Purple joy as Prince’s hometown bids farewell

SAINT PAUL (Minnesota) — Prince was remembered as an ingenious artist and closet humanitarian but mostly as the provider of decades of joy as artists flocked to his native Minnesota for his sole public memorial on Thursday.

The long-planned concert, taking place nearly six months after Prince’s sudden death from an accidental painkiller overdose, opened unexpectedly with a tribute from President Barack Obama.

“Thank you, Prince, for all the great works you have done. You will be in our hearts forever,” Obama, a fan of The Purple One who invited him to play the White House, said in a brief video message.

Staying true to Prince’s legacy of infectious funk music, the concert spent little time on tearful remembrances.

Instead, a parade of singers close to Prince took turns on his hits before a purple sea of 20,000 dancing fans at the XCel Energy Arena in Minnesota’s capital Saint Paul.

As Chaka Khan, who revived her career as the queen of funk with an assist from Prince, sang her signature song I Feel For You, she brought to the stage soul legend Stevie Wonder, who accompanied on harmonica.

Wonder, whom Prince cited as a role model, sported a purple shirt under his suit as he joined Khan on another feel-good anthem, 1999.

Setting the joyous tone, Prince’s ex-wife, the choreographer Mayte Garcia, came out in a leopard-print dress and matching bikini top, performing an elegant belly-dance in which she balanced a sword on her head.

The Middle Eastern beat morphed into Prince’s 7. Garcia did not address the crowd, letting her feelings be known with a beaming smile instead.

Delighting an audience made up mostly of local fans, the concert opened with Morris Day, Prince’s childhood friend in Minneapolis who played his rival in the classic 1984 film Purple Rain.

Day led his band The Time in funky tracks including his best-known, Jungle Love, which Prince co-wrote under a pseudonym.

Prince spent his life around his hometown Minneapolis, which is adjacent to Saint Paul, with his funk style becoming known as the “Minneapolis Sound.”

He died on April 21 at his suburban Paisley Park compound, which last week opened up to tourists for the first time as his estate seeks to ensure financial stability. — AFP


Writers divided on whether Dylan deserves Nobel prize

PARIS — To say singer Bob Dylan’s lifting of the Nobel prize for literature came as a shock to the literary establishment is something of an understatement.

With the Syrian poet Adonis and the Kenyian novelist and critic Ngugi Wa Thiong’o widely seen as favourites if not shoo-ins, Dylan’s triumph sparked a mixture of horror, head scratching and elation.

“Dylan’s name has often been mentioned over the past few years but we always thought it was a joke,” said French novellist Pierre Assouline, who could not hide his fury at the Nobel committee.

“Their decision is contemptuous of writers,” he said.

“I like Dylan but where is the (literary) work? I think the Swedish Academy have made themselves look ridiculous.”

With three of the giants of American letters — Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates and Don De Lillo — still waiting for the Nobel nod, and past greats such as Jorge Luis Borges ignored in their lifetimes, other writers were also quick to put the boot in.

Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh of Trainspotting fame took to Twitter to skewer the choice of the 75-year-old folk singer.

“I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill-conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies,” he wrote.

The Indian-born British novelist Salman Rushdie — often cited as a possible Nobel winner himself — was rather more magnanimous.

“Great choice,” he tweeted. “From Orpheus to (the Pakistani poet) Faiz, song and poetry have been closely linked,” he adding, echoing the statement of the Nobel jury.

“Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition.”

Oates too, a fervent social media user, implied she had not been waiting with bated breath for a call from Oslo. She congratulated Dylan saying he was “an inspired and original choice”.

“His haunting music and lyrics have always seemed, in the deepest sense, ‘literary’,” she tweeted.

However, she went on to say the Beatles would have been “equally deserving … if one is thinking of quasi-pop music icons.”

“Recall,” she added, “Bob Dylan named himself for great 20th-century poet Dylan Thomas, who did not win the Nobel but might well have, like Robert Frost.”

Sixties legend singer Marianne Faithfull could not contain her pride at Dylan’s victory, telling AFP she was “very proud” of her old friend.

“I think he’s one of the greatest artists in the world and he’s changed our whole lives with his writing and his poetry.”

And she was scornful of the writers criticising the choice. “I think they’re ridiculous,” she said.

Dylan’s victory, however, raises questions about what constitutes literature.

