KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The main suspect in the robbery and murder case of the former director of the Information Technology Division, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi), Wan Hassan Wan Embong, was arrested this morning.
Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the suspect was nabbed with two other suspects.
Huzir also said that another suspect is still on the run and being hunted by the police after he had aided the escape of the main suspect in the case.
This comes after one other suspect was arrested on Sunday, and made a confession in relation to the case.
“We succeeded in getting information and tracking down the main suspect who ran away to an area in Semenyih.
“Following that, at 5am, officers from KL Criminal Investigation Department with help from Bukit Aman’s D8 division conducted a raid at Jalan Rinching, Semenyih and the main suspect was successfully apprehended,” said Huzir during a press conference at the Bukit Aman police headquarters here.
The CID director revealed that the main suspect is 23 years old, has two previous criminal and drug abuse records, and hails from Air Panas, Kuala Lumpur.
“The clearest confession we received was from this suspect, and we believe his confession is credible, and he was the one who slashed the victim in the Bangsar case,” he said.
The two other suspects were arrested in separate raids at 3.30am and 4.30am respectively.
Meanwhile, Huzir named the remaining suspect on the run as 27-year-old Sugu A/L Thangarajoo, who has the IC number 930424-02-6177.
He added the five suspects are believed to make up the entire group who were involved in the robbery-murder case.
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Celcom Axiata Berhad (Celcom) is accelerating RM256 million of network investments to upgrade its network capacity and deploy more 4G base station towers nationwide.
According to its chief executive officer Idham Nawawi, the acceleration in network investments will improve the 4G coverage and quality in both rural and urban areas.
Celcom’s accelerated network investments from 2020 into early 2021 would be further supported by the allocated capital expenditures in the financial year ending Dec 31, 2021.
“By February 2021, Celcom targets a total of 4,700 network sites — 49 per cent in urban areas and 51 per cent in rural areas — to be upgraded and optimised with capacity upgrades, installation of new 4G equipment and core network optimisation programmes.
“This also includes upgrading and optimising almost 1,000 4G network sites in Sabah and Sarawak, improving Celcom’s 4G coverage in rural areas,” he said in a statement today.
Idham said Celcom would also continue with a nationwide cluster optimisation programme for an additional 3,600 network sites, upgrading to better capacities to address buffering issues and deliver better voice and video quality for consumers, targeted to be completed by August 2021.
He said that by accelerating its network investments now for crucial areas that needed connectivity, the company hoped to gain significant improvements in quality and experience.
“These improvements also focus on delivering better in-building coverage from 4G LTE base station towers, a wider 4G coverage in rural areas, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, and improved download speeds.
“This will enable the delivery of high definition (HD) 720p video experience for more customers and improved voice quality with Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE)” Idham said. — Bernama
TOKYO, Dec 1 — A giant set of Olympic rings returned to Tokyo’s waterfront today after maintenance, with officials hoping the symbol will help build enthusiasm for the coronavirus-postponed Games.
Promising vaccine trials have boosted Tokyo’s hopes of holding the Olympics, now scheduled to open July 23, 2021 after the pandemic forced the unprecedented decision to delay.
The 69-tonne interlocking rings were installed in Tokyo’s Odaiba bay area at the start of the year as the city began the final countdown to the Games, but were towed away in August for maintenance and inspections.
They returned today with a fresh coat of paint and plans to light them up at night.
“We are working very hard so that we can hold an Olympic Games in which people will feel safe,” Tokyo city government official Atsushi Yanashimizu told reporters.
“With the installation of the Olympic symbol, we would like more people to feel that the event is approaching soon and to feel excited about it.”
A poll in July showed that just one in four people in Japan wanted to see the Games held in 2021, with most backing either a further delay or a cancellation.
There are also reportedly concerns among sponsors, with organisers tightlipped on how many will extend their contracts.
Olympic and Japanese officials have said they remain committed to holding the Games next year, and International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach said in Tokyo last month he was “very, very confident” that spectators will be able to attend.
The rings will stay in place until the end of the Olympics, and will then be replaced by the Paralympics symbol in mid-August.
“We would like many people to come here and see it and feel the momentum, while being cautious about virus prevention” said Yanashimizu. — AFP
PARIS, Dec 1 — Paris Saint-Germain will be playing for their Champions League lives against Manchester United tomorrow, with last season’s runners-up knowing the costs of group-stage elimination could be enormous on and off the field.
Anything less than victory at Old Trafford and the French champions could see their destiny slip out of their hands going into the last game in Group H.
Neymar’s penalty gave the Qatar-owned club victory over RB Leipzig last week, but Thomas Tuchel’s team performed poorly and the coach’s agitation when searching questions are put to him by the press suggest all is not well in Paris.
PSG are top of Ligue 1, although their lead has been trimmed back in recent weeks following more disappointing displays.
“There is no way we can play like that in Manchester, like we did in the second half,” Tuchel warned after Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Bordeaux.
There will be potentially major consequences if they fail to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League, something they have managed in each of the last eight seasons since becoming regulars in the competition again after the Qatari takeover.
Tuchel is out of contract after this season and sporting director Leonardo is not believed to be a huge fan of the German, even if he recently dismissed reports he was looking for a replacement.
“Honestly the club has never thought about another coach to replace Tuchel. Now is the time to concentrate on our objectives and to stick together,” Leonardo said in a question and answer session with supporters.
