Indonesia set to deport Australian surfer who apologized for drunken rampage

Australian national Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones from Queensland walks with his lawyer Idris Marbawi and an immigration officer upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, Indonesia on Jun. 10, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 10 June 2023
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Indonesia set to deport Australian surfer who apologized for drunken rampage

  • Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones, 23, from Queensland, was detained in late April on Simeulue Island, a surf resort
  • Police accused him of going on a drunken rampage that left a fisherman with serious injuries

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s authorities were set to deport on Saturday an Australian surfer who apologized for attacking several people while drunk and naked in the deeply conservative Muslim province of Aceh.
Bodhi Mani Risby-Jones, 23, from Queensland, was detained in late April on Simeulue Island, a surf resort, after police accused him of going on a drunken rampage that left a fisherman with serious injuries.
Risby-Jones was released from prison on Tuesday after he went through a restorative justice process, apologized for the attack and agreed to pay compensation to the fisherman. That allowed him to avoid going to court and facing a possible charge of assault that could have landed him up to five years in prison.
His lawyer, Idris Marbawi, said the two sides agreed that Risby-Jones would pay the fisherman’s family for hospital fees and a traditional peace ceremony. The total payment was 300 million rupiah ($20,000). The fisherman underwent surgery in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, for broken bones and an infection in his legs.
“Risby-Jones is the first foreigner to successfully resolve a case through restorative justice in Aceh province,” Marbawi said. “He deeply regretted what happened and vowed to return to Indonesia for surfing.”
After his release, Risby-Jones stayed at an immigration detention center. He was due to depart for Melbourne on Saturday evening, Marbawi said.
Footage of his release on Tuesday showed Risby-Jones being escorted by officers to a bus after hugging and saying goodbye to several prison wardens.
“It’s been a long time coming and I’m feeling amazing and super happy and grateful,” he said. “Everyone has been very nice and accommodated me well. Thank you.”
Violent acts by foreigners are rare in Aceh, the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia that practices Shariah, a concession made by the central government in 2001 as part of efforts to end a decades-long war for independence.


Pakistani FM ‘hopeful’ flood aid promises will be fulfilled

Updated 3 min 56 sec ago
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Pakistani FM ‘hopeful’ flood aid promises will be fulfilled

  • Pakistan was devastated by floods last year that inflicted over $30bn in damage, economic losses
  • While donors have pledged around $10bn in aid, it has yet to be disbursed

NEW YORK: Pakistan is “hopeful” that pledged reconstruction funding to rebuild parts of the country damaged by floods last year will be disbursed soon, Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani said on Friday.

At a press conference during the UN General Assembly in New York, he told Arab News: “Pakistan is one of the worst affected as far as climate change is concerned because it has affected about 33 million people.

“One-third of the country was inundated with water, and about $30 billion worth of losses were suffered.”

Pakistan was devastated by the 2022 floods, which were the world’s deadliest since those in southern Asia in 2020.

About a month after last year’s disaster, Pakistan and other countries attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt decided to establish the Loss and Damage Fund to assist countries in dealing with the effects of climate change.

Many donors have pledged funds to help Pakistan rebuild flood-affected areas. The Islamic Development Bank pledged more than $4 billion, the World Bank $2 billion and Saudi Arabia $1 billion.

“So far, there has been very little which has trickled down from the international community as far as the rehabilitation and reconstruction work that has to be carried out. Pakistan is doing that from its own resources,” Jilani told Arab News.

“Our banks are issuing loans on easy terms to all those people who were affected. But then obviously, there are limits to what the banking industry can do.

“This is the kind of situation we’re in. I think we’re hopeful that most of the promises which were made by the donors will be fulfilled shortly.”

Regarding foreign policy, Jilani described the formation of new blocs and rivalries in the Asia-Pacific region as “a very uncomfortable situation” for Pakistan.

