Retiree conned of RM180,000 in parcel scam

KUALA TERENGGANU — A retiree incurred losses amounting to almost RM180,000 after falling victim to a ‘parcel scam’ syndicate he got acquainted with, via the social media.

Initial police investigations revealed that although the 59-year-old victim was befriended by what he believed was a British woman, the syndicate was masterminded by a group of Africans.

The police suspect that the group had worked closely with locals to obtain the victim’s personal details to fleece him of the amount.

Terengganu Commercial Crime Investigation Department chief Supt Koh Ah Tiam said early last month, the victim had befriended a woman who claimed to be British, via Facebook.

He said the woman had sought assistance from the victim on the pretext of buying a house, adding that the victim agreed to help.

“The victim, who acted as a ‘middle-man’, managed to find a house in Damansara, Kuala Lumpur and the woman had agreed to buy it.

“As a token of appreciation, the woman said she wanted to give a present and cash to the victim for helping her to buy the house,” he told reporters here.

Koh said the victim then wired seven transactions between June 17 and 23.

“During that period, the victim had paid almost RM180,000 but he received neither the gift nor the cash as promised, until today,” he said, adding that the victim lodged a police report on Saturday after realising he had been cheated. — Bernama

Three students killed
in Bangladesh attack

WASHINGTON — Three students at universities in the United States, including an American and an Indian citizen, were among those killed in a militant attack in Bangladesh, university officials, the Indian government and a source said.

The State Department confirmed one US citizen was killed, but gave no details.

The White House condemned the attack in the country’s capital Dhaka, which it said resulted in as many as 20 deaths, including that of the American.

“We remain in contact with Bangladeshi authorities and have offered any assistance necessary,” it said.

The Islamic State (IS) militant group has claimed responsibility for what was one of the most brazen attacks in the South Asian nation’s history, killing more than a dozen foreigners at the Holey Artisan restaurant before security forces stormed the building and ended a 12-hour standoff on Saturday.

A State Department official said the department was not aware that any more US citizens had been among the hostages.

Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said two of its students were killed and an Indian government official said an Indian citizen who was a student at the University of California at Berkeley was among the dead.

“The Emory community mourns this tragic and senseless loss,” the university said in a statement.

Undergraduate Abinta Kabir and Goizueta Business School undergraduate Faraaz Hossain were the two victims from Emory, the statement said. Emory said Kabir was from Miami and Hossain was from Dhaka.

A source with knowledge of the situation said that the US citizen confirmed by the State Department was one of the
Emory students.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the “pure evil” of IS had claimed another Floridian, after a gunman who pledged allegiance to the group took hostages and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando last month.

“We cannot afford to see more lives lost at the hands of terrorists,” Scott said in
a statement.

Tarishi Jain, 19, was the Berkeley student victim, India’s minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, wrote on Twitter.

“I have spoken to her father Shri Sanjeev Jain and conveyed our deepest condolences. The country is with them in this hour of grief,” the minister wrote. “I monitored this personally the whole night. It is a case of brutal killing — an unnatural death.”

Jain had graduated from the American International School in Dhaka, and began studying at the University of California Berkeley last year. Berkeley officials said she intended to major in economics.

The university said in a statement that since early June she had been in Dhaka on an internship at Eastern Bank Limited working on e-commerce growth.

“We are devastated,” said Sanchita Saxena, executive director of the California university’s Institute for South Asia Studies and director of its Center for Bangladesh Studies.

“She was a smart and ambitious young woman with a big heart. Our deepest condolences to her family, friends, and the entire Berkeley community.”

UC Berkeley said Jain’s father is a textile merchant based in Dhaka and that he was among relatives and friends who rushed to the scene of the attack in hope of news of their loved ones. — Reuters

10 things about: Viper event director Faizal Ariff

KUALA LUMPUR — From being the person whom no one picked for their team in any sport because he was overweight, Faizal Ariff is now one of the most important people in the country’s first ever obstacle course race, Viper Challenge.

The 35-year-old master’s degree holder was 125kg when he started matriculation in Universiti Malaya about 16 years ago, but lost more than 40kg by the time he graduated.

In his quest to shed the kilos, Faizal took baby steps by first cutting down on meal portions and walked at least 5km a day.

After completing his studies in Information and Science, Faizal took up a role in the Health Ministry as a research officer, but he never felt it was the right career for him as his passion was exercise.

