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Penang has confirmed the illegal hill clearing cases reported by Penang Forum


Land clearing in Penang is rampant with Civil liberties group, Penang Forum (PF) revealing only 7.4 per cent of the state is categorised as forested land. NSTP pix
Location : Near Lintang Bukit Jambul 1
Approximate Coordinates : 5°20’38.47″N,100°16’52.82″E
Report sent in August 2016. Photos taken in November 2016 and 2014. PHW Report 15 pix.

 

GEORGE TOWN: Penang has acknowledged that nine out of 29 hill clearing cases on the island, as reported by Penang Forum , were illegal.

Penang Forum representative Rexy Prakash Chacko said state Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow and Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had a discussion with them last week.

This came about after the forum’s first Penang Hills Watch (PHW) report on hill clearing cases was submitted to the state on Jan 2.

“They investigated the report and concluded that only nine were illegal clearing activities while the rest were legally permitted land works (14) and natural slope failure (one). The other five cases are still being investigated by the relevant departments.

“The illegal clearing cases have been issued with stop work orders or are being followed up by court action,” he said on Saturday.

Chacko commended Penang’s concern and transparency in responding to the PHW report.

He urged for close monitoring on the nine illegal clearing cases and for mitigation action to be taken to rehabilitate the areas if necessary.

“For those with permits, the forum hopes that the clearing will strictly adhere to the state laws on land works and drainage.”

Chow, when met at Datuk Keramat assemblyman Jagdeep Singh Deo’s CNY open house in Taman Free School, said he had discussed with Penang Forum members about the report and answered their queries.

The public can view the PHW report as well as the response from the state government at the Penang Hills Watch Facebook page (@PenangHillsWatch) or the Penang Forum website, and see them interactively on a map at the Penang Hills Watch page.

PHW, a citizen-oriented initiative to provide a platform to monitor activities affecting the hills of Penang, was launched in October last year by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of non-political civil society groups often critical of the state government’s plans and policies. –  The Star

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Weeding out the worrying graft and corruption among Malaysian youths and politicians!


MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil

MACC reveals ‘worrying statistics’

KUALA LUMPUR: More than 50% of those arrested by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) in the past three years were aged below 40.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (prevention) Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil expressed concern over the finding and said it as an “alarming situation”.

Of the 2,329 people arrested since 2014, 1,267 were below 40.

“People in this age group are supposed to be nation’s backbone, who will shape the future of our country,” he said in his keynote speech at a public forum organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) yesterday.

Shamshun said about 982 investigation papers were opened, 932 people were detained and 258 charged by the anti-graft body last year.

“MACC plans to engage with youths this year. The Gen-Y group always finds an easy way. We have to guide them from young and create awareness of what is happening around them,” he said.

On MACC seeking more allocation, Shamshun said the extra funds were for them to implement what they planned for the year.

“We need more whistle-blowers who can voluntarily come forward to report or provide information on corruption activities.”

He said such individuals will be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act 2010, that shields informants from action. – by Ashwin Kumar thesun

Weeding out graft among youths

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysia Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) will push on with efforts to eradicate corruption in the civil service in the face of budget cuts, says its deputy chief commissioner (prevention).

Datuk Shamshun Baharin Mohd Jamil (pic) told reporters that the commissions’ plan for 2017 would be to focus on Government agencies, as well as arresting the growing trend of corruption among youths.

Responding to questions on cuts to the MACC’s budget, he said it was an issue faced by all agencies, though the commission had appealed for more funding to carry out its plans.

“We can’t do everything at once because of (MACC’s) strength and budget. But my concern is also about how many of those arrested are under 40 years old,” said Shamshun Baharin, adding that 54% of those arrested (1,267 of 2,329 cases) were under 40.

He attributed the trend to the generation’s environment and wanting to take shortcuts, which MACC aimed to combat with the establishment of a corruption prevention secretariat in higher learning institutions.

During his keynote address at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS) forum titled ‘Supporting the MACC in the fight against corruption’, Shamshun Baharin said 2016 had been a successful year for the commission.

He revealed that arrest numbers had gone up from 841 (2015) to 932 (2016), of which 258 suspects had been brought to court, as of Dec 15 last year.

At the event, IDEAS CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan launched a signature drive under its #NyahKorupsi campaign, to support the MACC.

“Our goal is to have more Malaysians come out in support of the MACC because it has made more investigations and arrests of corrupt top officials. There may be a time when they will need our help,” he said.

He said IDEAS would collect as many signatures as possible before delivering it to MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad.

