Horseback library serves Indonesia’s remote readers

ASTRIDE his white mare, a wide-brimmed hat shielding his eyes, Ridwan Sururi looks more cowboy than librarian as he winds towards the hilltop village, his horse Luna saddled with books.

Their arrival sends ripples of excitement through Serang, a quiet hamlet fringed by rice fields and a volcano on Indonesia’s main island of Java.

“The horse library!” children shriek, sprinting towards the mosque where Luna is tethered. Slung over her saddle are two handmade wooden boxes filled with books.

For many there, this unique mobile library is their only link to books. There is no traditional library nearby, and stores are miles away in big cities. It’s a problem for villages across the sprawling Indonesian archipelago.

Sururi, a 43-year-old professional horse groomer, devised a unique way to encourage reading in his district.

Armed with Luna, one of several horses under his care, and about 100 books donated from a friend, Sururi began road-testing his novel mobile library in early 2015, unsure if it would succeed.

It was a huge hit. In no time, the father of four was fielding requests from schools and villages further afield, eager crowds greeting him on arrival.

“The kids are always waiting for my horse and I,” Sururi said.

“Sometimes they even form a queue, waiting a very long time just to borrow a book.”

Broadening horizons

In Serang, enthusiastic youngsters flick through picture books, young adult titles and even some classics in English.

Some shyly pet Luna while waiting their turn to browse. Sururi believes the gentle nature of his six-year-old mare helps attract children, and pique an early interest in the books.

“The horse makes me happy,” said 10-year-old Arif, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, before settling in to read a book titled “Wild Animals”.

But it’s not just children discovering a love for reading via this charitable community library.

Adults are almost just as enthusiastic, many pausing work and emerging from their homes as Sururi and Luna pass through the narrow lanes of one village.

Seventeen-year-old Warianti, perusing titles alongside her elderly mothers, said villagers of all ages benefited from Sururi’s visits, as most did not have time to source books elsewhere.

“The horse library helps increase the knowledge of local women through reading,” she said.

Adult literacy rates in Indonesia have climbed steadily in recent years, reaching nearly 96 per cent in 2013, according to data from the ministry of education.

But some provinces remain far behind others. Central Java, where Sururi makes his rounds, is lagging in the bottom third nationwide.

Nearly five per cent — or close to one million — adults in this mainly rural province remain illiterate. Sururi is aware of this, growing up in Central Java without access to a great deal of books.

But the altruistic stable hand never underestimated the importance of reading, leading to his free-of-charge mobile book loaning service.

“That’s the aim of the horse library, so that everyone can broaden their horizons, gain knowledge, become more intelligent,” he said.

Sense of pride

Outside his simple home, Sururi has cleared an area where he dreams of building a permanent library, one stocked with many books and — perhaps one day — a computer.

But for now, everything is done by hand. The spines of all books are clearly labelled with a code for identification, and he keeps meticulous records so books are returned on time.

Like a conventional library, books can be borrowed free of charge but cannot be loaned forever.

In Serang, Sururi checks his notebook and tells one boy he needs to first return an outstanding title before loaning another. The young student sprints off home, returning a short while later clutching the forgotten item, relieved to see his pick of choice remains untouched on the shelf.

Once the flurry of borrowing is over, the children settle down in small circles, bearing their new books with pride as Sururi packs up for another week.

Soon the air is filled with the sound of dozens of children reading aloud, older pupils helping their younger friends with difficult words or phrases.

“When I see kids chasing my horse I feel so proud,” Sururi said.

“I feel like I’m needed, and that’s hugely satisfying.” — AFP

10 things about: Atikah Karim, Sabahan model in New York

KOTA KINABALU — When Dayang Nur Atikah Karim, better known as Atikah, won a major modelling competition in Malaysia five years ago, it shut up those who had criticised her dark skin.

Since then, the 22-year-old Bajau-Bruneian beauty has moved to one of the fashion capitals of the world — New York — where her sharp features and tanned skin got her jobs modelling for brands like Polo Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic.

Atikah, known as Tiks to friends or Ika to her family, is living the dream of every aspiring model by working in New York although she doesn’t consider herself as having “made it” yet.

The third child of four children of a retired contractor dad and civil servant mother, Atikah grew up in Kota Kinabalu and joined her first beauty pageant when she was 16.

