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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Japanese Emperor Akihito turns 80

Posted: 22 Dec 2013 10:42 PM PST

TOKYO (AFP) - Thousands of people thronged Japan's Imperial Palace Monday to celebrate Emperor Akihito's 80th birthday, as he lauded his wife for standing by him in his "lonely" pursuit of leading the world's oldest monarchy.

Empress Michiko, a wealthy flour magnate's daughter, was the first commoner in modern times to marry into Japan's imperial family.

Following their fairy-tale wedding in 1959, Michiko, now 79, also became the first empress to raise her children herself, famously making them "bento" lunch boxes to take to school.

"Being an emperor can be a lonely state," Akihito said in an interview released by the Imperial Household Agency on Monday.

"But... it has given me comfort and joy to have by my side the empress, who has always respected my position and stood by me.

"And I feel most fortunate that I have been able to endeavour to carry out my role as emperor with the empress by my side," said the ageing monarch, who inherited the Chrysanthemum Throne in 1989 upon his father Emperor Hirohito's death.

The soft-spoken monarch greeted well-wishers from a glass-covered balcony at the Imperial Palace overlooking the East Garden, flanked by Empress Michiko and other members of the royal household.

"Thinking about disaster sufferers, I will spend my days wishing all the people happiness," he said, referring to the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami and various other natural disasters that struck Japan in the past year.

The Imperial Palace said around 24,000 attended his birthday address, braving the bitter cold and waving small Japanese flags as crowds shouted "Banzai" (long live).

In the afternoon, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined other dignitaries for a birthday banquet at the palace.

While Emperor Hirohito was once worshipped as a living demigod, Akihito and Michiko have tried to be seen as an "ordinary couple" and narrowed the distance between the palace and the people.

The Imperial Palace, surrounded by stone walls and mossy moats - is opened to the general public twice a year - on the emperor's birthday and the second day of New Year - for the royal family to greet well-wishers.

The Japanese throne is held in deep respect by much of the public, despite being stripped of much of its mystique and its quasi-divine status in the aftermath of World War II.

Kejriwal hints at forming Delhi govt

Posted: 22 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

NEW DELHI: India's anti-graft crusader Arvind Kejriwal has vowed to punish corrupt politicians and clean up "dirty politics" in a fiery speech that hinted his party may lend support to form a coalition government in Delhi.

Kejriwal, a former civil servant turned politician, has been under mounting pressure to form a coalition government since his party's stunning performance at Dec 4 state elections.

Kejriwal is wary of joining forces with the Congress party or the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after voters flocked to his party, disillusioned with mainstream politics and angry over rampant corruption.

"If we form the government, we will pass the anti-corruption law and send corrupt BJP and Congress leaders to jail," Kejriwal told a rally in Delhi of several hundred supporters.

"We are not after political power. We want to change the system and cleanse the dirty politics," Kejriwal said, adding that he expected to make an announcement on forming government today.

Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man's Party) won 28 of the 70 seats at the polls for an assembly, trouncing the ruling Congress which took eight and depriving the biggest winner – the BJP with 31 – of a majority.

AAP's success, only a year after its formation, signalled its emergence as a new political force which poses a threat to India's two main parties at general elections next year.

AAP has until now refused to accept support from either the Congress or the BJP, fuelling criticism that they were running away from the responsibility of forming government.

AAP is seeking opinion on whether to form government in Delhi, holding public meetings and asking supporters to telephone or SMS their thoughts, in a move that taps into its grass roots base.

With yesterday the last day for the unusual consultations, speculation in the Indian press was mounting that Kejriwal would team up with Congress.

The Hindustan Times newspaper and other media reported yesterday that AAP has received an overwhelming response from the public in favour of forming a new government. — AFP

Heirs to fortune from bungalow sale step forward

Posted: 22 Dec 2013 08:00 AM PST

PERRY Koh was at work two Sundays ago when one of his three sisters called and asked him to read the day's papers.

A report in The Sunday Times had stated that an old bungalow in Katong had recently been sold for almost S$4mil (RM10.4mil), and the estate's trustee was searching for eligible beneficiaries of the proceeds.

Memories of his childhood came flooding back when he saw the photograph.

"I remembered visiting the home during Chinese New Year with my family and climbing its stairs," said the 49-year-old.

Koh's great-great-grandmother Wan Chin Neo had bought the property in Carpmael Road in 1937 for the then princely sum of S$1,900 (RM4,900).

The small house today looks out of place in a row of newer private homes.

Koh had already been aware of the estate and his lineage. His father Walter, 80, is among the 15 – all descended from Koh Hoon Teck – who had already stepped forward to stake a claim to the estate, so he is unlikely to get a share.

But spurred by nostalgia and encouragement from relatives, the manager of a luxury watch shop told Rockwills Trustee that he and his four siblings wanted to be considered for a share of the money.

He is among Wan's great- and great-great-grandchildren – many of whom are retirees – that the estate planning and trust firm said it is largely dealing with in its search for heirs.

The search, which has included tombstone inspections at the Bukit Brown cemetery and a newspaper advertisement last month, had been a challenge as Wan and her three children were all long dead.

None of them had left a will, meaning the money should be shared by their descendants, who must first be traced.

Koh and his siblings are among at least five living descendants of Wan who have stepped forward following the report on Dec 8.

Rockwills Trustee's chief executive Lee Chiwi, assisted by Goh Kok Yeow of law firm De Souza Lim & Goh, will do a further search of court records and approach the High Court for an order to distribute the money to those who come forward – and are eligible under inheritance rules – by Jan 1. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network


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