Malaysia, Singapore inching closer to win-win HSR deal: Azmin Ali

The Malaysian Minister of Economic Affairs in a tweet today hinted that Malaysia and Singapore were inching closer to a win-win HSR deal.

The controversial High-Speed Rail between Malaysia and Singapore, negotiated by the regime of ex-PM Najib Razak with the Singaporean counterparts was put on hold by Malaysian PM Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

After winning the elections in May, Dr Mahathir made a dramatic announcement in which he said the decision to scrap KL-Singapore HSR was ‘final’.

But since then, the HSR project went from final cancellation, to be on-hold or partially scrapped and now the deal seems to be back on the table.

See Azmin’s tweet below:

Further talks with Minister Khaw. We are inching closer to a win-win deal on HSR, thanks to the hardwork of officials from both sides. #MEA

— Mohamed Azmin Ali (@AzminAli) 30 août 2018

The Singapore daily Berita Harian today said Malaysia and Singapore would soon make an announcement on the RTS and HSR projects.

They based their assertion on a Facebook post from the Singaporean Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and the Minister for Transport, Khaw Boon Wan.

The minister said, after meeting Azmin, the two countries would be able to announce a joint decision on the RTS and HSR soon.

Don’t cry for me Malaysia: Penang born poet heads to ‘Conjurs Poetics’ in Argentina

Mawar Marzuki, a poet, misunderstood at home because no one is a prophet in her own country, is a beloved Malaysian artist on the international stage.

She is heading to Argentina to participate in all women poetic event where she will be able to express her deep love for the art of writing poems.

The event entitled “Saying goodbye to winter – receiving spring”  will perhaps become Mawar’s spring. 

The Penang born poetess – lesser known at home – is of international fame. She will be the only Malay poet who will be given the opportunity to recite her poems in both English and Malay, to the Argentinian audience.

That’s not all. Mawar is also the only poet who is not of Spanish origin, invited to the auspicious event in this great country.

The event, the Retirement CONJURS POETICS will be held in the Province of Misiones, Argentina.

The organisers are familiar with Mawar, sharing the same platform in many events on the international scene, including the World Poet Congress in Mongolia, the World Poetry day in Turkey and the International World Poetry Gala in Bristita, Romania.

“Her body of work, including poetry and translations, are very much appreciated by the international poetry circle. That is one of the reasons why Mawar is granted permission to join this event,” 

penang poet

Her body of work, including poetry and translations, are very much appreciated by the international poetry circle.

The event will be in a reserve of jungle and waterfalls with a selected group of women poets, visiting the emblematic sites, some of which are considered world heritage sites, as well as one of the wonders of the world (the Iguazu Falls).

The organisers believe the event will be fruitful for her as a lecturer because the participants include teachers and academicians and there will be a series of visit to schools and high schools in Argentina.

“Her work with respect to the event will be published in both English and Spanish Language,” said the organisers.

Trump’s climate change U-turn a bane for Tesla?

Tesla, the electric car maker in the US is a potential victim of the Trump administration’s proposed rollback of America’s Clean Car Standards.

While this is bad news for the pocketbooks, climate security and clean air, as well as auto sector jobs, and state leadership – it is also bad for electric car makers.

There is little doubt that Tesla’s boss Elon Musk is aware of the dangers of this U-turn on climate change policies.

Musk tried to push for more liquidity for the car maker, trying to bring it into private hands but failed.

The fact about Tesla is that most critics did not point their finger on whether the management is failing and whether the company’s strategy to build its first mass-market car is the wrong strategy.

The point they made is that Tesla needed more cash to complete the orders for the M3 model.

But Musk’s efforts to bring the company private says a lot more than the need for immediate cash.

leaked draft of the administration recommends flatlining the standards at 2020 levels through 2026, and also includes an attack on states’ long-standing authority to enforce more protective clean car standards.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) says the proposed rollback is the wrong move for America. It listed four reasons why:

  1. Bigger gas bills in all fifty states

But Tesla’s vehicles are a win-win solution for Americans, with cleaner air, lower or not gas bills.

