Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Abolish IMM13 document; send back refugees: Ex-MP


Former Pensiangan Member of Parliament, Datuk Bernard S Maraat, has urged the Federal Government to cancel the IMM13 document issued to Filipino refugees in the State. “The document should not be in existence anymore, as the Government has stopped issuing it a long time ago,” he said. Maraat was of the opinion that because of the refugee status, the authorities cannot take action against IMM13 holders. According to him, he had personally brought up the issue in Parliament several times but no action was taken. It should, he said, be the agenda of the Government to take stern action against the 1MM13 holders and send them to their home country because the war there is over. “If they are truly refugees (1MM13 holders), they should be confined to the UNHCR refugee settlement in Kinarut and not allowed to live anywhere in the State or take up employment as they like,” he said. “But unfortunately, the Government has not done anything in the last 30 years to address the problem and the IMM13 holders are still in the State.” “They have married and extended their families, and many of their children born in Sabah are considered stateless,” he said, adding that these people came as refugees in early 1970s but they are still living in Sabah with the IMM13 documents till today. He also stressed that the presence of the IMM13 holders in Sabah has encouraged other illegal immigrants to come to the State and this brought about many social ills. “We have to think about our people and future generations. Where will they be in 20 or 30 years down the line?” he asked.


Sabah Property Show to showcase affordable quality homes


An exhibition on affordable, quality, innovative and value-added housing for property buyers will be held at the ground floor of Karamunsing Complex here from Tuned 2-15. The ‘SABAH PROPERTY SHOW 2008’ is the platform for established developers to showcase their creative resources and’ other innovative solutions to provide quality yet affordable housing that caters to families, young professionals and potential investors. The outlook for property market in Sabah this year remains positive due to strong domestic consumption, high market liquidity and loans being relatively cheaper, according to Arpandi Jasmin of EXCEL Services and Management, who is also the organising chairman of the event. Another factor is the Employees Provident Fund withdrawals for housing loans, which help to boost the property market, he said. Tourism is also progressing with around 1,000 rooms expected to be completed this year and the new airport is also being partly used, he noted. Arpandi said escalating prices of building materials have resulted in expensive properties in Sabah but this will not slow down the growth and development. The residential sector is expected to remain healthy with terrace houses continuing to be mainstay choice although the government plans to increase the availability of low-cost housing, he said. “According to research, Sabah, the Klang Valley, Johor and Penang remain the top growth areas in the country in line with global urbanization trends. The research also showed that property remained the most favoured investment type by far, accounting for 60 per cent, compared to 26 per cent who favoured fixed deposits.” Some 40 companies such as Wah Mei Group, SUDC Sdn Bhd, Sinar Pembangunan Sdn Bbd, J & M Development Sdn Bhd, SKT Global Sdn Bhd, Renofajar Sdn Bhd will take the opportunity to showcase their finest properties at the exhibition, which will be officiated by Datuk VK Liew, Deputy Minister of International Trade and Industry.


Important to get any land ownership issues resolved: YIS


Yayasan Islam Sabah (YIS) said it is important that any issues of land ownership in Sabah be resolved once and for all. Its Secretary-General Yahya Ahmad Shah said that land ownership would ensure that future survival for Sabahans, and that it has also been declared that every human being has a right to own land. In this regard, he said YIS praised the move by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok, who had directed the Public Complaints Bureau Sunday to immediately investigate allegations of power abuse by senior police officers in the allegedly 787-acre land grab at Kampung Tingkayu in Kunak. “The move is in the right direction, and this may be just the beginning of a disclosure of and investigation into land scandals in Sabah,” he said yesterday. Yahya said that on Feb 26 last year YIS had written to Dompok as Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Integrity requesting that the committee, while investigating into the Sabah smallholders land issue, also look into the issue of the 906,300 acres identified and reserved in 1979 for 60,000 Sabahans. He said the locations of these parcels, of reserved land were properly identified and marked on the map of Sabah. However, it was later revealed by PBRS President Tan Sri Joseph Kurup and reported widely in the local newspapers that most of the land reserved for Sabahans had been alienated to local companies who then sold them to companies from the Peninsular Malaysia. Kurup later claimed that as a result, nearly 90 per cent of the oil palm plantations in Sabah are now owned by Peninsular companies, Yahya recounted. The foundation also reiterates that every Sabahan must be given 15 acres of State land as land ownership is a guarantee to their future wellbeing. “Thus, it is now, before it is too late, that Tan Sri Bernard should direct whatever authorities he deems appropriate to look into the matter of land for landless Sabahans,” Yahya said in a statement. According to him, Dompok is also well aware of the numerous cases in which native smallholders had either sub-leased their land for 99 years which were then incorporated into large plantations. “Therefore, as a matter of urgency, Yayasan Islam supports Tan Sri Bernard’s moves on the Kunak land issue and, at the same time, also to pursue investigations into many other similar cases. “Cases in which’ native smallholders have been subleasing their land indicate that they are poverty-related and, therefore, require an in depth study by the Government how this poverty issue can be confronted and resolved,” he added.


