Dewan Rakyat Speaker to be annouced by Wednesday

(10-07-2018)

Speculation had been rife that former cultural adviser to the government Rais Yatim would be appointed the Dewan Rakyat speaker. The Pakatan Harapan manifesto, however, states that the speaker would be chosen from among elected representatives and Rais Yatim is not a member of the Dewan Rakyat. On the grapevine, it has been bruited about that the choice of speaker of the 14th Parliament, which will be called into session next week, was already decided last night by the Pakatan Harapan presidential leadership council.

Pakatan Harapan leaders held a late night closed door meeting at the Perdana Leadership Foundation. Leaders seen leaving the foundation at about 10.30pm were Pakatan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Amanah president Mohamad Sabu, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, Pribumi deputy president Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir and Pakatan secretariat chief Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah. Earlier, Saifuddin said Pakatan was sticking to its general election manifesto that the Dewan Rakyat Speaker should be appointed from among its Members of Parliament. “To meet the manifesto requirements, the Speaker will be among the members of Dewan Rakyat,” he said. Saifuddin also pointed out that Pakatan wanted the Speaker to have a sense of responsibility to Dewan Rakyat members and to do their jobs fairly and equally.

He also said Pakatan component parties had submitted their choice of candidates. A source said the nominee for the Speaker would likely be an MP from PKR or DAP since most Pribumi or Amanah MPs had been appointed to hold positions in the Federal Government. “If you zoom in, Amanah is left with two MPs while the ones left in Pribumi are first-timers who may be too green to carry the heavy responsibilities. That leaves MPs from PKR and DAP because we have 50 and 42 seats, respectively,” the source said. Pribumi won 13 seats while Amanah has 11. According to source, DAP pushed for party adviser Lim Kit Siang while PKR recommended Nurul Izzah Anwar for the post. Both parties were compelled to think better of their propositions when their impropriety was pointed out, for Kit Siang is the father of Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Nurul Izzah is the daughter of Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

While Nurul Izzah’s name was set aside because of her ties to the deputy prime minister, her party recommended their Sungai Petani MP Johari Abdul for the post. DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang brushed aside talk of him being linked to the post, saying that he would leave the decision to the Pakatan top leadership. “Politics is not about chasing titles but serving the Government and the people. What’s important now is that we fulfil the hopes of the people,” said the Iskandar Puteri MP at the opening of the Kuala Terengganu DAP service centre yesterday. Earlier today, PKR president and Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said that Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad would likely make the announcement either today or tomorrow. She said a name had been chosen during last night Pakatan Harapan (PH) leadership meeting.

“The prime minister will announce the chosen name. Perhaps today or tomorrow, the prime minister will release it,” said Dr Wan Azizah, who is also the Women, Family and Community Development Minister. Several names have been speculated to fill in the post including former minister Tan Sri Dr Rais Yatim, Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk S. Ambiga, and former Selangor State Assembly Speaker Hannah Yeoh. The first sitting of the 14th parliament session will be held from July 16 to Aug 16. The Dewan Rakyat secretary’s office said a notice on the 20-day sitting has been issued to the Members of Parliament and the first agenda of the meeting would be the appointment of the Dewan Rakyat Speaker. The session will be opened by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at 10am.

Tun M birthday wish : “I wish the press will help us overcome corruption”

(10-07-2018)

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who turned 93 today, said his birthday wish was for the Press to help the government fight corruption. The Prime Minister shared his birthday wish with the media when asked what he desired most on his special day. “I wish the press will help us overcome corruption,” he replied when quizzed on his wish during a press conference at the MACC headquarters in Putrajaya this morning.

Dr Mahathir was at the MACC headquarters where a briefing will be held for all Harapan lawmakers about the government’s new anti-corruption measures. Yesterday, Mahathir had announced that all Harapan elected representatives will have to declare their assets as well as report any gifts they receive to the relevant authorities. Today’s briefing will be delivered by National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption chief Abu Kassim Mohamed. “All Harapan elected representatives including the ministers are expected to attend the briefing. Unfortunately, I have been given this briefing many times by Abu Kassim so I know what he is going to say and I will not be present,” he said. The briefing is supposed to ensure their lawmakers are leading by example, he said. “If they do not lead by example, then it is difficult for them to advise others to reject corruption,” Dr Mahathir said.

Dr Mahathir also said his government and members of parliament of the government must set the best example in the fight against corruption. “Otherwise, it will be difficult for them to advise others not to practice corruption and to say no to corruption.” Dr Mahathir said the government would be going all out to fight corruption, citing various examples including strengthening the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) and making sure no one including the prime minister and the deputy prime minister would be above the law. On matters concerning reducing graft among public officials, Dr Mahathir said he was aware that the government paid salary at the lower scale and joked that he would consider slashing the salary of those in the private sector too. His response immediately sparked a nervous laugh from the media working in the private sector, who responded with a loud “no”.

