Sabtu, 5 April 2014

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Metro: Sunday Metro


Singaporeans prefer to retire at 55

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

FOUR out of 10 Singaporeans would choose to retire at the age of 55, a survey revealed.

However, two in three are realistic, and know that they will have to work until at least 60, international recruitment firm Randstad found.

The desire to retire early could worsen the labour crunch, Randstad's country director for Singapore Michael Smith warned.

"Singapore is already facing a talent crisis, with many organisations finding it difficult to meet the demand for skills," he said.

"If a situation arises where a large group of the talent pool are unwilling to work to the retirement age, this will make the talent shortage challenge even more acute for organisations here."

Randstad said that firms can take steps to coax their staff to work longer.

Incentives could include offering older workers a more relaxed schedule, cutting the number of work hours and creating a friendlier work place.

The official retirement age in Singapore is 62, although bosses must offer healthy workers, who have performed satisfactorily, re-employment from ages 62 to 65 – or give them a one-off payment.

The Government is also looking at extending the re-employment age to 67, and more details are expected later this year.

More than 6,500 workers in Singapore aged 18 to 65 took part in the Randstad online poll between November and December last year.

The survey did not go into the workers' financial details, such as how they expect to support themselves in their retirement years.

But it found that three in five workers rank salary and benefits as most important when choosing a job.

The same proportion of workers also said they expect their bosses to be reliable, honest and sincere when handling staff.

Erman Tan, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute, said: "It is part of the progress of society, where workers want to slow down as they grow older. But these workers can still be productive, so the onus is on bosses to try to retain them."

Former zookeeper Francis Lim, 59, retired four years ago, but said that the move was not without its trade-offs.

"I rely mostly on my savings and live frugally," he said, adding: "(But I get to) enjoy a slow pace of life and can find time for spiritual development." — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

Parents’ expectations of children higher now

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PARENTS' aspirations for their children to achieve have become more intense and that has led to couples thinking twice before having kids, said Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing.

"Expectations have clearly changed. In the past, it was first have the kid and then figure out how to bring up the kid. Now it's the other way around," said Chan, who was speaking at at a family empowerment lecture at the Singapore Expo organised by Jamiyah Singapore.

Speaking to 3,000 parents at the event, Chan recounted how an elderly couple he had met were proud of their six children, who are graduates and own their own homes now. Their children had shared food and beds while growing up in a one-room flat.

But when asked if the couple had any grandchildren, they sternly told Chan that their children were concerned about the cost of having kids, even though they are better off today.

Chan also pointed out other challenges Singapore families face today. As a small country, he said that Singapore's cultural values will be affected by new value systems across the globe. Family sizes are also getting smaller over the years.

To help keep families intact, Jamiyah's president Mohd Hasbi Abu Bakar said its recently renovated Jamiyah Counselling Centre is one avenue in which the organisation is reaching out to couples with relationship issues.

One in two of the 120 marital counselling cases handled by the centre monthly has resulted in a couple reconciling. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network

The rusted old post in Ayungin Shoal

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

It must be one of the loneliest, and certainly one of the strangest, military outposts in the world: The BRP Sierra Madre is a decrepit, World War II-era ship purposely beached in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as improvised detachment for a small Philippine contingent.

The scene is out of a dystopian future: a rusting shell of a ship, vulnerable to the elements, empty save for eight or nine soldiers on assignment.

But this is very much the present.

Every few months or so, the military replaces the soldiers stationed in Ayungin, as well as in other Philippine outposts in the Spratlys: Lawak, Likas, Parola, Patag, Rizal Reef. But it is Ayungin that stands out, like an elaborate set from a Hollywood movie, because it is truly out of the ordinary.

Photos taken by Inquirer photographer Grig Montegrande, who was among the 18 journalists who joined the successful supply run over last weekend, show a ship in an advanced stage of decay.

The trash and ancient equipment rising in the main hold compete with the rust accumulating everywhere.

It seems only a matter of time before the sea claims the ship itself.

But for the soldiers on assignment, this is home away from home, at least for a few months.

It is a dangerous mission, because Ayungin Shoal is one of the flashpoints in the increasingly acrimonious maritime dispute between the Philippines and China.

Large Chinese Coast Guard ships patrol the waters around the shoal; Chinese and American military aircraft monitor the skies above it; not least, Mischief or Panganiban Reef, a part of the Philippines' Kalayaan Island Group which the Chinese occupied in 1999, is only several kilometers to the west.

But the Sierra Madre is also a difficult assignment because it is so isolated.

Ayungin Shoal is about 105 nautical miles away from Palawan, the nearest Philippine province. There is no cellphone signal. There is no Internet connection.

There is only erratic TV reception.

It takes a day and a half for a boat from Palawan to reach it; these days, Chinese patrols make the journey even longer, or even at times impossible.

And once on the Sierra Madre, the soldiers also have to bear the murderous tedium of having almost nothing to do for hours on end.

What does it take to survive in such a hardship post?

"You have to be strong-willed," First Lt Mike Pelotera, the commander of the platoon that had served in Ayungin for five months and was replaced last Saturday, told the Inquirer.

"This is our territory. That's why we have to be prepared to stay here for a long period, even if it takes years."

His answer finds an echo in something Marine Technical Sgt. Jerry Fuentes, part of the team that replaced Pelotera's platoon, said: "It makes us even tougher.

In the first place, this is ours. Why should we leave?"

These frontline soldiers studiously avoided using words like "sovereignty" or kasarinlan—which may be too big, too heavy, even too pretentious, especially when contrasted with the pitiful conditions one finds in the Philippine outposts.

But others deployed to Ayungin Shoal or other detachments in the Spratlys strike variations on the same theme, say almost the same thing.

For instance, Second Lt Robinson Retoriano, the detachment commander of Lawak, told the New York Times last year: "A lot of Filipino people might not know why we're fighting for these islands. But once you see it, and you've stepped on it, you understand. It's ours."

It's ours, despite the surrounding isolation.

There are two satellite phones on the Sierra Madre, or at least there were when the Times team spent a week on the ship last year.

"Like the others, (Sgt Roy Yanto) is able to talk to his family once a week or so, when they call in to one of the two satellite phones that the men take care to keep dry and charged.

"'It's enough for me,' he said of the five or 10 minutes he gets on the phone with his family. 'What's important is that I heard their voice.'"

We hope those sat phones are still in working order. One of the Marines extracted from Ayungin Shoal last Saturday, Private First Class Ryan Esteban, said his wife-to-be was due to give birth to their first child in May.

"I was finally able to speak to her at dawn yesterday, as soon as our ship got near the mainland and we got a signal on our cellular phones."

