NEW DELHI: India will identify and deport illegal immigrants from across the country, the home minister said on Wednesday, stepping up a campaign that critics say could stoke religious tension and further alienate minority Muslims.
An exercise to identify alien immigrants from Bangladesh has been going on in the northeastern state of Assam for years, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has taken it up in earnest. The campaign was a key issue in this year’s general election, won by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party.
Home Minister Amit Shah told parliament the government would not limit its efforts to Assam, but would come down hard on illegal immigrants anywhere.
“Illegal immigrants living on every inch of this country will be deported according to the law,” Shah told the Upper House of Parliament.
Shah called illegal migrants “termites” eating into Assam’s resources during the election campaign.
Critics accuse Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of a deep-seated bias against minority Muslims and say the campaign against illegal migrants is aimed at Muslims, and threatens to further marginalise the community.
The BJP denies the accusation and says it is opposed to the
appeasement of any group.
While reinforcing measures against migrants slipping into the country, the government is trying to bring in a law that would simplify the process of getting Indian citizenship for immigrants from religious minorities persecuted in neighbouring countries, including Pakistan.
People in Assam are scrambling to prove their citizenship as part of an exercise to prepare a Supreme Court-ordered registry of citizens in the state. The list is due to be released on July 31.
A draft of the list released in July last year identified four million of the state’s roughly 31 million people as illegal residents, including many Hindus.
But rights groups have warned that many residents, largely poor Muslims, are at risk of becoming stateless under the process.
Other states in the northeast have launched similar exercises to identify people without Indian citizenship.
Mizoram state passed legislation in March to create separate registers for “residents” and “non-residents”, and the neighbouring state of Nagaland is working on a similar register.
Once I met a businessman, and asked him why you did not invest in the country, pat came the reply: ‘to be saved from the tongues of the people’. This reply shocked me. I still feel embarrassed because of this. He had actually talked about the people around us who do not have any work except talking about others and snooping in the life of their families. This is why it is always preferred and advised to keep distance from such abusive groups. I told him that he was right, as the reputation of a person is very important.
We should be pleased about the projects starting here and there and do not get influenced by what people talk. We should avoid poking our nose into the life of others and their families and how they created wealth and other petty issues.
Because of such behaviour, many of us prefer to keep our money in banks and do not invest. This is why, according to the statistics of the Central Bank of Oman, the total bank deposits have reached to RO 22 billion.
We have money in other forms including assets and investments and we do not put them to use in our own country. If this money had been invested in projects of our country, it could have been a boost for its economy and development.
When we talk about foreign investment which pushes the wheel of our economy and development, we keep an eagle eye on it as if the investor would take the projects on his head and leave the country after completing his work. We do not value the billions of Omani Riyals being injected into our national economy on long term basis.
When the government realised that the investment in the tourism sector was at snail pace, it set up Omran to work as its investment arm in the area.
There are also many other sectors which are attractive for investments such as real estate, retail etc which have huge long term and short term returns. But we are neither investing in this sector nor allowing others do so.
Omran is attracting investments in the tourism sector under government guarantees as a way to support the sector. But when it comes to a foreign investor, we poke our nose into his personal life, to his investments and analyse his personality.
This should not be our practice at all. They already face many difficulties when they plan to invest here.
For example, if an investor wants to put in money in marine sector, they have to contact 22 government organisations to get a licence for the project. What we would say about it? There are many examples of investments getting choked in the bottlenecks of procedures for approvals and licences.
One of the proposed projects in Ras Al Hadd in the Wilayat of Sur is still waiting for clearance from one agency or the other since a long time. Such projects are kept waiting even for petty issues.
We talk all sorts of things about the investors without pity on them and without knowing the problem.
The problems are with us, who work in government organisations, who do not show seriousness and sense of responsibility in our individual behaviour and practices towards the investment whatever is its value. We sometimes even ignore the fact that they add value to our national economy and create jobs for our youth.
We should do a self assessment and introspection so that we can become more welcoming for investors and open our hearts wider for them for a better future.
Antonio RODRIGUEZ –
Global finance chiefs meeting in France have warned that the World Trade Organization’s internal court risks becoming paralysed by a bitter disputes between member states.
