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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

Week of July 2, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR The central bank sent a letter to banks and financial institutions suggesting a four-day bank holiday, beginning Dec. 31, as a preventative step against possible disruption by the Y2K bug.


Week of June 18, 1999

WITH PARTS OF MALAYSIA already experiencing a mild haze, Science, Technology & Environment Minister Law Hieng Ding contacted his Indonesian counterparts about the increased number of "hot spots" - large fires - in Sumatra and Riau. Singapore-supplied satellite images identified 82 such locations in Sumatra and 50 in Kalimantan. Malaysia plans to take plantation officials to a June 15 dialogue with Indonesian authorities, farmers and plantation owners to demonstrate Malaysia's zero-burning policy.

KUALA LUMPUR TOLD SINGAPORE that it cannot meet the Lion City's request for a doubling of the water supply from Johor under a new 100-year agreement being negotiated. The existing pacts expire in 2011 and 2061. Works Minister Samy Vellu warns that Malaysia might not have enough water to meet its own requirements let alone Singapore's.

PM Mahathir Mohamad moves into his office and home in the new administrative capital of Putrajaya on June 14. The high-tech city, about 25 km from Kuala Lumpur, isn't entirely complete nor have residents moved there in large numbers. Opposition parties are critical of the project's cost, but supporters claim spending on Putrajaya helps keep the economy going. "Because of this project the capacity and the capability of Malaysia's construction industry has been preserved so that when the economy gets better they can return quickly to normal," is the way Azizan Zainul Abidin, president of the Putrajaya Corporation, explains it. He says costs for the project are lower than expected because suppliers have been putting in super-competitive low bids to get contracts for the work.


Week of June 11, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR Residents of the capital will be issued "smart" identity cards in August. The cards will carry their thumbprint and photo and will also store passport information, criminal and immigration records and serve as a driver's license. The government claims the system is a world first.

Despite often terse relations between the two, Malaysia and Singapore agreed that the five-power defense pact drawn up in the 1950s by Australia, Britain and New Zealand and them is still relevant for stability in the region, but needs to be updated. Malaysia has already resumed joint exercises with the other four countries, and says it will join with Singapore when its economy improves.

STAR WARS: THE PIRACY MENACE

In Kuala Lumpur's central Yow Chuan Plaza, a little girl played Star Wars: The Phantom Menace on a portable TV to attract buyers for the pirated CDs she was selling. In Hong Kong bootleg discs of the movie can be bought for one-third the price of a theater ticket.


Week of June 4, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR In an apparent move to prevent people from flocking to hear anti-government sermons, the minister in charge of religious affairs Abdul Hamid Othman says the government might require worshippers to attend services only in their neighborhood mosques.

Week of May 28, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR In a minor cabinet reshuffle, PM Mahathir Mohamad dropped two of his most loyal colleagues, Information Minister Mohamed Rahmat and Tourism Minister Sabaruddin Chik. Replacing them were Pahang state Chief Minister Khalil Yaakob and Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir, the longest serving deputy minister in the government.


Week of May 7, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR Moody's Investors Service upgraded the outlook for long-term foreign currency bonds, notes and bank deposits from "negative" to "stable." Moody's noted the government's flexibility about controls on the transfer of capital, moving from an outright prohibition on capital repatriation to an exit tax. And despite its fixed exchange rate, Malaysia had not lost its competitiveness, the agency said.

MANILA Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, wife of ousted Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, refused to cancel a trip to the Philippines. Manila's ambassador Jose Brillantes was summoned to the Malaysian foreign ministry to hear of K.L.'s "unhappiness with the planned visit by Azizah," as Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar put it. Brillantes told him that "anyone who wants to come to the Philippines can." Philippine Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon warned earlier that the trip could "harm our political relations with Malaysia if Wan Azizah uses this as a venue for political purposes." Azizah's three-day visit was sponsored in part by former president Corazon Aquino.


Week of April 30, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR Acting Inspector General of Police Norian Mai is the new Inspector General, replacing Abdul Rahim Noor. Rahim resigned on Jan. 7, soon after Attorney General Mohtar Abdullah announced that the police were "fully responsible" for the injuries to former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim while in custody. While both men are experienced officers, acquaintances say Norian is more reserved than the extroverted Rahim. Anwar, sentenced to six years in prison on April 14, had earlier filed a suit against PM Mahathir Mohamad, the government and Rahim for the beating he received from Rahim in September.

ACCORDING TO THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK'S Development Outlook for 1999, growth in the Asian and Pacific region is expected to pick up this year, from 2.6% in 1998 to 4.4% this year. Of four major Southeast Asian countries - Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand - Malaysia and the Philippines are the ones most likely to grow, although at modest rates of 0.9% and 2.4% respectively.


Week of April 23, 1999

ASEAN environment ministers are worried that Indonesia's elections in June, coupled with the economic crisis, will hamper efforts to tackle air pollution, which is expected to recur during the dry season starting in July. "Our neighbor [Indonesia] will be having an election soon and there will be another period of waiting for a new government to form," Malaysian Science, Technology and Environment Minister Law Hieng Ding was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times. Singapore Health and Environment Minister Yeo Cheow Tong called for a proactive attitude: "We should not be complacent because La Ni"a will end sooner or later and the dry season will return to the region in a few months." He wants ASEAN to re-emphasize enforcement on open burning to tackle the problem at its source - Indonesia's plantations, which use the slash-and-burn method to clear land. He also added a note of reality: "Political will is needed and this is beyond our control."

