More big corrupt officials nabbed: Datuk among those busted for graft & mismanagement

Sitting in the lap of luxury: A Mercedes Benz belonging to one of the suspects

Five people, including two former senior officers of Felda, are in remand for seven days from today for investigations into alleged misappropriation in connection with a sturgeon fish rearing project worth RM47.6 million. — Bernama

Five Felda officials linked to Felda, one of them a ‘Datuk’ have been arrested in a sting operation dubbed ‘Ops Caviar’ , as the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission zeroes in on a RM47.6 million sturgeon farming project which failed to take off in Pahang.

PETALING JAYA: Felda is the latest government-linked company (GLC) to be investigated by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), which saw three current and two former officers, one of them a Datuk, being arrested for alleged corruption over a project worth RM47.6mil.

Three of them were former senior executives, who held positions of power when they were still with the GLC.

They are the GLC’s former director-general, ex-deputy director-general (strategic resources), and the former operations officer in charge of the sturgeon project.

Two others detained were its head of London Properties and an assistant administration officer.

All five were picked up in a sting operation, dubbed Ops Caviar, by officers from the anti-graft body between 11.30am and 6pm in several locations around Klang Valley yesterday.

Many valuable items were seized during the raids, including a luxury car and jewellery, estimated to be worth millions of ringgit.

More items are expected to be seized as anti-graft officers visit their homes and obtain details of their assets and personal accounts of their immediate family members to be frozen as part of investigations.

They are being investigated for alleged corruption, abuse of positions and using the GLC for personal gain.

It is learnt that the investigation was zeroing in on the implementation of technology transfer in relation to the sturgeon fish rearing project with a Korean firm.

“We believe all the five suspects are directly involved in the project worth US$10mil (RM47.6mil) since 2014.

Penchant for bling bling: Some of the jewellery seized from the suspects.
Major haul: Some of the items sized by MACC

“Checks showed that in early 2013, a meeting was held to discuss the project.

“But the Felda board of directors told the 53-year-old suspect to first come up with a detailed report and a proposal on the amount of investments for the project before making a decision,” said a source.

But unknown to the Felda directors, financial and legal divisions, a company – Felda Carviative Sdn Bhd (FCSB) – was set up in January 2014.

An agreement, worth US$45mil (RM146.25mil), was then signed between the company and a Korean firm, in relation to sturgeon rearing deal.

Checks by the MACC showed the project did not receive accreditation from the Pahang Department of Environment as per the SOP.

“We found payment made to the Korean firm about one week after the FCSB was set up.

“This was despite no approval being obtained from the Felda directors,” added the source.

So far, funds amounting to RM47.6mil from Felda have been disbursed by the suspects.

It is learnt the deal with the foreign firm involved technology transfer, service agreement and design and construction agreement.

The agreement was said to have been inked by the Datuk and the 53-year-old suspect, both of whom were former directors of FCSB.

Then, the financial division was also under the purview of both suspects.

MACC director of investigations Datuk Simi Abd Ghani confirmed the arrests of the five.

Simi said stacks of documents relating to the project had been seized to assist in the probe.

“The investigation is still in the initial stage. We will need time to sift through the documents and call in more witnesses to gather evidence. Give us some time to work on the case,” he said.

All the five suspects, held overnight at the MACC Putrajaya headquarters, will be remanded today.

Source: The Star/ANN


Auditor General Ambrin: Losses in publicly funded projects due to graft

Tan Sri Ambrin Buang

KUALA LUMPUR: Mismanage­ment and corruption in publicly funded construction projects have caused potential losses of up to 30% of a project’s investment value, according to the Auditor-General (pic).

Tan Sri Ambrin Buang said a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Bank showed how corruption in the infrastructure and extractive sectors had led to misallocation of public funds and services that were substandard and insufficient.

“It is difficult to measure the exact cost, but it has been estimated that between 10% and 30% of the investment in publicly funded construction projects may be lost through mismanagement, and about 20% to 30% of project value is lost through corruption,” he said at the Combating Procurement Fraud in the Public and Private Sectors Forum 2017 yesterday.

The forum highlighted the issues in public procurements in Malaysia – a process where the government obtains works, goods or services from companies and one that Ambrin said is most vulnerable to corruption.

Ambrin’s speech was read out by the National Audit Department’s research, corporate and international relations division director Roslan Abu Bakar.

Ambrin also observed that procurement fraud in the public sector is a complex issue, covering a wide range of illegal activities from bid-rigging during the pre-contract award phase through to false invoicing in the post-contract award phase.

He noted that last year, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Com­mission had opened up a series of investigations involving government procurements.

“One of these involved senior government officials making false claims and fraud amounting to RM20mil last year, and this was followed by a case involving a senior Youth and Sports Ministry official amounting to RM107mil.

“Another case involved a Sabah Water Department official for fraud amounting to RM153mil, and the latest arrest involved a federal ministry secretary-general,” he said.

