Archive for December, 2015

Good laws must be clear and unambiguous

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

As we step into 2016, let us hope for an atmosphere of openness in Malaysia.

TODAY we go through the closing hours of the year. It is a time to reminisce on the events of 2015 and to contemplate the days ahead.

Our country is a Constitutional monarchy, but is otherwise a democracy governed by the Federal Constitution.

Malaysia is made up of different and diverse races — although the demographics are changing somewhat — and the Constitution declares that it is the supreme law of the land.

Within its framework, it provides for Islam to be the religion of the country, freedom to profess other religions by others, and fundamental liberties for citizens.

And then there are special privileges for the Malays and later by extension, for the Bumiputeras. This creates a sense of a divide because in some aspects, we are one country with perhaps two systems. However, this has been accepted by the people and the provisions are all well entrenched in the Constitution and are duly implemented.

There are also provisions on the position of the Rulers, Malay as the official language, and citizenship. With very rare exceptions, the people revere the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the Sultans, and laws are in place to ensure that certain subjects deemed sensitive are not even touched upon.

People of different races, religions and cultures have lived in this country peacefully and harmoniously. There has been the rare occasion when the country saw a black day but the people have moved on.

The law only provides the framework within which the country operates and the life of the people is regulated.

Theoretically, the people decide, but in reality, the power to make laws is in the hands of the legislators.

We justifiably feel proud of the wonderful infrastructure and facilities that wow the foreign visitors who land at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and find their transfer from there to the city a breeze. However, what lies ahead for the ordinary individual?

We get a wakeup call when we venture outside the country. A burger that costs RM3 at a roadside stall back home could cost £3 in an ordinary outlet in London. That is equivalent to RM18 or more!


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IGP: Headless body found in Jolo confirmed that of Benard Then

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: The authorities in the Philippines have confirmed that a headless body found in the southern island of Jolo to be that of slain Malaysian hostage Bernard Then Ted Fen (pic), based on a DNA test.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the police were verbally informed on the matter recently and were still waiting for a written report from the Philippine authorities.

“The DNA test on the headless body found in Jolo matched the severed head found on Dec 19.

“I have informed the matter to the family members and we are ready to help repatriate Then’s remains,” he told reporters after attending the handing-over of duties ceremony of the Integrity and Standard Compliance Department (JIPS) director, Thursday.

Khalid said the victim’s family did not want the remains to be brought home as they wanted to go to the Philippines for the cremation of the remains and bring the ashes back to Malaysia for burial.

Khalid said he respected the family’s request and the police would help in managing the remains.


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Hoping for some cheer in new year

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: At the stroke of midnight, Malaysians will usher in 2016 with the hope of seeing better days ahead after the challenges the country faced in the past 12 months.

On the economic front, 2015 saw low oil prices, the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax, the weakening of the ringgit and a slowing Chinese economy hitting Malay­sians in their pockets.

Malaysians surveyed by The Star said rising prices were their biggest problem in 2015.

Many are hoping that there won’t be many more price hikes next year and that the Government will step in to help tackle the increasing cost of living.

Better public transportation is another wish for 2016 after a year that saw hikes in toll rates, taxi and public transport fares.

A number of car manufacturers are set to increase prices in 2016, but the completion of three LRT and MRT projects will hopefully provide some respite to Klang Valley residents and reduce the need for cars.

Another big issue is access to affordable housing and many are hoping that 2016 will see the Government stepping on the gas pedal to bring in more measures to make housing more accessible to low- and medium-income earners.

On the political front, the biggest political event of 2016 will be the Sarawak state election, a litmus test for the state Barisan Nasional led by Tan Sri Adenan Satem.


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Poor and rich alike affected by price hikes

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

IS there any among us in Malaysia who does not have to care about how prices are going up? It is easy to believe that the wealthy and the powerful are unaffected when goods and services cost more, but that is not true.

When people cannot buy as much with the same amount of money as they used to, they are likely to cut spending that is deemed unnecessary. Businesses will eventually suffer and so will their owners.

And when people are unhappy that their purchasing power is shrinking, they expect the leaders to find ways to reverse the trend, or at least halt it. In other words, rising prices can be a problem for the whole country.

It is heartening, therefore, that the Government is setting up a high-level committee to deal with the increasing cost of living.

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said he would head the committee, which would meet for the first time in early January.

It will indeed be a panel of heavy hitters because it will include six other ministers as well as secretaries–general of their ministries.

