Tillerson denounces racism in wake of Trump’s Charlottesville comments

In this file photo, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP)
Updated 19 August 2017

Tillerson denounces racism in wake of Trump’s Charlottesville comments

WASHINGTON: With US President Donald Trump increasingly isolated over his response to white nationalist violence in Virginia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a broad condemnation of racism on Friday and promised to make his department more racially diverse.
Trump is facing a widening backlash among fellow Republicans, business leaders and even sports stars since the violence last Saturday in the Virginia city of Charlottesville arising from a rally by white nationalists. The crisis could further imperil his policy agenda, which includes tax cuts.
Tillerson invoked the 1865 second inaugural address by Abraham Lincoln, the president who freed the slaves and presided over the Civil War against rebellious pro-slavery Confederate Southern states. As the war drew to a close, Lincoln asked the nation to bind up its wounds from the conflict, Tillerson noted.
“We, too, today should seek to bind up the wounds,” Tillerson told participants in a State Department fellowship program. “We must pursue reconciliation, understanding and respect regardless of skin color, ethnicity or religious or political views.”
Tillerson, who was CEO of oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. before becoming secretary of state this year, said one of America’s defining characteristics “is the promise of the opportunity for advancement regardless of your skin color, how much money your parents make or where you came from.”
He announced a new State Department policy in which at least one candidate for any opening for an ambassador post must be a minority, noting that currently only about 12 percent of US senior foreign service officers are non-white.
Tillerson did not mention Trump’s comments on the Charlottesville violence, which erupted as white nationalists protested the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Trump blamed the violence on not just the white nationalist rally organizers but also on anti-racism counter-protesters, and said there were “very fine people” among both groups. He decried the removal in numerous cities of “beautiful” Confederate monuments.
A man described as having an infatuation with Nazi ideology was charged with murder after authorities said he drove his car into the counter-protesters, killing a woman.
“The State Department must redouble our efforts to increase diversity at the highest ranks of the department, including at the ambassador level,” Tillerson said. As the arm of government representing the US abroad, the department should be a “clear display of America’s values and our people, not just in our mission but in the composition of our work force,” he added.
He also quoted one of his predecessors, Condoleezza Rice, who was secretary of state under Republican former President George W. Bush and the first black woman to serve in the post.
The controversy over Trump’s Charlottesville remarks has dented investor confidence that he can implement his economic agenda any time soon. The S&P 500 index posted its biggest one-day percentage loss in about three months on Thursday.
On Friday, US stocks reversed course, pulling back from earlier losses, after a report by news website Axios that White House senior adviser Steve Bannon could exit soon. The S&P was last up 0.1 percent. A decision from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is imminent on whether Bannon will keep his job, Axios said.

Newt Gingrich, a Republican former speaker of the House of Representatives who has been a prominent Trump supporter, said the president needs to readjust his strategy to try to win over alienated allies. Republicans control both the Senate and House.
“I think he is in a position right now where he is much more isolated than he realizes,” Gingrich told the Fox News program “Fox and Friends.” In Congress, “there’s far more people who are willing to sit to one side and not help him right now, and I think that he needs to recognize that,” he added.
Sixteen members of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, an advisory committee on cultural issues composed of federal agency heads, scholars and artists, resigned on Friday in protest against Trump’s Charlottesville remarks.
“The false equivalencies you push cannot stand,” they said in a resignation letter. “The Administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill.”
The advisory panel was created by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1982.
Two presidential business advisory councils were disbanded on Wednesday after numerous chief executives from major companies quit following Trump’s remarks. The White House said on Thursday it would not go ahead with a planned presidential advisory panel on American infrastructure.
In another sign of high-profile organizations not wanting to be associated with Trump, the American Cancer Society advocacy group and the pro-Israeli medical charity American Friends of Magen David Adom joined the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic in canceling events planned at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort.
Basketball star Kevin Durant, who is black, said he would not go to the White House if his Golden State Warriors are invited for a customary celebration for the National Basketball Association champions. Durant said he does not respect Trump and believes the president is exacerbating racial tensions.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, Richard Cowan, Caroline Valetkevitch, Deena Beasley and Gina Cherelus; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.