Jumaat, 23 September 2011

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Bayer drug a "major new player" in prostate cancer

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 09:12 PM PDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - An experimental drug from Germany's Bayer and Norwegian biotech Algeta that prolongs the lives of patients with advanced prostate cancer is a major step forward in treatment of the disease, cancer experts said on Saturday.

A late stage trial of Alpharadin, a new type of drug that delivers minute, highly-charged doses of radiation to secondary tumours in the bone, was halted early after researchers saw patients on the new treatment living almost three months longer on average than those on standard treatment plus placebo.

"It would have been unethical not to offer the active treatment to those taking placebo," Chris Parker, who led the trial at Britain's Royal Marsden Hospital, told delegates at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress (EMCC) in Stockholm.

Alpharadin is based on the active ingredient radium 223 and is designed to treat patients with advanced disease whose cancer has spread to their bones.

Parker said he expected the drug to become a new standard treatment for these patients. Both Jean Charles Soria, a co-chair of the EMCC congress, and Michael Baumann, president of the European Cancer Organisation, said Alpharadin was "a major new player" and likely to be "practice changing".

Kemal Malik, Bayer's head of global development, has described the success of Alpharadin -- which first showed promise in headline data released in June -- as a "transforming moment" for the company.

Sales of Alpharadin are expected to reach $662 million by 2015, according to consensus forecasts from Thomson Reuters Pharma. The drug's performance is also particularly important for Algeta, whose fortunes are tied closely its success.

Parker said the two firms now intend to use the data to submit the drug for regulatory approval.


Alpharadin is from a class of drugs called alpha-pharmaceuticals which work by sending tiny, charged, targeted doses of damaging radiation to a secondary tumour -- known as a metastasis -- in the bone.

Because it is so targeted, side effects are minimal in comparison with more conventional treatments, a factor that is likely to boost its popularity with patients and doctors.

"Compared to chemotherapy, which affects all the tissues of the body, radium-223 is highly targeted to the bone metastases, and it has a completely different safety profile," Parker explained. In the trial, he said, the drug was "extremely well tolerated".

Radium is similar to calcium in that it sticks to bone, particularly to where new bone is being formed, so it is a highly effective way of delivering radiation to a target.

"It takes only a single alpha particle to kill a cell," Parker said. "And collateral damage is minimised because the particles have such a tiny range -- a few millionths of a metre -- so we can be sure that the damage is being done where it should be, to the metastasis."

Parker's team studied the drug in patients with prostate cancer because it has a high tendency to spread to the bones. Around 90 percent of all men with prostate cancer will develop bone metastases in the advanced stages of the disease.

Prostate cancer is also the second most common cancer in men after lung cancer, killing an estimated 255,000 men each year.

Complete data from the trial showed that the median overall survival period for patients on the new drug was 14 months compared with 11.2 months for the placebo. The hazard ratio was 0.695, meaning that patients taking Alpharadin had a 30 percent lower rate of death compared to patients taking placebo.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Yemeni forces attack main opposition camp

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 09:12 PM PDT

SANAA (Reuters) - The main opposition protest camp in Yemen's capital Sanaa came under heavy mortar and sniper attacks on Saturday, hours after President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned from a three-month absence, protesters and medical staff said.

A poster of Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh is seen on a street in Sanaa September 23, 2011. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)

One witness said troops loyal to Saleh had carried out the assault and cleared thousands of protesters from the camp, the heart of an uprising calling for his overthrow. The report could not be verified.

"They (the government forces) used armoured vehicles and weapons, rifles. It was an intense fight ... My house was shaking like crazy ... There are no protesters there now -- it's just armed people," said the witness, who lives near the camp.

Protesters said at least one person had been killed and an unknown number injured in the assault.

"We have ... one killed in a terrible way by the mortar fire -- we only have half a body," doctor Mohammed al-Qubati said at a mosque converted into a field hospital.

Protesters in the opposition encampment on the 4-km stretch of avenue that they have dubbed "Change Square" said some tents were on fire and that there had also been sniper attacks.

Saleh said on his return to Yemen on Friday that he wanted to see a truce to end days of heavy fighting in the capital, but opponents said they feared more bloodshed and the United States demanded he relinquish power.

"I return to the nation carrying the dove of peace and the olive branch," Saleh was quoted as saying by state television.

Saleh, who went to neighbouring Saudi Arabia for medical treatment in June when he suffered severe burns in an assassination attempt, said a ceasefire would enable peace talks to take place.


His reappearance raised big questions over the future of the fractious Arabian Peninsula state, which has been paralysed by protests against his 33-year rule since January.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: "We urge President Saleh to initiate a full transfer of power and arrange for presidential elections to be held before the end of then year.

"The Yemeni people have suffered enough and deserve a path towards a better future."

In Sanaa this week, a months-old standoff between loyalist troops and forces backing anti-Saleh protesters erupted into a full-blown battle that killed more than 100 people in five days.

Yemen, one of the region's poorest countries, also faces a worsening insurgency by al Qaeda militants, an uneasy truce with Shi'ite fighters in the north and separatism in the south.

Moments after state television's announcement of Saleh's return, Sanaa's streets erupted with bursts of gunfire and fireworks. Shelling occurred in the capital's Hasaba district.

Opponents saw his return as an attempt to rally for war and said they expected more bloodshed, while his supporters reacted with joy and said he could restore order.

"I'm so excited," said Akram al-Aghbari, a doorman. "He is an honourable and great man. I know he's coming to stop this terrible violence. People here without him only know how to rule with weapons, but with him back, just you watch."

Abdulghani al-Iryani, a political analyst and co-founder of the Democratic Awakening Movement, said violence lay ahead.

"This is an ominous sign. Returning at a time like this probably signals he intends to use violence to resolve this. This is dangerous," said Iryani.

"His people will feel that they are in a stronger position and they will refuse to compromise. Basically this means the political process is dead in the water."


Radio stations played celebratory music and thousands gathered at a pro-Saleh rally waving flags, beating drums and honking horns. A TV newsflash warned people not to fire into the air in celebration in case stray bullets hit bystanders.

