Give Govt A Chance To Implement Reforms, Tinubu Appeals To #EndSARS Protesters

A file photo of APC National Leader, Mr Bola Tinubu.

 

The National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu has appealed to the #EndSARS Protesters to give the government a chance to implement the reforms they are demanding.

He made the appeal in a statement he personally signed on Tuesday on the heels of the agitations by Nigerian youths against police brutality and violations of fundamental human rights.

“It is only fair that the government must be given the chance to implement the reforms demanded by the protesters. This can certainly not be done instantaneously by the waving of a magic wand,” the statement partly read.

“If the government had not implemented promised reforms in the past, the swiftness with which it has responded to the demands of the protesters this time around shows that there is a positive change by the government both of attitude and of a new sense of urgency.

“The protesters have made considerable gains within a very short period. But they should also be careful not to fritter away such gains due to lack of moderation and strategic thinking.

READ ALSO: Properties, Vehicles Destroyed As Hoodlums Disrupt #ENDSARS Protests In Abuja

“For instance, it is unfortunate that hoodlums, thugs and assorted criminals have seized on the protests to perpetrate violence, disrupt civil life and harass, intimidate and assault innocent persons going about their lawful business,” he said.

SEE FULL STATEMENT HERE:

PRESS STATEMENT

‘#ENDSARS PROTESTS – THE REMEDY FOR NATIONAL MALADIES IS MORE, NOT LESS, DEMOCRACY’

For the past twelve days, our country has witnessed massive protests by youths in different cities, which were ignited by widespread disenchantment with the gross human rights abuses including torture, extortion, harassment, intimidation and even extra-judicial killings of Nigerians by members of the disbanded Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS). The demands for fundamental police reforms by the protesting youths are in pursuit of our aspiration in our national anthem “to build a nation where peace and justice shall reign”. Justice as one of our greatest writers has memorably noted is “the first condition of humanity”.

A society where those who are paid from the public purse to protect the lives and property of the people become themselves threats to the liberty, safety and dignity of the people; where human life is difficult to distinguish from the Thomas Hobbes ‘State of Nature – ‘solitary, poor, nasty and brutish’ is not one fit for free and decent people to live in. Such impunity and lawlessness are incompatible with the values and tenets of a democratic society governed by the supremacy of the rule of law.

It is impossible for anyone truly committed to the rule of law, democracy and good governance to be opposed to the concern and demands of the protesters. There is no way that any society can make meaningful progress without the enthronement of these values. The protesters have for the better part of the commencement of their civil action conducted themselves with an admirable sense of responsibility, restraint and maturity. This is commendable. Indeed, the high level of organization demonstrated by the protesting youths shows a new level of consciousness of the capability of a vigilant civil society as well as the efficacy of people’s power. This can only ultimately strengthen the country’s democratic evolution and sustainability.

Arnold Toynbee, the great 19th-century historian observed that societies progress through a process of ‘challenge and response’.

Society confronts challenges such as injustice, impunity, corruption, dictatorship and is forced to respond in resistance and struggle for emancipation. The result is the triumph of justice over injustice, liberty over tyranny and right over wrong thus enabling the society to be elevated to a higher level of good, accountable, responsible and responsive governance. It was through this process that colonialism, apartheid, and all forms of dictatorship, misrule and tyranny have been overcome across time and space. Our current democratic dispensation was borne of struggle in response to the challenge of military dictatorship.

The impunity of SARS was thus a challenge that the youth have responded positively and courageously to and has triggered the commencement of the fundamental reform of the country’s policing system.

But then, the protesters must admit that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has acted with commendable dispatch by not only scrapping SARS but also accepting the five-point demand that triggered the protests. This shows a laudable sensitivity to the grievances of the youths. It is only fair that the government must be given the chance to implement the reforms demanded by the protesters. This can certainly not be done instantaneously by the waving of a magic wand. If the government had not implemented promised reforms in the past, the swiftness with which it has responded to the demands of the protesters this time around shows that there is a positive change by the government both of attitude and of a new sense of urgency.

The protesters have made considerable gains within a very short period. But they should also be careful not to fritter away such gains due to lack of moderation and strategic thinking. For instance, it is unfortunate that hoodlums, thugs and assorted criminals have seized on the protests to perpetrate violence, disrupt civil life and harass, intimidate and assault innocent persons going about their lawful business. The intent of the organizers of the protests is to achieve stated objectives on police reform, which the government has in principle accepted. It can certainly not be their motive to cause generalized anarchy or effect regime change. If they give the impression that that is their goal, then any government will necessarily have to act with the requisite decisiveness and force to restore law and order and preserve the constitutional rule.

