Khamis, 14 November 2013

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Indian temple to glitter with 300 kilos of Thai gold


PATNA, India, Nov 14, 2013 (AFP) - India's Mahabodhi temple, one of the world's holiest Buddhist shrines, is to have its dome inlaid with 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of gold donated by Thailand's king and other devotees, officials said Thursday.

The precious metal arrived late Monday on a special flight from Bangkok and is under armed guard at the temple in Bodh Gaya, a holy town about 100 kilometres (64 miles) from Patna, the capital of Bihar state.

"A 40-member team including experts and two dozen commandos from Thailand have arrived at Bodh Gaya with gold in 13 boxes," Arvind Kumar Singh, a member of the temple management committee, told AFP.

The gold would be worth around $14.5 million at the current international price.

The work at the complex, which was rocked by a series of crude bombs in July, was likely to be finished in about a month.

The Mahabodhi temple, built about 1,500 years ago, is a UNESCO world heritage site and marks the place where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment in 531 BC.

Along with temples, dozens of monasteries housing monks from around the world are located near the complex which has a celebrated 80-feet-tall (24-metre) statue of the Buddha.

After his meditations beneath a holy tree, the Buddha is said to have devoted the rest of his life to teaching.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama makes frequent trips to the complex, which attracts visitors during the peak tourist season from October to March.

N. Dorjee, secretary of the temple committee, said about 100 kg of gold had been donated by the Thai king and the rest by Buddhist devotees.

The decision to offer gold for the dome was taken last year by Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej after which permission was sought from the local authorities, Dorjee said.

"The first phase of the work involved chemical treatment which was completed in August. It prepared the foundation for gold plating," he told AFP.

"Stairs have been now installed around the temple's dome to enable experts to reach the top of the structure and inlay it with thin gold sheets."

In July nine small bombs exploded at the temple complex, wounding two monks.

The blasts were allegedly carried out by the Indian Mujahideen, a home-grown extremist group, in retaliation for violence against Muslims by Buddhists in neighbouring Myanmar.

Gaya district magistrate Bala Murugan D. said extra security had been provided at the temple complex to ensure the smooth progress of the gold-inlaying work.

"We have deployed additional security. The work is also being videographed as after all it involves a costly metal," he said.

First undersea road set to open Dec 29


THE Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) – Singapore's first undersea road, costliest expressway and one with the widest tunnels – will open on Dec 29, four years after the S$4.3bil (RM11bil) project started.

The 5km expressway, at S$860mil (RM2.2bil) per kilometre, has a 420m section that goes under the sea-bed just south of the Marina Barrage.

Linking the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway to the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE), it will allow swift east-west travel. Drivers currently using the East Coast Parkway (ECP) to join up with the AYE can switch to the MCE from Dec 29.

The ECP will be downgraded to an arterial road that serves the Marina downtown. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Former Australia PM Rudd quits politics


SYDNEY, Nov 13, 2013 (AFP) - Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd (pic) announced an end to his chequered political career Wednesday, quitting politics two months after being ousted from office by Tony Abbott.

The charismatic 55-year-old Labor stalwart, who led Australia twice and was foreign minister in Julia Gillard's government, said he would leave parliament at the end of the week.

"This has been the product of much soul-searching for us as a family over the last few months," he told parliament in an emotional evening speech in which he had to pause several times to compose himself.

"The decision that I have made has not been taken lightly.

"But for me, my family is everything, always has been, always will be, which is why I will not be continuing as a member of this parliament beyond this week."

Since being soundly defeated by Abbott in September 7 elections, senior figures within Labor have urged him to quit, saying he would be a destabilising influence after three years of bitter infighting within the party.

The Mandarin-speaking Rudd stood down as Labor leader after his election loss but remained the local member for his Queensland electorate of Griffith.

He was elected prime minister in the 2007 general election in a landslide defeat of John Howard, but within his first term he was dumped by colleagues fed up with his style of management and demoted to foreign minister.

There were claims of egotism - even megalomania - behind the scenes and a series of policy mis-steps gave party members the pretext to depose him in shock coup that delivered Gillard to office.

His sudden downfall mystified the Australian public who had elected him, and this, coupled with the growing unpopularity of Gillard, prompted Labor to return to Rudd's leadership in June to try and salvage the party vote in 2013 polls.

In announcing his retirement from political life, Rudd thanked the people of Australia for electing him as their prime minister.

"To have served as prime minister of Australia has been a great honour afforded to very few in our country's history," he said.

His arch foe Abbott said Rudd had been one of the biggest figures in Australia politics in recent decades and wished him well.

"As a political opponent, but as someone who has known the member for Griffith quite well for a long time, I salute him and I wish him and his family all the best for the future," he said.

In his future life, Rudd said he planned to support causes for homelessness and organ donation and establish a "national apology foundation" to aid indigenous Australians.

He also intends to remain active in the international community "where I can make a genuine contribution to peace and stability, global economic governance and sustainable development, including climate change". - AFP


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