Tuesday, December 31, 2002
Malaysia: January 2002 -- December 2002
DAZZLING START: Celebrations to usher in the second year of the third millennium continued into the wee hours throughout the country, with revellers treated to dazzling displays of fireworks and various performances. In Kuala Lumpur, thousands thronged Dataran Merdeka and Bintang Walk to bid farewell to 2001 and welcome the New Year.
TWO-YEAR BUDGET: From this year, the Government will start tabling the Budget for a two-year period instead of one as currently practised. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the move was to ensure that all funds meant for projects were expended within the year it was allocated for, so as not to upset the Government’s development and fiscal planning.
CI ABOVE 700: The KLSE Composite Index finally breached the psychological barrier of 700 points, closing for the first time since March 7 last year above 700 points. Dealers said the CI rose steadily with active support for blue-chip stocks by local funds. Profit-taking too was well absorbed, indicating strong participation by both local and institutional funds. The composite index closed the week at 703.04.
DUTY-FREE TIOMAN: Pulau Tioman will become a duty-free island to draw more tourists. It will be the third island with duty-free status after Labuan and Langkawi.
BACK WITH BARISAN: Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) has rejoined Barisan Nasional once again. The 200,000-strong PBS was accepted by the Barisan Supreme Council without reservation or any conditions, said Barisan chairman Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
AFGHAN SCAM: Racketeers claiming to collect donations on behalf of Afghan refugees have reaped profits worth over millions of ringgit from well-wishers all over the region, including Malaysia. Locally the syndicate, based in a country bordering Afghanistan, operates in areas near Chow Kit, Masjid Pakistan and Masjid India in Kuala Lumpur. The syndicate members go door to door with photographs of Afghan children suffering due to war and famine.
MAS LODGES REPORT: Malaysia Airlines has lodged a police report against the previous management for alleged management irregularities involving millions of ringgit. Sources said that among the main scope of investigations was a contract signed between the airline and a private company for cargo-handling services in Asia and Europe where, it is believed, payments continued to be made to the company although MAS had ceased flying to a particular sector or destination.
NEW PHONE RATES: Fixed-line local calls will cost more while outstation and international calls will be cheaper, starting next month. Under the new move by the Government, local calls would cost eight sen for the first two minutes compared with nine sen for the first three minutes, while charges for outstation calls would be reduced from 13 sen per unit to 10 sen. International calls would also be cheaper by 7%.
NEW ATM CARDS: The chip-base Payment Multi-Purpose Card (PMPC) will replace the widely used ATM cards next year. The PMPC, which is targeted at promoting cashless transactions, can be used at car parks, toll booths, public phone booths, convenience stores and also closed communities like universities and technology parks. Bank Negara expects all financial institutions to replace the ATM cards with PMPC beginning from next year. It is learnt that banks may charge RM20 for each card.
HIGHWAY ROBBERY: Five men, believed to be members of the notorious Mamak Gang, hijacked an airport coach and used chloroform to subdue passengers before robbing them on the way to the KL International Airport. Eighteen passengers, including five tourists – an American, Australian, Japanese, Chinese national, and a Filipina – aged between 22 and 40, were taken on a 45-minute terror ride during which they were relieved of their cash, passports, mobile phones, cameras and jewellery. They were then dumped at the Nilai rest area, about 30km from the airport, while the robbers fled in a four-wheel vehicle driven by an accomplice who had trailed the bus all the way.
WE WILL GO ON: The Singapore government has said it will proceed with its reclamation project in the Straits of Johor. After a bilateral meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his Singapore counterpart Brig-Gen Lee Hsien Loong, Abdullah said Lee maintained that the project was within the republic’s territorial waters and disputed claims that it would have any effect on the surrounding ecological system. However, Lee also said Singapore was willing to look into Malaysia’s concerns if it could be proven that the reclamation would negatively affect its interest.
