Kim Jong-nam’s murder masterminds back in North Korea


 

Official story: Noor Rashid speaking to the media during the press conference at Bukit Aman.

KUALA LUMPUR: Four suspects being hunted by Bukit Aman in the assassination of North Korean exile Kim Jong-nam are believed to be back in Pyongyang after leaving the country for Jakarta immediately after the attack.

The four – Rhi Ji-hyon, 33, (arrived in Malaysia on Feb 4), Hong Song-hac, 34, (arrived Jan 31), O Jong-gil, 55, (arrived Feb 7) and Ri Jae-nam, 57, (arrived Feb 1) – left for Jakarta from KLIA2 immediately after the attack on Monday.

From Jakarta, sources say they flew to Dubai and Vladivostok before reaching Pyongyang.

“They may have taken the long route to shake off the authorities,” sources said.

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim said Malaysian police are cooperating with Interpol and other relevant bodies overseas to track them.

Bukit Aman’s first priority is to collect all evidence on the suspects’ involvement in the case.

“Next plan is to get them. We will use all resources to pursue them,” Noor Rashid told a press conference, the first by the police since the killing.

On the possibility that the murder was politically motivated, Noor Rashid said the police were not interested in any political angle.

“What we are interested in is why they committed such a crime in our country.

“Any political angle can be put aside as it is not our job to worry about political matters.

“We want to get at the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

He said police were also looking for North Korean citizen Ri Ji-u, 30, also known as James, along with two others to help in investigations.

Of those arrested, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, arrived from Hanoi on Feb 4 while Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, a spa masseuse, entered the country via Batam on Feb 2.

North Korean Ri Jong-chol, 47, was arrested on Friday and entered Malaysia on Aug 6 last year.

“We are in the process of identifying the two others sought to assist in the investigations,” said Noor Rashid.

“We hope anyone with information can come forward,” he said.

On Jong-nam’s post-mortem, Noor Rashid said that it was conducted on Feb 15 at Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

“The cause of death is still unknown. We are waiting for the toxicology and pathological test results. I think in a few days, we will get the toxicology result.

“The case will be referred to the deputy public prosecutor for fur­ther instructions and investi­ga­tion,” he said.

Priority is given to close family members or next of kin to claim the body and they have been given two weeks to do so, added Noor Rashid.

“It is very important for close family members of the deceased to come forward to assist us in the process of identification, which is based on our legal procedures and Malaysian law.

“However, as of today, we have not met the next of kin. We are trying very hard to get the next of kin to assist us,” he said.

In the event that the family does not show up, Noor Rashid said police will look at further options.

Sources: By  farik zolkepli, jastin ahmad tarmizi, merga watizul fakar, adrian chan The Star

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Korean web of intrigue: Malaysia hunting for Kim Jong-nam murder


Two women suspects in Kim Jong-nam assassination remanded for seven days

KUALA LUMPUR: Two women arrested in connected with the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, have been remanded for seven days.

Selangor police chief Comm Datuk Seri Abdul Samah Mat said the two women have been remanded until Feb 21 to assist in the investigations.

One of the women has a Vietnam passport bearing the name Doan Thi Huong while the other has an Indonesian passport bearing the name Siti Aishah.

“They have been remanded. So far, there is no press conference as a press statement have been issued. We will update if there is anymore development,” Abdul Samah told The Star Online.

At 11.05am, Magistrate Sharifah Muhaymin Abd Khalib was at the Sepang police headquarters to grant the police’s application to remand the woman with the Vietnam passport.

Jong-nam, 45, was killed by two women who splashed his face with a chemical at the KLIA2 departure hall at about 9am on Monday. He was about to leave for Macau.

The women later got into a taxi and fled.

One of the women, who has the Vietnam passport, was arrested at the airport on Wednesday when she tried to board a flight out.

The woman with the Indonesian passport was arrested at 2am on Thursday.

Police are looking for four men who were in the company of the two women at the airport when Jong-nam was killed.

By Farik Zolkepli and Joash Ee De Silva The Star/|ANN

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Call on the Government to downsize the country’s bloated civil service


Sheriff: ‘Government bureaucracy has grown so big that it’s not only taking up too much resources but creating many failures in our finance economy

KUALA LUMPUR: One of Malaysia’s former top civil servants has called on the Government to consider downsizing the country’s bloated civil service, while it still can.

Malaysia has the highest civil servants to population ratio in the Asia-Pacific, employing 1.6 million people or 11% of the country’s labour force.

And that could be a problem Malaysia may not be able to sustain if it runs into a financial crisis, said Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim, the former Finance Ministry secretary-general and Economic Planning Unit director-general.

He said if the Government was really set on keeping the national deficit at 3%, it needed to look at retrenching employees, particularly in the lower levels of the civil service, to cut spending.

“Government bureaucracy has grown so big that it’s not only taking up too much resources but creating many failures in our finance economy. There are just too many rules and regulations that the public and private sector have to live with,” he told a delegation of economists, politicians and government officials at the Malaysian Economic Association’s forum on public sector governance.

