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Friday, January 31, 2020

Boxes of face masks cause a stir outside Chinese consulate in Penang

People gathering outside the Chinese consulate in Penang.
GEORGE TOWN: Three boxes left by a group of seven people outside the Chinese consulate at the Ayer Rajah area in Pulau Tikus here today caused a stir after a bomb disposal squad detonated them for fear that they could be explosives.
It all began when the two men stood outside the consulate bungalow holding up banners in support of the people of Wuhan and Hubei at about 3pm, followed by an impassioned speech in support of China.
The group then left the three boxes of N95 face masks at the front entrance of the consulate and left.
The consulate alerted 999 at 3.20pm over the boxes which they claimed looked suspicious, a fire department initial report showed.
A Hazmat crew and firemen at the Chinese consulate.
A Hazmat team from the fire department then arrived on the scene to be on standby.
Later, a police bomb squad detonated the boxes for good measure. It was then determined that there were no bombs in the boxes.
Northeast district police chief Soffian Santong said the boxes were found to be merely boxes of face masks.
He said the group of seven people had merely come to the consulate to show their solidarity with the Chinese who are facing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.
“They stood outside the consulate and chanted support slogans for China and left after 30 minutes.” - FMT

Former CM questions Sabah govt over China travel ban

Former chief minister Yong Teck Lee wants Sabah government to explain the blanket ban on all inbound flights from all airports in mainland China but not from Hong Kong or Macau, which have also reported cases of infection.
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) president Yong Teck Lee has questioned whether the state government had really thought it through before imposing a travel ban from China to the state.
While the people can accept the government would like to exercise caution in preventing the spread of coronavirus to Sabah, Yong said the government must be more convincing in its strategy and methods in tackling the situation.
“Is the total suspension of flights from China to Sabah a public health neccessity?
“Did the Sabah Cabinet refer to the federal health authorities or to the World Health Organisation (WHO) before deciding on a suspension of all flights originating from China?
“The WHO emergency committee had said that it ‘does not recommend any travel restriction based on current information available’,” he said in a statement here today.
Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew had yesterday announced the Sabah government’s decision to suspend all scheduled and chartered flights from China to Sabah with immediate effect.
Liew said the decision was made during the state Cabinet meeting in light of the coronavirus threat and in the interest of the people’s welfare, adding the ban was only temporary until the situation was back to normal.
AFP reported that the UN health agency on Thursday declared an international emergency over the deadly novel coronavirus from China — a rarely used designation that could lead to improved international coordination in tackling the disease.
“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said as he declared a “public health emergency of international concern”.
Towards this end, Yong said several questions have cropped up with Sabah’s decision to suspend all flights from China.
“How does the government explain the blanket ban on all inbound flights from all airports in mainland China but not from Hong Kong or Macau, which have reported several cases of infection of the virus?”
He said Peninsular Malaysia and other countries had also reported cases of the coronavirus.
“Is the government considering to stop all inbound flights from Peninsular Malaysia, too?
“Since Sabah has suspended all inbound flights from China to Sabah, how do China citizens who are now in Sabah return to China? How do Sabahans now in China return to Sabah?” he asked.
Yong, who is a former chief minister, said the Sabah government needs a transparent, systematic and comprehensive approach in such public health matters.
“Ministers should not be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as reacting to unfounded fears and rumours in social media.”
117 weekly flights affected
Bernama reported that a total of 117 weekly flights from 15 cities in China, as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong, have been affected following the Sabah government’s decision to temporary suspend all scheduled and charter flights from China to the state from yesterday.
The 117 flights do not include an earlier suspension of 10 flights from Wuhan, comprising Air Asia (seven) and Malindo Air (three) flights, as well as seven flights from Shanghai via Spring Airlines, following the spread of the coronavirus.
According to Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) manager Sunif Naiman, the 117 affected flights comprise AirAsia flights (53), China Southern Airlines (21), Malindo Air (17), Malaysia Airlines (nine), Xiamen Air (seven), Shanghai Airlines (seven) and Loong Air (three).
The 15 cities include Shenzhen, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Fuzhou, Kunming, Chengdu, Tianjin, Wengzhou, Yiwu, Ningbo, Xian and Xiamen.
Sabah Tourism Board statistics show Chinese tourists were the largest number of foreigners to visit the state last year, totalling 558,903 people. Last year, Sabah received 3.76 million visitors, comprising 2.44 million domestic tourists and 1.32 million foreign tourists.
Yesterday, state health director Dr Christina Rundi had said that nine Chinese nationals in Sabah were still categorised as suspected coronavirus cases.
Bold move, says Matta
Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tan Kok Liang said he understands and respects the Sabah government’s decision to temporarily suspend the flights.
“The decision to suspend all flights routed to and from Sabah is a bold move by the state government and one that is designed to protect the people currently in Sabah, including tourists.
“We hope that this will only be a temporary measure and that this ban will quickly be lifted as soon as the situation subsides and travel between Sabah and China will resume as normal,” he said.
According to Tan, Matta’s position throughout the crisis has been consistent in that it has always given top priority to the health, safety and security of people, Malaysians and tourists alike. - FMT

