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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BBC defends silence on Gaza appeal

Tue, 24 Feb 2009 06:34:09 GMT PressTV

Delivering humanitarian assistance to war-hit Palestinians has become a daily challenge due to a 19-month Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The British Broadcasting Corporation defends a controversial decision not to broadcast a humanitarian bid that would benefit Gaza.

The BBC in January refused to air a charity appeal for the victims of a three-week Israeli war on Gaza and thus provoked tidal waves of condemnation in Britain.

Thousands of people held demonstrations in front of the BBC Broadcasting House in central London over the stance of the network.

Sir Michael Lyons, the chairman of the BBC Trust, however, argues that the British network was subjected to "undue external pressure" over the issue -- after senior members of the British parliament filed a motion in condemnation of the decision.  
"I began to feel that some of the political criticism of his decision was crossing the delicate line between fair comment and undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC," Lyons told The Guardian on Tuesday.  
BBC Director General Mark Thompson was accused of "being complicit in denying humanitarian aid" to the people of Gaza when he turned down the screening of a commercial demo by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Lyons, however, defended the BBC verdict. "At that point I thought, and still do, that a red card was in order," he asserted.  
The decision reportedly left humanitarian agencies with a donation shortfall of millions of pounds.

The British network says in its defense that it refrained from broadcasting the "controversial" bid mainly because it would undermine its policy of impartiality.

The public-funded broadcaster nevertheless raised more than 10 million pounds to alleviate the humanitarian disaster in the Congo and nearly 18 million pounds for the Burma crisis. 
"I never thought I would live to see [the BBC] refuse to broadcast a humanitarian appeal on the grounds that it was controversial," said veteran Labour lawmaker Tony Benn, who was among those to criticize the broadcaster as an Israel appeaser.
 "The destruction in Gaza, and the loss of the lives of over a thousand civilians and children, has shocked the world as secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, made clear, when he saw the devastation for himself," he explained.

With more than a month after Israel declared an alleged ceasefire, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip -- home to 1.5 million people -- is at its worst.

UN relief workers believe the humanitarian crisis in the strip is spiraling out of control as Palestinians are suffering from acute shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies.

Monday, February 23, 2009

MACC chairman’s son arrested for importing child porn | 23 February, 2009

Chairman of MACC (Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission), Ahmad Said has a son named Ahmad Shauqi, a Malaysia Airlines pilot, who was arrested in Adelaide Airport for importing child pornography material into Australia.

Could this charge have anything to do with Ahmad Said’s recent issuing of a public prejudgment that “there was strong and good evidence” against Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim in alleged wrongdoing in the maintenance of a luxury car and purchase of sacrificial cows? Is this why we did not hear much of the main stream media coverage on the arrest of Ahmad Shauqi?

Could the arrest have negatively impacted the independence of MACC for carrying out its duties? Could this charge be why the countless accusations brought up by the opposition leaders against BN are swept under the carpet with no investigation or follow-up actions? Is this the time for Ahmad Said to step down from his position for losing the public confidence on MACC?

In order to assure the impartiality and integrity of MACC, Ahmad Said should be interrogated for his ability to carry out his tasks freely and fairly.

*The name should be Ahmad Shauqi (first name), instead of Ahmad Said (surname).

Visiting pilot fined over child porn (ABC News, Feb 8, 2009)

A Malaysia Airlines pilot who was caught importing child pornography to Australia yesterday has faced court.

When Ahmad Said*, 25, arrived at Adelaide Airport yesterday he said he did not have anything to declare.

But customs officers searched his laptop and found child sex videos.

A handcuffed Said has faced court.

Magistrate Simon Smart told him the videos were cruel and violent and it was a disgrace that the married father of two had brought the material to Australia.

The magistrate said people like Said encouraged the market for child pornography.

Said, whose wife is expecting their third child, was fined $6,000.