The Auditor-General added that based on experience, he could not entirely dismiss the existence of bid-rigging in Malaysia’s public procurement.

“One of the signs is when an equipment price is quoted higher than market value.

“If procurement officers do not research market prices, they will believe that the given price is reasonable.

“For example, in the Audit Report, we highlighted significant differences in prices of certain equipment, ranging from RM1,000 to RM7,200 additional cost for the same types and specifications,” he said.

Post-contract fraud is also a common problem, and Ambrin said the department had identified cases where payment control systems were bypassed to allow for fraud to occur.

Source: The Star/ANN

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 MACC remands five in probe into Felda’s sturgeon … – The Sun Daily


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China’s content-rich microblogs

Sites like Sina Weibo can even get Western figures and celebrities, like boxer Mike Tyson, to come aboard.


WHILE Twitter is blocked in China, there are local microblogging sites to keep me informed and entertained.

Among the providers for microblogging service include Sina, Tencent, Xinhua, Souhu, People’s, Phoenix, NetEase and more.

Sina tops the list with 500 million registered users and 46.29 million daily active users as of December 2012.

Its popularity is proven with public and media using “Weibo” to refer to its microblogging site, although Weibo stands for microblog in general.

(Twitter has over 200 million active users churning out 400 million tweets a day, according to its blog post in March this year.)

The Chinese microblogging sites have similar basic features as their US counterpart, such as tagging other users with the symbol @, trending topics with hashtags and posting within an allowed character limit.

But what sets Weibo apart from Twitter is the rich media content.

Besides photos and animated GIF, some Weibo allow users to embed video and music files, and start a poll in their posts.

These elements have enhanced the Weibo surfing experience and created an entertaining platform for all.

A unique feature on Sina Weibo is the charity platform. Users can initiate a charitable cause, pledge donation, sign up as volunteers or simply repost a cause.

I am drawn to Sina Weibo for one simple reason – you can find almost everyone on it, from celebrities to writers, and government departments to restaurants.

Many of the official accounts are well-maintained, providing frequent and useful updates.

While Chinese president Xi Jinping does not have an official account, there is an account dubbed “Xuexi Fensituan” (Learning from Xi Fan Club) dedicated to disseminate news and photos of his activities.

The account owner has denied speculations that the account was a publicity effort, claiming that he was only a supporter.

Sina Weibo, which was launched in August 2009, is celebrating its fourth anniversary this month.

In an unaudited financial report for the second quarter of 2013, Sina Corporation announced a 209% year-on-year growth for its Weibo advertising revenue, which amounted to US$30mil (RM98.74mil).
The non-advertising revenues also increased from US$23.8mil (RM79mil) in the same period last year to US$32.2mil (RM106.9mil).

Back in April, China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba invested US$586mil (RM1.9bil) to purchase an 18% stake in Sina Weibo. This deal valued Sina Weibo at US$3.3bil (RM10.86bil).

The population on Weibo continued to beckon Western figures and celebrities to come on board to reach out to their Chinese fans.

The latest to join Sina Weibo was retired American boxer Mike Tyson, whose username is “Quanwang Taisen” (King of Boxing Tyson).

After greeting Chinese fans on his maiden post on Monday, he went on to ask who is the best fighter in China.

Amid the genuine replies (Donnie Yan and Jackie Chan, for instance) came an answer that had everyone in stitches – chengguan.

The term refers to the city management officers who are often labelled as abusive for getting involved in physical brawls with street vendors.

A clueless Tyson then asked, “Who is Chengguan? A tough man? I’ve never heard it (sic).”

He mentioned it again in a post later, “So many guys talking about chengguan as a great fighter? Still not a clue about him … All I’ve heard about are Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, and wait wait, the Chinese dama (middle-aged women)!”

(Local news reports said the term Chinese dama became a popular term when the women rushed to snatch up gold.)

Needless to say, Tyson’s Weibo went viral, attracting 200,000 followers in just three days.

Although Sina Weibo has a reputation for self-censorship – posts with sensitive topics or keywords are deleted – it remains largely as a platform for freedom of expression.

It was even described as China’s Hyde Park in a report by Xinhua in December 2011: “… An open space where people feel free to participate in public affairs”.

As such, Weibo is the place to gauge public sentiments and there are calls lately to urge opinion leaders to observe their social responsibility on social media network.

Contributed by Tho Xin Yi

  • Tho Xin Yi ( sees Weibo as a tool to get first-hand news and gain insight into the Chinese society. She follows 329 users on Sina Weibo.

Food for blog

Blogging_ChanWhenever we attend an event, there is live tweeting, live blogging, Facebook updates and we ask questions that our readers pose to us.

DO YOU remember Doogie Howser, MD, an American television comedy-drama starring Neil Patrick Harris as a teenage doctor?

If you were a child in the 1980s, you could not have missed it. Howser kept a diary on his computer and the episodes ended with him making an entry in the diary. That was possibly our first introduction to what is now known as web log or blog.

According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary a blog is a website that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer.

