Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Myanmar, Indonesia rank first for investors

Click to enlarge

Asked where they currently see the biggest opportunities for profitable investments in ASEAN, Inside Investor readers voted equally for Myanmar and Indonesia as being the countries where things are happening.

Actually it was not that much of a surprise that Inside Investor readers voted for Myanmar as one of the best countries for investments in ASEAN. The former hermit nation in 2011 opened up for business and was in the stage of issuing a new investment law after sanctions of the EU and the US fell in 2012.

Since then, investors have been beating a path to the country which virtually has to start from zero with most of its economic sectors. Coca Cola, PepsiCo, Chevron and General Electric were the first multinationals to set up a new branch in Myanmar.

Nonetheless, Myanmar ranked equal with Indonesia in the poll. The world’S fourth most populous country is currently experiencing a tremendous boost in its economic performance, with billions of investors’ money being pured into the archipelago. Forecasts for GDP growth this year stand at 6.8 per cent despite global economic volatility.
Vietnam, the country that joined the World Trade Organisation in 2007, has caught up and has developed itself to an investors’ darling as well. Though Vietnam is still struggling with inflation issues and the inertia of its huge state-owned conglomerates, economic growth in the nation is rife.

Thailand and the Philippines are in the middle of the field, mainly because Thailand’s growth has been curbed by the 2011 floods and a comparably  saturated investment environment. The Philippines, on the other hand, suffers from infrastructure issues and a lot of red tape for investors.

Malaysia, Singapore and Cambodia are, at the moment, seemingly not the first choice for our poll respondents, being outpaced by the growth prospects of the top three. And Brunei obviously needs to market itself better for investors, as many do not see a point to go there despite the country’s wealth and ongoing economic diversification measures. At the end of the list comes Laos, a country that still has to define its economic position in the world.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Muslims spent $126 bil during their travels in 2011

The rise of the affluent Muslim traveller

Muslims are predicted to make up almost one in three of the world's population by 2025, and increasing numbers of well-heeled, well-educated Muslims are already seeking out goods and services that meet their needs - not only at home, but also when they travel.
An early morning call from Malaysia. It's an old friend enquiring about London's best halal hotel.

Enthused by the coverage of Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, the London Olympics and Mo Farah's double gold wins, he has decided to visit London with his family as soon as Ramadan finishes this month.

He would like to stay in a Muslim-friendly hotel, do I have any suggestions?
I ask a few friends and search some Muslim websites - only to draw a blank. The closest London can offer is a vegetarian-friendly hotel. But it's not just the assurance of halal food that my friend is hoping for.

He'd like to go somewhere which is considerate of his family's other needs as Muslims, such as guidance on finding the direction of Mecca inside the hotel room for prayer times, alcohol-free dining areas, perhaps separate spa facilities for men and women.

My friend is part of a growing worldwide trend. Global urban Muslims, highly educated, well-travelled, often with families spread across different continents, they are increasingly seeking out goods and services that respect and reflect their needs as Muslims.

And this is no narrow niche - the worldwide Muslim population of around 1.8 billion is growing rapidly and is predicted to reach 30% of the global population by 2025.

Urban Muslims like my friend are increasingly flexing their consumer muscles and travel is just one sector where their money is beginning to count.

A recent study conducted by Dinar Standard, a US-based consultancy that tracks the Muslim lifestyle market, found that Muslims spent about 102bn euros (£85bn, $126bn) during their travels last year. 

In 2020 the corresponding figure is reckoned to reach 156bn euros (£122bn, $192bn).
The favourite destinations have been predominantly Islamic countries, such as Egypt, Malaysia, and Turkey. But now non-Islamic countries such as Australia are also waking up to this group of tourists.

Fazal Bahardeen, founder and CEO of Crescentrating, a Singapore-based organisation which ranks hotels and airports for their Muslim-friendly facilities, points out that Muslim travellers tend to travel in larger family groups, stay longer and spend more.
No business can afford to ignore them.

With 60% of its population Muslim, Malaysia has taken a global lead in promoting halal goods and services.

When I visited Kuala Lumpur in April for its annual world halal week I was astonished to see the range of non-food items being showcased: from glamorously packaged French perfume and fashion through to halal paintbrushes and chinaware. 

But one of the biggest revelations was to visit a holiday resort in the seaside town of Port Dickson which is crescent-rated five, indicating that it offers a really Muslim-friendly holiday experience.

The Balinese-style luxury villas in the hotel complex reach out on stilts over the turquoise waters. Overlooking the Malacca Straits, with palm trees and golden sands all around, it's a picture postcard paradise.

