Jumaat, 7 Disember 2012

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Egyptian opposition to shun Mursi's national dialogue

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:08 PM PST

CAIRO (Reuters) - President Mohamed Mursi was expected to press ahead on Saturday with talks on ways to end Egypt's worst crisis since he took office even though the country's main opposition leaders have vowed to stay away.

A protester against Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi shouts after breaching barbed wire barricades guarding the presidential palace in Cairo, as Republican Guard soldiers stand on a tank to show their non-intervention December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

A protester against Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi shouts after breaching barbed wire barricades guarding the presidential palace in Cairo, as Republican Guard soldiers stand on a tank to show their non-intervention December 7, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Cairo and other cities have been rocked by violent protests since November 22, when Mursi promulgated a decree awarding himself sweeping powers that put him above the law.

The upheaval in the most populous Arab nation, following the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year, worries the West, in particular the United States, which has given it billions of dollars in military and other aid since Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979.

Mursi's deputy raised the possibility that a referendum set for December 15 on a new constitution opposed by liberals might be delayed. But the concession only goes part-way towards meeting the demands of the opposition, who also want Mursi to scrap the decree awarding himself wide powers.

On Friday, large crowds of protesters surged around the presidential palace, breaking through barbed wire barricades and climbing on tanks guarding the seat of Egypt's first freely elected president, who took office in June.

As the night wore on, tens of thousands of opposition supporters were still at the palace, waving flags and urging Mursi to "Leave, leave".


"We will stay here for as long as it takes and will continue to organise protests elsewhere until President Mursi cancels his constitutional decree and postpones the referendum," said Ahmed Essam, 28, a computer engineer and a member of the liberal Dostour party.

Vice President Mahmoud Mekky issued a statement saying the president was prepared to postpone the referendum if that could be done without legal challenge.

Mursi's planned dialogue meeting was expected to go ahead on Saturday in the absence of most opposition factions. "Everything will be on the table," a presidential source said.

Mursi could be joined by some senior judiciary figures and politicians such as Ayman Nour, one of the candidates in Mubarak's only multi-candidate presidential race, in 2005, in which he was unsurprisingly trounced.

The opposition has demanded that Mursi rescind the decree giving himself wide powers and delay the vote set for December 15 on a constitution drafted by an Islamist-led assembly which they say fails to meet the aspirations of all Egyptians.


The state news agency reported that the election committee had postponed the start of voting for Egyptians abroad until Wednesday, instead of Saturday as planned. It did not say whether this would affect the timing of voting within Egypt.

Ahmed Said, leader of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, told Reuters that delaying expatriate voting was intended to seem like a concession but would not change the opposition's stance.

The opposition organised marches converging on the palace which Republican Guard units had ringed with tanks and barbed wire on Thursday after violence between supporters and opponents of Mursi killed seven people and wounded 350.

Islamists, who had obeyed a military order for demonstrators to leave the palace environs, held funerals on Friday at Cairo's al-Azhar mosque for six Mursi partisans who were among the dead.

"With our blood and souls, we sacrifice to Islam," they chanted.

A group led by leftist opposition leader Hamdeen Sabahy has called for an open-ended protest at the palace.

Some pro-Mursi demonstrators gathered in a mosque not far from the palace, but said they would not march towards the palace to avoid a repeat of the violence that took place on Wednesday night.

In a speech late on Thursday, Mursi had refused to retract his decree or cancel the referendum on the constitution, but offered talks on the way forward after the referendum.

The National Salvation Front, the main opposition coalition, said it would not join the dialogue. The Front's coordinator, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate, dismissed the offer as "arm-twisting and imposition of a fait accompli".

ElBaradei said that if Mursi were to scrap the decree with which he awarded himself extra powers and postpone the referendum "he will unite the national forces".

Murad Ali, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said opposition reactions were sad: "What exit to this crisis do they have other than dialogue?" he asked.

(This story corrects Mursi's title to president in paragraph 1)

(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Michael Roddy and Paul Tait)

Related Stories:
Egyptian president could delay referendum on constitution - TV

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Myanmar government apologises to monks over mine protest injuries

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:01 PM PST

YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's government has apologised for injuries, including serious burns, suffered last month by monks and others when riot police cleared camps set up to protest against evictions caused by the expansion of a copper mine.

Minister of Religious Affairs Myint Maung made a formal apology to 29 senior monks and said police regretted the incident, state-owned television reported late on Friday.

Activists said at least 50 people had been injured when riot police moved in at the Monywa mine in the northwest region of Sagaing on November 29. That included more than 20 Buddhist monks, some with burns blamed on incendiary devices thrown by police.

The mine is operated by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd working with a unit of China North Industries Corp, a Chinese weapons manufacturer.

Anger had grown at the heavy-handed police intervention, reminiscent of the way dissent was stifled under the junta that ruled Myanmar for half a century until President Thein Sein's quasi-civilian, reformist government took office in March 2011.

As monks protested around the country, Thein Sein quickly asked opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to head an investigation into the incident and the copper mine project.

"The policemen who had to discharge their duties were extremely sorrowful that monks, some novices and other persons were wounded in the copper mining project incident," Myint Maung told the monks, adding that the government would do its utmost to ensure such "undesirable incidents" did not happen again.

"It was found that the monks and novices carried no guilt as they were young and had no knowledge of political tricks," he said.

No mention was made of how the burns were caused. The authorities had previously said police had used tear gas and water cannon.

At a news conference on Thursday, Suu Kyi said it would be premature to blame anyone for the incident.

"It is impossible to satisfy everyone in such an inquiry," she said. "The commission will do its best to reveal the truth and make the best suggestions bravely for the long-term interests of the country, the people, and for cementing democracy."

She said compromise would be necessary between villagers and the operators of the mine.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has called the episode a test case for the government's willingness to allow peaceful protest and make the security forces accountable for abuses.

Residents say the $1 billion mine expansion involves the unlawful confiscation of more than 7,800 acres (3,160 hectares) of land.

(Writing by Alan Raybould; Editing by Paul Tait)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

Clinton to testify on Benghazi attack report - U.S. lawmaker

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:12 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify on a report expected to be released next week on the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, a top Republican lawmaker said on Friday.

"I have just received confirmation from Secretary Clinton's office that the secretary of state will appear before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to discuss, in an open hearing, the findings and the recommendations in the report," Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

Ros-Lehtinen is chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, which has already held several hearings and classified briefings on the attack.

