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Posts tagged ‘Islamic Emirate of Malaysia’

Malaysia PM faces limited future after worst electoral showing

By Niluksi Koswanage and Stuart Grudgings

KUALA LUMPUR | Mon May 6, 2013

(Reuters) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak may have to step down by the end of the year, ruling party sources said on Monday, after his coalition extended its 56-year rule but recorded its worst-ever election performance.

Najib, 59, had staked his political future on strengthening the ruling coalition’s parliamentary majority in Sunday’s general election on the back of a robust economy, reforms to roll back race-based policies and a $2.6 billion deluge of social handouts to poor families.

But he was left vulnerable to party dissidents after his Barisan Nasional coalition won only 133 seats in the 222-member parliament, seven short of its tally in 2008 and well below the two-thirds majority it was aiming for.

It also lost the popular vote, underlining opposition complaints that the electoral system is stacked against it. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Alliance won 89 seats, up 7 from 2008 but still incapable of unseating one of the world’s longest-serving governments.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, said in a statement on Monday that he would not accept the result because it was marred by “unprecedented” electoral fraud. He has called for a rally in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

Undermined by the result, Najib now faces a difficult task persuading his dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) to press ahead with economic reforms and phase out policies favoring majority ethnic Malays over other races.

“We could see Najib step down by the end of this year,” said a senior official in UMNO, which leads the coalition.

“He may put up a fight, we don’t know, but he has definitely performed worse. He does not have so much bargaining power,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, still a powerful figure in UMNO, told Reuters last year that Najib must improve on the 140 seats won in 2008 or his position would be unstable.

Kuala Lumpur’s stock market surged nearly 8 percent in early trade to a record high on investor relief that the untested opposition had failed to take power, but later gave up some gains to close 3.38 percent higher. The Malaysian ringgit jumped to a 20-month high.

Ethnic Chinese, who make up a quarter of Malaysians, continued to desert Barisan Nasional, accelerating a trend seen in 2008. They have turned to the opposition, attracted by its pledge to tackle corruption and end race-based policies, undermining the National Front’s traditional claim to represent all races in the nation of 28 million people.

MCA, the main ethnic Chinese party within the ruling coalition, only won seven seats, less than half its 2008 total.

Najib, the son of a former prime minister, said he had been taken by surprise by the extent of what he called a “Chinese tsunami.” Alarmingly for Najib, support from ethnic Malays also weakened, particularly in urban areas, a sign that middle-class Malays are agitating for change.

Najib, who polls show is more popular than his party, could face a leadership challenge as early as October or November, when UMNO members hold a general assembly and elect the party leader.

“In the next round of elections within UMNO, you will see some dissidents emerging and asking for Najib to resign,” said the official, who has held cabinet positions in government. He said Mahathir would be among those who back the dissidents.

ANWAR CRIES FOUL

Barisan Nasional also failed to win back the crucial industrial state of Selangor, near the capital Kuala Lumpur, which Najib had vowed to achieve.

“Najib is now leading a coalition that lost the popular vote, a coalition that will really struggle to prove its legitimacy,” said Wan Saiful Wan Jan, head of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs in Kuala Lumpur.

“My feeling is it’s not going to be very easy for him.”

Investors had hoped that a strong mandate for Najib would enable him to push ahead with planned reforms such as subsidy cuts and a new consumption tax to reduce Malaysia’s budget deficit, which is relatively high at around 4.5 percent of GDP.

Those reforms now seem in doubt, Credit Suisse said in a report on Monday, although Najib is expected to push ahead with $444 billion Economic Transformation Program aimed at boosting private investment and doubling per capita incomes by 2020.

For Anwar, the election was likely the last chance to lead the country after a tumultuous political career that saw him sacked as deputy prime minister in the 1990s and jailed for six years after falling out with his former boss, Mahathir.

His three-party opposition alliance had been optimistic of a historic victory, buoyed by huge crowds at recent rallies, but faced formidable obstacles including the government’s control of mainstream media and a skewed electoral system.

Anwar, 65, had accused the coalition of flying up to 40,000 “dubious” voters, including foreigners, across the country to vote in close races. The government says it was merely helping voters get to home towns to vote.

