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Friday, April 8, 2011

Overwhelmed rebel fighters flee from eastern Libyan city

Tripoli, Libya (CNN) -- Airstrikes killed four people in eastern Libya on Thursday, an opposition general said, and rebel fighters and civilians made a wild, panicky retreat from a major city.

Aircraft fired missiles on a rebel formation between al-Brega and Ajdabiya on the eastern Libyan battlefront, witnesses told CNN Thursday, an act that left the opposition wondering whether NATO aircraft conducted mistaken airstrikes on the forces they are trying to protect.

It's unclear whether Libyan aircraft or NATO fired the missiles, but there haven't been Libyan air force planes in the skies for some time because NATO aircraft have established a no-fly zone.

NATO said it's looking into the strikes but didn't say who carried it out. In a statement, it said that hostilities between al-Brega and Ajdabiya have "been fierce for several days. The situation is unclear and fluid with mechanized weapons traveling in all directions."

"What remains clear is that NATO will continue to uphold the U.N. mandate and strike forces that can potentially cause harm to the civilian population of Libya," NATO said.

Gen. Abdul Fattah Yunis, commander of rebel forces, told reporters of the "unfortunate setback."

The planes fired on 20 rebel tanks near al-Brega Thursday morning, Yunis said. Gadhafi's troops moved forward after the attack, causing the opposition to pull back. Several of the tanks were destroyed.

The general said he wanted some answers from NATO on whether it or Gadhafi planes made the strike. If the latter, Yunis said, NATO should have prevented that by enforcing the no-fly zone.

He added that the rebels had notified NATO of the tank movement and of their presence.

"There is no tension between us and NATO; this is a war situation and we understand that mistakes are made," Yunis said.

Two soldiers and two medics died in the airstrike. Fourteen people were injured and six are missing, Yunis said.

Witnesses said the rebel fighters saw an airplane and thought it was from NATO, CNN's Ben Wedeman reported. Later, the plane returned and fired several missiles and then made another strike. Ambulances responded, and the injured people were taken to a hospital in Ajdabiya.

A few hours after the strikes, civilians and rebels, fearing an approach by pro-Gadhafi forces, retreated from Ajdabiya, with hundreds of civilian cars and trucks loaded with rocket launchers and ammunition headed out of town in the direction of the opposition headquarters in Benghazi. Tanks were reportedly part of the column of vehicles.

The Gadhafi regime's persistence in the face of NATO forces has frustrated and angered opposition leaders, who say they are not getting traction despite the alliance's no-fly zone and air cover. NATO said weather conditions and tactics by the Gadhafi regime, such as using human shields and hiding equipment in populated areas, have hindered its efforts.

If the latest bombing run were a NATO strike, rebels said it would have been the second in a week's time. Last week, airstrikes hit rebel vehicles and killed at least 13 rebel fighters in the al-Brega area, a spokesman for the Libyan opposition said. NATO is investigating.

The strikes come amid a deadly stalemate between pro-Moammar Gadhafi forces and rebel fighters, diplomatic maneuvering to end the conflict and blunt doubts about the potency of the opposition forces.

Asked whether rebel fighters can push into Tripoli and oust Gadhafi, Gen. Carter Ham, U.S. Africa Command's chief, told senators at a hearing Thursday, "I would assess that as a low likelihood."

Also Thursday, a senior Libyan government official said four detained journalists are in government hands and are safe. They will be brought to Tripoli and released, but the timing is uncertain, the official said.

GlobalPost, an international news website, said pro-Gadhafi forces detained one of its freelancers and three other journalists. They had been taken Tuesday night on the outskirts of al-Brega, said Peter Bouckaert, director of emergencies for Human Rights Watch.

On the diplomatic front, a former U.S. lawmaker who has been trying to meet with Gadhafi told CNN "The Situation Room" that Friday will be his last opportunity.

Curt Weldon has said he will tell the leader to step aside and take other measures to end the bloodshed.

A former Republican U.S. House member from suburban Philadelphia, Weldon has been to Libya before in his work as a congressman. He said he came to the country this time with "a small private delegation."

Weldon said he has met with other Libyan officials, including the prime minster and Gadhafi's son, Saadi, conveying the Obama administration's stance on the crisis and reinforcing the importance of an immediate cease-fire monitored by the United Nations to protect civilians.

"I'm here only because I want to avoid war," Weldon told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. "I don't want to see American soldiers killed, and I don't want to see more innocent Libyans killed," he added.

Fighting has raged across the country. Rebel fighters and pro-Gadhafi forces have been pushing back and forth between al-Brega and Ajdabiya. In the capital, Tripoli, four explosions were heard, and two aircraft could be seen overhead Thursday.

Libyan government spokesman Musa Ibrahim described the Thursday airstrikes as heavy and "really intensive." He said the strikes hit "military academies around Tripoli where students and teachers work."

A British airstrike hit an oil field in the eastern town of Sarir on Wednesday, causing damage to a main pipeline, Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters. But NATO's operation in Libya denied responsibility, saying such blame reflects the desperation of the Gadhafi regime.

"We are aware that pro-Gadhafi forces have attacked this area in recent days, which resulted in at least one fire at an oil facility north of Sarir," said Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, commander of NATO's Operation Unified Protector.

"We have never conducted strike operations in this area because his forces were not threatening civilian population centers from there," Bouchard said. "The only one responsible for this fire is the Gadhafi regime, and we know he wants to disrupt oil getting to Tobruk."

Meanwhile, violence continues in the western city of Misrata. Ham said the "regime has a significantly degraded ability to continue to attack civilians" and Misrata is a "notable exception."

"The opposition forces have held an area in the northeastern portion of the city, in the port. And frankly, the port has been operating to get some relief," he said. "But the regime forces are and remain active in the city against civilians."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said conditions in Misrata are "especially grave," citing "reports of the use of heavy weapons to attack the city, where the population is trapped and unable, as a result of heavy shelling that has continued over several weeks, to receive basic supplies, including clean water, food and medicines."

The World Food Programme said one of its humanitarian vessels loaded with food, medical supplies and doctors has reached the port of Misrata, providing what it called a "lifeline" for trapped civilians.

"This is a breakthrough for the U.N. humanitarian operation in Libya and allows us to reach tens of thousands of people who are caught in one of the fiercest areas of conflict," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. "It is vital that we get these relief supplies to the vulnerable."

A nuclear scar on a haunting scenery

The road to Fukushima is near empty, a sign of its lost appeal after a devastating earthquake hit this once popular tourist destination.

Report from Fukushima

By Suvendrini Kakuchi

FUKUSHIMA: My decision to visit Fukushima – the area worst hit by the massive quake, tsunami and nuclear power accident on March 11 – was taken one afternoon last week after a long meeting with scientists.

The invitation to accompany the scientists on a private fact-finding mission to Fukushima was irresistible. The scientists and engineers who gathered that day, had, for decades, harboured misgivings over reactor safety design and policies and were active in the ongoing debate over the future of nuclear energy in Japan.

“There is a dire need for a real time radiation monitoring network to be set up in areas affected by the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant,” Atsuto Suzuki, head of the high-energy accelerator research organisation at Tsukuba University, explained. “This is where our expertise can begin to play a role.”

We started our journey at 6am, armed with bottles of mineral water, clothing that could be discarded before our return to Tokyo, and special face masks to protect us from radiation when we approached the 20-kilometre exclusive zone around the damaged reactors.

Around our necks dangled radioactive dosimeters, resembling large thermometers. The machines would show accumulated microsieverts of radiation contamination on our bodies and instructions were given that we carry them all the time to record the rise in the figures while noting the exact locations.

“Our own documentation of radioactive material is key to understanding the Fukushima accident,” explained Yoichi Tao, a physicist specialising in risk management design, who is now retired. He is also a graduate from Tokyo University.

But Tao is not part of the cosy group of experts who have guided Japan’s ambitious post-war nuclear power industry. Instead, having experienced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima when he was just six years old, the scientist contends that the bitter truth that Japan had chosen to ignore till today, was that fool-proof safety in nuclear power is simply a “myth”.

