Sunday, January 15, 2017

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records)
Road safety every
driver’s responsibility
Caution is a key word in every motorist’s dictionary. Motorists should observe safe driving rules especially during challenging weather conditions, like foggy days. As they say, “Your destination is reward for safe driving.”
Almost a fortnight ago, Metha Bin Udai, CEO of RTA’s Traffic and Roads Agency, called on motorists to exercise every caution during the days and weeks ahead, which had the potential of thick fog blankets and possibly rainfall.
Such occasions are always associated with escalating traffic accidents due to wet roads.
While most motorists do comply with such valuable suggestions, it is sad that there are a few who throw caution to the winds while driving, putting not only their own lives in risk, but also of others on the road.
Dubai Police reported 144 traffic accidents due to the thick fog that blanketed the Emirate on Thursday morning. The Command and Control Centre of Dubai Police also received 1,257 calls on that single day.
Major Mohammed Juma Aman, Acting Director of the centre, has rightly urged motorists to be vigilant when driving during such weather conditions and fog.
As he suggests, motorists should always use signals while shifting lanes, besides using fog lights.
Motorists should check weather conditions on various media platforms. Employees would do well to start their journey to work well ahead of time in order to avoid accidents during foggy conditions.
Every motorist should heed RTA officials’ suggestions including that drivers continually check their vehicles and maintain them properly especially headlights, wipers, tyres and brakes as they contribute to boosting driver’s visibility and control of the vehicle during rainy spells.
Motorists should also reduce speed, maintain sufficient distance between vehicles and anticipate the stoppage of traffic at any moment.
Speaking on the mobile phone while driving is a very dangerous habit that should be avoided at any cost.
Among the other helpful tips from the RTA officials are that the drivers should not use full beam, and stop vehicles on or near the driving lane to avoid causing serial accidents with vehicles coming from behind.
They should also avoid sudden burst of speed.
Low horizontal visibility caused by fog in various coastal and inland areas of the country could prove dangerous if motorists do not take adequate care.
The UAE is driving ahead on all fronts. Motorists should add another glory to the nation by strictly following the rules and making the roads safest in the world.

