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IN BRIEF

N

E

W

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6

Saudi Gazette, Friday, June 23, 2017

World

LASHKAR GAH

30 dead as car bomb hits Afghan bank

Thirty people were killed Thursday when a powerful car bomb

struck a bank in Afghanistan’s Lashkar Gah city as government

employees were queueing to withdraw salaries, the latest bloody

attack during the holy month of Ramadan. At least 50 wounded

people were rushed to hospital after the bombing at New Kabul Bank

which upturned vehicles, left the area littered with charred debris

and sent a plume of smoke rising in the sky. No group has claimed

responsibility for the brazen attack, but it comes as the Taliban ramp

up their nationwide spring offensive despite government calls for a

ceasefire during Ramadan. “The blast killed 30 people and left 50

others wounded, both civilians and military officials,” government

spokesman Omar Zwak said, warning that the toll could rise. The

bomb tore through a queue of civilians and government employees

who had lined up outside the bank to collect their salaries. The bank

is believed to have been especially crowded ahead of the Eid holidays

marking the end of Ramadan.

— AFP

BERLIN

Germany ‘spied’ on White House

Germany’s foreign intelligence service long spied on numerous

official and business targets in the United States, including the White

House, Spiegel weekly reported Thursday. The magazine said it had

seen documents showing that the intelligence service, the BND, had

a list of some 4,000 so-called selector keywords for surveillance

between 1998 and 2006. These included telephone or fax numbers,

as well as email addresses at the White House as well as the US

finance and foreign ministries. Other monitoring targets ranged from

military institutions including the US Air Force or the Marine Corps,

space agency NASA to civic group Human Rights Watch. Hundreds

of foreign embassies as well as international organization like the

International Monetary Fund were not spared, Spiegel said. The BND

declined comment in the Spiegel report.

— AFP

SEOUL

Tycoon backs charges against Park

A top South Korean business tycoon on Thursday in court backed

prosecutors allegations that the ousted South Korean president

Park Geun-Hye solicited bribes from businesses in return for policy

favors. Chey Tae-Won, chairman of SK, the country’s second largest

conglomerate after Samsung, became the first business mogul

who took the stand at what is being dubbed in South Korea “the

trial of the century”. Chey was one of seven tycoons that Park held

confidential meetings with in February last year. She denies the

allegations, arguing companies made voluntary donations to two

foundations she said were aimed to help develop sports and culture.

Chey admitted in court that he had sought government approval for a

merger and acquisition project, a license for duty free shop and the

early release of his brother who was in jail for embezzlement when

he met Park near the presidential Blue House.

— AFP

VIENNA

Illegal drugs market ‘thriving’: UN

The global narcotics market is “thriving”, with production of cocaine

and opium substances soaring and opioids wreaking havoc, the UN

crime and drugs agency said Thursday in a gloomy annual assessment.

“As the report... clearly shows, there is much work to be done to

confront the many harms inflicted by drugs, to health, development,

peace and security, in all regions of the world,” UNODC head Yury

Fedotov said. Around 29.5 million people worldwide, or 0.6 percent of

the adult population, suffered from drug use disorders in 2015, with at

least 190,000 mostly avoidable deaths annually, mostly from opioids. In

2016, global production of opium — extracted from poppy resin and

refined to make heroin — rocketed by a third, mostly due to bumper

harvests in Afghanistan, the report said, providing Taliban insurgents

with millions of dollars. This rise, aided by better weather, came despite

a decade of international efforts to stabilize the country and billions

of dollars to persuade Afghan farmers to grow other crops. But the

UNODC said global opium production was 20 percent lower than at its

peak in 2014, and close to the average of the past five years.

— AFP

GHANAIANS TAKE

AIM AT CORRUPTION

G

HANA’S government is fac-

ing growing calls to keep its

promises after it won elec-

tions on a pledge to stamp

out corruption.

President Nana Akufo-

Addo and his administration

have in recent weeks seen protesters take to

the streets to raise awareness about the issue.

In May, hundreds marched on the Eco-

nomic and Organized Crime Office in the

capital Accra with a petition calling for the

arrest and prosecution of offenders, and for

stolen money to be recovered.

The action is similar to OccupyGhana, a

citizen pressure group, which began taking

corruption cases to court last year.

This month, the Supreme Court ruled in

its favor after it submitted a petition calling

on the auditor-general to fine anyone found to

have misappropriated state funds.

“If you want to strengthen democracy,

you have to strengthen the legal system,”

said OccupyGhana spokesman Nana Sarpong

Agyeman-Badu.

“If the judiciary is strengthened and we

put in more confidence in them, I don’t think

people in the executive and legislature can get

away with what they do.”

Ghana’s previous government under John

Dramani Mahama was hit by a succession of

corruption scandals, including in the judiciary.

Undercover journalist Anas Aremeyaw

Anas in 2015 released secretly filmed footage

of magistrates, circuit and high court judges

taking bribes to influence verdicts.

Anas, whose motto is “name, shame and

jail”, told AFP that every citizen should fight

corruption and no institution should be “sacro-

sanct because of their names”.

Anas operates in a variety of disguises and

has been called “the James Bond of journal-

ism”.

He said in the 15 years he has worked as

an investigative reporter, there had been an

increasing response to his stories.

“When I look at the past and I look at

today, it is clear to me the average Ghanaian is

beginning to understand that fighting corrup-

tion is not the job of government only but it’s

everybody’s job,” he said.