“Asia-Pacific has been a very peaceful region, a prosperous region, and it has made great economic strides in the last 40-50 years. Any tension within the Asia-Pacific region, from our point of view, is certainly not good for peace and stability in the region,” he said, adding that Pakistan prioritizes good relations with all countries, specifically mentioning China and the US.

When asked about Islamabad’s potential to confront the Pakistani Taliban, which operates along the border with Afghanistan, Jilani said: “Afghanistan is a sovereign country. Pakistan follows a policy of non-interference … while respecting the sovereignty of other countries.

“At the same time, we have expectations that the Afghan side would take action against all groups who are violating Afghanistan’s soil to carry out terrorist activities against other countries.”

Jilani added that during a meeting between the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan in May, “there was a reiteration of this commitment by the Afghan side that they won’t allow Afghan soil to be used against other countries.”

Jilani also praised Pakistan’s commitment to democracy and free elections. “We’re a democratic country. There’s absolutely no doubt about it. In Pakistan, when parliament has completed its full term, it’s a constitutional requirement that there’s a caretaker setup which is meant to ensure neutrality in the next elections,” he said.

“This is meant to ensure that the elections are free and fair, and is meant to ensure that people are able to participate in the voting process without any violence.”

Jilani said Pakistan is heavily involved in efforts to tackle Islamophobia in Europe, and had made a case for the criminalization of religious-based hate speech in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Contact Group on Muslims in Europe.

“We also appreciated the introduction of a bill by the government of Denmark which would criminalize such offenses, either the burning of holy books or insulting the prophets of any religion. I think this is a good step they’ve taken,” he added, saying he is hopeful that if such a bill passed in Demark, other European nations may follow suit.


Niger junta slams UN chief for General Assembly ‘obstruction’

Updated 23 September 2023
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Niger junta slams UN chief for General Assembly ‘obstruction’

  • Niger “forcefully rejects and denounces this clear interference by Mr.Guterres in the internal affairs of a sovereign state,” it said

NIAMEY, Niger: Niger’s coup leaders accused the head of the United Nations on Friday of obstructing their participation in the body’s General Assembly, saying it was “likely to undermine any effort to end the crisis in our country.”
Rebel elite soldiers overthrew president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and have since detained him at home with his family.
Negotiations to restore civilian rule have yet to bear fruit, with the junta demanding a three-year transition and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) calling for the immediate return of the democratically elected Bazoum.
The coup has also been strongly criticized by Western governments and global bodies, such as the UN.
In a news release read on public television, the military said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “went astray in the exercise of his mission by obstructing Niger’s full participation in the 78th session of the UN General Assembly.”
It criticized “the perfidious actions” of the UN leader, adding that they were “likely to undermine any effort to end the crisis in our country.”
Global leaders have descended on New York this week for the annual UN General Assembly.
Bakary Yaou Sangare, who before the coup was Niger’s ambassador to the UN and is now its foreign minister, was set to represent Niamey at the gathering.
“Mr Guterres not only refused to take note of the official list of delegates from Niger... but above all acceded to the fanciful request of the former minister of foreign affairs Hassoumi Massaoudou tending to revoke the permanent representative of Niger to the United Nations,” the military statement said.
Niger “forcefully rejects and denounces this clear interference by Mr.Guterres in the internal affairs of a sovereign state,” it said.
Guterres’ representatives have been contacted for comment.
One of the world’s poorest nations, Niger is the fourth country in West Africa to suffer a coup since 2020, following Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali.
Bazoum’s removal heightened international worries over the Sahel region, which faces growing jihadist insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group.
Regional sanctions since the coup mean food and medicines are scarce in landlocked Niger, prices are skyrocketing and there are blackouts after Nigeria cut electricity supplies.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall said on Thursday a diplomatic solution in Niger was “still possible.”
“I hope that reason will ultimately prevail... that it is still possible to move forward reasonably to a solution,” Sall said in an interview with France’s RFI and France 24 media outlets.
He urged Niger’s coup leaders “to not push (us) to the final decision which would be a military intervention.”
The military leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger signed a mutual defense pact this month, saying they aimed to “establish an architecture of collective defense and mutual assistance for the benefit of our populations.”
 