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: World Updates

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: World Updates


U.S., eyeing N.Korea, to send more missile defence ships to Japan

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 07:35 PM PDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - The United States will deploy two additional destroyers equipped with missile defence systems to Japan by 2017, in a move Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sunday was a response in part to North Korean missile launches that have alarmed the region.

Tensions have been building between North Korea and its neighbours since Pyongyang - in an apparent show of defiance - fired two Rodong missiles on March 26, just as the leaders of Japan, South Korea and the United States were sitting down to discuss containing the North Korean nuclear threat.

"In response to Pyongyang's pattern of provocative and destabilizing actions ... I can announce today that the United States is planning to forward-deploy two additional AEGIS ballistic missile defence ships to Japan," Hagel said at a news conference at Japan's defence ministry.

The move will bring America's Japan-based fleet of ballistic missile defence capable ships to seven.

Pyongyang's firing of mid-range missiles capable of hitting Japan followed a series of short-range rocket launches over the past two months. The Rodong ballistic missiles fell into the sea after flying 650 km (400 miles), short of a maximum range thought to be some 1,300 km, Japan said.

Since then, North Korea has fired artillery rounds into South Korean waters, prompting the South to fire back; South Korea has test-fired a new ballistic missile with a range of 500 km; and Pyongyang has threatened an unspecified "new form" of nuclear test.

"This move to significantly bolster our naval presence is another action that strengthens our alliance and increases deterrence against North Korean aggression," Hagel said.

Hagel said that the U.S. deployment of additional destroyers followed his decision last year to position a second X-band missile defence radar in Japan. That radar is expected to become operational this year.

It also follows his decision to increase ground-base missile defences in Alaska.

"These steps will greatly enhance our ability to defend both Japan and the U.S. homeland from North Korean ballistic missile threats," Hagel said.

(Additional reporting by Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Michael Urquhart)

Advisers to India's Modi dream of a Thatcherite revolution

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 07:25 PM PDT

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - When Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi gave a speech on the virtues of smaller government and privatisation on April 8 last year, supporters called him an ideological heir to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died that day.

Modi, favourite to form India's next government after elections starting on Monday, has yet to unveil any detailed economic plans but it is clear that some of his closest advisers and campaign managers have a Thatcherite ambition for him.

"If you define Thatcherism as less government, free enterprise, then there is no difference between Modi-nomics and Thatcherism," said Deepak Kanth, a London-based banker now collecting funds as a volunteer for Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Kanth, who says he is on the economic right, is one of several hundred volunteers with a similar philosophy working for Modi in campaign war-rooms across the country. Among them are alumni of Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan trading floors.

"What Thatcher did with financial market reforms, you can expect a similar thing with infrastructure in India under Modi," he said, referring to Thatcher's trademark "Big Bang" of sudden financial deregulation in 1986.

Modi's inner circle also includes prominent economists and industrialists who share a desire to see his BJP draw a line under decades of socialist economics, cut welfare and reduce the role of government in business.

The BJP is due to unveil detailed economic plans on Monday and is expected to make populist pledges to create a massive number of manufacturing jobs and to restart India's stalled $1 trillion infrastructure development programme.

But conversations with top policy advisers to Modi suggest an agenda that goes further than the upcoming campaign manifesto, including plans to overhaul national welfare programmes. There is also a fierce debate inside his team about privatising some flagship state-run firms, including loss-making Air India.

Bibek Debroy, a prominent Indian economist speaking for the first time about his role advising Modi during the campaign, told Reuters the Hindu nationalist leader shared his market-driven policy platform and opposed handouts.

"It is essentially a belief that people don't need doles, and don't need subsidies," Debroy said. Instead, the government should focus on building infrastructure to ease poverty, he said.

ASSET CREATION

Modi's office did not respond to requests for comment on this article. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, the man tipped to be the finance minister in a Modi cabinet, said the party would not do away with welfare programmes entirely.

"I don't want to immediately comment on what we will do with each one of them," Jaitley said. "India will need some poverty alleviation schemes, at least in the immediate future, but you could link those schemes with some asset creation."

How far Modi can go down this road if elected will depend on allies in what is likely to be a coalition government. In the last big poll ahead of the election, the BJP was forecast to end up as the single largest party but fall short of an outright majority.

But merely the possibility that India may move to the right has brought flocks of free-market champions home from high-flying careers abroad to join Modi's campaign.

Two advisers involved in policy discussions within the BJP's top leadership said partial or total privatisations of Air India and other failing public sector enterprises were being debated.

"We don't foresee any problems in selling a stake in Air India. It is one of those low-hanging fruit," said one of the economic policy advisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another privatisation target could be mammoth Coal India, the source of much of the country's electricity generation, but that is a more complex task, they said.

Possible opposition by allies in government and India's strong labour laws mean that some of these policies will take time.

"If you say is it going to happen in 2014-15, is the finance minister going to stand up and announce privatisation, I'm inclined to think no, but will it figure eventually? The answer is yes," said Debroy, author of a book on the economy of Gujarat, the western Indian state Modi has governed for more than a decade.

When asked about the possible privatisation of Air India, Jaitley said only that it was a difficult issue.

WELFARE ROLLBACK

An attack on welfare would mark an ideological shift.

Although India adopted free-market reforms 20 years ago, the man responsible for them, current Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has refocused on redistribution of wealth in recent years under the influence of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

The battle of ideas between Modi and the ruling Congress party was mirrored in a public spat between two well-known economists of Indian origin, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and Columbia University's Jagdish Bhagwati.

Sen's belief that public spending on food subsidies and health was needed to end poverty was adopted by Gandhi. The result was a proliferation of welfare schemes, most notably a rural work programme and a giant subsidised food plan.

Modi's economic thinking is closer to Bhagwati, who strongly advocates poverty reduction through deregulation-led growth. Bhagwati's colleague and writing partner, Arvind Panagariya, a former chief economist at the Asian Development Bank, is tipped by some in the BJP for a role in any Modi government.

The Congress party's rural job scheme is credited with lifting rural wages and reducing migration to cities. But critics, including Panagariya, believe the jobs it created - such as maintaining irrigation ponds and village roads - were unproductive.

These ideas have found traction in Modi's circle of advisers, who propose tying such programmes to skills training and putting employees to work on building highways or sanitation projects.

Others in the group propose doing away altogether with dozens of centrally funded programmes.

The parallels with Thatcher don't end with economics.

Like her, Modi is a small-town outsider to the capital's political circles and has a reputation for riding roughshod over opponents, who often pillory him as authoritarian. In Gujarat, critics say he runs a one-man government.

For better or for worse, many Indians fed up with years of weak leadership, find that no-nonsense image part of his appeal.

"We need action, a do-er," said Kanth. "We have seen enough of pussyfooting in the last 10 years."

