Saturday, June 14, 2008


NIOSH to give more to Sabahans


Sabahans would receive more training from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) under the Human Resources Ministry. NIOSH Chairman Tan Sri Datuk Lee Lam Thye said this is because Sabahans are the future supporters of the developments in the State, especially the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC). Speaking at a press conference at the NIOSH office here yesterday, Lee said the level of occupational safety and health awareness in the State had increased and NIOSH Sabah was determined to train more Sabahans. “To date, NIOSH Sabah has trained 2,726 participants from - Sabah and Labuan through 101 courses held here, Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Sipitang. “As for competency courses, 123 safety and health officers and eight occupational health doctors have been produced,” he said. NIOSH Sabah, which was launched on May 21 last year, has eight staff headed by Regional Manager Hj Azman Sah Bin Hj Sabali. However, the service needed from NIOSH is very demanding and encouraging and the Institute would in future employ more staff to achieve its objectives efficiently. To further strengthen the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) for SDC, Lee said NIOSH Sabah would hold a Borneo Occupational Safety and Health Convention in June next year and it would cover Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, Kalimantan and The Philippines. The convention is also intended to make Sabah an OSH information hub in Borneo. According to Lee, a Memorandum of Understanding between NIOSH and Yayasan Sabah would be signed today at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort to train Sabahan youth on occupational safety and health to support the SDC. He hoped that more industries in Sabah would train their employees on occupational safety and health. On the number of industrial accidents reported in the Country, he said it had reduced drastically. “The latest report we received from PERKESO (Social Security Organisation) indicates that there were 81,810 accidents reported in 2002 and 58,321 in 2006. Most of the cases happened in the manufacturing and construction sectors,” he added. Lee explained that the plantation, tourism and manufacturing industries are booming in Sabah and it is vital for employers to ensure proper and lawful work place and safety for the employees as accidents could occur without any warning. He added that NIOSH is also looking for sponsors to promote its books in the schools which play a significant role in educating the students about safety. Meanwhile, Lee advised Malaysians, especially the unemployed graduates, to be cautious when hunting for jobs through the internet which promises a garden of roses. “It is very shameful that our citizens were caught in the trafficking of drugs and cheated in their efforts to look for higher... paying jobs,” stressed Lee.“I say it is shameful because Malaysia being strict in drugs and has strict penalty, including the death sentence but its citizens still got caught trafficking drugs in other countries,” he said. Lee urged Malaysians to verify the companies they intend to work with from the Human Resource Ministry or the Malaysian Ambassadors before accepting job offers overseas.


Rising cost no reason to abandon projects

Govt to be accommodative to contractors: Minister


Minister of Infrastructure Development Datuk Raymond Tan said the Government will be accommodating to contractors who are affected by the rising prices of building materials and fuels. “The State Government has decided to be accommodative towards contractors affected by the rise in the prices,” he said at a press conference yesterday after attending the Associate Consultant Engineers of Malaysia luncheon. Tan stressed however that the rising cost cannot be a reason to abandon Government projects. “I do not want any abandoned projects. I believe some of the projects that have been completed on schedule or ahead of schedule, or are near completion are not or little affected,” he said. “That is why I have advised all contractors to complete their projects on schedule or ahead of schedule to avoid any trouble in the future. “The Government projects should not be delayed too long, as if you delay too long, it would effect the cost structure. The longer it takes, the higher the cost would be, and at the end of the day, they cannot carry out the work.” Raymond said they are very serious about the rising cost problem and would consider giving allowance for the ongoing projects and also for those who have been awarded projects. “We understand that some of the projects are affected by the higher material and fuel prices and those that involve transportation of materials; we will study the projects individually and do a reasonable adjustment,” he said. Tan said he hopes all contractors will in future strive to complete their projects on schedule to avoid facing the problem like now. He said consideration to give allowance will be done on a case by case basis, and not all of the projects will be given additional allowance. “It will be based on many major considerations,” he said.


