Myanmar struck back Friday after a surge of global legal pressure over its alleged crimes against the Rohingya, branding an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) “not in accordance with international law”.
On Thursday the ICC approved a full probe into Myanmar’s 2017 bloody military crackdown against the minority Muslim group.
The decision came after rights groups filed a separate lawsuit in Argentina —- in which former democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi was personally named —- and a further submission of a genocide case at the UN’s top court.
Two years ago some 740,000 Rohingya fled over the border into sprawling camps in Bangladesh in violence UN investigators branded as genocide.
Myanmar has repeatedly defended the crackdown as necessary to stamp out militants and has long refused to recognise the authority of the ICC — a position it reiterated Friday.
“The investigation over Myanmar by the ICC is not in accordance with international law,” said government spokesman Zaw Htay at a press conference Friday.
Even though the country has not signed up to the court, the ICC ruled last year it has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya because Bangladesh, where they are now refugees, is a member.
Zaw Htay repeated that Myanmar’s own committees would investigate any abuses and ensure accountability if needed.
“Myanmar and the government are neither in denial nor closing our eyes,” he said.
Critics deride the domestic panels of whitewashing atrocities.
– Myanmar accused of genocide –
The ICC decision came after West African nation The Gambia on Monday launched a separate case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the UN’s top court, also based in The Hague.
The Gambia, acting on behalf of the 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), accuses Myanmar of genocide. The first hearings are scheduled for December.
The ICJ normally deals with more legalistic disputes between states but also rules on alleged breaches of UN conventions.
Myanmar, which has signed the Genocide Convention, would respond “in accordance with international legal means,” said Zaw Htay.
In the case filed Wednesday in Argentina, Suu Kyi was among top Myanmar officials named for crimes against the Rohingya, the first time the Nobel Laureate has been legally targeted over the crisis.
Human rights groups submitted the lawsuit under “universal jurisdiction”, a legal principle that some crimes are so horrific, they can be tried anywhere.
The lawsuit demands top leaders — including army chief Min Aung Hlaing and civilian leader Suu Kyi — face justice over the “existential threat” faced by the Rohingya.
Argentine courts have taken up other such cases in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.
Myanmar’s government spokesman offered no comment on the lawsuit. ( Agencies)
THE new bridge over Sisseri River, which will be inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday during his two-day trip to Arunachal Pradesh, will reduce travel time between Dibang and Siang valleys in the state, sources said here on Thursday.
According to a senior official of the Indian Army, the 200-metre bridge, which will connect Pasi Ghat with Roing, will reduce travel time between the two places by at least five hours.
The bridge built by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) falls along the road that is being constructed by the Union government under the Trans-Arunachal Highway project.
“The road will be extremely beneficial for local transportation. Earlier, the locals had to trudge several miles to reach Pasi Ghat from Roing or vice versa. With the new bridge, travel time between the two places will be cut by more than five hours,” said the official.
The bridge, engineered by the BRO, is a double-carriageway structure with four spans of 50-metre each.
“The bridge is an important link in the Trans-Arunachal Highway that is being built from Tawang at the extreme end of Arunachal Pradesh to Kanubari. The Sisseri Bridge will help travelling to the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge through which commuters can reach Tinsukia district in Assam,” said the official.
The Dhola-Sadiya Bridge, named after popular Assamese singer and filmmaker Bhupen Hazarika, is the first road connection between Arunachal Pradesh and Assam. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2017.
The Trans-Arunachal Highway being constructed by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways spans a total length of over 1,500 km. The project, though launched by the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, has been pursued aggressively by the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) since 2015.
The highway project is expected to boost tourism in Arunachal Pradesh besides giving impetus to the under-developed industrial sector in the northeastern state.
Rajnath Singh reached Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday where he was received by the state’s Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
A Defence Ministry official said that Rajnath Singh visited the Tawang War Memorial and Tawang Monastery on the first day of his two-day trip. He also attended the Maitree Diwas celebrations, a multi-cultural social event, held in the Gyalwa Tsangyang Gyatso high altitude stadium in Tawang as the chief guest of the event.
On Friday, Rajnath will visit India’s forward post at Bum La near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, apart from inaugurating the bridge.
In October, Rajnath had inaugurated another bridge of the BRO that has been built across the Shyok River in Ladakh. The Shyokm River bridge, named after a valiant soldier of Ladakh, Colonel Chewang Rinchen, has been built to allow ease of troop movement to the Daulat Beg Oldi sector, located near the LAC along China’s Xinjiang province, where a 21-day military standoff had taken place between India and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
The government of Nepal should ensure that forthcoming legislation to regulate social organizations protects the right to freedom of association, Human Rights Watch said. The government should hold open consultations with activists before introducing these laws.Following previous attempts to impose draconian regulations on nongovernment organizations (NGOs), activists fear that legislation being prepared by the Home Ministry will weaken civil society, including organizations defending human rights. These groups had been supervised by the Social Welfare Council, a government body established in 1992 to “co-ordinate” and “promote” social organizations. But under the current government, the Home Ministry, which is otherwise responsible for internal security and law and order, has been taking over the regulation, registration, and supervision of social organizations.
