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Sabah hits record-breaking tourism numbers

Monitoring Desk

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s tourism industry registered its highest-ever tourism receipts last year, booking RM8.342 billion from a record-high 3.879 million arrivals.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew said figures represented a 5.3 per cent increase in tourists and 6.6 per cent in income compared to 2017’s RM7.83 billion.

“Overall international arrivals recorded an increase of 10.2 per cent while domestic arrivals increased by 2.8 per cent,” said Liew, citing statistics compiled by the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) that is under her Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry.

Liew said visitors from China, Sabah’s top international source, surpassed its half-million mark with  593,623 arrivals last year.

As of December 2018, there were 125 direct weekly direct flights from China into Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).

South Korea came in second with an increase of 8.5 per cent for a total of 337,100 visitors while the Singapore market grew by 9.1pc last year.

“I am very pleased with our performance in 2018. It was a very good year for Sabah. As of today, we are now connected to 26 international destinations by 12 foreign carriers.

“We will be emphasising more on domestic tourism into Sabah since we have opened up many new tourism areas in the state’s interior and the east coast,” she said in a statement here today.

Liew also said that there were currently 444 flights connecting Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak, and Labuan to Sabah, with a capacity of close to 75,000 seats weekly, reflecting the further potential of the sector.

Last year, Sabah added 19 more new direct international flights including the reinstatement of the Kota Kinabalu-Bangkok flight by the Thai wing of AirAsia.

“The rest of the services connected Sabah to international cities such as Beijing, Xiamen, Fuzhou (Xiamen Air), Singapore and Wuhan (Malindo Air), Shenzhen (China Southern Airlines, AirAsia), Macau and Kunming (AirAsia) and Muan (Jeju Air). Tawau too is expanding its connectivity with a direct flight to Kuching.

“2018 was also a significant year for charter flights as Sabah airports (KKIA and Sandakan) welcomed a total of 343 non-scheduled flights compared with 215 the year before,” she said, adding the charter flights brought passengers from China, South Korea and Japan.

Courtesy: (malaymail.com)

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Prime Minister for unmasking tax evaders

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed to use modern means for tax collection to bring non tax payers to the tax net and to facilitate existing tax payers.

Chairing a meeting regarding government’s steps to collect revenue in Islamabad on Tuesday, he said tax evaders are foes of the nation and the country and they do not deserve any concession.

The Prime Minister said focus should be made on tax evaders and non-filers instead of harassing regular tax payers. He said tax evaders and non-tax payers should be exposed before the people. He said indiscriminate action should be ensured against tax evaders and FBR officials, who facilitate theft of tax.

The meeting was informed that over six thousand cases of high net worth individuals are under review from which a total income of over two billion rupees is expected of which 1.3 billion rupees have so far been received.

It was told that sixty six cases of information and investigations are also being examined and over 1.5 billion rupees have also been collected in this matter.

The Federal Board of Revenue apprised that mapping of 2,000 plazas have been completed, while automatic system to collect tax has been installed at over 2,500 points of sale. It was said that a collection of 24.818 billion rupees is expected under new measures taken by the FBR and 11. 882 billion rupees have already been collected.

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US forces would leave Iraq if Baghdad asked: Diplomat

BAGHDAD (AA): U.S. forces would leave Iraq if Baghdad requested it, Joey Hood, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, said Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters, Hood said: “The current presence of U.S. forces has come at the request of Iraq’s federal government.”

“The Iraqi armed forces aren’t ready to safeguard [Iraq’s] security without the support of foreign troops,” the diplomat added, going on to describe recent media reports of fresh U.S. troop mobilizations as “disinformation”.“Most of this footage dates back to 2006,” Hood said in reference to videos shared online that purportedly shows fresh U.S. troop deployments in Iraq. He went on to assert that the U.S. would “not use Iraqi territory or airspace” to attack other states of the region.

“President [Donald] Trump has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want U.S. troops to wage ‘needless wars’,” Hood said. “He certainly doesn’t want a war with Iran,” he added, stressing that the Trump administration preferred to use “diplomatic means like economic sanctions” to accomplish its goals.

Nor, according to Hood, does the U.S. administration want “to change or amend strategic agreements between Washington and Baghdad” — a reference to the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, which regulates relations between the two countries, especially in military and economic affairs.

Hood also denied the presence of any U.S. bases in Iraq. “Only trainers and advisers,” he said.

