Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners

Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners
Widodo has pledged to bring reform to Indonesia

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person
The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison   (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)
Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)



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"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Monday, August 12, 2019

Tourism in trouble: Hong Kong demos hit economy

Yahoo – AFP, Yan ZHAO, Catherine LAI, August 11, 2019

Hong Kong is a popular tourist destination (AFP Photo/ANTHONY WALLACE)

Empty hotel rooms, struggling shops and even disruption at Disneyland: months of protests in Hong Kong have taken a major toll on the city's economy, with no end in sight.

City leader Carrie Lam has warned that the international financial hub is facing an economic crisis worse than either the 2003 SARS outbreak that paralysed Hong Kong or the 2008 financial crisis.

"The situation this time is more severe," she said. "In other words, the economic recovery will take a very long time."

The private sector, in particular the tourism industry, has begun counting the cost of more than two months of demonstrations that erupted in opposition to a bill allowing extraditions to China but have morphed into a broader pro-democracy movement.

The figures are stark: hotel occupancy rates are down "double-digit" percentages, as were visitor arrivals in July. Group tour bookings from the short-haul market have plunged up to 50 percent.

"In recent months, what has happened in Hong Kong has indeed put local people's livelihoods as well as the economy in a worrying, or even dangerous situation," warned Edward Yau, Hong Kong's secretary for commerce and economic development.

The financial hub's tourism industry says it feels under siege (AFP Photo/
Anthony WALLACE)

The city's tourism industry says it feels under siege.

"I think the situation is getting more and more serious," Jason Wong, chairman of the Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, told AFP.

The impact is so bad that travel agents are considering putting staff on unpaid leave as they try to weather the storm, he warned.

Even Disneyland hit

Images of increasingly violent clashes between masked protesters and police firing tear gas in the city's streets have made global headlines, with protesters announcing new demonstrations throughout August as they press their demands.

A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson told AFP that the number of forward bookings in August and September has "dropped significantly," suggesting the economic toll will linger throughout the summer season.

A string of travel warnings issued by countries including the United States, Australia and Japan is likely to compound the industry's woes.

The fall in arrivals has hurt Hong Kong's carrier Cathay Pacific, which was also forced to cancel flights this week during a general strike that caused chaos in the city.

Tourists flock to Hong Kong for its energy and urban character (AFP Photo/
Anthony WALLACE)

And even Disneyland Hong Kong has been hit, with CEO Bob Iger telling reporters: "We have seen an impact from the protests."

"There's definitely been disruption. That has impacted our visitation there."

The retail sector has also been hit by the drop in arriving visitors hunting for bargains, shops often forced to shutter during the sometimes daily protests.

Experts say the crisis is compounding the economic downturn Hong Kong was already experiencing as a result of being caught up in the US-China trade war.

It's a "double whammy," warned Stephen Innes, Managing Partner of Valour Markets."

"We always take a view that oh, this too will pass. But so far that view is not holding any water... and now it seems like every weekend we're dealing with further escalations," he told AFP.

Experts say Hong Kong's tourism crisis is compounding the economic downturn 
caused by the US-China trade war (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

'Nastier than expected'

The property market, which fell over 20 percent during the 2008 financial crash, remains strong.

But Innes warned that the deepening crisis could result in capital outflows.

"All the money from the mainland that has propped up Hong Kong property markets could reverse as quickly as it flowed in," he said.

"This is getting a little bit nastier than any of us had expected."

The economic picture for the city was far from pretty even before the protests began, with growth shrinking from 4.6 percent to 0.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter -- the worst quarterly performance in a decade.

Preliminary data suggests the second quarter fared no better, and while the government still hopes for 2-3 percent growth this year, predictions from major banks are more pessimistic.

A Hong Kong Tourism Board spokesperson said the number of bookings in 
August and September has 'dropped significantly' (AFP Photo/Anthony WALLACE)

Those falls reflect the effects of the US-China trade war on an economy that relies heavily on logistics processing and is vulnerable to a fall in trade.

The impact of the protests on growth will not be clear until later in the year, but Martin Rasmussen, China Economist at Capital Economics, said the crisis was likely to weigh heavily.

"In the beginning they were quite peaceful, you could say comparable to the protests back in 2014," he said, referring to pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in the city.

"Now they've become much more extreme, so we think the impact on the economy will begin to take its toll."

