Make environment our 2018 priority


Our Environment is Our Life – YouTube

THE year has barely started, and already we have so many reports of weather and climate-related events.

Heavy wind, snow storms and below-freezing temperatures paralysed cities in the United States’ East Coast. New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport was in chaos with hundreds of flights suspended.

Yet, just weeks previously, big fires linked to a heat wave were sweeping through parts of California on the West Coast, burning 112.000ha of forest and threatening lives and homes.

Colder weather in one place and hotter temperatures in another are signs of global climate change, which can also cause heavier rainfall and drought in different regions.

While it is difficult to pin down any particular incident as a direct result of climate change, it is recognised scientifically that climate change generally exacerbates extreme weather events and may cause some of them.

We can expect the weather, and more broadly the environment, to figure prominently this year.

The alarm bells sounded long ago on the environmental crisis. But it is not easy to achieve a continuous high level of concern among political leaders.

After a calamity and public outrage, there are pledges to correct the situation. However, the interest fades after a while, and not much action is taken, until the next disaster happens.

In Malaysia, people are now looking at the sky constantly to anticipate whether it is going to rain.

Heavy rainfall has been causing floods in Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak.

In Penang, severe state-wide flash floods seem to be occurring every few months, with localised flooding in several areas in between. The mud brought down from eroded hill-slopes into overflowing rivers and then into houses, makes floods an even worse nightmare for those affected.

For some unlucky ones, hardly have their houses and furniture been cleaned than they are under one metre of water again through a new flood.

Heavier rain and more floods is the new normal in Malaysia. There has been an increase in rainfall for most parts of the country in 2000-2009 compared to 1970-1999, with the major increase in 2005-2009, according to a 2012 paper by Yap Kok Seng, then the head of the Malaysian Meteorological Depart­ment (MMD), and his colleagues.

The global temperature increase has led to changes in weather including major wind patterns, amount and intensity of precipitation, and increased frequency of severe storms and weather extremes, according to the paper, Malaysia Climate Change Scenarios.

In Malaysia since the 1980s, there had been increasing number of days of extreme rainfall events, extreme wind events and annual thunderstorm days, added the paper.

Unfortunately the situation will worsen. A study published on Jan 10, whose authors are affiliated with Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, predicted that millions more people will be affected by river flooding as global warming increases severe rainfall in the next 20 years.

In Asia, the most affected region, people at risk from floods will rise to 156 million from the present 70 million in the next 20 years.

Global warming increases the risk of flooding because rain during an extreme downpour “increases exponentially” as temperatures rise, the institute’s Anders Levermann told Reuters.

“We have to adapt to global warming. Doing nothing will be dangerous,” he said.

Countries will have to act urgently and make major investments in flood protection to boost their flood defences, according to the report.

This advice surely applies to Malaysia as one of the countries already being affected by heavier rainfall and extensive river flooding.

Flood mitigation measures must be increased, including de-silting, widening and deepening rivers, improving urban drainage, strengthening river banks, redirecting water flows, constructing tidal gates, and pumping excess water into ponds.

Even more important is flood prevention. A main cause of the floods is deforestation, leading to the loss of the forests’ valuable roles in soil and water retention and climate regulation.

It is really short-sighted and irrational to damage and destroy forests, especially forest reserves and water catchment areas.

Exposed soils are swept by rain into rivers, clogging up streams and drains with mud and causing floods downstream in the towns and villages, while also depriving us of much-needed water supply.

There is a great deal of public concern over recent developments that threaten forests and hill lands in the country.

These include the de-gazetting of the Ulu Muda water catchment area in Kedah; the de-gazetting of hill lands in Penang that previously were protected under the Land Conservation Act and which are now being “developed” with the aid of higher permitted density ratio; the conversion of 4,515ha forest reserve to cultivate oil palm plantations in Terengganu (being opposed by WWF-Malaysia); and protests over the imminent loss of a forested park in Taman Rimba Kiara in Kuala Lumpur to make way for housing.

Federal, state and local governments should give priority to environmental rehabilitation of damaged forests and hills, prevent damage to the coastal ecosystem including mangroves, and take comprehensive flood prevention and mitigation measures.

They should stop approving environmentally harmful projects in ecologically sensitive areas.

They must make major financial allocations to protect and rehabilitate the environment, and implement finance measures to prevent and manage the floods.

As so many scientists are warning, and as more and more local communities and citizen groups are demanding, the time to act on the environment is now. Let us hope that in 2018 these calls will be heeded.

