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UK fury as staff arrested in Iran

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 28, 2009

BBC NEWS

The UK has demanded the immediate release of Iranian staff at its Tehran embassy who were arrested on Saturday.

tehranIranian media earlier reported that eight local staff at the mission had been detained for their “considerable role” in post-election riots.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the arrests “harassment” and dismissed the allegations as baseless.

Relations between the countries are strained after Tehran accused the UK of stoking unrest, which London denies.

Iran has repeatedly accused foreign powers – especially Britain and the US – of stoking the unrest that swept the country after the 12 June election, which handed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a decisive victory.

In the fallout of the crisis, Tehran expelled two British diplomats in the past week, and the UK has responded with a similar measure.

Strained relations

Mr Miliband said about nine employees had been detained in total, but some had been released

“We are still concerned about a number of them who to our knowledge have not been released… The numbers are changing hour by hour,” he said on the sidelines of a European security meeting on the Greek island of Corfu.

“The idea that the British Embassy is somehow behind the demonstrations and protests that have been taking place in Tehran in recent weeks is wholly without foundation,” he added.

A strong protest had been made directly to the Iranian authorities, but there had been no response.

Mr Miliband said he would discuss the arrests with his European Union colleagues.

“All European countries have made clear that they want to stand together in standing up for the diplomatic principles that are important for our diplomatic activity all over the world,” he said.

The arrests were first reported by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.

“Eight local employees at the British embassy who had a considerable role in recent unrest were taken into custody,” Fars said, without giving a source.

Some 17 people are thought to have died in street protests after the disputed presidential poll, which the opposition complains was rigged.

Poll verdict

Meanwhile, Iran’s powerful Guardian Council was due to give its verdict on the result of the disputed presidential election.

But the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen in Tehran says there is much politicking taking place behind the scenes, and that the five-day deadline for the Guardian Council to return its verdict may be extended.

Our correspondent says there is an attempt to form a committee – including the disappointed presidential candidates – to oversee the recount of 10% of the votes, a move which they are resisting.

Another parliamentary committee is holding discussions with the grand ayatollahs in an attempt from pro-Ahmadinejad forces to put on a show of unity, he adds.

But opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has not backed away from his claim that the election result was fraudulent, and has refused to support the Guardian Council’s plan for a partial recount.

Mr Mousavi has been calling for a full re-run of the vote, but said on Saturday that he would accept a review by an independent body.

However the Guardian Council has already defended President Ahmadinejad’s re-election, saying on Friday that the presidential poll was the “healthiest” since the Iranian revolution in 1979.

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Freedom of Information drowned in sea of black ink

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 19, 2009

TIMES ONLINE

Philip Webster, Political Editor, Dominic Kennedy and Francis Elliott

MPs were shamed yesterday after the much vaunted opening of their expenses files produced a humiliating cover-up of the most serious abuses.

Parliament and its officials were accused of colluding in a £2 million operation to protect the greedy as the supposed new era of transparency was drowned in a sea of black ink.

More than a million pieces of paper — bills, receipts and claim forms — were posted on the House of Commons website shortly before 6am, but thousands of them were indecipherable. Much of the information was blacked out as the MPs, helped by the authorities, censored incriminating material, citing security and privacy.

The redactions included addresses, making it impossible to tell from the official version which MPs “flipped” their second homes to maximise returns from the taxpayer or changed the designation of their homes to avoid paying capital gains tax.

Even so, the exposure produced more dramatic developments in a saga that has shaken politics to the core.

It was slipped out last night that about 200 MPs had rushed to pay back nearly £500,000 because of public outrage over their claims.

In four years, Labour MPs have channelled £235,000 of taxpayers’ money to a computing consultancy that operates from party headquarters. Several Cabinet ministers have used their Commons allowance to pay Computing for Labour to manage communications in their constituency offices.

The papers revealed that Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, asked his accountants to change the wording of an invoice for tax advice before he submitted it to the fees office and controversially claimed it back on expenses.

David Cameron said that he would repay almost £1,000 in overpayments on mortgage, electricity and phone bills. He blamed the overpayment on an “inadvertent administrative error”.

The expenses scandal has already ended the careers of 20 MPs, and more are expected to follow.

The cover-up shocked campaigners. Commons officials had removed references to previously revealed absurdities such as the cleaning of moats and the purchase of houses for ducks. The names of companies providing goods and gardening services were also blanked out to avoid having to show where the work was done.

Without earlier disclosures no one would have known that Hazel Blears claimed second home expenses for three different properties in a year, or that the second home of Margaret Moran, who claimed £22,000 to treat dry rot, was in Southampton, 100 miles from her constituency.

