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.”


Double trouble for Pakistan’s deposed PM Nawaz Sharif

These will be four fresh cases against the Sharif family. (AFP)
Updated 49 min 39 sec ago
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Double trouble for Pakistan’s deposed PM Nawaz Sharif

  • The government announced it was referring four more corruption cases against the Sharif family to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation

ISLAMABAD: Legal challenges for one of Pakistan’s most influential political families, comprising ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his political heir and daughter Maryam Nawaz, and younger brother Shehbaz Sharif — former chief minister of Pakistan’s powerful Punjab province — seem to be brewing with new allegations of corruption and misuse of authority surfacing against them.

The government announced it was referring four more corruption cases against the Sharif family to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for investigation.

“They misused the taxpayers’ money and authority while in power,” Shahzad Akbar, special assistant to the prime minister on accountability, alleged during a press briefing on Saturday.

Fresh cases

These will be four fresh cases against the Sharif family and the first to be referred to the NAB and Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) by the incumbent government.

Detailing the misuse of public resources by Shehbaz Sharif and Maryam, special assistant to the PM on media Iftikhar Durrani alleged that they both enjoyed unauthorized use of ex-premier Nawaz Sharif’s aircraft, besides squandering public funds on the erection of a security fence around their palatial residence in Lahore, and misuse of authority while in office.

Government officials also revealed during the press briefing that a new high-end property portfolio in Frederick Close, central London, worth around £2.3 million ($2.95 million) recently came to the fore, reportedly owned by Sharif’s late wife. 

The documents about its ownership and rental income between 2012 and 2016 had been available, “but were buried in the files,” said Akbar. 

Senator Mushahidullah Khan, veteran leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, however, said that the cases against the Sharif family were “politically motivated” and the prosecutors had failed to present concrete evidence of corruption against Sharif in the accountability court.

“The PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) government thinks it can politically damage the Sharif family by leveling false allegations of corruption and misuse of authority against them, but this is not going to work,” he told Arab News.

Pakistan’s law required Nawaz Sharif, being a member of the National Assembly and holder of the country’s top public office, to declare his dependents’ assets, including his wife’s, in the official documents, which he did not.

 The undeclared central London property held in the name of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz will now be probed by both the NAB and the FBR.

 “We are handing over all documentary evidence to these institutions for investigation,” said Durrani. 

 The corruption cases that the Sharif family has faced until now were either filed during their own tenure in power in 2013-18, or during the previous governments of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and General Pervez Musharraf.

Shehbaz Sharif, former chief minister of Punjab Province, is currently in the NAB’s custody, facing at least two cases of corruption pertaining to his tenure in the office.

 In July this year, Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and son-in-law Muhammad Safdar were handed jail terms of 11 years, six years and one year respectively, in a corruption reference pertaining to their undeclared offshore companies and properties in London.

 The trio is currently on bail while the verdict in two more corruption references against Nawaz Sharif is expected to be announced in the next couple of weeks.

Political analysts believe that the Sharif family will still have a long way to go to prove their innocence in the courts and return to the political arena. 

“Any imminent return of the Sharif family in national politics does not seem possible in the given situation,” Professor Tahir Malik, academic and analyst, told Arab News.

Sharif has yet to defend his position in two corruption references currently undergoing hearing against him involving Al-Azizia Steel Mill in Saudi Arabia and monetary transactions made through Flagship Investment Limited, both of which he denies any connection to.