The Attorney General’s office has approved the proposed 500 mw thermal power plant at Sampur, Trincomalee, to be built by India in consultation with the Ceylon Electricity Board, an Indian media report said today.The approval has been granted around six years after the project was conceived and two years after a joint venture company was formed to take it forward. “With the AG’s office giving the go-ahead, the approval from the power ministry is expected soon, while a revised Power Purchase Agreement has been worked upon,” said an official at India’s National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). The AG go-ahead was a major hurdle for the project, particularly considering the two neighbouring countries are not in the best of relations. The project is estimated to cost about $500 million (`3,000 crore), with NTPC and Ceylon Electricity Board having 50% stake each. It would be funded with a debt equity ratio of 70:30, the DNA news agency in India reported.The plant would use imported coal and consists of a transmission line, to be built from Trincomalee to Madurai, including 39 km of submarine cable. But hurdles remain, with some alleging undue benefits were granted to NTPC. Though the charges are unsubstantiated, the high cost of power remains a sore point.In fact, Coalition Against Corruption, an affiliate of Transparency International, had charged that the power plant would incur a loss of Sri Lankan Rupee 76 crore per year. “We urge the government to forthwith annul the proposed Sampur power project,” it had said.Officials of Ceylon Electricity Board have alleged that each unit of power produced at the joint venture project would cost Sri Lankan rupee 18, much higher than the cost of Sri Lankan rupee 13 from for a similar project at Norochcholai. There were also disagreements over the high heat rate — signifying higher consumption of fuel to produce a unit of power — and the maintenance cost. The heat rate has been brought down to an acceptable level by the parties, NTPC officials said.
- Mustapha Ramid Responds to Homophobia Accusations Homosexuality Disgusts the Public
Rabat – Mustapha Ramid, Minister of State in charge of Human Rights, took to his Facebook page yesterday to answer the accusations held against him for calling homosexuals in Morocco “trash.” If Ramid’s statements sparked the outrage of many local NGOs and a part of the public opinion, his latest response is very far from soothing the tension, referring to homosexuality as a “perversion” that “disgusts the public opinion.” The original incident occurred on September 28, when Ramid was walking out of an official meeting at Rabat’s library. The minister was stopped by a journalist who asked him about the condition of homosexuals in Morocco. The minister’s reaction was immediate: “Why are you asking me about [homosexuality] too?” he asked. Trying to dismiss the journalist, Ramid kept repeating, “This is too much. Too much. It’s a shame that homosexuality has a value now. Why is everyone asking me about it?”Upon the insistence of the journalist, Ramid will finally gave in. “Listen, we are in Morocco, if we keep talking about [homosexuality] we will give them value. [They’re] trash.” The minister used the insulting Arabic term “Awsakh,” which can be translated as “trash,” “scum,” or “vermin.”Ramid’s statement sparked the outrage of many NGOs and human rights associations that addressed a petition to the head of government compelling him to take action against Ramid. On social media, the outlash was even fiercer, with many internet users not shying away from accusing Ramid of homophobia and hate speech against a sexual minority. Under the media and public pressure, Ramid decided to come out with a response.For the minister in charge of human rights, his comments on homosexuality were based on “the kingdom’s constitution and its laws and the international conventions it has signed,” as well as the “national consensus,” which “only the perverts deviate from.” Based on this legal and social framework, Ramid writes that “sexual perversion [referring to homosexuality] stays a crime punishable by the Moroccan legislation, and one that disgusts the public opinion.”