Malaysia Bagus News
PETALING JAYA: An environmental group has urged the Selangor government to respect the state assembly’s decision to not delist the Kuala Langat North forest reserve, after a state official said degazetting the forest was still on the cards.
Selangor executive councillor Hee Loy Sian had said yesterday that the delisting of the forest is still on the cards. The forest is occupied by rich wildlife species and is the home of Orang Asli.
Hee said an investigation and discussions with academics and experts were being carried out about degazettement of the forest.
Sahabat Alam Malaysia president Meenakshi Raman said “degazettement or not” should have been moot, as the Selangor legislature had passed a motion not to touch any forest reserves.
“There is no rhyme or reason to await the view of academics before deciding. The decision is a political one, not an academic one.
“The Selangor executive councillor should do the right thing and respect the call of the assembly as well as the calls by civil society and local communities to keep the forest protected and gazetted,” she said.
Yesterday, Hee was reported by reporters as saying that many aspects had to be taken into account, including the welfare of the Orang Asli in deciding whether the forest ought to remain as a reserve or not.
“I am also taking into account the views of experts and professors from Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and other universities on whether the forest should be degazetted or not,” he was reported as saying.
On Nov 11, the Selangor assembly approved a motion urging the state government to protect and preserve the gazetted forest reserves in the state.
Hee, at that time, had said a state enactment would require strict public investigation before a permanent forest reserve can be degazetted.
Meanwhile, environmentalist Anthony Tan Kee Huat said Hee’s statement raises the question of how the migration of animals would take place in an event the forest reserve was delisted.
He said the state government must reveal if there is going to be a “catch and release” method to transfer the animals to a different forest.
“Ultimately, who would be responsible for this, the state government or will they pass the buck to the Wildlife and National Parks Department?
“Who will communicate effectively to the affected animals that they are supposed to migrate to the new designated forest? Dr Doolittle?
“To say that degazetting was still on the cards when the state assembly has decided not to sounds presumptuous.”
The Kuala Langat North forest reserve is located in Mukim Tanjung 12, Kuala Langat district. It was gazetted on May 13, 1927. The fate of the forest reserve came to public attention following notice of public investigation by the state Forestry Department early last year.
The notice, which seeks to gain public opinion following the proposed degazetting of the 931ha of swamp forest reserve, sparked controversy among the community, especially the Orang Asli who have depended on the forest for their livelihood for hundreds of years.
The peatland forest is estimated to be around 8,000 years old and environmentalists say the de-gazettement will endanger such species as the Malayan Sun Bear, Selangor Pygmy Flying Squirrel, and Langat Red Fighting Fish.
Association for the Protection of the Natural Heritage of Malaysia (PEKA) president Shariffa Sabrina Syed Akil said the latest development comes as no surprise as the state government has been dilly-dallying over the forest reserve issue.
She said the Selangor government had always harped on “town hall” sessions on degazetting permanent forest since time immemorial, and over the years these have proven to be a waste of money and time.
Shariffa said there was one such town hall on the Kuala Langat North in early 2020, where key technical agencies such as the Selangor Wildlife and National Parks Department was absent from the meeting.
She said excuses such as public investigations, town hall sessions ought to be stopped when it came to matters related to permanent forest reserves, as it should remain as it is.
PETALING JAYA: John Joseph Samikanoo has always been an active man.
The sprightly 67-year-old pensioner used to enjoy playing football and badminton with his grandchildren, doing school runs and spending time with his family.
But he might be spending the rest of his life bedridden after a fall at the staircase of his PKNS apartment building at SS8, Kelana Jaya, left him in a coma for a month.
Returning home in the early hours of March 13, John was forced to walk up the stairs to his 10th floor unit as all three lifts at the apartment were out of order – a regular occurrence, according to residents reporters talked to recently.
A notice put up by the apartment’s management body next to the ground floor lifts states that they have not been repaired, or had their parts changed, since the apartment was built in 1984.
John, like the other residents of the other 230-odd units, had already grown accustomed to the lifts being out of service and having to use the stairs.
But on March 13, he only made it up to the first floor before falling down several steps. A resident found him covered in blood on a landing.
Found next to him was a rusty stair railing, which police believed might have given way when John was using it to support himself. Checks on the next two flights of stairs found similarly rusty railings which looked like they had seen better days.
The resident informed the security guard, who called the police. An ambulance took John to University Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC).
He has since been transferred to the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC), where neurosurgeons said he had suffered multiple hemorrhages, strokes and facial fractures in addition to broken ribs and an arm.
“My dad hasn’t been conscious since the day he fell, and doctors have said he will not be able to get up, walk or talk again,” said daughter Michele.
