Insurance News

Settle summonses or you can’t renew vehicle insurance
9 October 2006, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Those who do not pay up their traffic summonses will be barred from renewing their vehicle insurance. The Internal Security Ministry is working with Bank Negara, the police, Road Transport Department (JPJ), insurance companies and the relevant agencies to get the proposal going. Deputy Minister Datuk Johari Baharum said that once the system was in place, insurance companies would be able to access a database which is linked to the JPJ. “When someone from an insurance company types in a person’s name and identity card number, he will be able to tell whether that person has any outstanding summonses,” he told The Star. “They (offenders) will not be allowed to renew their vehicle insurance until they pay their summonses. Only then, will their names be erased from the database.” He said with this link-up, the ministry hoped to put a stop to the tactic used by some who put down a different address to avoid detection. “Previously, we had to chase after errant offenders. In some cases, when we went to the addresses given, they could not be found. Others refused to pick up their summons letters from the post office,” he said. “Some had moved, or used their kampung addresses even though they no longer live there,” he added, Johari said the ministry planned to hit reckless drivers where it hurts the most – in their pockets. The ministry, he said, was also in the process of formulating a system in which motorists with many summonses would have to pay increasingly higher insurance premiums. “For example, those with 60 summonses will have to pay a higher premium compared to those with a few summonses. “The move is to prevent people from being reckless on the road and piling up their tickets,” he said. Unpaid summonses amounted to a few hundred million ringgit to date, he added. There are about 10 million motorists in Malaysia. Last year, 6,188 people were killed on the roads, according to statistics by JPJ. Johari said: “We are serious about the move. The proposal is now in its final stages and we hope to get it approved as soon as possible.” On Sept 11, the Government announced that there would be no reduction in compounds for five serious traffic offences, namely speeding, overtaking on a double line, jumping queue, beating the traffic lights, and driving on the emergency lane as such actions posed a danger to other motorists. Kurnia Insurance (M) Bhd chief executive officer Kong Shu Yin lauded the ministry’s idea, saying it would educate the public to be more careful while on the road. “The details need to be ironed out to ensure the system runs smoothly. I think the proposal will be accepted by the public and the insurance industry, as law abiding drivers will enjoy a lower premium compared with the ‘bad’ ones,” he said. Insurance agent Ho Soon Sing, who has been driving for 24 years, hoped the proposal would lead to motorists becoming better drivers.

Speed Limit To Be Reduced For Festive Seasons
4 October 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The cabinet, Wednesday has in principle agreed to reduce the speed limits at selected stretches of all Federal roads for the coming festive seasons, but maintains the existing speed limits of 110kmph at all the expressways. Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said the ministry officials would hold discussions with the police and the Transport Ministry in the next few days to identify the stretches of Federal roads which would have its speed limits reduced from the current 90kmph to 80kmph during the festive seasons. “The ministry’s legal division is now in the midst of preparing papers to de-gazette these stretches, to make the reduction in speed limits legal,” he told a press conference at his ministry, here Wednesday. Last Sunday, the Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan had called for a downward revision of the speed limits as a means of reducing road fatalities during the festive seasons, especially as the police’s Ops Sikap X1 traffic operation in conjunction with the coming Deepavali and Hari Raya would be underway in two weeks. Samy Vellu said the government would be making appropriate announcements on the new speed limits when all issues pertaining to the matter were ironed out. The works minister said the reduction of speed limits would apply during the coming festive seasons, which covered Deepavali, Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, Christmas, New Year and the Chinese New Year. Asked if the 10kmph reduction in the current speed limit would make a difference in saving lives lost due to road accidents during the festivities, he said studies conducted by several local universities showed that the small reduction could play a major role in reducing road mishaps, thus saving lives. He said the ministry had no intention of reducing the speed limits at expressways because it was found that accidents at these highways were mainly not due to speeding. Last year, during the Deepavali and Hari Raya festive seasons, a total of 13,346 road accidents were recorded, and only 313 accidents or a mere 2.3 per cent occurred on expressways or highways.

Works Ministry Seeks RM300 Mln To Rectify Accident-prone Road Stretches
28 September 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The Works Ministry has asked the government for RM300 million to rectify dangerous and accident-prone spots along the North-South Highway linking Johor Baharu and Bukit Kayu Hitam and the East-West Highway from Port Klang to Kota Baharu. Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu said there were 300 dangerous or black spots along these two federal roads and that so far the ministry has spent about RM169 million on repair work. “To complete the remedial work at all black spots, we need about RM300 million, and this is what we have asked the government for,” he told reporters after launching a skills training campaign organised by the MIC, here. Samy Vellu, who is also MIC president, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was also concerned about the road accidents, especially fatal road mishaps, and had instructed the ministry to ensure that all roads were safe for users. He also said that fixing guardrails along a highway would not necessarily ensure an accident-free stretch. “You can’t just prevent an accident by putting up guardrails along the highways. Things like reckless driving, exceeding the speed limit and various other factors too play a major role in accidents,” he said. Samy Vellu was asked to comment on a newspaper report quoting an unnamed source as saying that the accident involving a tourist bus, which killed 11 people, at Km160.8 of the North-South Highway on July 30 was due to the absence of guardrails along the stretch where the mishap occurred. On that fateful day, the tourist bus was travelling from Ipoh, Perak, to the St Anne’s Church in Bukit Mertajam, Penang, at about 6.45 am. Besides the 11 killed, 34 other passengers were injured, nine of them seriously. Samy Vellu said the failure to erect guardrails at that spot was not the reason for the deaths, and “the passengers were not killed because of the drain”. “The drain by the side of the road was about seven to eight feet (2.5 to three metres) away from the road and the drain (beside the road) was only four feet (1.3 metres) deep. The driver could not negotiate the bend, hence the accident,” he said. Samy Vellu said the North-South Highway was designed according to the Tolled Inter-Urban Highway System, which had all the standard safety measures to counter accidents. “The criteria for installation of guardrails is based on a combination of the height of the embankment and the slope. Therefore, the slope and embankment at the location of the accident did not require the installation of guardrails because it fulfilled the standard design and rules for the installation of guardrails. “Nevertheless, the Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM) and PLUS (which manages the North-South Highway) monitor the accident-prone stretches from time to time to determine the need to install guardrails and other security features as a preventive measure. “LLM and PLUS also carry out a road safety audit to identify additional safety measures that have to be adopted,” he said.

M’sia To Set Up Road Safety Research Institute
27 September 2006, By BERNAMA

LINKOPING (Sweden)– Malaysia will set up a road safety research institute, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, by the end of this year to carry out road safety-related research, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy. Describing Malaysia as having a unique situation which warranted its own road safety research institute, Chan said the facility, to be located at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)’s main campus in Serdang would allow the government to have better references when formulating road safety policies in the country. “The government has approved RM50 million to set up the institute under the Ministry of Transport, which will be headed by a director-general with appropriate number of researchers,” he said. The institute, he added, would be tasked with carrying out all kinds of road safety-related research, including in road engineering, design, vehicle design, human behaviour, legislation and road accidents. Chan was speaking to Malaysian journalists after spending a day visiting the Swedish Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) here, together with Melaka Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam and Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who is also chairman of the state Road Safety Council. VTI, located about 250km from Stockholm, is one of the leading research institutes in Europe. It was established 80 years ago, with its research findings having direct applications in Swedish and European transport policies. VTI is also a world leader in the field of simulator technology for passenger cars and lorries, besides having its own laboratory, a tyre-testing facility and a crash track. Chan said the Malaysian institute would be given an annual grant by the government for 30 years to carry out its research activities. However, he declined to reveal the amount of the grant. He said the institute would be temporarily located outside the campus until the permanent structure at UPM is ready. “We are looking for a director-general now. It will be confirmed soon. The government has someone in mind,” he said but declined to name the candidate. However, it is widely speculated that UPM deputy vice-chancellor (Academic and International Affairs) Prof Dr Radin Umar Radin Sohadi is the main candidate as he has been described as an expert on road safety, not only in Malaysia but internationally as well. Dr Radin is part of Chan’s 16-member delegation visiting Sweden. Chan also said the setting up of the road safety institute was part of the Ministry of Transport’s Road Safety Master Plan (2006 – 2010) which involved fields such as engineering, education, enforcement and environment protection or better known as the 4E master plan. “We can see a lot of changes in road safety (after this),” he said.

Initiative to tap lucrative takaful mart
4 September 2006, By New Straits Times

BANK Negara Malaysia may allow conventional insurers to jointly establish an international retakaful (Islamic reinsurance) company as a way for them to enter the takaful business. It is understood that the initiative was mooted by insurance experts during a recent dialogue session between Bank Negara with insurers and takaful operators. “The takaful market is one of the fastest growing in the world. It is expected to grow at nearly 20 per cent per annum to reach US$7.4 billion (RM27.2 billion) in global annual premiums in 15 years,” said an insurance executive that attended the two-day dialogue. World takaful contributions are conservatively estimated at around US$3 billion (RM11 billion), of which 60 per cent is from general takaful and the balance 40 per cent from family takaful. He said an international retakaful consortium will be adequately capitalised to absorb more risk to meet the demand of the 90 global takaful operators today. “The consortium that includes cash-rich foreign conventional insurers should easily raise US$100 million (RM368 million) in paid-up capital,” he told Business Times. Conventional insurers who missed out on the four new takaful licences issued earlier this year are desperate to tap the fast-growing and lucrative takaful market. Retakaful is one of the risk management tools used by takaful operators to transfer part of the risk under the takaful fund to another takaful operator or retakaful company. “Takaful operators are heavily reliant on reinsurance. There is a high need for retakaful solutions,” said another executive from a local takaful company who declined to be named. Currently, there is still a dearth in the number of players providing retakaful facility, resulting in takaful operators ceding to conventional reinsurers. It is learnt that there are only three full-fledged retakaful operators in the global market providing services to primary takafuls. The first Islamic reinsurance company in the region and now a specialist retakaful operator providing both the general and family retakaful services is Labuan-based Asean Retakaful International (L) Ltd (ARIL). ARIL, a unit of Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bhd, which recently sold a 16 per cent stake to Islamic Cooperation for the Development, plans to raise its paid-up capital to US$100 million (RM368 million) in tandem with its expansion into the Arab markets where Islamic financing is gaining momentum. Most recently, Allianz General Insurance Malaysia Bhd had expressed its interest to form a strategic tie-up with a local takaful operator to venture into the retakaful business.

Mara To Set Up 300 Bumiputera Smart Auto Workshops Under 9MP
3 September 2006, By BERNAMA

JOHOR BAHARU — The Entrepreneur Development and Cooperatives Ministry plans to set up 300 Smart Auto workshops under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) in an effort to nurture Bumiputera participation in the automotive service and repair sector. Mara will set the criteria for the selection of the entrepreneurs under the scheme in every district and parliamentary constituency, said Minister Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin. Smart Auto workshop owners would be chosen from among existing workshop operators who showed promise for accelerated growth, he said when opening a pilot Smart Auto workshop in Jalan Langkasuka here Sunday. Also present were State Entrepreneurs and Cooperatives Committee Chairman Samat Aripin and Mara Deputy Director-General Meriyam Abd Majid. Mohamed Khaled said the workshop was a prototype for other Smart Auto workshops under the 9MP. Saying that the selection process would be stringent, he said each workshop chosen may need to have the backing of a company which could assist it in its growth path. “The workshops might not be able to compete in the sector if they are on their own,” he said.