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Indonesian man walking in reverse to save forests

Yahoo – AFP, August 5, 2019

Medi Bastoni walks 20 to 30 kilometres backwards every day under the scorching sun,
with a rear-view mirror attached to his backpack to avoid bumping into objects (AFP
Photo/Medi BASTONI)

Jakarta (AFP) - An Indonesian man is walking 700 kilometres (435 miles) from his home on a volcano in East Java to Jakarta in the hope of drawing attention to the archipelago's quickly shrinking forests -- and he is doing it backwards.

Medi Bastoni, a 43-year-old father of four, set out on his arduous, in-reverse journey in mid-July, with the goal of reaching the capital by August 16, a day before the Southeast Asian nation's independence day anniversary.

"Of course I'm exhausted, but I'm willing to do this to fight for the next generation," Bastoni told AFP.

"(My home) is losing all of its trees so I have to do something. I can take the pain and fatigue."

Walking backwards is a siganl to Indonesians to reflect on the past and remember 
how national heroes fought for the good of the country (AFP Photo/Medi BASTONI)

When he arrives, Bastoni said he hopes to meet with president Joko Widodo and highlight deforestation across the archipelago including at his home on Mt. Wilis, a dormant volcano.

Indonesia suffers from one of the high rates of deforestation in the world, according to Greenpeace.

Bastoni walks 20 to 30 kilometres backwards every day under the scorching sun, with a rear-view mirror attached to his backpack to avoid bumping into objects.

Along the way, supporters cheer him on, offer him meals or a place to stay overnight. But Bastoni always leaves at dawn to stay on schedule.

Walking backwards is meant as a siganl to Indonesians to reflect on the past and remember how national heroes fought for the good of the country, he said.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Indonesia's Aceh whips 11 for sharia-banned romance

Yahoo – AFP, August 1, 2019

A woman is whipped in public in Banda Aceh in Indonesia's staunchly conservative
Aceh province (AFP Photo/CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)

One woman begged for mercy and another sobbed uncontrollably as Indonesia's Aceh province flogged nearly a dozen people Thursday, including a Buddhist man, charged with breaking local Islamic law.

Despite widespread criticism, public whipping is a common punishment for a range of offences in the deeply conservative region at the tip of Sumatra island, including gambling, drinking alcohol, and having gay sex or relations outside of marriage.

Aceh is the only region in the world's biggest Muslim-majority country that imposes Islamic law.

On Thursday, dozens watched as eleven people were whipped outside a mosque in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

A masked sharia officer rained down between eight and 32 strokes from a rattan cane on their backs after they were caught with members of the opposite sex.

The six men and five women -- all in their late teens and early twenties -- were rounded up by religious officers who caught them behaving amorously, a crime under local law.

Authorities gave few details, but couples have been whipped in the past for cuddling or holding hands in public.

A man is carried away by religious police after being flogged in Banda Aceh 
in Indonesia (AFP Photo/CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN)

One 19-year-old woman caught in an unidentified building with a man burst into tears as the whipping started, while another woman begged for the punishment to stop.

A Buddhist man caught with a woman inside a hotel room got more than two dozen lashes.

About 98 percent of Aceh's five million residents are Muslims subject to religious law, known locally as Qanun.

While it's relatively rare, non-Muslims who have committed an offence can choose to be prosecuted under Islamic law, sometimes to avoid a prison sentence.

On Friday, Banda Aceh's mayor Aminullah Usman warned hotels and businesses to comply with the region's conservative regulations -- or risk losing their license to operate.

"We've warned hotels to not even think about breaking the rules" by renting rooms to unmarried couples, he told reporters after the flogging.

"Otherwise, we will revoke their licenses," he added.

The whipping came a day after three people in Lhokseumawe, a district a few hours from Banda Aceh, were flogged 100 times each for having premarital sex, including a 19-year-old man who had relations with an underage girl.

In December, two men caught having sex with underage girls were whipped 100 times each.

Rights groups have slammed public caning as cruel, and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo has called for it to end, but the practice has wide support among Aceh's population.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Tourist rush at Australia's Uluru before climb ban

France24 – AFP, 12 July 2019

Clambering up the giant red monolith, also known as Ayers Rock, will be prohibited
from October - in line with the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land AFP

Sydney (AFP) - A looming ban on climbing Australia's Uluru rock, intended to protect the sacred site from damage, has instead triggered a damaging influx of visitors, tourism operators said Friday.

Clambering up the giant red monolith, also known as Ayers Rock, will be prohibited from October -- in line with the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu.

