Singapore airshow has wings clipped by virus scare – dpa international

The Gardens By The Bay are one of Singapore's main tourist attractions (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — The Singapore Airshow, billed Asia’s biggest aviation event, started on Tuesday with attendances set to be down on previous years due to coronavirus concerns. Citing worries about the virus, whoch has killed over a thousand people in China and has infected over 40 people in Singapore, airshow organizers said ticket numbers were being “scaled down for the well-being and safety of all visitors.” The event will run until February 16 and will feature daredevil flying displays by fighter jets from the United States and the Chinese air force. An airshow conference featuring speeches from sector leaders, including the head of the US Federal Aviation Administration, was cancelled due to the concerns.

Singapore minister slams Muslim teacher over anti-Chinese comments – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Singapore’s minister of law and home affairs on Friday accused a Muslim religious teacher of making “racist” and “xenophobic” anti-Chinese comments about the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has killed 636 people and infected over 30,000. In a Facebook post, K Shanmugan said his ministry will investigate Abdul Halim Abdul Karim over comments suggesting that coronavirus is divine retribution for China’s policies in its western Xinjiang region, where human rights groups allege that around 1 million Muslim Uighurs have been detained in camps. The minister described as “thoroughly racist” Karim’s suggestion that coronavirus has spread because of Chinese personal hygiene habits, adding that “society has to take a clear stand against such comments.”

Former Malaysia prime minister kicked out of wife’s corruption trial – dpa international

Rosmah Mansor shortly after arriving at Kuala Lumpur High Court on Feb. 6 2020 for the second day of her corruption trial (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Najib Razak, the former leader of South-East Asia’s third-biggest economy, was told by a judge on Thursday morning to leave the courtroom where wife Rosmah Mansor is on trial for corruption. Prosecution lawyers complained about Najib’s arrival at 68-year-old Rosmah’s second day of hearings at Kuala Lumpur High Court, saying that he is “a potential witness” in her trials. Judge Mohamad Zaini Mazlan then asked the former prime minister to leave. Mazlan cited “a risk of danger” and dismissed the defence team’s contention that Najib was being a “good husband” by supporting his wife in person. No complaint was raised by the defence when the former premier briefly joined Rosmah in court on Wednesday. Najib is facing multiple corruption charges in separate trials that started last year and is due back in court on Monday for his next hearing. 

After Airbus bribery claims, Air Asia shares bumped by Mahathir – dpa international

Tony Fernandes of Air Asia at the World Economic Forum in Myanmar n mid-2013 (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Shares in budget airline Air Asia rebounded to 1.25 ringgit (0.30 dollars) after comments on Thursday by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad about recent bribery allegations involving aircraft maker Airbus. Mahathir, 94, said that it was “normal” in deal-making to ask for an “offset” and that such arrangements were not corrupt unless money was taken for personal use. “Whether you consider an offset as bribery, it is up to you,” Mahathir told reporters after a meeting at the Education Ministry. Shares in the Malaysia-based airline, a household name across Asia, dropped from 1.41 to 1.13 ringgit on Wednesday after it was caught up in allegations that Toulouse-based Airbus bribed its officials to secure aircraft sales.

After delay, Malaysia’s former first lady in court for graft trial – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Rosmah Mansor, known for her diamond-studded handbags and overseas shopping trips, on Wednesday faced the first hearing in what could prove a lengthy series of corruption trials. Today’s hearing saw Rosmah, the wife of former prime minister Najib Razak, accused of receiving an illicit 6.5-million-ringgit (1.6-million-dollar) payment related to a solar power contract in eastern Malaysia.  Prosecutor Gopal Sri Ram said that the 68-year-old former first lady “wielded considerable influence” on her husband’s government “by reason of her overbearing nature.” Rosmah arrived at Kuala Lumpur High Court shortly before 10 am (0200 GMT) and about an hour after Najib had arrived for one of his multiple corruption trials for alleged plunder of a state fund and abuse of office.

In jab at India, Pakistan pledges to buy more Malaysian palm oil – dpa international

KUALA LUMPUR — Pakistan plans to import more Malaysian palm oil to make up for losses incurred since India imposed informal restrictions on Malaysian imports last month. Speaking alongside visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan today, Malaysian Premier Mahathir Mohamad said Pakistan is “quite ready” to import more of the commodity from Malaysia. Khan in turn thanked Mahathir for speaking out against New Delhi’s policies in Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority region divided between India and Pakistan, and said his country will “try its best to compensate” Malaysia for India’s apparent retaliation. Mahathir has also accused the Indian government of discriminating against Muslims.

