Malaysians mark I-Day with fervor

Schoolchildren in traditional outfits join a parade in Putrajaya, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 01 September 2018
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Malaysians mark I-Day with fervor

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia celebrated its Independence Day on Friday, with Prime Minister Mahathir Muhamad speaking of a “second independence” for the country after the election of a new government.
“We are celebrating… with a sense of relief and comfort. Indeed, this is our second independence,” he said.
“We are free from the shackles of a ruthless regime. Our lives are more comfortable. This… government guarantees justice for all the people, irrespective of race or religion,” he added.
“It takes time to bring about an administration by the rule of law,” he said, urging Malaysia’s people and government to work together to revive the country and overcome challenges.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition won the election in May and subsequently formed a new government.
This year’s Independence Day theme is Sayangi Malaysiaku (Love My Malaysia). Charity worker Mary Anne Tan said this year’s Independence Day “is a glorious celebration of new hope, new change and a new government.”
Eric Paulsen, legal director of human rights group Fortify Rights, said this year’s Independence Day celebration is much more meaningful given the recent election. But marginalized communities such as the Orang Asli people and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community are still discriminated against, he added.
This view is shared by Azira, a young Malaysian who said the government is not doing enough against human rights abuses. 
“You still have indigenous tribes chased out of their native lands, extreme deforestation, child marriages, religious extremism and conservatism, and hate for the LGBT community. We still have a long way to go, but I remain hopeful,” she added.
Documentary filmmaker Andrew Ng Yew Han said: “I hope Malaysians will be more vocal, open and involved in the development of our country.”
He added: “I hope we don’t go back to giving our trust blindly to politicians. Now that our government has changed, perhaps it’s also time for us to change.”
Zaim Mohzani, co-founder of Malaysian Youth Diplomacy, said the new government will “need to manage the diverse expectations of the electorate.”
He added: “Cabinet ministers may be new and inexperienced, but they need to pick up the pace. The electorate may not be forgiving and understanding as we move into 2019.”


Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

Updated 17 February 2019
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Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

  • Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: A fire tore through a slum in southern Bangladesh on Sunday killing at least 9 people and destroying hundreds of shanty homes, police said.
The blaze broke out in the port city of Chittagong at about 3.30 A.M. and raced through the district of bamboo, tin and tarpaulin homes, said local police chief Pranab Chowdhury.
“At least 470 shanties were destroyed by the fire. So far 9 people have died. They included four members of a family,” fire brigade official Hefazatul Islam said.
Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions.
Rights groups have in the past alleged some shanty town blazes were deliberate acts of sabotage by developers seeking to free up property to construct multi-story buildings.
“We have seen fires are used as a weapon to evict poor slum dwellers and squatters from government or private property,” rights activist Nur Khan Liton said.