Saturday, December 31, 2022

Explosions heard in central Kyiv

al Jazeera:

Explosions heard in central Kyiv

Ten explosions were heard in the centre of Ukraine’s capital as air raid sirens sounded nationwide.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko confirmed that explosions could be heard in the city in a post on the Telegram app [File: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP Photo]

Published On 31 Dec 202231 Dec 2022

Explosions have rocked the Ukrainian capital amid air raid sirens across the country. At least 10 explosions were heard in the centre of Kyiv, according to officials.

Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko confirmed that the blasts were heard in the city on Saturday in a post on the Telegram app.

The governor of the surrounding Kyiv region also warned shortly beforehand of a possible missile attack and said air defences in the region were engaging targets.

Russia fighting to protect ‘motherland’

Meanwhile, President Vladimir Putin said Russia would never give in to the West’s attempts to use Ukraine as a tool to destroy his country. In a New Year’s video message broadcast on state TV, Putin said Russia was fighting in Ukraine to protect its “motherland” and to secure “true independence” for its people.

Earlier, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said his country’s victory in Ukraine was “inevitable” in a New Year’s message to servicemen, as Moscow’s military campaign grinds through its 11th month.

“In the coming year, I want to wish everyone good health, fortitude, reliable and devoted comrades … Our victory, like the New Year, is inevitable,” Shoigu said in the video address released by the defence ministry.

Shoigu said in the outgoing year “we all faced serious trials” and that the New Year comes during a “difficult military-political situation”. Russian troops have suffered a string of setbacks on the ground over the past months, with the Kremlin in September announcing the mobilisation of 300,000 reservists to join the fighting.


Palestinians welcome UN vote on Israel's occupation as 'a victory'

Palestinians welcome UN vote on Israel's occupation as 'a victory'

The Palestinians on Saturday welcomed a vote by the United Nations General Assembly requesting that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) provide an opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The Hague-based ICJ, also known as the World Court, is the top UN court dealing with disputes between states. Its rulings are binding, though the ICJ has no power to enforce them.

The vote on Friday nonetheless presents a challenge for Israel's incoming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who took office on Thursday at the head of a hard-right government that includes parties who advocate for occupied West Bank lands to be annexed.

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem - areas the Palestinians want for a state - in a 1967 war. Peace talks broke down in 2014.

"The time has come for Israel to be a state subject to law, and to be held accountable for its ongoing crimes against our people," Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said.

Israeli officials have not yet issued a comment on the vote. It was condemned by Israel's UN envoy Gilad Erdan before it was held as the Jewish Sabbath began.

Senior Palestinian official Hussein al-Sheikh said on Twitter that the vote "reflects the victory of Palestinian diplomacy."

There were 87 members who voted in favour of adopting the request; Israel, the United States, and 24 other members voted against; and 53 abstained.

The Palestinians have limited rule in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel in a move not recognised internationally. Its settlements in those territories are deemed illegal by most countries, a view Israel disputes citing Biblical and historical ties to the land, as well as security.

The UN General Assembly asked the ICJ to give an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel's "occupation, settlement, and annexation... including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character, and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures."

The new Israeli government has pledged to strengthen its settlements in the West Bank but Netanyahu has given no indication of any imminent steps toward annexing them.

- Reuters

Wee Choo Keong takes a swipe at ‘Captain Loke’ for being AirAsia’s salesman

Wee Choo Keong takes a swipe at ‘Captain Loke’ for being AirAsia’s salesman

WHETHER he has an axe to grind or otherwise, AirAsia’s detractor and former Tourism Malaysia chairman Wee Choo Keong is cynically hoping that 2023 will make re-appointed Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook “salesman of the year” for PN17 (Practice Note 17) Capital A Bhd, the operator of AirAsia.

Chiding the Seremban MP for behaving like a marketing manager for the budget carrier, Wee went on to display a reply to his Tweet by @Dick_Lopez77 who contended that it “was a bad call” for Loke to be the guest of honour at AirAsia’s recent cheap ticket launch event in conjunction with Chinese New Year 2023.

“Was a bad call for a newly-minted minister to go officiating an @airasia event when the two crooks AA Execs 1&2 have not been apprehended by @SPRMMalaysia (the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency),” noted @Dick_Lopez77.

“Isn’t (AirAsia Aviation Group Ltd group CEO) Bo Lingam also wanted for questioning in India regarding #Moneylaundering?” (Editor’s Note: Both Bo and Capital A’s CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes were present at the said event).

For context, Wee who recently lost his deposit in the 15th General Election (GE15) as a Warisan candidate for the Wangsa Maju parliamentary seat has been one of AirAsia’s biggest critics for years now.

Recall that AirAsia had in July 2015 filed a suit against the former DAP Bukit Bintang MP who is also the owner of blog for knowingly and intentionally published false and malicious statements defamatory to the low-cost carrier, thus damaging its reputation.

In a media statement issued back then, the budget airline claimed that Wee has regularly published many false, misleading and disparaging statements on his blog, including an article entitled “Why Liow & MAHB encouraged AirAsia to owe RM50 mil PSC (passenger service charge) airport tax?” dated April 20, 2015. (Editor’s Note: Former MCA president Tan Sri Liow Tiong Lai was the Transport Minister between June 27, 2014 and May 9, 2018.)

Earlier on Tuesday (Dec 27), the vocal Kelantan-born lawyer by profession who speaks fluent Malay has chided Loke for getting Batik Air to apologise for a flight delay but purportedly overlooked “the constant delays & cancelled flights with no refund by another airline?”

This tweet has eventually inspired FocusM to churn out its commentary piece entitled “Beyond Batik Air: Netizens swamped Anthony Loke with requests to act against AirAsia, too”.

Well, the very fact that Wee is keeping a close eye on AirAsia should be welcomed especially from the check and balance perspective so long as he is able to render constructive criticism towards the betterment of what is deemed below par customer service by the home-grown budget carrier.

