Wednesday, April 9, 2008


No policy for swimming pools at condos: City Hall


The City Hall does not have any swimming pool policy for condominiums and apartments. Its Director General, Datuk Dr Chua Kim Heng, urged condominium and apartment residents to form a committee and hold a meeting with their building management to discuss about safety at swimming pools. Chua made the suggestions yesterday when asked whether City Hall has any policy for building swimming pools near the condominiums and apartments. “City Hall does not have such policy yet. However, it has a requirement to ensure the safety of the residential buildings,” he said. “In future, I hope an authority would implement the enforcement, just like in any condominiums and apartments in other developing countries for the safety of the residents. “In other countries, the management of the buildings even security personnel to ensure the safety of the residents,” he said. Chua pointed out it would be much better for parents or the management of the condominiums and apartments to provide life jackets at the swimming pools and security too. “This is for their safety and their children or to ensure their children use them by the time they approach the swimming pool for a swim. “The second measure is to have parents or adult family members escort the children to the swimming pool is because we never know what could happen. “The only security aspect under City Hall is the architectural design of the condominium and apartment buildings, including the swimming pools that must adhere to the specification which could be approved by City Hall,” he said. Asked on the kind of specification for the swimming pools, Chua said: “For example, the swimming pools should have a gate and must be certain feet away fro the gate, according to the City Hall requirement. The swimming pool grounds should not be slippery.” On whether the developers oft] condominiums and apartment should separate the swimming pool for adults and children, Chua replied “Yes, two areas are separated, that is, the adult area of the swimming pool would be deeper and the children’s should not be deep. “However, for high class hotel City Hall has a requirement for the owners to ensure the safety of the’ customers at their swimming pool “That is why the hotel owners concerned must hire security, but hope the policy would be here for the condominium and apartment residents too or other body authority could implement the policy because it concerns the safety of residents,” he said.


PM’s visit disappointment for Sabahans: Jeffrey


The visit to Sabah by the Prime Minister on Monday was a total disappointment for Sabahans who expected something “solid” on the State’s needs and aspirations from him, said a senior leader from Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). PKR Vice President Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan said that before Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi came here, the Premier knew what Sabahans wanted and yet he came and left without much to offer. “He (Abdullah) did not bring anything solid from Kuala Lumpur and came only to give all sorts of vague statements and promises about the future with nothing specific (for Sabah),” he said yesterday. Jeffrey said Abdullah should have been very specific and firm, and addressed the issues directly, stating decisions and clear answers. What happened was that many things were still hanging in the air and there was still a lot of doubts about a lot of things. “We in PKR support the demands of the Sabah MPs because those demands are also reflected in the PKR manifesto — that it is high time KL gives some respect and appreciation of the contributions of Sabah to Malaysia,” said Jeffrey. “The issues of Borneonization and the 20 Points are very important matters which KL should now address. I strongly feel that at least 50 percent of the Federal posts in Sabah should be held by Sabahans,” he stressed. Jeffrey said Abdullahs promise of giving more positions to Sabahans “but it will take time” is very vague and uncertain as it carried no time frame.


Monitoring system at KKIA to be enhanced


The State Customs Department is strengthening its monitoring system at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport ( KKIA) following another attempt by a foreign drug syndicate to smuggle syabu into the State through the entry point early this year. “We recently intercepted an attempt to bring in 800 grammes of crystalline substance from Cebu, Philippines. The security level has been increased with all personnel at the Airport on full alert,” said its Director, Datuk Md Yusop Mansor. He said the incident in January was the second since Last year with both involving Philippine citizens trying to sneak syabu into Sabah. Syabu is a popular synthetic drug among addicts in Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia. In the first case last year a passenger of a flight from Hong Kong was found trying to smuggle the same type of drug at the Airport. Syabu which is believed to be originated from the Philippines, is now produced in Malaysia and a few other neighbouring countries as its popularity continues to increase. “We don’t want Kota Kinabalu or Sabah for that matter to become a transit point for drugs trafficking and are doing more to ensure we have the capability to ensure this won’t happen,” Yusop said at a press conference here yesterday. “An additional 122 personnel have been approved by the Ministry, bringing the overall number of Customs personnel at the Airport to around 180.” On another development, Yusop said the Department wanted to play an active role to get rid the City and towns in the State of street kids, especially those who are peddling contraband. In responding to calls from various parties for the Government to take more concrete measures to resolve the street kids issue, he said the Department is planning to conduct major operations in Kota Kinabalu, Lahad Datu, Sandakar and other towns in the State, targeting children selling smuggled cigarettes and pirated VCDs. “We know that many of these street kids make their living by selling contraband. This is where we can get in,” he said.