We are ok, say Malaysian students in Wuhan

China has locked down several cities, including Wuhan, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. (Bernama pic)
KUALA LUMPUR: “Families and friends in Malaysia, don’t worry. We are okay and safe here,” said Yeong Kai Yi, 26, a Malaysian student at the Central China Normal University in Wuhan, China.
However, the final-year student at the university’s School of Fine Arts said her movements and that of other students were limited to the confines of the hostel and university campus following the lockdown imposed by the Chinese government on Wuhan and several other neighbouring cities, following the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, first detected in Wuhan in December last year.
“The current situation is really a matter of concern. For the moment, to prevent getting infected, I am just staying in my room.”
She said there were only about 100 international students, including herself and two others from Malaysia, left on campus.
This follows the departure of all local students and lecturers for their respective hometowns for the semester break.
“We have all been advised to stay in our rooms and not leave the campus,” the student said.
Yeong, who is in constant contact with her family back home in Chemor, Perak, gave an assurance that university authorities were continuously monitoring the welfare of the international students.
“In case of any emergency, lecturers will accompany students to the hospital and they have also given us emergency contact numbers,” Yeong explained.
Asked about food supplies, she said there was no problem in getting food as the canteen and several shops on campus were still operational.
Meanwhile, another Malaysian in Wuhan, S Balachandar, 43, a geophysics PhD student at the China University of Geosciences, said after being house-bound for nine days, he ventured outside yesterday to nearby shops to purchase additional food supplies.
“I took a five-minute walk to check if the shops were open. Thankfully, there was a vegetable shop open, as well as a shop selling fruits and a grocery,” he said.
Balachandar, who hails from Sabak Bernam, Selangor, is staying off campus with his wife and two sons.
“We are safe and healthy, don’t worry,” he said.
Balachandar added that the Malaysian embassy in China was in constant contact with the eight Malaysian students in Wuhan, and was also undertaking efforts to send food supplies to the students in spite of the logistical challenges. - FMT

Teaching in English will help us stay competitive, say manufacturers

The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers says employers are facing difficulty finding local graduates with an adequate standard of English proficiency to write and discuss work matters, especially technical issues. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: The Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) believes the government’s plan to reintroduce English as the medium of instruction to teach Science and Mathematics will help the country maintain its competitiveness in an increasingly globalised world.
The policy was first implemented in 2002 but dropped in 2012 amid protests from teachers and Malay advocacy groups.
Announcing its reintroduction today, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – who is also the acting education minister – said Malaysians want to see reforms in the nation’s education policy.
“English, being a tool of knowledge and medium of business and technical communication, contributes to the industry’s ability to compete globally,” said FMM president Soh Thian Lai in a statement.
“Technical manuals are in English. Access to training opportunities, especially at the international level, requires the ability to understand, communicate and write in English.
Soh Thian Lai.
“Malaysians will be deprived of such training opportunities if education policies fail to emphasise the critical importance of English,” added Soh.
Stating that English is the language of mathematics, science, engineering, ICT and medicine, Lam noted that these subjects facilitate the acquisition of scientific knowledge and technology that allow for R&D, greater innovation and knowledge-based ICT activities.
This in turn will contribute to higher value-added activities in all sectors of the economy, he added.
Soh said he hoped that greater mastery of the English language and teaching of the core subjects in the language would also lead to a progressive move towards teaching critical vocational training courses in English for selected manufacturing and services sectors.
Soh said English is the language of international trade and negotiations. It is also used while communicating with governments and authorities worldwide.
Soh said Malaysian employers are facing difficulty finding local graduates with an adequate standard of English proficiency to write and discuss work matters, especially technical issues.
“FMM has been lobbying the government for years to make English a must–pass subject in public examinations.
“We hope to see a stronger commitment to making English a compulsory pass subject in SPM in the very near future.” - FMT