As for Loke having a ‘soft spot’ for AirAsia, FocusM holds the belief that perhaps Wee should be less presumptuous of the former but to accord him benefit of doubt and space that he (Loke) has his own way to handle AirAsia.

After all. there are thousand and one things that the DAP secretary-general has in mind to improve the ‘sad’ state of Malaysia’s transportation system that encompasses air, sea and ground. – Dec 31. 2022

Main photo credit: Utusan Malaysia

Hadi: PAS only trying to save Umno from being led astray

Hadi: PAS only trying to save Umno from being led astray

File picture shows PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang speaking to the media after giving a statement at IPD Sentul, Kuala Lumpur December 5, 2022. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Saturday, 31 Dec 2022 7:09 PM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — PAS president Tan Sri Abdul Hadi Awang claimed Umno was being manipulated by its political partners, which his party was trying to prevent.

On Facebook, the Marang MP said Umno was facing a bitter challenge after losing in two consecutive general elections.

Acknowledging that Umno was older than PAS, Hadi said his party was not trying to “teach ducks how to swim”, but was instead trying to save them from the slaughter.

“PAS from the very beginning invited Umno to join Muafakat Nasional (MN) that was genuine, with the largest Malay-Muslim and Bumiputera parties — Umno, PAS and Bersatu — which then included Perikatan Nasional (PN) that combined all non-extremist parties,” he said.

Abdul Hadi claimed that Umno’s leadership had “greedily refused” because it predicted the party could win the general election on its own.

He said that a leadership crisis caused Umno to “fall into the hands of more opportunistic parties who were cursed with money politics without ideology”, to the point that some gave up on the party’s struggle.

“The situation is like a drowning person who doesn’t know how to swim and fumbles for anything to save himself, including hugging a rock that sinks him further,” he added, likening this situation to Umno’s political alliance with Pakatan Harapan (PH).

“Such a thing happened when there was a group that jumped towards PH, which is a combination of the DAP party with extreme chauvinist ideology, socialism in the guise of secular democracy, openly anti-Islam, as well as the secular pragmatic PKR and PAN as an additional tool,” he said, referring to Parti Amanah Negara as PAN.

He also criticised PH for cooperating with political rivals it had openly criticised, to form an “unnatural government” labelling them as “empty cans.”

Hadi suggested that Umno would never be able to win PH over to its ways and claimed that the Malay nationalist party’s grassroots remained opposed to the partnership.

Stressing that PAS and PN were not out to destroy Umno, he pointed out that PAS had supported the Malay nationalist party in the wake of the 1969 race riots.

He also said that PAS had acted as a “boarding house” for Umno leaders who were removed when there was an internal crisis among them.

“On the other hand, it is not impossible for DAP to ‘swallow’ Umno as it happened in history in Singapore, when Umno was swallowed by the PAP which later gave birth to DAP,” he wrote.

He said that although PAS had cooperated with DAP and its allied before, it refused to cooperate later, accusing the DAP of opposing its Islamic struggles.

“PAS is never dead, even though it has suffered dozens of defeats at all levels, but it still survives with its principles of struggles. As for Umno, it only lost once,” Abdul Hadi said.

KL Tower Scandal – Selling A Cash Cow That Generates RM20 Million For Just RM3.8 Million Screams Corruption

KL Tower Scandal – Selling A Cash Cow That Generates RM20 Million For Just RM3.8 Million Screams Corruption

Muhyiddin Yassin has been extremely silent – even worried – since the first sitting of the 15th Parliament beginning December 19. The former backdoor prime minister obviously has a bigger problem than trying to seize power through yet another political coup. He knew the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia – Anwar Ibrahim – would win the vote of confidence in the Parliament.

It was Muhyiddin himself who bragged in April 2021 that the Perikatan Nasional backdoor government under his leadership has splashed more than RM600 billion (RM340 billion in economic stimulus packages and RM322.5 billion for the 2021 Budget to fight the Covid-19 pandemic). He thought his decision to declare a State of Emergency means he could plunder public funds without consequences.

Of course, he had never imagined that opposition Pakatan Harapan would return to power after he betrayed the coalition in Feb 2020. Not only Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar easily won his legitimacy in the Parliament via the confidence vote, he has done so with two-thirds majority. Essentially, this means all of Mahiaddin’s (Muhyiddin) lies and corruptions would be exposed.

All Anwar needed to do at a media conference on Dec 5 was to announce that the Finance Ministry had informed that there had been several breaches involving the Covid-19 funds. Muhyiddin was like a cat on hot bricks after the prime minister said there were some dubious expenditures involving the RM600 billion. Panicked, Muhyiddin screamed that he did not steal any money.

Suddenly, Muhyiddin admits there was no such thing as RM600 billion, contradicting his previous claims. He said it was only RM530 billion. Even then, the Perikatan Nasional chairman played down the numbers. Spilling the beans, he said his administration had only spent RM83 billion in fiscal injections. This means Muhyiddin’s government did not actually help the people to the tune of RM530 billion as shamelessly trumpeted.

However, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has confirmed it will now focus its investigation on the RM92.5 billion directly funded by the Muhyiddin regime after it was established that RM437.5 billion was not from the government. The difference between MACC’s RM92.5 billion and Muhyiddin’s RM83 billion means about RM10 billion might have gone “missing”.

Regardless whether Muhyiddin and his band of crooks had swindled RM10 billion or RM92.5 billion, they would certainly be charged and could join former PM Najib Razak in prison. The burning question is whether MACC Chief Commissioner Azam Baki, who was appointed by Muhyiddin in March 2020, would drag his feet trying to rescue his political master.

But the previous Perikatan Nasional government was so corrupt that even before the MACC could investigate Muhyiddin’s RM530 billion dubious spending, another scandal has erupted. The new scandal involving the suspicious sale of the Kuala Lumpur Tower (KL Tower) concession by Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) to a company that is facing bankrupcy screams corruption.

