Indonesian court upholds president’s re-election victory

Indonesian court upholds president’s re-election victory
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and Vice President Maruf Amin. Indonesia’s defeated presidential election challenger Gen. Prabowo Subianto lost a bid to overturn his loss to Widodo. (AFP)
Updated 27 June 2019

Indonesian court upholds president’s re-election victory

Indonesian court upholds president’s re-election victory
  • Joko Widodo will begin second term in October, after opponent’s challenge of the result was rejected
  • His opponent, retired Gen. Prabowo Subianto, alleged ‘massive, structured and systematic’ electoral fraud

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s long and divisive election saga, which has been marred by violence, has formally ended with a ruling by the Constitutional Court that clears the way for President Joko Widodo to be sworn in for a second term.
The court on Thursday rejected a challenge by retired army Gen. Prabowo Subianto, Widodo’s sole opponent in the April 17 presidential poll, who claimed that the incumbent’s victory was the result of “massive, structured and systematic” electoral fraud. Although from the start the challenge was expected to be fail, a series of events surrounding it have jeopardized the country’s political stability and internal security.

May riots
When the General Election Commission announced on May 21 that Widodo received 55.5 percent of the votes, compared with Subianto’s 44.5 percent, demonstrations denouncing the result turned violent and deadly riots broke out in several locations in Jakarta. Two days of violence claimed nine lives and left more than 900 people injured.
An investigation into the cause of the deaths is ongoing. Police have on various occasions said the riots were instigated by a third party with the aim of spreading chaos and destabilizing the country. A number of active and retired military officers had been arrested on charges that include arms smuggling, subversion and plotting to assassinate high-ranking officials, including ministers and the president’s chief security adviser.
While rights groups and activists have accused the security forces of using excessive force while dealing with the riots and called for a transparent probe, many of them also noted that the events are reminiscent of violent incidents in May 1998, also in Jakarta, that began days before former President Suharto was forced to resign. Some of the recently arrested officers were close to the late dictator, who ruled for 32 years, raising suspicions that the this year’s riots might have been part of a failed coup attempt.
Security was heightened in the capital ahead of the Constitutional Court’s announcement and dozens of suspected militants were detained in the past few weeks amid fears that terrorist groups might attempt to take advantage of the tense political situation.

End of dispute
There was a sense of deja vu about Subianto’s unwillingness to concede defeat. After the 2014 presidential election, when the gap between him and Widodo was half the size it is this year, he declared himself the winner and challenged the result, alleging electoral violations. His challenge was also rejected by the Constitutional Court on that occasion.
This time he faced an even tougher battle. The accusation of “massive, structured and systematic” fraud required him to provide evidence that a majority of the constituencies had been affected.
“Given that, by regulation, he could present only 15 eyewitnesses, there was no way to prove that the alleged rigging was massive when votes were cast at more than 800,000 polling stations during the election,” said Jakarta lawyer Pahrur Dalimunthe.
There were some irregularities but observers have been unanimous in concluding that these were unavoidable in an election in which 190 million people voted on the same day. These irregularities could not, however, have affected the final result to such an extent that would result in an 11 percent gap between the candidates, they concluded.
The court’s decision to reject Subianto’s challenge is final and binding. In October, Widodo will be sworn in for a second term.

The future
Ahead of the Constitutional Court’s first hearing in mid-June, Subianto posted a video on his Facebook page in which he urged his followers to refrain from demonstrating and stay away from the court to avoid further unrest. While no serious incidents were recorded on Thursday, and Subianto officially accepted the decision of the court, the degree of polarization in Indonesian society and its political elites remains high. The president will have to cope with an unprecedented scale of divisions, which have been aggravated by months of political campaigning.
When the election results were announced in May, officials from the president’s circle began to hint that members of the opposition might be invited to be part of Widodo’s next Cabinet. While the leaders of the major parties that backed Widodo’s rival have given clear signs that they would be interested in participating in such a Cabinet, until recently there was no mention of whether the invitation would extend to Subianto himself and his Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), the strongest opposition party.
Several days ago, however, senior Gerindra members confirmed that their leader has been in talks about receiving ministerial posts in Widodo’s Cabinet. If this happens, there will be virtually no opposition to the government and the president will be able to double down on reform efforts during his second term.
There are doubts, however, about whether such a “rainbow government” is possible. According to political commentator Hamid Basyaib, talks of this kind between key stakeholders is normal and does not necessarily indicate that Subianto will be welcome in the Cabinet.
“Widodo himself will easily open his arms to anyone,” he added. “He has no problem with that. But this needs to be seriously discussed among the highest ranks of his party and in the coalition (of other parties that endorsed him).”
The next few weeks will start to reveal how well Widodo can navigate his way through such complex conflicts of interests. The ruling of the Constitutional Court at least means he can at least officially begin the process.


