Archive for June, 2015

Four types of Rafflesia flower discovered near Tenom.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Osman showing the Rafflesia flowers that are still young.

Osman showing the Rafflesia flowers that are still young.

TENOM: Four types of Rafflesia flower were discovered growing abundantly on the hillside next to Kampung Ulu Naluyan river about two kilometres from the main road junction of the Tenom-Keningau road by a nature activist, Gerald Baxter.

The discovery of the Rafflesia plant, the world’s biggest flower, was confirmed by Agriculture Department officer, Osman Marzuki, and his assistant, Jain Linton during a visit to the site on Monday.

“We now ask for the full cooperation of all parties concerned to maintain and protect this very valuable national treasure as a tourism product, as it is located in a cold environment and unspoilt tropical forests.

“However, we do not intend to prevent any development and exploration on the surrounding land by the owner. We only ask for cooperation so that it is treated with care because this is a national treasure. As it has not been exposed nor explored, we aim to keep the natural surroundings as it was,” he said.

The exact location where the Rafflesia flowers were discovered is on the slope of the bank of a small river bordering Sabah Parks area while in the area next to it is rubber plantation area alienated by Sabah Rubber Industry Board (LIGS) for development that is currently ongoing.
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‘Mt Kinabalu may have grown shorter’

Monday, June 29th, 2015

KOTA KINABALU: Areas around Mount Kinabalu remain active seismically as 100 aftershocks have been recorded since the 5.9 magnitude earthquake on June 5.

A geologist suspects that the quake could have reduced the height of the mountain, which used to be 4,095m.

And the continuing aftershocks, said Universiti Malaysia Sabah geologist Prof Dr Felix Tongkul, was worrying.

“The aftershocks can trigger more landslides in the mountain area,” he said.

“The good news is, the aftershocks are weak, as most are well below four magnitude on the Richter Scale, which is unlikely to cause much damage to infrastructure,” said Dr Felix.

“But the bad news is that, we are still in the active seismic phase of the earthquake,” he said yesterday as three tremors, measuring 2.4, 2.4 and 2.5 raised the aftershocks count to 100.

“The current movements indicate that the injured mountain is still trying to settle down.”

He said it was like a huge mushroom of about 3,000 cubic kilometres and its granite legs had been cut, making the mountain unstable.

“It will need time to settle. The current seismic movements made it very difficult to predict and analyse subsequent earthquakes taking place in the areas around Ranau, Kundasang and Tuaran in the mountain’s western end,” he added.

Dr Felix said most of the aftershocks were focused at depths of between 10km and 33km, and breadth of about 20km between the western side and north western area, towards Tuaran.

He said people should not be worried or frightened as most of the aftershocks were mild.

“Tremors like these are quite normal in countries like Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indo­nesia,” Dr Felix said.

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Make clear what is acceptable to be worn at govt premises

Monday, June 29th, 2015

PETALING JAYA: Calls are growing louder for the authorities to make clear what is acceptable dressing in government premises and other public places.

Datuk Noor Farida Ariffin, spokesman of G25, a group of prominent Malays calling for rational discourse on Islam, has called on the Chief Secretary to the Govern­ment Tan Sri Ali Hamsa to immediately look into the matter.

“This is to avoid overzealous guards from taking it upon themselves to buy sarong and forcing people whom they deem improperly dressed to wear it before entering government buildings,” she said when contacted.

“G25 agrees with (former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir) that dress codes are meant for civil servants, not members of the public.”

A former diplomat, Farida was commenting on several incidents that saw members of the public being asked to cover up.

On June 8, a guard at the Wangsa Maju Road Transport Department office asked a woman to put on a sarong before she could be served.

On June 16, another woman was denied entry into the Sungai Buloh Hospital for wearing shorts, but was allowed in after she wrapped her legs with a towel.

Barely a week later, two women were denied entry to the Selangor State Secretariat building as their attire did not cover their knees.

On June 24, a woman was denied entry into Penang’s Balik Pulau Court Complex for wearing a skirt deemed too short.

On May 7, a man was denied entry into Kuala Lumpur Inter­national Airport’s lost and found department because he was wearing shorts and sandals.

Farida said it was not right to impose Islamic values on non-­Muslims.

“How can we expect them to respect us when we don’t respect their culture. This is a multiracial society, where wearing attire up to the knee is regarded decent for some cultures. We should respect that,” said Farida.

Author-entrepreneur Anas Zubedy said Prophet Muhammad had said hurting non-Muslims was like hurting him and annoying Allah.


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Time for building reality check

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: It is bounden on Sabah developers to take the initiative to factor in earthquakes of certain magnitudes in their high-rise building designs instead of waiting for a new building code that may take years before implementation.

The advice came from former Sabah Geological Department Director David Lee who told Daily Express that buyers of houses and commercial properties may now also demand that developers state in their brochures that their structures are designed to withstand shocks or tremors of certain magnitudes.

“The question is at what earthquake magnitudes high-rise buildings should be designed for in Sabah. This has also to be resolved,” he said.

