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The Star Online: World Updates

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Swedish capital returning to normal after week of violence

Posted: 25 May 2013 05:03 PM PDT

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden's capital was relatively calm on Saturday night with only isolated incidents of violence by youths after nearly a week of car-burnings and vandalism that have highlighted growing inequality in Swedish society.

Masked men are lined up against a wall by riot police in a Stockholm suburb, on the sixth straight night of riots, May 25, 2013. REUTERS/Fredrik Persson/Scanpix

Masked men are lined up against a wall by riot police in a Stockholm suburb, on the sixth straight night of riots, May 25, 2013. REUTERS/Fredrik Persson/Scanpix

Police had brought in reinforcements from around the country to stem the rioting and were out in force in the poorer suburbs of Stockholm that have seen the worst incidents.

"It is pretty calm," police spokesman Lars Bystrom said. "It isn't worse than a normal night."

Bystrom said 12 people had been taken into custody in the south of the Swedish capital and that several cars had been set on fire in different parts of the city.

He declined to say whether the police believe the wave of rioting, in which gangs of youths have attacked police stations, schools and other buildings and burned hundreds of cars, was over.

In Husby, in the northwest of the city, residents celebrated the Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, helping bring a festive atmosphere to one of the areas worst hit in recent days by the rioting.


A week of violence has exposed a fault line between a well-off majority of Swedes and a minority - often young people with immigrant backgrounds - who are poorly educated, cannot find work and feel pushed to the edge of society.

Underscoring Sweden's ambivalence toward its open immigration policies, an anti-immigrant party has risen to third in polls this year, and some analysts say the riots could swell its ranks.

Speaking on Swedish radio, the leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, said the causes of the rioting were a lack of jobs and education.

"I get angry when schools are burned down, but then there are those who are drawn into this because they feel their situation is hopeless," Stefan Lofven said.

"I see it as a lack of trust in society," he said.

Rioting has mainly been contained in Stockholm, though on Friday night in Orebro, a town in central Sweden, some 25 masked youths set fire to three cars and a school and tried to torch a police station, police said.

The same night, some 200 kilometres (124 miles) to the southwest in Linkoping, several vehicles were set on fire and youths tried to torch a school.

The rioting was sparked by the police shooting on May 13 of a 69-year-old man, who media said was killed when officers stormed his apartment because they feared he was threatening his wife with a large knife. Media said he was a Portuguese immigrant, which police would not confirm.


The violence has echoes of rioting in recent years in Paris and London but has been relatively mild in comparison. There has been no looting, hardly any injuries and few arrests.

Much of the capital has gone about business as normal, and even affected suburbs look normal by day.

Still, it has shocked a nation that has long taken pride in its generous social safety net, though some seven years of centre-right rule have chipped away at benefits.

One recent government study showed that 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.

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 foreigners are from neighbouring Nordic countries, others are drawn by the country's policy of welcoming asylum seekers from war-torn countries.

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.

(Writing by Alistair Scrutton and Simon Johnson; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Philip Barbara)

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Kerry presses Egypt on economic reform, says aid depends on it

Posted: 25 May 2013 02:35 PM PDT

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Egypt to act swiftly on economic reforms to secure a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan, saying the measures were needed to get further aid from the U.S. Congress, an American official said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Addis Ababa May 25, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Addis Ababa May 25, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young

Kerry met Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi for about an hour on the sidelines of an African Union summit on Saturday, discussing Syria's civil war, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, human rights in Egypt and the country's faltering economy, the official said.

Egypt's Islamist-led government has been resistant to introducing the austerity measures needed to win the IMF funding, including raising taxes and cutting fuel subsidies, fearing such painful reforms could provoke social unrest.

However, an IMF deal could help shore up investor and donor concerns after two years of political instability since the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. The instability has depressed tourism, a crucial industry for Egypt.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Kerry had made the argument that the reforms were necessary to persuade American lawmakers to proceed with further economic support for the country, which borders U.S. ally Israel.

"He urged action on making reforms happen now to move towards requirements to get the IMF package," the official said.

During his first visit to Cairo as secretary of state, on March 3, Kerry told Mursi the United States would provide the first $190 million of $450 million in pledged budget support because of Mursi's commitment to see the IMF process through.

The remainder, however, would depend on the economic reforms, a point Kerry made again in the Ethiopian capital.

"He said ... we need to be able to show Congress that you have taken the necessary reforms," said the official. "I have been a strong advocate of support for Egypt. I continue to support aid for Egypt, but ... we need to see reforms in place that will encourage my former colleagues back at home to act."

Kerry served in the U.S. Senate for nearly 30 years before becoming the country's top diplomat on February 1.

Egypt has in recent years received about $1.3 billion in military aid from Washington, support that dates back to its signing of a peace treaty with Israel more than 30 years ago. That assistance, however, is not seen as contingent on Egyptian economic reform.

Related Stories:
Kerry stresses respect for human rights with Nigerian president

Copyright © 2013 Reuters

Syrian opposition struggles for unity as battle rages

Posted: 25 May 2013 01:40 PM PDT

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Syria's opposition resumed talks on Saturday aimed at closing their fractious ranks, as government forces launched a fierce onslaught on a rebel-held border town to try to gain the upper hand in the civil war.

Demonstrators 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, "Stop monster al-Assad''. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Demonstrators 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, "Stop monster al-Assad''. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

A failure of the opposition to unite could weaken the hand of Russia and the United States, co-sponsors of a proposed peace conference on the war, which has killed 80,000 and threatens to spill over borders and whip up wider sectarian violence.

The U.S. and Russian foreign ministers are to meet in Paris on Monday to discuss how to shepherd Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition into the talks in Geneva.

As opposition leaders met in Istanbul, Assad's forces reinforced by Iranian-backed Shi'ite Lebanese Hezbollah fighters unleashed heavy artillery and tank fire to try to seize more rebel terrain in the Sunni Muslim border town of Qusair on Saturday, sources on both sides said.

Syria is becoming a proxy conflict between Shi'ite Iran which backs Assad, whose Alawite faith is an offshoot of Shi'ism, and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar which support Assad's mostly Sunni enemies.

George Sabra, the acting head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said thousands of fighters from Iran and Hezbollah were involved in the attack on Qusair, close to the Lebanese border, and in battles in the capital Damascus.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his group would stay in the Syrian conflict "to the end of the road" and would win the war for Assad's government.