Islamophobic British teenage extremist wanted to ‘bring about revolution,’ court hears

Islamophobic British teenage extremist wanted to ‘bring about revolution,’ court hears
Updated 15 June 2021

Islamophobic British teenage extremist wanted to ‘bring about revolution,’ court hears

Islamophobic British teenage extremist wanted to ‘bring about revolution,’ court hears
  • Matthew Cronjager alleged to have provided instructions for manufacture of firearms using 3D printer
  • He told online group: ‘Not sure which kind of racism you’re into but I’ll do all of them’

LONDON: A British teenage extremist who “hated Jews and Muslims” hoped to spark a revolution based on his racist ideology, a court in central London has heard.

Matthew Cronjager, 18, was alleged to have produced plans for a storage bunker and provided instructions for the manufacture of two firearms using a 3D printer.

He transferred funds to help purchase materials to build weapons between Oct. 31 and Dec. 19, 2020, the court was told.

“He wanted to bring about a change of government by violence,” said Alistair Richardson for the prosecution. “He wanted to bring about his own revolution based on his own racist ideology. To that end, he sought to produce a firearm using a 3D printer.”

Among a collection of far-right material, Cronjager allegedly uploaded violent manuals that gave instructions on how to seriously maim and murder people.

In one online group, he wrote: “Not sure which kind of racism you’re into but I’ll do all of them.” He added: “May dreams of Hitler and swastikas guide you to sleep.”

In another group, Cronjager said: “I’d prefer pure whiteness in our country but if we had to compromise I’d want segregation.”

He was then added to another messaging group on Telegram, a platform popular with terrorists. The new group was hosted by a user called Bull based in Spain.

Richardson said: “There was then discussion of what skills would be most useful — those, for example, of an electrician or a welder.

“Bull explained that welding was one of the most important skills. A welder could fix metal, create ammunition and weapons.”

The prosecutor added: “The defendant offered his own view that they ‘should all be able to at least put together the parts and also be able to reload our own ammo’.”

The court was told that Bull asked the group who would be willing to be its UK division leader as he would need to start organizing training and conducting recruitment.

Richardson said an undercover police officer “asked whether anyone wanted to be leader. The defendant immediately replied that ‘I wouldn’t mind being the leader’.” Bull confirmed that Cronjager was the leader of the UK outfit.

Richardson said: “He then told everyone they must not talk about the group and must not leave their phones open with their screens on the group messages.

“The defendant then went on to explain that he was going to begin construction of an underground hideaway nearby. He was preparing a bunker in which to store the firearms he was seeking to obtain.”

Jurors heard that Cronjager posted a sketch plan of an underground bunker in October 2020 along with two posts on how to carry out the “revolution.”

He told the group: “Here are my bunker plans. Nothing special. It’ll work tho. I’ll use pallets for the walls, ceilings and floors.”

Richardson said the undercover policeman and the teenage extremists discussed producing weapons.

Cronjager told the officer: “I don’t want to start anything too soon, but I want to conduct at least one offensive action within two years.”

Cronjager has denied preparing for terrorist acts and disseminating terrorist propaganda. He rejected four counts of collecting information likely to help others preparing for terror acts.


Children orphaned by COVID-19 facing uncertain future in India

Children orphaned by COVID-19 facing uncertain future in India
Updated 15 June 2021

Children orphaned by COVID-19 facing uncertain future in India

Children orphaned by COVID-19 facing uncertain future in India
  • Officials, NGOs warn thousands of vulnerable to exploitation, neglect

NEW DELHI: Despite Indian government assurances to provide free food and education to children orphaned by the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, a majority continue to face an uncertain future after losing one or both parents amid the second wave of the pandemic.