Global trends by Martin Khor

Martin Khor is executive director of the South Centre. The views expressed here are entirely his own.

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Who is sabotaging Penang undersea tunnel project?


Penang govt to blame, says Lau

PETALING JAYA: Barisan Nasional should not be blamed as it is DAP’s own doing that “sabotaged” the Penang undersea tunnel project, said Gerakan vice-president Datuk Dr Dominic Lau (pic).

He added it began when the DAP-led Penang government failed to provide feasibility reports on the project, which were supposed to be completed by April 2016.

“You missed the deadline and in October 2017, the special purpose vehicle (SPV) said there is no more urgency to complete the reports.

“Based on the original timeline, the first phase of the project was supposed to start construction in the first quarter of 2015 and completed by this year.

“As of now, this first phase has not even started construction,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Despite the multiple delays in the reports and the construction starting date, he said the Penang government did not appear to have penalised the SPV.

He said when the project was awarded, a statement was issued stating that shareholders of the SPV consortium are China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), Zenith Construction, Juteras Sdn Bhd and Sri Tinggi Sdn Bhd.

“But today, CRCC, BUCG and Sri Tinggi were no longer listed as shareholders while Juteras Sdn Bhd is listed as winding up – leaving only one (Zenith Construction) out of the four shareholders in the agreement.

“Despite a material change of the financial and technical strength promised during the award and what it is now, the Penang government still does not appear to want to cancel the project or penalise the SPV,” he said.

“Even five years after the contract was awarded, the SPV still only has paid-up capital of RM26.5mil – way below the RM381mil minimum paid-up capital required by the Penang government to deliver the project.

“Meanwhile, the SPV is on course to make billions in two property projects valued at RM800mil and RM15bil respectively,” he said.

Meanwhile, Barisan Nasional Strategic Communications deputy director Datuk Eric See-To said the agreement shown to the media by Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was different from the one MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said was not stamped.

The agreement shown by Lim in a press conference on Friday was between the Penang state government with Consortium Zenith-BUCG; and not between the state and CRCC.

Previously, the Penang state government had shown a copy of a letter of support from the CRCC to prove that it is a party to the SPV awarded to undertake the undersea tunnel project.

On Tuesday, Dr Wee’s statement noted that the Acknowledgement of Commitment signed by the state government with CRCC was not a legally binding document and was hence not stamped.



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Penang has enough roads and linkages, say activists – Nation

 

I was referring to three paired road projects, says Guan Eng – Nation …


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Tough questions on Penang turnel project; Engineering Consultant arrested in probe


 

 

 

In-depth query: A screen grab of the video where Dr Wee demanded explanations over the controversial Penang undersea tunnel.
Dr Wee, is trained as a civil engineer has a Master’s in traffic engineering and a PhD in transportation planning, believed to have worked as an Environmental Impact Assessment and Traffic Impact Assessment consultant for more than a decade. He is currently a minister in the
Prime Minister’s Department
.

Wee poses more questions to Guan Eng on tunnel project

Wee raises doubt over paid-up capital and ability of SPV – Nation

Lim: Contract between CRCC and Penang govt legally binding …

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong threw hard-hitting questions at the Penang government, demanding an explanation for the controversial undersea tunnel project.

The MCA deputy president raised major concerns in videos uploaded in two parts to MCA’s YouTube channel.

He zeroed in on the changes in the paid-up capital of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) and how two Chinese construction giants have “disappeared” from the SPV shareholding.

He also touched on the state government’s “agreement” with China Railway Construction Corpo­ration Ltd (CRCC) and Penang’s insistence that no money was paid for the project.

In the videos, also uploaded on Dr Wee’s Facebook page, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department had a whiteboard to his left showing the changes in the shareholding while a television screen to his right displayed various documents.

Dr Wee wanted Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng to clarify why the SPV Consortium Zenith Construc­tion Sdn Bhd’s paid-up capital was reduced from RM4.6bil to RM70.5mil.

He said while Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) was no longer a shareholder in the SPV, CRCC was never in the picture.

Dr Wee said back in March 4, 2013, the state government’s official newsletter Buletin Mutiara published an article quoting state secretary Datuk Seri Farizan Darus as saying the SPV had a paid-up capital of RM4.6bil, with Zenith Construction Sdn Bhd and CRCC jointly holding a 70% stake in it.

“We are in great shock because just days ago, CRCC went on record to deny ever being a shareholder and developer of the undersea tunnel SPV.

