Best of our wild blogs: 28 Dec 15

Open for registration – Love MacRitchie Walks Jan-Mar 2016
Love our MacRitchie Forest

Green Drinks January: MP Louis Ng’s Meet the People Session with the green community
Green Drinks Singapore

The Unspoken Code of Conduct of Nature Photography
BES Drongos

Cyrene full of Forskal's and seagrasses coming back!
wild shores of singapore

Lesser Asiatic Yellow House Bat (Scotophilus kuhlii) @ Pasir Ris
Monday Morgue

Read more!

More food outlets looking to reduce waste during festive season

Food waste is expected to increase during the festive season, and food outlets are looking to tackle the problem.
Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: During the festive season, food waste is expected to go up by about 10 to 20 per cent, according to the non-governmental organisation Zero Waste. Some organisations have been looking tackle the problem.

The increased waste comes from preparing more food during the festive season.

"I think if you organise a party during the festive season you might cook too much or order too much food,” explained Mr Eugene Tay, executive director of Zero Waste. “For F&B companies during the festive season, they might anticipate more crowd or customers, so they might prepare or cook more food.”

However, some food establishments have been trying to tackle the problem. For example, while Grand Hyatt hotel sees a 10 per cent increase in customers during the festive period it said its food waste has only gone up marginally. About 900 to 1,000 kg of food waste is generated daily.

"We collect a lot of data on what gets consumed at the hotel and we listen a lot and talk to the guests about what they like or dislike. In a buffet, sometimes people’s eyes are bigger than their bellies so to speak, so people may put more onto the plate. We manage that through portion control, having chefs at the buffets to talk to our guests,” said Mr Lucas Glanville, executive chef at Grand Hyatt Singapore.

“We don’t want to go down the path of having smaller plates, or smaller glassware or somewhere where it’s going to create an awkward situation or discomfort to the guest. We want to be generous, we want to be authentic, we want to give the guests a great experience, so by having a chef there to explain what’s on the menu and how the food is produced, it gives the guests an option then of how much they want to consume."

Food left over on the buffet line, which is still edible but cannot be reused at the hotel, also gets packed away after each meal service. It would then be sealed, frozen and eventually passed on to Kerbside Gourmet, a social enterprise which picks up the food once a week to deliver to needy families. The programme has been going on for about a year.

A vacuum waste system and food digester is also being installed at the hotel, and that is expected to eventually keep all the hotel's food waste out of the landfill. “We’ll save 55,00 rubbish bags a year, we’ll save a lot of time and manual labour of moving this food around and also ultimately moving food out of the hotel,” said Mr Glanville.


One establishment that has already seen benefits from food recycling is Mandarin Orchard hotel. It has seen 30 per cent more diners during the festive period but its food waste has not gone up.

It has had a food waste recycling machine known as the Eco-Digestor for about a year, and it recycles an average of 20 tonnes of food waste each month. Microbes in the machine break down the food, producing reusable water that gets pumped back to the system, and a small amount of residue.

"We have the recognition from NEA (National Environment Agency) to share our best practices, we also see a substantial savings of about S$2,000 per month, which is about 20 tonnes per month,” said Mr Freddy Tang, assistant F&B director at Mandarin Orchard. “Annually, it's more than S$20,000 of savings. We have to identify the source of where the food comes from. We use the prominent colours with a label with locations by kitchens, and that allows us to track where the food source come from."

The hotel said the greater awareness among staff has also resulted in a 10 per cent cut in food waste.

According to the NEA, food waste accounts for about 10 per cent of the total waste generated in Singapore. Last year, about 789 million kilogrammes of food waste was generated - equivalent to each person in Singapore throwing away two bowls of food every day. Statistics also showed that only 13 per cent of food waste was recycled last year. The rest gets disposed at incineration plants and sent to the landfill.

But food waste management company Eco-Wiz, which has Mandarin Orchard among its clients, said there have been some positive signs, as there has been a growing interest among companies looking to recycle their food waste.

"Last year we have about 30 installation sites, and this year we are actually receiving orders of about two times of what we already have at the moment. We feel that the increase in numbers is because of the awareness that the government is creating,” said Mr Michael Lee, senior sales manager at Eco-Wiz.

“The clients that we face right now are more knowledgeable and receptive to food waste recycling. Years back, when we were dealing with clients, when we talk to them about food waste recycling, most of them are more sceptical. They had to do food waste segregation, then they have to prepare the waste and put it into our digester system instead of doing it the traditional way and sending it to the incineration plants. But over time, they have more understanding on how the system works and what they can do to contribute to the environment.”

Another study by NEA showed that 80 per cent of Singaporeans prepare food at home, but about 40 per cent of them had leftovers after a meal.

About 30 per cent also bought more than enough food for consumption, and about 70 per cent of them said that was because they wanted to ensure household members had more than enough to eat.

Zero Waste said it is exploring how it can collaborate with culinary schools to develop recipes for leftovers that Singaporeans can use easily.

"We probably have not started that in Singapore yet. In the UK, there’s a website that develops recipes for leftovers. So even for this Christmas period, they have recipes for Christmas leftovers, what to do with your leftover turkey and ham and things like that,” said Mr Tay. “So that’s something we could also do. We shouldn't be wasting our leftovers because I think we spend about 15 to 20 per cent of our monthly expenditure on food, so if we're wasting food at home it means we're wasting money as well."


