Urgent action needed to save orang utan

AFTER decades of dramatic decline, the Bornean Orangutan has been listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation Nature (IUCN) last week, highlighting the need for urgent action to save the species. They have been pushed to the brink by habitat destruction and degradation, and poaching in both Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo.

In the Indonesian part of Borneo, orang utans live primarily outside designated protected areas and non-sustainable timber practices, mining concessions and large-scale plantations have resulted in their habitat becoming critically fragmented. Repeated episodes of forest fires in the region have further contributed to a decrease in forest cover in recent years which has, in turn, led to a growing threat from hunting. To safeguard the species and stabilise orang utan populations in light of these challenges, conservation efforts must be strengthened to expand well protected and sustainably managed areas.

Arnold Sitompul, WWF-Indonesia conservation director, said “The IUCN listing is an alarm call for all of us. The protection and restoration of the remaining Bornean Orangutan habitat is a must. Connectivity among orang utan habitat should also be ensured to maintain viability of each population. Our conservation programme shows the orang utan population can be sustained in the logging concession area when it is managed in a sustainable way. Should we apply this approach in larger landscapes, we can potentially increase our opportunity to save the species
from extinction.”

WWF’s years of conservation work in Indonesia and Malaysia has shown that efforts to ensure viable populations of the Bornean Orangutan can be successfully achieved by building a strong partnership among stakeholders, including government agencies, scientists, NGOs and the private sector.

Significant progress has been made to safeguard orang utan populations in some protected areas and forest management areas — such as Danum Valley-Imbak Canyon-Maliau Basin Conservation Areas, Tabin Wildlife Sanctuary, Batang Ai National Park, Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and the Ulu Sebuyau-Sedilu-Gunung Lesong National Parks in Sabah and Sarawak, as well as the National Parks of Danau Sentarum, Betung-Kerihun and Sebangau in Indonesia Kalimantan. These forest management areas are mandated to incorporate species conservation in their plans to fulfil international certification standards such as the Forest Stewardship Council.

According to WWF-Malaysia executive director and CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius Sharma, strategies for orang utan conservation must include monitoring orang utan populations and advocating for more orang utan habitats to be gazetted as protected areas such as in Sabah.

“We work closely with Sabah Forestry Department to restore degraded orang utan habitats such as the totally protected Bukit Piton Forest Reserve, which was gazetted in 2012 based on WWF-Malaysia’s orang utan research and advocacy,” said Sharma.

Since the restoration kicked off in 2008, WWF-Malaysia has restored 2,099ha of habitat in Bukit Piton and the tree-dependent apes have been observed using the planted trees as early as three years after they were planted. Besides Bukit Piton, two other orang utan habitats have been gazetted as totally protected areas by the Sabah Forestry Department — Northern Gunung Rara in 2014 and Trusan Sugut in 2015.

The orang utan species play an important role in maintaining the health of forest ecosystems. They not only help disperse seeds, but also allow light to reach the forest floor by building new nests in the thick tropical rainforests.



Tragic goalpost accident could have been prevented

ANOTHER tragedy occurred in a school in Gua Musang, Kelantan, where a student of SMK Tengku Indera Petra 2 died after a goalpost fell on him.

In the incident that occurred on July 12, Nik Mohd Lutfi Nik Kamarudin, 14, was playing football with his friends when the goalpost collapsed and struck his head.

This was yet another tragedy involving a student, whose death was preventable if there had been constant monitoring of all sports facilities in the school as well as the implementation of safety measures to prevent accidents.

The goalpost incident in Gua Musang was not an isolated case as there had been such accidents involving students in the past.

The goalposts in schools or public fields can be rusty, very old or there could be broken joints or welds due to wear and tear. Goalposts are also unsafe if they are unstable and either unanchored, not correctly anchored or counterbalanced.

Goalposts that are poorly maintained and have no restraining devices to prevent them from falling over pose a hazard for football or hockey players, especially children.

Accidents can be prevented if there are regular and proper checks and maintenance of the goalposts.

It is necessary that the Ministry of Education make it mandatory for schools to conduct safety audits on all school facilities every year to ensure that the school buildings and its facilities are always safe and conducive for the learning environment.

National Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) believes that occupational safety and health (OSH) should be introduced in schools due to previous accidents involving teachers, students and staff arising from collapse of roof building structures, ceiling fans, goalposts, toilets and accidents in science laboratories involving the use of chemicals.