The vigour and vibrancy of the protests are an indication of the growing strength of the democratic culture in Nigeria. It is a demonstration of the beauty of democracy and its promotion and protection of people’s power. However, the protesters must be careful not to set the stage for the erosion or destruction of the same democratic process that gives them the freedom and right to protest in the first place. Their democratic right to protest must not be exercised in such a way that impedes the democratic right of other citizens to freedom of movement, expression and the liberty to pursue their livelihoods. The fight for police reforms is surely to promote and protect the wellbeing of millions of Nigerians. It is a contradiction for the protesters to act in ways that will further worsen the economic well-being of the very people they are fighting for.

It is important that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) utilize this protest as an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and recommit itself to the values for which the party was formed through extraordinary hard work, dedication and commitment. There is no doubt that the party has recorded tremendous achievements in diverse sectors since 2015. But it now has to sit back, examine the gaps between its promises and its performance in order to make necessary amends. It is important that all members of the party put aside petty and shortsighted ambitions, needless infighting and unite to support the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to focus on delivering on its mandate for the remainder of its tenure.

In the final analysis, the cure for protracted and delicate national problems is to continue to strengthen the democratic process rather than engage in acts that can lead to generalized anarchy in which democracy cannot thrive. The protests have forcefully demonstrated the reality and potency of people’s power and the new energy must be tapped and channeled to strengthen, not weaken the country’s democracy. Surely, the country cannot remain the same after this. The government has demonstrated its sensitivity to the demands of the youth and must now be supported to implement the reforms it has committed itself to. It is a good sign that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Lagos and a number of other state governments have speedily set up judicial panels of inquiry into acts of police brutality over the years. I urge the state governments which are yet to do so to emulate this example. This process of change should be supported and this cannot be done in an atmosphere of endless protests that are also crippling an economy already enfeebled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Let me commend all our religious leaders, Christians and Muslims for their patriotism and high sense of responsibility at this sensitive time. I appeal to them to call on their teeming followers to call off the protests for now and give peace a chance. Finally, I also strongly appeal to the protesters – YOU HAVE MADE YOUR POINT. GOVERNMENT HAS MADE ITS COMMITMENT TO YOU. PLEASE, PLEASE AND PLEASE, CALL OFF THE PROTESTS. GIVE GOVERNMENT A CHANCE TO IMPLEMENT YOUR DEMANDS. GOD BLESS YOU.

SIGNED

ASIWAJU BOLA TINUBU

 

Tens Of Thousands Of Thais Protest In Defiance Of Ban

Pro-democracy protesters walk along a road during an anti-government rally at Udomsuk in Bangkok on October 17, 2020, as they continue to defy an emergency decree banning gatherings. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

 

Tens of thousands of Thai pro-democracy protesters rallied across Bangkok Saturday, defying an emergency decree banning gatherings for a third consecutive day to demand the resignation of the prime minister and reform of the powerful monarchy.

Police had used water cannon against peaceful demonstrators on Friday but protestors said they were not cowed by the escalation in tactics.

“I’m concerned for my safety but if I don’t come out, I have no future,” said business student Min, 18, equipped with a helmet and gas mask as she arrived in Bangkok’s northern Lat Phrao district on Saturday, one of several protest venues across the city.

Flooding a massive intersection, protestors raised a three-finger salute adopted from the dystopian “Hunger Games” films as passing vehicles honked in support and flashed a thumbs-up at the mostly black-clad protesters.

 

A pro-democracy protester gives the three-finger salute during an anti-government rally at Udomsuk in Bangkok on October 17, 2020, as they continue to defy an emergency decree banning gatherings. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

 

Across the Chao Phraya river, thousands rallied in the western Wongwian Yai district chanting “Long live the people, down with dictatorship!”, while in southeastern Udomsuk protesters brought busy traffic to a standstill.

Carrying signs saying “Stop hurting people,” protesters in the three locales numbered in the tens of thousands at the peak, according to AFP reporters on the scene.

But police estimated a far lower turnout, putting the total crowd size at demonstrations across the capital at 16,000. Demonstrations also took place in more than a dozen cities across the country.

 

Pro-democracy protesters give the three-finger salute during an anti-government rally at the Lat Phrao intersection in Bangkok on October 17, 2020, as they continue to defy an emergency decree banning gatherings. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

 

For the mostly-young protesters, Friday’s Bangkok crackdown was a big learning curve, said Aim, whose friends were blasted with stinging liquid when police fired water cannon.

“We had no armour, just umbrellas,” said the 25-year-old public servant, grasping a pair of goggles.