“Nongovernmental organizations need to be independent so that they can hold the government accountable, criticize policies, propose alternative ideas, and represent different points of view,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director. “The Nepal government’s recent attempts to place constraints on groups rings alarm bells for democracy and human rights.”
Jitbir Lama, president of NGO Federation Nepal, described activists’ concerns to the Kathmandu Post, saying “We are concerned if the ministry is focusing on controlling nongovernment organizations, instead of regulating and facilitating them.” Achyut Luitel, chairperson of the Association of International NGOs, warned that the government is trying to adopt “controlling measures” to restrict groups that work on human rights.
The government’s 2019 International Development Cooperation Policy states that international aid mobilized through Nepali groups should be in line with government priorities, which it identifies mostly as infrastructure development.
The National Integrity Policy introduced in 2018 placed a number of onerous restrictions on activist groups and on the foreign funding that many rely on for their work. The policy requires groups to seek government permission to receive foreign grants. Once enforced, international nongovernmental organizations will be banned from doing advocacy on policy issues and from making “inappropriate allegations,” “spreading ill will,” or doing anything to “jeopardize the Nepali civilization, culture, social relationships and harmony.” Reports that they send to their home countries must be approved by the government.
These broadly drawn prohibitions could be used to prevent a wide range of activism on issues such as human rights, corruption, and gender and caste discrimination. Since the work of all international groups must be carried out through local partner organizations, the policy severely constrains domestic organizations supported by foreign partners.
A 2018 letter from four United Nations special rapporteurs stated, among numerous concerns, that the National Integrity Policy would “severely hinder the access of funding for associations.” They pointed out that even unregistered organizations are entitled to freedom of expression rights under international law and said that restrictions on activities of these groups under the policy do “not appear to pursue a legitimate objective under international human rights standards.” The special rapporteurs concluded that the policy was “aimed at hindering civil society’s ability to operate, especially NGOs and INGOs that are advocating for the promotion of ideas that are not shared by the Government.”
In June 2018, the government also introduced a directive that all nongovernmental groups must register with Home Ministry officials in each district, include a declaration of the personal property of all officeholders, and amend their statutes to specify just one field in which they would work. Those orders were later rolled back in the face of widespread opposition and threats of legal action.
International law protects freedom of association, including through nongovernmental groups. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) holds that no restrictions may be placed on this right other than those that “are necessary in a democratic society” such as protecting public safety or the rights of others. Any limitations should not destroy or negate the essence of the rights guaranteed in the covenant.
Groups in Nepal accept that some regulation is necessary, for example with relation to financial management. While it is appropriate to regulate and scrutinize the financial affairs of not-for-profit organizations to address corruption, the Nepali government’s approach unnecessarily infringes on the fundamental right of citizens to organize and campaign on issues of their choosing, Human Rights Watch said.
“The government should not be interfering with or constraining which issues organizations can work on, and should listen to activists, including critics, instead of treating them as a threat,” Ganguly said. “In the past, Nepali political parties, including the one currently in office, received the support of groups that backed democracy and human rights, and all members of parliament should ensure that any new regulation is bolstering these groups instead of undermining them.”
The crime graph on the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) points to a steady uptrend in crimes committed against children in Nagaland. As per the NCRB’s latest but delayed Crime in India (2017) compendium, from 61 reported cases in 2015, crimes against children rose to 78 in 2016 to reach a high of 93 at a rate of 13.9 per lakh of population in 2017 against the national rate of 28.9.
Despite the visible increase from a state perspective, Nagaland ranked lowest among the states in terms of incidence and was the only state with fewer than hundred cases reported. Only the Union Territories of Puducherry, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu and Lakshadweep reported lesser cases than Nagaland.
In terms of frequency, the then state of Jammu & Kashmir ranked lowest at 8 per lakh of population. J & K had a total of 359 reported cases. The all-India total of reported cases was 1,29,032.
Kidnappings and abductions (46 victims) and cases cognizable under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (43 victims) dominated, registering 42 and 41 cases, respectively. It also included 1 rape, 2 attempted rapes, 2 under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and five others.
The two attempted rapes were also featured in the data for Crime against Women.
With the inclusion of 5 other victims, the total number of victims under this category stood at 101.