Stolen excavators found, thanks to GPS devices
28 August 2006, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Even the bulky excavators are not safe from thieves. Two of such machines, commonly used for digging and dredging, were stolen from a construction site in Rawang early yesterday. But the thieves didn’t get far as they were tracked down to two places in Perak, five hours later, thanks to a tracking system – the GPS (Global Positioning System) devices – fitted on them. Police said the excavators, worth a total of RM1 million, were discovered missing from the project site of the North-South Expressway about 7am. A site supervisor found the excavators missing when he reported for duty. A report was then lodged at the Bukit Beruntung police station. Based on the GPS signals, police traced the excavators to Bidor and Simpang Pulai, more than 30km and 100km away respectively, from where they were stolen. Police immediately notified their counterparts in Perak and a team from Bukit Aman was also dispatched to the scene. Police recovered the machines at noon. Two men were picked up to assist in investigations. Police believed at least six men were involved in the theft and have initiated a search for the remaining members of the gang. A manager in the construction company based in Bukit Beruntung, who only wanted to be known as Foo, said that this was not the first time his company machinery had gone missing. He said a similar excavator went missing last June and it was never recovered. Foo also commended the police for the speedy recovery of the stolen excavator.

Bank Negara Emphasizes On Risk-focused Approach For Insurance Industry
24 August 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Bank Negara Malaysia reiterated the priority being accorded towards a more risk-focused approach in the insurance and takaful industry. Towards this, the regulatory framework will be increasingly differentiated towards providing a more flexible regime for stronger and well managed institutions, while addressing gaps in weaker institutions through proportionate supervisory interventions, the central bank said. In a statement released at the end of a two-day annual dialogue with insurers and takaful operators here Thursday, Bank Negara said preparations for the implementation of a risk-based capital framework for insurance companies, targeted for implementation in 2008, had been reviewed to ensure a smooth transition. A parallel run of the new framework will commence in 2007, it said. It said the development of a self-regulatory framework was discussed at the dialogue, aimed at evolving a regime that is more participative in areas where the collective efforts of industry players to develop and effectively enforce professional codes of practice can achieve the desired institutional outcomes and behaviors. The dialogue also discussed issues and challenges of developing a sustainable dual system for conventional insurance and takaful. Opportunities were identified for mutual synergies to be reaped between takaful operators and conventional insurers. Among the key challenges highlighted was that of achieving a credible system by adopting global best practices and maintaining a level playing field while acknowledging the necessity of having different rules in some areas to reflect the underlying fundamental differences between the two systems, Bank Negara said.

Malaysia Car Sales Fall 5.1 Pct In July
23 August 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Motor vehicle sales in July fell 5.1 percent to 43,922 units from 46,279 units in the same month last year, according to Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA). In a statement here Wednesday, MAA said sales volume in August may improve as a result of aggressive promotion campaigns by car companies. It said while sales of passenger cars increased to 34,957 units from 33,854 units for the period, sales of commercial vehicles dropped to 8,965 units from 12,425 units. “In the national brand segment, vehicle sales increased to 30,272 units from 27,964 units in July last year. “Sales of national passenger cars rose to 28,335 units from 24,906 units. However, for national commercial vehicles, sales fell to 1,937 units from 3,058 units,” it said. MAA said in the non-national segment, July sales fell to 13,650 units from 18,351 units. “Sales of non-national passenger cars fell to 6,622 units in July from 8,948 units in the corresponding month last year, while that of non-national commercial vehicles dropped to 7,028 units from 9,367 units,” it said. It said for the January-July period, sales of passenger cars fell to 219,683 units compared with 233,408 units in the same period last year, and sales of commercial vehicles fell to 72,647 units from 73,982 units. “The sales of the national brand passenger cars for the seven-month period fell to 172,395 units from 174,571 units previously and the sales of passenger vehicles for the segment dropped marginally to 16,457 units from 16,601 units. “In the non-national segment, sales of passenger cars dropped to 47,288 units from 58,837 units and the sales of commercial vehicles dropped to 56,190 units from 57,381 units,” it said. MAA said total vehicle production in July dropped to 39,401 units from 49,819 in the same month last year. “Production of passenger cars decreased to 29,885 units from 36,028 units for the period, and production of commercial vehicles dropped to 9,516 units from 13,791 units. “In the national brand segment, production of vehicles declined to 26,503 units from 32,975 units. “Production of national passenger cars fell to 25,129 units from 29,513 units and production of national commercial vehicles fell to 1,374 units from 3,462 units. MAA said in the non-national segment, production of vehicles for July fell to 12,898 units from 16,844 units. “Production of non-national passenger cars fell to 4,756 units in July from 6,515 units in the corresponding months last year, while production of non-national commercial vehicles dropped to 8,142 units from 10,329 units,” it said. MAA said vehicle production for January-July period fell to 318,047 units from 323,728 units in the same period last year. “Production of passenger cars for the period fell to 235,946 units from 245,783 units but the commercial vehicles production rose to 82,101 units from 77,945 units. “In the national brand segment, production of passenger cars for the seven-month period fell to 194,773 units from 203,596 units previously. Production of commercial vehicles, however, rose to 23,338 units from 19,553 units. “In the non-national segments, the production of passenger cars dropped to 41,173 units from 42,187 units and the production of commercial vehicles rose 58,763 units from 58,392 units,” it said.

BNM Undertaking Internal Organisational Changes
22 August 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Bank Negara Malaysia’s ongoing internal organisational changes will result in a complete transition from the current approach to regulation on a sectoral basis, to one that will integrate its regulation of different financial institutions under its purview along functional lines. It will be communicating the details of the new structure to the licensees in November and December this year, said Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz. In effect, the existing regulatory departments will be transformed into new departments with respective responsibilities for financial sector development, prudential policy, consumer protection and market conduct, and financial surveillance across both the banking and insurance sectors, she said. The supervisory functions will similarly be integrated for financial service groups that include both banks and insurance companies under their umbrella, Zeti said in her keynote address at the 2006 Dialogue Session with Insurers and Takaful Operators, here Tuesday. “We believe this organisational change will deliver a more comprehensive overview and cohesive approach to the development of the financial system, while facilitating a clear distinction between the objectives of prudential regulation and financial stability, and the broader developmental objectives,” she said. It will also sharpen the regulatory focus on the management of risk in the financial system in a manner that will more effectively address the basic components of credit, market, operational and insurance risks, she added. For the regulated institutions, this new structure is also intended to promote greater efficiency and competition in the financial system by:- * minimising regulatory overlaps and duplication within the system; * preserving regulatory neutrality in the management of similar risks between different financial service providers; and * ensuring more efficient use of regulatory resources. Zeti said that under the new regulatory landscape, the relationship between the central bank and the regulated entities, and thus, the supervisory expectations, will change, as the prudential framework evolves towards a predominantly principle-based and risk-based regulatory approach. There will be a greater emphasis on corporate governance, integrity and transparency as the foundation for industry players so as to maintain investor confidence and public trust, she said. Under this environment, it is also envisaged that insurers, individually or collectively, will play a bigger role in developing market conduct standards, fostering fair market practices and improving financial literacy among consumers, she said. Moving forward, as market discipline improves, and insurers and takaful operators are better positioned to implement self-regulation, further deregulation can be expected, she said. A differentiated regulatory approach will increasingly be adopted, where companies that exhibit strong corporate governance and risk management practices will be given greater regulatory flexibility, said Zeti. She said in fostering strategic alliances within the industry, the foreign shareholding limit for new entries in direct insurers has been increased from 30 percent to 49 percent to harness the potential for financially strong and internationally known foreign players. This would contribute towards enhancing the development of domestic capabilities, particularly in the areas of technical expertise, innovation and improved operating processes, she said. This will provide an additional avenue for potential foreign partners to participate more substantively in the domestic industry through a strategic equity interest in existing licensed insurers, she said. Touching on the economy, she said with limited evidence of demand induced inflation, the assessment is for inflation to moderate in the second half of this year. In addition, the extent to which the external environment will be affected by the higher energy prices and rising interest rates, and its implications on the domestic economy, will be important considerations in the future direction of interest rates, she said. The risk to higher inflation and to the growth prospects will be carefully balanced, she said. Zeti said monetary policy will continue to promote sustainable growth in an environment of price stability. The focus of the monetary policy in this environment continues to be towards achieving macroeconomic stability, she said.

Higher premiums among steps to reduce road fatalities
21 August 2006, By New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: The drive to reduce road deaths has crashed. This is forcing the Road Transport Department to take desperate measures, including allowing the insurance premiums for hardcore traffic offenders to be increased. Road Safety Department director-general Suret Singh said about 15 per cent of Malaysian motorists were classified as “high-risk”. “We have problems changing their driving habits. And because of them, the number of fatalities has increased,” said Suret. There are 10 million motorists and seven million motorcyclists on the road. For the first six months of this year, there were 131 more road deaths compared with the corresponding period last year (3,137 against 3,006). The number of serious injuries also went up by 314 — from 4,233 to 4,547 cases during the same period. The increase in fatalities, Suret said, was caused by those driving recklessly, such as tailgating, beating traffic lights, speeding, overtaking on double lines and weaving through traffic. “We have spent so much money on advertisements but we have reached a stumbling block with this group.” The drivers, he added, were mostly in their early 20s and 30s. He said the department would compile a list of reckless drivers and profile them. “This will help us to keep track of them.” RTD director-general Datuk Emran Kadir said this group had better think twice before breaking road rules. “We are considering a proposal from the Road Safety Department and General Insurance Association of Malaysia to slap them with higher insurance premiums. There are no two ways about this. Those who keep breaking the law will have to pay higher premiums. “And the premium might increase with the number of offences,” he said. Currently, some insurance companies impose a loading of between five per cent and 150 per cent based on the age of the vehicle and frequency of claims, but not on the number of offences committed by the insured. Emran added that the proposal was one of the most effective ways to reduce accidents as motorists would think twice before breaking the law if it hit their pockets. “I support the move. But the premiums, which are still being discussed, will not be a burden. It will act as a deterrent.” Meanwhile, Universiti Putra Malaysia Engineering Department head Prof Radin Umar Radin Sohadi said most of the high-risk drivers were males. “They are mostly in their late teens or early 20s,” he said. Radin said based on research, four males in that age group travelling together in a car, were six times likelier to be involved in a serious accident. The reason, he added, was peer pressure. “Recognising this, the Australian Government does not allow those with probationary licences to drive with others of the same age group.”

