Thai PM Downplays Democracy Movement’s Spread To Schools

Anti-government protesters hold up their phone flashlights during a rally at Democracy Monument in Bangkok on August 16, 2020. – Protesters gathered for a rally in Bangkok on August 16 against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement. Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP.

 

Thailand’s premier on Tuesday played down the spread of the country’s democracy movement to high schools where students have been raising a three-fingered salute as a protest symbol against the military-aligned government.

The country has seen near-daily protests in recent weeks by university students demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha and a frank discussion of the role of the unassailable monarchy.

Their demands have gained traction among a broad demographic and a protest in Bangkok on Sunday drew more than 10,000 people — the largest political gathering since former military chief Prayut came to power in a 2014 coup.

This week the movement has taken hold in high schools where teenagers have been holding up three fingers each morning as the national anthem plays, according to Twitter posts with the hashtag #badstudent that have gone viral.

“All I see are the innocent intentions of the students,” premier Prayut said Tuesday, claiming the youngsters were being peer-pressured into joining.

“I heard from students that some don’t want to join but they are being bullied.”

Protesters are calling for an overhaul of Prayut’s government, a rewrite of the constitution and the abolition of a controversial royal defamation law.

The law shields Thailand’s super-rich King Maha Vajiralongkorn from criticism and carries a sentence of up to 15 years in jail per charge.

After Sunday’s massive protest, the hashtag campaign “Tie a white bow against the dictator” started trending on Twitter.

Images of high school students with white ribbons on their hair, wrists and backpacks proliferated.

Anti-government protesters hold up their phone flashlights during a rally at Democracy Monument in Bangkok on August 16, 2020. – Protesters gathered for a rally in Bangkok on August 16 against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement. Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP.

 

But there have also been allegations of intimidation and harassment of pupils levelled against school staff and plainclothes police.

The United Nations agency overseeing child rights on Tuesday issued a statement voicing “concern” about the “potential harm” children could be facing.

“UNICEF urges all actors to ensure that children and young people… are able to voice their opinions peacefully about issues that affect their present and future, without fear or intimidation,” the statement said.

National Police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen called the allegations of harassment “rumour” but encouraged students to file any legal grievances.

“If there is strong evidence… you are entitled to bring legal action against them,” he told AFP.

Legal aid group Thai Lawyers for Human Rights issued an online form encouraging students to lodge complaints anonymously.

AFP

UK ‘Very Committed’ To EU Trade Deal – Irish PM

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) greets Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin (L) on the steps of Hillsborough Castle in Belfast on August 13, 2020. (Photo by Brian Lawless / POOL / AFP)

 

Ireland’s prime minister Michael Martin said Thursday that his British counterpart Boris Johnson was “very committed” to reaching a trade agreement with the European Union, after they met in Belfast.

It was the pair’s first face-to-face meeting since Martin was elected Taoiseach in June.

“We both agreed on the absolute necessity for a free trade agreement that would be tariff-free, quota-free,” Martin told reporters after the “wide-ranging” meeting.

“That’s the best possible outcome for the European Union, for the United Kingdom, for businesses in the island of Ireland in terms of jobs and certainty.”

Martin added that Johnson was “very committed to reaching a comprehensive agreement with Europe”.

The British prime minster’s office later said Johnson had told Martin that Britain would “continue to take pride in high environmental, animal welfare and labour standards outside the European Union”.

“Our priority remains protecting Northern Ireland’s place in our United Kingdom and preserving the huge gains from the peace process,” added his Downing Street office.

Johnson was also scheduled to meet Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O’ Neill during the visit.

Ahead of his trip, Johnson said Britain would “stand side-by-side” with Northern Ireland.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) greets Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheal Martin (L) with an elbow touch as a safety measure because of the novel coronavirus pandemic on the steps of Hillsborough Castle in Belfast on August 13, 2020. Brian Lawless / POOL / AFP.

 

Britain formally left the European Union on January 31 — after voting to leave in a 2016 referendum — but is currently in a standstill transition period until the end of 2020 as it tries to negotiate a new trade deal with the European Union.

Talks are ongoing between London and Brussels to try and find a mutually acceptable deal.

The stalled talks are set to continue until October but fears are growing that almost half a century of economic integration with Europe and increasingly frictionless travel will end abruptly, without a deal, on December 31.