NIOSH has initiated a programme called “OSH IN SCHOOL” which seeks to raise awareness among students and teachers of the importance of ensuring safety and health at school.

The “OSH in School” programme views schools as a workplace, in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) 1994. The application of OSHA to schools as places of work aims to make them safe and healthy for teachers, students and visitors.

NIOSH has successfully introduced “OSH in School” programmes to more than a dozen schools in the country, with sponsorship from corporate organisations.

Through the programme, NIOSH hopes to recommend to schools that good OSH management is a solution to all problems related to safety in schools. This way, schools will be more aware of the potential safety and health hazards and more capable of dealing with them.

This can be done through OSH education, awareness, training and exhibitions, which are NIOSH’s core businesses.

Instilling awareness at an early stage is of utmost importance to creating a safe and healthy workplace in schools as well as in preparing the students who will join the workforce in the future where safety and health at work will be emphasised.

With greater safety and health awareness in schools, unnecessary deaths can be prevented and parents will be assured of the safety of their children in schools.



Singapore’s rail industry reinvents itself

THE Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) announcement on Friday, in which it said it had concluded negotiations with SMRT Trains on its transition to the new rail financing framework (NRFF), is only the latest development in an ongoing process of finding the right business model for public transport operators in Singapore.

The move has brought most of the older MRT lines in line with that of the Downtown Line, which was the first to come under the NRFF in 2011. The LTA is now in discussions with SBS Transit, which operates the North-East Line and the Sengkang-Punggol LRT, on the transition of its operations to the NRFF.

Would the NRFF create the right environment for private sector participation in the rail industry?

High capital expenditure

Given the high capital expenditure needed, the rail industry tends to be a natural monopoly. When the first MRT lines — the North-South and East-West lines (NSEWL) — commenced in 1987, the government had invested heavily in the rail infrastructure and the first set of operating assets, and required the operator to accumulate funds from fare and non-fare revenues to fully replace operating assets when needed.

This first rail financing framework had worked well enough, as long as operating assets were not in immediate need of replacement or major upgrading.

The potential financial strains on MRT operators under the first financing framework were recognised by a landmark 1996 transport White Paper, which saw the need for a sustainable policy on asset replacement. The White Paper proposed that the government underwrite replacement costs above the historical value of the first set of operating assets.

In 1998, the operating assets of the NSEWL were transferred from the government to SMRT at net book value, or historical value less accumulated depreciation. This worked out to about S$1.2 billion (RM3.5 billion).

The NRFF was proposed in the 2008 Land Transport Master Plan, well before the major MRT breakdowns in December 2011.

Making accountability clear

The impact of the new framework reaches far beyond finances. By taking over the operating assets and leasing them to the operators, and shortening the licence period to 15 years, the LTA would be the sole provider of rail infrastructure and operating assets, while opening up the rail services segment to more competition.

Under the NRFF, the LTA would own, control and be financially responsible for the operating assets. This would make accountability and priorities between the LTA and the operators clearer.

A private operator would tend to under-invest, since it is unable to capture the positive externalities associated with a well-run rail system. For example, more reliable travel on the MRT would encourage more commuters to take the train and reduce congestion and pollution from private transport. But the operator would not enjoy any additional benefits since it would not be able to charge higher fares.

In comparison, the LTA could be expected to take timely action on expanding capacity, and replacing and upgrading the operating assets it now owns, such as trains and signalling systems. The operators would remain responsible for maintenance benchmarked to certain performance standards.

Maintenance of quality

Such an asset-light structure should in theory enable operators to focus primarily on the service quality and maintenance of the trains.

The government has also prudently earmarked licence charges to go into a Railway Sinking Fund that will cover future expenditure on operating assets. These charges are paid by the operators for the right to run the MRT and LRT lines. In the case of the Downtown Line, the accumulated payments were expected to total S$1.6 billion (RM4.7 billion) during its licence period from 2013 to 2032.

On the other hand, the NRFF has been prescriptive in moderating the revenue and profitability risks for the operators through adjustments to the licence charge.

According to the LTA, SMRT would be expected to achieve an operating margin of about five per cent across its fare and non-fare businesses. If actual revenues fell below certain percentages of revenue projected by the LTA (the revenue collar), the operator would pay less in the licence charge to LTA.

If the actual operating margin (measured by earnings before interest and taxes) rose above five per cent or fell below 3.5 per cent (profit cap and collar), the LTA would correspondingly share the excess or shortfall with the operator.