KL policies now even more confusing : Harris
Former CM urges Govt to introduce weekly salary payment


The various financial and economic policies announced by the Government are now even more confusing not only to the general public but more so to those who are affected by them and involved in implementing these policies, said Datuk Harris Mohd Salleh. Harris said the latest move by the Federal and State Governments to cut perks of Ministers and others shows that the Malaysian Government is trying to link this move with the outward trend of prices and is beginning to face up to the fact that the financial crisis is now a reality. According to the former Chief Minister, the actual source of the crisis is the unstoppable upward trend of international market prices - such as oil, rice and others. The cuts made from the entertainment allowances of Ministers and others will not contribute to saving even five percent of the total amount of this year’s subsidies which reportedly surpass RM60 billion. Also the adjustments of subsidies on diesel and other commodities and the payments of cash rebates to eligible motorists are both confusing and do not make sense. it is maintained that the Malaysian Government when and if it is not facing a financial crisis, is susceptible to a sabotage of funds and as such the cuts on Ministers’ entertainment allowances are merely a drop in the ocean. What is important is that the Government must follow and keep pace with the changing global economic situations and price adjustments. It is wrong to subsidise. Let the changes in the global prices take their course. However, in order to lessen their impact, this means that the Malaysian Government should abolish all subsidies and school and medical fees and in return introduce a ‘hardship allowance’ for every Malaysian over the age of 21 years. The abolition of subsidies will make Malaysians more responsible and thrifty on their spending habits. At the same time this also will encourage them to engage in economic activities which will make them more self sufficient, especially on rice, vegetables and fish. Presently most Malaysians are spending lavishly and beyond their means. Almost every Malaysian earning more than RM2,000 a month has two cars and the low interest rate for car loans at 2.9 percent is only encouraging this trend. On the other hand loans charged for agricultural activities such as for planting rice cost at least six percent. Where then is the logic? Actually almost every Malaysian has already, started to be frugal on his spending after the imposition of substantial increases on diesel and petrol prices. Comments made by those interviewed on TV and print media demonstrate clearly that with the higher fuel prices most Malaysians can only afford to visit their kampongs once a month instead of every week. The much touted promises ofhelping the rural people and the rural economy which have been going on since Merdeka, are only talk. With the exception of the settlement schemes introduced by the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, there is very little progress economically in the rural areas. The FELDA schemes introduced by Tun Razak are a full-fledged model of rural development - where every settler is given 10 acres fully planted either with rubber or oil palm and a small plot for a house. After completion, the lot is handed over to the settlers. Under these schemes, the settlers can look after the fully planted 10 acres and at the same time are able to repay the loan (development costs). Then again so much has been talked about the four million hectares of land which have been alienated and left abandoned. A full and realistic development of such land can only take off if the rural people are guaranteed of their source of daily live without food and sustenance. Therefore, regardless of whatever argument the Government may want to put forth, it is very important that for a start the Government pays a hardship allowance of RM300 to every Malaysian. This will not only contribute towards a distribution of wealth and a wider generation of cash flow, but will also spearhead the development of rural areas. The rural people will then have the incentive to not continue buying rice at RM4 per kilo, but instead to plant rice for their own consumption. Mere cuts of Ministers’ perks and also of others will not help to lessen the painful effects of the cuts in the subsidies nor contribute significantly to savings. Instead, it will only encourage those affected to look for other sources of income to maintain the high standard of living that they have been used to. The Government should after all have plenty of excess funds considering that prices of oil have gone up four times and the prices of commodities sucli as rubber and palm oil have doubled. Another pertinent and necessary factor to be considered is the cancellation of negotiated contracts for projects that are not the top priorities and are indeed not even needed by some States. On the payments of salaries twice a month, Harris said it is good news, but the Government should also consider introducing a weekly payment such as is practised in developed countries like UK, Australia and USA. This is more appropriate now as almost every average income earner does his grocery and other kinds of shopping at supermarkets - which require cash payments — instead of at the ‘kedai runcit’ - which give credit via records in the ‘555’ book. ‘I’1s twice monthly or weekly salaries system will still be of great help to low- income customers who can continue to do their purchases from the ‘kedai runcit’ which dominate in the rural areas, he said.