Each villa has an arrow on the ceiling indicating the direction of Mecca, and Korans are readily available. The hotel restaurant is not only halal, it does not serve alcohol either.
The deluxe villas come with their own private indoor pool so Muslim women don't have to use the public pool.

There are prayer rooms on site as well as lots of wholesome family-friendly activities - and no adult movies on the in-room entertainment.

The resort offers special Ramadan packages, with the pre-dawn breakfast and a buffet in the evening to end each day's fasting.

Not surprisingly the hotel is attracting Muslim holidaymakers from all over the world.
Britain could do a lot better. East London is home to the Olympic Stadium, and other icons of the amazing games we have just witnessed.

Its surrounding five local authorities are also home for almost half of Britain's 2.1 million Muslims. With all this next to Europe's largest shopping mall, there are great opportunities to develop the area as a perfect destination for a Muslim-friendly holiday.
Just for starters, how about the Mo Farah London Bus Tour?

Monday, August 20, 2012

Girls outnumber boys at Pakistan's universities

Girls outnumber boys at university

Unique trend in male-dominated society hardly being noticed

  • Image Credit: AP
  • Students make their way home after college in Rawalpindi. Women’s numbers in universities is increasing rapidly.
Karachi: In this male dominant society of 180 million people, women constitute more than 50 per cent of the population but hardly make any sizeable part in the literate work force.
Pakistan has for decades grossly under invested in education, and in particular girls’ education. But in the past several years girl students have grossly outnumbered male students at Karachi University, one of the largest state-run university in Pakistan, named after its largest city and the financial capital.
Of up to 26,000 students currently enrolled at the campus over 70 per cent are females, in both the social and natural science faculties.
In a number of faculties the women make even 90 percent of the total class strength in this conservative society where the women are preferred to stay at home partially because of religious reason and mainly patriarchal traditions.

The unique trend is swiftly taking over this conservative and male dominant society without being noticed.
“For about past five years female enrolment at the Karachi varsity has tremendously risen,” said Professor Abid Hasnain, a former president of Karachi University Teachers Society.
The surprising reversal has no single reason behind it. The senior teachers attribute this to a number of factors. “I believe that in our society families and parents prefer to invest in their sons rather than their daughters, that is why aspirant females come tothe public sector universities, which are cheaper,” said Professor Hasnain.The professor was referring to the fact of the mushrooming growth of private universities in the past decade affiliated to reputed foreign universities and offering the latest but expensive faculties which has international job markets.
“Mostly the girls are from the middle and lower middle class which typically prefer their boys in terms of nurturing,” he said.
Economic and social disparities were also the cause behind the trend which is considered ‘negative’ for some.
“This has been a negative trend because I see serious restructuring of the education structure in the country,” said Professor Tauseef Ahmad Khan.
Outlining the reasons behind the trend, he said that females from the middle and lower middle classes were opting for education in traditional faculties in both the major sciences.
“Women prefer to get higher education with intention of getting married in a good family and finding a good groom,” commented Khan, who is the head of Mass Communication Department at the Federal Urdu University.
But the men from the middle and lower classes were opting for business education, computer sciences or going abroad.
Hasnain validates Khan’s version.
“In pure science subjects like chemistry, microbiology, petroleum sciences, females constitute even 95 per cent,” he said.
Pakistan has for decades grossly underinvested in education, and in particular, girls’ education. Education spending is mired at roughly one per cent of its gross domestic produce, and in this environment of resource constraints, girls tend to be short-changed. Overall literacy is only 44 per cent while adult female literacy is less than 30 per cent.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange

When Julian Assange arrived in Sweden in August 2010 he was greeted like a conquering hero. But within weeks there was a warrant out for his arrest and he was being investigated for rape and sexual molestation. Today he is taking sanctuary in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, arguing he won't receive justice if he's taken to Sweden and that US authorities are building a case for his extradition.

Next, Four Corners reporter Andrew Fowler examines in detail what happened in those crucial weeks while Julian Assange was in Sweden. What was the nature of his relationship with the two women who claim he assaulted them? And what did they tell police that led the authorities to seek his arrest?

