Kim Jong Un's third child

Seoul (CNN)North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has a third child, South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS) has learned.

Lawmakers were briefed on the matter Monday, said Kim Byung-kee of South Korea's ruling Democratic Party, though Kim Jong Un's wife Ri Sol Ju is believed to have given birth in February.

"The gender of their new child is unknown," the lawmaker said.

Little is known about the North Korean first family, but Kim said he learned from "non-NIS sources" the couple's first child was a boy, born in 2010, while the second was a daughter, born in 2013.

Opposition lawmaker Yi Wan-yong said "Kim's first child is a son and the second child is a daughter," noting he also learned this information from non-NIS sources.

"The NIS told us (Monday) about Ri Sol Ju giving birth to the third child because this implies she remains an influential figure in North Korea," Yi said.

In 2013, following a highly controversial visit to North Korea, former NBA star Dennis Rodman revealed the name and gender of one of Kim and Ri's children, a daughter called Ju Ae.

"I held their baby Ju Ae and spoke with Ms. Ri as well," he said, describing Kim as "a good dad."

On Tuesday, North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japan before crashing into the ocean, the latest in a series of ramped up missile tests since Kim became the country's supreme leader in 2011.

Mystery wife

There was speculation that Ri was pregnant late last year, when she disappeared from public view for several months, a time frame that would seem to line up with a February birth.

Little is known about Ri, who accompanied Kim to his father's funeral in late 2011, sparking widespread speculation about the couple.

It wasn't until the following year that South Korean intelligence confirmed they had been married since 2009, according to lawmakers briefed on the matter.

Ri was partially educated in China and visited South Korea in 2005 for the Asian Athletic Championships "as a member of North Korea's cheering squad," a South Korean lawmaker told CNN in 2012.

She is believed to be around 30 years old.

Shadowy clan

The Kim family has ruled North Korea since the country's founding in 1948, but very little is known about its members.

According to NK Leadership Watch, a project of the US-Korea Institute, Kim Il Sung had six children and two wives, while his son and successor Kim Jong Il had seven children with four women. Only one of the women is believed to have been his legal wife, though these figures are unconfirmed and have been contested.

Current supreme leader Kim Jong Un was born to Kim Jong Il's mistress Ko Young Hee in the early 1980s.

Initially, North Korea watchers expected Kim Jong Il's eldest son, Kim Jong Nam, to succeed him, but he was sidelined after his father left his mother for Ko in the 1970s.

Kim and Ko had two sons, Kim Jong Un and Kim Jong Chul. Though Kim Jong Un was the youngest, he soon appeared to be being groomed for succession.

Any potential threat that remained from Kim Jong Nam was removed earlier this year, when he was murdered in Kuala Lumpur airport allegedly on the order of Pyongyang.

Kim Jong Un and his wife Ri Sol Ju, seen in 2013.

cnn.com, Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT) August 29, 2017
South Korea: Kim Jong Un's third child born in February
By Taehoon Lee and James Griffiths, CNN

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The Japanese deputy prime minister, Taro Aso, has refused to resign despite having to retract comments suggesting Japan should follow the Nazi example in how to change the country's constitution.

"I have no intention of resigning," Aso told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Friday, following protests by neighbouring countries and human rights activists.

Aso drew outrage for saying Japan should learn from how the Nazi party stealthily changed Germany's constitution before the second world war before anyone realised it, and for suggesting that Japanese politicians should avoid controversy by making quiet visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni war shrine.

On Thursday Aso said he had been misunderstood and only meant to say that loud debate over whether Japan should change its postwar constitution, and other issues, was not helpful.

"It is very unfortunate and regrettable that my comment regarding the Nazi regime was misinterpreted," Aso said. "I would like to retract the remark."

Aso, who is also finance minister, made the comments about Nazi Germany during a speech on Monday in Tokyo organised by an ultra-conservative group.

Critics of the ruling Liberal Democrats are uneasy over the party's proposals for revising the US-inspired postwar constitution, in part to allow a higher profile for Japan's military.

Japan and Nazi Germany were allies in the second world war. Japan's history of military aggression, which included colonising the Korean peninsula before the war, is the reason its current constitution limits the role of the military.

According to a transcript of the speech published by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Aso decried the lack of support for revising Japan's pacifist constitution among older Japanese, saying the Liberal Democrats had held quiet, extensive discussions about its proposals.

"I don't want to see this done in the midst of an uproar," Aso said, according to the transcript. Since revisions of the constitution may raise protests, "doing it quietly, just as in one day the Weimar constitution changed to the Nazi constitution without anyone realising it, why don't we learn from that sort of tactic?"

A government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said the administration of the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, "in no way looks positively at the Nazi regime. Since the end of the war, our nation has consistently built up a society which thoroughly advocates peace and human rights.

"This direction remains unchanged, going forward," he added.

Aso often speaks in a meandering style and his penchant for off-the-cuff remarks has landed him in trouble in the past. He has apologised previously for accusing the elderly of being a burden on society, joking about people with Alzheimer's disease, saying the ideal country would be one that attracts "the richest Jewish people", and comparing the opposition Democratic party of Japan to the Nazis.

On Thursday Aso insisted that he was referring to the Nazis "as a bad example of a constitutional revision that was made without national understanding or discussion".

"If you listen to the context, it is clear that I have a negative view of how the Weimar constitution got changed by the Nazi regime," he said. "This is a constitution for all. I just don't want [the revision] to be decided amid a ruckus."

The Nazis' rise to power in the early 1930s amid the economic crisis brought on by the great depression was facilitated by emergency decrees that circumvented the Weimar constitution. So was Adolf Hitler's seizure of absolute power after he was made chancellor in 1933.

Opposition leaders condemned Aso's remarks, saying they showed a lack of understanding of history and hurt Japan's national interest. Some demanded Aso's resignation.

Aso's comments "sounded like praise for Nazi actions and are totally incomprehensible", said Akihiro Ohata, secretary general of the Democratic party of Japan.

"Minister Aso's ignorance about historical facts is so obvious," said Seiji Mataichi, secretary general of the Social Democratic party. "I also want to remind him that praising the Nazis is considered a crime in EU nations."

The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a group dedicated to keeping alive the history of the Holocaust, urged Aso to "immediately clarify" his remarks.

"What 'techniques' from the Nazis' governance are worth learning? How to stealthily cripple democracy?" Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, said in a statement.

"Has vice-prime minister Aso forgotten that Nazi Germany's ascendancy to power quickly brought the world to the abyss and engulfed humanity in the untold horrors of World War II?"

In South Korea, the foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said Aso's remark "will obviously hurt many people". "I believe Japanese political leaders should be more careful with their words and behaviour," Cho said.

In China, which also suffered invasion and occupation by Japanese imperial troops before and during the war, the foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the comments showed that "Japan's neighbours in Asia, and the international community, have to heighten their vigilance over the direction of Japan's development".

Taro Aso reads a statement to retract his remarks about Nazi Germany.

The Guardian, Published: Friday 2 August 2013 05.35 BS(TThis article is 4 years old)
Japan should follow Nazi route on revising constitution, minister says

Deputy prime minister Taro Aso, previously criticised over comments on elderly people, retracts statement, saying he was misunderstood
By Associated Press in Tokyo

Japan’s gaffe-prone deputy prime minister has said Tokyo could learn from Nazi Germany when it comes to constitutional reform, prompting a rebuke from a Jewish human rights group.

In a statement on its website late Tuesday, the US-based Simon Wiesenthal Center called on Taro Aso to clarify his comments that Tokyo, which is mulling a change to its pacifist constitution, should look to the way the Nazis quietly adopted reforms.

“First, mass media started to make noises (about Japan’s proposed reforms), and then China and South Korea followed suit,” Aso was quoted by Japanese media as saying in a speech Monday to a conservative think tank.

“The German Weimar constitution changed, without being noticed, to the Nazi German constitution. Why don’t we learn from their tactics?”

In response, the Jewish rights group said: “The only lessons on governance that the world should draw from the Nazi Third Reich is how those in positions of power should not behave”.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government’s top spokesman, on Wednesday declined to answer media questions about the comments, saying “deputy prime minister Aso should answer that question”.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has said it wants to revise the US-imposed pacifist constitution to define Japan’s defence forces as a full-fledged military force, amid territorial tensions with neighbours China and South Korea.

That has stirred strong emotions in Beijing and Seoul which have long maintained that Japan has never come to terms with its militaristic past.

Aso, who is also Japan’s finance minister, is known for his sometimes uncomfortable remarks, including saying earlier this year that elderly people should “hurry up and die” to avoid taxing the country’s medical system.

Huffpost, Updated Sep 30, 2013
Taro Aso, Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Says Tokyo Could Learn From Nazis’ Tactics
By Agence France Presse

Japan's deputy prime minister stirred controversy this week by appearing to suggest that the government could learn from the way that Nazi Germany changed its constitution.

The remarks by Taro Aso, who is also the Japanese finance minister, provoked criticism from Japan's neighbors and a Jewish organization in the United States.

Aso, a former prime minister who has slipped up with verbal gaffes in the past, retracted the comments later in the week but refused to apologize for them or resign, saying they had been taken out of context.

Amid persistent talk in Japan about revising the country's pacifist post-war constitution, Aso set off the controversy at a seminar Monday, in which he said that discussions over constitutional changes should be carried out calmly.

"Germany's Weimar Constitution was changed into the Nazi Constitution before anyone knew," he said in comments widely reported by the Japanese media. "It was changed before anyone else noticed. Why don't we learn from that method?"

Aso added: "I have no intention of denying democracy. Again, I repeat that we should not decide [constitutional revisions] in a frenzy."

In 1933, Adolf Hitler's National Socialists turned the democratic Weimar Republic into a dictatorship using "a combination of legal procedure, persuasion, and terror," according to the U.S. Library of Congress.

Hitler used a fire that burned down the parliament building as a pretext to suppress the opposition through an emergency clause in the constitution. He then pushed through the Enabling Act, which allowed him to govern without parliament and vastly extend the Nazis' grip on power.

Words that hurt

Aso's apparent reference to those changes drew expressions of concern from the governments of China and South Korea, two countries that suffered heavily under Japanese imperial aggression during World War II, a conflict in which Japan was allied with Nazi Germany.

Beijing and Seoul are already wary of Japan's hawkish prime minister, Shinzo Abe. His campaign platform for elections last year included measures aimed at restoring Japanese national pride such as revising the constitution to give the country's self-defense forces the status of a regular army.

Abe's party now has control of both houses of parliament. But it remains unclear if he will take on the difficult, controversial challenge of constitutional change, which would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

Hong Lei, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, said Wednesday that Aso's comments mean that other countries need to step up their vigilance over the direction in which Japan is headed.

China and Japan are locked in a tense territorial dispute over a set of small, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that has fueled nationalist sentiments in on both sides.

South Korea, meanwhile, called for "prudence" from Japanese political leaders.

"Such comments definitely hurt a lot of people," Cho Tai-young, a foreign ministry spokesman, said Tuesday.

And the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization based in Los Angeles, demanded that Aso immediately clarify his remarks.

"What 'techniques' from the Nazis' governance are worth learning − how to stealthily cripple democracy?" asked Rabbi Abraham Cooper, an associate dean at the center.

"The only lessons on governance that the world should draw from the Nazi Third Reich is how those in positions of power should not behave," Cooper said in a statement Tuesday.

'Great misunderstandings'

Aso responded Thursday to the criticism over his comments, which also came from opposition lawmakers in Japan, saying he regretted that the remarks had "caused great misunderstandings despite my true intentions."

He said that he had referred to the Nazi takeover of power as a "bad example" of constitutional revision because changes were forced through "in a commotion." They should be done through calm debates instead.

"I believe it is obvious that I feel extremely negatively about Nazi Germany, if you consider the entire context," he said. "However, since these remarks have caused serious misunderstandings, I would like to retract them."

Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference the same day that "the Abe administration definitely does not view Nazi Germany positively and I am sure Vice Prime Minister Aso himself does not either."

It's not the first time Aso's words have gotten him into hot water. At a meeting about social security reform and healthcare costs in January, he caused offense by suggesting it would be best for people on life support to "die quickly."

"Aso's comment about Hitler and the implication that his example should be followed are utterly unacceptable," the Asahi Shimbun, a daily newspaper, said in an editorial Friday. " The remark is not something that Aso can get away with by simply retracting it."

Japanese Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso at a cabinet meeting at Aso's office in Tokyo on August 2, 2013.

cnn.com, Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT) August 2, 2013
Japanese government minister's Nazi remarks cause furor
By Jethro Mullen, CNN

23:30 - 2017年8月29日 中野晃一

17:23 - 2017年8月29日 山口二郎

13:30 - 2017年8月29日 金子勝

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Thai former premier Yingluck Shinawatra

BANGKOK (AFP) - Fugitive former premier Yingluck Shinawatra discarded her mobile phones and stopped travelling in her usual vehicles in the days before last week's dramatic escape, Thailand's army chief said on Tuesday (Aug 29).

Yingluck, whose government was toppled by the military in 2014, staged a disappearing act before a scheduled court judgement last Friday in a criminal negligence trial.

She faced up to ten years in prison and a lifetime ban from politics if convicted. But instead, she was a no-show, with junta and party sources saying she had fled abroad.

Thailand's junta has come under fire from some conservative allies over Yingluck's disappearance, with many questioning how the authoritarian regime could have let her flee given that she was heavily monitored.

Army chief General Chalermchai Sitthisad gave a lengthy defence on Tuesday, which offered insights into how military intelligence kept track of Yingluck and how she might have slipped the net.

"As of now, we learnt that she abandoned all of her phones and changed her cars so it was hard to trace her using the same methods we did before," he told reporters, confirming military intelligence had previously used electronic and physical surveillance.

But Gen Chalermchai said officers had recently been withdrawn from guarding the front of her Bangkok house.

"The public alleged that it was violating her personal rights and intimidating her so we withdrew the force," he said.

Yingluck frequently complained of being constantly followed by military intelligence since she was ousted from office.

Thai media has been full of speculation about how she might have escaped, with most suggesting she went to Cambodia either by land or sea in the days before the court verdict and then on to Singapore.

A senior junta source said they believed she had fled to Dubai, the base of Shinawatra family patriarch Thaksin, a billionaire who is Yingluck's older brother.

Gen Chalermchai said he thought it was unlikely Yingluck would have been able to fly directly out of Thailand given security procedures at airports, even for private flights. Instead, he said, a land or sea exit was more likely.

But he added that once outside Thailand, she likely took a private flight organised by Thaksin.

"I believe that former prime minister Thaksin prepared a plan for her, for example a private aircraft which regular people cannot find," he said.

The Shinawatra political dynasty began under Thaksin in 2001 with a series of groundbreaking welfare schemes that won them votes and the loyalty of the rural poor.

But their popularity rattled the royalist and army-aligned elite, who assailed successive governments linked to the clan with coups, court cases and protests.

Thaksin himself was toppled in a 2006 coup and fled overseas two years later to avoid jail for a corruption conviction.

The period since then - dubbed the "Lost Decade" - has seen frequent deadly street protests, short-lived governments and the return of military rule in 2014.

Former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra greets supporters as she arrives to deliver closing statements in her trial at the Supreme Court's Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions in Bangkok, Thailand, on Aug 1, 2017.

The Straits Times, PUBLISHED: AUG 29, 2017, 4:51 PM SGT
Yingluck ditched mobile phones, usual vehicles in days before dramatic escape from Thailand: Army chief

Japan's former premier Aso Taro's case...

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday (Aug 30)retracted a remark to lawmakers of his faction in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that could be interpreted as a defence of Adolf Hitler's motive for genocide during World War Two.

Tuesday's comment by Aso, who also serves as finance minister, drew criticism from a US-based Jewish group.

The incident followed a rare June apology by Japan's central bank over a board member's praise for Hitler's economic policies. "It is clear from my overall remarks that I regard Hitler in extremely negative terms, and it's clear that his motives were also wrong," Aso said in a statement.

Aso said he wanted to stress the importance of delivering results, but not defend Hitler. "It was inappropriate that I cited Hitler as an example and I would like to retract that."

Aso is no stranger to gaffes, having retracted a comment in 2013 about Hitler's rise to power that was interpreted as praising the Nazi regime.

Referring at the time to Japan's efforts to revise its constitution, he said the Constitution of Weimar Germany had been changed before anyone realised, and asked, "Why don't we learn from that technique?"

On Tuesday, Kyodo news agency quoted Aso as saying, "I don't question your motives (to be a politician). But the results are important. Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his motives were right."

The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center expressed "distress and disappointment" at Aso's comment.

"This is just the latest of a troubling list of 'misstatements' and are downright dangerous," the centre's head, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, said in a statement on Tuesday.

"These words damage Japan's reputation at the very time when all Americans want to show their solidarity with Japan, our sister democracy and ally, following the missile launch from Kim Jong Un's North Korea," he added.

Aso's gaffe came after US President Donald Trump drew sharp criticism for comments that blamed "many sides" for this month's violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In June, Bank of Japan board member Yutaka Harada told a seminar Hitler's economic policies had been "appropriate" and"wonderful" but had enabled the Nazi dictator to do "horrible"things.

The Straits Times, PUBLISHED: 1 HOUR AGO
Japan's Taro Aso retracts Hitler comment after criticism
Japan's Taro Aso retracts Hitler comment after criticism
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Myanmar’s democracy icon, Suu Kyi

YANGON, Myanmar (AP) − As Aung San Suu Kyi launched a national struggle against decades of harsh military rule, one medical student worked tirelessly at her side, facing down gun-wielding soldiers trying to crush the surging pro-democracy movement. For her activism and loyalty, Ma Thida suffered six years of mostly solitary imprisonment and nearly died of illnesses.

Now a medical doctor, novelist and recipient of international human rights awards, Ma Thida has few kind words for the former mentor she once called “my sister who always remained in my heart.”

The criticism by Ma Thida and other formerly ardent supporters is manifold: they accuse Suu Kyi of ignoring state violence against ethnic minorities and Muslims, continuing to jail journalists and activists, cowing to Myanmar’s still-powerful generals, and failing to nurture democratic leaders who could step in when she, now 72, exits the scene. Instead, they say her government is creating a power vacuum that could be filled again by the military.

Some conclude that Suu Kyi, who espoused democracy with such passion, always possessed an authoritarian streak which only emerged once she gained power.

“We can’t expect her to change the whole country in one-and-a-half years, but we expect a strong human rights-based approach,” Ma Thida says of the Nobel Peace Prize winner once hailed as “Myanmar’s Joan of Arc” and spoken of in the same breath as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi of India.

International criticism has focused on Suu Kyi’s lack of action or condemnation of violence targeting the country’s approximately 1 million Rohingya Muslims, who have been brutalized since 2012 by security forces and zealots among the Buddhist majority in western Myanmar.

More than 1,000 Rohingya have been killed, while some 320,000 are living in squalid camps in Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh, according to estimates by the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. Thousands more embarked on perilous sea voyages to other Southeast Asian countries.

After a new wave of violence and humanitarian crisis erupted last week, with ethnic Rohingya militants attacking police posts and leaving 12 security personnel and 77 Rohingya Muslims dead, her office said military and border police had launched “clearance operations.” She herself condemned the militants for what she called “a calculated attempt to undermine the efforts of those seeking to build peace and harmony in Rakhine state.”

As usual, she did not address the insurgents’ counter-allegations − that the attacks were aimed at protecting Rohingya villagers from “intensified atrocities” perpetrated by “brutal soldiers.”

“The violence against the Rohingya is not an isolated event,” says Stella Naw, an analyst from the ethnic Kachin minority focusing on national reconciliation. “We know the game the army is playing. But as a politician elected by the people, she is accountable for her inaction and failure to condemn the army.”

Suu Kyi’s government has banned a U.N. investigation team from entering the afflicted region, and earlier this month rejected the world body’s assertion that the regime’s actions “very likely” amounted to crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing. The February report alleged security forces had perpetrated mass killings, hurled children into fires and gang-raped Muslim women. The government has mostly blamed the latest round of blood-letting on Islamist militants. Suu Kyi’s official Facebook page last year flashed a message reading “Fake Rape.”

“We don’t have a second choice. People still support her party and government. People must lower their expectations because the problems are so deeply rooted,” says Thant Thaw Kaung, executive director of the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation, an initiative to improve the country’s woeful education system.

For years, Suu Kyi had courageously defied the military, suffering 15 years of house arrest and separation from her British husband and two sons to helm her National League for Democracy to a landslide victory in 2015 elections. Often referred to as “The Lady,” she retains popularity among the general public as the liberator from half a century of military oppression.

“When she was in the opposition she was so articulate, so vocal, but suddenly now we are faced with silence. Now that Myanmar is back on the democratic path, everyone expects that there should be more openness, but this has not happened,” says Khin Zaw Win, a political prisoner for 11 years who now heads the Tampadipa Institute, a civil society think tank.

Since assuming office in April 2016, Suu Kyi has earned a reputation for being aloof and controlling of information.

Explanations for why she’s changed, or faltered in upholding previously avowed goals, are starkly disparate: she is variously cast as a tragic heroine fighting impossible odds, and a closet authoritarian with a soft spot for the military.

Suu Kyi herself has often said she inherited an affinity for the armed forces from her father Gen. Aung San, a military hero who fought for independence from Britain.

Reflecting this puzzlement, a satirical Internet site called Burma Tha Din Network joked that the Suu Kyi in office now was a clone created by Russian geneticists hired by Myanmar’s generals to remove her democratic genes, and that the real Suu Kyi was being held by the military and wondering, “How the hell can people believe I’d do that?”

Perhaps the most widespread view is that she simply can’t push her democratic agenda or human rights demands, lest the military oust her from power. Although her post as government leader places her above the president, the military retains its grip on three key ministries controlling law enforcement, local administration and embattled frontier areas as well as a mandated 25 percent of seats in Parliament.

“She may shake hands with the military across a table, but under it they are kicking her,” says That Thaw Kaung.

Some disagree, and say her popular mandate gives her the force to challenge the generals who are unlikely to upset an arrangement that still allows them to wield power with seeming impunity while also being able to blame problems on Suu Kyi’s civilian government.

“The litany, the excuse that is repeated, ‘Oh, the military is still in politics, still dominates the Constitution ... so we are hamstrung.’ I don’t buy that argument,” says Khin Zaw Win. “She is not a prisoner of the military.” What is lacking, he says, is moral courage in addressing human rights and the ability to tackle other problems outside the power grid of the military, such as the economy. Meanwhile, the military is preparing itself for the 2020 elections.

Mark Farmaner of the human rights group Burma Campaign UK says that while Suu Kyi may be constrained by the political situation, there are many areas where she has the freedom to act and has not done so.

“There are problems which will take years to resolve, but freeing political prisoners, repealing repressive laws and ending aid restrictions to displaced Rohingya can be done now,” he says. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reported that 225 persons were still in prison or awaiting trial last month for political activities.

Suu Kyi has often stressed that her highest priority is ending decades of warfare between the central government and a welter of ethnic minorities. Last week, her government welcomed a report from a commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommending rapid economic development and social justice to counter the deadly violence between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

But Suu Kyi has also publicly ignored the army’s continuing attacks and atrocities against ethnic groups in the Kachin and Shan states, further eroding their trust in her government.

“Her concept of national reconciliation seems to focus mostly on the relationship between the military and her party, with the ethnic minorities being an inconvenient side-issue,” says Ashley South, an expert on Myanmar’s ethnic minorities. Farmaner contends Suu Kyi views Myanmar principally as a country of the ethnic Burman Buddhist majority, rather than a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation.

Some critics say Suu Kyi is trapped not by the generals, but by her own history and that of Myanmar, which has endured centuries of kings, British colonials and military dictators. By contrast, the country has experienced a mere 15 years of democracy.

Suu Kyi has expelled dissident party members, neglected to groom successors, spoken rarely to the press and apparently made command decisions rather than seeking help from capable advisers.

Khin Zaw Win notes that Gen. Ne Win, who ruled with an iron fist for 26 years, initially enjoyed some connection with the populace but grew increasingly remote and autocratic, surrounding himself with “yes men.”

“She seems to be following almost exactly in his footsteps,” he says. “I call it the ‘courtier mentality’ and that is exactly what is happening now.” Having reached the pinnacle of power, he says, Suu Kyi believes she can go it alone.

“It is such a tragedy,” says Naw, the Kachin analyst. “She has lost so much, her family, her years under arrest, and to have come to a stage where she has disconnected herself from people who went to prison for her, who would have given their lives for her − it breaks their hearts to see what she has become.”

apnew.com, Publishd today
Former loyalists lose faith in Myanmar’s democracy icon
By Denis D. Gray
Denis D. Gray has covered Thailand and Southeast Asia for The Associated Press for more than 40 years.

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National Day

In the midst of the celebrations, let’s ponder what freedom means to all of us.

WHEN I was a little kid, Merdeka was always a holiday that I enjoyed. The most important thing, of course, was that there was no school. The second most important thing was that there was TV in the morning. A very rare thing indeed.

I would sit in front of the 12-inch black-and-white set that my family had, with some chocolates, and watch the parade.

Since I was a red-blooded boy, the sight of tanks and soldiers was most thrilling. Yes, it all sounds quite pathetic, but this was the 70s; we got our fun where we could find it.

Naturally, the entire concept of “Merdeka” was a vague thing for me. Of course, I understood that it meant we were once under the control of the British and now we are not. This was a good thing, because some white dude wasn’t in charge of us anymore. Very simplistic, I know, but then I was a simple little fellow.

Now that I am a little bit less simple, I am able to grasp the more subtle ideas of “Merdeka”. For example, if we are free from the Brits, then what is it that we are free to do?

Choose our leaders, certainly. And it seems that we have done just that. We have chosen the same people again and again and again for the past 60 years.

They are still our leaders, even though the popular vote went the other way in the last general election.

Is this freedom?

Another thing that we are free to do is to live our lives with dignity. This means to me that we have the right to speak and the right to express our thoughts freely. We should not be tied down by repressive laws. Neither should we be in a situation where national leaders can dictate who can or cannot discuss proposed laws based on their religion.

Alas, laws designed by the British to quell dissent are still with us and it would appear that the religious orthodox in the country would like nothing more than to be given free rein to do what they like on the basis that they are more religious than the rest of us.

Is this freedom?

There should not be the humiliation of people because of supposed crimes. But now we are on the verge of seeing public whippings.

Is this freedom?

There should be governance based on fairness. But our smartest young people are bound by rules which are so vague and open-ended that their universities are given the most absurd discretion to punish them for simply practising their civil liberties.

Is this freedom?

Needless to say, this Merdeka will be particularly gaudy and celebratory, what with the success of the SEA Games.

So there will be distractions aplenty. So many, indeed, that we won’t have time to ask: is this freedom?

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 30 August 2017
Thoughts about liberty on National Day

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA − Online critics of the Malaysian government would be well advised not to spend too much money on cellphones.

“Just lost number four,” Eric Paulsen, an outspoken civil liberties lawyer and compulsive tweeter, said Nov. 20 after nearly two hours of questioning at the main police station here over his latest sedition charge.

Paulsen went into the police station with a shiny new Chinese handset, a Xiaomi, and came out without it. At least it was cheaper than the iPhone and two Samsung Galaxies that previously were confiscated from him this year, apparently because they are tools in his social-media activism.

His friend Sim Tze Tzin, an opposition parliamentarian who also was questioned that day, still smarts over the iPhone 6 Plus that was taken from him this year. “Don’t they know how much that thing cost?” Sim said, laughing, after emerging from his own session with the police.

Malaysia, ostensibly one of the United States’ democratic allies in Southeast Asia, is engaged in a broad crackdown on freedom of expression that detractors say is all about silencing critics of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal. And the crackdown is particularly focused on online commentary, which is proving much harder to control than traditional media.

“The government has at least two intentions,” said Yin Shao Loong, who is executive director of the Institut Rakyat, a think tank, and is aligned with the opposition. “One is to stifle freedom of expression. The other is to harass the opposition and sap their energy and tie them up in court cases that could take years.”

Najib’s government has been making heavy use of the 1948 Sedition Act, a remnant of the British colonial period, which makes it an offense to “bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against any Ruler or against any Government.”

Among the three dozen or so who have been targeted so far this year are Azmi Sharom, a law professor at the University of Malaya who gave his legal opinion on a 2009 political crisis, and Maria Chin Abdullah, the leader of the Bersih group, a civil-society organization that promotes electoral reform, who has been charged with illegal assembly and sedition for organizing huge anti-Najib rallies in August.

Numerous opposition parliamentarians also have been charged with sedition, most of them for criticizing a federal court’s decision in February upholding the conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on charges of sodomy. That case is widely viewed as political.

S. Arutchelvan, a socialist politician, was charged in the past week with sedition for comments he made in February. The well-known cartoonist Zunar, who in September won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists, has been charged with nine counts of sedition for nine tweets criticizing the Anwar conviction.

And two newspapers deemed hostile to the government were suspended from publishing.

“Prime Minister Najib Razak and the Malaysian government are making a mockery of their claim to be a rights-respecting democracy by prosecuting those who speak out on corruption or say anything even remotely critical of the government,” said Linda Lakhdhir of Human Rights Watch. The government, she added, should stop using “repressive laws to harass the media and intimidate its critics.”

The crackdown began after the ruling party fared poorly in 2013 elections, said Murray Hiebert, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, but the repression has accelerated amid a corruption scandal that threatens Najib’s hold on power.

Investigators looking into the heavily indebted sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, or 1MDB, found that almost $700 million had been deposited into Najib’s personal bank accounts, the Wall Street Journal has reported.

Najib, who founded 1MDB and heads its board of advisers, has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Arif Shah, a spokesman for 1MDB, said the allegations against Najib were “old” and had been “comprehensively addressed” by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, which in August reported that no funds from 1MDB had been transferred to the prime minister’s accounts.

But amid investigations into the fund, Najib has replaced key officials with appointees deemed friendlier. The new attorney general, for example, has dismissed a recommendation from the central bank to begin criminal proceedings against 1MDB.

The prime minister’s office did not respond directly to questions about Najib’s links to the fund, saying the investigation continues, but a spokesman strongly denied suggestions that opponents of the government were being targeted with legal action.

“The Sedition Act does not impinge on free speech or democratic principles,” said Datuk Tengku Sariffuddin, the prime minister’s press secretary. “Most, if not all, countries have legal safeguards on the printed and spoken word in order to maintain public order. It is reasonable for Malaysia to safeguard itself in the same manner.”

Pending amendments to the Sedition Act, he said, would serve “to better protect all religions and to prevent the incitement of racial or inter-ethnic conflict.”

The changes would remove a clause outlawing criticism of the government and judiciary. A provision would be added to outlaw incitement to religious hatred in the country, which is 60 percent Muslim. The amendments, once ratified, also would increase the term of imprisonment for sedition from three years to seven years and add a penalty of up to 20 years in prison for seditious activities that result in physical harm or destruction of property.

The spokesman said that Malaysia has “a thriving online space in which opposition voices and publications are given free rein” and that government critics “are more outspoken than in almost any other country in the region.”

