Just another WordPress.com site

Posts tagged ‘The Oslo Times’

Joining NATO and the EU are high priorities for Bosnia: Emir Poljo Ambassador to Norway

Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Mr. Hatef Mokhtar with the Ambassador of Bosnia – Herzegovina at the Embassy in Oslo, Norway.

Exclusive Interview with the Honorable Ambassador of Bosnia–Herzegovina to Norway, Mr Emir Poljo
bosnia8

First of all, The Oslo Times (TOT) is honored and privileged to be able to have this session with you. We really appreciate you for managing time amidst your busy schedule for us and our readers worldwide, who would be reading this interview as we publish it on our website.

Our first question to you is:

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has come a long way from its tumultuous beginning after the dissolution of Yugoslavia followed by the bloody Bosnian War. Shedding its communist past, it started a journey on the path of democracy and set its sights on greater involvement with the international community adopting policies and agendas accordingly. How far do you think the country has been successful in acting within the democratic political framework? Going a little back, was this transition from communism to democracy in the best interest of the common people, and if so, how?

Ambassador: First I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak for this prestigious media. I would like to congratulate for your efforts to promote the universal values of freedom, peace and democracy, through your media. Now let me answer to your question.
Fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989 signaled the end of the ideology of single-mindedness at the world political scene and awakened the hope of many people who have been victims of political mindedness which we recognize as communism. It was a historical process of world-wide politics and my country did not, nor  it was able to influence the development of these events. My country was naturally affected by these changes. Freedom and democracy are awaited with enthusiasm among the people of my country. Bosnia and Herzegovina just like other countries, in these new circumstances demanded its place on political scene. Unfortunately, as is well known, Bosnia paid the highes price of change. Today, we can say that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina like majority of people in the world is enjoying fruits of freedom that they have voted for. Price was expensive and infinitely costly, but between slavery and freedom we have chosen freedom, and today we are proud of it. Peace, freedom and democratic values that is heritage of our society for 17 years now are the greatest benefit enjoyed by the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Image

TOT: What are the major challenges that politicians of Bosnia–Herzegovina had faced, and are still facing, in their bid to make the country more democratically vibrant and adopt pro-people policies befitting a sovereign nation?
Ambassador: Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country in transition. This process of transition undergone by many countries of the Eastern bloc in the case of my country takes place more slowly. The reason for this is that the consequences of the war brought with it many material as well as spiritual harm. Consistent implementation of the peace agreement (Dayton Peace Accord), dealing with the consequences of the war, the preservation of peace and reconciliation among the nations, the transition from the state and public property to private owned properties and the setup of a market economy are some of the most pressing challenges that leadership of my country is facing. In addition to all those elements mentioned above the biggest challenge is also how to overcome the consequences of the global economic crises that is affecting my country as well.
TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina is a potential candidate for the membership of the European Union and has been a candidate for NATO membership since April 2010. In your opinion, what are the major areas of development in which the country has made significant strides bolstering its confidence to apply for the memberships?
Ambassador: BiH is today recognized as a modern European country that is trying to meet as soon as possible all the necessary requirements for become a member of two respectable global alliances such as NATO and the EU. We are half way gone in achiving those goals. The same proces are undergoing the other states of Former Yugoslavija, and Croatia will this summer become a member of EU. In a case of my country the greatest success of all this effort lies in the fact that there is full political consensus of all the political actors regarding our way to EU and NATO. This is very important in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina having in mind its demographic structure of the population. Joining NATO and the EU are the main priorities of our foreign policy.

Image

TOT: How far do you think the country has been on the track after becoming a member-state of the Council of Europe in 2002 and consecutively the founding member of the Mediterranean Union in 2008?

Ambassador: Our membership in these organizations will confirm the commitment of my country to be equal and active member of the European Union and the Mediterranean Union, since geopolitically we belong to both. It will also confirm that we are ready to share the same European democratic values with the other member states of EU. Membership in the Mediterranean Union is part of our commitment to develop regional cooperation and thus contribute to improving the overall bilateral relations between the countries of the region.

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has come a long way since its independence in 1992 and is now being looked at as one of the strategically important countries in the region, paving the way for forming and deepening strategic cooperation with various power blocs including NATO.
a.) After NATO’s recognition of Bosnia as a potential candidate for its membership, how does the country plan to carry forward relations with the western military alliance and what benefits can it achieve in the process?
b.) If Bosnia becomes a full-fledged NATO member, will it have any effect on the relations with Russia and other erstwhile countries of the Soviet bloc?

