Review Category : English

Ceritalah ASEAN – Nguyen Ba Thanh The man who transformed Danang

ON November 11, leaders from 21 nations – including US President Donald Trump (who fancies himself as a builder), Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping – will descend upon the city of Danang, Central Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders Meeting.

The 21 leaders will land at Danang International Airport, cross the iconic Han River Bridge (the symbol of the coastal city), pass by the 37-storey Danang Administration Centre (the tallest building in the province) and reach the Intercontinental Resort where the summit will be held.

Danang’s astounding progress is the work of one remarkable man: the late Nguyen Ba Thanh – who served as Danang’s leader from 1997 to 2013 (he was also the city’s Communist party head).

And the numbers underline Nguyen’s successes. From 1997 to 2008, the city’s economy grew at an average of 11.26%, well above the national average of 7.06%. In 1997, its per capita income was VND4.69 million but by 2008 had more than quadrupled to VND23.62 million.

In the same period, households below the poverty line also dropped from 8.79% to less than 1%, so much so that Danang is now being promoted as a model city and a great triumph of Vietnamese ingenuity and dynamism.

Nguyen Ba Thanh, leader of Danang from 1997-2013. Pix courtesy of TuoiTre News.

Charming, determined and results-orientated, Nguyen, presided over much of this economic metamorphosis.

Hoang (all names have been changed), a 68-year-old trader living in the Khue My district of Danang had a personal brush with the leader. In 2001, his farm was marked for redevelopment and his family resettled. Nguyen personally came to his house to persuade the residents to move.

“He explained why we had to move, why our land, which was next to the river, was important for the development of the city. He was friendly, kind, and he made sure to speak to all of the 100 residents, even if it was for a short while.

“He was eloquent, caring, and funny! After speaking to him, I was happy to move.

“During his time, the roads became bigger, the streets became cleaner and Danang became a city I am proud of.”

The roads of Danang are wide and spacious. The city benefited from a massive infrastructure push under Nguyen Ba Thanh. Karim Raslan Photo

Hoang was part of a large group of farmers who were displaced to make way for riverside developments. While many of them lost their land, they were compensated and the state helped them find affordable housing.

Ngoc, now a banh mi (Vietnam’s distinctive baguette sandwich) hawker, is another one of these former farmers. According to her, Nguyen also visited her housing area to engage the community: “He was close to the people… He spoke like one of us, like a local.”

Nguyen was a Danang man, born in the city’s Hoa Vang district. By all accounts, he was a charismatic figure who was as comfortable in a village hall as he was in a hotel conference room.

“The King of Danang” as some called him, was popular with rich and poor alike.

Nguyen was a popular leader, regularly thronged by crowds wherever he went. Pix courtesy of PetroVietnam.

Pham, a 49-year-old businessman, is one of them. His parents came from Danang’s poverty-stricken inner city and were beneficiaries of Nguyen’s affordable housing plans.

“During Tet (the Vietnamese New Year), he would give out rice and provisions to the poor. He built affordable homes. He also established a homeless shelter in Danang. Look around! Compare this to Ho Chi Minh City. Do you see any beggars?”

“Nguyen Ba Thanh was special. I don’t think there has been a leader as well-loved as him since Uncle Ho (Ho Chi Minh).”

Danang’s rapid development was made possible by power. Nguyen (aka “The King”) was known to have an iron grip on Danang’s People’s Committee, ruling with a paternalistic, firm hand.

Fishing boats dot the Danang riverway. Karim Raslan Photo

As Dinh, who has worked in Danang for the past 20 years noted: “He was strict with his civil servants – very involved with day-to-day affairs, he even chose the theme song for Danang.”

“It used to be that when you needed a building license for a house, you had to go to three or four different departments for permits. Nguyen Ba Thanh streamlined the process and now you not only just need to go to one department, they even give you a deadline for delivery. And they actually deliver on time!”

“Take for example the Danang Administration Centre. In the past, the different departments were located all over the city. It made internal coordination very difficult and applying for licenses a hassle. Now, all of them are in that tower.”

In 2000, Nguyen was investigated for graft over the construction of the Han River Bridge. Around the same time, he was also accused of violating legal procedures while conducting a relocation operation.