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Opp have to go over ‘our dead bodies’ to install puppet govt

CARACAS (Sputnik):  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro repeatedly blamed the ongoing political crisis in the country, which flared up after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president, on the US, saying that it was reasoned by Trump’s “infected hand” that is “hurting Venezuela”.

Venezuela’s defence minister, Vladimir Padrino López, stated on Tuesday that if the opposition seeks to impose “a puppet government”, it will have to pass over “our dead bodies.”

He emphasised that state armed forces will continue being stationed along Venezuela’s border to thwart possible territorial threats.

Commenting on the state of the country’s senior military officers, the minister stressed that they remain “obedient and subordinate” to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

The defence minister’s comments come after on 16 February Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who earlier declared himself the country’s interim president, called on the Venezuelan Armed Forces, supporting President Nicolas Maduro, to change sides, giving the military seven days to do so, in the anticipation of humanitarian aid arrivals to the crisis-hit country.

On 23 January, Guaido, who is the speaker of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, proclaimed himself interim president.

He was almost immediately recognised by the United States and its allies. Russia, China, Mexico, among other nations, voiced support for constitutionally elected Maduro, who, in turn, accused Washington of orchestrating a coup in the country.

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General Votel meets Afghan President

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) met Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani at the Presidential Palace here on Tuesday (February 19).

According to a presidential office press release available with Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), both the sides discussed various key issues including training of security and defence forces, peace process and joint war on terrorism.

General Joseph Votel said his job would come to an end soon. A person aware of the conditions of Afghanistan would fill his position, he added. He would continue working in coordination with the people of Afghanistan.

On the occasion, President Ghani lauded the cooperation of General Joseph Votel with Afghanistan and said the Afghan security and defence forces had strengthened compared to the pats. (AIP)

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‘PTI should opt negotiation path instead of sit-ins to settle issues’

F.P. Report

KARACHI: Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister on Information, Law and Anti-corruption, Barrister Murtaza Wahab has said that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leaders should opt path of negotiation with the provincial government instead of holding sit-ins. He said that our doors are always opened for negotiations with PTI leaders as the provincial government believes in resolution of each and every issue through dialogues.

Talking to media persons at Sindh Assembly on Tuesday, Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that protest on those issues by PTI was quite uncalled for given the fact that the Chief Minister Sindh had already taken a notice of these issues in order to address the same. He said that they believed that protest is fundamental right but appropriate forum for debating on issues is Sindh Assembly.  He said that terrorism was a national issue and Sindh government was utilizing all resources to fix it. Chief Minister Sindh has taken notice of the situation and issued strict directives, he said adding that protest on those matters was beyond comprehension. He said that PTI did not come out of container politics though they were in power now.   He said that they wanted to resolve the problems as PPP believed in democracy and solution of problems through dialogue.

The Advisor to CM advised the PTI members of provincial assembly to resolve issues through negotiations instead of staging sit-ins. He pointed out that few days back, one of the MNA belonging to PTI along with his workers have thrown sewage on the gate of Sindh Chief Minister’s House.

‘What kind of message are they sending? , ‘ he questioned.

He said we can’t take action against police due to court’s orders and it was PTI which applauded the same decision of court. PTI was not interested in resolving issues and bent upon to worsen situation so that roads were blocked, he alleged.

 Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister on Information, Law and Anti-corruption, Barrister Murtaza Wahab said that last night when PTI took decision of staging sit in, the provincial government got in contact with them for negotiations but they didn’t responded.”Today they (PTI) held a press conference and then marched towards Chief Minister House. Despite that our ministers reached there for negotiations,” he added.

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‘Sharifs doing politics over Nawaz’s illness’

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan on Tuesday said that Sharif family was doing politics over incarcerated former premier Nawaz Sharif’s illness. Expressing his views, Chohan said a fuss was made over this matter. All the medical reports of Nawaz Sharif are normal, he claimed.

The provincial minister pronounced that the former prime minister is making fun of himself. He was shifted to the cardiology ward where he refused to stay and finally settled in a room in the gynecology ward, Chohan said.

Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan taunted that it apparently looks like Nawaz Sharif will only like London flats to stay.

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Minorities treated as inferior citizens in India: Mazari

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Human Rights, Dr Shireen Mazari has said that the extremist ideology of Hindutva has found new face and feet under BJP’s leadership, revealing the state’s true face while unraveling its claim of secularism in the process. She said that in India the lower caste Hindus and minorities like Sikhs, Muslims and Christians were being discriminated and treated as inferior citizens of state.