Ambassador: Well you’ve noticed it correctly. Bosnia is one of the strategically most important countries in the Western Balkans. As result of this we are putting all our efforts in our primer political interest and priority of the first category and that is peace. Peace is needed for every citizen of Bosnia, of the Western Balkans, of Europe and the World. Because of the known historical circumstances this part of the world deserves the establishment of such political relationships and alliances that will guarantee the long-term, stable and lasting peace. This is not only important for Bosnia but for the region as a whole. NATO is not only military but also political alliance because most of the countries of the European Union are also member states of the NATO alliance. Interests and goals are identical, and they are to provide a sustainable, long-lasting and stable peace. Given the fact that this region geopolitically belongs to Europe, it is understandable why we are moving towards European integration. In addition to all this, I have to be honest with you and to let you know that my country in order to achieve this goal needs support and help of international community. It is important to underline the fact that we want to build a partnership with NATO, because we believe that we can contribute to the peace in the world together with other member states. The fact that our troops are already participating in peacekeeping missions around the world, proves our willingness to contribute. Also, I’m quite sure that this will not affect our very good relations with Russia and other former Eastern bloc countries. We do not want to compromise our good relationship with East but to further develop good relationship with West as well as with East. In addition to all this, I wonder who would not want peace in Bosnia and in the Balkans, the peace that brings every kind of prosperity and well-being?!?

Image

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has successfully resolved nearly all its territorial disputes with the neighboring countries, but there are still deep-seated ethnic tensions with Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia, particularly with Serbia, with whom its diplomatic relations are still sensitive.
a.) So what are the reservations that Bosnia–Herzegovina seeks for its ethnicities in these countries to dial down the tensions?
b.) How much progress has been made in establishing diplomatic relations with these countries which were once parts of a greater conglomeration called Yugoslavia?
Ambassador: Unfortunately, it is not possible to objectively answer this question in a few sentences. I would like to emphasize that the establishment of long-term stable and good bilateral relations with our neighboring countries, particularly Croatia and Serbia, is as important priority, as it is our effort to join the EU and NATO. Simply there is future without resolving all outstanding issues with Croatia and especially with Serbia. I think that there is no need to elaborate all this. These goals we are trying to achieve both bilaterally and multilaterally through various forms of regional cooperation. We have achieved a lot until today and we can be happy with that. For almost two decades we have resolved the issue of communication, where we have a free flow of people, goods and capital.  All this is a prerequisite for our good relations. We have also signed many bilateral agreements which resolved many fundamental political and economic issues of our bilateral relations. Every day these relations are getting better.
It’s hard to build a future when the past keeps reminding you. Our main difficulties are related to our recent and unfortunate past. There are still a lot of prejudices about what has happened, what is true and what is not. However, we try to rely on a single phrase which reads:” If we can not agree about our past, we have to agree about our future”.  To conclude all this, when it is up to our relations with Croatia and Serbia, my country always gives priority to political dialogue that contributes to peace and reconciliation between our people, based of equality among states. Having in mind all sacrifice that people in Bosnia and Herzegovina went through, and in particular the Bosniac nation in Bosnia, we are particularly sensitive when someone in any way is questioning our sacrifice. We will never allow anyone to question the price of peace and freedom that  our citizens have paid with their lives, and which we now enjoy in Bosnia.

Image

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has growing bilateral relations with Norway. What are the areas of interests in which the country seeks cooperation from Norway?
Ambassador: Our bilateral relations with Norway, especially political relationship, are on a very high level. There are no outstanding issues between our two countries. In particular we are grateful for all support and effort that they are providing us with in order for us to join NATO as soon as possible. As an important member of NATO, Norway’s contribution is of particular importance for us.
The concrete support of Norway during the war reflected the great humanitarian assistance, and after war period Norway helped us in reconstruction of country’s infrastructure, and even today they are helping us in various forms of establishing democratic institutions and in reform of local government.
On the other hand, we must not forget 15 000 BiH citizens who are living in Norway today. They are all on daily bases through their work contributing to our friendly relationship with Norway, since they are loyal to Norway and they are obeying lows of this country. Today, both sides work hard to improve our economic relationship and there are many opportunities, especially in the field of tourism, energy sector, wood and metal industries.

