Former PM Najib slapped with more money laundering charges | #AsiaNewsNetwork
Former PM Najib slapped with more money laundering charges | #AsiaNewsNetwork
11 Former PM Najib slapped with more money laundering charges | #AsiaNewsNetwork Former PM Najib slapped with more money laundering charges | #AsiaNewsNetwork Latest Issues , Politics The Star file photo Published 8 February 2019 Nurbaiti Hamdan KUALA LUMPUR (The Star) – Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has been charged with three counts of money laundering amounting to RM47mil.
The former prime minister pleaded not guilty after the charges were read out to him before Sessions Court judge Azman Ahmad here on Friday (Feb 8).
According to the charge sheets, Najib was accused of being involved in money laundering amounting to a sum of RM47mil, which was a result of illegal activities, in his three AmPrivate Banking accounts.
All the offences were allegedly committed at AmIslamic Bank Berhad, Ambank Group Building, No 55, Jalan Raja Chulan on July 8, 2014.
The court allowed a personal bond for Najib on all the three charges.
DPP Manoj Kurup appeared for the prosecution while Najib was represented by lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.
Najib was first slapped with the same charges at the High Court on Jan 28.
However, High Court judge Justice Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali gave him a discharge not amounting to an acquittal on the three charges after allowing an application by the prosecution, which was led by Attorney General Tommy Thomas, during the proceeding on Thursday (Feb 7).
Thomas made the application for the discharge on grounds that the prosecution did not wish to proceed on the three charges against Najib before the High Court and would seek to charge him again before the Sessions Court.
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Epistemic Status: Public service announcement. Confident and not sponsored.
Today, I went to one of my favorite local restaurants to find it was closed.
This is not an uncommon occurrence. About a month prior, I lost perhaps my favorite place in the world to go for a nice meal, BLT Prime. Today, I learned I’d lost my favorite Indian place, Old Monk. The list goes on. This has become frequent enough that I’m going to work on a list of places I’m afraid will close, so I can encourage others to help them keep the lights on.
The best way to help keep everyone’s lights on is simple. If you like the restaurant and want those working there to earn a living, and the place to continue to exist, do not order via online services like SeamlessWeb, GrubHub, Delivery.com or Caviar, if there is another way to contact the restaurant. Period.
This is because they take mindbogglingly huge fees out of every order. We’re talking on the order of 20%. I am not one to begrudge a middle man or market creator their reasonable fee. This is not a reasonable fee.
But because customers don’t know, and the store is forced to eat the entire cost or lose the order since customers have been trained by small conveniences and bribes to use the apps and websites, the fees continue to be collected, and the cycle continues. The few places that pass the cost along look super greedy and lose business.
If you would cost your local place $5 to save the cost of a fifteen second phone call, make no mistake. You are defecting. You are playing zero-sum games with those who should be your allies. You are bad, and you should feel bad.
This is way, way, way worse than not tipping where tipping is expected. Not tipping is shirking on the price and pocketing the money. Here you don’t even get the money.
If you are super rich and your time is that valuable, you can tip them 50% (or 500%) and make up for it. In that case, go for it. For the rest of us, seek out the restaurant’s website or if necessary, at least once you know they’re legit, pick up the damn phone. Talking to a human is a small price to pay to support what you get value from.
That’s why the promotions they bombard me with are so rich. How can they give me such deep discounts on almost every order I make? Now I know. They aren’t even always losing money on those orders. The bastards.
In New York City, the pizza places are fighting back using an app called Slice. Slice is essentially the same as the other apps, except it is run by and for pizza places. Thus it only offers local pizza and not other cuisines, but it allows pizza places to avoid the giant fees. As a bonus, they exclude horrible chains from your delivery options. They once sent me a hilarious promotion accusing (very, very guilty) chain pizza stores of ‘crimes against pizza.’
If you can, use Slice. I hope there’s more of these for other types of places in the future. Or better yet, I hope they already exist, in which case tell me in the comments and I’ll update the post.
There are larger principles in play. They are important. But first, be concrete. Start here. Advertisements
Through Papua New Guinea
Through Papua New Guinea
My first year of teaching had concluded, and with a backpack on my shoulders I waited at the airport gate to commence a three-month break that would I would fill exploring Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia. I did not have an itinerary for the weeks ahead, just a return ticket from Jakarta at the end of the summer. The plan was just to travel and see where fate would take me.
The long hours passed on the plane, and I inched closer to the far side of the globe. A pretty girl with tattoos and hippy-ish attire standing in the aisle caught my eye. I left my seat under the pretext of ordering another beer and struck up a conversation with her. She was petite and fit, with thick, straight black hair that cascaded down her back and around her chest. Her accent was from Latin America.
Seeing through my bullshit question about the flight’s drink menu, she rolled her eyes but flashed an amused grin. We flirted for a few minutes and began to exchange travelers’ tales. She explained that she was born in Colombia but had been moving around the world continuously for almost all of her twenties; occasionally sojourning in places for extended periods of time, earning money as a personal trainer, bartender, English teacher, etc. She had wandered through Latin America, Australia, and Africa; all in all having visited about fifty countries. Now she was heading back to Thailand via Jakarta, to a beach town where she had lived a few years prior. I told her I was going to backpack through Papua New Guinea, and her eyes widened. PNG, she exclaimed, was one of the planet’s few corners in which she was too afraid to step foot.
“Man, I have heard too many horror stories about PNG. A friend of mine who has been through all the wildest countries—Iran, Afghanistan, Venezuela—had to turn around after only a few days in Papua New Guinea. It’s that hardcore. Why are you going there anyway?”
I explained how I had always been fascinated with the mysterious lands of Melanesia: how the people are hypothesized to be the first human beings to reach Asia; how they have lived there for over 70,000 years and even mixed with an extinct cousin of homo sapiens known as homo sapiens denisova many millennia ago. I told her that since childhood, I had been intrigued by New Guinea’s wild and vibrant cultures: Wigmen deep in valleys of the Highlands who even up until recent times forcibly resisted the advances of modernization; Crocodile warriors who resided in the coastal jungles and made scale-like scarifications across their bodies in imitation of their most revered totem; Asaro mudmen who fashioned masks out of clay intended to mirror the countenances of the spirits that co-inhabited their lands…My new friend was impressed, and my excitement for the adventure ahead heightened. I told her that I planned to write about it afterward, and, jotting down her email, she asked me to send her the memoirs at a later date. Well, here they are: ****
After a 20-hour layover in Jakarta, I boarded another plane and flew East over Indonesia’s 70,000 or so islands to the remote frontier province of Irian Jaya, occupying the western half of New Guinea Island. The width of Indonesia from East to West is about the same as that of the USA, and the plane touched down in various small cities en route to distant New Guinea. Passengers rotated on and off as we island-hopped East. After Jakarta we stopped in Surabaya, a city on easternmost finger of the teeming island of Jawa; then Makassar on the enigmatic, and often volatile, island of Sulawesi; then somewhere on the gargantuan landmass of Borneo; and then finally Irian Jaya, Indonesia’s Wild East. Phenotypes, clothing, and demeanors morphed at each stop. In Surabaya a bearded man in a turban, tunic, and military fatigues sat down next to me and began to silently read from the Quran. In Sulawesi—about halfway across the Indonesian archipelago—soft Southeast Asian features and slim builds began to meld with Melanesian features. Upon reaching New Guinea, the black skin, stout muscular builds, and tightly curled hair of the locals confirmed that I had arrived on the far side of the Wallace Line, a.k.a. Melanesia.
The history of the relations between New Guinea and Indonesia is dark and complex. Prior to the gradual colonization of the this region, spurred by the Dutch East India’s desire to gain a monopoly on the spice trade in the 17th century, this enormous archipelago contained countless kingdoms encompassing a dazzling range of religions, languages, ethnicities and cultures. Sure, there had been empires such as Sirijaya and Mataram—those who built the magnificent Buddhist stupa known as Borobudur in the 9 th century—that had conquered large number of islands, but they stopped far short of ever uniting a territory as vast as modern-day Indonesia.
The Dutch East Indies came to absorb thousands of islands, many of which were as distant linguistically, culturally, and ethnically as, say, Russia is from Ireland. On the Western end of their sprawling colony were Java, Sumatra, Bali, and the other Sunda islands, territories that were populated roughly 10,000 years ago by a seafaring people originating in Taiwan, the Austronesians. This same group of intrepid mariners eventually came to inhabit Polynesia (including Hawaii and Easter Island), Micronesia, the Philippines, and even Madagascar off the coast of East Africa. Their descendants, although having mixed with countless other peoples over the millennia, remain the most geographically widespread ethnolinguistic group in the world, with most still speaking Austronesian-derived languages. Moving East from Malay archipelago, the Dutch Crown swallowed up the Maluku Islands (a.k.a. the Spice Islands); Borneo, the world’s largest island and whose jungles contain some of the last uncontacted tribes; and Sulawesi, a landmass almost comical in its shape, with giant peninsulas jutting out like writhing tentacles. Finally, on the eastern extremity and over two thousand miles from Old Batavia (modern day Jakarta), the colony annexed the western half of the Melanesian heartland, the island of New Guinea. The Melanesians were probably the first human beings to reach Southeast Asia, perhaps arriving in New Guinea and Australia (at the time joined as one landmass referred to as Sahul) 70,000-80,000 years ago. As the Austronesians migrated South from their homeland in Taiwan and came to dominate the Sunda Islands, the Melanesians were gradually pushed East of the Wallace Line, a tectonic divide whose deep waters separated the Australasian landmass (i.e. Australia and Melanesia) from mainland Asia even during the peak of the last Ice Age about 26,000 years ago.
After WWII, the Netherlands relinquished its claims to these territories, and the novel notion of ‘Indonesia’ (from the Greek for ‘Indian Islands’, in reference to the South Asian and Hindu influence on these lands) was born. The boundaries of Dutch empire became the prototype for the newly established Indonesian Republic, setting the stage for decades of ethnic and religious conflicts to follow. Having only been established in 1945, the acceptance of Jakarta’s rule over such a huge collection of disparate peoples has by no means been accepted by all Indonesians.
It seemed natural that the western regions of the island of New Guinea, namely West Papua and Irian Jaya, should be united with their Melanesian kinsmen in Papua New Guinea, another nation established in the wake of WWII after the British relinquished their claim to the Eastern half of New Guinea. After all, prior to the Dutch occupation, these Melanesian lands never really had had a historical connection with the Malays or other Austronesian cultures. Granted, they traded with and knew about each other (the word ‘Papua’ comes from an Austronesian word for ‘curly-haired’) but they were as mutually unknown and distant to each other as Classical Greece and Ancient India would have been.
Unfortunately for the Melanesian nationalists, Papua was the most resource-rich province of Indonesia. Alas, New Guinea is described as an island of gold floating atop a sea of oil, and the newly established Republic of Indonesia was not about to allow the lucrative resources of West Papua and Irian Jaya to simply slip away. In fact, the Freeport Mine, the largest gold mine in the world—and controlled and operated by US interests—generates more tax revenue for the Republic of Indonesia than the entire populace of the nation.