The state police investigated as many as 143 cases relating to crimes committed on children, inclusive of 50 pending from 2016. Of the outstanding total, 53 were charge-sheeted, inclusive of 12 pending cases from 2016. There were 2 abatements and 60 others deemed and disposed as false report, mistake of fact or of law or civil dispute, insufficient evidence. The year ended with 28 in the process of investigations.
During the year, the courts tried as many as 94 cases, including 41 cases pending from 2016. Hearings were concluded in 22 of the court trials, resulting in 15 convictions, 4 acquittals and 3 discharges. The number of persons convicted included 25 men and 1 woman.
There were relatively swift trials too, as 8 of the convictions were of cases that reached the court during the year. Cases pending trial at the end of the year stood at 72— in other words, a pendency rate of 76.6 percent.
The Assam State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (ASCPCR) on Tuesday said child trafficking cases has increased by at least 55 per cent in 2019 across the state.
A total of 125 cases of different crimes against children were registered with the organization during the current year. Till November 10 this year, we have registered 17 cases of child trafficking. This figure was 11 for the whole year of 2018.
ASCPCR has registered 43 cases of child sexual abuse in the same period this year against 53 in 2018. There were five cases of child marriage too compared to six in last year.
Instances of violation of right to education for children has also seen a considerable rise with 13 cases being already registered this year, while the same was just nine in 2018.
ASCPCR registered 24 cases of child in need of care and protection till November 10 as against 36 in 2018, she added.
There are five cases of other crimes this year as against one in last year.
ASCPCR on Tuesday rolled out a mobile application for lodging complaints of child rights violations.
People and organisations in many countries around the world claim to have adopted Bhutan’s human development vision of Gross National Happiness (GNH).
However, what they actually portray is different people’s perceptions of GNH. Some are philosophical, some are well researched academic constructions, while the others are spaced-out theories.
GNH has been described as an esoteric philosophy, an inspiring concept, a developmental goal, a measure of development, a wake-up call, and so on.
It is also being criticised as a platform for ambitious politicians, a mere catchphrase, an empty promise, meaningless platitudes, a purely intellectual concept, as well as an academic redundancy.
If confusion is truly the beginning of wisdom, all these are ‘wonderful’. I, too, would like to add to the confusion by sharing my understanding of GNH, by attempting some responses and clarifications to ideas that are being exchanged.
What exactly is ‘Happiness’?
To talk about GNH, I believe that we have to first define what happiness is.
I know that the world’s greatest minds have been trying to define happiness for centuries but I have my own idea of a GNH perspective on happiness.
The happiness in GNH is not fun, pleasure, thrill, excitement – or any other fleeting emotions, it is the deeper and permanent sense of contentment that we consciously or, in our sub-conscience, seek.
Have we achieved GNH in Bhutan? The answer is ‘No’. But has GNH had an impact on Bhutanese society? Yes.
Everyone who has visited Bhutan senses a different atmosphere from the moment he or she arrives. I believe that this sense comes from the values that have been nurtured over the centuries.
Today, we are calling it GNH, therefore, I offer my understanding of GNH as it exists today.
I see GNH in four forms – the intuitive, the intellectual, the responsibility and the emerging global.
First of all, I see intuitive GNH values in past generations of Bhutanese who had strong mutual understanding and enjoyed interdependent existence as members of small rural communities.
The village astrologer, the lay monk, the lead singer, the carpenter, the arrow maker, the elders and the youth, all of them had their own responsibilities.
The values, drawn from Buddhist teachings, from the experience and wisdom of our ancestors and from the very practical needs of a subsistence farming lifestyle, inculcated a reverence for an interdependent existence with all life forms, or all sentient beings.
Some examples of these are seen in the reluctance to hunt and fish (both of which are banned in the country), the sometimes frustrating tendency to be less ‘productive’ to avoid hurting or upsetting someone, and putting up with the cacophony of an unruly stray dog population. To put it simply, people basically identified with their own priorities in life.
In the 1980s, farmers of one village were taught successfully to do a double crop of paddy, meaning that they doubled their rice production that year.
However, they refused to do it the following year because, as one farmer said, “We did not have time to play archery, to enjoy our festivals or to bask in the sun.”
Another perception level I see is the attempt to define, explain and measure GNH, along with the academic construction of the concept.
The four pillars and nine domains of GNH
As discussed earlier, the best accepted definition of happiness is the abiding sense of inter-relatedness with all life forms and of contentment that lies within the self.
This is related to the happiness that Buddhists seek from the practice of meditation.
In one understanding of GNH as a development vision, a representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) described it as a much more advanced concept of the Human Development Index that the UNDP has been refining.
This takes me to the third perception: GNH as a government responsibility.
As discussed, I think the definition of happiness as the abiding sense of contentment as well as GNH as a government responsibility make basic sense, although the translation of these into policy, legislation and prioritised activities is very much still a work in progress.