“It is time,” he explained, “to embark on a clearer definition of the complex concept of safety. This calls for research from diverse perspectives – the views of residents, independent opinions, as well as taking in an assessment on the impact of the accident on other countries.”

The three-hour drive to Fukushima was hauntingly poignant. With most of the motorways now open for traffic, we passed the breathtaking scenery that marks Japan’s northern region – mountains dotted with pristine pine forests on one side of the road and the pale blue, now serene, ocean glistening on the other.

Sharp gusts of chilly air wrapped our car on a near empty road, a sign of the lost appeal of Fukushima – which had been up till now a tourist destination boasting therapeutic hot springs and fresh seafood.


A harrowing scene awaited us at Iwaki, our entry point into Fukushima. Iwaki, a bustling coastal fishing city, had borne the full brunt of the tsunami, with some waves as high as 14 metres.

We stopped at Yotsukura hamlet where half the population of 1,000 had suffered fatalities, were still missing, or had lost their homes, fishing boats and cars.

People, protected with masks, appeared dazed while they pulled at piles of washed out rubble in a feeble attempt to reconstruct. “The community is still scattered in evacuation sites because shops continue to lack food and water and there is a severe shortage of gasoline,” explained Yuuji Kojima, head of the rescue operation in the local municipality.

The afternoon schedule was to get as close to the nuclear disaster as possible and the route we selected was not along the coast but inland. Getting closer to the vicinity, we passed miles of deserted villages where dogs and cattle – abandoned by their owners – walked past shuttered houses and broken roads.

The sky had begun to darken and we feared rain that would worsen our risk of contamination. We pulled on our masks and another layer of clothes. Then we watched our monitors.

Passing the 30-km limit, a recent extension of the risk zone ordered by the government, we reached Miyakoji-machi, once a lush farming area, now turned a ghost village.

A police car stood at the entry point and ordered our car to stop. Officers explained politely but firmly that only government officials or the Tokyo Electric Power Company – operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant – were permitted inside. We pulled the car aside and kept the engine running while scanning the area for a suitable site for the scientists to set up their monitoring equipment.

Rain had turned to snow. Inside the darkening car, our monitors had begun to climb – mine was showing an accumulated 325 microsieverts, the equivalent of almost one chest X-ray already.

Evacuation centres

The most excruciating experiences during our visit were in the two evacuation centres we visited.

Located in Tamura town, the first contained 800 local residents who were packed into a large gymnasium. It was not the tsunami, but the accident in the nuclear power plant they had tolerated for the past 40 years, that had devastated their lives.

Cardboard linings demarcated tiny spaces for families. Old people covered in blankets lay in heaps off to one side.

Wanting to find out for myself, I deliberately avoided wearing the slippers given to guests who were asked to remove their shoes at the entrance. My feet froze almost instantly, reflecting the discomfort of the nuclear refugees who have lived on the cold and damp floor for weeks.

Portable toilets at the other refugee centre were situated outside the building, making visits during the freezing nights a nightmare for the elderly. A lone doctor at the centre described streams of patients seeking medical assistance.

“The authorities had promised us for years everything was safe. We do not believe them anymore,” she explained, declining to be photographed or identified. She hesitated to be overtly critical of their situation, preferring to focus her attention on the sick.

Lessons learned

As Japan struggles to contain the world’s second most catastrophic nuclear power accident, the public here is calling for an alternative energy model.

This marks the beginning of an unprecedented effort of the expanding network of scientists and designers in Japan – who are also reaching out for advice from their counterparts in the United States and Europe – to develop what some call the world’s most comprehensive study on safety.

For now, though, Tao and his team are concentrating on negotiating their way into the tightly controlled bureaucratic systems here that have long resisted outside intervention – one of the more troubling aspects of Japan’s economic development which now lays exposed by the disaster.

Returning to Tokyo, late at night, we wondered aloud what lessons had Japan learned from the disaster. We asked Tao, what would come next. “The answers will take time,” he said. “More important right now is maintaining a collective effort to contain the nuclear tragedy that must involve both proponents and opponents of nuclear energy technology.”

After more than 20 years in Japan, I knew Tao and his community of concerned scientists were right. At a time of tragedy, Japanese wisdom had won. First things first, and only then can the right platform be established to debate the larger challenges.

An unprecedented number of candidates contesting in Bidayuh-majority seats means handing BN a win on a silver plate.

KUCHING: If the number of candidates vying to be elected representatives are any measure, then Sarawak has surely arrived at political maturity.

For the first time in its political history the state election is seeing multi-cornered fights in almost all areas including in all six Bidayuh-centric localities.

The trend of 2006 where straight fights in these Bidayuh seats were the order of the day are now things of the past.

Unfortunately, with this political maturity also comes the greater possibility that divided votes could well ensconce beleagured Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud safely in his seat.

While independents are being dismissed as “irrelevant” in almost all areas, Sarawak Nasional Party (SNAP) – with its war against PKR – is expected to drown the opposition’s assault in the Bidayuh and rural seats in the April 16 polls.

Both PKR and SNAP have posted candidates in all six Bidayuh seats.

In Tasik Biru, diplomat and well-acknowledged Bidayuh son John Tenawi will take on incumbent Peter Nansian (Barisan Nasional), who is a state minister, and SNAP’s Frankie Jurem.

Tenawi, when contacted, was unperturbed by SNAP’s candidacy. He said PKR had greater credibility.

Alluding to SNAP’s much touted “rebranding” exercise, Tenawi said: “I don’t see them as a threat. All this rebranding is nonsense. What is there to rebrand when you have no substance.

“PKR now has a track record of good governance. Look at Penang. Sarawak too needs to have a CAT (Competency, Accountability and Transparency) policy.

“PKR is a sound party… Pakatan Rakyat is a better alternative for Sarawak.”

Tenawi has classified SNAP as simply “irrelevant” in this defining state polls.

On Wednesday, immediately after submitting his nomination papers in Marudi, SNAP president Edwin Dundang has lashed out at PKR, claiming that it failed to keep its promise.

Dundang was refering to his own seat which he claimed was to have been a straight fight based on an earlier agreement with PKR.

But SNAP official today said that Dundang’s frustration was not “limited” to Marudi.

More multi-cornered fights

Meanwhile, four-cornered fights are set for Opar, Bengoh, Tebedu and Kedup.

In Bengoh, PKR’s Willie Monggin will take on his uncle incumbent Dr Jerip Susil.

Bengoh is among the seats that the Election Commission recently identified as a “grey area” for BN.

Susil is from BN-SUPP. The four-cornered fight will also see SNAP’s Richard Magaret and an independent, Wejok Tomik, a lawyer, in the fray.

At 36, Monggin is the youngest Bidayuh candidate in the contest. Tomik is 37.

But the biggest action is set for Tebedu.

Minister Micheal Manyin, 66, takes on newcomer Dr Christopher Kiyui from PKR.

Manyin is going for his third term as Tebedu representative. In the way of a straight fight, however, is SNAP’s Anthony Nais.

Meanwhile, the other three-cornered fight is Tarat.

How did the porn video get on You Tube

Shouldn’t the IGP be asking ‘Datuk T’ whether the video clip they handed to the police was their only copy, wonders P Ramakrishnan.

Malaysians are seriously asking, “How did the pornographic video clip get uploaded to YouTube? Who was responsible for making this vile tape available?” It would not be difficult to make a wild guess! We all have an inkling who could have done this and for what purpose.

It was meant to give far wider coverage to the clip – to denigrate and vilify Anwar Ibrahim for political mileage. It is not difficult to conclude who will gain from such political mileage. It was not only given air time but it was also covered widely by the print media as well with images that purportedly resembled Anwar. They really went to town in their despicable attempt to destroy Anwar so that he will not be their
downfall in the next general election.

The infamous Datuk Trio were the ones who were originally in possession of the pornography video clip allegedly implicating Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. They were the ones who screened this porno video to invited guests on several occasions.

They subsequently claimed they had surrendered the original copy to the police. But they never said that they had not made a copy of the tape or were in possession of one. Nobody bothered to raise this issue. Even if anyone did, nobody reported it. All they said was that the original copy was given to the police. But it doesn’t mean they could not have made copies for whatever purposes.

