Tuesday, April 22, 2008


SLA to play permanent role in protecting environment


The Sabah Law Association (SLA) through its newly formed Sub-committee on Environment and Climate Change will have a permanent role to play in the State Government’s drive to clean, conserve and care for the environment. The chairperson of the newly launched Sabah Law Association Sub Committee on Environment and Climate Change (SLA ECC),Nilakrisna James, said both parties have created history through the smart partnership. “We created history today by cementing a smart partnership between SLA and the State Government of Sabah through the Environmental Action Committee (EAC) under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Environment,” she said. According to her, the idea of creating a special sub-committee in SLA to deal specifically with environment and climate change laws came about as a result of her involvement in the EAC Steering Committee and Management Group. “I was made aware of the devastation in our local environment from pollution in our rivers and monsoon drains to the devastation at the Mamut Copper Mine. “On the global front there is a concerted effort to try to comprehend and implement the Kyoto Protocol because of the very real concern for climate change that is predicted to change the world’s environmental landscape unless proper control mechanisms are enacted in individual countries,” she added. According to her, in the absence of proper implementation and enforcement of any laws to prevent pollution and damage protect and conserve the environment and penalise those who deliberately cause damage and pollution, people can simply complain about the obvious and get nowhere. Therefore the decision by SLA to set up the SLA ECC. SLA President Datuk John Sikavun said the Association and its members have played their role in society and would continue to do so. “We have many able and committed lawyers in SLA who despite their heavy work schedules, are ever willing to play apart in society to make it a better place to live whether by writing books or articles not only on the issues at hand but on other important issues that arise,” he said. According to him, by speaking up on important issues, SLA members have also created awareness among the public as well as educating them. He also disclosed that SLA had participated in the Government’s decision making process, provided legal aid and advice to the public. “I believe that we may even be the first Bar in the country to create a special sub-committee dealing specifically with environment and climate change. Our overall aim is to be a driving force and a leading voice in the creation of new legislations relevant to this field and to act as the advisory body to the Government when it comes to the revision of the existing laws to make them ore relevant to the present times,” he said. “There is a huge difference as to what comprises the Federal jurisdiction and State jurisdiction when it comes to environmental laws and in the context of Sabah and Sarawak, some of those rights are entrenched in the Federal Constitution such as forestry, land matters, agriculture and water,” he added. John also said that SLA is indeed committed in its efforts to continually review, refine and make relevant the local legislation. “The 3Rs as I would call them, are to study new existing legislation, review them, provide advice to the Government if necessary, refine such laws and make sure they are relevant in the context of Sabah and also Malaysia as a whole,” he said.


Shortage of environmental law experts in country


Environmental Action Committee (EAC) Chairperson Suzannah Liaw hopes environmental law experts and activists will join the Sabah Law Association Sub-Committee on Environment and Climate Change (SLA ECC) and contribute effectively to the EAC. Speaking at the launching of the SLA ECC at the Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry yesterday, Liaw said the EAC was set up when environmental laws were gaining global recognition. She also said that there are so few lawyers specialized in environmental laws that in many ways it could be said to have been hampered in the progress for legislative change. “Even now there are only a handful of real environmental law experts in this country. It is through legislation that we can find the solution to the problems. The laws act as both as a deterrent to polluters and also as a punishment,” she said. “The establishment of the SLA ECC is apt as it is time for the EAC to enter into a smart partnership with SLA by inviting them into their Steering Committee and core management group to join a selected distinguished individuals from various relevant Government agencies, NGOs and the media,” she added. “We welcome the SLA on board the EAC Steering Committee and Management Group to together recognize the need to be responsible to all of humanity. If we must develop our State, we must do so without destroying our environment and to practise proper sustainable development,” she said. Liaw who is also the Chairman of the Environmental Action Committee Management Group, said that the key phrase, “human capital”, therefore must start from a young age thus the EAC’s initiative in instilling a sense of responsibility towards the environment through projects such as recycling in school. “The pristine and natural environment that we have here, should be the focus of our tourism development. There is a serious need to develop products and ideas which will allow ecotourism to flourish in this State. We need to educate our people to learn to protect their own turf and understand that Sabah is one of the most perfect places on earth to put that into practice,” she said. “That is why we must balance the ideas of our ecotourism against the ideals of sustainable development,” he added. She also said that it is one of the many ways in which EAC hoped to nourish interest in the field and they will in turn pass on their knowledge


Major checks on express buses in Sabah
Flying Squad to team up with Institute, Council