TOT: After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnia–Herzegovina suffered one of the bloodiest armed conflicts in the human history that saw thousands of innocent people killed and nearly a million displaced. With this background in perspective, how do you think the Bosnians see the developments taking place in Syria, Congo, Mali and Afghanistan where thousands of people are being killed and millions being displaced within their own homelands?

Ambassador: I wish that my country never had the experience that you mentioned. My country and its people understand very well the tragedy through which the people of those countries in a war that you are mentioning are going through. Unfortunately, the list of countries where are brutally violated basic human rights is much longer. We as individuals unfortunately can not do much but to sympathize with them. Of course, through our multilateral diplomatic activity we are trying to contribute to the establishment of peace in all the countries where it is needed. Today, small and weak states are not the key factor in establishing peace in the world. Throughout history and even today, it was always a privilege of the great powers. Today, as it was the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is a lack of political will of those big powers to resolve these conflicts, where civilians are the one suffering the most. I will never understand people who do not learn from the past, especially the tragic past. Apparently they are forgetting the universal ethical rule that happiness of one can never be build on the misfortune of other. But it’s not the first time that politics and morality have little in common.

Image

TOT: Your country practices a unique system of presidential democracy in which each of the three ethnic communities gets an eight-month term to represent and govern the country.
a.) How far do you think this unique model of power-sharing has been successful in maintaining peace and harmony in the country?
b.) What are the other steps that the government of Bosnia has taken to improve the democratic ambience in the country and ensure further representation of the communities in policymaking?
Ambassador: I must remind you that the entire political, constitutional, legal, administrative and electoral system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is product of the Peace Agreement which was signed in November 1995. years in the U.S. military airport base the Right-Paterson at Dayton, Ohio and which is today known as the “Dayton Peace Agreement”. Since the day it was signed until today, during those 17 years it succeeded to establish and maintain peace in Bosnia. This was the biggest result but not the only one. We have built democratic institutions to guarantee respect for fundamental human rights and democratic values in the country. We have to admit that Bosnia has unique constitution in the world. Today, many people in the country and also in the international community believe that this agreement gave its maximum, and that it now in some ways prevents faster integration of country into the global political and economic trends. The biggest problem with Dayton Agreement is huge bureaucratic apparatus that could not be handled by many even more developed countries in the world. Besides being a big burden on the economic development of the country, it also makes states institutions dysfunctional.  We are currently looking for solutions to this situation. Having in mind the sensitivity of the problem, in order to solve this, it will be necessary to provide full political consensus of all parties signatory to the Dayton Peace Agreement.
TOT: The country is divided into two entities including the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the former enjoying a near sovereign structural framework of governance and diplomacy.
a.) What are the areas where the national government plans for more integration of the two entities?
b.) And does the presence of this unmanned/unarmed boundary line called IEBL (Inter-Entity Boundary Line) has still any relevance or importance in the lives of general people of the country?
Ambassador: For the integration of the two entities the state government (Council of Ministers ) is in charge. Council of Ministers is consisting of nine ministries, out of which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Security, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Justice are the most important. Of course, in addition to all this we also have cooperation on lower level of power, between the entity governments, that are correct and very successful. Boarder between the two entities has no effect on the life of the common man and it only has the administrative importance. These relationship between entities confirms that there is a will to build a better future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, state of two entities and one District, state of three constituent people, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
TOT: a.) The European Union is going through its worst economic downturn at the moment. How far has the crisis, which affected almost all major regional economies, affected Bosnia–Herzegovina which has the aspiration to become a part of the economic bloc?
b.) What are the challenges being faced by the country at the moment?
c.) How does Bosnia–Herzegovina see the future of the EU, with the downturn casting a shadow of doubt on its very practicability? Why does the country still wish to be a part of it in spite of the odds?
Ambassador: Undoubtedly the poor economic conditions in the euro area had a strong negative impact on the economic development of countries in the region therefore in Bosnia as well. The biggest challenges that today the governments of the Western Balkans are facing is the economic crisis. It reflects the slower overall economic growth, in increasing poverty and unemployment rates, it reduced foreign investments and of course it affected the repayment of the total external debt that grows each year. My Government at the moment is taking all necessary measures in order to some extent alleviated the consequences of this economic crisis. Those measures are mainly reflected in the reduction of costs in the public sector, the regular payment of taxes, public works through the opening of foreign direct investment and the creation of a better business environment for the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Regardless of all deficiency, we see no alternative to the EU Integrations. Although the European Union is facing a lot of problems, we continue to believe that the value offered by the European model is far greater than the disadvantages that this community is facing nowadays, and we strongly believe that EU will overcome all those problems.

