Saturday, November 27, 2010

UN envoy meet Aung San Suu Kyi

Nambiar, was appointed special envoy to Myanmar by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this year, envoy held talks with Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Saturday but there was no indication for his visit to the capital city Naypyitaw, seat of power to government ministers and the junta top brass. Vijay Nambiar to leave Myanmar on Monday.She welcomed the Indian diplomat's visit and called for more engagement with the U.N."We were able to tell him what we wanted to do, while we got a chance to know the secretary general's feelings," Suu Kyi told reporters.

Ban told reporters last month in New York that the Burmese regime had blocked his envoy Nambiar from visiting Burma since he was appointed interim replacement for Nigerian diplomat Dr. Ibrahim Gambari in January this year.

Suu Kyi and colleagues will raise the NLD’s concerns about the continuing situation in Burma, including “the human rights of ethnic nationalities”, he said. He added that he would request that “Mr. Nambiar meets leaders of ethnic nationalities so that he can understand their situation”.

In an interview with Mizzima last month, Win Tin expressed extreme disappointment that Ban’s 2010 report to the UN General Assembly on Burma’s human rights situation failed to seriously address violations against ethnic minorities.

He is Ban's chief of staff and has replaced Ibrahim Gambari, who served as the U.N.'s envoy to Myanmar for four years but was widely criticized as being ineffective.
Media agencies

Pakistan win back hockey gold

Fired-up Pakistan annexed the Asian Games men's hockey gold medal after 20 years with a convincing 2-0 win over Malaysia in the final on Thursday.Veteran Sohail Abbas put Pakistan ahead with his team's first penalty corner in the 26th minute, before striker Rehan Butt increased the margin three minutes after half-time.

It was Pakistan's eighth Asiad hockey gold, ending a drought that stretched back to Beijing in 1990, and handed them their first major title since winning the World Cup in Sydney in 1994.Pakistan ended the year on a high after a disappointing eight-month period in which they finished a humiliating 12th out of 12 at the World Cup in March and took sixth place at the Commonwealth Games in October.

The Pakistanis kneeled in prayer after the final whistle, before lifting their Dutch coach Michel van den Heuvel over their shoulders to loud applause from the stands.Malaysia, often dubbed the sport's perennial under-achievers, had to settle for silver in their maiden appearance in the title clash after winning the bronze medal six times.

The entire Malaysian team, barring Sikh player Baljit Singh, shaved their heads in a practice called 'nazar' to ward off evil spirits in the final, but failed to produce the spark that won them the semi-final against India.Amin Rahim, whose two late goals sank India, faltered in all three penalty corners his team earned in the second half.

Malaysia had gone into the final as the only unbeaten team in the competition with four wins and a draw.Meanwhile, India returned to the Asiad podium after missing out in Doha four years ago when they defeated favourites South Korea 1-0 in the bronze medal play-off.

Tushar Khandekar netted the winner four minutes into the second session as India dominated the lacklustre Koreans through the 70-minute encounter.India had not won an Asiad hockey medal for the first time in Doha and paid the price when they failed to qualify for the Beijing Olympics two years ago.

The Indian players were involved in a heated argument with Pakistani umpire Haider Rasool over a disputed penalty corner in the second half, which the South Koreans ultimately wasted.India's Spanish coach Jose Brasa, whose contract is up for renewel after this match, said the bronze medal was not a just reward for his team."I think we were the best side in the competition, winning five of our six matches," said Brasa. "I can't say I am happy, but at least the boys will not return home empty-handed."

India, who won all their four league matches, were knocked out by a Malaysian golden goal in the semi-final.South Korea, winners at the last two editions in Busan and Doha, were denied a hat-trick when they lost to Pakistan in a penalty shoot-out in the other semi-final.The last time the Koreans finished fourth was in Beijing in 1990.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Annual Puri Beach Festival begins

Annual Puri Beach Festival, showcases cultural events, classical and folk dance performances, sand sculptures, handicrafts, food festivals, rock concerts and fashion shows.

Orissa Tourism Minister Debi Prasad Mishra has said the 16th International Annual Puri Beach Festival is a boost to the tourism sector of Orissa:

Mishra who inaugurated the five-day-long festival earlier this week, said: “In this festival, over 3,000 artists are participating. This year, a troupe from Austria is also participating here. This festival represents the culture and tradition of our country and also contributes to the tourism economy.”

This time organizers have included rowing and beach volleyball, besides handlooms, handicrafts, sand art, gas balloon rides and a kite-flying exhibition in the festival.

