Archive for October, 2016

Passengers to pay higher airport charges from January

Monday, October 31st, 2016

PETALING JAYA: Passengers on domestic and international flights will now have to pay between RM2 and RM18 more for their Passenger Service Charge (PSC) at both KLIA and KLIA2 from January next year, but will pay RM30 less to ASEAN destinations.

In a statement Monday, the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) announced that the new charge for domestic travellers is now fixed at RM11 at both KLIA and KLIA2, an increase of RM2 and RM5 respectively.

The revised rates will take effect on Jan 2017 and will only be applicable to tickets issued from that date onwards.

International passengers from KLIA will have to pay RM73 (up RM8 from RM65 previously), while the charge at KLIA2 will be RM50 (up RM18 from RM32 previously).

However, charges for travel to ASEAN countries will be standardised at RM35 at both airports, RM30 less than before.

“The introduction of new and lower PSC tier for travels to ASEAN countries from major airports in Malaysia will make Malaysia the first ASEAN country to introduce such a tier,” it said.

Mavcom said the gradual equalisation of the PSC at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and KLIA2 will be introduced in stages to facilitate a more level playing field.

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Lee urges annual safety audit for old buildings

Monday, October 31st, 2016


KOTA KINABALU: A safety audit for all old buildings should be made mandatory to safeguard the public. That was the call made by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the wake of deadly blaze at a hospital this week.

“The fire at Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor, which claimed six lives, is a wake-up call for us,” NIOSH chairman, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye told a press conference at the Sabah NIOSH office here, yesterday.

He said the public interest demanded that an annual safety audit be made compulsory for all buildings more than 50 years old to ensure they were safe for occupancy.

The government, he added, should not be stingy in providing funds to maintain buildings, particularly hospitals and schools.

“Maintenance of old buildings is crucial,” he said, adding that budget constraints should not be allowed to compromise the safety of premises.

Lee said the government had been talking about transformation. “And so I hope there will be transformation in the maintenance culture,” he said.


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Let us do more against graft

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

BY now, it’ss clear that many ordinary Malaysians have the perception that corruption in this country has degenerated into a hugely disturbing situation.

To many of us, rightly or wrongly, corruption has become an entrenched culture involving many in the political and government circle.

But who would have suspected that a seemingly innocent department like the Sabah Water Department could end up being investigated for such a staggering amount of money, in what is now known as our very own Watergate scandal.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seized RM114mil worth of assets – RM53.7mil in cold cash stashed in the houses and offices of two senior Sabah Water Department officials on Oct 4.

Many of the department’s staff, apart from the top two officials, are also being investigated for alleged abuse of power and money laundering linked to contracts for RM3.3bil federal-funded projects channelled to the department since 2010.

MACC has traced RM30mil stashed in foreign banks and another RM30mil in 127 land titles for housing, agriculture and commercial purposes.

That’s not all. MACC also seized nine vehicles worth RM2.7mil, an assortment of jewellery worth RM3.64mil and designer handbags with a value of RM500,000.

To many Malaysians, when the topic is corruption, they would think of the police, customs, immigration, council enforcement officers and authorities with the power to arrest someone, to issue approvals or permits.

These authorities have earned such notoriety through mere generalisation or plain prejudice as there are surely many good and honest officials.

And of course, many Malaysians think lowly of high-level politicians, sniggering over their purported wealth even if they have little evidence and information.

The MACC must be commended for its successful investigations into the Sabah Water Department.

It has, in fact, led to loose talk among Sabahans that the MACC need only check the Facebook postings of some staff, even the low ranking ones, of another government department in the state to see the kind of lifestyle led by some of the workers.

There might not be sufficient evidence but the raid on the department will surely encourage more whistle blowers to tip off the MACC.

Malaysia ranked 54 among 168 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2015 with a score of 50 out of 100.

This is a drop from 50 out of 175 countries in the CPI 2014 with a score of 52 out of 100. High scores indicate a less corrupt perception.

Obviously, the 1MDB issue is a major perception issue and has affected the minds of many Malaysians, contributing to the slide in ranking.

In a 2014 news report, it said that the international accounting firm KPMG’s Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Survey 2013 revealed that an overwhelming 90% of business organisations feel that bribery and corruption is necessary to do business in Malaysia at the moment.


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Amended law gives public a say in high-impact developments

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Residents affected by high-impact projects such as coastal reclamation works will have an official platform to air their views, under amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act.

Malaysian Association of Social Impact Assessment president Datin Paduka Dr Dahlia Rosly said public participation was a vital part of any social impact assessment (SIA) report, which is needed by state and federal governments before going ahead with such projects.