The group is also hoping to work with undergraduates from National University of Singapore, who have developed a mobile app after noticing a large amount of food waste at school events with catered food.

"It's an app that collates all the available places where there are leftover food and then it will reach out to the users and notify them within a certain proximity, telling them that there’s a certain amount of food available within a certain time frame and they are free to come down to enjoy the food and help finish it up,” said NUS undergraduate Yu Gao Fei.

"We’re thinking of expanding to other schools - I know NTU and SMU also have the same issue. The population is about the same,” said undergraduate Tracy Leong. “We’re also thinking of extending it to government organisations, especially during the festive period because there are a lot of Christmas parties, and during Chinese New Year there are a lot of events and during those events there are a lot of catered food."

- CNA/xq

Read more!

HDB to explore use of smart planning tools for more towns and estates

Modelling tools help the Housing and Development Board to simulate environmental conditions such as wind flow, sun and shade for better estate planning.
Channel NewsAsia 27 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: Modelling tools to visualise heat, shade and wind flow were used to plan and design new precincts and building forms within Singapore's first "eco-precinct" Punggol town. These resulted in smart Housing and Development Board (HDB) homes in districts such as the waterfront Punggol Northshore.

On Sunday (Dec 27), the HDB announced in a news release that it will explore applying such smart planning tools beyond Punggol and to existing and upcoming towns and estates.


There are two types of smart planning tools used to improve the planning and design of HDB towns under the Smart HDB Town Framework, the housing board said.

The first, Urban Environmental Modelling (UEM) simulates environmental conditions such as wind flow and solar irradiance, which is the amount of energy generated by the sun per unit area.

This was put to use at the Treelodge @ Punggol precinct, where simulations allowed town planners to orient blocks to maximise wind flow, thereby optimising natural ventilation and minimising the need for electrical cooling, HDB said. UEM also helps planners identify areas within the town that would receive large amounts of heat from the sun throughout the day, so they can introduce more greenery in such areas to reduce heat build-up.

The modelling tool highlights shaded areas within the town as well, enabling planners to site community facilities like playgrounds and childcare centres in places which get more shade.

"This allows us to identify better placement of facilities, such as children's playgrounds," explained Mr Leroy Tan, senior engineer at HDB's Building Research Institute.

"Because normally we know children usually come out during the evenings or late afternoons to spend their time in the playgrounds, so this is one example where we can use it to identify placement of facilities so we can encourage the community to come out and have activities at these places."

The second, Complex Systems Modelling (CSM), is a decision-making tool that simulates the impact of green initiatives.

This helps town planners, architects and engineers more accurately assess the trade-offs involved when introducing new sustainable features in HDB towns and choose the most effective combination of solutions to achieve the desired sustainability targets, HDB stated. For instance, the tool can be used to study the most effective way to place rooftop solar panels, which in turn could influence the orientation and design of buildings.

"This is particularly useful for our town planners because they cannot afford experimentation with actual developments in land-scarce Singapore," HDB said.

CSM has been tested in the Yuhua precinct in Jurong. Planners for the neighbourhood used it to weigh the energy savings of "smart lighting", which adjusts the intensity of lighting based on the footfall throughout the day, against the higher cost of installing such lighting compared to LED lights for corridors.

After Yuhua, CSM was also used in the urban planning for Punggol Northshore. In future, the tool could also be applied to existing towns to help assess the feasibility of rolling out the HDB Greenprint programme, the housing board said.

A simulation model of Yuhua neighbourhood created by the prototype of the Complex System Modelling Tool (Image: HDB)

HDB added that it will progressively leverage such modelling tools to complement town planning efforts to provide well-designed homes in green, sustainable and self-sufficient towns.

Under the Smart HDB Town Framework introduced in Sep 2014, data collected by a network of sensors will help build more accurate simulations for planning and can offer real-time feedback on an estate to optimise maintenance cycles and to pre-empt problems.

- CNA/mz

The model approach to HDB's smart planning
Janice Heng, The Straits Times AsiaOne 28 Dec 15;

Sensor-controlled smart lighting saves energy but costs more to install than normal lighting. Greenery lowers a building's temperature and hence the need for cooling - but also requires water. To help weigh such trade-offs, the Housing Board (HDB) has a new computer modelling tool.

It is part of the HDB's smart planning efforts, which include designing towns for optimal wind flow and shade.

The Complex Systems Modelling (CSM) tool helps the HDB simulate the effects of a given feature - like solar panels or rainwater harvesting - on variables such as energy consumption, costs or greenhouse gas emissions.

It can therefore be used to decide between different options.

"This is particularly useful for our town planners because they cannot afford experimentation with actual developments in land- scarce Singapore," said the HDB in a factsheet released to the media.

For instance, at Yuhua estate in Jurong, the CSM tool was used to investigate sensor-controlled smart lighting versus low-energy LED lighting. Such simulations help planners find the best solutions without physically testing the options.

The CSM tool was developed by the HDB, Electricite de France and Veolia Environnement Recherche et Innovation. The first prototype was unveiled at last year's World Cities Summit in Singapore.

