Insurance News

Association of Banks: No credit crunch in Malaysia
24 October 2008, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM) says there is no credit crunch in the country and that the banking sector remains strong and well capitalised despite the turmoil in the global financial markets. In a statement yesterday, ABM chairman Datuk Seri Abdul Hamidy Abdul Hafiz said: “It is business as usual and commercial banks are not putting any brakes on lending.” According to the ABM, unlike the liquidity crunch that was seizing some of the key developed markets such as the US, Britain and Europe, Malaysia had been relatively unaffected and liquidity level in the banking system was healthy. “As at end-August, loan-to-deposit ratio stood at 74.5% compared with the high 90% seen in 1997. “The stable and low three-month domestic interbank rates, and relatively narrow spreads against the three-month Malaysian Government Securities yields are also indicative of the robustness of our banking system,” he said. While the association acknowledged that the immediate outlook for the global financial markets and ensuing world economic growth prospects appeared challenging, the commercial banks operating in Malaysia were healthy and would remain resilient. Abdul Hamidy said: “ABM is confident that the commercial banks are in the position to continue to perform their intermediation function in full support of domestic economic activities.” According to ABM, banks in Malaysia are mainly domestic focused with more than 90% of total assets in ringgit-denominated assets, and most of their investments or assets concentrated in the Asean region. Adding to the strength of the local banking sector is the fact that credit extension is more diversified today between business and household loans, with no heavy exposure to any single segment. Domestically, Malaysia has a savings rate of 37% which is high by international standards. The local financial system’s strong liquidity, backed by high domestic savings rate and Bank Negara’s mid-September external reserves of US$119bil, will thus continue to facilitate the orderly functioning of transactional and lending activities so as to spur domestic economic growth, albeit at a more moderate pace. This meant there was ample liquidity in the system, Abdul Hamidy said. “Bank Negara’s commitment to continue to provide liquidity, whenever needed, to financial institutions under its purview and readiness to respond with coordinated measures with other monetary authorities in the region, will ensure that demand for financing as well as financial services, arising from economic and financing activities, remains intact and unaffected.”

Insurance companies brace for global crisis
20 October 2008, By The Star

INSURANCE companies are strengthening their capabilities and adopting a prudent investment strategy to cushion the impact of the global financial turmoil. Although the financial crisis has not hit the local insurance industry, insurers are not taking any chances in the event the crisis prolongs and begins to dent bottomline. Allianz Malaysia Bhd (AMB), among others, is tapping on the group’s worldwide best practices to face the financial tsunami rocking credit markets. Chief executive officer (CEO) Alexander Ankel said: “As part of an international group, AMB has access to numerous best global practices. These include underwriting, claims, investment, information technology and all other relevant operational processes, hence our risk management environment is very strong. “This puts us in a position to master downward cycles and trends and to ensure we will continue to meet and exceed the expectations of agents, customers, distribution partners and business partners.” According to Ankel, AMB also hopes to streamline both its general and life businesses within the next 20 months to further beef up its capabilities and competency. This, he said, would create a more customer-centric organisation and help to convey the group’s best practice to the local market. AMB, via subsidiary Allianz General Insurance Co (M) Bhd (AGIC), is now the country’s second largest general insurer with a market share of close to 10% after its consolidation with Commerce Assurance Bhd (CAB) last year. Despite the challenging market environment, AGIC’s gross written premiums grew 33.2% to RM748.6mil in 2007 from RM561.9mil in 2006. Its life insurance operations, through subsidiary Allianz Life Insurance Malaysia Bhd, charted a 20.6% growth in written premiums to RM594.6mil last year. AMB reported a group net loss of RM2.61mil last year mainly due to exceptional expenses and costs relating to the acquisition of CAB as compared with a net profit of about RM35mil in 2006. The group currently has more than 9,000 agents (general and life), over 30 general insurance and 18 life insurance branches. Manulife Insurance (M) Bhd president and CEO Peter Robertson said the key to cushion the impact of the credit crunch in the financial services sector was to have a good risk management system and practices. “Our risk management practices cover three key areas: product design, investment management and asset liability management. For product design, we rigorously assess the pricing basis and the cost of any guarantees before launching products. “Investment management pertains to the way we review credit and asset liability management is the combination of the above two practices,’’ he said. Manulife’s new business premiums last year stood at RM71.3mil against RM50.2mil in 2006. Its net profit for the second quarter stood at RM30.5mil. Last year, the company posted a net profit of RM85mil compared with RM50.7mil previously. Its total agency count as at September this year stood at 1,438. Ankel said AMB has adopted a prudent investment strategy backed by well defined investment mandates, guidelines and limits in view of the current financial crisis. The credit crunch had minimal impact on the company as its exposure in the local stock market had been reduced substantially and its foreign investment was only limited to its unit linked funds, Ankel noted. Manulife, Robertson said, maintained very strict credit criteria for evaluating investments be it fixed income or equities. “In times like these the benefits of such conservatism comes to the fore.” Hong Leong Assurance Bhd (HLA) group managing director and CEO Charlie E. Oropeza said the company’s investments were mainly in the local markets and did not have exposure to collateralised debt obligations and other exotic instruments. Oropeza added HLA’s investments were well diversified and exposure to the equity market had been kept to a minimum and in sound dividend-yielding stocks.

Deposits In Banks, Financial Institutions Fully Guaranteed Until Dec 2010
16 October 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Cash deposits in banks and deposit-taking development financial institutions in the country will be fully guaranteed until December 2010, the Finance Ministry and Bank Negara announced. They said all ringgit and foreign currency deposits with commercial, Islamic and investment banks and deposit-taking development financial institutions regulated by Bank Negara will be fully guaranteed by the government through Perbadanan Insurans Deposit Malaysia (PIDM) until December 2010. The guarantee extends to all domestic and locally incorporated foreign banking institutions, they said in a statement Thursday. They said access to Bank Negaras liquidity facility will be extended to insurance companies and takaful operators regulated and supervised by the central bank. These measures are pre-emptive and precautionary since Malaysian financial institutions are well-capitalised with ample liquidity and depositors’ confidence remained intact, they said. They said the measures are to maintain the stability of the Malaysian financial system. Given the soundness and strong capitalisation of the Malaysian banking institutions, it is unlikely that these guarantees will be called upon, they said. Malaysia has a strong regulatory and supervisory framework reinforced by the financial discipline imposed by PIDM. Its differential premium system provides strong incentives for banks to adopt sound and rigorous risk management practices including the maintenance of strong capital buffers, they said. PIDM also has the necessary resolution powers to protect depositors, they added. Bank Negara remains vigilant to any potential emerging risks and challenges to the Malaysian financial system, the statement said. Should there be any further destabilising consequences from external developments, the central bank, in addition to ensuring adequate liquidity in the banking system at all times, would also guarantee interbank obligations of banking institutions and facilitate efficient access to capital for banks to maintain capital adequacy at target levels well above the minimum standards, it said. Bank Negara will also continue to ensure regulatory framework remains responsive to market conditions and maintains appropriate incentives for prudent risk management on the part of financial institutions to maintain the orderly functioning of the intermediation of the financial system and financial markets, it added.

Malaysian Financial System Can Weather Current Global Financial Turmoil
14 October 2008, By Bank Negara Malaysia

Despite the increased volatility in the global financial markets, Malaysian financial institutions remain resilient . Several years of reforms, institutional development and capacity building, continuous efforts to enhance corporate governance and risk management standards and practices have significantly strengthened the banking system. The level of non-performing loans has also improved to 2.5%. In addition, the standardised approach of the Basel II capital adequacy framework was implemented effective January 2008. There is also ample liquidity in Malaysia ‘s financial system to facilitate the orderly functioning of economic and financing activities. As at end-August 2008, net interbank placements with Bank Negara Malaysia by the banking system amounted to RM198.5 billion. The banking and insurance industries are therefore operating with adequate capital and liquidity buffers that have been accumulated over several years. Malaysia ‘s financial institutions also have negligible exposure to both sub-prime related securities and to the affected financial institutions of other countries, with more than 90% of total assets of the banks and insurance companies in ringgit denominated assets. In addition, all foreign financial institutions in Malaysia are locally incorporated and have a high level of capital that is committed to support their domestic operations. As at end-August 2008, the risk-weighted capital ratio for these foreign financial institutions was at 12.6%. The banking system’s leverage position remains manageable and continues to record strong risk-weighted capital ratio of 13.2% as at end-August 2008, exceeding the minimum 8% capital requirement by RM42.3 billion. The insurance industry also recorded high solvency surplus of RM16.5 billion. The strong capital position combined with ample liquidity provides adequate capacity to the banking system to continue to perform its intermediation function and to meet its financial commitments as well as the demands for financing and financial services in supporting domestic economic activities. The aggregate domestic household sector continues to exhibit stable level of indebtedness and wealth where total financial assets are more than two times of total debts. Overall, corporations also continue to exhibit sound financial position and manageable leverage position with debt-to-equity ratio of 48% in the first half of 2008. The Central Bank has a fully developed supervisory and surveillance system. It continuously monitors all financial institutions under its purview and will take appropriate action to safeguard the soundness of the financial system. The Bank stands ready to provide liquidity, whenever necessary, to financial institutions under its purview. The Bank is also closely engaging with the other monetary authorities in the region to monitor and respond with co-ordinated measures in managing the current challenging environment.

Cops bust ‘hell workshop’ in Subang
16 October 2008, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: More than 100 cars worth around RM2mil believed to have been stolen in the state were cannibalised for parts in a workshop here. It is learnt that police discovered the “hell workshop” in Kampung Baru Subang after a man lodged a police report on Tuesday that his Kia Spectra had been stolen at about 10am. What the thieves did not know was that the car was fitted with a tracking system that showed its exact location in real time. Petaling Jaya CID officers tracked down the car to the workshop an hour later and were shocked to find that all that was left of the Kia Spectra was its bare chassis which was in the midst of being taken apart. Petaling Jaya OCPD Asst Comm Arjunaidi Mohamad said the parts, including electronic components, were believed to have been mostly sold to spare part dealers. Investigations also showed that the syndicate had been fooling unsuspecting customers by selling them stolen parts complete with “documentation”. It is believed the workshop would buy stolen cars from the thieves at low prices. ACP Arjunaidi said police would be looking into several other workshops in the area to check if they were working with the syndicate. Twelve 12 people, aged between 17 and 49, including two foreigners were arrested.