FIVE-POWER DEFENSE ARRANGEMENT After being canceled last year, defense exercises involving Singapore, Malaysia, Britain, Australia and New Zealand are underway. The last round of war games was called off when Malaysia suddenly withdrew from the naval and air exercises scheduled for September to October 1998, citing economic difficulties.


Week of April 16, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR The death toll from pig-borne Japanese encephalitis has peaked, health officials said. At midweek, the death toll from the disease stood at 90, with 67 people still hospitalized in serious condition. Since March 27 some 434,235 pigs have been slaughtered in three states. The disease broke out in October.


Week of April 9, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR More than 1 million pigs will be slaughtered to curb the outbreak of a viral disease that has killed 76 people. Health officials initially identified the outbreak as Japanese encephalitis, but they now fear a new strain of the little-known Hendra virus, which generates similar symptoms, might be active too. Hendra was first detected in Australia in 1994, when it infected race horses and killed three humans.


Week of April 2, 1999

BAKUN DAM The stalled hydro-electric project is being revived, but scaled back from 2,400 megawatts to 500. Work on the estimated $3.5 billion project stopped because of the economic slowdown. Possible buyers for the Sarawak-generated power are neighboring Sabah or Kalimantan in Indonesia.


Week of March 26, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR Reaffirming a clause in the Multimedia Super Corridor bill of guarantees that there would be no censorship of the Internet, PM Mahathir Mohamad told cabinet members to make sure no restrictions are placed on users of computers at cybercafes. People who download or disseminate seditious or pornographic material can still be prosecuted under local laws, though. Four Malaysians arrested last October for spreading e-mail rumors about civil unrest are currently on trial.


Week of March 19, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR Megat Junid Ayob, Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister, was the mastermind behind sexual allegations against Anwar Ibrahim, according to Azmin Mohamed Ali, Anwar's former private secretary. Azmin told the High Court that his sister Ummi Hafilda Ali admitted to him in June last year she did not write the letter sent to PM Mahathir Mohamad in August that contained the allegations. The prosecution's case rests largely on the letter, which alleged that Anwar had an affair with Azmin's wife Shamsidar and that he sodomized his driver Azizan.


Week of March 5, 1999

Ousted deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim alleged that then-police chief Abdul Rahim Noor, above, was one of the two officers present when he was beaten unconscious on the night of his arrest last September. "I'm absolutely certain one person assaulted me. I'm equally certain there was another person beside him," Anwar told a royal commission of inquiry investigating the assault. Anwar was handcuffed and blindfolded at the time of the incident ''.


Week of February 26, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR The Sun newspaper cited officials as saying Health Minister Chua Jui Meng ordered state health departments not to make statements about the Japanese encephalitis virus which has claimed 14 lives in four months. "The minister also does not want the public to be unnecessarily alarmed. If everyone makes statements, there will be confusion. This way, information will be centralized," one official is quoted as saying. The newspaper said Chua reportedly told local editors not to overplay the issue because their stories could adversely affect the economy if picked up by foreign media.


Week of February 19, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR The Socialist Party of Malaysia had its application to register, filed in April 1998, officially rejected because it was deemed incomplete. Party leaders say they will appeal the decision before a one-month deadline expires.


Week of February 12, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR Following widespread protests, PM Mahathir Mohamad announced that tolls would be reduced on the new Damansara-Puchong highway after Chinese New Year. But, he added, no new highways would be built unless people were willing to pay the tolls. Works minister S. Samy Vellu announced soon after that the government will shelve 20 privatized highway projects. Johor and Perak states are appealing the decision.


Week of January 22, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR PM Mahathir Mohamad blasted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum as a "toothless talking shop." He told Japan's Mainichi Shimbun that the U.S. wants to use APEC to "expand its domination" of the Asia-Pacific region.


Week of January 15, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR The central bank took over two finance companies, including the country's largest, MBf Finance. Bank Negara called the move "pre-emptive action" to strengthen the banking sector.

Malaysia, once a palm-fringed nation, is facing a shortage of coconuts. The price of a coconut has doubled to more than 50 U.S. cents and consumers are complaining. Producers blame the crisis on Malaysia's decade-long economic boom, during which plantations were cleared to make way for housing projects and workers left for the city.


Week of January 8, 1999

Kuala Lumpur A consortium of 12 of the 13 foreign banks operating in the country agreed to make a five-year, low-interest rate loan of $1.35 billion to the government. The money - most of it denominated in U.S. dollars - will mainly go to salvage the battered banking sector. The interest rate is pegged at three percentage points above the London Interbank Offered rate, which is about 5.1%. By comparison, the interest charged on most other outstanding Malaysian debt is six to seven percentage points above LIBOR.


News from Malaysia in 1998


News from Malaysia in 1997


News from Malaysia in 1996


News from Malaysia in 1995


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