The attack killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and raised questions about the adequacy of security in far-flung posts.

Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for its flawed early public explanations of the attack, and then for shifting explanations of why talking points given to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice were changed to delete a reference to al Qaeda.

Ros-Lehtinen said she expected an accountability review board report on the attack to be released next week.

She said she wanted to hear from Clinton about steps the State Department has taken to deal with problems in the "security of our posts, threat assessments, host government responsibilities and coordination with other U.S. security agencies."

The committee's press release did not give a date for the hearing with Clinton but said it expected to happen "soon after" the review board's report is released.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Copyright © 2012 Reuters

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

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The Star Online: Entertainment: TV & Radio

200 entries for TV forum this year

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 05:30 PM PST

SINGAPORE: The number of quality Malaysian films and TV programmes ready for global release brought to the 13th Asia Television Forum (ATF) 2012 – one of the world's most successful content markets – has doubled to more than 200.

National Film Development Corporation of Malaysia (Finas) chairman Datuk Md Afendi Hamdan said the increase was a reiteration of the dynamic growth of the Asian content market.

"We are very happy again this year. Last year, we had about 40 companies taking part and this year we have 50," he said after the Creative Malaysia Networking Luncheon here on Thursday.

Md Afendi said that since Finas started taking part in ATF in 2006, the country's participation had grown tremendously, bringing about a significant increase in the number of completed programmes available for sale and distribution.

"The objective of the Malaysian contingent this year is to put innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship at the forefront of the global film and multimedia content supply chain and make this industry a prominent engine of growth and a high contributor to the national GDP," said Md Afendi. — Bernama

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The Star Online: Sports

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Cricket: Sammy the hero as West Indies level series

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 05:16 PM PST

DHAKA: Darren Sammy hit a fighting half-century and then grabbed three early wickets to help the West Indies beat Bangladesh by 75 runs in the fourth one-day international in Dhaka on Friday.

The 28-year-old scored an unbeaten 60 to take the tourists to 211-9, after they were put into bat, and his impressive bowling was central to an attack that saw the home team out for 136 in 34.1 overs at Shere Bangla stadium.

The victory means the five-match series is now level at 2-2, setting up a high-stakes final showdown on Saturday.

Sammy rocked the home team by dismissing Anamul Haque (one) with the fourth delivery of the second over and then had Naeem Islam (nought) caught out on the next ball to leave the home team reeling at 3-2.

Pace partner Kemar Roach (2-29) then struck further blows on the home team by bowling Tamim Iqbal (one) and Nasir Hossain (two) in the third over.

Sammy then piled on the pain, taking the wicket of Mominul Haque (one) in the sixth over to leave the hosts at 13-5.

Mohammad Mahmudullah, who remained unbeaten on 56, added an invaluable 74 runs for the sixth wicket with skipper Mushfiqur Rahim (27) but once the partnership was broken by Sunil Narine all was lost for the home team.

Mahmudullah hit seven boundaries in his fighting 78-ball stay at the crease. Veerasammy Permaul and Dwayne Smith also chipped in with two wickets apiece.

Sammy said he was due for a good knock after a poor series.

"I was due for a performance like this and I am happy that I contributed to my team's success," said Sammy, declared man-of-the-match.

"We now hope to win the last game and end the series on a high." Rahim rued the early loss of wickets.

"Our bowlers did a good job although we dropped too many catches and that is where we lost out, the wicket was not too difficult to chase but we collapsed at the start and could not recover," said Rahim.

Earlier, Bangladeshi spinners Mahmudullah (3-46), Elias Sunny (2-21) and Abdur Razzak (2-47) derailed the West Indian innings in the middle overs after the tourists were cruising along well at 71-1.

Dashing West Indian opener Chris Gayle once again failed, dismissed for 16 after he looked set for a big score when he hit paceman Mashrafe Mortaza for a six and four in the sixth over.

He fell in the same over, caught by Sohag Gazi.

Kieran Powell (26) and Marlon Samuels (27) took the score to 71 when the Bangladeshi spinners struck thrice in as many overs, with Sunny taking wickets of both the batsmen in his successive overs.

Off-spinner Mahmudullah then took over, dismissing Kieron Pollard (two), Devon Thomas (10) and Permaul (one) to derail the West Indies.

In between these three wickets, Sammy and Bravo added an invaluable 43 for the seventh wicket.

Bangladesh won the first two matches by seven wickets and 160 runs respectively - both in Khulna - while the West Indies clinched the third in Dhaka by four wickets. - AFP

Tennis: Murray swears off cursing

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 05:12 PM PST

LONDON: US Open champion Andy Murray is cleaning up his act after promising to stop swearing while on court.

The Scot has been warned about his language during matches in the past, but he believes non-Anglophone players get away with worse outbursts because umpires cannot understand what they are saying.

"Obviously, me saying ... or whatever is bad and wrong, and it's something I want to try to stop doing," Murray said, according to Scottish newspaper the Daily Record.

"But it isn't as bad as some of the stuff the foreign players come out with. I wouldn't want to name any names, but some of what they say is ghastly.

"It's just that all of the umpires speak English."

Murray, who became Great Britain's first male Grand Slam winner in 76 years when he won the US Open earlier this year, says his no-swearing campaign will begin at the Australian Open next month.

The 25-year-old was given an official warning for bad language at the Rome Masters this year and was also warned about his swearing at the 2011 Paris Masters. - AFP

Schumacher wrong to return, says Ecclestone

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 04:54 PM PST

PARIS: Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes Michael Schumacher was wrong to return to the sport, claiming the German had severely damaged his legacy as a seven-time world champion.

The 43-year-old Schumacher quit the sport in 2006 before being tempted into an ill-fated return in 2010 at Mercedes where he spent three seasons being largely outshone by teammate Nico Rosberg.

He brought the curtain down on his second spell at last month's Brazilian Grand Prix where he finished seventh.

"I would rather he had stopped as a seven-time world champion than stopping now," Ecclestone told www.formula1.com.

"People new to the sport - people who have joined the F1 fan fraternity just recently - will remember Michael now, not as he was. They don't see the hero that he was but the human that can fail."

But Ecclestone had some words of comfort for Schumacher, admitting that three-time champion Sebastian Vettel will find it hard to break his record of seven crowns.

"He is not half way there. It will be a question of how good his team will stay - or how bad the others are," said Ecclestone.