Blogs have become tremendously popular among Malaysians as they look for an alternative source of information to supplement what is being reported in mainstream media.

By the end of last year, marketing research company NM Incite tracked over 181 million blogs around the world, up from 36 million only five years earlier in 2006.

So how big is blogging? NM Incite says three out of the top 10 social networking sites in the United States — Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr — are for consumer-generated blogs.

Blogger is the largest of these sites with more than 46 million unique US visitors during October 2011, making it second only to Facebook in the social networking category, and Tumblr was the fastest-growing social networking or blog site on the top 10, more than doubling its audience since last year from home and work computers to 14 million unique visitors.

Overall, these three blogging websites combined for 80 million unique visitors, reaching more than one in every four active online users in the US during October 2011.

And who are these bloggers and what else do they do online? A study by NM Incite indicates that women make up the majority of bloggers, and half of bloggers are aged 18 to 34.

Most bloggers are well-educated: seven out of 10 bloggers have gone to college, a majority of whom are graduates and about one in three bloggers are mothers, and 52% are parents with children under 18 in their household.

Blogging_Yang Yang: Blogging with passion will eventually allow you to do it full time.

Besides this, bloggers are active across social media: they’re twice as likely to post/comment on consumer-generated video sites like YouTube, and nearly three times more likely to post in message boards/forums within a month.

According to Nuffnang, Asia-Pacific’s first blog advertising community, bloggers generate income through ads placed on blogs by various brands, and become part of a close-knit community through a vast range of exclusive events and contests.

“In Malaysia, blogging started growing exponentially in 2007 when Malaysians started seeing its commercial viability,” said Nuffnang co-founder Timothy Tiah.

Nuffnang has approximately 250,000 bloggers on its books and Tiah revealed that almost 50% of them are active.

“In the US, some bloggers have successfully evolved into full-fledged media companies that employ full-time writers and editors,” said Tiah who believes blogs and traditional media can co-exist.

“Clients do not view blogs as an alternative to traditional media. We are benchmarked against Twitter and Facebook.

For example, having an editorial piece in the New York Times supersedes one by an online publication,” Tiah explained.

Local blogging heroes such as Paul Tan and Vernon Chan, and Singaporean Dawn Yang agree that blogging with passion will eventually enable one to do it full time.

Chan said his site ( was born out of the love for technology.

“I enjoyed writing but in 2009, I decided to take it more seriously and focused my writing on gadgets and tech-related news,” said the former graphic designer.

“The blog now operates as a tech website with four writers on board.

“The tech scene is fragmented with plenty of players, but it’s healthy competition.

“I look up to sites like and as they were pioneers in this field,” he added.

Chan said that to remain competitive, a blogger needs to focus on speed, frequency and being current.

“Whenever we attend an event, there’s live tweeting, live blogging, Facebook updates and we ask questions that our readers pose to us,” said Chan.

He walks around with a tablet, two smartphones, a laptop, a DSLR camera and is always connected with his readers thanks to U Mobile broadband.

Tan echoed Chan comments and added that an honest blogger serves the reader and not the advertiser.

“We have gotten ourselves in trouble with a particular company a few times as they were not happy with some of the comments from the readers that were published on the website.

“They stopped inviting us for test drives and events for a while, but we serve our readers, and readership is currency, ” said Tan, the founder of, a leading motoring website in Malaysia.

Tan also debunked the myth that people will read any content as long as its free online.

“Online readers are looking for something fast so it is important to be quick.

“We do live updates and we have trained our readership,” said Tan, whose company now owns popular Malay blog site, among others.

Tan did not mince his words when asked to comment about bloggers who only write advertorials.

“There are bloggers who only attend events if they are paid and will only write a blog posting if there’s a monetary exchange,” he said.

Across the causeway, controversial fashion and lifestyle blogger Dawn Yang ( was in Kuala Lumpur recently to attend an event and the 27-year-old told MetroBiz that she started blogging to keep in touch with her friends.

“It started by accident but in 2005, I won an online competition as Singapore’s hottest blogger. That opened many doors for me,” said Yang who was sent to Taiwan for a year to be an artist.

She also secured several endorsement deals from international brands to promote their brands on various platforms.

“Blogging has evolved over the years with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We can’t just operate on one platform,” said Yang.

Blogging in Malaysia is seen as an easy way to make a quick buck, but to quote blogging guru Alister Cameron: “As I have repeatedly written in one form or other, blogging is not about writing posts. Heck, that’s the least of your challenges. No, blogging is about cultivating beneficial relationships with an ever-growing online readership, and that’s hard work.”

By Nevash Nair

Health is wealth! See you at the Star Health Fair

Health screenings reveal many have chronic diseases

KUALA LUMPUR: A quarter of those who went for health screening last year were found to have a chronic condition they were not previously aware of.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said 25% of 317,766 people who went for a health screening in government clinics and hospitals found out they had conditions such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

“It is an alarming figure,” he said after launching the Star Health Fair at the MidValley Exhibition Centre here yesterday.

