Seeing Kim was a historic moment for me, says Singapore resident

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un visits Merlion Park in Singapore ahead of Tuesday’s historic summit with US President Donald Trump. (Reuters)
Updated 12 June 2018
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Seeing Kim was a historic moment for me, says Singapore resident

  • Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday said hosting the summit will cost 20 million Singapore dollars ($15 million), about half of which will be spent on security.
  • The Gurkha Contingent will be deployed to secure the summit venue. With a reputation for being among the fiercest warriors in the world, the Nepali Gurkhas have since 1949 been recruited as a frontline force in Singapore.

SINGAPORE: Singapore residents braced for major traffic jams and road diversions on Monday as security forces fanned out across the island state ahead of Tuesday’s historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Stringent security measures will be in place until Thursday, police said.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday said hosting the summit will cost 20 million Singapore dollars ($15 million), of which about half will be spent on security.

Authorities had warned that there would be roadblocks and increased security checks, especially in marked-out zones where the event will take place and where delegates are expected to stay.

The zones include the Capella Hotel on Sentosa Island, where the summit will be held, and the St. Regis Hotel, where Kim is staying; and the Shangrila Hotel, where Trump is staying.

Long lines had formed along the streets toward the St. Regis Hotel when Kim arrived on Sunday night with his convoy of more than 20 vehicles, including an ambulance.

Lee Yoonmi, who lives in the St. Regis Residence next to the hotel, was leaving her apartment when she heard that Kim was coming. She waited for more than an hour before seeing him briefly.

“They were so scary,” Lee said of Kim’s bodyguards. “There were so many of them. They were making sure no one takes pictures of him. If they saw anyone take a photo with their phone, they’d immediately come to you and tell you to delete it.”

Lee, who has been living in Singapore for five years, added: “I’m South Korean, so for us this is once in a lifetime, a historic moment for me and for Singapore.”

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Saturday said his country is hard at work making sure the environment is safe and secure for the negotiating parties.

“My staff in the ministry have… all had sleepless nights answering messages from all over the world, addressing very specific requests — it goes far beyond serving coffee and tea,” he said.

Shawn Ho, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told Arab News: “Singapore is a very open place. We try to check, but obviously we can’t guarantee that everyone who comes in has the best intentions. There’s always an element of risk.”

But despite the risks, Singapore agreed to host the summit because “it knows that it will contribute to peace and stability in the region and in the world,” said Ho.

Thousands of security personnel are out in force, in what could be one of Singapore’s largest security operations.

They include the armed forces, police and auxiliary forces, many of whom had their annual leave frozen in preparation for the summit.

A special guard force, the Gurkha Contingent, will be deployed to secure the summit venue. With a reputation for being among the fiercest warriors in the world, the Nepali Gurkhas have since 1949 been recruited as a frontline force in Singapore.

Lynette Chan, a teacher whose office is in one of the special zones, said she does not mind the traffic diversions: “It’s a short-term inconvenience for a long-term, big-picture gain.”

She added: “It’s a small part to play in helping to create peace in the region. It’s also good for economic and political stability.”

Eunice Shin, who lives in another zone, said: “It doesn’t inconvenience me too much.” Police and reporters are stationed just across from her building, she added.

“Everyone’s really nice. It’s very peaceful,” she said. “My kids are enjoying it with all the fire trucks around. They’re very impressed because you never see any police in Singapore.”


Judge in Spain drops extradition bids for 6 Catalan fugitives

Updated 11 min 57 sec ago
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Judge in Spain drops extradition bids for 6 Catalan fugitives

MADRID: A Spanish Supreme Court judge on Thursday dropped extradition requests for six politicians wanted on rebellion charges for their roles in promoting independence for Spain’s Catalonia region, including former regional president Carles Puigdemont.
The decision was a major setback for Spain’s legal efforts to crack down on the wealthy Catalan region’s secessionist movement and keeps alive an issue that last year brought Spain’s worst political crisis in four decades.
Puigdemont fled to Belgium to avoid arrest after the Spanish government removed him and his Cabinet from office at the end of October. He was arrested in Germany in March as he was traveling from Finland to Brussels and is believed to be living in Hamburg.
The Spanish judge withdrew his extradition requests after a German court ruled last week that Puigdemont could not be sent back to Spain for rebellion, only for the lesser charge of embezzlement connected to the alleged misuse of public funds for holding a referendum on secession that a judge had disallowed.
Puigdemont said the decision exposed “huge shortcomings” in the Supreme Court’s legal case against the separatists, including nine who are in Spanish jails awaiting possible trial and whom the separatist movement regards as victims of political persecution.
“Today is a day to demand, with greater fervor than ever, freedom for the political prisoners,” Puigdemont tweeted after Llarena’s decision.
Judge Pablo Llarena was scathing in his assessment of the German court’s decision, describing it as “a lack of commitment” in pursuing the fugitives. Llarena wants Puigdemont and his separatist allies to face charges of rebellion and sedition, as well as misuse of public funds.
If Puigdemont and the others were extradited solely for alleged embezzlement, Spanish prosecutors would be able to put them on trial just on that charge. Rebellion carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years in Spain, while misuse of public funds is punishable by up to 12 years.
Llarena said in a decision published Thursday that he was revoking the international arrest warrants for the six fugitive former officials, a development the Catalan separatist movement took as a victory against Spain’s central authorities.
The first deputy speaker of the regional parliament in Catalonia, Josep Costa, tweeted “Llarena KO.”
Puigdemont’s lawyer, Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas, declared triumph, writing on Twitter: “It looks like we have a memorable summer.”
The charges are in connection with the Catalan regional government’s unauthorized Oct. 1 referendum on independence from Spain and a subsequent unilateral declaration of independence by the separatist-controlled regional parliament.
The declaration won no international recognition, but the standoff between regional powers in the Catalan capital, Barcelona, and national authorities in Madrid put Spain in the international spotlight.
A German court last week said Spain’s rebellion charge was not recognized in Germany and that related German statutes — such as the law against treason — did not apply because Puigdemont’s actions “did not rise to this kind of violence.”
If the six fugitive politicians return to Spain voluntarily, they would still face rebellion and sedition charges.
The other fugitive politicians apart from Puigdemont are Antoni Comin, Meritxell Serret and Lluis Puig, who also fled to Belgium, Clara Ponsati, who is in Scotland, and Marta Rovira, who is believed to be in Switzerland.