“I’m ready to fight,” said 20-year-old Tortor, carrying a backpack stuffed with a gas mask.

But unlike the previous day, police did not intervene and the protestors dispersed by 8:00pm as instructed by organisers, who vowed to “reunite again” Sunday.

 

Pro-democracy protesters hold up their mobile phones during an anti-government rally at Udomsuk in Bangkok on October 17, 2020, as they continue to defy an emergency decree banning gatherings. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)

 

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha announced Friday an emergency decree banning gatherings of more than four people would be imposed for at least a month.

The former army chief, who masterminded a coup in 2014 before being voted into power last year in an election protesters say was rigged in his favour, also rebuffed calls for his resignation.

– ‘You’re a tyrant’ –
At least 65 protesters have been arrested since Tuesday, Thai lawyers for Human Rights told AFP Saturday, as authorities escalated a crackdown on months of slowly building unrest.

The latest came Saturday night of prominent activist Panupong “Mike” Jadnok, who was arrested by plainclothes police after he left a rally at a Bangkok university.

Two other activists were arrested Friday under a rarely used law banning “violence against the queen” after they joined a group Wednesday that surrounded a royal motorcade carrying Queen Suthida, flashing a pro-democracy salute as the car drove by.

 

Pro-democracy protesters hold signs, including one that reads, “Before you become anything, be a human first” (L), and give the three-finger salute during a flash mob at Asok BTS skytrain station in Bangkok on October 17, 2020, as they continue to defy an emergency decree banning gatherings. (Photo by Romeo GACAD / AFP)

 

Both men, one of whom was released on bail Saturday, could face life in prison if convicted.

At least three protesters sustained slight injuries and five officers were admitted to the police hospital in Friday’s clashes, authorities said.

Activist Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree, released Saturday after his detention the night before, took to Facebook to condemn the use of violence against unarmed protesters.

“The government is no longer legitimate. Prayut Chan-O-Cha, you’re a tyrant,” he said in a livestreamed video.

The government insisted the use of force had been lawful to stop those trying to “create divisions” in the country.

“There was no victory or defeat for either side. It’s a defeat for all Thais,” government spokesman Anucha Burapanchaisri said in a statement.

– Royal reminder –
The pro-democracy movement is making an unprecedented challenge to the kingdom’s powerful monarchy.

Protesters are demanding the abolition of a strict royal defamation law, which carries jail sentences of up to 15 years per charge, and for the monarchy to stay out of politics.

The institution currently wields enormous influence and is flanked by an arch-royalist military and billionaire clans.

Since ascending the throne in 2016, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has taken personal control of the palace’s vast fortune — worth an estimated $60 billion — and moved two army units under his direct command.

 

Pro-democracy protesters give the three-finger salute during an anti-government rally at Udomsuk in Bangkok on October 17, 2020, as they continue to defy an emergency decree banning gatherings. (Photo by Jack TAYLOR / AFP)
Pro-democracy protesters talk during an anti-government rally at Wongwian Yai in Bangkok on October 17, 2020, as they continue to defy an emergency decree banning gatherings. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)

 

The king has yet to address the civil unrest directly, but during a ceremony broadcast on Friday, he told his subjects that Thailand “needs people who love the country, people who love the institution of the monarchy”.

The government insists the reforms to the royal family are off-limits, but this position was becoming untenable, said International Crisis Group analyst Matthew Wheeler.

“The degree of repression necessary to effectively reinstate the prohibition, including online, would tarnish both the government and the monarchy.”

The unrest in Thailand garnered worldwide interest, with “Mob October 17” — referring to the Bangkok protests — taking the number one hashtag globally on Saturday with almost three million tweets.

 

 

-AFP

IGP Warns Police Officers Against Use Of Force On Peaceful Protesters

Mohammed-Adamu-IGP
File photo: The Inspector General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, at a meeting with the President in Abuja on May 14, 2020.

 

The Inspector-General of Police, IGP M.A Adamu, has warned all Police Officers across the country against the use of force on peaceful protesters.

According to a communique by the police spokesman, DCP Frank Mba, the IGP noted that citizens have fundamental rights of freedom of expression, assembly, and movement which must always be upheld and protected by the police.

The boss on Thursday however appealed to protesters to continually conduct themselves peacefully and guide their ranks against infiltration by criminal elements.

READ ALSO: Sanwo-Olu Sets Up Judicial Panel, Reveals Identity Of Officers Who Shot At Surulere Protesters

He stressed that the Force leadership has clearly heard the voice of the people and is irrevocably committed to doing everything within its powers to address the observed ills, punish any offending officers and promote a people-friendly police force.

