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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Aceh Teen’s Suicide Brings Shariah Scrutiny

This May 2012 file photo shows an officer with Wilayathul Hisbah, the Aceh Sharia police, giving directives to a number of women arrested during a raid in Banda Aceh targeting women who wear form-fitting outfits. (Antara Photo/Irwansyah Putra) 
 This May 2012 file photo shows an officer with Wilayathul Hisbah, the Aceh Sharia police, giving directives to a number of women arrested during a raid in Banda Aceh targeting women who wear form-fitting outfits. (Antara Photo/Irwansyah Putra)  

The implementation of Islamic Shariah law in Aceh has again drawn criticism by those who say its implementation is heavily discriminatory toward women.

Sparking the latest outcry, a 16-year-old girl reportedly committed suicide this week after she was accused of prostitution and arrested by Aceh’s Shariah police.

The girl and her friends were watching a concert when she and one of her friends were arrested by officers of the Shariah police, known locally as Wilayatul Hisbah, in Langsa, Aceh, on Monday. The officers accused the two of being prostitutes based on how they were dressed.

“The arrest process, which is done publicly, will certainly make people feel humiliated,” Feri Kusuma of the Commission on Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said at a press conference on Thursday.

He added that women who failed to wear conservative Islamic garb in Aceh were often arrested violently, with that violence creating a culture of fear.

Dian Novita, of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), acknowledged Aceh’s special autonomy status, but urged the provincial administration to comply with Indonesian law, especially in matters related to human rights.

Under the morality-based Shariah code, those deemed in violation of Shariah law are often humiliated during the arrest process.

Komnas Perempuan said the suicide case should serve as a wake-up call for the Aceh administration to review its handling of those detained for Shariah violations, especially those cases involving minors.

“There are many cases of people wrongly arrested for how they dress, accused of prostitution. The process of [arrest] is incorrect, given there is no room for a child to communicate with the parents,” Dian said.

Kontras called on officials to revise the policy to prevent future tragedies.

“We have to continue gaining public support for the push for the policy to be revised in Aceh,” Feri said.

Kontras also criticized the broader implementation of Shariah law, which the commission said was only applied to civilians while police and military officers in violation of its dictates were only processed based on the Criminal Code.

Egypt Islamist preachers say film makers deserve death

(Reuters) - Two Islamist preachers in Egypt told worshippers on Friday that those who made a movie deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammad deserved to die under sharia (Islamic law) but they urged protesters not to take their anger out on diplomats or others.

Although the comments could be taken by some ordinary Muslims as an edict to take the law into their hands, many Egyptians believe that only the prestigious Al-Azhar mosque and seat of learning has the authority to issue decrees.

An Al-Azhar preacher on Friday said protests should be peaceful, a state newspaper reported.

Many Muslims deem it blasphemous to depict the Prophet in any form, and have been enraged by a movie made in the United States that portrayed him as a womanizer and religious fake, and protesters have stormed U.S. diplomatic missions in several Muslim countries.

"Those who produced the movie should be tried and killed," Mahmoud Shabaan, a sheikh from the ultra-orthodox Salafi school, told worshippers at Cairo's al-Nour mosque, citing actions by the Prophet's followers and Islamic teachings.

He also said the movie-makers should have a fair and urgent trial, adding that "nothing less than death was appropriate" for those who had insulted the Prophet.

At least one of the promoters of the film is an Egyptian Coptic Christian now living in America. Comments suggesting targeting those behind the film could stoke already heightened tensions between Muslims and Christians, who account for about 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people.

Shabaan also said embassies and diplomats, as well as police, should not be attacked. "We should express our anger, but in a peaceful way that is governed by sharia," he said, after demonstrators scaled the U.S. embassy walls in Cairo this week, battling with police nearby since then.

MURSI CONDEMNS VIOLENCE

Those remarks echoed comments by Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, which he repeated again on a trip to Italy on Friday.

Mursi condemned insults to the Prophet but called for peaceful protests, condemned violence and said Egypt was committed to protecting embassies. He also condemned the killing of the U.S. ambassador in an attack by gunmen in Libya.

In Alexandria, Sheikh Ahmed Mahlawi said: "I demand retribution for those who insult the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, and spilling their blood is a legal duty."