While this is likely intended to mitigate profit pressures faced by a listed firm, it also raises some concerns.

Revenue and profit

The revenue and profit sharing scheme could potentially curtail the private sector’s incentive to innovate or improve efficiency, or possibly create shortfalls in the Railway Sinking Fund.

The changes in the rail financing framework underscore the challenges of structuring a viable business model for the industry. In many jurisdictions, fare revenue alone often cannot cover the operating costs of a rail line, much less the hefty expenses of replacing operating assets.

With the transition to the NRFF, the rail industry would be more akin to the government bus contracting model. Under such a scheme, infrastructure and operating assets such as buses are owned by the LTA, and bus operators bid for the right to operate bus services.

Public-private sector partnership

The 1996 transpot White Paper pointed out that “the real issue is not who pays, but what system can best encourage fiscal prudence, individual financial discipline and efficient operations”.

In a public-private partnership, the risk-reward allocation needs to be finely balanced. Without the discipline of the market, the government has to arbitrate on what constitutes a reasonable profit for the operator.

Too little, and the operator becomes financially unsustainable; too much, and the government, and ultimately the public, needlessly subsidises the operator’s shareholders.

Almost 30 years after the launch of the first MRT line, the rail industry in Singapore is reinventing itself again.
— Today

Jean Chia is a researcher with the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy’s Case Studies Unit.

No winner in JDT v FAM-Ong

STILL reeling from the 10-0 drubbing suffered by the national team in a World Cup qualifying match against United Arab Emirates 10 months ago, football fans fear their hearts will be broken — yet again — when Harimau Malaysia play in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Cup in November.

After all, the national team’s goals have always been to win the SEA Games or AFF Cup and nothing beyond. Why so, one may ask? That is the standard of the team despite the millions spent over decades.

Plans of making an impact in the coming AFF Cup have been impaired after four Johor Darul Ta’zim players — Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Safiq Rahim, S. Kunalan and Amirulhadi Zainal — decided to walk out from Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s squad.

There are talks of “disagreements” between the national coach and his players. Ong refuted such claims on Monday.

How did this come about? It is an open secret JDT owner Tunku Ismail Ibrahim is not a big fan of Ong. He was critical of Ong’s appointment as national coach and took issue with the former international’s coaching methods.

Let’s retrace the episode.

Aidil Zafuan was the first to announce his resignation through the Southern Johor Tigers Facebook page followed by Safiq Rahim on July 12. Two days later Kunalan and Amirulhadi quit in similar fashion.

Question: Didn’t the professional footballers see the need to inform Ong or FAM about their decision? Would they do the same to their JDT bosses if they quit tomorrow? Would the sponsors now ditch the players?‎

On July 14, Tunku Ismail issued a statement on the same Facebook page. Signing off as the Crown Prince of Johor, he said: “… They (the national footballers) have to play for an organisation that never stands up for their well-being and they don’t even do anything when their compatriots don’t receive salaries from their respective clubs. They are playing for a president who never attends trainings or meetings. Playing for a leader who doesn’t even know their name and existence. Playing for an organisation that couldn’t care less when they get injured. I stand with the players. There are more players that want to take the same action as the JDT players have taken but are too scared of their superiors.”

Question: FAM president Tengku Abdullah Shah expressed his intention of quitting last November but his loyalists begged him to stay. How is FAM, the guardian of Malaysian football, supposed to function with its president is absent from meetings?‎

On Monday, Tunku Ismail issued another statement.

He said: “Here is a pen drive containing the information and activities within FAM, media personnel that FAM always uses including former footballers in Malaysia, the amount of money taken by the Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) and given to FAM, as well as a rubbish auditor’s report given to me by my high-ranking friends in Kuala Lumpur.”

Question: What are the “activities’’ within FAM? Who are the media personnel Tunku Ismail is referring to? What is the amount of money received by FMLLP and what does the auditor’s report say? Will Tunku Ismail lodge a report to the authorities?

Having written numerous articles regarding corruption in football and mismanagement of funds in sports, I am intrigued to find out the contents of the pen drive.

I have been critical over FAM’s task force — comprising the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission and police — as we have not seen a single bookie brought to justice since its establishment in 2012 despite repeated allegations of match-fixing in the M-League.

