Wall and awning collapsed in house near construction site


Brought down: A view of the fallen backyard wall and awning of the house.

 

Penang MCA: Guan Eng must explain cause of incident in house near construction site

GEORGE TOWN: Penang MCA is seeking an explanation from Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng on the collapse of a perimeter wall and an awning of a house in Jalan Bagan Baru 1, Butterworth.

Its organising secretary Dr Tan Chuan Hong said the house owner believed the collapse could be due to nearby construction carried out by Penang Development Corpora-tion (PDC), of which Lim is the chairman.

The area is also under the Bagan parliamentary seat which Lim is the MP.

Dr Tan said the house owner had earlier complained to PDC after seeing cracks on the wall at his backyard about one year ago.

He said PDC was carrying out piling works then for its two affordable housing projects.

“Luckily, nobody was hurt in the incident but the authorities came forward only after the wall fell,” he said when contacted yesterday.

“That is against their ‘competency, accountability and transparency’ policy.”

Dr Tan urged the state to conduct a safety review on the projects.

When contacted, Sungai Puyu assemblyman Phee Boon Poh said the awning and wall collapsed due to soil movement during the construction of a drain at the projects.

He said that after being told of the incident, he went for a site inspection with Seberang Prai Municipal Council president Rozali Mohamud, representatives from PDC and the contractor.

“I told the house owner that the state would take full responsibility.He will be fully compensated and repairs will be done soon.”

He added that the council issued a stop-work order for the drain construction pending investigation.

“Our geo-technical expert will do a soil test while PDC and council safety officers will investigate the incident,” he said.

Source: The Star  by Crystal Chiam Shiying

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The ugly side of the digital economy


ALMOST everybody is addicted to the digital world of connectivity. Only a handful can dare say that they are not dependent on the Internet or the connectivity that comes with the digital age.

To those not convinced that they are addicted to technology and the Internet, they should try asking themselves a few questions.

When was the last time they accessed the computer to search for something through Google? When was the last time they accessed Facebook or Whatsapp to stay connected? How long have they gone without getting “an anxiety attack” without having their handphones with them?

If an uneasy feeling creeps into them without having their computers or mobile phones with them, then the chances of them being reliant on the digital world is high. If they are lost at work without “Mr Google” and feel handicapped, then they are hooked on the digital world.

From the hundreds of people I know, only two do not carry a mobile phone with them. One is a seasoned lawyer while the other is a retired factory manager. They are exceptions to the norm.

The digital age is here to stay and grow. The advantages of digital connectivity in terms of accessing instant information and staying in touch with others seamlessly are just too great to be without.

These days, even people in their late 50s and 60s are active users of Facebook, which they see as critical touch points of their lives with others. The instant response to their postings is a gratification of sorts.

These are new touch points that they would normally not be able to enjoy without digital connectivity. However, there is a downside to this digital addiction in both the social and economic sense.

There is a book going into the details of how more people are depressed without digital connectivity, how people have gone berserk without having access to Internet connectivity. This is one of the many social downsides of the digital age.

However, more shocking is the unconventional work ethics, sexual harassment and culture of idolising individuals that have become rampant with the rise of the digital economy.

Last week, the former chief executive of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC), Cheryl Yeoh, revealed that she was a victim of sexual assault by a venture capitalist, Dave McClure, three years ago.

The revelation only came after The New York Times reported that McClure had stepped down from 500 Startups following allegations of sexual harassment against him.

500 Startups is a Silicon Valley-based early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator. Generally, the principals of venture funds tend to exert their influence over those seeking their money.

It is rampant in the world of the new economy where funding from banks is not easily available. Banks would want to see profits and a strong balance sheet before they lend money to start-ups. Start-ups in the digital economy rarely have both financial elements.

Yeoh said that she did not come public with the incident earlier fearing that many would not believe her. She also did not want to jeopardise the business venture between MaGIC and 500 Startups.

McClure is not the only venture capitalist who has faced the brunt of unethical work practices. Travis Kalanick, the founder and prime force behind ride-hailing app company Uber, has also been forced out by shareholders after a series of scandals in the company.

Among those who complained against the work culture of Uber was software engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti, who in her blog posting stated that the company’s work environment was hostile towards women, leading to many of them leaving.