Malacca Strait war-risk rating for ships dropped
8 August 2006, By The Edge Daily

The London insurance market’s powerful joint war committee has removed a war-risk rating for merchant ships transiting the Malacca Strait sea lane because of an improvement in security, an insurance official said on Aug 7. Neil Roberts of Lloyd’s Market Association (LMA) told Reuters the designation was dropped after “significant improvement” in security in the area. “There is no question that there has been a dramatic change on the Malaysian and Singaporean side of the Strait including naval and air patrols – they have spent a fortune on improving things,” Roberts said. “Any transit is no longer subject to conditionality,” he said. Roberts said, however, that ships calling at ports in northeast Sumatra would still be subject to war-risk charges. Plagued by a wave of pirate attacks and crime the strategic channel was declared vulnerable to “war, strikes, terrorism and related perils,” more than a year ago by the LMA’s Joint War Committee. Since the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US security experts have also warned that increassing lawlessness in the sea lane could spawn an attack by al Qaeda or one of its affiliates. One of the world’s busiest sea lanes, the Malacca Strait, which snakes between Indonesia and Malaysia, links Asia with the Middle East and Europe. It carries about 40% of the world’s trade, including 80% of the energy supplies of Japan and China. More than 50,000 merchant ships ply the waterway every year. Since the original decision last June the global shipping industry and regional governments have been incensed by the decision and called on the rating to be reversed. Only last week Malaysia urged the London insurance market to lift the war-risk designation, saying higher premiums would hit its economy and eventually make its ports less competitive. – Reuters — end —

Tenders For 9MP Projects To Be Out In Three Months
19 July 2006, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said tenders for projects under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) will be out in three months time. The tenders will be put out by the respective departments, he told a press conference here Wednesday. Tuesday, Abdullah who is also the Finance Minister, had announced that 880 construction projects worth RM15 billion would be tendered out soon. Of the total projects, 455 would be implemented through government tenders while 425 projects would be funded by private finance initiative (PFI). However, Abdullah pointed out that not all the projects would be implemented simultaneously this year as the 9MP was a five-year development plan. He said the variety of projects under the 9MP would give opportunities to contractors. On the priority of projects to be implemented, Abdullah said they were decided based on their location, urgency and ease of implementation. Asked on the PFI projects, he said the government has decided to establish a RM5 billion Facilitation Fund, an allocation to assist the implementation of the projects. He said the government has decided on the PFI projects but if there were any suggestions from the private sector to implement certain projects, they should fork out their own funding. An example, he said, was the KL-South fast train project which was not in the PFI planning because of its high cost. However, if the private sector feels that the project can meet the demand and be accepted by the public, it can be considered but they would have to come out with their own funding, he said. “This is because the government has no plans to implement or provide an allocation but the government understands that it is very useful to the people,” he said. The prime minister said the private sector concerned should build the project and upon completion, they should also manage, operate, fix the ticket pricing and make it their property. He said there was no necessity for the government to own a fast train company but what the government could do would be to help simplify the process of land acquisition. Furthermore, Abdullah said there was no need to have a second fast train project to compete with the present one. Asked whether the proposed fast train project has been accepted, he said the government was waiting for suggestions from other companies. YTL has made some suggestions. Abdullah also said there were projects under the 9MP that the government had decided upon but it could be implemented as PFI projects. He cited the housing project for police personnel as an example. The project needs to be completed fast and does not depend on the allocation for a particular year. As such, the government will ask the Employees’ Providend Fund (EPF) to set aside an allocation for the implementation of the project. The houses would be rented out and EPF would get better returns from the investment compared with returns from fixed deposit, he said. According to a statement issued at the press conference, EPF would give out loans to a SPV (special purpose vehicle) and the contractor for the project would be picked through tenders. The SPV would then pay the contractor and own the project while the government would pay rental to the SPV before the facility is handed over to the government. It said EPF would get back the principal amount and returns from the rentals received from the government.

Eight more held over car thefts
13 July 2006, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Eight more people have been nabbed and an additional 12 cars seized following the arrest of an engineer last month for vehicle thefts. To date, 16 people have been arrested and 20 cars seized, leading police to believe they have crippled a major syndicate involved in vehicle thefts around the peninsula. City acting CID chief Asst Comm Ramli Din said those arrested were syndicate members and purchasers of the stolen vehicles. However, at least two other syndicate members are still at large. Of the 20 cars, 15 were stolen in the Klang Valley – mostly from Wangsa Maju, Brickfields and Kota Damansara – two in Johor, and one in Penang, while the origins of the remaining two were still unknown. “The cars were sold in Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Terengganu, Johor and Perak. Most of the vehicles were sold for between RM3,000 and RM6,000 and the buyers were usually told that the cars had been auctioned off by the Customs Department or banks,” said ACP Ramli. “The syndicates gave buyers forged road-tax stickers that were good enough to fool the naked eye. However, when we counterchecked them against JPJ files, we found them to be fakes.” ACP Ramli also said that the group fooled buyers by telling them they would get their car grants a few days after their car delivery. “We would like to ask those who had bought cars from this syndicate to get in touch with the police via the Rakan Cop hotline,” he said. The first arrest took place on June 29 when a man, the mastermind behind the group which had been operating since 2004, was arrested at his home in Palm Court, Brickfields. After interrogating the suspect, believed to be an unemployed engineer in his 50s, a task force led by Insp Shahimi Husin, set off for Pahang on June 30 where they seized eight stolen cars and arrested seven people.

Editorial – Checking cars for defects
10 July 2006, By New Straits Times

THE number of kereta potong continues to rise at an alarming rate. Puspakom detected more than 4,000 last year — double the 2003 figure, and a manifold jump over the 80 recorded barely six years ago — and expects this year’s tally to increase to 5,000. The number of dangerous and defective cars may well be higher as only three out of four of the cars whose ownership was transferred were inspected by Puspakom. Indeed, since about 150,000 used cars have not been checked, their roadworthiness may be called into question, although they may not all belong to the kereta potong variety. While it may be the lawless and careless driver behind the wheel rather than the defects in the vehicle that is responsible for much of the mangled machines, injured bodies, and lives lost on the road, there is no question that strategies to reduce accidents must include measures to make sure that vehicles on the roads are in good condition. This is why periodic vehicle inspection has become mandatory in most developed countries and in some developing nations. In Malaysia, however, this has been confined to commercial vehicles. In the case of private cars, this has been limited not only to transfers of ownership but further restricted to cover only transactions involving second-hand cars financed by loans. With kereta potong posing a deadly menace, in the interest of road safety, there is every reason to make mandatory testing a requirement not only for all transfers of ownership — as advocated by Puspakom — but also for all renewals of road tax. There should, of course, be a grace period for newer cars. The Transport Ministry is considering making it compulsory for cars which are three to five years old to be inspected, in line with the time frame in those developed countries with a good track record in road safety. With motorcyclists and their pillion riders making up more than half of the fatalities on the road, there is no reason why motorcycles and scooters should not be regularly checked for their roadworthiness too. The protection that compulsory inspection affords car buyers from the fraudulent practice of kereta potong, and the role that regular check-ups play in guarding against vehicular defects, depend just as much on the rigour of the tests as on their compulsion and frequency. Inspections need to be well-administered and hassle-free. Since owners of older cars and motorcycles tend to be those with limited financial means, the fee for inspection should also be reasonable

M’sia To Develop Vehicle Safety Database
6 July 2006, By BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM, — A vehicle safety database to rank the make and type of vehicles in terms of safety will be developed, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said. He said the database was an initiative under the vehicle safety performance evaluation programme which was part of the engineering approach planned under the Malaysian Road Safety Plan (2006-2010). “Engineering is an important element in road safety including the road engineering, vehicle engineering and safety devices as they can contribute significantly to reducing road congestion, accident risks, road deaths and injuries in accidents,” he said in his speech at TECH for LIFE seminar to promote road safety in Malaysia. The text of his speech was read by his deputy Datuk Douglas Unggah Embas. Chan said although profitability was the prime objective of vehicle manufacturers, they should also give due attention and priority to safety issues. “What manufacturers and industry players compromise in safety standards and practices can easily be the defining factor between life, permanent disability or death in road accidents.” He said the industry and government should work hand-in-hand to educate the public to give priority to safety when choosing products as it would help to minimise injuries and loss of life due to road accidents. Malaysia lost a whopping RM8.8 billion last year due to road accidents, computed based on value of lives lost, insurance, medical and property damage. A total of 326,268 road accidents were recorded last year.

Pirate attacks in Malacca Strait
4 July 2006, By BBC News

Pirates have attacked two UN-chartered ships in the Malacca Strait, a maritime watchdog has said. Both ships were sailing from Sumatra to Aceh when they were attacked, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy centre in Malaysia. The pirates stole some cash and construction materials belonging to the UN’s World Food Programme, but no injuries were reported. The incident raises fears of a resurgence of piracy in the area. “The attacks took place not far apart from each other. There is a possibility that they were carried out by the same pirates,” Mr Choong told reporters on Tuesday. “We hope the two attacks are isolated incidents and not a start of more attacks,” he said. The Malacca Strait has typically been one of the most pirate-infested sea lanes in the world – and it is also one of the busiest. Three states bordering the waterway – Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore – have launched aggressive joint measures to try to cut piracy, including air and naval patrols.

Western Powers Slammed For Labelling Melaka Strait War-risk Zone
12 June 2006, By BERNAMA

JOHOR BAHARU — Western powers led by the United States have been unfair to the littoral states when they labelled the Melaka Strait as a war-risk zone, outgoing Marine Police chief SAC I Abdul Rahman Ahmad said Monday. He said the labelling did not only mean a higher insurance premium for shipping but at the same time caused the states, which relied heavily on international trade, to lose out on potential economic growth. Shipping companies had to pay a higher insurance premium because of the labelling even though piracy problem at the strait was not serious, he told reporters at the southern region marine police base in Tampoi, near here. Abdul Rahman, on a nationwide farewell tour prior to retirement on June 22, said between January and May, the southern region received only two reports of ships being robbed while last year, there were three such incidents and another three attempted robberies by pirates. “Most of the vessels attacked were tankers and trawlers. They are considered soft targets as they move slowly and this makes it easier for pirates to board them,” he said. Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak recently rejected a United States proposal for joint patrols at the strait, saying Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore were capable enough to ensure Melaka Strait’s safety. Abdul Rahman concurred that joint patrols with foreign powers would eventually erode the sovereignty of the littoral states at the world’s busiest waterway. He said the government would continue to ensure safety of the strait. He also said that the RM213 million allocated for the marine police under the Ninth Malaysia Plan would be used to buy new boats, equipment and upgrade the marine police capabilities to combat piracy.

Justice for sale: Are some judges corrupt?
31 May 2006, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: He has heard the whispers, has read the poison-pen letters, and is even willing to let the Anti-Corruption Agency to come up with some dirt. But so far there is no evidence to back innuendoes and talk that any of his fellow judges are corrupt, said Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim yesterday. His comments will certainly spark a fresh debate on an issue that has dogged the legal fraternity for years. Speaking to reporters after opening a seminar on combating corruption in the criminal justice system, Ahmad Fairuz said he had not received any official complaint on corrupt judges but received several poison-pen letters on the issue. “We have sent letters to the ACA and we did conduct our own investigations, but there was no credible evidence. The problem with corruption is that the corrupt cover their misdeeds very well,” he said. “Those judges who did it, they will feel it.” When asked how many complaints he had received, Ahmad Fairuz said he had only a few. “I have received only a few complaints against judges. Normally, a few can malign the whole judiciary, so I’m hoping the ACA will get very reliable evidence on these judges,” he said, adding that he has been receiving complaints since his appointment as chief justice in March 2003. He said even if only a few judges were corrupt, the entire system would be affected. “If the judiciary is corrupt, the prosecutors will be frustrated, the defence will be frustrated and everyone will be frustrated. There will be no one to turn to. Only the judiciary can take care of the people. “We cannot afford to have members of the judiciary who are corrupt and I think the ACA is looking into it.” Earlier in his speech, he said not much could be done on complaints made by letter writers who hide behind pseudonyms. To accept such letters as representing the truth would really make a mockery of justice, he said. “The careers of the subjects of those letters would suffer unjustly and unfairly. The only word I can use to describe such writers is ‘cowards’.” Ahmad Fairuz also proposed that more than one judge should preside over trials to prevent corruption among judges. “I’m not saying that the more judges (there are) on the bench there is no possibility of corruption. “If they all conspire to be corrupt, then it will be very sad for the judiciary.” He said it would help to reduce the chances of bribery, as against one judge handling a trial and making a decision. “If corruption has to take place, it takes three heads to get together for corruption. It is very expensive to bribe all three judges.”

