Sunday, January 15, 2017

Recent Editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records)
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

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