The prime minister then related how some government-linked company bosses were taking home up to RM7 million annually. Saying he could not understand how so much money was being paid for their salaries, Dr Mahathir related how he used to earn only RM20,000 per month when he was prime minister previously. However, he said the amount was more than enough for him as all other expenses were paid by the government. “I did not even touch my salary back then as everything was paid for,” he said. On his take about corruption now compared with the time he took office in the 80s, Dr Mahathir said the government machinery then was as clean as it could be. “When we took over the government (after the 14th general election, many things have been done to fight corruption,” he added.

The statesman, who became Malaysia’s seventh prime minister after Pakatan Harapan won the last 14th general election, also joked that he was forgetful and never remembered his own birthday. But his wife, Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, is a person who will always remember his special day. “I’m forgetful, so I never remember my birthday. But my wife never forgets. Early this morning, she wished me, Happy Birthday. So I’m safe and I celebrate it too, lah. If I have to rely on myself, even my own birthday, I don’t remember,” he said. He said a dish of glutinous rice and meat rendang also marked the special day. Dr Mahathir also said before he was a public figure, he would occasionally bring Siti Hasmah out for dinner but now they could no longer do so.

Mahathir, who was Malaysia’s fourth prime minister from 1981 until 2003, was also asked about the differences in his previous and current administration. “A lot of differences. Previously, I took over the government from my own party and it was not much of a problem. The government machinery ran smoothly and I was just guiding it. This time, it was as if I had to form a new government and look for officers who are clean to manage the administration of the country and I myself don’t know them. I have to get information about them on whether or not they are suitable to helm the government machinery,” he added.

Lebanon Jeweller sues Rosmah for jewellery worth RM60 million

(10-07-2018)

A Lebanese wholesale jeweller has filed a RM60 million suit against Rosmah Mansor for the return of 44 pieces of jewellery seized during police raids of properties linked to her husband Najib Razak in May. According to Malaysiakini, Global Royalty Trading SAL, a company based in Beirut, filed the US$14.79 million (RM59.831 million) suit against Rosmah at the Kuala Lumpur High Court on June 26. In documents sighted by Malaysiakini, Global Royalty Trading SAL filed the suit against the wife of former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur on June 26 through the firm of Messrs David Gurupatham and Koay.

In the statement of claim, the Beirut-based firm alleged that Rosmah was a long-standing customer, and that the company also sold pieces of jewellery around the world, including to royal families. Global Royalty claimed that as in previous years, the company would send a consignment of jewellery to Rosmah according to her demand for her to evaluate and purchase, and to be paid by her or by a third party. The company said pieces of jewellery that were not chosen would be returned. Global Royalty said Rosmah would sometimes borrow the jewellery as well, which would be received by either her or her agent in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore or Dubai. In the consignment dated Feb 10 this year, the report said 44 pieces of jewellery were sent to Rosmah, including diamond necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings and a tiara worth between US$124,000 and US$925,000 each. Global Royalty cited a letter dated May 22 in which Rosmah allegedly acknowledged receipt of the jewellery. However, it said in its statement of claim that the items were no longer with Rosmah as they had been seized by the authorities.

The report said Global Royalty is seeking a court declaration that it is the rightful owner of the jewellery, and that the items must be returned failing which Rosmah must pay the amount determined based on the value of the pieces. Last month, the police said over RM1 billion worth of items was seized in raids at several premises linked to Najib after Pakatan Harapan took over Putrajaya in the May 9 polls. These included 72 bags of cash and valuables, and hundreds of boxes containing luxury handbags. Thirty-five of the bags contained RM116.7 million in cash while another 25 bags contained 12,000 items of jewellery, including rings and diamond earrings estimated to cost RM440 million in materials alone. Police said these included 1,400 chains, 2,200 rings, 2,800 pairs of earrings and 14 tiaras. The most valuable piece of jewellery was a white diamond necklace estimated to cost RM6.4 million. Last week, Najib was charged with three counts of criminal breach of trust and one count of abuse of power in relation to RM42 million channelled into his personal bank account from former 1MDB subsidiary SRC International. He pleaded not guilty to all four charges.