I am all for FAM adopting an open and transparent policy by making public its dealings, funds and how money is distributed to the affiliates. It’s not a Sdn Bhd and as such has no reason to hide such matters from the fans.

With evidence, ‎action can and must be taken.

Tunku Ismail also said: “I would like to remind you all that the rakyat’s money should be used for the rakyat only. Not for football and politics.”

No questions here. In this professional era, football teams must no longer rely on handouts from the state government. As for the people’s money used for politics, let’s save that for another day.

Some say Tunku Ismail should be the next FAM president, given his passion for the game. That can only happen if he obtains the support from the affiliates. If he helms FAM, he should sign off as FAM president and not as a member of the royal family. This would be in the spirit of sportsmanship and fair play.

Where do we go from here?

The verbal spat will not end soon. Even if Ong decides to quit, FAM will continue to receive flak.

We know FAM is still stuck in the past with no direction. We know no manager is capable of turning the current national team into regional champions. We know some officials are “very, very, very disappointing”. We demand to know those who abuse and corrupt the sport‎.

Instead of stating the obvious, let’s find a solution to this decades-long woe. The end game is to see the sport shine. FAM has plenty to learn and they could start by working with JDT.

FAM and its affiliates, must pay attention to the grassroots and work with schools. Let’s ensure there is no interference when it comes to selection of players. Read old reports, blueprints and articles as many recommendations made by professionals and veterans in the scene over the years, but never followed through.

If there is a need to weed out bad hats, get the authorities in and clean up the sport once and for all.

One thing for sure, this JDT v FAM-Ong match will have no winner.

HARESH is executive editor of Malay Mail. He can be reached at haresh@mmail.com.my or on Twitter

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Follow diphtheria booster schedule, says expert

PETALING JAYA — Booster diphtheria shots are an essential part of maintaining immunity after an initial vaccination has been administered.

Malaysian Society of Otorhinolaryngologists Head and Neck Surgeons president Prof Dr Goh Bee See said vaccinations should not be taken for granted and it is important to follow the recommended regime.

Referring to deputy health minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahya, who announced on Sunday, that the first adult diphtheria case in Negri Sembilan was a person who had been vaccinated, Dr Goh said vaccinations were not a one-off affair.

“Boosters or additional doses are necessary. One should not assume to be fully protected from a disease just because you had one dose.

“Certain vaccines lose their effectiveness over time and immunity decreases with age making people more susceptible to diseases of all kinds,” she said.

She said it was necessary for children to be vaccinated for diphtheria according to the Ministry of Health guidelines.

Diphtheria vaccination and boosters are given at different ages.

“Although this is often considered to be a disease that mainly affects children, adults with a poor immune system are also vulnerable.”

The adult diphtheria case in Negeri Sembilan was a 41-year-old housewife who sought treatment for a swollen throat as she had difficulty swallowing and talking.

As a preventive measure all those who had come into contact with her had been immunised, including medical staff and her family members.

Diphtheria is an acute bacterial disease that usually affects the tonsils, throat, nose and skin. It is transmitted by breathing in droplets that contain the bacteria when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

The disease can also be spread by contact with items such as drinking glasses and soiled tissue paper contaminated by discharges from an infected person.

Dr Goh, who is also the Ear, Nose, Throat consultant at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre, said diphtheria infection may mimic a cold with sore throat and mild fever.

“A typical sign of diphtheria infection is the thick greyish ‘membrane’ that forms over the throat leading to breathing problems and a swollen neck.

“Untreated diphtheria can occasionally result in heart failure, paralysis of some muscles or even death,” she said.

Dr Goh also said the current erratic weather pattern could interfere with the immune system and lead to increased risk of upper respiratory tract infections.

“Also those with suppressed immune systems such as those taking medication to prevent organ rejection or suffering from serious illnesses like cancer are at higher risk,” she said.

She said the disease morbidity and mortality rate among those rejecting vaccines was very high and urged parents to get their children vaccinated according to the ministry’s recommended schedule.

“People should stop deliberately putting themselves and others at risk”.

“Diphtheria, measles, mumps…these diseases are preventable with vaccines and there are large scale studies to prove the benefits of vaccination,” she said.

Dispose old mobile devices the right way

PETALING JAYA — A mobile E-waste campaign has been organised by Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) together with the industry to encourage and educate the public on the proper disposal of mobile phones.

In today’s fast-paced world, the frequency of advance technology is almost monthly.