 


White House preparing for government shutdown as House Republicans lack a viable endgame for funding

Updated 5 sec ago
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White House preparing for government shutdown as House Republicans lack a viable endgame for funding

  • McCarthy signaled his preference for avoiding a closure, but a hard-right flank of his House majority has effectively seized control

WASHINGTON: The White House on Friday directed federal agencies to get ready for a shutdown after House Republicans left town for the weekend with no viable plan to keep the government funded and avert politically and economically costly disruption of federal services.
A federal shutdown after Sept. 30 seems all but certain unless Speaker Kevin McCarthy can persuade his rebellious hard-right flank of Republicans to allow Congress to approve a temporary funding measure to prevent closures as talks continue. Instead, he’s launched a much more ambitious plan to try to start passing multiple funding bills once the House returns Tuesday, with just five days to resolve the standoff.
“We got members working, and hopefully we’ll be able to move forward on Tuesday to pass these bills,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the Capitol.
McCarthy signaled his preference for avoiding a closure, but a hard-right flank of his House majority has effectively seized control. “I still believe if you shut down you’re in a weaker position,” he said.
The standoff with House Republicans over government funding puts at risk a range of activities — including pay for the military and law enforcement personnel, food safety and food aid programs, air travel and passport processing — and could wreck havoc with the US economy.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Friday that if federal workers go unpaid it would be Republicans’ fault. “Our message is: This doesn’t have to happen,” she said. “They can do their job and keep these vital programs continuing, keeping the government open.”
With the Oct. 1 start of a new fiscal year and no funding in place, the Biden administration’s Office of Management and Budget began to advise federal agencies to review and update their shutdown plans, according to an OMB official. The start of this process suggests that federal employees could be informed next week if they’re to be furloughed.
President Joe Biden has been quick to blame the likely shutdown on House Republicans, who are intent on spending cuts beyond those laid out in a June deal that also suspended the legal cap on the government borrowing’s authority until early 2025.
“They’re back at it again, breaking their commitment, threatening more cuts and threatening to shut down government again,” Biden during a recent speech in suburban Maryland.
McCarthy faces immense pressure for severe spending cuts from a handful of hard-right conservatives in his caucus, essentially halting his ability to lead the chamber. Many on the right flank are aligned with Donald Trump — the Republican front-runner to challenge Biden in the 2024 election. They opposed the budget deal the speaker reached with Biden earlier this year and are trying to dismantle it.
Trump has urged the House Republicans on, pushing them to hold the line against federal spending.
Led by Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the right flank has all but commandeered control of the House debate in a public rebuke to the speaker.
Late Thursday, the hard-right faction pushed McCarthy to consider their idea to shelve plans for a stopgap funding measure, called a continuing resolution, or CR, and instead start bringing up the 12 individual bills needed to fund the government.
The House GOP leadership then announced just that — it would begin processing a package of four bills to fund Defense, Homeland Security, State and Foreign Operations and Agricultural departments, setting up voting for Tuesday when lawmakers return. Work on some bills had been held up by the same conservatives demanding passage now.
“Any progress we are making is in spite of, not due to McCarthy,” Gaetz posted on social media, deriding the speaker for having sent lawmakers home for the weekend. “Pathetic.”
Gaetz and his allies say they want to see the House engage in the hard work of legislating — even if it pushes the country into a shutdown — as they pursue sizable reductions and cuts.
The House Rules Committee was holding a Friday afternoon session to begin preparing those bills, which historically require weeks of floor debate, with hundreds of amendments, but now are slated to be rushed to the floor for next week’s votes. The panel was expected to wrap up its work Saturday.
It’s a capstone to a difficult week for McCarthy who tried, unsuccessfully, to advance a typically popular defense spending bill that was twice defeated in embarrassing floor votes. The speaker seemed to blame the defeat of the bill on fellow lawmakers “who just want to burn the whole place down.”
McCarthy’s top allies, including Rep. Garrett Graves, R-Louisiana, insisted Friday they were still working toward both ends — passing annual spending bills and pushing for the most conservative stopgap CR with border security provisions — in time to prevent a shutdown.
Shutdowns happen when Congress and the president fail to complete a set of 12 spending bills, or fail to approve a temporary measure to keep the government operating. As a result, federal agencies are required to stop all actions deemed non-essential. Since 1976, there have been 22 funding gaps, with 10 of them leading to workers being furloughed.
The last and longest shutdown on record was for 35 days during Trump’s administration, between 2018 and 2019, as he insisted on funding to build a wall along the US southern border that Democrats and some Republicans refused.
Because some agencies already had approved funding, it was a partial closure. The Congressional Budget Office estimated it came at a cost of $3 billion to the US economy. While $3 billion is a lot of money, it was equal to just 0.02 percent of US economic activity in 2019.
There could be costs to parts of the economy and difficulties for individuals.
Military and law enforcement officials would go unpaid during the shutdown. The disaster relief fund of the Federal Emergency Management Agency could be depleted, hurting the victims of wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding.
Clinical trials on new prescription drugs could be delayed. Ten thousand children could lose access to care through Head Start, while environmental and food safety inspections would get backlogged.
Food aid for Americans through the Women, Infants and Children program could be cut off for nearly 7 million pregnant women, mothers, infants and children.
Brian Gardner, chief Washington strategist at the investment bank Stifel, said that air traffic controllers largely continued to work without pay during the previous shutdown. He noted that visa and passport applications would not be processed if the government is closed.
The US Travel Industry Association estimates that the travel sector could lose $140 million daily in a shutdown.
But in a sign of how little damage that 35-day shutdown did to the overall economy, the S&P 500 stock index climbed 11.6 percent during the last government closure.

