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Lone protestor stages hunger strike

SINGAPORE: A lone protestor is staging a "hunger strike" outside the Malaysian High Commission here against the arrest of the five Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) activists under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

The man, also carrying a placard containing photographs of the detainees, has been outside the commission at Jervois Road since early Monday.

This is the second protest at the high commission in the past month. On Dec 17, several members from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) presented a memorandum urging the Malaysian Government to respect human rights.

Malaysian High Commissioner to Singapore Datuk N. Parameswaran when contacted confirmed that a man was holding a placard outside the high commission on Monday.

"This incident is the second protest at the high commission.

"We are not sure whether he is a Malaysian. We leave it to the Singaporean authorities to handle the matter," he said, adding that so far the man has not passed any memorandum to the high commission.

On the SDP protest, Parameswaran only said that a memorandum was received and sent to Kuala Lumpur.

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Lorry driver arrested for lodging false report

PETALING JAYA: A lorry driver was arrested for lodging a false police report after he claimed his lorry laden with scrap metal had been hijacked.

Police also managed to arrest four men, including two scrap metal dealers, believed to be involved in the case.

Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Mazlan Mansor said the lorry driver in his 40s had lodged a report on Friday claiming that several men hijacked his lorry laden with 16 tonnes of aluminium in Banting.

He said the driver claimed that he had taken the load from Johor and was on his was to Port Klang when the incident allegedly occurred.

"His story sounded fishy and we arrested him. Upon interrogation we discovered that he had sold the aluminium to several of his friends including two scrap metal dealers from here and Kuala Lumpur,'' he said when contacted here Monday.

SAC Mazlan said police managed to detain four men including the scrap metal dealers in several areas in the Klang Valley on Sunday and recovered the aluminium.

He said the suspects in their 40s including the driver have been remanded for further investigations, adding that the driver was being investigated for lodging a false report while the other men were being investigated for robbery and buying stolen property.

Those caught buying such goods could be charged under Section 411 of the Penal Code which carries a five-year jail term with a possible fine.

They can also be charged for robbery under Section 379 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail term of up to seven years, a fine or both, upon conviction.

"I urge scrap metal dealers not to buy stolen goods. Their licence can be revoked and the shop closed if dealers are found buying stolen scrap metal,'' warned SAC Mazlan.

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Lorry driver arrested for lodging false report

PETALING JAYA: A lorry driver was arrested for lodging a false police report after he claimed his lorry laden with scrap metal had been hijacked.

Police also managed to arrest four men, including two scrap metal dealers, believed to be involved in the case.

Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Mazlan Mansor said the lorry driver in his 40s had lodged a report on Friday claiming that several men hijacked his lorry laden with 16 tonnes of aluminium in Banting.

He said the driver claimed that he had taken the load from Johor and was on his was to Port Klang when the incident allegedly occurred.

"His story sounded fishy and we arrested him. Upon interrogation we discovered that he had sold the aluminium to several of his friends including two scrap metal dealers from here and Kuala Lumpur,'' he said when contacted here Monday.

SAC Mazlan said police managed to detain four men including the scrap metal dealers in several areas in the Klang Valley on Sunday and recovered the aluminium.

He said the suspects in their 40s including the driver have been remanded for further investigations, adding that the driver was being investigated for lodging a false report while the other men were being investigated for robbery and buying stolen property.

Those caught buying such goods could be charged under Section 411 of the Penal Code which carries a five-year jail term with a possible fine.

They can also be charged for robbery under Section 379 of the Penal Code, which carries a jail term of up to seven years, a fine or both, upon conviction.

"I urge scrap metal dealers not to buy stolen goods. Their licence can be revoked and the shop closed if dealers are found buying stolen scrap metal,'' warned SAC Mazlan.

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Johor to kick off 12 mega projects under IDR

JOHOR BARU: About 12 mega projects totalling billions of ringgit are expected to kick off in 2008 under the Iskandar Development Region (IDR).

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Abdul Ghani Othman said among the projects scheduled for implementation in the first quarter of the year are earthworks for the RM4.2bil Node 1 project in Nusajaya and the RM1bil Eastern Dispersal Link.

He said the other big projects include the 15km RM1bil Coastal Highway linking Johor Baru with Nusajaya, and the RM900mil clean up of Sungai Skudai, Segget and Tebrau.

“The new state administrative centre in Nusajaya, worth RM1.2bil, is also expected to start operations by March,” he told reporters at a press conference to deliver his New Year message.

Abdul Ghani said, in addition, around 8,000 squatters would be resettled at a cost of RM583mil, while the RM500mil MSC Cyber City project in Kulai would also begin.

“We will also enhance safety and security under the IDR to the tune of RM330mil,” he said.

Abdul Ghani said he was optimistic that 2008 would be the year to implement the scheduled projects under the IDR.

He also dismissed concerns that a possible recession of the US economy would negatively impact development projects in the region, saying that smaller countries would enjoy high growth rates.

“Besides US and Europe, everybody is optimistic about economic growth and we expect the world rate of growth to go beyond 6%, even in Africa,” he said.

Abdul Ghani said he was confident the IDR would continue to attract large foreign and local investments in 2008.

“I want to stress here that the IDR is not just for foreign investors. We want Malaysians to use the opportunity to invest in the project as well,” he said.

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Illegal racers attack police patrol car

JOHOR BARU: Police detained 37 people for illegal racing and attacking a police patrol car.

Johor Baru (North) OCPD Asst Comm Ruslan Hassan said the racers aged between 14 and 30, had surrounded the police vehicle at about 1.30am Sunday in Kempas, Johor, and attacked it.

"They kicked and rammed the vehicle. The patrol unit had previously arrived at the area to investigate on reports of illegal racing," he said adding that, they were attacked, as they were about to return to the police station.

ACP Ruslan said a team of more than 20 police personnel were rushed to the scene once the patrol unit reported the incident.

"We cordoned off the area and arrested the racers.

"We also seized a total of 29 motorcycles," he said adding that nobody was injured during the incident.

ACP Ruslan said the racers were also detained for other offences.

"Hundreds of racers had taken part in the race on Saturday night.

"Attacking a police vehicle is a serious offence and it will not be tolerated," he said.

ACP Ruslan urged anyone with information to contact the police hotline at 07-221 2999 or go to the nearest police station.

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Family attacked by youths at beach

KOTA TINGGI: A day at the beach turned sour when a family was attacked by some youths.

The 18 family members were having a picnic at Desaru Beach at 7.30am Sunday when 14 youths attacked them using steel rods and wooden sticks.

The assault left six family members injured while their assailants fled in two cars.

Kota Tinggi OCPD Supt Osman Mohamed Sebot said police soon tracked down the suspects at a fruit stall nearby some two hours later and arrested them.

"We believe they were under the influence of alcohol when they committed the offence.

"We will investigate further and we will explore all angles," he said, adding that such crimes would not go unpunished.

Supt Osman said the six victims sustained minor injuries and were not warded.

"Both groups were from Johor Baru and had been staying in Desaru since Saturday.

"The attack was caused by some argument between the groups," he said.

Supt Osman said the case had been classified under Section 148 of the Penal Code for rioting, armed with a deadly weapon.

"The suspects will be remanded on Monday," he said.

Supt Osman urged anyone with information to contact the police hotline at 07-221 2999 or go to the nearest police station.

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Three days of mourning-the death of former Pakistan prime minister

Three days of mourning

Sharing the grief: US deputy chief of mission to Malaysia David B. Shear signing a condolence book at the Pakistan High Commission in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. — AFP
KUALA LUMPUR: The Pakistan High Commission here will observe three days of mourning following the death of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in Rawalpindi on Thursday.

Acting High Commissioner Mohammad Jamshaid Iftikhar said they opened a condolence book from 3pm to 5.30pm yesterday and would do so again on Monday from 10am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 5.30pm.

“We have three days of mourning in the Pakistan High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, like all other Pakistan high commissions abroad.