But even in his wildest dreams, Faizal did not think he would become a fitness instructor, let alone an event director in charge of internal operations of Viper Challenge.

Here, he talks about his body transformation, finding his path in the fitness industry, becoming a member of Viper Malaysia and juggling work with family.

In his own words:

When I was a teenager, I ate a lot. I wouldn’t care much about my health or whether or not I was fit. I would eat four to five servings and about three hours later, I would go out to look for more food. When people asked why I was overweight, I would lie by saying I wasn’t sure and that I ate like everyone else. In reality, I wasn’t lying to them, I was lying to myself.

It could be because I was depressed or because of my sedentary lifestyle but I generally loved food very much until I entered university. Back in my hometown in Alor Star, I would sit around and not move much. After school, I returned home to eat and then watch a lot of television. In the evening, I would go out to meet some friends at the field, but I was always the last one to be picked in a team. They never told me why I was chosen last but I guess it was because I was just fat and sluggish. Well, no one would want a person who cannot play in their team, right?

My epiphany came when I entered university. There were no television, no easy access to food and most importantly, no transport to get me to wherever I wanted to go. I had to walk from one place to another. It was then I got really sick of my size and who I had become. I could tell how heavy I was. I didn’t want to be different from others. I didn’t want to eat three to four plates of rice in front of my friends during meal times. I did not know much about fitness but I knew I had to move and stop eating so much. Therefore, I started walking instead of taking the bus in campus and controlled what I put in my mouth. I walked at least 5km a day and started eating one meal per sitting like everyone else. There were results and as I began to notice changes in my body, I was no longer depressed about my weight.

After completing my studies, I was in good shape … about 82kg then. Like everyone else, I was initially excited to land a job in the Health Ministry as a research officer. But as time went on, I just did not feel the job was the right one for me … I wanted to do something in the fitness industry, something I liked doing … but at the same time, I was afraid as to what my family and friends would say. So, I quietly started applying for jobs in gyms and I was over the moon when I got an offer to become a fitness instructor in a commercial gym in the city.

My lecturer, who was my referee in my resume, was very unhappy when he received a call from the gym. He told the gym’s manager I was meant for greater things in life. My family also did not support me as they always thought I would be a lecturer or an academician. But I grew to like what I was doing as an instructor. My family and friends, who were earlier sceptical, supported me when they realised this is what I wanted to do and I wouldn’t be where I am without their support.

I then met Simran Latif, who was also a fitness instructor in the gym and we were coaxed into joining the Original Bootcamp (OBC) by its founder Selva Kumar. From there, we founded Viper Malaysia. First, there were gyms and then bootcamps and now Obstacle Course Races (OCR) are making waves in the industry. In 2013, we initiated the first Viper event in Sepang. It was held over a period of two days and we managed to get about 8,000 participants. It was only the first OCR, but we were overwhelmed by such a big turnout. The number of participants then grew significantly in the following years, especially last year when we held Viper events in Sepang, Shah Alam and Genting Highlands. We managed to record 20,000 participants in the first event of the year. In Viper, I handle the internal operations as in the registration, back-end and other IT-related stuff, which I have expertise in, while Simran is in charge of obstacle courses. We both constantly have meetings with Selva to ensure operations run smoothly.

Last year, we saw other OCR organisers like Spartan coming into the country. They are not a threat to us. In fact, we saw a spike in the number of people joining us after Spartan came to town. We never look at other OCR organisers as a threat and we try not to clash our events on the same date so participants can join all events. There was this one time where several of them took part in the Spartan Super and a week later, joined Viper Arena in Shah Alam. That shows people would not skip one event for another as long the events do not fall on the same day.

Viper Malaysia has made its presence felt in Southeast Asia when we organised an event in Singapore early this year. It was well-received by Singaporeans as most OCR events there are considered “very clean” as there is not much mud involved. When we had ours, participants were happy as we made sure there was plenty of mud. We are also organising another Viper event in Jakarta. We plan to make Viper known regionally as unlike Spartan and Tough Mudder (another OCR event), we do not base our obstacles on a set of programmes.

