Week #17 (30/09-06/10/2019)
AFRICA & THE MIDDLE EAST
Egypt’s parliamentary speaker Ali Abdel Aal was criticized online (03/10) for allegedly praising Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler’s infrastructure projects. He contended that his remarks, which were made to defend Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s development plans, were taken “out of context”. “No country can develop without a strong infrastructure, and this is the only thing I was referring to in my statements,” he responded. The current government is on the effort to “build a modern Egyptian state”. It, however, also comes with a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent; hundreds of people have been detained in recent weeks for protesting against alleged government and military corruption linked to building projects.
Uganda has published (03/10) a press release showing its support for China, respecting the country’s “one country, two systems” and that “Hong Kong affairs are China’s domestic affairs”. It condemns the months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, saying that it had become “radical and violent”.
Alagba, Nigeria’s royal tortoise, has died (04/10) at the age of 344. Alagba was believed to be brought to Nigeria’s royal palace by the kingdom’s third leader, Isan Okumoyede, who reigned from 1770 to 1797. Reptile experts have said that it’s rather impossible for a tortoise of Alagba’s type, which is the African spur-thighed tortoise, to reach that age. “I would have thought that it would be unlikely in the extreme,” Tim Skelton, curator of reptiles at Bristol Zoo, opined. The current king planned to preserve Alagba’s remains for tourism and historical records.
Reported in BBC (04/10), the Athlete Refugee team, which is founded by a charity that is working with disadvantaged communities in Israel, has sent a Sudanese refugee and athlete, Jamal Mohammed, to compete at the World Athletics Championships in Doha. Mohammed left Sudan when he was still nine, after the Janjaweed militia group attacked his village in Darfur. The group killed 97 people, including his father.
Reported in Euractiv (30/09), next years the Central Asia countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—will be focusing on liberalizing trade and tackling environmental problems. The countries are taking advantage of the New Silk Road Initiative, Eurasian Economic Union, and the EU’s efforts to open their economy. The idea of “Greater Eurasia” has emerged and been getting more popular among mass media, experts, and politicians. “It is not just a geographic concept, it is also a geopolitical and geo-economic concept which has been gaining importance,” Kazakhstan’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Roman Vassilenko said. On tackling environmental problems, the countries will work on solving some shared issues such as lack of water and energy sources as well as population growth.
Reported in BBC (30/09), despite not allowed by the rule, Afghanistan election’s frontrunners Abdullah Abdullah and incumbent Ashraf Ghani have declared victory in advance of the official result. None of the claimants have offered evidence in support of their claims. This situation arguably repeats of what had happened in 2014 election, when both men disputed the results and eventually agreed to a power-sharing deal brokered by the U.S. Additionally, the 2019 election has garnered lower turnout compared to the previous three elections, possibly due to fear of Taliban attacking polling stations and lack of enthusiasm as the election demonstrated the same candidates, both of whom have been accused of corruption while in office. Recently, the country’s Independent Electoral Complaint Commission (IECC) said (05/10) the results announcement would take 50 days and would not be announced on November 7, rejecting previous claims.
North Korea’s ballistic missile believed to be fired (02/10) by a submarine landed in Japan’s waters. Lee Il-woo, defense analyst from the Korea Defense Network, argued that the missiles pose a serious security threat to South Korea, Japan, and the United States (U.S.) as it “could sneak up near enemy territories and launch attacks with such missiles”. The missile was shot just a day after Washington and Pyongyang announced they would resume stalled nuclear talks which has been held on Saturday (05/10). Testing weapons prior to an arranged talk is not new to North Korea; it’s presumably the country’s way of showing stance and adding leverage to its position. Meanwhile, the talk has resulted in disappointment on North Korea’s side, saying that it didn’t fulfill their expectations and broke down. The U.S. responded in a rather positive light, maintaining that the two sides had “good discussions” and that both “will not overcome a legacy of 70 years of war and hostility on the Korean Peninsula through the course of a single Saturday”.
