Friday, August 29, 2008


Malaysia to extend monitoring team in Mindanao


Malaysia has acceded to requests from the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to extend the International Monitoring Team (IMT) for the short term in Mindanao pending the Philippines Supreme Court’s decision on signing of the agreement on ancestral domain. Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim said Malaysia acceded to the requests in order to give space for both sides to resolve the agreement, which was now awaiting the Philippines Supreme Court’s judgement. He said a three-month period should be given for the Malaysia-led IMT to continue supporting the peace negotiations between the Philippines and the MILF. “After getting the views of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, we agreed to extend the IMT mission,” he told reporters here yesterday. The Malaysian peace monitoring team has been in Mindanao since 2004, as part of the IMT, comprising 41 officers from the Armed Forces and the Police, and supported by officers from few other countries. The Philippines Government and MILF were supposed to sign the agreement early this month here, but have temporarily delayed it following a judicial dispute in Manila. The Philippines Supreme Court blocked the signing of a preliminary accord granting minority Muslims an expanded homeland as part of a deal to end decades of Islamic insurgency. The court issued a temporary restraining order after Christian politicians from the southern province of North Cotabato objected to the deal because the Government had failed to publicly disclose its contents. Rais said the extension of the IMT would also allay apprehension caused by the IMT’s departure and to sustain the ceasefire currently in place as well as to prevent further violations and escalation of violence. He said Malaysia called upon both sides to exercise utmost restrain from violating the ceasefire in place and to safeguard the primacy of the peace process. “Malaysia also calls upon both sides to respect the IMT, Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Local Monitoring Team (LMT) in performing their duties,” he said. He said Malaysia also would continue to support the peace process as facilitator and will lead the IMT if both parties are serious in their endeavours to pursue the peace process. “Malaysia hopes that both parties will strengthen their belief that peace can only be obtained through negotiations. “Continued violence would only cause hardship and shall not resolve the key problems or issues in question,” he said. -Bernama


Anwar sworn in as Member of Parliament


Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as a Member of Parliament at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday morning. Clad in a dark baju Melayu with a songkok, the newly elected Permatang Pauh MP took the oath before Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia, followed by the traditional thumping on the table as a sign of approval and support from Opposition MPs in the House. Anwar, who has been made Opposition leader, also received words of advice from Pandikar Amin, who after the oath-taking ceremony, said he hoped that Anwar would play a beneficial role in the Dewan Rakyat. He said Anwar would also be accorded all privilages given to an Opposition Chief. As soon as the brief ceremony was over, Sepanggar MP Datuk Eric E Majimbun of Barisan Nasional (BN) congratulated Anwar over his by- election victory and selection as the Opposition leader before proceeding to ask the first question of the day. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abd Aziz also congratulated Anwar before replying to the first question. Speaking to the media after spending about 10 minutes in the Dewan Rakyat, Anwar said he felt vindicated, returning to Parliament after a 10-year hiatus. “I was touched and vindicated coming back to Parliament after 10 years. After all that I had gone through in that time, now it feels good to be back, it is my right,” he said. Anwar won the Permatang Pauh Parliamentary seat with a 15,671- vote majority on Tuesday, garnering 31,195 votes against BN’s Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah, SI, who obtained 15,524 votes. The other candidate, Hanafi Mamat, 61, of Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia (Akim), who polled 92 votes, lost his deposit. Anwar, the former Deputy Prime Minister, was sacked from the Government in 1998 in connection with sodomy and abuse of power charges. - Bernama


Merdeka Super Concerts at 1Borneo tomorrow


The City will be abuzz starting this Saturday with the Merdeka Super Concerts weekend at 1Borneo Hypermall. Visitors to the hypermall will not just witness one but two concerts to be held back-to-back to usher in the National Day. Returning back to his hometown is popular Taiwan-based Sabahan singersongwriter, Gary Chaw. He will lead the line-up on the eve of Merdeka together with Wen Qian, the latest winner of the Astro Talent Quest, and Malaysian starlet Candy. The trio’s concert will kick off at 10.45pm on August 30. The celebration continues the following day at 2.3Opm with the nation’s most celebrated rocker, Amy Search. The concert will also feature well- known Malaysian actress and singer Amy Mastura and will be hosted by the illustrious AC Mizal. Both concerts will be held at the hypermall’s Gourmet Lane. Concert tickets can be redeemed easily at the Concierge Counter with minimum spending at selected outlets in 1Borneo or by signing up for a Platinum Club membership programme.


