Fiji Sun » WORLD Leading Fiji newspaper for Fiji News, Sport and Pacific news Mon, 18 Feb 2019 07:57:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Chinese Envoy Calls For Better Peacekeeping Operations Tue, 12 Feb 2019 12:20:42 +0000 A Chinese envoy has said that several actions can be taken to improve the UN peacekeeping operations.

Speaking at a plenary meeting of the Special Committee on peacekeeping operations, Wu Haitao, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said that the UN peacekeeping operations are facing new challenges while playing an important role in maintaining international peace and security.

To improve the management of peacekeeping operations, the UN Secretariat should optimize its logistical support mechanisms, strengthen training during deployment, and enhance the capacity to deal with complex situations, said the Chinese envoy.

According to Wu, the Secretariat’s new peace and security architecture and management structure are operational now, and the new structures are expected to be effective on integration of resources, improve service management and operational efficiency.

“More attentions should be paid to the safety of peacekeepers,” he said.

Wu said that security risks and casualties among peacekeepers were on the rise, the Secretariat and the missions should formulate security rules in an integrated manner, strengthen information collection and sharing, ensure that security equipment and measures are in place, and strengthen medical ambulance capacity effectively.

Wu also said that the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations have to be strictly abided by, as well as the basic principles of peacekeeping operations.

“Principles such as sovereign equality, non-interference in internal affairs and peaceful settlement of disputes, should always be observed, ” Wu said, adding that in order to carry out their work smoothly, these are the prerequisite and guarantee for peacekeeping operations to win the trust of the member states.

Wu also highlighted the importance of political settlement, saying that it is the “core element of UN peacekeeping operations.

“Political priorities should permeate all phases of operations. Clear, viable and focused mandates should be made for peacekeeping missions, and continuous adjustments of priorities need to be undertaken at all stages in response to dynamic needs,” said the Chinese envoy.

Concluding his statement, the Chinese envoy pledged that China is ready to continue to work with the vast number of member states to further improve the UN peacekeeping system and to maintain international peace and security.

“China is a staunch supporter and participant in UN peacekeeping operations, a major troop contributor and the second largest contributor to peacekeeping assessments,” Wu added.

Today, China has some 2,500 peacekeepers serving in eight UN peacekeeping operations, Wu said, adding that 8,000 troops to the UN peacekeeping standby force have been formed by China, who have done their registrations with the UN peacekeeping standby mechanism. Some of them have already reached the level of rapid deployment.

Ever since its establishment, the China-UN Peace and Development Trust Fund has made strengthening African peacekeeping capacity-building a priority area. More than 200 trainees were received in the eight batches of projects which launched in 2018. China will continue to provide gratis military assistance to the AU to carry out independent peace activities, he added.

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City Of London Keen To Seize Opportunities From Belt And Road Initiative Sat, 09 Feb 2019 00:16:32 +0000 The City of London sees opportunities for further cooperation between the UK and China in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a top British policymaker told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“Five years on from its initial announcement, China’s Belt and Road Initiative remains an incredible vision, and a clear area for greater collaboration between the UK and China,” Catherine McGuinness, chair of the Policy and Resources Committee of the City of London Corporation, said via email.

She recalled the first Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing in 2017. That event “truly gained the world’s attention,” and since then several UK companies have paid BRI-focused visits to China to learn first-hand about the opportunities for further cooperation.

Late last year, the City of London Corporation’s Green Finance Initiative, in partnership with China’s Green Finance Committee, published a set of BRI green finance guidelines.

“The BRI is an ambitious plan, which London, and more broadly the UK financial and professional services sector, can support by being a key hub for international infrastructure investment,” said McGuinness.

She said that with its unrivaled talent pool in financial and professional services, the City of London could also play a role in areas such as green finance, consultancy, rule of law and foreign exchange.

“Partnerships between UK and Chinese companies will be key in supporting infrastructure development across the region, particularly in terms of projects and initiatives in third countries, where UK and Chinese strengths are complementary,” said McGuinness.

The City of London Corporation engages and works closely with the government, policymakers, regulators and businesses. Its work includes exploring opportunities for UK businesses around the world. McGuinness described the BRI as “the project of the century,” which London could support by being a key hub for the financing and professional services required.

“The UK is a leading international financial centre, and a country with hundreds of years of experience in infrastructure financing and countless success stories to share,” she said. “As a result, we have so much to offer the BRI, and I look forward to working with partners in China, and across the world, to ensure we play a role in this ‘project of the century’.”

McGuinness told Xinhua that the City of London Corporation encourages UK companies to discuss BRI-related issues at home and abroad. The corporation also discusses BRI-related opportunities and mutually beneficial potential cooperation ventures with the Chinese government and with industry leaders.