When she finished secondary school, she won the Ford Models Supermodel of the World Malaysia competition, earning herself a modelling contract and a spot in the international modelling arena.

She started travelling for work at the age of 18 and hasn’t stopped since. She moved to New York last year.

Atikah talks to Malay Mail Online about modelling, being away from home and what she misses most about Malaysia.

In her words:

  • I’ve always dreamed of being a model since I was little. My parents support me especially my mum. At first, my dad didn’t get how the industry works but when I explained to him, he was cool with it.

  • I joined a beauty pageant when I was 16. I did not win anything but realised from there, I’m totally not a beauty pageant type, it was my first and last. After that, I started to do shows in KK.

  • Chanel Iman is my idol. I used to watch her catwalk on YouTube all the time to practise my walk. I don’t think I’ve “made it big” yet. Maybe people back home think I’ve made it but I need more, maybe if I get one
    big campaign.

  • Trust me, New York is on the wish list of all models and I’m one of them. I have always dreamed of living in a big city since I was little. I moved to KL when I was 18, started to travel abroad by myself when I was 21 to London. When I started to travel, I decided to find a place to be based, where it’s easy for me to travel around, so I chose New York because it is where the money is. I’ve been to London and Milan but not Paris (yet).

  • Being away from my family, the way I eat and my mindset totally changed. I’m more independent than before. Whenever I travel, I used to bring all these Sabahan cookies like kuih cincin and kuih bulan. Our maid, Kak Miah, always made and packed sambal belacan tempeh goreng for me. But she’s no longer with us, so I just buy all those cookies when I get the chance to go back to KK.

  • People didn’t really appreciate the beauty of dark skin when I first started in KK. They just think if you’re fair, you’re pretty. This mindset was totally obvious back then. Now, I see back home they are starting to appreciate darker skin, which is good for newcomers.

  • (On the hardest challenges in the industry) During fashion week, in one day, you’ll have 10-20 castings and you’ll miss some for sure. I just try to make a list a day before. Sometimes, it’s also tough to face all those fake people in the industry.

  • I think what sets me apart is the belief in myself. All the support I get from my family and friends, especially my boyfriend Danny Lim — he’s the one who helped me a lot and pushed to get me signed with my mother agency (3mmodels). Be yourself, be confident, don’t be afraid to try new experiences, always remember where your roots are. If you want to go far, work for it, don’t be lazy

  • The best experience I’ve had so far was performing with Miley Cyrus as a model dancer in London.

  • What I miss most about Malaysia is probably waking up early just to go mamak or find a place to eat breakfast. I miss the food in Malaysia. — Malay Mail Online

Erosion at slope gives motorists jitters

CAMERON HIGHLANDS — Residents here still fear using the Simpang Pulai stretch despite being told the road was safe for use following inspections by soil experts and road engineers.

Cheong Yip Hing, 43, who uses the stretch twice daily, said he fears the road would give way each time he drives past.

“Whenever I use the road, I fear that something would happen, especially during the rainy season. The slope is steep and dangerous.

“Previously, landslides would only occur if the rain continues for more than a week, but now due to the downpour, landslides can happen any time.

“We know the government has done some maintenance in the area, but it wasn’t enough. The steep slope still can be seen. They should do something to cover it,” he added.

Resident Dilip Martin Anthony Rock, 29, said the Public Works Department (PWD) should take immediate action instead of releasing a statement saying that the road is safe to use.

“I think the road should be closed. The slope is getting nearer to the road.

“Road users do not feel safe using the road. The PWD should build an alternative road as there is a possibility of further erosion in the area,” he said.

Dilip, who is from Tanah Rata, added that precautions should be taken by the authorities instead of reacting after an incident.

Regional Environmental Awareness of Cameron Highlands (Reach) president Ramakrishnan Ramasamy, 51, said that the authorities should consider using organic growth mediums such as cocoa peat to cover the slope.

“I think the authorities should use coco peat, which is used in farming, to cover the slope. This organic product contains fertilizer, which could help produce grass.

“We understand the slope is steep and cannot hold heavy vegetation if it rains, but this organic product is very light and would not be easily moved by rain.

“Furthermore, the price of the coco peat is cheap and the authorities don’t not have to spend large amounts of money to solve this matter,” he said.