To sign the petition, visit http://www.change.org/p/sokong-sprm-perangi-rasuah.

The other forum panellist included Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Akbar Satar, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism executive director Cynthia Gabriel, Friends of Kota Damansara chairman Jeffrey Phang and Sinar Project co-founder Khairil Yusof. – By Qishin Tariq The Star/ANN

Just you wait, MACC boss warns corrupt politicians

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad,

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has warned corrupt politicians to “be careful”.

Its chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, in a live television interview yesterday, said he had previously stated that he would take action on anyone involved in corrupt practices, including “politicians of any rank”.

“On my 100th day as MACC chief, I said that I will not be stopped from taking action against politicians.

“Tonight, I would like to say to corrupt politicians, just you wait (tunggulah),” he said.

Dzulkifli added that the MACC was not worried about “protected individuals” who committed systemic corruption.

“There is no issue about them being protected, I can guarantee that all those who commit corruption will not be left alone. I will take action against them without fear or favour,” he added.

But Dzulkifli admitted that the MACC had its limitations in terms of logistics.

“There are only 2,900 members and officers in the whole of the MACC, of which only 900 carry out legal enforcement as others are in the prevention and education departments, among others.

“Now if you look at the civil service alone, there are 1.6 million of them, so that is one.

“Besides that, is budget, that has been cut, and it is at its lowest since 2013,” he said.

Dzulkifli, however, added that he would not allow the limitations to stop the anti-graft body from carrying out its duties.

The Astro Awani interview is Dzulkifl’s first ever live interview since his appointment in July last year.

Dzulkifli, a veteran in the civil service, was the head of the National Revenue Recovery Enforcement Team of the Attorney-General’s Chambers before being appointed chief commissioner.

He took over from Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed, and his tenure is until July 31, 2021.

– By D. Kanyakumari The Star/ANN

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Wan Saiful Wan Jan

Thinking Liberally

Wan Saiful Wan Jan is chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (www.ideas.org.my). The views expressed here are entirely
the writer’s own.

Fighting corruption a decade later, Wars on graft widens


“Power doesn’t corrupt people, people corrupt power.”
William Gaddis

THE beginning of the year is as good a time as any to reflect upon the direction the country is heading towards.

Ten years ago, Malaysians were just beginning to appreciate the opening up of public space. Then prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, or more familiarly known as Pak Lah, had taken over in 2003, and then won a landslide victory for the ruling Barisan Nasional in 2004, riding on a wave of public confidence in his commitment to reforming a government that had lost a whopping 14 parliamentary seats in the previous 1999 general election.

What was most distinct about his administration was his promise to clamp down on corruption and therefore empowering the anti-corruption agencies. Related to this was the general change in the sociopolitical air – civil society felt freer and more able to organise public seminars related to various issues previously deemed sensitive.

More significantly, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) was established in 2004, an upgraded version of the previously known Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA), with the idea of being a regional hub for anti-corruption capacity and capability building to “fight corruption by promoting best practices in investigation, monitoring and enforcement …”

Modelled after Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), it was meant to be a more robust agency now given greater teeth to fight graft in the country.

The MACC did go through significant challenges, chief of which was the incident in 2006 during which political aide Teoh Beng Hock was found to have fallen to his death at the MACC Selangor headquarters in Shah Alam. Embroiled in controversy, the investigations and court cases eventually concluded that it was, in fact, a homicide that took place. Although the police did not eventually find the perpetrator, the MACC as an institution did take measures to improve itself after admitting there were flaws in its system.

One of the reform measures was to set up five independent committees, namely the Anti-Corruption Advisory Board, the Special Committee on Corruption, the Complaints Committee, the Operations Evaluation Panel, and the Consultation and Corruption Prevention Panel. These committees would be tasked to provide oversight to the operations and investigation processes of the MACC, and many individuals of good public standing were appointed to fill these positions subsequently, although these mechanisms did not sufficiently boost public confidence.

Over the last year, the MACC has been in the spotlight for numerous reasons, having investigated 1MDB and other cases related to it, but then later raided by the police for reportedly having leaked documents.

Has the anti-corruption commission that was initially promised to be reformed and strengthened all those years ago instead been eroded and weakened?

The MACC in fact ought to be an independent institution given the resources to fight corruption. But the 2017 budget saw a laundry list of financial cuts, including in investigation and surveillance, law and prosecution, prevention, administrative and forensic services, as well as record and information management, and community education. How is it possible for the MACC to continue functioning with the same expectations but with a much lower budget?