"When Michael won his five titles with Ferrari it was because Ferrari did a better job than any other team - that is the same with Red Bull at the moment. Whether they can continue, you don't know. Let's wait and see." - AFP

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Canada approves US$5.5bil Petronas takeover of Progress

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 05:48 PM PST

OTTAWA: Canada on Friday approved two major takeovers of energy firms by the Chinese state-owned giant CNOOC and Malaysia's national oil company Petronas - deals worth an estimated more than US$20 billion in total.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced regulatory approval for CNOOC's $15.1 billion takeover of oil and gas company Nexen, and Petronas' offer for Canadian gas producer Progress Energy Resources, estimated at $5.5 billion.

However, he cautioned that Ottawa would henceforth block attempts by foreign state-owned companies to buy controlling stakes in Canada's lucrative oil sands.

"In light of growing trends and following the decisions made today, the government of Canada has determined that foreign state control of oil sands development has reached the point at which further such foreign state control would not be of net benefit to Canada," Harper told a press conference.

"The larger purposes of state-owned enterprises may go well beyond the commercial objectives of privately owned companies," he said.

"It is not an outcome any responsible government of Canada could ever allow to happen. We certainly will not."

Harper however held open the door for "exceptional circumstances" when the new rule may not be applied.

In a statement, Industry Canada - the government's economic development and corporate affairs department - said Ottawa will progressively increase the review threshold for deals to CAN$1 billion (US$1.01 billion).

The industry minister will continue to review state-owned bids for Canadian companies in non-energy sectors when valued at CAN$330 million or more, it said.

The CNOOC takeover of Nexen comes seven years after political panic about China's thirst for global energy assets scuppered a massive bid to take over California's Unocal.

It is China's largest foreign investment and its largest energy deal, according to data firm Dealogic. And it too stirred strong opposition across Canada.

Calgary-based Nexen produces the equivalent of around 213,000 barrels of oil a day, with concessions in Canada's oil sands, Britain's North Sea, Nigeria, the Gulf of Mexico and Colombia.

China is the biggest energy consumer in the world, the second biggest consumer of oil and has been snapping up resource assets across the globe in order to fuel break-neck growth.

CNOOC already has CAN$2.8 billion invested in Canada, including stakes in MEG Energy Inc. and oil sands producer OPTI Canada Inc.

The company pledged in its proposal to keep Nexen's regional headquarters in Calgary and proposed that Nexen assume management duties for existing CNOOC operations in North America and the Caribbean.

Nexen's assets in Britain, the United States and other countries would continue to be managed from regional offices, and CNOOC would retain the current management, employees and local suppliers in those operations.

As for the Progress Energy deal, an earlier acquisition proposal by Petronas, aimed at securing stable supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from North America, was rejected by the Canadian industry minister.

Last year, Petronas established a joint venture with Progress Energy to develop a portion of the Canadian company's shale assets and an integrated LNG export facility in western Canada.

The Malaysian giant this week sweetened its bid by offering to boost the Canadian terminal's capacity by 60 percent.

There is growing demand for LNG in Asia's energy-hungry economies, especially in Japan, where power firms have had to step up conventional electricity generation with the country's nuclear plants shut down.

Analyst convinced of Kian Joo’s growth prospects

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 05:35 PM PST

PETALING JAYA: Kian Joo Bhd's expansion plans for its corrugated carton business are on track with its new Hanoi plant to commence operations in about six months, according to Public Investment Bank analyst Ching Weng Jin.

Chin wrote in a report to its clients that a further capacity of 7,000 tonnes per month (mtpm) will come on-stream, in addition to the 7,000 mtpm it already has in Vietnam and 3,000 mtpm Malaysia.

"The division, through 55%-owned BoxPak, is expected to be a steady contributor to the group, with estimated forward compounded annual growth rate of about 12%," Chin said.

Public Investment, which met with Kian Joo's senior management recently, said that the management expected to spend another RM75mil over the next two years for ancillary machinery and maintenance capital expenditure.

"The group's healthy operational cash flows should see these amounts adequately covered without having to resort to additional borrowings. No other major moves are on-hand given the recent aluminium-line expansion," the research house said.

The potential full utilisation of its new aluminium lines, meanwhile, will add another RM400mil-RM500mil to revenue numbers and an estimated RM60mil to pre-tax profits on assumption of its historical 15% margins.

Kian Joo's 70% domestic share in a market with only two major players in the aluminium tin business and its eight-colour printing line gives the company a competitive advantage.

Coupled with the spare capacity on hand, a "healthy growth" was expected from this division moving forward, Public Investment stated.

Public Investment has its outperform call on Kian Joo with an unchanged target price of RM3.08 premised on 12 times financial year 2013 earnings per share of 25.7 sen.

The research house has forecast dividend yields to be around 6% and does not expect to see higher dividend payments going forward.

Rolls-Royce faces graft probe

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 05:32 PM PST

LONDON: Aerospace and defence group Rolls-Royce may face prosecution after Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) ordered it to hand over details of possible bribery and corruption in China and elsewhere, according to the company.

The world's second-largest maker of aircraft engines said the SFO had asked it to conduct an internal inquiry into dealings involving intermediaries in China, Indonesia and other overseas markets, which it did not name, and report the results.

"It is too early to predict the outcomes, but these could include the prosecution of individuals and of the company. We will cooperate fully," chief executive John Rishton said.

Shares in Rolls-Royce, which have risen a quarter this year, fell as much as 5.6% in early trade. The stock was down 3% at 886.75p by 1410 GMT, valuing the group at around 16.6 bil.

A source close to the investigation said the allegations related to events in the "distant past" and Rolls-Royce had told the US Department of Justice about the inquiry.

A separate source said a whistle-blower had raised the allegations with the SFO, which then ordered Rolls-Royce to undertake a preliminary investigation earlier this year. The company hired a law firm for the task and passed the results, which had identified matters of concern, to the SFO.

The company, a major British exporter, dates back to 1884 and on its website says it prides itself on its "integrity, reliability and innovation."

"I want to make it crystal clear that neither I nor the board will tolerate improper business conduct of any sort and will take all necessary action to ensure compliance," Rishton said in a statement.

"This is a company with exceptional prospects and I will not accept any behaviour that undermines its future success."

Analysts said past fines within the sector over corruption tended to be relatively small. Any offences committed in the "distant past" would probably not fall under the British Bribery Act, which came into effect only in July 2011.

This tougher law introduced an offence of failure to prevent bribery, and clamps down on "facilitation payments" and disproportionate hospitality to oil the wheels of business.

