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The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Syria opposition unity take face spectre of collapse

Posted: 24 May 2013 07:12 PM PDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Syrian opposition talks aimed at presenting a coherent front at an international peace conference to end the civil war faced the prospect of collapse after President Bashar al-Assad's foes failed to cut an internal deal, opposition sources said on Friday.

Demonstrators shout Islamic slogans as they wave Syrian opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at the courtyard of Fatih mosque in Istanbul May 24, 2013. The sign reads, "Being silent means to be take part in the crime of Baath". REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Demonstrators shout Islamic slogans as they wave Syrian opposition flags during a protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at the courtyard of Fatih mosque in Istanbul May 24, 2013. The sign reads, "Being silent means to be take part in the crime of Baath". REUTERS/Murad Sezer

The failure of the Syrian National Coalition to alter its Islamist-dominated membership as demanded by its international backers and replace a leadership undermined by power struggles is playing into the hands of Assad, whose forces are attacking a key town as his ally Russia said he would send representatives to the conference, coalition insiders said.

After two days of meetings in Istanbul, senior coalition players were in discussions late into the night after veteran liberal opposition figure Michel Kilo rejected a deal by Syrian businessman Mustafa al-Sabbagh, who is the coalition's secretary-general, to admit some members of Kilo's bloc to the coalition, the sources said.

Kilo has said that his group wants significant representation in the opposition coalition before it will join.

"There is a last-minute attempt to revive a kitchen-room deal. The coalition risks undermining itself to the point that its backers may have to look quickly for an alternative with enough credibility on the ground to go to Geneva," a senior opposition source at the talks said.

While the opposition remained wracked by differences, a major assault by Assad's forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies on a Sunni town held by rebels near the border with Lebanon over the past week was shaping into a pivotal battle.

The intervention of Shi'ite Hezbollah is justifying fears that a war that has killed 80,000 people would cross borders at the heart of the Middle East.

"It is ironic that Lebanon's civil strife is playing itself out in Syria. The opposition remains without coherence and the regime is intent on taking back anything it promises with violence," said one diplomat.

The diplomat was referring to a deepening sectarian divide between Shi'ites and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, where Syrian troops were present for 29 years, including for most of the civil war that ended in 1990.

Assad belongs to Syria's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ism that has controlled Syria since the 1960s.

He has vowed to defeat what he calls terrorists and foreign agents behind the uprising, which began with months of peaceful protests and evolved into an armed revolt after months of military repression.

Washington and Moscow have been compelled to revive diplomacy by developments in recent months, which include the rise of al Qaeda-linked fighters among rebels and reports of atrocities and accusations that chemical weapons are being used.

The United States, which suspects Assad's forces of using the banned weapons, is also concerned they could eventually fall into the hands of jihadists now fighting Assad.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet privately in Paris on Monday to discuss their efforts to bring Syria's warring parties together, U.S. and Russian officials said.

Russia said the Syrian government had agreed in principle to attend the planned peace conference, which could take part in Geneva in the coming weeks.

Senior opposition figures said the coalition was likely to attend the conference, but doubted it would produce any immediate deal for Assad to leave power - their central demand.

"We are faced with a situation where everyone thinks there will be a marriage when the bride is refusing. The regime has to show a minimum of will that it is ready to stop the bloodshed," said Haitham al-Maleh, an elder statesman of the coalition.

There was more heavy fighting on Friday in Qusair, a town controlling access to the coast that Assad's forces and Hezbollah allies have tried to take in a battle that could prove an important test of Assad's ability to withstand the revolt.

Assad wants to secure the coastal region, which is the homeland of his Alawite minority sect. He is backed by Shi'ite Iran and Hezbollah against mainly Sunni rebels supported by Saudi Arabia and Qatar.


Much to the frustration of its backers, the coalition has struggled to agree on a leader since the resignation in March of respected cleric Moaz Alkhatib, who had floated two initiatives for Assad to leave power peacefully.

Alkhatib's latest proposal - a 16-point plan that sees Assad handing power to his deputy or prime minister and then going abroad with 500 members of his entourage - won little support in Istanbul, highlighting the obstacles to wider negotiations.

"He has the right to submit papers to the meeting like any other member, but his paper is heading directly to the dustbin of history. It is a repeat of his previous initiative, which went nowhere," a senior coalition official said.

Washington threatened on Wednesday to increase support for the rebels if Assad refused to discuss a political end to the violence, a sentiment echoed on Friday by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has been pressing the European Union to amend a weapons embargo to allow arming the rebels.

Concerned by the rising influence of Islamists in the rebel ranks, Washington has pressured the opposition coalition to resolve its divisions and to expand to include more liberals.

"The international community is walking a little faster than the opposition. It wants to see a complete list of participants from the Syrian side for Geneva and this means that the coalition has to sort its affairs," a European diplomat said.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Thomas Grove and Alissa de Carbonnel in Moscow, Arshad Mohammed in Amman, Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem; Editing by Nick Tattersall, Peter Graff and Peter Cooney)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Stockholm calmer but violence spreads outside Swedish capital

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:38 PM PDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A nearly week-long spate of rioting spread outside Stockholm on Friday but authorities said police reinforcements sent to the Swedish capital had reduced the violence there, even though dozens of youths set cars and a recycling station ablaze.

A bystander checks the debris around a row of burnt cars in the suburb of Rinkeby after youths rioted in several different suburbs around Stockholm May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

A bystander checks the debris around a row of burnt cars in the suburb of Rinkeby after youths rioted in several different suburbs around Stockholm May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

The rioting - set off earlier this month by the police shooting of a 69-year-old man - continued for a sixth night in mainly poor immigrant areas in Stockholm.

In a country with a reputation for openness, tolerance and a model welfare state, the rioting has exposed a fault-line between a well-off majority and a minority - often young people with immigrant backgrounds - who are poorly educated, cannot find work and feel pushed to the edge of society.

Two cars were torched in Stockholm but the city appeared to have had its calmest night since the trouble began.

"It is a bit calmer. Of course, there are still fires," said Towe Hagg, a police spokeswoman in Stockholm.

But in Orebro, a town in central Sweden, some 25 masked youths set fire to three cars, a school and tried to torch a police station, police said. An old empty building was set alight in the town of Sodertalje, less than an hour's drive from the capital.