EFFECTS FELT: Singapore’s reclamation works at Pulau Tekong and Tuas are already affecting the Malaysian ports of Pasir Gudang and Tanjung Pelepas in Johor, according to the Johor Port Authority. Mainline vessels approaching Pasir Gudang have had near misses with barges carrying sand to the reclamation works at Pulau Tekong and crosscurrents near the port of Tanjung Pelepas have increased, with current flows near the port of Pasir Gudang expected to double.
UNDER ONE ROOF: The Federal Government has taken over the implementation of low-cost housing projects from the states under a RM 1.404bil strategy to build and finance 40,000 units over the next five years. Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting, who announced this on March 18, said the Cabinet endorsed the new policy on Feb 27.
CHILD MARRIAGES: More than 10,600 Malaysian children in the 10-14 age group were found to be married in 2000, prompting calls from women leaders to the authorities to study what they described as a shocking situation. The figures are contained in the Population and Housing Census 2000 which shows that there were more married girls (6,146) than boys (4,478).
RM10MIL WARNING: Directors, managers or secretaries of licensed direct-selling companies, which operate pyramid-style activities including get-rich-quick schemes, will face penalties of up to RM10mil and 10 years’ jail under amendments to the Direct Selling Act. At present, the penalty is up to RM250,000 or three years’ jail or both for the first offence and up to RM500,000 or up to years’ jail or both for the second offence.
REFRESHER COURSES: All English teachers in schools nationwide will undergo refresher courses conducted by the new Malaysian English Language Teaching Centre in a bid to improve the standard of English in the country. The teachers would be trained in the latest techniques of teaching the language. The Cabinet had decided on March 20 to set up the centre, which would also concentrate on research and development in the language in line with local needs. The refresher courses, to start next month, will only be held during the school holidays.
NEW KING: The Raja of Perlis, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Syed Putra Jamalullail, 58, was installed as the 12th Yang di-Pertuan Agong with full pomp and pageantry at the Balairong Seri, or Throne Room, of Istana Negara. Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin was elected at a special meeting of the Conference of Rulers on Dec 12 and sworn in on Dec 13 following the demise of Tuanku Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah on Nov 21 last year. His Majesty will reign for a five-year period.
KILLER TO HANG: Bus driver Hanafi Mat Hussain, 34, who raped and murdered 24-year-old computer engineer Noor Suzaily Mukhtar two years ago, was sentenced to the gallows.
REVISED SYLLABUS: Year One and secondary students will use new textbooks for most subjects next year based on a revised school syllabus.
KLANG BYPASS OPENS: The New North Klang Straits Bypass, which took almost eight years to complete, was opened on May 1.
PROTOTYPE BUS LAUNCHED: The country’s first locally built semi-double-decker bus, named the Nice 2 Platinum Series, was launched by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Jitra, Kedah, on Thursday.
SERVE IT: Motorists need not check with police whether they have committed traffic offences as it is the responsibility of police to serve offenders with summonses, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said.
Taufik Abdul halim after his trial at the Central Jakarta District Court. He was sentenced to death for bombing a shopping mall.
SOH RETURNS: Former chief executive officer of Promet Bhd Datuk Soh Chee Wen returned to Malaysia to face two charges of defrauding the now defunct Omega Securities Sdn Bhd in 1997 and 1998. Soh is alleged to have devised a scheme which caused the stock broking firm to have insufficient collateral to finance 19 margin accounts under the names of individuals and companies. Soh, who has been sought by authorities for the past three years, denied that he had been a fugitive, saying instead that he came back to face the charges because it was ‘‘a good time to do so.’’ He pleaded not guilty and claimed trial to the charges, and was released after he posted RM2mil bail.
NO ENGLISH SCHOOLS: The Government will not be reintroducing English medium schools as such a move would be ‘‘a step backwards.’’ Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said English will not be reintroduced as the main medium of instruction as this would contradict the National Education Policy. He nonetheless acknowledged that there was a need to improve the standard of English among students and thus, the Government had decided to extend the use of English to Science and Mathematics from Year One onwards.
