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JOHOR BAHRU – The Johor Agriculture Department would continue its incentive and assistance programmes in a bid to ensure sustainable food production to meet growing demand in the state.

Johor Agriculture, Agro-based Industry, Entrepreneurial and Cooperative Development Committee chairman, Ismail Mohamed cited the Johor Primary Food Production Industry Development Project; Rice Field, Industrial Crops, Floriculture and Potential Commodities Development Project; and Agricultural Production Incentive Programme as among the initiatives.

“Other programmes include the Sustainable Agricultural Development Programme, People’s Agricultural Programme, Agro-Based Industry Development Programme, Disaster Relief Programme, Farmers Entrepreneurship Programme and Human Resource Development that involve training for farmers, entrepreneurs and youths,” he told Bernama.

Ismail said the incentives and assistance granted to agricultural projects in the form of infrastructure, equipment, agricultural inputs, technical services and technology transfer would dictate agricultural development sustainability.

He said the Johor Agriculture Department also played a key role in the production of quality agricultural products and meeting established standards such as Good Agricultural Practice Scheme (MyGAP) and Malaysian Organic Certification Scheme (MyOrganic).

Ismail said the state could also empower its agricultural sector by introducing new concepts for crops and downstream industries such as the Permanent Food Production Parks and cluster development.

Meanwhile, he said the Johor government allocated RM40,000 last year in disaster relief aid to 33 farmers whose livelihood was affected by adverse weather and elephant attacks.

Each farmer received between RM500 and RM1,000, depending on the severity of the damage to their crops, he said.

He also said the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry gave an allocation of RM67,000 through the National Disaster Fund to alleviate the affects of the drought last year.

He said the 134 farmers who received assistance were from Mersing, Pontian, Kluang, Muar, Segamat and Kota Tinggi.  – BERNAMA

JAKARTA – Former United States President Barack Obama flew into the resort island of Bali Friday night on a family holiday trip to Indonesia.

Local online media quoted Bali Police spokesman Hengky Widjaja as saying that Obama and his family came to the island in a private aircraft.

He said the visitors were staying at a leading hotel in Ubud and wanted to have a private holiday although security measures are akin to that accorded to a dignitary.

Obama and his family will reportedly be in Bali until June 28 before going to Yogyakarta and concluding their visit in Jakarta on July 2.

In Jakarta, the 44th president of the United States is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the 4th Congress of Indonesian Diaspora on July 1.

The chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Indonesian Diaspora Network Global (IDNG), Dino Patti Djalal, was quoted as saying that Obama’s address at the opening session of the congress would be his first official speech in Asia after retiring as the US president.

He said Obama had a special relationship with Indonesia and was an inspiration for the Indonesian community and diaspora.

The former US president had lived in Jakarta for four years, from 1967 to 1971, having accompanied his mother and stepfather to Indonesia.

He had even attended primary school in Jakarta prior to returning to Honolulu to live with his grandmother.

Meanwhile, presidential special staff for communication Johan Budi Saptopribowo said Indonesian President Joko Widodo would host a dinner for Obama at the Bogor Presidential Palace on June 30. – BERNAMA

MADRID – Soccer great Lionel Messi could have his 21-month prison sentence for tax fraud substituted for a fine after a Spanish prosecutor said on Friday it was open to dropping the jail term.

The judge in charge of the case will make a decision bearing in mind the prosecutor’s recommendations. Judges usually follow the state prosecutor’s guidance in Spain.

Barcelona great Messi and his father Jorge were found guilty by a Catalan court last July on three counts of tax fraud between 2007 and 2009 to the tune of 4.1 million euros (3.60 million pounds) on image rights.

An appeal against the sentence was rejected by Spain’s Supreme Court in May.

Neither Argentina captain Messi nor his father were expected to serve time in jail, as under Spanish law sentences under two years can be served under probation.

The Barcelona-based prosecutor handling the case also said that if the judge did not want to swap the prison term for a fine, it was open to a three-year suspended prison sentence for Messi and his father considering they had no prior offences, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor said in an emailed statement.

Messi’s case was one of the first high-profile investigations by Spanish authorities into top football players’ tax affairs. The state prosecutor earlier this month accused Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo of knowingly using a complex business structure to hide image rights income in Spain.

Ronaldo has denied any wrongdoing.

Messi, who has won eight La Liga titles, five King’s Cups and four Champions League crowns with Barcelona, finished top scorer in Spain this season with 37 league goals.

The five times world player of the year is Barcelona’s all-time top scorer and their highest-paid player.