Macau police have confirmed that they have received a request from the Malaysian authorities to arrest Malaysian businessperson Low Taek Jho but has yet to decide on the next course of action. This was communicated through an email correspondence to Malaysiakini. “On your enquiries about Low Taek Jho, the Macau branch of Interpol China’s National Central Bureau has received a request from the relevant country (to arrest him). “The branch is still verifying the content of the request and will provide the relevant country with a reply as soon as possible,” said the Macau police’s press office. This was in response to requests for verification on inspector-general of police Mohamad Fuzi Harun’s statement earlier today that the Malaysian police have put up a formal request to its Macau counterpart to arrest Low, who is better known as Jho Low. Low, who is being sought by the Malaysian police to facilitate investigations into 1MDB, is said to have fled to Macau from Hong Kong after a local police team arrived in Hong Kong.

“The latest we know he was in Macau. In fact, the other day, we sent our team to Hong Kong, but immediately when we arrived, he left to Macau,” Fuzi had said last week. The China special administrative region of Macau does not have any extradition treaties with other countries. Low is a key figure in the 1MDB affair. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed in its civil forfeiture suits that the businessperson was involved in multiple instances where 1MDB funds were allegedly misappropriated. He is accused of having used 1MDB funds to purchase superyacht The Equanimity; jewellery for model Miranda Kerr; and also a US$27.3 million pink diamond necklace for the wife of Malaysian Official 1 (MO1). The DOJ claimed the pink diamond was purchased using the US$620 million that MO1 claimed to have returned to a royal Arab donor, but was instead channelled to accounts allegedly controlled by Low. MO1 has been identified as Najib Abdul Razak, the former prime minister.

Death toll reaches 119 after historic downpour and landslides in Japan

(09-07-2018)

OSAKA – The death toll from torrential rains in western Japan reached 119 on Monday, and many people were still missing after massive flooding and landslides destroyed homes and displaced tens of thousands of people. Rescuers are searching for nearly 80 people who are still accounted for, most of them in the hardest-hit Hiroshima area while the Meteorological Agency warned that landslides and flooding continue to pose a danger. Nearly 13,000 people have been left without electricity, power companies said on Monday, while hundreds of thousands had no water. It is the worst flood disaster since 1983, when 117 people were killed in heavy rains.

Though continuous rain had ended, officials warned of sudden showers and thunderstorms as well as the risk of further landslides on steep mountainsides saturated over the weekend. Some homes had been smashed, while others were left tilting precariously. Rivers had overflowed, flooding towns and turning them into lakes, leaving dozens of people stranded on rooftops. Military paddle boats and helicopters have been used to bring people to dry land. The Japan Meteorological Agency said three hours of rainfall in one area in Kochi prefecture reached an accumulated 26.3 centimetres (10.4 inches), the highest since such records started in 1976. The number of casualties is expected to rise further as officials assess the damage in affected areas. Many people are believed to be stranded in their homes where roads have been cut off by the flooding. At one point, evacuation orders or advisories were issued for up to 5.9 million people in 19 prefectures. As of Monday morning, around 23,000 people were staying in evacuation centers, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of a special disaster response unit that the number of personnel helping out had been boosted to 73,000 and that they were “putting in utmost efforts to save lives.”

In Okayama Prefecture, one of the hardest-hit areas, more than 1,000 people were temporarily trapped on the roofs of buildings that had been submerged by floods following the bursting of three dikes along the nearby Oda River. Most of them were rescued by boats or helicopters. In the Mabicho area in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, about 1,200 hectares, or one-third of the district, was submerged. About 4,600 homes were inundated in the area, displacing about 3,000 to 5,000 residents. All patients and staff stranded in a hospital in Mabicho were rescued early Monday. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism mobilized pumper trucks to drain the inundated area, but it is likely to take about two weeks to complete the drainage. In neighboring Hiroshima Prefecture, one of 12 people who went missing after being engulfed by landslides in the town of Kumano was found dead. The body of a 3-year-old girl was discovered in the city of Fukuyama after she was washed away from her home following the collapse of a reservoir. Casualties were reported in Yamaguchi, Kyoto, Gifu, Shiga, Hyogo, Kochi, Fukuoka and Kagoshima prefectures. About 267,000 homes had suffered water outages in 11 prefectures as of Sunday. Roads were also damaged and flooded across the region and many railway sections remain disrupted.

According to the transport ministry, 13 railroad operators were suspending services on 37 routes in western Japan and elsewhere. Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has cancelled an overseas trip which would have taken him to Belgium, France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt from Wednesday, a party source told Reuters. Prime Minister was arranging visits to areas hit hard by the massive flooding and landslides that began last Thursday, government sources said.