GOVT BANS BESTRIM: In the wake of the China-made Slim 10 scare in Singapore and Malaysia, the Health Ministry has banned Bestrim, a slimming product found to contain the harmful substance fenfluramine beside nicotinamide and caffeine, which are disallowed in the preparation of traditional products.
Tests are also being conducted on 50 other traditional slimming products to determine if they contain fenfluramine, phentermine or other banned poisons. Bestrim was registered under the Drug Control Authority in 2000 but the manufacturers did not list the harmful ingredients.
UTAR OPENS: The first pioneer batch of 560 students registered themselves at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman’s (Utar) temporary campus in Petaling Jaya. The private university, set up by MCA, is currently offering eight degree courses under its three faculties.
SWISS HELP: Switzerland has pledged to help Malaysia gain access to information on ill-gotten funds deposited in Swiss banks. Swiss Confederation President Kasper Villiger said his country’s banking secrecy law does not apply to funds gained through corruption, money-laundering and criminal means.
RM5MIL PLEDGE FOR BUMIS: Heeding the Government’s call for more bumiputra students in private colleges, private institutions of higher learning have stepped forward to pledge RM5mil to the cause.
Umno Youth chief Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein said 11 private colleges came together to pledge the money to the newly set-up Umno Youth Fund for bumiputra students.
BUSTED: Police believe they have busted the biggest World Cup football betting syndicate in Asia with the arrest of an “internationally-linked” syndicate leader and its members in Jitra, Kedah. The “highly sophisticated” group used computers and mobile phones to conduct electronic betting.
FADZIL NOOR DIES: PAS president Datuk Fadzil Noor, 65, died at Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, some two weeks after undergoing a coronary bypass operation.
FULL SUPPORT: Malaysians from all walks of life expressed their undivided support for Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed to continue leading the country as the Prime Minister left for Naples, Italy, for a 10-day break planned earlier. On June 22, the Prime Minister and Umno president had shocked the nation by announcing his resignation from all posts in the party and the Barisan Nasional, but retracted the decision after appeals by the Umno supreme council.
OCTOBER 2003: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamed will pass over the reins of power to his deputy Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi after October next year. He had decided to go ahead with his plan to retire from all posts in Umno, Barisan Nasional and the Government, which he had announced at the close of the Umno general assembly on June 22, and named Abdullah as his successor.
FULL REFUND: Financial institutions will refund customers who lost their money through fraudulent ATM withdrawals within 14 days from the date of complaint. Bank Negara said financial institutions had given this commitment in the wake of the recent ATM scam which had hit certain banks in the country.
LAST FLIGHT: The Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Airport’s Terminal Three saw the departure of its last commercial flight, a Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 76 passengers bound for Kota Baru. All commercial flights are now operating from KLIA.
LOCAL LUNG TRANSPLANTS: Patients suffering from end-stage lung diseases will soon have the option of undergoing a lung transplant in the country once the lung transplant programme begins at the end of the year. It will give local patients a cheaper option as it will cost three to four times more if the procedure is done overseas.
PM TELLS WHY: Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad disclosed that he had wanted to hand over power to Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi immediately when he announced his resignation at the Umno general assembly on June 22. He also said he had initially wanted to step down after the Commonwealth Games in 1998, but because of Umno’s internal problems and the recession, he postponed the plan.
CHILD ALERT: Parents and child minders must now inform authorities if they suspect an infant is being abused, or risk being fined or jailed. Failure to report any emotional, physical or sexual abuse suffered by a child will become a punishable offence when the Child Act comes into force on Aug 1. The Act will also give immediate protection to unmarried pregnant women by placing them in a safe haven until they give birth.
HUDUD BILL PASSED: The PAS state government of Terengganu has declared that it will impose the hudud and qisas laws even on non-Muslims in the state when every citizen understands them. The comments were made after the State Assembly passed the controversial Syariah Criminal Offences (Hudud and Qisas) Bill on July 8. However, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Norian Mai said the police would not get involved with any part of or the implementation of the hudud laws.