"I will not tell any media how I am going to represent the women in court." Lawyer for Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilén

Both Assange and his supporters believe the attempt by authorities to force his return to Sweden is simply the first step in a plan to see him extradited to the United States.
"Sweden has frankly always been the United States' lapdog and it's not a matter we're particularly proud of." Assange supporter

"The US has nothing to do with the issue here, it's simply a matter between the UK and Sweden." Jeffrey L. Bleich, US Ambassador to Australia

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange
Reporter Andrew Fowler goes to Sweden for a revealing look at the allegations of sexual crimes hanging over Julian Assange's head

Four Corners looks at claims the United States is working hard to unearth evidence that would lead to a charge of "conspiracy to commit espionage" being made against Assange - which in turn would be used in his extradition from Sweden. The program also documents the harassment experienced by Assange's supporters across the globe - including his Australian lawyer - and the FBI's attempts to convince some to give evidence against him.
"Sex, Lies and Julian Assange", reported by Andrew Fowler and presented by Kerry O'Brien, goes to air on Monday 23rd July at 8.30pm on ABC1. It is replayed on Tuesday 24th July at 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 at 8.00pm Saturday, ABC iview and at 4 Corners.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cities of the Future: Made in China

From traffic-jumping buses to electric taxis, China is at the forefront of the world's flashiest urban innovations.


For much of the 20th century, the world looked to American cities for a glimpse of the future. Places like New York and Chicago had the tallest skyscrapers, the newest airports, the fastest highways, and the best electricity grids.

But now, just 12 years into the Asian Century, the city of the future has picked up and moved to China. No less than U.S. Vice President Joe Biden recognized this when he said not long ago, "If I blindfolded Americans and took them into some of the airports or ports in China and then took them to one in any one of your cities, in the middle of the night … and then said, 'Which one is an American? Which one is in your city in America? And which one's in China?' most Americans would say, 'Well, that great one is in America.' It's not." The speech raised eyebrows among conservative commentators, but it points out the obvious to anyone who has spent time in Beijing, Hong Kong, or Shanghai (or even lesser-known cities like Shenzhen and Dalian, for that matter).

In these cities, visitors arrive at glittering, architecturally arresting airports before being whisked by electric taxis into city centers populated by modular green skyscrapers. In the not-so-distant future, they'll hop on traffic-straddling buses powered by safe, clean solar panels. With China now spending some $500 billion annually on infrastructure -- 9 percent of its GDP, well above the rates in the United States and Europe -- and with the country's population undergoing the largest rural-to-urban migration in human history, the decisions it makes about its cities will affect the future of urban areas everywhere. Want to know where urban technology is going? Take the vice president's advice and head east.

Modular skyscrapers

If the speed of China's rise has been astonishing, it's about to get even faster. A Chinese construction firm has pioneered a modular construction technique that allows it to build energy-efficient skyscrapers in a matter of weeks, dramatically reducing construction costs and waste. This year, Broad Group will put that approach to the ultimate test when it builds a 220-story skyscraper -- to be the world's tallest -- in a mere 90 days in Changsha, in southeast China. (The world's current tallest building, the more than 160-story Burj Khalifa in Dubai, took six years to complete.)
Although the feat might sound far-fetched, Broad has proved itself capable in a series of trial runs. This past December, it completed a 30-story hotel near its headquarters in Changsha in just 15 days. The approach utilizes prefabrication -- 93 percent of the work on the hotel took place in a factory -- resulting in 1 percent of the waste of a normal building project. Also, by assembling large portions of the building beforehand, engineers can seamlessly integrate green features into the structure, such as thermal insulation and electricity-generating elevators. Already, Broad says it has franchised its methods to six Chinese companies and is in talks with two companies abroad.

A traffic-jumping bus

 The Chinese bought 14.5 million cars in 2011 -- a figure that could increase to 50 million annually within a decade -- leading to massive congestion on China's roads. (A recent jam outside Beijing lasted 11 days.) Given these traffic woes, it's a wonder someone didn't think of the 3D Express Coach sooner. The premise is simple: If you can't go through gridlock, why not slide over it?

Known as the "straddling bus," the arch-shaped vehicle operates like a game of croquet, but one in which the wickets move over the balls. Developed by Shenzhen Huashi Future Parking Equipment, the bus can carry up to 1,200 passengers in a carriage straddling a two-lane street, allowing traffic below to flow freely (or not, if it's rush hour). The company claims the vehicle will reduce traffic jams by up to 30 percent, and because it doesn't require a tunnel or elevated track, it's 90 percent cheaper to build than a subway or monorail. The bus saves more money by generating electricity through solar panels mounted on its roof and at stops.

 Electric taxis
Hoping to become the global leader in electric vehicles, the Chinese government wants 500,000 electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles on China's roads by 2015, and more than 5 million by 2020. It is already backing these aspirations with a range of subsidies, including up to $8,800 for every electric vehicle purchased by taxi companies and local governments.