With OBC going on almost every day and constant meetings with the team for both OBC and Viper, my time is very much packed. My typical day starts at 6.45am in KLCC, where I train bootcampers for about an hour and then I have meetings, if not with the team, with sponsors and other stakeholders. I also train clients in a one-on-one session during the day. At 6.45pm, there is another session of OBC in Petaling Jaya or Kuala Lumpur, which I conduct. I try to keep some free time during the night for the family. It has become tougher for me since my baby was born on the first day of Ramadan. Luckily, it is the fasting month and there are no Viper events at the moment.

Many think it is difficult to do what I do. Of course it is, but if you are willing to do what you enjoy doing by pacing yourself, I believe it can work for anyone. My recipe for success is fairly simple:I keep on to this motto “persistence, determination and sacrifice.” Find that recipe which works for you so you can wake up every morning saying, “This is my day!” — Malay Mail Online

Smalltown girl who raised bar beyond belief

AS far as the first girl from the little Portuguese Settlement in the backwaters of Malacca, to enter university 35 years ago is concerned, glass ceilings are meant to be smashed.

Tan Sri Rebecca Sta Maria, also the first to complete Form Six in the community, has been on a record-breaking streak since — fuelled only by unbelievable drive from within.

Not one to blow her own trumpet, the 58-year-old who could pass as one a decade younger, was surprised to be appointed deputy secretary-general of the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) in 2006 when there were other eligible male candidates.

Four years later, she became the first woman secretary-general of the ministry.

“I did not expect to rise to this level. If you look at history, this post has always been held by a man. I would have been happy, as my husband (S. Jayasankaran) always says, to retire as a senior director in Miti,” she says with trademark humility when it comes to her personal achievements.

Her professional accomplishments speak for themselves.

Glass ceilings have never fazed the wife and mother (daughter, Raisa, will get married later this month) who candidly admits to its existence.

She broke it into smithereens with unrivalled passion for the job and a remarkable ability to endear herself to her superiors through first-rate performance — naturally a cut above the rest of the pack.

Rebecca (from the Hebrew word meaning ‘captivating’), who retired yesterday after 35 years in government service, has been described by staff and the myriad admirers she has won over with her efficiency as the quintessential civil servant.

Forty ambassadors and scores of members of the diplomatic corps and friends who turned up at a farewell dinner for her last week, agreed as did the many not there.

She acquitted herself with distinction in all posts held, delivering on promises made to superiors, subordinates and the countless people who came to the ministry for assistance.

“And because I was breaking new ground, foremost in my mind was that I needed to come up to speed and prove wrong those who had doubted my abilities,” she tells me with the same mix of vim and verve that has earned wide admiration, and a few detractors along the way who doubted her capability.

The naysayers did not expect Rebecca going into overdrive to prove herself at a job that came naturally to the fast-speaking (in excellent English to boot) and quick-acting English Literature graduate.

I have always considered Rebecca — an old colleague from her short stint at a newspaper in the early 1980s — as someone intended for great things that even she did not know at that time.

With her sweet smile and excellent work ethic, she was the darling of the editors who saw a bright future for her.

But she realised her calling was elsewhere and joined the civil service where she found her groove.

Rebecca, never one to mince words or not call a spade a spade, albeit in a most diplomatic manner (no wonder countless diplomats think the world of her), has smiled her way through the fiercest storms she has endured within the ministry and without.

Gutsy does not even come near what she is, say those who have worked with her or others who know her penchant for efficiency, hard work and the ability to see beyond the immediate.

It showed early in her days at the settlement where she learnt self-motivation and perseverance from paternal grandmother Margaret Low who taught her discipline, time-management and the fact that love conquers all by looking after a brood of 12 grandchildren.

“She was illiterate but taught us lessons through the way she lived her life,” she says of the gritty Nyonya Malay and Kristang-speaking who served as an exemplar for the impressionable Rebecca who hung on her every word — and acted on it.

There may be numerous examples of her superlative resilience in public and private lives but one tells the story like none other.

“My sisters and I had gone back home to Malacca that morning to see our mother’s doctor who gave us the news that she had 4th stage cancer. We brought her to my home and as we were almost there, I got a call that I had been promoted to deputy secretary-general,” she says, her expression speaking volumes of her utter sorrow and elation that day.

But she took it all in stride, doing what she had to do for her mother and for the huge responsibility that had been laid on her shoulders by her mentor of sorts, then minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

As the clock ticked closer to the end of the 60 minutes she had allocated for this interview, I asked the question on most minds: why is she opting for retirement two years ahead of time?