MENINGITIS ALERT: Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) was put on alert after two of its undergraduates died within two days of each other, one of meningitis, an airborne disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. As a result of their deaths within a day of falling ill, UPM put out an alert on July 1 for all students who were in the same courses as the deceased to undergo a blood test for meningitis.
MORE BANNED: The Health Ministry has banned four more brands of traditional slimming products – FB Slymer, Jian Tze Soh Fu Tea, Biotrim and FB Capsule. Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng said the ministry had tested 33 brands. These are among the 53 brands registered with the ministry.
US “MINT” BUSTED: City police busted the country’s largest fake US currency “mint” following the seizure of loads of dud US bills that are said to have a face value of millions of dollars. A suspect picked up in connection with the seizure led the police to a house in Subang Indah, Selangor, which was almost like a printing plant. Stacks of dud notes, said to be in the US$100 denomination, blank papers, printing machines and other material believed to have been used in the making of the fake notes were seized.
ENGLISH NEXT YEAR: The Education Ministry announced that Science and Mathematics will be taught in English from next year. The switch will take place in phases to allow teachers and students enough time to adjust to the changes. Hence, only Year One, Form One and Lower Six students in national schools will be involved. However, Chinese and Tamil schools will have to wait for “a political decision” to know whether they will follow suit. All public examinations – UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM – would be bilingual from next year. Matriculation colleges and polytechnics will also have to teach Science and Maths-based courses in English beginning 2004 and 2008 respectively, while science and technology-based subjects at public universities will be taught in English in 2005.
DIVA DIES: Datin Rafeah Buang, diva of the 1960s and 70s, succumbed to cancer at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital on July 24, a day before she celebrated her 55th birthday and 31st wedding anniversary. Rafeah, who married Pahang prince Tengku Asmawi Tengku Hussain, was admitted on April 22 to undergo chemotherapy after being diagnosed in January with cancer of the backbone, swelling of the kidney and ulcers.
SCRAPPED: The EPF computer withdrawal scheme has been scrapped with immediate effect, two years after it’s launch. EPF chairman Tan Sri Abdul Halim Ali said a study on the scheme had shown that 80% of the personal computers in the country were not purchased through the scheme.
SUMMER CAMPS: Students of primary schools will have summer camp fun under a programme to encourage young Malaysians of all races to work, play and learn together. The idea is to get every pupil – from both national and vernacular schools – to taste, at least once during their six years in primary school, the experience of team building in a multi-racial setting.
CIGARETTE PROMOTIONS: The Government will ban all forms of cigarette-related promotions, including that of brand names, travels and other non-tobacco businesses from Jan 1, said Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng. He said the existing law only banned direct tobacco advertising but cigarette-related promotions managed to gain public attention through non-tobacco businesses’ advertisements as well as sponsorships of sporting events.
COURTEOUS DRIVER: The over 355,000 public service vehicle licence holders in the country have been given two years from now to attend a compulsory six-hour course on courteous driving if they want to keep their jobs as taxi and bus drivers. The course was introduced by the Road Transport Department in the wake of public complaints, including from tourists, of rude and unethical taxi and bus drivers.
EXTRA SUBJECT: Form Four Science students will have to take an additional subject called English for Science and Technology (EST) effective next year. This compulsory SPM paper is an interim measure until Maths and Science are taught in English at Form Four level in 2006.
CM DIES: Penang’s first chief minister Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee, who read out the proclamation of Independence 45 years ago at the Esplanade, passed away at the age of 91. Wong was accorded a state funeral of the highest honour, the first to be held in the state.
DONATION CONTROL: Appeals for donations to treat severe health cases will now be referred to the Health Ministry’s director-general for screening and evaluation. All public donations will be channelled into the National Health Welfare Fund and paid out directly to the hospitals concerned.
CAR-SALE RULING: Vehicle owners are now required to make a statutory declaration when they want to transfer their vehicles if they cannot do it personally at the Road Transport Department. The directive is to curb the incidence of stolen vehicles.