“And let everyone know that the Moroccan government has made its position clear in its response to the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, as it categorically and unequivocally refuses to decriminalize sexual perversion [referring to homosexuality]. But at the same time, [it] refuses any kind of discrimination against any citizen, no matter their conditions,” Ramid continues. “If I have said that sexual perversion [referring to homosexuality] is filth or obscenity, it is only to describe certain actions and behaviors, and the terms do not necessarily apply to people no matter their orientation may be.”For Ramid, “it is clear then, that those who opposed me were blinded by their disagreement and drunken with their hatred.” Nothing NewAziz Idamine, head of the Moroccan Rights and Freedoms Youth Center, told Morocco World News that Ramid’s use of these “degrading terms against a minority in Morocco is nothing new to the vocabulary of the minister; he already called journalists ‘traitors’ once and described human rights activists as ‘hateful’.”Idamine has three remarks to deliver about the minister’s response. The first, is that “Ramid thinks that being a minister of state of all Moroccans is the same thing as being the leader of a small community or political party.” Second, Ramid’s “insistence on using the term ‘trash’ to describe a Moroccan minority, whether we adhere to the latter or not, proves how saturated the minister is by a narrow and close-minded interpretation of Islamic thought. Idamine goes on to explain that “what the minister is wording through his statement are readings and interpretations of the Islamic texts and the constitution through the political perspective of the Justice and Development Party, and not those agreed upon by all Moroccans.” Finally, Idamine believes that Ramid is overstepping his jurisdiction. “The exegesis of a religious text is the specialty of Morocco’s High Council of Religious Affairs, [and] as for the explanation and interpretation of the constitution, it falls under the mandate of the constitutional court.”“As for the international conventions Moroccan had signed and agreed upon,” continues Idamine, “it is publically known that the human rights movements in Morocco are seeking to reform the penal code in several areas, to abolish any violation of individual freedoms.” For the activist, “the minister has every right to hold on onto the legal jurisdiction that criminalize homosexuality, but he has absolutely no right to call homosexuals ‘trash’.”
- Trump rolls back some not all changes in USCuba relations
MIAMI – Pressing “pause” on a historic detente, President Donald Trump thrust the U.S. and Cuba back on a path toward open hostility with a blistering denunciation of the island’s communist government. He clamped down on some commerce and travel but left intact many new avenues President Barack Obama had opened.The Cuban government responded by rejecting what it called Trump’s “hostile rhetoric.” Still, Cuba said it is willing to continue “respectful dialogue” with on topics of mutual interest.Even as Trump predicted a quick end to President Raul Castro’s regime, he challenged Cuba to negotiate better agreements for Americans, Cubans and those whose identities lie somewhere in between. Diplomatic relations, restored only two years ago, will remain intact. But, in a shift from Obama’s approach, Trump said trade and other penalties would stay in place until a long list of prerequisites was met.“America has rejected the Cuban people’s oppressors,” Trump said Friday in Miami’s Little Havana, the cradle of Cuban-American resistance to Castro’s government. “Officially, today, they are rejected.”Declaring Obama’s pact with Castro a “completely one-sided deal,” Trump said he was cancelling it. In practice, however, many recent changes to boost ties to Cuba will stay as they are. Trump cast that as a sign the U.S. still wanted to engage with Cuba in hopes of forging “a much stronger and better path.”In a statement released Friday evening on government-run websites and television, Cuban President Raul Castro’s administration said Trump’s speech was “loaded with hostile rhetoric that recalls the times of open confrontation.”The lengthy statement went on to strike a conciliatory tone, saying Cuba wants to continue negotiations with the U.S. on a variety of subjects. “The last two years have shown that the two countries can co-operate and coexist in a civilized way,” it said.Embassies in Havana and Washington will remain open. U.S. airlines and cruise ships will still be allowed to serve the island 90 miles south of Florida. The “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which once let most Cuban migrants stay if they made it to U.S. soil but was terminated under Obama, will remain terminated. Remittances from people in America to Cubans won’t be cut off.But individual “people-to-people” trips by Americans to Cuba, allowed by Obama for the first time in decades, will again be prohibited. And the U.S. government will police other trips to ensure travellers are pursuing a “full-time schedule of educational exchange activities.”The changes won’t go into effect until new documents laying out details are issued. Once implemented Trump’s policy is expected to curtail U.S. travel by creating a maze of rules for Americans to obey. The policy bans most financial transactions with a yet-unreleased list of entities associated with Cuba’s military and state security, including a conglomerate