Sabtu, 15 Februari 2014

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The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

Three church groups to share RM65mil Jurong hub

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

A S$25mil (RM65.6mil) church hub where worshippers from three Christian denominations – Luthe­rans, Presbyterians and Methodists – will be under one roof, is under way in a pilot project aimed at easing the space crunch faced by churches here.

The new five-storey building at 2 Tah Ching Road, which will sit on land currently leased by the Lutheran Church's Jurong Christian Church, will be partly rented out to the Providence Presbyterian Church and Jurong Tamil Methodist Church for 30 years.

There are about 50 years left on the land lease.

Work on the approximately 60,000 sq ft hub is expected to start early next year and be completed by end-2016.

The project, spearheaded by Bishop Terry Kee of the Lutheran Church in Singapore, was given the green light by the Urban Redeve­lopment Authority and other government agencies last month.

The National Council of Churches of Singapore, of which Bishop Kee is president, has been meeting with the authorities over the past three years to explore solutions to address the issue of lack of space for religious use.

"We've been sharing with the authorities on the church hub concept. There's also a possibility that the authorities may look at having multiple churches housed in the same building elsewhere, run by either a lead church or a private developer, in the future," said Bishop Kee.

He said there are plans to eventually house five churches in the Jurong hub.

To cater to worshippers from these churches, the hub will have at least five chapels of varying sizes.

Bishop Kee believes sharing facilities is one of several possible ways to address the challenges of land scarcity and soaring property prices and rentals that have driven some churches to seek locations in hotel function rooms, cinemas and even remote industrial estates.

Plans for the hub come amid the growth of the Christian community here.

In tandem with Singapore's population growth, the number of Christian worshippers has almost doubled from about 588,000 in 2000 to around 930,000 in 2010.

There are more than 500 Protestant churches and 29 Catholic parishes today.

While there are some churches that have shared facilities for years, such as the Yishun Christian Church, which is co-owned by the Lutheran Church and Anglican Church, the concept of a landlord managing a church building and renting it out to different churches is a new one.

In the case of the Jurong hub, the Lutheran Church's long-term tenants will pay the 30-year rental upfront, which will help finance the building's construction and the design of exclusive spaces, among other things.

A spokesman for the Urban Redevelopment Authority said it is "open to such proposals" like the Jurong hub, as co-location optimises land.

"Nonetheless, careful assessment of the local context is needed to ensure that disamenities such as traffic and parking problems are mitigated," she said, adding that the proposal is the first of its kind.

The Lutheran Church said it has submitted proposals on how it plans to manage vehicular and human traffic. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Opposition rally vows to continue fighting for ‘shutdown’

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

BANGKOK: Thai opposition protesters refused to end their rallies in Bangkok despite a vow by police to clear more demonstration sites, following an operation to reclaim the besieged government headquarters.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government is attempting to seize back key state buildings after more than three months of mass protests seeking to curb the political domination of her billionaire family.

On Friday, police with shields and riot helmets, some carrying rifles, met little resistance as they cleared areas around Government House, which Yingluck had been unable to use for about two months.

But there were no arrests or serious clashes, and demonstrators were later seen rebuilding their makeshift barricades.

The security operation is focused on government offices rather than major intersections in the commercial centre that have become the main focus of the rallies in recent weeks as part of what protesters have described as the "Bangkok shutdown".

So far the authorities have not announced any plan to clear those intersections, where several thousand protesters gather each evening to hear free concerts and speeches.

"We will continue fighting. We will not be shaken by the police operation," a spokesman for the anti-government movement, Akanat Promphan, said yesterday.

"No matter whether police succeed in reclaiming the rally sites or not, we will keep on protesting," he added.

Yesterday, about 1,200 police were mobilised to try to reclaim a government complex in Chaeng Wattana in the north of the capital on Saturday, National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattanatabut said.

But they later appeared to have retreated, after the two sides agreed to hold talks about re-opening the complex, which has been occupied by demonstrators led by a saffron-robed monk who has emerged as a key figure in the anti-government movement.

An aide to the monk-turned-protest leader Luang Pu Buddha Issara – who faces an arrest warrant for his role in the rallies – said the protesters "will not give up", but later confirmed that negotiations would take place today.

The government has so far appeared reluctant to use force against the protesters, despite declaring a state of emergency last month that gives authorities the power to ban public gatherings of more than five people. — AFP

Indonesia airports reopen

Posted: 15 Feb 2014 08:00 AM PST

JAKARTA: Three airports in Indonesia reopened while four others remained closed, officials said, after a volcanic eruption killed three people and forced mass evacuations.

Mount Kelud, considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes on the main island of Java, spewed red-hot ash and rocks high into the air late on Thursday night just hours after its alert status was raised.

"The airport in Malang city in East Java province, and Cilacap and Semarang cities in Central Java province have reopened. There's no problem flying there now. We are now evaluating the status of other airports," Transport Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said.

Seven airports – including those serving international flights in Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Solo and Ban­dung – were forced to close on Friday due to thick ash that blanketed eastern Javanese cities.

Ervan said the airports in Bandung and Surabaya are expected to reopen later, while the airport in Solo may reopen tomorrow and the one in Yogyakarta on Feb 18.

On Friday, villagers in eastern Java described the terror of volcanic materials raining down on their homes, while correspondents at the scene saw residents covered in grey dust fleeing in cars and on motorbikes towards evacuation centres.

The volcano spewed grey smoke some 3,000m into the sky yester-day, National Disaster Manage­ment Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said, but added that "volcanic activity showed a slowing trend".

Transport Ministry director general of aviation Herry Bakti said the authorities "will continue to monitor the movement of ash in the air via satellite".

"We were informed by the volcanology agency this morning that no more powerful eruptions are expected. So it is safe to fly and flights can resume. We will issue an update via notice to airmen," he said yesterday.

Three people were killed and around 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate following the eruption, though some families ignored the orders and others have returned home, with just over 75,000 now in temporary shelters, officials said.

The 1,731m Mount Kelud has claimed more than 15,000 lives since 1500, including around 10,000 deaths in a massive eruption in 1568.

It is one of 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier this month another volcano, Mount Sinabung on western Sumatra island, unleashed an enormous eruption that left at least 16 dead and has been erupting almost daily since September. — AFP


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