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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Yangon - From stately city to crumbling symbol of isolation

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 08:35 PM PST

YANGON (Reuters) - There are no skyscrapers in Yangon. No gleaming shopping malls. Certainly no subway system. Its rutted sidewalks are laced with treacherous holes and broken slabs of concrete.

Myanmar's former capital and biggest city is a crumbling monument to almost half a century of isolation and mismanagement at the hands of generals who took power in a 1962 coup and ruled with an iron first until a nominally civilian parliament opened in March this year.

A Buddhist monk walks past the City Hall in downtown Yangon November 5, 2010. REUTERS/stringer

The city that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit this week wasn't always that way.

In the early 20th century, the country then known as Burma was one of Asia's richest nations and a shining part of the British empire.

Imposing Victorian buildings rose on the waterfront of the capital. Department stores sold goods imported from Europe. Crowds packed into majestic cinemas with grand names such as the Palladium and Excelsior.

After seizing Yangon in 1852 and anglicising its name to Rangoon, Britain developed the area into its administration base, building law courts, parliament buildings, shady parks and botanical gardens. Rangoon University, founded in 1878, became one of Asia's premier universities.

The city was laid out by many of the same British urban planners who helped to design another strategic British colony, Singapore. Its public services and infrastructure rivalled London's.

Rangoon was ravaged during the Japanese occupation in World War Two, but still retained much of its imperial grandeur when it was granted independence by Britain in 1948.

But independent Burma was plagued by insurgencies and the military took over in a 1962 coup. A disastrous "Burmese Way to Socialism" adopted by the then-leader, General Ne Win, led to sweeping nationalisation and global isolation.

Today, chronic power outages and deteriorating buildings are constant reminders of decades of troubles.

Yellow and orange diesel generators, some as big as buses, are ubiquitous, symbols of a failing power grid behind the city of about 5 million people that accounts for a quarter of Myanmar's economic activity.

"Sometimes the power is cut and sometimes it's regular. We're used to it," said 71-year-old Abdullah Mingala, an ethnic Indian Burmese who was born and raised in Yangon and who makes a living renting out a pickup truck and a sedan as taxis.

"The best thing about the city is its weather and people. The weather is not too hot and everyone is simple and friendly and open."


Myanmar has not had a record of being simple or friendly.

The United States and Europe imposed sanctions in the years after the junta refused to hand power to the winners of a 1990 election and threw hundreds of democracy activists in jail. Thousands of activists were killed. Continued human rights abuses over the years sealed the country's pariah status.

Aid from organisations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund ended. Investment from the West dried up.

The government moved the capital to the interior, a new city called Naypyitaw, in 2006.

Signs of Myanmar's isolation include a dearth of major international brands, save a few Asian consumer goods and computer manufacturers such as Hitachi and Samsung.

There are no Coca-Cola or Heineken signs in Yangon. Instead, billboards proudly advertise made-in-Myanmar goods such as "Sunday Coffee Mix and Tea Mix," "Wellman Vitabiotics Supplements," "Fresh Up" toothpaste and "Denim" men's care products.

"Beer stations," Yangon's humble answer to the pub, sell cold Myanmar beer on tap for 600 kyat (76 U.S. cents) a glass.

On the steeets, booksellers throw plastic tarpaulin over sidewalks stained with rust-red betel nut spittle and offer used titles such as Frederick T. Wood's 1961 book "Current English Usage." One even had the March 30, 1992, issue of Newsweek for sale, a youthful Bill Clinton on the cover with the headline "Can He Beat Bush?"

At Cherry Mann, a restaurant in Yangon's Chinatown that's been serving the community for 42 years, customers sit at fold-out tables in the street on a cool night and tuck into curried meat and fried 'pratha' flat bread.

"It's hard to say if business conditions now are good or bad or improving. They're okay. They could be better," said Htat Kyo, a restaurant employee, as he prepares cheques.

U Thu Myint, a 77-year-old former professor of Burmese history, said he was forced to retire from his job at a state university at the age of 64, a year before he would have been eligible to collect his pension. Life is a struggle, he says.

He spends his days shuffling around Myanmar's holiest of shrines, the dazzling, gold-domed Shwedagon Pagoda, where he offers visitors facts about the stupa, its history as the anchor of Yangon and the principles of Buddhism. He asks for cash donations.

"The cost of living is very high now. One kg of rice went from 1,000 kyat a few months ago to 1,500 kyat now," he said. "I may move back to my place of birth and become a monk next year."


But Myanmar's economic stunting has one silver lining: it may have saved once-stunning landmark colonial-era buildings in Yangon from the wrecking ball.

A riverside grid of streets that forms the downtown area, a colonial vestige in and of itself, is full of buildings constructed when the country was one of Britain's most-prized colonial crown jewels from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s.

The $300 (194.17 pounds)-a-night Strand Hotel, opened in 1901 and refurbished in 1995, is an example of what many buildings could be, with marble floors, lazy ceiling fans and dark wood paneling.

Some locals fear the new government's recent eagerness to end its isolation could threaten stately but time-worn structures that are reminders of Yangon's former glory. A sense of urgency to protect the architectural heritage appears to be growing.

There has been outcry in recent weeks, for instance, in Myanmar's flourishing private newspapers over comments by a well-heeled businessman and member of parliament that the derelict, red-brick former colonial government complex known as the Secretariat might be turned into a hotel.