In other words, we may agree on goals, values, and responsibilities, but differ sharply on the best strategies to achieve these goals.
And yet, it is the recognition that GNH must be the basis of mainstream policy thinking that sets Bhutan apart from some countries that have expressed interest in harnessing the values of GNH.
As we have seen during the GNH conferences in Thailand, Brazil, and Canada, some people doing good work among their communities, such as the NGOs and civil society organisations, thought that they have found an identity in GNH.
In Bhutan, however, the four pillars and nine domains of GNH have given politicians and bureaucrats some idea of national priorities.
This is useful because public servants do not intellectualise policy but make decisions that have an impact on all citizens.
The international discourse
The fourth perception level is the “internationalisation” of the GNH discussion.
(Source: Chencho Dorji)
Bhutan has certainly not worked out the solutions to the world’s problems, but I think we have opened up an amazing conversation and we need to give this conversation coherence and direction.
The concept of GNH, even partially understood, excites and inspires people. After five international conferences on GNH and the April 2 meeting in New York, one criticism at home has been – stop preaching GNH overseas and make it work in Bhutan.
This is a resounding example of the need for clarity in GNH thinking and understanding. Here, I emphasise the point that we are not preaching to anyone, rather, we ourselves are learning.
There is a vast amount of research, analysis and experimentation done on GNH-related issues such as sustainability, well-being, climate change and much more, by intellectuals including Nobel laureates, by universities and institutions and by civil societies.
Bhutan must learn from them to in order to deepen its own understanding of GNH.
International discourse can only benefit Bhutan because we ourselves do not have the capacity to undertake the necessary research and analysis required to implement the tenets of GNH fully at home.
In conclusion, there is a growing understanding of, and even fear that the human population, driven by the values of GDP, is literally consuming the earth.
That is why GNH is a pun on GDP which used to be known as Gross National Product. The loud message is that human development needs a higher goal, that is, beyond GDP.
“The favourable aspects of a site in Thimphu valley have made it eminently suitable for the capital.” A recently discovered report titled, “New Capital for Bhutan in the Thimphu Valley,” dated April 1963, reasons why Thimphu was eminently suitable as the new capital of Bhutan.
The first reason was that Thimphu was suitable for round-the-year living. It was also found that the practice of shifting the capital from Thimphu to Punakha during the winter was found expensive for the state. Although the report does not state, it implies that by moving the capital permanently to Thimphu, the state would be absolved of this financial burden.
Secondly, the proposed site for the capital adjoins the Tashichhodzong and it would be in the proximity of His Majesty’s Palace. In the life of the Bhutanese, these two institutions are of great significance.
Thirdly, Thimphu had the land required for housing a population of 12,000 to 20,000. Fourthly, Thimphu could be reached in about 10 to 15 hours from the Indian airstrip of Hasimara. This factor was considered of great consequence in a country where access in the mountainous terrain was hazardous, time consuming and expensive.
Fifthly as the site of the capital, Thimphu could maintain effective control on movement in the highways from the north as well as from the South.
Sixthly, the physical features of Thimphu made it scenic and impressive. Located at an altitude of 8,000 ft. and in between two sub-Himalayan ranges rising sharply to about 12,000 ft., Thimphu provided a good aspect for the capital. Lastly, Thimphu commanded a perennial source of water supply. The terrain was found suitable for good drainage and sewage disposal systems.
The neatly typed seven-page report has been classified under four broad categories. The categories are;Preliminary Framework of the capital, Social Base, Economic Base and fourthly the Plan. Under each broad category there are subsections. For example under the first category, the subheadings are, “ Need for a governmental centre, the Site and Scope of Planning. Given the significance of the historical data extracts of the report are being reproduced.
Under the first broad heading of Preliminary framework of the capital, the need for a governmental centre is justified as “ the opening of the 120 mile highway from Phuntsholing to the Thimphu valley and beyond augurs an era of a development and progress in Bhutan. Activities of varied nature will spring up a consequence of the inter-communication made possible by the highway. It is appropriate that a governmental centre, from which the nation building activities can be conceived, directed, co-ordinated and controlled, be established and developed.”
In the scope of planning, the report states that, “the planning of a township of the size envisaged in a country such as Bhutan, presents problems of adaptation common to all places where such work is being done for the first time. Such problems as arises need to be solved during the first five-year development. The resources of the country have to be harnessed and geared to this end. This work itself will be thebulk of the programme for the first five years. The growth of the township immediately after this period will be faster. It is possible for the capital to reach the planned size in about 15 years on the whole. A comprehensive plan for 15 years has been envisaged.”
