Mauritius to lead ‘historic’ expedition to contested Chagos Islands

Mauritius to lead ‘historic’ expedition to contested Chagos Islands
A 90-year-old woman, who was exiled from the Peros Banhos Atoll of the Chagos Archipelago, stands by the sea in Port Louis, Mauritius, March, 2015. (Getty Images)
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Updated 07 February 2022

Mauritius to lead ‘historic’ expedition to contested Chagos Islands

Mauritius to lead ‘historic’ expedition to contested Chagos Islands
  • The Chagos Islands have been at the center of a decades-long dispute over Britain’s decision to separate them from Mauritius in 1965 and set up a joint military base with the US on Diego Garcia
  • Mauritius has fought since 1975 to return the archipelago to its territory and in 2019, the International Court of Justice ruled that Britain should give up control of the islands

PORT LOUIS, Mauritius: The prime minister of Mauritius announced on Monday a “historic visit” by a research vessel to the disputed Chagos Islands, an archipelago it claims in full but which is administered by Britain.
Pravind Jugnauth told reporters that a scientific vessel would set out on Tuesday to the remote islands in the Indian Ocean.
Among those on board will be Chagos islanders forcibly evicted by Britain in the 1960s and 70s to make way for a military base there.
It will be the first time Mauritius has led an expedition to the long-contested islands without requesting permission from the United Kingdom or the United States, the prime minister added.
It follows a 2019 International Court of Justice ruling that backed the claim by Mauritius and said Britain should give up control of the islands.
“It is with great pride that I announce that Mauritius will undertake a trip to the Mauritian territory of the Chagos Archipelago, and in particular to Blenheim Reef, for a scientific study,” said Jugnauth.
“This will be a historic visit because it is the first time since Mauritius gained independence on March 12, 1968 that the Mauritian State... is organizing a trip to this part of its territory in the middle of the Indian Ocean without having to seek permission from anyone.”
The Chagos Islands have been at the center of a decades-long dispute over Britain’s decision to separate them from Mauritius in 1965 and set up a joint military base with the US on Diego Garcia, the largest of the isles.
Both London and Washington had been informed as a courtesy that the mission would be conducting research in the area, but would avoid Diego Garcia, said Jugnauth.
The expedition would leave from the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles, he added.
The Mauritian permanent representative to the United Nations would be aboard, along with scientists and the Chagos islanders, he added.
Mauritius has fought since 1975 to return the archipelago to its territory and in 2019, the International Court of Justice ruled that Britain should give up control of the islands.
Later that year, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a resolution recognizing that “the Chagos Archipelago forms an integral part of the territory of Mauritius” and recommending Britain withdraw within six months.
Britain, some 9,500 kilometers (5,900 miles) to the west from Chagos, insists the islands belong to London and has refused to leave.
It has renewed a lease agreement with the United States to use Diego Garcia until 2036.
Diego Garcia played a strategic role during the Cold War, and then as an air base, including during the war in Afghanistan.
Mauritius has described their continued presence as “an illegal administration.”


Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
Updated 13 sec ago

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry

Sri Lanka struggles to secure new fuel shipments as supply runs dry
  • About 70 percent of gas stations across the island closed 
  • Government will send ministers to Russia to discuss urgently needed imports  

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka is struggling to secure fresh supplies of fuel, the energy minister said on Sunday, with the crisis-hit country fast running out of petrol and diesel to keep essential services running. 

For months, the island nation of 22 million people has lacked the foreign currency to pay for essential imports, including fuel, food and medicine. Amid the chronic shortages, Sri Lankans have formed long queues outside pumping stations, with some waiting in line for days. 

Sri Lanka’s Power and Energy Minister, Kanchana Wijesekera, said that the country is now down to just 15,000 tons of petrol and diesel, while 70 percent of fuel stations have closed due to delays in expected shipments. 

“We are struggling to find suppliers. They are reluctant to accept letters of credit from our banks. There are over $700 million in overdue payments, so now suppliers want advance payments,” he told reporters. 

“The remaining stock will be finished soon.”

In the past two months, Sri Lanka has received its fuel supply via a $500 million credit line from India that ran out in mid-June. A petrol shipment due last Thursday failed to arrive and officials are unable to confirm the next delivery, Wijesekera said. 