The ministers are Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin (Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism), Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed (International Trade and Industry), Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid (Education), Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh (Higher Education), Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah (Second Finance Minister) and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said the committee would look into what various non-governmental organisations have to say about the rising cost of living. He added that leaders of the NGOs would be invited to meet with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak so that they could express their concerns and views on the issue.

It is a good start to gather input from the civil society. This will help the Government to piece together a picture of how the rakyat is affected by higher prices and how they are responding. The feedback from the NGOs will surely cover matters such as the Goods and Services Tax, price controls, subsidies, the minimum wage, aid schemes and housing.

The Star Says.

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Lee: Government should do more to stem rising prices

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

PETALING JAYA: The Government should do more to stem rising prices, said 1Malaysia Foundation Trustee Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (pic).

He said if the problem of price hikes was not tackled effectively, it would affect the livelihood of Malaysians and might impact the economy.

“Malaysians want to see action taken by the Government as the rising cost of living is one of the paramount issues affecting us today.

“If the matter is not addressed, it is not only going to affect the livelihood of the people, but it could also have an adverse impact on the economy,” he said in a statement.

Rising costs, changing policies may cause a third of school bus operators to quit

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

KOTA KINABALU: Some 30 per cent of school bus operators are expected to cease operating when schools reopen next year, citing rising costs and ever changing policies as the reasons.

Sabah West Coast School Bus Association president Kenny Wong said the government had made adjustments to the rate for school bus fares from time to time, but the revision had not been reasonable as it did not take into account fuel price fluctuations, high maintenance and tyre costs, rising living costs and the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

“We wanted to raise the bus fares, but the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) did not allow us to do so,” he said when asked if school bus operators would be raising their fares in view of the increase in costs next year.

Federation of Malaysian School Bus Operators Associations president Amali Munif Rahmat said that prices would

be set by individual operators or companies and may differ from one another.

However, a local Chinese daily reported that CVLB Sabah did not allow school bus operators in Sabah and Labuan to increase their fares without approval.

The board said request to increase bus fares should be submitted to CVLB for discussion and subsequently to the Federal Cabinet for approval.

Wong said a small school bus need to make RM3,000 a month, cost included, to sustain.

“After deducting fuel expenses (RM700 to RM800 a month), tyres (which needed to be changed every few months), repair and maintenance, vehicle insurance and Puspakom (Computerized Vehicle Inspection Centre), small school buses may only make a profit of RM1,000 a month.

“It is very hard driving a school bus, more so for operators who need to raise a whole family. We do not earn much profit, just enough to put three meals on the table,” he lamented.

Wong pointed out that the government had said the school bus fares were open for operators to determine a few years ago, but the government is telling the opposite now.

He said the association has had dialogues with the CVLB management and director and reached a consensus, but

by Chok Sim Yee

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88 M’sian women in jails abroad

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Kota Kinabalu: There are currently 88 Malaysian women serving jail time abroad for drug smuggling offences, generally labelled as “drug mules”. Of the number, 10 are Sabahans.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry, in response to a Daily Express query, said that going by place where such offences were committed, statistics show that that the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) has the highest number with 17.

“This is followed by Taipei which has officially registered 12 Malaysian women detainees and Guangzhou (in China) with nine women,” the statement said.

Further breakdown is as follows: Jakarta (8), Bangkok (7), Shanghai (6), Tokyo (5), Accra (capital of Ghana) (4), Brasilia (capital of Brazil) (3), Pontianak (3), Ho Chi Minh (2), Kunming (city in China), Songkhla (city in southern Thailand) (2), Wellington (2), Caracas (capital of Venezuela) (1), Kathmandu (capital of Nepal) (1), Lima (capital of Peru) (1), Medan (1), Madrid (1) and Vienna (1).

In August this year, wife of Foreign Minister, Datin Sri Siti Rubiah Datuk Abdul Samad, met with three Malaysian women who were detained in Caracas since 2007/2008 and had completed their prison sentences.

The trio were released on parole since 2010 and even allowed to work within the country (Venezuela). One of them returned to Malaysia the following month (September).

During the meeting with Siti Rubiah, the women hoped their predicament and incarceration would serve as a deterrent and lesson to other Malaysian women not to be easily influenced or too trusting with strangers.

Of the 88 detained “drug mules”, Daily Express understands 10 are from Sabah, an increase by four since 2007, based on media reports.

They are believed to be still languishing in foreign jails.

Umi Azlim Mohamad Lazim (then 24), a Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) graduate in Biological Science, was detained at China’s Shantou International Airport in January 2007 after immigration officers found 2.98kg of heroin on her.

