King Charles III and his siblings escort Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin

King Charles III and his siblings escort Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin
King Charles III, Queen Camilla and Anne, Princess Royal attend a Service of Prayer and Reflection for the Life of Queen Elizabeth II at St Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, September 12, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 September 2022

King Charles III and his siblings escort Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin

King Charles III and his siblings escort Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin
  • The coffin will remain at the cathedral until Tuesday so members of the public can pay their respects
  • King Charles III and Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward walked behind as the hearse traveled to the cathedral

EDINBURGH, Scotland: As Queen Elizabeth II’s four children walked silently behind, a hearse carried her flag-draped coffin along a crowd-lined street in the Scottish capital Monday to a cathedral, where a service of thanksgiving hailed the late monarch as a “constant in all of our lives for over 70 years.”
Four days after the 96-year-old queen died at her beloved Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands, a military bagpiper played as her oak coffin, draped in the royal standard, was borne from the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh under late-summer sunshine.




The procession with the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, followed by King Charles III, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward heads up the Royal Mile to St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (AP)

King Charles III, dressed in army uniform, and Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward walked behind as the hearse traveled to St. Giles’ Cathedral, flanked by a bearer party of the Royal Regiment of Scotland and a detachment of The King’s Body Guard in Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers.
Once inside St. Giles, the coffin was placed on a wooden stand an topped with the golden Crown of Scotland, encrusted with 22 gems and 20 precious stones along with freshwater pearls from Scotland’s rivers.
“And so we gather to bid Scotland’s farewell to our late monarch, whose life of service to the nation and the world we celebrate. And whose love for Scotland was legendary,” said the Rev. Calum MacLeod.




Britain's King Charles and Britain's Queen Camilla arrive at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, following the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Edinburgh, Scotland, September 12, 2022. (Reuters)

Because the queen died at Balmoral, Scotland has been the focus of the world’s attention for the first part of Britain’s 10 days of national mourning. Scenes of large crowds lining the route that her coffin journeyed south have underscored the deep bond between the queen and Scotland, which persisted even as relations between the Conservative UK government in London and the pro-independence administration in Edinburgh have soured.

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In a homily, Church of Scotland Moderator Iain Greenshields said that “most of us cannot recall a time when she was not our monarch.
“Committed to the role she assumed in 1952 upon the death of her beloved father, she has been a constant in all of our lives for over 70 years,” he said. “She was determined to see her work as a form of service to others, and she maintained that steady course until the end of her life.
The coffin will remain at the cathedral until Tuesday so members of the public can pay their respects. Thousands lined the 0.7-mile (1 kilometer) route between palace and cathedral, some arriving hours ahead of the service to catch a glimpse of the coffin.




King Charles III inspects the Guard of Honour as he arrives to attend the Ceremony of the Keys, at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (AP)


“I just wanted to be here, just to show … last respects. I cannot believe she is dead,” said Marilyn Mclear, a 70-year-old retired teacher. “I know she was 96, but I just cannot believe the queen’s dead.”
One man appeared to shout angrily at the passing hearse, while others called out: “God save the king!” But the procession was greeted mostly with a respectful silence under a blue sky flecked with white clouds.
Charles, Anne and Edward all wore military uniforms during the procession, but Andrew did not. The Royal Navy veteran was stripped of his honorary military titles and was removed as a working royal over his friendship with the notorious US sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Earlier, in London, Charles received condolences at Parliament and told lawmakers he would follow his late mother’s example of “selfless duty.”




Britain's King Charles sits at Westminster Hall, following the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, in London, Britain, September 12, 2022. (Reuters)

The queen’s grandson, Prince Harry, hailed her as a “guiding compass” and praised her “unwavering grace and dignity.”
The government, meanwhile, announced the nation will observe a minute of silence on Sunday, the evening before the queen’s funeral. The “moment of reflection” will take place at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT, 3 p.m. EDT). People were encouraged to mark the silence at home or at community events.
Hundreds of lawmakers crowded into the 1,000-year-old Westminster Hall at the Houses of Parliament for the service, rich in pageantry, in which Parliament offered its condolences to the king. A trumpet fanfare greeted him and Camilla as they entered.
Charles told members of the House of Commons and House of Lords that he would follow his late mother in upholding “the precious principles of constitutional governance” that underpin the UK’s political system.




Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales, Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales, Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex on the long Walk at Windsor Castle on September 10, 2022, before meeting well-wishers. (AFP)

The hall, with its magnificent hammer-beam roof, is the oldest part of the parliamentary complex — a remnant of the medieval Palace of Westminster that once stood on the site.
“As I stand before you today, I cannot help but feel the weight of history which surrounds us and which reminds us of the vital parliamentary traditions to which members of both Houses dedicate yourselves, with such personal commitment for the betterment of us all,” Charles said.
The ceremony was held in Westminster Hall because monarchs are not allowed inside the House of Commons. That rule dates from the 17th century, when King Charles I tried to enter and arrest lawmakers. That confrontation between crown and Parliament led to a civil war which ended with the king being beheaded in 1649.




Pallbearers carry the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II into St Giles Cathedral, on September 12, 2022, where Queen Elizabeth II will lie at rest. (AFP)


Earlier Monday, a personal statement posted on Harry and his wife Meghan’s Archwell website said he cherished their times together “from my earliest childhood memories with you, to meeting you for the first time as my Commander-in-Chief, to the first moment you met my darling wife and hugged your beloved greatgrandchildren.”
Amid acrimony in the House of Windsor, Harry quit as a senior royal and moved to the US two years ago. On Saturday, there was a possible sign of a reconciliation as Harry and Meghan joined his brother Prince William and sister-in-law Catherine in meeting mourners outside Windsor Castle.
The queen’s coffin will be flown Tuesday to London, where it will lie in state at the Houses of Parliament Palace from Wednesday afternoon until the morning of the funeral on Sept. 19.
Authorities already have issued rules and guidelines for people wanting to pay their respects in London, with a long queue expected.
After visiting Scotland, Charles embarks on a tour of the other nations that make up the United Kingdom — he visits the Northern Ireland capital, Belfast, on Tuesday and Wales on Friday.
Harry’s statement ended on a poignant note alluding to the death last year of his grandfather, Prince Philip, saying that “We, too, smile knowing that you and grandpa are reunited now, and both together in peace.”


China relaxes COVID-19 rules after protests

A child wearing a mask is pushed across a road in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
A child wearing a mask is pushed across a road in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
Updated 11 sec ago

China relaxes COVID-19 rules after protests

A child wearing a mask is pushed across a road in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (AP)
  • Social media footage posted on Thursday night and geolocated by AFP showed dozens of people clashing with health workers in hazmat suits outside a school in Yicheng, in central China’s Hubei province

