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  Nation World  


 

Lee Kuan Yew tells Singaporeans

Preserve ‘racial, religious unity’

‘This precious, accidental, improbable, unlikely nation that we have created should be nurtured, carefully strengthened and built upon’
SINGAPORE (AFP) - Elder statesman Lee Kuan Yew urged Singaporeans to preserve racial and religious harmony, saying the city-state was still ‘a nation in the making’ despite its rapid rise to prosperity.
“I do not deceive myself for one moment that our differences of race, culture, language, religion, have disappeared,” he said at the launch of a new book on his thoughts about the future of the island that he led to independence from Malaysia in 1965.
“The message I want to convey is a simple one: we are a nation in the making. Will we make it? Am I certain we’ll get there? No, we cannot say that. Something may go wrong somewhere and we’ll fall apart,” he said.
“It is the business of your generation, and the generation that succeeds you to understand the vulnerability, the fragility of our society and keep it in cohesion, keep it united and keep it as it is today, tolerant of each other, accommodating each other.”
Lee, 87, was speaking at the launch of Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going, published by media giant Singapore Press Holdings and based on exclusive interviews by its flagship daily, The Straits Times.
Singapore, which prides itself on its political stability, has a predominantly Chinese population, with minority races including Malays and Indians plus a growing foreign community now comprising one-fifth of the population of five million.
“You have a nation like China or Japan, China can be ravaged, demolished but the people come together again and rebuild. I’m not sure if Singapore were damaged, ravaged and demolished, they could ever come together again.”
“So this precious, accidental, improbable, unlikely nation that we have created should be nurtured, carefully strengthened and built upon.”
In excerpts published by the Straits Times ahead of the book launch, the silver-haired politician who served as prime minister from 1959 to 1990 and lost his wife Kwa Geok Choo in October touched upon a personal wish.
He said he wanted his family home torn down for redevelopment after he dies instead of being turned into a historical shrine.
New country on way

JUBA (AFP) - South Sudan has erupted into jubilation as early referendum results leave no doubt a new country is about to be born, but the road to statehood remains littered with problems.
The demarcation of the border with the north, the sharing of oil revenues and the future of the disputed region of Abyei are only some of the contentious issues that need to be ironed out within six months.
Preliminary results of the January 9-15 referendum on self-determination show that secession from the north is favoured by close to 99 percent of voters in the Christian-dominated south.
While southern leaders are basking in the glow of a historical landmark in their decades-old struggle for independence, they also called for composure, reminding the population secession is not yet a reality.
The 2005 peace accord that ended more than 20 years of a north-south conflict in which about two million people were killed and around twice as many displaced provided for a transitional period that ends on July 9.
South Sudan should then become the world’s newest nation and Africa’s 55th state, but the interim period looks set to be packed with arduous negotiations between the two halves of what is still the continent’s largest country.
“It might even be more complicated to negotiate than the Comprehensive Peace Agreement itself,” one Sudan-based observer said.
Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir’s National Congress Party and the former southern rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement started talks in July on four main points: security, citizenship, the economy and international agreements.
Some 80 percent of Sudan’s oil reserves, estimated at around six billion barrels, are in the south but can only be exported through a pipeline than runs into the north.
Both sides of the future border will therefore have to strike a deal on revenue-sharing that ensures there is no return to war over what is by far their main source of income.
With hundreds of thousands of southerners still residing in the north and a smaller number of northerners living in the south, both administrations will also have to decide on the status of these communities.
A fifth of the long border between the two territories remains disputed, straddled notably by the oil-producing Abyei enclave, which is claimed by both by southern Dinka Ngok and northern Misseriya Arab tribes.


Ex-Haiti dictator appeals for reconciliation

PORT-AU-PRINCE (AFP) - Like a ghost from the past, ousted Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier apologised to the victims of his 15-year regime and said he had returned to work for national reconciliation.
“I am here to show my solidarity at this difficult moment,” he said in his first full public statement since ending his 25-year exile and making a surprise landing back in Haiti late on Sunday.
“Baby Doc” Duvalier added he also wanted to “voice my deep sorrow to my fellow countrymen who say, rightly, that they were victims under my government.”
Speaking in a weak voice to a room packed full of journalists, the 59-year-old called for ‘national reconciliation’ in Haiti and said he had hoped for a ‘rapid resolution to the political crisis’.
Duvalier, who spoke mainly in French laced with a few words of Creole, said he wanted to offer “sympathies to my millions of supporters who, after my voluntary departure from Haiti in 1986 to avoid a bloodbath and to allow a swift resolution to the political crisis, were left to themselves”.
The ex-dictator acknowledged that “thousands were cowardly assassinated, suffocated, interrogated, subjected to tire necklaces burnings; their houses, their possessions were pillaged, uprooted and torched”.
But his words are unlikely to calm tensions here, with many unanswered questions about his sudden return for people with long memories of his brutal 1971-1986 rule.
Many fear he is seeking a return to power by capitalising on the current political chaos stalking the quake-ravaged Caribbean country.
Duvalier, who was forced to flee in 1986 amid a popular uprising, did not explicitly rule out taking on any political role.
Haiti, already struggling to recover from the devastating January 2010 earthquake and a cholera outbreak, is also caught up in deepening political turmoil due to disputed presidential elections.
“The electoral system is broken,” said popular singer Michel Martelly, who came in third place in November’s presidential elections according to initial results released by Haiti’s election commission (CEP).
Martelly worries he will be pushed out of the second round run-off, against the recommendations of international monitors from the Organization of American States.
“We’ll take to the
streets peacefully if the CEP doesn’t accept the OAS recommendations,” Martelly
told journalists.
The OAS said many of the tally sheets it reviewed had been tampered with or altered in favor of President Rene Preval’s chosen candidate, Jude Celestin.
It has recommended that Martelly, not Celestin, should square off against former first lady Mirlande Manigat in the run-off.
The United States, backed by Britain and France, has already warned Haiti’s leaders that they should follow the OAS recommendations to ensure a credible government is in place or risk losing international support.
Stepping up the pressure on Preval, the US State Department said Friday it had revoked visas for an unspecified number of Haitian government officials.
“Our focus at the present time is in ensuring a free, fair, credible election process in Haiti,” spokesman Philip Crowley said.
“To the extent that there are individuals connected with episodes of violence or corruption, we will not hesitate to take appropriate actions.”
Memories of Duvalier’s repressive regime remain vivid, and human rights groups have accused him and his late father, Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier, of presiding over decades of unparalleled oppression and abuse.
Thousands are believed to have been killed or tortured, many victims of the vicious secret police, the Tonton Macoutes, which was loyal to the Duvalier family.