However, he said most of those who discovered they were suffering from such diseases were over 30 years old.

Liow said it would be difficult to provide free health screening to all Malaysians.

“It would be costly to screen everyone,” he said, adding that the ministry, however, is implementing a pilot project to enable village heads to give basic health screening.

“We’re trying to train them to do simple tasks like taking blood pressure and the Body Mass Index (BMI),” he said, adding that the project is being carried out in two areas for now.

Liow also commended The Star for organising a fair specially dedicated to health.

What’s hot?: Visitors checking out the booths at the health fair at the MidValley Exhibition Centre.

“It is my sincere hope that The Star Health Fair will not only be the first of many such fairs, but will also achieve success, perhaps even surpassing the Star Education Fair!” he said.

Star Publications (M) Bhd group managing director and chief executive officer Ho Kay Tat said in his speech that The Star Health Fair complements what the newspaper offers in print.

“As The People’s Paper, The Star believes in serving the community and what better way than to help them lead healthy, active and productive lives,” he said.

In Penang, The Star also held a two-day health fair at the Straits Quay ending today.


Penang Fair Packed with healthy fun

The Star Health Fair kicks off at Straits Quay in Penang with something for everyone.

FROM yoga to Wing Chun and salsa to gymnastics, The Star Health Fair 2012 in Penang has something in store for everyone.

Starting today at one of Penang’s newest hotspots, Straits Quay, the two-day event is jam-packed with exciting events running from 7.30am to 10pm on both days.

Line dancing will kick off the fair’s schedule today on the scenic pro-menade facing the Straits Quay marina from 7.30am to 9am.

This will be followed by a mass aerobics session at Quay North at 8am. During this one-hour session, participants will get the chance to shake it loose using a variety of different styles and moves.

Kickboxing, Latin dancing, bhangra, senam silat, zumba, dang-dut, Thai dancing and Bollywood dancing are just some of the diffe-rent styles that will be incorporated into the lively session.

Events will then move into the Straits Court located just inside the mall’s entrance.

After a fitness demo, martial arts will take centre stage from 9.30am till noon.

Expect action-packed moves as self-defence exponents go all out to show their Silambam, Ip Man Wing Chun, Kendo, Jodo, Shao Lin, Jiu-Jitsu and Silat Cekak skills.

There will also be free health checks from 10am to 6pm at the Straits Court while free health talks will be conducted at the 1st floor lobby from 11am to 5pm.

Among topics that will be discussed are stress management, how to prevent and survive heart attacks, understanding cancer, and autism.

There will also be a talk on yoga while a mass family yoga session by yoga master Yogacharya Prof Prabhuji will be held at the main lobby from 5pm to 6pm.

Free refreshments will be offered throughout the fair, including Milo drinks and Fitnesse breakfast cereals from Nestle Products Sdn Bhd, drinking water from Keluarga Utama Sdn Bhd and F&N Seasons drinks from F&N Beverages Marketing Sdn Bhd.

These companies will have booths at the venue. Other participating companies such as Takasima and Tesco, hospitals and pharmacies will also have booths at the fair. The public can sign up as Tesco Clubcard members at the Tesco booth.

As the sun sets on Straits Quay today, it will be time to slip on those dancing shoes.

All visitors are invited to cha cha, samba, waltz and tango into the evening with the first of two dance performance sessions from 6pm at the main lobby.

The dancing will then move to the floating stage near the marina for the day’s finale with belly dancing, Bollywood dancing, Zumba and Pop Jazz.

Put on your walking shoes for the second day of the fair tomorrow as there will be a 3km Fun Family Walk. Participants will enjoy a brisk tour of Seri Tanjung Pinang that will kick off at 7.30am.

The walk is open to those aged 13 and above. Those interested to participate are requested to come early to book places as the event is limited to 500 walkers.

Those who complete the walk in an hour will be eligible for an attractive lucky draw where Sony tablet computers, global positioning system (GPS) devices, Takasima exercise equipment and Tesco vouchers will be among prizes up for grabs.

The lucky draw is also open to those who participate in The Star Health Fair 2012’s other mass activities such as the mass aerobics sessions and family yoga sessions.

Aside from a fitness demo and martial arts demo, Day Two of the fair also holds a Kids’ Segment at the main lobby.

During the one-hour session that starts at 5pm, Master Q and Friends will make an appearance followed by modern aerobics and gymnastic dancing, modern dancing and Latin for kids.

There will also be free medical checks on the second day from 10am to 6pm at the Straits Court and free health talks at the first floor lobby from 10.30am to 5pm.

Among the highlights of these sessions is a blood donation drive by Gleneagles Medical Centre and talks on qigong, traditional Indian health remedies, kidney transplants, knee arthritis, menopause and prostate cancer.

There will be dance performances from 6pm, first at the main lobby until 7pm followed by the floating stage from 7pm to 8pm. The dances include the genres of rumba, paso doble and jive.

