Compiled by Usha Devi
RECORD DEAL: (March 15) After resisting for months in wait of a better deal, the Southern Bank Bhd (SBB) board of directors accepted on Wednesday the RM7.6bil offer by Bumiputra-Commerce Holdings Bhd (BCHB). The merged entity, to be known as CIMB bank, will have an asset size of RM152bil, and the deal is expected to trigger the next wave of mergers in the banking industry.
NOT FOR BAILOUTS: (March 11) Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the RM4.4bil savings from the recent 30sen per litre fuel price increase will not be used to bail out Malaysia Airlines (MAS) or any other government-linked companies.
HAZE ALERT: (March 13) Fires spreading rapidly through some 20,000ha of forest in Riau, Sumatra may result in haze in Malaysia. Pekan Baru, the capital of Riau, along with several other districts in the province were shrouded in thick smoke over the last two weeks. Malaysian Meteorological Department Principal Assistant Director Wong Teck Kiong said the haze would “almost definitely” be back if the fires in Riau continued to burn.
SCHOOLS CLOSED: (March 15) Year One to Year Three classes in 1,265 primary schools in Sarawak were ordered closed for the whole of next week to check the spread of the hand, foot and mouth (HFM) disease, which has killed seven children, all below four years old.
DON'T WORRY: (March 17) Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said no human has been infected by bird flu in the country and that poultry was safe to eat. Dr Chua also said measures were in place to curb an outbreak in two areas in Perak.
CRACKS IN MTUC: (March 12) The 750,000-strong Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC), the largest labour organisation in the country, is headed for a split. Declaring that the current MTUC leadership was “weak and ineffective,” a group of about 20 unions calling itself the Malaysia National Workers Organisation (MNWO) formed a pro tem committee to “change the face of unionism” in the country.
STEPPING ASIDE: (March 15) Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, battling a growing campaign to oust him, gave his first indication that he might consider stepping aside temporarily to defuse the crisis. Thaksin said there was merit in an idea floated by a group of businessmen to have him name one of his deputies as caretaker prime minister, while political reforms demanded by the opposition were thrashed out. But he stopped well short of accepting it.
OVERHAUL MILITARY: (March 15) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Indonesia to make greater efforts to reform its armed forces, echoing calls from critics of Washington's decision to restore military ties last year. In an address to Indonesia's World Affairs Council, Rice stressed that a reformed and effective Indonesian military was in the interest of everyone in the region.
FLU DEATH TOLL: (March 11) Indonesia confirmed its 22nd human fatality from the bird flu disease, amid criticism the government has done too little too late to prevent its spread. H5N1 has killed or forced the culling of more than 140million chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, and has recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
LARGEST AIR RAID: (March 16) US forces launched the largest air assault since the US-led invasion nearly three years ago, targeting insurgent strongholds north of Baghdad, the US military said. The American troops were joined by the Iraqi army.