Job for new Philippine head: Stop the kidnapping of foreign citizens


Manila urgently needs to tackle problems in its own backyard to stop the kidnapping of foreign citizens.

PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was in Manila last November for the Apec Summit when he was informed by officials that Malaysian hostage, Bernard Then, who was abducted by the Abu Sayyaf group, was beheaded.

“He was upset and very shocked,” recalled a Malaysian official.

When he spoke to the Malaysian media in Manila, Najib said President Benigno Aquino had told him that Then’s beheading was probably carried out due to Philippine army operations and that Then had slowed down the militants who were moving from one place to another.

“That is not an excuse we can accept because he should have been released,” Najib told the media.

He described the beheading as savage and a barbaric act.

There seems to be no end to the kidnappings. Now more hostages, at least 20, are in the hands of the militants who are demanding ransoms.

They include four Malaysian sailors who were taken from their boat by Abu Sayyaf militants on April 1 in international waters near Pulau Ligitan. Their fate remains unknown.

Fourteen Indonesians travelling in tugboats from Borneo to the Philippines were also abducted by hijackers in two separate cases recently.

Even as the foreign governments were working to get their citizens released, more shocking news came – Abu Sayyaf gunmen had beheaded Canadian John Ridsdel in the southern province of Sulu, sparking condemnation from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Indonesia is still struggling with how to deal with the kidnapping of its citizens and is hosting talks with Malaysia and the Philippines to boost maritime security.

The meeting of foreign ministers and military chiefs in Jakarta is to discuss joint patrols to protect shipping in the waters between the three countries following the kidnappings.

The Philippine military has said the militants have been targeting foreign crews of slow-moving tugboats because they can no longer penetrate resorts and coastal towns in Sabah due to increased security.

Last week, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman was in Manila to meet his Filipino counterpart, Jose Rene D. Almendras. More assurance was given that Manila was doing all it could to secure the release of the hostages.

The Philippine military and police reportedly said that “there will be no letup” in the effort to combat the militants and find the hostages. But they have had little success in securing their freedom.

All these assurances somehow ring hollow.

We are dealing with human lives. If the foreign governments are frustrated with the way the crisis is being handled by Manila, imagine the anguish and uncertainty of family members waiting for news of their loved ones.

The kidnappings are taking place in the Philippines’ own backyard and the question arises as to whether they are doing enough to tackle the problem at source.

The answer will be no. After all how do you explain the alarming number of people being kidnapped and brought back to the Philippines with a price put on their head?

It is election period in the Philippines. A lot of energy is spent on political campaigning by politicians and fears remain that the lives of the hostages are not on their priority list.

“Manila must be doing more to tackle the kidnapping and transborder crime activities and I seriously think they are not doing enough,” said a security official.

Security is a big challenge for the Philippines. While its military is battling the militants in the south, up north Manila sent its ships and aircraft to keep watch over the South China Sea, where tensions are building up with China.

Another problem has risen from these hostage-taking cases. It is affecting the economic activities of citizens living on both sides of the border.

Sabah has shut down its eastern international boundaries to cross- border trade as part of measures to clamp down on the kidnapping groups.

Barter trade is a lifeline for people on Tawi Tawi, the southern-most Philippine province and the closest to Sabah, for their rice, cooking gas and fuel.

Authorities in several Indonesian coal ports have blocked departures of ships for the Philippines over security concerns. Indonesia supplies 70% of the Philippines’ coal import needs.

The calls for joint navy and air patrol efforts among neighbouring countries are getting louder. But that is a stop-gap measure.

These kidnapping cases are affecting the image of the region as well.

Filipinos are about to elect a new president. Lets hope one of the priorities of the new leader is to tackle, with a lot of care, the safe release of the hostages and subsequently peace in southern Philippines.