"We accept this responsibility and will accept all sacrifices and expected consequences of this position," he said in a televised speech, speaking from an undisclosed location. "We will be the ones who bring it victory, God willing."

Assad's forces are believed to have seized about two-thirds of Qusair and largely surrounded the rebels. But the price was high and rebels insisted they were preventing further advances.

The insurgents see Qusair as a critical battle to preserve cross-border supply lines and deny Assad a victory they fear may give him the edge in the prospective peace talks next month.

More than 22 people in opposition-held areas were killed by Saturday afternoon, most of them rebels, and dozens wounded, according to pro-opposition monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The pro-opposition Syrian Network for Human Rights said 73 people were killed by Assad's forces, and opposition campaigner Adib Shishakly said Nasrallah lost 75 fighters in the battle for Qusair and that rebel defenders were doing "an excellent job."


The United States, concerned by the rising influence of hardline Islamists, has pressed the Syrian National Coalition to resolve its divisions and bring more liberals into the fold.

Sources at the coalition, which began its third day of meetings, said major players would focus on such international demands for a broadening of the Islamist-dominated group, leaving leadership issues for later.

Attempts to strike a grand bargain involving veteran liberal campaigner Michel Kilo and businessman Mustafa al-Sabbagh, Qatar's point man in the coalition, went nowhere in talks that stretched overnight, senior coalition sources said.

"We are back to square one," one of them told Reuters.

In Addis Ababa, on the sidelines of an African Union summit, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon "to try to get something moving with respect to Syria", according to a pool reporter. Ban told Kerry he and his special Syria envoy Lakhdar Brahimi "are working very hard to convene, to make this Geneva conference a success".

Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Arab adversary of Assad, will want to see the Geneva conference, which could convene in the next few weeks, put the exit of Assad at the top of the agenda, diplomats and coalition members said.

But they said Russia, a longtime ally of Assad, wanted it to focus on a ceasefire although there is scant rapport between opposition politicians abroad and rebels inside Syria.

The inability of the coalition to alter its Islamist-dominated membership and replace a leadership damaged by power struggles is playing into the hands of Assad who, according to Russia, intends to send representatives to the peace conference.


"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.

Senior opposition figures said the coalition was likely to attend the conference, but doubted the meeting would secure their central demand - an immediate deal for Assad to quit.

While the opposition remained riven by differences, the assault by Assad's forces and their Hezbollah allies on Qusair over the past week is evolving into a pivotal battle.

Qusair controls access to Syria's Mediterranean coast, the heartland of Assad's minority Alawite community, and the battle may prove a weighty test of his ability to withstand the revolt.

Hezbollah's intervention is hardening fears that the civil war will cross borders at the volatile 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'ite and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, where Syrian troops were present for 29 years, including for most of the Lebanese civil war that ended in 1990.

The death toll in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli reached 25 on Saturday in the seventh straight day of clashes between Alawite and Sunni factions backing opposing sides in Syria's war, security sources said.

(Additional reporting by Erika Solomon in Beirut and Arshad Mohammed in Addis Ababa; Editing by Pravin Char)

Related Stories:
France rules out Iran taking part in Syrian peace talks

Nasrallah says Hezbollah will bring victory to Syrian ally Assad
Between 180-200 French militants have fought in Syria - Le Monde

Copyright © 2013 Reuters


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Travel Picks: Top 10 golf resorts around the world

Posted: 24 May 2013 09:54 PM PDT

LONDON: If your idea of a nature hike involves driving an elusive ball over acres of meticulously manicured greens, then bookmark this list of premier putting destinations created with golf enthusiasts in mind, hand-picked by the boutique hotel experts Mr & Mrs Smith ( Fore! Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. Primland; Virginia, USA

Pristine Primland hotel in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains is an elegant estate surrounded by 12,000 verdant acres. One of the many spectacular ways to explore the grounds is by playing across ridge tops and over valleys on the 18-hole Highland Course, designed to thrill every level of golfer. Rejuvenate following your day of sport with a bespoke golfer's treatment - sea salt scrub, mud wrap, deep tissue massage - at the sublime spa. All before retiring to your luxurious Fairway Cottage with a fieldstone fireplace and private deck, set just steps from the scenic greens.

2. Residences at Kapalua Bay; Maui, Hawaii

Perched on the Pacific Ocean, Maui's Residences at Kapalua Bay hotel is the ultimate paradise playground with its landscaped lagoon pool, airy, modern suites, kaleidoscopic coral reefs, private beaches, and spa honouring traditional Hawaiian treatments. And, what draws club-toting travellers is the two championship palm-strewn golfing greens. Brush up on your technique at the state-of-the-art Kapalua Golf Academy, or tee-off on either of the world-renowned courses, each set against a background of sweeping ocean and ancient mountain vistas. It's possible you'll take more photos than you will strokes on these jaw-dropping courses.

3. Farm at Cape Kidnappers; Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Set in the foothills of Hawke's Bay in one of New Zealand's fted grape-growing regions is the Farm at Cape Kidnappers hotel. This 6,000-acre working sheep and cattle farm is dotted with 22-charming cottage suites, and has a par 71 golf course dramatically perched on a cliff above the churning Pacific. With deep ravines, jutting ridges and windswept terrain, this unique course is perfect for those who relish a challenge. And, no matter how things play out, reward efforts with a trip to the hotel's serenity-boosting spa followed by an epicurean feast paired with local wines.

4. Kirimaya; Thailand

Khao Yai boutique hotel Kirimaya, a few hours' drive from Bangkok, is a grown-up rustic Thai retreat, and a most exotic setting for an exclusive, Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course. With its single-track layout surrounded by lush jungle and mountains, you may feel as if you're the only one out on the links. Overall the resort exudes understated good taste and combines modern sophistication with an all-natural escape. Rustic trimmings such as antique doors and wooden decking give way to simply furnished rooms showing off the best of contemporary Thai design, as well as elegant tented villas.

5. Masseria Torre Maizza; Puglia, Italy

In the coast-hugging countryside of Puglia, the 16th-century Masseria Torre Maizza hotel offers yet another tempting reason for an Italian adventure: a scenic round of golf. Immersed in a grove of olive and almond trees is a handsomely landscaped split-level nine-hole course with sea views. And, this spacious escape with cool, contemporary dcor and jasmine-lined pathways offers plenty of additional amusements too: an Aveda spa, private beach, two massive pool decks, cookery school and equestrian centre.