Pupils at a primary school in the Stockholm suburb of Kista - an information-technology hub that is home to the likes of telecoms equipment maker Ericsson and the Swedish office of Microsoft - arrived on Friday to find the inside of the small red wooden building had been burned out.

"In the short run, the acute thing is to ensure that these neighbourhoods get back to normal everyday life," Erik Ullenhag, Sweden's integration minister, told Reuters. "In the long run we need to create positive spirals in these neighbourhoods."

The police said they had called in backup from the cities of Malmo and Gothenburg. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the crisis.


The spree of destruction has seen masked youths vandalise schools, libraries and police stations, setting cars alight and hurling stones at police and firefighters.

It was sparked by the fatal police shooting earlier this month of a 69-year man, reported by local media to be a Portuguese immigrant and suspected of wielding a large knife, in the Stockholm suburb of Husby.

The scale of riots pales to the disturbances seen in London and Paris in recent years and there have been almost no injuries. Much of the capital has gone about business as normal.

But the violence - with more than 100 cars set ablaze this week - has shocked a nation that has long taken pride in its generous social safety net.

Some seven years of centre-right rule, however, have chipped away at benefits, while some communities have struggled to cope with the heavy wave of immigration they are seeing from Syria and other war-torn countries.

Youth unemployment is especially high in neighbourhoods such as the ones where the riots have taken place, home to asylum seekers from Iraq to Somalia, Afghanistan and Latin America.

About 15 percent of Sweden's population is foreign born. While many are from neighbouring Nordic countries, others are drawn by the country's policy of welcoming asylum seekers from war-torn countries.

Kicki Haak, head of the small Montessori school that was set alight in Kista on Thursday night, said she did not know if it would be able to reopen. The 94 students will move into improvised classrooms in nearby office buildings on Monday.

"Five nights in a row - it's incomprehensible," said Faisal Lugh, whose two children are pupils at the school.

"My children asked about the things they had there: 'How about my books? My rain jacket? My pictures? Are they all gone?'" said Lugh, who works for an unemployment office and often helps new immigrants find jobs.


There are signs that residents in the affected areas are getting fed up with the violence. Many community leaders, dressed in fluorescent jackets, have taken to the streets to try to calm things down.

"When will it stop?" said Maryam Rahimi, who works at a school in Husby that was vandalised.

Risto Kajanto, brother-in-law of the man who was shot dead, told Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet he condemned the violence.

"I want to say to all those who are burning cars that it is totally wrong to react that way," he said.

One recent government study showed up to a third of young people aged 16 to 29 in some of the most deprived areas of Sweden's big cities neither study nor have a job.

The gap between rich and poor in Sweden is growing faster than in any other major nation, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, although absolute poverty remains uncommon.

(This story was refiled to fix headline)

(Additional reporting by Simon Johnson and Patrick Lannin; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Bill Trott)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Bosnia president, charged with graft, freed from jail

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:30 PM PDT

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - The president of Bosnia's autonomous Muslim-Croat federation was freed from jail on Friday after the Constitutional Court ordered his release following his arrest last month on corruption charges.

President Zivko Budimir was arrested along with 19 other officials in late April in the most high-profile anti-corruption drive in Bosnia since independence more than two decades ago.

Members of the special police arrest President of Bosnia's autonomous Muslim-Croat federation Zivko Budimir (R) in Sarajevo April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Members of the special police arrest President of Bosnia's autonomous Muslim-Croat federation Zivko Budimir (R) in Sarajevo April 26, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

A court ordered Budimir and his four co-accused aides to be kept in detention because some of them held Croatian passports and there was a risk they might try to flee.

But on Friday, acting on the order from the Constitutional Court, the court decided to release all five accused immediately, a court spokeswoman said. She added that prosecutors could appeal the ruling.

Budimir left the prison in the southern town of Mostar late on Friday and was welcomed by dozens of supporters and relatives. He has been charged with accepting bribes to grant amnesty to a number of convicts.

"I have no knowledge about the existence of an organised criminal group," he told state television. "As for amnesties, I granted them in accordance to my consciousness."

Budimir's lawyer Ragib Hadzic said the court had determined there were no grounds to keep him in custody while the investigation was underway.

The arrest of Budimir has exacerbated a political crisis that blew up last year when he refused to approve a Federation government reshuffle and the appointment of judges to the Constitutional Court.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Friday that it would disburse the next tranche of a 400-million-euro loan to Bosnia only after Budimir signs a law cutting military pensions.

Under the deal that ended Bosnia's 1992-95 war, the country was split into a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic that are held together by a relatively weak central government.

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela and; Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Editing by Jon Hemming)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

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The Star Online: Business

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The Star Online: Business

Politics of development pays dividend

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:57 PM PDT

WITH the Barisan Nasional winning handsomely in the resource rich state of Sarawak in the 13th general election (GE), and a record number of seven ministers and four deputy ministers elected into the federal Cabinet, Sarawak's appeal has notched up significantly in a matter of weeks.

Sarawak BN delivered 25 of the 31 parliamentary seats in the GE. This means that Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud has delivered and now market watchers are expecting Sarawak to be robustly rewarded. Collectively, Sabah and Sarawak delivered 47 seats out of the 133 seats that gave BN its simple majority.

For the stock market, the large number of Sarawakian ministers being appointed is a strong sign of the political will to push through Sarawak's infrastructure development, and thus ensure that mega projects in Sarawak are implemented. The growth possibility is massive, particularly with Sarawak growing at less than 5% over the last 20 years.

It is now an opportunities galore for companies involved in dams, transmission systems, rural electrification schemes, sub-station works and ports, among others.

Thus not surprisingly, the level of enthusiasm has been palpable. This has been seen in the almost non-stop rally of Sarawak linked stocks, which have appreciated as much as 30% to 50% over the last three weeks.

The leaders of the Sarawak rally are none other than Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMSB), Sarawak Cable Bhd, Naim Holdings Bhd and Dayang Enterprise Holdings Bhd which have skyrocketed by 55.14%, 21.4%, 40.5% and 27% over the last three weeks.

Other Sarawakian stocks which have followed suit include Hock Seng Lee Bhd, Press Metal Bhd and Bintulu Port.