But a rush to beat the ban has led to a sharp increase in tourists and is causing its own problems for the World Heritage Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

Families arriving in campers vans and RVs are a particular problem, chief executive of Tourism Central Australia Stephen Schwer told AFP.

"We have got so much of one particular market coming, we don't have enough infrastructure to handle the number of drive travellers."

While most visitors are doing the right thing, camping venues in the area are at capacity with advance bookings, leaving many less organised arrivals to set up illegally.

"People don't realise when they go off the road they are actually trespassing on pastoral land, or Aboriginal land, or protected land," Schwer said.

"We are getting people that are leaving their rubbish behind and lighting fires," he added.

"Sadly, people are also emptying their toilet waste out of their vans on what they think is unpopulated land, but is actually private land."

In the 12 months to June 2019, more than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year.

Yet just 13 percent of those who visited also climbed the rock, the government agency said.

Tourism operators say that Australian and Japanese tourists most commonly seek to climb Uluru.

The Aboriginal connection to the site dates back tens of thousands of years and it has great spiritual and cultural significance to them.

"Since the hand back of Uluru and Kata Tjuta to traditional owners in 1985, visitors have been encouraged to develop an understanding and respect for Anangu and their culture," a spokesperson for Parks Australia said.

"This is reflected in the 'please don't climb' message," they added.

Lyndee Severin from Curtin Springs station and roadhouse, one of just a few camping venues within 100 kilometres of Uluru, said "the vast majority of people are doing the right thing" but hundreds were setting up illegally by the side of the road or down a bush track.

"So we have some people that think that the rules don't apply to them," she told AFP.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dutch tourist killed in Malaysia cave floods, guide missing

CNA – AFP, 13 July 2019

Peter Hans Hovenkamp, 66, was from Utrecht in the central Netherlands.
(Photo: Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department)

KUALA LUMPUR: Flash floods killed a Dutch tourist in a popular cave located in the rugged Mulu National Park on Malaysia's Borneo island, an official said Saturday (Jul 13), as a search continues for a missing guide.

Local fire and rescue chief Law Poh Kiong identified the dead man as 66-year-old Peter Hans Hovenkamp from Utrecht in the central Netherlands.

"He died due to drowning following flash floods in the caves. His body was found in a river inside the cave and was taken to the Miri public hospital for a post-mortem on Saturday," he told AFP.

Law said a search-and-rescue operation involving 16 officers had been launched to locate 20-year local tour guide Roviezal Robin.

This handout from the Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department taken and released
on Jul 13, 2019 shows the body of Dutch tourist Peter Hans Hovenkamp being carried
out of Mulu National Park on the island of Borneo. (Photo: AFP/Sarawak Fire and
Rescue Department)

Eight other tourists in the same group "almost become victims" but fled to higher ground and escaped from being washed into the river, Law added.

Hovenkamp was reported missing on Friday while the group was touring the popular "Deer Cave", home to an estimated three million bats which form amazing patterns in the sky when they leave each dusk.

Mulu park, located in the remote Borneo jungle of Sarawak state and famous for its caves, cliffs and gorges, is a UNESCO world heritage site.

It sees thousands of visitors annually, particularly for its cooling rains during the summer months.

Law described the death as "a freak tragedy."

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Australian Aboriginal site gains World Heritage recognition

Yahoo – AFP, July 7, 2019

UNESCO has added the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in Australia to its World
Heritage list (AFP Photo/MIGUEL MEDINA)

An Aboriginal settlement older than the pyramids that provides evidence that indigenous Australians developed sophisticated aquaculture thousands of years ago has been granted World Heritage status, the UN has announced.

The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape in southeast Australia was created by the Gunditjmara nation some 6,600 years ago and includes remnants of elaborate stone channels and pools built to harvest eels from a lake and wetland swamp areas.

The site also holds evidence of stone dwellings that counter the myth that Aboriginal peoples were simply nomadic hunter-gatherers with no established settlements or sophisticated means of food production.

UNESCO's World Heritage committee, in announcing the addition of Budj Bim to its global listing on Saturday, said the site showed the Gunditjmara had developed "one of the largest and oldest aquaculture networks in the world."

The system of stone channels, dams and pools were used to contain floodwaters and create basins to trap, store and harvest eels that provided the population with "an economic and social base for six millennia", it said.

Budj Bim, in Victoria state, is the first site in Australia to receive World Heritage status solely for its Aboriginal cultural importance.

Nineteen other World Heritage sites in the country include the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu National Park, the Sydney Opera house and fossil sites in the states of Queensland and South Australia.