As a result, China has more electric taxis in operation than anywhere in the world and is likely to extend its lead. On Beijing's outskirts, electric Fotons ferry passengers to and from the Great Wall. In the southern city of Shenzhen, which has the world's largest fleet of zero-carbon taxis and buses, cabbies drive hundreds of e6s, electric cars manufactured by Warren Buffett-backed automaker BYD. Shenzhen's government wants 24,000 electric vehicles on the city's roads and 12,750 charging stations by the end of this year. But those plans might have to be put on hold following a fatal crash involving an electric taxi in May -- the battery may have been at fault -- though safety worries in China rarely get in the way of ambitious government projects.

 Safer, cleaner nuclear energy
Frustrated by electricity shortages in many of its cities, China is racing to develop nuclear technology fueled by thorium, which some energy experts predict will revolutionize an industry racked by safety concerns following Japan's Fukushima meltdown in 2011.

Compared with the global standard of uranium, thorium is more abundant in nature, doesn't cause meltdowns, and produces less radioactive waste, making it a more attractive option for filling China's electricity deficit (though detractors warn that it is untested on a commercial scale and still has significant safety and waste problems).

Ironically, the United States pioneered thorium research during the Cold War before abandoning it in the early 1970s because of its limited use in making weapons. China (along with France, India, and Norway) has now picked up that early research and aims to become a global leader in thorium innovation. China is building 40 percent of the world's new nuclear plants, and if it masters thorium -- work on the country's first prototype plant is scheduled to be completed as soon as five years from now -- the technology is sure to play a major role in the government's plans to increase its nuclear power supply by 20 times over the next two decades and lessen its dependence on coal.

 Bullet trains
With the world's longest network of tracks and some of its most advanced trains, China's high-speed rail system effortlessly evokes the future. But the country's latest innovation takes unlikely inspiration from the past. Shaped like an ancient Chinese sword, China's newest bullet train slices through the air at a maximum speed of 311 miles per hour, capable of traveling from Beijing to Shanghai in less than three hours and four-and-a-half times faster than the average speed of trains plying Amtrak's busy Boston-Washington Acela route (where speeds are limited by conventional train traffic).

In the future, trains like this might also be able to dart from city to city without even having to stop for passengers. Designer Chen Jianjun has dreamed up a system of pods that slide on and off the tops of trains in transit, loading and unloading passengers at high speed without the train actually stopping, which currently adds two-and-a-half hours to the journey from Beijing to Guangzhou. And with China's rail industry continuing to push the speed envelope -- researchers at Southwest Jiaotong University are working on a maglev-style train that shoots passengers through tubes at more than 600 miles per hour -- innovations like these might just make air travel a thing of the past.


The world's newest airports
Nowhere is China's ability to rapidly and efficiently build infrastructure more apparent than in civil aviation. From 2005 to 2010 alone, the Middle Kingdom built 33 airports and renovated or expanded an additional 33, at a cost of nearly $40 billion. This dizzying pace is set to continue over the next three years, when China will build another 70, including a mega-airport in Beijing -- the city's third -- that will have as much as double the annual passenger capacity of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson, currently the world's busiest.

All this has transformed intercity travel in China, effectively shrinking a country that until recently relied heavily on trains and buses. Airlines are rapidly expanding their domestic networks (though traveler demand has not always kept pace with supply, as evidenced by the $57 million airport built five years ago in Guizhou province, which saw just 151 paying passengers in all of 2009).

China's airports also feature the latest industry advancements, including green technology, automated immigration lines, and cutting-edge explosives detectors. Passengers have taken note: China has two airports on Skytrax's influential World's Best Airports 2012 list -- more than any other country.


Solar power -- by the gigawatt
In 2010, China surpassed the United States to become the world's largest energy consumer. To meet its seemingly limitless electicity needs, China is turning to its solar industry, which already leads the world in panel production, and gearing up to produce gigantic solar plants.

A solar farm capable of generating 1 gigawatt of power is planned in Datong, a city in Shanxi province known for its coal reserves, while in Inner Mongolia a Chinese firm and an American company have teamed up to build a solar plant capable of cranking out 2 gigawatts, making it the world's largest, with double the capacity of most active U.S. nuclear reactors. Hong Kong-based China Merchants Group, meanwhile, is building a 500-megawatt solar farm with panels mounted solely on roofs, rather than on the ground, the industry standard. The company will use 32 million square feet of roof space, alleviating concerns about the environmental impact of land-gobbling conventional solar farms.