But critics of Najib describe an elaborate effort to silence them. The Malaysian government has long controlled newspapers and TV stations. Although the rising use of cellphones and social media has loosened the state’s grip on information, especially in rural regions, the government is trying to get a handle on the new technologies.

“There are lots of cybertroopers monitoring posts by opposition [members of Parliament], taking screen shots of them and then circulating them and tagging the police chief,” said the opposition parliamentarian Sim, who is being charged for a tweet in which he mistakenly suggested that the former attorney general was manhandled out of office. Sim deleted the tweet when he realized that the photo included was an old one and said it was a genuine mistake. Too late.

“The cybertroopers wrote, ‘Arrest Sim. He’s giving the government a bad name,’ ” the legislator said.

It is not clear whether these online monitors are hired by the government or are zealous volunteers. But they have been effective at alerting the authorities to criticism.

For Paulsen, 42, an ethnic Chinese lawyer who leads a human rights advocacy group called Lawyers for Liberty, problems began after the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January.

A government official said such an attack could happen here, prompting Paulsen to send out a tweet about the Department of Islamic Advancement Malaysia, or Jakim, which prescribes the sermons delivered during Friday prayers.

“Jakim is promoting extremism every Friday. Govt needs to address that if serious about extremism in Malaysia,” Paulsen tweeted. The cybertroopers seized on it. The next day, Khalid Abu Bakar, the inspector general of police, who also is active on Twitter, posted a photo of Paulsen and his tweet overlaid with the word “rude.”

Then came Paulsen’s first sedition charge. The second was filed after he tweeted that the most extreme forms of Islamic punishment, such as cutting off hands and stonings, were inhumane. The third run-in with the law was a criminal defamation charge after two tweets suggesting that Najib was trying to avoid questioning over the 1MDB affair.

Paulsen does not deny writing any of the tweets, but he does assert his innocence on the fourth allegation against him, which concerns a Facebook post showing a banner in a march that had been doctored to read, “Chinese pigs go home.”

“It was clearly fabricated to make it look like I had posted this,” he said, adding that it seemed designed to provoke racial divisions.

Paulsen said he thinks the efforts against him are part of a broader attempt to silence criticism of the government on social media. “If you’re from the opposition, are a dissident or are active in civil society, they’re going to come after you.”

But Lakhdhir of Human Rights Watch finds some cause for optimism. “A bright light for Malaysia is the strength of its civil society,” she said, “with many who are willing to speak out despite the risks.”

Members of the Malaysian Bar Council shout slogans during a rally to repeal the Sedition Act in October 2014. The 1948 law was implemented by British colonialists in a bid to stifle political dissent.

The Washington Post, Published: November 28, 2015
Malaysia invokes British-era law to stifle critics’ voices
By Anna Fifield

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Proud Family

KOTA KINABALU: Gold medal-winning hurdler Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian is giving himself six more years before hanging up his running shoes.

Rayzam, who won the 110m hurdles event on Saturday, said he intended to compete until he turned 35.

“I was thinking of retiring, but many have told me this is not the time as there is no one to take over,” said the Keningau-born Rayzam, 29, when met at the Kota Kinabalu Inter-national Airport earlier this week.

There to welcome him home were his wife Eriyana Idris and their five-year-old daughter Rayyana Arya.

According to Eriyana, her 11th-hour words of encouragement appeared to put Rayzam in the right frame of mind to win the event.

She said he called her an hour before the race and asked her to pray for him.

“I said I would, but I also told him to just give it his best,” said Eriyana, who was unable to watch Rayzam’s victory because there was no live telecast of the event.

However, after watching the recorded telecast, she noticed that he seemed different at the starting block compared to previous competitions.

“He looked relaxed and confident. He was in the right mindset to win the gold,” she said.

Eriyana said she knew what her husband was capable of achieving after watching him train for the SEA Games over the last few months.

“Never once did he take any shortcuts, even if he was training on his own.

“If the regimen required him to run 400m, that’s what he would do – not one metre less,” she added.

Also present to greet the Sabah Sports Board clerk were dozens of well-wishers carrying “welcome home” banners.

Rayzam said he intended to take part in the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines and prior to that, the Commonwealth Games in Australia next April as well as the Asian Games in Jakarta in August.

Sabah Umno Youth chief Yamani Hafez Musa, who was also at the airport to welcome Rayzam, said the athlete had proven the sceptics wrong.

“Some say he is past his prime, but Rayzam has shown that anyone can excel if they strive hard enough,” he said, adding that the hurdler had made Sabah proud.

Welcome home: Rayzam with Eriyana and their daughter Rayyana Arya at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 30 August 2017
Hurdler Rayzam aims to run for six more years

KOTA BARU: Zumika Azmi and Sasha Azmi have become heroines of the orang asli community after winning bronze medals in cricket at the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games.

Sisters Zumika, 19, and Sasha, 17, are believed to be the first among the community in Kelantan to represent the nation in such a prestigious regional sporting event and win medals.

Their father Azmi Badul travelled from deep in the jungles of Gua Musang to Kinrara Academy to watch his children in action during the third-place playoff on Monday, in which the Malaysian team beat Singapore by eight wickets.

“My daughters have proven that it is possible to tap orang asli talents in sport when given the opportunity.

“They are now an inspiration to the younger generation of orang asli to rise and show their talents in various sports,” said the girls’ proud 42-year-old father.

The sisters were introduced to the sport while studying at SK Kuala Betis in Gua Musang, a five-hour drive from their mother’s home in Pos Gob.

“After Year Six, they continued their secondary education at SMK Clifford in Kuala Lipis, Pahang, where they were given more chances to sharpen their skills.

“I only get to see my children once a year when they are back home for the long holidays. But the sacrifices are worth it, as they have now done the nation proud,” said the father of 13 children, whose ages range from eight months to 25 years.

Although Azmi could not return to his Kampung Jader home in Pos Simpor as buses to Kelantan are fully booked until Hari Raya Haji on Friday, he was happy to make the long journey to the Klang Valley to show support for his children.

“I will stay over at my sister’s house in Bidor until bus seats are available again,” said Azmi, who makes a living doing odd jobs in the village.

Jaringan Kampung Orang Asli Kelantan chairman Mustafa Along said although many orang asli live in remote areas without water and electricity, news of achievements of members of the community would still spread like wildfire, thanks to mobile technology.

“Some of us recorded the games on our mobile phones. During gatherings, we would show the videos to others,” said Mustafa.

“News also spreads by word of mouth. People are proud of the two sisters.

“As far as I know, no other orang asli in Kelantan have gone that far in sports. Some of the guys with potential quit halfway.

“These girls have shown grit and determination. Their perseverance paid off.”

Sasha, who is taking the SPM examination this year, said she was willing to spend more time on the field for the love of sport.

“We can achieve our dreams if we try hard enough,” she said.

Zumika hoped to see more orang asli youth representing the state and country in sports.

“We are proud to be Malaysians,” she said.

Proud family: (From left) Azmi with Zumika and Sasha following their victory.

The Star, Published: Wednesday, 30 August 2017
Teen sisters make history by clinching bronze medals in cricket at Games

KUALA LUMPUR: “ I salute Adam Yoong’s family for the sacrifices they have made until their young son succeeded today.”

This is the praise and acknowledgement given by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Jaa’far to Hanifah Yoong after his son Adam who is only 9-years-old became the youngest gold medal winner at the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

Adam pulled off one of the biggest upsets at Putrajaya Lake when he emerged champion in the tricks event, winning the third gold medal for the national waterski squad after garnering 3,860 points to beat Indonesia’s Dimas Ridho who scored 3,440 points.

The bronze medal went to another Indonesian, Febrianto Kadir who collected 3,140 points.

“It is a fantastic achievement by Adam as his exploits have made him the youngest athlete to win a gold medal at this SEA Games,” said Tunku Imran when met on the sidelines of the ice skating event at Empire City Mall Damansara.

“I just had to acknowledge and respect Adam’s parents as well who have sacrificed a lot in terms of finances, time and energy to nurture and develop their young son’s obvious talent.

“At present I see a many parents who make similar sacrifices especially to expose their children in sports such as waterski, ice skating and ice hockey which needs the participation of the younger generation,” added Tunku Imran.

Adam’s success completes Hanifah’s children’s dominance at Putrajaya Lake yesterday as older sister Aaliyah Yoong won two gold medals for Malaysia in the women’s trick and jump events respectively.

Hanifah is a very important individual as he is the one responsible for introducing the sport of waterski in Malaysia, and is also the father of Malaysia’s former Formula One driver, Alex Yoong.

Hanifah now holds the portfolio of the International Waterski and Wakeboard Federation’s (IWWF) representative for the IWWF Waterski & Wakeboard World Cup, as chairman of the Waterski & Wakeboard championship.

For the record, Adam’s success has not eclipsed his older sister’s record as Aaliyah emerged as one of the youngest athletes ever to win gold at the 2011 SEA Games edition in Palembang, Indonesia when she was only 8-years-old.

Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah (centre) with Adam Yoong Hanifah (right), celebrating their medal wins with their brother Aiden Yoong Hanifah at the National Water Sports Complex in Putrajaya. Pix by Mohd Khairul Helmy Mohd Din

New Straits Times, Published: August 29, 2017 - 6:38pm
Tunku Imran lauds Adam Yoong's family

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Baron Pierre de Coubertin

FOR almost three weeks, we were focused on 111. It was a magic number on which we pinned our hopes.

Whether we knew it or not, many of us were looking for an affirmation that Malaysia is doing fine, that the country can soar if we truly believe and work hard, and that it is natural for us to come together for a common cause.

We need such reminders and encouragement every now and then, and our contingent’s strong performance at the SEA Games is certainly well-timed.

Malaysia’s gold medal tally climbed to 111 just two days before we celebrate the anniversary of the nation’s independence. That figure is the target announced on Aug 10 by Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in order for Malaysia to become the overall SEA Games winner.

It so happens that Malaysia collected 111 gold medals when it last hosted the SEA Games in 2001.

That was enough then to be the best among the participating countries, and it will be the same this year.

In fact, we have surpassed that mark.

Consider it an early Merdeka gift.

All that glitters is not gold, but when that glitter makes Malaysia the sports champion of the region, we cannot help but bask in the warm golden glow.

It is not that we are obsessed with sporting victories and titles. After all, we are not all sports fans.

For some, it may be hard to appreciate the thrill of people chasing balls up and down fields and courts.

Watching men and women trying to outrun, outjump and outthrow each other is not everybody’s cup of tea.

But none of us has any problem understanding talent, diligence, commitment and teamwork. Sports is built on these elements. Our athletes’ achievements, particularly when they don national colours, move and inspire us by reinforcing the importance of effort, dedication and togetherness.

That is why we cheer them on. And when they win or lose, we share their joy or disappointment.

Amid the euphoria over the gold medal haul, we should not forget our silver and bronze medallists, those who did not make it to the podium but recorded personal bests, and the others who did all they could to secure national glory. It is about recognising the triumph of the human spirit.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, was very clear about this.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well,” he said.

As much as the accomplishments of our SEA Games contingent reflect our collective pride and ambition, they also underline what it takes for Malaysia to continue its progress.

Nationhood is not about who comes first; like in sports, what matters most is that everybody is heading in the same direction, relying on each other, and willing to give his all for the good of the entire team.

The Star Says, Published: Wednesday, 30 August 2017
The Games show what we need to keep progressing

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Caught napping

Power napping is undoubtedly a skill.

Not all of us are able to drop off for 30 minutes in the middle of the day, even when we’re exhausted. But those of us who can nap reap considerable benefits to their health, productivity and brain power.

And it turns out there’s actually a perfect time of day to grab some quick shut-eye: 3pm.

The reason for this comes down to our circadian rhythm, which dips around 3pm. Many people also experience post-lunch sleepiness or a lack of alertness, making it the perfect time to nap.

You should aim to nap for 20 to 30 minutes - any longer and you risk falling into a deep sleep which could actually leave you feeling groggy for an hour after waking up. This is known as sleep inertia.

And although a nap can be particularly valuable if you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, napping for too long could make it harder to sleep that night.

According to the latest report by the Sleep Council, almost three-quarters of Brits get less than seven hours’ sleep a night.

What’s more, the number of people who get less than five hours’ a night has grown from seven per cent to 12 per cent.

“When you’re sleep deprived, only bad things happen to your mood, concentration, health, and immune system,” Rajkumar Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, explained to Tonic.

“It’s not good to be sleep deprived.”

But with more and more of us not getting enough sleep at night, naps could take on increasing value.

Studies have proven that napping provides significant health benefits and can actually counter the effects of sleep deprivation.

After napping, people are more alert, creative, have better memory skills and are better at learning. You’re also less likely to make mistakes and have accidents.

And let’s not forget that people often wake up from a nap feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

But if you don’t work at a company like Google or Uber (who encourage napping), you may have to convince your boss before you curl up under your desk.

The Independent, Published: Friday 18 August 2017 08:40 BST
The perfect time of day to nap revealed

Napping can make you smarter, more alert and creative

News that the Spanish government plans to outlaw the siesta will have little impact on the majority of Spaniards, whose only opportunity to take a midday nap is when they’re at home at the weekend. While the tradition persists in rural areas, most city dwellers work too far from home to take a siesta, unless you count nodding off at your desk.

However, what acting prime minister Mariano Rajoy is proposing would have a significant impact on Spaniards’ working, social and family life. Multinationals have tended to impose a standard 9-5 working day, but the majority of Spaniards still work a long day split into two parts: from 8 or 9 until 2pm, and from 4.30 to 8pm. In between, people use the break to take a long lunch with friends or to shop, as the big chain stores don’t close in the middle of the day.

The siesta was designed to give agricultural workers a break during the hottest part of the day, but Spain is less and less an agricultural and rural economy. Besides, olives, the principal crop in the hot south, are harvested between October and January.

The proposal to end the working day at 6pm is intended, above all, to have an impact on productivity, which is notoriously low, and on the negative effects that the long day has on family life. As they don’t get home till after 8pm, people eat late and go to bed late – very late in summer. As a result, Spain is a nation of the underslept.

The school day mirrors the working day, although it isn’t quite as long. Children start early, break from around 1.30pm till 3pm and then go back until 5pm. Parents who can’t afford school meals – an increasing number – have to make four trips a day to deliver and collect their children.

For working parents, there is a three-hour gap between when school and work ends. This means – if grandparents aren’t available to cover – paying for childcare. Increasingly, schools are introducing an 8am-2.30pm day both to save money and because research shows that Spanish children spend more hours in school than the EU average while achieving poorer results.

More and more people, especially working parents, are opting for flexitime arrangements to avoid the split day. However, employers remain suspicious of homeworking, and the culture of calentando sillas (seat warming) prevails. This assumes that you must be present in the workplace in order to work.

Whatever happens, the fact is that a 26-minute siesta, as recommended by Nasa, is good for your health and for productivity. However, the Spaniards who are most likely to be able to take one are among the nearly five million unemployed. And until the government can find them a job, it won’t much matter when the working day begins or ends.

The Guardian, Published: Tuesday 5 April 2016 17.29 BST
Adios siesta! Is it goodbye to Spain’s national nap?

New laws could see the Spanish finishing work at 6pm, and scrapping their afternoon snooze. For many, however, the changes will have little impact on working, social and family life
By Stephen Burgen

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Right of return

Unless you were a Catalan – or a Spaniard – you might have missed the signs of grave political division behind the Barcelona massacre. International reporting almost willfully dodged the tricky bits of the story. We were invited to gape at the horror, fear and sorrow created by Islamist murderers – without contemplating for a moment that some of the reactions to this act of barbarism were quite different from the stories of national and international “unity” that Europe and the world were supposed to share.

There was a guilty clue to all this when the first reports emphasised the “unity” of the Barcelonan and Spanish people, merely mentioning the 1st October referendum on Catalan independence which the Madrid government claims is illegal. Terrorism, ran the message, could heal such divisions. Indeed, the subliminal story was thus quite simple: some things – terror, murder and pain – could not be beaten by notions like regional independence and freedom from central government control.

I was struck by the way that one British television reporter constantly interrupted eyewitnesses who failed to express trauma, shock and mental torment in reaction to the massacre. They could not state the obvious: that these attacks are becoming “normal” – a word loathed by all journalists – and might, perhaps, have a context that was not being addressed.

So let’s mention that context now. The Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy arrived several hours late in Barcelona to express his condolences. And not once, during his sermon of grief for the people killed and wounded in this Catalan city, did he mention Catalonia. He spoke only of “the pain of the Spanish nation”. And in his own peroration, the Catalan president Carlos Puigdemant spoke of Catalonia as a “country”, which it is not. The Catalan interior minister differentiated between Spanish and Catalan victims of the Barcelona attack. At his press conference, he spoke in Catalan – not in Spanish.

It may be a jolly idea that the cultist murderers of Isis – however unwittingly – could create Spanish unity on the eve of Catalonia’s independence vote, but the idea that this potentially catastrophic moment in Spanish history played no part in the aftermath of the massacre is ridiculous.

Why was it, I wonder, that only a few journalists – in The Irish Times, for example, where Paddy Woodworth, an expert on Spain and the violent struggle for the Basque country, spoke of an Isis attack which exposed “Spain’s political faultline”, or on the front of Politico – chose to put the slaughter of the innocent in Barcelona into the context of Spanish politics?

Did the attackers realise this? Woodworth asked. He reported that Puigdemont’s loud insistence, only hours after the killings, that the attacks would not slow the momentum towards Catalan independence, was “almost indecent”.

For 20 hours after the massacre, Spaniards (of both varieties) witnessed the spectacle of Rajoy and Puigdemont presiding over separate “crisis committees” in the same city. They claimed they were “coordinating”, but did not sit in the same room. Only recently, it seems, have the Catalan security forces had access to European security agencies. The Madrid daily newspaper El Pais lectured its readers on how the outrages in Barcelona should bring “Catalan political forces” back to “reality”.

There were, in the world’s reaction to the attack, a few oblique references to the 15th and 16th century ethnic cleansing of Spain’s Muslim population by the married royal Christian duet of Ferdinand and Isabella. I have never bought into the idea that these epic historical crimes actually prompt today’s Isis murderers to drive trucks into innocent Europeans – let alone justify such wickedness. A wretched and small Armenian group briefly murdered Turkish diplomats in retaliation for the 1915 Turkish Holocaust of a million and a half Christian Armenian civilians. But other peoples do not take their revenge in this way.

Survivors of the Jewish Holocaust and their descendants and co-religionists do not violently assault the people of modern-day Germany. Nor does the world’s Jewish community wish revenge for their own dispossession and ethnic cleansing from Christian Spain along with the Muslims. Save for those who converted to Christianity or died at the stake – at least 1,000 Jews, perhaps as many as 10,000 – the entire Muslim and Jewish communities were thrown out of Spain and Portugal by the early 17th century.

In fact, Spain and Portugal decided to make amends by giving full citizenship – and full passports – to the descendants of Jewish families expelled from their countries. The original expulsions, Spain’s justice minister said in 2014, were a “historical error”, a “tragedy” according to his government.

Jewish descendants of the victims, many living in Israel, could thus have a “right of return” – a right which Israel does not grant to the former inhabitants of Palestine who were driven from their homes or fled after the creation of Israel. But nor were Muslims to have a “right of return” to Spain or Portugal after the two countries declared their act of generosity towards the descendants of Jewish victims. Passports there were, but Muslims need not apply.

There were voices which declared that the Christians of Andalusia had been forced to put down Muslim rebellions – and that the Muslim expulsions therefore took place “in a time of war”. In popular imagination, expulsion in a time of war – and this might apply to the Palestinian Arabs – somehow doesn’t quite equal the wholesale expulsion of peoples on purely racial grounds. The real reason, however, behind the final Spanish-Portuguese decision – and of course, they adopted a just, fair and moral attitude towards descendants of the Jewish victims – is that they did not want Muslims coming to live in their countries.

Well, after Barcelona, many would say how right they were. But then we have to recall that the Muslim murderers of Barcelona were of Moroccan origin – and that Morocco was, along with Algeria, the land to which the Muslims of Spain were expelled in the 15th century. Just as Algeria turns out to be the country of origin of some of those who have massacred the innocent in France, whose own terrible colonial history in Algeria is usually sidelined when reporting atrocities in Paris or Marseilles.

Nothing justifies the massacre of innocents. Besides, the mass murderers of Barcelona did not care who they killed – neither their citizenship nor their religion – but at such moments of terrifying emotion, we should surely reflect a little bit more on what we journos used to call “background”, putting the story “in context”, so to speak.

The Spanish and the Catalans know all this. They know their medieval history. And they spotted the pathetic anti-Spanish and anti-Catalan snubs of their little politicians last week. So why can’t we be told the same story?

Four out of five Catalan voters taking part in a similar referendum in 2014 backed independence

The Independent, Published 5 days ago
We need to talk about the Spanish and Catalan reactions to the Barcelona attack – even if it's not a nice conversation

It may be a jolly idea that the cultist murderers of Isis – however unwittingly – could create Spanish unity on the eve of Catalonia’s independence vote, but the idea that this potentially catastrophic moment in Spanish history played no part in the aftermath of the massacre is ridiculous

By Robert Fisk

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An unlikely hurricane hero

ROCKPORT, Texas (Reuters) - When state emergency authorities pulled into the storm shelter in the small city of Rockport, Texas on Saturday, they asked the obvious first question: Who’s in charge here?

Everyone pointed to Zachary Dearing, who didn’t exactly look the part. The 29-year old was wearing shorts, an olive-green T-shirt and curly blond hair pulled into a man-bun.

Yet he seemed to have keen command of a desperate situation playing out in this beach community of about 10,000 people, which took catastrophic damage from a direct hit by Hurricane Harvey.

Dearing rattled off basic facts and needs: The shelter had 126 people at last headcount. Six were medically fragile. Four needed oxygen. Two needed hospice care. Everyone was calm because they had just been fed, he said.

“What service are you with?” Katie Contrera, of the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force recalled asking him.

She was shocked to learn Dearing was a civilian with no medical expertise. The slim screenwriter had moved to Rockport from Lexington, Kentucky only three months before to live with his father, a cancer survivor, on a house boat.

The truth was that no one - at least, officially - had been running the shelter at Live Oak Elementary school. The city of Rockport, a coastal community about 30 miles northeast of Corpus Christi, had opened it before the storm hit Friday.

But officials provided no supplies or management for vulnerable citizens unwilling or unable to evacuate, according to Dearing, others at the shelter and three Texas emergency management officials who later took over Saturday’s rescue effort there.

Finding a drifting ship with no captain, Dearing took command.

He recruited 15 volunteers – most between the ages of 16 and 21 – and put them on 30-minute shifts checking on everyone inside, particularly the most frail. He got people in the shelter to pool their food and water so that all could be fed. He got the team to plug leaks from the driving rain as best they could. And he organized periodic trips into the Category 4 wind storm to rescue more stranded people, according to Dearing, the state officials and others in the shelter.

“That guy is a hometown hero – he pulled it off,” said Carlos Alarcon, with the state medical task force. “That’s my definition of a hero – when someone does something out of the ordinary to help other people.”

Rockport city officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday morning made through the city’s police department, which is serving as an emergency hub for all local agencies.

The episode underscores how natural disasters can often overwhelm official efforts to plan and staff for the worst - in this case, a small South Texas city getting smacked with its worst storm in 47 years.

Dearing’s unlikely role at the shelter also highlights how volunteers often band together in the face of danger and to provide one another aid, comfort and life-saving care.

Dearing and his band of volunteers kept people safe and relatively calm in a dangerous situation that might have descended into chaos, said one Texas law enforcement official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

State officials “had assumed there was an actual shelter here – there wasn’t,” he said. Dearing, he said, had become “a one-man army running a triage hospital with nothing.”


Dearing, whose father evacuated to Houston, decided a little too late that he, too, needed to take cover. As he drove to the Rockport shelter on Friday afternoon, a piece of flying debris shattered both of his rear windows.

When he arrived at the school, it was clear no one was in charge, he said.

So Dearing started organizing people to “raid classrooms” for supplies including trash cans, hand sanitizer and rugs for people to sleep on. His ad hoc team collected food and water from people who brought it and handed it out to those who needed it.

“We pooled resources the best we could,” he said. “The city named this as a shelter but did nothing to organize it.”

Most people stayed in the gymnasium, which seemed to be the most stable as Harvey unleashed its force. The wind seemed to produce waves in the ceiling and basketball goals shook as people tried, often in vain, to sleep on the hardwood floor, shelter residents said.

Two emergency medical workers were there when Dearing arrived, but “did not seem motivated” to run the shelter and later left, Dearing said. Two Rockport police officers were also there for a time during the storm, and tried their best to help.

One of the officers told Dearing: “It looks like you have a system here; just tell us where you need us,” he said. “It was a weird feeling – I didn’t realize I had taken control.”

The first state emergency workers did not arrive until Saturday morning, when the worst of the storm had passed, Dearing and state officials at the shelter said.

Contrera, of the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force, arrived later to find little in the way of supplies or medical personnel. What she did find was a surprisingly calm population occupying the gym and the darkened hallways of the school, which had lost power and running water the night before.

“I was very surprised – and so thankful – that someone filled that role,” she said of Dearing.


The shelter’s self-appointed manager had grown frazzled and rambling by Saturday morning, having gotten almost no sleep. Alarcon, with the state medical task force, said he pulled Dearing aside and calmed him down.

“Stop – Zach, what do you need?” Alarcon asked.

Dearing rattled off the list: Bedding, food, water, cots, oxygen, sanitary supplies, a generator.

“And if we can’t get a generator – buses,” Dearing said.

State officials organized some supplies and medical care immediately and ordered transportation.

By the time the buses arrived about six hours later on Saturday, the shelter’s population had climbed to about 150 people, many with pets. Some had gotten stranded even after the storm passed.

Richard Loos, 68, ended up at the shelter Saturday afternoon after flooding his truck trying to get back to his home on Speckled Trout Lane, just off Rattlesnake Point Road. Trying to avoid one of hundreds of downed power poles in the region, he drove his four-wheel drive Ford truck into a drainage ditch and sank into four feet of water.

He had to climb out of the window to escape, and was picked up by an ambulance wandering through winds and rains that whipped up again on Saturday after a lull.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it out,” Loos said, smoking a cigarette and clutching his small long-haired dog, Bentley.

Nearby, in the school’s darkened main hallway, one extremely thin older woman crouched against a wall, mumbling about her terror of the hurricane.

“You’re okay; you’re safe now,” a medical worker told her. “The storm is over. We just have to worry about getting you out of here. What medicine are you on?”

Soon she would be pushed in a wheelchair to a line with others waiting for buses to Austin. A Texas state guardsman counted them, one by one, trying to put 40 people on each bus. “Twenty three, twenty four, twenty five,” he said, touching each one on the shoulder.

Watching the buses load Saturday evening, Dearing was elated that everyone at the shelter was finally getting what they needed.

He had broken into tears when it became clear that a collection of state law enforcement and emergency professionals had the solutions for the many problems he had been juggling.

“No one got hurt; the patients are alive,” he said. “These guys answered my prayers, and I cried.”

Reuters, Published: AUGUST 28, 2017 / 3:19 AM / A DAY AGO
An unlikely hurricane hero takes over chaotic Texas storm shelter
By Brian Thevenot

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Najib and Trump

WASHINGTON − President Trump has invited Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia to visit the White House in September despite Mr. Najib’s involvement in a billion-dollar corruption scandal.

The White House said in a statement on Wednesday that the visit was intended to “strengthen and broaden our bilateral relationship and expand regional cooperation with one of America’s closest partners in Southeast Asia.”

The invitation represents a significant boost to Mr. Najib’s international standing and is likely to put to rest rumors in Malaysia that he would be arrested the next time he stepped on American soil. In July, the Justice Department filed a civil complaint in a money-laundering case outlining how Mr. Najib, identified as “Malaysian Official 1,” received $731 million from a government fund he oversaw. Investigators around the world are tracking the money trail to his bank accounts in what has become a billion-dollar scandal.

Critics say the visit, scheduled for Sept. 12, also demonstrates that the Trump administration places concerns about corruption well behind other issues. Mr. Najib is yet another visitor to the Trump White House with a history of suppressing free speech and intimidating the political opposition, said Robert G. Berschinski of the advocacy group Human Rights First.

The invitation is “just another sign that this White House pays only lip service − if that − to the idea that promoting human rights or fighting corruption redounds to the benefit of the United States,” he said.

Justice Dept. Rejects Account of How Malaysia’s Leader Acquired Millions JULY 22, 2016

Malaysia’s Leader, Dogged by a Billion-Dollar Scandal, Proves Untouchable JULY 30, 2016
Since abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal that would have tied together a dozen nations and 40 percent of the world’s economy, the Trump administration has been casting about for ways to regain its lost clout in Southeast Asia, a region increasingly dominated by China.

When Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson visited this month to attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, he confronted a resurgent China everywhere he went. Without the trade deal, Mr. Tillerson had little to offer to counter China.

So instead, the Trump administration has tempered longtime American criticism of poor human rights records or corruption allegations as it seeks to advance its interests in the region. Mr. Tillerson visited President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who has been accused of encouraging thousands of killings by the police. Mr. Duterte said after the meeting that Mr. Tillerson had “considerably toned down” American criticism of the Philippine drug war, a charge Mr. Tillerson’s spokesman later denied. Mr. Tillerson then visited Thailand despite a 2014 coup by the country’s military.

Elina Noor, of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia, said Mr. Najib’s visit to the White House “would underline Najib’s stature as a respected leader and statesman warmly welcomed in the United States at the highest level, simultaneously quashing controversial allegations against him.”

Malaysia was part of the Trans-Pacific accord, but Mr. Najib has more recently expressed skepticism about joining the trade pact without the United States − a position bound to endear him to Mr. Trump.

Over the years, Mr. Najib has been accused of having ties to a murder, taking kickbacks from the purchase of military hardware and helping concoct a criminal prosecution against a rival.

But he is expected to easily win re-election in 2018 and is considered an important partner to the United States in the region.

The New York Times, Published: AUG. 23, 2017
Malaysian Leader in Billion-Dollar Scandal Is Invited to White House

US President Donald Trump plans to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is embroiled in a corruption scandal at home, on September 12 at the White House, officials from both countries confirmed on Thursday.

The US Justice Department has been conducting a criminal inquiry into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund founded by Najib, which is facing money-laundering investigations in at least six countries, including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.

In civil lawsuits, the Justice Department has sought to seize a total of about US$1.7 billion in assets it says were bought with misappropriated 1MDB funds. The Malaysian leader has denied any wrongdoing.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Najib will undertake the visit following an invitation from Trump.

“The two leaders are expected to discuss areas of mutually beneficial cooperation, including national security, the global fight against terrorism and extremism, and trade and investment that will benefit our nations and our peoples,” the foreign ministry said in the statement.

The United States sees Najib as a key partner in its fight against radical Islamists.

But that image has been damaged recently after Najib was linked to the 1MDB scandal, and his party overtly supported right-wing groups for political gains ahead of the polls that must be held by mid-2018.

Trump looks forward to “discussing ways to strengthen and broaden our bilateral relationship and expand regional cooperation with one of America’s closest partners in Southeast Asia,” said a White House statement announcing Najib’s visit.

