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Sri Lanka MPs clash with president over Easter attacks probe

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s parliament warned President Maithripala Sirisena not to scuttle a controversial investigation into security lapses before the Easter suicide bombings, the Speaker’s office said Sunday.The warning came after Sirisena said he would not cooperate with the parliamentary probe and would not allow defense or police officials to testify before the select committee (PSC).The…

Sri Lanka MPs clash with president over Easter attacks probe

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s parliament warned President Maithripala Sirisena not to scuttle a controversial investigation into security lapses before the Easter suicide bombings, the Speaker’s office said Sunday.The warning came after Sirisena said he would not cooperate with the parliamentary probe and would not allow defense or police officials to testify before the select committee (PSC).The president called an emergency cabinet meeting on Friday night to oppose the legislature’s investigation into the April 21 attacks that killed 258 people, including 45 foreigners, and wounded nearly 500.“Any public servant summoned by the PSC is obliged to give evidence,” Speaker Karu Jayasuriya said in a hard-hitting two-page response to Sirisena.“Officials are fully aware of the serious consequences if they fail to respond.”Officials at the Speaker’s office said Jayasuriya made it clear to Sirisena that he will not call off the PSC and it will continue its public hearings.Evidence before the parliamentary select committee, which began its publicly televised sittings since late last month, has placed the president in a poor light, suggesting that he failed to act on advance warning of the attacks.On Saturday, Sirisena’s office said he sacked his national intelligence chief El-Sisira Mendis who testified that the devastating attacks against three churches and three luxury hotels could have been avoided.Mendis also said the president had failed to hold regular security meetings to assess the threat from radicals who carried out the bombings.Sirisena’s office did not give a reason for abruptly sacking Mendis. Halfway through his testimony, the live telecast of the proceedings was stopped on the president’s orders, official sources said.Sirisena told his police top brass on Friday that he would not allow any police, military or intelligence personnel to testify.However, a senior defense ministry sources said that in view of the Speaker’s latest warning, they will have to cooperate with the committee.Sirisena’s defense secretary and police chief have suggested that the president, who is also defense minister, did not follow proper protocols in dealing with a specific warning from an Indian intelligence agency.New Delhi had shared detailed information about the targets and the method of attack as early as April 4, two and a half weeks before the bombings, following information from a jihadist in Indian custody.A local miitant organization and the Daesh group claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks. The country has been under a state of emergency since the bombings.Sirisena said last week that he met with the national police chief and his top brass 13 days before the attacks but no officer raised warnings passed on by India. His own officials have denied it.The latest crisis erupted ahead of a visit to Sri Lanka by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.Modi arrived in Colombo for a brief stopover on his return from an official visit to the Maldives on Saturday.Sirisena suspended police chief Pujith Jayasundara and dismissed his top defense official Hemasiri Fernando after the bombings.

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Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

MANILA: The Philippines and India have agreed to boost defense and security cooperation following talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.Kovind is in Manila as part of a five-day official visit to the Philippines that began on Thursday.In a joint statement, Duterte said he and Kovind have committed…

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

MANILA: The Philippines and India have agreed to boost defense and security cooperation following talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and his Indian counterpart Ram Nath Kovind on Friday.Kovind is in Manila as part of a five-day official visit to the Philippines that began on Thursday.In a joint statement, Duterte said he and Kovind have committed to building a “partnership” between the Philippines and India “that enables us to face challenges to our hard-won progress, jointly and effectively.”As Duterte welcomed India’s role in his country’s defense capability upgrade program, against the backdrop of growing security cooperation, he said they have agreed “to continue working together to fight terrorism and violent extremism and other transboundary threats.”Kovind said “both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,” and the two leaders “committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its formsand manifestations.”He added: “As two vibrant democracies that believe in a rules-based international order, respect for international law and sovereign equality of nations, the Philippines and India are natural partners in the pursuit of their respective national development and security objectives.”The two leaders also agreed to strengthen maritime security ties.“As countries strategically located in the Pacific and Indian oceans, we affirmed our shared interest to protect our maritime commons and advance the rule of law in our maritime domains,” Duterte said.

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Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said ‘both of our countries have been victims of terrorism,’ and the two leaders ‘committed to work closely to defeat and eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.’

He added that they also discussed “the most pressing concerns of our region and beyond, such as maritime security and economic integration.”Following their meeting, they witnessed the signing of maritime, tourism, science, technology and cultural agreements.Among them was a memorandum of understanding between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Indian Navy to enhance maritime security by sharing information on nonmilitary and nongovernment shipping vessels between the two countries.“With the signing of bilateral agreements, we have likewise widened the path toward enhancement of our engagement in maritime security, science and technology, tourism and cultural cooperation,” Duterte said.“We hope to look back on this day as a milestone in our relations, the day when we set out to turn promise into reality, and potential into concrete benefits that bring the greatest positive impact on the lives of our peoples.”