Hu’s US trip hailed as ‘historic masterstroke’

BEIJING (AFP) - China’s state media trumpeted President Hu Jintao’s state visit to the US as “a historic masterstroke” of “global significance” but ordinary Chinese seemed rather less enthusiastic.
The Xinhua news agency gave the glowing praise after the elaborate welcome Hu received at the White House on Wednesday and his Oval Office talks with US President Barack Obama.
“History will remember this unusual day,” The People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, gushed over a joint declaration signed by the leaders of the world’s top two economies that was short on concrete progress in key disputes.
The China Daily hailed a “New Chapter in Relations” in its front-page headline Thursday. On Friday, the paper blared “Common Interests Shared”, under a huge photo of Hu and Obama shaking hands at the state dinner in Hu’s honour.
The banner Chinese headlines and declarations of a new era of “mutual respect” painted an image of two equal world leaders hammering out a new direction in a relationship long viewed by many in China as unequal.
That portrayal is consider vital to the Communist Party, for which China’s international rise has become a key pillar in its ruling legitimacy, said Joseph Cheng, a China politics researcher at City University of Hong Kong.
“In response to rising nationalism, China’s leaders cannot afford to be seen to be weak in dealings with the United States, so the domestic media certainly wants to show Hu on a par with Obama,” Cheng told AFP.
Hu arrived in Washington on Tuesday for a high-profile state visit that saw him welcomed with sumptuous pageantry and also saw both sides declare the friendship and common interests they share.
State broadcaster China Central Television on Friday repeatedly re-broadcast reports of Hu’s talks with Obama and luminaries such as former president Bill Clinton and secretary of state Henry Kissinger on Sino-US relations.
But the coverage glazed over bilateral bugbears such as currency policy and access to Chinese markets, and Hu’s comment that China had “a lot” to do on human rights was removed from Chinese-language reports.
And on the Chinese Internet, reaction has been less than enthusiastic.


British PM’s media chief quits in phone-hack row

LONDON (AFP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron’s communications chief has resigned after months of pressure to quit over phone-hacking claims at a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper.
Andy Coulson has been under strain over allegations of widespread hacking of mobile phone messages by journalists at the News of the World when he was editor of the paper, from which he resigned in 2007.
“I can today confirm that I’ve resigned as Downing Street director of communications,” Coulson said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, continued coverage of events connected to my old job at the News of the World has made it difficult for me to give the 110 percent needed in this role.”
“I stand by what I’ve said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it’s time to move on.”
Cameron said in a statement that he was ‘very sorry’ that Coulson was going but added that he could “understand that the continuing pressures on him and his family mean that he feels compelled to do so.”
Coulson played a key role in helping propel Conservative leader Cameron to power in elections in May 2010.
“Andy has told me that the focus on him was impeding his ability to do his job and was starting to prove a distraction for the government,” Cameron said.
The hacking saga has refused to die down since the News of the World’s royal correspondent and a private investigator were jailed in 2007 for conspiracy to access mobile phone messages involving Princes William and Harry.
Coulson resigned as editor of the paper, owned by Australian-born media tycoon Murdoch, although he insisted he knew nothing about it the affair.
He signed up as Cameron’s communications director later in 2007.


World ‘running out of
Internet addresses’

SYDNEY (AFP) - The world will run out of Internet addresses “within weeks”, according to one of the founding fathers of the web, a report said.
Vint Cerf, who helped create the web by connecting computers using Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, said it was his “fault” that the 4.3 billion addresses created were running out, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
“I thought it was an experiment and I thought that 4.3 billion would be enough to do an experiment,” Cerf, who is Google’s vice president and “Chief Internet Evangelist”, was quoted as saying in an interview.
“Who the hell knew how much address space we needed?”
In 1977, Cerf created the web protocol IPv4, which connects computers globally, as part of an experiment while working with the US Department of Defence.
He said he never expected his experiment “wouldn’t end”.
“It doesn’t mean the network stops, it just means you can’t build it very well,” Cerf said.
IP addresses are the unique sequence of numbers assigned to each computer, website or other internet-connected devices. They are not the same as website domain names.
The overwhelming number of devices now accessing the internet means the addresses are running out fast.
To resolve the crisis, an updated protocol for the Internet, IPv6, currently being planned by the industry, will create trillions of addresses.
As Google vice president Cerf, who was in Australia to address a conference, said he thought the new chief executive of the California-based giant, Larry Page, was ready to lead the company into the future.