Archive for UK
Indonesia has summoned the British ambassador in Jakarta after a cruise ship crashed into coral reefs off the coast of Indonesia earlier this month. The Caledonian Sky, a 4,200-tonne cruise ship, was on a voyage organised by a London company when it smashed into the reefs at low tide around Kri, one of hundreds of tiny islands in Raja Ampat, West Papua province. The region attracts many travellers and divers – those on the ship were on a bird-watching expedition – as it is one of the most biodiverse marine habitats on the planet. Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs, summoned British ambassador Moazzam Malik to Jakarta on Friday. “I’m disappointed to learn about the damage to this coral reef in West Papua – as we are with any environmental incident that occurs in Indonesia or anywhere else in the world,” Malik told reporters following a meeting at Pandjaitan’s office. “We hope the matter can be resolved quickly between the Indonesian authorities and the company that is responsible for this accident.” Further damage to the coral reef was caused when numerous attempts to free the ship using a tug boat failed. The ship, carrying 79 crew members and 102 passengers, was later refloated during high tide. “He [the captain] attempted to break free from the reefs and made the damage even worse even though he was ordered to stop,” Pandjaitan said. The Indonesian government has said that the British captain piloting the ship could face criminal charges, while marine researchers have estimated that it could take decades and millions of dollars to restore the coral.
A lawyer representing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said that there was a “great concern” that a new Ecuadorian President could force him out of the country’s London embassy, the media reported on Sunday. Ecuador’s presidential race will be decided in a run-off election, to be held April 2, between ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno and opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso. Moreno has indicated he would back Assange’s continued stay, while Lasso has indicated he would evict the Australian activist within 30 days of taking office. “We are preparing potential legal remedies should the opposition come to power in Ecuador,” Jennifer Robinson, a member of the legal team representing Assange and Wikileaks, told NBC News. “You don’t change asylum protections just because a change of government,” she added. Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador in 2012, and has been sheltering in the country’s UK embassy since then, in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault. The whistleblower said he fears Swedish authorities could deport him to the US, where he argues his work with Wikileaks could earn him life in prison or even the death penalty.
Julian Assange will be given a month’s notice to leave the Ecuadorian embassy if the country’s main opposition candidate wins the presidency in next week’s election. In an interview with the Guardian, Guillermo Lasso, of the rightwing Creo-Suma alliance, said it was time for the WikiLeaks founder to move on because his asylum was expensive and no longer justified. “The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” he said during an interview in Quito. “We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.” Even if there is no change in power in Quito, however, it seems increasingly likely that Assange will soon be moving from the cramped embassy in Knightsbridge that has been his refuge for more than four and a half years. Although the current government has maintained its position of solidarity, all involved have grown increasingly frustrated with a situation that Ecuador’s top diplomat described as “something out of a John le Carré novel”. “Our staff have been through a lot. There is a human cost,” said the foreign minister, Guillaume Long. “This is probably the most watched embassy on the planet.” British police and intelligence have kept the embassy under close surveillance since Ecuador granted asylum in June 2012 to prevent Assange’s extradition to Sweden for questioning about a sexual assault accusation.
Thousands of people converged in London on Saturday for the latest Donald Trump protest. They gathered at outside the US Embassy before making their way down to Downing Street in protest at the immigration ban being imposed by President Donald Trump. It is the latest mass demonstration against the travel ban, which affects seven Muslim-majority countries in Africa and the Middle East. More than 11,000 people are estimated to have joined the demonstration outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. The protest comes after airlines said they are allowing nationals targeted by the ban to board flights to America, after a US judge ruled the Executive Order, signed by Trump on January 27, was unconstitutional.
One of South Africa’s most influential diplomats is accused of running his embassy “like a spaza shop”, brokering personal business deals with international companies and soliciting donations for his foundation. Obed Mlaba, South Africa’s high commissioner to the UK, has been sending letters to directors of various companies operating in the UK and South Africa, on government letterheads, to secure business deals for his personal projects. The projects include the building of a technical school and a private hospital in KwaZulu-Natal under the auspices of the Obed Mlaba Foundation Trust. As far back as 2015, Mlaba received queries from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation regarding his “potential conflict of interest” relating to the nondisclosure of his financial interests. Yet no action has been taken against him. Mlaba said this week that there was nothing inappropriate about his deals, but two South African businessmen based in London said he was known for abusing his position for personal gain.
Assange fears he is being bugged at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Lawyers claim the WikiLeaks founder, who has been holed up in the embassy for the past two years to avoid extradition to Sweden, ‘is most likely under auditory surveillance’. Last year a covert listening device was found behind a plug socket in the ambassador’s office, but security experts described it as rudimentary and unlikely to have been the work of police or the security services. Mr Assange’s new eavesdropping claim was included in a court submission last week in which his lawyers argue his confinement is a ‘deprivation of liberty’ under European law. Among other reasons, they cite his cramped living conditions which mean he ‘cannot carry out his professional duties in a normal fashion’. The 43-year-old has lived at the embassy since Ecuador gave him asylum in 2012.
A Thai diplomat has been summoned to the Foreign Office over concerns about the country’s investigation into the murders of two British backpackers. Foreign minister Hugo Swire took the step amid fears over Thai authorities’ handling of the deaths of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24. Mr Swire told Thai charge d’affaires Nadhavathna Krishnamra of his “real concern” after two Burmese workers were charged with the killings and paraded in front of cameras having apparently made confessions – before reportedly later withdrawing them. The men, named in reports as bar workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, are accused of the brutal murders of Miss Witheridge, from Great Yarmouth, and Mr Miller, from Jersey, on the paradise island of Koh Tao in September. The two suspects, both 21, were charged with three offences – conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to rape and robbery. But later reports – denied by the Thai police – suggested that a Burmese embassy official had formally retracted their confessions amid allegations the pair were tortured. Following Mr Krishnamra’s meeting with Mr Swire today, the Foreign Office said in a statement: “Mr Swire stressed that there was a real concern in the UK about how the investigation has been handled by the Thai authorities. He said that it was crucial for the investigation to be conducted in a fair and transparent way. Earlier this month, Mr Swire spoke to Thailand’s deputy prime minister Tanasak Patimapragorn about the case.