Image

TOT: The freedom of press has over the years become the major focus of many international organizations and some of them have raised their concerns about the situation in the Balkan countries as well. How will you rate the condition of press freedom in Bosnia–Herzegovina?

Ambassador: When it comes to freedom of the press and media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we can be proud that the establishment of a multi political party system brought freedom of media to high level. However it is different question whether these media or press is independent and whether they are professional in your work? It is a question that applies to each country. I believe that the countries that are extremely burdened by the economic crisis are also facing an unprofessional and dependent media. Given that the “media” also have to live out of something, meaning that they need some kind of income, often in times of crisis they must comply with certain political or economic lobbies, and therefore they work against the basic principles and codes of free journalism. In this circumstances they are even more contributing to crises. Reports of these media are generally accompanied by personal rather than general interests of society. Unfortunately, in my country the situation is not much better. But I am convinced that the online media revolution will change this attitude and encourage positive competition. Your example is the best proof of it, where with few resources one can defend universal values of journalism and create trust among readers. Once again I congratulate you on that.
TOT: Bosnia is a country created and divided on ethnic lines and is currently being run from two capitals by two distinct ethnic governments. Add to these the recently formed multiethnic, decentralized enclave of Brčko District.
Do you think that the two capital cities of Sarajevo and Banja Luka with the recent addition of the third one, with varying types and degrees of representation, are any hindrance in the way of development and policy reformation of the country?
Ambassador: Allow me to correct you here. Bosnia and Herzegovina is an internationally recognized and sovereign state and as such there is only one capital city, and that is Sarajevo. Therefore there is no single reason for the rivalry between Sarajevo and Banja Luka, and Brcko frame embedded in the Dayton Peace Agreement. However, within the country we have two ongoing  interconnected parallel processes of integration. One occurs in the internal (local) level, which is reflected in the cooperation of state and entity institutions that establish coordination mechanisms for negotiations with European partners and the other for the Euro-Atlantic integration, which are reflected in the fulfillment of all the conditions that result from these negotiations. This process, although it is sometimes slow, unstoppable is going toward his goal.

Image

TOT: The human rights situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a constant concern for the international community and major regional groupings and progressive alliances. Can you please enlighten us on the existing HR situations in your country? And also, what steps did the government take to improve the condition of human rights and ensure individual freedom for all the citizens?
Ambassador: When we want to talk about this important issue, we must always bear in mind the historical facts of the recent past that faced my country. The problem with this part of the world was, and still is, a problem of democracy. In the last hundred years the Balkans had no luck with democracy, or should we say that democracy had no luck with Balkans. Just a little more than two decades ago people in Bosnia and Herzegovina have experienced the roughest way of violations of human rights. In the past war in Bosnia human life worth very little. Tragedy struck wide areas of the former Yugoslavia, and Bosnia was the epicenter of this earthquake. The massive violations of human rights occurred in Bosnia. Even so, today I want to point out that Bosnia and Herzegovina as a signatory to all international and European conventions and declarations, that interpret the human rights principle reaffirms its strong commitment to obey the rule of law in regard of Human rights, not only in theory but also in practice. So far we have built almost all the democratic institutions that deal with the issue of human rights. In addition, one of the basic conditions for the integration of Bosnia into European and international associations is meeting all standards, which include respect for human rights. We have only one verdict made by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to implement. Once we do this we will automatically become a candidate for the European Union. It is the matter of date when will this issue be resolved. In a country that has a unique legal and political system, which is in the process of transition, burdened at the same time by wartime past as it was in Bosnia, highly affected by the economic crisis it is hard to expect that the human rights would be at  high level. Human rights are of universal significance, and as such can and should be the subject of constant public criticism. The state of human rights in my country is not at the level where we would like it to be, but it is not behind the neighboring countries in the region eather. All the basic human rights are guaranteed by our constitution. In particular we are very satisfied when it comes to respect for basic political and economic rights and freedom of media. Unfortunately, I think that economic crisis, poverty and high unemployment rate in Bosnia are the main reason that the social rights are not at the level where it should be. There is still a large room for the improvement of each of these rights, and it is a daily task of law enforcement officials in BiH.
TOT: The Republika Srpska practices a “regulatory guillotine” which means that it takes only a few days to register a business there, whereas in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina it often takes several months to do so.
Why this difference when both entities are being run in the light of a common policy framework?