Companies can be handed unlimited fines if they cannot show they have "adequate procedures" to prevent bribery, while guilty individuals face up to 10 years in prison and unlimited fines.

Rolls-Royce's profits have risen strongly in recent years due to soaring demand for more fuel-efficient engines for planes made by Airbus and Boeing. Luxury Rolls-Royce cars are made by a separate company belonging to BMW AG .

Aerospace and defence companies use intermediaries, which can be individuals or companies, in countries where they do not have a large presence. Intermediaries cover tasks from sales to coordinating maintenance and support contracts.

The SFO declined to give details of the investigation. "It's up to Rolls-Royce to say what they think is right to say. It's not something we would provide information about or comment on," a spokesman said.

Allegations of corruption are not new to the defence and aerospace industry. BAE Systems , Europe's biggest defence company, was fined US$450mil by the United States and Britain in 2010, following long-running corruption investigations at home and abroad into defence deals in Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

"BAE ended up with fines that were not exactly huge, so you would imagine that Rolls could end up with a fine that won't trouble investors much," said Espirito Santo analyst Ed Stacey, noting that the European Union has banned arms sales to China. Reuters

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The Star Online: Nation

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Teenager dies after crashing car into lamp post

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 07:29 AM PST

Published: Friday December 7, 2012 MYT 11:10:00 PM
Updated: Friday December 7, 2012 MYT 11:29:29 PM

PUTRAJAYA: A teenage boy died on the spot after the car he was driving skidded and crashed into a lamp post here Friday.

In the 4.45pm accident, Muhammad Azeem Suhaimie Sulaiman, 17, from Bangi, Selangor suffered serious head injuries when his car broke in half.

According to a police source at the scene, the victim was believed to have been driving alone from the Alamanda shopping centre towards the Putrajaya International Convention Centre during a heavy downpour. - Bernama

Man claims daughter abducted by Facebook friend

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:54 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: A man from Wangsa Maju here claims that his 16-year-old daughter was abducted by a boy she befriended on Facebook last month.

Roslan Ahmad Hadzrawi, 39, claimed his daughter Nur Hidayah, 16, who has been missing since Dec 1, has been abducted by a 19-year-old boy, after they met at a shopping complex in Wangsa Maju.

Roslan also alleged that his daughter, nicknamed Dayah, was also cheated of RM1,200, through numerous withdrawals from her account, to pay for Mat's house rent and motorbike repairs.

"I found out she gave Mat the money, after reading the messages on her Facebook account," he told reporters here Friday.

Roslan said he was confident Dayah did not run away because she had left with only RM100 and left behind her identity card and Automatic Teller Machine card.

He said after attempts to locate his daughter around Kuala Lumpur failed, he lodged a report with the Wangsa Maju police station on Monday.

Meanwhile, Sentul deputy police chief Supt Othman Abu Bakar confirmed receiving the report and said it was classified as a missing persons case. - Bernama

PM Najib reminds those in flood-prone areas to be on alert during monsoon season

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 06:13 AM PST

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has reminded residents in flood prone areas to be particularly cautious during the monsoon season.

He said residents should take precautionary measures, especially where children were involved, to avoid any untoward incidents and move to flood relief centres set up by government agencies if requested to do so.

In his latest entry in the 1Malaysia Blog, Najib said in order to ease potential difficulties, several government agencies were on standby to be mobilised and work with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to assist victims.

In addition, he also advised residents to pay attention to hygiene issues during the flood season in order to prevent the spread of diseases.

"Ensure that your food is not contaminated by floods and thoroughly wash your hands before consuming food," he said.

The Prime Minister also reminded residents to be continuously vigilant of new flood alerts that may arise during this current monsoon season.

"Updates can be easily obtained by visiting the National Security Council website.

"Keep all important phone numbers of family members, neighbours and the closest police and fire stations in case of any emergency."

Every government in the world should always be prepared for possibility of natural disasters by providing a variety of security measures for the population, he wrote.

"Thank god in our country, natural disasters are rare when compared to other countries. Malaysians must be thankful to god for all the blessings.

"However, almost every year this country will experience the monsoon season which usually starts in November and ends in mid-January," said Najib. - Bernama

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

'Zero Dark Thirty' wins best film nod a second time

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 12:16 AM PST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Zero Dark Thirty, filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow's action thriller about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, was named best film of 2012 on Wednesday by the National Board of Review - the second accolade for the movie in one week.

Bigelow was named best director and Jessica Chastain, who plays the starring role of a young CIA officer pursuing bin Laden, was named best actress by the NBR.

Bradley Cooper took home best actor honors for his portrayal of a bipolar, former teacher in the film Silver Linings Playbook.

"Zero Dark Thirty is a masterful film," NBR President Annie Schulhof said in a statement. "Kathryn Bigelow takes the viewer inside a definitive moment of our time in a visceral and unique way. It is exciting, provocative and deeply emotional."

Wednesday's awards for the Hollywood treatment of the decade-long operation to hunt and kill bin Laden, based on first hand accounts, bo osts the prospects for the movie to win an Oscar in February. The film, not yet publicly released, also took the top award from the New York Film Critics Circle on Monday.

Leonardo DiCaprio won best supporting actor from the NBR for his role in Quentin Tarantino's new slavery era drama, Django Unchained, while Ann Dowd took the best supporting actress honors for her role in Compliance, as a fast-food restaurant manager duped by a prank caller scam.

The NBR, a 100 year-old U.S.-based group of movie industry watchers and film professionals, gave its original screenplay award to Rian Johnson for Looper, and adapted screenplay to David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook.


Les Miserables, the first big movie adaptation of the popular stage musical featuring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway was named best ensemble, and the group gave its best animated feature prize to Wreck-It-Ralph.

Each year the board also issues a list of top 10 movies, which this year besides Bigelow's film included Ben Affleck's Iran hostage thriller Argo, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook, and Looper.

Lincoln, Steven Spielberg's biopic of President Abraham Lincoln, the mystical indie film Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Gus van Sant's fracking drama Promised Land, and coming of age film The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, rounded out the list.

Absent from the list were some films that had been touted for honors ahead of awards season, including Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, indie film The Sessions starring Helen Hunt, and Ang Lee's Life Of Pi.

In other categories, NBR gave its best documentary award to Searching For Sugarman, and chose Austrian director Michael Haneke's Amour, as best foreign language film.

Child-actress Quvenzhane Wallis from Beasts Of The Southern Wild, and The Impossible actor Tom Holland each won awards for breakthrough performances.

