2019, June, Newsletter

World Newsletter June 13, 2019

World News June 13

U.K. HOUSE OF COMMONS REJECTS BID TO RULE OUT NO-DEAL BREXIT

MPs have rejected a Labour-led effort to take control of Parliament’s
timetable, blocking the latest attempt to stop a no-deal Brexit.
The Commons opposed the move by 309 votes to 298.
If passed, it would have given opponents of a no-deal Brexit the chance to
table legislation to thwart the UK leaving without any agreement on the 31
October deadline.
The result of the vote was greeted with cheers from the Tory benches.
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded by shouting “you won’t be cheering
in September“.
Ten Tory MPs, mostly pro-Europeans, rebelled against the government by
backing Labour’s motion. Conversely, eight Labour MPs – mostly Eurosceptics
or MPs in constituencies which voted Leave at the referendum – defied party
instructions and voted against it.
A key factor for the government was the support of Northern Ireland’s
Democratic Unionists, who have voted against Theresa May during previous
Brexit votes.

EASTER SUSPECTS WERE FUNDED BY RAJAPAKSA-ERA INTELLIGENCE UNIT’, SAYS AZATH
SALLEY

A former Governor and prominent Muslim politician has accused the Rajapaksa
government of being complacent while its military intelligence unit “worked
closely” with the National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ), the radical Islamist
organisation behind the Easter bombings.
Azath Salley was one of the two Muslim Governors who stepped down from
office earlier this month, following a fasting Buddhist monk’s demand that
they resign over alleged links with Easter suspects. They have denied the
accusation.
Testifying before a Parliament Select Committee (PSC) probing the terror
attacks, Mr. Salley said on Tuesday that he had informed top authorities in
government about the activities of extremist elements several times.
Further, he claimed that the Defence Ministry of the previous Rajapaksa
administration had been funding the NTJ for some years now.
Following the April 21 attacks, some reports speculated that military
intelligence under the Rajapaksa government had paid the NTJ and the Bodu
Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force), a hard-line group that has in the past
been accused of instigating anti-Muslim violence. So far, investigators have
not shared any evidence or documentation to substantiate the claim.

THOUSANDS OF PROTESTERS PARALYSE HONG KONG

Authorities have shut some government offices in Hong Kong’s financial
district after the worst violence the city has seen in decades.
By Thursday morning the crowds had largely dispersed around government
headquarters – where police and protesters had pitched battles on Wednesday.
The protesters are angry about plans to allow extradition to mainland China.
Despite the widespread opposition, the government has not backed down.
Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray at crowds which
numbered in the tens of thousands along key roads near the Legislative
Council Complex on Wednesday.
Seventy-two people aged between 15 and 66 were injured in the violence,
including two men who were in critical condition.

SYRIAN AIR DEFENCE DOWNS ISRAELI MISSILES: STATE MEDIA

Syrian air defence shot down a number of Israeli missiles targeting the
south of the country early Wednesday, the official Sana news agency said.
The attack was launched around 2 am local time (2300 GMT Tuesday) against
the Tall al-Hara sector located near the Golan Heights, according to Sana,
which said there had been no casualties.
The agency did not specify what had been targeted in the strikes.
Sana also accused Israel of conducting an “electronic war” and “jamming”
Syrian radar.
Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes in Syria since the beginning
of the conflict in 2011, targeting forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad and the
regime’s allies Iran and Hezbollah.
Israel says it is determined to prevent its arch foe Iran from entrenching
itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran backs Assad in the country’s
eight-year war, which has left more than 370,000 people dead and displaced
millions.

BORIS JOHNSON BEGINS LEADERSHIP BID

Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he would only take Britain out of the
European Union (EU) without a deal as a “last resort”, launching his
campaign to be Prime Minister with a promise to unify a country deeply
divided over Brexit.
Mr. Johnson is the favourite among the 10 candidates vying to succeed
Theresa May. At a launch event in London packed with senior members of the
ruling Conservative party, Mr. Johnson insisted that Brexit must happen on
October 31.
He said Britain must prepare to leave with no new arrangements if need be,
but softened his previous rhetoric, suggesting that this was “a last resort,
not something that anybody desires”.
However, Mr. Johnson offered no details of how to break the deadlock in
Parliament that prevented Ms. May from getting her deal through. He said a
new government with “new optimism” and “total conviction about the way
forward” could find a way.
The EU has insisted repeatedly that it will not renegotiate the terms of the
divorce, while Parliament has voted against leaving without an accord. On
Wednesday, a cross-party group of lawmakers made a fresh bid to block such a
scenario.

