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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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US border chief quits amid outcry over child detainees

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down…

US border chief quits amid outcry over child detainees

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down as acting CBP chief on July 5.Sanders’ departure coincides with the revelation of unsanitary detention conditions for children at an overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, a sign of the increasing strain on resources due to soaring numbers of arrests at the US-Mexico border.The conditions at the center in Clint were described by a team of lawyers, doctors and others who visited the facility about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.Nearly 250 children were transferred out of Clint on Monday but a CBP official said Tuesday that some 100 were being sent back there.“The three-year old before me had matted hair, a hacking cough, muddy pants, and eyes that fluttered closed with fatigue,” wrote Clara Long, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who accompanied the team.“His only caretaker for the last three weeks in a United States Border Patrol chain-link cage and then a cell… his 11-year old brother,” Long said.“Children at Clint told us they don’t have regular access to showers or clean clothes, with some saying they hadn’t been allowed to bathe over periods of weeks and don’t have regular access to soap,” she said.Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, Long said “the situation is dire.”“And it’s not just Clint,” she said.Sanders has led CBP since April, when President Donald Trump tapped CBP chief Kevin McAleenan to replace Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.In a message to staff, Sanders did not give a specific reason for quitting and officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times it was not clear if his resignation was directly related to the handling of underage migrants at the border.Trump told reporters Tuesday he did not ask Sanders to step down but “knew there were going to be changes there.”US law requires unaccompanied minors to be returned to their parents or transferred to Health and Human Services facilities within 72 hours.But many of the children held by the Border Patrol in Clint had been there for three or four weeks, according to the team which visited the facility on June 17.“The Border Patrol claims that high numbers of border arrivals are causing these delays as they wait for space to open up in the somewhat more child-friendly detention centers and shelters,” said HRW’s Long.Arrivals of undocumented migrants at the southern US border have surged in recent months, with 144,000 people taken into custody in May alone. CBP deputy commissioner Robert Perez said more than 100,000 were children and families.“Everybody understands it is not the Border Patrol’s job to take care of children,” said Warren Binford, a Willamette University law professor who visited the Clint facility.“They are as upset as we are that these children are being put into their care because they don’t have the ability to care for them,” Binford said on MSNBC.“These children need to be with their families.”Perez, the CBP deputy commissioner, made the same complaint recently at a panel discussion in Washington.“We are a border security agency now being called upon to deal with things we’re not designed for,” Perez said.Trump, asked about conditions at the detention centers, said he was “very concerned” and urged Democrats to approve $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding for the southwest border.He said “bad people” were using children to take advantage of lax US immigration laws. “It’s a form of slavery what they’re doing to young children,” he said.Trump also said Mexico “for the first time in 50 years is helping us” prevent border-crossing.“So I just want to thank Mexico,” said the US leader, who had threatened steep tariffs on Mexican goods unless the government did more to slow migration.After a week of tense negotiations, Mexico agreed to reinforce its southern border with 6,000 National Guardsmen and expand its policy of taking back migrants while the US processes their asylum claims. Mexico has also deployed 15,000 troops to the US border.“They’ve done a great job,” said Trump. “Hopefully they can keep it up.”

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US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down…

US’s Pompeo faces thorny issues on India visit, from trade to Russia arms deals

WASHINGTON: The acting commissioner of the US Customs and Border Protection agency announced his resignation on Tuesday amid a public outcry over alarming detention conditions of migrant children in Texas.John Sanders, appointed to the post just two months ago, said in a letter obtained by several US media outlets that he planned to step down as acting CBP chief on July 5.Sanders’ departure coincides with the revelation of unsanitary detention conditions for children at an overcrowded Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, a sign of the increasing strain on resources due to soaring numbers of arrests at the US-Mexico border.The conditions at the center in Clint were described by a team of lawyers, doctors and others who visited the facility about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southeast of El Paso.Nearly 250 children were transferred out of Clint on Monday but a CBP official said Tuesday that some 100 were being sent back there.“The three-year old before me had matted hair, a hacking cough, muddy pants, and eyes that fluttered closed with fatigue,” wrote Clara Long, a researcher with Human Rights Watch who accompanied the team.“His only caretaker for the last three weeks in a United States Border Patrol chain-link cage and then a cell… his 11-year old brother,” Long said.“Children at Clint told us they don’t have regular access to showers or clean clothes, with some saying they hadn’t been allowed to bathe over periods of weeks and don’t have regular access to soap,” she said.Speaking on CNN on Tuesday, Long said “the situation is dire.”“And it’s not just Clint,” she said.Sanders has led CBP since April, when President Donald Trump tapped CBP chief Kevin McAleenan to replace Kirstjen Nielsen as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.In a message to staff, Sanders did not give a specific reason for quitting and officials told The Washington Post and The New York Times it was not clear if his resignation was directly related to the handling of underage migrants at the border.Trump told reporters Tuesday he did not ask Sanders to step down but “knew there were going to be changes there.”US law requires unaccompanied minors to be returned to their parents or transferred to Health and Human Services facilities within 72 hours.But many of the children held by the Border Patrol in Clint had been there for three or four weeks, according to the team which visited the facility on June 17.“The Border Patrol claims that high numbers of border arrivals are causing these delays as they wait for space to open up in the somewhat more child-friendly detention centers and shelters,” said HRW’s Long.Arrivals of undocumented migrants at the southern US border have surged in recent months, with 144,000 people taken into custody in May alone. CBP deputy commissioner Robert Perez said more than 100,000 were children and families.“Everybody understands it is not the Border Patrol’s job to take care of children,” said Warren Binford, a Willamette University law professor who visited the Clint facility.“They are as upset as we are that these children are being put into their care because they don’t have the ability to care for them,” Binford said on MSNBC.“These children need to be with their families.”Perez, the CBP deputy commissioner, made the same complaint recently at a panel discussion in Washington.“We are a border security agency now being called upon to deal with things we’re not designed for,” Perez said.Trump, asked about conditions at the detention centers, said he was “very concerned” and urged Democrats to approve $4.5 billion in emergency humanitarian funding for the southwest border.He said “bad people” were using children to take advantage of lax US immigration laws. “It’s a form of slavery what they’re doing to young children,” he said.Trump also said Mexico “for the first time in 50 years is helping us” prevent border-crossing.“So I just want to thank Mexico,” said the US leader, who had threatened steep tariffs on Mexican goods unless the government did more to slow migration.After a week of tense negotiations, Mexico agreed to reinforce its southern border with 6,000 National Guardsmen and expand its policy of taking back migrants while the US processes their asylum claims. Mexico has also deployed 15,000 troops to the US border.“They’ve done a great job,” said Trump. “Hopefully they can keep it up.”

