Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh demand repatriation to Myanmar

Update Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh demand repatriation to Myanmar
Sunday’s demonstrations come after the foreign secretaries of Bangladesh and Myanmar last week held a meeting — their first in nearly three years — by video conference. (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2022

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh demand repatriation to Myanmar

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh demand repatriation to Myanmar
  • Officials from both countries held virtual talks on resettlement last week
  • Almost 1 million people live in cramped settlements in Cox’s Bazar

DHAKA: Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have demanded repatriation back to Myanmar as calls to return sounded within the community to mark World Refugee Day on Monday, five years after hundreds of thousands fled a brutal military crackdown in their home country.

More than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees live in dozens of cramped settlements in Cox’s Bazar, a fishing port in southeast Bangladesh with no work, poor sanitation and little access to education.

After a ban on rallies due to a massive 100,000-strong protest in August 2019, authorities allowed tens of thousands of Rohingya to stage demonstrations on Sunday, where they demanded to be repatriated back to Myanmar.

“We want to be repatriated, as long as the demands we made are met and there is a conducive environment in Rakhine,” 24-year-old refugee Osman Johar, who took part in the rallies, told Arab News.

The Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar had demanded to be recognized as official citizens in Myanmar, and for the government to stop torturing members of the community and other ethnic minorities in the country, among other demands.

“There is no security of life for us in camp at this moment. We don’t have facilities to achieve higher education. There is no proper healthcare and no freedom of movement. Above all I want to say that we are not fully safe in the camps,” Johar added.

Various crimes have taken place across the congested camps in recent years, but the killing of prominent Rohingya leader and founder of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, Mohibullah, last September, had sparked fear among the refugee community.

A community leader from the rights group, who had requested anonymity out of concern for his safety, said that refugees felt unsafe because there have been cases of kidnapping, looting and extortion in the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

“People live here in fear,” he told Arab News. “We want to return to Myanmar. But before that the Myanmar authorities should recognize our identity as Rohingya.”

A UN fact-finding mission had concluded that the 2017 military crackdown in Myanmar, which included killings and forced mass exodus of the Rohingya, had included “genocidal acts.”

Shamsud Douza Nayan, Bangladesh’s additional refugee relief and repatriation commissioner at Cox’s Bazar, said that the demonstrations on Sunday were peaceful and were joined by several thousand Rohingya.

“The Rohingya gathered in different small groups inside the camp areas demanding their earliest repatriation,” Nayan told Arab News.

While negotiations have stalled for years, Sunday’s rallies took place after officials from Bangladesh and Myanmar held a virtual meeting last week to discuss repatriation of the Rohingya, said Mainul Kabir, director-general of the Rohingya desk at Bangladesh’s Foreign Ministry.

“It was very cordial, but still we don’t know when we can actually begin the repatriation process,” Kabir said. 


UN chief urges more effort to ensure access to Ukrainian grain

UN chief urges more effort to ensure access to Ukrainian grain
Updated 58 min 21 sec ago

UN chief urges more effort to ensure access to Ukrainian grain

UN chief urges more effort to ensure access to Ukrainian grain
  • Guterres called for unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilisers

KYIV: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Friday there was still much more to do to ensure full global access to Ukrainian food products and Russian food and fertilizers after a UN-brokered food export deal.
At a briefing in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa, Guterres said developing countries needed help to purchase such grain and called for unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilizers which are not subject to sanctions.
“This is an agreement between two parties locked in bitter conflict. It is unprecedented in scope and scale. But there is still a long way to go on many fronts,” he said.
“It is time for massive and generous support so developing countries can purchase the food from this and other ports – and people can buy it,” he said.


Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal

Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal
Updated 19 August 2022

Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal

Malaysian prosecutors rest case against ex-PM Najib Razak in final 1MDB appeal
  • Najib Razak’s lawyers declined to present their case in court this week, citing insufficient time to prepare

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian prosecutors on Friday wrapped up their arguments against former premier Najib Razak’s final bid to overturn a 12-year jail sentence for corruption, saying he was aware that he had received funds from an “unlawful activity.”
Najib’s lawyers declined to present their case in court this week, citing insufficient time to prepare. They had submitted written arguments before the proceedings began.
It is unclear how the Federal Court will proceed when it resumes on Tuesday. It could potentially either deliver its verdict or set a new date for its decision.
Najib, 69, was convicted in July 2020 by a lower court for criminal breach of trust, abuse of power, and money laundering for illegally receiving about $10 million from a former unit of state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Prosecutors have said some $4.5 billion were stolen from 1MDB — co-founded by Najib as premier in 2009 — in a wide-ranging scandal that has implicated officials and financial institutions around the world.
An appellate court last year upheld the guilty verdict against Najib but the former premier appealed again to the Federal Court, which began proceedings this week in what would be his final appeal.
Najib, who faces several trials over the allegations, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His lawyers have argued in the lower courts that Najib was misled by 1MDB officials.
Najib “knew, or had reason to believe or had reasonable suspicion that the monies that he received in his bank accounts were proceeds from an unlawful activity,” lead prosecutor V. Sithambaram told the court.
Najib had replaced his legal team just three weeks before his appeal began on Monday.
After the prosecution wrapped up its arguments, Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat again asked Najib’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik to begin his submissions on Tuesday.
Hisyam declined.
Najib and Hisyam declined to comment after the day’s proceedings.


US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader

US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader
Updated 19 August 2022

US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader

US lawmakers meet detained Philippine opposition leader
  • Leila de Lima was charged with non-bailable drug cases that landed her in jail in February 2017

MANILA: US Sen. Edward Markey, who was once banned from the Philippines by former President Rodrigo Duterte, on Friday met a long-detained Filipino opposition leader, whom he says was wrongfully imprisoned under Duterte and should be freed.
Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and a group of US legislators met former Sen. Leila de Lima for more than an hour in her high-security detention cell in the main police camp in Metropolitan Manila, according to her lawyer, Filibon Tacardon, and police.
Details of their court-authorized meeting were not immediately available.
Duterte had banned Markey and two other American legislators from traveling to the Philippines after they called for de Lima’s release and raised alarm over human rights violations under his presidency. Duterte’s turbulent six-year term ended in June.
The former president’s brutal anti-drugs crackdown, which left thousands of mostly poor suspects dead, has sparked an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Duterte was succeeded by Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who took office on June 30 following a landslide election victory with his vice presidential running mate Sara Duterte, the former president’s daughter.
Markey and his delegation met Marcos Jr. at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Thursday. After the meeting, Marcos Jr. said he looked forward “to continuing our partnership with the US in the areas of renewable energy use, agricultural development, economic reform, and mitigation of drug problems.”
A top critic of Duterte, the 62-year-old de Lima has been locked up for more than five years and has accused the former president and his then-deputies of fabricating the non-bailable drug-linked charges that landed her in jail in February 2017. Her arrest and detention effectively stopped her at the time as a senator from investigating the widespread killings under Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.
Duterte had insisted on her guilt, saying witnesses testified that she received payoffs from imprisoned drug lords. Several witnesses, however, have recently recanted their allegations against her, re-igniting calls for the Marcos Jr. administration to free her.
Markey, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations East Asia and Pacific Subcommittee, renewed deep concerns over human rights conditions under then-outgoing President Duterte in a joint statement in June with two other US senators.
They said then that the incoming administration of Marcos Jr. provided an “opportunity to reject the repression of the past, release Sen. Leila de Lima and embrace policies that support the rule of law and a vibrant free press in the Philippines.”
It was not immediately clear if Markey renewed his call for de Lima’s release in Thursday’s meeting with Marcos Jr. and how the Philippine leader responded.


