Malaysia receives millions from US in assets case

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA – Malaysia on Tuesday said the United States has started returning funds of more than $57million in an assets seizure case.

According to Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas, the funds are part of recovery from asset seizures related to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund founded by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.

"This was done under the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative of the US Department of Justice (DoJ) with the sum transferred into the 1MDB asset recovery account, a segregated trust account, opened specifically for this purpose," Thomas said.

The authorities in Washington and Kuala Lumpur said about $4.5 billion were allegedly siphoned from 1MDB.

The Malaysian attorney general said that the amount arose from a $60 million settlement recorded before the Court of California.

"Malaysia has recovered $322 million worth of 1MDB assets since investigations into 1MDB effectively began after the 14th General Election in May 2018," Thomas added.

"1MDB asset recovery efforts across the globe are still ongoing, and Malaysia is optimistic of recovering [more funds] in the coming months," said Thomas.

Said to be one of biggest ever cases in its anti-kleptocracy program, the U.S. Justice Department has filed civil lawsuits seeking to seize about $1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with stolen 1MDB funds, including a private jet, luxury real estate, artwork, and jewelry.

The U.S. Justice Department also said in a statement Monday night that a Malaysian national, Ng Chong Hwa, 46, also known as "Roger Ng", was extradited from Malaysia to the U.S. to "face charges of conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled" from 1MDB besides other charges.

The Justice Department said that between 2009 and 2014, Ng conspired with others to launder billions of dollars misappropriated and fraudulently diverted from 1MDB, including funds 1MDB raised in 2012 and 2013 through three bond transactions 1MDB executed.

Al Sharq Forum launches youth conference in Malaysia

               KUALA LUMPUR (AA) – The Al Sharq Youth Conference opened Wednesday in Malaysia with the attendance of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and Wadah Khanfar, chairman of event organizer, the Al Sharq Forum.</p>  <p>The conference, focusing on the potential of youth and new ideas for a brighter future, also features the attendance of Rumeysa Kadak, a deputy from Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), and Turkey's Ambassador to Malaysia Merve Safa Kavakci.</p>  <p>In his opening speech, Khanfar spoke on the impact caused by recent changes and technological developments. </p>  <p>“We need new values to bring us together as world nations,” he said. “The world is more global and interconnected now. We have to employ values which conceive the future.” </p>  <p>Mahathir underlined that the youth play an important role in the changes facing the world. </p>  <p>“As a long-term politician, I have always endeavored to fulfill the demands of youth organizations,” he said. “If I desire to see a change, I believe youth are the best way.”</p>  <p>Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Khanfar said: “We give important messages to the world with the Turkey-Malaysia model and through our youth. Taking into consideration the examples of these two countries, we show that Islamic countries can democratize and succeed in economic development.”</p>  <p>“The world of Islam is not limited to only dark and negative stories. We have two important examples from which people can learn lessons,” he added. </p>  <p>On the first day of the conference, Malaysian Education Minister Maszlee Malik and other intellectuals gave speeches in panels on youth and artificial intelligence. A total of 1,000 participants from 50 different countries attended the conference. </p>  <p>In one panel, Turkey’s Kavakci talked about global multipolarism, elite minorities’ economic hegemony over majorities, and the positive and negative outcomes of modernism. </p>  <p>“The power that we’re looking for is present in the youth. They should find and uncover that power,” Kavakci said, urging young people to believe in the power they have inside themselves. </p>  <p>Anadolu Agency and Turkish Airlines are among the sponsors of the conference, which will end Friday. The previous four conferences were held in Istanbul, Turkey. </p>  <p>The Al Sharq Forum, founded in 2012, is an independent international organization which aims to develop long-term strategies for the future in terms of political, social and economic development for people living in the Al Sharq or greater Mideast region. </p>  <p>*Dilan Pamuk contributed to this story in Ankara.</p>  <p> 

UPDATE – Indonesia condemns terror attacks in Sri Lanka

UPDATE WITH CONDEMNATIONS OF CHINA, MALAYSIA, PHILIPPINES

By Erric Permana, Nicky Aulia Widadio

JAKARTA (AA) – Indonesia strongly condemned deadly bombing attacks targeting churches and hotels in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday.