Students nabbed in luxury car theft ring
25 September 2008, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Two college students ferrying a stolen car were arrested by police recently. They led police to the arrest of a middleman in a car theft syndicate and the recovery of six luxury vehicles worth more than RM1.5 million. They were arrested by a team led by Assistant Superintendent Bee Amba from the Federal Criminal Investigation Department’s intelligence and record division on Sept 9. Acting on a tip-off, police arrested the two students, aged 19 and 22, at a shopping complex car park in Sentul. They were about to get into a Toyota Camry to drive it to Sunway. The duo, who are engineering students at a private college in Sunway, led police to an apartment in Sunway a few hours after their arrest. Police also recovered two Lexus RX300, another two Toyota Camry and a Volkswagen Golf GTi, all parked at the apartment’s car park. Federal CID director Datuk Bakri Zinin said the three men were part of a syndicate active in the Klang Valley since February this year. He said the students were car jockeys who would share the RM500 they received from the 36-year-old middleman for the job. The middleman is said to be an expert at forging road tax discs and serial numbers on the cars’ engines and chassis. The man also has previous records for stealing cars and had just come back from being banished to Terengganu. He would ‘process’ the vehicles received from the jockeys and fit in details of cars on the road, like registration plates, chassis and engine numbers and road tax expiry dates. He would then transport the vehicles to a neighbouring country where the cars would be sold for under RM20,000. Bakri said the syndicate was believed to have been involved in the theft of at least 14 luxury cars in the Klang Valley. Owners were usually robbed at home, or were stopped while driving or entering parking lots.

Intense training for bank directors
24 September 2008, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Bank directors will soon have to undergo a rigorous training programme aimed at boosting the prudential and human capital aspects of the banking sector. StarBiz learnt that this major effort is undertaken with high-level local and international inputs and will also help build up a future pool of qualified and independent bank directors. Under Basel II, there is a lot of self-assessment, especially on risk management, that is to be shouldered by the board of directors. They need to further understand their responsibilities towards risk undertaken by the bank and ensure that it is adequately capitalised with the proper risk management systems in place. “They must know how to behave in this environment,’’ said a market source. The latest move to further educate bank directors is in line with Bank Negara’s direction to gradually move away from rule-based and more towards a principle-based type of supervision. “The central bank knows that in the long term, it will manage more effectively through a responsible board,’’ the source said. Supervisory functions will still be conducted but will be skewed more towards monitoring the operating environment and variables, moving forward. This message is underscored by the timing of recent global events, especially the cascading financial crisis in the United States, where high profile bank CEOs have seen their jobs disappear almost overnight. The overall feeling in the banking circles is that it is not just the CEOs who must take the rap but the boards of directors. “The US is (finally) learning the meaning of contagion,’’ remarked an industry player. “When people are pushed to make profits (they can become greedy and creative). In this respect, both the CEO and board must take the responsibility.’’ Simply put, a lot of the banks in trouble had gone into the non-credit worthy or non-bankable market. “Simple and direct words should have been used when the problems were first detected so that people could understand quickly and take pre-emptive measures,’’ he said. Bankers’ talk has it that many of those who landed up with these worthless papers did not really know what they were buying. A lot of these so-called derivatives were marketed under big, prestigious names and said to be presented in such an impressive manner that to pose questions would imply ignorance. “The screening and approval processes were not thorough enough,’’ he added. “Ratings are just a guide, never a security. You must know who you are financing. Some of these people were surprised when I asked them whether they knew they were actually financing some houses in the US!’’

AIA Bhd Not Impacted By The Financial Crisis In United States
17 September 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — American International Assurance Bhd (AIA Bhd) is not impacted by the ongoing financial issues in the United States, its chief executive officer, Khor Hock Seng said Wednesday. Hence, the company reassured all customers and policyholders that it was carrying on business as usual. “We take pride in the fact that we are a locally incorporated insurer. More than 96 percent of our total assets are invested in Malaysia,” Khor said in a statement here Wednesday. “Insurance policies underwritten by AIA Bhd are direct obligations of our regulated business, which is subject to stringent local regulatory and capital requirements as prescribed by the Insurance Act and Regulations,” he added. He also said that AIA Bhd is well capitalised and that the company maintains separate reserves in Malaysia.This is in line with the regulations to meet obligations to policyholders. AIA Bhd’s statement comes in the wake of news that the giant American International Group Inc in the United States is reeling from billions of dollars in souring mortgage debt. The Federal Reserve Board of the United States had on Sept 16 announced that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York would provide a two-year, $85 billion secured revolving credit facility to AIG to ensure the company met its liquidity needs. According to Khor, given AIA Bhd’s six decades of market experience, he was confident that the company would continue to meet the growing needs of all Malaysians while being the leading provider of insurance and financial services in the country.

US Government bails out AIG with US$85bil loan
17 September 2008, By The Star

WASHINGTON:For the second time this month, the US government intervened to bail out a private financial company, saying the failure of the huge insurer American International Group Inc. would further disrupt markets and threaten the already fragile economy. The Federal Reserve said Tuesday it would provide up to US$85bil in an emergency, two-year loan to rescue AIG, which teetered on the edge of failure because of stresses caused by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and the credit crunch that ensued. In return, the government will get a 79.9% stake in AIG and the right to remove senior management. The move was similar to the government’s seizure on Sept 7 of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where the Treasury Department said it was prepared to put up as much as US$100bil over time in each of the companies if needed to keep them from going broke. Both moves were bound to raise questions about the use of taxpayer money to bail out private firms. The Fed said it determined that a disorderly failure of AIG could hurt the already delicate financial markets and the economy. Although little known off Wall Street, AIG does business with almost every financial institution in the world and insures US$88bil worth of assets including mortgages and corporate loans. Its failure could also “lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth and materially weaker economic performance,” the Fed said in a statement. The decision to help AIG marked a reversal from the government’s move over the weekend, when it refused to use taxpayer money to bail out Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. Lehman, which filed for bankruptcy protection Monday, collapsed under the weight of mounting losses related to its real estate holdings. The White House said it backed the Fed’s decision Tuesday. “These steps are taken in the interest of promoting stability in financial markets and limiting damage to the broader economy,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said.

Malaysian Listed Companies Urged To Prepare Early For Implementation Of IFRS Framework
11 September 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Audit, tax and advisory services provider KPMG, has called on Malaysian listed companies to plan for the implementation of the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS)framework, before it comes into effect in 2012. The Malaysian Accounting Standards Board (MASB), had earlier announced that Malaysia would go for full convergence with the IFRS by Jan 1, 2012. Full convergence means that eventually a local listed company would be on par with other international companies in terms of financial statements reporting. Thong Foo Vung, a technical partner of KPMG, said the move to converge fully with the IFRS would help investors have a better understanding of financial statements prepared by companies in Malaysia and for comparison with those worldwide. “We encourage listed companies to start planning now. Past experience has shown that late planning or action only increases the risk of reporting failure or misstatements,” he told reporters after the KPMG seminar on “MASB plans full convergence with IFRS by 2012-What it really means,” here Thursday. He said that the move is expected to bring several benefits, particularly for companies with foreign operations or those that raise funds from the international market. Among the advantage of reporting under the IFRS is enhanced transparency and comparability as well as more complete, superior quality financial information for shareholders and supervisory authorities. Thong also said that the need to establish the IFRS framework is imperative to ensure Malaysia is not left out of the globalisation wave, especially since more than 100 countries are converging or have converged with it.

Employers will soon have to insure their maids
5 September 2008, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: People who hire domestic maids will soon be required to buy insurance for their helpers under a proposed amendment to the Employment Act and Workers’ Compensation Act. Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr S. Subramaniam said maids who were earlier exempted from insurance coverage would be included to get protection from their employers as part of the planned amendments. “Maids were earlier given exemption because we thought employers would automatically take care of their welfare, but now since it has been found to be otherwise the exemption clause would be removed,” he said. He said amendments to both the Acts are expected to be tabled in Parliament by December after getting the go-ahead from the Cabinet. With the amendments, which would see a reduced dependence on foreign workers, employers would be required to notify the ministry of vacancies and justify the need to employ them one month before applying for foreign workers, he said. He said outsourcing companies would have to inform the ministry of the exact number of workers that was needed to ensure there would be no glut in the country. There had been cases where outsourcing companies had brought in foreigners when jobs were not available, he said. “Outsourcing companies will be regulated based on this new system,” he told reporters here yesterday after meeting Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar. The ministry had a database of unemployed and skilled Malaysian workers, he said, adding that the ministry also conducts skills training to meet local demand. Syed Hamid said the Human Resources and Home Ministries were working hand-in-hand to reduce the number of foreign workers in the country from the current 2.2 million to 1.8 million by the year 2010 as planned under the mid-term review of the Ninth Malaysia Plan.

Govt Reissues Scrap Metal Collector’s Licence
27 August 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The government has decided to reissue the scrap metal collector’s licence on Aug 12 after a two-year freeze, the Dewan Rakyat was told Wednesday. Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said police would approve the licence to those who meet the conditions stipulated. He said the licence was frozen on Dec 8, 2006 when the Second-hand Dealers Act 1946 was being reviewed by the ministry and other government agencies. “Police then were also checking the activity of licensed and unlicensed scrap metal dealers,” he said when replying to Dr P. Ramasamy (DAP-Batu Kawan). Syed Hamid said the ministry had curtail cable, metal and copper thefts from the premises of utility companies. “After considering the plight of scrap metal dealers, the government had decided to reissue the licence,” he said.

