PM-elect Ardern focuses on final touches in New Zealand coalition deal

New Zealand Prime Minister-elect Jacinda Ardern said she has offered the role of deputy prime minister to New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters. (Reuters)
Updated 20 October 2017
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PM-elect Ardern focuses on final touches in New Zealand coalition deal

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Prime Minister-elect Jacinda Ardern said she would spend Friday ironing out issues and ministerial posts with coalition partner New Zealand First, a day after becoming the Pacific nation’s youngest leader in recent times.
The previous night’s highly anticipated announcement by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters that he would support 37-year-old Ardern’s Labour Party had ended a decade of center-right National rule and spelt big changes for the country’s economy.
The New Zealand dollar — the world’s 11th-most traded currency — fell to five-month lows as investors grappled with heightened uncertainty and a more protectionist agenda.
“When you are a hands off government, when you simply allow markets to decide the fate of your people, then that does not serve a country or it’s people well,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington.
“You will see a proactive government by Labour.”
Labour has released the names of the people who would be in the cabinet, saying it would announce their portfolios next week.
The include Grant Robertson, Labour’s spokesman for finance, and David Parker, spokesman for trade.
Ardern said on Thursday she had offered the role of deputy prime minister to Peters, who on Thursday gave his backing to Labour after inconclusive Sept.23 elections, and he was considering it.
On Thursday evening, Labour said it would also stick to its promises to change the central bank’s mandate and seek to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deals.
Concerns about a more protectionist agenda weighed on the currency and stock markets on Friday.
The New Zealand dollar fell to five month-lows of $0.6971 against the US dollar, after posting its biggest daily fall in more than a year on Thursday.
“The sentiment has now shifted toward more protectionist measures,” said Christina Leung, economist at New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.
“Generally, financial markets don’t like change, there is uncertainty over what this all means ... in the meantime that is reducing demand for New Zealand assets, and that’s why we are seeing the decline in the New Zealand dollar.”
The stock market was down 1.1 percent at the Friday open, but later recouped losses to stand in positive territory.
Ardern told radio earlier that most of the party’s flagship policies, including a ban on some foreign ownership of housing, had survived the negotiations with Peters in recent weeks.
“With New Zealand First we’ve got a few more details to iron out,” Ardern said. “Our plan remains, with a few minor changes ... we’re finalizing in the next 24 hours the detail.”
The election thrust the country into political limbo for almost a month with neither major party winning enough seats to form a majority and giving New Zealand First the balance of power.
New Zealand First and Labour also needed support from the progressive Green Party, which said it would strike a “confidence and supply” agreement, meaning it was officially outside government but would hold ministerial posts and vote on key pieces of legislation like the budget.
Ardern said the parties would release their agreements early next week and an announcement on ministerial posts would come later in the week.


Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

Updated 16 November 2018
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Rohingya leaders to visit Myanmar

  • Community leaders will check on preparations for repatriation
  • Refugees who fled tents fearing forced repatriation have started to return

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: A group of Rohingya community leaders will go to Rakhine, Myanmar, to witness developments on the ground there, said Bangladesh Foreign Minister A. H. Mahmood Ali on Thursday evening in Dhaka.

Ali was talking to the journalists after his briefing to diplomats in Dhaka over the Rohingya repatriation and forthcoming general election. He said that during the briefing session diplomats came up with the idea of sending the Rohingya community leaders (Majhi) to witness the practical developments for repatriation.

“We agreed with this idea,” said Bangladesh Foreign Minister.

A group of community leaders will check the preparations initiated by Myanmar government and will brief their fellow Rohingyas after returning Bangladesh.

Ali said that there is a misconception among a few stakeholders that Bangladesh was trying to send back Rohingyas against their will.

“If we wanted to send the refugees forcibly, we won’t have allowed them in our country. We have shown a humanitarian gesture to them, so there is no question of sending them back forcibly,” Ali said.

“We will not send a single one of the refugees against their will. Those who will repatriate will go on their own will,” he added.

Talking to Arab News, Abul Kalam, Refugee, Relief and Repatriation Commissioner of Bangladesh said, they have not stopped the repatriation process. It will remain open and if any of the Rohingyas wants to go back home, Bangladesh authorities will initiate repatriation for him or her.

Commenting on the failure of the first attempt at repatriation Kalam said, “Now we need to create more pressure on Myanmar for the completion of some specific tasks to build confidence among the Rohingyas. In the next Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting, we will put up these issues after more scrutiny.”
However, the next JWG meeting date is yet to be fixed, Kalam said.

After a week of tension over feared repatriation, on Friday everything was peaceful in the Rohingya camps at Cox’s Bazar. The refugees who fled from their tents fearing forceful repatriation started returning to their shanties.

“The Myanmar authority wanted to deceive us in the name of so-called repatriation process. If we would have returned on Thursday, they (Myanmar) would never granted our citizenship rights,” said Mohammad Lutfor Rahman, 53, of Jamtoli camp, Ukhia, who fled from his own tent after hearing that he was listed as a returnee in the first group.

Why did the Rohingyas refuse to take the offer to go back home, Rahman was asked. He said, “Myanmar authorities have declared that the repatriated Rohingyas will be kept in the camps for 5 months or more, guarded by armed law enforcers and there were no clear guidelines if we can go back to our original places or villages. So, what is point of accepting a camp life proposal in Rakhine?”

Another refugee, Syed Alam, 37, of Kutupalang camp, told Arab News, “Before any kind of repatriation, our top most priority is the guarantee of citizenship and once it is granted many of our problems will be minimized.”

However, talking about the future course of repatriation, United Nations Human Rights agency, UNHCR spokesperson in Bangladesh, Fairas Al-Khateeb, said, “We will continue to assist the Bangladesh government in assessing the voluntariness for repatriation. Bangladesh and Myanmar have made the deal of repatriation bilaterally, we can’t say when it will actually take place.”