6. Stoke Park; Buckinghamshire, England

Seasoned pros and untested novices will both feel right at home on the majestic grounds of Buckinghamshire's Stoke Park, whose 27-hole championship course has seen games by the likes of James Bond in Goldfinger. The acclaimed golf academy includes everything from a swing-analysis video suite to a driving range. If you can tear yourself away from the golf lover's dream, though, the stately mansion is equally impressive; the White House-resembling building was designed by 'Mad' King George III's architect and the highly acclaimed spa Stoke Park Spa is the perfect alternative if your other half isn't quite as passionate about the links as you are.

7. Finca Cortesin; Costa del Sol, Spain

The Costa del Sol's elegantly sprawling Finca Cortesin boasts both one of Spain's top courses and the idyllic year-round weather to go with it. Host of the Volvo World Match Play Championship for three years and home to a Nicklaus Academy, this course is one of our favourite places to spend a day, from the Mediterranean views to the green-side Spanish dining. Afterwards, make for one of the three Moorish-tiled pools or head straight for the private Beach Club to recuperate. By night, sip potent cocktails and dine on fresh seafood at one of the three international restaurants.

8. Blantyre; Massachusetts USA

If you unexpectedly stumbled upon Blantyre, a grand old Berkshires estate, you might think yourself somewhere in Scotland, between its castle-inspired architecture and the 18-hole Cranwell Golf Course that surrounds it. Hike around the rolling hills and admire the area's renowned natural beauty - the colourful autumn leaves are legendary - or participate in old-world sports like croquet and snow-shoeing. The illusion continues inside, where it's all roaring fires, antique accessories and cheese fondue whenever you want it.

9. Namale; Fiji

For anyone but a golf aficionado, the tropical Fijian Namale Resort's nine-hole course, driving range and virtual golf simulator might go unnoticed amid the opulent hydrotherapy spa, snorkelling and diving excursions and picturesquely situated private bures. Private outdoor dining overlooking the ocean is de rigueur and resort-coordinated visits to local villages make stays that much more memorable. If you decide to just lounge by your airy villa's plunge pool, though, you'll be in good company - Namale has been a favourite retreat of such privacy-seeking celebrities as Ed Norton and Russell Crowe.

10. Carneros Inn; California, USA

Nestled away in Northern California's legendary Napa Valley wine region, the 'agri-chic' Carneros Inn seamlessly blends local farm style with contemporary architecture and the area's relaxed vibe. Surrounded by rolling hills and lush vineyards, it'd be a shame not to spend as much time as possible outside. Fortunately, four world-class golf courses are within half an hour of the resort, including the Chardonnay Golf Club and Eagle Vines Golf Club, both within a 10-minute drive and both winding their way through acres of oak trees, creeks and working vineyards whose products you can sample at the end of a round on the links. - Reuters

Chinese premier criticizes EU move on trade measures

Posted: 24 May 2013 09:52 PM PDT

SHANGHAI: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang criticized the European Union over its plans to investigate alleged anti-competitive behavior by Chinese mobile telecom equipment makers and to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China, state media reported.

The official Xinhua news agency reported late on Friday that Li had told business leaders in Switzerland such measures would "harm others without benefiting oneself".

Li is the most senior Chinese official to comment on the troublesome issue so far.

The European Union is considering whether to impose punitive import duties on solar panels from China after the United States levied its own duties last year - a move fiercely opposed by Beijing.

European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said this month he and fellow commissioners had agreed in principle to open an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy case against China, but would first seek to negotiate a solution with Chinese authorities.

China has threatened to retaliate if the EU pushes ahead with the investigation.

China hopes the EU will think about overall economic and trade relations between them and uphold the principles of free trade when handling the two cases, Xinhua quoted Li as saying.

The EU is China's most important trading partner, while for the EU China is second only to the United States. Chinese export of goods to the 27-member bloc totalled 290 billion euros ($374.98 billion) last year, with 144 billion euros going the other way. - Reuters

Justice Department opposes AMR's $20 million severance for CEO Horton

Posted: 24 May 2013 09:50 PM PDT

NEW YORK: A plan by American Airlines' parent to exit bankruptcy and merge with US Airways Group is coming under fire from the U.S. Department of Justice over nearly $20 million in severance pay earmarked for outgoing boss Tom Horton.

In court papers filed on Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, U.S. Trustee Tracy Hope Davis, the department's official charged with regulating bankruptcy cases in the New York region, said the severance deal for AMR Corp's chief executive violates bankruptcy law.

She asked the court not to approve the outline of the plan that must also be approved by AMR creditors.

The initial merger agreement called for $19.9 million in severance payments for Horton, but when Judge Sean Lane approved the merger at a hearing in March, he refused to green-light the severance package, saying it was a matter that should be left for AMR's Chapter 11 exit plan. Davis at the time had opposed the severance on grounds similar to those she cited on Friday.

AMR filed its exit plan last month, laying out how it would effect the merger, pay back its creditors and exit bankruptcy.

As expected, it also built Horton's severance deal into the plan. In Friday's filing, Davis argued that in bankruptcy severance is only acceptable when it is part of a program applicable to all employees and is not more than 10 times the average severance given to non-management employees. Horton's package meets neither criteria, Davis said.

The severance has been a controversial issue from the get-go, drawing criticism from some AMR pilots. Horton was not liked by AMR's unions, which were forced to accept reductions in benefits as part of the bankruptcy and merger deal.

An AMR spokesman said he did not expect the objection to delay the court approval process.

"Consistent with what American indicated previously, the company expects that Mr. Horton's compensation arrangement will be addressed at the plan confirmation hearing," spokesman Sean Collins told Reuters.

Davis also objected to a component of the plan that would provide top-priority payments of attorneys' fees and other expenses to many of AMR's creditors. She added that AMR gave insufficient information about many facets of its plan, including settlements between various classes of unsecured claimholders.

AMR filed for bankruptcy in 2011, the last major U.S. carrier to go through the process after its competitors underwent restructurings in the last decade. It initially opposed a merger, but agreed to explore one under pressure from its unsecured creditors' committee and unions.

US Airways CEO Doug Parker would run the combined airline, but Horton would serve as non-executive chairman until the first annual shareholder meeting, probably in the spring of 2014, after which Parker would become chairman.

