NEW MCA LEADERS (May 24): Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting has been elected party president and Datuk Chan Kong Choy his deputy by the MCA central committee. They take over from Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik and Datuk Seri Lim Ah Lek respectively. Ong and Chan pledged to strengthen party unity and work together to serve the party, Barisan Nasional, the Malaysian Chinese community and the country.
LING RESIGNS (May 24): MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik and his deputy Datuk Seri Dr Lim Ah Lek resigned from their party posts to pave the way for a generation of younger leaders to take over. The MCA central committee accepted their resignation after party members failed to persuade them to change their minds. Speculation of their imminent resignation was rife earlier in the week. The party was embroiled in a power struggle between Team A (headed by Dr Ling) and Team B (headed by Lim) for 14 months in the run-up to triennial elections in the middle of last year until the Prime Minister stepped in with a peace plan in April last year.
ECONOMIC STIMULUS (May 22): SARS-hit sectors received a major boost from an economic stimulus package, unveiled by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad to help mitigate the impact of the SARS outbreak, the Iraq war and the sluggish world economic climate. The economic stimulus package has four main strategies and 90 measures and aims to generate economic activities by mobilising domestic sources of growth, boosting consumption and encouraging investments. To encourage more domestic spending, Dr Mahathir announced a half-month bonus for civil servants and asked profitable government-owned companies to do the same. He also reduced employees’ contribution to EPF from 11% to 9% for a year from June 1.
NEW SNAP LEADER (May 19): A former government administrator, Edwin Dundang Bugak, has been unanimously elected the new president of the Sarawak National Party (SNAP). Dundang, 63, is the son of a former party founder, the late Bugak Duat. He succeeded Datuk Amar James Wong Kim Min, who has held the president’s post for 22 years. Former secretary-general Datuk Justine Jinggut has been promoted to deputy president while former Senator Datuk Michael Bong Thian Joon was elected the senior vice-president in a “pre-arranged” line-up during the election at the party’s triennial general assembly.
FIFTH BEST (May 22): KL International Airport has been named among the top five in the world in terms of overall passenger satisfaction in a survey by the International Air Transport Association (Iata). Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and Copenhagen airports were ranked the top four followed by KLIA.
ForeignEARTHQUAKE TRAGEDY (May 24): Hopes of finding survivors were briefly rekindled after a 2½-year-old girl was rescued from the rubble of a building, which had collapsed in the powerful tremor that hit Algeria 39 hours earlier. Rescue workers probed mountains of rubble with sniffer dogs and listening devices in a race against time to find survivors of Algeria’s earthquake, which killed nearly 1,500 people and injured 7,000.
ACEH CRISIS (May 19): Indonesia declared martial law in Aceh, and launched a military operation against rebels there after peace talks in Tokyo broke down. On Thursday, UNICEF warned of a “grave humanitarian crisis” in Aceh, as food supply and health services become more inaccessible. More than 30,000 government troops are up against some 5,000 poorly armed rebels, most of whom are believed to have either retreated to the hills or hiding among the civilian population.
SANCTIONS LIFTED (May 23): The UN Security Council voted overwhelmingly to end 13-year-old sanctions on Iraq and gave the United States and Britain extraordinary powers to run the country and its lucrative oil industry. The only opposition came from Syria, Iraq’s neighbour and the only Arab member of the council. The new resolution, to be reviewed in 12 months, allows the United States and Britain to use Iraq’s abundant oil resources to finance its reconstruction.
WARNINGS WITHDRAWN (May 24): The World Health Organisation (WHO) withdrew warnings against travel to Hong Kong and the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, saying the SARS outbreaks there were under control. Despite the fact Hong Kong is still the second most affected SARS area outside mainland China, the United Nations agency said the rate of daily infections and the number of outstanding cases had dropped to within limits set for travel alerts.
OUTLINE FOR PEACE (May 24): Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel was ready to accept the steps outlined in an international “road map” for peace with the Palestinians, breaking a deadlock in efforts to end Middle East bloodshed. The initiative would be presented for approval by the Cabinet. The plan sets out reciprocal steps leading to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005. The Palestinians have embraced the plan but Israel has been reluctant to until the Palestinians crack down on groups carrying out suicide bombings and spearheading the uprising for a Palestinian state.