Ramakrishnan, who uses the road twice a week, said he was not perturbed about the issue until he saw the picture of the slope on social media.

“I decided to check the slope area and found the slope is actually giving way.

“It’s only a matter of time. If that area is hit by heavy rains, there would be further erosion which could harm road users,” he said.

The relevant authorities have said soil and visual inspections would continue on a daily basis.

“The necessary remedial measures have been put in place and the stretch at Km44 between Simpang Pulai to Cameron Highlands is safe,” said PWD acting director general Datuk Dr Roslan Taha.

On Thursday, photographs showing serious erosion at the slope was circulated on social media, prompting PWD soil technicians and road engineers to conduct inspections.

Roslan said visual and electronic inspections are carried out every three hours as the stretch comes under the sensitive and high-risk catergory due to its surrounding terrain.

“The necessary remedial works has been done,” he said.

State Public Utilities, Infrastructure, Energy and Water Committee chairman Datuk Zainol Fadzi Paharudin said the condition of the road is not as critical as depicted in pictures.

“A RM10 million allocation has been utilised for remedial works and the 430m stretch is safe to use,” he told reporters when met at the site on Friday.

“The structure of the road has concrete beneath the surface, similar to that of a bridge,” he said.

The works, he added, were completed on Dec 24 last year.

How police ended up running a paedophile site

LONDON — UK’s The Guardian reveals a police operation that secretly took over a child abuse forum. The six-month sting led them to snaring Richard Huckle – Britain’s worst-ever paedophile who sexually assaulted children in Malaysia and Cambodia.

FOR six months in 2014, an elite squad of detectives in Brisbane, Australia, were administering a dark-web forum. They were analysing images, monitoring conversations and connecting users with their crimes.

Just as they were about to pull the plug on the forum, 85 children had been rescused and hundreds across the globe nabbed. Among those arrested was Huckle, one of the board’s most prolific member.

The 30-year-old Briton was, in June, sentenced to 22 life terms, one for each of the minors he was convicted of abusing.

The children were mostly from impoverished backgrounds whose families’ trust he won by posing as a Christian missionary.

Police believe he had at least 169 other young victims. Huckle had diligently recorded their names in a ledger, detailing the acts he had performed with each one.

How he was tracked and arrested is a story of persistence and good fortune which key figures inside Taskforce Argos in Australia granted The Guardian access to share.

The trail

The hunt to find Huckle leads back five years to Toronto and the warehouse headquarters of businessman Brian Way. The 42-year-old had built a child-abuse film distribution racket worth US$4m (RM15.89m), which to this day is among the largest ever discovered.

When Canadian police raided his premises they found it piled with refuse, the bathroom sheeted in thick mould. The disarray was typical of a predator’s home.

But Way, who was later convicted of 15 charges related to child abuse images and is awaiting sentencing, kept meticulous records. About a tenth of his 370 customers were based in Queensland. Their details were passed onto Insp Jon Rouse, the grave 52-year-old who commands Taskforce Argos.

Way was captured and dozens of arrests across Queensland followed, including of one man who subscribed to a site Argos had yet to unearth: a vast, highly organised forum, whose name is still suppressed under a strict court order.

Police discovered an intricate hierarchy operating on the site.

“It ran as a company or business,” Rouse said. Senior administrators took charge of individual boards, grouped around categories such as boys or girls, hardcore or non-nude. Users had to upload material at least every 30 days or risk exile. Each of its 45,000 accounts were ranked according to the quality of their output, with a “producer’s area” walled off to all but the most feted. At the top was one man, “effectively the CEO”. He regularly started his messages with the cheery greeting “hiyas”.

Paul Griffiths, a police officer from England, worked on Argos in Queensland as a victim identification specialist, scanning gigabytes of images and videos each week looking for clues that might give away a child’s location. Above his desk was a whiteboard scrawled with two dozen usernames: the forum’s most wanted.

Huckle’s name made the whiteboard because he was a producer, uploading exclusively fresh material. He was zealous about it.

“He belittled others [on the forum] for claiming they were paedophiles,” Griffiths recalls.

“He thought they were just sitting at home living off other people’s experiences, where he was out there living the life.”

“(Huckle) talked about leaving a legacy, where he’d be remembered because of the material he produced,” Griffiths says. “He got to the point where he was actually titling his work, saying it was his studio. He was definitely branding.”