“The doctors expect him to be bedridden for the rest of his life.”
She said she is unsure which party should be responsible for the lifts’ maintenance – the management body, the Department of Health and Occupational Safety (DOSH), PKNS or the Selangor government.
Speaking to reporters, several residents complained that poor maintenance of the lifts at the 15-floor building has been an issue for years, but the management body said it does not have enough funds.
Banners encouraging residents to pay up their dues are plastered across the walls surrounding the lifts, with a signboard stating “Servicing works in progress,” blocking the entrance to one lift.
The residents recalled that one resident had suffered a heart attack while climbing the stairs, and how a bypass surgery patient had to be carried up to his 15th floor apartment on a wheelchair after the procedure late last month.
When reporters visited the building on Sunday, only one of the three lifts was working, with a group waiting to use it.
“This one lift is not enough,” said a resident waiting with her husband and young daughter. “People use it all the time, sometimes up to 2am or 3am. It’s overused.”
A cleaner living on the seventh floor, Deiva Aparanjitham Nagan, 60, said it is a struggle for her to walk up and down the stairs when the lifts are not in service.
“I have knee problems, so it’s not easy for me., especially when the railings are broken in many places,” she said.
Mogilan Raju, 27, said his father often had a tough time going up and down the stairs to their ninth floor unit for his twice-monthly physiotherapy appointments at Assunta Hospital.
Another resident, who wanted to be known as Jisenaden, said the management body’s “excuse” had always been that many residents did not pay their management fees on time.
“But I pay, so I should be able to use the lifts,” he said.
A notice next to the lifts states that DOSH had previously declared all the lifts to be unfit for use as the ropes were in poor condition.
Reporters has reached out to the authorities for comment.
PETALING JAYA: Former Goldman Sachs investment banker Roger Ng may be in possession of evidence that could potentially exonerate former prime minister Najib Razak of criminal charges in the 1MDB scandal, reporters has learned.
Existence of the evidence was disclosed by US prosecutors to presiding judge Margot K Brodie during a recent status conference held in criminal proceedings brought against Ng in New York’s eastern district.
At the status conference, conducted via telephone on March 23, counsel for the US government told Brodie that data stored on Goldman Sachs’ servers had been released to Ng’s attorneys as part of the discovery process in the criminal proceedings brought against him.
That data, believed to have been originally stored on at least two mobile phones used by rogue Goldman Sachs banker Tim Leissner, could help clear Najib’s name, say prosecutors.
Leissner had surrendered the BlackBerry devices which he had used in the course of work to his then employer on Jan 19, 2016.
The judge also heard that Goldman Sachs had “wiped” the data off the devices while retaining them on its servers.
In an earlier letter dated March 12, Brafman & Associates had alleged that Goldman Sachs was “being actively protected by the (US) government”.
In the letter, Ng’s lawyers claimed that the government’s intervention “in another district to prevent Goldman Sachs and Leissner from complying with legal process by another court” was “clear evidence that Goldman Sachs is a member of the prosecution team” and is “united in interest with the government”.
According to the lawyers, the intervention was an application by the prosecutors to stay an order for discovery made in Najib’s favour by Judge Katherine Parker of the southern district.
The order had authorised Najib to take out subpoenas to depose and secure documentary evidence from Leissner and Goldman Sachs for use in his ongoing 1MDB trial.
However, on Feb 8, the US government applied to intervene and stay Najib’s discovery proceedings pending the completion of separate criminal actions brought against Goldman Sachs, Leissner, and Ng, as well as fugitive businessman Low Taek Jho, commonly known as Jho Low.
To date, the US government’s stay application has yet to be heard.
In light of the developments in Ng’s case, Najib has requested permission to intervene in the case to secure a modified order from Brodie which would allow Najib’s attorneys access to exculpatory evidence alluded to by Ng’s lawyers.
That request, opposed by both the US prosecutors and Ng, was denied by Brodie last week, leaving Najib without access to evidence which may clear his name, although it is already in Ng’s possession.
Ng and his attorneys are prevented from disclosing the evidence by an earlier protective order issued by the same judge.
Najib’s trial in the Kuala Lumpur High Court resumes on May 18, with the prosecution’s 10th witness still testifying.
The former prime minister faces 25 charges, for allegedly abusing his position to obtain gratification of RM2.6 billion in 1MDB funds and for money laundering.
KUANTAN: Police seized 30 cars believed to be involved in illegal races, in an operation at Taman Perindustrian Indera Mahkota 14 here yesterday.
Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department principal assistant director (Enforcement) Bakri Zainal Abidin said the 5pm operation saw illegal racers using a 250m stretch at the industrial park area as their “race track”.