The Star Health Fair 2012 is orga-nised by The Star and endorsed by the Penang Municipal Council.

Takasima and Tesco are the fair’s main sponsors, Straits Quay the official venue host, while Pantai Hospital Penang and Gleneagles Medical Centre, Penang, are the event partners.

Admission to the fair is free.

RM1.7b spent on generic drugs last year

The Sundaily April 7, 2012 Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had his blood pressure checked by Columbia Asia nurse Muzarith Sofia after officiating the Health Fair, April 7, 2012. BERNAMApix

KUALA LUMPUR (April 7, 2012): Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said a total of RM1.7 billion was spent by the government last year in purchasing generic drugs, mostly to cater for the increasing number of non-communicable diseases (NCD) patients nationwide.

He said the government expected the expenditure would increase every year.

“Why the sudden increase… because of NCDs, because of high cholesterol, hypertension and so on. Patients have to take Levithol and all kinds of medicine. Everyday you have to take the medicine and it is very costly,” he told reporters after launching The Star’s Health Fair 2012 here today.

Liow explained that most of the generic drugs were supplied by local manufacturers but some were imported.

“It’s more cheaper (to use generic drugs), in fact this is the trend in the world now, most hospitals in the world are using generic drugs…efficiency of the drugs is the same and we can help more people. In Malaysia, in terms of percentage of generic drugs used, it is about 50%, “he said.

Thus in efforts to reduced the number of NCD patients Liow said the government was planning to organise 80 health carnivals at the community level nationwide by the end of this year to create awareness among the people to go for regular health screening every year.

He also recommended that Malaysians over the age of 30 instead of 40 undergo regular screening for NCD risk factors every year, due to many cases of NCD being detected in the early stages.

“This is important because NCDs do not kill you quickly. It is a silent group of diseases, slowly killing you with heart disease, kidney disease and much more,” he said, adding that one in seven Malaysians were diagnosed with diabetes.

Other than that, Liow said the government was also making efforts to train community and Neighbourhood Watch leaders to represent the ministry in conducting health screening at grassroots level.

He said a pilot programme on this had been conducted in Pahang and that it proven to be effective. — Bernama

Good dose of healthy fun


THOUSANDS of people spent their weekend in a healthy manner by making a beeline to Straits Quay in Tanjung Tokong, Penang, which was the venue for the inaugural The Star Health Fair 2012.

Activities started from as early as 7.30am and lasted till 10pm on both days.

Many took part in mass line dance and mass aerobics sessions.

There were also martial arts demonstrations such as lion dance, silambam, Ip Man Wing Chun, Japanese Kendo and Jodo, Shao Lin traditional martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, silat cekak, kickboxing and praying mantis boxing.

Visitor Sharon Lim, 27, who was among those who witnessed the martial arts demonstrations, said she missed out the happenings on the first day.

“A friend from outstation visited me on Saturday. However, I made it a point to come today as I am a red belt holder in Taekwondo,” she said yesterday.

Family outing: Participants enjoying a leisurely walk during The Star Health Fair at Straits Quay.

Earlier, some 500 people turned up for the Fun Family Walk. They took a 3km walk around the Seri Tanjung Pinang.

Another 200 people also joined in the mass aerobics session at the North Quay.

There was also a blood donation drive to replenish the blood bank of Gleneagles Medical Centre.

Visitors also attended health talks on subjects such as ‘Stress Management’, ‘Understanding Cancer’, ‘Does My Child Have Autism’, ‘Menopause’, ‘Prostate Cancer’, and ‘Health Remedies Following Ancient Science and Vasthu Sastra (Indian Geomancy)’.

The kid’s segment where cartoon characters Master Q & Friends came to greet children was also a big crowd-puller.

Parents were as excited as their children to meet the characters and many opted for family photo shoots.

Crowd-puller: Ervin and Eelynn Kok keeping the audience mesmerised with their slick samba moves at Straits Quay’s main lobby.

Ballroom dancers took centre stage with several couples showing off silky moves in samba, cha cha, rumba, jive, waltz, tango and paso doble.

It was followed by sensual belly dance, Bollywood dance, pop jazz and also the exciting zumba party.

Infectious mood: The crowd joining in the Zumba dance party in the open air at Straits Quay.

On Saturday, more than 200 people turned up in the Straits Quay promenade to take part in the mass line dance.

Shirley Ong, 71, said line dancing had been her hobby for the past 12 years.

“It keeps my mind alert and it is also a good form of exercise. I also get the opportunity to mix with more young people,” she said.

An instructor Lily Tan, 47, said she picked up the dance 10 years ago as it was simple and suitable for people from all walks of life.

She added that she had incorporated other dance moves into line dancing.

“I visit other dance groups to exchange ideas. I also like to add in some ballroom dancing style,” the grandmother-of-two said.

Healthy beverages were provided to visitors by F&N Beverages Marketing Sdn Bhd and Keluarga Utama Sdn Bhd.