"On behalf of Indonesian people, I wish to convey our deepest condolences and sympathies to the people and government of Sri Lanka and all families of the victims," President Joko Widodo said on Twitter.

The terror attacks were also condemned by the Indonesian Ulema Council — the country's highest clerical body — and its leader Secretary General Anwar Abbas who said the bombings were disgraceful and callous acts.

"The MUI offers its condolences to the families of the victims and the injured. We hope the people and government of Sri Lanka stay vigilant and united against such acts of terrorism," Abbas said in a written statement released on Monday.

He also called on the world community to refrain from associating the attacks with any religion.

The MUI expressed hope that Sri Lankan security forces would arrest those responsible as soon as possible and punish them severely.

  • China, Malaysia condole

    Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on late Sunday sent condolence messages to Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

    "I, on behalf of the Chinese government and people, as well as myself, send my deep condolences to the victims, and my sincere sympathy to the injured and families of the victims," Xi said in a written statement.

    Xi said the Chinese government would support Sri Lanka and its government's efforts to achieve national security.

    Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah and its government condemned the incident.

    “Malaysia strongly condemns the act of terrorism and urge that the perpetrators be brought to justice,” Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said.

    Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia's prime minister-in-waiting, also condemned the vicious attack in Sri Lanka.

    “Our thoughts & prayers are with the victims & their mourning families, just as our support is with the government in bringing the perpetrators to justice,” Ibrahim said on Twitter.

    Philippine Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo condemned the attacks in Sri Lanka and said: “As we recall our recent commitment to boost ties with Sri Lanka and the warm relations between the leaders of our countries, we express our sincere solidarity and offer our heartfelt prayers to the citizens of Sri Lanka as well as to the other people who have been affected by this horrific attack on the churches and hotels in the said South Asian country on what should have been a day for solemn prayer and thoughtful introspection.”

A total of eight explosions — six of them on Sunday morning and the remaining two later in the day — were reported in and just outside the country’s capital Colombo.

In the morning, churches in Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa cities, as well as Kingsbury, Cinnamon Grand and Shangri La hotels in Colombo were targeted.

There has been a petrol bomb attack on a mosque in the northwestern district of Puttalum and arson attacks on two shops owned by Muslims in the western district of Kalutara on Sunday night, according to police reports.

So far, the death toll has risen to 290 people with over 500 people injured.

Malaysian premier rebuffs US travel advisory

             By Riyaz ul Khaliq 

ANKARA (AA) – Malaysia’s prime minister on Thursday rebuffed the U.S. advising its citizens against visiting his country.

Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia is a “safe nation,” daily The Star reported.

“One or two terrorists have been caught, but otherwise we are a safe country,” he told an American-Malaysian Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The statement came after the U.S. State Department warned potential visitors of “kidnappings-for-ransom from both terrorist and criminal groups …. targeting coastal resorts, island resorts, and boats ferrying tourists to resort islands."

However, Mahathir said that people can come to Malaysia and “there is no need for an advisory.”

Addressing American-Malaysians at the luncheon, Mahathir said: “I am quite sure you can come here for dinner, or lunch, and you feel quite safe, but in some countries, even as you are praying, they can kill you,” referring to last month's terrorist massacre at a New Zealand mosque.

“For some reason or another, we are not getting American tourists. No American planes or companies fly to Malaysia,” he said.

“They fly to Singapore but not to Malaysia. I have always wondered why, we are nice people.”

The newspaper said the Malaysian Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdir on Wednesday to explain her government's decision.

She was handed a “protest note, expressing the Malaysian's government's objection to the decision by the United States.”