The hostility went beyond sexual harassment. It was even to the point of the women not getting leather jackets as their numbers were small compared to the men who had received theirs from the company.

Because the number of women working in Uber was small, the company, which is touted as the most valuable unlisted new economy entity, could not get the discounts required and hence did not order the leather jackets.

In a company engaged in the old economy of brick-and-mortar businesses, such reasoning would not have been tolerated. But it has happened in Uber, where Kalanick held a position so strong that the way he managed the company was not questioned.

Hero-worshipping the founders is quite common in new-economy companies. Whatever the founders decide is not questioned. It has come to the point where even when deals are concluded at lofty valuations, hardly any murmurs are raised.

No questions asked: Jeff Bezos of Amazon purchased a grocery chain, Whole Foods Market, for US14bil two weeks ago and nobody batted an eyelid or raised any questions. – AFP

Jeff Bezos of Amazon purchased a grocery chain, Whole Foods Market, for US$14bil two weeks ago.

Nobody batted an eyelid or raised any questions as to why a new-economy heavyweight was buying into a matured company in an industry that was facing huge challenges because of Amazon.

Amazon, with its online shopping platform for anything from books to groceries and even movies, has disrupted the retail industry. The likes of Wal-Mart and Tesco are reeling from the growing dominance of Amazon.

So, why is Amazon buying into a grocery chain operating in the industry that it is destroying?

Nobody knows the answer. They only rely on the faith that Bezos can do no wrong. Blind faith is the biggest downside to the digital economy.

Digital economy companies tend not to give dividends and spend a lot on research and development under the excuse that the business is still growing and needs all the financial resources.

Investors believing that mantra follow blindly. They are encouraged by the rising share prices even though there are little fundamentals.

One day, such blind faith will lose its lustre and the price will fall. Only then will investors realise that the old-fashioned way of valuing companies is still way better.

The alternative view by M.Shanmugam

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China’s Baidu taps Partners for Driverless Car Project


Growth strategy: A fleet of vehicles equipped with Baidu’s autonomous driving technologies conduct road testing in Wuzhen, Zhejiang Province. Widely considered the Google of China, Baidu is hoping research into artificial intelligence will create a new generation of products to help revive revenue growth.

https://www.bloomberg.com/api/embed/iframe?id=bf6ae8a1-432c-4499-a8aa-47932c408ae0

  • Partners include Bosch, Continental, Chinese automakers
    Company also showed off a voice-activated speaker device
  • Partners include Bosch, Continental, Chinese automakers
    Company also showed off a voice-activated speaker device

Baidu Inc has enlisted more than 50 partners for its Apollo driverless project, signing up major players in areas from mapping and ride-sharing to automaking to aid the Chinese search giant’s foray into AI-powered vehicles.

The program aims to open up part of Baidu’s autonomous car software in the same way that Google released its Android operating system for smartphones. By encouraging more companies to build products using them, Baidu hopes to fine-tune its nascent systems and overtake rival research efforts by the likes of Google parent Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo.

Baidu listed four Chinese carmakers, suppliers Robert Bosch GmbH and Continental AG and technology companies including Microsoft Corp. as part of the Apollo alliance. Southeast Asian ride-hailing giant Grab and mapping systems company TomTom NV are also joining the program, which aims to get fully autonomous vehicles on city streets as early as in 2018.

Widely considered the Google of China, Baidu is hoping research into artificial intelligence will create a new generation of products to help revive revenue growth. It has a stated goal of releasing a driverless car by 2018 with mass production to begin by 2021, but some analysts believe its technology still lags that of competitors like Waymo. At a Baidu conference Wednesday, developers showed off the Chinese search provider’s personal assistant, DuerOS.

Baidu’s shares traded in New York rose 2.7 percent to $184.76 at 10:14 a.m. The stock has risen 12 percent so far this year.

The raft of Apollo agreements unveiled Wednesday at Baidu Create cover virtually every automotive field. Dutch company TomTom said in a statement it will help Baidu with high-definition mapping in the U.S. and Western Europe. Several of Apollo’s members already have separate cooperation agreements in place with Waymo and other driverless car providers.

“As we and our partners contribute to the platform in our areas of specialty, we all gain more, with the results far greater than just our own,” Baidu group president Qi Lu said in a statement.

