Tag: South Asia Times

PM ScoMo bats for “world order that favours freedom with liberal values” ; supports probe into the origins of COVID-19

Photo- @PerthUSAsia

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 9 June 2021: Australian Prime Minister today minced no words batting for a “world order that favors freedom with liberal values” and cautioned about world instability with a danger of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region. He called the Indo-Pacific an ‘epicenter’ of competition in the region. The Australian Prime Minister was today addressing a select gathering live-streamed and televised at the Perth USAsia Centre ahead of his departure to the G-7 Summit.

The speech without naming focussed on the obvious rising global economic power of China and its influence in the world and the Indo-Pacific region. The PM’s reference to an open liberal society many times in the speech, sniped at the authoritarian set up in China and the challenges it posed to the liberal democracies. That Australia is firmly embedded in the US-led western alliance was laced with many words in the speech.

He said the G-7 countries will emphasize vibrant liberal democracy, open societies, sovereign capacity, countering challenges, and business-led growth. “We cannot be casual about our values,” he said.

Touching the digital and tech issues, the PM said, Our technological edge is “under challenge” and that has to be overcome by us and our allies. Technology should reflect our “shared values”, he said.

The PM referred to Japan and India as being part of the ‘ reliable supply chains’ to meet the emerging global challenges. He also said the World Health Organisation (WHO) be strengthened and the origins of the COVID-19 be investigated.

Morrison added a positive note saying competition in the Indo-Pacific should not lead to conflict and we are ready for dialogue with any country including China.

- The report will be updated.

MUSINGS: #protest4partners & ‘civilization’


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 10 May 2021: Recently, I went to cover a rally at Victoria’s Parliament steps, by people who are separated from their partner, fiancé, or spouse because Australia has delayed their visas. The many men and women (mostly young) demonstrating under the banner of #protest4partners are separated from their loved ones. One placard said, “14 months apart” and another said, “Fiancés are immediate family” and another said, “582 days apart”.

I was making videos and taking still photographs when I noticed a quite Indian-looking young man. I went to him and asked him why he was at the rally and where he came from. He turned out to be a Gujarati working in Melbourne and separated from his wife for 20+ months. Reluctantly, he said his wife (in Gujarat) was not getting a visa and if she does not get it soon he might quit Australia. He said he had written to concerned authorities but things do not move here.

Meanwhile, my sympathetic mind asked him – Why do so many people leave Gujarat for overseas pastures? “This is a trend there and is on”, he replied. Plus, “one Australian dollar makes 57 Rupees”, he said. We were at the sidelines of the rally and the young man seemed to be getting emotional. So, I told him, I will try to do a story about your case and hope something might happen.

“For how long Indians will do cleaning jobs in Australia. We did not come here for this. We are being used, “he said. The boy seemed to be speaking from his heart. An element of frustration and helplessness was visible.

“You see the Westerners doing this to us despite we having an ancient civilization. In fact, after the initial migrations from Africa, we spread civilization across the world and now they are dominating. The Aryan invasion theory is wrong. There is archaeological evidence we are the most advanced indigenous civilization”, he said.

Confronted by his ‘civilization’ stuff, I said, “But this is the 21st century and we have to move accordingly and adjust.” Na Na, “I will leave if my wife does not get a spouse visa soon.”

Something then stuck to my mind and I asked him, “Do you have Permanent Residency” (PR) to stay in Australia. Reply, “Wahi to nahi hi, apply kar rakha hi aur main wait kar raha hoon” (I have applied for PR and waiting for it).

I asked, “So, how can your wife get a spouse visa if you don’t have PR yourself.” The fellow baffled, could not answer. Anyway, I handed over my business card to him and asked him to give me a call do discuss the matter. I wondered I was sure, most cases are human tragedies with different connotations. Was the ‘civilization’ argument the last refuge of an emotionally down human?

Meanwhile, two MP’s (Greens and Labor) addressed the gathering and promised to fight for the cause. My Tweet about the rally seems to be doing well.