He left court with a jumper over his head because of television camera crews.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Zimbabwe: Outrage Over 71 Ministers

Kholwani Nyathi | 22 February 2009 | Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)

Harare — THE government is still battling to accommodate the 61 new ministers and deputy ministers amid revelations the decision to inflate the number of ministers of state has caused friction in the two Movement for Democratic Change formations.

Mavambo, an opposition group yesterday launched a scathing attack on the bloated government saying it reflected "abundantly that this GNU was all about convenience for the politicians and not about delivery of service to the people".

President Robert Mugabe last week swore in five ministers of state and 19 deputy ministers bringing the number of ministers, and deputy ministers to 61.

When the 10 governors are sworn in at a date to be announced, this would bring the size of the government to 71 members.

Sources said government was ill-prepared for costs associated with such a bloated government.

Most of the ministers and deputy ministers were last week shown empty offices without furniture, while others were reportedly squatting at private offices.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai also told guests at the MDC-T's 10th anniversary celebrations on Wednesday that the government was virtually broke, adding some of the ministers had no "offices and adequate furniture."

The addition of the five ministers of state and deputy ministers who were not catered for in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) worsened matters and the role to be played by the new ministers of State remains unclear.

Sources said Mugabe pleaded with Tsvangirai and Mutambara to have his ministers accommodated as part of efforts to ensure "stability" in the country. Mugabe pointed out the appointments were necessary in order for him to manage the "dynamics in Zanu PF" in the face of a stiff resistance by some members of the old guard to the formation of the inclusive government.

But the move has angered members of the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and appalled the Mavambo formation.

Opposition MPs and senators, who feel their parties had gone back on their campaign promises for a leaner government also expressed anger over Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara's endorsement of the bloated government.

They accused their principals of going back on their promises of a leaner government, which they fear would cost them their seats in the next polls.

"When we were campaigning we were saying we want a cabinet of 15 ministers and during the negotiations the number went up to 26 and eventually 31 after the agreement," said an MDC-M MP.

"The number has now gone to 71 for the entire government yet we are beggars, the million dollar question now is how do you convince donors to rescue you when you have such a bloated government.

"It is unjustifiable and the people of Zimbabwe deserve an explanation. Nonetheless I wish the new government success and good luck."

The MP accused the leaders of the three parties of putting their own political interests ahead of those of long suffering Zimbabweans.

Job Sikhala, the former St Mary's MP and a senior member of the MDC-M came out in the open saying party supporters were "confused and dismayed by the circus."

"This was the most stupid thing to do," he said. "A collapsed economy like Zimbabwe cannot afford the luxury of 71 ministers, even a country as big as the United States with 51 states has one president, one vice president and a cabinet of less than 21 ministers."

Disgruntled officials, from the Tsvangirai camp who preferred anonymity also voiced their anger at the bloated government.

"This is a hard sell, what do we tell our supporters who have yearned for a small responsible government. This looks like a gravy train when the economy is in bad shape," they said.

Tsvangirai on Friday said Zimbabwe needs at least US$5 billion to kick-start the recovery process.

The priority areas would be to tackle the raging cholera epidemic that has killed 3 759 people and left 80 000 infected since August.

A staggering seven million people cannot feed themselves and schools and hospitals remain closed because the government cannot pay teachers and doctors.

Mavambo, which is transforming into an opposition party said now there was no difference between the two MDC formations and Zanu PF.

"At least, we are not surprised by Zanu PF wanting a big government, because we have lived with it for many years," said the party in a statement yesterday. "But it's hard to believe that the two MDCs who have, over the years, used every platform available to promise the people of this country that they stood for a lean and streamlined government can readily violate their own principles.

The movement said the parties' principals were concerned about "containing the in-fighting and ruptures amongst their followers, hence, the need to embrace everyone who matters as a way of silencing them and stopping the emergence of opposition within their own parties".

Ernest Mudzengi, a political analyst said Mutambara and Tsvangirai risked being punished by the electorate for agreeing to be part of an institution that would drain the already burdened taxpayers.

But the two MDC formations defended themselves saying the transitional government was temporary.