— Bloomberg News With assistance by David Ramli

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Hardwired for global hegemony – American freedom and democracy


Hardwired for global hegemony – American democracy has become subverted by the rise of many hegemonic groups acting behind the scenes.

FOURTH of July was the 241st anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence. On that historic day in 1776, 13 British colonies in North America cut their links with their oppressor and proclaimed themselves to be the independent, sovereign United States of America.

The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence contains some of the most stirring words ever penned in a political or legal document: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The eloquence of this passage distils the moral idealism of the forefathers of America’s independence and their vision and aspiration for the then new nation.

Indeed, in the decades that followed, the Declaration inspired many other similar documents around the world, including the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution. Abraham Lincoln referred to the Declaration in his quest to abolish slavery in the US.

Till today, students of public law around the world look with admiration to the American Constitution’s safeguards for liberty, its protection against state despotism and its vibrant provisions for check and balance of power.

Sadly, however, a wide chasm between theory and reality is discernible. Even in its pioneering years the “land of liberty” violated its lofty ideals.

The US expanded across North America by slaughtering the Native American population. “How the West was won” is a story penned with the blood of indigenous people.

The US wrested Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, part of Colorado and Utah from Mexico. Though professing anti-colonialism, it acquired a few colonies abroad.

Friends of America note with sadness that after World War II, the use of brute military force and “American exceptionalism” have become very pronounced.

In 2015, the US spent US$598.5bil (RM2.6 trillion) on defence, even though it is not threatened by any enemies. It maintains 800 military bases in more than 70 countries around the world.

It is the chief manufacturer and seller of weapons of mass destruction and often uses proxies to sell murderous weapons to both warring sides.

A nation born in liberty has metamorphosed into a nation with an insatiable addiction to war and the ethos of a garrison state. From the jungles of Vietnam to the deserts of Mesopotamia, America remains in constant war to pursue its hegemonic and strategic interests.

William Blum, a historian and US foreign policy critic, has calculated that since World War II the US has nuked, bombed or been militarily involved in 31 countries and has directly or indirectly killed or maimed between 15 and 20 million people, 90% of whom were innocent civilians. Pentagon records their extermination as “collateral damage”.

Nations in Asia that have suffered devastation at American hands are Afghanistan (1998 to the present), Pakistan (2003, 2006 to the present), Japan (1945), Cambodia (1969-70), Vietnam (1961-73), Laos (1964-73), China (1945-6), Korea (1950-53) and Indonesia (1958).

In the Middle East, victims of America’s “deadly export of democracy” are Iraq (1991 to the present), Iran (1987 and 2003), Kuwait (1991), Lebanon (1983-84), Syria (1983-84, 2014 to the present), Palestine (2010) and Yemen (2003, 2009, 2011 to the present).

In Africa, the US has intervened militarily in Libya (1986, 2011, 2015 to the present), Congo (1964), Sudan (1998) and Somalia (1993, 2001-8 and 2010).

In Latin America, the US has imposed its military will on Cuba (1959-61), El Salvador (1980s), Guatemala (1954, 60, 67-69), Grenada (1983), Nicaragua (1980s), Peru (1965) and Panama (1989).

Europe has not been spared. Bosnia in 1994 and 1995 and Yugoslavia in 1999 were mercilessly bombed.

What is notable is that most of the targets are people of colour, those of the Third World or Muslims. It is not just a coincidence that all the nations being bombed by the USA today happen to be Muslim.

In addition to direct military attacks, the US wages proxy wars around the world. In Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), South Vietnam (1963), Brazil (1964), Dominican Republic (1965), Chile (1973), Egypt (2013) and Ukraine (2014) the US armed rebels and hired mercenaries to subvert and overthrow governments that refused to tow its line.

Contrary to what Americans believe, the United States is one of the greatest destabilising forces in the world today. It is also the chief diplomatic, military and financial backer of the seven-decade-old genocide in Palestine.

To assert its impunity and sense of exceptionalism it has done such outrageous things as shooting down an Iranian civilian plane in 1988 (when a US Navy ship reportedly mistook the Airbus A300 for a much smaller and faster F-14 fighter jet), killing all 290 on board. In 1999, it bombed the embassy of China in Belgrade. US officials later claimed it was an error.