Reported in Aljazeera (04/10), Southeast Asians are the most engaged mobile Internet users in the world, according to the e-Conomy SEA 2019 report by Google, Temasek, and Bain & Co. The Southeast Asian internet economy is forecasted to experience growth from being valued at USD 32bn in 2015, to USD 100bn in 2019, and to USD 300bn in 2025, with Indonesia and Vietnam leading the growth (40% annually), followed by Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines (20%-30%). The surge is particularly driven by changes in consumer behavior across the e-commerce (USD 38bn), online travel (USD 34bn), ride-hailing (USD 13bn), and online media sectors (USD 14bn). While urban areas buy six times as much online, the rural also has the potential growth twice as large. Additionally, investment will continue to flow into the region with Indonesia leading its peer in term of revenue growth.
AUSTRALIA & OCEANIA
Represented by the British high commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke, the British government expressed “deep regret” (02/10) over Captain James Cook’s killing of Māori people in 1769. The apology took place in Gisborne, on the North Island of New Zealand, in a private meeting with the local tribes known as iwi. The event was met by two different reactions from the locals. Former Gisborne mayor MengFoon appreciated the gesture, calling it “significant” and “would help iwi move forward”. In contrast, Māori rights advocate Tina Ngata insisted that “words were not enough without change”.
The Foreign Affairs Minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters believed (04/10) that the Australian government’s plan to deport New Zealanders who have committed crimes in Australia is not “fixed in stone at this point in time”. The Australian government proposed a new bill to change the current Migration Act in terms of “expanding the grounds for automatically refusing or cancelling a visa to include non-citizens who have been convicted of a crime which carries a minimum two-year prison term—regardless of their actual sentence”. More than half of thousands non-citizens that have been deported by Australia under the current migration laws are from New Zealand but have long cut ties with their home country, as well as people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. If the new bill is passed, expert predicts that the number of New Zealand visa cancellations can increase five-fold. Standing alongside Peters, Marise Payne (Peters’ Australian counterpart) stated that both countries “are working very hard to work cooperatively to manage these issues between Australia and New Zealand”.
Critics, including academics, in Australia warned (04/10) that the religious discrimination bill would “prevent employers from having codes of conduct that ban religious speech in the workplace or on social media, on the grounds that such a ban would indirectly discriminate on the grounds of religion”, and thus restricting employers’ efforts to prevent workplace bullying. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Acci) also stated “esoteric or emerging religions” are protected under the proposed bill, but not Indigenous spirituality because the bill does not define religion properly, and at such excluding the Indigenous spirituality from the common law.
Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s first chancellor to be defeated by a motion of no confidence since World War II, is likely to return to power (30/09) after his Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) secured 38.4% votes on Sunday’s (29/09) general election. One of the world’s youngest leaders, Kurz and his right-wing coalition government were brought down by a corruption scandal in May. Berenberg Bank’s chief economist Holger Schmieding argued that Kurz’s political skills played a larger role in his victory rather than his party’s winning. Following the result of the election, Kurz has to decide whether to revive his old coalition with the far-right or turn to the left.
The court in The Hague, the Netherlands, has made (01/10) a ground-breaking decision by allowing the case of relatives of Indonesian men executed in 1947 by Dutch soldiers in Sulawesi to be heard. The Dutch state appealed for the statute of limitations, arguing that the events had passed the maximum time in which the case can be legally proceed. However, the judge rejected the appeal, stating, “The court of appeal is of the opinion that especially the extraordinary seriousness and the high degree of culpability of the violence used stand in the way of limitation. At the time, the Netherlands failed to register who was shot or abused and when.”
Six years after Boyan Slat founded The Ocean Cleanup and began to develop a system to collect harmful plastic from the ocean, the 25-year-old Dutch entrepreneur announced on Wednesday (02/10) that his device is finally working. The device had hit several setbacks such as spilling the plastic back into the ocean due to a design and manufacturing flaw. After trying new concepts and fixing the problems, the organization is now convinced that the device can capture and retain plastic debris, including microplastics—something that came as a surprise because the organization believed that microplastics were less likely to stay floating near the water surface.
Prince Harry of the United Kingdom (U.K.) attacked (02/10) the Mail on Sunday after the British tabloid press released a handwritten letter of the prince’s wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex to her estranged father. The duke compared the media treatment of his wife to his mother, calling it “destroys people and destroys lives” and “bullying”. He added, “I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces.” The duchess herself has already taken a legal action against the tabloid.
A knife attack (03/10) left three policemen and a female police administrative dead at police headquarters on the Île de la Cité in central Paris, France. The assailant was identified (05/10) as 45-year-old Mickaël H., fellow member of staff who had been working at the headquarters since 2003 and who was later shot dead by a 24-year-old police intern. Anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard stated that Mickaël had converted to Islam 10 years ago and began to adapt “radical vision” recently. He had no criminal record prior to the attack.