DODGY DEALINGS: Technology Resources Industries Bhd (TRI) has lodged a police report stating that fictitious invoices totalling RM260mil, made between 1998 and 1999, had been discovered. In a statement to the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, TRI said the police report was made after a special meeting of the board. The invoices would have an impact on the company’s financial statements as the company had a net book value of RM198mil as of June 30, 2002.
FIERY END: Mat Komando, the country’s most wanted criminal, was killed in a shootout with police in Kampung Hujung Keton, Pendang. The hunt for Mat Komando began more than a year ago and his death now brings to four the number of Gang 13 members shot dead. With his death, police believe they have solved 52 robberies with a total loot of RM2.5mil, two motorcycle thefts and an attempted murder case, spread over 10 states.
WOMEN BANNED: Women can no longer take part in concerts or other live entertainment shows in Kelantan. The ban covers all hotels and resorts in the state, regardless of whether they are four or five-star establishments. In this connection, all district offices will no longer issue any licence for live shows by any group involving women artistes or individual woman performers, both from the state and outside. Also prohibited from live performances are rock and pop groups.
GOVT STAFF BONUSES: The Government will pay out more than RM1bil in bonuses to civil servants under Budget 2003 in what will be the largest ever payment since 1993.
SIN TAX FUND: A Malaysian Health Foundation, which will be partly funded from taxes collected by the Government from tobacco and alcohol, will soon be set up to sponsor sports, cultural and health activities. It will take over the role played by tobacco companies.
VISA FOR CANADA: Canada has imposed a visa requirement for Malaysians, a move described by Malaysia as very unfair and unhelpful in enhancing relations between the two countries. The decision comes on the heels of tighter and longer visa vetting procedures for Malaysians by the US Government. Canada’s temporary resident visa ruling effective noon Sept 24, affects tourists, business travellers and transit visitors.
TEACHING IN ENGLISH: Mathematics and Science will be taught in English in all national schools from next year. However, some schools will be exempted from making the switch due to poor infrastructure and lack of teachers. The schools affected are mainly rural schools in Sabah and Sarawak that do not have basic facilities such as electricity and wireless systems.
IT’S ALOR STAR: The spelling of Alor Setar has been changed to “Alor Star”. Apart from reverting to the original spelling, the change was to streamline historical facts about the Kedah state capital. The town got its name from a local fruit tree, the pokok star, which grew near an alor (channel) located in what is now known locally as Chinatown.
BEASTLY ATTACK: A 19-year-old student who was on her way to a shopping complex was brutally attacked and raped in broad daylight. Her attacker threw her off an 8m-high bridge and raped her before tying her up and stuffing her mouth with a pair of stockings. He then robbed her of a jade locket and RM123, covered her head with a garbage bag and left her to die. A 32-year-old ex-convict who allegedly committed the heinous acts has been arrested.
DEPORTED: American terrorist suspect Ahmed Ibrahim Bilal, who was a student at the International Islamic University here, was deported to the United States following the revocation of his passport by the US Government.
Ahmed Ibrahim and five others were linked to a terrorist cell in Portland, Oregon, and is said to have tried to join the Al-Qaeda to fight US troops in Afghanistan. On Oct 8, the student’s lawyer had obtained an interim order preventing his deportation. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Ahmed Ibrahim was deported because he did not have the proper documents to stay in the country, and not because of any pressure from the United States.
DENGUE THREAT: Selangor was placed on dengue alert following three deaths reported between Sept 29 and Oct 5, raising the total fatalities to 10 this year. This is a 30% rise in dengue cases in Selangor compared to last year, with 5,986 cases reported. Perak reported a drastic increase of 82% in dengue cases in the first nine months of this year.
KL CHOSEN: Malaysia has agreed to the setting up of a regional training centre for terrorism in the country. US President George W. Bush made the announcement at a meeting with Asean leaders on the sidelines of the 10th Apec Heads of Government meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico. Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the centre would focus on training programmes to upgrade skills in counter terrorism and would not involve any form of military training.