She expressed these views while addressing the international seminar ‘Hindutva Policies and the State of Minorities in India’ organized by Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Islamabad on Tuesday. The seminar was also addressed by Pakistani Dallit leader Senator Engr. Gianchand, Dr Akis Kalaitzidis (USA), Dr Nitasha Kaul (UK), Murtaza Shibli (from Indian Occupied Kashmir), Dr Mujeeb Afzal, Ambassador (r) Jalil Abbas Jillani, Ambasador (r) Zamir Akram, Dr Waqar Masood and Dr Asma Khwaja.

Dr. Shireen Mazari was of the view that the plight of Muslims of Indian held Kashmir was particularly a major concern for Pakistan where the Kashmiri struggle of independence was being repressed by all means giving it a color of religious extremism issue, whereas in reality it was about the struggle for their right of self-determination.

She said, even as per the UN resolutions, Jammu & Kashmir was an occupied state and from the ongoing suppression to the attempts of changing the region’s demographics, everything that was being done in Kashmir should be seen as a war crime.

The Minister Human Rights was also critical of UN’s role over Kashmir’s issue, maintaining that while UN resolutions for East Timor were identical to the ones on Kashmir, the later was being neglected in execution merely for being a Muslim minority.

Executive President of IPS Khalid Rahman, in his opening note, presented the context of the seminar maintaining that the need of studying the rising phenomenon of Hindutva had increased manifold under the present Indian regime as the support and state machinery being provided to extremist forces by the government was a matter of concern for the whole region.

A book titled Hindutva: Rising Extremism in India, documenting the speeches and papers on the same topic presented by the speakers in a similar international seminar held last, was also launched and presented to Dr Mazari during the session.

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Provision of basic amenities to masses priority: Suri

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Speaker National Assembly (NA), Qasim Khan Suri has said that provision of basic amenities to masses at their doorstep is the foremost priority of incumbent government and all possible steps are being taken to achieve this objective.

He stated this while talking to Executive Officer Quetta Zafar Mehmood who called on him at Parliament House on Tuesday. During the meeting, matters pertaining to beautification, cleanliness, sanitation and transfer of property in Quetta Cantonment area came under discussion.

Qasim Khan Suri directed the Executive Officer Quetta Cantonment Board to resolve the problems being faced by the residents of cantonment area on priority basis and gave special attention to proper arrangements on cleanliness and sanitation in the area.

The Deputy Speaker NA said that incumbent government was taking keen interest in development of Balochistan and substantial funds have been allocated for this purpose. He directed the Executive Officer Quetta Cantonment Board to ensure provision of clean drinking water in the area. He assured his all-out support to resolve the problems faced by the inhabitants of Cantonment Board, Quetta.

Speaking on the occasion, Zafar Mehmood appraised the Deputy Speaker that management of Cantonment Board Quetta is taking all possible measures to resolve the problems of the inhabitants of the area and ensure up to mark health and cleanliness facilities despite its limited financial resources.

He requested for provision of financial assistance for safe drinking water, up gradation of sewerage system and to buy vehicles to dispose-off garbage and litter.

Deputy Speaker assured to talk with the concerned authorities and visit the Cantonment area to examine the facilities provided by the Cantonment Board to the residents of the area.

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India fails to achieve negative objectives: Asad

F.P. Report

SWABI: Asad Qaisar, speaker of the national assembly said here on Tuesday that the Indian leadership had created different hurdles in the concluded successful visit of the Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s to Pakistan but they had utterly failed to achieve their negative objectives.

Talking to media, he opined that the visit was highly successfully and in future the two Muslim countries would come more close to each other.

The memorandum of understandings (MoUs) worth $ 20 billion during Prince Mohammad bin Salman has strengthened the country’s economy. Now, the country’s economy is in take off position, he said. In reply to a question, he said he was sitting there when Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed to the Price for releasing Pakistan prisoners. The Prime Minister was speaking from the core of his heart, he said.

The 1.7 million Pakistan workers in Saudi Arabia would also get relief, he said, adding that more Pakistani labourers would also be encouraged to earn their livelihood with dignity and honour in the kingdom. About new constitutional amendments, he said that the government has planned to introduce such law under which the civil cases would no longer linger on and they would be settled by judiciary in a period of two years.

Pakistan is a peaceful country and strives for peace in South Asian region but the Indian leaders should not consider the overture for tranquility our weakness, he said. The amendments are in the process and would be introduce very soon in the parliament. The judiciary would be legally bound to resolve cases in a short span of time, reducing suffering of the peopled, he said.