Hailing the return of mini buses

AS a panellist at the 2015 Land Public Transport Symposium for the session titled “The first and last mile connectivity: How do we make it better”, I called for the return of mini bus services to be part of the last mile connectivity solution.

I said we should bring back the mini bus to transport people for high frequency and reliable services. I was quoted in news reports saying: “We all remember how good it was even though there was some concern over the safety, level of service and its business model. It is high time we bring it back, this time as feeder services at urban areas especially from the LRT, KTM and MRT stations.”

During the Malaysia Commercial Vehicle Expo 2019 held in June at the Malaysia International Exhibition and Convention Centre, Hino Motors introduced the Poncho, a seven-metre ultra low-floor minibus with a kneeling function. The height of the bus can be lowered by 50mm to facilitate boarding and alighting. It can also be raised 30mm higher for greater ground clearance on rough roads, and was designed to transport up to 31 adults, including standing passengers.

This mini bus is powered by a Euro V-compliant 5.0 litre turbodiesel engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. In Japan, there are more than 2,000 units of Hino Poncho operating in busy city streets and narrow residential roads.

When I made the call four years ago, many people made immediate connection to the pink mini buses we had on our roads until 1998 (pic). Back then, these buses were kings of the road. Drivers operated them at breakneck speed and they were fondly known as “pink panthers” that provided cheap and efficient transport.

However, mini buses these days, such as the Hino Poncho, are different vehicles altogether. The specifications of the Hino Poncho chassis can put many so-called luxury buses and cars to shame.

Although commercial vehicles are exempted from excise duty, it is still too costly for many stage bus companies to operate state-of-the-art mini buses.

While welcoming the Transport Ministry’s announcement that mini bus services will begin next year, Pan-Malaysian Bus Operators Association president Datuk Mohd Ashfar Ali called on the Land Public Transport Agency to provide more details about the service.

He was reported to have said: “We are willing, able and ready to work closely with the Transport Ministry to make this scheme a success for the benefit and convenience of the public, and also to fulfil the government’s policy of encouraging more people to use public transport.”

The process should be speeded up as many full-size buses, noticeably MRT feeder buses, are running about almost empty. More importantly, mini buses can operate on routes which are not serviced by full-size buses or where their frequencies are too few and far in between.


Kuala Lumpur

Climate crisis is knocking at our doors

I WOULD like to bring to theattention of readers an article

published in the Oct 29 issue of the journal Nature, which addressed the problems of the alarming rise in sea-level and coastal flooding, “New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding” (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12808-z).

It reports that: “Central estimates in the recent literature broadly agree that global mean sea level is likely to rise 20–30cm by 2050. End-of-century projections diverge more, with typical central estimates ranging from 50–70cm under representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 and 70–10cm under RCP 8.5, though more recent projections incorporating Antarctic ice sheet dynamics indicate that sea levels may rise 70–100cm under RCP 4.5 and 100–180cm under RCP 8.5, and could even exceed 2m or more in far-tail scenarios. Via a structured elicitation of opinion, experts now estimate there is a 5% chance that 21st century sea-level rise will exceed 2m.”

This model also projected that sea level by the year 2050 would be high enough to submerge low-lying lands that are currently housing 150 million people, with 70% of them in Asian countries, namely China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and Japan.

Consequential to this report, it’s undeniably worrying to note the rapid progression of greenhouse effects with carbon emission causing accelerated melting of Antarctic ice, thereby releasing tonnes of water into the sea, resulting in erosion of the sea-coastal line and reduced land mass. Residents of lowlands and coastal areas would need to move to higher ground.

What are we doing to mitigate this problem? Are we being too complacent and minding own business, thinking that it won’t affect our current generation?

Recall that when Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, announced that the national capital would move from Jakarta to the province of East Kalimantan a few months ago, he promised to create a new green-friendly city.

And in Singapore, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave an astonishing speech about a 50-100-year solution/policy on climate change during the country’s National Rally Day. “We must make this effort, ” he said. “Otherwise one day, our children and grandchildren will be ashamed of what our generation did not do.”

Yes, we should make all possible efforts to protect the natural resources given by Mother Nature by pledging to the three Rs motto – reduce, reuse and recycle waste. This would deliver a “greener” future for our next generations.