Minister praises efforts to document natives of Chinese descent in Sabah

Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick (centre) holding the Etnik Sino-Native book. With him is Sabah Sino Kadazandusun Murut Association president Johnny Goh (third from left).
KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Rural Development Minister Ewon Benedick has lauded efforts to publish a book detailing the traditions and heritage of the Sino-Native community, which is unique to the state.
Entitled “Etnik Sino-Native”, Benedick said the book will be an important document for the present and future generations to understand the customs and culture of this community.
“In my opinion, the heritage, culture and identity of every race in this country must be protected, just like the Sinos should be,” he said, referring to the common term used to refer to the community in Sabah.
The Sino-Natives are Sabahans who have mixed Chinese and Kadazandusun Murut descent.
Benedick, who is also Kadamaian assemblyman, said further studies should be carried out on the Sino-Native culture so it will not be eroded over time.
“Through this book, a total of 15 cultural aspects of the Sino-Native community have been documented, including the ethnic and historical backgrounds, socio-economic activities and age-old customs,” he said after launching the book at a hotel here today.
Benedick praised the Sabah Sino Kadazandusun Murut Association and state Cultural Board for their research in coming up with the book.
The book launch was also attended by the association’s president, Johnny Goh, and other members.
Benedick said the state and federal governments should find the best method to protect the identities of all communities in Malaysia.
“This includes the mixed marriages between Chinese and Indians or the groups like the Kadazan, Dusun, Murut, Chinese or Indians.”
When asked on the native certificate issue, Benedick said the children of parents who already hold the document should automatically obtain the certificate.
“For me, if the parents have native certificates, that means their children need not apply for them any more because, logically, the children and subsequent generations are already anak negeri (natives),” he said.
The native certificate is a touchy issue for the Sino-KDMs who have been trying to get its issuance reinstated after the state decided to freeze the move in 1981 to stop land in Sabah from falling into the hands of non-Sabahans.
The move directly affects Sino-Natives as their Chinese roots do not allow them to enjoy native rights, such as handing down native land to their children. - FMT

Please reconsider bringing back Malaysians in Wuhan



The experience of Japan in evacuating 206 citizens in Wuhan and then discovering three evacuees were positively tested with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on arrival, should give us all pause for thought on evacuating Malaysians there.
Especially in light of two of the positively-tested Japanese did not exhibit any symptoms at all of being infected by the lethal virus.
Moreover, as of today, the World Health Organisation has finally declared a global emergency over the deadly virus spreading from China.
Earlier with countries across the globe starting to evacuate their citizens from the epicentre of the epidemic, Malaysian decided to follow their footstep and preparing for a discussion with China for their evacuation.