#EndSARS: Davido Reads Protesters’ Demands To IGP

 

Singer, David Adeleke, popularly called Davido has presented the demands of the #EndSARS protesters to the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu at the Force Headquarters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

The demands, according to him include the release of the protesters, justice for all victims of police brutality, among others.

“Our five demands include the immediate release of all arrested protesters. We thank God everybody was released in Abuja yesterday, there are still some people arrested in Lagos.

“Secondly, they want justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and appropriate compensation for their families. Out of everything, this is the most important because if there is reform, you cannot change a life that has been lost.

“Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and prosecution of all reports of police misconducts within 10 days. It is impossible to do anything within 10 days, but it is something that should be looked at,” he said.

Davido equally for a psychological evaluation of all officers of the disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) before redeployment, stressing that the training and retraining of police personnel are important.

Popular musician, Davido on October 12, 2020 presented the demands of the #EndSARS protesters during a meeting with IGP Mohammed Adamu at the Force Headquarters in Abuja.

 

On his part, the IGP thanked Davido for the visit, explaining that reports of brutality and infringement of human rights by SARS operatives issue date back to 2017.

According to him, the step taken by the police authorities was to reform the unit to make it more responsive to tackling security challenges.

Adamu explained that this is the first time the squad will be disbanded following numerous outcry from Nigerians, notable youths.

“The activities of SARS have been an issue since 2017. All that the police authorities did was to reform the unit so that it will be more responsive to the society,” he said.

“Changes came up and we still have challenges. This is the first time that a decisive decision. We have never done this before, it has always been reform.”

Belarus Protesters Keep Pressure On Lukashenko With New March

A demonstrator gestures the V-sign during an opposition supporters’ rally to protest the August 9 disputed residential election results in Minsk on September 5, 2020. – Unprecedented protests demanding the resignation of the Belarusian president erupted in the wake of August 9, 2020, elections that opposition forces claim was rigged in his favour. (Photo by – / TUT.BY / AFP)

 

Belarusian protesters on Sunday prepared a new mass demonstration against strongman Alexander Lukashenko who has refused to quit after a disputed re-election and turned to Russia for help.

Unprecedented protests broke out in the ex-Soviet country after Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet state for 26 years, claimed re-election with 80 percent of the vote on August 9.

Opposition rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya says she has won the vote but Lukashenko’s security forces have detained thousands of protesters, many of whom accused police of beatings and torture.

Several people have died in the crackdown but Belarusians have been demonstrating across the country for nearly a month, with more than 100,000 people flooding the streets of the capital Minsk for three straight weekends.

Dozens of people including student protesters and journalists covering rallies were detained this week.

On Saturday, around 4,000 people took to the streets and more than 90 people were detained, the interior ministry said.

– ‘Strong when united’ –

Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice, urged supporters to turn up for Sunday’s “March of Unity” set to begin at 1100 GMT.

“Remember we are strong as long as we are united,” she said in a short video address.

Tikhanovskaya contested the election after her blogger husband was jailed and barred from running along with several other prominent Lukashenko critics.

She left Belarus under pressure from authorities and took shelter in EU member Lithuania.

On Friday, Tikhanovskaya addressed a meeting of the UN Security Council by video link, calling for sanctions against those responsible for the alleged electoral fraud and rights violations.

The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have blacklisted Lukashenko and 29 high-ranking officials in his administration but other members of the EU bloc appear reluctant to target the Belarus strongman personally.

Russia has said it will respond to any Western attempts to “sway the situation” and President Vladimir Putin has raised the possibility of sending military support.

Putin has been keen to unify Russia and Belarus, and Moscow has accompanied its recent offers of economic and military aid with calls for tighter integration.

Lukashenko has in the past ruled out outright unification and sought to play Moscow against the West but his options now are limited.

On Thursday, Lukashenko hosted Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and replaced the chief of the KGB security service in what some analysts said might have been done under pressure from Moscow.

The moustachioed leader said Russia and Belarus had agreed on issues they “could not agree earlier” and he planned to “dot all the i’s” with Putin in Moscow in the next few weeks.

Lukashenko made headlines when he claimed during a meeting with Mishustin that his security forces had intercepted German calls showing that Putin foe Alexei Navalny’s poisoning with a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent had been faked.

Belarusian state television broadcast the “intercept” in which a Mike in Warsaw and Nick in Berlin discuss Navalny’s materials and call Lukashenko a “tough nut to crack.”