One of the core reforms that some of us in civil society have called for in recent years is an independent MACC that reports to Parliament and has greater autonomy both financially and in hiring and firing its own staff.

The MACC currently reports to the Prime Minister’s Department, which surely is a source of potential conflict of interest. Having a truly independent MACC would allow it to truly exercise its duties in an unbiased fashion without fear or favour.

The new MACC Chief Commissioner, Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad, recently announced that he wants to combat corruption and abuse of power, saying that “for those who are still intoxicated by bribery, please listen to this warning: stop the corruption and power abuse, and surrender yourself!” In the same speech, he also urged Malaysians to support the agency in its mission. The MACC’s recent action in the Sabah Water Department corruption case is a good sign that it is taking steps in that direction.

However, the MACC simply cannot carry out this task alone. The experiences over the last decade would surely have taught the administration some lessons: that apart from the government it serves, positive public perception is crucial to achieving its goals. Working with, instead of against, the community that it tries to educate is crucial if it wants to seriously fight corruption all round.

This is where independent civil society organisations can in fact come in to support the MACC in its efforts to fight corruption. Other expert bodies like accountants and lawyers can also support MACC’s work as many investigations involve technical and forensic accounting matters. However, the MACC must also demonstrate its willingness to have frank discussions and dialogue with civil society.

The MACC has seen tremendous transformations over the last decade and more, but fighting corruption seems to be even more challenging than ever. It is hoped that it is in these trying times partnerships and collaborations can be forged; all those in favour of fighting corruption – and this must be a priority this year – should surely come together.

– Tricia Yeoh letters@thesundaily.com

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Wars on graft widens

Four officers nabbed for pocketing fees after altering passport applications

The tentacles in the war against graft are spreading wide. Four Immigration officers who listed normal people as disabled, pocketing the RM200 application fee in the process, have been nabbed; a senior official from the Malacca Historic City Council is under probe; policemen who took bribes have been charged; and the Inland Revenue Board has also joined the fray, striking up a partnership with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission. PETALING JAYA: Four Selangor Immigration officers were entrusted to receive and process applications for international passports.

Nabbed: Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission officers escorting four Immigration officers out from the Shah Alam magistrate’s court after they were remanded for six days.

Having access to the applicant database, they did much more than their job scope.

The quartet would pocket the RM200 international passport application fee received over the counter by “converting” the paid applications to that submitted by OKU (disabled) persons, who are entitled to free passports.

The officers had been pocketing large sums this way since 2014, with about RM1mil siphoned off.

An internal audit exposed the ruse recently.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) raided the Selangor Immigration Department office in Shah Alam at 3.30pm on Monday and detained the four officers, two of them women.

The four suspects were brought to the Shah Alam magistrate’s court to be remanded for six days.

The investigation is under Section 18 of the MACC Act 2009 which involves submission of false claims with intention to deceive.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki confirmed the arrests, describing the case as “very serious and warranting a very thorough probe.”

“We do not rule out the possibility that such fraud may also be occurring in other Immigration offices all over the country.

“This is not an isolated case and must be addressed,” he said.

An MACC official said the suspects were believed to be involved in the submission of payment vouchers with falsified information.

“The record is altered to show that the applicant is an OKU when he or she is not,’’ the official added.

Immigration director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said full cooperation had been extended to MACC, and had shared the outcome of its internal audit. – The Star

Four immigration officers held for allegedly pocketing RM1m for falsifying passports

PETALING JAYA: Four Immigration Department front-line officers who are believed to have siphoned as much as RM1 million from the department have been detained by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC).

The suspects, aged between 31 and 39, include two female officers. They were arrested at the Selangor Immigration Department at 3.30pm on Monday and have been remanded for six days beginning today.

MACC sources said the officers took advantage of a fee waiver for people with disabilities (OKU) by fraudulently classifying normal applicants as OKU and pocketing the RM200 fee on each transaction.

Investigators learnt the suspects have been involved in the racket since 2014 and were only recently exposed after the Immigration Department conducted an internal audit.

The audit team became suspicious when it found a high number of passports issued to OKUs, and initiated a probe.

So far, the status of at least 100 normal passport holders have been found falsely classified as those belonging to OKU, and this is believed to be just the tip of the iceberg, and that there were some 5,000 more cases.

MACC investigators are probing assets amassed by the detained officers and believe such activities may also be prevalent at other passport issuing immigration offices nationwide.

MACC deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said today that an indepth probe on the case is ongoing.