No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout

No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout
Updated 19 August 2022

No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout

No Tube: London subway hit by strike, day after rail walkout
  • No subway trains were running on most of London’s Tube lines because of the strike over jobs, pay and pensions
  • Rail unions accuse Britain’s Conservative government of preventing train companies from making a better offer

LONDON: A strike by London Underground workers brought the British capital’s transit network to a grinding halt on Friday, a day after a nationwide walkout by railway staff. Another rail strike is scheduled for Saturday as the UK endures a summer of action by workers demanding pay increases to offset soaring food and energy price hikes.
No subway trains were running on most of London’s Tube lines because of the strike over jobs, pay and pensions by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, operator Transport for London said.
“It is going to be a difficult day,” said Nick Dent, TFL’s director of customer operations. “We’re advising customers not to travel on the Tube at all.”
There was also continuing disruption above ground as trains started to run again following Thursday’s strike by thousands of railway cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and other staff. Only about a fifth of trains ran during the 24-hour walkout, the latest in a series of strikes on Britain’s railways.
Rail unions accuse Britain’s Conservative government of preventing train companies — which are privately owned but heavily regulated — from making a better offer. The government denies meddling, but says rail companies need to cut costs and staffing after two years in which emergency government funding kept them afloat.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Times Radio that “it’s a kick in the teeth” to the public for unions “to turn round after we provided 16 billion pounds of support for the railways and go ‘Right, well, the next thing we’re going to do is go on strike.’”
More public- and private-sector unions are planning strikes as Britain faces its worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. Postal workers, lawyers, British Telecom staff and port workers have all announced walkouts for later this month.
Garbage collectors and recycling workers in Edinburgh, Scotland, began an 11-day strike on Thursday, warning that trash will pile up in the streets as tourists flock to the city for the Edinburgh Fringe and other arts festivals.
UK inflation hit a new 40-year high of 10.1 percent in July, and the Bank of England says it could rise to 13 percent amid a recession later this year. The average UK household fuel bill has risen more than 50 percent so far in 2022 as Russia’s war in Ukraine squeezes global oil and natural gas supplies. Another increase is due in October, when the average bill is forecast to hit 3,500 pounds ($4,300) a year.


Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence

Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence
Updated 19 August 2022

Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence

Australia upset at Indonesia reducing Bali bomber’s sentence
  • Umar Patek could be released on parole ahead of the 20th anniversary of the bombings in October
  • Australian leader Anthony Albanese: ‘His actions were the actions of a terrorist’

CANBERRA: Australia’s leader said Friday that it’s upsetting Indonesia has further reduced the prison sentence of the bombmaker in the Bali terror attack that killed 202 people — which could free him within days if he’s granted parole.
The most recent reduction of Umar Patek’s sentence takes his total reductions to almost two years and means Patek could be released on parole ahead of the 20th anniversary of the bombings in October.
“This will cause further distress to Australians who were the families of victims of the Bali bombings,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Channel 9. “We lost 88 Australian lives in those bombings.”
Albanese said he would continue making “diplomatic representations” to Indonesia about Patek’s sentence and a range of other issues, including Australians currently jailed in Indonesia. Albanese described Patek as “abhorrent.”
“His actions were the actions of a terrorist,” Albanese told Channel 9. ”They did have such dreadful results for Australian families that are ongoing, the trauma which is there.”
Indonesia often grants sentence reductions to prisoners on major holidays such as the nation’s Independence Day, which was Wednesday.
Patek received a 5-month reduction on Independence Day for good behavior and could walk free this month from Porong Prison in East Java province if he gets parole, said Zaeroji, who heads the provincial office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights.
Zaeroji, who goes by a single name, said Patek had the same rights as other inmates and had fulfilled legal requirements to get sentence reductions. “While in the prison, he behaved very well and he regrets his radical past which has harmed society and the country and he has also vowed to be a good citizen,” Zaeroji said.
Patek was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 and tried in Indonesia, where he was convicted in 2012. He was originally sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
With his time served plus sentence reductions, he became eligible for parole on Aug. 14. The decision from the Ministry of Law and Human Rights in Jakarta is still pending, Zaeroji said. If refused parole, he could remain jailed until 2029.
Patek was one of several men implicated in the attack, which was widely blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian militant group with ties to Al-Qaeda. Most of those killed in the bombing on the resort island were foreign tourists.
Another conspirator, Ali Imron, was sentenced to life. Earlier this year, a third militant, Aris Sumarsono, whose real name is Arif Sunarso but is better known as Zulkarnaen, was sentenced to 15 years following his capture in 2020 after 18 years on the run.
Jan Laczynski, a survivor of the bombings, told Channel 9 that many Australians will be “devastated” by Patek’s potential release. “This guy should not be going out unsupervised, unmonitored,” he said.