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Education Ministry Blacklists Six Contractors
The Education Ministry has blacklisted six contractors for failing to complete the ministry's development projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP).

It's deputy minister Senator Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said Friday the projects amounting to RM180 million were the construction of Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan (SMK) Bayan Lepas in Penang, SMK Seri Putra in Bangi, Selangor, Sekolah Menengah (SM) Sains Gua Musang in Kelantan, Regional Centre of Science and Mathematics in Sarawak, Staff Quarters in Kuantan, Pahang, and SM Sains Batu Pahat here.

"All the contractors had been given a chance and warning but still failed to complete the projects," he told reporters after visiting the construction site of SM Sains Batu Pahat here Friday.

Most of the contractors, he said, had given excuses like shortage of workers and financial problems for their failure to complete the project on time.

Hence, he said the ministry would appoint new contractors to resume the projects.

He said the six projects were among 45 of the ministry's projects identified as "sick projects".

However, they constituted a mere 0.3 per cent of the ministry's projects, which numbered 14,181, he added.

Bernama | 10 April 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Batu Pahat would join Kluang in rationing exercise
Despite the relief from short rainy spells in several districts here, no end is in sight for the water shortage in the state.

Even the cloud-seeding exercises were halted between March 15 and 21 due to the absence of cumulus clouds.

State International Trade and Industry, Energy, Water, Communication and Environment Committee chairman Tan Kok Hong said without the clouds, the cloud-seeding exercise which was being done following the dry spell in central Johor, would be rendered useless.

Tan said cloud-seeding exercises were carried out on Monday and Tuesday and they were still waiting for positive results.

"We will continue with the cloud-seeding exercises whenever the clouds reappear."

The exercise, which is costing the state RM500,000 (S$211,500), is being jointly carried out by the Bahagian Kawalselia Air Johor (Bakaj) which coordinates the water resources in the state, the Meteorological Department and Department of Irrigation and Drainage.

Tan said the state was waiting for the green light from the Meteorological Department to resume the cloud-seeding exercise.

Though the cloud-seeding exercises had shown minor improvements last week, the situation had not improved this week as the water levels at dams and rivers in the state, especially in central Johor, were still at unstable levels.

Yesterday, it was announced that the latest drought-hit district, Batu Pahat, would join Kluang in the state's water rationing exercise, as the Bekok dam's level has dipped below its critical level.

The state water management company SAJ Holdings Sdn Bhd said a month-long water rationing exercise for Batu Pahat would begin on March 29.

Rationing exercise is being carried out in an effort to halt further decline of the water level in the Bekok river and dam which supplies most of its water to Batu Pahat.

SAJ's corporate communications head Jamaluddin Jamil said water levels at the Bekok dam registered 9.3 metres, which is below the 10m critical mark.

He also pointed out that due to the low levels of water there was high levels of aluminium, ammonia and chloride in the water.

"There is, however, nothing to worry about as the water is treated before reaching households.

Nevertheless, he urged people in Batu Pahat and Kluang to use water sparingly until the current dry spell ends.

"We also have several water tankers on standby at the two districts to supply water to remote areas as part of our contingency plan," he said.

AsiaOne | 26 March 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Soi Lek goes for MCA presidency
Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek announced today he is going for the presidency in the MCA elections next Sunday, making the contest for the post, as of now, a three-corner fight.

He made the much-anticipated announcement at a leading hotel here, flanked by his loyalists, among them divisional leaders Datuk Seri Tan Chai Ho (Bandar Tun Razak) and Dr Lee Hong Tee (Segamat), Kedah MCA deputy chief Datuk Chong Itt Chew as well as Central Committee (CC) member aspirant Loh Seng Kok.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha, who is contesting the deputy presidency, and Datuk Donald Lim, who is going for a vice-presidency, were also present.

Leaders from at least from 40 divisions in nine states and some 500 supporters also attended the event. Some were ferried from Dr Chua's strongholds in Batu Pahat and Labis to shore up support for the former deputy president's candidacy.

In addressing his supporters, Dr Chua said he had a strategy in place to unite, stabilise and revitalise the party.