He was commenting on the June 5 earthquake which registered between 5.9 and 6 on the Richter Scale with the epicentre at Ranau. The catastrophe was Malaysia’s first serious earthquake and cost the lives of 18 schoolchildren and climbers in Mt Kinabalu.

The 4,093m mountain, the highest in the region, saw boulders crashing and part of one of the fabled Donkey’s Ears rock outcrops near the summit losing its feature.

“The Ranau quake is a wake up call for better actions. This includes scientists who need to prepare a geo-seismic hazard map of Sabah for public information and for the Government to create a geo-hazard services or Search and Rescue centre in Kundasang.

“Remember that ‘paying now is a lot cheaper than paying later’,” he said.

Lee lamented that every time a tragedy happens, there would always be new proposals to avoid the same happening in the future, only to be forgotten after a while.

In the 1980s for example, he said, it was recommended by the Geological Survey Sabah to the Town and Country Planning Central Board that due to earthquake problems, certain parts of Sabah be zoned as “restricted development areas”.

“These areas include some 40 square miles of the Pinosuk Plateau, Ranau town, and Lahad Datu and its surrounding areas. Knowing then that Sabah did not have a building code for structures designed for earthquakes, it was recommended that parts of Pinosuk be not developed and for other parts, buildings should be of limited height.

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The demand for English

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Top notch facilities: UCSI International School’s Bandar Springhill campus is fully equipped with the latest learning tools.

Top notch facilities: UCSI International School’s Bandar Springhill campus is fully equipped with the latest learning tools

GOOD teachers who are proficient in English are being sought after, with some international schools offering huge monthly salaries and perks to attract the cream of the crop.

With international schools now a booming business, some operators have resorted to poaching as demand soars for top-notch teaching staff. There are now some 100 international schools in the country with an enrolment of about 40,000 students.

Recently in an exclusive interview with The Star, the Sultan of Johor made a strong case for English to be used as a medium of instruction in schools in our national education system.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar spoke about the importance of the English language, which he described as a “neutral language” that can be used to unite the people regardless of race or religion, and a “universal currency” accepted even in countries where the people don’t speak English well.

The Ruler noted that the international and private schools in Malaysia, where English is the medium of instruction, are only available to those who can afford it.

These schools are set up to meet demand but are business entities that charge high fees, making them inaccessible to the ordinary Malaysians.

Educationist Datuk N. Siva Subra­ma­niam said teachers are being pinched and offered high salaries because of their English proficiency.

A teacher who masters the language will have a job waiting beyond retirement, he said.

“There has been a shortage of good English teachers for some time now so it’s not surprising that international schools are prepared to pay their staff handsomely.


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Doing better in Pisa

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

A NUMBER of initiatives implemented in recent years, such as the Higher Order Thinking Skills, should be able to help Malaysia improve its rankings under the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin expressed hope that Malaysian students will perform better.

“One of the criteria used in Pisa is evaluating the thinking skills of students, meaning that they’re not supposed to simply give answers.

“We’ve implemented HOTS over the past two years, so we’re hopeful that our students will be able to achieve better Pisa results this year,” he told the Malaysian media after concluding his working visit to the Bahamas.

Muhyiddin, who is also Education Minister, represented Malaysia at the19th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (19CCEM) that was held in the Bahamian capital, Nassau, from June 22 to 26.

He said that HOTS had featured in both the SPM and PT3 examinations.

Muhyiddin said a presentation on Pisa at the Nassau conference indicated that being among the lowest ranked countries did not mean that a country’s education standards were low.

“There are other factors at play that we’ll need to look into,” he said.

There have been concerns over Malaysia’s performance in Pisa, with the country placed in the bottom third, ranking 52 out of 65 countries in the 2012 survey.

Pisa is administered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development every three years on 15-year-olds in both member and non-member countries.

At the 19CCEM proceedings, Muhyiddin delivered a speech focusing on education, skills and employment.


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The price of proficiency

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

DESPITE charging fees that can go as high as RM100,000 per annum, international schools are popular as parents who can afford them believe their children will be more globally competitive, well-rounded and proficient in English.

Businesswoman Sherina Ch’ng said teachers at international schools have a different approach, ability and skills compared to those at government schools.

“International schools have become a necessity rather than a luxury. There are various types offering a range of fees, so parents need not be super rich to send their children to one,” she said.

“Middle-income families can afford to send their children if they save or cut down on other unnecessary expenses,” added the mother-of-two who pays about RM40,000 yearly for her son’s Year One tuition fees at an international school in the Klang Valley.

The amount does not include meals, special classes, school trips and uniforms.

A check by StarEducate showed that international schools in the Klang Valley charge each pupil between RM12,000 and RM78,000 per annum at nursery and kindergarten levels, and between RM14,000 and RM84,000 at primary level. At secondary level, fees ranged from RM17,000 to RM105,000 per annum, depending on the location and reputation of the schools.

The sums quoted are for tuition fees alone and do not include the deposit, building fund levy, as well as application, registration, enrolment, installation and boarding fees.

Working mother J. Tan, who pays about RM50,000 per year for her son to study the American syllabus, feels it was “worth it” as her 12-year-old had improved academically and became more self-confident.