In a recent report, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said that 3,621 ophans had lost both parents to the disease, while more than 26,000 had lost one parent.

“We are still in the process of compiling data, but looking at the initial figure, it looks grim,” an NCPCR official told Arab News.

“The challenge is to reach out to them and extend all support,” he added.

Shainza Sadat, 12, lost her mother to COVID-19 in the third week of April in the capital city, New Delhi, after her family failed to find hospital bed space.

“Life is difficult now in my mother’s absence,” Sadat told Arab News, adding: “Everything is established. Our main support system has gone.”

Her father Anwar said that since his wife’s death, “the family was without an anchor.”

He added: “The pandemic has jolted us. It’s not easy to raise a 12-year-old daughter single-handedly without her mother’s support.”

The second wave of the pandemic across India earlier this year claimed more than 300,000 lives and wreaked havoc across towns and villages in the country of 1.3 billion people.

After losing their father to COVID-19 late last year, Shatrudhan Kumar, 13, and his seven-year-old brother, from the Jehanabad district in the eastern state of Bihar, also lost their mother to the disease in April.

BACKGROUND

The Bihar government has registered 48 cases of children losing both parents and 1,400 cases of single parent deaths to COVID-19.

“I want to study, but now it’s a challenge to live without any support,” Kumar told Arab News.

“We are living with our relatives, but how long can we depend on them?”

The Bihar government has registered 48 cases of children losing both parents and 1,400 cases of single parent deaths to COVID-19.

“We are providing RS1,500 ($20) per month to each child who has lost their parents besides free education and free rations for the family,” Raj Kumar, director of Bihar’s social work department, told Arab News.

He added that a “widow is also getting $6 every month and free rations for the family.”

However, Bihar-based child rights NGO center, DIRECT, questioned the figures claimed by the government, and is now seeking “higher compensation for the victims.”

“I believe the figure of the children without a single parent or any parents must be double of what the government is saying,” Suresh Kumar, director of the NGO, told Arab News.

“The situation is bleak in rural areas. There are children whose parents have died due to COVID-19, but they don’t have proof to show that they lost their parents to the virus,” Kumar said, adding: “As a result, they are not getting the benefits announced by the government.”

On May 29, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced welfare measures for children who had lost their parents to COVID-19. Part of the measures requires the government to take care of children’s education, with a $14,000 corpus created for each child, which they can avail after turning 23.

However, officials and NGOs worry that children left without parents now face the double threat of neglect and vulnerability to exploitation and human trafficking.

Sonal Kapoor of NGO Protsahan, based in the capital, questioned the government’s narrative of supporting “orphans of the pandemic” while “ignoring the larger question.”

According to Kapoor, who works for vulnerable children facing rights violations, an overwhelming majority of orphaned children are being forced into child labor.

“Among the children in distress cases that have erupted and we are working to support, fewer than 5 percent are children who have lost parents, but the remaining 95 percent are facing severe cases of child labor, child hunger and even sexual exploitation within families,” Kapoor told Arab News.

“In the last three months, the 48 slum communities where we work in Delhi have seen an escalation in cases of child labor and using children — both girls and boys — for transactional sex by parents in exchange for food,” she said, adding: “Children have been pushed into child labor to supplement their family income and there is no saying if they will go back to school even if the pandemic ends.”

Kapoor said that adoption or institutional support was not a feasible option, as India’s adoption rate is low, with just 3,351 children being adopted last year despite thousands being orphaned.

“Every orphan child does not have to end up in a child care institute. A simple semblance of extended family with limited resources is any day better than life for a child in a shelter home,” Kapoor added.

Citing an example of two children who had lost both their parents to COVID-19 last month, Kapoor said that they were left in the care of elderly grandparents, where “the poor grandmother is working overtime to meet the requirements of the teens.

“As an NGO, we support such families so that children grow under the patronage of their kith and kin,” she said.