In Sanaa's 70 square, a hub for pro-government Yemenis, the imam leading prayers said: "The president returned, the heart beat of Yemen returned, happiness returned, love returned, logic returned."

Many Yemenis thought they had seen the last of Saleh when he flew to Saudi Arabia in June for medical treatment after a bomb explosion at his palace left him with severe burns.

Saleh had been involved in negotiations mediated by Gulf states to leave office, repeatedly promising to step down only to change his position at the last minute.

The United States said on Friday it wanted Saleh to sign the accord promoted by the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Two members of Saleh's General People's Congress party denied opposition statements that his return spelled the end for the Gulf-brokered power transfer plan, which would see him hand interim power to Vice President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

"This initiative remains effective and Hadi will continue the dialogue to create a binding mechanism to implement the Gulf initiative," Yasser al-Yamani told al Jazeera television.

The Gulf initiative envisages Saleh standing down three months after signing it. He agreed three times to earlier drafts of the deal only to back out at the very last minute.

Regional power Saudi Arabia, which shares a porous 1,460 km border with Yemen, has been a key player in Yemen for decades, offering support to Saleh's government to keep al Qaeda at bay and spearheading regional talks on a power transfer.

Some analysts say Saudi Arabia might not have let Saleh return unless a deal is likely.

"I'm sure he talked of his return with (Saudi Arabia's) King Abdullah during their meeting (on Monday night)," said Ghanem Nuseibeh, an analyst and partner at Cornerstone Global consultants in London.

"The Saudis would want that if he goes, then any transition of power is in their interests and doesn't bring about an anti-Saudi government. If there wasn't anything for them they wouldn't have let him go."

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Abdbullatif al-Zayani flew to Sanaa this week to try and resurrect the deal but left after two days with nothing to show for his efforts.

The United States, Saudi Arabia and other powers fear al-Qaeda's Yemen wing could exploit the growing lawlessness in the country. Al Qaeda militants have already seized cities in a Yemeni province just east of a key oil shipping channel in recent months.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Sudam; Writing by Reed Stevenson; Editing by Ralph Gowling)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Abbas stakes Palestinian claim to state at U.N.

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 08:41 PM PDT

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the United Nations on Friday to recognize a state for his people, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the world body as a "theater of the absurd" and said only direct talks could deliver peace.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas holds up a letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon requesting Palestinian statehood at the 66th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York September 23, 2011. (REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

Abbas handed U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a letter requesting full U.N. membership, which the Security Council will discuss on Monday. The United States has vowed to support its Israeli ally and use its veto if a vote is held.

"I do not believe that anyone with a shred of conscience can reject our application ... and our admission as an independent state," Abbas told the U.N. General Assembly in an impassioned speech that won a standing ovation even as Israeli and U.S. delegates looked on stone-faced.

Trying to head off a clash in the Security Council, a quartet of Middle East mediators urged a return to peace talks within four weeks, "substantial progress" within six months and an agreement to be struck within a year.

Highlighting the divisions in the Palestinian camp, Hamas, the Islamist faction which rules the Gaza Strip, rejected Abbas' move as "begging" for statehood. "States are not built upon U.N. resolutions. States liberate their land and establish their entities," said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- asked Israel and the Palestinians to submit proposals on territory and security within three months.

"The Quartet proposal represents the firm conviction of the international community that a just and lasting peace can only come through negotiations," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, urging both sides to seize the chance to talk.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Quartet's special envoy, said the major powers believed they were closing in on guidelines that both sides could accept.

But previous proposed timetables for negotiations, such as a one-year deadline set by former U.S. President George W. Bush in 2007 and one by Obama a year ago, have run into the sand.

Abbas' statehood ploy exposes waning U.S. influence in a region shaken by Arab revolts and shifting alliances that have pushed Israel, still militarily strong, deeper into isolation.

In their speeches, Abbas and Netanyahu both said they extended their hands to the other party, but each blamed their opponents for the failure of past peace efforts.

"We cannot achieve peace through U.N. resolutions," Netanyahu said, demanding that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, something they reject because they say that would prejudice the rights of Palestinian refugees.

Netanyahu offered to meet Abbas immediately in New York, minutes after Abbas said settlement activity must cease first.


The Palestinians say they will give the Security Council "some time" to consider their request, but if that fails may ask the General Assembly for upgraded status short of full membership that could let them join international bodies.

Abbas' statehood bid reflects a loss of faith after 20 years of failed peace talks sponsored by the United States and alarm at Israeli settlement expansion in occupied land Palestinians want for a state.

"This (settlement) policy will destroy the chances of achieving a two-state solution and ... threatens to undermine the structure of the Palestinian National Authority and even end its existence," Abbas declared.

It was the first time he has spoken so starkly of the PA's possible demise, highlighting problems faced by a body set up as a state-in-waiting but now seen by its critics as little more than a big municipality, managing the civilian affairs of the main Palestinian cities under Israeli occupation.

Dissolution of the PA would throw responsibility for ruling all of the West Bank back to Israel as the occupying power.

Israeli and U.S. politicians have threatened aid cuts that could cripple the PA, the source of 150,000 jobs.

Israeli delegates stayed in the hall during Abbas' speech, which was punctuated by applause, especially when he recalled his predecessor Yasser Arafat's 1974 admonition to the United Nations: "Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand."

In the West Bank, flags and portraits of Abbas and Arafat, draped buildings in a Ramallah square where Palestinians watched a live broadcast of Abbas' speech.

"We have come to take part with our people in asking for our rights," said Mohammed Hamidat, 40. "With the current closed horizons, it's the only thing we can do, even if the result is failure. It's been years since we have seen anything new: this is a first step."

Israeli settler Meir Bartler, 25, said: "We don't care what they're up to at the U.N. We have the bible, which says the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people."

A gulf of mistrust separates Israelis and Palestinians, who each feel their existence is at stake in a bitter struggle over borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.

Political rifts among Palestinians, and the constraints of U.S. domestic politics, where support for Israel is strong, further complicate efforts to bridge the gaps.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the Quartet proposal would be discussed in Ramallah but indicated there could be no compromise on the core issues of the 1967 borders and Jewish settlement construction.