Youssry Hammad, spokesman for the Salafi al-Nour party, which secured a big bloc of seats in Egypt's parliamentary election, said the group rejected insults to the Prophet but also rejected any calls to kill the film producers.

"We also refuse any attacks on embassies," he said.

At Al-Azhar in Cairo, preacher Mohamed al-Mukhtar al-Mahdi condemned the film but told protesters not to use violence and said foreigners in Egypt should not be targeted and should be kept safe, the website of Al-Ahram newspaper said.

He also said companies that funded the movie should be tracked down and boycotted. Such calls for a boycott were echoed by others, with some calling for boycotting Western or Jewish products, an apparent response to some initial reports that Jewish donors had backed the film.

Jewish groups have condemned reports that they supported the film, CNN reported on its website.

The Salafi Call, an influential group of ultra-orthodox Salafi Muslim sheikhs, had on Wednesday called for suspending cooperation between the Egyptian and U.S. government until America "takes practical measures to stop this farce."

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration said it had nothing to do with the film and condemned it, but that it could not curb the constitutional right to free speech in the United States even if some views expressed might be offensive.

(Reporting by Tamim Elyan, Mohamed Abdellah and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

NGOs: Greater influence, more responsibility

NGOs are now coming under increasing scrutiny because of their growing influence in their role as a watchdog.
COMMENT

By Khoo Ying Hooi

With the rising influence and visibility of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram) in the country, their activities have come under increasing scrutiny.

Questions have been raised about their representation, financial management and governance. This in turn has led to growing pressure on NGOs to improve their accountability and effectiveness.

Ever since the involvement of Suaram in the Scorpene scandal, it has been showered with criticisms particularly from politicians regarding its legitimacy and how much it really represents the interest of its constituents.

Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob claimed that there appears to be a “high level of suspicions” in the accounts of Suaram, which registered under the name of Suara Inisiatif Sdn Bhd.

NGOs in every corner of the world are subjected to greater scrutiny due to their greater influence.

In India, for example, the NGOs there have recently been hit by a new regulation issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs which requires mandatory registration of any overseas funding that they receive. Among those who are affected are Save the Children and Rotary Club of Bombay.

As a result, more than 4,000 organisations in India had their registration cancelled for violations under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. The law basically aims to regulate flow of foreign funds into NGOs with the intention of preventing any possible use of these funds for activities deemed detrimental to national interest.

In Russia, too, its Parliament last July passed a controversial law describing all those NGOs that received foreign funds as “foreign agents”.

The move by the Russian government has angered the people and sparked protests by numerous leading human rights organisations including For Human Rights Movement.

Self-regulation for NGO sector

NGOs are often seen as a threat to national interest as they are an important apparatus for checking the wrongdoings of the government and as an important advocate for marginalised people.

Most NGOs have their own procedural accountability. However, this also depends on the type of organisation, their composition and forms of funding.

Non-profit accounting is deemed as complicated because fundamentally, the operational method of NGOs is not the same as the government and companies. Its financial management is mainly focused on utilising money, rather than making it.

On the one hand, they have to account for the use of financial resources to donors. On the other, they are also responsible to their beneficiaries – the target group that they are supposed to assist.

In the old days, good values are basically sufficient to prove an NGO’s legitimacy, but with the increasing importance of the NGO sector in their role as a watchdog, there is now increasing pressure on NGOs to also demonstrate to whom and for what they are accountable.

So how can NGOs respond to these challenges?

One way of doing so is through self-regulation. Self-regulation is when NGOs institute their own regulatory mechanisms and supported by several other organisations in the same sector. It is one of the methods for the NGOs to set standards of conduct that they must practise in order to show legitimacy, effectiveness and responsible control of resources.

Make information accessible

There are various benefits of self-regulation. It not only can help strengthen the internal structures and operations of the organisation, it can also help in building public trust. By making public commitments to clear principles, norms and standards, it allows the sector to indicate trustworthiness and professionalism. Most importantly, it can help protect the sector from inappropriate government intervention.

Whenever the relations of both parties – the state and the NGOs – become tense, the government often uses the excuse that the latter’s accountability is inadequate to further dent their credibility, as what is happening to Suaram.

However, working within the framework of self-regulation, the NGO sector can speak with one voice through their collective efforts and thereby prevent more restricted forms of government regulation from being introduced.

Given the increasing influence of Suaram, its legitimacy is not likely to fade any time soon.