Benh Zeitlin received the award for best debut director for Beasts Of The Southern Wild, while documentary Central Park Five and drama Promised Land were both honored with the Freedom of Expression award.

The National Board of Review was formed in New York in 1909 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting movies as an art form and entertainment.

Peter Jackson's Hobbit: The journey begins

Posted: 06 Dec 2012 11:02 PM PST

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Film maker Peter Jackson wants to scare children with his latest movie - and perhaps even a few grown ups.

The first of the Hobbit movie trilogy - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - is about to hit theatres, and Jackson says he's tried to hold true to its roots as a children's fantasy story, with scary bits.

"If they're scared of the trolls great, if they're scared of the goblins great, they know there are no goblins, they know there are no trolls, it's a safe kind of danger," he says.

The film, produced by MGM and Time Warner Inc, is the fourth in the Oscar-winning Jackson's blockbuster Lord Of The Rings film franchise, based on the books of author J.R.R. Tolkien.

It follows the journey of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, reluctantly pushed into travelling with 13 dwarves to steal treasure from a dragon and regain their homeland. During his travels, he comes by the ring that he later passes onto kinsman Frodo Baggins, which was at the core of the Rings trilogy.

Jackson says he's worked to keep distance between the Hobbit, published in 1937, and the much darker Lord Of The Rings, which came out nearly 20 years later.

"The Lord Of The Rings has an apocalyptic sort of heavy themic end-of-the world quality to it, which the Hobbit doesn't, which is one of the delights of it," he said.


The pointy eared, hairy footed hobbit Bilbo is played by British actor Martin Freeman, who says he's tried to make Bilbo his own creation, a character audiences can root for despite his initial pomposity and small mindedness.

"You have to be able to follow him for the duration of the film, but I wanted him to be open and changeable and ready to be surprised," Freeman said.

A key scene is an encounter in a cave between Bilbo and the creature Gollum, reprised in full computer generated splendour by Andy Serkis with the distinctive throaty whisper.

"It was a very rich experience," he said, adding that playing Gollum again was "an absolute thrill".

Such is the affection for the creature, who calls the magic ring "Precious", that a 13 metre sculpture of Gollum hangs in the airport terminal at Wellington, which regards itself as the spiritual home of the Tolkien films and terms itself the "Middle of Middle Earth".

Returning actors from the Rings trilogy, many of whom have only passing mention in the book, were no less enthusiastic. Ian McKellen returns for a leading role as the wispy-haired, grey bearded wizard, Gandalf, while Cate Blanchett is the elven queen Galadriel and Elijah Wood appears as Frodo Baggins.

"You couldn't not come back, you had to come back," says Hugo Weaving, the leader of the elves, Elrond.


The Hobbit film journey has not been without its setbacks.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, owners of the film rights to the Tolkien books, had financial woes, prompting original director Guillermo del Toro to pull out and Jackson, already script writer and executive producer, to step in.

A major labour dispute prompted threats to move production out of New Zealand, and was solved by changing labour laws, while Jackson suffered a perforated ulcer and underwent surgery, delaying the film still further.

Though only two films were planned originally, Jackson has tapped Tolkien's appendices to the Rings to make it into three.

Audiences are also getting more visual bangs for their buck, with the movies filmed in 3D and at 48 frames per second (fps), double the industry standard.

This delivers clearer pictures, but opinion is divided, with some critics calling it cartoon-like and jarring.

Jackson says he wants to drag the iPad generation back into theatres and the romance, excitement and mystery they offer.

"It's more realistic, it's more immersive. I almost feel a responsibility as a film maker to try to do my part at encouraging people to come to the movies, to watch the film in a cinema," he said.

The second film The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug will be released in December next year, with the third The Hobbit: There And Back Again is due in mid-July 2014.

For a chance to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey before it opens in cinemas here on 13 December, click here.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Epic sagas

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 01:10 AM PST

FROM space sagas to fairytale twists, supervillain heists to alien abductions, this month's selection of new graphic novels for mature readers has something for everyone.

Saga, Vol. 1
Publisher: Image
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples

COLLECTING the first six issues of this epic series by the writer of Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina, with gorgeous artwork by Staples, Saga is the, er ... saga of a child who is born to parents from two opposite sides of a neverending galactic war.

With a fascinating mix of science fiction and fantasy influenced by a healthy dose of Star Wars-like space opera, this is one of the year's most engaging and entertaining reads.

Fairest, Vol. 1: Wide Awake
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artist: Phil Jimenez

A SPIN-OFF from Willingham's long-running Fables series, Fairest turns the focus on Fables' female characters, with Willingham himself taking on the first story arc involving Briar Rose a.k.a. the Sleeping Beauty and the Snow Queen. The series is meant to be a complement to the main Fables series, and serves to further expand the already richly detailed world.

Saucer Country, Vol.1: Run
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Paul Cornell
Artist: Ryan Kelly

MEET Arcadia Alvarado, Governor of New Mexico and Presidential candidate, who has to deal with immigration problems, budget cuts, and an alcoholic ex-husband. On top of it all, she's convinced she was abducted by aliens!

One of the year's most intriguing new series, Saucer Country explores the myth surrounding UFO abductions and other extraterrestrial activities.

Wide Awake collects issues #1-#6 of the series, as well as an extra story from Strange Adventures #1.

The Unwritten, Vol. 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Mike Carey
Artist: Peter Gross and various others

THINGS finally come to a head as Tom Taylor goes to war against the cabal that has tormented, imprisoned and tried to destroy him. Collecting issues #31-#35.5 of the ongoing series, this trade paperback also includes the ".5" issues that were released in between the regular comics, detailing the history of the Unwritten cabal.

Supercrooks, Book 1: The Heist
Publisher: Icon Comics / Millarworld
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Leinil Yu

JOHNNY Bolt is a veteran supervillain who has just been released after doing a stint in prison for using his superpowers in a robbery. Fed up with the tough competition amongst villains in America, he and a few pals head over to Spain, where they plan one of the most audacious heists of all time – robbing the world's most notorious super-villain, The B*stard!

This brand-new series from the creator of Kick-Ass has been described as "X-Men Meets Ocean's Eleven" (comicbookresources.com) and is a worthy addition to Millar's line of hard-hitting, no-holds-barred Millarworld books.

