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Author: savemalaysia   |   Latest post: Wed, 18 May 2022, 5:27 PM


Report: Umno division told to snub Tengku Zafrul amid alleged bid for Kuala Selangor

Author: savemalaysia   |  Publish date: Wed, 18 May 2022, 5:27 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — An Umno division in Selangor has allegedly called on its members to boycott programmes involving finance minister Datuk Seri Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz, amid talks that he is eyeing the Kuala Selangor parliamentary seat in the next general election.

Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported that Kuala Selangor Umno division chief Datuk Jahaya Ibrahim issued a directive to members through WhatsApp following complaints lodged by branch leaders.

Jahaya claimed a movement led by outsiders was shoring up support for Tengku Zafrul among members of the constituency, which could lead to disunity.

He said the movement was pushing for Tengku Zafrul to stand as an Umno candidate.

“But is he an Umno man that he wants to contest under an Umno ticket? We’re not sure if he is a party man.

“He was appointed by Muhyiddin as finance minister, not by Umno,” he told FMT, referring to the former prime minister and Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin

Umno had last year retracted support for Muhyiddin as prime minister, forcing him to step down from the post. Umno has also since said it would not work with Bersatu.

Jahaya also expressed concern that Tengku Zafrul could defect to Bersatu should he win on an Umno ticket.

Tengku Zafrul has uploaded several pictures of programmes he attended in Kuala Selangor, including watching the FA Cup final in Puncak Alam.

He was also spotted alongside Entrepreneurial Development and Cooperatives Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar at a dinner with Chinese and Indian NGOs in Kuala Selangor.

In January, he was reported as saying that he did not have time to think whether he wanted to contest in the next election, following speculation linking him to the Lembah Pantai and Kuala Pilah parliamentary seats.



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Indo-M'sia ties important, govt must explain Tajuddin's appointment, say academicians

Author: savemalaysia   |  Publish date: Wed, 18 May 2022, 5:27 PM

PETALING JAYA: There must be a public explanation over Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman's latest appointment as ambassador to Indonesia because diplomatic relations between Malaysia and the republic are one of the most important bilateral ties in the region.

Azmi Hassan, a senior fellow at Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research (NASR), said there's nothing surprising about political appointees being ambassadors, as there were multiple occasions in the past where politicians were appointed to the position.

"But, to pick Tajuddin as an ambassador for Malaysia? That's a surprise, because Indonesia is an important partner to us and the ambassador must really comprehend Indonesia-Malaysia relations," Azmi said.

Azmi recounted the incident on May 26 last year, where Tajuddin was terminated as the Prasarana Malaysia Bhd chairman after a disastrous press conference he gave on the LRT crash at the Kelana Jaya line.

"Tajuddin couldn't even make a coherent statement as the Prasarana chairman, especially on issues relating to the trains colliding.

"As the ambassador to Indonesia, you must be on top of your form, and you must be very sensitive to our relationship with Jakarta.

"In this case, it is shocking and a lot of explanation needs to be done," said Azmi.

During the press conference, Tajuddin was also fined for breaching Covid-19 protocols after he appeared wearing a face-shield without a mask.

Meanwhile, Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, also said Tajuddin wasn't the first politician appointed as an ambassador.

"I recall Tun Musa Hitam being appointed as the permanent representative (ambassador) to the United Nations and the late Tan Sri Jamaluddin Mohd Jarjis as ambassador to the US.

"By all accounts, they were both more than well-qualified and did good jobs in representing the country on the world stage," said Oh.

Oh also cited Tajuddin's disastrous press conference on May 26 last year, and noted that the Pasir Salak MP could be appointed as the ambassador to Indonesia due to his contributions to Umno.

But, Oh wasn't optimistic about Tajuddin's appointment.

"It could only be earnestly prayed that important bilateral relations would not be overly jeopardised during his term," Oh said.

There have been multiple criticisms over Tajuddin's appointment and the Pasir Salak MP said he will soon respond to his detractors.

"I will... but wait for the right time" he said in a brief text to The Star on Wednesday (May 18).

Tajuddin will be replacing former senior diplomat Zainal Abidin Bakar, who had served as ambassador to Indonesia who had served since 2018.

On Nov 9 last year, Tajuddin was spotted accompanying Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on an official trip to Indonesia, fuelling speculation that he would be appointed to the position.