According to the Malaysian ambassador to China, Raja Nushirwan Zainal Abidin, there are 82 Malaysians living in or surrounding Wuhan, and they are in good health.
The plan, as announced by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed on Jan 29 was that the evacuees’ will be checked upon arrival, and if there is evidence that they have the coronavirus, or if they have been in Wuhan for a long time, they will be placed in quarantine (for 14 days) before being allowed to return home.
So far, none of the Malaysians in Wuhan has been reported to be infected by the disease.
In the latest twist to this development, the following day (Jan 30), Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said China has disallowed the use of Malaysian military aircraft to evacuate Malaysians trapped in China’s epidemic-stricken Hubei province and its capital city of Wuhan but allowed the use of commercial flights.
As such, the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) will bring 80 Malaysians home via a commercial flight as soon as possible.
Saifuddin also added that Nadma is ready for the mission, and he expected this would be done in two to three days’ time.
Of course, there is a compassionate dimension in bringing them back to Malaysia.
Besides being trapped due to the lockdown on the city by the Chinese authority in order to contain the virus, Malaysians in Wuhan are also reportedly facing food shortages.
As such, if Malaysia has to send a plane to China to evacuate its citizens, food, gloves and masks can also be sent to the people there because these things also face a shortage.
However, in light of the Japanese experience, should Malaysia risk the chance of bringing back infected patients or virus carrier from Wuhan?
How can we be sure that all of them are not infected?
The feature of this virus which differentiates it from the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) virus is that infected people may not show any symptoms at all.
These positively-tested people with no symptoms are known as asymptomatic patients.
As long as they are not tested, they remain as unidentified virus carriers.
As of Jan 18, data shows that on average, a patient can spread the virus to 1.5 to 3.5 other people.
If there were ten asymptomatic people arriving in the commercial plane from Wuhan, there will be 15 to 35 other people to be infected in the future.
This is a slippery slope, but its severity is too critical for us to dismiss.
If we ever miss one patient during the check-up for quarantine, the consequences are to be borne by the entire nation.
Although our healthcare system is among the top in Asia, and so too our level of preparedness in containing a contagion, the presence of infected people with no symptoms is a game-changer as far as our readiness and preparedness are concerned.
The appearance of asymptomatic patients has made the job of containing the infection much harder than previously.
The government should not risk putting Malaysia in danger of the deadly epidemic.
As a practical measure, it is good to observe the Islamic perspective on epidemics.
The images of cities on lockdown, scanning travellers at airports and stations and empty streets can be scary.
But this is not new for Muslims. When it comes to highly contagious communicable diseases, Islam has given guidance.
Whilst they probably didn’t have 2019-CoV in the time of the Prophet Muhammad, they did have the plague.
And here’s what the Prophet enjoined the Muslims on what to do in a Hadith narrated by Bukhari: “If you hear about it (the plague) in a land that you are in, do not run away from it, and if you hear that it broke out in a certain land, do not enter that land.”
The second part of this Hadith is pretty obvious, but the first part is more difficult to realise because the natural response of a person confronted with a highly contagious disease is to run.
However, the Hadith is clear on not to run. What would motivate a person not to run?
The Prophet gave an incentive like no other. He said: “Plague was a punishment which Allah used to send on whom He wished, but Allah made it a blessing for the believers.
“None (among the believers) remains patient in a land in which plague has broken out and considers that nothing will befall him, except what Allah has ordained for him, but that Allah will grant him a reward similar to that of a martyr.” (Bukhari)
The reward of the shuhada (the martyrs) is amongst the greatest rewards of all in Islam and it is given to the one who is patient and does not leave the area of plague.
This is tied with Islamic concepts of tawaqqal (deep surrender to the will of Allah) and knowing that life and death lie solely in His hands.

The writers, Jamari Mohtar & Chia Chu Hang     are members of Emir Research. - Mkini

