INDEPENDENT 2024-07-04 16:09:07


Over a million South Koreans sign petition to impeach president

More than one million people have signed a petition calling for the impeachment of South Korea’s president Yoon Suk Yeol.

The National Assembly’s website experienced delays and temporarily crashed after hundreds of thousands of people visited it to sign the petition earlier this week.

The petition, which went live on 20 June, urges the parliament to impeach Mr Yoon for alleged corruption, stoking war with North Korea and failing to stop the release of radioactive waste from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant.

The petition surpassed a million signatures on Wednesday, Korea Times reported, with a daily average of 100,000 signatures over a period of 10 days.

It is backed by the opposition Democratic Party of Korea, which said that the huge turnout reflected the public’s unfavourable view of Mr Yoon.

“The president must change first for the state affairs, now on the verge of a catastrophe, to get back on track,” the party’s floor leader Park Chan-dae said.

South Korea’s laws require the parliament to assign any petition that draws more than 50,000 signatures from the public to a committee, which must then decide whether to put it up for a vote.

The president’s office has accused the opposition of playing dirty tricks. “The DPK should immediately stop anti-civilisational attempts to destroy the constitution and its unheard-of legislative violence and coup d’etat,” a senior presidential official told Yonhap News Agency.

Political analysts have said the petition reflects anger and dissatisfaction with the president and that it could translate into mass protests if the parliamentary committee doesn’t put the petition up for a vote.

South Korea’s parliament has impeached two presidents, Roh Moo-hyun in 2004 and Park Geun-hye in 2017.

Mr Yoon, leader of the conservative People Power Party, became president in May 2022 after a narrow victory over Lee Jae-myung of the liberal Democratic Party.

His presidency has been beset by low popularity, with approval ratings lingering near 25 per cent since April.

Mr Yoon’s party faced a crushing defeat in April’s parliamentary election, widely perceived as a midterm confidence vote on the president.

Mr Yoon’s approval ratings dropped after he vetoed a bill seeking an investigation against first lady Kim Keon-Hee over the Dior bag controversy. He also obstructed another bill to investigate allegations that the president’s office interfered in a probe into the drowning of a marine corporal during a flood rescue mission last year.

Newly confident opposition walks out as Modi address new parliament

Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout as prime minister Narendra Modi delivered the first address of his new term to the Indian parliament on Wednesday.

The opposition INDIA bloc, led by the Congress party, feels emboldened after an unexpectedly impressive performance in last month’s national election. Belying expectations and exit polls, they denied Mr Modi an outright parliamentary majority, leaving him reliant on mercurial allies to rule for a third consecutive term.

As Mr Modi began speaking on a motion of thanks for the Indian president’s customary inaugural address, opposition members in the Rajya Sabha, the parliament’s upper house, demanded that he answer their questions about the situation in Manipur, a remote northeastern state ravaged by a deadly ethnic war.

The prime minister has not visited the state since the violence started more than a year ago.

Speaking in the house earlier, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi sought “justice” for Manipur.

The opposition lawmakers, shouting “justice for Manipur” as Mr Modi spoke, asked for their floor leader, Mallikarjun Kharge, to respond to the prime minister’s claims in his speech but were denied by the Rajya Sabha chair.

As the lawmakers walked out, Mr Modi said they were “running away because they cannot hear the truth”.

“They are not able to digest defeat,” he added.

Mr Kharge later said he and his allies walked out because Mr Modi has “a habit of lying”.

“We walked out because the prime minister said some wrong things to the house. It’s his habit to lie and say things beyond truth.”

Mr Modi’s address marked the conclusion of the first session of the new parliament.

The session saw fiery speeches by opposition members buoyed by their performance in the last election.

In a speech on Monday, Mr Gandhi hit out at Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist ruling party for allegedly inciting religious hatred and violence.

He also accused Mr Modi and his government of favouring billionaires Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani.

Some of his remarks were later expunged from the parliamentary record, reportedly after some ministers met the speaker and flagged “inaccuracies” in the opposition leader’s speech.

The decision sparked condemnation from the opposition.

Saying the truth cannot be expunged, Mr Gandhi told the speaker: “Taking off from records my considered remarks goes against the very tenets of parliamentary democracy.”

Massive search underway for child feared taken by crocodile

A massive search is underway in northern Australia for a 12-year-old child officials suspect is a victim of a crocodile attack.

The child went missing around 5.30pm on Tuesday after a swim near the remote Northern Territory community of Palumpa, located about 350km from the capital city of Darwin, police said on Wednesday morning.