Rebecca, wearing mostly black (with a beige top) that she treasures for its ability to withstand the rigours of travel and countless meetings at home or abroad, did not need to think of an answer.

“It’s guilt. I realised that I had to spend more time with my husband (who has been retired for a year and half after half a lifetime of trying to keep up with her) and daughter. My priority now onwards will be my family,” she says with a certainty born out of conviction that enough sacrifices had been made by all three since her career took off.

How is the woman who can’t sit still going to spend the rest of her days?

“The first thing I am going to do is complete the book my three sisters (she has two brothers) and I started on our family recipes handed down over the generations and the lessons we learnt from our parents and grandparents,” says the prolific writer of memorandums at work who has only completed 5,000 words for want of time.

She wants to spend the whole of next month at this labour of love besides engaging in counselling at a suitable place. There is also a think tank in Indonesia she has agreed to do some consultancy work for.

But enough is enough where a full-time job is concerned although captains of industry will be falling over themselves to catch one of the creme de la creme of the civil service.

Rebecca sees me out but I cannot leave without asking the question that talks about a little-known side of the woman who has been loved — and feared — by many.

Does she really have a collection of designer shoes ala Imelda Marcos?

She laughs (‘not even 100 lah’), looks at her Ferragamo Salvatore ‘that have never pinched’ and proceeds to give me and photographer Harie Anggara an ikan terubuk each from Sarawak.

Her successor, Datuk J. Jayasiri, has huge shoes to fill.

‘Most offenders without driving licence’

IPOH — The Road Transport Department has issued 8,247 summonses to road users for various traffic offences during the department’s “Ops Hari Raya” which began last week.

The department’s director-general, Datuk Nadzri Siron, said from this number, 2,438 road users were nabbed for driving without licences while 3,494 motorists did not have valid road tax and vehicle insurance.

Nadzri said the department had mobilised 1,000 officers for the operation, which ends on July 14.

“We also arrested an express bus driver who tested positive for drugs,” he said.

“We have already reminded bus companies to check on the background of drivers before hiring them but it looks like not everyone is heeding our advice.”

Nadzri, who monitored traffic flow along the North-South Highway near the Tapah Rest and Recreation area yesterday, said surveillance from the air helped monitor highway users and identify errant drivers using emergency lanes.

“Through this air surveillance, we can identify drivers who are using the emergency lanes during peak traffic hours, so it will be easier for us to take action,”
he said.

“Those using the emergency lanes will be summoned and taken to court.”

Nadzri also announced a ban on heavy vehicles using the expressway from yesterday until July 10.

Only heavy vehicles carrying food items and petrol are allowed to use the expressway during this period.

Traffic swells on 
major highways

PETALING JAYA — An increased number of vehicles thronged major highways leading north, south and east yesterday.

While there were no major traffic congestion recorded, traffic began to build up as early as 9am.

A spokesman from PLUS Malaysia Berhad said slow traffic was reported before the tunnel leading to Sungai Perak yesterday afternoon.

“There were also several minor accidents recorded along the North-South Highway in Penang, Perak and Selangor,” the spokesman said.

An accident was reported at Km292.4 (northbound) from Putra Mahkota to Bangi at 5pm. However, it did not
cause congestion.

The spokesman said traffic was also slow at Km63.1 from Simpang Renggam to Machap following an accident at 6pm, but traffic was smooth after 8pm.

On Penang Bridge, traffic was slow as there was an accident at Km3.2 from Prai to the island at 7pm, causing a 5km snarl.

Meanwhile, Bernama reported that routes heading to Seremban, Malacca and Johor also experienced high traffic volume.

A Malaysian Highway Authority spokesman said traffic was slow along the Pedas Linggi-Simpang Ampat route due to an accident at Km226, while the road towards Johor and Singapore were also congested as of 5pm.

In IPOH, Kerian police chief Supt Omar Bakthiar Yaacob said an accident along Km194.9 of the North-South Expressway near Bukit Merah on Friday was the first major accident that occurred along the stretch during the balik kampung period.

“The two who died were bus driver Zulkifli Mohd Yusof, 46, and 56-year-old Dr Ho Mei Lien, who worked at a private hospital.