Mahathir among 10 Bersatu divisional leaders to win uncontested



Bersatu chairperson Dr Mahathir Mohamad is among ten top party leaders who retained their respective division chief’s post, uncontested, in the inaugural party election.
Bersatu Election Committee chairperson Syed Hamid Albar, who announced the matter said Mahathir (above) retained his Langkawi division chief post after no other individual came forward to contest during the divisional poll on Jan 26.
Other leaders who retained their posts are president Muhyiddin Yassin (Pagoh), deputy president Mukhriz Mahathir (Jerlun), secretary-general Marzuki Yahya (Bagan) and Youth chief Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman (Muar).
Also Ketereh Bersatu chief Dr Radzi Jidin (Ketereh), Sabah chief Hajiji Noor (Tuaran), Perak chairman Ahmad Faizal Azumu (Tambun), executive secretary Captain (Rtd) Muhammad Suhaimi Yahya (Batu), and Terengganu chairman Razali Idris (Marang).
“Overall, 39 division chiefs won uncontested,” Syed Hamid told a press conference at Bersatu headquarters in Petaling Jaya today.
Syed Hamid said in the Jan 26 election, a total of 11,100 nomination forms were received involving 7,371 contested posts.
However, after thorough screening, only 9,452 nominees were qualified to contest.
He said the list of contesting candidates would be sent to their respective state's election committee tomorrow and is subjected to changes following objection, complaint and withdrawal until Feb 14.
Commenting on the nomination of Dengkil assemblyperson Adhif Shan Abdullah after being suspended as Selangor Youth chief, Syed Hamid said members who are suspended are not allowed to contest.
“He did not submit any nomination form,” he said.
- Bernama

Wan Azizah expresses condolences over Uma Sambanthan's passing



Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has conveyed her condolences to the family of Uma Sambanthan, wife of late VT Sambanthan, who passed away at about 1.30pm today.
“May the family remains strong in facing this difficult situation,” she tweeted today.
Uma (above) was 90 and leaves behind a daughter Deva Kunjari.
Meanwhile, Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran has also expressed his sympathy and condolences to Uma’s family.

“Uma was one of the first persons I met when I became a minister. Her blessing was very important for me as I hold her dear to my heart.
“She used to confer with me on state issues and was very concerned about political development in our country,” he said in a statement issued today.
Kulasegaran said Uma's daughter, who is a lawyer, has always been a close friend of his family.
He said Uma was an activist, social worker as well as a leading figure of the cooperative movement in Malaysia.
“She was also well known for charity and as an advocate for women's issues and rights and also one of the founders of the National Council of Women Organisations (NCWO) and was its president at one point.
“She was devoted in serving her country and her people, just like her husband and shall always be remembered as such,” the minister said.
Sambanthan was the fifth MIC president from 1955 to 1973, and one of those who fought along with Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tan Cheng Lock for the independence of the country.
He also held various ministerial portfolios: Labour (1955–57), Health (1957–59), Works, Posts and Telecommunications (1959–71), and National Unity (1972–74).
- Bernama

Coronavirus: Home Ministry ready to expand travel ban, says Muhyiddin

PAGOH: The Home Ministry is ready to expand a travel ban if the need arises after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global health emergency.
Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin (pic) said that at the moment, the ban only applies to travellers from Wuhan and areas around the Hubei province in China.
"We have a committee overseeing the situation that is led by the Health Minister and they will look into the issue and decide.
"If the committee sees that there is a need to expand the ban and it is approved by the Cabinet, then we will take immediate action but for now, the status remains the same," he said.
He said this to reporters after attending a meeting with Pagoh division Srikandi and Armada here on Friday (Jan 31).
He said this when asked to comment on the public health emergency declaration by the WHO on the coronavirus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak as a global health emergency on Thursday (Jan 30). - Star

Health Ministry: Confirmed coronavirus cases stay at eight, 17 awaiting lab results

PUTRAJAYA: The cumulative positive cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) in Malaysia remain at eight, all comprising China nationals, says Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (pic).
"Three cases are under the 'Patient-Under-Investigation' (PUI) category while the other five cases are close contacts of other positive cases," the Health Minister said at a daily media briefing at the ministry here on Friday (Jan 31).
He added that the patients remain in stable condition.
"We continue to hope that they will recover and if their status changes from positive to negative, it would be great news," he said.
The total PUI cases in the country are 127, with 107 cases testing negative with 17 still awaiting lab results.
On the global health emergency declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Dzulkefly said there was no changes on Malaysia's side.
"In fact, the measures we have taken in Malaysia are more than what WHO have recommended.
"We are actively sharing information and data with fellow Asean countries, particularly with our neighbours Singapore.
"We are also taking extra precautions by taking throat swabs of people who are asymptomatic, even though the recommendation by WHO is only for those who show symptoms of the coronavirus.
"We believe we are on top of things and in control," said Dr Dzulkefly.
He also said the Education Ministry had decided to temporarily stop the registration of students from Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province at all institutions of higher learning.
"Students from other provinces in China are allowed to register to study in Malaysia, but they will be put under strict monitoring by their universities," he said.
He added that teachers, lecturers and students – Malaysians or otherwise – who have been to Wuhan or Hubei would also be put under isolation and observation for 14 days at their homes.
On whether Malaysia will stop public events, Dzulkefly said there was no need to at present.
"We are not going to stop people from attending public events, but people should always take preventive measures by observing personal hygiene and wearing face masks," said Dzulkefly. - Star