Several countries have for years raised concern over the functioning of the WTO Dispute Settlement Body’s appellate division — sometimes called the supreme court of world trade.
But the crisis has reached a breaking point because US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has been bitterly critical of the WTO in general, has blocked the nomination of new judges.
If no judges are approved by year’s end, the appellate branch will not have the quorum required to hear cases.
“The organisation is in a deep crisis. We have to realise that,” said Cecilia Malmstrom, the European Union trade commissioner during a debate this week in France on the results of the Bretton Woods agreement 75 years on. Trump’s trade office has accused the DSB’s appellate body of overstepping its authority by issuing excessively broad rulings that trample national sovereignty.
“If the Appellate Body collapses, which probably it will in December, at least temporarily, we will have no enforcement” of trade agreements, said Malmstrom. “If we have no rules, everybody can do whatever he wants and this would be be very bad, at least for developing countries,” she warned.Anne Kreuger, a former IMF deputy managing director, also voiced concern about the risk of a WTO blockage.
“Any new case brought to the WTO now probably could never be appealed, in which case everybody could do what they want,” she warned as the US and China are engaged in a trade war launched by Trump, who has accused the WTO of going too easy on China to the detriment of US business.
One example came on cue on Tuesday as the WTO found in favour of Beijing regarding a seven-year anti-dumping dispute, prompting a stern US response accusing China of market distortion.
“The WTO appellate report undermines WTO rules, making them less effective to counteract Chinese SOE (state-owned enterprises) subsidies that are harming US workers and businesses and distorting markets worldwide,” read an Office of the United States Trade Representative statement.
With the United States in particular criticising the WTO, French President Emmanuel Macron last year urged that the body be reformed.
Bank of France governor Francois Villeroy de Galhau called on Tuesday for a fresh multilateral approach to “improve how the WTO functions”.But Washington has, so far, refused to back any of the reform proposals submitted by other members. Malmstrom also called on China and the United States to help reform the body. — AFP
ROME: Italian author Andrea Camilleri (pictured), who penned the acclaimed Inspector Montalbano detective novels, died on Wednesday at the age of 93, state-owned broadcaster Rai said.
Camilleri spent much of his life working as a theatre director, screenwriter and teacher,
only becoming a successful and highly prolific writer from his late 60s. He wrote more than 100 books. His Montalbano novels have regularly topped Italian best-seller lists, been translated into 32 languages and are the basis for a popular TV series aired by Rai and sold worldwide.
He published his first book when he was 53, but it made little impact and he subsequently gave up writing for many years, only producing the first Montalbano novel, The Shape of Water, in 1994, when he was almost 70.
The 26th novel in the series, The Cook of Alcyon, hit Italian bookstores at the end of May. Camilleri said in 2006 he had prepared a final instalment chronicling the death of his detective hero which was locked in his publisher’s safe.
The popularity of both the chain-smoking Camilleri and his food-loving alter ego Montalbano soared after Rai started adapting the adventures of the Sicilian detective in 1999, subsequently selling the series worldwide.
The Montalbano novels are set in the fictional town of Vigata, which closely resembles Camilleri’s hometown of Porto Empedocle — a port in southern Sicily.
A one-time member of the Communist Party, Camilleri was an outspoken critic of both former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and the current Deputy Prime Minister, Matteo Salvini.
In one of the last Montalbano television adaptations, broadcast in Italy in February, the detective delivers a pro-migrant message, jumping into the sea to recover the body of a drowned asylum seeker.
The Hague: Families of the victims of flight MH17 marked five years on Wednesday since the crash, with calls for justice for the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines plane over war-torn eastern Ukraine.
The remembrance services in the Netherlands and Kuala Lumpur came less than a month after international investigators charged three Russians and a Ukrainian with the murder of the 298 people who died.
Mourners gathering at the Dutch national monument to the disaster were surrounded by 298 trees — one was planted for each victim — and sunflowers grown from seeds from the Ukrainian fields where the wreckage fell.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was to address relatives at the memorial in Vijfhuizen, next to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport where the ill-fated flight to Malaysia took off on July 17, 2014.
“At this unique place of sorrow the reading of the names of all victims is again central,” a statement from the victims association said, adding that they would be read aloud by families and friends.