You don’t need a rocket scientist to tell that bribes or kickbacks were involved in the deal. As a start, through TM’s subsidiary Menara KL Sdn Bhd, the concession and management rights of Menara KL brought in a cool RM20.9 million “net profit” in 2019 for Telekom Malaysia. A year earlier (2018), Menara KL, also known as KL Tower, generated a net profit of RM25.6 million.

Completed on March 1, 1995, the KL Tower is Malaysia and Southeast Asia’s tallest tower. Essentially, the 420.7-meter-tall telecommunication tower, which is also the world’s 7th tallest tower, was a “cash cow” to Telekom Malaysia. The KL Tower is owned by the Malaysian government, while operations and maintenance of the tower were granted to Telekom in 1996.

Crucially, the Kuala Lumpur Tower is a national strategic asset, serving as the broadcasting station for Radio and Television Malaysia (RTM) and FM-radio broadcasting, among others. Strangely, according to TM’s 3Q FY2022 financial announcement, the telecommunication group had on Oct 31 completed the disposal of its 100% interest in Menara Kuala Lumpur for merely RM3.8 million.

Unless the Muhyiddin government or Telekom Malaysia top management had gone mad, it’s hard to believe a cash cow that generates RM20 million yearly was sold at fire-sale of RM3.8 million. The disposal of the entire “10-million shares” at just RM0.38 per share when it was worth at least RM2.00 per share means TM and the government had sold at a massive loss – losing RM1.62 per share.

Worse, the valuable asset was sold to a financially troubled company called Hydroshoppe Sdn Bhd. Incorporated on February 15, 2008, data from the Companies Commission of Malaysia (SSM) shows the company involved in “General Trading” is owned by Abdul Hamid Shaikh Bin Abdul Razak Shaikh and Nazarina Binti Mohamed Nasir, with 500,000 shares each.

Despite the unfamiliar names, sources have claimed that 42-year-old Nazarina is “girlfriend or mistress” of former Communications and Multimedia Minister Annuar Musa. However, Mr Annuar has denied that he was involved in the transfer of shares from Menara Kuala Lumpur to Hydroshoppe. But it’s hard to believe that he had no idea or was kept in the dark about the transaction.

At EPS (earnings-per-share) of RM2.00, the KL Tower could be easily sold at 5 times or even 10 times its eps – translating to RM100 million or RM200 million. Selling at just RM3.8 million when it could generate RM20 million annually means an instant net profit of RM16.2 million – every year – for Hydroshoppe. And if the cash cow is resold for 5 times its eps, that’s an easy RM96.2 million.

Interestingly, the ownership of KL Tower was quietly transferred to Shah Alam-based Hydroshoppe on October 31, 2022, just days after then-PM Ismail Sabri dissolved the Parliament on Oct 10, paving the way for the 15th General Election – suggesting that it was done hastily by powerful minister(s) in anticipation of a loss by Muhyiddin’s fragile Perikatan Nasional coalition.

Even though TM has issued a media statement to explain that it had decided not to renew its concession of KL Tower as part of its plan to refocus its efforts and resources on its core business of telecommunications and technology, it’s equally hard to believe the top management of TM was no longer interested in a profitable business which it has been running since 1996.

At best, some corrupt TM top guns were bribed not to renew its concession, allowing the ownership of KL Tower to be transferred to Hydroshoppe. At worst, Annuar and powerful crooks linked to Muhyiddin had abused their power by forcefully stripped KL Tower from TM and awarded the cash cow to Hydroshoppe, a company involved in cosmetic products instead of property management.

At the end of the day, the dubious transaction cannot go through without the green-light from the government because the KL Tower belongs to the Malaysian government while Telekom Malaysia, despite being a public listed company, is still a GLC (government-linked company). Therefore, Annuar Musa or Muhyiddin or both of them were involved – either directly or indirectly.

Even if the concession had expired and TM was incapable of managing the KL Tower, it’s jaw-dropping that a company which not only has zero experience in property management, but was also on the brink of being delisted by Registrar of Companies (ROC) for failing to make declarations and filings on schedule has been awarded the lucrative concession without open tenders.

Through the Ministry of Finance Inc., Telekom Malaysia’s board has a director representing the government. Hence, former finance minister Tengku Zafrul, another political appointee of Muhyiddin, should have knowledge about the hanky-panky deal in KL Tower. Likewise, Khazanah Nasional Berhad (KNB), the sovereign wealth fund of the Government of Malaysia, is the biggest shareholder in TM.

So, why did the Finance Ministry and KNB kept silent and closed both eyes as hidden hands in the previous government bulldozed the KL Tower concession from TM to Hydroshoppe Sdn Bhd? If the MACC refuses to charge anyone, it will be obvious that Chief Commissioner Azam Baki is corrupt and should be replaced. If opposition Lim Guan Eng was charged for buying a bungalow at a small discount, this scandal is 16 million times worse.

Kit Siang: 2023 will be acid test for Anwar’s government

Kit Siang: 2023 will be acid test for Anwar’s government

DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang said Malaysians should not expect a miracle from the government with a blink of the eye. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Saturday, 31 Dec 2022 4:41 PM MYT

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 31 — Next year will determine if Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s government will be able to make Malaysia great again, according to DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang.

He said the new administration must demonstrate good faith by making the country great again and by achieving national unity.

In his New Year’s Eve message, however, Lim said Malaysians should not expect a miracle from the government to undo the excesses and abuses of power in the nation in the past six decades with a blink of the eye.

He proposed that the government focus on several main issues in its first year in office, namely, instilling good governance, judicial independence, people’s welfare, and national unity, as well as fighting corruption,

Under good governance, he said the report and recommendations about institutional reforms by the Eminent Persons Council in 2018 should be made public, and the establishment of an Ombudsman will also be helpful in this direction.