CJ Admits Getting Flying Letters Alleging Corruption Among Judges
30 May 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim admitted Tuesday he has received flying letters alleging corrupt practices among judges but said the complaints were without any credible evidence. “It is not fair to act on flying letters where there is no credible evidence. It’s just an allegation of corruption. We do send the complaints to the ACA (Anti-Corruption Agency) and also do our own investigation but there is no credible evidence,” he told reporters after launching a two-day seminar on “Combating Corruption in the Criminal Justice System” organised by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Malaysia, here. Ahmad Fairuz said that in conducting the investigation, he must be careful because the fying letters might have been sent by the losers in any particular case in court. He explained that when investigating one complaint against a judge, there was found to be no basis for the allegation. “It was untrue. So the only thing is that the losers, who feel very frustrated, simply put in anything to the judge. So, it is not fair at all for any authority to rely on flying letters,” he said. When asked how many complaints he had received, Ahmad Fairuz said he had got only a few. “I have received only a few complaints against judges. Normally, a few (judges) can malign the whole judiciary, so I’m hoping that the ACA will get very reliable evidence on these judges,” he said. Ahmad Fairuz said he started receiving the complaints since his appointment as the chief justice in March 2003. Earlier, in his speech, Ahmad Fairuz said not much could be done on complaints made by writers of flying letters who hide behind the covers of pseudo names, and that for people in a position of influence to accept such flying letters as representing the truth would really make a mockery of justice. “The careers of the subjects of those letters would suffer unjustly and unfairly. The only word I can use to describe such kind of writers is `cowardice’, he said. Ahmad Fairuz also proposed that more than one judge should preside to conduct trials to prevent corruption among judges. “I’m not saying that the more judges (there are) on the bench there is no possibility of corruption. If they all conspire to be corrupted, then it will be very sad for the judiciary,” he said. Ahmad Fairuz said it would help to reduce the chances of bribery as against one judge handling a trial and making a decision. “If corruption has to take place, it takes three heads to get together for corruption. It is very expensive to bribe all three judges. For example, in Indonesia, the High Court has three judges hearing a case, if I’m not mistaken,” he said. Ahmad Fairuz also said that the Malaysian judiciary has not been idling in its endeavour to keep corruption out of the system and that the Code of Ethics for Superior Court Judges had been introduced for them to observe. He said that under the code, the current sole punishment for a judge found to have transgressed any provision of the code was dismissal. However, he added, the punishment was harsh and that an amendment was being made to reduce the severity of the penalty. “It is also a requirement that a judge, upon being appointed or at any time when called upon to do so, must declare his or her assets to the chief justice,” he said.

Melaka Strait Not A High Risk Zone, Says IMB
23 May 2006, By BERNAMA

SINGAPORE — The Strait of Melaka is no longer a hotspot for piracy and as such there is no justification in the continued inclusion of the waterway as one of the “high risk” zones in the world, a senior International Maritime Bureau (IMB) official said. Capt Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the Kuala Lumpur-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)-IMB, said the high-risk areas at the moment are in Somalia and the estuaries in Nigeria. “So, the Melaka Strait is not a hotspot in the world anymore. According to our statistics, it is not a problem at the moment,” he told Bernama after sitting as a panellist at a roundtable discussion on security in the Melaka and Singapore Straits, Tuesday. The roundtable was held in conjunction with the launch of a policy paper by the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies on the “Safety and Security in the Melaka and Singapore Straits: An Agenda for Action”. The report proposes a 21-point action plan for enhancing maritime safety and security in the two straits which are among the world’s busiest waterways and vital arteries of the international trade. Last year, the London-based Lloyd’s Market Association Joint War Committee listed the Melaka Strait as one of the world’s “war risk” zones and continued to include the strait when it issued a revised list last month. Capt Pottengal said from the IMB’s point of view, there was no reason to continue to include the Melaka Strait in the list. “From our perspective…there is no reason, unless they have got some information which we are not aware of,” he said. Quoting 2004 statistics, he said about 38 pirate attacks occurred in the Melaka Strait but dwindled to 12 last year. “Since August last year, the number of attacks has dropped drastically. In fact, in the first quarter of 2006, there was none at all. It shows the situation has changed,” he said. “There is nothing new for the Joint War Committee to say the risk has gone up in 2005. In fact, the risk ratings should go down,” he added. The issue attracted numerous comments during the roundtable’s question-and-answer session. A speaker went as far as saying the continued inclusion of the strait in the list of high-risk zones could result in additional premiums on ships plying the strait for commercial reasons.

Magician couple awarded RM8.75m
20 May 2006, By The Star

KUANTAN: Magic may not change their future. But a Sessions Court award of RM8.75mil will help a magician couple from the United States make up for lost earnings. In one of the highest court awards for an accident claim in the country, Tim Joel Gurtler and Jennifer Lynn Gurtler will receive the amount for injuries that resulted from a road accident here eight years ago. The couple were on their way to Kuala Lumpur on Aug 28, 1998, when a lorry rammed into their taxi at the 16th kilometre of the Karak Highway. The Gurtlers, who performed as “Kole and Lynn,” were once rated as “one of 10 world-class acts” before the accident cut short their promising career. Judge Sarimah Hashim, in her judgment yesterday, said the award was for loss of earnings, reduction in future earnings and injuries suffered by the couple. “The court finds the defendants 100% liable for the accident. “Therefore, the court is awarding the said sum, excluding interest and cost, to the plaintiffs,” she said yesterday. The Gurtlers, who filed the suit in the Raub Sessions Court in 2001, had sought compensation from lorry driver Saing Lammisi, the first defendant, and Econolines (M) Sdn Bhd, the firm he was working for. The court, however, absolved the third party, taxi driver Lee Ah Kiw of Genting Highlands Taxi Services Sdn Bhd, of any liability. Due to limb injuries, Tim and Jennifer could no longer perform their “robust” stunts, such as riding a motorcycle off a ramp. They had previously performed all over the world, including at the prestigious Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas. Renowned magician David Copperfield had reportedly described them as unique talents dedicated to “upholding the best traditions of the magical society.” Met outside the courtroom, Tim described the award as “just” and expressed relief that the case was finally over. “I can now get on with my life although the award is not enough to compensate for the pain and sufferings my wife and I went through. “We were at the peak of our career then and the accident has left a major scar on our lives,” Tim told The Star. “It’s about time we reconstruct our lives, which will never be the same again,” he said, adding that he returned to Malaysia six times just to check on the progress of the case. Jennifer, he said, could no longer perform alongside him and he was now presenting simple solo acts around the world to make a living. “Jennifer had been a dancer since the age of seven and was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dance, London,” he added. Prior to the incident, Tim said, they had signed a year-long contract with a popular hill resort in Pahang with a salary of US$7,500 (RM27,000) a week. S.G. Lingam and Lui Soon Oon appeared for the Gurtlers, while the defendants were represented by Reuben Netto. Ooi Aik Lim acted for the third parties.

Road Safety Programme In 7,601 Primary Schools From 2007
15 May 2006, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — The road safety educational programme will be taught in 7,601 primary schools nationwide beginning January 2007 as the government’s long-term measure to reduce the high rate of accidents in the country. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the Level One programmes involving Standard One, Two and Three pupils will be introduced in the Malay syllabus. The programme received the greenlight from the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi here Monday. Chan said the programme was expanded after the pilot project held in Kelantan earlier was found to be effective in raising the awareness and knowledge among teachers and pupils on road safety. “With this initiative, it is hoped that we could inculcate the right attitude on road safety among Malaysians,” said Chan at a news conference after the meeting. Earlier, Abdullah launched the Road Safety Plan of Malaysia 2006-2010 which has been specially formulated as guidelines and directions on the policy, targets and programmes on road safety in Malaysia under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP). Chan said the Second Level programme which would follow suit, was for pupils of Standards Four, Five and Six; Level Three for students of Forms One and Two while Level Four involved Form Four students. The programme does not involve Forms Three and Five as these were examination years. The meeting also decided to increase the number of motorcycle lanes throughout the country after a study found that the chances of those using the lane who were involved in accidents were only one sixth compared to motorcyclists using the normal road. Chan said work on increasing the number of motorcycle lanes would be carried out by the Public Works Department and for the purpose, RM63 million had been approved under the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP). “The total may not be enough if it is to be carried out throughout the country. But the meeting made a decision that we use the available sum and once this has been exhausted, the government will consider increasing the allocation,” he said. Police statistics showed that out of 6,188 deaths due to road accidents last year, 3,584 involved motorcyclists and their pillion riders — the largest number compared to other road users. The minister also said that the government would make efforts to overcome the problem of “black spots” not only at highways and federal highways but also at state roads and municipal roads, including employing the engineering mechanism. At the same time, the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety also approved the setting up of the Malaysian Road Safety Research Institute (IPKJR) aimed at raising the level of road safety based on studies and research. Chan said the body would be established as a statutory body under the Ministry of Transport and his ministry would look for a suitable candidate to spearhead the new entity.

Abdullah Launches Five-year Road Safety Plan
15 May 2006, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi Monday launched the Malaysian Road Safety Plan 2006-2010 which outlined a long-term plan for the implementation of road safety programmes for a period of five years. He launched the plan comprising nine strategies and 52 programmes after chairing the Cabinet Committee on Road Safety here Monday. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy in a news conference later said the plan was the first masterplan prepared since the launching of the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) on March 31 as road safety was one of the targets set out under the 9MP. Among others, the plan has targeted only two deaths for every 10,000 registered vehicles by 2010 compared to 4.2 deaths in 2005 and 10 deaths for each of 100,000 population compared to 23.5 deaths in 2005. It has also targeted 10 deaths for each 1.0 billion vehicles kilometre travel (VKT) in 2010 as against 18 deaths in 2005. According to Chan, the plan received the nod by the Cabinet as a guide to reducing the number of road accidents. Statistics on the total road accidents of 6,188 in 2005 showed that the largest number were motorcyclists with 3,175 deaths, followed by motorists 719, pedestrians 601, car passengers 521 and pillion riders 409. As such, the first strategy under the plan is road safety education comprising six programmes which are aimed at raising public awareness towards road safety. The second strategy is e-enforcement which comprises five programmes, that is to reduce the number of accidents due to reckless drivers through technological expertise. The third strategy is adopting the engineering approach, comprising five programmes including the rehabilitation of accident prone areas and a programme for the development of motorcycle lanes. The fourth strategy which has three programmes is to increase the people’s participation in these activities and the fifth strategy with four programmes is aimed at encouraging the use of public transport. The sixth strategy consisting of seven programmes focuses on other critical sectors while the seventh strategy which has 14 programmes emphasises on high-risked users. The eighth strategy, which comprises three programmes, aims to review and improve the road safety rules while the ninth and last strategy which has five programmes is to promote the sharing of funds to finance road safety programmes. When asked on the allocation and financing for the programmes at the press conference, Chan expressed the hope that the private sector would come forward to participate in the programmes. Citing an example, he said the General Insurance Industry Association of Malaysia (PIAM) agreed to contribute 0.25 per cent from its total premium collections towards the fund, with total contributions of RM15 million a year. Chan said motorcycle importers and manufacturers, in their letters to his ministry, also pledged to contribute RM10 from each registered motorcycle, with expected total contribution of RM4 million a year, towards the fund.