To Huckle’s frustration, however, his material was not sought after.

“You’ve got the fact he wasn’t particularly popular, he was very arrogant,” Griffiths says. “His victims weren’t white females or even white males,” Griffiths said.

“People want the kind of stuff they’re attracted to, and they’re not necessarily attracted to what they see as being poor Indian children.”

Huckle took precautions, usually blurring faces and backgrounds, and erasing telltale metadata from his work. Advice, including on how to evade police detection, was readily available on the site. One 180-page manual billed itself as “the exclusive step by step guide for practising safe and fun sex with children”. Huckle had authored his own 60-page tome, titled “Paedophiles and Poverty: Child Lover Guide”.

Most users assumed he was somewhere in south Asia, probably India.

“He never specifically said, ‘I’m in India’ but whenever anyone suggested he was, he agreed with them.”

The search

A man was discovered using the giveaway “hiyas” greeting on a four-wheel drive discussion forum. He lived in Adelaide. Griffiths’ eyes went wide at his username. It was a close copy of the handle used by the forum’s chief.

Another similarly named user – sprinkling his posts with “hiyas” – was also discovered on a basketball forum.

It was a 32-year-old named Shannon McCoole. He worked in childcare.

Police moved on McCoole in June 2014. Though news of his arrest was initially suppressed, the fact he worked in state care would eventually trigger a royal commission. It revealed a long trail of red flags raised by McCoole’s colleagues over the four years he spent volunteering for youth services and eventually working for Families South Australia.

They included an anonymous call in March 2011 warning authorities the then-nanny was inappropriately physical with some children. It was ignored, along with a psychological assessment one year later, that found him to be “high risk” and “very unsuitable” for the job.

McCoole was jailed to face court, but online, his presence barely faltered. Two officers had immediately assumed control of his account. This was in a different league from the earlier takeover of a Queensland account. Now one of the world’s largest online paedophile networks was suddenly being run from the Brisbane headquarters of the Queensland police.

The trap

For six months in 2014 Task Force Argos was all-seeing too, with access as McCoole to the forum’s every crevice, and the private messages of all 45,000 users, including Richard Huckle’s.

There was intelligence suggesting the offender had spent time in Malaysia.

Access to the full suite of Huckle’s material provided the breakthrough. It was not what he photographed, but what he photographed with. Embedded in some of his images, overlooked when he swept the files of metadata, was the brand and model of his Olympus camera. A tiny clue – but enough.

Police traced the legitimate photographs to an email address, which in turn illuminated his accounts on other websites. In an echo of McCoole’s case, one of these accounts was registered under a similar name to that of a paedophile on their site.

The digital trail also led to a studio named Huckool Photography Productions. It was based in Malaysia and linked to Huckle’s public Facebook profile. There, he had been more brazen than police could have imagined.

Some of Huckle’s profiles are still archived. They are a sea of children: in church, dressed as Christmas angels; knee-deep in water, beaming; bunched together, “delightedly over-excited (at) their English photographing uncle”, he writes.

Griffiths called his counterparts at Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA), passing on the raw intelligence about Huckle’s crimes and his likely identity. But Huckle would remain in Malaysia untouched for another four months.

“As I understand it, the Malaysians believed they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him,” Griffiths said. (Malaysian police say they were only notified of Huckle’s offending by the NCA in May 2016.)

They were so close. Police had an identity, a location, an array of online profiles. But no way to reach the man himself until Huckle provided one.

“I just saw a (Facebook) post he made, basically saying, ‘Great news, I’ve just booked a flight home for Christmas’,” Griffiths says. “He had hashtagged the airline. It was almost too easy.”

Huckle was arrested at Gatwick airport on Dec 19, 2014. Computers and hard drives in his possession contained more than 20,000 indecent images of children, around 1,000 depicting children he had himself abused. To this day, he has refused to divulge the keys to encrypted files on his laptop, thought to reveal additional victims, and thousands more images and videos.

Huckle’s trial received sensational media coverage in the UK, including his branding as “Britain’s worst-ever paedophile”.

The endgame

After six months running the forum – gathering enough evidence to prosecute hundreds and rescue 85 victims – police were pulling the plug on site. For months before, as evidence was disseminated around the world, the most significant users were being picked off by police.