that dominates much of Cuba’s economy, such as many hotels, state-run restaurants and tour buses.Surrounded by Florida Republican officials, the president was unabashed about the political overtones of his election victory and Friday’s announcement:“You went out and you voted, and here I am, like I promised.”Cheered by Cuba hardliners in both parties, Trump’s new policy is broadly opposed by U.S. businesses eager to invest in Cuba.The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, typically supportive of GOP presidents, predicted the changes would limit prospects for “positive change on the island,” while Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., said Trump’s policy was “misguided” and will hurt the U.S. economically.Trump’s declaration in a crowded, sweltering auditorium was a direct rebuke to Obama, for whom the diplomatic opening with Cuba was a central accomplishment of his presidency.Yet it also exposed the shortcomings in Obama’s approach.Unable to persuade Congress to lift the decades-old trade embargo, Obama had used his power to adjust the rules that implement the embargo to expand built-in loopholes. Obama and his aides argued that commerce and travel between the countries, which has blossomed since he relaxed the rules, would make his policy irreversible.Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security adviser who negotiated Obama’s opening with the Cubans, said it was disappointing Trump was halting the momentum that had built but added that it could have been worse.“This is a limitation on what we did, not a reversal of what we did,” Rhodes said in an interview.For Cubans, the shift risks stifling a nascent middle class that has started to rise as Americans have flocked to the island on airlines, patronizing thousands of private bed-and-breakfasts.“When he’s cutting back on travel, he’s hurting us, the Cuban entrepreneurs,” said Camilo Diaz, a 44-year-old waiter in a restaurant in Havana. “We’re the ones who are hurt.”Granma, the official organ of Cuba’s Communist Party, described Trump’s declarations in real-time blog coverage Friday as “a return to imperialist rhetoric and unilateral demands.” Cuba’s government may not formally respond to Trump’s speech until a speech Monday by its foreign minister.The Castro government is certain to reject Trump’s list of demands, which includes releasing political prisoners, halting what the U.S. says is abuse of dissidents and allowing greater freedom of expression. Refusing to negotiate domestic reforms in exchange for U.S. concessions is perhaps the most fundamental plank of Cuba’s policy toward the U.S.Cuba functioned as a virtual U.S. colony for much of the 20th century, and even reform-minded Cubans are highly sensitive to perceived U.S. infringements on national sovereignty. Trump, on the other hand, described his move as an effort to bring about a “free Cuba” after more than half a century of communism.“I do believe that end is in the very near future,” he said.Cuba’s 1,470-word statement Friday night labeled Trump a hypocrite for calling on Cuba to improve human rights, saying the U.S. government “is threatening more limits on health care that would leave 23 million people without insurance … and marginalizes immigrants and refugees, particular those from Islamic countries.”The statement reiterates Cuba’s commitment to “the necessary changes that we’re making now as part of the updating of our socio-economic model,” but says “they will continue being decided in a sovereign way by the Cuban people.”The U.S. severed ties with Cuba in 1961 after Fidel Castro’s revolution, and spent decades trying to either overthrow the government or isolate the island, including by toughening an economic embargo first imposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.Obama announced in December 2014 that he and Castro were restoring ties. Less than a year later, the U.S. Embassy in Havana re-opened, and Obama paid a historic visit to Havana in 2016.___Weissenstein reported from Havana and Lederman from Washington.___Follow Darlene Superville and Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap and http://www.twitter.com/mweissenstein A television set shows United States President Donald Trump announcing his new Cuba policy, in a living room festooned with images of Cuban leaders at a house in Havana, Cuba, Friday, June 16, 2017. President Trump declared he was restoring some travel and economic restrictions on Cuba that were lifted as part of the Obama administration’s historic easing. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) by Darlene Superville, Michael Weissenstein And Josh Lederman, The Associated Press Posted Jun 17, 2017 3:05 am MDT Last Updated Jun 17, 2017 at 10:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Trump rolls back some, not all, changes in US-Cuba relations