Member calls for early sex education

KUALA LUMPUR — Puteri Umno delegate Norrul Huda Marsidin urged the government to introduce sex education at early stage. “It is important to teach children as early as preschool to create awareness. I want the government to review Section 377E of the Penal Code on inciting a child to an act of gross indecency,” she said during the Umno general assembly yesterday. The current law states any person who incites a child under the age of 14 to any act of gross indecency could be jailed up to five years. “I suggest the age should be increased to 17, and hopes the government could find a new approach or laws relating to child pornography. “The internet makes it easy to cross the line, therefore it is important to be more vigilant when posting our kids pictures on social media.” She said the government and NGOs should organise more programmes to educate the public about not leaving their kids alone. “The case where Nurin Jazlin was sexually assaulted and killed in 2007 while cycling from a night market should not be taken lightly. Nurul Huda Abdul Ghani who was raped and killed in 2004 was a disgusting crime.”

Urban, rural members strike a balance

KUALA LUMPUR — Although delegates at the general assembly concurred with one another, there remained a striking contrast between urban and rural participants. Cheras division Youth head Johari Yazid, 38, is largely in agreement with sentiments expressed throughout the AGM. “Most spoke succinctly and with clarity, particularly on the importance of sticking to one’s guns and remaining loyal to the party leadership,” he said. However, Johari felt issues concerning the economy and cost of living ought to have been elaborated a bit more, for the sake of members and the general public. He said it was also necessary to be frank and emphasise on the economic difficulties faced by Umno’s rank and file. “This will allow public to see for themselves that the party has their interests at heart and will struggle for them, not just for the Malay community but for all Malaysians,” he said. In contrast, Arau division Umno Wanita committee member Melisia Che Mat, 54, from Perlis, is not as worried as she says the rural constituents are largely self-sufficient. “This year’s AGM focusing on the proposed 30 per cent new candidates for the GE, closing ranks from within the party with sound and good ideals.”

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Najib: Best gathering ever

KUALA LUMPUR — Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak declared the just concluded party general assembly as the best since he first attended in 1976.

He said the party had regrouped and become stronger after the departure of several seniors, including former deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

“From 1976 until now, I have attended every single assembly without fail, and I can say this is the best assembly to date,” he said in his winding-up speech at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here yesterday.

Najib said the party now had a strong and committed line-up and he praised the loyalty of his colleagues, especially vice-president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

“I always believe in his loyalty. He can stand behind me and I would not have to look over my shoulders.”

Najib, who is also prime minister, said the party was prepared to face the coming general election.

“We should not lose our direction and make sure we emerge victorious like we did in Sarawak, Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar,” he said.

“We have won in student unions of higher learning institution and Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC).

“But let us remind ourselves that history may not necessarily repeat itself.

“Only through working as a team at all levels can we ensure Umno and Barisan Nasional will win again.”

Najib said party members should not be sidetracked by the party polls as the focus should be on winning the general election.

He said the opposition parties were inciting the rakyat by creating stories with guns aimed at him as party president.

“We should not accept such stories without checking the truth. There are also plenty of stories about Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad,” he said.

Zahid: Task force to probe
allegations of foreign intervention

KUALA LUMPUR — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said the government has established a federal task force to investigate allegations of foreign intervention to unseat the ruling government.

“The task force will have representatives from the police, the Attorney Generals Chambers, Bank Negara Malaysia and the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commision to identify the culprit,” Zahid said in his winding-up speech at the Putra World Trade Centre.

He said the party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave him a mandate to identify the ones who received money to topple a democratically elected government.

“Foreign intervention would give a detrimental effect to a democratic country like Malaysia,” he said.

“Based on intelligence reports, several non-governmental organisations were involved namely Suaram, Bersih, Bar Council, Malaysiakini and Sarawak Report.”

Zahid also said as the home minister, he is responsible for the matter, and as such he would get to the bottom of it.

He said Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah admitted in 2011 that she received aid from George Soros demanding a clean and just election.

Zahid claimed some of the organisations here have been influenced by the Centre for Applied Non Violent Action Strategies (Canvas) to accomplish revolution without violence — by planning and developing strategies to oust a democratically elected government.

