Malaysian princess marries Dutchman in lavish ceremony

This handout photograph made available on August 14, 2017 by the Royal Press Office shows Dennis Muhammad Abdullah (R) of the Netherlands places the ring on the finger of his bride, Princess Tunku Tun Aminah Sultan Ibrahim (L), the only daughter of the Sultan of Johor, after their wedding at Istana Bukit Serene in Johor Bahru. The daughter of one of Malaysia's most powerful sultans married her Dutch fiance on August 14 in a ceremony steeped in centuries of tradition during a day of lavish celebrations. (AFP)
Updated 14 August 2017

Malaysian princess marries Dutchman in lavish ceremony

JOHOR BAHRU, MALAYSIA: The daughter of one of Malaysia’s most powerful sultans married her Dutch fiance Monday in a ceremony steeped in centuries of tradition during a day of lavish celebrations.
Princess Tunku Tun Aminah Sultan Ibrahim, 31, the only daughter of the Sultan of Johor, tied the knot with Dennis Muhammad Abdullah, 28, capping a romance of over three years.
The Dutchman, who has converted to Islam, and the princess wed according to Muslim Malay custom at the Serene Hill Palace, the royal family’s residence in the southern city of Johor Bahru. The private ceremony was attended by close family and friends.
The groom wore traditional white Malay wedding attire and the bride wore a white dress. Dennis Muhammad placed the wedding ring on Tunku Aminah’s finger in a special room in the palace, according to the royal press office.
In keeping with centuries-old wedding customs in the Muslim-majority southern state of Johor, he also gave her a dowry of 22.50 ringgit (about $5), and the couple kissed the hands of their parents, aunts and uncles as a mark of respect.
An evening reception will be the main event which will feature a “sitting-in-state” ceremony, with some 1,200 guests due to attend and crowds expected to watch the event on a big screen in a city square.
There have been frenetic preparations in recent days, with the grounds of the main palace decorated with bunting and main streets adorned with flags.
“I am taking my wife and two young children to the city square tonight to witness the live broadcast of the evening celebrations,” Azim Mohamad Nurazim, a 34-year-old local salesman, told AFP.
“It is a celebration for all Johoreans. My message to Tunku Aminah and her husband is long and healthy life, and may Allah bless the couple with lots of children.”
The Dutchman, who now works for a property development company in Johor, was born Dennis Verbaas and adopted a Muslim name when he converted to Islam in 2015.
Johor’s royal family is rich and powerful and possesses its own private army — the only state to have one.
Malaysia has a unique arrangement in which the throne of the Muslim-majority country changes hands every five years between the rulers of the nine states which are still headed by Islamic royalty.
The current king is Sultan Muhammad V, from the conservative Islamic northern state of Kelantan, who steps down in 2021.
But Dennis Muhammad is unlikely ever to assume the role since the rulers choose among themselves who the next king will be.


WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trials over safety concerns

Updated 1 min 7 sec ago

WHO stops hydroxychloroquine trials over safety concerns

  • Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential shield or treatment for the virus
  • Brazil’s health ministry said it would keep recommending hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19
GENEVA: The WHO suspended trials of the drug that Donald Trump has promoted as a coronavirus defense, fueling concerns about the US president’s handling of the pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 Americans.
Trump has led the push for hydroxychloroquine as a potential shield or treatment for the virus, which has infected nearly 5.5 million people and killed 345,000 around the world, saying he took a course of the drug as a preventative measure.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has also heavily promoted hydroxychloroquine while the virus has exploded across nation, which this week became the second most infected in the world after the United States.
But the World Health Organization said Monday it was halting testing of the drug for COVID-19 after studies questioned its safety, including one published Friday that found it actually increased the risk of death.
The WHO “has implemented a temporary pause... while the safety data is reviewed,” its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, referring to the hydroxychloroquine arm of a global trial of various possible treatments.
Trump announced last week he was taking the drug, explaining he had decided to take after receiving letters from a doctor and other people advocating it.
“I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories,” Trump told reporters then, as he declared it safe.
Trump dismissed the opinions then of his own government’s experts who had warned of the serious risks associated with hydroxychloroquine, with the Food and Drug Administration highlighting reported poisonings and heart problems.
Trump has been heavily criticized for his handling of the virus, after initially downplaying the threat and then repeatedly rejecting scientific analysis.
The United States has by far the world’s highest coronavirus death toll, reaching 98,218 on Monday, with more than 1.6 million confirmed infections.
Despite the WHO suspension, Brazil’s health ministry said Monday it would keep recommending hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.
“We’re remaining calm and there will be no change,” health ministry official Mayra Pinheiro told a news conference.
Bolsonaro is a staunch opponent of lockdown measures and like Trump has played down the threat of the virus, even as Latin America has emerged as the new global virus hotspot.
Brazil has reported nearly 375,000 cases, widely considered to be far fewer than the real number because of a lack of testing, and more than 23,000 deaths.
Chile also is in the grip of a virus surge, with a record of nearly 5,000 infections in 24 hours on Monday.
While South America and parts of Africa and Asia are only just beginning to feel the full force of the pandemic, many European nations are easing lockdowns as their outbreaks are brought under control.
In hard-hit Spain, Madrid and Barcelona on Monday emerged from one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, with parks and cafe terraces open for the first time in more than two months.
Elsewhere, gyms and swimming pools reopened in Germany, Iceland, Italy and Spain.
And slowing infection rates in Greece allowed restaurants to resume business a week ahead of schedule — but only for outdoor service.
“I’m thrilled to break the isolation of recent months and reconnect with friends,” said pensioner Giorgos Karavatsanis.
“The cafe in Greece has a social dimension, it’s where the heart of the district beats.”
Despite the encouraging numbers, experts have warned that the virus could hit back with a devastating second wave if governments and citizens are careless, especially in the absence of a vaccine.
The latest reminder of the threat came from Sweden, where the COVID-19 death toll crossed 4,000 — a much higher figure than its neighbors.
The Scandinavian nation has gained international attention — and criticism — for not enforcing stay-at-home measures like other European countries.
The extended lockdowns, however, have started to bite globally, with businesses and citizens wearying of confinement and suffering immense economic pain.
Unprecedented emergency stimulus measures have been introduced, as governments try to provide relief to their economies, with the airline and hospitality sectors hit particularly hard because of travel bans.
Lufthansa became the latest major global company to be rescued, as the German government agreed a 9 billion euros ($9.8 billion) bailout for one of the world’s biggest airlines.
But analysts have warned that the pandemic’s economic toll will be even more painful for countries far poorer than Western nations.
In the Maldives, a dream destination for well-heeled honeymooners, tens of thousands of impoverished foreign laborers have been left stranded, jobless and ostracized as the tiny nation shut all resorts to stop the virus.
“We need money to survive. We need our work,” said Zakir Hossain, who managed to send about 80 percent of his $180 a month wage to his wife and four children in Bangladesh before the outbreak.
“I heard that if a Bangladeshi worker dies here, they don’t send his body back and he is buried here,” he said. “I am worried what will happen if I die.”