Park at your own risk
28 August 2008, By The Star

THE high cost of petrol, accompanied by the rising inflation, has led many people to opt for public transport like the KTM Komuter and LRT. Many of them park their vehicles at the open car parks at the light rail transit and train stations and then board the train to work. This seems to be a very viable and convenient option, but one big problem has arisen from the arrangement — vehicle thefts. There has been an increase in car and motorcycle thefts at the light rail transit and train stations during the last few months. Thefts of old cars and cannibalisation of the vehicles for spare parts are occurring at an alarming rate at a few LRT stations and the people have been warned to be cautious when parking in these areas. Since January, five cars have been reported stolen from the public car park at the Ampang LRT station. There were reports of attempts to steal motorcycles too. The passenger volume on the LRT has increased with the rising cost of living, prompting more commuters to leave their vehicles at public car parks for the daily commute. This translates to limited parking spaces for the LRT workers who are forced to park in desolate areas. RapidKL worker Ab Razak Mahmud’s 25-year-old Datsun 120Y was stolen in February. “I have been parking in the car park since 1996 and only had a third-party insurance coverage. Now I am saddled with a new car loan,” he said. Mohd Faez Md Zain’s Toyota LE 1985 model was stolen in January. The latest car theft there occurred on Aug 5. Khalil Mohd Piei was fortunate that his nine-year-old Proton Putra was recovered by the police after it was stolen from the car park in June. But the repairs cost him RM6,000. Meanwhile, an attempt was made to steal Zaid Talib’s new motorcycle. “When I got to my bike after work, I realised the keyhole had been tampered with and the handle had been kicked to dislodge the lock,” he said. Rosli Arshad’s car sustained damage when the side window was smashed by thieves to retrieve a bag filled with sporting goods. “Unfortunately, the heavy downpour caused water to seep in and damage the seats. I didn’t lose my valuables but the repair bill was high,” he said. According to a newspaper vendor in the area who only identified herself as Fathima, she had spotted a few suspicious-looking individuals lurking near the vehicles. “They usually disappear when I start to observe them but I am only here a few hours daily. They might be studying my routine too,” she said. The LRT workers and the public are lamenting the serious lack of security in the car park. Suggestions have been made to convert an abandoned warehouse in the area to a multi-level car park but unresolved ownership issues are throwing a damper on the proposal. Ampang OCPD ACP Abdul Jalil Hassan told StarMetro that in the first two weeks of this month, two cars and six motorcycles were reported stolen. “I advise motorists and motorcyclists not to park in back lanes and areas far from public view because vehicle thefts are on the rise. If there is no choice, invest in steering locks and central locking systems,” he said. Jalil said the police department was beefing up its patrol unit with eight motorcycles for easy access into narrow paths and back lanes. Sentul OCPD ACP Zakaria Pagan said most car thefts occurred at the Wangsa Maju LRT station. “From January to August, we have had 17 cases at the station and most occurred between 6am and noon,” he said. Zakaria said the police had taken note of the trend by increasing patrols during the hours. “We also have to look at whether the parking lots were guarded and I sincerely ask that car owners increase the safety measures in their vehicles,” Zakaria said. According to a parking attendant at the Sentul Timur LRT station, there were hardly any case of car thefts for the past one year, except for one incident during the March 8 general election. “I’ve been working here for about a year and I always keep an eye out for suspicious characters lingering near the cars,” Hamidah Sapii said. She said the theft occurred when she was busy handling customers on another side of the parking lot. “These people were very daring to commit the crime at 9am when I had my back turned for a few minutes,” she said. Hamidah said she knew the owners of the vehicles and that it made it easier to identify strangers at the parking lots. “I have all the emergency numbers needed should anything happen while I’m on watch,” she said. For those who park their cars around the area, their concerns are also about cars being broken into. “My cousin’s car was broken into two months ago at the Sentul LRT. We pay RM3 for the parking space. “What’s the point of paying if you can’t leave with peace of mind,” Devan Nair, 25, said. Till press time, RapidKL had yet to comment on the incidents.

Flash flood havoc in city
28 August 2008, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: A downpour lasting more than three hours yesterday caused traffic chaos and brought many parts of the city to a standstill. Major roads in the city centre, including Jalan Mahameru, Jalan Bangsar, Jalan Tun Perak, Jalan Cheras, Jalan Sg Besi, Jalan Ampang and Jalan Kuching, were badly affected. Massive traffic jams were also reported along the Federal Highway, KL-Seremban highway, Jalan Raja Chulan, Jalan Tun Perak and Puduraya. A City Hall flood operations room spokesman said the water levels at Sungai Klang and Sungai Gombak rose about two metres within an hour after the rain. “We started receiving distress calls at 3pm from the public about flash floods and rushed our response teams to the affected areas.” A spokesman from the city traffic police control room said traffic police were deployed to the affected areas to control the situation. A spokesman from the Jalan Hang Tuah Fire and Rescue Department, meanwhile, said the department’s personnel were despatched to pump out floodwaters. Checks at Jalan Pahang and its surrounding areas found scores of bus commuters and vehicles stranded along Jalan Tun Razak, especially near the Pekeliling bus station. Muhammad Jamal Abdullah, 35, one of the affected commuters, said massive traffic jams particularly after heavy rain were increasingly becoming a norm. “I have been stuck here for an hour and all vehicles are moving very slowly. “I think the authorities should look into this matter seriously. This is not the first time.”

MAA Expects Motor Vehicles Sales From July To December 2008 To Drop By 16.5 Pct
30 July 2008, By BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA — The Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA),expects the total industry volume (TIV), of new vehicles sold in the country to drop by 16.5 percent or 45,874 units for the second half of 2008. Its president, Datuk Aishah Ahmad said a major portion of the decrease would be from a 28 percent decline in the sale of commercial vehicles followed by the 0.5 percent drop in passenger cars. She said among the factors considered in the forecast was the impact of higher oil prices, inflation and material costs, the hike in hire purchase interest rates especially for non-national brands and the fall in liquidity due to a bearish stock market. Meanwhile, for the first six months of 2008, the TIV of new motor vehicles sold jumped 25.9 percent to 277,973 units from 220,739 for the corresponding period of 2007. Aishah, speaking at a press conference here today, said passenger vehicle sales amounted to 254,252 units in the first six months the year and accounted for a 91.5 percent share of the TIV. This share is marginally higher than the 91 percent achieved for the same period in 2007 when the sales volume of 220,739 units was registered. A total of 23,721 units of commercial vehicles were sold in the first six months this year, accounting for a 8.5 percent share of the TIV. “The share was marginally lower than the nine percent achieved in the same period for 2007 with a sales volume of 20,287 units,” she said. The total production volume for the first half of 2008 rose 26.7 percent to 263,222 units.This compared to 207,826 units for the same period last year. The production of passenger vehicles in the first half of 2008 increased by 27.1 percent to 240,572 units compared to 189,336 units previously. The production of commercial vehicles for the first half the year also grew by 22.5 percent to 22,650 units when compared to 18,490 previously. Asked about the MAA’s hopes for the upcoming Budget 2009, Aishah said:”Maybe in terms of hybrid vehicles, the government should consider some incentives in the excise and import duty.”

Petrol, Diesel Prices Push Up CPI To 7.7 Percent
23 July 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Sharp rise in petrol and diesel prices have pushed up the consumer price index (CPI) to 7.7 per cent in June from 1.4 per cent in the same month last year. The CPI was also higher by 3.9 per cent as compared to May, the Statistics Department said in statement Wednesday. The index for food and non-alcoholic beverages for June compared with the same month last month showed a higher percentage change of 10 per cent while the index for non-food surged by 6.7 per cent. The month of June also saw increases in all the main group except in housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels which declined by 0.4 per cent, while communication remained unchanged at 96.8. The 3.9 per cent increase in June is the result of notable rise in the index for transport at 18.8 per cent due to substantial jump in the index to 135.9 in June from 114.4 in May, the departmentm said. The two per cent increase in the index for food and non-alcoholic beverages in June compared with that of the previous month is the result of increase in the index for food at home ( 2.1 per cent), food away from home ( 1.9 per cent) and coffee, tea, cocoa and non-alcoholic beverages ( 0.5 per cent). Among food items which recorded notable increase in the June index compared with the previous month were tomatoes ( 19.3 per cent), chicken eggs ( 8.9 per cent), rice ( 8.4 per cent), glutinous rice ( 7.9 per cent), imported beef ( 7.3 per cent), meehoon ( 6.2 per cent), dried mee ( 5 per cent), water melon ( 4.9 per cent), carrots ( 4.8 per cent), chicken ( 4.4 per cent) and wheat flour ( 4.2 per cent). The index of some food items declined in June than the previous month. Among them are long cabbages (-9.6 per cent), choy sum (-8.5 per cent), ladies fingers (-5 per cent), french beans (-3.6 per cent), brinjals (-3 per cent), long beans (-2.4 per cent) and red grapes (-2 per cent). A reclassification of items according to their durability and services rendered showed increases in the index for non-durable goods ( 8.4 per cent), services ( 0.6 per cent), durable goods ( 0.4 per cent) and semi-durable goods ( 0.2 percent). The CPI for the first six months also increased by 3.7 per cent to 109 compared with that of 105.1 (two per cent) in the same period in 2007, it said. The January-June period showed increases in the index for food and non-alcoholic of 6.1 per cent and non-food 2.6 per cent, it added.

Free Rear Seat Belts Installation For 431,000 Perodua Cars
22 July 2008, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA Owners of 431,262 Perodua cars which are without rear seat belts will get to install the safety belts for free from next year. Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said the local car maker had allocated a total of RM41.8 million to supply and install the rear seat belts for its Kancil, Kenari, Kelisa, Kembara and Rusa models. Speaking to reporters here, he said, for security reason however, the installation could only be made at Perodua service centres nationwide. Earlier Ong witnessed the signing of memorandum of understanding between Road Safety Department and Perodua to implement community-based automative safety programme. The department was represented by its director, Datuk Suret Singh while Perodua, by its managing director Datuk Syed Abdull Hafiz Syed Abu Bakar. The government had made it compulsory for rear passengers to wear the seat belts starting Jan 1 next year but cars registered before 1995, which are without the safety feature, were given a three-year grace period from June 1 this year to install the belts. Ong said last month that apart from Perodua, several other car manufacturers would provide free installation of the seat belts. Meanwhile, Ong said members of the public were becoming more aware of the benefit of wearing the rear seat belt, from one per cent previously to 17 per cent at the moment. “Of course we still have a long way to go and this is just an average figure. In some small towns and suburbs, the percentage is even lower. But there has been a steady improvement,” he said.