NGOs should routinely publish their strategic plans, annual reports, governance and management arrangements, and also financial information.

The process of developing uniformed standards is a long-term effort. So, in the meantime, in order to clear the air, perhaps the easiest way for Suaram is to make information easily accessible to all parties through the channels mentioned.

The current situation will likely be unfavourable to Malaysian NGOs if there is no breakthrough in relations between the government and the NGOs.

The writer is an academic staff in Universiti Malaya and a PhD candidate in the University Putra Malaysia. She is a FMT columnist and can be contacted at yinghooi@gmail.com.

Anti-American fury sweeps Middle East over film


(AFP) - Fury about a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad tore across the Middle East yesterday with protesters attacking US embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

The obscure California-made film triggered an attack on the US consulate in Libya’s city of Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

In Tunis, at least five people were wounded by police gunfire near the US embassy, and a Reuters reporter said a big fire had erupted within the embassy compound. Protesters had earlier leapt over the compound wall.

Witnesses said Sudanese police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters to stop them approaching the US embassy outside Khartoum, but some jumped over the wall. A Reuters reporter heard gunfire from the scene.

The wave of indignation and rage over the film, which portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a womanizer and a fool, coincided with Pope Benedict’s arrival in Lebanon for a three-day visit.

The protests present Obama with a new foreign policy crisis less than two months before seeking re-election and tests Washington’s relations with democratic governments it helped to power across the Arab world.

It also emerged that Libya had closed its air space over Benghazi airport temporarily because of heavy anti-aircraft fire by Islamists aiming at U.S. reconnaissance drones flying over the city, after President Barack Obama vowed to bring the ambassador’s killers to justice.

The closure of the airport prompted speculation that the United States was deploying special forces in preparation for an attack against the militants who were involved in the attack.

A Libyan official said the spy planes flew over the embassy compound and the city, taking photos and inspecting locations of radical militant groups who are believed to have planned and staged the attack on the US consulate.

There were protests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Marines to Yemen

The Pentagon said it had sent a “fast” platoon of Marines to Yemen to bolster US embassy security after clashes in Sanaa.

US embassies were the main target of anger and protest but most embassy staff were not at work because Friday is the Muslim weekend across the Arab World.

The frenzy erupted after traditional Muslim Friday prayers. Fury over the film has been stoked by Internet video footage, social networks, preachers and word-of-mouth.

Protesters clashed with police near the US embassy in Cairo. Two Islamist preachers in Egypt told worshippers that those who made the movie deserved to die under sharia (Islamic law) but they urged protesters not to take their anger out on diplomats or others.

Sudanese demonstrators broke into the German embassy in Khartoum and hoisted an Islamic flag, while one person was killed in protests in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Police in the Sudanese capital had fired tear gas to try to disperse 5,000 protesters who had ringed the German embassy and nearby British mission. A Reuters witness said police stood by as a crowd forced its way into Germany’s mission.

Demonstrators hoisted a black Islamic flag saying in white letters “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his Prophet”. They smashed windows, cameras and furniture in the building and then started a fire.

Staff at Germany’s embassy were safe “for the moment”, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin. He also told Khartoum’s envoy to Berlin that Sudan must protect diplomatic missions on its soil.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry had criticized Germany for allowing a protest last month by right-wing activists carrying caricatures of the Prophet and for Chancellor Angela Merkel giving an award in 2010 to a Danish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet in 2005 triggering protests across the Islamic world.

Bashir under pressure

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under pressure from Islamists who feel the government has given up the religious values of his 1989 Islamist coup.

The official body of Sudan’s Islamic scholars called for the faithful to defend the Prophet peacefully, but at a meeting of Islamists, some leaders had said they would march on the German and US embassies and demanded the ambassadors be expelled.

The Foreign Ministry said in its statement: “The German chancellor unfortunately welcomed this offence to Islam in a clear violation of all meanings of religious co-existence and tolerance between religions.”

Sudan used to host prominent militants in the 1990s, such as Osama bin Laden, but the government has sought to distance itself from radicals to improve ties with the West.

A Lebanese security source said a man was killed in Tripoli as protesters tried to storm a government building.

Earlier, a US fast food restaurant was set alight. Twelve members of the security forces were wounded by stones thrown by protesters, the source said.

Protesters also clashed with police in Yemen, where one person died and 15 were injured on Thursday when the US embassy compound was stormed.

