India buys 36 French Rafale fighter jets

NEW DELHI — India signed a formal agreement yesterday to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault for €7.9 billion (RM36.2 billion), one of its biggest defence deals in decades. India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the agreement at a ceremony in New Delhi after years of tortuous negotiations. “You can only ever be completely sure once (the deal) has been signed,” said Le Drian after the ceremony. The world’s top defence importer has signed several big-ticket deals as part of a US$100 billion (RM410 billion) upgrade since Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi took power in 2014. — AFP

Grab tests ‘robo-cars’ in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Southeast Asia’s leading ride-hailing firm, Grab, yesterday teamed up with a United States-based software developer to run a limited public trial of a self-driving car service in Singapore.

Applications for free rides on the “robo-cars” opened yesterday, with the service expected to kick off next week, Grab Singapore head, Lim Kell Jay, told journalists.

The revolutionary technology will be used to ferry passengers as well as a safety driver and an engineer around One North, a research campus with limited traffic.

“If a trip requires travel on roads outside of One North, the safety driver will take control of the vehicle for that portion of the trip,” a joint statement by Grab and software company nuTonomy said.

The partnership follows the Sept 15 launch of a groundbreaking driverless car service in the US city of Pittsburgh by Uber, the world’s leading car-hailing company.

The trial will run for the next two months, and may be extended for as long as it continues to yield useful feedback and data that can feed into the roll-out of driverless taxis across Singapore in 2018.

The announcement came three days after Singapore-based Grab said it had raised US$750 million (RM3 billion) in funding from investors, taking its total capital to more than US$1 billion (RM4.12 billion), as it looks to expand in the lucrative Southeast Asian market and bolster its lead over Uber.

But Uber’s launch of a driverless car service last week catapulted it ahead of Detroit auto giants and Silicon Valley rivals with technology that could revolutionise transportation.

In an ambitious experiment, a fleet of cars laden with lasers, cameras and other sensors — but with no hands on the wheel — were deployed on Pittsburgh’s challenging roads, steering themselves to pick up passengers.

In addition to Uber and Grab, Google’s parent company Alphabet is also working on getting self-driving vehicles to market.

Grab’s Singapore trials are backed by the wealthy city-state’s government.

Grab operates in Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. — AFP

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Bomb kills three cops in restive Thai south

BANGKOK — Three police officers were killed yesterday by a bomb buried beneath a road in Thailand’s far south, authorities said, as peace talks appear to falter in the insurgency-plagued region.

The kingdom’s Muslim-majority “deep south”, an area bordering Malaysia, has seen near daily bombings and shootings since the most recent wave of rebellion erupted in 2004.

More than 6,600 people — mostly civilians — have died in an under-reported conflict that pits ethnic Malay militants against security forces from Thailand’s Buddhist-majority state.

Yesterday, three police officers in their late 20s were killed after a bomb struck their car in Yala province.

“They were on a trip to gather intelligence,” a police officer in Krongpinang district said, without giving his name.

After detonating the bomb, which was buried underneath the road, the assailants fired on the police from the surrounding jungle, the officer added.

Staff at a provincial hospital confirmed the deaths and said one police officer was also wounded in the blast.

Remote and surrounded by densely forested hills, Krongpinang is an insurgency hot-spot where mistrust for Thai security forces runs high.

Critics have accused the junta of professing support for a peace process but refusing to consider devolving any political power to the region — a key pillar of the rebels’ demands.

The junta “appears interested primarily in mere semblance of dialogue,” said a report published this week by International Crisis Group.

“An earnest attempt to decentralise power, the best hope for the resolution of the conflict, is unlikely to materialise under the current government,” it said. — AFP

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Go, Botz, go

These ladies show their skills with the “Little Botz” robotics remote control at the Telekom Malaysia booth in conjunction with Kuala Lumpur Converge exhibition at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre yesterday. The exhibition promoting the latest communication and digital technology ends today. — Picture by Bernama

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Durian galore

Contestants try to eat each other out in the King of Fruits durian eating contest at the ‘MyBest Buy’ carnival promoting Malaysia fruits in Kota Baru, Kelantan, yesterday. — Picture by Bernama

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IS supporter charged

Syed Amir Asyraf Syed Hamdan, in tears, being escorted out of the magistrate court in Sepang yesterday. The 20-year-old lorry driver was charged with five counts of providing support to Islamic State via social media. No plea was recorded. Earlier, he pleaded guilty at the Sessions Court for possessing a hand grenade, a pistol and 24 rounds of ammunition on Aug 27. Judge Harith Sham Mohamed Yasin set Oct 21 for sentencing. — Picture by Bernama

‘Malaysian Gitmo detainee may be sent home’

NEW YORK — Mohamad Bashir Lap, one of two Malaysians being held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp may be transferred to Malaysia but he will have to continue with the deradicalisation process in prison, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said this was conveyed to him during a meeting he had on Wednesday with Lee Wolowsky, the United States Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure.

“This possibility is in tandem with our efforts to bring home Malaysian detainees in Guantanamo Bay,” said Zahid, who is also the home minister.

Zahid is leading the Malaysian delegation to the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly here.

Mohamad Bashir and Mohd Farik Amin are the two Malaysians being held at Guantanamo since 2006 for their involvement with the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group in early 2000.