(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Mark Bendeich)

Victims of U.S. mudslide are remembered in first funeral services

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 06:35 PM PDT

ARLINGTON, Washington (Reuters) - A school custodian killed in Washington state's mudslide was described as a tough-minded animal lover on Saturday and a popular librarian was memorialized, as mourners gathered in the first of a series of services for the over two dozen dead.

The funerals came two weeks after the disaster that left at least 30 people dead, even as searchers look for more bodies.

About 250 people crammed into a golf course clubhouse in Arlington, Washington, for the funeral of Summer Raffo, 36, a school custodian and specialist in hoof care for horses, just a few miles from the site where a torrent of mud swept her car off Highway 530 on March 22.

Raffo, the fifth of 14 siblings, was later pulled from the vehicle by a brother.

"She was tough, with so many brothers," Barak Pearson, who led her funeral service, told mourners. He described her as shy, but a loyal friend.

"She liked to be outdoors," he said. "She loved animals. She was hardworking. She was dependable."

Another service was held in nearby Darrington for Linda McPherson, 69, who was found dead in the debris of her home. Her husband survived when the mudslide engulfed the dwelling along with about three dozen other properties on the outskirts of the community of Oso, which lies in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains northeast of Seattle.

As the town's longtime head librarian, she played a key role in educating thousands of children through the years, said Peter Selvig, who served with her on the Darrington School Board.

"She was a sweet, mellow, gentle woman," Selvig said.

In all, three individual memorial services were being held on Saturday and services for more victims were set for Sunday.

13 MISSING

Of the 30 people confirmed dead by the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's office, all but one have been identified, officials said in a statement. Recovery crews were still searching for another 13 people still unaccounted for, but that figure could fluctuate as it has since the day of the disaster, officials said.

Roughly 450 people from 117 different organizations were helping the search efforts, officials said.

A community candlelight vigil was planned Saturday in Darrington and more than 300 people were expected to attend, said Michael Duncan, the pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church which was organizing the event.

"This is an opportunity to begin the healing process," Duncan said.

Over the next few days, funerals are planned for 5-year-old Kaylee Spillers, whose father and two siblings are among the dead and missing, and Alan Bejvl, 21, whose fiance, Delaney Webb, was also killed in the slide.

Recovery efforts have been hampered by rain creating treacherous conditions and raising the risk of further slides and flash floods. More rain and runoffs of melting mountain snow are forecast, with a quarter of an inch (6 mm) of precipitation expected on Sunday, before a two-week stretch of warm weather arrives on Monday which officials said will aid search efforts.

A team of volunteer veterinarians was rotating shifts on Saturday to tend to about 30 rescue dogs that have been deployed to help in the search for more victims.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture said it is deploying its "Reserve Veterinary Corps" for the first time. The group of 135 animal health specialists will treat dogs for minor cuts, hyperthermia and damaged pads, as well as decontaminate them after exposure to hazardous material and other pollutants in the debris field.

County officials are also organizing a "reunification" location and process so that survivors will be able to go to retrieve personal property recovered from the disaster site.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Business

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Business


Popular Toyota Alphard, Previa now officially available

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: UMW Toyota Motor Sdn Bhd has added two new multi-purpose models (MPVs) – the Toyota Alphard and Previa – to its vehicle line-up.

The Alphard and Previa were previously available only through private importers.

UMW Toyota said the decision to offer the models was in response to customer feedback and market demand.

The Previa 2.4GL is priced at RM258,017, the Alphard 2.4G at RM338,000, and the Alphard 3.5G at RM398,000. All prices are on-the-road with insurance.

On top of this, the company is offering an introductory package of three years free service, first year free road tax and insurance for the first 300 customers.

To give owners better peace of mind, the MPVs are sourced directly from Toyota factories in Japan and come with a three-year or 100,000km (whichever comes first) warranty and full after-sales support.

Previously, the models brought in by private importers had been obtained from used-car dealers in Japan and sold locally without manufacturer warranty or after-sales support.

The 2.4-litre Previa is a sleek seven-seater with a generous cabin space, leather seats and wider door openings on both sides. It also comes equipped with dual airbags, anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic brake-force distribution (EBD).

The Alphard, also a seven seater, is available in 2.4- and 3.5-litre variants and has a luxurious exterior and interior, automatic doors, seven airbags, ABS, EBD and vehicle stability control.

Weighty issues remain for Japan, Australia in trade pact talks

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 07:39 AM PDT

TOKYO: Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said substantive issues remained in trade negotiations with Japan as the two nations rushed to conclude a free trade agreement before their prime ministers meet on Monday.

"We made progress. There are still a couple of substantial issues we are negotiating and we will meet again tomorrow," Robb said after a five-hour session with Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Yoshimasu Hayashi in Tokyo on Saturday. Robb described the meeting as exhausting.

Hayashi said afterwards that there had been a "frank exchange of opinion." He said he would report on the progress to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will meet Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot in Tokyo on Monday.

Abbott has set the Japan free trade deal as his top priority, promising to drop tariffs on manufactured imports, including Japanese cars, while pushing Tokyo to cut tariffs on agricultural goods, particularly beef. In doing so, say analysts, he risks alienating China and South Korea.

Japan is already Australia's biggest beef export market both in volume and value terms, taking almost a third of all beef exported in 2012, according to Meat & Livestock Australia.

Failure by Japan and Australia to secure a pact could help ease U.S. concern that a separate trade deal with Australia before an agreement on the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership will giving Australian exporters better access to Japan than their U.S. counterparts.

"In the short term, Australia gets preferential treatment over the U.S. and America will be under pressure to strike a TPP deal short-term that puts it on a level playing field with Australia," said Aurelia George Mulgan, a professor of Japanese politics at the University of New South Wales.

The United States urged Japan on Thursday to open up its farm and auto markets to overseas competition, with Trade Representative Michael Froman saying Tokyo's reluctance to lower trade barriers was holding up the TPP.

President Barack Obama, who had hoped to complete the TPP by the end of last year, is expected to press the case for an ambitious TPP deal with Abe during a visit to Japan later this month. The prospective trade pact is a centerpiece of Obama's push to expand the U.S. presence in Asia.

For the United States, cars are also a source of contention. Imported cars in Japan make up less than 10 percent of the market, which Washington blames on strict dealership limits, regulation and taxes, even though there are no tariffs.

Japanese automakers say the small market share reflects a failure by U.S. car companies to offer smaller cars that are more popular with Japanese drivers.

Australia has a lower hurdle on tariffs for Japanese cars after domestic units of the three remaining carmakers - Toyota Motor Corp, General Motors and Ford Motor - decided to quit domestic production by 2017 due to high costs and a strong currency. - Reuters

European officials line up against French deficit reprieve

Posted: 05 Apr 2014 06:06 AM PDT

BERLIN: The top conservative candidate for European Commission president and the head of the German Bundesbank have come out against granting France more time to cut its deficit, warning such a move would set a dangerous precedent for other EU states.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg and longtime head of the Eurogroup forum of euro zone finance ministers, said in Berlin that France should not receive "special treatment" again after it was given two extra years to reach deficit targets only last year.