While Johor has the Iskandar Malaysia, Sarawak has its equivalent in the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), which is a major initiative to develop the state's central region and transform the state into a developed one by 2020.

"Personally I am more bullish about the prospects of Sarawak compared to Johor. In Sarawak, they are relying on natural reserves which are already in existence. Furthermore, there is the appeal of cheap power prices which will continue to attract investors," says OSK analyst Ng Sem Guan.

The main goal of Score is to accelerate the state's economic growth by capitalising on renewable energy. Its key attractions are cheap power, cheap water, rich natural resources, its proximity to integrated ports and cheap land.

"Score is progressing very well with total committed foreign investment of RM29.1bil since the establishment of the project in 2008. The development of Samalaju (one of the five Score areas) is at an advanced stage now with the overall construction of Samalaju's projects 30% completed," says an MIDF analyst

Sarawak is expected to achieve developed-nation status in terms of per capita income earlier than 2020. By 2030, Taib has said that he expects the per capita income to be nearly RM100,000.

Could this be more than just a pipe dream?

With a fresh mandate over the next 5 years, it is now full steam ahead for the mega investment expenditures planned.

In fact, according to Malaysian Investment Development Authority, Sarawak is now the third biggest contributor to Malaysia's foreign direct investment, contributed mainly by Score's Samalaju project.

The progress so far

While development projects have been ongoing since the inception of Score, more new projects are now scheduled to be dished out.

For example, the tendering for the first phase of the Mukah International Airport, valued at some RM200mil closed on April 30, and is expected to be awarded soon.

According to analysts, state-owned Sarawak Energy Bhd (SEB) is lining up five more hydro dams and two coal-fired plants to meet its targeted 7,000MW generation capacity by 2020.

So far, SEB has secured sales for most of the electricity output from the Bakun hydro dam from companies in Score. SEB officials say about 1,800MW has been sold to customers, representing 75% of firm supply capacity from the Bakun and Murum dams.

Bakun is expected to generate a firm supply of 1,771MW when fully operational next year. Four of the dam's eight turbines, each with 300MW capacity, have been commissioned.

Analysts say there could be over 100 new sub-stations to be developed to cater to Sarawak's increasing power loads, where the larger ones could cost up to RM300mil.

Meanwhile, the tender for the Samalaju Port project's breakwater package estimated at more than RM400mil is now being tendered out.

"I was in Sarawak recently, and Score is booming. The area of Samalaju is not the virgin jungle that everyone thinks off. There are now already two plants being commissioned. The energy intensive industries being developed in Score will also result in downstream activities, which in turn will create more economic activities," says Ng of OSK.

This RM1.8bil Samalaju port, which is scheduled to be fully operational in 2016, will serve mainly energy-intensive industries like aluminium and ferro-alloy smelting plants in Samalaju Industrial Park and the port hinterland, particularly for the import of raw materials and export of finished annum.

By then, the port's cargo handling capacity will be raised to 18 million tonnes per annum. If necessary, the port could be expanded to increase the annual cargo handling capacity to 30 million tonnes.

With Sarawak also hoping to achieve a targeted 95% electricity coverage by end-2012 but missed that target from more than 60% currently, a higher eventual coverage could trigger the demand for more steel-related products and expansion.

High on the list of priorities would be the upgrading of the 2,000km Pan Borneo highway, which has also been one of the promises made by BN in its manifesto.

Then there is the focus on areas relevant to Sarawak, such as economic and rural transformation, technical education and bridging the digital divide.

It is also planning to upgrade food processing and eventually pharmaceuticals from the yield of its vast palm oil industry which is now about one billion ha.

The state is planning to have better educational and technical skill development centres as part of its migration towards a high-income economy.

Sarawak's potential

In the last two decades, resource-rich Sarawak has been growing at an average growth rate of less than 5% annually. Traditionally, its main source of income was agriculture, mining and oil and gas. Currently, Sarawak contributes about 8% to Malaysia's overall real GDP growth.

Nonetheless, with the abundance of sustainable energy, namely hydroelectric, as well as mineral sources like oil, natural gas and coal, the idea of harnessing these resources for the well-being of the state was soon born.

Score was launched in early 2008 by former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Badawi and spearheaded by Taib.

To make Sarawak's long-term growth plan a reality, Score's aim is to harness some 20,000MV of potential hydroelectric power in Sarawak (mainly from Bakun Hydroelectric), along with some 1.46 billion tonnes of coal, 1.3 billion barrels of oil and 40.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas located in the central region.

At the same time, the project would cover some 70,709 sq km of territory (about half the size of Peninsular Malaysia) or home to nearly a million people. The Government projects 1.6 million jobs opportunities to be created under Score by its target completion date of 2030.

With Score driving Sarawak's economy, the state aims to achieve GDP growth of up to 10% by 2015 compared to below 5% without it.

Kenanga Research says that at the rate the Sarawak economy is growing, the state could be among the top three largest contributors to Malaysia's economic growth in the next few years. Its contribution towards Malaysia's total GDP could increase to slightly more than 10% from its current 7.5%-8%.

"Being Malaysia's largest and possibly the richest state, Sarawak is moving in the right direction as it will soon hit the halfway mark of five-year 10th Malaysian Plan (10MP) which began in 2010. Much of the budget allocation in the 10MP is being channelled towards improving infrastructure, particularly transportation, managing urbanisation and developing Sarawak as an energy development hub," says Kenanga Research.

With Score leading the growth trajectory, Kenanga Research believes that Sarawak could exceed growth of 5% to 6% by 2015, possibly outpacing the projected average national growth of 6.0%. This is premised on the progressive development of Score's first phase projects, specifically the smooth implementation of the RM1.8bil deep-sea port project in Samalaju.


Score is one of five regional development corridors being established throughout the country and is a major initiative to transform Sarawak into a fully developed state by the year 2020.

Around RM500bil has already been committed since the launch of Score in February 2008. The Sarawak Government has indicated that it will invest RM334bil to fully develop the regional economic corridor by 2030.

Score is a key initiative that is expected to bring Sarawak on par with its wealthier states in Peninsular Malaysia by 2020. In terms of land area, Score is the second largest of the corridors and covers an area of more than 70,000 square kilometres.

The corridor has 1.2 billion of known oil reserves, over 80 million tonnes of Silica sand and over 22 million tonnes of Kaolin of China clay, a key component of cosmetics, ceramics and, most recent, for combat area medical equipment.