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Indonesia agrees to Tajuddin's appointment, says PM

Author: savemalaysia   |  Publish date: Wed, 18 May 2022, 5:27 PM

PUTRAJAYA: Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman's appointment as ambassador to Indonesia has been agreed upon by both Malaysia and the republic, says the Prime Minister.

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the Pasir Salak MP had received a letter from the Indonesian president.

"We (the government) have agreed to the appointment and Indonesia has also agreed to the appointment," he said on Wednesday (May 18).

Asked about criticisms over Tajuddin's appointment, Ismail Sabri said it was impossible to please everyone.

"Whoever is appointed, there are bound to be those who will not be happy or satisfied.

"But Tajuddin is a seasoned politician and has vast experience.

"Let us wait and see him carrying out his duty as ambassador," he said.

Tajuddin is expected to report for duty later this month.

He will be replacing senior diplomat Datuk Zainal Abidin Bakar who had served as the Malaysian ambassador to Indonesia since 2018.

On Nov 9 last year, Tajuddin was spotted accompanying Ismail Sabri on an official trip to Indonesia, fuelling speculation that he would be appointed to the position.

News of his appointment, however, drew criticism from the Opposition.



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Ringgit weakness, ‘unique’ inflation, RGM laments as it deciphers rising consumer prices

Author: savemalaysia   |  Publish date: Wed, 18 May 2022, 5:27 PM

PETALING JAYA (May 18): Retail Group Malaysia (RGM) managing director Tan Hai Hsin said on Wednesday (May 18) there is no direct answer on the impact of the ringgit weakening against the US dollar because the current inflation scenario is “unique” at a time when rising consumer prices are due to the increase in raw material, import and transportation costs.

“The problem today is not just happening in Malaysia, but also in Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, [the] United States, Europe, and around the world. How can we stop inflation? 

"At this moment, no country in the world is able to control the rise of inflation. 

“Traditionally, prices went up because of demand, but prices now do not go up because of demand. It is because of the cost increase from raw materials, import and transportation costs. That is very unique,” Tan laments as he fielded reporters’ questions at RGM’s briefing here on the rejuvenation of Malaysia's retail sector post Covid-19 pandemic.

Elaborating on RGM’s view that the current rise in consumer prices is not demand-led, he said RGM, which conducts research on the Malaysian retail sector, does not perceive the current rise in the country’s retail sales as due to revenge spending post pandemic because consumers are returning to their normal spending patterns.

According to him, RGM defines the phrase revenge spending as "buying everything you have not bought in the past". 

“Media has said that it is revenge spending, but we have to define revenge spending, which is buying everything you have not bought in the past. We are not experiencing [the situation] that way, people are back to normal spending. 

“For example, in the food and beverage line, eating has its capacity and you cannot make up for what you have missed previously. 

“And for the retail side, if you have missed [purchasing gifts] for the past two Christmases, will you buy three [gifts] at once?” Tan said.

At the time of writing on Wednesday, the ringgit weakened to 4.3955 against the US dollar as the greenback strengthened in anticipation of US interest rate hikes to fight inflation.

The exchange rate was between 4.3850 and 4.3955 so far on Wednesday. 

Over the last one year, the ringgit was traded at between 4.1070 and 4.3987 against the US dollar.

Last Friday, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) said in a statement in conjunction with the central bank’s announcement on Malaysia’s economic performance for the first quarter of 2022 that for 2022, in an environment of high input costs and improving demand, the country’s headline inflation as measured by the consumer price index is projected to average between 2.2% and 3.2%. 

"Underlying inflation, as measured by core inflation, is also expected to trend higher during the year, averaging between 2% [and] 3%. Several key factors are expected to partly contain upward pressure on prices, namely the existing price control measures and the continued spare capacity in the economy. 

"Nonetheless, the inflation outlook remains subject to commodity price developments, arising mainly from the military conflict in Ukraine and prolonged supply-related disruptions. The outlook is also contingent on domestic policy measures on administered prices,” BNM said.

Globally, major economies such as the UK and the US have reported substantial inflation compared with a year earlier.

CNBC, quoting the UK's Office for National Statistics, reported on Wednesday (May 18) that the UK's inflation soared to a 40-year high of 9% in April 2022 from a year earlier as food and energy prices spiralled.

