Mind your words, please!


The colour orange: Oren refers to the orange colour of the T-shirts that those arrested by the MACC have to wear when they are brought to court.

 

THE Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has been in the news almost daily with its arrests of politicians and businessmen, many carrying the Tan Sri and Datuk Seri titles.

This has become the subject of conversation among Malaysians.

To help foreigners, especially those doing business here in Malaysia, below is a compilation of terms that are often used to denote corrupt practices. To the clueless, these words could easily be misunderstood.

Worse, it could land unsuspecting expatriates in serious trouble with the law, especially with the MACC, if they use these seemingly innocent terms without realising their implications.

Here’s a list of everyday words and how they are used.

Jalan – this is a Bahasa Malaysia word for “road”. On the surface, it sounds simple and straightforward. Every road sign begins, mostly, with this word to denote, well, road. If only it was that simple. In reality, it could be the beginning of a corrupt offer.

If someone asks you: “You got jalan ah?” It doesn’t mean seeking assistance for a road direction. In the Malaysian context, it probably means “is there a way to resolve a complicated situation?” Some may argue the word need not necessarily be “illegal” as it could also mean finding a clever way out of a problem.

Kabel – the Malay word for “cable”. Cables are strong, thick wires, which are usually twisted or braided together. Well, in Malaysia, it also means someone in position – a very powerful person, often a politician in high office, or a senior government officer, who is able to help secure a big contract or deal. So, if someone asks whether “you have kabel?” you shouldn’t look puzzled or confused.

It simply means you need to have the support of an influential figure who is as strong as a cable. It’s no longer good enough to “pull strings” but you must be able to “pull cable” for your plans to get off.

Lubang – it literally means a hole. Most Malaysians grumble about lubang or the numerous pot holes along our badly maintained roads. The vulgar ones uses this word with a sexual connotation.

But in the more sleazy world of bribery, lubang means an opportunity, usually an illegal way, to make money. It has nothing to do with holes, as the word suggests.

Kau tim – this is a Cantonese word, which has actually become a Malaysian word, used by all races. It means finished, done or resolved. As simple as that.

But it is also a way of expressing agreement, or to settle a problem with bribery. For example, if you are stopped by a traffic cop for a traffic offence, you may say “boleh kau tim ah?” or the policeman may suggest “macam mana mau selesai, mau kau tim kah?

Lu tak mau kau tim, mesti susah punya. Nanti kena pi balai, pi court.” (If you do not wish to settle, it can be difficult. You may have to go to the police station or even the court.)

Ta pau – I always thought that this Chinese word means to pack food or a take-away, but it has come to mean a greedy corrupt person who wants to take away the entire loot all for himself without sharing with anyone, as in “he wants to ta pau everything, how can? So greedy one.”

So, no expatriate who has just arrived in town should go around telling everyone that he wants to “ta pau” everything he can lay his hands on. He can be sure of getting strange, hostile stares.

Selesai – it means to end or the end. It could be the end of a movie, the end of a meal or the end of a relationship. It’s a really simple word but in the Malaysian context of corruption, it means “how to resolve this?” or “it has been settled.”

Usually, the act of corruption will begin with a simple question – “So, macam mana mau selesai?” or “how do we settle this?”. For sure, it won’t be a challenge to a fight or a gentlemanly end to a problem with a handshake. Don’t be stupid. It’s an invitation to begin negotiation for, errr, a bribe.

The English version is also often used, as in “can settle ah?”

Lesen kopi – This has to be the Corruption 101 lesson for our young drivers. It is the first step into the world of corruption in Malaysia. Nobody wants to admit it but going by hearsay and unsubstantiated remarks, many Malaysians taking their driving test believe that they need to bribe the examiner in order to pass the very first time. Lesen kopi means bribing to get a driving licence.

So, they earn what is known as “lesen kopi” or licences obtained via corrupt ways, or duit kopi. Small gratification for “coffee” for the testers. Coffee, not tea. Strangely, there is no such term despite our fondness for teh tarik.

It may sound terribly confusing to tea drinking foreigners but please don’t think that this is the reason why so many Malaysians kill themselves or each other on our roads.