Score has an abundance of natural resources, including renewable resources such as hydropower that offers commercial users clean energy at competitive rates.

In view of this, the 2008 to 2030 development plan for Score focuses on developing the energy sector and targets 10 high impact priority industries that will complement the development plan and also provide downstream opportunities for SMEs.

This is in line with the State's Ninth Malaysia plan to capitalise on the state's energy resources. The availability of inexpensive energy gives Score a significant advantage when competing to attract energy intensive industries and this has already resulted in a number of early successes.

The give growth nodes in SCORE will focus on different growth areas.

i. The Mukah Node will be developed into a Smart City and serve as the nerve centre for the Corridor.

ii. The Tanjung Manis Node will be developed into an Industrial Port City and Halal Hub.

iii. The Samalaju Node will become the new Heavy Industry Centre.

iv. Baram and Tunoh will focus on the tourism and resource-based industries.

The development of these growth notes will benefit the secondary growth centres, such as Semop, Balingian, Selangau, Samarakan, Bakun and Ng. Merit.

A thematic play seen

Posted: 24 May 2013 06:02 PM PDT

INVESTORS are back and participating actively in the stock market since the 13th general election. Counters across various sectors are up, notably led by blue chips followed by second liners.

While investors are pouring money into the more volatile stocks in favoured sectors like construction and oil and gas, a trend that has seen Sarawak-based counters race ahead has also prominent. Some attribute the rise in the share price of these counters to the sterling performance of the state government while company captains point out the business prospects ahead.

Inter-Pacific Research Sdn Bhd research head Pong Teng Siew tells StarBizWeek: "There is a clear thematic play on Sarawakbased counters especially after the general election."

A big spike can be seen in politically-sensitive companies and the rally moved on to the Sarawak-themed stocks due to the removal of political risks that surround these counters, he says.

He adds that the run-up of the counters are more pronounced when they overlap with sectors that are already favoured by investors, for instance oil and gas (O&G), construction and property.

He opines that the best time to engage in politically-theme plays is one or one-and-a-half years before the actual election.

Sarawak's previous state election was held in April 2011 and the next one will be held on or before 2016.

"It is a good time to look into such a thematic play now," he says.

He notes that when people invest according to themes, they tend to neglect the fundamentals.

"The retailers have been back in the market. Some of them will chase shares, which reflects the vibrancy of the current stock market," he says.

However, he cautions that investors should time their exit properly so they are not trapped in stocks that are illiquid as share prices fall.

He says factors that would drive share prices up during such periods are liquidity and stock price momentum; hence, stocks with fundamentals would act as a safety net when the rally is over.

Areca Capital chief executive officer Danny Wong concedes and advises investors to look at the valuation of counters that have run up.

He says market perception is that some of the counters that used to receive contracts from the state government will continue to win more in the years to come following the win by the ruling coalition.

"Certain projects will continue, which in turn will benefit the companies in terms of earnings growth," he says, adding that the election win is also a boost for projects that have been rolled out in anticipation of faster progress.

He also says the positive sentiment in the market leads to possible re-rating of some of the counters. However, he notes that some of them have been laggards and the climb in percentage terms may not portray the actual upside of some stocks.

Companies with solid fundamentals

While a handful of companies mentioned are painted as politically-linked largely through their ownership, it's a label that sometimes overshadows the capability of professional management teams that run such companies. Corporate bosses have reminded investors to focus on the fundamentals, strong balance sheet and growth prospects of companies in their respective sectors.

Dayang Enterprise Holdings Bhd managing director Tengku Datuk Yusof Tengku Ahmad Shahruddin tells StarBizWeek the company has grown over the years through fundamentals and on its own merits rather than on politics.

"We have to vie for a tender job. Production sharing contractors and the multinational companies are run professionally, so we really have to be up to their standards to get the jobs.

"Besides that, there are also stringent standards that we have to comply with," he adds.

Responding to how it is perceived as a politically-linked stock, he says: "As far as Dayang is concerned, we have not received jobs through political connections. We work hard for them and let our work speak for the company."

Others think the counter is politically-linked due to its major shareholder Naim Holdings Bhd, which owns about 34% of the company.

He explains: "Naim's holding in Dayang is as an investor. They are in a totally different sector while we are run by technically-qualified professionals.

"People think it is an easy job. We are what we today due to 23 years of hard work, technical knowhow and competitive pricing."

He says the jobs require very specialised players and there are only a handful around.

For instance, it has almost 2,000 skilled workers to support its operations.

He is positive on the company's prospects because the "cake" in the oil and gas sector is getting bigger and the company will benefit from the vibrancy of the sector.

He adds that more platforms are being built to support an increasing number of oil and gas activities while there are old ones that needed to be maintained and renewed. That is on top of the projects rolled out that would benefit its hook-up, construction and commissioning business.

Recently, analysts covering the counter have upgraded the stock because of its huge contract win from Sarawak Shell Berhad / Sabah Shell Petroleum Company Ltd worth more than RM2bil, bringing its orderbook to close to RM4bil.

Meanwhile, Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd group managing director Datuk Richard Curtis says the company is run by a team of professionals and it is the best proxy to Sarawak's growth.

He says that despite the fact that Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud's family owns some 40% stake in the company, it is prudent in running its main businesses and handling its strategic investments.

RHB Research says in a note released on May 13: "We took another look at CMS' fundamentals and found no evidence of changes in its already-solid business operations. The Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score), which appears well on track to propel the state's economy to new heights, is giving a boost to CMS' cement, construction materials, road maintenance and property divisions."

Sarawak counters hogging the limelight

Posted: 24 May 2013 06:03 PM PDT

Below are some Sarawak companies listed on the Main Market of Bursa Malaysia that have caught investors' attention.


Cahya Mata Sarawak Bhd (CMSB), which is some 42.2% owned by the family of the Chief Minister of Sarawak, has always been seen as the main beneficiary and the best proxy to the many projects that will be taking off from the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (Score).

It has been one of the top performers of Bursa Malaysia, with its share price gaining some 60.36% to RM5.35 on a year to date basis. Its market capitalisation has also more than doubled to RM1.78bil.