The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board’s (CVLB) Flying Squad will be teaming up with officers from the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety and Road Safety Council to effectively carry out spot checks on express buses throughout the country. Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Minister Datuk Noh Omar in announcing this yesterday, said the CVLB, which comes under his Ministry, would be conducting major checks on express buses throughout the country, including in Sabah to ensure they comply with the Safety, Health and Environment (SHE) regulations. “There have been so many tragedies involving express buses and the number of fatalities is high. This has given this mode of public transportation a very bad image and everyone is now worried about travelling via buses. “This is part of our preventive measures to avoid more unwanted incidents and to protect the safety of the passengers,” said Noh after meeting with officers from agencies under his Ministry here yesterday. Speaking at a press conference, he said that among the important things to be checked is the compliance of bus companies with the eight-hour limit regulation. He explained each bus driver is only allowed to drive for eight hours a day. Buses for destinations that take more than eight hours such as Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, must have two drivers. The eight-hour regulation also states that there must be a break for every four hours of driving. “This applies to all areas — Peninsular as well as Sabah and Sarawak,” he said, adding, the main target for the operation are big companies which have a lot of bus permits. He said action could be taken against companies found neglecting the SHE, including suspension of their permits. On another development, he said the Ministry would be studying if there is a need to reintroduce the issuance of Class F Contractor license to small contractors which have been temporarily frozen. “We will see if there is a need for more small contractors in the market. If yes, we may review the existing inactive Class F license and open it to new applicants” he said. According to Noh, the latest figure shows there are some 31,000 Class F license holders throughout the country but only around 17,000 of them are really active. Of this figure, 2,450 are in Sabah. In his dialogue with the officers of the Ministry’s agencies earlier, Noh stressed on improving the Ministry’s delivery system by enhancing communication and cooperation between agencies at the grassroots level and between the Ministry and the target groups.


Taxpayers find e-filing not that easy


Long queues at the Inland Revenue Board (IRB) counters here has made taxpayers frustrated, especially with the deadline to submit their return forms looming nearer. They said the description, “Easy, accurate and safe” used for thee-filing system was inaccurate, especially the “easy” part of the description. A check at the IRB headquarters here showed that the taxpayers were frustrated with the process of the e-filing system as it took a long time just to get through the first step, obtaining the pin number to accessing the system on the Internet. There was a long queue of taxpayers waiting to get their pin number and those interviewed expressed their disappointment over the slow process as according to IRB, the e-filing system can only be used until end of June. According to Mohammad Yassin, a marine police personnel from Sandakan, he thought it was easier to get the pin number in the State Capital. “In Sandakan, the queue is always long which is why I decided to come here to get my pin number. I did not expect to it to be the same here,” he said. Citi Bank Credit Card Sales Executive Moh Yung Chuaon, 30, said she obtained her pin number early but then she had to queue for the computer. “I had to wait for my turn to use the computer to access to the e-filing system. After that I had to go downstairs to see the officers there and find out if what I had done was right and all the information keyed in was correct. “As this is the first time for me to file my returns via the e-filing system. I did not really mind the hassle as the officers were very nice and helpful,” Moh said. A Government officer who preferred to remain anonymous, said he is not very well versed in the e-filing system and therefore has to seek help from his family members or friends “I could not ask for help from the officers here because they are so busy assisting so many people. I also have limited time and need to go back to the office otherwise, my boss will be wondering where I am,” he said. An elderly couple, who also did not want to be named, expressed their appreciation to the IRB officers for helping them as they are not computer literate and had problems getting a grasp of the e-filing system. For Puan Nurati binti Saman, in her 40’s, the system was confusing and also time consuming, especially for those who do not have a computer and have to wait for their turn to use the computers at the IRB headquarters. “However, the IRB officers here are very nice and helpful,” she said. Nurati’s husband, Arian bin Japudin from the Education Department, expressed his relief to be able to file his tax returns before the deadline. “Even though it took a longtime, I am just glad to be able to finish doing it with the help of the IRB officers here,” hesaid. An officer of IRB said there were many reasons why taxpayers were reluctant to use the e-filing system among which were that they do not own a computer or are not computer literate. “For some, the process takes a longer time as they did not bring the necessary documents, especially in the case of exemptions.