U.S.’S SOUTH ASIA BUDGET TO FALL

The U.S.’s top South Asia diplomat, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for
South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, will testify on Thursday before the
House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) in a hearing on ‘U.S. Interest in
South Asia and FY 2020 Budget’.
The budget request for India will be increased and those for for Afghanistan
and Pakistan will be “rationalized” as per the statement Alice Wells,
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, will make.
A copy of the statement was released by the HFAC.
The overall budget request of $1.07 billion is 16% below the FY2019 request.
The annual exercise formally articulates the budget request to Congress but
also, in reality, is a forum to discuss foreign policy in the region.
Ms. Wells will testify that the budget request for India “reflects its
pre-eminent role in the Administration’s Indo-Pacific vision and our two
countries’ commitment to shared principles and values”.

WHITE HOUSE SAYS IT WILL MEET TWO-YEAR DEADLINE FOR HUAWEI BAN FOR
CONTRACTORS

The White House Office of Management and Budget has told the U.S. Congress
it will now meet a two-year deadline to ban federal contracts with companies
that do business with Chinese telecom giant Huawei, part of a defense law
passed last year, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
“Congress has made it clear in recent days the importance of implementing
the law within the two years provided, and we will,” Russ Vought, the acting
director of OMB, said in a letter to Senator James Inhofe, chairman of the
Senate Armed Services Committee.
Last week the OMB had said it would need more time to implement the ban,
which requires third-party suppliers and contractors to restrict their
purchases and use of Huawei equipment.
But the White House reversed course after “recent conversations with
Congress,” Vought said in the letter dated Wednesday.
“As we move forward to meet the statutory deadline without further delay, we
will work with Congress to address any unforeseen issues that arise,” Vought
said.
The ban is one part of a multifaceted U.S. push against Huawei Technologies
Co Ltd, the world’s largest telecoms network gear maker, which Washington
accuses of espionage and stealing intellectual property.

PAK GOVT SAYS NO CHANGE IN DEFENCE BUDGET; DOCUMENTS SHOW 4.5% INCREASE

The Pakistan government claimed that its defence budget was kept unchanged
at Rs 1,152,535 million for next fiscal (2019-20), but the official
documents showed that there was nominal increase of 4.5 per cent in the
defence expenditure as compared to the last year.
The original allocation for defence for outgoing fiscal (2018-19) was Rs
1,100,334 million but it was revised later on to shot up to Rs 1,137,711
million, up by 3.4 per cent, by the end of year.
So the actual rise from previous allocation was Rs 52,201 million, which is
4.5 per cent.
But Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar in his 2019-20 budget speech
on Tuesday did not provide intricate details and just said that the defence
budget would remain unchanged at Rs 1.15 trillion.
Pakistan Army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa announced last week that the armed
forces were “foregoing routine increase in annual defence budget”.

UK PLANS TO BECOME FIRST G7 ECONOMY WITH NET ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS BY 2050

The UK is planning to become the first major economy to reach zero carbon
emissions by 2050 to tackle climate change with Prime Minister Theresa May
Wednesday saying time has come to safeguard the environment for “our
children”.
The UK already has a 2050 target – to reduce emissions by 80 per cent. That
was agreed by MPs under the Climate Change Act in 2008, but will now be
amended to the new, much tougher, goal, a move widely praised by green
groups.
Legislation aiming to achieve that will be laid out in Parliament on
Wednesday and will amend the Climate Change Act passed in 2008. The new law
should ensure that United Kingdom is on track to become the first G7 country
with legally binding plans for net zero emissions.
“Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for
our children,” outgoing UK Prime Minister May said in a statement.
“This country led the world in innovation during the Industrial Revolution,
and now we must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth.
Standing by is not an option,” she said.
The actual terminology used by the UK government is “net zero” greenhouse
gases by 2050.

SUDAN TALKS TO RESUME AS PROTESTERS SUSPEND STRIKES

Sudan’s military and opposition groups have agreed to resume talks on the
formation of a transitional council, an Ethiopian envoy said on Tuesday, as
an opposition alliance said that it was suspending its civil disobedience
campaign and strikes.
Sudan’s Transitional Military Council also agreed to release political
prisoners as a confidence-building measure, special envoy Mahmoud Dirir told
reporters in Khartoum.
The steps appeared to show a softening of positions after talks between the
two sides collapsed following the violent dispersal of a sit-in protest on
June 3.
The crackdown, in which over 110 people were killed, dealt a big setback to
hopes of a transition towards democratic elections following the overthrow
of veteran leader Omar al-Bashir in April. The discussions over the control
of the sovereign council that would oversee a three-year transition towards
elections came to a standstill.
The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces alliance on June 9, Sunday
began an open-ended strike that brought much activity in Khartoum to a
standstill.
The alliance said in a statement that it would suspend the strike from
Wednesday until further notice, though it encouraged people to remain
mobilised for possible further action.
Opposition leader Khaled Omar struck a cautious note, saying in comments to
Al Hadath TV that the suspension of the campaign was not tied to any
specific political developments.

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