AMR shareholders would receive a 3.5 percent equity stake in the new company, which would make it one of the few major bankruptcies in which equity holders earn some recovery. An attorney for AMR's creditors committee has said the stake could be valued at between $350 million and $400 million. - Reuters


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Pandelela-Mun Yee and Yan Yee-Jun Hoong bag bronze medals in Mexico

Posted: 25 May 2013 06:22 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: It was girl power to the fore as Malaysian divers mounted the podium twice in the final leg of the FINA Diving World Series in Guadalajara, Mexico, yesterday.

Wendy Ng Yan Yee partnered Cheong Jun Hoong to a well-deserved bronze in the 3m springboard synchro final in style by breaching the 300-point barrier for the first time. The duo ended their World Series debut with their third bronze and it could not have come at a better time with barely two months before the World Championships in Barcelona in July. They claimed back-to-back bronze in Edinburgh (third leg) and Moscow (fourth leg) in the series.

Wendy-Jun Hoong bounced back after finishing empty-handed in the previous leg, also in Guadalajara, by finishing third with an impressive score of 305.70 points – their highest score in seven competitions after being paired up this year.

China's He Zi-Wang Han were a class above the field as they took the gold with 327.00 points while Mexico's Paola Espinosa-Dolores Hernandez won the silver with a 313.20 total. Espinosa, the 10m platform individual world champion in 2009, was making her first appearance since the London Olympics last year.

"It felt really good to be back on the podium again after we missed the fifth leg last week.

"It's even better to win a medal with a good performance like this," said Wendy, in a telephone interview.

"I have said before that we don't mind finishing last if we can score above 300 points. We did it today and the reward is another medal. It's a double joy for us," added Wendy.

It was Wendy-Jun Hoong's fourth medal at a world-level competition as they also claimed bronze in the United States Grand Prix in Fort Lauderdale at the beginning of the month.

It was, however, a climb-down for Pandelela Rinong-Leong Mun Yee. The duo's four-silver streak, including one in the US Grand Prix, came to a halt as they could only manage a third placing in the 10m platform synchro final.

Pandelela-Mun Yee amassed 311.46 points to settle for the bronze behind champions Li Huixia-Si Ya Jie (335.16) of China and Britain's Tonia Couch-Sarah Barrow (317.10).

The Malaysians were in silver medal position going into the final dive but they only managed 68.16 and were overtaken by the British pair, who chalked up an impressive 75.84.

Malaysia's Ooi Tze Liang-Ahmad Amsyar Azman were also in action, competing in the men's 3m springboard synchro. However, the young pairing finished last out of six pairs after garnering 382.41 points.

Pandelela will compete in the 10m platform individual today where she will attempt to win her second medal in the championships.

World No. 1 Nicol sinks Waters to reach British Open final

Posted: 25 May 2013 06:23 PM PDT

PETALING JAYA: It was all smiles for world No. 1 Nicol David after dishing out a scintillating performance to reach the women's final of the prestigious British Open squash championships at the KC Stadium in Hull yesterday.

A day after bad weather forced the quarter-finals to be played indoors, Nicol thrived under the sun to demolish world No. 4 Alison Waters 11-5, 11-4, 11-5 in just 20 minutes.

Nicol, a four-time British Open champion, showed no signs of her recent decline as she totally dominated Waters.

Still without a single WSA title this season, Nicol started off lethargically to allow Waters a 4-0 and 5-3 leads.

But as soon as she found her rhythm and length, there was no looking back for the 29-year-old Malaysian.

She stepped up to score eight straight points to win the first set.

Nicol was even more ruthless in the second set, making only one error in winning 11-4.

Waters, however, refused to give up and tried to force a comeback by taking a 2-0 lead in the third set.

But Nicol was able to pick up everything Waters threw at her.

The seven-time world champion dropped three more points before sealing the set 11-5 and a place in the final.

"I'm still in focused mode. I don't really have a plan for the final yet," said a jubilant Nicol after the match. "But I'm really pleased and happy to be in the final once more and I will be looking forward to it.

"Now I just want to enjoy the game that I love and I'm definitely saving the best for last."

On the match against Waters, Nicol said: "She started really strong and I was just hanging on. It took me a few rallies to settle down. Once I got used to the court, I managed to grow into the game and the match."

Nicol will face England's world No. 2 Laura Massaro in today's final.

KL Open champion Massaro overcame a slow start to beat talented world No. 3 Raneem El Weleily of Egypt 8-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-9 in the other semi-final.

China confident of sweeping aside their final opponents

Posted: 25 May 2013 06:26 PM PDT

Eight-time champions China flexed their muscle as they romped to a 3-1 over Denmark yesterday to put themselves on track for a ninth win in the Sudirman Cup at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

China, finalist of the biennial mixed team event since 1995, have only lost once – to South Korea (2003) – their opponents in today's showdown for the title.

Nevertheless, China's chief coach Li Yongbo, is not worried about the Koreans repeating the feat. Instead, he is confident his players will take care of business on court.

Yongbo said that although South Korea are a strong side with some good players, China have the upper hand in terms of indepth strength and line-up.

"We are not like other countries. We have a lot of good players to choose from and even can afford to rotate our line-up as it will not affect our chances," said Yongbo.

"All out preparation up this stage has gone according to plan. So which line-up we decide upon for tomorrow (today), I can assure you it will be the strongest."

As to whether Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng will play in the men's doubles, Yongbo said they would conduct a post-mortem of the team's performance against Denmark before making a decision.

Yesterday, it was China's mixed doubles pair and world No. 3 Zhang Nan-Zhao Yunlei who drew first blood as they sent Danish counterparts Joachim Fisher Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen packing with a 21-15, 21-12 win in 42 minutes.

"This was not our best game. They controlled most of the play. I guess you could say they were too fast, too strong. We couldn't find our best speed and reach our best level," said Pedersen.

"It's hard to win against China when you are always on the defence," added Fischer Nielsen.

It was an impossible task for the Danes to win from then on as world No. 2 Chen Long made it 2-0 by beating Jan O Jorgensen 21-16, 21-16.

The pressure was then on world No. 1 men's doubles pair and last year's London Olympics silver medallists Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Boe to salvage some Danish pride. The delivered and in the process exacted sweet revenge over their conquerors in London, Cai Yun and Haifeng, winning 21-16, 21-17 to make it 2-1.

But Li Xuerui made short work of Line Kjaersfeldt in the women's singles winning 21-13, 21-9 in 26 minutes to send China into their fourth straight final since 2005.


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Drizzle fails to dampen Citrawarna 1Malaysia launch

Posted: 25 May 2013 08:37 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: A drizzle did not deter the public, including foreign tourists, from following the Citrawarna 1Malaysia (Colours of 1Malaysia) event at Merdeka Square on Saturday.

