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SINGAPORE: Lee Kuan Yew Jayaprakash tries to stand up, and when he manages with the help of a small green plastic chair, he immediately looks at his mother Bhagiyalakshmi and flashes a wide toothy smile.

Lee, as he is known by his family, then sits back on his haunches and launches at full speed towards the front door of the small four-room house that leads out to a newly paved road in the town of Mannargudi in southern Tamil Nadu state.

His mother scoops him up and admonishes him gently with a smile.

The one-year-old baby – who sports black dots made with kohl on his face to ward off the evil eye or any negative energy – gurgles with delight even as his older sister Subhasini, aged two, chants: “Lee, Mr Lee, Lee.”

“Lee is very active. It’s difficult to keep up,” says his 28-year-old mother, Madam Bhagiyalakshmi, who speaks only Tamil, as she goes about her household chores.

“If he decides he wants something, he can’t be dissuaded. He is very stubborn. Otherwise, he is a calm baby and cries only when he is hungry.”

Lee was born at 1pm on March 23 last year in Mannargudi, a town of 70,000 people, which, along with a handful of nearby villages like Ullikotai and Pudukkottai, have strong links to Singapore.

His father, B. Jayaprakash, a bus driver, decided to name him after Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, as he was moved by an outpouring of grief in the area over the death of the political leader.

Many families in these parts either have family members working in Singapore or know someone who has moved to the city-state to work. Remittances have transformed lives, with scores of families once worried about their next meal swopping thatched huts for mini bungalows complete with gardens and at least one car.

They credit the improvement in their circumstances to Lee, and his death last year was mourned deeply.

In Mannargudi, a memorial was held, while scores of families in the town and nearby villages put up posters complete with condolence messages and photographs of Mr Lee in front of their houses. Such banners are put up to mark a death in the family.

Over the past year, baby Lee has become something of a mini celebrity in the area. Many have also heard about him from relatives in Singapore.

“People call out ‘Lee, Lee’ when I am out and about in the town. I have come to be known as Lee’s father,” says Jayaprakash.

The 38-year-old, who drives a bus for a government bus company, looks on indulgently, and describes his son as “brilliant” and “sharp”. He already drinks from a metal sippy cup, and his favourite toy is not any of the numerous ones given to him by his father, but the latter’s cellphone.

In Tamil Nadu, it is not uncommon for parents to name their baby after prominent Indian or even foreign personalities. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party chief M. Karunanidhi, for instance, named his son Stalin.

Still, Jayaprakash’s decision, made without consulting his wife or the rest of his family, was met with some incredulity by their extended family members and friends.

Venkata Krishnan, 42, a family friend, says he was shocked when he first heard the name, and thought the family would not accept it. “Now, there is no problem. Because of the posters and banners, even people like me who didn’t know Lee Kuan Yew got to know him,” he says. “It is no longer Jayaprakash’s house. It is Lee’s house.”

The entire family, too, has embraced the name, except for Lee’s grandmother, who still cannot wrap her head around it. “My mother just calls him ‘thambi’ (interchangeably used for son or brother),” says Madam Bhagiyalakshmi. “It is a good name. My only wish is that he does well in life.”

In the prayer room of their house, a garlanded photograph of Lee is placed next to the statue of the god Ganesh.

In the adjoining bedroom, a tiny hammock, made out of white cloth, hangs from the ceiling. This is where Lee sleeps.

His parents, who plan to feed a dozen orphans to celebrate their son’s first birthday and have put up a banner outside their house, say Lee is more adventurous and sure of himself than his older sister.

Jayaprakash, a school dropout of modest means earning 10,000 rupees (S$205) a month, dreams of a university education and a well- paying white-collar job for his son.

“I never learnt how to speak English but I want my son to speak it. I have decided I am going to put Lee in a private school,” he says, adding that he is putting away 2,500 rupees from his salary every month for his son’s university education, and 1,000 rupees for his daughter.

However, his son’s peculiar name has also caused him some unintended embarrassment. “Everyone is asking me, ‘you have given this name but have you gone to Singapore?’ and I feel strange about it. I want to go to Singapore,” he says. “I don’t know how I will do it, but I want to visit Singapore at least once before my son turns two.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network


DENGKIL: Malaysia will seek India’s expertise in tiger conservation as it looks to increase the population of the endangered animal in this country, says Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar.