"Having worked my way up from serving as a branch chairman, I understand very well the situation on the ground, and the aspiration of the grassroots," he said.

He said MCA needed a strong leader who had a clear vision for the party's future direction and could put the team together and move the party forward, especially in view of the next general election.

Using the metaphor of the working habit of ants, Dr Chua said that only by working together as a team and with everyone playing their role could the party be saved.

"The strength of one ant has its limits. If one million MCA members can work together with full dedication and as a team, then we have hope that the party can be transformed," he said.

Dr Chua is in for a three-corner fight with incumbent president Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and former president Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting.

At a news conference later, Dr Chua said he was optimistic and described his chances of victory "as good as the other candidates".

He expressed his readiness to work with any leader after the elections.

The former Health Minister was also asked whether his infamous 2008 sex scandal would be used to undermine his chances.

He said he expected the same tactic to be employed as his contenders "have nothing else to talk about".

"I have come to accept that in politics there will be people who will make use of anything in the respective political interest. But, I give the assurance that I will not use personal issues.

"Every senior leader in the MCA has certain weaknesses, only that they are either exposed or not exposed. No political leader is perfect," he said.

Following the sex scandal expose, Dr Chua resigned from all his posts in the government and party in January 2008 but returned to the political limelight after winning the MCA deputy presidency in October 2008 when he polled 1,115 votes to defeat former secretary-general Datuk Seri Ong Ka Chuan by a 114-vote majority.

Nomination for the MCA elections will be held from 1pm to 5 pm tomorrow at Wisma MCA.

SinChew | 22 March 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Teoh’s fiancee wants to move on
For 29-year-old Soh Cher Wei, the fiancee of the late political aide Teoh Beng Hock, coming to terms with what had happened and gradually picking up the pieces to restart her family life is her utmost priority.

Cher Wei, who held a ceremony at Beng Hock’s family home in Kelemak on Saturday to mark the first month of their newborn son, Teoh Er Jia, said she tried not to dwell on things too much nowadays.

“I do not want to think so much about what had happened and just want to get on with my life with my family,” she said, adding that she was happy teaching Chinese and Science to Primary Three and Four students at SRJK Kong Nan in Batu Pahat.

Cher Wei, who has moved to her parents’ home in Batu Pahat, added she was glad that her parents have given their full support to her raising Er Jia as a single mother.

Some 100 relatives and friends gathered at Beng Hock’s family home here to present gifts and to catch a glimpse of Er Jia.

There was even a group of Form Five students of the Confucian Private School from Kuala Lumpur who specifically made a field trip to meet Cher Wei and Beng Hock’s family.

Teoh, 30, the political secretary to Selangor executive council member Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead the morning after he was taken to the state MACC office in Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam for questioning on July 15 last year over alleged irregularity in disbursement of funds.

Cher Wei was two months’ pregnant at the time.

TheStarOnline | 22 March 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Teoh's Family Happy Beng Hock's Son To Carry Surname
The family of the late Teoh Beng Hock on Wednesday expressed gratitude to the government for having granted its request for the use of his surname for the son born to Beng Hock's fiancee Soh Cher Wei.

Beng Hock's elder sister Lee Lan, 30, said the family was overjoyed when informed by the National Registration Department in Putrajaya that Beng Hock would be named as the father in the child's birth certificate.

Beng Hock, who was the political aide to a Selangor state executive councillor, was found dead at the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam on July 16 last year after he had given evidence as a witness to the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) over alleged misuse of funds by several Selangor elected representatives.

Soh, who is at her family home in Batu Pahat, Johor, gave birth to the 2.9-kg boy at the Pantai Hospital in Batu Pahat on Feb 22.

Lee Lan said the family had decided to name the child Teoh Er Jia.

Bernama | 02 March 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Award Winner Faiza Aspires To Set Up Foundation To Help Needy
One of six national 'Tokoh Maulidur Rasul' award winners, Faiza Bawumi Sayed Ahmad, aspires to set up a foundation called Yayasan Faiza, to help the poor and needy.

