FOR THE RAKYAT (Sept 13): Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad presented a bag of goodies to the rakyat in his last budget as Prime Minister and Finance Minister. However, smokers and drinkers will be hit hard by a 20% hike in import and excise duties on cigarette and tobacco products and 10% on liquor. Among the goodies are road tax exemption for motorcycles of engine capacity less than 150cc; setting up of a village micro-credit scheme, and putting in an additional RM1bil to the micro-credit scheme for small businesses; allowing low-income single mothers to buy low and medium-cost houses from Syarikat Perumahan Negara Bhd at a 20% discount; and intensive focus on small and medium-sized industries via formation of a high-level council.
FOOD DISCLOSURE (Sept 7): All food products, especially health products, will now have to carry their specific nutritional information to protect consumers from misleading information. Manufacturers will no longer be allowed to carry information claiming that their products can cure or protect them from diseases and ailments.
ANTIBIOTICS ABUSE (Sept 8): The Health Ministry has cautioned medical practitioners in the country against randomly prescribing high-end antibiotics to patients and reminded them to adhere to guidelines on their use. Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican urged doctors and specialists to use such antibiotics “rationally” to prevent anti-microbial resistance occurring in patients – a situation where microbes become resistant to specific medicines and develop ways of surviving medications meant to kill or weaken them.
TOUGH TERROR LAWS (Sept 10): Malaysia will amend its Penal Code to punish not just terrorists but also those who provide financial services or facilities to them. The proposed amendments seek to penalise those who give support for acts of terrorism, recruitment and training of members, and solicit property for the commission of terrorist acts.
NO CHEAPER IMPORTED CARS (Sept 13): The price of imported cars will not change after January next year when import duties are reduced. This is because the excise duty to be imposed will be at a rate that will ensure that the price of such cars remain the same, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.
COMPENSATION FOR WORKERS (SEPT 10): The Government is coming up with a formula for compensating employees required to work long hours at computer terminals. Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said the Social Security Organisation and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health had been asked to conduct a comprehensive study on the medical and psychological impacts on those who frequently used computers at work.
STATUS REPORTS (Sept 12): Members of the public who make police reports in relation to seizable offences will soon be given the right to know the status of their report four weeks after they are lodged. Seizable offences, which are offences where arrest may be made without a warrant, include rape, murder and other offences affecting life, certain acts of mischief and offences against public tranquillity.
10 M’SIANS ON LIST (Sept 7): The United States has added the names of 10 Malaysians to its list of suspected members of al-Qaeda’s South-East Asian offshoot, Jemaah Islamiah, ordering a freeze of their assets. The US Office of Foreign Asset Control listed on its website on Friday the names, which are in addition to 10 non-Malaysians earlier announced by US Treasury Secretary John Snow at the end of an Asia-Pacific finance ministers meeting in Thailand.
RAPIST JAILED (Sept 11): A garbage collector was jailed 41 years and ordered to be given 24 strokes of the rotan by the Sessions Court in Ampang after he pleaded guilty to three counts of robbing, raping and outraging the modesty of a 27-year-old bank executive last month.
OUTPATIENT CARE (Sept 7): Specialised dental care is no longer confined to government hospitals and will now be allowed under outpatient care at the community level, said Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican.
SOCSO CHANGES (Sept 11): The Cabinet has approved the proposed amendments to the Social Security Organisation Act, which includes raising the monthly salary ceiling for Social Security Organisation contributions from the current RM2,000 to RM3,000. Human Resources Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn said the amendments would be tabled in Parliament in the next session.
ForeignABBAS RESIGNS (Sept 7): Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas submitted his resignation in a power struggle with Yasser Arafat, dealing a possibly fatal setback for a US-backed plan for peace with Israel. Hours after the resignation, Israeli forces fired a missile into a house in Gaza City in an apparent bid to kill the spiritual leader of the biggest Palestinian militant movement Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was slightly wounded.
ISOLATED FOR SARS (Sept 9): Singapore reported a possible return of SARS last Monday, hours after the World Health Organisation had warned the deadly virus could reappear. The Ministry of Health said initial tests showed one man had tested positive for the pneumonia-like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, in what it believed was an isolated case. Fears of a new SARS outbreak receded as a medical researcher treated for the deadly virus appeared to be recovering quickly and Taiwan ended mandatory temperature checks on Singapore travellers.
SUPPORT FOR ARAFAT (Sept 13): Israel faced an international outcry over its decision to “remove” Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, a threat that drew tens of thousands of supporters into the streets to rally to his defence. Calling Arafat an obstacle to peace but under US pressure not to exile him after two suicide bombings killed 15 Israelis on Tuesday, Israel’s security Cabinet vowed on Thursday “to remove” him “in a manner that will be determined separately”.
BUSH SEEKS AID (Sept 9): US President George W. Bush, facing growing doubts at home, asked Congress last Sunday night for US$87bil (RM330.6bil) for the US military and reconstruction in Iraq and urged the United Nations to set aside past differences and help out.
UN LIFTS SANCTIONS (Sept 13): Fifteen years after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, the UN Security Council lifted UN sanctions against Libya, clearing the release of up to US$2.7bil (RM10.3bil) to the families of the attack’s 270 victims. France and the United States, which has its own sanctions on the Tripoli government including a ban on Libyan oil sales to America, abstained in the 13-0 council vote ending the sanctions, which were imposed after the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am Boeing jumbo jet in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland.
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