Mahathir believes M’sian women can become PM too

Photo credit: FB Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad

KUALA LUMPUR: Women in Malaysia can rise to be the prime minister one day, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.

The former prime minister, however, foresees that this process could take some time before they can play more important roles in the country’s administration.

“We see this (female prime minister) happening in the developed nations, and we are also among the earliest in giving women leadership roles.

“Perhaps (in present times) they may not get to be prime minister, but there are already (women) who are holding very high positions with heavy responsibilities. In fact, they have been doing a great job,” he said in a talk show on women in development streamed live on his official Facebook page yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said women today have broad knowledge and are rich with experience, making them important contributors to the nation-building process.

“(In fact), females form the largest number of students in universities and they also participate in many activities there, with some even pursuing them further abroad,” he said, while adding that women also tend to take their tasks more seriously. — Bernama


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RTM to set up special education TV channel – Saifuddin

Saifuddin Abdullah

KUALA LUMPUR: Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) is prepared to provide a special television education channel to help the home learning process during and post-Covid-19, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah.

He said RTM had the experience of having its own educational television service, ‘TV Pendidikan’ from 1972 to 2008 and the ministry is expecting this new channel to be ready by the first quarter of this year.

“During (the implementation) of the first Movement Control Order, we held home classes in two sessions which was two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon using (RTM’s) TV Okey channel.

“Actually, RTM is now ready and has conducted tests on the channel. It is too early to give it a name but the preparations are for education TV,” he said.

Saifuddin told reporters this after a virtual media conference in conjunction with the closing of the First ASEAN Digital Ministers’ Meeting (ADGMIN1) here yesterday.

Saifuddin said his ministry would play the role of providing the platform while content would be provided by the Education Ministry. — Bernama


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Proposal to use SPM trial results not appropriate – NUTP

KUALA LUMPUR: Suggestions that the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) trial results be used to replace the actual examination seem inappropriate, said the National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP).

Explaining the matter, NUTP secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock said the SPM trial examination was a method for teachers to identify the abilities and weaknesses of their students before they sit for the actual examination.

He said the standard of the SPM trial examination was not equivalent to the actual SPM, which had an assessment in line with international standards.

“SPM trial examination has no benchmark with international standards, therefore, it is not fair to use the trial results to replace the actual SPM.

“Even without the trial exams, teachers still have other approaches that can be done as preparations for SPM students throughout the school sessions this year before SPM examination begins,” he said when contacted by Bernama here yesterday.

He was commenting on suggestions by some parents that the SPM examination be cancelled and the SPM trial results be graded as the actual result.

Yesterday, through the list of frequently asked questions (FAQ), the Education Ministry said that the 2020 SPM trial examination need not be carried out by schools which have not conducted it and that it would not affect the students’ opportunity to further their studies at public higher learning institutions.

Harry said it was important for teachers and SPM students to focus on preparing for the SPM examination, adding that the decision to cancel the trial exams would at least ease the pressure faced by affected candidates in the flood-hit and Movement Control Order (MCO) areas.

In SABAH, parents of SPM candidates believe that any decision regarding SPM, including postponing the examination dates or using the trial examination results as the actual result, should be fair to the students.

A village head of Lokub in Kiulu, Unus Limun, 46, said the move to protect students from the spread of COVID-19 was good but it was unfair to use SPM trial results as the actual result.

“The trial examination is to see our children’s achievements and to improve their weaknesses before sitting for the actual examination,” he told Bernama yesterday.

For 45-year-old Runah Bernadus, who works as a nursery assistant in Tawau, disagreed with the suggestion, saying it was unfair for students who hoped to do their best in the actual examination.

“In my opinion, the trial exam should not be an indicator of actual performance because students who get poor results during the trial will be hoping to do better in the actual examination,” she said.

Last Saturday, the MOE  announced that the face-to-face school session commencing tomorrow for the whole country would only involve students sitting for the SPM, Sijil Vokasional Malaysia (SVM), Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM), Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM), Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia (STAM), and Malaysian Vocational Diploma (DVM) as well as equivalent international examinations last year.

