Ousted Catalan leader’s party shelves ‘unilateral’ independence push

Carles Puigdemont
Updated 23 November 2017

Ousted Catalan leader’s party shelves ‘unilateral’ independence push

MADRID: The party of ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont now favors talks with Madrid to achieve independence instead of pushing to break away from Spain unilaterally, its coordinator said Thursday, the latest sign it was softening its position.
Spanish media have reported that Puigdemont’s PdeCat party and its former government ally, the far-left ERC party, were planning to abandon a call for Catalonia to break away from Spain “unilaterally” in their programs for a Dec. 21 regional election.
“The draft follows this line. It is not finished. It seems like a good route to work on,” PdeCat party coordinator Marta Pascal said in an interview with Cadena Ser news radio when asked about the reports.
Catalonia “lacks two things” to declare independence, Pascal added: “That this be effective and above all to count on the support of more people.”
Madrid imposed direct rule on Catalonia and dismissed its government after the Parliament of the once semi-autonomous region voted in favor of independence last month, and called the new elections in a bid to “restore normality.”
The assembly approved the independence declaration following a banned secession referendum on Oct. 1, which sparked Spain’s worst political crisis since the country returned to democracy after the death of longtime dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
Regional authorities said 90 percent chose to split from Spain in the referendum, though less than half of eligible voters turned out in a region deeply divided on independence.
Puigdemont had hoped to form a united separatist front for the new elections, as was the case in the region’s last elections in 2015, when the pro-independence camp secured a majority of 72 seats in the 135-seat Parliament, even though it won just 47.8 percent of the vote.
But the ERC rejected a joint ticket, and opinion polls suggest that while it is leading in the current campaign, which officially opens on Dec. 5, the independence coalition as a whole could lose its absolute majority.
The ERC has also said that the separatist movement needs to win more support for its cause, even though it takes a harder line on independence than the PdeCat party.
“The process of building a republic has started. We want this to be negotiated,” the ERC’s spokesman in the Catalan Parliament, Roger Torrent, told AFP, adding that the regional election next month would effectively be like another “referendum.”
“This is why we urge the Spanish government to accept the results,” he said.

Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

Updated 18 min 10 sec ago

Philippine president bolsters security, defense ties with Malaysia

  • Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook
  • Piracy and armed robbery against ships remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia as oil and supplies worth billions are lost at sea each year

KUALA LUMPUR: President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reaffirmed to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation when they met for the first time in Putrajaya on Monday.

The meeting took place at the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office, where both strongmen “renewed and reaffirmed the long-standing brotherhood and friendship between the Philippines and Malaysia.”

“President Duterte likewise renewed the commitment to further strengthen defense and security cooperation at the bilateral and regional level,” according to a statement from Duterte’s office.

The two neighbors have enjoyed a good relationship despite the change of government in Malaysia, as the over-60-year rule by the National Front coalition ended abruptly during Malaysia’s elections on May 9.

Both Southeast Asian leaders have a dented human rights reputation globally, although Mahathir has softened his strongman outlook since he was put in power for the second time in May.

The newly formed government led by the world’s oldest leader, Mahathir Mohamad, has vowed to restore the “rule of law” in Malaysia.

Duterte pointed out in his statement “the need to address terrorism and violent extremism in the region, as well as transnational crime such as piracy and armed robbery at sea and the illegal drug trade.”

Piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region remains an ongoing issue for leaders in Southeast Asia as oil and supplies worth billions are lost at sea each year.

Southeast Asia has become a hotbed for Daesh-inspired terrorist activities and threats, and Duterte and Mahathir reaffirmed the need to boost the security and defense ties of both nations in the Southeast Asia region.

Malaysia’s state of Sabah is facing kidnapping threats from the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

In 2017, a large-scale kidnapping plan in Sabah and Central Philippines was uncovered by military intelligence.

The same year, Marawi was under siege from Daesh-inspired militants. The Philippines declared Marawi “liberated” from terrorism. The aftermath cost 1,000 lives with more than 350,000 people in the city displaced.

Meanwhile, Malaysia played an important role when it became the third-party broker of a long-awaited peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2014.

“President Duterte expressed appreciation for Malaysia’s sustained support for the quest for the just and lasting peace and development in Mindanao,” his official statement said.

Both leaders stressed the need toward “working closely together bilaterally and at ASEAN” in a region of more than 500 million where “greater stability and security in the region” is of the utmost importance.

The two countries are quietly in a land-lock over an 1878 land lease agreement on Sabah since the Federation of Malaysia was officially formed in 1963. Nevertheless, the Philippines’ long-standing claims over Sabah were off the plate during the bilateral discussion between Duterte and Mahathir.

On Sunday night before the meeting, both strongmen enjoyed watching the fight between Philippines’ world-renowned boxer Manny Pacquiao and Argentina’s fighter Lucas Matthysse.