Australian Govt invests taxpayers money in Adani’s Carmichael coal project: Stop Adani


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 16 December 2020: The ‘Stop Adani’ environment organization has alleged: “Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Future Fund, is investing taxpayer money in an Adani Group company that is funding critical aspects of the controversial Carmichael Coal Project and holds business ties to the Myanmar military”.

In a statement emailed today to South Asia Times (SAT), Stop Adani says, ” Rohingya community, human rights, and environmental groups are calling on the Future Fund to divest its equity holdings from Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone, because of critical environmental, social and corporate governance failings of the company in Myanmar and Australia.

In January 2019 Adani Ports entered into a commercial relationship with Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a Myanmar military holding company, to build an international port in Yangon on military-owned land.

Adani Ports entered into a lease with MEC for 50 years for an investment of USD $290 million for the construction of Ahlone International Port Terminal 2. The Myanmar military owns four commercial ports in Yangon that are currently operational. The first phase of Adani’s port is scheduled for completion in 2021.”

Photo- Stop Adani, Twitter

Pablo Brait, a campaigner with Market Forces said: “The Future Fund should be investing in the companies building our future, not those that are destroying it. Adani Ports’ role in the Carmichael coal project – a project that will fuel the climate crisis and the extreme weather that it is causing – shows it is a terrible investment for the Future Fund to be making with our money. It is clear that Adani Ports has a very concerning environmental, social, and governance risk profile beyond its role in climate-wrecking coal.

The media statement says:

“Adani Ports’ business with the Myanmar military, in disregard of human rights, follows its recently revealed direct role in the Carmichael coal project in Australia, which is a major threat to the environment and Traditional Owners of the land, the Wangan and Jagalingou people. Adani Ports has recently established the subsidiary Bowen Rail Company to transport coal from the Carmichael mine.

The groups submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Future Fund, to disclose any holdings it has in Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd. The Future Fund disclosed AUD$3.2 million in equity holdings, invested despite the company’s widely known and heavily criticized environmental and human rights record.

In August 2019 UN Human Rights Council’s Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar warned that companies involved with the MEC risked being complicit in funding the financial operations of the Myanmar military and urged companies to sever ties.”

Mohammad Junaid from the Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia says, “It is shocking to the Rohingya people that Australia’s Future Fund has invested in a company that is doing business with the Myanmar military. The UN has condemned foreign companies profiting at our expense.”

Member of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Australian lawyer, Chris Sidoti said: “Adani is in bed with the Myanmar military and now it seems the Future Fund is in bed with Adani.

“Australia’s sovereign wealth fund should follow the lead of similar funds in other countries and of increasing numbers of pension funds, moving towards disinvesting from companies in league with Myanmar’s murderous military.

Rawan Arraf, Director of the Australian Centre for International Justice said: “Despite United Nations condemnation of Adani Ports’ business ties with the Myanmar military, the Australian government is investing in Adani Ports. The Future Fund is at risk of contributing taxpayer money to the financing of Myanmar military activities through its investment in Adani Ports.”

Meanwhile, “In October 2020 it was announced that global shipping giant, Maersk, will end its use of the military-owned ports in Myanmar, leaving Adani Ports, currently constructing a new military-owned port in Yangon, in serious commercial trouble, as shipping companies are under increasing pressure to end business with Myanmar’s military-owned ports. Adani Ports SEZ has been taking on debt from international banks including US, UK, Germany and Japan to finance projects including in Myanmar.”

India: Interfaith couples suffer amid a growing religious divide


A jewelry advertisement in India showing a Hindu woman married into a Muslim family led to a fierce backlash from right-wing groups. But what is it like for a real interfaith couple amid rising intolerance?

Sadaf has not had a proper conversation with her father for about three years now. He just wouldn’t talk to her. That is the price she had to pay for choosing to marry a non-Muslim. The New Delhi-based lawyer still visits her parents’ home in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, in the hope that her father will eventually come around and accept her Hindu husband.

Interfaith marriages are often contentious in Indian society, especially when it involves a Hindu and a Muslim. This was recently seen when a jewelry advertisement featuring an interfaith couple sparked an outrage so intense that the brand, owned by one of the largest conglomerates in India, withdrew the ad.