Heinous, cowardly
attack in Kandahar
The terrorist attack that resulted in the wounding of the UAE Ambassador to Afghanistan, Juma Mohammed Abdullah Al Ka'abi, and the death of a number of Emiratis who were on a noble mission in the city of Kandahar is a brutal, cowardly and heinous act carried out by enemies of humanity.
The UAE martyrs — Mohammed Ali Zainal Al Bastaki, Abdullah Mohammed Essa Obaid Al Kaabi, Ahmed Rashid Salim Ali Al Mazroui, Ahmed Abdul Rahman Ahmad Al Tunaiji, and Abdul Hamid Sultan Abdullah Ibrahim Al Hammadi — were actually on a mission to carry out humanitarian, educational and development projects in the Republic of Afghanistan.
They were there as part of the UAE programme to provide help and support to the brotherly people of Afghanistan.
The UAE envoy’s visit also included a plan to lay the foundation stone for the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for technical education in Kabul, to be funded by Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation.
As pointed out by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist act do not know the meaning of humanity and its noble values.
Sheikh Mohammed has rightly and forcefully affirmed that the UAE will continue to provide humanitarian and development assistance to affected communities and support people in need regardless of challenges.
It should not be forgotten that over the last five years, the UAE had contributed over $400 million in security, economic, humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan.
The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development provided $149.6 million for implementing a 4,000 unit social housing project in Kabul. Dubai Cares pledged $ 1.3 million for primary education, pre-schooling development programmes and eradication of illiteracy in Afghanistan.
The UAE’s humanitarian aid programmes are intended to help the poor and those in need around the world and such mindless violence will not steer the country away from its acts of benevolence for which it is admired by the entire world.
Indiscriminate attacks against civilians and diplomatic envoys are deemed violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
International efforts should be intensified to combat terrorism.
Only venomous minds filled with malevolence towards righteous human values can contemplate or carry out such attacks.
The perpetrators of the cruel act should be swiftly brought to book.
The never-ending
woes of migrants
The woes of migrants who risk their lives to reach what they presume are safer places never seem to end. Harsh winter and xenophobic attitudes in some of the countries where they seek shelter compound their problems.
The International Organisation for Migration has reported that 358,403 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through Dec.21, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy.
"Deaths in the Mediterranean this year reached 4,913," according to the organisation’s Missing Migrants Project, with 13 new fatalities reported since its last report on Dec.20.
Sadly, the 4,913 deaths in the Mediterranean through Dec.21 indicate a 2016 average daily death toll of nearly 14 men, women and children per day.
On another front, according to the UN refugee agency, Serbia's centres for housing migrants are completely full, leaving more than a 1,000 facing a winter sleeping rough in the Balkan country that has become a bottleneck as the European Union sealed its borders.
At least 7,000 migrants mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are said to be trapped in Serbia, many spending months in a country culturally and financially ill-equipped to care for them and where few of them want to stay.
Aid agencies estimate more than 100 new migrants are entering Serbia every day, while only around 20 are allowed to enter Hungary — Serbia's only neighbour in Europe's Schengen visa-free area.
Shockingly, about half of those are children, and every 10th child is classified as unaccompanied, according to Save the Children officials.
As former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently underscored, every migrant is a human being with human rights and to protect those rights stronger international cooperation is needed among countries of origin, transit and destination that is guided by international law and standards.
A record 65.3 million people were uprooted worldwide last year, with Syria and Africa responsible for a large part of a 50 per cent surge in just five years, the United Nations refugee agency mentioned in a report in June.
That means 1 in every 113 people on the planet is now a refugee, asylum-seeker or internally displaced person.
As the New Year begins, one only hopes that policies driven by xenophobic rhetoric and the scapegoating of migrants end. The fact remains that migration is inevitable.
Compassion is the key word when it comes to handling migrants. The only way forward is initiating effective steps to better integrate migrants in the societies.
The plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority has been turning from bad to worse and it is disheartening that the world community is yet to initiate any concrete measures that could make the Myanmar government see reason.
End repression
of the Rohingya
Human rights group Amnesty International has rightly warned that the actions of Myanmar's military may constitute crimes against humanity based on accounts of violence against the helpless Rohingya.
According to Amnesty, in one incident on Nov.12, following an alleged skirmish between the army and villagers armed mostly with simple weapons, helicopter gunships descended on a village and sprayed bullets indiscriminately, killing civilians fleeing in a panic.
Satellite images Amnesty obtained showed 1,200 burned structures, which was is in line with images released by Human Rights Watch in November that showed 1,500 burned homes.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had also recently accused de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi of allowing genocide on her watch.
On Monday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman highlighted reports from many sources alleging arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings including of children, rape by soldiers, burning of Rohingya villages as well as destruction of homes and places of worship.
Myanmar, which has vehemently denied the allegations of abuse, has responded by angrily summoning Malaysia's ambassador and banning its workers from going to the country.
Myanmar's army went on a counterinsurgency offensive in the Rakhine state after an October attack there on police outposts that killed nine officers.
Rakhine, located in Myanmar's west, has long been home to simmering tensions between the Rohingya and the country's Buddhist majority population.
The last major outbreak of violence in 2012 left hundreds dead and drove 140,000 people into internal displacement camps.
Just last week, UN rights commissioner Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein criticised the Myanmar government's callous handling of the crisis, describing it as "a lesson in how to make a bad situation worse.”
He made it clear that the repeated dismissal of the claims of serious human rights violations as fabrications, coupled with the failure to allow our independent monitors access to the worst affected areas in northern Rakhine, was highly insulting to the victims and an abdication of the government's obligations under international human rights law.
Myanmar's more than one million Rohingya are among the most persecuted people in the world and deserve international support.
The crisis has affected the entire region. There is a need to make the Myanmar military accountable for its actions against the vulnerable Rohingya.