The Dragon Bridge, an icon of the city. On the weekend evenings, the dragon’s head breathes fire. Karim Raslan Photo

To Dinh however: “Both of those cases came to nothing. The people of Danang know that he was tough…But he delivered results. For most of us, that’s all that matters.”

“All over Vietnam, people knew him. People would say to me: ‘I wish my city had someone like Nguyen Ba Thanh’.”

In many ways Nguyen – a ground-up, transformational leader – has more in common with the Presidents of Indonesia and the Philippines, Joko Widodo and Rodrigo Duterte respectively. All three revived their home cities and eventually moved to the centre.

However, in the case of Nguyen the story wasn’t to end with him securing power at the national level.

The Tran Thi Ly Bridge, designed to appear like a sail. Danang is known for its beautiful bridges. Karim Raslan Photo

Instead after leaving Danang in 2013 and becoming the Communist Party’s anti-corruption tsar, his star faded as did his health, succumbing to cancer in early 2015.

His untimely and tragic death at the age of 62 was mourned by millions, who had hoped that he would have been able to transform the rest of the country as he did Danang. But we – and Vietnam – shall never know if he had it in him.

“When he died, I cried,” lamented Hoang. “The last time I cried over a leader was when General Vo Nguyen Giap (a Vietnam War hero) passed.”

This week, as hundreds of sleek black Audis chauffeur world leaders to APEC, they will be traveling on the roads and bridges built by Nguyen, in the city that was his throne. The shadow of the “King of Danang” still looms large.

NOTE: Follow Karim Raslan on Twitter @fromKMR / Instagram @fromkmr

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Astro bags best Media and Network award gives free channels

KUALA LUMPUR: Astro Malaysia Holdings Berhad bagged the Gold Award in the ‘Media and Network’ category at the Putra Brand Awards 2017 tonight.

This is Astro’s 8th consecutive win in the same category.

To celebrate the victory, Astro is giving complimentary access to all channels, from Nov 3 to 19, except for selected Pay per View and premium sports channels on Astro and Astro GO.

According to Astro’s Chief Digital and Marketing Officer, Ridhuan Sidek, this year’s win will ignite its commitment to produce the best content for its subscribers.

He added that subscribers can expect more great products and offerings as it continues with the transformation programme to enhance and increase customer satisfaction.

The Putra Brand Awards was launched in 2010 by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As).

Brands are measured based on factors including impression of the brands, intent to purchase the products of the brands, forced choice brands and brands that respondents would recommend to their friends and families.

A total 6,000 Malaysian consumers were engaged through digital platforms to determine Malaysia’s favourite brands across 24 categories.

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Peoples incomes will increase further in five to ten years – Ahmad Husni

KUALA LUMPUR: The people’s income is expected to increase further in the coming five to ten years as a result of the various policies introduced by the government, including the initiatives in Budget 2018 tabled on Friday, Datuk Seri Ahmad Husni Hanadzlah (BN-Tambun) said in the Dewan Rakyat.

He said the government had set a target to increase the people’s income to 42 per cent as compared to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in line with the developed countries.

“Together with Bank Negara, I conducted a study in 2009 and found that the increase in the price of goods before that year was quite high, but our salary increase was low, so with the initiatives in the Budget, the intention is to increase the people’s income.

“Previously, our (Malaysians) salaries compared to the GDP was 33 percent, and then it went up to 35 percent, and our intention is to increase it to 42 percent, which is the same with other developed countries,” he said when debating the Supply Bill 2018 at the policy stage in Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday.

Ahmad Husni, who was Second Finance Minister from 2009 to 2016, said he was confident Budget 2018 and future budgets will result in an increase in the people’s income.

He said all parties including the opposition should support the budget as it contained initiatives to develop the country which would benefit all the people regardless of background.

“I was Second Finance Minister from 2009 until 2016. I am not bragging because I want say that Budget 2018 is the best introduced in this country because we are facing global economic challenges with very stiff competition but we managed to produce a budget which is holistic,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ahmad Husni said all parties have to admit that the positive development enjoyed in Penang and Selangor was the outcome of policies made at the federal level such as the Economic Transformation Plan which had helped the country face global economic challenges.

He add that both states were part of Malaysia and indirectly enjoyed the results of policies which were introduced at the federal level.

