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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

1MDB trial postponed as Najib has to deliver speech in Parliament



Today's hearing in 1MDB criminal trial against former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak is postponed to tomorrow as the Pekan MP has to be at parliament to deliver a speech.
Lead defence counsel Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told the court that Najib was initially slotted to speak between 11am and 12 noon during the parliamentary debate on Budget 2020.
According to Shafee, Najib's slot as well as six other BN MPs in the morning, however, got displaced by speeches by other parliamentarians, including PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, who is Port Dickson MP.
"He is raising some very critical issues in parliament today, and that has been prepared since the past two weeks. It is not easy to get 20 to 30 minutes speech (slot) unless you sneak in (during) budget debate. This is the budget debate," Shafee said.

The lawyer claimed that Najib had prior to this made an application to Dewan Rakyat speaker to slot him at 4.30pm so that he can attend the trial, but was not fulfilled.
"He made an application in parliament two weeks ago. But he got to know his slot a day before I told Yang Arif.
"If not, he would have applied to Yang Arif earlier (to vacate today's hearing session)."
Yesterday, Shafee had made a request to the court for today's session to start in the afternoon as he has to be at the Federal Court in the morning for another matter.
He also informed the court that Najib would have to be present in parliament to deliver his speech today, scheduled at 11am.
Meanwhile, lead deputy public prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram objected to the application by the defence to postpone today's hearing.
Gopal told the court that it was not enough reason for Najib to be absent from his trial just because he could not give up his slot at parliament.
"If there is any other good cause (to be absent from parliament), this is a good cause," he said.
Gopal said the prosecution had also brought other witnesses on standby to testify as they were not sure when the defence would complete their cross-examination on former 1MDB CEO, Shahrol Azral Ibrahim Halmi, who is ninth prosecution witness.
For the record, today was supposed to be the 22nd day of 1MDB trial against Najib, with Shahrol expected to resume with his testimony under cross-examination by Shafee. - Mkini

Japan typhoon death toll rises to 58 as hopes for missing fade



The death toll in the worst typhoon to hit Japan for decades climbed to 58 on Tuesday as rescuers slogged through mud and debris in an increasingly grim search for the missing and as thousands of homes remained without power or water.
The storm hit a wide swathe of central and eastern Japan, with 15 missing and some 211 injured nearly three days after Typhoon Hagibis - whose name means "speed" in the Philippine language Tagalog - lashed Japan with high winds and intense rains, national broadcaster NHK said.
Some 138,000 households were without water while 24,000 lacked electricity, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands without power just after the storm but cause for concern in northern areas where the weather was starting to turn chilly.
The highest toll was in Fukushima prefecture north of Tokyo, where levees burst in at least 14 places along the Abukuma River, which meanders through a number of cities in the agricultural prefecture.
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At least 18 died in Fukushima, including a mother who was caught up in floodwaters with her two children, one of whose death was confirmed on Monday while the other, a little boy, remained missing.
Thousands of police, fire officials and military personnel continued to search for people who may have been cut off by floodwaters and landslides set off by the storm, with hope diminishing that the missing would be found alive.
Survivors described how waters rose rapidly to chest height in roughly an hour and mainly at night, making it hard to escape to higher ground. Many of the dead in Fukushima were elderly, NHK said.
"I couldn't believe it, the water came up so fast," one man in Fukushima told NHK.
Though the threat of rain is expected to diminish on Tuesday, temperatures are likely to drop in many areas later this week, in some cases to unseasonably low temperatures, NHK said.
- Reuters

Palm oil facts to be taught in school, proposal for tourism afoot



Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok has mooted to include the Palm Oil Experience Centre into an official tourist destination of the country in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020.
This is after she launched the Sime Darby Plantation Bhd's educational hub at Pulau Carey today.
She said she will propose the idea to the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry once Sime Darby Plantation Bhd is ready to receive more international tourists.
"That all depends on how ready the Sime Darby site is. This can always be listed under the tourist destination list.