No lesser person than the Inspector-General of Police has strongly denied that the police had leaked the snippets of the pornography video featuring a man somewhat resembling Anwar Ibrahim having a liaison with a Chinese prostitute in a hotel. According to the IGP, “Of course, it did not come from us. How can I
allow such a thing.”

The question then arises, “Where did the porn video come from?”

The IGP’s statement was very telling, “It was ‘Datuk T’ who said that there was one copy of the video. But, we do not know if it is the truth. You should ask them.”

Why should the reporters ask ‘Datuk T’? Shouldn’t the police be asking ‘Datuk T’ whether they told the truth when they claimed that they had given the police the original copy?

Isn’t it logical, Mr IGP, that you should actually ask ‘Datuk T’ whether it was the only copy in their possession that was given to the police, especially when you said, “We do not know if it is the truth”.

Clearly, the screening of this snippet is wrong. So was the screening of the tape to selected invited guests.

Would it not be natural to go after the ‘Datuk T’ to grill them for the truth and take the necessary action?

Another obvious question that has been ignored is puzzling. In the snippet, there is a third person. What was his role and why was he there? If anybody wants to have sex with a prostitute, would he bring along someone to be present? Was the third person directing the entire scene? Did he tell the person with the
towel wrapped around him to put his hand under the towel between his legs? Was that the reason the guy with the towel was grinning away? It must have been very amusing to that guy!

Let’s have the truth. Let’s get down to the truth!

Deepak vs. RPK: Round 4

Deepak Jaikishan said he did not want to have anything to do with P.I. Balasubramaniam. He denies that he was funding Bala. Well, how does he then explain this letter from EON Bank? Clearly Deepak was not only financing Bala but also Bala's wife, as this letter proves? Does he want to hold another press conference to deny this as well?
Raja Petra Kamarudin

More calls for royal panel probe into sex clip

The New Straits Times 

KUALA LUMPUR: Pas vice-president Salahuddin Ayub yesterday became the first prominent opposition leader to publicly support the call for the setting up of a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) into the sex video clip.

Amid the varying stance and ideas being put forth, Salahuddin, the Kubang Kerian member of parliament, told the New Straits Times:

"In principle, I agree (to the RCI) but I want to see the terms and conditions first as well as the composition of its members," said Salahuddin yesterday when contacted in Sarawak.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz said he would table a proposal to set up a RCI to investigate a sex video clip implicating an opposition leader in the cabinet today.

The published views of opposition personalities had ranged from one calling for the video to be aired in Parliament as suggested by DAP chairman Karpal Singh to the call for the prosecution of "Datuk T" (trio) who had unveiled the video clip.

There is also this emerging view that the opposition would lose its credibility if their leaders were not interested in supporting the RCI.

A major advocate of this position has been Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (KITA) president Datuk Zaid Ibrahim who had viewed the full-version of the video.

The former supreme council member of Pakatan Rakyat Keadilan (PKR) wanted a full, independent inquiry to determine the "truth, or otherwise" of the video.

Zaid who is in Paris, e-mailed the New Straits Times his statement yesterday and said the video had caused national shame and embarrassment.

"Malaysians must not live with a lie, no matter how convenient. If the video is a fabrication, then those responsible must be punished.

"And if Barisan Nasional is responsible for the mischief, then they forfeit the right to govern by resorting to such shameless acts.

"Likewise, if (Datuk Seri) Anwar (Ibrahim) is the man in the video, then he must step down from his position as Opposition leader. It's the only option that's available to him."

Zaid said the question of whether Anwar's wife Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail kept her husband's Omega wristwatch would be cleared by the RCI.

"As for the Omega watch, I saw one that was showed to me after watching the video but I can't say why Wan Azizah is not prepared to show the one she has, if indeed it's true she has the watch," said Zaid.

A member of the "Datuk T" trio, Datuk Shazryl Eskay Abdullah, had claimed to the media that he had kept an Omega watch belonging to Anwar, which was allegedly stolen by a foreign prostitute in the sex video.

On the setting up of the RCI, Hulu Selangor member of parliament P. Kamalanathan said it should be done as the independent body's finding would not be challenged.

"If it (the result of the investigation) comes from any other body, then they, (the opposition) will not believe it. The RCI will be fair and it can clear the names of those implicated and even ascertain the identity of those in the video."

But Kamalanathan said all parties involved must be ready to accept the RCI's findings.

Wangsa Maju member of parliament Wee Choo Keong criticised Karpal who recently said that the RCI should not be set up for "inconsequential matters", as it is set up to look into issues of momentous proportions.

"If this issue is not of momentous proportions, then why did Karpal postpone his court case on Tuesday to attend the press conference at Wan Azizah's house? Why did he suggest for the clip to be screened in Parliament?

"This allegation involves the opposition leader who is touted to become the 7th prime minister of the country," said Wee. He said the government had no choice but to push for the RCI or risk being seen to be afraid to find the truth.

"Anwar had lodged a report and went to a 'ceramah', claiming it was a conspiracy. Meanwhile, the police will always be seen as a government conspirator, so the RCI is a must."

Wee added that Anwar's alibi of being at home with his wife, children and grandchildren on Feb 21 this year when the video was allegedly recorded, was also flawed.

"Why did Wan Azizah finally consent to watching the YouTube version after saying no?" said Wee, who was formerly a PKR MP.

FOREX: Ringgit Opens Higher Against US Dollar In Early Trading

KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 (Bernama) -- The ringgit opened higher against the US dollar in early trading this morning, as the domestic currency reacted positively to the European Central Bank's decision to raise interest rates by 25 basis points, dealers said.

At 9.40am, the ringgit was quoted at 3.0255/0285 from 3.0265/0285 yesterday.

Meanwhile, the ringgit was traded mixed against other major currencies.

The local unit emerged stronger against the Singapore dollar at 2.3993/4036 from 2.4016/4046 yesterday and appreciated against the yen to 3.5452/5492 from 3.5489/5525 Thursday.

However, it was traded lower against the euro to 4.3407/3456 from 4.3252/3301 yesterday and weakened against the British pound to 4.9452/9510 from yesterday's 4.9441/9483 close.

Inside link to Customs officer's death?

Quake-ravaged Japan rattled by new tremor

Japan was rattled by a magnitude-7.1 aftershock nearly a month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami flattened the northeastern coast.

Thursday's aftershock, the strongest since the day of the magnitude-9.0 quake, was a fresh blow to victims of that March 11 quake and subsequent tsunami that killed at least 25,000 people, tore apart hundreds of thousands of homes and sparked the ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant.

Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas, reporting from Mizusawa in northeast Japan, said there were reports of injuries and gas leaks following the quake.

"Some traintracks have also been displaced and people were trapped in lifts. But Japanese have said that they do not expect further damage."

The Japan meteorological agency briefly issued another tsunami warning, but later cancelled it.

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, also reporting from Misuzawa, said a 50cm wave was observed, according to local media.

"That was not confirmed by officials. The tsunami warning has been lifted but it was of course extremely disturbing for people who recently went through the trauma of that huge tsunami on March 11."

Officials at the tsunami-ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said there was no immediate sign of new problems caused by the aftershock.

Japan's nuclear safety agency said workers there had retreated to a quake-resistant shelter in the complex. No one there was injured.

Officials said Thursday's aftershock hit 50km under the water and off the coast of Miyagi prefecture.

The quake struck at 11:32pm local time and initially measured 7.4 on the Richter Scale, however, the US Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, later downgraded it to 7.1. Buildings as far away as Tokyo shook for about a minute.

In Ichinoseki, inland from Japan's eastern coast, buildings shook violently, knocking items from shelves and toppling furniture, but there was no heavy damage to the buildings themselves.

Immediately after the quake, all power was cut. The city went dark, but cars drove around normally and people assembled in the streets despite the late hour.

Paul Caruso, a geophysicist at USGS, said it struck at about the same location and depth as last month's huge quake.

It was the strongest of the more than 1,000 aftershocks that have been felt since, except for a 7.9 on the same day.

Don Blakeman, another USGS geophysicist, said it was the strongest aftershock since March 11, although several aftershocks on that day were bigger.

The USGS said the aftershock struck off the eastern coast 65km from Sendai and 115km from Fukushima.