The men share a close bond. Najib is reportedly Trump’s “favourite prime minister” and are “golfing buddies”.

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the plan for a meeting, said Najib would be likely to use the White House visit to try to play down the possibility of further investigations into 1MDB.

Relations between Malaysia and the United States soured last year after the Justice Department filed lawsuits in connection with the 1MDB scandal and Najib sought to strengthen ties with China.

US relations with Malaysia, which the United States sees as an important partner in standing up to China’s extensive territorial claims in East Asia, had improved under former President Barack Obama, who in 2014 became the first US president to visit the country in 50 years.

Najib was a key ally in Obama’s strategic pivot to Asia, and was part of the collapsed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also expected to visit Malaysia in the coming months, local media reports said, although this has not been officially confirmed.

South China Morning PostUPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 10:56pm
Trump to meet Malaysian leader Najib at White House as US seeks ‘stolen’ 1MDB assets in global money laundering probe

The US Justice Department has been conducting a criminal inquiry into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund founded by Najib Razak
By Reuters and Additional reporting by Amy Chew

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Equality should be our motto

HOW many generations have to pass before you are considered and treated as a fully equal citizen? It's a loaded question but think about it. The question may not apply to you but it is a question that resonates with so many around the world.

Our news feeds are showing us what inequality is doing to the world. Even if you don't want to see it, the stream of uncomfortable images of war, migration, refugees, riots, poverty, crime and terrorism are in your face at all hours.

Gone are the days of the one-off iconic image that wins the coveted "Best Picture of the Year" award. The napalm girl, the starving child and the vulture, the black power salute, the Saigon execution, the migrant mother, the green-eyed Afghan girl – all images that make us stop, think, feel and reflect. Today inequality and injustice are in our news feed everyday but we don't have the time to digest the emotional content of what is being said and unsaid.

On Aug 12 we were spectators to white supremacy racism in Charlottesville and its clap-back that was met by evil retaliation, killing and injuring those who were standing up for equality. With the enabling rhetoric coming from the leadership of the country, it was no more about how this could happen but when something like Charlottesville would happen.

While many in that part of the world are condemning such hatred, last week as our country was showcasing our multicultural heritage through the SEA Games, space was given to the self-proclaimed "King of Racists". The worst part? No one rebuked him.

Is it because we are constantly exposed to racist rhetoric that our conscious prompters are too numb to react?

Is it because we have confused racist statements to be the noble work of upholding racial nationalist agendas?

Is there not a better way to empower without marginalising others?

If there is, we definitely have not figured how to do it.

Just a few weeks ago, the politicians were using race to embarrass leaders on the opposite divide. Apparently you're not good enough if you have foreign ancestors, or better still are of mixed parentage. Basically we're all not good enough for Malaysia it seems.

Instead of standing up and embracing the ethnic heritage their parents, grandparents or forefathers gave them, they instead counter insulted. As if there was such a thing as a pure race that was worthy enough especially in a mixed up country like Malaysia.

As the saying goes, their ancestors would have been rolling in their graves listening to these apparent grown ups hurling insults at each other.

How shameful to insult those who led you to where you are today. As the Malay saying goes "bagai kacang lupakan kulit". What greater insult to your own family and ancestors each time you deny who they were and where they came from.

This is the product of what is left unsaid. When racist speech becomes normalised behaviour, so commonplace that we do not even question or rebuke it.

It starts to feed on our subconscious that Malaysia is not for every Malaysian but only a select, pure few. The rest of us are window dressing that make for heartwarming stories of multiculturalism, only to be displayed during national events or in TV commercials.

We may not have segregated buses but we have people who manage to dictate that pupils have different drinking cups based on religion. Why not put that on our multicultural advertisements instead?

But the ruling was reversed after a public outcry. Really? The fact that adults came up with this idea and then implemented it has taught the children a distorted version of multiculturalism.

Perhaps this may then prepare them for adulthood where there are official and unofficial quotas and benefits assigned to different Malaysians.

By saying that I am Malaysian, I do not give up my heritage, my ethnicity, my religion, my principles. In fact, for me being Malaysian is synonymous to all that I am and all that you are – no one above or below each other – all just equal Malaysians. But this is not what is being said by our leaders or taught in our schools.

Knowing what inequality is doing to the world, is this the path we want to continue in?

So now ask yourself, "how many generations have to pass before you and I are considered and treated as fully equal citizens of Malaysia?"

The SunDaily, Last updated on 29 August 2017 - 10:29am
All just equal Malaysians
By Natalie Shobana Ambrose

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Hungry Ghost month

THE driver travelling on a long and winding road at night noticed every car from the opposite side flashing the high beam at him.

He wondered what was wrong and if he had stopped and got out of this car to check, he might have had the living daylights scared out of him.

I have heard this spooky story since I was young. The incident was supposed to have taken place along the Vale of Tempe Road on the northern part of Penang island.

A woman was sitting on the roof of the man’s car, thus attracting the attention of all the other drivers.

That narrow and winding road has seen many uncanny accidents, some of them fatal. Many vehicles have skidded off the road and gone down the ravine.

Spooky tales of the Vale of Tempe Road even made it to a Singapore website of ghost stories.

Since the Hungry Ghost month is back to seize everyone’s imagination, let me recount a few more of Penang’s best ghoulish tales.

I am sure most Penangites have heard of ‘The Deadly Junction’ of Scotland Road-York Road. Supposedly, when one passes this junction in the dead of the night, one’s car may suddenly careen out of control and crash.

One tree near this junction is supposed to look like a woman carrying a child. A woman witch doctor abducted her sister’s son and both disappeared, and they were last seen decades ago at this junction. So they said.

But the longest-surviving Penang ghost story that has been faithfully handed down generation after generation to wide-eyed, impressionable kids is the ‘Relau Hundred Years Mansion’.

In Lebuh Relau 4, near Taman Metropolitan, sits a grand villa.

Behind its walls is a swimming pool, filled with green water now. Someone had once put deity figurines and joss stick urns to make an altar inside the villa.

It is said a maiden drowned herself in the pool after her family did not approve of a man she loved. In another version, a couple and their son drowned there.

The truth is, Relau Mansion or Villa was built in the 1930s by wealthy tin miner Chung Thye Phin, the last Chinese Kapitan of Perak. Chung Thye Pin Road in Ipoh, Perak, is named after him.

Thye Pin was the fourth son of Kapitan Chung Keng Kwee, Penang’s famous Chinese leader whose memory is now kept alive by every cendol-loving tourist who drops by Ah Quee Street (named after him).

Born in Taiping in 1879, Thye Pin went to St Xavier’s Institution in Penang.

It was told that Thye Pin lived the life of a bon vivant with lavish mansions in Penang, Taiping and Ipoh. He built the first swimming pool on the island in Relau and by its side, a summer house where he entertained his friends and associates.

There was never any official record of tragedy in Relau Mansion.

The mansion has been cordoned off by the Penang Island City Council and the grounds surrounding it have been beautified.

At this time of the year, most Chinese tend to be more mindful of ghosts.

I, myself, keep looking at my watch if I am still out in the streets at night. Years of being told to go home early in the seventh Chinese lunar month instilled a hard-to-break habit.

Many Chinese believe that dwellers of the netherworld are now walking among the living. They are with us for a month to feast and gain some relief from their sufferings.

The Hungry Ghost Festival has gone on for thousands of years, rooted in Taoist and Buddhist folk cultures.

Old folk advise us to avoid late night outings, not get married, not step on or kick offerings left on the roadside and postpone travelling plans that involve sea or air travel.

Whether or not we believe these taboos, there is no harm in being respectful to others and treating all with kindness.

Taoist devotees offering prayers near their homes in Macallum Street Ghaut in Penang during the month-long Hungry Ghost Festival.

The StarMetro, Published: Tuesday, 29 August 2017
Ghoulish tales of ghost month
By CHRISTOPHER TAN - Pinang Points

The car spun twice. The driver, Susan, felt lucky to be unhurt. And alive.

It was a bizzare and unnerving experience. But in the aftermath of the traumatic experience, Susan recalled that she had forgotten to offer her annual Hungry Ghost Month prayers and contributions at a temple.

“I wanted to give a donation to the temple for mass prayers to appease the wandering souls. But I was bogged down by work and could not find the time,” she recalls. She was reminded she had been lax on the last day of the Hungry Ghost Month festival.

“I was driving uphill when my car suddenly went out of control. It spun twice before coming to a stop. Fortunately, there were no cars nearby,” recounts Susan who quickly went to the temple after the incident.

“I made donations to offer prayers to appease departed relatives, hungry ghosts or even departed animals,” she says. The ritual gave her peace of mind.

Susan also observed other practices such as serving an extra cup of tea during her mealtimes in the seventh lunar month.

The Chinese believe that spirits from the underworld are released to roam the earth for a month on the seventh lunar month. This year, Hungry Ghost Month started on Aug 3 and will end on Aug 31.

You’d know that the festivities have started when you see the Chinese offering their prayers by the roadside at night. In housing areas with Chinese communities, makeshift tents would be set up to pray to the God of Hades for protection from these restless spirits. There will be Chinese operas and concerts staged to entertain these wandering ghosts.

A feng shui master who wished to be known as Chong, 39, from Ipoh, Perak, says it is best not to stay out too late at night during this period to avoid running into ghosts.He says one needs to be cautious this month.

“Don’t use harsh words to challenge these wandering spirits and offend them. If you happen to pass by a makeshift tent where the God of Hades is, just pay your respects,” he says.

When you are making offerings, Chong advised parents to make sure their children are not accidentally placed on the altar. They must also make sure their children do not climb and sit on the altar, not even for a second!

“For whatever offerings are placed on the altar would be deemed as offerings to the God of Hades. Don’t kick joss sticks, candles or roadside offerings. You may incur the wrath of angry ghosts who may follow you home.”

He also said believers should continue to offer prayers at roadsides once they’d started. “The wandering spirits will return to their usual spot to receive the offerings. That’s why people are encouraged to continue their worship practice.

“If they stop the ritual, the spirits would roam elsewhere to look for food.”

Chong says it is best not to wear dark colours such as black and grey as they will attract ghosts. Wear bright colours like red, orange, green or yellow.

He explains that a popular belief is that the living has three spiritual lights – two on the shoulders and one on the head.

“Don’t tap people on their shoulders or head or you’ll extinguish the these lights. Without the lights, one is susceptible to seeing ghosts,” he says.

Dos and don’ts during Hungry Ghost Month
Mingguan Feng Shui has a special edition on ghosts and rites this month. Here are some excerpts from the publication:

1. When making offerings of drinks and biscuits, open the package and separate them so that a greedy ghost would not make off with the whole carton of drinks or tin of biscuits. Then, the other ghosts would have nothing.

2. Do not offer these fruits – bananas, pear and pineapples – in this order together. It is an invitation to the ghosts to come over and the ghosts will become strong and more powerful.

3. When praying, don’t talk about ghosts.

4. Avoid cracking jokes about burning paper money. Don’t let children get too near the fire when burning hell notes to avoid attracting bad qi (energy).

5. People who feel unwell or sick can still worship these wandering spirits. Women who are menstruating can pray but should refrain from holding joss sticks.

6. Don’t burn firecrackers. You will frighten the good brethen (polite way of addressing hungry ghosts) away.

Who knows, they may be terrified that they cannot remember their way back home.

7. When making offerings to appease the wandering spirits, wear decent clothes. Women should not be in skimpy clothing but can wear skirts or long pants.

8. Avoid wearing black or grey clothes as they court illnesses or disaster.

9. Don’t kill any large insects because they may be manifestations of your departed ancestors coming for a visit. Killing them is showing them disrespect.

During the seventh lunar month, it is common to see the Chinese performing roadside prayers to appease the hungry ghosts so that they do not disturb the living

The Star2, Publisherd: AUGUST 24, 2016
Rules to living with wandering spirits this Hungry Ghost Month

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Rhythmic gymnast Izzah Am--zan

RHYTHMIC gymnast Izzah Am--zan can’t believe she made her coaches cry.

“I made my coaches cry for the first time – in a good way,” laughed the adorable 16-year-old Izzah.

Usually, we’d be crying after a hard day’s training. Today, it’s our coaches who are shedding tears ... of joy.

It was indeed a proud moment for the two long-serving Russian coaches – Youlia Ivanova and Lidia Legotina – as they watched their gymnasts dominate the proceedings yesterday.

Izzah, their youngest gymnast, won one of the four golds for Ma--laysia on the final day of the rhythmic competition at the Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MiTEC).

It was a 1-2 finish for Malaysia in all the four apparatus.

Seniors Koi Sie Yan bagged two golds in hoop and clubs while Amy Kwan Dict Weng pocketed one gold in ribbon.

With that, the team of Izzah, Sie Yan, Amy and reserve Chong Long Yi ended their campaign with a total of six golds.

They also won the team gold on Saturday and Sie Yan defended the individual all-around on Monday to make it four for herself.

Yesterday, Izzah put up a delightful performance to win her first individual gold in the ball apparatus with an impressive score of 15.600 points.

“I’ve been training since I was five years old. I’m grateful to all the coaches,” said Izzah, who also won the clubs silver yesterday.

“This is just the beginning of greater things to come from me. I’m looking forward to the Common-wealth Games next.”

Top performer Sie Yan, 18, was happy to wrap up her SEA Games outing with a medal in every event.

Yesterday, she did well in her pet event – hoop – to earn 16.000 points before doing even better in clubs to win with 16.550 points.

“I’m tired,” said Sie Yan.

“But it’s been worth it. I have a medal in every event in my second SEA Games outing. We have proven ourselves in the South-East Asian region.

“Now, I want to make my debut in the Commonwealth Games.”

It was also a special day for the 22-year-old Amy, who won the country's 100th gold by twirling her way to victory in the ribbon with a high score of 15.750.

“I’m happy to win my first individual gold. At my age, I’m not sure whether I’ll be still around for the next Games but I’ll train hard until my body can’t take it any more,” said Amy, who was a member of the team who won the bronze at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

“We have a good team. Our next goal is to win our first gold at the Commonwealth Games (in Gold Coast, Australia) next year,” said Amy.

Hitting the century: (from left) Koi Sie Yan, Amy Kwan Dict Weng and Izzah Amzan showing off their medals as well as the 100-gold placard at the Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Centre (MiTEC) in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The Star, Published: Tuesday, 29 August 2017
Izzah and Co’s golden feats bring Russian coaches to tears ... of joy

SINGAPORE - Malaysia were a class above the rest of the field as they completed a clean sweep of six gold medals in the rhythmic gymnastics competition at the Asean Schools Games.

SEA Games-bound gymnast Izzah Amzan, 17, won the clubs and ribbon events on Wednesday (July 19) to bring her tally to four golds.

On Tuesday, she won the team and all-around titles.

After finishing runner-up to team-mate Rayna Hoh in the ball and hoop finals on Wednesday morning at Bishan Sports Hall, Izzah ended her campaign on a high.

In the clubs final, the student from Bukit Jalil Sports School scored 14.717 points to pip Rayna (14.534) to gold. Thailand's Thanyaphat Sungvornyothin (12.550) won bronze.

In the ribbon final, Izzah scored 13.617 points to beat Thanyaphat (13.300) and Malaysian Chong Lok Yi (12.217).

Despite their dominant performance in Singapore, Izzah and Lok Yi have little time to celebrate. They will miss tomorrow's closing ceremony at the Universal Studios Singapore because they will return to Kuala Lumpur to prepare for the SEA Games.

Izzah will be making her debut at the biennial meet, where hosts Malaysia are eager to sweep all eight gold medals on offer in the sport.

The youngest of three children, she had just one day of rest last month during the Hari Raya, meaning that her family could not travel back to Sabah to spend the holidays with her grandmother.

Despite having booked her air tickets, Izzah also had to forgo a family holiday to South Korea last December due to national team training commitments.

Under the watch of eight foreign coaches from Russia, Uzbekistan, Japan, Kazakhstan and Georgia, the Malaysian national squad trains six times a week, which includes ballet training in the morning from 7am to 8.30am.

Izzah's mother, Zira Amzan, joked: "She has no friends, and she has no life."

But Izzah does not mind that she is missing out on what her peers are enjoying.

She said: "This is the life which an athlete has to go through. But it's OK because I have to get ready for the SEA Games.

"With the SEA Games just around the corner, I know that I still need to improve because I made some silly mistakes on the hoop and ball. I'll need to polish my routines and I just hope to do a cleaner routine."

Petrina Low, the vice-president of the Malaysian Gymnastics Federation, has already noted what Izzah needs to work on when she returns to Malaysia.

Low said: "I'm going to work on Izzah's mentality, which is still weak. I expected them to win this competition, and their results are a boost for the SEA Games."

Malaysia's Izzah Binti Amzan won the gold medal for Clubs and Ribbon in Rhythmic Gymnastics.

Straits Times, UPDATED: AUG 11, 2017, 5:04 PM
Asean Schools Games: Malaysia sweep rhythmic gymnastics golds as Izzah Amzan stars

MALAYSIA achieved their 111 gold medal target at the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games on Monday night (28 August).

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Trade weapon on China

The US triggers a trade weapon on China and a meeting to decide if the TPP has a future will be held this week.

THE last Global Trends article (The Star, Aug 14) warned that the world is on the brink of a trade war, with the United States planning a serious trade measure against China.

On that same day, US President Donald Trump signed an order for US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine whether to investigate China’s policies, practices, or actions that may be harming American intellectual property rights, innovation, or technology development.

Four days later, Lighthizer announced he was initiating an investigation of China under Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974.

He said China’s policies and practices may encourage or require the transfer of American technology and intellectual property to enterprises in China and negatively affect American economic interests. This is a trigger for a long-drawn-out trade conflict.

China responded with controlled anger. Its Ministry of Commerce expressed “strong dissatisfaction” with the US’ unilateral and protectionist action, and accused the US of violating the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by applying a domestic law to an international matter.

A deputy editor of the state-owned China Daily commented: “With its Section 301 investigation the US is trying to be a player and the referee at the same time. The US is violating its WTO commitment with this investigation. The implication of this is serious.”

Although it does not equate to a declaration of a trade war, it is moving in that direction, said the article.

“A trade war between the world’s two largest economies, or just tit-for-tat retaliation between them, would be calamitous to not only themselves, but also the global economy.”

Other countries also have serious concerns about Section 301. The US widely used this unilateral trade measure in the 1980s and early 1990s to pressure and threaten its trade partners into complying with what the US demanded, or they would face punitive tariffs.

Under Section 301, the US Trade Representative can take “all appropriate and feasible action” to eliminate the targeted act, policy, or practice. These actions are with respect to trade in goods or services, or “any other area of pertinent relations with the foreign country.”

After the WTO came into being in 1995, Section 301 was deemed WTO-illegal, and the US used it rarely. Now the US has signalled the revival of Section 301.

If the US eventually uses trade sanctions under Section 301 against China (the investigation may take up to a year), it is important for China to take a WTO case against the US.

If China wins, it could put a brake on this unilateral measure. But one can’t predict the US response.

Trump is, however, unlikely to wait a year before further actions.

“It’s a very big move,” he declared when announcing the Section 301 case on China. “And this is just the beginning.”

So we can expect all kinds of other measures, including under national security, anti-dumping, unfair subsidies and WTO cases.

Another trade issue under the spotlight this week is the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. After the shock of the US pulling out, the remaining 11 members (known as the TPP-11) are discussing how to rescue it.

A meeting starting today in Australia will see the TPP-11 pondering over at least three options: sign the TPP text as it was agreed to by all the 12, including the US; “suspend” controversial parts of the text that the US had insisted on but which were unpopular with some of the other countries, and “revive” them if and when the US rejoins the TPP; and renegotiate the whole text.

The first option would be quite irrational: why sign on to an agreement which was heavily tilted toward US interests when the reward – market access to the US – is no longer available? Moreover, the US would enjoy the benefits of the TPP-11’s changes in rules and policies without having to give anything in return.

The second option is tricky. What may be controversial or undesirable to one or some of the TPP-11 may be desirable to others. And even if a new US President decides to join the TPP, he or she is expected to insist on more heavy concessions from the TPP-11 in order to win a TPP vote in Congress.

The third is the most honest, but a renegotiation could mean a new TPP will not materialise.

Malaysia has perhaps the most at stake among the TPP-11 as the TPP will affect it probably more than any of the others. The chapters on investment, government procurement, competition and state-owned enterprises have serious and systemic implications for the country’s political economy, including the foreign-local and the intra-local shares of future business.

In addition, there are the concerns, shared with many other countries, that the chapter on intellectual property will drastically and adversely affect the public’s access to medicines, information and education.

The main reason Malaysia and some other countries were attracted to the TPP was to gain better access to the US market. Now that this benefit is unavailable, the mathematics of costs and benefits has to be redone. Is it worth the costs and risks of accepting very burdensome obligations when the major benefit is no longer there?

Developed countries led by Japan and Australia believe they can still obtain substantial benefits from a TPP without the US, for they actually share the same views as the US on many issues.

But developing countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and some Latin American nations will have to think seriously about what is in it for them when the benefits go down while the risks and costs remain.

The Star, Published: Monday, 28 August 2017
Spotlight remains on trade issues

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Looking back and moving forward

THE Friday sermon for Wilayah Persekutuan on Aug 25 discussed the topic “Appreciate the blessings of independence.”

Independence is one of the greatest gifts bestowed by Allah to His servants. Through it, a nation is free to practise its cultural traditions.

With the achievement of independence, society is free from threats and fears. The economy can be expanded, education can be enhanced, politics can be broadened, the society is protected and, more importantly, citizens would be able to form their own identity and stand proud with other nations of the world.

Indeed, in Islam, being free and independent is considered the right of every human being. But it is not an absolute licence for us to violate limits set by Allah.

Our National Day celebration is a reminder for all Malaysians to appreciate our forebears in their fight for independence, albeit with tact and not force. The celebration, coming to its 60th year, is customarily grand and builds up from a month before. This is the month that most Malaysians express their patriotism and love towards their country by raising the Malaysian flag.

By the way, “independent” is defined as not subject to control by others and “national” is defined as of or relating to a nation.

And how about Malaysia Day that is celebrated on Sept 16?

The United Nations website shows Malaysia as the Federation of Malaya (FoM) that joined the United Nations on Sept 17, 1957 and on Sept 16, 1963, its name was changed to Malaysia following the admission to the new federation of Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo) and Sarawak.

FoM is a federation of 11 states where nine were Malay states (protectorates) and two were British Straits Settlements (colonial territories). Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah were British territories.

We have to bear in mind that Malaysia was not formed through the coming together of 14 states. Malaysia was formed when four nations – Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore – came together to form a federation on Sept 16, 1963.

It was an exceptional feat to be able to convince three other territories to come together to form Malaysia, again with tact and not force.

For the record, both Indonesia and the Philippines withdrew their ambassadors from Malaya on Sept 15, 1963, the day before the new federation of Malaysia was declared. The late President Sukarno regarded Malaysia as a “neocolonialist” plot against his country. This led to a period of “Konfrontasi” until the downfall of Sukarno in 1966.

Meanwhile, the Philippines claimed that North Borneo was part of Sulu but in 1966, President Ferdinand Marcos dropped the claim.

For the last few years, the theme for National Day and Malaysia Day seems to call for unity. Racial polarisation has become a matter of grave concern to all Malaysians.

It has to be addressed with a sense of urgency as it can become a major impediment to national unity and nation-building.

Do we not have the Rukunegara to foster cooperation among the various ethnic communities in the country? National unity is vital and key to Malaysia’s success. It is the bond that seals our nationhood.

Given the worry about racial polarisation and looking forward to national unity and nation-building, do we still want to focus on National Day or should we allow Malaysia Day to move to centre stage? This will give true meaning to the definition of national.

This is by no means to eliminate history but to give emphasis to the needs of nation-building. We must now craft the future for young Malaysians and also for future generations.

Let us sacrifice our differences for the sake of our beloved country. We must unite as Malaysians to continue to achieve greater success and progress.

This could not come at a more opportune time when our Muslim brothers and sisters will be celebrating Eidul-Adha on Sept 1. It is a “feast of the Sacrifice”.

Eid Mubarak (Blessed Eid) to all.

Letter to The Star, Published: Monday, 28 August 2017
Should Malaysia Day take centre stage?

I READ with interest the letter “Malaysia’s heady ethnic brew” (The Star, Aug 17), which mentioned the contributions made by various communities in the past to the development and prosperity of Malaysia.

One community, however, was left out – the Eurasians – and I would like to highlight the significant contributions, both direct and indirect, that this community has made to this country.

Going back to 1786, when the British first made their presence felt in Malaya through the founding of Penang by Captain Francis Light, Eurasians were involved in helping to ensure that this new settlement could grow and thrive. It may be recalled that Light was attracted to a Portuguese-Siamese Eurasian lady named Martina Rozells, whom he married in Kedah according to Malay Custom, as recorded by his second-in-command, Elisha Trapaud, in his book A Short Account of the Prince of Wales Island.

As a founding community, Eurasians assisted not only Light but also the subsequent governors who came to Penang in important administrative duties.

They were recognised by the governors as the “wheels of administration” whose help was invaluable.

Among the Eurasians who first came to Penang was a French Catholic priest, Father (later Bishop) Arnold Garnault. To see to the educational needs of the boys, a Malay-medium mission school was established in the Eurasian settlement.

As enrolment of students grew, the priests who came after Bishop Garnault found that they needed professional help. They brought in the De La Salle Brothers, a teaching congregation for boys founded in France, and the Holy Infant Jesus congregation for girls, also from France.

For years, the local teachers in these schools were mainly Eurasians. Little was it realised at that time how important a role these two congregations, and the Eurasian teachers, would play in the education of Malayans over the years to come.

The British had the tendency to establish “buffers” between themselves and the rest of the population for safety and strategic reasons.

In the early days of Penang, the Eurasians were the buffer between the British and locals. While the British lived around Fort Cornwallis, the adjacent area was a Eurasian area known until today as Bishop Street and Church Street.

After these two streets came China Street, Little India, Armenian Street, Aceh Street and Malay Street. These streets are all part of the core heritage zone of Penang today.

To protect their commercial interests on Penang Island from attacks from mainland Malaya, the British negotiated and obtained a piece of land opposite the island in 1798, which they called Province Wellesley. This buffer area was the first territory the British had in peninsular Malaya.

Later, when British interests expanded to tin mining and rubber plantations, yet another buffer area was established. This time the northern Malay states of Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu, which were under Siamese control, were ceded to the British under the Bangkok Treaty in 1909.

During the Japanese occupation of Malaya, these four states were returned by the Japanese to Thailand in 1943, only for this arrangement to be undone by the British in 1946 under an Anglo-Thai Peace Treaty, which made the four states once again part of Malaya.

It may be speculated that if a Eurasian lady had not attracted Francis Light to Kedah, the British would not have come to Malaya, and if they did not have any interest to protect, the shape and size of the country when it gained independence in 1957 could have been very different.

If the French priest had not followed the Eurasians to Penang in 1786, the La Salle schools and the Convent schools throughout the country would not have been established either.

To all visitors who come to Penang today to see the statue of Captain Francis Light standing proudly at the entrance to Fort Cornwallis (pic), it should be noted that what they see is actually a statue of William Light, his Eurasian son who founded the Australian City of Adelaide 50 years after the founding of Penang.

Letter to The Star, Published: Monday, 28 August 2017
Wheels of administration in the past
By EUSTACE ANTHONY NONIS, Patron, Penang Eurasian Association

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Malaysia-China ties

While Malaysian businesses were helping China in the 1980s through the 1990s, China is playing a vital role in the Malaysian economy now. Dr Huang Huikang, China’s Ambassador to Malaysia, gives his views on bilateral ties in an interview with Ho Wah Foon and Yimie Yong of The Star.

Q: How would you describe Malaysia-China relations now?

A: Over the past four years, China-Malaysia relations have developed speedily in all aspects to become more matured and stable. Strong progress has been made in the development of infrastructure, major projects, energy, agriculture, finance, defence and security. We also see a deepening in cultural exchanges, as well as education and medical activities.

Our bilateral ties have enjoyed a “golden era” in the first 40 years. The next 40 years will see a “diamond era”.

As China’s ambassador to Malaysia, I have witnessed many historic moments in the development of bilateral ties between these two nations. I feel proud to have contributed to bringing our aspiration to full fruition.

Q: What bilateral milestones have been created?

A: We have seen four milestones in recent years.

First milestone: our relations are at historical highs. President Xi Jinping visited Malaysia in 2013 and Premier Li Keqiang came in 2015. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has visited China seven times.

While attending the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing last May, he exchanged more views with our leaders on cooperation with regards to major projects.

Second milestone: China continues to be Malaysia’s largest trading partner – for the eighth year in a row. China has become the largest source of foreign direct investment and the largest contractor in the construction sector.

It is the largest non-Asean source of tourists for Malaysia, with arrivals expected to hit three million this year. This means Malaysia will get foreign exchange revenue of RM15bil from Chinese tourists.

Third milestone: Cooperation in major projects is flourishing. Examples are: China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park, Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, Malacca Coastal Industrial Park, East Coast Rail Link, Sabah Gas Pipeline, North-South oil products pipeline, Alibaba and Geely investments, etc.

The fourth milestone: In 2015, China Construction Bank issued the first global Renminbi bond in Malaysia. Xiamen University Malaysia, the first offshore campus of our state-owned university, opened its doors in 2016.

Another significant event in 2016 was the signing of a pact to buy China-made coastal surveillance warships.

Q: Will South China Sea disputes be resolved bilaterally? What could be the possible scenario?

A: The South China Sea was a peaceful stretch of waters until the 1960s when new developments and issues surfaced.

However, China and Asean nations maintained peaceful dialogue after Asean was formed in 1967.

Without the interference of external forces, the South China Sea would have stayed peaceful and stable.

China had proposed that it would deal with Asean nations with overlapping sovereign claims on a bilateral basis, while the overall peace and stability of the South China Sea would be the joint effort of China and Asean. Most Asean nations – including claimants Malay-sia and Brunei – had supported this proposal.

Although Malaysia is a claimant country, this has not prevented the smooth development of our bilateral relations, due mainly to the wisdom of the leaders in giving priority to economic development and cooperation.

The emphasis is placed on dialogue to resolve disputes, and to ensure disagreement will not affect ties.

Last May, all parties agreed to a framework on the “Code of Conduct” on the South China Sea. Against this backdrop, I believe Malaysia and China will continue to solve the South China Sea issues via dialogue.

This will not only serve the best interest of the people in both nations but will also ensure there is continued peace, stability and prosperity in this region.

Q: Will Malaysia continue to be a key beneficiary of China’s Belt and Road initiative?

A: Malaysia is one of the first countries that supported the Belt and Road initiative propounded by President Xi in 2013, and one of the countries enjoying early harvests from China’s investments.

The ECRL project will benefit 4.4 million Malaysians along the east coast of peninsular Malaysia when it is completed.

Future opportunities under the Belt and Road plan will be seen in the collaboration in electronics, oil and gas, palm oil, technology, halal products, fisheries, finance and e-commerce.

I believe Malaysia will continue to work closely with China on Belt and Road projects in its quest for speedier and better economic development.

I wish the country a happy 60th birthday and many years of prosperity ahead.