The Dewan sits again today.


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Gerakan Ambiga must come clean on Rewcastle-Browns claim

KUALA LUMPUR: Gerakan has called on former Malaysian Bar president Datuk S. Ambiga to disclose her source of information on the alleged financial transaction between 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), PAS and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Gerakan president Datuk Seri Mah Siew Keong said Ambiga should heed calls to reveal her source of information and cooperate with the authorities so that a full investigation could be carried out, stating that this was also an opportunity for her to defend herself.

“Members of the public have the right to know how she obtained the information, from whom and by what means.

“McCarthyism has no room in Malaysia, we cannot have leaders in the country making serious allegations against others without proper regard for evidence or shunning public calls to justify one’s claim against others,” he said in a statement here Wednesday.

A news portal reported that Sarawak Report editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown named Ambiga as the source of the information that PAS allegedly received RM90 million from the prime minister.

In her defence statement dated Oct 11 to a lawsuit filed in London by PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, Rewcastle-Brown claimed she and Ambiga spoke about Najib, 1MDB and PAS in July 2016.


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A salute to women in the workforce

WOMEN across the globe are still earning less than men by a large amount.

According to The World Economic Forum, the economic gender gap will not be closed for an alarming 217 years.

Today, Astro AWANI Digital pays homage to closing the widening global gender income gap.

The header of our website indicates women closing the gaps in workforce participation and wages.

All hail women CEOs, policitians and professionals!

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New York attack suspect charged with providing support to Daish

NEW YORK: An Uzbek immigrant suspected of killing eight people in New York City by ploughing a truck into cyclists and pedestrians on a bike path was charged in federal court on Wednesday with acting on behalf of the militant group Daish, reported Reuters.

The suspect, Sayfullo Saipov, 29, who was hospitalised after a police officer shot and arrested him, ending Tuesday’s rampage, confessed to authorities while in custody that he began planning the attack a year ago, according to the criminal complaint filed against him.

The 10-page complaint said Saipov waived his rights to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination in agreeing to speak to investigators without an attorney present from his Bellvue Hospital Center bed in Manhattan.

In the course of that interview, the complaint said, Saipov told investigators he was inspired by Daish videos he had watched on his cellphone, chose Halloween for the attack because he believed more people would be on the streets, and had originally planned to strike the Brooklyn Bridge as well as the bike path.

READ: Eight dead in truck attack on Manhattan bike path; suspect arrested

The complaint also said Saipov had requested permission to display Daish’s flag in his hospital room and said he felt good about what he had done.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Investigation posted an online wanted poster of a second Uzbekistan-born man, named Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, 32, who was described as being sought for questioning in connection with the attack along the Hudson River in lower Manhattan.

Saipov was charged with one count of providing material support and resources to a foreign terrorist organisation, designated in the complaint as Daish, and one count of violence and destruction of motor vehicles.

New York City police earlier in the day said that Saipov had carried out the attack according to instructions he found posted online by Daish, on whose behalf he claimed to have acted.

Police also said Saipov had left behind a note extolling Daish, also known as ISIS.

“The gist of the note was that the Daish would endure forever,” New York Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller told a news conference. “He appears to have followed almost exactly the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels to its followers.”

The attack was the deadliest in New York City since Sept. 11, 2001, when suicide hijackers crashed two jetliners into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,600 people.

Tuesday’s attack injured 12 people, some critically, in addition to those killed.

Similar assaults using vehicles as weapons took place in Spain in August and in France and Germany last year.

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FBI locates second Uzbek man sought for questioning in New York attack probe

WASHINGTON: A second Uzbek man wanted for questioning in the investigation of Tuesday’s fatal truck attack in New York City has been located, an FBI official said on Wednesday, though no details were provided on where the man was found or why he was wanted.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday issued a wanted poster on Mukhammadzoir Kadirov, a 32-year-old native of Uzbekistan.

Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbekistan immigrant who has been living in New Jersey, was charged on Wednesday with committing the attack in the name of the Islamic State militant group.

READ: Eight dead in truck attack on Manhattan bike path; suspect arrested

U.S. law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, separately on Wednesday said Saipov had been in contact with Kadirov and one other person. The officials, who asked not to be identified because the investigation is ongoing, did not provide further details.

Kadirov was located after the wanted poster went out, William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the New York FBI office, told a news conference. He declined to disclose any details.

“Earlier as we came in this evening, we were seeking information about an individual,” Sweeney said. “Many of you in this room received that alert.

“We are no longer seeking that individual,” he said.

The New York FBI office on Twitter said it was still seeking any information the public might have on Kadirov.

Tuesday’s attack on a bike path in Manhattan killed eight people.

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Maybank Group announces leadership swap

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Lim Hong Tat will return to Malaysia to focus on the role of group head of Maybank’s Community Financial Services (CFS) after serving as Maybank Singapore CEO.

Replacing him is Dr John Lee Hin Hock, who is currently the group chief risk officer (CRO) of Maybank Group.

Gilbert Kohnke will replace John Lee as Maybank’s group CRO.

This is the second time in recent years that Maybank Group saw leadership swaps. Last year, Maybank initiated a rotation that saw CEOs of their Islamic business, investment banking business, and CFO all changed portfolios amongst one another.

Maybank group president and CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias said that following the success of the first Group EXCO role rotation initiated in mid 2016, the group has embarked on its second rotation to ensure a strong succession pipeline. “This is an ongoing process designed to strengthen the group’s leadership team by bringing new ideas and further heightening the level of energy,” he said.

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At least two dead in shooting inside suburban Denver Walmart

THORNTON: At least two people were killed and one wounded in a shooting inside a Walmart store in suburban Denver on Wednesday, police said.

Police in Thornton, Colorado, did not immediately release any information about the circumstances of the shooting or who was responsible for the gunfire.

In a Twitter post about 90 minutes after the shooting, police said investigators had confirmed that two men were dead and a woman was taken to a local hospital, but no further details were given.

The situation appeared potentially ominous from authorities’ initial reports.

“We’ve got multiple parties down, we’re still trying to ascertain what their conditions are,” Officer Victor Avila of the Thornton Police Department told Reuters by telephone not long after police arrived on the scene.

About an hour after the initial alert, police said on Twitter that the threat of gunfire had ended at the store, which was surrounded by police and fire crews.

“At this time this is NOT an active shooter. Active crime scene. We will update as info becomes available,” the police department said in that tweet. Confirmation of the two fatalities came about 20 minutes later.

Thornton is city of about 120,000 people roughly 10 miles (16 km) northeast of downtown Denver.

Avila said police were called to the store at about 6:30 p.m. Mountain time (8:30 p.m. ET) and that the gunshots had ceased by the time the first officers arrived at the scene.

A Walmart customer, Aaron Stephens, 44, of Thorton, told Reuters he was inside paying for groceries at a self-checkout stand when he heard gunshots and the sound of ricocheting bullets.

“The employees started screaming and the customers started screaming” as people began to flee the store, he recounted. “I ran out, too, because I didn’t want to get shot.”

Stephens said he did not see where the shooting had come from and did not see anyone struck by bullets.

Local NBC television affiliate 9NEWS reported that a woman whose son was in the Walmart had told her that he had heard about 30 gunshots and was still inside.

A video posted on Twitter showed the Walmart, which is situated in a large complex of big-box stores and other retail outlets adjacent to U.S. Interstate 25, apparently empty except for police officers with guns drawn.

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Six charged with being members of criminal group

ALOR SETAR: Six people were charged in the Sessions Court here today over their alleged involvement in a criminal group suspected to be the Pak Su Gang.

However, no plea was recorded from Jamal Muhammad Shafian Jamaluddin, 24, Mazlan Ahmad, 48, Akhmal Firdaus Ahmad, 22, Muhd Shafiz Ibrahim, 29, Muhamad Mizan Ismail, 39, and Mohd Azhar Muei, 20, after the charge was read out to them before Judge Azman Abu Hassan.

All of them were charged with joining the organised criminal group between Jan 1, 2015, and Oct 8, 2017, in the Kubang Pasu district.

They were charged under Section 130V (1) of the Penal Code that carries a maximum jail term of 20 years upon conviction.

The accused were denied bail and the court fixed Nov 20 for mention.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Mohd Izhanudin Alias appeared for the prosecution while the accused were not represented.


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