"The 9% rise in the consumer price index is the highest since records began in their current form in 1989, outstripping the 8.4% annual rise posted in March 1992 and well ahead of the 7% seen in March of this year (2022)," CNBC reported.

On May 11, 2022, it was reported that the US' consumer prices grew 8.3% year-on-year (y-o-y) in April 2022 compared with the 8.5% y-o-y rise in March 2022.

"Consumer prices jumped 8.3% last month (April 2022) from 12 months earlier, the US Department of Labor said on Wednesday (May 11, 2022). That was below the 8.5% y-o-y surge in March [2022], which was the highest rate since 1981," AP reported.

At the RGM press conference on Wednesday (May 18, 2022), Tan said the weaker ringgit against the US dollar has not affected the rate of consumer spending yet.

"Retailers are enjoying better sales. Some retailers even have better sales than before the Covid-19 pandemic [which began in early 2020].

"The trend says it is good now. My only concern is how long will it last?" he said.


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Let’s proactively capitalise on timber demand surge in the US and the UK By Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin

Author: savemalaysia   |  Publish date: Wed, 18 May 2022, 5:26 PM

NEWS that demands for timber products outstrips supply in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) should be music to the ears of Malaysian timber producers.

The sanctions on Russian timber products to the US have undoubtedly led to American importers looking for alternative sources of material, especially for plywood.

Moreover, the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China has left Malaysia and Indonesia as the only timber source options for the world’s largest economy.

As it is, Malaysian plywood mills are unable to meet the supply volume demanded by US importers.

The current market sentiments for Malaysian timber in the US is bright especially for Meranti and Keruing. The demand for Meranti sawn timber has increased by 9% year-on-year while Keruing has increased by 467% year-on-year.

However, shipments from Malaysia are slow, given the shortage of logs from natural forest have left Malaysian sawmills struggling to fulfil the increasing demands and orders.

Another challenge that exporters have to cope with is heavy port congestion that ranges from lack of containers to insufficient vessel space and other logistical constraints.

Nevertheless, transshipments of timber products have been identified as a potential medium-term solution. In this regard, the US-based International Wood Products Association (IWPA) is eager to speak to Malaysian timber industry leaders on the ways and means to address this issue.

As this will entail measures of protecting Malaysia from being targeted by the US domestic timber product association and the US authority on the suspicion of trade circumvention, collaboration is being drawn up between the US compliance officer and Malaysian authorities such as the Malaysian Timber Industry Board (MTIB) and Customs.

Keen to cooperate with UK

Like in the case of the US, Malaysia is prepared to work closely with the UK to address the country’s shortage of timber and timber products by sourcing and value-adding from third countries, especially Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification PEFC-certified timber products.

For the record, the UK is the biggest supporter of the US sanctions on Russian timbers. Such measures have severely affected the timber market for the UK and the European Union (EU).

As the Malaysian timber industry places strong concerns on the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Deforestation proposal, Malaysia is keen to know the UK’s position on this proposal as well as working out a consensus on the definitions of deforestation and forest degradation.

Despite facing significant disruptions to the market, the UK import volume of timber products in 2021 rose by 15% – the largest volume of imports seen since 2008.

As of Jan 1, changes in the UK Customs regulations came into effect as the country is on the verge of leaving the European Union’s (EU) Customs Union and Single Market framework.

As such, the timber industry stands to benefit from many duty-free products and can often avoid the need to claim preferential rates of duty.

While Malaysia benefits from the UK customs regulation update, it also hopes that the UK Government will further streamline the procedures and document handling to ease the current logistical nightmare situation.

How Malaysia fared in 2021?

As a mature timber supplier, the Malaysian timber industry continued to perform well despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic fall-out with exports posting growth of 3.1% to RM22.7 bil in 2021 from RM22.02 bil in the previous year.

Plywood was ranked top in terms of export value which together with wooden furniture, sawn timber and builder joineries as well as carpentry contributed more than half of the total exports, according to the Malaysian Timber Council (MTC).

Recall that demand for Malaysian timber-based products especially furniture grew in early 2020 as many people around the world began working from home, leading to a rise in home construction, repairs and re-modelling.