The fest, which started at 5pm, saw about 100,000 local and foreign tourists and 248 MegaFam participants from 23 nations including Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Jerman, New Zealand and Canada mesmerised by the local cultural performances.

Australian Richard McGallen, 38, complimented the Tourism and Culture Ministry for organising a fantastic event.

"I am amazed at the cultural visit to Malaysia will be a very memorable one," he said.

Hisham Jefri Mohd Ali, 27, from Kelana Jaya, was very excited with the procession of 200 Porche cars and other performances.

The launching of the colourful and glorious event was done by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah, who was accompanied by Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah.

Also present was Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz.

Citrawarna 1Malaysia with the theme "Visit Malaysia Year 2014 - Celebrating 1Malaysia Truly Asia' featured 15 segments including eco-tourism, sports tourism, 'Magic of the Night', Mega Endang Citrawarna and Cuti-cuti Malaysia dance. - Bernama.

Najib: Change must be based on rule of law not the street

Posted: 25 May 2013 08:38 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: Any demand for change in the country must be based on the Federal Constitution and the rule of law, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

It is not necessary for Malaysians to take to the street or "tear down" all that have been built by the country's forefathers to achieve whatever aspirations that may not be in line with the Government of the day, he said.

"If we demand change, it must follow the constitution and the rule of law.

"If not, we will end up following the law of the jungle and that will destroy all that has been built by our leaders in the past," he said when opening the Putrajaya Youth Festival 2013 here.

Anwar: Conditions in Jusuf Kalla's polls pact not met

Posted: 25 May 2013 05:36 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has denied he reneged on a peace pact brokered by former Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla to respect the results of the recent polls.

"As I had clarified, he (Jusuf) came into the country about a month before the election and met Najib and me where some parameters were agreed upon.

"However, these were not adhered too," he told reporters at PKR's annual convention.

The conditions included free and fair election, free access to the media, implementation of reforms proposed by election watchdog group Bersih, including no demonising of opponents via the media or witch hunt after the polls results.

Anwar said none of the conditions of the peace pact were met.

"To then come back and say forget all the other conditions and just accept where there is clear massive rigging and fraud, is very difficult," he added.

Despite the pact, he said there was still incessant attacks and propaganda against the opposition which went unabated.

He said there was nothing secret about the pact as he had touched on the need for the election to be free and fair.

He added he was also seeking clarification as to whether Yusuf's statement over the issue had been presented in context.

A Wall Street Journal report on Saturday said Anwar reneged on the peace deal brokered by Jusuf.

Jusuf, who served office between 2004 and 2009, is well-known for his effort in negotiating peace deals between factions in Thailand, Sri Lanka and parts of strife-torn Indonesia.

Meanwhile, Anwar said Pakatan lawmakers will not support Election Commission's boundary re-delineation exercise even though a two-thirds majority is not required for the purpose.


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Who has the better chance of bagging that high-salary post?

Posted: 24 May 2013 07:46 PM PDT

WHEN it comes to hiring suitable talents, it would be ideal to have a potential employee with the relevant qualifications as well as one that has practical experience.

But what if there was just one vacancy available – and the organisation had to choose between the two candidates? In a hypothetical situation between a candidate that's "book smart" (has the relevant qualifications) and one that's "street smart" (has the practical experience), who would be the more likely choice?

More importantly, is a high-paying job unattainable for those without formal education? Or is there still a chance for a candidate that does not have that oh-so-important diploma or degree?

The book smart candidate

Heera Training and Management Consultancy principal consultant Heera Singh believes a candidate with the relevant qualifications would generally be "technically competent" in that job.

"It certainly brings credibility to the job. For example, if someone has a Masters in Human Resources (HR) Management, then the qualification enhances his credibility," he tells StarBizWeek.

"It also assists greatly in the recruitment and selection of employees. For example, if a job is advertised and does not specify technical qualifications, but only states practical experience required, then every Tom, Dick and Harry will apply and this will ensure lots of extra work for the HR department," Heera says.

Leaderonomics finance and human resources leader Ang Hui Ming concurs that having the right qualifications adds more credibility to an individual seeking employment – at least on paper.

"Generally, the employee might probably have a wider knowledge-base theoretically of the function he is hired for and has some form of certification of his ability to understand at least the basic concepts of the function," she says.

However, it has often been said that what one learns in theory can be quite different in practice.

Heera believes that the "book smart" candidate, though technically qualified, still lacks experience – an important element that may be vital in certain jobs.

"Being technically qualified does not mean that they can do the jobs well. They may be more academically inclined rather than hands-on.

"They may be technically qualified but may not like the job. Many people, for example, go to university and do courses that their parents want them to do, or courses which their friends are doing. All they want to do is to get their qualifications."

Ang, meanwhile, feels that not having the relevant experience is not a big deal – as it is something that can be acquired over time.

"There is no real disadvantage, experience is to meant to be built anyway.

"At most, it's the lack of reality. If a person is all academic, it is uncertain how he or she will handle real life situations where the theories they learn needs to be adapted to the situation, environment and culture of any given place and time."

The street-smart candidate

The advantage of hiring an employee with experience means that they can do the job straight away with minimal disruptions, says Heera.

"There is minimum need for any job orientation and at interviews, you can ascertain the type of practical experience they have and see if it suits or meets your job expectations."

Ang concurs: "Generally, the employee might have deeper expertise in the function and would have experienced real-life situations in the function. This makes the person more adaptable and adept to handle similar natured situations more wisely and calmly."

"The type of experience is important. If they have the wrong type of experience, then it is of no use to the company. For example, if a person has worked in a HR capacity in a government department, then his experience may not necessarily gel with what is wanted in the HR department in the private sector.

"Experience can be a bad teacher as it is always difficult to mould a person who has the experience but has picked up some bad habits along the way."

Ang feels there's no real disadvantage to hiring someone that has no paper qualifications but is oozing with experience.

"At most, probably a possible lack of what's new in the market, or what's happening on a global scale or what new technology is out there that can better equip him or her in the function.

"This is only an assumption as people that are hands-on can still learn market trends and future technology if they read up and do research on their own. There is just no paper qualification – that's all."

Does it really matter?

According to an article on online investment site Investopedia, "Is It Better To Be Book Smart Or Street Smart," its author, Tim Parker, points out that one does not need to have the relevant paper qualifications to be truly successful.

"Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, is widely regarded as one of the best businessmen of his day. He didn't have a college degree and neither did Steve Wozniak, the other founder of Apple.

"Other successful businessmen without college degrees include Dell Computer founder Michael Dell, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Virgin Brands founder Sir Richard Branson. People all over the world have found success without a college degree," he writes.

But is that the rule or the exception, he then asks.

"Unemployment data shows that more than 8% of the population looking for a job (in the US) can't find one. However, for those with a bachelor's degree, the unemployment rate is only 3.9%. The unemployment rate is 13% for people without a high school diploma.

"A college degree doesn't guarantee success, but Bureau of Labour Statistics unemployment statistics show book smarts more than double your chances of finding a job."

Of course, having an employee with both the relevant paper qualifications and practical experience would be the optimum choice, naturally.

"This would definitely be an ideal combination," says Heera.

Ang says having both qualities would indeed be a plus point, adding however that having both relevant qualification and practical experience does not make one a best employee.

"It's a person's character, values and attitude that makes him or her a good employee. Qualifications and experience are all things that can be accumulated as long as one has the right attitude and desire."

Google makes the world go round

Posted: 24 May 2013 07:46 PM PDT

The New Digital Age

Author: Eric Schmidt & Jared Cohen

Publisher: Reshaping the Future, People, Nations and Business

"So, what do we think we know about our future world?"

This seems like a fair question to ask. What's currently emerging from human technological prowess indeed is beyond one's ability to articulate. Apart from connectivity, convenience and advancement, we laymen know not much.

Who else is more qualified to answer that question than someone from Google, which nearly is the generic name for the word "search"? Let's google then about what the world would be like in the near future. The answer we get may be way too many for us to handle. So, let's instead take a glimpse of it through this wonderful book called The New Digital Age, co-authored by two Googleans, Eric Schmidt (executive chairman) and Jared Cohen (director of Google Ideas). What we find may shock us.

The New Digital Age is wonderful because of its near-perfect organisation. Succinctly, in little less than 300 pages, it presents to us the contour of a future digital world that already is showing the tell-tale signs of fully emerging. Its emergence is the result of the penetration of electronic networking into every corner of the globe and every part of people's lives. While at present, we only have just over a third of the world's population connected, we will eventually have the rest of the 5 billion joining us as Netizens in the future. Schmidt and Cohen think information technology, in a much quicker pace than we have predicted, will soon be omnipresent, as readily-available as electricity. As connectivity ushers in billions more people into technology, everyone wanting to be connected will be connected.

The future, inevitably, is one with two worlds – physical and virtual. These two civilisations will coexist, contradict, and compliment in a way never before seen. They will affect and shape each other, and the balance they strike, or fail to strike, will pretty much affect us all. The virtual world will offer much of what we lack in the physical world, while the physical world tries to retain what it is losing.

The virtual world will provide freedom from repressive state control and the necessary means to demand accountability and change. In the virtual world population revolts, venting long-held grievances or new concerns with tenacity and conviction; governments, in turn, extend their oppression into the virtual world, trying desperately to contain the people. Many countries will have to practise two domestic policies and two foreign policies with its counterparts. These policies, not only are they wasteful, will also be contradictory. For example, hackers will be torn between terrorists and governments in the future of conflict, combat and intervention. The underappreciated nations will be able to punch their superpowers in the face, stirring and complicating geopolitical issues in the virtual world. Strange to say for now but not at all in the future that what gives terror groups in the future an edge is not their members' dying wish, but their technological prowess, and that wars will shed no blood as they will be cyber wars. Puff! A nation can be easily wiped out, and an ethic group disliked by its states can disappear from the country's demographics. Fighting for identity protection? In the future we will, give it all up in order to be connected. Who wouldn't want to be a part of the connectivity, and who could afford not to?

All these may sound far-fetch to some, and to those who jet in and out of the tech world, Schmidt and Cohen sound like primary school principals explaining to wide-eye children about the adult world that is taking place. But the endearing part of the book is not only the authors' presentations of a world soon to take place, it is also the message – while it is inevitable the world is headed that way because of information technology, it is also technology that will help tame the myriad of problems arising from it.

So in the end, this book is not necessarily that frightening. It in fact gives hope. Technology helps all parties, allowing small actors to have advantage. "Connectivity benefits everyone. Those who have none will have some, and those who have a lot will have even more." This will empower the underdogs, the underprivileged, and autocracies will decry the erosion of their power, their control. And those who resist or underestimate the technology do so at their perils.

Thorough though, Schmidt and Cohen may be in their coverage of the new digital age, they have left out, nonetheless, themselves in the picture. How big will companies such as Google and Facebook be? How will our lives be impacted, and controlled, by these giants that seem to pull the strings of connectivity? That part is omitted.

So what do we think we know about the future world? I think it is not only a world Google envisions it to be, but also one that Google makes, if not already.


Posted: 24 May 2013 07:46 PM PDT

The 3 secrets to effective time investment

Author: Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

The book takes you beyond simple time management to provide you with the skills and outlook you need to completely revamp the quality of your life. It does more than help you make the best of the time you have. It gives you the tools, insight and guidance you need to overhaul your entire life.

Becoming an effective mentoring leader

Author: Dr Peter Chee

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Pressure on managers are ever present. With the need to cut cost, streamline operations and increase productivity, the role of mentors has become more critical than ever. Studies has shown that leaders who mentor get promoted faster and earn significantly more than those who don't.

The little book that still saves your assets

Author: David M. Darst

Publisher: Wiley

You wonder why affluent people tend to manage their money better than most. It's because of asset allocation. Asset allocation is not just smart investing; it's the ultimate determinant of success in the markets and it's the proven strategy the wealthy use to survive financial chaos and profit even in down markets.


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Suggestions for residents and Syabas on ways to counter water shortage

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:46 PM PDT

A CONSUMER group and a town planning expert have a few suggestions to resolve the constant water supply disruptions in the Klang Valley.

Water and Energy Consumer Association of Malaysia (Wecam) secretary-general Foon Weng Lian said one of the things that individuals could do was harvest rainwater.

"Harvesting rainwater is easy. Just fill a pail or two when it rains and you can use it for gardening or washing your car," said Foon.

He said it was a waste to use treated water to wash cars, flush toilets, water plants and in irrigation.

"Based on research and studies done, harvesting rainwater can effectively reduce the water bill by 20% to 30%, and in some cases, up to 60%," he added.