BEIJING: Cities across China further unwound Covid restrictions on Friday, loosening testing and quarantine rules in the wake of nationwide protests calling for an end to lockdowns and greater political freedoms.
Anger and frustration with China’s hardline pandemic response spilled onto the streets last weekend in widespread demonstrations not seen in decades.
China’s vast security apparatus has moved swiftly to smother the rallies, deploying a heavy police presence while boosting online censorship and surveillance of the population.
A number of cities have now begun loosening COVID-19 restrictions, such as moving away from daily mass testing — a tedious mainstay of life under Beijing’s stringent zero-Covid policy.
But sporadic localized clashes have continued to flare up.
Social media footage posted on Thursday night and geolocated by AFP showed dozens of people clashing with health workers in hazmat suits outside a school in Yicheng, in central China’s Hubei province.
The author of the post said people in the video were parents of students who had tested positive for the virus and been taken to quarantine facilities.
Parents are seen kneeling in front of the school gate, pleading to take their children home. Another video showed at least a dozen police officers at the scene.
Signs have emerged of a possible shift in the policy of sending positive cases to central quarantine facilities.
An analysis by state-run newspaper People’s Daily on Friday quoted a number of health experts supporting local government moves to allow patients to quarantine at home, which would be a marked departure from current rules.
When called on Friday, some officials in the Chaoyang district of Beijing said people who tested positive there would no longer have to go to central quarantine.
Authorities in the southern factory hub of Dongguan on Thursday also said those who meet “specific conditions” should be allowed to quarantine at home. They did not specify what those conditions would be.
The southern tech hub of Shenzhen on Wednesday rolled out a similar policy.
Central government officials have signaled that a broader relaxation of the zero-COVID-19 policy could be in the works.
Speaking at the National Health Commission Wednesday, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan said the Omicron variant was weakening and vaccination rates were improving, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
A central figure behind Beijing’s pandemic response, Sun said this “new situation” required “new tasks.”
She made no mention of zero-COVID-19 in those remarks or in another meeting on Thursday, suggesting the approach, which has disrupted the economy and daily life, might soon be relaxed.
The southwestern metropolis of Chengdu from Friday no longer required a recent negative test result to enter public places or ride the metro, instead only demanding a green health code on an app confirming people have not travelled to a “high-risk” area.
Beijing also announced on Friday that using public transport in the city would no longer require a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours.
The day before, the capital’s health authorities called on hospitals not to deny treatment to people without a 48-hour test.
In January, a pregnant woman in the city of Xi’an miscarried after being refused hospital entry for not having a PCR result.
China has seen a string of deaths after treatment was delayed by COVID-19 restrictions, including the recent death of a four-month-old baby who was stuck in quarantine with her father.
Those cases became a rallying cry during the protests, with a viral post listing the names of those who died because of alleged negligence linked to the pandemic response.
Many other cities with virus outbreaks are allowing restaurants, shopping malls and even schools to reopen, in a clear departure from previous tough lockdown rules.
In the northwestern city of Urumqi, where a fire that killed 10 people spurred anti-lockdown protests, authorities announced Friday that supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and ski resorts would gradually be reopened.
The city of more than four million in the far-western Xinjiang region endured one of China’s longest lockdowns, with some areas shut from early August.

 


As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3 bln from friendly country

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3 bln from friendly country
Updated 02 December 2022

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3 bln from friendly country

As IMF funding delayed, Pakistan expects $3 bln from friendly country
  • An IMF review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September
  • Pakistan's finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said all targets for the IMF's ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan expects to secure $3 billion in external financing from a friendly country in two weeks, its finance minister said on Friday as the South Asian country awaits IMF funding.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) review for the release of its next tranche of funding has been pending since September, leaving Pakistan in dire need of external financing.
Pakistan’s finance minister, Ishaq Dar, said on Friday in an interview with Geo News TV that all targets for the IMF’s ninth review had been completed, adding that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense.
Pakistan secured a $6 billion bailout in 2019 under an Extended Fund Facility (EFF), that was topped up with another $1 billion earlier this year.
“We continue to engage in discussions with the government over policies to address the humanitarian and rehabilitation needs of the floods while promoting macroeconomic and fiscal sustainability,” the IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, said in a statement.
Dar said Pakistan’s foreign reserves, which have dropped to $7.5 billion, will be shored up with a $3 billion financing from a friendly country in the next two weeks.
That is hardly enough for a month of imports for Pakistan, which has been facing a widening current account deficit and a balance of payments crisis.
“All the requirements for the ninth (IMF) review are completed,” Dar said, adding that the international lender was “behaving abnormal” by not completing the review.
Pakistan will make alternate arrangements in case of any delay from the IMF, he said.
“If the money doesn’t come, we will manage, no problem,” he added.

