Isnin, 16 Disember 2013

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Riot forces authorities to review game plan


A RIOT by South Asian labourers has forced Singapore to take a fresh look at how it deals with the presence of nearly a million low-paid foreign workers in the wealthy city-state.

An estimated 400 workers went on the rampage on Dec 8 in a district known as Little India, injuring 39 people, including police officers, and destroying 25 vehicles.

The riot – the first in more than 40 years in the country – erupted after an Indian man was killed by a bus in an area where tens of thousands of workers converge at weekends.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has ordered an investigation into the cause of the violence as well as a review of measures to manage areas where foreign workers congregate.

Police have questioned nearly 4,000 workers and filed charges against at least 33 Indian nationals over the riot.

"We need the foreign workers," Lee said on Thursday, referring to criticism from some Singaporeans who see them as a problem.

"If we didn't have them, we would not be able to achieve our housing plans, or our public transport plans, and Singaporeans would be severely affected."

Singapore has a total population of 5.4 million, but only 3.84 million are citizens and permanent residents.

Out of the foreign population of 1.55 million, about 700,000 are work-permit holders employed in construction and other sectors shunned by Singaporeans, with more than 200,000 others working as domestic helpers.

Latest available official data showed that resident foreigners and foreign companies contributed a total of 44% to Singapore's gross domestic product (GDP) of S$334.1bil (RM868.6bil) in 2011. Its GDP stood at S$345.6bil (RM898.5bil) in 2012.

Eugene Tan, an associate law professor at the Singapore Mana­gement University, said it was "now a bigger challenge to maintain the large foreign workforce".

Tan, a social commentator who is also an appointed member of parliament, said: "There will be public expectation to reduce further the number of foreign workers."

The long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) has already faced intense public pressure over a foreign worker influx in recent years.

In the May 2011 general election, the PAP suffered its worst-ever performance after the large foreign presence became a hot issue.

Authorities have since been phasing in various measures to cap foreign worker inflows.

"Quite certainly, the next general election will see immigration being a major election issue," Tan said. — AFP

China keeps an eye on Abe as Japan PM seeks to rally support


BEIJING: The Chinese media kept a close eye on Tokyo as leaders from Asean countries gathered in Japan for the Japan-Asean Summit.

The three-day summit, which marks 40 years of ties between Japan and Asean, was seen as an opportunity for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to rally support against China.

In the latest episode of China-Japan feud, China has declared a new air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, which overlapped the territory claimed by South Korea and Japan.

As expected, Abe brought up the restriction on freedom of flight during the summit in an indirect reference to China's air defence zone.

A Japanese official reportedly quoted him as telling the Asean leaders that "moves to unilaterally change the status quo, moves to put restrictions on the international aviation order, which is built on freedom of flight, are strong concerns".

Under the aircraft identification rules which came into effect on Nov 23, all foreign aircraft intending to enter the zone have to report their flight plans to the Chinese authority and adhere to relevant instructions once they enter the zone.

The Chinese officials reserve the rights to adopt defensive emergency measures when aircraft fail to abide by the identification rules or obey the instructions.

State news agency Xinhua said Japan's inclusion of air zone safety as a key security issue in the summit was a move to "plant a poisonous thorn".

In a commentary, it said Abe's frequent visits to nations in the Asean regional bloc in the past one year aimed at roping in the countries to rein in China.

It criticised Japan of using the East China Sea and South China Sea territorial issues to cause chaos and discord within Asean and to undermine the relationship between Asean and its partners.

Global Times was in the opinion that Japan would not succeed in its bid to get Asean to confront China.

"No matter how Tokyo creates waves, it will not gain a strategic advantage over China in South-East Asia.

"No countries will confront China for the sake of a declining Japan. Even the US, Japan's patron, has to maintain relations with China while keeping its support to Japan," it wrote.

During the summit, Japan has promised ¥2 trillion (RM62.7bil) of loans and grants to the region over five years. The pledge was interpreted as an attempt to increase its influence.

Tang Chunfeng, an expert on Japanese issues in the Research Institute of the Chinese Commerce Ministry, told the Chinese version of Global Times that Asean countries viewed Japan as the "God of Prosperity" who is willing to give them money.

"They are reluctant to offend Japan, but at the same time, they will not let China bear a grudge against them. They are only using Japan."

Tsinghua University's Institute of Modern International Relations deputy director Liu Yongjiang added that Asean would not take sides in this issue.

"Most Asean countries want the region to develop in a stable and peaceful environment, but Japan is constantly causing trouble.

"It will worry the Asean countries and even lead to dissatisfaction," he said.

Commenting on Abe's remarks to gather support from the Asean countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said China is aware of the relevant reports.

"We believe that countries should not target a third party or undermine the interests of the third party when developing ties with each other.

"They should instead make efforts to maintain regional peace and stability," he said in a press conference on Friday, the transcript of which was available on the ministry's website.

Chinese tourists in Nepal died of gas poisoning


KATHMANDU, Dec 16, 2013 (AFP) - Two Chinese tourists found dead in their hotel room in Nepal last week died of gas poisoning caused by a malfunctioning heater, a forensic expert said Monday.

The men, aged 62 and 55, were found dead on Friday in their hotel room in the popular tourist destination of Nagarkot, 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Kathmandu.

Harihar Osti, a forensic expert who conducted autopsies on the pair, told AFP "our findings show that the two Chinese men died of carbon monoxide poisoning".

"The gas which emanated from the heater in the hotel room poisoned the two," said Osti from the state-run Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital.

Most gas heaters produce little carbon monoxide, but a malfunctioning burner can generate toxic amounts of the gas, which can spread quickly in unventilated spaces and kill people within minutes, experts say.

"Once it makes one drowsy. The victim, instead of running away, stays there and dies shortly after," Osti said.

A local police official close to the case told AFP the hotel rooms were poorly ventilated, which could have contributed to the deaths.

Officials say the two men, part of a larger tour group, went to bed late on Thursday after an afternoon of sightseeing.

Police broke into their room after the pair failed to appear for breakfast.

More than 500,000 tourists visit Nepal every year and tourism is one of the major contributors to the economy of the impoverished Himalayan nation.


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