She said she looked forward to this year’s forum in Beijing and to hearing more about the UK companies’ involvement and successes in the BRI.

“I am confident our position as a centre for financial excellence will continue” after Britain leaves the European Union in March, she said. “But this will only be possible by continuing to work closely with international partners like China in the field of financial and professional services.”

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Polls Show Gantz Gaining On Netanyahu Thu, 31 Jan 2019 22:22:54 +0000 Opinion polls show former Israeli armed forces chief Benny Gantz as the strongest challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of Israel’s general election in April.

Four opinion polls on Israeli TV and news websites on Wednesday showed a boost for Gantz’s new centrist Israel Resilience Party at the expense of centre-left rivals. But it was still running second to Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, Reuters said.

The surveys gave Gantz’s party between 19 and 24 seats in the 120-member parliament – up from around 12 to 15 in previous polls – compared with 29 to 31 for Likud, about the same number as in earlier forecasts.


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U.S. Drops Out Of Global Corruption Index Top 20 Tue, 29 Jan 2019 21:33:23 +0000 The United States has dropped out of the top 20 “cleanest” countries for the first time since 2011, according to an annual survey released by global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

The Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

More than two-thirds of countries scored below 50 in this year’s report, with an average score of just 43.

The United States had a score of 71, down from 75 in 2017.

The four-point drop was called a “red flag” by the Berlin-based organisation, and comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing “threats to its system of checks and balances” and an “erosion of ethical norms at the highest levels of power.”

In a cross-analysis of its survey with global democracy data, TI said a link could be drawn between corruption and the health of a democracy.

Full democracies scored an average of 75 on the corruption index, flawed democracies averaged 49, and autocratic regimes averaged 30, the organisation said.

Denmark and New Zealand had the best scores on the CPI in 2018, scoring 88 and 87, while Somalia, Syria and South Sudan were at the bottom, with scores of 10, 13 and 13.

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Air Niugini Plane In Lagoon Near Chuuk Airport, Federated States Of Micronesia Fri, 28 Sep 2018 01:12:56 +0000 An Air Niugini plane has sunk after ending up in a lagoon off Weno International Airport in the Federated States of Micronesia.

Photos emerging from Papua New Guinea and FSM show boats surrounding the partly submerged plane to rescue passengers.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s Guam office confirmed that an Air Niugini plane crashed in waters in Chuuk state. It is understood that the place may have overshot Weno International Airport’s runway.

There have been no confirmed reports of serious injury.


It is understood that the Boeing 737-800 was scheduled to stop in Chuuk on its way from Pohnpei to Port Moresby.

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Quality over quantity: China re-inventing itself Fri, 09 Mar 2018 05:05:36 +0000

Beijing: When State Council Premier Li Keqiang delivered the Government Work Report before delegates at the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress on March 5, 2018, it was all about quality of growth, rather than quantity.

Unlike past work reports citing growth figures and economic success, Mr Li presented a blueprint projecting the nation’s plans for re-inventing itself in the decade ahead.

His speech began by outlining China’s emphasis on a vast range of technologies, from quantum communications, space exploration, e-commerce, mobile banking, high speed transport networks, to its nation-wide push to promote a youth driven internet innovation economy. Today China is the world’s largest investor in artificial intelligence, having upgraded and converted its once cheap export toy industry into sophisticated robotics research and development production.

Cities across China are opening innovation incubation centers, shared work space, alongside their plans for driving smart, green and blue infrastructure and transport systems.

“We have rolled out the Internet Plus Government Services model and adopted measures such as the one-stop service model,” Mr Li emphasised in his “commitment to innovation-driven development, and a focus on unlocking public creativity,” all to be heavily supported and promoted by the government in the years ahead.

Education needs to support China’s drive toward high-tech. Under plans announced in the work report, four percent of China’s GDP is being committed to education. While students in America graduate from university straddled in debt that will take lifetimes to re-pay, in China youth is a national asset that must be invested in through education aimed at preparing youth to be practical and employable. While China’s education system is fiercely competitive and often criticised by westerners as too stringent and not supporting free-flow creativity, nobody can question China’s technology innovation advances, many of which are leap-frogging the west. Nowhere is this more evident then in environmental technology.

A large part of Mr Li’s work report was devoted to environmental protection and resource conservation. China’s policy of Ecological Civilisation calls for a massive transition from fossil fuel to green energy. In the past some 80 per cent of China’s energy needs came from coal which left the nation with dirty skies, and polluted water, causing a crisis of food and health security.

By 2050 eighty percent of the nation’s energy will be green and clean. This massive programme will be driven at the outset by state fixed asset investments followed by private sector commercialisation of technologies supported through innovation, requiring an entirely new approach to education as nearly every professional and worker will need to approach services and industry with a view toward conservation rather than consumption.