The fair was organised by The Star and endorsed by the Penang Municipal Council with Straits Quay as the official venue host.

Relaxing moment: Visitors trying out Takasima’s range of massage chairs on display.

Takasima and Tesco were the main sponsors while Pantai Hospital Penang and Gleneagles Medical Centre, Penang, were the event partners.

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A Christmas wake-up call

BERLIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 23:  Santas-to-be w...Image by Getty Images via @daylife


Christmas is the time for us to redeem and reconcile our relationships with people that we care about. It’s a time for us to remember and rekindle the passions in life that we dream about.

IT all began in a little town called Bethlehem, where a baby was born in a manger. Over centuries, it has captured the joys of wintertime like listening to sleigh bells ringing, building snowmen in the meadow and roasting chestnuts on an open fire.With or without snowfall, Santa Claus always comes to town whenever the season is upon us, in the malls and on the streets.

Today, Christmas is no longer just a religious or cultural festival celebrated in the West, but a global event transcending race, religions and cultures.

Much of its universal appeal lies in the values embodied in the spirit of Christmas. The highlight at any Christmas party, whether hosted by Christian families, schools, offices or friends, is the exchange of gifts.

Christmas is about goodwill to all and sharing between loved ones.

Of course, cynics would say that Christmas also epitomises the sin of greed, considering how much people spend on Christmas decorations, shopping and parties.

However, that says more about human nature, rather than Christmas itself. After all, how we celebrate Christmas is very much like how we celebrate life.

In life, just like during Christmas, we expect to be rewarded for the good things we have done. Life, just like Christmas, is about dreams and desires.

True, more often than not, they are materialistic in nature. True, we always want to have more than what we already have, and that there is no end to dreams and desires.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, where we go wrong is not knowing what we truly want out of life. We instead want things that bring little value to our lives.

We crave for more clothes, cars, properties and sources of physical affection. We crave for the same things we already have in abundance, except in different designs, colours and sizes.

We are like kids crying out for toys, ice-cream and a playmate, with no time to think of the consequences.

However, there’s got to be more to life than chasing every temporary high.

Just like Lord Buddha centuries ago, Mark Zuckerberg exhorts us to eliminate desires. Not just any desire, but desires that don’t really matter to us to begin with, or any more.

Having desires is not greedy. Having false desires is.

Our fragile minds, wrecked by insecurities, are always vulnerable to being incepted by foreign ideas. We constantly worry about what others think of us, and what they tell us we should be like.

Not only are we weighed down by excess material and emotional baggage, but we are also forced to abandon our own innermost dreams and desires.

Only when you have eliminated your false desires, will you discover what you want, what you really want.

Basically, start doing the things you have always dreamt of doing but never did because you kept telling yourself “Not this weekend, there’s a sale”, “Not this month, peak period” and “Not this year, saving for a bigger car”.

And it doesn’t just stop there. If you fail to recognise the things that truly give you joy, chances are that you will fail to recognise the things that truly give joy to the rest of the world.

Getting a gift for someone is never easy. We can’t read minds.

Sure, you may ask them what they want, but that’s rather spoiling the whole idea of a gift or they may be too embarrassed to reveal their innermost dreams and desires to you anyway.

The true value of a gift is not how much it’s worth to the giver or anyone else, but to the recipient.

How much the person appreciates the gift is a measure of how much you actually know and care for the person.

As noble as our intentions may be, the act of giving itself is simply not enough. Yes, it’s the thought that counts. But with more thought put into a gift, the more value the gift has.

So make your gifts count, be it to your family, friends or lover.

Don’t just go for the safe gifts like chocolates, Hallmark greeting cards, mugs or even expensive jewellery.

Make an effort to think hard about what the person truly wants. It may be something the person never even thought about having.

Don’t just buy something off the shelf. Forget about the price tag.

Be original. Go the distance. Fly to the moon and back. Like writing a song for your girlfriend that she can tell everybody this is her song. Don’t just say “I Love You”, say “I Love Us”.

Sometimes, the greatest gift is simply changing the way we treat others. Like being more obedient to your Mum and Dad. Or stop yelling and giving unreasonable deadlines to your employees.

And instead of just giving away monetary handouts such as bonuses, subsidies or salary increases every year, governments should also give its people greater freedom to express themselves.

As a wise prophet once said, man does not live by bread alone.

People should also be entitled to ask questions like “Who is producing and selling this bread, was there an open tender exercise?” and “Why do I only get one loaf, and my neighbour gets two?” without fear of persecution.

Whoever we are, rich or poor, Christmas ultimately serves as a wake-up call for us to change our lives for the better.

It’s the time for us to redeem and reconcile our relationships with people that we care about. It’s a time for us to remember and rekindle the passions in life that we dream about.

There’s something magical about Christmas. It’s the magic that makes us believe in miracles, and make miracles happen. It’s the magic that makes us rediscover our freedom and power to dream.

So, although it’s been said many times, many ways – have yourself a merry little Christmas, for now and always.