"Once Sime Darby is more ready, then maybe we can propose its Palm Oil Experience Centre to the Tourism Ministry," she told the media after launching the Palm Oil Experience Centre today.
Sime Darby Plantation Bhd chief advisor and value officer Franki Anthony Dass, who attended the press conference, said the educational hub, which opened in March is ready to take in foreign tourists.
Kok also said her ministry will be allocated RM27 million under Budget 2020 for the publicity work under the Love My Palm Oil campaign and to deal with the anti-palm oil movement.
In her speech earlier, she also thanked other ministries that were so supportive of promoting palm oil, including the Education Ministry and Tourism Ministry, as well as the Youth and Sports Ministry.
She expects that learning about palm oil will be included in the primary school syllabus next year.
"We have met the Education Ministry and its director-general (Amin Senin), and they agreed to try to include the palm oil," Kok said.
She reminded those who operate oil palm estates larger than 100 acres to obtain the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification soon.
MPSO will not renew the license of operators without the certificate next year as this is part of the effort of Malaysian Palm Oil Board to move toward mandatory certification, she said.
In the long run, Kok said smallholders may need to be educated on good agricultural practices and stop open burning.
Meanwhile, she said Indonesian authorities have updated Putrajaya on its findings concerning four Malaysian companies implicated in open burning in the republic.
In September, four Malaysian companies which operate oil palm plantations in Indonesia were accused of causing forest fires within their plantations.
The four Malaysian companies are IOI Corporation, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, TDM Bhd and Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd.
Sime Darby Plantation Bhd said the fire on Sept 3 occurred outside the operational area of PT Sime Indo Agro, which is part of Minamas Group, a wholly-owned Indonesian subsidiary of Sime Darby Plantation.
Sime Darby Plantation Bhd group managing director Mohamad Helmy Othman Basha has denied the allegations its plantation had caused any forest fires.
He said the majority of the Malaysian companies had long ceased the prohibited practise of open burning, adding that machinery was used to clear land.
Mohamed Helmy, however, said that Indonesian villagers who resided inside the palm oil concession areas used open burning for land clearing.
"We were given a concession land (to plant oil palm and the land is partly) resided by settlers and villagers. Some chose to stay there and overtime, the settlements grow.
"When the dry period was extended this year, fires started spreading (after villagers cleared the land). This was what happened in the Sime Darby Plantation (there)," he said.
According to Mohamad Helmy, Indonesian authorities visited the plantation after accusations were levelled by an Indonesian minister.
"They came to us, and we showed there where the fire started. There were satellite images and it was not possible to run away," he said, adding the company has yet to be informed of any findings.  -Mkini

Anwar, BN MPs' veiled remarks pepper succession plan with more intrigue



PARLIAMENT | BN lawmakers repeatedly teased PKR president Anwar Ibrahim over the uncertainty of him succeeding Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
As expected, the Port Dickson MP repeated his usual spiel on the matter.
But what raised eyebrows were the veiled references by both Anwar and BN MPs which suggested the existence of behind the scenes efforts to rally MPs for and against the succession plan.
Anwar, who was debating the budget speech in the Dewan Rakyat, was sidetracked when Shahidan Kassim (BN-Arau) questioned him about the succession plan.