Kota Kinabalu

New powerful quake hits South Philippines

MANILA (AFP): A powerful quake struck in the southern Philippines on Thursday sending people fleeing from homes, schools and malls, with initial reports of damage to some buildings.

The 6.5 magnitude quake hit the island of Mindanao, the US Geological Survey said, in the same area where a strong tremor killed at least six people on Tuesday.

Frightened residents ran to safety as the strong shaking hit just as businesses and classes opened for the day.

“Everyone rushed outside,” said Reuel Limbungan, mayor of the Tulunan town, which was once again near the epicentre. “It was as strong as the previous one.”

USGS initially said the quake had a magnitude of 6.8, and added there was no threat of a tsunami.

The Philippines suffers regular tremors as part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.

This is the third quake to strike in the same area of Mindanao island, which makes up the southern third of the Philippines, since mid-October.

In the quake earlier this week, a teenage boy was crushed by a falling wall as he tried to escape his school in Magsaysay, the town spokesman told AFP. Though other students were injured in a “stampede” to escape the building, they survived.

Rock and landslides unleashed by the violent shaking killed four others, while a collapsed wall crushed a man, authorities said.

At least 50 people were hurt by falling debris, including some seven pupils and teachers hurt escaping their collapsed elementary school.

The area was still suffering the effects of a 6.4-magnitude quake that hit less than two weeks ago, killing at least five people and damaging dozens of buildings.

Residents fled homes across the Mindanao region and a mall caught fire in the city of General Santos shortly after the quake struck on October 16.

Hundreds of people were still displaced two weeks after that quake when the new one struck earlier this week, forcing hundreds more from their homes.

One of the deadliest quakes to hit the Philippines recently was in April, when 16 people were killed as a building near the capital Manila collapsed and the secondary Clark airport was shut down due to damage to the passenger terminal.

High-rise structures in the capital swayed after the April quake, leaving some with large cracks in their walls.

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R.AGE/Unicef #StandTogether chat bot wins gold at Asian Digital Media Awards

HONG KONG: A WhatsApp chat bot developed by R.AGE and Unicef Malaysia to promote kindness has been recognised with a gold award at the 2019 Asian Digital Media Awards in Hong Kong.

The Kindness Chat Bot, developed as part of the #StandTogether student kindness campaign by property developer SP Setia, Star Media Group (SMG) and R.AGE, shared the top prize in the Best Digital Project to Engage Younger and/or Millennial Audiences category with Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.

The chatbot contained various interactive features aimed at encouraging acts of kindness, the most popular of

which was the five-day #StandTogether Kindness Challenge, where users were sent daily “Kindness Missions” which they had to complete by the end of the day.

Over 8,000 people signed up for the inaugural challenge, with over 3,000 completing all five missions.

WATCH: Malaysia’s student-led Kindness Revolution

“Our goal with the chat bot was simple – to empower Malaysians to be kind again, especially in schools, because we

believe students can be real drivers of change in society,” said R.AGE deputy executive editor and producer Ian Yee.

“And since there’s so much hate in the world today being spread on digital media, we thought, ‘hey, why not use that same technology to empower acts of kindness instead?'”

The chat bot also helps students and teachers across the country sign up for the #StandTogether National Kindness Week programme (which SP Setia and R.AGE campaigned the Education Ministry for in 2018), and enables students to submit “Kindness Project” ideas for funding as well.

SP Setia gave out a total of RM40,000 in grant funding to kickstart the students’ best Kindness Projects, in addition to funding most of the #StandTogether campaign as part of its mission to build kinder communities.

“This is a great example of what Malaysians can achieve when we band together for a good cause,” said SMG chief executive officer Andreas Vogiatzakis.

“You have R.AGE, SP Setia, the Education Ministry, Unicef, other partners and most importantly the students and

teachers, all playing a part in getting this movement onto the world stage, and I’m sure it will keep growing.”

R.AGE and SP Setia are now aiming to bring the #StandTogether movement to other countries, having attracted interest from schools and organisations across the region earlier this year.

To find out more about #StandTogether, go to facebook.com/StandTogetherMY.

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Fire engulfs World Heritage castle in Japan's Okinawa

TOKYO (AFP): A major fire devastated a historic Japanese castle on the southern island of Okinawa on Thursday morning, destroying large parts of the World Heritage site’s complex, local authorities said.

