Thursday, January 29, 2015

Official declaration on MH370

UPDATE: Malaysia has finally declared the disappearance of MH370 as an accident, during a delayed press conference at the DCA headquarters in Putrajaya today.

It also declared that all 239 passengers and crew are believed to have 'perished'.
In making the announcement, the Malaysian government stressed that the search for the Boeing 777 remains a priority.The government is committed to continuing all reasonable efforts to bring closure to this unfortunate tragedy, with the continuing cooperation and assistance of the governments of China and Australia, said Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.Appearing in a televised broadcast over the RTM1 television channel, he said: "It's with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that, on behalf of the Government of Malaysia, we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident ... and that all 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives.""We have endeavoured and pursued every credible lead and reviewed all available data. Despite all these efforts over the last 327 days (as of yesterday), the search unfortunately has yet to yield the location of the missing aircraft," he said.
Earlier posting: A press conference at the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) in Putrajaya, scheduled at 3.30pm today was abruptly cancelled.

Media members, local and abroad, who convened at the building since 1pm to get latest news about the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, were left puzzling.

A DCA spokesperson only said it was called off due to 'unforeseen circumstances'.

The DCA was today transformed into a congregation point for the media, following key updates on the Boeing 777-200 which vanished since March 8 last year.

Invitations have been sent out to media outlets and circulated hours before members of the local and foreign media began trickling into the building as early as 1pm.
According to the invite, a press conference was scheduled to be held at the DCA's Multipurpose Hall at 3.30pm.
Broadcast vans from media outlets to facilitate live feed were spotted stationed outside the DCA building in Precint 4.
Apart from the media interest, the DCA building was a hive of activity for another reason - small stalls were set up to sell a variety of goods.
The MH370 Boeing 777-200ER aircraft carrying 239 passengers and crew members, disappeared from the radar while enroute to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8.

Its flight path was believed to have ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

Let's hope DCA will come up with a 'valid explanation' for cancelling the media briefing. Not nice to treat the Press in such a manner!

Najib must help MIC

MIC is in trouble. Whatever happens to it will have impact on Barisan Nasional.

Party president G Palanivel is under mounting pressure by various quarters within MIC to take whatever measures deemed necessary to rescue it. Some members accused him of being 'dictatorial' in some decisions.

However, any effort should be collectively supported. Nobody can claim having the best solution without getting majority consent. And this is what Palani is facing now.

So, why don't Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, in his capacity as Barisan Nasional chairman, intervene? We don't want MIC to 'die'.
KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 (Bernama) -- A Central Working Committee (CWC) member P. Kamalanathan suggested fresh election for all posts including party president and deputy would be the best solution to solve the party crisis.In a press conference here, he said this solution, in his opinion, would resolve and put a stop to the matter."Although its not suggested by the Registrar of Society (ROS), this problem must not go on until it damages the 68 year-old party's image," he said.On Dec 5, the ROS directed the MIC to hold re-elections for the posts of three vice-president and 23 Central Working Committee seats within 90 days, following complaints of abuse of power and misconduct during its polls, which contravened the party's constitution and the Societies' Act.The ROS also advised MIC against holding its annual general meeting until the issue was settled.Kamalanathan who is also the Deputy Minister of Education appealed to the party President Datuk Seri G. Palanivel to immediately stop all unilateral decisions made by him for the sake of the party and the Indian community."The promises made during the Dec 18 meeting to meet the ROS with his deputy Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam and form a committee, were not kept and president's decision has created further rift."I hope Palanivel can call for a meeting to explain to us what is happening. I still trust him and the deputy to solve the problem," he added.
Najib should look deeply into MIC problems and try help Palani and his generals douse off the fire within.

Former PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad used to give advise to BN component parties embroiled in leadership crisis. Even his successor Abdullah Badawi did the same thing.

So, Najib must give 'some assistance'. Leaving it 'unattended' will lead to more problems that will directly affect the ruling party.

But will he? I believe MIC members would welcome this...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

MH370 interim report - a conclusion?

What actually happened to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 is still a burning question.

The 10-month search at the southern tip of the Indian Ocean - where the plane is believed to have ended its 'diverted journey' - only leads to despair and frustration.

And come March 7, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) will release an interim report on the missing Boeing 777-200, focusing on the investigation.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Aziz Kaprawi said the announcement of the report will be made by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and the full report will be made available on the DCA’s website‎.
"‎I cannot reveal the details of the interim report but it will be on the investigation that has been carried out so far in search of the missing plane.
"We have not concluded on the status of the plane, as the search is still on-going." Aziz said in Kuala Lumpur today.
On March 8 last year, MH370, which was en route to Beijing, China ‎with 239 passengers and crew.
‎MH 370 last made contact with air traffic control at 1.19 am, less than an hour after takeoff. ‎The aircraft disappeared from air traffic controllers' radar at 1:21am.
Come this March 8, it will be a year since the plane went missing ‎but the underwater search continuous in the 60,000 square kilometre priority area in the Southern Indian Ocean, coordinated by the Australian Joint ‎ Agency Coordination Centre.
I believe we already have details of it but have the family and next of kin of the 239 people on board been informed, or they will have to wait until March 7?