Foon said there were some areas with water surplus and Syabas could distribute it to areas with higher demand.

"This has been done in parts of northern Thailand where surplus water is distributed through a connected system," he said.

He urged the public to be pro-active in getting information themselves.

"In times of supply disruption, they should check the website for water tanker schedules and locations," said Foon.

He added that the water supply disruption in a few areas in the Klang Valley, such as Wangsa Maju and Subang Jaya. recently could have been caused by the dry spell.

"In this case, Syabas and the Meteorology Department should work together and inform the public that there will be a water supply disruption in a few weeks so that the public can take the necessary measures to collect water," said Foon.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Institute of Planners (MIP) president Prof Datuk Dr Alias Abdullah said local councils and the state and federal governments should control the approval for development plans.

"With each new building plan, there will be an increase in water demand.

"The local councils should ensure that there will be enough water for future users," said Dr Alias.

He added that an experienced water concessionaire could construct water processing plants outside the Klang Valley, such as in Perak, Pahang or Negri Sembilan.

"The water can be processed there and sent back to the city. This will help alleviate shortage," said Dr Alias.

Water treatment plants and reserves not designed to produce the needed amount

Posted: 24 May 2013 05:47 PM PDT

SYARIKAT Bekalan Air Selangor Sdn Bhd (Syabas) has urged Klang Valley folk to reduce water usage due to the critical water levels of reservoirs in the state.

Chief operating officer Datuk Lee Miang Koi said the situation had become worrying lately due to the increasing demand from consumers in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya, especially with the hot weather.

"Recently, there were several areas that experienced unscheduled disruptions.

"This is due to the increasing demand for treated water that exceeds distribution capacity," he told reporters in a press conference to clarify the water issue at Syabas headquarters in Jalan Pantai Baru, Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

He added that the demand for water in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya had increased 3.5% from last year.

Lee said up to May, the demand for water supply was at 4,638mil litres a day, compared to the collective production capacity which is at 4,661mil litres a day.

The 34 treatment plants under Syabas were unable to cope with demand.

"Some of the treatment plants are already operating above capacity to meet the high demand," he added.

Lee also said calculations had showed that the situation would continue to deteriorate when the water reserves run out.

"Our records from last year to-date, show that the high demand has caused water reserve levels to be very low.

"In May alone, the water reserve level was at 19.83mil litres, which is only 0.43%.

"By July 2014, the water reserve will be all used up.

"This shows that the capacity has to be increased immediately and demand to be controlled," said Lee.

He highlighted that water reserves should be at 10% of production capacity.

"Consumers can also try to reduce usage. Water usage per head per day was 214 litres.

"In developed countries, the average usage per head per day was 150 litres.

"If consumers can reduce their usage by 10%, it will greatly increase the level of the water reserves," Lee said.

He explained that the frequent disruptions over the past few months was due to the decreasing water supply.

"When the demand for water is at its peak, the water pressure is low and some areas may face disruptions.

"These areas are usually on higher ground or at the end of the water distribution system.

"We have also identified these as water stress areas.

"If water distribution capacity is not increased, there will be more areas under this status," he added.

Lee said there were 35 disruption-prone areas in the five districts of Petaling, Hulu Langat, Kuala Lumpur, Gombak and Klang/Shah Alam.

"We hope that the consumers understand the situation so that they will use water sparingly.

"We also urge the public to contact us if there are burst pipes or cases of people stealing water, so that we can act immediately to reduce water loss," he said.

When quizzed by reporters on a permanent solution for the problem, Lee said the state government would have to look into a long-term plan to increase supply capacity in the Klang Valley.


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Thousands gather for Wesak Day

Posted: 24 May 2013 08:03 PM PDT

BATU PAHAT: Some 1,500 Buddhists took part in a procession to mark the Wesak Day celebration here.

The event started at 7pm on Thursday night at the Batu Pahat Buddhists Society premises where devotees gathered for chanting and prayer sessions.

They accompanied three floats for a 4.8km walk around town after a candle lighting ceremony.

Holding candles fitted with paper lotus to signify the significance of the flower, the devotees began the journey from Kampung Merdeka about an hour later.

The procession passed through Jalan Mohd Akil, Jalan Pengkai, Jalan Sultanah and Jalan Pegawai before returning to the society premises.

Also present at the event were representatives from the Malaysia Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

Organising chairman Tan Kim Chuan said the Wesak Day was to commemorate the birth, enlightenment and the passing of Gautama Buddha that reminded Buddhists to embrace the Buddha's teaching and apply the understanding to everyday life.

He said the celebration in Batu Pahat also covered medical, education, environmental awareness, charity activities and others.

"We have organised a series of activities in line with this year's theme that promotes prosperity and well-being of the country and people.

"We hope the people will understand the teaching of Buddha and together work towards building a harmonious, healthy and united nation regardless of race.

"Only a peaceful and prosperous nation is able to protect its people," he said.

Market traders protest relocation

Posted: 24 May 2013 08:04 PM PDT

BATU PAHAT: Thirty-one vegetables wholesalers held a protest on Thursday against relocating to a new wholesale market in Taman Murni, about 5km from their current location.

They signed a petition, requesting the Batu Pahat Municipal Council not to move them to the new premise from the market in Jalan Pasar.

Cheng Chee Wee, 40, said the road leading to the new facilities was too narrow and winding for large number of trailers or lorries travelling in and out the market to reload and unload goods.

"The new wholesale market is too far from the town and located within the industrial zone. It is more suitable for industrial premises not a wholesale market for public.

"Besides, the individual stalls prepared for traders are too small. We need a bigger space and cold room to keep our vegetables," he said at a press conference organised by Penggaram assemblyman Gan Peck Cheng at DAP service centre here on Thursday.

It was announced in 2011 that the Federal Government allocated RM9mil to build the market and upgrade existing facilities.

The new venue for wholesalers, built on a 0.95ha land, would cost RM3mil to construct four buildings with loading bays and storage areas and was estimated to be completed soon.

When asked why the wholesalers only raised their protest at the end stage of the wholesale market project, Loh Leong Yoon said they were not aware of the plan to relocate them to Taman Murni.

"No one informed us about the project. We want a dialogue to know more," he said.

The wholesalers claimed that they came to know about relocating to the new location after receiving an invitation letter from the council on Tuesday to attend ballot sessions for distribution of stalls at the new wholesale market.

Another wholesaler, Woon Lai Kim, said she wanted the wholesale market to be built in the town areas for their convenience and their suppliers and customers.