Streamlining seemed to be an overarching theme of Premier Li’s government work report, with 44 percent of government red tape to be slashed, the consolidation of government functions that overlap and in turn create investor confusion. China’s future government structure may be expected to be simpler, more institutionalised, and hopefully. Establishment of an independent inspectorate for government is aimed to check corruption. After a near half decade anti-corruption campaign, the intention is to institutionalise checks and balances so that government offices can be clean, lean, and green. Officials are now subject to natural asset evaluations that determine promotion or demotion, making them very environmentally conscious. A complete change from the days when the environmental was pushed aside in favor of high growth.

Premier Mr Li’s report did not shy away from the challenges that lie ahead. While 68 million people have been pulled out from poverty, large pockets remain.

This will require new urban infrastructure and transport to address land rights that have remained a stone unturned, but key to resolving issues of medical and pension benefits for farmers.

Entire upgrades in health care are needed for a system that is overburdened unable to address the sheer volume of care required for the old and unwell.

The overconcentration of populations in coastal cities will require relocation back to villages, but to do so these villages will need to be upgraded to become cities attractive to live in. This will require smart, green and blue infrastructure for the planned “ecological cities” that will become the blueprint of China’s future.

And all of this will have to be paid for of course. However, in Premier Li’s report, even the management of funds is subject to higher scrutiny. He called for prudent monetary supply. China will not go the route of deficit spending to print money as the hallmark of America’s decade of quantitative easing that has arguably laid the path for future global financial volatility.

The emphasis of Mr Li’s work report warned against such practices and emphasised the need for stability and low risk, managed through meticulous financial micro-management rather than deregulation.

Past government work reports traditionally emphasised higher rates. Mr Li presented 6.5% as the expected growth rate for 2018, a lower threshold then the 7.1% achieved in 2017. This change of tone signals China’s newfound focus on quality rather than quantity of growth. Everything about this year’s government work report emphasised raising quality — from energy to government efficiency, from education to asset management, from nutrition to resource conservation — it was all about improving quality. It was not a work report reciting or praising the past, but rather a rational and detailed blueprint laying a pathway for the future — a future of China re-inventing itself.

(Laurence Brahm is Founding Director of Himalayan Consensus Institute, an environmental think-tank, and Senior Research Fellow at China Centre for Globalisation.)

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How Xi Pioneered Anti-Poverty Fight Fri, 09 Mar 2018 05:03:04 +0000 Over the past two decades, more than 60,000 people living in poor areas of China have settled in a new home – Minning town.

This poverty alleviation scheme was set up in 1997 by Xi Jinping, who was then deputy Party chief of Fujian province. Mr Xi was in charge of Fujian’s effort to assist Ningxia.

He proposed a resettlement programme, under which entire village communities in poorer areas such as Xihaigu would be moved to the more fertile land near the Yellow River.

Under this new initiative, the Ningxia region would receive a helping hand from the prosperous east coast province of Fujian.

The system Mr Xi pioneered in Minning is now spreading across China. The Fujian-Ningxia partnership has been operating for 20 years. In that time, 66,000 people have been relocated to Minningtown. Across Ningxia, 1.16 million people have benefited from the “Relocation and Transplantation” programme.

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President Xi: Enhance multiparty bonds Wed, 07 Mar 2018 20:59:32 +0000 Beijing: Upholding the leadership of the Communist Party of China is not discarding democracy but forming wider and more effective democracy, President Xi Jinping said last Sunday.

Mr Xi, who is also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, made the remark while attending a discussion with political advisers from the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese, China Zhi Gong Dang, China Democratic League and advisers with no party affiliation.

Mr Xi said socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era that requires strengthening the CPC-led multiparty co-operation and political consultative system, developing socialist democratic politics and striving to secure the decisive victory of building a moderately prosperous society.

He encouraged the non-Communist parties and advisers without party affiliation to increase their confidence, adopt political determination, take an active role in giving advice and reach more consensus.

During the meeting, eight political advisers elaborated on issues such as deepening reform and opening-up, diplomacy, innovation and scientific appraisal. After listening to the suggestions, Mr Xi said he was glad to talk with members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference National Committee and that relevant departments must attach great importance to their suggestions.

Over the past five years, he said, the CPC has upheld socialism with Chinese characteristics, putting forward a series of key policies, implementing a series of great measures, overcoming numerous difficulties and making historical progress.

Such progress is not easy to achieve, he said, adding that progress is the result of the CPC’s firm leadership, as well as the hard work of all the people. Non-Communist parties and those without party affiliation have also contributed to the progress, he said.

The CPC-led multiparty co-operation and political consultative system is a basic part of China and a new type of political system that grows from the nation’s soil, Mr Xi said.

