Emotional funeral for S Korea’s Roh Moo-hyun

May 29, 2009
Ex South Korean President, Late Roh Moo-hyun

Ex South Korean President, Late Roh Moo-hyun

 

A sea of wailing mourners filled the streets of Seoul for the funeral Friday of ex-President Roh Moo-hyun, whose suicide six days earlier amid a deepening corruption probe by the government plunged South Korea into grief and anger.

Heads bowed, thousands took part in a solemn ceremony in the courtyard of the 14th-century Gyeongbok Palace before the hearse carrying Roh’s body headed to a grassy plaza outside City Hall for emotional public rites attended by a reported 500,000 people. Police in riot gear later moved in as the crush of mourners prevented the hearse from leaving the capital for a few hours.

Police dispatched some 21,000 officers to quell any protests by Roh supporters who accuse conservative political opponents led by President Lee Myung-bak of driving the liberal ex-leader to his death with the bribery investigation.

The criticism comes as Lee faces an increasingly belligerent North Korea, which just two days after Roh’s death carried out a nuclear test in a move widely condemned as a violation of international law.

Roh, 62, died May 23 after throwing himself off a cliff behind his home in the southern village of Bongha. Roh, president from 2003 to 2008, recently had been questioned about claims he and his family accepted $6 million in bribes during his presidency.

He denied the bribery allegations, but the accusations weighed heavily on a man who prided himself on his record as a “clean” politician in a country struggling to shake a deeply rooted culture of corruption.

Roh’s suicide stunned the nation of 49 million, where the outspoken Roh — a self-taught former human rights lawyer who swept into office on a populist tide — was celebrated as a leader for the people and was a favorite among young South Koreans. Though many were critical of his antiestablishment ways, others rallied around his efforts to promote democracy, fight corruption and facilitate rapprochement with North Korea.

Roh’s body was to be cremated outside Seoul before being returned to his home village. But mourners, some screaming “Down with Lee Myung-bak,” prevented the hearse from leaving the capital late Friday afternoon. Police in full riot gear began moving in to try and force the crowd to disperse, and the hearse finally drove away.

South Koreans mourned online, too, with some portals carrying “live” broadcasts of the funeral and users flooding bulletin boards and Roh’s own Web site with hundreds of thousands of condolence messages.

“I will remember you forever,” read one message. “Go in peace,” read another.

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Over 20,000 died in S.Lanka rebels’ defeat

May 29, 2009

 

More than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final days of Sri Lanka’s military operation to defeat Tamil Tigers rebels, The Times newspaper reported on Friday.

Sri Lanka’s authorities say their forces stopped using heavy weapons on April 27 in a no-fire zone where an estimated 100,000 Tamil civilians were sheltered and blame civilian casualties on rebels hiding among the civilians, the paper said.

Citing confidential U.N. documents it acquired, The Times said the civilian death toll in the no-fire zone soared from late April, with around 1,000 civilians killed daily until May 19. That was the day after Vellupillai Prabhakaran, leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was killed.

The final civilian death toll could be more than 20,000, said the paper.

U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay has said the LTTE recruited child soldiers and used civilians as human shields during the conflict, while the military had indiscriminately shelled areas packed with civilians.

Both sides have denied the allegations.

Sri Lanka has called a Western-led push for a rights and war crimes probe hypocrisy and a violation of its right to destroy the LTTE, which is listed as a terrorist organisation by more than 30 countries.

The United Nations estimates that between 80,000 and 100,000 people died in what was one of Asia’s longest modern wars, erupting in earnest in 1983 when the Tigers began to fight for a separate state for Sri Lanka’s minority Tamils.

 

Sourced from Reuters


Nigeria Marks 10 Uninterrupted Years of Democratic Rule Friday

May 29, 2009
 
 

Friday is ‘democracy day’ in Nigeria as the country marks 10 uninterrupted years since the return to civilian rule in 1999.

Nigeria had been ruled by the military for 32 of its 49 years since gaining independence in 1960. But in 1979, former military leader Olusegun Obasanjo was elected to once again usher in civilian rule.

Some say the restoration of democracy has put Nigeria back on the track of becoming one of the economic powers of Africa. Yet some Nigerians say they have very little to celebrate because the democracy dividends that they had hoped for have yet to be attained.