“My heart is with every Malaysian who does not accept the results,” Anwar said in his statement.

Malaysia’s Bersih (clean) civil society movement, which has held large rallies to demand electoral reform, joined Anwar in withholding recognition of the result, saying it needed to study numerous reports of fraud.

(Additional reporting by Yantoultra Ngui and Siva Sithraputhran in Kuala Lumpur and Saeed Azhar in Singapore; Writing by Jason Szep and Stuart Grudgings.; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Source: Reuters.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/06/us-malaysia-election-idUSBRE9430B720130506.

Malaysia’s Anwar to retire if he loses next polls

(18th of August 2012, Saturday)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim plans to end his 30-year political career if he fails to unseat Prime Minister Najib Razak at the next election, he said.

Anwar was once deputy prime minister in the Barisan Nasional (National Front) government that has ruled Malaysia since independence 55 years ago, but has campaigned against it since his shock ouster in 1998.

Najib must call national elections by June next year and many observers expect a tight contest after the ruling coalition suffered its worst showing ever at the last polls in 2008.

“I will try my best. I am confident we will win. But if not, I will step down,” Anwar said Friday night when taking part in a Google Hangout that was streamed live on YouTube.

Anwar, who has taught at Oxford and Washington’s Georgetown University, said he would return to academic life if he lost.

“If we don’t get the mandate, then we should give space for the second-liners in leadership,” he said during the one-hour question-and-answer event which has previously featured US President Barack Obama.

Anwar has been in and out of court on various charges he says are political ploys to tarnish his image and stifle his opposition coalition.

He was charged in May with participating in an illegal rally which saw tens of thousands take to the streets to call for reforms to the electoral system, which they say is biased towards the Barisan Nasional.

In January he was acquitted of having sex with a male former aide at the end of a lengthy trial.

Previously, Anwar was imprisoned for corruption and sodomy after he fell out with the then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1998.

He was released from jail in 2004 after the sodomy conviction was overturned.

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Malaysia Scraps Controversial Internal Security Act

By George Fu
September 17, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR—Malaysian Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has announced the repeal of the Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960 and other emergency proclamations, in a move to gear the country towards greater civil liberties and democracy.

Addressing his special Malaysian Day message on prime time television on Thursday Sept. 15, Najib said new legislation will replace the ISA. The new laws, formulated to maintain public order and prevent subversive activities and organized terrorism, will have comparatively shorter detention periods and will rule that further detention can only be made with a court order.

The Internal Security Act (ISA) was passed in 1960 by the Malaysian government then fighting to suppress a communist rebellion. Under the preventative detention law, police can detain suspects without trial or criminal charges by the order of the home minister.

Under the act any person suspected of posing a threat to the security of the country can be detained for a period of 60 days to two years and is extendable thereafter for further periods not exceeding two years at a time. ISA has often been criticized by opposition parties and human rights groups as an abusive method to silence political critics and opponents of the government.

The prime minister also announced that the government would repeal the Banishment Act 1959 and review other laws to ensure that they meet current requirements, adding that other laws that ‘are no longer relevant’ or justifiable will be repealed.

Najib’s announcement telecast live across the country—marking the 48th anniversary of the foundation of the federation of Malaysia—was welcomed by many Malaysians to be a historic transformation towards greater freedom and rights.

Among the host of laws to be reviewed, the country’s current Restricted Residence Act 1933 and the law against assembly in public places will be evaluated to allow for free and peaceful assembly, as observed in most democratic countries.

In addition, the government will also review the Printing Presses and Publication Act 1984 where annual renewals of publications would be cleared, and replaced with issuance of license until it is revoked.

“I would like to stress in no uncertain term that Malaysia which we dream of and one that we are currently building, is Malaysia which practices functional and inclusive democracy, where peace and public order are safeguarded in line with the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law and respect for basic human rights and individual rights,” said Najib at the end of his speech.

Source: The Epoch Times.
Link: http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/world/malaysia-scraps-controversial-internal-security-act-61726.html.

