Thursday, January 31, 2008


US hopes to conclude FTA with Malaysia before August


The United States Government is hoping to conclude the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Malaysia before August, ahead of the formation of the new US administration to replace Bush’s administration currently at the final year of its term. US Ambassador to Malaysia, James Keith, said yesterday that teams from both countries had completed another round of negotiations two weeks ago in Kuala Lumpur where they achieved some significant improvement but more works needed to be done as the Americans were trying their best to complete negotiation by summer. “We hope that Malaysia, in between its election, will find time to complete the FTA by this summer, if possible,” Keith said at a Malaysia-US Relations Talk at Universiti Malaysia Sabah yesterday. “It is an ambitious goal but we are trying very hard. As a new administration is coming in, new objectives, standards, new agendas would be set in place and we would not know whether the FTA with Malaysia will be higher in priority with the new administration or not. So we hope to complete it now, so as not to let this opportunity slip away.” The negotiation is seeking to bring down barrier, expand trade and increase investment in Malaysia, said Keith, adding the US-Malaysia FTA negotiation, which among others, is also aiming to seek ways to add value to the Malaysian economy could be the answer to the Malaysia’s government which is currently pushing hard in global discussion on trade such as the Doha Round to try to open up and expand the country’s trade potential, he said. US engagement in Asia is very much driven by market oriented engagement, with important market being not only in Asia but also Malaysia. With a population of 300,000, US is an important trading partner as reflected by the large export from Malaysia to US in recent years. In 2006, Malaysia exported USD36.5 billion to US and imported USD12.6 billion worth of goods and services from the country, one of its top trading partners since 1999. “US is likely to be Malaysia’s number one market as Americans are looking forward to buy high- end and value-added, products it produces such as computers,” said Keith who was on his first official visit to Sabah since he was sworn in as the Ambassador to Malaysia on July 24 last year. “Ninety-five percent of computer notebooks produced by American computer giant, Dell Computer, that are sold in America are built in Malaysia.” Expressing his hope for positive outcome on the negotiation, Keith recalled the successful FTA between US, Mexico and Canada and assured that such a free trade understanding helps solve even the most difficult problems facing the trading partners. He also said the agreement had been instrumental, for example, in overcoming immigration and illegal immigrants problems between the three countries. “This, for some people, is controversial. Some people may don’t like it. But in my quarter century experience, I am absolutely convinced and determined that free trade is good for both parties. “Through times it uplifts the standard of living in all three countries, creates jobs and values, opportunities, choices for workers and consumers,” he said. From the American perspective, at least, the economical ties between the two countries is inseparable from every other aspect of their bilateral relationships, said Keith. “If you put it most simply, it would be along the line that we are in it together whether it is economic environmental, or security perspective. The issues cut across all lines now,” he said. Apart from economic perspective, the goal of negotiation is to include environmental objectives, promoting sustainable development, particularly with states in Malaysia as Sabah has a world heritage rainforest right at the centre of its vast and richly diversified terrain and located close to the Sulu-Sulawesi coral triangle, the richest marine ecosystem in the world. Keith at a press conference later, said his visit to Sabah was mostly due to some serious profound interests America has towards East Malaysia. The ambassador said he would like to come back to seek ways to encourage collaboration between Sabah and US to have more local students from the State studying in US universities. He said the US Government would look forward to further strengthen relation with Malaysia regardless of the outcome of the AFT negotiation as there are still many unrealized bilateral potentials between the two countries. The next round of the US-Malaysia AFT talk is not scheduled yet.


Compensation proposal will deter katak culture: DAP


Making elected representatives pay compensation if they change parties will deter the unhealthy political culture of party hopping, DAP divisional chairman Jimmy Wong said. This move is especially necessary for Sabah which is famous for the ‘katak’ party hopping culture, Wong said in support of the proposal by DAP Secretary General Lim Guan Eng. Lim had suggested that elected representatives be obliged to compensate RM5 million to their party if they decide to switch allegiance. This is a necessary move to prohibit the unhealthy political culture of party hopping, especially in Sabah, and is important for a potential candidate to show its commitment and loyalty to the people and party. Wong said potential or selected candidates must sign a contractual agreement consenting to pay the RM5 million compensation should they change party. “They must also agree to relinquish their parliamentary or state seat if that happens,” he said and assured the voters in the parliamentary constituency here and the state constituency of Sri Tanjung that the DAP candidates, if elected, will not betray the mandate given and will do their best to fight for justice and equality. Wong also disclosed that DAP does not have any hidden agenda as it has the people’s interest at heart before adding that the people are always wary about the consequences they face if they elect an opposition party. “Rest assured that DAP will continue to give the people the best. We hope that Sabahans will give DAP their fullest support and the opportunity to serve the public. If we are given the opportunity, we will do our best for the rakyat,” he said.