It has since been tested in the planning stages of the Punggol Northshore district, and will eventually be tested at the town level.

Besides new towns, CSM may also be used to study the feasibility of the HDB Greenprint programme, which brings green initiatives to older towns.

Another of the HDB's smart planning tools allows planners to test how blocks of flats affect the wind flow and shade in an estate.

With the Urban Environmental Modelling (UEM) tool, planners can tweak the shape and position of flats, and see the results in a computer simulation.

It can also be used to identify hot or shady spots within a town.

Greenery can be planted in hot areas to lower the temperature; amenities such as playgrounds can be located in areas with more shade, and housing units can be angled to reduce heat gain from sunlight.

Treelodge @ Punggol, completed in 2010, was the first HDB project planned with the help of wind flow simulation.

The UEM tool was later used to help plan new precincts in Punggol town, and will be applied to new housing areas such as Bidadari and Tampines North.

The tool helps planners "determine how best our new flats can be designed and sited to provide maximum thermal comfort and a more conducive living environment for our residents", said the HDB.

Read more!

Consumers are shying away from fresh fish

Melissa Lin and Jasmine Osada, The Straits Times AsiaOne 27 Dec 15;

Demand for fish at supermarkets has fallen, following a nationwide ban on the sale of raw freshwater fish earlier this month.

As well as freshwater types like song and toman - linked to a recent outbreak of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infections this year - sales of saltwater fish and ready-to-eat sushi and sashimi have also taken a hit.

On Dec 5, the National Environment Agency (NEA) banned food establishments from using freshwater fish for ready-to-eat raw fish dishes.

Food stalls, which include hawker centres, coffee shops, canteens and food courts, as well as caterers were also ordered to stop the sale of all raw saltwater fish until they can show they know how to properly handle the meat.

Restaurants can continue to sell raw saltwater fish, such as salmon.

At Cold Storage, sales of saltwater fish have fallen by 10 per cent since the ban came into effect. Takings for freshwater fish, sushi and sashimi have dropped 20 per cent.

At FairPrice, sales of freshwater fish have decreased by 10 per cent, while demand for sashimi and sushi is down by about 15 per cent.

A FairPrice spokesman assured consumers that seafood sold at its ready-to-eat counters is "sashimi-grade" seafood, sourced from reputable suppliers licensed by Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore.

Meanwhile, sales of toman and song fish at Sheng Siong is down by about 5 per cent from this time last year. For the song fish, the main reason for the drop was a less consistent supply this year, according to a spokesman.

Mr Lee Boon Cheow, president of the Singapore Fish Merchants' General Association, estimates that less than 1 per cent of fish sold at the fishery ports here are song and toman.

The ban came after the Health Ministry was notified of about 360 GBS infections this year, with two fatalities. About 150 were linked to the consumption of raw freshwater fish and involved an aggressive strain known as Type III GBS Sequence Type 283 (ST283).

Dr Hsu Li Yang, the director of the Singapore Infectious Diseases Initiative, supports the NEA's indefinite ban on freshwater fish.

"From a public health perspective, the ban should last until scientific advances can easily detect and/or eliminate the pathogens present in raw freshwater fish, or until some entrepreneur figures out how to farm freshwater fish that are consistently safe for raw consumption," he said.

While the source of the ST283 GBS strain is still unknown, Dr Hsu said that the strain of bacteria could have been infecting freshwater fish in Asia for a number of years. "We can speculate that environmental conditions at the fish farms changed, or something else caused the strain to spread more rapidly," he said, highlighting the need for a more thorough investigation.

While he believes it is unlikely that the strain can be completely eradicated, the ban is likely the best way to prevent future cases of ST283 GBS infections, he said.

"Hong Kong had banned the consumption of freshwater fish for more than 30 years, yet they still have sporadic human ST283 GBS infections," he said. "But we don't really need to eradicate the bacteria. We just need to eliminate or at least minimise the risk of human infection. "

Consumers like admin executive Mary Peh have stopped buying freshwater fish altogether.

"I used to buy toman fish for cooking quite often but since the ban I have switched to purchasing saltwater fish like snapper," said Mrs Peh, 63. "I also asked my children to avoid eating sashimi, just in case."

Read more!

Malaysia: Sultan Ibrahim: I have a vision for Johor

The Star 28 Dec 15;

JOHOR BARU: Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has a vision to transform the state capital into a boutique city and financial hub.

He said he wants to personally attract investors to the state, not only from China but the Middle East to start projects in Johor.

"My strategy now will be to market and get investors to build. I also want to bring investors to the islands off Johor. I have a vision for Johor," he said in an exclusive interview with The Star.

Q: On the subject of development in the state, what are your hopes and what should be focused on?

A: The government must give incentives to developers to spur development. My advice to the state and federal governments is, be consistent to attract long-term investors. You should not have a policy during good times and another during the bad. Do not make policies without engaging the public or deve­loper associations.

I know there is a slowdown now. Banks should be more relaxed towards developers and banks should also grant loans to people to buy homes. Unfortunately, banks are not doing much to help developers.

Whatever you say about a slowdown in Johor, there is still a market and the huge Forest City project, which was launched recently, for example, has started selling.