The complex that occupies an entire city block is abandoned, overgrown with weeds and surrounded by a fence to keep the public out. Some consider it beyond repair, yet it holds a place in history as the site where revered General Aung San, the father of Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, was assassinated in 1947.

In recent weeks a feeling of cautious optimism has begun to infect the slow-moving city as the nominally civilian government that took office eight months ago shows signs of embracing reforms and engaging with the world, as illustrated by Clinton's thee-day visit from Wednesday, the most prominent by an American since before the 1962 coup.

"We are all talking about it," said Abdullah Mingala. "We are all hopeful."

(Editing by Jason Szep, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Ron Popeski)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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New Zealand set for asset sales after crushing election win

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 07:12 PM PST

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's re-elected centre-right government claimed a mandate on Sunday to push on with up to $5 billion (3 billion pounds) worth of asset sales and welfare reforms and said it would quickly get down to forming a new administration.

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key smiles after the general election in Auckland November 26, 2011. Key said on Saturday he has secured support from the ACT Party and the United Future to form the government. REUTERS/Nigel Marple

The National Party, led by former foreign exchange dealer John Key, scored 48 percent of the vote, increased its number of seats to 60 from 58 and gained the support of two small parties to guarantee a majority in the 121-seat parliament.

"It's a pretty strong endorsement of where the Government sits, and we're confident we'll be able to build the relationships needed to go ahead with the programme," National's campaign manager Steven Joyce told TVNZ.

National campaigned on promises to consolidate policies of the past three years and work towards economic growth by cutting debt, curbing spending, selling state assets and returning to a budget surplus by 2014/15.

Ray Miller of Auckland University said National had effectively neutralised its biggest weakness -- the unpopular asset sales, slated to raise NZ$5 billion to NZ$7 billion.

"They got the policy out early, they sold it in positive terms and in the end, while it was still a negative, it was one policy among many and not an overriding one," he said.

National plans to sell minority stakes in state-owned power energy companies and further reduce the stake in Air New Zealand. Key has promised local small investors will have preference in share sales, with a 10 percent cap likely on how much any single investor can hold.


It also plans to reform welfare by getting people off benefits and back to work, and will slow down the expansion of its carbon trading system to lessen the cost on businesses and households.

Key's strong personal rating, his easy going, affable, unifying style was also a factor behind National's showing, despite continuing worries over the economy.

"I've got a PHD in geology and I still can't get a full-time job," said Sami Alshidi, 52, who has been working as a taxi driver and voted National because he felt it would steer the economy better.

Financial markets had already priced in no change of government and a broad continuation of policies.

"The National Party has a clear mandate to proceed with asset sales to lower fiscal deficits and government debt," said TD Securities head of research Annette Beacher.

"But this election was not on the global radar screens...(and) will likely be completely ignored."

The final tally of seats could yet change when tens of thousands of absentee votes are counted over the next two weeks, although the initial turnout of nearly 74 percent was one of the lowest in more than a century, election officials said.

The main opposition centre-left Labour Party slumped to 27 percent, the lowest share of the vote in its 95-year history, and lost nine seats. The environmentalist Greens upped their share to more than 10 percent and gained four seats.

The re-emergence of the nationalist New Zealand First Party, led by the maverick veteran Winston Peters, from three years in the political wilderness, is expected to add fireworks but not impede National.

"We will make sure of a huge amount of sunlight on New Zealand politics," Peters said.

(Additional reporting by Ed Davies in Auckland, Mantik Kusjanto.; Editing by)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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FARC rebels execute 4 military hostages - Colombia

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 04:42 PM PST

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian FARC rebels executed four members of the security forces during a botched mission to free them from a decade as hostages, the most violent act by the group since troops killed its leader Alfonso Cano this month.

Timoleon Jimenez, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), is seen at a camp at Villa Colombia near San Vicente del Caguan in this still image taken from video November 17, 2011. REUTERS/RCN TV/Handout

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has a policy of killing hostages if troops approach their camps, shot three of the captives in the head and the fourth in the back, President Juan Manuel Santos said.

The bodies were found in chains, he said.

"These heroes of Colombia sacrificed their lives trying to bring peace to Colombia," Santos said. "This is another demonstration of the FARC's cruelty ... It's an atrocious crime."

One police sergeant who was also being held hostage by the FARC managed to escape and was found alive by the military on Saturday, Defence Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon said.

Latin America's No. 4 oil producer has been wracked by bloodshed from guerrillas and cocaine barons for decades, although the FARC - once a powerful force controlling large parts of Colombia - has been severely weakened.

Santos said on Thursday the Andean nation was nearing the final phase of nearly 50 years of war and that his government would be willing to talk peace if the guerrillas were serious.

Troops launched the operation in southern Caqueta province 45 days ago after a tip that FARC captives were being held in the area, Pinzon told a news conference. The killings of the four hostages happened after a firefight between soldiers and the rebels.

"This is a reality shock," said security analyst Alfredo Rangel. "It shows that despite all the hits they have received in recent years that they are determined to fight the state, they are determined to continue their violent ways."

Bombings and kidnappings have eased sharply as Colombian troops use better intelligence, U.S. training and technology to take the fight to the rebels.

Foreign investment, especially in oil and mining, has surged as the insurgency weakens. But the FARC and other groups pose a threat in rural areas where the state's presence is weak and cocaine trafficking lets the rebels finance operations.