By Mergawati Zulfakar The Star



‘Freedom of navigation’ held by US actually a kind of hegemony

China is making efforts with ASEAN states to protect the peace and stability of the South China Sea [Read it]

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Rather than military prowess, it will be agreements achieved through dialogue and mutual trust that will guarantee long-term peace and security in Asia.

READ: Malaysian beheaded by Abu Sayyaf after kin failed to comply with ransom demand – military

There seems to be no end to the kidnappings. Now more hostages, at least 20, are in the hands of the militants who are demanding ransoms.

They include four Malaysian sailors who were taken from their boat by Abu Sayyaf militants on April 1 in international waters near Pulau Ligitan. Their fate remains unknown.

READ: 4 Malaysians reported seized by Abu Sayyaf

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Leftover women and men: the sheng nu and sheng nan (guang gun)

Pro-singledom ad goes viral

Women in China who don’t get married after a certain age
are often called ‘leftover women’. By telling what many of these single
women are really thinking, a cosmetics ad has gone viral.

Studio interview: Leftover women a popular label in China

 Now for more discussion, we are joined in the studio by social affairs critic Han Hua. Ms.

Marriage isn’t the only path to bliss

“I AM a sheng nu,” Jenny Yan, 30, proclaimed.

The car sales executive has been single for about a year after breaking up with her boyfriend of three years.

“I am now searching for my life partner with the frame of min

d of a sheng nu,” she said.

Literally “leftover women”, sheng nu is a derogatory term in China for single women who, in the eyes of society, have passed the ideal time to get married and still remain unattached in their late 20s and beyond.

The term sheng nu suggests that Chinese society sees the singletons as undesirable, almost like the coarser particles that are left on a sieve.

Single men, on the other hand, are known as sheng nan (leftover men) or guang gun (bare sticks).

The situation seems to be more dire for men, as they will outnumber women by 24 million by 2020 due to the country’s gender imbalance, but they are less stigmatised than single ladies in the patriarchal society.

While Yan said her parents look forward to her settling down, they are not putting too much pressure on her. She is taking the initiative to search for a suitor.

“When I was in my 20s, I relied solely on feelings and paid no heed to all the realistic factors, but now I won’t have too much expectations,” Yan said.

“To create more chances for myself, I’ll agree to meet and get to know the other person whenever friends recommend possible suitors to me.”

The stigma surrounding sheng nu often leads to heated discussions, with single ladies determined to shake off the shame and outdated judgment that society forces on them.

A recent advertisement by Japanese beauty products brand SK-II rightly triggered a flood of support from women in China.

Themed “Change Destiny”, the four-minute long clip walked viewers through the humiliation single ladies faced in China, which more often than not resulted in self-doubt and self-criticism.

“Maybe I should give up on someone I love for someone who’s suitable,” one of the ladies said to the camera, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Their parents were a major source of pressure, urging them to stop being so choosy and quickly settle down. Instead of being supportive, they were critical of their daughters.

“I used to think my daughter has great personality.

“She is not too pretty, just average. That’s why she is a leftover,” a mother said with a light chuckle, while her daughter, who was sitting next to her, tried hard to contain her tears.

A father said: “As long as you are not married, I cannot die in peace.”

One of the single women featured in the advertisement said remaining single is considered not filial in China.

“Maybe I am being selfish. I want to say sorry to them,” she said, breaking down in sobs.

In the advertisement, the ladies decided to attend the Shanghai Marriage Market, a weekend fair at the People’s Park where parents “promote” their single and available daughters and sons with details such as age, height, profession, income and assets.

In a turn of events, it was revealed that the ladies were not there to look for partners but to tell their parents that marriage isn’t the only path to happiness.

Professional portraits which depicted them as confident and glowing women were exhibited in the park, along with a personal message.

“I don’t want to get married just for the sake of marriage. I won’t live happily that way,” one of them, identified as Li Yuxuan, 33, said.

Another lady, whose mother has previously dismissed her as just average-looking, said to the camera: “Even if I am alone, I can be happy, confident and have a good life.”