Faiza, a successful businesswoman and the managing director of Syarikat Faiza Sdn Bhd, a company synonymous with a charity programme on television, called "Bersamamu" hopes to set up the foundation to help the poor and single mothers.

"From what I have seen and experienced during my many visits to various places, I have seen how the poor and single mothers suffer and I had always wanted to set up a foundation to offer help to them.

"I am in the business not just to seek profit but also to help in providing charity to the poor because they (poor and single mothers) also deserve a decent lifestyle," she told Bernama here.

Faiza also urged the Muslim community to strive for excellence and stay united so as to bring about development and contribute towards the economy of the country.

"We must be united to remain strong because when we are weak and disorganized, we can be easily misled by irresponsible people," said the Egypt-born Faiza who followed her late Malaysia-born husband Abu Bakar Ahmad (Malaysian) in 1964.

Faiza, 68, said in line with the theme for this year's celebration 'Strengthening Brotherhood, Empowering the Community' ("Memantapkan Ukhuwah, Memperkasa Ummah"), all Muslims must follow the teachings of Al-Qur'an and be tolerant in whatever they did.

"Once, a non-Malay trader asked me the difference between two types of crabs, a Malay crab and a non-Malay crab. At first I did not understand what the trader meant but the trader explained that when a Malay crab tries to climb over a barrier, another Malay crab will drag it down while a non-Malay crab will help another to overcome the barrier by providing help," she said.

Faiza who has a diploma in tailoring, first started off her business venture as a tailor before moving into the spice trade and later opened a mini-mart in the 1970s.

She slowly expanded her business and became a supplier for rice in 1982 before setting up Syarikat Faiza Sdn Bhd in 1992, a company that processes and distributes rice and based in Batu Pahat.

The mother of seven children and 32 grandchildren also hopes the Muslim community would emulate Prophet Muhammad's ways.

Faiza's company distributes 21 types of rice in the country with "Ponni Taj Mahal Herbal" rice being its flag ship brand while Faiza Marketing Sdn Bhd manufactures and distributes various types of spices and curry powder.

Despite her busy schedule, Faiza always spared time for charity work and heads a number of associations like Pemborong Beras Bumiputera Malaysia, Pertubuhan Kebajikan Islam Malaysia (Perkim) Batu Pahat, Batu Pahat Umno Division (Head of Welfare Bureau) and sits on the Batu Pahat Board and trustee of the Batu Pahat orphanage.

She has also won numerous award for her contributions and services to the community like 'Wanita Anggun 2005', 'Tokoh Ibu Mithali Perkim 2007', 'Wanita Nadi Negara peringkat Johor 2007' and 'Tokoh Guru 2009 Special Award'.

Bernama | 02 March 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Y-shaped lake a cool place to unwind
The recreational park, despite being situated in the centre of the town, was once a hideout for young amorous couples especially after midnight.

But thanks to frequent raids by the Batu Pahat religious department, the park is now visited by families.

The Tasik Y recreational park, named after its Y-shaped lake, was set up by the local council more than 10 years ago.

The park with its lake surrounded by lush greenery is a popular place for joggers and others wanting to unwind after a hard day's work.

"This is where Batu Pahat folk would head for after work," said Kasmani Ariffin, 30, who frequently visits the place.

The jogging track which is about one kilometre goes around the lake. There are exercise ramps, bench press and chin-up bars.

There is also a children's playground equipped with playhouses, seesaws and slides, among others.

For those looking for traditional comfort, a reflexology track which stretches for about 30 metres is also available to soothe those aching pressure points.

The park is located behind the Batu Pahat Magistrate Court near the Batu Pahat Square.

NST | 23 February 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Teoh’s family awaits birth of his child with mixed feelings
Still reeling from the loss of their son, Teoh Beng Hock, the family are now anticipating the birth of his child with mixed feelings.

Nanyang Siang Pau reported that Teoh’s parents had expressed hope that their latest grandchild, who is due in the middle of this month, would resemble Teoh.

“I feel very sad knowing that my grandchild will have no father but at the same time, I am happy that he will be born soon.

“I really hope he looks like Beng Hock because if he does, it would be like he is back with us again,” said his mother Teng Shuw Hor.