“Some of (the users) put it together before we closed the board,” Griffiths recalled.

“People noticed people were disappearing. It’s an occupational hazard, and they usually assume when someone disappears they’ve been arrested. But when it keeps happening and happening, they start putting two and two together.”

Users even began approaching McCoole’s account with worries the police had infiltrated the site. Once they realised the forum wasn’t returning, and news finally emerged of McCoole’s arrest, some even offered grudging compliments. “One guy posted something along the lines of, ‘Kudos. I chatted to McCoole for six months and didn’t realise it was the cops’.”

Two Argos officers received awards for so seamlessly assuming McCoole’s identity for six months on the board. Last month, Huckle was sentenced to a minimum 23 years’ jail. McCoole is serving 35 years.

A blue line has been struck through both their names on the most-wanted list above Griffiths’ desk. More than two dozen others were crossed off the whiteboard by the time that particular investigation was closed. Eight remain.

‘Two hours parking not enough’

KUALA LUMPUR – Authorities should consider delaying the two-hour parking limit in the central business district (CBD) as the public transport system was not up to mark yet, says former DBKL Advisory Board member Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.

The former Bukit Bintang MP said although the proposal was good, the public would still need to drive to certain locations in the CBD that were not connected by public transportation.

“There will be still a need to drive into the city centre as there are locations not linked by LRT, monorail and even buses. The local authorities should either wait until the upgrades of public transportation are completed, or extend the two-hour limit to four hours instead.

“Imposing the two-hour parking limit now will have negative implications to businesses and probably see fewer people coming into the CBD, Bukit Bintang, Imbi and KLCC areas. It will put unnecessary stress on the public as two hours will not be sufficient to complete their errands in the city centre,” he said.

He added that the DBKL decision to clamp and tow away cars that exceeded the two-hour limit would put a heavier burden on the people as they would then need to pay to have their cars released.

“Local authorities could increase parking rates as an alternative while the developments on public transportation are completed.”

He said public bus services should be improved as they were never on time, and designated bus lanes were being abused by the public.

Centre for Environment, Technology and Development Malaysia chairman Gurmit Singh said buses around the CBD were yet to be fully connected and buses were frequently late.

“I waited for a bus more than 30 minutes on several occasions and it caused a lot of inconvenience. I can understand why people will continue to drive into the city centre despite the two-hour parking limit as our public transportation system has not achieved the standard required.

“The safety of people walking to LRT stations at night must also be looked into. The authorities should address this issue and encourage employers to provide free shuttle services to transport employees to the nearest LRT stations,” he said.

It was reported that in order to reduce traffic congestion, DBKL will impose a two-hour limit on parking at public bays in the CBD, effective tomorrow.

Apart from the CBD, the system will be implemented in Bangsar,
Sri Hartamas and Kepong areas and the parking rate would be RM2 for the first hour and RM3 for the following hour.

Jealous partner beats woman to death

KUALA LUMPUR — A jealousy-enraged electrician murdered his live-in partner at their rented unit at the Jinjang Baru flats in Taman
Jinjang yesterday.

Police said the 36-year-old suspect had killed his partner, also aged 36, because he believed she was having an affair.

Sentul police chief R. Munusamy said police received a call in the morning about an alleged attempted suicide at the unit, located on the second floor.

“Police found the suspect with cuts on his left wrist. The victim was sprawled in the living room with bruises on her face and hands,” he said.

The suspect told police he had beat his partner to death 12 hours earlier.

Initial investigations revealed the victim, who worked as a beer promoter at a nearby pub, had refused to return home on Thursday night to care for the couple’s four-year-old daughter.

This enraged the suspect, who then assaulted the victim. The suspect then dropped his daughter at the victim’s father’s home in Rawang and told him his daughter was dead.

“The suspect and victim were staying together for five years but were not married and had been living at the unit for a month,” Munusamy said.

“We only know her as Ah Mei. She and her partner often fought a lot, especially at night. I believe it was about her job,” said a neighbour who requested anonymity.

“The man was fierce, judging by the way he used to shout at her.”

Another neighbour who stayed on the same floor said she last heard the couple arguing on Saturday night.

“I’ve heard them arguing ever since they moved in. I’m unsure if they were just arguing or there was physical violence.”