Ikan bilis – it refers to anchovies, those tiny fish, usually fried, found in our national food, the nasi lemak. But it also means small fry. So when low-ranking government officers are arrested for corruption, the MACC is often criticised for just going after the ikan bilis and not the bigwigs, known as sharks in the Malaysian context.

Makan duitMakan essentially means to eat. There’s no way, literally, that a person can eat a ringgit note. But it is synonymous with taking a bribe. It may be confusing to a foreigner as it may seem impossible to eat stacks of ringgit notes but this is Malaysia. We are versatile as well as adaptive. Many people will tell foreigners that they are able to, well, makan duit. Can one, who say cannot?

Oren – It’s not orange juice. It refers to the colour of the round-collared T-shirts that those arrested by the MACC have to wear.

This is the dreaded colour for all suspects, in handcuffs, being led to court in full view of the press.

You can be in red or yellow but orange is a no-no. The new term now is “jangan oren” or “don’t be in orange.”

On The Beat by Wong Chun Wai, The Star

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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Johor’s biggest corruption cases: land and housing scandal, slapped with 33 counts of graft


TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (right) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (left) in the land development scandal.

After weeks of investigation, state executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi is finally brought to court to face 33 counts of graft. The land and housing scandal – one of Johor’s biggest corruption cases – is however set to widen as graft busters warn of more suspects to be charged soon.


MACC expected to haul up more people in land and housing scandal

JOHOR BARU: One of the state’s largest corruption scandals is about to get bigger as more people are expected to be hauled up to court in the coming weeks.

Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) deputy chief commissioner (operations) Datuk Azam Baki said they might be charged with the case involving Johor executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi either this month or next.

Among those to be charged, he said, were those who had been arrested previously.

However, he declined to reveal their names so as not to jeopardise MACC’s investigation, saying that no VIPs were involved.

“We are in the midst of completing our probe with the Deputy Public Prosecutor before charging them in court soon,” he told reporters after meeting MACC investigation director Datuk Simi Abd Ghani and Johor MACC director Datuk Azmi Alias here yesterday.

Azam said it was also possible for Abd Latif, who was jointly accused with property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud of committing 33 counts of graft yesterday, to face another round of charges then.

It was reported that eight suspects, including Abd Latiff ’s eldest son as well as his special officer, were nabbed by the MACC on Feb 24.

Anti-graft officers detained them after sifting through stacks of documents seized from the state government and developers.

They also seized luxury goods, including 21 cars such as Bentley, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, five high-powered motorcycles and 150 handbags.

On its probe into the purchase of real estate in Australia by Mara Incorporated Sdn Bhd, Azam said MACC called up 24 witnesses and visited seven premises, including a law firm, the offices of both Mara Inc and an appraiser, and their associates.

“All related documents have also been seized. We have gathered more new information, and it is a continuous investigation from the previous case in 2015,” he said.

“We need more time to complete this case as it involves another country.

“We have put in a request under a mutual legal assistance with the Australian AttorneyGeneral’s office but have yet to receive any response.

“We will also prepare the documents to be sent to Australia,” he said.

MACC had previously recorded the state- ment of suspended Mara chairman Tan Sri Annuar Musa over the same investigation.

Annuar also handed over several documents relevant to the case.

The issue came to light after Australian newspaper The Age claimed that several senior Mara officials and a former politician had spent millions of Malaysian Government funds to buy an apartment block, known as Dudley International House, in Melbourne

Azam said his officers were also in the midst of preparing a report into alleged match fixing by football players from the Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysia Indian Football Association.

“We expect this case to be completed within two to three weeks after we hand over the report to the deputy public prosecutor for charging.

Source:The Star headline news

Slapped with 33 counts of graft

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JOHOR BARU: State executive councillor Datuk Abd Latif Bandi has been charged in the Sessions Court here with 33 counts of graft, the earliest of which stretches back to just six months after he assumed office.

TWO IN COURT: Abd Latif (above) being brought to the Johor Baru Sessions Court by anti-graft officers. He is alleged to have abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud (below) in the land development scandal.