On July 15, the political aide to Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong Hian Wah had gone to the state MACC office on the 14th floor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam to be questioned over the disbursement of funds.

He was found dead on the 5th floor service corridor of the building the following day.

Teng said she also hoped that her grandchild would inherit Teoh’s good character and be a filial child.

She said Teoh’s fiancee, 28-year-old school teacher Soh Che Wer, would be giving birth at a private hospital in Batu Pahat.

“She will take care of the baby and after the first month, she will take him back to Malacca to pay respects to our ancestors and Beng Hock,” Teng said.

Teoh’s father Leong Hwee said although it has been seven months, his wife is still emotionally unstable.

“I still work as a taxi driver but I do not stay out very late because I need to keep her company,” he said.

> CHINA Press reported that Malaysian actress-singer Angelica Lee Sin Jie continued to evade the media after her wedding in Pangkor Laut.

Reporters waiting for her in Lumut only managed to meet her family members and a few Hong Kong celebrities who attended the wedding.

Lee’s younger brother then gave angpows to all the reporters, thanking them for waiting there since Lee’s wedding on Saturday.

“My sister wants me to give you the angpow to thank you all for the hard work,” he said.

TheStarOnline | 10 February 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Groom calls off wedding, bride’s father faints
The father of a bride-to-be fainted and his family was left deeply embarrassed after the groom cancelled the wedding at the 11th hour, Harian Metro reported.

The paper said the 26-year-old groom sent his fiancee Nor Adriana Hairudin, 25, a text message asking for the wedding to be cancelled.

The SMS came two days before the wedding feast at the bride’s home in Batu Pahat.

The report stated that the family was later informed by an Islamic affairs department officer at the Kuantan army camp, where the groom worked, that the man had not attended the compulsory marriage counselling course and failed to obtain leave for his wedding.

The man’s marriage course certificate, which he sent to the girl’s family earlier, was found to be a fake document.

The report stated that Nor Adriana’s father, Hairudin Ahmad, 50, fainted due to stress.

The wedding feast was turned into a kenduri doa selamat (thanksgiving) feast instead.

> Kosmo! reported that a couple who gave away their three young children due to financial difficulties were reunited with them later after a police report was lodged.

Mohd Khairi Idris, 25, and Junaidah Saduddin, 25, had been living under the stairway of a flat as they couldn’t pay the rent for their room.

Mohd Khairi had earlier lost his job as a lorry driver’s assistant.

The couple was reported to have said that they had to give away their children because they couldn’t bear to see them mired in poverty.

The report stated that a man and another couple, who sympathised with Mohd Khairi’s predicament, adopted the three children in December.

However, Mohd Khairi’s mother, who was shocked with her son’s decision, decided to lodge a police report.

The paper said that the man and the couple returned the children to Mohd Khairi and Junaidah on Sunday night.

TheStarOnline | 09 February 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Oil palm companies fined for water pollution
Two oil palm companies were fined a total of RM25,000 by a Sessions Court here for pollution by discharging waste matter into the river above the allowed limit.

The PPNJ oil palm factory in Batu 17, Mukim Kahang committed the offence on Feb 19, 2008 by releasing waste that contained biological oxygen demand (BOD) and suspended solids.

The factory was fined RM15,000 or six months’ jail for the offence.

In the same court, a Felda-owned oil palm factory in Kahang Timur was also charged with releasing waste that contained BOD on Oct 14, 2008.

Sessions Court judge Mohamad Haldar Abd Aziz fined the factory RM10,000 or six months’ jail for the offence.

Both factories were charged under Section 16 (1) of the Environment Quality Act 1974 and Section 16 (2) of the same Act.

Deputy public prosecutor Noor Mohd Emran Amir prosecuted the case, while both factories were not represented.

TheStarOnline | 04 February 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Former convicts jailed for life for armed robbery
The High Court here sentenced two men to life imprisonment and ordered them to be given six strokes of the rotan after finding them guilty of using a firearm in a robbery in 2004.