Reinventing garbage
As China's major cities swell in size, their residents are creating mountains of waste that ring urban areas, with Beijing alone generating 18,000 tons of garbage every day, enough to fill 29 Rose Bowls each year. In response, Chinese companies are developing cutting-edge recycling technology that could soon render landfills and incinerators obsolete -- or at least much less common.

Goldenway Bio-Tech in Beijing has developed a system that can transform up to 400 tons of food waste per day into fertilizer. The odorless process uses a specially manufactured enzyme that breaks down waste in just 10 hours, resulting in a brown powder Goldenway says is ideal for growing organic crops. The company operates 10 such plants throughout China, though it encountered resistance from residents worried about health problems and foul smells when it unveiled plans for a facility in Beijing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Yangon property market lures developers

Artist’s impression of the Star City project outside centre Yangon

The shortage of property in Myanmar’s capital Yangon and the rising price trends for newly built residential and commercial real estate are prompting more and more foreign property developers to set foot in the country.

For example, Serge Pun & Associates, a Hong Kong-based property developer, has recently opened a local branch in Yangon in a joint venture with Thanlyin Estate Development and is constructing a 20-block high-end apartment and condominium complex on farmland about 10 kilometers outside of downtown Yangon.

The 160-acre project, called Star City, is being watched with intrigue by local authorities and recently moved-in multinationals in hopes that it will set a benchmark for the real estate market, which has been largely dormant for 15 years.

Other developers with projects in Myanmar are so far mainly from Singapore and South Korea.

Despite the fact that foreigners in Myanmar cannot own homes or land, recently lifted sanctions and subsequent investor attention has already led to local analysts forecasting dramatic rises in prices due to increased demand. According to the Yangon City Development Committee, the population of Yangon city was 6.12 million in 2011, 1.15 million more than the 2010 figure.

Yangon lacks the market depth required to supply incoming foreign companies looking to base employees in the commercial hub of the country. As of 2011, Yangon’s total office space amounted to 60,000 square meters, according to a report by real estate group Colliers International.

Hotel space in Yangon is also experiencing a rise in demand, which increased dramatically over the past two years, Tony Picon, associate director at the Colliers office in Thailand, told The New York Times.

In 2010, an upper-end hotel room in Yangon cost no more than 43,750 Myanmar kyat per night, or around $50, but now it costs three times that, Picon said.

Star City, a project in which Singapore-based Yoma Strategic Holdings has financed 70 per cent of the land costs, is on track with following a similar trend previously experienced in Vietnam, analysts believe. The emergent real estate sector is thus likely to continue to receive support from expansive Asian developers.

Demand for the six existing serviced apartments already in operation in Yangon is predictably high, where monthly rent for a studio goes for about $2,500, nearly double the rate a year ago.

House and apartment prices have also skyrocketed over the past year, with increases for prime property of about 20 per cent. An underlying reason for this was the auctions of government properties starting in March 2011, through which hundreds of properties have been privatised. Sales prices per square foot soared to more than $360 even at secondary locations, the Myanmar Times reported. In comparison, the current average price per square foot on the Los Angeles property market is $281.

These shockingly high prices have stunned both residents and expatriates and left developers mulling over cost-cutting schemes.
Moving development to the city’s peripheries, namely across the Yangon and Bago Rivers, has resounded as a viable option, but faces infrastructural dilemmas due to a lack of bridges and poor road conditions.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ghana's illusory pot of gold

Fool's Gold
Lifting the lid on Ghana's illusory pot of gold and exposing those duping gold speculators out of millions of dollars.

Gold is back. With global investments delivering little returns, the eyes of many investors have turned to the old favourite. But the new gold rush has come with a big rise in scams and confidence tricks. They now represent a major threat for companies and individuals and many of them take place in Africa.

Ghana is the second-largest producer of gold on the continent and is now home to a large network of gold fraudsters. Investors have lost millions at their hands.

Friday, August 10, 2012

200 Filipinos embrace Islam in Dubai

DUBAI Over 200 Filipinos have embraced Islam since Ramadan began in July, XPRESS has learnt.
“This is only our rough estimate and we really don’t want to parade or make a big deal out of these numbers,” said Wafa Kasimieh, a Filipina senior advisor to Dubai’s Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD). “Kabayans are walking in every day to embrace Islam at various Islamic centres across Dubai, so it’s hard to keep track.”

Kasimieh was speaking at an iftar on Wednesday night attended by over 100 new Filipino Muslims in Dubai. The iftar was organised by IACAD and graced by Philippine Consul General to Dubai Benito Valeriano and Labour Attache Delmer Cruz.