Optimistic: Dr Huang is bullish about the future of Malaysia and China’s bilateral relations.

The Star, Published: Monday, 28 August 2017
Malaysia-China ties to see a ‘diamond era’

BEIJING: Malaysia and China may be thousands of kilometres apart, but the similarities of the two nations have brought the people together, if not closer.

Zhao Gang, who has made 36 working trips to Malaysia since 2001, said he felt like he had not left home because he still spoke Putonghua (Mandarin) with the locals. He was overwhelmed that Chinese lion dances, dragon boat races and festivals are well preserved and further developed in Malaysia.

Zhao Gang said he was touched to see a shoemaker making traditional embroidered shoes in an alley in Malacca.

“Even in China, many of these shops were eliminated from the business scene, and only the old and famous ones survived,” he added.

“We should learn from the spirit of this Malaysian shi fu (master) in preserving and passing on this traditional skill.”

He was also amazed that Malaysian troupes dominated the World Lion Dance Cham-pionship since it debuted in 1994.

Zhao Gang, who is in the tourism industry, said Malaysia has much to explore – cities, outskirts and islands – and he makes new discoveries on every trip even though he has been to the same place a dozen times.

Malaysia received some 2.1 million Chinese tourists last year.

“The people are friendly and helpful and many of the local Chinese speak Putonghua,” said backpacker Xue Rou, who had a worry-free trip to Malaysia a few years ago.

The beautiful islands along the East Coast states of the Peninsula made a deep impression on her and she wants to return in the future.

Apart from tourism, Malaysia has also introduced musang king durian and white coffee to the Chinese. The demand for these two products is growing, with many travel agencies adding a special durian stop on their tours to Malaysia to lure customers.

According to the Federal Agricultural Marketing Agency, Malaysia exported some RM60mil worth of durian products to China last year, nearly double the amount exported the previous year.

And the export of white coffee to China hit US$51mil (RM216mil) for the first quarter this year, almost the same amount as the whole of 2015.

“I love eating durian and my whole family loves it too,” said a housewife shopping for durian at a store here, “but mao shan wang (musang king in Mandarin) is very pricey so we can’t eat it often.”

The friendship of the two nations began decades ago, with Malaysia being the very first Asean country to extend its diplomacy to China.

To mark this significant milestone, China sent a pair of its national treasures – giant pandas – to Malaysia to celebrate the 40th anniversary of bilateral relations in 2014.

The panda couple adapted well and gave birth to a cub in 2015.

The Star, Published: Monday, 28 August 2017
The Chinese are waking up to Malaysian coffee

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Malaysia and China by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman

In an email interview, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman tells Tho Xin Yi how far bilateral relations between Malaysia and China have come, and about his hopes for the future.

Q. How have bilateral relations between Malaysia and China benefited Malaysia's development over the years? And what impact has it had on China?

Bilateral relations between Malaysia and China grew significantly and substantially since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1974. In 2013, these relations were elevated from “Strategic Cooperation” to “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”, as part of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s visionary policies. For me as the Foreign Minister, this move signalled a new level of bilateral cooperation and engagement for both countries.

Bilateral relations, in order to be close and strong, should not be clouded by one single issue. The multifaceted aspect of Malaysia’s relations with China, and of China’s with Malaysia, has ensured that the lines of communication and dialogue remain open.

Forty-three years ago, the late Tun Abdul Razak, the second Prime Minister of Malaysia, went to Beijing for a mission which he described as “a journey of goodwill and friendship to sow the seeds of mutual understanding between Malaysia and China”. Looking back now, his vision has become a reality as the friendship between Malaysia and China is at its best in history.

The strength of the relations is a direct result of the long-standing commitment of successive leadership both in Malaysia and China, fostering and nourishing the relations into a much stronger and more broadly-based platform over the years.

The mutual trust that was built back in 1974 led both countries to explore many cooperative endeavours for mutual benefit. As a consequence, diplomatic relations have prospered and I am delighted that the wisdom and foresight of the former leaders of both countries have also brought us to where we are today – as beneficiaries of a richly rewarding relationship.

The increased diplomatic exchanges have resulted in a robust exchange of visits between both countries, including at the highest level. This is a trend that is expected to continue in the future.

During the meeting between Prime Minister Najib and President Xi Jinping, in May 2017 in Beijing, both leaders agreed that Kuala Lumpur and Beijing should continue to communicate through all available channels and platforms, including the frequent exchange of visits, to discuss the issues of common concern.

Aside from close cooperation in the economic area, both countries are actively engaging each other in the field of education, tourism, defence, agriculture, finance, transport, culture, health, natural resources and environment, science and technology, among others.

In order to foster close cooperation at this level, the interaction and engagement between Malaysia and China must be based on mutual respect between the two countries.

Q.. Foreign direct investment is a key pillar for Malaysia's development, and we have seen an increased amount of FDI from China recently. However, some people are cautious about China's "motives". How does the Government balance between FDI from China and projecting the interests of locals?

Malaysia is shifting away from a commodity-driven economy to industrial and innovation-driven. Being a small trading nation, Malaysia continues to increase productivity and attract foreign direct investments in strategic sectors to encourage resilient economic growth.

In 2016, China became Malaysia’s number one investor in the manufacturing sector. As an open economy, we do not single out any economies to invest in Malaysia.

Besides China, Malaysia has been actively engaging with multilateral and regional FTAs such as TPP, RCEP and Malaysia-EU FTA. We will continue to encourage the business communities from China and other countries to invest in Malaysia.

In order to create quality and high-income jobs for local talents, it is important to attract investments--particularly in the new growth areas in both manufacturing and services sectors such as emerging technologies and high technology, as well as capital-intensive, high value-added, knowledge-based, skills-intensive and export-oriented areas. China’s participation in these strategic projects is in line with Malaysia’s aim to be a high-income nation by 2020.

Collaboration between Chinese and Malaysian companies in high-value investment will move Malaysian companies up the local value chain in key segments of the industry in sectors such as metal, chemical/petrochemical and electric and electronics (E&E), as well as in the services sectors such as ICT, big data analytics, design and development, e-commerce, and Internet of things.

Malaysia’s policy direction and strategies such as the 11th Malaysia Plan are in line with the China government’s Outbound Investment Strategy, which focuses on building infrastructure, construction, logistics, transportation and energy, and other new development of emerging markets. These are the policies that the Government has put in place with the wellbeing of the rakyat in mind.

Q.. People-to-people exchange is an important part of both countries' bilateral ties. Malaysia has introduced lenient visa requirements for Chinese visitors in recent years. Has the Foreign Ministry been engaging with your Chinese counterpart to discuss a reciprocal visa policy for Malaysia? If so, what has been the response?

The Government of Malaysia and the People’s Republic of China have finalised and signed the Partial Abolition of Visa Requirement for Diplomatic and Official/Service Passport Holders on June 3, 2009. The Partial Visa Abolition (PVA) Agreement is to enable diplomatic passport or official/services passport holders of both countries to enter and stay in both countries for the purpose of official visits, vacations or visiting relatives for 30 days without visa requirement. As a result, there were 64 exchanges of visits recorded in 2016 at the level of Minister and Deputy Minister between Malaysia and China.

In addition to the PVA, Malaysia has also implemented the e-visa and eNTRI initiatives in 2015. Through these initiatives, Malaysia received an increasing number of tourists from China. In 2016, Malaysia received 2.1 million tourists, an increase of 26.7% compared to the number of tourists recorded in 2015.

Moving on, Malaysia is currently exploring the mechanism to expand the scope of PVA to include all passport holders. I have been informed that the Ministry of Home Affairs and its counterpart in China will be discussing on the conditions that are agreeable by both parties prior to implementing the reciprocal visa policy.

Q. In conjunction with the 60th National Day celebration, what are your wishes in terms of Malaysia's diplomatic ties with China?

Bilateral relations between Malaysia and China have progressed substantially in the last 43 years. The close relations between Malaysia and China must be based on mutual respect, trust and genuine friendship.

In this respect, I have every faith that Malaysia’s diplomatic ties with China will only continue to grow through regular communications and exchange of visits between the leaders, government and party officials as well as business enterprises from both sides.

It is satisfying to note that in these four decades of relations, cooperation has not only expanded beyond trade and investment to include education, tourism, defence, agriculture, finance, transport, culture, health, natural resources and environment, and science and technology.

There is much scope for collaboration, and much hope for expansion of those relations.

Given that Malaysia will be celebrating the anniversary of the 60th National Day next month, it is my hope that relations between Malaysia and China will grow from strength to strength. This kind of close partnership not only benefits the people of both countries, but also provides strong support for regional stability and harmony.

In order to move forward, the foundation built in 1974, for mutually respectful relations between two neighbouring countries, must be upheld and preserved. I look forward to better and bigger things between Malaysia and China in the future.

Trying local delicacies: China tourists Wei Chan Fang, 39 (left), and her husband Zhan Xiang, 38 (right), enjoying durian at the Bao Sheng Durian Farm in Balik Pulau, Penang

The Star, Published: Monday, 28 August 2017
Looking back and moving forward

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Thank you Malaysia

I CAME here as a visitor three weeks ago, with my schoolboy view of Malaysia. A land of tin and rubber trees. We were pleasantly surprised and amazed at the changes since those times. Like Aotearoa, New Zealand; Malaysia has grown with the times, and retained it's best.

Putting aside the SEA Games: Dianne Chan came up tops on MasterChef, and no wonder. At every turn Malaysia has a fine array of world-class cuisine. From the Nyonya kitchens of Malacca (and Penang) to the pavement entrepreneur, everywhere Malaysia offers rich treats. A great way to soak up that surplus capacity.

The hospitality and generosity here has to be seen to be believed. We spent time here among friends and we have been deeply rewarded, and enriched.

From the slopes of Mount Kinabalu to the Cheng Ho museum in Malacca we were impressed and fascinated. The centre of Malacca is a living museum. It illustrates a culture, and a community that still exists. This is the foundation of a trading culture with a reputation for honesty and fairness. We found this to be true right across the country.

I took a train to Kajang. What a great place! Stopped for a bite. We were awakened and aroused to the rich tapestry of culture, which is still practised today. A shared meal is a way into conversation and an exchange of experience. This is the way to have a relaxing holiday.

Like Malaysia, New Zealand has moved past its colonial roots. Both countries have a lot in common. The Borneo Garden at the Death March Memorial reminds us, no matter where we are, we are never alone. Never forsaken. We live in a world today where everyone has a voice.

We try to practice a brand of tourism that brings strength to local culture and to family. And it is a strength that Malaysian tourists bring to our country. We are FITS, free independent travellers, and we gravitate towards free independent traders. What a rich vibrant trading culture Malaysia has.

Rudyard Kipling said: "East is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet". Not so today. We should meet, sometimes, swap yarns, trade, and laugh.

True to your deep living, spiritual and cultural roots we Kiwis respond with gratitude and appreciation. I know we have all come a long way. There is much to celebrate.

Thank you Malaysia.

Letter to The SunDaily, Last updated on 27 August 2017 - 08:07pm
East meets west
David George, Cromwell, New Zealand

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Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Facing an immediate threat from North Korea and the long-term challenge of a rising China, Japan finds itself forced to rely on a Washington roiled by constant turmoil and led by an unpredictable president. Yet rather than turn away from the Trump administration, like some European allies, the Japanese government has doubled down on its U.S. alliance.

Personal ties between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are strong, and there’s zero public daylight between the governments on key issues. Privately, however, there surely is growing anxiety in Tokyo about the Trump administration − and in particular, worry that Washington may be wavering on its commitment to the elimination of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Just before he was fired, White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon said what many in Washington were thinking: There’s no viable military option for preventing a nuclear North Korea. “They got us,” Bannon said in an interview with the American Prospect.

The day after Bannon’s interview, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly clarified the administration’s position and defended the credibility of the North Korea military option, standing alongside their Japanese counterparts, Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Taro Kono.

For Japan there’s no debate: North Korea’s nuclear program must be eliminated, not contained, Kono told me in an interview, after meeting with Mattis and Tillerson. Japan is depending on the United States to stick to that plan.

“This would mean that the leader of a country who has no intention of respecting the life and property and human rights of other citizens would have the opportunity to threaten or blackmail the other countries of the Earth,” Kono said.

The United States and its allies must maintain the credible threat of military force against North Korea to support diplomatic efforts, he said, adding that Pyongyang must meet strict preconditions before any talks can begin.

Last week, Trump suggested that there might be an opening for dialogue with North Korea after leader Kim Jong Un retreated from his threats to shoot missiles in the direction of Guam. For Japan, that’s not enough. Tokyo wants Trump to continue insisting that Pyongyang not only halt testing, but also confirm that abandonment of the current nuclear arsenal is on the table.

“Until North Korea shows a clear intent with regard to denuclearization and they engage in specific actions, there should be no dialogue. And there is agreement on this with the United States as well,” Kono told me.

Kono assumed the position of Japan’s top diplomat earlier this month, as tensions with North Korea reached their highest point in decades. His father, Yohei Kono, was speaker of Japan’s lower house of parliament and a leading figure in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

The elder Kono was known as a liberal who supported better relations between Japan and China. Foreign Minister Kono is a “robust realist,” more hawkish than his father but without the nationalistic characteristics that his current boss, Abe, is known for.

For Kono, getting China right is crucial to solving the North Korea crisis, and vice versa. His idea is that the stronger the alliances in Asia, the more successful pressure on China will be.

“If Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea properly put in place a defense framework and strengthen that, and that becomes clear to China, then China will take actions on North Korea, and they will understand it is in their interest to do so,” he said.

Caught between his father’s legacy and his boss’s shadow, Kono is trying to stake out his own public identity while helping his country navigate the most dangerous period in its post-WWII history. Part of that effort includes standing up to China’s military expansion and aggression in the South China Sea and East China Sea, while also pushing China to do more to rein in Pyongyang.

“It’s about time China realizes that when they do something, the impact is felt of that power, so they need to curb the use of that power,” Kono said. “Countries that yield great power must realize that with that power is an accompanying responsibility that they must assume.”

To be sure, Japan has gone all in on the Trump administration in part because it has no better option. Still, the Trump and Abe-Kono visions for the alliance mesh. Both want Japan to evolve into a more self-sufficient alliance member with a greater regional role. Both realize that deeper U.S.-Japan cooperation is the best way to steer Asia toward greater peace and stability.

But until Washington is able to communicate and then implement a better strategy for confronting the North Korea threat and the China problem, allies such as Japan will continue to worry about their bet on the Trump administration and their dependence on U.S. leadership.

From left, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and Foreign Minister Taro Kono answer questions from the media with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee at the State Department.

The Washington Post, Published: August 27 at 7:58 PM
Japan doubles down on its U.S. alliance
By Josh Rogin

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Legendary Japanese photographer

SOMETHING new, something old, something edgy. The newly opened A+ Works of Art gallery in KL has started with a bang, launching a solo by legendary Japanese photographer Daido Moriyama.

Daido’s Mapping City photography exhibition, which runs till Sept 9, is the gallery’s first show.
“Daido is one of the biggest names in Asian photography and having his works shown in KL is a boost to promoting photography here,” says Joshua Lim, A+ Works of Art gallery’s director.

Lim admits the Mapping City exhibit may not be a definitive retrospective, but through the 39 works on display, the show does offer visitors a strong impression of Daido’s creative essence. The photographs span six decades of Daido’s career.

A+ Works of Art gallery is also the official representative of Daido’s works in SouthEast Asia.

Gwen Lee, the co-founder and director of Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) and Singapore’s Deck gallery (an independent art space), was tapped to curate the Mapping City exhibition. Lee’s work on the Daido Moriyama: Prints & Books From 1960s–1980s exhibit during SIPF 2016 last October was one of the reasons Lim knew he had the right person to debut the Japanese photographer’s solo in Malaysia.

For Lee, organising an exhibit is a collaborative effort between artist and curator. The show gathers works from the 78-year-old photographer’s Hunter, Monochrome, Light And Shadow and Dog And Mesh Tights series.

“I make a point to meet the artist I’m curating. Anyone can look at a work and find their own view, but I want something deeper,” says Lee.

Daido was directly involved in helping realise the Mapping City show.

“Daido was aware of how the KL exhibit would be presented,” says Lim.

In a video, Daido explains his philosophy with street photography and how they represent a city, not in terms of the streets or people, but to directly capture its pulse.

“My decisiveness as a photographer is not to document, as a photo cannot tell a whole story,” says Daido, revealing his style.

Daido moved from Osaka to Tokyo in the early 1960s to become a photographer. Inspired by the work of an earlier generation of Japanese photographers, especially by Shomei Tomatsu, and by William Klein’s seminal photographic book on New York, he became the leading exponent of a new photographic style that corresponded perfectly to the abrasive and intense climate of Tokyo during a period of great social upheaval.

Mapping City, despite its modest scale, is a sampling of the man’s raw street photos.

However, beyond the Daido video, scarce information is offered on the gallery’s stark white walls.

The lack of instruction, according to Lee, is to ensure Daido’s photographs take centrestage.

“Eyes are inevitably drawn to text to explain, as most people aren’t trained to read a photograph. The only giveaway is the title of the exhibit, Mapping City, but what does it mean, which city are we referring to ... Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo or somewhere else?” she quips.

Despite a sizeable gallery space, Lee maintains that the Daido works needn’t be an overwhelming presence.

“I don’t just want visual impact. Instead I want the audience to understand his language,” says Lee, walking outside the gallery to point out how a floor to ceiling mural of Daido’s works can easily become a signboard robbed of its original context.

She notes that the older prints – mostly from Daido’s late 1960s Hunter series–are also limited to how much they can blow up old negatives without too much deterioration or resorting to digital processes.

In the past, a few of Daido’s works have shown in KL before – as part of Japanese Foundation Kuala Lumpur’s Gazing At The Contemporary World group exhibition in 2013 – but this solo exhibition is a necessary introduction for newcomers.

A+ Works of Art gallery is also planning a tighter, more focused Daido show next September.

Lee believes that exposure to such works will inspire a new generation of Malaysian photographers to push the boundaries and develop their own visual language.

“Nothing grows out of nothing. We always have to look back to move forward,” concludes Lee.

One of Daido’s best-known images is of a stray dog he encountered on a street in Aomori in northern Japan. It was taken in 1971. − DAIDO MORIYAMA

Daido Moriyama: Mapping City photography exhibition is on at A+ Works of Art (D6-G8, D6 Trade Centre, 801 Jalan Sentul) in Kuala Lumpur till Sept 9. Open noon-7pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Closed on public holidays. Contact 019-915 3399 for more information.

Star2, Published: 27 Aug 2017
Out of the shadows

Legendary Japanese photographer serves up a solo exhibition in gritty black and white.

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Daido Moriyama

One of Daido Moriyama’s best-known images is of a stray dog he encountered on a street in Aomori in northern Japan. Taken in 1971, it has become a metaphor for his way of working, symbolising his relentless wanderings though the streets of Tokyo in search of the essence of the city – an essence that for him often lies in the overlooked and the everyday, the makeshift and the mundane.

“There is nothing particularly fascinating about this place,” he says, as we stand before an image of a nondescript Tokyo street corner on which a red vending machine stands next to snow-crusted bicycles and an abandoned traffic cone. “It is close to where I live and I shoot it every time I pass, like a dog will return to piss on a corner it knows. I am like that dog marking its territory.”

The territory of Daido Tokyo, which has just opened at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, is both familiar and surprising, recognisable from Moriyama’s countless monochrome images of these same streets, but rendered in bright, bold colours. These recent photographs, made between 2008 and 2015, are a brave late statement, not least because they dispense with the the edgy blur and rough grain that is his signature, one that has been much copied.

As if to emphasise the contrast, an installation of Moriyama’s recent black and white work, entitled Dog and Mesh Tights, unfolds on four large screens in an adjacent space to a harsh soundtrack of urban noise. Shot in Hong Kong, Taipei, Arles, Houston and Los Angeles between July 2014 and March 2015, it makes each location look like a version of Moriyama’s Tokyo: a gritty, grimy, rundown, shadowy everywhere in which even the most prosaic subject matter – electric heaters, pipes, footprints, fabric, cats, telegraph poles, shop signs – take on an air of alien otherness.

Moriyama reveals the world as a constantly surprising, always unfinished or makeshift place; an everyday confusion of places and things that we do not notice until he places it in front of our eyes.

The emphasis here is on textures and surfaces: grids, patterns, shadows, outlines, all evoking the grain of the city as well as its movement and energy. “Black and white work is closer to what I consider the essence of photography,” he says, “whereas the colour photographs are much more about the experience of being in the streets. They are an attempt to give the experience of actually encountering the overload of posters and signs and advertisements as you wander though the city.”

Made mostly in the Shinjuku neighbourhood, the colour series is brasher in tone and more dramatic in its juxtapositions, not so much a map as a series of jarring signs and symbols. A mannequin’s face, encased in black plastic tape, is placed next to an open mouth – black lips and white teeth floating in a blood-red background. A splash of magenta paint on a blue door hovers above a head-and-shoulders portrait of a beautiful girl against a blur of neon lights and shadowy buildings.

As with the black and white work, there are recurring motifs: curving metal tubing or pipes, meshes or fabrics, the garish shopfronts and signage of night-time Shinjuku and a handful of snatched portraits of its people (a stocky man’s shaved head and single braid, a blond youth sitting on the pavement immersed in texting, a homeless man lying asleep or comatose on a cobbled road). All the while, unreal faces stare down from hoardings and backlit billboards promising another tantalisingly out-of-reach lifestyle built on brands and labels, the impossible lure of fashion and fame.

Shinjuku is still there in its primary colours, a living, writhing monster
The Shinjuku of today is a distant echo of the politically radical place that first fired the young Moriyama’s imagination in the late 1960s. Nevertheless, it still exerts a grip on his imagination as he enters old age. He shoots it, he says in his poetic catalogue essay, because “it is still there in its primary colours, a living, writhing monster”.

Perhaps that is a testament to the power of memory: the new work, for all its shift in tone, seems haunted by the old. “The reason I return to certain places is somehow related to memories, yes, but it is more an unconscious thing,” he says, moving towards a busy photograph of an uninviting milk bar, its peeling facade and stained awning overlooking a jumble of forlorn plants and plastic outdoor furniture. “It’s just a cafe on a dirty corner,” he says, “but it is also an emotional image for me because it says something about the atmosphere of the city. I can smell the cafe and the coffee. I can smell the whole picture.”

Moriyama, now 77, has long dyed hair and a fashionably bohemian look, suggesting an artist defiantly staring down encroaching mortality. His drive seems relentless. He has made tens of thousands of images and hundreds of publications since he published his most iconic and provocative book, Farewell Photography, in 1972. That is a hell of a long goodbye, but he shows no signs of mellowing. “When I am shooting, I do not slow down the pace,” he says, smiling, when I mention this. “It is exactly the same – keep going, keep going.”

Would he accept that he is obsessive even by photography standards? A long pause. “Well, I would say there are two opposing parts of my character: the obsessive part and the part that is not. I am made of both aspects. But, really, I have no quiet, calm part of me. I feel this unstoppable energy as a kind of turmoil with in me. I have no concept of photography as a static practice.”

He looks around and gestures at the work. “I do not want to sound too profound, but photography for me is about that energy . It is also a way to get closer to the unconscious self. When I am shooting, I am not completely conscious of the world around me, but I am always reacting to something within myself. It is from here [he taps his heart] rather than from here [he taps his head]. There are no other deep reasons for this work except feeling and emotion.”

Daido Tokyo is at Fondation Cartier, Paris, until 5 June

The Guardian, Published: Sunday 7 February 2016 18.15 GMT
Tokyo: the city that came out of the shadows

Daido Moriyama has spent his life obsessively photographing the dirty stairwells, neon signs and salarymen Japan’s capital in gritty black and white. Now, at 77, he’s exploding into glorious colour. Why?
By Sean O'Hagan

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Life in a bubble

Does anyone smell a crash coming? Allow me to wax economic for a moment.

Maybe it’s the ongoing bull market – the second longest in history. Maybe it’s POTUS Donald John Trump’s proclivity to say crazy things. But sometimes I feel like we’re just one geo-political shock from another economic downturn.

Though remember, I’m not an economist. I worked most of my life as a model and still work in entertainment, so I’m not exactly an authority on this subject, but it just seems to me that perhaps we’re in a bit of a bubble. But what is an economic bubble?

That’s a word that is tossed around a lot in economic talk, so to understand what that means and how it forms, it might be easiest to revisit one of the world’s earliest economic bubbles – Dutch Tulip Mania.

Dutch Tulip Mania is exactly what it sounds like. The Dutch went manic for tulips – as one is apt to do, but the Dutch took it to a whole new level.

Back in the late 1500s, tulips were introduced to the Netherlands from the Ottoman Empire or modern-day Turkey. The Dutch instantly fell under the trance of this perennial showy flower. Tulips were embraced by the upper echelons of Dutch society and became a status symbol.

Having a few tulips planted in your front lawn was the modern-day equivalent of rolling up to the club in a Lambo. It was a signal that you were balling. And rightly so.

Tulip bulbs were in demand and their price sky rocketed. By the mid-1630s, tulip bulbs were being scooped up by speculators to flip for mega profits later. Forget real estate or businesses, the savvy investor was piling into flower bulbs. The price of a single tulip bulb peaked at what would be today tens of thousands of dollars. People were selling their homes and all their worldly possessions to own a few bulbs.

Eventually someone decided tulips, though very pretty, weren’t worth everything they owned and that was the beginning of the end. The price of tulip bulbs plummeted back to normal levels, leaving hordes of speculators bankrupt and sending the Netherlands into a minor economic depression.

Dutch Tulip Mania is a pretty good illustration of how an economic bubble works.

When something – be it real estate, stocks, or in this case, tulips – comes into demand, the prices increase.

The emotional pull to get into the market is stronger than the logical side of the argument that states something that goes up must come down. Values climb even higher until people decide that paying that price for such a product is ridiculous, and people stop buying. Price drops through the floor and the folks that poured in their life savings are left holding a bunch of overpriced tulip bulbs that are now being sold in the bargain bin.

Basically, prices rise until the majority of us decide that this price is no longer worth whatever it is we’re paying for.

In the case of real estate in Hong Kong – where I reside – the consensus among the non-billionaire class for years has been that the US$1mil apartment that resembles a closet is ridiculous. Yes, the tulips are pretty but not worth selling everything to own one.

And it feels the same way with lots of other things.

The stock market’s continued rise based on nothing more than the assumption back in the fall that Donald John Trump (yes, I watched Tina Fey on SNL recently) will be good for business – an assumption that hasn’t exactly played out in reality – feels a lot like people piling in to invest in already overpriced tulip bulbs.

The other predominant trait of bubbles is that no one can predict them. Which is why they’re bubbles. No one wants to predict the end of a system they profit from, and we tend to believe that the conditions that currently exist will continue to persist. But history has shown us the markets will correct whenever they want despite the whims of the people.

There’s a logic that emanated from the late 1990s dot com bubble that if your cab driver is giving you tips on what to invest in, it’s time to get out of the market. Well, maybe when a fashion model is warning of impending economic doom, it’s time to get in and pay no mind. Or maybe it’s the other way around, when even an ex-fashion model is worried about an economic crash, it’s time to bail.

The Star2, Published: AUGUST 27, 2017
An ex-fashion model’s take on the economy

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Cut the rice

One of my favourite meals as a child was a simple one, common across South-East Asia – rice with fish and a vegetable dish on the side, such as kangkong. Varieties of this dish are traditional here, as in Nasi Lemak, although I am partial to Nasi Dagang.

Rice is central to these dishes. Look at the names: the very first word is nasi (rice). What would they be without rice?

For many of us, myself included, rice is comfort food. As a child, I’d be content with a bowl of steaming hot rice with a bit of butter and salt. In sickness, what do many of us eat? Rice porridge.

My travels have given me a taste for all kinds of ethnic and exotic foods, yet my penchant for rice persists. After a few days, I yearn for rice. That’s how, when travelling in Peru, I discovered Chinese Peruvian fried rice, a popular meal there.

My love of rice is definitive of my Asian heritage. Rice has been a much-loved staple food in the region for more than 5,000 years. I always considered it a special grain. It is after all, a common first food for babies everywhere because it rarely causes allergies.

But now, I consider rice the Achilles heel of the Asian diet.

Studies show a link between high regular consumption of white rice with type 2 diabetes. It’s a “unique risk factor” in Asian populations, says Dr Frank B. Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Rice is a driving factor behind Asia’s escalating epidemic of type 2 diabetes.

A 2012 study by Harvard researchers found that the risk of developing diabetes rises by 10% with every extra serving per day of white rice.

The study looked at what people ate in Japan and China, where three or four servings of white rice per day was the average, and in Australia and the United States, where less than five servings a week was the average.

So it’s not simply that we eat rice, it’s that we eat a lot of it, and often. What you’re eating the rice with also matters, and importantly, what kind of rice it is.

White rice is a relatively modern invention – it is brown rice milled and stripped of the outer hull, fibre and bran. The problem lies in the refining of rice. (Other refined, starchy carbohydrates would also carry a risk for diabetes, researchers say).

Nasi goreng.

On the glycaemic index (GI), a scale of 1 to 100 that measures how foods cause your blood sugar to spike (with sugar at 100), white rice ranks high. Jasmine or Japanese (sushi) rice has a GI of almost 90; Basmati is much lower at 59; some parboiled rice is even lower and brown rice is 55. Sticky rice has a very high GI because it contains more of a certain carbohydrate (amylopectin rather than amylose).

The Harvard study found brown rice actually decreases the risk of diabetes by 16%.

My great-grandmother, who lived till 99 years in Sri Lanka, always ate red rice, which is similar to brown rice but has more vitamins. She was also very active.

“In the old days, when people spent a lot of time working in the fields, consuming a lot of white rice was not a problem,” explains Dr Hu.

“When people become sedentary and overweight, consuming a large amount of refined carbohydrates like white rice becomes problematic in terms of raising the risk of diabetes and other metabolic diseases.”

Asians actually have a higher risk for diabetes – they develop the disease at younger ages and at lower degrees of obesity than Caucasians.

The high intake of rice and sugar, particularly sweetened drinks, in the region, and the large number of men who smoke, has led to diabetes skyrocketing in the region in recent decades. Consider: in 1980, less than 1% of Chinese adults had diabetes; now that figure is about 12%, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

Asia is now the epicentre of the world’s diabetes epidemic. In Malaysia, prevalence runs at 18%; but among adults older than 30 years, it’s one in five.

We seem to be immune to such statistics. Interestingly, when Singapore’s Health Promotion Board targeted white rice in the island’s fight against diabetes, it caused an uproar.

I now take smaller rice portions and try to eat Basmati or red rice. But when eating out, it’s hard to avoid rice.

Researchers at a university in Shanghai are currently looking to breed a kind of black rice with normal rice, in order to create a high-protein rice lower in carbohydrate.

For now though, we need to cut back on the rice. For sure, we should think twice about having that extra portion.

Different varieties of locally produced rice are displayed for sale at a local farmers market in Donggongon, Sabah, Malaysia, on July 30, 2017.