“Zulkifli died due to head injuries after being sent to the Gunung Semanggol health clinic while Dr Ho died on the spot after being flung from the bus.

Omar said seven other Indonesian passengers suffered minor injuries and received outpatient treatment at a nearby hospital.

“Initial investigations showed the driver lost control of the bus as he was trying to avoid a tyre on the right lane and slammed into the divider,” he said.

Omar said there were 38 passengers in the bus, which was heading to Penang from Putrajaya.

“Witnesses claimed the driver was not speeding when the accident occurred,” he said, adding that the driver had no
criminal records.

Coach salutes ‘soldiers’

LILLE — Ecstatic Wales coach Chris Coleman praised his “soldiers” after a shock 3-1 win over Belgium at Euro 2016 yesterday.

The win took the country to their first major tournament semifinal, and said they could match anyone if they were not afraid to fail.

“I know my team are good enough to perform against anybody. We defended like soldiers, our performance was fantastic,” Coleman said.

“The whole experience is uncharted.”

The stunning victory against a side ranked second in the world was the greatest result in Welsh football history and will embolden the players when they meet Portugal next Wednesday for a place in the final.

“I think you dream about nights like this and you never know whether you’ll be lucky enough to live them,” Coleman said.

He had been quietly confident Wales could spring an upset and they deserved the win.

“I said before we kicked the ball today, we are not here to enjoy it, we are here to compete,” he said.

“The big challenge is not the opposition, it is ourselves. It’s not worrying about giving our best and failing.”

Second-half goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes sealed Wales’ triumph after captain Ashley Williams’ first-half header cancelled out an early strike from Radja Nainggolan.

“We were underdogs to even qualify but we knew the quality in our group,” said man-of the-match Robson-Kanu.

“The performance today is a credit to everyone.

“We kept to our game plan. We’ve got world-class players and we can be as solid as a rock defensively. We stand a good chance with that combination.”

Robson-Kanu’s superb goal came after he left three Belgium players for dead with a “Cruyff” turn and calmly stroked the ball home to put Wales 2-1 ahead in the 55th minute.

Former England international Gary Lineker, in his role as a BBC presenter, called Wales’ victory “one of the greatest performances in the history of British football”.

The Welsh fans, who had flocked across the Channel or made their way from other points in France, egged their team on from the start with a mighty choral display.

Although this was almost a home game for the Belgians, whose border is eight kilometres from Stadium Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, the only voices to be heard were Welsh, from Land of my Fathers to Men of Harlech and, their inevitable anthem of Euro 2016, Please Don’t Send Me Home.

On a sour note for Wales, though, they will be without inspirational midfielder Aaron Ramsey in their semifinal after he picked up a booking that has ruled him out of the match.

“I’m gutted for Aaron. He’s been one of the best players of the tournament,” said Coleman.

The London Times special sports section had a full-page picture of Robson-Kanu celebrating his goal with the headline “Hal-lelujah”, while The Sun’s banner read: “Kanu believe it! Greatest ever win!”.

Eight days after Britain voted to leave the European Union, Prime Minister David Cameron offered his congratulations to Wales for their Euro 2016 heroics.

“Amazing performance, amazing result. Passion & pride shown by Wales team & fans are incredible to watch. Bring on Portugal!” Cameron said on Twitter. — Reuters

Smalltown girl who raised bar beyond belief

AS far as the first girl from the little Portuguese Settlement in the backwaters of Malacca, to enter university 35 years ago is concerned, glass ceilings are meant to be smashed.

Tan Sri Rebecca Sta Maria, also the first to complete Form Six in the community, has been on a record-breaking streak since — fuelled only by unbelievable drive from within.

Not one to blow her own trumpet, the 58-year-old who could pass as one a decade younger, was surprised to be appointed deputy secretary-general of the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) in 2006 when there were other eligible male candidates.

Four years later, she became the first woman secretary-general of the ministry.

“I did not expect to rise to this level. If you look at history, this post has always been held by a man. I would have been happy, as my husband (S. Jayasankaran) always says, to retire as a senior director in Miti,” she says with trademark humility when it comes to her personal achievements.

Her professional accomplishments speak for themselves.

Glass ceilings have never fazed the wife and mother (daughter, Raisa, will get married later this month) who candidly admits to its existence.