Social media in Russia went berserk in mocking the Belarus leader and even some staunchly pro-Kremlin propagandists expressed embarassment.

Lukashenko also raised eyebrows last month when he brandished an assault rifle and had his 15-year-old son Nikolai appear next to him in a bulletproof vest while also weilding a weapon.

Some observers say Lukashenko wanted to curry favour with Moscow but was becoming a liability.

“No one knows what intercept Alexander Grigoryevich (Lukashenko) will record and publish tomorrow and where he will run with an assault rifle,” wrote Kirill Martynov, politics editor at independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

AFP

Police Arrest 17 Anti-Lockdown Protesters In Melbourne

Police arrest a protester at the Albert Park Lake in Melbourne on September 5, 2020, during an anti-lockdown rally to protest the state’s strict lockdown laws as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus. William WEST / AFP

 

Over a dozen of anti-lockdown protesters were arrested Saturday in Melbourne, as those deliberately flouting stay-at-home orders clashed with Australian police.

Ignoring official warnings and public health orders, several hundred people gathered at an illegal protest — promoted by several virus-related conspiracy theory groups online — calling for an end to lockdown measures.

A huge police presence responded, arresting 17 as the crowd chanted “freedom” and “scam” towards lines of officers who repeatedly attempted to move people on.

Two protesters were seen raising their arms in a Nazi salute at officers and yelling “Heil Dan”, comparing the state of Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews to Adolf Hitler, while standing on the forecourt of the Shrine of Remembrance — a war memorial which partly commemorates Australians killed fighting in World War II.

Demonstrators moved to a nearby park before being surrounded by police and eventually dispersing.

Officers said they issued 160 fines for breaching health orders and were expecting to hand out more in the coming days.

Several attendees told AFP they were protesting the government’s response to the pandemic, which has killed more than 865,000 people around the world, labelling it overblown or an outright “scam”.

“We are in a city where the cure from Daniel Andrews is actually worse than what’s happening,” protester Fiona Kat said.

The “Freedom Day” events were largely promoted by several loosely-connected groups online that espouse anti-vaccination and virus-related conspiracy theories.

Rallies were also held around the country, with 14 people arrested at protests in Sydney and Byron Bay.

Despite Victoria’s second wave, Australia has dealt relatively well with the virus allowing the rest of the country to roll back restrictions.

The nation has recorded over 26,200 cases and 748 deaths in a population of 25 million.

Before the protest, Victorian premier Andrews told people to stay home and warned the gathering could jeopardise a path out of lockdown, which is expected to be outlined on Sunday.

“It is not safe, it is not smart, it is not lawful,” he told media.

“In fact, it is absolutely selfish.”

Anti-Government Protesters, Police Clash In Bulgaria

Police clash with protestors during an anti-government demonstration in Sofia on September 2, 2020. NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP.

 

Bulgarian police and protesters clashed on Wednesday as parliament met to begin discussion on a new constitution aimed at appeasing weeks of anti-government rallies.

Demonstrators have been blocking roads and staging daily rallies in the capital Sofia and other cities for almost two months.

They are pressing for the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and chief prosecutor Ivan Geshev over their perceived links with behind-the-scenes oligarchs.

Borisov has already sacked several key ministers and recently proposed adopting a new constitution, but the protesters have dismissed these moves.

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of central Sofia Wednesday, shouting “Resign” and “Mafia”, and throwing rocks, eggs and tomatoes.

Police used pepper spray and tear gas and said they arrested eight protesters, while 20 officers were injured in clashes outside parliament.

Sixteen people, including protesters, were admitted to hospital, according to emergency services.

The clashes came as parliament began its autumn session, which is expected to discuss the government’s proposal for a new constitution.

Protesters shout slogans during an anti-government demo in Sofia, on September 2, 2020.  NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP.

 

In a statement inside parliament, President Rumen Radev, who has voiced support for the protesters’ demands, called on lawmakers to “emerge from the crisis with dignity” by paving the way for early elections.

“Confidence is definitely lost,” he said.

Borisov, in power almost without interruption for more than a decade, has so far refused to resign before his third term expires in March next year.

Analysts have dismissed the conservative premier’s proposal for a new constitution as an attempt to win time and cling to office.

Activists too have slammed it for failing to improve the accountability of the chief prosecutor — an issue long highlighted by Bulgarian and international observers as well as the European Court of Human Rights — while trying to limit the rights of the president.

Debates in parliament on whether to adopt a new constitution can take months.

Thirteen years after joining the EU, Bulgaria remains its poorest and most graft-ridden member, according to Transparency International’s corruption perception index.