“From the report, we can engage with the community on how they feel and then mitigate the social impact on those affected.

“It will be more people-centric. Communities can give their input to project developers,” she said in an interview.

Under the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Bill, which was passed in the Dewan Rakyat last Thursday, federal and state departments and agencies must seek the advice of the National Physical Planning Council before carrying out coastal reclamation and national infrastructure projects.

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar said the amendment included a new section for mandatory SIA reports to be submitted for planning approval.

Dahlia, a former Town and Country Planning Department director-general, said the SIA’s recommendations could include reducing potential negative impacts through changes in the design or operations of the project.

“We can also determine compensation for the affected groups or provide other solutions for such problems, including the substitution of facilities, resources or opportunities,” she said.

Among the criteria for projects requiring a detailed SIA report, as stated under Section 22 2(A) of the Town and Country Planning Act, is the development of a new township for populations exceeding 10,000 or an area covering over 100ha.


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Moderate celebrations for Hindus this year

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

KUALA LUMPUR: Hindus throughout the country observed Deepavali on a moderate scale with no major open houses, while for some in Selangor, the revelry was affected by water cuts.

The celebrations were markedly subdued out of respect for the six patients, including Hindu victims, who perished in Tuesday’s fire at the Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Baru, and their families.

In Johor, businessman T. Prapoo, 32, and his family observed a moment of silence and recited a prayer for those affected by the blaze.

“Our family will usually pray to our ancestors on Deepavali eve and take an oil bath the next morning before going to the temple to seek blessings but this year, we only had a quiet lunch at home.

“We prayed for those who died in the incident although we do not know them personally,” he said yesterday.

Johor Unity and Human Resources Committee chairman R. Vidyanathan urged Johoreans on Friday to observe Deepavali on a small scale following the tragedy.

For residents in the Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang districts in Selangor, their celebrations were somewhat dampened by a temporary shutdown of the Sungai Semenyih water treatment plant.

At press time, water supply had resumed in some areas but residents remained careful.

S. Selvi, 50, who lives in Putra Permai, Seri Kembangan, said she cooked a lot less than she usually did for Deepavali because “we don’t know if the water will be cut again”.

Bandar Puteri Puchong resident Lat Mayar, 52, postponed their celebration as the districts had gone through four water cuts in two months.

“I’ll be visiting homes instead of having an open house,” she said, adding that the biggest problem for her family was having to drive to Petaling Jaya at 7.30am yesterday to take a shower.

“We woke up early to do the traditional oil bath and then went to a relative’s place to bathe,” she said.

In Bandar Bukit Puchong, P. Komalam, 67, went ahead with her open house, serving food on brown wax paper and drinks in paper cups.

“We had water a few days ago and I have stored enough, but we still limit our use,” she said.

In Kuala Lumpur, the lack of Deepavali festivities in Batu Caves, where MIC was scheduled to have its open house before it was cancelled three days before the event, did not deter thousands of Hindus from thronging the temple there to offer their prayers.

For four-year-old Charan Guna­wardena, climbing the 272 steps of the temple for the first time was a memorable experience.

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SMK St Teresa hall catches fire, losses estimated at RM1 million

Sunday, October 30th, 2016
Fire destroyed the entire hall.

Fire destroyed the entire hall.

KUCHING: Fire destroyed the hall of 131-year-old SMK St Teresa here yesterday, causing losses of up to RM1 million.

Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) personnel reached the site at 5.07pm and extinguished the fire at 5.42pm.

According to Sister Patricia Chan, she was about to leave the all girls’ school when the fire broke out.

“We were having our meeting at the convent building nearby when it happened. We could only think of saving precious documents from our archives,” said teary-eyed Chan, who was worried about the SPM exam starting Nov 7.

“The fire was wild, and I was terrified. The ceiling was falling to the ground, and it was a scary sight.”

She thanked Bomba for their prompt response in containing the fire so that it would not spread to nearby school blocks.

Principle Mary John said the hall was undergoing a major renovation to its roofing and ceiling at a cost of RM200,000.

She added that the exams had to be done in the classrooms now, not in the hall as planned.

“However, the hall housed our text book room and PA system equipment, which were totally destroyed.”

Also razed were tables and chairs inside the hall; they were recently donated by former students.

“I have yet to look at the staff room to assess the level of damage,” Chan said.

The rewiring of the hall was done in 2012.

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Cabinet orders inspection of all old government buildings still in use

Saturday, October 29th, 2016
PUTRAJAYA: Cabinet has issued a directive that all old government buildings are to undergo safety inspections.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S Subramaniam said while these buildings were still structurally strong and usable, the safety features of the buildings still have to be inspected and approved by the Public ‎Works Department (PWD) and Fire and Rescue Department.