“This cannot be taken lightly as it has caused losses in government revenue. Moreover, it breaches the special privileges accorded to the disabled by the government,” he said.

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Dzulkifli Ahmad said the agency will use every law in existence to prosecute those involved in graft to make it clear that crime does not pay.

“Let me issue a warning … we will not only pursue prosecution under the MACC Act, but also use the Anti-Money-Laundering Act and the Income Tax Act,” Dzulkifli said in a speech at the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) today after witnessing the signing of a corruption-free pledge by IRB – the first government agency to do so after signing the Corporate Integrity Pledge in 2013.

“I urge you to stop immediately or face the consequences,” said Dzulkifli, adding that even if MACC cannot prosecute a corrupt individual, he or she would not be able to escape the IRB.

– Charles Ramendran and Lee Choon Fai Newsdesk@thesundaily.com

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Four policemen charged with corruption

(From top left) A combo picture of policemen Mohd Zulkifly Mat Nor, 28, Jeffry Abdullah, 35, Zainoor Ariffin Rosli, 24 and Muhammad Farid Nordin, 28 when they were brought to George Town Session Court by Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) to face corruption charges under Section 17 of the MACC Act.

GEORGE TOWN: Four policemen were charged in the Sessions Court here today with corruption.

Corporal Jefry Abdullah, 35, from the Narcotics Department of the Northeast district police headquarters pleaded not guilty before Sessions Court Judge Roslan Hamid.

He is accused of trying to obtain RM1,000 for himself from Nor Esmawati Baharom as inducement not to take action against the latter’s brother in-law, Norhamni Haron by swapping a positive urine sample during a urine test at the district police headquarters.

He was alleged to have committed the offense at the Narcotics Department office of the Northeast district police headquarters about 4.40pm on Mac 1 last year.

Jefry was charged under Section 17(a) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009 which carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence and fine not less than five times the bribe amount or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

The court fixed bail at RM8,000 with one surety.

In a separate charge, three policemen from the Datuk Keramat police station also claimed trial over a corruption charge.

Muhammad Farid Nordin, 28, Mohd Zulkifly Mat Nor, 28, and Zainoor Ariffin Rosli, 24, with another person still at large were charged with trying to obtain RM10,000 for themselves as an inducement not to take action against Norhamni Haron for possessing ganja.

They were alleged to have committed the offence at the Datuk Keramat police station on Mac 1, last year about 11.45am.

The trio were also charged under Section 17(a) of the MACC Act 2009.

MACC Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Ahmad Ghazali Mohd Nazri suggested bail of RM10,000 with one surety for each of the accused considering the seriousness of the case.

Roslan fixed bail at RM8,000 with one surety for each of them and set Feb 17 for mention.

V. Partiban represented all of the accused.

MACC DPP Amin Yaacub also appeared for the prosecution.

– Imran Hilmy newsdesk@thesundaily.com
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Penang Island City Council, MBPP councilor Dr Lim fed up change not happening in Penang


Stepping down: Dr Lim giving a speech at the council meeting at City Hall, Penang.

Dr. Lim tells why he walked

GEORGE TOWN: The only city councillor here who dared to go against the state government does not want to continue after his term ends on New Year’s Eve because he is disappointed with the Penang Island City Council (MBPP).

Dr Lim Mah Hui (pic) said he no longer wanted to serve because “the change in Penang that we want doesn’t seem to be happening”.

“I will remain active as a Penang Forum committee member. I will still speak up on public issues.

“I believe people in public offices should serve for limited terms. Perhaps it will take a fresher mind with new ideas and approaches to make things happen for the better,” he said.

Dr Lim, who has served as a councillor since 2011, also believed that the council should allow the public to observe council committee meetings.

“The committee meetings are where decisions are made. If people are watching the deliberations, then public scrutiny can help temper political interests,” he added.

The press and the public are allowed to witness full council meetings, but Dr Lim said these were formal meetings to confirm matters that had been decided upon.

Dr Lim is the sole city councillor out of 24 with no political ties. A former professor and international banker, he was nominated to MBPP by Penang Forum, a loose coalition of numerous NGOs in the state.

His appointment stemmed from the current government’s 2008 move to swear in councillors representing NGOs. Four such councillors were initially appointed but since 2012, although the official NGO councillors still stand at four, only Dr Lim is known to come strictly from civil society.

He made his maverick nature clear less than a year after being a councillor when he joined a group of 30 people to publicly protest against his own council outside City Hall months after being appointed.

