19 December 2018


Morocco arrests suspect after murder of two Scandinavian women

KONFRONTASI-Moroccan authorities have arrested a suspect in connection with the murder of two Scandinavian tourists in the High Atlas mountains, the interior ministry said.

The man was arrested in Marrakech, Morocco's largest tourist hub.

Other suspects were being sought over the deaths of the women, a Dane and a Norwegian, whose bodies were found with cuts to their necks, the ministry said on Tuesday.

Kosovo approves team for talks with former adversary Serbia

KONFRONTASI-Kosovo’s parliament voted on Saturday to form a negotiating team to try to resolve outstanding disputes with Serbia, amid growing tensions between the two neighbors.

The two countries committed to a European Union sponsored dialogue aimed at setting all remaining issues between them in 2013, but little progress has been made since.

Relations between Belgrade and Kosovo have been strained since 2008 when Pristina, with the backing of western countries, declared independence from Serbia.

Thousands of Central Americans await refugee status in Mexico

KONFRONTASI-Samuel Isai Mejia's problems began last year with workplace sexual harassment, but things quickly snowballed from there. Facing intimidation from police and military forces as well as gangs, he fled Honduras this year.

Mejia is from a dangerous area of La Lima, a city 16km southwest of San Pedro Sula, in northwestern Honduras. But his neighbours did not know two key things about him that carried heavy risks: where he worked, and his sexual orientation.

"I'm part of the gay community," the 25-year-old told Al Jazeera in Tapachula, in southern Mexico.

Discrimination and harassment aimed at Mejia and his LGBTIQ colleagues at the 911 call and dispatch centre in San Pedro Sula were fairly common but it goes unreported because people fear speaking up about harassment could get them fired or lead to further targeting outside the workplace, he said. More than 250 LGBTIQ Hondurans were killed between 2009 and 2017, according to local rights groups.

Working at the call and dispatch centre can also place workers living in gang-controlled neighbourhoods at risk. Civilian employees taking 911 calls work directly with national police and military police officers, and that can cause gang members to consider them snitches, Mejia said.

Eventually, this happened to Mejia, but his troubles first started when one of the civilian managers began harassing him.

"He was sexually harassing me. One time while out with colleagues, I felt suffocated. He was pressuring me to have sex with him," said Mejia, adding that he clearly told the manager that he was not interested and that he already had a partner.

"That's where it all started, and it got out of control. I then didn't only experience sexual harassment but also labour harassment," he said.

In February, after a year and a half at the call and dispatch centre, Mejia was fired. He initiated legal proceedings against his employer, a Honduran state institution, for termination without cause, but the future of the case is uncertain now that he is out of the country.

In retaliation for his pursuit of legal proceedings, Mejia believes the manager or someone else at his workplace began spreading the word that he worked there and that he is gay. Around that same time, Mejia and some of his relatives began to experience incidents of intimidation from military police and gang members in La Lima and San Pedro Sula.

That's when Mejia decided to leave. He is now in Tapachula with more than 3,000 other Central Americans, mostly from Honduras, fleeing poverty, violence and persecution.

Sheng Songcheng: China should defend the yuan at 7 to the US dollar, central bank adviser

KONFRONTASI -  China should not allow the yuan to fall below 7 to the US dollar or attempts to stabilise the currency will become more costly on the country’s foreign exchange reserves, an adviser to the People’s Bank of China said on Saturday.

Policy insiders said in October that China was likely to use its vast currency reserves to stop any precipitous fall through the psychologically important level of 7 yuan per dollar because it could risk triggering speculation and heavy capital outflows.

U.S. to counter China, Russia influence in Africa: Bolton

U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser John Bolton speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., November 27, 2018. [REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque]

KONFRONTASI--The United States plans to counter the rapidly expanding economic and political influence of China and Russia in Africa, where the two nations use corrupt business practices with little regard for the rule of law, according to prepared remarks on Thursday by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton.

Yemen's warring parties agree to ceasefire in Hodeidah

KONFRONTASI-Yemen's warring sides agreed to terms on a ceasefire on Thursday for the strategic port city of Hodeidah, which serves as a major lifeline for 18 million Yemenis who live in Houthi-held areas.

The agreement is seen as a major breakthrough on the final day of peace talks in Sweden.

According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the Houthis have agreed to withdraw from all three ports in Hodeidah. The withdrawal will take place in two short phases, he said.

"It is obvious the UN will play an important role in the port, probably a monitoring role and the management of that port," Guterres said, adding that this will help "facilitate the humanitarian flow of goods to the civilian population and it will improve the living conditions for millions of Yemenis."

UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, added that "the designs of the withdrawal, first from the port, will happen very quickly - within days - and then from the city, with both sides disengaging".

He also said that the ceasefire is "designed to open up that east-west road [that connects Hodeidah and Sanaa] so that the humanitarian pipeline, which is crucial to the people of Yemen can start delivering aid".

Representatives from the Yemeni government and Houthis rebels had been holding closed-door discussions with Griffiths since last Thursday aimed at discussing ways to end the fighting that, according to a war monitor and rights groups, has killed more than 60,000 people.

Restrictions by a Saudi-UAE coalition, which controls Yemen's waters, on goods entering the port have exacerbated Yemen's humanitarian crisis, with some 22 million people currently needing assistance.

"The war in Yemen has gone on for four years. Four devastating years of suffering for the Yemeni people," Guterres said.

He added there has also been an agreement to ease the situation in the flashpoint city of Taiz.

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court overturns sacking of parliament

KONFRONTASI-Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has ruled President Maithripala Sirisena's decision to dissolve parliament was unconstitutional, dealing a severe blow to the embattled leader in his power struggle with an elected prime minister.

A seven-judge bench unanimously ruled on Thursday that Sirisena cannot sack the 225-member House before four-and-a-half years have passed since its election.

The court also said the president's decision to call snap elections was illegal.

Opinion: Sorry President Widodo, GDP rankings are economists’ equivalent of fake news

KONFRONTASI -  ‘GDP is an attempt to emulate the corporate world by putting money numbers on performance but... with GDP you get no equivalents of the corporate balance sheet or profit and loss account and no notes to the accounts’

“Indonesia’s economic growth is the third in the world, after India and China,” said Indonesian president Joko Widodo

-- SCMP, May 1

Third in the world, is it? What world is that?

Theresa May survives confidence vote of Tory MPs


Prime Minister Theresa May has won a vote of confidence in her leadership of the Conservative Party by 200 to 117.

After securing 63% of the total vote, she is now immune from a leadership challenge for a year.

Speaking in Downing Street, she vowed to deliver the Brexit "people voted for" but said she had listened to the concerns of MPs who voted against her.

Her supporters urged the party to move on but critics said losing the support of a third of MPs was "devastating".

Bangladesh: Two killed in pre-election clashes

KONFRONTASI-Two people have been killed in pre-election violence in Bangladesh, according to police, as clashes between armed rivals left dozens injured.

More than 100 people have been hurt in violence on the campaign trail since Monday, when candidates from the two major parties began campaigning ahead of the December 30 poll.

Police on Wednesday said two supporters from the Awami League, the ruling party headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, died from injuries sustained in brawls with opposition rivals late on Tuesday.