Top Selangor students to be groomed for elite varsities overseas, says MB

SHAH ALAM: Top students in Selangor will be identified and groomed to undertake undergraduate degrees at top British and American universities, says Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari (pic).
"We are going to select and prepare students who are in Form Four now for entry into these top universities, '' said the Selangor Mentri Besar, giving the examples of Cambridge and Oxford in Britain as well as Ivy League universities in the United States.
Amirudin, who spoke to reporters after attending a meet-and-greet session with headmasters from schools in Selangor, said the state would begin the programme sometime this year.
"We will identify them first and have programmes to train them.
"The state will get several alumni members from the Ivy League universities who are staying and working in Selangor to help us with the programme, '' he said on Friday (Jan 31).
"Those who attend the programme must come back to Selangor and work in state government-linked companies or civil service, '' said Amirudin, adding that the fees and expenses of the selected students will be fully borne by the state.
On the coronavirus scare, Amirudin said he hoped people would not abstain from attending the state's Chinese New Year open house on Saturday (Feb 1) at Dataran Petaling Jaya from 7pm to 10.30pm.
"We have the situation under control and Malaysia has been acknowledged globally as one of the countries that has managed the crisis well, '' said Amirudin.
Amirudin also said there would certainly be a negative impact on the state's economy due to the coronavirus situation.
"There certainly is an effect on the economy but we have things under control, '' he added.
He added Selangor has been adhering closely to the guidelines and procedures stipulated in the disaster management protocol over the coronavirus outbreak. - Star

Woman dies after car lands upside-down in monsoon drain

BATU PAHAT: A woman, who has yet to be identified, died after the car she was driving plunged into a monsoon drain here.
Penggaram Fire and Rescue Department chief Saifulle Idris said they received a distress call at 4.27pm on Friday (Jan 31) about the incident on Jalan Bindu, Tongkang Pecah near here.
Saifulle said 10 firemen were deployed to the scene.
"Passers-by had already retrieved the unidentified victim from the car," he said.
Saifulle said the operations ended at 4.53pm. - Star

SHOOT THE SPY … KILL ALTANTUYA, SHE’S VERY DANGEROUS: NAJIB NOW FACES HIS OWN ‘DEATH ROW’ – AS NEW DAMNING EVIDENCE FROM AZILAH CORROBORATING SIRUL’S MAKES MURDER RETRIAL INEVITABLE

A blog dedicated to reviewing the history of the Altantuya murder case (which returned to the headlines after an explosive statutory declaration by one of the two bodyguards convicted of her murder) has today revealed damning new evidence unearthed in Australia.

According to the dedicated online online portal Decipherings.com, posted by lawyer Americk Sidhu who has represented witnesses in the case, an Australian judge revealed in an immigration appeal court ruling last year that Sirul Azhar Umar had told a closed legal hearing in November 2018 that he “had been ordered to kill the victim because she was a Russian spy“.
The judge concluded at the time that he was not satisfied with this explanation by the then Deputy PM Najib Razak’s bodyguard, who together with a superior colleague Azilah Hadri was found guilty of shooting Altantuya, so he rejected Sirul’s plea that he was merely acting under orders.
The detainee has therefore remained in limbo in Sydney, given that Australian law forbids him being returned to be executed in Malaysia. This is how Judge Rayment related the matter in his judgement saying that he could not rely on Sirul’s plea given that it was uncorroborated evidence:
Evidence was led from the applicant before me when the matter resumed before me in November 2018 that the applicant had been ordered to kill the victim because she was a Russian spy. He said again that he had refused to carry out that order. The uncorroborated evidence given by the applicant that orders were given to him to assassinate a Russian spy did not satisfy me that orders had been given to him in those terms, or that he was acting on any such basis. [Immigration Tribunal Deputy President B W Rayment OAM QC, 18 February 2019,  Sydney – see posting on the blog]
However, as those following the trial and related events back in Malaysia will be well aware there has been considerable corroborating evidence that the two killers, neither of whom knew their victim, were instructed to kill her by their superiors (an order that appears to have been sweetened by a cash payment). Malaysians are also aware that those superiors had a very strong motive, which was to silence Althantuya, who was blackmailing them over the kickbacks linked to the Scorpene submarine deal where she had acted as a translator.