US and other Western embassies in other Muslim countries had tightened security, fearing anger at the film may prompt attacks on their compounds after the weekly worship.

Obama has promised to bring those responsible for the Benghazi attack to justice, and the United States also sent warships towards Libya which one official said was to give flexibility for any future action.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington had nothing to do with the crudely made film posted on the Internet, which she called “disgusting and reprehensible”, and the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff called a Christian pastor in Florida to ask him to withdraw his support for it.

Palestinians staged demonstrations in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli police, some on horseback, used stun grenades and made a number of arrests outside Jerusalem’s Old City as a few dozen demonstrators tried to march on the nearby US consulate.

“Israeli police prevented an illegal demonstration from reaching the US consulate in East Jerusalem and used stun grenades after rocks and bottles were thrown at them,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

In Nablus, in the northern West Bank, several hundred people protested and burned an American flag, witnesses said.

American flags burned

The largest protests were in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Islamist group Hamas, with at least 30,000 Palestinians staging rallies across the coastal territory.

Some 25,000 took to the streets of Gaza City, answering a call by Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad faction and waving the green and black flags of the two factions.

American and Israeli flags were set alight, along with an effigy of the film’s producer.

Protesters in Afghanistan set fire to an effigy of Obama and burned a US flag after Friday prayers in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Directing their anger against the US pastor who supported the film, tribal leaders also agreed to put a US$100,000 bounty on his head.

About 10,000 people held a noisy protest in the Bangladeshi capital. They burned US flags, chanted anti-US slogans and demanded punishment for the offenders, but were stopped from marching to the US embassy. There was no violence.

Thousands of Iranians held nationwide protests. There were also rallies in Malaysia, Jordan, Kenya, Bahrain, Qatar, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iraq.

Cat Merah,Batu Dan Paku : Cubaan Sabotaj Jelajah #Merdekarakyat Johor


Rombongan PKR ke Johor hari ini yang dipimpin oleh Ketua Umumnya, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim menjadi sasaran lagi di Skudai petang ini yang boleh mengakibatkan kemalangan ke atas bas yang digunakan untuk kempen parti itu.

Setiausaha Agung PKR, Datuk Saifuddin Nasution memberitahu Malaysiakini semasa majlis makan malam 800 meja di di Skudai bahawa serangan itu berlaku sejurus sebelum rombongan mereka sampai ke majlis tersebut, yang merupakan kawasan letak kereta di sebelah Sutera Mall.

“Dalam perjalanan kami ke sini, kami mendengar bunyi letupan kuat apabila kami melalui di bawah jambatan pejalan kaki.

“Kami mendapati seketul batu dilemparkan ke salah sebuah kereta dalam rombongan kami.

“Kemudian kami temui paku di atas jalan raya. Jadi kita berhenti di tepi jalan manakala kakitangan keselamatan kami membersihkan jalan raya sebelum kami boleh meneruskan perjalanan kami, “katanya.

Naib Presiden PKR yang juga ahli Parlimen Kuantan, Fuziah
Salleh, semasa ucapannya di majlis makan malam itu, mendakwa mereka ternampak sebuah kereta di hadapan rombongan mereka hilang kawalan dan berpusing ke arah yang bertentangan.

“Kami dapati jalan penuh paku,” kata Fuziah sambil mendakwa pelakunya mahu bas mereka ditimpa kemalangan.

“Alhamdulillah, kita berjaya mengatasi semua cabaran ini,” katanya kepada kira-kira 6,000 hadirin berbilang kaum.

Kereta yang berjaya sampai ke destinasi majlis makan malam itu, kemek dan calar pada bahagian bonetnya.

Ketika ditemui Malaysiakini kemudiannya, Fuziah berkata kejadian itu berlaku kira-kira 1km dari tempat majlis makan malam itu di sebatang jalan raya yang gelap, tetapi dia tidak tahu namanya.

Instead of high watermark for women’s rights, Najib’s hijacking of women portfolio proves to be an even lower point for women agenda

The launching of Pakatan Rakyat’s Women’s Agenda tonight is a historic event, as gender equality and empowerment of women to improve their social, educational, economic and political status must be accepted by everyone as part of human rights which must involve the commitment and challenge to everyone in the country.