 


Blinken calls on India to cooperate on Canada killing probe

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 September 2023
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Blinken calls on India to cooperate on Canada killing probe

  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that Indian agents played a role in the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, near Vancouver

NEW YORK: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on India Friday to cooperate with Canada and ensure “accountability” over the killing of a Sikh separatist, after Ottawa accused New Delhi of involvement.
Blinken said the United States has been in touch both with India, with which it has warming ties, and Canada, a close ally which expelled an Indian diplomat earlier this week.
“We want to see accountability. And it’s important that the investigation run its course and lead to that result,” Blinken told reporters in New York, where he was taking part in the UN General Assembly.
“We would hope that our Indian friends would cooperate with that investigation as well,” Blinken said.
Blinken, without commenting directly on the substance of the allegations, said that the United States took “very, very seriously” incidents of “transnational repression.”
“I think it’s important, more broadly, for the international system that any country that might consider engaging in such acts not do so,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that Indian agents played a role in the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, near Vancouver.
Trudeau on Thursday called on India to cooperate on the investigation.
Nijjar was wanted by India for alleged terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder. He was part of the Khalistan movement, which advocates a separate Sikh homeland and was crushed by Indian security forces in the 1980s.
India has come back swinging at Canada, reducing its diplomatic staff and stopping visa services.
 

 


Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

Updated 22 September 2023
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Pakistan’s ‘first priority’ is countering terrorism from Afghanistan, PM tells UNGA

  • Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar welcomes Saudi-Iranian normalization, calls for two-state solution for Palestine
  • Premier says global powers should convince India to accept offer of mutual restraint on strategic weapons

