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UN demands halt to Ivory Coast killings

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 at 5:57 am

The United Nations demanded a halt to the “atrocities” triggered by Ivory Coast’s political crisis that have left 173 dead, and accused Laurent Gbagbo’s troops of harassing its peacekeepers.

And in another blow to Gbagbo’s regime, the Central Bank of West African States said only his rival Alassane Ouattara’s globally recognised government could manage the country’s accounts there.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meanwhile repeated Thursday a call for Gbagbo to step down.

UN officials in Abidjan said Gbagbo’s security forces, shielded by civilian protesters and backed by unidentified masked gunmen, had prevented human rights monitors from probing reports of at least two new mass graves.

They said gangs of gunmen had carried out murderous overnight raids on civilians living in the poorest districts of Abidjan.

UN peacekeepers in Ivory Coast man a position near a line of barbed wire at the entrance of the UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

“The situation is sufficiently disturbing for everyone to take it seriously and do something about it,” said Simon Munzu, UN human rights director in Abidjan.

“We’ve been stopped virtually every time we’ve tried to go into the field.”

In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council voted to condemn “the atrocities and violations of human rights committed in Ivory Coast”, citing killing, kidnaps, sexual violence, repression of protests and destruction of property.

In a statement to the council, Clinton said: “We reiterate our call for former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately.

“The United States joins the international community in condemning the growing violence, the grave human rights violations, and the deterioration of security in Cote d’Ivoire,” she added.

The UNOCI peacekeeping force also complained that Gbagbo’s camp continued to besiege the waterfront Abidjan hotel where Alassane Ouattara’s rival government is holed up, protected by 800 UN troops.

Gbagbo and Ouattara have been in a standoff since a November 28 presidential election, which both claim to have won. Ouattara has been recognised by the UN Security Council, but Gbagbo is determined to cling to power.

“Serious human rights abuses and intimidation continue to be reported in several districts of Abidjan. The toll of dead, wounded and missing is rising rapidly,” UNOCI spokesman Hamadoun Toure told reporters.

Human Rights Watch said it had recorded the same crimes.

But Gbagbo’s regime remained defiant, calling on supporters to resist international pressure.

“It’s a battle,” Gbagbo’s powerful wife Simone told lawmakers. “War is being waged on us in several forms. If we do not want to be crushed, we should raise our heads, resist and have confidence in ourselves.”

But in a further blow to Gbagbo, seven finance ministers representing the other countries in the West African Monetary Union said only Ouattara’s government could deal with their shared central bank.

The decision could threaten Gbagbo’s camp with a cashflow problem.

Earlier, briefing ambassadors in Geneva, the UN deputy human rights chief said the UN had been able to confirm allegations of 173 killings and 90 cases of torture or ill treatment in Ivory Coast in the past week.

Munzu said the true toll might be much higher because Gbagbo’s troops had blocked attempts by his staff to investigate reports of two major mass graves — one allegedly holding 60 to 80 bodies, the other 30.

“We get to a roadblock, manned by heavily armed elements of the Defence and Security Forces, with whom are associated hooded people who we don’t know,” he told reporters at UNOCI headquarters in Abidjan.

The Defence and Security Forces (FDS) are police and army regulars loyal to Gbagbo. They have been deployed to prevent protests by Alassane supporters.

“And to this is added civilians, including children, who would tomorrow be classified as ‘collateral damage’ if we tried to force our way” past roadblocks, Munzu said.

Asked if the United Nations had confirmed reports that Liberian mercenaries were in Abidjan, spokesman Toure said: “Our patrols have met a group of people speaking English and claiming to be Liberian.”

He said the group was seen at night in Abidjan and was “heavily armed”.

Toure said pro-Gbagbo security forces were blocking UN patrols and supply convoys, intimidating UN police and besieging Ouattara’s base in the Golf Hotel, “supported by masked individuals with rocket launchers.”

UNOCI was having trouble finding fuel or getting flights into Abidjan airport, but promised that the force would stay on, he added.