France, whose deficit stood at 4.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, has signalled it wants to renegotiate the existing deadline of 2015 for bringing it down to 3 percent.

French Finance minister Michel Sapin is due to travel to Berlin on Monday to make the case for more leeway.

"France must stick to the same rules as Cyprus, as Malta, as all the others," Juncker, the centre-right candidate for the top job at the European Commission after EU parliamentary elections in May, told reporters at a congress of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) in Berlin.

"I would not expect France to get special treatment again," he added.

Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, speaking in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), called the request for more leeway a "serious act", coming from a country that should be setting an example in Europe.

"We should be making clear to France what its responsibilities are," Weidmann said, echoing tough comments from Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, who told the same German newspaper that deficit rules did not exist to be "fiddled about with".

France has a long history of not complying with its fiscal promises and the push for another postponement could stoke tensions with Berlin.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who will meet with Sapin on Monday, has voiced support for Rehn's tough line, though stopped short of ruling out some flexibility.

Martin Schulz, the Social Democrat (SPD) president of the European Parliament and leftist rival to Juncker for the top European Commission job, has signalled that both France and Italy should be given more time to meet deficit goals if they need it. - Reuters

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies


Chinese artist Ai Weiwei to star in sci-fi film

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 11:55 PM PDT

The crowd-funded short film called The Sand Storm sees the artist playing a smuggler.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is the subject of a short sci-fi film, The Sand Storm, directed by TED Talks co-founder Jason Wishnow with cinematography from Christopher Doyle (In The Mood For Love, Hero).

Filmed in secret on location in Beijing, China, which jived with Wishnow's own vision of the future more than gleaming counterpart Shanghai, the film features Ai Weiwei playing a smuggler in a world without water.

And in freezing conditions with pollution levels breaking records, Wishnow, Doyle and Weiwei shot their film.

With the short safely in the can, Wishnow is now pitching to the public for a US$33,000 post-production fund, necessary to give the film its required visual, audio and subtitling treatments, as well as to pay festival fees and so on.

Having raised a combined pledge of over US$20,000 in a few days, the film's future appears relatively assured. Backers can look forward to behind-the-scenes material, early access, advance screenings and even a limited edition action figure, in accordance with the size of each pledge.

Finance raised in excess of the film's initial target will therefore go towards paying off other costs already incurred, which would otherwise be shouldered by its crew, and then form the foundation for a planned planet-spanning feature film that's yet to come. — AFP Relaxnews

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Nation

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Nation


Kudos to MCA crisis relief squad

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

BANGI: MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has thanked the party's crisis relief squad, or CRSM, for assisting the families of Chinese passengers on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 who were waiting for news of their missing relatives.

"We appreciate their commitment as they have been working very hard for the past week.

"I'd like to thank them for their efforts and hope that they can continue to give strength to the families during this difficult time," he said yesterday.

Liow said that some 50 volunteers from CRSM were involved in the volunteer work at the hotel where the Chinese nationals were staying while awaiting word on the search for the plane.

He did not want to say much as the most important thing right now was to search for the plane.

"We are here today to give the families motivation and words of comfort. I understand that this is a difficult time they have to go through so I do not want to say much," Liow told reporters after visiting the families at Bangi-Putrajaya Hotel here.

In a related development, the MCA will host a mass prayer session for the crew and passengers of Flight MH370 tomorrow.

The prayer session, which will start at 10am, will be held at Dewan San Choon, Wisma MCA in Kuala Lumpur.

The MCA publicity bureau will organise a live streaming of the event at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mca-tv1 for party members and the public to watch online.

Red Carpet set to roll out 'personal wax treatment'

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

GUANGZHOU: Malaysians who vi­­sit Red Carpet @ i-City will soon not only be able to look at wax statues of their favourite stars, but get a mini statue of themselves.

i-City is set to open a 3D imaging studio late next month, where visitors can get their own statues – measuring between 25cm and 35cm – made.

"All visitors need to do in the stu­­dio will be to pose in their chosen attire for about five to seven mi­­nutes for image mapping.

"The actual statue will be ready in about a week," said I-Berhad in­­formation manager Tang Soke Cheng at a strategic alliance signing ceremony between the company and Zhongshan City Elephant Sculpture Art here.

The co-operation paves the way for Red Carpet to bring 3D image mapping technology to Malaysia.

Red Carpet, which closed late last year following an arson attack, will reopen on April 14.

New additions include wax exhi­bits with enhanced interactive features like voice, motion, sound effects and theatrical backdrop.

"This will go a long way in increasing the life likeness of our wax statues, giving more clout to Red Carpet as a world-class attraction," said Tang.

Boost Sabah's coastal security, says MCA

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The Government should review and improve Sabah's coastal security following the abduction of a Chinese tourist and Filipina resort worker on Wednesday.

MCA deputy secretary-general Datuk Wee Jeck Seng said the latest kidnapping by armed men at Singamata Reef Resort, Semporna, had marred the country's image.

"Since the invasion of Lahad Datu by Sulu gunmen from the Philippines, the Government sought to strengthen security through the formation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), which covers 10 districts," he said in a statement yesterday.

Esscom covers the districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau, and is headed by the Chief Minister, who reports directly to the Prime Minister.

However, Wee said the fact that the kidnapping happened barely five months after the incident at Pom Pom island, where a Taiwan national was killed and his wife kidnapped, showed that security along Sabah's coastline needed to be reviewed.

Wee, who is Tanjung Piai MP, suggested that the security of the eastern part of Sabah should not solely be the Government's responsibility.

"In addition to strengthening regional security with the help of the local coastal residents, each of us, including tourists, should also play an important role by reporting suspicious activities," he said.

Related Story:

Captors won't harm the two, says former hostage

Terrifying - but journalist gets the job done

Esscom: Hostages being held on southern Philippine isle

Abu Sayyaf — the ghost that haunts eastern Sabah paradise

Hunt is on for Haji Gulam and men

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Metro: Central

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Metro: Central


Minister proposes command centre at Changi naval base

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

HONOLULU: Singapore has proposed hosting a regional crisis command centre that would help co-ordinate governments' efforts after major natural disasters, the city-state's defence minister said.

"We were obviously struck over the last decade by how many disasters there were" in the region, said Ng Eng Hen.

He cited the earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons that have cut a swathe of destruction from the Philippines to Japan.