Remove illegal parabola dishes or face action: Customs


The State Customs Department yesterday issued a warning to house owners here to remove illegal parabola dishes or risk facing action. Its Director, Md Datuk Yusop Mansur, said the Department is giving those who have such equipment installed at their homes to dismantle them before a special house-to-house operation is carried out in’ two weeks’ time. Speaking at a press conference at the State Customs Headquarters here yesterday, he said the Department had gathered intelligence from several residential areas in and around the State Capital and identified around 100 houses with parabola dishes, most of them suspected to be illegal. He said numerous complaints had been received from the public recently that many houses around the City are illegally using parabola dishes to receive television programmes from around the world. Parabola equipment is a prohibited item under the Customs Prohibition and Imports Order 1988. Importation of and usage of such equipment are strictly controlled where permit and licence from the relevant authorities are required before one can import and install them at their premises. “We have identified and taken the picture of some 100 houses that have parabola system and will launch an operation to check whether they are licensed or not. So, I urge those who have installed them illegally to remove them within two weeks,” he said. Yusop did not rule out that some of the users of the illegal equipment are public figures and VIPs. He said the Department is trying to resolve the problem without humiliating them. He reminded that under Section 135 of the Customs Act 1967, those found possessing prohibited goods such as parabola dishes are liable to be fined between 10 and 20 times of the amount of the Customs duty or jailed for a term not exceeding three years, or both.


Chicken wings now taxable, says Customs


Many chicken wing importers and traders in the State are not aware that the Government has introduced a new tax for the popular item, according to State Customs Department Director Datuk Md Yusop Mansor. Md Yusop called a press conference yesterday to announce the introduction of the new tax to avoid confusion among traders and consumers. From April 1, a tax of 20 to 30 percent has been imposed for chicken wings which were previously a non-taxable item. “Many were shocked and unsatisfied as to why the item is now being taxed. It’s already more than a week since the introduction of the tax but I think there is still a need for an announcement to be made as many are still not aware of this new rule,” he said. He explained the 20 percent tax is for those with a quota to sell the item while the 30 percent is for those with no quota. “We are just the enforcement agency but I’m sure there is a good reason behind the introduction of these new taxes,” he added. Chicken wings are a popular snack among the locals and could be found available even at restaurants and roadside stalls.


HAZE: Prepare for the worst

Smog from forest fires, which costs Southeast Asian economies billions in lost tourist dollars, could worsen as changing weather patterns cause an unusually dry spell, the Region’s Environment Ministers warned yesterday. The effects of the La Nina weather phenomenon are expected to wear off in the third quarter of this year, which could result in arid conditions, the Ministers said, quoting a forecast from the Asean Meteorological Centre. “This could lead to drier periods and the possibility of escalating hotspot activities during the coming dry season,” Environment Ministers from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and Brunei said in a statement. La Nina refers to an abnormal cooling of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, while its counterpart El Nino refers to a warming of surface temperatures. Since 1997, peat and forest fires in Indonesia’s Sumatra and Borneo Islands have triggered a choking haze which billows across the Region, affecting Singapore, Malaysia and parts of Thailand. The Asean Ministers had gathered in the Malaysian administrative Capital ‘to discuss the haze, which usually occurs around mid-year as farmers and timber and plantation firms in the region openly burn plots of land ahead of the planting season. Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, groups Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and The Philippines. “We have to prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Indonesian Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar told reporters. “We are not going to delude ourselves that we are going to wipe out all the haze. There will be some burning, some haze.” Near-annual bouts of haze have made many people ill across a wide area of Southeast Asia, cost local economies billions of dollars and badly hit the tourism and airline sectors. Singapore appealed to tourists not to avoid the Region during the period as has happened in the past. Southeast Asia is a magnet for big-spending visitors from the Middle East in July and August, as they seek to escape the scorching summer back home. “Please come and visit the region,” Singapore Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said. Rachmat said Indonesia is confident of reducing the number of illegal fires or “hot spots” this year, saying they had been reduced by 51 percent in 2007 in key provinces and this pace of improvement should continue. “We are consolidating our efforts and working together with our neighbours,” he said. “We have significantly reduced the number of hot spots in both Kalimantan and Sumatra since last year, and we hope to maintain this trend in 2008 with cooperation from our neighbours.” Indonesia has yet to ratify a regional treaty charted in 2002 on preventing the haze. Indonesia and The Philippines are the only members of Asean which would compel Indonesia to create a strict zero-burning policy. The haze hit its worst level in 1997-98, costing the region an estimated nine billion dollars by disrupting air travel, tourism and other business activities as smoke enveloped the region. The five nations again meet on the issue on June 26 in Singapore.