She said the couple’s daughter hardly mixed with the other children in the neighbourhood.

The suspect, who is receiving treatment at Kuala Lumpur Hospital, has been remanded until next Thursday. The victim’s remains was sent to the same hospital for post-mortem.

Pakistani Facebook starlet strangled 
in suspected honour killing

LAHORE — A Pakistani social media celebrity whose selfies polarised the deeply conservative Muslim country has been murdered by her brother in a suspected honour killing, prompting shock and revulsion.

Qandeel Baloch, held in high regard by many of the country’s youth for her willingness to break social taboo, but condemned and reviled by traditional elements, was strangled near the city of Multan, police said.

“Apparently, it was an incident of honour killing,” said Sultan Azam, a senior police officer in Multan.

Baloch, believed to be in her 20s, had travelled with her family from the city of Karachi to Muzzafarabad village in central Punjab province for the recent Hari Raya holidays.

Police were informed by her family she was murdered on Friday night.

“The family told us he strangled her,” said Azhar Akram, another Multan senior police official. Police said the brother was now on the run.

Hundreds of women are murdered, often by relatives, for “honour” every year in Pakistan.

The killers often walk free because of a law which allows relatives of the victim to forgive the murderer.

Baloch shot to fame in Pakistan in 2014 after a video of her pouting at the camera and asking “How em looking?” went viral.

Baloch, who posed with mullahs and courted controversy with selfies in plunging dresses, was also reviled by many and frequently subjected to misogynist abuse online.

She had reportedly spoke of leaving the country after Hari Raya out of fear for her safety.

Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose documentary on the subject, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness won an Oscar earlier this year, said the murder would make women feel less safe.

“I really feel no woman is safe in this country until we start making examples of people, until we start sending men who kill women to jail, unless we literally say there will be no more killing and those who dare will spend the rest of their lives behind bars,” he said.

Obaid-Chinoy’s film was lauded by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who in February vowed to push through anti-honour killing legislation.

No action has been taken since then, despite a fresh wave of attacks on women recently that have been roundly and loudly condemned by activists.

“Not only does the bill need to go through but the cases of honour killings all need to be expedited and we start sending people to jail,” Obaid-Chinoy said.

“Activists have screamed themselves hoarse. When will it stop?” — AFP

IN BRIEF

Man taking photos of police HQ was telco contractor

PETALING JAYA — A man who was arrested for taking photographs of the Putrajaya police headquarters on Wednesday was later found to be merely a contractor surveying phone signals in the area. Putrajaya district police chief ACP Rosly Hassan said the 27-year-old was released on police bail yesterday after he was remanded for four days. “He told police he was taking photographs of the headquarters for work purposes. There was no malicious intent as he was measuring the frequency and the strength of phone signals in the area and had taken photos for record purposes,” he said. Rosly said the contractor worked for a company that was serving a telecommunications company. His company was tasked with monitoring the signal strength at various locations. Kuala Lumpur police chief Datuk Amar Singh had said on Friday the man was detained as a precaution following threats by Islamic State militants who had planned attacks on top police officers and police headquarters nationwide. The man, who is from Felda Sungai Koyan in Pahang, was seen taking photographs of the entrance and surroundings of the district headquarters on Wednesday before being arrested.

Cops explore ‘hired gun’ angle in murder probe

GEORGE TOWN — Investigators will carry out ballistics tests on the gun seized from slain murderer Chung Chun Wah, to establish if it had been used in previous shootings. “We know it was used in the fatal shooting of four people at a chicken processing factory in Batu Maung,” a source said. “He could have been a hired gunman or even loaned the pistol to others.” Two cases police were looking at was that of car wash owner Syed Amin Jainul Abidin, 46, who was fatally shot in Jalan Datuk Keramat on Feb 11 and that of a 21-year-old video arcade helper who was shot at several times early this year. On Thursday, Chung was killed following a shoot out with police near the Air Hitam market following a manhunt which lasted almost 40 hours. The Malaysian Jockeys Welfare Association and JR Gallop Horseracing Club said it would organise a fundraiser for one of the four killed, Chung’s brother Wah Thong, who was a jockey. Wah Thong has been riding since 2009 and he had won the Sultan Gold Vase Cup in 2013 in Perak and the Selangor Gold Cup Group One championship race last year.