I also just launched Coronation Square and the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD). These are exciting projects, as the IIBD will enable Johor Baru to achieve world city status and metropolis status soon.

These projects, spearheaded by the Johor Corporation, cover about 100ha of prime real estate in the city.

Of this zone, about 2.53ha will be turned into Coronation Square, which will comprise medical suites, blocks of serviced apartments, an office tower and a hotel.

I expect this strategic development to change the face of Johor, including a major increase in population.

I am sure there will be huge multiplier effects as ordinary Johoreans will be able to enjoy the spillover effects, especially for small businesses in the retail and food and beverage sectors. Surely, hundreds of thousands of new jobs will also be created.

I want Johor Baru to emerge as a boutique city and financial hub in the future.

I will be travelling soon after my mourning period and will start bringing in investors directly into Johor – not just the Chinese but also investors from the Middle East.

During my next Kembara Mahkota, I will bring investors to all my other districts, including Muar. My strategy now will be to market and get investors to build. I also want to bring investors to the islands off Johor.

That is why incentives are important to lure investors. I have a vision for Johor.

Q: Tuanku, recently the name of the state administration capital Nusajaya was changed to Iskandar Puteri, while Kulaijaya was changed back to Kulai and Ledang to Tangkak. Any reasons for the sudden name changes?

A: What was Kulai’s original name? Why add Jaya to the back of these names (Kulaijaya and Nusajaya)? I discussed with my Mentri Besar and my Council of Royal Court and there is no such thing as Nusajaya.

The first name given to Johor Baru in those days was Iskandar Puteri, but the late Sultan Abu Bakar replaced it with Johor Baru in 1866. Iskandar Puteri is full of history and suitable to replace Nusajaya. That is why I want the original names back, including Tangkak.

Also, the changes in name were made without consulting my late father or me. Why were we not consulted? Even when they wanted to house the government buildings in Iskandar Puteri (Nusajaya), we were not consulted.

I remember my late father asking the previous Mentri Besar about the area and he only said they were constructing additional buildings because Johor Baru was too congested. Now, government buildings are housed in a noisy area opposite a firing range in Singapore.

A home for every Johorean
The Star 28 Dec 15;

The Star: Finally, Your Royal High­ness, what are your wishes for 2016?

Sultan Ibrahim: I hope my state government’s finances do not go back into the red. I congratulate my Mentri Besar (Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin) for ensuring that Johor was able to amass a huge surplus during my rule in the last five years. He is a fast learner.

I always tell him to run the state like he is running a company. He must not only be a good businessman but also have the discipline of a soldier when administering Johor.

But during an economic slowdown, we have to be fighters. That is why we need more attractive incentives and stimuli to lure investors.

We must also concentrate on building more affordable homes to bring back all the communities, including the Malays, Chinese and Indians, into our town.

I also want all civil servants to own homes in our town areas.

I also want to remind developers not to set their selling prices too high, which will result in people not being able to buy homes.

With the Ibrahim International Business District (IIBD), we will become a financial hub and there will be no need to open hazardous factories.

My wish is for the government to have a relook at all the heavy industries in Pasir Gudang. Find out which industries consume too much water resulting in my rakyat facing water shortages in some areas.

We also need to look at our dangerous industries as I have been told that if a certain factory leaks, it will pose a threat to people living within a 25km radius.

So, it is time to look for the government to reconsider these dangers as Johor is not a dumping ground.

My people’s safety and health is my paramount priority.

I do not want a chemical disaster like the one in Bhopal, India, which claimed thousands of lives in the past.

I also want to start the Sultan Ibrahim Foundation to construct affordable houses for my people. A working paper is being drawn up and our main aim is not to make money.

That means whatever the cost we use to build, that is the same price we will sell it at to the people.

This foundation is aimed at looking after Bangsa Johor as I want each Johorean to own a home. I am very concerned about the problems faced by the people due to rising costs of living.

I hope our politicians will devote their time and energy to deal with the bread and butter issues.

The rakyat is having a difficult time coping with the increasing cost of food, transport and other essential items.

My advice to the politicians, especially those from Johor, is to be sensitive to the needs of the people. Please do not waste time creating news headlines for the wrong reasons. Stop racist and religious rhetoric and work for the people.

For sure, I hope the politicians will not sow distrust and suspicions among the people by using such sensitive issues to fan uneasiness and tension. We must remain united to face the economic and political challenges.

I do not want politicians to use race or religion to exploit the sentiments of the people to cover their incompetence.

Let me warn them that if any of these politicians are from Johor, whether in government or opposition, I will personally summon them to give a piece of my mind.

I want the people of Johor to remain united and not to let anyone split them. The people of Johor must place priority on stability and unity.

Johor Ruler: I’m above politics
Also in the Straits Times

JOHOR BARU: Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar has made it clear that he is above politics and does not favour any politician.

He also feels that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak should be given a chance as every Malaysian prime minister had also made mistakes in the past.

During an hour-long exclusive interview to wrap up the year, the Johor Ruler spoke emotionally on an array of issues, including his late son Tunku Laksamana Tunku Abdul Jalil, as well as his relations with the Prime Minister and former deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

He also spoke on the dangers of vaping and why it had to be banned immediately, describing it as a “technology drug” which was threatening the society.