The Gunditjmara people had lobbied for nearly 20 years for UN recognition of Budj Bim, and tribal elder Denise Lovett welcomed the listing as "a very special day for our community".

"This landscape, which we have cared for over thousands of years, is so important to Gunditjmara People," she told national broadcaster SBS.

"The decision also recognises Budj Bim's significance to all of humanity. We are so proud to now be able to share our achievements and story with the world."

Archaeological evidence shows that Aboriginal peoples have lived in Australia for more than 60,000 years, making it one of the oldest continuous cultures in the world.

But since the arrival of European colonists in the late 18th century, the indigenous population saw most of its land taken for farming or livestock grazing.

Today, there are around 750,000 people of Aboriginal descent in Australia -- about three percent of the population -- but they have far higher poverty rates and lower life expectancy than non-indigenous Australians and make up about 28 percent of the prison population.

Monday, June 17, 2019

The 'richest black nation': Papua New Guinea sets audacious goal

Yahoo – AFP, June 16, 2019

Violent crime and corruption are endemic in Papua New Guinea, reliable electricity
is rare, and population centres are isolated (AFP Photo/ARIS MESSINIS)

Papua New Guinea's new prime minister has an ambitious -- cynics would say far-fetched -- objective of turning one of the world's poorest countries into the "richest black nation" on earth in just a decade.

If national economies were like football teams, then Papua New Guinea would be near the bottom of the table struggling to avoid a relegation dogfight.

Violent crime and corruption are endemic, reliable electricity is rare, and population centres sit like isolated city-states, surrounded by trackless jungle and mountain ridges that soar into the equatorial sky.

As rich as Papua New Guinea is in culture, language and beauty, it is the 153rd most developed country in the world out of 189, according to the United Nations -- doing slightly better than Syria, marginally worse than Myanmar.

New prime minister James Marape wants to change that. He has promised that within ten years his compatriots will live in "the richest black Christian nation" in the world.

That is not going to be easy. The current titleholder is the highly industrialised economy of Trinidad and Tobago, where the average resident earns around 833% more than Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is rich in culture, language and beauty, but is way down
the UN development rankings (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)


If the British territory of Bermuda were also included in the rankings, the task would be even more daunting.

Papua New Guinea's economy would have to grow at a world-beating rate of around 30 percent per year, every year for the next ten years just to catch up.

"PNG has never experienced 30 per cent growth in the past; nor has any other country for that matter, at least not for any sustained period of time," said Maholopa Laveil, a lecturer in economics at the University of Papua New Guinea.

To reach his lofty goal, Marape appears to be betting on a surge in gas revenues and more of that cash staying in the country.

He has hinted that he may look to renegotiate a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) contract with Total and ExxonMobil that would double national production to better benefit the local economy.

He has also promised to stop the export of unprocessed hardwoods and tackle corruption.

But the strategy comes with risks.

New prime minister James Marape has hinted he may look to renegotiate a massive
LNG contract with Total and ExxonMobil (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Dashed expectations

The World Bank has warned that even before a second LNG project comes online, the economy has "become increasingly concentrated in petroleum and gas-related activities".

That, the bank warned, raises Papua New Guinea's vulnerability to the vagaries of international energy markets and natural disasters -- like the 7.5 magnitude quake that froze production and stalled the economy in 2018.

Even the country's existing PNG LNG project -- which started to flow in 2014 -- has failed to live up to expectations.

It required a controversial public loan worth more than a billion Australian dollars ($700 million) and helped national debt spike.

The project was forecast to increase GDP by over 97 percent, but according to Paul Flanagan -- a former Australian government official who runs the influential PNG Economics blog -- the increase has been closer to six percent.

The World Bank has warned PNG's vulnerability to earthquakes is increasing along 
with its reliance on petrol and gas (AFP Photo/Melvin LEVONGO)

"Overall, the PNG LNG project massively over-promised and then failed to deliver," one of his recent blog posts read. "For household disposable income, the prediction was an 84 percent improvement. The outcome is a decline of 9 percent."

Flanagan believes that regardless of any energy boom, Marape -- a former finance minister -- will need to undertake difficult currency and trade reforms if the country has any hope of growing sustainably.

