By: Ricardo Blackman, CDN Barbados Correspondent –
Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:
The Freundel Stuart administration has embarked on a major project aimed at res cuing the island’s youth from a life of crime and violence. Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley announced on Monday the establishment of CitUnity, an outreach programme targeting troubled communities in the City.
Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica are the first countries to access funding from the United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Partnership Fund (UKCIF) as the board of directors of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has approved a grant of one hundred and eighty six thousand pounds sterling (US$245,000) to assist Antigua and Barbuda in the rehabilitation of its road network. A grant of seven hundred and ninety four thousand pounds sterling (US$1.047 million) was also approved top assist Dominica with post Tropical Storm Erika recovery efforts.
Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:
With over 50 physical site locations in 17 English-speaking Caribbean countries, the University of the West Indies (UWI) is well represented throughout the region. Now, UWI is set to expand globally. According to Pro Vice Chancellor and Principal of the UWI Open Campus, Dr. Luz Longsworth, the University plans to take its operations into Latin America and Asia.
St. Lucia-born international model Mala Bryan, who launched a collection of fashionable black dolls in 2015, has been criticized by customers that the dolls are “too dark” and probably wouldn’t sell. Bryan’s “Malaville” line is composed of four stunning dolls that come in several different shades of brown, each with her own back story, including career and hobbies. However, not everyone is a fan. One customer, C. Lincoln, commented on Bryan’s Maisha doll, which has the darkest complexion of the four, writing “I think that one doll (Maisha doll) is a bit too dark. That’s like the Sudanese doll. I think it’s safe to say that’s the least best-selling. Keep the other three and create accessories etc. Keep doing what you do sistah.”
Dateline Roseau, DOMINICA:
The Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerritt, announced during his budget presentation on Tuesday that contrary to earlier reports, the current pricing thresholds for the country’s citizenship by investment programme will remain un changed for 2016.
Dateline Kingston, JAMAICA:
Minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, has commended Jamaican business leaders for participating in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Review Commission. Johnson Smith praised the leaders for their demonstrated interest to ensure that Jamaica’s path to realizing economic growth and job creation is “well cemented” with the nations closest to the island.
Dateline Basseterre, ST. KITTS:
On july 8, 2016. The executive board of the International monetary Find (IMF) concluded the Article 1V consultation with St. Kitts and Nevis and considered and endorsed the staff appraisal without a meeting. St. Kitts and Nevis successfully exited the post-programme monitoring framework in October, 2015, maintaining favourable macroeconomic performance and a broadly stable financial system. The economy continued its strong growth at around 5 per cent, recording the strongest growth in the region over 2013-2015.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris is reporting improved economic performance for the first quarter of 2016. “Revised data from the Statistics Department revealed that for the first quarter of 2016, real GDP was estimated to grow by about 3.3 per cent. Activities in tourism and wholesale and retail sectors are expected to strengthen growth in the second half of 2016.”
A CDN Special Report by Ricardo Blackman in Barbados –
During the recently concluded general election on June 6 in St Lucia, some political analysts have seen the appointment of Saudi Arabian billionaire, Walid Juffali, to the International Maritime Organization as St Lucia’s permanent representative there as one of the contributing factors to St Lucia Labour Party’s crushing defeat.
It had been claimed by the opposition United Workers Party that Juffali had no competence in maritime affairs and had not attended any meetings of the organization and therefore should have been fired.
It has been said that Jufalli sought the position to claim diplomatic immunity which would have shielded him in a pending acrimonious divorce scheduled to be heard in the British High Courts.
News reports carried in the British press had indicated that in seeking diplomatic immunity, Juffali sought to avoid paying his ex-wife, Pirelli Calendar Girl, Christina Estrada, 53, alimony.
Estrada, who was divorced from Juffali in Saudi Arabia in 2014, had claimed that her 60 year old ex-husband had cut the number of staff at her 100 million pound sterling mansion near Windsor Castle.
The ex-wife also demanded that Jufalli “urgently” handed over a 10 million pound sterling blue diamond ring because information received by her had indicated that he was critically ill in hospital in Switzerland.