The service was to also feature music, singing and a recital by young people, while Rutte was to start the parade with young relatives by laying flowers at the monument.
The flags of the affected countries will hang at half-mast. One hundred and ninety-six of the victims were Dutch and 36 were Australian,
“On the fields around the memorial, sunflowers bloom again, some of which have been specially grown from the seeds brought from Ukraine,” the statement said.
In Kuala Lumpur, there was to be a minute’s silence at 1300 GMT with some Malaysian relatives of those in board.
A Dutch-led team of international investigators says the plane was shot down by a BUK anti-aircraft missile over part of eastern Ukraine that was held by pro-Russian rebels.
They say the missile originated from the Russian military’s 53rd anti-aircraft missile brigade based in the city of Kursk and was transported there before the tragedy.
The Netherlands and Australia have said that they hold Russia responsible for the shooting down of MH17.
Investigators on June 19 charged four people — Russians Igor Girkin, Sergei Dubinskiy and Oleg Pulatov, and Ukrainian Leonid Kharchenko — with murder. All are linked to the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Russia has denied all involvement and Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the probe showed “no proof” of Moscow’s guilt.
Khartoum: Sudan’s protesters and ruling generals on Wednesday inked a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since president Omar al Bashir was deposed in a coup three months ago.
The move loosens a deadlock that has gripped the country, following nationwide mass protests that began against Bashir in December but then continued after a military council ousted him on April 11.
The deputy chief of the military council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo — who initialled the deal on behalf of the generals on Wednesday — said the agreement was a “historic moment” for Sudan.
Dagalo also heads the RSF, a feared paramilitary organisation that has its origins in the Janjaweed militias unleashed against African rebels during the early 2000’s in Darfur.
Ibrahim al Amin, a key protest leader, confirmed “today, we completed the political declaration.” Intense talks took place through the night over details of the political declaration at a luxury hotel on the bank of the Nile river in the capital.
As the generals stepped out of the hall after the inking of the deal, a small crowd — including women waving the national flag — chanted “civilian rule, civilian rule.” The landmark power sharing deal, which was agreed in principle on July 5, has been brokered by African Union and Ethiopian mediators after weeks of stop-start negotiations between the protest umbrella group and ruling generals.
Immunity for generals?
The accord stipulates that a new transitional civilian-military ruling body be established, in a bid to end the country’s months-long political crisis.
This governing body will be comprised of six civilians and five military representatives.
The civilian representation will include five from the Alliance for Freedom and Change, according to the declaration. A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement. The governing council is to oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration that will operate for just over three years, after which elections would be held.
Amin said on Wednesday that wider power sharing details would be fleshed out in a “constitutional document” and that talks would “resume… on Friday”.
These talks are expected to address whether to grant “absolute immunity” to generals for violence against protesters. Prior to entering the latest talks on Tuesday evening, protest leaders had rejected any such offer of immunity to the generals.
“We totally reject it,” protest leader Ahmed al Rabie, who initialled Wednesday’s accord along with Dagalo, said on Tuesday.
But military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi sought to talk down any friction over proposed immunity. “There is no dispute about immunity,” he said on Wednesday.
Other issues still to be ironed out include the creation of a transitional parliament and a potential RSF withdrawal from Khartoum — the latter an increasingly vocal demand of citizens on the streets.
Tensions climaxed on June 3 when armed men in military fatigues stormed a long-standing protest camp in Khartoum, shooting and beating crowds of demonstrators in a pre-dawn raid.
Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded, triggering international outrage — and allegations that the RSF was behind the killings — although the generals insisted they did not order the violent dispersal of protesters.
Talks to progress the details of the overall power sharing deal had been postponed several times since July 5 at the request of protest leaders.
LONDON: Jailed British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured) has been transferred from prison to a hospital psychiatric ward, the campaign group seeking to free her said on Wednesday.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was moved from Tehran’s Evin prison to the psychiatric ward of Imam Khomeini hospital in the capital, the Free Nazanin Campaign, which is led by Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe, said in a statement.
She was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter after a family visit and was sentenced to five years in jail after being convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment.
Her family and the Foundation, a charity organisation that operates independently of Thomson Reuters and Reuters News, deny the charge.