Messi and his father defrauded the Spanish tax office of 4.1 million euros between 2007 and 2009 by using a web of shell companies based in Belize, Switzerland and Uruguay to evade taxes on income from the player’s image rights.

The maximum fine allowed by law in substitution for Messi’s 21-month prison sentence would be 255,500 euros, Reuters calculated. This would be on top of a nearly 2 million euro fine that was handed down as part of last year’s sentence. – Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR – Traffic flow along several major highways this morning is reported to be slow, an inevitable phenomenon every festive season.

A North-South Expressway Project Traffic Control Centre (PLUS) spokesman said northbound traffic along the North-South Expressway was at a crawl from Sungai Buaya to Bukit Beruntung, Bukit Beruntung to Bukit Tagar and Bukit Tagar to Lembah Beringin.

“Traffic is also congested along Lembah Beringin towards Tanjung Malim and Behrang as of 9am,” he told Bernama when contacted here today.

He said the situation was similar in the Slim River area towards Sungkai, Sungkai to Bidor, Bidor to Tapah,Tapah to Gua Tempurung, Gopeng to Simpang Pulai, Jelapang to Tanjung Menora, and Tanjung Menora to Sungai Perak.

As for southbound traffic, the only congestion was from Nilai to Seremban R & R, said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, a Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM) spokesman said traffic congestion along the East Coast Expressway only affected the stretch from Gombak towards Bentong.

The public can access traffic updates through Plusline 1800-88-0000 and www.twittercom/plustrafik or LLM at 1800-887752 and www.twitter.com/LLMinfotrafik. – BERNAMA

NEW DELHI – An Indian man has been arrested for selling dried monitor lizard penises online as a rare root plant believed to bring good luck, Indian forest department officials said.

The news comes days after Indian and British investigators said they had uncovered a scam in which Indian Internet retailers were passing off the lizard parts as the plant, known as Hatha Jodi.

The monitor lizard is protected under the Indian Wildlife Act.

Officials believe the arrested man, Kalki Krishnan, was sourcing the parts from central India’s Madhya Pradesh state.

“We have made seizures (of the monitor lizard penises) and sent them to the lab for tests. We will also ask the court for the arrested man’s custody to further our investigations,” a divisional forest officer, H.V Girish, said.

Other banned wildlife items were also seized from Krishnan, an official at the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau told the Hindustan Times.

Prices vary from US$6 to US$63 (RM26 to RM270) for purchase in India and US$254 (RM1,090) outside the country.

“These lizards are being illegally poached from the wild, caught in traps and snares.

“Some will have their throats slit or their skulls smashed in before their genitals are removed for use as Hatha Jodi’,” Neil D’Cruze from World Animal Protection said in a statement at the time. — AFP

KUALA LUMPUR – Indonesian Islamic State (IS) militants have issued a new threat against Malaysia and its security forces.

Their main target is Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division head Deputy Comm Datuk Ayob Khan (pic).

It is learnt that IS militants have been calling on their comrades in Malaysia to eliminate DCP Ayob, seen as the main threat against the terror group in the region.

The message spread through social media read, “Di Malaysia negara yang udah dibawah Khilafah ada satu nama polis AYOB KHAN … dia kerja dengan pemerintah thogut … dia juga orang yang tangkap askar khilafah di Malaysia … semua ikhwan khilafah yang ada di Malaysia bangun sekarang dan habiskan AYOB KHAN orang yang mau lawan dengan KHALIFAH ABU BAKAR AL BAGHDADI”.

(In Malaysia, which is now under the Caliphate, there is a policeman by the name of AYOB KHAN … he is working with the infidel government. He is also responsible for the arrests of the soldiers of the Caliphate in Malaysia. All the soldiers of the Caliphate, awake now and finish off AYOB KHAN who dares to challenge the CALIPH ABU BAKAR AL BAGHDADI.)

Intelligence sources revealed that such a direct threat by Indonesian militants is highly dangerous.

“It is definitely very serious as Indonesian IS militants are very committed and have a wide network in the region and globally.

“Their ties to militants in Malaysia are also quite close and the Indonesian militants have expertise in making electronic devices,” a source told The Star yesterday.

When contacted, DCP Ayob said he was aware of the threat by the Indonesian militants.

“Initial investigations revealed that the threat was circulated on social media since last week.

“I have received many death threats over the years but this is the first time Indonesian militants have issued a clarion call to fellow militants in Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries to have me killed,” he said.

He added that the timing of threat coincided with the month of Ramadan as the militants believed they would receive more blessings if they attacked him during the holy month.

“It is their own twisted beliefs. The chances of a collaboration between Malaysian and Indonesian militants to have me killed are high given their close relations.