Also on Thursday, Britain’s senior Brexit negotiator, David Frost, tweeted that round seven of negotiations would begin in Brussels next week.

“Our assessment is that agreement can be reached in September and we will work to achieve this if we can,” wrote Frost.

However, he added: “The UK’s sovereignty, over our laws, our courts, or our fishing waters, is of course not up for discussion and we will not accept anything which compromises it.”

AFP

New Zealand Announces Return Of COVID-19 After 102 Days

New Zealand Bans Assault Weapons After Christchurch Massacre
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to journalists during a press conference at the Justice Precinct in Christchurch on March 20, 2019. Marty MELVILLE / AFP

 

New Zealand announced its first locally transmitted coronavirus infections more than 100 days on Tuesday and issued a stay-at-home lockdown order for the country’s largest city.

After receiving global praise for its success containing the virus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said four cases had been detected in a single family in Auckland from an unknown source.

“After 102 days, we have our first cases of COVID-19 outside of managed isolation or quarantine facilities… we have all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario,” she told the country in a televised address.

“We have also planned and prepared for it.”

Until Tuesday, the World Health Organization had hailed the country as an example to others for having “successfully eliminated community transmission”.

New Zealand reported just 22 deaths in a population of five million and had not recorded community transmission since May 1.

As a result, New Zealanders had been enjoying a near-normal lifestyle with no social distancing and spectators allowed at sports and cultural events.

But health authorities had repeatedly warned people not to be complacent and said a second wave of infections was “inevitable”.

Auckland will be locked down for at least three days from Wednesday and some social distancing restrictions will be reintroduced in the rest of the country.

AFP

DR Congo PM Lashes Out At Arrest Of Justice Minister

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s prime minister has chastised President Felix Tshisekedi over the “arbitrary” arrest of the justice minister in a deepening government rift over proposed judicial reforms.

Justice Minister Celestin Tunda Ya Kasende was detained for several hours on Saturday after clashing with Tshisekedi over the legal changes, which set off two days of violent protests in Kinshasa last week.

He was later released without charge, with the prosecutor saying it was a “pointless hassle” according to one of his supporters.

The feud has pitted Tshisekedi loyalists against supporters of his predecessor Joseph Kabila, who still wields huge behind-the-scenes influence 18 months after standing down from the presidency.

“Members of the government have expressed their indignation at the humiliation suffered by their colleague,” Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga’s office said in a statement dated Saturday and seen by AFP on Sunday.

The ministers “condemn this arbitrary arrest” which they said was “in violation of the basic rule of law”, the statement said, calling for an investigation into those who launched the arrest proceedings.

Several sources said Saturday that Ilunga had threatened to resign over the incident, a move that would have put an end to the fragile government coalition.

READ ALSO: Civilians Among Over 100 Victims Of Libya Mines – UN

Both Ilunga and Tunda Ya Kasende are members of the Common Front for Congo (FCC) a grouping close to Kabila which sits alongside Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) in government and accounts for about two thirds of cabinet posts.

The controversial judicial reforms were put forward by the FCC and include proposals to define the powers of judges, which critics say is a ploy to muzzle the judiciary in a country known for its instability.

Angry Tshisekedi supporters took to the streets for two days last week in violent demonstrations against the changes.

Tshisekedi took office in January last year in the first peaceful transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa’s largest country after 18 years with Kabila at the helm.

While the handover eased fears that the country would plunge again into civil strife, Tshisekedi has faced a bumpy ride and the sprawling coalition remains a source of tensions.

AFP

UK PM Johnson Announces Inequality Review After Anti-Racism Protests

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a government review into “all aspects of inequality” following a wave of anti-racism protests in Britain, but was accused of using it to delay real action.

Johnson said there had been “huge progress” in tackling racism “but there is much more that we need to do, and we will”.

“It is time for a cross-governmental commission to look at all aspects of inequality — in employment, in health outcomes, in academic and all other walks of life,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Britain has been rocked by protests against racial discrimination, some of them violent, following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, as he was arrested by police in the United States.

In a broadcast interview, Johnson said he wanted to “change the narrative so we stop the sense of victimisation and discrimination”.

READ ALSO: Norway Suspends Virus-Tracing App After Privacy Concerns

“We stop the discrimination, we stamp out racism, and we start to have a real sense of expectation of success.”