The Sultan also touched on religious issues, including the huge budget for the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim).

The Star: Tuanku, we wish to express our condolences on the recent demise of His Highness Tunku Laksamana Tunku Abdul Jalil. How has the family coped with the event of the past weeks, if we may ask?

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar: This has been a roller-coaster year for the family and me. The high points have been the coronation in March this year when I became the state’s fifth Sultan in the history of modern Johor. The last time a coronation ceremony took place was 55 years ago.

I also conferred the new title of Permaisuri Johor on my consort Raja Zarith Sofiah Sultan Idris Shah at the coronation ceremony, which was another historic occasion.

In October last year, my eldest son, the Tunku Mahkota of Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim ended his bachelorhood when he married Che’ Puan Khaleeda Bustamam.

But all these events took place against the backdrop of the difficulties the family was going through as we joined Tunku Jalil in his fight against his illness.

He was diagnosed while he was on a holiday with us in the United Kingdom in August last year. He was truly a fighter and a man of steel. While it was painful for him during the medical treatment, it was equally painful for us.

We are, after all, ordinary human beings too. I am a father like other parents in Johor. It crushed my heart each time I saw my son suffer, especially when I knew that he was dying. I had to be strong for him until the end.

But as my wife penned in a heartfelt letter which she has shared with Malaysians, sometimes things don’t go as we plan. No matter how painful, one needs to accept reality with an open heart.

(Tunku Abdul Jalil passed away on Dec 5. He had been diagnosed with stage-four liver cancer.)

I have kept all the text messages that he had sent to me. These are precious memories, which are very important to my family and me.

But we must accept fate and destiny. Allah has His reasons. I wish to take this opportunity to thank Malaysians, especially Johoreans, from all walks of life, races and religions who opened up their hearts in pouring out their support for my son.

I truly wish to thank them from the bottom of my heart. I am deeply touched.

Even until this day, there are people still visiting the royal mausoleum to pay their last respects.

On the ban of vaping

Q: Tuanku, on the subject of health, Your Royal Highness has ordered the ban on the sale of all vaping products in the state. What prompted Your Royal Highness to be so decisive?

A: I did my research and this is not our custom. Neither is shisha. I was shocked and disgusted when I saw women in headscarves and even children puffing away.

I realised that this was the beginning of a disaster and had to put my foot down as soon as possible. To me, this is a technology drug that will be harmful. Unlike drugs, this is difficult to detect.

I was fed up of the various authorities at both the state and federal levels, which could not decide on what to do. They were dragging their feet and some politicians were making silly remarks such as vaping should not be banned because a million votes would be lost and bumiputra interest would be affected.

I know what is good and I am firm that all this has to stop beginning Jan 1 next year. So far, all those opposing are doing it from a business stand. Do you not care about people’s health?

There are also those who oppose, including a “comedian in red” who has jumped into the issue to give their comments.

(Right-wing activist Abdul Rani Kulup Abdullah or Kipidap is a quirky character who is often seen wearing a red beret, and has made headlines for lodging more than 1,000 police reports against opposition politicians and NGO leaders.

He recently joined other Malay-based NGOs to say that Barisan Nasional risks losing a million votes in the next general election if the authorities continue the crackdown on e-cigarettes and vaporisers.)

It is purely a health issue and some mindless politicians are talking about politics and race, it’s incredible.

The media, including The Star, has been highlighting how even primary schoolchildren were spending their pocket money on vape products.

What I feared has taken place. The police have now arrested people who sold “ganja vape”. What is more worrying is that the syndicate has been in operation since August and has catered to its clientele via the Internet and sent their products via courier.

This is underground business. What would be the effects if Johor allows open sales in shopping malls, shoplots and pasar malam?

I can show the many e-mails and letters I have received from all over Malaysia, especially from parents, expressing their support for Johor’s decision to lead.

Now other states are also following suit and even the National Fatwa Council has declared vaping as haram.

To me, education and health should not be politicised.

Johor Ruler Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar
The Ruler dining at a restaurant in Muar, Johor. He later paid for his own food and also paid for all customers who ate at the restaurant that day.
On the strong remarks by Tunku Mahkota of Johor on social media

Q: Tuanku, this has also been a year when Johor found itself in the spotlight. The Tunku Mahkota of Johor has made strong statements on issues affecting the leadership and the country.

A: Yes, the TMJ has spoken up on the need to be transparent, accountable and credible but it was never directed at anyone.

He has his points. Whoever consumes chilli will surely rasa pedas (feel the heat). I do not argue with the TMJ about his comments as I do ask him about them and once he explains, I am fine with it.

But I always advise him not to hurt anyone. Based on his success in football, I think he has changed the face of football in the country. Not many people are happy with his success. His comments and hints seem to get support from the people. I go through Facebook and see the comments.

On the role of a Ruler and his authority

Q: Would that lead to the perception by some politicians that Tuanku has gone beyond your authority?

A: I am not a puppet in Johor. I have the right to call my mentri besar to tegur (advise) him at any time and others in my government as well. I am the one who appoints the state government. I have always put my rakyat’s interest first.