Sebatik family robbed by six armed men
Farmer loses RM8,800 worth of property


A 54-year-old farmer and his family were robbed by six men at Kampung Sungai Pisa-Pisa, Begosong in Sebatik Tuesday morning. District police chief ACP Jaafar Yusof said the robbers aged between 20 and 30 years old, entered from the back of the house and armed with a Samurai sword, a gun and an airgun. The victim was in the toilet while his wife was folding clothes in the living room. The couple’s son was refilling a boat engine with fuel outside the house. Jaafar said the suspects hit the victim’s head twice and pointed the Samurai sword on the neck of his son. “The victims were relieved of RM780 in cash, important personal documents, a shotgun and jewellery worth RM2,000, five sets of chain worth RM5,000 as well as CD and VCD players worth RM500. The estimated losses was about RM8,800,” he said yesterday. “The six suspects escaped to the border of Indonesia which is about 20 minutes away from the victim’s house. We will contact the Indonesian police and ask them to track down the suspects,” he added. Jaafar also said the police had received a report from a 39 year woman who found her house at Taman Semarak here was burgled on Monday evening after she came back from her mother’s house. She lost a computer, a watch and jewellery worth a total of RM12,000. The burglar entered the house through the main door and fled from the back door of the house. The victim is staying alone at the house. Commenting on the coming Chinese New Year, Jaafar advised the public to be careful when withdrawing money from the banks. He urged them to contact the police if they see any suspicious characters. He disclosed that the police are keeping an eye at banks and financial institutions. Jaafar also said that the police were carrying out Ops Limau and Union Operation now while Ops Sikap would begin from January 31 until February 14. “Motorists should be careful when going back to their home town for this coming festival season. There will be no discount for any compounds issued during the Ops Sikap period,” he said.




Malaysia’s very own Tiger Platoon was established in 1993, and the elite team has since been involved in several operations, including search and rescue. Formed as a Special Force team from the General Operations Force (GOF), the Tiger Platoon is to carry out specific duties as well as covert and overt operations. In Sabah, the platoon plays a role in keeping pirates away from the State’s borders as well as effectively curbs the attempts of militants trying to sneak into the State. A Tiger platoon is posted in every GOF base throughout the country. Sabah’s Tiger platoon’s expertise was recently displayed in a ‘hostage’ drama staged during the handing over of the Sungai Manila police booth to the GOF 15th Battalion in Sandakan. The event was officiated by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and witnessed by Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim and State GOF Brigade Commander Datuk Paramasivam Arunasalam. In the demonstration, six Tiger platoon members stormed the house where a hostage was held and after a short gunfight, the elite force ‘killed’ the criminals. Two armed criminals who managed to flee the houses were ‘fatally shot’ by snipers outside. At the same event, the Sabah GOF brigade’s Public Order Riot Unit (PORU) also demonstrated the method used to quell violent demonstrators. Other than the Tiger platoon, the Royal Malaysian Police also has an anti-terrorist team as well as its special forces, Gerak Khas, which is responsible in curbing violence and dangerous crimes. Before Gerak Khas was formed, the police has two special teams namely VAT 69 and the Unit Tindakan Khas (UTK) to fight terrorism. VAT 69 was set up in 1969 to fight communists while the UTL was established to implement urban war tactics practised by CO 19 Britain and SWAT in the United States of America. After the Malaya Communist Party surrendered in 1989, the VAT 69 faced problems on their role with the end of the confrontation. Then in October 1997, the VAT 69 and UTK were merged to form the special force team. Meanwhile the GOF which was previously known as the Jungle Company, has been specifically trained and equipped to maintain the peace during emergencies. Its personnel are also trained to seek out criminals who are hiding in the jungles as well as conduct patrols along Malaysia’s coastal borders, islands within Malaysian waters and remote areas. Each GOF personnel has to undergo police training and indoctrination before being accepted into the force. They also have to undergo and successfully complete a basic jungle warfare course which means that a GOF personnel is not only an infantry personnel but can also do police work if needed. GOF personnel are also trained in anti-demonstration duties and the Force will send its PORU unit to assist the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) when the need arises. With their training in special warfare in the jungles, coastal and urban areas, close range combat and guerilla warfare, GOF personnel can be deployed in all situations and terrains. Following the handing over of the Sungai Manila police post two days ago, the GOF’s duties and responsibilities will increase. IGP Tan Sri Musa Hassan said the Sungai Manila police post was just the beginning as the GOF 15th Batallion will be taking over command of all police posts in Sabah’s interior areas. These include the ones in Pegalungan, Nabawan and Kanibongan, Kota Marudu. Musa also disclosed that the marine police will be taking command of two island police posts, namely Bait in Semporna and Jambongan in Beluran. The move is necessary as the posts are located far from the city centre and by being so close to the State’s borders, they are exposed to higher outside threats and risks, he said adding that the GOF and marine police with their special training will be able to carry out their duties more effectively and consistently. He also disclosed that the GOF posts in Inderasabak, Tawau, Tronglit, Sandakan, Gum-Gum, Sandakan, Inderason, Kudat, Sahabat 16, Lahad Datu and Tanjung Labian, Lahad Datu will be upgraded to police posts which will function not only as a border post but as a normal police post with facilities to receive reports.