Mark of respect: The national flag of Pakistan flying at half-mast on the premises the Pakistani High Commission in Kuala Lumpur yesterday. — AFP
“The Pakistan flag will be flown at half mast to pay respect to the former prime minister and to mark the tragic loss the country has to endure,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Iftikhar said the high commission had received numerous calls from Malaysian as well as Pakistani leaders in the country.

“The office of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called this morning and conveyed condolences and we have received many phone calls from many other leading Malaysian members of the society who share the grief,” he said

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Govt will not be cowed, says Najib

KENINGAU: The Government will take stern action against any group bent on creating chaos in the country to gain power, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

The deputy prime minister said the Government would not be cowed by the opposition tactic of creating chaos to run down the country.

Najib said the Barisan Nasional government was not frightened and would not hesitate to use the laws to check those causing trouble.

“The talk is that they (opposition) say we want to impose emergency rule.

“We do not want to do that,” he said adding that Barisan was always committed to the democratic process but will not be undermined by elements trying to bring about chaos.

“We are not frightened by them, we are not apologetic as they have many skeletons,” he said when opening the 12th Congress of Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah headed by Tan Sri Joseph Kurup.

“We are not denying the democratic right of anyone or their human rights but who will ensure their future if conflicts arise when someone is sacrificed or properties damaged? Who will be responsible for all these chaos?

“Are those who demonstrate on the streets going to be responsible? These people only want to fulfil their political agenda,” he said.

Najib said opposition leaders were accusing the Election Commission for their losses but reminded them that Barisan, too, had lost in elections.

“If the Election Commission was on our side, we would not have lost in Sabah. But when people of Sabah realised Barisan could defend their rights, they gave us their full support as seen in 2004,” he added.

Najib said Barisan would ensure a good future for the Kadazandusun and Murut communities and the soon-to-be-launched Sabah development corridor would provide more opportunities for all.

In his speech, Kurup said there should be more job opportunities for locals who were being sidelined by the large number of illegal immigrants taking up lower-paying jobs.

He hoped that the government would help the rural youths with vocational training opportunities to enable them to enter the skilled job market.

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PM condemns Benazir assassination

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi expressed shock over the death of Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who was also former Prime Minister of the country.

He strongly condemned her assassination and the suicide attack which also killed many innocent people.

While expressing his condolences to Benazir's family, he said to resort to extremism and violence was unacceptable and could not be tolerated.

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Malaysians advised to postpone travel to Pakistan

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians planning to travel to Pakistan have been advised to postpone their visit because of the tense situation there following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was also the opposition leader.

Acting Malaysian High Commissioner to Pakistan Roseli Abdul said the situation was tense because of violent protests by people who were angered by her assassination.

Malaysians in Pakistan have also been advised to avoid crowded public places and to be careful when moving around.

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Police smash gang of PJ robbers

PETALING JAYA: Police believe they have smashed a gang of robbers preying on pedestrians in Petaling Jaya.

With the arrest of the suspects, aged 19 and 20, police believe that they have solved several cases of robberies involving pedestrians in Sungai Way, Kelana Jaya and other areas here.

Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Arjunaidi said the suspects were arrested near the Giant Hypermarket last Saturday, just as they were about to rob a member of the public.

"The suspects who were usually armed with a parang and screwdriver, preyed on victims who walked alone along five-foot ways and lonely roads,'' he said, adding that in some of the cases the suspects had injured their victims who had put up a fight.

ACP Arjunaidi said investigations showed that the jobless suspects did not have any previous criminal records.

He said police were still investigating as to how long the suspects were involved in robbery activities, adding that police were investigating them under Section 395/397 of the Penal Code, which carries a maximum jail sentence of 20 years upon conviction.

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Judges: Go back to civil court

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court ruled that the dispute between secretary R. Subashini and her Muslim-convert husband T. Saravanan over the dissolution of their marriage and child custody will continue to be under the jurisdiction of the civil court.

In the 2-1-majority landmark decision yesterday, the three judges agreed on this point with the third judge dissenting on all other issues raised.

Federal Court judge Justice Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman said a non-Muslim's marriage did not automatically dissolved upon one of the parties' conversion to Islam.

“Thus, by contracting the civil marriage, the husband and wife are bound by the 1976 Act (Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act) marriage in respect to divorce and custody of the children of the marriage, and thus, the civil court continues to have jurisdiction over him, notwithstanding his conversion to Islam,” he said.

In his judgment, Justice Nik Hashim said by embracing Islam, Saravanan and his eldest son were subject to Muslim personal and religious laws.

“It is not an abuse of process, if he, being a Muslim, seeks remedies in the Syariah High Court as it is his right to do so,” he said.

Justice Nik Hashim, who sat together with Federal Court judges Justices Abdul Aziz Mohamad and Azmel Maamor, said this:

“To my mind, the dissolution order of the civil marriage by the Syariah High Court by virtue of conversion would have no legal effect in the (civil) High Court other than as evidence of the fact of the dissolution of the marriage under the Islamic law in accordance with Hukum Syarak.

“Thus, the non-Muslim marriage between the husband and wife remains intact and continues to subsist until the High Court dissolves it pursuant to a petition for divorce by the unconverted spouse under Section 51(1) of the 1976 Act.”

He said there was no impediment for the converted husband to appear in the divorce proceedings in the civil High Court.

“The wife, being a non-Muslim, has no locus in the syariah court,” he said.

Both judges also agreed that although the syariah courts are state courts, they are not lower in status than the civil courts.

Justices Nik Hashim and Azmel, who threw out Subashini's appeal, said the divorce petition filed at the High Court by Subashini was premature and invalid as it was filed two months and 18 days after the husband's conversion to Islam.

The judge ruled that the petition should have been filed after three months.

Justice Nik Hashim said it was his view that Subashini was entitled to proceed with her application for custody rights of her children but it would be most appropriate if she filed her petition for divorce afresh.

He said the conversion of the elder son to Islam by the husband, albeit under the Selangor Enactment, did not violate the Federal Constitution.

He added that either spouse had the right to convert a child of the marriage to Islam.

“The word 'parent' in Article 12(4) of the Constitution, which states that the religion of a person under the age of 18 years shall be decided by his parent or guardian, means a single parent,” Justice Nik Hashim said.

Justice Azmel concurred with him on those points.

In September last year, the Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Subashini's application to stop Saravanan from resolving their marital problems in the syariah court.

On March 13, Court of Appeal had, in a 2-1 majority judgment, said Subashini had recourse to seek in the syariah court for divorce and child custody.

Subashini, 29, and Saravanan, 32, have yet to finalise their divorce.

They have two children - Dharvin Joshua, four, and two-year-old Sharvin.

Justice Abdul Aziz's dissenting judgment is 112 pages.

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Two killed in landslide

KUCHING: A 13-year-old boy and an elderly woman were buried alive in a landslide that destroyed nine wooden houses in Kapit.

Rescuers are still searching for two others, believed to be from the same family, in the landslide at Lorong 1, Kampung Baru Cina early yesterday. The search was called off late afternoon due to heavy rain.

Seven people from several families were injured.

Deadly landslide: Workers going through the rubble of a house in Kapit, near Kuching after a landslide early Wednesday. A 13-year-old boy and an elderly woman were buried alive in the mishap. Police are looking for two others still missing.
The dead were identified as Dayang ak Dayak, 53, and Frederick Bradley anak Peter, believed to be her grandson.

The missing duo could be Dayang's daughter, in her 30’s, and another grandchild, a Year Two pupil.

The bodies of Dayang and Bradley had yet to be removed from the rubble as of late yesterday afternoon.

Six of the injured, Emilia Ngu, 11, Ngui Koah Ming, 45, Jennifer Ngui, 17, Sadiah Jambal, 44, Yaw Ah Bah, 76, Yaw Seng Hock, 37, Kong Mee Chu, 43 and Kong Man Huat were given out-patient treatment at the Kapit Hospital.