With the current Clean Car Standards in place, owners of the model year 2025 cars would see net savings of up to $5,000 over the lifetime of their cars compared to the model year 2020 vehicles, and trucks owners could save up to $8,000, it said.

With Tesla vehicles, the gas-bill will be trounced, saving Americans more money.

But with a U-turn in the environment strategy, electric vehicles may turn out to be more expensive than guzzlers.

  1. More pollution

The dramatic rollback reportedly recommended by the Trump administration would increase climate-destabilizing pollution by over two billion tons – comparable to the all the climate pollution emitted from 480 million average American cars in a year.

  1. American jobs and innovation at risk

Strong clean car standards are a key part of a healthy American auto industry because they foster the deployment of innovative solutions.

  1. State leadership under attack

The proposed rule takes aim at long-standing state authority to enforce tougher standards than those implemented at the federal level.

Over the last half-century, state leadership has played a key role in spurring the development and deployment of clean car solutions like smog-fighting catalytic converters.

Mauritius getting international support in Diego Garcia claims: BBC

The BBC said Mauritius is gaining a lot of international support in its claims against the UK on Diego Garcia.

In a report today, the British television station said Mauritius has surprisingly garnered a great deal of international support.

Last year, Mauritius won an opportunity to present its case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Mauritius recently embarked on a diplomatic campaign to win international support for the islands’ return.

Last year, the UK suffered a humiliating defeat at the United Nations general assembly.

The UN members voted overwhelmingly to send the matter to the ICJ in The Hague.

Last year, the UK’s traditional European allies, including France and Germany, chose to abstain.

Experts said the US lost support after it voted for Brexit, with one lawyer saying Britain has fallen off its pedestal.

People are also saying the Diego Garcia case is a sign of the end of the British empire and the end of colonialism.

Mauritius has also accused the British government of arm-twisting, threatening a close ally. According to the Mauritians, it is now a bitter diplomatic tug-of-war. At stake is the fate of the tiny, strategic archipelago in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

“The dispute over the Chagos Islands – home to the US military base on Diego Garcia – is being portrayed by some as an indication of Britain’s waning influence on the world stage following the Brexit vote,” wrote the BBC.

Next week the issue will come before judges at the ICJ in The Hague.

Mauritius PM Pravind Jugnauth, in an interview with BBC News, said there were threats against Mauritius.

He said they were in forms of retaliation.

“Retaliations… on issues of trade and on issues of investment, you know, and on our relationship with the UK,” Mr Jugnauth said, according to the BBC.

Rohingya: Bangladesh doesn’t care, why should Malaysians?

By Kazi Mahmood

From Bangladesh to Malaysia, the fate of the Rohingya refugees are now in the balance.

The Rohingya community, embraced by ex-Najib Razak’s regime, is bullied by another Muslim country, Bangladesh.

And they are now not a target in Malaysia.

The New York Times ran a feature story from the Thaingkhali Refugee camp, Bangladesh.

A dark and sad picture came out of the report on Bangladesh. When coupled with the dire situation these innocent people are in Malaysia altogether, one wonders what will happen next.

How Myanmar soldiers led attacks on villages, the culling of those captured and the rape of the women left behind. This is the story many people are still watching on their telly.

A woman said she was raped repeatedly over several days. A government official then slit the throat of her husband during the soldiers’ attack on their village.

Nearly two dozen Rohingya Muslim refugees shared similar stories. They told of years of oppression and abuse that culminated in the mass slaughter on Aug. 27 last year.

Hundreds of thousands flee to Bangladesh after raids by Rohingya insurgents on several police checkpoints

In Malaysia, groups armed with cameras and a desire to get rid of illegals in the country are showing an ugly truth.

They say foreign illegals – of which the Rohingya would form part – are occupying a space that naturally belongs to them.