NT police said “initial reports stated the child had been attacked by a crocodile” during a swim at Mango Creek. They said search and rescue teams were looking for the child.

Senior Sgt Erica Gibson said her thoughts were with the family and that they are searching in a large section.

“Officers are currently searching a large section of the creek via boat and we thank the community for their ongoing assistance,” she said.

The NT is a federal territory in the central and central northern regions of Australia.

The members of the community in Palumpa arrived on the scene in the afternoon and joined the rescue operation with the police.

An aerial search could be launched for the child, local media said.

It is home to around 100,000 saltwater crocodiles that are known to be larger and more dangerous to humans.

The whole estimated population of NT is 252,469 people while Palumpa has just 364 people, according to federal data.

Last month, a crocodile terrorising the residents of NT was killed and eaten by villagers. The 3.6m (11.8ft) reptile was blamed for devouring pets and chasing children. The authorities deemed it a “significant risk to the community”.

Police said they shot the crocodile after consultation with traditional owners, elders, community members and Parks and Wildlife.

In January, A nine-year-old boy was left fighting for life after being attacked by a crocodile while swimming in Australia.

Last year an Australian man dramatically escaped an attack by a saltwater crocodile after prising its jaws off his head.

Marcus McGowan, 51, from Brisbane, was snorkelling at a luxury private island resort on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia when he was attacked.

Seven killed and islands flattened as Beryl devastates Carribean

Hurricane Beryl is still marching westwards after tearing through the southeastern Caribbean, killing seven people and leaving two islands of Grenada in almost “complete destruction”.

The damage wrought by the earliest category 5 hurricane ever is just beginning to come to light as local authorities assess homes and buildings despite connectivity challenges.

“The hurricane has come and gone, and it has left in its wake immense destruction,” prime minister Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines said.

“On one island in the Grenadines archipelago, the Union Island, 90 per cent of homes have been severely damaged or destroyed.”

Grenada has also taken a severe hit.

“We have to rebuild from the ground up,” prime minister Dickon Mitchell said after visiting the islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, which sustained the maximum damage from Beryl.

Carriacou, struck by the eye of the storm, was left “flattened” with more than 98 per cent of the buildings, including the main health facility and airport, damaged.

“The situation is grim,” Mr Mitchell said.

“There’s no power and there’s almost complete destruction of homes and buildings on the island. The roads are not passable, and in many instances, they are cut off because of the large quantity of debris strewn all over the streets.”

Two of the three deaths in Grenada were recorded on Carriacou. “The possibility there may be more fatalities remains a grim reality as movement is still highly restricted,” Mr Mitchell said.

Three people were also killed in Venezuela and one in St Vincent.

The hurricane also destroyed standing crops and uprooted trees. “There is literally no vegetation left anywhere on the island of Carriacou, the mangroves are totally destroyed,” Mr Mitchell said.

Beryl is the earliest ever category 5 storm ever recorded. It occurred as ocean heat in the Atlantic was already higher due to global heating, nearing levels usually seen in peak season in September.

This has raised alarm over what the rest of the Atlantic hurricane season could be like.

“It’s really scary stuff,” Steve Maximay, a climate and agriculture expert in Grenada, told The Independent.

”When you talk about category four and five, there are very few systems or protocols that can prepare you for that. You can have resilient buildings but category five winds can move concrete structures.”

Southern Grenada, where he stays, was largely spared but strong winds brought several trees down.

Grenada has millions of dollars worth of rebuilding to do as it recovers from the first storm and prepares for more hurricanes ahead.

Mr Mitchell called Beryl a direct result of the climate crisis.

Studies show hurricanes have been increasing in intensity and frequency in recent years and their worst impact is faced by island communities.

Beryl jumped from a category 1 to a category 4 storm within a few hours on Sunday.

“Beryl was in a perfect location for strengthening. There was very warm water, no dry air around the centre of circulation, and there’s been no wind shear,” said AccuWeather chief meteorologist Bernie Rayno.

“On the islands hit hardest by Beryl, it’s going to take months or even years to recover.”

The Alliance of Small Island States, which was created to have a unified voice for small island nations to address the ongoing climate crisis, called for the world to “end its obsession” with planet-warming fossil fuels.

“We have warned and warned that climate change impacts will only get worse,” it said in a statement. “Yet, we continue to be sacrificed on the frontlines of a climate crisis we did not cause.”

Mr Mitchell said: “We are no longer prepared to accept that it’s OK for us to constantly suffer significant, clearly demonstrated loss and damage arising from climatic events and be expected to rebuild year after year while the countries that are responsible for creating this situation — and exacerbating this situation — sit idly by.”