The FARC, considered a terrorist group by European nations and the United States, has lost key commanders in the past four years, including its founder Manuel Marulanda, military leader Mono Jojoy last year and Cano earlier this month.

The new leader Timoleon Jimenez - or "Timochenko" - has vowed to continue the fight against the government.

"What a great Christmas the FARC guerrillas have given the families of the police and military," said Marleny Orjuela, director of Asfamipaz, an association that represents families of kidnapped members of the armed forces.

"Santos has killed our hope, rescuing them when he knows they would be executed."

The FARC, which funds operations with extortion as well as drug trafficking, has held scores of politicians, police officers and soldiers as hostages, including French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt seized in 2002 and three Americans taken a year later.

They were rescued by the military in 2008, when Santos was defence minister.

This was the third group of hostages killed by the FARC.

In 2003, Guillermo Gaviria, governor of Antioquia province, was shot along with an adviser and eight military captives when troops attempted to free them. In 2007, 11 lawmakers were shot when the rebels falsely believed troops entered their camp.

(Additional reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Anthony Boadle, John O'Callaghan and Paul Simao)

Copyright © 2011 Reuters

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The Star Online: Sports

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The Star Online: Sports

Former heavyweight title contender Ron Lyle dies

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 06:09 PM PST

DENVER (Reuters) - Former prizefighter Ron Lyle, a convict-turned-contender who once fought Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight title, died in Denver on Saturday at age 70.

Lyle, admitted to Porter Adventist Hospital on Friday with a stomach ailment, died from septic shock after undergoing surgery, said Ron McKinney of the Salvation Army, who worked with the former heavyweight at a youth boxing programme.

"I just spoke to him yesterday, so this was a total surprise to all of us," McKinney told Reuters. "He was a giant, but a gentle giant...I've lost a good friend."

A native of Dayton, Ohio, who grew up in Denver in a family of 19 children, Lyle was convicted as a teenager of second-degree murder and went to prison, learning to box while he was incarcerated.

A chiseled, hard-punching fighter, Lyle became a fearsome amateur boxer while still an inmate.

He was paroled in 1969 and set out on a professional boxing career, ultimately earning a title shot against Ali in May 1975.

Lyle was ahead on points in the championship bout until Ali unleashed a flurry of unanswered combinations to a cornered Lyle in the 11th round.

The referee stopped the fight, awarding Ali a technical knockout victory. Lyle always contended that the fight was halted prematurely.

His other memorable fight was a January 1976 slugfest with another hard-hitting heavyweight, George Foreman. The two stood toe-to-toe, knocking each other down multiple times before Foreman ultimately won in a knockout.

Lyle was last seen publicly earlier this month when he commented on the death of former champion Joe Frazier.

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Federer and Tsonga set for London showdown

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 05:58 PM PST

LONDON (Reuters) - Defending champion Roger Federer continued his torment of David Ferrer to set up a title showdown against French powerhouse Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday.

Swiss former world number one Federer overcame some dogged resistance from David Ferrer, winning 7-5 6-3 for his 12th victory in 12 against the gritty Spaniard before crowd-pleasing Tsonga stormed to a 6-3 7-5 victory over Czech Tomas Berdych.

Tsonga is the first Frenchman to reach the final since Sebastien Grosjean in 2001 while Federer has made the final for the seventh time in the 10 consecutive years he has qualified for the elite event contested by world's top eight.

They will face off for the third consecutive Sunday after Federer won a close one in last Sunday's opening round-robin match here and a more one-sided affair the week before that in the final of the Paris Masters.

Tsonga, however, has been in rampant form here, including a defeat of Rafa Nadal, and said he would try everything to avoid a hat-trick of defeats and repeat his stunning Wimbledon quarter-final victory over the Swiss.

"If I have to break my two ankles to win, I will do it for sure," he told reporters. "It's the last match of the season so I will be giving everything. After that, it's a party."

Ferrer, who posted victories over Andy Murray and world number one Novak Djokovic this week, matched Federer for the first 10 games although there was a sense that he was merely holding back the tide - such was the burden of his previous 11 unsuccessful encounters with the 16-times major winner.

Once Federer broke serve in the 11th game the outcome of the match was never in doubt as he cruised to the 100th ATP final of his career - a feat managed by only four other players.

The Swiss will become the first player to win the season-ending title six times should he prevail - edging ahead of the five he shares with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl.

He would also pocket the $1.63 million jackpot for winning all five of his matches at the tournament, a feat he also achieved last year in the spectacular 02 setting.

"It's obviously going to be a special occasion for me tomorrow, playing my 100th final, possibly winning my 70th, winning my sixth at the World Tour Finals," Federer said after stretching his current winning streak to 16.

"It will be quite funny to play Tsonga in the finals of Paris, on the first day here and the next Sunday again. He's very confident right now and he's going to be extremely dangerous," added Federer. Federer's 806th victory on tour, the same as his boyhood idol Stefan Edberg, will not go down as one of his classics.

He made 29 unforced errors and struck four winners from the back of the court, but his B game was still too good for world number five Ferrer who, for all his hustle and bustle, could not engineer a single break point in the 85 minute contest.

The only sticky moment for Federer was at 4-5 in the opening set when he was taken to five deuces but he upped the tempo in the next game, breaking Ferrer's serve to seize control.