The campaign posted on Facebook – in pages such as the Clean Malaysia Movement or CCM – is to raise awareness and warn the authorities to take action.

But it is adding to tensions in the newly ‘liberated’ country from the claws of a dying but compassionate Barisan Nasional regime.

Was the BN’s compassion towards the Rohingya a way to garner Muslim support ahead of the crucial elections?  Or was it for real? We will never know. But it is not uncommon for Malaysia to show support for refugees.

The country hosted the Vietnamese boat people for decades before deporting them. The Rohingyas are not new on the Malaysian scene. They have been around for decades too, by they roam freely in the country.

Now, armed with UNCHR IDs, they are edging up the social ladder, getting better jobs than the ‘car wash’ classic encounters. This is creating friction among Malaysians too. The Muslims in the country are a bit more tolerant but some other communities are not.

Nevertheless, the fate of the Rohingya has deeper with that of the refugees from the Arab world and Africa flocking all over Europe.

In Bangladesh, the Muslim country has no plans for the refugees. The latter has to fend for themselves or live in absolute poverty if they did not get help from foreign ‘aid’ agencies.

According to Eye Witness, some Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar are finding work in the fishing industry in neighbouring Bangladesh.

They are earning a tiny daily income and occasional share of the catch, all under the official radar. If the authorities catch them, the punishment is a lockdown of their camps.

The Shamlapur refugee camp, near a fishing colony on one of the world’s longest beaches, is home to about 10,000 Rohingya refugees,

Compared to the camps in Bangladesh, the number of Rohingyas in Malaysia is nothing.

But pressure is mounting on the Pakatan Harapan regime. With groups witch hunting around in Kuala Lumpur and other major cities for ‘foreign illegals’, the Rohingya are not spared.

They are often the ones who fall into the category of illegals earning a living under the nose of ‘deserving’ Malaysians.

The religious connotations in Trump’s possible impeachment

The religious connotation in politics is growing in both Turkey and the USA. Here, we take a look at what it means for the two leaders.

Rogue US President Donald Trump is surely praying to some deities that he does not get impeached. And this is not the only religious reference we can make in this hectic episode at the White House.

In Turkey Trump is seen as a back-stabber (which means he was a friend who later betrayed Turkey’s trust). In Ankara, President Tayyip Erdogan would lead a congregation of morning prayers.

Erdogan may indeed pray that Trump is learning a lesson with the back-stabbing from his ex-lawyer.

Both Erdogan and Trump says they believe in God. We do not know which God Trump follows, but he is a believer. Whether he prays like ordinary people or not, we have no idea.

But we have seen Erdogan leading a prayer in Turkey. A successful one indeed. He won the elections after leading a prayer designed to make him a winner. He and his followers made ‘Doa’ or special prayer directly to Allah.

Back in the USA, where Trump is not known for kneeling in front of his God to pray. what are his supporters doing?

They prayed a lot for Trump. See the videos below:

The significance of prayers in modern American politics is part of ‘doomsday’ or ‘end of the world’ scenarios. 

WFTV this year started a series of articles that focus on these scenarios in both the Muslim and Christian worlds.

We will also look into the Jewish, Buddist and Hindu world. But the interesting ones are from America, would you not agree? Trump won the elections ‘after his supporters prayed’ some would say.

This happened while Hilary Clinton supporters – more secular than the Trump supporters – danced.

But Trump and Erdogan are not the only leaders praying. Oh, but we did not hear of Trump praying. Perhaps he leaves it to his supporters.

Nevertheless, there are many other people who are praying hard to wade-off witchcraft attacks against Trump, while others are hardly praying like Trump perhaps.

An Alabama pastor asks church to pray for Trump, against witchcraft attacking him..

The Rev. John A. Kilpatrick preaches on Aug. 19, 2018, at Church of His Presence in Daphne, Ala. (Church of His Presence)

“It’s time to pray for the president,” said Pastor John A. Kilpatrick quoting 2 Kings 9:22, which attributes witchcraft to Jezebel.