Demonstrating that many Caribbean political leaders seek office to hob-nob with the rich and famous to benefit therefrom, the St Lucia Labour Party appointed Juffali chairman of the St Lucia Citizenship By Investment programme.
However, on assuming office on June 6, newly elected Prime Minister Allan Chastanet, told St Lucians that Juffali’s diplomatic status at the International Maritime Organization was under review, indicating that his posting may be withdrawn.
Meanwhile, in the sister territory of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the money grabbing instinct of Caribbean leaders came to the fore once again when former Prime Minister James Mitchell made it pellucidly clear in 2001 that he was unwilling to give priority to hundreds of estate workers who were awaiting severance payment of an estimated $3 million for a seventeen year period.
Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of the Unity Labour Party had told Mitchell and his defeated party members that they would not benefit from their gratuity and pensions until the estate workers had received their severance.
Reports indicate that Mitchell privately wrote the then Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham of the Bahamas and the Commonwealth Secretary saying that Gonsalves was unlawfully holding up the retirement benefits of former National Democratic Party parliamentarians, including himself.
Gonsalves recalled that while on a flight en route to England with Mitchell and Tim Hector of Antigua, Mitchell turned to Hector and said: “Tim, tell Ralph to pay me my gratuity and pension. I worked hard for them.’
It has been reported that Mitchell said in a fit of anger: ” These same workers would turn round and kick in your butt, Mark my words. You would learn that they only remember their last meal.”
CDN understands that billionaire Juffali died in a Zurich hospital recently after a long battle with cancer.
By: Ricardo Blackman, CDN Barbados Correspondent –
Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:
Crime and gun violence are so great a concern of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration that Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is attending a multisectorial consultation this morning to come up with solutions to address the social problems. Stuart said the government “had been watching some signs in the society that have been causing the administration considerable worry.”
Some taxpayers are still awaiting their income tax refunds from government. Minister of Finance, Chris Sinckler said the government had made considerable progress in paying out the claims, adding that they had a bad year with the 2013 returns ion the various taxes.
Dateline George Town, CAYMAN ISLANDS:
Two expatriate lawyers who are in a legal same-sex marriage, have won their immigration appeal in the Cayman Islands. Dr. Leo Raznovich is now a legal dependent on his spouse’s work permit, settling the question once and for all that Cayman Islands law provides for legally married people, regardless of gender, to be dependents, provided the usual qualifying criteria is met. The Immigration Appeals Tribunal found that the Cayman Islands Constitution leaves no room to discriminate against same-sex couples and the current legislation already provides room to grant the application made by Raznovich’s spouse who works with a local law firm.
Dateline St. Georges, GRENADA:
Grenadians are likely to vote in a referendum to change the island’s constuitution in October, but the final decision lies with the Keith Mitchell ad ministration, the Chairman of the Constitution Reform Advisory Committee (CRAC), Dr. Francis Alexis has said. Last week, the Senate approved the eight Bills that would allow for the change to the Grenada Constitution once two thirds of the voter population approve the measure. Parliament has also passed legislation that allows the island to replace the London-based Privy Council with the Trinidad-0based Caribbean Court of Justice as its final court.
Dateline St. John’s, ANTIGUA:
Antigua and Barbuda has been reprimanded for failing to honour its obligations and to grant Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) nationals an indefinite stay stamp immediately upon their arrival in the country. Currently, when OECS citizens arrive on island, they must present themselves to the Immigration Department where they must apply and pay a fee before indefinite status is granted. “The free movement is supposed to be what it is”, Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules told OBSERVER Media at the end of the second OECS Assembly. We have raised these concerns with the Cabinet and Prime Minister who has said the matter will be addressed.”
Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:
St. Lucia’s representative to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Dr. Walid Juffali, died in Zurich on Wednesday, following a lengthy battle with cancer, the Daily Mail (UK) has reported. Arabic daily newspaper Oza, has also reported that the Saudi billionaire was receiving treatment at a Swiss hospital where he died. Juffali’s name came into focus when the British Press reported that he was appointed a St. Lucia’s diplomat to avoid a divorce matter that was brought against him by his ex-super model wife. The former St. Lucia Labour Party government, headed by Dr. Kenny Anthony came out several days later to confirm that he was representing St. Lucia at the IMO.. But that government was heavily criticized since it was later noted that Juffali was appointed a diplomat after his ex-wife Destrada Estrada had filed legal proceedings against him.
The United States has made it clear to the new government of St. Luc ia that the ongoing failure to bring justice to those responsible within the local police force for the gross violation of human rights, prevents the US from reconsidering the sanctions imposed on the Royal St. Lucia Police Force under the Leahy Law.
In the latest in a series of embarrassing articles concerning the new Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Partricia Scotland, Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper reported that leaked documents raise questions about whether she is fit for public office. According to an article by Guy Adams, the new head of the Commonwealth Secretariat is “spending appalling amounts of public money” self-promoting herself and her cronies.” In the meantime, the Commonwealth, which has an annual budget of around 16 million pounds sterling (US$21 million) is in a financial hole.. According to its latest published accounts, there is a six point seven million pound sterling (US$8.6 million) hole in its pension fund, a sum greater than its entire annual wage bill.
By: Ricardo Blackman, CDN Barbados Correspondent –
Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:
Barbados is under threat from a number of “social demons”that must be exorcised, otherwise they could bring chaos and misery to the country, according to Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. Addressing a national consultation on society, Stuart identified alienation, frustration, insecurity and disillusionment as “threats” from which the island needed urgent protection in order to maintain faith in the future. “If faith in the future is lost, chaos will ensue and will become a collection of miserable people” he told the gathering of Cabinet ministers, Opposition Parliamentarian Cynthia Forde, church leaders and representatives of non-governmental organisations. He noted that the family, the church and the school which are the institutions that have to help tackle these dangers were themselves under tremendous pressure.
Government’s newly appointed business facilitator has made it clear that while he will seek to improve communication between government departments and the business sector, he will not act as a tribunal or arbitrator, making final decisions on outstanding matters. Senator Darcy Boyce, in an address to the Barbados International Business Association, said:”My role is to ensure misunderstandings are avoided, responses are obtained in a reasonable time, and that the processing of projects, programmes and business applications receive equitable treatment.”
Dateline Basseterre, ST. KITTS:
The St. Kitts & Nevis Team Unity Cabinet ministers on Saturday, July 23rd, engaged in an assessment of their performance and addressed matters requiring their attention. Prime Minister Dr,. Timothy Harris had this to say when asked why a retreat at this time and if the Team Unity administration is in trouble:”I want to make it clear that the Team Unity cabinet over which I preside is very strong and united and it has always been that way since day one. Not one member of the Team Unity administration has expressed any discomfort whether publicly or privately with the working of this government. I think that is very important.” However, the Opposition St. Lucia Labour Party is stressing that all is not well in the Team Unity camp. Senator Nigel Carty claims Prime Minister Harris is “on the outs” with other members of the Cabinet.
Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:
Following the announcement on Monday that Deputy Speaker in the St. Lucia Parliament, Sarah Flood Beauburn has been appointed Minister in the Ministry of finance, economic growth, job creation, external affairs and the public service, a cabinet reshuffle will now be mandatory before the next sitting of the assembly. Flood Beauburn will be responsible for family rights, human rights and external affairs, along with Bradley Felix (commerce, industry, investment, enterprise development and consumer affairs); Dominic Fedee (tourism, information and broadcasting) and Senator Dr. Ubaldus Raymond (minister in the ministry of finance) brings the total number of ministers under the umbrella of the office of the Prime Minister to five (5).
Dateline George Town, CAYMAN ISLANDS:
Justice Ingrid Mangatal has rejected the application by activists in the Cayman Islands to overturn a decision of the National Conservation Council (NCC) regarding the controversial release of millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes in Grand Cayman. However, this does not mean the bio-engineered insects will be released in the Cayman Islands just yet in the absence of her written ruling setting out the basis for her decision; the attorneys representing the applicants asked for a further stay to give them a chance to appeal her decision once they see the ruling.