As I peered down the cabin, I beheld a Papuan shaman, as black as a West African and naked except for a penis sheath and a collection of seed necklaces. To his right was a Javanese man, bearded and sporting a batik shirt and a kufi . In Indonesian New Guinea, the tension between Austronesian Indonesians and their Melanesian counterparts can be turbulent. The Indonesian government has been incentivizing Javanese to settle this rebellious and recently-acquired province in an effort to pacify it and annex it more completely. Javanese—nationalistic, pioneering, and devoutly Muslim—have poured into this eastern frontier by the hundreds of thousands in recent decades and have gradually overwhelmed the Melanesians culturally, politically, religiously (the Melanesians are overwhelmingly Christian) and, most notably, economically. Although sugarcoated and distorted by Indonesian propaganda, what has occurred in Irian Jaya and West Papua can been called cultural—and even literal—genocide. Countless Melanesian languages and lifeways have been and continue to be erased either directly or indirectly by the Indonesian government. To say that there have been human rights abuses would be a gross understatement—it was not uncommon, even recently, for remote Melanesian villages to be massacred to the last man, woman, and child by the AK-47’s of Indonesian soldiers—but the international community remains largely silent about such atrocities due to Indonesia’s vehement refusal to allow foreign NGOs or journalists to report on the activities in these provinces.
Upon arriving in Irian Jaya, we deplaned in the small and recently-developed city of Jayapura. The massive island of New Guinea remains divided more or less equally between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Related to the Aboriginals of Australia, Papuans are descendants of one of the earliest waves of human migrations out of Africa. As mentioned, between 80,000-100,000 years ago, their ancestors, over many generations, followed an Ice Age coastal route out of Africa, around Arabia, India, and Southeast Asia, and finally to the end of the world, New Guinea and Australia. Geneticists speculate that Andaman Islanders and negrito populations in places like the Philippines and Vietnam might also be descended from these ancient coastal wayfarers. Akin to how homo sapiens in Europe and the Middle East mated with their distant cousins the Neanderthals, the ancestors of the Melanesians intermixed with a homo sapiens subspecies referred to as the Denisovans. Roughly 5-8% of their DNA originates directly from this extinct branch of the homo family tree.
Grabbing my luggage in Jayapura, it was time to continue the long journey by car. I glanced around for somebody who looked Papuan to inquire how to arrive at my next destination, the PNG border. Most on the citizens of Jayapura are ‘mix-breeds’—a term they themselves use that refers to their mixed ancestry from recent Javanese arrivals and indigenous Papuans—and chances were that those who looked pure Papuan were also going to PNG. When the word got around that a foreigner needed a ride to the border, a battalion of taxi drivers began to swarm around me, shouting prices, arguing with each other in Bahasa, and circling around me like hornets. Finally, a taxista proffered what I thought was a remotely honest price, and within a few minutes I was hurtling down a mountainous coastal road. The route, well-maintained on the Indonesian side, snaked through dramatic cliffs and over surreal vistas of the Pacific Ocean. After about three hours—now in the late morning—I arrived at the border. My heart was beating hard and my adrenaline flowing in anticipation of what was to come.
The Indonesian border control office was a few meters from the New Guinean one, and the ornate entrances to each country seemed to taunt each other: above the entrance to Indonesia was a passage from the Quran written in Arabic calligraphy, while an opposing sign above the entrance to PNG declared that “This land is and forever will be ruled by Jesus Christ.” Given the religious violence between Muslims and Christians that plagued Indonesia’s eastern territories, such standoffishness was no surprise. The gateway into PNG stood decked out with tribal motifs and giant faux New Guinean musical instruments.
Even the air was different upon entering PNG. The buildings, roads, and walls were dilapidated in comparison with the modernized Indonesian province I had just left. Gone were the soft mirthful eyes and gentle demeanors of the Indonesians; the people here were hardscrabble and tough. Short muscled men stared at me with hard eyes deep set behind grisled faces. A drunkard, naked except for a filthy pair of boxers, was pacing the dusty clearing in front of the office where my passport was to get stamped. As he saw me approaching, he began to shout incoherently and make lewd thrusting motions in the air with his hips.
I arrived at a dirt parking lot outside the consulate, where folks waited for transportation and women had set up crude stalls to sell roasted root vegetables and cheap pork sausages. I approached a group of men smoking cigarettes and inquired about how to get to Vanimo, the closest town from the border and where I planned to sleep that night. A skinny fellow with ragged clothes politely told me to wait where I was for a bus that would take me to my destination for roughly 2-3 USD. I offered him some Marlboro Reds, which he accepted with gusto and soon onlookers started approaching to meet the strange tourist and bum an American smoke.
When the van arrived I confirmed with the driver that it was in fact heading towards Vanimo, and I clamored inside. The three-person rows held four people each, and the new passengers sat on the floor once all the seats were filled. The man sitting by the window in my row lit the cigarette I had given him, and the driver threw on some PNG reggae, tranquilizing yet upbeat melodies that went perfectly with the serene palm trees outside and the golden midday sunshine streaming through the van’s open windows. The smells of smoke, dreadlocks, and bodies dominated. As the pulsing reggae oozed out of the van’s speakers and nicotine jogged my memory, my mind drifted back to nearly identical van journeys through Jamaica many years ago. Young New Guinean girls sheepishly stole glances at me and giggled as they boarded or exited the van. I allowed myself to relax, and remembered a verse from the poem ‘Ithaka’: Laistrygonians, Cyclops, angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them: you’ll never find things like that on your [travels] as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare excitement stirs your spirit and your body ****
I descended to the main square in Vanimo, the first “city” in PNG after the Indonesian border. The stunning tropical beach rimmed with mountains and turquoise colors clashed sharply with the squalid and ramshackle buildings and dirt streets before me. The bank, central supermarket, and municipal buildings—together comprising Vanimo’s center—appeared as gigantic concrete boxes that had been haphazardly plopped down atop a sandy clearing. There was a large cluster of tents and tables, where locals hawked betel nut, fresh fish, greens, and an endless variety of exotic produce. Fishermen near the beach stared and grinned at me, their teeth covered with what looked like thick red paint. They wore bilums, handwoven, rustic yet sturdy bags that were ubiquitous across Papua New Guinea. While in the Highlands bilums were much larger and made of wool, here on the coast they were fashioned out of brightly-dyed plant fibers and either slung over the shoulder or behind the ears and across the forehead. The diamond and checkered patterns were intricate and wildly varied; in fact, to New Guineans, the bilum’s patterns immediately indicated the ‘tok-ples’, or ethnicity, of its weaver.
As the fishermen bantered with each other, every few minutes one of them would dig inside his bilum for a green nut, a small plastic container full of lime powder, and a celery-like stalk they called ‘mustard’. After breaking open the green nut with severely corroded teeth and extracting the small yellowish fruit inside, the men proceeded to break off a small length of the crunchy mustard stalk, dip it in the lime powder, and pop the combination in their mouths. As they chewed, the mixture obtained the consistency of wet cement and color of tomato juice, leaving their mouths looking like a construction site after a rainstorm. Every few chews, the men ejected a bright-red missile of spit. The distance and precision with which they spat was impressive, the result of years and thousands of betel nuts worth of practice. Similar to nicotine or caffeine, the betel nut contains alkaloids that increase alertness and reduce hunger, the latter quality a great boon for the many New Guineans who only eat one meal per day. The real sweet spot, I was informed, was obtained by simultaneously chewing betel nut, or buai , and smoking locally grown tobacco, or brus , far stronger and harsher than its industrial counterpart.
Within an hour of arrival I had made friends who led me on a tour of Vanimo. My self-appointed guide, David, was skinny and soft-spoken with an easy laugh and gleaming, slightly nervous eyes. David was in his early thirties but his wrinkled face, broken teeth, and gray hairs made him look like a much older man. David walked me through the dirt streets around the central plaza, as curious locals clamored around to talk to us. The attention and respect lavished on him for showing around a tourist in places tourists did not usually enter was relished by David. Although Chinese merchants had a presence in Vanimo and owned all of the stores and businesses, white people—especially one interacting with locals—were a novelty. A young man with much lighter skin approached and began to converse with me in a rugged Aussie accent. His eyes were green and his skin had yellow undertones, but his hair texture and facial features were Papuan. He told me that his father was an Australian miner who had worked in PNG and his mother was a Highlander. The young man had lived in Australia during his childhood but had not been back since returning to PNG in his teens. The dirt on his face and clothes evinced the fact that he slept on the street and was deep into addictions. He noticed that I did not wear a bilum and gave me the one he was wearing, which I used for the remainder of my journey through PNG and still possess to this day.
Like this young man, many around the central plaza had gaunt faces and dirty clothes. Privately, David explained that crack cocaine and other cheap hard drugs had ravaged the lives of many a young man in Vanimo. Another addict silently shadowed us for about ten minutes, and I grew wary. David, sensing my discomfort, explained that this young man following us was harmless but had experienced brain damage from severe drug abuse. David walked over to the young man, a stout lad who said nothing but unceasingly stared at me, and handed him a green betel nut from his bilum. The gift of the betel nut seemed to satisfy the young man and he sat down to enjoy a chew as David and I continued walking along the plaza.
I returned to the market with David to procure an herb to help with back pain. The woman who sold the plant rubbed the leaves, covered with microscopic thorns, over my back and neck. After the tingling sensation subsided, the pain in fact diminished, much to my relief and the New Guineans’ satisfaction.
David invited me to crash at his house that night in Vanimo, and I pitched a mosquito net in an unfinished shed in his backyard. As a token of gratitude, I purchased enough ‘White Can’—a surprisingly good pilsner produced in PNG—to keep us merry for the evening. After watching a riotously beautiful sunset—dripping gold and pink over sea, mountains, and jungle—David, his neighbors, and I shared cigarettes and beer in the communal area of David’s neighborhood, a clearing with wooden benches and plastic chairs in the cluster of bungalows. A group of us—about ten men—talked and laughed into the night, as children ran from one house to another and the women tended to housework and occasionally chided their kids from the doorways. Some of those drinking with us felt less comfortable conversing in English, and they shyly inquired with David if I spoke Tok Pisin.
Tok Pisin or ‘Talk Pidgin’ is the dialect of English spoken in Papua New Guinea, a legacy of the British colonization of the island and born out of the New Guineans efforts to communicate with English-speaking sailors. Tok Pisin varies across Papua New Guinea, with different versions being spoken in the Highlands, the Islands, and the mainland coastal regions. Nonetheless, in a country that has over 800 indigenous languages, Tok Pisin serves as the de facto lingua franca of the streets. Although official grammatical rules for the language do not exist as far as I know, Tok Pisin’s informal grammar, vocabulary, and rhythm are distinct enough from standard English that I understood almost nothing during my first week in PNG. After getting used to the accent and having some of the quirks of the speech and spelling explained, I found myself rapidly beginning to understand and communicate on the streets. Missionaries later told me that native English speakers usually acquired proficiency in Tok Pisin within about six months. Impressively, most New Guineans can effortlessly switch between Tok Pisin, standard English, and their ‘Tok Ples’ (Tok Pisin for ‘Talk Place’), or Papuan language.