“Ministers and deputy ministers must place the national interests above their self-interests and are prepared to make sacrifices for the country to form a good, clean, honest and efficient government,” he said.

He proposed that a new Malaysian National Anti-Corruption Plan be launched to place Malaysia among the top 30 countries in the world in public integrity.

On judicial independence, Lim said there should be an amendment to the judicial appointments committee act to remove any executive influence on judicial appointments.

He hoped that under the new unity government, Malaysia will achieve its goal of becoming a developed economy with jobs and high wages for Malaysians, minimum wage for workers, and world class education and health system, together with a policy to discourage talents emigration.

He also hoped that the government will push for national unity so that Malaysia becomes a world example of a plural nation.

He then called on all Malaysians to unite and stop the toxic politics of lies, fear, hate, race and religion from destroying the country.

Here’s to some serious reforms in 2023

Charles Santiago

COMMENT | We are certainly ending 2022 on a high note, with an Anwar Ibrahim-led government in place.

Malaysians are more confident in seeing institutionalised reforms, inclusivity and a people-centred agenda.

But things may not be all that easy moving forward, especially economically, given the possibility of an economic downturn in the US and an inevitable recession. And there would still be teething problems in Anwar’s government.

While it takes a bit of time to mitigate teething troubles, the prime minister and his administration must look at four issues seriously in 2023 - keeping prices of essential items down, tackling climate change, increasing stakeholder engagements, and introducing a counter-narrative to PAS’ Islam.

While Anwar is committed to ensuring we can put food on the table for our families, many are yet to secure jobs. Job and income losses continue to affect people adversely and this is made even worse by the increase in food prices.

As such, efforts to keep prices down and increase job opportunities must be given priority.

The Climate Change Act has been in the pipeline for some time now. I hope Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad would not just fast-track the Act but also ensure it focuses on carbon emissions and sets up an enforcement body in collaboration with civil society organisations and experts.

We certainly need a national mitigation plan in managing the worsening flood situation in the country.

We need a revamp

We need to revamp the way we do things, and the new government should take cues from community leaders and civil society organisations to ensure the aspirations of the people are incorporated into policy-making.

The government’s continuous engagement with CSOs, NGOs and community-based organisations is, therefore, crucial.

Just before the last general election, people were predicting a majority win for Pakatan Harapan. And therefore, the number of seats captured by Perikatan Nasional sent shock waves.

PAS and Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu managed to persuade young voters and those out of cities, enabling the mainstreaming of political Islam.

Anwar’s government must, as such, counter the propaganda and divisiveness propagated by PN in the name of Islam.

While my wish list may look like an uphill task, I know it’s doable because Anwar is committed to reforms and unity. And therefore, after many decades, the new year seems to be promising.

Happy 2023!

CHARLES SANTIAGO is former Klang MP.

On eve of 2023, Penang CM says will push Putrajaya for LRT and Pan Island Link projects

On eve of 2023, Penang CM says will push Putrajaya for LRT and Pan Island Link projects

Chow said the state is still committed to realising the projects planned under the Penang Transport Master Plan. — Bernama pic

Saturday, 31 Dec 2022 11:31 AM MYT

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 31 — The Penang government will follow up with the federal government in the new year for its Bayan Lepas Light Rail Transit (BLLRT) and Pan Island Link 1 Highway (PIL1) to be implemented as soon as possible to solve the state's traffic issues.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state is still committed to realising the projects planned under the Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP).

“This includes the Penang South Reclamation (PSI) project which will spur the state's development as a whole without sacrificing the state’s green agenda,” he said in his New Year's message today.

He said that in 2023, the state will buckle down to recover the various sectors that were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite predictions of a continuing global economic gloom, Chow said manufacturing is going strong in Penang and has continued to draw in investors, keeping its position as one of Malaysia’s main hubs.

Penang recorded RM9.2 billion in manufacturing investments between January and September this year compared to only RM2.9 billion for the same period last year.

Chow said the Malaysian Investment Development Authority estimated that a total 12,754 job opportunities will be created in Penang in stages in the future.

“This year also marks the 50th anniversary of Penang's industrial transformation and the state is committed to strengthen the industrial ecosystem to further stimulate strategic industries in another 50 years,” he said.

Chow said Penang will continue with its social welfare programme, i-Sejahtera, with an allocation of RM53 million for 2023.

“We will work hard to realise the Manifesto promises we made,” he said. The state has also allocated RM4.5 million to drive the state's digitalisation efforts while the state will continue to focus on strengthening its youths and state athletes.

He called on all Penangites to uphold the spirit of unity and to start the new year with new resolutions for a harmonious and peaceful country.

China's Huawei sees 'business as usual' as U.S. sanctions impact wanes


China's Huawei sees 'business as usual' as U.S. sanctions impact wanes

A person stands by a sign of Huawei during World Artificial Intelligence Conference, following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Shanghai, China, September 1, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

SHANGHAI, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (HWT.UL) estimated on Friday its 2022 revenue remained flat, suggesting that its sales decline due to U.S. sanctions had come to a halt.

Despite sales increasing a mere 0.02%, rotating chairman Eric Xu struck an upbeat tone in the company's annual New Year's letter, where he revealed the figure.

"U.S. restrictions are now our new normal, and we're back to business as usual," Xu wrote in the letter that was addressed to staff and released to media.

Revenue for the year is expected to be 636.9 billion yuan ($$91.53 billion), according to Xu.

That represents a tiny increase from 2021, when revenue hit 636.8 billion yuan, and marked a 30% year-on-year sales tumble as the U.S. sanctions on the company took effect.

Xu's letter did not mention Huawei's profitability. The company typically discloses its full annual results in the following year's first quarter.

Revenue for 2022 still remained well below the company's record of $122 billion in 2019. At the time the company was at its peak as the top Android smartphone vendor globally.