The Natural Resources and Environment Minister said he will be in India next month and will discuss with his counterparts there on how both countries can help each other in tiger conservation.

“Perhilitan (the Wildlife and National Parks Department) is working with their counterparts in India in tiger conservation, expertise and forensics, as they are more advanced in us in these aspects.

“I have been invited to a convention in April where we will discuss tiger conservation and hopefully they can send us some experts to help us. In exchange, perhaps, we can teach them about tapir conservation.

“Through the exchange of knowledge, we can improve our conservation of wildlife, especially the endangered animals,” said Dr Wan Junaidi after chairing his ministry’s monthly assembly held at the Paya Indah Wetlands Tuesday.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the population of wild tigers in India has increased to 2,226 in 2014 from 1,706 in 2010 and 1,411 in 2006 – thanks to its national tiger conservation efforts.

The minister said surveys showed there are roughly 300 tigers living in the wild in Malaysia.

“We must make it a national duty to protect this animal. The tiger is very iconic in Malaysia, and you can tell as it is used in the Malaysian crest. It is a big responsibility for the ministry to carry,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi also said a survey was conducted in the peninsula to find tigers that were unaccounted for.

“We know now there are about 300 wild tigers, but this is based on an existing survey. There are still areas that have not been surveyed and hopefully once that is complete in about three years time, we will find out that there are actually more tigers in the country,” he said.

Dr Wan Junaidi said besides poaching and illegal wildlife trading, the use of animal snares by the indigenous Orang Asli was a factor in the dwindling population of tigers here.

“We need the Orang Asli Department’s help to educate them against using animal snares,” he said.

At the assembly, Dr Wan Junaidi launched a coffee table book called ‘Malayan Tiger: An Iconic National Treasure’ which contains visuals of tigers in the wild caught by wildlife trail cameras.


KUALA LUMPUR – India has emerged as one of the top ten tourist markets for Malaysia, said Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz.

He said 770,108 tourists from India were recorded in 2014, a significant increase of 18.3 percent compared to 2013.

“Malaysia has become their choice for leisure and shopping, corporate meetings, incentive trips, filming movies and weddings,” he said at The Global Malayalee (TGM) Extravaganza Nite of Awards and Celebration 2015, here Saturday night.

Also present was All Malaysia Malayalee Association (AMMA) president Datuk Suseela Menon.

Mohamed Nazri said Malaysia had also launced the Malaysia Year of Festivals (MyFest 2015) campaign in Mumbai and Chennai in conjunction with the ministry’s sales mission to India early this year which covered five cities namely New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad.

“Recognizing India as a strong component of our local business and tourism, Malaysia has supported and witnessed various Indian concerts, events and awards over the past few years, the most recent being the International India film Academy Awards (IIFA),” he said.

Mohamed Nazri said, hosting the TGM truly represented the country’s competence and expertise to hold globally-acclaimed events to cater to the region.

The event hosted by (AMMA) was held in conjunction with Tourism Malaysia 2015 Year of Festivals and intended to unite Malayalees from around the world to celebrate the achievements of the community, while reliving the richness of the Malayalee heritage, culture, tradition and language.

Mohamed Nazri said, this inaugural event over three days including a Symposium, Awards Gala Dinner and authentic Kerala Sadhya would be an example for other communities to organise similar events.

“With around 400,000 Malayalees in Malaysia, AMMA together with its affiliates all over the country, did numerous social activites not only for the Malayalee community but all Malaysians,” he said.

During the event, 24 notable Malayalee high-achievers received awards for their outstanding achievement in their respective fields such as technology, science, and performing arts.

Among them were President and Chief Executive Officer Siemens Malaysia, Prakash Chandran, AirAsia Group Chief, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and singer-songwriter, Reshmonu. – BERNAMA


Imagine this scenario: you came to a mostly-Indian populated town to wreck havoc and escape scot-free. But along came a burly Indian man and started to go all WWE on you for causing so much fuss in his quaint borough. He emerges triumphant, you bloodied from the nose on the floor. Town is safe once more.

