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Moderate Earthquake Hits Northern Molucca Sea

KUALA LUMPUR – A moderate earthquake measuring 5.3 on Ritcher scale occurred in Northern Molucca Sea at 11.30am today.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department, in a statement, here said the epicentre of the quake was 145km southwest of Talaud island, Indonesia and 860km southeast of Semporna, Sabah.

It said the quake did not pose any tsunami threat. – BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM – The number of dengue cases in Selangor dropped 18 per cent to 51,652 cases throughout last year compared with 63,198 cases in 2015.

The Chairman of the Permanent Committee on Health, Welfare, Women and Family Affairs Dr Daroyah Alwi said of the total cases reported, 78 fatalities were recorded last year compared with 127 deaths in the year before (2015).

“… and (from Jan 1) until March 25 this year, Selangor registered 11,598 dengue cases which was a drop of 36 per cent compared with 2016 where the number was 18,204 cases.

“During the period under review, 12 fatal cases were reported in 2017 compared with 29 cases in 2016 which was a decline of 59 per cent in fatal cases,” she said during the question and answer session at the Selangor State Assembly sitting, here today.

She disclosed this when replying to a question from Mat Shuhaimi Shafie (PKR-Sri Muda) on the number of dengue cases recorded throughout 2016 in the state of Selangor. – BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR – The Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) and the Selangor Mufti Department have called up the individual offering the ‘Valet Doa’ or prayer valet service in Makkah for specific prices, and advised him to stop.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom said the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM) in collaboration with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is also monitoring the individual’s Facebook account.

“JAKIM also supports any action taken by MCMC in combatting activities which could affect the sanctity of Muslims and cause negative impact, misunderstandings, and corrupt the faith,” he told the Dewan Rakyat today.

He was replying to a question from Datuk Normala Abdul Samad (BN-Pasir Gudang) on the government’s action regarding the issue, and steps taken to address matters that could mar the sanctity of Islam.

Jamil Khir said Muslims in the country should also provide information to respective state Islamic religious departments and JAKIM if there were concerns on religious issues.

On Normala’s supplementary question regarding the individual who insists on continuing the service saying the muftis had not issued a ruling on the matter, Jamil Khir said it did not mean that the individual could continue his business.

He said state mufti departments had taken the initiative and proactive measures to provide advice on religious concerns relating to the prohibition of promoting valet prayer services.

In fact, he said action can be taken against the individual for defying the muftis’ directive.

“He should understand that there are elements that are very unhealthy in advertising (valet prayer) such as fees ranging from RM250 to RM5,000 depending on the place where the prayer is performed, and there are discounts…it’s as though the prayers will truly be answered,” he said. – BERNAMA

French President Hollande Visits RMAF's 22 Squadron

PETALING JAYA – French President Francois Hollande visited the 22 Squadron of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Military Base here today, to view the newest member of logistic aircraft A400M, the M54-04.

The RMAF had purchased four A400M for the 22 Squadron from France-based aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, and the first of the logistic aircraft was received on March 13, 2015.

Hollande was given a warm welcome by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein upon his arrival at the 22 Squadron before they attended a closed-door meeting.

During the 15-minute meeting, it was understood that Hishammuddin had briefed Hollande on the condition and performance of the fourth and last A400M which was received on March 14 this year.

The French president, accompanied by Hishammuddin, was then taken to watch then Dassault Rafale Fighter jet air display conducted by Captain Jean-Guillaume ‘Marty’ Martinez during a heavy downpour.

Martinez, who was a French Air Force jet instructor, had previously conducted similar fighter jet air displays last week at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA’17).

On his performance today, the captain described it as a challenging one due to the heavy rain, windy condition and poor visibility, causing him to fly the jet at 500 to 1,500 feet.

Hollande, who is on a two-day state visit to Malaysia, had earlier attended a joint press conference with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in Putrajaya before heading to the airbase.

The two-day visit, beginning last night, was part of Hollande’s first visit to ASEAN, which also includes his state visits to Singapore and Indonesia.

It was the second presidential-level visit from Paris to Kuala Lumpur after President Jacques Chirac’s state visit in July 2003.

Hollande, accompanied by ministers, members of parliament, officials, as well as a business delegation, is next scheduled to visit the Islamic Arts Museum. – BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR – Effective tomorrow, Malaysians will see fuel prices at the pumps set weekly and no longer monthly like what they have seen since December 2014.

Therefore, the price revision, for petrol and diesel, will be made known by midnight each Wednesday and the new price, if there is a change, will become effective each Thursday. For the average consumer, the retail price of the fuel at the pump could be higher, lower or the same every Thursday depending on the world petroleum prices.

The weekly price mechanism is meant to further fine tune the monthly managed float system, especially looking at the fact the world fuel prices vary by the day. Hence, setting the prices on monthly basis may not accurately reflect on what the consumers are paying.

TWO SIDES OF A COIN

Elaborating on this, Federation of Malaysian Consumer Association’s (Fomca) vice president Mohd Yusof Abdul Rahman noted the weekly price mechanism would reduce the price fluctuation range to between five sen and 10 sen per liter.