Allocation doubled to boost R & D: Max


The Government is committed to build up the country’s competency in R & D, science and innovation, said Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Datuk Dr Maximus J. Ongkili. “We will be unable to achieve vision 2020 without acquiring significant capabilities in science and technology,” he said, adding that the public sector budget allocated for R & D activities is RM3.9 billion, twice the amount that was allocated under the Eighth Malaysia Plan. The Government aims to eventually spend 1.5 per cent of GDP on R&D by 2010. “We would encourage research as the basis for developing and deepening knowledge,” he said when addressing the participants at opening of the fourth International Conference on X-ray and related techniques in research and industries, organized by Universiti Malaysia Sabah here yesterday. “In order to ensure that the expenditure on R & D is maximized, we would prioritize and focus on specific R & D efforts and pursue the commercialization and the science, and techno-fund would play an important role in achieving these aims,” he said. Maximus said the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) will also focus on producing more researchers, scientists and engineers (RSE). “We are targeting to have 50 RSEs for every 10,000 members of the labour force by 2010 and to achieve it, we have created a RM500 million S & T Human Resource Development Programme. The Government has initiated the ‘Brain Gain Programme’ directed at involving or attracting outstanding researchers, scientists and engineers including Malaysians abroad, he added. Maximus noted that significant advancements have been achieved in the field of x-ray, which is widely used in many applications, including medical imaging and therapy, homeland security and industrial inspection. Maximus said Malaysia has transformed from an agro-based economy to one that is manufacturing and export- oriented. However, he said, like other developing nations, Malaysia is still grappling with socio-economic issues, including those related to the environment, health care and job creation. “We believe that the main solutions to these issues hinge on the speed of science, technology and innovations applied across segments of societies and economic sectors,” he said. Asked about the coal-fired power plant issue and the insistence of Tenaga Nasional Berhad to have it set up in Sabah’s east coast, Maximus said, “I know the disadvantages of the coal power plant and I am aware of global warming. Of course, there are pros and cons, and we must ensure that it would definitely not affect the environment. The issue, he said, would only be resolved when the State Government comes up with a decision. To the question if the State Government and UMS should work together towards arriving at a sound decision, he said, “Yes, we are cooperating. “Certainly, we are concerned about energy for power supply. In fact, we are talking about the waste energy for fuel, that could be a priority, besides other alternatives. “How to deal with the global warming is a big study and science has to look up alternatives to decrease the global warming,” he added. Earlier, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) Vice Chancellor, Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Noh Dalimin said the university has, under the IDB fundings, purchased the 5CRD and XRF x-ray fluorescence spectrometer for research purposes. “The XRD and XRF have many applications, including for most basic science and engineering, geology, archeology, pharmaceutical and in material science and crystallography. “The tools are considered among the most important assets in School of Science and Technology and UMS,” he said. According to him, globalisation and the advent of new technologies and knowledge has made it necessary for countries to some extent, to depend on one another for progress and development. At the same time, he pointed out, new challenges, beyond the capacity of any one country to address individually have emerged. “This leads to a greater need for international cooperation and this conference is one of the platforms on which such cooperation can be achieved,” he said. Mohd Noh also encouraged local participants to interact with the experts and specialist in the various sessions to upgrade their knowledge and solutions to improve on their manufacturing or research technology and processes.


Ministry to extend programs to Sabah


Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said yesterday she would ensure existing ongoing programmes of her Ministry are extended to Sabah and Sarawak within two or three months for the benefit of the target groups. The Minister told a press conference at Taman Didikan Kanak Kanak Kurang Upaya (a center for handicapped children), Labuk Road here that her Ministry has been conducting a study to find ways to improve the care services for the poor, abuse victims and other underprivileged people. She said she has full trust and confidence in her officers in carrying out their duties and discretion in granting assistance to applicants, and they must act within a reasonable time because the poor need assistance and their children need to go to schools. She urged employers to employ the disabled persons and senior citizens who are skilled and experienced and who need gainful employment.