Professor Kabiru Mato, head of the political science department at the University of Abuja told VOA the occasion is not worth celebrating because the democratic aspirations of Nigerians have yet to be met.

“I think this is civil rule day. I don’t think it is yet a democracy day because most of the attributes of democracy are not yet on the ground in Nigeria. The issue that is worth celebrating actually is that this is the first time in the history of Nigeria since independence in 1960 that we are having 10 years of uninterrupted rule by civilians,” he said.

Mato described as arbitrary many things that he said have happened in Nigeria between 1999 and 2007.

“We have seen manipulation of the political processes by way of emasculating political parties by reducing them to mere instruments in the hands of those people in authority. We have also seen to a great extent the failure of the political establishment to abide by the rule of the game by ensuring elections which could be categorized as above average,” Mato said.

He said he does not think Nigerians have done well either during the last 10 years under democratic rule.

“If you look at all the development indexes that are available, the relationship between Nigerians and poverty is still really on the high side. Social infrastructure is basically lacking in the country, educational system is in crisis, our health service is also in shamble, roads are still bad…so if you want to really put in perspective, it would be very difficult for you to say that we have achieved anything positive in the last 10 years,” he said.

Almost every election in Nigeria since the return to democratic rulehas been disputed, including the recent election re-run in Ekiti State. Some blamed the problems on the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Mato said the country will need a truly independent electoral commission if Nigerians are to have free and fair elections in 2011,

“What we are having in Nigeria is that there is a concerted effort on the part of the citizens calling for electoral reform. You will recall that as soon as President Yar’Adua found himself in office in May 2007 he did promise Nigerians and the world all over that he was going to ensure that an electoral reform is conducted. So he set up a committee and the committee came up a very far reaching recommendations that were accepted and friends of Nigeria. Unfortunately the president is not willing to accept most of the critical recommendations of that electoral reform committee,” Mato said.

Mato said Nigerians cannot talk about democracy without an electoral system that will guarantee the citizenry that their right that they have the right to vote and be voted.

He said the restoration of democracy has helped in some respect in the fight against corruption in Nigeria. But Mato said Nigerians must take the fight to a new level by looking at corruption as a social problem that requires social solutions.

 Sourced from VOA News


Nigerian Militant Leader Killed

May 28, 2009
Ken Niweigha known as "Daddy Ken", executed by the police.

Ken Niweigha known as "Daddy Ken", executed by the police.

 
 

 

A Nigerian oil militant leader has been shot dead in police custody.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) claim Ken Niweigha known as “Daddy Ken” was executed by the police.

But the police say he was killed in a shootout after he took them to his hideout to surrender his weapons.

Human rights groups say extra-judicial execution is “shockingly common” in Nigeria, where the police lack the capacity to do their jobs effectively.

After his arrest on Tuesday, Mr Niweigha, who led the Egbesu Boys armed group in Bayelsa State, was paraded in front of journalists.

He then agreed to take the police to his hideout in Odi town and surrender all his arms, local media reported police commissioner Onouha Udeka as saying.

“He promised he was going to take us to his hideout in Odi where he hid his weapons,” said Mr Udeka.

“But we did not know that he had arranged with his gang to attack us and possibly get him freed. Ken was shot trying to escape.”

Mr Niweigha was the only person killed in the shootout, he said.

A spokesman from Mend – an affiliation of armed groups in the oil-rich Niger Delta – accused the police of “summarily executing” Mr Niweigha.

“The Nigerian government in authorising extra-judicial killings is sending a clear message to youths from the region that it is better to die fighting for freedom than be killed by a lawless system of government,” Jomo Gbomo said in an e-mail to journalists.

Mr Niweigha had been arrested after 500 women from Odi demanded something should be done to stop militants fleeing from an army operation in neighbouring Delta State coming to the town.

The women told police “Daddy Ken” that was harbouring them.

It is unusual for people to turn in militants as they are often feared or pay Delta communities to keep quiet, but Odi residents said they feared a repeat of an army operation 10 years ago which devastated the town.

US-based rights body Human Rights Watch reported 50 people were killed in that attack, which was provoked by the murder of 12 policemen, allegedly by militants led by Daddy Ken.