“Without the participation of CRCC and BUCG, the actual capital of the other component SPV back then is only RM8.2mil,” said Dr Wee, who is trained as a civil engineer and has a Master’s in traffic engineering and a PhD in transportation planning.

He, however, said the SPV had a total paid-up capital of RM70.5mil.

Dr Wee added that currently, Zenith Construction has a 47.12% equity in the SPV, Juteras Sdn Bhd (0.75%); Kenanga Nominees (Tempatan) Sdn Bhd (38.92%) and Vertice Bhd (formerly known as Voir Holdings Bhd, 13.21%).

He also revealed that Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd was only registered on July 5, 2012, one day before the state government invited the consortium to submit a request for proposal (RFP).

“Chief Minister, you may argue that they formed the consortium just one day before to make it to the tender.

“But bear in mind your state secretary said the consortium was selected based on the financial and technical strength of CRCC and BUCG,” he said, adding that Zenith Construction was only less than three months old when it was then invited to participate in the pre-qualification for the tender.

Dr Wee also said that Acknowled­gement of Commitment signed by the state government with CRCC was not a legally binding document.

“Where is the stamping of documents as required and which is the Court of Arbitration to arbitrate disputes?” he asked.

Dr Wee also questioned Lim’s stand that not a single sen was paid when state exco member Lim Hock Seng replied in the state assembly on March 19 last year that a land swap deal worth RM208mil was identified.

“The said land has been developed and sales of properties for the City of Dreams (which is built on the land) are ongoing. Aren’t you aware of that?

Dr Wee also urged Lim to give a detailed breakdown of how Consor­tium Zenith reaped a significant after-tax profit of RM60mil for the financial year that ended on Aug 31, 2015, when it had only conducted studies and had yet to start any construction work.- The Star

Engineering Consultant arrested in tunnel probe 

‘Datuk Seri’ remanded for five days in Penang tunnel probe – Nation 

Datuk Seri remanded in probe

Magistrate Ainna Sherina Saipolamin allowed the 62-year-old “Datuk Seri” to be held in custody until Jan 29.

Engineering consultant remanded for five days – Nation

 

In custody: The consultant being taken out of the magistrate’s court in Putrajaya. — Bernama

 

PETALING JAYA: A senior engineering consultant in her 50s is the latest to be detained in connection with the probe over controversies surrounding the Penang undersea tunnel project.

The consultant is believed to have forged claim documents for the feasibility studies valued at RM305mil for the mega project of three main roads and an undersea tunnel to the state government, said a source familiar with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) investigation.

The woman is expected to be remanded at the Putrajaya magistrate’s court today.

She was arrested at MACC headquarters in Putrajaya at 6.10pm yesterday after her statement was recorded.

“The investigators are trying to determine if other individuals were involved in the preparation of the falsified documents,” the source added.

The engineering consultant is the third person to be arrested in MACC’s investigations into the Penang undersea tunnel project.

Two high-ranking Datuks of development and construction companies were earlier arrested on Jan 9 before being remanded for six days beginning Jan 10.

The remand was then extended for another five days from Jan 15.

They were released on MACC bail of RM200,000 each on Jan 19 by the Putrajaya magistrate’s court.

On Monday, MACC deputy chief commissioner (operation) Datuk Seri Azam Baki had said that more individuals would be hauled up over the project.

The RM6.3bil mega project includes building the 7.2km undersea tunnel connecting Gurney Drive on the island to Bagan Ajam in north Butterworth, 10.53km North Coastal Paired Road from Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang, 5.7km Air Itam-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass and the 4.075km Gurney Drive-Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu Expressway bypass.

The MACC has since recorded statements from more than 70 people and visited more than 40 premises in the course of their investigation.

By Royce Tan The Star

State govt can only hold SPV liable, says Wee

PETALING JAYA: Although Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has reiterated that not a single sen was paid for the feasibility study of the undersea tunnel, the fact remained that it was paid in kind, said Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

Dr Wee, who is MCA deputy president, said the crux of the problem was that the state government had no contractual nexus with the contractor.

“The state government can only hold the special purpose vehicle (SPV) liable, not the contractor.

“Don’t confuse the people with the SPV and the contractor. SPV means you can hold it liable.

“If a contractor is subsequently awarded by the SPV, that’s between the contractor and the SPV.

“If the SPV fails to pay the contractor, the contractor has no obligations (to construct),” he said.

He added that he had conducted a comprehensive research and he knew what happened.

“I welcome this project, but it must be carried out in a proper manner. This is what I want.