Car Theft Down 12 Pct
9 May 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — The number of private car thefts reported to insurance companies in the country last year was down by 12 percent at 6,431 cases compared with 7,263 cases in 2004, said the General Insurance Association of Malaysia (PIAM). In a statement here Tuesday, its executive director, Lim Chia Fook said that the amount of claims paid out for stolen cars decreased to RM395 million last year compared with RM426 million in 2004. Three types of cars were the favourite targets for the thieves, namely Proton comprising its various models (2,815), followed by Toyota cars (1,420) and Perodua (833). The total number of vehicles reported stolen, including motorcycles, private cars and commercial vehicles, also saw a drop by 7.3 percent from 26,563 in 2004 to 24,616 last year. However, general insurance companies still had to bear claims amounting to RM522 million for the stolen vehicles which was only slightly better than the RM557 million figure in 2004. “The drop in the number of thefts reflects the proactive measures taken by the Malaysian Police Force to combat the criminal activity and also an increased awareness among the people of this crime and the use of better security systems,” he said. He, however, said that while the number of car thefts had decreased, the crime was still the highest contributor to the index of crime against properties. “With more new cars on the road every year, the cases of car robbery might go up and continue to leave a negative impact on insurance companies and owners of the stolen cars if this problem is not dealt with more efficiently and swiftly,” Lim said. He said that PIAM supported the efforts to form a National Council For the Reduction of Theft of Motorised Vehicles, a proposal put forward at the National Seminar on Vehicle Theft in December last year. The council’s objective was to bring together the efforts of the police force, related government agencies, car producers as well as the insurance industry and other parties to reduce effectively the cases of car robbery. The council was intended to bring together all related parties to plan the strategies, resolutions and implement strong and comprehensive action plans to reduce the cases of car thefts and other criminal activities related to it. The fight against car theft cannot be carried out by a single party alone, and all parties involved including the public must work together to beat it, Lim said.

JPJ all out to nab illegal school-van operators
3 May 2006, By The Star

JOHOR BARU: The Road Transport Department (JPJ) has sent its personnel on undercover missions to gather details on unauthorised operators running vans to ferry children to school. State JPJ director Mohd Rosli Ramli said his department had been closely monitoring these illegal services. “We have recorded the registration numbers of these vans. But to nab these illegal operators is not as simple as setting up roadblocks. We cannot compound them, so we have to bring them straight to court. That’s why we have to gather evidence first,” he told The Star yesterday. Rosli said many of these operators managed to wriggle their way out of trouble by claiming that they were only helping to ferry their neighbours’ children to school. In March, the JPJ charged 12 vans with illegally ferrying students to school, and warned operators without permits to stop running such services.

More ships being attacked by pirates in Gelasa Straits
3 May 2006, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: The recent spate of pirate attacks on cargo ships along Indonesia’s Gelasa Straits has put the authorities on high alert. Seven vessels have been attacked in the last two months along the straits which is a major sea lane for ports in Indonesia and Australia via the Malacca Straits. International Maritime Bureau piracy reporting centre head Noel Choong warned all ships plying the route to take extra measures and maintain a strict anti-piracy watch to thwart attacks. “The area has become a piracy hotspot and we have notified the Indonesian navy about the matter,” he said, adding that navy boats were now regularly patrolling the area. “If pirates board your ships, do not resist, give them what they want and they will go away,” he said. Choong added that the pirates were believed to be opportunists going after cash and valuables. “We don’t know if they are connected in any way to larger syndicates.” In the first attack on March 5, six masked men in a speedboat tried to board a Malta-registered container vessel. The ship’s crew managed to repel the pirates. Two weeks later, the pirates hit a Panamanian bulk carrier. They tied up the ship’s master, second officer and two crew members before escaping with the ship’s equipment and cash. On April 16, the pirates attacked a general cargo carrier and a Liberian bulk carrier within two hours. However, the alert crew of the Liberian vessel foiled the attack. On April 29, the master and three engineers of a Turkish bulk carrier were taken hostage before the pirates escaped with the crew’s personal belongings and some equipment.

RM7.4bil loss due to road deaths
2 May 2006, By The Star

THE Federal Government incurred losses of RM7.4bil last year in terms of human resource depletion and claims resulting from 328,268 road accidents with 6,188 deaths. The Federal Government Road Safety Department’s programme and project implementation director Nik Yusaimi Yusof said the amount was calculated based on the World Health Organisa-tion’s (WHO) assessment. “WHO’s calculation states that an average of RM1.2mil is exhausted in terms of insurance claims and other damages every time there is a death due to road accident,” he said after witnessing the introduction of a safety vest by VizLife (M) Sdn Bhd in Seremban on Thursday. The illuminated vest is being promoted for the first time in the country with free personal accident insurance coverage of RM20,000 for a year. Nik Yusaimi said 17 to 18 deaths were reported on Malaysian roads daily and the figure could be higher during festive seasons. He said the Government was putting much effort into measures to slash the accident rate, with a target of less than two deaths for every 10,000 registered vehicles by year 2010. Based on his department’s study, Nik Yusaimi said 4.2 deaths were recorded for every 10,000 registered vehicles last year, a slight decline from 4.5 in 2004. He said Selangor recorded the highest number of deaths last year, with 1,064 fatalities, followed by Johor (1,016), Perak (713), Kedah (483), Pahang (448), Penang (370), Negri Sembilan (349), Sarawak (334) and Sabah (319). “The highest number of road fatalities involve motorcyclists and pillion riders, which account for 57% of the road accidents reported nationwide, last year,” he said. Nik Yusaimi said his department had intensified its campaign to encourage motorcyclists to wear illuminated vests while on the road. “We want these motorcyclists to be seen and they should opt only for vests which are approved by SIRIM,” he added.

Mandatory Puspakom inspection for used cars
28 April 2006, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Buying a second-hand car will now require a mandatory Puspakom inspection, or banks would not release loans to finance the purchase. This is the latest move by the Transport Ministry to rid Malaysian roads of cars assembled from cannibalised parts, popularly known as kereta potong. Last year, it was reported that there were nearly 50,000 of these cars plying roads nationwide. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy told the New Straits Times that a memorandum of understanding had been signed between financial institutions and Puspakom (the Computerised Vehicle Inspection Centre) which requires all second-hand cars to be checked prior to the approval of loans. “Without the certification by Puspakom, financial institutions would not approve any loans of second-hand cars.” He stressed that the Government was serious in weeding out kereta potong, which are known to split into two upon a collision. Chan said if there were any traces that a second-hand car was a kereta potong, banks would immediately reject the loan. “Furthermore, the cars would immediately be referred to the Road Transport Department where it would be declared unfit to be on the road.” Chan also advised second-hand car owners to take their vehicles to Puspakom to be inspected as this would prevent them and their family members from being seriously injured in the event of an accident. He added that kereta potong are made by cutting and joining sections of two cars of the same model. This compromised the structural integrity and safety of the cabin as the joint would split instead of crumpling in an accident. There are three easy tell-tale signs that indicate a half-cut car: – Smooth areas between factory welded marks along the car’s side running panels; – Rust at any section of the A or C-pillars which are arms connecting the car’s roof to the body; and, – Differences in the fonts of the car’s chassis number usually located on the fire/scuttle wall and fonts on other parts of the vehicle like windscreens. Puspakom, he said, conducts a thorough check for anyone who wants to know if their car is a half-cut vehicle for a nominal fee of RM40.

M’sia Disappointed Over Lloyd’s Rating On Melaka Strait
26 April 2006, By BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA — Malaysia is disappointed with the London-based shipping insurer, Lloyds’, decision to retain its rating on the Melaka Strait as a war-risk area, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Wednesday. The deputy prime minister said the rating was not justified as it should be based on the fact that there had been no pirate attacks in the strait recently. He told reporters this at the Defence Services Asia (DSA 2006) exhibition in Subang near here when asked to comment on Lloyds’ decision to retain its insurance premium for the Melaka Strait as a war-risk area. Last June, the Joint War Committee of the Lloyds’ Market Association added the Melaka Strait to its list of 20 areas worldwide at risk from war, strikes, terrorism and related perils, putting it alongside other hotspots like Somalia, Iraq and Lebanon. Being categorised as a war-risk area means that shipping lines must pay additional premiums. Ships like container vessels stand to pay as much as US$5,000 extra for each trip through the strait. In the last two years, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have jointly launched air and sea patrols to clear the strait of pirates.

Six Months For Medical Practitioners To Get Used To New Act
24 April 2006, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — General medical practitioners (GPs) will be given six months to familiarise themselves with the regulations and guidelines under the new Private Healthcare Facilities Act 1998 which comes into force on May 1, Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said Monday. He said the GPs needed ample time to understand the various aspects of the Act because it would cover 12 healthcare facilities and services, as opposed to the more lenient Private Hospital Act 1971, which covered only three types of private healthcare services. Thus, the Act would be implemented in phases, starting with the central region in Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding areas of the Klang Valley, followed by the northern and southern regions and finally, Sabah and Sarawak. “Right now, we are holding roadshows in all the states and districts throughout the country to assist the GPs in the Act’s implementation,” he told journalists after a briefing on the implementation of the Act for some 300 GPs here. Talks by the ministry’s officials at the roadshows would mainly be directed at private family healthcare clinics and dental clinics which had to register under the new Act, he said. Private hospitals registered under the Act would have to receive scheduled visits by a Board of Visitors, assigned to ensure that the minimum criteria on facilities, equipment and staffing were adhered to. Dr Chua said the Act was a bold move by the government to regulate the private healthcare industry in view that health services were now more commercialised and the costs were escalating. The patients would benefit as they were be attended to by licensed and approved clinics which provided highly regularised healthcare and support, he said. The public would also have an avenue to air their grouses and complaints to the board of visitors over the healthcare services rendered by clinics throughout the country. “Under this new Act, any complaint will be investigated. If the hospitals are unable to investigate, the Director-General of Health will investigate and action can be taken on any complaints which have grounds and are supported by evidence,” he said. Under the Act, the private hospitals would have to make welfare and social contributions like participating in blood donation drives, giving special discounts to the disabled and underprivileged and giving emergency treatment to patients at no cost. There would also be a minimum standard on equipment/apparatus/appliance for emergency treatment, ambulance, doctors’ bag and others, Dr Chua added. He said offenders could face a minimum fine of RM1,000 and maximum of RM500,000 as well as a jail term of up to six years if convicted.

Red faces at City Hall over partial sealing of building
21 April 2006, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: There were red faces all around City Hall as a father armed with a court order sealed some parts of its building in Jalan Raja Laut. The unprecedented action by Haris Abdullah Hue, 28, was done on behalf of his three-year old son, Putera Marzuqi, who fell four floors after slipping through a broken railing at Seri Melaka Flats in Cheras last December. Datuk Bandar Datuk Ruslin Hasan, at a Press conference yesterday, was visibly surprised with the court order for a writ of seizure and sale for its failure to settle the RM500,910 in damages the court had awarded to the child. “I am shocked such a thing can happen. The building was sealed for the first time,” he said. On Wednesday, Haris, accompanied by his lawyers, went to the Datuk Bandar’s office on the 28th floor to serve the court order but was made to wait for two hours, only to be informed later Ruslin was unable to meet them. They then went ahead and sealed off parts of the building from 2.30pm. However, they received a cheque for the amount at 4.30pm from a City Hall official. They then called off their action. Ruslin said the delay was caused by the appointed insurance company which failed to show up at the court hearing on March 21 “and we received the judgment in default for not attending the case. He said the cheque given yesterday was in lieu of the failure of the insurance company to attend the hearing. “The amount of compensation is yet to be decided by the High Court,” he added. He said City Hall was not aware of the details of the case as the family did not contact the local authority. “If we had received any letter, we would have responded. We are a government agency, and would have been proactive on any court order,: he added. Furthermore, he said, the High Court did not ask them to attend the court hearing on March 21. “If the court had informed us, we would have given them any necessary information.” Asked if the sealing of the building affected the image of the local authority, Ruslin said: “I don’t know. Usually, there is a negotiation and discussion. Sometimes, it is settled out of court” “We have faced a lot of compensation cases on potholes or due to uprooted trees but this is really extraordinary. Those involved acted really fast.” He said a domestic inquiry within City Hall and the appointed insurance comapny would be carried out to investigate who was responsible for the slip up.