Recently, women’s rights should have witnessed a highwater mark in Malaysia when the Women’s Minister is also the Prime Minister, but unfortunately, the opposite is the case – with women agenda reaching an even lower point with the hijacking of the Women Minister’s portfolio by a male – as if there are no eligible and qualified Malaysian woman for the post!

“Janji Ditepati” has recently been Najib’s favourite subject, but with Najib as Women’s Minister for the past six months, are women in Malaysia satisfied with “Promises Fulfilled” with regard to women issues and causes?

Do women in Malaysia feel safer from crime, whether in shopping malls, car parks, public streets or even in the privacy of their homes? The answer is a resounding “NO”, even with parents fearful about the safety of their underaged daughters following the recent spate of cases where judges made a mockery of statutory rape legislation to protect underaged girls.

The Malaysian government is fond of boasting about the achievements and status of Malaysian women in the international arena, particularly with regard to gender equality and women empowerment.

In actual fact, Malaysia is not in any leading position in the international context with regard to gender equality and women empowerment, as reflected by the lowly ranking of Malaysia in the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index report prepared by the World Economic Forum in Geneva.

Malaysia’s overall Global Gender Gap Index (GGPI) ranking, which is made up of three criteria firstly economic participation and opportunity; secondly, health and survival; thirdly, political empowerment, is a lowly No.97 out of 135 countries, worse than Philippines (8), South Africa (14), Cuba (20), Mozambique (26), Argentina (28), Sri Lanka (31), Nambibia (32), Guyana (38), Kyrgyz Republic (44), Kazakhstan (49), Thailand (60), Botswana (66), Bangladesh (69), Brunei (76), Albania (78), Armenia (84) and Indonesia (90).

Malaysia’s ranking in terms of women’s representation in government is the worst of all three criteria, ranked 115, behind Sri Lanka (7), Bangladesh (11), Philippines (16), India (19), China (57), Indonesia (61), Vietnam (76), Cambodia (78), Singapore (83) and Thailand (97).

Neighbouring and other Asian countries have had women as heads of state of government, like Indira Gandhi of India, Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, Corazaon Aquino of Philippines, Megawarti Sukarnoputri of Indonesia, Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand, Sheikh Hasina of Banglasdesh and Mrs. Srimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka. But no women have risen to the top in Malaysia, whether at the federal or state levels, as no woman have ever been Mentri Besar or Chief Minister.

This gender gap must be rectified.

Malaysia should aim to be included in the top 50 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index and one way for the attainment of this objective is the implementation of Pakatan Rakyat’s Women Agenda if and when Pakatan Rakyat takes power in Putrajaya in the 13th General Election.

(Speech at the launch of the Pakatan Rakyat Women’s Agenda “Wanita Berdaya Negara Sejahtera” in Shah Alam on Thursday, 13th September 2012 at 9 pm)

30 still detained despite ISA repeal

The Sun Daily 
by AZIZUL RAHMAN

KUALA LUMPUR: A former Internal Security Act (ISA) detainee has questioned the continued detention of 30 people at the Kamunting detention centre in Perak despite the repeal of the draconian law last April.

Fadzullah Abdul Razak, who was among 12 people released from Kamunting on Aug 17, said the question is pertinent as it has been almost a year since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak announced the abolition of the ISA.

Fadzullah was speaking at a press conference called by the Abolish ISA Movement (GMI) at Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall yesterday. 

Farida Mohammad and Sivamalar Genapathy from Lawyers for Liberty, who were also present at the press conference, said they visited the detention centre on Wednesday and were allowed to meet only 12 detainees.

Farida said one of the detainees, Razali Kassan, has been diagnosed with kidney stones  and has strict dietary needs. “But he has to use his own money to buy food at the detention centre’s canteen as the centre does not provide the kind of food he needs.” 

Meanwhile, GMI chairman Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh criticised an English daily for allegedly reporting that detainees at Kamunting are still carrying out criminal activities from behind the bars, through the use of telephones.

20 Students Scalded In An Explosion During A Barbecue At School

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 (Bernama) -- Twenty Form Four and Form Five students of a school at Taman Mulia, Bandar Tun Razak here were scalded when an explosion happened at a barbecue stove as they were preparing food to celebrate Aidilfitri at the school compound Friday.