Star2, Published: AUGUST 27, 2017
Cut the rice, cut risk of diabetes

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Beijing’s Belt and Road projects in Malaysia

Malaysia appears unaffected by China’s latest curbs on ‘irrational investments’ abroad.

CHINA’S announcement on Aug 18 that it will tighten rules to defuse risks for outbound “irrational investments” is unlikely to affect Beijing’s Belt and Road projects in Malaysia.

This is mainly because Malaysia has been rated as a “low risk” country along the Belt and Road route, not only by China’s officials but also by researchers in the private sector.

On Aug 18, China’s State Council headed by Premier Li Keqiang posted guidelines “to promote healthy growth of overseas investment and prevent risks” on its website.

According to the State Council, China will support domestic enterprises to venture overseas and join in the construction of projects in the Belt and Road initiative, which may see investments totalling US$1 trillion (RM4.2 trillion).

But the State Council warns that overseas investments should not “go against the (concept of) peaceful development, win-win cooperation and China’s macro control policies.”

Restricted sectors include real estate, hotels, sport clubs, outdated industries, gambling or projects that may undermine China.

The State Council also warns against investing in “chaotic regions” and nations with no diplomatic ties with China.

To guard against financing risks, the State Council issued another circular last Monday to tighten supervision over financing guarantee companies.

These measures are deemed necessary after China’s Commerce Ministry recently revealed the shocking extent of losses incurred by its companies overseas.

The ministry stated that 65% of Chinese investments abroad – including Belt and Road projects – had suffered losses.

And state-funded insurance company Sinosure that has supported export, domestic trade and investment with a total value of US$2.8tril (RM11.97tril) since 2001, reported that claims it had paid out by 2015 amounted to US$9.5bil (RM40.6bil).

In addition, the near indiscriminate involvement by state corporations and large private firms in overseas mergers and acquisitions in recent years had caused capital outflow of US$1 trillion and forced down China’s foreign reserves and yuan.

According to China’s ambassador to Malaysia, Dr Huang Huikang, Malaysia is seen as among the safest countries in South-East Asia for Chinese investments.

“There may be some rumblings now and then, but on the whole Malaysia is politically stable with people of all races and cultures living in harmony together. We also see very low risk in security,” he says.

Last month, a delegation of senior academics, researchers and foreign affairs officials came to Kuala Lumpur to conduct an assessment of the political situation, legal and financial systems.

Prof Zhai Kun of Peking University – a senior member of the delegation – feels that Malaysia is more politically stable than two years ago.

According to Beijing-based Minsheng Securities, Malaysia’s political stability and Thailand’s economic stability are given high rating in its risk assessment.

Both countries score high in investment policies and business environment, according to Minsheng.

“The top five countries with most Chinese investments in recent years are Russia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. In terms of investment risks, the lowest are Malaysia and Thailand,” said Minsheng in its research report.

Malaysia’s sovereign risk has also stayed unchanged and its economy has remained resilient, despite being hit by low crude oil prices and volatility in currency.

On Aug 18, Fitch Ratings affirmed Malaysia’s Long-Term Foreign and Local-Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at “A-” with a Stable Outlook.

Fitch said Malaysia’s rating was supported by GDP growth, which had exhibited unexpected strength in the second quarter with a growth of 5.8% – the highest in two years.

The international rating agency also raised its growth forecast on Malaysia to 5.1% in 2017, from 4.5% previously. It expects the Federal Government debt to stabilise at 52% of GDP – below Malaysia’s self-imposed level of 55%. Most other research houses also raised their forecast on Malaysia’s economic performance for this year.

In luring projects from Beijing, Kuala Lumpur has been wise to focus on infrastructure structures that are deemed as “strategic” for Malaysia and China, and in line with the Belt and Road objective.

Most of the projects with involvement of China’s state-owned companies are linked to energy, ports, railways and construction, while its private sector has entered into manufacturing, property development, e-commerce and logistics.

One example of strategic importance to both countries is the long-term RM55bil East Coast Rail Link project, launched earlier this month with full financing from China. For Peninsular Malaysia, this double-track railway system will upgrade east-west connectivity, help boost economic development along the east coast and improve the well-being of residents in Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan.

For China, this project will shorten the trade route for its cargo heading west to Middle East, India and Indonesia, and vice versa. As this route will bypass Singapore, it will mean more trade opportunities for Malaysians.

Indeed, the deepening of Kuantan Port is helping to bring in billions of direct investments from China into the Malaysia-China Industrial Park in Kuantan.

And Xiamen University Malaysia, set up by China, is seeing an influx of Chinese students after opening its door last year.

The other major projects in Malaysia seen as strategic by the Chinese government include the RM200bil Bandar Malaysia, the RM70bil KL-Singapore High Speed Rail, the RM40bil Melaka Gateway, and the RM30bil oil pipeline linking Bagan Datuk to Bachok.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 27 August 2017
Low risk, so all systems go

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - One after another, Southeast Asian countries are joining hands with China to build high-speed railways.

One after another, Southeast Asian countries are joining hands with China to build high-speed railways. The latest such project is a 688-kilometer high-speed railway along the eastern coast of Malaysia, for which the groundbreaking ceremony was held on Aug 10. Last week, media reports said China and Thailand will sign a contract on a railway project linking Kunming, capital of Southwestern China’s Yunnan province, and Bangkok during Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s official visit to China next month. And work on the project is expected to start in October.

Apart from the above-mentioned projects, Chinese companies are already building the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway in Indonesia and the one linking China and Laos. And both Malaysia and Singapore have welcomed Chinese companies to bid for a high-speed railway linking the two countries.

These projects are like silk threads connecting China and Southeast Asian countries and the best testimony to the progress the Belt and Road Initiative has made in Southeast Asia.

A key part of the Belt and Road Initiative is interconnectivity of roads, and building or improving existing cross-border transportation networks is a prerequisite for closer regional cooperation and people-to-people exchanges.

Unfortunately, many Southeast Asian countries still lag behind in terms of modern transportation infrastructure, which has hindered their economic development. Take Thailand for example. The country with a population of less than 70 million received about 40 million tourists last year, of which one-fourth were from China. Yet only one train plies between Bangkok and Pattaya, two of Thailand’s most popular cities, from Monday to Friday. Moreover, the trains often take three to four hours to cover a distance that can be negotiated in an hour by a high-speed train. This lack of modern traffic infrastructure is preventing Thailand from fulfilling its development potential.

In comparison, China has been continuously developing its transportation infrastructure for decades. By last year, China had high-speed trains running across 22,000 km, accounting for more than 65 per cent of world total. High-speed trains have not only made travelling more convenient and comfortable for passengers, but also earned global praise−that’s why high-speed railway is considered one of the “four new great inventions” of China.

Southeast Asian countries, like China, have huge populations that need to frequently travel from one place to another, yet they have comparatively small budgets for transportation infrastructure, which would be more suited to building high-speed railways.

And because of its mature high-speed train technology and rich experience, China could help Southeast Asian countries in this regard−a move that will be beneficial to the local people. More importantly, the cooperation between China and those countries in infrastructure building will be mutually beneficial.

After 20 years of developing the sector, China today holds the intellectual property rights for its high-speed railway, and has established technological standards that would suit other developing countries equally well.

By 2030, China expects to build eight longitudinal and eight parallel high-speed train lines to have in place a comprehensive high-speed railway network. At that time, Chinese companies will have more time, energy and resources at their disposal to help China’s Southeast Asian neighbors build their own high-speed railway networks.

For Southeast Asian countries, an efficient high-speed railway will not only improve their transportation infrastructure, but also help cultivate more engineering talents and thus boost their economies. And after Southeast Asian countries are connected with one another through high-speed railways, the region’s economic integration will intensify.

The Belt and Road Initiative has created new opportunities for China and Southeast Asian countries to work together, for instance, through high-speed railway construction.

Asia News Network, Published: 25 Aug 2017 10:45
OPINION: High-speed trains for the prosperity for Southeast Asia
By Zheng Anguang
The author is an associate professor at School of International Relations, Nanjing University.

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Target of 111 gold medals

KUALA LUMPUR: With just four days left, the Malaysian contingent is well on its way to reaching its target of 111 gold medals at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

That is the magical number which Malaysia believes will make it the overall winner of the 29th edition of the SEA Games, which ends on Wednesday.

There are 126 gold medals still up for grabs over the next four days.

Silat, diving, cycling (track), gymnastics, sailing and water skiing are all expected to be major gold medal contributors.

More could come from hockey, with two field gold medals in sight, along with football and taekwondo.

At press time, Malaysian athletes have chalked up 83 golds to lead the medal standings with a tally of 83-58-53.

The highly-anticipated challenge from Thailand has failed to materialise as it languishes in fourth spot with a 44-64-63 haul thus far.

Surprisingly, it is Vietnam which is giving Malaysia a fight, having amassed 49-34-43 medals.

Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary-general Datuk Low Beng Choo said that the contingent has clearly surpassed expectations and is well on the way to achieving the 111 gold target.

“The performances thus far, from all the sports, have been monumental. Every sport is doing its very best and the younger athletes are making history by winning.

“I have to say that OCM is pleasantly surprised. And what caught our attention is the massive support from the fans.

“We are not talking about the so-called big sports. Even sports like volleyball, where our medal chances are slim, have attracted huge crowds.

“We didn’t expect this at all but Malaysians have all come together to make this SEA Games a national affair,” she said.

Malaysia last hosted the Games in 2001 and bagged 111 gold medals to be overall champion.

For this Games, the National Sports Council (NSC) started a two-year “Kita Juara” programme soon after the Singapore Games ended in 2015.

Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has been at the forefront leading the charge for medals.

He is also a member of the national polo team, which is expected to deliver the gold medal as well.

It is already on record that over RM100mil has been spent on the programme.

Thus, it will be a nerve-racking four days as the Malaysian contingent tries to ward off any late surge by its rival countries.

With the Games ending on Aug 30, and things going according to plan, Malaysia can expect its best-ever birthday present when it celebrates 60 years of Merdeka on Aug 31.

Golden girl: Aaliyah Yoong Hanifah won the gold medal in the waterski final at Putrajaya Water Sports Centre in Putrajaya.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 27 August 2017
111 gold medal tally is well in sight

SHAH ALAM: Despite concern that tensions between supporters at the Malaysia-Indonesia football SEA Games semi-finals would boil over, the crowds kept it to a friendly rivalry under heavy police supervision.

When I arrived at 3pm yesterday, a large crowd had already built up even though the game was set to start at 8.45pm.

Many fans were ready to support their teams, like Alliance Supporter Indonesia in Malaysia member Agus Purwanto, 30, whose group brought full-size flags, various banners and a drum set.

He told me the fan club stayed overnight at the stadium, hoping to snag tickets early yesterday, as the counters had closed early on Friday.

Hearing similar rumours that tickets would be sold at 3pm, wireman Antoro, 27, and around 30 friends came at 8am.

As the deadline neared, the crowd began chanting and demanding that the ticket booths be opened.

Their demands, however, came to nought and the ticket counters remained closed. A check on the SEA Games ticketing site showed that tickets for the match were sold out.

“Even if I don’t get a ticket, I will stay here and cheer for my team,” Antoro told me, his face painted red and white down the middle, like the Indonesian flag.

Financial consultant Syakir Zaidi, 20, complained that there were ticket-scalpers preying on those desperate to get in to watch the game.

“They are selling the tickets for between RM70 and RM100. The original ticket price was RM20! I want to support my team, but that’s too much because I’m getting tickets for me and five friends,” he said.

As part of the tight security, Indonesian fans were made to enter the stadium through gate A while Malaysian fans could go through gates B, C and D.

Earlier in the day, Selangor Police Chief Comm Datuk Mazlan Mansor warned fans not to bring sharp weapons or explosives into the stadium, or they would be arrested without warning.

Though police presence was light earlier in the day, more came later, matching the growing crowd, with many police cars, Black Marias and eight FRU trucks seen by 6pm.

However, supporters showed the spirit of good sportsmanship, mingling with each others’ groups while waiting for the gates to open.

When asked about their rivalry, the supporters said beyond sports, the two countries still shared the same roots.

“Satu rumpun, satu nusantara (One root, one archipelago)” chanted the groups of mixed supporters.

Husband and wife duo Shamsuri Aziz and Adlina Ahmad showed that even they could support different teams, each dressed in their nation’s team colours – Shamsuri in the red and white Indonesian colours and Adlina in yellow and black.

Shamsuri joked that their two-year-old son Al Ismu Duaaun was in neutral colours as they weren’t sure which team he supported.

The festival-like atmosphere was also aided by the accommodating weather, with cloud cover and strong winds keeping supporters cool-headed over the long wait.

By evening the stadium grounds were littered with garbage, as few bins were provided. Many drivers parked their vehicles along the main roads causing heavy traffic leading to and from the stadium.

Inside the stadium, there was a carnival-like atmosphere as both sets of fans sang songs cheering on their teams.

The Malaysian crowd was led by Ultras Malaya (a fan club) members who livened up the atmosphere with their chants.

The game ended with Malaysia scoring one goal. When the Malaysian team scored, the stadium broke into deafening cheers.

Crowds gathering outside the stadium rushed into the venue excitedly, hoping to join in the festivity.

The cops on duty shut the gate fast, but a small number of fans managed to break in.

Malaysia will meet Thailand in the final on Tuesday at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Lively crowd: Malaysian supporters at the SEA Games football semi-final against Indonesia at the Shah Alam Stadium.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 27 August 2017
Football fans douse concern over tensions

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Harimau (Rimau) in Malay means "tiger"!

The world is divided by well-meaning doers and self-serving whiners, so we should try to remain on the right side of that divide and not be plagued by negativity.

LET’S be honest and look at the bigger picture. Most Malaysians currently consumed by the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games 2017 are only concerned with the country wrapping up the tournament with the heftiest gold medal haul.

Minor glitches have reared their heads, but that’s only natural at any international sporting meet involving thousands of participants.

I think it was grossly unfair, and even smacked of prejudice and bias, when some groups picked on the organisers of the games for these negligible oversights, attempting to give the perception that the KL SEA Games has been shambolic.

It’s fair to say most of us believe that, from the stunning opening ceremony to the steamrolling momentum of the Malaysian team in collecting gold, we are radiating with pride for our country and our Team Rimau.

The multi-racial teams which have been scooping up the medals have restored much-needed national morale and pride, which, rightly or wrongly, appears to have slid down a slippery slope in recent years.

But suddenly, in absolute tribute to the games, a feel and sense of togetherness has washed over us. Malaysians of different races and religions are celebrating as one people, cheering Team Rimau in a unison voice of support in every competing event.

That’s all we really need to care about. It’s what matters most ahead of National Day and Malaysia Day. And the timing couldn’t have been better.

The biting reality is that controversies are par for the course at these events, and the SEA Games is no exception.

In the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, their countryman, Rajendran Kurusamy, was charged for fixing a football match between Timor Leste and Malaysia.

Deputy public prosecutor Nicholas Khoo described Rajendran as “Singapore’s most prolific match-fixer, in terms of convictions” and noted that the jail term was the “highest sentence imposed on a match-fixer on a single charge”.

Rajendran, 55, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act. He was handed a 42-month jail term for agreeing to slip S$15,000 to the Football Federation of Timor Leste’s technical director Orlando Marques Henriques Mendes to buy the game for Malaysia.

The second charge, for which Rajendran was meant to serve 48 months’ jail time, involved him offering S$4,000 per piece to at least seven Timor Leste players as inducement to lose the match.

The games-opening hoodoo struck the 2015 SEA Games unannounced. Sharon Au, an emcee for the opening ceremony, had to apologise for her purported insensitive actions.

In an audience exchange segment before the ceremony proper, Au apparently approached an Indian girl, and after speaking to her, adopted a strong Indian accent in her commentary.

Posting on Facebook, AFP journalist Bhavan Jaipragas branded the move a display of “racism”, saying Au also “made fun” of the girl’s name, and demanded an apology from the Games organisers and Au herself.

But before even pointing fingers elsewhere, closer to home – in Kuala Lumpur yesterday – RTM admitted making errors when displaying the flags of certain participating countries during its SEA Games showcase and vowed action would be taken to prevent similar occurrences.

The national content provider’s director-general of broadcasting Datuk Abu Bakar Ab Rahim confirmed apologies have been extended for the mistakes which appeared during the news segments on Thursday and Friday. He explained that the mistakes occurred at production level while attempting to update the medal tally, which was constantly evolving.

And with variety being the spice of life, what else is there to look forward to? Upside down flag? Well, the hottest news two years ago was how Filipino winners for the men’s and women’s 100m sprints were left embarrassed when it turned out they had been wearing their country’s flag upside-down.

The strips of men’s champion Eric Cray and women’s winner Kayla Richardson both sported upside-down flags – the red on top – sparking a minor outcry back home.

It’s not clear who messed up and how these runners, said to have spent more time in the United States than the Philippines, were not even aware of the gaffe.

And that’s not even the end of it. Believe it or not, there are even more instances of name and shame.

Singaporean journalists were accused of jeering Malaysia’s netball team during the finals.

They were overheard heckling “balik kampung” (go home to your village) during the game, according to the head of the Sportswriters Association of Malaysia, who said he was “shocked” when he heard about it.

Most of us may have forgotten or have simply been unaware that at the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia, a Malaysian flag riddled with flaws was used during an awards ceremony.

In fact, the Jalur Gemilang was depicted with less than her 14 stripes.

The Indonesian media, in its take on the misdemeanour, pointed out that its own country committed similar blunders six years ago during the hosting of the Palembang games.

The country was hung out to dry by local website Kompasiana.com, pictures of mismatched flags with participating countries dotting various locations, including a bank, restaurant, hospital, university and hotel, not boding well for the organiser.

Malaysia’s Jalur Gemilang was flown upside down at the Gedung Asuransi commercial centre on Jalan Jendral Sudirman, the canton containing the crescent and 14-pointed star at the bottom.

We neither threatened to attack websites, nor lodged a protest. And we certainly didn’t get so riled up that every figurehead had to figure into the unfortunate circumstance.

Sure, the Indonesians requested an apology for the error, but to their credit, the heads of the Malaysian and Indonesian delegations firmly had their thinking hats on, and so, didn’t persist with the issue.

Granted someone, presumably from a public relations company hired to put the guidebook (which was distributed to VIPs during the opening ceremony) together, fumbled. It was human error, and unfortunately, a bad one.

Poor Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah Aman had to apologise for it.

If the Indonesians were upset, and legitimately so, some of us lost the plot and went further by demanding a police investigation. For goodness’ sake, it was a sloppy mistake – that’s all. Let’s not go overboard and demand for heads to roll. There are people who put their heart and soul into this work, trying to make an honest living off it.

And surely our police have more important things to do than volunteer to investigate this guidebook bungle, which is likely borne from our fear of offending the Indonesians, above all else.

Of course, there are some of us who love kicking ourselves, too. One melodramatic columnist highlighted this blunder, but mid-way through the rant, went off the rails, complaining about gangsterism in schools, the indestructible spectre of 1MDB, auditor-general’s reports and traffic jams, suggesting all is not hunky dory in this country.

That said, the headlines on cases of food poisoning aren’t covering ourselves in glory either. But even in squeaky clean Singapore, during the 2015 Games, several cyclists at Marina Bay South were dealt a similar blow.

The affected also included Singapore’s Dinah Chan who lost her women’s individual time-trial crown and had to settle for the bronze.

At the 2013 edition in Myanmar, the 29-year-old was forced to pull out of the women’s 100km/128km individual road race, also owing to less-than impeccable F&B.

Singapore’s Darren Low, who finished 9th out of 16 cyclists in the men’s individual time trial, said: “The effects of the food poisoning came in. I couldn’t concentrate. That (performance) was the best I could do.”

The point to all of this is: let’s not be too quick to shoot ourselves down. Instead, why don’t we strive to do better, be more effective and competitive, rather than spend needless time dragging Malaysia through the mud to pander to political plots? And why are some of us still struggling to differentiate between love for country and government disdain?

I agree that we should not follow the follies of others and that we should stand on the right side of things. And we must strive to see the forest for the trees.

Truth be told, the world is divided by well-meaning doers and self-serving whiners, so we should try to remain on the right side of that divide and not be plagued by negativity.

Think about it, we could be just days away from repeating history. Surely, we can come together for a common cause, one that has traditionally fused more than divided us.

Let’s unflinchingly support Team Malaysia, because they have earned and deserve it. They have made us proud of our country and for being who we are first and foremost – Malaysians. We tip our hat in sincere gratitude.

The Star, Published: Sunday, 27 August 2017
Stand up for Team Rimau

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Time to apply pressure?

Japan said Friday it will impose fresh sanctions on North Korea by freezing the assets of Chinese and Namibian firms doing business with the nuclear-armed state.

The move against a half dozen organisations and a couple of individuals comes days after Washington expanded its own punitive measures against Chinese and Russian firms, as well as people linked to Pyongyang.

The US move drew an angry response from Beijing, North Korea's key ally, while Japanese media said Friday that Namibia has been tightening its links to the North in recent years.

"We will continue to make strong calls (for North Korea) to take actions toward denuclearisation," Yoshihide Suga, the Japanese government's top spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

"Now is the time to apply pressure," he added.

The sanctions are aimed at disrupting the flow of cash funding North Korean weapons programmes, which are in violation of United Nations resolutions.

Japan has previously frozen the assets of entities and individuals involved in natural resources and research work related to Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programmes.

The US and its allies, particularly Japan and South Korea, have been on high alert in recent months as North Korea carried out successive missile tests.

Tensions have eased since North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un pulled back from a plan to send a salvo of missiles towards the US Pacific territory of Guam.

But Pyongyang Wednesday disclosed significant technological advances and ambitious plans to further improve its missile capabilities.

US President Donald Trump, like his predecessors, has called on China to play more active roles in convincing North Korea to stop threatening its neighbours and the US.

But China has so far been lukewarm on the idea, preferring to address the issue through long-stalled talks.

On Friday, China hit out the new Japanese sanctions.

"We firmly oppose any other unilateral sanction outside the framework of the UN Security Council, in particular those targeting Chinese entities and individuals," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular press briefing in Beijing.

"We urge the Japanese side to stop this and if it insists on doing this wilfully, it must accept the consequences," she added, without elaborating.

China backed new United Nations sanctions against North Korea this month and has announced that it was upholding them by banning imports of iron, iron ore and seafood from its neighbour.

Beijing had already suspended imports of North Korean coal in February.

France 24, Published: 25 August 2017 - 11H01
Japan hits nuclear-armed North Korea with fresh sanctions

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Japan's Richest Village

(Bloomberg) -- Sarufutsu village in the far north of Japan’s northernmost island is the nation’s richest village, thanks to a bounty of scallops pulled from the Sea of Okhotsk.

The village -- which is closer to the Russian island of Sakhalin than Tokyo -- boasts some of the highest average incomes of any town in Japan, thanks to the earnings of some of the fishermen.

But the new scallop factory isn’t running at full capacity because it can’t get enough workers for lower paying but important jobs.

It’s a problem for the economy as a whole because it shows that some industries may not survive as the population ages and shrinks, even if they are profitable.

The scallops from the nearby waters are dried and then mostly exported to Hong Kong and elsewhere as a premium ingredient in Chinese food. By value, scallops are the biggest international export from Hokkaido. But the workers in the factory are mostly older women, and in about seven or eight years, there won’t be any more Japanese working there, according to Koichi Kimura, an executive of the fishing cooperative that runs the facility.

"If we wanted to we could run 24 hours a day and triple production," says Kimura. "But we would need more than 100 new people for that."

The village’s population isn’t shrinking, but it’s flat, and while the factory employs 19 Chinese trainees among its 90 staff, it can’t legally increase their numbers without adding more Japanese employees. So the village authorities are trying to encourage people to move to the town.

For the past three years the village has run tours to bring people from other parts of Japan to check it out as a possible place to live, and also appointed the chef of a Tokyo restaurant that uses their scallops as a tourism ambassador.

Income Disparity

But it’s a hard sell given that work in the factory is seasonal and wages are low.

While the 250 or so fishing cooperative members who work the boats earn good money, pushing up the average, those employed in the factory earn minimum wages, and it’s only open for seven months a year. The factory is closed during the winter, when temperatures in the area go below minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit).

Without better pay and conditions, it will be hard to attract people to live in the area, but the cooperative doesn’t think it can dramatically increase wages.

"Young Japanese people aren’t interested if we just raised pay a little," says Kimura. "If we were to double or triple wages, we could attract workers, but we wouldn’t be able to make ends meet."

While economists and the Bank of Japan point to the shrinking population as an opportunity for companies to increase automation and productivity, not all jobs can be done by machines. The 2.4 billion yen ($22 million) new factory was opened in April 2016 with new machinery, but it still requires workers.

They might have to consider moving the factory, according to Hokkaido University Professor Atsushi Miyawaki, who studies government policy.

"Even with the cost of capital falling so low, there just isn’t new investment," he said.

"In a few places, the economic story the BOJ tells may work, but it’s impossible here in Hokkaido."

Bloomberg, Updated on August 26, 2017, 10:05 am
Japan's Richest Village Can't Find Workers for Its Factory
By Masahiro Hidaka

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TWO issues affecting forestry and wildlife in Johor were recently exposed and seriously need looking into.

The first is poaching of the valuable agarwood resin, which is only found in the wild. This illicit activity is being carried out by foreign poachers, who would spend several weeks in jungles such as the Endau-Rompin National Park.

A case early this year involved five Cambodian men and a 55-year-old Malaysian woman of Cambodian descent, who was their getaway driver.

They were caught while driving out of the jungle in a Toyota Hilux four-wheel drive with seven gunnysacks of agarwood worth RM20,000 and totalling 25kg.

Their illicit activity deep in the jungles of central Johor were sniffed out by the state Forestry Department and Wildlife and National Park Department (Perhilitan) in a joint operation with the army and police under a National Blue Ocean Strategy initiative.

The officers stopped the group as they ended their three-week “jungle expedition” in Jalan Kahang-Peta, Kluang, at 6.25pm on March 11.

The five Cambodian men were also in possession of the liver of a monitor lizard, which is a protected species under the Wildlife Conservation Act 2010.

The men were jailed five months after pleading guilty at the Kluang Sessions Court to the possession of agarwood. They were also charged separately for possession of entrails of a monitor lizard.

The woman, however, pleaded not guilty to the same charges and is awaiting trial.

Rosli Zakaria, my colleague in Terengganu, once wrote an exclusive story in the New Straits Times about agarwood and how it was regarded as the green gold of the rainforest.

This highly-prized resin is becoming rare due to illegal felling.

Rosli explained how there were two agarwood species in the country, the Aquilaria malaccensis (gaharu) and Aquilaria hirta (chandan).

The value of the resin is astounding as Grade A agarwood resin could fetch RM25,000 per kg while Grade C could easily cost RM2,500 per kg.

If not stopped, this lucrative but illegal trade could spell disaster for our rainforests.

There needs to be more effort to drive home the message that such activities will be dealt with under the law. Enforcement needs to be stepped up under the 1Malaysia Biodiversity Enforcement Operation Network, a partnership between the military and Natural Resources and Environment Ministry to control poaching of wildlife and preserve biodiversity in national parks.

Perhilitan revealed last year that Malaysia lost RM123.17 million worth of forest produce, such as gaharu and wildlife, between 2002 and 2013 because of encroachment on national parks.

Francis Cheong, who is with a non-governmental organisation focusing on conserving wildlife in Johor, said illegal harvesting of agarwood was mostly done by Cambodian, Thai or Vietnamese poachers in recent years.

“Most of the poachers come from these countries. Some people regard Cambodians as experts in agarwood harvesting.

“Due to the depletion of agarwood in their home countries, they come to Malaysia.”

Cheong said agarwood, or aloeswood, was in high demand in the Middle East as it was a vital ingredient in perfumes.

“The Chinese also use it to make incense and that’s why it is highly sought-after in Hong Kong.”

The second issue concerns elephants encroaching on human settlements in Johor.

Though such occurrences are a norm for residents in Mawai near Tanjung Sedili, Kota Tinggi, and Kahang in Kluang, the people are concerned about their frequency in the past three years.

A 33-year-old Indonesian plantation worker was believed to have been trampled to death by elephants in Ladang Tunjuk Laut, Tanjung Sedili, on June 21 this year. Since then, there were claimed sightings of the mammals along the Kota Tinggi-Mersing trunk road and six elephant encounters by residents in Kampung Lukut, Kota Tinggi.

Mawai resident Badrul Zaman Abu Samah, 51, said people were living in fear and worried about the safety of their loved ones, especially their children.

“I have been seeing elephants in my village since my childhood. But, those encounters in the past were few and far between.

“Back then, elephants would roam into our banana plantations or smalholdings twice a year. But, this month alone, I have seen herds of elephants near the village several times.”

Malaysian Nature Society vice-chairman Vincent Chow said elephants would venture out of their natural habitat if that habitat was disturbed.

“The areas around Mawai and Sungai Panti are part of the migratory routes and feeding ground for elephants. Any disruption will make elephants seek food and water elsewhere.”

Badrul and Chow have high hopes for an elephant sanctuary that will be developed this year in Panti.

One of the priority projects under the 11th Malaysia Plan, a 100ha sanctuary will comprise two development phases under a RM39 million allocation from the Federal Government.

Johor Health, Environment, Education and Information Committee chairman Datuk Ayub Rahmat had said that the second phase could involve the state government roping in the private sector to invest RM30 million to provide chalets and other tourism infrastructure at the sanctuary.

The sanctuary will have up to 75 elephants. Hopefully, this would help to preserve the 140-to-150 elephant population in Johor.

A man believed to be a foreigner harvesting gaharu in Gerik, Perak, last year. Early this year, five Cambodian men were jailed five months for the possession of agarwood.

New Straits Times, Published: August 24, 2017 - 10:51am
Scent of decline hangs heavy
By By Ahmad Fairuz Othman
The writer is NST Johor bureau chief. When not working, he loves driving along the coastal highway and trunk roads of Johor. A lover of food, music and theatre, he recommends everyone to try Johor’s version of ‘ais kacang’ which is drenched in chocolate sauce.

While challenging, the Mossy Forest of Gunung Brinchang offers an enchanting trail, writes Vemanna Appannah

THE forest is damp, dark and gloomy. It can be spooky at times. It feels like someone is whispering into your ears but when you turn around, there isn’t anyone. Then, at certain times, the gloomy forest makes you think there is someone hiding behind the moss-covered trees.

This sounds like the Fangorn Forest of the Lord Of The Rings.This is Mossy Forest of Gunung Brinchang in Cameron Highlands, Pahang. And instead of Gandalf or Saruman, I am with my trekking mates.

Mossy Forest is a lush spread under a huge canopy of trees. The branches of these tall trees are almost knit together, allowing just enough of an opening for sunlight to pierce through. You can catch glimpses of the green mountainous surroundings in some places. The view is awe-inspiring.

Cameron Highlands was sunny a week earlier but it rained two days before our expedition. This had us worried about the conditions as trekking in the rain would make our expedition even more difficult. It would force us to walk on slippery and muddy trails in the rain. Mossy Forest has enough challenges on its own.

The climate on the mountain is always changing. Intermittently the weather gets cloudy, with fog.


