Actress goes solo to push for end to Philippines drug war

Mae Paner, better known by her stage name “Juana Change,” said she wanted to add her voice to the condemnation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fierce 15-month-old campaign which has killed thousands of people. (Photo courtesy: video grab)
Updated 19 September 2017
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Actress goes solo to push for end to Philippines drug war

MANILA: Mae Paner is a policeman-turned-assassin, a widowed Zumba dancer, a photojournalist and an orphaned child. They are all characters in her new one-woman show against a bloody war on drugs in the Philippines.
Paner, better known by her stage name “Juana Change,” said she wanted to add her voice to the condemnation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fierce 15-month-old campaign which has killed thousands of people.
“I feel very strongly that we have our work cut out for us as artists to wake people up, to wake our president up, and to tell him that we are against his war on drugs,” Paner told Reuters Television.
Paner portrays four characters who are affected by the drugs war, from the assassin grappling with his guilt and the journalist scarred by images of the nightly carnage, to widows and orphans crying out for justice.
Filipinos remain largely supportive of the campaign as a solution to tackling rampant crime, which Duterte says stems mostly from drug addiction.
Human rights groups, the Catholic Church and opposition lawmakers have raised alarm about the killings that have focused largely on the urban poor and have not spared young people.
More than 3,800 people have been killed in police anti-drugs operations in the past 15 months and at least 2,100 other homicides were likely drug related.
Police reject allegations by human rights groups that they are executing suspected users and dealers.
Some audience members who watched a recent performance of Paner’s play said they hoped it would prompt Filipinos to ask questions about the drugs war.
“The more this play is staged — wherever it may be shown, wherever more people can watch it — the more people can think and have much more informed opinions on this matter,” said Pastor Kakai Pamaran.


Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

Updated 24 June 2018
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Afghan leaders ‘optimistic’ over Taliban peace talks

  • The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but a government spokesman said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.
  • After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue.

KABUL: The Afghan government is confident of holding peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent surge of attacks by insurgents, a palace spokesman said.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi said the announcement last week of a brief truce by the Taliban over Eid, the increasing movement of extremists and some field commanders to government-held areas, and a call for peace by the Imam of Makkah and the Saudi monarch were the basis of the government’s optimism.

The Taliban last week rejected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to extend the truce, but Murtazawi said on Saturday that the government was optimistic the militants were willing to engage in peace talks.

“A new chapter has been opened and the broad support for a cease-fire and an end to the war are the causes for our optimism,” he told Arab News.

“The fact that Taliban announced a truce and their commanders came into towns and celebrated Eid with government officials are positive signs that the extremists will be ready for talks with the government.”

However, no contact has been established with leaders of the group since the militants called off their truce, Murtazawi said.

After ending the truce, the Taliban said its attacks against foreign troops and Afghans supporting them would continue. Scores of Afghan troops have been killed in a spate of attacks, including assaults on military bases where the insurgents joined government forces to celebrate Eid.

Some tribal chiefs and local officials are calling for “safe zones” where extremists can hold initial talks with the government, according to a local official who refused to be named.