The seventh, identified only as Ah Seng, 30, was warded.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the landslide caused one of the houses on the hillslope to collapse, which brought down other houses.

He said the landslide could have occurred as the soil had softened after abnormally heavy rains on Tuesday night.

Danger looms: One of the wooden houses in Kampung Baru Cina perched precariously on the hillslope where Wednesday’s landslide occurred.
Between 10pm and midnight, some 122mm of rain was recorded.

Dr Chan said the houses were built on land belonging to an association and the occupants had earlier been instructed to be relocated to Beleth where approvals had been given to 36 families.

He said other families in the vicinity of the landslide had been asked to move out.

“Welfare aid is being distributed to the affected families,” he added.

About 60 firemen and personnel from other agencies had to wait until daybreak to carry out search operations.

Dr Chan also warned residents in Sibu and central Sarawak to brace for a second wave of floods following heavy rains in the upper Rejang River basin.

He said if the rains continued, flooding in the lower regions of the river could not be avoided, as there would be high tides in the next few days.

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Govt concerned about drug-trafficking trend

KUALA LUMPUR: The increasing number of cases involving young Malaysian women caught for trafficking drugs has the Foreign Ministry worried.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Syed Albar said there were now more than 50 cases that his ministry had come across from all around the world.

"The syndicates, all headed by foreigners, are operating out of here. We must not allow our people to be used in this manner," he said.

Syed Hamid said by and large, many of the women involved were duped and did not know what they were getting themselves into and were blinded by the promises of making lots of money.

"Some who do know what they are doing may have also assumed that other countries do not have the death sentence for trafficking or smuggling drugs," he said, adding that the police were seriously looking into such cases.

Syed Hamid said some of the countries Malaysians had been caught in included Australia, New Zealand, Venezuela and China

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Public warned against attending gathering near palace

KUALA KANGSAR: Members of the public have been warned against attending an illegal gathering scheduled to be held next to Istana Iskandariah, the official palace of the Sultan of Perak, on Friday night.

Kuala Kangsar OCPD Supt Zakaria Pagan said that the police had not issued any permit for the gathering organised by a group called Malaysians For Solidarity.

"Those found at the gathering will be deemed as participants of an illegal assembly," he said.

Supt Zakaria said those found in possession of a pamphlet on the gathering, or those found distributing it, were also breaking the law since the pamphlet did not carry the identity of the printer nor the publisher, an offence under Section 11 (2) of the Machine and Printing Act 1984.

"Those possessing or found distributing such pamphlets can be jailed up to a year or fined up to RM5,000," he said, adding that those found participating in an illegal assembly could be charged under Section 27 (2) of the Police Act 1967.

"They can be punished under Section 27 (8) of the Police Act where they are liable to be fined not less than RM2,000 and not more than RM10,000 and jailed up to a year," he said.

"I urge members of the public not to attend the gathering because stern action will be taken by the police," he said.

He said the gathering should not be held there not only for security reasons but the location was also inappropriate due to its proximity to the palace.

Supt Zakaria also said even though the organiser of the gathering had not applied for a police permit, nevertheless he did receive an application from PAS on Dec 24 to organise a talk at the same place and time.

"It's a political `ceramah' and after studying and giving due consideration to the application, I have decided against issuing a permit for the gathering supposedly to be attended by about 1,000 people," he said, adding that the applicant of the permit had been duly informed of the rejection.

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Smart offer for tags

Wednesday December 26, 2007

PAGOH: A 10% discount and insurance coverage will be given to highway users who purchase Smart Tags from Feb 1, said Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu.

This means motorists will pay RM90 per unit instead of the present RM100.

Samy Vellu said that those who purchase the tags and Touch ‘N Go cards would also be provided a free insurance package for the loss or damage of the items.

“They will also be eligible for personal accident insurance worth RM10,000 and compensation for medical expenses worth RM2,000 for the period of one year from Etiqa Insurance and Takaful,” he said.

He was speaking to reporters at a press conference after the launch of the newly-refurbished southbound Pagoh rest stop along the North-South Expressway (NSE).

Samy Vellu said that the price reduction was decided upon after discussions between the Government, the highway concessionaires and Rangkaian Segar Sdn Bhd, the manufacturers of the Smart Tags and Touch ‘N Go cards.

“The price promotion and insurance scheme is one of the Government’s methods of encouraging the use of Smart Tags and reducing the traffic congestion at toll plazas,” he said.

He also said that the third lane between Seremban and Ayer Keroh on the NSE has been completed and is now open to motorists while the Rawang-Slim River stretch is expected to be ready before Chinese New Year next year.

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Johor has second highest number of drug addicts

JOHOR BARU: The state has the second highest number of drug addicts in the country, up from fourth spot last year.

Penang has the most number of addicts, while Federal Territory takes third spot.

State National Anti-Drug Agency rehabilitation assistant director Abbas Sudar said this did not mean that the drug addiction problem was worsening in the state, as statistics show that the trend was on the decline.

“There has been a decrease in the number of addicts nationwide and also in Johor. But some states have a higher rate of decline, which pushed Johor up the ranking,” he said.

“About half of the addicts detected are in Johor Baru,” he said yesterday.

Abbas added that one of the challenges faced by the agency was the high number of relapse cases.

“After going to Pusat Serenti and getting rehabilitated, they are physically okay and the body is free from drugs,” he said.

“But their minds are trapped. They have the urge to take drugs again, thus causing a relapse.”

Abbas said it was important that society worked closely with the agency to tackle the issue more efficiently.

Responding to the call is the Johor Baru Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which will be organising an anti-drug exhibition and talk on Dec 29 and 30.

“It will be held at the Taman Ungku Tun Aminah community hall,” said its president Datuk Soh Poh Sheng.

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Hisham: Never mind the uniform

MARAN: Attend school even if you do not have your uniforms on the first day of the new session.

“I am worried as there are students who have said they would not be attending school because their uniforms were lost or destroyed in the floods,” Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said at a gotong royong to clean up SK Paya Pasir, here yesterday.

Setting an example: Hishammuddin (second from left), Pahang Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob (third from left) and Deputy Mentri Besar Datuk Tan Aminuddin Tan Ishak (fourth from left) cleaning up the floor of SK Paya Pasir in Maran yesterday.
He said school principals had to understand there were students who had lost their uniforms in the floods.

He said the Government wanted to see all pupils and students attend school on Jan 3.

“There will not be any punishment if they are not in their school uniforms,” Hishammuddin said, adding that the students should also not be embarrassed if they were without the uniforms.

He also urged textbook suppliers to double their effort to print the books so that they could be delivered on time.

The Meteorological Department has forecasted less rain over the coming days in all states except Sabah and Sarawak.

Moderate occasional rainfall is expected in Sarawak while rain is expected in eastern Sabah in the morning and western Sabah in the afternoon.

The statement said high tide was expected at several places off the peninsula, Sarawak and western Sabah for five days beginning today.

In PAHANG, the flood situation has improved, with the number of evacuees having dropped to 8,807 from 10,172 early yesterday.

The main road linking Pekan and Kuantan is still closed to all vehicles while Jalan Pekan-Paloh Hinai has been opened to heavy vehicles.

In KELANTAN, state Education Director Ismail Mohd Nor said schools would open for the new school year as scheduled on Jan 2 as the situation has returned to normal.

He said all school heads had been instructed to make the necessary preparations.

In JOHOR, the number of flood evacuees in the state continued to drop with only 266 people remaining in seven flood relief centres in Segamat. All roads in the state are now passable.

In ALOR STAR, all flood victims in Kedah have returned home and the water level at rivers have fallen below the danger level.

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Hisham: It was not a threat

MARAN: Umno Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said his statement on what Gerakan Youth deputy chief S. Paranjothy said was not a threat.

“I was not threatening anyone nor being emotional,” he told reporters after taking a look at the flood situation here yesterday.