Friday, January 6, 2017

My article in Panorama about 8-time Guinness winner (Bruce Lee of Mumbai)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records) 
Bury acrimony, 
move forward

Months of bitter, venomous presidential poll campaign, where mudslinging remained a norm, has come to a stunning end, exposing deep divisions within the world’s lone superpower.
The wide margin of victory for Donald Trump negated the hollow predictions of polls, pundits and a large section of media, which grossly failed to gauge the pulse of ordinary Americans yearning for change.
The verdict reflected the voters’ worry over economy, jobs and lifestyle.
Trump won avid support among a core base of white non-college educated workers with his promise to be the "greatest jobs president that God ever created."
His fiery words during his campaign targeting a large section, including women and immigrants, left a bitter taste, meaning the nation needs healing time.
So does the rest of the world.
The vote outcome initially sending shockwaves through global markets is one glaring example.
Share markets plunged and the dollar tumbled. The Mexican peso fell to a record low. Japanese and South Korean authorities had to even call crisis talks.
Fortunately, though uncertainty remains over Trump's trade, immigration and geopolitical policies and the future of globalization itself, investors appeared somewhat comforted by his victory speech, in which he praised rival Hillary Clinton and urged Americans to "come together as one united people."
The Republican tycoon has not outlined any lucid plans or a line-up of people to implement radical promises that he has made.
He has stated he would dismantle the health insurance open to the uninsured introduced by President Barack Obama.
His threat to jail opponent Clinton, build a wall on the border with Mexican money or sharp criticism of NATO are issues that caught the world by shock and surprise.
Now that he takes over as president, it is imperative that Trump acts in a statesmanly manner on subjects like these.
In a globalised world, separation walls are not the answer. What is called for is intensified, positive engagement among nations. Washington should continue to promote democratic values and stand by its allies as a guarantor of peace.
Trump’s sober victory message pledging to reach out to opponents and extend hands of friendship abroad does come as a balm.
Lack of government experience may pose a challenge for the oldest man ever elected president.
Nevertheless, he has taken off on a positive note and should continue on that track, burying all the acrimony and conflict-ridden rhetoric that came as part of the poll campaign.

Need to address anxiety
over move on rupee

While the Indian government's sudden scrapping of the high denomination notes may be seen as a bold step, the severe hardship caused to the common people and the persisting confusion raises questions about the way the decision has been implemented.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier announced the demonetisation of Rs1,000 and Rs500 notes in what he termed was a crackdown on "black money.”
Anxiety and confusion has gripped millions in the country as well as expatriates.
Serpentine queues outside banks where people waited for long hours to get lower denomination currency and new banknotes to pay for their daily basic needs are apparent indication of the worry among the people.
Several banks had to seek help from thousands of police personnel to manage huge queues.
Many were not able to buy groceries and essential items, ATM centres were crowded and shop owners were said to be refusing the notes.
Although a few people were able to exchange their old money for new notes, the strict caps on account withdrawals posed additional challenges.
Trading of farm commodities around the country was also disrupted and in many markets farmers were struggling to sell their produce.
Prices of perishable fruits and vegetables fell as traders were unable to sell them to vendors, who pay in cash.
Adding a tragic twist to the episode, a farmer in southern India committed suicide fearing she would be left penniless after the government's shock decision.
Kandukuri Vinoda, 55, had a large amount of cash at her home in 1,000 and 500 rupee notes and panicked that her savings had become worthless. She had ostensibly sold some land last month and had been paid in cash.
Some also see a political reason behind the announcement. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav argues that the Modi government took the decision with an eye on the forthcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Terming the decision as imposition of "undeclared economic emergency,” Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati has also alleged that the Modi government is diverting attention of voters from failures of his government.
Interestingly, the first demonetisation had happened under the British rule in 1946 and the first one after the Independence on Jan.16-17, 1978 when the Morarji Desai government demonetised bank notes of Rs1000, 5000 and 10,000 notes.
While the overall goal to tackle black money is appreciated, the Modi government could do well by providing enough breathing time for honest and common people to make alternative arrangements.