“When Elijah faced Jezebel, he was facing witchcraft. What’s happening right now in America, is witchcraft’s trying to take this country over. It’s witchcraft that’s trying to take America back over.”

video of the sermon highlighting the mention of witchcraft against Trump has more than 100,000 views on social media.

MAS knew of thief syndicate operating on board its flights?

A thief syndicate is operating right on board some flights. But no one knew, except for stewards and cabin crew?

But it did not say anything. No press release, no announcements until a passenger who faced a robber on board a MAS flight posted his ugly experience on Facebook?

And then, there still are no official statements from MAS or MAB?

The story goes that a passenger, Faiz Mokhtar, who was on flight MH0751 from Ho Chi Minh City flying back to KL on 15/8/18, was surprised to find out that his laptop bag kept in the overhead cabin in the aircraft was stolen.

But the big issue is, the stewardess on board told the passenger there was a syndicate after the event. Malaysian Airlines did not find it necessary to warn its passengers of such a syndicate until a passenger caught someone in the act?

He wrote: Apparently, the crew informed us, there is a syndicate that has been conducting this modus operandi on China, Hong Kong and Vietnam flights. 

There is also another question. MAS knows which flights are affected by these pests. Yet they did not inform anyone?

The problem persists with the lack of a corporate statement on the incident. Do they think the police report made on-board the flight in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam is sufficient?

Did it really solve the problem when the rest of the passengers on other MAS flight to the said destinations – China, Hong Kong and Vietnam flights – are safe when one person was caught in the act?

And there is another piece of information of great interest in the Facebook post of Mr Faiz. He states the alleged robber, a Chinese citizen, only had a one-way ticket to KL. He had no return flight ticket to China or elsewhere.

 “That guy was from Hong Kong and he is flying to KL with no return ticket, probably his route depends on his “loot”, wrote Faiz.

He also wrote that this syndicate is quite bold because once in-flight, “there is no cctv footage as proof” of their acts.

He even said there would be a conflict of which laws of the land is applicable in such cases as they’re considered to be in the international zone.

See the whole story here: 

Imaam prays on while earthquake hits mosque in Lombok, Indonesia

The Imaam prayed on, but some of the congregation ran for their lives.

Hadith on Planting: Finish planting trees even if the Hour is established upon you

Anas ibn Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “If the Resurrection were established upon one of you while he has in his hand a sapling, then let him plant it.”

Source: Musnad Aḥmad 12491

Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Albani

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ إِنْ قَامَتْ عَلَى أَحَدِكُمْ الْقِيَامَةُ وَفِي يَدِهِ فَسْلَةٌ فَلْيَغْرِسْهَا

12491 مسند أحمد باقي مسند المكثرين

1424 المحدث الألباني خلاصة حكم المحدث صحيح في صحيح الجامع

Is Mahathir’s regional rejig the best bet to deal with the trade war?

Is the regional rejig proposed by Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad the way to go for Asean?

Asean is at crossroads in the wake of a trade war started by the US. The risk is it could have a boomerang effect on Southeast Asia.

The tussle is biting into China’s exports to the US, raising the prospect of a spillover effect. This may affect countries that have deep economic ties with Beijing. The question is whether or not the countries in Southeast Asia need to be wary of the trade war.

China’s exports to the US from January to May fell to $187 billion, from $205 billion in 2017.

The $18 billion lost has a political effect on China. It shows that Mr Trump’s aggressive battle against Beijing is working in the favour of the US. It also means it could affect countries like Malaysia, a major trading partner to China.

In 2017, Malaysia’s trade with China increased by 20.6 percent to 290.6 billion yuan. Exports to China rose by 28 percent to more than 126 billion yuan. Imports grew by 15.5 percent, reaching 164.5 billion yuan.