Speaking to the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ News (05/10), Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar believed that a Brexit deal is still possible as long as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson puts forward further proposals that provide “basis for deeper negotiations”. Varadkar also expressed his wish to see Johnson next week.
An estimated 6,000 English football supporters will attend Friday’s Euro 2020 qualifier in Prague, the Czech Republic, prompting the local police to prepare “anti-conflict units” (06/10). The host country’s reputation for cheap beer is feared to spark alcohol-fueled disturbances, especially by the English supporters who are already infamous for their aggressive behavior when they get angry. The manager of England national team Gareth Southgate has warned his supporters to “be on their best behavior” in the upcoming match, whereas the Czech police warned of zero tolerance in the case of local laws violations.
LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN
Argentina’s Holocaust Museum will add to its exhibits 70 Nazi artefacts found two years ago, including a bust of Adolf Hitler and a head-measuring device. Notwithstanding having the potential of encouraging “hate, death, and destruction”, the museum’s director Marcelo Mindlin said (03/10) that the items would go on display “in the service of transmitting democratic values, education and the fight for memory so tragedies like the Holocaust are not repeated”. The objects were seized during a house raid and were hidden behind a false wall. The owner has been charged with “owning pieces of illegal origin”, not because owning Nazi objects per se, but because the items are suspected of having been smuggled into Argentina—owning Nazi objects is legal, as long as they are not used to incite hatred.
The government of Ecuador has declared state emergency following “chaotic” public protests, giving the state more avenues to restrict freedom and deploy armed forces to maintain order. The irate protestors opposed President Lenin Moreno’s decision to end 40-year subsidies for fuel, which has caused a hike in price fuel and disrupted transportation nationwide. The president said the state can’t no longer afford the subsidy—the elimination is part of his plan to shore up Ecuador’s shambling economy and ease its debt burden. As part of its loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government has agreed to cut public spending. Ecuador will be also leaving the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in order to pump more oil and raise revenues.
THE UNITED STATES (U.S.) & CANADA
A white former police officer in Dallas, the United States (U.S.), faced up to 99 years in prison (01/10) after killing an unarmed black man in September last year. Amber Guyger, who was at the time off-duty, came home to find a man in her apartment and shot him. The victim, 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean, was actually in his own apartment; it was Guyger who was the intruder. To Jean’s family’s surprise, the jury found Guyger guilty of murder; something that rarely happens in the cases of the killings of unarmed black men by police officers. Guyger was finally sentenced to a 10-year prison time on Wednesday (03/10). Attorney S. Lee Merritt who represented Jean’s family argued the sentence is “inadequate”. Whereas Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot, whilst respecting the jury’s decision, personally expecting the sentence to be longer. Nevertheless, the head of the Dallas Community Police Oversight Coalition Changa Higgins asserted that the case “represents a big shift in the idea of how we hold officers accountable when they murder”.
A whistleblower revealed (03/10) that the U.S. President Donald Trump broke the law after he urged the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former U.S. Vice-President and next year’s presidential candidate Joe Biden, as well as his son Hunter Biden. The phone call between the two presidents took place on July 25, days after Trump blocked approximately USD 391m in military aid to Ukraine. His critics argued that the move was a bargaining tool to put Zelensky under pressure. Responding to these allegations, the Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump. A second whistleblower came forward on Sunday (06/10) but details are yet to be released.
A Canada’s court ruling divided (04/10) candidates for October’s federal election, with current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau finding himself under harsh criticism. The Canadian human rights tribunal found last month about the ill treatment indigenous adolescents received under the national child welfare policies and required the federal government to pay $40,000 CAD to each child for compensation. Trudeau’s government will appeal the ruling, arguing, “We agree with the tribunal’s finding that there must be compensation for those who were hurt…But the question is how to do that. We need to have conversations with partners, conversations with leaders and communities to make sure we’re getting the compensation right.” The Conservative leader and prime minister candidate Andrew Scheer supported Trudeau’s decision to appeal the court. Whereas candidates from the New Democratic Party Jagmeet Singh and the Green Party Elizabeth May backed the ruling and pledged to honor it if elected.