She broke it into smithereens with unrivalled passion for the job and a remarkable ability to endear herself to her superiors through first-rate performance — naturally a cut above the rest of the pack.

Rebecca (from the Hebrew word meaning ‘captivating’), who retired yesterday after 35 years in government service, has been described by staff and the myriad admirers she has won over with her efficiency as the quintessential civil servant.

Forty ambassadors and scores of members of the diplomatic corps and friends who turned up at a farewell dinner for her last week, agreed as did the many not there.

She acquitted herself with distinction in all posts held, delivering on promises made to superiors, subordinates and the countless people who came to the ministry for assistance.

“And because I was breaking new ground, foremost in my mind was that I needed to come up to speed and prove wrong those who had doubted my abilities,” she tells me with the same mix of vim and verve that has earned wide admiration, and a few detractors along the way who doubted her capability.

The naysayers did not expect Rebecca going into overdrive to prove herself at a job that came naturally to the fast-speaking (in excellent English to boot) and quick-acting English Literature graduate.

I have always considered Rebecca — an old colleague from her short stint at a newspaper in the early 1980s — as someone intended for great things that even she did not know at that time.

With her sweet smile and excellent work ethic, she was the darling of the editors who saw a bright future for her.

But she realised her calling was elsewhere and joined the civil service where she found her groove.

Rebecca, never one to mince words or not call a spade a spade, albeit in a most diplomatic manner (no wonder countless diplomats think the world of her), has smiled her way through the fiercest storms she has endured within the ministry and without.

Gutsy does not even come near what she is, say those who have worked with her or others who know her penchant for efficiency, hard work and the ability to see beyond the immediate.

It showed early in her days at the settlement where she learnt self-motivation and perseverance from paternal grandmother Margaret Low who taught her discipline, time-management and the fact that love conquers all by looking after a brood of 12 grandchildren.

“She was illiterate but taught us lessons through the way she lived her life,” she says of the gritty Nyonya Malay and Kristang-speaking who served as an exemplar for the impressionable Rebecca who hung on her every word — and acted on it.

There may be numerous examples of her superlative resilience in public and private lives but one tells the story like none other.

“My sisters and I had gone back home to Malacca that morning to see our mother’s doctor who gave us the news that she had 4th stage cancer. We brought her to my home and as we were almost there, I got a call that I had been promoted to deputy secretary-general,” she says, her expression speaking volumes of her utter sorrow and elation that day.

But she took it all in stride, doing what she had to do for her mother and for the huge responsibility that had been laid on her shoulders by her mentor of sorts, then minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

As the clock ticked closer to the end of the 60 minutes she had allocated for this interview, I asked the question on most minds: why is she opting for retirement two years ahead of time?

Rebecca, wearing mostly black (with a beige top) that she treasures for its ability to withstand the rigours of travel and countless meetings at home or abroad, did not need to think of an answer.

“It’s guilt. I realised that I had to spend more time with my husband (who has been retired for a year and half after half a lifetime of trying to keep up with her) and daughter. My priority now onwards will be my family,” she says with a certainty born out of conviction that enough sacrifices had been made by all three since her career took off.

How is the woman who can’t sit still going to spend the rest of her days?

“The first thing I am going to do is complete the book my three sisters (she has two brothers) and I started on our family recipes handed down over the generations and the lessons we learnt from our parents and grandparents,” says the prolific writer of memorandums at work who has only completed 5,000 words for want of time.

She wants to spend the whole of next month at this labour of love besides engaging in counselling at a suitable place. There is also a think tank in Indonesia she has agreed to do some consultancy work for.

But enough is enough where a full-time job is concerned although captains of industry will be falling over themselves to catch one of the creme de la creme of the civil service.

Rebecca sees me out but I cannot leave without asking the question that talks about a little-known side of the woman who has been loved — and feared — by many.

Does she really have a collection of designer shoes ala Imelda Marcos?

She laughs (‘not even 100 lah’), looks at her Ferragamo Salvatore ‘that have never pinched’ and proceeds to give me and photographer Harie Anggara an ikan terubuk each from Sarawak.

Her successor, Datuk J. Jayasiri, has huge shoes to fill.

Welsh pride shines through Cardiff

CARDIFF — Friday night in Cardiff is often quite a lively affair and all the familiar sights were on show as “hen” parties made their way across the rainswept Welsh capital and sharply-dressed boys queued to get into nightclubs.