Abd Latif, 51, was sworn in to his post as Johor Housing and Local Government Committee chairman in 2013 and according to the list of charges, he allegedly abetted property consultant Amir Shariffuddin Abd Raud on Nov 13 that same year to convert bumiputra lots into non-bumiputra lots.

Yesterday, the court interpreter took about 15 minutes to read the list of charges to each of the accused in the case, considered one of the biggest corruption scandals in the state.

In total, Abd Latif is said to have abetted Amir, 44, to convert 1,480 houses.

He is also accused of helping to reduce the quantum of payment that developers had to contribute towards the Johor Housing Fund for converting these lots.

The offences, the last of which supposedly took place on Sept 13, 2016, involved payments of between RM100,000 and RM3.7mil.

Totalling some RM30.3mil, this involved development projects in Kota Masai, Tebrau, Kulai, Kempas, Nusajaya and Johor Baru.

Among the converted lots were apartments, double-storey terrace homes, cluster houses, cluster industrial lots, semi-Ds and bungalows.

Abd Latif was charged under Section 28 (1) (c) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) Act for abetment, which was read together with Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes.

Amir was charged with 33 counts under Section 16 (a)(B) for accepting bribes for himself and Abdul Latif.

Judge Mohd Fauzi Mohd Nasir set bail at RM2mil in one surety for each of the accused and ordered their passports to be surrendered until the trial was over. He also fixed May 23 for mention.

At press time, only Amir posted bail while Abd Latif, who was unable to raise the amount, was sent to the Ulu Choh detention centre.

Earlier, 15 minutes after Abd Latif and Amir were ushered into the packed courtroom, a defence lawyer stood up and asked for their “Lokap SPRM” orange T-shirts to be removed.

Both Abd Latif, who took time to hug and shake the hands of several people, and Amir then changed into long-sleeved shirts.

Abd Latif was represented by a six-man legal team led by Datuk Hasnal Rezua Merican while two lawyers, headed by Azrul Zulkifli Stork, stood for Amir.

The case was prosecuted by MACC director Datuk Masri Mohd Daud, with assistance from Raja Amir Nasruddin.

Source: The Star by Nelson Benjamin and Norbaiti phaharoradzi

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Time to take fight against graft to the top, say group


Political parties should disclose all of their financing and expenditure, says Transparency International Malaysia.

“Political funding must be stated in the parties’ bank accounts and a properly audited account financial report must be published annually,” said its president Datuk Akhbar Satar.

“All ministers and top Govern­ment servants should also declare their assets to the Malay­sian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC), and the chief commissioner should declare these to the Parliament,” he said.

Akhbar was commenting on the call by MACC for the Government to declare corruption and abuse of power as the country’s No. 1 enemy.

He said these declarations would be in line with the belief that “transparency and accountability begin at the top”.

“The public must also help MACC by reporting corrupt practices and cooperating in court,” he added.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar also supported MACC’s move.

“Such an honourable effort must be supported thoroughly,” he said. “The police always prioritise integrity and the war on corruption must be fought at all fronts.”

Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said reforms in corruption laws were needed to ensure that MACC could “act without fear or favour”

“Our laws on corruption should be reviewed, revised and made up to date,” he said. “And follow best practices such as in countries like Denmark, Hong Kong and Singapore.”

The Government could set an example by making sure there was a cap on money politics, he added.

Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said it was vital for the public to be proactive in helping MACC.

“MACC needs a free hand to take action in fighting corruption,” he said.

G25 member Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim said the best way to start would be to require all election candidates in the 14th general election to sign a pledge against corruption during the campaign.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Paul Low said the Government’s commitment to fight corruption was already there “but the journey to deal with the problem takes time”.

Source: Star/ANN By Razak Ahmad, Fatimah Zainal, Andmelanie Abrahamby

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Xi’s governance of China book a hot seller


 

After its debut in Thailand, Cambodia and Pakistan, Xi Jinping: The Governance of China has become a top seller and been well-received among local officials and scholars, with many hailing the value of the book for both its language and its outreach.

The book, which outlines the political ideas of the top leadership in China, has been released in Thai, Khmer and Urdu versions in the respective capitals of the three countries in the past two weeks.