There are three peaks along the trek. The trek starts from Gunung Brincang, heading towards Baby Irau before ending at Gunung Irau which stands 2,110m above sea level.

Trekking Gunung Irau is never easy. The approximate 2.5km one-way trail is never smooth, it requires great effort and caution. Most parts of the trail, you will be walking among tree roots that are intertwined.

The surface of the Mossy Forest is spongy and muddy. Every footing keeps you alert, you wouldn’t want to make any mistakes on the uneven trail of spongy moss on slippery earth.

The wet tree roots are also slippery and can cause a trekker to slip and fall easily. Our guide says some falls have been nasty. Trekkers have slipped and fallen, with one foot caught between curled tree roots and have ended up with a broken leg. Rescue teamshad to be summoned to carry the trekkers out.

The one-way trail to the Gunung Irau peak may take four hours.

However, on the day we hit the trek, we are safe from the rain, making the difficult trek bearable. The 5km-round trek takes us a good 10 hours. This includes a few breaks, photo stops and some sightseeing.

We are quite lucky to have a bright sunny day except for the last two hours when it starts to rain. The rain is not heavy but enough to get us wet. We have our raincoats ready.

We are all covered with mud and dirt by the end of the trek. The trail forces us to be on ourfours − working every muscle. There is a lot of vertical climbing. To pass through the trail, we have to hold tightly to protruding roots, pull our body upwards or slide on our backs going downhill.

At this point, we feel as though the trees are alive and giving us a hand by way of their roots and branches. What did I say about the forest resembling the fictional Fangorn Forest? Do elfs exist? We have a good time trekking Mossy Forest, experiencing its treasures.


To protect the flora and fauna of Mossy Forest,only trek along the designated trail. We shouldn’t pull at the moss, jump on it or sit on it. The Pahang State Forestry Department has takenmeasures for the rehabilitation of the forest.

Irresponsible trekkers have caused damage. The forest has also become a favourite spot for pre-wedding photo shoots. In order to get better shots, the bride and groom-to-be and photographers climb on fresh green moss for better angles. These irresponsible acts also cause damage.

It takes many years for the moss to grow. Be a responsible trekker, as much as you enjoy trekking the forest, take good care of it.

Gunung Brincang and Gunung Irau were temporarily closed to the public from October 2015 until mid-2016 for maintenance work on the boardwalk and to allow the delicate ecosystem to recover.

There is a rising popularity among visitors and trekkers to the forest. Its famous fairy tale setting attracts many to catch the spectacular sights. As a result, the repeated trampling has damaged the moss.

Trekking Gunung Irau is now regulated. The forest is closed between November to January, the rainy season.

Mossy Forest, Gunung Irau is a permanent forest reserve. Trekking Gunung Irau requires a permitfrom Pahang State Forestry Department. Only 100 permits are issued in a day. Applicationscan be made to the Forestry Department.

It is important to make proper trekking arrangements. Our expedition was handled by Eco Cameron Highlands Travel & Tours which helped to obtain the trekking permit (RM10 per person), arrange a 4WD transfer (RM30 per person) and an experienced guide (RM300 per guide).

Mossy Forest is a way to experienceour very own Fangorn Forest of The Lord Of The Rings. In the movie, the forest was severely damaged during the War of the Ring by the forces of Saruman. Hopefully we don’tcome to that. Let’s be more responsible, learn about ecosystem, and love and preserve nature.


1. It is important to start the trek early to avoid exiting the forest in the dark. Hiking Gunung Irau is from moderate to hard.

2. Relatively good physical fitness and a strong mind are important to trek the rough, uneven, muddy and damp trail.

3. A minimum of two litres of water is essential to keep hydrated.

4. Take packed food like fried noodles, nasi lemak or buns.

5. Wear proper trekking clothes, including trekking shoes with good grip. Be prepared to see your shoes caked in mud. 6. Besides water and packed food,carry basic first aid, raincoat and a torch.

7. Always walk in a group. Never walk or wander alone.

8. Always check on the weather!

Pictures contributed by all hikers.

New Straits Times, Published: August 24, 2017 - 2:01pm
GO: Bewitching forest of Cameron Highlands
By Vemanna Appannah

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Paradox of Malaysia’s success

NEARLY 60 years after the 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia attained independence, their success collectively in religious tolerance and economics is a paradox.

Independence for the 11 former Malayan states was won only after the Malays, Chinese and Indians demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt their ability to forge a political consensus that became the framework for the then Malaya's constitution.

Although ethnic diversity is celebrated in advertisements for tourism and paraded prominently during government-organised festivities as well as sports events like the SEA Games, religious tolerance today appears facile rather than embedded in top policymakers' DNA.

Consider this: nearly six decades ago, most Christmas cards sold in this country bore the words "Merry Christmas". Today, the predominant wording for Christmas cards is "Seasons Greetings" – the same wording used by shops and hotels for their Christmas decorations.

Separately, it is heart-warming many Malaysians from all ethnic groups were outraged by a news report that the head of a primary school in Hulu Langat, Selangor labelled mugs used by pupils as "murid Islam" (Muslim students) and "murid bukan Islam (non-Muslim students)".

Isn't separatism for mugs in a primary school a "seemingly logical" progression from the requirement that Chinese restaurants in hotels that serve pork are required to have separate kitchens as well as separate cutlery and crockery from those used by their pork-free counterparts?

When Tunku Abdul Rahman was prime minister, each cabinet minister would host lunch for colleagues after cabinet meetings on Wednesdays. Although lunches were pork-free, no one questioned whether the crockery and cutlery in non-Muslim homes were used exclusively for Muslims.

Economically, Malaysia could become one of the fastest-growing Asian countries this year. In the April-June quarter this year, Malaysia's economy expanded by 5.8% year-on-year, significantly faster than expected.

Combined with an equally robust 5.6% growth in the first quarter, first half growth this year totals 5.7% – the fastest acceleration since the first half of 2014. If this pace is maintained in the second half of this year, economists suggests full-year growth could exceed 5%.

A major paradox – despite rapid economic growth, Malaysia continues to lose its competitiveness.

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2016-2017 released by the World Economic Forum, Malaysia has fallen seven rungs to the 25th spot out of 140 countries compared to the previous year's 18th position out of 138 countries.

Similarly, the IMD's World Competitiveness Yearbook in 2016 shows this country slipped five places to rank 19th while the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index shows this country's position slid from 17th in the world to 18th.

IDEAS director of research Ali Salman says one reason why Malaysia is now less competitive is the lack of high-skilled labour. In 2015, only 27.4% of Malaysians had a university qualification while the proportion without formal education rose to 12.48% from 2014 to 2015.

Another paradox – Malaysia's household debt is among the highest in Asia. MIDF Research estimated Malaysia's household debt to gross domestic product (GDP) hit 88.4% last year. High household debt is unsustainable; going forward, it could crimp consumer spending and constrain future economic growth.
While individual incomes in this country have risen significantly, has it kept pace with inflation? That an increasing number of young Malaysians – particularly those living in the Klang Valley and in major cities, can't afford to buy a house – suggests the answer is "no".

Jones Lang Wootton executive director Prem Kumar notes over the last 30 years, individual incomes have shown minimal growth while during the same period, house prices have skyrocketed by 10 times.

Despite massive government spending on education every year – RM42.9 billion allocated in 2017, RM41.36 billion last year and RM40.85 billion in the previous year – are students and their taxpayer parents getting value for money?

Judging from Malaysia's poor ranking in the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) compared with other Asean countries, Putrajaya needs to rethink its spending on education.
In PISA 2012, Malaysia was ranked 52 out of 65 countries – the second worst in Southeast Asia and well below Vietnam's 12th and Thailand's 47th positions.

Data from the Human Development Report 2016 shows Malaysia spent 6.1% of its GDP on education – slightly lower than Vietnam's 6.3% of GDP but significantly higher than Thailand's miserly 4.1%.

Additionally, RM9.5 billion was earmarked for higher education in Budget 2017 – although sharply lower than the RM13.35 billion in Budget 2016 – is this still substantial allocation merited?

Recently, Higher Education Minister Datuk Seri Idris Jusoh told the Dewan Negara that 54,103 youths – comprising 22.7% of public and private university graduates combined – were unemployed six months after they graduated last year. Questions have been raised whether these youths lack skills rendering them unemployable.

In short, although Malaysia's success in multiculturalism, religious tolerance and economic development is a cause for celebration, this should be accompanied by sober introspection rather than by over-exuberant joy.

The SunDaily, Posted on 25 August 2017 - 11:23am
Paradox of Malaysia’s success
By Tan Siok Choo

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Bosses or drivers?

HERE’S a story about a boss and his driver.

It is a true story, but I have changed some facts. It is also a common story. We’ve all heard a variation of it.

The driver’s three children are studying for Master’s degrees in France and England, while the boss’ son only completed Form Five.

“Why are the poor man’s children doing well in their education whereas the rich man’s are not?” my 50-something bachelor friend asked me.

On Thursday night, we were having supper at an Indian Muslim restaurant in Kota Kinabalu. And somehow our conversation about the USS John McCain destroyer, the Marawi siege and South China Sea veered towards education.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Discipline. The rich man gave his son everything he wanted until the son thought that he didn’t need to do anything to get what he wanted. The son thought that life was easy,” he said.

“Whereas the poor man couldn’t give many things to his children. But what he gave them was the importance of education to succeed in life.”

As my friend continued his lecture on the importance of not giving your children whatever they want, my mind went on the defensive about my parenting skills.

Perhaps I am guilty of not being able to say “no” to Apsara, my nine-year-old daughter, and Junior, my four-year-old son. And the negative consequence of my “yes” will rear its ugly head in 10 to 20 years’ time.

Here’s a scene that plays out in my house.

With the most adorable smile, Junior will hand me his iPad Mini 4 and say, “Buy money”.

On the screen is a RM49 order to buy diamonds so that he can use them to purchase characters or guns for his favourite Zombie games. He needs cool characters and big, badass guns to kill zombies to save the world.

I would grin and tell him, “Junior, this is the last one, okay? No buy money after this! No buy money, okay!”

He would sheepishly grin as I press the password for the iTunes store.

An hour later, with an adorable smile he’ll give me his iPad again as he needs a bigger badass gun.

Repeat that process. And I’m poorer by a few hundred ringgit.

But don’t get me wrong. I don’t give my kids anything they want. It’s not as if I am Amancio Ortega, the fourth richest man on the Forbes 2017 list. (I contributed to Ortega’s wealth when I bought Zara clothes when I was a bachelor in the 2000s.)

“Daddy, can we go to the North Pole?” Apsara asked me.

“Why do you want to go to the North Pole?” I asked.

“Because they have snow there,” she said.

“How do you know there’s snow there?” I asked.

“I watched on YouTube,” she said.

“You know, it is very expensive to go to the North Pole. If you want to see snow and if we have the money, maybe we can go to South Korea or Japan to see snow,” I said.

“Okay,” she said.

See, I’m not guilty of overindulging my kids. Parenting doesn’t come with set rules. One rule doesn’t work. And there are different parenting philosophies.

Some dictatorial parents believe in strict discipline – the type that takes away fun from the joy of childhood. The type who say “NO!” to an iPad for their kids. The type who don’t spare the rod.

I’m the opposite. I’m not really into strict discipline.

And I use my childhood as a case study. My dad was strict. The type of dad whose kid’s school attendance was 100%. The type who did not spare the rod.

Did I end up being a disciplined kid? No, I grew up to be rebellious. The type who doesn’t listen to his parents. Either I was born rebellious or strict discipline was counterproductive.

Here’s a video clip that will reveal what kind of parents you are.

Last week, a video clip, probably shot in China, was shared in my family WhatsApp group.

It showed a kid (aged around nine) holding two cleavers and an elderly man (probably his grandfather) scolding the boy in Chinese. The man was armed with a long broom to either fend off a cleaver attack or to attack the boy.

“I think the grandfather over-pressured the kid. Pushed him over the edge,” I commented.

“No lah. Just spoiled lah the kid,” someone commented.

Two schools of thought. Who is right?

From watching that video clip, judgmental me thinks that the boy will end up like the rich man’s son – and will not go further than Form Five.

Why? The grandparents are too strict. Their parenting method is counterproductive.

Maybe I am wrong. Probably the boy is a product of two conflicting styles of parenting. The grandparents overindulged the boy and when he was out of control, they changed mode and did the opposite. They scolded him till he went crazy and grabbed the cleavers.

I hope I make the right parenting decisions with my kids.

It can determine whether they end up as a boss or a driver.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 26 August 2017
Will they be bosses or drivers?

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May the SEA Games highlight unity

“YOU know, we always talk about how ‘things were better in the good old days’; but did our older generation have it better in terms of racial unity?” my friend questioned recently.

We were sharing a plate of delicious, cooked-by-the-roadside mee mamak, served in an unassuming kopitiam. I was fresh off a panel that discussed Malaysian unity, and she was taking a break from her work that involved rejuvenating the side of Penang I grew up in.

The Penang connection is important. Both of us reminisced about better race relations, having grown up in Bagan (as locals affectionately call Butterworth) and Tanjung (i.e. George Town) respectively.

It did feel like life was better then. Personally, I remember Saturdays spent waiting for my mother to finish work at Level 33, Komtar, while I read books by Enid Blyton, then taking the minibus and ferry back without any rush; Sundays were spent having picnics at the beach with the whole family.

Life in Penang was slower in pace, more relaxed, and people were (or are) more courteous about each other’s differences. Roads can be blocked for a Malay kenduri, a Hindu prayer ceremony or putting up a performance stage for the Hungry Ghost Festival without anyone shouting vile hate or resorting to physical violence.

As we enjoyed our shared plate of mee mamak, we came to the conclusion that perhaps we were romanticising the past. Our personal experience notwithstanding, should either of us decide to move and live in Penang today, it would be foolish if we returned expecting the Penang of our childhood.

The island is cleaner now and Tanjung holds Unesco Heritage status, albeit less gritty than the Tanjung of my childhood. Bagan is more industrialised, with more highways and fewer trees but culturally hip with fringe festivals nowadays, no longer the sleepy town I returned to every school break during my teenage years.

People have changed, too. We are adults now, with adult prejudices, issues, and experience – no longer the innocent kids who were happy with a simple ferry ride.

With all the noise on social media where Malaysians express their frustrations with each other – either for lack of civic consciousness, obscene behaviour while travelling, or hurling abuse at female athletes and royalty with regard to their way of dress – it was refreshing to see Malaysians united for one night, mesmerised by the SEA Games 2017 opening ceremony.

All Malaysians regardless of ethnicity, religion, and political divide applauded the ceremony’s vibrant, inclusive cultural showcase and world-class production.

The good feeling I had after watching the opening ceremony was, however, soon shattered. Various reports – including the flag blunder in the ceremony’s booklet (followed immediately by an official and personal apology by the Youth and Sports Minister), an athlete being robbed by a bus driver, abusive chants calling a neighbouring country’s athletes “dogs” and Myanmar supporters being harassed and physically abused – marred the unifying spirit of sports that the SEA Games should impart.

As athletes keep winning medals for their respective countries, it is invidious that many of us show our true character through online abuse. Malaysians seem adamant about hating our own athletes – commenting on their dress, their ethnic background, and their privilege despite their obvious qualification for the sport.

I feel like shaking these armchair commentators for their folly. If they had trained for any sport, they would know of the perseverance, dedication and sacrifice that athletes have for sport, especially at the level of representing one’s country.

Another part of me feels sad. Are Malaysians so divided now, so adamant about hate and vileness instead of being proud of our athletes, our scientists, our social activists, or any Malaysian representing the nation at the regional and world stage?

The closing of this year’s SEA Games will be followed by celebrations of Malaya’s 60th Independence Day. There are many talks and articles on unity going on in conjunction with this milestone, but as showcased through our behaviour over the SEA Games, we need to take a long, good look at ourselves in the mirror.

Are we proud to be Malaysians? Are we empowered with our cultural, religious, and national identity?

As I was writing this column, news came of the passing of Datuk Thasleem Mohamed Ibrahim, a beloved activist, especially among the Tamil-speaking community. His constant encouragement to young Malaysians regardless of race, his dedication to ensure underprivileged children get a chance at education to ensure their upward social mobility, and just his kindness and humility will make me, and so many others, miss him.

Death is a certainty that reminds us of our responsibility. Having inherited this nation from our forebears, we must pass it on to the younger generation in the best condition. Thasleem is famously known for saying that he only works for one race – the human race. I think we all should do the same.

The next chance I get, I will appreciate that ferry ride even more as a reminder of where my identity is rooted and my gratitude for being Malaysian.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 26 August 2017
May the SEA Games highlight unity

PUTRAJAYA: The 29th Kuala Lumpur Sea Games is not short of athletes stealing the limelight for their impressive achievements, sports skills and well .... good looks.

One such person is Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who appears to have gained new fans from Indonesia.

Sinar Harian reported that Khairy, who is also competing in the polo event at the games, caught the attention of Indonesian netizens during his handling of the recent upside-down flag gaffe.

Indonesian Twitter user @falla_adinda in a post wrote: There is a positive thing out of this upside-down flag incident. We now know that Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Minister is handsome.

Another tweeter @andriya90050835 said: Malaysian athletes must be highly motivated when they train.

To which another user @imdaniall replied: Not just highly motivated, female athletes might even faint by looking at him.

On Facebook, Indonesian user Gusthida Budiartie said in reference to the upside-down flag incident: Now you've turned my heart upside down, sir.

In the Sea Games booklet, the Indonesian flag was printed upside down, causing an uproar among Indonesians recently.

In response, Khairy apologised to his Indonesian counterpart Imam Nahrawi, who had pointed out the error. Khairy later also met Imam and the Indonesian delegation to make a personal apology

Indonesian President Joko Widodo later commented that the matter was regrettable, but also called for it not to be prolonged.

Malaysian heartthrob: A file picture of Khairy speaking to reporters. The Youth and Sports Minister’s looks has drawn some admirers.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 26 August 2017
Indonesian netizens swoon over Khairy

PETALING JAYA: Images of SEA Games athletes receiving saplings in addition to medals on the podium has sparked the curiosity of many people, including netizens.

They also wonder what kind of plant the athletes received.

Apart from a gold, silver or bronze medal, every athlete who wins a place on the podium is also given a Rimau doll, the official SEA Games mascot, and a basket containing a sapling.

“I would like to know where these athletes plan to plant their trees ... because I’m thinking, if they are given plants, can they actually take them back (to their country)?” asked a netizen.

Another asked: “We are all wondering, what type of tree they are getting?”

“Maybe they are each getting a Musang King durian sapling, as the fruit is very pricey,” said a netizen.

The saplings are a green initiative called the “One Medal, One Tree” programme by the Malaysian SEA Games Organising Committee.

Under the initiative, a total of 5,249 saplings – which matches the number of medal winners at the Games – will be given out.

The athletes, however, will not get to keep the saplings as they will all be planted along Peninsular Malaysia’s Central Forest Spine, which is a series of forest reserves in Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The trees will be planted below highway viaducts where animals can safely cross the roadways that run through forests.

The saplings are of various Malaysian jungle plant species, including syzigium polyanthum (Pokok Salam), gardenia hombroniana (Pokok Bruas) and syzygium malaccense (Pokok Jambu).

A posting on the 29th SEA Games Facebook page (facebook.com/kualalumpur2017) explaining the details of the One Medal, One Tree programme received many comments expressing support for the green initiative.

“Great initiative,” wrote Mohamad Shafiq.

“Now I know why, I always wondered why plants instead of fresh flowers. Great initiative Malaysia! Save the earth,” wrote Facebook user Amirul Mukminin.

Silver and green: A sapling sitting in its basket as Malaysia’s artistic gymnast Tan Ing Yueh celebrates with her silver medal for women’s artistic gymnastics ‘beam’ category in Kuala Lumpur.

The Star, Published: Saturday, 26 August 2017
Curious over Games saplings

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Hiker, hit by the lighting

There was no rain, no rumbling, no sign of danger before the blinding flash and deafening bang of a lightning bolt threw Mathias Steinhuber to the ground, tore off his clothes and burned a gaping hole in his shoe.

The 31-year-old Austrian teacher, an avid hiker, had just reached the 9,000-foot summit of a Northern California mountain range ahead of his companions when he raised his arms for a picture and was struck in the back of the head. The electricity shot through his body and exited through his foot, and he was too stunned to know what had happened.

"It was like in a dream," Steinhuber told The Associated Press Thursday. "I woke up. I had blood everywhere. My clothes were ripped apart. At some distance I heard my girlfriend scream my name. My first conclusion was that I probably fell down the mountain."

He crawled to a ledge and saw his girlfriend and their friend below and wondered, if he'd fallen off a cliff, why was he still above them? That's when he heard the girlfriend, Kathrin Klausner, scream that he was struck by lightning.

Steinhuber had cuts and bruises from his fall and a number of burns he described as mostly superficial. The hair on one of his arms was singed when he spoke to the AP at the University of California, Davis Hospital Burn Center in Sacramento. He's struggling to hear through his left ear.

He and Klausner, who are from Innsbruck, Austria, were hiking a stretch of the long Pacific Crest Trail as they neared the end of a nearly four-week trip to the United States. He hurried ahead, looking to get an extra workout as he climbed to the top of Tinker Knob, a bare peak near Lake Tahoe with sweeping views of the surrounding Sierra Nevada peaks and forests below.

The trio was hiking from Donner Summit to Squaw Valley, a short section of the rugged, 2,650-mile (4,264-kilometer) Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Mexico to Canada and challenges experienced hikers from all over the world.

Steinhuber doesn't remember being struck, only the aftermath, and drifting in and out of consciousness until help arrived.

"He was taking a picture and the next thing I know, I see this white flash, like an explosion," the couple's friend, Cara Elvidge, told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Fairfield, California.

Elvidge and Klausner took shelter and called for help, not knowing if he'd survived. Authorities told the women not to climb up to help, lest they put themselves in danger.

A helicopter landed on Tinker Knob, elevation 8,949 feet, and dropped off a paramedic who tended to Steinhuber. He was taken to a hospital in nearby Truckee then flown to the burn center in Sacramento, where he was listed in fair condition late Thursday.

Meanwhile, Elvidge and Klausner had to hike out for six long hours without knowing whether Steinhuber would survive or endure debilitating injuries, Klausner said.

"I cannot tell you how thankful I am for just being here, for him to be alive," Klausner said. "Seeing him like this is a miracle, and I'm thankful every day for this."

The couple was supposed to return to Innsbruck on Thursday, but they spent the day in the hospital. They're eager to go home but unsure when Steinhuber will be well enough for the lengthy plane ride, he said.

"Somebody told me the odds are higher winning the lottery than getting struck by lightning," Steinhuber said. "I would've rather won the lottery."

Some of the wounds Mathias Steinhuber received from being struck by a lighting bolt are seen on his right foot as he discusses the near-fatal event, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif.

His left foot, where the lightning exited his body, is wrapped.

Steinhuber, of Innsbruck, Austria, had been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail near Donner Summit Tuesday when he stopped to take a photo and was hit by the lighting.

He was taken by helicopter to the the Tahoe Forest Hospital in Truckee, before being flown to the University of California, Davis Hospital Burn Center where he is listed in fair condition.

abcNews, Published: Aug 25, 2017, 2:01 PM ET
Flash, bang, and blood: Hiker tells harrowing lightning tale

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Class action against TEPCO

Tokyo Electric Power Co Holdings said Thursday it faces another US lawsuit over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, with the latest one demanding at least $5 billion in compensation.

A total of 157 US residents who were supporting Fukushima victims at the time filed the class action suit in a California district court earlier this month against the utility known as Tepco and a US company.

A massive tsunami triggered by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake smashed into Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi power plant on Japan's northeast coast on March 11, 2011.

The giant waves overwhelmed reactor cooling systems and sent three into meltdown, spewing radiation over a wide area in the world's most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The plaintiffs, who joined aid efforts along with US troops shortly after the disaster, claim they were exposed to radiation because of the improper design, construction and maintenance of the plant.

They are seeking $5 billion to cover the cost of medical tests and treatment needed to recover from the disaster, Tepco said in a statement.

They are also demanding compensation for physical, mental and economic damage but no further details such as a sum of money or the identities of the claimants were available.

It was the second multi-plaintiff suit filed against the utility in a US court following one by more than 200 individuals in 2013.

In Japan, more than 10,000 people who fled their homes over radiation fears have filed various group lawsuits against the government and the firm.

AFP, Published: 24 AUG 2017
Fukushima operator faces $5 bn US suit over 2011 disaster


2017-08-25 天木直人のブログ

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Typhoon Hato

The death toll from Severe Typhoon Hato rose to at least 16 Thursday after the storm left a trail of destruction across southern China, blacking out Macau's mega-casinos and battering Hong Kong's skyscrapers.

Eight died in the gambling hub of Macau, where images showed cars underwater and people swimming along streets. The enclave's famed mega-casinos were running on backup generators.

Macau's leader made a public apology after his government came under fire for its delayed storm warning, while the head of the weather bureau resigned.

A man was killed by a wall that was blown down, another fell from a fourth-floor terrace and one was hit by a truck.

The Macau government said two bodies were found in a flooded car park early Thursday, and that two more died when they were trapped in the basement of their shop. Details of the remaining death were not immediately available.

Footage published Thursday on the website of Apple Daily showed water gushing into an underground car park, with people wading through neck-deep water littered with debris as one man shouted in panic. It was not clear if it was the same car park where the bodies had been found.

"I have never seen Macau like this since I came here in the 70s," a taxi driver aged in his 50s who gave his name as Lao told AFP.

"It's like they were trying to gamble with their luck," Lao said adding that authorities had reacted too slowly and did too little to alert residents of the coming storm.

Blacked-out slot machines were seen at the largely empty Wynn Macau casino where there was no air conditioning and a musty atmosphere.

However, a few dozen gamblers ignored the heat and tried their luck at four baccarat tables.

A staff member at the enclave's sprawling Venetian resort said its casino and shops were open, but there was no air conditioning. A source had said on Wednesday that the complex was running on back-up power.

But at the Grand Lisboa Hotel in central Macau, an employee told AFP it was still without electricity and water and that its casino and restaurants were closed.

The city's gambling industry generated over 220 billion patacas ($27.29 billion) in revenue in 2016, over half of its annual GDP, as it hosted more than 30 million visitors.

- 'Tremendous damage' -

acau's leader Fernando Chui and other government ministers bowed their heads during a minute's silence at an evening press conference.

"These two days, we have faced an extremely difficult test together. Hato is the strongest typhoon in 53 years and has brought tremendous damage to Macau," Chui told reporters.

"In facing this disaster, we admit we have not done enough, there is space for improvement. Here I represent the Macau government in expressing our apologies to the residents," he said, adding that the city's meteorological bureau chief had resigned.

Debris was scattered on roads and a shipping container was washed up on its side in front of a temple after Wednesday's storm.

Streets were lined with trash and shattered glass and residents holding plastic buckets queued for water from fire hydrants.

"We've been going without water and electricity for more than 24 hours. It's so hot," May Lee, in her 40s, who was in line for water, told AFP, adding that there was not even water for flushing the toilet.

In Hong Kong, Hato -- whose name is Japanese for "pigeon" -- sparked the most severe Typhoon 10 warning, only the third time a storm of this power has pounded the financial hub in the past 20 years.

The city could have suffered losses of HK$8 billion ($1.02 billion), Chinese University of Hong Kong economics professor Terence Chong told AFP, referring to the value of its daily GDP.

More than 120 were injured as the city was lashed with hurricane winds and pounding rain.

In the neighbouring southern Chinese province of Guangdong, at least eight people have died, state broadcaster CCTV reported, while around 27,000 were evacuated to temporary shelters, the official Xinhua news agency said. Nearly two million households were briefly without power.

Hato was downgraded to a tropical depression Thursday afternoon as it travelled further into China

Hong Kong and the surrounding region is regularly battered by typhoons between July and October.

In the neighbouring southern Chinese province of Guangdong, at least eight people have died, state broadcaster CCTV reported, while around 27,000 were evacuated to temporary shelters, the official Xinhua news agency said. Nearly two million households were briefly without power.

CCTV said four of the mainland deaths had occurred in Zhuhai, three in Zhongshan and one in Jiangmen.

Hato was downgraded to a tropical depression Thursday afternoon as it travelled further into China

Hong Kong and the surrounding region is regularly battered by typhoons between July and October.

AFP, Published: 24 AUG 2017
Typhoon Hato leaves 16 dead after lashing southern China

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Urban trees

LONDON – Trees in cities reduce air pollution, absorb carbon and protect people during heat waves, saving megacities more than $500 million a year in health care, energy costs and environmental protection, according to new research.

With 1 in 10 people predicted to live in cities with more than 10 million inhabitants by 2030, urban forests can make these spaces healthier and more affordable, according to a study by the State University of New York (SUNY).

“Greening urban areas is critical,” said the lead author, Theodore Endreny of SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

“Trees are immeasurably important for human wellbeing and biodiversity, the underpinning of our quality of life.”

Urban forests can lower the “urban heat island effect” of cities, which are often several degrees warmer than nearby rural areas, worsening air and water pollution and making sweltering workers less productive, the study said.

Plants cool air around them through transpiration and their leaves block heat from the sun, as well as absorbing noise.

During heat waves, set to become more frequent as temperatures rise, trees can cool buildings, potentially reducing the cost of running fans and air conditioning, the study said.

The researchers, who focused on 10 megacities across the globe including Beijing, Moscow and Buenos Aires, found the benefits of urban forests could nearly double if more trees were planted in areas such as sidewalks, plazas and parking lots.

But urban conservation has been neglected in favor of larger, more remote natural areas, they said.

“If we focus our efforts outside the city, the biggest beneficiaries of (trees) are being neglected,” Endreny said, as more than 700 million people live in the world’s 40 megacities.

Pedestrians view Ginkgo trees in Meiji Jingu Gaien Park, in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward, on Nov. 24, 2014

The Japan Times, Published: AUG 24, 2017
Urban trees save megacities millions through cleaner air, cooler buildings: study

AN inventory exercise by the Penang Island City Council to keep tabs on trees in public areas in George Town will be expanded to cover places outside the city.

Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif said the council had inventoried 4,200 trees since the exercise began in 2013 and planned to record 6,000 more trees in the city in the last quarter of this year.

She said that after the inventory in George Town is done, a similar process would begin at other open spaces under the council.

Besides keeping a record of the trees, she said the inventory also served to help preserve old and valuable trees and prevent them from being chopped down or damaged in the process of development.

“Among the oldest recorded tree species found in George Town during the exercise are the sentang (Azadirachta excelsa), saga (Adenanthera pavonina) and pulai (Alstonia Angustiloba).

“The inventory will help keep us updated on these species and we will look into ways to upkeep them,” Maimunah told a press conference after a full council meeting at the City Hall yesterday.

She said details such as the tree type, number, location, size, present health status and required maintenance would be recorded.

“The council has also set up the Penang Tree Information System where the inventory data will be kept in a more systematic manner,” she added.

Council Landscape Department director Norrezan Sulaiman said 80% of the trees recorded so far were healthy while the remaining 20% needed treatment.

“Most of the trees that needed attention are more than 80 years old. Proper treatment was given to make sure they survive,” she added.