David translated the conversation, primarily a stream of raunchy jokes and stories, between English and Tok Pisin. One man sitting with us was older—probably in his 50’s judging by his wizened frame and gray hair—and his command of standard English was as strong as David’s. He wore a simple brown T-shirt with a red star and the words ‘Organisasi Papua Merdeka’ emblazoned on the front. Considered either freedom fighters or terrorists depending on who you ask, the Organisasi Papua Merdeka, a.k.a. The Free Papua Movement or simply OPM, is an illegal guerrilla group that opposes, often violently, the Indonesian occupation of West Papua and Irian Jaya. I did not ask the man if he was OPM; however, I later found out that Vanimo and the surrounding jungle was in fact a safe haven for this persecuted group, whose members—along with many civilians who are suspected to be members—are systematically hunted and executed by the Indonesian military.
Before my departure, I asked around Vanimo about procuring agarwood, a precious wood that is perhaps the most sought-after perfumery ingredient in the world. ‘Oud’ as it’s known in the Arab world, is produced by slow-growing trees of the aquilaria genus, native to the jungles of Southeast Asia. Once in a while, usually after trauma from lightning storms, such trees get infected by a particular fungus and produce a resin to combat the infection. Over decades this resin accumulates in the heart of the tree and can be harvested as the divinely-fragrant agarwood. Similar to wine or tea, the ‘terroir’ of each region adds a distinctive personality and profile to the product. The agarwood of PNG is considered by connoisseurs to be among the finest and most complex in the world. The very best agarwood that PNG produces is referred to as ‘crocodile wood’, or ‘puc-puc garu’ in Tok Pisin. Possessing a texture akin to the scaly hide of a crocodile, this grade of wood is onyx-black and so dense with resin that it sinks like a stone in water.
The heavenly smell produced by agarwood incense and oil, praised by Buddhists as the ‘Scent of Nirvana’ and Sufi mystics as the ‘Fragrance of Paradise’, comes at a dear price. The aquilaria trees can be artificially inoculated to produce resin; however, the fragrance of farmed agarwood, for some reason not fully understood, never approaches the scent of the wild wood. As the resin takes many decades to accumulate in the trees, the supply of wild agarwood has dwindled almost to nil. Barring a few Buddhist monasteries whose monks have refused to cut down agarwood-laden aquilaria trees considered sacred, old-growth, wild oud trees are practically extinct in Vietnam and other countries in Indochina where it was traditionally sourced. Most of the wild oud from such regions has long been harvested and resides in safes, perfumeries, and museums across the world. Commanding prices in the tens of thousands for the finest quality product, violent black markets and mafias control the traffic of oud in poor countries like PNG where wild wood can still be found.
After spreading the word that I was seeking agarwood, minutes before my departure from Vanimo a truck halted to stop next to me on the dusty street outside of the town. A man I had met the day before came out holding a plastic bag, which he handled nervously, as if it were contraband. Glancing about to see if anyone else was around, he revealed three large pieces of agarwood, not ‘puc-puc’ grade but high-grade nonetheless. I was used to buying agarwood chips, and here was small beam about the size of my forearm. I paid him 20USD for the wood, and it remained deep in my backpack for the remainder of the journey through Asia. ****
From the jungles of Vanimo, I climbed upwards into the mountainous heart of New Guinea, the notorious Highlands. Grabbing the default mode of transportation in PNG, an oversized van known as a PMV, I began the inland ascent into the rugged, chilly hills. The Highlands were the last area of New Guinea to be explored, and until recently many of the region’s tribes were uncontacted. The terrain is rugged and hostile; nonetheless, and to the shock of the first Westerners to venture there, the Highlands are heavily populated and contain a dazzling diversity of ethnolinguistic groups. Linguists estimate that Papua New Guinea contains about 800 living languages—or in other words, about 15% of the world’s languages—and the highest concentration of them is in the Highlands.
I disembarked in Goroka, a small mountain city that boasted an airport and one of PNG’s best universities, focused primarily on mining and geological sciences. As I stood at the bus stop, a young man wearing a scarf around his head like a turban kept glancing over and grinning at me. Typifying the Highlander phenotype, he was short, stocky, and powerfully built, with a stout chest and thick neck; for a moment, I was uneased that his attention was focused on me. Remembering that the friends I made in Vanimo had notified their wontoks , or relatives, in Goroka about my arrival, I realized this man had been waiting at the bus stop for me.
New Guineans, as in other Melanesian cultures, deeply value extended family relations. Second, third, and even distant cousins are still treated as family. The word ‘wontok’, which can be used interchangeably with ‘kin’, derives from the Tok Pisin phrase ‘one talk’, referring to those who speak the same tribal language. In an island containing a mind-boggling array of language and cultures and where tribal warfare is all too common, caring for and respecting your wontoks is crucial. There is an unspoken expectation that when you come to your wontok’s aid, say in a tribal feud, he reciprocates at some point, even if he be a distant relative and the need be decades in the future. One Highlander I befriended on the coast explained that he would not hesitate to make the long return journey to his native village if even a second or third cousin was in a bind or needed his reinforcement in a dispute.
The man waiting for me at the bus stop introduced himself as Ian. His brown face was fully-bearded and spattered with scars. He had a noble bearing and possessed a sincerity and guilelessness that reminded me of indigenous people I had met deep in Amazonia. As we walked down the streets of Goroka, young men greeted Ian, exchanging jibes and salutations in Tok Pisin. We stopped to buy betel nuts and loose cigarettes from carts, and the gray-haired aunties selling their wares doted on him with tenderness and affection. An old soul at 22, Ian’s life experiences had given him the poise of a man at least thirty. Later, he explained that his wontoks in Vanimo had asked him to look after me in Goroka because he knew how to fight well and he knew the streets well; in other words, he could protect me if necessary. Each morning we brewed coffee and purchased fresh bread from a local bakery. After breakfast we had another cup of coffee and a few cigarettes on the patio while we philosophized about life, love, etc. An hour after meeting, we were buddies; after two weeks, when the time came for me to depart Goroka, we were ‘blots’, brothers united as if by blood.
Ian’s first languages were Kafe, his Tok Ples, and Tok Pisin. Although he spoke fluent English, his thick accent belied the fact that he had only learned Standard English in high school. In Goroka, Ian had bounced between manual labor jobs and was no stranger to poverty, often consuming merely one meal per day and quelling his hunger pains with betel nuts and tobacco. He had moved to Goroka in his teens but had spent his childhood in a traditional Kafe village, one without electricity and inaccessible at times due to poor road conditions. The buildings of his village were made of wood and thatch, and he slept with his siblings, parents, and grandparents in the same room. They raised pigs and chickens and farmed tubers and highland fruits. Villages such as his were prone to raids from gangs of hooligans that roamed the countryside. Such marauders, known as ‘raskols’, are an epidemic throughout Papua New Guinea. Packing homemade guns fabricated from welded piping and machetes, raksols rape, rob, and pillage until stopped by the authorities, vigilantes, or rival gangs.
One fine evening while we were telling stories and sharing smokes around sunset, I inquired more about Ian’s life in the village. Earlier that day, he and I had ridden to a village a couple hours away from Goroka where our friend Molly, another Kafe, had grown up and where her 90-year-old grandfather resided. The village was no more than a small cluster of thatch huts, and the ancient grandfather, although blind, deaf, and mute, commanded the affection and reverence of a high priest among the villagers. Ian recounted how his own village, and countless others in the Highlands, were in fact quite similar. As the last sun rays illumined his face, I asked him how he had received a prominent scar that formed a crescent moon around his right eye socket. Ian explained that it was from a battle wound acquired during tribal warfare.
When he was 17 and living in the Kafe village, a bloody dispute arose with men in a village in another valley pertaining to a rival ethnicity. The beef began when Ian’s uncle, a respected leader among the Kafe, was driving near the rival village and his truck was stopped by a gang of raskols. Recognizing them as Kafe, the drunk young men insulted Ian’s uncle and made sexual comments about his uncle’s wife, who was in the passenger’s seat. Ian’s uncle remained silent during the ordeal and eventually the young men got bored and walked away, cursing at them and reveling in their drunken vulgarity as they departed.
When he arrived at his own village, Ian’s uncle’s rage had reached a boiling point, and he rallied his kinsmen to ride out the next day to seek revenge on the raskols. The Kafe men decided that the score could only be settled with bloody retribution upon the disrespectful men, even killing them if possible. All the able-bodied men in the village were notified that before daybreak, they would set out in a caravan of trucks to find the miscreants. Males as young as 15 and as old as 50 joined the impromptu militia. I asked Ian if he was nervous the night before, and he responded in the negative. Even with the knowledge that the next morning he would risk his life, Ian slept soundly the night before the raid. I inquired if the mothers and the wives in the village acquiesced and supported this approach, to which he shrugged and said that they really had no choice but to accept it.
The men reached the enemy village shortly before sunrise, and they were expecting to launch a surprise attack. The villages in the Highlands were small enough that individuals had few places to hide, and they expected to find their targets shortly after arriving. If they could not find them, they would attack whatever men they could find until the perpetrators revealed themselves.
Unfortunately for the Kafe vigilantes, the intoxicated men had preserved enough of their wits to realize that they had started a serious feud. Instead of being caught by surprise, they and their own kinsmen waited in ambush for the Kafe men to arrive. Ian and the Kafe fighters descended from their trucks and began to sneak into the village, but before long they were assailed with missiles from hidden enemies. Before they could process what was happening, the Kafe war party was besought with stones, arrows, and even some bullets from homemade guns. Expecting fisticuffs, Ian’s kinsmen had not brought their own guns and quickly found themselves on the retreat. Fleeing back to the vehicles, a hurled stone cracked open Ian’s eye socket, the impact so hard that he briefly lost consciousness and fell on the ground. He could hear his comrades shouting and running away, and he was able to summon enough adrenaline to get himself off the ground back to the trucks, saving his own life.
The men returned to their own village and assessed their damage. Many had been wounded but all had survived. One of Ian’s cousins had an arrow wound in his calf muscle. The Kafe once again rallied and headed back into enemy territory, but this time with their weapons. Luckily, further violence was curtailed, as the elders from both sides agreed to resolve the dispute in a formal meeting. As the Highland custom dictates, a few days later the two warring parties met and exchanged gifts and began peace talks. The elders from the raskols’ village agreed to compensate Ian’s uncle for the young men’s insolence as well as for the damage occurred in the skirmish. The payment would be made in cash and live pigs, the latter traditionally being one of the most prized possessions in the Highlands as well as a symbol of wealth. After the exchange was complete, the cycle of violence was broken and peaceful relations between villages could be said to be effectively restored.