One of the recent converts in Dubai is Malak Arias, 37, who left Catholicism and changed her name Christina to Malak. “I used to visit Islamic centres in Abu Dhabi, Karama and Deira to attend classes. It took me five years to come to a decision that I needed to go back to the religion of my forefathers,” said the civil engineer from Paranaque. “Many of our heroes like Lapu-Lapu, the ruler of Mactan, and Rajah Sulaiman, the ruler of Manila when the Spanish colonisers came, were Muslims.”

But more than her country’s history, what guided her decision was personal. “In the past, whenever I had problems,” said Malak, “I would simply cry non-stop. The emotional turmoil within me was just too heavy. The only relative I have here is my brother, who is usually away due to his work. Now, I have found a big family among the Muslim sisters here. I’m still a baby in my new faith, but I understand enough to guide me to this decision,” said Malak, who earned her civil engineering degree from the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP).

Josephine Lazona, 32, chose Aisha as her Muslim name when she embraced Islam on July 20, the first day of Ramadan this year. Aisha grew up a Catholic in Sultan Kudarat. The former teacher moved to Dubai in 2008 to work as an administrative assistant in Jebel Ali. “In February, I enrolled in a free Arabic class. All this time, I’ve been searching for answers to difficult questions about my faith,” she said. “As I progressed with my Arabic, my mind was opened. I’ve been seeking answers for years and asked God for a sign, which I got on the night of July 19th when I thought of cooking my favourite pork ‘adobo’ (a popular Filipino dish). Suddenly, I had an unexplained aversion to it. Even the thought of cooking pork adobo made me feel like throwing up.”

The next day, she told her Arabic teacher about her desire to become a Muslim. “My teacher, Sister Ana, was shocked. She never talked to me about converting to Islam. I came to this decision on my own.”

A former born-again Christian, Noriel Magtanong, 36, from Bicol, chose Nuh (Arabic for Noah) as his new Muslim name. “I used to join Christian services, yet I remained an alcoholic. Meanwhile, I’ve been observing Muslims as they pray. One early morning, I woke up and walked around in Dubai and saw them praying. It was a perfect moment. I wanted to surrender myself to God like they do. I saw their spirit of unity, despite their differences. Now, I’ve kicked alcohol altogether.”

Conversions among Filipinos are common in Dubai. In 2010, a total of 125 women from the Philippines embraced Islam. Ahmad Malagueno, 44, a Dubai aircraft maintenance technician who embraced Islam seven years ago, teaches Arabic at Al Sahhaba Centre in Abu Hail on Fridays.
“Before, I used to hate Muslims — but it turned out it was due to my own ignorance. Today, I see Filipinos here embracing Islam almost every day. On July 27, I saw 25 people embracing Islam after a symposium conducted by Filipino Islamic preacher. Only Allah knows the actual numbers today.”

Monday, August 06, 2012

Remembering Tun Dr Ismail

MONDAY, AUGUST 06, 2012 - 16:46

 years ago, deputy prime minister and minister of trade and industry Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman passed away. 

He was 58.

He had a massive heart attack at home.

At the time, prime minister Tun Abdul Razak was attending Commonweath Head of Government Meetings in Ottawa, Canada. It came to a shock to the nation, still fragile from the bloody racial riots four years ago.

Abdul Razak flew back immediately on a special plane provided by the Canadian government to Copenhagen and took commercial there on.

Dr Ismail was an important personality when Parliament was suspended and the National Operations Council (NOC) was formed to manage the country. Order was quickly restored and bit by bit, Dr Ismail was one of those who painstakingly detailed the new elements in Malaysia post May 13.

One of his pivot contribution during the NOC days is to restore public confidence to the federal government.
Tun Dr Ismail: Had an illustrious career as the home minister and introduced the Internal Security Act in 1960
According to former president Tun Mohd Suffian “It was during the agonising days that his outstanding qualities came to the fore. Perhaps it can be said that more than anybody else the Tun (Dr Ismail) contributed substantially to the restoration of public confidence in the government’s determination to restore law and order after the May 13 incidents.”

Tunku Abdul Rahman’s team on the London mission to negotiate for Independence in 1956.

He was a towering Johor Malay. In the days of Umno’s infancy and upon the summary resignation of Datuk Onn Jaafar as Umno president in 1951, then newly appointed president Tunku Abdul Rahman requested his involvement into mainstream politics, to maintain strength from Johor. 

After Tunku Abdul Rahman won the mandate of Malayans in the 1955, Dr Ismail was part of the London mission to negotiate Malaya’s independence in 1956.