In Beijing, the country’s leadership took note of the dip in their export earnings. Though the country’s total exports are still on the rise, it is wary of the external threats. With this new threat to economic growth, Beijing is forced to step in to ensure economic stability.

Political and economic experts believe the current trade war could also influence our region. They are saying the American tirade against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) may result in a shift in trade flows.

The flow is against the US, which has registered trade deficits with many nations. For example, the US has a trade deficit with Asean, but this has not dampened Mr Trump’s interest in the region.

Instead, investment between the US and Asean is flowing well. Asean is the fourth largest trading partner of the United States. But with $234 billion in two-way trade, Asean may need to tread with care.

In April, the US Trade Representative’s Office said it was reviewing the eligibility of Indonesia for the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

The panicked Indonesians are lobbying the Americans for fear of losing the benefits of the reduced tariffs on about $2 billion worth of exports to the United States.

This is one example where the US could impose its will and draw Asean members out of their cosy union to bow under pressure.

The Mahathir principle

regional rejig

But what are the options Asean member states have besides the Asean+ forums? There is, of course, the Apec forum. But it is not delivering the way it should according to its vast potential, experts say.

Its member states will have to decide whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership 11 or the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the East Asian Economic Caucus (EAEC) are the way to go in the wake of a potential spillover of the trade war.

Experts are now debating whether Mr Mahathir’s move to balance the country’s foreign policy by bringing both Japan and China to its side is the answer to the growing regional instability.

There are 16 countries in the RCEP. The group includes Japan, China, South Korea and the ten Asean countries. It is similar in nature to the recently revived idea of an East Asia Economic Caucus (EAEC). Mr Mahathir proposed the idea after his recent trip to Japan.

The question is: What is the difference between the RCEP and the EAEC? Also, why do we need so many economic forums in this region?

According to some experts, the RCEP may not be what Asean is looking for with a trade war on the horizon. Despite Japan cosying up to the idea, the RCEP is seen as a China-led push for a trade pact in which Beijing will have a dominant role.

Experts say the EAEC might be the right solution instead. The EAEC looks more likely to be a trade pact where Asean will have an edge over the Chinese, though it is still too early to pronounce on the new multinational pact.

Explosive trade war

Nevertheless, there is also the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP or TPP 11). This broad base economic and investment pact could be the answer if the US were to rejoin it without conditions.

Otherwise, the US may be the dominant force and with Mr Trump’s bullying tactics, the trade pact may not serve the interests of Asean. It may challenge its centrality and unity, given the fact that only a few Asean members are in the pact.

In this early stage in the budding trade war, the Asean remains exposed to an explosive situation with an erratic Mr Trump on the loose.

Is it better for Asean to develop more regional trade alliances or to rely on the US against the rising Chinese giant? Many say the US cannot be trusted. Others argue the US is the only country that could salvage Asean against the Chinese. They say Asean could do without another ploy from Beijing given that it has now virtually conquered the South China Sea.

Some are pointing out that Japan is a softer power, less aggressive than China and the US and that Asean should converge towards a better relation with the Japanese instead. Japan is a full-fledged member of the TPP11 and is trying to play a bigger role in the RCEP.

With the growing dependence on multinational groupings in Asia, it is sensible that Asean will have to consolidate itself further in order to redress its shaky unity and centrality.

Many believe Asean should pursue the EAEC, a block that will bring China, Japan, Australia and Asean together. It may also be expanded to get India and other major Asian players on board.

There are better prospects for trade expansion with regional alliances. Whether it is the TPP11, RCEP or the EAEC, the solution for Asean rests in its unity and centrality. To preserve these, the member nations have to deal with external influences with caution.

This article written by Kazi Mahmood first appeared in The Khmer Times

Are mediocre Singaporeans happy on this national day?

Are mediocre Singaporeans happy?

Decades ago, this small country became a republic but are not many people who could have predicted its march to success.

Not even the leaders who kicked the ball to get the country to where it is today.