"Obviously it was a key 5-4 game for me to hold and then break the next game, then actually break again early on in the second set," Federer, who will climb back to three in the ATP rankings above Murray, said.

"That was a crucial 15, 20 minutes for me. I'm happy I was able to decide the match right there."

Tsonga has played some of the most eye-catching tennis all week and the Mohammed Ali lookalike brought more roars from the 17,500 capacity crowd with his trademark victory dance after out-slugging a tired-looking Berdych.

After a scrappy first set, Tsonga looked to have the match in the bag when Berdych double-faulted at 3-3 in the second although the Czech hit back immediately.

Some netted forehands from Berdych gave Tsonga another break at 5-5 and this time there was no escape as the Frenchman slammed down an ace on match point to seal his biggest final since reaching the Australian Open final in 2008.

He said victory in Sunday's final would be even bigger than beating Federer at Wimbledon this year.

"It's going to be better because this is for a title," he said. "This tournament is the top eight players in the world. If I can join the great names on the trophy it will be amazing.

"It's going to be really special for my first final here. It's going to be an amazing atmosphere on the court.

"Roger is the best player for the moment indoors. But I think I can join him for one match."

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Refreshed Adrian looking forward to doing well in the World Cup

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 05:08 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: A refreshed national bowler Adrian Ang is back for more action after spending quality time with his parents – as a part-time waiter at his family's "kopitiam" in Penang.

The 23-year-old Adrian spent five days at his hometown in Pulau Tikus which was a deserved break after winning four gold medals – doubles, trios, team and Masters events – at the recent SEA Games in Jakarta.

He will leave for the AMF World Cup in Johannesburg in South Africa tomorrow and hopes are high on him to keep the Malaysian flag flying high.

"A bowler's schedule is hectic so I treasure every chance I get to spend with my family who run a coffee shop – Sin Hup Aun – and I do my part to help out my parents whenever I can," said Adrian.

"It is also a time for me to relax and not think of bowling for a while," he said.

A more relaxed Adrian is is looking forward to doing well in his second outing in the World Cup. In his debut at Venezuela in 2006, an inexperienced Adrian finished 19th.

"I will be going into the tournament with the same mindset – give my best on every shot and stay consistent. I am making a return to this event after five years and I hope for a top three finish."

"It has been a great outing for me at the SEA Games and I hope to keep the momentum going," added Adrian.

It has been a great run for Adrian over the last one year.

Besides his sensational showing in the SEA Games, he had also enjoyed a fantastic run at the Asian Games in Guangzhou when he nailed the doubles gold medal with Alex Liew. And before the Jakarta Games he had also won the Kuala Lumpur Open title.

Malaysia will also be hoping to enjoy a double joy in South Africa through their women's sole representative Jacqueline Jenelee Sijore.

The 19-year-old did the country proud this year when she emerged as the singles champion in the World Championships in Hong Kong.

For the record, Malaysia's best male performer in the World Cup was Michael Chuah who finished second at the edition in 1983 (Mexico). It was followed by Zulmazran Zulkifli's third place finish in 2008 (Mexico).

The women bowlers have been more consistent in finishing among the top three. Shalin Zulkifli has made the podium three times in 1996 (Northern Ireland), 1997 (Egypt) and 1998 (Japan). The others include Sarah Yap in 1999 (USA), Wendy Chai in 2005 (Slovenia) and Siti Safiyah Amirah Abdul Rahman in 2010 (France).

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Eye on stock

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 09:44 PM PST

ALTHOUGH the net earnings of Malaysia Marine & Heavy Engineering Bhd (MMHE) for the second quarter ended Sept 30, 2011, came in below expectations, analysts say the long-term prospects of the counter remains positive.

Last week, the oil & gas services provider said its net profit grew only 3.2% year-on-year (y-o-y) to RM80.2mil on revenue of RM463.1mil.

"Putting things into perspective while 2011 earnings are a foregone conclusion' we expect annualised net profit to be down 17% y-o-y and would largely have been reflected in MMHE's share price. It should be a stronger 2012 performance," Maybank Investment Bank Research analysts say.

They term MMHE as a direct Petronas-proxy play, and ascribe an ambitious target price of RM8 for the counter.

MMHE's order backlog currently stands at RM3.7bil, compared with RM1.9bil in September. There is an 18-month visibility of its order book, according to analysts, and this is underpinned largely by the recently awarded RM1.4bil contract from ExxonMobil for the Tapis Enhanced Oil Recovery Project and the more than RM800mil FPSO Cendor conversion project. In addition, MMHE's current tender orders are worth around RM4bil to RM5bil, comprising local and overseas gigs.

On a technical basis, TA Research analysts argue that there is a fresh buy signal on the directional movement indicator, which implies that MMHE is ripe for an oversold rebound towards RM6.31, with a stronger resistance at RM6.90. They tag the RM5.40 level as the downside cushion.

The comments above do not represent a recommendation to buy or sell.

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Yayasan Melaka plans investment in oil palm project

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 09:43 PM PST

KUCHING: Yayasan Melaka will invest some RM120mil to develop 31,500 ha of land in Sarawak into oil palm plantations on a joint-venture (JV) basis.

The investment arm of the Malacca state government will hold 65% stake in the JV with the other 35% by Pelita Holdings Sdn Bhd, a subsidiary of state-owned Land Custody Development Authority (LCDA).

