Thursday, June 12, 2008


Govt still considering coal power plant


Sufficient power supply is needed for Sabah to move on in terms of development, but it must be clean power. “We must realise that sooner or later, we have to move on, especially when talking about development, particularly industrialization, where we need sufficient power supply but it has to be clean power,” stressed Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, yesterday. Speaking at a press conference after the State Cabinet Meeting at Wisma Innoprise here, he said the State Government is still considering the Tenaga Nasional Berhad’s proposal to build a 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the east coast of Sabah. He said the State Government is taking into account the views of everybody, including locals, nongovernmental organisations and experts, on coal-fired technology before making a decision. Masidi was commenting on an advertisement put up by TNB Chairman Tan Sri Leo Moggie, entitled “Why Coal For East Coast Sabah?”, which contains information on coal-fired technology and how it would benefit the people. TNB’s initial proposal to set up coal-fired power plant in Silam Lahad Datu was rejected by the State Government in April after strong objections from locals and NGOs’ over fears that the project would cause serious harm to the ecologically sensitive environment there. “TNB had appealed to the State Government to reconsider its decision to scrap the project or identify new place for it to set up the coal-fired plant for the benefit of the people in the east coast of Sabah,” Masidi said. The State Government, he added, had agreed to a second meeting with TNB recently, and allowed a public meeting between Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd and NGOs to provide the former an opportunity to explain the rationale behind their insistence in proceeding with the coal-fired project. “We in the Government are actually very transparent; we are not hiding anything. The interest of the people and environment is still our top priority but at the same time, we cannot just live on the environment, life must go on. “In this world, we have to learn that in order to move on, we will need sufficient electricity supply. If the project (coal-fired plant) is approved, it has to be built on a suitable location... for now, let us give it much consideration first. “They (TNB) made an appeal to find a new place. The State Government’s view is very simple, we told them to lay their cards on the table so that the people can evaluate every aspect of the proposal, thus ensuring they will comply with the higher standard of efficiency. “Therefore we will consider and listen to the views of everybody, including the advice given by the Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Kuching, Xie Fugen,” said Masidi. Xie, who was on an official visit to Sabah, disclosed that they had ventured into coal-fired plant technology long ago.


Alongs offer loan to bet on European Cup CASH

claims illegal moneylenders advertising services in City


The public is advised not to take out loans from illegal moneylenders to bet on the ongoing European Cup soccer matches. Consumer Association of Sabah and Labuan (CASH) Deputy President Nordin Thani said he had been informed that some illegal loan sharks were advertising loans for betting on the tournament. “They are already advertising their services in and around the City,” he said, adding that gambling is risky business and those who lose would not be able to pay their loans and the illegal loan sharks would trouble them. Nordin also urged the relevant authorities to carry out more spot checks on records of all licensed moneylenders following complaints of harassment from their customers who have settled their loans. He said some moneylenders have been calling their former customers to settle “incidentals” incurred when they took the loan. “Those who lodged their complaints with CASH claimed that the moneylenders continued to harass them despite having settled the loan. The excuse given by the moneylenders was that there were incidentals incurred by the debtors which needed to be settled,” he said. Nordin said the relevant authorities should before renewing the licenses of money lenders, check and ensure that they are in compliance with the law as well as interview the company’s customers. “We are requesting that the moneylenders inspectorate interview the borrowers personally and the company’s statement of accounts be audited by an independent body and copies of the statement be extended to the Federal Finance Ministry as well as the Ministry of Housing and Local Government before any license is renewed. “This way the relevant authorities can find out what is the interest rate charged and how much profit the moneylenders are making,” he said. Nordin also suggested that written permission from the employer notwithstanding from the public or private sector be made a criteria in applying for loans from moneylenders. He also disclosed that in Labuan, moneylenders and their associates are taking advantage of the current economic situation by opening up more hand phone shops, which are a front to illegal money lending services. These premises also operate as pawn shops where customers are allowed to pawn their hand phones for a loan with an interest rate of between 15 percent and 20 percent for a 21-day period. Nordin said similar activities are also widely practised in Kota Kinabalu and pointed out that the compensation paid out to the hand phone owners in the event of theft or fire is inadequate. “This is because the licensed pawn shop owners are only liable to pay a compensation of the pawned amount plus another 25 percent on top of that amount to the affected customers. “This compensation is grossly inadequate considering the original Purchase value of the item. The Pawnshops Act 1972 does not protect the consumers but the pawnshop owners,” he said. According to him, under the Pawnshops Act 1972, the interest allowed to be charged is only two per cent monthly and not the 15 per cent to 20 per cent imposed by pawnshops now. On the outcome of his meeting with consumers in Labuan, Nordin said CASH met with 60 people who claimed to have been cheated by licensed moneylenders who charged them exorbitant hidden interest on the loans. “There were also complaints of the loan agreements being tampered with and despite attempts, including reporting the matter to the authority, the problem remains unresolved. “The moneylenders are not worried about the police reports against them as they told the customers that the authorities concerned are on their side,” he said, adding that CASH had advised those affected to seek legal redress to the problem. To this end, he urged the Government to issue licenses to those who will do business according to the law. Nordin, meanwhile, urged banks to extend a copy of authorization letter to their agents instructed to carry out repossession of defaulters’ vehicles instead of the Repossession Order given to their agents. Nordin said many defaulters have complained of being approached by repossessors claiming to be the authorized agents appointed by the banks but could not produce relevant documents to support the claim. “The banks must also specify the amount of fees charged by the repossessors instead leaving it entirely to them. Some charge up to RM300 for a repossession and storage fees even before the car is taken away,” he said.