“We have moved forward as a country, we

have moved forward as a people, there has

Protestors march with a banner during a demonstration dubbed ‘Fabewoso — Bring it on’ to raise awareness about the high rate of corruption in

the country, in Accra. — AFP photos

Scam clouds outlook for Japan’s Abe; Tokyo poll crucial

By Linda Sieg

J

UST a few months ago, Prime

Minister Shinzo Abe looked to be

cruising to a third term that would

make him Japan’s longest serving

leader and put him on track to

achieving his dream of revising its post-

war, pacifist constitution.

But suspicions he may have helped

a friend get favored treatment for a busi-

ness, then rammed legislation through

parliament to close the session and end

debate over the issue, have led to a sharp

slump in support.

Ametropolitan assembly election in

Tokyo on July 2, campaigning for which

starts on Friday, could give clues about

how stable his administration really is —

a key concern of global investors.

“Things are unravelling fast for Abe

and his inner circle,” said Gerry Curtis, a

professor emeritus at Columbia Universi-

ty. “I still put my money on Abe surviving

and getting a third term, but I am willing

to wager much less than I would have put

on the table a week ago.”

At the core of Abe’s troubles are

concerns he may have intervened to

help Kake Gakuen (Kake Educational

Institution), whose director, Kotaro Kake,

is a friend, win approval for a veterinary

school in a special economic zone.

The government has not granted such

an approval in decades due to perceived

glut of veterinarians.

Abe has repeatedly denied doing

Kake any favors.

Potentially more troublesome than

the suspicions themselves is the impres-

sion among many voters that Abe and his

aides, unchallenged and arrogant after

more than four years in office, tried to

suppress the scandal, in part by smearing

an ex-official who went public with alle-

gations and by rushing a contentious bill

through parliament to close off debate.

“Chief Cabinet Secretary (Yoshi-

hide) Suga’s haughty attitude at his news

conference and his attack on the former

official personally were a mistake,” said

one Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker.

“That sort of condescending attitude

makes people angry.”

Abe, who resigned abruptly after a

troubled 2006-07 tenure as premier, can

seek another three-year consecutive term

as LDP leader, and hence premier, from

September 2018.

No general election need be held until

late 2018, but Tokyo voters have a chance

to express their views soon.

On the surface, the Tokyo Metropoli-

tan assembly election is a referendum on

Governor Yuriko Koike, a former defense

minister now challenging the old-boy

network dominated by the LDP.

Koike, sometimes floated as a poten-

tial successor to Abe after the 2020 Tokyo

Olympics, hopes her “Tokyo Residents

First” party and its allies will take a

majority in the 127-seat local legislature.

Among her allies is the Komeito party,

Abe’s national coalition partner.

Bellweather poll

The capital’s poll is often a bellwether for

national trends. “If the LDP loses half of

its seats in the July Tokyo election, there

will be worries about instability of the

Abe administration,” said Tomoaki Fujii,

head of the investment research division

at Akatsuki Securities Inc.

Koike may have lost some of her

luster lately after a year in office and de-

lays in deciding whether the move of the

world-famous Tsukiji fish market would

go ahead. The main opposition Demo-

cratic Party, meanwhile, is struggling with

single digit support rates.

But the LDP is worried.

“Past Tokyo assembly elections have

definitely affected national politics,”

Hakubun Shimomura, head of the LDP’s

Tokyo chapter and an Abe ally, told

reporters this week.

The prime minister’s ratings tumbled

in surveys released this week, sliding 10

points to 36 percent in a Mainichi news-

paper survey and 12 points to 49 percent

in one by the Yomiuri newspaper.

Abe’s support rates have dipped and

then rebounded in the past.

If they remain limp or worsen, LDP

rivals would be encouraged to mount a

challenge, and revising the constitution

— a politically divisive step — would be

tough.

— Reuters

Shinzo Abe’s support rates have dipped

and then rebounded in the past. If they

remain limp or worsen, LDP rivals

would be encouraged to mount a

challenge, and revising the constitution

would be tough.

Protestors against corruption enact a play on the subject.

been consistent education.

“People are beginning to see that it is

important for us to put ourselves together and

fight.”

In Transparency International’s Corruption

Perception Index, which measures perceived

levels of public sector corruption, Ghana

scored 43 out of 100 last year.

A score of 100 indicates corruption free.

Ghana’s score dropped from 47 in 2015

but a new report by the Ghana Integrity Initia-

tive Consortium indicated that citizens are

more ready to tackle the problem.

Nearly two-thirds of the 18,000 people

from across Ghana who responded suggested

corruption had increased in the 12 months to

May last year.

Just over three-quarters (76 percent) said

they had to pay a bribe to tax officials and

more than half (61 percent) reported having to

hand over cash to the police.

But 86 percent said they would get in-

volved in fighting corruption.

Akufo-Addo’s government, which took of-

fice in January this year, has by some accounts

not got off to a good start.

In March, he was forced to defend his

decision to appoint a 110-minister government

against opposition charges of “jobs for the

boys”.

Then in May, a number of customs of-

ficials were arrested in Accra and accused in

connection with the loss of some 1.2 billion

cedi ($273 million, 244 million euros) in

revenue.

The president has promised to set up a spe-

cial prosecutor’s office to investigate corrup-

tion allegations by late this year.

Last week, he promised: “I am going to

do my best to make sure that the fight against

corruption is won.”

The executive-secretary of the Ghana

Anti-Corruption Coalition, Beauty Emefa

Narteh, said Ghanaians needed to ensure that

Akufo-Addo did not make it “business as

usual” when it comes to corruption.

Narteh said indications of public willing-

ness to get involved was encouraging. “We are

moving from the previous era where citizens

were very apathetic towards what was hap-

pening... Now they see themselves as part of

government,” she said.

AFP