Parliament suspension a ‘smash-and-grab on democracy to force through a no-deal exit’, says Corbyn
Strong reaction: A man wearing a mask of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson protesting outside Downing Street in London on Wednesday.REUTERS
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday announced the suspension of Parliament in the final weeks before Britain’s EU departure date, enraging anti-Brexit MPs.
Queen Elizabeth II has approved the request to close what has been the longest session of Parliament in nearly 400 years, and reopen it on October 14 setting out Mr. Johnson's fresh legislative programme.
Seemingly caught on the hop, incensed anti-Brexit MPs were left scrambling for a way to stop the move.
Mr. Johnson’s announcement came after six Opposition parties said on Tuesday they would first seek to legislate to prevent leaving the EU without a deal when Parliament returns from a summer recess next week.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main Opposition Labour Party, has said he wants to call a vote of no-confidence in Mr. Johnson’s government, which commands a majority of just one seat.
John Bercow, the Speaker of Parliament’s lower House of Commons, described the closure as a “constitutional outrage” designed to stymie debate on Brexit, with Britain currently on course to crash out without a divorce deal.
An EU summit on October 17-18 could decide whether Britain ends its four decades of membership without a withdrawal agreement that governs future trade relations and citizens rights.
Mr. Johnson said there would be “ample time” either side of the summit for MPs to debate Brexit.
He said it was “completely untrue” that the move was designed to stop MPs blocking his Brexit strategy.
Mr. Johnson said it was to “bring forward a new, bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit”.
The government’s chief Brexit adviser David Frost was in Brussels for talks on Wednesday.
In the seismic 2016 referendum on Britain’s EU membership, 52% voted in favour of leaving the bloc, a result that has left parliament and the country bitterly divided.
Mr. Johnson insists Britain must leave on the October 31 deadline — already twice-delayed — with or without a divorce deal from Brussels.
Parliament has rejected three times the withdrawal agreement struck between Brussels and the government of Mr. Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May. Parliament typically goes into recess again around the annual party conference season, which kicks off on September 14 and ends on October 2.
Mr. Bercow, who was not forewarned about Mr. Johnson’s suspension decision, said: “It is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit.”
“Shutting down Parliament would be an offence against the democratic process.”
Mr. Corbyn called it “an outrage” and a “smash-and-grab on our democracy in order to force through a no-deal exit”, while Labour’s Finance spokesman John McDonnell branded it a “coup”.
Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake tweeted: “The mother of all parliaments will not allow him to shut the people’s parliament out of the biggest decision facing our country. His declaration of war will be met with an iron fist.”
With Hong Kong in disarray, China’s policy is back in focus
A protester throws back a tear gas canister during clashes with police. AFP
Protests in Hong Kong, now in its 13th consecutive week, have brought a decades-old policy of China back into focus — ‘One Country Two Systems’.
The protesters, who started occupying the city’s streets in April after the local government proposed an extradition law, say Beijing is trying to violate this policy by infringing on Hong Kong’s autonomy. They want China to end its interference, while Beijing says it sticks to the principle and has likened the protesters to terrorists.
So, what’s this One Country Two Systems principle?
Origin of policy
To put it simply, it means Hong Kong and Macau Special Administrative Regions, both former colonies, can have different economic and political systems from that of mainland China, while being part of the People’s Republic of China.
The policy was originally proposed by Deng Xiaoping shortly after he took the reins of the country in the late 1970s. Deng’s plan was to unify China and Taiwan under the One Country Two Systems principle. He promised high autonomy to Taiwan. China's nationalist government, which was defeated in a civil war by the communists in 1949, had exiled to Taiwan. The island has since been run as a separate entity from the mainland China, though Beijing never gave up its claim over Taiwan.
Under Deng’s plan, the island could follow its capitalist economic system, run a separate administration and keep its own army, but under Chinese sovereignty. Taiwan rejected the Communist Party’s offer.
Back to China
The idea of two systems in one country resurfaced when Beijing started talks with Britain and Portugal, who were running Hong Kong and Macau, respectively.
The British had taken control of Hong Kong in 1842 after the First Opium War. In 1898, the British government and the Qing dynasty of China signed the Second Convention of Peking, which allowed the British to take control of the islands surrounding Hong Kong, known as New Territories, on lease for 99 years. Macau, on the other side, had been ruled by the Portuguese from 1557.