AFP

Tensions Rise In Thailand Ahead Of Fresh Pro-Democracy Protest

Anti-government protesters hold up a three-finger salute as they occupy the road around Democracy Monument during a rally 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.

 

Protesters were set to rally in Bangkok Sunday against the government as tensions rose in the kingdom after the arrest of three activists leading the pro-democracy movement.

Thailand has seen near-daily demonstrations for the past month by student-led groups denouncing Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha — a former military chief who led the 2014 coup — and his pro-establishment administration.

Prominent student leader Parit Chiwarak, bailed a day after his arrest Friday night, vowed to attend Sunday’s rally at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument.

“We will not disappoint you,” he told a crowd of supporters outside the police station after he was released.

Organisers expect thousands to participate. Hundreds of police personnel were seen at the venue before the scheduled start of the protest.

The protesters, partly inspired by the Hong Kong democracy movement, claim to be leaderless, and have relied mostly on social media campaigns to draw support across the country.

The hashtag “Give a deadline to dictatorship” and “Tag your friends to protest” started trending early Sunday on Twitter in Thailand.

The protesters are demanding an overhaul of the government and a rewrite of the 2017 military-scripted constitution, which demonstrators believe skewed last year’s poll in the favour of Prayut’s military-aligned party.

A rally last week — attended by some 4,000 demonstrators — also called for the abolition of a law protecting Thailand’s unassailable monarchy, and for a frank discussion about the royal institution’s role in Thailand.

Super-rich King Maha Vajiralongkorn sits at the apex of Thai power, flanked by the military and the kingdom’s billionaire business elite.

The draconian “112” law can see those convicted sentenced to up to 15 years in jail for each charge.

– Growing discontent –

The growing boldness of the pro-democracy movement has angered the pro-royalist camp.

On Sunday, some 50 royalist protesters carrying portraits of the king gathered at the Democracy Monument — the same venue where the anti-government rally will take place later in the day.

“Long live the king,” shouted the royalists, dressed in yellow shirts — the king’s colours.

The day before student leader Parit’s arrest, Prayut said the protesters’ demands were “unacceptable” for the country’s majority, calling the pro-democracy movement “risky”.

He struck a more conciliatory tone in a televised speech later in the day, appealing for unity and saying the “future belongs to the young”.

Thailand has long seen a cycle of violent protests and coups, with the arch-royalist army staging more than a dozen putsches since the end of absolutism in 1932.

The growing discontent also comes as the kingdom goes through one of its worst economic periods since 1997 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Millions have been left jobless, and the crisis has exposed the inequalities in the Thai economy, which is perceived to benefit the elite, pro-military establishment.

AFP

Thousands Form Human Chains In Belarus After Post-Vote Crackdown

Ukrainian activists and members of the Belarus diaspora rally in support of Belarusians protesting vote rigging in the presidential election, at Kiev’s Independence Square on August 12, 2020. (Photo by Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

 

Thousands of protesters formed human chains in Belarus on Thursday in a growing wave of peaceful demonstrations over President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election and an ensuing brutal police crackdown.

Russia claimed the protests were being orchestrated from abroad to destabilise its ex-Soviet neighbour while European countries condemned police violence and backed fresh sanctions against Lukashenko.

Several thousand men and women, many wearing white and holding flowers and balloons, held hands and walked through the capital Minsk to protest against police brutality during four nights of unrest since Sunday’s vote.

The mood was more relaxed than on previous days as protesters strolled along a central street and lined main roads with drivers honking horns in support.

Supporters gave out free hot drinks and biscuits and police kept a low profile.

Similar human chains formed in half a dozen other cities, local media reported, while activists called for further protests at night.

Lukashenko’s opponents accuse him of rigging the election to defeat his main rival, popular opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who has left the ex-Soviet country for neighbouring Lithuania.

People came out to contest the vote results and police used stun grenades, rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and, in at least one case, live fire to disperse the crowds.

At least two people have died and hundreds have been wounded in the violence while nearly 7,000 have been arrested.

– ‘Change!’ –

On Thursday, demonstrators held placards reading “Change!” and “No violence” and wore white bracelets, one of the symbols of the opposition movement.

“We want to show that we, the women of our country, are against violence,” said Yekaterina, a 38-year-old hairdresser wearing a white sweater and jacket and holding a bunch of white flowers.

Maria, a 35-year-old sales assistant, said she came out in her lunch break.

“We want people to be able to protest peacefully, after all they didn’t want anything bad, just a fair count of the votes.”

A religious procession of various Christian denominations also took place in Minsk while workers at a several factories reportedly held strikes.