Give high priority to
low carbon future

The Marrakesh Conference, in which parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are discussing how to advance action to combat climate change, offers an ideal opportunity to sustain momentum on climate action.
The international community should not let go of the golden chance to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change.
Adopted by 196 States that are party to the UNFCCC last December, the Paris Agreement, aims to strengthen the response by keeping the global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In October, the accord cleared the final threshold of 55 countries representing 55 per cent of global emissions required for the accord to come into effect within one month.
The conference comes just four days after the entry into force of the Paris Agreement.
Before the meeting wraps up on Nov.18, the parties should lay out a viable plan for providing at least $100 billion a year to developing countries to support climate action.
While the Paris Agreement did give clear pathways in respect to decisive action, many details regarding how to move forward as one global community in that common direction still remain unresolved.
The changing climate can directly impact billions of people as the risks of extreme weather events grow.
Fourteen of the 15 hottest years recorded have all been in the 21st century.
Global sea-surface temperatures reached record levels in 2014, even in the absence of a “fully developed El NiƱo” weather pattern.
In a study released ahead of the Morocco conference, researchers from 13 global organisations found the average compliance of donor governments with UN climate finance transparency requirements had declined from 58 per cent per country report filed in 2014 to 52 per cent in 2016.
The world's poorest countries are battling increasingly extreme weather. But, as experts point out, the aid on offer globally to help them cope is still a pittance.
This is a matter of concern that needs to be addressed.
Rich countries should dig deeper to help poor respond to the climate crisis.
The world certainly has no choice but to shift to a low-emission, climate-resilient path.
The Marrakesh Conference should pave the way to move on a more sustainable course and a safer future.
It is clearly time to delete empty words and shift to decisive action.

Sharjah’s spellbinding
world of words

Books open the doors of true wisdom and the visionary leaders of Sharjah know this best.
The Emirate revels in opening a new chapter in the love for the written word every year through its hugely-popular Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).
It is amazing to note that more than 650,000 visitors have already attended the first four days of this year’s SIBF, which is a record in its 35-year history.
This is a clear indication that the current edition of the fair is set to break the record for overall number of visitors at a single edition, surpassing last year’s SIBF which welcomed one million visitors by its close.
With 1,681 publishing houses taking active part and 1,417 activities taking place, the venue has not only been bustling with activity, but is also generating healthy reading habits among people, mainly the younger generation.
As Ahmed Bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, has pointed out, the “Year of Reading 2016” initiative and numerous other literary-themed campaigns and activities organised by government bodies have encouraged more and more residents and tourists to throng SIBF.
The popularity of SIBF can also be the gauged by the fact that Sharjah was recently named as Sao Paulo International Book Fair’s Guest of Honour for 2018, in the presence of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.
Incidentally, Sao Paulo International Book Fair is one of largest and highly popular events in Latin America.
The Sao Paulo honour underlines Sharjah’s status as a cultural leader in the Arab world.
One of the most interesting observations at a SIBF panel session was that eBooks have failed to replace paper books despite persisting demand from a section of the society.
Though a large part of the local population is under 25 years and love electronic gadgets, experts say that one cannot expect more than 20-30 per cent of them going for eBooks. This is indeed positive news for true knowledge-seekers.
The panel also pointed out the lack of a proper distribution system as a major roadblock and this needs to be addressed.
Making quality books accessible to youngsters at affordable prices has been SIBF’s grand source of attraction.
Sheikh Sultan’s own words reflect the vision: “We believe that books must be available to all and from this concept we turn book fairs into an oasis of knowledge and enlightenment.” 