A Pacific Tsunami Warning Center evaluation of the quake said an oceanwide tsunami was not expected.

However, it noted quakes of that strength can cause waves that are destructive locally.

Educationist on ‘Interlok’ -Part1 & Part 2

MACC suspends two officers over Customs officer’s death

KUALA LUMPUR, April 7 — The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has suspended two officers for leaving Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed unattended before he fell to his death from the MACC office here yesterday.

The 56-year-old Selangor Customs assistant director was found dead on the first floor of the MACC office in Jalan Cochrane yesterday morning after falling from the third floor.

“Two MACC officers have been suspended for the purposes of investigation because they are said to have violated orders related to the handling of witnesses or customers in MACC premises, where the officers are said to have failed to accompany witnesses or customers at all times while they are in MACC premises,” said the MACC in a statement today.

“These suspensions are to assist internal investigations related to this matter and the suspensions will last until an internal probe is completed,” added the national anti-graft authority.

MACC investigations director Datuk Mustafar Ali said yesterday that Ahmad Sarbani had returned to the MACC building at 8.26am yesterday without an appointment and requested to meet with the investigating officer.

Ahmad Sarbani had already given his statement to the MACC and was released from custody at 12.30pm on Saturday.

Mustafar said an officer then accompanied the senior Customs officer to a room in the office before leaving to collect the case file but found him missing when he returned.

Ahmad Sarbani’s body was later found sprawled on the badminton court on the first floor.

The MACC said today the suspensions were made under Regulation 43 of the Public Officers (Conduct and Discipline) General Orders (Amendment) 2002.

The statement did not mention the names of the suspended officers.

The beleaguered anti-graft body said the outcome of the internal investigation will be presented to the MACC Complaints Committee that will probe complaints involving non-criminal conduct.

“The terms of reference of this Complaints Committee is to monitor complaints about non-criminal conduct against the commission’s officers, to identify weaknesses in the commission’s procedures that could cause complaints to arise, and to make suitable recommendations about the commission’s procedures if necessary,” said the MACC.

The Complaints Committee comprises chairman Datuk Mohd Nor Abdullah, Datuk Muhammad Mohd Noor, Datuk Wan Abdul Wahab Abdullah, Chooi Mun Sau and Ravindran V. Muthu, according to the MACC.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah has confirmed that the Sarbani case has been classified as sudden death and initial investigations found injuries to the head of the victim.

Ahmad Sarbani had been remanded on March 29 following an MACC-led swoop on Customs staff, resulting in the arrest of 62 officers.

The MACC last week busted a Customs syndicate responsible for billions of ringgit in tax evasion, money laundering and illegal funds outflows after raiding over 100 different premises nationwide.

Mustafar has said the operation included the arrest of a husband-and-wife duo working with the Customs in an east coast state, who were caught with hundreds of thousands of ringgit in cash “scattered around their house.”

Kes Ahmad Sarbani dan Beng Hock berbeza – KPN

KPN minta semua pihak tidak buat sebarang spekulasi berhubung kematian Penolong Pengarah Kastam Selangor itu.

KUALA LUMPUR: Ketua Polis Negara (KPN) Tan Sri Ismail Omar meminta semua pihak supaya tidak membuat sebarang spekulasi yang menyamakan kes kematian Penolong Pengarah Kastam Selangor Ahmad Sarbani Mohamed dengan kes Teoh Beng Hock.

“Kedua-dua kes ini adalah berbeza dari segi faktanya. Jadi saya rasa tak boleh buat satu kesimpulan seolah-olah ada perkara yang tidak betul berlaku dalam kes ini,” katanya kepada pemberita selepas melawat Hospital Serdang sempena memperingati Hari Polis ke-204, dekat sini hari ini.

Mengulas kes Ahmad Sarbani yang ditemui mati di Tingkat Satu, pejabat Suruhanjaya Pencegahan Rasuah Malaysia (SPRM) Wilayah Persekutuan, Jalan Cochrane semalam, Ismail berkata polis perlu diberikan kepercayaan untuk menyiasat kes itu berdasarkan prosedur yang ditetapkan.

“Kita ada proses siasatan, proses pendakwaan dan perbicaraan; jadi biarlah proses ini berjalan dulu. Hormati sistem yang ada dalam negara; hormati kepada proses perundangan. Maka kebenaran akan diketahui akhirnya,” katanya.

Ismail berkata polis sedang menjalankan siasatan menyeluruh terhadap kes itu termasuk mengkaji keputusan bedah siasat yang diperolehi dari Pusat Perubatan Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

“Saya tidak boleh dedahkan lagi keputusannya (bedah siasat), tunggu dulu. Apa yang boleh saya katakan ialah bedah siasat berjalan lancar, pemeriksaan di tempat kejadian dah dibuat termasuk berjumpa dengan saksi-saksi,” katanya.

Ahmad Sarbani adalah antara pegawai kastam yang ditahan SPRM dalam Operasi 3B pada pukul 1 petang, 1 April lepas di Pejabat Kastam, Pelabuhan Utara, Pelabuhan Klang bagi membantu siasatan rasuah, aktiviti pengubahan wang haram dan pelbagai kesalahan lain, namun beliau dibebaskan dengan jaminan pada 2 April.

Beliau dikatakan hadir ke pejabat SPRM itu semalam untuk bertemu pegawai penyiasat bagi berbincang mengenai kes terhadapnya.

Beng Hock pula ditemui mati di koridor luar tingkat lima bangunan Plaza Masalam di Shah Alam, yang turut menempatkan pejabat SPRM Selangor di Tingkat 14, selepas memberi keterangan sebagai saksi siasatan di bangunan itu.

- Bernama

Submarine deal: Deputy minister ‘lied’

A French news portal reveals that it was the Malaysian government and not Amaris, which paid Perimekar 114 million euros in commission.

KUALA LUMPUR: In the latest twist to the submarines deal, a French portal reveals that it was the Malaysian government which paid 114 million euros (RM493.59 million at current value) to Perimekar Sdn Bhd, of which Abdul Razak Baginda’s wife was the majority shareholder.

Quoting sources cited by the plaintiffs in an ongoing legal suit, Rue89 said that it was not the French company Amaris which paid the commission.

This contradicts the stand taken by the Malaysian government. Deputy Defence Minister Zainal Abidin Zin had said in Parliament in 2006 that the commission was not paid by the government.

Zainal Abidin was reported by the local media as saying that the French company paid the commission for a coordination and support services project.

“We did not pay commission to anyone as claimed by Lim (Kit Siang), and the commission was paid voluntarily by France,” said Zainal Abidin, as quoted by the Star on Dec 7, 2006.

“We cannot stop them if they want to give a commission. All the expenditure by the ministry had been tabled in Parliament and audited,” he had said.

The Malaysian Defence Ministry repeated this in a statement on April 2007, as reported by the New Straits Times, that the government did not pay any commission to Perimekar for the purchase of the submarines.

The ministry added that the local company was appointed only to provide the support services and co-ordination as it was a more effective method.

The ministry paid one billion euros to Amaris for the two Scorpene and one Agosta submarines, for which Perimekar received the 11% commission from the French contractor.

However, the Rue89 report claimed that the Malaysian government paid the sum, “with the sole purpose of circumventing the OECD Conventionon (on combating bribery of foreign public officials in International Business Transactions).”

The purchase of the submarines, which also implicated Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who was the then defence minister, had been enveloped in sorts of allegations.

The brutal murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu in Malaysia was also linked to the matter, after Abdul Razak, a close aide of Najib, was charged with abetting the murder. He was later acquitted.

It was speculated that Altantuya, an interpreter who acted as intermediary for the contract, was killed for having loudly demanded her share of the commission. Both Najib and the authorities denied this.

Below is the English translation of the Rue89 report, originally titled “Sous-marins malaisiens : la piste des rétrocommissions se précise”:

Further legal action is due to be initiated in the next few days, with Suaram, a Malaysian NGO dedicated to the fight against corruption and member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), applying to join proceedings as a civil party, which already applied for a judicial review in November 2009.

Suaram would thereby have access to the details of the investigation, which is also a way to force the prosecution service to contact an examining magistrate, the last step before a trial that could last for years.