CMSB has evolved from a manufacturer of cement in 1974, and today comprises over 40 companies involved in cement, construction materials, trading, construction, road maintenance, property development, financial services, education and other services.

It owns a large tracts of land around Kuching with good development prospects. It will also participate directly in Score via its 51%-owned Samalaju Property Development, whose first undertaking is the development of temporary worker camps, followed by a fast-track township in Samalaju Industrial Park.

The first of its energy intensive industrial projects in Score is its 20% stake in the joint-venture ferro silicon alloys smelter project with Australian listed OM Holdings Ltd.

CMSB recorded an 8.35% decrease in net profit to RM28.73mil on the back of a 34.74% increase in revenue to RM310.36mil for its first quarter to March 31, 2013.

This was partially attributed to its cement segment, which incurred higher clinker costs due to the upgraded clinker plant being not yet fully operation.

Apart from its property development division which recorded a small loss, the construction materials and trading, construction and road maintenance and Samalaju Development divisions all reported improved earnings.


Infrastructure specialist and property player Hock Seng Lee Bhd (HSL) posted flat net earnings of RM19.5mil from RM19.6mil previously for the first quarter to March 31, 2013. Group revenue decreased marginally to RM135.1mil from RM139.2mil. Some 90% of the company's earnings came from the construction segment, while the remainder came from property development.

For its financial year ended Dec 31, 2012, HSL posted net profit of about RM90.7mil on revenue of RM603.3mil, which was an improvement from RM87.3mil and RM581.5mil respectively a year ago.

So far this year, HSL has secured some RM153mil worth of projects. To date, the company has some 30 projects in hand worth RM2bil, with RM1.05bil of that outstanding.

These jobs comprise roadworks in Sibu, Bintulu and Sri Aman and sand-filling in Tanjong Manis as well as infrastructure and drainage diversion projects for the Samalaju Industrial Park and rural roads in Samarahan.

The company is hopeful about securing more contracts as it has bid for reclamation, building construction projects and roadworks.

On a year-to-date basis, the stock is up 28.67% at RM1.93. The stock now has a market capitalisation of RM1.07bil. The company is majority owned by Hock Seng Lee Enterprise with 57.98% while the Employees Provident Fund is the second largest shareholder with a 10.13%.


Sarawak Cable Bhd is hopeful on the state government's plans to implement more rural electricity projects and development for its growth moving forward

The intensified focus on such developments will expand the requirement for electricity generation and power distribution capacity and this would thus raise the demand for electricity supply.

Hence this would translate into a strong and continuous demand for power cables as well as conductors, steel products and transmission towers that the group is involved in.

On a year to date basis, the stock is up 5.49% to RM1.73, with a market capitalisation of RM268.8mil.

So far though, its earnings have not been up to mark. For its year ended Dec 31, 2012, net profit was down 58.86% to RM6.4mil while revenue was down 27.08% to RM268.58mil.

Based on its notes, operating expenses increased by 457% principally due to the impairment of intangible assets and allowance for impairment loss of trade receivables.

The sale of power cables and conductors segment contributed 28% of operating profit while the sale of galvanised steel products and transmission tower segment contributed 30% of operating profit.

AmResearch is maintaining its Buy call on Sarawak Cable Bhd with a fair value of RM2

The company has proposed a 1-for-2 renounceable rights issue of 77.63mil shares for RM1 per share and a subsequent 1-for-5 bonus issue of 46.58mil shares.

The entire exercise is expected to be completed in the third quarter of the year.

The major shareholder of Sarawak Cable are chairman Datuk Seri Mahmud Abu Bekir Taib with an 18.8% stake and Sarawak Energy Bhd with a 20.7% stake.


Naim Holdings Bhd is an integrated property developer in residential, commercial and industrial properties developments.

The builder is also involved in infrastructure and public amenities, construction and civil engineering businesses. Besides that, it owns a 33.7% stake in Dayang Enterprise Holdings Bhd, a Sarawak-based oil and gas player.

It is considered politically-connected as its chairman and substantial shareholder, Datuk Abdul Hamed Sepawi, is Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud's cousin.

Analysts believe that Naim will be one of the key beneficiaries of Score via its partnership with CMSB and Bintulu Development Authority to develop a township in the Samalaju industrial area which caters for the Japanese and South Korean expatriates from private investments.

Its other flagship developments include Bandar Baru Permyjaya in Miri, Desa Ilmu in Kota Samarahan, and the up-market Riveria satellite township in Kuching's southern corridor.

The Class A contractor has also bagged jobs from the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit project to execute and complete package S2 at Taman Industri Sungai Buloh and package S4 at Section 16, Pusat Bandar Damansara and Semantan. It has an orderbook of about RM1bil.

For its financial year ended Dec 31, 2012, the company's revenue jumped close to 20% to RM493mil while pretax profit soared 97.6% to RM113mil compared to 2011 due to higher sales of properties, better margins from its construction arm and improved performance of its associates and joint ventures.


Dayang Enterprise Holdings Bhd's roots can be traced back in 1980 when Ling Suk Kiong and Henry Bujang started up a oil and gas (O&G) hardware materials trading and man power supply company known as Dayang Enterprise Sdn Bhd.

It has built its track record over the years for providing good service to its clients, evidently through the various awards it received.

Currently, it provides topside structure maintenance, pipes and valves maintenance; fabrication operations' hook-up, construction and commissioning; and charter of marine vessels.

The Miri-based firm has a fleet of seven with different specifications to suit different jobs.

Dayang owns two fabrication yards which also serve as its warehouses at Kampung Rancha-Rancha in the Federal Territory of Labuan and Kemaman, Terengganu.

It has been growing steadily over the years as its market capitalisation more than doubled to RM2.6bil compared to slight more than RM1bil a year ago. Riding on the bullish sentiment in the oil and gas sector, the O&G player has emerged as a darling among investors, pushing its share prices to record high recently.

From its latest quarterly results, net profit ballooned more than eight times to RM58.4mil from RM6.9mil compared to the previous corresponding quarter whereas revenue rose 17.5% to RM87.9mil.

The burgeoning earnings are attributed to the RM32.8mil contribution from its 26.1%-owned Perdana Petroleum Bhd, higher fleet utilisation and higher income from topside maintenance services.