The ministry has decided to move the dates for SPM, SVM and STAM to Feb 22 while gthe STPM will be held on March 8. — Bernama


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Nepal team claim first winter ascent of Pakistan’s K2

A Nepali team has claimed the first winter ascent of K2 (C, pictured in summer) in the Karakoram range. – AFP photo

A team of Nepali climbers made history on Saturday after becoming the first to summit Pakistan’s K2 in winter, on the same afternoon a Spanish mountaineer fell and died lower down the perilous peak.

Dozens of climbers have been competing over the past few weeks to summit the world’s second highest mountain, the last peak above 8,000 metres (26,000 feet) to be topped in wintertime.

“WE DID IT,” tweeted Seven Summit Treks, a trekking company leading one of the expeditions.

“The Karakorum’s ‘Savage Mountain’ been summited in most dangerous season: winter. Nepalese climbers finally reached the summit of Mt K2 this afternoon at 17:00 local time.”

But the success was overshadowed by the death of a Spanish climber, Sergi Mingote, lower down the mountain.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described him as a “great sportsman” on Twitter, writing: “He wanted to keep on making history… and a tragic accident ended his life.”

The Alpine Club of Pakistan said in a statement that the climber fell while descending to Base Camp shortly before 4 pm.

Secretary Karrar Haidri added the club was helping to coordinate the evacuation of the body, but with weather conditions expected to be poor overnight, it would be done on Sunday morning.

The name “Savage Mountain” comes from the punishing conditions there — winds can blow at more than 200 kilometres per hour (125 miles per hour) and temperatures can drop to minus 60 degrees Celsius (minus 76 Fahrenheit).

Since the maiden attempt in 1987-1988, just a handful of winter expeditions have been tried on the storied 8,611-metre (28,250-foot) peak in the Karakoram range along the Chinese border.

None had got higher than 7,650 metres until Saturday, when the good conditions allowed the successful team to push ahead.

The 10 Nepali climbers had earlier been spread across different teams, but formed a new group in order to claim the feat in Nepal’s name.

– ‘The recognition we deserve’ –

Despite being famed for their climbing expertise, there has never before been a Nepali climber on the first winter ascent of a peak over 8,000 metres.

One of the triumphant climbers, Nirmal Purja, who is also known as Nimsdai, described it as a “very special moment”.

“The whole team waited 10m below the summit to form a group then stepped onto the summit together whilst singing our Nepalese National Anthem,” wrote Purja in a social media post.

“We are proud to have been a part of history for humankind and to show that collaboration, teamwork and a positive mental attitude can push limits to what we feel might be possible.”

At least one of the climbers, Mingma Gyalje Sherpa, had planned to reach the summit without using oxygen.

The news sparked joy throughout Nepal, long used to watching foreign climbers seize the records.

“For decades, Nepalis have assisted foreigners to reach the summits of the Himalayas, but we’ve not been getting the recognition we deserve,” said renowned Nepali climber Kami Rita Sherpa, who has climbed Everest a record 24 times.

“The spotlight has always been on foreign climbers. It is wonderful that today on K2 ten Nepalis have made history and shown our bravery and strength.”

Nepali guides, usually ethnic Sherpas from the valleys around Everest, are considered the backbone of the climbing industry in the Himalayas for bearing huge risks to carry equipment and food, fix ropes and repair ladders.

“Sherpas are top climbers of the world, and it is a proud moment for us. But reaching the summit is only the first half. We hope now that they can all make it back down safely,” warned Ang Tshering Sherpa, the former president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association.

– A lonely place –

One of the final technical difficulties to be overcome by the group was the dreaded “bottleneck”, a narrow and steep passage where 11 people were killed in August 2008 in K2’s worst known tragedy.

Many climbers have died trying to reach the summit, while others were killed on the dangerous descent.

Lockdowns and travel bans sparked by the coronavirus pandemic meant the summer climbing season last year was a bust in most of the popular climbing destinations in the region, such as Nepal.

With Pakistan’s borders open and few other places to go, this winter an unprecedented four teams totalling around 60 climbers converged on the mountain, more than all previous expeditions put together.

Unlike Mount Everest, which has been topped by thousands of climbers young and old, K2 is a much lonelier place.