Malaysia, Singapore open to arbitration on water issue

            By Riyaz ul Khaliq <br>

ANKARA (AA) – Malaysia and Singapore expressed openness Tuesday to seeking third-party intervention in a longstanding water price dispute between the two countries.

Addressing a press conference in Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur, the prime ministers of the two countries said in a joint statement that they may consider arbitration to resolve the issue.

According to Malaysian daily The Star, the two leaders — Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad and Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong — noted the “differing positions of both sides on the right to review the price of water under the 1962 agreement.”

The Johor River Water Agreement — signed on Sept. 29, 1962 between the city council of the state of Singapore and the government of the state of Johor and valid for 99 years until 2061 — says Singapore has the right to draw 250 million gallons of water per day (1.14 million cubic meters) from the Johor River.

Singapore pays for the fresh water, for which Kuala Lumpur is seeking a review of the price.

“Both leaders agreed for the attorneys-general of both sides to discuss these differing positions,” the report said.

The statement was issued following the annual Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat, held Tuesday at the Prime Minister's Office in Malaysia.

According to the joint statement published online by the Malay paper, “both sides will seek amicable solutions, including the possibility of dispute resolution through arbitration on a mutually agreed basis”.

“So we have, as T.S. Eliot says, come back to our starting place, and we are recognizing it for the first time,” the South China Morning Post quoted Lee as saying following the meeting in Malaysia’s administrative capital of Putrajaya.

The two leaders expressed their interest in identifying appropriate and timely measures, including schemes to increase the yield of the Johor River and to safeguard its environmental position and water quality.

Mahathir said he hoped the two countries would continue “the momentum of positive engagements.”

For decades the water price dispute has been a top diplomatic sticking point between Malaysia and Singapore.

Malaysia backtracks on int'l criminal court recognition

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – Malaysia has dropped plans to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), local media said Friday.

The move comes after criticism by Malaysia's royal family who argued that the recognition of the statute would "violate the federal constitution".

The Daily Star quoted Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as saying that his Cabinet has decided not to ratify the statute.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy since 1957 when it gained freedom from British colonialism.

The Rome Statute covers serious crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.

"There seems to be a lot of confusion about the Rome Statute, so we will not accede," Mahathir told a news conference.

"This is not because we are against it, but because of the political confusion about what it entails, caused by people with vested interests," The Star quoted the Malaysian premier as saying.

Earlier this month, the Philippines has withdrawn from the ICC after prosecutors had launched an investigation against its president over his war on drugs in the country.

Accession to the Rome Statute had received mixed reactions in Malaysia with many expressing concerns on the ICC’s impact on Malaysian rulers’ power and Malay privileges.

Crown Prince of Malaysia Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim had tweeted on March 10 that the government had failed to consult the “Conference of Rulers” when it agreed to accede to the Rome Statute, “and that the government had undermined the rulers’ position".

On March 23, Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar had accused the central government of violating the federal constitution by signing the Rome Statute.

The ICC is the first permanent, treaty-based international criminal court, with the objective of ending impunity for perpetrators of the most serious crimes known to the international community.

It was established in 2002 and is governed by the Rome Statute.

Dubbed the “court of last resort,” ICC takes action against individuals when a government is unwilling or unable to prosecute on any of those four crimes.

On Thursday, opposition leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob had also filed a bill in the parliament urging the federal government to withdraw from the Rome Statute.

Yaakob argued that the statute would affect the position and the immunity of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Malaysia's king.

Until now, 122 countries are party to the Rome Statute excluding the United States, China, Russia, and India.

Scientists discover world’s tallest tropical tree in Malaysia

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – Scientists claim to have discovered the world’s tallest tropical tree in Malaysia.

According to a report by National Geographic, a team of researchers from the Universities of Nottingham and Oxford working with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership has discovered a 330.7-foot (100.8-meter) giant tree in forests of Sabah, a Malaysian state located on the island of Borneo.

The new research about exceptionally tall growing trees is being published in the BioRxiv science journal this week, the report added.