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NEOM offers Sri Lankan workers ‘lifetime opportunity,’ minister says

NEOM offers Sri Lankan workers ‘lifetime opportunity,’ minister says
Updated 02 December 2022

NEOM offers Sri Lankan workers ‘lifetime opportunity,’ minister says

NEOM offers Sri Lankan workers ‘lifetime opportunity,’ minister says
  • Manusha Nanayakkara ‘blown away’ by Saudi megaproject on visit to Kingdom
  • Smart city presents opportunities for construction, engineering, IT professionals, he says

COLOMBO: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM smart city offers a great opportunity for Sri Lankan professionals and skilled workers, a government minister from the South Asian nation said on Friday.

Labor and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara visited the site of the megaproject in northwestern Tabuk province last month during an official visit to the Kingdom.

He also met his Saudi counterpart, Human Resources and Social Development Minister Ahmed bin Sulaiman Al-Rajhi, to discuss ways to boost labor relations and find employment opportunities for skilled Sri Lankan workers on some of the huge infrastructure projects being implemented under Saudi Vision 2030.

“NEOM is a futuristic concept and I was blown away by looking at the amount of work that has gone into it,” Nanayakkara told Arab News. “Also, once the project is complete it will trigger a significant transformation in traditional tourism and modern living.”

He added: “NEOM offers a substantial amount of job opportunities in various categories and I am trying to orient as many aspiring migrant workers to capitalize on this.”

Some of the best opportunities were for construction, engineering, IT and urban planning professionals, he said.

“Sri Lanka produces world-class engineers, architects and city planners. They can contribute their technical and creative capabilities. Projects like NEOM are rare in the world and it will be a lifetime opportunity for most of them.”

Sri Lanka is keen to find work overseas for its professionals as it is facing its worst financial crisis since gaining independence in 1948 and in desperate need of foreign currency.

The island nation of 22 million people officially defaulted on its debts in April and without foreign currency reserves has been left unable to pay for imports. Most of its citizens are facing daily power cuts and shortages of basic commodities.

Remittances from Sri Lankans working overseas have long been a key source of foreign exchange for the country.

“(An) Immediate contribution, without a doubt, would be foreign remittance,” Nanayakkara said, adding that involvement in NEOM would also bring long-term benefits for Sri Lankan workers.

“The expertise and experience they gain by being employed by NEOM will add to their credentials as professionals.”

 


Husband of Daesh bride Shamima Begum disputes ‘grooming’ claims

Husband of Daesh bride Shamima Begum disputes ‘grooming’ claims
Updated 02 December 2022

Husband of Daesh bride Shamima Begum disputes ‘grooming’ claims

Husband of Daesh bride Shamima Begum disputes ‘grooming’ claims
  • Yago Riedijk says he and then schoolgirl ‘agreed on the conditions of marriage’
  • Begum is appealing a British government decision to strip her of her citizenship

LONDON: The husband of Daesh bride Shamima Begum has insisted his marriage to the British schoolgirl was a happy one, the Daily Mail reported.

Yago Riedijk, who was 23 when he married Begum, then 15, said the couple enjoyed a good marriage in Syria, despite claims from Begum she was groomed and trafficked.

Begum left her east London home in February 2015 and married Dutch convert and Daesh soldier Riedijk days after arriving in Syria.

The couple had three children, all of whom died of disease or malnutrition.

Lawyers for Begum, who is appealing a British government decision to strip her of her citizenship, told the special immigration court there was “overwhelming” evidence she was groomed and trafficked by Daesh for the purpose of “sexual exploitation and marriage to an adult male.”

Nick Squires KC, a member of Begum’s legal team, told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission: “In doing so, she was following a well-known pattern by which ISIS (another term for the terror group) cynically recruited and groomed female children as young as 14 so that they could be offered as wives to adult men.”

However, Riedijk, who was speaking in an interview from prison in northern Syria, said the marriage was consensual and, initially at least, a happy one.

“Basically, I was looking for marriage and a friend of mine came to me and said ‘there’s a sister looking for marriage, are you interested?’ I took him up on his offer.

“We had a talk, we agreed on the conditions of marriage,” he said.