"Time will tell if the new government will tackle such difficult political economy challenges, challenges that must be addressed to make PNG a much richer black Christian nation," he said.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Hong Kong transport authorities approve LGBT ad after backlash

Yahoo – AFP, May 21, 2019

Campaigners have criticised Hong Kong for lagging behind on equality issues
(AFP Photo/Yan ZHAO)

A Cathay Pacific advert featuring two men holding hands can now be displayed across Hong Kong's transport network, after its reported ban sparked a public outcry.

Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported Monday that the city's airport and MTR train operator had barred the gay-friendly ad from its crowded terminals, citing sources.

The news emerged just after Taiwan's parliament legalised same-sex marriage last week in a landmark first for Asia, placing the island at the vanguard of the region's burgeoning gay rights movement.

By contrast, campaigners have criticised semi-autonomous Hong Kong for lagging behind on equality issues.

Neither Cathay Pacific nor the transport authorities directly confirmed or denied the ban which triggered a massive backlash.

LGBT group Big Love Alliance launched a campaign on Monday encouraging Hong Kongers to share on social media photos of themselves holding hands with their same-sex partners or friends at the airport or the MTR.

As public pressure mounted, airport authorities said on Tuesday the advert now had their full blessing.

The ad is deemed "not in infringement of the Airport Authority's established guidelines on advertisements displayed in the terminal", a spokesperson said in a statement.

JCDecaux, an agency that handles advertising bookings for the MTR Corporation, also appeared to have reversed course.

"We have advised... that the design can be posted at MTR stations," a JCDecaux spokeswoman in Hong Kong told AFP.

Ray Chan, Hong Kong's first openly gay lawmaker, welcomed the move saying public and media pressure have made transport officials and their advertising agencies "right their wrong".

The city airport is operated by a Hong Kong government body, while the MTR Corporation is majority-owned by the government.

Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions and only decriminalised homosexuality in 1991.

But a British lesbian won the right to live and work in Hong Kong with her partner in a landmark ruling last year hailed by rights groups.

A separate case has been lodged by two Hong Kong men directly challenging the same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Related Articles:

Taiwan parliament to vote on Asia's first gay marriage bill

Yahoo – AFP, May 16, 2019

Taiwan's top court has ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry
violates the constitution (AFP Photo/Chris STOWERS)

Taiwan will decide whether to pass Asia's first gay marriage law on Friday as conservative lawmakers launch a last-ditch attempt to scupper the bill despite a court ruling ordering same-sex marital equality.

Protesters on both sides of the debate will gather outside Taipei's parliament for what looks set to be a mammoth legislative debate over an issue that has bitterly divided the island.

Parliament is up against a ticking clock.

Taiwan's top court has ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution. Judges gave the government two years to make necessary changes by May 24, 2019 or see marriage equality enacted automatically.

With that deadline fast approaching, three bills have been tabled for Friday -- which also happens to be the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

The most progressive is the government's bill, the only one to use the word "marriage" and offer limited adoption rights.

Opponents warn that "forcefully" passing a gay marriage law will intensify 
tensions (AFP Photo/Daniel Shih)

It is backed -- begrudgingly -- by gay rights groups who see it as the closest thing to full equality with heterosexual couples, despite its limitations.

Opponents have tabled two other versions which avoid the word marriage, offering something closer to same-sex unions with no adoption rights.

Conservative and religious groups have been buoyed by a series of referendum wins in November, in which voters comprehensively rejected defining marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.

President Tsai Ing-wen has said the government's bill respects both the court judgement and the referendum.

"I hope everybody can be considerate and tolerate different opinions to show Taiwan is a mature civil society that is capable of handling a divisive issue," she said on Tuesday.

Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds the majority in parliament, occupying 68 out of 113 seats.

Taiwan's LGBT community has been left in limbo 
the last two years (AFP Photo/SAM YEH)

But there is no guarantee her own lawmakers will vote for the more progressive bill, especially as many fear being punished by conservative voters at the ballot box in January.

One of the rival bills was proposed by a DPP lawmaker.

Taiwan's LGBT community has been left in limbo the last two years, with many couples planning weddings ahead of the May 24th deadline but unsure of what marriage equality will look like.

"We will have a clear answer this week about how this country will treat gay couples in the future," said Jennifer Lu, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

"The cabinet's bill is already a discounted version but it covers the most for now. The other bills are not only unconstitutional but discriminatory."

Opponents warn that "forcefully" passing a gay marriage law will intensify tensions.

"The cabinet's bill ignores the referendum results and that is unacceptable," said Lai Shyh-bao of the opposition Kuomintang party, who proposed one of the bills backed by conservatives.