They are also alleged to have been involved in bombing at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in 2003 and detained in Bangkok that year.

Zahid said the US Periodic Review Board, by consensus, determined that “continued law of war detention of detainees remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States”.

“However, the United States informed us of the possibility of one of them (Mohamad Bashir) being sent back to Malaysia, but he has to continue to undergo the deradicalisation process,” he said.

As such, Zahid said, a high-level committee under his chairmanship would be established immediately for this purpose.

The committee would comprise representatives from the Home Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Defence Ministry, National Security Council, Attorney-General’s Chambers, Police, Prisons Department and Immigration Department, he said.

Zahid said he extended an invitation to Wolowsky to visit Malaysia to explain to the committee the requirements and conditions for the transfer of Bashir to Malaysia.

“I am confident the Malaysian deradicalisation programme can rehabilitate the Malaysian detainee,” he said, adding that the programme had a 97.5 per cent success rate and was recognised by international authorities including Interpol.

“I informed Wolowsky the Prevention of Terrorism Board undertakes an evaluation of individuals placed under the deradicalisation programme,” he said.

In fact, he said, the Prevention of Terrorism Act provided for use of the Electronic Monitoring Device or EMD on such individuals.

Zahid said transferring detainees to Malaysia did not mean Malaysia was colluding in the matter of terrorist activities in any country.

“What is important for us is the government’s concern for Malaysian citizens detained for a long time without trial in other countries,” he said.
— Bernama

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Najib: New committee to gather views on redelineation

KUALA LUMPUR — Barisan Nasional will create a panel to consolidate member parties’ views on the Election Commission’s proposed redelineation, Datuk Seri Najib Razak said.

This committee will compile diverse opinions for a counter proposal to the EC, said the prime minister and BN chairman.

“There are many effects (from the redelineation), various aspects need to be taken into consideration, therefore we decided all BN component parties will consolidate our views through a committee chaired by the BN secretary-general and be made up of all secretaries-general of BN parties to standardise BN’s counter proposal,” he told reporters after chairing the BN Supreme Council meeting yesterday.

“Hopefully we will come to a decision that is fair to all parties involved.”

He said BN components have various objections to the proposed redelineation, and stressed there were also dissatisfaction from Umno.

Opposition lawmakers have alleged the redelineation was designed to favour Umno.

“It would not be right to say that Umno accepts (the proposal). No. Even Umno has many views against this initial proposal by the EC,” he said.

The EC is proposing to redraw the boundaries of 12 parliamentary and 34 state constituencies in the peninsula and create 13 new state seats in Sabah.

The move was met with criticism not only from the usual sources in the Opposition, but also some in the ruling BN, including MCA and Gerakan, which voiced concerns over the apparent segregation of voters along ethnic lines.

Meanwhile, Gerakan is maintaining its individual objection to the Election Commission’s proposed redelineation despite the formation of a Barisan Nasional committee to compile such complaints.

Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong told reporters this after the BN Supreme Council where Najib announced the panel.

“We brought it up today that some of the changes are not fair, so Gerakan will press ahead with our objection against some of the constituencies,” Mah said.

According to the EC, objections to the recommendations can only be made by the state government, local authorities partly or partially included in the redelineation exercise, or a group of no fewer than 100 registered voters of an affected constituency.

Mah had previously said the redelineation would give DAP an advantage in several constituencies that Gerakan will be contesting. — Malay Mail Online

Zahid is BN deputy chairman

KUALA LUMPUR — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been appointed Barisan Nasional deputy chairman with immediate effect.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is also BN chairman, said his appointment was within BN’s constitution and was proposed by MCA and seconded by MIC.

“This meeting decided to appoint Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as the new BN deputy chairman. The proposal was made by MCA and seconded MIC, and accepted unanimously (by the BN component parties),” he told reporters after chairing the BN Supreme Council meeting.

On Aug 3 last year, Zahid received his letter of appointment as deputy prime minister, replacing Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin in a Cabinet reshuffle announced by Najib earlier on July 28.

Muhyiddin was sacked as Umno deputy president earlier this year. Zahid, who is also Umno vice-president, is discharging the duties of the deputy president.

By convention, the deputy prime minister is also BN deputy chairman. The BN meeting yesterday was attended by all presidents of BN component parties.
— Bernama

Bogus cop gang busted

PETALING JAYA — They mastered the art of masquerading as cops and preyed on unsuspecting victims, that was until one of them was struck by a policeman’s bullet and that brought the curtains down on the Rizal Kunang gang.

On Thursday, police shot and wounded a gang member following a car chase which ended at Desa Coalfields, Sungai Buloh.

An accomplice managed to give police the slip when he jumped out of the speeding car shortly before police opened fire.

Following questioning of the suspect, the whereabouts of the Rizal Kunang gang leader was obtained. The 36-year-old mastermind and his teen girlfriend were picked up from their home in Kampung Melayu Sri Kundang, Rawang. Police also seized two packets of drugs believed to be syabu from the couple.

The gang leader led police to another house where the suspect who had escaped was believed to be living, but he was not in the house.

Police said the gang’s latest robbery was at Laguna Biru Kundang, Rawang on Sept 15, where they assaulted two men and robbed them of cash and mobile phones.

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