Despite that, it is hard to imagine Tuchel surviving in the event of a European disaster, as being dumped out at the first hurdle would be a huge blow to PSG’s prestige.
Over the last decade it has become almost impossible for such ignominy to befall one of Europe’s super clubs, a category into which PSG now fit as the fifth-richest in the world according to Deloitte’s Football Money League.
Barcelona have made it out of their group in every season since returning to the competition in 2004, while Real Madrid have got out of their group in every year since 1997.
Bayern Munich have done so in every year since 2008. Manchester City have already secured an eighth consecutive appearance in the last 16, Juventus a seventh.
After revelling in the team’s run to the final in Lisbon, PSG’s Qatari owners would not take kindly to such a sporting slap in the face.
Financially, the repercussions could be serious.
PSG are looking at ways of extending the contracts of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, whose existing deals expire in 2022, but how can they in their current financial predicament?
Documents released in 2018 by Football Leaks showed Neymar’s after-tax salary to be €30 million (RM146.3 million) a year while Mbappe’s salary was due to rise to €11 million this year.
If PSG are prepared to offer whatever it takes to keep them, will they be able to invest in the other areas of the team that need upgrading?
They have been hamstrung by the coronavirus crisis, suffering huge losses from the decision to cut short the last French season.
RMC Sport recently reported that PSG were preparing for a loss of some €200 million this season, chiefly from lost gate receipts due to the pandemic.
A group-stage exit from the Champions League would only make things worse.
Just reaching the last 16 was worth €9.5 million last season, while reaching and winning the final was worth another €41.5 million, enough to cover the wages of Neymar and Mbappe for a year.
Uefa is set to reduce prize money over the next few years because of the impact of the health crisis, but PSG can ill afford to miss out on these sums. The stakes in Manchester will be high. — AFP
Teratak Kasih Tok Nan, the Kuching halfway home that gives support, safe space for people living with HIV/AIDS
PETALING JAYA, Dec 1 — It has been nearly a decade since Ros (not her real name) discovered that she was HIV positive, but her emotions are still raw and come rushing back every time she thinks about it.
The 31-year-old, who lives in Kuching, Sarawak, has been living with HIV since 2012, after contracting the disease from her first husband.
“It was a bombshell. I didn’t know anything about HIV/AIDS. I was completely taken aback.
“How did we get it? Where did it come from? There were so many questions in my mind, but I didn’t have any answers,” said a teary Ros in an interview with Malay Mail.
She added that her husband was in and out of the hospital for months, often suffering from chills, headaches and a bad cough, before a blood test revealed that he was HIV positive.
Sadly, his condition was at an advanced stage by that point and he passed away about six months later.
Ros’s husband was a drug user and would share needles with others — which is a common mode of transmission of HIV.
A typical misconception about HIV is that it can be transmitted through touch or saliva, but in actual fact, it can only be transmitted through vaginal fluid, anal fluid, semen, breastmilk and blood.
“I was only a housewife then and we had a son together too. It was a very dark time in my life, but I’m lucky and thankful that my son is negative even though I got the disease,” said Ros.
A few years later, Ros unexpectedly found love and remarried someone who accepted her as she was.Ros says she is grateful her two children are HIV negative. — Picture courtesy of Malaysian AIDS Foundation
Two years later in 2017, Ros gave birth to her second child but her marriage fell apart just 15 days later as her husband left and later filed for divorce.
With two children to look after, Ros felt her world crashing down right in front of her eyes, but even with everything happening to her, she was still more afraid of how her family and sickly father would take the news.
“It was really hard. My family didn’t know about it and I was scared that they would reject me if they knew. When I finally told them, they had trouble accepting it at first but they’ve become very supportive now after learning more about the disease,” said Ros.
“But I still haven’t told my father. He has health complications and I just can’t bring myself to tell him such sad news and break his heart.”
Over the years, Ros has slowly adapted to living with HIV and has successfully stabilised her condition, through persistent and consistent treatment as the virus is now “undetectable.”
This means that she can live a normal life as there are only so few copies of the virus in her blood and she will not be able to transmit it to anyone else either.
While her physical health has improved, Ros has struggled to come to terms with the stigma or false conceptions that people have about HIV/AIDS.
That soon changed, however, after Ros came across the Teratak Kasih Tok Nan (TKTN) centre while receiving treatment at the I\infectious diseases clinic at the Sarawak General Hospital (SGH).
Its name is in honour of the late Sarawak chief minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem and his wife Datuk Jamilah Anu who is TKTN’s patron and is heavily invested in the centre where she helps with fundraising and making sure of its success.
The centre, also known as the One-Stop Support Centre, was established in 2017 as a safe space for people living with HIV (PLHIV) and their families, which also acts as a halfway home, accommodating up to 13 people, for those travelling long distances in the state to access HIV treatment at SGH.
It was founded by the Malaysian AIDS Foundation (MAF) and Malaysian AIDS Council, and is run by the Sarawak AIDS Concern Society (SACS).Ros says she enjoys cooking with the other beneficiaries at TKTN. — Picture courtesy of Malaysian AIDS Foundation
TKTN coordinator Victoria Antai Belayong said that she believes Ros became emotionally stronger thanks to the support she’s had at the centre and from her family.
“Some PLHIV took a lot of time to open up, but Ros she is one of the best visitors we’ve had. She’s made a lot of friends here because our community is mostly made up of single mothers,” said Victoria.