In 2019, the U.S. Trump administration imposed a trade ban on Huawei, citing national security concerns, which barred the company from using Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL.O) Android for its new smartphones, among other critical U.S.-origin technologies.

The sanctions caused its handset device sales to plummet. It also lost access to critical components that barred it from designing its line of processors for smartphones under its HiSilicon chip division.

The company continues to generate revenue via its networking equipment division, which competes with Nokia (NOKIA.HE) and Ericsson (ERICb.ST). It also operates a cloud computing division.

The company began investing in the electric vehicle (EV) sector as well as green technologies around the time sanctions took effect.

"The macro environment may be rife with uncertainty, but what we can be certain about is that digitisation and decarbonisation are the way forward, and they're where future opportunities lie," said Xu in the letter.

Timely to review judges’ retirement age, say ex-judges

Timely to review judges’ retirement age, say ex-judges

Members of the judiciary at a conference. The mandatory retirement age for judges is 66.

PETALING JAYA: Raising the retirement age of judges will allow the country to continue to benefit from their wisdom and vast experience, a former judge said.

Gopal Sri Ram said many retired judges remain mentally and intellectually active well into their seventies.

“Age and experience benefit the justice system,” he told FMT.

Sri Ram said this in response to a suggestion that the government revive a proposal to amend the Federal Constitution to raise the mandatory retirement age of judges given that it presently commands a two-third majority in the Dewan Rakyat.

The constitution presently provides that judges must retire at age 66, after a 2005 amendment saw it raised from age 65.

A two-third majority vote in the Dewan Rakyat is required to pass amendments to the constitution.

Sri Ram, 79, who is still in active legal practice, said he would favour raising the retirement age of Court of Appeal and Federal Court judges to 75.

However, he warned that the institutions responsible must ensure that appointed judges possess a solid foundation of legal principles and the capacity to apply them properly.

He said that over the years, the nation had lost the benefit of the learning of eminent judges such as Edgar Joseph Jr, Zakaria Yatim, Siti Norma Yaakob, Mahadev Shankar, VC George and Daryl Goon, all of whom retired while still in their prime.

Retired Court of Appeal judge Hishamudin Yunus, 73, said he would welcome any move to increase the compulsory retirement age for superior court judges, that is, those who sit in the Federal Court, the Court of Appeal, and the High Court.

“Such a move will not only reflect improvements in life expectancy in this country, but is also in keeping with the practices in other Commonwealth countries,” he said.

He said the retirement age of judges in the UK and Australia is presently set at 70, while judges in Canada retire at 75.

“Those appointed in their mid-fifties will have the opportunity to enjoy a longer and more meaningful period of service as a judge,” said Hishamudin, who now serves as a consultant in a legal firm.

In November 2016, former law minister Rais Yatim mooted the idea of extending the retirement age of judges in line with trends in other countries.

He said at the time that although at age 70 a judge may not have the adrenaline surges of a younger person, he still retains “the dexterity, wisdom and brainpower that we want”.

In October 2018, then law minister, the late Liew Vui Keong, said the Pakatan Harapan government was considering a constitutional amendment to raise the retirement age of judges to 70.

Liew said the proposal was apt given that Dr Mahathir Mohamad had just taken office aged 93, becoming the oldest person in the world to be appointed to that office.

Academics don’t necessarily make better ministers, Puad tells Maszlee

Academics don’t necessarily make better ministers, Puad tells Maszlee

Puad Zarkashi also took a dig at Maszlee Malik saying that a former academic was more interested in politicking after being made a minister.

PETALING JAYA: Academics are not necessarily the best choice to lead the education and higher education ministries, says Umno Supreme Council member Puad Zarkashi.

He was responding to former education minister Maszlee Malik’s statement yesterday that academics, and not politicians, should be appointed to fill the posts of education and higher education ministers after the next general election.

“If someone is an academic but has no political will, then the appointment would be pointless. The (most) important thing is ideas and commitment,” Puad said in a Facebook post.

He then took a dig at Maszlee, who is a former lecturer at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), and former finance minister and ex-banker Tengku Zafrul Aziz.

“There are non-political people such as academics and bankers, who when they become ministers, are more interested in politicking. I think it’s more important that they think about the public (instead of politics).”

Speaking at a public policy seminar in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) yesterday, Maszlee said the posts of education and higher education ministers should be filled by academics as they would be in a better position to determine the ministries’ direction.

Maszlee was education minister under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, from May 2018 to January 2020.

Puad said he hoped to see the new education minister, Fadhlina Sidek, quickly learn about the structure and main issues in her ministry.

He also called for larger allocations for rural schools, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, in Budget 2023 – which will be tabled on Feb 24.


kt comments:

I tend to agree with Puad that non-politicians don't necessarily make good ministers, just as I know damn well not all politicians make good ones as well, but let's for now look at non-politicians. 

I do not wish to talk bad about the 'dead' but I Know of one former MB who though a very good businessman ran his state like the CEO of a large business enterprise but with very little considerations for the rakyat's needs. But 'nuff said.

New environment minister Nik Nazmi raises bar on EIA studies, says transparency crucial

New environment minister Nik Nazmi raises bar on EIA studies, says transparency crucial

Nik Nazmi said greater transparency with regards to environmental issues is something the government will promote as the information shared will get better public involvement and better feedback. ― Bernama pic

Saturday, 31 Dec 2022 10:23 AM MYT

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 — Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change Minister Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is hoping to make future Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) studies more transparent.

In an interview with news portal Malaysiakini published today, the first-term minister said he will meet the Department of Environment (DoE) for a full briefing on why EIA studies are no longer posted on its website for public scrutiny.

“Aside from that, I think we have to bring up the EIA studies up to 2022 expectations and standards. Maybe it was sufficient or groundbreaking when it was first introduced, but as time changes, the law can be changed,” he was quoted as saying.