Let me give a history lesson here as it was my great-grandfather, the late Sultan Ibrahim, who gave money to start Umno and the first meeting was actually held at the palace in Johor.

Subsequently, his son, the late Sultan Ismail, as the regent of Johor at the time, inaugurated the Malay Congress on May 11, 1946 at Istana Besar in Johor Baru that led to the setting up of Umno.

Let me remind politicians who do not know history or are too lazy to read history books – Umno was born in the Johor palace grounds.

Where Umno is today began at the very palace grounds we are sitting on now. That’s the party history.

Sultan Ismail’s role was also recognised during a large parade held on June 8, 1946 to celebrate Britain’s success in regaining Malaya after Japan’s surrender.

That’s how the palace has taken up its responsibilities at crucial points of the nation’s history.

On Rulers as the custodians of Islam and Jakim

Q: Can Tuanku talk about the role of the Rulers as the custodians of Islam, given recent debate that some federal religious agencies appear to exert influence and authority onto this religious space?

A: We are the heads of religion in our own states. The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) can give advice or propose guidelines but it is up to us (Sultans) whether we want to accept it.

I have appointed a panel in the Johor Islamic Council. They come up with fatwas (decrees) for me to approve it. The fatwa cannot be effective without my approval. Sometimes I do question a fatwa and I want them to explain it, but Jakim has no right to interfere in the state.

Do you know that Islamic schools started in Johor before they were introduced to other states? We never had sekolah pondok but instead organised religious schools. Others are actually using our syllabus too.

Jakim reports to the Conference of Rulers and they usually advise the Federal Government.

I am curious to know – if it is true – why do they need a RM1bil budget? Does it include allocations to all the states? During my next Conference of Rulers, I want them to show me their breakdown for expenses. I want to know if they are financing our religious schools here.

On the Johor palace, the Prime Minister and ex-deputy prime minister

Q: Your Royal Highness, forgive us for asking this sensitive and delicate question, given the fact that Johor is now a political hotbed. The Johor palace statement, whether official or casually made on social media, has given the impression that you are critical of the Prime Minister or even not in favour of him.

A: No, I do not favour anyone. I never said I do not favour the Prime Minister. He is the Prime Minister whether you like it or not.

I must say that every prime minister has made his mistakes. To me, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is my former mentri besar and former deputy prime minister. He comes to see me via appointments. I allow this but I try to avoid talking about politics. He came to see me twice.

He does express his unhappiness. I listen and keep it to myself. I have also met up with the Prime Minister and avoid speaking to him about politics. Let the politician handle politics. I am above politics. If he (Prime Minister) needs advice, I am here as a friend.

The issue of whether you are from Johor does not arise.

Yes, I am outspoken. I speak my mind and I am happy that the message gets across.

The palace grants audiences to many leaders but it does not mean that after these visits, we are meant to endorse their leadership.

They are politicians but please do not abuse or misuse the good name of the palace. I am very proud of being a Johorean but that does not mean I must blindly support anyone from Johor. The people should also not make such deductions.

The Prime Minister is from Pahang, but he has also regularly updated me on development issues affecting the state. There are official visits by him which are widely reported in the press, but we also have quiet, informal meetings.

He is deeply concerned about issues affecting Johor because of our proximity to Singapore, which is a strategic partner to Johor. Both of us believe that Johor and Malaysia will benefit from the ongoing development and when the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore fast train is built, the benefits will be enormous.

I do not want to dig up the past nor do I wish to take a swipe at any politician, active or retired, but the Prime Minister understands and appreciates the need to work closely and not to repeat the past.

I find it hard to understand the rationale or irrationality of any Malaysian leader who wants Malay­sia to quarrel with Singapore. It’s what I called crooked thinking.

There is so much we can learn from Singapore. They have done well, let’s be honest here. We don’t have to go on expensive study trips to Europe or the United States – just go across the Causeway to Singapore, they have done so many things that are correct and efficient.

I know the Prime Minister has come under much criticism but I say give him a chance. The year has come to an end, we must move on. It has been a challenging year for everyone, including myself. There are issues that still need to be tackled, that need to convince the people, that need answers, but I must say that they also need closure.

Every one of us makes mistakes but we must be prepared to learn from them, make amends and do what is right. Right what is wrong.

Read more!

Malaysia: Ushering in a rainy new year

YUEN MEIKENG The Star 28 Dec 15;

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians will likely usher in a wet new year, with a mild monsoon surge expected to occur between Dec 30 and Jan 2.

Lasting one to two days, the surge will bring with it intermittent rain, or showers that stop, only to continue again. Fortunately, the rainfall is not expected to be too severe, said Malaysian Meteorological Department director-general Datuk Che Gayah Ismail.

“Due to the surge, wet weather is expected over the east and southern parts of the peninsula including Pahang, Johor and Malacca. Areas in west Sarawak namely Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Betong, Sarikei, Mukah and Sibu will also be affected,” she said in an interview.

Over the next week, generally fair weather is expected nationwide with afternoon thunderstorms likely to pour over the west coast states of the peninsula, Sarawak and west Sabah. There may also be early morning rain over the coasts of Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, northern Sarawak and east Sabah.