No quick fix over illegals street kids: Syed Hamid


The longstanding problem of the presence of illegal immigrants in Sabah may not be an easy task to deal with. Although many people in the State are hoping for a quick solution to the problem, there are unfortunately issues which need to be dealt with first. After a two-day visit to Sabah, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar felt that there is a need to address the wide-ranging issue of illegal immigrants and migrants in a humane and rational manner without getting emotional. He said the issue of illegal immigrants is straight forward but the problem of stateless and street children needs to be addressed in accordance with international law and children’s rights. “As for illegal immigrants, we can handle it as the governments of their countries of origin will provide relevant travel documents for deportation. We have deported over 100,000 immigrants since 2000,” he said. “However, those stateless or document-less children of migrants are not being accepted. We have to see what we can do to resolve this problem,” said Syed Hamid, adding that such problems are not peculiar to Sabah, for in Peninsular Malaysia there is the Rohingya (refugees) problem. Syed Hamid explained that those without documents are not accepted by their home countries as they have been considered as refugees under the United Nations definition. “Therefore, efforts must be made to find third countries who are willing to accept them,” he said. “Previously we discussed with the United States and accepted a few thousand Rohingya into their country,” he said, adding that Malaysia hopes to discuss with other countries to help take the stateless people in. “I spoke to a 16-year-old stateless boy; he has no education. It would be difficult to find a third country for him,” he said, adding that they could just load them into boats and send them off without a third country ready to accept them. Speaking to the media after attending a meeting with the Narcotics Crime Investigation Department here, Syed Hamid urged the people here not to be sensitive and emotional over the issue. “Playing up the issue of illegal immigrants makes it look like as if there is an agenda,” he said. “You cannot impose; we need to cooperate and find solutions. We understand the fears of the local people,” he said, adding that the Special Cabinet Committee on illegal immigrants headed by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would be meeting soon The committee would look at the various issues and see who would be best invited to the committee in helping solve the complex problem of illegal immigrants, paperless people and refugees in Sabah as well other parts of the country. On the calls by Sabah leaders for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to be set up to look into cases of illegal immigrants obtaining Malaysian identity cards through the backdoor, Syed Hamid said that there is no need for it. “We realise that the illegal immigrants issue is complex in Sabah and it is not as simple as it seems. We need solution. There is no need to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the illegal immigrants issue; it would help if we can understand the issue better,” he said.


State Govt mulls twice a month pay

CM says no problem if civil servants want it; Cabinet will discuss matter

Payment of monthly salaries to civil servants in two installments will be among the issues to be discussed in the State Cabinet Meeting next week. Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the State Government will only make its decision after the meeting on whether to emulate the Federal Government’s move in paying salaries to its employees fortnightly from August. He said State Secretary Datuk Sukarti Wakiman has been tasked to get feedbacks from various quarters on the matter before the State Government makes its decision. “We must first get the views of the State Secretary and State Government employee before deciding on the matter. If they accept, the Cabinet will have no problem implementing it,” he told the media after opening Bank Islam’s new Kota Kinabalu branch here. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahdullah Ahmad Badawi had on Wednesday announced that Government employees would be paid their salaries in two installment a month from August to help ease the impact of the recent sharp fuel prices hike. Petrol and diesel prices went up by 40 per cent on June 5. Earlier, in his speech, Musa said the Islamic banking and financial system had become a preference for Muslims and also non-Muslims, adding that the opening of the Bank Islam branch here reflected its commitment to improve its image and identity in terms of its delivery and services to customers. “The potential for the Islamic banking system to develop in Sabah is bright,” he said, adding that he is confident Bank Islam will benefit from the implementation of Sabah Development Corridor in view of the interest shown by foreign investors in the country’s Islamic banking system. Meanwhile, Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd plans to open 25 new branches in the next three years. Its Managing Director Datuk Zukri Samat yesterday disclosed that the move is in line with Bank Islam’s aim to develop an Islamic financial system to operate together with the conventional system in the country. The bank, set up 25 years ago, currently has 90 branches nationwide with over 2,900 employees. Zukri said Bank Islam is making efforts t upgrade its branch network in line with it re-branding process which started last August, which among others include improving the quality of services and also ensuring convenience for customers where they are carrying out banking transactions. He said the bank is also looking at ways to lighten the financial burden of customer following the recent fuel prices increase. “We are taking proactive steps and among our innovative offerings is providing payment holiday for the housing bar package,” he said. Through the scheme, customers have the choice of not making repayments for two months each year. Bank Islam is currently offering more than 50 products and services based on the Syariah principles, and the products an intended to cover all the needs of customers including individuals, corporate and organisations.