> Compiled by Tee Lin Say &

Ng Bei Shan

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Squash: Matthew offers a message with a warning

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:44 PM PDT

HULL, United Kingdom: British Open champion Nick Matthew issued a warning that he won't relinquish his title without a fight and followed it by answering those who criticise the tournament for its on-off problems.

Rain forced the famous event from its first-ever outdoor venue back to conventional indoor courts, where Matthew produced his best form for weeks during a high-speed, straight games victory over Karim Darwish, the former world number one from Egypt.

Although Matthew is seeded second behind another Egyptian, Ramy Ashour, he only needed 40 minutes to complete an impressive 11-6, 11-2, 12-10 success.

The Yorkshireman was then dismissive of those who slate the outdoor initiative.

"The test match, the golf, and the Giro d'Italia are all off today, but the British Open squash is on - so what's the problem?" Matthew said.

"I don't appreciate those who knock people who try something different. We have these different facilities, and it's great to be able to use them like this."

Matthew was as sharp with his deeds as his words. A lengthy training break before the British Open seems to have paid dividends, for he played a high pace and only in the third game did Darwish seem likely to answer it.

The Egyptian then led 7-6 and recovered from 7-9 down to 9-9 with some fine front court play. However, Matthew maintained the pressure admirably, taking the ball early, volleying smartly and focusing intently - all redolent of the high quality which has made him the only Englishman ever to have won the British Open three times.

Earlier Greg Gaultier, the only Frenchman to have won the British Open, seemed less enamoured of the venue change, although he had moments of brilliance while overcoming Tarek Momen, the talented Egyptian, 11-8, 11-7, 15-13.

However, the match was marred by 22 of its 83 minutes being taken up by falls and repeated delays for cleaning a slippery surface.

"I'm sorry to interrupt the game but I've been injured this way before," Gaultier said. "I was scared to move fast - I don't want to play ice hockey."

Earlier an explanation of the pioneering decision to stage the British Open out of doors was made by Alex Gough, the chief executive of the Professional Squash Association, the men's tour's governing body.

"Some people don't realise how squash has been evolving," Gough said.

"We have had tournaments out of doors for quite a long time in different parts of the world. They are staged very successfully and it is quite reasonable to try the same thing in Britain."

Matthew now has a semi-final with Gaultier on Saturday, while Ashour, the world champion was due for a quarter-final later on Friday with Cameron Pilley, the surprise survivor from Australia.

Earlier the other defending champion, Nicol David, survived a difficult beginning and a dangerously hard-hitting opponent before reaching the semi-finals.

David had to save a game ball in the first game of a 13-11, 11-8, 11-1 win over Joelle King, the tall sixth-seeded New Zealander, who created 15 minutes when it seemed she might bully the champion into difficulties.

The change of conditions from the cold outdoors to the warmer bouncier ball indoors disrupted both players' rhythm, but for a while appeared to place more pressure on David.

"The difference was like day and night," said David.

"But we have to deal with what we are given. It's difficult but at the same time everyone is on the same boat. It's a matter of whoever handles it better."

The record-breaking seven-year world number one from Malaysia now has a semi-final with Alison Waters, the fourth-seeded English woman who beat her in New York in September. - AFP

Golf: Molinari leads but Ryder Cup colleagues crash out

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:40 PM PDT

WENTWORTH, United Kingdom: Italy's Francesco Molinari leads the way after two rounds of the European PGA Championship here at Wentworth but several of his European Ryder Cup team mates missed the cut.

Molinari shot a second round 68, four-under par, to head the field after making four birdies in his last eight holes to be sitting pretty in the clubhouse by lunchtime.

A cluster of players finished a shot back from Molinari, whose brother Edoardo was two-under, including South Africa's George Coetzee, Marc Warren of Scotland, Mark Foster from England and Spain's Alejandro Canizares.

A grandstand finish from English youngster Eddie Pepperell, who birdied the last four holes, got himself to four-under alongside another Italian, Matteo Manassero.

The deteriorating weather meant few players were likely to challenge Molinari's mark at the top of the leaderboard in the afternoon and Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter and defending champion Luke Donald all failed to make the weekend.

The cut fell at two-under par and Justin Rose birdied the par-5 18th to just get in on the mark but 75s for McIlroy and McDowell scuppered their chances.

The pair finished on 149, five over par with another Ryder Cup player, Paul Lawrie two shots better off on 147 but still heading home.

Lee Westwood, however, was another early finisher who made the cut easily finishing on three-under par, the same score as Ernie Els and the winner here in 2010, Simon Khan.

McIlroy missed the cut here last year and never looked happy in miserable rainy conditions. McIlroy said: "I just was grinding and I didn't play particularly well.

"I couldn't give myself any chances to get any shots back and try to get in at the weekend. It was not the weather you expect in London in May but it was the same for everyone and some guys deal with it better than others."

Molinari was one of the few to get a score going in the downpour and is in good shape to bid for a fourth win on the European Tour.

"Six-under is a good score given the conditions and it is a great position going into the weekend. But it is a very tough golf course so anyone even six or seven shots behind is still in it. It is the right time of year to be in good form and hopefully it keeps going that way," said Molinari.

Donald's exit after winning here the last two years was one of the biggest shocks of the day but he paid the price for his first day 78 although he claimed he is close to his best form.

Donald said: "I made five birdies today so it is not like I am a million miles away. It is doing the things that Luke Donald does well - be tidy around the green and make those putts when I need to.

"I am not too worried. It is never nice to miss a cut, especially here at Wentworth, a place I have played well. I will be back - failure is a much bigger motivator for me than success."

Poulter shot 76 for the second day on a course where he has never had much success.

"It is horses for courses and I guess this isn't my course," he said. - AFP

Tennis: Djokovic blocks Nadal path to Paris super eight

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:35 PM PDT

PARIS: Rafael Nadal can become the first man to win the same Grand Slam title eight times at the French Open, but the Spaniard may have to get past Novak Djokovic before he even contemplates history.

Having pulled clear of Bjorn Borg's record of six wins at Roland Garros with a seventh championship in 2012, the 26-year-old has already confounded the critics who had written him off during a seventh-month injury absence.

Since his return to the tour in February, Nadal has shaken off the heartbreak of missing the Olympics, as well as the US and Australian Opens, to collect six titles from eight finals.