An agreement for the joint-venture project was signed here yesterday (Nov 25). The signatories were Yayasan Melaka director Datuk Nor Adibah Abdullah and Pelita Holdings chief executive officer Abdullah Chek Sahamat.

Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Sarawak Land Development Minister Tan Sri Dr James Masing witnessed the ceremony.

The land to be developed is in Kanowit in the central region, and Lundu district in the southern region which comprise both state land and native customary rights (NCR) land.

Dr Masing said the Kanowit Block C project covered a gross area of 20,383ha (17,017ha of NCR land and 3,363ha of state land) and involved 800 families from 55 Dayak longhouses.

He said the Lundu project covered 11,094ha (3,421ha of NCR land and 7,673ha of state land) that involved 400 families from Kampung Stunggang Dayak and six other settlements.

The Sarawak government approved the development of the two plots in 2009 and 2008 respectively.

Yayasan Melaka general manager Sharabuddin Kudus said the foundation would bring in the capital required for the development of the oil palm estates.

"The overall development cost is estimated at RM120mil. Preliminary investment is between RM20mil and RM30mil.

"We plan to carry out planting of the entire land in five years," he told reporters after the agreement signing.

Sharabuddin said the Lundu project would start first in the next three to six months as survey work on the land had to be carried out.

He said a public relations company would be engaged to hold discussion with the NCR landowners concerned so as to cultivate a good relationship with them to facilitate the project's smooth implementation.

Sharabuddin said this was Yayasan Melaka's first venture in Sarawak after Sabah where it owned about 5,000ha of planted oil palm estates.

He said Yayasan Melaka' subsidiaries owned 3,000ha of matured oil palm estates in Malacca.

Ali said Yayasan Melaka had turned to Sarawak and Sabah to expand its oil palm plantation as big plantation land in Malacca was no more available.

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KLIA2 cost overrun poser to be answered on Tuesday

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 09:42 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: The billion dollar question as to whether the construction of KLIA2 has incurred significant cost overruns will be answered this Tuesday by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, sources close to the matter told StarBizWeek.

MAHB issued a statement yesterday stating that it would conduct a media conference and preview of KLIA2.

"All will be revealed as to what has transpired," said a source. The media will also be offered a "walkabout" at KLIA2 on Tuesday, according to the advisory note.

Some reports have suggested that the cost of building KLIA2 has escalated to RM4bil and that would mean a huge cost overrun for the airport operator in constructing Asia's biggest low cost air terminal.

Recently, when an MAHB official was asked to comment on the recent reports suggesting the RM4bil cost overrun, he had said that "the only avenue for us to recoup the costs is from non-aeronautical revenue such as the retail segment.''

This comment gave AirAsia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes enough ammunition to poke fun at the airport operator.

Fernandes has been the airport operator's biggest critic in recent times. He had been unhappy about the raising of the passenger service charge by MAHB.

He had also questioned the need to have a third runway. (The third runway was not part of the initial plans but was added on later by MAHB at the request of airlines and to cater to both KLIA and KLIA2.)

Fernandes had also expressed his displeasure over the RM7 hike in passenger service charge (PSC) from RM25 to RM32 for the LCCT. (MAHB had not increased its PSC charges for the last nine years and Malaysia's charges are one of the lowest in the region.)

Fernandes also had a "war of words" with Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha over the PSC issue where AirAsia initially did not want to collect on behalf of MAHB. Since then, AirAsia has conceded, and has agreed to collect the PSC as part of their ticket pricing.

Hence industry observers say MAHB would do itself a favour by revealing the whole story about the cost it has been incurring in putting up KLIA2.

Sources said that a key aspect of Tuesday's explanation by MAHB would involve the airport operator explaining how they had bumped up the size of KLIA2 from what was originally envisaged.

KLIA2 was initially conceptualised as a low cost terminal which would have an area of 150,000 sqm, but to accommodate regulatory requirements it will now be a much bigger airport with 255,000 sqm and that would mean the cost would also be higher.

"There was a need for a new design to be done and to also include the government's security requirement for the full separation of arriving and departing international passengers and segregation of domestic and international passengers.

"If the terminal building is bigger, the apron also has to be bigger and the cost will surely rise from the original amount,'' said the source.

The entire development will comprise a 3-storey main terminal building, a satellite building and domestic and international contact piers.

The superstructure's initial cost was bandied at RM2bil for 150,000 sqm but could have swelled to RM2.8bil or over RM3bil because the plans had been changed and the airport is much bigger than originally planned.

It is meant for over 30 million passengers.

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Local film wins award at Taipei’s film fest

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 04:43 PM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Local action-drama Bunohan has already garnered international acclaim and its first award even before its slated local release on March 8.

The film, directed by Dain Said, won the Netpac (Network For The Promotion Of Asian Cinema) award on Thursday night at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival in Taiwan.

It had two screenings, on Nov 12 and Nov 22, in the "Going South" category.

Another Malaysian film, Nasi Lemak 2.0, was also nominated in the same category.

The Netpac award is given to promote Asian cinema by highlighting notable films and discovering new talents.

Dain, who is in Jakarta now to work on a documentary, said: "Although we did not expect to win anything, it was a wonderful surprise and a great experience, especially because I was aware that (legendary Taiwanese filmmaker and festival director) Hou Hsiao-hsien was there that night."