Annotated Sandman, Vol. 2
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Neil Gaiman, Leslie S Klinger (annotations)
Artist: Dave McKean (cover) and various others

THIS special edition collects issues #21-#39 of Gaiman's iconic series (spanning the Season of Mists and A Game Of You storylines), with annotations by Leslie Klinger (whose previous work includes The Annotated Sherlock Holmes and The Annotated Dracula) that detail the historical and literary references in the series.

Scalped, Vol. 10: Trails End
Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: R.M. Guéra, Davide Furno

IF you've been following this gritty, hard-hitting series about life on a Native American reservation, you definitely won't want to miss the explosive conclusion which sees Dashiell Bad Horse tying up loose ends in a fiery stand-off climax with Lincoln Red Crow, Agent Nitz and Catcher. A satisfying end to a brilliant series. Collects Scalped #56-#60.

Kick-Ass 2
Publisher: Icon Comics / Millarworld
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: John Romita Jr

AFTER the events of the last book, Kick-Ass' success in bringing down the Mafia sparks a superhero craze – overnight, everyone wants to be a superhero as well! So, Kick-Ass takes the next logical step – he joins a superhero team! Unfortunately, his nemesis Red Mist also forms his own team of supervillains, and Kick-Ass is forced to cajole the 11-year-old, foul-mouthed, ass-kicking Hit Girl out of retirement to help whip his ass into shape.

All the titles featured here are available at Kinokuniya, Suria KLCC.

Now read this!

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 01:10 AM PST

Marvel goes for broke with a significant shift in its universe and a series of new titles.

NOW ... this is what I call Marvel! Having played second fiddle to DC Comics for a whole year, the House of Ideas is back with a vengeance. While their "Distinguished Competition" utilised the Flashpoint alternate-reality event to spin off a roster of 52 new titles, Marvel is going for broke with Marvel Now!

Its chief creative officer Joe Quesada insists Now! is not a reboot, but a "shifting" of the Marvel Universe following the events of the recently concluded Avengers Vs X-Men (AVX) mega-event. The changes will go beyond merely cosmetic (i.e. new costumes) and will also include shifts in the status quo, revised alter-egos, new creative teams and so on.

Last month's Uncanny Avengers was just the tip of the iceberg, as the subsequent offerings pave the way towards a brighter future for the Marvel Universe. Besides the titles featured here, there are also new #1s for other characters such as Iron Man and Deadpool.

All New X-Men #1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Stuart Immonen

JEAN Grey returns (for the umpteenth time!) together with the original X-Men! No, it's neither a hoax nor a "What if…?" story, and there is definitely no cloning involved. Falling back on the old time-travel option, Beast deduces that the only way to undo the damaged caused by Cyclops during AVX is to get the latter's younger self to correct his future self.

While confusing initially, the sight of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's pioneering Children of the Atom team dispelled whatever concerns I had about this blast-from-the-past escapade.

Being a huge fan of the original X-Men (thanks to the Cyclops and Jean romance, as well as the cool dark blue duds), I am all for this X-citing "old meets new" event. The inevitable showdown between the younger Cyclops and today's "Leader of Mutants" Cyclops should hog the limelight for a good dozen issues, but what's equally intriguing is how Jean adapts to her new surroundings, particularly when coming to terms with eventualities in her "future" such as her role as Dark Phoenix, her "relationship" with Wolverine, and also Cyclops' current squeeze, Emma Frost!

Fantastic Four #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Mark Bagley

WHEN Reed Richards mutters "Uh-oh", you know the outcome has to be something cataclysmic or fatal. After all, it is pretty unusual for one of comics' brainiest personas to be so dumbstruck. The premise for this relaunch has Reed discovering that the cosmic powers which gave him his stretching abilities are also gradually killing him and the rest of the Fantastic Four.

With no known cure existing in this universe, Reed has only one option left – look for it in the Unknown Universes. This prompts a year-long space journey (although factoring in time travel, Mr Fantastic estimates the trip will only take four "real time" minutes, which ties in to the developments in spin-off title FF #1).

I have high hopes for this title, thanks to Fraction's past track record in revolutionizing Iron Man. Further enhancing the issue is the presence of Bagley, who is known for delivering gradually improving long runs – case in point, his

Ultimate Spider-Man stint. FF #1
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Mike Allred

FF stands for the Future Foundation – where Reed Richards hopes to nurture the next generation of creative minds to ensure a better tomorrow.

The Fantastic Four have to leave Earth on a trip that will take all of four minutes, and not willing to leave Earth unprotected even for that short period of time, each of them chooses a replacement to take their place at the FF for that period.

Reed opts for an unorthodox replacement in Scott Lang a.k.a. Ant Man, whose credentials as an engineer, nanotech specialist and part-time superhero makes him a suitable choice.

However, his character is blemished by the fact that he is an ex-convict and currently, a grieving father (his daughter was killed by Dr Doom).

The latter development is what got me hooked on this title – imagine the potential of Scott utilizing a dozen creative young minds to avenge his daughter's death! Hopefully, Fraction shares the same wavelength as I do.

The other members of this quartet are Medusa (Sue's choice), She-Hulk (The Thing's choice), and new character "Miss Thing" (a regular human and ex-model chosen by Johnny Storm, because she just happened to be the girl he was bedding at the time). On paper, this may appear to be the most distasteful FF team since Herbie the Robot was inducted, but I do sense that there will be some surprises in store!

Captain America #1
Writer: Rick Remender
Artists: John Romita Jr and Klaus Janson

THIS is the sixth Cap title relaunch I have gone through, and I would have given it a miss if not for Romita Jr's presence. While most reboots have centred on the Red Skull, this time we get the debut of the Green Skull instead.

This first issue also headlines perennial Cap villain Arnim Zola, who abducts the hero to Dimension Z to fulfil his plan of cloning a son.

If you use Ed Brubaker's run as a benchmark, then this premiere issue is definitely not of the same calibre. But there is one positive note – namely, a breakthrough in the Steve Rogers-Sharon Carter romance. The ball is now in Steve's court, and it'll be interesting to see how extreme a status change Remender gives to the couple.

Janson's inks also help to provide better finishing to Romita Jr's art, especially when compared to the latter's work on AVX.

X-Men Legacy #1
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Tan Eng Huat

IT is great to see fellow Malaysian Tan Eng Huat add another mainstream feather to his cap, on a title that features the homecoming of Legion (a.k.a. David Haller, or Charles Xavier Jr.). After decades of being stereotyped as the misguided one (he did ignite the Age of Apocalypse after all), Legion is now undergoing psychic rehabilitation and preparing to fight his father's cause... that is, before finding out about Xavier's death (AVX #11).