Azilah SD Matches Sirul’s Testimony A Year Before In Australia

And now in the past few weeks a separate statutory declaration (SD) has emerged, this time given by the second killer, Azilah Hadri, who has remained in separate solitary confinement in Malaysia and has now lodged an appeal for a retrial against his death sentence.
This is what Azilah Hadri (who was the senior of the two and who claimed he took orders directly from ex-DPM Najib Razak to kill Altantuya before enlisting Sirul to assist him) said in his SD a full year after Sirul made his own application to the Australian authorities:
The DPM then told me that a foreign spy from a foreign country is in Kuala Lumpur and is trying to threaten the DPM and his special officer known as Razak Baginda.
The special officer was a good friend of the DPM whom I had met during my official assignment in London sometime ago.
I was informed that the foreign spy was a woman and very dangerous because of the many secrets she knew about national security.
Expand text
What Americk Sidhu points out is that the detail relating to the orders to ‘shoot a spy’ is remarkably similar in both sets of testimonies by the two men. It provides the corroborating evidence that the Australian judge complained was missing from Sirul’s statement. “Perhaps” says the lawyer “if Mr. Rayment had the opportunity of reading Azilah’s subsequent statutory declaration, he may have come to a different finding and Sirul would be free”:
What is unbelievable is the fact that two incarcerated felons, in different parts of the world, with no means of communicating, could come up with the same details independently of each other.
The chances of this happening are so remote that one would be more than inclined to accept that what both said about a ‘foreign spy’ must be the truth.
This would mean that the orders given were indeed to get rid of Altantuya because she was a foreign spy and an inherent danger to the well-being of the nation.
This detail lends credence to what Azilah said in his SD, which in turn, supports what Sirul said before the AAT [Australian Appeals Tribunal], and vice versa. [Decipherings Part 14]
Admittedly, the junior bodyguard Sirul had described Altantuya as a ‘Russian’ as opposed to a merely ‘foreign’ spy but his assumption with that detail is logical and an explanation for the two men’s willingness as members of the so-called Special Action Squad to agree to set about killing a woman they did not know.
Indeed, Azilah had boasted to Najib’s special advisor Razak Baginda (according to Baginda’s own affidavit given for bail) that he had already despatched 6-10 others so this lady would present no problem for him:
“After listening to me about the first disturbance AH boasted that he was the cause of 6 10 deaths and he could solve my problem. When I heard this I stressed to AH, I told him forcibly, that nothing untoward should happen to the deceased. I immediately made it clear to him that if anything untoward should happen to the deased, her family would blame me and my family for it. I assumed that as a police officer AH understood my first warning. I also believed that AH, as a police officer who was introduced by DSP Musa, would not do anything untoward or that was against the laws as regards to the deceased” [Testimony given by Razak Baginda against whom charges were dropped early in the case]
The shocking evidence of the existence of such an official squad operated by the BN government and tasked with performing extra-judicial killings (murders) is another scandal waiting to be examined of itself.
Meanwhile, the evidence of official cover-up over what happened to Altantuya has been overwhelming and deserves the fullest re-investigation.
The two operatives from this so-called Speical Action Squad had remained silent during their their original trial with bags over their heads to hide their features, save for Sirul crying out as they were sentenced that they had been made ‘scapegoats’ by ‘powerful people’ who had not been called to give evidence.
However, the more evidence that has emerged, including this latest bombshell indicating the bodyguards had been led by their superiors to understand that Altantuya was a foreign spy with secrets against the state, the clearer the actual motive has become. Indeed, as Americk Sidhu has reminded in earlier postings on the blog, Sirul first started to hint that he had been acting under orders soon after he arrived in Australia, having been released on appeal.
There is powerful evidence he had then himself set about trying to blackmail Najib to the tune of AUS$17 million in order to keep silent and not ‘bring down a PM’. It was not long after those blackmail attempts that the Federal Court over-ruled the Appeal Court and reissued warrants for the bodyguard’s arrests and sentences for murder, making Sirul once more a wanted man.