A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May urged Tehran to allow family members to visit Zaghari-Ratcliffe. “We are extremely concerned about Nazanin’s welfare and call for her immediate release,” the spokesman said. “And we urge Iran to allow family members to visit her and check on her care.” Last month Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband ended a two-week hunger strike designed to push for her release and raise the profile of her case.
The Free Nazanin Campaign said Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s father visited the hospital on Tuesday, and confirmed that she is being held there under the control of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
It said he was denied access to see her despite waiting for several hours.
“This is unusual. She has now been kept isolated from family or legal contact under IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps)control for over 36 hours,” the campaign group said.It said her father was unable to establish what treatment she is receiving or the IRGC’s agenda, and added it was not known how long she will be held in the hospital.
UK Foreign Office minister Andrew Murrison said Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband had told him that she was moved to the ward on Monday.
“It would be indeed cruel to deny this lady, in a psychiatric ward of a public hospital, access to her family. That must happen immediately,” Murrison told parliament.Iran The detention conditions Zaghari-Ratcliffe has described to her family over the phone “are completely contrary to international norms,” he added.
A psychiatrist recently recommended she be “instantly hospitalised due to her sharp deterioration since her previous meeting, and the risk of her taking matters into her own hands”, the campaign group said.
The 40-year-old recently ended a 15-day hunger strike. “I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been quoted as saying by her family.
“Three-and-a-bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic. Look at me now — I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment.”
Last month Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman said Zaghari-Ratcliffe will serve out her full sentence, dismissing a call for her release by a British minister visiting Tehran. Other Iranian dual nationals jailed in Iran include Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer. Both are serving 10-year sentences for espionage in a case that has outraged Washington.
Princeton University researcher Chinese-American Xiyue Wang is serving a 10-year sentence for espionage. US national Michael White was also sentenced to 10 years this year. — Agencies
YANGON: Thousands of people demonstrated on Wednesday on the streets of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, both for and against proposed constitutional amendments that would reduce the power of the military.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party is pushing for change despite objections from military lawmakers, who hold a veto over amendments.
In the morning, hundreds of demonstrators, led by activists not aligned to the party, gathered at the central Sule Pagoda wearing red headbands printed with the words “Amend the 2008 Constitution”.
“The current government is trying to move forward, but they can’t because of the 2008 constitution,” said protest organiser Pyae Phyo Zaw, who also called for elected leaders to be given oversight of the security forces.
After decades of military rule, Nobel laureate Suu Kyi took the reins in 2016 after an electoral landslide, but is forced to share power with the generals.
Under the constitution drafted by the former junta, the military chief nominates a quarter of lawmakers and the ministers of defence, home affairs and border affairs.
It also blocks Suu Kyi from becoming president, with a prohibition on presidential candidates with foreign spouses or children. Suu Kyi had two sons with her late husband, Michael Aris, a British academic.
Several thousand people marched to the Sule Pagoda on Wednesday afternoon in a separate protest, a flyer for which called on “those who love their race and religion” to turn out against constitutional reform.
A nationalist movement led by Buddhist monks is critical of Suu Kyi and casts the military as protector of the Buddhist-majority nation. Local media have interviewed some participants of the movement’s past rallies who said they were paid to attend and knew little about the causes they were supporting.
The demonstrators on Wednesday held banners calling for the charter’s restrictions on presidential candidates and on constitutional amendments to be preserved.
“Our race and religion will be lost without a shot being fired if people of different religions can take the president’s position,” said one protester, Shwe Yamin.
A report containing thousands of amendments proposed by various political parties was submitted on Monday for debate at the parliament in the capital, Naypyitaw, but has not been made public.
Nay Phone Latt, an NLD lawmaker in Yangon’s regional parliament, said one of the party’s key proposals was to set a timeline for the gradual reduction of military seats in parliament, beginning with a move from 25 per cent to 15 per cent in 2021.
The NLD holds most seats in parliament, but the military lawmakers mean it lacks the 75 per cent majority needed to amend the constitution.
“We need military men’s support, so it depends on the stance of the military,” Nay Phone Latt said. “But we hope that it can be accepted by the military as it would reduce bit by bit over time.”
