Rabu, 16 April 2014

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

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The Star Online: Metro: South & East

Singapore accepts Indonesia apology over warship row

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 04:45 AM PDT

SINGAPORE, April 16, 2014 (AFP) - Singapore on Wednesday welcomed an apology from Indonesia's military chief over the naming of a warship after two marines who staged a deadly bombing in the city-state in 1965.

Singapore reacted furiously in February when the refurbished frigate was named "KRI Usman Harun", lodging a diplomatic complaint with Jakarta and banning the vessel from its ports and naval bases.

Tensions escalated last month after the Indonesian navy dressed two marines as the executed bombers at a defence exhibition in Jakarta.

"Once again I apologise. We have no ill intent whatsoever to stir emotions. Not at all," military chief General Moeldoko, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said in an interview with Singapore broadcaster Channel NewsAsia that was aired on Tuesday.

Moeldoko, however, said that the ship will not be renamed.

Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen welcomed the apology on Wednesday, saying it was a "constructive gesture to improve bilateral defence ties".

This will "strengthen the mutual understanding and friendship that has been built up over many decades," he said in a statement.

Usman Haji Mohamed Ali and Harun Said were executed in Singapore for their roles in the March 1965 blast at a downtown office complex which killed three people and injured 33.

Indonesia considers the two men to be national heroes. Their attack was part of an effort by then Indonesian president Sukarno to stage an armed confrontation against the newly formed federation of Malaysia, which included Singapore.

In his Channel NewsAsia interview, Moeldoko said: "Indonesia didn't think that 'Usman Harun' would eventually turn into a polemic such as this."

"It is my responsibility as the commander-in-chief of the (Indonesian armed forces) to offer a clarification and to take steps to ensure that the situation does not escalate," he added.

Indonesia is Singapore's third largest trading partner, with total trade between the Southeast Asian neighbours reaching Sg$79.4 billion ($62.6 billion) in 2012.

Relations hit a low point in the late 1990s after the fall of former dictator Suharto, and his successor B.J. Habibie famously referred to the tiny city-state as a "little red dot" on the map.

Bilateral ties have improved considerably in recent years. - AFP

William, Kate and baby George kick off Australia tour

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 10:30 PM PDT

Sydney (AFP) - Prince William and his wife Kate flew into Sydney on Wednesday with their baby son George to kick off the Australian leg of their tour Down Under.

The royals disembarked from an Australian air force 737 under sunny skies after arriving from New Zealand, an AFP photographer said.

Eight-month-old Prince George was in his mother's arms as Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove -- who represents William's grandmother Queen Elizabeth II in Australia -- greeted the couple at Kingsford Smith airport.

A grand reception by the state of New South Wales awaited in the afternoon at the harbourside Opera House, where several thousand onlookers had gathered.

A new poll published Wednesday showed support for a republic in Australia, where the British queen remains head of state, has dropped to a more than two-decade low.

Some 51 percent oppose switching from a constitutional monarchy to a republic, compared to 42 percent who support it, according to the Fairfax-Nielsen survey of 1,400 people carried out from Thursday to Saturday.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were greeted by crowds in the tens of thousands during their 10-day tour of New Zealand, even in small regional towns such as Blenheim and Cambridge.

The royals visit the Blue Mountains on Thursday, Brisbane on April 19 and Uluru (Ayers Rock) on April 22.

They head to Adelaide on April 23 and the capital Canberra on April 24 and 25, before flying home.

Rescue efforts underway after S. Korea ferry capsizes

Posted: 15 Apr 2014 09:07 PM PDT

JINDO, South Korea, April 16, 2014 (AFP) - South Korean rescuers, including elite navy SEAL divers, worked frantically under floodlights Wednesday to find nearly 300 people missing after a ferry sank with 459 on board, mostly high school students bound for a holiday island.

Lee Gyeong-Og, the vice minister of security and public administration, said 164 people had been rescued, leaving 291 "unaccounted for". There were four confirmed deaths, including a female crew member and a student.

There are fears the confirmed death toll could rise sharply. The 6,825-tonne Sewol listed violently, capsized and finally sank - all within two hours of sending a distress signal at 9:00am (0000 GMT).

"I'm afraid there's little chance for those trapped inside still to be alive," one senior rescue team official, Cho Yang-Bok, told YTN television as teams of divers struggled to access the submerged, multi-storey ferry.

Dramatic television footage showed terrified passengers wearing life jackets clambering into inflatable boats as water lapped over the rails of the vessel as it sank 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the southern island of Byungpoong.

Some could be seen sliding down the steeply inclined side of the ferry and into the water, as rescuers, including the crew of what appeared to be a small fishing boat, pulled them to safety.

As night fell the coastguard said the rescue operation was continuing using floodlights and underwater flares.

Several rescued passengers said they had initially been ordered to stay in their seats, but then the ferry suddenly listed to one side, triggering panic.

Told 'not to move'

"The crew kept telling us not to move," one male survivor told the YTN news channel.

"Then it suddenly shifted over and people slid to one side and it became very difficult to get out," he added.

Lee's ministry earlier announced that 368 people had been rescued - a mistake it attributed to conflicting information from multiple sources.

Of the 429 passengers on board the ferry bound for the popular southern resort island of Jeju, more than 300 were students travelling with 14 teachers from a high school in Ansan just south of Seoul.

Among those confirmed as rescued, 78 were students.

"I feel so pained to see students on a school trip... face such a tragic accident. I want you to pour all your energy into this mission," President Park Geun-Hye said on a visit to the main disaster agency situation room in Seoul.

Many of the survivors were plucked from the water by fishing and other commercial vessels who were first on the scene before a flotilla of coastguard and navy ships arrived, backed by more than a dozen helicopters.

Lee said 178 divers, including a team of South Korean navy SEALS, were working at the site, but low visibility and strong currents were hampering their efforts.

The US 7th Fleet sent an amphibious assault ship on patrol in the area to help.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, although rescued passengers reported the ferry coming to a sudden, shuddering halt - indicating it may have run aground.

The weather was described as fine with moderate winds and sea swell.

One local official, who had taken a boat to the site and arrived an hour after the distress signal was sent, said he was "very concerned" about those still missing.

"The ship was already almost totally submerged when I got there. A lot of people must have been trapped," the official, who declined to be identified, told AFP by phone.

'A big thumping sound'

"I heard a big thumping sound and the boat suddenly started to tilt," one rescued student said.

Another spoke of luggage and vending machines crashing down on passengers as the vessel tipped over.

"Everyone was screaming and a lot of people were bleeding badly," he said.

Distraught parents gathered at the high school in Ansan, desperate for news, with some yelling at school officials while others repeatedly tried to call their children's mobiles.

"I'm so much worried about my son," said one father, Lee Ki-Hong. "I texted him an hour before the ship sank, but there has been no reply," he told YTN.

Survivors were taken to a gymnasium on nearby Jindo island, where relatives of the missing, wrapped in blankets against the cold, were holding what looked set to be a night-long vigil at the main harbour.

Three giant floating cranes had been despatched to the site and would begin operations to raise the submerged vessel tomorrow, officials said.

Scores of ferries ply the waters between the South Korean mainland and its multiple offshore islands every day, and accidents are relatively rare.

In one of the worst incidents, nearly 300 people died when a ferry capsized off the west coast in October 1993.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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