He said greater transparency with regards to environmental issues is something the government will promote as the information shared will get better public involvement and better feedback.

As for concerns on the Official Secrets Act and Freedom Of Information, he said the government needs to be more upfront and trusting when it concerns environmental issues.

“I can’t commit to anything specific right now, but I am looking at environmental reporting as a whole, to see what can be done to improve in terms of transparency,” he told the news portal.

EIAs are required for projects in various sectors such as logging, plantations, land reclamation, mining and quarrying and infrastructure.

The public exhibit of the EIAs will allow stakeholders and the civil society to monitor the proposed projects.

But Nik Nazmi also said it was not easy to monitor or enforce environmental safeguards due to lack of manpower.

“Enforcement is a major challenge. In fact, a lot of our laws are world-class, but enforcement-wise, we are lacking,” he was quoted as saying.

He said the government will need to be creative in terms of getting more manpower in view of the government's fiscal constraints, such as recruiting military veterans to become rangers on a contract basis.

He said they could tap into unemployed youths and military veterans who left the service at 40 but are still able-bodied to bulk up the enforcement unit, including technical officers.

“We can complement permanent staffing with contract staffing so that later on, when the government has funding, maybe it can be permanent,” he added.


kt comments:

I like the way Nik is going. And Nik is undeniably effing thousands of light years ahead-apart from his PAS ministerial predecessor, then Minister of Environment and Water Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

Tuan Ibrahim was labelled by Mohamad Agus Yusoff from University Kebangsaan Malaysia as incompetent. He was totally ineffective in dealing with the ferocious floods besetting the nation. More reason never to ever vote in a PAS bloke.

SJKC Mun Choong pupils attend landslide victims memorial

SJKC Mun Choong pupils attend landslide victims memorial

The din that typifies a bustling school was muted this morning at SJKC Mun Choong in Kuala Lumpur as uniformed pupils were seen returning in a sombre mood.

A sea of navy blue and white filled the school hall as teary-eyed, masked faces observed a minute’s silence for victims of the deadly Dec 16 landslide at Batang Kali, Selangor.

Eleven of the 31 lives which were lost in the pre-dawn incident were associated with this school, among them being teachers, the school canteen operator, and a cook.

It is estimated that 600 pupils, teachers, Parent-Teacher Association members, and well-wishers streamed in and out of the school since 8.30am today, where a memorial event was held.

Boards depicting the victims’ lives and roles in the school were set up at a small exhibition area of the school hall, offering visitors a pictorial reflection of those who lost their lives.

Guests were also able to pen condolence messages on cards.

Batu MP P Prabakaran was among those who paid his respects and said he met families of the victims who lived in his constituency to hand over government aid of RM10,000 for each family.

Among them, he said, was the school’s canteen cook who was caring for her mother, who, after her death, was left alone.

“The victim’s mother shared that she felt a bleak future in her rented accommodation and requested to apply for a PPR (People’s Housing Programme) accommodation.

“I will look into her application,” said Prabakaran.

Batu MP P Prabakaran visiting the landslide victims memorial at SJKC Mun Choong in Kuala Lumpur.

The early morning incident on Dec 16 claimed the lives of 31 out of the 92 camping participants at the Father’s Organic Farm campsite in Gohtong Jaya, Batang Kali.

Sixty-one others escaped unhurt or with minor injuries.

Among the dead were 18 adults and 13 children, including a one-year-old baby.

The remains of the last victim were found on Dec 24 in a sleeping bag about four meters from the camping site, nine days after the tragic incident.

Penang Chinese describe this as "Plenty mouths" [Ceh Chui]

Foreign woman held at Penang airport over bomb joke

A foreign woman was arrested at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas yesterday after she cracked a joke about having a bomb in her bag.

Barat Daya district police chief Supt Kamarul Rizal Jenal said the 33-year-old woman who works as a factory operator in Ipoh, Perak, was nabbed at 4.30pm.

“When the staff at the check-in counter inspected her bag, the woman said loudly ‘there is a bomb’, which was heard by the staff and other passengers nearby.

“The woman and her two friends were scheduled to board a flight to Medan, Indonesia, at 5.30pm,” he said in a statement tonight.

The suspect has been remanded for two days until tomorrow and the case is being investigated under Section 506 of the Penal Code for criminal intimidation.

- Bernama

I’m sorry, I’m leaving

I’m sorry, I’m leaving

From Dr Leonard Goh

I’m sorry, I’m leaving . . . although, I had initially envisioned that I would spend my entire professional career as a government doctor in Malaysia.

However, the realities of life have caught up with the idealist in me and I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I have to leave.

Our healthcare system is too broken, especially when it comes to the issue of contract doctors. The more the government tries to fix the problems related to contract doctors, the more complicated the issues get.

This is the inevitable result of making such an important policy change on a whim, without prior stakeholder engagements or any hint of prospective planning. We desperately need a reset button, but will the government have the courage to admit that they were wrong and be willing to start over from scratch?

I still have a long career path ahead of me. I know that given the right opportunities, I have the potential to be a leader in the regional, or even global, stage.

Staying in government service would mean denying myself any hope of reaching for the stars. I’m done with running with all my might but getting nowhere, on the giant hamster wheel that is the health ministry.

The workplace conditions are ridiculously inhumane. My colleagues and I are working past the point of sanity to treat our patients to the best of our abilities, but the government has time and again failed to support us in this endeavour.

We have been shortchanged far too much for far too long. I refuse to allow my altruism and empathy to be exploited anymore.

It’s not my fault that I have been looking for options outside the government service, long before I finished my housemanship training. My hand was forced by the government when they insisted on hiring me on a mere three-year contract, even though my career progression is measured in decades.

Now, top that up with the still-ongoing series of administrative blunders and haphazard planning by the health ministry. Is it not logical, then, for me to bravely pursue the uncertain promise of greener pastures and success overseas, rather than meekly settle for the certain promise of a bleak future in the government service here?