Since it was posted on SK-II’s official Weibo account, the video has recorded two million views and was shared 25,000 times.

Sindy Huang, 36, said she was touched by the advertisement.

“The details in the advertisement were moving, such as their skin condition, their sleep-deprived look, and the helplessness in their eyes. I feel like I am watching myself,” she said.

The Beijing-based journalist who hailed from Zhejiang province said Chinese society has the tendency to sympathise with single ladies.

“Many people think sheng nu is the main cause of an unstable society, and parents are desperate for us to get married because they don’t want us to grow old alone,” she said.

Both Yan and Huang said while they yearn for true love and a family of their own, they would not rush into a relationship and preferred to wait for the right person to come along.

Huang said girls have to have a strong inner centre to help them face the pressure from society.

When ridiculed by married friends, she said she would retort by asking them if they are in a state of perfect happiness.

“That shuts them up. Some of them even conceded that I was right,” she added.

However, not everyone held the SK-II advertisement in high regard.

Some were in the opinion that the short film has exploited single women’s weaknesses to boost views.

A writer identified as Gu Yingying likened the advert to “a bottle of dirty water splashing onto (women’s) independence and confidence”.

Towards the end of the short film, one of the mothers exclaimed, “Sheng nu should be proud!”

In taking an apparent jab at this particular line, Gu wrote on her WeChat official account: “Sheng nu is not an honour, and neither is marriage. This is just a life choice and has nothing to do with honour.”

She said the women yearned for marriage and love but had to emphasise, with teary eyes, in front of the camera that they are okay being single.

Huang disagreed with the comments that dolling the ladies up in the advertisement is just a typical way to confront the dominant ideology of patriarchy.

“There isn’t anything wrong with dressing up. Those who are not sheng nu will never understand the pain of singletons.

“I am okay with the creative execution of the advertisement. It isn’t targeted at men or housewives, after all,” she said.

As for Yan, she said she won’t search blindly, but she won’t slack either in finding a suitor.

“Since I have reached the appropriate age to get married and get pregnant, I should be more proactive,” she said.

“I am planning to participate in mass dating events. Let’s see how it goes.”

By Tho Zin Yi Check-in China

If it’s too good to be true, something’s wrong

DURING a recent shopping session with my family, I saw an interesting promotion for a television set at a big retail store.

The retail price for the said television set was RM4,999. A 22% discount was offered for cash purchasers which brought the price down to RM3,899.

While the price seemed attractive enough, I saw another sweetener for the deal, stating that the special price under its flexible payment plan was RM2,729.30, apparently a massive 45% discount from the retail price!

At first glance, the flexible payment plan was the best deal. As the deal seemed too good to be true, I decided to do some calculation to see the rationale behind it.

Under the flexible payment plan, the weekly installment was RM26.72 for a total of 5 years.

The price of the television set would end up to be RM6,947 instead of RM2,729 upon the last payment.

I was surprised with the huge difference between a cash purchase and the flexible payment plan. This incident has also highlighted some blind spots we have in our spending.

Many a time, there are instalment plans that offer seemingly low interest rates as their marketing strategy.

As consumers, we may end up spending more than we thought if the effective interest rate and other financial concerns are not taken into account.

Taking the television set as an example, the total amount paid for the instalment plan is 78% higher than the cash purchase.

The effective interest rate per year for the financing of 5 years is about 45%, which is way higher than our fixed deposit rate of only 4%.

Bear in mind the high amount that we pay is for a depreciating item. With more advanced technology introduced year after year, the television set we buy today would not have much value left.

Thus, what looks like an attractive deal initially does not ring true anymore after factoring in high effective interest rates and accelerated depreciation in values.

Looking at the high premium charged for the instalment plan, it would be better to go for a cash purchase if the situation permits.

Often, it is better to evaluate our needs before making the decision to purchase depreciating items.

I always encourage prudent spending especially in testing times when we are faced with uncertainty in the economic environment.