Point 2.1 is classified as Population and its characteristics; “ In the absence of Census data, population estimates can be made only approximately, based on the employment potential of the community. An estimate of the total employment generated in the capital at Thimphu is worked out in paragraph three. It is assumed that the family size will continue to be between three and four persons. Adjustments for factors such as average life expectation, fertility rate, infant mortality, etc., are made on the basis of available information. The estimate of population is as follows:
1967, 5,000 persons, 1972, 7,000 persons, 1977, 10,000-12,000 persons may achieve a high figure of 20,000.”
The report states that the housing policy for the capital must include the provisions to be made by the various departments of the government to house their staff, the extent to which private housing will come up in the capital and also on the clusters to which the Bhutanese workers would like to move in the capital. Adaptations of the prevalent building techniques in rubble, rammed earth and timber will have to be evolved. The resources for putting up a large number of buildings need to be studied.
To realise the housing facilities demanded, the report assumes that Bhutanese who move to the new capital will continue to build on developed land made available to them. The houses would be similar to or a little improved versions over the traditional adobe houses. It is expected of the government to build houses for their employees on a scale determined by the number of institutions set up in the new capital.
The report states that the extent of development of Thimphu town will span over an area of 700 acres. However, only 400 acres will be used for the development of the town and the balance of 300 acres will be used for agricultural purposes.
The report proposes to keep a provision for an orchard or alternatively a plantation. The designated area would be north of the Tashichhodzong and cover an area of 20-25 acres. It will also have an agricultural experimental station with a piggery and poultry.
The consultants estimate the rate of development of Thimphu as Rs. 8,000 per acre. The town plan is based on the population estimate of 12,000 with a maximum projection of 20,000 people living in the capital city. The city dwellers were categorised in five income groups starting from those earning Rs. 300 per month to 1,200 per month. Subsistence farmers are also included in the category.
The report proposes to have a police force of 50 personnel, a school with enrolment of 300-400 and ultimately 600 students. At that time, there was already a hospital and the report recommends adding a T.B Ward to the hospital.
The April report has a list of maps. Out of the 11 maps, only three were attached to the report; Housing Layout, Road Hierarchy and the Design Report for the Water Supply & Drainage Scheme of the City at Thimphu Valley-Bhutan. The missing eight maps are, Comprehensive Plan 1962-77, Plan for the first stage, Housing Sector D, Housing Sector C, House Design, Perspective of Cluster, Industrial District, Plot and Building Analysis and lastly the Road Hierarchy.
One of the first documents reflecting the intentions of His Late Majesty to make Thimphu the capital is reflected in a letter dated 3 June 1962. While details are not available, apparently, the Royal Government of Bhutan wrote the letter to the Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur to review the terms of contract.
The outcome of the letter was the first town plan meeting held in Phuntsholing. The meeting was held on 9 August. The Bhutanese delegation was led by Dasho Lhendup Dorji and consisted of Rai Bahadur T.D. Densapa, Sri M.S Nair and Sri O.P Mathur. The two Indian professors, Prof. R.K. Dhar and A. Subbakrishniah from the Indian Institute of Technology travelled from Kharagpur to Phuntsholing to present the preliminary plan in the form of 22 points. Nine months later, in April 1963, the seven-page report, “New Capital for Bhutan in the Thimphu Valley,” was drafted.
The process of shifting the capital to Thimphu started much earlier. In 1952, His Majesty the Second Druk Gyalpo passed away and his dying wish was for his son to move the capital from Bumthang to Thimphu. After completing all the funeral rites His Late Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo and Her Majesty Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck moved to Paro and embarked on setting up Thimphu as the new capital of Bhutan.
Dimapur: Nagaland Police on Wednesday arrested the couple who posed with automatic assault rifles at their wedding reception in this commercial town of Nagaland. The couple was released on bail bond later.
Two National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Unification (NSCN-U) militants — Ato Sumi and Mughaho — and the bodyguards of the home minister of the NSCN-U, Bohoto Kiba, were also arrested for giving their assault rifles to the couple, a police officer said.
The photographs and a video of the son of Bohoto Kiba and the bride brandishing assault rifles — M4 and AK 56 — at their wedding reception had gone viral on the social media.
“We have arrested the couple and two NSCN-U militants in connection with a suo moto case registered in Diphupar police station for displaying firearms at a wedding reception,” a police officer told IANS.
The couple got married on November 9 at the 5th Mile in Dimapur.
“We have recorded the statements of the couple. They said that the bodyguards of their father handed them the weapons (for photography) at the reception,” he said.
The police have seized the weapons and a case has been registered under the Arms Act, 1959.
Kiba is a powerful Naga rebel leader, who had courted controversy by threatening journalists in Nagaland in 2012. The top militant leader had threatened to shoot the members of the press.
