Manila cancels Canada Bell helicopter deal

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Davao City on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2018
0

Manila cancels Canada Bell helicopter deal

DAVAO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday abruptly canceled a $235 million contract to buy 16 helicopters from Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government ordered a review over human rights concerns.
“I want to tell the armed forces to cut the deal. Do not proceed anymore, and somehow we will look for another supplier,” he said of the deal for 16 Bell 412EPI utility helicopters announced by the two governments this week.
Ottawa said Thursday that the deal was under review due to concerns over the human rights record of Duterte, the subject of a complaint in the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the alleged extra-judicial killings of thousands of Filipino drug suspects.
Bell Helicopter said in an announcement of the deal that the aircraft were intended “for a variety of missions such as disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport and utility transport.”
However, Manila said they would also be used for “anti-terrorism” operations, including to evacuate soldiers wounded fighting insurgents.
Philippine troops are battling militants in the Muslim south and communist guerrillas in other parts of the mainly Catholic Asian nation.
Duterte said Friday he respected Canada’s stand but added it was unavoidable that the Philippine air force would use the choppers “against the rebels and terrorists.”
“Do not buy anymore from Canada and the US because there is always a condition attached,” he said, adding that he was referring to defense material.
“If I cannot use the gunship, the helicopter, then I might as well surrender this government to them,” he said, referring to the rebels.
“The reason I’m buying helicopters is because I want to finish them off,” Duterte added.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday that an “extremely rigorous human rights review” would be undertaken before any export permit was issued over the helicopter contract, facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corp.
“The prime minister and I have been very clear about the Duterte regime’s human rights abuses and the extra-judicial killings,” she told Parliament.
“I have the authority to deny a permit if I feel that it poses a risk to human rights, and I am prepared to do so,” Freeland added.
Trudeau said in November he had called out Duterte over “human rights, the rule of law, and specifically extra-judicial killings.”
Duterte, who has overseen a crackdown that has left nearly 4,000 drug suspects dead at the hands of the police, later described Trudeau’s comments as “a personal and official insult.”
The Philippine government says police have only shot suspects in self-defense and rejects human rights monitors’ description of the crackdown as a crime against humanity.


Politician Anwar Ibrahim lauds Malaysian reform movement

Updated 30 min ago
0

Politician Anwar Ibrahim lauds Malaysian reform movement

  • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is making good on his promises by replacing key government officials
  • Anwar Ibrahim was speaking at a press conference with former Indonesian President Bacharudin Jusuf Habibie

JAKARTA: Malaysia’s reform movement is on the right track, the country’s veteran politician Anwar Ibrahim said on Sunday at a press conference with former Indonesian President Bacharudin Jusuf Habibie.
A week after he was sworn in, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is making good on his promises by replacing key government officials with those who are committed to reform, Ibrahim added.
He was in Jakarta for a two-day visit at the invitation of Habibie, who ushered in reform in Indonesia after three decades of dictatorship.
“Indonesia’s experience of transforming from the old system was able to change society into a democratic system,” Ibrahim said.
A team from Malaysia should evaluate and review Indonesia’s experience in reform, from Habibie’s administration to that of current President Joko Widodo, Ibrahim added.
Key government institutions in Malaysia, such as the judicial system, should be led by officials who are committed to reform and willing to serve the people, he said. Habibie said both countries can learn from each other about reform.
Ibrahim said he told Mohamad that the probe against former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over the alleged misuse of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) should be in accordance with the law.
“I firmly told… Mahathir to follow the law. Do not punish before we have a thorough investigation,” said Ibrahim. “Do not repeat what they did to me. Just do it according to the law.”
He said Mohamad gave assurances to Razak that the judges will be free from any political influence, and he advised the former prime minister to find a good lawyer.
The visit was Ibrahim’s first trip abroad since he was released from jail and cleared of all sodomy charges last week.