Imagine if we can channel the money spent on depreciating items to assets such as investments or properties for the same period of 5 years.

Our money would have grown and helped to improve our financial position, or at least to hedge against inflation.

Other than potential value appreciation, the interest we pay for a housing loan is lower compared to other loans such as personal, credit card and car loans.

The effective rate for a housing loan is as advertised, and the rate is calculated based on the reducing balance (only pay interest on the remaining loan balance).

On the other hand, for car loans and flexible payment plans like the one mentioned above, their interest rates are calculated based on the full loan amount throughout the term, which makes the actual interest rate higher than the advertised rate.

For instance, the interest rate for credit cards is calculated based on 1.5% per month, hence the effective rate per year is 18% (1.5% times 12 months).

On the other hand, for a RM100,000 car loan with a 2.5% interest rate and a 7-year loan tenure, the interest amount would be RM17,500, making the total amount for the car RM117,500.

As a result, the effective interest rate for this car loan is 4.7% instead of 2.5%.

On many occasions, we tend to be drawn in by the “attractiveness” of easy payment plans without weighing the hidden financial commitments.

Though it helps us to obtain an item immediately, we may overlook the true value of the item and the potential financial burden it brings.

Therefore, if a deal is too good to be true, most of the time, it is just too good to be true and worth a second thought.

By Alan Tong food for thought

Datuk Alan Tong was the world president of FIABCI International for 2005/2006 and awarded the Property Man of the Year 2010 at FIABCI Malaysia Property Award. He is also the group chairman of Bukit Kiara Properties. For feedback, please email

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Lessons from Penang affordable housing

AS we all know, affordable housing is the saving grace for the middle to low income group in our common dream to pursue the “roof over our heads”.

Most often, aspiring homebuyers are sandwiched between increasing property price and developers’ tendency to build high-end apartments especially in greater KL for the last decade.

The introduction of PR1MA and other affordable housing agencies by the federal government is aimed at addressing this gap and to promote better home ownership as part of the prime minister’s national transformation programme. Nonetheless, not many realised that affordable housing is also a state initiative whereby state governments are free to introduce affordable housing schemes given that land and development are within the exclusive power of the state under the Federal Constitution. For instance, Penang is fully behind the notion of affordable housing by placing their top priority on increasing homeownership ratio within the state.

Checking online, there are currently 29 affordable housing projects in Penang with 12 being developed by the state government and the other 17 by the private sector. Penang is delivering a commendable amount of affordable housing by trading plot ratio of built-up area in exchange for more units to be built.

The state government is constantly reviewing and updating the criteria for the purchase of affordable housing in Penang. A person who already owns a property can still purchase affordable housing in Penang provided the person can satisfy the conditions imposed.

For example, the house to be purchased must be of higher value than the one already owned.

In addition, for those who are not born in Penang, under the talented and skilled category, they may also purchase affordable housing in Penang provided they undertake to reside there for a minimum of five years. In short, affordable has become a driver for talent retention. This ultimately helps to upgrade living standard in Penang.

On the flip side, Penang has uncovered a problem. Those who are entitled to affordable housing may not qualify for financing, especially those from the lower income group as they are considered as high risk by banks.

Job and income security at this level are extremely vulnerable given the high cost of living that in effect reduces disposal income. Bank and financial institution are after all profit-making entities. Loan disbursements below a certain threshold amount does not always generate their desire margin. Many expiring home owners are left helpless.

While nothing is perfect, one can only achieve success through lessons learned along the way and from history. The federal government is aware of the high loan rejection rate. It has, therefore, provided a 10% loan guarantee and First House Deposit Financing to help purchasers with their downpayments. The “Rent to Own” scheme was also introduced to circumvent the stricter loan financing situation.

Penang has introduced a similar Rent to Own scheme. Under this scheme, the state government provides 30% of the home price so that the house buyer can seek a 70% loan margin.