"This question is a little sensitive. Has the issue of succession been resolved?" asked the Umno man.
Anwar then repeated that the plan was not just between him and Mahathir but involved all Pakatan Harapan leaders as well. He also pointed out that an agreement was inked in January last year for Mahathir to pass the baton to him.
However, the PKR president made a passing remark that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi did not ink the document.
"But the Umno president didn't sign it - not didn't, but not yet," he said, laughing.
This is bizarre because if Anwar was referring to the Harapan document on the succession plan, as it does not concern Zahid, leading to the question if he was hinting at some other clandestine agreement.
The hint-dropping became more apparent as the debate proceeded.
Anwar: Don't bow to threats of prosecution
Noh Omar (BN-Tanjung Karang) stood up to demand if the Harapan agreement spelt out specific dates for the transition of power to take place, to which Anwar conceded there were none.
"However, in discussions, there have been talks it is one year and there were also discussions it will be two years maximum... But it is a decision for Harapan leaders, not just me or Langkawi (Mahathir) alone.
"So friends, enough with the perception. For me, it is settled but it is subject to God's will," he added.
Bung Moktar Radin (BN-Kinabatangan) then attempted to interject but Anwar responded: "I hope when Kinabatangan puts down his signature, I hope he signs for this side and not other sides."
Anwar then inferred that former Umno vice-president Hishammuddin Hussein (BN-Sembrong) was working on a plan and advised MPs not to fear threats of prosecution against them. However, he did not elaborate.
"This is the problem of wanting to follow the strategy by Sembrong and others. All this is nonsense.
"All this is sometimes for personal survival... to close MACC cases. We don't want that. Politics should not be about threats, it should be about principles.
"Be it threats of prosecution or imprisonment, one's principle must not be sacrificed," he stressed.
Bung Moktar (above), who is facing graft charges involving Felcra funds, then claimed that he is one such person. 
Following this, Ahmad Maslan (BN-Pontian) expressed concern about Anwar's fate when "the matter is executed."
"Langkawi (Mahathir) said (he will go) before the 15th general election. He has also said (when interviewed) abroad that (he will go) after major problems are resolved and when the national debt is resolved.
"I am worried that Port Dickson (Anwar) will only become a side prime minister (PM tepi) when the matter is executed," he added.
Shahidan (photo) then suggested that Anwar resolve the issue with Mahathir in an amicable manner.
"After that, they can shake hands and be happy, happy - happy hour lah... that is the best," he added.
Anwar: If I become PM, I will need everyone's support
However, a boisterous argument erupted when Willie Mongin (Harapan-Puncak Borneo) accused Shahidan of making insinuations against Anwar and demanded that he stop, stating it was not the place to discuss the topic.
However, an adamant Shahidan retorted: “I'm solving your president's problem, he understands my language. We are northerners."
At this juncture, Dewan Rakyat speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof (photo) intervened, telling Anwar that he had two minutes left and asked that he wind up his speech.
Anwar, in his closing remarks, reiterated that there would be no changes to the succession plan.
"I also hope there are no attempts at disruption by the opposition. As is with the guarantee from Kinabatangan - and Bagan Datuk is also nodding - I assume our problem is resolved,” he added.
Following this, Shahidan quipped, much to the chagrin of Willie, if this meant Anwar no longer needed support from his side.
"This is a political threat," cried Willie but Anwar responded with laughter.
"I am but an ordinary man who has gone through good and hard times in the last decades. If it is God's will that I am to govern, I will need the support of everyone so that this country can develop," said the PKR president.
Anwar also acknowledged that many have asked various ministers about the succession plan but expressed disagreement that a fixed date be given as it would affect the position of the current prime minister.
These veiled remarks come amid talks in the political circles that a faction in Umno might be working with certain quarters in Harapan, including in PKR, to block Anwar from becoming prime minister.
Anwar's faction is also speculated to be canvassing support from both sides of the political divide. - Mkini

Anwar: Azmin and I talked about the economy



PKR president Anwar Ibrahim today brushed off suggestions that his meeting with his deputy Azmin Ali today was a "reconciliation meeting".
"No. It was just a normal meeting. We talked about the country's economic problems.
"Party matters are under control... We discussed the economy," he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.
To a question, Anwar said he had "no time" today to discuss the party's internal matters with Azmin.

