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The Star Online: Nation

‘Ops Outlet’ goes full swing

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: The fight against smuggled cigarettes has gone full swing with the Royal Malaysian Customs Depart­ment conducting raids nationwide since the beginning of the month.

The raids under Ops Outlet are part of renewed efforts by the department to curb the sales of smuggled cigarettes as it is costing the Government some RM1.9bil in uncollected taxes annually.

Customs deputy director-general (enforcement) Datuk Matrang Suhaili said that while this was the fifth year that Ops Outlet was being carried out, this time around the department was pushing for more drastic measures.

"We are looking for harsher punishment for offenders, such as compulsory jail time for those who would usually be slapped with just a fine. This issue is serious and we are treating it as such," he said when contacted yesterday.

So far, 44 dedicated Ops Outlet strike teams involving 200 members have been formed to conduct checks on outlets suspected of selling illegal cigarettes.

One such raid conducted at a convenience store in Jalan Nagasari here yesterday saw cigarettes seized and the shopowner arrested, while two other raids conducted simultaneously in the city also yielded more illegal cigarettes.

Raids conducted in Selangor, Kelantan, Johor and Perak found 10 outlets selling the illegal cigarettes.

"So far, the results have been encouraging and we will continue in our efforts to remove these contraband from the streets," said Matrang.

Concerned that Malaysia is now ranked number one in the world for contraband cigarettes, the Customs Department is also pressing for the maximum sentence against offenders.­

Those caught selling smuggled cigarettes face a maximum of three years' imprisonment, or a fine of up to 20 times the value of the seized item, or both, under Section 135(1)(d) of the Customs Act.

Repeat offenders face a maximum of five years' imprisonment, and a fine of up to 40 times the value of the item, or both.

Cloud seeding op to resume today, says dept

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The National Security Council has recalled a Hercules plane from the MH370 search and rescue operations for cloud seeding duty which is expected to resume today.

This comes in the wake of mounting public alarm over depleting water levels in dams as well as the current dry weather and open burning cases that are contributing to the choking haze over parts of the country.

The Meteorological Department's atmospheric science and cloud seeding division director Azhar Ishak said the operation would kick off at around 2.30pm today, adding that it was targeted at clouds over water catchment areas and places with severe haze.

The operation, he said, would be carried out with the cooperation of the Royal Malaysian Air Force, with the C-130 flown by Squadron 20 from its Subang base.

"We have identified favourable cloud conditions. We hope to induce rainfall over water catchment areas in Selangor as well as areas such as Port Klang, Putrajaya and Sepang which are experiencing severe haze," he told The Star here yesterday.

He had earlier said that the cloud seeding exercise had to be postponed as the RMAF's C-130s were being deployed to help in the search and rescue of the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 plane.

Should conditions remain good today, Azhar said the cloud seeding operation might also be carried out in Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor.

He said from Tuesday or Wednesday onwards, the department would conduct cloud seeding using a private aircraft that it had contracted.

The aircraft, a six-seater Cessna, had been modified for the operation and was currently undergoing repairs, said Azhar.

"We will continue cloud seeding until heavy rainfall starts in the inter-monsoon period," he said. "This is expected to begin from the end of March to May."

Azhar said cloud seeding would be carried out in as many states as the department could reach, especially over areas affected by severe haze.

His officers, he added, would constantly refer to the department's satellite images to locate suitable rain clouds for the operation. "We will be doing wet seeding with the C-130 and dry seeding with the Cessna," he said.

Wet seeding involves spraying a salt solution at the base of identified clouds while dry seeding is done using hygroscopic flares, fixed onto an aircraft's wings, that will disperse salt particles into the clouds when lit.

Cloud seeding is expected to be able to induce rainfall within 15 minutes to half an hour after the exercise.

Related story:

Watering plants, washing cars may land you in trouble

Owners at risk of losing their land if they carry out open burning

Tamil song’s message of hope

Posted: 14 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PUTRAJAYA: "Colourful birds expanding your wings to fly, tell us if you have seen our flight in the sky?"

That was a translation of the opening for a touching two-minute Tamil song that embodied hope for the safe return of the missing MH370.

The song titled Pray for Hope: MH370 was written and composed by Malaysian artistes Jay and Arulselvan Selvasamy, and was uploaded to YouTube on March 13.

As of 4pm yesterday, the video has been watched over 800 times.

The lyrics by Arulselvan call on the missing passengers to "come to clear the tears of your loved ones", and for God to "show your mercy for their safe return."

YouTube user Sivakami Cassandra said the song was very touching and a great effort by the two.

Another user, Kar Lee said that it was a "very touching song and beautiful video. Love to everyone who has missing family and friends."


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