“I came here to watch the festival. It is absolutely wonderful night and we have just seen a beautiful performance from India ladies. They were dancing and singing so it was very nice and this is a quality festival. The weather is very nice and the atmosphere is beautiful,” said Asokpai, a Hungarian tourist.

Renowned Bollywood singers Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik are scheduled to perform during the last two days of the festival.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Released Suu Kyi maiden speech post General election

Aung San Suu Kyi today appearing in a moss-green eingyi and roses in her hair, the pro-democracy leader and beacon of hope for millions said: “I’ve always believed in national reconciliation.

world leaders and human rights groups across the world welcomed her release, not to mention her Burmese and international supporters worldwide.

After meeting party members and foreign diplomats, Suu Kyi then greeted the crowd, people chanted “We love Suu”, amid thunderous applause, the BBC reported.

She reiterated the call for unity that she made yesterday, telling the ecstatic crowds from the balcony of the office today: “Nothing can be achieved without the people’s participation. Without it, we can do nothing” she said. “I want to work alongside the people. I don’t want to work alone. A one-woman show is not a democracy.”“I don’t hate the people who detained me.”In an allusion to the military regime that denied Suu Kyi freedom for so long, she showed her unique strength of character, stating to the crowd that she bore no resentment.“I have no personal grudge or hatred against anyone else. I believe in the rule of law. I place a high value on apology. My thanks go to thanks due,” Suu Kyi said.

She went on to thank her captors for treating her well, and asked them to do the same for the Burmese people. “Those who took my security [detail] treated me well. I would like to thank them well for their kind treatment. I think it would be better if they treated all the people well too.”
She also called for the further release of Burma’s 2,200 other prisoners who remain in jails or labour camps, many sent to prisons far from home, which makes family visits nearly impossible.

“I’d like to honour my colleagues and my colleagues from the democratic struggle who remain languishing in prisons. I wish their immediate release,” she said.

“We can achieve victory if, and only if, we work with courage and determination for what we want.”

Her speech appeared aimed at giving hope to the thousands of supporters who gathered to see and hear her as she spoke of a future Burma.

“I’ve always believed in national reconciliation. I’ve said time and again that I’ve worked by depending on the strength of the people. But that will be effective only when we can use this strength systematically. Please let me say to the people again: We cannot achieve victory by merely hoping for it. We can achieve victory if and only if we work with courage and determination for what we want. We also need to explore the best path to achieve victory too.”

“We demand our just rights.” A symbol of the fight for democracy and human rights worldwide, Suu Kyi cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognised the uphill struggle ahead, repeatedly stressed the theme of unity and urged the people to work together to achieve change in Burma.

“In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every paragraph starts with the word ‘everyone’. We must respect that concept. Everyone must fulfil their responsibilities and everyone must be duty-conscious. Only through following these principles will our country progress and develop. The people know well whether our country is progressing and developing. The blame game among us for not progressing is useless. I’d like to say please give us authority to do this job. I know well our people will not beg for this right. We demand our just rights.”

She ”delivered her first scheduled public address at National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Bahan Township, Rangoon in her addressed thousands of supporters following her release from years of house arrest."I want to hear the voice of the people, after that we will decide what we want to do," she told a sea of followers outside her party headquarters. "I want to work with all democratic forces. I believe in human rights and I believe in the rule of law." The daughter of Burma’s independence hero carries a weight of expectation among supporters for a better future for the nation after almost half a century of military dictatorship.

Public marched in thousand on to congested roads to gather in front of the opposition party’s office, filling all space of pavement anywhere in the vicinity.The visible outpouring of support caused one Burmese in attendance to remark that the country’s generals miscalculated in releasing Suu Kyi so close to the election date, which was marred by transgressions and assessed to have merely provided fresh evidence to the Burmese electorate of the impending need for change.

Appearing slightly past 11 a.m. (local time), Daw Suu, as millions affectionately know her, addressed the enthusiastic crowd in a green shirt adorned with an off-yellow garland. She voiced her support for the Burmese people and thanked them in return for their support.

Towards the close of the gathering, which lasted well past the noon finish time originally announced, she displayed a placard reading “Aung San Suu Kyi loves the Burmese people.” Next to the text was a check mark, a clear slight to Burma’s military and their stage-managed general election held on November 7.

She would later inform a press conference, “I don’t believe in one party or one person dominating the government. That is not democracy.” The junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has been announced to have captured over 80 per cent of available seats, benefitting from enormous structural advantages throughout the electoral process.