He advised Malaysia to begin downsizing the civil service, “better sooner than later” if it wanted to avoid running the risk of falling into a Greece-like crisis, where the European country had to cut salaries and was unable to pay pensions for its civil service.

Drawing examples from the recent Malaysia Airlines restructuring, where 6,000 people were retrenched, Mohd Sheriff said it was better to let staff go now and compensate them with retrenchment packages while the Government can still afford it.

“It may cost the Government a heavy expenditure now but it is worthwhile to do it now while we can still afford it and not until we are forced into a financial crisis like Greece.

“We don’t want to be in that situation. I think we should do it gradually. It is kinder to do it now with incentives than to suddenly cut their salaries and pensions at a time when they can least afford it,” he said.

Malaysia is expected to spend RM76bil in salaries and allowances for the civil service this year, on top of another RM21bil for pensions. Efficiency and corruption dominated talks on the civil service at the forum, held at Bank Negara’s Sasana Kijang.

Mohd Sheriff, who is also former president of the Malaysian Economic Association, said these issues have been around since his time in the civil service decades ago though not much has changed due to a lack of political will.

In jest, he suggested Malaysia emulate United States President Donald Trump’s idea on downsizing the US civil service by closing down two departments of the Government if it wanted to open another one.

He also suggested that Parliament create a committee to monitor the performance of top civil servants and give them the ability to retrench these officers if they fail to meet their marks.

“In many countries, even Indonesia, they have committees to hold Government leaders to any shortcomings on policy implementations and projects.

“These are the kinds of checks and balance we need to make our civil servants aware that they are being monitored for their work and they can be pulled out at any time,” he said.

Finance Minister II Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani had said Malaysia’s ratio of civil servants is one to 19.37 civilians and that the high number of Government staff had caused expenditures to balloon yearly.

As a comparison, the ratio in Indonesia is 1:110, in China it is 1:108, in Singapore it’s 1:71.4 and in South Korea the ratio is 1:50.

Despite this, Johari said there were no plans to reduce the number of civil servants.

By Nicholas Ccheng The Star

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For the love of Datuk titles


Zunar’s cartoon reflects the glut of titles in society. Image from Aliran Monthly.

 

IF there’s one Malaysian practice that needs reviewing, it has to be this – the long salutations, thanks to the titles of prominent individuals, at the start of speeches during functions.

I can never understand why addressing the audience as “distinguished guests” isn’t good enough. Surely, the audience would be happy to be called distinguished. Or maybe even just “Ladies and Gentlemen”.

Malaysians, however, have to cringe and listen to speakers formally addressing each and every titled person at functions.

We begin with “Tan Sri Tan Sri, Puan Sri Puan Sri, Datuk Seri Datuk Seri, Datin Seri Datin Seri, Datuk Datuk, Datin Datin and distinguished guests”.

And this before the speaker even begins honouring the more important guests by actually naming them one by one, along with their long titles, honorifics and designations.

All these can take up to 10 minutes before the person finally gets to the actual speech.

Welcome to Malaysia. This is another practice which reflects our obsession with formality and titles. It may sound medieval and strange to visitors to Malaysia but this is the done thing here, presumably because some ego-inflated titled individual got offended when his title was not mentioned in a speech.

But alas, the whole thing has become a mockery of sorts. The intention, good as it may be, is actually offensive to the other equally important guests, those with no titles.

They have ended up at the bottom of the pack, in the category of “tuan tuan dan puan puan” or “ladies and gentlemen.” To put it in perspective, without us realising, this is like the category of “dan lain-lain” or “others” which many Malaysians have stood up against.

One would understand it if such a practice is carried out in a palace where protocols are strictly adhered to but surely, not in ordinary functions?

For one, it takes up precious time when most of us just want to get on with the business of the day or in many instances, get on with the dinner. Please, at 8.30pm, most of us are hungry already.

Many times, guests are made to wait, especially when the guest of honour arrives late. By the time the VIP gets there, and thanks to the long and winding speeches, dinner is finally served – at 9.30pm or 10pm.

One wonders why the VIP has to be ushered into a holding room – another peculiar Malaysian practice – before he makes his grand entrance into the ballroom.

I have attended enough events in Britain and the United States, where VIPs would just walk straight into the function hall without any fanfare.

In London, then mayor Boris Johnson cycled to the opening of a property development site and in Sydney, the mayor parked his car a short distance away and walked to the venue!

He introduced himself to his (very) surprised Malaysian audience – and of course, there was no entourage fussing around him to make him look important, another one of our local standard operating procedure.

To be fair, not all of our VIPs are spoilt silly. Sometimes, it is their officers who make a fuss over these formal arrangements to the event’s host.

Those in the royal circles, who have a career in protocol, push even harder – even when the heads of states themselves do not demand it.

His Highness Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah of Selangor does not even allow waiters to get the napkins ready for him before his meals, insisting on doing it himself.

The Ruler drives his own car often to functions and tells his police motorcade not to put the sirens on because to him, there was no need to put on such a display of importance.

The Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, sportingly poses for selfies with his subjects often, sending his security and protocol officers into a frenzy many times.