Basalie’s safe box found in Tambunan


A safe box containing documents belonging to Sabah Barisan Nasional Executive Secretary Datuk Basalie Abdul Hamid was found by Police in Tambunan, some 80 kilometres away from here, yesterday. It is learnt that the former Bugaya Assemblyman was away to assist BN colleagues in the Permatang Pauh by- election since last week, while his wife was accompanying a relative who was undergoing an operation in Kuala Lumpur. It is also learnt that the couple had entrusted their house in Austral Park here under the politician’s brother- in-law’s care. The brother-in-law had gone to check the house several times but did not see anything amiss until he received a call from his elder brother and was informed of the Police discovery. The safe box, containing jewellery and documents belonging to the couple, was dumped in Tambunan. All but the documents were missing. Police are investigating the case. Meanwhile in TUARAN, a group of pupils made a shocking discovery when they found the body of a woman, with her hands tied and face down, in the bushes along the Bukit Payung-Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park Road yesterday. The pupils from a primary school in Telipok claimed that they smelt a foul smell coming from the area while walking to school around 7.40am. They went to check and found the decomposing body just 11 metres away from the road. Tuaran Police Chief DSP Suhaimi Wiro when disclosing this said the woman is believed to be in her 20s. “Both her hands were bound to the back and based on her decomposing body, we believe she could have been murdered about a week ago. “We have yet to establish her identity as no document was found on her,” he said. The woman had long shoulder-length straight hair and long nails. Her body has been sent to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for a post mortem. Suhaimi added that the case would be investigated under Section 302 of the Penal Code for murder. If found guilty, the culprit faces the mandatory death penalty.


Poverty :Harris blames policies
Ineffective Govt programs explain why people leave land idle


Poor rural farmers should not he solely blamed for not developing their land as the Government is equally responsible flirt their predicament, says a former Chief Minister. Speaking at the “Yarahan ‘Tokoh Pertanian” lecture at Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) yesterday, Datuk Harris Salleh said despite the significant improvement in basic infrastructure in the rural areas such as roads, water and electricity supply telecommunications, schools and clinics, many rural people remain poor with little or no permanent income. While the common explanation for their abject poverty is that the “people are lazy”, in actual fact the reason is due to the shortcomings and ineffectiveness of the Government’s policies and programmes, he said. Harris said in Sabah alone, there are about 500,000 hectares of abandoned smallholders’ land with about 70 percent left completely unproductive. Smallholders abandoned their land because most of the Government projects that have been implemented were found to be either not suitable for the rural people or the areas, he said. Harris said there is no serious commitment to meet the challenges facing the farmers in the policies behind the programmes, which are implemented half-heartedly. Another reason, he said, is the dominance of buyers who have always caused prices to fluctuate and sometimes do not, cover the farmers’ nominal production costs. “The subsidies imposed on food products and agricultural produce like rice and cooking oil have further suppressed prices and become a disincentive which discourages farmers to venture into agricultural activities. “This is despite the fact that many of them live close to their own plots or in areas surrounded by coconut trees,” he said. To some extent, Harris pointed out, these subsidies have spoilt the attitude of farmers because they reason that they are better off buying subsidised rice and cooking oil instead of planting their own rice or making coconut oil. Sabah, according to him, is basically an agricultural State whose future lies in agriculture due to its vast tracts of land. In the early 1980s, the then State Government identified 906,300 acres of State land which it committed to allocate 15 acres to each of 60,000 landless Sabahans, he said. Unfortunately this was not pursued and implemented by the succeeding State Government, he said, adding it has now become public knowledge that almost all of the 906,300 acres was alienated to local companies, which then sold their alienated parcels to West Malaysian companies. These areas, he said, have been developed into oil palm plantations, 90 percent of which are now owned by West Malaysian companies. This, he stressed, was how Sabah was robbed of the opportunity to turn 60,000 landless people into “Usahawan Tani” (agriculture entrepreneurs) who, had they received their individual allocations of 15 acres and been given some kind of financial assistance and proper training, could have created a strong agriculture-business base. Harris argued that the rural people have not shown any total commitment and a readiness to accept the challenges to improve their standards of living mainly because of the ineffective approach adopted by the Government in formulating policies and implementing projects and the lack of support by local industries and the people in general. Harris stressed that the emphasis now must be on developing the abandoned land as the opportunities to do so are already there with the necessary infrastructure being extended to the rural areas. The Government, he said, must however carry out a detailed and comprehensive study on all aspects of the rural economy including haphazard development and abandoned land. “This is bearing in mind of course that there can be no scope for agricultural business to grow if the sources of raw agricultural produce are limited to being sold and consumed in their natural form or state. “The wide and varied range of agricultural produce such as fruits, crops and herbal plants can be transformed into an endless variety of agricultural products for both human and animal consumption, and livestock,” he added. Harris said a viable agriculture- based ‘industry can only be successfully established if the Government is fully committed towards this objective and succeeds in getting the rural people to be equally committed in accepting the challenge. “And by then perhaps Malaysia should be able to reduce the RM30 billion that it spends annually on importing foodstuffs and other agricultural produce. Surely, a large percentage of this RM30 billion of food imports can be reduced by the rural farmers and smallholders substituting them with many more local and hybrid varieties of fruits and vegetables,” he said. According to Harris, land in the rural areas is made up of small and medium sized alienated parcels of land and smallholdings, totalling millions of hectares. Most of this land is either left idle and undeveloped or even abandoned while the productive areas are owned by the Chinese. In Sabah, however, out of about 500,000 hectares, 90 percent are owned by natives. The 10 percent owned by the Chinese is productive while out of the rest, 20 percent is half-productive and 70 percent unproductive. The rural land owners do not want or are not motivated to be self-sufficient in food crop production largely because they have to sell whatever they produce at below the costs of their own labour. This, he said, is caused by Government subsidies such as for rice and cooking oil. Another factor, Harris disclosed, is that the majority of the middle and upper class people prefer to buy imported fruits and vegetables instead of local agricultural produce so in general it can be said that local fruits and agricultural produce fetch very low prices because they are consumed only by the low income group. The living conditions of the rural people have remained as they were since decades ago, with no properly planned villages, while houses are built haphazardly without any modern amenities, he pointed out. In order to motivate them to be productive, there is a need to improve their houses and smallholdings, he said, adding a kampung house in an area averaging three to five acres may accommodate at least two or three houses belonging to an extended family. “It is not too much to ask that the Government allocate at least 25 percent of its low cost housing budget to the rehabilitation of kampung houses at a cost of RM2 5,000 each. “The areas surrounding the extended family members’ houses also have the potential to be developed by planting permanent or cash crops which should give the families sustainable and permanent incomes,” he said adding that this can be done from the balance of the low-cost housing budget. Harris said based on reports it is clear that the Government has been trying to solve the problem by opening and developing abandoned smallholdings but the commitment has so far not been successful. “This is despite the fact that hundreds of Federal and State Government agencies have been formed with fanciful names such as ‘Giat this and ‘Giat that, as if to reflect their missions. “In the end what these agencies have achieved is merely to create jobs for the staff that they have to employ and at the same time provided short-term publicity. This can be seen from many examples of the agencies’ projects that have deteriorated or been abandoned soon after the publicity was over. In spite of this, no thorough study seems to have been undertaken to establish why so many basic economic projects in the rural areas have failed,” he said. Harris said through a detailed and comprehensive study the Government can translate all the data into a truly committed plan of action to develop the rural areas, and at the same time motivate the rural people to accept the challenge, and together work towards the creation of a viable and sustainable agro-based industry. The study, he said, must look into the questions of land suitability, the best ways to exploit the desire and ability of the smallholders and farmers to meet the challenges of change, and the creation of a fair and reliable market for any type of agricultural produce. “Unless and until such a comprehensive study is done to determine the policies and programmes considered to be appropriate for each area, the only progress that can be seen in the rural areas would be in the infrastructure, schools and clinics,” he said. However, he said, with rural income levels still the same while the general cost of living keeps increasing, there will be no agro-business if there is no commercially sustainable agricultural produce.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