But David Lammy, justice spokesman for the main opposition Labour party, said the lack of detail about the new review suggested it “was written on the back of a fag (cigarette) packet yesterday to assuage the Black Lives Matter protest”.

He said the government should focus on implementing the recommendations of numerous reviews already completed, including one by Lammy himself about discrimination in criminal justice.

“Get on with the action, legislate, move!” he urged Johnson in an interview with BBC radio.

“Black people aren’t playing victims, as Boris indicates, they are protesting precisely because the time for review is over and the time for action is now.”

– Tear down the past –

During an anti-racism protest in the city of Bristol, demonstrators pulled down a statue to local slave trader Edward Colston, while in London, a statue to World War II leader Winston Churchill was defaced.

The toppling of Colston’s statue sparked moves by institutions across the country to remove or review monuments to Britain’s colonial past.

But it also drew condemnation from politicians as well as public anger, particularly after Churchill’s statue outside parliament was boarded up to protect it from further protests.

Self-styled “patriots” backed by far-right groups took to the streets in London on Saturday, some of them claiming to defend Churchill’s statue.

Violent clashes broke out and 113 people were arrested, while 23 police officers suffered minor injuries at the hands of people Johnson condemned as “thugs”.

A 28-year-old man was jailed for 14 days on Monday after he pleaded guilty to urinating next to a memorial to a police officer killed in a 2017 attack on parliament.

Andrew Banks admitted one charge of outraging public decency. Photographs of the act caused outrage. His lawyer said he was “ashamed by his action”.

Johnson has written a biography about Churchill and defended him as a “hero”, despite claims his policies led to the deaths of millions of people in a famine in the Indian state of Bengal in 1943.

“We need to tackle the substance of the problem, not the symbols. We need to address the present, not attempt to rewrite the past,” he wrote.

But he added: “Rather than tear down the past, why not add some of the men and women — most often BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) — who helped to make our modern Commonwealth and our modern world? Isn’t that a more cheerful approach?”

Lammy said the statues were a distraction, asking why Johnson was arguing to keep Churchill’s statue when no serious public figure had called for it to go.

“They want a culture war because they want to distract from the central issue,” he said.

AFP

‘No Nightlife’ Says PM As Italy Starts To Party

This photo taken and handout on April 23, 2020 by the Palazzo Chigi Press Office in Rome shows Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte taking part from his office at Palazzo Chigi in Rome to a videoconference of EU leaders on the virus economic impact, during the country’s lockdown. Handout / Palazzo Chigi press office / AFP.

 

The sun is shining and it feels like summer. For many Italians, that means one thing — Aperol spritzes at a terrace cafe with friends.

But just days after most coronavirus lockdown restrictions were lifted, authorities are saying not so fast.

From Palermo to Turin, images of partygoers gathering in piazzas and outside bars have caused panic among regional leaders and mayors.

They worry that crowds of mostly young people celebrating their freedom from quarantine may bring about another rise in infections of a disease that has already killed more than 32,000.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who took a tough line at the start of the crisis by putting his country of 60 million people under lockdown in early March, sounded like a nagging parent on Thursday as he spoke to parliament.

READ ALSO: UN Urges EU To Take In 160 Migrants Stranded At Sea

“It’s not the time for parties, nightlife or gatherings,” Conte said. “During this phase, more than ever it’s fundamental to respect security distances and wear masks, where necessary.”

– ‘Moment of freedom’ –

In the northern city of Padua, photos of dozens of young people packed together without masks outside a bar raised the ire of regional president Luca Zaia.

“In 10 days, I’ll see the infection rates. If they rise, we’ll close bars, restaurants, beaches and we’ll lock ourselves back up again,” he warned. “No one wants to ban spritzes but I’m asking that we avoid gatherings and we wear masks until June 2.”

Zaia said his Veneto region planned to make a short film showing “what it means to go for a spritz without a mask”.

Similar scenes with hundreds of young people have been seen in Palermo in Sicily, in Turin in the northwest and Bari in the south, among other cities.

In Rome, a bar owner in the popular nightlife zone of Trastevere, Alessandro Pulcinelli, told AFP that young people out at night have been lingering until about 1:00 am.