Northern Pakistan is home to some of the world’s tallest mountains, including K2 in the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Nestled between the western end of the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush mountains and the Karakoram range, Gilgit-Baltistan has 18 of the world’s 50 highest peaks. – AFP

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Emergency proclamation not against democratic norms – Kamarudin

Kamarudin Jaffar

KUALA LUMPUR: The proclamation of emergency is not against the principles of democracy as it is clearly enshrined in Article 150 (1) of the Federal Constitution.

Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar said the Article clearly stated that it is necessary to declare the state of emergency if security, or economic life, or public order is threatened.

He said, the emergency proclamation is only aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

“It will also ensure that the government can function better without any disruption and irresponsible action from any party that can undermine efforts to fight Covid-19 and achieve economic stability,” he said in a statement today.

Yesterday, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah proclaimed an emergency that would be enforced up to Aug 1 as a proactive measure to contain the worsening Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia.

Datuk Pengelola Bijaya Diraja of Istana Negara, Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, said in a statement that His Majesty decreed that the emergency be in force up to that date, or earlier if the number of positive Covid-19 cases can be effectively controlled and reduced.

Kamarudin brushed off claims that the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin was using the emergency proclamation to avoid the general election from being held.

“Taking the Sabah State Election as a lesson, the Prime Minister no longer wants to make political decisions that will do more harm than good to the people in line with the principle of hifz al-nafs in the Maqasid Syariah (the most important objectives of Syariah).

“In fact, the Prime Minister has given the assurance that the general election will be held soon after the pandemic subsides,” said Kamarudin who is also the Bandar Tun Razak member of Parliament.

As such, he said, it is very important for all parties regardless of their political ideologies to set aside differences for the time being and work with the government to immediately break the Covid-19 infection chain. — Bernama

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Support for Olympics hits new low in Japan: poll

Tokyo 2020 organisers have already said another delay is out of the question. – AFP photo

Support for holding the coronavirus-postponed Tokyo Olympics this summer has hit a new low in Japan, a poll found Sunday as the country battles a third wave of infections.

Just over 80 percent of those asked by Kyodo news agency said the huge global event should be cancelled or postponed again — a jump from around 60 percent in a December 6 survey by the same outlet.

Kyodo said the survey asked 1,041 participants nationwide, who were selected by random dialling.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have said another delay is out of the question and are insisting the Games will go ahead despite a state of emergency declared in the greater Tokyo area this week over a surge in Covid-19 cases.

In Sunday’s national telephone poll, around 35 percent of people told Kyodo they favoured outright cancellation, while some 45 percent said the event should be postponed a second time.

The month-long emergency in the capital and surrounding regions is less strict than harsh lockdowns seen elsewhere in the world and primarily targets restaurants and bars, which have been asked to close early.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said this week that Japan is committed to holding a “safe and secure” Olympics.

He said he believed the public mood will change when the country begins vaccinations, currently scheduled for late February.

But senior International Olympic Committee official Dick Pound told the BBC he could not “be certain” the Games will go ahead, because “the ongoing elephant in the room would be the surges in the virus”.

Public sentiment towards the Olympics in Japan has been less than optimistic for months.

Two polls in July showed the majority thought the event should be postponed again or cancelled, while a survey released in December by national broadcaster NHK found that only 27 percent of respondents supported holding the Games in 2021. – AFP

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After RoS rejection, Pejuang to appeal to Home Minister on registration

Pejuang pro tem chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the party would abide by every law and regulations set to ensure the party’s registration is approved. Bernama Photo

PUTRAJAYA: Parti Pejuang Tanah Air (Pejuang) will submit an appeal to Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin today, after its application to register as a political party was rejected by the Registrar of Societies (RoS).

Pejuang pro tem chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the party would abide by every law and regulations set to ensure the party’s registration is approved.

“We received information from the RoS that Pejuang’s application for registration has been rejected. We have worked on this for so long; we tried to adhere to all directives, legislation, regulations to register our party but it was rejected,” he told a news conference here yesterday.

Meanwhile, Pejuang secretary-general Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah said according to the RoS, the application did not meet the requirements of Schedule 1 of the Societies Act 1966 and was rejected under Section 7(3)(e) of the same act.

“We have reviewed this and we opined that we have complied with all conditions set in Schedule 1. In fact, we have met with RoS, and they suggested several amendments to the party’s constitution. We resubmitted our application after making the changes,” he explained.