Do work seriously, CM to People’s Devt Leaders


Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Musa Haji Aman wants the People’s Development Leaders to carry out their responsibility seriously. “I have always said the same thing to YBs. We have been entrusted with a large responsibility. We have been given a large mandate. So, it is our duty to return the favour and fulfil the promises we made’ during the election,” he said when witnessing the swearing in of 56 People’s Development Leaders at Wisma Innoprise here yesterday. Musa added there was a lot of work to be done, including programmes and projects to be implemented for the people. He said since the People’s Development Leaders are on the ground, they should be the eyes and ears of elected representatives and pay attention to the people’s needs and problems. Musa also said more training should be provided for these leaders so that they can be more effective in their job. “You should also be up to date with prevailing issues in the Country, including important Government policies and decisions,” he said. Citing the recent fuel hike as an example, the Chief Minister said it must be explained to the people that the issue was a global one and not just confined to Malaysia. “The people, including leaders, must also change their lifestyle by being more prudent in their spending and reduce unnecessary spending,” Musa said, adding the people must also be encouraged to plant crops on their land instead of leaving them idle. “Don’t leave your land idle. It’s a waste. People with land should plant padi, fruits and vegetables, especially with the current world food crisis,” he said. The Government, he added, has already given subsidies for seedlings and fertilizers to encourage farming in the Country and the people should therefore take advantage of them.


LDP wants effective steps to help low income earners


Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Deputy President Datuk Chin Su Phin has urged the Government to draw up effective and comprehensive measures to overcome the current problems affecting the country, in particular the domino effect of the drastic hike in the fuel prices. “I strongly believe that the Government under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has the capacity to come up with the solution to the problems affecting the people” he said yesterday. Chin dismissed the recent claim by Petronas that it would go bankrupt if it continues to provide subsidies, as Malaysia is a net oil exporting nation. Towards this end, Petronas has been reaping huge profits each year and as such it is only logical for the company to bear the responsibility in assisting the Government especially during this hard and challenging period, he said in statement. Chin also called on Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad to be more responsible and mindful of the people’s feeling and stop making “inconsistent” statements relating to the fuel price issue. According to Chin, a day before Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced the steep increase in fuel prices, Shahrir gave an assurance that the price of the commodity would not be increased until the Government reviewed the fuel subsidy in August this year. He said this gave the impression of a lack of communication between the Prime Minister and Shahrir who is holding a very important portfolio dealing with matters, not just the fuel but other goods, that are affecting the people. “By right, Datuk Shahrir should have a good rapport with other members of the Federal Cabinet,” said Chin. On June 7, Shahrir announced that there would be no increase in fuel prices in the near future but two days later he was quoted as saying again that there would be no hike in fuel prices unless the prices in the global market hit the USD200 per barrel, recalled Chin, adding this meant that there would be no fuel price hike until March 2009. “But, in today’s media reports, Datuk Shahrir was quoted assaying that the Government would have to review the fuel prides again. And as at yesterday (June 10), the crude oil price in the global market was at USD135 per barrel and so does this mean that our fuel prices will be increased again by next month (July). “As a Minister, Datuk Shahrir should be more responsible and mindful of the people’s feeling because whatever statement he makes will reflect the Government’s policy. With the present situation, the prices of other goods have also increased and the people are already very unhappy with the Barisan Nasional (BN) Government. “In fact, the Rakyat understand that the increase in fuel prices is a global trend, but what they are not satisfied with is the Government’s sudden action to increase the fuel prices and the percentage is too drastic,” Chin contended. In this regard, Chin suggested that the Government should have come up with a systematic plan to increase the prices of fuel and in giving the subsidy or allowance to the people so that they are not overly burdened with the drastic amount and changes. On the Government’s cash rebate payments to qualified car owners, Chin said the majority of the people are from the lower income group and do not own vehicle and therefore being denied of such subsidy. “The domino effect of fuel price increase will greatly burden the lower income group in view of the increase in the prices of other goods as well,” said Chin, adding that it is therefore timely for the Government to really draw up a policy on the provision of subsidy targeted at the lower income group.


