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Excerpts from U.A.E. Dailies

Its Official - Change of weekend  - Friday and Saturday holidays from September

U.A.E. : 17 May: In a move that is expected to change the lifestyle and business practices in the country, the weekly holidays for the public sector have been changed to Friday and Saturday.

The change in the weekend was approved by the UAE Cabinet yesterday on the directives of the President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

According to the Cabinet decision, federal ministries and institutions, local government departments and public and private schools will close on Fridays and Saturdays for the weekend.

Saturday will therefore replace Thursday as the weekend with effect from September 1, 2006.

The long-awaited decision was highly anticipated, but government bodies and schools, in particular, had to be fully prepared to take the move.

“This was a highly anticipated decision, and we in the banking sector believed this decision would take effect, sooner or later,” said a female official of a bank in Abu Dhabi. Banks in the UAE have been lobbying to get the decision approved to minimise disruption to business as the weekend in the West and most countries around the world is on Saturday and Sunday.

By endorsing the Friday-Saturday weekend in the UAE, national and foreign banks are now expected to operate on Thursday from 8am to 1pm as on normal week days. Some banks operate until 2pm.

“Dubai and the rest of the emirates in the federation have now become a strong business hub in their own right.This decision will further enhance the position of the UAE and bolster the financial services offered by banks and institutions”, said an Abu Dhabibased analyst.

Although the decision by the cabinet is not imposed on private companies, it is widely expected the move will be embraced by most, if not all, privately owned entities. Already many companies in the city, which follow Labour Ministry rules and regulations, and those operating from free zones in the Emirates, follow the Friday-Saturday weekend system.

They include multinationals, regional headquarters of major world corporations, advertising agencies, public relations and marketing companies and others.

According to the decision, government-run and private schools will have to follow the new weekend system. But how the decision will affect the traffic situation in Dubai is yet to be known.

There have been suggestions that a number of government agencies and certain sets of private companies in the emirate should follow a weekend system different to others to reduce the traffic congestion Dubai has been witnessing.

“If a mechanism is worked out to reduce traffic congestion by rearranging weekends and business hours, we would be contributing to the solution of the traffic problems,” a traffic official told Emirates Today.

The Friday-Saturday weekend will also involve changes in promotional offers by hotels, resorts and top tourism industry players. Current offers are for the weekend extending from Wednesday night to Friday.


'People will easily adjust to change'

Dubai: 17 May:Senior executives and school principals welcomed the government move to shift the weekend to Friday and Saturday, saying the UAE will now be more in synch with the rest of the world.

Kamal Vachani, director of Al Maya Group, said it was a welcome move. "But what about the banks," he asked. He said the move came at the right time, after the changeover to one straight shift from 9am to 6.30pm, with an hour's lunch break.

"It will give people more time with their families," he said.

Bharatkumar Shah, chairman of Al Mustaneer Trading, said it will not make a difference to those dealing with India. "Most of the businesses are anyway closed on Saturday," he said. He hoped that people will change their mindsets and adjust to the change easily. A section of residents had divided opinions on the issue.

"Personally, I would prefer a Saturday and Sunday off," said Rizwan Sajan, chairman of Danube group.

"Other than the Middle East countries, the whole world is sleeping on these days," he said.

The executive said he usually visits his Muscat and Bahrain offices on Sundays. But he said the new weekend will boost productivity.

Raj Shetty, chairman of Ramee Group of Hotels, said he works seven days a week. "One day off in a week should be enough," he said. "In the hospitality business we are always working."

Fatima Al Merri, principal of Al Raya secondary school for girls, felt that Friday was an important holiday. "The rest of days, whether Thursday or Saturday, does not make any difference to us.

Reasons sought

"I would really like to know the reason behind the change in the weekend," she added. "I just hope that the authorities have taken the traffic situation under consideration."

Ashok Kumar, principal of Indian High School, said schools that are affiliated to international boards, will now be able to establish communication with their individual boards on a Thursday.

"Apart from this it does not make any difference to schools," he said.

Madhav Rao, principal of Our Own English High School, Dubai, echoed a similar response: "At the end of the day, schools are getting two days off. There is no disadvantage in this at all."


Grieving parents take crash victim's body home

Dubai: 17 May: The grieving parents of an Indian teenager who died in a traffic accident last week took her body home yesterday.

Police said 16-year-old Deanna Delphy Raveendran was hurled 14 metres from the car and died instantly on the Dubai-Hatta road last Thursday.

A 20 year-old UAE national, Shaheen, was driving the vehicle.

"It flipped over three times," the police said, adding he was speeding.