The divisions are rooted in a heavy burden of history, painfully contested narratives and recurring bloodshed.

The United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1947, but Arab states rejected that and declared war on the new state of Israel, which then captured more territory than it had been allotted under the U.N. plan and dispossessed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, who became refugees.

Two decades after Israel seized the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Middle East war, which it launched fearing Arab states were about to attack it, the Palestine Liberation Organization recognized Israel and reduced its demands to a state on those territories.

In 1993, PLO leader Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands at the White House on a plan for Palestinian self-rule, which was never fully implemented.

Israel has expanded its settlements in the West Bank, although it dismantled them in the Gaza Strip, now ruled by Hamas Islamists who refuse to recognize the Jewish state.

Abbas accepts that negotiations are still necessary, but argues statehood will put Palestinians on a more equal footing. Israel sees the U.N. bid as an attempt to destroy its own legitimacy.

(Additional reporting by Nidal Almughrabi in Gaza, Tom Perry in Ramallah, Dan Williams in Jerusalem; John Irish, Ali Sawafta, Andrew Quinn, Louis Charbonneau and Patrick Worsnip; editing by Doina Chiacu and Todd Eastham)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Market caught in a downward cycle

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 07:32 PM PDT

REVIEW: Stock markets worldwide went through yet another bloodbath, as US Federal Reserve's warning of a "significant downside risk" to the world's largest economy exacerbated fears of investors who were already jittery about the worsening eurozone debt crisis.

The local stock market was sent to depressed levels, as foreign investors liquidated their assets and the benchmark FBM Kuala Lumpur Composite Index (FBM KLCI) staged a deep plunge.

Shares on Bursa Malaysia started the week in the red after shedding 17.81 points, or 1.24%, to 1,413.12 points on Monday. The sell down was in line with regional trend, as a highly anticipated meeting between European policymakers and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner last week failed to produce a credible solution to deal with the eurozone debt crisis.

Loser trumped gainers 496 to 218 on total volume of 724.4 million shares valued at RM1.35bil.

Standard & Poor's downgrade of Italian sovereign debt rating prompted yet another sell off on Tuesday, with the FBM KLCI slipping another 2.48 points to close at 1,410.64. Losers trumped gainers again at 457 to 230 on higher volume of 784.6mil shares worth RM1.42bil.

Technicals were already signalling a rebound even as stocks on Wall Street were little changed ahead of a US Federal Reserve meeting to announce further economic stimulus measure and a European policymakers' assessment of the risk of default by Greece.

Shares on Bursa indeed staged a technical rebound on Wednesday, as did its regional peers. Sentiment somewhat improved after a gauge of economic indicators in China signalled growth could possibly withstand the effects of Europe's debt crisis and the faltering expansion of the US economy.

FBM KLCI gained 8.4 points to 1,419.04 points. Gainers beat losers 350 to 289 on turnover of 708.1 million shares worth RM1.15bil.

Overnight development in the United States gave global stock markets a nervous breakdown the day after. Downward correction in the US and European markets, following a disappointing "Operation Twist," sent Asian markets to a free fall.

Shares on Bursa lost 31.23 points, or 2.2%, to 1,387.81, with 802 counters registering losses and only 85 gained. Volume traded improved to 874.1 million shares valued at RM1.7bil.

The Malaysian market extended its fall on Friday, following heavy losses in the US and European markets overnight amid rising fears of a possible recession in developed economies. Signs of weakness in China added fuel to investor fear, as the country's Purchasing Manager Index (PMI) signalled that the manufacturing, the economy's growth engine, could contract for a third month in September.

The preliminary HSBC China Manufacturing PMI fell to 49.4 in September from a final reading of 49.9 in the preceding month. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.

FBM KLCI ended the week at 1,365.94, shedding 21.87 points from Thursday, with 187 gainers and 624 losers. Turnover stood at 848.31 million shares valued at RM1.85bil.

Outlook: The International Monetary Fund and World Bank's constant reminder that the global economy is now in a new danger zone and that there's a spreading crisis in Europe will serve to cap risk appetite among investors.

"The tone is very pessimistic; there are still many uncertainties surrounding the global economy and investors' confidence remained dampened," a dealer tells StarBizWeek.

"I'm not sure who dares to enter the market now given the extremely bearish momentum ... everyone's thinking of selling," he adds.

After breaking the psychological support of 1,400 over the week, analysts reckon there to be further downside risk for shares on Bursa. The next retracement support for FBM KLCI is tagged at 1,327-1,344, while the next downside target should be the 1,300-psychological support level.

"Yes, there's a cheap sale in the stock market, but the meltdown will continue," an analyst says.

"It's not yet time to bargain hunt. Investors should cash out on rebound and wait for the market to be more stable," he adds.

With a dearth of fresh leads from the local economy, developments in the United States and Europe will continue to guide the market direction. Foreign sell down of ringgit-denominated assets are expected to continue, and that could bring down the local markets in general, and ringgit is expected to weaken further against the US dollar.

Will budget boost the stock market?

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 07:30 PM PDT

RETIREES Peter Tan, 60, and Anand Raj, 58, have been spending the last three weeks in a local securities company monitoring the electronic stock board, and trying to calculate their losses from their respective equities portfolios.

Both men, who claim to have lost at least RM10,000 each as a result of the recent stock market carnage, are hoping to find a way out to minimise or recoup their losses.

"It's unfortunate I couldn't get out in time," Tan says.

"I can still hold on to some of the good stocks that I have and wait for them to recover. But for some others, I just want to sell at the right price' to minimise my losses as much as possible," Tan says.

His friend Anand agrees, saying: "Hopefully, our stocks will rebound soon. Much of our investable money is now tied down and we can't carry out new investments.

"But really, even if we have the money in hand now, I wouldn't dare to invest because the market is so volatile. We're not sure how much more it will fall. There's a lot of uncertainties, so we are more cautious, as we certainly don't want to get burnt again."

Indeed, the mood is sombre at this juncture, given the ongoing debt crisis in the eurozone and persistently weak economic fundamentals of western developed nations, especially the United States.