PR1MA, on the other hand, is facing difficulties finding suitable land as land is state matter. There is also a tendency for the state government to allocate land for this purpose in areas they want to urbanise, but which are often far from amenities and transportation links.

We all know that to develop affordable housing is not the best commercial decision to make because profit margins are definitely lower. As such, we cannot expect private sector developers to always bear the cost.

Penang, on the other hand, is able to overcome this problem by reducing the development charges via an increase in plot ratio. This then attracts private sector developers to come in.

A recent survey conducted by PR1MA shows that buyers prefer to purchase residential projects close to schools, clinics and shops. They also prefer access to transportation. Penang is closer to achieving its objective in the affordable housing arena because it “focuses on the homeowners”.

Under the recently announced Penang Transport Master Plan, the state government is mulling over RM8bil worth of projects that will enhance connectivity.

The development of an underground tunnel from Gurney Drive to Bagan Ajam, Gurney Drive to Jelutong Expressway and an alternative road connecting Gurney Drive right up to Batu Feringhi will really improve connectivity.

Penang is ambitious in executing its affordable housing plans. It is also spot-on when it comes to addressing the different issues connected with this subject.

The banking sector must buy into it. Banking and financial institutions are governed by the fiscal policy of the federal government. Maybe some mandatory quota or corporate social responsibility initiatives can be imposed on banks to provide loans to deserving house buyers. So it is timely that Bank Negara has called for a comprehensive and carefully designed National Planning Policy to support the Government’s aim in delivering more social housing in its recently released annual report.

By Chris Tan

Chris Tan is the founder and managing partner of Chur Associates.


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The allure of Penang heritage properties

Prized property: The Chimes Heritage building at Jalan Bawasah, Penang. The value of heritage properties has increased by 37 to 157 per sq ft since 2008 due to the investments made by Penangites staying overseas and by Singaporeans.


Value of such assets has jumped by as much as 157% psf

THE heritage property segment is still attracting strong interest from investors despite the softening of the overall property market in Penang.

The value of heritage properties has increased by about 37% to 157% per sq ft (psf) since 2008 due to investments made by Penangites staying overseas and by Singaporeans.

Depending on the location, size, and condition of the heritage properties, the present pricing on a psf basis ranges from RM550 per sq ft (psf) to RM1,800 psf, compared to between RM400 psf and RM700 psf in 2008.

According to the National Property Information Centre (Napic), a locally registered company, World Class Land Sdn Bhd, snapped up over 60 pre-war houses in George Town’s heritage areas for about RM122mil.

Raine & Horne Malaysia senior partner Michael Geh says the properties were sold between late 2013 and August 2015.

“The most expensive pre-war property, with a 1,363q ft land area and located in Chulia Street, was sold for over RM2,000 psf,” he says.

It is learnt that about RM30mil would be spent for restoring the properties, as the cost of restoration is about RM500,000 per unit.

The company also acquired a 30,000 sq ft of land in Magazine Road for about RM36.9mil. “This was the highest transaction for a vacant land in 2015, as the sale was transacted at RM1,250 psf,” Geh adds.

Geh says locals tend not to pay attention to the capital appreciation of heritage properties, although the value had risen substantially since 2008.

“They should invest because the supply of heritage properties is limited.

“There only some 3,853 units of such properties in George Town’s heritage core and buffer areas, according to George Town World Heritage Inc.

“Because the supply is limited, it is safe to invest, as the value would tend to rise than fall.

“I urged Penangites to acquire heritage properties for own use and enjoy the capital appreciation that would occur incrementally,” he says.

Because of the strong appreciation in the value of pre-war houses, the rental yield of such properties has remained unattractive.

In 2008, the rental of heritage properties, depending on the location, size, and condition of the heritage properties, ranged between RM1,000 and RM3,000, compared to the rental today which is between RM3,000 and RM8,000.

“Calculated on a yearly basis, the rental yield is not attractive.

“Today the yield is about 4.8%, compared to about 4.5% in 2008

“This shows that the value has appreciated faster than the rentals, as there is very little demand to rent properties in the state,” he says.