He was commenting on the remark by Gerakan acting president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon who said that Hishammuddin should not have threatened the party by giving it an ultimatum to clarify matters following a statement made by Paranjothy on the social issues of Indians in the country.

Hishammuddin had earlier expressed regret over the remark made by Paranjothy, and demanded that Gerakan explain itself.

He said there were people, especially the Opposition, who would take advantage of the issue.

Hishammuddin added that Umno Youth would not hesitate to suspend any member if he had been found to have made statements which could hurt the feelings of other Barisan Nasional component parties.

Meanwhile, Paranjothy said he would wait for the outcome of the party’s disciplinary committee’s meeting on the statement he made before deciding on the next course of action.

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PM to get temple report from MIC

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has asked the MIC to monitor all the temples in the country and periodically submit a report on their status to the Cabinet, MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said.

He said the Prime Minister had specifically wanted the MIC to forward to him and the Cabinet the list of any temples that may have to be demolished for various reasons.

“As temple issues are sensitive, a new approach is necessary to resolve them and the MIC will completely take over this task,” Samy Vellu, who is also Works Minister, said in a statement here yesterday.

He said he would be travelling to all the states soon to prepare a report on the number of temples in the country and their problems.

“We will identify the illegally-built temples first and check on their status. We want to know if there have been any moves or notices to demolish or relocate them,” he said.

Following Abdullah’s directive, Samy Vellu has asked the Federal Territory MIC chief Datuk M. Saravanan and Selangor state executive councillor Kamala Ganapathy to organise a meeting of temple heads in their respective states.

He said the meetings were to verify the status of the land on which the temples were built, to secure land reservations in all new housing development areas and to seek the registration of all temples.

“What is more important is that suitable alternative sites will have to be allocated first before any temples are relocated,” he said.

He said similar meetings would be held in other states, with the third meeting scheduled in Perak.

“I will scrutinise all matters concerning temples to ensure that no temples are demolished in the future and if they have to be demolished, suitable alternative sites must be allocated.

“No temple will be demolished without a thorough check and discussions with the MIC,” he said.

Samy Vellu said Abdullah had given assurance that the Government would provide the necessary support in resolving matters involving temples.

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Celebrating Christmas the Filipino way in Penang

PENANG: For Malaysian-born Filipino Donicio Geronimo, Christmas has been an important family affair to get together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

The 71-year-old, who is of Filipino-Chinese parentage, said the family observed a few simple Filipino traditions, despite being “very Malaysian” in their culture and ways through the years.

Malaysian-born Filipino Donicio Geronimo, 71, (centre) showing his wife Chan Yoke Eng, 66, the two presents he received during Christmas celebrations at their house in Bukit Gedong, Bayan Baru, Penang. Joining them are the couple’s son Pedro Marciano, 38, (seated, right), daughter-in-law Chan Wee Nee, 38, (standing, left) and grandchildren Julio Mariano, seven, (on Yoke Eng's lap), Samantha Lianna, nine, (fourth, left) and Marco Danielo, 12, (at the piano). — K.T. GOH / The Star
On Christmas Day, Donicio said his wife Chan Yoke Eng, 66, would prepare special Filipino-style roast beef and pineapple chicken dishes for lunch, as well as sweet-sour pork, lor bak, fried chicken and mixed vegetables.

“She once prepared a roast turkey for Christmas but the family members did not like it, so we returned to preparing the usual dishes.

“She learnt some of the dishes from my late mother Maggie Yong,” he said at his house in Bukit Gedong, Bayan Baru here.

Donicio, a retired Penang Port Commission (PPC) storekeeper, was born in Taiping, Perak. The couple has three sons – Aelfredo Marcello, 41, Pedro Marciano, 38, and 33-year-old Emilio Conrado.

Donicio said the family observed a traditional Filipino way of greeting their elders that was taught by his late father Inigo Geronimo, a professional clarinet and saxophone player.

“My children and grandchildren will take the hands of their elders to their foreheads to receive their blessings,” he said.

After attending midnight mass at the Church of the Holy Spirit (The Cathedral) off Jalan Mesjid Negri on Christmas Eve, he said the family would congregate at his sister Maria’s place in Jalan Kebun Nyior for a potluck feast.

He said about 40 family members would attend the gathering, where they would wish one another Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas) and exchange gifts.

Pedro, a company finance assistant, said his children Marco Danielo, 12, Samantha Lianna, nine, and Julio Mariano, seven, were given Spanish names, in keeping with family tradition.

The Geronimos are also musically inclined. Pedro is a cantor in the church choir while Emilio plays guitar.

“My son, Marco is now learning to play the piano, while Samantha is into singing,” said Pedro.

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Zoo must improve safety measures

KUALA LUMPUR: Visitors to Zoo Negara had mixed reactions to the issue of safety in the zoo, after a leopard attacked a five-year old girl.

While most thought parents should be responsible for their children’s safety, some said the zoo should buck up in its safety measures.

The star: Manja is becoming centre of attraction Zoo Negara. The zoo been put spotlight Manja clawed young visitor Saturday. Safety measures be seen Manja’s enclosure yesterday.
Jham Shari Muda, 33, who came from Pahang with his wife and children, said parents should watch their kids.

“If all visitors followed the rules, such an incident would not have occurred,” he said.

Daryn Howell, a 43-year old engineer, however thought the current zoo safety measures were not adequate.

“Although parents play a role as well, it is the responsibility of the zoo to ensure the safety of visitors,” he said.

Haw Qian Tong was attacked by Manja, a leopard at the zoo, on Saturday.

She was clawed from the back and suffered injuries to her neck and mouth, and is currently recuperating in hospital.

Prabarkaran Somasundram, a civil servant from Kuantan, said parental negligence was a factor but the zoo management should improve on the existing safety precautions.

“I would still bring my family here, though, because this is our national zoo,” he said.

Zoo Negara director Dr Mohamad Ngah said the attack was a one-off incident, and was the first since he joined the zoo three years ago.

“There are ample safety measures and signs prohibiting the public from getting too close,” he said, adding that the zoo’s safety measures were certified by the South-East Asian Zoos Association.

Citing an example of the uncooperative public, Mohamad said there was a visitor who sat on the glass wall of the tiger enclave to snap pictures.

“When we advised him to stay behind the safety wall, he told us he had paid RM15 for the entrance fee and should be allowed to do what he wanted,” he said.

Mohamad also demonstrated the measures taken by the management to ensure public safety.

A red tape has been used to seal Manja’s cage after the incident, warning visitors to keep a safe distance.

When asked if the management would impose stricter safety measures, he said the zoo would instead educate the public on safety regulations.

“I think this incident will not have a negative impact on the crowd visiting the zoo. In fact, I expect to see more people come out of curiosity,” he said.

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Put country’s interest first, says PM

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysians should move forward and put the country’s interest before any “narrowly defined demands”, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

In his Christmas message to all, he said the peace that has prevailed in the country over most of the past 50 years of independence was due to sheer hard work from the people and a strong sense of responsibility among Malaysians.

“Over the last few months, narrow-mindedness and intolerance, propounded by a small group, have served to test our faith in each other.

“Therefore, in celebrating Christmas today, I am happy to note that Malaysians of all faiths continue the tradition of sharing and caring – a tradition that we have practised all these years,” he said.

Abdullah said Malaysians have seen over the years how love and compassion helped them break down racial barriers.

Love and compassion, he said, also helped Malaysians understand the adversity faced by the less fortunate and the marginalised.

“Despite all the rhetoric, the great religions of the world practised across Malaysia share many universal beliefs.

“None is more evident than our central belief in the power of love and compassion,” he said, adding that Malaysians must believe that the country was truly greater than the sum of her parts.

The Prime Minister urged all Malaysians to lend a helping hand to those who have to spend the festive season in great hardship.

“In this spirit and as we celebrate Christmas with all who are important to us, our thoughts also go out to the unfortunate and all who face hardship at this time – such as the flood victims in our country.