“Don’t blame others. If at all you need to blame somebody, it is your SPV that you appointed.

“They keep on delaying the report, not us. We have no say in the report and we’ve not even seen it,” said Dr Wee.- The Star


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 Difficult questions over tunnel sea project has party in a tight spot …

 

Contract value of roads increased significantly, says See-To – Nation …

 

Penang has enough roads and linkages, say activists – Nation |



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Penang tables election budget for 2018: higher defict of RM740.5mil, paints rosy economic picture …



GEORGE TOWN: Penang has tabled a higher deficit state Budget of RM740.5million for the next fiscal year of 2018.

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng when tabling the budget, stressed that it was an estimate and it can be reduced if the state records a higher revenue collection.

Among some of the initial highlights for the state was a free Rapid Penang bus service during peak rush hours in the mornings and evenings.

Allocations would also be given to aid the medical tourism and hi-tech manufacturing sectors.

Penang has tabled a projected budget deficit of RM748.5 million for next year, compared to a RM667 million deficit for this year as administration and living costs continue to escalate.

However, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng stressed that the state has a unique distinction of tabling projected budget deficits every year yet recording actual surpluses.

Next year’s operating expenditure is RM1.25 billion, while the forecast revenue collection is RM503.7 million.

The cost savings come principally through the open tender system and an efficient administration, Lim told the state legislative assembly today.

After some 10 years of facing various external economic challenges, Lim said the state’s gross domestic product is projected to outstrip the national average growth of 5.2% for this year.

Penang is targeting a GDP growth of 6% this year with the main contribution coming from manufacturing and services, with farming also showing signs of promise through fish farming.

GDP per capita has increased from RM33,597 in 2010 to RM47,322 in 2016, a 30% increase. Penang’s GDP per capita is the second highest in the country, behind only Kuala Lumpur.

From 2015 to the first half of 2017, Penang attracted a total of RM13.8 billion in approved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Tourism has also grown with the number of passengers at the Penang International Airport (PIA) hitting 6.7 million passengers in 2016, exceeding the airport’s capacity of 6.5 million passengers.

The success story in the last 10 years is reflected by annual budget surpluses since 2008, with accumulated budget surpluses over the eight year period between 2008 to 2015 reaching RM578 million.

Lim also announced a range of fresh initiatives, which pundits have described as a people-friendly fiscal plan designed to endear the state government to the voters with the next general election looming near.

> There is a “I Love Penang” card, which is a smartcard for all local residents that allows access to social amenities and benefits provided by the state. The public think tank Penang Institute will be the implementing agency for it, as they have been allocated a budget of RM4.5 million to produce and distribute the smartcards.

> A free public stage bus service was mooted during the daily peak hours in the mornings and evenings – it is aimed at reducing traffic congestion. The project is dependent on the cooperation of RapidPenang.

> Penang has allocated RM60 million to jumpstart a “Pinang Sihat” medical card programme for families whose combined household income is below RM5,000, where the state will subsidise treatment at private clinics.

A medical card will be issued to each recipient, who can only spend up to RM50 per visit to a panel of private clinics who are part of the Pinang Sihat scheme.

“This will help the recipients, who fall ill to see a doctor without worrying too much about expensive charges or travelling to government clinics that are far away from their homes,” said Lim.

> The free mammogram examination scheme for women above 35 years shall continue. So far more than 10,000 women have benefited.

> The state will also be increasing the annual payouts for senior citizens and the disabled from RM100 to RM300 for next year.

> A maximum bonus payout of RM2,000 will be accorded to civil servants who have a good disciplinary record while those below par will only receive RM1,000.

> The state will also allocate RM10 million for hill slope protection efforts, as well as to conceive a study on climate change, and tackle illegal farming.

Later, there was a protest at Komtar, led by former Penang PAS Youth head Mohamed Hafiz Nordin, who urged the state government to rescind the alleged appointment of PKR secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as the new Penang Islamic Religious Council president, replacing Permatang Pasir assemblyman Datuk Salleh Man.

Hafiz argued that Saifuddin was not a religious scholar, therefore he was not suitable for the post. Saifuddin’s replied that holding protests is normal in a democracy.

Source:  Ian McIntyre and Imran Hilmi newsdesk@thesundaily.com

Much ado about nothing

Penang govt also gave an election budget, says MCA leader

“Public housing shortage is serious in Penang. Badminton courts and
swimming pools can be added into low and low medium-cost housing
projects. Tang Heap Seng”

WHAT is wrong with an election budget?