According to Geh, local investors should pay attention in particular to the heritage properties in the Prangin Market or Sia Boey area, as it has been earmarked for the location of the central LRT station on the island, which would boost the value of the properties in the area.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Institute of Architects (PAM, Northern Chapter) chairman Datuk Lawrence Lim says the cost of restoring heritage properties has increased by about 40% since 2008.

“Today the cost to restore such houses ranged between RM150,000 and RM500,000 per unit.

“A simple restoration for a heritage property with a 2,000 sq ft built-up area can cost about RM150,000.

“It cost just RM50,000 to restore the roof of a heritage house,” he says.

Despite the increased in the cost of restoration, there are local investors who are still investing in heritage properties.

Lim, who is also East Design managing director, says the company was now undertaking restoration projects for heritage houses in Hong Kong Street and Magazine Road.

“We will be restoring the Koon Kee office building at Hong Kong Street, the manufacturer of Penang’s famous white coffee.

“The other project involves the restoration of 10 pre-war units in Magazine Road for commercial usage,” Lim says.

Datuk Ooi Sian Hian, who is also Ghee Hiang group executive chairman, says he will be restoring the heritage property of his family’s maternal grandparents at 123 Macalister Road.

The property, measuring 3,600 sq ft in built-up area, sitting on a 30,000 sq ft site, was built in the 19th century, and came under the ownership of Ooi’s maternal grandparents in the 1950s.

“We are getting local architects and architectural students through the assistance of PAM to come up with a suitable design concept to restore the property.

“It will be up to the architectural fraternity to decide on the appropriate design concept for the property.

“Whether it will be restored for commercial or residential usage will depend on their design.

“We plan to kick off the project in two year’s time,” Ooi says.

Ooi’s family has 10 properties at Prangin Lane, nine of which he will restore at a later date for commercial re-use.

“The properties have been passed down from the maternal grandparents.

“We want to wait and see what the market for restored heritage properties is like first, as there are already in the market many such restored heritage projects.

“We also want to wait for the state government’s Sia Boey project to be completed first, as the site has been earmarked for a LRT project hub,” he adds.

Ooi says he is submitting a plan to restore the tenth heritage terraced property located in Prangin Lane, which has a built-up area of 1,620q ft.

“We are naming it Jumpa@41PranginLane, which will be restored as a event centre for pop-up markets, seminars, stage plays, and culinary events,” he says.

Under Ghee Hiang, the group is now restoring its heritage property at 61 Beach Street, which has over 3,000q ft in built-up area.

“It is the Ghee Hiang Group’s Concept Lifestyle In-Store, which will be designed to accommodate a living heritage museum showcasing the history of the group’s history and tau sar pneah products and a lifestyle themed cafe,” he says.

Khoo Kongsi trustee Datuk Khoo Kay Hock says the clan association has restored 16 pre-war properties and had leased them to a hotel operator.

“The properties are undergoing interior refurbishment now, and scheduled for opening in the second half of 2016.

“About RM4mil was invested to restore the properties, which were completely restored two years,” he says.

According to George Town World Heritage Inc general manager Dr Ang Ming Chee, there are 3771 heritage properties in George Town belonging to category II.

“Category II properties are those residences and business premises that have existed for generations.

“They were built to support the traditional beliefs of the inhabitants and users.

“In the George Town’s World Heritage Site (WHS), there are 82 buildings, gateways, cemeteries, and sites categorised as Category 1.

“Category 1 buildings and monuments are important because they reflect the authenticity of the cultural landscape and therefore the outstanding universal values of the world heritage site (WHS),” she adds.

By David Tan The Star


Penang Heritage Property – Residences Heritage Property Penang Malaysia




Penang Heritage Buildings / World Heritage Sites


Government refusal to recognize the UEC due to ‘national sovereignty’, Kamalanthan said

School activity: Liow (right) with Eco World Foundation chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye (with cap) and its CEO Capt (R) Datuk Liew Siong Sing (on Lee’s right) with students from SJK(C) Bukit Tinggi after Eco World handed over its donation of new canteen tables and benches to the school.