– ‘What can we do to help?’ –

Russia’s foreign ministry on Thursday denounced what it called “clear attempts at outside interference” aiming to destabilise its neighbour.

It said it was “concerned” at the “violations of public order.”

The leaders of neighbouring Poland and the Baltic states urged Lukashenko to “terminate the use of force against your people immediately.”

European Union foreign ministers are set to discuss possible new sanctions on Belarus at an extraordinary meeting on Friday.

“What can we do to help?” US entrepreneur Elon Musk said on Twitter in response to a call to help Belarusians.

Prominent Belarusians including Nobel Prize-winning author Svetlana Alexievich have condemned the violence and urged Lukashenko, who has ruled Belarus with an iron grip since 1994, to step down.

The interior ministry said it arrested 700 people at protests on Wednesday, bringing the total number detained since Sunday to more than 6,700.

After large-scale gatherings in Minsk and other cities on Sunday, the protests have become scattered and smaller as police cordoned off city centres and shut down public transport.

– ‘Inhumane actions’ –

The interior ministry said Wednesday that police opened fire on a group of protesters armed with metal rods in the southwestern city of Brest, wounding one.

Officials also confirmed a second death in the unrest, after police said one protester died on Monday when an explosive device went off in his hand.

The Belarusian Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, said a 25-year-old man died after he was detained on Sunday in the southeastern city of Gomel and sentenced to 10 days in prison.

His mother told local media he had heart problems and had gone out to see his girlfriend, not to take part in protests.

In an interview with RFE/RL, Alexievich, winner of the 2015 Nobel Literature Prize, spoke of her shock at the “inhumane, satanic” actions of riot police and urged Lukashenko to go peacefully.

– Foreign-controlled ‘sheep’ –

Other prominent Belarusians have joined calls for the violence to end.

Four-time Olympic biathlon champion Darya Domracheva wrote on Instagram: “Stop the violence. Do not allow this unjust horror to continue on the streets.”

Several prominent journalists and presenters on state channels have tendered their resignations.

The protests broke out after authorities said Lukashenko won 80 percent of the vote in Sunday’s election to secure a sixth term.

Lukashenko, 65, has dismissed the demonstrators as foreign-controlled “sheep”.

The protest movement arose in support of Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice who ran for president after potential opposition candidates including her husband were jailed.

The official results gave her 10 percent of the vote, but Tikhanovskaya said the election was rigged and claimed victory, demanding that Lukashenko hand over power.

She left for neighbouring Lithuania on Tuesday as allies said she came under official pressure.

AFP

Protesters Storm Lagos Court, Accuse Judge Of Bias

Some of the protesters

 

Some protesters on Monday turned up at the premises of the Federal High Court in Lagos over what they described as bias in the handling of a lawsuit filed by Western Lotto Limited.

Chanting solidarity songs, including “We no go gree oh, we want justice, we no go gree”, they marched around the court’s premises demanding justice on behalf of the 3rd to 25th defendants in the suit.

In a Motion on Notice brought pursuant to Section 6(6) of the 1999 Constitution, the 3rd defendant, Premier Lotto Ltd, is specifically seeking three reliefs, including “An order asking the court to decline jurisdiction to entertain, adopt or otherwise give effect to the Terms of Settlement executed between the Plaintiff, Western Lotto Ltd and the 1st Defendant, National Lottery Regulatory Commission.”

In the case being handled by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke, Western Lotto Limited sued 23 rival lottery firms over alleged infringement on its licence on “Ghana games.”

One of the defendants is Premier Lotto Limited, popularly known as Baba Ijebu Gaming Limited, which belongs to Chief Keshington Adebutu.

Western Lotto Limited belongs to businessman and politician, Senator Buruji Kashamu.

In Dec. 2019, Justice Aneke had granted an order authorising Western Lotto to enter into and search the offices of the defendants for evidence of the alleged infringement on its licence on “Ghana games”.

Meanwhile, Western Lotto Ltd has described the protest as a resort to cheap blackmail and mudslinging.

Hearing in the matter has been fixed for Tuesday.

French Protesters Clash With Police At Anti-Racism Rallies

French riot police clash with protesters during a rally as part of the 'Black Lives Matter' worldwide protests against racism and police brutality, on Place de la Republique in Paris on June 13, 2020.  Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP
French riot police clash with protesters during a rally as part of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ worldwide protests against racism and police brutality, on Place de la Republique in Paris on June 13, 2020. Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

 

Police clashed with demonstrators in Paris and Lyon Saturday, firing tear gas and water cannons as thousands turned out across France for the latest wave of protests against racism and police violence.