RM25 million to conserve home of orang utans SimeDarby makes huge commitment for Ulu Segama,Malua


Ulu Segama and Malua, home for the orang utans in Sabah, will be better conserved, With a
RM25 million commitment from Sime Darby, one of the largest private companies in Malaysia. The allocation, which is spread over a period of 10 years, would encompass the rehabilitation of the forest, besides protection of the orang utans and other wildlife found in the forest reserve. “Conservation is a subject that is close to my heart, and is part of Sime Darby’s sustainable development policy,” said the company’s president and group chief executive, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zubir Murshid. Speaking at a press conference here yesterday, he said the long-term partnership is a contribution to 50 per cent of the Sabah Forestry Department’s (SFD) budget for the restoration of degraded forests. The reserves which are almost five times the size of Langkawi, are located within the SFD’s Ulu Segama-Malua (USM) project that covers several other forest reserves, including the world-famous Danum Valley. The Ulu Segama and Malua reserves cover 250,000 hectares, of which 160,000 hectares are badly degradable due to logging. As pledged by the State Government almost two years ago, logging ceased end of last year at both areas measuring 236,825ha. Ahmad Zubir added that apart from conservation works, Sime Darby would also be focusing on research and development, which they hope would add value to the project. “We will second people to work on the project, so this will raise awareness of the need to conserve and protect the environment. “Such project needs huge commitment. We may not be able to see the results tomorrow but it would definitely do good especially for the next generation,” he explained. SFD director Datuk Sam Mannan described the Sime Darby’s contribution as ‘a dream come true’, stressing that it was beyond his expectation. ‘Ulu Segama and Malua have the highest concentration of orang utans in Borneo, numbering 5,000. They are often referred as the umbrella species, meaning that if you look after them all the other species in the forest like the pygmy elephants, chimpanzees and other wildlife would be taken care of,” said Sam, adding that the project is a ‘legacy plan’. Sam, who also disclosed that the project was also part of the Sabah Development Corridor, further stressed that if the work was left to nature, it would take a long time to recover. “But with the intervention of man, it will speed up works. A bulk of the RM25 million will be spent primarily on greening the area, while some would also be allocated to improve the infrastructure and recruitment,” he said. On the business perspective, Sime Darby’s executive vice president, Plantation and Agri-Business Division, Datuk Azhar Abdul Hamid, said the company has 45,000 hectares of plantations mostly in Sandakan and Tawau. The company is currently looking for ways to expand its investment in Sabah in the areas of bulking activities where the State may become a staging point for exports to countries in the Far East like China and Japan. In addition, the company is also looking at the setting up of downstream activities such as refineries, oleo chemical and biodiesel plants. There will also be investments in agricultural-related education programmes.


Corridor to further boost POIC: Nasrun


The Sabah Development Corridor is set to further boost the Palm Oil Industrial Cluster (POIC) here. Assistant Minister to the Chief Minister Datuk Datu Nasrun Datu Mansur, in disclosing this, also described that SDC as one of the best approaches to develop the district. The POIC project, carried out on 5,000 acres of land, was established in 2006 stretching to the year 2021, with the first phase covering 1,150 acres of land. At the same time, about 101 hectares from 323 hectares of POIC land have been sold to 15 companies for RM1 billion. Two Korean and Australian-based biodiesel companies have started operation at Lahad Datu POIC. Nasrun is confident that once the project is completed, it would not only lure foreign investors to come in but also provide job opportunities and boost economic development by offering businesses. In the effort to beef up economic development here, the Lahad Datu Airport would also be upgraded and expanded, providing a more comfortable terminal to passengers, adding that the long-term plan is to build a new airport in the Sandau area soon. “In line with the growing development through POIC, we are also planning to build a sports complex, including weekend recreation centre which would benefit locals as well as our visitors,” he said. A 300-megawatt power station worth RM 1.2 billion that uses coal would also be set up at the Pacific Hardwood Silam factory site. Overall, Nasrun said the development projects under SDC through POIC had helped improve the infrastructure and basic necessities, which would benefit the locals, including those in the rural areas.