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Religious unity at its best in Miri

Monday, December 28th, 2015

MIRI: Christians and Muslims at a church and a mosque built next to each other in Lutong bazaar north of Miri City held a joint Christmas gathering in what has become a very special tradition.

The event yesterday, which reflects the special multi-racial bond between people of all faiths, was attended by Muslims from Masjid An Naim and Christians from the Anglican Good Shepherd Church Lutong and Catholic, SIB and Methodist churches.

The Christmas celebration was held in the compound of the Good Shepherd Church.

Masjid An Naim and Good Shepherd Church stand less than 100m apart in Lutong bazaar located about 10km north of Miri City.

The managements of the mosque and the church share the parking lots.

On Fridays, the church opens its gate to allow Muslims to park their vehicles during prayer time.

On Sundays, the mosque in turn opens its gate to allow Christian church-goers to use its car park.

On special occasions like Christmas and Hari Raya events, Muslims and Christians will come together for joint gatherings.

Yesterday, imam Mohd Zulkifli Mohd Adnan, the mosque management and mosque leaders, Pastor Donald Jute and church leaders enjoyed halal food prepared by the church.

Sarawak Assistant Minister for Communications Datuk Lee Kim Shin was the guest of honour along with Sarawak United Peoples Party secretary-general Datuk Sebastian Ting and leaders from the Buddhist, Tua Pek Kong and Miri Indian Association.

Lee said the state government was pleased to see such great racial and religious unity in Miri and Sarawak.

“This is unequalled in any part of the country. Where else can we find churches and mosques and temples sharing facilities with each other and sharing food and fellowship like families.


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Child rape cases very high

Monday, December 28th, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: More than half of the rape cases reported in the country over the past three years involved victims aged between 13 and 15.

More alarmingly, only about 10% of the reported statutory rapes were “forced” on the minors. The rest were “consensual”.

Bukit Aman Sexual, Women and Child Investigation Division’s assistant principal director Asst Comm Jenny Ong Chin Lan said it was also distressing to find that some of the girls involved were “proud” to be prizes for Mat Rempits who won illegal motorcycle races.

Citing the case of a 16-year-old girl who was disowned by her family and taken in by the Welfare Department, she said: “She admitted having sex with several youths, saying she liked the thrill of the Mat Rempit lifestyle,”

“These kids make poor choices. More often than not, they get no proper care or attention from their family so they opt for love from their peers.

“If their peers are wild, then they will most likely turn out the same way too,” she told The Star.

Statutory rapes accounted for 1,424 out of the 2,767 rapes reported in 2013 while 1,243 of 2,349 cases recorded in 2014 involved minors.

This year, 920 statutory rapes were reported out of 1,794 cases recorded as of October.

In most cases, parents only discovered the rapes after finding out about their daughters’ boyfriends.

“Many of these girls involved are going through a stressful phase as teenagers. Those who cannot adapt well will stray. One of the major factors that contribute to statutory rape is culture and peer pressure,” she added.

ACP Ong said in that actual cases of statutory rape, the victims were forced upon or tricked.


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George Town among top 16 ‘must-see’ destinations

Monday, December 28th, 2015

GEORGE TOWN: The Unesco world heritage site here has been picked as one of the 16 “must-see” destinations by the Los Angeles Times.

In its Boxing Day edition, the paper wrote that “George Town (population about 500,000), Penang’s main city, is a Unesco World Heritage site with a 500-year history of trading and a hotel boom in progress”.

It stated that as many as 10 new hotels may open in 2016, and a bevy of cruise lines call at the port in inner George Town.

“With luck, this growth will leave intact the city’s most historic architecture and encourage its lively food scene. George Town was a British trading post from the early 19th century (hence its name) until Malaysian independence in 1957.

“It gives you British echoes, Malay essence, Chinese and Indian commercial traditions, scattered rickshaws and a stew of religions,” the paper added.

The other destinations (alphabetically arranged) were Botswana; Bozeman, Montana (US); Cartagena, Colombia; Dublin; Ireland; Harlem, New York (US); Iran; Myanmar; Natchez, Mississippi; Orange County coast, California (US); Paris, France; San Sebastián, Spain; Seattle (US); Stratford-Upon-Avon, England; Washington, D.C. and Williamstown, Kentucky (both in the US).

The Los Angeles Times is the fourth most widely distributed newspaper in the US with a daily circulation of more than a million. It also has the largest Sunday circulation in the country – more than 1.3 million.

Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng also highlighted the article in his Facebook page on Sunday night.

George Town also took the No. 4 in Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities list for Best in Travel 2016.


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