Must it still be confined to poetry and fiction given that last year’s Nobel winner was journalist Svetlana Alexievich? Or should the definition also been extended to all those who like Dylan use language to play with the emotions?

For the acclaimed Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou, literature’s frontiers can be more elastic.

“The purists and the begrudgers will certainly scream sacrilege (that Dylan won), and claim a slackness of thinking on the part of the Nobel academy,” he said.

“But I am happy literature has also recognised the lyric, in the poetic sense of the term,” said the Los Angeles-based novellist.

But having said he was “satisfied” Dylan deserved the Nobel, he said the late great French songwriter “Georges Brassens should have too”.

The novellist Philippe Margotin, co-author of the international bestseller Bob Dylan All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track”, is in no doubt the author of Like a Rolling Stone is “the great living poet of 20th-century America”.

He claimed Dylan’s literary credentials were impeccable.

“He was an avid reader of (19th-century) poets Arthur Rimbaud and William Blake. And naturally he was inspired by the poets of the Beat Generation.

“Of the 500 songs he has written, some are less musically important, but every time the text is absolutely sublime,” he insisted.

Nevertheless, Dylan has been often criticised for the opacity of much of his work, which sometimes can seem so personal as to defy interpretation.

As a writer in the traditional sense, his output has been rather sparse. Dylan wrote a collection of stream of consciousness poetry called Tarantula at the height of his fame, which got a critical mauling when it was published in 1971.

He had a warmer reception for his bestselling Chronicles in 2005, the first part of what was billed as three-part memoir. His millions of fans are still waiting for the final two installments to appear. — AFP

See also page 19


Myanmar crackdown widens as terrified residents flee

SITTWE ― Terrified residents fled northern Myanmar yesterday, thousands evacuating on foot and others airlifted out by helicopter, as troops hunted through torched villages for those behind attacks on police that have raised fears Rakhine state could again be torn apart.

Local officials believe a series of attacks on police posts along the Bangladesh border this week that sparked the crisis were planned for months by hundreds of people from inside the region, home to many from the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority.

Dozens of people have died in clashes with troops after the military locked down the area, sparking fears of a repeat of 2012 when sectarian clashes ripped through Rakhine leaving more than 100 dead and driving tens of thousands into displacement camps.

Families streamed down the roads around Maungdaw town on foot on Thursday, their worldly possessions stuffed into carrier bags and plastic buckets or strapped to the front of bicycle rickshaws.

Around 180 teachers, workers and residents were airlifted out of the region at the epicentre of the crisis, while hundreds of government staff poured into the state capital Sittwe fleeing the mounting unrest.

On the ground in Maungdaw, an AFP journalist reported seeing clouds of smoke billowing from a village Thursday near charred remains of two dozen bamboo houses that the military said “terrorists” had torched the previous day.

Troops have killed 26 people since deadly raids on border posts Sunday, according to state media. Nine police died that night, and four more soldiers have lost their lives in ensuing clashes.

Most residents in northern Rakhine are Rohingya, a stateless minority branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by many from Myanmar’s Buddhist majority.

Witnesses say troops have used investigations of Sunday’s attacks as an excuse for a crackdown against them, gunning down unarmed Muslim civilians in the street. The military say they have been defending themselves from armed attackers.

Rakhine state government spokesman Min Aung said the border post assailants had spent months plotting the raids, which were originally intended to hit as many as seven targets.

“There are about 200 to 300 currently in the group,” he told reporters in Sittwe, declining to explain how he knew. “According to our interrogations of those we have arrested, they initially planned to attack six or seven locations.”

Authorities have given scant details of who was behind the attacks, though officials have publicly pointed the finger at Rohingya insurgents and privately blamed Bangladeshi groups across the border.

The military said late Thursday troops had captured a fifth suspect, along with a gun, ammunition and flags featuring the logo of the RSO, a Rohingya militant group founded in the 80s and long considered defunct. The RSO vigorously denied the accusations in an email to AFP.

The escalating unrest in Rakhine poses a major challenge for the country’s new elected government, led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Nobel laureate has faced international criticism for not doing more to help the Rohingya, and on Wednesday she vowed to follow the rule of law when investigating the border guard attacks.

The commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s army, Min Aung Hlaing, has sought to play down the violence, saying the “current issues in Rakhine were not brought about by religious conflict”. ― AFP

Rockets hit Turkish tourist town

ISTANBUL — Two rockets, apparently aimed at a fuel tanker, hit a fish store and open ground near a resort town in the province of Antalya in southern Turkey yesterday and did not cause any casualties, the privately owned Dogan news agency reported.

It said the rockets were fired from a mountainous area near the road between the city of Antalya and the resort town of Kemer. Ambulances and special forces police were sent to the area.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible, but Kurdish and far-left militants have staged similar attacks, mostly against the security forces, in the past.

Three Turkish soldiers were wounded in an armed attack on their military vehicle near Antalya in August. — Reuters


This bus ain’t going nowhere

This bus ain’t going nowhere

Thirty-five foreign workers were injured when the bus they were travelling in crashed into a divider and landed on its side in Putrajaya yesterday. The construction workers were travelling from the Putrajaya International Convention Centre towards Alamanda when the accident took place about 7.30am. The victims are receiving treatment at Putrajaya Hospital. — Picture by Bernama

PKR-PAS cooperation desperate move, says Amanah

PETALING JAYA — Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) raises concern over Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) political cooperation with PAS in Selangor which it describes as a desperate act to retain the state in the next general election.

Amanah communications director Khalid Samad said PKR strongly believed it needed PAS’ support to retain Selangor.

“I am sure PKR needs our support and may be forced to allow us and PAS to contest for the same seats in Selangor,” he said.

“PKR cannot abandon us in favour of PAS because we are part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition.”

Khalid also did not discount the possibility of him facing three-cornered fights in the next general election.

“We tried to iron out our differences with PAS before, to have straight fights in the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections, but to no avail,” he said.

Khalid said he did not think PAS would extend its cooperation to Amanah and DAP, adding that PAS would rather go alone in the next general election.

Meanwhile, PKR vice-president Tian Chua downplayed the issue and was confidence that the planned straight fights would be a reality if the Opposition was united.

“I am sure PKR would still maintain its cooperation with PAS and we would continue to work for the benefit of the people in Selangor.”

He also said the Opposition needed to learn from mistakes as the constant fighting would only be detrimental to the pact.

“We have to show that we are ready for straight fights and agree to a ceasefire. We should move as a united front in all our efforts to seek victory in the next general election,” he said.

PAS vice-president Idris Ahmad said the party would not cooperate with DAP or Amanah again, and is willing to face three-cornered fights in the general election.

“We do not want to repeat our mistakes. We have promised to safeguard Islam as our main agenda,” he said.

Idris said the cooperation with DAP in the previous general election was based on the consensus of the three parties for political cooperation.

“We would never work with our former comrades who betrayed the party (referring to Amanah),” he said.

The issue of seat allocations remains a thorny issue for Pakatan Harapan, especially when DAP had pledged to give Amanah to contest eight state seats currently held by PAS.

Selangor DAP chairman Tony Pua said the party was now preparing to place its candidates in eight state seats — Taman Templer, Lembah Jaya, Paya Jaras, Sri Serdang, Meru, Chempaka, Dusun Tua and Tanjung Sepat.

Ku Nan: Build low rental houses

KUALA LUMPUR — The Federal Territories Ministry plans to create cheap rental homes specifically for youth with low income.

Its minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, or Ku Nan, said the project was aimed to help the targeted group with rentals between RM50 and RM80 a month.

“This is to make it affordable for those working in Kuala Lumpur with low salaries, especially those in the services industry such as hotels and restaurants,” he said.

“We plan to build units at 650 sq ft each with three rooms, bathrooms and a dining hall. The apartment will be located near LRT stations and have parking for motorcyles,” he said after the breaking ground ceremony for Pantai Sentral Park interchange here on Thursday.

The interchange is estimated to cost RM52 million and it is a 2.8km link that will connect the 23.4ha Pantai Sentral Park mixed-development and Pantai Dalam or Kerinchi area to the New Pantai Expressway.

It is expected to ease traffic congestion in the city by 30 per cent and it is expected to be completed in February 2018. The project is jointly developed by Amona Development Sdn Bhd and IJM Land Berhad.

Tengku Adnan requested both the developers to build 896 affordable houses — with the price tag of below RM245,000 a unit — to enable the public to own houses in Pantai Sentral Park.