The StarMetro, Published: Friday, 25 August 2017
Council to keep on tagging more trees

GEORGE TOWN: A tree inventory exercise by the Penang Island City Council has recorded several rare species of trees within the heritage area.

Council Landscape Department director Norrezan Sulaiman said these included the “pokok sentang” (Azadirachta excels), “pokok saga” (Adenanthera) and “pokok pulai” (Alstonia angustiloba Miq).

She said these rare species could be found within the George Town City and were recorded after a survey of 4,200 trees which began in 2013.

She said the survey will continue this year where 6,000 trees were expected to be surveyed by year end.

She said the survey will record and collect data on the health, condition and species of trees within the areas under the jurisdiction of the council.

Norrezan also said 80% of the trees surveyed so far were in good health while the remaining 20% needed treatment.

She was elaborating on the issue after Mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif spoke about the survey when she chaired the council meeting earlier.

Maimunah said data collected could help in managing the health and condition of trees within the council limits.

“In addition, the Penang Tree Information System (PeTIS) has been made to store data on trees in a systematic manner so a digital map of trees can be created,” she added.

On the subject of the bicycle rental industry, Public Health Standing Committee alternate chairman Ong Ah Teong said the council decided to relax the requirement on compulsory insurance.

He said bicycle rental operators found it difficult to obtain insurance for public liability as insurance companies did not offer such plans.

He nonetheless said the council will continue to encourage operators to get such insurance if possible.

“Operators will have to prepare the (high visibility) vests, bicycle helmets and liability waiver forms themselves,” he said when asked about other safety measures.

malaysiandigest.com, Published on Thursday, 24 August 2017 15:16
Tree Inventory Exercise Finds Rare Trees In George Town
Source: theSun

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Hiker finds skull on nature walk

Two hikers have found a human skull close to the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles.

They stumbled upon the remains on Saturday afternoon about 400 feet from the Brush Canyon trail.

The hikers were in Griffith Park, a public park where the Hollywood sign is located, and had gone off the main trail when they discovered the skull.

The skull appears to be several years old according to LAPD lieutenant Ryan Schatz.

Detectives rappelled down about 100 yards to examine the skull and search for any other evidence, ABC7 reported. Other body parts have not been located.

Coroner and homicide investigators closed access to the area to search for possible additional evidence. Police planned to monitor the area during the night, KTLA reported.

It will take more than a week to determine how old the skull is and whether it is male or female, investigators said.

They don't know yet how long the remains have been there or what the cause of death was.

'Right now we're at the very early stages of trying to determine who this may be and collect the human remains so the coroner's office can take a look at it,' Detective Larry Burcher told ABC7.

Griffith Park is considered the largest municipal park in the nation and covers 6.5 square miles in the eastern Santa Monica mountain range.

Grisly discovery: Two hikers found a human skull after going off the main trail in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, where the Hollywood sign is located

MailOnline, UPDATED: 02:09 BST, 21 March 2016
Human skull found 400 feet from a hiking trail near the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles
# Two hikers found it on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, California
# They discovered the skull 400 feet from the Brush Canyon hiking trail
# It appears to be several years old; no other body parts have been found
# Police closed the area to search it and planned to monitor it at night
By Associated Press and Clemence Michallon For Dailymail.com

A GERMAN tourist taking nature photographs was shocked to discover a skull in a forest near Besut on Wednesday, Sinar Harian reported.

The tourist, who was hiking alone, found the skull about 50m off the trail in a forest near Kampung Pasir Panjang, Pulau Perhen-tian Kecil (*), at 4pm.

He informed local residents, who lodged a police report.

Besut police chief Supp Mohd Zamri Mohd Rowi said the victim is believed to have died over six months ago.

“From the size of the skull, we believe the deceased was a woman.

“A handbag, a pair of black shoes and sunglasses were also found at the site,” he said.

He added that police could not trace the victim for now because no missing persons report had been filed in the district for some months.

The skull was taken to the Hospital Besut forensics unit for investigation.

The Star, Published: Friday, 25 August 2017
Lone hiker finds skull on nature walk

(*) Perhentian Islands

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Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain

Navigational safety is on the minds of many in the Asia-Pacific region, due in part to Monday's collision between the USS John S. McCain and a commercial oil tanker on the maritime doorstep of the Malacca Strait.

This tragedy resulted in the loss of 10 United States sailors' lives and the injury of five others.

In response, the navies and maritime agencies of other nations, particularly those of Singapore and Malaysia, have surged into action to assist in the search, rescue and recovery operations at sea.

As any mariner could attest, the highest priority in these emergent situations is searching for survivors, recovering victims and comforting families.

But the next priority after responding to the emergency is to do what is necessary to reduce the likelihood of similar situations recurring in the future.

For the US Navy as an organisation, that post-incident task is all the more important, given that three other incidents involving navigational safety occurred this year in the Asia-Pacific region, the most recent of which involved a similar collision two months ago between USS Fitzgerald and a commercial cargo ship near Tokyo Bay.


The 13th-century Italian priest Thomas Aquinas once wrote: "If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever."

While Aquinas was writing metaphorically about engaging the world outside of his church, the literal meaning of his words are equally true: Life at sea is inherently risky and many of those risks can only be managed, not eliminated.

The increasing amount of maritime traffic transiting the waterways of the world, especially every day through the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, makes it even more impressive that collisions and other safety incidents are not a more frequent occurrence.

While this might, at first glance, appear to be miraculous, it is actually attributable to something more earthly: effective adherence to a rules-based system of navigational safety, which starts with universal rules and information systems, continues with national implementation of those rules and adoption of those systems, and thereafter requires persistent vigilance.

While many observers first think about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea when discussing universal rules governing the oceans of the world, there is, in fact, a specific treaty focused solely on the matter of ensuring that ships operate safely at sea in relation to one another.

The Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, more commonly known as the COLREGS, is a treaty nearly every nation in the world has joined.

It sets out the "rules of the road" of how ships should navigate in relation to one another.

Yet, the effective adherence to those universal rules depends not upon some international tribunal or enforcement mechanism, but instead deliberately focuses upon the extent to which individual nations effectively implement those international rules into their domestic governance systems for both their government and non-government ships.

Four months ago, I was privileged to organise a workshop focused on the subject of effective national implementation of the COLREGS, an event which the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies co-sponsored with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, and was held in downtown Singapore.

Maritime practitioners from 10 Asia-Pacific nations came together to share their best practices on how each country has implemented the COLREGS into their national governance systems.

Our workshop discussions concluded that effective implementation includes the following elements: comprehensive national laws, regulations, directives and policies; robust training programmes and qualification standards for appropriate personnel; routinised interaction and unit exercises; mandatory reporting protocols of incidents; thorough post-incident investigatory procedures; and serious post-incident personnel accountability systems.

What the participants took away from the workshop is that it is not enough to have these laws, programmes, standards, protocols, procedures and systems "on the books".

Navigational safety requires individual mariners, commanders, masters and senior leaders to remain forever vigilant to do all of them - all the time and every time.

In reaction to the USS John S. McCain collision along with these other recent incidents, a number of questions are being asked.

Why was the US Navy involved in each of these incidents? Is this purely coincidental or are there systemic problems that must be addressed? Have US military budget constraints or an increased operational tempo been contributing causes? Did information systems or steering systems malfunction? Are crew members receiving sufficient training on navigational safety? Was one or more of the incidents affected by some outside action, such as a cyber intrusion into the network systems of the ships?

These are all legitimate questions worth asking. From public statements by senior US Navy and defence officials, these and other questions will be examined and answered in the coming days, weeks and months of investigations and organisational soul-searching.


Here, I would like to share my views, drawing from my professional experience and academic research about the US' implementation of the COLREGS.

But I should add that, while I draw on my past experience in these organisations, these views are mine and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the US Department of Defence or any of its components.

I believe that the US has implemented the COLREGS through laws, programmes, protocols, procedures and systems.

Looking ahead, the US Navy finds itself at a juncture where the "thorough post-incident investigation procedures" element of implementation is critical.

As a US Navy lawyer who has provided legal advice to operational investigators and commanders on safety incidents throughout my career, I know that the navy's investigatory systems and procedures are appropriately in place to pursue and attain the necessary answers.

On a more personal note, as someone who has had the privilege to call the naval officer currently in charge of the US Pacific Fleet "my client" during prior job assignments, I am confident that Admiral Scott Swift has the honour, courage and commitment to ensure those difficult questions are answered honestly and thoroughly.

Early in my navy career, one of my supervisors shared an experience from his time as a legal adviser on the operational staff of a navy commander. An issue had arisen regarding the staff's workload and the admiral in command had come to this lawyer and several other members of the staff to ask their professional advice on what should be done.

When the lawyer briefed the chief of staff on his conversation with the commander, the seasoned chief of staff asked: "Did you show the appropriate level of concern?"

That simple story has stuck with me throughout my navy career, even becoming an unofficial motto. When I supervised a group of US Marine lawyers 10 years ago in Fallujah, Iraq, we shortened the motto to its acronym "Staloc" (showing the appropriate level of concern).

The need to show the appropriate level of concern was always at the front, not the back of our minds.

Fast forward to today: Immediately after Monday's collision, the US chief of naval operations directed a navy-wide "operational pause". The commander of US Fleet Forces Command initiated a fleet-wide, systemic review.

The commander of the US Pacific Fleet flew to Singapore immediately to get eyes on the situation, and then took the rare action of relieving the commander of US Seventh Fleet for "loss of confidence".

From these immediate actions, the world and Asia-Pacific region should see that the US Navy was "Staloc'd" - showing the appropriate level of concern.

I have no doubt that, in due time through just and proper investigations, the US Navy will get answers to legitimate questions and take all appropriate corrective actions.


What do these recent incidents mean for other nations? Sadly, at least one nation opposed to the US Navy's persistent presence in the waters of the Asia-Pacific region apparently tried to score political points from the USS John S. McCain collision.

One of its press spokespersons publicly stated it is "concerned about the threat and hidden danger posed by the relevant incident to the safety of navigation in the South China Sea and relevant waters".

That same nation's official newspaper published a political cartoon mocking the US Navy - while search, rescue and recovery operations for missing crew members were still under way.

To such nationalist hubris, I offer the oft-quoted proverb: "There but for the grace of God, go I."

In other words, these incidents could easily have happened to that nation or other nations.

The reality is that a number of nations in the Asia-Pacific region have increased or are increasing the budget and fleets of their respective navies, coast guards and other maritime law enforcement agencies.

Meanwhile, fishing boats are operating further and further from the coasts of their nations, as fish stocks either migrate away or become scarcer.

The same nation mentioned above is now leveraging its fishing boats as a "maritime militia", to either challenge the authority of foreign maritime law enforcement agencies in disputed waters or bolster competing territorial claims to disputed islands.

Due to this constellation of circumstances, incidents similar to the USS John S. McCain collision involving the ships of other nations could happen in the future. For these reasons, the lessons learnt through recent tragedy are ones worth considering by others in the region as well.

In particular, it might be prudent for other nations to self-assess their implementation of the COLREGS and other measures to ensure their vessels navigate safely at sea.

In short, increased maritime capabilities coupled with the more frequent interaction between vessels from multiple nations come the fundamental responsibility of all nations to ensure that the personnel operating their government and non-government vessels operate safely at sea. When it comes to navigational safety, we all must show the appropriate level of concern and maintain vigilance.

A collision with an oil tanker early on Monday morning left guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain with a hole on its port side. Navigational safety requires every individual to be vigilant at all times, says the writer.

The Straits Times, PUBLISHED: 6 HOURS AGO
US Navy collisions: What's next?

How can the US Navy recover from the spate of accidents?
By showing the appropriate level of concern.
And so far, its swift and decisive actions suggest it will get to the bottom of the issue.
Meanwhile, countries in the region with ships plying the busy Malacca Strait should also make sure their national laws comply with COLREGS, or the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

By Jonathan G. Odom For The Straits Times
The writer is a judge advocate in the US Navy. He serves as a military professor at the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies, located in Honolulu, Hawaii. Previously, he served as the oceans policy adviser in the Office of the US Secretary of Defence.

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Food safety

KUALA LUMPUR: Sixteen Malay-sian athletes from swimming and petanque are down with food poisoning.

The athletes, who are staying at a leading hotel in the city, were hit by food poisoning on Wednesday, with one swimmer admitted to hospital.

It is learnt that swimmer Daniel Bego, who was admitted overnight for observation, withdrew from the men’s 200m freestyle event on Wednesday night.

SEA Games Federation president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar said they were aware of the situation and that all necessary precautions had been taken.

“We were told that all relevant agencies have been alerted and are looking into the matter,” he told a press conference at the Malaysian Trade and Exhibition Centre (MiTeC) yesterday.

The KL Games does not have a dedicated Games Village, and all contingents are housed in hotels around the city.

Aquatics team manager Lee Soo Ann played down the food poisoning incident, saying “some of the swimmers suffered stomach upsets”.

Tunku Imran, who is also the president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), pointed out that other than food, another common gripe was transport.

Drivers losing their way and arriving late, and long waits for transport are some of the issues raised.

Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said contaminated broccoli is believed to be among the ingredients that may have contributed to the food poisoning incident.

The minister, joined by Health Ministry officials, visited the hotel that houses the 845-member national contingent.

“The hotel’s management has agreed to be more careful and view it as an isolated case. MoH will analyse the samples taken. Only one athlete further treatment while the others are recovering or have recovered,” he said.

The Star, Published: Friday, 25 August 2017
16 Malaysian athletes come down with food poisoning

I REFER to the report “Hospital shuts down its canteen after video of rat goes viral” (The Star, Aug 19, *). It is unthinkable that this unfortunate incident occurred in a hospital where cleanliness and hygiene are very important aspects in the treatment of patients.

What happened here is just the tip of the iceberg as there are many cases of unhealthy and poor hygiene practices in the production of agricultural products and preparation of food for sale that have not been reported in or exposed by the media.

It seems that the modus operandi of the authorities is to react when somebody uploads a video but there is no proactive course of action, like carrying out scheduled checking and monitoring at all levels of the food production process/ chain from farm to table. This is a sad tale of poor awareness and understanding of food safety among producers and sellers, lax regulations and underfunded enforcement of food safety laws.

The key issue here is the strict compliance to food hygiene regulations and health standards to ensure safety of food from production to consumption. Food can be contaminated at any point of the production process, from harvesting or slaughtering to processing, storage, distribution, transport and preparation.

It is crucial for people who are key players in the food production process to understand how their attitude, behaviour and activities on hygiene, including the maintenance and cleanliness of their premises and equipment, can affect the safety of food and prevent exposure to food-borne diseases.

Our nation is a net importer of agro-food. Data compiled by the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry indicates that our import bill is now about RM45.5bil.

The recent withdrawal of millions of eggs and egg products from European markets (due to contamination by toxic insecticide that was used to eradicate lice infestation) shows that we are vulnerable to any defect in the food production/ preparation process.

At the end of the food chain are the consumers who generally have limited information on the safety of the imported food they eat. The only consolation is that agro-food producers in developed countries have created a system to trace the source of the produce if there is any occurrence of contamination.

Our local agro-food production sector might also be adopting unhealthy methods of farming and rearing. There is a possibility that banned growth hormones like beta agonists and toxic pesticides or insecticides are being used in animal rearing and vegetable farming respectively. Profits are the underlying motivation for these unscrupulous and illegal practices.

We love our hawker food and enjoy this gastronomical delight at coffee shops, hawker centres, restaurants and street vendors plying their trade from warong and three-wheeled bikes.

Good hygiene is vital to ensure that the food we consume is safe. But if we observe the sellers preparing the food, we can see that most of them are not adequately trained in basic hygiene standards and safety measures.

Firstly, the sellers do not understand that poor hygiene exposes consumers to the risk of contamination. It is common to see the sellers or helpers not washing their hands with soap after using the toilet, not wearing gloves when handling food, or not washing the plates, bowls or cups properly.

Secondly, vegetables, fish and meat are not thoroughly washed before cutting and cooking and perishable ingredients and condiments are not stored properly to prevent contamination.

Thirdly, besides using plastic for takeaway food, there is a widespread and indiscriminate usage of plastic in food preparation. The sellers use plastic containers to scoop hot soup and raffia string to tie chickens that are dipped into hot water or cook nasi himpit wrapped in plastic. Some plastics, especially those made from low-grade material, release bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical that’s hazardous to health, when exposed to sunlight or hot water.

It is imperative that both food security and food safety be accorded top priority in our nation’s agenda. It is not merely the supply of food but the quality and safety as well that must not be compromised.

The Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry and Health Ministry as well as local authorities should have a proactive plan to enforce the laws and regulations on hygiene and food safety. The plan should include continuous dialogue with producers, sellers and handlers to create awareness and impart knowledge on hygiene and food safety.

Lastly, we as consumers should discard our lackadaisical and indifferent attitude towards this issue. We should exert our consumers’ right and boycott the sellers or coffee shop owners who do not follow the food safety rules. We should use social media to expose those who blatantly disregard hygiene and food safety, and create a network of consumers to monitor and report those who fail to protect our food production chain.

Letter to The Star, Published: Friday, 25 August 2017
Be vigilant on food safety
By DATUK WEE BENG EE, Tumpat, Kelantan

(*) Hospital shuts down its canteen after video of rat goes viral:

KLANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK): The canteen at the Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (HTAR) in Klang, Selangor was ordered to stop operations and clean up, after a video emerged on social media showing a rat eating vegetables from a buffet counter.

The video has no time stamp, nor is there a clear indication on where it was filmed but it is being shared with a caption claiming that the incident took place at "Klang G. Hospital".

HTAR director Dr Ding Lay Ming said the hospital management viewed the allegation seriously and had taken proactive measures to handle the situation.

"The canteen undergoes periodic inspection on its cleanliness and safety. People can post and claim anything these days. It is still a question mark whether the video was really taken here and when it happened, but we decided to immediately direct the operator to do a cleaning.

In the 32-second footage, a rat is seen casually reaching into a dish tray and pulling out a piece of cabbage before chewing on it atop the counter where food is displayed.

"A notice was issued to the operator by the District Health Office to temporarily close the premises and have it cleaned," Dr Ding said when met outside the canteen on Friday (Aug 18).

This is not the first time the canteen has been shut down. It was ordered to shut in 2005 and 2015, for two weeks each time, due to cleanliness issues.

Dr Ding said that the current operator took over two years ago followed by an extensive renovation.

"We will leave it to the relevant authorities to investigate if the alleged video was genuine and when was it filmed," added Dr Ding.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said it was important to maintain cleanliness, especially at hospitals, with prompt removal of food waste from such premises.

He warned all canteen concessionaires at government hospitals to ensure their premises were clean and rat-free at all times.

"This involves public safety and rat urine can be a huge health issue. We will take action on this matter," he said, adding that there were committees and teams to check on cleanliness in government hospitals.

Asked if the rat problem or cleanliness was an issue at other government hospitals, he did not deny the possibility and said that they would look into the matter.

[see more]
Rat helps itself at hospital cafeteria's self-service buffet

The Straits Times, Published: AUG 19, 2017, 1:16 PM SGT
Malaysia hospital shuts down canteen to investigate viral video of rat eating vegetables at its buffet counter

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Bhangra, folk dance and music of the Punjab

PETALING JAYA: When local football fans Shaunvinder Singh and Gurmesh Singh played the dhol in the stadium during a SEA Games match, they never imagined it would “go viral” around the world.

Videoclips of them banging on the traditional Indian drum were shared on social media by several international artistes, including British musician Panjabi MC, and many netizens.

People around the globe got to see Malaysian football fans dancing and celebrating “bhangra (*) style” to the hypnotic beat of their drums.

“It was only possible because our friends kept pushing us to play. We were shy at first and wanted to put the drums back into our car,” Gurmesh, 24, told The Star Online yesterday.

Malaysia won the match against Myanmar 3-1 on Monday, sparking scenes of jubilation at the stadium.

Gurmesh, a graphics designer from Pahang, said the experience of playing the dhol at some place other than a Punjabi event was exhilarating. It is typically played at Punjabi wedding receptions.

He said that things became “really crazy” after the match ended, with many fans urging them to keep beating on their drums; they played on for at least 30 minutes after the final whistle blew.

“It was nice to see people of all races celebrating together. Music and sports can bring people together,” he said, adding that his father taught him the importance of unity and to have respect for everybody.

Shaunvinder, 19, an information technology student, said they were unsure if they would even be allowed to bring the dhol into the stadium.

“We were nervous but once Malaysia started scoring, everyone got excited and we started to play. I am proud to be a Malaysian,” said the Penangite.

Many netizens commended the videos, saying that it showed Malaysian unity at its best.

Shaunvinder and Gurmesh, who are with the group Dhol Riderz, plan to play their drums at several more SEA Games matches, including the semi-finals on Saturday.

Drumming up support: Gurmesh (second left) and Shaunvinder playing the dhol during a SEA Games match in Kuala Lumpur.

Star TV.com

The Star, Published: Friday, 25 August 2017
Video of ‘bhangra style’ fan support goes viral

(*) bhangra
Bhangra, folk dance and music of the Punjab (northwestern India and northeastern Pakistan) and the popular music genre that emerged from it in the mid-to-late 20th century. Cultivated in two separate but interactive styles−one centred in South Asia, the other within the South Asian community of the United Kingdom−the newer bhangra blends various Western popular musics with the original Punjabi tradition. It enjoys an immense following in South Asia and within the South Asian diaspora.

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Requiem for Aleppo

ast summer, David Cazalet was busy running the cybersecurity firm he had started 18 years earlier, but he found himself increasingly preoccupied and disturbed by the news from Syria. He would watch the 10 o’clock bulletin with mounting dismay. “There was a sense of horror at seeing hospitals being bombed and kids being killed – and then seeing it slip down the news agenda. I had a sense of total powerlessness.”

Most people have probably had similar feelings of helplessness when confronted with catastrophic footage from war zones, but Cazalet’s response was unusual. He decided to sit down and compose a requiem, hoping to raise money for Syrian charities from performances. “I couldn’t go on watching the television and seeing Aleppo. I thought I’d like to do something through music and dance. I went to bed every night at 10, got up at four and wrote for three hours.”

A year later, Requiem for Aleppo has become a powerful and moving show. It premiered at London’s Sadler’s Wells in April, raising £80,000, most of which will be used to train teachers in Syria. Cazalet has now sold his business and is planning to take the production to the Middle East, the US and Canada. The piece, which he describes as a “personal lament for those innocently caught up in the horror”, is in Edinburgh this week, having been nominated for an Amnesty International Freedom of Speech award.

Reflecting Aleppo’s diverse cultural heritage, the music draws together Arabic, Christian, Berber and Jewish influences. It includes Christian requiem mass lyrics set to choral music as well as early Arabic poetry, beautifully sung by Juliana Yazbeck and Abdul Salam Kheir. The work is broken up with the voices of Aleppo residents describing the fighting and their flight from what the UN has described as the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time.

Cazalet makes it sound as if it was easy to juggle running a company with composing this piece. “Four in the morning in spring and summer is the best time to be thinking about music,” he says. Although it was a huge step away from his professional life, Cazalet has always been interested in music. He plays the guitar and has a second career as a singer-songwriter. In 2014, he released his debut album Out of the Light, under the name Caz Benedict. Most of Requiem was composed on his guitar, while musician Rasmus Andersen helped score the work.

Jason Mabana, a recent Rambert graduate, was brought in to choreograph a piece of contemporary dance that would evoke the immense human suffering of Syria’s population and the chaos of the war. Sponsorship from the Linbury Trust and the Saïd Foundation funded the dancers’ wages and production costs, meaning ticket money can go straight to Syria Relief. The team of 12 dancers (eight women and four men) were recruited from around the world – and their extraordinary performance makes this a hard-hitting, haunting piece.

For the duration of the show, each dancer takes turns running on the spot, sometimes centre stage, sometimes at the edge, desperately trying to flee from an unseen disaster. It is a potent, emotionally taxing theme, as the performers become wearier and more hopeless but struggle to keep going, to find safety. This makes it a challenging piece for the dancers, who are on stage most of the time.

“The running is a powerful image,” says Cazalet. “It is a constant – it suggests the struggle, the need to run away. But the performance is exhausting – both the intensity of the dance and because the dancers realise they are representing something of immense emotional weight.”

Cazalet, who has never been to Aleppo, was worried about how the large number of Syrians who attended the London performance would respond. “I was extremely nervous that it would land right with people who have been through a great deal of pain. I was worried that they might ask who was I, who had not been to Syria, to take their recent past and make something of it. But they were incredibly positive. It allowed us to give them a voice. They felt part of their story had been heard.”

Cazalet worked with the writer Ben Faccini, interviewing 10 people talking about their lives and their flight. “They are young and old,” he says. “Some were recorded formally with microphones in London, some over a mobile phone, or talking via WhatsApp from Turkey.” The interviews, he says, were hard. “But the task of editing them felt harder still, as these narratives of survival, grief and past joy come with a direct responsibility. They speak of lives lost, of suffering, of a thriving city that is no longer. But more than that, they carry an implicit message: no one should take having a home or country for granted. No one should assume that humanity can resist violence.”

We hear from Haya Tatou, a 20-year-old student in the UK, who hopes to train as a doctor and return home: “Now that we have escaped Syria, every time we eat meat, chicken and stuff, we feel guilty, because our family and all those who are left behind cannot. Even when you are happy you feel guilty.”

A refugee, too nervous to be named, tells us he is longing to return home to look again at Aleppo’s citadel. “I’m a Syrian. I just want to go back home. I want to live with my own thoughts, with my own ideas. I want to be free to see what I want, to do what I want, just like you.”

Ahmad al-Rashid, an English literature student in Aleppo, fled at the height of the civil war and is now studying violence, conflict and development at Soas University of London. “If you were living in Aleppo,” he says, “it was not that different from London. I was at university, people were going about their everyday business, students, workers – but then you wake up and that person who used to live next to you has been killed by a sniper, or the school next door has been totally destroyed.”

He tries to add a positive note. “Seeing all this bloodshed, seeing all this killing and brutality, did not make me hate humankind. There are a lot of people who did really horrible stuff – they killed people, they beheaded people, they burned people alive. But still I cannot hate people. If we focus on the narrative of hatred and fear, then this bloodshed will never stop. We need to focus on the narrative of humanity – of hope that things will get better tomorrow.”

• Requiem for Aleppo is at Pleasance at EICC, Edinburgh, on 16 August. Details about Syria Relief.

Requiem for Aleppo Trailer - Edinburgh Festival Fringe

A family in the remains of their home in eastern Aleppo.

The Guardian, Last modified on Tuesday 15 August 2017 10.07 BST
Requiem for Aleppo: 'I couldn't keep watching the news. I had to do something'

A hard-hitting new dance show uses the stories of Syrians to capture the horrors of Aleppo – and the hope that will not die
By Amelia Gentleman

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Miraculous escape from Aleppo

I HAVEN'T seen many miracles in my decades of travel around the globe, particularly not in the strife-torn Middle East.

But recently, I participated in a real miracle in Jordan as the splendid Four Paws International group staged a daring rescue of 13 wild animals trapped in the wartime hellhole of Aleppo, Syria. It appeared to be a mission impossible.

Syria has been torn apart for the past six years by a bloody civil war that has killed over 400,000 people and reduced many parts of this beautiful country to ruins. Half the population has become refugees. The ancient northern city of Aleppo, Syria's largest, has been laid to waste.

Just outside Aleppo lies a wrecked 40-acre amusement park-cum-zoo that once held hundreds of imprisoned wild animals to entertain children. The animals were abandoned in their cages in the midst of constant gunfire and shelling. Many were killed; the rest were left to starve to death or die of thirst. Some starving Syrians shared their meagre rations with the animals.

No one else cared about these abandoned creatures that included five lions, two tigers, two Asian black bears, two hyenas and two husky dogs.

But the Vienna-based Four Paws Charity did, and so did I. Four Paws had rescued a majestic lion named Simba and a charming honey-coloured bear named Lula from Iraq's abandoned Mosul zoo. Both had been starving. I agreed to sponsor much of the rescue operation in Aleppo.

I spent a morning in the New Hope Refuge outside Amman, Jordan, presided over by Jordan's Princess Alia, the king's sister. Over lunch, she showed remarkable compassion and understanding for wild animals.

Previously, Four Paws, led by its veterinarian Dr Amir Khalil, had rescued numerous starving or sick animals from the ghastly zoo in Gaza, Palestine.

Last week, a security team engaged by Four Paws International finally entered war-ravaged Aleppo, which is besieged by feuding jihadist bands supported by competing outside powers that include Al-Qaeda and even Israel. Throw in Kurds, Turks, the Syrian government, Iranians, Hezbollah and the US for a total madhouse and a very dangerous one.

Risking their lives, the security team managed to get around the jihadists and then into the Aleppo zoo. Over two trips, the 13 remaining animals were coaxed into cages, then lifted onto flatbed lorries. Then the convoy headed for the Turkish border. This was the second attempt. A previous one had been held at the border, then forced to turn back.

The daring rescue team had to negotiate with the bands of trigger-happy jihadists surrounding them. A team of well-armed "security consultants" came in to guard the convoy escaping from Aleppo. There was talk that the Israeli army might come to aid the animals, or a Turkish-backed militia. In any event, the little mercy convoy finally got to the Turkish border under the cover of darkness.

But the gate leading into Turkey was locked. Four Paws, with the help of Turkish volunteers, managed to talk the guards into opening it – yet another small miracle.

The animals were then driven for over 24 hours to an animal sanctuary near Bursa, south of Istanbul. There, one of the tigers, an imposing male that I named Sultan, went into cardiac arrest. Another wonderful veterinarian, Dr Frank Goeritz, got into his cage and managed to bring him back to life, warning his aides "leave the gate open in case he wakes up". Sultan was saved.

Wheels had to be cut off the cages to fit them into a commercial aircraft. Finding the right tool to do this in the middle of the night in Istanbul was another challenge.

After long delays, the mercy flight finally got to Amman where we met them at 5.30am. Four Paws director Heli Dungler was waiting with us. Thanks to the patronage of Princess Alia we got the animals through border controls and then onto flat-bed lorries for a two-hour journey north to the Al-Ma'wa animal refuge near the ancient Roman city of Jerash. Drivers on the road could not believe their eyes as our convoy of big predators rolled by.

After a labour of Hercules, the heavy cages were unloaded from the lorries and the 13 new residents were gently introduced into their new enclosures. The animals were of course confused, exhausted and testy, but we were thrilled that our wards were finally safe in their new homes.

We humans were also exhausted, but elated. I had slept no more than a few hours for days and was groggy from jet lag and fatigue. But Four Paws had achieved the impossible and shone a beacon of humanity into the boiling darkness of Syria's civil war.

As a final sign of good karma, lioness Dana gave birth to a feisty little girl who begins her life in a far better place.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 23 August 2017 - 07:41pm
Miraculous escape from Aleppo
Eric S. Margolis

[Read more and watch]
Safe at last
'Traumatised' zoo animals including starved lions and tigers who escaped horrors of the Syrian war begin their new lives in a 40-hectare sanctuary in Jordan


Princess Alia Foundation:

Al Ma'wa for Nature and Wildlife:

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Definition of a Malay

NEARLY 60 years after the 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia gained their independence, why are some political leaders still fixated on ethnicity? While paeans of praise are often lavished on the amity among ethnic groups living in this country, is multiracial harmony in Malaysia superficial rather than deeply ingrained?