The Indian High School has put up an obituary notice in its reception area. Deanna, in pigtails and school uniform, looks even younger than her age in the picture.

"It's all in the hands of God," said Principal Ashok Kumar.

She has become another tragic statistic on Dubai's roads where 110 people have died so far this year. Last year 236 people died in road accidents, according to police.

Meanwhile, two friends of the dead girl are still in serious condition at Rashid Hospital. Huzefa Mustafa is in intensive care, while Nikita Coelho, is in the trauma department.

"Pray for him, so that he gets better faster," said Mustafa's father.

"He's still under sedation," said his mother.

Police said there was another passenger, a Pakistani boy, but they did not disclose his condition. Shaheen is in police custody.



Indian consulate to offer free counselling

Dubai: 17 May:A Crisis Prevention Programme will be operational from tomorrow at the Indian Consulate.

The objective is to provide a services to stabilise clients, Consul General Yash Sinha said yesterday. Clients will be provided with referrals if therapeutic and psychological services are needed. Counsellors will be on hand to deal with issues such as family conflict, career counselling for high school pupils as well as those with suicidal tendencies.

The service is a joint initiative by the Indian consulate in Dubai and the Indian Community Welfare Committee (ICWC).

"A qualified team of licensed Indian psychologists and counsellors will be on hand," said Sinha.

The team is made up of volunteers who are providing the service free of cost. To begin with it will run two days a week.

The counsellors can converse in various Indian regional languages to extend the facility across the Indian expatriate community.

Rachna Buxani, head of counselling services from the GEMS group of schools said, "There is also a lack of professional counsellors and psychologists from the Indian subcontinent who can provide culturally and linguistically sensitive services."

Care is also taken to maintain caller confidentiality. The number to call for appointments is 050-4293269.


Officials come to workers’ aid

Dubai : 17 May: Officials intervened quickly to settle the grievances of at least 400 workers who claimed that their company had not paid their wages on time.
Second Lieutenant Riadh Abdul Rahman Shafee, head of the Human Rights Department at Dubai Police, said the company, Al Huda Contracting, was ordered to pay the workers’ February salaries by the end of yesterday. He said the men will receive their March salaries at the end of this month.

Officials from the Permanent Committee of Labour Affairs were investigating the complaint.

The workers claimed they were owed three months’ salaries. To press their demand, the men blocked a service road along Sheikh Zayed Road yesterday morning, said Lieutenant Faisal Bal Jaflah, from the Jebel Ali Police Station.

He said he arrived at the scene at about 9am yesterday.

After about an hour, the men were taken to their accommodation near the church complex in Jebel Ali village. Officials estimated that between 400 and 450 men took part in the protest.

The men also complained of bad living conditions and said there had been a power shortage at their accommodation, adding that toilets and bathrooms were filthy and not maintained.

However, a top company executive who did not want to be named said there had been a power shortage for just one hour in the past week. He also said that some of the men who protested had not been with the company before February.

“They are all recent employees,” said the manager, believing the number of protesters was not greater than 320.

He said the company has about 3,200 workers, adding that the rest of the employees had been at work yesterday


UAE residents told to brace for searing and windy days

Al Ain: 17 May: The temperature could shoot up to 50C and beyond in the coming days as June, July and August are usually the hottest months of the year in the UAE and neighbouring countries.

The temperature in cities such as Al Ain, Liwa and Abu Dhabi has already touched 43C earlier this month ushering in the hot season.

A senior official at the Abu Dhabi-based UAE Meteorological Authority said the hot weather would not be "unusual" as the mercury dips and rises between 42 to 49C, particularly in Al Ain and other desert cities. Conditions in coastal cities are characterised by high humidity that rises to 90 per cent at times.

"The temperature is actually three to four degrees higher than reported in our bulletins," said the official, adding this difference wa caused by the specific temperature measuring apparatus.

The weatherman said the temperature would also dip slightly on some days with the change of wind direction from the southeast to the northwest

"We are expecting a windy spell from Friday that will continue until May 21," he said.

Conditions are expected to be mostly dry until the pre-winter months, said the official.

"It's a desert country located in the world's hottest region," said the official.

He added people were aware of the fact that summer was always tough with heat cyclones, dust storms, long dry spells, sizzling sun and problems associated with these, such as health risks.

According to yesterday's forecast, the weather will be hazy early today and be hot in general. There is also a chances of dust winds in some areas with partly cloudy conditions at times over the next 48 hours.

The maximum temperature yesterday was recorded in Liwa at 42C followed by 41 in Al Ain and 40 in Ras Al Khaimah.