This is certainly better than the monthly price float mechanism that allowed the price fluctuations from 10 sen to 20 sen per liter.

Yet, whether the price is decided weekly or monthly, there may not be much difference for the average consumer as the price is set based on the world oil prices.

Hence, there is always this fear if the world oil prices is used as the benchmark in setting the retail prices, the unbridled rise in crude prices will definitely burden the consumers.

“What the average consumer wants to know is that how much they have to pay at the pump and whether the government will set a limit on how high it could go? If the government is just to announce the prices each week without any contingency plans if it goes too high, consumers will be left in a lurch.

“For example, the RON95 is already considered hefty at RM2.30 per liter and what more if it rises further. Therefore, the government has to put in place some controls if the increase goes beyond affordability. The government has to think of targeted subsidy for the middle and low income group,” he said.

“In other nations like Singapore and Hong Kong, fuel price hike is no problem for the people there as they have a highly efficient public transport system and most of the people use it,” he said to Bernama.

He added that though the fuel price there is high, the government provides subsidies for public transportation to ensure it becomes the main mode of transportation for the people.

POSITIVE IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY

Meanwhile, Senior lecturer at the School of Economy, Finance and Banking, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), Muhammad Ridhuan Bos Abdullah noted the government’s intervention and regulation would ensure efficient market operations and would benefit the national economy.

He also opined that the government has taken into account the impact of the previous mechanism (monthly pricing) before introducing the new mechanism (weekly pricing).

“The new mechanism is similar to the one implemented in several developed nations like in the United States and Canada that complies with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the organisations that regulate the respective markets.

“We hope that any changes in the price will give the advantage to the government especially in the ‘cost-saving’ aspect and the cost saved passed to the consumers (industry and household). If there is a rise in the price of the fuel, we hope the government will be more flexible and take preemptive steps to absorb the price hike,” he said.

On the possibility that the weekly prices will unleash stiff competition between petrol kiosk operators, Muhammad Ridhuan Bos pointed out the competition would benefit the consumers.

The petrol kiosk operators will roll out promotions for consumers with discounts for the fuel.

“However, it cannot be denied that there may be some price fixing or cartel emerging, but the Competition Act 2010 could prevent that,” he said adding that the act works to promote economic development and create a competitive business environment.

COMPREHENSIVE STUDIES

Meanwhile, a public servant Mahathir Ahamad, 36, opined that the people have to be exposed sufficiently on the new mechanism to prevent them from being manipulated or cheated.

A private sector executive Mohd Fadly Daud, 39, opined that the weekly pricing was inappropriate as consumers have to keep up with the prices that change weekly.

“Its better to revise the prices ever six months. As consumers we fear that petrol kiosk operators or companies could manipulate the weekly pricing for their benefit especially that they know beforehand the impending price hikes,” he said. – BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the 1Malaysia Public Servants Housing (PPA1M) projects were not only aimed at providing accommodation but also at creating wealth.

Najib who is also Finance Minister, said the government undertook the measure of building the PPA1M housing for personal and family wellbeing with the house ownership offered to public servants.

He said as the pillar of the government’s administrative machinery, public servants were an important target group, not only in upholding and implementing government policies but also as a group which played a major role and contributed a lot to national development.

“It is very appropriate for public servants to get a comfortable home and enjoy increase in their property or asset value as security for the rest of their lives,” Najib said at the handing of keys to the Larai PPA1M units in Precinct 6, here, today.

Also present were Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar, and Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) president Datuk Seri Hasim Ismail.

Najib said the provision of affordable homes was a main agenda of the government with the cooperation of the private sector, and among the schemes were the 1Malaysia People’s Housing (PR1MA), People-Friendly Homes, Federal Territories Housing Policy (RUMAWIP), and Felda, Felcra and Risda second generation homes.

He said the government targeted the construction of 126,000 PPA1M units for public servants throughout the country and so far, almost 3,500 units had been completed and occupied, while the balance were being built.

“God willing, by 2020, all the units targeted will be completed…this is a meaningful milestone towards fulfilling the national housing agenda.”

Najib said for each PPA1M unit built, the subsidy provided by the government was RM25,000 to RM38,000, depending on the size of the house.

He cited a house of 1,200 sq ft in size with the sale price of RM260,000 and the government subsidy of RM30,000 provided, while for a house of 1,500 sq ft, the sale price is RM300,000 and the subsidy at RM38,000.

“I’ve been made to understand that the Larai PPA1M project is the biggest we have implemented so far. The Palma PPA1M project in Precinct 11 and the Selasih PPA1M in Precinct 17 have also been completed,” he said.

In a statement, PPj said the Larai PPA1M project comprised 1,680 units, with 536 of the units measuring 1,000 sq ft, out of which 16 units were for the disabled, 748 units measuring 1,200 sq ft, and 380 units of 1,500 sq ft in size.- BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR – Pos Malaysia Berhad will issue stamp series for three major festive greetings in Malaysia tomorrow.