Cheah Phee Shing, 47, and Kek Boon Leong, 35, had faced a charge under Section 3 of the Firearms Act for killing a policeman, and another under Section 5 of the same Act for using a firearm in a robbery.

Justice Datuk Lau Been Lan, in her decision yesterday, said the court found both accused not guilty of the charge under Section 3, but guilty of the charge under Section 5 of the Firearms Act.

She said the court had no choice but to sentence Cheah and Kek to life imprisonment and ordered that they be given six strokes of the rotan each.

In mitigation, counsel Gobind Singh Deo, who represented Cheah, and G.F. Nelson, for Kek, pleaded with the court to not impose more than the minimum six strokes of the rotan mandated by law, besides life imprisonment.

Deputy public prosecutor Omar Saifuddin Jaafar, however, asked the court to impose more than the minimum specified, saying that the two accused had committed a serious crime.

After sentence was passed, Gobind Singh and Nelson submitted requests for a stay of execution pending an appeal.

The prosecution also submitted a request to appeal against the acquittal of the two men under Section 3 of the Firearms Act.

The two men, both former convicts, were arrested in connection with a robbery at a house at Taman Maharani in Muar in 2004 in which Kpl Manja Manaf was shot dead and L/Kpl Mohd Razali Abu Bakar injured.

The two were arrested by special action unit members at two separate places in Batu Pahat several days after the incident.

Police seized two pistols and several bullets.

One of the guns was believed to have been used in the shooting.

TheStarOnline | 30 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Jailed for life for having revolvers
Two men were sentenced to life imprisonment and six strokes of rotan each after they were found guilty of possessing revolvers. High Court judge Datuk Lau Bee Lan said the prosecution had proved the case beyond reasonable doubt.

He, however, acquitted them of causing the death of a police corporal and injuring a lance corporal.

Businessman Kek Boon Leong, 43, of Taman Bukit Pelana, and Cheah Phee Shing, 31, a hawker, of Taman Murni, both of Batu Pahat, were alleged to have caused the death of Corporal Nik Manja Abdul Manap, 44, and injured Lance Corporal Mohd Razali Abu Bakar, 42.

The offences were alleged to have been committed at No. 1, Jalan 4A, Taman Sri Maharani, Jalan Haji Jaib here at 10.30pm on Aug 1, 2004.

They were also charged with possessing revolvers at the same place and time.

The court was told that Nik Manja was killed during a shoot-out with the robbers while Razali took a bullet in his shoulder when they went to the robbery site at a contractor's house.

Kek was defended by G.F. Nelson and Cheah by Gobind Singh Deo. Deputy public prosecutors Umar Saifuddin Ja'afar and Mohd Ashrof Adrin Kamarul appeared for the prosecution.

AsiaOne | 30 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Girlfriend stabber drinks poison
A man stabbed his girlfriend when she refused to marry him and then took his own life by consuming poison, reported Tamil Nesan on its front page.

The daily quoted a police spokesman as saying that the 39-year-old boyfriend went to the girl’s house in Batu Pahat and stabbed her before returning to his village in Sungai Siput in Perak on Jan 24.

The man and the 32-year-old woman had worked in Ipoh together but she got a job in Batu Pahat where she fell in love with someone else, said the spokesman.

The boyfriend tried to persuade her to marry him but a quarrel ensued, and he stabbed her.

The daily, however, did not mention the woman’s condition. The man is said to have confessed his actions before his death on Thursday.

TheStarOnline | 30 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Hup Seng to focus on brand building, product development
Biscuit maker Hup Seng Industries Bhd will focus on building and strengthening its in-house brand of beverages, In-Comix, in the local market.

Chairman Keh (Kerk) Chu Koh said it would step up research and development (R&D) activities to churn out more products for consumers.

“We are still in the midst of conducting tests and product development and target to introduce new products this year,’’ he told StarBizWeek after the company EGM recently.

Keh said new products would include instant beverages in 2-in-1 sachets with focus on new 3-in-1 coffee and instant coffee concoctions.

He said demand for 3-in-1 coffee and instant coffee in Malaysia had grown positively over the years as more people were drinking them.

“Consumers want convenience and beverages such as coffee and tea in 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 sachets are the answer to that,’’ said Keh.