Ian explained that such conflicts were common in the Highlands, and villages and even whole ethnicities could get locked into blood feuds if they were not resolved in the initial stages. The violence was almost always rooted in three causes of conflict: women, land, and sorcery. Highland sorcerers were known as ‘sangumas’, and their dark arts, considered necessary for the protection and wellbeing of a village, were taken deadly seriously throughout Papua New Guinea. In fact, there was even a clause in PNG’s legal code forbidding witchcraft, on pain of legal prosecution. Every tribe and village had their sorcerer, usually women who lived in isolation from the rest of the village. They could propitiate the local spirits to ensure agricultural prosperity and healthy children, but they were also summoned to attack enemies on the spiritual plane.
I inquired with Ian how one could know when a sorcerer’s treachery was at hand, and he explained that the black magic usually manifested in illness, crop failure, and other unusual miseries in the village. If a village leader fell sick, there were methods to determine if the illness was natural or the result of sorcery. Sometimes the evil spirits summoned and sent by an enemy sorcerer manifested in dreams or could be sensed by another sanguma.
There was a village not far from Goroka, called Asaro, that was notorious and feared for its sorcerers. The Asaro are frequently pictured in National Geographic-style exposés of the New Guinea Highlands for their ‘mudmen’ rituals, in which Asaro create grotesque masks out of clay intended to imitate the forms of the spirits who co-inhabit their rugged mountain homeland. The ritual is performed by the Asaro on an as needed basis, whenever the elders feel that spiritual allegiances need to be reestablished or malevolent spirits need to be intimidated away. The Asaro were not feared as fierce warriors, but they were left alone and respected by other tribes due to the cunning of their sorcerers. Later in the day while on the street, I attempted to reopen the conversation about sangumas with Ian. He stiffened and admonished me solemnly, “Listen, brother—you can’t say that word in public places. Somebody might hear you and get the wrong idea…” ****
Since the earliest recorded accounts of this island by the ancient Chinese, New Guinea has been an island of enchantment but also of terror. Tales of cannibalism and the ferocity of New Guinean warriors surely was part of the reason that this island remained isolated and relatively unexplored by outsiders until late into history. Eventually I felt comfortable enough to ask Ian about the phenomenon that the outside world usually associated with PNG: cannibalism. Similar to how Colombians quickly tire of and resent foreigners pressing them on cocaine and drug traffic, New Guineans loathe being questioned about this ancestral custom, as they are painfully aware that many in the Western world still picture them as cannibalistic savages. Nonetheless, Ian patiently explained the practice as he understood it.
As recently as a few generations ago, cannibalism was widely practiced throughout the island of New Guinea. Ian’s grandparents, who had been alive until late his childhood, had eaten human flesh. In fact, his grandfather had been an influential Kafe leader who had vehemently denounced the encroachment of outsiders and Christianity into their territory. When foolhardy missionaries persisted in their efforts to contact and evangelize the Kafe, Ian’s grandfather had been one the leaders in favor of killing and eating them. It was intended to send a message to other would-be intruders. Two missionaries, a man a woman, met this fate. Their bodies were cooked and eaten, along with their leather shoes. The Kafe were eventually converted to Christianity, but the incident with these missionaries remains alive in their collective memory to this day.
Cannibalism served as a form of psychological warfare in pre-contact New Guinea. As one Highlander explained to me, if you killed and ate one enemy, other enemies would be more likely to quickly surrender in the future. In addition to consuming ‘long pigs’, i.e. unlucky white-skinned intruders, to deter encroachment, cannibalism served to strengthen alliances and peace treaties between villages. Ian recounted that in his grandfather’s time his village maintained peace with a neighboring villaged by exchanging a chosen person from each village who would be sacrificed and eaten. In fact, the ill-fated would be selected as a young child, and his parents and the other villagers understood that when the time came, usually around early adolescence, he would be offered as a gift to secure an allegiance. I inquired how they possibly chose the child to be sacrificed, and Ian claimed that usually it was a child who the elders recognized would grow into a large and plump teenager; in other words, one that would be the most appetizing. ****
Before arriving in PNG, I had been warned both by online articles and other travelers with whom I communicated about the violence in this country. The cities, especially Port Moresby and Lae, have nasty reputations for their problems with raskols and gangs. Most of the raskols migrate from the Highlands down to the coastal cities in search of greater economic opportunity, dreams that almost always end in disillusionment and a life in the slums. The slums, usually lacking even the most basic infrastructure and sanitation, sprawl out for miles in cities like Moresby, Lae, and Madang, and for long-term residents, especially foreigners, it was not a question of if but when you got mugged at gunpoint. In the surprisingly quaint and handsome coastal city of Madang, while walking to a bar a local pointed out to me the exact spot on the bridge we were crossing where the mayor’s son had been ambushed and hacked to death the week before.
Far from the cities, the Highlands were also no stranger to violence. For countless millennia these hills have been watered with blood from tribal warfare, or intra-villages clashes like the one Ian described. Tragically, death and destruction have assumed unprecedented dimensions in recent decades due to the introduction of high-powered firearms and explosives, usually smuggled into the Highlands from China or the Indonesian army across the border. As Ian explained, warfare and raiding in the olden days was akin to an athletic contest, as the warriors would fight each other in small bands and with weapons such as clubs and bows and arrows. Now with modern weaponry, entire Highland villages can be massacred appallingly quickly. Recently, Highland elders from various tribes convened to codify official rules for tribal warfare, recognizing that technology has created a degree of destruction that would have been unimaginable for their ancestors.
In Lae, I crashed in the house of a young man I had befriend named Stephen, and we exchanged tales deep into the night, as we lay on the wooden floor of the permanent lean-to that was his home in the hills outside of the city. Stephen had been one or two credits away from graduating from the University of Lae with a degree in engineering, expect a drunken brawl with a coterie of campus security guards had gotten him expelled before graduation. Stephen was tall and sinewy, and looked as if he could have been a good athlete if it had not been for his chain smoking. His buddies called him ‘Iron Fist’, and he explained that many a scar he carried rightfully should have belonged to the friends who he had saved by stepping in during street and bar fights. Once Stephen got stabbed and had to take himself to the emergency room. The brawl had started when a raskol, no older than 15 or 16, had insulted him in front of a group. Knowing that Stephen was bigger and stronger, the kid pulled out a blade in the hope that Stephen’s courage would fail. Reading the raskol’s eyes, Stephen could sense his fear and knew that the kid was incapable of lethally stabbing him. He stepped forward, crossing the point of no-return in a street fight. Stephen’s intuition was correct, and he was able to land hard punches on the kid’s head before the kid could react with the knife. While on the ground, the raskol’s blade entered Stephen’s shoulder, but by this point his adrenaline blocked out any pain. Within minutes Stephen’s fists had rendered the boy unconscious. Luckily, there were not any large rocks on the ground, as Stephen stated that he probably would have bashed the boy’s head if his hand had found one. This incident happened when a tribal war raging outside of Lae, and Stephen recounted how the emergency room that night was flooded with the corpses of the victims the conflict had claimed, most of the bodies hacked up with machetes.
Days later in another coastal city, a family boarded the bus I was riding. The husband grasped his wife’s arm, and the wife’s arms held a small child. I noticed bright red fluid on the woman’s hair, neck, and clothes. My first thought was that it was betel nut juice that she had somehow spit it onto herself, but then I saw the gash on her skull. After a few stops, the family descended, and I inquired with a local friend what had transpired. He explained that the woman’s husband had probably hit her on the head with the blunt side of a machete during a disagreement.
In spite of the violence that I heard about and occasionally glimpsed, such a brawl in a bar and an abrupt fight that erupted between two PMV drivers after one cut the other off on the road, I felt safe in PNG. The locals, almost without exception, treated me with the highest courtesy and with deep curiosity and warmth. Many were so joyfully surprised to meet a tourist that they insisted on engaging in long conversations, buying me beers, and sharing information about their locale. Call it my good luck for finding good people, but even knowing that violence was commonplace, I felt that the friends I made had my back as I navigated through their country. There was one moment in a club where a drunk young man yelled at me and seemed to want to fight, but Ian and a group of friends with whom he played rugby quickly assured me that there was no need to worry. ****
The going in Papua New Guinea is rough. The lack of infrastructure can appall, traveling is undeniably more dangerous than in most countries, and the poverty you witness will not soon be forgotten. Despite the discomforts and lost weight, the days in PNG were exhilarating and eye-opening beyond what I could have ever expected. Barring illegally entering a Yanomami reservation in the Amazon, I have never before felt so acutely that I was entering a forbidden land, one that the internet and even travel writers had warned me was not to explore. I would not revisit Papua New Guinea for the pristine nature, nor even to see more of its ancient culture. However, the friendships I forged during my short sojourn in this land make me long to return. What deep, authentic souls that graced my path at every step of the journey in PNG! Ian, Stephen, and Molly—if you are reading this article, know that I consider you all my wontoks and blots.
The New Guineans use the word ‘lewa’ to refer to the emotional ‘heart’, and New Guineans are veritable giants of lewa. On this isolated island, among one of the Earth’s most ancient societies, hearts are wide open and as genuine as they come. The human warmth here never ceased to amaze me, like when after talking to a stranger on the street or at a food stall for less than 10 minutes, they would end the conversation with a hug and ‘I love you’.
On my last day in the Highlands, some of Ian and Molly’s wontoks made a mumu and threw a going-away-party in my honor. A mumu is a Highland delicacy in which meat, usually pork or chicken, is wrapped in thick layers of banana leaves along with aromatic herbs and coconut flesh and then placed for hours in a makeshift, subterranean oven dug into the earth. I would be disingenuous to praise the New Guinean cuisine—it usually was little more than rice and cheap sausage with nothing green in sight—however, the mumu was scrumptious, especially accompanied with copious rounds of White Can and local turmeric-infused liqueur, another Highlands specialty.
Once I reached the coast I returned to Vanimo and hitchhiked to the Indonesian border. The driver cracked open a beer and lit a cigarette, a luxurious Cambridge brand smoke, not the hand-rolled brus that most smoked on the street. He offered me what he was having. The weeks here, attempting to live as the New Guineans lived, had left my body feeling polluted and tired almost to the breaking point. I had slept almost only on floors and mats. Rodents had co-inhabited just about every place I had laid my head. Many meals had been skipped. But fuck it, I thought, might as well celebrate—I wasn’t even sure I would survive three weeks in PNG, and what a ride that was… I accepted the intoxicants and reminisced on the journey that was now ending: Ian and Stephen, with whom I felt as close as if I had known them for half my life; the sublime beauty of the misty Highlands and the sundrenched tropical cays of the coast, nature practically untouched; the deep conversations I had had while moving through country…It had all begun on this very same road three weeks prior. The luxury of Jayapura was almost too much to take. Here were modern buildings, cars, roads, and markets. The Indonesian food was thrillingly flavorful and exciting after the bland diet that had sustained me in PNG. It started to sink in that I had just visited one of the world’s wildest corners. Relief mixed with nostalgia. I made it…I did Papua New Guinea with a backpack, motherf*cker… Advertisements
Union Parliament approves formation of constitutional amendment joint committee
10 Union Parliament approves formation of constitutional amendment joint committee Union Parliament approves formation of constitutional amendment joint committee Politics The regular session of Union Parliament is in process in Nay Pyi Taw on February 6. Published 8 February 2019 EMG reporter The Union Parliament approved the proposal to form the joint committee for constitutional amendment and it will be formed with equal proportion of the parliamentarians from the political parties and Tatmadaw representatives after assigning the deputy speaker as the chairman of the committee.