Judges sent to ‘boot camp’ or indoctrination: Report


Malaysian judges were sent to an indoctrination “boot camp” and threatened with dismissal to pressure them into making pro-Government decisions, a senior judge said according to reports Wednesday. In explosive allegations made in open court, Justice Datuk Ian Chin said he was threatened by former Premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad over his handling of high-profile cases, one involving a close associate of the then-leader. “Now, though he is no longer the Prime Minister and so no longer able to carry out his threat to remove judges, the coalition Party that he led is still around,” he said, according to The Borneo Post. Justice Chin made the allegations, which were picked up by the national press Wednesday, before hearing a dispute over results of March general election in Sarawak. He said he was targeted by Mahathir after refusing to award “astronomical” payouts in two libel cases in 1997, while a judge who agreed with the then-Premier’s views was promoted to the Federal Court. Justice Chin reportedly said that he was later packed off to a five-day boot camp with selected judges and Judicial officers. It was without any doubt “an attempt to indoctrinate those attending the boot camp to hold the view that the Government’s interest as being more important than all else when we are considering our judgement,” he said. Cabinet Minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who is in charge of legal affairs, indicated he believed the allegations, and that they would harm the reputation of the nation’s justice system. “I can’t say I’m surprised by the revelations. There have been many stories in the past,” he told reporters. “It is regrettable that it has happened, it is a bad reflection oil our country. We have to make sure it does not happen again,” he said. “You should not tell judges what they can or cannot However, he dismissed calls from the Bar Council for in official probe into the allegations. “An investigation will not reveal anything more than what we know. What we need to do is restore Judicial independence and make sure such incidents do not happen,” he said. Bar Council President Ambiga Sreenavasan said the allegations were “both startling and damning.” judges, both present and past, must be encouraged to come forward and provide information on any such instances of interference so that further action may be taken,” she said according to the New Straits Times. Mahathir stood down in 2003 and his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has been criticised for failing to carry out his promises to tackle corruption, which is deeply entrenched in politics and business. Justice Chin’s allegations add to the pall cast over the country’s Judiciary by a recent royal commission into a sensational Mahathir-era video clip that showed a top lawyer brokering judicial appointments with the help of politicians. The commission found in May that there was evidence of an “insidious” conspiracy to influence the appointment of judges, and the Government promised to investigate those implicated. Mahathir, who has fallen out with his successor and accused him of corruption and nepotism, has previously challenged the authorities to charge him. His spokesman told AFP the former Premier would respond to Chin’s comments “in due course. Meanwhile, the Star picked up the report in The Borneo Post on Tuesday that Chin made the allegations before he was hearing an election petition challenging the results of the Sarikei parliamentary seat, which was won by a Barisan Nasional candidate by just 51 votes. “In a report in The Borneo Post on Tuesday, that comes hot on the heels of the findings of the Royal Commission on the V K Lingam video clip,Justice Chin said the threat from the former Prime Minister came after he handed down two judgments in 1997,” the Star said. One was a judgment on a libel case involving MGG Pillai and Tan Sri Vincent Tan where he refused to give what he considered to be an astronomical award. Justice Chin said the other judgment was in an election petition on Bukit Bangunan in the Sri Aman Division that he ruled in favour of Independent candidate Donald Lawan against Barisan Nasional candidate Mong Dagang. “Shortly after the two judgments, the Judges Conference was held from April 24, 1997 where the then Prime Minister issued a thinly veiled threat to remove judges by referring them to a tribunal and stating that, though it maybe difficult to do so, it was still done.” Justice Chin said the former Prime Minister expressed unhappiness with what he termed ‘the Borneo Case’. “Everyone knew which case he was referring to,” he added. Justice Chin said after the threat, the former Prime Minister said people should pay heavily for libel and he only got a single response from a Court of Appeal judge who asked if he would be happy with a sum of RM1 mil as damages for libel. “He approved of it and later made known his satisfaction by promoting this judge (since deceased) to the Federal Court over many others who were senior to him.” A month later, Justice Chin said he and selected judges and judicial officers were packed off to a boot camp from May 26-30, 1997 where there was an attempt to indoctrinate them with the view “ that the Government interest was more important than all else.” “Stating this devilish notion was no less a person than the President of the Court of Appeal. Everyone was quiet during the question sessions.” Justice Chin added “the perversion of justice” continued and recounted an episode when a fellow judge Muhammad Kamil Awang told him he had received a telephone call from the then Chief Justice asking him to dismiss the election petition that he was going to hear in Kota Kinabalu. “We went into the possibility of making a police report or of writing to the Chief Justice a letter to record what he had said over the telephone but in the end he decided against it since it would be his word against that of the Chief Justice,” he said. Justice Chin said he was happy to later on learn that Kamil did not bow to the pressure and went on to hear the petition, thereafter making a decision based on law and evidence. Justice Chin said he wanted the parties involved in the current petition and their counsel to hear his disclosure in case they wanted him to rescue himself. The High Court Judge said he had twice The High Court Judge said he had twice stood unsuccessfully as a Barisan Nasional candidate for a Parliamentary and later for a State seat in Sabah in the 1980s and in one of those elections he was defeated by a DAP candidate. “Now, though he is no longer the Prime Minister and so no longer able to carry out his threat to remove judges, the coalition party that he led is still around” and the second respondent was a Barisan candidate and “may cross someone’s mind that I may have an axe to grind against the party concerned or any party thereof.”