“They think they’ve done everything they needed to and now it’s the moment of freedom,” said Pulcinelli. “They’ve got masks, but they don’t wear them. It’s hard to drink and talk with them.”

On the eve of the reopening of restaurants and bars, the mayor of Bergamo, an epicentre of the virus in the northern region of Lombardy, said he had already seen “so many people who are not careful enough” during a walk through the city.

“Are hundreds of deaths in our city not enough? Do we want to find ourselves in trouble once again in a month?” Mayor Giorgio Gori wrote Sunday on his Facebook page.

In Lombardy, masks in public are mandatory.

– ‘Defying death’ –

In order to encourage more outside seating – because the virus can spread more readily in enclosed spaces – Italy has eliminated a tax paid by cafes and restaurants for tables on the street.

“In exchange, we ask them for a little additional effort to avoid gatherings and possible contagions,” Bergamo’s Gori said.

Crowded street parties represent “a real withdrawal from reality”, psychoanalyst Caterina Tabasso told the Repubblica newspaper.

“Young people often defy death and these crowded aperitifs can be an example of a sense of omnipotence.”

Italy’s police, who until now have been charged with keeping people inside their homes, are now expected to perform more frequent patrols of popular nightlife areas.

Fines can range from 400 euros to 3,000 euros ($438 to $3,288).

Padua Police Commissioner Isabella Fusiello told the Stampa newspaper on Thursday that it was not just for the police to keep things under control.

“Those who run public establishments also have responsibilities,” Fusiello said, saying that bar owners risked having their licences revoked.

Rome bar owner Pulcinelli said his biggest fear was fines, but that he didn’t have any way to make people respect social distancing.

“Tonight, all the bars in Trastevere will be open,” Pulcinelli said, adding it would be at its peak.

“I think the police presence will be impressive.”

Antonio Decaro, the mayor of Bari, suggested that cafe and bar owners deliver a mask with every cocktail.

“It’s unreal to think that law enforcement can control every citizen,” Decaro said.

AFP

COVID-19: Residents In Japan To Get $930 Each, Says PM

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a press conference at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on April 17, 2020./AFP

 

Japan will offer a cash payment of 100,000 yen ($930) to every resident, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday, as measures to contain the coronavirus decimate the world’s third-top economy.

“We are moving quickly to deliver cash to all people,” Abe said in a televised news conference to explain his decision to expand a state of emergency nationwide.

An initial plan to provide three times that amount to households, which have seen incomes slashed because of the coronavirus, was ditched and Abe apologised for the confusion.

READ ALSO: World War II Veteran Raises £18m For UK Health Workers

Japan has seen relatively few cases and deaths compared to hotspots in Europe and the United States but a recent spike in Tokyo — which logged a daily record 201 new cases on Friday — has sparked concern.

Abe initially declared a state of emergency in seven regions of the country but expanded this on Thursday to include the entire country.

He said this decision was taken in a bid to restrict domestic travel during the Golden Week holidays in late April and early May, when many Japanese leave cities to visit family elsewhere.

The state of emergency hands regional governors the power to demand people stay indoors but stops far short of restrictions seen elsewhere as there is no punishment for transgression.

Abe said authorities would reassess the situation on May 6 at the end of the public holiday, saying: “If we can all refrain from going out, we can drastically reduce the number of patients in two weeks.”

“The future depends on our behaviour,” said the prime minister, saying his goal for everyone to reduce social contact by at least 70 percent was not yet being achieved.

The Japanese economy was heading for recession even before the coronavirus crisis, contracting by 1.8 percent in the final quarter of last year.

Since then, tourism has dropped by as much as 90 percent, industry and trade have ground to a halt and the virus forced the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that was seen providing a boost to the economy.

Last month, Abe unveiled a package of stimulus measures worth around $1 trillion to protect jobs, bolster the medical sector and ease the pain for working families.

A delivery of two masks to each household also began on Friday, although the move has been greeted with much derision online.

Malaysia To Ban Citizens From Travel Abroad, Foreign Arrivals – PM

This handout from Malaysia’s Department of Information taken and released on March 1, 2020 shows Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signing documents after taking the oath as the country’s new leader at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur. FAMER ROHENI / Malaysia’s Department of Information / AFP.