The Shuri castle is a key part of a complex dating back to the Ryukyu Kingdom, and is believed to have been in use from around the 1400s. Most of the current structures are reconstructions based on original plans and photos of the old castle.

“All the (three) main buildings have burnt down, with nothing left behind,” Daisuke Furugen, an official with the local Naha fire department, told AFP.

“Efforts to extinguish the fire are continuing, with 30 fire engines and some 100 firefighters involved.”

“We have no reports of injuries,” he added.

The blaze started before 3:00 am on Thursday morning, with the cause unknown as yet.

It started in the elaborate main building of the complex, a grand red structure with traditional tiling on the roof, and spread quickly to nearby buildings, officials said.

Television footage showed large orange flames engulfing the castle before sunrise, with daylight revealing the extensive damage done to the site. In some cases little more than charred and smoking wood was left behind.

“I am extremely saddened by this. I am utterly in shock,” Naha Mayor Mikiko Shiroma told reporters.

“We have lost our symbol.”

“Naha city will make our greatest possible efforts to do everything in our power” to deal with the fire and its aftermath, she pledged earlier, during an emergency meeting on the fire.

‘Symbol of Okinawa’

“It’s sad. It’s hard to put the feeling into words,” a local resident told national broadcaster NHK.

“I feel hollowed out… It’s been a symbol of Okinawa.”

Officials said a festival that began on the 27th was being held at the site and preparatory work for some of the event had been ongoing up until 1am, hours before the blaze erupted.

However, it was not immediately clear whether there was a link to the fire.

The complex was largely destroyed during World War II, when the headquarters of the Japanese army was dug underneath the monument.

But it was extensively restored, with the work on the main hall based on scale drawings and photographs taken before the destruction, as well as extensive archaeological excavation.

The complex reopened as a national park in 1992.

Thanks to the faithful nature of the reconstruction, the site along with the remaining ruins was registered along with other Ryukyu sites in the region as a World Heritage Site in 2000.

“Five hundred years of Ryukyuan history (12th-17th century) are represented by this group of sites and monuments,” the entry on the UNESCO website explains.

“The ruins of the castles, on imposing elevated sites, are evidence for the social structure over much of that period, while the sacred sites provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age.”

The reconstructed main hall of the Shuri castle in particular is praised as “a great monument symbolising the pride of the Ryukyu people”.

The facility’s Shurei-mon Gate, with its striking red-tiled roof, was featured on a special banknote issued in 2000 when the G8 summit was hosted in Okinawa.

And the Olympic torch relay for next year’s Tokyo Summer Games was due to pass by the site as it travels around the country in 2020.

Japan is dotted with historic castle complexes, most of which are careful reconstructions of original buildings.

Several have suffered damage from natural disasters in recent decades, including Kumamoto Castle in southern Japan, which was badly affected by a series of devastating earthquakes.

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MCA candidate for Tg Piai has silenced critics, says Johor Umno Youth

JOHOR BARU: Barisan Nasional’s move in fielding Tanjung Piai MCA division chief Datuk Seri Dr Wee Jeck Seng (pic) as its candidate for the by-election has silenced critics for labelling the Umno-PAS pact as inclusive to only one race.

Johor Umno Youth chief Mohd Hairi Mad Shah said this while adding that the youth wing welcomed the decision from Barisan’s leadership to re-nominate Wee to wrest the parliamentary seat.

“Wee’s nomination has shut the critics, especially our opponents that have labelled Umno as greedy, racist and described the ‘Muafakat Nasional’ as being inclusive to one particular race.

“The will of Muafakat Nasional can be seen in Tanjung Piai,” he said here on Thursday (Oct 31).

Mohd Hairi stressed that for Johor Umno youth, no matter who had been picked by the leadership, its machinery would work hard to ensure victory for Barisan’s candidate.

“We believe that the decision was made based on consensus among the multiracial parties within Barisan and full wisdom of our leadership,” he added.

Mohd Hairi said the important thing for Johor Umno Youth and Barisan component parties including their new partner, PAS, was a victory in the by-election to send a signal to Putrajaya that the rakyat is rejecting their administration.