Four Boys Rescued As Thai Cave Rescue Operation Begins

(08-07-2018)

Four members of the youth football team who have been trapped inside Thailand’s Tham Luang cave for two weeks have reached safety, Thai officials have said. It was earlier claimed that six had been rescued. The first two boys from the Wild Boar academy team reached the surface before 6 PM local time (12 GMT). Eighteen divers began a daring rescue mission on Sunday to free the 12 Thai boys and their football coach from deep inside the cave in Thailand’s northern Chiang Rai province. Narongsak Osottanakorn, Chiang Rai’s governor, said the conditions for the rescue were the best they had been since the young football team was discovered by British cave divers on Monday night. They have been trapped for two weeks after being blocked in by rainwater while exploring the cave.

“Today is D Day. The boys are ready to face any challenges,” rescue chief Narongsak Osottanakorn told reporters near the cave site as weather forecasters warned of more monsoon rains late on Sunday that would cause more flooding in the cave. Not long after the international media was ordered away from the cave’s entrance, a team of 13 international divers and 5 Thai Navy seals began the rescue mission, the Thai government announced. Narongsak Osottanakorn, the governor of Chiang Rai province, said that in addition to the Thai team, the rescuers were from the US, Australia, China and Europe. With water levels reaching their lowest parts in one of the chambers in the last 10 days, it was decided that now was the best time to get the boys out. More rains are expected in the coming days, and oxygen levels were rapidly depleting. After an unseasonal dry spell, and furious efforts to pump out deep floodwater from the 2.5-mile narrow passageway separating the boys from the exit, the water was now at its “lowest” levels to date and most of the path was walkable, he said. “A new storm is coming. If we wait and rain water comes in, our readiness will be lower than now,” said the governor.

“I can assure that they are ready and they are determined and ready to be extracted. The boys are determined get out and their families are all informed and agreed with the decision,” Narongsak Osotthanakorn said. “I am asking everyone to wait for an update but we need the support from all and your best wishes for the successful of this operation.” The rescue team includes 13 international divers and five Thai navy seals. The rescue operation began at 10am and the boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach, will be taken out one by one, accompanied by two divers each. Maj. Gen. Chalongchai Chaiyakam said the whole operation could take approximately two to four days, “depending on weather and water conditions”. An Australian doctor assessed the boys on Saturday night and gave the all clear for the taxing physical journey. Earlier examinations had concluded that they had been too weakened by the ordeal of their first week with no food to subject them to a perilous dive. Concerns have been running high all week the children, some of whom reportedly cannot swim, may panic while passing through murky floodwater in a labyrinth of jagged passageways that have challenged even the most experienced of divers.

The death of former Navy Seal diver, Saman Kunan, 38, who ran out of oxygen on Thursday night as he was delivering air tanks through the cave network, highlighted the dangers of an underwater extraction. An update Saturday from the Thai navy said three navy SEALs were with the boys and their coach, one a doctor. The 13 were having health evaluations and rehabilitation, and were being taught diving skills. Food, electrolyte drinks, drinking water, medicine and oxygen canisters have been delivered to them. A major concern of the rescuers is that oxygen levels in their safe space could fall dangerously low. Rescuers have been unable to extend a hose pumping oxygen all the way to where the boys are, but have brought them some oxygen tanks. But Navy Seals, who have remained with the boys since Monday, have been training them how to use scuba gear, and they may be given full face masks to help keep them calm. Medical teams have been rehearsing evacuation drills for days, and a helicopter may be used to whisk the boys quickly to hospital. On Sunday morning, the media and all unnecessary personnel were asked to leave the entrance of the site, to give rescue teams more space to work.

The rescue mission is far from over. To reach the boys, divers must navigate a series of dark, flooded tunnels for up to six hours. With the entire round trip taking roughly 11 hours to complete, it could be days before the entire group emerges. Describing the “very smooth operation,” Chiang Rai Governor Narongsak Osottanakorn said the boys were rescued using full face masks. The first one was rescued about three hours ago. He said the clock is continuing to tick for the remaining boys, and rescuers are going to focus on replacing the oxygen tanks so they can continue the operation. He said he didn’t know when they would be able resume getting out the boys, but he estimated in approximately 10 hours, but no more than 20. Narongsak Osottanakorn said on Saturday that experts told him water from new rain could shrink the unflooded space where the boys are sheltering to just 10 square meters (108 square feet). “I confirm that we are at war with water and time from the first day up to today,” he said. “Finding the boys doesn’t mean we’ve finished our mission. It is only a small battle we’ve won, but the war has not ended. The war ends when we win all three battles — the battles to search, rescue and send them home.”

The boys and their coach became stranded when they went exploring in the cave after a practice game June 23. Monsoon flooding cut off their escape and prevented rescuers from finding them for almost 10 days. The ordeal has riveted Thailand and made global headlines, and the search and rescue operation has involved international experts and rescuers. President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Sunday: “The U.S. is working very closely with the Government of Thailand to help get all of the children out of the cave and to safety. Very brave and talented people!”