KL Govt urged to reduce taxes on hybrid cars
22 July 2008, By Business Times

TAXES on hybrid cars should be reduced markedly to drive the use of such fuel-saving and environment-friendly vehicles amid soaring fuel costs, industry executives. They said the government could promote hybrid cars by encouraging the use of these vehicles within its own agencies and institutions. “There’s no reason why the government cannot reduce the tax to be on par with conventional vehicles if the usage of hybrid cars brings benefit in terms of fuel saving and environmental protection,” Proton Edar Dealers’ Association president Wan Ahmad Sepwan Wan Abdul Rahman told Business Times. Government officials reportedly said that hybrid cars are now slapped with a 260 per cent import tax. This is in comparison to zero import duty for Asean-made vehicles and 30 per cent from non-Asean countries. Additionally, there are local excise duties of 60-105 per cent for Asean and non-Asean cars, plus 10 per cent sales tax. International Trade and Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said recently the duty structure for hybrid cars may be revised to attract global players to invest here. Wan Ahmad Sepwan said local car companies such as Proton and Perodua may not be ready to produce hybrid cars for now. “This technology is still expensive and it may not be feasible for Proton to develop hybrid cars, especially with such a low volume or production. “The best way is for Proton to tie up with a technical partner to introduce such technology in double quick time,” he said.

Luxury car theft syndicate smashed
22 July 2008, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Police crippled a car theft syndicate specialising in luxury cars with the arrest of a 34-year-old man in Taman Usahawan, Kepong, last Sunday. Police also recovered five cars worth more than RM900,000. Sentul police chief Assistant Commissioner Ahmad Sofian Md Yasin said the suspect had led police to the place where the cars were hidden. The cars were stolen in the Klang Valley and Johor Baru. Police also raided the suspect’s condominium unit where they seized two axes, three parang, computers used to make counterfeit road tax discs, 15 fake registration plate numbers, 10 condominium access cards and 40 car keys. He said police had been monitoring the suspect for a week before they moved in on him. Ahmad said police were looking for other gang members, which included a married couple. Meanwhile, police are looking for Lim Kwan Hoong, IC-840424-07-5033 from Penang, Lim Kin Ling, IC-760516-05-5731 and Teow Kai Hui, IC-A1749357 to help in investigations. They had lived in the condominium unit for a year. He said the syndicate targeted cars in housing areas and shopping centres. Stolen cars would be stripped bare and the cannibalised parts sold. In Putrajaya, the Anti-Corruption Agency said the other luxury car syndicate busted last week not only forged the signature of a senior government officer but also produced fake letter heads and rubber stamps bearing names of several VIPs. ACA deputy director-general Datuk Abu Kassim Mohamed said the syndicate had forged the signature of Customs director-general Datuk Seri Abdul Rahman Abdul Hamid and used a rubber stamp bearing the name of Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop. The rubber stamp was seized when ACA officers raided the premises of two Datuks, believed to be behind the syndicate, on July 19. Both were believed to be responsible for using fake documents to import luxury cars through the Customs’ checkpoint in Port Klang without having to pay import duty. Abu Kassim said the two, aged 35 and 45, had been arrested to help in investigations. Also seized were 13 luxury cars with unpaid tax of RM3 million, a card-printing machine and stacks of documents purportedly issued by the Customs Department. The ACA and Customs Department signed a memorandum of understanding three weeks ago under which the ACA would assist the department to rectify weaknesses in its procedures so as to reduce the possibility of corruption.

Lorry smashes into 13 vehicles
1 July 2008, By New Straits Times

SUBANG JAYA: The driver of a lorry left a trail of destruction when he lost control of the lorry which smashed into 13 vehicles. The driver of one of the cars involved in the accident near Puchong IOI Mall was killed on the spot while four had been admitted to hospital with serious injuries. Two others — the lorry driver and a policeman in one of the cars — were slightly injured. The 14 vehicles damaged in the accident comprised seven cars, two lorries and five motorcycles. The lorry driver is believed to have beaten a red light and failed to realise that there was a traffic island in front, causing him to lose control as he swerved to avoid it. The lorry then smashed into an oncoming Nissan car driven by Myanmar national, Nyu Kyaw Lin, 58. The car was crushed to a pulp as it went under the lorry, killing Nyu instantly. The lorry then crashed into the other vehicles as it spun out of control. A police spokesman said Fire and Rescue personnel took 30 minutes to extricate Nyu’s body from the wreckage. The lorry driver was driving from Bandar Kinrara towards Bandar Puchong Jaya. The 1.40pm accident caused traffic around the area to come to a standstill for almost two hours. A police spokesman said the four injured victims were from two of the cars and two motorcyclists. They are warded at the Serdang Hospital and at press time, were reported to be in critical condition.

Myanmar killed as trailer hits vehicles and motorcycles
1 July 2008, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: A trailer, believed to have gone out of control, smashed into 13 vehicles at a junction here, killing a 64-year-old man and seriously injuring four others. In the 1.45pm incident yesterday, the trailer heading for Puchong Jaya from Kinrara was said to have lost control and rammed into a traffic light before ploughing into seven cars, a lorry and five motorcycles from the opposite direction. The accident caused cars and motorcycles to be dragged almost 50m. A Myanmar national, U Kwan Lin, 64, was killed when the car he was driving was pinned under the trailer. Kwan Lin died at the scene. The four who were seriously injured were all motorcyclists. A survivor, who only wanted to be known as Yap, 27, said he heard a loud crash and felt a strong impact, before his car was flung forward. “There were about 20 vehicles waiting at the traffic light when we were hit by the trailer,” he said. Police were forced to close the roads leading to the junction, which caused a three-hour traffic jam. A police spokesman said it took fire department personnel 30 minutes to extricate the body from the wreckage. “Initial investigations show that the trailer was speeding and lost control before reaching the junction,” he said. He said the trailer’s driver, who was not injured in the accident, has been detained to assist in investigations. He added that the injured, including a policeman, were taken to the Putrajaya and Serdang hospitals.

Towing charges up by 50%
1 July 2008, By The Star

IPOH: Towing charges are up by between 25% and 50%, depending on location, with immediate effect. Federation of Automobile Workshop Owners Association of Malaysia president Cho Chee Seng, citing rising costs, said the recommended fees within city limits (or for the first 20km) were RM100 for daytime towing and RM150 for night towing. For towing on the highway, charges would be RM150 for the first 20km during the day, and RM200 at night. For every additional kilometre, the charge would be RM1 (day) and RM2 (night). Previously, tow truck drivers charged RM80 for daytime towing and RM110 for night towing within city limits, and RM100 and RM150, respectively, for towing on the highway. “The last time we revised our charges was 10 years ago,” Cho said, noting that the fees did not include toll charges and additional equipment needed to recover vehicles such as cranes. Cho said the federation’s members would also increase their labour charges from today, to RM45 per hour from RM25 before.

No Action If Rear Passengers Exceed Number Of Seat Belts In Vehicle
17 June 2008, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — No enforcement action will be taken if the number of back passengers in a car exceed the number of rear seat belts available for safety wear. Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said this was because each vehicle only had three rear seat belts installed as required by the government. “We are aware of such cases involving families with more than three children each and it’s the only car they can afford to have. We understand this. “We will not take action if the fourth rear passenger is not wearing a seat belt. But our position in this matter should not encourage people to overload their vehicles,” he said. Ong was speaking to reporters after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Road Safety Department (JKJR) and Perusahaan Otomobil Nasional Sdn Bhd (Proton) for a community-based programme for automotive safety. The MoU was signed by JKJR director-general Datuk Suret Singh and Proton managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir. The authorities will issue summonses on rear passengers not wearing seat belts beginning Jan 1, 2009 as part of efforts to reduce road accident facilities involving vehicle passengers. Ong said the move by Proton to install for free, seat belts for 227,000 Proton-make cars — Saga, Iswara and Gen2 — which had not been equipped with the safety divide, showed the company’s commitment to promoting road safety. “It’s a new chapter in creating a road safety culture in the country by corporate citizens,” he added. Yesterday, Ong said that about 479,000 passenger vehicles, mostly registered before 1995, would get free installation of rear seat belts beginning early next year until 2020 under a sponsorship programme initiated by the government. Meanwhile, Syed Zainal said efforts were underway to ensure the availability of parts and readiness of the service centres prior to the commencement of the exercise in January next year. “As this involves the safety of its customers and road users in general, Proton feels it is important that this exercise is not delayed.” He said a total of 384 Proton Edar service centres, EON and sales representatives nationwide would be involved in the exercise.

16% rise in deaths on KL roads
28 May 2008, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The city saw 78 road users killed in 77 accidents in the first four months of this year, a 16.4% rise over that in the corresponding period last year. Motorcyclists accounted for 51 deaths, or 65% of the total. City traffic police chief Asst Comm Abdul Wahab Abdul Rahman said most of the road deaths were the result of serious head injuries. He attributed the higher fatalities to the negative, reckless attitude of motorcyclists, and their love of speed. “Motorcyclists love to ride dangerously and to speed through red lights (at road junctions). They have no regard for the safety of other road users,” he said after launching a road safety campaign together with Pos Malaysia and the Kuala Lumpur traffic police on Tuesday. Stricter enforcement was needed to solve the problem, he added. Last year, 239 deaths were reported in the city, 6.6% lower than in 2006, in which 255 deaths were recorded. Pos Malaysia state manager Aziz Sulong said half of the 152 accidents involving its staff were motorcyclist postmen. There were 10 fatalities in those accidents.