FREE TO GO: The first wife of the Raja di-Hilir of Perak Raja Noor Mahani Raja Shahar Shah was released unconditionally by the magistrate’s court after being in remand for seven days to assist in investigations into the murder of her husband’s second wife, Hasleza Ishak. Hasleza, a former model who married Raja Ja’afar in January, was abducted from her car on Oct 6. Five people have been jointly charged with the murder.
CONSENSUS AT LAST: The Barisan Nasional supreme council has agreed on a formula for Chinese primary schools to teach Science and Mathematics. Pupils in the Chinese schools will study the subjects in their mother tongue and the terminology in English. The schools are expected to have three periods of Science in English and three periods in Chinese and for Mathematics, six periods in Chinese and four in English. Two additional periods purely for English are also expected to be added. The decision reached was said to be the result of “give-and-take” among members in the coalition.
NO AFTA JOY: There will be no decrease in the prices of locally manufactured and imported cars after the implementation of the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) for the automotive sector in 2005. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that although imported cars could no longer be subjected to high import tax under Afta, the Government would impose other taxes to recover some of the losses from the lower import tax.
NATIONAL SERVICE: All 18-year-old Malaysians will have to undergo six months of compulsory national service from 2004. Only those who are medically unfit will be exempted from the programme, which aims to instil patriotism, promote national integration and mould better human beings. About 400,000 Malaysians will be eligible to be enlisted when national service is implemented. A law will be formulated to ensure that those drafted abide by the call to serve the country.
GIFT FOR PENSIONERS: Government pensioners will receive a 10% increment based on their last drawn salary before retirement. The move is in line with the implementation of the Sistem Saraan Malaysia (SSM) – the salary scheme for government employees – which took effect this month. The Government also announced a RM200 special payment to pensioners to be paid before Hari Raya.
TRAGIC END: An outing by seven sisters ended in tragedy when five of them drowned at the Kuari Batu Pecah waterfall in Gurun, Kedah. The waterfall where the girls – aged between six and 19 – drowned had claimed a number of lives in the past.
TWO NEW MINISTERS: Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) chairman Datuk Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis was appointed Second Finance Minister. Also moved up were Datuk Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department and Senator Datuk Zainuddin Maidin as Deputy Information Minister.
HILLVIEW TRAGEDY: A landslide at 4.30am flattened the double-storey bungalow of Affin Bank chairman Tan Sri Ismail Omar at Taman Hillview in Ampang. While five members of his family were rescued, eight others including two Indonesian maids died.
ALTERNATIVE SITE: The Government has cancelled plans to build an incinerator in Kampung Bohol, Sungai Besi. The incinerator will be relocated to another site near a forest reserve along the border of Semenyih and Broga, Selangor, after the Government took into consideration objections from the residents in Kampung Bohol and nearby areas in Puchong and Sungai Besi.
NO THAW: The freeze on the construction of new commercial and other types of high-rise buildings in Kuala Lumpur will continue. Chairman of the Cabinet committee on abandoned projects Tan Sri Bernard Giluk Dompok said the freeze, which had entered its third year, was unlikely to be lifted until the present overhang of about 1.6million sq ft of office and commercial space in the city was reduced.
NEW SABAH HEAD: Datuk Ahmad Shah Abdullah was appointed the ninth Sabah Yang di-Pertua Negri. The first top civil servant to be appointed to the post, Ahmad Shah is currently on leave prior to his retirement on Dec 9 from the post of Deputy State Secretary I, the second highest post in the state civil service.
NO CHANGE: The 73 residents and owners of Blocks Two and Three of Highland Towers cleared the second legal hurdle for getting damages for the property they had to abandon after a landslide caused the collapse of Block One in December 1993 when the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of four of the seven parties found liable for the collapse of Block One. The Court of Appeal also said that the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) created the “danger” which led to the collapse of the block.