The system is an integration of Marxist theory and China’s reality, aiming for fundamental benefits for the widest range of people and avoiding the disadvantages of an old political party system that presents the interests of a small group of people, Mr Xi said.

Under the Chinese system, all political parties and those without any party affiliation are united in striving for the same goals — avoiding such situations as a single party without supervision or the vicious competition and rotating governance inherent in other systems, he said.

The system makes a great contribution to the political civilisation of mankind, since it’s not only suitable for China’s reality but also accords with nation’s excellent traditional culture of selflessness and inclusiveness, Mr Xi said.

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First Session Spokesperson Calls For Reforms To Curb China’s Air Pollution Wed, 07 Mar 2018 20:50:13 +0000 The spokesperson for the national political advisory body last Friday called for the reform of China’s structures of industry, energy consumption and transportation to curb air pollution as the country shifts to high-quality growth.

“Development with high emissions and pollution affects not only the long-term economic development, but also people’s health. That is not the development we want,” Wang Guoqing, spokesperson for the first session of 13th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said at a news conference.

“Lucid waters and lush mountains are as valuable as gold and silver,” said Mr Wang, emphasising air pollution control doesn’t conflict with the effort of developing the economy and improving people’s lives.

Though achievement has been made in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region in air pollution control and people witnessed more blue skies in the capital last year, Mr Wang said the achievement is made based on “heavy prices” and thanks to favourable meteorological conditions for the dispersal of pollutants.

“When the meteorological conditions were not favorable several days ago, we all felt the air quality turn bad again,” said Mr Wang, referring to heavy smog in Beijing on Wednesday, when the capital issued a yellow alert, the third highest of a four-tier alert system.

The root reason for air pollution lies in the inefficient development mode and less environmentally friendly lifestyles. Mr Wang also called on people to lead a low-carbon life.

Air pollution control is a complicated project that takes a long time, but as long as all people attach importance to it with relentless actions to move the project forward, “we are full of confidence in winning the campaign of protecting the blue skies,” he said.

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Court Releases Man After 21 Years On Death Row Tue, 02 Feb 2016 20:29:19 +0000 An east China court on Monday announced that it had quashed the conviction of a man who was sentenced to death 21 years ago.

Chen Man, who is now 53, was released on Monday from Meilan Prison in south China’s Haikou City after the Zhejiang Higher People’s Court overturned his conviction.

Mr Chen was arrested at the end of 1992 on charges of arson and murder. He was sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve by Haikou Intermediate People’s Court in November 1994.

However, the local procuratorate deemed the sentence “too light” and urged a higher court to adjust it to death and execute Chen, according to Zhejiang court. The procuratorate’s request was rejected by Hainan Higher People’s Court in 1999, beginning a 16-year appeal ordeal for

Mr Chen and his family.

“His role in the murder is not clear and the original judgement lacks evidence, therefore, the guilty verdict cannot be confirmed,” Zhejiang court said in its statement.

The court said Mr Chen had the right to apply for State compensation.

The deputy head of Hainan higher court apologised to Mr Chen after the announcement, Yi Yanyou, Mr Chen’s attorney, was quoted as saying by news website



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Drought Closing Schools And Hospital In PNG’s Chimbu Tue, 15 Sep 2015 21:52:59 +0000 Port Moresby: The governor of Chimbu Province in Papua New Guinea says the effects of El Niño there are so severe schools are closing, public servants aren’t working and the hospital is shutting its doors.

Noah Kool says 300,000 people in the province have been affected by frosts and drought, which has caused water supplies to dry up and food gardens to be destroyed.

Mr Kool says the lack of water in Chimbu’s main town, Kundiawa, is an emergency situation.

“For our town water, [I’m] looking around for money to pump in water from another source to the town, and keep our hospital open, so we can address the diseases that come to our hospital. And help our public servants to have water so they can be ready to face the El Niño issues as well.”


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UN Issues Stark Warning On Pacific Drought Threat Tue, 15 Sep 2015 21:49:06 +0000 The United Nations says the looming El Nino threat could impact on more than four million people in the Pacific.

The UN’s Resident Co-ordinator, Osnat Lubrani, says communities and governments need to prepare now for the extreme weather changes El Niño usually triggers.

He says some countries are already implementing or drafting drought plans and the UN is ready to help co-ordinate this and to provide technical advice.

Over the coming months, countries on the equator can expect more rain, flooding and higher sea levels, presenting challenges for low-lying atolls already feeling the impacts of climate change.

Mr Lubrani says the more populous countries of the Pacific south west will see conditions get drier from now – although some are already in the grip of severe drought.

He says El Niño years characteristically feature a longer cyclone season, with more intense cyclones affecting a wider portion of the Pacific

The Pacific’s head of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Sune Gudnitz, says as many as 4.1 million people are at risk from water shortages, food insecurity and disease.