As was the case for contracts won by the DCN for submarines to Pakistan and frigates to Taiwan, there are increasing suspicions of retrocommissions to French political parties. This case concerns the sale of two Scorpène submarines and an Agosta submarine to the Malaysian government. A contract worth approximately one billion euros, that was signed in 2002 with the Malaysian DCNS (former DCN, Department of Naval Construction) and Thalès.

Model’s body blown up with explosives

Sex, murder, bribery, and suspicions (of) retrocommissions: the cocktail is explosive. It all started with the 2006 murder of Altantuya Shaaribu, a young model, interpreter and also an intermediary in this contract. Her body was found in the Malaysian jungle after being blown apart with explosives.

The young woman appears to have been assassinated for having loudly demanded her share of the commission in an arms deal, in which the other parties involved were her lover, Abdul Razak Baginda, a friend and adviser of the other person involved, Najib Tun Razak, then Malaysia’s minister of defence and now the country’s prime minister.

However, this shady affair hides another, which the French courts took note of. In December 2009, Suaram filed an initial suit against X at the Paris court for “active and passive corruption, trading of favours and abuse of corporate assets”.

The state prosecutor Jean-Claude Marin then opened a preliminary investigation.

At the time, it was suspected that a bribe of 114 million euros had been paid by the company Armaris (a subsidiary of DCNI and Thalès) to Najib and his entourage, through the company Perimekar.

This company, which was officially established to “coordinate” the sale of the three submarines, had Abdul Razak Baginda’s wife as its majority shareholder.

France in violation because of the OECD Convention

However, in the suit filed in December 2009, the plaintiffs argued, that in light of the way the company operated,

…“there is no doubt that this legal entity (Perimekar) was created with a single goal: to organise the payment of commission and distribute the amount amongst the different beneficiaries – Malaysian officials and/or Malaysian or foreign intermediaries.”

However, this contract was signed after the OECD Convention came into force in France in 2000, which punishes corruption of foreign public officials with 10 years imprisonment and a 150,000 euro fine. Following this complaint, a preliminary investigation was conducted by the prosecution: the hearings were made and searches were made at the premises of DCNS and Thalès.

Revealed in September 2008, the note books of Gérard-Philippe Menayas, former chief financial officer of the DCN, who was indicted in the Karachi Case, also confirmed the suspicion of hidden commissions. In his memorandum (PDF), Menayas mentioned the Malaysian submarine contract as follows:

“Since the entry into force of the OECD Convention regarding the fight against corruption in September 2000, only two contracts have been signed; the first with India, and the second with Malaysia in 2002. These two contracts are the result of commercial actions undertaken prior to the OECD Convention. Furthermore, they are both suspected of non-compliance with this Convention. I have evidence to support this.”

At the time of the contract’s signature, Alain Richard was the minister of defence, in Lionel Jospin’s government (Socialist Party).

Three commissions instead of one

With the forthcoming indictment, and the revival of this case, new items had been contributed to the case by the plaintiffs.

First, according to sources cited by the plaintiffs, it was not the company Armaris that paid 114 million euros to Perimekar, but rather the Malaysian government, “with the sole purpose of circumventing the OECD Convention”.

This is a true revelation, while the Malaysian (deputy) minister of defence ended up “confessing” to the payments made by foreign companies to Perimekar.

Where did this money go? Were there retrocommissions to French politicians?

Secondly, there appeared to be not one, but three commissions. In addition to that of 114 million euros, there are two further instalments:

• one paid by the DCNI to the commercial networks of Thalès, for over 30 million euros, corresponding to “commercial fees relating to the negotiation and execution of the contract”;

• the other for 2.5 million euros.

However, according to Gerard Philippe Menayas:

“Until the OECD Convention against corruption came into force in France, no contract for the sale of defence equipment to an emerging country could take place without the payment of commissions to policy-makers (euphemistically called ‘commercial fees for exports’ or ‘FCE’).”

The second commission was paid by Thalès to a recipient, who remains unknown, in order to convince the Malaysian government of the need to conduct additional work.

Finally, according to the complaint filed by the firm Bourdon, Suaram’s lawyer, the company Gifen, which was established by Jean-Marie Boivin in Malta, intervened in the negotiations “so as to facilitate the money transfers in this case”, and particularly finance the trips of Baginda and Altantuya.

The “catch” is that Jean-Marie Boivin is also cited in the Karachi case… for his role in the system for supplying slush funds to political parties.

‘Cops should screen sex video for Pakatan’

Ex-PKR MP Zulkifli Noordin wants the opposition to watch the sex tape and see if the man in the video is Anwar or not.

KUALA LUMPUR: Independent MP Zulkifli Noordin has asked the police to screen the sex video implicating PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim to opposition leaders.

The Kulim Bandar Baru MP and former PKR member said this would enable them to see if the man in the 21-minute video was really Anwar.

“The attorney-general and inspector-general of police should give permission for the full video to be shown to the leadership and a few members of Pakatan Rakyat,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby here today.

He added that the video screening should be done at a “closed-door meeting”.

Zulkifli said that a Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) would not be needed if Pakatan leaders believed that the person in the video was Anwar.

“If they don’t, then the government needs to push for an RCI. It will be best if they (Pakatan leaders) could see it (the video) in full.

“Let them analyse the video. If they watch the video with an open mind, they will come out crying,” he added.

However, the firebrand MP stopped short of saying that the man in the video was Anwar. “I didn’t say that (it was him).”

The Omega watch

The Konsensus Bebas MP also took a swipe at Anwar ‘s wife, Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, accusing her of being “irresponsible” in her position as PKR president.

“I don’t blame her. She has chosen loyalty over truth. That is her right as a wife and I cannot stop her from doing that,” he said, referring to her denial that it was Anwar in the video.

However, Zulkifli said that Wan Azizah owed it to PKR members to tell them the truth, and raised a question over Anwar’s Omega wristwatch.

During the release of the sex tape, whistleblower Shahzryl Eskay Abdullah said that he was holding Anwar’s watch. At the time, he said that Anwar left it behind after allegedly having sex.

Earlier this week, Wan Azizah admitted to holding the watch, although she refused to show it to reporters.

Challenging this claim, Zulkifli asked if she really had the watch. “If I were her, I would have shown the watch to reporters (asking for the watch). But she did no such thing,” he said.

He also said that if Wan Azizah really wanted to “redeem her family’s honour”, she would have advised her husband to hand over his DNA sample and the affected watch to the police.

“Why didn’t she do this? This is the best way to clear her family’s name,” he said.

What does Samy do as special envoy?

He is paid RM27,227.20 plus facilities and other allowances to increase involvement of Malaysian companies in infrastructure development in India and South Asia.

KUALA LUMPUR: Duties of the special envoy to India and South Asia S Samy Vellu do not duplicate that of government officials as his job is to focus only on infrastructure.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz said Samy Vellu’s task was to increase involvement of Malaysian companies in infrastructure development in India and South Asia.

“South Asian countries especially India are experiencing rapid growth. As such, there is a need for quality infrastructure to support economic development,” he said in reply to a question from Lim Lip Eng (DAP-Segambut) at the Dewan Rakyat here today.

Lim wanted to know the rationale for creating the post of special envoy with salary and allowance and complete with an office and staff.

Nazri said the special envoy’s job was to identify South Asia infrastructure projects suitable for Malaysian companies.

The special envoy’s role was to create business opportunities for Malaysian companies in accordance with local laws and regulations.

He said the special envoy is paid salary and allowance of RM27,227.20 plus facilities and other allowances.

The special envoy’s office has a staff of six and located at Level 25 of Plaza Sentral, KL Sentral.


Samy Vellu: Chithirakala drafted supporting letter to Najib

The former MIC president says he signed the letter not for the benefit of Chithirakala's family.

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Maju Institute of Educational Development (MIED) chief executive officer P Chithirakala drafted a supporting letter to then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak over an application for the National Service Camp project, the Sessions Court here was told today.

Former MIC president S Samy Vellu said the letter, dated July 28, 2006, was signed by him on a works ministry letter-head, based on trust on Chithirakala after she had convinced him that Silver Line Services Sdn Bhd was 100% Indian-owned company and the community could benefit from it.