Cover-ups

More importantly, no evidence has emerged to provide any other explanation for the murder than that the two men were instructed to do the killing to protect Razak Baginda, who was being blackmailed over the Scorpene kickbacks by Altantuya – and more importantly his boss DPM Najib, who was ultimately in charge of the bodyguards.
As Razak Baginda stressed in his testimony above, Azilah was sent to him by DSP Musa who was working for Najib, to whom Baginda had complained about those blackmail attempts.
Yet, in what has been extensively derided as a rigged trial DSP Musa’s crucial evidence was never called by the prosecution or defence, so the court never heard why Musa had sent Azilah to see Baginda to discuss his problem over Altantuya.
It was the failure to call such crucial witnesses and to establish a motive for the murder that subsequently caused the Appeal Court to release the two men. Malaysians were left wondering if that had been the plan all along, hence the overall cooperation and silence of the ‘scapegoats’?
Then the surprise development had taken place, which was that the Federal Court over-ruled the Appeal Court and demanded the two be rearrested and executed after all (something that would never be permitted under the justice systems of normal democratic states).
Had a newly extremely powerful person decided (in the light of Sirul’s own blackmail attempts perhaps) that these two men, with all their evidence about the murder, were simply too dangerous to be set free and left alive?
Had an original plan to let them both do time until the affair died down, at which point an Appeal Court could set them free failed to secure the situation as anticipated?
After all, by the time the Federal Court reversed the ruling that set Sirul and Azilah free the world had come to know far more about the ‘dangerous secrets’ Altantuya had been using to blackmail Razak Baginda and his boss Najib – namely the truth about the multi-million dollar kickbacks over Scorpene had been cited by judges in a French court investigation that described the payments as being made to then defence minister Najib.
Interest had therefore grown not died away by the time the bodyguards were set free, leaving the now even more powerful politician yet more vulnerable on this dangerous matter of motive in a murder case that so clearly led to his door.
The last thing the now prime minister therefore needed was for the likes of Sirul and Azilah to tell the newspapers why Musa Safri, the man in charge of Najib’s security detail, had sent Azilah to see Baginda to help solve the problem of Altantuya and what exactly the orders were. Sarawak Report has detailed the extensive attempts on the part of lawyers linked closely to BN to manage Sirul’s evidence to the Australian authorities and to keep him silent.
Now the tables have turned again. Faced with execution and the realisation that Najib, no longer in power can neither pay nor save them, the bodyguards who for years had hinted they had material to themselves blackmail an all powerful prime minister, have now started producing full confessions and statements to different authorities.
And as we have seen, they are both essentially telling the same logical story that meets with all known facts.  Their testimony is that it was Najib who had the pressing motive to escape exposure for grand corruption over a defence deal (a pattern of behaviour that appears entirely in keeping with his conduct in office) and that he used his bodyguards to carry out the murder under the guise that Altantuya was a spy.
That is what Azilah says Najib personally told him and what Sirul says he was given to understand by Azilah.  Now that is damning, corroborative evidence and nothing raises a single contradiction in the chain of that damning evidence.  All Najib has come up with so far is a string of desparate cover-ups, seeking to use power and money to silence the whole affair.
It is time to retry the case and with all the evidence this time to determine where the truth in fact lies.
* Note: Americk Sidhu has represented Sarawak Report in a number of cases in Malaysia.
SARAWAK REPORT