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First Look At Matt Damon From ‘Bourne 5’ Set Revealed Tue, 15 Sep 2015 20:17:35 +0000 Los Angeles: The first picture of Hollywood star Matt Damon on set of espionage thriller ‘Bourne 5’ has been revealed.

The 44-year-old actor is looking lean, mean and decidedly shirtless in the pic, which was shared by producer Frank Marshall, reported Screen Rant.

Damon is re-teaming with director Paul Greengrass on an all-new Bourne adventure, after passing on 2012’s Jeremy Renner vehicle The Bourne Legacy.

The star recently dropped several hints about the film, saying that it’ll be set in a “post-Snowden world”.

While the plot remains tightly under wraps, Damon did let slip that the story begins in Greece (“the beginning of democracy”) and ends in Las Vegas (“the most grotesque incarnation”).

Julia Stiles will be back as tech expert Nicky Parsons, and joining the sequel are screen legend Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander and Vincent Cassel – who will play a villainous assassin.

Bourne 5 is expected to release on July 16, 2016.

A separate Bourne movie based around Renner’s character Aaron Cross is also currently in development.


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How SRK Helped A Small Nation Rediscover Love? Tue, 15 Sep 2015 20:12:16 +0000 According to a report on Hugo Garcia, a young protocol officer with the ministry of foreign affairs of Timor-Leste (one of the world’s newest nations perched between Indian Ocean and the Pacific), said the road to their freedom was long and traumatic and that Timorese knew about love, but they had forgotten it in the midst of conflict.

It was Bollywood and especially Shah Rukh Khan who taught them the real meaning of love.

The report further states that it was in 1999 that Timorese first got a taste of Bollywood films.

Garcia elaborated that an Indian architect came there and promoted Indian movies and that they had only one movie hall and he managed to show them Kuch Kuch Hota Hai while the two other Shah Rukh Khan movies to follow were Dil To Pagal Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.

The officer asserted that Shah Rukh Khan ruled their hearts by that time and that he was clearly the king of romance.

After seeing these movies during their dark hours, they got to understand the meaning of love. He also stated the movies showed them how to respect a woman, taught them about sacrifice and be courageous. Times of India


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Hajj Explained: Your Simple Guide To Islam’s Annual Pilgrimage Sun, 13 Sep 2015 22:32:01 +0000 Millions of Muslims this month flock to Islam’s holiest city of Makkah (or Mecca) to perform the annual hajj pilgrimage.

Being the fifth pillar of Islam, hajj or the act of making a pilgrimage is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims.

Adult Muslims are required to perform hajj at least once in lifetime if they have the physical and financial ability.

In it, pilgrims follow the footsteps of Prophet Ibrahim and his family, said Ridwan al-Sayed, professor of Islamic studies at the Lebanese University in Beirut.

“Prophet Ibrahim preached the oneness of God, a message that was later revived and renewed by the last of all Prophets, Muhammad (peace be upon him),” Sayed told Al Arabiya News.

“Ibrahim, along with his son Ismail built the Kaaba in the holy city of Makkah. And accordingly, this pillar reflects the notion of complete submission to Allah and the Abrahamic faith.”

For many pilgrims, hajj is perceived to be a journey of the body and the soul at the same time.

The first day of hajj is 8 Zil Hijjah, the last month of the Islamic calendar. The holy journey requires the pilgrim to perform ten rituals before and during hajj.

Here are the basic steps you may want to know about hajj:

State of Ihram: This is considered the first step for any pilgrim wishing to perform hajj. To enter the state of Ihram, a pilgrim has to recite an intention to perform hajj called the Talabiya. This is when a pilgrim prepares one’s soul, mind and body for journey to the Almighty God. Entering the stage begins from the Miqat, or a place that is outside the pilgrimage area.

Men and women going on hajj adhere to a specific dress code which is aimed at showing modesty and shedding all signs of wealth. Men don unstitched white garments, while women wear normal stitched clothes and a headscarf. Women are forbidden however from wearing the burqa or niqab.

In fact, the word Ihram originates from the Arabic term Tahreem, which means prohibited. Because the state is believed to have a special essence of spiritual purity, there are certain acts that are not allowed for pilgrims. Among them are using perfumes, cutting hair or nails, and slaughtering animals.

Makkah: The Saudi Arabian city is considered Islam’s holiest site, as it holds al-Masjid al-Haram or the Grand Mosque that surrounds the Kaaba, a cuboid shaped building which Muslims believe has been put up together by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail almost 4, 000 years ago.

Muslims call the Kaaba “the house of God” and are expected to face the direction of Makkah (or Mecca) when praying in any part of the world.

Tawaf: Upon arrival to Makkah (or Mecca), Pilgrims should make Tawaf or circumambulation. It is considered an integral part of the pilgrimage, and refers to the seven times pilgrims circle around the Kaaba at the beginning, during and at the end of hajj.