Tan and Anand's response somewhat underscores the prevailing sentiment in the equity market, but like many they are hoping that a pre-budget rally could act as a balm to soothe their losses.

Many will be keeping their fingers crossed that initiatives in Budget 2012 could provide a catalyst for the local market, but some financial experts are not too optimistic.

Indifferent view

Budget measures often act as fundamental drivers for the market. Technical analysis show the Malaysian equity market to be oversold and this essentially means the stock market is currently trading at very attractive valuations.

But indicators, according to experts, still suggest a bearish momentum for the broader market over the short to medium term.

Unless the budget offers measures that will help navigate Malaysian equities through the global market nervousness, further downside is expected as the local stock market, like its regional peers, still has to grapple with the effects of nagging fundamental problems in the global economy.

"Buying interest is unlikely to pick up anytime soon given the prevailing mood in the market and I'm not sure about the upcoming Budget 2012 being a game changer," an analyst from a foreign research house tells StarBizWeek.

Budget 2012 will be tabled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in parliament on Oct 7. Najib has promised that the budget would be an "inclusive and people-centric scheme that would spur Malaysia towards a high-income economy by 2020".

"There could probably be some boost to the local market in the run up to the budget announcement, but I don't expect to see any significant movement," he adds.

His sentiment is shared by most analysts.

CIMB Investment Bank head of equity research Terence Wong says: "Even if there's a pre-budget rally, it would likely be short-lived, and would likely happen a day or two before the budget is announced."

"While we're still positive on the local stock market over the long term, we think there's probably further downside ahead, short-term wise," Wong explains, adding that his team is looking at the benchmark stock index, FTSE Bursa Malaysia (FBM) KLCI, trending towards a range of between 1,280 and 1,350 points in the short term.

The FBM KLCI closed on Friday 21.87 points lower at 1,365.94 points, representing a loss of 14% from this year's high of 1,594.74 points on July 8.

Traditionally, in the run-up to the budget, the Malaysian stock market would rally. But this time round, that tradition could well be broken, as depressing external factors are casting a shadow on any positive measure that could be announced.

"We struggle to see how the budget can have any significant impact on the market," OSK Holdings director/head of research Chris Eng says.

For one thing, the downtrend of the market is unlikely to be reversed, at least not in the short term. Even by trying to be as positive as he could, Eng, by assuming a "non-recessionary environment", thinks the FBM KLCI could stabilise within the range of 1,350-1,378 points.

But based on current trends, Eng says "the market seems to be pricing in a recessionary environment", which means further downside ahead.

OSK Research on Friday published a report stating that the FBM KLCI could be moving towards 1,335 points soon. The researh house also had a report stating its expectations of a moderate hike in tobacco duty in the budget, while the brewery sector would likely be spared. With that, it has a "neutral" stance on the tobacco industry, while maintaining an "overweight" call on brewery.

In any case, Eng says the potential wage hike for civil servants that could be incorporated in the "people-friendly" Budget 2012 will remain supportive of consumer spending and benefit the domestic economy.

The bull is dead

Perhaps one thing will not change. A "people-friendly" budget means politically-linked stocks will likely gain this budget season, as Affin Investment Bank head of retail research Dr Nazri Khan sees it.

But Nazri says any so-called rally by the broader market will likely be muted, as huge selling resulting from an increasingly gloomy global economic outlook will continue to overwhelm any feel-good factor in the domestic market.

"If past trends are of any indication, the selling climax will happen in October," Nazri says.

"From then on, we will have to see how stable the global market is to chart the next course," he explains.

Every action that global policymakers take to resuscitate the world economy seems to have failed to re-ignite investors' risk appetite.

"The bull is dead. Any life' is merely a rebound within a downtrend, giving investors, who are still stuck with their bad investments, an opportunity to come out of the market and cut losses," a local analyst says.

"I don't think the market is talking about the upcoming budget at all. It is more concerned about what's going on in overseas markets, and if the market did indeed rebound, that would merely be a technical correction of an oversold market that so happens to coincide with a so-called pre-budget rally," he explains.

Echoing a similar sentiment, Maybank Investment Bank head of retail research Lee Cheng Hooi expects further "blood-letting" by the market in the days ahead, especially since the FBM KLCI broke through a critical level of 1,400 over the week.

He had earlier expected a mini pre-budget rally to take place. A worsening global market outlook and US Federal Reserve's recent warning of "significant downside risks" nevertheless threw his earlier judgement out of the window, and Lee is now expecting a continuous slide of the FBM KLCI towards the 1,249-1,344 range.

"Markets are very bad globally. We're seeing a meltdown here," Lee explains, adding that the chance of a pre-budget rally is extremely remote.

Sell on rallies and keep a larger cash pile for now, is what he advises, amid the present market turbulence.

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Bank Islam focuses on consumer financing to propel profits

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 06:37 PM PDT

Bank Islam, which embarked on a transformation programme following steep losses in 2005 and 2006, is set on an aggressive growth path.

With a targeted financing growth of 18% this year, the business will be led by consumer financing, managing director Datuk Seri Zukri Samat tells StarBizWeek.

However, the long term strategy is to balance 70% of its exposure to consumers and the rest to business entities especially among high-end small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Underscoring this push for lending, the financing to deposits or lending ratio, which is currently at 55% , will be raised to 70% by 2013.

Realistic targets?

Drawing from the industry's projected loans growth of 11%-12% and Bank Islam's financing growth for the first six months at 8.6%, Zukri is positive of reaching the 18% target.

"Financing growth for July and August was encouraging," he notes.

In terms of asset size, Zukri says deposits for the first six months of this year are allowed to dip in order to bring up the financing to deposit ratio which is below 50%.

"We allowed it to dip on purpose," he says. "Some of the deposits have negative carry. We price ourselves out to avoid hot money and those depositors that look for high deposit rates and are not loyal to the bank."

Acknowledging the uncertain operating environment, Zukri notes that many of the bank's forecasts are based on an inhouse growth forecast economic growth of 4% to 5% for 2011.

Priority on domestic operations

While inorganic growth and expansion into certain markets remain an option, Bank Islam's immediate focus is on strengthening its domestic presence.

