul’s Cathedral in London. In Hong Kong, police prefer night protests conducted away from the all-important business district.

Each country has its “soft underbelly” that it wants to protect and maintain without disruption and Malaysia has said places of worships and schools are off limits.

While the giving of notices and the waiting for responses take out the spontaneity of public protests, the gain is that you don’t need a police permit for any protest of five or more people.

But the people have been asked to pay a heavy price for it in the form of numerous restrictions.

As PAS leaders said, if Israel were to attack Saudi Arabia, Malaysians would have to wait 30 days before protesting.

Perhaps, as the Bar Council suggests, a standing committee could be formed to rectify the weakness at the committee stage of the Bill’s passage – especially the provision to give 30 days’ notice.

This would allow Members of Parliament to study the Bill and its provisions in greater depth and lessen the restrictions to allow the public to exercise their democratic right to protest

Bill at odds with PM’s speech

ROAMING BEYOND THE FENCE By TUNKU ‘ABIDIN MUHRIZ

The drafters of the Peaceful Assembly Bill now before Parliament must have missed what was undoubtedly the Prime Minister’s finest speech of his administration so far, delivered on the eve of Malaysia Day.

I was looking forward to reading the Peaceful Assembly Bill tabled this week. I was expecting a document that would re-affirm and strengthen the freedom and liberties mentioned by our Constitution.

I was hoping furthermore that perhaps, finally, Malaysians would have a government that would once again speak fondly about freedom and liberty in the same way that our first Prime Minister did about those principles: whether in speeches at home or abroad (such as in his now-forgotten condemnations of apartheid in South Africa), or whether in print to other world leaders or through his columns in this newspaper.

These hopes were dashed. Lawyer-commentators are still picking through details as I write this, but it seems apparent that it might result in an even more suffocating environment for freedom of expression than what exists now.

The ban on “street protests”, defined by the Bill, is outright.

The powers conferred upon the police are enormous, not only in weighing the rights of “other persons” who (they may claim) are affected by assemblies, but also in demanding 30 days’ notice, thus preventing spontaneous gatherings of the sort that we have seen throughout the Arab Spring, or 65 years ago during the opposition to the Malayan Union (that partially resulted in the parliamentary democracy, constitutional monarchy and federal system that we all enjoy today).

Perhaps the legislation will be amended for the better if and when it passes through the various readings in both Houses of Parlia­ment.

For now, though, the Bill seems disgracefully at odds with what was undoubtedly our current Prime Minister’s finest speech of his administration, delivered on the eve of Malaysia Day this year. I wonder if those drafting the Bill missed it.

Still, we Malaysians are connoisseurs of witnessing disgraceful behaviour from the political class.

My fellow columnist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir provided some wonderful examples in her article on Wednesday.

Sometimes, however, a decent member of the political class is in fact a victim of the disgraceful behaviour of someone else. (This is why the efforts of CPPS and UndiMalaysia to get us to assess our YBs are very important – we all benefit from further granularity in our opinions of individual politicians.)

One example of this has just surfaced. It concerns the Deputy Higher Education Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, who I have praised before and will continue commending if he continues with his progressive, common-sense statements.

He was invited to speak about his latest book Kalau Saya Mahasiswa (downloadable at saifuddinabdullah.com.my) by the Law Students Association of the International Islamic University on Monday, but at the last moment, the programme was cancelled and ostensibly postponed.

This was apparently after orders by the university’s Rector herself.

Regular readers will no doubt recall that I described the earlier suspension of Professor Abdul Aziz Bari as “thoroughly idiotic”, but – I may now be banned by the university myself for saying this – I can think of no better way than to describe the cancellation of an appearance by a Government deputy minister as utter genius.

I am sure that these actions will really get the university up there in the league tables.

My apologies – sometimes bone-headedness can only suitably be countered by the lowest form of wit.

Thankfully, there are still many inspiring distractions that punctuate these crazy weeks as everyone clears their to-do lists for 2011.

On Saturday I attended the Royal Gala Concert of the first International Festival of Classical Music organised by the Chopin Society of Malaysia.

The event truly was international (despite some scepticism before the show), with players hailing from 14 countries.

The repertoire consisted of pieces designed mostly to showcase technical skill, and virtuosity was certainly in ample supply that evening.

One piece that was both technically demanding and gorgeously tuneful was Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu, which brought back some memories as it was my A-Level performance piece back in 1999.

That evening it was played by an 11-year- old Malaysian, Brian Ting Yit Zheng, and many were amazed by the emotion he managed to transmit during the lyrical middle section.

Then again, young people who are musical are often so much more mature than their peers.

The concert ended with the world premiere of …Shadow… (scored for piano, gamelan and Malay percussion with shadow puppet accompaniment) by Seremban boy Ng Chong Lim, STM (Setiawan Tuanku Muhriz).

He was one of four musicians awarded during the Birthday Honours of the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan in January – the others being pianist Foo Mei-Yi, STM; harpist Katryna Tan, STM; and pianist-composer Chong Yew Boon, DTM (Darjah Tuanku Muhriz); whose work on Berkatlah Yang di-Pertuan Besar continues to arouse patriotism during many a peaceful assembly throughout the state.

■ Tunku ’Abidin Muhriz is president of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs.

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