While the front and centre portions of those gathered remained relatively calm throughout Suu Kyi’s public address, the outlying viewing areas were the scene of a constant battle between those who turned out hoping to gain the best vantage point possible. According to one NLD senior member, as well as a youth member, they were surprised by how many turned out to witness the event, with the size of the crowd catching them unawares. Those who attended her last release in 2000 said the outpouring of interest this time surpassed that year’s.

Following the general speech, Suu Kyi held a press conference inside party headquarters. Dozens of foreign correspondents covered the event alongside scores of Burmese journalists, greatly testing the physical capacity of the venue.

The opposition leader appeared confident and spoke quickly in response to questions.

She told those gathered, “We [Burma] had elections in 1990, [and] at that time we won. And then now they [the ruling regime] try to make elections again. Why do they make another election? Elections are made according to independence and freedom of choosing as voters like … With this election, what were they thinking?”

Responding to a question about the founding principles and orientation of her movement, Daw Suu expressed: “I didn’t found the NLD as a party but as an organisation for change for the people of Burma. And as long as the people want change for Burma, this organisation … will continue to exist.”

She also lamented the country’s continuing trend to look to solve differences via military force, stipulating that it has never been her opinion that force can provide the requisite salve for Burma’s wounds.

Prior to greeting the general public, Suu Kyi held a closed-door meeting incorporating various members of the international diplomatic community.

According to ‘The Lady’ herself, her plans of public appearances in the days ahead as yet remain undetermined.
Media agencies

Friday, November 12, 2010

Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi

Burma military authorities have signed an order authorizing the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.Nobel laureate has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years, and her house arrest term expires on Saturday.“We are all busy working to welcome Daw Suu back, preparing a secretariat room for her at party headquarters,” said Win Tin, secretary of the NLD and a close associate with Suu Kyi.
Win Tin said: “It is not my decision, but I believe she will focus on politics and we will also urge her to resume her leadership, especially when our country's politics is in a state of emergency.”

Win Tin said Suu Kyi has always kept the door open to dialogue with the junta and he believes she will remain open to such dialogue.He even hoped her release would come today because the generals who believe in astrology may think the date 11/11 (Nov. 11) would be auspicious for her release.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention expires on Saturday 13 November and under Burmese law she should be released.There is much speculation about whether or not Aung San Suu Kyi is about to be released. Burma’s generals may be calculating that by releasing Aung San Suu Kyi they will receive so much positive publicity it will counter the negative attention on the election.

Many hope that Aung San Suu Kyi will be released. if she is released, the international community must not make the same mistake it has made in the past, hoping that this is a sign of change. Aung San Suu Kyi has been released twice before without there being any political change in the country. It is more likely that the dictatorship will try to use her release to try and persuade the international community to relax pressure on them.

Bura State radio on Thursday night announced results 147 constituencies in the Lower House, USDP winning 133. The USDP won 81 of 86 races newly announced for the Upper House.The new and previously announced results show the USDP gained majorities in both houses of Parliament: 190 of the 219 seats announced for the 330-seat Lower House, and 95 out of 107 seats announced for the 168-seat Upper House.

Top members of the ruling junta were among those who won seats. They include Prime Minister Thein Sein who also heads the USDP, a proxy for the junta.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Myanmar holds sham Election

Burma junta did not announce when the results would be announced, saying only that they could come "in time".However the state media declaring official results trickled out over state media, exhibiting the military and its proxy parties ahead, but when a clear picture of who won control of parliament - the state media could take a day or longer in the reclusive country where press timely release of information is rare. This was certain, that through shabby pre-election engineering the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party would emerge victorious despite widespread popular opposition to 48 years of military rule.The streets of Yangon, Myanmar's largest city,unusually quiet and early voter turnout appeared light at many polling stations.

Many residents said they were staying home as rumours circulated that bombs would explode.Riot police were deployed at many road junctions, but no soldiers were seen near the balloting sites.

The USDP is fielding 1,112 candidates for a total of 1,159 seats in the two-house national parliament and 14 regional parliaments.Its closest rival, the National Unity Party backed by supporters of Myanmar's previous military ruler, has 995 candidates.
The largest opposition party, the National Democratic Force, is contesting just 164 spots.Election rules were written to benefit the USDP, and hundreds of potential opposition candidates, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won a landslide victory in the last elections in 1990 but was barred from taking office, are under house arrest or in prison.
Several parties have complained that voters have been strong-armed into voting for the pro-junta party.Whatever the results, the constitution sets aside 25 percent of parliamentary seats for military appointees.Voters expressed both fear and defiance. "I cannot stay home and do nothing," said Yi Yi, a 45-year-old computer technician."I have to go out and vote against the USDP. That's how I will defy them.""I voted for the (democracy party) in 1990. This is my second time to vote," said a 60-year-old man, Tin Aung, when asked which party he had voted for. He then looked around and added, "I am really scared."