Brazil’s central bank, with its recently appointed president, kept interest rates on hold for the eighth consecutive meeting on Wednesday as expected, despite a deep recession, as the new board cited concern about stubbornly high inflation and uncertainty surrounding economic reforms.
(Merco Press) – In a longer and more detailed decision statement than in the past, the central bank said its nine-member board voted unanimously to leave the benchmark Selic rate at 14.25%, a nearly 10-year high. The rate has remained unchanged for a year.
“Taken together, the basic scenario and current balance of risks indicate there is no room to flexibilize monetary policy,” read the statement, released online shortly after the policy meeting ended.
The bank’s new governor Ilan Goldfajn, who took office in June, is aiming to improve communication and recover the credibility of a central bank that has failed to hit the 4.5% center of its official inflation target since 2010. In a statement that differed greatly from the laconic ones of the recent past, the bank said its own 2017 inflation forecast had dropped to the target of around 4.5%, (with a two percentage points tolerance) from a previous reading of 4.7%.
However it warned of lingering risks to reaching that goal, including the possibility that persistently high inflation (food, and some indexed administrative prices) could increase future expectations for sustained price rises.
Economists were divided on whether the bank could cut rates as soon as its next meeting in late August or wait until October. Minutes of Wednesday’s monetary council meeting will be released next Tuesday.
Most emerging-market economies, including recession-hit Russia and China, are forecast to either cut rates or keep monetary policy loose as the world economy continues its long and sluggish recovery.
The central bank said uncertainty about the interim government’s capacity to approve bold austerity measures and persistently high short-term inflation could complicate 0efforts to reach its inflation goal next year. Inflation in the last twelve months to June was 8.84% down from 10.71% in January.
Brazil’s fiscal deficit stood at 10.08% of GDP in May, up from 2.6% in May 2013.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said the UK will not begin official negotiations on leaving the EU this year as she held talks with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. Speaking in Berlin on Wednesday, the PM said securing a “sensible and orderly departure” from the EU would take time, but she insisted the UK would not “walk away” from Europe and wanted to retain the “closest economic links”.
(Merco Press) – Mrs. Merkel said the two sides desired to get the “best result for Britain” but urged more clarity on timing. Earlier, a military guard of honor greeted Mrs May, who succeeded David Cameron a week ago.
At a joint press conference, Mrs. May said the UK was in no rush to trigger the two-year process of leaving the EU – telling reporters that although “this would not please everyone” it was right to hold off until the UK’s “objectives were clear”.
The process of preparing the UK for Brexit would require “serious and detailed work” but, irrespective of this, she said the UK was determined to maintain strong trading, economic and security links with Germany, which she described as “a vital partner and special friend”.
“Of course, the nature of our relationship is going to change as the UK leaves the EU, but we both want to maintain the closest possible economic relationship between our countries and I believe that is what German and British businesses want too,” she said.
“So it’s good that we start from such a strong foundation and a position where both our countries believe in liberal markets and free trade and these should be the principles that guide us in the discussions ahead.”
Asked how they had got on at their first meeting, Mrs. May said they were two women who want to “get on with the job and deliver the best possible results for the people of the UK and Germany”.
Mrs. Merkel said she did not expect there to be any formal negotiations at this stage and it was “understandable” the UK needed a period of time to prepare.
But she said there was a need for a “certain timeline” with regard to Britain’s exit and hoped the UK would begin to “define its principles” with regard to the process of activating Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the official, legal mechanism for leaving.
“We have to listen to what Britain wants and find what the right answer is,” she said. “Britain does not want an impasse, Germany does not want an impasse and the EU does not want an impasse”.
It has emerged that the UK prime minister presented two books on the British outdoors to her German counterpart as a birthday present, reflecting their shared interest in hiking.