The military will begin issuing tokens to people queuing for fuel on Monday.

Meanwhile, the government will send ministers to Russia to discuss fuel imports and has told 1 million public employees to work from home until further notice. 

Sri Lanka also increased fuel prices in the early hours of Sunday, with the price hike expected to further push inflation, already running at 40 percent. 

The fuel crisis is also affecting medical services in the country, as both patients and healthcare workers struggle to reach hospitals due to the shortages. 

“Staff attendance today was remarkably low,” Omar Sheriff, CEO of Colombo’s largest kidney facility, told Arab News. “And outpatients have dropped from 300 to 40.” 

Pathmanathan, who drives a three-wheel taxi in Colombo, said that he waited in line for 12 hours from Saturday afternoon, only to be turned back as he almost reached the fuel station. 

“I lost my daily wage waiting for fuel in the queue on Saturday,” he told Arab News.

“Today, Sunday, I was informed that the oil price had risen again. I just can’t understand how we can charge so much money in fares to our customers,” Pathmanathan said. “It’s very sad.”


UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
Updated 27 June 2022

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report

UK heir Prince Charles accepted cash in suitcase from Qatari sheikh: Report
  • The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments

LONDON: The heir to the British throne Prince Charles accepted a suitcase of cash as a charitable donation from the former prime minister of Qatar, UK media claimed on Sunday.

The Sunday Times reported that three bundles of cash were given as charitable donations from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani to the Prince of Wales.

The three lots, which totalled €3 million ($3.16 million), were handed to the prince personally between 2011 and 2015, the paper reported.

Despite no suggestion of any illegal payments, according to the paper, Sheikh Hamad, 62, presented the prince with €1m packed into carrier bags from the luxury department store Fortnum & Mason.

The Prince of Wales's Charitable Fund (PWCF) received the payments, according to the report, including an entity that bankrolls the prince's private projects and his country estate in Scotland.

Clarence House has released a statement following the report, saying: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince's charities who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”


Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
Updated 26 June 2022

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits

Indonesian president to urge dialogue on Ukraine, Russia visits
  • Joko Widodo will push President Vladimir Putin for immediate ceasefire
  • Visit is ‘unlikely to change the situation in Europe,’ analyst says

INDONESIA: Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that he will urge his Ukrainian and Russian counterparts to open room for dialogue, as he departed for a peace-building mission to the warring countries on Sunday.

Four months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, the conflict has disrupted global supply chains and stoked an energy crisis after Moscow — a major oil and gas producer — was slapped with international sanctions, leading to rising inflation in many countries.

Widodo, who is also chairing Indonesia’s G20 presidency this year, will be the first Asian leader to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war started in late February.

“The mission is to invite the Ukrainian president to open room for dialogue in the interest of peace,” Widodo said before leaving for Germany to attend the G7 Summit.

“With the same mission I will ask President Putin to open room for dialogue, and to immediately have a ceasefire and stop the war.”

Indonesia’s mission is to strive for peace in Ukraine while also attempting to resolve the ongoing global energy and food crisis, Widodo said, adding that the visit is important to prevent developing and low-income countries from falling into extreme poverty and hunger.

“War has to be stopped and global food supply chains need to be reactivated,” he added.

As Indonesia holds the rotating G20 presidency, the Southeast Asian nation has come under pressure to exclude Russia from the summit scheduled to take place in Bali in November.

Widodo had previously invited both Zelenskyy and Putin to attend the summit. The Indonesian leader called for a peaceful resolution to the months-long fighting, though largely maintained a neutral position.  

Dr. Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar, an Indonesian international relations researcher at the University of Queensland, Australia, said that Indonesia was concerned about how the war will affect its G20 presidency, as well as its domestic energy and food security.

“Indonesia wants to make sure that Russia and Western countries do not make the G20 a battlefield to advance their cause,” Umar told Arab News.

As it remains unclear what Indonesia will propose to both Zelenskyy and Putin in the upcoming meetings, Widodo’s visit is “unlikely to change the situation in Europe,” Umar said.

“Indonesia is not in the capacity to mediate the conflict and offer long lasting and strategic solutions to end the war.”