The jewelry brand said in a statement that its decision to take down the ad was made “keeping in mind the hurt sentiments and the well-being of our employees, partners, and store staff.”

The controversy — not the first of its kind — once again brought into question the tolerance and acceptability of interfaith marriages in a country where religious tensions have been on the rise in recent years.

Women face the brunt of the backlash

Sadaf married her colleague and fellow lawyer, Yatin, in February 2018. But the months preceding their wedding weren’t easy for either of them.

“It was particularly difficult from my side,” Sadaf said. “It’s always more difficult for the woman’s family to come around,” she said.

Marriages in India’s patriarchal system see women as being “given away” by their families. “Most families are reluctant to ‘give away’ their daughter into a faith they do not understand,” Sadaf told DW.

While this wasn’t something Yatin had to worry about, he faced challenges of his own. “My family went into absolute shock when I first told them about Sadaf,” he said.

“In fact, my mother had casually told me sometime earlier that they would accept whomever I wanted to marry, except a Muslim,” Yatin said.

After several months of persuasion, his family finally agreed. But he admits that in interfaith marriages, the brunt of the backlash is often faced by women.

“If it were my sister who wanted to get married to a Muslim guy, I don’t think my parents would have agreed to it,” he said. “The woman’s side often gets very aggressive too.”

Fortunately for Sadaf, the reaction from her community was limited to a social boycott.

Only her mother, who was quite supportive from the start, and her brother attended the wedding. Sadaf’s father refused to be part of the ceremony.

Read more: Javed Akhtar on communal tensions: ‘Indian Muslims also have to criticize themselves’

‘Love jihad’

Unlike many inter-religious couples in India, Sadaf and Yatin had a lot going for them. They both came from educated families that were not prone to violence, lived in urban centers, and were financially independent. But most importantly, Yatin was a Hindu.

“Had Yatin been a Muslim, and I a Hindu, our marriage would have been called ‘love jihad,’” Sadaf said.

Source- dw.com


South Asian migrants accuse Croatian police of brutal beatings at border


By Arafatul Aslam

South Asian migrants stuck in Bosnian camps have accused Croatian police of badly beating people caught trying to cross the border into the EU. Human rights groups are calling for an investigation of the abuse allegations.

Solaiman is a 20-year-old Bangladeshi migrant and one of nearly 600 South Asian asylum-seekers who are camped out in a hilly forest in the western Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa, just a few kilometers away from the border with Croatia.

They are spending nights in crowded shacks made from tarps, and they lack sufficient food, water and medical supplies. But more than cold or hunger, they fear what may happen when they attempt to cross the European Union border into Croatia.

“Croatian police split us into groups of five people after we crossed the border. They forced us to lie down and beat us mercilessly before forcing us back to Bosnia,” Solaiman told DW just an hour after an alleged incident that took place on October 19.

He was bleeding from an injury on the right side of his forehead, his lip was split, and there were bruises all over his body.

“There were 21 Bangladeshis and seven Afghan refugees in the group. They beat all of us, and some had their hands and legs broken by the torture,” Solaiman said.

Solaiman claimed the police officers who tortured them were wearing black uniforms and ski masks. Other migrants and refugees living at the camp told DW that the Croatian police in black uniforms are notorious for brutality. The migrants accuse the police of beating and robbing people who try to cross the border illegally.

“They take our bags, mobile phones, money and even our clothes. After that, they beat us and force us back in our underwear,” Mohammad Yasin, another Bangladeshi asylum-seeker, told DW.

Bosnia has become a bottleneck for thousands of Europe-bound migrants after other nations closed their borders and disrupted migration paths through the Balkans.

Upon entering Bosnia, most migrants walk northwest to the country’s highly porous 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) border with Croatia, one of the last gateways to northern Europe.

Border town Velika Kladusa is a migrant hotspot where around 1,500 people, most of them from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, have been staying, their future uncertain.

Overworked NGO treats injured migrants

At the nearby Miral camp, run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), hospital beds are provided only to severely injured migrants; others are provided with pain medicine. The camp also houses refugees who cannot live without support.