“Lastly, let me take this opportunity to wish my fellow Malaysians of the Christian faith a very happy Christmas,” he said.

Abdullah will be the guest of honour at the Christmas high-tea reception here today hosted by KL Archbishop Datuk Murphy Pakiam. The prime minister will be accompanied by his wife, Datin Paduka Seri Jeanne Abdullah.

Heads of churches, Cabinet members, leaders of other religious groups and foreign dignitaries are expected to be at the event.

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Malaysia needs moderation, not extremism, says PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians must give priority to moderation and not be dragged into extremism, as it would pull the people apart, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

He said if the people did not emphasise on moderation, they would be easily pressured and influenced by extremism.

"If moderation does not take centre stage, extremism will take the place and we will all be dragged into it, it comes from the basis of religion, race or groups.

"This is what we should watch out for, this is what it give us problems," said Abdullah in his speech at a Christmas tea party organised by the Christian Federation of Malaysia and hosted by KL Archbishop Datuk Murphy Pakiam.

He also called on the people to uphold the spirit of tolerance and mutual respect that they had been practising in a multi-racial community.

The Prime Minister said the country needed the strength of tolerance and friendship, which the people had for each other for the country to continue to grow and prosper.

He said Malaysi was a land of opportunity and a land where everyone knew how to respect one another and knew how to give and take.

Abdullah said everyone wanted a peaceful and harmonious country to live in, adding that this should the ultimate goal of every Malaysian.

"This is our responsibility that we have to carry out diligently, so that our country will become a peaceful country.

"I'm aware of religious issues that happen from time to time and we should solve these problems together with a very high level of understanding, tolerance and respect," he said.

Abdullah said he was very happy to be invited to the party, as he could see people of different religion, namely Buddhists, Hindus and Christians, getting together at the event.

"If we sit together and eat the same food, it symbolises the friendship, degree of tolerance and mutual respect," he added.

He also cited the similarities that Christian and Islam shared, adding that in the Quran, Jesus (Prophet Isa) was a servant of God.

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‘Opposition exploiting illegal rally issue’

KUALA LUMPUR: The Indian community must not be duped by the activities of the group that is behind the illegal assemblies, which have in turn been exploited by the opposition.

MIC Youth chief S.A. Vigneswaran said the opposition had caused confusion within the Indian community to woo their votes.

“The opposition leaders, especially the Indians, are also trying to use this opportunity to champion this group's leaders,” he told reporters here on Saturday.

He said all divisional MIC Youth leaders had been asked to go to the ground to study the unsolved problems and have discussions with the Indian groups in their areas beginning yesterday.

“I want a more aggressive and effective network of cooperation in the MIC Youth,” Vigneswaran said.

He said this after chairing a two-hour meeting attended by about 200 youth members and leaders from the 19 Selangor divisions.

Vigneswaran said all races had their problems, adding the government did not practise favouritism and would strive to maintain racial cooperation and unity in the country.

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Palanivel: Indians won’t abandon the Government

KUALA LUMPUR: The Indians will continue to vote for Barisan Nasional because of the hard work put in by the MIC, said deputy president Datuk G. Palanivel.

“The Indian voters are loyal to Barisan. They know we have served our constituencies and cultivated the relationship with the people,” he said.

He was commenting on the statement by DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang that the Malaysian Indian votes could no longer be regarded as a solid vote bank for Barisan after the Hindu Rights Action Force rallies.

Palanivel said Lim was only referring to the voice of a splinter group, which had organised the illegal gatherings.

The Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister said Barisan-elected representatives must continue to work hard in their constituencies and keep their voters.

“The majority of the Indian voters know that voting for the opposition will not be a solution to some of the unresolved issues,” he said.

MIC-owned Social Strategic Foundation executive director Datuk Denison Jayasooria said the Indians had not come to a point where they would abandon the government in the general election.

He said the government had always assisted the various communities and it was premature for Lim to “count the chickens before they are hatched.”

“The MIC is not in a denial mode and (MIC president) Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu has recognised the issues and is addressing them.

“He is not one who sits in an ivory tower, who is not in touch with the grassroots,” he said adding that Indians were rational, level-headed and would not abandon a long-term relationship.

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Traditional celebration at 190-year-old church

PENANG: The St George’s Church, the oldest Anglican church in South-East Asia, is all geared up for its Christmas celebration this year.

The Christmas tree is up, decorations are done and the choir is ready to welcome the celebrations.

The 190-year-old church, said vicar Joel Leow, was not planning anything out of the ordinary this year because Christmas itself was special enough.

In prayer: Churchgoers singing special hymns during their Sunday service to usher in Christmas at the St George’s Church in Penang.
“Christmas on its own is special as it observes the birth of Jesus Christ. We do not have to organise anything extraordinary to make it more special than it already is.

“Christmas these days is getting more and more commercialised. This is the time to really understand what Christmas is about,” he explained.

Leow: ‘Christmas on its own is special as it observes the birth of Jesus Christ’
With their annual children’s Christmas concert, play, carolling and party done, the church is preparing to have a traditional Christmas Eve service tonight, starting from 10pm.

“We will try to have our Christmas Eve service as close to midnight as possible so we expect the service to finish around 12am.

“The service on Christmas day at 10.30am will have a more contemporary approach to make things easier for those with young children who cannot make it on Christmas Eve,” he said.

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Early warning system on slope movements

IPOH: An early warning system on slope movements has been installed to ensure the safety of motorists travelling along the Simpang Pulai-Pos Slim road to Cameron Highlands.

The warning system, which records slope movements at Gunung Pass, is part of several measures to ensure the 56km-long road is not dangerous to motorists.

“It is safe to use the road despite the current rainy spell because adequate measures have been taken to check soil erosion along the route,” Perak Public Utility and Infrastructure Committee chairman Datuk Ho Cheng Wang said Monday.

Ho said the warning system, installed at a cost of RM500,000, would give real-time data of earth movements on the unstable slopes of Gunung Pass.

Top officers at the Perak Public Works Department (PWD) would receive a notification on their mobile phone if the earth movement recorded were at an alarming rate, he said.

“With that, we can send out early warnings to motorists should there be a need for us to stop them from using the road,” he said, adding that the computerised early-warning system was set up in early December and was now on a trial run.

Soil erosion is known to occur along the Simpang Pulai-Pos Slim road, particularly at Gunung Pass, during a downpour.

The road is popular among motorists travelling from here to Cameron Highlands because it reduces the travelling time by more than an hour.

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Paranjothy stands by his statement

KUALA LUMPUR: Gerakan Youth vice-chief S. Paranjothy will wait for the outcome of the party’s disciplinary committee meeting on a statement he made before deciding on his next course of action.

“I have already made the statement and I stand by it. I will accept whatever decision made by the party,” he said.

He was quoted in the Internet as saying that Indians were treated as fourth-class citizens, a statement that has stirred up some unpleasantness in the community and Barisan Nasional.

He said the Indians took part in the illegal demonstration organised by Hindraf to express their “frustration and anger” because the community was marginalised, oppressed and ignored.

Acting party president Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon said on Sunday that Paranjothy would face the disciplinary committee and central working committee for making racially sensitive remarks.

Paranjothy said he would attend the disciplinary committee hearing and put forward his views if asked to attend it.

Officials said the disciplinary committee’s decision would be brought to the party’s central working council, which normally endorses the decision.

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Give jobs to drug rehabs

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF) urged the government and private sector to provide employment to rehabilitated drug addicts in an effort to curb the snatch theft menace.

Its vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said that having jobs could help keep them away from crime.

He said if they did not have jobs they would continue to get involved in petty crimes such as snatch theft.

"I suggest they be given a chance to re-integrate into society, so they do not have resort to crime to earn a living," he said in a statement Sunday.

Most snatch thieves were drug addicts who needed to support their habit, he claimed.

He said the government should formulate a policy to help rehabilitated drug addicts seek employment.