10pc allowance cut here
CM announces measures similar to austerity drive done by KL over fuel prices


A 10 per cent cut in the entertainment allowance of Ministers, Assistants Ministers, the State Speaker and their Deputies was among the measure’s taken to minimise Government expenses following the recent massive fuel prices hike. Describing the move as “part of our way to show concern for the rakyat’s (people) sufferings, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the measures are similar to the austerity drive that had been announced by the Federal Government. The 10 per cent cut is to take effect immediately, according to him. “We have taken into consideration the current situation, and we are concerned over the people’s well-being and how they are suffering due to the crease in fuel prices. Therefore, we are taking measures internally and externally to cut costs,” he said. He hoped the 10 per cent reduction in emolument would improve productivity and the delivery system, stressing that to date, no new post would be introduced, unless necessary. “We are also freezing the giving of souvenirs, and all Government functions are to be held within the premises, (in addition to) reducing overseas trips and conducting staff training in-house,” he said. Musa also wants all Government offices to adopt austerity measures like saving utility and telephone costs, optimising the usage, and restrict the purchase of new assets to important items only as well as cut down on unnecessary office renovations. “We will update the financial regulations from time to time. For instance, the State would be putting a stop to the purchase of new vehicles and ensure that available vehicles are used efficiently. We will only be using manual-engine four-wheel drive vehicles to reduce maintenance costs,” he said. Musa however, said that prudent spending is nothing new with the State Government. “We have always been thrifty in our spending. The State’s annual Budget is meant to stabilise its income and expenses. “In view of the current situation, we are taking extra measures to ensure that there is no wastage on the part of the Government,” he added. Touching on the State Government’s external measures, Musa called for the import duties on cement from Asean countries to be abolished. “The State Government would be seeking the Federal Government’s assistance to waive the duties to help the construction sector overcome rising costs,” he said after chairing the Cabinet Meeting at Wisma Innoprise here yesterday. He appealed to the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to expedite the standardisation of prices of essential goods nationwide to help ease the rising cost of goods in the State. He also urged the Federal Government to extend the supply of diesel subsidy to public transport operators but cautioned local operators not to increase their prices without proper discussions with the relevant agencies. “We also need the Federal Government to review the poverty income level,” he told ‘reporters, adding’ that the Government Linked Companies (GLCs) should also take the necessary action to lighten the people’s burden by rescheduling loans, among others. He however stressed that despite the measures to reduce expenses, the Government would not jeopardise the development projects that would benefit the people, especially the lower income and those in the rural areas. “We will continue to be committed when it comes to providing development. The decision (fuel prices hike) may not be popular but as a responsible Government, we will ensure that the trust given will be upheld well, not just for now but for the good of the future generations,” he said.