But from a strict regime of compliance, the country has fallen into a middle-income trap and a cul-de-sac for the retirees and pensioners. 

With this national day, it is obvious that Singapore, a firebrand Asean tiger, the number one roaring economic champion of Southeast Asia, has missed many targets.

Some of the once loaded, young and hardworking population that grew older with time is having the hardest moments in their lives. Some are poverty stricken but many of them are forced to work to earn a living.

Many left their retirement to work as cleaners and odd workers, perhaps to earn enough to pay for their hefty medical bills. At least this is what people are saying.

Ipso facto, if that is true, then the country is not on the right path.

In my forty years as a Journalist, I can say I have seen many things. I have heard of many other things. Sort of “I have been there, done this and seen that’ kind of statement.

I can say that I have also seen this ugly side of progress to the point that I believe it is human to fail at times.

On top of that, I am appaled when I read the alleged statement from the Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

If he really said what he said about Singaporeans earning less than S$500,000 a year, then I feel sad for the mediocre people. But I feel happy for ESM Goh. He spoke the truth.

“So where do you want to get your ministers from? From people who warn only $500,000 a year? You’re going to end up with very mediocre people who can’t even earn a million dollars outside. Is it good for you or is it worse for us?”

Yes, this is what is circulating on portals in Singapore. The quote is attributed to Mr Goh. If he really said those who earn less than S$500,000 are ‘mediocre people’, it is a sad day for those Singaporeans.

It is not surprising though. In this day and age, nothing is surprising. There is a US President who is on the loose like a cannonball. We have leaders who are clinging to power because if they go away, all hell will break loose. We also have richly paid leaders who are taunting the small people as ‘mediocre’.

No big deal. But the suffering of the people has its limits. And they have to bear with their problems. No one is here to help them in these testing times. Certainly not the politicians.

According to Mr Google – whom we can trust at times – quoted a veteran communist politician as saying: “A politician is a person who is professionally involved in politics, especially as a holder of an elected office.”

But in the US, generally speaking, a politician is a person who acts in a manipulative and devious way, typically to gain advancement within an organization. This is the modern connotation.

Meanwhile, it is popular belief that a politician is a person who is rendering a service to his nation, to his people, his country etc.

This is not necessarily true, as we have seen from Mr Google. And trust me, Miss Wikipedia does not differ from Mr Google.

Hence, to do politics is not to serve the people. It is to distance oneself from the mediocre.

It is to get paid, and in some quarters, it is to become rich. In Singapore, it is for the really highly professional people to get the job as Ministers. If you earn $500k a year, you are not qualified.

This is how it is. Nothing is going to alter this state of affairs in Singapore, not in the coming decade. Unless I am wrong.

The opposition in Singapore started a debate on the creation of a united front to oppose the mighty People’s Action Party (PAP).

The PAP is today among the few parties that have ruled their country since the inception of the nation.

This is to cheer the sad ones

Cambodia has a party that has ruled for 38 years non-stop and it won the recently concluded elections hands-down. It snatched the 125 Parliamentary seats, leaving nothing to the opponents.

But in Malaysia, the ruling party for 61 years, was finally brought down in dramatic fashion.

It took 20 years of street fights, courtroom debacles and betrayals from fellow compatriots. But it took the roping-in of an elderly statesman to achieve the impossible.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, on a fine morning, decided to make a move thought impossible. He went to a Court of law to meet an old foe.

It suffices for a few minutes of talk surrounded by wary people from the ‘reformasi’ movement to reach a deal.

The rest is history. But part of this history is still in the making. Anwar Ibrahim, the man Dr Mahathir went to meet at the Courtroom, is still in the shadows.

The point is that the way to political unity among the opponents exists. Dr Mahathir and Anwar paved the way for future alliances among political foes in the region.

Should Singapore’s opposition follow these steps, nothing will be impossible. But it entails many sacrifices to build such trusts.

Happy National Day Singapore!