Klang Valley Shaken Up By Tremors
20 May 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Several areas in the Klang Valley were shaken up by tremors following an earthquake off North Sumatra at 10.26pm Monday night. The Malaysian Meteorological Department said the earthquake measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale did not pose a tsunami threat. Meteorological Department director-general Dr Yap Kok Seng said the earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra did not affect Malaysia as it was just a mild one. “However, the effects of the quake were felt in the capital as it is not far from us,” he added. Zainal Abidin Razali who stays at the Cendana Apartments in Bandar Sri Permaisuri said the tremors caused panic and all the residents rushed out to safety. He said he felt the tremors as he was staying on level 15. “I felt the apartment shaking as with the ceiling fan which was moving very fast,” he told Bernama. In Bukit Antarabangsa , Mohd Fisol Jaafar who stays on level 5 of the building said he felt the tremors for 16 seconds. “At first I thought the shaking was because my son was kicking the sofa but I later realised it was a tremors,” he added. Mohd Fisol said he knew about the tremors after listening to a report from the United States Meteorological Department. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department said reports of the tremors were received from residents in Sri Hartamas, Cheras and Loke Yew. “The tremors were felt for 15 minutes and did not cause damage to belongings and buildings,” he told Bernama. A spokesman for the Selangor Civil Defence Department said reports of tremors were received from residents in Sections 18, 26 and 28, Shah Alam. The Meteorological Department also recorded another earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale at 10.49pm off north Sumatra, about 408km from Klang. It did not pose a tsunami threat. A spokesman for the Selangor Fire and Rescue Department said several districts, including Seri Kembangan, Bangi, Putra Perdana, Cyberjaya, Puncak Alam, Sungai Chuah and Kajang, felt the tremors. The tremors, lasting only five seconds, did not cause any damage to property. In MELAKA, residents in several areas also felt the tremors from the earthquake. A Fire and Rescue Department spokesman said reports of tremors were received from those around Pantai Hospital in Ayer Keroh, Peringgit Indah Apartments in Peringgit, and in Ujong Pasir and Melaka Raya between 10.40pm and 10.52pm. “They were just minor tremors,” he added.

Road Safety Campaigns Should Be Result-oriented
13 May 2008, By BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA — Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat wants road safety campaigns to be result-oriented, rather than ceremonial. He said there was a need for the public to continuously participate in such campaigns as most of them (campaigns) did not make it past the initial stage of implementation. “I have already observed the effectiveness of such campaigns and found that it’s about time to change the presentation of such campaigns. “The preventive measures on road accidents now is only confined to advertisements and guide books on road safety,” Ong told reporters after launching the Orange Book at The Otomotif College (TOC) near here Tuesday. The book is an easy-to-carry, all-in-one guide to refer to sources of information for the Malaysian driver. Ong, who is also MCA vice-president, said the ministry would work closely with the road transport and road safety departments to organise road safety campaigns which could “touch the soul and hearts of the target audience”. He also suggested that road safety campaigns emphasise on three core elements in future, namely education, engineering and enforcement. Meanwhile, Ong said there were about 363,319 cases of road accidents reported last year as compared to 341,232 cases reported in 2006, an increase of 6.5 percent. In terms of road fatalities, Ong said there were about 6,282 cases reported last year as compared to 6,287 cases in 2006.

RTD drives ‘P’ licence into review lane
5 May 2008, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: A major overhaul of rules governing motorists is under way, starting with a review of the probationary driver’s licence. The Road Transport Department (RTD) is also addressing problems in the registration of vehicles, issuance of licences, enforcement and administration. But the first step being taken will be in addressing the “P” licence because of flaws in the Kejara demerit points system, which determines if holders get their full licence. RTD director-general Datuk Ahmad Mustapha Abdul Rashid told the New Straits Times the “P” licence was being reviewed by the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros). “We have been strict in enforcing it but there are a lot of flaws in the Kejara system. “For example, it does not apply to the goods driving licence or public service vehicles. “Rude or cheating cab drivers or lorry drivers who overload their vehicles are not penalised under the system.” Ahmad added that the overhaul, carried out in stages, would be completed by next year. “We might even propose a new law to supplement or supercede the Road Transport Act 1987.” Miros director-general Professor Radin Umar Radin Sohadi said the idea behind reviewing the “P” licence was to see how drivers’ risk and exposure to danger could be minimised. “Research shows that the first three years after getting a driving licence is the most crucial period with regard to accidents. “In the first year, the risk of an accident is between 30 and 40 per cent. In the second year, it drops to between 15 and 20 per cent.” In the third year, the figure falls to between five and eight per cent. He added that the review did not mean that the “P” licence period would be extended. “It could be reduced, extended or maintained the way it is now. It is too early to say what needs to be done. “Miros should be able to finalise the research by the end of this year or early next year.” Radin said this was the first time the “P” licence system, also used in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, was being reviewed. Miros is emulating the practice in Australia where teenagers are not allowed to drive their peers in their vehicle in the first year of getting a licence. Miros is also looking at the accreditation, grading and rating of driving schools.

May D-day for rogue
3 May 2008, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry has given 27 organisations four weeks from April 28 to state whether they are operating as managed care organisations (MCOs). Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said all MCOs were supposed to be registered with the ministry under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act by March 31. Only six organisations have done so. “We do not know the status (of the 27) but they are acting like MCOs. We are asking them for an explanation,” he said in an interview. An MCO, under the Act, is defined as any organisation or body with whom a private healthcare facility or service provider has an arrangement or contract to provide healthcare services within an agreed financing system. They include insurance companies or their subsidiaries which have contracts with private healthcare facilities or services to provide healthcare to contributors. Insurance companies, any party or agent for the insurance company or third-party administrators who handle medical benefits of workers for a company and have a contract to provide amenities also come under this category. Dr Ismail warned that there were legal implications if companies failed to provide information as required by the director-general. Under Section 85(2) of the Act, a maximum fine of RM100,000 can be imposed on a single owner or a maximum fine of RM300,000 on a body, organisation or partnership. “We do not want to take punitive action yet. But it will be in their interest to register because the ministry can intervene and solve problems for both parties if any problem crops up.” Patients also have a right to legal redress, Dr Ismail said. Doctors dealing with unregistered MCOs have also been reminded that it was wrong to do so. Dr Ismail also said that “fee splitting” – asking doctors to give a discount on their professional fees – was not allowed. “No one is allowed to compel them to do this. A third party should not dictate this to a doctor.”

Sarawak pupils to be given road safety training
29 April 2008, By The Star

MIRI: Some 40,000 pupils throughout Sarawak, the majority of them aged between seven to 10 years old, will be given intensive road-safety training as part of a major Government effort to curb road accidents in the state. The training, being handled by the Sarawak Road Safety Department, will involve 1,274 schools statewide. Assistant State Minister for Infrastructure Development and Communications Lee Kim Shin on Tuesday said the majority of the 40,000 pupils are from Primary One to Primary Four. “A pilot project for this training has already started in Miri. The road safety lessons will be in the form of a module incorporated into the Bahasa Malaysia subject. “Every week, at least 30 minutes will be set aside for the road safety lessons in schools. Students will be taught about the dangers associated with roads, the proper way to behave on the roads and how to cross the roads safely. “The very young pupils will be taught that if they want to cross a road, they must be accompanied by an adult. This is part of efforts to bring down the accident rate in the state,” he said after launching a road-safety training course for headmasters, principals and parent-teachers association representatives here. Lee said Miri has started the pilot training programme and it will eventually be extended to all parts of the state. The Road Safety Department was formed last year. Lee also said that his ministry had asked the department to carry out a survey concerning the safety aspects of roads surrounding primary and secondary schools to determine how safe these areas are. “We want to make sure that roads at the schools are properly improved to ensure that the safety of pupils utilising these roads could be ensured. “Remedial measures must be taken on those roads deemed as unsafe. Road safety must start at a very young age and the safety of the pupils at their schools must also be given priority attention,” he said. Lee said initial feedback from schools and parents showed that if the young children are given proper training on road safety, they are very responsive and alert to dangers when they are on the roads. He said some parents have even informed him that their young pupils are the ones who keep reminding them (parents) about dangers on the roads and what sort of safety measures they must take while in their cars. Sarawak has more than 3,000 schools. The 1,274 schools involved in the road safety training are located in urban regions.

Police bust luxury car theft syndicate
29 April 2008, By The Star

SITIAWAN: Perak police have busted a nationwide syndicate of luxury car thieves and recovered some RM2.5mil worth of vehicles and dismantled parts. Six men, aged between 20 and 27, were arrested following a raid on a workshop at Ayer Tawar, near here, on April 18. State CPO Deputy Comm Datuk Zulkifli Abdullah said police found 28 luxury vehicles, including Toyota Harriers and Proton Perdanas, and 27 car engines from three different stores in Ayer Tawar. “We believe members of the syndicate have been stealing these vehicles since early this year,” he told a press conference here yesterday. “They brought them to the workshops to be dismantled and then sold them off as spare parts at lower prices.” DCP Zulkifli added that some of the vehicles had been used in various robberies across the country. “They involve many people, not just the ones we detained in Perak,” he said. Police have traced the stolen vehicles to seven robberies cases in Perak, 14 in Selangor, 15 in Kuala Lumpur, four in Penang, three in Kelantan, and one each in Johor and Pahang. “We are now working closely with our state counterparts to trace the other members of the syndicate,” he said, adding that the six caught in Ayer Tawar had been remanded until tomorrow to assist in investigations.