Nigeria will host a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Abuja, and US officials say an appeal will be made for new troops to reinforce the hard-pressed UN peacekeepers.

Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba issued a statement on behalf of the national team calling for an end to the violence.

Source: SGGP

New Zealand PM demands answers as nation mourns miners

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 1:20 am

GREYMOUTH, Nov 25, 2010 (AFP) – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Thursday he wanted answers on what went “terribly wrong” in a colliery blast that killed 29 men in the nation’s worst mining disaster for almost a century.

He also warned it could take “months” to recover the bodies of the workers who died underground in one of the country’s worst mining disasters, as the grieving mining community pleaded for the return of their loved ones.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key speaks at a press conference in Wellington on November 24, 2010 after authorities said all the 29 men missing in the coal mine have died after a powerful second blast tore through the pit. AFP

As flags across New Zealand flew at half-mast, Key said the nation was struggling to understand the tragedy at the Pike River colliery, where miners trapped by an explosion last Friday were confirmed dead after a second blast Wednesday.

“We need answers to what happened at Pike River. Clearly something’s gone terribly wrong and it’s now claimed the lives of 29 people,” said Key, who has travelled to Greymouth on New Zealand’s South Island to be with the families.

“The nation is grieving and mourning alongside them,” he said.

“It’s only right and natural and fair that the family members would want to have the bodies recovered so that they can have some closure.”

However, a lethal cocktail of volatile gases remained in the mine and Key said this would delay recovery attempts.

“That (recovery) has to occur in a way that is safe to those that would undertake that mission,” he told reporters. Previous international experience had shown the operation could take “quite some months”, he said.

As messages of condolence poured in from around the world, Key praised the rescue efforts, which some relatives of the miners have criticised after the gas threat stopped emergency workers from going underground.

“It wasn’t for the want of trying, or the willingness, or the courage or the bravery of those that would have gone in to undertake the rescue — it was just the reality of the situation,” he said.

“A mine in this condition is a highly volatile environment, liable to explode at any time without any notice.”

Authorities have launched at least four inquiries into the disaster, whose victims ranged from a 17-year-old on his first shift to a 62-year-old veteran, and included two Australians, two Britons and a South African.

“This is a mine that’s claimed the lives of 29 men and they (the families) are are entitled to honest answers about what went wrong, what lessons we can learn,” Key said.

Mine owner Pike River Coal said it would cooperate fully and was holding its own investigation into the disaster at the colliery, a new facility that sent its first shipment of hard coking coal for steelmaking to India only this year.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined Australia’s prime minister, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II — who is also the head of state of New Zealand — and other dignitaries in expressing their “heartfelt condolences”.

New Zealand has lost “29 brave and hard-working men who will be mourned around the world”, Clinton said as the queen said she was “deeply saddened” by the deaths.

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of these 29 brave miners and to all who have been touched by this national disaster,” she said in a message to Key released by Buckingham Palace.

Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn, who declared the incident the “darkest hour” of the South Island’s rugged West Coast region, said the focus has turned to the grim task of recovering the bodies for the grieving families.

“They won’t feel closure until they’re (with) their loved ones,” he told TVNZ.

New Zealand’s other major mining company, Solid Energy, has suspended underground operations at its Spring Creek mine near Pike River and its Huntly mine in the North Island as a mark of respect, chief executive Don Elder said.

A number of specialist mine rescue staff from Spring Creek and Huntly were involved in the Pike River rescue operation.

Source: SGGP

Vinh Long demands importer to destroy thousands of red-ear turtles

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Mekong Delta Province of Vinh Long’s government Friday asked seafood importer Caseamex to destroy all red-ear turtles raised at Tra On District.

Vinh Long demands Caseamex Company to destroy over 18,400 re-ear turtles it is raising in Tra On District.

In a decision, signed by the province People’s Committee deputy chairman Truong Van Sau, Caseamex was ordered to complete the requirement within four days beginning September 27.

The company’s annihilation must ensure environmental hygiene and all costs and workers for the purpose belong to Caseamex’s responsibilities, said the decision.