He also said they wanted to take part in the “Colour Movement”, a concept founded by Gene Sharp, through the Albert Einstein Institute, which received money from the National Endowment for Democracy, International Republic Institute, George Soros Foundation and the Open Society Foundations (OSF).

He said the Colour Movement activities had been carried out in Libya, Syria and Ukraine among others.

He also pledged his 100 per cent loyalty to the president Najib, and was committed to carrying out duties to make sure the country continue living
in harmony.

“My president is only one, I will pledge my undivided loyalty to him,” he said.

Earlier, members were reminded against harbouring doubts or questions, but remained committed to sacrifice for the party.

In his closing speech to delegates and observers of the Umno Annual General Meeting (AGM) yesterday, vice-president Datuk Seri Hishamuddin expressed relief in the party being on the right track once again, compared to last year’s AGM.

“Those who chose to attend left behind their doubts and confusion, choosing to always remain with Umno. They spoke to each other with warmth and friendliness, lacking preconceptions and skepticism for one another,” he said.

Hishamuddin also took the opportunity to pay tribute to nation’s soldiers and veterans, lionising them as true example of duty and willingn to sacrifice.

“With pleasure I report the collections for the Hero’s Fund (Tabung Pahlawan) this year has reached RM2.8 million and counting, compared to RM1.5 million last year,” he said to widespread applause.

Support Act 355 for greater unity, says Terengganu delegate

KUALA LUMPUR — Setiu Umno delegate Mohd Iskandar Jaafar said rakyat should not politicise Shariah courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 as Umno is serious in empowering shariah act for the benefit of Islam.

“Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stand on Act 355 has been consistent. Why must Muslims be blamed for wanting to empower the Islamic legal system?” he asked.

Iskandar, who is also Terengganu Youth chief, said Islam is the official religion in Malaysia, and it is up to the government to amend the Shariah courts for upholding the religion.

Iskandar also lamented certain quarters who oppose the Shariah courts even without knowing the subject well.

“What I don’t understand is the people who oppose Act 355 are Muslims,” he said, adding that non-Muslims should respect it as it is an Islamic law.

Iskandar also said by empowering the Shariah courts it would help curb the rising crime rate in the country.

The bill was moved by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang on May 26.

The bill seeks to empower Islamic courts to enforce punishment, except for the death penalty, provided in Shariah laws for Islamic offences listed under state jurisdiction in the Federal Constitution.

Shariah court punishments are currently limited to jail terms not exceeding three years, whipping of not more than six strokes or fines of not more than RM5,000.

Meanwhile, Kuala Krai Umno committee member Datuk Syed Ibrahim Syed Ahmad proposed the best approach to unite Muslims in Malaysia is to extend cooperation with other parties (that share the same path and direction) for the benefit of Islam.

“First Umno and its leadership need to find a feasible approach to unite Muslims based on Ta’waaun as explained in the holy Quran to work together for the greater good of all,” he said.

“Secondly, Pahang Umno also urged the federal government to continue being committed to empowering the shariah courts institution in our country,”
he said.

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Grieving Chapeco receives coffins of air crash footballers

CHAPECO (Brazil) — The Brazilian town of Chapeco, its buildings draped in the green colours of its devastated football club, prepared yesterday to receive the bodies of victims of an air disaster in Colombia that killed 71 people and wiped out the team.

The crash on Monday night shocked fans worldwide and plunged Brazil, South America’s biggest nation, into mourning. The regional airliner operated by Bolivian charter company LaMia had radioed it was running out of fuel before smashing into a hillside outside the Colombian city of Medellin.

Only six survived, including three members of Chapecoense football club en route to the Copa Sudamericana final, the biggest game in its history.

Reports in Brazilian media that the plane, which circled outside Medellin for 16 minutes while another aircraft made an emergency landing, had barely enough fuel for the flight from Bolivia have outraged relatives of the victims.

Bolivian President Evo Morales pledged to take “drastic measures” to determine what caused the crash. Bolivia has suspended LaMia’s operating licence and replaced the national aviation authority’s management.

In Chapeco, a small agricultural town in southern Brazil, dozens of fans kept vigil at Chapecoense’s stadium, where an impromptu shrine swelled with fresh flowers and handmade posters. Green and black cloth was draped from fences, store fronts and construction sites.