“I signed the supporting letter for the purpose of the Indian community and not for the benefit of Chithirakala’s family,” he said when cross-examined by defence counsel Salehuddin Saidin.

Nevertheless, Samy Vellu agreed with Salehuddin’s contention that he, as a senior minister then, should have been more careful in knowing the contents of the letter since it involved the ministry’s official letter-head.

“I signed it since I trusted her and believed she would not put me in trouble,” said Samy Vellu who acknowledged earlier in court that during his entire political career, he had never testified in court.

To another question, he said he was unaware of the nature of Silver Line Services.

Denying he had sent the letter to Najib since his son, Vell Paari, had shown an interest in that particular company, he said: “It’s an abundance of lies”.

Samy Vellu, who is also MIED chairman, told the court that Chithirakala was first appointed as MIED accountant in 1995 before being promoted as group financial controller. She left MIED in 2002 and was re-hired, two years later, as CEO (chief executive officer).

He said, as CEO, Chithirakala was given power to decide on the amount of payments to creditors of the education arm of the party and also carried out the task as secretary, including convening meetings of the MIED trustee board.

“She failed to call for meetings for nearly four years and never submitted financial accounts before her sacking in early 2010,” he said.

On May 11, last year, Chithirakala, 40, claimed trial to cheating former MIC treasurer-general M Mahalingam, 74, a director and signatory of MIED Sdn Bhd, by inducing him to sign three cheques for RM1 million, RM1 million and RM2 million, respectively, in 2007.

‘Good friends become bad friends’

During the trial, even though Samy Vellu disagreed with Salehuddin’s contention that Chitirakala was re-hired as CEO because he trusted her capability, he said at that point, they needed someone with experience, not only to manage MIED but also another group of companies.

On the appointment letter dated May 23, 2004 tendered by the defence, Samy Vellu agreed with Salehuddin that Chithirakala was paid a monthly salary of RM10,000, an increament of RM2,000 after confirmation of six months.

She was also paid an increment of RM2,000, upon one year of service and annual increment of 10%.

Chithirakala was also paid transport allowance of RM2,300, living allowance of RM5,000 yearly, RM5,000 entertainment allowance (yearly), RM15,000 holiday allowance (yearly) and travel in business class on all travels related to MIED.

Samy Vellu also agreed with Salehuddin that other MIED directors enjoyed similar allowances.

On another issue raised by Salehuddin over the affidavit filed by Mahalingam in a related civil action that Samy Vellu never consulted the board affairs related to MIED, especially on awarding contracts of AIMST medical college, he categorically denied it.

“It’s a collective decision where board of trustees normally commenced (their meeting) each month, where most of the MIC CWC members were trustees and contracts awarded were based on the studies and recommendation of consultancy firms hired by us,” he explained.

Questioned further by Salehuddin why Mahalingam, whom he described as “good friend”, said something very damaging against him, Samy Vellu said: “Good friends become bad friends when you remove them from their position”, in reference to Mahalingam’s removal as treasurer-general, three years ago.

The hearing before Judge Che Mohamad Zulkifly Jusoh continues tomorrow where Samy Vellu is expected to be cross-examined further before the prosecution calls its second witness, (Samy Vellu’s son) Vell Paari.

Salehuddin was assisted by counsel J Chandra, while the prosecution comprised deputy public prosecutors Kevin Morais and Wong Pooi Yoke.

- Bernama

What is the punishment for lying to Parliament?

“We did not pay commission to anyone as claimed by Lim, and the commission was paid voluntarily by France,” said Zainal Abidin. The Lim he was referring to is Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang. "We cannot stop them if they want to give a commission. All the expenditure by the ministry had been tabled in Parliament and audited,” he said.
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Commission paid by French firm, not Government
(The Star, 7 December 2006) -- A French company paid a commission to a local firm awarded a Government contract worth 114 million euro (RM547mil at present exchange rate) for a coordination and support services project, Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Zainal Abidin Zin said.
“We did not pay commission to anyone as claimed by Lim, and the commission was paid voluntarily by France,” said Zainal Abidin. The Lim he was referring to is Opposition Leader Lim Kit Siang.
“We cannot stop them if they want to give a commission.
“All the expenditure by the ministry had been tabled in Parliament and audited,” he said.
On the purchase of submarines, Zainal Abidin said they cost 996 million euro (RM4.78bil) and were due to arrive in 2009 and 2010.
Earlier, Lim claimed that a company owned by Abdul Razak Baginda was involved in helping the ministry buy two submarines from a French-Spanish joint venture.
He claimed that Abdul Ra-zak was paid a US$100mil (RM360mil) commission to negotiate the deal between Malaysia and the company.
No commission paid, says Mindef

(New Straits Times, 27 April 2007) -- The government has denied giving political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda a RM540 million commission for the purchase of two Scorpene submarines worth US$972 million (RM3.68 billion) for the navy.

It said no commission was paid to Perimekar Sdn Bhd for the purchase of the submarines two years ago, as alleged by certain quarters.

It said the submarines were procured through direct negotiations in accordance with the government’s procurement procedures.

Negotiations were carried out with the manufacturers Armaris (French) and Navantia (Spanish), which had obtained the approval of their governments.

Perimekar was given a contract to provide support services and co-ordination for six years, said the Defence Ministry yesterday in a statement. It said the contract was worth E114.96 million (RM534.75 million) and was paid in stages according to the project status.

“The contract worth E114.96 million was not a nett profit for Perimekar as the amount covered the direct costs payments for the support services scope and also the indirect costs for the co-ordination services as stipulated in the contract.”

It also said Perimekar was owned by the Armed Forces Superannuation Fund Board, Boustead Holdings Bhd and K.S. Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd.

The statement said the Defence Ministry had decided to appoint a local company to provide the support services and co-ordination as it was a more effective method.

The statement also touched on the purchase of the 18 Sukhoi SU-30 MKM fighter jets worth US$900 million by the government in 2003.

The Defence Ministry said the purchase of the jets did not involve the government as it was a business deal between Russian company Rosoboron-export and a local company.

“The purchase of the jets was done in a direct negotiation deal with Rosoboronexport. This direct negotiation is in tandem with the policy of Russia and other countries which have a policy to monitor the sale of military equipment produced by companies in their countries so that the military equipment will not fall into the wrong hands,” it said.

Based on that scenario, all contracts for the purchase of defence equipment are signed by a representative from the Defence Ministry, on behalf of the government, with principal companies from the foreign countries.

This was also true in the purchase of the Sukhoi jets. The purchase was in accordance with the country’s Defence Equipment Procurement Contract Procedures.

The statement was issued to counter allegations by certain political parties about the purchase of the submarines and jets.

“The allegations have brought much confusion and misunderstanding to the people. The allegations have also led to a negative perception and suspicion that the purchase of the equipment for the use of the armed forces was done without following the proper procedures, was not transparent and was wasteful.

“The ministry hopes that all parties will understand the situation and no longer issue confusing statements that could paint a negative perception towards the armed forces, the Defence Ministry and the government.”
Commission paid was under the guise of support and coordination services
RM534.8 million commission for Scorpene submarines – why Perimekar?

(By Richard Teo, Lim Kit Siang's Blog) -- The pathetic explanation given by the Defence Ministry regarding the purchase of the Sukhoi SU30MKM fighter and Scorpene submarines raises more suspicions than answers.

The public is not concerned with the laborious explanation regarding the negotiations carried out by the Defence Ministry neither are they interested in the approval levels and the checks by the technical and price committee.

What the tax paying public is interested is why was the contract awarded to Perimekar to prepare support and coordination services for six years. The contract value was 114.96 mil euros(RM534.8 mil) to be paid in stages according to the level of progress of the project.

What kind of support and coordination services that Perimekar can provide that the Defence Ministry is not capable of providing?

The pertinent question that begs to be answered is why was the contract awarded to Perimekar. In view of the substantial amount involved (RM534.8 mil) was there any open tender for the contract?

Perimekar for all intent and purpose is jointly owned by Lembaga Tabung Angkatan Tentera, Boustead Holdings Bhd and KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd.