But never, for all the rejoicing in Welsh sporting triumphs down the years, has there quite been a Friday night in Cardiff like this one, after Wales beat Belgium in the Euro 2016 quarterfinal.

Appearing in their first major tournament for 58 years, Wales fought back to overcome Belgium, currently ranked the world’s second-best football nation, 3-1 in Lille, northern France, to book a semifinal with Portugal.

Huge roars rang out from Cardiff’s many pubs as Wales came from 1-0 down to win, thanks to goals from Ashley Williams, Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes.

Chants of “Are you watching England?” could, understandably, also be heard from more than one bar.

England may have scraped a 2-1 win over neighbours Wales in the pool stages but the football fortunes of the two countries had diverged drastically since then, with the much better-resourced English, featuring a host of Premier League stars, crashing out 2-1 against rank outsiders Iceland in the knockout rounds.

As some 6,000 Wales supporters became increasingly delirious in Cardiff’s Bute Park fan zone on Friday, a few opted against joining the madding crowd and instead headed for the bar of the Angel Hotel.

Among them was Tony Taylor, a retired steelworker from Port Talbot.

“It’s absolutely superb, I’m so proud,” said Taylor who, like his son Richard, was wearing a Wales football shirt.

“I know the team made the quarterfinals of the 1958 World Cup but this …” he added, momentarily lost for words.

Taylor and his wife had come to Cardiff to take Richard and fiancee Sophie Cross to the one-day cricket international between England and Sri Lanka at Sophia Gardens on Saturday — a match that coincides with their son’s 32nd birthday.

Richard, an IT worker from Neath, had been following Wales in France earlier in the tournament and might well have still been there but for his birthday present.

“Do you think I would be here if it wasn’t for this?” he said, adding: “Did you ever think you would see Wales play football like this?”

Richard and Sophie are due to get married in June next year.

“He made sure that when we booked the wedding it wasn’t in the football season,” said Sophie.

Her future mother-in-law, with an eye for a pun worthy of a newspaper headline writer, then interjected: “She was quite cross about that!”

While Wales competes as a separate nation in football and rugby union, its cricketers feature under the banner of England at international level.

“Robert Croft (the former Glamorgan and England spin bower) said playing for Glamorgan was like playing for Wales and playing for England was like playing for the British Lions (rugby union team),” said Taylor. — AFP

‘Trees growing well in Bukit Kiara Park’

A visit to Bukit Kiara Park recently proved an eye-opener for Sunday Mail photographer Ahmad Zamzahuri and I with trees as far as the eye could see.

The variety of trees was fascinating with 45 rainforest species planted to give visitors an eyeful.

Officials from Landskap Malaysia and the National Landscape Department took pains to brief us on the 2009 Hutan Kita-Kiara reforestation project.

Landskap Malaysia partnership development manager Tajang Jinggut, corporate communication officer Mohd Asyraf Mohd Bustaman and Tropical Rainforest Conservation and Research Centre partnership development manager Dr Dzaeman Dzulkifli were our guides for
the morning.

We were taken to three zones where trees were planted during the 2009 event. Along the way, I was introduced to National Landscape Department deputy director-general Tajuddin Ahmad.

We spent an hour at the corporate, VIP and community planting zones. It took about 10 minutes to get from one zone to another.

Dzaeman and Tajang said less than 10 per cent of trees planted at the three spots had died.

I was told the 1.5m trees were planted in between existing trees so that the “baby” trees received nutrients and shelter from “parent” trees.

I was also told that as soon as the “parent” tree fell to the ground or died, the “baby” tree which had grown to a certain height would take over the open space.

This process is called “gap face regeneration”.

I learnt that nearly 40 per cent of trees under the Hutan Kita-Kiara programme had grown to an “indestructible” height, with trees being up to 15m tall.

As soon as a tree reached that height, it was nearly impossible for anyone or wild animals to uproot it.

At the end of my hike, I realised I had seen almost 40 trees of different types and sizes, including one sponsored by then Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin.

I also learnt Landskap Malaysia was involved in other environmental projects to save the environment.

Tajang told me those who had sponsored trees during the Hutan Kita-Kiara project were welcome to inquire and check on the status of their trees with the National Landscape Department.

But, he added, as the process may take a long time, they could also make inquiries with Landskap Malaysia.

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