Ambassador: One of the main prerequisites for a quick economic recovery is a common and unified economic space within BiH. The differences that you’ve noticed must be deleted. This is all the result of the current situation in the country, and  not the orientation of the policies implemented by the Council of Ministers.

TOT: What is the message you would like to give to the global readership of The Oslo Times as a reprehensive of your country?
My country today is more and more attractive for tourists from all over the world and therefore I would like to call upon your readers to visit my country and to get first hand experience about Bosnia. Bosnia is particularly rich with historical and cultural heritage; it has a beautiful nature and friendly people well known for their hospitality. When we talk about Bosnia and Herzegovina, it means that we are talking about two worlds – the East and the West. It is a country that for centuries is located at the crossroad of civilizations. Many say that Sarajevo is European Jerusalem in miniature. In the old part of city of Sarajevo,  in a small area, just within 200 meters for five centuries stands old temples of four well known monotheistic religions: the Mosque, the Cathedral, an Orthodox church and a Synagogue. Today there are more and more of those who see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a modern democratic state, that is marching towards a better European future, and putting its recent tragic past behind. Welcome to Bosnia and Herzegovina!
Thank you for sharing your views with ‘The Oslo Times’. We wish you and your country all the best in the days to come!

The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Rise of Golden Dawn: A presage of doom

The undisguised extremism promoted by Golden Dawn is a chilling watershed in Greece’s post-war democracy. Fascist gangs are turning Athens into a city of shifting front lines, seizing on crimes and local protests to promote their own movement, by claiming to be the defenders of recession-ravaged Greece.

 Image

‘The People’s Association – Golden Dawn,’ usually known simply as ‘Golden Dawn,’ is a right-wing extremist political organization in Greece. It is led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos and has grown considerably since its inception to a widely known Greek political party with nationwide support.

 

Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is gaining popularity in the midst of the country’s deepening financial crisis. The group has been implicated in torture cases, and for inciting a wave of racial violence sweeping the country.

 

An opinion poll published by KAPA Research in October showed that support for the extremist political group had grown from 7.5 percent of the population in June to 10.4 percent currently.

 

The Golden Dawn emerged from political obscurity into the mainstream in May after winning 7 percent of the vote in the Greek parliamentary elections. Since then, the country has reportedly witnessed an upsurge in racial violence connected to the right-wing group.

 

The party entered the international spotlight after some of its members reportedly participated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims. Its publication praises the Third Reich and often features photographs of Hitler and other Nazis.

 

Golden Dawn has manipulated a weak Greek state and disastrous austerity management by European bureaucrats to become, according to recent polls, the third most popular political party in the country — a noxious omen for the euro zone and a worrying challenge and counterpoint to the very idea of the E.U. itself, which received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Three years ago, Greeks ignored Golden Dawn, seeing its members as neo-Nazi thugs waging war against migrants and giving it a miserable 0.29% of the vote. Last year, however, Golden Dawn — rebranded as an anti-austerity party — won nearly 7% and secured 18 of the 300 seats in Parliament. Its ascent has continued in opinion surveys despite its parliamentary deputies’ being filmed attacking immigrant vendors and demanding that all non-Greek children be kicked out of day-care centres and hospitals.

 Image

As the cash-strapped government struggles to offer its citizens basic services, Golden Dawn has set up parastate organizations to police the streets, donate to Greek-only blood banks and help unemployed Greeks find jobs.

Image

The party has also promised to cancel household debt for the unemployed and low-wage earners. “Soon we’ll be running this country,” says Ilias Panagiotaros, a beefy 38-year-old army-supply-shop owner who is now a Golden Dawn parliamentary deputy representing Athens.

 

Public Love from Fear

 Image

“The people love us.” says Ilias Panagiotaros. Golden Dawn draws much of that love from fear. Greece is now the main entry point for at least 80% of the EU’s un-documented migrants. Frontex, the EU border-patrolling agency, estimates that 57,000 illegal immigrants slipped into Greece last year and more than 100,000 entered in 2010. Many travel through Turkey, often via a land border that Golden Dawn wants to plant with land mines. Some seek asylum, and because of EU rules, those who want to apply for refugee status must do so in their country of entry — in this case, Greece — which often takes years to review the applications. As Europe turns a blind eye to the immigration crisis, many impoverished foreigners find themselves trapped in an economically crippled country that can’t sustain them.