Hundreds of people camp in the woods near the Croatian border

There are about 700 migrants living at the overcrowded Miral camp. Half of them are from Pakistan, around 30% from Bangladesh, and the others from Afghanistan, Morocco, and Tunisia.

The rest of the migrants live without medical aid in the forest camp, or in an abandoned factory.

“Croatian police broke both my legs by beating me mercilessly. It happened last night when I was trying to cross the Bosnia-Croatia border,” Muhammad Waqas, a 27-year-old refugee from Pakistan, told DW at the Miral camp. He had been rescued by Bosnian police and taken for treatment to Miral.

“They intentionally aim for bones and faces using black batons. They don’t listen, or ask anything, before starting to beat us,” he said.

Mite Cilkovski, the manager of the Miral camp, said it often receives injured migrants who were beaten at the border, many of whom will take months to heal.

“They say that the injuries were caused by the Croatian police. We report the issue to relevant institutions and organizations whenever we receive such injured people,” Cilkovski told DW.

Human rights groups ‘horrified’

Last week, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) recorded more than 75 incidents of violence at the Bosnia-Croatia border near Velika Kladusa. The humanitarian NGO said it has teams in the area to verify reports. Most of the victims come from Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“The testimonies that the DRC has collected from victims of pushbacks are horrifying,” DRC Secretary General Charlotte Slente told DW.

“People from different groups and nationalities have independently reported inhumane treatment, savage beatings and even sexual abuse at the border,” she said, emphasizing this has been taking place for months.

She said authorities needed to intervene. “There is an urgent need to ensure that independent border-monitoring mechanisms are in place to prevent these abuses and to ensure that all reports of abuse are transparently and credibly investigated — and those responsible are held to account,” she said.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has repeatedly asked the European Commission to take action against member states like Croatia, accusing them of allowing unlawful abuse during violent pushbacks at EU borders.

“HRW has documented violent pushbacks from Croatia to Bosnia and Serbia for several years. These abuses have been going on unabated and are a frequent occurrence — not isolated events but rather a part of systemic practice by Croatian border officials,” Lydia Gall, a senior researcher on the western Balkans at HRW, told DW.

“EU law prohibits summary returns of migrants and any violence during such unlawful returns on all its external borders,” she added.

HRW’s Gall said there should be enough evidence of beatings to legally prove abusive asylum practices.

“The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on asylum and pushback-related cases in the past,” she said, adding that a lawsuit would be possible if lawyers could provide enough evidence of abuse.

Ylva Johansson, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, has said that she is aware of the reports of police brutality at the Bosnia-Croatia border and was taking the matter very seriously.

“I am planning a thorough discussion with the Croatian authorities on these and other reports of fundamental rights violations,” she said on Twitter, adding she plans to discuss Croatia’s border-monitoring mechanism.

“Croatian authorities have committed to investigate reports of mistreatment at their external borders, monitor this situation closely and keep the Commission informed on progress made,” Johansson said.

However, HRW’s Gall said that EU should open infringement proceedings (legal action) against Croatia over its “blatant abuses of EU law ” to put pressure on Croatian authorities to “effectively investigate abuses on its border, including holding responsible officers to account.”

Croatia says it will investigate
Croatia’s Interior Ministry told DW it is investigating the abuse allegations and has not independently verified whether they occurred.

”Immediately after receiving these allegations, this ministry initiated relevant procedures to verify them,” the ministry said in a statement.

“It is our objective, and in our interest, to not only remove any suspicion of actions taken by Croatian police officers, but also to sanction and eliminate irregularities if, by chance, any have occurred.”

”Taking into consideration the severity of those accusations, we find it inappropriate to provide any response to those accusations until they have been thoroughly verified,” the ministry said.

Read more: EU migration policy: Eastern European leaders get tough on new plans

Many refugees fear that their situation could get worse as winter is approaching. Cilkovski, the manager of the Miral Camp, said there is not much more his organization can do.

“We can’t accommodate more than 700 people in the Miral Camp. Another camp is needed to accommodate others who are in the forest and surrounding areas now,” he said.

“But it’s not happening. If someone wants to return to their own country, IOM will arrange their flight free of cost.”

Source- dw.com