"We have serious misgivings with the size of the cabinet particularly at a time when the economy is in such a bad state," said Nelson Chamisa, the MDC-T spokesperson.

"The MDC-T policy is to have no more than 15 ministers. We believe in a lean, efficient and accountable administration. "

Chamisa who is the Minister of Information Communication Technology in the inclusive government added: "However, we have to appreciate that this is not an MDC government: it is a transitional and inclusive government. There are too many players involved. Our party can only have its say, not its way."

Edwin Mushoriwa of the Mutambara led MDC said the bloated government was the cost of getting Zimbabwe back to its feet.

"It's a compromise," he said. "If the MDC had formed this government alone, it would have been learner, it would have been less than a quarter of what we have but we had to compromise."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Birthday Bash in Trouble As Donors Shy Away.

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare) | 21 February 2009 | Harare - Zimbabwe

PREPARATIONS for this year's 85th birthday bash for President Robert Mugabe have reportedly hit a snag amid reports that the fund raising committee is struggling to raise enough resources for the event.

This year's 21st February Movement celebrations have been slated for February 28 in Chinhoyi.

However, less than a week before the celebrations are held, the fundraising committee is still running around for donors who can bankroll the event which has attracted thousands of people in the past years.

Reports say there is little enthusiasm from traditional party donors who have been alarmed by the establishment of the inclusive government. Some of these donors are politicians that have been left out of the new government.

Also, because of the changing political environment, parastatals which had donated to the celebrations in the past have been hesitant to do so.

Many of these parastatals now fall under the control of MDC ministers.

To make up for their huge shortfall, the fundraising committee has arranged a late dinner dance at Rainbow Towers in the capital on Wednesday night.

Zanu-PF Secretary for Youth Affairs, Absalom Sikhosana confirmed the event would take place.

"Yes, the event will be held at the Rainbow towers on Wednesday night and it is going to be a fundraising dinner," he said.

Sikhosana however said that they had been receiving donations from the country's 10 provinces although he refused to disclose how much the fundraising committee had managed to raise so far.

The donations are in the form of cash as well as cattle or foodstuffs, he said.

On reports that the fundraising committee was failing to meet its target, he said, "We are operating on a shoe string budget. The most important thing is not about donations.

"Even without a single cent, the celebrations will go on," he said.

He, however, disclosed that they were still expecting some donations from different parts of the country.

The 21st February movement celebrations have been criticised for consuming huge sums of money while most Zimbabweans are trapped in poverty.

However, Sikhosana dismissed criticism of the event. "The problem is that at times, we tend to politicise something that is totally apolitical. We are just after our noble objectives that we have set for ourselves and nothing else."

He would not disclose the noble objectives. Currently, about seven million Zimbabweans are in urgent need of food aid and face a severe threat of a cholera outbreak that has so far claimed more than 3 700 lives.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Zimbabwe PM to swear in his ministers

Fri, 13 Feb 2009 08:58:18 GMT | PressTV

Tsvangirai took office on Wednesday (February 11)
Zimbabwe's new prime minister is preparing to swear in his cabinet ministers, to act in the unity government with President Robert Mugabe.

Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai's premiership, effective since Wednesday, comes a at a time when the country is struggling with a deadly cholera epidemic, ailing health system, and an economy buried by a diabolical hyperinflation.

Mugabe has yet to name 15 ministers, to work with Tsvangirai's 14 cabinet ministers.

Although the president has kept key ministries of defense, justice and foreign affairs reserved for his ZANU-PF party, a co-minister of home affairs assigned by the new premier will be tasked to jointly oversee a portfolio that controls the police with a Mugabe-appointed minister.

Disputes over the results of last year's election in March ended with a power-sharing deal penned in September, but the agreement froze over the allocation of ministries.

After endless rounds of talks, mediated by South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki, the two sides finally agreed in September to share power.

Tsvangirai has chosen Tendai Biti, the lead negotiator for Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in talks over the power-sharing deal, to fill the challenging post of finance minister.

