Philippines’ leader to keep up ‘relentless and chilling’ drugs war

An alleged drug dealer is handcuffed after a drug buy bust operation conducted by policemen where they caught this 18 year old boy selling marijuana in Manila on May 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 July 2018

Philippines’ leader to keep up ‘relentless and chilling’ drugs war

  • Since Duterte came to power, police have killed more than 4,500 people they say were suspected drug pushers who resisted arrest
  • Human rights groups alarmed by the bloodshed say many of the killings were summary executions by police who were systematically exterminating drug users in the poorest communities

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday vowed to sustain the momentum of his bloody war on drugs, telling the nation in an annual address that the fight would be as "relentless and chilling" as during his first two years in power.
Duterte told a joint session of Congress the anti-narcotics campaign, which has earned him international notoriety, was "far from over," taking a swipe at activists and political opponents who seek to bring him to book for thousands of killings.
"Your concern is human rights, mine is human lives" he said, adding that his fierce campaign aimed to protect the public from illicit drugs, as the "lives of our youth are being wasted" and families destroyed.
Since Duterte came to power, police have killed more than 4,500 people they say were suspected drug pushers who resisted arrest. Police say several thousand other deaths are believed to be drug related, and at the hands of vigilantes or rival gang members.
Human rights groups alarmed by the bloodshed say many of the killings were summary executions by police who were systematically exterminating drug users in the poorest communities. Police vigorously rebut those allegations.
Duterte reiterated that his foreign policy would not ally with any one power, but that ties with historic foe China had been "re-energized,” bringing unprecedented cooperation in the battle on transnational crime and dismantling clandestine drug laboratories.
But those warmer relations would not come at the expense of the Philippines' territorial integrity and economic interests in the South China Sea, he added.
Duterte read his prepared 50-minute speech in full, unlike his two previous addresses, when he eventually ditched his script to improvise and ramble.
He asked Congress to pass a law to give proper labor contracts to millions of people in short-term employment, to protect the environment and grant the Muslim minority the right to self-rule.


A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

Updated 42 min 30 sec ago

A tale of two cities: Project aims to retell lost stories from Lahore, Delhi

  • Will give migrants a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes torn apart by partition of 1947

NEW DELHI: Sparsh Ahuja and Ameena Malak grew up listening to their grandparents narrate stories of the partition from 1947.
Ahuja’s grandfather, Ishar Das Arora, was 7 years old when the Indian subcontinent was divided into two by the British, creating India and Pakistan. 
More than 14 million people were displaced at the time, and about one million perished in the fighting that followed.
Arora moved from a Pakistani village, named Bela, to Delhi after living in several refugee camps and escaping the violence.
Meanwhile, Malak’s grandfather, Ahmed Rafiq, moved from the Indian city of Hoshiarpur to Pakistan’s Lahore.
Now in their 70s, both the grandparents yearn to go back home and see the places where they were born and spent their childhoods. 
However, the constant uncertainty in the relationship between India and Pakistan and their old age has made the task of visiting their respective birthplaces extremely difficult.
To fulfill the wishes of their grandparents, and several others who yearn to visit their ancestral homelands, Ahuja and Malak decided to launch Project Dastaan (story).
“What started as an idea for a student project last year at Oxford University became a larger peace-building venture,” Ahuja, the director of the project, said.
Project Dastaan is a university-backed virtual reality (VR) peace-building initiative reconnecting displaced survivors of partition with their childhood through bespoke 360-degree digital experiences.
Backed by the South Asia Programme at Oxford, it uses VR headsets to give these migrants, who are often over 80 years old, a virtual tour of their childhood towns and homes. It shows them the people and places they most want to see again by finding the exact locations and memories that the survivors seek to revisit, and recreates them.
“It is a creative effort to start a new kind of conversation based on the direct experience of a now-foreign country in the present, rather than relying upon records and memories from the past,” Ahuja told Arab News.
He added that Pakistan-based Khalid Bashir Rai “teared up after his VR experience, and told us we had transported him back” to his childhood.
“At its heart, the project is a poignant commentary on its own absurdity. By taking these refugees back we are trying to highlight the cultural impact of decades of divisive foreign policy and sectarian conflict on the subcontinent. This is a task for policymakers, not university students. In an ideal world, a project like this shouldn’t exist,” Ahuja said.
Other members of Project Dastaan — Saadia Gardezi and Sam Dalrymple — have a connection with partition, too. Gardezi grew up with partition stories; her grandmother volunteered at refugee camps in Lahore, and her grandfather witnessed terrible violence as a young man.
Dalrymple’s grandfather had been a British officer in India during the twilight years of the British Empire. So scarred was he by the partition that he never visited Dalrymple’s family in Delhi, even after 30 years of them living there.
“I think Dastaan is ultimately about stripping away the layers of politics and trying to solve a very simple problem: That children forced to leave their homes, have never been able to go back again,” Dalrymple told Arab News.
Ahuja added: “The partition projects are a peace offering in the heart of hostility. It is an attempt at creating a wider cultural dialogue between citizens and policymakers of the three countries.”
The project aims to reconnect 75 survivors of the partition of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh with their childhood memories, when the subcontinent observes 75 years of partition in 2022.
Project Dastaan is also producing a documentary called “Child of Empire” that will put viewers in the shoes of a 1947 partition migrant, and will be shown at film festivals and museums.