Cops tracking down ‘kidnap’ SMS source


Police are tracking down the source of a short messaging service (SMS) on another ‘kidnapping’ case, which proved to be untrue. “This is the work of an irresponsible person. This is not a laughing matter ... no one should make fun of it,” said District Police Chief, DSP Zahari Mohamed, when contacted by The Borneo Post, yesterday. SMSes urging people to be on a lookout for a car bearing plate number SA6385F which had allegedly kidnapped a 16-year-old girl from Taman Adika here on Sunday, circulated widely yesterday. “After receiving the information, we have mobilised our people to carry out investigations and at last, the report was found to be untrue and the plate number does not exist. “We fear that such an irresponsible act would cause fear among parents they would not even dare to send their children to school,” he said. In addition, Zahari said soon it would be a case like the boy who cried wolf. “There will be a time when there is a real kidnapping but people would no longer believe and no one would pay any attention to the real distress call. “So please stop this nonsense as it will not bring any good to anyone. It is a waste of everybody’s time ... we were chasing nothing,” he said. He warned those caught responsible for spreading the rumour can be charged under Section 233 of the Multimedia Act which carries a fine of RM50,000 or not more than a year’s imprisonment, or both, if found guilty. Last Wednesday, a real abduction case involving a Universiti Malaysia Sabah student at Kingfisher Park in Kota Kinabalu came to an end When the two abductors were finally arrested here separately just within 48 hours after committing the crime. Information on the incident as well as the abductors’ car number were quickly spread via SMSes and blogs, which kept people on the alert for the vehicle passing through their areas. Those who spotted the car had alerted the Police and soon after a high speed chase, they skidded at Kampung Rompon, along Tambunan-Keningau Road.


Blackout caused by power trip: SESB


A power trip at the IPP SBPC station and two l32 kilo volts (KV) high-tension cable between Karambunai and Inanam had caused massive electricity disruptions in Sabah yesterday. Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) Corporate Communications Senior Manager Chendramata Sinteh disclosed in a statement yesterday that power disruptions were reported in Sandakan, Tawau, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Beluran, Kota Belud, Kota Marudu, Pitas and here since 6.40pm. “The power disruptions covered 90 per cent of Sabah yesterday. The trips at the power station and two power lines had affected the transmission of at least 500 megawatt of power to these locations. “Initial investigation showed that the under- frequency power due to the loss of 500mw affected the Sabah Grid System, causing power disruptions in many districts in the State,” she explained. SESB had restored power supply in stages since 7. 30pm, while Sandakan and Tawau are considered as islanded mode, as the two districts operate individually. “However, we had to continue power ration in the East Coast areas as the power capacity there is low. “For now, our priority is to restore power supply in all the affected areas and would be announcing the real cause of the disruption soon,” she said. SESB’s hotline number 15454 was congested with calls from customers all over the State. “We regret any inconvenience caused and would work hard to ensure power supply will be returned to its normal capacity soon,” Chendramata said.


Massive and extensive POWER FAILURE in many parts of Sabah


A massive and extensive power blackout hit various parts of Sabah last night - the worst affected being the State Capital City, where activities slowed or stood still and businesses including shops, malls, restaurants, bars and night clubs were disrupted. The extensive and virtual statewide power failure was reported in almost all major towns and districts in both East and West Coast areas. The Borneo Post’s contacts in Tamparuli, Ranau, Inanam, Likas, Penampang, Menggatal, Keningau, Sandakan, and Tawau all confirmed the blackout in their areas, with residents voicing frustrations and anger over the situation, one of the worst power failures in years. In Kota Kinabalu, the power cut occurred shortly before 7pm and continued for hours, while in some areas like Penampang, the power was restored around 8pm. Traffic flows in the State Capital were affected with vehicles moving bumper to bumper in dark streets. With traffic lights down at main intersections, the congestions worsened with impatient and discourteous motorists honking at one another and compounding the situation. City Police Traffic and Public Order Chief DSP M Chandra when contacted informed that Police personnel were dispatched and deployed to help control traffic flows in and around the City. Along pedestrian walkways, tourists and visitors alike were seen straining and struggling for directions. ATM machines and many chain stores, including 7-Eleven, were closed as their servers were also down. Those at homes complained of missing their favourite TV shows while children’s school work could not be done effectively. “SESB has to be made accountable to this incessant problem of power failures in the history of Sabah... for decades, the officials had got away scot-free for the inability and failure to ensure a satisfactory supply of electricity. When is this unacceptable situation going to end,” said a resident of 28 years in a Kota Kinabalu’s suburb. Another resident said: “Heads at SESB must roll to placate the great amount of public dissatisfaction at this state of essential utility. How long is the Sabah public to tolerate such inefficiency.” Several restaurants, unless they had their own power back ups, either closed early or took advantage of the darkness to set a romantic candlelight dinner mood in their outlets. Some eateries even said they have a much better business with seats all taken by diners who opt to have their meals in semi-darkness while waiting for the traffic congestions to ease. Upon being informed about the incident, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman who was in Kuala Lumpur attending the rulers conference immediately contacted SESB General Manager to find out the source of the power failure. “He was made to understand that it was caused by a power drag at the IPP Plant in Sepanggar Bay,” said his Press Secretary Afeiza Khan. Musa who was briefed and updated on the progress of restoration measures throughout the evening directed the power company to rectify the problem as soon as possible to avoid further inconvenience to the people. He said he was closely monitoring the situation.