In March this year, he was involved in a heated exchange with Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng during an NGO dialogue session over parking woes, road-widening projects and the council enforcement’s car-towing figures.

In July, Dr Lim criticised the state’s Penang Transport Master Plan (PTMP) and suggested an alternative better, cheaper, faster transport master plan.

A month before that, he sent a letter to Unesco expressing fears that the PTMP would jeopardise George Town’s World Heritage Site status.

Throughout his tenure in MBPP, Dr Lim has been called a liar, back-stabber and betrayer of the state government by local politicians. NGO members, however, hold him in high regard.

“Nobody can live up to Mah Hui’s standard as an example of integrity and representing public interest without fear or favour.

“He had been talking about stepping down for some time.

“Maybe he needs to take a break and we hope he will accept the post again,” said fellow Penang Forum member Khoo Salma Nasution, whom the group has nominated to take Dr Lim’s place.

Former DAP member Roger Teoh, who was initially at loggerheads with Dr Lim over the PTMP, said it was a shame that local politicians had painted him in a negative light.

“Something was not right about how the state was reacting to Dr Lim’s Unesco letter. I felt he was unfairly labelled as treasonous. If his concerns were heard internally, would he have needed to write to Unesco?” he asked.

Teoh had initially supported the PTMP and openly criticised Dr Lim.

He changed his stand after doing a Masters thesis research on car use in 100 cities around the world, which led him to resign from DAP recently.

Sources: Arnold Loh The Star/Asian News Network

Dr Lim Mah Hui to make way for new blood 

                                                                          GEORGE TOWN: Outspoken Penang Forum member Dr Lim Mah Hui (pic) will not seek another term as a Penang Island City councillor.

“I have declined to be nominated for the reappointment as a councillor next year. I have served six years.

“I think I have served long enough and we need new blood and new people to take up the cause,” he said at the council’s monthly meeting yesterday.

He later told a press conference that Penang Forum suggested Khoo Salma Nasution, the forum’s steering committee member and Penang Heritage Trust vice-president, as his replacement.

“We have nominated Khoo as the representative for Penang Forum and NGOs. We will have to wait for the state executive council to decide on the nominations.

“Nobody told me to step down. It was my own decision. Penang Forum wanted me to continue but I told them I had done more than my share.

“I will remain in the Penang Transport Council,” he said.

Dr Lim, however, said he would continue to be vocal and speak out.

He urged the Penang Island City Council to open its meetings to the public to promote greater transparency and participation.

“Section 23 of the Local Govern-ment Act 1976 gives the local council the power to do so.

“Members of the public can also be invited to sit in, possibly as observers, at the council’s committee and sub-committee meetings where decisions are made.

“This is the challenge I put forward. If they are truly taking about change and a new type of government, then they should do that,” said Dr Lim.

Dr Lim has raised various concerns during his stint as a councillor and forum member on issues related to hill clearing, land reclamation, heritage conservation and the proposed Penang Transport Master Plan. – The Star

Developers unafraid of Penang authorities, says activist group

 

CHANT cited the demolition of the 19th century Khaw Sim Bee Mansion and illegal hilltop clearing of Bukit Relau as examples of the developers’ fearlessness. — File picture by Bernama – See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/malaysia/article/developers-unafraid-of-penang-authorities-says-activist-group#sthash.muMUgaNa.dpuf

GEORGE TOWN, March 16 — Developers in Penang no longer fear flouting the law as the authorities seem to be “toothless” in taking punitive actions, an activist group claimed.

Referring to the latest hill-clearing incident on Bukit Gambir and similar past incidents, Penang Citizens Awareness Chant Group (CHANT) coordinator Yan Lee said the developers knew they could easily get away with illegal earthworks or structural demolitions.

This was because the state government and the municipal council were not prepared to take stern punitive action against them, he said in a text message yesterday.

The council has come under fire in the past few days after a developer defied a stop-work order to carry out earthworks on the hill slope of Bukit Gambir in Gelugor.

CHANT cited the demolition of the 19th century Khaw Sim Bee Mansion and illegal hilltop clearing of Bukit Relau, commonly referred to as “Botak Hill”, as examples of the developers’ fearlessness.

Yan Lee claimed that the developers were fearless because they knew a contribution to the state heritage fund (SHF) “can do magic”.

A check by Malay Mail yesterday showed the developer had stopped work for two days on the hill slope, located behind the Gambier Heights apartments.

The council had issued the stop-work order on Thursday.

The hill was cleared to build a temporary 500m-long access road and fencing for a housing project site on the hill slope.