She said that the TKTN centre provides life skills training and other social reintegration support to its beneficiaries, in addition to community-based HIV testing, counselling, treatment literacy and legal and welfare service referrals.
There are also monthly support meetings, as well as baking and cooking classes held for the mothers, and storytelling sessions for the kids.
Victoria, who's been at TKTN since its inception, added that the main point of running the centre — apart from providing accommodation to PLHIV receiving treatment — was to be there emotionally for their beneficiaries.
“Unfortunately, the stigma against HIV/AIDS here in Sarawak is really bad. Because of this, many PLHIV choose not to go for treatment or talk to people about the disease, so people won’t know that they have it,” said Victoria.
“But that’s why we’re here. We want them to know that there are people who care about them.
“We have a safe place if you need to talk, we have someone for you to talk to. We may not be able to help in terms of money, but we always try our best to give them all the support they need.”
Victoria added that more awareness has to be created about HIV/AIDS and that members of the public can also come down to the centre to learn more about the disease.
“PLHIV are normal, but unlucky people you could say. You can’t always blame them for having the disease, they are the real victims here.”
One of the ways that MAF has attempted to create more awareness about the disease is through the recently created Shopee X MAF Fund, which aims to raise funds to support treatment, care and prevention programmes for PLHIV.The Shopee X MAF Fund aims to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and raise funds for PLHIV as well. — Picture courtesy of Malaysian AIDS Foundation
The Shopee X MAF Fund will have a dedicated microsite on Shopee where people can shop for exclusive Red Ribbon merchandise including lapel pins, T-shirts, jerseys and tote bags created by leading Malaysian designers.
MAF’s long-time partners Hilton Hotel Group and MAC Cosmetics, are also supporting the cause by offering hotel stay vouchers to patrons and giving away free bullet lipsticks to donors of RM200 and above.
There will also be interactive live virtual discussions with Red Ribbon Celebrity Supporters on Shopee LIVE as they discuss the everyday plights faced by PLHIV.
* December 1 is World AIDS Day is commemorated to show support for people living with and affected by HIV. It is also to remember those who lost their lives to AIDS. This year’s theme is “Global solidarity, shared responsibility.”
RAUB, Dec 1 — The free pneumococcal vaccination under the National Immunisation Programme for children begins simultaneously today at the Ministry of Health (MOH) health clinics nationwide, which will benefit 500,000 children each year.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said children born on or after January 1, 2020, are eligible for the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) which would be given in three doses, the two primary doses at the age of four months and six months, and the PCV booster at 15 months.
However, the pneumococcal immunisation schedule would be adjusted for children whose vaccinations have been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic this year.
“The administration of the pneumococcal vaccine is the most effective method to prevent pneumococcal bacterial infection and indirectly reduce the resistance to antibiotics. This vaccine is also safe and effective.
“The vaccination is vital and quite timely after the number of cases of children with the pneumococcal disease increased from 17,446 in 2017 to 19,773 last year,” he said after launching the National Pneumococcal Immunisation Programme for Children at a health clinic here, today.
Also present were MOH disease control director Datuk Dr Norhayati Rusli, state Works, Transportation and Health committee chairman Datuk Seri Norol Azali Sulaiman and Pahang health director Datuk Dr Bahari Che Awang Ngah.
The vaccine is intended to prevent bacterial infections of streptococcus pneumoniae or pneumococcus, which can cause diseases such as pneumonia, sinusitis, middle ear infection (otitis media), meningitis and bacterial infections in the blood (septicemia).
“Complications of pneumococcal disease include hearing impairment, brain deformity and death. Children aged five and below are the most at risk of becoming infected and experiencing complications of this disease. Apart from reducing the rate of morbidity and mortality due to related diseases, the vaccination can also reduce treatment costs,” he said.
Dr Adham also said that the MOH always ensures that the vaccine used is effective and safe, but parents are urged to report the side effects of the vaccine, if any, to health personnel or through the website at npra.gov.my.
MOH will also deploy the Orang Asli mobile team, mobile bus services, mobile boats and air doctor services to administer the vaccination to children in the rural areas, he added. — Bernama
MILAN, Dec 1 — Ciro Immobile returns to the scene of one of his unhappiest spells as a player when Lazio take on the goal ace’s former club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League tomorrow.
Dortmund were Italy forward Immobile’s first club outside of his home country and that disappointing time in the Bundesliga was followed by an similarly unsuccessful six months at Sevilla, before returning to Serie A.
Lazio are just one point behind their German hosts who lead Group F with two games to play, and four ahead of third-placed Club Brugge.
The Italians are well-positioned to advance to the last 16 in their return to the Champions League after a 13-year absence.
Last season’s European ‘Golden Shoe’ winner thanks to his 36 league goals in Italy, Immobile’s strikes powered Lazio to a fourth-place finish in Serie A.
This campaign he has scored three Champions League goals in two games — one in a 3-1 win over Dortmund in Rome and twice against Zenit with the same scoreline last time out in the Stadio Olimpico.
In between, Immobile missed two games, both 1-1 draws, against Club Brugge and away at Zenit, because of positive coronavirus tests.
“He is important for our football,” said coach Simone Inzaghi.
“He’ll make the fortunes of Lazio, and also those of Italy.”