NEW STAR: Stacy Akademi Fantasia Season 6


NEW STAR ... Akademi Fantasia 6 champion Stacey (right) had a surprise at the recent Kinabalu Shell Press Awards when Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Aman presented her with a special recognition award for doing Sabah proud by becoming the first contestant from the State to win the reality talent contest. Witnessing the presentation were Astro Corporate Communication and Community Affairs Director David Michael Yap (second from left), Sabah Journalists Association President Datuk Joniston Bangkuai (left) and Shell Malaysia Chairman Datuk Saw Chow Boon (second from right). Stacey and fellow AF singers Velvet, Candy, Nadia and Yazeer were specially flown by Astro to perform at the press night held at Shangrila’s Tanjung Aru Resort.


Anwar’s win won’t affect Sabah, says PBS


Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Advisor Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s victory in the Permatang Pauh by-election will not have any effect on Sabah let alone instigate defections to the Opposition. Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS) Chief Information Officer Johnny Mositun said Anwar’s win was more or less expected since Permatang Pauh is a safe seat for the latter. “Nevertheless it would spur the Barisan Nasional (BN), especially in Sabah to work harder to ensure we remain the stronghold for the Coalition. “We also hope that the other BN component party members would re-look the power sharing issue as well as other outstanding issues affecting everyone,” he said when asked to comment on Anwar’s victory in the by- election on Tuesday. Meanwhile the Party’s Youth chief, Jahid Jahim, said the Permatang Pauh constituents’ decision to retain PKR as their elected representative must be respected. “This shows that democracy exists in the country as the people are given the freedom to choose whoever they wish to be their elected representative,” he said. However, he hoped for a stop to violence during the campaigning period.