Senior MDC lawmaker Giles Mutseyekwa, a top air force official arrested three years ago in a discredited plot to assassinate Mugabe, to oversees the police.

The premier has also named party spokesman Nelson Chamisa as minister for information and technology, and a white farmer and former lawmaker, Roy Bennett, as the deputy minister for agriculture.

However, the extent of cooperation between the two sides has given rise to new concerns, when security forces chiefs snubbed the inauguration of Tsvangirai as the new Prime Minister.

The country's police, army, prisons and spy agency chiefs were absent at Tsvangirai swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, a Press TV correspondent reported on Friday.

Zimbabwe army general, Constantine Chiwenga and commissioner of police Augustine Chihuri announced during last years March 29 general elections that they were not going to "salute the MDC leader even if he wins the election because he is a puppet of the United States and Britain.”

Tsvangirai sworn in as Zimbabwe premier

Wed, 11 Feb 2009 11:18:59 GMT | PressTV

Tsvangirai was swarn
in earlier today.
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been sworn in as prime minister, joining President Robert Mugabe in a unity government.

Tsvangirai took office at 11:00 am local time (0900 GMT) on Wednesday and is to begin work with his arch-rival Mugabe to cap nearly a year of political turmoil, which has plunged Zimbabweans ever deeper into crippling economic and humanitarian crises.

Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was offered the post of a prime minister following his disputed defeat against Mugabe in the March 2008 presidential elections.

After endless rounds of talks, mediated by South Africa's former president Thabo Mbeki, the two sides finally agreed in September to share power.

However, mistrusts between the two arch-rivals continued as they sparred over who should control key ministries such as finance, information and home affairs.

Concerns were finally addressed when Zimbabwe's parliament approved a law that places Mugabe and Tsvangirai on a National Security Council that will allow all parties control of the security forces.
The cabinet is nearly equally divided between Tsvangirai's MDC and Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

Also on Tuesday, Tsvangirai named his party's top aide, Tendai Biti, as his finance minister.

Biti had previously been accused of treason over an alleged coup plot to overthrow the government. The charges against him were dropped last week.

The cabinet for the new coalition government will be sworn in on Friday.The new premier will face difficult challenges as the country suffers from hyper-inflation, unemployment of above 90 percent, food shortages and a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 3,500 people

'Mugabe assassination plotter' arrested

Fri, 13 Feb 2009 15:56:36 GMT | PressTV

File picture of
Roy Bennett
A Zimbabwean ministerial nominee, known for his alleged plot to kill President Robert Mugabe has been captured in the capital, Harare.

Former lawmaker Roy Bennett, who in 2006 took asylum in South Africa when he was accused of plotting to assassinate the leader, was arrested by the police on Friday.

Bennett returned the country on January 30 to take the post of deputy agriculture minister after being nominated by Premier Morgan Tsvangirai.

The white politician started confronting the ruling system when he was stripped of his farm as part of a land reform eight years ago.

"We understand that they are taking him to Marondera, where there is notorious torture and interrogation base," said Tsvangirai's party the Movement for Democratic Change, AFP reported.

Some describe the accusations and treatment he has received from the Mugabe government as unfair.

"I am scared because I don't know what faces me on the other side,” said Bennett who currently serves as the MDC treasurer general after his arrival.

Tsvangirai and Mugabe's perpetual political row saw many opposition figures including the premier himself repeatedly arrested. However, the two have lately agreed to form a unity government.

Each leader has been given almost half the say in the make-up of the unity cabinet but Mugabe is yet to name his ministers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mai Mai militia frees 85 child soldiers in Congo

Tue, 03 Feb 2009 22:11:46 GMT | PressTV

A child soldier in Congo
A pro-government militia group in the Democratic Republic of Congo has released some 85 child soldiers, UNICEF has announced.

The children, aged between 7 and 17, were freed after months of talks with the Mai Mai militiamen, UNICEF spokeswoman Veronique Taveau said on Tuesday.

Some children were released in the province of North Kivu Thursday and the rest on Sunday. They included five girls.