Malaysia’s trade with US up due to Chinese-American tensions – dpa international

Malaysia's Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming speaking a Feb. 4 2020 press conference to announce his country's 2019 trade statistics (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s trade with the US grew by 5.6 per cent to 164.45 billion ringgit (40 billion dollars) in 2019, government statistics released Tuesday show. The surge came despite an overall trade decline of 2.5 per cent during what Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Ong Kian Ming described as “a very challenging 2019”. Malaysia’s increased trade with the US was “to a large extent” a result of commerce being diverted from China because of trade tensions between Washington and Beijing, Ong told dpa during a press conference announcing the 2019 trade data. “E and E exports to the US increased significantly,” Ong added, referring to electrical and electronic goods, of which Malaysia is the world’s seventh-largest manufacturer.

Southeast Asia most vulnerable to coronavirus spread – UCA News

With concerns growing about the possible spread of Novel Coronavirus, facemasks are an increasingly-common sight in cities such as Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — Southeast Asia is the region most vulnerable to the new coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 170 people in China and infected almost 8,000 since the turn of the year. Several dozen cases of the virus have been reported across the region, with 14 confirmed in Thailand — the most of any country outside of China — as of Jan. 28.  By Jan. 30, 10 cases were reported in Singapore. Hundreds more people are under medical observation or in quarantine, pending confirmation of infection or a disappearance of symptoms. The number of cases in Malaysia rose to eight on Jan. 30. “It looks like the volume of airline travelers from cities in mainland China are highly correlated with the number of cases reported in affected countries,” said Shengjie Lai of the University of Southampton, co-author of an analysis of travel trends within and from China which aims to predict what places might be most at risk of further outbreak.  Of the 30 most exposed cities outside China, 14 are in Southeast Asia, with Bangkok facing the highest risk globally. Singapore, Phuket, and Kuala Lumpur are among the 10 cities most at risk. Seven of the 14 countries deemed most vulnerable are in Southeast Asia, according to the study, which was published on Jan. 28.

We’re not the world’s rubbish bin, Malaysian minister says – UCA News

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s environment minister Yeo Bee Yin announced on Jan. 20 that her country has returned almost 4,000 tonnes of plastic rubbish to mostly Western countries in recent months. “We do not want to be the garbage bin of the world,” the minister said, warning would-be sending countries to “dream on” if they expect Malaysia to recycle their rubbish for them. The cost of repatriating the rubbish from Malaysia will be borne by sending countries and shippers, Yeo said, echoing her counterparts in the Philippines and Indonesia, countries that have also reacted furiously to the trade in foreign plastic rubbish and sought to make senders pay for shipping their garbage back to where it came from. Since China banned the import of plastic waste for recycling in 2017, Southeast Asia has become a magnet for the largely-illegal trade, while images of fields of plastic rubbish bobbing on turquoise seas and of stinking plastic-engorged landfills have fueled concerns about a worldwide “plastics crisis,” with China, estimated to be the world’s biggest source of plastic pollution, becoming the latest country to ban single-use plastics on Jan. 19. This stern “polluters-will-pay-a-price” message is the subject of a new study by the World Economic Forum and PwC, one of the world’s “Big Four” accounting firms. Not only are polluters likely to see their good names tarnished or face financial sanctions, businesses and governments are shooting themselves in the foot by damaging the environment upon which some commercial activity depends.

Southeast Asia remains an investment magnet as Singapore gains from Hong Kong’s troubles – The Interpreter/CNA

KUALA LUMPUR — Despite more than a year of tit-for-tat tariffs in the US-China trade war and anxiety about its cost to the world economy, foreign direct investment into Southeast Asia continued to grow strongly last year, even as global levels flatlined. Newly-published estimates from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) suggest that, out of a global FDI spend of US $1.39 trillion in 2019, member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations received $177 billion, breaking the region’s 2018 record of $155 billion. While Southeast Asia’s 2019 total was substantially less than European Union’s $305 billion or the United States’ $251 billion, its inward FDI is increasing while the EU’s dropped 15% and the US’s stayed the much the same.