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INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS - February 2020

Feb 2020

Feb 29, 2020

USCIRF Condemns Violence in New Delhi, Calls for Swift Action

  • Expressing concern over the violence in New Delhi, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom urged the Government of India to take swift action for the safety of its citizens.
  • Expressing "grave concern" over it, the USCIRF said the Indian government should provide protection to people regardless of their faith amid reports of attack on Muslims.
  • "We urge the Indian government to make serious efforts to protect Muslims and others targeted by mob violence," USCIRF Chair Tony Perkins said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
  • At least 27 people have been killed and over 200 injured in the violence over the Citizenship Amendment Act in the Indian capital.

Feb 28, 2020

Mahathir: Parliament Will Pick New PM

  • Malaysian interim leader Mahathir Mohamad said that Parliament will pick a new prime minister next week following the collapse of the ruling alliance, and that snap elections will be called if the vote ends in an impasse. Mahathir, who met the king earlier, said the monarch couldn't find a candidate with a clear majority to lead the nation after consulting all 222 lawmakers.

IAEA: Release Fukushima Water

  • The world's nuclear watchdog IAEA gave its backing to Japanese plans to release contaminated water from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. Japan has around a million tonnes of contaminated water stored in tanks at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, whose reactors went into meltdown after a huge tsunami in 2011. A government panel last month recommended the water be released into the ocean or vaporised, but no final decision has been taken.

Mitholz: Swiss Town Faces 10-year Evacuation

  • A Swiss village may have to evacuate for over a decade while authorities clear a huge World War Two arms dump.
  • The Defence Ministry concluded in 2019 that the cache posed an "unacceptable" risk to the nearby people of Mitholz.
  • Now, authorities say residents may have to leave while they clear the site.
  • Depending on how the work develops, residents should expect the evacuation to last up to more than 10 years.
  • Residents would have to approve the plan to leave the area. A public consultation is under way to see how best to proceed.
  • The depot partially exploded in 1947, killing nine people and destroying the nearby train station.
  • But more than 70 years later, about 3,500 tonnes of ammunition remain buried under rock at the site.

Putin Dismisses Rumours He Uses Body Double for Security

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that he was offered the chance to use a body double for security purposes, but rejected the idea.
  • He said that the plan was tabled in the early 2000s, when Russia was fighting a war against separatists in Chechnya.
  • A 67-year-old former KGB agent, Mr. Putin made several trips to the region during the conflict.
  • For years he has been the subject of conspiracy theories online, including that he uses lookalikes for security.
  • But Mr. Putin, who has been in power since 2000, declined these body double on every occasion he was offered.

Feb 27, 2020

Embattled Governor Signs over Nairobi to Kenya's Leader

  • Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta took over key functions of the Nairobi county government in what his office described as "a landmark agreement".
  • The law allows for transfer of functions between the national government and county governments after an agreement.
  • Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko handed over control of transport, health, public works and planning functions. He signed the agreement in the presence of President Kenyatta at State House.
  • Governor Sonko is facing corruption charges and has been barred from accessing his office until his case is heard. He is accused of irregularly awarding tenders to his close aides, forging documents and misappropriating county funds. He denies any wrongdoing.
  • Nairobi county lawmakers are also expected to debate a motion to impeach him, which was tabled in the local assembly last week.
  • The agreement for the national government to take over the functions of the county government has attracted criticism, with some saying it is unconstitutional.

Slovenia President Names Centre-right Janez Jansa as PM Candidate

  • Slovenia's President named former Prime Minister Janez Jansa, the head of the largest party in parliament, as a candidate for Prime Minister and asked the parliament to confirm him.
  • The parliament is expected to confirm Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) head Jansa in a secret vote next week. He will replace center-left Prime Minister Marjan Sarec, who resigned last month.
  • The nomination came a day after the SDS agreed a majority coalition with the center-left Party of Modern Centre (SMC), the conservative New Slovenia and the pensioners' party Desus.

Iger Steps Down as Disney CEO

  • Bob Iger abruptly stepped aside as Walt Disney Co.'s chief executive officer (CEO), handing the reins to theme-parks head Bob Chapek after years of speculation over who would succeed the long-time CEO of the world's largest entertainment company.
  • Chapek who led Disney's theme parks and consumer products businesses, took over immediately. Iger will stay to direct the company's creative endeavours as executive chairman through 2021.

Sri Lanka Notifies UN its Withdrawl from War Crimes Resolution

  • Sri Lanka notified the UN about its withdrawal from a UNHRC resolution that called for accountability to human rights abuses committed during the nation's civil war with the Tamil separatists and pledged to appoint a new committee to review the reports of the previous probes which investigated alleged war crimes.
  • Sri Lanka co-sponsored the United Nations Human Rights Council''s 2015 resolution along with 11 other countries, including the US and Britain, calling for an investigation into alleged human rights violations during the island nation's civil war, which ended in 2009 with the killing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief Velupillai Prabhakaran by the Lankan army.
  • The resolution 30/1 on promotion on reconciliation in Sri Lanka was co-sponsored by the Lankan government headed by then President Maithripala Sirisena.
  • Dinesh Gunawardena, Sri Lanka's Foreign Minister, in his address to the 43rd session of the UNHRC in Geneva announced the withdrawal while accusing the previous government in erring with co-sponsoring the resolution.
  • He declared a commitment to achieve sustainable peace through an inclusive, domestically designed and executed reconciliation and accountability process, including through the appropriate adaptation of existing mechanisms.