The gifts for Mrs. Merkel, who turned 62 on Sunday, were a new edition of Coast To Coast With Wainwright – a pictorial guide to illustrate Alfred Wainwright’s walking route between northern England’s west and east coasts – and a copy of Great Mountain Days In Snowdonia, which includes a guide to walks in the National Park.
PM May is due to have talks with France’s Francois Hollande on Thursday. Ahead of the visits – Mrs. May’s first overseas trips as prime minister – Downing Street announced the UK was to relinquish its upcoming six-month presidency of the Council of the EU.
The UK had been scheduled to take up the presidency of the Council of the EU – which rotates on a six-monthly basis between the 28 EU countries, giving each the opportunity to shape the agenda – in the second half of 2017.
But Mrs. May has decided that Britain should skip its turn in the light of the Brexit vote in June’s referendum.
By Anthea Cumberbatch | CDN Barbados
Dateline Havana, CUBA:
The US Department of Transportation has authorized Federal Express Company (FedEx) to offer cargo services to Cuba, thus becoming the first entity of its kind so far with the green light to carry out such operations. FedEx flights will fly to Cuba once a day from Monday through Friday starting January 15 next year, and it will operate between Miami International Airport and Matanzas, in western Cuba.
The US authorization joins other similar permits to six US airlines to start regular flights to different Cuban provinces, as announced on July 7 in Havana by US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. Authorized US airlines include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines.
Dateline Ocho Rios, JAMAICA:
Minister of tourism, Edmund Bartlett, says Jamaica is close to finalising a multi-destination marketing arrangement with Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Speaking in a recent interview, the minister said that an agreement has already been signed with Cuba and he expects to conclude a deal with Mexico before the end of July. Discussions are under way with the Dominican Republic. “We have talked about this at length, but I can safely tell you that the multi-destination marketing and tourism strategy is picking up steam in the region,” Bartlett said. “The moment this happens, it would mean that the four major tourism destinations of the Caribbean would have signed multi-destination agreements, certainly by December (2016), which will bring a new opportunity into the region for collaboration,” he pointed out. He said the collaboration “will be at a level that has never been seen before” and will include joint marketing and joint airlift arrangements.
Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:
The United States has made it clear to the new government in Saint Lucia that the ongoing failure to bring to justice those responsible within the local police force for gross violations of human rights prevents the US from reconsidering the sanctions imposed on the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) under the Leahy Law. “We have made it clear to the current Saint Lucian administration and prior administrations that the government of Saint Lucia’s failure to bring to justice those responsible within the RSLPF for gross violations of human rights through credible judicial processes and prosecutions, where appropriate, prevents the United States from reconsidering the suspension of assistance to the RSLPF,” a State Department official said on Tuesday.
As a result of “credible evidence of extrajudicial killings of 17 people in 2010-2011 by the RSLPF”, the US Department of State suspended assistance to the local police and cancelled the visas of a number of senior police officers, denying them travel to the US. “In accordance with Department policy and US law, those foreign security force units credibly implicated in gross violations of human rights are ineligible for US assistance, unless the Department determines and reports that the host government is taking effective steps to bring those responsible to justice,” the State Department noted.
Dateline TURKS AND CAICOS
The population of the Turks and Caicos Islands could reach 55,498 people by the year 2027 – compared with 32,199 in 2012. This according to the medium projection in a joint report on Wednesday today by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) sub-regional headquarters for the Caribbean and the Statistics Department of the Turks and Caicos Government.
Net migration accounts for 68 percent of this projected increase with natural change (births less deaths) accounting for the remaining 32 percent. Immigration of people from neighbouring countries seeking employment created by the development of tourism has been the main driver of population growth in the Turks and Caicos Islands since 1980 when the population was just 7,413.