In total, Immobile has seven Champions League goals from 12 appearances between Lazio, Dortmund, Sevilla and Juventus. He was also top scorer in the Europa League in 2017-2018.
But despite his record performances with Lazio, the player known as ‘King Ciro’ to fans, has been criticised for his failure to perform well outside of Italy.
An €18 million (RM87.7 million) move to Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund in 2014 reaped just three goals in 24 appearances, before a transfer after just one season to Sevilla, who loaned him to Torino.
“I arrived at Dortmund at the wrong time, during a generational change,” said Immobile.
“There were some difficulties, but I don’t want to say anything about this. I know when I deserve praise or criticism.”
He returned to Lazio in 2016 for less than €10 million, the same year former ‘Biancocelesti’ forward Inzaghi took over as coach.
And the 30-year-old has flourished in a system tailor-made to his strengths, alongside Luis Alberto and Joaquin Correa, and midfielders Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Marco Parolo.
Immobile extended his contract with Lazio by two years through 2025, after last season matching Gonzalo Higuain’s single-season Italian league record of 36 goals.
Immobile also led the Serie A scorers in 2013-14 with 22 goals for Torino and with Lazio in 2017-18 with 29.
This season he has scored eight goals in nine games in all competitions. Lazio are ninth in Serie A.
If he continues his current pace, the player from Naples is on track to become Lazio’s all-time leading scorer.
With 133 goals across all competitions, he currently sits second on the Roman club’s scoring chart behind Silvio Piola’s 159 goals.
He has 108 league goals for Lazio to Piola’s 143 between 1934 and 1943.
The arrival of five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo’s at Juventus in 2018, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic joining AC Milan this year has provided a boost.
“Ronaldo’s arrival in Italy was an extra stimulus for me,” said Immobile who scored five more goals that the Portuguese star last season.
“When these great champions arrive, they push you to give more, to understand if you too you can be at that level.
“It happened with Ibra too, I studied him because he is a great champion. I hope to still be like this when I’m Ibra’s age.” — AFP
LONDON, Dec 1 — Edinson Cavani showed why Manchester United handed the veteran Uruguayan the bumper two-year contract others balked at as he turned defeat into victory at Southampton on Sunday.
The 33-year-old came off the bench with United trailing 2-0 to score twice and set up Bruno Fernandes for the other goal in a thrilling come-from-behind win reminiscent of the club’s glory days under Alex Ferguson.
Cavani’s joy at making his first major contribution for United has been tempered by the prospect of a domestic ban for a misjudged social media post after the game.
He used the Spanish term “negrito” (small black person) in thanking a friend for his congratulations, but despite the affectionate context, Cavani could still fall foul of the Football Association’s minimum three-match ban for offensive comments on social media.
Cavani will though be available for a reunion against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League tomorrow and could exact revenge for being cast aside by the French champions.
PSG’s all-time record goalscorer was allowed to leave on a free transfer when his contract expired in June and did not even hang around as the Parisians reached the Champions League final for the first time in August.
Instead, Cavani kept himself fit working on a farm in his homeland and indulging his passion for ballet before United came calling in the final days of the transfer window in October with a deal worth a reported £210,000 per week (RM1.14 million).
After seven months out in the cold, Cavani understandably took time to make his mark in Manchester, but his impact against Southampton showed the different dimension his predatory instincts in the box offer Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men.
“Sometimes, when we’ve scored goals, it had to be the ‘perfect’ goal, walking it in, with an extra pass and great skill,” said Solskjaer.
“Edinson has been around the block and scored so many goals and played football for so long. He’s been between those posts so many times, he’s seen this game before, he’s scored that goal before.
“To have a focal point in the box is important for us, we’ve not really had that since Romelu (Lukaku) left. Anthony (Martial), Marcus (Rashford), Mason (Greenwood), they’re different types of forwards. He gives us a great balance and a mix. We wanted to mix it up and Edinson had a great impact.”
Cavani has made just one start under Solskjaer, in a 4-1 thrashing of Istanbul Basaksehir last week, but may have done enough to move ahead of Martial and Greenwood in the pecking order to start tomorrow.
Victory over Basaksehir restored United’s grip on Group H after a shock defeat in Istanbul undid some of their good work, having beaten PSG away and RB Leipzig 5-0 in a brilliant start to the section.
PSG sit three points behind Solskjaer’s men and face a humiliating group-stage exit should they lose again to United.
Dispatching Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Mauro Icardi, who took his place at the Parc des Princes, from the competition PSG desire most, would be poetic justice for Cavani after the manner of his exit from the club.
Cavani’s parents complained PSG had not shown him the respect he deserved when his playing time under Thomas Tuchel diminished drastically after the signing of Icardi last summer.
Tuchel has held on amid growing discontent over PSG’s performances at home and abroad so far this season.
Dropping out of the Champions League would almost certainly signal the end of Tuchel’s time in Paris. Should Cavani inflict the final blow, it would only rub salt in the wound. — AFP
LONDON, Dec 1 — The Football Association (FA) has highlighted “substantial and serious inaccuracies” put forward by Troy Townsend of anti-racism organisation Kick It Out in a documentary about Anton Ferdinand’s case against former England captain John Terry.
In Anton Ferdinand: Football, Racism and Me which aired yesterday, former West Ham United player Ferdinand questioned Kick It Out’s head of development Townsend over what he described as a lack of support when he brought the case against Terry in 2011.