Vandals blamed for Sabah blackout
22 April 2008, By The Star

KOTA KINABALU: Vandals are being blamed for Sabah’s worst blackout since the commissioning of the east west power grid in November last year. Suspected vandals are believed to have removed steel pieces of a 132kV transmission tower that led to its collapse, triggering a major power blackout Monday lasting nearly six hours from 6.41pm and affecting 300,000 consumers in most areas of the state. Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd managing director Baharin Din told a press conference Tuesday that vandals removed about 20 steel pieces holding together a transmission tower at Suang Parai area here. “It looks like they can get about RM40 in scrap value but caused huge losses and inconvenience to the people of Sabah,” Baharin said, adding that the tower itself cost about RM400,000. He said the transmission line between Kayu Madang and Universiti Malaysia Sabah collapsed and this led to a power trip that caused a domino effect tripping all SESB and independent power plants connected to the various grids. “We lost about 500MW of power and 90% of the state was affected,” he said, adding that Sabah Electricity managed to return power in stages from 7.15pm (Monday) before fully restoring power in all areas by 12.15am Tuesday. Moves are underway to build a temporary tower with the help of their parent company Tenaga Nasional Berhad using the Armed Forces to help send down a new tower to be set up within three weeks before a permanent tower is put up in four months. “Right now the situation is fragile as we are using an alternative underground 66kV cable to channel power from one its generation plants here,” Baharin said, adding that west coast Sabah was providing most of the supplies to the east coast areas where their generation capacity was low due to old diesel-powered generators. He said SSEB might implement load shedding depending on the peak demands between 11am and noon and 3pm and noon if the situation warrants. To a question as to why there was no mechanism to stop the domino effect of the tripping, Baharin replied that such a mechanism can only be done if there is an excess of power supply but right now there is just enough power to meet the demand. Some 83,000 consumers in Beaufort, Keningau, Tambunan, Tenom, Telupid and Ranau were not affected by the blackout as they are not connected to the grid system and have their own power generation. Meanwhile, Kota Kinabalu police chief Asst Comm Ahmad Sofi Zakaria said full investigations are being carried out and the police are also checking with scrap dealers to nab the culprits.

Fire dept saved RM9.6b in properties last year
21 April 2008, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The Fire and Rescue Department was given a pat on the back for saving property worth RM47.6bil in fires between 2003 and last year. Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan said due to the department’s timely intervention, it was able to save many properties from being totally damaged. Last year alone, he said the properties saved were worth RM9.6bil while the losses were estimated at RM865.29mil. Speaking to reporters Monday after visiting the Fire and Rescue Department headquarters here, Ong added that 80 deaths were recorded last year while those injured in fires were 67 people. Ong stressed that fire prevention aspects had to be looked at seriously due to the number of deaths recorded. He suggested that buildings like hotels and shopping centres should be inspected on its fire preventive equipment at least once a year to prevent tragedies. “Even in foreign countries, hundreds of people die in buildings which caught fire due to them not conforming to fire safety rules,” he said. On emergency calls received, he said 43,863 genuine ones were made last year while prank calls totalled 658. “Of the number, 22,065 are calls for rescue purposes and 20,225 calls are on fire while the remaining 1,573 are for special services like catching snakes or saving people trapped in elevators,” he said. Selangor has recorded the highest number of calls totalling 10,921 followed by Perak with 5,544 calls, he said. Ong said the department’s efficiency has also earned it international recognition as its services had been requested to put out forest fires in Indonesia in 1997 while 70 personnel were involved in last year’s mudslide tragedy in the Philippines. The department, he said, was allocated RM1.59bil under the Ninth Malaysia Plan for its development expenditure, adding that last year its allocation was RM617.52mil compared to RM357.98mil in 2001. “The department now has 11,954 full-time rescue personnel nationwide and 13,935 volunteers,” he said.

Now Road Tax Can Be Renewed Online
18 April 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Tired of waiting in queues to renew road tax for your vehicle. Fret no further. As of Thursday, you can do it effortlessly online. This is made possible with the launching of online road tax renewal services developed by MY E.G. Services Berhad (MyEG, the leading E-Government services concessionaire in Malaysia. The service was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in a special ceremony here Thursday. The new service does away with the need for the car registration card and the public can access the service through MyEG’s interactive portal at www.myeg.com.my and the Road Transport Department’s website at www.jpj.gov.my. Users can opt to have the road tax disc delivered directly to their homes or office. Besides renewing through online, the public can also renew road tax at E-Service Kiosks placed at the company’s 54 E-Service Centres as well as selected bank branches nationwide. Payment for the online road tax renewal service can be made through credit or debit cards or E-cash (MyEG prepaid account). Besides all these, the company’s integrated portal also facilitates the renewal of automobile insurance policies. Among other services already introduced by MyEG before this are the online issuance and renewal of driving licences and payment of traffic summonses. Meanwhile, Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat said in his speech at the function that the country recorded about eight million road tax renewals last year and that this move was certainly a step in the right direction in allowing Malaysians a time-efficient option in managing their transactions.

Tsunami system can detect other disasters
8 April 2008, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The national tsunami early warning system is not only capable of forecasting tidal waves caused by earthquakes but also other disasters, including sea-level rise due to global warming. Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili said the system was designed to be multipurpose and was equipped with the latest forecasting equipment such as tidal gauges and coastal cameras. “It shares many of the facilities to forecast severe weather. The tide gauges also have instruments from the Department of Survey and Mapping, and the navy. “The readings can be used to monitor storm surges, piling of water along the coasts during monsoons, unusual tides and sea-level rise. “The coastal cameras can be used to monitor high waves and rough seas. These uses will make the early warning system more effective,” he said in his speech at the opening of the fifth session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System here yesterday. So far, the Government has spent some RM17.9mil in the implementation of the first phase of the early warning system, which, among others, saw the installation of two deep ocean buoys near Pulau Rondo in Indonesia and Layang-Layang island in the South China Sea, and sirens along sea coasts. Another buoy will be installed in the Sulu Sea soon. Dr Maximus said the Government was now in the midst of implementing the second phase of the project, with the setting-up of an additional 15 tidal gauge stations, 14 coastal cameras and 10 sirens, and the upgrading of the earthquake and analysis system. “This is expected to be completed by year end,” he said. On the earthquakes detected near Bukit Tinggit, Pahang, Dr Maximus said the Meteorological Department was conducting 24-hour surveillance on the place every day. Bukit Tinggi experienced 16 small earthquakes between Nov 30 and March 15, some measuring up to 3.5 on the Richter scale.

Rear seat belts a must soon
9 April 2008, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The Road Safety Department will propose to the Government to allow a short grace period for motorists to get rear seatbelts installed and be “prepared mentally” before its implementation. Department director-general Datuk Suret Singh said the rear seatbelt ruling would be enforced around the third quarter of this year. “I feel we have given the public enough time to get ready,” he said, adding that the move for compulsory wearing of rear seatbelts did not need to be tabled in Parliament. He said promotional activities encouraging the use of rear seatbelts had already taken place in the past year and it was time to move forward. Previously, the Malaysian Institute for Road Safety Research said that more than 80% of cars had rear seatbelts installed. Suret Singh also spoke about the department’s plans for the rest of the year and said emphasis would be on community-based programmes, such as the helmet-wearing initiatives, that were successfully implemented in 20 districts. “This particular programme has been well documented and there is already a standard operating procedure so that we can implement it in any district in the country.” Suret Singh said road safety education was taking off well in schools and now even included security personnel being trained as traffic wardens. “It is an understanding we have with the company that the Education Ministry hires. They provide the security personnel and we train them as traffic wardens so that there is no need to hire extra people.” Suret Singh said that by 2011, road safety education would have worked its way up to Form 4 students and that a whole new breed of motorists who took safety seriously would emerge as a result.

Liow: Open forum to discuss health scheme
9 April 2008, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry is keen to have a public debate on the National Health Financing Scheme. Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai said a public forum would be the “best way” to address issues and problems on the implementation of the scheme. “I would like to have a public debate. Let us talk about it,” Liow said in an interview on Monday. “This is something which will help the people and the Government have better health services in the country.” When the idea was first mooted 25 years ago, certain parties raised concerns about how the scheme would be implemented. The proposals included having it modelled after the EPF and Socso schemes where “eligible” employees make monthly payments through a deduction from their salary and both the scheme and the National Health Financing Authority overseeing it would be non-profit and not privatised. Former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek announced in 2004 that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had given approval and the “general principles” had been agreed upon. Consultants were also appointed to look into the details of the mechanism and there were even calls for a Royal Commission to be set up to get broad feedback before it was introduced. Liow admitted that it was not going to be easy for the Government to have such a scheme because it might not be a popular decision. However, he said the Government “did not have much choice” where the present system has left it subsidising almost 98% of healthcare in the country. He, however, said it would take about three to four years before the scheme could be implemented. A plus point of having the scheme was that the people would be able to get treatment either in the private or public sector where the Government would be able to use all existing doctors instead of the current system, he said. “One way to solve this problem is to have an insurance scheme. It does not matter whether you go to the government or the private sector. The doctor will treat you and the insurance will pay,” he said. A minus point, however, would be the risk of the government or insurance company going bankrupt because the public had developed a “buffet mentality”. Asked who was likely to take charge of the scheme, he said it did not matter because the most important thing was for the people to enjoy the benefits.

Stolen motorcycles sold for RM300 in Indonesia
6 April 2008, By New Sunday Times

MALACCA: It seems some Indonesians share more than a similar language with their Malaysian brothers. Their motorcycles seem to have similar registration numbers. It is estimated that some 80 per cent of the motorcycles on the roads of Pulau Rupat, Indonesia, bear Malacca registration plates. The reason? Motorcycles stolen in the state have been smuggled into the island in east Sumatra and sold for between RM200 and RM300 each. The discovery was made by four policemen from the state police headquarters who were sent to the island on a field trip last December. The stolen motorcycles, said state CID chief Assistant Commissioner Zainal Abidin Kassim, were shipped using bot pancung, a light, fisherman’s speedboat made of wood. “If bigger boats were used, the Customs Department would have detected them,” he said. Zainal Abidin said the theft and smuggling of the motorcycles were believed to have been carried out by Indonesian syndicates, with the boats starting out from the Kuala Linggi jetty in Alor Gajah as early as 5am. It is believed some 10 boats make the trip daily. “The boat ride to Pulau Rupat takes 30 minutes and 10 motorcycles are loaded onto each boat. “We have set up a team to track down syndicate members,” said Zainal Abidin, adding that four suspects from Indonesia were arrested three weeks ago. While the index for other types of crime in the state dropped, motorcycle theft increased by 26.8 per cent last year compared with 2006.