The NSCN-U was formed by breakaway leaders of the Socialist Council of Nagalim-Isak-Muivah and the Myanmar-based Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang.
The NSCN-U faction is also one of the seven Naga groups holding peace talks with the government.
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Clashes broke out in the streets of Bolivia’s capital Tuesday evening when an opposition leader in the Senate declared herself the country’s interim president after Evo Morales fled to Mexico following his surprise weekend resignation.
Jeanine Añez claimed the post of Senate leader late in the day, a position next in line for the presidency, even though she lacked a quorum because of a boycott by Morales’ Movement for Socialism party. Without being sworn in by anyone, she then appeared on a balcony of the old presidential palace wearing the presidential sash and holding a Bible in her hand.
“My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country,” she said. “They can never again steal our vote.”
It was uncertain how much support Añez could count on from other power centers in her bid to replace Morales, who stepped down Sunday under pressure from Bolivia’s military following weeks of violent protests fed by allegations of electoral fraud in the Oct. 20 presidential election.
Some Bolivians quickly took to the streets cheering and waving national flags in opposition strongholds like the cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, but angry Morales’ supporters tried to reach the Congress building in La Paz screaming, “She must quit!” Police and soldiers fired tear gas trying to disperse the crowd and detained some demonstrators.
Morales, who sought to transform Bolivia as its first indigenous president, had faced weeks of widespread outrage over his claim to have won the election outright. He stepped down soon after an Organization of American States audit reported widespread irregularities in the vote count.
He arrived in Mexico on Tuesday under a grant of asylum. But his resignation still needed to be approved by both houses of Congress, and lawmakers could not assemble the numbers needed for formal sessions.
Añez, a 52-year-old lawmaker, women’s rights activist and television presenter, forged ahead anyway, arguing that Bolivia could not wait and be left in a power vacuum. After Morales quit, resignations by allies left vacancies in the only posts listed by the constitution as presidential successors — the vice president, the head of the Senate and the leader of the lower house.
Añez was a second-tier opposition figure until Morales resigned Sunday after nearly 14 years in power, the longest presidential reign ever in Bolivia.
From the start, she tried to set differences with the socialist leader. She greeted supporters at an old palace instead of the nearby modern 26-story presidential palace with a heliport that was built by Morales and that his foes had criticized as one of his excesses. She also carried a Bible, which had been banned by Morales from the presidential palace.
Morales said on Twitter from Mexico that Añez’s “self-proclamation” was an affront to constitutional government. “Bolivia is suffering an assault on the power of the people,” he wrote.
Even before Añez acted, thousands of his supporters were in the streets of the capital in peaceful demonstrations clamoring for his return. Military fighter jets flew repeatedly over La Paz in a show of force that infuriated Morales loyalists who were blocked by police and soldiers from marching to the main square.
“We’re not afraid!” shouted demonstrators, who believe Morales’ departure was a coup d’etat and an act of discrimination against Bolivia’s indigenous communities.
“Evo was like a father to me. We had a voice, we had rights,” said Maria Apasa, who like Morales is a member of the Aymara indigenous group.
Morales’ detractors accused him of becoming increasingly authoritarian and rigging the election.
Morales was met at Mexico City’s airport by Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard after a flight from Bolivia on a Mexican government plane and repeated his allegations he had been forced to resign by a coup.
“The president of Mexico saved my life,” Morales said, thanking President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for granting him asylum. He vowed to “continue the struggle.”
Ebrard said Mexican diplomats had to scramble to arrange a flight path for the plane because some nations initially closed airspace to it. The plane stopped in Paraguay to refuel.
Morales’ departure was a dramatic fall for the one-time llama shepherd from the Bolivian highlands and former coca growers’ union leader who as president helped lift millions out poverty, increased social rights and presided over nearly 14 years of stability and high economic growth in South America’s poorest country.
In the end, his downfall was prompted by his insistence on holding onto power. He ran for a fourth term after refusing to accept the results of a referendum that upheld term limits for the president — restrictions thrown out by a top court that critics contend was stacked in his favor.
Gen. Williams Kaliman, chief of the armed forces, announced a joint police-military operation in a television address Monday seeking to calm street fighting. He said the hope was to “avoid bloodshed and mourning of the Bolivian family,” and he urged Bolivians to help restore peace.
Ronald Arias said he had left his home in El Alto and walked for three hours to his job in downtown La Paz because the cable car connecting the cities was suspended for security reasons and barricades blocked access to public transportation.
Arias, a native Aymara, said that thanks to Morales, his parents in the countryside gained access for the first time to running water and gas for cooking.
“I was so saddened by his resignation,” he said. “A lot of people in El Alto shed tears for the president.”