"I didn't have the time to ask (about party issues). There are a lot of economic issues which have to be resolved," said Anwar.
Azmin, who is the economic affairs minister, tweeted this afternoon that the meeting with Anwar was centered on poverty and ways to achieve Shared Prosperity Vision 2030.
"The feedback from Anwar can help our efforts in ensuring the success of our national economic policy," he said.
Battle lines between Anwar and Azmin were clearly drawn during the party's leadership election last year.
While Azmin narrowly retained his position, his followers took the lion's share of seats on the central leadership council (MPT).
However, Azmin and many of his followers have been absent from monthly MPT meetings and the weekly political bureau meetings since the party election.
This had effectively left the party hamstrung as it could no longer hold policy discussions with Azmin and his followers who hold positions in government.
After this became public, PKR vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin (above), a staunch Azmin ally, floated the idea of a "reconciliation meeting".
Anwar had dismissed the need for such an event because disagreements should be raised at the MPT meetings.
The 30-minute meeting today between Anwar, Azmin and PKR secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail at the MPs' lounge had set tongues wagging. - Mkini

Gov't spending RM100m a week to maintain RON95 prices, says minister



PARLIAMENT | The government has to spend an average of around RM100 million a week to retain the pump price of RON95 at RM2.08 a litre, says Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
"On the weekly cost to retain the pump price of RON95 at RM2.08 a litre, the Finance Ministry estimated that RM99.76 million is needed based on the real pump price of RM2.37 a litre for the week between Oct 12 and Oct 18," Saifuddin told Kelvin Yii (PH-Bandar Kuching) during Question Time this morning.
Yii had asked the government to state its readiness to implement the targeted fuel subsidy programme (PSP), as announced under Budget 2020, as well as the current average weekly costs needed to subsidise RON95 petrol for all vehicles.
Saifuddin further said the targeted fuel subsidy review process has involved numerous consultations with stakeholders, to identify not only existing weaknesses but also its solutions.
To a supplementary question from Reezal Merican (BN-Kepala Batas), Saifuddin reiterated that his ministry is in discussions with the Finance Ministry to set-up a database of eligible recipients and to refine the required mechanisms.
"We used to work in silos. Everyone only takes care of their own territories.
"As a result, now we need to build on the credible data," he said.
The new database would comprise the existing B40 group of about 2.9 million Bantuan Sara Hidup recipients, as well as individuals under the M40 category.
Under Budget 2020, the government has allocated RM2.2 billion for the PSP scheme, which is targeted to benefit about eight million vehicle owners. - Mkini

Greater efforts needed to achieve equality between Muslim men and women



Greater efforts by all parties will be required if Muslim women are to be brought to the same level of equality as Muslim men in Malaysia, said Sisters in Islam (SIS).
A SIS commissioned survey among 675 Muslim women nationwide found that gender inequality is more prominent at an individual level and there exists strong pressure to conform to expectations of an ideal Muslim woman.
The survey's findings is to form evidentiary basis for SIS ongoing advocacy of Islamic family laws reforms in Malaysia.
"As a wife, a Muslim woman encounters far greater levels of discrimination than in other roles," said SIS in its survey report released today titled "perceptions and realities: the public and personal rights of Muslim women in Malaysia".

The study looked at how the struggle for equality is closely linked to a woman's ability to exercise her rights in areas including freedom of speech and expression.
"From the perspective of a Muslim daughter, 75 percent felt that daughters had a lesser right in making family decisions; and as a Muslim mother, 76 percent demanded a greater right to speak up and give opinions," the survey report said.
"For the Muslim woman in the role of a wife, 97 percent responded that it was their duty to obey the husband.
"Conversely, the data also showed that 57 percent of the women viewed the need to obey the husband as a challenge, particularly in their role as a mother," it further said.
About 21 percent of the respondents believe that a husband has a right to beat his wife.
"Majority of respondents agreed that it would be nusyuz (disobedient) if a wife were to leave the house without her husband's consent, refuse to move with the husband (54 percent), refuse to have sexual intercourse (52 percent), refuse to open the door for the husband (50 percent), or refuse to answer the husband's calling (46 percent).
"Under these circumstances, they believe a husband may beat his wife."
The survey also noted that many women feel that Islamic teachings can be used to favour men as the more dominant gender and this is a pressure point for women to portray a correct self-image as a Muslim woman.
It also addressed that many Muslim women in the country felt that there's a need to project an image of the proper Muslim woman.
About 80 percent of respondents agreed that they face challenges relating to social conformity while 59 percent experienced moral policing and public shaming.