Trees were chopped down to make way for the road, while a lorry and an excavator were parked at the construction site.

According to some residents, the earthworks began early this month.

The residents also complained of pollution caused by dust, and noise caused by the frequent movement of vehicles.

Traffic management and flood mitigation committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow called on the council to take stern action against the developer for “jumping the gun”.

He said the developer should have waited for the council to issue a commencement of work certificate.

Sahabat Alam Malaysia urged the state authorities to stop the developer from clearing the hill, and to implement firm policies to protect the hills and greenery in the state.

It warned against a repeat of the “Botak Hill” incident.

An MPPP councillor also said the developers had no respect for the authorities.

“Even if the council were to haul them up for violating the law, they know they will get away with a token fine,” the councillor, who asked not to be named, said.

He cited a previous case where a developer completed a housing project despite the case for carrying out illegal earthworks pending in court.

Sources: Athi Shanka, MalayMail online

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“First of all, the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) can only compel someone to declare his assets. Once the assets are d…

TPPA in danger of collapse after its biggest critic wins US presidency


KUALA LUMPUR: The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) faces its biggest challenge with the election of its major critic Donald Trump as US president. The agreement will collapse without the participation of United States, said its prime mover in Malaysia, Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed.

The International Trade and In­­dus­try Minister explained that for TPPA to be ratified, it needs at least six countries, accounting for 85% of the combined gross domestic product of the 12 signatories.

“Without the United States, there will be no TPPA,” he said when met in Parliament yesterday.

He added that failure to carry out TPPA may affect the Malaysian economy.

“We went into TPPA for the overall interest of Malaysia. To be a part of this process, to do more trading, as we believe that this will help trade and investment for Malaysia.

“Among the reasons why we joined was to get access to Mexico and Canada, countries that we haven’t gotten access to,” he said.

He, however, was quick to add that it was too soon to make an analysis on the matter.

Trump’s shock victory stunned capital markets around the world with investors seeking safe haven assets such as gold to brace the period of uncertainties.

In an immediate after-effect Asian stock markets fell, with Bursa Malaysia performing relatively better than most other markets, shedding less than 1%.

The US dollar index, which measures the strength of the currency against a basket of currencies, spiked to more than 1,207, largely due to the weakening of emerging market currencies and strengthening of safe-haven currencies such as the Yen and Swiss francs.

The ringgit fell to RM4.224 against the greenback, a nine-month low since Feb 25. Gold spot prices went up by almost 5% to US$1,337 (RM5,645) as investors sought shelter in safe haven assets in the period of uncertainty.

Ministers and chief negotiators of TTPA countries are expected to meet in Peru soon to take stock on the fate of the agreement.

International Trade and Industry secretary-general Datuk J. Jayasiri, who was Malaysia’s chief TPPA negotiator, said there was no indication so far that Washington under President Barack Obama would not table the Bill in the US Congress for ratification.

“All indications from US Trade Representative Michael Froman is that they are working hard to table it. The US has its own domestic process and for Malaysia we will continue the process of amending our laws,” he said.

Peru will host the annual Asia Pacific Economic Cooperaton (Apec) summit on Nov 19 to be attended by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak. Obama is also expected to attend.

American Malaysia Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) executive director Siobhan Das said US business investments would continue to find a home in Malaysia.

“Amcham supports all efforts that enable free and fair trade between all parties, and looks forward to working with the new administration to grow US business interests in Malaysia,” said Das.

Malaysian Association for Ame­ri­can Studies (MAAS) President Prof Dr K.S. Nathan believed that Trump would try to fine tune but would not scrap the agreement.

“They may renegotiate some aspects of it but I don’t see Trump pulling back on the TPPA or even the North American Free Trade Agreement”.

The US Embassy’s charge d’affaires Edgard Kagan explained it was still possible that TPPA would be approved by US lawmakers.

“There are different views on trade in the US. President Obama is committed to the TPPA and we will just have to see what happens,” he said.

In theory, the TPPA could still be ratified by Congress during its “lame duck” session.

This is the session which takes places after the US presidential election but before the inauguration on Jan 20 next year.

BY Razak ahmad, Neville spykerman, Mergawati zulfakar, Loshana k shagar, Hemananthani sivanandam, Rahimy rahim, Martin carvalho, andd. Kanyakumari The Star/ANN

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High-rise living in below par, need professionalism in managing the property


Only 74 out of 7,325 high-rise residential properties in Peninsular Malaysia earned the top five-star ranking in an evaluation of their property management standards. And more than half are below par, earning only one and two stars.