Ever since 9/11, it runs offshore torture camps. It arms and finances terrorist groups with a view to destabilising governments it does not like.

It rejects or unsigns international treaties like the Ottawa Convention (the Mine Ban Treaty); the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

All friends of America wonder why a nation so steeped in democracy and liberty has metamorphosed into such a war-mongering hegemon. The issue requires a separate and fuller examination.

What can be summarised is that American democracy has become subverted by the rise of many behind-the-scenes, hegemonic groups which have acquired such a stranglehold on foreign, financial and military policy that even the President and the Congress cannot defy them.

The CIA operatives, the foreign policy establishment, the military-industrial complex, the arms manufacturers, the oil barons, the gun lobby, the media, the Zionist pressure groups and the major banks constitute a parallel “deep state” that runs America.

This deep state has a vested interest in the manufacture and sale of horrendous weapons, the waging of continuous wars, the destabilisation of unfriendly regions, the control of oil supplies and the maintenance of existing trade mechanisms.

The power of the Constitution, the Congress and the President is more symbolic than real. The American electorate is either unaware or benumbed. Only if it learns more about this sad reality can any change be accomplished.

Reflecting On The Law Shad Saleem Faruqi

Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi is Tunku Abdul Rahman Professor of Law at Universiti Malaya. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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Never-ending money games – from fixed return to split schemes


The allure of money game schemes (or money games) seems not to have diminished despite the collapse of many recently.

Instead, there has been a switch in investors’ focus from fixed-return games to split games, which are deemed “more sustainable”.

Fixed-return schemes generally refer to those that give a consistent percentage of return every month or week. However, most of them have collapsed lately.

Investors’ attention is now centred on split games, even though this means they have to wait for a longer period in order to get back their capital.

Mcoin, which is undertaken through MBI International Sdn Bhd and MFace International Sdn Bhd, is an example of a split game based on units of which the value keeps increasing and then split after a certain time.

However, with the raid of MBI’s flagship mall – M Mall in Penang – by the regulators recently, its days look to be numbered, and the sustainability of such schemes is now a big question.

Another prominent split game – Mama Captain, which has a similar business model to that of Mcoin – has also been red-flagged by Bank Negara last Thursday under the Financial Consumer Alert List. An additional 14 companies have been added to the list, bringing the total number of unapproved and unlicensed companies/schemes to 334 as at June 29.

Besides the local ones, there are several foreign schemes in the market, which investors expect to have more staying power than the fixed-return schemes. Two such schemes from China – Smart Traders Ltd and Centennial Coin of Prosperity – have been in operation in Malaysia since last year. However, it is understood that they have stopped distributing returns to their investors.

This, however, appears not to have deterred those who are lured by the promise of fast money. This is evidenced by the huge crowd seen at an event organised by a split game company a few weeks ago in Shah Alam. It was estimated that over 2,000 participants were present and most of them were Chinese investors.

A number of booths were set up at the venue, and investors were able to redeem a variety of stuff, including vouchers, health products, apparels and many more.

An investor whom SunBiz spoke to at the event said he is unfazed by the collapse of money games and is optimistic about the prospects of the split game that he is involved in.

The investor said he has been in the scheme for more than nine months and now it has started to bear fruit.

“Generally, it takes about two months to split once and we can start generating money after it splits for four times. Now I start to get money from the scheme. While you’ve to wait for some time before getting any return, I think it is still worth to join,” he opined.

It is understood that the scheme has tied up with a few product operators to increase its attractiveness.

Another investor, Alan Mu, said he was amazed by the event. “The gala dinner is so grand and there are so many products that I can redeem by participating in this scheme,” he said.

Another scheme that has caught the market’s attention is SV International (SVI), a company that Yong Tai Bhd has denied having links to. Yong Tai alleged that SVI circulated photos taken during a signing ceremony on SVI’s website as well as the social media, for which there was no official agreement entered into between the two parties thereafter.

Yong Tai also refuted speculation that SVI has a stake in its Impression City and Impression Melaka projects.

By Lee Weng Khuen sunbiz@thesundaily.com

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Invest in the future



IT has always interested me to see how the different selection of words sent varied messages to readers and listeners.

Of late, I’m intrigued with the use of oxymorons, a combination of words that have opposite meanings and which usually produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect.