However, many do not know that a mobile phone left untouched would start to produce discharges that would be hazardous to their health.

“Many are unaware of the hazardous effects on health and environment due to improper disposal of mobile devices,” said MCMC senior director of Technology and Society Division, Aisharuddin Nuruddin.

Among of the materials in the mobile phone are cadmium, lithium, mercury and lead which could lead to various health complications like lung disease, kidney damage, memory impairment, damage of the central nervous system and many others.

E-waste is a term used to cover items of all types of Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) that have been discarded. Aisharuddin said in Malaysia there are more than 65.7 million mobile phones considered as E-waste that may have ended in landfills or kept in our drawers.

“This is caused by the growing demand in the ICT industry and also the high obsolescence rate of ICT goods,” he said.

To date, there are 74 Mobile E-waste locations nationwide where the public can drop off their unused mobile devices to be sent to the recycler based in Penang. Those wanting more information regarding the locations can visit http://mobileewaste.mcmc.gov.my/en-us/home.

“The recycler would separate the parts of the mobile devices accordingly and the recovered materials will be used to manufacture new products,” he said.

US and Turkey on collision course over cleric

PETALING JAYA — The United States and a key ally, Turkey, appear to be on a collision course over an ageing cleric who is accused of plotting Friday’s failed coup. Who is he?

Who is this man in the centre of the US-Turkey spat?

Fethullah Gulen, 74, a reclusive but influential Turkish cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania for nearly two decades.

What are they fighting over?

Turkey wants Gulen extradited and warned that the US would be seen as an enemy if it failed to do so. Washington wants substantive evidence of him spearheading the revolt.

Isn’t this an unusual exchange between two “friends”?

It exposed longstanding tensions between the two governments over a range of issues spanning civil liberties, governance and the international campaign against the Islamic State, which were forced to the surface in the wake of the coup attempt.

Is Gulen in a bitter struggle with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?

Gulen says the claims are blown out of proportion while Erdogan feels the Islamic scholar is out to wrest power through his 50-year-old Hizmet (“Service”) movement that has witnessed four military coups and emerged stronger largely by staying out of party politics.

Does it have a big role in Turkish politics?

Yes. Now more than at any time in history. Since its inception in Turkey as a congregation, Gulen’s movement has grown into a national network connecting businesses, schools and media. It has become a global social movement in more than 150 countries.

What led to its global reach?

Hizmet’s expansion coincided with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Its participants were already establishing themselves in Azerbaijan — culturally close to Turkey — before the collapse of USSR.

What’s Hizmet’s focus?

It does not fit into the usual categories for Islamic movements. Its focus is not on building a traditional Islamic state or reviving the Islamic “golden age”.

Instead the movement looks to the future and strives to educate a “Golden Generation” of Muslims to change the world.

What is their approach to reforming Turkish society?

Both men have different approaches to reforming Turkish society. While Erdogan seeks a top-down Islamisation of society through control of the state, Gulen’s vision is to be more active at grassroots level right across society.

Has that stance worked for Gulen?

It has led to a generation of Gulen sympathisers occupying influential positions in the Turkish state, media and business community.

That influence from within has become increasingly challenging for Erdogan, as he wants to govern Turkey with iron discipline, amid turbulent times both domestically and in the region.

Would it be easy to uproot the movement in Turkey?

While this is another struggle between a statesman and an Islamic scholar, this time the Islamic network is international, with many followers. It would not be easy for Erdogan to uproot the movement in Turkey, let alone across the globe.

26 generals in jail as PM warns against revenge

ISTANBUL — Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim yesterday warned against exacting revenge on supporters of the failed coup, as Ankara arrested top generals in a relentless crackdown that has sparked global alarm.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the coup bid, which left more than 300 dead on all sides, as a treacherous bid to oust him from power devised from the US compound of his arch-enemy, exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

But with the authorities detaining over 7,500 people so far in a massive legal crackdown and sacking almost 9,000 people, Turkey’s EU and Nato allies have urged Ankara to keep the rule of law in place.

Erdogan’s suggestion that the death penalty could be reinstated has sent shudders through Europe and sparked warnings it would be the nail in the coffin of its already embattled bid to join the EU.

An Ankara court late on Monday placed under arrest 26 former generals suspected of planning Friday’s attempted power grab, including former air force chief General Akin Ozturk, whom some Turkish media have painted as the mastermind of the plot.

The generals have now been put behind bars ahead of their trials, a date for which has not been set.