Only six MCOs have signed up with Health Ministry
3 April 2008, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Only six of the 56 managed care organisations (MCOs) had registered with the Health Ministry when the deadline expired on March 31. “Doctors can only deal with registered MCOs. It is wrong for them to deal with those that have yet to register,” Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said Thursday. Dr Ismail said the ministry was considering making the names of the registered MCOs public so that people would know whether the companies they have signed up with are authorised by the ministry to carry out dealings. “Private healthcare facilities can only deal with those who are registered,” he warned. He said the ministry was concerned over the number of MCOs, which had yet to register as it would be unable to resolve issues raised by parties affected by the dealings. Under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act, a MCO is defined as any organisation or body with whom a private healthcare facility or service provider has an arrangement or contract to provide healthcare services within an agreed financing system. He said all MCOs would be licensed under the Act so it would be able to regulate their activities in their dealings with private healthcare facilities or service providers. Dr Ismail also said in a statement that “fee splitting” was prohibited under the Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Regulations 2006 and the Malaysian Medical Council’s code of professional conduct. “Discount for professional fees is not allowed because it would be infringing on the regulations and the code. However, discounts are allowed for administrative fees,” he said. If “fee splitting “is carried out for professional fees, the practitioner is subject to disciplinary punishment under the Medical Act. The issue of “fee splitting” is being hotly debated between the Joint Inter-Hospital Healthcare Committee (JIHC) and ING Insurance Bhd. The JIHC is claiming that ING “refused to budge from its proposed terms and conditions in their new Healthcare Service Panel Agreement (HSPA)” where it was in breach of the Act and compromising quality of healthcare. ING, however said that its proposed fees are within the Act Thirteen Schedule (2006).

Proton issues recall on its Savvy
1 April 2008, By The Star

Proton is recalling its Savvy over a possible problem with regards to the car’s rear-wheel bearings. The company said a recent inspection has brought to its attention that water could get into the bearings, which could lead to a malfunction. “The safety and satisfaction of our customers is a primary concern. As a precautionary measure, we are recalling all Savvys for inspection and repair,” Proton managing director Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed said in a press statement. The recall will affect a total of 34,000 cars. All Savvy owners are advised to take their cars to the nearest Proton Edar or EON service branch for an inspection. Proton said it would conduct the necessary checks and replacements at no cost to the customer. They can also call Proton i-Care at 1-300-880-888 for further info.

Malaysia To Introduce Nationwide Handphone Blocking System
6 March 2008, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — A handphone blocking scheme for all telecommunication networks will be launched in June. The Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) said in a statement today that by implementing the scheme, stolen handphones reported to the network operators would be blocked and deactivated. “A stolen handphone cannot be used across any network nationwide, even by using a new SIM card. The centralised national database of stolen and lost handphones will be connected to all network operators, the Royal Malaysian Police and MCMC. “Handphones that are deactivated would be rendered as virtually worthless and made unattractive to criminals. According to police statistics, more than 100,000 handphones were reported stolen last year,” the statement said.

Study: Traffic crashes cost billions
5 March 2008, By Yahoo News

Traffic crashes cost American motorists more than $160 billion a year while inflicting a staggering per-person toll on small cities such as Little Rock, Ark., Columbia, S.C., and Pensacola, Fla., according to a AAA research report. The study, to be released Wednesday, found that traffic crashes have a much more damaging impact on society than the bumper-to-bumper congestion that riles commuters in many metropolitan areas. Maryland-based Cambridge Systematics Inc., which conducted the research for the automobile association, found that crashes cost U.S. motorists $164.2 billion a year, or about $1,051 per person. That’s more than double the $67.6 billion in annual costs from congestion, or about $430 per person. To calculate the crash costs, researchers took into account factors such as property damage, lost earnings, medical costs, emergency services, legal costs and travel delays. The nation’s largest cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, face billions of dollars in costs each year from car accidents. In the New York metropolitan area, they cost the region $18 billion a year, or about $962 per person, while they cost Los Angeles more than $10 billion a year, or $817 per person. Researchers, however, found that residents of smaller cities faced a larger per-person burden. Crashes in the Little Rock-North Little Rock region in Arkansas cost $1.4 billion, or $2,258 per person, while car wrecks carried a price tag of $1,772 a person around Pensacola, Fla., and $1,568 a person in Columbia, S.C. Robert L. Darbelnet, AAA’s president and chief executive, noted that nearly 43,000 people die each year on the nation’s roadways but that “the annual tally of motor vehicle-related fatalities barely registers as a blip in most people’s minds.” “It’s time for motor vehicle crashes to be viewed as the public health threat they are,” Darbelnet said. To address the high costs, AAA recommended that lawmakers make safety more of a priority in their transportation planning and pursue measures such as stiffer laws on drunken and impaired driving. The organization also recommended that all states pass primary enforcement seat belt laws, which allow law enforcement officers to stop motorists if their only offense is failing to buckle up. Legislators in 26 states and the District of Columbia have primary enforcement laws. The remaining states have secondary enforcement laws, which allow tickets for seat belt violations only if motorists are stopped for other offenses. New Hampshire has no seat belt law for adults. Among other cities, the researchers found that crashes cost: _$1,439 a person in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. _$1,368 a person in Phoenix, Mesa and Scottsdale, Ariz. _$1,058 a person in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash., region. _$887 a person in the Chicago metropolitan area. _$868 a person in the Detroit metropolitan region. _$658 a person in the San Francisco Bay Area. Researchers were unable to provide results for Atlanta and for cities in Massachusetts and Texas because of a lack of data critical to the study.

Singapore link in stolen car racket
4 March 2008, By New Straits Times

PETALING JAYA: Singapore has been identified as one of the transit points for cars stolen in Malaysia before being shipped to buyers in the Middle East and Africa. This was discovered following the seizure of 45 stolen cars worth RM5 million in the republic recently. The operation also saw the arrests of 17 syndicate members, including three Singaporeans. Describing it as the biggest bust against car theft syndicates in recent times, Federal CID director Datuk Mohd Bakri Zinin, attributed the success to joint operations between Malaysian police and their Singaporean counterparts. The operation began in December following the arrest of three suspects in Johor after a tip-off. Investigations then revealed how stolen vehicles were smuggled into Singapore in containers. “The syndicate had used false documents to ship the vehicles,” Bakri said at the Asian Pacific Auction Centre in Subang here yesterday. The vehicles were mainly four-wheel-drive models including Nissan X-trail, Frontier, Murano, Toyota Hilux, Toyota Fortuner and Honda CRV. The vehicles were surrendered to their respective insurance companies yesterday. Those arrested, including three Singaporeans between the ages of 25 and 35, were charged recently. Two of them are being detained under the Emergency Ordinance. Bakri said the syndicate members had also used several of the stolen vehicles to commit crimes there. For example, he said, one of the Toyota Hilux stolen in Ipoh was used in a robbery there. “The syndicate members used various methods to steal the vehicles, including staging accidents and forcing the drivers to stop by pretending to be car repossessors. “We believe some of the stolen vehicles have already reached overseas buyers and we are working with our counterparts there to recover the vehicles.”

Car theft ring busted, 45 vehicles worth RM5mil seized
4 March 2008, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Police have busted one of the country’s biggest car theft syndicates with the arrest of 17 people, including three Singaporeans, and the recovery of 45 luxury vehicles, mostly 4WDs, worth RM5mil from Singapore. The vehicles, including makes like Nissan X-Trail, Toyota Fortuner, Toyota Hilux, Nissan Frontier and Honda CRV, were recovered from various areas in Singapore such as housing estates as well as from the transshipment area at the port. The cars were to be re-exported to other countries including those in the region, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Europe and South Africa. They were driven or shipped into Singapore in containers using forged documents and registration numbers. Twenty-one of the vehicles were reported stolen in Selangor, eight in Kuala Lumpur, six in Penang, five in Negri Sembilan, four in Johor and one in Perak. Federal CID director Commissioner Datuk Mohd Bakri Zinin said, with cooperation from their Singapore counterparts, a high-profile team from Bukit Aman and Selangor swung into action and arrested three of the syndicate members on Dec 11. He said follow-up investigations led to the arrest of another 14 suspects and the recovery of the vehicles, adding that all the suspects, aged between 25 and 35, were picked up in Johor and Singapore. Two of them have since been placed under the Emergency Ordinance while the rest have been charged in court. Comm Mohd Bakri said the syndicate members used several methods to steal the cars, including acting as repossessors and carjacking. “Investigations found that the syndicate, which has been active for the past two years, was very slick in its operations and had a good networking system. “The members also knew how to disarm the alarm systems of the vehicles,” he told reporters at the Asia-Pacific Auction Centre in Subang yesterday before the vehicles were handed over to 17 representatives from various insurance companies. Comm Mohd Bakri said police were working closely with Interpol, Aseanapol and the Customs Department to track down more stolen vehicles, including in Thailand and Indonesia. “We are very concerned about transnational crime and we are having regular meetings with Interpol on motor vehicle theft eradication,” he said. Comm Mohd Bakri also warned the public to be wary of those selling luxury or expensive cars at very low prices, as they could have been stolen. “We urge the public to check with the Road Transport Department and Puspakom on the authenticity of a vehicle before buying it,” he added.