Upper House MP Aung Kyi Nyunt representing No 4 Constituency of Magway Region submitted the urgent proposal to the Union Parliament to form the joint committee with the suitable proportion of the parliamentarians from the Union Parliament to amend the 2008 Constitution in a speedy manner and the Union Parliament approved it on February 6.
“The joint committee will be formed with equal proportion of the parliamentarians from Upper House and Lower House as the proposal has been approved. The deputy speaker will be assigned as the chairman of the committee. The joint committee will be formed with equal proportion of the parliamentarians from the political parties and Tatmadaw representatives. The parliamentarians will be invited to discuss forming the joint committee and fixing the number of independent candidates. Duties, responsibilities, entitlements and tenure of the joint committee will be also discussed, said T Khun Myat, Speaker of Union Parliament.
Upper House MP U Aung Kyi Nyunt representing No 4 Constituency of Magway Region submitted an urgent proposal to form a joint committee with Union Parliament representatives to amend the 2008 Constitution as speedily as possible to the regular session of second Union Parliament in Nay Pyi Taw on January 29.
The proposal sought the voting solution. There were a total of 601 voters in the parliament. The military representatives did not vote. There were 394 votes for and 17 against the proposal, with 3 abstentions.
Translated and Edited by Win Htut
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‘Yaba godfather’ spends over Tk 1.5cr a month among Bangladeshi poor | #AsiaNewsNetwork
11 ‘Yaba godfather’ spends over Tk 1.5cr a month among Bangladeshi poor | #AsiaNewsNetwork ‘Yaba godfather’ spends over Tk 1.5cr a month among Bangladeshi poor | #AsiaNewsNetwork Latest Issues , News Awaiting free rice distribution by Abdur Rahman Bodi, widely known as a patron of yaba trade, hundreds of women and children gather in Chowdhury Para area of Teknaf. /The Daily Star Published 11 February 2019 Mohammad Jamil Khan Teknaf (The Daily Star) – The other side of Abdur Rahman Bodi, widely known as a yaba godfather, is quite intriguing.
The former Awami League lawmaker has been spending roughly Tk 19 crore per annum for the last three years on distributing rice among 56,000 poor people in Teknaf every month.
He also donates sugar, milk, oil, onion, lentils and chickpeas for the needy in the month of Ramadan. Many families have got financial support from him, said locals.
Two years before he started his “philanthropic” activities, his annual income was around Tk 15.46 crore as shown in his 2014 polls affidavit.
So where does the extra crores for his charity work come from? How does he maintain the annual balance sheet? Has his income just swelled over the years or he got the magic lamp?
RISE OF A ‘PHILANTHROPIST’
In 2016, two years after Bodi was elected MP from Cox’s Bazar-4 for the second time, he made a list of needy people with the help of representatives of Teknaf municipality and union parishads, according to local political leaders.
“Every person on the list was issued a card and a cardholder gets 10kg white [atap] rice every month. Bodi has been doing this over the last three years,” Mohammad Alam Bahadur, general secretary of Teknaf municipality AL, told The Daily Star.
Bahadur, also a coordinator of the rice distribution, said there are 7,000 cardholders in Teknaf sadar union, 13,000 in Whykong, 11,000 in Hnila, 9,000 in Baharchhara, 11,000 in Sabrang and 5,000 more in Shah Porir Island.
The card, on one side, bears the area name and the slogan “Take Salam from Bodi Bhai, Vote for Boat”, and his photo on the other.
Zafar Alam Chowdhury, adviser of Cox’s Bazar AL, confirmed to this newspaper that about 56,000 people have been getting rice every month over the last three years.
HK Anwar, chairman of Hnila Union Parishad, said they make an announcement a day before the rice distribution. The cardholders gather at the union parishad office accordingly.
Same is the practice in other unions.
Rehana Akter, 52, an inhabitant of Pankhali village, said she goes to the union parishad office following the announcement and collects rice showing her card.
Rahima Khatun, 42, of Sabrang union, has been receiving rice for the last three years. “For this favour, the MP never asked us to do anything for him,” she said.
Talking to this newspaper, several recipients of rice said this is very good quality atap. In the local market, it is priced between Tk 28 and 30 per kg.
According to an estimate, Bodi distributes 5,60,000kg rice every month and the cost would be at least Tk 1.56 crore. That means he spends around Tk 19 crore every year only on rice distribution.
Besides, whenever he goes to a local market or attends any public programme, he distributes Tk 100 to Tk 1,000 notes among people, said locals.
To many in his locality, he is now more of a generous benefactor than a former lawmaker or politician.
“Leave the place. You have no right to comment on Bodi Bhai. No one has ever done anything in the last 50 years like what he did for us.”
This was how a 55-year-old woman responded when this correspondent was making some queries about Bodi on January 25. She was having tea at a stall near Shamlapur High School in Teknaf.
Five to six others came up with almost the same reaction.
No one goes back empty handed from Bodi’s door, according to rickshaw puller Md Shamsul.
“Bhai is helping us by providing rice every month and he never asks for any return,” said Nurul Amin, who was taking tea sitting beside Shamsul.
Bodi has established a college, a high school and a madrasa in Teknaf, according to the biography book of the Jatiya Sangsad, which mentions charity as his hobby.
His father Mohammad Ezahar Mia Company was also popular in the locality. A supporter of any party that came to power, he established Teknaf Ezahar Girls’ High School, now a government institution.
“All credit goes to my people for whom I am here today. So I donate 70 percent of my business income to the people of my locality,” Bodi said last month when asked about the rice distribution.
He, however, won’t give any idea about his business or its volume and the donations he makes.
Through an independent probe, The Daily Star learnt that Bodi has been controlling the entire cost and freight (C&F) business in Teknaf since he was first elected lawmaker in 2008.
He has four agencies for export and import. M/S A Rahman Agency is registered in his name; M/S Samia Enterprise in his daughter’s name, M/S Shawon Enterprise in his son’s and M/S Shaheen and Sons in his wife’s name.
During a visit, this correspondent found that a small tin-shed office in Chowdhurypara area of Teknaf houses all the four agencies. On the signboard, the proprietor’s name is Abdur Rahman Bodi.
The cards that the poor in Teknaf use for collecting rice donated by the former lawmaker. The photos were taken in November and December. Photo: Collected
Sources said Bodi imports fish, pickle, wood, ginger, and exports dry fish — to and from Myanmar — through these agencies. His family has ages-old relation with Myanmar as his grandfather Sultan Ahmed was its resident.
He is the “biggest importer” of Burma teak from Myanmar and earns crores from this business, at least three local traders claimed. This is one of his major sources of income, they added.
The former MP also has a number of shops in different markets and a residential hotel in Teknaf.
The four-storey Naf Hotel was turned into living quarters for families a couple of years back. Its two or three rooms are rented out together at Tk 4,000 to Tk 5,000 per month.
Sources in Cox’s Bazar Registration Office said there is land in the names of Bodi, his wife, sisters and brothers in Teknaf, Ukhia, Inani, Baharchhara and St Martin’s Island.
He has been the highest taxpayer in Cox’s Bazar for the last couple of years, according to district tax office sources.
But what sources of income he has beyond all this? Is there any at all?
THE MAGIC LAMP
Sources claim that a big portion of his income comes from yaba smuggling from Myanmar. He hogged the headlines in this connection numerous times in the recent past.
The former MP has been named as a yaba godfather in reports of the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) alongside several intelligence and law enforcement agencies.
A DNC report mentions him as a patron of yaba trade in Ukhia-Teknaf, the gateway of smuggling the crazy drug from Myanmar.
“It would not be an over statement that other top yaba traders would not dare continue the trade going against his will. And local yaba traders or extortionists would not be able to establish supremacy.”
According to the report, his willingness can play a vital role in bringing an end to yaba smuggling from Myanmar, which has border with Teknaf.
It also names his brothers Mujibur Rahman and Abdul Shukkur and cousin Mong Mong Sen as yaba godfathers.
Besides, according to an intelligence agency report, there are 120 listed drug traders in Cox’s Bazar, and Bodi tops that list as well.
Sources in law enforcement agencies say yaba consumption per year in Bangladesh is guestimated to be 46 crore pills worth around Tk 11,531 crore. The average price of a pill is Tk 250.
Last year, police, Rab, DNC, BGB and other agencies seized around 3.69 crore pills, according to the Police Headquarters.
Several officials of DNC said law enforcers are only able to recover eight to ten percent of the total yaba pills smuggled into the country.
The home minister and police, however, claimed on several occasions that they did not find “any proof of Bodi’s direct involvement” in yaba smuggling.
In the last one week, officials of four law enforcement agencies told this newspaper that they could not go after Bodi for lack of evidence against him.
Denying his involvement in narcotics trade or smuggling, the former lawmaker says, “It’s all a conspiracy against me.”
Bodi, currently an executive committee member of Cox’s Bazar AL, sought nomination from the BNP to contest the JS elections in 1996 but was denied the party ticket “due to his misdeeds”.
He won the 2008 election as an AL candidate.
The affidavit he submitted to the Election Commission before the polls says every year he earns Tk 1.76 lakh from renting house, apartment and shop, Tk 91,098 from savings and shares and Tk 33,600 from salt field.
That means his annual income was around Tk 3 lakh back then. The affidavit also mentioned his dependants’ annual income as Tk 2.25 lakh.
His affidavit for the 2014 election reads that he earns Tk 4,650 from agriculture, Tk 2.08 crore from renting house and apartment, Tk 5.32 crore from business, Tk 8.05 crore from shares and savings and Tk 91,000 from salt field every year.
This time his annual income stood at around Tk 15.46 crore and dependants’ at Tk 3.48 lakh.
The AL leader did not participate in the 2018 election. His wife Shahin Akter contested the polls and her affidavit shows that she earns Tk 18,255 from agriculture, Tk 56,980 from renting house and shop, Tk 3.50 lakh from business and Tk 46,600 from salt field annually.
She didn’t mention the income of dependants though it’s mandatory.
On November 2, 2016, a Dhaka court sentenced Bodi to three years in prison for “concealing” and “deliberately” providing false wealth statement to the Anti-Corruption Commission in March 2014. He was also fined Tk 10 lakh, in default of which he will have to spend three more months in jail.