The ownership of Perimekar reveals one interesting fact. None of them appears to have any expertise in the area of Defence equipment. So how could they provide any support and coordination services to the Defence Ministry?

The revelation of the owner of KS Ombak Laut Sdn Bhd is even more fascinating.A political analyst by profession and a close associate of DPM, Najib, Razak Baginda owns Ombak Laut.

The public deserves an answer why a contract of such proportion (RM534.8 mil) was awarded to a political analyst for a job that could easily be monitored by the Defence Ministry.

The nature of the contract albeit under the guise of support and coordination services is nothing but a concealment of commission paid to parties or party closely associated to the Defence Ministry.

Malaysia is No Egypt - Raja Petra Kamarudin

Japan: Relevant Again

Sukagawa Factory Building collapse
Quake underscores the country’s global importance

There was a time when it was easy to discount Japan’s importance to the world economy. The country was supposedly mired in two-decades of stagnation, it had surrendered its second-place as a global economic power to China where all of the action seemed to be taking place. Japan was sliding into irrelevance.

No longer. The impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake last month and the continuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant complex has, if nothing else, exposed the important position that Japan still holds in the world economy, especially in making key components for cars, telephones and electronic products of all kinds.

"Japan is more global than we thought," said Eisuke Sakakibara, a former vice minister for international affairs at the Finance Ministry and a well-known commentator on finances, which earned him the nickname "Mr. Yen."

Most people in the US, for example, have probably learned that foreign-owned and domestic automakers have had to curtail production until the supply chain of critical parts could resume normal operations. But there are many crucial industries in which Japan has monopolies or near monopolies which will disrupt global production for months. Take Xirallic.

Never heard of Xirallic? It is a paint pigment that gives automobiles, especially expensive upmarket brands, their shiny, metallic look. This product is made by the German chemical company Merck in one factory, which happens to be in the town of Onahama, about 40 km from the damaged Fukushima plants.

The company estimates that it will be out of commission for at least six to eight weeks, and that assumes that the government doesn’t have to extend the radiation evacuation zone, now set at 30 km (18.6 miles), another 10 kilometers. Unusually high radiation levels have been observed (though later declining) in at least one other town 40 km away from the stricken plants.

Well, maybe the automobile industry can manage with cars with a duller finish, but can the high tech industries do without semiconductor-grade silicon wafers? Most are made by two Japan-based companies, the Shin-Etsu Chemical Co and Sumco Phoenix Company.

Shin-Etsu has two factories, one of which is located in Nishio village, Fukushima prefecture. The other is in Ibaraki prefecture north of Tokyo. The latter was not badly damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, but is in the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Service area and thus subject to rolling power blackouts. It is uncertain when either will restart.

The Sumco company is better off as most of its plants are in the undamaged Kansai region west and south of the capital. It also has a plant in Taiwan, which after the quake issued a message saying it would make an "all out effort" to meet worldwide demand for the wafers without raising prices. Even so prices for silicon wafers were double that of 2008.

Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. manufactures roughly half of world’s supply of hydrogen peroxide, used in making of many paper products. Its Kashima plant was knocked out by the earthquake. It has another in the Tokyo metropolitan area, but its operation is severely impacted by the blackouts.

In a way, the situation is similar last summer’s big blowup with China over the disputed Senkaku islands, when Beijing allegedly threatened to embargo rare earths. The world woke up to the fact that China controlled more than 90 percent of these minerals that most people never heard of but are crucial to making of modern electronic products and televisions.

Something similar is happening now. During Japan’s so-called stagnant years, its manufacturing companies moved much of their routine assembly to Southeast Asia and the US, but during those years it kept an iron grip on its monopolies of dozens of critical but little-known (except to affected industries) components.

The northeast coast of Japan, known locally as the Tohoku region, is not usually considered a major manufacturing center. The quake and tsunami-impacted prefectures account for only about 6-7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

That is not the case with Tokyo, which alone has a GDP roughly equal to Canada or Italy. There was little serious damage from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in the capital itself, but the impact of rolling blackouts caused by dire electricity shortages is an increasing factor in pessimism over the economic recovery.

"The planned blackout is as bad as the earthquake itself," says Kyohei Morita, chief economist for Barclays Capital Japan Ltd. He estimated that the blackouts alone will shave as much as one percent off of Japan’s projected GDP growth.

The quake/tsunami is estimated to have cut about 12 percent off Japan’s electric power production. More importantly, it has cut nearly a quarter off the power for the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), which has a monopoly of power production and distribution in the capital and its environs, serving about 45 million people in total.

Faced with a 10 million kilowatt shortfall, Tepco announced planned rolling blackouts within days of the earthquake. The utility owns 17 nuclear reactors, including the four badly damaged Fukushima reactors with 13 out of service. That doesn’t count the several coal and gas-fired plants that were also damaged in the quake.

Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata last week announced that Tepco planned to scrap Units 1-4. No big surprise here. That has been foreordained from the first day of the crisis. Surprisingly, he made no mention of Units 5-6. Maybe some at Tepco think they will reopen. But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano flatly stated they will be closed. Tepco will be lucky to keep the four other Fukushima Daini Plants currently in cold shutdown.

Tepco’s more immediate financial situation was eased temporarily at the end of March with a ¥1.86 trillion working capital loan secured through Japan’s seven largest banks. Combined with the approximately ¥400 billion cash on hand, it will see the company through the immediate crisis. But it faces huge problems.

Even as Tepco’s workers struggle to keep stricken reactor cores cool, the company is working feverishly to get more thermal power plants in operation to meet summer air conditioning demand. Last summer was the hottest in Japan on record; officials are hoping that things cool down this summer, in more ways than one.

The bigotry of forbidding the use of an English word in the name of Islam

By N H Chan

In the Malaysian Insider, Tuesday, 29 March 2011, I find this article;

Mufti says Islamic law bars release of Alkitab
By Syed Mu’raz Syed Putra

Selangor Mufti Datuk Tamyes Abd Wahid said the crux of the controversy is over the use of the word “Allah” in the bible, which is forbidden to religions other than Islam, as written in 1988 state enactment on religious propagation.

I am still of the view that they [the distribution of the Bahasa Malaysia Bibles] should be blocked, as this translation that contains the translation of the word “God” to “Allah” is dangerous and confusing, especially to the young,” the senior Islamic cleric told The Malaysian Insider yesterday.

He explained that young Muslims who had shallow knowledge of religion and faith would be confused by the use of the word “Allah” by Christians, which to them meant “Allah has a son … that Allah has a wife … God is a father”.

“Certainly it is not fitting for the government to allow the Alkitab to be released, not because it is in Bahasa Malaysia but because the use of the word [“Allah”] contained inside that could twist the faith of Muslims and we do not want this to happen,” Tamyes said.

Make no bones about it anyone can see through this façade of imagined controversy. All of us know that there is no controversy at all over the use of the word ‘Allah’. What Tamyes meant was ‘Allah’ is a forbidden word to all of us who are not Muslims. Only Muslims can use this word ‘Allah’. Infidels like the rest of us are forbidden to use the word. To these narrow-minded Muslims an ‘infidel’ is a person who has no religion, like me, or whose religion is not Islam. To them even Jews and Christians are infidels.

But the word ‘God’ in the English Bible when translated to Bahasa Malaysia is ‘Allah’ who is God in the biblical sense or meaning. The reason why Christians are adamant and insistent that the word ‘Allah’ should be used in the National Language Bible is because Christians worship the same God that Muslims also worship irrespective of whether they worship in English or in Bahasa Malaysia. So what is wrong with Christians calling their God in English ‘God’ and the same God in Bahasa Malaysia ‘Allah’?

It is not the fault of Christians that the English word ‘Allah’ is spelt in exactly the same way in Bahasa Malaysia. When Bahasa Malaya, later Malaysia, came into existence the powers that be chose to use Roman characters – the alphabet used for writing Latin, English, and most European languages – for writing in the new Bahasa Malaya. Before the creation of this National Language, if I am not mistaken, the Malay language was written in Javanese. However it cannot be denied that the English language had been using the Roman alphabet since time immemorial – ever since the Roman Empire had extended to England up to Hadrian’s Wall. Our National language using the Roman alphabet was only created recently; in mid 1950s. They have also copied a lot of English words into the new language by treating the plagiarized English words as Bahasa Malaysia words. That being the case, they, therefore, have no right whatsoever to say that the English spelling of ‘Allah’ must not be spelt the same way in Bahasa Malaysia. Surely, it cannot be right for copycats to assume proprietorship over an English word which had existed in the English language since the sixteenth century? Shame on them!

