- Fears for three Germans missing on New Zealand yacht trip
- Sultan of Brunei announces Syariah law to start Thursday
- Planned changes to Australian race law spark bigotry fears
Posted: 29 Apr 2014 10:13 PM PDT
WELLINGTON, April 30, 2014 (AFP) - New Zealand police said Wednesday they held "very real concerns" about the fate of three Germans who went missing on a sailing trip two weeks ago.
The trio, including two 19-year-olds in New Zealand on a gap-year holiday, have not been heard from since April 16, when they set off on the 7.5-metre (25-foot) yacht Munetra from Bluff, on the southern coast of the South Island.
An intensive aerial search involving two helicopters and an air force P-3 Orion failed to find any trace of the missing vessel and has now been called off, police said.
"Obviously police continue to have very real concerns for the safety of the occupants on the yacht and are working to piece together information about the three occupants on board," inspector Lane Todd said.
He said the missing were Lea Tietz and Veronika Steudler, both aged 19, and the boat's owner Andre Kinzler.
Tietz and Steudler, from Gorlitz in eastern Germany, had both been in New Zealand since September last year and were due to return home next month.
Kinzler, 33, also a German national, had been working on a South island farm for the past four years.
He is believed to have met the teenagers last month and invited them to sail on his yacht.
Todd said there was no evidence of foul play, with police looking at Kinzler's lack of sailing experience as a possible reason for the disappearance.
"We know that he purchased the boat within the past 12 months but the information we've gathered to date suggests his previous sailing experience may have been limited," he said.
Posted: 29 Apr 2014 09:55 PM PDT
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN: The Sultan of Brunei announced that a controversial new penal code featuring tough Islamic criminal punishments that has been criticised by United Nations (UN) human rights officials would be phased in from Thursday.
"Today... I place my faith in and am grateful to Allah the almighty to announce that tomorrow, Thursday, May 1, 2014, will see the enforcement of Syariah law phase one, to be followed by the other phases," Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said in a speech.
Syariah law penalties will be introduced over time and will eventually include flogging, severing of limbs and death by stoning for various crimes.
The 67-year-old Sultan, an absolute ruler and one of the world's wealthiest men, is a father-figure whose word is unquestioned in the sleepy oil-rich country of 400,000.
While many members of the Muslim ethnic Malay majority have voiced cautious support, the Syariah move has sparked concern among many non-Muslim citizens and led to a rare burst of criticism by Brunei social-media users earlier this year.
The Sultan responded by ordering a halt to such criticism, which has largely gone silent.
But authorities appear to have been taken aback by the reaction, and a planned April 22 start was postponed without explanation.
"Theory states that Allah's law is harsh and unfair, but Allah himself has said that his law is indeed fair," the Sultan said in comments apparently aimed at critics.
The UN's human rights office said earlier in April it was "deeply concerned", adding that penalties such stoning are classified under international law as "torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".
Nearly 70% of Brunei's 400,000 people are Muslim Malays while about 15% are non-Muslim ethnic Chinese.
Officials have said Syariah cases would require an extremely high burden of proof and judges would have wide discretion to avoid Syariah punishments.
The Sultan has warned of pernicious foreign influences such as the Internet and indicated he intends to place more emphasis on Islam in the conservative Muslim country. - AFP
Posted: 29 Apr 2014 09:46 PM PDT
SYDNEY, April 30, 2014 (AFP) - Ethnic minorities warned Wednesday that changes to an Australian law banning racial slights could give licence to bigotry and stir tensions, as community consultation on the proposal closed.
The government plans to repeal a section of the Racial Discrimination Act that makes it illegal to "offend, insult or humiliate another" because of their race, saying it should not be used to stifle free speech.
It proposes inserting a new clause into the law to ban racial vilification - defined as inciting hatred against racial groups - rather than simply offending them.
"It will give licence to racism," Kirstie Parker, from the indigenous group National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, told Sky News. "We believe people will think it's open slather."
The Arab Council of Australia's Randa Kattan also views the proposal with deep concern, saying it threatens social inclusion and the government's relations with the Arab-Australian community.
"We've all seen what happened during the Cronulla riots - it doesn't take much to stir racism but it takes a long time to put it out," she said, referring to the ugly race riots between white and Lebanese Australians at Sydney's Cronulla Beach in 2005.
"So when the government says it's okay that people have the right to be bigots ... and then we follow up with these pretty severe changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, it's quite concerning."
Tri Vo, President of the Vietnamese Community in Australia, said the changes would put the country back 20 years.
"Instead of going ahead and with international communities and all that, living harmoniously with each other, we're going backwards," he told the ABC.
Attorney-General George Brandis has said he wants Australia to remain a fair, free and tolerant society where racism has no place, but has also defended the right of Australians to "be bigots".
"People do have a right to be bigots, you know," he told parliament in March. "In a free country, people do have rights to say things that other people find insulting or offensive or bigoted."
Brandis is expected to develop a draft bill for the cabinet in coming weeks.
|You are subscribed to email updates from Regional Feed |
To stop receiving these emails, you may unsubscribe now.
|Email delivery powered by Google|
|Google Inc., 20 West Kinzie, Chicago IL USA 60610|