"It's a market we know. We are also aware of our strength and weaknesses.

"We know the credit behaviour especially in distressed situations. We are well-equipped to deal with such situations," says Zukri who formerly helmed Pengurusan Danaharta Bhd, the national asset company set up after the 1997 Asian financial crisis to restructure debt-ridden companies.

Another area being emphasised is non-fund based income for which earnings contributions rose from 5% in 2006 to 12% in June this year. The target over the next three years is for this ratio to hit 20%.

The drivers of this income will be mainly from new consumer products such as TAP mobile banking. Since its launch in October last year, it has attracted 150,000 customers.

Debit cards which were launched six months ago already have 350,000 subscribers.

In wealth management, the bank has started selling unit trusts at its branches, recording sales of RM6mil a month compared with just RM1mil a few years back.

In addition, Bank Islam, which is the only Islamic bank on the Securities Commission's approved advisor status list, intends to leverage on this status to grow its corporate investment banking business.

"We have done a couple of listings such as for a flight training school, APFT, and Focus Lumber," says Zukri. "We have a few mandates in hand with a submission for listing going in next week for a manufacturing company in Selangor."

In the sukuk area, the bank has been appointed lead arranger for a RM5bil Islamic bond issued by a government-linked company (GLC). Bank Islam has a few more mandates that are in the pipeline.

Treasury is another area of focus. "The team has doubled and income from foreign exchange transactions has gone up by 50%," says Zukri.

On lending, emphasis is placed on priority sectors that have high growth potential and are resilient to any downturn.

These are sectors such as oil and gas and palm oil while areas under the Economic Transformation Programme such as healthcare and education are also considered.

Caution in lending, however, is exercised in the personal financing segment where only selected segments of the population are eligible or those working at GLCs and selected established institutions with repayments via salary deductions.

With a current account savings account (CASA) ratio of 44%, Bank Islam is well-positioned to enjoy higher margins.

One strategy to attract these funds is to open branches in new and vibrant townships, taking first mover advantage, in places such as Putra Heights and Saujana. The bank has strong ties with universities, enabling it to open branches in campuses.

Demand for fixed financing

Before floating rate products were introduced, the bank gave out only fixed rate financing, given the nature of Islamic banking which is based on sales contract. It realised that if the overnight policy rate goes up, margins get squeezed.

In the relatively low interest rate environment at present, demand for fixed rate financing tends to decline. "That is good for us," says Zukri. "We pay less on our cost of funds on floating rates but still benefit from our legacy portfolio which is mainly comprised of fixed rates."

He thinks interest rates are not expected to move until the middle of next year.

In a stable interest rate environment, it is still good to offer floating rates, he says, adding that there is part of the bank's risk strategy to manage its books.

Ready for Basel III?

The adoption of Basel III will be effective by 2018 and involves the set of liquidity, capital and leverage ratios.

In terms of liquidity, the bank's financing to deposit ratio is still low and its exposure to marketable securities is significantly skewed to government and AAA papers.

The bank's risk weighted capital adequacy ratio is high at 16% as at June 2011. Banks are supposed to hold 6% of Tier I or core capital and 2.5% of a capital conservation buffer.

At Bank Islam, 100% of its capital is Tier I. It can opt to raise Tier II capital for its business expansion and mergers and acquisitions deals. "A bank can leverage up to 33 times of its Tier I capital. Bank Islam's Tier I capital is RM2.26bil which allows us to grow our assets to about RM75bil." The bank's assets today amounts to only RM28bil.

Rising from the ashes

When Zukri first stepped in five years ago, Bank Islam had incurred a loss of RM1.8bil, its entire shareholders' funds were wiped out and its cost income ratio was high at 65%.

The biggest problem stemmed from the poor credit standards and culture at the Labuan outfit which was exposed to the Middle East, Bosnia, Tanzania, Scotland, Tanzania and South Africa - places where the bank may not have a strong understanding of the business environment.

Decisions were made in Labuan, often without the proper checks and balances.

Following the announcement of a RM500mil loss in financial year (FY) 2005, Bank Islam engaged three independent parties to work out what should be the reasonable provisions for FY2006.

They all came up with almost the same figure to write down which was RM1.7bil. By then, the bank had a deficit in capital of RM200mil.

"I could not sleep," recalls Zukri. And then former prime minister Tun Abdullah Badawi was quoted in the papers as saying "do it (turn around Bank Islam) quick and fast."

Under a turnaround plan from June 2006 to 2009, the bank had to recapitalise and restructure the balance sheet, revamp its IT infrastructure, underatke transformation for both business and operations, rationalise costs and develop its human capital.

"We managed to get Lembaga Tabung Haji and Dubai Investment Group (DIG) to come in," he says. DIG injected RM828.22mil with another RM186.35mil from Lembaga Tabung Haji. Non-performing financing (NPFs) was a major issue. By February 2007, the NPF ratio had peaked to 13.6% based on a six-months classification.

"We explored the possibility of carving out certain NPF assets. After six months, the NPFs were brought under control," says Zukri. "After a year, the situation had turned around. Given the good recovery rate, we decided not to proceed with the carve-out plan."

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The Star Online: Sports

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Cricket-England cruise to another victory

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 05:46 PM PDT

LONDON, Sept 23 (Reuters) - England, fresh from overwhelming India during the summer, kept up their recent winning run by thrashing West Indies by 10 wickets in their first Twenty20 international at The Oval on Friday.

Ravi Bopara with four for 10, a record return by an England player in a Twenty20 international, undid the visitors who slipped from 62-1 to a modest 125 all out in 19.4 overs.

England openers Alex Hales (62 not out) and Craig Kieswetter (58 not out) amassed 128 in 15.2 overs, a record stand for England in Twenty 20.

"I was delighted with the way everyone performed. Good old Ravi Bopara, he's been bowling me out for two years in the nets and I've told everyone he should bowl more," England stand-in captain Graeme Swann said during the presentation ceremony.

"He did really well. It speaks greatly for the depth in the squad when we can leave someone like James Anderson out and still win like this. It bodes well."