Dateline Roseau, DOMINICA:
The executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the 2016 Article IV consultation with Dominica. The Dominican economy was hit hard by tropical storm Erika in August 2015, with output estimated to have declined by 3.9 percent in 2015. While tourism activities have largely normalized following the resumption of full operations at the main airport, other sectors will likely need more time to be fully restored. Agricultural output and manufacturing declined sharply, as the storm affected crops and access to arable land, and prompted the closure of operations of the main industrial plant. In addition, the protracted decline of banks’ credit to the private sector remains a drag on economic activity, underpinned by high non-performing loans. Inflation has remained subdued, mainly as a result of falling fuel prices. Notwithstanding weak exports of agriculture and tourism, the 2015 current account deficit remained contained on the back of lower oil imports.
Executive directors of the IMF noted the economic impact Dominica sustained and commended the authorities for their policy response. The article contains an assessment by the directors who also agree that enhancing growth prospects requires higher private sector participation and improving the business environment. To this end, they encouraged the authorities to continue pursuing structural reforms that facilitate an efficient operation of markets. In particular, they emphasized the importance of reforms to boost external competitiveness, including in the areas of labour markets, export diversification, access to finance, and energy costs.
Dateline Thomas, USVI:
The US Virgin Islands (USVI) Department of Health (DOH) has reported nine new cases of zika in the territory. According to the weekly surveillance report, the total number of confirmed positive cases in the territory is now 56 — 18 cases on St Croix and 38 cases on St Thomas. Out of the 797 pregnant women that have been tested for zika, nine are presumptive positive. Additionally, there are currently 23 cases of dengue in the territory (13 on St Croix, eight on St Thomas, and two on St John).
Commissioner of the Department of Health, Michelle S. Davis, PhD, stated, “Based on current research, greater than 90% of all pregnant women who test presumptive positive for zika will deliver an infant free from the development of microcephaly.” Davis added, “The Department of Health will be hosting the first public forum on zika, on St Croix, at the University of the Virgin Islands on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. This will be an opportunity for the public, including pregnant women and their partners, to learn more about zika, the techniques they can use to reduce becoming infected and ask questions. This is a first in a series of educational efforts for the community.”
(Reuters) – Germany is likely to face more Islamist attacks, its interior minister said on Wednesday, although he played down any link between the government’s open-door refugee policy and Monday’s ax assault aboard a train in Bavaria.
Anti-immigrant party Alternative for Germany (AfD) has seized on the train attack to criticize Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migrant policy, under which some 1.1 million people entered Germany in 2015, many fleeing war in Syria and beyond.
“You cannot say there is no connection between refugees and terrorism, but the danger was high before and remains high, regardless of questions about refugees,” interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said.
A 17-year-old who had sought asylum in Germany was shot dead by police after severely wounding four people from Hong Kong who were traveling on the train near the city of Wuerzburg and injuring another woman while fleeing the scene.
The perpetrator was initially thought to be Afghan but de Maiziere said on Wednesday there were indications he was from Pakistan. Officials have said the attacker came to Germany as an unaccompanied minor and registered as a refugee in June 2015 at Passau on the Austrian border.
The train attack came just four days after a Tunisian delivery man drove a truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in the French city of Nice, killing 84 people. Militant group Islamic State has claimed both attacks.
De Maiziere said the government had introduced a range of measures to improve security in the last year but warned that Germany should brace itself for further attacks.
“Like several EU countries, like the whole EU, Germany is also in the target area of international terrorism … the situation is serious,” de Maiziere told reporters.
Investigations so far pointed to the train attacker being a “lone wolf” who had been spurred into action by Islamic State propaganda, said de Maiziere.
Police found a hand-painted Islamic State flag in his room and a letter he appeared to have written to his father which officials said read “And now pray for me that I can get revenge on these non-believers, pray for me that I go to heaven”.
Islamic State posted a video, described by de Maiziere as authentic, in which a man whom it identifies as the refugee vows to carry out a suicide mission and urges others to do the same.
It is unclear how the youth became radicalized. He was living with a foster family and had a part-time job at a bakery.
De Maiziere said Germans would have to get used to more video surveillance and police officers on the streets, and also urged mosques to help Muslims integrate.