I’m sorry, I am leaving, but it is not without a lack of trying, though. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve sacrificed most of my time to advocate for junior doctors and improvements in our healthcare system.

I was the first contract doctor to take up the position of SCHOMOS (Section Concerning House Officers, Medical Officers and Specialists) state representative, and thus far the only one to have held a SCHOMOS exco position at the national level.

I’d like to think that I made a difference, perhaps insufficient and rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but a difference, nevertheless. Despite that, it’s all too little, too late.

I’m sorry, I am leaving, but this doesn’t have to be goodbye forever. While many doctors have left, plenty are staying. I wish those remaining the very best in reigniting the engine of progress and getting the country back on track.

Meanwhile, I’ll be forging ahead with my own path in a foreign land. When the time comes, I’ll be waiting at the station ahead, ready to board the train again, armed with my accumulated years of experience abroad.

I’m sorry, I am leaving, and fingers crossed, we’ll cross paths again one day, tanah airku tercinta, tanah tumpahnya darahku.

Dr Leonard Goh served as a contract doctor in a government hospital from 2019 to 2022 and is an FMT reader.

Visitors from China must test negative before entering Sabah from Jan 1

Visitors from China must test negative before entering Sabah from Jan 1

Sabah is highly dependent on Chinese tourists, who made up almost half the visitor arrivals between 2017 and 2019. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: Travellers from China will need to show that they tested negative for Covid-19 within 48 hours before entering Sabah from next year.

Sabah’s spokesman for Covid-19 Masidi Manjun said the new rule would be enforced starting Jan 1.

In a statement, Masidi said this was due to the anticipated influx of tourists from China after it lifted travel restrictions for its citizens recently. So far, there are no reports of any resumption of direct flights between Kota Kinabalu and destinations in China post-Covid-19.

Sabah is highly dependent on Chinese tourists, who made up almost half the visitor arrivals between 2017 and 2019.

According to the Sabah Tourism Board, 43.4% – or nearly 600,000 arrivals – were from China during the period, but as of June this year, this has plunged to only 6.3%.

Earlier, FMT reported that all travellers arriving in Malaysia will have to undergo temperature checks for fever amid concerns over a surge of Covid-19 cases in China.

Health minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa said those who were found to be feverish, symptomatic or had self-declared (Covid-19 symptoms) would be referred to a quarantine centre, or to the health authorities for further checks.

At the same time, all those with a history of travelling to China within 14 days of their arrival will be required to undergo an RTK-Antigen test, and samples will be sent for genome testing if they are positive for Covid-19.

This also applies to those who have close contact with individuals who have travelled to China within 14 days, or exhibit influenza-like illnesses or severe acute respiratory infection.

The ministry will also run PCR tests on sewage samples from aircraft coming from China. If found positive for Covid-19, it will be sent for genome sequencing.

Yesterday, Reuters reported that Covid-19 infections started to sweep across China in November, and increased this month after Beijing dismantled its zero-Covid policy, including regular PCR testing on its population.

It was also reported that more than half of the passengers on a flight from China to Italy had contracted the virus.

Friday, December 30, 2022

The Return Of Chinese Tourists – U.S. & Allies Don’t Want Them, Other Countries Fighting To Welcome Them

The Return Of Chinese Tourists – U.S. & Allies Don’t Want Them, Other Countries Fighting To Welcome Them

China’s sudden reversal of its “Zero-Covid” policy has taken the world by storm. After micromanaging the Coronavirus pandemic for nearly 3 years, what actually caused the leadership of Xi Jinping to abandon the policy once hailed as proof of Beijing’s competency in containing the virus? Some said the Chinese president was finally convinced that it’s not going to be so bad to reopen again.

After all, those in China that needed to be vaccine have already been vaccinated. Besides, you can’t shut down the country forever. The Omicron strain has proven to produce less severe symptoms and lower mortality as feared earlier by Beijing. The Zero-Covid policy was adopted in 2020 because President Xi didn’t want Covid-19 to spread uncontrollably.

There’s nothing much Beijing can do now even if the lifting of the quarantines and lockdowns trigger new waves of infections or deaths. Scientists in the United States estimated that China risks 1.5 million Covid deaths if it drops its tough Zero-Covid policy. British scientific information and analytics company Airfinity claimed up to 2.1 million people could die if the policy is scrapped.

That figures could be highly exaggerated because the total deaths due to Covid in the U.S. has been just 1 million from over 100 million infections. But some argued that more people will die in China because the Chinese vaccines were inferior. If that’s true, we should have an unusual high number of deaths in countries that used Chinese vaccines such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Africa and South America continents.

Another theory suggests that Beijing was forced to make the U-turn following protests in November, which began after a fire in Xinjiang killed ten people, leading to questions whether the harsh Covid-19 policies had hampered rescue efforts. Western news media, especially BBC, created the narrative as if the protests were so widespread nationwide that democracy would replace communism in China.

However, some have also argued that Xi Jinping indeed has lifted the Covid-19 quarantine and lockdown due to the protests – but to teach the young Chinese punks a lesson. If they want freedom, let’s give them freedom. The abruptly abandoned Zero-Covid strategy has seen a spike in infections as well as deaths. Visits to clinics and hospitals due to fever have skyrocketed.

The pressure on public health system saw more than 90% of consumers surveyed in China said they are avoiding going out. Amusingly, according to the study done by Oliver Wyman, most Chinese people don’t want to leave their apartments now, after screaming on the street demanding for freedom and the lifting of the home quarantines not many moons ago.

Another compelling reason why China dropped the restrictive policy has everything to do with its economy. Geopolitical competition with the U.S. and domestic social stability are two primary factors in the administration of China’s Communist Party. The growth engines in China are investment, consumption, and export – therefore it has to open in order to provide employment for young people.