Kyaw Khine Win, another demonstrator, said he rallied in favour of amending the charter because it was written to bar Suu Kyi from leading the country and imposed “forcefully”.
“We want a country which is commanded by the people,” he said.
YANGON: A US travel ban on Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing over his role in orchestrating a bloody crackdown against Rohingya Muslims harms the dignity of the military, a spokesman said on Wednesday, adding critics failed to properly understand the crisis.
The sanctions against the army chief and three other top military brass was the strongest censure from a western power since the army launched its offensive against the Rohingya in August 2017 following attacks on police posts.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the senior military figures were responsible for human rights violations including extrajudicial killings during the “ethnic cleansing” of the stateless minority when more than 740,000 were driven into Bangladesh.
But military spokesman and Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said the campaign was in self-defence, and they had carried out their own investigations.
“Our actions should be respected,” he said, adding that the sanctions “harmed the dignity of the military”.
He said the US misunderstood the history of the fighting in Rakhine state where the Rohingya crackdown occurred.
“The military carried out our duty to protect the lives of ethnic minorities and to protect the region.”
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as one of its many official ethnicities, insisting they are interlopers from Bangladesh.
The US, Canada and the European Union have passed sanctions against members of the powerful military before, but stopped short of reaching the very top of leadership.
But rights groups and UN investigators have called for stronger action against Min Aung Hlaing — including international prosecution for genocide.
Pompeo said in his statement that the US remains concerned the Burmese government had taken no action against rights violators.
He cited the “egregious” example of the release of soldiers who massacred 10 Rohingya Muslims.
The soldiers spent only a few months in prison — less time than two Reuters journalists who exposed the massacre and were behind bars for more than 500 days on state secrets charges.
The sanctions against Min Aung Hlaing, deputy commander-in-chief Soe Win, brigadier generals Than Oo and Aung Aung also apply to their immediate family members. — AFP
SEOUL: The United States will “do what it can do” to help defuse a worsening political and economic dispute between South Korea and Japan, a senior US diplomat said on Wednesday, as South Korea warned that the row would have global repercussions.
The United States has been hesitant to publicly wade into the feud between its allies, but the dispute, which threatens global supplies of memory chips and smartphones, has overshadowed the visit by David Stilwell, the top US diplomat for East Asia policy.
Stilwell told reporters in the South Korean capital, Seoul, that he took the situation seriously but did not elaborate on what steps Washington might take and said fundamentally it was up to South Korea and Japan to resolve their differences.
“We hope that resolution will happen soon,” he said. “The United States, as a close friend and ally to both, will do what it can do to support their efforts to resolve it.”
Last week, Stilwell had told Japan’s NHK broadcaster the United States would not intervene in the dispute, and instead encouraged dialogue between Washington’s two biggest allies in Asia to settle it.
Simmering tension, particularly over the issue of compensation for South Koreans forced to work for Japanese occupiers during World War Two, took a sharp turn for the worse this month, when Japan restricted exports of high-tech materials to South Korea.
Japan has denied that the dispute over compensation is behind the export curbs, even though one of its ministers cited broken trust with South Korea over the labour dispute in announcing the restrictions.
Instead, Japan has cited “inadequate management” of sensitive items exported to South Korea, with Japanese media reporting some items ended up in North Korea.
South Korea has denied that.
The export curbs could hurt global technology companies, including the operations of South Korean tech giant Samsung in the Texas state capital of Austin, a senior South Korean government official told reporters.
“It will adversely affect companies ranging from Apple, Amazon, Dell, Sony and billions of consumers all over the world,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues.
Samsung Electronics said in a statement in response to the official’s comments: “We cannot say there will be no impact on the Austin factory, but we will make utmost effort not to disrupt future production.”
When asked whether the South Korean government was considering retaliatory measures, the official said South Korea preferred to resolve the dispute diplomatically.
If Japan went so far as to drop South Korea from its “white list” of countries with minimum trade restrictions, it would cause a “tremendous amount of problems” and strain ties between Japan, South Korea, and the United States, the official added.
South Korean Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki repeated his call for Japan to lift the curbs, while adding that South Korea would soon unveil plans to make its supply chain more independent. —Reuters