Government to ensure justice prevails, says Liow

PUTRAJAYA — Malaysia hopes to receive the preliminary conclusion on the forensic research report of MH17, that went down in Donetsk, Ukraine, in 2014, by the end of the year.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the investigation report by the Joint Investigation Team — comprising Australia, Brazil, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine — would also confirm the type of weapon used to shoot the plane and other pertinent details.

He said the government hoped the international community would continue to lend its support in ensuring the perpetrators of this tragedy be held accountable for their action.

“Two years ago, 298 lives were lost in a senseless and unjust crime that saw the downing of flight MH17,” he said in a statement yesterday, in conjunction with the MH17 second anniversary today.

Liow said: “As we mark the second year anniversary of the MH17 tragedy, our thoughts and prayers are with the next-of-kin of the victims.

“Rest assured, the government will not give up in our quest to ensure justice prevails”. — Bernama

Families still waiting for answers

IPOH — “After all this time, I still miss you every day …”

That is what Norlin Mohd Nor said when reminiscing the loss of her elder sibling Nor Rahimmah.

After two years of her sudden tragic death, Norlin still cannot bring herself to look at photographs of her sister.

Nor Rahimmah was one of the 298 passengers on board the ill-fated MH17 that was shot down as the aircraft flew over Ukraine airspace on July 17, 2014.

“Her pictures evoke painful memories. But what hurts deeper are the many unanswered questions,” the 49-year-old pre-school teacher told Sunday Mail.

To ease her grief, Norlin, a mother of three, said she had to take down all the pictures of her sister that were put on the wall of their family home.

“It’s simply too painful to see the photographs. They make me visualise the circumstances of the crash in my mind,” she said in Kampung Rizab Melayu, Tambun.

“Every day we ask the same questions … who, why, how did this happen. But we don’t know,” she said.

To further aggravate her grief, Norlin lost her huband in April. He had been her a pillar of strength until he was diagnosed with cancer.

Being the youngest, Norlin was fortunate to be Nor Rahimmah’s favourite.

“She used to feed me and stroke my hair as I fell asleep at night when we were young.”

Since the tragic incident, Norlin has developed a fear of flying.

“Even Hari Raya has not been the same as we would look forward to her phoning us from abroad.

“She wanted to get a feel of the atmosphere at home. She would call and ask what we were cooking and what we were preparing.

“Before the plane crash, she had called me from Amsterdam asking for ulam so she could have it when she buka puasa.

“To this day, when I eat ulam I still remember her.”

And when the family gathers every Aidilfitri, Norlin says the conversation will inevitably shift towards her sister and the events of the tragic day.

“We will wait, no matter how long and how painful it is … I just want to know the answer before I close my eyes for the final time.”

For former nurse, Wan Aini Wan Hussain, she continues to cherish the memory of her brother flight pilot, Capt Wan Amran. She plans to publish a book dedicated to him.

“There were tributes, prayers offered … but I want him to be remembered and that’s why I took to writing,” Wan Aini, 63, said in Kuala Kangsar.

“It took about three months to write. It’s about his life, how much he cared for the family and how exceptional he was to those who knew him.”

Wan Amran, she said, was a modest man who may not have liked the idea of having a book written in his honour.

However, she said the family agreed his story should be published.

Wan Amran’s wife, Mariyam, and their children are still deeply affected by his death.

Sharifah Asma Syed Alwi Al Junied, still thinks of her husband, first officer Ahmad Hakimi Hanapi, who was among the 15 Malaysia Airline crew members to perish. But she knows life must go on.

Ahmad Hakimi was one of the 298 onboard the Boeing 777.

Speaking to Bernama recently, she said it had been two years since the incident and realised the need to reclaim her life for her own future and that of her son, Abderrahman, who will turn three in October.

She said following her husband’s absence, Abderrahman became attached with her father-in-law, Dr Hanapi Mohd Noor, 68.

However, Dr Hanapi died last Thursday due to cancer of the gallbladder.

“It saddens me that my father-in-law is also gone now,” she added.

“I cannot afford to be down all the time for the sake of my son, in-laws and everyone.

“I want to be strong so that people can see I have moved on.”

She said she is pretty much settled now.

“I have a full-time job in the Human Resource Department at the United Nations office,” she said.

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