At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea
Updated 26 June 2022

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea

At Gwadar’s first boat cafe, a sip of tea with views of Arabian Sea
  • Cafe Padizar is one of few hangout spots in the impoverished Balochistan region of southwest Pakistan
  • Brothers Fahad and Qadeer Ishaq opened the venture last month after renovating their family’s old fishing boat

QUETTA: Fahad Ishaq and his brother Qadeer are busy arranging chairs and tables as visitors arrive from different parts of Gwadar to enjoy a sip of tea and watch the sunset from their three-story boat cafe — the first of its kind in the southwestern Pakistani port.

Cafe Padizar, which opened in May, takes its name from the beach where it is docked, overlooking the high, rocky cliffs of the coast of Balochistan province and the Arabian Sea.

The boat, which belongs to Ishaq’s family, was left unused for years after its engines broke down.

In 2021, after graduating in business administration, Ishaq decided to put his degree to good use and began renovating the old vessel.

Together with his brother, the 21-year-old invested Rs1.5 million ($7,200) to restore the boat back and, two years later, turned it into a hangout spot — one of only a few in the impoverished, underdeveloped region.

“We decided to turn the boat into a cafe,” Ishaq told Arab News. “The internal parts of the boat were completely damaged, and now there is space for more than 100 customers.”

The cafe serves tea, coffee and snacks, but the brothers plan to introduce more food items to its menu and offer work to more people.

“Right now, we have hired six workers to serve customers,” Ishaq said. “But we have plans to expand the cafe.”

Business ventures are not always a certain success in Balochistan, a sparsely populated mountainous region bordering Afghanistan and Iran. Despite Gwadar being the center of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, it has been reaping few rewards from the multibillion-dollar infrastructure and energy plan.

Cafe Padizar is not the only business Ishaq runs. His company BOASIS Tourism specializes in bringing visitors from Karachi, Quetta and Islamabad to the sandy beaches of Balochistan.  

“Tourism and traveling have been my passion since childhood,” he said. “Cafe Padizar will help in fostering tourism in Gwadar.”

The cafe, the first of its kind in Gwadar, has so far been successful in attracting customers, something entirely new in a city where the last cinema closed almost two decades ago.

One customer, Aurangzaib Abdul Rauf, said that previously only fishermen could enjoy the views now available to anyone from the top deck of the former fishing boat.

“The cafe has been attracting tourists from the nearest towns,” he told Arab News. “Most of us come here in the evening to enjoy the sea covered by the mountains.”

Related


Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched
Updated 26 June 2022

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched

Myanmar says seized drugs worth half a billion dollars torched
  • Almost two tons of heroin and more than 630 million meth pills go up

YANGON: Myanmar authorities said they torched more than half a billion dollars worth of narcotics on Sunday as part of eradication efforts for World Drug Day, as the UN warns that production of methamphetamine in the region is hitting record levels.
Almost two tons of heroin and more than 630 million “yaba” meth pills went up in smoke at ceremonies in Myanmar’s commercial hub of Yangon, the central city of Mandalay and Shan state in the north, authorities said.
But some analysts cautioned that the $642 million bonfires are part of a long-running game of smoke and mirrors played by a junta government not serious about tackling the problem.
The televised burnings represent a “decade-long delusion” about Myanmar’s multibillion-dollar drug industry, independent analyst David Mathieson said.
“The military pretends to get serious about drug eradication and the West pretends to believe them,” he said.
There was “active military complicity in protecting large-scale drug production to ensure stability in conflict zones,” Mathieson added.
This includes Shan state — Southeast Asia’s primary source of meth according to the United Nations.
The state is home to militias and has seen relatively little violence in opposition to the military since Myanmar’s generals seized power in a coup last year.
At the ceremony in Yangon, bundles of meth wrapped in innocuous-looking Chinese tea packaging sat alongside bricks of cannabis as well as bags of ketamine and MDMA.
A series of small explosions sent the contraband up in flames before thick plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky.
Firefighters moved in for safety and police officers took selfies against the backdrop of the blaze while Burmese pop music blared through speakers.
Last month the UN said law enforcement across Southeast and East Asia netted nearly 172 tons of meth in 2021 — about seven times more than a decade ago.
The surge in supply has sent street prices in Thailand and Malaysia crashing to all-time lows.
From Shan state the drugs are increasingly shipped to Laos, then Thailand before reaching Malaysia, where they are trafficked onwards to countries throughout the Asia-Pacific, the UN report said.