Associated Press writers Paola Flores in La Paz and Christopher Torchia in Mexico City contributed to this report.
It was in Calcutta, 40 years ago, a steaming hot Friday monsoon morning, and I had come down from my newspaper’s office in Delhi to write about the industrial tea trade. I was at the headquarters of Macneill and Magor, a tea giant of the time, whose red brick godowns lined the banks of the Hooghly River. I had a breakfast-time appointment with the company spokesman, a genial Anglo-Indian named Pearson Surita, a man possessed of an accent so plummy that on the side he did cricket commentaries for All-India Radio.
Brew and a view: A visitor at a Glenburn Tea Estate bungalow in Darjeeling.
The elevator creaked us up to the penthouse, with its fine view of the Maidan. Pearson sat me down by his desk, then promptly called the bearer and demanded two pink gins. But it wasn’t even 8 o’clock, I protested. “Don’t worry, old boy,” Pearson replied. “It’s Poets Day.” Puzzled, I sipped timidly at my gin while Pearson threw his down in one gulp, then called the departing bearer. Another two, he demanded. I yowled still more forcefully. It was early morning. Pink gin? “Don’t be silly,” he repeated. “It’s Poets Day.”
What poet? I ventured — Yeats? Auden? Tagore (who was, after all, a Bengali). “Damn fool,” Pearson said to me genially, though by now he had turned bright red and was sweating majestically. “Poets Day here in Calcutta. Stands for ‘Piss Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday.’”
To Pearson, tea was merely a commodity, something that came in large chests, consisting in the main of dried black twigs, crushed by brass engine rollers after being picked in goodness knows how many dozens of estates far away in Assam and Meghalaya and Upper Burma, where the pickers lived in execrable conditions and were paid a pittance. And the customers at the other end: philistine Britons, mainly, who drank the stuff with sugar and milk and let it stew in the pot for hours. No, tea was just a job, and a job that paid nicely, though Pearson would rather have gin. He really didn’t care about tea.
But Henrietta Lovell most certainly does, and these days publicly decries those people, and those industries, whose cavalier attitude to this most divine of nectars and the Camellia strains from which it is made is, in her view, little short of sacrilege. So she is now on a holy mission to educate us all so that we can know the difference between a pu’er and an oolong, between a rooibos and a Darjeeling, and why it matters, greatly.
Ms Lovell is a hearty, galumphing Briton of good pedigree and even better connections who once worked in corporate finance in New York. But on a whim, 15 years ago, she chucked that career to start the Rare Tea Company in London and has since devoted her life to advancing the cause of leaf tea (and to denouncing that epitome of foulness known as the tea bag). More important, she busies herself promoting those farmers around the world who grow tea and tend to it with the care and compassion that so ancient and elemental a beverage deserves and rightly demands. Her visits over a decade and a half to these faraway rural geniuses are what Infused: Adventures in Tea is about.
I had initially thought the book might be little more than an extended advertisement for Ms Lovell’s business. But then I found myself quite caught up in her infectious enthusiasm as she ventured — twice defeating her own cancer, which tried in vain to slow her down — out into the world in search of the green tea hills in China, Japan and India, of course, but also in Malawi, Nepal and South Africa. On occasion, her style can be a little exhausting, with her bursts of Pete Wells-ian polychrome, but one can excuse her. This is a love letter, after all.
I read the book in one contented go on a flight from Sydney to Hong Kong, where I had a few hours’ wait before moving on to New York. Nowadays, it’s surprisingly tricky to find a good loose-tea store in Hong Kong’s vast Starbucksian airport. But it was a long layover and eventually I winkled out the shoe box of Fook Ming Tong, tucked away on an upper floor, and handed over a not insubstantial wad of folding money for a package of Lovell’s most highly recommended ambrosia: white silver tip tea from Fujian Province in southeastern China. Once home, I found myself a graduated-temperature electric kettle, as also suggested, heated fresh water to 75 degrees Celsius and infused three grams of the unprocessed leaves for 90 seconds flat. I then poured the pale and steaming liquid into two fine china cups and took them upstairs.
One careful sip, then two, then a bold draining — whereupon my wife and I declared this tea to be quite sublime, perfect, entirely unlike anything we’d ever tasted before. An impeccably caffeine-loaded, faintly perfumed start to the day. And far, far better and more efficacious in inducing wakefulness and good cheer than ever was gin, pink or otherwise, most especially when taken before breakfast.
An arsenal of international laws has failed to confront the impunity of Myanmar’s government and security forces for their deadly purge of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee a campaign of rape, arson and killing.
But on Monday, Gambia filed a lawsuit accusing Myanmar of genocide, summoning the case before the United Nations’ highest court in an effort to open a legal path against the country’s authorities.