The year 2021 further saw a surge in demand for Malaysian plywood in the US and Japan whereby in the latter’s case, the liquidation of a top plywood manufacturer led to an increase in demand.

However, it has to be borne in mind that the Malaysian timber industry is not entirely out of the woods as there were still some laggards in terms of rising sea freight charges, availability of containers, manpower shortages, and lack of raw materials.

On its part, MTC has introduced numerous programmes since 2020 to help the timber industry overcome the more pressing challenges by providing incentives, which also include catering to technological advancements that help increase the use of resources efficiently in all aspects apart from defraying sea freight charges.

Above all else, the council has also come out with seven Must-Wins initiatives for 2022 which focus on reviving businesses with several new programmes for oil palm trunk products, product design collaboration with the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), and the establishment of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) guidelines for the timber industry. – May 18, 2022


Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin is Malaysia’s Plantation Industries and Commodities (MPIC) Minister.



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Foreign visa system trial: Envelope containing cash payments to Zahid delivered in-person late at night on a monthly basis for political donation, witness tells court

Author: savemalaysia   |  Publish date: Wed, 18 May 2022, 5:26 PM

SHAH ALAM, May 18 — A brown envelope containing cash payments from Ultra Kirana Sdn Bhd (UKSB) amounting to several hundred thousand in Singapore dollars was delivered in person to Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s residence late at night on a monthly basis for the purpose of political contribution, a key witness told the High Court today.

Former UKSB director Harry Lee Vui Khiun, who is also the prosecution’s 15th witness, testified as such during former home minister Ahmad Zahid’s Foreign Visa System (VLN) corruption trial.

According to the facts of the case, UKSB had entered into several agreements with the Malaysian Government and the Home Ministry for visa facilitation services by operating several One Stop Centres (OSC) in the People’s Republic of China from 2012 onwards.

Lee then described in meticulous detail how the monthly cash payments to Ahmad Zahid were delivered to either the latter’s private residence at Country Heights, Kajang or his official residence at Seri Satria, Putrajaya between 2014 and 2018.

Firstly, Lee said deliveries would only be exclusively done by one person and the money would be delivered inside an envelope without the presence of any visitors before being placed on a table.

“The delivery dates of the money were not set. The delivery would be done at Datuk Seri Zahid’s convenience as we understood that he was a busy man.

“Thus, the delivery can take place on any date of the month as decided by Datuk Seri Zahid.

“The handing over of the money would be done at his residence at night, usually after 10pm, and we would ensure that there were no other visitors at his house before entering,” he said.

After a short conversation with Ahmad Zahid, Lee said he would usually excuse himself and leave the room.

Asked by deputy public prosecutor Datuk Raja Rozela Raja Toran how many times he had personally made the deliveries, Lee estimated he made around 40 deliveries over the span of four years.

As to why the envelopes are left on a table and not given to Ahmad Zahid by hand, Lee said this was the norm practised from day one onwards where he would place the envelope on a table and wait for Ahmad Zahid to enter the room.

Zahid never questioned contribution or asked for it to be returned

In his witness statement, Lee testified that UKSB would never have given Ahmad Zahid any money if the latter had not asked for it.

Earlier, Lee had told the court that cash money in the form of Singapore dollars was delivered to Ahmad Zahid personally on a monthly basis from 2014 to 2018.

On top of the monthly contribution, Lee also revealed that UKSB had from time to time also sponsored Ahmad Zahid’s overseas trips, his wife’s birthday celebration and also Hari Raya celebrations.  

“While it is true that Datuk Seri Zahid did not explicitly ask us to give him money, he never questioned us about the money that we gave and not once did he ever ask us to take back the money,” Lee said.

Asked to explain why such contributions were made in the first place, Lee said it was to his understanding that if he could contribute to Ahmad Zahid’s political fund and maintain a good relationship with the government of the day, UKSB’s existing contract in managing the VLN would be retained.

Lee noted that since there were several up-and-coming competitors who have shown interest in managing the VLN contract, he was hopeful that the government would maintain the status quo of the existing contractual agreement with UKSB.

“Even though the fund payments were said to be political contributions, UKSB never made any payments into Umno’s account nor were we issued receipts or any acknowledgement for the payments.

“I handed over the money to Datuk Seri Zahid personally and not through any representative,” he said.



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