A Thai publisher sold more than 2,000 copies of the book in a single day after its launch in Bangkok on April 7, with many readers inquiring on social media about ways to purchase the book, reported Xinhua news agency.

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who had read the book, said it was written in beautiful language, even though it was not in the form of a novel or essays.

“I believe that to be a great leader, one has to be a good reader, good thinker, good speaker, good writer and good doer, and I found President Xi has achieved all of them after I finished reading this book,” he said.

In Phnom Penh, more than 700 officials, scholars and entrepreneurs, including Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen and five deputy prime ministers, attended the launching ceremony for the book on April 11.

Chea Munyrith, director of the Confucius Institute of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said publishing a Khmer version will enable the Cambodian people to better learn about China and Xi himself.

Chea, who assisted in the translation of the book into Khmer, said it offers insights for government officials and scholars on how to properly manage a country.

“That is why it is important for the officials, students and scholars in Cambodia to read through the book,” he said.

At the launching ceremony of the Urdu edition of the book in Islamabad on Friday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the book is as much about the contemporary world as it is about China.

“What has touched me most is that this book is not just about high-level politics, but also about moving stories of common people, their lives and inspirations about hard work and family values,” he said.

“This book is as much about the “Chinese Dream” as it is about the global dream to have a peaceful, harmonious and connected world,” he added.

Building a community of shared destiny is an important concept embodied in Xi’s thoughts on governance of the nation, said Jiang Jianguo, deputy head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and minister of the State Council Information Office.

“And this concept has been included in the resolutions passed by United Nations organisations,” Jiang said in Islamabad.

Source: China Daily/Asia News Network

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How to Spot Fake News?


 ‘Essential to tackle fake news correctly’

 
KUALA LUMPUR: Your office is swamped by phone calls from impatient customers, asking why they have yet to receive their free plane tickets as promised for ha­­ving participated in a survey.

You find out later that they had completed the survey which was featured on a dubious website.

Or, when you come to work, you see a horde of unhappy customers waiting outside the building, demanding to know why they were not informed that they would have to pay a fee if they did not get their membership cards renewed by the month’s end.

Apparently, there had been a Facebook posting about the new fee ruling.

The above two incidents happened in Kuala Lumpur over the past year.

In the age of scams, fake news and “alternative facts”, such cases are getting more frequent.

A recent incident involved shoemaker Bata Primavera Sdn Bhd, which was accused of selling shoes with the Arabic word “Allah” formed in the pattern on the soles.

Bata ended up removing 70,000 pairs of the B-First school shoes from its 230 stores nationwide.

It was a step which cost them RM500,000 in losses.

The shoes were returned to the shelves only after Bata was cleared of the allegation by the Al-Quran Printing Control and Licensing Board of the Home Ministry on March 30.

In February, AirAsia came under unwanted attention when its brand name was used in a purported free ticket survey and fake ticket scam.

Back in 2014, the airline had also asked its customers to be wary of an online lottery scam which made use of its name to solicit personal information from them.

What is more astounding is that the e-mail highlighting the lottery had been circulating since 2011.

And in January last year, Public Bank saw a rush of customers crowding its branches to renew their debit cards.

A Facebook post that had gone viral claimed that they would be charged a RM12 fee if they did not renew it by Jan 31.

What are the dos and don’ts for companies under attack by fake news?

“A quick and concise response is the way to go,” said AirAsia’s head of communications Aziz Laikar.

“Be prepared. The more high profile the brand is, the quicker the response should be.”

The communications team have to be able to draw up a statement fast to deal with the issue head on before it grows to a full-blown crisis, Aziz said.

He listed out four steps that a company could take.

“Start by immediately responding with facts via a short statement to the media, as well as on social media platforms,” he said.

Aziz also advised companies to lodge police reports and to make use of the chance to educate the public that they should always refer to announcements made via official platforms.

“Also, disseminate the information internally to your colleagues. Every employee should be a brand messenger.

“They are a powerful force to spread the correct message.

“The best way to effectively ma­­nage an issue is to make sure the entire company is aware of the situa­tion and able to communicate it correctly,” he said.