The Caseamex in March was licensed by the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development’s Department of Aquatic Resource Cultivation and Breeding to import the turtles for food processing but not for breeding.

However, the company has raised and let the red-ear turtles, one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, to escape to natural environment.

The company has imported a total of 26,400 red-ear turtles, with about 8,000 having been dead.

Source: SGGP

Indonesia demands compensation for Timor Sea spill

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2010 at 11:18 am

JAKARTA, July 22, 2010 (AFP) – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday demanded compensation for an oil spill off northwestern Australia that campaigners say destroyed fishermen’s livelihoods.

“Certainly we will carry out our responsibility to solve this problem. We’ll propose a claim to the company causing the oil spill while maintaining good diplomatic relations with the governments of Australia and Thailand,” he told a cabinet meeting.

“What’s clear is the company must give something as accountability for the incident,” he said, adding that Indonesians affected should “receive decent compensation”.

The Thai-operated West Atlas rig dumped thousands of barrels of oil into the Timor Sea between the Indonesian archipelago and Australia after a leak began in August last year.

Yudhoyono did not specify how much compensation Indonesia would seek from the rig, which is operated by PTTEP Australasia.

But local non-governmental group the West Timor Care Foundation, which supports poor fishermen in eastern Indonesia, has called for a figure of around 15 billion dollars.

Environmental group WWF says more than 400,000 litres (over 105,000 gallons) of oil have been spilt, generating a slick spanning 10,000-25,000 square kilometres (up to 9,650 square miles).

The West Timor Care Foundation estimates the spill as even larger and says it has affected the livelihoods of some 18,000 fishermen.

“Fish, dolphins and sea turtles were killed and the pollution posed health problems to the community. We don’t know how long it will take to heal the ecosystem,” said the group’s head Ferdi Tanoni.

WWF earlier said the spill was “one of Australia’s biggest environmental disasters”.

Source: SGGP

Thai PM demands quick end to protests

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2010 at 4:46 am

BANGKOK, May 9, 2010 (AFP) – Thailand’s premier called Sunday for a swift end to mass anti-government protests following fresh bloodshed, saying he had a back-up plan to solve the crisis if the demonstrators refuse to disperse.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva demanded the opposition “Red Shirts” give a “clear answer” by Monday on whether they will accept his offer to hold elections in mid-November if they disperse within the next few days.

“You should stop the rally quickly for safety reasons,” said Abhisit, whose reconciliation “roadmap” aims to defuse a crippling two-month confrontation and envisages holding elections on November 14.

“Terrorists and people who live abroad want to disrupt the reconciliation plan,” he said on national television.

“No matter whether they (the protesters) stop the rally or not, we have a back-up plan which will lead to a resolution of the problem,” he added.

Thai pro-government demonstrators hold national flags during a small rally at the King Taksin statue in Bangkok on May 8, 2010. AFP photo

The government and the “Red Shirt” opposition protesters Saturday reaffirmed their commitment to a reconciliation process aimed at ending outbreaks of civil violence that have left 29 people dead and about 1,000 injured.

The latest casualties were two police officers who were killed in gun and grenade attacks on Friday and Saturday close to the Red Shirts’ massive rally encampment, which has shut down most of Bangkok’s main shopping district.

The opposition protesters denied involvement in the attacks and nobody has claimed responsibility.

The Reds, who broadly support fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, were working on their own proposals to end the political crisis after thousands more supporters bolstered their rally in the heart of Bangkok.

Thaksin, a telecoms tycoon-turned-politician, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, now lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

The Red Shirts have signed up to the peace process but are demanding a firm date for the dissolution of parliament before disbanding their base, where they are barricaded behind piles of fuel-soaked tyres and razor wire.

Both sides said the attacks were the work of groups intent on derailing Abhisit’s peace roadmap.

The premier said the latest attacks were “carried out by terrorists who don’t want the reconciliation plan.”

The Reds also said the latest killings were carried out by elements intent on sabotaging the peace proposals.