A family is leaving after collecting a sack of free rice provided by Abdur Rahman Bodi in Teknaf. A former Awami League lawmaker, Bodi spends roughly Tk 19 crore on distributing rice among the poor every year. The photo was taken in December. Photo: Collected
The court said Bodi on June 30, 2013 submitted his income tax return to the National Board of Revenue for fiscal 2013-2014, saying his net wealth was Tk 9.19 crore.
In his wealth statement to the Election Commission on December 2, 2013, before the 10th national polls, Bodi declared that he had wealth of Tk 10.98 crore.
On March 20, 2014, he submitted a wealth statement to the ACC, mentioning that he had moveable and immovable assets worth Tk 5.35 crore.
In this way, Bodi concealed his wealth of Tk 5.63 crore and thus the charge of submitting a false wealth statement was found true, said the court.
He landed in jail but came out securing bail from the High Court.
ACC lawyer Khurshid Alam Khan told The Daily Star that hearings on two appeals — one filed by the ACC against the order of acquittal and the other by Bodi against his conviction — were pending with the court.
They will move the court for the hearings in April.
HIS NEW ROLE
After the 11th parliamentary election on December 30, Bodi started working as one of the major players behind the surrender process of yaba godfathers and dealers, sources said.
The surrender is expected to take place later this month.
Around 63 alleged yaba godfathers and dealers already surrendered to police and they are now in the safe custody of Cox’s Bazar Police Lines, sources say.
Bodi’s three brothers — Abdul Amin, Md Shafiq and Faisal Rahman — also surrendered to police in mid-January and they are now in the safe custody. Sources said they recently returned from Dubai to surrender.
Talking to The Daily Star on January 25, Bodi said he has been requesting all the drug peddlers, including those in his family, to surrender. “The smugglers surrendered to police after I inspired them to do so.”
In fact, nobody in the area ever goes beyond his will.
His name surfaced in the media also for allegedly beating up 24 prominent personalities, including government officials, teachers and lawyers. He metes out “punishment” with his own hand if anyone opposes him.
So, nobody really dares disturb the “peace” in his empire.
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It is known to all that steps are being taken to amend constitution at parliament
11 It is known to all that steps are being taken to amend constitution at parliament It is known to all that steps are being taken to amend constitution at parliament Politics State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi makes a speech at the ceremony of Shan State Day. Sitha (Taunggyi) Published 8 February 2019 Sitha (Taunggyi) It is known to all that we are taking steps to amend the 2008 Constitution in the parliament for the emergence of genuine federal democratic Union. We are trying to live up to the pledges we had given as much as we can, said State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
The ceremony to mark the 72nd Shan State Day was held in Taunggyi in Shan State on February 7, with an address by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Three objects I mentioned early are related to each other. These objects are to bring about stability, peace and security in the successive generations of all the people living in the Union. The objectives represent development, peace and national reconciliation. It is important for us to have a constitution capable of strengthening a federal democratic Union and it must be also acceptable to all. We are trying to live up to the promises we gave to the people, said Aung San Suu Kyi.
Peace and national reconciliation are the matters we carry out at the same time. Rule of law and development of socio-economic life of the people are the matters we always carry out. It is known to all that we are taking steps to amend the 2008 Constitution in the parliament for the emergence of genuine federal democratic Union in the parliament. We are trying to live up to the pledges we had given as much as we can. We cannot do it alone. The participation of all the people plays an important role in the major issues, said Aung San Suu Kyi.
The days of the States support the Union Day. The significant days of the different ethnics are the days supporting Union Day. The acts of ethnic brethrens describe to build the Union and to strengthen the Union. If so, all ethnic brethrens will have to enjoy the fruits of the Union, said Aung San Suu Kyi.
The lapse of 72 years is neither a short time nor a long time. But this 72-year brought about important years. The world is considerably changing as technology is fast developing. The situation before independence is totally different from that nowadays. At such, it is very important that our country can stand tall among the international community. I believe the ability of the ethnic brethrens. I believe that our country will become the one that can keep abreast of the world nations, said Aung San Suu Kyi.
Translated and Edited by Win Htut
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These villagers don’t know any other home than Nepal, yet they’re stateless | #AsiaNewsNetwork
10 These villagers don’t know any other home than Nepal, yet they’re stateless | #AsiaNewsNetwork These villagers don’t know any other home than Nepal, yet they’re stateless | #AsiaNewsNetwork Politics Published 9 February 2019 Tsering Ngodup Lama KATHMANDU (The Kathmandu Post/ANN) – In the village of Neemkhotiya, which is about five kilometres from the nearest town of Gulariya, there are about 75 households consisting mostly of Madhesi Dalits, where dozens of residents remain without citizenship.
Pramod Raidas has vivid memories of the day the government’s citizenship distribution team arrived in his village of Neemkhotiya in Bardiya district. Pramod’s siblings were able to get their citizenship certificates, but Pramod was born on December 22, 1990, and according to the citizenship distribution team, he wasn’t eligible for citizenship.
That was in 2007 and such teams had been deployed across the country after the interim government had introduced the Citizenship Act, which stated that those born in Nepal before April 13, 1990—all of Pramod’s siblings were born before the date—and “domiciled permanently” in Nepal would be deemed citizens by birth. This was a one-time opportunity for thousands of people in the country who were stateless to become Nepali citizens.
Pramod faced a dilemma. He mulled over lying about his age to get his citizenship, but then it would render his eighth-grade transcript—it carried his real date of birth—useless. He decided to not change the date, thinking that there would be other opportunities to get citizenship in the future. For Pramod, 17 then and full of optimism, his decision to not lie about his age would go on to have crippling repercussions that would determine the trajectory of his life.
Pramod’s case is hardly an anomaly in Neemkhotiya. In this tiny village about five kilometres from the nearest town of Gulariya, there are about 75 households consisting mostly of Madhesi Dalits, where dozens of residents remain without citizenship. Many of them, like Pramod, were too young to obtain citizenship when the government teams arrived in their village. Others were across the border in India, working menial jobs to support their families and couldn’t afford the travel back to Nepal. Without citizenship—a document mandatory to obtain anything from a passport to a driving license to land permits—many Madhesi Dalits have been forced to lead their lives within the confines of the village, locked in a cycle of perpetual poverty.
On the surface, it is difficult to distinguish Neemkhotiya from the many similar villages that dot the country’s southern plains. There are tracts of agricultural lands, on which the majority of villagers depend on to eke out their living. The houses are mostly single-storeyed and made out of mud. On any warm January afternoon, women draped in colourful saris of blue, red, pink can be seen harvesting the last potatoes from the fields. On many fields, the potatoes have already been replaced by wheat and mustard.
To understand how dozens of villagers have been reduced to a life of statelessness for so long, it is important to understand the Land Reform Act of 1964, introduced by King Mahendra Shah.
“For centuries, landlords, who owned vast swathes of land in the country, relied on labourers to farm their land. The labourers were allowed to live on the property and were paid in kind,” says Jagat Basnet, a Kathmandu-based researcher on depeasantisation—a process of phasing out the peasant class and its traditional practices—in Nepal. The Act made it mandatory for landlords to give labourers 25 per cent of the land they tilled. But to be eligible to acquire this land, a labourer needed to furnish an employment contract between him and the landlord and a contract for grain payment between the two. The act also made it compulsory for landlords to provide these two contracts to their labourers.
“Not wanting to part with their land, many landlords didn’t issue the two contracts to their labourers. Many of them even made sure that their labourers didn’t get citizenship,” says Basnet. “Many of the landlords were government officials themselves or had connections with powerful people in the government. They exerted their influence in making sure that their labourers didn’t get the paperwork necessary to obtain citizenship.”
To acquire citizenship during the Panchayat regime, between 1960 and 1990, a person had to acquire a recommendation letter from the local government office and a clarification letter from the local police station stating that s/he is not part of any anti-Panchayat movement, says Basnet. “By denying their labourers citizenship, the landlords made sure that they had no other option but to work for them,” he says.
A majority of labourers who worked for landlords in the Tarai were, and still are, either from the lower caste or from historically marginalised backgrounds. Many of them didn’t speak Nepali, which made it all the more challenging for them to raise their grievances to government officials, most of whom belonged to the upper Bahun-Chhetri castes and spoke only Nepali.
Pramod, now 28, grew up listening to tales of how his father was exploited by landlords and government officials. “My father worked for a landlord for many years. Every time he asked for the contract letters, the landlord kept brushing off the issue, assuring my father that he need not worry and that he would get his share of the land. The landlord even promised to help my father get his citizenship,” says Pramod. “One day, my father learned that the landlord had sold the entire property. With no legal documents to make claims, my father was forced to leave the land.”
Pramod’s father did apply for citizenship several times. “When he went to the village chief asking for help in acquiring citizenship, my father was told to pay a bribe of 300 rupees. How do you expect a man who could barely cobble together 10 rupees a month to pay 300 rupees?” says Pramod. His father applied for citizenship again in 1990, when a citizenship distribution team arrived in his village, but couldn’t obtain one because he couldn’t afford to pay the bribe the officials demanded.
Without citizenship, many like Pramod’s father were left with no other choice but to work as farm labourers, a way to make a living that left him mired in poverty. “Like many farm labourers, my father too was paid in kind by his landlord. He would bring home corn, vegetables and pulses,” says Pramod. “My siblings and I have gone to bed after eating very little, with our stomachs still growling. Our happiest days were when our father brought home rice, which was rare.”
The family was so poor that when Pramod’s father contracted cataract, they didn’t have any money for surgery. They watched helplessly as his vision weakened by the day until he turned completely blind. “My father passed away 20 years ago,” says Pramod. “He lived his last few years in complete darkness.”
“ Nobody wants to live on government land”
Without citizenship to buy land, many villagers have had no option but to build their homes on government land. Most of the houses in Neemkhoitya are built alongside the roads that run through the village.
Kes Rani Raidas’ house is in the northeast part of the village and lies right beside a gravelled motorable road that connects Gulariya with Rajapur, another municipality in Bardiya. When the local government decided to expand the road a year ago, Kes Rani was told to demolish her house. She was forced to comply, and since then, her family has been living in what used to be their livestock shed.
Kes Rani’s house is devoid of anything that’s not absolutely essential. There’s only one wooden bed in the house, on which her eldest son and his wife sleep. Providing her son and his wife with some sort of privacy is a block of stones that resembles a wall. Her other four children sleep together in one corner of the house, on the floor. In the centre of the house are a pair of earthen cooking stoves, and on top of them are the family’s few cooking utensils. With no cupboards, the clothes lay hung on ropes that are tied to wooden logs that are the house’s pillars.
The house is just big enough for her children and her daughter-in-law to sleep in, so Kes Rani and her husband sleep in a makeshift animal shed, which they share with the family’s young calf.
“Nobody wants to live on government land, but what land do I build my house on when no one in my family has citizenship?” says Kes Rani. “When the citizenship distribution team arrived here in 2007, my husband and I were in Dehradun, working labour jobs to feed our family and we couldn’t obtain citizenship. My oldest child was only 12, so he couldn’t get one as well.”