Some daily expressions such as “open secret”, “seriously funny”, “deafening silence” and “pretty ugly”, are good examples on how the completely opposite meanings of words create dramatic effect.

Among other oxymorons come an expression often heard among condominium owners to their management corporations (MCs) and management offices: “We want you to lower costs and improve quality.”

Just like any other oxymoron phrases, the statement above makes me puzzle and ponder. It is prudent to manage costs, but unrealistic cost cutting over the long run will lead to decline in the quality of facilities and services.

Based on my experience, quality always comes with cost especially in property management. It is impossible to achieve higher quality standards by reducing expenditure.

I have heard of occasions where homeowners’ representatives in MC set high benchmark for the property management team, but expect them to cut down on the number of workers and cleaners in order to reduce spending. Needless to say, we can imagine what the outcome would be without looking at the property itself.

In reality, MC and homeowners must invest, not spend less for better quality. While developers and property managers play the important role of ensuring the upkeep of properties, the property owners themselves are the main stakeholders in deciding the fate of their properties. They are the party who can approve the budget and usage of their service charge and sinking funds.

In my previous article, I mentioned it is important for homeowners to participate in property management, such as attending AGMs and EGMs to exercise their right to raise concerns and approve the budget during such meetings.

In addition, homeowners and MCs must be bold in making decisions to invest in their properties with the reserved funds they have in their account.

Hence, while it is important to manage cost, it is also important to spend wisely for the future. Inflation is a fact of life, so MCs and homeowners should factor the inflation rate into their service charges, and use the real inflation rate, typically higher than the officially sanctioned rate anywhere in the world.

Typically, service charge is used for the general maintenance of the building. Sinking fund, on the other hand, can be used for the painting and the repainting of the common property, acquisition of movable property, the replacement of any fixture or fitting, the upgrading and refurbishment of the common property, and any other capital expenditure deemed necessary.

Managing a strata property is like maintaining a car. We must service our car regularly and replace its parts when they are due for change according to mileage. If a car is serviced less often, it gets more expensive to fix later when the equipment falls apart, and sometimes it may be too late to change.

Hence, when we reduce spending on maintaining a property, the decline of quality may be slow but sure. It takes time and additional cost when homeowners want to re-invest to restore the property later.

Invest in the future is just like doing exercise. It is hard to do, but if done regularly it will build health, strength and happiness.

To invest in a strata property means to increase, not cut down services such as cleaning, maintenance, security and landscaping. It also means to spend the sinking fund regularly not just on replacements, but also on upgrades, as the world doesn’t stand still. New projects would make existing projects old and even obsolete if we don’t manage our property well.

Investor’s nightmare

How well a property is managed can make or break the value of the property. A quality property management will allow the value to increase; while poor management could translate into an investor’s nightmare.

Active management and upgrading of properties is an important approach to protect our homes and investments. As such, whenever homeowners or property management companies tell me they are able to increase quality and cut cost at the same time, I would wonder whether, “Is this a short-term gain at the detriment of long-term benefits?”

By Alan Tong

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 feedback@fiabci-asiapacific.com.

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New Mayor for Penang Island City Council


 

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang government today decided to appoint Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif as the new Penang Island City Council Mayor.

The Seberang Perai Municipal Council (MPSP) president will replace outgoing Mayor Datuk Patahiyah Ismail whose contract ends on June 30 this year.

State Local Government, Traffic Management, and Flood Mitigation Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the decision was made by the Exco today.

He thanked Patahiyah for her services to the state government in her various capacities over the years.

“The contract for Maimunah will be for two years beginning July 1 this year and will end on June 30, 2019,” he said in a press conference today.

Maimunah began her career as an officer in the Town Planning Department of the Council in 1995 and was promoted to the director of the same department in 2003.

In 2009 she was tapped to become the George Town World Heritage Inc (GTWHI) general manager before her appointment as Council president in 2011.

The Council presidency will be assumed by Rozali Mohamud who served as the secretary for the municipality.

He will be replaced by Rosnani Mahmod who served as the Urban Services director for the Council previously.

Rozali will be sworn in as the Council president next Monday (June 3) while Maimunah will assume the Mayorship the following day on June 4.

Aaron Ngui newsdesk@thesundaily.coms
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