“We need the active cooperation of Muslims living here, including the mosque communities working here. They, too, must make a contribution to integration, to prevention and to spotting the radicalization process early on,” he said.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Paul Carrel; Editing by Caroline Copley and Catherine Evans)
PARIS (Reuters) – French lawmakers approved a six-month rollover of emergency rule on Wednesday in the wake of last week’s truck attack in Nice, the third deadly assault in 18 months for which Islamist militants have claimed responsibility.
President Francois Hollande’s Socialist government is under intense pressure over security since last week’s attack, in which a Tunisian man mowed through a Bastille Day crowd, killing 84 people before he was shot dead by police.
The extension of extra search-and-arrest powers for police was approved by 489 votes to 26 shortly before dawn in France’s National Assembly, the lower house of parliament.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, jeered by crowds at a remembrance ceremony on Monday and criticized by political opponents over the attack, called for national unity as he presented the emergency rule bill overnight.
“We must remain united and focused because we must be strong in the face of this threat,” he said, accusing political foes of unseemly exploitation of the tragedy before the dead have even been buried.
Christian Estrosi, head of the regional government in the area around Nice, renewed charges of serious security failings and inadequate policing. He has demanded an inquiry.
HOLLANDE UNDER PRESSURE
Emergency rule has been in place since attacks on Paris last November in which Islamist militants killed 130 people. In January 2015, 17 people were killed in attacks that began with the shooting of journalists working for Charlie Hebdo, a satirical publication that had published cartoons mocking Islam.
In response to demands from the main right-wing opposition party, Les Republicains, the rollover of emergency rule was extended for six months, to late January 2017, rather than the three months proposed by Hollande’s government.
The emergency regime, due to be examined by the upper house Senate later on Wednesday before becoming law, allows police to search homes and arrest people without prior consent from judges. It also allows them to tap computer and phone communications more freely.
The attacks have further weakened Hollande’s chances of winning re-election next year, already damaged by his failure to bring down unemployment.
Defending his government’s record, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told Le Monde newspaper in an interview that even with all the measures being taken, “there can never be zero risk.”
Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the Nice attack, although no firm evidence has yet emerged that the 31-year-old attacker had direct contact with the group.
France has said it will step up its involvement in the U.S.-led coalition attacking bases of the militant group in Iraq and Syria. Its defense and foreign ministers are currently in the United States meeting other coalition members to discuss how to increase military efforts against IS.
(Additional reporting by Matthias Galante in Nice; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey will announce emergency measures on Wednesday to try to shore up stability and prevent damage to the economy as it purges thousands of members of the security forces, judiciary, civil service and academia after an abortive coup.
Around 50,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended or detained since the military coup attempt, raising tensions across the country of 80 million which borders Syria’s chaos and is a Western ally against Islamic State.
Academics were banned from traveling abroad on Wednesday in what a Turkish official said was a temporary measure to prevent the risk of alleged coup plotters in universities from fleeing. State TRT television said 95 academics had been removed from their posts at Istanbul University alone.
“Universities have always been crucial for military juntas in Turkey and certain individuals are believed to be in contact with cells within the military,” the official said.
President Tayyip Erdogan blames the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for Friday night’s attempted coup, in which more than 230 people were killed as soldiers commandeered fighters jets, military helicopters and tanks to try to overthrow the government.
Erdogan has vowed to clean the “virus” responsible for the plot from all state institutions. The depth and scale of the purges have raised concern among Western allies that Erdogan is trying to suppress all dissent, and that opponents unconnected with the plot will be caught in the net.
He will chair meetings in his palace on Wednesday of the cabinet and the National Security Council, after which a series of emergency measures are expected to be announced.
In a sign of how shaken Turkey’s leadership has been by the coup attempt, with dozens of generals arrested as well as Erdogan’s aide de camp, government ministers and top officials have not been briefed in advance of the meetings.
“The cabinet meeting is classified at the highest level for national security reasons. The palace will give ministers a dossier just beforehand,” one senior official told Reuters.
“Ministers do not yet know what is going to be discussed.”
Around a third of Turkey’s roughly 360 serving generals have been detained since the coup bid, a second senior official said, with 99 charged pending trial and 14 more being held.