Besides having to come to terms with the devastating news, Legion also has to deal with the multiple personalities entrapped in his psyche.

Unfortunately, Legion is not exactly a character who grows on you, and I found this a confusing read because of the constant switching between reality and Legion's psyche.

Thor, God of Thunder #1
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic

THREE Thors for the price of one! The present-day Thor joins forces with a younger Mjolnir-less version and an elderly Odin-like version to fight a common enemy – the God Butcher!

Aaron serves up a thought-provoking tale that bridges myth and superheroics, as Thor grapples with the differences between being worshipped as a superhero and as a god.

The premise is built on the notion that even immortals can die. Thor comes across a series of "god killings" during his past and present adventures, and discovers that the killer is none other than a demigod who is hell-bent on killing other immortals across the nine realms. I bought this for Esad Ribic's art and he is truly in his element in bringing the thunder!

Indestructible Hulk #1
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Leinil Yu

THE transition from "Incredible" to "Indestructible" starts here, and the first status change involves the Green Goliath becoming an agent of SHIELD! Fed up with being stereotyped as a force of destruction, Bruce Banner decides to utilize his brains and brawn for a greater cause.

To do this, however, he needs direction and resources that only SHIELD can provide. Hence, Banner approaches the agency's director Maria Hill for a job, and his "audition" sees him going up against the Mad Thinker.

As with his work on Daredevil, Waid focuses on Hulk and Banner's strong points while piggybacking on tried-and-tested plots. Leinil's work here is simply stunning, further cementing his status as one of Marvel's must watch artists.

Comics courtesy of Earth638 (2nd Floor, Kelana Mall, Jalan SS 6/12, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Tel: 03-7804 8380. Email: earth638@yahoo.com)

The perils of teen life

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 01:10 AM PST

The Essay
Author: Robin Yocum
Publisher: Arcade Publishing, 256 pages

JIMMY Lee Hickam is growing up dirt poor with a surname that has been synonymous with trouble for generations.

When he proves to be a football star, people nod and say he's lucky, it might take him somewhere. But when he writes a prize-winning English essay, accusations of cheating come thick and fast from irate parents of the "good" kids and even the school administration. Only his English teacher believes in him and, despite what others say, she strives to take his writing talent as far as it can go.

Jimmy Lee's story, as he challenges undeserved stigmatisation in his effort to rise above his circumstances, is one that underlines the importance of persevering in the face of life's obstacles.

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, Book 7: The Third Wheel
Author: Jeff Kinney
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, 224 pages

OH no! It's that rite of passage that every boy has to undergo at some point in his life: the school dance. What's worse, this is a Valentine's Day dance so going without a date would be a disaster, of course.

And so our favourite Wimpy Kid scrambles to find someone of the fairer sex willing to accompany him. Greg's only consolation is that best pal Rowley is having just as difficult a time getting a date.

Fallen In Love
Author: Lauren Kate
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 256 pages

LAUREN Kate expands the universe of her bestselling Fallen series with a collection of four stories featuring characters that have appeared in the lives of eternal lovers Luce and the fallen angel Daniel, the focus of the series.

Set in the Middle Ages, these stories tell of Miles and Shelby who find love where they least expect it, of Roland whose heart is broken, of Arianne who has to choose between love and doing the right thing, and a different take on Luce and Daniel's romance with Luce becoming Lucinda just to spend a night with her love.

The Worst Thing About My Sister
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Publisher: Doubleday UK, 304 pages

WHAT happens when you put chalk and cheese together? Nothing very good, that's for sure!

Girly Melissa and tomboy Marty are worlds apart but they've managed to live together so far without committing murder. Then mum tells them that they have to share a room.

Melissa's Justin Bieber obsession and love of all things pink are going to drive Marty crazy; and Marty's football boots and DIY bits from her projects with dad are sure to grate on Melissa's delicate sensibilities ... And then something really bad happens and the sisters discover the unexpected consequences of living too close for comfort.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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Thrilling top of the table clash gets the Tiger FC treatment

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 04:47 AM PST

ON SUNDAY, the top two sides of the Premier League last season, perennial Premiership title-contenders Manches-ter United and their newly-minted eternal rivals, Manchester City, go head-to-head in a no-holds-barred face-off to determine just who goes top of the table and gets bragging rights (at least until the return leg!).

Looking for a way to raise your match-viewing experience for this epic match-up? Well then, look no further than the latest Tiger FC Big Away Game at Laundry Bar @ The Curve!

For those not already in the know, the Tiger FC Big Away Game has always been a much anticipated and cherished highlight for football fans in Malaysia. With not only Tiger FC emcees Adam C and Jay Menon, Tiger FC's very own brand ambassador girls and buckets of ice-cold Tiger Beer for that unique football-viewing atmosphere and non-stop entertainment, this keenly-contested match will also feature a super viewing experience with four elevated giant cube screens, giving fans a 360° view of the non-stop action.

Fans thirsty for the action will also be able to quench their thirst through the night with exclusive Tiger beer promotions all night long, whilst also standing the chance to be one 50 fans to receive a personalised Tiger FC-Puma jersey.

Adam C, part-time Tiger FC Away Game host and full-time footie fanatic, said, "As any true blue football fan knows, the Tiger FC Big Away Game is the place to be to catch a big football match simply because of the sheer scale and footie-centric activities that take the viewing experience to the next level.

"I'm actually predicting a very closely contested match with possible cards for overzealous tackling simply because both teams are so evenly matched at this point."

Co-host and partner-in-crime Jay Menon added, "I have always enjoyed the energy and excitement that comes with Tiger FC Big Away Games, so if you consider yourself a proper footie fan, then be sure to come on down and catch the match with us 'Tiger FC' style for a truly unforgettable time.

"Whichever team you support, the Tiger FC Big Away Game is something real footie fans cannot afford to miss!"

More than 1,000 people are expected to come cheer on the red and sky blue halves of Manchester at this Tiger FC Away Game at Laundry Bar so in conjunction with Tiger FC's partnership with The Star, the first 50 readers to bring the cut-out coupon on this page will be able to redeem a specially reserved table for four together with a complimentary bucket of Tiger Beer.

Tiger FC will continue to bring fans closer to the action, with viewing parties, games and other activities for fans of all the Premier League clubs all awaiting fans in conjunction with this season's EPL matches.