We want to know the status of MH370 as it will enable respective parties to work on how it should be 'resolved', especially when many still believe the passengers and crew are still very much alive (we hope so).

Let's wait...

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Shahidan JP

Shahidan Kassim will probably meet former PM Tun Dr Mahathir on Wednesday to offer his service as 'a mediator' between the latter and Najib Tun Razak.

A peace broker role, I suppose. Or a JP (Justice of Peace)...whatever!

But, is there really a tiff or serious crisis among them that demands such a move by the Minister in the PM's Department?
KUALA LUMPUR: Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said infighting in Umno is unnecessary as neither side will emerge victorious.
Offering himself as mediator between former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, Shahidan said the public spat must not be allowed to continue and more energy should be devoted to governance.
"It is unnecessary to fight publicly in the media. It will only aggravate the situation, the country right now needs to focus on helping flood victims and focus on nation building.
"I will meet with Tun (Mahathir) as soon as possible. We should direct more efforts to address the country's problems following recent global developments," he told reporters after having lunch with members of the Youth Parliament at the Parliament building today.
Shahidan added that he hopes he can help resolve the tiff and that he will be "very sad" if it prolongs.
Mahathir, who is still regarded as a powerful figure within Umno, had been increasingly critical of Najib's administration since mid-2014 and the prime minister's supporters had taken to the media to defend him.
According to veteran journalist and former NST group editor-in-chief A Kadir Jasin, there wasn't any friction between Dr Mahathir and Najib.

The former premier had, on many occasions, criticised Najib's administration in dealing with various issues, notably the economy but that did not lead to Dr Mahathir wanting to 'depose' him, as perceived by many.

Shahidan, being 'a product' of Dr Mahathir's administration, is the only one with 'some guts' to mediate the 'peace talks' in light of the increasing attacks - from the Opposition and also from within Umno and Barisan Nasional - on Putrajaya.

But as how Kadir Jasin puts it:
Jadi apa yang hendak didamaikan oleh Shahidan? Yang buat hal dan perlu didamaikan jiwanya adalah Mohd Najib dan budak-budak suruhannya yang bersekongkol dengan pembangkang bagi membelasah Dr Mahathir, Daim serta pihak-pihak lain yang tidak bersetuju atau menegur mereka.

Kalau Shahidan berani dan berpengaruh, mereka inilah yang perlu beliau jinakkan supaya tidak menjadi batu api yang membakar perhubungan  Mohd Najib dengan pelindung-pelindung politik beliau seperti Dr Mahathir dan Daim..."

Monday, January 26, 2015

IS hacks MAS website?

Malaysia Airlines official website is hacked!

As at 1.30pm today, experts were still trying to revive it, and a group proclaiming support for the Islamic State group is believed to be behind it.

But why did they choose Malaysia Airlines?

The airline's site was changed, at first with a message saying "404 - Plane Not Found" and that it was "Hacked by Cyber Caliphate". The browser tab for the website said "ISIS will prevail".

The national carrier is trying to recover from two disasters last year, including the disappearance of Flight 370, which authorities believed crashed 1,100 miles off Australia's west coast.

The website was later changed to a picture of a lizard, with the ISIS reference removed and the claim of responsibility changed to "Lizard Squad - Official Cyber Caliphate".

The Lizard Squad group last year claimed it was behind attacks on Sony's online PlayStation network and Microsoft's Xbox site.

In August, it also tweeted to American Airlines that there might be explosives on a plane carrying the president of Sony Online Entertainment, which makes video games, forcing the flight to be diverted.

Malaysia Airlines said that its domain name system was "compromised" and users were being redirected to the hacker group's website. It said it will take up to 22 hours to restore the website.

The Evil's Pact

The article below testifies how 'dirty' the US administration under Barack Obama is. Dubbed 'the Evil's Pact', it is about a 'detainees exchange' that shocked many in the country, including those at the White House.

An American couple’s freedom may have come at a steep price: the release of a convicted terrorist from Supermax prison!

Before he was released from a U.S. maximum-security prison last week, a confessed al Qaeda sleeper agent was offered up in a potential prisoner swap that would have freed two Americans held abroad.

The Daily Beast has learned that the proposal was floated in July 2014 to the then-U.S. ambassador in Qatar by an individual acting on behalf of that country’s attorney general. According to two individuals with direct knowledge of the case, the proposition was made shortly after the Obama administration traded five Taliban fighters for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

Those fighters were also sent to Qatar, where they’re to remain under government watch until later this year. U.S. officials have said they’re at risk of plotting further attacks against the United States.