"We recognised in the first critical 24/48 hours, it is actually very difficult for the affected country to be able to set up a C2 (command and control) centre, for the very reason they're the ones hit," said the minister, in Hawaii for an Asean meeting on Thursday.

With communications knocked out, governments at the centre of a natural disaster often are "overwhelmed" and don't have the ability to manage international offers of help, he said.

"In the discussion we realised what was really needed was a crisis centre that was already set up and operational.

"It could also be scaled up (as needed)," he said.

At the Asean gathering in Honolulu, defence ministers welcomed Singapore's proposal to host the crisis centre at Changi naval base, Ng said.

The agenda for this week's Asean meeting – focused on improving co-operation for humanitarian assistance – has taken on new importance in the wake of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel praised Singapore's proposal for the crisis centre to handle future natural disasters, which are expected to increase in frequency and scale due to climate change.

"This could be an important venue for nations in the region to co-ordinate military responses to disasters and it's an idea that we're going to pursue," Hagel said.

The idea is to "make a coherent picture for everyone to see", said Ng.

"We evolved a concept, we call it 'plug and play'," he added.

"We set up terminals, you bring in your systems, you give the information you feel comfortable with.

"We take all that information, fuse it and then pump it out. It's worked quite well." — AFP

German AP photographer shot dead in Afghanistan

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 07:48 PM PDT

Khost (Afghanistan) (AFP) - An Afghan police commander on Friday shot dead a female German photographer working for the Associated Press on the eve of presidential elections, in an attack that left a Canadian colleague wounded, the news agency said.

The journalists were shot in their car in the Tanai district of Khost province, in the country's east, as they reported on distribution of ballot papers for the election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai.

The incident comes as Afghanistan undertakes a massive security operation to protect voters and polling officials, after the Taliban pledged to disrupt Saturday's ballot with violence.

Anja Niedringhaus is the third journalist working for international media to be killed in Afghanistan during the election campaign, after Swedish journalist Nils Horner and Sardar Ahmad of Agence France-Presse.

"Anja Niedringhaus, 48, an internationally acclaimed German photographer, was killed instantly," AP said in a report from Kabul.

"Kathy Gannon, the reporter, was wounded twice and is receiving medical attention. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel."

AP said the police commander opened fire while the two journalists were in their car, travelling with election workers delivering ballots in Khost city.

"As they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled 'Allahu Akbar' — God is Great — and opened fire on them in the back seat," the news agency said.

"He then surrendered to the other police and was arrested."

Khost provincial governor Abdul Jabbar Naeemi and other officials confirmed that the attacker was a police commander who was detained immediately after the incident.

"Anja and Kathy together have spent years in Afghanistan covering the conflict and the people there," said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll in the AP report.

A file picture taken on April 5, 2003 shows AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus.

"Anja was a vibrant, dynamic journalist well-loved for her insightful photographs, her warm heart and joy for life. We are heartbroken at her loss."

President Hamid Karzai issued a statement expressing his condolences, and ordered an investigation.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) described the attack as "abhorrent", while the US ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham condemned "the senseless act of violence" that took Niedringhaus's life.

- Series of attacks -

Khost borders Pakistan's restive North Waziristan tribal area, a stronghold of the Haqqani militant network blamed for numerous high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, many targeting foreigners.

Kabul has been rocked by its own string of attacks in the run-up to Saturday's election, which will be the first democratic handover of power in Afghanistan's turbulent history.

Ahmad, AFP's senior Afghan reporter, was killed along with his wife and two of his three children on March 20 when gunmen smuggled pistols into Kabul's high-security Serena hotel and shot dead nine people including four foreigners.

Horner, 51, a veteran of Swedish national radio, was shot dead in March in a Kabul street while researching a story about a January attack on a nearby restaurant which killed 21 people, including 13 foreigners.

In addition to Horner's murder and the Serena assault, a charity's guesthouse has come under attack, along with offices of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Most recently, six police officers were killed in a suicide bombing at the interior ministry in Kabul on Wednesday.

Security was tight across Afghanistan ahead of the vote to elect a president to take over from Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from standing again.

Interior Minister Omar Daudzai said all 400,000 of the country's police, army and intelligence services have been deployed to ensure security around the country.

There was a heavy police presence on the largely deserted streets of Kabul on Friday morning, with officers carrying out stringent checks on vehicles.

The Taliban have pledged to attack the poll, urging their fighters to target election staff, voters and security forces.

Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, runner-up in 2009 Abdullah Abdullah, and former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul are the leading contenders in the eight-man race.

A repeat of the bloodshed and fraud that marred the 2009 election would damage claims by international donors that the multi-billion-dollar, 13-year intervention in Afghanistan has made progress in establishing a functioning state system.

Whoever wins the race to succeed Karzai faces a testing time maintaining stability as Afghan forces take on the fight against the resilient Taliban insurgency without the aid of NATO forces.

The US-led coalition is due to withdraw its 51,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. - AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music


The Voice winner Tessane Chin is ready for stardom

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The American TV singing competition has exposed this Jamaican artiste to a larger audience.

"It was an absolute dream come true." Tessane Chin sighs, her voice rustling slightly over the phone, and in the ensuing silence, nobody doubts her. Hers truly is a one-in-a-million opportunity come to life.

Chin is this year's winner of the American edition of The Voice.

Chin hails from Jamaica, a sunny country known for its reggae music and white beaches as well as a few other international singers, including Bob Marley, Sean Kingston and Shaggy. Her father is part of the large Jamaican-Chinese community, lending Chin a unique blend of oriental features.

"At first I was a little nervous, because I was coming from Jamaica. It was like, will America accept me? Will they like me? But at no time did I think of it in terms of looks, only in terms of whether I was good enough vocally to compete. Luckily, they embraced that," Chin said.

Indeed, Chin is the first non-American to participate and win The Voice. Her win signals a new trail of hope for locals back at home who are hoping to make it big in the international market, but Chin still believes that it's the music which comes first, and the competition second. When asked whether she felt one had to participate in a talent competition to make it big, she gives a definite no.

"Everybody's journey and everybody's path is different. (The Voice) was just something that helped me catapult from being where I was and gave me the opportunity to reach a larger audience," she says.

"I think that when you love something and if you're good at something, you have to keep doing it. Keep doing it at every opportunity that you can – anything big or small or in between. I don't think (The Voice) is the only way; it is just one good option."

True to her word, Chin had been singing long before The Voice, taking every opportunity that came her way – whether it be in her bathroom, or the neighbourhood cafĂ© – to hone her vocal chops.

It was only after Shaggy, another big-selling artiste from Jamaica who is also a long-time friend, approached her with the idea of taking part in the internationally acclaimed singing competition that Chin considered the daunting task of auditioning.

Could Chin have foreseen the reaction that her participation would have incited throughout Jamaica?