They have been charged with crimes including seeking to overturn the constitutional order, leading an armed group and seeking to assassinate the president.

In his statement to prosecutors, Ozturk denied he was the coup ringleader. “I am not the person who planned or led the coup. Who planned it and directed it, I do not know,” he said.

Turkey’s treatment of the suspects has alarmed its allies after some were paraded before the media and shown being subjected to rough treatment.

Anadolu published images of Ozturk and other suspects on the stairs inside the Ankara courthouse, staring blankly into the camera with their hands tied behind their backs.

Ozturk has looked tired and haggard, with one of his ears heavily bandaged.

Images have also emerged of government supporters physically attacking coup backers when they were detained.

“Nobody can have a feeling of revenge. This is unacceptable in a state governed by rule of law,” Yildirim said after meeting secular opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

The interior ministry said almost 9,000 people, including nearly 8,000 police but also municipal governors and other officials, had also been dismissed in a widening purge.

Yildirim said Turkey had sent four dossiers to the United States over Gulen’s alleged links to the overthrow plot.

Erdogan told CNN in his first media interview since the coup bid that he would approve any decision by parliament to reintroduce capital punishment.

“There is a clear crime of treason,” he said.

Erdogan has remained in Istanbul since he flew back on Saturday to the city from the holiday resort of Marmaris where he was staying when the coup struck. It was unclear when he would be returning to the capital Ankara. — AFP

Trump’s wife walks into plagiarism controversy

CLEVELAND — Melania Trump — until now only a minor presence on the campaign trail — found herself in the midst of an embarrassing plagiarism controversy after a prime-time defence of her husband Donald that appeared to be lifted in part from a speech given by Michelle Obama.

No sooner had the poised, 46-year-old former model delivered her speech to cheering delegates at the Republican National Convention on Monday than the unmistakeable similarities to a passage from Obama’s speech to the 2008 Democratic convention came to light.

In both passages, the women are introducing themselves to the American public by speaking of the values that have shaped their lives.

Trump swiftly came to Melania’s defence, without acknowledging any plagiarism.

“It was truly an honour to introduce my wife, Melania. Her speech and demeanor were absolutely incredible. Very proud!” the billionaire tweeted.

His senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, issued a statement that sidestepped the plagiarism question while not denying it.

“In writing her beautiful speech, Melania’s team of writers took notes on her life’s inspirations, and in some instances included fragments that reflected her own thinking,” he said.

“Melania’s immigrant experience and love for America shone through in her speech, which made it such a success.”

The speech was the highlight of a chaotic opening day of a Republican convention that was set to formally nominate her husband as the party’s presidential candidate later this week.

A beaming Trump personally introduced his glamorous, European-born wife to the cheering delegates gathered in Cleveland, breaking with tradition by appearing before his actual nomination.

It was a prime opportunity for the potential first lady to step out of her husband’s shadow and tell her immigrant story before the thousands of delegates in the hall, and millions of Americans at home watching on television.

She used the occasion to take some of the rough edges off her combative husband, who has roiled the campaign trail with inflammatory attacks on Muslims, Mexicans and his many political rivals.

“He’s tough when he has to be, but he’s also kind and fair and caring,” she said, describing her husband as “intensely loyal” to family, friends, employees and the country.

“If you want someone to fight for you and your country, I can assure you, he’s the guy.”

Born Melanija Knavs in Slovenia — then part of Yugoslavia — to a fashion-industry mother and a car-salesman father, she studied design and architecture before leaving for Milan and Paris to launch her modelling career.

That brought her to the United States in 1996, where two years later she met Donald Trump. She later became his third wife.

On Monday night, she said becoming a US citizen, in 2006, was “the greatest privilege on planet earth”.

Her American experience has certainly been far removed from that of the average immigrant.

Her Twitter account — inactive since Trump declared his candidacy — reflects the privileged lifestyle of a jet-setter travelling between a lavish New York apartment and residences in Florida.

She has tweeted photographs from high-society gatherings and major sporting events, as well as recollections of her red-carpet saunters and charity functions. In each image, Melania appears impeccably dressed.

When Donald and Melania married in January 2005 in Florida, the cost of her Dior dress was estimated at US$200,000 (RM802,210).

Among the invited celebrities was Hillary Clinton, this year’s likely Democratic presidential nominee.AFP

What Michelle said

“And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.

“And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

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