In the 1980s, China initiated talks with both Britain and Portugal for the transfer of the two territories. Beijing promised to respect the region’s autonomy under the One Country Two Systems principle. On December 19, 1984, China and the U.K. signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which set the terms for the autonomy and the legal, economic and governmental systems for Hong Kong after the British exit. Similarly, on March 26, 1987, China and Portugal signed the Joint Declaration in which China made similar promises for Macau.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese control on July 1, 1997, and Macau on December 20, 1999. The regions can have their own currencies, economic and legal systems, but defence and diplomacy will be decided by Beijing. Their mini-Constitutions will remain valid for 50 years — till 2047 for Hong Kong and 2049 for Macau. It is unclear what will happen after this term.
In recent years, there has been a growing outcry among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists against China’s alleged attempts to erode the city’s autonomy.
In 2016-17, six legislators critical of Beijing were debarred. In 2018, the Hong Kong National Party, a localist party, was outlawed. This year, Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, proposed the extradition Bill, which sought to extradite Hong Kongers to places with which the city doesn’t have extradition agreements. Critics said it would allow the city government to extradite Beijing critics to the mainland China.
This triggered the protests, and they went on despite Ms. Lam’s decision to suspend the Bill. The protesters, who often clashed with the police, now want the Bill to be formally withdrawn, Ms. Lam to resign, the arrested protesters to be released and the city’s electoral system to be reformed.
The U.S. and the Taliban are “close” to reaching an agreement for a deal that would see the Pentagon slash its troop numbers in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the insurgents said on Wednesday.
The two foes have been meeting in Doha in recent days in a bid to put the final touches on a historic deal that would see the Taliban make various security guarantees in return for a sharp reduction in U.S troops based in Afghanistan.
“We are close to an agreement. We hope to bring good news for our Muslim and freedom seeking nation soon,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted. The U.S. embassy in Kabul did not immediately comment. But Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad would come to Kabul in “one or two” days to brief the Afghan leader about the deal.
A senior Taliban commander in Pakistan said that a meeting of insurgent leaders was under way at an undisclosed location along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where the senior figures were reviewing the proposed agreement. “All the Shura (consultation) members have received the draft and they are reading it carefully, yet no go-ahead signal has been given to the Taliban negotiating team in Doha,” the Taliban official said. “It may take a day or two as Taliban leadership has to take all the commanders into confidence.”
In shock: People breaking down outside the bar, which was set on fire in Mexico on Tuesday night. AFP
Gunmen burst into a Mexican strip club in a hail of bullets and killed at least 26 people as they trapped revellers inside and started a raging fire, officials said on Wednesday.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador condemned the “shameful” attack in the city of Coatzacoalcos, and said federal authorities would investigate evidence it may have stemmed from collusion between local authorities and organised crime.
The Tuesday night attack, which officials said also left 11 people badly wounded, is the latest to rock the state of Veracruz, a flashpoint in bloody turf wars between Mexico’s rival drug cartels and a hotbed of political corruption.
Survivors said gunmen sprayed bullets as they descended on the bar, the Caballo Blanco (White Horse), then blocked the exits and set the club alight.
Authorities said many of the victims died of smoke inhalation. It was not immediately clear whether some died of gunshot wounds.
Veracruz Governor Cuitlahuac Garcia tweeted that authorities had identified one of the attackers as Ricardo “N” — Mexican law bars the release of suspects’ full names — adding that he was a repeat offender known as “La Loca” (“The Crazy One”).
The Lord’s physical form is not made of the five elements as in the case of humans. It is composed of five divine elements. The Lord’s physical form is called Divya Mangala Vigraha. But when the Lord took avataras, He did not reveal these differences between our forms and His. When Rama goes to bring the golden deer, Lakshmana warns Him. He says other deer run away in fear from the golden deer. This must be because the golden deer gives off the smell of an asura, Lakshmana says. So however much one might try to disguise one’s natural traits, they are bound to show up.
But, during His avataras, the Lord concealed all His natural characteristics, taking on the characteristics needed for that avatara, said M.A. Venkatakrishnan in a discourse. When He appeared as Varaha, other boars did not shy away from Him. Instead, they rubbed themselves on His back. This would have been possible only if they had been convinced that He was one of them. So, He must have also smelt like them. But how can He smell like a boar? Would it not be wrong to make such inferences? Nampillai explains why it is not wrong. The Vedas describe Him as sarva gandhah, that means the One who has all kinds of smells. In that case, what is wrong if we say that He did not smell differently from the boars, during His Varaha avatara?
The Varaha Purana says we should offer tubers of nutsedge to Lord Varaha. These are tubers only boars like to eat. When Nanjeeyar read of Varaha’s preferred food, he fainted at the thought of the Supreme One eating the favourite food of boars. In the Srimushna temple, even today they give devotees a churnam as prasada. This is nothing but the nutsedge tubers powdered with sugar to make them palatable to us. But the Lord gladly ate this when He was Varaha!