Be sure to catch the action as Tiger FC rolls out this highly-anticipated football viewing parties and activities of the season. Visit www.tigerbeer.com.my or the Tiger Beer Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tigerbeer for more information.

The Tiger FC Big Away Game centred around the Manchester Derby will continue Tiger FC's year-long smorgasbord of activities catering for true-blue (or red) football fans across the country.

Be a part of the action with the ultimate viewing experience with the giant elevated cube screens for an enhanced super stadium experience. Exclusive Tiger beer promotions, personalised Tiger FC-Puma jerseys and interactive games with great prizes all waiting for football fans at this perfect viewing ground for the die-hard footie fans.

Catch the Tiger FC Big Away Game (Manchester City vs. Manchester United) on Sunday, from 6pm onwards at Laundry Bar @ The Curve.

Robbers eye jewellery worn by devotees and those kept in temples

Posted: 07 Dec 2012 04:44 AM PST

WE are living in a time where criminals prey on people at houses of worship. As such, temples and churches have to seek new preventive measures to curb any untoward incidences, such as installing CCTV surveillance systems and a card-access only entrance.

For example, at the Hindu temples, the robbers' modus operandi would be to stalk devotees, especially women who are adorned with gold and jewellery, who attend weddings at the temple.

The perpetrators are known to capture photographs of the devotees and later follow them back to their houses and rob them of their valuables.

After an extensive CCTV surveillance system was installed at the Sri Sundaraja Perumal Devasthanam temple in Klang six years ago, robberies had decreased tremendously, according to temple president S. Anandakrishnan.

"We have a notice outside the temple that says 'This temple is under surveillance' which seems to deter the robbers.

"Before we installed the cameras, we have had cases where some people will saunter in and pretend to be guests at a wedding ceremony and then capture photographs of the temple-goers wearing a lot of jewellery. They will then follow the people home to rob them," said Anandakrishnan.

One piece of advice he had for his temple devotees was not to adorn themselves with heavy jewellery.

"Wearing too much jewellery will only attract the robbers," he added.

Anandakrishnan also said he had started hiring his own Rela team to keep guard around the temple premises, especially when weddings are held during early hours of the morning. He felt it was a good way to deter thieves.

What the robbers go after in the temple are the Panchalogam plates made out of five types of metal including gold, which are stowed beneath the deities.

They mostly make the hit during wee hours of the morning between 2am and 4am.

A special prayer is held every 12 years at the temples called the Kumbabishekam (consecration) to rejuvenate the powers of the idols through mantras. This is also carried out at new temples.

Devotees would donate their jewellery and it would be stored with the plates underneath the idols.

"The robbers seem to think the plates are pure gold when in fact they are gold-plated. If they sell it the maximum value would be between RM300 and RM400," said Anandakrishnan.

A pure gold Sahassaranama Malai (garland), which has 1,800 namas inscribed in Sanskrit, adorns the main deity during big celebrations at the Sri Sundaraja Perumal Devasthanam temple. This garland alone weighs 3.5kg and is kept in a secret chamber.

"We only bring the garland out on special religious occasions," he added.

Lately, there seems to be a no-holds-barred attitude towards robberies. Within the past couple of years, food establishments have been the targets for armed robberies.

Even with the advent of CCTVs and panic alarms, the culprits bravely saunter in, bring out their parang and threaten people to part with their valuables.

Places of worship, on the other hand, should be a venue where people should feel safe. It is unthinkable how these robbers are now targeting temples and churches.

This has prompted a church in Petaling Jaya to install a card-access security system outside its prayer room. There were a few robberies that took place within the church grounds that involved the church-goers where some of them were robbed at knife-point.

Another church in Petaling Jaya has outsourced a security company to provide surveillance within its vicinity.

Bernitus De Souza, who heads the security company, said they started their services three years ago in providing surveillance services.

He said from 7pm to 11pm, he has two guards patrolling the church vicinity and the surrounding area.

"After implementing our services, the incidences of robberies at the church have dropped drastically. I also advise the congregation at the church to be alert and careful.

"I tell them to avoid loitering in the church because there are people watching them and when walking outside, they (especially the women) should walk against the traffic and be extra careful with their handbags," he said.

Upon receiving a job to provide their security surveillance services, De Souza said he would observe and plan his strategy on how to provide the best security measure.

"People tend to be complacent. They leave the responsibility solely to the police," he added.

When Saras (not her real name), 36, attended her niece's wedding at a temple in Kuala Lumpur three months ago, she never thought that she would be a victim of a robbery that day.

While offering her prayers, she had set her handbag down on the floor for about two minutes and later realised it was gone.

"There were a lot of people at the temple that morning and there were no CCTV cameras. I am more careful now and avoid bringing to many valuable with me when I go to the temple," she said.

On the PJ Community Alert Facebook page, a woman described how a friend was robbed while praying in a temple in Brickfields last month.

"The snatch thief on a motorcycle single-handedly snatched his gold chain and left him with a torn T-shirt, sprained wrist and bruised hands and legs."

In May this year, thieves destroyed idols at the Sri Muthumariamman temple along Jalan Nong Chik in Klang and stole jewellery worth more than RM15,000 in an early morning robbery.

According to Malaysia Hindu Sangam president R.S. Mohan Shan, each Panchalogam plate is priced RM1,000 and above.

"The thieves are only after the valuable plates. In most of the cases, the thieves don't even steal the undial (donation box).

"We were informed that the plates are smuggled out of Malaysia to Thailand as it fetches a higher price there," he said.

There are 2,236 Hindu temples in Malaysia and 1,890 of that are registered with Malaysia Hindu Sangam.

Mohan said between 30 and 40 temples all over the country have been robbed within the past year. His advice for devotees getting married, for instance, is make sure to hire extra help to secure the temple area.

"One way is for them to get more people to volunteer as guards during the wedding ceremony.

"Hindu temples don't usually have proper fencing or guarded area, so the robbers see this as the perfect opportunity to make their hit.

"Another option is to hire RELA members to stand guard especially if the ceremony is being held very early in the morning," he said.

Mohan revealed that in many of the temple robberies, the culprits will perform a ritual by cutting limes and placing them in the four corners of the temple before removing the idols to steal the plates.

"I think they somehow believe that doing the rituals, they are able to charm or control the powers of the idols," he said.

In December 2010, 25 devotees, who were mostly women, were relieved of their cash and jewellery, including their thali, at a Hindu temple in Jalan Klang Lama while performing prayers by two parang-wielding men.

It was reported that the incident took place at 6.30am.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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