Emergency response centres on standby for king tide

KLANG — Residents in coastal and low lying areas are assured measures are in place and relevant agencies are prepared to respond to emergencies in the wake of the king tide phenomenon expected this weekend.

Deputy Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Hamim Samuri said repair works to bunds and ramparts, elevated to prevent flooding have been constructed by the Drainage and Irrigation Department in villages affected by the same phenomenon last month.

“The department has also provided 21 pumps to draw out the spillover water from the sea,” he said after inspecting the repair works on bunds and embankments in Kampung Sungai Serdang and Kampung Tok Muda in Kapar, yesterday.

The Selangor Disaster Management Committee forecast a rise in sea levels to be at its highest — almost 5.7 metres — between tomorrow and Wednesday, causing some coastal areas to be at risk of flooding.

Commenting on the repairing of the bunds and embankments, Hamim said the ministry approved an allocation of RM500,000 for immediate implementation of the work in Kampung Sungai Serdang, Kampung Tok Muda and Kampung Sungai Janggut, Kapar.

Regarding the long term preparation to face the phenomenon, he said, the department estimated that about RM416 million is needed for protection of coastal areas for the entire west coast of peninsular Malaysia.

Among the states involved are Perlis, Penang, Perak, Kedah, Selangor, Malacca and Johor.

The Sept 19 king tide, which struck the peninsula’s west coastline, brought flash floods to low lying areas, causing undisclosed property damage.

Following that, authorities concluded these were the same areas which would be at risk from the second king tide phenomenon.

Numerous reminders have been sent to residents living by the coast.

Authorities believe the areas which could be affected are Klang, Pulau Ketam, Sabak Bernam, Kuala Selangor, Sepang, and Kuala Langat.

More than 450 evacuation centres will be operational to take care of victims from flood prone and coastal areas in the state.

The National Disaster Management Agency has been put on standby to respond with equipment, manpower and ensure relief centres were operational.

In Johor, flood prone areas have been identified in anticipation of the king tide and state Health and Environment Committee chairman, Datuk Ayub Rahmat, said this would enable them to respond swiftly to emergencies.
— Bernama

Stay away from coast, holiday makers warned

GEORGE TOWN — Picnickers and holiday revellers should take heed and stay away from the coast, as authorities are bracing for another king tide phenomenon.

Also known as high tide season, authorities are not leaving anything to chance after last month’s king tide episode brought high and strong waves to the peninsula’s west coastline.

This time, they fear the king tide phenomenon could be on a larger scale with massive waves and strong winds.

State Civil Defence director Lieutenant Colonel Pang Ah Lek said the areas affected last month were expected to be hit again this weekend and urged residents to safeguard their important documents and belongings.

“The situation could be aggravated if there were heavy rain and strong winds as the flood waters would take longer to recede.”

He assured the department was prepared to face any situation of tidal waves along the coast on the island and Seberang Prai.

“We have sufficient personnel for the rescue work and at relief centres if residents have to be moved out of their villages.”

Among areas of concern for emergency response teams were Teluk Bahang, Teluk Kumbar and Balik Pulau, while on the mainland, north Seberang Prai, Pulau Aman and Sungai Udang in the south are expected to be affected.

“We have personnel monitoring the situation, especially at night and during the wee hours,” he said.

A total of 18 trucks and 24 rescue boats have been placed on standby.

In Pantai Remis (Perak), villagers living by the coastline are prepared this time around after they were caught unaware by flash floods and strong waves last month.

Villagers at Kampung Panchor have been preparing to face the king tide by placing their electrical items and furniture on higher grounds.

Sarimah Shariff, 33, said when king tide hit her village last month, they found themselves in waist-deep water.

“At that time, I lost my refrigerator to flood waters as the tide came in early in the morning when everyone was asleep,” she said.

Learning from last month’s experience, she raised the storage area.

“Personnel from the National Disaster Management Agency and Fire and Rescue Department came to our village last week informing us of the king tide and told us to be ready for any eventualities,” she said.

The authorities also informed her that villagers would be evacuated to SK Panchor in the event of flash floods.

Another villager Mohd Bokhairie Mohd Yusof, 18, was seen helping to put sand into bags to form walls to protect the village.

“We started building the walls on Tuesday and work is expected to be completed by tomorrow (today),” he said.

In Teluk Intan, villagers at Kampung Teluk Selendang have started to move valuables to higher ground in anticipation of high tide.

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