The proposed swap involving the al Qaeda agent, Ali Saleh Al-Marri, raises troubling questions about whether the Bergdahl trade opened a kind of Pandora’s box, signaling to foreign governments that they can pressure the United States to make concessions on terrorism by trading American prisoners abroad for dangerous extremists held in the United States.

“I believe we must examine the administration’s decision in the case of Al-Marri (pic) and determine if his release is connected to negotiations of any kind,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, a frequent critic of the Obama administration’s hostage negotiations, wrote Thursday in a letter to Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the House Armed Services Committee chairman.

Governments' hostage negotiations policies are once again taking center stage after ISIS released a photograph Saturday showing the apparent beheading of Haruna Yukawa, one of two Japanese men the group is holding.

Unexpectedly, ISIS has now dropped an earlier demand of $200 million ransom and says it will free the remaining hostage, journalist Kenji Goto, in exchange for the release of Sajida Mubarak al-Rishawi, a failed suicide bomber who's imprisoned in Jordan for her role in an attack on three hotels in Amman in 2005, which killed 60 people.

ISIS has made other demands for freeing prisoners, including a Pakistani woman held in the United Sates, Aafia Siddiqui, known in counterterrorism circles as "Lady Al Qaeda," who was convicted in 2010 of attempting to kill Americans in Afghanistan. Siddiqui has been used as a bargaining chip in other negotiations, as well.

In 2012, Pakistani officials offered to try and win the release of Bergdahl if the United States would free Siddiqui. The Obama administration quickly rejected the idea because releasing her would be seen as offering concessions to terrorist groups and put a potentially dangerous woman back on the streets, according to current and former administration officials.

In his letter, Hunter accused the administration of failing to pursue other avenues for freeing Americans abroad and relying on prisoner releases or exchanges, “which are often counter to U.S. security interests, for leverage in negotiations.”

The congressman also alluded to other potential swaps, saying it’s his understanding that “other foreign nationals” who are still in U.S. custody “have also been named as potential figures of interest in other cases, with Qatar at the forefront.”

Qatar has emerged as a go-between in various hostage negotiations. It agreed to take custody of the five Taliban fighters for a period of one year after Bergdahl’s release. And sources close to efforts to free other Americans held abroad said that Qatar facilitated a ransom payment to help free journalist Peter Theo Curtis, who was held for two years by al Qaeda’s branch in Syria.

Hunter helped spur the administration to review its hostage negotiation policy, which is widely seen by experts and family members of Americans held abroad as dysfunctional.

The proposal to trade Al-Marri came from an individual described by one source as a “government contractor” and close friend of Qatar’s attorney general, Ali Bin Mohsen Bin Fetais Al Marri, who is said to be a relative of the confessed terrorist.

The emissary met with the then-U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Susan Ziadeh, and raised the idea of trading Al-Marri for Matthew and Grace Huang, an American couple who’d been living in Qatar and were convicted in the still-unexplained death of their adopted daughter, in what was widely criticized by human-rights groups and legal experts as an unfair show trial.

“Qatari government officials told the Huang team that they floated the idea of a prisoner swap to the U.S. ambassador,” Richard Grenell, a former U.S. diplomat who worked on the Huang case, told The Daily Beast. That account was corroborated by a second source.

A State Department spokesman said that “no such proposal was ever on the table,” and noted that Al-Marri was eventually released from prison and sent home to Qatar as scheduled “and not as the result of any U.S.-Qatari agreement.” Asked for further clarification on whether the swap was raised as described and what the U.S. reaction was, the spokesman declined to comment further. The Qatari embassy in Washington didn’t respond to inquiries from The Daily Beast.

A second administration official pushed back on the idea that Al-Marri’s release was a quid pro quo for freeing the Huangs, who were eventually allowed to leave Qatar in December after their conviction was overturned.

“Al-Marri’s release happened as a matter of course, as a result of his court-imposed sentence being completed,” the administration official said. Al-Marri was given a “good conduct release” from the “supermax” facility in Florence, Colorado, on Jan. 16, after serving 87 percent of his 100-month sentence, said a spokesperson for the Bureau of Prisons.

He’d accumulated credit for good behavior while in prison and time already served in jail while awaiting trial, which is why he didn’t serve the remainder of his time.

Administration officials characterized Al-Marri’s release as routine. But Al-Marri was no ordinary prisoner. At one time, he was the only so-called enemy combatant being held on U.S. soil, a status that treated him more like solider in a war than an ordinary criminal.

Al-Marri’s release—timely or otherwise—has led to criticism that the Obama administration is repatriating a dangerous man who could help plan more attacks. An individual with knowledge of Al-Marri’s release said President Obama played no role in the process.