"The location is not suitable because it is too far away. We are rushing against time everyday to keep our business volume, time is precious for us," she added.

Meanwhile, a group of fish wholesalers who were also present at Gan's press conference said they did not attend the balloting session as well because they were not satisfied with the council that said to have put them at the back of the market.

"We have four blocks and why are vegetable wholesalers taking both the front rows that are facing the main road?

"Our fully loaded fish boxes are very heavy and the weight of each box can reach up to 300kg. It is difficult for us to push the boxes further in," he said, adding that the best arrangement was for the fish wholesalers and vegetable wholesalers to occupy one front block and one at the back each.

The council has had to change its plans to construct a new wholesale market and rebuild the existing 40-year-old Batu Pahat market simultaneously, after a number of traders were against a proposal for both pro­jects to take place at the same time.

The construction of the new wholesale market, located 5km away from the old market, started in June last year.

However, the demolition of the old market in Jalan Pasar will only take place after the new wholesale market is completed.

Going for long-term growth

Posted: 24 May 2013 08:05 PM PDT

THE opening of new highways in and around Iskandar Malaysia in the past seven years have improved accessibility and connectivity within the economic growth region.

It has prompted many developers to start looking for land in the once less popular areas within South Johor to start their new projects.

While others, which already have existing projects in the less popular areas, seeing the improvements in road networks are beginning to re-evaluate their business strategy.

On that note, I&P Group Sdn Bhd has now started to offer new commercial and residential properties at its on-going Taman Rinting housing estate in Pasir Gudang, Johor.

"The last property launch at the scheme was about five years ago and we are now seeing Pasir Gudang becoming popular among property buyers,'' said marketing sales and product general manager Arry Nazroun Ahmad.

He said this in an interview with MetroBiz at the launch of the company's Laman Rinting 27 units of three-storey shop offices and 65 units of SinarLink double-storey link houses at Taman Rinting on Sunday.

"The take-up rate for the three-storey shop offices is good because buyers are looking at the long-term growth prospects of Pasir Gudang,'' said Azry Nazroun.

The units of shop offices on a 2.02ha site with a built-up are between 5,157 sq ft and 8,615 sq ft are selling between RM1.2mil and RM2.27mil and expected to be completed in the second-quarter of 2015.

The double-storey link houses on a 7.68ha site are selling between RM448,868 and RM694,868 per unit and are expected to be completed in July 2014.

He said the opening of the Pasir Gudang Coastal Highway had improved travelling times between Pasir Gudang to Johor Baru city centre and Singapore.

Taman Rinting was launched in the early 1980s covering 335.88ha of which 65% have been developed and it keeps the company busy within the next five to six years to fully develop the township.

Azry Nazroun said prior to the opening of the Coastal Highway, Pasir Gudang was only accessible via the Pasir Gudang Highway.

He said previously many would also associate Pasir Gudang with its infamous traffic congestion, but the opening of the Coastal Highway had changed the situation.

"Now there are more reasons to buy properties in Pasir Gudang as it is becoming more attractive as connectivity and accessibility is no longer an issue,'' he said.

Arry Nazroun said the new highway which cut through Pasir Gudang and Permas Jaya areas would bring progress and vibrancy; hence rejuvenating developments within the areas.

Pasir Gudang is located within the Eastern Gate Development Zone of Iskandar – the other flagship development zones are the JB City Centre, Nusajaya, Western Gate Development Zone and Senai-Kulai.

Launched on November 4, 2006, Iskandar is located in the southernmost part of Johor covering 2,217 sq km – three times bigger than Singapore and two times the size of Hong Kong.

Iskandar is the country's first economic growth corridors, others are the Northern Economic Region, East Coast Economic Region, Sabah Development Corridor and Sarawak Corrdior of Renewable Energy.

From 2006 until March 31, 2013, it has attracted about RM111.32bil in total cumulative committed investments with the target of achieving the RM383bil investments by 2025.

"There will be more new launches in Taman Rinting in the next one to two years as we can see progress are taking place in the Eastern Gate Development Zone,'' added Arry Nazroun.

He said in the fourth-quarter of 2013, the company would be launching 189 units of double-storey link houses with a built-up area of 1,800 sq ft, with the indicative selling price below RM400,000.

"Demand is actually good for residential properties priced below RM400,000 and we want to tap on this segment,'' added Arry Nazroun.

He said the company was targeting smaller and medium-size families for the 24ft by 70ft houses and the existing owners of single-storey houses within Pasir Gudang to upgrade to a bigger house.

Arry Nazroun said also in the pipeline for Taman Rinting was a mixed development project high-rise and landed residential properties and commercial properties on a 24.28ha site sea-fronting land overlooking Singapore.

"This mixed development parcel is going to be the Jewel in the Crown for our Taman Rinting due to the sea-fronting site,'' he said.

Arry Nazroun said other new launches to take place this year would be the 116 units of 24ft by 80ft single-storey and double-storey houses at Taman Pelangi Indah this July with the indicative selling prices between RM380,00 and RM490,000.

He said the company would also be launching the last phase of the residential property development at D'Serambi in Taman Perling either in the third or fourth-quarter of 2013.

The properties are 35 units of 24ft by 80ft and 26ft by 80ft double-storey link houses on a 1.61ha site, with the indicative selling prices between RM680,000 and RM730,000 each.

Arry Nazroun said those looking for high-rise residential living should look at this space for our serviced apartments in Taman Perling to be launched in the last-quarter of the year.

He said the high-rise project would comprise of two 25-storey blocks made up 576 apartment units with three floor sizes – 710 sq ft, 800 sq ft and 1,200 sq ft with the indicative selling price of RM600 per sq ft.

"The project's strategic location will be its main strong selling point as it was located just metres away form the Second Link Crossing to Singapore,'' said Arry Nazroun.

I&P Group is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permodalan Nasionanl Bhd and were formed with the merging of three property development giants in May 2009.

The group has successfully developed several major and well-known projects notably Bandar Kinrara, Alam Impian, Temasy Glenmarie, Alam Damai, Bandar Baru Seri Petaling and Bukit Damansara in the Klang Valley and Taman Pelangi Indah and Taman Rinting in Johor Baru.

For details on the company's projects in Johor Baru – call 07-2181 800 or visit the website: or visit its sales office at Level 1, Bangunan Pelangi, Jalan Biru, Taman Pelangi, Johor Baru.


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