He said although there were no official statistics on coffee consumption per capita in the country, business was good considering the number of brands of 3-in-1 coffee and instant coffee available in the market.

However, despite being ranked third in terms of market share for instant coffee in the country, In-Comix was still not well-known and the company would have to work harder to raise brand awareness, said Keh.

“We are focusing on the domestic market which we regard as more important compared with the export market that’s fraught with greater uncertainty,” he added.

Hup Seng had in 2005 acquired the Senai-based In-Comix Food Industries Sdn Bhd for RM22mil as part of its strategy to add synergy to its biscuit-making business.

Apart from instant beverages in 2-in-1 sachets, 3-in-1 coffee and tea, In-Comix Food also produces instant cup noodles and cereals in sachets.

“Malaysians can be considered loyalists when it comes to drinking tea or coffee and most of them will usually stick to certain brands if they already like the taste,’’ said Keh.

Meanwhile, he said the local biscuit-making industry faced its toughest time now with prices of raw materials and fuel on the uptrend.

Keh said biscuit makers had to contend with sugar price hike and they expect fuel and crude palm oil prices to also increase in the coming months.

He said the rising petroleum prices in the global market would create a chain reaction where prices of other things such as packaging materials and transportation would also escalate.

Manufacturers also had difficulty hiring locals to work and would still have to depend on foreign labour, he said.

“We hope the relevant authorities will look into the matter and help us (manufacturers). We want to hire locals but where are these people?’’ he said.

TheStarOnline | 23 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
S$0.7billion spent on Chinese schools
The government spent about RM1.8 billion(S$0.7 billion) in 2008 on operating expenses for Chinese national type-schools, including teachers' salaries.

Deputy Education Minister Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi said this showed the ministry was committed and did not discriminate in the development of education facilities and infrastructure.

"We understand that education is a basic need for all citizens," he said at a dialogue with parents, guardians and administrations of primary and secondary Chinese schools in the Penggaram state constituency on Friday night.

He said through the first economic stimulus package, the government allocated RM50 million to these schools and the same amount was given under the second stimulus package.

Six new Chinese schools were being built nationwide while 13 such schools will be relocated.

He said the relocation was because of the low number of students and added that the schools would be relocated to areas with a larger population.

AsiaOne | 18 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Munchy eyeing European market following ISO 22000 certification
Biscuits maker Munchy Food Industries Sdn Bhd is planning to enter the European market this year after obtaining the ISO 22000 certification late last year.

“The certification is like a passport to penetrate the European market as the food safety standards there are very high,” general manager (industry) Ng Seng Chai told StarBiz.

ISO 22000 is an internationally recognised food safety management system that is based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point that provides a logical and efficient framework through which food hazards can be identified, controlled and most importantly prevented.

Ng said the company had entered the Russian market in August 2009 and the next step would be to look for suitable distribution partners in different European markets.

The company, he said, participated in an international food and beverage fair in Cologne, Germany in October last year which attracted interest from several parties that were keen to become the company’s distribution partners in Europe.

“We are currently following up on agreements with distribution partners from France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Spain and Britain. Hopefully we will sign the deals soon,” he said.

Munchy’s currently produces about 20,000 tonnes of wafers, wafer sticks and biscuits yearly at its plant in Tongkang Pecah here, with 70% catering to the domestic market and 30% exported to over 60 countries.

TheStarOnline | 18 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Deputy mufti’s son denies graft
A Simpang Renggam District Council secretary, who is also the son of the Johor deputy mufti, claimed trial to a charge of accepting a RM10,000 bribe splurged on a five-day trip to Indonesia.

Mohd Helmi Sha’ri, 29, pleaded not guilty at the Sessions Court here to the offence said to have occurred on March 30 last year.

He is said to have accepted the money from Rahmat Md Arsat as an incentive to speed up backlog payments to Syarikat Perniagaan Rahmat.

The payment was owed to the company for clearing and transferring waste from municipal councils in Kluang and Batu Pahat to waste disposal sites in Simpang Renggam and surrounding areas.