The Netpac certificate said the award was given to Bunohan for its "most creative and unique way of using cinematic language and addressing many issues of contemporary Asia".

Bunohan tells the violent story of three estranged brothers and their ailing father amidst a backdrop of muay thai, murder and magic realism.

The film had been screened at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival in September to rave reviews.

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Ben Whishaw to play Q in new Bond film 'Skyfall'

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 04:08 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - British actor Ben Whishaw will reprise the character of high-tech weapons specialist "Q" in the upcoming James Bond film "Skyfall," a role previously played by actors Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese, media outlets reported on Friday.

The BBC said Whishaw's agent confirmed the young actor in the role of Q opposite Daniel Craig's Bond in the upcoming 23rd installment of the franchise, directed by Sam Mendes.

Whishaw was introduced as a cast member in a London press conference announcing production on "Skyfall" last month, but his specific role was not revealed at the time.

Q, who dreams up the super secret weapons that British spy Bond uses to track down bad guys, has long been one of the favorite characters in the action-packed movies.

At 31, Whishaw, known for roles in 2008's "Brideshead Revisited" and BBC's drama series "The Hour," is considerably younger than his Q predecessors Llewelyn and Cleese.

Welsh actor Llewelyn played Bond's gadget scientist for 36 years, delivering his trademark reprimands on the hazards of gun play to Bond actors Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan.

After Llewelyn's death in a fatal car collision in 1999 aged 85, "Fawlty Towers" actor John Cleese took over the role of Q for 2002's "Die Another Day."

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Kutcher, Moore tweet their thanks ... separately

Posted: 25 Nov 2011 03:52 PM PST

LOS ANGELES (Reuters - Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore have broken their Twitter silence in the spirit of the holiday season.

The estranged celebrity power-couple - who announced their split after six years of marriage earlier this month, amid rumors of infidelity on Kutcher's part - both reignited their social-media presence in recent days, to reflect on the Thanksgiving holiday.

Twitter super-user Kutcher, who has amassed 8.5 million Twitter followers and famously beat CNN to become the first user of the service to reach 1 million followers in 2009, fired up his account Wednesday, after an unusually long dormant period, to share his thoughts of gratitude with the masses.

''I'm thankful for family, friends, you, & time to reach my potential. What are you thankful for? #thanksgiving,'' Kutcher wrote.

The 33-year-old ''Two and a Half Men'' actor, who's normally fairly active on Twitter, has remained absent from the service since tweeting that he will ''forever cherish'' the time that he spent with Moore. That missive was published Nov. 17 - the same day that Moore announced the split.

Of course, Kutcher had become a bit tweet-shy even before then. A week prior, the actor announced that he was handing over his Twitter account to his production company, Katalyst Media, since coming out in support of fired Penn State coach Joe Paterno - later acknowledging that he didn't know the facts when he tweeted.

Perhaps inspired by her soon-to-be-ex-husband's digital display of gratitude, Moore fired up her Twitter account Friday to lament that the country reserves just one day of the year to express its collective appreciation.

''Why do we have only 1 day for giving thanks? Is that why so many people feel unappreciated?'' Moore pondered. ''Make this 1 of 365 days of Thanksgiving!''

Moore's previous tweet was also on Nov. 17, in response to a question from other users about a photo of the actress out on the town.

Moore's split from Kutcher followed months of speculation that Kutcher had been unfaithful. The scuttlebutt came to a head in September, on the weekend of the couple's sixth wedding anniversary. Moore spent the weekend in New York, where she was promoting her Lifetime movie ''Five.''

Kutcher, meanwhile, was spotted with his former ''That '70s Show'' co-star Danny Masterson at the Fluxx nightclub in San Diego - where, according to local blonde Sara Leal, Kutcher enjoyed a sexual romp with her.

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PM wants Umno members to put party above self-interest

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 05:19 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Leading up to the Umno general assembly starting Tuesday, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak wants Umno members to put party above self-interest.

Najib, who is also Umno president, said party members must show commitment to make sacrifices and not let personal feelings or interests overcome party interests.

"People who join the party are many but we want more party people who know the spirit, goals and interests of the party. This is what we want to instill in 3.4mil Umno members," he said in an interview on Saturday.

The five-day Umno general assembly is seen by many as the last assembly before the 13th general election.

The Prime Minister said Umno members must have feelings of "love and affection" for the party and willing to make sacrifices for the party.

"This is one of the party's principles. We are not asking them to sacrifice their wealth to the party or take personal risks.

"But we ask them not to let personal feelings or demands by groups to overcome interests of the party," he said.

Umno members should be wary of things that can adversely affect the party, and should refrain from doing them as it could weaken the party.

"Everyone in Umno knows all these things but just knowing about it will not make it disapppear," said Najib.

Asked about the general assembly, he said the programme was not primed for the general election but a vehicle to highlight the party's intellectual value.

It was also to illustrate the role of Umno internationally so that the world understands the objectives of the party, particularly the National Transformation Plan.

He also denied allegations that Umno did not champion the interests of Malays, causing them to feel marginalised, as the party's agenda continues.

"That is not true. Although we have the 1Malaysia slogan, we never said that the bumiputera agenda is gone. In fact, it is still the main agenda (Umno) and part of our national agenda.