Sidnei de Oliveira Dias, 25, said an open air wake at the stadium would provide a moment of closure for a town whose excitement at Wednesday night’s Cup final had turned to anguish.

Some 100,000 fans, about half the city’s population, were expected to attend the wake, as was Fifa president Gianni Infantino. Temporary structures in the stadium will shelter the coffins of players, staff and journalists during the wake.

“We’re still waiting for our heroes to return,” Dias said. “We still can’t believe it. Though now we know they’re never coming back.”

Brazilian President Michel Temer will preside over a brief ceremony at the airport, where he was due to posthumously decorate the victims and offer condolences to their families.

However, he will not attend the wake in the stadium, amid concerns over possible political protests, his advisers said.

In response to outpourings of support from football fans and clubs around the globe, Chapecoense hung a huge black banner from the outer wall of its stadium.

“We looked for one word to thank all the kindness and we found many,” it read, followed by the words “thank you” in more than a dozen languages.

Workers laid out giant banners on the field, decorated with white flowers, carrying the logos of Chapecoense and Atletico Nacional, the Colombian team that held a memorial ceremony on Wednesday instead of hosting the Cup final.

Cleusa Eichner, 52, said: “I can still see those players entering with their kids in their arms. I’d rather keep that image in my head, hold on to that happiness, than replace it with nothing.”

Brazilian media, citing an internal document, reported that an official at Bolivia’s aviation agency raised concerns about LaMia’s flight plan.

The official urged the airline to come up with an alternative route because the journey of 4 hours and 22 minutes was the same length as the plane’s maximum flight range.

A Colombian civil aviation document confirmed the flight time was set to be 4 hours and 22 minutes.

LaMia chief executive officer Gustavo Vargas on Wednesday said the plane had been correctly inspected before departure and should have had enough fuel for about four-and-a-half hours. He said it was the pilot’s responsibility to decide whether to stop to refuel.

The pilot’s father-in-law, Roger Pinto Molina, who lives in Brazil, apologised to the Brazilian people in an interview with GloboNews.

“We want to say to millions of Brazilians, especially the families, sons, parents and brothers in Chapeco that we are very sorry,” Molina said. — Reuters

Indonesian police plane believed to have crashed

JAKARTA — A twin-engine Indonesian police plane went missing yesterday with 15 people on board en route to the island of Batam, south of Singapore, police and rescue authorities said, as search teams scoured the area.

The plane, which took off from Pangkal Pinang on the island of Bangka at around 9.30am, is thought to have crashed between the islands of Mensanak and Sebangka or Gentar, a police report seen by Reuters said.

A search team recovered items apparently identified as being from the missing aircraft, including seats, luggage and documents, the report said, noting that according to the manifest there were 15 people on board.

According to Indonesia’s Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), items belonging to passengers had also been found.

“We found debris,” Basarnas chief Bambang Soelistyo said, adding his team was searching in a 686 square kilometre area.

Soelistyo said it was too soon to assume there were no survivors although there were no reports of survivors found.

Up to four police vessels were searching the area, he said, along with navy vessels.

According to a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), the last known radar position of the aircraft was about 64km southeast of Tanjung Pinang.

“With clearance from the Indonesian authorities, one Super Puma helicopter and one Fokker 50 are currently on-scene supporting the Indonesians to locate the aircraft,” the statement said.

“Two ships are awaiting clearance by the Indonesian authorities to assist in the search and rescue efforts.” — Reuters

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Search not over,
say next of kin

SEPANG — Just over 1,000 days after MH370 went off the radar, seven next of kin of passengers aboard the flight have embarked on a journey to a remote part of the Indian Ocean to draw attention among locals to debris from the aircraft.

Lawyer Grace Nathan was among those who left for Madagascar yesterday. They will be joined by French national Ghyslain Wattrelos, 52, whose wife and children were on MH370, when they arrive in Antananarivo early tomorrow.

Making an emotional plea to the authorities and investigators, Grace said the next of kin had no choice but to make the long and difficult trip in an effort to jump start investigations.

“This is a response to the inaction by the authorities… months after significant debris was found in the area, nothing has been done and no one has been sent to collect what has been found,” she said.

“Just because the 120,000 square kilometre search is winding down, it does not mean the search is over. It is not over till we get the answers,” she said, referring to current search efforts off the Australian coast.