But he is keen to play down the hype at the French Open, especially after Friday's draw placed him in the same half as top seed Djokovic, which means that one of them will definitely not be playing in the June 9 final.

"To talk about numbers, to talk about history, you have to analyze when somebody finishes his career, not in the middle," said Nadal at a chilly, damp Roland Garros where he is the third seed.

"To play at Roland Garros always is a special feeling and I feel very emotional every time that I am back here."

No man has ever collected more than seven titles at the same major.

Roy Emerson, with six, is the Australian Open's most successful while William Renshaw, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer all triumphed at Wimbledon seven times each.

Bill Larned, Bill Tilden and Richard Sears were seven-time winners at the US Open.

Since his French Open debut in 2005, Nadal has only lost once in Paris - an injury-hit fourth round exit to free-hitting Robin Soderling in 2009.

His record stands at 52 wins against just that single blip against the Swede. This year, Nadal may have lost his Monte Carlo Masters title to Djokovic after an eight-year monopoly, but he swept to victory on clay in Madrid and Rome, where he allowed Federer just four games in the final.

Nadal, playing in his first Grand Slam event since a shock second round exit to Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon last year sent him home to Manacor for lengthy rehabilitation, begins his campaign against Germany's Daniel Brands, the world number 60.

Australian Open champion Djokovic, beaten in last year's final by Nadal, starts against Belgium's David Goffin, who reached the last 16 in 2012 after coming through qualifying.

Federer, seeded two and the 2009 champion, has lost four title matches to Nadal in Paris but enjoyed the better fortune in Friday's draw where his first two opponents will both be qualifiers.

Djokovic, who captured the season's opening major in Australia, needs a French Open to join Nadal and Federer as active players to have completed a career Grand Slam. But he has endured a bitter-sweet relationship with Roland Garros, seeing a 41-match winning streak ended by Federer in the semi-finals there in 2011 before losing the 2012 final to Nadal.

Having relieved Nadal of his Monte Carlo title in April, Djokovic lost his Madrid opener to Grigor Dimitrov and then slumped to a quarter-final loss in Rome to Tomas Berdych.

"This is the tournament that is the number one priority this year. This is where I want to win and I'm going to go for it. I think my game is there, and I'm very, very motivated," said Djokovic.

But with a losing 15-19 record against Nadal, the Serb was wary of allowing the Spaniard, against whom he has lost four times in four at the French Open, to get into his head.

At his pre-tournament media conference, Djokovic banned all talk of the possibility of facing Nadal in the semi-finals.

After world number two Andy Murray, a semi-finalist two years ago, pulled out to nurse his injured back ahead of Wimbledon, Nadal and Djokovic should have their only serious rival in Federer, the record 17-time Grand Slam title winner.

But Federer, with his 32nd birthday fast approaching, heads to Paris not having won a trophy in the year for the first time since 2000.

The world number three is playing in a 54th consecutive Grand Slam event, just two off the record held by South Africa's Wayne Ferreira.

"It's incredible. I never thought I was going to play that many, have that many opportunities to do well at the slams," said the Swiss.

"But they don't buy me victories." - AFP

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Cannes auction of space trip with DiCaprio raises 1.2 million euros for charity

Posted: 23 May 2013 08:52 PM PDT

CANNES: A trip to space with Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio raised 1.2 million euros for charity at a glitzy fundraiser at the Cannes film festival on Thursday.

At the 20th annual event organized by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, DiCaprio emerged as the mystery guest to accompany the winner on a Virgin Galactic flight into space. DiCaprio stars in the film "The Great Gatsby," which opened the 66th Cannes film festival.

Actress Sharon Stone said the winning bidder would spend three days in training with DiCaprio in New Mexico before blast-off.

"You don't get to go to outer space every day with a handsome movie star," said Stone, dressed in a tight-fitting white dress with a gold snake trim down the back.

The bidding started at 1 million euros.

The auction brochure for the star-studded gala held at the five-star Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, France, near Cannes, said DiCaprio and the winning bidder would be among the first 1,000 people to leave the planet.

The winner, Vasily Klyukin, 37, a Russian living in Monaco, said he had always wanted to go into space.

"I want to be a bit daring," Klyukin, who works in real estate, told Reuters. "I will have to give up smoking now for sure!"

After the successful bid from Klyukin - who also bought a gold and diamond necklace for 400,000 euros - Stone announced two other tickets were available on the flight. They raised another 1.8 million euros.

The auction raised 25 million euros, more than double last year's sum of 11 million euros.

The amfAR gala is the biggest fundraising event at the world's largest film festival. The benefit was first hosted by Elizabeth Taylor.

The list of stars attending Thursday's event included DiCaprio, Cannes jury members Nicole Kidman and Christopher Waltz, singers Kylie Minogue and Janet Jackson, and actors Adrien Brody, Jessica Chastain and Goldie Hawn.

The evening featured performances by gold-clad Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger" and British pop band Duran Duran.

Introducing the event, supermodel Heidi Klum said it raised more than 10 million euros a year for AIDS research.

Other auction items included tickets to Hollywood events, a Damien Hirst painting, an Annie Leibovitz family portrait, the chance to star in four movies and a private performance from Simon Le Bon and John Taylor of Duran Duran. -Reuters

Cannes festival hit by second suspected jewellery theft

Posted: 23 May 2013 08:58 PM PDT

CANNES: The Cannes film festival was hit by a second suspected jewellery heist on Thursday after a diamond necklace worth 2 million euros disappeared during a star-studded party, according to upmarket jeweller De Grisogono.

Fawaz Gruosi, the founder of the Swiss firm, said the necklace was part of the company's 20th anniversary collection paraded by 20 models at the glitzy event at the Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes outside Cannes on Tuesday night. Sharon Stone and Paris Hilton were among the guests.

Gruosi said 80 bodyguards, local police, hotel security, and De Grisogono staff had been on duty but when a check was made at the end of the night the diamond necklace was missing.

"We don't know exactly what happened ... it was one of the most beautiful items we had," Gruosi told Reuters Television.

"The police are trying to figure out what happened."

A Cannes police source said authorities were investigating whether it was a theft, a problem of inventory or a loss, the source said.

Another Swiss jeweller, Chopard, had gems worth $1.4 million stolen in the first week of the 12-day festival on the glamorous French Riviera, which attracts thousands of actors, filmmakers and journalists.