He added that the youth wing would use the Tanjung Piai by-election as a platform to expose Pakatan Harapan government’s unfulfilled manifesto.

“Voters in Tanjung Piai will not see if the candidate comes from Umno or MCA but they would see Barisan’s logo that has their confidence and proven to safeguard the rakyat.

“We know Pakatan badly needs a victory in the by-election but it would not be easy for them as voters in Tanjung Piai would not be cheated again,” he said.

The Tanjung Piai by-election is likely to be a three-cornered fight after Barisan announced Wee as its candidate on Wednesday (Oct 30) night.

Pakatan had announced Karmaine Sardini from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) while Gerakan named Wendy Subramaniam as their respective candidates.

Tanjung Piai is a mixed seat with 53,528 registered voters comprising 57% Malays, 41.66% Chinese and 1% Indians.

The by-election was triggered after its MP Dr Md Farid Md Rafik, 42, died of heart complications on Sept 21.

The Election Commission has set Saturday (Nov 2) as nomination day and Nov 16 as polling day.

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Apec Summit in Chile cancelled due anti-government protests

BANGKOK: The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) secretariat says it supports the move to cancel the Apec Summit in Chile due to anti-government protests there as the safety and welfare of Chile and Apec member economies are of utmost importance.

Apec secretariat executive director Tan Sri Rebecca Sta Maria (pic) said the secretariat supported the decision taken by Chile president Sebastian Pinera to suspend the Apec Leaders Week which was slated for Nov 16 and 17.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was originally scheduled to attend the summit along with US president Donald Trump, Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Malaysia is hosting the Apec summit next year.

“We thank Chile for tirelessly advocating for more inclusive growth throughout its host year, including by prioritising the economic empowerment of women and small businesses.

“All Apec members will continue to advance this critical agenda of making sure that all communities across the Asia-Pacific reap the benefits of economic growth and integration,” said Sta Maria.

Apec member economies comprise Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

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Singaporean retailer fined for helping buyers access pirated content over Android TV boxes

SINGAPORE (ANN): A retailer and its director have been convicted of infringing copyright by helping people access pirated content via Android TV boxes.

The landmark victory against piracy here came after a 22-month court battle.

Synnex Trading was on Wednesday (Oct 30) ordered to pay a fine of S$160,800 (RM671,670), and its director Jia Xiaofeng sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail and fined S$5,400 (RM22,560).

He pleaded guilty to four criminal charges for “wilfully authorising copyright infringement of copyrighted works for commercial gain” by selling Android TV boxes loaded with apps that provided unauthorised access to programmes including English Premier League matches, movies and National Geographic documentaries on Fox’s cable channels.

The charges also touched on 104 media boxes specifically adapted for making copies of the copyrighted content in 2017 at Synnex’s Geylang Road shop.

In April this year, trading firm An-Nahl and its director Abdul Nagib Abdul Aziz were fined S$1,200 (RM5,010) after pleading guilty to one criminal charge of copyright infringement.

The two directors and firms were dragged to court together in January last year in an unprecedented move against piracy by pay-TV operators Singtel and StarHub, entertainment titans Fox Networks Group and the Premier League.

On Wednesday, Premier League director of legal services Kevin Plumb said: “This sentencing shows that this is not a grey area, and that selling these devices is against the law.”

Android media set-top boxes are widely sold in Sim Lim Square and are also available at top electronics stores.

They sell for as little as S$200 (RM835) apiece, and many often come preloaded with apps that stream content from different online sources including Netflix, Hulu and YouTube.

The sentencing comes ahead of new laws that will be tabled in Parliament in the next few months to ban the sale of media streaming boxes with “add-on” services that help consumers to access pirated content.

The new laws are the result of a three-year review by the Ministry of Law and the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore of local copyright laws.

Copyright holders have found it difficult to resort to many of the usual legal avenues created in the DVD era against set-top box retailers that benefit from the sale of add-on services.

“While this case now establishes that the sale of such Android TV boxes is illegal, the law is still unclear whether it is legal to use the boxes,” said lawyer Wong Siew Hong of Eldan Law.

Yann Courqueux, vice-president of home product at StarHub, said that the pay-TV operator believes that the ruling “will serve as a significant deterrent to potential retailers looking to market products which facilitate copyright infringement and hurt the creative industry”. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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