Three of them were seriously injured in the 9.45am incident

One of the victims, Mohd Hidayat Mohd Yazid, 16, said he and a few others were trying to start a fire for the barbecue when a teacher told them to use 'thinner' to get it lit faster.

"The explosion happened when the teacher poured thinner onto the flames a second time. Three students and I were badly injured in the incident, while the teacher was also scalded," he said when met at his home at Bandar Tun Razak here.

The injured were sent to the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Hospital by teachers at the school.

Mohd Hidayat was scalded in the legs and hands and received out-patient treatment together with the teacher, while his three colleagues were warded at the same hospital.

Cheras deputy police chief Supt Abd Rahim Hamzah confirmed receiving a report on the incident and the case was being investigated.

Britain's Young Royal Couple Attracts Crowd To KLCC Park

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 14 (Bernama) -- More than 3,000 people thronged the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) Park this morning for a glimpse of Britain's young royal couple Prince William and his wife Catherine.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who arrived at 10.30am, were greeted by cheers from the public who arrived as early as 8am waving the Malaysian and British flags.

The pair were taken in a buggy from the KLCC shopping mall to the park, located in the shadows of the famed Petronas Twin Towers, where they then proceeded to shake hands and wave to the crowd.

The sounds of the 'kompang' and cultural performances by the National Arts and Culture Department (JKKN) enlivened the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, Catherine, who looked resplendent in a knee-length pearl white gown, wowed the crowd beside her handsome prince who wore a dark blue suit.

Prince William and Catherine, who is fondly known as Kate, were never short of smiles for the public and received roses from their admirers.

Priyenshar Sebastian, 19, who waited at the park since 8am with her friend Sangeeta Arokiasamy, 22, said words could not describe how happy she was to see the royal couple.

The HELP Institute student did not mind following Prince William and Kate as they walked along the park.

"Although we did not get a chance to shake their hands, we are happy and feel that this experience is surreal. Luckily we got a picture of them," said Priyenshar who wore earrings the shape of the British flag.

Scottish national, Lynn Maitland, 40, said she was ecstatic to have shaken hands and had a small chat with the couple.

"I am shaking, I can't describe my feelings. I never got the chance to get this close to the royal couple and they asked me and my friends a few questions about where am I staying here and my husband's workplace.

"William is so kind and Kate is so beautiful and she took the flowers we gave. We are so lucky to be standing at this spot," said Maitland who has lived in Malaysia for six years to accompany her Petronas-employed husband.

Adam Danish Iman Khuzaiman, 10, a Primary Four student at Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Tun Dr Ismail 1 expressed his delight at being chosen to follow the school's 147-person entourage to the KLCC Park.

As a fan of the royal couple, he watched the wedding on television last year and could not wait to recount his experience to his friends and parents at home.

Accompanying teacher, Nur Halim Ahmad, 26, shared the same sentiment as other fans, adding they were at the park since 9.30am.

"Part of our group was made up of members of the school's Theatre Club and we were invited by the JKKN. I'm happy to be able to come along and get a live view of the couple," he said.

Earlier, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visited the Asy-Syakirin Mosque at the end of the park and were welcomed by Federal Territories Religious Department (Jawi) director Datuk Che Mat Che Ali.

Kate donned a white scarf and her husband later signed a visitor's book before entering the prayer hall to hear the Al-Quran being recited and watch people perform ablution.

The couple, who toured the mosque, commended the design and structure of the mosque officated by the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, on Aug 26, 2011.

Meanwhile, in SEPANG, Prince William and Kate left for Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, one of the chosen states during their official four-day visit as Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Malaysia which began yesterday.

The couple departed from the KL International Airport Bunga Raya Complex at 4.45pm.

In Kota Kinabalu, they will be feted in a ceremony organised by the state government tonight and are scheduled to visit Lembah Danum, Sabah's main tropical rainforest, tomorrow.

Yesterday, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge paid a courtesy call to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, at their official residence and had an audience with Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah during a royal banquet at the Istana Negara.

Apart from mingling with the public at KLCC Park, the couple also visited Hospis Malaysia, a charity organisation that offers professional palliative care to patients with life-limiting illness.

Malaysia is their second stop after Singapore on their nine-day tour to South-East Asia and the Asia Pacific, representing Queen Elizabeth II in conjunction with the celebration to mark the 60-year reign of the British monarch.

Prince William and Kate are scheduled to leave for the Solomon Islands on Sunday to continue their tour.