Knowing this DC comics-worthy of a storyline might just become a reality, Perak is to have seven Indian village chiefs next year to keep the area safe and sound.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir said today they would be in charge in Kampung Hendra in Sungkai; Kampung Soon Lee in Bagan Serai; Kampung Tun Sambanthan in Ayer Tawar; Kampung Kamatchi and Kampung Sungai Sumun in Hutan Melintang; Kampung Kinta Valley in Kampar and Kampung Pundut in Lumut, Bernama reports.

The state government agreed to offer the position of village chief to people from the Indian community based on the density of the Indian population in these villages, he said.

Zambry spoke to reporters after chairing the weekly meeting of the state executive council at the Perak Darul Ridzuan building here.

The village chiefs would serve for two years from next year, he said, adding that the state already had village chiefs from among the Malay, Orang Asli and Chinese communities.– BERNAMA


KUALA LUMPUR: Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak are set to inaugurate the ‘Torana’ Gate at Brickfields at 12.30pm.

The gate, which is a gift from the Indian government to Malaysia, is a mark of continued friendship between both countries.

Construction of the gate was first announced by former Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh in 2010 and the installation of the gate was done by local developer MRCB Engineering Sdn Bhd on Aug 20 this year.

The design of the gate was done by Aksaya Jain and Associates and it is identical to the “Great Stupa” at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, India.

The height of the gate was about 10 metres and width of 7.3 metres. The main structure is covered with sandstone sculptured blocks made in India and sent to Malaysia in blocks to fit the size of the Gate’s pillar structure.

The carvings on the block are jewellery patterned floral and geometric-shapes while the remainder of the sculptures are motifs of animals.

Aparts from the carvings, the gate also consists of granite slabs, bollard sculptures carved out of solid stone and low stone fenced wall.

According to a statement from the Federal Territories Ministry, Little India was chosen as a suitable site for the gate because the place was amongst the earliest Indian community’s settlement in this country.

“The Torana Gate herein augments the cultural characteristics of the local people of Indian origin.

“It could serve as yet another tourist attraction of domestic and foreign significance.

“Torana Gate is not only a symbol of the friendship between India and Malaysia, but it is also a symbol of unity and understanding amidst established ethnic diversity in Malaysia,” said the statement.


PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia and India share a common position in combating terrorism and extremism, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

In a joint press conference with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, Najib said both leaders had expressed strong condemnation for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

“We call upon all states to reject terrorism and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice.

“We also agree to continue sharing of information and best practises to address the challenges post by terrorism and other traditional and non-traditional threats,” said Najib Monday.

He added that both countries have also agreed to continue the ongoing cooperation on counter-terrorism and have agreed to further enhance relations in this field.

This is Modi’s first official visit since he took office in May last year. He was in Malaysia to also attend the 27th Asean Summit and related summits.

Najib also said both countries are looking to further expand the cooperation in terms of education.

Najib said many Malaysians have received their education in India particularly in medicine.

“India is looking for recognition of Indian degrees in the field of IT and engineering.

“I have asked the Higher Education Ministry and the Malaysian Qualification Agency to act on this,” said Najib.


PUTRAJAYA: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is here for a maiden official visit to Malaysia after assuming his post in 2014, was accorded an official welcome at Dataran Perdana, here Monday.

Modi, who arrived in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to attend the 27th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, was greeted by his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak upon arrival at 9.40am, before the national anthems of both countries were played.

Modi then inspected a guard-of-honour mounted by 106 officers and men from the 1st Batallion of the Royal Malay Regiment.

Also present at the ceremony were Chief Secretary to the Government Tan Sri Dr Ali Hamsa, cabinet ministers, foreign diplomats and senior government officials.

Modi and Najib then proceeded for a four-eyed meeting to review both countries’ existing relations and cooperation as well as to identify potential areas of the Strategic Partnership established between the two countries in October 2010.

Malaysia and India had enjoyed warm and wide ranging substantive relations based on historical, cultural and economic links which had brought about mutual benefits to both countries.

As a symbol of India-Malaysia friendship, both Prime Ministers will officiate the Torana Gate in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, which is a gift from India to Malaysia.