The circuits are done in a counter-clockwise direction and are thought to express the unity between Muslims in worshipping one God. The rotations are marked by al-Hajar al-Aswad, or the Black Stone at the eastern corner of the Kabaa.

Sa’ey: To traverse the distance between the hills of Safa and Marwah for seven times, this is what is called Sa’ey. The term in Arabic means to walk or move quickly.

After Tawaf, pilgrims perform Sa’ey, in what commemorates the journey by Prophet Ibrahim’s wife to find water for her infant prophet Ismail, after they were left in the desert of Makkah at God’s command. The hills are now enclosed by the Grand Mosque.

Departure to Mina: Pilgrims proceed to the tent city of Mina on the first day of hajj or what is called the day of Tarwiah. They converge to Mina for prayer, which lies roughly eight kilometers away from Makkah. Pilgrims are required to remain in Mina until the sunrise of the second day of hajj, where they leave to Arafat.

They pay another trip to Mina on the third day of hajj to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil, the sixth rite of hajj.

Mount Arafat: After the dawn prayers in Mina, pilgrims start their journey to the desert planes of Arafat. Dubbed as the “most important day of hajj,” Muslims spend the day of Arafat in the vicinity of the mountain, praying and repenting.

The rituals of this day end at sunset, when pilgrims move to Muzdalifah.

Muzdalifah: After descending from Arafat, pilgrims arrive to the open land of Muzdalifah, southeast of Mina. People gather in makeshift tents and are required to perform Maghrib and Isha prayers. It is also considered the best place to collect pebbles for Ramy al-Jamarat.

Ramy al-Jamarat: The symbolic stoning of the devil, where pilgrims fling pebbles, called jamarat, at three walls, in the city of Mina. The stoning marks the third day of hajj or Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Adha: The Eid al-Adha festival, or the Feast of Sacrifice, is celebrated by Muslims who are not on pilgrimage by slaughtering animals to mark Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail upon the command of God.

Pilgrims spend the three days of Eid stoning pillars that represent the devil.

They later purchase tokens to have a sheep slaughtered in the Makkah neighbourhood of Mina.



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India Offers Tech To PICs To Cope With Climate Change Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:33:55 +0000 India today offered its expertise and technology to the 14 resource-rich countries of the strategically important South Pacific region to help them combat the threat of climate change, a major concern for the island nations.

Leaders and delegates of these countries have arrived are here to attend the second Summit of the Forum for India- Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) today in Jaipur.

In an address at a reception for FIPIC member-countries, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said India stands ready to share its expertise and technology with the island nations for mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

“India also urges the Pacific Island countries to forge a global partnership to harness technology, innovation and finance to put affordable, clean and renewable energy within the reach of our countries,” she said.

The island countries taking part in FIPIC Summit include Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Niue, Palau, Micronesia and Marshall Islands.

Identifying climate change as a major challenge, Swaraj said India has started pricing carbon, incentivising afforestation and expanding the use of low carbon and renewable technologies and would like to share the expertise with FIPIC countries.

“India also urges the Pacific Island countries to forge a global partnership to harness technology, innovation and finance to put affordable, clean and renewable energy within the reach of our countries,” she said.

Swaraj said it will be India’s endeavour to further strengthen and deepen its partnership with Pacific Islands countries.

At the Summit, India will push for greater co-operation with the island countries in sectors like oil and natural gas, mining, IT, healthcare, fishing and marine research besides many other areas.

FIPIC was formed and its first meeting held during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Suva in Fiji in November last year.

“The meeting was a great success and it has provided our leaders, at the highest level, a platform to enhance our engagement and to share ideas,” Swaraj said.

India had announced a number of new initiatives and mutually beneficial co-operation programmes during the Suva Summit last year.

These include increase in grant-in-aid to Pacific Islands countries from US$125,000 to US$200,000 annually.



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India For Satellite Tracking Unit In Fiji Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:18:55 +0000 India is keen to set up a satellite monitoring station in Fiji and gradually turn it into a hub for sharing its space technology with the Pacific Island nations.

New Delhi is seeking to step up its presence in a region, where US, Japan and Australia compete with China for geo-strategic influence.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to host leaders and representatives of 14 Pacific Island countries in New Delhi and Jaipur this week; India will offer to share its space technology applications, particularly for weather forecasting and disaster risk reduction and management.

The second FIPIC summit in New Delhi and Jaipur may see India and the Pacific Island nations seeking to step up space cooperation.

Officials told Deccan Herald that India would offer to share with the small island nations its experience in using space technology applications in communication as well as to “improve the quality of life of people”.

A mechanism for sharing data collected by satellites for monitoring climate change, disaster risk reduction and resource management may be discussed in the summit in Jaipur.