Tunku Abdul Rahman appointed Dr Ismail as Malaya’s Ambassador to United States of America upon the independence of the Federation of Malaya.

He also represented Malaya in the United Nations. In the first general election in 1959, Dr Ismail contested as Alliance Party candidate for East Johor Baru and appointed as home minister.

He retired in 1967 for health reasons.

He had an illustrious career as the home minister and introduced the Internal Security Act in 1960 as a tool for internal security upon the end of Emergency, which include to deal with subversive elements and communist terrorism. 

Among the major challenge that he managed was the confrontation with Indonesia, upon the formation of Federation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.

The chaos as the outcome of the third general election in May 1969 got Abdul Razak to invite the firm and no-nonsense Dr Ismail back into the Cabinet. He was asked to take up the fForeign Affairs portfolio.

The Melbourne trained doctor was also instrumental in Abdul Razak’s administration to deal with the root of the problem how and why May 13 happened. 

One of the factors was the Malays’ economic position was so behind and more than 36 per cent were living below the poverty line.

Dr Ismail’s stern response to this problem was to deal with it and “don’t sweep things under the carpet”.

When the national consultative committee that were represented by all parties (with the exception of DAP, which vehemently refused), the New Economic Policy (NEP) was born.

Whilst still in Ottawa, Abbul Razak instructed that Dr Ismail’s remains be interned at the National Mausoleum in Masjid Negara.

He was the first statesman to be interned in the purposed-built mausoleum for nation’s greatest statesman.

Dr Ismail was survived by Toh Puan Norasyikin Mohd Seth and six children.

His first born Mohd Tawfik later was elected as Benut MP during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s tenure.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Ramadan all over the world

A Palestinian reads from the Koran during the dawn prayer on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in the West Bank city of Jenin on July 20. Muslims from Morocco to Afghanistan are steeling themselves for the toughest Ramadan in more than three decades with no food or drink, not even a sip of water, for 14 hours a day during the hottest time of the year. (Mohammed Ballas/Associated Press)

Muslims attend a mass prayer session "Tarawih" marking the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in a mosque in Makassar of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province on July 20. The Indonesian government set Ramadan to fall on July 21. (Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters) #

Kashmiri Muslims offer prayers next to parked cars on a road outside a mosque on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in Srinagar on July 21. (Danish Ismail/Reuters) #

A Kashmiri Muslim woman prays at the Shah-i-Hamdaan shrine during Ramadan in Srinagar on July 23. Islam's holy month of Ramadan is calculated on the sighting of the new moon and Muslims all over the world are supposed to fast from dawn to dusk during the month. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images) #

An Indian Muslim child runs at the Jama Masjid on the first night of Ramadan in New Delhi, India on July 21. (Tsering Topgyal/Associated Press) #

Pilgrims circle the Kaaba inside the Grand Mosque during the Muslim month of Ramadan in the holy city of Mecca on July 23. (Hassan Ali/Reuters) #

A Palestinian man reads the Koran outside a mosque in the West Bank city of Jenin on the first day of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on July 20. (Saif Dahlah/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man looks into a mirror as he tries on a cap before he buys in a market preparing the holy month of Ramadan in Jakarta on July 19. (Enny Nuraheni/Reuters) #

People prepare food to sell for iftar (breaking fast) at Chakbazaar during the holy month of Ramadan in Dhaka on July 21. (Andrew Biraj/Reuters) #

Pakistani truck drivers chant a prayer before breaking their fast on the third day of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Lahore, Pakistan on July 23. (K.M. Chaudary/Associated Press) #

Muslims attend a mass prayer session "Tarawih" marking the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan in a mosque in Makassar of Indonesia's South Sulawesi province on July 20. (Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters) #

A Palestinian buys a photograph of the Dome of the Rock at a market in the West Bank city of Nablus on July 19. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Associated Press) #

Students recite the Holy Koran during Madrasa class at Al-Nour Islamic school in the historic center of Stone Town in the Indian Ocean Island of Zanzibar on July 21. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters) #

Muslims attend Friday prayers on a rainy first day of Ramadan in the courtyard of a housing estate next to the small BBC community center and mosque (right) in east London on July 20. (Chris Helgren/Reuters) #

Iranian women pray at the shrine of Saint Qassem on the first day of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in northern Tehran, Iran, on July 21. Over a billion Muslims around the world have begun observing the holy month of Ramadan, expected to abstain during daylight hours from food, drink and smoking to focus on spirituality. Ramadan starts with the sighting of the new moon, but it varies because Muslim countries and groups use different ways of calculating when the new moon crescent is sighted. (Vahid Salemi/Associated Press) #