The payment supposedly due to the company was RM225,000.

Mohd Helmi was also said to have spent the money for a package trip to Indonesia from April 23 to 27 last year.

He was charged under Section 16(a)(B) of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years and a fine not exceeding five times the bribe amount or RM10,000, whichever is higher.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Shafinaz Sharuddin proposed bail at RM8,000 while Mohd Helmi’s lawyer Rosli Kamaruddin pleaded to the judge to reduce bail, saying his client was facing two other similar cases and was already out on a RM10,000 bail for the previous offences.

Judge Mohamad Kaldar Abdul Aziz set bail at RM7,000 and fixed trial for March 25.

Mohd Helmi also previously claim­ed trial to two other bribery charges amounting to RM50,000 at the Johor Baru Sessions court on Jan 6.

TheStarOnline | 16 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Of love and shuttlecocks
The spirit of sportsmanship runs deep in the latest TV production Biar Putih Tulang Jangan Putih Mata, which premiered yesterday on Astro Citra (Astro 131).

Directed by Joyce Lee and James Lee, the drama revolves around the tumultuous friendship between best friends, Isa (Zahiril Adzim) and Musa (Azma Aizal Yusoof), amidst their passion for badminton from the '80s to the '90s.

Set in the idyllic town of Batu Pahat, the series begins with the background event of national badminton heroes, brothers Razif and Jailani Sidek making their mark after successfully beating Scottish pair, Billy Gilliland and Dan Travers at the All England Championship in 1982.

Badminton was chosen as the theme as it is a sport that is close to the hearts of many Malaysians, which can perhaps be called a 'Malaysian pastime'.

The eight-episode series hopes to re-infuse the spirit of nationalism in time for the Thomas Cup in May. The series also aspires to get viewers to go for their dreams while they still have opportunities to do so.

"We hope the series will send a message of patience and instill the spirit of badminton to the younger generation as well, especially teenagers," said Joyce Lee.

A lot of research and training had gone into the making of the series. Lee researched the history of badminton
in Malaysia and looked for settings that depicted the '80s while the cast had to undergo training to learn the correct methods of playing the sport.

"It took us one week to learn the right 'style' of playing the game. We didn’t start on the proper techniques.
The game is not as easy as people think," revealed 25-year-old Zahiril, who plays the serious, responsible Isa in the new series.

Playing his best friend-turned-arch enemy, Azma said he didn't know the history of badminton until he took on the role of Musa.

"Now I know how it feels to play badminton amidst all the pressure," said Azma who spent time with real-life badminton players Ramdan and Syawal (Datuk Misbun Sidek's sons) during the training.

The 27-year-old actor and director of Lagenda Merah Putih on TV3 described Musa as an aggressive man who can only be calmed down by his best friend Isa.

Their friendship changes when Isa begins dating Noraini (Eira Syazira), the prettiest girl in Batu Pahat High School.

After SPM, both Isa and Musa are offered a place in Teachers Training College, albeit in different locations — Isa gets a place in Petaling Jaya, Selangor while Musa goes to Air Hitam, Johor.

"Isa is worried to leave Noraini on her own as she has always been popular with other guys around her. Musa steps in and promises Isa that he would take care of Noraini like his own sister," Zahiril said.

However, things don't go as planned as fate, in the form of temptation, steps in between friendship and love.

Noraini believes Isa has changed his mind and turns to Musa instead, creating a rift between the two young men.

"The role is a challenging one for me, playing the anti-hero," said Azma, on the set of the series at a quaint rest house in Batu Pahat.

While Isa nurses his broken heart after being dumped by Noraini, he puts his energy into being a badminton coach with high hopes for his students to defeat Musa's students at his old school in Batu Pahat.

"The historical scenes are sure to bring a sense of nostalgia to viewers, including aspects of politics, culture and economy and hopefully bring back the spirit of sportsmanship to Malaysians," Zahiril said. | 08 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
A prize for bringing hope
Early mobilisation and great teamwork saw the team from SMK Sri Gading, Batu Pahat, Johor, walk away with the grand prize in the New Hope for Orang Utan School Programme.