Children made to work 11 hours a day at Indian distillery

A distillery in India has been accused of employing child labourers and making them work 11-hour shifts in an unsafe manner that caused chemical burns.

Police in central Madhya Pradesh state are investigating the use of child labour at a Som Distilleries and Breweries Ltd factory after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights found as many as 59 children working there illegally.

The children, aged 13 to 17 years, were made to fill and pack liquor bottles, the state’s government said following an inspection.

Government officials said 39 boys and 20 girls were rescued from the factory in June.

The national child rights body released photos of children with their hands showing chemical burns and said some of them were transported to the factory in school buses.

The inspection report was prepared by Madhya Pradesh’s industrial health and safety department after interviewing 27 child workers, the youngest of among them just 13, Reuters reported.

They were made to toil 11 hours a day in the factory, according to the report, which has not been made public.

The state prohibits anyone aged under 21 from being employed in a liquor factory.

The report said the children working in the Som distillery were not trained to protect themselves from harmful chemicals.

“Since it is hazardous work, there should have been a health centre at the factory,” the report pointed out.

Following the inspection, the state government on 19 June suspended the licence of Som Distilleries. But the company this week claimed to have obtained a stay on the suspension order from the state high court.

The state’s chief minister, Mohan Yadav, last month said Som Distilleries “has been booked for the heinous crime of child labour so its licence has been suspended” and that “the careless officials related to this case have been suspended”.

The small Som distillery in Madhya Pradesh is typical of India’s thriving alcohol industry, in which both domestic and foreign players operate.

The company website describes it as an “internationally acclaimed brand” available in more than 20 markets, including the US, UK and New Zealand.

The alcohol industry is notorious for using child labour.

In 2021, Reuters reported that an external audit of two Carlsberg warehouses found underage labourers at a location in the eastern state of Jharkhand. Carlsberg said at the time it had terminated the services of the third-party provider.

Som said the Madhya Pradesh plant was run by its “associate private limited company” and used workers supplied by contractors who may not have carried out proper age checks.

The Independent has reached out to Som Distilleries and Breweries Ltd for a comment.

Additional reporting by agencies.

Japan court declares defunct forced sterilisation law unconstitutional

Japan’s top court has ruled that a defunct eugenics law under which thousands of people were forcibly sterilised between 1948 and 1996 was unconstitutional.

People who were forcibly sterilised had filed lawsuits across the country claiming the treatment meted out to them was unconstitutional and sought state compensation.

The Eugenic Protection Law, in place for 48 years until 1996, permitted doctors to sterilise people with mental or intellectual disabilities. The law was brought in to curb the population during food shortages after the Second World War.

In its ruling on Wednesday, the court also said the 20-year statute of limitation on compensation claims could not be applied in this case, marking a significant victory for the victims.

Regional courts had been divided on the validity of compensation claims given the statute of limitations, but the supreme court’s ruling may prompt the government to take more responsibility and address the legacy of the law.

Around 25,000 people were sterilised under the law, including some who consented under pressure, NHK Japan reported.

The government initially contended it was not liable to pay compensation because a long time had passed since the surgeries.

In 2019, however, it agreed to pay £17,700 in compensation to each of the victims.

Shinzo Abe, then the prime minister, also issued a public apology to the victims and said the eugenics law had caused “great suffering”.

As per a parliamentary report released last year, children as young as nine were among those sterilised.

Though forced sterilisation was outlawed in 1996, high school textbooks as recently as 1975 stated that Japan’s government was making efforts for the “country’s eugenics to improve and enhance the genetic predisposition of the entire public”.

“I have spent an agonising 66 years because of the government surgery. I want my life back that I was robbed of,” one victim who used the pseudonym Saburo Kita, now 81-years-old, said before the ruling.

“The ruling will hopefully pave the way for active steps to be taken by the government to eliminate the kind of eugenic mentality that it created,” Naoto Sekiya, lawyer of Mr Kita, told AFP.

Another lawyer, Yutaka Yoshiyama, who represented two of the plaintiffs, was quoted as saying by the BBC: “From here, I believe that the government must take a hard turn and move forward at full speed toward a full-fledged resolution.”

Japan is not the only country to have conducted forced sterilisations.

In 1997, records were uncovered showing Sweden sterilised 60,000 women between 1935 and 1976, some due to physical or mental disabilities, others because they were seen to be “inferior racial types”.

The government later passed legislation giving £14,250 in compensation to each of the victims of the programme.

Landowner arrested after worker bled to death in Italy

The case of a farm worker who bled to death in Italy has sparked outrage across the country.