متحف للقرآن بماليزيا

13/8/2011

يقوم بطباعته وزخرفته وجمع نسخه الفريدة

محمود العدم-شاه علم

يسعى القائمون على مؤسسة رستو للفنون الإسلامية في مدينة شاه علم عاصمة ولاية سيلانغور الماليزية إلى توظيف الفن في خدمة الجهود المبذولة لنشر رسالة الإسلام, من خلال الاعتناء بالقرآن الكريم ونسخه وطباعته وزخرفته وجمع نسخه الفريدة في متحف بأرخبيل الملايو.

وأنشأت الحكومة المؤسسة عام 1988 بغرض نشر رسالة الإسلام للعالم من خلال إحياء الفنون الإسلامية والعناية بها, وجمع المخطوطات النادرة للقرآن الكريم فيما يعده القائمون على المؤسسة وفق النشرة التعريفية “عملا نادرا وفريدا من نوعه منذ سقوط مملكة ملاكا الإسلامية على يد البرتغاليين قبل نحو 500 عام”.

رسالة استثنائية
ويوضح رئيس المؤسسة داتو عبد اللطيف ميراسا أن العناية بالفنون الإسلامية تشكل جانبا مهما في الدعوة للإسلام ونشر تعاليمه “لأن الفنون الإسلامية تشكل رسالة استثنائية, تقوم ركائزها على معاني الجمال اللامحدود الممتد من كلمات هذا القرآن العظيم”.

من جهتها بينت مديرة العلاقات العامة في رستو، زارينا ماجوسين، في حديث للجزيرة نت، أن المؤسسة تحوي كلية لتعليم الفنون الإسلامية والخط العربي وكل ما يتعلق بفنون كتابة المصحف ونسخه وتصميمه وزخرفته, وتمنح هذه الكلية مؤهلا عاليا في فن كتابة المصحف.

ويقدم المتحف برامج منتظمة على مدار السنة تشمل دورات في الخط العربي والجاوي والزخرفة, وفصولا لتدريس القرآن تلاوة وبحثا وتفسيرا, وتعقد مؤتمرات وورشات عمل ومعارض إسلامية فيه.

كما تضم المؤسسة معرضا دائما لفن كتابة المصحف يحوى عددا من اللوحات النادرة لأشهر الخطاطين في جنوب شرق أسيا, إضافة إلى قسم خاص للوسائط المتعددة وبرامج الحاسوب وأساليب استخدامها في فن زخرفة المصحف.

نسخة نادرة
وذكرت زارينا أن المتحف يحتوي على نسخة نادرة من المصحف الشريف يعود تاريخها إلى نحو خمسمائة عام, غير أن ما يميزها عن غيرها أن أحد المهتمين بالمصحف جاء بها من إقليم آتشه الإندونيسي وقدمها للمؤسسة قبل ثلاثة أيام من وقوع كارثة تسونامي التي ضربت الإقليم نهاية عام 2004.

واعتبرت أن ما حصل يُعد منحة ربانية أن يكون هذا المتحف حاضنا لهذه النسخة, التي “ما كان لأحد أن يتعرف عليها لو بقيت في آتشه مع وقوع الكارثة”.

وتقوم المؤسسة الآن بإعداد ترجمة جديدة من نوعها لمعاني القرآن الكريم باللغة الملايوية, حيث سيعمد المترجمون إلى تقديم ترجمة أكثر تفصيلا ووضوحا عن مثيلاتها, من خلال ترجمة كلمات القرآن كلمة كلمة ثم تقديم ترجمة للمعنى الشامل للآية “وهو ما يفيد القارئ بالتعرف على المعنى الحرفي للكلمة باللغة العربية مما يجعله أكثر فهما للإعجاز البلاغي للقرآن”.

المصدر: الجزيرة.
الرابط: http://www.aljazeera.net/NR/EXERES/7F52DAB6-5F49-4F0A-9D83-E59B6C60CA24.htm.

Malaysian customs seize 15 tons of African ivory

Dec 14, 2011

Kuala Lumpur – Malaysian customs officers have seized 15 tons of African elephant tusks and ivory products worth some 4 million ringgit (1.3 million dollars), officials confirmed Wednesday.