Ruslin: Payment was not compensation
21 April 2006, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: A cheque for more than RM500,000 issued by KL City Hall to remove the seals on certain sections of its headquarters yesterday was payment for a judgment in default, not compensation for damages, said Datuk Bandar Datuk Ruslin Hassan. He told a press conference yesterday that City Hall had to issue the cheque because its insurance company did not turn up in court on March 21 for a case involving a two-year-old boy who slipped through the railings and fell from the fourth floor of the Sri Melaka flats in Cheras last December. Lawyers representing the family of the boy showed up at the City Hall headquarters on Wednesday with a court order and sealed off certain sections of the building. The seals were removed later in the day after the cheque was issued. “It was not compensation for the child’s injuries, but payment for the judgment in default, I need to make this clear,” said the mayor. Ruslin said he was not aware of the judgment and did not receive any court order prior to Wednesday. He said City Hall would decide later whether to take action against the insurance company. In the meantime, the insurance company has filed an appeal in the High Court against the judgment in default.

KL city hall sealed
20 April 2006, By Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR: City Hall paid more than RM500,000 yesterday to the family of a two-year-old boy who fell four floors after slipping through a broken railing at the Seri Melaka flats in Cheras last December. The payment is said to be unprecedented and was to forestall the complete sealing of the City Hall headquarters in Jalan Raja Laut. A cheque for RM500,910 was issued about 4.30pm yesterday, after lawyers representing the family, armed with a court order, had sealed off certain sections of the City Hall headquarters. They also threatened to seal other properties in Jalan Raja Laut. On Dec 20, Putera Marzuqi Hue sustained a cracked skull and swollen brain after falling through the railing from the fourth floor of the flats. On Jan 23 this year, the family’s counsel, Keppy Wong, filed a claim for damages. On March 21, the Kuala Lumpur High Court awarded the family RM500,000 in general damages, RM685 in special damages and RM225 in costs. When City Hall failed to pay up, lawyers representing the family obtained the writ of seizure and sale from the Kuala Lumpur High Court on April 10. Wong told The Malay Mail: “We were left with no other recourse but to seize and seal the premises as City Hall had failed to settle the amount ordered by the court. “We believe we had given them ample time to respond to the order.” About 10.30am yesterday, Wong, accompanied by co-counsel Eric Tan, Putera Marzuqi’s father Haris Abdullah Hue and a court bailiff, went to Datuk Bandar Datuk Ruslin Hassan’s office on the 28th floor of the City Hall headquarters. Wong said they were made to wait for two hours, only to be informed later that Ruslin was unable to meet them. “Instead, we had a meeting with City Hall’s lawyers who made several offers in exchange for us to stop the execution of the court order. “Following a brief consultation with my client, I had to decline the offer,” he said, adding that the discussion continued until 2pm. He said the execution order resumed at 2.30pm, and they began sealing off certain sections of the building. “However, we were unable to seal off the Datuk Bandar’s office as security personnel barred us from entering. I informed them that by preventing the court bailiff from doing his work, they may be in contempt of court. “Still, they refused to adhere to the court order,” he added. Wong said he then went to another floor to begin contempt proceedings. He was then informed that a meeting was scheduled at 3pm with City Hall’s Deputy Director of Administration, Normah Malik. By then, the lawyers and bailiff had sealed almost half the building. “At the meeting, she informed us that City Hall would issue the cheque to us within two hours. We agreed and asked the bailiff to stop the execution of the court order. “At about 4.30pm, we received the cheque for the full amount,” he said, adding that it was never their intention to embarrass anyone. “We had gone to the Datuk Bandar’s office first, as we wanted to give him an opportunity to settle the payment with minimal fuss. “When he declined to meet us, we were left with no choice but to carry out the court order,” he said. Efforts to obtain comments from Ruslin and City Hall director-general Salleh Yusup proved futile. Meanwhile, Haris said he was relieved the matter has been settled. “My son is not the same as he was before the incident. We hope we can now obtain better treatment for him and help him in his recovery,” he said.

Paper soon on quake-proofing buildings
21 April 2006, By The Star

IPOH: A paper dealing with building safety in the event of an earthquake will soon be submitted to the Government. Institute of Engineers Malaysia corporate affairs committee member Dr Ch’ng Guan Bee said the paper would be ready in two months. “The paper is in response to the general fear of those who reside in high-rise buildings following the tsunami disaster,” he said yesterday during the institute’s Sixth Public Colloquium on Earthquake here yesterday. Although Malaysia was not located in the earthquake belt, he said, the country could still be affected. “We also feel tremors from earthquake aftermaths from Sumatra, which can be quite damaging to our buildings,” he said. Dr Ch’ng said the paper would suggest both short-term and long-term solutions to the protection of buildings in an earthquake. “Preventive measures can be taken by making sure that buildings are strong enough to withstand earthquakes. However, we need more data before we can make solid suggestions,” he said. To collect this data, Dr Ch’ng said more earthquake motion sensors should be installed in buildings around the country. “There are currently only 12 such sensors with just five in Peninsular Malaysia,” he added. He said there was also a need to assess the structural integrity of buildings, and how vulnerable their foundations were to earthquakes.

Insurers optimistic of better performance this year
20 April 2006, By Business Times

INSURANCE firms are optimistic of a better performance this year on the back of a healthy economic growth forecast. In addition, the market would be supported by the low penetration of insurance products, rising affluence and increased awareness among the country’s ageing population. The Life Insurance Association of Malaysia had projected new businesses expanding at between 10 and 20 per cent this year despite a marginal 0.6 per cent growth last year. Allianz Life Insurance Malaysia Bhd chief executive officer Chris James sees the life insurance sector growing faster this year. “We would like to see double-digit growth, as currently only four out of 10 Malaysians are insured,” he said. James said investment- linked products will take a larger share in the market because customers want more transparency, flexibility and control over their investment decisions. In 2005, new annual investment-linked products posted a robust growth of 17.7 per cent over the previous year. The challenge for life insurers, Bank Negara Malaysia said, will be to churn out investment yield. The investment yield, excluding capital gains for the industry as a whole, remained relatively flat at 5.7 per cent last year. Yield including capital gains fell to 6.5 per cent due to losses by insurers in the stock market. General Insurance Association of Malaysia chairman Hashim Harun was optimistic that general insurance premiums will grow by 10 per cent this year. Motor insurance, which last year made up 47.2 per cent of the total general insurance premiums, is again expected to drive the market. Hashim, who is UniAsia General Insurance Bhd’s chief executive officer, expects the recently-announced motor vehicle policy to spur sales of new and used cars. Bank Negara shares the same view but it also expects premiums to rise for certain businesses following the effects of the hurricanes in the US last year. This normally happens following a major catastrophe, Hashim said. “However, we will not be directly affected as there are some risks beyond our capability, which are insured overseas.” Such risks, which are non-tariff classes, are large, specialised risks such as liability, marine and aviation. However, chief executive officer of Allianz General Insurance Alexander Ankel said this remains to be seen. “The experiences in previous years show that major natural disasters don’t necessarily lead to shrinking capacity, thus increasing rate levels. Somehow it seems that there is always ample reinsurance capacity in the global market,” he said.

Combined insurance premium grew by 7% last year
20 April 2006, By The Star

Petaling Jaya: The insurance industry registered a 6.9% increase in combined premium income last year to RM23.56bil (2004: 17.2% to RM22.04bil). The level of insurance coverage continued to expand in 2005 as market penetration (measured in terms of life policies in force to the total population) deepened further to 38.7% (2004: 37.9%), according to Bank Negara’s Insurance and Takaful annual report for 2005, released yesterday. Total assets of the insurance funds expanded by 11.4% to RM96.7bil last year (2004: RM86.9bil), with asset allocations to corporate and debt securities continuing on an upward trend to account for 49.9% (2004: 46.5%) of total insurance fund assets. New business growth in the life sector slowed to 0.6% (2004:37.3%) in 2005, mainly due to the scaling back of new sales of capital-guaranteed investment-linked insurance products by life insurers.Demand for protection and regular savings products remained resilient with the continued expansion in bank lending activities during the year. Bancassurance remained a major distribution channel alongside the agency force, respectively accounting for 45.3% and 49.4% of total new business in the life sector. The total assets of life insurance funds continued to expand at a double-digit rate of 12.9% (2004: 15.9%) to RM78.75bil in 2005. The general insurance sector expanded strongly, with gross premium expanding by 9.7% to RM9.38bil, registering higher premiums in all classes of general insurance except the contractors all risks and engineering classes. Growth was largely boosted by a 14.4% increase in motor insurance premiums, (2004: 6.8%), its most significant growth since 2000, following the surge in motor vehicle sales in 2005. The central bank said the future growth prospects for the general insurance industry were expected to remain strong in 2006. The takaful industry continued to grow in 2005, underpinned by the domestic economy. The combined net contributions of the family and general takaful sectors grew 18.8% (2004: 10.8%) to RM1.3bil, thereby increasing the takaful share of the insurance sector to 5.4% (2004: 5.1%). The family takaful business saw an impressive growth of 20.2% (2004: 18.1%) in new business contributions to RM725.5mil and continued to strengthen its position as the predominant sector in the takaful industry at 73.3% share of total net contributions. The general takaful sector grew 12.4% to account for RM553.8mil in gross contributions. The motor takaful business contributed mostly to the growth.

Court allows paper mill to file appeal
19 April 2006, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court has allowed the application by Asean Security Paper Mills Sdn Bhd (ASPM) for leave to appeal against the Court of Appeal decision to cancel a fire insurance claim following a godown fire 17 years ago. Federal Court judges Justices Richard Malanjum, Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman and S. Augustine Paul unanimously granted the application yesterday. Three questions would be answered in the appeal: # WHETHER the Court of Appeal can put aside evidence and expert testimony, which created doubt that ASPM was burnt down intentionally as former Chemist Department director Amar Singh and Professor Datuk Dr Chan Kai Cheong had testified that the fire was caused by spontaneous combustion; # WHETHER the Court of Appeal could rely on circumstantial evidence as opposed to direct scientific evidence relating to an important aspect in the case, which was that the godown was intentionally set on fire, and therefore setting aside the High Court’s decision; and # WHETHER the Court of Appeal was correct in deciding that the company was bound by the actions of one of the shareholders, when in fact his actions were not related to it. On Feb 15, the Court of Appeal allowed CGU Insurance Bhd’s appeal against a High Court order ordering it to pay RM16,124,500 in fire insurance claims to ASPM.