KKJA appoints RMC as medical advisor


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The Kota Kinabalu Journalists Association (KKJA) has appointed Rafflesia Medical Centre (RMC) as its medical advisor. RMC executive chairman Dr Roland Chia Ming Shen said RMC’s role is to assist the media fraternity partners in advancing public understanding on health care issues. The simple partnership understanding ceremony was held at the RMC yesterday. KKJA was represented by its chairman, Wong Bak Kion, while Dr Roland represented RMC. It was witnessed by MCA Penampang divisional chairman Datuk Paul Kong as well as KKJA supreme council members and RMC manager Liza Estolas. Under the partnership understanding, all members of KKJA and their families are given special privilege when getting treatment at RMC. Meanwhile starting this year, RMC will subscribe to the concept of corporate social responsibility in response to the call of the Prime Minister to all Malaysians to be a giving and caring society. He said corporate social responsibility is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities and the environment in all aspects of their operations. “Organizations are voluntarily taking further steps to improve the quality of life for employees and their families as well as for the local community and society at large,” he said at a press conference on the RMC blood donation drive and obesity screening on February 2 at the centre, starting from 9am to 3.3Opm. RMC will be one of the first few private hospitals/private healthcare providers in Malaysia joining the ranks of other conglomerates in embracing the concept of corporate social responsibility. In this respect, Dr Roland said RMC had committed to embark on a quarterly blood drive. “An understanding has been made with the Blood Bank of Queen Elizabeth Hospital that Rafflesia Medical Centre is committed to anchor a quarterly blood drive in our premises,” he added.


3,000 in traditional costumes at Kaamatan Festival


The state- level “Kaamatan” or Harvest Festival this year will focus on infusing cultural values in efforts to strengthen unity among the various ethnic groups. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Joseph Pairin Kitingan, who is also the festival’s main organising committee chairman, said the theme, “Peace Through Culture”, is aimed at making the people realise the importance of ensuring a peaceful and harmonious society. “The Kaamatan Festival is a cultural occasion where love and affection can be forged for one another, resulting in peace and unity in this multiracial society,” he said. “With the close rapport built through such events, we can all feel like we’re in one big, happy family,” he told reporters after chairing a committee meeting yesterday. Pairin said the annual celebration is part of the State Government’s efforts in preserving the various cultures of the people. He said the celebration would be launched by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman at Dewan Pa’ Musa in Beaufort on May 1. According to Pairin, some 3,000 people will be donning the traditional attires to represent the various ethnic groups that are found in Sabah. “The 3,000 people wearing the traditional attires of the various ethnic groups in Sabah is a new feature added to the programmes and will be entered in the Malaysian Book of Records,” he said, adding that the organiser is appealing for additional funds as the RM600,000 allocated by the State Government is inadequate for making the event a success. - Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah will close the month-long celebrations at the Hongkod Koisaan KDCA Hall in Penampang on May 31. The highlight will be the Unduk Ngadau or beauty contest. Pairin said district-level celebrations will also be held throughout, namely Tambunan (May 3), Keningau May 4), Lahad Datu (May 4), Tawau (May 4), Kunak (May 4), Kudat (May 6), Kinabatangan (May 8), Tongod (May 8), Inanam (May 8), Tenom (May 10), Banggi (May 10), Kota Kinabalu City (May 11), Nabawan and Pegalungan (May 11), Kota Belud (May 11), Sook (May 11),Telupid (May12), Paitan (May 12), Matunggong (May 15), Sipitang (May 15), Sandakan (May 17), Beluran (May 17), Penampang (May 7), Labuan (May 17), Semporna (May 17), Pitas (May 18), Kota Marudu (May 18). He said Tamparuli and Kiulu would be included in the Tuaran district celebration to be held on May 20, while Menumbok district would be held on May 21, Kuala Penyu (May 21), Membakut (May 21), Ranau (May 22) and Putatan (May 22).