 

Some Greeks no longer want to be hospitable. In the past year, gangs of vigilantes, many sporting Golden Dawn’s black shirts, have beaten and stabbed hundreds of migrants, according to human-rights groups.

 ImageImage

In June 2012, a number of them broke into the Piraeus home of Abouzeid Mubarak, 28, an Egyptian fisherman, bashing him with iron rods until he fell into a coma. “It was a hate that was inhuman,” says Mubarak, who is still recovering.

 

Ali Rahimi, a 27-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, was hanging around with friends outside his building in central Athens when more than a dozen Greeks approached. Several men set upon Mr. Rahimi, one with a knife. Panicked, he fled into his apartment and fought back, managing to push the men out the door. He found blood gushing from just above his heart, one of five stab wounds in his back and chest.

 

Mr. Rahimi survived and is staying put for now. But his friend, Reza Mohammed, who was also injured in the attack, is considering what was once unthinkable: moving back to Afghanistan, which he feels would be safer than Greece. 

 

Parts of Athens feel like a war zone. Racist gangs cruise the streets at night in search of victims. Themis Skordeli, a member of the group that is accused of stabbing Mr. Rahimi, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament on the ticket of Golden Dawn.

 

A few blocks down the street, a crowd was leaving a mosque after Friday Prayer. At the mention of Golden Dawn, immigrant men began lifting their shirts to show their scars. A short, sullen-looking young man with a cut across his nose and freshly sutured cheek bone was pushed forward by the crowd. Just the night before, he said, he was beaten and cut with a knife by “fascists.”

 

“Go into the Omonia police station,” said another man. “You will see how violence is going on.” Several blocks away, I walked into just such a scene. As I stepped out of the elevator at the police station, I saw an officer screaming at a black man and backhanding him hard across the shoulder.

 

In Athens, Sayd Jafari owns a cafe frequented by fellow Afghans. It has been repeatedly ransacked by mobs of black-clad attackers wielding sticks, chains and knives and performing fascist salutes.

 

Like others who have been assaulted, Mr. Jafari is also contemplating returning home to Afghanistan. “There, maybe someone has a bomb hidden on his body that he detonates,” he says. “Here, you don’t see where the knife that kills you comes from.”

 

It’s now common to see police lineup immigrants from South Asia and Africa in public squares and along streets in central Athens. Those without legal-residency permits are arrested and sent to detention centres to be deported.

 

Police claim they have detained nearly 42,000 people since August, though only about 3,400 were arrested for not having residency papers. They defended the crackdown, which was strongly denounced by human-rights groups, by comparing undocumented migrants to the Dorian invaders who purportedly brought down the Mycenaeans in 1100 B.C.

 

The most recent example of fascism shown by Golden Dawn in its series of discriminating activities is when it said a visit to Greece by American Jewish Committee leader David Harris is meant to ensure further “Jewish influence over Greek political issues” and safeguard the interests of “international loan sharks.”

 

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), is leading a Jewish delegation to the region to meet with several Greek leaders, including Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. During the meetings, Harris expressed his “concern and solidarity for Greece during the crisis.”

 

“The only solidarity of this gentleman is to his compatriots – the international loan sharks, who are humiliating the Greek people. His concern most likely is related to the inability of Greece to make the payments of the predatory interest rates of the vile loans,” Golden Dawn said in a statement, adding: “We do not need the crocodile tears of a Jew.”

 

Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, uses the Heil Hitler salute and has denied the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps during World War II. Another lawmaker read a passage from the anti-Semitic hoax “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

 Image

The attack on Harris and a separate article titled “Absolute Evil” that was published on the party’s website Friday appeared to be a hardening of Golden Dawn’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, apparently in anger over pressure from Jewish groups to get the Greek government to reign in the party. The “Evil” statement said that blaming Golden Dawn for Greece’s woes constituted an attempt to divert attention from the real culprits for Greece’s financial crisis.

 

“They are none other than those who possess most of the international wealth. The people behind the international loan-sharks,” the statement said. “Everyone knows they belong to a certain race, which presents itself as a victim, while in reality it is the perpetrator. Everyone knows that they are none other than those pulling the strings behind the marionettes. They are the absolute evil for mankind.”