Tsunami alert buoys in place
18 April 2006, By The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is now fully prepared in terms of technology to be forewarned of tsunamis heading our way, said managing director of Astronautic Technology (M) Sdn Bhd. Dr Ahmad Sabirin Arshad, who is also project contractor of the early warning system, said 80% of the system had been deployed. There is only one more buoy to be installed. “The buoys are optimally designed, with coastal cameras and sirens installed and fully operational,” he told a press conference here yesterday. “They will be able to measure seismic activity, wave movements, wind speed and temperature changes in the sea and transmit the data obtained to the Earthquake and Tsunami Early Warning Centre here via satellite,” he said. Two of three buoys have been positioned, one in the Andaman Sea near Rondo Island in Indonesia, and the other in the South China Sea near Pulau Layang-layang in Sabah. The third will be deployed in the Sulu Sea soon. Said Dr Ahmad: “The system will warn Malaysia an hour before a tsunami reaches our shores. “Malaysians will receive notice of evacuation via television, radio, satellite broadcast and SMS within 15 minutes of data transmission.” He also added that although the warning system was fully integrated, it only amounted to 50% of the entire coordination effort. “It’s not just about the technology, it’s about public awareness as well. People need to know what should be done if a tsunami occurs,” he said. Also present were Prof Dr Ho Sinn Chye, director of the Ministry Of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) National Oceanographic Directorate; Malaysian Meteorological Services Department director-general Dr Yap Kok Seng; and Academy of Science Malaysia executive director Datuk Dr Samsudin Tugiman. MOSTI will be hosting three events in conjunction with its on-going efforts to strengthen Malaysia’s earthquake and tsunami early warning system. The National Workshop on Seismic and Tsunami Hazards and Risks in Malaysia will be held at Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur, on April 24-25 to create public awareness on seismic and tsunami hazards. The International Round Table Dialogue on Earthquake and Tsunami Risk in South-East Asia, Indian Ocean and South China Sea Region will be held at Sheraton Imperial Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, on April 27-28 to enable local and foreign participants to pool and share knowledge regarding earthquakes and tsunamis, and to provide reports on early warning systems in their respective countries. The third event is the International Training Course on Tsunami Numerical Modelling. This will address the need to develop the capacity for disaster preparedness and inundation mapping, which identifies high-risk areas. It will be held at the Malaysian Centre for Remote Sensing on May 8 -19.

‘No sentimental damages’
19 April 2006, By The Star

IPOH: The courts should not allow pity or sympathy to get in the way when deciding on cases of negligence, a High Court judge here said. It could cloud judicial reasoning in determining the issue of liability. “There cannot be any sentimental damages,” Justice V.T. Singham said. He made the remarks when allowing the appeals of tractor owner S. Balakrishnan and driver A. Sellan, who were blamed by a Sessions Court of being 100% negligent in a 1996 road accident. In the 3pm incident on Dec 21, 1996, two persons in a van were killed when the driver overtook two vehicles and crashed into a parked tractor on the roadside. Van driver A. Anthony and his passenger V. Kanniamah were travelling from Taiping to Pantai Remis when they became involved in the collision. Anthony’s widow G. Mariammah and Kanniamah’s daughter P. Maligah later filed negligence suits against Balakrishnan and Sellan. Subsequently, a Sessions Court awarded Anthony’s widow RM74,412 for loss of dependency, based on RM1,378 per month for 53 months. In setting aside the lower court’s decision yesterday, Justice Singham said: “If the dead driver is found to be the sole or substantial author of his own misfortune, the sessions court judge must readily say so in his findings.” Revising the award – with 75% contributory negligence against Anthony and 25% liability against the appellants – the judge said it was clear the deceased had overtaken the two vehicles at high speed when it was not safe to do so. He ordered that the monthly RM1,378 per month award for the widow be substituted with RM600 monthly for the same 53-month duration. Justice Singham said the findings of the Sessions Court judge was “fundamentally flawed, and has to be corrected by this (High) court”. “The sessions court judge must make a finding judiciously without allowing moral philosophy to creep into his mind,” he said. Justice Singham said the evidence of an independent eyewitness who testified for the plaintiffs had also placed the blame on the deceased driver. He said the fact that insurers were liable in law to satisfy the judgement sum should never be a significant consideration in the determination of liability or assessment of damages.

Court reduces damages awarded
19 April 2006, By New Straits Times

IPOH: A widow and her five children who were awarded RM74,412 in damages in 2002 after her husband was killed in a road accident will receive only RM8,000. High Court judge Datuk V. T Singham yesterday slashed the original amount awarded by the Sessions Court to G. Mariammah and her children to RM31,800 and decreed that the family was only entitled to 25 per cent of the amount — RM7,950. The judge said the lower court’s decision that the defendants were 100 per cent liable for the accident was “fundamentally flawed” and added that the deceased was negligent. Mariammah’s husband A. Anthony died on Dec 21, 1996 along the Taiping-Pantai Remis road when his van crashed into a stationary tractor after overtaking two cars. According to case facts, Anthony swerved to avoid a head-on collision with an oncoming bus and crashed into the tractor. Anthony, who owned a hair-dressing salon, died on the spot, while his passenger, V. Kanniamah, 60, died a month later at Sungai Bakar Hospital in Penang. Mariammah then filed a suit against tractor owner S. Balakrishnan and bus driver A. Sellan. In August 2002, the Sessions Court found the defendants to be 100 per cent negligent over the accident and awarded the plaintiffs general damages at RM74,412 for loss of dependency at RM1,378 per month and RM10,000 for bereavement. Singham, in his decision, said the case had glaring misdirections and contained material flaws. Singham said the evidence was heard by four different judges and the fourth judge who found the defendant liable heard only testimonies from the last two witnesses. Singham said it was clear Anthony was driving in a dangerous manner prior to the collision, based on the evidence of an eye witness. He added the lower court’s finding of loss of dependency at RM1,378 per month was done without proper judicial evaluation and was based on submissions by the plaintiffs’ counsel.

Residents Of Highland Towers Cannot Seek Damages From MPAJ
18 April 2006, By BERNAMA

PUTRAJAYA — It is the end of the road for the 73 residents of Blocks Two and Three of the Highland Towers condominium seeking damages from the Ampang Municipal Council (MPAJ) for losses they suffered after the collapse of Block One 13 years ago, killing 48 people. The Federal Court Tuesday denied them leave for a review of its ruling last Feb 17 that the MPAJ is immunised under the Street, Drainage & Building Act 1974 from claims for pre-collapse. The court also ruled that the MPAJ was also not responsible for post-collapse liability. Justices Datuk Alauddin Sheriff, Datuk Nik Hashim Nik Ab.Rahman and Datuk S.Augustine Paul said the issue of the finding of facts by the Federal Court and lower court relied upon by the residents was not a ground to review the Federal Court’s decision. The MPAJ was apportioned liability of 15 per cent for post-collapse by the High Court but was indemnified from pre-collapse liability. The Court of Appeal, however, held that it was responsible for pre-collapse liability but not post-collapse. The residents of blocks 2 and 3 had sued 10 parties for between RM31 million and RM35 million to repair the two blocks which had to be evacuated after the collapse of block 1 on Dec 11 1993, which rocked the nation and the world. The High Court had also held Arab Malaysian Finance Bhd (AMFB) 30 per cent liable, engineer Wong Yuen Kean (10 per cent), Metrolux Sdn Bhd and MBf Property Services Sdn Bhd (20 per cent), developer Highland Properties Sdn Bhd (15 per cent) and draughtsman Wong Ting Sang (10 per cent). Counsel N.Rajendran argued that the Federal Court should review its decision to correct the order as there were crucial findings of facts which it misunderstood. He said the Federal Court’s ruling that the MPAJ was immunised under the Street, Drainage & Building Act was based on an error of fact. “The Federal Court assumed that the trial judge held MPAJ liable for not implementing the works in the master drainage plan, whereas in fact the trial judge held MPAJ liable for not ensuring that the consultants it engaged actually prepared the master drainage plan,” he said. Rajendran said Section 95 (2) of the Street, Drainage & Building Act (granting immunity to local authorities from claims) could only apply to the inspection and approval of building works and could not apply to give local authorities immunity from negligence that continues or arises after the completion of building projects. He said the Federal Court’s decision to give immunity to MPAJ had by judicial decision extended the limited immunity conferred on local authorities by Parliament for construction and inspection. The MPAJ’s counsel, V.S. Viswanathan, objected to the application, contending that the immunity issue was carefully considered by the Federal Court. He said it was important for the Federal Court to preserve the doctrine of finality in litigation, otherwise there would be chaos in the administration of justice. He said the Federal Court was correct in its decision and even if there were some errors, which in this case there was none, it could not be a ground to review the decision. He said the residents were given a fair hearing and must accept the majority decision of the Federal Court and this application must be dismissed with costs.

Decision on MPAJ stands
19 April 2006, By The Star

PUTRAJAYA: The Federal Court will not review its earlier decision to absolve the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) of liability from the events leading to, as well as following, the collapse of Block One of Highland Towers. Yesterday, the Federal Court dismissed an application for leave by 73 residents and owners of units in Blocks Two and Three to review its decision. Federal Court Justices Alauddin Mohd Sheriff, Nik Hashim Nik Ab Rahman and S. Augustine Paul unanimously held that they could not review the decision because it involved a finding of fact. The application for review was the residents’ final avenue for recourse. On Feb 17, the court unanimously allowed MPAJ’s appeal to set aside the Court of Appeal’s ruling that MPAJ was 15% responsible for the pre-collapse period. At the same time, the Federal Court also dismissed, with a 2-1 majority, the cross-appeal by the 73 plaintiffs against the Court of Appeal’s ruling that the MPAJ was not liable for losses suffered during the post-collapse period. On Dec 11, 1993, a landslide following heavy rains caused the 12-storey Block One of the Highland Towers condominium to collapse, killing 48 people and leaving more than 1,000 residents in two other blocks homeless when they were ordered to move out. About three years later, the 73 plaintiffs filed a suit against 10 defendants for causing or contributing to the collapse of Block One and the subsequent abandonment of the other two blocks. They were Highland Properties Sdn Bhd (owner and developer of the land where the towers were located), draughtsman Wong Ting San, engineer Wong Yuen Kean, the MPAJ, the Selangor government, the state Land and Mines Department director, Arab-Malaysian Finance Bhd, which owned the terraced hill slope behind the collapsed block, its agent Tropic Development Sdn Bhd, and Metrolux Sdn Bhd and MBf Property Services (owners of some adjoining properties). On Aug 11, 2000, the High Court ruled for the 73 plaintiffs and apportioned liability as: Arab-Malaysian Finance Bhd (30%), Metrolux and MBf Property Services (20%), Highland Properties (15%), MPAJ (15%), Ting San (10%) and Yuen Kean (10%). Five of these six defendants appealed against the High Court finding, but on Dec 3, 2002, the Court of Appeal dismissed their appeals. AmFinance Bhd (formerly Arab-Malaysian Finance Bhd) agreed to pay RM52mil to 139 residents and owners of Highland Towers in an out-of-court settlement in August 2004.