It was “not really something big or anything important, it was small things like going out shopping, things like this,” he added.

“Basically she asked for some freedoms, which I agreed to give her — going shopping, seeing her friends, very, very basic stuff. We agreed on a dowry — all she asked for was an English translation of the Quran, which I agreed to.”

Following Daesh’s ousting from the last of the territory it had seized across Syria and Iraq in March 2019, the British government said Begum was a risk and rescinded her citizenship.

MI5, the UK’s security service, concluded that Begum’s travel to Syria was voluntary and she had “demonstrated determination and commitment” to joining the terror group.

Female recruits to Daesh were likely to have been radicalized and were probably given military training to fight in defense of the group, it said in a statement.

“They were exposed to routine acts of extreme violence, which would be likely to have had the effect of desensitizing individuals, and encouraging them to view violent terrorist activity as an acceptable and legitimate course of action.

“(Daesh) was committed to perpetuating violence against those who it viewed as enemies of Islam, including the UK.”


Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns

Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns
Updated 02 December 2022

Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns

Indonesian farm workers left stranded in debt in UK, embassy warns
  • Over 1,450 paid vast sums to recruitment agents for fruit picking jobs in Britain
  • One employer ‘very concerned’ about payments demanded by third-party agents

LONDON: More than 200 Indonesian fruit pickers have since July sought help from their nation’s embassy in London after wracking up huge debts traveling to the UK for work, only to find their jobs being cut short, the mission said on Friday.

The true number of Indonesians struggling in the industry was likely to be much higher, it added, with more than 1,450 of them sent this year by a company called AG Recruitment to work on six-month seasonal worker visas.

An embassy official told The Guardian newspaper that initially people “started coming to us with problems about the targets on farms.”

But the official added: “Currently, most people are contacting us because there’s no more work at the farms. They try to transfer, but AG tells them there’s no other work.”

One worker told The Guardian he had borrowed £4,650 ($5,700) in Java to pay an agent to take him to the UK, but that his job at Castleton Farm in Scotland paid only about £200 per week. When he was dismissed after just two months he still owed £1,700.

Ross Mitchell, managing director of Castleton Fruit Ltd., said the farm had employed 106 Indonesian workers this year, 70 of whom were still on site, working an average of just under 42 hours per week, with an average weekly gross pay of about £450, excluding costs such as accommodation.

He added he was “very concerned” about “payment demanded by third-party agents” and that the company relied on “approved agents to have carried out due diligence to ensure that the workers are not paying excessive fees.”

“We had hoped the relevant bodies would have dealt with this issue,” he told The Guardian.

An investigation by the paper in August revealed Indonesian workers were regularly taking on debts of up to £5,000 to work in the UK for a single fruit picking season.

AG Recruitment, which has no presence in Indonesia, used Jakarta-based Al Zubara Manpower to source workers, which in turn used third-party brokers who charged the high fees to prospective workers, The Guardian said.

AG Recruitment denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the practice, but has since been investigated by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, a UK government agency.

A GLAA spokesperson told The Guardian: “Where there are allegations of labor exploitation we will investigate and take appropriate action if our licensing standards are not being fully adhered to … Scheme operators are fully aware of their responsibilities to workers.”

AG director Douglas Amesz said: “Workers should never pay fees to anyone to receive a job in the UK; this is UK law. However, unfortunately this is not law in all the countries we have historically recruited from so we are actively working to educate citizens abroad that they should never pay anyone fees to receive a job in the UK or anywhere else.”

Yulia Guyeni, director of Al Zubara, said: “We send workers based on the request from AG. We only charge based on the placement agreement the workers signed.

She added: “It is not our responsibility (to check the debts of workers) as we do not encourage them to have debt. They are old enough and should be responsible to realize the consequences of debt.”

Castleton Farm supplies fruit to some of the UK’s biggest supermarket brands. In a statement, the British Retail Consortium said the supermarkets “are concerned by these allegations and are investigating as a matter of urgency.”