Expert: Local insurers in the dark over ICAR
12 February 2008, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Many insurers face difficulties in determining the internal capital adequacy ratio (ICAR) required under the risk-based capital framework (RBC). This is due to a lack of understanding in enterprise risk management (ERM) and building a risk cum capital management model, said Institute of Internal Auditors Malaysia former president Vijayam Nadarajah. Vijayam, who is now a finance head of a general insurer, said: “The evaluation criteria of enterprise risk is unclear to many insurers and they are looking for some guide on identification, assessment and particularly on quantification of qualitative issues and the eventual contribution to the determination of ICAR. “Although the foreign insurers may be able meet the deadline for the RBC framework by Jan 1, many local insurers may not as they are unclear on the process of developing the risk cum capital management models, and in addition, do not have a prescription to adopt.” ICAR is the capital required by a company to meet premium and claims liabilities and risks such as credit, market, operational and interest rate risks, among others. Insurance companies need to be RBC compliant next year. The framework requires an insurer to maintain an ICAR that commensurates with its risk profile. Vijayam said insurers were faced with the challenge of depending on enterprise risks in arriving at and determining the ICAR. Insurers, therefore, had to aggressively prepare some risk models by learning from other global solvency regimes, she told StarBiz at the recent Financial Resilience of Insurers conference. At the same time, solvency regimes elsewhere were also consolidating their experiences and putting their act together to ensure success in implementing at some future date, she added. “Some of the other problems in determining this ratio include computing economic capital, economic reinsurance protection management and capital injection and exiting as these measures focus on real earnings, profitability and real returns on capital, Vijayam said. ERM is a systematic and disciplined approach to managing risk throughout an organisation. It enables the organisation to assess risk and identify the steps it can take and resources it should allocate to overcome or mitigate risk. Based on this understanding, stress testing the capital adequacy on likely scenarios and sensitivities could be performed to ensure the determination of ICAR would be more meaningful, Vijayam noted. According to Vijayam, running the relevant statistics for ICAR was made worse in view of the current market volatility. A sound ERM system would help better manage an insurer’s business to ensure better financial results and overall preparedness for a new solvency regime, she said. ERM, she added, was the foundation of prudent corporate governance and assisted insurance companies in making better informed decisions and hence improve underwriting profits.

Papa against monopoly
5 February 2008, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry should not start a monopoly in the sector of insurance for foreign maids. Instead it should let it be an open market and allow the consumers to pick and choose. This was the suggestion by the Malaysian Association of Foreign Maid Agencies (Papa), which had formulated a maid protection plan at RM75 premium for two years compared with the Ministry’s proposed scheme at RM75 per year. “The main principle here is to offer protection for the maids, most of them from Indonesia. This is of national concern and Papa is backing the Government 100% on this. “However, what we found disturbing was the intention by the Home Ministry to only allow one government-linked company to handle the coverage. A monopolistic system has often been not favourable to consumers,” said Papa chairman Datuk Raja Zulkepley Dahlan. Papa was also concerned the Ministry might not have been presented with several options before deciding on the RM75 annual premium package. On Jan 16, Home Minister Datuk Seri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad announced that insurance for maids would be made compulsory and the Government would launch the scheme soon. Papa immediately objected to the scheme, which seemed to be on the high side, in terms of cost. For example, Papa’ scheme was much lower at RM48 premium for a year or a reduced rate of RM75 for two years . “Since different parties think their insurance packages are worth the money and offer better protection, let’s leave it to the open market. In fact, there are also other insurance schemes for maids out there and consumers should be given the chance to shop around before deciding on which package to buy. “This way, the maids are protected, consumers still have a choice and there is healthy competition among the insurers – it is a win-win situation for all,” said Raja Zulkepley. Papa secretary Foo Yong Hooi said the insurance scheme was crucial to send a message to Indonesia that Malaysia cared for their nationals. “The shortage of Indonesia maids is getting critical. Not only is the supply scarce because we lose out to higher paying countries, but the bad press about the abuses of maids makes Indonesians unhappy. “Having the insurance scheme is a reassurance that Malaysia does not tolerate abuse, and that we are taking positive action to care for the maids’ welfare,” said Foo.

Psst, want a ‘new’ Waja for RM9,000?
24 January 2008, By The Sun

KUALA LUMPUR: Thinking they had gotten great deals for the almost-new Proton Wajas, at least 16 people received a blow when police turned up at their homes and told them the vehicles were reported stolen. The victims, including a teacher, soldier and civil servants, were duped by a car theft ring into buying the vehicles several months ago at a fraction of the market value. The buyers, who lived in small towns in Perak, Kedah, Penang and Perlis, paid between RM9,000 and RM12,000 for the Wajas. Many of them were low-income earners. They told police that they had parted with their hard-earned savings kept to perform the Haj and for other important purposes as the offer was just too hard to pass up. The recovery of the cars and crippling of the syndicate’s activities followed month-long surveillance and intelligence gathering by a crack team from the Kuala Lumpur CID’s anti-car theft (D4c) division. The 12-man team launched the week-long operation on Jan 16 and headed to Kuala Kurau where they arrested a man in his 40s. Sources said the suspect, who was the fence, led police to the houses of the buyers where the 16 Wajas and a Proton Wira were seized. The recovered vehicles are now in the Semanggol police station near Taiping. Police told the shocked buyers the cars had been stolen in several northern states.The suspect had told the buyers that the cars were repossessed and disposed by banks at low prices as the vehicle owners were no longer traceable. It is learnt that the syndicate had fitted false registration plates bearing details of Wajas registered in the Federal Territories. The cars also came with registration documents and road tax stickers which police later discovered were fakes. Police seized the latest car on Monday (Jan 21) and believe there are at least a dozen more in the hands of unsuspecting buyers. The suspect has been remanded in the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters. Sources said a hunt for the mastermind of the syndicate and its remaining members is ongoing.

Police bust ring dealing in stolen lorries
18 January 2008, By The Star

KLUANG: Police have busted a syndicate that refurbishes stolen lorries before selling them off. Five men in their 30s, including lorry dealers, were arrested in Johor Baru, Kluang and Pahang on Jan 7. Police also recovered six stolen lorries worth about RM210,000. The group’s modus operandi was to erase a lorry’s chassis number, forge documents, paint the vehicle in a different colour and sell it through dealers. Kluang OCPD Asst Comm Fawzi Arshad said the lorries were reported stolen in Kluang, Batu Pahat and Kota Tinggi last year. All the suspects have been remanded.

Suresh Gang crippled
18 January 2008, By The Star

IPOH: Police have crippled the Suresh Gang, which specialises in selling stolen car parts, with the arrest of 11 members in the past week. Ipoh OCPD Asst Comm Azisman Alias said the 11 members, including a Nepalese man, were picked up after a task force was set up to investigate the gang. “We arrested the first man, believed to be the mastermind, at his home in Tanjung Rambutan at 7pm on Jan 4,” he told a press conference Thursday. The others were picked up at various places here, in Sungai Siput and Menglembu. Police are still looking for two more members of the gang. “We also raided two workshops and confiscated about RM500,000 worth of spare parts, scrap metal and all kinds of components of the stolen vehicles,” ACP Azisman said. He said the suspects, aged between 19 and 64, were found dismantling the parts of the stolen vehicles at the workshops. Police also recovered four lorries, three cars, two car engines, windscreens, bumpers, tyres and other accessories. “We can link them to several theft cases in Ipoh and even outside Perak, in places like Puchong,” ACP Azisman said.

Recent Floods Cost Govt RM900 Mln
11 January 2008, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — The recent floods in Pahang, Johor, Kelantan and Kedah have cost the government about RM900 million, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said today. The sum comprised RM813 million in losses as a result of the flood damage and about RM100 million more in compassionate aid for the flood victims, he added. Najib spoke to reporters after chairing a special meeting of the National Disaster Relief and Management Committee at the Prime Minister’s Department, here. The meeting was called to determine the impact of the floods, which hit the four states in December last year, and the mode of compassionate aid for the victims. Najib said the RM900 million did not take into account personal losses which he added would have tripled the sum. He said the compassionate aid approved at today’s meeting would be distributed to the flood victims shortly, and that the follow-up would be handled by the National Security Council. Najib said he, ministers and the four menteris besar would go down to the ground to hand over the aid. The compassionate aid would be given to 21,451 families who were evacuated to flood relief centres as well as 17,386 families affected by the floods but did not move to the relief centres. Explaining the quantum of aid, he said the committee decided to use the formula adopted last year. As such, RM1,100 is to be given to a household whose house was flooded to a depth of more than five feet (1.52 metres) and RM700 to a household whose house was flooded to a depth of less than five feet. The owners of 39 houses which were destroyed by the floods will be given RM3,000 each. Najib said Syarikat Perumahan Negara Berhad (SPNB) would rebuild the houses of these victims and each owner would have to pay one-third of the cost of the house. He also said that RM5,000 would be given to each of the 33 families of the people who had died in the floods. Najib said RM25.6 million had been allocated as agriculture aid for people who suffered destruction of padi, aquaculture, coconut and livestock. He said the damage to public property was estimated at RM776 million, with Pahang suffering the highest damage of RM302 million and Johor next at RM185 million and Kelantan at RM175 million. The damage to property of government-linked companies (GLCs) was RM36 million, and such property included Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) sub-stations and that of Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) Berhad. Najib said the flood victims to be given compassionate aid must be verified by the village headman or village development and security committee, even if they did not have to evacuate during the floods.

RM50mil gone during floods
8 January 2008, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: About 16,000 farmers and fishermen suffered almost RM50mil in losses in the recent floods that hit several states. Agriculture and Agrobased Industry Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said padi farmers were the worst hit, with RM22.4mil in losses. Livestock breeders suffered RM8.3mil in losses and it was RM5.5mil in losses for fishermen, he said. “About 13,522ha of padi fields were affected while livestock breeders lost 82,029 animals,” he told a press conference after delivering his New Year’s message at his ministry here yesterday. He said the states where agriculture sectors were badly affected were Kedah, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Terengganu and Kelantan. “My ministry will be bringing the matter up to the National Disaster Management Committee, and they will decide on how much assistance will be handed out to those affected. But it is not compensation,” he said. Asked about the Anti-Corruption Agency’s probe against rice distributor Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas), he said it was still being conducted but the approved permit (AP) had been given out. It was earlier reported that Bernas was being questioned for bringing in 25,000 metric tonnes of fragrant rice worth about RM60mil from Thailand without an AP. This resulted in 10,000 tonnes of rice being held at the Pasir Gudang port on Dec 31. Another 10,000 tonnes were held at the Kota Kinabalu port and 5,000 tonnes in Port Klang. Muhyiddin said in its agreement with the Government, Bernas should have 92,000 metric tonnes of rice stockpile at any given time. “The stockpile of rice is extremely important – we would also like to know how Bernas is handling the matter. “As world consumption goes up, do we have enough stockpile if there is a crisis? Is the supply enough for the country’s consumption? “From what I can see, the stockpile is not really a stockpile, just floating stock. You cannot just count the rice, which has not been sold, and say that’s stockpile,” he added.