The goods were seized from a container at Port Klang, in the central state of Selangor, on Monday following a tip-off, an officer with the department said.

On Tuesday, customs director Azis Yacub announced that the seizure was the biggest haul yet of ivory products, adding that smugglers were using Malaysia as a transit point for their products to be shipped to countries like Cambodia, Vietnam and China.

‘The goods had come from Mombasa in Kenya and were headed for Sihanoukville, Cambodia when we intercepted them,’ Azis was quoted as saying by the Star newspaper.

‘They use our ports as a transit point, believing that the final port would not have a strict inspection,’ he said.

Azis said officers discovered the elephant tusks packed together with handicraft items which were declared as soapstone, adding that the seized items would be sent for testing to confirm that they were made of ivory.

Source: Monsters and Critics.
Link: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/asiapacific/news/article_1680669.php/Malaysian-customs-seize-15-tons-of-African-ivory.

Renewable Energy to be Fastest Growing Market in Malaysia

Hartford CT (SPX)
Dec 19, 2011

Global Information (GII) presents “Global Solar Power Market” by Frost and Sullivan. The implementation of feed-in-tariff (FiT) policy will bring the required momentum to accelerate solar PV market growth in Malaysia. Malaysia aims to become the second largest producer in solar manufacturing by 2020 and is emerging as the favored country for new PV manufacturing units.

Investments in solar PV power projects for 2012 is estimated at US$72 million, a 194% growth over 2011 and close to 12 MW of solar PV power is to be added in 2012, a massive year-on-year increase of 242.9%.

According to Ravi Krishnaswamy, Vice President of Energy and Power Systems, Frost and Sullivan Asia Pacific, banks are actively considering large-scale solar power projects as the next wave of investment option as they are well-equipped to understand risks better now.

Government support through a subsidy rationalization program that gradually removes subsidies from items such as fuel, gas, electricity and tolls bring their rates close to market rate, making solar power look less expensive in the long term.

“Falling global prices for PV modules could also aid the growth of grid connected solar market in Malaysia,” he said.

Conventional Power and Utility will remain the Largest Market
The shortage of gas will continue till Q3 2012 and is expected to get better after the commissioning of Malaccas regasification project.

Krishnaswamy commented, “However the recently agreed cost sharing mechanism between TNB, Petronas and the Malaysian government, will alleviate TNBs position. TNB will be looking to diversify its source of power in order to overcome supply challenges with any one fuel source.”

“Approval for tariff hikes in tandem with gas price increase will help TNB to strengthen its financial performance and thus focus on investments in other areas of value chain including transmission and distribution,” he continued.

The market for electrical equipment will remain strong with the transformers and switchgears segment alone representing a US$520 million market in Malaysia for 2012.

Malaysian companies including GLCs and private ones will actively look for investment opportunities in power sector in Southeast Asia and South Asia.

Source: Solar Daily.
Link: http://www.solardaily.com/reports/Renewable_Energy_to_be_Fastest_Growing_Market_in_Malaysia_999.html.

Malaysia gov’t fights criticism after rally chaos

July 10, 2011 — KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian authorities sought Sunday to deflect criticism that the government was suppressing dissent after making mass arrests and unleashing tear gas against at least 20,000 demonstrators who marched for electoral reforms.

The political fallout from rare scenes of mayhem in Kuala Lumpur is certain to complicate efforts by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition to bolster its support ahead of general elections that many expect to be held within a year.

International rights groups and Malaysian opposition parties denounced the government’s response to the country’s largest political rally in four years, which resulted in the arrest of 1,667 people Saturday. All were freed without immediate charges by Sunday.

Amnesty International called it “the worst campaign of repression we’ve seen in (Malaysia) for years,” while Human Rights Watch said it was “a maelstrom of the Malaysian authorities’ own making.” Najib’s declaration that the rally was unlawful and repeated warnings over the past month for people to avoid it have sparked criticism that his National Front coalition wants to extend its 54-year rule by ensuring that election policies favor the government. The coalition’s mandate expires in mid-2013 but many expect national polls by next year.