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Dredging work at second bridge stops

PENANG: Dredging work for the Second Penang Bridge has come to a standstill following a stop-work order, said State Tourism Development and Environment Committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow.

He said the state Department of Environment (DOE) issued the order on Dec 11 as the bridge’s builders failed to comply with a technical requirement.

“On Nov 20, approval was granted to the builders to dredge and dispose the sludge nine nautical miles south from Pulau Kendi.

“However, the order was issued when they did not submit a report of their mitigation measures for the sludge disposal,” he told newsmen after opening a recycling campaign at the New World Park here Sunday.

He said the report was among the department’s requirements and the order would be lifted once the builders submitted the paper.

Teng said DOE and the state Marine Department would closely monitor the dredging work to prevent any negative impact on the environment.

China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and a subsidiary of United Engineers Malaysia (UEM), UEM Construction Sdn Bhd, are jointly constructing the 24km bridge between Batu Kawan in Seberang Prai and Batu Maung on the island.

The bridge will be the longest in South-East Asia when completed in January 2011.

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Ready for polls

PUTRAJAYA: The Election Commission (EC) is all set for the general election – some 50,000 transparent ballot boxes have been distributed across the country and 250,000 workers are ready to be mobilised.

Its chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said the use of indelible ink was also ready to be introduced, as requested by some political parties and non-governmental organisations, in an effort to prevent fraud.

He said the EC was on the last leg of briefings for returning officers (ROs) and assistant ROs.

“The EC is ready. All other preparations are completed,” he said in an interview here yesterday.

Transparent elections: Malaca state election commission worker, Mazura Latib, 24, showing the transparent ballot box which will be used in the next general election. – A. MALEX YAHYA / The Star
Abdul Rashid said many of the ROs and officers involved in the briefings had also had some experience in conducting elections.

“Many of them are senior government personnel, in the level of district officers. So, they don’t actually require much teaching in terms of how to run elections.

“About 85% of them have performed electoral duties. It’s not a problem even if elections were held now,” he said.

Abdul Rashid said the elections would cost RM200mil this time round – RM65mil more than the cost incurred in the last elections – because of the new features to be introduced.

“This time around, we are having the transparent ballot boxes instead of the old ones. This cost us some RM16mil.

“There is also an increase of 15% in the number of polling districts and, therefore, there will be more polling stations. In order to man all these polling stations, we have to employ more people.

“During the last elections, we employed 175,000 people. This time, it will be 250,000 people, all of whom have to be paid allowances ranging from RM150 to RM800 a day. So, it is a huge sum we will have to pay,” he said.

Abdul Rashid said the indelible ink, which would be applied to the left forefinger of voters to prevent fraud, would cost about RM1mil.

Some 10.5 million citizens will be eligible to vote in the next general election, with the EC having recently endorsed an additional electoral roll of 412,756 voters.

The EC has also removed 141,063 names from the record of registered voters.

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Anti-photocopy among new features of RM50 note

KUALA LUMPUR: Certain features and background illustrations on the new RM50 note cannot be photocopied.

“This anti-photocopy feature is used in a few foreign currencies. With photocopy technology getting advanced, we needed to take cautionary measures,” said Bank Negara Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz yesterday.

New and old: The reverse side of the new note (left) and the front of the old note.
Other security features are:

  • The watermark portrait can be recognised by tints that are lighter or darker than the surrounding paper. This watermark portrait has a three-dimensional effect, without sharp outlines. At the base of the watermark, the numeral 50 is visible;

  • The security thread is embedded in the paper and appears on the reserve side of the note as a silver dotted line. When the note is held against the light, it is seen as a continuous dark line and the text BNM RM50 can be read. When viewed under ultraviolet light, the thread is seen in various changing colours known as “rainbow effect”;

  • Micro letterings of “BNM RM50” can be viewed under a magnifying glass;

  • Invisible fluorescent elements can be seen through various elements on the background on both sides of the note. It will fluoresce in different colours when viewed under ultraviolet light;

  • Perfect see-through register feature – the graphic songket design will register perfectly with the same design on the reverse side when held against the light;

  • The multicoloured latent image of the denomination 50 can be seen when the banknote is tilted slightly and the colour changes when it is rotated; and

  • The holographic stripe features the denomination 50 and the hibiscus flower, with a multi-coloured pumping and matt-structure effect.

    Bank Negara advised the public to take note of the security features and design of the new RM50 notes. For more information, go to

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    Second bridge link with Thailand opens

    JELI: The relationship between Malaysia and Thailand received a major boost yesterday when the second bridge linking both countries was officially opened.

    The RM9.2mil bridge, spanning 120m across Sungai Golok, took 11 months to complete.

    Both countries split the cost equally, with the project given to a Malaysian contractor.

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who opened the bridge with his Thai counterpart Surayud Chulanont, said he was confident the new link would contribute to the relationship between both countries.

    New landmark: A Thai boatman pushing his boat at Sungai Golok as the Thai and Malaysian Prime Ministers Surayud Chulanont and Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (inset) launch the second bridge between Kelantan and Narathiwat. — Reuters
    “I am confident the new link between Bukit Bunga (Jeli) and Bau Buketa (Narathiwat) will contribute towards further enhancing the strong bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries and people, especially between the residents of Kelantan and Narathiwat,” he said.

    He also said the bridge was a project identified for implementation under the Joint Development Strategy for the border areas established in 2004.

    Abdullah added that with the second bridge, which has an average of 100 people crossing it daily, the people of Kelantan would enjoy the benefits directly and immediately.

    “This fact relates well to the special effort that the Malaysian Government is now undertaking to make Kelantan a new focal point for the development of the economy and social affairs, including the development of human capital.

    “Kelantan is one of the states earmarked for growth and accelerated development under the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) corridor,” said Abdullah.

    He also said that Kelantan, Perlis, Kedah and Perak were designated areas under the development blueprints for the Northern Corridor Economic Region (NCER), and he invited Thailand to invest in it.

    Abdullah also said Malaysia was aware that Thailand was working hard to promote reconciliation and establish peace and stability in southern Thailand, and that Malaysia was always ready to give its full support to the Thai Government.

    Surayud said the bridge was very important in fostering closer ties between both countries.

    “This is historic because it is built at a time when we are celebrating 50 years of diplomatic ties between Thailand and Malaysia.”

    He added that the bridge, the second across Sungai Golok, would be a boost to the ECER and would also improve economic growth and the transportation system in the border areas.

    Later, after performing Friday prayers at the Jeli mosque, Abdullah presented a cheque for RM300,000 to the mosque for renovations.

    He also urged Muslims to pray for the flood victims and hoped they would get new homes soon.

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    New RM50 note from Jan 30

    KUALA LUMPUR: The RM50 note gets a makeover with enhanced anti-forgery security features and a design theme reflecting how far Malaysia has moved up the economic value chain after 50 years of independence.

    The illustrations on the note include oil palm trees and microbiology technology, representing Malaysia’s economic transformation to the higher value-added activities in the agricultural, manufacturing, services and other sectors.

    The front retains the portrait of the first king, Tuanku Abdul Rahman Tuanku Muhammad, on the right. The national hibiscus flower is in the centre.

    Songket patterns frame the background and edges of the note to reflect traditional Malaysian textile handicraft and embroidery.

    Bank Negara employee Lim Hsin Ying showing the new RM50 note. The issuance of the new RM50 notes also commemorates Malaysia 50th independence anniversary.
    On the back, first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman is featured raising his hand in proud declaration of Merdeka! There is the logo of the 50th Independence anniversary as well.

    Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz presented the new RM50 to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday. The note bore the serial number AA 0000009.

    “This is yet another symbol of the economic success, national stability and prosperity of the nation. God willing, we will continue the success into the next 50 years,” said Abdullah at the TUDM air base before flying off to Kelantan.

    The new notes will be available from Jan 30 next year.

    Bank Negara has prepared commemorative special packaging for 20,000 of the notes.