Taveau stated that the children were starving and traumatized when they were handed over to UNICEF.

There are an estimated 2,000 child soldiers in North Kivu, Taveau said. She declined to say if the militiamen were paid for the release of the children.

The Geneva Convention, which governs the protection of human rights in warfare, prohibits the use of soldiers under the age of 15, while the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child draws the line at 18.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Six-Party Security Meeting Set for the Koreas This Month

02/02/2009 | Al Manar

North Korea and its five negotiating partners will meet as scheduled this month to discuss regional security even though their broader nuclear disarmament talks are stalled, South Korea said Monday.

A foreign ministry statement said the working group meeting would be held in Moscow on February 19-20. The talks group the two Koreas, the United States, Russia, China and Japan. The last full meeting in Beijing in December ended in deadlock because of disagreements over how the North's declaration of its nuclear activities should be verified.

Russia chairs a working group considering a peace and security mechanism for Northeast Asia. The other four working groups deal with energy aid for the North, denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, normalizing North Korea-US relations and normalizing North Korea-Japan ties.

Two previous meetings have been held on a security mechanism, the first in March 2007 on the sidelines of full six-party talks in Beijing followed by the second five months later in Moscow. Little progress was made amid slow going in the wider discussions.

A six-nation deal signed in February 2007 offers the North energy aid, normalized ties with Washington and Tokyo and a permanent peace pact if it dismantles its atomic plants and hands over all nuclear weapons and material.

North Korea scraps all accords with South

Fri, 30 Jan 2009 07:46:06 GMT | PressTV

North Korean leader
Kim Jong Il (centre)
posing with soldiers
North Korea has said it is scrapping all political and military deals with South, accusing Seoul of pushing relations to the brink of war.

"The confrontation between the north and the south in the political and military fields has been put to such extremes that inter-Korean relations have reached the brink of a war," North Korea's central news agency quoted the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea as saying on Friday.

"There is neither way to improve (relations) nor hope to bring them on track," it added

The statement also noted that all political and military agreements would be nullified, including one covering their Yellow Sea border.

The two countries' navies fought bloody skirmishes in the area of the de facto border in 1999 and 2002.

Pyongyang refuses to recognize the Northern Limit Line, a sea border drawn unilaterally by US-led United Nations forces after the 1950-1953 war. The two states are still technically at war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The statement has further raised tensions after months of icy relations. The developments come two weeks after the North's army threatened an "all-out confrontational posture" against Seoul.

South Korea stepped up border monitoring following the threats but said no unusual activities had been detected.

The North have stepped up verbal attacks on the administration of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, who has adopted a strict policy toward the Pyongyang on its nuclear issue.

Lee has also rolled back the engagement policy of his liberal predecessors and says he would review the pacts reached with North at summits in 2000 and 2007.

"The group of traitors has already reduced all the agreements reached between the north and the south in the past to dead documents," said the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.

North says it will keep its nuclear weapons as long as the US and its allies in the region don't change their hostile attitude toward Pyongyang.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Zimbabwe Opposition to Form Unity Govt Next Month

30/01/2009 | Al Manar

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Friday his party will join a unity government with President Robert Mugabe next month, heeding a call by Southern African leaders.

"We are unequivocal, we will go into this government," Tsvangirai told reporters following a meeting of the national council of his Movement for Democratic Change party in Harare. "The SADC (Southern African Development Community) has decided and we are bound by that decision."

"February 11 is the swearing in of the prime minister and the deputy prime minister," he said. "What the national council has endorsed is what the SADC has endorsed," he added. Regional leaders on Tuesday in Pretoria urged Zimbabwe's feuding parties to form a unity government by mid-February, with Tsvangirai to be sworn in as prime minister on February 11.

Tsvangirai signed a unity accord with Mugabe on September 15, but the deal stalled over disputes on the naming of cabinet ministers and the control of security forces. Earlier Friday, Zimbabwe's political parties set up a joint body to monitor the implementation of the unity deal, a South African mediation team official said.

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