Belarus PM Sacked Over Corruption Scandal

Belarus PM, Andrei Kobyakov


Belarus’s strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday sacked his prime minister and other key members of government following a corruption scandal that saw top officials arrested. 

Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov will be replaced by former development bank head Sergei Rumas, the president’s press office said in a statement.

Several vice-premiers, as well as the ministers for economy and industry, will also lose their posts.

“I won’t name names, but in our government, we had the following situation — one programme would be announced and then another programme would be carried out,” Lukashenko said in comments released by his press office.

“I’ve never allowed this and I never will! What we have promised the people — with a government formed precisely with this programme in mind — we must follow this programme,” he added.

Over the summer a corruption scandal rocked the health service of the ex-Soviet nation.

Authorities arrested dozens of top health officials, medics and drug company representatives on suspicion of siphoning off millions of dollars in state funding.

Even the head of the security services in the country dubbed “Europe’s last dictatorship” called for an overhaul of the system in the wake of the arrests.

Other smaller instances of corruption and administrative failures have hit local and national governments in recent months.

Independent economist and director of the Scientific Research Mises Center, Yaroslav Romanchuk welcomed the government shake-up.

“It is good to replace these people, pillars of the old socialist economy,” he told AFP, adding that the new team were not “bogged down in corruption”.

“Sergei Rumas knows what the economy and finance are about, he’s an intelligent economist…we can hope for the start of economic reforms, as long as Lukashenko gives the mandate to carry them out,” Romanchuk said.

Political analyst Valeriy Karbalevich said: “Lukashenko has discovered the government wasn’t afraid of him, it clearly wasn’t carrying out his orders”.

The president “hopes the new people will be too scared to steal or sabotage his directives,” he added.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus, wedged between Russia and Poland, with an iron fist since 1994.


Pakistan Returns Ex-PM Sharif To Jail

Former Pakistani PM, Nawaz Sharif


Pakistan’s jailed former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was moved back to prison from the hospital on Tuesday evening after doctors signalled an improvement in his health, a minister said.

Sharif was shifted to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences(PIMS) in Islamabad two days ago after he reportedly fell sick inside the prison.

Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz were jailed on July 13 after a court sentenced them to 10 and seven years respectively over properties in Britain which emerged in the wake of Panama Papers revelations.

“The former Prime Minister is being shifted back to Adiala jail after doctors so advised,” Shaukat Javed, the caretaker home minister for Punjab province, told AFP.

He said Shari wanted to go back to jail in Rawalpindi because he was unable to carry out his daily walk, adding that the former PM had been taken to hospital “against his will”.

Sharif, who claims he is being targeted by the country’s powerful security establishment, is fighting for his political life after his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party lost an election last Wednesday to rival Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led by former cricket hero Imran Khan.

His brother Shahbaz, who heads the party now, has rejected election results along with other parties who have demanded fresh elections and announced they would protest against alleged election rigging.

Khan’s victory represents an end to decades of rotating leadership between the PML-N and the Bhutto dynasty’s Pakistan Peoples Party that was punctuated by periods of military rule.

The powerful army, which is often accused of meddling in political affairs, ruled the country for roughly half its history.


Madagascar PM Resigns Amid Political Crisis

Madagascar Prime Minister, Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana, delivers a speech during the swearing in ceremony at Mazoharivo Palace in Antananarivo.  RIJASOLO / AFP


Madagascar’s Prime Minister announced his resignation on Monday in the first step towards the naming of a “consensus” premier to resolve a political crisis sparked by controversial electoral reforms.

Madagascar has been rocked by violent protests since April 21 that initially sought to oppose the new laws the opposition said were crafted to bar their candidates from participating in elections planned for later this year.

The Constitutional Court has ordered President Rajaonarimampianina to form a government of national unity with a “consensus prime minister” to avert a full-blown crisis. For that to happen, the current government was required to resign and the president was ordered to name a new prime minister by June 12.

“I will tender my resignation to the president today. As a statesman, I cannot be an obstacle to the life of the nation,” Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana told a press briefing.

“I resign willingly and with happiness. I have no regrets today and I can leave with my head held high.”

“I will leave this magnificent palace, (but) I tell you this is not ‘goodbye’,” he added without giving details of his future plans.

No successor to Solonandrasana has yet been named.