Ensure protection of
civilians in Mosul

News that Daesh militants in Iraq have abducted thousands of men, women and children from areas around Mosul and using them as "human shields" is deeply distressing.
There are also reports that several innocent people have been killed for refusing to comply with Daesh orders or previously belonging to Iraqi security forces.
Forced out by gunpoint, many such hapless people are being moved to strategic places where Daesh fighters are located.
Though Iraqi forces are advancing from several directions, they are still well outside the city itself and need to take extreme care to protect innocent civilians.
Families are at extreme risk of being caught in crossfire or targeted by snipers.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi girls, boys and women may also be under siege or held as human shields.
Iraq is already facing one of the world’s biggest internal displacement situations.
Since January 2014, some 3.38 million people have fled their homes – among them, families that have been displaced multiple times.
Last week, the UN rights office reported dozens of execution-style killings in villages near Mosul, including the shooting of a physically disabled girl who failed to keep up on a forced march.
Shockingly, environmental pollution is also adding complexity and danger to the humanitarian crisis sparked by the offensive in Mosul.
UN officials have indicated that fumes from burning stockpiles of sulphur dioxide, and oil wells that have been set ablaze, have led to further suffering for civilians in northern Iraq.
Some civilians have been experiencing near-suffocation and respiratory illnesses due to what UN officials say is Daesh’s “scorched earth policy.”
Armed groups set 19 oil wells on fire near Al Qayyarah, a town just southeast of Mosul. As a result, citizens and armed forces were exposed to toxic fumes.
The burning crude oil released a wide range of pollutants, including soot and gases that caused skin irritation and shortness of breath.
A sound counter-strategy to meet such Daesh atrocities should be in place at all times.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, as of Thursday, 15,804 people had been displaced since the operation began on Oct.17.
Going by this trend, a massive displacement cannot be ruled out and hence it is imperative that the international community gears up to face the potential challenge of a huge humanitarian crisis.
It is important for all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and to ensure the protection of civilians.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records)
Bleeding Aleppo needs
balm, not bombs
The tears of Aleppo refuse to cease, nor do the bullets that rain incessantly on innocent civilians.
The tormented city cries for humanitarian attention, but the international powers are too busy trading charges against each other.
The city’s residents are facing a precarious situation with worsening food and medical shortages. Stores of food and vital medical supplies are rapidly dwindling to nothing.
One of the toughest challenges for the residents is that the water supplies to many areas remain cut after pumping stations were damaged during weekend attacks.
Distressingly, the denial of access to food, water and medicines has been used repeatedly as a weapon by all sides in Syria's brutal five-year-old civil war.
Adding to the civilians’ woes, several charity kitchens in the eastern districts are no longer operating because of the danger of air strikes.
Many hospitals are struggling to deal with a huge number of casualties. Heavy shortage of blood has also compounded the problem.
But it seems that the world just would not care, with powerful countries locking horns and engaging in rhetoric.
Western powers at the United Nations have accused Russia of war crimes.
US Ambassador Samantha Power has accused Russia of "barbarism," while the British and French envoys went even further.
"War crimes are being committed in Aleppo," French Ambassador Francois Delattre has stated, while Britain's envoy spoke of "a new hell" unleashed on Syrians with bunker-busting bombs and more sophisticated weaponry used to pummel residential areas.
Moscow, on its part, has hit back at the accusations, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denouncing "the overall unacceptable tone and rhetoric of the representatives of the United Kingdom and the United States, which can damage and harm our relations."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has correctly warned that the use of advanced weaponry against civilians could amount to war crimes.
Instead of squabbling, the world powers should work towards ending the nightmare in Syria that has already left more than 300,000 people dead and driven millions from their homes.
It is extremely painful that even the images of children under rubble and the bodies of innocent men, women and elderly have not prompted the international community to find an urgent solution to end the agony of Aleppo.
