Toddler on ‘Time’ cover not taken from mother

TEGUCIGALPA — The Honduran toddler pictured sobbing in a pink jacket before US President Donald Trump on an upcoming cover of Time magazine was not separated from her mother at the US border, according to a man who says he is the girl’s father.

The powerful original photograph, taken at the scene of a border detention by Getty Images photographer John Moore, became one of the iconic images in the flurry of media coverage about the separation of families by the Trump administration.

Dozens of newspapers and magazines around the globe published the picture, swelling the tide of outrage that pushed Trump to back down on Wednesday and say families would no longer be separated.

“My daughter has become a symbol of the separation of children at the US border. She may have even touched President Trump’s heart,” Denis Valera said.

Valera said the little girl and her mother, Sandra Sanchez, have been detained in the Texas border town of McAllen, where Sanchez has applied for asylum, and they were not separated after being detained near the border.

Varela said he was awestruck and pained when he first saw the photo of his crying daughter on TV. “Seeing what was happening to her at that moment breaks anyone’s heart,” he said.

The photo was used on a Facebook fundraiser that drew more than US$17 million (RM68 million) in donations from close to half a million people for the Refugee and Immigrant Centre for Education and Legal Services, a Texas-based non-profit that provides legal defence services to immigrants and refugees. — Reuters

Pope: Invest wisely in migrants’ home countries

GENEVA — Pope Francis, who has put the plight of migrants in Europe at the heart of his concerns, said on Thursday it was time “to invest wisely to give them work and education” in their countries of origin, in particular in Africa.

“The problem of wars is difficult to solve, as is the problem of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and Nigeria, but the problem of hunger can be solved,” he said during a press conference on the plane returning from a trip to Geneva.

The pope’s comments reflect an investment plan being considered by European governments.

“In the collective unconscious, there is a bad idea that we can exploit Africa, always a land of slaves,” he lamented.

“This must change with investment plans, we’ve got to grow them!” he said, praising “the cultural wealth of Africa”.

Francis also recalled his four criteria for welcoming migrants: “To welcome, accompany, accommodate, integrate”, adding a caveat he has regularly mentioned since a trip to Sweden in 2016.

“Every country has to do this with the government virtue of prudence because a country has to host as many refugees as it can, that it can integrate and educate,” he said.

“We have a wave of refugees fleeing wars and hunger, war and hunger in so many countries of Africa, wars and persecution in the Middle East,” he said, congratulating in particular Italy and Greece which had been “extremely generous” in their welcome, just like Turkey or Lebanon.

The pope, however, made no reference to the new populist government in Italy which has banned NGO-operated migrant rescue ships from docking. — AFP

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Give us back NCR land, Sarawak natives tell state

KUCHING — A group of indigenous Sarawakians yesterday handed their demand to Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Douglas Uggah’s office, asking the state government to revoke provisional leases (PL) issued to plantation and logging companies involving their native customary rights (NCR) land.

Sarawak Society for the Protection of the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights (Scripts) chairman Michael Jok said all of the leases were issued to companies linked to current Governor Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud when he was chief minister for 33 years.

“For example, virtually the whole of Baram interior has been issued with PLs when Taib was the chief minister,” Jok told reporters after handing the Native Customary Rights Land Declaration at Uggah’s office.

“Based on the submissions from 54 communities in the Baram interior which we have received thus far, about 2.8 million hectares of their NCR land have been leased out by the state government to logging and oil palm companies,” Jok said.

He said in the Kapit division, about 870,000ha from 80 communities have also been leased out to companies.

“The NCR landowners want their properties back since much of these leased out areas have not cleared or developed for oil palm,” he said, explaining why they want the state government to revoke the PLs.

Jok said about 400 cases involving disputes over land claims between the indigenous communities and logging and oil palm companies have been filed in courts.

Henry Joseph, legal advisor to Scripts, said the declaration contains suggestions and views from the community leaders attending 15 forums and meetings over the last three years.

“The declaration is to tell the world that the land belong to us. We are not challenging anybody, but telling the government over the ownership of the land,” he said.

“We are not asking for government’s protection over our property, but if there are outsiders who want to take our land, then it is our responsibility to fight back.”

Terengganu says no bikini ban on its islands and beaches

KUALA LUMPUR — The PAS government in Terengganu stressed that it will not restrict non-Muslims from donning bikini swimwear on the state’s beaches and islands.

A Malay daily reported Terengganu Humanity, Preaching and Information committee chairman Mohd Nor Hamzah as saying the decision gelled with the state government’s stance of being tolerant and maintaining harmony among the state folk.

“Furthermore, the decision to dress in bikinis is the right of non-Muslim tourists, and it is also considered common practice at holiday spots.

“We also do not plan to implement harsh punishments or restrictions on non-Muslim visitors including those dressed in bikinis,” he was quoted saying.

However, he conceded that authorities may, from time to time, approach tourists for “discussions” on the matter, but did not explain what this would entail.