Italy’s New PM, Conte Begins Work

Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte (R) talks with European Parliament President Antonio Tajani during a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Italian Republic (Republic Day) on June 2, 2018 in Piazza Venezia, in Rome. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP


Italy’s new Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, attended a military parade on his first full day in office Saturday, while his outspoken deputy Matteo Salvini was to head to Sicily as part of his campaign against illegal immigration. 

The military parade, which Conte attended alongside President Sergio Mattarella, marked Republic Day for the foundation of the Italian Republic in 1946.

Conte was finally sworn in on Friday afternoon at the head of an anti-establishment and eurosceptic government, ending months of uncertainty since elections in March.

The 53-year-old academic heads a government of ministers from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and the far-right League Party, the first populist coalition in a founding EU member.

A political novice, he inherits a daunting list of issues from his predecessor Paolo Gentiloni, including the financial travails of companies such as Ilva and Alitalia, a Group of Seven summit in Canada and a key EU summit at the end of the month, as well as the thorny question of immigration.

Immigration is the bugbear of Conte’s interior minister, Salvini, the 45-year-old leader of the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam League, who announced Friday he would visit Sicily to see the situation for himself at one of the main landing points for refugees fleeing war, persecution and famine across North Africa and the Middle East.

“The immigration question remains a hot-button issue, even if the number of new arrivals has fallen,” said Salvini, an ally of French far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

“I’ll be in Sicily on Sunday. The situation is now calm but only because of the rough seas.”

More than 150 migrants, including nine children, disembarked from a rescue ship late Friday in Sicily.

Salvini had said after being sworn in that he would ask his ministry’s experts “how to reduce the number of arriving migrants and increase the number of expulsions.”

 Outspoken deputies 

As premier, Conte will be responsible for pushing through the anti-austerity and pro-security promises that the two populist parties campaigned on.

Salvini and Economic Development Minister Luigi Di Maio, head of the M5S, also serve as deputy premiers to Conte.

While Conte has hardly made any public statements since being appointed, both Di Maio and Salvini have been much more outspoken.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker called Saturday for Conte’s new eurosceptic Italian government to be treated with respect, having earlier told Italians to work harder and stop blaming the EU for the country’s problems.

“We should show respect towards Italy,” Juncker said in an interview with the German press group Funke Mediengruppe.

Juncker said Italy must not suffer the same fate as thrice-bailed out Greece whose dignity was “trodden under foot” by its creditors when left-wing Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras took office in 2015.

“That must not happen again in the present case with Italy,” Juncker said.

“Italians have a clear understanding of what is good for their country. They will sort it out.”


Former Malaysian PM, Najib Banned From Leaving Country

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak attends a press conference to announce his resignation as President of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in Kuala Lumpur on May 12, 2018.  ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP


Malaysia’s scandal-hit former prime minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor were Saturday banned from leaving the country, the immigration chief said, after the shock election loss of Najib’s coalition.

“The immigration department has just now blacklisted Najib and Rosmah from leaving the country,” Mustafar Ali, director-general of the immigration department, told AFP.

Najib said in a tweet: “I have just been informed by the immigration department of Malaysia that my family and I are not allowed to go abroad. I respect the decision and I will remain in the country with my family.”

The travel ban came as speculation mounted that Najib and Rosmah, a hugely unpopular figure due to her reported love of luxury shopping trips, were about to board a flight to fly to Indonesia.

Najib had earlier tweeted he was going to take a “short break”. An angry crowd had descended on an airport near Kuala Lumpur where the couple had been expected to leave from, in a bid to stop them from departing.

After his defeat, speculation mounted the pair might flee the country as former strongman premier Mahathir Mohamad, who beat him in the elections, has pledged to probe a massive scandal in which Najib is implicated concerning the theft of billions of dollars of state funds.


UK PM May Says ‘Combustible’ Cladding Used On Other Buildings

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May has commented on latest in Grenfell tower investigation including that ‘combustible’ cladding has been used on other buildings.

She said,”Mr Speaker it should never have happened (Grenfell Tower fire). In a few moments I’ll say how we’re going to discover why it did, but as I said yesterday, that initial failure was then compounded by the fact that the support on the ground in the initial hours was not good enough.

As Prime Minister I have apologised for that second failure and taken responsibility for doing what we can to put it right. On my first visit to North Kensington, I met with the emergency services.