Despite starting small, the four-member team created a remarkable ripple effect.

In fact, so infectious was their enthusiasm to save the orang utan - an endangered species - that up to 224 of their schoolmates and friends chipped in to help.

With such a big pool of support, the team was never short on information or ideas, and this was shown when they produced some of the best pamphlets, cards and posters in the competition.

And their legion of “fans” ensured that their blog - dedicated to saving the primate - received a steady stream of hits.

However, the budding environmentalists decided that a school-based effort was not good enough and they decided to take their crusade to the community.

“They engaged the local community and explained the importance of saving the orang utan,” said Abdul Razak Abdul Wahab, the students’ Biology and English teacher.

“They were at it every single day collecting signatures as a sign of support. In the end, they got more than 6,000 signatures.”

Team leader Muhammad Syamin Abdul Salam, 16, paid tribute to the support they received from their friends.

But how did the team get so many people behind them?

“Support wasn’t that great until we got our friends involved,” he said. “We organised colouring contests and quizzes which focused on the orang utan and our friends got excited.

“It was really good to see so many students coming together for a common goal and I dedicate our win to them.”

For their efforts, the four team members pocketed RM800 each and walked away with a study trip to Sungai Kinabatangan, Sabah.

And all the extra help was justly rewarded as the school received RM2,000.

A collaboration between Boh Plantations Sdn Bhd, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia, TV9 and the Education Ministry, the programme was intended to raise awareness on the plight of the orang utan among Malaysian youths.

Boh also launched the Tea for Trees programme in tandem with their orang utan conservation efforts.

Under the programme, anyone can “adopt” a tree by buying an adoption pack. In return, a tree will be replanted at a degraded forest spot.

“Tea for Trees is one of the initiatives under our New Hope for Orang utan Programme that was conceptualised to restore the home of orang utans by connecting forest fragments and raising the level of understanding on the plight of the orang-utan among the public,” said Boh CEO Caroline Russell.

Meanwhile, WWF-Malaysia executive director and CEO Datuk Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma said the programme was a success and thanked Boh for its orangutan conservation and reforestation work since 2005.

Held for the second consecutive year, the campaign drew support from shoppers, students and environment enthusiasts.

TheStarOnline | 03 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments
Shortage of workers hampers textile producers
Orders from international buyers for textile and garment-related products by local manufacturers are picking up after almost a year of slowdown.

However, most of them have to turn down the orders or only take partial orders as they are unwilling to commit themselves to the rising demand.

“This is largely due to a shortage of workers faced by many textile and garment factories in the district,” Yong Tai executive director Tai Shzee Yuan told StarBiz after the company AGM recently.

He said the issue of shortage of production workers in the industry was not new as local producers and exporters largely depended on foreign workers for their operations.

Tai said manufacturers had little choice but to hire Cambodians, Nepalese and Vietnamese as locals were not interested to work in such factories. Although they had to fork out additional costs such as air tickets, permits and lodgings to bring in the foreign workers, he said it was better than hiring locals as they (locals) were too demanding, willing to work only five days a week, not willing to work on public holidays or overtime, and often took medical leave.

He said the company once hired 200 local production workers but half of them left after two weeks, and only a handful remained by the fourth week.

Foreign workers, on the other hand, were more than willing to work without offdays, and happy to work overtime and even on public holidays, he said, adding that the main problem was that they were only allowed a two-year contract.

Tai said the relevant authorities should look at ways to assist the industry by extending the contract period and not frequently changing the policies on hiring foreigners.

“The industry is time sensitive as we (producers) have to deliver the finished products on time or else we will be penalised.”

Tai said the industry was still labour-intensive as some of the operations needed many workers and could not depend on automation.

He said the only way for the local companies to survive was to continue hiring foreigners or move their operations to Cambodia, Indonesia or Vietnam where labour was not a problem.

For the financial year ended June 30, 2009 (FY09), Yong Tai recorded a net loss of RM3.26mil on revenue of RM149.67mil against a net loss of RM340,000 on revenue of RM179.59mil in FY08.

TheStarOnline | 02 January 10 | Read Full Story | Reader Comments

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