Both sides fielded three debutants apiece and England were led for the first time by Swann as regular skipper Stuart Broad was out injured. The second and final match is on Sunday, again at The Oval.

"When we started batting we were right on course, but we lost our way from there and we never caught up. As soon as the spinners came on it started to turn a bit, we lost crucial wickets and we couldn't rotate the strike enough," said West Indies captain Darren Sammy.

Namibia team to play Wales in World Cup

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 05:36 PM PDT

AUCKLAND, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Namibia coach Johan Diergaardt has named the following team to play Wales in their Pool D match at Stadium Taranaki in New Plymouth on Monday.

15-Chrysander Botha, 14-Danie van Wyk, 13-Piet van Zyl, 12-Darryl de la Harpe, 11-Danie Dames, 10-Theuns Kotze, 9-Eugene Jantjies, 8-Jacques Nieuwenhuis, 7-Jacques Burger (captain), 6-Tinus du Plessis, 5-Nico Esterhuyse, 4-Heinz Koll, 3-Jane du Toit, 2-Hugo Horn, 1-Johnnie Redelinghuys. Replacements: 16-Bertus O'Callaghan, 17-Raoul Larson, 18-Wacca Kazombiaze, 19-Rohan Kitshoff, 20-Ryan de la Harpe, 21-TC Losper, 22-David Philander.

Old Trafford, Durham gain 2013 Ashes tests

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 05:33 PM PDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Manchester's revamped Old Trafford is back on the Ashes schedule for 2013 while Durham will host the Australians in a test for the first time, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Thursday.

The 2009 Ashes series in England, which the home side won 2-1 before heading to Australia and triumphing there 3-1 earlier this year, started with the first ever test in Cardiff but the Welsh venue misses out in two years' time.

Sophia Gardens instead has won a one-day international against the Australians in 2013 and a test the next time England's old rivals tour again in 2015, beating Southampton's the Rose Bowl in the bidding.

Old Trafford was left off the rota in 2009 despite a memorable drawn test during the epic 2005 series with the facilities no longer deemed up to scratch.

A redevelopment including rotating the square and a new media centre have done the trick.

Lord's, Trent Bridge and The Oval will also stage tests during the 2013 Ashes series.

Durham's ground in Chester-le-Street held its first test against Zimbabwe in 2003 but with a capacity of around 17,000, its choice ahead of Birmingham's larger, more traditional and recently redeveloped Edgbaston could prove controversial.

Ageing Headingley in Leeds misses out on Ashes tests altogether in 2013 and 2015.

"2011 has been an historic year for cricket in England and Wales," ECB Chief Executive David Collier said in a statement explaining why the traditional pool of Ashes grounds will continue to be swelled.

"On the field the England team retained the Ashes and became the number one test nation in the world. Off the field the board has demonstrated today the commitment to grow our sport at all levels and to maintain the highest professional standards."

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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Monster twist

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 03:26 AM PDT

LOS ANGELES (MCT) As Chekhov in Star Trek and Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation, Anton Yelchin has had featured roles in two of the movies' biggest franchises. And what with voicing Clumsy Smurf in the surprise hit The Smurfs, he seems primed for a third.

Following Fright Night, a major-studio remake of the 1985 vampire-next-door flick, (which opened in Malaysia yesterday), he'll appear in the latest of his string of indie movies: Like Crazy, a largely improv drama that won special and grand jury prizes at Sundance.

In Fright Night, Yelchin, 22, who emigrated with his professional ice-skater parents from the Soviet Union as a child, plays Charley Brewster, a teen who finds that neighbour Jerry is a vampire – and not a soulful, glittering one but rather, as one character says, "the shark from Jaws".

Yelchin, who grew up in Southern California, is currently filming the title role in Odd Thomas, based on the Dean Koontz novel.

In the Twilight films and TV shows like True Blood, vampires are now good-guy romantic leads. But Jerry's predatory not just in the way of traditional vampires, but also like modern, sociopathic serial killers. Do you think Fright Night may start to steer vampires back toward being seen as evil?

I don't know if it will steer the whole current back that way, but I'm very glad that I'm part of this film because most of the vampires I prefer don't appear in suburban melodramas. I prefer monster films. He's a monster and I appreciate the fact that (the film) brings (the vampire archetype) back to its original connotation as a dark force, as opposed to this suburban-melodrama bull you see everywhere.

Like the first Fright Night, this isn't purely a horror film. Maybe a little like Scream, it's self-aware about vampire pop mythology. There are a lot of ironically amusing and ruefully amusing bits.

The script (by Marti Noxon, of TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer) is a lot of fun, but at the same time it had a very relatable story arc for my character - the idea of losing sight of your values for a period of time, and trying to figure out what is valuable to you versus something else. It doesn't have to be specifically Charley's story, but it's a very common theme.

Could you relate to it yourself, as a coming-of-age story?

Well, I never had a vampire move in next door.

Nor a Smurf, I imagine. How's that for a segue? You do the voice of Clumsy Smurf in The Smurfs, so I can't help wondering: How would he take on Jerry?

Considering he's, like, three inches tall and Jerry's a vicious, destructive vampire, I'm sure you can imagine it for yourself. I'm sure he would slip and that would be the end of it.

Chris Sarandon, the vampire in the original Fright Night, has a cameo. Did you or the other cast members speak with him, maybe get insights or some great war stories?

He was on set and he spoke briefly then (about the original film). I know him from (the 1975 film) Dog Day Afternoon (as the pre-operative transsexual "wife" of Al Pacino's character), so I really appreciated being able to see him because of that. I've been a big fan for a long time of Dog Day Afternoon.

How about when you played Chekhov in Star Trek – did you get a chance to speak with (original TV Chekhov) Walter Koenig?

Yeah. We didn't trade stories, but we met on set and I really enjoyed speaking with him, and he has such a legacy and he's a very nice man. And I think he enjoyed the work that we did.

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The Star Online: Nation

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Hisham: Announcement of two new laws only after study on security

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 07:18 AM PDT

Published: Friday September 23, 2011 MYT 10:18:00 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Two new acts being drafted by the Attorney-General to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA) will only be announced after all aspects of public and national security have been studied, said Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

He said the ministry's secretary-general, Tan Sri Mahmood Adam, and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar had met the AG to discuss the aspects.