Terengganu is home to many holiday islands on the east coast of the peninsula, including Pulau Perhentian Kecil and Pulau Perhentian Besar, Pulau Kapas, Pulau Tenggol, and Pulau Redang.

Around five million visitors visited the state last year. The state government aims to attract 6.5 million visitors by 2025, raking in a total of RM6 billion.

The state is among the most overwhelmingly Malay-Muslim in the country, with around 97 per cent of the population recorded as Malays.

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Kit Siang: Make history with voting reforms

KUALA LUMPUR — Lim Kit Siang pressed the country’s federal lawmakers to make history in the first parliamentary session of this term by lowering the voting age to open up the ballot to greater swathes of society.

Seizing on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s remarks supporting the call to set the voting age to 18, the DAP parliamentary leader said he has pushed for such reforms for nearly five decades.

He said Malaysia is part of only a handful of holdouts including Singapore that still insist on retaining a voting age of 21 and over.

“Youths at 18 ought to have the right to vote and to have a say about the way in which their lives are governed and the country is being run, as society expects them to assume adult social responsibilities whether conscription when there is war or national emergency, even to die in the defence of the country,” he said.

The Iskandar Puteri MP noted that in the region, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar had made the ballot available to those aged 18 and above, while Indonesia was even more inclusive with a voting age of 17.

He said while such a change would require a constitutional amendment and bipartisan support, Lim expressed belief the developments since the historic 14th general election have provided the right atmosphere to do so.

“Let the opening meeting of the 14th Parliament in July make history by amending the Constitution to lower the voting age to 18.”

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Firm working on reducing cost of SSP line

KUALA LUMPUR — Mass Rapid Transit Corporation (MRT Corp) chief executive officer Datuk Shahril Mokhtar said the firm will work on reducing the cost for the MRT Sungai Buloh-Serdang-Putrajaya (SSP) line.

Speaking to reporters after meeting the Council of Eminent Persons, he said the corporation was tasked to find ways to lower the price of the project, which is over 24 per cent complete.

“We are working on something, we will have a chat on how to find ways to reduce the cost further for Line 2.

“We exchanged ideas but the key is to reduce the cost so we could save the people’s money,” Shahril told reporters when Ilham Tower yesterday.

The first phase of the MRT SSP, which cost RM32 billion, is expected to be operational by the third quarter of 2021 before its full completion in late 2022.

The SSP alignment will stretch 52.2km — 38.7km of elevated tracks and 13.5km running through underground tunnels.

On the future of the MRT3 Klang Valley line, Shahril said “it has been shelved for now.”

On May 30, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced the government is cancelling the proposed MRT3, which was planned to provide a loop line to integrate all public transport systems in the Klang Valley by 2025.

TM supports govt’s affordable broadband initiative

KUALA LUMPUR — Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) has reiterated its support for the government’s aspiration on affordable broadband services at higher speed to increase the nation’s competitiveness.

The utility giant said in a statement it has engaged in ongoing dialogues with the Communications and Multimedia Ministry and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to reiterate the support.

“Further details on the initiatives will be announced by TM within the next quarter,” it said.

On Wednesday, Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo announced the price of broadband in the country is expected to drop by at least 25 per cent by year-end.

This follows the enforcement of the Mandatory Standard on Access Pricing (MSAP), which sets the wholesale prices that can be charged by service providers such as TM.
— Bernama

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Weed out errant traders with stringent price controls, says Fomca

KUALA LUMPUR — The Festive Season Price Control Scheme (SKHMP) implemented since 2000 by the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (KPDNKK) is a scheme which protects consumers from traders who make excessive profits by raising the prices of goods indiscriminately.

Through SKHMP, consumers can obtain essential goods at ceiling prices set by KPDNKK during festive seasons, although it is different this year.

This is because many traders throughout the country took advantage to raise the price of items such as chicken, fish and vegetables after the 14th general election on May 9.

On May 30, at a media conference after chairing the second Cabinet meeting of the new government, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced several important decisions, including implementing SKHMP. The announcement was good news for consumers who were burdened by high prices of goods, which even exceeded the level set by KPDNKK for Hari Raya.

Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations (Fomca) deputy president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman said irresponsible traders have been taking advantage by raising prices when an announcement was made on increasing basic goods prices such as petrol, toll and electric tariffs.

“Increase in basic goods has minimal effect to increase the daily cost of traders and they have always been giving the excuse to raise prices due to transportation cost.

“Even though KPDNKK put up the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011, it was seen as not completely successful to curb errant traders from raising prices when there is no monitoring by the authority, resulting in consumers being squeezed by unreasonable higher prices,” he said.

Mohd Yusof said Fomca hopes the new Pakatan Harapan government will ensure the Act will continue to be implemented so the people are not burdened by uncertain future prices.