“This discovery is the first 100-meter tropical tree (and the world's tallest known flowering plant) recorded anywhere in the world,” the researchers said.

“If it were laid along the ground the tree would be longer than a soccer field. The team named the tree ‘Menara’ which is the Malaysian word for tower. They estimated it weighs 81,500 kilograms, or more than the maximum takeoff weight of a Boeing 737-800, excluding roots,” the report said.

Until now, yellow meranti trees (Shorea faguetiana) were said to be tallest tropical trees in the world which also grew on the same island.

The recorded height of an individual yellow meranti tree jumped from 288 feet (88 meters) to 308.7 feet (94.1 meters) in 2016, when an entire grove of 90-meter (295-feet) plus yellow meranti were found.

The National Geographic said that an individual giant yellow meranti tree is so large that it can contain its own ecosystem consisting of over 1,000 types of insects, fungi, and plants.

Explaining the procedure of measurement of trees, it said: “These exceptionally tall trees were spotted by laser scanning the forest from an airplane in 2018. Three dimensional images are built up of the forest canopy, and slowly the giants pop out of the image. However, when laser scanning reveals an exceptionally tall tree, proof of its actual height is gathered in a remarkably low-tech way; someone climbs up the tree with a tape measure.”

The tallest known trees are California redwoods, which have been measured up to 379.7 feet, or 115.7 meters.

2nd suspect to walk free in Kim Jong-Nam murder case

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – A court in Malaysia is expected to release a second suspect accused of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's step-brother after she agreed to plead guilty to a “lesser charge”, her lawyer told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

The suspect, 30-year-old Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong, and another woman were arrested on charges of poisoning Kim Jong-Nam at Kuala Lumpur's airport on Feb. 13, 2017, with the toxic nerve agent VX, an internationally-prohibited chemical weapon.

The duo was caught by security cameras as they smeared the toxic agent on Kim's face.

Huong and the 27-year-old Indonesian national Siti Aisyah were in jail for the last two years.

Aisyah was released March 11 after prosecutors dropped charges against her.

Unlike Huong, forensic investigators found no trace of the toxic chemical in Aisyah's fingernails and she showed no poisoning symptoms.

Huong on Monday pleaded guilty to "purposely causing injury" to Kim by employing "dangerous means" in attacking him, according to the Singapore-based Channel News Asia.

Huong is expected to be released from prison next month following what her legal team said were usual sentence reductions from her prison term of three years and four months.

Both women have rejected murder charge as Aisyah has claimed that they were tricked by some people — who she thinks were Korean or Japanese — into the assassination and believed that it was a "prank" to be aired in a TV show.

Turkish Aerospace to attend int'l expo in Malaysia

                By Tuba Sahin</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) will participate at an international maritime and aerospace exhibition in Malaysia. </p>    <p>For the first time in its history, Anka unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be on static display at Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) between March 26 and 30, according to a statement from TAI on Monday.</p>    <p>&quot;In addition to the ANKA platform, T129 Atak multirole combat helicopter, Gokbey multirole utility helicopter, Hurkus advanced trainer, Hurkus-C light attack and armed reconnaissance combat aircraft and TF/Turkish fighter models will be displayed at Turkish Aerospace's stand,&quot; the firm said.</p>    <p>TAI, being ambitious in Asian market, will hold various negotiations during the fair.</p>    <p>&quot;The export negotiations for ANKA UAV Systems, which is the most closely related type of interest for Asian countries, initiated in the last year’s exhibition in Malaysia, will continue,&quot; the statement read.</p>    <p>Based in Ankara, the TAI is serving the aerospace and defense industries by manufacturing unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft, helicopters and satellites, and their components.</p>    <p>TAI was established in June 1973 under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry and Technology in order to reduce foreign dependency in the country's defense industry.</p>    <p>Anka, advanced medium altitude long endurance class unmanned aerial system, performs day and night, all-weather reconnaissance, target detection and identification, and intelligence missions, featuring autonomous flight capability including automatic take-off and landing.