Others said they had abstained from voting because that would legitimise the elections. President Barack Obama called the elections "anything but free and fair" and urged people to speak out for human rights in countries like Myanmar, also called Burma."For too long, the people of Burma have been denied the right to determine their own destiny," he told students in Mumbai, India, on his first stop on an Asian trip.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the elections a reflection of "heartbreaking" repressive conditions in the country.
Yangon-based diplomats from the US, Britain, France, Germany and Italy turned down a government invitation to take "exploratory tours" of the voting on Sunday due to rules applying to the visits.
The junta earlier banned foreign journalists and international poll monitors from the elections.
"These elections are going to be neither free, nor fair, or inclusive. There is nothing in these elections that could give us grounds for optimism," British Ambassador Andrew Heyn said on the eve of the balloting, which he described as a "badly missed opportunity" for democratic change.
Despite the storm of criticism, some voters and experts on Myanmar said the election could herald a modicum of change from the decades of iron-fisted rule and gross economic mismanagement of the resource-rich nation.

"The elections, for all their farcical elements, have already achieved something: Burmese people are listening and talking more about politics than they have for a long time," said Monique Skidmore of the Australian National University.
"It seems likely that the very small public political space will be widened and this is probably the best outcome we can hope for from the election."
Democracy advocates are also hopeful that Suu Kyi will be freed from house arrest sometime after the election, perhaps as early as 13th November.
Although among the country's 29 million eligible voters, the Noble Peace Prize laureate said she would not cast a ballot.
Suu Kyi has been locked up in her Yangon villa on-and-off since the ruling generals ignored the 1990 poll results. They also hold some 2,200 political prisoners.
The junta has also been criticised for its brutal treatment of ethnic minorities seeking greater autonomy.
Amid rising tension before the elections, the junta cancelled voting in 3,400 villages in ethnic minority areas and increased its military presence in the countryside.
About 1.5 million of the country's 59 million people were thereby disenfranchised.
Some ethnic minority groups, like the Karen, have been fighting the government since the country gained independence from Britain in 1948.
Others, including the powerful Wa and Kachin, had forged cease-fire agreements that now appear in jeopardy amid fears that the constitution activated by the elections will quash their hopes for a federal system.

Burma General Elections

Burma's Real power will lie with the President, the Commanderin- Chief and the new National Defense and Security Council.Burma’s election has largely been on the
Parliament, but is fact this is a largely powerless body which will be dominated by the military The run-up to the election The election on 7th November will be the first in Burma for 20 years. At the last election the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won 82 percent of the seats in Parliament, but the generals refused to hand over power.

Salient features:

*Assembly/Parliament with one Upper
House and one lower house
• 14 regional and state assemblies
(Parliaments)
• 25% of seats (110) in People Assembly
(Lower House) reserved for military
• 25% of seats (56) in Upper House
reserved for military
• 25% of seats in state and regional
assemblies reserved for the military
• 1,163 seats available by vote (but voting
banned in at least 6 seats in ethnic areas)
• 37 parties alllowed to participate
• Dictatorship linked parties only ones
which can afford to stand in almost every
constituency
• 2,203 political prisoners unable to take
part
• New National Defense and Security
Council where real power lies – not
Parliament

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Myanmar Election ends counting begins

General election in Myanmar, on dawn of Sunday, conduced peacefully as polling booths closed at 4 p.m, and the counting of votes to be followed immediately in the presence of the public.Polling at many booths even closed earlier with counting of votes already started as the designated number of electorates had completely finished casting of votes ahead of closing hours, polling stations said, citing sources with Shan state's capital of Taunggyi.

The ballots include advance ballots cast days ahead for persons with inconvenience as stipulated in the election law.The counting of votes by the township election subcommissions took place in the presence of parliamentary candidates or their election agents and the public.As per the election law, the township election subcommissions are to submit the valid votes to the region or state commissions at higher level which is expected to declare the elected parliamentary candidates later.The first-in-two-decade multi-party general election began across Myanmar at 6 a.m. on Sunday and a total of 29 million qualified voters across the country cast ballots at 60,000 polling stations under secret polling system.