"When the acts will be tabled depend on the Attorney-General who will make an announcement," he told reporters at the ministry's Aidilfitri celebration here.

He said the two new acts will strike a balance between national interest and security and ensure the harmony that existed since independence is not affected.

"All these aspects are of our concern. They should be studied not only by this ministry but also the Prime Minister's Department and Ministry of Information Communication and Culture.

"All parties will be involved as we want to ensure that each step is made known to the people. We want to prove that there is no hidden agenda other than to take the nation forward."

In his Malaysia Day message on Sept 15, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced that the ISA will be repealed and two new acts will be enacted to preserve peace in the country.

On the plan by Bersih dan Adil (Bersih) 2.0 to start a campaign on Sept 30 so that their eight demands be implemented before general election, he said it was unnecessary as the government had provided them proper channels via the Parliamentary Select Committee which comprises their representatives.

"We have been transparent and open in our approach. I don't know what else they want to fight for. The public can see whether they are sincere in fighting for the eight demands or using them as an excuse to create chaos."

Banting murders: Calls from accused's phone on night of murder

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 06:56 AM PDT

SHAH ALAM: A mobile phone number registered under the law firm of accused N Pathmanabhan was used to make calls from Subang Jaya on Aug 30 2010, the night cosmetics millionaire Datuk Sosilawati Lawiya and three others were murdered, a High Court heard.

Maxis Mobile Sdn Bhd technology specialist Ahmad Safuan Shaharani, 32, said the itemised bill showed the calls made and received that night.

He said there was a call from an unidentified number to the phone at 10.26pm.

Earlier in the trial the court was informed that lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim's BMW and Sosilawati's BMW X5 were found in Jalan SS12/1B and Section 15 respectively in Subang Jaya.

Ahmad Safuan said that court documents also showed there was a text message sent to an unidentified number via a transmission tower in Lebuhraya Shah near Jalan Johan Setia, Klang, using a number registered under Sosilawati.

Ahmad Safuan said Sosilawati's daughter Erni Dekritawati had made a call to her mother and CIMB officer Noorhisham Mohamad when questioned by Deputy Public Prosecutor Nor Azimul Azami Mohamad Nor.

Ahmad Safuan was the 46th prosecution witness to testify in the trial of former lawyer N.Pathmanabhan and his three farm workers T. Thilaiyalagan, R. Matan and R. Kathavarayan who are charged with the murder of Sosilawati, 47, her driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, 47, Ahmad Kamil, 32, and Noorhisham, 38.

Pathmanabhan, 42, Thilaiyalagan, 20, Matan, 21, and Kathavarayan, 31, allegedly murdered the four at a lot in Jalan Tanjung Layang, Tanjung Sepat, Banting, between 8.30pm and 9.45pm on Aug 30 last year. BERNAMA

DAP suspends Manoharan over flag issue

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 05:58 AM PDT

Published: Friday September 23, 2011 MYT 7:42:00 PM
Updated: Friday September 23, 2011 MYT 8:58:44 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Kota Alam Shah representative M Manoharan has been given a six-month suspension over his remarks about the Malaysian flag.

The decision was made at a disciplinary committee hearing here Friday.

Manoharan said he has received the notice of suspension and would appeal against the decision.

The suspension means that Manoharan will cease to be a DAP member for six months and cannot participate in any party-related activities.

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DAP distances itself from Mano
Rep sorry over remark on Jalur Gemilang

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Bookshelf

Token of love

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:23 AM PDT

What they don't tell you about getting married — all revealed in Adrian Tomine's Scenes From An Impending Marriage.

MARRIAGE is, first and foremost, a union between two people. However, you wouldn't be able to guess that from the wedding, which brings together clans from both sides, a couple dozen suppliers and vendors, as well as a few dancing bears to complete the circus.

And a circus it is, this modern wedding that we have come to know, with its colour-coordinated themes, five-dress-changes-a-night dinners and lavish pre-wedding photo shoots.

Cartoonist Adrian Tomine, of Japanese American parentage, captures this madness neatly in his "pre-nuptial memoir" Scenes From An Impending Marriage, a slim 54-page graphic novel from publishers Drawn & Quarterly that was originally a collection of sketches drawn by Tomine as wedding favours for his guests.

Giving your guests a book about your wedding planning experiences might be the height of egocentrism in the hands of anyone else but Tomine.

Fortunately, his trademark self-deprecating style comes to the fore within these pages, as he is hardest on himself and his wife for failing to eschew the modern wedding machinery.

Brief "chapters" in this book – "Guest List", "Invitation", etc – tell the story of how they get sucked down the rabbit hole of finding DJs, signing up for gift registries, buying wedding socks and generally getting caught up in the trappings, even though they had sworn they wouldn't become one of "those people".

Tomine pokes fun at himself the most, putting the cynical, neurotic, control freak on display.

He screams about authentic hand-set type and letter-press printing for the invitation cards, and gripes about how gift registries are a bizarre ritual that is emblematic of their culture.

The 37-year-old, who built his career through the angst-riddled, coming of age tales in the Optic Nerve series, is in his witty element across Scenes From An Impending Marriage, touted as his first "non-fiction" book.

While Tomine probably wouldn't claim to be a social commentator, he is certainly self-aware enough to slip in keen observations about the commercialisation of weddings and how the industry has tapped into the yuppie need to keep up with the Joneses.

This book would make a great gift for those who have been through the rigmarole recently, as they would appreciate the little in-jokes, like the length of the parents' guest lists, navigating seating arrangements, and eating takeout at the end of the wedding night.

However, for those brave enough, I would suggest making this a pre-wedding gift for friends or family about to walk down the aisle, as a way of reminding them not to get sucked into the "black hole of nuptial narcissism".

Of course, you would have to give it to them before they fly to an Australian vineyard (or Putrajaya) for their wedding shoots, shop the entire length of Jalan TAR for bridesmaid-dress material and promise to give their firstborn to the hottest celebrity DJ in town if he can play at their wedding.

