Australia sends naval support to Vanuatu’s volcano island

This photo taken on September 30, 2017 shows the Manaro Voui volcano on Vanuatu’s Ambae island, where the volcano is threatening a major eruption. (Vanuatu Daily Post via AFP)
Updated 01 October 2017
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Australia sends naval support to Vanuatu’s volcano island

SYDNEY: Australia has sent a naval ship to help evacuate thousands of people from Vanuatu’s Ambae island, where a volcano is threatening a major eruption.
The Vanuatu government announced last week that all 11,000 residents on Ambae — in the north of the Pacific archipelago — would be moved, after the Manaro Voui volcano rumbled to life and rained rock and ash on villages.
The landing ship HMAS Choules departed Australia Saturday and is due to arrive at the Pacific nation mid-week, carrying emergency specialists and food supplies.
Canberra, which is coordinating relief efforts with the governments of Vanuatu, New Zealand and France, said military and other humanitarian workers were due to arrive there separately Sunday.
“Vanuatu is part of a group of Pacific islands that is prone to natural disasters — whether it is earthquakes, cyclones (or) volcanic activity,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Sunday.
“So Australia is always standing ready to assist in the event that this volcano does actually erupt.”
Most of the island’s residents have been sheltering in evacuation centers since the volcano first sent up a plume of steam and ash about a week ago.
Vanuatu’s government has acknowledged it is not well-prepared for a volcanic emergency and has called for international assistance.
Vanuatu-based journalist Dan McGarry, who visited Ambae at the weekend, told AFP that evacuation efforts were “calm and orderly” but many residents were upset at being uprooted.
“There’s a deep sense of concern and a palpable sense of loss, among the people that are being forced to leave the island,” he said.
McGarry estimates that about 1,000 residents have been evacuated so far, with private boats being used to transport people to nearby islands.
Vanuatu lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 26 June 2019
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.