Illegal car washers pester motorists

A number of men, believed to be foreigners, are pestering motorists with illegal car wash service at Beverly Plaza in Jalan Bundusan, Penampang. Sherly said these people are operating around the parking ground behind the Milimewa Superstore. She said that as they cannot be trusted to do a proper wash, most motorists would reject their service but these people are persistent. This makes her and her friends fear they may vandalise their cars, she said. Sherly, who stays at Beverly Hills, Phase 5, hoped the enforcement unit of the local council, together with the police, would monitor the activities of these people as they are a public nuisance. “We fear that if the authority does not take any action to curb these activities, they may even commit crime,” she said. A spokeswoman for Penampang District Council, when informed of the matter, said this is the first public complaint about illegal car wash activities at Beverly Plaza said area. “I will forward the matter to the unit concerned so that they can take the necessary action to curb this kind of activities,” she said. She told Public Hotline that enforcement officers will monitor the situation to keep the activities under control. Meanwhile, a spokesman for City police, when contacted, said there are police on the beat there everyday, especially at night. “We will forward the information to them so that they can look into it,” he said.


Errant bus drivers target of another complaint

Buses that stop indiscriminately to drop and pick up passengers have drawn another public complaint. A motorist from Kampung Chenderamata Dua in Likas told Public Hotline that these buses are causing traffic obstruction in the village where the roads are narrow. Sham said the drivers of these buses simply stop anywhere they like even though there is no bus stop. “This is not only happening in Kampung Chenderamata Dua but also the entire Kampung Likas area. The situation became better a couple of months ago after I made a complaint to the authority concerned, but it is back to square one now,” he lamented. “Their action is causing inconvenience and posing safety hazard to other motorists as the buses often occupy more than half of the road.” Sham pointed out that the roads there are not only very narrow but also very busy with heavy traffic, especially in the morning. A spokesman for Kota Kinabalu traffic police, when contacted by Public Hotline, thanked the complainant for providing them with the information. He said he would bring the matter to the attention of the team concerned so that the area could be monitored. “Bus drivers should know their task and responsibility on the road. We hope they will follow the rules because once they are caught, they would be compounded,” he added.


D Junction to donate to association


D Junction, a sports and recreation outlet, will be presenting donation to the Palliative Care Association of Kota Kinabalu as part of its social obligation today. Its senior manager, Kenneth Yap, said it was part of their way of giving back to the community, besides helping the needy and easing their burden. The association is a charitable organisation founded in 1994 to provide palliative and hospice care to patients with incurable diseases such as cancer, he said.


Blind musicians to launch debut album


As a street musician plying his trade in the city, Des has never thought that he would one day have an album to his name. An avid fan of rock ever since he first discovered music in his primary school years, he eventually turned his passion into a profession, becoming a regular fixture at the weekly Gaya Street fair on Sundays. Des, who goes by one name, however, had to make his career choice based on necessity, after he lost both sights when he was a boy. “I used to be able to see, but then I had a blackout in the 1980s,” he said when met at a press conference to announce the launch of the debut album for blind performing troupe Seniman Penglipur Lara (SPL), of which he is a member. The lack of sight, however, did not take away the 39-year-old’s enthusiasm for music and life or dashing his dreams of meeting his musical hero, nationally-renowned composer A. Ali. “He’s a big name in Malaysia and when I could still see, I only saw his face on an album cover and posters I’ve dreamt of meeting him and today I shook his hand and exchanged greetings with him,” he said. A. Ali is one of the two composers engaged to produce the album, which is a joint effort between his production company Karya Cipta A. Ali, Tanjung Puri Sdn Bhd and City Hall, which brought the SPL into being two years ago. The other composer is Ampuan Zainuddin Sulaiman. The album will feature four of the seven members of the SPL, which is the brainchild of Mayor Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim, singing some 20 songs including a “killer song” which Ali said he would pen himself. “This will be the first album produced by our studio here and I have composed about half of the songs selected. The songs will all be music that the artists can sing on the street ... we are just giving it a touch of quality in the recording. “Blind people are just like everyone else, they need income and I am very proud to have the opportunity to compose and produce this album. “I have to admit that it will be a bit different from my usual work because I will include Bajau and Kadazan songs aside from Malay songs,” said the 59-year-old music industry veteran. City Hall Research and Coordination Division director Mario Ngasio said the album project is part of their sustainable development plan under their Local Agenda 21 (LA21). “The LA21 focusses on solving social, economic and environmental problems in the city and the album launch is geared towards the social aspect of the plan, which includes poverty eradication. “Two years ago, we went around the city and found no less than 10 people begging on the streets. A few of them had musical talent so the Mayor decided to bring them together and play music. “We have given them training and also around RM5,000 worth of equipment, courtesy of Music Mart and they are now playing at various venues around the city such as the City Park, Cocoon and Gaya Street. “Now we have the opportunity to help them record an album and this is part of our long-term process in sustainable development. Sustainable development is not only for buildings, people also need development,” he said. While no exact date has been set for the album launch, it is expected to be done at a gala event sometime this March and to be officiated by Iliyas.