"What we do with other races is to show that it is our government, a fair government that stands on the pillars of social justice."

Najib said the bumiputera agenda would continue, for example, the Bumiputera Agenda Unit (Teraju) that he launched Saturday morning.

"It is a road map where we announced several new initiatives. This means that we never put aside or dilute our struggle for bumiputeras."

Asked about the stand by some Malays that they could survive without Umno, Najib said the people should be aware that the country's success is the result of Umno's struggle.

Citing the theory of American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, he said Umno has successfully met the basic demands of the people by providing various facilities.

He said the diversity of opinion is a sign that society has become more sophisticated and matured.

"I don't say that they must feel indebted to us as many will not be happy. What I want to say is that that in addition to our track record and deeds, is our planning for the future.

"What we can promise to the people of Malaysia and Umno is real security that we have delivered and can deliver. Insya Allah we not only make promises but are able to deliver them to the people," he added. - Bernama

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Najib: All-round preparedness key to winning polls

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 03:58 AM PST

Published: Saturday November 26, 2011 MYT 7:45:00 PM
Updated: Saturday November 26, 2011 MYT 7:58:41 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: Umno's preparedness to meet the general election should be likened to putting the party on a war footing, said its president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

"If we're to use war as an analogy, it means that before the first salvo is fired, our troops should have undergone training and preparations, in strategy, logistics, and equipment.

"Equally important are our fundamental values which will ensure that we can win in any war; the values of loyalty and allegiance, discipline, commitment in carrying out our duty, and teamwork.

"All these are fundamental values which we must internalise and something which we must not compromise. Otherwise, our party will stand to lose," he said in a special interview with Bernama on Saturday ahead of the party's general assembly next week.

Najib said there was a need to remind the 3.4 million Umno members about committing the mistakes that may weaken the party.

He said all the members "know of things that are detrimental to the party but knowing doesn't mean eradicating the problems altogether."

"We must demonstrate our commitment to make a little sacrifice without letting our feelings or personal agenda overweigh the interests of the party. It's one of the principles of being involved in a political party," he said.

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Flood situation in Kelantan, Terengganu improves

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 03:34 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: The flood situation in Kelantan and Terengganu, as of Saturday afternoon, has improved allowing some evacuees to return home.

In TERENGGANU, as at 4pm, the remaining seven victims at the flood relief centre at Sekolah Padang Kemunting, Kemaman, were allowed to return home at noon.

However, 12 flood relief centres are still open in Kuala Terengganu, Hulu Terengganu, Setiu and Marang, with the number of evacuees there increasing to 561 people (from 461 in the morning).

The water in the main rivers in the four districts is reported below the danger level.

In KELANTAN, only Kota Baru, Pasir Mas and Tumpat are still affected with 1,623 evacuees still at the relief centres, down from 1,884 people this morning.

As at press time, 12 flood evacuation centres remained open - 10 in Pasir Mas and one each in Kota Baru and Tumpat.

On the water level of the main rivers, Sungai Golok in Rantau Panjang has reached the danger level.

Five road stretches are still closed to traffic. They are Jalan Pohon Tanjung-Meranti; Jalan Pohon Tanjung-Rantau Panjang (Jalan Lama) Kampung Siram; Jalan Rantau Panjang-Panglima Bayu; Jalan Banggol Kulim Lokasi 2 in Pasir Mas and Jalan Cabang 4/Kampung Jambu/Meranti in Tumpat.

Meanwhile, efforts are being made by the State Health Department to prevent the spread of diseases and food poisoning. BERNAMA

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Road closure for YTL Concert of Celebration

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 05:14 AM PST

THERE will be road closures and diversions for YTL Corporation Berhad's Concert of Celebration featuring Julio Iglesias.

Jalan Bukit Bintang from JW Marriott Hotel to Starhill Gallery will be closed from midnight on Nov 30 to 4am on Dec 2.

Visitors and concert guests will be able to access the area via two routes — from Jalan Bukit Bintang, turning left just before JW Marriott Hotel and from Jalan Imbi turning right into Jalan Yap Tai Chi.

Traffic will also be diverted at the crossroads of Jalan Bukit Bintang and Jalan Sultan Ismail near Lot 10.

Motorists will only be able to turn right onto Jalan Sultan Ismail and will not be able to continue on to Jalan Bukit Bintang.

Alternatively, motorists can access Jalan Sultan Ismail and other parts of Jalan Bukit Bintang via Jalan Imbi.

Road closure and detour signages will be placed along the affected areas before the road closure. Traffic police will also be on site to guide motorists from Nov 30 onwards.

Visitors to the area can take the KL Monorail and get off at the Bukit Bintang station at Lot 10 Shopping Centre.

The concert celebrates the new cutting edge look of Starhill Gallery and will be held on the streets of Jalan Bukit Bintang with legendary Julio Iglesias on Dec 1.

For more information on the concert, log on to

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Mall offers a wide range of Chinese antiques and art for shoppers

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 04:49 AM PST

FOR THOSE in pursuit of Chinese antiques and art, a visit to Viva Home Shopping Mall's Oriental Treasure is a must.

The Oriental Treasure offers a unique charm and plenty of choice for lovers of Chinoiserie.