Sabahans to benefit from aid scheme too


The Women, Family and Community Development Ministry will streamline all the new policies introduced and these will also be implemented in Sabah and Sarawak. Its Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen said this was to ensure that all the target groups in every corner of the country could benefit from the implementation of the policies. “The streamlining of the policies is in line with the ministry’s effort to transform its welfare programmes throughout the country that will involve upgrading of services,” she told reporters after visiting a care centre for disabled children here yesterday. She said the working papers on the matter were ready and would be tabled before the Cabinet soon. “Among the policies to be streamlined is on the aid scheme for the disabled, senior citizens and single mothers. “For example, the allowance for caring for family members with chronic illness or who are disabled only covers Peninsular Malaysia currently. “So too is the assistance scheme for single mothers and their children’ where the amount given by the Federal Government and the State Governments is not the same,” she added. In another development, Dr Ng said a review was needed on placing of the disabled, senior citizens and mental patients in the care centres to ensure that they were housed at the right institutions with suitable facilities and staff to care for them. “This is because some of the disabled and senior citizens at the welfare homes or care centres have mental problems and suffer from other diseases as well. “The old folk’s homes and care centres for the disabled are only meant for these groups of people and not for those with mental disease,” she explained. Dr Ng said she had informed the Health Ministry about the matter and would hold further discussions on it. - Bernama


33pc of people in Sabah have no power supply


About 33 percent of the people in Sabah have yet to enjoy electricity supply, according to Energy, Water and Communication Minister Datuk Shaziman Abu Mansor. Shaziman told the Parliament on Monday that based on the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) statistics, 67 percent of Sabah population are now enjoying electricity supply. He was replying to Senator Maijol Mahap who wanted to know the percentage of Sabah’s population who are still deprived of electricity supply. To Maijol’s earlier question on the Ministry’s short-term and long- term action plans to meet the electricity supply needs in Sabah, Shaziman said several steps have been taken by the Federal Government to address the issue. He said Sabah’s electricity generation capacity in 2007 was 744 MW compared to the maximum demand of 607 MW, which indicates a comfortable saving of 22.57 percent of the electricity produced. However, in reality, the electricity saving in Sabah is actually very low because most of it is generated by diesel-powered generators which are old and no longer reliable. After taking into consideration the actual electricity generation ability of these old generators, Sabah has only a 9.4 percent saving when it should be at least 25 percent to ensure a steady supply,” he pointed out. The Federal Government, in realising this problem has taken several short-term measures to meet the electricity needs in Sabah, among which are leasing generators from the private sector such as the 40 MW capacity unit from Sutera Harbour and acquiring supply from the Petronas Methanol in Labuan, he said. The Government, he added, is also carrying out scheduled monitoring of the main and small generators throughout the State and has purchased 1 MW generators as standby to reduce electricity disruption whenever any of the substations undergoes maintenance or repairs. For the long-term plans, the Government will be focusing on building new generators to replace the old diesel-powered ones, he said. The Federal Government, he added, has also approved two gas- powered generators and a coal-fired plant to be built in Sabah. “Completion of these plans is expected to take five years following which Sabahans can expect to enjoy uninterrupted electricity supply,” he said.


Move to further raise fuel prices very disappointing: CASH


The statement from Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Samad that fuel prices will go up this August is very disappointing, especially to the people of Sabah, said Consumers Association of Sabah and Labuan (CASH) President, Datuk Patrick Sindu yesterday. “The announcement by the Minister on Monday has heightened people’s worry and I believe, Sabahans especially, are very disappointed and frustrated over the situation,” he said. Sindu said the statement came even though during the election time the Government had said that they would not increase the fuel prices. “I am so sad over this move, and I hope the Government will consider not to raise the prices, as this would prompt public transport operators for example to raise their fares.” “This will become another burden to the public especially those in the lower income group.” Sindu urged consumers to spend wisely as there are no other people who can help them except themselves in the face of escalating cost of living. In a move that could drive up inflation, Shahrir said on Monday that pump prices for petrol and diesel will be raised in August but subsidies will remain for the poor. According to him, although the fuel prices would go up, the subsidies would continue to be enjoyed by the people based on requirement instead of usage. While most people would moan and groan over the Government’s move to further raise fuel prices by August with the implementation of a new subsidy structure, David Withers, who heads the operations support of Thunder Cranes (L) Ltd, an offshore modular crane company that has an office in Labuan, reacted quite differently. “When a country cuts its Government subsidy programs, it forces that country’s market to compete on a global scale,” he said “This is necessary for a country whose slogan is Wawasan 2020. It will be good for Malaysian companies to have to compete without Big Brother.” Withers said however that his main concern is how it would affect his local employees and the lower income earners. He said he is planning to buy a new car and with the spiraling cost of petrol, he is seriously thinking about getting one that runs on alternative fuel. Jenny Sim, an accounts executive, said it is high time that the Government seriously looks into the need to improve the state of public transport service in Sabah to encourage more people to travel by bus and train, as well as perhaps a Light Rail Transit vehicle. Sim said the Government’s plan to further cut subsidies and raise fuel prices would have serious effect on the quality of life of most Sabahans. She said very few people would not feel the huge burden of having to pay double or triple the current fuel prices, and that is what she envisaged based on the statement issued by Shahrir.