    Each will cost RM60 and will be available from Dec 26 at the headquarters and branches in Penang, Johor Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

    Dr Zeti said the current RM50 notes would continue to be legal tender even with the introduction of the new notes, adding that they would be phased out in a few years.

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    Candlelight vigil postponed

    : The candlelight vigil organised by Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA, planned tonight, will not take place.

    GMI said the event has been postponed to Jan 5.

    Its secretary E. Nalini, when contacted, confirmed the postponement, and said this was because there was shortage of lawyers to defend them should they be arrested.

    "Most of the lawyers who volunteered to help us are out of town because of the holidays," she said.

    Nalini said the police have asked it to re-apply for the new date.

    The vigil was supposed to have been held at 8pm at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday.

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    Tun Dr Mahathir quizzed by ACA over video clip

    PUTRAJAYA: The Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) has interviewed Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over the video clip purportedly showing a senior lawyer brokering the appointment of judges.

    Dr Mahathir, who was fielding questions during a brief press conference at the Perdana Leadership Foundation here Saturday, said three ACA officers interviewed him on Friday.

    "They questioned me and I answered them," he said, adding that the interview lasted for about one hour.

    When asked what some of the questions were, Dr Mahathir said: "I cannot tell you that."

    He said if he was asked to testify at the recently set up Royal Commission of Inquiry into the videoclip, he would not say no.

    Dr Mahathir was also asked to comment on the setting up of the commission to which he said it was not his place to talk about it.

    A reporter then said that Dr Mahathir's name was implicated in the video clip to which he said he did not know what was said and that he had not seen the clip.

    "The only thing I have seen is what was shown on TV3. So I do not know what the lawyer (in the clip) said. You (the reporter) know better," he said.

    On the Government using the Internal Security Act (ISA) against Hindraf leaders, Dr Mahathir said he himself had used the ISA before.

    "It is up to the government and the people to decide this. You see, we are a democratic country.

    "If the people selected to lead are the people who support the use of ISA, then they will use it. The choice is yours. I thought people approved the use of ISA when they supported me, so I implemented it."

    However, Dr Mahathir felt that problems felt by any community ought to be addressed in other ways and that public assemblies should only be used as a last resort.

    Earlier, Dr Mahathir launched a book entitled The Third World & International Law authored by Tunku Sofiah Jewa.

    Dr Mahathir, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday and Tunku Sofiah whose birthday was Saturday, were also given surprise birthday cakes after the book launch.

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    MCA woos investors from China

    PETALING JAYA: MCA hopes to see more companies from China investing in Malaysia through joint ventures with local partners, said its president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.

    He said the party would also convey the message that the Malaysian Government welcomed Chinese investment companies to the country through the Malaysian Chinese Economic Consultative Council (MCECC).

    “When I visited China recently, I highlighted our economic corridors to the investors and expressed our wish to cooperate with them,” he said after paying his last respects to Tian Lang, the mother of Sin Chew Daily editor-in-chief Pook Ah Lek, here yesterday.

    He added that the Prime Minister had also conveyed the same message to Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi during his visit here recently.

    Ong was commenting on the remark by Chinese ambassador Cheng Yong Hua that the Chinese embassy here would help promote Malaysia as an investment destination to Chinese investors.

    In an exclusive interview with Nanyang Siang Pau on Wednesday, Cheng said most Chinese companies were investing in the private sector where many of the corporations had the potential to further develop themselves overseas.

    However, he said the growth of such companies was still lagging behind those in countries like Singapore and Indonesia.

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    All flood victims to get aid

    PEKAN: The Government has decided to give compassionate aid to all the people affected by the floods but the quantum will be decided only after the floods recede, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said.

    He said the Government had yet to decide on the quantum because the situation in most flood-hit areas had yet to return to normal and there was fear of a second wave of floods striking soon.

    “We will decide on the quantum of compassionate aid at the appropriate time,” the Deputy Prime Minister told reporters after visiting the flood relief centre in Kampung Pulau Rusa, where he handed over Hari Raya Haji sacrificial meat to 185 flood evacuees.

    Najib, who is chairman of the National Disaster Management and Relief Committee, said the Government would evaluate the flood damage to infrastructure and undertake all repairs once the floods receded.

    Test of faith: A Muslim praying at a flooded cemetery during the Hari Raya Aidiladha celebrations in Rantau Panjang yesterday. — Reuters
    He said the Cabinet had also decided on the introduction of long-term flood mitigation measures by looking at the overall national development policy with a view to shifting development away from flood-prone areas.

    “If development work has yet to be started, we will avert it, and if there are houses in flood-prone areas, we will consider whether to shift them to safer areas or improve the drainage system there, and so on,” he said.

    Najib, who is Pekan MP, said suggestions have been made for dredges to be stationed all year round at major rivers such as Sungai Pahang to deepen the waterways to allow for water to flow swiftly and reduce the incidence of floods.

    “The sand dug up from these waterways can be sold for development projects,” he said.

    Referring to the current floods, which have hit Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor and Kedah, Najib said he was satisfied with the management of the welfare of the evacuees and despatch of food supplies to the relief centres.

    He said food supplies, for example, were sent to flood relief centres on time.

    “We were also able to send the necessary aid to people cut off by floodwaters and who were unable to move to the relief centres,” he added.

    For the first time, the Government also airdropped food supplies over Pekan, the district in Pahang worst affected by the floods

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    Ample education opportunities

    KAMPAR: The MCA has drawn up a holistic approach for education – ranging from pre-school to tertiary level – to ensure the Chinese community obtain the best opportunities.

    Party president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said this was because education was the key towards retaining the strength and competitive edge of the community.

    “The Chinese community is a strong and independent lot. This is why the MCA has developed several strategies in the field of education to ensure they stay that way,” he said during the Kampar MCA division 58th anniversary dinner on Wednesday.

    The strategies, added Ong, were addition, relocation and expansion.

    “We have moved towards building more Chinese schools, relocating those that are under-enrolled and expanding some to provide better facilities,” he said.

    Joyous occasion: Ong (centre), Perak MCA chairman Datuk Ong Ka Chuan (second from right), Kampar MCA division chief Datuk Lee Chee Leong (third from right) and other MCA members cutting the division’s anniversary cake on Wednesday.
    Ong added that the MCA, through Institut Kojadi, also provided opportunities for early school leavers in skills training.

    “These early leavers can develop their skills, from sewing to mechanics and even cooking,” he said.

    For entrance into local universities, the MCA had successfully helped 78% of Chinese students to obtain places, he said.

    “A large percentage of them have also gotten PTPTN (National Higher Education Fund) loans,” he said.

    Ong said MCA’s Lifelong Learning Campaign also promoted the importance of educating mature students.

    He urged the Chinese community to ensure the MCA’s political strength was retained so that the rights of the community could be protected.

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    Two Hindraf leaders file habeas corpus applications

    KUALA LUMPUR: Two leaders of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), who are detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA), have filed their habeas corpus (wrongful detention) application at the High Court here for their release.

    Lawyer Karpal Singh filed the application on behalf of Hindraf legal adviser P. Uthayakumar and its co-ordinator K. Vasantha Kumar. He filed at the High Court (criminal) registry at about noon Friday.

    They named the Internal Security Minister and the Kamunting Detention Centre’s superintendent as respondents

    In the affidavit, P. Waytha Nayagi, who affirmed the document to support the application for her brother Uthayakumar, said his arrest in Bangsar last Thursday and continued detention was unconstitutional and unlawful.

    Waytha Nayagi, 41, said there had been contravention of the provisions of the Federal Constitution and non-compliance with the provisions of rules of Internal Security (Advisory Board Procedure) Rules 1972.

    She said the allegations against her brother were groundless and asked the court to declare the detention order null and void.

    She applied for him to be brought to the court and released forthwith.

    In a notice of motion Waytha Nayagi also asked for any order deemed fit by the court.

    In the other habeas corpus application, K. Vickneswary, wife of Vasantha Kumar, affirmed an affidavit for the purpose.

