Canada rescinds invitation to militant to dine with Trudeau

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau speaks during the India Canada business session in New Delhi on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2018
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Canada rescinds invitation to militant to dine with Trudeau

NEW DELHI: Canadian officials Thursday admitted a Sikh extremist convicted of attempting to murder an Indian minister had been invited to dinner with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in New Delhi, in the latest controversy to dog the premier’s week-long visit to India.
A statement confirming Jaspal Atwal’s invitation to Thursday’s official event had been canceled comes less than a day after Trudeau sought to quash perceptions his administration was soft on Sikh extremists.
The Canadian Embassy told AFP it “has rescinded Mr. Atwal’s invitation.”
Atwal was convicted for a botched assassination attempt on an Indian minister in Canada in 1986, and was sentenced to 20 years by a Canadian court.
He reportedly attended an event in Mumbai on Tuesday, where he was photographed alongside Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire, according to Canada’s public broadcaster CBC.
The embassy would not comment on whether Atwal was part of Trudeau’s official delegation, although reports in Canada said Trudeau’s office had denied this.
“We do not comment on matters relating to the PM’s security,” it said.
Atwal was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, an organization outlawed in India and Canada, among other places, that seeks an independent Sikh state of Khalistan.
India’s Foreign Ministry said it was investigating how Atwal — a Canadian passport holder of Indian origin — managed to obtain a visa to travel to India.
“We are trying to find out, and ascertain details from our mission (in Canada),” ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters in New Delhi.
Canada is home to roughly half a million Sikhs and Trudeau’s administration has been accused of being too cosy with those agitating for a separate homeland in India’s northern Punjab state.
Trudeau particularly riled New Delhi last year when he attended a parade in Canada at which Sikh militants were feted as heroes.
Tensions over the Khalistan issue have marred Trudeau’s visit, and fueled speculation the prime minister was being snubbed by his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
Modi has been notably absent since Trudeau and his family arrived Saturday evening.
Government officials greeted the Trudeaus at the Taj Mahal and in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
Trudeau on Wednesday sought to dispel perceptions his administration was too close to Sikh separatists, telling Punjab’s chief minister Canada did not sympathize with extremist movements.
But photographs of Atwal flanked by Canadian officials at the Mumbai event attended by Trudeau have thrust the controversy back into the headlines.
Modi and Trudeau are scheduled to meet on Friday in New Delhi at the tail end of his first visit as prime minister to India.


Malaysia says it won’t host any more events involving Israel

Updated 31 min 45 sec ago
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Malaysia says it won’t host any more events involving Israel

  • Malaysia is a strong supporter of the Palestinian plight
  • The government said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in July that serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia: Malaysia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the government will not budge over a ban on Israeli athletes in a para swimming competition and has decided that the country will not host any events in the future involving Israel.
Malaysia, a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, is among the predominantly Muslim countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. The government has said Israeli swimmers cannot join the competition in eastern Sarawak state in July, which serves as a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the Cabinet affirmed last week that no Israeli delegates can enter Malaysia for sporting or other events in solidarity with the Palestinians.
“The Cabinet has also decided that Malaysia will not host any more events involving Israel or its representatives. This is to me, a decision to reflect the government’s firm stance over the Israeli issue,” Saifuddin said after meeting a coalition of Muslim groups. The groups submitted a memorandum urging the government to stick to the ban and not to repeat mistakes in the past of allowing Israel delegates into the country.
Saifuddin said the Palestinian cause was not just a religious issue but also a human right violation.
“It’s about fighting on behalf of the oppressed,” he said.
Israel’s Paralympic Committee did not immediately reply to an email requesting comment on Malaysia’s move.
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has said the International Paralympic Committee can withdraw Malaysia’s right to host the July 29-Aug 4 championship involving athletes from some 70 countries if they wish to do so. The committee has said it was disappointed with Mahathir’s comments but hopes to find a solution to the issue.
This isn’t the first time Malaysia has stopped Israeli athletes from competing in a sports event. In 2015, two Israeli windsurfers had to withdraw from a competition on the resort island of Langkawi after they were refused visas to enter. The following year, Malaysia decided not to host a 2017 conference of the world football governing body FIFA because an Israeli delegation was scheduled to participate.
But earlier this year, the government allowed a high-level Israeli delegation to attend a UN conference in Kuala Lumpur, sparking widespread anger among Muslim groups.
Some 60 percent of Malaysia’s 32 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims. Many have taken to the streets in the past to support the Palestinian cause.