Ogilvy account director Clarissa Ng said that loyal clientele and employees were usually a company’s “first line of defence” and must be treated well.

Ng, who has handled the case of a client hit by rumours of exploding phones, preferred a “low profile” approach in dealing with such fake news.

She opted by focusing on promo­ting the phone’s safety features.

The campaign reassured consumers that the phone underwent rigorous testing in their laboratories in Shenzhen, China, and how its electrical current would be cut off automatically to prevent the gadget from exploding.

“Sometimes, the more you explain, the public will demand more answers. How we handled it was to remain low profile,” she said.

Source: By ADRIAN CHAN The Star

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YBs, please lend us your ears


Some of our lawmakers should re-focus their attention and find ways to help ease the cost of living.

IT’S disturbing, to say the least. We have economic issues that Malaysia needs to deal with seriously like the continuing uncertainty in the price of oil, market slowdown and slide in the value of our ringgit which is affecting our country’s coffers.

The cost of doing business has shot up against the backdrop of declining revenue and profits, which worries most Malaysians.

All of us, especially those in the middle and lower income groups, are grappling with the increasing cost of living. The worst hit are the wage earners living in major cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru and Penang.

If our elected lawmakers have any idea of what the rakyat is going through, they should be focusing on ways to help ease the cost of living.

Never mind if they have to talk in the Dewan Rakyat till 5am. And to our Yang Berhormats, don’t expect us to sympathise with you, because get this – no one pressured you to be a Member of Parliament. You chose to stand for elections yourself.

But sadly for us, instead of having the chance to listen to top quality debates on ways to help Malaysia find new sources of revenue and not just depend on oil and palm oil, again, we find some of our legislators preferring to channel their energy into religious matters.

Not that religion isn’t a priority for us. It is, but the reality is this: we will never reach common ground.

So, PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has managed to table the controversial Private Member’s Bill to amend the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act or RUU355, but the debate on it has been deferred. That’s the furthest he gets.

He can keep saying that it will not affect non-Muslims, but the majority of non-Muslims know this to be untrue.

We are a plural society and no one community lives in isolation. Our lives are intertwined and entangled as Malaysians. There’s no such thing as laws that do not affect the entire community.

Abdul Hadi says it isn’t hudud, but hudud is written all over the Kelantan Syariah Criminal Code (II) Enactment (1993) (Amended 2015) and if Abdul Hadi’s Bill is passed, it will only give life to such laws on a national level.

Remember, even a poster of a Bollywood actress pinned up at a watch shop in Kelantan resulted in a non-Muslim shopkeeper being fined because the authorities thought the photograph was sexy. And not to mention the unisex hair salons which have long been penalised.

Abdul Hadi expects us to believe him when he says that non-Muslims will not be affected. And if we go by his “logic”, non-Muslims have no say over the matter.

The majority of Barisan Nasional component parties do not want this Bill – it is that simple – and we are glad that the Prime Minister understands that the coalition operates on consensus.

The fact is that the MCA and MIC have stood by Umno, even when it was at its lowest, since our independence. These are proven friends of more than six decades and not newfound pals who got together because of common political expediency.

Let’s get real. Umno isn’t going to move aside and allow PAS to contest in any constituency in the general election, nor will PAS allow the same for Umno.

Malaysia is a multicultural country founded on the principles of moderation. This is not a Middle East nation, even though the Muslims make up the majority of the population. We should be proud of our unique Malaysian way of life.

I studied Malay Literature for two years in the Sixth Form, sat for the examination (and passed) and when I entered university, I signed up for the Malay Letters Department courses at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

I wanted to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the Malay arts. Not Arab arts. Malays are Muslims, not Arabs.

Over at the august House, even as Abdul Hadi became the focus of attention after tabling the Bill, we had to put up with Tasek Gelugor MP Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, who at one point suggested that rapists be allowed to marry their child victims as a solution to social problems.

He can keep blaming the press, claiming that he was quoted out of context, but there are certain basic remarks he made that he cannot run away from.

You can watch the video recording of what he said a few times and pause at certain parts of the video. It is pretty clear.