 


Tamil Rebels Up For Rehabilitation

May 27, 2009

Sri Lankan Army spokesman, Brig Udaya Nanayakkara Sri Lankan Army spokesman, Brig Udaya Nanayakkara

The Sri Lankan military has said that several thousand suspected Tamil Tiger rebels have been questioned by judges and will now undergo “rehabilitation”.

Army spokesman Brig Udaya Nanayakkara said about 2,000 Tamils, who had admitted belonging to the Tigers, were likely to face trial.

He said that suspected Tamil Tiger guerrillas are being kept separate from thousands of displaced Tamil civilians.

The government has again insisted it is doing all it can to look after them.

“They have taken guns, fought against the army. So they have to go through rehabilitation so that they can live as normal Sri Lankans,” Brig Nanayakkara said of the 2,000 people who are “self confessed” former rebels.

He said that the process of “weeding out and rehabilitating” them was already under way and each one has been brought before judges.

He said that said anyone who had been trained by the Tamil Tigers to carry arms was considered a combatant.

“Since the start of fighting in different locations, 9,100 Tamil Tiger cadres have self-confessed,” he said.

“We have sent 7,000 of them to welfare camps for rehabilitation after legal proceedings, while others are facing court proceedings.”

The military says that it killed 22,000 rebel fighters during its 34-month offensive to end the 25-year civil war and lost 6,200 of its own soldiers.

On Tuesday, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights called for an independent investigation into alleged atrocities by both sides in Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Navi Pillay said it was the only way to build a sustainable peace in Sri Lanka.


First Hispanic Nomination: Sotomayor by Obama

May 26, 2009

Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor and President Barack Obama

Supreme Court nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor and President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to become the nation’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice on Tuesday, praising her as “an inspiring woman” with both the intellect and compassion to interpret the Constitution wisely.

Obama said Sotomayor has more experience as a judge than any current member of the high court had when nominated, adding she has earned the “respect of colleagues on the bench, the admiration of many lawyers who argue cases in her court and the adoration of her clerks, who look to her as a mentor.”

Standing next to Obama at the White House, Sotomayor recalled a childhood spent in a housing project in the Bronx as well as her upper-echelon legal career: “I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government.”

Barring the unexpected, Senate confirmation seems likely, given the large Democratic majority. If approved, she would join Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the second woman on the current court, the third in history. She would succeed retiring Justice David Souter.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., issued a statement saying he looked forward “to working with both Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to confirm Judge Sotomayor as the first Hispanic and the third woman to sit on the court.”

Senate Republicans pledged to give her a fair hearing, and some questioned whether she would base decisions on her personal feelings, rather than constitutional principles. Given her background, any effort to filibuster her nomination could carry political risks, since Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population and an increasingly important one politically.

Sotomayor would be unlikely to alter the ideological balance of the court, since Souter generally sides with the liberals on key 5-4 rulings. But at 54, she is a generation younger that Souter, and liberal outside groups hope she will provide a counterpoint to some of the sharply worded conservative rulings.

Introducing his choice, Obama said, “Along the way, she’s faced down barriers, overcome the odds and lived out the American dream that brought her parents here so long ago.”

Sourced from Yahoo News


Zuma’s South Africa In Recession

May 26, 2009
 
Its barely weeks since Jacob Zuma, against all odds assumed the mantle of leadership in South Africa, sadly, the change of baton could not serve as the needed barricade between the ‘R’ word and Mandiba’s beloved homeland. The economy is in recession for the first time since 1992, following a sharp slowdown in the manufacturing and mining sectors.Africa’s biggest economy contracted at an annualised rate of 6.4% between January and March, compared with the same period a year earlier.

It was the biggest decline since 1984 and followed an annualised 1.8% fall in the previous three months.

The construction sector, however, was boosted by the upcoming World Cup.

South Africa is benefiting from a huge programme of government investment ahead of the football tournament in 2010.

 

 

The Reserve Bank of South Africa is due to announce its latest decision on interest rates on Thursday.

It is now expected to cut rates by a full percentage point from the current level of 8.5%.

Statistics South Africa, which calculated the figures, said the slowdown in manufacturing and the mining and quarrying sector had been primarily responsible for the contraction.

Mining firms have been hit by falling demand for their products as a result of the global economic slowdown.