“In Syria, Malaysian and Indonesian militants formed a squad called Khatibah Nusantara operating in Raqqa.

“Furthermore, there is a rise of militants in Syria returning to South-East Asia given the onslaught on the IS strongholds in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria,” he said.

DCP Ayob said the threat from Indonesian militants was more serious after several of them were detained in Slim River and Sanda­kan recently.

“The suspect in Slim River detained on June 13, was an administrator for a Telegram app group that has almost 200 militants from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Oman and European countries.”

The suspect labelled the Prime Minister as a leader who did not practise Islamic laws, and the police and army as lapdogs of a secular government, he said.

The same suspect also called on attacks on a casino in Genting Highlands and Batu Caves, added DCP Ayob.

Despite the threats, DCP Ayob said the police were committed to ensuring the safety and security of the country and the people.

Since February 2013, the division has detained 310 militants, including 21 Indonesian militants.

The division also thwarted 18 terror plots, except for the Movida bombing last year. – The Star Online

PUTRAJAYA – Malaysians are urged to celebrate Syawal as a day of peace and forgiveness, not only for the good of the ummah but for the good of all Malaysians.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Dr Salleh Said Keruak in his Hari Raya message said it was unfortunate that not all Muslims, in Malaysia and all over the world, understood the spirit of Ramadan and Syawal.

“Conflicts and animosity continue and allowed egos, hatred and anger to cloud our judgement.

“This is not Islam and is not what Ramadan and Syawal stand for. So let us celebrate Syawal as a day of peace and forgiveness,” he said in a post on his blog, sskeruak.blogspot.my.

He said the Muslim holy month of Ramadan “is a month when all Muslims are supposed to restrain, refrain and reflect”.

“Ramadan is the month we keep our lust and desires in check, we discard our arrogance and temper, we demonstrate humility and humbleness, we harbour compassion and love for others, and we spend our time reflecting on our deeds and our duties.

“In fact, meditation or muraqaba would be what Muslims in fasting should be doing,” he said.

Salleh described the first day of Syawal as a day to celebrate victory for Ramadan — “victory over ourselves, what can be called the small jihad”.

“During Ramadan we not only refrain from eating, drinking and smoking, but also from hurting others, either physically, verbally or emotionally.

“Syawal  is the day we ask and offer forgiveness for our transgressions, whether intentionally or otherwise,” he said.  – BERNAMA

KUALA SELANGOR – Gabungan Wawasan Generasi Felda (GWGF) has called for the revamp of Felda Global Ventures Holdings Bhd’s (FGV) board of directors by bringing in its three representatives from the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda).

GWGF chairman Tan Sri Rozali Ismail said this was to ensure that any decision made by the public-listed company would be directly made known to Felda settlers and its family members as the majority shareholders of FGV.

In fact, he said many Felda settlers and its children were now made of educated people and professionals who could contribute ideas to the betterment of FGV’s development and economic boost.

“What is worrying is the entire settlers are also at the losing end when the management of FGV is experiencing problems, and this (will surely) create an unpleasant perspective on Felda among the outsiders,” he told reporters at the breaking-the-fast event with local residents and the media here today.

As such, Rozali said he asked the government to consider listing Felda representatives in the FGV’s board of directors to ensure the future sustainability of the Felda community.

He also said he fully supported the newly appointed FGV chairman, Tan Sri Dr Sulaiman Mahbob in helming the company. – BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR – Afternoon traffic along major highways is reported to be crawling as of 12noon following the exodus home for Aidilfitri by city dwellers.

A PLUS Malaysia Berhad told Bernama when contacted that traffic movement heading north was slow, while the flow southward was still smooth.

Meanwhile a Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM) spokesman said afternoon traffic flow on the East Coast Expressway was also slow but under control.

“Traffic on other routes including Genting Sempah tunnel to Bukit Tinggi is slow-moving but southwards, is still under control,” he said.

The public can access traffic updates through Plusline at 1800-88-0000 and www.twitter.com/plustrafik or LLM at 1800-88-7752 or www.twitter.com/llminfotrafik. – BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR – The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, today officiated at the renaming of Masjid Jamek Kuala Lumpur as Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Samad.

His Royal Highness arrived at this oldest mosque in the capital city at 12.45 pm and was welcomed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Also present were Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.

Tengku Adnan said in a statement that it was the desire of the sultan to rename the mosque that was built in 1909 and had become an iconic building in the federal capital because the mosque was on a site that was originally a part of Selangor.

He also said that it was an initiative to preserve one of the nation’s treasures that had developed into a national tourism icon. – BERNAMA