“It is also found that all the vehicles involved in the illegal activity were modified to improve their acceleration and maximum speed.
“Further investigations are being carried out to determine whether the race involved betting activities as this is not the first time that they have gathered there to race,” he told reporters at the Kuantan traffic police station last night.
Bakri said in the integrated operation by seven officers and 25 personnel from Bukit Aman, Pahang police contingent headquarters and Kuantan district police headquarters, five teenagers were also detained for driving without valid licences.
He said police also nabbed several women and children who were brought along to watch the race.
However, they were released after their particulars were taken, he said adding that the case was being investigated under Section 81(3) of the Road Transport Act 1987.
Bakri said police would also investigate whether there was a violation of the standard operating procedures (SOP) of the recovery movement control order (RMCO), currently in force in Pahang.
PETALING JAYA: Employers reporting migrant workers to the Immigration Department in order to avoid paying their wages is nothing new, according to activists, who say the workers have long been used as pawns in order to minimise business costs.
Abdul Aziz Ismail, a member of the Selangor Anti-Human Trafficking Council, said he has been aware of such cases dating back to the 1990s, and was involved in some cases personally in the mid-2000s.
The companies were in the construction and plantations sector, he said.
“In one of the cases, over 40 workers had been working for around ten months and had yet to be paid,” he said, with the bosses getting them arrested and detained to avoid paying them the wages owed.
On Friday, home minister Hamzah Zainudin told reporters his ministry was looking into such allegations, with some businesses accused of tipping off the authorities to get their own workers arrested and detained or deported.
Abdul Aziz said some companies participate in frequent “cycling” of employees. “They replace their quotas. After a bunch get arrested, they get in contact with employment agents to replace them.”
He alleged there were instances of corruption among those involved in granting work passes and among employment agents, as a high turnover of workers allows parties to skim from the fees required when applying for permits.
Glorene Das, executive director of rights group Tenaganita, said the group had dealt with a number of similar cases, particularly in the construction sector.
“Many workers were arrested, charged, many were also whipped, then deported like criminals, and never paid. These cases were referred to us by NGOs in their country of origin, and sometimes their family and friends locally.”
She said she is aware of cases where refugees and asylum seekers are unethically recruited with promises of a fair wage upon a project’s completion, and paid small amounts throughout to keep them satisfied.
“Then when workers start demanding pay towards the end of the project, the raids happen.”
She said that harsh punishments must be handed down not just to employers, but the “bigger group of stakeholders that’s responsible” for the unscrupulous practice, including investors and recruiting agencies.
“Fines and compounds do not have an impact but taking away their licence for a period of time would work, as would freezing their bank accounts or naming and shaming perpetrators.”
She said it is high time the system for recruiting migrant workers was revaluated, with a need for a national labour migration policy to be established.
PETALING JAYA: The continued ban on both interstate and international travel means that a fast economic recovery will certainly be delayed, says an economist.
Carmelo Ferlito from the Center for Market Education said the government’s move to restrict movements and certain economic activities, as well as holding off from convening Parliament, was an overreaction to the Covid-19 situation. defying logic and not properly taking scientific evidence into account.
He said that while health authorities provided updates on the number of Covid-19 cases, there isn’t enough information about the breakdown of tests to fully comprehend the situation on the ground.
“But what is clear is that the number of new cases has not changed drastically despite the easing of restrictions.”
He said in setting policies, the government should be looking at the country’s very low fatality rate of 0.37% rather than the number of cases which can change depending on the number of tests carried out.
“In Malaysia, the survival rate if you get Covid-19 is 99.6%. This is a lot higher than a lot of other illnesses.
“In fact, Malaysia’s death rate from Covid-19 – the proportion of cases that prove fatal – ranks among the lowest compared to regional neighbours and other countries with similar population size, and is far better than the global average of 2.02%.
“When it comes to health, the government emphasises on the need for trade-off analysis. It says the benefits of the vaccines outweigh the risks, but it is a different story when it comes to the economy.”
Ferlito said measures from lockdowns to continued travel restrictions are greatly damaging the economy and that the consequences such as higher debt, inflation, and so on have largely been left out of the conversation.
He said this was evident from the 2020 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth numbers of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Where the other three countries showed an improvement in their economic numbers, Ferlito said Malaysia bucked the trend.
“Clearly the risks outweigh the benefits but the government does not speak about this. So there is a great contradiction,” he said, adding the reality was there were no “zero-risk” situations in life, be it vaccines or the economy.