A series wave of lockdowns has led to a dramatic decline in retail sales, and consumption, and service sectors that employ a lot of people. Tech companies alone, which employed young people and college graduates, have seen its market valuation plunged almost US$3 trillion – Alibaba has lost 80% of its value in the past 2 years while Tencent’s stock price plunged 70% since 2021.

It didn’t help that China’s retail sales declined by 5.9% year-on-year in November 2022 – worse than market expectations of a 3.7% drop, and much faster than a 0.5% fall in the prior month. However, with Beijing’s sudden lifting of restrictions, analysts at Citi forecast retail sales in the world’s second largest economy to grow 11% during 2023 to a whopping US$7 trillion

The biggest step to ease restrictions is the lifting of Covid-19 quarantine requirements on international arrivals. First thought to be a half-baked policy, the National Health Commission surprised many when it announced that effective January 8, 2023, the country will abolish all quarantine measures, including requirements for inbound visitors – both foreigners and Chinese nationals.

Like a miracle, the streets are once again jammed with traffic, and travel agencies are packed with Chinese tourists eager to book foreign holidays. Before the pandemic, China was the main driver of tourism, contributing a jaw-dropping 150 million travellers to the world. Travel booking site – – saw more than 250% outbound bookings after Beijing’s scrapping of quarantine measures.

Hilariously, the U.S. and its allies are now singing a different tune. Previously condemning the Zero-Covid policy as draconian and a violation of human rights, now the same Western powers are accusing the scrapping quarantine rules for travellers as an attempt to spread Covid variants beyond China’s borders. China is wrong for locking up its people, and is also wrong for freeing up its people.

Even though Beijing has stopped publishing daily case numbers, why is the West so terrified? Are they afraid that their superior Pfizer-BioNTech (Germany), Moderna (U.S.) and Oxford University-AstraZeneca (UK) Covid vaccines could not stop variants from China? It screams hypocrisy when the West encouraged the Chinese people to protest over lockdowns, but now discourages them from travelling post-lockdowns.

The U.S. said effective January 5, all arrivals from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau must provide a negative Covid test taken within two days of departure. In addition, passengers flying through South Korea and Canada will also need to test negative before going to the U.S. if they were in China 10 days prior. And the PCR test or rapid test must be authorized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

Likewise, Japan will require a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival for travelers from mainland China. Effective midnight on December 30, 2022, travelers from China who test positive will be required to quarantine for 7 days. The Japanese government will also limit requests from airlines to increase flights to China in what is seen as discouraging visitors from China.

Italy too has ordered Covid-19 antigen swabs and virus sequencing for all travellers coming from China while Taiwan will test arrivals from China from January 1, 2023 onwards. While the United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal and France have no plans to introduce mandatory Covid-19 tests, the European Union could impose new rules if more members reintroduce testing.

But the U.S., U.K. and Japan are not the only favourite destinations for Chinese tourists. Other top-10 countries in the list are Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Macau and Hong Kong. As the U.S. and some of its allies do not seem interested, Malaysia and Singapore cheer the return of the Chinese tourists after Beijing’s three years of the Zero-Covid policy.

Singapore said vaccination requirements for travellers and work pass holders arriving from China remain unchanged. Travellers, including those from China who are not fully vaccinated, will need to undergo pre-departure tests before they can enter the Republic. Singapore is among the top-5 destinations that saw a spike in interest from China, with a 600% increase in bookings

The reasons offered by Singapore not to slap additional restrictions on travellers from China make perfect sense – the small island has high vaccination rate. Furthermore, China’s infection rates are not higher than comparable countries. For three consecutive years before the pandemic, China topped the list for Singapore’s international visitor arrivals by country, with Chinese travellers constituted almost 20% of total arrivals in 2019.

Other countries in the Southeast Asia eagerly waiting for Chinese tourists, who spent a mind-boggling US$255 billion annually before the pandemic, are Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Malaysia Airlines and Vietnamese budget carrier VietJet Aviation said they hope to restore China flights to pre-pandemic levels by June 2023.

Like Singapore, Chinese tourists to Malaysia peak during the Chinese New Year holiday and summer school holidays. In 2019, there was a total of 3.4 million Chinese visitors to Singapore with average spending of US$2,971 per trip, and 3.04 million to Malaysia with average spending of US$956. Chinese tourists travel to both countries for different reasons.

Chinese tourists enjoy Singapore as a casual luxury holiday destination. Many of them stay in integrated resorts (51%) in Singapore, visiting gardens by the bay (36%) and shopping in Sentosa (38%). The luxury comfort and metropolitan sophistication in Singapore are the main attractions to Chinese tourists as a traveling destination.

Most Chinese tourists will visit at least three different destinations in Malaysia. Some of the top destinations include Kuala Lumper (71%), Sabah (61%), Melaka (47%), Semporna (38%), Kota Kinabalu (31%), and Batu Caves (30%). The multi-cultural and multi-ethnic Malaysia offers a rich experience to Chinese tourists, which is also the main driver for choosing to travel in Malaysia.

Malaysia Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) hopes 3 million Chinese tourists will visit Malaysia in 2023. In 2019, 3.1 million Chinese tourists had visited Malaysia, spending RM15.33 billion – accounting for 17.8% of the country’s tourism sector. But the Malaysian government has to do more to attract tourism revenue as neighbouring Thailand has been very aggressive.

Thailand’s Tourism and Sports Ministry has proposed providing free Covid-19 booster shots to tourists entering the kingdom in a bid to attract more international travellers. Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn said – “Each vaccine shot will cost just a few hundred baht while each foreign tourist will spend an average of 40,000 baht in Thailand per trip.”

As one of Asia’s most popular travel destinations, Thailand is set to welcome at least 20 million tourists and generate tourism receipts of 2.38 trillion baht (US$64.5 billion). Russians are already flocking to the country, with 1.75 million visitors in November alone, quadruple the number received for the entire of last year when flights and foreign arrivals were limited by the pandemic.