Catalonia’s ex-leader urges unity as deadline for secessionist pact nears

Ousted Catalan President Carles Puigdemont appears on a monitor during a live TV interview at the Belgian RTBF studio in Brussels, Belgium on November 3, 2017. (RTBF Television via REUTERS)
Updated 07 November 2017
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Catalonia’s ex-leader urges unity as deadline for secessionist pact nears

MADRID: Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday urged the region’s political forces to unite against Spain, as hours remained for him to agree terms for an electoral pact with other pro-independence parties.
Puigdemont went into self-imposed exile in Belgium last month after Spain’s central government fired his secessionist administration, dissolved the Catalan parliament and called an election in the region for Dec 21.
Madrid also issued an arrest warrant against him on charges including rebellion, but a Brussels court ruled on Monday he could remain at liberty in Belgium until it had decided whether he should be extradited.
The independence push has deeply divided the country, dragging it into its worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago and fueling anti-Spanish feelings in Catalonia and nationalist tendencies elsewhere.
Pro-independence parties want the December vote to become a de facto independence referendum, and Puigdemont’s PDeCAT and the ERC party led by Oriol Junqueras said at the weekend they might contest it on a combined ticket.
But they must register any alliance by the end of Tuesday, and prospects of them bridging their differences in time looked slim.
ERC’s spokesman Sergi Sabria said on Monday his party did not rule out a coalition with PDeCAT, but would agree only if other parties joined them, including the anti-capitalist CUP which has yet to decide whether it will contest the December ballot.
Polls suggest secessionist parties would win enough votes combined to hold a slim majority in the Catalan parliament. Running together would increase their chance of success.
Puigdemont and other secessionist leaders face charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of public trust for organizing an illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1 and later proclaiming a Catalan republic, something that goes against Spain’s constitution.
In an interview with Catalunya Radio on Tuesday, Puigdemont said all parties standing in the region should unite against Madrid’s actions.
He also called on the Spanish government to suspend article 155, which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy enacted last month to rule Catalonia directly from Madrid, ahead of the December vote.
“The ideal would be a broad regional list of parties... PDeCAT, CUP, (left-wing) Podemos, ERC... that stand for democracy and freedom.” Puigdemont said.
“The Spanish state is committing a brutal repression ... If we don’t battle repression together, the Spanish state may win this fight.”
Around 200 Catalan mayors who are in favor of independence traveled to Brussels on Tuesday to back Puigdemont and defend the Catalan cause in the European capital. They were due to hold a rally at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT).


Drones disrupt flights at Singapore airport for second time in a week

Updated 43 min 22 sec ago
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Drones disrupt flights at Singapore airport for second time in a week

SINGAPORE: Unauthorized drone flying caused the second spate of delays and flight diversions in less than a week at Singapore’s Changi airport on Monday night, the city-state’s aviation authority said.
Around 18 departures and arrivals were delayed and seven flights were diverted from the global transit hub due to “bad weather and unauthorized drone activities,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said in a statement on Tuesday.
The disruption lasted about an hour, it said.
Last week Changi, one of Asia’s busiest hubs, closed one of its runways for short periods due to unauthorized drone flying, disrupting 38 flights.
It is against the law in Singapore to fly a drone within five kilometers (three miles) of an airport without a permit.
Authorities are investigating.
A surge in the availability of drones has become an increasing security concern for airports around the world.
In December, drone sightings caused three days of travel chaos at London’s Gatwick airport, resulting in the cancelation or diversion of about 1,000 flights at an estimated cost of more than 50 million pounds ($64 million).