Even President Sergio Mattarella has weighed in on the case, referring to what he said was the “cruel” exploitation of workers and “inhuman” conditions in which seasonal farmhands often work in Italy.

Italian police arrested a farm owner on Tuesday on suspicion of homicide after one of his workers, an undocumented laborer from India, bled to death when his arm was cut off by a piece of farm equipment.

The landowner abandoned the bleeding worker and failed to call an ambulance, prosecutors said.

The death of Satnam Singh has shocked Italians and sparked protests by unions and farm workers demanding better working conditions. They have called for an end to the exploitive “caporalato” system of using underpaid migrant labor to work in Italy‘s agriculture industry.

Carabinieri police in Latina, a largely agricultural province south of Rome, arrested farm owner Antonello Lovato after prosecutors bumped up the original suspected crime of manslaughter to homicide with “malice afterthought,” a statement from Latina prosecutors said.

They did so after forensics determined that Singh died from “copious blood loss.” The forensic report found he “most likely” would have survived if he had received prompt medical care, the prosecutors’ statement said.

But an ambulance apparently wasn’t called right away after Singh’s arm was wrenched off when it got stuck in a nylon-wrapping machine.

Italian daily Corriere della Sera quoted the arrest warrant signed by Judge Giuseppe Molfese as saying Lovato was driving the tractor that was pulling the nylon-wrapping machine, and then abandoned the bleeding Singh, leaving him outside his home.

Italian news reports have quoted witnesses as saying Lovato refused entreaties by Singh’s wife, who also worked at the farm, to call an ambulance, claiming he was already dead.

RAI state television interviewed a neighbor who finally called an ambulance. Singh was brought to the San Camillo hospital in Rome where he was pronounced dead some two days later.

In the statement, Latina prosecutors said Singh’s condition after the injury was so serious that it was obvious he needed prompt medical attention.

“At the present time, therefore, it must be held that the decision to omit the necessary care constituted acceptance of the risk of the lethal event and united the cause that directly resulted in death,” the statement said.

There was no immediate reply to an email seeking comment from the law offices of Stefano Perotti and Valerio Righi, identified by RAI as Lovato’s lawyers.

RAI has quoted Lovato’s father, Renzo, as saying Singh had been warned not to get so close to the equipment. He said Singh took the warning “too lightly,” and that his attitude “will cost everyone dearly.”

Taiwan calls for release of fishing boat crew seized by China

Taiwan has called for the release of a fishing boat and its crew allegedly seized by Chinese officials from near an island primarily patrolled by Taiwanese coast guard.

According to Taiwanese maritime officials, the Chinese coast guard boarded the boat, Dajinman 88, near the Kinmen archipelago and steered it towards a port in mainland China late on 2 July.

“The coast guard calls on the mainland to refrain from engaging in political manipulation and harming cross-strait relations and to release the Dajinman ship and crew as soon as possible,” Taiwan’s maritime authorities said.

Kinmen, an island with a significant Taiwanese military presence and a frontline just 3km away from Chinese shores, has a history of frequent skirmishes and is primarily patrolled by Taiwan’s coast guard in its surrounding waters.

The boat had six crew members including the captain and five migrant workers, the Taiwanese Central News Agency reported.

According to the Associated Press, Taiwan said Chinese coast guard officials ordered their Taiwanese counterparts to stay away from interfering in the detention of the fishing boat.

Hsieh Ching-chin, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s coast guard, said the boat was not in China’s waters when it was boarded by Chinese agents and steered to a port in Fujian province.

Two Taiwanese vessels were dispatched to rescue Dajinman 88 after two Chinese vessels intercepted the fishing boat. However, a statement from the maritime authorities said that the pursuit was called off to avoid any escalation.

China considers Taiwan a part of its territory and president Xi Jinping has threatened to “reunite” the island with the mainland by force if necessary, while the democratically-elected government of Taiwan says only the island’s people can choose their future.

Beijing’s claim to be the only legitimate Chinese government is known as the One China Principle, and this has been accepted or acknowledged by all but a handful of nations who would otherwise risk being cut off from trading with the mainland. The US formally acknowledges the One China Principle but maintains close informal relations with Taiwan, and does not accept Beijing’s claim to sovereignty over the island.

Earlier, Taiwan’s defence ministry announced that it was not increasing its military presence on the islands near China, including the Matsu archipelago north of Kinmen.

In February this year, six Chinese coast guard officers boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat with 23 passengers and 11 crew members in Kinmen islands. They stayed on the sight-seeing ferry King Xia for half an hour, checking route plans, certificates and crew licences before leaving, Taiwan‘s coast guard said.

Additional reporting with agencies.

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