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday called for action to halt militant attacks from neighboring Afghanistan, endorsed Saudi Arabia and Iran’s diplomatic rapprochement, and advocated a two-state solution as the path to enduring peace in Palestine.
Kakar achieved a historic milestone as the first caretaker prime minister of his country to address the annual United Nations General Assembly session in New York, where he tackled global issues ranging from extremist violence and relations with India to the escalating challenges of climate change and Islamophobia.
“Pakistan’s first priority is to prevent and counter all terrorism from and within Afghanistan,” he told representatives of UN member states. “Pakistan condemns the cross-border attacks by the TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan), Daesh and other groups operating from Afghanistan.”
The prime minister’s statement follows a dramatic surge in militant violence in Pakistan, mainly in regions bordering Afghanistan, since the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul in August 2021.
Attacks in the first half of this year rose by 80 percent compared with the same period last year, according to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies.
“We have sought Kabul’s support and cooperation to prevent these attacks,” the prime minister said. “We are also taking necessary measures to end this externally encouraged terrorism.”
Kakar reiterated his country’s position that peace in Afghanistan was a “strategic imperative” for Pakistan, while sharing international concerns with respect to its neighbor, particularly those related to the rights of women and girls.
“We advocate continued humanitarian assistance for the destitute Afghan population in which Afghan girls and women are the most vulnerable, as well as the revival of Afghan economy and implementation of the connectivity projects with Central Asia,” he said.
Discussing Pakistan’s relations with its nuclear-armed neighbor, the prime minister said his country desired “peaceful and productive” relations with all neighbors, including India.
“Global powers should convince New Delhi to accept Pakistan’s offer of mutual restraint on strategic and conventional weapons,” he said, adding that Kashmir provided the key to peace between the neighboring states.
Pakistan and India both rule parts of the disputed Himalayan region while claiming it in full. They have fought two wars over the mountainous territory, and their forces frequently exchange fire across a 740 km (466 mile) line of control, the de facto border separating the two parts of Kashmir.
“We must counter all terrorists without discrimination, including the rising threat posed by far-right extremist and fascist groups, such as Hindutva-inspired extremists threatening genocide against Indian Muslims and Christians,” he said.
“We also need to oppose state terrorism, address the root cause of terrorism, such as poverty, injustice and foreign occupation, and distinguish genuine freedom struggles from terrorism.”
The prime minister proposed the creation of a committee of the general assembly to oversee the balanced implementation of all “four pillars of the global counter terrorism strategy.”
He also applauded the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, while commenting on the overall strategic situation in the Middle East.
“Pakistan welcomes the progress made toward ending the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. In particular, we warmly welcome the normalization of relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said.
Focusing on the Palestine issue, Kakar mentioned continued “Israeli military raids, air strikes, expansion of settlements and eviction of Palestinians.”
He said: “A durable peace can be established only through a two-state solution, and establishment of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state within the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds as its capital.”
The prime minister also mentioned the “age-old phenomenon” of Islamophobia, saying the problem had grown dramatically in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in the US, and could be seen in the negative profiling of Muslims and public burnings of the Qur’an.
“The narratives advocating a clash of civilizations have done considerable harm to humanity’s progress,” he said. “Such ideas have bred extremism, hatred and religious intolerance, including Islamophobia.”
Kakar welcomed legislation initiated by Denmark and contemplated by Sweden to ban desecration of the Islamic scripture.
“Pakistan and the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) countries will propose further steps to combat Islamophobia, including the appointment of a special envoy, creation of an Islamophobia data center, legal assistance to victims and an accountability process to punish Islamophobic crimes,” he said.
Discussing the climate change issue, Kakar said Pakistan looked forward to fulfilling the climate commitments made at COP28 by developed countries to provide over $100 billion in annual climate finance.
“Pakistan’s triple food finance fuel challenge is a prime illustration of the impact of COVID conflict and climate on developing countries,” he said, adding that Pakistan was one of the countries worst hit by climate change.
Flooding in Pakistan last year submerged one-third of the country, killed 1,700 people, displaced over 8 million others, destroyed vital infrastructure and caused over $30 billion damage to the economy, Kakar said.
“We are gratified by the commitment of over $10.5 billion for the Pakistan’s comprehensive plan for recovery, rehabilitation, reconstruction with resilience,” he said.
“Specific projects are being submitted to ensure timely funding. I hope our development partners will accord priority to the allocation of funds for our recovery plan which costs $13 billion.”