Townsend said rules prevented Kick It Out from speaking to an alleged victim while a case was active, adding that “the game has never protected the victim”.
The FA, in a statement after the programmed aired, said: “We can confirm that there are no rules or inferences in the relationship which prevent Kick It Out from contacting victims of discrimination.
“On the contrary, the FA’s written policy is to actively encourage the involvement of Kick It Out so that they can support victims of discrimination during and after the FA’s disciplinary process.”
Townsend told Ferdinand he feared for his job when he criticised the FA because his organisation was funded by the governing body.
“In alleging that an individual at Kick It Out fears losing their job if they criticise footballing authorities, this is simply without foundation,” the FA added.
Terry was banned for four matches and fined after an FA disciplinary hearing in 2012 found him guilty of using racially abusive language towards Ferdinand during a match.
A court had earlier found Terry not guilty of the charge.
Terry did not participate in the documentary, but his representatives said he had moved on with his life and did not want to reopen a case on television that was decided in court.
The FA said it stood by its investigation into Terry, saying it showed the player “no favouritism and made clear how serious the allegations were taken”. — Reuters
LONDON, Dec 1 — Football players often ignore the risks of head injuries and officials must improve concussion protocols, said former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Ryan Mason, who was forced into early retirement in 2017 after fracturing his skull.
Mason’s comments come in the wake of a sickening clash of heads between Wolverhampton Wanderers striker Raul Jimenez and Arsenal’s David Luiz in the Premier League at the weekend.
Jimenez underwent surgery on a fractured skull while Arsenal faced criticism for allowing Luiz to play on with his head bandaged before he was substituted at halftime.
Mason, who retired at the age of 26 after fracturing his skull in a clash of heads with Gary Cahill, has called for a change in perception on concussion within the game.
“We live in a world with men wanting to be brave. Not many will stand up and say, ‘I don’t feel right here’,” former England international Mason told Sky Sports.
“That’s the industry football is and we’re probably still a little bit guilty of that, if I’m being perfectly honest. I was very close to losing my life on a football pitch to an incident that was very similar.”
Mason said officials should be encouraged to punish players for dangerous aerial challenges.
“(David Luiz’s challenge) was late and it was from behind. If on the floor with a knee or ankle it would be a yellow card. This type of challenge is viewed as an honest attempt, which this one was,” Mason said.
“I think it was honest but I do believe we have a responsibility as professionals to punish dangerous play.” — Reuters
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Petronas Gas Bhd's (PetGas) shares dropped 4.5 per cent today after skyrocketing 8.0 per cent yesterday.
The shares stood lower at RM16.72 on Friday and jumped RM1.44 to RM18.16 yesterday.
At 12.05 am today, the shares declined 4.0 per cent or 70 sen to RM17.46 to lead Bursa Malaysia's top losers.
PetGas recently announced a net profit of RM591.01 million, about 40 per cent higher in the third quarter ended Sept 30, 2020 compared to RM431.59 million a year ago on higher unrealised foreign exchange gain.
Its revenue grew to RM1.41 billion from RM1.34 billion a year ago despite Covid-19.
PetGas believes the Covid-19 pandemic is not expected to significantly impact the group’s overall earnings as its business model and long-term contracts ensures steady revenue streams, particularly for gas processing, gas transportation and regasification business segments.
In contrast, Petronas Chemicals and Petronas Dagangan rose 58 sen and 16 sen to RM7 and RM20.80, respectively. — Bernama
Monetary Authority of Singapore study flags financial vulnerability of some SMEs amid Covid-19 crisis
SINGAPORE, Dec 1 — Analysis of financial data from 65,000 firms in Singapore by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has found that the proportion of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) that are vulnerable is about 30 percentage points higher compared with the situation with large firms.
A higher proportion of firms in the accommodation, food and beverage, construction and retail sectors — sectors that have been hit harder by the Covid-19 pandemic — were also found to be in weaker cash positions and faced higher liquidity stresses.
“Such firms, with their smaller size and limited access to capital markets, could thus be less able to weather the pandemic’s impact on revenue and face more severe strains that could impair their debt servicing ability and business operations,” said MAS in its annual financial stability review released today.
In comparison, companies listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX) were found, based on MAS simulations, to have sufficient cash buffers to repay their short-term debt until the end of 2021, even without refinancing.
Using a baseline scenario in its simulations, MAS found that 57 per cent of publicly-listed firms were able to do that.
Even if the central bank adjusted the parameters of the simulation to a more adverse scenario — for example if there is a re-emergence of Covid-19 infections in Singapore that caused economic activity to decline — 54 per cent of SGX-listed firms would have resilient cash buffers till end of next year.
Firms with more vulnerable buffers tend to be small with smaller annual revenues of less than S$100 million (RM305 million), said MAS.
Overall, leverage risk among companies have worsened with the onset of the pandemic. With corporate debt on the rise and gross domestic output declining, the corporate debt as a percentage of GDP has increased to 163 per cent in 2020, after stabilising at around 150 per cent between 2015 and 2019, based on MAS data.
This is the highest corporate debt-to-GDP ratio since 2004.Company earnings have fallen since 2011 but the drop was exacerbated in 2020.
With lower profitability and increasing debt, MAS said firms are at greater risk of not meeting their debt obligations from earnings.