"Oh my goodness, I didn't realise when I first went on The Voice that it would cause such a national reaction. I have to tell you it has been absolutely mind blowing to see how not just my country but the entire giant score of the Caribbean that lived in the US came together to support me and just wish me well.

"Going home was an amazing experience. They had a wonderful homecoming contest for me and if anything, that's another reason I want to succeed and make them proud because it's not about me anymore they've really taken me under their wing. I want to make them proud."

As overwhelming as that amount of pressure may be, Chin doesn't let it unnerve her. Not during the competition, and certainly not after.

"If anything, I want to say that pressure gives me fuel. Because I want to show them that their love and support is all worth it. It kind of gives me wings to be able to strive and do what I have to do, especially on those days when I feel like it's too much.

"Then I'm like, 'Hey, there are people out there that support you, they just want success for you.' And that's what I'm trying to do with this album - to take my time and give them the best."

Chin is in the midst of recording her new album In Between Words, and had just finished performing for the US president at the White House.

Describing her encounter to us, it sounds as though she never really left.

"Talk about being in a room with the people that you dream about all the time, not to mention meeting President Obama and his beautiful wife. I was just beside myself the whole night. It was just an absolute thrill," she gushed, sounding a lot like a Disney princess whose dreams have just come true.

Ever since she clinched the champion title on The Voice, Chin has been busy performing in the US ... which means being away from home.

"I miss my husband, I miss my sister, my dog, my cat, I miss my bed and I miss cooking," she laments. Well, you win some, you lose some.

The Voice Season Six airs every Sunday at 8.10pm on AXN (Astro Ch 701/721).

Malaysian singer wins at Hong Kong Asian-Pop Music Festival

Posted: 02 Apr 2014 11:45 PM PDT

Bell Yu Tian received a Best Vocal Performance nod for her song, Take Me Away.

Local Mandopop singer Bell Yu Tian carved up another achievement for Malaysia at the Hong Kong Asian-Pop Music Festival (HKAMF) event last week. The Malacca-born singer walked away with the Best Vocal Performance award for Take Me Away.

Yu was a contestant in the Asian Super Nova, which was held with HKAMF, showcased the best singers from seven Asian countries. Yu made it to the top three but lost the first place title to Hong Kong singer J.Arie.

Other contestants included Ming Bridges from Singapore, China's Quan Zhendong and South Korea's N-Sonic.

"When the award host announced that I won for Best Vocal Performance, I really couldn't believe that! This is my first performance in Hong Kong after the release of my album," said Yu in a press statement.

Yu released her 10-track debut album Sunny last year. Apart from composing most of the songs, Yu also plays the piano on several tracks.

Her singing style has also been compared to that of Fish Leong, whom fans have dubbed the "Queen of love songs".

"I was feeling some pressure from the beginning. But I thought I should remain calm and just give out my best performance of a good song to the judges and audiences," said Yu.

She added: "This is a valuable opportunity to exchange and share the beauty of music with other countries' singers and it has been a very valuable experience to me!"

Currently in its fourth year, the KKAMF is an annual cross-regional music extravaganza. Organised by the International Federation of the Photographic Industry – Hong Kong Group, the event features the HKAMF Music Showcase and Asian Super Nova competition.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Metro: South & East

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Metro: South & East


Minister proposes command centre at Changi naval base

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

HONOLULU: Singapore has proposed hosting a regional crisis command centre that would help co-ordinate governments' efforts after major natural disasters, the city-state's defence minister said.

"We were obviously struck over the last decade by how many disasters there were" in the region, said Ng Eng Hen.

He cited the earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons that have cut a swathe of destruction from the Philippines to Japan.

"We recognised in the first critical 24/48 hours, it is actually very difficult for the affected country to be able to set up a C2 (command and control) centre, for the very reason they're the ones hit," said the minister, in Hawaii for an Asean meeting on Thursday.

With communications knocked out, governments at the centre of a natural disaster often are "overwhelmed" and don't have the ability to manage international offers of help, he said.

"In the discussion we realised what was really needed was a crisis centre that was already set up and operational.

"It could also be scaled up (as needed)," he said.

At the Asean gathering in Honolulu, defence ministers welcomed Singapore's proposal to host the crisis centre at Changi naval base, Ng said.

The agenda for this week's Asean meeting – focused on improving co-operation for humanitarian assistance – has taken on new importance in the wake of missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel praised Singapore's proposal for the crisis centre to handle future natural disasters, which are expected to increase in frequency and scale due to climate change.

"This could be an important venue for nations in the region to co-ordinate military responses to disasters and it's an idea that we're going to pursue," Hagel said.

The idea is to "make a coherent picture for everyone to see", said Ng.

"We evolved a concept, we call it 'plug and play'," he added.

"We set up terminals, you bring in your systems, you give the information you feel comfortable with.

"We take all that information, fuse it and then pump it out. It's worked quite well." — AFP

German AP photographer shot dead in Afghanistan

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 07:48 PM PDT

Khost (Afghanistan) (AFP) - An Afghan police commander on Friday shot dead a female German photographer working for the Associated Press on the eve of presidential elections, in an attack that left a Canadian colleague wounded, the news agency said.

The journalists were shot in their car in the Tanai district of Khost province, in the country's east, as they reported on distribution of ballot papers for the election to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai.

The incident comes as Afghanistan undertakes a massive security operation to protect voters and polling officials, after the Taliban pledged to disrupt Saturday's ballot with violence.

Anja Niedringhaus is the third journalist working for international media to be killed in Afghanistan during the election campaign, after Swedish journalist Nils Horner and Sardar Ahmad of Agence France-Presse.

"Anja Niedringhaus, 48, an internationally acclaimed German photographer, was killed instantly," AP said in a report from Kabul.

"Kathy Gannon, the reporter, was wounded twice and is receiving medical attention. She was described as being in stable condition and talking to medical personnel."

AP said the police commander opened fire while the two journalists were in their car, travelling with election workers delivering ballots in Khost city.

"As they were sitting in the car waiting for the convoy to move, a unit commander named Naqibullah walked up to the car, yelled 'Allahu Akbar' — God is Great — and opened fire on them in the back seat," the news agency said.

"He then surrendered to the other police and was arrested."

Khost provincial governor Abdul Jabbar Naeemi and other officials confirmed that the attacker was a police commander who was detained immediately after the incident.

"Anja and Kathy together have spent years in Afghanistan covering the conflict and the people there," said AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll in the AP report.

A file picture taken on April 5, 2003 shows AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus.

"Anja was a vibrant, dynamic journalist well-loved for her insightful photographs, her warm heart and joy for life. We are heartbroken at her loss."

President Hamid Karzai issued a statement expressing his condolences, and ordered an investigation.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) described the attack as "abhorrent", while the US ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham condemned "the senseless act of violence" that took Niedringhaus's life.

