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The Star Online: Nation

Befrienders founder member dies at 76

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: One of the two surviving founder members of The Befrienders Kuala Lumpur, Dr T. Thurairatnam (pic), died yesterday at the age of 76 following a long illness.

Trained as a dentist, Dr Thurai­ratnam had set up his own clinic and was also active later in arbitration.

However, to the depressed and suicidal, he may be better remembered as the former chairman of The Befrienders Kuala Lumpur, from 1983 to 1985.

Mary Raj, the present chairman of The Befrienders Kuala Lumpur, said he continued to have an interest in the organisation even after retirement.

"He kept in touch with what was happening. As a Befriender he had all the qualities required and was a good trainer.

"We always knew we could depend on him for advice.

"We will miss one of our very dedicated founder members, who was our link to the past."

Dr Thurairatnam was one of a group of 13 who set up what was then known as the Churches Counselling Centre in 1970.

Another founder member, Methodist Bishop (now Emeritus) Datuk Dr Denis C. Dutton, provided a room above the hall at Wesley Methodist Church Kuala Lumpur and a phone line, free of charge.

In an earlier interview, Dr Thurairatnam had said that many of the callers had asked whether the counselling service was Christian-oriented.

So in 1972, the volunteers decided to rename themselves The Befrienders Kuala Lumpur.

When the late Rev Chad Varah, who started the Samaritans hotline in Britain, visited Malaysia, Dr Thurairatnam suggested the formation of a world grouping of similar organisations.

He added that the Befrienders in Malaysia would not mind if the new organisation was called The Befrienders International, which is still used today.

Dr Thurairatnam had wanted to set up a counselling helpline after he found out from psychiatrists that many patients did not really need treatment but "just a listening ear".

He helped to raise funds so that the volunteers could move into their own building in Petaling Jaya in 1979.

Today, Befrienders get over 21,000 calls a year on its two hotlines manned by over 100 volunteers.

Dr Thurairatnam leaves behind wife Arulsothy, daughters Sunitha and Lavinia, and grandson Kishar Tarun.

The funeral service will be held at 10am today at Trinity Methodist Church, Petaling Jaya.

800 students to commute 20km daily to temporary class

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

KOTA KINABALU: Some 800 students of SMK Kundasang, who were left in limbo after their school building was declared unsafe, will attend classes at temporary premises 20km away until their new school building is completed in 2016.

The state Education Department has arranged transport for the students to travel to the temporary premises at the former SMK Agama in Ranau.

Department director Jame Alip said the Education Ministry had allocated RM574,000 for the rental of 21 buses to ferry students from Kundasang to Ranau from January this year to April.

However, the temporary premises of former SMK Agama are also under renovation and work can only be completed by September.

Students will still be able to study in parts of the school that can be used.

Jame said the contractor, who started work in September last year to repair the old SMK Agama premises at a cost RM47.7mil, had been delayed due to the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia and Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia examinations.

On the new SMK Kundasang building at a 150ha site in Masilau at the foothills of Mount Kinabalu, he said work was scheduled to begin by July and would be completed in 2016.

He said tenders for the RM43mil school building would be called by next month.

The new building will be constructed using a cabin concept as the area is on hilly terrain.

Anwar on Malaysian Bible Society raid: Why take such drastic action?

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

PETALING JAYA: Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has labelled the Selangor Islamic Religious Department's (Jais) raid on the Malaysian Bible Society as "drastic".

"Such drastic action appears anti-Christian. It causes tension. Why such high-handed methods from the religious department?" he said after a talk at the Centre for Reform, Democracy and Social Initiatives yesterday.

Anwar said that if Jais felt any laws had been broken, the religious enforcers should have "called up the relevant parties to get an explanation" rather than simply raiding the premises.

He also called on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak to address the issue.

Related stories:

NUCC faces first major test

Muslim NGOs stage protest at stadium

Protesters stay away from Selangor churches

Address deepening conflict over Allah usage, NUCC urged

For God's sake, find a solution once and for all


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