Al-Marri was first detained by U.S. authorities in December 2001 at his home in Peoria, Illinois, having arrived in the U.S. on a student visa. Authorities suspected that Al-Marri, who has dual citizenship in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, had ties to al Qaeda. But his future dramatically changed when was declared an enemy combatant in June 2003 and then transferred into military custody.

It turns out that Al-Marri may have been more valuable as a source of intelligence about other terrorist plots than for anything he knew about the 9/11 attacks. Much of the information that U.S. officials have on his plans came from the brutal interrogation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, which included waterboarding.

“Over three quarters of the intelligence reports that the FBI cited in a paper assessing the activities of [Al-Marri] and explaining the reach of al Qaeda’s network in the U.S. were sourced to” Mohammed, the CIA stated in its written response to a blistering report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on the so-called torture program. “Prior to [Mohammed’s] information, CIA and the FBI were aware of Al-Marri’s links to al Qaeda but lacked the detail to more fully understand al Qaeda’s plans for him.”

That may explain why U.S. officials were reluctant to give Al-Marri a criminal trial, where he could have questioned the credibility of the evidence Mohammed provided while being tortured and exposed the details of the CIA’s interrogation program.

Al-Marri was held in a naval brig for more than five years, and his lawyers have claimed he was subjected to harsh and intimidating treatment. Al-Marri’s case took yet another odd turn when, early in the Obama administration, he was transferred back into federal court and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to aid al Qaeda.

Back in Qatar, where Al-Marri has been reunited with his family, he’s being given a hero’s welcome. Members of the public have been invited to a celebration in Al-Marri’s honor held just down the street from a football stadium that will host the 2022 World Cup, said David Weinberg, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

“Several prominent Qatari personalities welcomed Al-Marri home with open arms. That trend has continued, with a longtime board member of Al Jazeera declaring on her personal Twitter page that ‘We congratulate the family of Ali bin Kahlah Al-Marri on his return,’” Weinberg told The Daily Beast.

Al-Marri may have other powerful friends in Qatar, in addition to the attorney general. Weinberg noted that in U.S. court documents, Al-Marri is said to have spent nearly a decade working as a “key person” in the audit department of Qatar Islamic Bank, and then as a senior auditor for the government of Qatar.

Sending a known moneyman to a country widely seen as a major financial hub for terrorist groups, instead of to Saudi Arabia, where he also has citizenship, “was a big missed opportunity for U.S. policy,” Weinberg said.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Malays too kill each other, sir!

CYBERJAYA, Jan 24 ― Muslims are doing the US and Israel a favour every time they kill one of their own, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today as he called for unity among Islam’s followers to push for global recognition of a Palestinian state.

He said Muslims today are too preoccupied with revenge and killing each other over ideological differences, that they have forgotten that the Quran calls for brotherhood among all the faithful.
“Currently we are trying to bring down governments, we are fighting each other, and we are accusing each other of not being Islamic enough, just so that we can murder them.

“Every time a Muslim kills another Muslim, the Israelis and Americans cheer because we are doing their work for them. We should realise that and stop fighting each other,” he said in his keynote address at the launch of a US$1 billion (RM3.6 billion) fund raiser to rebuild Gaza.

(Dear Tun, Muslims (the Malays) in Malaysia too are already 'killing each other' over politics, and the non-Malays seem to be 'enjoying it', don't you agree? If no effort is taken to patch things up, I personally don't see any future for Umno, which itself is facing internal bickering. 'Ketuanan Melayu', Islam and even the Federal Constitution are open to criticism and sarcasm. Where are the Malays leading to?)
Dr Mahathir, long a critic of US foreign policy, claimed that the Muslim world in its current state of disunity is unable to counter the West’s “hypocrisy of the highest order” in dealing with terrorism and human rights.
He accused Israel and its western backers of being “state terrorists” responsible for the killing of 200,000 Palestinians, describing it as a far worse act of terrorism compared to the deadly attack on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo earlier this month.
The retired prime minister, however, said that the Muslim world lacks the military prowess to match their oppressors and instead need to broaden their diplomatic clout to pressure Israel and its allies to end the siege on Gaza.
Dr Mahathir said there has been a “change of heart” among some former supporters of Israel in Europe, and urged Muslims to do all they can to convince their new “friends” to help further the cause for Palestine.
“If our objective is to fight for freedom for the Palestinians, for the people of Gaza and for Islam, we should avoid fighting each other. We should unite in order to struggle for this objective.
“And the objective cannot be won unless we have a strategy, unless we have a plan. It is not about revenge, it is not an eye for an eye, it is not about one man’s murder to be atoned by another man’s murder.
“We are not here to take revenge, we are here to unite and to struggle for the freedom of the people of Gaza, Palestine and in fact, the Muslim world,” he said.