 

Malaysia will ban its citizens from travelling overseas and foreigners from entering the country in drastic measures announced by the prime minister Monday aimed at curbing the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

Schools will also be closed under the rules that will be in place for two weeks from Wednesday, Muhyiddin Yassin said.

Large gatherings will be banned while shops and places of worship will be shuttered in the country, which has 566 virus cases according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, the highest number in Southeast Asia.

Essential services such as supermarkets and banks will remain open.

“I am aware that you may feel that this action taken by the government will create difficulties in running your daily lives,” Muhyiddin said in a late-night television address.

“However, this action must be taken by the government to curb the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak which is likely to take the lives of people in this country.”

Malaysia has so far recorded no fatalities from the virus.

READ ALSO: Global Airlines Slash Almost All Flights As Coronavirus Spreads

Many of the country’s infections have been linked to a global Islamic event held last month and attended by almost 20,000 people.

Authorities said participants at the gathering from February 27 to March 1 came from Bangladesh, Brunei, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Around 14,500 of the participants were Malaysian.

The new measures bar foreigners from the country, but citizens returning to Malaysia will have to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“We can’t wait any longer until things get worse,” said Muhyiddin, who was sworn in only on March 1 after taking power without an election, and with support from a scandal-tainted party.

“We have seen some countries take drastic steps to control the spread of the outbreak like China, which has seen a significant decline in COVID-19 infection cases.”

AFP

Sudan PM Escapes Assassination

(FILES) This file photo taken on December 4, 2019 shows Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok smiling during a meeting at the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC during an official visit to the United States.  JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok survived unharmed an assassination attempt using explosives in the capital Khartoum Monday, said his top aide.

“An explosion hit as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok’s car was driving by but thank God no one was hurt,” said Ali Bakhit, his office director.

A cabinet official also confirmed to AFP that Hamdok had escaped an attack.

Images on state television showed at least two damaged vehicles at the site of the blast in the Kober district, northeast of the centre of Khartoum.

State TV reported that Hamdok’s convoy was targeted but was currently “well and has been taken to a safe place”.

The area was quickly cordoned off by the police.

State-run radio Omdurman meanwhile reported that automatic weapons were also used in the attack and that Hamdok was taken “to a hospital”.

AFP

Lesotho PM In Court Over Murder Of Estranged Wife

Prime Minister of Lesotho/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane appeared in court on Monday over the murder of his estranged wife after a weekend in which he was said to be receiving emergency medical care in South Africa.

In the latest twist of a saga that has gripped the southern African kingdom, the 80-year-old premier attended the magistrate’s court in the capital Maseru, an AFP correspondent reported.

Charges had been expected to be formally read out to him for allegedly acting in “common purpose” in the June 2017 killing of 58-year old Lipolelo Thabane, whom he was in the process of divorcing.

But after a brief sitting, the matter was deferred to the High Court and the prime minister was not formally charged.

He was accompanied by his current wife Maesaiah Thabane, 42, whom he married two months after Lipolelo’s death and who is considered a co-conspirator in the murder case.

She has already been charged with murder and is out on bail.

Defence lawyer Qhalehang Letsika argued that Thabane should not be charged as long as he remained a prime minister.

“My client cannot be prosecuted while in office but he is not above the law,” said Letsika, adding the beleaguered premier was “entitled to immunity” because of his status.

During the hearing, the lawyer asked whether a sitting prime minister should be subject to criminal prosecution as this could mean that he be placed in custody.

Thabane had initially been due in court on Friday for the preliminary appearance but was a no-show, prompting police to warn they could issue an arrest warrant.

His aide initially said Thabane had gone to neighbouring South Africa for “routine” health checks, but later his office said he was seeking “emergency” medical attention and would appear in court on his return.

 Appeared nervous 

On Saturday police said Thabane’s sick note said that the premier would be “unfit” until February 27.

Wearing a navy-blue striped suit with a powder-blue shirt and flanked by his spouse, Thabane appeared nervous as the couple sat on one of the court benches.

Lipolelo’s murder sent shockwaves through Lesotho — a tiny landlocked nation of 2.2 million with a history of political turmoil.

She was gunned down outside her home in Maseru just two days before her husband took office. The couple had been embroiled in a bitter divorce.

The accusations against the prime minister came after communications records from the scene of the murder included Thabane’s mobile phone number.