The writer is a young lawyer. Putik Lada, or pepper buds in Malay, captures the spirit and intention of this column – a platform for young lawyers to articulate their views and aspirations about the law, justice and a civil society. For more information about the young lawyers, visit

China to Launch Space Station Test Module Next Week

China to Launch Space Station Test Module

by Clara Moskowitz, Senior Writer
China is developing its first full-fledged space station, called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace). Early tests of China’s skills at rendezvous and docking, shown in this artist's illustration, are set to begin in 2011.
China is developing its first full-fledged space station, called Tiangong (Heavenly Palace). Early tests of China’s skills at rendezvous and docking, shown in this artist’s illustration, are set to begin in 2011.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

China will launch a test module for its first space station next week between Sept. 27 and Sept. 30, state media reported today (Sept. 20).

The unmanned module, called Tiangong-1 (which means “Heavenly Palace”) will test autonomous docking procedures and other space operations in preparation for China’s plan to build a 60-ton space station by the year 2020.

The Chinese Long March 2F rocket set to launch Tiangong-1 has already been rolled out to its launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu Province, according to state-run news service Xinhua. [Photos: China’s First Space Station]

The liftoff was delayed last month when a Long March 2C booster, similar to the rocket that will loft Tiangong-1, failed to deliver an experimental unmanned satellite to orbit. However, after an investigation into the accident, China successfully launched a military satellite aboard a related Long March 3B/E rocket on Sunday (Sept. 18), clearing the way for the Tiangong liftoff.

Final tests of the spacecraft and its booster will take place over the next few days, a project spokesperson told Xinhua.

“Every main system is standing by and the final preparations are running smoothly,” Xinhua reported.

The 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 is slated to dock with the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft, which will launch at a later date. It will be the first docking between Chinese spacecraft, and will represent a significant step forward in the nation’s space capabilities, experts have said.

Medical and engineering experiments will also be carried aboard Tiangong-1. [How China’s First Space Station Will Work (Infographic)]

China is only the third country, after the Soviet Union and the United States, to launch a person to orbit. The first Chinese manned mission, Shenzhou 5, launched astronaut Yang Liwei in 2003. Two more manned missions followed, including a flight that featured the nation’s first spacewalk in 2008.

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Up Close and Personal with Steve Forbes


BORN: July 18, 1947
MARITAL STATUS: Married with 5 daughters.
Just celebrated his 40 th anniversary
Princet on in 1970
CAREER: Editor-In-chief of Forbes media,
president and CEO of Forbes Inc
FAVOURITE FOOD: Lamb chop, french fries
and cheese burgers. All the things that are bad!
FAVOURITE PLACE: Bicycle riding and
collecting letters and original manuscripts from
Winston Churchill, among others.
RELIGION: Presbyterian

STEVE Forbes probably knows of the familiar Chinese saying that wealth does not pass three generations. Whether he believes it or not, given the onslaught traditional media have been facing in recent years, one wonders if that ominous saying has more than a tinge of truth to it.

He has grounds to be worried, though. The Forbes family business is now into its third generation. The publishing business was started by B.C. Forbes who then handed it over to his son Malcom Forbes and is currently under the stewardship of Steve Forbes.

Judging by the statistics, Forbes is taking on the proverb head on.

The company’s flagship publication, Forbes, is the United States’ leading business magazine with a circulation of more than 900,000. Forbes, Forbes Asia and the company’s licensee editions together reach a worldwide audience of more than six million readers. The circulation of Forbes‘ international editions is 590,500.

“The tools have changed tremendously because of the Web. However, the purpose remains the same. We were the early embracers of the Web, and we did not confuse purpose and method. That is why in the United States there is no magazine that has done as well as ours on the Web,” said Forbes.

“It is because of this that we are able to put out more content. Ninety-eight per cent of our content doesn’t appear in our magazine. Our early embrace of the Web has resulted in us having 20 million unique visitors a month and the number is growing in terms of usage. Our affiliated sites receive five million to six million visitors,” says Forbes.

Apart from having its own staff of journalists, Forbes also has 800 contributors for its website chosen by its channel contributors.

“No one is doing it on a scale as we are. The bottom line is, we believe the entrepreneurial class is growing around the world. That’s what people want to know. The Web has enabled us to do things with more versatility and flexibility,” says Forbes.

On Money

Though born into money in Morristown, New Jersey, Forbes displayed from an early age that ink did run through his veins as he showed an aptitude to run a publishing business.

Graduated cum laude in 1966 from Brooks School, Massachusetts, Forbes, while studying at Princeton, founded his first magazine, Business Today, with two other students. Business Today is currently the largest student-run magazine in the world.

When asked what he loves more journalism or business and investing Forbes simply says he loves both but is quick to note that money is not everything.

“It is an effort for reward. It is a means of doing transactions. It is a facilitator and gives us the ability to invest for the future. Money puts things in a proper perspective,” he muses.

