Compiled by Rubin Khoo(Dec 12-Jan 4)
Happy New Year: (Jan 1) In his New Year message Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said peace and stability are the only foolproof defences for Malaysia from becoming another victim of the worsening world scenario. He said if peace can be preserved, efforts could be concentrated towards developing the country for the overall good of the people. He advised extreme groups to be sensitive to all communities by not making unreasonable demands that could jeopardise the stability of the country.
Terror trail: (Jan 1) According to intelligence reports, Asia’s most wanted terror suspect Hambali had at least RM2mil cash in hand to run his terror campaign while in the region. Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Ismuddin, collected over RM800,000 from many unsuspecting Malaysians and those from neighbouring countries who thought the money was to help needy Muslims. Malaysian police found that up till Dec 2001, the RM800,000 was used to buy arms and send JI members for training to Afghanistan.
Bank ranking: (Jan 3) Banks will be given star ratings to indicate their customer-friendly level and encourage more competitive pricing. Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said the move is aimed at achieving world-class service quality in the financial services industry. The Service Quality Index will allow banks to identify areas of strength and comparative advantage as well as gaps and areas of weakness.
Online probe: (Jan 2) The Anti-Corruption Agency is expanding its scope of responsibilities by monitoring allegations of power abuse and corruption posted on the Internet. Its analysis division director Mustafar Ali said this is due to the numerous allegations made online against various quarters including top government officials. He said the ACA would monitor online allegations of abuse of power, bribery and misappropriation of funds.
PMR aced: (Dec 31) Close to 18,000 students obtained straight As in the Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) examination, an increase of 4,119 from last year. Candidates also recorded a 7.5% improvement in the percentage of passes for English Language – the biggest ever improvement for the subject – with 69.9% obtaining the minimum pass of at least a D. Education Director-General Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat said the results were encouraging and showed that ministry's measures to improve the standard of English among students had been successful.
English boost: (Dec 30) The Education Ministry is allocating RM228mil for the in-service training of teachers next year and to triple the number of contract English language experts from Britain to improve English proficiency among students. Its Director-General Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat said that out of this amount, RM136mil will be used to train 49,000 Year Two, Form Two and Upper Six Mathematics and Science teachers who will be teaching the subjects in English from 2004. The rest will be used to train teachers of other subjects at all levels. The Ministry also plans to hire 20 more experts from the United Kingdom to be English language co-ordinators at district level.
Not suitable: (Jan 4) Malaysia questioned the rationale behind Singapore’s proposed date and venue to sign the special agreement to refer claims on Pulau Batu Putih to the International Court of Justice. Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar said the republic’s proposal to sign the agreement in Brussels – on the sidelines of the Asean-European Union foreign ministers’ meeting on Jan 27 or Jan 28 – was “strange” as both nations are such close neighbours. He said the date was not even one of seven or eight proposed by Malaysia since early last year. He added he needed to study whether Malaysia could agree as he might not attend the Asean-EU meeting.
Her say: (Jan 4) Heryati Abdul Rahim, the second wife of former Deputy Prime Minister Tun Ghafar Baba, maintained her innocence despite pleading guilty to committing khalwat with three Bosnian students at the Heritage Condominium, Jalan Pahang, Setapak. Heryati, a student at the International Islamic University, said she pleaded guilty because she did not want to embarrass her family. She dismissed rumours that she was watching a pornographic movie with the Bosnians at the time of the raid as preposterous.
Bush warning: (Jan 4) United States President George W. Bush has warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that “his day of reckoning is coming.” Bush spoke as more than 11,000 American troops prepared to head for the Gulf amid US preparations for a possible invasion of Iraq to force an end to any programmes Saddam has to make nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Bush said he hoped for a peaceful resolution but added that there was little evidence that the Iraqi leader would disarm peacefully.
Talks sought: (Jan 4) North Korea said it was willing to discuss its nuclear programme with the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) but insisted a non-aggression pact was the only way to defuse the crisis. It’s ambassador to China, Choe Jin-su said the North reactivated its nuclear programme in self-defence and denounced the US as the aggressor. He said the communist state was forced to take self-defence measures against what he called a threat to national dignity and right for existence.
Bust shattered: (Dec 30) Unidentified men blew up a huge concrete bust of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos set up on a mountainside in northern Philippines. National police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Leopoldo Bataoil said investigators believed the blast was caused by treasure hunters and not by communist guerillas as some had expected. The bust was built in the early 1980s when Marcos was in power but fell into neglect after the 1986 revolt sent the fallen dictator and his family into exile in Hawaii.
President Kibaki: (Dec 30) Kenya’s electoral commission declared opposition leader Mwai Kibaki the country’s new president amid growing tension over delayed official poll results following a historic general election. Provisional figures indicated that Kibaki was ahead of the next presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta by a wide margin. Kenya’s former President Daniel arap Moi, in power since 1978, was constitutionally barred from running. Kenyatta was his preferred successor.
Diva arrested: (Jan 1) Pop diva Diana Ross was arrested for alleged drink driving after a motorist reported a swerving vehicle. A breath test administered to the 58-year-old showed that she had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system. While she was “polite and co-operative” at the time, the singer later said she was merely trying to rent a video and got lost.