Kashmiri Muslim children pray at a Muslim religious school during the holy month of Ramadan in Srinagar, India, on July 24. (Mukhtar Khan/Associated Press)#

Afghan girls read the Koran during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at a mosque in the city of Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on July 22. (Rahmat Gul/Associated Press) #

A Palestinian inmate is reflected in a mirror in a Hamas-run jail in Gaza City as he prays during the holy month of Ramadan on July 23. (Mohammed Salem/Reuters) #

A Muslim woman offers prayers after having Iftar (fast-breaking) meal during the holy month of Ramadan at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) in the old quarters of Delhi, India on July 21. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

An Indian worker dries Seviiyan, thin vermicelli, which is used for the preparation of sheerkhorma, a traditional sweet dish prepared by the Muslim community during the month of Ramadan at a food factory in Hyderabad on July 24. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images) #

A man prepares cookies to be eaten when breaking fast during the holy month of Ramadan in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 23. (Mohammad Ismail/Reuters) #

A Muslim woman offers prayers after having Iftar (fast-breaking) meal during the holy month of Ramadan at the Jama Masjid (Grand Mosque) in the old quarters of Delhi, India on July 21. (Ahmad Masood/Reuters) #

Thai Muslim women pray in a mosque in the southern province of Pattani, Thailand on July 23. (Surapan Boonthanom/Reuters) #

A Yemeni man reads verses of the Koran, Islam's holy book, on the third day of the fasting month of Ramadan in the grand Mosque in the old city of Sanaa on July 22. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images) #

Indian Muslims offer prayers prior to breaking their fast on the first day of the month of Ramadan at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad on July 21. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images) #

Pakistani volunteers give food to people gathered at a local mosque to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan in Islamabad, Pakistan, on July 24. (B.K. Bangash/Associated Press) #

Indian Muslims break fast on the first day of the month of Ramadan at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad on July 21. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images) #

Kashmiri Muslims pray at the Shah-i-Hamdaan shrine during Ramadan in Srinagar on July 23. (Tauseef Mustafa/AFP/Getty Images) #

Indonesian Muslim men sleep as they wait for the time to break their fast at Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 23. (Tatan Syuflana/Associated Press) #

Taken with a time lapse exposure, a Indian Muslim man stands in front of the Jama Masjid as he and other worshippers leave following the breaking of the fast and prayers on the first night of Ramadan in New Delhi, India on July 21. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

A Palestinian boy plays with fireworks as he celebrates the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Gaza City on July 20. (Hatem Moussa/Associated Press) #

Indonesians line up to receive free porridge provided by a mosque to break their fast during the first day of the holy month of Ramadan in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia on July 21. (Associated Press) #

Egyptian Sheikh Hassan Saeed al-Sakandarany (right) teaches worshippers how to recite from the Koran at the Amr Ibn Al-As mosque in Cairo, Egypt, during the first day of Ramadan on July 20. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press) #

A Kashmiri Muslim prays on a busy street on the first day of Ramadan in Srinagar, India on July 21. (Mukhtar Khan/Associated Press) #

Pakistani workers chant after attending the daily Asr prayer, the afternoon prayer, on a street median a day before the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan on July 20. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press) #

Indian Muslim children pray after breaking their fast on the first night of Ramadan in New Delhi, India on July 21. Muslims throughout the world are marking the month of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar. (Kevin Frayer/Associated Press) #

An Indonesian man reads the Koran as he waits for the time to break his fast during the first day of Ramadan at a mosque in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia on July 21. (Binsar Bakkara/Associated Press) #

Iranian women look at copies of Islam's holy book, the Koran, during a Koran exhibition, at the Imam Khomeini grand mosque, a day prior to Muslims holy fasting month of Ramadan in Tehran on July 20. (Vahid Salemi/Associated Press) #

A young Indian Muslim girl dances at the Jama Masjid on the first night of Ramadan in New Delhi on July 21. (Tsering Topgyal/Associated Press) #

A Pakistani boy prays next to plates of fruits donated to worshippers to break their fast, on the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in a mosque in Karachi on July 21. (Shakil Adil/Associated Press) #

Kashmiri Muslim children recite verses from the Koran at a Muslim religious school, during Ramadan in Srinagar, India on July 24. Muslims across the world are observing the holy fasting month of Ramadan, where they refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn to dusk. (Mukhtar Khan/Associated Press) #