Liow: Retract UEC statement

BENTONG: MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai wants Deputy Education Minister Datuk P. Kamalanathan to retract his remarks about the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC).

He said Kamalanathan’s statement in Parliament that the Government’s refusal to recognise the UEC was due to issues of “national sovereignty” was never discussed in Cabinet meetings.

Kamalanathan and Muhyiddin“I urge Kamalanathan to retract his statement. This has nothing to do with the sovereignty of the country.

“This is his (Kamalanathan) personal view and not the Government’s. He may not have had the necessary information when he commented on the matter and this might mislead the public,” he said at SJK(C) Bukit Tinggi here after witnessing the handover of new canteen tables and benches yesterday.

Liow said if Kamalanathan did not understand the issue, he should have let Deputy Education Minister Chong Sin Woon explain it, adding that the statement might hurt the Chinese education system and the nation.

“The Education Ministry and the Higher Education Ministry have been in discussion over the recognition of the UEC,” he added.

Liow said the matter was discussed by the Malaysian Chinese Education Consultative Council Committee, comprising the United Chinese School Committees Association (Dong Zong), United Chinese School Teachers’ Association (Jia Zong) and Federation of Chinese Associations (Hua Zong), among others.

Responding yesterday, Kamalanathan maintained that his answer in Parliament was based on a Cabinet decision and not his personal view. His parliamentary reply was “verbatim” as per the Cabinet meeting on the matter on Nov 6 last year, he added.

However, he said it did not mean that it was impossible for UEC to be recognised.

“We (Education Ministry) have never closed the door on discussing (such) matters with any organisation because it is the ministry’s and everyone’s hope to see an improvement in the quality of our national education,” he said.

In KOTA KINABALU, Liberal Democratic Party president Datuk Teo Chee Kang said he was puzzled by Kamalanathan’s remarks in Parliament linking recognition of the UEC to national sovereignty.

“I regret that in answering a question in Parliament, the Deputy Minister said that the Government will not recognise the UEC for reasons of national interest and sovereignty.

“I wonder whether he knew what he was talking about. I cannot understand how it is related to national sovereignty,” he added.

– The Star/Asia News Network

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The iron lady of the last survivors of Japanese occupation in WWII Part 4

The Last Survivors: Yap Chwee Lan
How Japan Forced Women Into Sexual Slavery

AT the age of 15, girls were pretending to be boys during the Japanese Occupation in Malaya, but Yap Chwee Lan was bravely rescuing the people of Kampung Baru, Johor, all because she could speak Japanese.

“Every night, about seven or eight young girls from the neighbourhood would come to my house to sleep because they felt safer there. They knew I could speak Japanese,” recalled Yap, now 90.

“The Japanese soldiers would come knocking on our door to ask for young girls and I’d respond in Japanese, ‘ Why do you need women? You need housekeepers?’. They were shocked I could speak Japanese.”

Yap learnt the language from her former Japanese employer, who was a hairdresser in Johor. The then 13- yearold picked up the language quickly, and was even treated well by his family.

Yap’s fluency in their language granted her favour in the eyes of the Japanese, and this ordinary girl found herself holding extraordinary power – the ability to save people.

She managed to save those who lived in her town, Kampung Baru, Johor, by identifying them – in Japanese – to the soldiers who would have killed them on suspicion of aiding the resistance.

And we were there to capture her experiences as the R. AGE crew brought her around Johor to film at locations that hold significant memories during the Occupation. This is for The Last Survivors, an interactive online documentary project that aims to raise awareness to youths about the importance of preserving Malaysian World War II stories.

Listening to her stories when he was growing up, one of Yap’s grandson Sebastian Chew, 18, is glad he didn’t have to experience WWII and the Occupation as he thinks it will haunt him throughout his life.

