SANCTUARY AT RISK: (July 24) The 26,000ha-Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, billed as Malaysia's ‘Gift to Earth’, faces massive destruction. In the last four years alone, an estimated 20% of the 100-million-year-old forest was cleared, threatening endangered animal species like the Borneo pygmy elephants, orang utan, proboscis monkeys and hornbills. The eco-tourism industry here is also bracing itself for tougher times due to the illegal encroachment into the Lower Kinabatangan, where the sanctuary is sited. The only indication that the promise to protect the area would be fulfilled was the gazetting of the area as a bird sanctuary under the State Land Ordinance in 2002.
LONGEST EVER WALKWAY: (July 24) The Mulu National Park has opened the world's longest canopy skywalk, a 480m walkway suspended 20m above the forest floor. Experts advised and helped the local communities design and build the structure. Other facilities there include a plants-for-life trail, an 8km non-slip plank walk, radio communications systems, interpretive signage, renovated facilities at Camp 5, new public toilets and upgraded facilities for future on-site research. The park was made a Unesco world heritage site five years ago.
TIME FOR CHANGE: (July 25) Proton Holdings Bhd announced that Tengku Tan Sri Mahaleel Tengku Ariff’s tenure as the company’s group CEO will not be renewed and that Mahaleel, who joined Proton in 1996 and was appointed CEO on April 1, 1997, will retire on Sept 30. An interim executive committee will be established to assume the responsibility of the group CEO, pending the appointment of a new chief executive officer.
DONT EXPECT MORE: (July 26) The Employees Provident Fund (EPF) cautioned members against expecting significant changes in the dividend rate for 2005 despite it recording a 20.6% increase in investment income for the first half of this year. EPF chief executive officer Datuk Azlan Zainol said that while the EPF was happy with the RM1.6bil investment income during the first half of the year, it would continue to be prudent in its investment for the second half of the year.
HONOROFIC TITLES: (July 26) Individuals conferred honorary doctorates have been barred from using the title “Dr”. Higher Education Minister Datuk Dr Shafie Mohd Salleh said the Cabinet made the decision as some with such honorific titles had misled the people. Dr. Shafie, a PhD holder from the University of Swansea, said that as the public could not distinguish the difference between a genuine PhD and an honorific doctorate award, the Government had decided not to recognise the honorary awards.
MORE THAN MEDICINE: (July 28) Doctors will have to take part in “various activities” that can help their professional development before they are given medical practicing certificates in the near future.
Attending workshops and seminars, downloading latest methods from the Internet or even listening to music to de-stress are some of the activities that doctors could do. The move, which would be enforced in five years, is to ensure that doctors, including specialists, were up-to-date with new treatments, technologies and knowledge in their respective fields.
Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Ismail Merican said they were still working on the details but doctors must get used to the idea now.
MOTIVATIONAL MOVE: (July 29) A transformation manual has been launched for the government-linked companies (GLCs) to help them shift to a higher gear and become “global champions” and “best” in the “class” companies. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi unveiled the manual, which included strategies aimed at enhancing corporate governance, developing leaders and clarifying social obligations to steer the GLCs through this transformation.
FIVE-DAY WORKWEEK: (July 23) Banks will follow the Government in implementing the five-day week once procedural matters are worked out. The 14-member Association of Banks Malaysia (ABM) said certain branches would make an exception by opening on Saturdays due to demand but there will be no clearing of cheques.
ABM executive director Wong Suan Lye said its members have been told to expedite the process of implementing the five-day week and provide details relating to work hours, cheque clearance procedures and lead-time for implementation.
LIFE IMPRISONMENT: (July 26) A Dutch court sentenced the confessed killer of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh to life imprisonment, the harshest sentence possible for a murder that stunned the country, heightened ethnic tensions and raised concerns about home grown Islamic terrorism. Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, mounted no defence at his two-day trial earlier this month for the Nov 2 slaying of Van Gogh, whom he accused of insulting Islam, and told the court he would do it again if given the chance. Bouyeri is the son of Moroccan immigrants, but was raised and educated in Holland.
MYANMAR FORGOES CHAIR: (July 26) Citing the need to focus attention on the on-going national reconciliation and democratisation process, Myanmar officials informed its Asean neighbours its decision to forgo its turn to be the Chair of Asean from next July. Myanmar's Foreign Minister Nyan Win informed his nine counterparts of his government's decision at their 38th annual meeting in Vientiane. With Yangon's decision, the Philippines will now take over the Chair after Malaysia completes its one-year term.
DISCOVERY TAKES OFF: (July 26) Nasa successfully launched space shuttle Discovery after struggling for two-and-a half years to rebuild the shuttle programme following the fatal Columbia accident. The shuttle, carrying seven crew members, soared into slightly hazy skies, leaving behind a trail of smoke and flames. Discovery’s mission under veteran astronaut Eileen Collins is to test new safety measures and heat shield repair techniques introduced since sister ship Columbia disintegrated over Texas on Feb 1, 2003.
NUKE WEAPONS TALK: (July 26) The United States reassured North Korea it viewed the country as a sovereign nation, as a new round of talks began to address Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme. North Korea also struck a less confrontational tone, announcing that it wanted to work towards a nuclear-free Korean peninsula in language observers saw as a positive sign that progress could be made after a 13-month deadlock.
The US approach, just months after Washington described north Korea as an “outpost of tyranny”, will go some way towards placating the North which has long urged the US to recognise it as a legitimate Government.
ARMED CAMPAIGN ENDS: (July 28) The Irish Republican Army formally ended more than 30 years of armed struggle in Northern Ireland, pledging to lay down its weapons and fight British rule through purely peaceful means. The IRA’s order to abandon their armed campaign to unite Northern Ireland, which is mostly Protestant, with the Irish Republic came into effect at 4pm. Gerry Adams, the leader of the Sinn Fein political wing of the IRA, said the pledge could help to revive the peace process in Northern Ireland.
ALL FOUR HELD: (July 29) The remaining three London bomb suspects are in custody following raids in Britain and Italy, say reports. Police armed with assault rifles, tear-gas canisters and gas masks raided two apartment blocks in London, detaining at least three suspects in the July 21 botched bombings on three trains and a double-decker bus. Somali-born Briton Osman Hussain, believed to be one of the four suspects in the July 21 bombing attempts in London was arrested in Rome, Italy’s interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu said.