These extraordinary men and women put their lives on the line in an effort to save others, and my first responsibility was to check they had all the resources they needed. I then visited Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where I met some of the most seriously injured survivors.

It was from that experience I decided we had to have an emergency fund. I also met a group of residents in Kensington who I then invited to come to Downing Street last weekend. I returned to Kensington again last night to hear directly from them about the progress that we are making.

Mr Speaker what became clear very quickly is the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea could not cope and it is right that the Chief Executive Officer has now resigned. It is also why I set up the Grenfell Tower Recovery Taskforce, which I have been chairing personally. But this is not just about the steps we take in the first few weeks. It is about a lasting commitment that we are making to support the families affected, long after the television cameras have gone.”

“All social landlords have been instructed to carry out additional fire safety checks on tower blocks and ensure the appropriate safety and response measures are in place. This is being done in cooperation with local fire and rescue services. We’ve also taken steps to make private landlords aware and made our checking facilities available to them for free. The House should of course be careful on speculating what caused this fire, but as a precaution, the government has arranged to test cladding in all relevant tower blocks.

Mr Speaker, shortly before I came to the chamber, I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible. The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and as I speak they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe and to inform affected residents.”

“Landlords have a legal obligation to provide safe buildings and where they cannot do that, we expect alternative accommodation to be provided. We cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes.

President Buhari Promises Conducive Environment For Business

BuhariIn fulfillment of his campaign promises, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has given an assurance that his administration will take all necessary measures in ensuring conducive operating environment for businesses, to boost employment in the country.

According to a statement released by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President made the promise during a meeting with the new Japanese Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Sadanobu Kusaoke, to whom he gave assurances that his administration will welcome greater investment inflows that will create more job opportunities.

President Muhammadu Buhari said that his administration will take all necessary actions to significantly improve the operating environment for domestic and international companies in Nigeria as part of its efforts to boost employment in the country.

He said that the Federal Government, under his leadership, will welcome greater investment inflows from Japan and other developed nations in support of its plans to revitalize the Nigerian economy and create more jobs.

The President told Mr. Kusaoke that his administration will particularly welcome more trade and economic cooperation with Japan in the manufacturing, technology and agricultural sectors.

“I was very impressed with the role your Prime Minister played at our talks with G-7 leaders in Germany. He had a deep understanding of the challenge in the North-East of Nigeria and how it is affecting our economy.

“We look forward to a stronger partnership with your country in many areas, especially in technology, which is now the major driver of job creation across the world today,” President Buhari told the new Japanese ambassador who was at the Presidential Villa to present his letters of credence.

The President also received the letters of credence of the new Ambassador of Ukraine, Dr. Valerii Aleksandruk and the new High Commissioner of Pakistan, Lt. Gen. Agha Muhammed Umer Farooq.

All the new envoys assured President Buhari that they will work very hard to maintain and strengthen existing relations between Nigeria and their respective countries during their tenure in Abuja.

President Buhari had promised in his inaugural speech to ensure adequate power supply which would boost the activities of small business owners, resulting in growth of the Nigerian economy. He also promised to quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of the railways, roads and general infrastructure.”

Israel Prepares For Election

israelVoters in Israel are preparing to go to the polls in what is expected to be a tightly-fought election, to elect a leader.

Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, faces a challenge from a Centre-left Alliance that has promised to restore ties with the Palestinians and the international community.

Candidates from both parties spent Monday making one last appeal to voters. Neither side is expected to get more than a quarter of the votes.

While results could be declared soon after the close of polls, a definitive conclusion appears likely to take some time.

A lengthy period of negotiations over the formation of the next coalition government could follow.

No party has ever won an outright majority in Israel’s election, meaning it has always been governed by a coalition.

Much of the focus of the campaign has been on international issues, from Israel’s relationship with the United States to concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme.

But many of the candidates have concentrated on socio-economic problems in Israel, including the high cost of living and slow economic growth.

The future of the city of Jerusalem has been a central election issue.

Mr Netanyahu has consistently accused his centre-left challengers of being willing to relinquish Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its indivisible capital in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem – occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East war – as the capital of a future Palestinian state.

But Zionist Union party co-leader, Yitzhak Herzog, has accused Mr Netanyahu of “panicking”.

Visiting the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in Judaism, on Sunday, he pledged to “safeguard Jerusalem and its residents in actions, not just words, more than any other leader”.