All the 14 Pacific Island nations have high climate change vulnerability and are also prone to natural disasters.

The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) had stationed a team of scientists in Fiji to track its Mars Orbiter Mission Mangalyaan after its launch from Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota in November 2013.

Sources said that if Isro could set up a permanent tracking station in Fiji, it would not have to depend on Australia and US to monitor satellites over the Pacific.  The tracking station in Fiji will help Isro track satellites and vehicles launched from India.

It will, however, be an important strategic asset in a region, where China is steadily expanding its geo-strategic influence



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PM Modi Says ‘Optimistic’ About Pacific Islands Summit Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:01:30 +0000 Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday welcomed the delegates of the Second Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) Summit to be held in Jaipur on August 21, saying he was “very optimistic” about the summit.

In tweets, Modi said: “I am very optimistic about FIPIC Summit. Am sure it will strengthen India’s bond with the Pacific island nations.”

Later, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj welcomed the 14 leaders who arrived in India for the summit.

In an address to the FIPIC leaders, she said: “You may be far from us geographically but you have always had a special place in our hearts”, according to tweets posted by external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup.

“India & Pacific Island countries are at the forefront of facing consequences of the adverse impact of climate change,” she said.

“We have been sharing r experience and expertise as well as intellectual, financial and technical resources with Pacific countries.”

“I hope you are also able to see and feel some of the rich diversity of India during your visits to Agra and Jaipur,” she said.

She thanked the Pacific family for their support for India’s quest to become a permanent member in an expanded UN Security Council.

She also thanked the Pacific family for helping declare June 21 as International Day of Yoga and for celebrating it with enthusiasm, Swaraj tweeted.

“India stands ready to share its expertise and technologies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change with the Pacific family,” she said.



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Stakes High For Mahinda Rajapaksa As Sri Lanka Botes Tue, 18 Aug 2015 00:20:47 +0000 Mahinda Rajapaksa is on the campaign trail. In the run-up to a crucial parliamentary election (overnight Fiji time), he is doing what he does best: making speeches, holding children, talking to the elderly and, inevitably these days, grinning for selfies.

In Kantale, a small town in the eastern Trincomalee district, about 6,000 people have turned out to see the veteran politician.

“He is the leader that brought dignity to this country … we could hold our heads high because of him. He took on terrorism and was the first leader ever to defeat terrorism,” said Chandrasiri Gamalath, a 47-year-old paddy farmer who had traveled 40km to see Rajapaksa in action.

The stakes are high for Rajapaksa, who was ousted as president after calling a snap election in January with the aim of winning a third term. If he, and his numerous relatives, cannot gather genuine mass support in this poll, his comeback bid will have failed.

“There is unfinished business from January. Does the country want the Rajapaksas back in some shape or form?” asked Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, a well-known local analyst.

The most recent surveys indicated only moderate support for the 69-year-old candidate. “There doesn’t appear to be a big groundswell,” Savanaramuttu said.

Rajapaksa came to power in 2005, led his country’s military to a bloody victory over violent Tamil separatists four years later and surfed a wave of popularity among the Sinhala majority to win again in 2010. He then had the constitution changed to allow the third term he hoped to win in January.

However, allegations of corruption, violent intimidation of political opponents, attacks on journalists, growing resentment among Tamils and mounting sectarian violence led to concern at home and abroad. The benefits of economic growth did not reach many poorer, rural communities, a key support base. The appointment of three brothers, a nephew and a son to key posts prompted charges of nepotism. The constitutional changes led to accusations of authoritarianism.

Even so, few observers predicted victory for Maithripala Sirisena, who was minister of health, when he announced he would stand against the incumbent president.

And few believed the Rajapaksa clan would go quietly if defeated. But Sirisena won by six per cent and the transfer of power occurred without problems.

The current campaign took place against a background of multiple divisions in the island nation of 22m. Not only is there a rift between the Sinhala majority and ethnic or religious minorities but there is personal animosity between president Sirisena and his predecessor – the split within the once dominant Sri Lanka Freedom party. There are broader regional issues too. Rajapaksa tilted towards China in his foreign policy, pleasing a section of the business community, but prompting deep concern among others.

The former president was banking on his nationalist credentials to propel him back into parliament at the head of a powerful bloc of loyalist MPs. A strong showing would allow him to claim the post of prime minister, held by long-term rival Ranil Wickremesinghe, leader of the United National party.

The memory of the 26-year civil war, which ended bloodily in 2009, looms large.

When Rajapaksa, wearing his trademark earth brown shawl and holding a gold cylindrical talisman in hand, met supporters at a temple in Kantale before addressing the rally in the town, some wept, telling Rajapaksa how they had lived in fear of their lives during the war. Several described nights spent in jungles, clutching children and hiding in trenches.