    Vickneswary, 35, said her husband's arrest in Brickfields last Thursday was not in accordance with law and illegal.

    She said the minister had acted mechanically and prematurely and that the allegations of fact against her husband were baseless and that his continued detention was unconstitutional and unlawful.

    She applied for him to be brought to the court and be set at free as well as any further order deemed proper by the court.

    Speaking to reporters later, Karpal Singh said:

    "We are serving the papers of four applicants (lawyers M. Manoharan, V. Ganabatirau, Uthayakumar and former senior executive Vasantha Kumar) to the minister so that they will be ready for the hearing at High Court on Wednesday before Judicial Commissioner Zainal Azman Abdul Aziz," he added.

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    Indians want issues to be resolved

    KUALA LUMPUR: MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Velly has admitted that the recent street demonstrations organised by an illegal group, to a certain extent had affected the loyalty of Indians towards the Government.

    He said based on feedback, there were Indians who had begun questioning why the issues raised by the community had not been resolved by the Government.

    “There were those who questioned why their applications had not been entertained. So, I have asked the Prime Minister to give a bit more to the Indians (in development programmes) considering their history (in the country). The Prime Minister has agreed to consider this,” he said.

    Interviewed in the 60 Minit Bersama Menteri programme on RTM1 last night, Samy Vellu said most of those who were involved in the illegal street demonstrations had regretted their actions.

    The Works Minister said he had also explained to them that most of the issues raised had been discussed by the Cabinet over the last several months.

    “We must remember that we will not get 100% of what we asked for. Where can you find a Government that fulfils 100% of the people's requests?

    “The problems are not just faced by the Indians but also by the Chinese and Malays. They also make demands and they, too, don't get 100%.”

    Samy Vellu described the illegal group as “sightless” for not being able to see the progress achieved by the Indians in the last 50 years.

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    ‘Don’t burden consumers’

    PUTRAJAYA: Regulators of the telecommunications and utilities industry must make sure that companies do not make too much profit.

    Water, Energy and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik said these companies must be told that they should only expect “reasonable profit.”

    “These companies cannot be allowed to make so much profit to the point that consumers suffer. This is particularly true for companies relating to the provision of utilities such as water and electricity.

    “If they want to increase tariffs, they must have a reason for this which must be worked out on an economic basis. Regulators such as the National Water Services Commission, the Communications and Multimedia Commission and the Energy Commission have the responsibility to ensure this,” he said in his speech at the ministry’s monthly assembly here yesterday. Dr Lim said it was important that members in the various commissions were well versed with the economics within each industry.

    “They must balance the whole situation and not be afraid to decide. Regulators must also make sure that the industry they are charged to look after is sustainable in the long-term and if not, they must be prepared to revamp the whole system,” he said, adding that he was specially concerned about the energy sector.

    The sector, added Dr Lim, was being hampered by the subsidies for gas and coal, and regulators would have to come up with a more suitable model soon.

    “We have 42% energy reserve and our grid is robust. Yet there are thousands of electricity breakdowns in the country. Something is wrong with Tenaga’s maintenance of its facilities.

    “We will have to check if Tenaga can afford its maintenance and if it is being efficient,” he added.

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    National Xmas Open House in Kota Kinabalu

    KOTA KINABALU: The national-level Christmas Open House will be held at Padang Merdeka here on Dec 29.

    A statement from the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry here said the open house will be held from 10am to 5pm.

    Among the dignitaries expected to grace the event are Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

    There will be performances by Akademi Fantasia artistes and cultural dances by the various races and ethnic groups during the open house to be hosted by the ministry and the Sabah government

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    RM45mil projects to prevent floods in Johor

    MUAR: The Drainage and Irrigation Department (DID) will implement flood mitigation projects in six major rivers in Johor to prevent flooding in the future.

    State director Chong Chee Han said the rivers are Sungai Muar, Sungai Batu Pahat, Sungai Johor, Sungai Mersing, Sungai Kluang and waterways in the Iskandar Development Region.

    He said the DID would appoint a consultant to draw up plans for the projects.

    “The cost for the projects at the six rivers is estimated at RM45mil and we expect to complete the work in 2009.

    “The company will also look into Prime Minister Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s suggestion that rivers be straightened to curb flooding,” he told reporters during a visit to Sungai Muar here yesterday.

    Chong said that besides straightening the waterways, the plan also covered deepening and widening certain stretches, dam constructions and landscaping.

    He said the floods in the state this year were not as serious as last year and damage to DID infrastructure was minimal.

    “The latest floods caused some damage to the Segamat bridge and initial estimate for repair costs is about RM500,000,” he added.

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    Rice crops not badly affected by floods, says Mada

    ALOR STAR: The waters of three rivers in Kedah were well above the danger levels as at 3pm yesterday but the state's rice crop was not in danger, according to the Muda Agriculture Development Authority (Mada).

    Sungai Kuala Nerang was at 17.99m (danger level 17.07m) Sungai Kepala Batas at 4.33m (2.8m) and Sungai Jeniang at 27.47m (25.91m).

    The floods, however, affected only 1.2% of the100,000ha of Mada padi fields, the authority's deputy general manager (technical) Loh Kim Mon said.

    He said a total of 1,230ha of Mada padi fields in Kubang Pasu, Kota Setar and Pendang were submerged in floodwater.

    Flood damage: Kampung Semangat Umno head Mustafa Ibrahim (second from left) and several villagers inspecting the village multipurpose hall which has been under water for over a week. The villagers were evacuated to the Penor Prison hall near Kuantan.

    “There is a big possibility the padi plants will recover if the weather is fine. This is because the flooding is not due to floodwaters from upstream but because of direct rainfall.

    “When the rain stops, the excess water will drain out through existing irrigation canals,” he said yesterday.

    Mada deputy general manager (agriculture) Hamid Mat said the agency had taken measures to ensure excess water was speedily drained out.

    In Johor, the flood situation continued to improve, with only 1,963 victims in 31 evacuation centres.

    At 4pm, Muar district had the most number of evacuees with 971 in 10 centres, followed by Segamat with 942 victims in 20 centres.

    There were another 50 victims in a centre in Batu Pahat.

    All roads were passable except Jalan Pogoh-Tekam near Sungai Labis in Segamat, which is only open to heavy vehicles.

    Meanwhile, a landslide forced the closure of Jalan Yong Peng-Parit Sulong until Jan 12. Motorists can use Jalan Tongkang Pechah-Jalan Parit Jalil as an alternative route.

    In Pahang, evacuees at relief centres yesterday were down to 18,542 from 21,363 on Tuesday.

    A spokesman of the state police flood operations room said there was a drop in the number of evacuees in the flood-hit districts, except Pekan, where the number rose to 9,370 from 9,313 on Tuesday.

    Maran had 2,907 evacuees, followed by Kuantan (1,096), Rompin (1,992), Pekan (9,370), Bera (1,582) and Temerloh (1,595).

    The main road linking Pekan and Kuantan at the 19th kilometre, the eighth kilometre of the Rompin-Muadzam Shah road, Jalan Kuantan-Segamat and Jalan Temerloh-Triang were still closed to all vehicles.

    In Kelantan, the water level at Sungai Golok receded to 10.13m from 10.17m.

    A Kelantan police flood operations room spokesman said the number of evacuees at the 28 relief centres had dropped, except in Tumpat, which showed a slight increase from 2,322 to 2,356.

    There were still 6,491 flood evacuees in Pasir Mas, 17 in Kota Baru and 10 in Tanah Merah.

    He said Jalan Pasir Mas-Rantau Panjang at13th kilometre and Jalan Tumpat-Pengkalan Kubor, which were under 0.5m to 1m of water, were still closed to traffic.

    The 65th km of Jalan Gua Musang-Kuala Krai and the alternative old Kota Baru-Jeli-Dabong-Meranto-Gua Musang road were also closed to traffic because of landslides.

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