Another stretch of road that runs through the village is also slated for expansion next month. Several houses will be demolished, one of which belongs to Pramod. “There’s no vacant land behind my house. I don’t know where I’ll end up,” he says.
Making matters worse is the fact that many of the houses, especially in the low lying areas, were built as recently as 2017. That year, the Babai River flooded swathes of land in Bardiya district and left Neemkhotiya inundated by water for days. The flooding caused the village’s mud houses to crumble and collapse. It washed away the villagers’ stock of harvested grains—which they keep inside their homes, and depend on to feed their families through the year. The flood also swept away livestock and destroyed crops, pushing many families deeper into poverty.
But 2017 wasn’t the first time Babai River wreaked havoc in the village. The river had flooded in 2014, too, and did extensive damage to property in the village.
In both years, the government had announced aid for those whose homes were destroyed by the floods. The victims just had to provide the ownership document for the land on which their destroyed houses were built, which many in Neemkhotiya didn’t—and still don’t—have.
“In 2014, only two families from the village received rebuilding aid from the government, while in 2017, no one in the village did,” says Pramod. This left many villagers to rebuild their houses by themselves. Many like Pramod are still repaying the loans they were forced to take to build their homes.
“What’s the point of going to school”
On any given afternoon in Neemkhotiya, it’s not uncommon to see children of school-going age running around, playing and working in the fields alongside their parents instead of sitting in classrooms. Parents in the village don’t send their children to school. Not because they don’t want their children to get an education, but because it won’t make a difference anyway, they say.
“What is the point of sending our children to school when we know they won’t get jobs without citizenship?” Kes Rani says.
None of Kes Rani’s five children—two daughters, aged 16 and 7, and three sons, aged 25, 15, 12—go to school. Her eldest son, Manoj Raidas, stopped going to school when he was in second grade. “It had become increasingly difficult for us to pay for his books and stationery. So when he stopped going to school, we were fine with it,” she says.
For many villagers, Pramod has become an example of the futility of attending school. Pramod is the only person in the village to have gone to college, but when he graduated three years ago, he couldn’t get employed because he didn’t have a citizenship card.
Having lived in extreme poverty, Pramod knew from a very young age that education could be the key to pull his family out of a life of destitution. When he went to gain admission at the local primary school, the family, with great difficulty, managed to pay the admission fee. “Throughout my primary school, my mother kept telling me to quit. It was not that my mother didn’t want me to get an education, she just couldn’t afford to buy me school supplies,” says Pramod.
When Pramod reached fifth grade, he decided that he wanted to become a teacher. “For a child of stateless parents, it was an audacious goal to set. Of course, I didn’t know what being stateless meant then,” says Pramod. To be able to pay for his school expenses, Pramod started working as a helper at a sugar mill. He was only 12.
By the time he finished his college, he had worked as a labourer at construction sites and farms, and as a teacher. After college, he applied for a teaching job at three private schools, a store attendant at an ayurvedic medical store and a salesman at a cloth shop, all in Gulariya. But they didn’t hire him because he didn’t have citizenship.
Pramod now works as a farm labourer—just like his father. Like other villagers, he leases lands from landlords every year and grows wheat, mustard and potatoes, among other crops. In return, the landlords give him half of the land’s yields, some of which he keeps for himself and the rest he sells in the market.
This year, he has managed to lease 12 kathas of land from three different landlords. Between farming seasons, he goes to find work on construction sites, and on other people’s fields, for which he gets paid Rs 700 to 800 a day.
“If I had citizenship, I would have given the Public Service Commission exams and gotten a government job or I would have gone to the Middle East,” says Pramod. “I could have provided a better life for my mother, wife and son.”
The long wait
For the many stateless people in the country, the Citizenship Act 2006 provided them with an opportunity to legally register themselves as Nepalis. But the Act also stated that a child born to a citizen only after s/he has acquired citizenship by birth, if his/her father and mother both are citizens of Nepal, shall be entitled to Nepali citizenship by descent upon his/her attaining the age of maturity. This rendered children born to those before they acquired citizenship by birth ineligible for citizenship.
However, an amendment made to the Act in line with the new constitution stated that a child of a citizen who has acquired citizenship by birth before the commencement of the constitution, provided that the child’s parents are Nepali citizens, is entitled to Nepali citizenship by descent once s/he reaches 16. But the amendment made in 2015 to the Citizenship Act has yet to be reflected in the laws.
This has forced many to live a stateless life, even though the constitution guarantees them citizenship. Twenty-year-old Geeta Raidas, also from Neemkhotiya, is one of them. Geeta’s mother has citizenship by descent and her father has citizenship by birth, obtained in 2007. “I have visited government offices at least three times to enquire about applying for citizenship, and each time the officials tell me that there are simply no laws upon which they can provide me with citizenship,” says Geeta.
But there’s hope for those like Geeta. An amendment bill seeking to amend the Citizenship Act 2006 was presented in Parliament in August last year. The bill will allow every child, irrespective of when they were born to a Nepali citizen who has acquired citizenship by birth—provided that the child’s parents are Nepali citizens—to acquire Nepali citizenship once s/he reaches 16.
“The amendment bill shouldn’t take more than two months to pass, and when it does, it will make many in Neemkhotiya eligible for citizenship,” says the Chief District Officer of Bardiya District Ram Bahadur Kurumbang. However, 57 lawmakers from different political parties have suggested 23 proposals seeking deliberations and amendments to the amendment bill.
Discussion on the bill at the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Parliament began only on January 25, 2019 and constitution experts say that it’s impossible to give a timeframe on how long it might take to have the amendment bill passed.
But for those like Pramod—whose father died and whose mother doesn’t have citizenship—statelessness is a permanent reality. “My father was born in this country and lived his whole life here. I was born here and have lived here my whole life. My siblings are all Nepali citizens,” says Pramod. “This is the only country I know. Where do I go now?”
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Seven interesting things that happened in Indonesia’s e-commerce scene #AsiaNewsNetwork
10 Seven interesting things that happened in Indonesia’s e-commerce scene #AsiaNewsNetwork Seven interesting things that happened in Indonesia’s e-commerce scene #AsiaNewsNetwork Business The Jakarta Post Published 10 February 2019 Jakarta: The Jakarta Post/ #AsiaNewsNetwork –
Indonesia’s e-commerce scene is surely an exciting one. Last year, its online market transactions were recorded as the highest in Southeast Asia, with sales volumes reaching US$2.7 billion. During the national online shopping day (Harbolnas) on Dec. 12, 2018, up to Rp 6.8 trillion (US$486.5 million) of sales were booked, an increase of Rp 2.1 trillion from last year.
The various offers of cashback using e-wallets from Indonesian e-commerce firms have also increased customers’ enthusiasm toward e-wallets, which have seen usage increase from 11 percent in 2017 to 15 percent in 2018. Amid this growth, the top three regional e-commerce firms, Lazada, Shopee and Tokopedia, have successfully expanded their market sevenfold from 2015.
As compiled by Kuala Lumpur-based online shopping aggregator iPrice, below are some interesting data regarding e-commerce competitions in the archipelago based on Q4 2018 data:
1. Tokopedia remains most visited website
Tokopedia continued to attract the most website visitors on average, with up to 168 million visits, which is an increase of almost 10 percent from the previous quarter. Among the reasons for its popularity boost were a collaboration with mobile app payment system OVO, which allows users to conduct transactions using OVOcash and OVOpoints, and a $1.1 billion investment from SoftBank at the end of 2018.
Trailing behind Tokopedia are e-commerce firms Bukalapak (116 million visits), Shopee (29 million) Lazada (22 million), Djarum and BCA-owned e-commerce firm Blibli (12 million).
2. Shopee wins in mobile apps
Shopee Indonesia ranked highest on the App Store and Google Play throughout Q4 2018, according to app analytics provider App Annie. All thanks to its two strategies: an attractive year-end promo themed Harbolnas 11:11 and 12:12 Birthday Sale, which offered a flash sale and cashback up to 120 percent, as well as free delivery promo and flash sale offers that successfully lured many Indonesians to shop on the platform.
Following behind Shopee on the App Store and Google Play were Tokopedia (#2) and Lazada (#3).
Read also: Indonesia’s e-commerce sales predicted to reach US$65b in 2022
3. Zalora tops local fashion e-commerce
Operating since 2012, Zalora recorded the most website visitors during Q4 2018. It saw an increase of visits by up to 2 million, way ahead of Sophie Paris in the second spot, which recorded an increase of only 100,000 visits.
The third, fourth and fifth spots were taken by Islamic fashion e-commerce firm Hijup, Berrybenka and male fashion e-commerce firm Bro.do, respectively.
4. Instagram most effective as promotion platform
Brands promoting their products on Instagram successfully reached 100 percent of their followers, far more than Facebook, which only influenced around 6 percent of brands’ total followers.
5. Sociolla gains more trust
E-commerce firm Sociolla, which focuses on beauty, makeup and perfume products, saw an increase in website visits of 35 percent from the previous quarter. Its strategy of providing discounted coupons in collaboration with beauty influencers and bloggers has been quite successful in attracting customers’ attention. Buyers and product users could also be found actively reviewing and sharing their experience after shopping on the platform.
6. iLotte shows amazing growth
Launched in 2017, iLotte made it into the country’s top 10 e-commerce firms, recording up to 3.5 million website visitors in the last quarter of 2018, reportedly due to its free concert ticket promo.
7. Elevania goes down
Compared to the previous quarter, Elevania saw its rank go down from 9 to 8, with website visitors decreasing from 4 million to 3.9 million. No more discount cuts and free delivery subsidy are said to be among the causes behind it.
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If Rakhine issue is not handled with care, it will hurt Union
10 If Rakhine issue is not handled with care, it will hurt Union If Rakhine issue is not handled with care, it will hurt Union Politics Published 8 February 2019 Maung Htoo If Rakhine issue can’t be handled with care, it will have a bad effect on the Union. It is worrying that problems are being solved through pride and self-interest, said Sai Nyunt Lwin, General Secretary of the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD).
The peace talk with the title of “Rakhine affair is Union issue” was held in Yangon on February 7. Most experts agreed that Rakhine issue concerns geopolitics.
“Most of the experts accept that Rakhine issue is related to geopolitics. India and Bangladesh are in the west of Myanmar and China is in the east. It is a pasture for the powers such as India and China. Rakhine and its people are like Bermuda grass in their power struggle. For that reason, if Rakhine issue is unable to be handled with care, it will hurt the Union,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin.
Those involved in the problems taking place in the country are placing emphasis on own interests in time of solving them, said Sai Nyunt Lwin.
“It is worrying to see the problems that are being solved through own interests and pride. It is particularly worrying because the responsible persons from the government side are engaging in solving the problem,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin.
The governmental person’s comments at the press seemed as though AA insurgents were threatened. It should not be said like this. Problem should be solved through careful consideration. We would like the superior to pave the way for the subordinate to discuss the matters, said Sai Nyunt Lwin.