The rally was organized by civic groups backed by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party alliance. They were urging authorities to clean up voter registration lists, implement stricter measures to curb electoral fraud and allow fair access to the government-linked media for all parties.

Anwar’s alliance said a 59-year-old member died from a heart attack during the rally, though police denied opposition allegations that he was hit by tear gas. Anwar himself was hospitalized overnight because of a knee injury after slipping when police tried to break up his group.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein insisted in a statement received Sunday that the demonstrators sought to “create chaos in this country and hoped to be arrested in order to portray the government as cruel.”

Hishammuddin praised police, saying they performed their duties with “bravery, fairness and integrity” while confronting what he called provocative actions by protesters. He also claimed authorities over the past week discovered hidden stashes of weapons, homemade firebombs and other dangerous items that protesters might have used.

The minister’s statement contrasted sharply with narratives by participants, who said they were marching peacefully to a stadium from various parts of downtown Kuala Lumpur when riot police repeatedly fired tear gas and chemical-laced water and charged at them to make arrests.

Anwar said the crackdown showed the “extent of desperation of brutal action approved by Prime Minister Najib.” Many demonstrators posted photos on Twitter and Facebook that they claimed were evidence of police brutality, including tear gas canisters apparently lobbed into a hospital compound where protesters sought shelter.

By midday Sunday, more than 58,000 people have joined a new Facebook group calling for Najib’s resignation following the crackdown. The prime minister criticized the protesters late Saturday, saying they wanted to project “the impression that Malaysia had no political stability and exploit the issue as much as possible.”

Government-linked media said numerous businesses suffered because stores and restaurants closed amid public transport disruptions and fears of violence. Protest organizers had no immediate plans for similar rallies. But Amnesty International urged the U.S. government to speak out against how Malaysian authorities handled Saturday’s event, saying Washington’s “credibility and effectiveness on human rights in the region” would suffer if it stays silent.

“Such silence will give (the) green light to other governments that they too can brutally suppress peaceful protests,” Amnesty official T. Kumar said in a statement.

Rohingyas in Malaysia seek education, opportunities

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
June 8, 2011

Graduating from primary school was just a dream for Rohingya teenager Ali Tofik, who, until 2010, lived in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine State, where access to education, particularly secondary education, is limited.

In recent decades, this ethnic and religious minority has been stripped of its citizenship and property rights by Myanmar’s military-dominated government, leading to human rights abuses and exploitation and resulting in mass exodus.

Some 200,000 fled to Bangladesh over the years, with smaller numbers to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and elsewhere in the region by boat.

Now the 17-year-old is keen to get ahead, learning the Malay language with a group of younger students in the two-room Malaysian school. English, Malay, mathematics and science are taught on the second floor of a business block in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur.

“I would like to become a teacher so that I can help my people and I can teach them and talk with the international community,” explains Tofik, who fled Myanmar with his family a year ago.

The local NGO-sponsored school, established in 2009, is accessible to Rohingya, but remains a rarity in Malaysia, with fewer than a dozen similar schools nationwide. Officially, Rohingya children in Malaysia cannot study in government schools without birth certificates or any other official documents.

“Most of the young children are actually born in Malaysia but can’t attend the public schools because refugees do not have access to the Malaysian education system, including primary schools,” Chris Lewa, coordinator of the Arakan Project, an advocacy organization for the Rohingya, told IRIN.

Illiteracy among the Rohingya is estimated at around 80 percent, with a higher percentage among women, according to the latest available data.

Without a proper education and work permits, job opportunities are severely limited for Rohingya, Lewa said.

But she has also witnessed some improvement in Malaysia’s handling of arrivals by providing them with access to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) , as well as halting forcing them into unscrupulous hands along the Thai-Malaysian border.

According to UNHCR, there are some 30,000 ethnic Rohingya seeking asylum in Malaysia today, including 20,800 registered with the agency.

“Based on information gathered from the refugee communities, it is estimated that there are about 10,000 more asylum-seekers who have not yet been registered,” Yante Ismail, an external relations officer with the agency, explained.

At the Rohingya Society in Malaysia (RSM) , a community-based organization, deputy president Abdul Ghani and a small staff assist in registering asylum-seekers for UNHCR, which then determines their status.