“This will not distract us or derail the process,” Reds leader Nattawut Saikuar said Saturday. However, he indicated that an agreement was not yet within reach.

“The five-point roadmap plan which is proposed by Abhisit we already understand. But on our part, we need a few more days to come up with our own proposals, which will be flexible,” he said.

Crowds at the Reds camp have swelled to as many as 100,000 people in the past, but earlier this week when a resolution appeared near, numbers dwindled to just a few thousand as a weary air descended on the rally area.

On Saturday, however, their ranks were boosted by 5,000 more supporters who arrived from the movement’s heartland in Thailand’s rural, impoverished northeast.

In its colour-coded crisis, Thailand is largely split between the mainly rural poor and urban working class Reds and the pro-establishment “Yellow Shirts.”

The Yellows — who blockaded Bangkok’s two main airports in 2008 in their own protests — have rejected the roadmap and election plan and called on the prime minister to resign.

The Reds condemn Abhisit’s administration as illegitimate because it came to power in an army-backed 2008 parliamentary vote after a controversial court ruling ousted Thaksin’s elected allies.

Source: SGGP

Indonesian president demands action in wiretap scandal

In Uncategorized on November 5, 2009 at 10:10 am

JAKARTA, Nov 5, 2009 (AFP) – Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday demanded the suspension of top police and prosecutors mentioned in wiretap recordings exposing an alleged plot to frame anti-graft investigators.

But the suspensions of chief detective Susno Duadji and Deputy Attorney General Abdul Hakim Ritonga may not be enough to calm public anger over the scandal, amid calls for the police chief and attorney general to resign.

Two Indonesian protesters wear masks featuring images of Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Riyanto, to support the two officials of the Corruption Eradication Commission in Jakarta Nov. 5 (AFP photo)

“I’ve advised the police chief and the attorney general to suspend those whose names were mentioned in the tape recordings and discharge them from their duties,” Yudhoyono told a cabinet meeting.

Yudhoyono has been under mounting pressure to take action after the secret recordings captured senior police and prosecutors discussing ways to apparently frame two deputy chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Attorney General Hendarman Supandji, who has ignored repeated calls to resign over corruption within his department, told reporters that Ritonga had informed him of his intention to step down in light of the recordings.

“He met me yesterday to say he was going to resign and this morning he will submit a written statement to me,” he said.

National police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri, who has been a strong supporter of his chief detective even after he emerged as a key player in the alleged plot against the KPK, said Duadji would also resign.

“We can’t just sack him. He’ll resign for sure … ” he told reporters.

The KPK tapes were played in a nationally televised session of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday, six days after the two KPK officials, Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Riyanto, were arrested by police on corruption charges.

The tapes sparked protests across the country amid widespread public sympathy for the KPK and outrage at rampant corruption within the police force and the Attorney General’s Office.

The KPK has made enemies across the spectrum of Indonesian government and administration for its successful corruption prosecutions and its far-reaching powers to wiretap suspects and probe their bank accounts.

But it has strong support among the public in a country that ranks 126th out of 180 on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index for 2008, alongside Honduras and Libya.

Members of a “fact-finding team” appointed by Yudhoyono on Monday to look into the conduct of the police surrounding the arrests of the anti-graft commissioners said they were already talking about quitting.

“I’m facing a wall with the police, the prosecutors and the country’s apparatus,” team chairman Adnan Buyung Nasution, an independent lawyer and former democracy activist, told AFP.

Another team member, political analyst and Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan, added: “The team will discuss whether to quit today. If our recommendations are not followed, yes, I will quit”.

The team has demanded the resignations of Duadji and Ritonga and the ongoing detention of Anggodo Widjojo, the brother of a KPK suspect whose taped phone calls to police and prosecutors were played in court on Tuesday.

University of Indonesia political analyst Arbi Sanit said the Indonesian people expected more than the resignations of the chief detective and deputy chief prosecutor.

“It’s not enough that only Susno and Ritonga resign, the national police chief and attorney general should also resign if they still want to be respected,” he told AFP.

“After they resign, all of them need to be prosecuted legally.”

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share