ANAKAO: The sun glistens on waves lapping against wooden fishing boats as their sails ripple in the breeze coming off the Indian Ocean.
Nearby a young man with a diving mask bobs below the water's surface armed with a stick to lure his catch into a net while also trying to snare fish on a nylon line.
In Anakao, a traditional fishing community in southwest Madagascar, the community known as Vezo - which means "rowing strength" - has fished for generations.
But the arrival last year of six fishing trawlers off the coast, and a subsequent deal between a local private body that promotes Madagascan businesses and Chinese investors, have stirred anger in recent months, at a time when the country is going to the polls in presidential elections.
"If this carries on, we'll be eating sand," warned Fulgence, a fisherman in Anakao.
He does not dare venture out when the six Chinese vessels are at sea, claiming that a number of his nets have been cut.
'THE CHINESE TAKE EVERYTHING'
"The Chinese take everything and chuck the little dead fish back into the sea," complained Marco Randrianjaka, echoing the grievances of many of his fellow seafarers.
"Without the small ones, they won't be able to reproduce down the line."
But China's Mapro South, the company responsible for the six new vessels, denies the claims.
Their nets' mesh is large enough to allow the smaller fish to escape, said Lifujun Li, a company manager in Toliara, a port town one hour away from Anakao by boat.
Against the backdrop of an already tense situation both locally and nationally due to the presidential poll, a new fisheries deal with Chinese investors has provoked an outcry on the island where malnutrition is widespread.
The deal, which was not publicised, is understood to go much further than the six Chinese-funded trawlers already in operation.
The US$2.7 billion agreement includes, among other things, 330 modern, refrigerated vessels of up to 14 metres long being delivered to Madagascan fishermen.
They will "replace the traditional wooden boats", according to Madagascar's Development and Business Promotion Agency (AMDP), which negotiated the deal with China's Taihe consortium.
The ships, supplied to local fishermen free of charge, will help them "increase their production capacity", according to an AMDP official, who declined to be named.
A proportion of fish caught by those participating in the scheme will be sold locally. The Chinese will buy the "surplus" at a favourable but undisclosed price, said the AMDP official.
According to him, the deal will promote "local development" in Madagascar - one of the world's poorest countries, which is also blighted by corruption.
The official blamed the outcry on the fishing community "pre-judging" the project - something they deny.
The 330 new boats will eventually produce 130,000 tonnes of fish annually, according to the AMDP - roughly the equivalent of the country's entire production in 2016.
"But we already face over-fishing in some regions," said Rijasoa Fanazava, a fisheries expert at the World Wildlife Fund in Madagascar.
Fanazava believes that tens of thousands of fishermen risk losing their livelihoods if stocks are diminished.
"How will they live?" he said.
A recent round table that brought together the AMDP and 30 affected organisations failed to allay their fears.
"The only impact assessments given by the AMDP have been economic in nature, we haven't had anything on the environmental and social impacts of the project," said not-for-profit groups in a joint statement.
The AMDP stresses that the deal provides for an environmental initiative to protect the sustainability of marine life off Madagascar's coasts.
Campaign groups are "unconvinced" that the deal will truly create economic opportunities for local fishermen and reiterated their opposition to the scheme.
'NOT AT ALL LEGAL'
Even Fishing Minister Augustin Andriamananoro has his doubts. He claims he was not even briefed on the deal.
It was signed on the sidelines of a China-Africa cooperation summit in Beijing in September attended by Hery Rajaonarimampianina, just days before his resignation as president to contest the polls.
He was knocked out in the first-round vote last month.
"(The AMDP) can't sell treasures which aren't even theirs," said Andriamananoro.
"The deal isn't at all legal" and shouldn't be executed, added the minister, an ally of Andry Rajoelina, who will stand in the Dec 19 second-round vote against Marc Ravalomanana.
But the AMDP, though reluctant to comment publicly, is adamant the project will go ahead.
"(The deal) is between two private companies from the two countries - it's not an agreement between states," insisted the anonymous AMDP official.
The first Chinese-made trawlers are due to be delivered within a year.
But in Anakao, the fishing community fears "unfair competition".
"We're already catching less and less," said Mananaina. "Before, it was more than 20 kilogrammes a day - now just 10."
"There's simply not enough fish to feed everyone," added Fulgence. "So why send them to China?"
SINGAPORE: The teenager who murdered a woman under the instructions of her husband Anthony Ler has been released after serving nearly 17 years in prison.
The 32-year-old male Singaporean had his sentence remitted on Nov 2 this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Thursday (Dec 13).
"The President, on the advice of the Cabinet, had exercised her powers of clemency and granted the subject a remission of the remaining part of his sentence," MHA said.
"The factors that were considered included the subject’s good conduct and rehabilitation progress in prison, the total length of the subject’s sentence served thus far, as well as the circumstances of his case."
MHA added: "Conditions, such as curfew hours and electronic monitoring, are imposed to monitor the subject following his release, and further rehabilitative support is provided to aid his reintegration into society."
The ministry added that the trial judge found the teenager, who was 15 years old at the time of the offence, had been manipulated by Ler.
The high-profile case shocked the nation when the court heard that Ler offered the teenager S$100,000 to kill his wife, Annie Leong.
In May 2001, the teenager waited for Leong, 30, at the lift landing on the fourth floor of a Housing and Development Board (HDB) block in Hougang.
When Ms Leong emerged from the lift, the teenager approached her from behind and slashed her neck with a steak knife before stabbing her in the chest. Ms Leong died in hospital several hours later.
A psychiatrist report submitted to the court said the teenager, who had known Ler since he was 10 years old, had looked up to Ler as a role model.
In December 2001, the teenager was convicted of murder under the Penal Code and sentenced to be detained at the President’s pleasure. His identity was not reported during the High Court trial as he was only 15 years old.
In November 2017, the President’s Office confirmed that it had received a second petition for the Singaporean man’s clemency. The first petition was submitted to former president Tony Tan in 2013.
Ler, 35, was hanged in December 2002 after having failed in his appeal against his conviction for abetting the murder of his wife.
SINGAPORE: A taxi driver was arrested after a 61-year-old man died in an accident along Upper Thomson Road towards Thomson Road on Thursday (Dec 13) morning.
The police said they were alerted to an accident involving a taxi and a pedestrian at 6.30am. The man was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
The taxi driver was said to be driving straight and did not notice the man crossing the road.
He was arrested for causing death by a negligent act.
Facebook user Lawrence Loh uploaded a video showing a blue tent on the right-most lane of the road. A ComfortDelGro taxi with a damaged bonnet and an ambulance were seen parked nearby.
The police said investigations into the accident are ongoing.
SAN FRANCISCO: A bomb threat prompted authorities on Tuesday (Dec 11) to evacuate a building at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Facebook Inc, police said, but gave the "all clear" after an hours-long search turned up no sign of a device.
The New York Police Department had received an anonymous tip about a bomb threat regarding Facebook's campus in Menlo Park, California, and alerted local authorities at about 4:30pm, a spokeswoman for the Menlo Park police said.
Late on Tuesday, police said the building was secure, however.
"The San Mateo County bomb unit was dispatched with explosive detection dogs that conducted a sweep of the building and found no suspicious packages or devices," they said.
"The building is all clear and secure."
Menlo Park police spokeswoman Nicole Acker had said the evacuation was confined to a three-story facility on campus that was not the headquarters building, but a company spokesman said by email that "a few" buildings on the site had been evacuated.
Everyone was safe, Facebook and police said.
"We take the safety and security of our people at Facebook extremely seriously and are glad that everyone is safe," said spokeswoman Genevieve Grdina, adding that the firm had taken swift action to evacuate several buildings.
"We are working closely with local authorities to investigate this threat and further monitor the situation."
Another Silicon Valley company to face a security threat in the recent past was YouTube. In April, a woman opened fire at its headquarters in San Francisco, wounding three people before she shot herself dead.
SINGAPORE: Former City Harvest Church leader Chew Eng Han was on Wednesday (Dec 12) found guilty of trying to escape Singapore and defeat justice.
On the morning of Feb 21, Chew was caught by the Police Coast Guard following a tip-off while trying to leave Singapore illegally from Pulau Ubin.
This was a day before he was due to start serving a jail term of three years and four months for his role in the misappropriation of S$50 million in church funds.
At the time, Chew was allowed his request to start serving his sentence on Feb 22, after the Chinese New Year holiday.
Chew, who has served more than nine months of his original sentence, claimed trial over one charge of attempting to leave Singapore and another of attempting to defeat justice.
District Judge Victor Yeo found Chew guilty, saying he was not persuaded by the defence's arguments that the accused was apprehended too early, and that his actions up to the point of his arrest did not amount to embarking on a crime proper.
The hearing was attended by a handful of people, while a lean Chew listened to the proceedings without expression.
PROSECUTION, DEFENCE TUSSLE OVER TECHNICAL ISSUES
The prosecution said that Chew had made arrangements to leave Singapore illegally and was on the first leg of a journey out of the country, which meant he had "embarked on the crime proper".
Chew was caught while on a boat in Singapore waters, on his way to meet up with a second boat, which he would then board for Malaysia.
Chew's defence lawyer Adrian Wee said that his client was "apprehended too soon" and had not embarked on the crime proper as he was not on the boat that was intending to leave for Malaysia.
He added that Chew "had not completed the act of leaving Singapore", and so could not be said to have tried perverting the course of justice.
Furthermore, the course of justice “had ended when the Court of Appeal rendered its decision on Feb 1 2018”, said Mr Wee. This was when the Apex Court rejected the prosecution's bid to reinstate longer jail terms for the former CHC leaders.
In response, Deputy Public Prosecutor Christopher Ong said the course of justice ends only when the sentence has been served.
NOT PERSUADED BY DEFENCE, SAYS JUDGE
In delivering his verdict, the judge said that Chew setting out to sea on the first boat was an inextricable part of his journey out of Singapore.
"By the time the accused embarked on the first boat, he was clearly on his way to leaving Singapore from an unauthorised place," he said.
"I am not persuaded by the defence's arguments. With due respect to the learned counsel, the arguments would require the court to adopt an overly narrow view," said the judge.
He added that "drawing such fine distinctions would result in an illogical outcome in which an accused person who designs an elaborate escape plan with multiple legs of the journey ... would evade liability".
The judge also agreed with the prosecution that the course of justice continues even after sentences have been passed and appeals exhausted, rejecting the defence's argument that it had ended after the final appeal.
Two men who helped Chew in his attempt to escape Singapore by boat were sentenced to jail in July.
Tan Poh Teck, 53, the boatman piloting the motorised sampan in Chew's escape bid, was sentenced to 27 weeks' jail.
He had intended to take Chew to the northeastern part of Pulau Ubin, where Chew would take another boat.
Tan Kim Ho, a 42-year-old Malaysian man also known as Rayson, who made arrangements for Chew to get to Malaysia by boat, was sentenced to a jail term of six months.
Another man, Malaysian driver Khoo Kea Leng, was jailed for six months in April for his role in the escape plan. He had linked Chew up with Rayson.
SINGAPORE: There are no reports of Singaporean casualties or injured in the shooting in the French city of Strasbourg, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on Wednesday (Dec 12).
A gunman had opened fire at a famed Christmas market in the city, killing at least three and injuring another 12.
"Singapore condemns the vicious gunman attack in Strasbourg on 11 December 2018 that resulted in the loss of several lives and injuries to many.
"We extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved families and wish the injured a speedy recovery," said MFA in a statement.
The ministry added: "At this juncture, French authorities are carrying out security operations in the area and the situation is developing.
"The Singapore Embassy in Paris is also in contact with the French authorities and there are no reports of Singaporean casualties or injured thus far."
French police have launched a manhunt for suspect Cherif Chekatt, who was injured by patrolling soldiers, but managed to escape.
MFA advised Singaporeans in Strasbourg to monitor the news, follow the advice of local authorities, and keep family and friends informed of their safety.
Those who require urgent consular assistance should contact the Singapore Embassy in Paris or the MFA duty office, the ministry added.
Singapore Embassy in Paris
Tel: +33 6 75 03 25 55
MFA duty office (24-hours)
Tel: +65 6379 8800/8855
INDIANA: A 16-year-old Indiana boy, who police say confessed to killing a classmate who was carrying his baby, was charged on Monday (Dec 10) with murder and feticide, prosecutors said.
The charges came a day after Aaron Trejo was arrested for the death of 17-year-old Breana Rouhselang, whose body was found in a South Bend, Indiana dumpster on Sunday, partially covered by a trash bag.
Rouhselang had been stabbed and strangled to death.
Trejo, who initially denied involvement in Rouhselang's disappearance, later confessed to killing the girl because she had not told him about the pregnancy until it was too late to abort the baby, a South Bend police detective said in court documents.
"I took action ... I took her life," Trejo said, according to South Bend Police Detective Gery Mullins.
Rouhselang, who was six months pregnant, was reported missing by her family on Sunday after failing to return from a late-night meeting with Trejo behind her house, Mullins said in the affidavit.
Trejo and Rouhselang met at Mishawaka High School in the South Bend suburb of the same name, where Trejo played on the football team and Rouhselang was team manager.
The high school called Rouhselang's death "a terrible tragedy" in a statement posted on its website.
According to the affidavit, Trejo told police that he had been planning to kill Rouhselang and the baby for about a week and stabbed her with a knife he had brought from home. He then threw the knife and her phone into a river.
An autopsy found that the victim died from multiple stab wounds and strangulation by her scarf, the affidavit said.
Trejo's family members could not be reached for comment on Monday and it was not clear if he had retained a criminal defense attorney.
SINGAPORE: A 17-year-old boy who had underage sex with two minors, getting one of them pregnant, was sentenced to 15 months' probation on Tuesday (Dec 11).
The teenager, who cannot be named in order to protect the identity of the two victims, pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual penetration of a minor, with two similar charges taken into consideration.
The court heard that he met the first victim, a 15-year-old girl, through a social application called Bigo.
They entered into a relationship after August 2016 when they met in person, and the victim frequently went to her boyfriend's home.
In September 2016, the pair had unprotected sex. The girl did not get her period for two months after this, and took a pregnancy test, which confirmed that she was pregnant.
Her mother took her to KK Women's and Children's Hospital in December for a high fever, when she was eight weeks' pregnant.
The hospital informed the police about the case of underage pregnancy on Dec 3 and the girl had an abortion soon after.
TEEN BEGINS DATING ANOTHER 15-YEAR-OLD GIRL
The pair broke up, and the young man began dating the second victim, also aged 15, in August 2017.
They had unprotected sex in his bedroom that month. The girl later told her schoolmate that she might be pregnant.
Even though this turned out not to be true, the victim told her schoolmate that she quarrelled with her boyfriend, who used a blunt object to injure his own hand.
Her schoolmate was worried that the accused would harm her friend, so she lodged a police report on the underage sex the next day.
District Judge Eddy Tham told the young man that his offences showed his "disregard for the law".
"You have undergone previous intervention before," he said. "You did not learn from this incident. This is very disturbing."
He ordered his parents to furnish a S$5,000 bond, before telling them: "You need to step up your supervision of him to ensure he does not re-offend."
The teenager also has to perform 180 hours of community service and undergo electronic monitoring for six months.
SINGAPORE: Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of most common mental health conditions here, according to findings from a nationwide study released on Tuesday (Dec 11).
The disorder affected one in 28 people in their lifetime, making it the third-most prevalent condition after major depressive disorder and alcohol abuse.
Younger people aged 18 to 34 were more likely to have the condition than those aged 50 and above, said researchers from the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) and Nanyang Technological University, citing the findings from the second Mental Health Study.
The study also found that those who had a monthly household income of between S$2,000 and S$3,999 were less likely to have the condition than those with a household income of less than S$2,000.
IMH's Professor Chong Siow Ann said that one symptom of OCD is the fear of contamination that manifests in excessive washing. The condition could cause “tremendous impairment” to a person's life, he said.
Associate Professor Mythily Subramaniam also said that the 6,126 participants surveyed were asked if they had had recurring thoughts or concerns about order or symmetry, which is related to OCD.
“It’s a very neglected disorder,” said Assoc Prof Mythily.
When it starts, it could be mild, she said, adding that it could get worse over time, interfering with a person's life.
Prevalence of lifetime OCD and OCD in the most recent one-year period in Singapore was higher than in South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN MENTAL HEALTH DISORDERS
Overall, one in seven people in Singapore has experienced a mood, anxiety or alcohol use disorder in their lifetime, according to the study spearheaded by IMH in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MOH).
This is a significant increase from 2010, when the study was last done, Assoc Prof Mythily said. The recent one was initiated in 2016 and completed in one-and-a-half years.
The most common condition was major depressive disorder, experienced by 1 in 16 people.
Younger people in the 18 to 34 age group were more likely to have major depressive disorder than those aged 50 and above. Those who were divorced and separated were also more likely to experience the condition in their lifetime.
Alcohol abuse was the next most prevalent, affecting 1 in 24 people.
Other conditions that were surveyed were bipolar disorder and generalised anxiety disorder.
LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday (Dec 6) that British lawmakers faced a choice ahead of a vote on her Brexit deal: approving her deal or facing an exit with no deal or even the reversal of Brexit.
May said she was speaking to lawmakers about giving parliament a bigger role in whether the Northern Irish backstop arrangement would be triggered, though she gave few details.
May said some in parliament were trying to frustrate Brexit and that she did not think another referendum on Brexit was the right course.
"There are three options: one is to leave the European Union with a deal ... the other two are that we leave without a deal or that we have no Brexit at all," May told reporters.
"It's clear that there are those in the House of Commons who want to frustrate Brexit ... and overturn the vote of the British people and that's not right."
May repeatedly sidestepped questions on whether she would delay the Dec 11 vote but did hint at possible concessions on the Northern Irish backstop.
"There are questions about how decisions are taken as to whether we go into the backstop, because that isn’t an automatic," she said. "The question is: do we go into the backstop? Do we extend what I call the implementation period?"
When asked repeatedly what her "Plan B" would be if her deal was rejected, she did not directly answer the questions.