The situation is worsening by the day, which the city cannot endure anymore.
The bleeding of Aleppo should stop, now.
What the city needs is balm, not bombs. 
Dubai Opera: UAE’s
cultural masterstroke
It is the latest masterstroke by the land of superlatives, the UAE, that literally comes as music to the ears.
The opening of Dubai Opera has effectively pitched the country as a vibrant global cultural hub, heralding a new creative era for the city, region and beyond.
The "king of opera," Spanish tenor Placido Domingo’s spectacular opening concert on Wednesday night at the venue set the rhythm for a perfect takeoff.
Domingo launched the event with a series of performances including Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" and the Broadway musical "West Side Story."
Dubai Opera is the city’s first purpose-built multi-format performing arts theatre and the definitive destination for quality entertainment productions and performances.
Creative talent would be exhibited in varied ways. Dubai Opera's stage will host an incredible lineup including operatic performances, ballet, classical music concerts and productions at the core.
It will also stage musical theatre, fashion shows, jazz, comedy, family shows and a full range of live entertainment.
Emirati singing sensation Hussein Al Jassmi will take centrestage on Oct.10 giving fans the opportunity to enjoy the live concert.
Incidentally, Al Jassmi has achieved more than 500 million views on YouTube and continues to capture hearts around the globe with his innovative fusion music.
The new opera building has been designed as an architectural masterpiece, blending tradition with modernity. In recognition of its long history as a port city, the opera house is shaped like a dhow.
Music is a universal language and the UAE recognises this. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has rightly affirmed that the strong cultural movement witnessed by the UAE contributes to positioning itself as a beacon of thought and creativity at the regional level and shows its keenness on maintaining its effective role in enriching the Arab cultural life.
Here is a venue where one can experience the best entertainment, immerse senses in a variety of performing arts and also discover a wide selection of shows that offer something for everyone.
Trade, travel and tourism are all synonymous with the UAE, and with the opening of Dubai Opera, Arts and Culture have also become important icons.
As Sheikh Mohammed pointed out, the Dubai Opera has a great value as a new platform for the arts, an effective cultural bridge and an intellectual window for the infusion of the world's creative arts.
Children bear the
brunt of conflicts
The world has to awaken to the fact that children are paying a heavy price in conflict zones and much more needs to be done to protect them.
A report from the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) has indicated that almost 50 million children worldwide are uprooted, forcibly displaced from their home countries by war, violence or persecution.
Sadly, young ones driven from their homes due to conflict or in the hopes of finding a safer future face further dangers along the way.
The dangers include the risk of drowning on sea crossings, malnourishment and dehydration, trafficking, kidnapping, rape and even murder.
Unicef Executive Director, Anthony Lake, has cited the example of Aylan Kurdi and Omran Daqneesh's to highlight the plight of children.
“Indelible images of individual children – Aylan Kurdi's small body washed up on a beach after drowning at sea or Omran Daqneesh's stunned and bloody face as he sat in an ambulance after his home was destroyed – have shocked the world,” he has noted.
The report “Uprooted: The growing crisis for refugee and migrant children,” presents a sobering picture of the lives and situations of millions of children affected by violent conflict and other crises that make it seem safer to risk everything on a perilous journey than to remain at home.
What is shocking is also that more and more children are crossing borders on their own.
Figures reflect a scary pattern. In 2015, over 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries – triple the number in 2014.
UN officials have listed specific actions to protect and help displaced, refugee and migrant children:
These are valuable ideas that should be duly implemented.
Among the suggestions are;
* Protecting child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
* Ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
* Keeping families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
* Keeping all refugee and migrant children learning and giving them access to health and other quality services.
* Pressing for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
* Promoting measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalisation.
The failure to protect children would reflect very poorly on the international community and leave an unsightly scar on its face. Ignoring the plight of such a large  number of children would come at a very high cost.