(And only if they have a sense of humour, or you can be certain you'll be struck off the guest list.)

Yet, when all the excitement has died down – and after burning a few bridges with some family members, no doubt – there is still the happy-ever-after to look forward to.

Tomine dedicated the commercial edition of Scenes to his daughter Nora, and reminds us that it is what comes after the party that matters.

> Adrian Tomine's Scenes From An Impending Marriage is available at Kinokuniya KLCC

Leading your people

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 01:06 AM PDT

How To Lead

Author: Linda Henman

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 288 pages

IN the modern corporate world, it is no longer enough to just have the skills to climb to the top. You also need to sustain your position; and therefore, you need to know how to lead.

This book provides tips on how you can create a competitive advantage, make effective decisions, keep talent inside your door and establish credibility and trust. It is a guide that identifies the potential obstacles that stand in your way and how to overcome them.

Secrets Of Power Negotiating

Author: Roger Dawson

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 338 pages

NEW and expanded versions are included in this third edition of the book: negotiation skills, how to read body language, reading between the lines when conversing with people, dealing with people from other cultures and how to become an expert mediator.

Instead of trying to achieve genuine win-win situations, what about focusing on getting what you want but also convince the other side that they have won the battle?

How To Sell Anything To Anyone Anytime

Author: Dave Kahle

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 236 pages

IT'S all about selling – how do you attract more customers? How do you attract new customers? This book goes through fundamental sale principles, processes and common practises.

Packed with insights on successful selling and real-world examples, this book is applicable to a variety of sales situations, from the neighbourhood grocery store to the huge supermarket chain.


Author: Elinor Stutz

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 204 pages

MORE and more people are losing their jobs in the current economic situation. Many people are desperate for a job and will settle for something less that perfect. They also treat job interviews as an opportunity to focus on themselves.

In this book, the author offers advice on how to achieve the right mindset for a successful job interview and steer the conversation to find out what the company is seeking. After all, at the end of the day, it's not about you – it's about how you can solve the company's problems.

How To Be Healthy And Successful At The Same Time

Author: Gabriela Cora

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 246 pages

HOW often do you feel pressured that you do not have enough time in a day to achieve all that you have to do at work? How often do you attempt to find ways to make your day as productive as possible but are still unable to meet targets? Do you feel stressed?

You are not alone: stress-related disorders are one of the most prevalent reasons for worker disability. This book discusses the techniques to avoid burnout, increase energy, maximise your peak performance, integrate health with work, and improve your well-being.

Shine – How To Survive And Thrive At Work

Author: Chris Barez-Brown

Publisher: Portfolio Penguin, 211 pages

PERFECT for the busy employee who has no time to read a thick book, this mini guide to the world of business and balance teaches you how to stand out, break the rules, make things happen and also love every minute of doing it. The main message is to take a step back from the busy workspace, relax and take time to be creative while you still can.

CEO Priorities

Author: Neil Giarratana

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 222 pages

WHAT does a chief executive officer need to know? With more than three decades of experience in different industries, the author covers the main aspects of what you need to be a successful executive.

Here is where you will find advice on how to minimise office politics, change office culture, introduce a new business model, handle a bad quarter and push new product development.

Six Habits Of Highly Successful Managers

Author: John Cioffi and Ken Willig

Publisher: Advantage Quest, 247 pages

WRITTEN for business owners and managers, the book includes numerous real-company anecdotes to illustrate the concepts discussed.

This manual will help you identify the building blocks of a modern, successful business – neatly categorised into six habits you can practise on a daily basis.

Before you know it, you will be on your way to establishing a company culture of achievement, pride and accountability.

Betrayal and love

Posted: 23 Sep 2011 12:52 AM PDT

The Dulang Washer

Author: Paul Callan

Publisher: MPH Group Publishing Sdn Bhd, 381 pages

IT'S two thumbs up for Callan's The Dulang Washer, his first novel and hopefully not his last! It is a must-read, especially for those with mixed backgrounds, seeing that Callan himself was born in Ireland but married to a Malaysian.

In his book, Callan captures the essence of Malaya in the 1800s as he focuses on tin mining, a prominent activity in Perak at that time.

The story illustrates the tug-of-war between the colonial masters and the locals who strive to preserve the country's tradition.

Callan's one-line introduction and the story that follows is enough to get the attention of readers. His uncanny ability to go deeper, beyond the surface of things, makes the read enjoyable as the reader becomes aware of certain nuances and intricacies that may not have been noticed before.

Callan does not cover up crude happenings with words; instead, he uses words as a tool to paint a touching but rather dark picture. This, together with the use of imagery and alliteration, add a certain sweetness and spice to balance out the more morbid aspects of the story. Callan does not hold back on the surreal beauty of the location; at the same time, he makes sure that its dangers and mysteries are not compromised.

He blends his characters rather well so that they add flavour to the story and achieve the equilibrium that he seeks in his writing. Each character is separate, yet they share a common destiny. Although at times slow, there is enough action and wit to engage readers till the end.

Callan leaves the reader with an eager anticipation of what is going to happen next. His final plot is unexpected and takes the reader by surprise. The ending is quite conventional: the reader is left to choose for him or herself who Aisha will end up marrying. However, in his initial descriptions, the characters seem detached from the main storyline and it takes some time before the connections are made.

Callan fans the curiosity of readers by leaving information about Aisha's background and the dark secret that she harbours, till the very end.

Unfortunately this allows the reader to make incorrect judgements about her character, creating impressions that are unfitting. All in all, the reader is not left disappointed with the ending. Callan carefully crafts it without being too forward.

Also commendable is his use of Malay, Tamil and Hakka words which add colour to the local scene. More than anything, this is a story of betrayal and love.

The writing is delicately woven to portray even the worst of Callan's characters in a favourable light. He weaves them in and out of the story right to the finish, not leaving room for the reader to come up with his own conclusions.

This is a good thing as most of the time we are left to our own deductions, not having a solid understanding of the storyline.

The Dulang Washer story is steeped in tradition with hints of modernity. It is this skilful combination of the two facets which sets the book apart from other novels of its kind.

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