Earlier, Pejuang was reported to have withdrawn its application for leave for judicial review that was filed to challenge the action of the RoS which had yet to approve the party’s registration, after it was informed of the rejection.

Meanwhile, asked on the cancellation of the Kuala-Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail (HSR) project, Dr Mahathir said it was not an important project and Malaysia could wait for 20 to 30 more years to implement it.

“Because for this system, we have to travel far to save in terms of time. The project is only 230km and the most amount of time you can save is about 15 minutes.

“For that 15 minutes you have to pay much more money; worse still, the cost of building HSR has gone up to almost RM80 billion. We’ll never get back our money,” said the former prime minister.

On Jan 1, Malaysian Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong, in a joint statement, said the HSR project had been terminated, as both countries failed to reach an agreement on changes proposed by Malaysia before the project agreement lapsed on Dec 31, 2020. — Bernama


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Trump, Biden campaign in Georgia for crucial Senate races

US President Donald Trump is to campaign in Georgia for Republican Senate candidates. – AFP photo

President Donald Trump, still seeking ways to reverse his election defeat, and President-elect Joe Biden converge on Georgia on Monday for dueling rallies on the eve of runoff votes that will decide control of the US Senate.

Trump, a day after the release of a bombshell recording in which he pressures Georgia officials to overturn his November 3 election loss in the southern state, is to hold a rally in the northwest city of Dalton in support of Republican incumbent senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Biden, who takes over the White House on January 20, is to campaign in Atlanta, the Georgia capital, for the Democratic challengers, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Loeffler, 50, who was appointed to the Senate in December 2019 after the serving senator resigned for health reasons, is taking on Warnock, the 51-year-old African-American pastor at the Atlanta church where the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr once preached.

Perdue, 71, a former CEO of Dollar General who was elected to the Senate in 2014, is running against Ossoff, the 33-year-old head of a television production company.

Georgia has been a reliably Republican state but Biden defeated Trump by around 12,000 votes in the Peach State and polls have both Senate races neck-and-neck.

Republicans hold 50 seats in the Senate and a victory in just one of the runoff races would give them the majority and the ability to thwart Biden’s agenda.

A Democratic sweep would result in a 50-50 split in the Senate with Democrats holding the tie-breaking vote in Vice President Kamala Harris.

The 78-year-old Biden is expected to speak around 4:30 pm (2130 GMT) while the 74-year-old Trump is scheduled to take the stage in the evening in Dalton, a city of around 30,000 people in a rural, conservative Georgia district.

– ‘Find 11,780 votes’ –

The Georgia rallies come a day after the publication by The Washington Post of a shocking recording of Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that rocked Washington.

On the tape, Trump tells Raffensperger he wants to “find 11,780 votes” — one more than Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia — and makes vague threats that Raffensperger and his general counsel could face “a big risk” if they failed to do so.

Trump repeatedly and falsely claims during the hour-long conversation that he won Georgia, an assertion that has been refuted in recounts and in the courts.

“There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” the president tells Raffensperger. “You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”

Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, rebuffs Trump’s claims telling him: “Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”

Harris, the vice president-elect, slammed Trump’s call during a campaign stop in Georgia on Sunday as a “bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States.”

Harris also stressed the importance of Tuesday’s Senate votes. “Everything is at stake,” she said. “The future of our country will be very much in the mix.”

The Georgia elections come one day ahead of the certification by the House of Representatives and Senate of the Electoral College votes from the November presidential election.

Biden won 306 of the Electoral College votes that represent the returns of the popular vote in each of the US states, while Trump won 232.

Certification by Congress is generally just a formality but more than 100 Republican members of the House and about a dozen Senate Republicans have said they plan to raise objections.

At least one member of the House and one member of the Senate needs to lodge an objection to certification to send it to the floor for debate and a vote.

A vote would be doomed to failure, however, in the Democratic-controlled House and would also be unlikely to pass in the Republican-majority Senate, where a number of Republican senators have already acknowledged Biden’s victory.

Trump lashed out on Twitter on Monday at Republican lawmakers who have refused to line up behind his baseless claims of voter fraud.

“How can you certify an election when the numbers being certified are verifiably WRONG,” he said.