Holiday trips: Drivers 'must make sure cars are safe'

Police have called on motorists planning to travel overland this summer to get their vehicles checked to ensure they are safe.

Brigadier Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of Dubai police's Traffic Department, said: "Police have the right to stop any vehicle that they see is not fit to be on the road and fine the motorist."

He said the obligatory annual check-up was aimed at protecting lives.

"There are some violations the motorist commits without considering how dangerous they are, such as overloading, driving in the dark without using lights and not wearing seat belts."

Brigadier Eisa Aman Obaid, Deputy Director of Dubai Police's Traffic Department said motorists should check essential items such as oil, and children should not sit in the front seat or near doors.


Calls for Night - Only shifts grow stronger

ABU DHABI — 17 May: Public opinion is building stronger than ever for the need to have night shifts for construction activities during summer ensuing the string of reports published by Khaleej Times recently on the issue.

People from all walks of life underscore that the plight of construction workers are hanging heavy in the public’s conscience and that the authorities should not slow pedal in taking a decision that will not only improve their lot but also enhance the quality of work.

K. J. Shanawaz, a construction engineer from Madras, argued that the firms will only benefit by adapting night shifts as the laboureres will be more productive after long hours of rest during the afternoon hours.

“I feel that the climatic conditions of this part of the world demand that outdoor work be banned in the summer afternoon because it is simply inhumane.”  Mahmoud Abbas, a PRO in a private firm, was of the opinion that the country’s leadership would be in a way acknowledging the contributions of blue collar workers in the development of the nation by banning construction work in the afternoons. “It is a fact beyond contention that these illiterate workers are the backbone of the country‚s infrastructure that is developing by leaps and bounds catapulting the UAE into the world map. I think that it would be a noble gesture of appreciation and compassion if the UAE government could implement such a law,” Abbas added.

Dileep Varikkunu, who had worked as a newspaper boy, pointed out that people who oppose any such initiatives should be made to work outdoors at least for a few hours so that they understand the troubles we poor go through.

“It is very easy to sit in an air-conditioned room and pass judgments. Even an hour under the hot summer sun just burns your skin and leaves you exhausted. The labourers definitely deserve a better deal in a country like the UAE,” he argued.


Sandy Beach Hotel manager to pay Dh0.2m for drowned guest

FUJAIRAH — 17 May: The Fujairah Court of Appeal, presided by Justice Abdullah Al Salami, has ordered the manager of Sandy Beach Hotel to pay a fine of Dh200, and a blood-money (diya) of Dh200,000 to the heirs of an Indian tourist, who drowned in the hotel swimming pool on the ground that the lifeguard was not available that time.

Court records showed that the corpse of an Indian tourist, identified as Abdullatif Bin Alaaudeen, was taken to the Fujairah Hospital in January, which asserted, after examination, that he was suffocated to death as a result of drowning.

When interrogated about the accident, a young hotel supervisor who shifted the dead body to the hospital, said that the sightseer, part of a tourist group, drowned while swimming in the hotel pool. Interrogations proved that the pool lifeguard was not available at the time of the misfortune.

Josef George, the hotel manager, was interrogated and charged with culpable manslaughter, since he did not make sure that the pool lifeguard was existing during the calamity. 

Accordingly, he was referred to the Fujairah Court of First Instance, which slapped him with a fine of Dh 200, and sentenced him to pay a diya of Dh200,000 to the heirs of the victim.

Being dissatisfied, the defendant moved the Fujairah Court of Appeal, which upheld the verdict of the court below.


No e-gate cards for children

ABU DHABI — 17 May: The Ministry of Interior will not issue e-gate cards at the country's airports for children as the facility is only meant for adults.

Brigadier Ahmed Nasser Al Raisi, Director of Central Operations at Abu Dhabi Police's Directorate General, said that fingerprints of children would not be clear and therefore the e-gate system would not be able to issue cards for them.

"Every adult national and resident can obtain the e-gate card from various airports of the country to enjoy easy passage without checking at the immigration counter to present his passport to get the exit or entry stamp," he added.

He unveiled plan of the Ministry of Interior to also let the visitors obtain the e-gate card shortly.

Meanwhile, Colonel Dr Ahmed Al Awadi, Director of Criminal Evidence Department, Abu Dhabi Police, explained that the police do not credit fingerprints of children to determine their identity or personality because they are not clear enough. Therefore, he added, the department opts for the DNA test to determine the identity of children.

The Ministry of Interior will also start issuing e-gate cards to diplomats accredited to the country to facilitate their entry or exit.



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