The constitutional amendment and Myitsone dam project are important issues for Myanmar. Moreover, Rakhine issue is also the same matter. We thought first that Rakhine issue must be solved politically, but now it is an international interference. It is of great importance for the country, said Sai Nyunt Lwin.
Those participating in the peace talks were Oo Oo Hla Myint from the ALD party, Sai Nyunt Lwin from the SNLD, law expert Kyee Myint and political researcher Dr Yan Myo Thein.
Translated and Edited by Win Htut
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10 things you need to eat and drink in Grenada
10 things you need to eat and drink in Grenada by Jeanne Horak
A little flashback to last year:
Friend: “What are you doing this weekend?”
Cooksister: “I’m going to Grenada for the annual chocolate festival.”
Friend: “Ooooh I love Spain! ALl that fabulous paella and ham and Rioja! And who knew they made chocolate too??”
Cooksister:” Erm, no… you’re thinking of the other one! Not Gra-NAH-dah in Spain but Gre-NAY-dah in the Caribbean!”
Friends: “Um OK… no paella then, I guess?”
Well, I am sure that there is paella available somewhere on the island… but who wants to eat paella when you have such a host of wonderful Grenadian foods to feast on? Last year I visited Grenada as a guest of the Grenada Tourist Authority to explore the island’s food and more.
Grenada is an island state in the Caribbean and forms part of the West Indies. Consisting of the island of Grenada itself plus six smaller islands (including Carriacou) which lie to the north of the main island, it is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago; and northeast of Venezuela. Before the arrival of Europeans, Grenada was inhabited by the indigenous Arawak and Caribs tribes and although Spain claimed the island as their own after Columbus sighted it, there are no records to suggest the Spanish ever landed or settled on the island. After several attempts by Europeans to colonise the island failed because of resistance from the islanders, the French eventually settled and started colonising Grenada in 1650. Together with their culture, the French also brought African slaves for agricultural work, who in turn left their cultural stamp. In 1763 Grenada was ceded to the British; and from the 1850s, large numbers of Indian indentured labourers arrived on the island, adding a further element to the cuisine and culture.
Rather like the cuisine of my homeland of South Africa, the cuisine of Grenada is a mixture of dishes influenced by the various cultural groups that have made the island their home, and the local produce. So with that in mind here is my totally subjective list of ten foods you should try when you visit Grenada Frybakes (or just “bakes”)
When are baked goods not baked goods? When they’re fried, of course! These are usually made of yeast dough that is kneaded, allowed to rise and then divided into hand-sized pieces which are rolled into circular discs. These discs are then fried in oil and served with a variety of fillings such as saltfish, corned beef or cheese. They are a popular breakfast dish but can also be hollowed out, stuffed and eaten as lunch on the go. Interestingly, they reminded me a lot of South African vetkoek !
When I was offered caviar for breakfast in Grenada I did think this was rather unexpected… but it turns out that Grenadian “caviar” has nothing to do with Russian oligarchs, sturgeon fish or the Caspian Sea. In fact, it is the roe of the white sea urchin, fried up with diced onion and carrot and served for breakfast. It has a texture quite unlike any other seafood you have tasted and a nutty, creamy marine flavour – and it is delicious on bakes!
Saltfish (salted fish, usually cod) is a common ingredient around the world, dating back to a time when there was no refrigeration to preserve surplus fish that was caught. It is said that saltfish was first introduced to the Caribbean in the 16th century when ships from north America would dock with cargoes of lumber and dried, salt-cured fish. To prepare saltfish for cooking, it needs to be rehydrated and salt removed, either by repeated soaking in cold water or boiling and discarding the soaking/boiling water before flaking the fish. For buljol, tomatoes, spring onions, peppers, tomatoes and parsley are gently fried before the flaked fish is added and heated through. Saltfish buljol is also delicious with bakes.
Conch (lambie) souse
When you see lambie, abandon all thoughts of barbecues lamb chops! Lambie is in fact the local name for conch , arguably the most iconic shell of the Caribbean and one of its most popular foods. Because conch meat can be tough, the raw conch is first marinated in lime juice – which is the same sort of idea as ceviche. Once tender it is chopped and then slow-cooked in water and more lime juice with onion, garlic and hot peppers to make a soupy or “soused” stew. This can be served either hot or chilled and (again!) makes a great frybake topping or filling!
Crab back is served throughout the Caribbean, but in Grenada there is even a restaurant named after it – BB’s CrabBack! The name comes from the fact that the dish is served in upturned cleaned land crab shells (crab “backs”) and it is a deliciously rich and creamy dish where the flavour of the crab meat remains the star. Spring onions, garlic and sweet peppers are sautéed before the crab meat, white wine, cream and hot sauce are added. The mix is then scooped into the crab shells, sprinkled with breadcrumbs (and sometimes cheese) and dotted with butter before being popped under a hot grill to crisp. Decadently delicious!
Oildown is unquestionably the national dish of Grenada – and what a hearty, communal affair it is! The simplest description is that it is a one-pot feast featuring breadfruit, callaloo (like spinach), dasheen (the root of the callaloo plant), green bananas, salted pig’s tail and snout (or salted fish), chicken, peppers, dumplings, turneric and coconut milk. The unusual name comes from the layer of coconut oil and meat juices that collects in the base of the pot. Making an oildown involves everybody, from the person who selects the perfectly ripe breadfruit and knocks it off the tree with a long stick; to the people making the dense, cylindrical dumplings; to the people chopping the ingredients; to the people packing the massive stew pot; to those building and manning the fire under the pot as it cooks. Unlike most stews where the ingredients are stirred and mixed during the cooking process, an oildown is packed in layers and left to simmer undisturbed. How to “pack the pot” is a matter of taste and tradition and everybody has their own opinion and method. But generally speaking the breadfruit and meat go in first, followed by most of the vegetables; and the callaloo leaves and dumplings on top, with the coconut milk going in last. While the oildown cooks for an hour or more, festivities are helped along by the next item on my list…
If oildown is the national dish of Grenada, then rum must be the national drink. Made in large volumes from the plentiful sugar cane on the island, there is a rum for every taste, from light to dark. One of the most popular ways to consume rum in Grenada is in a rum punch cocktail and pretty much every bar and restaurant have their own version, in varying degrees of alcoholic concentration! There is a rhyme in Grenada for anybody who forgets the proportions of a rum punch, namely:
“One of sour, two of sweet; Three of strong and four of weak.”
This translates roughly into: one-part lime juice (sour); two parts simple syrup (sweet); three parts dark rum (strong); and four parts water/ice (weak). Top it all off with Angostura bitters and some grated nutmeg. Cheers!
Nope, I had never heard of this before I came to the Caribbean either… but if you think of what you know as hot chocolate (packed with more sugar than cocoa and topped with whipped cream and marshmallows), then cocoa tea is about as far removed from this as you can get. In fact, it is far closer to the spiced drink that the Aztecs used to call xoxcolatl . Cocoa tea is basically a hot drink brewed from cocoa beans in the same way that coffee is brewed from coffee beans, but with added spices. In Grenada the cocoa beans are dried, roasted, ground to a fine paste, mixed with local spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom etc. and rolled into balls or sticks that are then dried. These cocoa balls are then grated and infused into hot water (or milk) and the result is a a hot drink with the bitterness of pure, dark chocolate plus hints of warming, chai tea-like spices. Because the cocoa balls contain both the cocoa powder and the cocoa butter, the final tea is surprisingly rich even when only brewed with water, and packed with antioxidants – all the good stuff in chocolate without the bad stuff!
Image courtesy and © of The Rare Welsh Bit Blog Fresh cocoa bean flesh
Cocoa is one of the few crops in the world that has resisted Mankind’s insatiable desire to grow everything everywhere. Like coffee, it really only grows within a very limited number of degrees from the Equator. So the places where you have the opportunity to try sucking the sweet flesh off a cocoa bean fresh from a pod that has just been cut from a tree and hacked open with a machete are… somewhat limited, to say the least. But Grenada is one of the places where you can do just that. So despite the somewhat slimy, beige and unpromising appearance of the beans, it seemed churlish of me not to take the opportunity. There is not a lot of flesh – the flesh really is just a thin covering for the bean itself – but the flavour is quite extraordinary. I would say the ones I had were a cross between the flavours of litchi, passion fruit and rambutan – sweet and slightly tart (but I am told the flavour varies slightly according to the ripeness and the species of cocoa). Tasting the varied flavour profile of the raw fruit certainly gives you an idea of how chocolate can display such complex and diverse flavours – it all starts in the pod!
Grenadian bean to bar chocolate
Cacao has been commercially produced in Grenada for a very long time. Cacao trees were first introduced to the island in 1714 by French colonists and by the 1760s, Grenada was the world’s largest producer and exporter of cocoa, producing about 50% of British West Indian cocoa exports. But all the beans were exported unprocessed, leaving it to other countries to process them, add value and make profits. All this changed in 1999 when American Mott Green came to the island and realized that cocoa farmers could increase their income by processing the same cocoa beans they were growing. Together with Doug Browne and Edmond Brown he started a cooperative for cocoa farmers around the island and created Grenada’s first modern “tree to bar” chocolate. It was their company, The Grenada Chocolate Company, which brought Grenadian chocolate to the world stage and paved the way for a thriving Grenadian bean-to-bar chocolate industry. Tree to bar means that the farm grows the cacao; harvests, dries, ferments, roasts and grinds the beans; refines them into chocolate, ages the chocolate, and finally moulds the chocolate into bars, giving the farm complete control over the finished product. Today there are no fewer than five tree to bar chocolate estates in Grenada (The Grenada Chocolate Company, Crayfish Bay Organics, Belmont Estate, Jouvay and Tri Island Chocolate) each one of them producing unique and subtly different high quality chocolate. The island even hosts the annual Grenada Chocolate Festival (now in its 6th year), an event dedicated to all things sweet, savory and satisfying about chocolate. Visitors can indulge in a week of exploring the bean to bar estates; learning how chocolate is made; indulging in chocolate spa experiences; attending expert tutored chocolate tastings; taking chocolate and rum sunset cruises; and eating their body weight in chocolate!
There are of course many more things to taste and try in Grenada and I encourage you to try everything, but if you are visiting this beautiful and incredibly welcoming island nation soon, I hope this has provided you with a starting point for your culinary adventures.
Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways offer scheduled flights to Grenada from the UK as follows: Virgin Atlantic: Monday and Thursday (Winter) Monday and Friday (Summer), making a brief stop in St Lucia in both directions. British Airways: Wednesday and Saturday (Year round), making a brief stop in St Lucia in both directions
I stayed in the Seabreeze Hotel , across the road from Grande Anse Beach, which features sixteen basic but newly renovated rooms with air conditioning, WiFi, refrigerators, kettles, toasters and microwaves; as well a sparkling pool – a very affordable option starting from as low as $50 per room per night. You can read Kacie’s full review here or visit the hotel’s website for more info.
SeaBreeze Hotel Grenada