Duterte regrets Myanmar ‘genocide’ remark

Second-placed series of images of World Press Photo 2018 contest for General News Stories shows Rohingya refugees carrying their belongings after fleeing Myanmar, as they walk on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River, Bangladesh. (File Photo: By Kevin Frayer, Getty Images via Reuters)
Updated 16 April 2018
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Duterte regrets Myanmar ‘genocide’ remark

  • Philippine president apologizes to Burma, saying he was being sarcastic because of European countries
  • Duterte pointed out that it wasn’t his intention to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte apologized on Friday to Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for saying that “genocide” is taking place in Myanmar.
Duterte made the “genocide” comment in a speech on April 5, in which he also expressed willingness to accept Rohingya refugees.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said Duterte’s change of statement was “expected of him.”
In a news briefing at the Davao International Airport upon his return from Boao Forum on Asia in China early Friday morning, the president pointed out that it wasn’t his intention to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs. He added that his “genocide” comment was sarcastic.
Addressing Suu Kyi, Duterte said: “I will apologize to you but if you have noticed, my statement was almost a satire ... because these Europeans are saying there’s a lot of violations of human rights in Burma.”
“They keep on attacking Burma ... So I say, what are you doing? Do you have any plans to provide a safe sanctuary even for a moment for those who are really the victims of war? There’s a civil war going on. None, they have no (plans),” he added.
While Duterte has offered to accept Rohingya refugees, he also said that “we should split it with Europe.”
“They keep on criticizing us, Aung (San Suu) Kyi and the others. Now, why did I say that? Madam Chancellor, let me confess to you publicly. I was making a ... a very sarcastic (remark),” Duterte said.
“I was just adapting their findings that there are a lot of violations in your country. I am not ready to intervene in your (internal affairs). I was just using (it) because I said, if you are willing, you guys in Europe, to receive, provide sanctuary or, in the meantime, allow the Rohingyas to stay in your country, I will also do it,” he continued.
Asked for a comment on Duterte’s apology, presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said “it was in regard to his earlier statement which was more in the nature of sarcasm directed at European and Western countries that criticized the alleged human rights violations (in Myanmar) with no accompanying offer (of) sanctuary to the refugees.
“The apology was made in regard to PRRD’s (President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s) adopting the conclusion of the aforesaid critical governments that there were violations of human rights in Myanmar which would appear to be an intrusion into (their internal) affairs,” he added.
Panelo added that the offer to provide a place for the refugees was consistent with Duterte’s and the Filipino people’s compassionate and accommodating nature and the president’s policy of assisting those perceived to be victims of human rights violations from any part of the world.
Meanwhile, Casiple, when asked to comment on Duterte’s apology to the Myanmar leader, said: “That’s expected of him.”
“Even his genocide remark was expected of him. I think it’s because he is under attack on that issue (human rights). So I think that’s why he made that remark,” Casiple told Arab News.
“The problem is, Myanmar reacted to his comment. And considering the importance of the ASEAN to his foreign policy... what he did was the logical thing to do. He apologized. So that kills two birds with one stone,” he added,
Casiple also stressed that it’s a different case when the President is talking of formal policy. “Because it’s not spoken. It has to be a written agreement. So that would have to go through (Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan) Cayetano and so on.
“But the off-hand comments are basically his own, and I’ve always said to the media, don’t believe him. Only when he does something, then that would be it,” he added.


Abuses pushed Malaysia’s debt over $250 billion, says Mahathir

Malaysia's newly-elected Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad addresses civil servants from the Prime Minister's office during his first assembly in Putrajaya on May 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 42 min 17 sec ago
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Abuses pushed Malaysia’s debt over $250 billion, says Mahathir

  • Former strongman Mahathir Mohamad led an opposition coalition to a spectacular win over Najib’s previously undefeated ruling alliance in a general election on May 9.
  • Mahathir said last week that many of the figures recording the country’s financial position may be false.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is saddled with over 1 trillion ringgit ($251.70 billion) in debt, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday, blaming the previous government led by former protege Najib Razak who now faces domestic graft investigations.
Mahathir, 92, led an opposition coalition to a spectacular win over Najib’s previously undefeated ruling alliance in a general election on May 9, having campaigned aggressively over people’s rising living costs and a multi-billion dollar scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
“We find that the country’s finances for example, was abused in a way that now we are facing trouble settling debts that have risen to a trillion ringgit,” Mahathir said when speaking for the first time to staff of the prime minister’s office.
“We have never had to deal with this before. Before we never faced debts higher than 300 billion ringgit, but now it has climbed to 1 trillion ringgit,” Mahathir said.
In his first week in charge, Mahathir announced that a broad-based goods and services tax (GST) would be zero-rated from June 1, as his government works to replace it with a reinstated sales and services tax (SST).
Mahathir had also promised to reintroduce fuel subsidies besides doing away with GST, all part of his coalition’s pledge to tamp down rising living costs.
Mahathir’s fiscal measures, however, would widen Malaysia’s fiscal deficit and are credit negative without any offsetting measures, according to ratings agency Moody’s.
Najib’s government had planned to collect 43.8 billion ringgit ($11.05 billion) in 2018 in GST, about 18 percent of total revenue.
During the election campaign, Najib had warned that Mahathir’s economic proposals would result in debt ballooning to over 1 trillion ringgit.
Najib also rebutted opposition claims that federal debt had risen to alarming levels under his governance, and said that debt amounted to about 50.9 percent of its GDP at June 2017, which was below the government’s limit of 55 percent.
Mahathir said last week that many of the figures recording the country’s financial position may be false.
Malaysia’s anti-graft agency has summoned Najib to give a statement on Tuesday in connection with a probe on SRC International, a former unit of 1MDB.
The summons came days after police raided six premises linked to the former prime minister as part of investigations into the state investment fund that Najib founded in 2009.
Among the items seized include 284 boxes of designer handbags and dozens of bags filled with cash and jewelry, from a luxury condominium in the center of Kuala Lumpur linked to Najib.