While many Malaysians would be on holiday for the new year, Che Gayah urged the public to be more vigilant during the rainy season and be aware of the warnings issued for heavy rainfall as well as rough sea and strong winds.

Che Gayah said Malaysia was currently in the midst of the north-east monsoon season, expected to persist until second week of March 2016.

“During this season, the weather is relatively wetter compared to other seasons,” she added.

Che Gayah said the department had predicted that there will be about four heavy rainfall episodes due to the monsoon surge throughout this monsoon season. Until today, two heavy rainfall episodes have occurred during the current monsoon season – the first being from Nov 26 to 28 and the second from Dec 16 to 18.

“The department will continuously monitor for the next episodes and will also issue heavy rainfall warnings one to three days in advance,” she said.

On floods, Che Gayah said even if there are any cases of flooding especially in Sarawak or Sabah, they won’t be as severe as previous years.

She said no typhoon is expected over the South China Sea and the Philippines, and the public can read the latest updates in the department’s website at

Read more!

Malaysia: Turtles face bittersweet fate

ARNOLD LOH The Star 27 Dec 15;

BALIK PULAU: The plight of the turtles is world’s apart at the northern and southern ends of Penang.

The north is a veritable haven for the creatures. More that 8,000 green turtle eggs were discovered in 32 nests along the unpopulated Pantai Kerachut this year.

The future for the endangered marine reptiles, however, looks gloomier at the southern end of island. Only 70 eggs from one Olive-Ridley turtle landing were saved in Teluk Kumbar this year.

“Last year, it was zero. In 2013, we saved 150 eggs from three nests in Teluk Kumbar,” Penang Turtle Sanctuary officer Mohd Syahrulnizam Ismail said yesterday.

He said to boost Penang’s Olive-Ridley turtle landings and recovery of eggs, the Fisheries Department would reward those who report landings, to enable eggs to be saved from next year.

“Those who report turtle landings in Penang by calling the department at 04-657 2777 or its monitoring base in Teluk Kumbar at 04-649 3371, will be paid RM3 to RM4 per turtle egg saved,

“The Teluk Kumbar and Gertak Sanggul beaches are historically visited by Olive-Ridley turtles and there are many fishing villages along the coastline.

There is a possibility that some of the villagers poach the eggs instead of reporting the turtle landings,” Mohd Syahrulnizam said when commenting on claims by fishermen that Teluk Kumbar was a hotspot for turtle landings.

He said although coastline development and sea pollution also affected turtle landing sites, egg poaching had also caused the wide gap in turtle egg finds between the north and south sides of the island.

The fishermen told Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) chairman Datuk Irmohizam Ibrahim at the Sungai Batu fishing village yesterday that the sea off the southern coast of Penang island was a breeding ground for turtles, prawns and many types of shellfish.

“We urge the federal and state governments to carefully study the marine environment there in view of the plans to reclaim up to three islands here,” Irmohizam said after meeting about 30 fishermen who represented the Southern Penang Fishermen Association.

There are 1,700 registered fishermen operating along the coast from Balik Pulau to Teluk Kumbar.

The reclamation off the southern coast was proposed recently to raise funds for transportation projects including a light rail transit line, monorail, tram line and new roads, under the RM27bil Penang Transport Master Plan.

Read more!

Vietnam: Phu Quoc Island hosts festival to raise awareness on dugong conservation

Thanh Nien News 27 Dec 15;

Hundreds of local students and tourists have participated in the 2015 Dugong Festival on Phu Quoc Island on Sunday in an event held by Wildlife At Risk to raise awareness of protecting the marine creature.

The festival started with a parade from Ham Ninh Commune to Ham Ninh Harbor - a famous tourist spot on Phu Quoc Island and finished back at the Ham Ninh Commune.

About 200 local students who are members of six WAR’s Marine Conservation Clubs throughout Phu Quoc Island took part in a serial of contests and other activities at Duong Beach.

Students and tourists also got involved in a dugong (Dugong dugon) sand sculpture contest, a photo contest with photos featuring the beauty and threats to the island, and marine knowledge contest.

“The Dugong Festival 2015 with many exciting and creative activities became an unforgettable memory for each participant, which encourages them to take part in protecting dugong and Phu Quoc,” said Do Thi Thanh Huyen – WAR’s wildlife education manager.

“We expect that each people take at least one practical action to protect Phu Quoc marine resources and Vietnam’s marine resources in general so that our future generations could still benefit from the bountiful sea”.

The festival is part of a project entitled “Conservation of Dugong and Biodiversity of Phu Quoc and Tho Chu island”, being implemented since 2013 by WAR and Phu Quoc Marine Protection Area.

Phu Quoc hosts Dugong Festival
Vietnam News Service 29 Dec 15;

Nearly 700 tourists, local leaders and residents on Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang participated in the Dugong Festival 2015 to raise awareness about the protection of Dugong and endangered marine creatures.— Photo
HCM CITY (VNS) — Nearly 700 tourists, local leaders and residents on Phu Quoc Island in the southern province of Kien Giang participated in the Dugong Festival 2015 to raise awareness about the protection of Dugong and endangered marine creatures.