- Series of attacks -

Khost borders Pakistan's restive North Waziristan tribal area, a stronghold of the Haqqani militant network blamed for numerous high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, many targeting foreigners.

Kabul has been rocked by its own string of attacks in the run-up to Saturday's election, which will be the first democratic handover of power in Afghanistan's turbulent history.

Ahmad, AFP's senior Afghan reporter, was killed along with his wife and two of his three children on March 20 when gunmen smuggled pistols into Kabul's high-security Serena hotel and shot dead nine people including four foreigners.

Horner, 51, a veteran of Swedish national radio, was shot dead in March in a Kabul street while researching a story about a January attack on a nearby restaurant which killed 21 people, including 13 foreigners.

In addition to Horner's murder and the Serena assault, a charity's guesthouse has come under attack, along with offices of the Independent Election Commission (IEC).

Most recently, six police officers were killed in a suicide bombing at the interior ministry in Kabul on Wednesday.

Security was tight across Afghanistan ahead of the vote to elect a president to take over from Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from standing again.

Interior Minister Omar Daudzai said all 400,000 of the country's police, army and intelligence services have been deployed to ensure security around the country.

There was a heavy police presence on the largely deserted streets of Kabul on Friday morning, with officers carrying out stringent checks on vehicles.

The Taliban have pledged to attack the poll, urging their fighters to target election staff, voters and security forces.

Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, runner-up in 2009 Abdullah Abdullah, and former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul are the leading contenders in the eight-man race.

A repeat of the bloodshed and fraud that marred the 2009 election would damage claims by international donors that the multi-billion-dollar, 13-year intervention in Afghanistan has made progress in establishing a functioning state system.

Whoever wins the race to succeed Karzai faces a testing time maintaining stability as Afghan forces take on the fight against the resilient Taliban insurgency without the aid of NATO forces.

The US-led coalition is due to withdraw its 51,000 combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. - AFP

Pakistani baby accused of attempted murder

Posted: 04 Apr 2014 07:58 PM PDT

Lahore (Pakistan) (AFP) - While many children his age are still learning how to crawl, a nine-month-old boy in Pakistan has been accused of attempted murder in a case observers say highlights endemic flaws in the country's legal system.

Baby Mohammad Musa along with his father and other family members was booked for throwing rocks at gas company officials in the working-class Ahata Thanedaran neighbourhood on February 1, the family's lawyer Chaudhry Irfan Sadiq told AFP Friday.

Inspector Kashif Muhammad, who attended the alleged crime scene and has since been suspended, wrote in his report that it was a case of attempted murder.

Appearing in a packed court room with others accused in the case on Thursday, Musa was seen crying as his grandfather Muhammad Yasin held him on his shoulder.

Yasin later fed him milk from a bottle while fielding questions from reporters.

"Everyone in the court was saying 'How can such a small child be implicated in any case'? What kind of police do we have?" the 50-year-old labourer said.

The charge is in direct contradiction with Pakistan's minimum age of criminal responsibility, which was raised from seven to 12 years in 2013 except in terrorism cases.

Yasin accused the police of fabricating the charges because they were colluding with a rival party who wanted to see the accused evicted from their land and had obtained an order to remove their gas connections.

"The police and gas company officials came without any notice and started removing gas meters from houses. Residents started protesting and blocked the road but ended the protest when senior police officers arrived in the area and assured them that no injustice would be done.

"But later we found out that cases have been filed against us," he added.

Judge Rafaqat Ali Qamar ordered the inspector to be suspended and granted the child bail, though he will have to appear at the next hearing on April 12.

But Sadiq, the lawyer, said the charges against the child should have been dropped.

"The court should have simply referred the minor's case to the High Court to drop the charges against the innocent child and acquit him from the case," Sadiq told AFP.

"This case also exposes the incompetence of our police force and the way they are operating," he added.

- Inherent flaws -

Feisal Naqvi, a supreme court lawyer told AFP the naming of family members in police reports was a common tactic employed by complainants in order to exert pressure on parties with whom they were involved in a dispute.

He said: "It's not common for babies to be accused but it is common for other family members to be accused," he said.

"What happens then is that vendettas are going on so everyone gets picked up and gets chucked in jail," he added.

Shoaib Suddle, a retired police chief, added that the system operates via 'first information reports' that date back to British colonial times, which give too much weight to allegations made by accusers.

"The moment they are able to file a complaint, accusers expect that without any evidence people should be locked up and the investigation should follow, whereas the world over it is the other way around," Suddle said.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

0 ulasan
Klik GAMBAR Dibawah Untuk Lebih Info
Sumber Asal Berita :-

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting


Breaking down the walls of autism

Posted: 03 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

April is Autism Awareness Month and three families share their experiences of raising autistic children.

UP till the age of three, Bobby* never said a word to his parents. He had little eye contact, and often threw tantrums.

His behaviour worried his mother Patricia*. But Bobby was her first child and she thought he was a late bloomer.

"I thought it was normal for children to behave like that – I had no other child to compare him to. It was not until my cousin, who is a teacher, alerted me about how different he was from the other children that I started to take notice of his behaviour. Still, I was hoping he would eventually grow out of it."

When he didn't, the 37-year-old homemaker was at a loss.

"Whenever I took him to the mall, he would start throwing tantrums if he did not get what he wanted. He would kick and scream, and sometimes for no reason at all. It was embarrassing for me because people would just stare at us. When I took him to a party, the other kids would be playing and he would just stand in a corner. I didn't know how to explain it to my friends; I had to always blame it on mood swings."

Patricia wasn't at all prepared when the word "autism" came up during her research. And it didn't help that her husband, instead of being supportive, was all for sweeping Bobby's issues under the rug.

"My husband works very long hours and rarely has time to spend with our son so he doesn't notice the things I do. I tried telling him about my worries but he would brush me off and say: 'Nah, you're thinking too much. Bobby will be fine.' It was very frustrating for me."

It took Patricia almost a year before she finally convinced her husband that they needed to bring their son for a proper diagnosis. After consulting a developmental paediatrician, Bobby was diagnosed with high-functioning autism.

"I was a bit depressed after that but I knew I had to move on. For my son's sake, I had to be strong. I was mostly afraid of his future for him. I couldn't imagine him relying on others for the rest of his life," says Patricia.

Bobby, now four, has since shown marked improvement in his speech and social skills, after undergoing therapy at a special education centre in Selangor.

Nevertheless, Bobby's family is still struggling to accept his autism, and that's why she cannot reveal her identity. Patricia and her husband have no plans to have a second child.

"It's been trying, but we are slowly coming out of our shell. Sometimes, I still find it difficult to have to explain to people that my son is autistic. Bobby goes to a mainstream kindergarten now and his teachers know nothing of his condition. For me, it's better that way because I want them to treat him like a normal child," says Patricia.