“If you want to look at the real costs of the restriction on jobs, just look at the data on the number of people who started doing Grab, Foodpanda, and other gig-economy jobs. Then you would know how many people more would be jobless if these jobs didn’t exist.”
He also said it was strange that travel bans remain when restrictions were being lifted.
“Children can go to school, people can go and watch football games, but we are not allowing people to travel. So areas outside of the Klang Valley and other big cities especially are going to suffer more than others, the tourism and retail sector is going to continue to suffer.
“What is the logic in allowing a mall in Selangor to be packed but not allowing people to travel to Melaka for a holiday?”
He said while it was understandable that the authorities wanted to be careful, it has to be reasonable.
“What is important is we follow the SOPs. The reality is that the long-term benefits of allowing life to go on as ‘normal’ outweigh the risks, especially when we now know what we are up against, how to prevent it, and rolling out the vaccines.”
He added that by avoiding restrictions, more resources can be invested in researching a long-term treatment beyond the vaccine.
PETALING JAYA: Businesses are back and the economy is nudging forward but one sector – food delivery – is seeing a steep decline.
The number of food delivery riders has fallen over the past month, with one service provider saying there has been an 85% drop in availability.
Both restaurants and food delivery companies have confirmed the decline in interviews with FMT. They said many riders might have gone back to their full-time jobs with the gradual reopening of the economy following the lifting of the second movement control order (MCO) early last month.
Some delivery riders have switched to working for courier delivery companies, which are seen as offering more stable incomes. Others are using withdrawals from the EPF i-Sinar scheme as capital to start up new businesses.
“There has been a large decline in available riders for the past month or so, and availability has dropped by around 85% during the period,” Dego Ride founder Nabil Feisal Bamadhaj said.
“We see multiple factors at play, such as better employment opportunities, the ability to withdraw from the i-Sinar scheme, and students going back to colleges and universities since the MCO was lifted.”
Shubham Saran, Foodpanda’s head of logistics in Malaysia, said there had been a decrease in the number of riders around the Klang Valley over the past few weeks.
He said the loosening of MCO regulations was the main reason for this decline and predicted that the drop in the number of riders would pose a challenge in the fasting month of Ramadan, which begins in less than a week.
“We expect a strain on operations as our Muslim riders, customers and vendors will seek to break their fast at specific times,” he said.
“If this trend continues, we need to focus on investing efforts into getting more riders onto the platform.”
Foodpanda’s biggest competitor, Grab, has also noticed a decrease in the number of service partners and was temporarily halting its Hot Deals campaign, which gives customers a 50% discount on orders with GrabFood for two days.
In a message to merchant partners, it said it would interrupt the campaign briefly due to the “temporary reduction in the number of delivery partners online” as demand continues to increase, especially over the weekend.
“We want to avoid disappointing consumers with long waiting times or risk wasting your food due to an imbalance in supply and expected demand,” it said.
Grab also said the reasons for the temporary reduction in supply included the frequent rainfall during peak meal hours.
A restaurant owner in Kuala Lumpur said a police operation against noisy motorcycle exhausts was among other reasons for the drop in rider numbers.
“Operasi Ekzos has seen many riders go into hiding,” he said.
“Others have gone into e-commerce parcel deliveries, where they can take 80 parcels to deliver and get paid for the day. There’s no need to wait around and not be sure about getting food delivery jobs.”
He said certain service providers were offering up to RM160 a day in bonuses to attract more delivery riders.
Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president J Govindasamy confirmed that the 2,000 members of the association were seeing fewer delivery riders compared to before the recent MCO.
“Business has improved slightly for us, and I do not think this lack of delivery riders is a major problem as dine-in customers are now allowed.
“If there were no dine-in customers, this would be a big issue,” he said.
PETALING JAYA: Any amendment to the definition of “federation” in Article 160(2) to include Sabah and Sarawak will be meaningless if amendments to other articles in the constitution are not carried out, a human rights lawyer said.
Simon Siah said such amendments must be holistic and not piecemeal to decentralise the decision-making power from the federal government to the states.
In line with the amendments, there must be an increase in the number of representatives from Sabah and Sarawak in Parliament, he told reporters.
Siah explained that “the federation” defined under Article 160(2) refers to the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1957, which Sabah and Sarawak are not a part of.
“There is an argument from the states that to reflect the correct position of the federation, it is necessary to include the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) under Article 160(2),” he said.
Under MA63, Sabah and Sarawak are “equal partners” to the Federation of Malaya.
Siah said even if the government was in a hurry to amend the article, it would be a big challenge.
“There needs to be more clarity before the amendment is proposed,” he said.