The threat of prolonged instability in a NATO member country, which had not seen a violent military coup for more than three decades, has shaken investors’ confidence.
The lira hit a 10-month low in early trade on Wednesday, touching 3.063 to the dollar. The Istanbul stock index is down 8 percent so far this week, its worst three-day performance since 2013. The cost of insuring Turkish debt against default rose to its highest in nearly a month, according to data from Markit.
Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek told Reuters a priority in the measures to be discussed on Wednesday would be preventing damage to the economy. He also said on Twitter they would be “market-friendly” and would prioritize structural reform.
MILITARY CHIEF REFUSED TO BACK COUP BID
Around 1,400 people were wounded as soldiers commandeered tanks, attack helicopters and warplanes, strafing parliament and the intelligence headquarters and trying to seize the main airport and bridges in Istanbul.
At the height of the abortive coup, the rebel pilots of two F-16 fighter jets had Erdogan’s plane in their sights as he returned to Istanbul from a holiday on the coast. Erdogan said he was almost killed or captured by the mutineers.
In testimony published by the Hurriyet newspaper and corroborated by a Turkish official, an infantry lieutenant-colonel said the coup plotters had tried to persuade military chief Hulusi Akar, who was being held hostage, to join the effort to overthrow Erdogan but that he had refused.
“When he refused, they couldn’t convince the senior commanders either. Akar’s refusal to be a part of this paved the way for the failure of the coup attempt,” the written transcript published by the newspaper said.
Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, ministers, senior commanders and generals had been due to be taken one by one during the night of the coup bid, the testimony said.
Turkey’s Western allies have expressed solidarity with the government over the coup attempt but have also voiced increasing alarm at the scale and swiftness of the response, urging it to adhere to democratic values.
On Tuesday, authorities shut down media outlets deemed to be supportive of Gulen and said 15,000 people had been suspended from the education ministry along with 100 intelligence officials. A further 492 people were removed from duty at the Religious Affairs Directorate, 257 at the prime minister’s office and 300 at the energy ministry.
Those moves come after the detention of more than 6,000 members of the armed forces, from foot soldiers to commanders, and the suspension of close to 3,000 judges and prosecutors. About 8,000 police officers, including in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, have also been removed.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, voiced “serious alarm” on Tuesday at the mass suspension of judges and prosecutors and urged Turkey to allow independent monitors to visit those who have been detained.
The foreign ministry has said criticism of the government’s response amounts to backing the coup.
TENSIONS WITH U.S.
Erdogan’s spokesman said on Tuesday the government was preparing a formal request to the United States for the extradition of Gulen. U.S. President Barack Obama discussed the status of Gulen in a telephone call with Erdogan on Tuesday, the White House said, urging Ankara to show restraint as it pursues those responsible for the coup attempt.
Seventy-five-year-old Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania but has a network of supporters within Turkey, has condemned the abortive coup and denied any role in it.
A former ally-turned critic of Erdogan, he suggested the president staged it as an excuse for a crackdown after a steady accumulation of control during 14 years in power.
Prime Minister Yildirim accused Washington, which has said it will consider Gulen’s extradition only if clear evidence is provided, of double standards in its fight against terrorism.
Yildirim said the justice ministry had sent a dossier to U.S. authorities on Gulen, whose religious movement blends conservative Islamic values with a pro-Western outlook and who has a network of supporters within Turkey.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest confirmed Ankara had filed materials in electronic form with the U.S. government, which officials were reviewing. Any extradition request from Turkey, once submitted, would be evaluated under the terms of a treaty between the two countries, he added.
Such a request would face legal and political hurdles in the United States. Even if approved by a judge, it would still have to go to Secretary of State John Kerry, who can consider non-legal factors, such as humanitarian arguments.
“I urge the U.S. government to reject any effort to abuse the extradition process to carry out political vendettas,” Gulen said on Tuesday in a statement issued by the Alliance for Shared Values, a group associated with the cleric.
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun, Humeyra Pamuk, Can Sezer and David Dolan; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by David Stamp)