Amal Clooney to Fight for Rohingya at UN

  • The Maldives hired prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney to represent it at the UN's highest court in seeking justice for Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya Muslims.
  • The government said that it will formally join the mainly Muslim African state of the Gambia in challenging Myanmar's 2017 military crackdown that sent around 740,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.

South Korea's Birth Rate Falls to All-time Low

  • South Korea's birth rate hit a new low as authorities announced barely 300,000 babies were born in 2019 in the nation of 51 million people. The country has one of the world's longest life expectancies and one of its lowest birthrates. A total of 303,100 babies were born in 2019, down 7.3 per cent from the previous year.

Feb 26, 2020

Malaysia PM Proposes Unity Government

  • Malaysia's Mahathir Mohammed is trying to form a national unity government under his personal authority, drawing together rival parties, following his shock resignation as Prime Minister. Mahathir stepped down, but Malaysia's king immediately named him interim Prime Minister. Mahathir proposed the idea of a grand coalition at meetings with leaders of parties, including with his protege Anwar Ibrahim and those defeated in polls.

World's Oldest Man Dies Aged 112

  • The world's oldest man died at the age of 112.
  • Chitetsu Watanabe, from Japan, died just days after claiming his Guinness World Records certificate.
  • Mr. Watanabe was born in Niigata, in northern Japan, in 1907.
  • According to the Guinness World Record, he was born in Niigata and later moved to Taiwan to work on a sugar cane plantation. He returned to Japan and worked as an employee at an agricultural office in Niigata until his retirement.
  • Watanabe died before he could claim the title of the oldest man ever. He was just four years shy of the record, which is held by Japan's Jiroemon Kimura, who was born on 19 April 1897 and passed away aged 116 years and 54 days on June 2013.

Qatar Postal Blockage Ends

  • As per the UN postal agency, a postal blockage against Qatar ended with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt restoring services after mail links were severed in 2017 as part of a campaign to isolate Doha.
  • The restoration of postal services is a small step towards normalisation as talks to resolve the wider rift have stalled, Qatar said earlier this month, after a flurry of diplomacy late last year raised hopes of a breakthrough.
  • The three nations, along with the United Arab Emirates, severed all diplomatic, trade and transport ties with Qatar in June 2017. The bloc accused Doha of supporting "terrorism" and seeking closer links with Saudi regional rival Iran - allegations Qatar denies.
  • Representatives of the four boycott countries met a Qatari delegation at the Universal Postal Union's (UPU) headquarters in the Swiss capital Bern in January 2020 to discuss the re-establishment of postal links.
  • The UAE had already resumed services to Qatar earlier this month, according to the UPU, the UN agency responsible for coordinating global postal services.

Feb 25, 2020

Malaysian PM Mahathir Submits Resignation

  • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, at 94 the world's oldest leader, submitted his resignation to the king, after a bid by his political partners to bring down the government.
  • Malaysian politics was in turmoil after leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim denounced a betrayal by coalition partners he said were trying to bring down the government, two years after it stormed to victory.

Libya's Warring Sides Agree to Ceasefire: UN

  • The UN mission in Libya said that the country's warring sides agreed to turn a shaky ceasefire into a lasting deal, stirring modest hopes after weeks of sporadic violence that derailed negotiations. As the latest round of UN-mediated talks between rival military leaders wrapped up in Geneva, both sides reached a draft deal "to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas.

Saudi Arabia Hosts G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting

  • The G20 Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors Meeting was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in February 2020 on the theme "Realizing Opportunities of the 21st Century for All". The meet was chaired by the Saudi Arabia's finance minister Mohammed al-Jadaan and central bank governor Ahmed al-Kholifey.
  • The objective of the meet was to enhance economic growth through financial mechanisms and to discuss the risks from the coronavirus epidemic.
  • It should be noted that Saudi Arabia is the first Arab nation to hold the G20 presidency and will hold the fifteenth meeting of Group of Twenty (G20), i.e. G20 Leaders Summit 2020 from 21-22 November 2020, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
  • The G20 is made up of 19 countries and the EU.
  • The 19 countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK and the US.

President Faure Gnassingbé Wins Fourth Term

  • Togo President Faure Gnassingbe won a fourth term in power, the national electoral commission declared, as his main rival accused authorities of fraud.
  • The incumbent leader took 72 per cent of the vote share in the first round of the presidential election, far ahead of former Prime Minister Agbeyome Kodjo, with 18 per cent.
  • The widely expected win extends more than a half century of dynastic rule over the former French colony by Gnassingbe's family despite broad disillusionment over its failure to drag many out of poverty.
  • Gnassingbe has led the country of eight million people since taking over in 2005 following the death of his father Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled with an iron fist for 38 years.
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