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Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

NEW DELHI: One of the world’s biggest slums, located in Mumbai, has pipped the famous Taj Mahal to become India’s favorite tourist destination. Dharavi, where close to 1 million people live in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, was named by travel website TripAdvisor.com as the 2019 top visitor experience in India and among…

Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

NEW DELHI: One of the world’s biggest slums, located in Mumbai, has pipped the famous Taj Mahal to become India’s favorite tourist destination.

Dharavi, where close to 1 million people live in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, was named by travel website TripAdvisor.com as the 2019 top visitor experience in India and among the 10 most favorite tourist sites in Asia.

The slum has grown up on swamp land in the center of the coastal city of Mumbai over the past 150 years and has poor infrastructure and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The squalid district was featured in the 2008 Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” which tells the story of a Mumbai teenager accused of cheating on the Indian version of TV gameshow “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

However, in 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Katherine Boo portrayed a new side of life in the slum in her book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum,” which showed it bubbling with hope in a changing world.

The recent Bollywood movie “Gully Boy” also gives the slum a new look with a coming-of-age tale based on the lives of street rappers.

“Slum tourism started in 2003 for the first time but it picked up after the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” said Dinesh Bhurara, who runs travel agency Mumbai Dream Tours.

“Dharavi is not like a slum, but it is a city within the city. It is well-organized and people from all communities and religions coexist together. They work very hard. When tourists come, they see a new life in the slum which they don’t see in Mumbai and outside. This connects with foreigners,” Bhurara told Arab News.

Bhurara, 24, was born and brought up in Dharavi and started his travel business three years ago after gaining experience with other tour operators.

“People have lots of misconceptions about Dharavi. Movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ stereotyped the slum by showing its poverty, underbelly and by typecasting characters. But it’s not like that. When tourists visit it’s an eye-opener for them,” he added.

Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys, and shown around houses and businesses.

“For tourists this is an educational tour. They learn how business is done here, and how people survive with their sheer efforts and aspirations. They also go to business and industry areas,” said Bhurara.

The peak season to visit Dharavi is between November and May with travel agents recording an average of 200 foreigners touring the slum every day during the season.

Bhurara charges 700 rupees ($10) per person for a four-hour trip to Dharavi and has five partners who run the tours with him. “When we take tourists inside the slum, we not only take them into an area, but we also take them into our lives and show them how life can exist even in this space. Many get inspired and are awestruck by the sheer energy inside the slum.”

He said the tourist influx had encouraged many Dharavi youngsters to learn foreign languages as a way to earn a living and he himself had taken up Spanish.

According to Bhurara the majority of tourists are from Europe and China. “People in Dharavi are now attuned to foreigners visiting them and they really appreciate that. For youngsters it’s an extra opportunity to earn some more. So many college students pick up foreign languages to earn something extra,” he added.

Dharavi is a hub of small industries with exports of leather and recycled goods reportedly worth $1 billion a year. More than 4,000 businesses operate there alongside thousands of single-room factories where migrants workers from eastern and western India are employed.

“Many people, even in Mumbai, are not aware of this part of Dharavi,” Vinay Rawat, a tour operator, told Arab News. “In Mumbai people come to see the most expensive house of the industrialist Mukesh Ambani and they also want to see the cheapest place in Mumbai which is Dharavi.”

Rawat added that wealthy people lived in Dharavi where new high-rise buildings had been constructed. He said people had lived there for four generations but that there were fears that the prime land could fall into the hands of property developers.

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