“Since he started attending international school more than a year ago, he has also excelled in extra-curricular activities like sports and music. He would not have had such opportunities in a national school where there’s an over-emphasis of academic-based grading,” she said.

Thomas Gomez, 39, claimed that international schools provide “better classmates and environment” but those with quality teachers and good teaching methodology cost a bomb.

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Keep sexual harassment out of the workplace

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

SEXUAL harassment is no longer as clear-cut as it used to be. Today, especially with easy access to social media, even a simple act of communication between two colleagues on a smartphone can be seen as a form of flirtation bordering on sexual harassment.

Labour law experts in the country are now grappling with these new issues and employers and employees alike should pay heed to the new developments.

We must take heed that a working environment characterised by pervasive sexual harassment can make employees uncomfortable.

An office environment that encourages the free flow of jokes with sexual innuendo and the rampant use of coarse language is sending very dangerous signals that may embolden employees, and even the employers to move from words to action.

As our report, “When playful behaviour turns into harassment” (The Star, June 27) indicate, there is a really fine line between flirting and sexual harassment.

While the Human Resources Ministry has set out clear guidelines in its Code of Practice on the Prevention and Eradication of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, many employees are sometimes reluctant to lodge reports, even if they are offended.

Although we are supposed to be spending time on work while in the office, the reality is that few workers can honestly say they work every minute of the workday. And this is where the pull of social media is rapidly becoming stronger.

Some workers may think it is totally harmless to share a story, an image, or a video clip, laced with sexuality to colleagues, but this is not the case. The assumption that the receiver will be as excited about such material as the sender is seriously flawed.

Sexual harassment, by today’s standards, can no longer be limited to actual physical acts. Every worker should be aware that every such form of communication and every flirtatious remark with regard to dressing and looks can be deemed as harassment.

And with our new corporate culture where many women hold top positions, we also cannot assume that all forms of sexual harassment are male-initiated. The power of authority, whether held by a male or a female, can put many an employee in a spot.

The Star Says.

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The pull of the ‘teh tarik’

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

The 24-hour mamak shops are very much a part of Malaysian life for people to gather and chit-chat the night away.

NOT many are aware that in a bustling city like Sydney, the popular shopping precincts are open only from 9am to 5.30pm, except on Thursdays when many shops stay open until about 9pm.

So, you can imagine why Malaysians based in Sydney like to shop till they drop each time they are back here, as our malls are bustling with life until at least 10pm every day.

It’s the same with their eateries where late-night eating just does not happen.

Now, we can understand why our 24-hour mamak shops are such an attraction, not only to Malaysians who have migrated, but also to tourists and local Malaysians.

I have a family member who migrated to Australia many years ago and each time he visits, either alone on work or with the family, the first thing he will draw up is the teh tarik schedule.

Every night, without fail, there must be a hangout at a teh tarik joint. And of course, we will always joke with him at such gatherings and ask how he can possibly survive in a place like Sydney where the only tea he can have after 8pm is what his wife brews for him at home.

The 24-hour mamak shop has become an iconic part of our culture because it serves cheap food, at all hours, which can be consumed by anyone of any race, and with any dietary preference.

I have a regular group of former colleagues and we are as muhibbah as they come, and there are also vegetarians in the group. So, what better place to meet than at the 24-hour mamak shop?

I have noticed that the typical crowds at such joints are not only multi-racial, but they also include families; it is nice to see a large group comprising elderly grandparents to very young toddlers.


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The mission: service first

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

TEACHERS are supposed to teach. And when members of the public visit the hospital, the Road Transport Departm as has been said many times before, the public service exists because the taxpayers are the ones who pay the salaries of the civil servants.

But things do become complicated when some individuals get side-tracked from their job specifications, and start to bring politics and religion into play.

The problem with some Malaysians is that we are also not very good at exercising reasonable discretion. Maybe we fear those who hold higher positions and dare not question their authority, as it is not part of our culture, or simply because of fear of reprisals.

So, if you are a security guard, whether a member of the People’s Volunteer Corp (Rela) or someone from a security firm, you would be expected to just carry out the orders made by the boss, or maybe the smaller bosses, which in most cases, can be more difficult than the real top boss.

Malaysians would know by now, judging from incidents in the past weeks, that it’s always these little guys who get the blame.

If you are being asked to wear a sarong over your skirt which is deemed too short, you will look quite unnatural, and are bound to draw strange looks from others. Wouldn’t the front desk officer enquire from you, in a puzzled manner, why you are wearing a skirt with a sarong on?

But if the officers are indifferent to the ­situation and the head of the front desk does not even bat an eyelid, it is obvious that they are fully aware of what the security guard has ordered the member of the public to do.

Maybe this has been going on for a while, except that no one has complained, and a recording of the event had not gone viral.

Since incidents of such a “humiliating” exercise have been reported, many others, including a former colleague, have shared their experiences on social media.

My ex-colleague took her case all the way up to the JPJ chief, who apologised for the unfortunate incident. But in her case, she has access to the boss because of her job.


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