Malaysian PM postpones parliament as calls for his resignation grow

Hundreds of Malaysians took to the streets to protest against the mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. (Reuters/File Photo)
Hundreds of Malaysians took to the streets to protest against the mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 01 August 2021

Malaysian PM postpones parliament as calls for his resignation grow

Hundreds of Malaysians took to the streets to protest against the mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • More than 500 Malaysians protested against government’s handling of COVID-19 crisis on Saturday amid a rise in infections 

KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has deferred a key parliamentary session set for Monday amid intense pressure to step down from office.

This comes a day after hundreds of Malaysians took to the streets to protest against his mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak, which has worsened since January.

More than 500 black-clad Malaysians participated in the “Keluar dan #LAWAN” protest in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, defying a ban on mass gatherings under COVID-19 curbs, with experts saying that Muhyiddin was “fighting for his political life.”

“This guy (Muhyiddin) is basically fighting for his political life, and we will get a clearer picture of his fate in the coming week, but he does have one advantage — the prime minister’s office,” said Prof. James Chin, Tasmania University professor of Asian Studies and inaugural director of the Asia Institute.

He told Arab News that while the protests were initially meant to “express disdain against the government and its incompetence in dealing with the pandemic,” new developments in parliament “had renewed the drive.”

Muhyiddin’s decision to postpone parliament, citing COVID-19 infections among staff, allows him to avoid a no-confidence vote amid growing calls to resign.

A notification issued to lawmakers on Saturday said that the session would be held “at a later date” after 11 staff and others tested positive on Thursday.

Parliament reopened last Monday following a months-long suspension during a COVID-19-related state of emergency that ends on Sunday.

The state of emergency allowed Muhyiddin to rule by ordinance without legislative approval until Aug. 1, but it has fueled public anger after a significant spike in infections since January.

On Sunday, Malaysia reported 17,150 new cases while the total number of infections since the pandemic rose to 1.1 million, with more than 8,800 deaths. Nearly 20 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

This is the third time that parliament has been suspended due to the coronavirus.

It was shut down for several months after Muhyiddin assumed office in March 2020 and since January this year, after the king approved the premier’s plan to impose a state of emergency to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.

However, Malaysia’s political crisis deepened on Thursday after its monarch Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah rebuked Law Minister Takiyuddin Hassan over remarks that emergency laws had been revoked as of July 21, ahead of the Aug 1 expiration, “which make the parliamentary debate on the matter unnecessary.”

Sultan Abdullah said that he had yet to give his consent on the cancelation of laws imposed without legislative approvals throughout Malaysia’s seven-month emergency but told the government to debate them in Parliament — which may lead to a vote that could test the prime minister’s majority.

The palace, in a statement, said the rushed move to cancel the laws and the conflicting announcement “undermines the functions and powers of His Majesty as the reigning Head of State.”

There was no immediate comment from the government on Sunday.

However, the opposition, which has filed a no-confidence motion against PM Muhyiddin, said that the delay in convening parliament was an “excuse” for him to stay in power.

“Many parties feel it’s not because of COVID-19. This political crisis must be resolved immediately. This constitutional crisis must be addressed,” Ahmad Maslan, a lawmaker in the biggest party in Muhyiddin’s alliance that has backed calls for the premier to quit, said in a Twitter post.

The two-hour protest on Saturday, organized by the Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (SSR), saw Malaysians occupy the main street opposite the historical Merdeka Square and follows a similar demonstration outside the parliament building in April.

“It was an attack on the government for their failure in dealing with the pandemic, but now the prime minister has been seen as being disloyal to the king,” Chin said.

Police told local media on Sunday that protesters would be called in for questioning as they had violated a ban on gatherings.

Federal Police Chief Acryl Sani Abdullah Sani said that probes were launched under Act 342, or The Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988.

“We have identified 29 individuals who will be called in to assist with investigations, and more will be identified from videos and photos that have been uploaded,” Acryl said.

Others worry that the demonstrations could trigger a spike in infections.

“Although the protesters had taken efforts to enforce safety procedures, risks were still present,” Dr. Lim Chee Han, a senior researcher from Third World Network and public health expert, told Arab News.

He added that “even if 95 percent of the protesters complied with safe practices, there was a 5 percent risk of those who could possibly spread the virus.”

“Of course, whenever there are people grouping in great numbers that increases the risk of disease transmission, given right now the local transmission is still at the height, so it cannot rule out any spread of the virus in the transmission chain,” Lim said.


UK police make ‘significant’ arrest over Muslim teacher’s death

UK police make ‘significant’ arrest over Muslim teacher’s death
Updated 13 sec ago

UK police make ‘significant’ arrest over Muslim teacher’s death

UK police make ‘significant’ arrest over Muslim teacher’s death
LONDON: British police said Sunday they have arrested a man on suspicion of murdering Sabina Nessa, a primary school teacher killed as she walked in a London park.
Nessa’s death — as she went to meet a friend a few minutes from her home — has fueled concerns that women aren’t safe on the streets of Britain’s capital.
The Metropolitan Police force said a 38-year-old man was arrested overnight in southern England. Two other men have previously been detained and then released under investigation, but police stressed the latest arrest was a “significant development.”
Police had earlier released closed-circuit TV footage of a man who was seen along Nessa’s route on the night she was killed, asking anyone who recognized him to contact them immediately.
Nessa, 28, was found dead in Kidbrooke, southeast London, on Sept. 17. Detectives believe she was attacked during what should have been a five-minute walk to meet a friend at a nearby pub.
Hundreds of people held a candlelight vigil for Nessa on Friday, demanding an end to violence against women.
“This feels like we are stuck in a bad dream and can’t get out of it. Our world is shattered, we are simply lost for words,” Nessa’s sister, Jebina Yasmin Islam, told the crowd. “No family should go through what we are going through.”
Nessa’s death came six months after the abduction, rape and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in south London by a serving police officer. The Everard case shocked the country and saw thousands take to the streets to denounce violence against women.

UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm

UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm
Updated 47 min 25 sec ago

UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm

UK could be powered by giant Moroccan renewable energy farm
  • Xlinks proposal would see solar, wind farm the size of London attached to national grid
  • $22bn scheme would include 3,200 km undersea cable linking Britain to North Africa

LONDON: A plan has emerged to import renewable electricity to the UK from a giant wind and solar farm in Morocco, connected to the British mainland via a giant undersea cable.

Dave Lewis, former CEO of retail giant Tesco, is heading a bid by energy startup Xlinks to provide up to 8 percent of the UK’s power needs from a site in southern Morocco.

The proposed location, in Guelmim-Oued Noun, would cover an area the size of Greater London, and hosts consistently sunny and windy weather, making it optimal to install wind and solar farms.

It would be linked to the UK via a power cable over 3,800 km in length, installed off the coasts of Portugal, Spain and France, with the whole project estimated to cost around £16 billion ($22 billion).

However, Lewis said the plan would only become viable with a guarantee from the British government, which has not yet been forthcoming.

“It’s completely consistent with (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson’s energy strategy,” he told The Times. “It’s renewables, but it’s renewables at a lower cost and more reliable (than current options), so what’s not to like?

“But it will require the government to step forward in a leadership role and engage with an innovative project, because they’ve not seen one like this before.”

The emergence of the plan comes as the UK faces an energy crisis, with prices increasing, difficulties in fuel supply chains, and talks ongoing about approving construction of new nuclear power plants to meet demand.

The UK is also struggling to keep pace with its own commitments to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

On Friday, Johnson addressed the UN in New York where, ahead of the UK’s hosting of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, he said it is “time for humanity to grow up” on energy production and climate change.

The UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy told The Times it is “aware” of the Xlinks proposal and is “keeping the project under review.”


Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan

Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan
Updated 49 min 41 sec ago

Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan

Taliban ask airlines to resume international flights to Afghanistan
  • A limited number of aid and passenger flights have been operating from Kabul airport

The Taliban government in Afghanistan appealed on Sunday for international flights to be resumed, promising full cooperation with airlines and saying that problems at Kabul airport had been resolved.
The statement from the foreign affairs ministry comes as the new administration has stepped up efforts to open up the country and gain international acceptance following the collapse of the Western-backed government last month.
A limited number of aid and passenger flights have been operating from the airport. But normal commercial services have yet to resume since it was closed in the wake of the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of foreigners and vulnerable Afghans that followed the Taliban’s seizure of the capital.
The airport, which was damaged during the evacuation, has since been reopened with the assistance of technical teams from Qatar and Turkey.
While some airlines including Pakistan International Airlines have been offering limited services and some people have been able to get places on flights, prices have been reported to be many times higher than normal.
Foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said the suspension of international flights had left many Afghans stranded abroad and also prevented people from traveling for work or study.
“As the problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation,” he said, using an abbreviation for Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s term for their new government.
Since taking power, the Taliban have grappled with a severe economic crisis and have faced pressure on issues ranging from girls’ education to allegations of reprisals against former officials and others associated with the previous government.


UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions

UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions
Updated 26 September 2021

UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions

UK says it has seen ships breaching North Korea sanctions
  • North Korea is under strict international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs

LONDON: Britain said on Sunday it had collected evidence of multiple ships from various nationalities apparently breaching United Nations sanctions against North Korea which ban the sale of fuel to the country.
British frigate HMS Richmond has been taking part in UN sanctions enforcement operations in the region.
“HMS Richmond’s deployment in the East China Sea identified ships acting in suspected breach of UN sanctions and tracked vessels which had previously not been flagged to the Enforcement Coordination Cell,” defense minister Ben Wallace said in a statement.
The statement did not detail those thought to be in breach of the sanctions, but said “multiple ships of various nationalities” had been identified.
North Korea is under strict international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up those weapons in return for lifting sanctions have been stalled.
Earlier this month, a US-based research group said in a report that smugglers suspected of evading sanctions on North Korea have turned to schemes to create fraudulent identities for sanctioned ships.


Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip

Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip
Updated 26 September 2021

Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip

Caught on camera: Kremlin releases photos of Putin’s Siberian fishing trip
  • Vladimir Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin spent several days hiking and fishing in Siberia in early September, the Kremlin said on Sunday as it published pictures of the president on the holiday.
A caption under one of the 20 pictures published on the Kremlin web site said the president stopped for a few days in Siberia after a working trip to Russia’s Far East in early September.
Several days later, in the middle of September Putin said he would have to spend “a few days” in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill with COVID-19. He had to cancel his trip to Tajikistan for a security summit.
Putin has cultivated a macho image, appealing to many Russians, and has previously been pictured riding a horse barechested and in sun glasses, as well as carrying a hunting rifle and piloting a fighter jet.
This time, his outings were more mundane.
The Kremlin published photos of Putin standing in a river and catching a fish, walking through lush meadows and talking to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, his usual holiday companion.
Putin, 68, has had two shots of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The Kremlin has said he was feeling healthy.