Officers prevented protesters trying to launch a march through the streets of the capital, at the end of a three-hour rally. They fired tear gas after some demonstrators pelted them with projectiles.

This was the latest in a series of French demonstrations following the death last month of black American George Floyd at the hands of police officers in the United States.

But the protesters were also highlighting what critics say is the problem of racism and violence in the French police.

Several thousand people congregated at the Place de la Republique in Paris, answering a call from a pressure group seeking justice in the case of Adama Traore, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016.

Traore’s sister Assa Traore called on those attending the rally to “denounce the denial of justice, denounce social, racial, police violence”, renewing a call for an investigation into her brother’s death.

“The death of George Floyd — this African-American killed on May 25 in Minneapolis by a white policeman — is a direct echo of my brother’s death. It’s the same thing in France, our brothers are dying,” she said.

Clashes in Lyon

One demonstrator, 19-year-old Djibril Sacko expressed his frustration.

“I came to demonstrate for justice (and) we have been gassed several times then they surrounded us and things got out of hand given we couldn’t leave,” he said.

One demonstrator, 27-year-old student Elisa, said she did not routinely favour an “anti-cop discourse” but added it was “clear there is a problem of racism and fear of the police today”.

In the southeast city of Lyon, police used water cannons and tear gas at the end of a demonstration attended by about 2,000 people.

In the Mediterranean city of Marseille, police said 2,200 people demonstrated. Organisers of the rally put the figure at between 4,000-5,000.

Other rallies took place in cities from Montpellier in the south to Nantes and Bordeaux in the west.

Amnesty appeal

The rallies came at the end of week when France’s police watchdog said it had received almost 1,500 complaints against officers last year — half of them for alleged violence.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday noted the need not to “lose the youth”, as feelings run ever higher in the wake of the Floyd killing.

On Wednesday he described racism as “an illness which touches all society”.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has promised “zero tolerance” of racism in law enforcement, saying it is clear some officers “have failed in their Republican duty”.

He cited several instances of racist and discriminatory remarks that have recently come to light.

Amnesty International meanwhile appealed for “a systemic reform of police practices” in France. “The seriousness of the situation requires a global response from the authorities,” the group said in a statement.

Government spokesman Sibeth Ndiaye suggested in an interview with Saturday’s Le Monde that there should be “constructive debate” regarding race, with efforts redoubled against racial discriminations”.

Saturday’s demonstrations followed two days of protests by police officers themselves, angry at the accusations being laid against them, and what they say is a lack of government support.

Frederic Lagache of the police union Alliance said he hoped Macron would receive a delegation, as many officers felt their “honour had been injured” over the widespread criticism of the force.

COVID-19 Lockdown: Racism Protesters Should Be Charged, Says Australian PM

Aboriginal protesters perform a traditional smoking ceremony before the start of a Black Lives Matter demonstration to express solidarity with US protestors in Sydney on June 6, 2020, and demand an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody in Australia. PETER PARKS / AFP

 

 

Black Lives Matter protesters should be punished for ignoring coronavirus lockdown rules Australia’s prime minister said Thursday, sparking anger by also claiming slavery never existed in the country.

Tens of thousands of Australians demonstrated this week against systemic racism at home and in the United States, and more protests are planned for the coming days.

Critics have called for marches to be banned on health grounds, sparking debate over freedom of speech and the country’s colonial past.

Conservative leader Scott Morrison said the protests violated social-distancing rules and hampered lifting a coronavirus shutdown, endangering the economy.

Asked during a radio interview if demonstrators should be charged, he said: “I think they should.”

“I think people wanting to take this further this weekend are showing great disrespect to their fellow Australians,” he said, as Victoria state reported one demonstrator in Melbourne had tested positive for coronavirus.

The Black Lives Matter movement has resonated strongly with many in Australia — a country also wrestling with the legacy of a racist past.

During the interview, Morrison praised British explorer Captain James Cook and claimed, “there was no slavery in Australia”.

The remark was roundly rejected by historians and activists, who pointed to evidence of indentured Aboriginal workers and thousands of slaves taken from the Pacific islands to work on Australian sugar cane plantations.

Aboriginal Australians continue to be vastly over-represented in the prison population, and there have been more than 400 indigenous deaths in custody in the last few decades alone.

Morrison did not elaborate on what charges protesters face, but authorities have warned they will at least issue fines for violating restrictions on public gatherings.

Australia has seen sustained low levels of community transmission of the virus and only a handful of new cases now appear daily.

Restaurants, bars, and schools have reopened and many sports have restarted, though strict social distancing rules remain.

AFP