Sunday, February 5, 2017

Recent editorials

Here are some recent editorials I wrote for The Gulf Today. (Posted for my records):
Mexican anger over
wall plan justified
Separation walls have no place in a globalised world, where integration of diverse communities remains the key word. The world should celebrate diversity not just virtually but in practical terms too.
That it can be done has been aptly proved by the great nation, the UAE, where people of over 200 different nationalities live and work in perfect harmony.
In this background, US President Donald Trump’s divisive plans like building a multi-billion-dollar border separation wall or taxing Mexican imports have naturally drawn the fury of not only Mexico and Latin America, but the rest of the world too.
The White House has stated Trump could build the wall with a new 20 per cent tax on goods from Mexico.
Surprisingly, the US president's office later retracted, saying it was not endorsing the border adjustment tax and it was merely an example of a way of making Mexico pay up.
The separation wall idea enraged Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto so much that he scrapped a planned trip to meet Trump.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray has already cautioned that such a tax would make Mexican imports more expensive for US consumers and they would end up paying for the wall.
He has also made it clear that Mexico is willing to talk with the US in order to maintain good relations, but paying for Trump's border wall is not negotiable.
Trump’s plans have already ignited global worries. New Zealand medical device firm Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, for example, has declared that it would consider switching factories making products bound for the US from Mexico to New Zealand if the Trump administration taxes Mexican imports.
The company, a major global supplier of specialised respiratory equipment for hospitals, is one of the first companies with Mexican operations to disclose how it would respond to the proposed tariff on imports.
The situation on the ground reflects a different reality contradicting Trump’s arguments.
Under pressure from former president Barack Obama's administration after a massive surge of unaccompanied child migrants in 2014, Mexico launched a crackdown on illegal immigration at its border with Guatemala.
It deported 147,370 migrants last year, compared to 80,900 in 2013, according to interior ministry figures.
While Trump wants Mexico to pay for the wall, there are now more Mexicans returning home than migrating to the United States.
Unjustified protectionism and closure of borders will change the peaceful order of the world and come with grave consequences. Washington should stop playing with fire.
Devastating cruelty
against Rohingya
The UN human rights office has presented accounts of one of the most persecuted communities in the world, the Rohingya of Myanmar, and it makes chilling reading.
Words cannot suffice to describe the suffering endured by Rohingya victims at the hands of Myanmar security forces.
The killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food — the testimonies presented by witnesses to UN officials could leave tears in the eyes of even stone-hearted individuals.
One woman told UN investigators how her eight-month baby boy had his throat slit. Another was raped by soldiers and saw her five-year-old daughter killed as she tried to stop them.
The security forces committed mass killings and gang rapes of Rohingya Muslims and burned their villages since October in a campaign, that as UN officials themselves fear, amounts to crimes against humanity and possible ethnic cleansing.
There is sufficient proof to prove the dastardly crimes as the investigators have taken photographs of bullet and knife wounds, burns, and injuries resulting from beatings with rifle butts or bamboo sticks.
It is shocking how human beings could treat innocent and helpless people so brutally.
Four UN investigators gathered testimony last month from 220 Rohingya victims and witnesses who fled the lockdown area in Maungdaw in Rakhine for the Cox's Bazar district in Bangladesh.
Nearly half reported a family member had been killed or disappeared while 101 women reported having been raped or subjected to sexual violence, it said.
As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein has stated, the devastating cruelty to which the Rohingya children have been subjected is unbearable.
UN mission leader Linnea Arvidsson has also indicated that the testimonies point to a persecution on ethnic grounds, which is similar to what has been, in other contexts, described as ethnic cleansing.
The UN report has made it clear that the attacks on the Rohingya seem to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.
Myanmar should accept responsibility for committing grave human rights violations against its own people.
The UN Human Rights Council should refer the issue to the UN Security Council, which has the power to pass it on to the International Criminal Court.
Justice has been delayed for the Rohingya, now at least don’t deny them justice.