Located on Level 1 of Viva Home Shopping Mall, Oriental Treasure welcomes shoppers through ornate arches into a world of yesteryear, comprising almost 35,000 square feet of specialty retail outlets. The ambience inside Oriental Treasure is also truly Chinese, with classic orchestral melodies piped in to heighten the experience.

Oriental Treasure is home to 10 unique shops that each feature a special charm and fascination. Each shop offers an exciting insight into exotic treasures and elegant antiques that promises to fascinate antique and art lovers.

With such an eclectic mix, shoppers will find a quirky display of arts, antiques, furniture and crafts ideal for decorating your home or giving away as gifts.

Viva Mall Sdn Bhd general manager Kenny Chin said, "Oriental Treasure is a specialty area in Viva Home Shopping Mall that seeks to inspire the Asian art of living."

"Viva Home Shopping Mall, as a one-stop centre for homes, takes great pleasure in offering a shopping destination for discerning consumers on the lookout to fulfil their home, entertainment and lifestyle needs," he added.

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Villagers worked together to cook and serve dishes at Kemas fair

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 05:42 AM PST

MUAR: Hundreds of villagers thronged a food fair organised by the Muar Community Development Department (Kemas) here.

The fair, which also included kindergarten pupils as well as their parents, was held at the Parit Bakar Penghulu Complex recently.

District officer Amran Abdul Rahman said the fair was aimed at fostering relations among kindergarten children and their parents.

Amran, who came with his wife Norlizah Hashim, said it was fun to see many village women cooking and preparing dishes for the guests.

He said besides nasi briyani, ketupat, rendang, lemang nasi lemak and fried noodles, the villagers also prepared traditional favourites such as roti jala, kuih gandus and pulut bengkang.

"It is fun to see so many women showing their skills in making those dishes, including the tauhu sumbat.

"Tauhu sumbat is very simple to make except for the sambal or gravy which needs some cooking," he said at the fair recently.

For Muar Umno division deputy chairman Norhalim Hashim, the fair was special as it showed how some traditional Malay dishes and cookies were prepared.

He said the pecal or Javanese rojak, was a popular dish not only among those who came from Java but also among the Malays.

He said besides pecal, the fair had several varieties of pudding and jelly, including agar-agar mambang diawan and agar-agar pelangi.

He said the Muar Kemas team also showed how the simple cucur udang and cucur ikan bilis were made besides several tarts topped with various fruits.

Meanwhile, Muar Kemas supervisor Zaiton Ismail said the team was happy that many department heads, including Muar police chief ACP Mohammed Nasir Ramli attended the fair.

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Woman conned of RM20,000

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 05:42 AM PST

MUAR: At least 20 people, mostly women, have fallen prey to conmen who fleeced them of thousands of ringgit in Internet scams this year.

Muar police chief Asst Comm Mohammed Nasir Ramli said the number would increase if people continue to believe in strangers they met online.

Speaking to reporters, he said at least two cases were reported every month despite police warnings and advised to the public not to trust anyone they did not know.

"We have time and again disclosed cases of women losing monies to strangers they met online, especially on Facebook.

"However, our advice and warnings were not heeded and we have another woman who is cheated of RM20,000 by an online scam syndicate," he said at his office recently.

ACP Mohammed Nasir said the woman who was a photographer was cheated of RM20,000 to a 'Dr Farouk' who claimed to live in the United Kingdom.

He said the man befriended the woman, aged 38, through Facebook and after a few days, told the woman he wanted to send her some items as presents.

The items, he added, included jewellery, a laptop as well as some currencies in US Dollars and British Pounds.

Although the woman tried to reject the presents, the man insisted and she later received a call from someone who claimed to be a Customs officer at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

ACP Mohammed Nasir said the officer had informed her about a parcel addressed to her but she needed to pay a tax of RM12,000 before the parcel could be delivered to her.

He added that the woman made two cash deposits at a bank here into an account number given by the caller but the caller asked for another RM8,000 on Nov 1.

However, he said, when the woman did not receive the parcel but instead received another call asking for more cash, she realised she had been conned.

ACP Mohammed Nasir said the woman decided to come to the police station to lodge a report on Nov 2.

"We hope this incident will be a lesson to others not to fall prey to strangers they meet online or over the telephones.

"We will investigate the case under Section 420 of the Penal Code," he added.

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Irda recognises its partners’ contribution

Posted: 26 Nov 2011 05:42 AM PST

JOHOR BARU: Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) has recognised some 60 partners of the Iskandar Malaysia who has given cooperation to help in the development.

Recognition were given to private and public sectors including local authorities, developers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during the Iskandar Malaysia Recognition and Appreciation 2011 night which was held here recently.

Irda Chief Executive Ismail Ibrahim said the recognition was given because of their continuous support and collaboration towards the progress and development of Iskandar Malaysia.

"The partners have played an important role in Iskandar Malaysia's five-year journey," he said.

He added that they have contributed to job creation and opened up business opportunities for local involvement and international recognition.

"Together we have helped make the difference and importantly, have impacted the lives of the people here.

"We must continue as Iskandar Malaysia's vision journey has just begun," he said, adding that one of the greatest strength was the collaboration and partnership between private and public sectors.

Ismail explained the partnership has enabled Iskandar Malaysia to continue to attract foreign direct investment.

He also said the continuous effort to understand and working together was important for the growth momentum.

"We will continue to engage and communicate through various forums and channels and provide a platform for partners to give their feedbacks and suggestions to us," he said.

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