In the suit, filed at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Gambia requested that the court condemn Myanmar for violating the Genocide Convention with its campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Gambia, a small West African country with a largely Muslim population, was chosen to file the suit on behalf of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is also paying for the team of top international law experts handling the case.
The filing amounts to a last-ditch effort to impose an international ruling against Myanmar: Despite a wide outcry over cruelty to the Rohingya, no other court has jurisdiction to pursue a genocide case against the country.
Gambia also requested that the International Court of Justice issue an urgent temporary injunction ordering Myanmar to halt all actions that could aggravate or expand the existing situation. That could mean a demand to stop further extrajudicial killings, rape, hate speech, or leveling of the homes where Rohingya once lived in Rakhine State.
“It is clear that Myanmar has no intention of ending these genocidal acts and continues to pursue the destruction of the group within its territory,” the lawsuit said, adding that the government “is deliberately destroying evidence of its wrongdoings to cover up the crimes.’’
The court’s 15 judges rarely deal with genocide. Based in the stately Peace Palace in The Hague, the Court of Justice was set up by the United Nations to rule on disputes between nations. It acts more like a court of appeal, focusing on questions of international law, such as disputes over borders or disagreements over international conventions.
But that can also include disputes arising from the Convention for the Punishment and Prevention of Genocide, established in an earlier case when Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide. The convention covers “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.’’
In its suit, Gambia claims that applies to Myanmar. The novelty in this case, though, is that Gambia is not at war with Myanmar, as Bosnia and Serbia were. But the Genocide Convention treaty does establish a mandate for member nations to act against genocide, wherever they are.
Experts say that if the court accepts the case, whatever the outcome, it will draw renewed attention to the immense suffering of the Rohingya people, most of whom fled to Bangladesh and now live in refugee camps there.
It is not clear how Myanmar, which has always denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide and argues that it was defending itself against an insurgency, will respond to the case.
“Myanmar will ignore this at its peril,’’ said John Packer, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa who has long studied the Rohingya’s plight. If the court hears the case, he said, “there will be a sort of public truth-finding exercise. Myanmar’s simple denials will not stand up to scrutiny.’’
A different body, the International Criminal Court, was specifically created to prosecute genocide and other atrocities. But that court has no jurisdiction over cases in Myanmar because the country has not signed on to the court’s treaty. (Neither have the United States, China, India, Israel and several other countries.)
But the I.C.C. did set itself up to at least partly take up the case against Myanmar last year, when it ruled that it could prosecute for “deportation” and associated crimes against Rohingya who fled to Bangladesh, which is a court member. But judges have not yet approved a criminal investigation by the court’s prosecutor.
Gambia’s lawsuit against Myanmar was born out of a series of meetings of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at which the country’s attorney general, Abubacarr M. Tambadou, assumed a position of leadership because of his special expertise. He had worked more than a decade as a lawyer at the United Nations tribunal dealing with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Tambadou said he had been very moved by his visit to the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
“The world failed Rwanda when the international community did not prevent the genocide while it was unfolding,’’ he said. “The treatment of the Rohingya is illustrative of the international community’s failure to prevent genocide in Myanmar. I thought this was not right. The world cannot stand by and do nothing.’’
Multiple United Nations investigations have underscored what they called a genocidal intent behind the campaign against the Rohingya.
It says that all members of the Rohingya group in Myanmar are presently in grave danger of further genocidal acts because of Myanmar’s deliberate and intentional efforts to destroy them as a group. It also stresses that the remaining Rohingya communities and individuals in Myanmar continue to face daily threats of death, torture, rape, starvation and other deliberate actions aimed at their collective destruction, in whole or in part.
The lawsuit notes that Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to persecution for decades in Myanmar, which denies that the Rohingya even exist as an established ethnic minority, despite hundreds of years of history in the country.
But pressure increased greatly in late 2016, according to the lawsuit. It cites examples of “attacks in which homes were set ablaze by security forces, in many cases with people trapped inside, and entire villages razed to the ground.”
One investigator documented cases where parents saw their young children being thrown into fires. The suit cites incidents of Myanmar’s “security forces calling families out of their homes, separating men and boys to be executed in front of their families or taken away.” It cites testimony about women and girls being raped and then killed.
The suit says that so-called “clearance operations’’ were genocidal acts, “intended to destroy the Rohingya as a group, in whole or in part, by the use of mass murder, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as well as the systematic destruction by fire of their villages, often with inhabitants locked inside burning houses.”
It said that from August 2017 onward, such “clearance operations’’ intensified.
Paul Reichler, the lead lawyer on the Gambia team, said he hoped that the court would issue an injunction against Myanmar as soon as possible.
“We are confident that genocide has been committed in this case, and we are very confident in the fairness of the court.’’ (New York Times)