BLACK MARK (March 21): Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi condemned the US-led attack on Iraq, saying that Malaysia believes there is neither sufficient evidence nor justifiable cause for invading Iraq. He called the attack “a black mark in history” with “the world now seeing might is right.” Urging Malaysians to be rational in facing the Iraqi crisis, he said this was vital to ensure that the peoples’ livelihoods would not be threatened as economic activities and daily lives must continue uninterrupted.
IRAQIS STAY (March 21): Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Malaysia could see no reason to break off ties with Baghdad, as there was no evidence that they had compromised the country's security, and so will not expel Iraqi diplomats. The US had requested that Iraqi diplomats in 62 countries be expelled because they represented a corrupt and ruthless regime, and said replacements would soon be appointed by a new, legitimate Iraqi government. France, Russia, Germany, Finland and Netherlands also rejected the US request.
EVACUATION READY (March 22): Operation Stingray, the codename for the rescue operation to evacuate 59 stranded Malaysians in Kuwait will begin as soon as airspace clearance is given to the Royal Malaysian Air Force. Three RMAF aircrafts are ready for the operation in Dubai. Malaysia has prepared a contingency grounds operation if the airborne evacuation needs to be terminated.
LEAVING IRAQ (March 16): All Malaysian students, embassy officials and their families in Iraq have moved to Jordan. The Malaysian embassy in Baghdad remains open but is operated by Iraqis. Two Malaysian students, with the consent of their families, have chosen to remain in Iraq. The Government has issued an advisory to Malaysians against travelling to Iraq and nearby countries.
CLEAR OF SARS (March 22): The Health Ministry has reported that there has been no confirmed cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Malaysia, and that hospitals and health officers are on standby for any eventuality.
MALAYSIA APOLOGISES (March 21): Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has asked the Foreign Ministry to apologise to the Indian authorities over the police's high-handedness towards a group of Indian nationals during a recent raid. During the raid, the Indian nationals who were mostly Information Technology (IT) professionals were treated roughly although most of them had valid documentation. The Indians said police ignored their explanation and some claimed their passports were defaced. The Indian High Commissioner here had lodged a diplomatic protest.
BOMB CHEMICALS SEIZED (March 20): Police recovered and seized four tonnes of ammonia nitrate, an essential bomb material, belonging to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) organisation in an oil plantation in Muar, Johor. The find followed the arrest of a suspected JI member who led police to the chemicals, which police believed were meant for making bombs to hit American targets in Singapore. JI is believed to be a terrorist organisation, with links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda movement.
MONOGAMY CAMPAIGN (March 17): The Coalition on Women's Rights in Islam has proposed that a database of Muslim marriages be made available nationwide so that the marital status of individuals could be checked. As the registration of Muslim marriages is a state matter, it is difficult for women to verify if a man was married or had taken a wife in another state. The coalition is also proposing to allow a wife who disagrees with her husband's subsequent marriages to have the option of obtaining a divorce through ta'liq. A group of muftis has, however, protested against the monogamy campaign, as it was against syarak laws which allow polygamy for Muslim men.
MCA FRACAS (March 19): MCA Youth Chief Datuk Ong Tee Keat will face the party's disciplinary committee for repeatedly tarnishing MCA's reputation. Ong has openly questioned the accountability of the leadership in the case involving the Chang Ming Thien Foundation. Ong had also accused MCA politicians of protecting loan sharks and alleged that triads had infiltrated the party.
SINGER HONOURED (March 16): Siti Nurhaliza received the special award at the third annual Anugerah Planet Muzik (APM), which recognises Malay artistes from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. She also won the award for Best Female Artiste and Most Popular Malay Artiste. Another Malaysian singer, Siti Sarah, won the Best New Female Artiste while another local, Annuar Zain, won Most Popular Male Artiste.
FOREIGNUS ATTACKS IRAQ (March 21): US-led forces began their attack with the firing of a Tomahawk missile into Iraq at 10.25am Malaysian time, over an hour after US President Bush's ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam to go into exile ended. Around 280,000 US and British troops were stationed around the Gulf, waiting for orders to strike. The start of the war campaign drew protests from several world leaders who accused US of ignoring international laws. On March 19, Bush had given Saddam and his sons a 48-hour deadline to leave Iraq but Saddam had remained defiant.
ANTI-WAR PROTESTS (March 22): Police arrested more than 1,000 people in San Francisco on Thursday - the most taken in a single day in the city in decades - as tens of thousands protested across America against the US war in Iraq. Protests took place in other cities across the US as well as in European and Asian cities.
SHOCK AND AWE (March 22): The main US “shock and awe” bombing campaign against Iraq started here yesterday, a senior US Defence Department official was quoted as saying. CNN news network quoted Pentagon officials as saying that a “massive bombardment campaign against Iraq” was getting under way. Other troops seized two airfields in the Iraqi desert 225km and 290km west of the capital, part of a move to encircle Baghdad. Saddam has withdrawn his best-trained and most loyal forces to Baghdad.
TURKEY ENTERS IRAQ (March 22): Turkish troops have reportedly entered northern Iraq, despite opposition from the US. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul earlier announced that troops would move into the Kurdish-controlled north to stop an influx of refugees into Turkey and prevent “terrorist activity.” Turkey wants to prevent the Kurds from forming a separate state. It opened its airspace to US warplanes attacking Iraq on Friday.
NEW PRESIDENT (March 18): Hu Jintao has been chosen to succeed Jiang Zemin as China's president. Jiang will continue to wield significant influence as leader of the government's military commission. Hu, 60, who was vice-president, claimed the top post four months after becoming the ruling Communist Party's chief. The Parliament picked Wen Jiabao as premier, succeeding Zhu Rongji. The appointments are the last major steps in a sweeping transition to a younger generation of leaders in China.
SARS ALERT (March 18): Airlines around the world moved to ban passengers with flu-like symptoms from boarding their planes following the World Health Organisation's global alert on the illness, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS has been reported in Canada, China, Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The first outbreak was reported in Guangdong, China in February where 305 were infected and five died. So far, 10 have died from SARS worldwide.