KABUL: A magnitude-7.7 earthquake hit northeastern Afghanistan on Monday, and was felt hundreds of miles away in Pakistan and India.

The temblor struck at around 2:10 p.m. (5:10 a.m. ET). The quake came just days after rain fell in many parts of Afghanistan, making mud-built houses more vulnerable to collapse.

The USGS said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.7 and was centered around 28 miles south-southwest of Jarm, Afghanistan.

In the Afghan capital Kabul, cars stopped in the streets and screaming residents streamed out of homes, offices and schools.

Similar scenes were reported in cities including Lahore and Peshawar in neighboring Pakistan.

NBC News producer Mushtaq Yusufzai was having lunch with his family in Peshawar when the earthquake struck.

“There was no was way to go downstairs so we immediately climbed to the rooftop,” he said. “It seemed the entire building is going to collapse. Women and children were crying and traffic was stopped on roads.”

The country’s Supreme Court was in a televised session and judges, lawyers and complainants were shown running out of the room.-NBC News


NEW DELHI – If you’re going to spend 10 months of the year on the road, you’d want a pretty sweet ride.

For truckers in India, that means a kaleidoscope of colors, slogans, and intricately painted symbols that are as much about bling — as shrewd business sense.

Here, a truck isn’t just a way to get around. It’s a moving work of art reflecting the character of its driver — and a brilliant beacon for new customers.

“A better looking truck attracts more business,” says Shantanu Suman, graphic designer and filmmaker behind 2013 documentary “Horn Please,” which explores India’s spectacular truck art tradition.

“Imagine the truck is like a moving billboard. It travels from one side of the country to the other, carrying the message of the truck driver and owner.”

Home on wheels
In a nation spanning almost 4 million square kilometers, truck drivers are the ones quite literally keeping the Indian economy moving — delivering goods to rural parts of the country inaccessible by railway.

It’s a job which entails long months on the road, and these hefty vehicles transformed into mobile homes away from home, kitted out with bunk beds and photos of loved ones far away.

“Since they’re missing their kids and wives, they like to decorate their trucks with ornaments to remind them of home,” explained Suman.

“They might adorn the cabin with bangles — things that remind them of their wives.”

The symbolism continues on the richly painted exterior, with images of gods and goddesses, Bollywood stars, and political logos that say much about the person behind the wheel.

“Depending on which region they’re from, you’ll see Hindi, Muslim, Sikh, and Christian iconography,” said photographer Dan Eckstein, who traveled over 10,000kms of the country for his book “Horn Please: The Decorated Trucks of India.”

“There’s also a lot of decoration that has to do with luck on the road and warning away bad omens. There’s a little demon face they put on the front of the truck, or they might tie shoes to the bottom which is meant to keep away the evil eye.”

Come face-to-face with the luminous rear end of one of these trucks, and you’ll also likely see the words “Horn Please” emblazoned across the back.

It’s a call for other drivers to honk their horns when overtaking the truck; a long-standing tradition on Indian roads.

But whether the tradition of truck art itself will continue, is less certain.

“Truck painting is now undergoing a transformation. A lot of things that were once hand painted are now being replaced by stickers,” explained Suman.


“Some of these truck artists who have been carrying forward this profession for generations, now don’t want their kids to do it because they realize the hardship. They say: ‘I want my kids to go to collage and work in an air-conditioned office, rather than be here in the sun painting trucks all day.'”

That said, it’s still a skill both artist and driver take huge pride in — and the journey isn’t over yet. – CNN


NEW DELHI – Former Indian president Dr APJ Abdul Kalam died at the age 84 after he collapsed while delivering a lecture in Shillong, Meghalaya at about 9pm (Malaysia time 11.25pm) yesterday.

Initial report by local media said that Dr Kalam suffered from a cardiac arrest.

The former president collapsed during the lecture at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong and was rushed to the hospital, in which he breathed his last two and half hours later.

Immedietly after the news of his passing broke out, politicians and academicians paid tribute for his pivotal role especially in nuclear technology and science education in general.

Born in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, Dr Kalam was India’s 11th president from 2002 to 2007.

He was also known as the missile man of India, who had envisioned India to be one of superpower nation by 2020.

He also contributed significantly to the betterment of children and women by promoting literacy among hardcore poor.