Mohamed, Pope
on a peace mission
The UAE has always been in the forefront when it comes to promoting the values of peace, justice and coexistence in different parts of the world.
Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s historic meeting with Pope Francis has certainly pushed that noble mission to a much higher level.
Pope Francis’ praise of the UAE's efforts to promote tolerance and coexistence is a vindication of the fact that the UAE remains an oasis of peace in the region.
Under the leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the country is a leading supporter of humanitarian initiatives and is the world’s largest donor of development assistance in proportion to its gross national income.
Generosity has thus always remained the hallmark of its leaders and people.
It has provided humanitarian assistance totaling Dhs6.97 billion to help save lives, alleviate suffering and protect human dignity during and after emergencies worldwide.
In December, the International Humanitarian City will organise the first bi-annual World Humanitarian Forum in Dubai to coincide with the Ten Humanitarian International Leaders meeting, which aims to bring together the humanitarian community to share experiences, build relationships and discuss emerging challenges and solutions.
The UAE assistance has solely humanitarian objectives and is never ever governed by politics or limited by the geography, race, colour or religion of the beneficiary.
In such a background, Pope’s hailing of the UAE for its ongoing humanitarian and philanthropic initiatives, its role in promoting sustainable development and support to all countries and communities in need, makes perfect timing and sense.
It is not mere talk. The UAE walks an extra mile when it comes to promoting an open society. A law against hate crime and discrimination was issued by President Sheikh Khalifa last year that strongly reinforces the concept of safe coexistence.
In a world ridden by strife in many parts, meaningful discussion between well-meaning personalities goes a long way in alleviating the situation.
The Pope has been playing a positive role in peace-building and promoting dialogue among civilisations.
With over 200 nationalities living with a spirit of harmony and understanding, despite differences of culture, race and religion, the UAE remains an adorable model for unity.
The momentous Sheikh Mohamed-Pope Francis meeting highlights the genuineness of the UAE’s mission to promote peace across the globe. It is an extraordinary meeting with a noble goal.
Need for greater police
accountability in US
The fatal shooting of 43-year-old African-American Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of Charlotte police is the latest in a long series of controversial police killings of black men that have ignited tensions in the US.
The killing has raised growing concerns about accountability in the country’s law enforcement community.
Scott's relatives claim that he was not carrying a gun as claimed by the police, but had a book in his hands when he was gunned down.
According to the relatives, he was waiting for his young son at school bus stop when police arrived.
The city had to be brought under emergency following violent demonstrations as news of the shooting spread.
Incidentally, the violence in Charlotte came on the heels of another fatal police shooting of a black man, Terence Crutcher, on Friday in Tulsa.
Tulsa police chief Chuck Jordan conceded that video footage of Crutcher's deadly shooting was disturbing and "very difficult to watch."
The 40-year-old is seen with his hands up, appearing to comply with police officers before he is shot once by officer Betty Shelby and falls to the ground. Another officer fires his stun gun.
The US Department of Justice has promised to conduct a federal civil rights probe into the Tulsa shooting.
However, the question remains on whether any effective means are being enforced to end such questionable killings.
On July 17, 2014, African American father-of-six Eric Garner, 43, died after being held in a police chokehold while he was being arrested for selling individual cigarettes illegally in New York.
On Aug.9, a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager, college student Michael Brown, 18, prompting violent protests and heavy-handed police tactics in Ferguson.
Unarmed Walter Scott was shot in the back as he ran away from an officer in South Carolina in April 2015.
A study by the Center for Policing Equity showed police used force on blacks at rates more than three times higher than for whites.
The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic violent protests.
Such killings have even spawned a movement called Black Lives Matter.
Police have the ability to take suspects into custody without killing them and there have been several examples for this.
Questions about racial bias in US law enforcement need to be answered. There is certainly a need for greater police accountability for the killings of black people in America.