Recently, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the government was committed to restoring the status of Sabah and Sarawak according to MA63, and promised to amend Article 160(2) for the purpose.
However, he said the Perikatan Nasional-led government may not be able to fulfil the demand as it needed a two-thirds majority in the Dewan Rakyat to amend the constitution.
Sarawak chief minister Abang Johari Openg had said the amendment would recognise Sabah and Sarawak as more than just states similar to those which made up Malaya in 1957.
Muhyiddin said he was aware of the request and recognised it as the wish of many Sarawakians.
“This is something that is close to the heart of the people of Sarawak and we are committed to restoring and protecting their rights,” he said during his visit to the state last week.
“I also recognise that Sabah and Sarawak are not just states but a region in Malaysia.”
PETALING JAYA: AirAsia has welcomed the idea of using digital Covid-19 passports but is hoping for an international agreement to adopt a single travel pass.
AirAsia Group president Bo Lingam said the use of Covid passports would help revive international travel, but added: “The sooner the governments and the aviation industry can confirm the best standardised globally approved solution, the better and easier it is for the resumption of travel.
“Otherwise, passengers and airlines will end up with multiple travel passes.”
Singapore authorities recently said the island state would, from next month, allow incoming travellers to use the travel pass adopted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to share pre-departure Covid-19 test results with airlines and immigration staff.
The IATA pass is one of many standardised digital passports that will allow people to travel without restrictions and serves as a possible solution for the aviation sector. It allows travellers to store Covid-19 test results from accredited laboratories.
Lingam said the adoption of the IATA pass has been done mostly on an airline basis so far. To ensure the effectiveness of the travel pass or any other digital travel passport, it is important for the solution to be globally recognised.
“Along with the rollout of vaccines across the globe, better testing and education and the formation of leisure travel bubbles between low-risk countries, a globally approved digital passport is important for the recovery of international air travel,” he said.
If Malaysia were to decide to use a digital Covid passport, he said, the plan should be well-coordinated at the national and regional levels.
“It may be IATA’s solution or it may be another one from Malaysia or even Asean. What really matters is an outcome that governments and global health and key industry authorities agree upon.”
Rosli Azad Khan, the managing director of a traffic consultancy group, said the government should just adopt the IATA pass instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.
“IATA is a worldwide airline association. Its digital solutions are for all members,” he said.
He said the IATA pass would be safer to use than a vaccine passport because its digital app requires a PCR or rapid antigen test result.
“A vaccine passport would not work,” he told reporters. “Individuals who have been vaccinated might still be Covid-19 positive and carry the virus.
“Test results are more reassuring. This way, only those who test negative are allowed to travel.”
PETALING JAYA: A doctor who is a former MP has called for the nationalisation of health services, saying private involvement only increases costs in the interest of profits.
Dr Michael Jeyakumar, who used to be the MP for Sungai Siput, said he disagreed with Dr Kuljit Singh, president of the Malaysian Association of Private Hospitals, who said at a forum that the private sector should run all hospitals and take care of clinical treatments, with the government only providing regulatory oversight and helping to fund treatments through various schemes.
Jeyakumar said a more sensible approach would be one taking the opposite direction, with the government running all hospitals in order to provide the most equitable care.
“Health services should be nationalised and brought under a single government body. Under the public system, they won’t be run to make profits,” he told reporters.
Acknowledging the popular view that the government is slower to move than the private sector, Jeyakumar said this was only because funding for the health ministry was too low and had led to inconvenient waiting times and crowding at public facilities.
“The health ministry needs support. It needs money for better facilities. Its budget is now around RM32 billion when it should really be closer to RM60 billion because we need better hospitals and more of them.
“I’m all for strengthening the public system because that’s where you get equitable care,” he said.
Economist Geoffrey Williams of the Malaysia University of Science and Technology agreed and said increased government participation could be done in a number of ways.
He said the government could either take on the running of all hospitals in the country or buy services from private healthcare providers at cost price on behalf of patients. Either scenario would result in cheap treatment.
Williams said another alternative was to have a hybrid scheme in which the government would buy medical services and medicines at cost price but allow patients to buy premium “hotel-like accommodation” or “jump-queue schemes” at extra costs.
“This means there would be no profiteering in healthcare, just in personal services.”
He said there would be room for abuse through overcharging or unnecessary tests and medications that as long as private providers were motivated by profit.
He pointed to a case in May last year, in which a private hospital was fined RM200,000 after it was found to be charging more than seven times the ceiling price for three-ply face masks worn by a patient’s nurses.
He said healthcare funded by tax money, like Britain’s National Health System, would remove the incentive to overcharge since neither doctors nor hospitals would stand to benefit.
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