Nevertheless, their debt servicing ability remains sufficient in the immediate term as companies have bolstered their cash holdings as a buffer to ease their short-term cash flows, resulting in healthier liquidity indicators, said MAS.
It added that Singapore firms have weathered the initial earnings shock from Covid-19 “relatively well”.
While short-term debt is likely to be repaid as companies recover their revenues alongside improvements in the economy, some may face repayment difficulties if the economy recovers unevenly and earnings continue to remain weak.
Debt sustainability in the medium-to-long term also poses increased risks, it said.
“While the economy is expected to pick up next year, its uneven trajectory will impinge on corporate profits. Within the corporate sector, smaller firms that tend to be financially weaker, and those in the domestically oriented and travel related services impacted by Covid-19 remain vulnerable,” said MAS. — TODAY
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) jumped 2.6 per cent at mid-day amid continued appetite for selected blue-chips and lower liners, on the back of upbeat China economic data and potential Covid-19 vaccines that raised hope for a faster economic recovery.
At 12.30pm, the benchmark index climbed 40.76 points to 1,603.47 compared with yesterday's close of 1,562.71.
The index opened 17.46 points stronger at 1,580.17.
On the broader market, gainers outpaced losers 664 to 395 while 462 counters were unchanged, 587 untraded and 16 others suspended.
Volume stood at 5.17 billion units worth RM2.64 billion.
An analyst said the domestic shares’ performance was in sync with regional markets, boosted by latest data showing that China's manufacturing activity continued to expand at a faster pace in November.
China's manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) jumped to 52.1 in November from 51.4 a month earlier due to more domestic new orders and an increase in raw material prices.
The manufacturing sector in Australia also continued to expand at a faster rate during the month with a manufacturing PMI score of 55.8
Locally, IHS Markit reported Malaysia's PMI recorded a fourth successive monthly contraction at 48.4 in November.
On Wall Street, stocks closed lower yesterday with the Dow declining 0.9 per cent to 29,638.64, S&P dropped 0.5 per cent to 3,621.63 and the Nasdaq went down 0.06 per cent to 12,198.74.
At press time, Singapore's Straits Times Index added 0.49 per cent to 2,819.67, Hang Seng Index was 0.93 per cent better at 26,586.21 and Nikkei rose 1.42 per cent to 26,808.80.
Among the heavyweights, Petronas Chemicals jumped 59 sen to RM7.01, Tenaga Nasional leaped 76 sen to RM10.84 and Maybank climbed 32 sen to RM8.22.
Public Bank gained 54 sen to RM17.94 and Hong Leong Bank added 82 sen to RM18.00.
In contrast, Petronas Gas fell 66 sen to RM17.50 and Top Glove dropped nine sen to RM7.09.
Among the actives, AT Systematization added one sen to 21 sen, while Pegasus and Netx rose half-a-sen each to 3.5 sen and 15 sen, respectively.
On the index board, the FBM Emas Index increased 229.69 points to 11,564.56, the FBMT 100 Index inched up 230.95 points to 11,331.69 and the FBM Emas Shariah Index expanded 217.57 points to 13,364.94.
The FBM 70 went up 80.53 points to 14,909.45 and the FBM ACE rose 7.00 points to 10,708.61.
Meanwhile, the Industrial Products and Services Index advanced 5.49 points to 166.15, the Plantation Index was 97.03 points higher at 7,313.76 and the Financial Services Index leaped 426.78 points to 14,230.99. — Bernama
NUS professor sacked for sexual misconduct after probe into allegations of harassment of student including sexting
SINGAPORE, Dec 1 — An academic staff at the National University of Singapore (NUS) was dismissed today for sexual misconduct following investigations into an anonymous complaint in August. The complaint alleged that Professor Theodore G. Hopf from the university’s political science department in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) had sexually harassed a student, NUS said in a statement.
NUS said it conducted interviews with the student and Prof Hopf, following which on September 15 he was prohibited from contacting any NUS student. He was later suspended and told to stay off campus while investigations were ongoing, NUS said.
A Committee of Inquiry was appointed on October 7 and the student, who was accompanied by an officer from NUS Victim Care Unit, was interviewed on October 21.
As Prof Hopf needed to seek treatment for a serious medical condition, the committee interviewed him later on November 13, said NUS. The committee then submitted its report to NUS on November 18. Following its investigations, it found that during a meeting between Prof Hopf and the student in August, the professor offered the student alcohol and they had a drink together. He admitted to also making an offensive remark about certain parts of the student’s anatomy. NUS declined to reveal if the student involved is male or female. The student also alleged that Prof Hopf pulled him/her forcefully towards him twice, during which the student resisted, moved back and told him to stop. Prof Hopf admitted to placing his hands on the shoulders of the student while facing him/her, but denied pulling the student towards him.
The student also alleged that in October 2018, Prof Hopf sent a sex-text message to the student. He admitted to sending the sex-text message to the student but explained that the message was actually meant for someone else.
“The committee determined that Prof Hoph had failed to act with propriety, respect, and decorum expected of a staff of the University. He had sexually harassed the student in physical, verbal and written forms. His conduct was a serious breach of the NUS Staff Code of Conduct,” said the university. It said that in addition to dismissing the faculty member, it also made a police report on November 27 after informing the student that the university would be proceeding to do so in line with its legal obligations.