“For this ministry, we have 48 buildings that are more than 50 years old which need to be checked as they are in use as hospitals, clinics and research institutes,” said Subramaniam after a Cabinet meeting on Friday.

At the meeting, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was briefed on the old buildings that were still in use as schools, hospitals and offices.

On the buildings in use by the Health Ministry, Subramaniam said that the Ministry would be working with the PWD and Fire and Rescue Department to see if the buildings can still be used.

Subramaniam added that the Health Ministry and hospital authorities would follow the advice from experts, even if it meant stopping operations at the old buildings.

“The safety of patients, visitors, doctors and staff is of paramount importance. If we are told that it is not safe to use the facility, we will abide by the advice,” he said.

Subramaniam added that the fire audit for government hospitals is expected to start in two weeks and said that the Ministry is also waiting for the Fire and Rescue Department to submit a report on Tuesday’s fire at Hospital Sultanah Aminah in Johor Baru.


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Singapore to match in some form if road charge discriminates

Saturday, October 29th, 2016
SINGAPORE: Singapore may react in some form if the road charge implemented by Malaysia discriminates against Singapore-registered vehicles, the Straits Times reported.

It is referring to Malaysia’s latest move in introducing the RM20 road charge (RC) to all foreign private registered vehicles entering Malaysia via Johor.

“We note that Malaysia plans to implement a Road Charge of RM20 at the Causeway and Second Link checkpoints from November 1.

“If it discriminates against Singapore-registered vehicles, we will match it in some form,” a spokesman for Singapore’s Ministry of Transport was quoted as saying.

On Friday, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the RC would be collected each time motorists enter Malaysia via the Touch n Go card.

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MEF: Flexi-work hours solve traffic problems, increase productivity

Saturday, October 29th, 2016
KUALA LUMPUR: The Flexible Working Arrangement (FWA) should be encouraged in organisations in large cities as it could solve the problem of employees spending too much time on the road.

It could also increase productivity, said Executive Director of the Malaysian Employers’ Federation (MEF) Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan (pic).

He said contrary to the perception of most employers that the FWA jeopardised operations and made it difficult to monitor employees’ attendance, it did not affect productivity as the working hours and days were suited to the employees and needs of the employers.

“The FWA is really needed now because an employee in a large city wastes between two to three hours a day commuting to and from work because of traffic congestion…the FWA is the best solution,” he told Bernama.

Recently, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Abdul Rahman Dahlan said the government wanted more companies to implement the FWA so as to maximise productivity and performance.

He said a TalentCorp survey found that organisations which implemented the FWA enjoyed greater employee involvement and better business productivity.

Shamsuddin said the level of awareness of local companies about the FWA was still low compared to developed nations because many employers were still confused about it.

“Employers think they will lose money because the flexible hours would cause productivity to drop, but their fears are baseless as the FWA does not mean less working hours and reduced productivity,” he said, adding that the FWA could also help the nation be less dependent on foreign workers.

He said the FWA would also retain women employees who had served a long time, as most were inclined to resign for various reasons such as family commitments and the high cost of commuting to work.

“The number of women in the Malaysian workforce is still low, only about 53.6 percent compared to the number of women entering tertiary institutions which is more than 63.5 per cent. Many women choose to become full-time housewives because of the cost of looking after children and employing a maid is now high. They also want to spend more time looking after their aged parents,” he said.



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Women’s group holding talk on integrity and governance

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

PETALING JAYA: The Women’s Institute of Management (WIM) is organising its first-ever conference on integrity and governance, featuring four prominent speakers.

The speakers are former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam, Auditor-General Tan Sri Ambrin Buang, former Economic Planning Unit director-general Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Mahbob and former Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Latifah Merican Cheong.

WIM CEO Datuk Dr Nellie Tan-Wong said the conference, which would address issues challenging integrity and proper governance in Malaysia, was targeted at company directors and senior management in both public and private sectors.

“We want to openly talk about such issues in an intelligent, fair and professional way. We are not pointing fingers at anyone, whether they are in the public or private sector.

“Whenever company directors make decisions, they must ask themselves ‘Is this the correct way to do it?’. They must observe the rules of integrity and corporate governance,” said Tan-Wong.

There would also be opportunity for those attending the conference to give feedback and opinions, she said.

“Panelists will respond to the four keynote addresses and we will open the floor to questions and comments.

“We are employing a professional reporter for the purpose of recording the results and comments. We will table these to our board and submit our findings to the Government. As a responsible NGO, we feel that we have a role to play in informing the Government about what the people think on these subjects,” she said.

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