IT is one thing to be a developed state by 2020. But it is another thing entirely to have a developed state of mind – and Malaysians have a long way to go to achieve that.

Take, for instance, condominium- and apartment-living.

Some of these properties may come with top notch facilities but when it comes to managing their upkeep, there is much to be desired.

Or so says the latest findings on the quality of managing stratified properties from a survey by the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry.

Every year, the ministry conducts its Strata Scheme Management Quality Evaluation, or “Star Rating”, which ranks the standards of joint management bodies (JMBs) or management corporations (MCs) of apartments and condominiums.

These bodies are ranked based on how they do in seven areas (see graphic below for details); five stars is the highest rank.

But, as it turns out, more than half – or 69% – of condominiums and apartments nationwide ranked “below par”, scoring only one and two stars in 2015. In 2014, a slightly smaller percentage, 65%, were ranked below par.

Only 1% – or 74 – out of 7,325 strata development schemes surveyed earned five stars in the 2015 ratings, made available to Sunday Star.

If such a trend continues, future residents will inherit poor standards of living amidst modern facilities.

Currently, almost six million Malaysians out of 20 million city folk are living in stratified buildings like apartments and condominiums.

“But this number is expected to rise in future as the country progresses and becomes more urbanised,” says Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division under-secretary.

He says one of the major problems that condo dwellers continue to face is the refusal of other residents to pay maintenance fees. Other problems are building defects and matters involving enforcement.

“For now, about 70% of residents are at a level where they are merely aware of what needs to be done in managing their property. They are not yet at a level to appreciate the benefits of cooperating with each other and creating a better living culture,” he says.

Mohamad Ridzwan says there is a need to change the mindset of people to foster more civic-minded communities in high-rise buildings.

“Future generations will likely live in stratified buildings, so people should try to set a proper precedent for them,” he says.

He points out that there are also more people moving out of landed properties and into high-rise buildings.

“This group of people will have to learn to adapt to the culture of living in stratified buildings as it is different from living in houses.

“They will need to be more inclusive of and cooperative with their neighbours,” he says, adding that they would also have to learn to be more considerate when it comes to using shared facilities.

Stressing that it all boils down to the mindset of residents, Mohamad Ridzwan highlights the case of Rumah Pangsa Orkid, a low-cost flats property in Ulu Tiram, Johor, which made it into the Malaysia Book Of Records in 2014 for obtaining the ISO 9001:2008 standard for exemplary management.

“Until today, they remain the only low cost flat development to have achieved this,” he says, adding that there are yet to be any high-end condominiums accorded the same standard.

Mohamad Ridzwan says the ministry will continue to actively educate dwellers on proper management of their properties.

“We will embark on more education programmes to promote better practices through advertisements in the mass media,” he says.

On the Strata Management Tribunals to hear disputes, Mohamad Ridzwan says four such tribunals have been successfully set up to cover different zones in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Since their formation the tribunals have heard about 200 cases per month,” he says.

In March, Sunday Star reported that residents who do not pay maintenance fees and other charges were set to face the music, with the Government forming a team to strengthen the enforcement of the Strata Management Act.

The Act also enables residents to take their disputes to a Strata Management Tribunal to settle matters.

Building Managers Association of Malaysia committee member Richard Chan agrees that the “biggest and most critical” problem is the collection of fees, saying that it is rare that JMBs or MCs are able to collect payment from 80% of residents.

“It is more common for the collection rate to be at 40% or 50%,” he says.

Chan laments that petty excuses are often given by residents to defend their refusal to pay up.

“Some refuse because they don’t use the facilities.

“When people ask why they don’t want to pay, they simply say they don’t swim or play tennis,” he shares.

Chan adds that many unit owners live elsewhere or are based overseas and so are reluctant to pay.

“Some are not satisfied with services like garbage collection and defy orders to settle the fees,” he says.

He urges future condo owners to refrain from buying properties that come with all sorts of facilities if they are unwilling to pay up.

“Sometimes, it isn’t about whether they can afford the fees or service charges. It is about their attitude and mentality.

“Some don’t pay simply because their neighbours are not paying and are getting away with it,” Chan says, adding that such attitudes have resulted in some apartments owing up to RM200,000 in water and electricity bills.

The lack of money in the sinking fund also hinders JMBs and MCs from paying for major works like repairing lifts.

“It becomes a vicious cycle. Because people are not satisfied with the upkeep of the place, they do not pay the fees.

“But when they do not pay, there isn’t enough funds for upkeep,” he says.