These questions were prompted by the revelation of one fact – a political leader's grandfather belonged to a different ethnic group from his grandmother. Does this mean Malaysians should judge political leaders on the purity of their ethnic origins rather than their record of achievement?

There are several reasons why this issue is troubling and ludicrous.

First, a person's ethnic origins are determined by his parents. Because an individual has zero choice in determining whether he or she is one-eighth Malay, for example, it is unfair to blame him or her for his or her lack of ethnic purity.

Second, the definition of a Malay in the Federal Constitution excludes ethnicity. Instead, cultural markers are used to determine who is a Malay.

Article 160 defines a Malay as "a person who professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language and conforms to Malay custom". This suggests the framers of the Federal Constitution wanted to avoid the minefield of ethnicity and opted for simpler and clearer criteria.

Third, as the name suggests, the lynchpin of the ruling Barisan Nasional, the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), is a political party for the Malays.

If a person was a member of Umno and became the party's president for more than two decades, doesn't this mean he was accepted by party members as Malay?

Fourth, many past top Malaysian politicians and prime ministers were racially mixed. Rogayah Hanim – the mother of Umno founder Dato Onn Jaafar and grandmother of the country's third prime minister Tun Hussein Onn – was from Turkey.

Similarly, Che Menjelara, the mother of Malaysia's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was Thai while Hassan Salleh, the maternal grandfather of fifth prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi was a Muslim of Chinese descent.

Should the eminent achievements of these political leaders be denigrated simply because they weren't pure Malays?

Is it significant or irrelevant that four out of six Umno presidents were ethnically mixed? Does the fact their mixed ethnicity was never a concern either for party members or for voters in past elections mean this is a recent preoccupation? Or is mixed racial origins an issue targeted at a particular former party leader?

Fifth, a segment of Malaysian Chinese are also obsessed about individual leaders' Chinese-ness. For Malaysian Chinese, the benchmark isn't ethnic origin but the ability to speak a Chinese dialect and to champion the cause of Mandarin.

Because the forebears of many Malacca Peranakans arrived in the 17th and 18th century and married women already residing in this country, they spoke only Baba Malay.

Their inability to speak any Chinese dialect or Mandarin prompted many Malacca Peranakans to be labelled OCBC – Orang Cina Bukan Cina (Chinese but not Chinese).

To be sure, language as a marker of ethnicity is (less) objectionable than racial purity – it is possible to learn a language but impossible to change an individual's ethnic origins.

Nevertheless, using a single criterion to determine racial identity is arguably simplistic. Despite diligent observance of religious and cultural norms, does failure to speak any Chinese dialect disqualify a leader from being deemed a Chinese?

Coincidentally, the issue of racial purity is also debated in Singapore – prompted by a presidential election solely reserved for Malay candidates likely to be held next month. Interestingly, a candidate is entitled to contest even if he or she isn't Malay.

To be accepted as a Malay presidential candidate, Article 19B of Singapore's Constitution spells out two criteria.

A Singaporean is eligible "whether of the Malay race or otherwise, who considers himself to be a member of the Malay community and who is generally accepted as a member of the Malay community by that community".

Prospective candidates must obtain a certificate of eligibility from the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) and a declaration from the Community Committee that the individual is part of the Malay community.

Additionally, private-sector candidates must head a company with at least S$500 million in shareholder equity – a requirement the PEC can waive.

Among potential candidates, the frontrunner is former speaker and a group representative constituency MP, Halimah Yaacob, who has Indian/Malay parents.

Private sector hopeful, Farid Khan, faces two potential problems – his identity card labels him a Pakistani and the shareholder equity of the company that he chairs, Bourbon Offshore Asia, totals only US$300 million.

Similarly, another possible private candidate, Salleh Marican, is regarded as Indian rather than Malay, Singapore newspapers report.

While the definition of a Malay is being broadened in Singapore, will the same happen across the Causeway?

The SunDaily, Last updated on 10 August 2017 - 09:35am
Fixated about ethnic purity?
By Tan Siok Choo

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Senior citizens looking for jobs

TWO readers’ mail in your publication drove me to respond.

AY Yong of Ipoh referred to the 82-year-old Masako of Japan who is doing coding. How wonderful to be able to enjoy work at that age. Then there was PS Foong who was right in saying that seniors here do not have the chance to show what they can contribute.

It is a sad and lonely world for retirees like me, just past 58 and not yet warga emas. We are “left behind” and in limbo when it comes to work opportunities and benefits from government and society. I worked for over four decades, paid tax every year but am now left out in the cold!

I was in the advertising and creative industry all that time, before I semi-retired almost two years ago. But I am finding it hard to fully retire because of financial commitments such as the last bit of my housing loan, children’s college education, and others.

And these days, the employment market in the ad industry and others look at me as a liability rather than an asset. I am over experienced, not young enough and assumed not tech-savvy.

Potential employers seem hesitant to employ someone who is their father’s age! Indeed, one employer actually mentioned that to me! It’s a shame that in the ad industry there is a terrible distaste for older and experienced people even though there is a dire shortage of experienced staff.

I can still work, mentor and contribute and work for less pay, but the market seems “afraid” of veterans. I believe there are many like me who don’t want to sit and sip coffee every day and relax. We have much to contribute. I tried to get employed in another industry for a fraction of my old pay but the result was the same – too old, too experienced, too bad, uncle!

“Give senior citizens a chance”, was the headline for Foong’s letter. I would add, give experienced seniors their fair share of respect and dignity. He was right in saying that the Government has a role to play.

But it is not just the Government but every employer in Malaysia. Have you seen job ads that specify age limits? In the EU that would be discrimination. It seems as if only if you are in business yourself or a politician can you be employed until you die.

Donald Trump is past 70, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is a superman at 92, judges can be on the bench till 66 and in the corporate world directors can serve until 70. Unfortunately, private sector employees like me are unwanted, unappreciated and not respected.

Letter to The Star, Published: Wednesday, 23 August 2017
I am not your ‘Uncle’ or a liability, I can still work!
By NOT YOUR OLD UNCLE, Petaling Jaya

I SYMPATHISE with Not Your Old Uncle, “I am not your ‘Uncle’ or a liability, I can still work” (The Star, Aug 23), who lamented the lack of job opportunities for senior citizens. Being 55 and even 65 today is considered the new normal middle age and only people like me (81) are truly qualified as seniors.

At the risk of sounding boastful, except for the physical limitations and lack of bodily strength, my other faculties are still functioning properly, truly by the grace of God. My memory bank is still operating normally and I can still vividly remember events that occurred during the Japanese Occupation.

But this is not about me. What I wish to address is the problem that was raised – the apathy and reluctance shown by employers to give the older generation a chance to get gainful employment.

I suggest we face the problem head on. Let’s form an organisation and maybe call it “Uncles Incorporated” or even “Sunshine Boys Inc”. Encourage those who have retired and still feel they can contribute usefully to our society to register. Build up a database of people, categorising them by professions, trade and other fields of expertise. Once this database is properly set up, approach the private sector and even GLCs and tell them that we have a pool of qualified and experienced people who we can outsource to them on a contractual basis. Let’s see how the response is.

But I am willing to bet that if we do this professionally, we will get responses because I see it as a win-win situation for everybody.

Any uncles out there willing to give this a try?

Letter to The Star, Published: Thursday, 24 August 2017
Set up database of senior citizens looking for jobs
By J. TOH, Kuala Lumpur

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Hospital a tall tale?

PUBLIC consultation should have been done before state land in Peel Avenue, Penang, was sold to a hospital group, which now wants to build a 33-storey hotel in the neighbourhood of stately homes.

Penang Gerakan acting Youth chief Jason Loo felt that the state government would have been aware that Island Hospital was planning a ‘skyscraping tower of 440 rooms’ and should have shared it with the local community.

“I am not against the development. I just want to know why the state government did not hold a public consultation with residents first. It is a huge hotel.

“The residents should have been consulted before the land sale. They deserve a chance to give feedback on what should be developed on it,” he said when contacted yesterday.

He said nearby landowners had approached him to express their fears of having such a large building in their midst.

“Now that plans are submitted, the landowners fear that their objections may not be heeded.

“The state owns so little land on that side of the island. Couldn’t something have been done on the land for the benefit of the people at large?” Loo asked.

He said although such public consultations was not a legal requirement, it would have reflected the state government’s respect for the people.

“Going by the book is not always the best bet. The administration covers itself but leaves the people feeling insecure about the future of their neighbourhood.”

Earlier at a press conference, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Yap Soo Huey confirmed that Island Hospital had recently applied to Penang Island City Council (MBPP) to build medical suites, a hospital and the 33-storey hotel.

She said the objections hearing on the planning application began on Tuesday and 16 residents were taking part.

She said MBPP informed surrounding property owners of the plans in late July, as was required in planning applications, and she invited 13 residents for a discussion at her office on Aug 3.

“The proposed hotel is planned on the land at the corner of Peel Avenue and Perak Road,” she said.

Yap urged Island Hospital to ensure that the planned hotel would not be a luxurious one.

“I welcome the proposal. Medical tourists are now booking apartments and houses in Pulau Tikus for short-term stays and this is not allowed.

“A hotel would be convenient but it must be affordable, especially because medical tourists to Penang includes patients from Kedah, Perlis and northern Perak.”

The state government offered the 2.6ha piece of land to Island Hospital in 2015 and the sale was signed last December without any public announcements.

The hospital got a 99-year lease on the land for RM156mil.

In May, NGO Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group revealed the deal, which sparked public concerns about the absence of an open tender and public engagement.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng had maintained that no open tenders were called on the sale because it was treated as a foreign direct investment in a high-value industry and the state government was bound by non-disclosure agreements required by investors.

A general view of Peel Avenue with palm trees lining the stretch.

[photo-2, -3]
Above and below: Some of the bungalows that may be demolished to make way for the proposed hotel project in Peel Avenue, George Town.

The StarMetro, Published: Thursday, 24 August 2017
Hotel plan draws public ire

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Running has great benefits

WE usually encounter both sweet and bitter experiences in life. At times, strange experiences unfold before our eyes.

We smile when sweetness is our lot. It is as if good tidings are showered from heaven.

We cry when bitterness engulfs us. This is the acid test we have to face.

More often than not, the challenge is a herculean task. Hearts are broken. Hopes are dashed. Life becomes a nightmare.

Year: 1989. Mission: Penang to Phuket Run organised by the Penang Veteran Athletic Association (PVAA).

The event was flagged off by the former Penang Yang di-Pertua Negri Tun Hamdan Sheikh Tahir, at Jalan Residensi.

It was not a full-distance run. It covered only strategic points, both in Malaysia and Thailand.

Venue: Penang Bridge. My spouse, Siti Zaleha Hashim, who is a robust lady, felt exhausted after running a few kilometres.

We were not actually bothered. We had no thought of a negative impact. Probably, the heat had taken a toll on her.

Back in Penang a week later, we consulted a doctor to check on her health. What a shock.

She was four months pregnant. We were unaware that she had conceived.

For 13 years she had been barren after her first delivery. We had only one “Princess”, Emilia Erwani, as our precious and beloved daughter.

Now we hoped for a boy. Our wishes were answered. The cycle was complete. The gift of “Prince” Romi Erawan came into this world.

Don’t despair if you face misfortune. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Don’t quit if you fail. Failure is never final.

You only fail if you quit. This is the lesson I learnt, and I hope others will take stock of it.

Moonlight Run... Coastal Run...True to the theme, these runs were held under the conditions their names suggest.

The Moonlight Run was organised during the full moon on the mainland in Seberang Jaya.

As for the Coastal Run, the venue was along the Batu Ferringhi and Teluk Bahang coastal road, Penang.

Such fancy themed runs were meant to arouse the interest and enthusiasm of participants in these sporting functions.

The sea at the Esplanade was likened to a ‘battle ground’ when several freighters were anchored there for a friendship visit in conjunction with the Royal Fleet Review Run.

The certificate given for the 10km run was also very colourful, with flags of the participating nations. It was held in May 1990.

The Torch Run, on the other hand, gave the runner a feeling of being an Olympian.

It created an atmosphere of an Olympic carnival. It was a rare opportunity to be able to hold the torch and take part in such an event.

My participation in Torch Runs were in the Penang–Phuket Run and the Sea Games Torch Run.

Among the other fancy themed runs I participated in were Peace Run, Larian Ria and the Dam Run.

These runs usually covered a distance of 10km to 15km on flat ground, except for the Dam Run and Penang Hill Run.

I also took part in the Hat Yai Publicity Run organised by the vice-governor of Songkhla Province in 1989.

I obtained the finishing certificate, written in both English and Thai.

Running not only keeps us healthy but also enlarges our circle of friends. No matter what the nature of our hobby is, it has great benefits.

As for the first Penang Bridge Run in 1990, chief reporter Tommy Lee and I were feted to a set lunch by then Editor-in-Chief Datuk Ng Poh Tip for our participation.

She also invited non-participating runners from the News Desk to join in celebrating our success.

Collecting colourful certificates for these runs is a motivational factor to push us to greater heights.

Cultivate a healthy hobby. Life will be more meaningful. It will take away your stress.

The StarMetro, Published: Thursday, 24 August 2017
Running has great benefits

Besides nurturing a healthy body, it also helps one to de-stress and make new friends

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2017 Sea Games

JAKARTA : Indonesian president Joko Widodo yesterday said he had forgiven Malaysia over the upside down flag of Indonesia printed in a souvenir booklet for the 2017 Sea Games.

The president’s special communications staff, Johan Budi Saptopribowo, said the president was just waiting for an apology from Malaysia soon after the issue cropped up.

Online media quoted Johan as saying that the Indonesian president, better known by the name Jokowi, also hoped the Indonesian people would not react excessively to the mistake by the Malaysian Sea Games Organising Committee.

“What’s important now is that there has been an apology and (the booklet) has been withdrawn, as hoped by the President, (and) Malaysia (has already) apologised,” he said at the Presidential Palace complex, here.

Malaysia, via Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, made an official apology to the Indonesian government and all the people of Indonesia over the mistake.

The Indonesian flag is depicted upside down in a Kuala Lumpur Sea Games 2017 booklet in Malaysia. Following an apology by the Malaysian government, Indonesian president Joko Widodo says he had forgiven Malaysia over the error and hope the Indonesian people would not react excessively to the mistake.

New Straits Times, Published: August 22, 2017 - 12:33am
Indonesian flag fiasco: Apology accepted, says Jokowi
By Bernama

PETALING JAYA: It is not easy to keep up with South-East Asia’s fastest man – Khairul Hafiz Jantan – and certainly not when you are lugging heavy camera gear around with you.

But photographers on duty covering the men’s 100m final dash at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Tuesday can boast that they did just that as they kept pace with a jubilant Khairul Hafiz running his victory lap.

The 19-year-old from Melaka made a stunning debut by becoming the youngest Malaysian sprinter to win the gold in the men’s 100m final at the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games by clocking 10.38 seconds.

A video clip of the photographers in action trying to get their best shot of the nation’s newly crowned sprint king, which was caught on live TV, made the rounds on social media, eliciting admiration from netizens.

“This is really funny,” Dan Shakir posted while Murali Subramaniam wrote: “Dedication bro”.

The Star photographer Izzrafiq Alias, 30, said it was really “tiring” racing after the young athlete.

“After crossing the finish line, Khairul did not stay still. And there were many photographers crowding the finish line. Then he ran back to the starting line. Only two or three of us followed him all the way. It was very tiring.

“It was also exhausting for me as I had been working since morning but it was worth it because it was part of sporting history,” he said.


The Star, Published: Thursday, 24 August 2017
When pixmen keep pace with fastest man in South-East Asia

I AM immensely inspired by the spirit demonstrated by our national athletes and Malaysian supporters at the ongoing 29th SEA Games. Last Saturday, thousands of sports enthusiasts braved the rain to witness the official opening ceremony of the Games. A significant number of Malaysians also registered as volunteers to be part of the Games from Aug 19 till Aug 30.

The nation’s contingent of 844 athletes went through intense training and it is now time to achieve their dreams in the spirit of togetherness, friendship and sportsmanship.

Sports enthusiasts can also follow the latest updates via the official social media platforms.

The entire nation is looking forward to the inspiring achievements of our national athletes one after another. Once again, Malaysians are joining together, regardless of race or religion, for a common cause.

The theme of the Games, “Rising Together”, is a timely slogan to remind us to stay together as Malaysians. Recently, debate on the abolishment of vernacular schools in Malaysia for the purpose of national unity came up again.

In this context, sports may serve as the catalyst for national unity through mutual respect and equal dignity for all races, cultures and religion. In fact, sports is indeed the most effective way of uniting people.

In sporting events, athletes of all races strive to achieve a common goal to bring victory to the country. Sports requires them to constantly work together, create mutual understanding among each other and instil a sense of respect for one another.

Meanwhile, all the other Malaysians are connected together as spectators to cheer our athletes on.

As such, we should use sports as a platform to promote unity. We should always show our support and appreciate the contributions of our athletes or those who have been trying to promote sports in our country instead of disparaging any party.

As the late Nelson Mandela said: “Sports has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youths in a language they understand. Sports can create hope when once there was only despair.”

While our national athletes are striving to do their best in the Games, we must also make a pledge to be involved in sports socially and not merely as a spectator.

Be it a simple running session with people from our multi-racial community or playing badminton with colleagues, these time-outs together can eventually enhance our national unity.

Let us embrace unity in diversity passionately and always remember that national unity is more important than all other political agendas. We should be proud of our nation’s diversity.

Letter to The Star, Published: Thursday, 24 August 2017
Unity should be embraced beyond sports
By NG SENG YI, Universiti Malaya

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Malayan Communist Party (MCP)

IN a fortnight, we will celebrate Merdeka for the 60th time. As a child I can vividly recollect back then how hundreds of leaflets were "thrown out" from an aeroplane that flew periodically above a jungle near where I lived in Tanjung Malim. They had specific messages and instructions printed on them directed to the insurgents, namely members of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) who were supported by the Communist Party of China.

The messages called on them to lay down their arms and denounced the insurgency to establish a communist vassal loyal to the leaders of Communist China.

In today's terms they were "terrorists" resolved to emplace their ideology by hook or by crook like how China turned communist in the 1940s. The strategy was generally to "encircle" and "capture" the cities.

For this, the MCP leaned heavily on the local counterparts as "sympathisers" to further their cause. So much so even long after the "war" against the communists was declared over, I remember there were still university students belonging to a language society being nabbed as communist supporters.

It was clear that the "struggle" to spread their "beliefs" was continuing not unlike the IS propaganda effort now. When the "hard" ways through physical means proved impossible, they resorted to the "soft" alternatives to arrive at the same goal of undermining the government.

"Fake news" as it is now known was the diet then. Indeed, the use of "softpower" is well acknowledged today as a clandestine tool to subvert legitimate governments.

As such, most people are lulled as to the "hidden" agenda to "influence" the situation to be more favourable for the perpetrators. This is carried out through seemingly "friendly" gestures of extending "help" for a particular strategy as part of the required investment.

The hard-to-refuse offers range from financial aid to other "goodies" with little awareness on the part of the locals. Much of this can be gleaned from other developing nations that now lament that they have been (re)colonised in subtle ways. Where there are diaspora of "sympathisers" the (re)colonisation is even more slick since they willingly assume the role of middlemen like earlier.

The creation of new villages during the insurgency was a living testimony of how the sympathisers were contained from acting as conduits for the terrorists. In the IT era this is more difficult to do.

There are parallels between what is seen today and days of the insurgency; except that now we are naively "blinkered" by the tantalising persuasion of the "softpower".

The many opportunities generously offered are often laced with the aim to nudge opinions and options towards issues that are of great interest globally.

Through this means "new" sympathisers or supporters are being selectively recruited. Such calculated moves, at some stage, become instrumental in the bid for greater influences including soliciting for (mega) projects.

A classic recent example is the case in Singapore of a "prominent academic" allegedly a US citizen of Chinese descent, who worked at the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. He was reportedly an "agent of influence of a foreign country".

Admittedly, "softpower" works best through "education" where young unsuspecting minds can be duly shaped (read indoctrinated).

Mobility programmes and branch campuses under the cover of "internationalisation" are most effective for this especially when the local "education" system is "fledgling" as the nation's core cultural values are being eroded politically.

At the same time, the corrupt-prone societal fabric is vulnerable enough to serve as perfect recipe for the infusion of "softpower" in so many ways unknowingly.

These include abusing the system as in the case of a RM1.9 billion scam reportedly involving foreign "perpetrators and victims" in a multimillion-dollar cyber fraud ring in Indonesia.

Allegedly the foreigners entered the country without valid passports.

Hence six decades on we must revisit and relearn from the past again.

We must value what it all really means to be free where untold numbers of our unsung heroes put their lives on the line to defend the dignity and kedaulatan of this beloved nation.

The freedom and independence that have been fought for long and hard must not be taken for granted especially when pressured by geopolitical manoeuvring compounded by socio-economic arm-twisting amid an ethico-moral chaos.

While it is commendable to be vigilant of the IS, or daesh, never lose sight of others who, on the quiet, have similar sinister intentions. Especially so when they have tried and failed before thanks to the people's resolute and cohesive strength.

This time our challenge is to additionally rein in greed and unbridled ambition that could distract our resolve slowly but surely. There are no more leaflets dropped from planes to warn us of the consequences.

But all is not lost if we heed the warning by President Xi Jinping in his speech to mark the 90th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army (PLA): "No one should expect us to swallow the bitter fruit that is harmful to our sovereignty, security and development interest."

The newly assigned PLA commander-in-chief should know best as China pours billions to "encircle" increasing number of cities, including many of Asean's best (but not our southern neighbour) paving the way for its One Belt, One Road agenda. This somehow reawakened me. I wonder if we are expected to swallow the bitter fruit of the past! Only the future will tell.

The SunDaily, Posted on 16 August 2017 - 08:29am
No more leaflets to warn us
By Dzulkifli Abdul Razak

The "elimination of ranking terrorists" was a repeated theme in secret monthly reports on casualty figures circulated by the director of intelligence in British-controlled Malaya during the 1950s.

Long-lost files from the "emergency" period, when insurgents attempted to drive out colonial occupiers, reveal how the protracted jungle war was fought to drive communist groups into submission and deprive them of food and support.

The first tranche of documents belatedly transferred from the Foreign Office depository in Hanslope park, near Milton Keynes, to the National Archives in Kew, show how British officials in Kuala Lumpur interpreted virtually all anti-colonial protests as evidence of a planned communist takeover.

But many potentially embarrassing documents, including probably some of those relating to the alleged 1948 massacre by Scots Guards of 24 villagers in Batang Kali, appear to be missing.

These missing papers could have been among scores of files listed for destruction in the colony's final months.

A compensation claim by relatives and survivors of the killings – described by some as the "British My Lai massacre", after the US troop killings in Vietnam – is due to come to trial in London in May.

Among documents that survived the transfer are reports issued monthly from the director of intelligence in the Federation of Malaya.

"The last month of 1956 brought a total of 41 eliminations of terrorists, which is average for the year," the director, G C Madoc, noted. "During the year, 287 terrorists were killed, 52 were captured and 134 surrendered. The [communist] politburo policy of avoiding contacts and conserving terrorist strength remains in force."

Madoc added: "In spite of the considerable difficulties of creating underground control organisations from the jungle, it is known that the MCP [Malayan Communist party] is striving continuously to implement directives on subversion in town and villages …

"Hence the need to maintain constant watch over the gullible and ambitious opponents [of] the existing regime who are natural and probably unconscious targets for subtle forms of subversion."

Casualty tables written for December 1956 record: "Ranking terrorists eliminated – 8." The phrase "eliminated" is used repeatedly to describe the killing of insurgents. In January the following year, Madoc recorded: "In Selangor a small but important success was achieved when the whole of the Ampang branch, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, was eliminated."

In March 1957, less than six months before the colony's formal independence, a monthly intelligence assessment observed: "By the standards of the last year the number of terrorist eliminations may be considered satisfactory."

The killing of Tan Fuk Leong, it was noted in May that year, "by aerial bombardment, may presently ease the situation in North Negri Sembilan [sic]."

The assessment added: "His inspiring leadership of the 3rd Independent Platoon has been a major factor in the preservation of MCP influence in the north of the state. We know from experience that the elimination of senior leaders has little apparent effect on the morale of followers, but the plain fact is that only one deputy platoon commander survives."

Other means of combating communist subversion included banning books from 29 blacklisted publishing houses in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. A branch of the Labour party of Malaysia was censured for staging a concert at which "two objectionable songs were sung in spite of the fact that the police had registered their disapproval".

Another secret file reports on an inquiry into allegations that British troops regularly strip-searched and abused women near the village of Semenyih during a "food denial" operation aimed at preventing rice being smuggled out to communist units in the jungle.

Women complained that they were forced to remove their clothes, which were then thrown some distance away so they had to recover them under the gaze of loitering soldiers. The final report into the allegations is absent from the file.

An insight into how the government in London initially resisted the anti-colonial winds of change is contained in a "secret and personal letter" sent out in March 1953 by Sir Thomas Lloyd, permanent undersecretary at the Colonial Office.

Dispatched to "governors of non-self governing territories", it began: "The growth of anti-colonial activity is a feature of the general world situation with which we have to reckon these days. The dangers for us from it are sufficiently obvious, not least because its use to smooth the way for communist strategy in colonial territories … It may only be a matter of time before members of the Arab/Asian bloc will cause [their] agents to interest themselves to our detriment in the underground political affairs of our territories."

His circular, posted to British governors in Malaya, British Guyana, Fiji, Cyprus, Kenya, Uganda, Jamaica, Trinidad, Northern Rhodesia and other colonial outposts, requested feedback on "the effect of anti-colonialism on the attitude of the politically conscious among indigenous colonial people". It added: "In territories where there is a domiciled European population, [we recognise that] this is far from being the whole story."

In Malaya, a far-seeing official acknowledged that: "The word 'colonial' has acquired a stigma and should be dropped. We should not have a Colonial Office, a secretary of state for colonial affairs, a colonial service and so on. Why not 'Commonwealth protected territories' or some such phrase?"

The Guardian, Published: Wednesday 18 April 2012 00.00 BST
Colonial Office files detail 'eliminations' to choke Malayan insurgency

Documents transferred to National Archives lay bare how communist groups were targeted in long jungle war
By Owen Bowcott

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Merdeka journey

AS we celebrate 60 years of independence as a sovereign nation on Aug 31 it may be useful to recall some significant elements of that struggle for freedom in the 1950s.

While there will be continued debates among scholars as to the prime movers of independence, it is, I think, as important to recognise the broader achievements in that period that greatly shaped the new nation.

One of the most significant achievements of the Merdeka journey was the coming together of all the communities to support the campaign for independence.

Without this sense of unity and purpose at a critical juncture in the 1950s, Malaya would certainly not have been granted independence in 1957. The British colonial administration had frequently stated that independence would not be granted without evidence of unity among the races in Malaya.

The colonial records indicate that the British administrators in the immediate post-war period generally felt that Malaya would not be ready for even the grant of self-government for several decades.

The security threat emanating from the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) revolt, which began in 1948, had to be resolved before self-government could be seriously considered, they argued.

Malcolm MacDonald, the British commissioner-general in Southeast Asia, thought in 1950 that the country would not be ready for independence for another 25 years.

Datuk Onn Jaafar, the preeminent Malayan politician of the time, however, argued that 15 years was a more reasonable period for the attainment of self-governance.

The moderate constitutional parties arguably led the push for independence in the early 1950s, inspired by the successes of nationalist movements in several Asian countries and in Ghana.

The security threat from the MCP had been well contained by the security forces by the early 1950s and the British administration felt confident enough to introduce local elections from 1951.

The early successes of the Umno-MCA cooperation in the local elections, beginning with the big win in the 1952 Kuala Lumpur municipal elections, paved the way for the consolidation of the alliance, which was joined by the MIC in late 1954.

The year 1953 was a landmark year as the Alliance's Party held its first national convention and raised the stakes and openly pushed the agenda for self-governance and federal elections a notch higher.

Several events were notable turning points in the journey towards independence.

It is sometimes forgotten that the Alliance leaders' trip to London in 1954 led by Tunku Abdul Rahman to demand a larger majority of elected seats in the federal legislature and the subsequent boycott of the federal legislative council and the municipal and town councils by the Alliance helped to speed up the introduction of the first federal election.

The British government made some concessions on the composition of the federal legislature following the Alliance boycott, which the party launched after the London trip.

The Alliance leaders risked life and limb in the pursuit of the goal of independence.

They were willing to be imprisoned for their struggle.

This is something that the younger generation is less aware of. History textbooks in schools do not provide adequate details of this important campaign for independence in the 1950s.

Equally significant, the cross-communal support for the Alliance Party during the first federal election of July 1955 was a critical factor that moved the campaign for independence forward considerably.

The Alliance had to win big to obtain a workable majority as only 52 of the 98 seats in the Federal Legislative Council were elected directly. Even a loss of five seats would mean a minority government and a dampening of their independence hopes.

"Independence" was the main thrust of the Alliance manifesto for the 1955 election, which contained important inter-communal political compromises as it promised that the interests of all the races would be safeguarded in the emerging nation.

This was well received by all the races as reflected in the election results. The strong cross-communal support from across the country enabled the Alliance to win 51 of the 52 elected seats. This historic win sealed the Alliance's campaign for independence.

The colonial records show that the British colonial administration had not anticipated the massive Alliance win. The high commissioner did not even make the necessary housing arrangements for the new leader in government until after the election, or had given serious thought to the position to be conferred on the majority party leader.

Following the landslide win, the Alliance raised the target – they demanded independence in two years.

Their election manifesto had originally sought independence in four years but after the inspiring win they felt two years was reasonable.

When Tunku and the Alliance leaders met the secretary of state for the Colonies in London in January 1956 to discuss the question of independence, Tunku had a specific date in mind. The Alliance wanted independence to be declared on Aug 31, 1957.

The British government, the records indicate, hesitated for a moment during the talks.

The Alliance, however, remained firm on the target date. Eventually, the British government relented.

The British government's initial plan was for the grant of full internal self-government, not independence.

But the Alliance insisted that they were not returning to Malaya without a firm date for independence in hand; Aug 31, 1957 to be more precise. In the circumstances, the signs were clear and the British government agreed to transfer power to the Alliance government and withdrew from Malaya gracefully.

Malaya's independence was not given on a silver platter. It was hard earned from the sacrifices and risks taken by a generation of Malayans from all communities who wanted freedom.

This was enabled by the support from all the communities in the country. History has shown that when all the communities come together we can overcome any obstacles.

Selamat Merdeka!

Tunku Abdul Rahman during the proclamation of independence on Aug 31, 1957 at Stadium Merdeka.

The SunDaily, Last updated on 22 August 2017 - 01:47pm
Remembering the Merdeka journey
By Dr Joseph M. Fernando, Associate Professor at the Department of History, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.

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