The Highland Towers Case: Door closes for ex-residents
19 April 2006, By New Straits Times

PUTRAJAYA: It’s the end of the road for 73 former residents of Highland Towers. The Federal Court yesterday dismissed with costs their application to review its decision of Feb 17 absolving the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) of any liability in the collapse of the building in Dec 1993. Judge Datuk Alauddin Mohd Sheriff said the findings of the court on Feb 17 were on a question of fact and law. “We may disagree on the facts. It is a matter of opinion, but that is not grounds for a review,” he said. Sitting with him were Datuk Nik Hashim Nik Abdul Rahman and Datuk S. Augustine Paul. On Feb 17, the Federal Court, comprising Chief judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Steve Shim Lip Kiong, Datuk Abdul Hamid Mohamed and Datuk Arifin Zakaria, unanimously decided that the MPAJ was protected against legal action for events leading to the collapse of Block One of Highland Towers. It, however, ruled in a majority decision that the MPAJ had immunity from liability for later events that caused the two remaining blocks to be declared unsafe. The Feb 17 Federal Court panel was unanimous that the council enjoyed immunity in approving the diversion of a stream and in failing to detect any defect in the building and drainage plans relating to a development plan. Shim said the acts of the council fell squarely within the ambit of the immunity given in Section 95(2) of the Act, which confers wide immunity on local authorities for the work they carry out pursuant to the Act. On the issue of post-collapse liability for economic loss, the Federal Court was divided. After the collapse of Block One, the MPAJ took steps to stabilise the hill slope to ensure this would not happen to the remaining blocks. Shim held that the economic loss was recoverable as local authorities were liable for failing to carry out their public duty. However, Hamid and Arifin, who were in the majority, took the position that pure economic losses were not recoverable on the grounds of public policy, as in the present case. Hamid in his judgment, concurred with by Arifin, said local councils were shielded from lawsuits for certain damages because their main priority should be providing services to the public. In his submission at yesterday’s hearing, counsel for the MPAJ, V.S. Viswanathan said the Federal Court could review its own decision. “But it must be shown that the past decision lacked jurisdiction, unfair procedure had been adopted, or the appeal was illegal,” he said. And it was important for the Federal Court to preserve the doctrine of finality in litigation, or there would be chaos in the administration of justice. “A losing party may appeal to review and there is nothing to stop the other party making another review,” he said. Viswanathan said in the present case, the court had considered the arguments raised by MPAJ and the residents. “It answered all issues posed before it. It did not fall into any error,” he said. N. Rajendra, who appeared for the residents, said there were serious factual errors in the Federal Court judgment and questions raised in the lower courts remained unanswered. He said the rejection for pure economic loss on grounds of public policy lacked a factual foundation. Rajendra said the majority judgment said local authorities would go bust if such claims were accepted. “The Federal Court committed a serious mistake by declaring that local authorities have immunity under the Act.” Rajendra said the decision created a dangerous precedent, as local governments could do anything they liked.

Firm to detect traffic offenders
17 April 2006, By New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Thinking out of the box, the Transport Ministry has come up with a way of ensuring the success of its planned digital camera system to catch speedsters. It will leave the camera work to a company and pay it a commission for every person booked for traffic offences on highways, trunk roads and at major traffic junctions. Which means it is in the interest of the company to detect every traffic violator. This way, the ministry intends to achieve its goal of reducing the number of road accidents without having to spend money installing and maintaining the system. The company will bear the costs. Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the Government planned to install these digital cameras at some 300 accident-prone areas along trunk roads and highways early next year. The cameras will also be mounted at traffic junctions in urban areas. The devices will operate round-the-clock and will relay photographs, along with information on the nature of the offence and the time and date, to the Road Transport Department and the police. Summonses will then be issued, either by the RTD or police, according to the nature of the offence. The cameras will capture those who speed, drive recklessly or cross double lines. “For motorists, of course, there is nothing to cheer about. We want them to follow the rules to reduce fatalities,” Chan told the New Straits Times. The Road Transport and Road Safety departments — whose staff recently visited the United States, Britain, Germany and Australia — are talking to several foreign companies about the camera models and the cost. Chan said the ministry was eager to implement the system as it appeared foolproof at no cost to the Government. “The cameras will be handled by an independent foreign operator. They will provide the system and the technology and we will not be burdened with the high cost of getting the sophisticated system,” he added. “We will pay the operator from the money obtained from the summonses,” Chan said. He also said the method had been successful in the US and Australia. Universiti Putra Malaysia Road Safety Research Centre head Professor Radin Umar said the cameras would be successful in detecting errant motorists. “At present, the probability of booking offenders is 18 to 25 per cent. “During festive seasons, it increases to 55 per cent as more mobile speed-trap cameras are placed along the highway,” he said. Radin said Governments in several countries had privatised such projects to road safety firms, which could be done here too. Last year, there were 6,118 road fatalities nationwide — 4.5 deaths for every 10,000 registered vehicles — with about 60 per cent of the accidents happening on federal and state roads. The Road Safety Department wants to reduce fatalities to two deaths for every 10,000 registered vehicles by 2010.

Auto policy may take RM300m toll on used-car dealers
17 April 2006, By New Straits Times

USED-car dealers could suffer some RM300 million losses following the implementation of the National Automotive Policy (NAP), which had drastically reduced the prices of new cars. Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Car Dealers and Credit Companies Association (KLSCDCCA) president Khoo Kah Jin said the losses would come from the estimated RM5,000 discount that dealers have to absorb for each 60,000 units of used car available in the market now. While commending the NAP, he said the Government should have given used-car dealers a window period to clear out present used car stock before implementing the policy. “Prices of used cars are dependent on those of new cars. Since new cars are now much cheaper, as a result of various tax cuts, we have no choice but to slash down the prices for used cars, although we have paid for them at a much higher price,” he told a Press conference after the association’s annual general meeting in Cheras yesterday. In addition to this, Khoo said the rise in interest rates is also hurting the country’s used-car industry. Interest rates by finance companies are now between nine and 10 per cent compared with between seven and eight per cent previously while credit companies now impose up to 12 per cent when previously it was 10 per cent. He said the new rates are indeed a burden for most buyers and will discourage them from buying used cars. “Apart from having to slash down prices, we may also be stuck with the 60,000 units of used cars in the market as the high interest rates will discourage people from buying used cars. “The Government should give us some leeway in this. They should at least delay the interest rate increase by about five to six months to give us time to clear our old stock. He said The Federation of Motor and Credit Companies Association of Malaysia, of which KLSCDCCA is a member, will be having a meeting later this month. “After that, we hope to come up with a memorandum on this matter and submit it to the relevant ministry,” he added. Car manufacturers and dealers slashed prices of passenger cars between 1.4 and 12 per cent after import and excise duties on most makes were lowered under the NAP. Proton was said to be RM5,000 cheaper, while other makes such as Hyundai are expected to be RM4,000 less and high-end cars such as Volvo and Mercedez were marked down by RM10,000 and RM40,000, respectively.

Used car dealers hit hard
17 April 2006, By The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Used car dealers may lose about RM160mil due to the drop in car prices and interest rates adjustment. Federation of Motor and Credit Companies Association of Malaysia president Datuk Tony Khor said there were about 5,000 car dealers in the country. “Let’s say 80% of their stock range is between RM20,000 and RM60,000 and out of these, there is a price adjustment of RM2,000 for each vehicle. “If one dealer has 16 units, he would lose about RM32,000 while the whole industry is estimated to suffer a loss of RM160mil,” he said yesterday. Those still holding large fleets of cars acquired before the announcement of the National Automotive Policy (NAP) last month were likely to be worst hit as they would have to dispose of their cars at lower or even no margins following the drop in value. “That is the risk in doing business but I believe that used car dealers are shrewd businessmen and will be able to recover,” she added. Goh Peng Eam, general manager of TopMark, a used car dealer, said the second-hand car market was still volatile and had not fully adjusted to the lower new car prices under the NAP. Stephen Liang, manager of used car company Karmart Enterprise, said consumers were getting smart now and would visit several used car dealers to get the best price for their old cars. “I have been approached by several owners who wanted to sell their old cars but were asking for pre-NAP prices. I guess they find it hard to believe that the price of their old cars has dropped so much overnight,” Liang said. In Petaling Jaya, checks with a number of used car dealers found that the trade-in value of an eight-year-old Proton Wira 1.5(A) had dropped from between RM18,000 and RM20,000 to about RM14,000. For a three-year-old Wira, some dealers were willing to accept trade-ins of between RM28,000 and RM30,000, depending on the condition compared to about RM31,000 to RM33,000 a month ago. A brand new Wira costs about RM48,000, down from RM51,000 a month ago.

Customs assures container checks will not delay cargo
17 April 2006, By The Star

BUTTERWORTH: The Customs Department has assured that its recent move to inspect all containers for false declaration at sea ports and airports will not cause any cargo delay. Director-general Datuk Abdul Rahman Abdul Hamid said the process of inspecting each container would only take a few minutes. “Our main target are container trucks carrying goods with unpaid duties that were sent from the ports to either licensed public warehouses or other import stations and vice-versa. “It does not involve trucks carrying imported goods with duties that are paid at the entry ports,” he said after visiting the North Butterworth Container Terminal here yesterday. Abdul Rahman said the new ruling, effective Saturday, allowed Customs officers to break the seal of all containers with unpaid duties. After the inspection, the officers will place the declaration forms inside the containers and reseal them with the Customs seal. “In this way, our officers will be able to inspect the goods inside the containers to ensure that they matched the description on the declaration forms. “We have received complaints from importers, including those from India, Pakistan and Africa, that some of the goods they received from local exporters did not match the orders,” he added. He said the problem arose because in the previous practice, officers only checked the declaration forms and not inside the containers.

Knowledge Management Services For Insurance Industry
12 April 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — ISM Insurance Services Malaysia Bhd, in collaboration with partner SAS Malaysia, has launched its knowledge management services for the insurance and takaful industry. According to ISM chief executive officer Carl Rajendram, the launch marked a strategic milestone taken on course as Malaysia’s insurance and takaful industry geared for a more competitive business environment. He said the services enabled insurance and takaful companies to access timely and actionable intelligence from ISM’s vast database of insurance-related information to better support their business decisions. “Developing the services is strategic for us because we are able to deploy our reports to a wider range of people and also able to customise our reports and present to members as required,” he told reporters after the signing ceremony between ISM and SAS Malaysia here Wednesday. The two companies said the services are a collaborative effort among insurers and takaful operators to share information via ISM, to build and extend the business intelligence for the fast-growing industry. It is the first such system outside the United States to provide access to business intelligence on insurance statistical databases, they added. The ISM-SAS partnership entailed the licensing of the SAS9 Enterprise Business Intelligence Server as the platform for the services. ISM currently has 39 members and nine affiliates comprising insurance companies, takaful operators and reinsurance companies in Malaysia. The company provides actuarial and statistical, insurance anti-fraud and information technology services to its members and affiliates. SAS specialises in providing business intelligence software and services.

M’sia Needs To Further Liberalise Its Services Sector
12 April 2006, By BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia needs to further liberalise its services sector, says the U.S Coalition of Services Industries (CSI) president, Robert Vastine. Currently, he said Malaysia has made only 30 percent of possible commitment in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) compared with the European Union (EU) and the U.S which is about 65 percent. “We believe Malaysia can do more to liberalise its trade services and make offers in the Doha Round,” he said at a media briefing here today. “Malaysia has a tremendous influence among the developing countries. The government through its minister, Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz who is well-known for her outspoken personality has the capacity to seriously negotiate at the Doha Development Agenda (DDA),” he said. Vastine said the association would like to see Malaysia improve its offer in the areas of financial services, information technology (IT) and food. The association also wants more foreign investors to invest in the services sector in Malaysia. Malaysia is interesting to a large number of U.S companies because of its good infrastructure especially with the setting up of the Multimedia Super Corridor Malaysia, he said. Vastine is heading a business delegation of major U.S services companies to Kuala Lumpur to meet with officials from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Finance, Bank Negara Malaysia, the Ministry of Energy, Water and Communications and the National Economic Action Council (NEAC). The visiting delegation consists of executives from leading companies in the financial services industry and other key services sectors. CSI, a Washington-based organisation, is a leading business association and plays a major role in the development of the U.S services policies.