His first memory of money was as a small boy who never had enough allowance for toys and candies. Forbes had to complete his chores to earn money.
ForbesImage via Wikipedia

“So, my effort for reward was established at a fairly young age. To get money, you have to meet the needs and wants of other people. Sometimes you have to give them things they didn’t know they wanted. The key thing is creativity. Money doesn’t just come to you,” he says.

He believes, though, that people have to invest. That is key.

“If you look around the world today, there are great equity opportunities. It is precisely in terrible times like these that you can get enormous bargains.”

He adds that the time to get into the market is when everyone is getting out. “You do it when the clouds and storms are there. When the storm is gone, everyone will see what you saw,” says Forbes.

He cites the period between the late 1970s and the early 1980s when the global economy was in a troubled state. It started to sputter and then recovered in the late eighties. Between the 1990s and and the early part of the 21st century, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had grown 15-fold.

“The wealth of the world has increased. We’ve had great advances in technology and what’s holding us back is the convulsions and distortions in the US dollar. I think when we get a new president, that will change. If we can get through the next one-and-a-half years, I think reforms will be made and better times are coming,” he said.

On Europe’s debt problems, Forbes says Europe’s woes will persist in the short term especially if the Europeans continue with their “incompetencies in handling the crisis”.

“Europe should be doing what we did in the United States in 2008. They should be having their own Troubled Asset Relieve Programme. If necessary, pump capital into banks. That is why they bail out countries like Greece, not because Greece is important, but because their banks are holding Greek papers and bonds. Hence, Europe has to focus on shoring up its capital,” he said.

He believes though that the axe would have to fall on some of Europe’s banks and that Europe needs to have a programme where it does not let the good banks go down with the bad.

“Europe has to restructure its debts, instead of pretending Greece can pay those loans. They cannot. Restructure the debts. Don’t just focus on austerity. You also focus on growth to make sure the economy grows again. Greece is now increasing taxes, which is the dumbest thing you could do. They should reform tax code, put in the flat tax. They should also make it easier to set up businesses in Greece,” he argues.

Principles in life

Forbes says an important thing in life is to have an ability to distinguish between what is right and what is wrong, and he has three “F” principles faith, family and friends to maintain an everyday balance.

“The best thing was to have parents who already owned a successful business. My father used to say that nepotism doesn’t matter as long as you keep it within the family!” Forbes says with a laugh.

“In my workplace, I am blessed to be in an area where I have always wanted to be in. It must be in the genes. When I was in school, I turned out newsheets for my classmates. I also graded my teachers. I thought, if they can give me grades, why can’t I grade them too? That only lasted once!” he jokes.

Forbes likes riding his bicycle and has done trips to various parts of the world with groups of people. He likes London, Paris and various places in Italy. In Asia, he likes the coastal cities in China and some in the interior as he can feel the growth and energy there. He is amazed by what Singapore has done.

His hobbies include collecting old letters and manuscripts of noteworthy individuals Sir Winston Churchill and the writings of obscure British writer John Goldsworthy.

For young entrepreneurs, Forbes has one advice: focus on value adding. The focus should be on providing something people want, or did not know they wanted before.

“You can find it even in the most common areas. Take Starbucks coffee, for instance. Everyone drinks coffee. Anyone can make it and grow it. They still serve it for free on the airlines and yet, how did Starbucks do so well? They did it differently, serving up the Viennese coffee experience,” explains Forbes.

On his political ideologies

Forbes has no qualms voicing his disapproval of US President Barack Obama. Forbes would like to see a new president who can deliver true economic growth and a stable dollar. He says the problem of the weak dollar, which started under George W. Bush, was compounded by Obama.

“We should be in a recovery by now, but instead we are like an automobile going at 10km per hour. We should be going at 120kph,” says Forbes.

Some of Obama’s measures that he doesn’t agree with include the binge spending and the healthcare bill.

“The healthcare bill is a disaster, which will be repealed in 2013 when the new president comes in. Obama’s massive regulations are crushing the banks. And his regulations on energy he is very anti-coal, very anti everything except for windmills, which is a very medieval technology. He has not reformed the tax codes and wants to raise taxes,” says Forbes.

On Obama’s recent job stimulus package, Forbes says this is spending money the United States does not have.

“Governments do not create jobs. Entrepreneurs do. He does not understand that,” says Forbes.

For his pick for president, Forbes is leaning towards Republican Governor Rick Perry. He likes Perry’s record as Governor of Texas and his success in creating jobs.

“He did not raise taxes, kept the budget under control and has also put in reforms,” says Forbes.

In 1996 and 2000, Forbes campaigned vigorously for the Republican nomination for the presidency.

On why he ran twice as a presidential candidate, Forbes felt there was a vacuum in the field of candidates as more opportunities should be given the people. And his experience from that? “Its more fun to win than to lose!”

Over the next five to 10 years, Forbes hopes to be doing more of what he is doing today, which is trying to influence positive policies to enable his country and the world to grow.

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