PM may step down in 2010
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will announce plans to retire in June 2010, a move aimed at ending months of political uncertainty that have unnerved investors, a news Web site said yesterday. Abdullah was expected to announce the handover date to his deputy, Najib Razak, at a party meeting yesterday, the influential Malaysian Insider said without citing sources. Abdullah laid out a timeline “because he believed that setting a date would bring some semblance of certainty to Malaysia and reduce the level of politicking, which has upset many Malaysians and foreign investors,” the Web site report said. The Malaysian Insider site is run by several individuals, including an ex-journalist, known to be close to Abdullah.
Tribunal sacks 11 plotters
A military tribunal dismissed 11 officers from service yesterday for participating in a short-lived mutiny against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in July 2003. The military said the five captains and six lieutenants would remain under detention because they still face charges in a civilian court for taking over a high-rise building in Makati during the 2003 mutiny. Two months ago, Arroyo pardoned nine other army officers convicted for the coup by a civilian court after they apologized to her in public and promised not to take part in future attempts to unseat her. Those nine were also removed from military service.
■ HONG KONG
Foreign maids protest
Foreign maids working in the territory were to stage protests yesterday over a US$12.80 a month pay rise awarded by the government. The pay rise increases the minimum monthly pay for foreign live-in maids, most of them from the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, to US$458. Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Alejandrino Vicente welcomed the move, saying it would help workers cope with rising living costs. However, groups representing the maids say the pay rise was too little after their monthly pay was slashed by US$51 in 2003 to help employers cope with the 2003 SARS crisis.
Depot blast kills three
A series of explosions at a Soviet-era arms depot in southern Uzbekistan killed at least three people and smashed windows in buildings several kilometers away, media and witnesses said yesterday. The blast, caused by a fire, occurred in the town of Kagan outside the ancient Silk Road town of Bukhara late on Wednesday, a local witness said. Russia’s Ria-Novosti news agency quoted an Uzbek government source as saying three people died and another 21 were injured by the explosion. Uzbek officials have not issued any official information on the accident.
Ministry slams rights critics
Allegations that Singapore fails to meet international standards for political and human rights are without substance, the law ministry said yesterday. It was reacting to a report by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, which said it had identified a number of areas in which Singapore fell far short of international norms. It accused the rights institute of closing ranks “with other Western human rights NGOs to prescribe for Singapore and all new countries, especially China, Western norms of liberal democracy as the only way to bring stability and prosperity.” The ministry referred to a 15-page brief it submitted to the bar association but which it said had not been taken into account.