It is a difficult process as most Rohingya arrivals are male and often seen by authorities as economic migrants.

But Ghani is quick to deny this. “Please don’t link Rohingyas to economic migrants. We Rohingya left our country because of harassment, because of torture, the confiscation of our land. That’s why we left our country to get protection from a third country. We ran away from the military regime’s harassment.”

Indeed, many at the RSM center tell of the struggle to earn enough to survive and feed their families in Myanmar.

“It’s impossible to maintain a peaceful family life, so I had to flee,” said one young man, awaiting an interview. “Nasaka [paramilitary] forces would order us to work at their camps. If we don’t go, they come to our houses during the night and take us. They lock us up in the stockade and beat us.”

For many new arrivals, assimilation into Malaysia’s Muslim-dominated culture is easier than in their former homeland, but until solid legislature is implemented for proper work permits, the refugees are in limbo, say aid workers.

According to UNHCR, those Rohingya who are working are in the informal sector, including irregular, low-paying menial work in construction, domestic positions, or in the local markets.

Source: All Headline News (AHN).
Link: http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/90050883?Rohingyas%20in%20Malaysia%20seek%20education%2C%20opportunities.

Malaysia’s new rare earth plant provokes radiation fears

By Julia Yeow
May 29, 2011

Kuala Lumpur – In the quiet town of Gebeng in Malaysia’s central state of Pahang, a new rare earth plant has evoked fears of radiation contamination as residents desperately seek to stop the construction of the world’s largest such refinery.

The plant is expected to meet up to 30 per cent of the world’s demand for rare earths outside China.

Rare earth elements, a group of 15 metals, are used in electronic devices for the defense, alternative energy and communications industries.

The 700-million-ringgit (233 million dollars) refinery is being constructed by Australia’s Lynas Corp, which plans to ship rare earth ore mined from Western Australia’s Mount Weld to the Gebeng plant by September.

News of negotiations between the Malaysian government and Lynas began surfacing in 2008, but it was only earlier this year that public outcry peaked after it was discovered that construction had already begun on the 20-hectare plant.

The main concern is the possibility of contamination from low-level radioactive waste from the rare earth refining process.

Gebeng is an industrial town of 10,000 people located 265 kilometers from Pahang’s capital of Kuantan.

While the Malaysian government and Lynas have stressed that the facility will have state-of-the-art technology for contamination control, opponents claim crucial questions remain unanswered especially regarding the safe disposal of radioactive waste.

‘We have read the facts, we know about the risks, and we have simply decided that this is not what the people of Pahang want in our backyards,’ said Jonathan Wong, the spokesman for the Stop Lynas citizen’s movement.

‘Lynas itself has not seen the people, they have not even come up with a solid plan to manage the waste, and they expect us to just accept that they know best,’ Wong told the German Press Agency dpa.

Those opposing the Gebeng plant have pointed to the Asian Rare Earth plant built in the northern state of Perak in the 1980s by Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp as an example of the refinery being a ‘disaster in the making.’

That facility was blamed for the unusually high number of birth defects and leukemia cases among the 11,000-strong population living nearby. It ceased operation in 1992 after protests from locals and environmentalists.

The owners were never sued and no compensation has been paid to the plant’s alleged victims.

Almost a decade later, Mitsubishi is still cleaning up the radioactive waste from the area in a project estimated to cost at least 300 million ringgit.

Lynas has been quick to distance itself from that disaster by stating that different ores of lower radioactivity would be used in Gebeng, but critics complained of the apparent lack of transparency in the mining company’s dealings with Malaysian authorities.

‘There has been no full public disclosure of this proposed project,’ said SM Mohamed Idris, president of the Friends of Nature environmental group.

‘A detailed environmental impact assessment was not required due to a loophole in our law,’ he said.

The government is keen to continue with the Lynas project as the refinery is expected to generate up to 5 billion ringgit (1.67 billion dollars) a year in exports as well as hundreds of jobs.

Protesters insist that radiation contamination is too high a price to pay for any economic gain.