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South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

SYDNEY: An Iraqi man has been charged in Australia with people trafficking in connection with the drowning deaths of more than 350 asylum seekers in 2001, police said Saturday.Maythem Radhi, 43, was arrested at Brisbane airport late Friday after being extradited from New Zealand and has been charged with “organising groups of non-citizens into Australia”.He…

South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

SYDNEY: An Iraqi man has been charged in Australia with people trafficking in connection with the drowning deaths of more than 350 asylum seekers in 2001, police said Saturday.Maythem Radhi, 43, was arrested at Brisbane airport late Friday after being extradited from New Zealand and has been charged with “organising groups of non-citizens into Australia”.He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.Police claim he was part of a syndicate that charged 421 mostly Iraqi and Afghan refugees for a place aboard an Indonesian fishing boat known by Australian authorities as SIEV-X in 2001.The vessel sunk in the Indian Ocean while en route to Australia’s Christmas Island, leaving 353 people dead, 146 of them children.”Police will allege in court that the man, then aged 24, took payments from the passengers,” the Australian Federal Police said in a statement on Saturday — exactly 18 years after the disaster.”It will also be alleged that he helped facilitate the transportation and accommodation of people in Indonesia in preparation for their journey to Australia,” they added.Radhi is the third person to face court for their role in the disaster.Iraqi people smuggler Khaleed Shnayf Daoed was extradited from Sweden to Australia in 2003 and received a nine-year sentence two years later, with prosecutors portraying the then 36-year-old as a key organiser for Egyptian people smuggler Abu Quassey.Quassey was convicted in Egypt in December 2003 of causing death through negligence and was sentenced to seven years in prison.Radhi is expected to appear in court later this month.

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Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump gave an atta-boy to Republican Rep. Francis Rooney last year on the congressman’s home turf in swing state Florida.“I love it when he defends me,” the president said then. He might feel differently now.The second-term Republican said publicly Friday what others in his party are not, namely that acting White House…

Republican stalwart Rooney ‘thinking’ about impeachment

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump gave an atta-boy to Republican Rep. Francis Rooney last year on the congressman’s home turf in swing state Florida.“I love it when he defends me,” the president said then. He might feel differently now.The second-term Republican said publicly Friday what others in his party are not, namely that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up US aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kyiv’s investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections. Mulvaney later claimed his comments had been misconstrued, but Rooney said he and other Republicans heard them clearly.“He said there’s a quid pro quo,” Rooney said of Mulvaney during a telephone interview. “I just don’t think that the power and prestige of our country is supposed to be used for political things.”Asked whether he thinks Trump’s conduct is impeachable, Rooney replied, “I’m still thinking about it.”Anything short of a “no” on that question, even from only one of 197 Republicans in the House, is notable amid the drive by majority Democrats to impeach Trump. The president has made clear that he does more than notice what he considers acts of disloyalty; he is fond of making examples of Republicans by threatening to sink their re-election bids and following through in a few cases.Friday night, Trump tweeted, “REPUBLICANS MUST STICK TOGETHER AND FIGHT!” That tweet was accompanied by a video targeting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, who has been critical of Trump’s handling of Turkey’s assault on Syrian Kurds.When Rep. Justin Amash of politically critical Michigan became the first House Republican to call for Trump’s impeachment earlier this year — and quit the party — the backlash from Trump’s orbit was swift.But that was before revelations about Trump’s pressure on Ukraine, which made his impeachment by the end of the year a real possibility. Since the release of a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president, many current and former administration officials have testified before House impeachment investigators.Then Mulvaney spoke on Thursday. Rooney said in a telephone interview that the chief of staff’s comments marked a turning point for him from giving the president “the benefit of the doubt.” And he said GOP colleagues are newly troubled.“They were all going around saying what the president said — that there wasn’t a quid pro quo,” Rooney said. “There were a lot of Republicans looking at that headline yesterday. I think people were concerned about it.”Rooney said he had not received any blowback from the White House for his comments, though about half of the calls he’s getting are from constituents who are critical, including “some pretty hostile” ones from ardent Trump supporters.Only a year ago, at a presidential rally in Estero, Trump praised Rooney as “a man who’s so great to me on television. This guy is special. He was a great businessman. Now he’s a great congressman, Francis Rooney.”He went on: “I love him when he defends me. He’s brutal. He gets the job done, right, Francis? Thank you, man.”Rooney, 65, is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, a solid member of the Republican establishment. Among the wealthiest members of the House, he won his second term last year with 62 percent of the vote. His foreign policy bona fides come in part from his service as ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush.His official biography tells the story of his longtime connection to the GOP. In 1984, the family started Rooney Holdings Inc. One of the company’s subsidiaries counts among its projects the presidential libraries for both Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush, the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans football stadiums, the US Capitol Visitor’s Center, the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research and the international terminal at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta.Rooney has at times been a Trump critic. He was one of 13 House Republicans to join a Democratic effort early this year to stop the president from declaring a national emergency to fund his border wall with Mexico.On Friday, Rooney was no longer one of Trump’s defenders, on television or elsewhere.“Whatever may have been gray and unclear before is certainly clear now,” he said on CNN.

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