More Sabahans to join Federal Civil Service: Dompok


Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Bernard Dompok has a new task in hand to oversee affairs of the Federal Secretaries of Sabah and Sarawak. The United Pasok Momogun KadazanDusun Organisation (Upko) President disclosed that his role is to help coordinate and ensure that Federal projects are implemented smoothly in the two states. Asked if his appointment has something to do with the call by Sabah leaders for a Sabah and Sarawak Affairs Ministry, Dompok replied: “was not told that this is objective of me overseeing the State Federal Secretaries. The Prime Minister did inform me that he wants me to oversee federal matters in the two states.” Dompok, who has also been put in charge of the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu), said the Federal Government is serious about ensuring that hot h Sabah and Sarawak progress in tandem with the rest of the country. “I am looking at 110W the office of the Federal Secretary can be utilised towards achieving the objectives to ensure that Sabah and Sarawak progress,” he said, adding that the Federal Government is serious by getting Mampu involved. Dompok said various departments would report to their respective headquarters and his responsibility is to ensure that whatever projects planned for East Malaysia would be implemented smoothly. He said the new task is in addition to his existing responsibilities, and that he is looking at it in the context of the present day challenges within the Government at State and Federal departments and agencies. “At the dialogue, I was told of hiccups in the implementation of federal projects. We will take steps to resolve them,” he said. On the move to allow State civil servants to join Federal civil service to ensure there are more Sabahans serving in the Federal departments in the State, Dompok said that steps are underway and they are waiting for the State civil service to identify people keen to make the switch. “They would not lose, their entitlements as it is all similar terms,?’ he said, adding that Federal civil service provides better exposure as there are many departments as well as opportunities to serve the diplomatic corp. He added that the Federal Cabinet has agreed to the matter and that steps are being taken to implement the system in an orderly manner. Disclosing it as a new scheme introduced by the Federal Government, he explained that interested parties are allowed to apply and if they are accepted, they will be able to move from one grade to another with their seniority intact. Stressing that the system is to give opportunities for Sabah officers to work in the Federal ministries or departments, Dompok said that eventually they would be promoted to a higher level. “Opportunities to hold higher level posts are wider in the Federal civil service as the officers would be more exposed not only to the working environment in the country but also abroad. “I do not think that Sabahans are reluctant to work in the Peninsular. In fact, in Putrajaya for instance, I meet many Sabah officers who are happily working there and they don’t feel like going back because unlike previously, Kuala Lumpur and Sabah are now enjoying good relations. “We now have the luxury of cheap fares and frequent daily flights. Malaysia is, indeed, getting smaller,” he said. Touching on allowances for Sabah officers working in West Malaysia, Dompok explained that they are given various allowances but the complaint is that the amounts are lower than those given to their Peninsular Malaysia counterparts who are sent to serve in Sabah. “But the difference in the amount of allowance is small,” he explained.