‘If the government failed to regulate the Asian Rare Earth plant, what makes us believe it will be different now?’ said Wong.

‘They are asking us to take a gamble with our lives and those of our children.’

Authorities eager to allay public fears said last month that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was assessing the threat of contamination from the planned plant.

The government assured the public it would only approve the operation based on the findings of the agency’s nine-member panel scheduled to visit the proposed site on Sunday for six days.

But the move has failed to win over the critics, who claim that officials from the nuclear watchdog would be pro-nuclear and therefore fail to produce a fair assessment of the Lynas plant.

Calls for local and environmental groups to be represented in the monitoring team have also gone unheeded, critics said.

‘While it is agreed that IAEA scientists are experts in many fields, we believe their findings will be a biased report and on that ground, we reject it,’ Wong said.

‘Whatever their findings, our final agenda – which is our ultimate goal – is to stop Lynas.’

Source: Monsters and Critics.
Link: http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/business/news/article_1642157.php/Malaysia-s-new-rare-earth-plant-provokes-radiation-fears.

Israel forces Malaysia aid ship from Gaza coast

Monday 16/05/2011

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli naval forces fired warning shots at a Malaysian aid ship as it approached the Gaza Strip on Monday, forcing the vessel to retreat to Egypt, organizers and the Israeli military said.

“The MV Finch, carrying sewage pipes to Gaza, had warning shots fired at it by Israeli forces in the Palestinian security zone this morning at 6:54 am (0354 GMT),” said Shamsul Azhar from the Perdana Global Peace Foundation.

“The vessel was in the Palestinian security zone, about 400 meters from the Gaza shoreline, when they were intercepted by Israeli naval forces,” he told AFP, adding it was now anchored 30 nautical miles away in Egyptian territory.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed that the vessel, flying a Moldovan flag, had been intercepted as it sailed from Egypt’s El-Arish port, where it had been docked for several days.

“A navy patrol boat contacted the vessel, which claimed to be heading for the Gaza shores. Once it crossed into Israeli naval territory and didn’t answer calls to turn back, warning shots were fired in the air and it returned to El-Arish,” she said.

The Perdana Foundation is helmed by former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, an 85-year-old firebrand who was a strident critic of the West and Israel over the treatment of Palestinians during his two decades in power.

The organization was also involved in the first “Freedom Flotilla”, a May 2010 attempt to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which ended in disaster when naval commandos raided the aid ships, killing nine Turks on board one of the vessels.

Perdana Foundation officials said the MV Finch left Greece on May 11, carrying plastic pipes to help restore the “devastated” sewage system in Gaza.

Alang Bendahara, a Malaysian journalist on board, told AFP that Israeli naval ships fired a volley of gunfire to stop the vessel as it approached the shore.

“The Israeli naval vessel fired a warning shot at us upon approaching and asked us to leave the waters but the ship’s captain refused and the Israelis fired again, circling the MV Finch before firing twice more,” he said.

“At that point they threatened the ship’s captain that they would board the vessel and we were forced to turn back. It was lucky that no one was injured.

Bendahara said Egyptian officials monitoring the boat had escorted it back to Egyptian waters and then boarded it to inspect its cargo.

He said there were 12 people on board the vessel — seven Malaysians, two Irish nationals, two Indians and a Canadian — including anti-war activists and journalists.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman condemned Israel for preventing the ship from reaching Gaza.

“Malaysia strongly condemns the attack by the Israeli naval forces on the humanitarian aid ship,” he said, calling on Israel “not to take any further drastic and violent military action on the unarmed passengers.”

“Malaysia also calls on Israel to ensure a safe passage for the vessel to Gaza to deliver the humanitarian cargo,” he added.

Israel has maintained a blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2006, after militants there snatched Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still being held.

It was tightened a year later when the Islamist Hamas movement seized control of the territory, ousting forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.

Israel agreed to relax some of the restrictions in July 2010, following a wave of international pressure after the botched raid on the Freedom Flotilla.

The incident sparked heavy criticism of Israel and led to a sharp deterioration in ties between Turkey and Israel.

Source: Ma’an News Agency.
Link: http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=388054.

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