The former president, who has been accused by human rights activist of allowing the Sri Lankan army to commit war crimes during the final stages of the civil war, listened patiently and promised: “Don’t worry, we will look after you.”

In campaign speeches, Rajapaksa’s message was simple: renewed civil conflict is inevitable if Wickremesinghe and his coalition partners keep power.

“You know what this country was when I took over in 2005, two-thirds of the coastline were not under the control of the government. I am happy that I was able to give back the chance to the people of the north and east [of Sri Lanka] to live without fear.

“When groups funded by dollars are trying to defeat us, I am humbled to see the working-class people pushing us to victory,” said Rajapaksa, who has frequently charged the US and other foreign powers with stirring up opposition to him.

A United Nations investigative report into the atrocities committed by both sides during the final army assault on the strongholds of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will be published this year.

Yet, compared with the intensity of the battle for the presidency in January, this campaign was low key and insiders from the Rajapaksa camp admit that, despite the public bravado, the former president is not on his best form.

Some aides blame the effort he and his supporters made to overcome stiff resistance from President Sirisena just to get onto the ballot paper.

Sirisena finally gave way, but has said he would not chose Rajapaksa as prime minister whatever the result of the elections.

The split within the Sri Lankan Freedom party has also had a big effect.

One recent survey found Wickremesinghe heading the polls nationally by almost 10% with limited support for Rajapaksa among minorities.

“[Tamils] feel that they [Sirisena and Wickremesinghe] are more amenable to minority issues,” said Abraham Sumanthiran, a Tamil former parliamentarian.

Selliah Bavanandan, who once fought with the violent Tamil separatists against Sri Lankan forces, said Tamils could not trust Rajapaksa.

“The change in January was good for us,” said the 38-year-old from Mullaitivu district, which was devastated in the final days of the civil war. “We can now live without fear … After the war, the Rajapaksa government treated us like enemies, not like people of the same country.”



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DMZ Visit Wows Media Delegation Fri, 22 May 2015 00:08:35 +0000 No visit to the Korean Peninsula is complete without a tour of the demilitarised zone or DMZ – the 250 kilometre strip of land that separates North and South and acts as a de facto border barrier.

It was where I found myself on Day Two of the Korean Foundation programme with 28 other media representatives from other parts of the world.

The media delegation moves on to visit the Changduk Palace in Seoul City before flying to Jeju Island. Jeju Island is also declared world heritage site and was also voted world’s seventh-most beautiful place.

The visiting delegation will attend the Jeju Forum media session on Korean unification and the role of international media.

The DMZ is 44 kilometres or an hour drive from Seoul and winds 241km (155 miles) across the Korean Peninsula from East to West, dividing South Korea from North Korea.

The DMZ cuts the Korean Peninsula roughly in half, crossing the 38th parallel on an angle, with the west end of the DMZ lying south of the parallel and the east end lying north of it. It was created as part of the Korean Armistice Agreement between North Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and the United Nations Command forces in 1953.

The media delegation had to go through a series of identity and security checsk before the entry to Camp Bonifas, which leads to the joint security area (JSA) headquarters.

Camp Bonifas was a United Nations Command military post located 400 metres south of the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone. It was 2400 meters south of the military demarcation line and lies within the Joint Security Area (JSA), also known as Panmunjom.

Camp Bonifas was home to the United Nations Command Security Battalion – Joint Security Area, whose primary mission was to monitor and enforce the Armistice Agreement of 1953 between North and South Korea. Republic of Korea and United States Forces Korea soldiers (known as “security escorts”) conduct the United Nations Command DMZ Orientation Programme tours of the JSA and surrounding areas.

The camp, formerly known as Camp Kitty Hawk, was renamed on August 18, 1986, in honour of U.S. Army Captain Arthur G. Bonifas (posthumously promoted to major), who along with 1Lt. Mark T. Barrett (posthumously promoted to Captain), were killed by North Korean soldiers.

The Military Demarcation Line forms the border between South Korea (the Republic of Korea) and North Korea (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea). It was returned to the Republic of Korea in 2006.

The visit to the Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjom is the entrance into a hostile area and the possibility of injury or death as a direct result of enemy action.

The JSA is neutral, but divided and guarded by United Nations Command Military personnel on one side (South) and the Korean People’s Army on the other (North).

Visitors are not allowed to cross the Military Demarcation line. South Korean (ROK) soldiers provide close security to visitors at JSA, which oversees the border of North Korea.

The media delegation was constantly reminded not to take photographs until permitted as most of DMZ is a no-photography zone. Live recordings or interviews are strictly prohibited.

South and North Korea have seen 21 family reunions post-Korean war. The family reunion only involves South Koreans visiting the North.

By far around 1000 families have taken part in the family reunion programme.



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