“The ‘Surrender Caucus’ within the Republican Party will go down in infamy as weak and ineffective ‘guardians’ of our Nation, who were willing to accept the certification of fraudulent presidential numbers!” he added. – AFP

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Pope appears for first time since sciatica revealed

Cardinal Pietro Parolin (2ndR) celebrated New Year mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, in the absence of Pope Francis. AFP Photo

Pope Francis appeared in public Friday for the first time since skipping New Year’s masses at St Peter’s Basilica because of a bout of sciatica.

Standing behind a desk and next to a Christmas tree and a nativity scene, the pontiff led the traditional Angelus prayers in the Apostolic Palace.

“I send you all my best wishes for peace and serenity in the new year,” he said.

“The painful events which marked the life of humanity last year, in particular the pandemic, taught us how necessary it is to take an interest in the problems of others and share their concerns.”

The Vatican announced Thursday that Francis would be unable to celebrate New Year’s masses Thursday evening and Friday morning because he was suffering from sciatica, a chronic nerve condition causing hip pain for the 84-year-old.

Shortly before Christmas, two cardinals in the pope’s entourage contracted Covid-19, raising fears that Francis, who rarely wears a mask, risked infection.

During Italy’s first lockdown in March, Francis initially delivered his Sunday Angelus prayers from the Vatican library instead of his usual window overlooking crowds on Saint Peter’s Square.

The restriction prompted him to say he felt “caged”, and he made several brief appearances at the window, greeting the few people who ventured out into the vast square.

The pope has a risk factor for the coronavirus aside from his advanced age. When he was 21 years old in 1957, he suffered from severe pleurisy, requiring surgery to remove part of his right lung, according to biographer Austen Ivereigh.

The Vatican has not yet indicated when the pope may be vaccinated against Covid-19. — AFP


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Sarawak reaches out to 1.1 bln audiences digitally in 2020

Karim delivers his opening speech during Sarawak Tourism Board’s media night on Wednesday. — Photo by Chimon Upon


KUCHING: The Covid-19 pandemic did not deter Sarawak Tourism Board from continuing its efforts to promote Sarawak to a global audience, said Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“I would like to highlight something very key for Sarawak tourism, that we received tremendous support from you (the media) in our efforts to promote our beautiful land to the world.

“Our year-end reports indicate that we had reached an astounding 1.1 billion over audiences throughout 2020 with our stories and initiatives, despite the global pandemic.

“As our borders gradually start to open, we hope to continue to reach out to many more prospective visitors to ensure Sarawak remains top-of-mind and hopefully entice them to visit once it is safe to travel again,” Karim said in his speech during Sarawak Tourism Board’s media night in Kuching on Wednesday.

The minister affirmed that it has been tough for the tourism industry the world over.

“But it is through the media, that we are able to bring about more than a billion people virtually to Sarawak, and have hopefully, somehow enticed them to visit once it is safe to travel again,” he continued.

“Thank you again for the effort in making our vision to increase the visibility and awareness of our beautiful Sarawak to the world, a reality.”

During the down time, Karim said his ministry has been continuously strategising and re-strategising to prepare and ensure comprehensive tourism recovery plans, to improve and rebuild destinations in preparation for 2021 and the post-pandemic era.

Though the Covid-19 may not be fully over next year, Karim was optimistic to see increased travel activities with the opening of greenzones and travel bubble with the possibility of the opening of borders within the region.

“We had earlier in the year announced two initiatives which include the Visitors Incentive Package (VIP) for travel agencies and the Sarawak Tourism Online Ecosystem Fund, a catalytic programmes to expand Sarawak Tourism’s digital footprint and Share of Voice in collaboration with industry partners,” he detailed.

“In August, we launched the “Sia Sitok Sarawak” Intra-state Travel Campaign for Sarawakians and Residents of Sarawak, which had received very good response from the locals, and had helped support and sustain our local tourism.

“Sarawak was also the first to collaborate with GRAB Malaysia to introduce the e-hailing online-based learning Ambassadors Programme, for e-hailing drivers, to enhance their knowledge on Sarawak, to become tourism ambassadors in time for the influx of tourists once the borders are open.

“Early next year, we hope to announce our much anticipated inter-state campaign for Peninsular Malaysians to visit Sarawak.”

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