A girl who is nine years old may have reached puberty, but is she old enough to have sexual intercourse after she marries? A rational person would say that she is a child and should be in school or the playground with her friends.

This YB has put Malaysia in the international news for the wrong reason yet again (shame, shame) …. and so soon after the Beauty and The Beast fiasco too.

We can only cringe when we imagine what the world thinks of Malaysia. This is not to say that we wouldn’t readily refute any suggestion that our beautiful country is swamped by paedophiles or nutty lawmakers who are apologists for child marriages.

So, in the end, when Parliament found itself running out of time, we will remember this meeting as one where religious issues were the main concern.

As far as I recall, at least from media reports, no one talked about how we could take advantage of our weak ringgit to get more tourists to come visit us and how we could carry this out with limited funds for international promotions. We also didn’t hear how we could boost the soft economy after two years.

Maybe financial and economic matters are just too complicated for some of these MPs, with their limited knowledge. And these are YBs we have entrusted to speak up for us. After all, we put the future of Malaysia in their hands.

by Wong chun wai On the beat The Star/ANN

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 27 years in various capacities and roles. He is now the group’s managing director/chief executive officer and formerly the group chief editor.

On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

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https://right-waystan.blogspot.my/2017/04/ybs-please-lend-us-your-ears.html

PETALING JAYA: A video of Datuk Shabudin Yahaya’s controversial statement about child marriages in Parliament has gone viral, which appears to raise questions on his claim that his remarks were taken out of context.

After coming under fire for suggesting in the Dewan Rakyat on Tues­day that it is all right for rapists to marry their child victims, the Te­­luk Gelugor MP issued a statement the next day to say that his words had been taken out of context.

In a three-page statement yesterday, Sha­budin continued to blame the media for the outcry over his re­­marks, even saying that their reports bordered on fake news.

In the Parliament recording, Sha­budin argued that it is not a pro­blem for children under 16 years old to marry as their body are phy­sically mature enough for marriage

He said a child who has reached puberty, even at nine years old, could be considered mature.

In some cases, he said, someone aged 12 and 15 could physically look like they were 18, and thus would be ready for marriage.

“In some instances, it is not im­­possible that they get married if they have reached puberty at the age of nine. A 12-year-old may have the body of an 18-year-old which means some girls are ‘physically and spiri­tually’ ready for marriage,” he said.

The former Syariah Court judge is mulling over legal action against the media.

In yesterday’s statement, Shabu­din said his remarks during the debate on the Sexual Offences Against Children Bill 2017 on Tues­day led to an unnecessary outcry after they were inaccurately interpreted in reports by both local and international news organisations.

“In their reports and headlines, both the local and international media gave the perception that I had condoned rapists being allowed to marry underage victims to avoid punishment.

“This is inaccurate and misleading and borders on fake news,” he said.

The Barisan Nasional MP said he had stressed during the debate that rape is a crime whether consensual or otherwise.

“At no point in time did I suggest that the rapists are forced to marry the victims nor did I say that the crime of rape is automatically dropped after marriage.

Shabudin explained that he had given his opinion that the courts should be allowed to rule on cases of statutory rape involving consenting partners, and treat such cases diffe­rently from non-consensual rape, as opposed to an outright ban on underage marriages.

He made the remarks in response to the suggestion by Kulai DAP MP Teo Nie Ching to include child marriage as an offence in the proposed law.

The legal age for marriage in Malaysia is 21 without parental consent, and 18 with parental consent, while the legal age of consent is 16.

However, in certain cases, those below the legal age can marry if given a special marriage licence from the head of their state government or approved by the court.

In a related development, Women, Family and Community Develop­ment Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim defended Shabudin, saying that being a former Syariah Court judge, he had encountered all these scenarios.

“He was not implying that a nine-year-old girl can get married, but rather, he was being detailed in his explanation,” Rohani told reporters at a function yesterday.

She said Shabudin has been “very supportive” of the Bill as he himself had presided over cases of sexual crimes against children.

In Ipoh, Gerakan adviser Tan Sri Chang Ko Youn urged Shabudin to do the right thing and apologise.