The official record would not have exposed the Labour MPs David Chaytor and Elliot Morley, who claimed thousands of pounds against mortgages that had already been paid off. This only emerged after their addresses were cross-checked against Land Registry records.

Nevertheless, the political establishment was smarting as the full tawdriness of its claims was laid bare to a public audience. By 4.30pm, 250,000 people had visited the website and clicked on 1.5 million pages.

The receipts revealed that the Conservative MP Graham Brady claimed £71 to get back into his house after being locked out and that the former minister John Reid claimed £29.99 for a book explaining basic economics.

Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister, spent £260 on shredding as he wound up his parliamentary affairs, and claimed £6,990 for repairing the roof of his constituency home two days before leaving No 10. The fees office reduced his claim to £4,453. Others spent a fortune on paper clips, matches, milk frothers, assertiveness training courses and the Racing Post.

MPs themselves were hugely embarrassed by the cover-up.

Vince Cable, of the Liberal Democrats, said: “If people had had to rely on this information to find out about their MPs they would have been faced with swaths of black ink rather than information about the flipping of homes and the avoidance of capital gains tax. It took a huge amount of effort from campaigners, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and other independent-minded MPs to get even this much information released. It’s a shame that it is still far less transparent than it could have been.”

The Commons authorities spent more than £140,000 trying to avoid publishing the expenses before being defeated in the High Court in May last year. The process of scanning and editing all the receipts from 2004-08 has cost a further £2 million and taken 13 months to complete.

Sir Stuart Bell, of the Commons Commission, described the disclosure as unprecedented and said that it was right that information was blacked out to protect MPs’ privacy and security.

Maurice Frankel, of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, said: “The mood of the House of Commons was that they did not want any of this information to be published and, failing that, as little as possible.”

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New leadership to emerge from Diaspora Tamils

Posted in Uncategorized by malaysiasms on June 8, 2009

KALUGU.COM

Amidst several new revelations in the Sri Lankan crisis by the Tamils, Sinhalese and rest of the world, the Asia team comprising of India, Pakistan, China and Iran continues to reign in the rhettoric of “war on terror” despite the heavy cost of the war. UN is now on a damage control mode, after the leaked information on the casualties of 20,000 civilians in the last few days alone of the war. With the Sri Lanka government establishing that the LTTE has been eliminated from the face of the earth, the Tamils, especially the Diaspora seem to have gotten even stronger in their resolve for continuing the struggle.

While the UN Chief Ban Ki Moon reiterated the need for an international investigation to examine the war crimes of Rajapakse’s government, the Sri Lankan administration continued ignoring the growing resentment across the globe. In a statement to reporters on Friday at U.N. headquarters, Mr Ban Ki Moon said:

“Any inquiry, to be meaningful, should be supported by the members of the United Nations, and also should be very impartial and objective,”

“I would like to ask the Sri Lankan government to recognize the international call for accountability and full transparency, and whenever and wherever there are credible allegations of violations of humanitarian law, there should be a proper investigation.”

So far no Tamil has been quoted as welcoming the outcome of the war. Even hardcore Sri Lankan government supporter Mr. V. Anadasangaree has termed the conditions of the Tamils in the Manik Farm Camp as “horrible”.

Canadian Tamil Congress spokesman David Poopalapillai said he does not believe Mr Rajapakse even for a minute.  His organization has planned to hold several protests in Toronto and is also calling European Tamil organizations to hold protests.

Jan’s parents were teachers in Nigeria and Zambia where she lived in her youth. In England she lived in Southport in Merseyside, Croydon and Winchester.

In Europe young and elite leadership is emerging from the Diaspora Tamils. Rapper MIA endorsed Jan Jananayagan who is contesting as an the independent candiate to the EU Parliament. MIA appeared in several major media network, calling upon Londoners, to support Jan on a platform for Civil liberty. Jan holds an MBA from the INSEAD Business School in France and says she stands for, Individual Freedom, Financial Transparency and Effective Regulation, Equality and Diversity, Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship, Ethical Foreign Policy & Animal Welfare. Jan has been campaigning with all minority communities in London and the Sikh and Tibet community organizations have declared their support for her candidature.

The EU Parliament election is a win-win effort by Jan, with some visible results already – of the unifying Diaspora that is strengthening the freedom movement after the demise of the military wing of LTTE.

Out Look India’s Sadanand Menon observes the following:

..a newly articulate, million-strong, diasporic community with international connections is poised to step in. That is where the new leadership, new resistance and new political process will come from. This segment is better equipped to continue the struggle through constitutional means..

The Lankan Tamil community stands as a symbol of hope for civil liberty. With their resolve they are demonstrating that there is nothing called “defeat”. Their determination and focus is likely to result in the emergence of a new elite leadership for the Eelam Tamils.

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