The stamp series will feature calligraphy for greetings in three different languages, namely ‘Selamat Hari Raya’, ‘Gong He Xin Xi’and ‘Iniye Vaalthukal Deepavali’, and will be sold at 80 sen each.

Head of the Stamp and Philately Unit, Diyana Lean Abdullah said hopefully the second issue of the stamp series which features calligraphy would receive good response like last year.

“The stamps will travel the world, with the calligraphy on them, other countries will become aware of the different types of calligraphy in Malaysia,” she said in a press conference here today.

She added that miniature sheets worth RM5 depicting Malay, Chinese and Indian calligraphy would be printed on silver while drawings of lanterns and lights will be on the cancellation marks of the series.

“First day covers will be sold at 55 sen each, with free pamphlets, while the folders will be RM6 each.

“Customers can also buy a complete folder set comprising stamps and all philately products at a cost of RM71.45,” she said, adding that there were 80,000 prints for each design.

Kumpulan Pos Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh said, in a statement, that the essence of tolerance and racial harmony would be highlighted in the festive greeting stamp series.

“Calligraphy is also part of the language and culture of a civilisation, from the aspect of culture, religion and writing forms,” said Mohd Shukrie.

Members of the public can visit the website www.pos.com.my for further information. – BERNAMA

Mas Ermieyati

KUALA LUMPUR – A total 266 umrah (small haj) package cheating cases involving losses of more than RM10 million have been reported from 2012 until February this year.

Deputy Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Mas Ermieyati Samsudin said 95 per cent of the cases involved tourism agencies and compounds totalling RM508,500 were issued under the Tourism Industry Act 1992.

“The public are taking great risks of being cheated when dealing with companies or individuals who don’t have licence to become ticket sale agents, especially online.

“All licensed tourism agencies must take adequate measures to find out the status of their business partners, whether they are licenced or otherwise,” she told reporters after chairing a Umrah Regulatory Council (MKSU) meeting here today.

She said the ministry was actively conducting integrated monitoring and investigations with other ministries and agencies including the police and non-governmental organisations.

Mas Ermieyati said the minimum indicator price for an economy umrah package of 12 nights and 10 days was fixed at RM4,900 with the agreement of the Bumiputera Tourism Operators Association Of Malaysia (Bumitra) and the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA).

She also stressed that licensed tour operators must ensure every pilgrim was covered under the Umrah Takaful Scheme. – BERNAMA

All Must Ensure Success Of Visit Beautiful Terengganu 2017

KUALA TERENGGANU – The Sultan of Terengganu, Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin has called on all parties to give their best service to ensure the success of Visit Beautiful Terengganu 2017.

He said the state government’s effort to further develop the tourism sector as a long-term alternative to the oil and gas sector was a right strategy.

“The arrival of tourists to Terengganu is growing steadily. It is the result of all parties working continuously especially on tourism incentives promotion.

“Therefore, there should be greater focus on cleanliness and security at popular destinations so that tourists feel safe and comfortable coming to Terengganu,” the Sultan said.

Sultan Mizan was opening the fifth term of the 13th State Legislative Assembly here today.

Earlier the Sultan accompanied by the Sultanah of Terengganu, Sultanah Nur Zahirah were received upon their arrival by Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Ahmad Razif Abdul Rahman and his wife, Toh Puan Seri Halina Zakaria and Assembly Speaker, Datuk Mohd Zubir Embong, state executive councillors and members of the assembly.

Apart from praising the state government in the tourism sector, Sultan Mizan was also happy with the initiatives introduced to ensure the housing needs of the people were fulfilled.

He also hoped more housing projects would be implemented so that the people could acquire their dream house.

Sultan Mizan also welcomed the budget control measures this year as they were timely with the challenging world economic situation following the fall of oil price in the international market.

“I can see efforts to transform the economy are bearing fruits as Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (MIDA) figures show the total investment in the state jumped from RM1.4 billion in 2015 to RM2.1 billion last year, a 64 per cent increase,” he said. – BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM – Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) will stick to its stand not to sever ties with PAS although PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang has likened cooperating with other political parties to “memikul biawak hidup”, meaning, carrying an unnecessary burden.

PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali said PKR still believed in mutuality in the opposition pact and would respect any differences of opinion.

“Keadilan (PKR) at the central, state and divisional levels has never severed ties with friends.”

He said this to reporters after attending the opening of the Fifth Session of the 13th Selangor State Legislative Assembly by the Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, here, today.

On Abdul Hadi’s remark of ‘memikul biawak hidup’ (carrying a live monitor lizard), Mohamed Azmin said, “Please do not use such a term, not proper in public, as we should be using better words, nicer to hear.

“We should have mutual respect because even if we argue with our enemy, there’s no need to use such (unpleasant) terms.”

Last Saturday, the social media reported Abdul Hadi as saying that PAS would not be with Pakatan Harapan or Barisan Nasional (BN) in facing the next general election.

Abdul Hadi said cooperating with other parties was like “memikul biawak hidup”, and PAS would be taking its own approach in facing the 14th general election. – BERNAMA