“What he said is outrageous. No matter what he tries to say now, the damage has already been done. He should apologise,” he said.

“Otherwise he would present himself as a subject of ridicule and be a liability to Barisan Nasional in the next general election.

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China ready to move into the trade and world leadership vacuum created by the US


 China sends out positive signals

CHINA has sent out stabilising messages to the world on its economic, investment and foreign policies since it convened its two most important annual political meetings (“two sessions”) early this month.

The on-going “two sessions” inevitably attract global attention because China’s policies for the year are announced by top leaders at these meetings held in the imposing Great Hall of The People, to the west of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

For this year, it is even more crucial for other nations to scrutinise the policies of China at the sessions, held from March 3 to 15, as US President Donald Trump has injected too much uncertainty into the global dynamics.

The world is weighed down by anxiety as Trump, who took office in January, abandons globalisation and advocates the return of protectionism. Hence, nations are looking for leadership from the world’s second largest economy, according to analysts.

The two sessions or lianghui refer to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that began its session on March 3 and the annual National People’s Congress (NPC, or Parliament) that started on March 5. The CPPCC is China’s top political advisory body set up by the Communist Party of China (CPC) in 1949 after the CPC, led by Mao Zedong then, won the civil war.

Five years later, the legislative NPC was established.

Steady economic growth

China is expected to grow steadily at 6.5% or higher this year as it continues its restructuring and reforms. Last year, the country achieved growth of 6.7%.

China’s Premier Li Keqiang announced on March 5 that the growth target for this year would be around 6.5%, while he addressed more than 3,000 legislators.

This slower growth target shows China is opting for a steady growth to reduce financial risk from excessive borrowing, according to economists.

Like the rest of the world, China expects to continue to experience global headwinds and uncertainties. Indeed, the premier warned of a far more complicated global picture ahead in light of the threat of protectionism.

Alfred Schipke, an economist from the International Monetary Fund, told the South China Morning Post: “Anything between 6-6.5% will be appropriate. The key is to have sustainable growth.”

For this year, China will have to give its leaders more room to push through some painful reforms to deal with a rapid build-up in debt and over-capacity.

Li said he would tackle state-owned “zombie enterprises” producing more coal and steel than needed. And nationwide pollution, caused largely by heavy industries, has to be addressed to bring back blue skies. His list of China’s difficulties also included laziness of some government officials. But will China’s economy continue to slide?

Global Times, the party mouthpiece of the CPC, has this to say in its frank editorial: “There are many problems in China’s economy at the moment. Given that it is now stable on the whole, we do not fear these problems as they will most likely turn into future opportunities for further development.”

The news portal stated that structural reforms in the Chinese economy had been “comprehensively addressed”.

Many enterprises that are heavy polluters have been shut down. The country no longer helps inefficient enterprises to stay afloat.

The current anti-corruption campaign has curbed improper spending to the extent that businesses in classy restaurants and retail sector are badly hit.

“China’s biggest accomplishments in the past years are that it did not stop to make adjustments in its economic transition. Instead, it adjusted itself while continuing to move forward. Now, society has fully adapted to the new normal in the country’s economy,” said Global Times.

Despite having to tackle its own economic problems, China has sent out a heartening message that it will continue to be the strong engine of global growth. Last year, China contributed about one-third of the world’s economic growth.

“China’s steady growth has brought in greater demand, investment and products to the world economy … China will help improve global prosperity and regional infrastructure as it pushes its belt and road initiative,” said Wang Guoqing, spokesman for CPPCC on March 3.

More than 100 countries and organisations have joined the belt and road initiative and over 40 of them have cooperation pacts with China, added Wang.

The belt and road initiative, proposed by Xi in 2013, aims to build infrastructure and trade network to link Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

Since 2013, China has financed and gotten involved in projects on aviation, power, rail, road and telecommunications in participating belt-road countries. It is planning to host a belt and road Summit in May that could see China announcing more multi-billion dollar projects to benefit its trade partners and its own economy.

Opening up further

China had also told the world it would open up further and liberalise more sectors to promote trade and investment.

After the opening of the NPC session on March 5, core leader President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s commitment to “open up wider”.