Keep off land grab issue

Police Commissioner warns groups not to interfere or instigate disputing smallholders


State Police Commissioner Datuk Noor Rashid Ibrahim has issued a stern warning to individuals taking advantage of the RM40 million land- grab issue at Kampung Tingkayu in Kunak, saying the matter should be left to the relevant authorities to probe. “Let the relevant authorities carry out investigations into the matter. We will not hesitate to take action against those who interfere,” he said. Speaking to reporters during a press conference yesterday at the Sabah Police Headquarters here, Noor Rashid said they are aware that certain groups are taking advantage of the land-grab issue between 171 smallholders and Syarikat Kerjasama Perkembangan Tanah Tingkayu Berhad. “These groups who have personal, political or organisational interests are manipulating the issue and were probably giving wrong advice to smallholders who are disputing the directive by the Land and Survey Department to award the land at Kampung Tingkayu to a company. They are doing it for their own gain,” he explained. Noor Rashid stressed that some of the smallholders or villagers do not even know what is happening, and he urged these groups who are giving advice to do it according to the law. Currently, the Police are gathering more evidence pertaining to the so-called instigators, before proceeding with further action, including arrests, he said. Giving a chronology of events, Noor Rashid had described the issue as a “civil matter”. “It was brought to the High Court in Tawau and on March 18 it was ruled that land inquiries held by the Assistant Collector of Land Revenue and the Deputy Director of the Land and Survey Department asking villagers to vacate the land’ were valid,” he said. On Nov 17, 2003, the first inquiry was held and the second one was done three years later on April 19. Both sessions had directed the smallholders to vacate the 1,324- hectare land as it belonged to the company. He said although the dispute had been referred to the court, Police had to maintain public order and investigate reports that had been lodged by the smallholders. A total of 38 police reports were lodged and 32 investigation papers, including 11 on alleged misconduct of police officers, had been opened. The other reports are on various offences under the Penal Code including criminal intimidation, theft and injury. Despite efforts by a Police Task Force to resolve the matter, there have been hiccups as complainants and witnesses have failed to show up for appointments. “We need to talk to them and we even made it easy for the complainants. We arranged to interview them in Kunak and Tawau and for those who did not want to go to police stations, we agreed to speak with them at hotels. “When our officers arrived to see them, they did not show up. Some of them even switched off their phones. Others have given us incomplete addresses. This has been hampering our efforts to get information that we need,” he said. Noor Rashid also said if everything fails, Police may have to get a court order to force the complainants and witnesses to turn up for interviews as provided for under Section 111 of the Criminal Procedure Code. “I would like to stress here that we want to conduct a fair investigation and this includes verifying reports of misconduct among Police officers. We will not hesitate to take action against officers who are found guilty. “But, we cannot perform well without the cooperation of all parties. We need the complainants and witnesses to come forward and help us in our investigations,” Noor Rashid stressed. In April, it was reported that a senior law enforcement officer and Police officers in Kunak were being investigated by the Sabah Anti- Corruption Agency for allegedly offering “protection services” to a company which allegedly seized oil palm plantations belonging to smallholders. And in exchange for their “services,” the company had reportedly given the officers kickbacks and benefits, including offering its company shares. The smallholders are also claiming that they were intimidated and threatened by the company to leave the land. On Monday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok took a serious view of the matter and had instructed the Public Complaints Bureau to investigate the allegations. Dompok had also instructed the Public Complaints Bureau to investigate allegations of power abuse by senior Police officers in the land-grab issue. Two major players, one is believed to be a senior Sabah politician and the other a high-ranking official in the Police Force, were among several called in by the ACA to facilitate investigations. Sabah ACA Director, Latifah Md Yatim, said they are gathering information pertaining to the case and that the media will be updated on latest developments.