If you have read my previous article about the desecration of the Bible especially the one in the Malaysian Insider, you will see this comment:

Please let me clarify an important point brought up by the writer. In Arabic, the word Allah is spelled ‘Alif Lam Lam Hah’ and is pronounced as Allah! and not Alilah as mentioned by the writer. I would suggest that the writer clarify this with an Arab speaking academic. Thank you.

So I was wrong. ‘Allah’ was pronounced correctly by the English in the sixteenth century. But thanks to Amin, now we know the word is spelt in Arabic ‘Alif Lam Lam Hah’ and is pronounced ‘Allah’.

If ‘Allah’ is a forbidden word, whose fault is it then? Instead of copying from the English word ‘Allah’ the people who invented words for Bahasa Malaysia should have spelt ‘Allah’ correctly in Arabic. If they have done that, there would be no need to desecrate the Bahasa Malaysia Bible.

In any English dictionary the word ‘God’ with a capital G depicts the Christian God and the word ‘Allah’ in English means ‘a Muslim name for God’. But the God of the Muslims is the same God as the God of the Christians and the Jews whose God was the God of Abraham. In my book How to Judge the Judges, at pages xxx, xxxi, this is what it says:

I have recounted the … story of Abraham and his two sons from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible. The story of Isaac and his descendants are told in the Old Testament. But the history of the descendants of Ishmael, the elder brother of Isaac, is not found in the Bible but we know from the Bible that God took care of him as he grew up and he will be made into a great nation. We can safely assume that the God of Abraham who was also the God of Ishmael and Isaac also gave the same commands to them. So that whatever precepts that might apply to the descendants of Isaac will, mutatis mutandis, apply to the descendants of Ishmael. So now we know that the Arabs and the Jews were descended from Ishmael and Isaac whose father was Abraham (Ibrahim); and the God of them is the same God. And God has marked them as His people by circumcision. It is therefore not surprising that the punishment of stoning to death for adultery and apostasy is found in the Bible and not in the Quran.

Before the time of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, the God of the Hebrew people, as depicted in the Old Testament, was a God of wrath who would severely punish those who have sinned against Him. But since Jesus Christ and 600 years later, from the Prophet Mohammed, God has been depicted as a God of compassion. But I can perceive a difference between the Old Testament on the one hand and the New Testament and the Quran on the other hand. The God of Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac are confined to their descendants – to the Arabs and the Jews. But, after Jesus Christ, the New Testament and Christianity and after the Prophet Mohammed, the Quran and Islam, God as depicted therein is for the rest of the World.

However, if you are not a Christian, you cannot call your god ‘Allah’ because you do not worship the same God as the Muslims and Christians.

Therefore the only perceived disagreement between the Christians and the Muslims in Malaysia is the misunderstanding on the meaning of the Trinity in Christianity. So it is now necessary for me to explain the Trinity in Christianity to those Muslims who think Christians worship three gods. Like the Muslims, I am not a Christian yet I can understand the faith of the Christians because, unlike the narrow-minded critics of Christianity, I took the trouble to find out about the religion. Actually, the Trinity is explained in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Trinity or the Holy Trinity

To understand what the Trinity in Christianity means we must go back to the time of Jesus Christ and the early Christians. In Landmarks in the Law, p 314, it says:

The New Testament is not accepted by the Jews. It is rejected by them. It has even greater influence than the Old Testament. It contains the life and teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ who was a Jew and of all the 12 apostles who were Jews and the letters of Paul who was a Jew.

Jesus Christ, his apostles and the early Christians because they were Jews lived in an era where it was very dangerous for a Jew to be a heretic against Judaism the religion of the Jews which was based on the Old Testament. Jesus Christ was advancing the belief that God is a Deity of love and compassion which is a belief that is contrary to the Jews’ belief in the Old Testament. Heresy at that time was punishable with death. Now you can understand why Jesus Christ, his disciples the 12 Apostles had tended to euphemism in teaching their belief to the multitude.

I have written for Loyarburok this piece called A glossary of the terminology in ‘But Allah is a word in the English Dictionary’. This is what it says:

The Trinity or the Holy Trinity

[A reader of this article] remarked that Muslims worship only one God and that is Allah. But Christians worship the Trinity – three persons.

If you know the English language well, you should know that the Holy Trinity is a euphemism for God. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of the Trinity as ‘(in Christian belief) the three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) that make up God’. The phrase ‘the three persons’ is used figuratively as a metaphor for God. God came to be identified euphemistically as the Father. Jesus Christ was identified euphemistically as the Son. And the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is God who came to be identified euphemistically as ‘God as a spirit that is active in the world’: see the Oxford English Dictionary, Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost).

Why is that so? Is there a reason for referring to the Deity euphemistically? In the book A Dictionary of Euphemisms by Neaman & Silver, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1983, it says in its Introduction, pages 1, 2:

The subject of the earliest euphemism was undoubtedly religious. Gods, whether benign or malevolent, were treated with respect amounting to terror. Since the names of gods were considered identical with them, to speak a name was to evoke the divinity whose power then had to be confronted. Such dangerous practices were reserved for priests … Even they were often forbidden to utter the real names of the powers. Consequently, priests devised indirect forms of reference to calm the spirit or avert the wrath of a deity.

Gods could be referred to by their attributes (the Thunderer), by their symbols or domains (the Rock), by their titles (the Lord) …

In another book, The State of the Language by Philip Howard, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1984, it says this, page 103:

… the Hebrew word for God, YHVH, still never spoken or written by a pious Jew, but vowelled by the rest of us as Jehovah or Yahweh. The English, a notoriously godly, and profane, and God-bothering people, have tended to euphemism in religious matters. The French, who never let their religion affect the rest of their life, have no embarrassment about saying Mon Dieu! Puritanism and euphemism are strong in the English, so we have devised hundreds of ways of mentioning the awful word without saying it.

[The] euphemisms for getting round naming Him Who Shall Be Nameless included such attributive sobriquets as the Almighty, the Creator, the Eternal, or the Deity. Jesus came to be identified euphemistically as the Redeemer, the Saviour, the Anointed, the Paschal Lamb, and so on.

At page 106:

Euphemism about naming names survives from the beginning of speech, when to know something’s name was to have magical power over it. We are still superstitious about naming God and the Devil, the Queen and Madam Chairperson.

Taib's Vision To See Sarawak Become Malaysia's Richest State

KUCHING, April 7 (Bernama) -- Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, who is spearheading the Barisan Nasional (BN) for the last time in the state election, spoke of his vision of Sarawak becoming Malaysia's richest state after he steps down.

Taib said it is his dream to see all the races in the state prosper and urged them to return the Barisan Nasional to power again in the April 16 poll.

"I call upon you to use your right and privilege wisely and judiciously," Taib said in a foreword to the BN manifesto which he launched in Sibu, Thursday.

Addressing the people as "My Beloved Sarawakians, Salam 1Malaysia", Taib said in governing the state, he had applied the best of his abilities and knowledge to ensure Sarawak had a well-crafted development plan.

"There is no development without committed and experienced leadership that fully understands the needs, concerns and aspirations of the people," he said.

Taib said the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) would usher the state into a high income economy.

"My dream is to see all races prosper. The Chinese, the Malays, Melanaus, Ibans, Bidayuhs and the Orang Ulu - all of us to have a fair share of the prosperity of our country.

"I believe we will achieve all of this, as long as we all preserve this unity among us," he added.

Taib, who turns 75 next month, said leadership played a vital part in determining the development and progress of the state.

"With God's grace, and with the team that will come after me, Sarawak will become the richest state in the whole of Malaysia. Make full use of, and preserve our form of leadership, so that we will be able to reach a level of success that will make Sarawak the perfect example of planned development," he said.