“Election budgets are happy and beneficial things for the rakyat,” said party secretary Tang Heap Seng.

He, however, advised Pakatan Harapan politicians not to “criticise something but did the same themselves”.

“Many Pakatan politicians criticised the Federal Budget and the Penang government did exactly the same.

“They claimed the Federal Budget will help Barisan Nasional win the general election.

“But then, the Penang government also gave an election budget,” said Tang during a press conference at the Penang MCA headquarters in Transfer Road yesterday.

Among the Budget 2018 goodies were Childcare Aid of RM300 for Working Mothers, RM300 aid for each local vocational school students and one-year waiver of business licence for about 29,000 hawkers and traders.

On the state Budget for next year, Tang said while there were many benefits, he was puzzled by the allocation of RM275mil to build 82 badminton courts and four Olympic-sized swimming pools.

“While sports are crucial to a happy society, we wonder why the state paid little attention to Penang’s urgent problems.

“Public housing shortage is serious in Penang. If the government wants to provide badminton courts and swimming pools, these could be added into low and low medium-cost housing projects,” he said.

Penang Gerakan vice-chairman Oh Tong Keong and secretary Hng Chee Wey also issued statements yesterday, expressing bewilderment at the RM275mil allocation.

In contrast, the tabled development expenditure for state Drainage and Irrigation Department is RM12.3mil.

Penang Island City Council and Seberang Prai Municipal Council will spend RM20mil on flood mitigation and for hillslope protection, RM10mil was budgeted.

Tang also said the RM53mil budgeted for the development of Islam was commendable, but wondered why only RM1.1mil would be given to Penang Hindu Endowment Board next year.

He said Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng only mentioned that RM30mil was given to non-Islamic religious development since 2008 when he tabled the Budget.

He said it would be ideal to allocate RM30mil each for the development of Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Sikhism and other minor religions yearly.

In a statement as well, Penang Women’s Development Corporation applauded the RM300 yearly aid for each working mother under the age of 60 with children aged six and below through the state Budget.

Meanwhile, Lim clarified that the bonus for civil servants would come from the reserved funds of this year’s Budget.

Earlier, Pulau Betong assemblyman Datuk Dr Muhamad Farid Saad had expressed confusion, saying, “How could you give a bonus this year through a Budget for next year?”

The stalled building defects causing delays of relocation ..


Not ready: (Clockwise from top) The front view of the Batu Ferringhi market in Penang, exposed electrical sockets and cracked floor in the badminton court, and a leaking pipe in the washroom.

 
Defects causing delay of move to RM9mil Batu Ferringhi market

The scheduled relocation of traders to the RM9mil Batu Ferringhi market on Aug 14 is postponed to a later date until shortcomings such as leakage in the washrooms and cracks on the floor are fixed.

Lim checking on the condition of the market.- Photos: ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

SENIOR officers of the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) were left red-faced after Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng spotted several defects in the almost completed RM9mil Batu Ferringhi market during a site visit.

Lim, who was irked with the shortcomings, asked his officers to collect back copies of his text speech given earlier to reporters.

“Before I came in, I went to the washroom. I thought it would be ready.

“But the male washroom was locked and I had to use the unoccupied ladies washroom instead.

“If the market is considered ready (by the council), then it is unacceptable,” he said.

Washroom with missing taps
A leaking pipe pipe in the washroom

It is learnt that the ladies washroom was leaking and some of the taps had yet to be fixed.

Lim, who was walking to the dining area, was stopped by several traders who requested the council delay their relocation into the market which was earlier scheduled on Aug 14.

Speaking to newsmen, Lim said another date would be set.

“We cannot fix a date now until we are satisfied that the shortcomings have been rectified,” he said.

MBPP mayor Datuk Maimunah Mohd Sharif said she would hold discussions with the market contractor and architect.

“Cracks have also appeared on the floor of the badminton courts,” she said.

Maimunah said the council had issued the Certificate of Practical Completion (CPC) for the market but not the Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC).

The market was scheduled for completion by the end of last year.

There are 16 hawker stalls, 28 wet and dry market units, a multipurpose hall, a library, three badminton courts, playground, bicycle path, shower rooms and 90 parking bays.

Source: The Star/ANN by Intan Amalina Mohd Ali

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Errant hill clearing by developers causes of flood, sinkholes, seepages damaged houses!

Wall and awning collapsed in house near construction site


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Star  by Crystal Chiam Shiying

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