Special needs

According to special needs educator Mishantini Sanderasagran, it's not uncommon for parents to be in denial even after a child has been diagnosed with autism.

"Some parents may feel that they need to keep the condition a secret hoping their child will grow out of it one day. They may even feel that mixing around with normal children will take the autism away from their child. At the end of the day, it's really about understanding what autism is," says Mishantini, 34, who is the programme director of A.L.R.I.T.E, a play and achievement centre for autism in Selangor.

When parents confront and accept their children's autism, they are more likely to seek help.

When parents confront and accept their children's autism, they are more likely to seek help.

 

The term autism, which refers to a neurological disorder that impacts a child's ability to communicate and socialise, has been marred by many misconceptions over the years.

"Till today, people relate autism to being mentally retarded. Some even confuse it with Down syndrome, which is an entirely different condition," Mishantini points out.

Unfortunately, there is still stigma associated with raising an autistic child and many parents shy away from broaching the subject or confronting the disability.

"There's no cure for autism, but there are therapies and it's something you will have to work through all your life. Early intervention is very important to help your child cope. If you find it hard to be open about the condition, then it's harder to expect society to accept and be tolerant towards those with autism," she adds.

Spousal support is crucial to help the family come to terms with autism in the family. "If there is a communication barrier between the parents, it usually reflects negatively on the child," warns Mishantini.

For project manager Dhatchynamoorthy Ramasamy and his wife Shamala Sivapathy, their firstborn's autism brought them closer. Their seven-year-old son was diagnosed with mild autism four years ago.

"Even until now, the 'why' is always there. But instead of blaming each other for our son's condition, we came to a conclusion that we needed to work together on this. Initially, it was a bit tough but we're very open about it right now.

"Spousal communication is very important, but it also has to do with a lot of give and take," says Dhatchynamoorthy, 35.

As the father-of-two has come to realise, caring for an autistic child can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining for the family. Outbursts are common for his son, which are usually triggered by a change in routine.

"In the beginning, I got angry a lot and found myself yelling at our son and feeling guilty afterwards. Doing that actually made things a lot worse as the both of us would be fuming in our own worlds. I think being aware of what autism is really helped – we had never heard of the word 'autism' until we discovered our child had it. And speaking to other parents who were going through the same challenges somehow got us more ready for the job."

Explaining the situation to extended family members proved to be tough in the beginning, but with persistence, the couple managed to get everyone to accept that their son has a learning disability. Their son has so far undergone speech and occupational therapy.

His verbal communication has improved and he has shown an interest in art. Some studies have shown that parents with an autistic child have a higher risk of having a second child with autism. Dhatchynamoorthy and Shamala were well aware of this when they decided to have another child.

"It took us a long time to make that decision, but we finally decided we didn't want our son to be alone. Thankfully, our second child turned out fine. Now they are bonding as boys do," says Dhatchynamoorthy.

Dhatchynamoorthy Ramasamy and his wife Shamala Sivapathy's relationship is strengthened by their resolve to do their best for their autistic son.

However, they continue to worry about their son's future.

"It's something we think about all the time. But as long as my wife and I are around, he will be fine. It's what comes after – that's still a big question mark. That's the reason we are doing whatever we can now to make him independent. It's the ultimate goal for any parents to want their child to be able to stand on his own two feet one day. For parents with an autistic child, the effort needed to do that is 10 times greater," Dhatchynamoorthy adds.

Pulling through

Apart from the emotional upheavals and stress, raising an autistic child can be costly, especially if parents send them for regular therapies in private practice. Homemaker Fauziah Sirajudeen's two eldest children – her 10-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter – are autistic, and their home-based and centre-based therapy sessions cost several thousand ringgit.

"Being able to cope financially has so far been the biggest challenge for me. Whenever possible, I want to give my children the best therapy available. At times, that can cost up to RM5,000 per child. A portion of our expenses also goes to hiring a helper, who has been extremely helpful to our situation," says Fauziah, 42.

In private practice, an hour of speech therapy or occupational therapy costs between RM100 and RM150. Children need to go for weekly therapies regularly.

Fauziah has also adopted a gluten-free casein-free diet (GFCF diet) for her two children, which also incurs additional costs. Though scientifically unproven, there have been advocates for the use of this diet, also known as the gluten-free dairy-free diet (GFDF diet), as a treatment for autism and related conditions.

"Up till the age of three, my son was very difficult to care for. He had never said a word and was hyperactive, refusing to sleep at night.

"After he was diagnosed with autism, I started him on the GFCF diet, basically just replacing formula milk with rice milk, and he responded almost immediately. He could sleep better and was generally calmer," says the mother-of-three.

When her firstborn was diagnosed with autism, Fauziah had already delivered her second child, who started regressing developmentally after a high fever at the age of two. By then, she was heavily pregnant with her third child, now a girl of five.

"My youngest has been very good with her elder siblings. She tries to care for them and does things like clearing the table to ensure that they do not accidentally break a bowl or a cup. Though they do not interact much with one another, they seem to share this special bond – if you separate them at any one time, they will show you how unhappy they can get.

"So I always have to take the three of them along whenever there is an outing. I have to pick and choose where we go – my son will start throwing tantrums if we stay out for too long. It's tough, but we have to take it in our stride and simply make the best of the situation," Fauziah shares.

* Names have been changed.

For more on parental support groups for autism, visit: Parents' Resource for Autism Malaysia (http://www.pr4a.org.my/) and Dignity & Services: For and with Persons with Learning Disabilities (http://dignityandservices.blogspot.com/). For more information on A.L.R.I.T.E, a play and achievement centre for autism, visit http://alrite4kidz.com/.

A child holding blue baloons walks over the sign of Autism Awarness in Bucharest, Romania, on April 2, 2014. International Autism Awareness Day was marked by a march downtown Bucharest and the blue lighting up of several important institutional buildings in Bucharest. – AFP

Show your support

C.H.I.L.D. Sabah Walk  for Autism

Date: April 5, 2014

Time: 4pm

Venue: Perdana Park, Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Tel: 08-8288 761/ 016 831 6952

walkforautism.tumblr.com

Light Up Autism Run 2014

Date: April 6, 2014

Time: 6.30am to 12.30pm

Venue: Football field at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur

Tel: 019 331 4387

http://www.ukm.my/chem/autisme/en/

Annual National Society for Autism Malaysia (NASOM) Walk for Autism

Date: April 27, 2014

Venue: Citta Mall, Selangor

Tel: 03-7886 8986 or 03-7886 8233

http://www.nasom.org.my/

Related story:

The six stages of emotion 

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my
 

The Star Online

Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved