30 Nov 2015 — The needle-and-syringe-exchange programme is the cornerstone of the Malaysian government-initiated harm-reduction strategy to minimise the risk of HIV transmission among drug users. Introduced in 2006, despite public opposition and restrictive legal stance against drug offences, the programme has benefited more than 83,000 drug users and improved their access to clean needles and syringes, HIV testing and treatment in addition to other life-saving healthcare services. The harm-reduction strategy has also halved new HIV infections among people who inject drugs in the past decade, from 3,127 cases in 2006 to 680 last year. The Malaysian Insider through freelance photojournalist Ahmad Yusni visits the Malaysian-Thai border town of Bukit Bunga, Tanah Merah, Kelantan, as demarcated by the narrow Sungai Golok. There, a needle and syringe exchange programme, run by the Kelantan Patient Intermediary Association (SAHABAT), a partner organisation of the Malaysian AIDS Council, serves as many as 30 people who inject drugs from both sides of the border daily.
10 Nov 2015 — For centuries, the Seletar community, also known as "Orang Laut" or sea people, lived in the islands near Singapore and Johor. The community, recognised as Orang Asli, now mostly live in boat houses in the coastal regions of southern Johor. But rapid development in Johor means their settlements are increasingly being encroached, forcing the community to rethink their lifestyle. The Malaysian Insider's Nazir Sufari recently spent time in several Seletar villages.
30 Oct 2015 — On August 23, 2015, seven Orang Asli children went missing from their school hostel in Pos Tohoi near Gua Musang, Kelantan. Many weeks later, four bodies were found, and identified to be those of Ika Ayel, 9, Haikal Yaacob, 8, Linda Rosli, 8 and Juvina David, 7. The Malaysian Insider's Najjua Zulkefli captures the outpouring of grief as relatives and villagers join the bereaved family members in the funeral at Kampung Penad, in the interiors of Gua Musang, after the bodies were brought from the hospital mortuary.
27 Oct 2015 — On first nine days of Ashvin, the seventh month in the Hindu calendar, Hindus celebrate ‘Sharad Navratri’ – the most popular of five Navratri festivals in a year. The festival, which fell on October 13 and ended on October 22 this year, is dedicated to Durga, the divine mother and goddess of victory of good over evil. For nine days, Hindus worship her nine avatars – Brahmacharini, Chandraghanta, Kushmanda, Skandamata, Katyayani, Kalaratri, Mahagauri and Siddhidatri. Prayers are offered by devotees seeking blessings from the goddess. Some devotees fast and others follow a vegetarian diet. In Penang, Hindus celebrate the end of the festival with an annual chariot procession, where the statue of Durga is brought out of the Sri Kunj Bihari Mandir on Jalan Penang and placed on a chariot. The statue travels the streets of the Unesco World Heritage City.
11 Oct 2015 — The Spartan Race is a series of obstacles of varying distance and difficulty, ranging from 4.8km to marathon distances. They are held in the United States and franchised in 14 countries. The series includes the Spartan Sprint (more than 4.8km of obstacle racing), Super Spartan (more than 13km), the Spartan Beast (more than 19km), and the Ultra Beast (more than 42km and one of two marathon obstacle courses along with Mudderthon). ESPN describes the Spartan Race as ‘a true test of will’. The inaugural Reebok Spartan Race got off to a great start yesterday with more than 10,000 people taking part in the two-day event at Setia Alam, Selangor, in conjunction with the inaugural National Sports Day. The first challenge was the Spartan sprint, which gave people a taste of the 6km course with more than 25 obstacles along the way.
03 Oct 2015 — Apart from its blue skies, white sandy beaches, vivid green paddy fields and volcanos, the Balinese inherited and kept cultural practices from their past generations, which included cockfighting. However, cockfighting is illegal in Indonesia. The only exception is when a cockfight takes place for religious purposes. The roosters are trained for fight and Balinese men spent a lot of time to ensure their fighters come out tops. The losing bird either dies in the ring or gets slashed to death after the fight. Outside the ring, betting with money are common.
16 Sep 2015 — Tens of thousands of people in red shirts gathered in Kuala Lumpur on September 16, 2015 in a show of support for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is under pressure to resign in the wake of revelations that billions of dollars had been deposited into his personal accounts. The rally, organised by a martial arts group and backed by pro-government bodies, was held as Malaysia celebrated the 52nd anniversary of its formation as a federation. Many have condemned the rally for its racial slurs but leaders from the ruling Umno have openly backed the protest.
09 Sep 2015 — Makna, the not-for-profit cancer council of Malaysia, organises home visits in every state. The home visits allow Makna to gauge the health of patients under its assistance. Patients wanting support register with the states' Health Department and government hospitals, which will then be in touch with Makna. Patients receive an allowance which goes towards transport for chemotherapy treatments at the hospitals and medicine. The home visit team goes to rural, and semi-urban areas as many of the patients are from the lower-income group, or have lost income because of their illness. In some cases, they are abandoned and shunned by their families. They find solace and hope in the visits.
29 Aug 2015 — Tens of thousands joined a peaceful protest in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, bringing to the streets a political scandal of over a multi-billion-ringgit payment made to accounts under his name. Security was tight and several anti-riot trucks and a water cannon were parked near Dataran Merdeka. Protesters spent the night in the streets behind the barricades. Rallies were also held in Sabah and Sarawak, and several major cities around the world.
04 Aug 2015 — The Indonesian island of Bali, with its beautiful beaches and natural lakes formed by volcanos, has long been a tourist's paradise. But the huge number of tourists to the island is a double-edged sword. To cater for the rapid growth of the tourism industry, there is a high demand for basic construction material as more shops and hotels are built. This also means more mining activities are carried out to extract black sand, threatening the environment and the lives of villagers. The Malaysian Insider photographer, Hasnoor Hussain, travels to Bali to find out its impact near the Mt Batur Geopark, part of the Unesco Global Geopark Network.