This latest sacking comes just two weeks after NUS revealed that a former professor from its East Asian Institute had acted “inappropriately in a professional setting” by hugging a colleague without her consent. Professor Zheng Yongnian however had left the university by the time investigations were completed. NUS said he would have received a written warning for his actions if he was still employed by the university.
Just a month before that, the university sacked Jeremy Fernando, who taught at Tembusu College, after he was found to have behaved “inappropriately” with students. — TODAY
JAKARTA, Dec 1 — Anies Baswedan, the governor of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, said today he had tested positive for Covid-19, as the world’s fourth most populous country struggles to contain a spike in the number of infections. The 51-year-old governor of South-east Asia’s biggest city is among a number of politicians and officials to contract the virus. Indonesia’s transportation and religious affairs ministers have previously been treated for the virus.
In a video posted on his Instagram account, the governor said he was currently asymptomatic and would self-isolate.
“I would like to remind everyone that Covid is still around and can come to anyone,” he said.
His deputy, Ahmad Riza Patria, also tested positive to the virus on Sunday, according to the city’s website. Indonesia, a country of 270 million people, has posted three days of record-high case numbers in the past week. With more than 530,000 infections and nearly 17,000 deaths, the country has the highest tallies in South-east Asia, though some health experts say limited testing and contact tracing is masking a far higher caseload.
Jakarta, a bustling megacity, has also recorded new record highs in infections over the past month, with an average of around 1,240 cases per day in the past week. Unlike some neighbouring countries, Indonesia has not brought in strict national lockdowns but opted for local curbs.
Since October, Jakarta’s governor has relaxed curbs to reinstate “large-scale social restrictions,” which means malls and restaurants can operate though with shorter hours.
Some health experts and officials have linked the recent spike in cases to mass gatherings in an around the capital.
This has included thousands joining street protests against a new job creation law and large gatherings, often with little social distancing, to mark the return from exile of controversial Islamic cleric Rizieq Shihab. — Reuters
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — Women in Malaysia are still lagging behind in certain key areas while surpassing men in others, despite making up just over half of the national population, new data revealed today.
The Department of Statistics Malaysia's (DOSM) “Statistics on Women Empowerment in Selected Domains, Malaysia, 2020” report covers statistics relating to gender in Malaysia from 2017 to 2019 and focuses on the core set of gender indicators covering 11 main domains.
Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Mohd Uzir Mahidin said in the Malaysia Gender Gap Index (MGGI) the country scored 0.709, or 70.9 per cent in 2019.
“Women's achievement has surpassed men in the Educational Attainment sub-index with a score of 1.053.
“For Health and Survival sub-index a score of 0.958 was recorded, followed by Economic Participation and Opportunity with a score of 0.717," he said in a statement.
The MGGI identifies the gap between women and men across four sub-indices encompassing Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment.
A score with a value of 1.0 or 100 per cent indicates the equality of women and men has been achieved.
However, Mohd Uzir said the labour force participation rate (LFPR) for women was still low at 55.6 per cent in 2019.
“This is when compared to other developed countries such as Australia at 72.5 per cent and Singapore at 69.1 per cent. Generally, women’s LFPR for developed nations exceeds 60 per cent.
“Similarly political empowerment recorded the lowest at 10.8 per cent or a score of 0.108, indicating that women still lag behind men as ministers, parliamentarians and state elected representatives. Yet the percentage scores have increased as compared to 2018's score of 0.106,” he said.
Based on the MGGI 2019 score, Malaysia is ranked 73rd globally, dropping 10 places when compared to 2018 where Malaysia was ranked 63rd with a score of 0.711.
“Simultaneously, within East Asia and the Pacific, Malaysia remained at the sixth position as in 2018 where we were ahead of Thailand, Indonesia, China and Brunei Darussalam.
“However, we are behind New Zealand, Australia and Singapore,” Mohd Uzir said.
The chief statistician also shared some interesting facts related to gender in 2019, such as the estimation that 15.7 million out of a total of 32.5 million Malaysians are women.
“In terms of live births, baby girls recorded 235,467 births out of a total of 487,957 live births. Women as the head of household were estimated to spend RM3,666 a month and the expenditure on food and alcoholic beverages is RM690, or 18.8 per cent of the total expenditure.
“As for MGGI by state, the top three with the highest score in 2019 are KL Federal Territory, Kelantan, and Perlis. KL recorded the highest score with 0.846, followed by Kelantan with 0.795, and Perlis with 0.769,” he said.
Warisan MPs owe Malaysian and Sabahans apology for skipping Budget 2021 bloc votes, says Johor DAP leader
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 -- Federal lawmakers from Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) owed Malaysians and Sabahans a “huge” apology for their deliberate absence in the Dewan Rakyat during two key votes on Budget 2021l, a state DAP committee member said today.
Dr Boo Cheng Hau said Warisan had the opportunity to make their stands known on the Budget 2021 Supply Bill that was deemed disadvantageous to Sabah, but instead chose to abstain at the expense of Sabahan and Malaysian taxpayers coffer.
“There you go again. That Sabahans voted you as their representatives in Parliament is to voice out for them on major issues concerning their well-beings.
“Sabahans did not vote you for venting your unfounded petty personal grudges against a single leader and PH (Pakatan Harapan).
“The taxpayers pay you to voice out in Parliament. They don't pay you for a vacation in Parliament,” he said in a statement.