Grace, whose mother Anne Daisy was on board, was accompanied by two China nationals — Jiang Hui, 43, whose mother was also aboard, and Bai Shuan Fu, 48, — whose wife was one of the passengers.

Lawyer turned investigator Blaine Alan Gibson will also join the group and lend his experience of operating in the area.

While acknowledging the capabilities of the small party scouring the beaches of Madagascar till Dec 11 and Mauritius from Dec 12 to Dec 16 were limited, Grace said the effort had already borne fruit.

“On hearing of our trip, the Transport Ministry is sending a team to collect debris found on the island on Monday (tomorrow),” she said.

“We do not want to antagonise the authorities, but it would mean so much to us if they kept us in the loop and showed us they were taking the investigation seriously.”

MH370 next of kin have repeatedly complained about the lack of a coordinated search in the area despite the recovery of several pieces of debris which were either confirmed or declared highly likely to have come from MH370.

Grace said once in Madagascar, relatives would distribute brochures educating villagers on how to identify plane debris.

“We want to reach far and wide in Madagascar, from coastal communities to villages in an effort to get them to turn in any debris they find.

“We also want to speak to as many non-governmental organisations as possible,” she said, adding the brochures had been printed in English and French, the predominant language spoken on the island.

The group left shortly after the press conference during which Grace recited a poem written by India national K.S. Narendran, whose wife Chandrika Sharma was on MH370.

The first piece of debris found from MH370, a two-metre wing part called a flaperon, washed up on the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion in July last year.

Since then, a range of debris linked to the flight has been found along western Indian Ocean shorelines.

MH370 disappeared on route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014, with all 239 passengers and crew aboard.

The aircraft changed course and altitude several times before heading deep into the southern Indian Ocean.

Gibson: Rough trip no deterrent to get answers

PETALING JAYA — Poor roads, shoddy infrastructure, difficult terrain and an exhausting journey await the next-of-kin of those on aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, said Blaine Alan Gibson.

The former lawyer turned modern day “Indiana Jones” told Malay Mail he would offer everything he could in terms of support to the next-of-kin making the trip to Madagascar.

“I have described the conditions out here… how they may end up spending hours on boats or on the rough roads, any time they are not flying is going to be rough.

“The roads in Madagascar don’t run along the coast despite what the maps show. The roads are not the kind most people are used to and mandate a four-wheel drive,” he said.

Regardless of the daunting journey, Gibson said the next-of-kin had expressed their willingness to work around any difficulty.

“The family members have not been put off, they have been through just too much over the past 1,000 odd days to have anything hold them back.

“They do not care if it will be difficult as they have already been through so much. Few people can relate to the terrible experience they have had,” he said.

Gibson also described the trip and his role in it as an event that had come to be very personal to him.

“I have got to know the next-of-kin since starting on this journey, and they have become closer than friends, they are family to me.

“And just like them, I want answers, to get to the bottom of this and find out what exactly happened and get closure,” he said.

The next-of-kin have repeatedly said the authorities had not taken the discovery of debris in the Southwestern Indian Ocean seriously.

Gibson said among the locations that will be covered by the group are Antananarivo, Toamasina and Riake Beach with more locations on the cards as the situation permitted.

“What can be achieved in eight days will of course be limited by the transport network and the size of the area.

“This is about drawing attention to the fact that no official search effort has been conducted despite the mounting pile of debris washing up here,” he said.

Thousands of miles away

Thousands of miles away Shores thousands of miles away from where the last goodbye was heard. I did not imagine that so, so few debris would be recovered after this long a wait. I did not imagine that someday I would write “No debris today” and feel relieved. I did not imagine that it would be the same status update for most days since that day in early 2014. I did not imagine that a search will continue only where the plane is believed to have gone down, and not in parts where the parts and pieces of it show up. I did not imagine that rich nations of G-something or the other will cavil about allocations for search and investigation. I did not imagine that we would be arguing about my dollar or yours when it could be your life or mine the next time. I did not imagine that we would make a trip to pick the pieces when we trusted our governments to do this on our behalf. I did not imagine that we would have love and support from thousands for whom our loss has been theirs. I did not imagine that a “Thank you” to all would seem so inadequate, yet it is the best there is to give.

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