Nationally, a total of over 3,000 parliamentary candidates from 37 political parties including 82 independents took part in the competition across the country's seven regions and seven ethnic states for 1,159 parliamentary seats, of which 326 are reserved for the house of representatives, 168 for the house of Nationalities and 665 for region or state parliament.

The house of representatives and the house of nationalities make up the Union Parliament.In Yangon region's 45 townships, 15 political parties and 26 independent delegates totaling 459 candidates took part in the contest.

In Nay Pyi Taw's eight townships, four parties and two independents with a total of 25 candidates contest.Parties running popular are the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), led by Prime Minister U Thein Sein, National Unity Party (NUP), led by U Tun Yi, and National Democratic Force (NDF), led by U Than Nyein.

USDP is transformed from the government-backed biggest social organization the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), and the NUP is reorganized from the previous government's disbanded ruling Myanmar Socialist Program Party and the NDF is a break-away party from the disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi.Others are Democratic Party (Myanmar), National Political Alliance League (NPAL), Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, National Democratic Party for Development, Democracy and Peace Party, and 88 Generation Student Youths (Union of Myanmar).

Burmese people started voting at 6 a.m. for a new government for the first time in 20 years, amid extensive reports of vote-rigging and coercion by the main junta-backed party, in collusion with electoral authorities.

polling-7

People wait to vote outside a polling station in South Okkalapa Township, Rangoon, on Sunday, November 7, 2010. Exit interviews show an early swing to the National Democratic Force party and independents, away from Rangoon Mayor and regime-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party candidate, Aung Thein Lin. Photo: Mizzima
Early voter turnout in the former capital of Rangoon and major cities has been high, but in rural and ethnic areas, voters have been noticeably slower to appear at polling stations.

In South Okkalapa Township, indications are that the National Democratic Force party and independents were gathering more support than Rangoon Mayor and regime-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) candidate Aung Thein Lin, judging by early exit interviews conducted by Mizzima correspondents.

The Burmese have not had the chance of electing their own government since 1990, when Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party the National League for Democracy (NLD) won with an overwhelming 80 per cent of seats. The junta however never relinquished power a military regime has been ruling the country since.

But this time around, the NLD is boycotting the elections and has been dissolved for failing to re-register by a May deadline as a political party.

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has said these elections were going to be free and fair and would lead to the transition to a civilian and democratic government, but international observers, governments, human rights groups and advocates of the boycott inside Burma have denounced the polls as a “sham” and a “farce” designed to reinstate military rule.

State-media in Burma has warned against a boycott and has stated via its mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar, that if a boycott crippled elections today, the junta would have no choice but to continue to reign all-powerful, and that another election could “take a very long time”.

The junta-funded USDP is understandably confident of victory amid innumerable accounts of vote-buying, voter-harassment and intimidation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the elections “expose the abuses of the military junta”, the BBC reported today.

The Australian government said it had “very grave reservations about the elections” and condemned the “patently unfair election laws that place severe restrictions on political parties”.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s government said it welcomed the more forthright comments from Asean members the Philippines and Indonesia regarding the elections. Both countries also called for the immediate release of all political prisoners including Suu Kyi.

Despite criticism of the military regime, Australian officials had said it would be increasing the aid it sends Burma from US$29.1 million in 2009-2010, to US$48.6 million this year.

Voting would not be taking place in many ethnic areas because of junta-imposed bans, the regime said, citing danger in “black” areas controlled by armed ethnic ceasefire and non-ceasefire militias.

The junta said that conditions in areas in Kachin, Karenni, Karen, Mon and Shan states were insufficient for the holding of a free and fair vote, an order that sidelined millions of ethnic minority people from voting.

The armed non-ceasefire group, the Karen National Union (KNU), made a statement today that the election was designed to perpetuate military rule and would bring neither change nor peace to Burma.

It said the polls were merely being held for a “cosmetic change of direct rule by the generals from a military council [SPDC] to military rule behind a civilian fa├žade to legally continue the oppressive military rule and human rights violations against the ethnic nationalities”.

Reports of legal and ethical flaws in polling conditions have been pouring in all morning. A government official from Mayangone Township told Mizzima early today that, “Currently, there are more than 100 voters in the polling station. The poll staff did not check the ID cards of voters so how do they know whether [they] are real eligible voters or not?”

Amid concerns about the potential for electoral fraud, he said: “They gave voters tickets that were numbered. Everyone who had the tickets could vote so it’s not systematic. They arranged everything carelessly.” Media Agencies

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