CURB LOAN SHARKS: Illegal money-lenders or loan sharks can be fined up to RM100,000, jailed or both, upon conviction under proposed amendments to the Money-Lending Ordinance 1951. They will also face up to two years’ jail and whipping if they injure borrowers. Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said more severe and up-to-date penalties were needed as loan sharks were able to “escape” current penalties, including being placed under restricted residence.
HOME FOR RAYA: Former conjoined twins Ahmad and Muhammad Rosli arrived home from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where they had undergone the operation that separated them in September. After their eight-hour flight landed in KLIA, they were brought to the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC) for a quick check-up before being allowed to go home.
LOAN CONTROL: The Housing and Local Government Ministry will take over the issuing of moneylending-related licences and enforcement, now held by state and local governments, to better curb illegal moneylending activities, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said. To further protect people seeking loans from moneylenders, both will be required to sign an agreement attested to by a legal professional under proposed amendments to the Moneylending Ordinance, 1951.
HIGHER PREMIUMS: Insurers have started increasing health premiums by between 20% and 30% and are imposing new conditions on premiums to offset rising hospitalisation and surgical costs. Many cited a rise in claims made by private hospitals and abuse of the claims process as reasons. Other measures already imposed or taking effect next year are scrapping family packages and charging individual premiums; pay first, claim later – whereby those who seek treatment have to pay the medical fees first and then claim the amount from the insurance company; and cost-sharing.
IT STAYS AT 56: The Government has turned down the proposal to raise the retirement age of civil servants from 56 to 58. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the proposal, if accepted, would have far-reaching financial implications for the Government and would deter promotion prospects for serving employees
BOOM TIME AHEAD: Malaysia is on a path to economic recovery after an externally induced slowdown last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says in its latest report. It said the domestic economy was well placed to benefit from a global recovery. The IMF said that market sentiment on Malaysia, as reflected in its sovereign ratings, remained favourable and Malaysia’s external sector was relatively robust despite an adverse global environment in 2001 and early 2002.
REPS SUSPENDED: The two Penang MCA assemblymen who abstained from voting against a DAP motion have been suspended indefinitely from the party. Tan Cheng Liang (Jawi) and Lim Boo Chang (Datuk Keramat) did not vote against the DAP motion to defer the controversial RM10.2bil Penang Outer Ring Road project until the completion of the RM400mil Jelutong Expressway. Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the Barisan supreme council would decide in January whether the duo’s suspension was adequate punishment.
OUR ISLANDS: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided by a 16-1 majority that Malaysia has a rightful claim to Sipadan and Ligitan based on its effective control of both islands. The judgment is final, without appeal and binding. Malaysia and Indonesia had tried to settle the territorial dispute over the islands for more than two decades before agreeing to allow the ICJ to rule on the case in 1997. Public hearings on the dispute began in June. Malaysia will now focus on its dispute with Singapore over Pulau Batu Puteh. Malaysia is also involved in territorial claims over the Spratly Islands (with China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei) but none of the claimants wanted the issue to go to the ICJ.
HERITAGE GONE: The Malacca state government will acquire the land on which three demolished heritage shoplots in Jonker Walk once stood, and charge the owners in court for destroying gazetted heritage buildings. One of the co-owners claimed that he had ordered the contractor to clear up the bushes growing in the vacant shoplots and had not authorised the demolition. Malacca Municipal Council president Datuk Mat Sirat Abu, however, pointed out that the buildings were demolished at about 2am on Sunday to avoid attention. The owners were issued a stop-work order two years ago when they attempted to renovate the shoplots without approval.
HISTORIC DAY: The national Hari Raya open house held at Bandar Darulaman Lake Park in Jitra, Kedah, on Dec 21 was hailed as a historic day which brought Malaysia and Thailand even closer. The unique event drew a crowd of 100,000, including 10,000 Thais. Also present were Thai Prime Minister Dr Thaksin Shinawatra and almost all of Thailand’s Cabinet Ministers.