Economic Boost (Feb 8): The Government is working on measures to boost economic growth, including a contingency plan to protect the economy from the adverse effects of an impending war against Iraq. Second Finance Minister Datuk Dr Jamaludin Jarjis said the initiatives would be ready for implementation by the end of March. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to announce the details on March 26.
No Early Polls (Feb 6): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad shot down speculation of a possible general election before he steps down in October. In an interview with Reuters, the Prime Minister said the election date would be determined by his successor, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
No Cabinet Reshuffle (Feb 7): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said there would be no Cabinet reshuffle from now to October. He said it would be up to his deputy Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to decide on his Cabinet when he takes over.
Focus on Tasks (Feb 3): Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has deemed any discussion on retirement – by those appointed by Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad – as not proper at this time because he still led the country. Abdullah, who has been named successor to the Prime Minister, said he would rather see Barisan Nasional leaders concentrate on their present tasks and continue with the policies. He said Dr Mahathir was still Prime Minister until October and those appointed should concentrate on the tasks they have been assigned.
Train Crash (Feb 4): Some 400 passengers of the Tumpat-bound Ekspres Timuran had a narrow escape when their train hit a flood-weakened stretch of the track, causing six of its 11 coaches and a locomotive to jump the rails. Two coaches plunged into the swollen Sungai Anak Air Besi in the 5.45am incident, which disrupted all train services between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik said the area near a bridge where the train derailed had been affected by floods.
Extra School Hours (Feb 7): School hours in Perlis will be extended to 4pm from March 1 as part of the Student Enhancement Programme, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim. The extra hours would be used to incorporate the teaching of fardhu ain (religious obligations for Muslim students), Quran, moral and English subjects. The additional hours will also apply to vernacular schools, government religious schools and vocational schools.
Jail Green Rapists (Feb 5): Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has suggested stiffer penalties, including a jail sentence, against those who disregarded the environmental laws for profit. Commenting on what was happening in Cameron Highlands, Dr Mahathir said development activities and felling of trees there had reduced the area to look no different from other flatland.
FLOODS HIT SOUTH SARAWAK (Feb 6): Some 7,000 people from 61 villages in Kuching and Samarahan divisions were evacuated from their homes after floods, the worst in 50 years, hit southern Sarawak since Tuesday. Among those at temporary evacuation centres were over 2,000 villagers from Batu Kawa on the outskirts of Kuching and from Bau.
Amy Nabbed (Feb 6): Local rock star Amy, formerly of the group Search, was remanded for 11 days following his arrest at Back Room Disco for suspected drug abuse. Police have applied for the remand order to ascertain whether he was a drug addict. Amy has bagged many local awards for his outstanding performances and his popular hits, which include Isabella and Fantasia Bulan Madu. He has also proven himself as an actor, playing lead roles in three films – Fenomena, Sayang and Isabella.
COLUMBIA TRAGEDY (Feb 3): World leaders last Saturday reacted with shock and grief to the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, stressing the contribution the victims had made to conquering the dangerous realm of space. Russia's President Vladimir Putin praised men and women who had given their lives to conquer space “in the name of peace, science and the progress of civilisation” while German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told President George W. Bush that US had again had the painful experience that exploration of the universe could cause human losses. Columbia broke into pieces as it descended towards a scheduled 9.16am landing at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. All seven astronauts aboard were killed. At least three separate probes have put the US space programme under intense scrutiny after the loss of the space shuttle revived longstanding concerns about safety.
Proof of Destruction (Feb 6): US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented tape recordings, satellite photos and statements from informants to the UN Security Council, describing them as “irrefutable and undeniable” evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction. Powell presented his evidence three months after Iraq pledged it would disarm, in a televised address that was broadcast throughout the world. In the presentation that took more than an hour, Powell also detailed US claims that Baghdad and al-Qaeda operatives were working together and that some followers of a senior lieutenant of Osama bin Laden were currently in Baghdad with Saddam's approval. Of the 15 UN Council members, however, only US and Britain have voiced support for forcibly disarming Iraq.
Howard Censured (Feb 6): Australian Prime Minister John Howard suffered a historic defeat in an unprecedented no-confidence vote by Australia over his handling of the Iraq crisis. It was the first time in the 102-year-old history of the Australian parliament that the upper house had censured a serving prime minister with a no-confidence vote. Howard's conservative Liberal-National government was also censured in the motion, which condemned its decision to deploy troops to the Gulf without reference to parliament and contrary to public opinion
More Money (Feb 6): The Bush administration is asking the US Congress for a sharp increase in military training spending for Malaysia to US$1.2mil (RM4.5mil) for fiscal year 2004, emphasising the US president’s commitment to win the global war on terror. A US government official said the amount requested by President George W. Bush from the new 108th Congress was an impressive increase from the US$800,000 (RM3mil) approved in the previous fiscal year. Malaysia had yet to receive the amount for 2003 for International Military and Education Training programme as the previous Congress did not pass all the appropriations bill, the official said.
Murder Suspect (Feb 5): Music producer Phil Spector was charged with the murder of a woman in his Los Angeles mansion and released on US$1mil (RM3.8mil). The murder victim was identified by police as Lana Clarkson, 40. Spector, who worked with Elvis Presley, the Beatles (on their Let It Be album), Ike and Tina Turner, and The Ramones, was known for his short temper and love of firearms.
Survival Guides (Feb 8): The Australian government is mailing out survival guides to homes all over the country to tell citizens to be alert but not alarmed about terrorism. The survival guides advise that people stock food and water for three days, sunscreen, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher, a battery-powered radio, a car repair kit and playing cards to keep the family amused in case of a terrorist attack.