Also, developers must do their part by informing all potential property buyers of the exact amount of all service charges, says Chan.

“Developers will try to promote their projects for more sales but they should also inform buyers of the fees they are expected to pay.

“Owners should also consider that, after a year, the fees may go up as warranty periods for equipment expire,” he says.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj says many complaints against MCs have been made to the federation.

“High-end condominiums are generally better managed. We received a lot of complaints from people in medium cost apartments,” he says.

He says that consumers and the building management should both be more responsible.

“Consumers need to settle payments that they have agreed to. But they should also be receiving good service in return, like efficient rubbish collection,” he says.

Selvaraj highlights that the only way forward is for management bodies and residents to have a good working relationship.

“People should understand that managing their building is a collective responsibility.

“More dialogues should be held on how to improve the community to ensure good quality of life wherever we live,” he adds.

by Yuen Meikeng The Star/Asia News Network

More professionalism needed in managing high-rises

WITH more high-rises mushrooming, a Building Managers Board is urgently needed, according to Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok, deputy president of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia (BMAM).

BMAM is an umbrella body comprising stakeholder organisations representing management corporations (MCs), joint management bodies (JMBs), chambers of commerce, developers, engineers, architects, shopping and high-rise complex managers, and managing agents.

Appealing to the Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry to set up the board urgently, Teo says such a body is long overdue.

“Millions of stratified properties are coming up. Building management is becoming a very big industry. We have to start regulating. All building managers must be registered and regulated,” he says.

To date, some 600 building managers have voluntarily registered with the association, he shares, estimating that there are probably tens of thousands more.

Meanwhile, the BMAM is focused on educating its members and interested parties on good management via collaborations with institutions of higher learning.

Describing building management as a multitasking, multi­discipline function that attracts people from various backgrounds and with a variety of skills, Teo says that basic criteria for the role is needed. A Building Managers Board, once set up, will have guidelines and regulations to bring professionalism to the role.

Persons deregistered by the board cannot be hired as property managers, he suggests. This, he feels, will make hiring building managers cheaper while ensuring that they are monitored.

“So long as they fulfil the board’s requirements, anyone can be a building manager. The board will monitor and weed out the errant ones. JMBs and MCs can hire cheaper, smaller companies, even individuals, to manage their buildings if they don’t have the budget.”

Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Ministry urban service division undersecretary Mohammad Ridzwan Abidin acknowledges the proposal to set up a Building Managers Board.

“However, no decision can be made by the ministry yet as this matter is still being discussed,” he says.

He says the ministry issued a directive to Commissioners of Buildings nationwide last month to register all managing agents to protect residents from unscrupulous parties.

The BMAM would also like to see the country’s 150-plus Commissioners of Buildings (COB) given proper funding and staff. The role of the commissioner is mostly undertaken by local council heads or mayors, which isn’t right because they already have so much on their plate, he says.

The Commissioner of Buildings must be a dedicated, full-time position supported by an adequately funded department. Now, it’s mainly a one-man show, he observes.

“The Act is a good tool,” he says, referring to the Strata Management Act 2013, “But it’s for the COB to implement it efficiently. An effective COB can nip many things in the bud – the COB can call a unit owner, find out the grouses and give directives. If the COB can offer easy resolution, a lot of problems will be solved.”

Apart from supporting the position of COB, JMBs and MCs must familiarise themselves with the Strata Management Act, says Richard Chan, a committee member of the Building Managers Association of Malaysia and a past president of the Malaysian Association for Shopping and High-Rise Complex Management.

“For instance, many aren’t aware that money collected should go to JMBs and MCs – not the companies or individuals hired to manage the property. What if these companies don’t pay the service contractors?”

On Tuesday, a full-day strata management seminar will be held at Wisma Rehda in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, to explain the Act, he says, urging stakeholders to attend the event.

Teo feels that the Act is too harsh on JMB volunteers. Calling it a thankless job, he says it’s difficult getting residents to even attend AGMs, what more serve on the JMB.

“Despite not being paid, JMB members risk personal liability actions. It’s too onerous. It’s overkill because there are already laws like the Penal Code which imposes fines and jail terms.”

And he feels that the Act places too many obstacles in front of willing volunteers.

“The JMB chairman and members can only serve for two and three years respectively. Such restrictions will make things worse because as it is, no one wants the job. Our solution is to extend the chairman’s term to three years; but if at the AGM there’s no one else who wants the post, he or she should be allowed to stay on. And members should be permitted to stay on for as long as they want.” –  The Star

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