The case has piled pressure on Thabane to step down.

His All Basotho Convention (ABC) party has accused him of hampering investigations into the killing and asked him to leave.

Last week Thabane announced on national radio and television that he would retire by July 31, citing his advanced age.

But at the weekend speculation mounted that he could go earlier than expected.

The main opposition party the Democratic Congress, on Friday filed in parliament a motion of no confidence in the prime minister and his administration.

If Thabane loses the motion, he could either step down or advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections.

AFP

Police To Charge Lesotho PM With Murder Of Wife

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane/ AFP

 

Lesotho Prime Minister Thomas Thabane will be charged with the murder of his estranged wife, who was gunned down ahead of his inauguration in 2017, police said Thursday, as the beleaguered premier announced he would quit by the end of July.

Lilopelo Thabane, 58, was killed in June 2017 by unknown assailants on the outskirts of the capital Maseru, two days before the premiere, now aged 80, took office.

The couple had been embroiled in bitter divorce proceedings when Lipolelo was murdered in front of her home in the capital Maseru.

Her death shook the tiny mountainous kingdom of Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Police investigations found that communications records from the day of the murder included his cell phone number.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paseka Mokete told AFP that the 80-year-old prime minister “will be formally charged with… murder”.

“It does not necessarily mean he was there but that he was acting in common purpose,” Mokete said.

The case also drew in the prime minister’s current wife, Maesaiah Thabane, 42, who has also been charged with the same murder of her rival.

“She was charged under common purpose even though she did not pull the trigger, but people she was acting in consent with pulled the trigger,” said Mokete by phone.

Sporting a bright yellow outfit complete with a matching headscarf, she sat straight-faced, next to the prime minister during his inauguration that was held at a stadium in Maseru, two days after the murder.

The long unresolved murder had plunged the PM’s leadership into question, forcing his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party to ask him to resign.

 ‘Old man should go’ 

The ABC had given him until Thursday to step aside but he snubbed their deadline, instead of saying he will only go by July 31.

“I effectively retire as prime minister with effect from the end of July this year, or at an earlier date if all the requisite preparations for my retirement are completed before then,” he said in an address on national radio.

He said the decision to step “has been the hardest to make in my over half-a-century career as in the public service. I have been battling with this idea for over a year now”.

“The truth is at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I used to be a few years ago,” he added.

“I hope that the remaining months that I will spend in office will afford parliament and my party enough time to work on transitional arrangements.”

Thabane’s re-election in 2017 had brought hopes of stability to Lesotho, a country with a long history of turmoil.

He first came to power in 2012 as head of the country’s first coalition government, formed after an inconclusive vote.

But his second term was rocked by Lipolelo’s murder and ructions in the ruling party, buffeting the picturesque kingdom of 2.2 million people.

Opposition parties and many ordinary people in the country also want Thabane gone.

“It defies logic how he still wants to remain in office despite the controversy that surrounds him,” said street vendor Malefa Mpobole, 42.

Another citizen, Lenka Ntjabane, 43, said: “This old man should just go. He should just take his wife and go”.

AFP

Netanyahu’s Trial To Begin In March

Netanyahu Seeks To Calm Israeli Concerns Over Trump's Syria Pullout
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on July 29, 2018. Sebastian Scheiner / POOL / AFP

 

The trial of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on corruption charges will open on March 17, the justice ministry said Tuesday.

It said the indictment would be read by judge Rivka Friedman-Feldman in the presence of Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

The announcement comes as the 70-year-old prime minister campaigns ahead of March 2 elections, Israel’s third in less than a year, after two previous polls resulted in a deadlock between Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz.

Gantz had refused after September elections to join a unity government led by Netanyahu, saying he must first settle his differences with the judiciary before taking power.

Netanyahu was charged in the autumn last year with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Israeli Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit formally presented the charge sheet to the Jerusalem district court on January 28 after Netanyahu had withdrawn a request seeking parliamentary immunity lodged earlier that month.

His opponents had already mustered a majority in the legislature to deny him immunity.

Netanyahu is Israel’s only head of government to have been indicted during his term in office.

Under Israeli law, a sitting prime minister is only required to step down once convicted of an offence and after all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

Netanyahu denies the charges and says he is the victim of a politically motivated witch-hunt.

AFP