England delays full lifting of virus restrictions

England delays full lifting of virus restrictions
Updated 14 June 2021

England delays full lifting of virus restrictions

England delays full lifting of virus restrictions
  • Newspapers had been counting down to what had been dubbed "Freedom Day"
  • Johnson said a sharp rise in infections had prompted a decision to "ease off the accelerator"

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a four-week delay to the full lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England due to a surge in infections caused by the Delta variant.
The delay comes as a blow to Johnson’s plans to fully reopen the UK economy on June 21 after months of gradually easing restrictions since March.
Newspapers had been counting down to what had been dubbed “Freedom Day,” which was set to mark an end to all social distancing restrictions and the reopening of nightclubs.
But Johnson said a sharp rise in infections had prompted a decision to “ease off the accelerator” and focus instead on ramping up vaccinations.
“On the evidence I can see right now, I’m confident that we will not need more than four weeks and won’t need to go beyond July 19,” Johnson told a press briefing.
Health policy is devolved in the four nations that make up the UK, handled separately in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Scotland, which was due to move to the lowest level of restrictions on June 28, is also expected to announce a delay to its reopening.
In England, most current rules — including limits on the number of people who can meet in pubs and restaurants — will remain in place until July 19, although restrictions on the number of guests allowed at weddings will be lifted.
Large scale pilot events, such as Euro 2020 football matches, will also go ahead as planned.
The more transmissible Delta variant, first identified in India, is now responsible for 96 percent of UK cases, and positive tests have jumped 50 percent in the last week.
Total reported cases are now at their highest since February — around 8,000 new infections a day.
The Delta variant is believed to be around 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant first identified in Kent, southeast England.
That strain forced the country to go into another three-month lockdown in January.
Nevertheless hospital admissions and deaths remain low, thanks in large part to Britain’s rapid vaccination rollout.
More than 55 percent of adults in the UK have had two vaccine jabs.
Newspapers have hinted at dissent within Johnson’s cabinet over the delay, with The Times citing an unnamed minister as saying it was “a very odd decision.”
Johnson accepted that “we cannot simply eliminate Covid, we must learn to live with it,” but added that “once the adults of this country have been overwhelmingly vaccinated... we will be in a far stronger position to... live with this disease.”
The government hopes that two thirds of all adults will have received two shots by July 19.
A study released Monday found that two jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine stopped the need for in-patient treatment in 96 percent of cases of the new variant.
With a double dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot, the rate was 92 percent.
The government had hoped to allow crowds to return unrestricted to pubs and clubs next week, with the hard-hit hospitality industry warning it is on its last legs.
Trade association UKHospitality estimated that a month’s delay in lifting the restrictions would cost the sector around £3 billion ($4.23 billion) in sales.
“A full and final ending of restrictions is the only way to ensure that businesses in this sector can trade profitably,” said its chief executive Kate Nicholls.


Terror charges laid against attack suspect in Canada

Terror charges laid against attack suspect in Canada
Updated 14 June 2021

Terror charges laid against attack suspect in Canada

Terror charges laid against attack suspect in Canada
  • Police allege the incident was a planned and premeditated attack targeting Muslims
  • Nathaniel Veltman also faces one count of attempted murder due to terrorism activity

LONDON/ONTARIO: Prosecutors laid terrorism charges Monday against a man accused of driving down and killing four members of a Muslim family in London, Ontario.
The prosecution said Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism and prosecutors have upgraded those charges under Canada’s criminal code.
Police allege the incident was a planned and premeditated attack targeting Muslims.
Veltman also faces one count of attempted murder due to terrorism activity.
The upgraded charges were laid as Veltman made a brief court appearance via video Monday morning. He has yet to enter a plea.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal were killed while out for an evening walk on June 6.
The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but is expected to recover.


Philippines suspends decision to scrap troop pact with United States

Philippines suspends decision to scrap troop pact with United States
Updated 14 June 2021

Philippines suspends decision to scrap troop pact with United States

Philippines suspends decision to scrap troop pact with United States
  • Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin says suspension would be for a further six months

MANILA: The Philippines has suspended for the third time its decision to scrap a two-decade-old Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the United States, its foreign minister said on Monday.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said the suspension would be for a further six months while President Rodrigo Duterte “studies, and both sides further address his concerns regarding, particular aspects of the agreement.”
The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States, and several military agreements are dependent on the VFA. Duterte last year notified Washington he was canceling the deal, which came amid outrage over a senator and ally being denied a US visa.