The annual event featured a parade from the People's Committee of Ham Ninh commune to Ham Ninh harbour, a popular tourist attraction on the island. After the parade, around 200 secondary school students who are members of six marine conservation clubs on Phu Quoc Island took part Dugong sand sculpture and photo contests and a game show on marine conservation.

Each club created a life-size model of a Dugong on the Beach and displayed photos taken by the students this year.

The activity was part of the project titled "Conservation of Dugong and Biodiversity of Phu Quoc and Tho Chu Island" implemented since 2013 by the non-profit organisation Wildlife At Risk and the Phu Quoc Marine Protected Area. — VNS

Read more!

Japan grows an island to check China’s territorial ambitions

Today Online 28 Dc 15;

OKINAWA — China’s artificial islands are fuelling a new struggle for control of Asia’s oceans, but while the regional superpower dredges military bases out of the ocean, Japan is growing an island in a bathtub.

The island is called Okinotorishima, or “distant bird island”; a remote, storm-wracked coral atoll in the Philippine Sea, where two small outcrops protrude at high tide. Japan regards the atoll as its southernmost point; China says it is no island, merely a rock.

For millennia, as the land beneath it sank, layers of coral grew on top and kept the atoll’s head above water. But now Okinotorishima is dying. Climate change is raising the sea level and killing the coral. Typhoons bite at what remains. Japan is therefore on a desperate quest to regrow the reef. The results will decide the fate of a strategic redoubt, with legal repercussions in the South China Sea, and could offer hope to other atolls threatened by climate change.

The bathtub, full of baby coral growing on iron plates, sits in a greenhouse at the Deep Seawater Research Institute on the island of Kumejima. Workers explain how they brought coral from Okinotorishima and harvested eggs. They will grow the baby corals in this laboratory for a year then transplant them back to the atoll.

For the scientists working on the project it is a battle with the ocean. They have successfully cultivated coral from the reef and transplanted it back to the island, but it is not enough. “The next technology ... is keeping up with the rising sea by coral growth and accumulation of coral gravels and sand,” says Mr Hajime Kayanne, a professor at the University of Tokyo.

“Our experiments with planting coral on Okinotorishima are ongoing,” says Mr Makoto Omori, emeritus professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. “We’ve made progress in expanding the area of coral planted, but the death rate of the transplanted coral is high, so we can’t yet say the amount of coral on the island is increasing.”

No amount of transplantation can revive a reef by itself, says Mr Omori. Rather, the goal is for the transplants to spread across the atoll. Working in such a remote place is challenging because it is hard to monitor the coral.

For the scientists, rescuing Okinotorishima means saving the world’s coral, and the many islands that exist because of it. In the past four decades, 40 per cent of the world’s reefs have died. “The ecotechnology established in Okinotorishima can be applied to all the small atoll islands in the Pacific and Indian Ocean,” says Mr Kayanne. “We have almost 500 atolls in the world, and some island countries such as the Marshalls, Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Maldives are completely formed of atolls.”

Japan’s generous funding has baser motives, however — the tiny reef looms large in the minds of military planners. Strategists talk of the two island chains separating China from the Pacific: The first running through the main Japanese islands, to Okinawa and Taiwan; the second through Japan’s Ogasawara Islands to the Marianas and the United States submarine base at Guam.


In a hypothetical future conflict between the US and China, their navies would collide in the ocean between the two chains — and Okinotorishima is the only speck of land in those waters.

Mr Hideaki Kaneda, a retired vice-admiral now at the Okazaki Institute, points out three ways in which the location matters to Japan’s security. First, he says, it would be a crucial theatre “for the Chinese military to deny access to reinforcements coming from the east”.

Second, Okinotorishima sits on the route Chinese nuclear submarines would take out into the Pacific, towards patrolling positions against the US. Third, it lies close to the sea lanes on which raw materials flow to Japan from northern and western Australian ports. That makes a 200-mile exclusive economic zone around Okinotorishima, and thus greater control of those waters, a strategic asset beyond even the natural resources that might lie beneath the surface.

Only an island can generate an exclusive economic zone, however, not a rock — which is the other reason why Japan is trying to regrow the coral, rather than mirroring China by laying down a few thousand tonnes of sand and concrete. Article 121 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea defines an island as a “naturally formed area of land” which is “above water at high tide”. It excludes “rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own”.

China’s new islands in the South China Sea are artificial. If Japan revives the coral on Okinotorishima, however, it can argue the feature is “naturally formed”. At the same time, the very activity of farming coral is part of Japan’s effort to show the atoll has an economic life, and support its more dubious contention that Okinotorishima is not a “rock”.

“There is no clear definition of rocks in UNCLOS — this is the government of Japan’s stance,” says Mr Kaneda. “Historically, Japan has sustained the ‘economic life’ of the island.”

By taking this position, Japan hopes to claim Okinotorishima as an island with its own EEZ, while still opposing China’s reclamation in the South China Sea. Some scholars argue it would be wiser to give up the claim — the better to assert China’s island-building is illegitimate — but the military value of Okinotorishima makes that unlikely.

Legal wrangles will not matter if the atoll erodes away, however. “We’ve had various problems and failures along the way, but next year we expect to plant three hectares of coral,” says Mr Omori. “A three-hectare plantation will be a world first.” FINANCIAL TIMES

Read more!