And most of the time, he drives his car himself. Often, he makes a stop and have a meal at roadside shops, without prior notice. For breakfast, he goes to a mamak restaurant for roti canai quite regularly, again without fuss or advance notice.

At the Cabinet level, Datuk Mustapa Mohamed, the Minister of International Trade and Industry, is certainly the most down-to-earth minister from Umno.

Travellers taking the ERL from KL Sentral to KLIA often see Mustapa travelling alone or taking a flight on Economy Class home to Kelantan. He does not see the need to shout about it or have his officers post a picture on Instagram to get publicity.

Permodalan Nasional Bhd chairman Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar insisted on moving around on his own, without the need for bodyguards, when he was in charge of the Economic Planning Unit (EPU). The same can be said of Datuk Seri Idris Jala, who is now chief executive officer of the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu).

Perhaps their non-political background helps but having said that, there are corporate figures who are even more status-conscious than politicians.

And seriously, what do Malaysian VIPs do with gifts or “token of appreciation” items presented to them at the end of every function? Yep, they are probably gathering dust in some room filled to the brim with other such items in Putrajaya.

At one time, there was a proposal that only a basket of fruits be given as it was more practical but it never got off the ground.

Likewise, this article will have no impact on the issue.

I wish to thank the “Tun Tun, Toh Puan Toh Puan, Tan Sri Tan Sri, Puan Sri Puan Sri, Datuk Seri Datuk Seri, Datin Seri Datin Seri, Datuk Datuk, Datin Datin, tuan tuan dan puan puan yang dihormati sekalian” for reading this.

On The Beat By Wong Chun Wai  
 
Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist
in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various
capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief
executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.On The
Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column
weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the
paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected
articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in
conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current
issues in The Star.

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Leaving a legacy by buying a house first before a luxury car …


 

DURING big festive celebrations such as Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Deepavali and the recently celebrated Chinese New Year, it is common to see families with a few generations gathered together.

Our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunties would talk about the legacies left by our ancestors, and the stories often attract a lot of attention whether from the young or old.

Perhaps, the topic of leaving a legacy is something worth sharing as we embark on a brand new year.

For years, I have been touched by the catchy tagline of a renowned Swiss watch advertisement, “You never actually own a (the watch brand), you merely look after it for the next generation”.

While most of us can relate to the thought, not all of us can indulge in such luxurious watches or be interested in buying one. However, at some point in time, we may be looking at buying a property to pass down to our younger generations.

Whenever the topic of leaving a legacy is brought up, I would recall the lesson that I learnt from my late father. My father embarked on a long journey from China to Malaysia at the age of 16. With years of hard work and frugality at his peak, he managed to own a bus company, the Kuala Selangor Omnibus Co.

Other than his bus transport business, he only invested in his children’s education and real estate. He financed seven of his eight sons to have an overseas university education, and when he passed away, he also left four small plots of land in Klang and a company which had 34 buses.

As I look back now, what my late father invested in unintentionally was very beneficial to me when I came back from my studies as an architect. With the land he handed down and the knowledge he equipped me with, I intuitionally got myself involved in small real estate development, and later founded my property development company, Sunrise, in 1968.

Many people have thought of leaving a legacy. The crucial questions often asked are, when should we start planning for it, and how should we go about it?

For financial planning and investment, I always believe that the earlier we start, the better off we are. The same goes to leaving a legacy.

If you plan to buy a property, it is advisable to start earlier as it is more affordable to buy it now as compared to 10 or 20 years down the line especially with rising costs and inflation in mind. You can start with what you can afford first and focus on long-term investment.

It is proven that property prices appreciate over a period of time, especially when we plan to hand over assets to the next generation that easily involves a 20- to 30-year timeline.

As a developing nation which enjoys high growth rate, Malaysia’s property values will also appreciate in tandem with the economic growth in the long run.

Nowadays, we often hear youngsters comment on the challenges of owning a house due to the rising cost of living. I believe that besides starting with what you can afford, it is also important to plan your financial position wisely and to differentiate between investment and spending.

Investing in properties, commodities, shares, etc. is also a form of savings which can help to grow your wealth and to leave a legacy. On the other hand, money spent on luxury items may depreciate over time from the day you buy them. If we can prioritise investment over expenditure, it is easier and faster to achieve our financial goals.

So, if you haven’t already started to plan, do consider leaving a legacy by buying a house first before a luxury car, branded bags or expensive gadgets, as the latter are considered ‘luxury’, not necessity.

Even if you may not have a spouse or children at this point in time, it’s better to start now than later, as our financial commitments tend to grow bigger as we progress into the next stages of our lives.

Most of us hope our lives matter in some way that can make an impact on our loved ones. The idea of leaving a legacy can take many forms, such as equipping the younger generations with knowledge and values, or leaving them fond memories.

Those are all important to work on and they leave a footprint to those lives you touch. If you are also planning to hand over physical gifts, always remember to start earlier with what you can afford, and focus on long term investment.

By Food for Thought Alan Tong

Datuk Alan Tong has over 50 years of experience in property development. He 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 feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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