UAE-India bond
gets stronger
Relations between the UAE and India have remained historically strong thanks to the solid foundation laid by the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s upcoming visit to India as the Chief Guest at India's Republic Day parade this week is expected to push the UAE- relationship to a much higher level.
As per reports, the two countries will sign as many as 16 agreements during the high-profile visit of Sheikh Mohamed.
The recent months have witnessed a rapid expansion in the ties as is evident in the growing bilateral cooperation, continuous communication and exchange of visits by top leadership from both sides.
Figures speak volumes about the strength of the relationship.
Over 2.6 million Indians live in the UAE and love the country as their second home.
Trade between the UAE and India, including oil trade, reached $50 billion in 2015, up from $180 million in the 1970s, according to Ahmed Al Banna, the UAE Ambassador to India, who has described the growth of economic relations with India as exceptional.
As he pointed out, UAE companies contribute significantly towards development in India. Abu Dhabi-based National Marine Dredging Company, NMDC, signed a $316 million contract last year for engineering, procurement and construction of the new LNG terminal in Gujarat, and that Dubai's DP World is a market leader in Indian container terminal operations.
The Indian government earlier invited UAE companies to participate in the “Make in India” initiative which offered scope for UAE investors in as many as 25 sectors including infrastructure, energy including renewable energy, defence, railways and highways.
The investments between the two countries are expected to get bigger in line with the growth of the Indian economy by 7 per cent, which is more than the growth rate of any other country in the world.
In an interview with reputed Arabic language daily,                   Al Khaleej, Navdeep Suri, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, has asserted that the Indian government respects and appreciates Sheikh Mohamed's wise and balanced vision, which is enshrined in the values of tolerance, stability and moderation.
The mutual trust and confidence makes the UAE-India bond exemplary.
The economic, cultural and people-to-people ties between the two countries are so deep-rooted that they offer a glittering example on the power of mutual respect and understanding.

Quebec mosque attack
a despicable act
The shooting at a Quebec City mosque during evening prayers that left six people dead is an abhorrent act of violence that deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms.
The victims of the despicable attack were innocent Muslim worshippers.
The aim of the attackers was visibly to break the spirit of peace and tolerance among the people of Quebec.
Canada is known as an open society that welcomes immigrants and people from all religions without any prejudice.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard have both correctly characterised the attack as a terrorist act.
Trudeau’s statement reflects his government’s sincerity in maintaining harmony among various sections.
As he mentioned: "It is heart-wrenching to see such senseless violence. Diversity is our strength, and religious tolerance is a value that we, as Canadians, hold dear. Muslim-Canadians are an important part of our national fabric, and these senseless acts have no place in our communities, cities and country."
The shooting has come at a time when Canada has vowed to open its arms to Muslims and refugees after US President Donald Trump's controversial immigration ban prompted travel chaos and outrage around the world.
Trudeau had reacted to Trump's visa ban by tweeting: "To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada."
He also posted a picture of himself greeting a Syrian child at Toronto's airport in late 2015. Trudeau oversaw the arrival of more than 39,000 Syrian refugees soon after he was elected.
It is heartening that Couillard has vowed to ensure the security of the people of Quebec. "Quebec categorically rejects this barbaric violence," he wrote. "Solidarity with Quebec people of Muslim faith."
Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume, who appeared visibly shaken, also rightly expressed the view that no person should pay with his or her life for their race or colour.
The mosque was already the target of hate last June during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Other mosques in Canada have been targeted with racist graffiti in recent months.
In this era of rising extremism and widening conflicts characterised by a fundamental disregard for human life, the need for tolerance can never be underestimated.
With solidarity rallies planned across Quebec, peace-loving people from all sections and faiths should stand united to take on the forces of hatred and division.
After all, hatred has no place in a sane society. 

Genuine concerns over
Duterte’s drug war
Some 7,600 people have been killed since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched his war on drugs seven months ago, more than 2,500 in what police say were shootouts during raids and sting operations.
There is a genuine concern over the alarming number of deaths and this needs to be addressed.
Duterte came to power vowing to wipe out drugs and cautioning traffickers that they risked death if they did not mend their ways.
On one occasion Duterte vowed that 100,000 people would be killed and so many bodies would be dumped in Manila Bay that the fish there would grow fat from feeding on them.
While the war on drugs is by itself a mission with a good intent, it is the methods being adopted that are under question.
On Thursday, Duterte declared he would issue an executive order for military support in his fight against illicit drugs, which he said was a national security threat and he would "kill more" people if he had to.
This comment comes as another cause for worry.
All police operations in the drug crackdown have been suspended due to deep-rooted corruption.
A series of scandals emerged over the past month in which police were caught committing murder, kidnapping, extortion and robbery using the drug war as cover.
Duterte has placed an anti-drugs agency in charge of the campaign and says he wants the armed forces to play a supportive role.
New York-based Human Rights Watch has cautioned that involving the military is a wrong move because the armed forces have a track record of extrajudicial killings.
The group claims that using military personnel for civilian policing anywhere heightens the risk of unnecessary or excessive force and inappropriate military tactics.
Amnesty International has also accused the police of systemic human rights abuses in the drug war, including shooting dead defenceless people, fabricating evidence, paying assassins to murder drug addicts and stealing from those they killed.
Amnesty claims it documented victims as young as eight years old.
It may be recalled that two UN human rights experts earlier urged Manila to stop the “extra-judicial executions and killings.”
A furious Duterte retorted that the Philippines might leave the United Nations, accusing it of failing to fulfil its mandate.
The Duterte government will do well to address the concerns by ensuring that the law-enforcement efforts do not stray away from human rights obligations.