“I can’t imagine going through everything – from the bombings, hiding, living in fear and when the Japanese made the people dig their own graves in one of the fields and killed them. I don’t know how my grandma did it,” he said.

“That’s why I think it’s important for young people to know about these war stories so they can prevent anything of this sort from happening in the future. It’s cruel and heartbreaking.”

In her teenage years, Yap, whose father passed away when she was seven years old, had to work because her family was living in poverty.

She got married when she was 15, and lived with her husband Chiew Seng Leung at his laundry shop, Kedai Dobi Shanghai, in Johor Baru. Twenty days after their wedding, the Japanese started bombing Singapore.

Japanese fighter jets, based in Johor, would fly across to Singapore twice a day to bomb the neighbouring country. As the Japanese was attacking Singapore, lots of people walked over to Johor for safety. Yap and her family evacuated to Tampoi.

“We packed food and clothes, and placed them on my husband’s bicycle. As we were walking to Tampoi, we were stopped by a soldier because he wanted our bicycle. I told him in Japanese that it was ours and he let us through,” said Yap.

“The soldiers would leave you alone if they knew you could speak Japanese because it was like you were one of them. They’ll have more respect for you.”

Once they were in Tampoi, they sought refuge in a temple along with about 50 other refugees, but soldiers came looking for comfort women. Yap not only told them there were none, but also said she was part Japanese, hoping they wouldn’t come back.

But the next day, the Japanese returned. This time, they were with their general.

Yet, Yap wasn’t afraid. “Strangely enough, I wasn’t scared. He was impressed that I could speak Japanese and praised me, saying it was good because I could help the Japanese soldiers,” she said. He proceeded to ask Yap if they had enough food and made sure they did by sending them rice, sugar and flour so they could cook.

He also offered her a job in Singapore as a liaison officer between the Japanese and the locals. She took the job after the island was invaded, but later learned that the Singaporeans she had liaised with were all eventually killed.

The distance was too much for Yap to handle as well, as she didn’t know if her family was well and alive. She returned to Johor one week later, and things were unfortunately similar to what was happening in Singapore.

Chiew’s boss had been arrested, along with a bunch of other people.

“There were black flags all along the streets,” Yap recalled. “It meant everybody was to stay home, because the Japanese would arrest anyone on sight.”

Those who were arrested were taken to a house in Jalan Abdul Samad, behind what is now the Maktab Sultan Abu Bakar, to be held before being taken to Dataran Bandaraya, where they would be executed.

“When I got to the house, the people were kneeling on the ground, their hands tied behind their backs with thick wire as the Japanese soldiers pointed bayonets at them,” said Yap.

“A lot of them called out my name, begging me to save them. Then the Japanese asked if I knew these people.”

“I said, ‘ Yes, I do’. A lot of them lived in my neighbourhood. When I identi- fied them, they were freed.”

The rest, whom she couldn’t identify, weren’t so lucky. Her mother’s friend’s son was one of the unlucky ones.

“I didn’t see him there, I was devastated when I found out. His mother was crying in the street,” said Yap, recalling the horrors of wartime Malaya.

Those remained were brought to the field. They were asked to dig holes in the ground, sit at the edge of the holes and were shot with machine guns. As the bodies fell in, those who were merely injured were kicked into those holes they had dug themselves and buried alive together with the dead.

While a great number of people died during the Occupation, many more owe their lives to Yap.

Her family, though, remained safe, thanks to Yap.

“Before I went to Singapore, the Japanese general gave me a permit for my family,” she said. “He told me, ‘ If anybody disturbs your family, ask them to report to one of my officers’.”

Today, Yap and her family still live in Johor, where some of the survivors’ descendants still recognise her.

“I was walking around town and suddenly someone called out, ‘ Ah Ma!’. They told their kids that I saved their grandfather or grandmother,” Yap said with a laugh.


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