He also called on consumers to inform KPDNKK or other relevant authorities if they find the prices of essential foods higher than the level set. — Bernama

‘Hold debate between heads of govt, Opposition’

KUALA LUMPUR — Umno’s Tan Sri Annuar Musa challenged the government to host a televised debate between the prime minister and the eventual opposition leader on Pakatan Harapan’s 100th day in power.

Responding to reports of Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo’s offer for RTM to host a debate involving Umno presidential hopefuls, Annuar said Umno’s affairs were an internal matter and not the business of outsiders.

The Umno information chief also questioned the eagerness for Umno to show its inner workings to the public, noting the rivals calling for such a debate have never conducted one themselves.

“Umno is now an opposition party. To my recollection, no opposition party has ever held a ‘public debate’ among their presidential contenders,” he said
in a statement.

Annuar acknowledged the contest for the leadership of Umno possessed a unique attraction, but urged the candidates not to be duped into dancing to rivals’ tunes.

He stressed the party polls is a “family affair” for Umno, and said the party should not be so open that it invites detriment and compromise.

The former minister then sought to turn the tables by challenging the government to arrange for a public debate between Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the next Umno president who, by virtue of the party’s superiority in Parliament, will be the next federal opposition leader.

“If you want debates, especially on matters that concern the public and country, I suggest we hold an open debate between the heads of the government and federal opposition on the 100th day of the PH administration.

“Do you dare?”

On Wednesday, Gobind said he has no problem directing state broadcaster RTM to televise the Umno presidential debate if the Malay nationalist party would like such
a platform.

Papagomo

Papagomo: I am not a gangster

JOHOR BARU — Despite his combative image and aggressive demeanour, blogger and political commentator Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris or Papagomo has denied he is linked to gangsterism.

Wan Muhammad Azri, who vacillates between his Papagomo and “Sir Azri” online personas, blamed the perception on the company he keeps as well as his blunt remarks.

“I can assure everyone that I am not a gangster nor am I linked to any gangs. This is people’s perception of me based on my image,” he said.

“People who don’t know me just assume that I’m a gangster or linked to the Double 7 or other gangs.”

He also claimed close acquaintances knew him to be open to all races and not just pro-Malay politicians such as those in Umno.

Wan Muhammad Azri spoke to Malay Mail on the sidelines of his introduction as a candidate for the national Umno Youth executive committee post at the party’s liaison headquarters at Jalan Yahya Awal in Johor Baru yesterday.

Over the years Gomo, as he prefers to be called, said he has matured.

The 35-year-old former policeman, who was raised in Kampung Pasir in Johor Baru, claimed since he started to change to a more mature outlook on life after meeting outgoing Umno Youth chief and Umno presidential hopeful Khairy Jamaluddin
in 2015.

“I have stopped blogging for a while now and mainly partake in recreational activities such as going to the gym, off-roading and diving.

“At the same time, I am active in this non-governmental organisation called Malaysia Bumiputera Brotherhood,” he said, adding Khairy is his idol.

Wan Muhammad Azri also insisted he is not “untouchable” and “above the law” as some people believe.

While saying some believed he was “shielded” by powerful politicians in the past, he reminded his critics he has been arrested and remanded seven times by the police.

He was also found guilty of defaming Pakatan Harapan de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and ordered to pay RM800,000 in damages.

“I can tell you that it was a lousy experience being in the lock-up. The worst was being arrested and released on Hari Raya day for the Low Yat Plaza riots that I was not even involved in,” he said.

On his candidacy for an Umno Youth executive committee position in the party polls set for June 30, Wan Muhammad Azri said it is a calling to assist Umno after the party and Barisan Nasional’s defeat at the recent general election.

“I hope Umno members can accept my candidacy as it won’t be an easy contest this time around as I am contesting together with 217 others, which is a record number.”

He said that he has no team for his campaign bid and relies mainly on phone calls, WhatsApp messages and social media to reach out to potential supporters.

Checks revealed Wan Muhammad Azri was the Umno committee member for the Wangsa Maju division from 2013 to 2018. He will also contest the division’s deputy division chief post in the upcoming elections.

He has also been Malaysia Bumiputera Brotherhood president since 2014.

On the view he would be a political liability to Umno in the current era, he reiterated he was misunderstood.

“Papagomo of the past was built on solid information that I channelled through my blog.

“The source of my information is accurate and many politicians feared me,” he said, claiming it was his access to many leading politicians at that time that gave his blog credible information.

Wan Muhammad Azri believes he can contribute to Umno in many ways as the party is now in the Opposition.

“To Umno politicians, I am called “The War Machine” and with the current political landscape, I can be an asset to the party.

“I have more than 11 years of mainly political strategy and I worked for the late special envoy to the US Tan Sri Jamaluddin Jarjis.”

Wan Muhammad Azri was last in the spotlight in April when he openly declared his intention to challenge Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for the Pandan parliamentary seat in last month’s elections.

However, he was a no-show on nomination day and later admitted it was a publicity stunt.

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