Related Article:


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Indonesian court sentences French drug smuggler to death

Yahoo – AFP, May 20, 2019

Felix Dorfin was arrested in September carrying a suitcase filled with about three
kilograms of drugs, including ecstasy and amphetamines (AFP Photo/ARSYAD ALI)

An Indonesian court sentenced Frenchman Felix Dorfin to death for drug smuggling on Monday, in a shock verdict after prosecutors asked for a 20-year jail term.

Dorfin, 35, was arrested in September carrying a suitcase filled with about three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of drugs including ecstasy and amphetamines at the airport in Lombok, a holiday island next to Bali where foreigners are routinely arrested on drugs charges.

Indonesia has some of the world's strictest drug laws -- including death by firing squad for some drug traffickers and it has executed foreigners in the past.

While prosecutors had not asked for the death penalty, Indonesian courts have been known to go beyond their demands.

"After finding Felix Dorfin legally and convincingly guilty of importing narcotics ... (he) is sentenced to the death penalty," presiding judge Isnurul Syamsul Arif told the court.

He cited Dorfin's involvement in an international drug syndicate and the amount of drugs in his possession as aggravating factors.

"The defendant's actions could potentially do damage to the younger generation," Arif added.

The Frenchman made headlines in January when he escaped from a police detention centre and spent nearly two weeks on the run before he was captured.

A female police officer was arrested for allegedly helping Dorfin escape from jail in exchange for money.

It was not clear if the jailbreak played any role in Monday's stiffer-than-expected sentence.

Dorfin, who is from Bethune in northern France, sat impassively through much of the hearing in front of three judges, as a translator scribbled notes beside him.

He said little as he walked past reporters to a holding cell after the sentencing.

"Dorfin was shocked," the Frenchman's lawyer Deny Nur Indra told AFP.

"He didn't expect this at all because prosecutors only asked for 20 years."

The lawyer said he would appeal against the sentence, describing his client as a "victim" who did not know the exact contents of what he was carrying.

"If he had known, he wouldn't have brought it here," Indra added.

In 2015, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran -- the accused ringleaders of the Bali Nine heroin smuggling gang -- were executed by firing squad in Indonesia.

The case sparked diplomatic outrage and a call to abolish the death penalty.

The Bali Nine gang's only female member was released from jail last year, while some others remain in prison.

A number of foreigners in Indonesia are on death row including cocaine-smuggling British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford and Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman who has been on death row since 2007.

Last year, eight Taiwanese drug smugglers were sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after being caught with around a tonne of crystal methamphetamine.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Brunei says death penalty moratorium to cover sharia laws

Yahoo – AFP, May 5, 2019

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's remarks on capital punishment appeared aimed at
assuaging worldwide criticism (AFP Photo/Andrea VERDELLI)

Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) (AFP) - Brunei's sultan said Sunday a moratorium on capital punishment will also extend to sharia laws that include stoning to death for gay sex and adultery, after a furious backlash against the punishments.

It was the first time Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah had commented publicly on the new penal code since it fully entered force last month, and his remarks appeared aimed at assuaging worldwide criticism.

The laws, which also include amputation of hands and feet for thieves in the tiny sultanate on Borneo island, sparked fury from celebrities, including actor George Clooney, the United Nations and rights groups.

In a televised speech ahead of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the sultan said: "I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the (sharia penal code)."

"There should not be any concern on the sharia law as it is full of Allah's mercy and blessings," he said, according to an official translation of his address.

"As evident for more than two decades, we have practised a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law.

"This will also be applied to cases under the (sharia penal code), which provides a wider scope for remission."

He also vowed Brunei would ratify the United Nations convention against torture which it signed several years ago.

Muslim-majority Brunei operates a dual-track legal system with civil courts operating alongside sharia courts that handle issues such as marital and inheritance cases.

Some crimes were already punishable with death by hanging under the civil code but Brunei has not executed anyone for decades, and the sultan's comments suggest this will not change with the introduction of the new sharia laws.

Rape and robbery are also punishable by death under the sharia code and many of the new laws, such as capital punishment for insulting the Prophet Mohammed, apply to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.

The sultan -- one of the world's wealthiest men -- announced plans for the sharia penal code in 2013.

The first section was introduced in 2014 and included less stringent penalties, such as fines or jail terms for offences including indecent behaviour or skipping Friday prayers.

But the introduction of the harsher punishments in the former British protectorate of about 400,000 people was repeatedly delayed after they sparked criticism.