Police said the Chopard jewellery had been in the safe of a room at the Suite Novotel hotel in central Cannes, which had been rented by an employee of the jeweller.

The entire safe was removed from the wall and taken during the night of May 16. Someone entered without forcing the door or using the magnetic key card, a police source said.

A spokesman for Chopard, a sponsor of the Cannes festival, later played down the report, saying the value had been exaggerated.

Jewellers and fashion houses use the world's largest film festival at Cannes as a promotional showcase, lending gowns and accessories to celebrities who are photographed on the famed red carpet and at parties along the palm-lined Croisette waterfront. -Reuters

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Thousands attend Pakatan rally in Malacca

Posted: 24 May 2013 08:33 AM PDT

MALACCA: Thousands of people thronged a Pakatan Rakyat rally to protest the results of the 13th general election at Kampung Bukit Katil Square here on Friday.

The crowd turned up as early as 5pm for the PAS thanksgiving dinner, which was held ahead of the rally at about 5.30pm with most of them dressed in black.

Stalls selling t-shirts, food and vuvuzela have sprung up in early evening.

PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu who was present during the dinner throughout the rally, said that the Barisan Nasional won the general election with cheat and called on the rakyat not to let a fraudulent government last.

''Rakyat have no weapons and their voice is their only channel.

''However, the police and the armed forces are the ones with advanced weapon. So who is the one intimidating?'' he said.

He noted that the nation needed more Adam Adli, the student activist who was released on bail, to act as political watchdog over the government.

By nightfall, vehicles were parked about 1km along Jalan Tun Kudu and filled up most of the shoplot car park and vacant compounds nearby.

Thousands of participants blew vuvuzelas and air horns, that they were advised by the master of ceremony and speakers to not keep making noise and only use the items when signalled.

The rally, which was in its ninth state, was reported to have not received permission from the police for not having met the required 10 days prior notice.

Speaker PAS Supporters Club chief Hu Pang Chow said Barisan Nasional leaders should focus on delivering what they preached and promised, rather than intimidating rakyat with arrests and foolish comments.

"They should remember it is the rakyat who is paying their salaries, not the party or government," he said.

PKR vice president Tian Chua, who was just released from police custody earlier, said that he may be caught, but there would be more 'Tian Chua' who will rise to fight for electoral reform in Malaysia.

Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who arrived at about 10pm along with cheers and screams from the boisterous crowd, took a swipe at recent comments made by certain Barisan leaders, saying that these leaders with ''foul mouth'' (mulut celupar) should watch their tongue.

''Never ever humiliate the rakyat.

''The rakyat is not your kuli (slave). They have rights,'' he said in his speech.

Although the Home Ministry has issued warnings over the organisation and attendance at the rally, however "we don't care because the rakyat has right to defend. You (Home Ministry) should take care of the safety of all rakyat.''

Other speakers included PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar Md Akin who is also the newly minted Bukit Katil MP, Ayer Keroh assemblyman Khoo Poay Tiong and PAS commissioner Adly Zahari.

Cops uncover extortion gang targeting China entreprenuers

Posted: 24 May 2013 07:39 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The police have uncovered a gang of thugs which lure unsuspecting entrepreneurs from China to the city before extorting them of large sums of money.

This followed the arrest of a gang member on Wednesday, at a coffehouse in Jalan Pinang here.

The arrest was made possible after a China national reported to police that his employer was confined at a five-star hotel here, pending payment of extortion money.

Dang Wangi police chief ACP Zainuddin Ahmad said the police detained the suspect, in his 40s, while he was waiting for settlement of the money.

"Initial investigations have revealed the gang comprises locals but is masterminded by a China national," he said in a press statement here Friday.

He said the modus operandi of the gang was to contact unsuspecting businessmen in China, while posing as representatives of companies in Singapore or Malaysia.

In 'negotiations' that followed, the gang members would lure the Chinese businessmen to a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, he added.

"Subsequently, the gang would use every trick in the book to claim that the Chinese businessmen owed them money, and begin to extort them.

"We are currently, in the midst of tracking down remnants of the gang," said Zainuddin.

He urged those with information on the case to contact Inspector Mohd Yusri at 013-2093736 or 03-26002222 to facilitate investigations. - Bernama

EC: Photograph of ‘blackout’ on polling day was a lie

Posted: 24 May 2013 07:43 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: Preliminary investigation by the Election Commission (EC) revealed that a photograph posted on the internet showing that a blackout purportedly occurred during vote-counting for the 13th general election (GE13) was an act recorded even before the GE13.

EC Deputy Chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said this conclusion was arrived at after a thorough scrutiny by him together with his officers.

"They had staged the act even before the election to spread it on the internet as a ploy to show that a blackout had purportedly occurred, whereas it was a lie.

"The photograph showed that EC staff were purportedly counting the ballot papers and had to use a auxiliary lamps whereas the staff were not wearing the EC uniform," he told Bernama when met recently.

He said the most obvious proof was when the photograph showed that there were many reporters and photographers present in the vote-counting area whereas no one was allowed into the area except for the EC staff and agents of the candidates.

"The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and work procedure shown on the photograph were totally incorrect...they have forgotten, (they) want to cheat but do not understand the work procedure and were immature.

"In fact, the tray used for placing the ballot papers on were also not the EC trays, the material and size were different...(there were) many things in the photograph that did not follow EC SOP," he said.

Wan Ahmad said so far there had been no police report lodged regarding the alleged 'blackout' which showed that it was clearly a slander and concocted story.

"If there had been a blackout, certainly the party agents would have lodged police reports. They represented the candidates, they were present at the counting venues. If there had been a blackout, they would have been the first to lodge police reports, but there were none," he said.

Meanwhile, commenting on an allegation by an opposition newspaper that 24 EC staff in Besut, Terengganu had been confined to mark their ballot papers, Wan Ahmad said he left it to the police to investigate the allegation.

Meanwhile, Wan Ahmad said the proposal by the opposition that a People's Tribunal be set up was dangerous because it ignored the national constitution and law.

"Who will represent the People's Tribunal? Their people, NGO (non-governmental organisation) leaders who have been against the system and the general election all this while? Those who are spreading unhealthy culture to the young generation?" he asked. - Bernama

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