He was responding to a news report quoting Labuan MP and Warisan’s chief whip Datuk Rozman Isli as confirming the party’s MPs skipped voting to send a signal to Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his PH coalition that new leadership is desired.
Rozman had also indicated that Warisan MPs will continue to sit out voting until they decide otherwise.
Several MPs were absent during two bloc votes yesterday on the expenditure Bills, first for the Prime Minister’s Department, and again for the Ministry of Finance under Budget 2021.
The Bills were passed with 105 ayes on the first one and 107 votes for in the second. The Opposition had only 95 votes in both counts.
Dr Boo, who is also a former Skudai assemblyman, added that Warisan ought to join PH in the efforts for the betterment of Sabah despite not being an official member of the coalition.
Warisan contributes a total of eight MPs to PH’s lawmaker tally including Rozman; former Sabah chief minister and Semporna MP Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal; Penampang MP Datuk Darell Leiking; and former deputy energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister and Kota Belud MP Isnaraissah Munirah Fakharudy.
The rest were former deputy home minister and Sepanggar MP Datuk Azis Jamman, former tourism and culture minister and Lahad Datu MP Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, Kalabakan MP Ma’mun Sulaiman, and Papar MP Ahmad Hassan.
NEW DELHI, Dec 1 — India’s government invited protesting farmers for talks today, seeking to allay concerns about new laws growers fear could pave the way for the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
In a letter addressed to 32 farmers’ unions, Sanjay Agrawal, the most senior civil servant at the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, urged farmers to come forward for talks with government ministers and officials.
The government had earlier invited farmers for talks on Thursday but agreed to meet today due to cold weather and the coronavirus pandemic, Agriculture & Farmers Welfare Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said.
The protests have intensified since last week when farmers arrived in trucks, buses and tractors at Delhi’s Singhu border with Haryana state and blocked the main northern highway into the capital.
Earlier, an umbrella group representing different farmers’ unions slammed the government for saying it would engage in talks with the farmers if they moved their protest off the roads into a designated stadium site.
If the government is serious about addressing the demands of farmers, it should stop laying down conditions, they said.
Small growers fear the new laws will make them vulnerable to competition from big business, and that they could eventually lose price supports for staples such as wheat and rice.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi resisted calls for the repeal of farm reforms, saying growers were being misled and that new laws would benefit them.
India’s vast farm sector contributes nearly 15 per cent of the country’s US$2.9 trillion (RM12 trillion) economy and employs around half its 1.3 billion people. — Reuters
SEOUL, Dec 1 — China has provided North Korean leader Kim Jon-un and his family with an experimental coronavirus vaccine, a US analyst said today, citing two unidentified Japanese intelligence sources.
Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, said the Kims and several senior North Korean officials had been vaccinated.
It was unclear which company had supplied its drug candidate to the Kims and whether it had proven to be safe, he added.
“Kim Jong-un and multiple other high-ranking officials within the Kim family and leadership network have been vaccinated for coronavirus within the last two to three weeks thanks to a vaccine candidate supplied by the Chinese government,” Kazianis wrote in an article for online outlet 19FortyFive.
Citing US medical scientist Peter J. Hotez, he said at least three Chinese companies were developing a coronavirus vaccine, including Sinovac Biotech Ltd, CanSinoBio and Sinophram Group.
Sinophram says its candidate has been used by nearly one million people in China, although none of the firms was known to have publicly launched Phase 3 clinical trials of their experimental Covid-19 drugs.
Some experts doubted that Kim would use an experimental vaccine.
“Even if a Chinese vaccine had already been approved, no drug is perfect and he would not take that risk when he has numerous shelters which can ensure almost complete isolation,” said Choi Jung-hun, an infectious disease expert who defected from North Korea to the South in 2012.
Mark Barry, an East Asia analyst and associate editor of the International Journal on World Peace, said Kim would prefer proven European vaccines to one supplied by Beijing.
“The risk is too great. But he’s happy to get Chinese personal protective equipment,” Barry said on Twitter.
North Korea has not confirmed any coronavirus infections, but South Korea’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) has said an outbreak there cannot be ruled out as the country had trade and people-to-people exchanges with China — the source of the pandemic — before shutting the border in late January.
Microsoft said last month that two North Korean hacking groups had tried to break into the network of vaccine developers in multiple countries, without specifying the companies targeted. Sources told Reuters they included British drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The NIS said last week it had foiled North Korea’s attempts to hack into South Korean Covid-19 vaccine makers. — Reuters
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — An eight-year-old girl fractured her left thigh after she was flung out of a vehicle which was travelling along the Duta-Ulu Klang Expressway (DUKE) and fell from a height of about 15 metres onto a car that was parked at an auto show room at Jalan Pahang here.
A video of the incident, which occurred at about 5.40 pm last Saturday, had since gone viral on the social media.
Kuala Lumpur Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department head, ACP Zulkefly Yahya, said the girl was travelling in a MPV, with her father, aged 41, when he was believed to have lost control of the wheel, causing the vehicle to skid and then rammed into the left side of the road barrier.
He said the impact was believed to have thrown the girl, who was on the rear seat, out of the vehicle.
The girl was flung out of the vehicle through the windscreen and over the road barrier before landing on a car that was parked at an auto showroom below the DUKE flyover at Jalan Pahang, he said when contacted today.
He said the girl fractured her left thigh in the incident and is undergoing treatment at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital, while her father was not injured. — Bernama