US Treasury chief defends Trump after criticism by classmates

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (File photo by AFP)
Updated 20 August 2017
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US Treasury chief defends Trump after criticism by classmates

WASHINGTON: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Saturday defended President Donald Trump’s response to bloodshed following a rally of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, rejecting calls from former Yale classmates that he resign from the administration in protest.
A group of 359 people from Mnuchin’s 1985 class at the Ivy League university had signed an open letter posted Friday, saying it was his “moral obligation to resign... because President Trump has declared himself a sympathizer with groups whose values are antithetical to those values we consider fundamental to our sacred honor as Americans, as men and women of Yale, and as decent human beings.”
Mnuchin responded Saturday that he “strongly” condemned those “filled with hate and with the intent to harm others.”
“While I find it hard to believe I should have to defend myself on this, or the President, I feel compelled to let you know that the President in no way, shape or form, believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways,” Mnuchin, who is Jewish, said in a statement.
“I don’t believe the accusations against the President are accurate and I believe that having highly talented men and women in our country surrounding the President in his administration should be reassuring to you and all the Americas people.”
“As long as I am Treasury Secretary I will do the best job I can for the American people and provide the best advice I can to the President.”
On August 12 in Charlottesville, Virginia, a 20-year-old suspected Nazi sympathizer plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protesters, leaving one woman dead and 19 others injured.
At a press conference Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York, the president — flanked by Mnuchin — said “there was blame on both sides” following the rally by white supremacists and neo-Nazis that was met by counter-protesters.
Trump has come under fire from Republicans and Democrats alike, and his remarks spurred several CEOs to resign from White House business advisory panels. In the end Trump dissolved two of them altogether.
On Saturday, 40,000 anti-racism protesters flooded the streets of Boston, dwarfing several dozen supporters of far-right groups that had planned a “free speech” rally.


‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

Updated 24 May 2019
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‘Results’ needed from Myanmar over Rohingya return: UNHCR head

  • A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide”
  • Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers

YANGON: Myanmar must “show results” to convince Rohingya refugees to return, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said Friday at the end of his first visit to Myanmar since the crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
A brutal military campaign in western Rakhine state forced some 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
Around one million Rohingya now languish in sprawling refugee camps from various waves of persecution.
A UN fact-finding mission called for Myanmar’s top generals to be prosecuted for “genocide” and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has started preliminary investigations.
During his visit Grandi spoke with both Rohingya and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist communities in Maungdaw and Buthidaung in northern Rakhine, the epicenter of the violence.
He also held discussions with officials in capital Naypyidaw, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, describing all talks as “constructive.”
“My message is: ‘please accelerate’, because it has been very slow in the implementation in this first year. We need to show results,” he told AFP in an interview in Yangon.
“This is not enough to convince people to come back,” he said.
Grandi visited the camps in Bangladesh in April.
The two countries have signed a repatriation agreement but so far virtually no refugees have returned, fearing for their safety and unconvinced they will be granted citizenship.
Myanmar pejoratively labels the Rohingya as “Bengali,” implying they are illegal interlopers and the community has had its rights eroded over decades.
Gaining independent access to northern Rakhine is difficult with most journalists, observers and diplomats only allowed on brief chaperoned visits.
Grandi defended the UNHCR’s involvement in a plan by the Bangladeshi government to move some 100,000 refugees onto low-lying island Bhashan Char.
The area in the Bay of Bengal is prone to flooding and cyclones.
Rights groups oppose the scheme that has also so far been universally rejected by the Rohingya themselves.
The refugee agency must be “involved” to have the necessary information in order to take a stance on the issue, Grandi said.
“We’re still at that stage, no more than that.”
He also visited camps near Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, where nearly 130,000 Rohingya have been confined since a previous bout of violence in 2012.
Myanmar has announced it will close the camps but many are skeptical the displaced will enjoy more freedoms.
Grandi said the UNHCR would reconsider its role in providing services if conditions did not substantially improve.
“To simply transform the camps, upgrade the camps, upgrade the houses, for example, but leave them in the same situation will not be a solution,” he said.