“China will open up like never before. China’s opening door will not close,” said Xi in his report.

“China’s door will open wider, and China will keep working to be the most attractive destination for foreign investment.”

Xi made the remarks while joining in a panel discussion with lawmakers from Shanghai last Sunday, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Foreign firms will be able to get listed on China’s stock markets and issue bonds. They will also be allowed to participate in national science and technology projects.

Foreign firms will also be treated as domestic firms in license applications and government procurement, and will enjoy preferential policies like locals under the “Made in China 2025” initiative aimed at modernising the manufacturing sector.

Service industries, manufacturing and mining will be more open to foreign investment.

Ian Yoong, a former investment banker in Malaysia, opines that Xi’s vows to open up and liberalise sectors “shows that China is ready to take over the mantle from the US as the dominant superpower”.

He tells Sunday Star: “The key themes of President Xi and Premier Li’s speeches are globalisation and liberalisation of trade, totally countering President Trump’s plans for the US.

“This is a signal to the world that China is ready to move into the trade and political leadership vacuum to be created by the US.”

Easing tension in South China Sea

For South-East Asian nations, there was some relief when the Middle Kingdom appears to have softened its tone in South China Sea disputes.

In remarks made on March 3, Wang, the spokesman for the CPPCC placed emphasis on “navigational freedom”, which the US has often advocated.

“As a major trading nation and the biggest country along the South China Sea, China attaches more importance than any other country to navigational freedom and security in the South China Sea.”

This stance was starkly different from the hard tone of previous months, during which China warned the US and Japan to stay away from its “own sea”.

China’s recent naval force demonstrations in South China Sea had also unnerved Asean nations.

Observed Panos Mourdoukoutas, a contributor to Forbes magazine: “The shift in China’s tone in the South China Sea disputes comes as a relief for investors in Asian equities.”

But what is more comforting for Asean is that last Wednesday (March 8), China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that the first draft of a code of conduct (COC) for behaviour in South China Sea disputes has been completed.

He told a press conference: “Tension in the waterway has eased notably.”

Since 2010, China and the 10-member of Asean have been trying to work out a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflicts among nations laying rival claims over the waters.

China, which lays sovereign claim to over 80% of the resource-rich South China Sea through which US$5tril (RM22tril) worth of trade passes every year, has often stated it prefers to resolve disputes via peaceful talks with rival claimants – the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.

Wang vowed China would not allow this new stability in South China Sea to be “disrupted and damaged” by outsiders.

There have been sporadic incidents between US and Chinese ships in the South China Sea. Late last year, a Chinese ship seized a US navy underwater drone off the Philippines, but later returned it.

Korean Peninsula crisis

At his press conference, China’s Foreign Minister also addressed the most pressing issue for the region now – the possibility of a war exploding at Northeast Asia.

North Korea recently launched four short-ranged ballistic missile in response to large-scale military drills held by the US and South Korea. It was reported that these launches were aimed at US military bases in Japan.

Wang proposed “double suspension” to defuse the crisis, urging North Korea to suspend its nuclear and missile activities while the United States and South Korea to cease their war games.

Describing the two parties as “two accelerating trains coming towards each other”, Wang said China was willing to be a “railway switchman” to switch the issue back to the right track.

But US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley promptly responded that the US must see “some sort of positive action” from North Korea, while Cho Tae-yul, South Korea’s UN ambassador, said: “This is not a time for us to talk about freezing or dialogue with North Korea.”

CPC’s Global Times, in its editorial, opined Wang’s solution is “the only way out” to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully.

The North Korean nuclear issue is not created by Pyongyang alone, it argued.

Although North Korea’s development of a nuclear programme is wrong, Washington and Seoul are the main forces that have pushed North Korea to this path, it added.

“Now, they want to stop Pyongyang from going ahead, while refusing to reduce the impetus they are giving to North Korea. When they failed to reach their goal, they blame China for not being cooperative enough,” said the editorial.

Despite the negative response to China’s proposal, Global Times opines Wang’s handling of the press conference “displays confidence of the country”.

By Ho Wah Foon The Star

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