 

The second statement ended with a threat.

 

“The time will come when the nationalists of the Golden Dawn will take revenge like the horsemen of the storm, and all of them, being the absolute evil, will pay!”

 

Not content to proselytizing in their homeland, Golden Dawn has started to expand worldwide.

 

Barely a month after their electoral victories, Golden Dawn launched a widely-criticized branch in Melbourne, Australia, home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Athens. In October, several groups protested the opening of a Golden Dawn office in New York City, which had opened for the explicit purpose of building support for the party among Greek expatriate communities and collecting food and medicine to distribute in Greece – only for Greeks. And in Montreal, Golden Dawn is holding a Christmas food drive. The catch? They’re only giving food out to Greek Christians.

 

Golden Dawn members in the United States have told CBC News they plan to open chapters shortly in Chicago, in Connecticut and in Toronto.

 

What’s at stake is the health of European democracy, and the values and institutions on which it rests. But while the euro crisis touched off a scramble to halt a financial meltdown, European leaders have done virtually nothing to reverse the union’s dangerous political trends.

 

As recent polls show that its strength continues to grow, and its support runs as high as 50 percent among police officers, who routinely fail to investigate growing numbers of hate crimes.

 

Far-right ultranationalist groups are exploiting old enmities and new fears across the Continent. Although this is not the Europe of the 1930s, the disillusioned citizens of countries like Greece and Hungary have turned increasingly to simple answers, electing parties that blame familiar scapegoats — Jews, Gypsies, gays and foreigners — for their ills.

 

Maria Chandraki, 29, an unemployed beautician, hadn’t heard of Golden Dawn until the last election. “Their positions may be extreme,” she said, holding plastic bags of food she’d just received. “But the situation is extreme as well. So we need extreme measures.” She went on, “We can’t have so many nations and so many different sets of values and ideals under the same roof.”

 

Beneath the looming basilica of Athens’ largest church, middle-aged men and women in black Golden Dawn T-shirts were busy one bright September morning distributing food to needy Greeks. Kids ran across the courtyard, which was painted with the party’s unofficial platform: “Get foreigners out of Greece.” Clusters of fit, stoic young men in dark glasses ringed the perimeter.

 

Nikolaos Michos, a square-jawed Golden Dawn Member of Parliament with the build and tattoos of a heavyweight boxer, leaned against a bloodmobile watching. He wore a black polo embossed with the party’s Swastika-like logo. “We’re fighters and we’re not going to back down,” he said, referring to death threats from leftists and the burning of a Golden Dawn office. “But they’re not striking fear into us because every centre they destroy, we’ll build new ones,” he added.

 

European leaders must not cede the battleground in the war of ideas. They should publicly denounce parties that espouse racist doctrines and spew hate-filled rhetoric and clearly define and defend the shared values of an increasingly integrated Europe.

 

To do so, they must develop a pan-European approach to monitor hate crimes and investigate right-wing extremist networks that operate across borders. And the European Union must ensure that all member-states, old and new, respect the same criteria that countries currently aspiring to join the European Union are required to meet, especially maintaining the “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities.” Otherwise, Europe faces the spectre of more xenophobic violence and the unravelling of the liberal democratic order that has drawn so many persecuted people to seek asylum and opportunity on European shores.

 

Nikos Katapodis, 69, can see the crossroads where his family has lived since 1863. A bald, chain-smoking funeral-home owner, Mr. Katapodis describes the Greek government with a string of expletives. The flood of immigrants over the last decade created ghettos in central Athens, he explains. Crime rates rose, property values dropped and bars appeared on second-floor windows. “It looks like a prison,” he said, nodding to the street. “Today it reminds me of the late 1940s,” he adds. “You see people scrounging for food in the trash cans.”

 

Although he didn’t vote for Golden Dawn, he sees it as “the only party that is actually doing things for the Greek people” — a cross between the welfare state and the Mafia. If he needed an escort to walk down the street or help paying for his cancer medicine, he’d call Golden Dawn. “They’re doing what the politicians should be doing,” he said. “There’s a hole, and they fill it.”

 

Authoritarian elements in the Greek government have a history of using far-right groups to outsource political violence against critics. Recent moves to rein in Golden Dawn came only after it grew too powerful to control and the state felt its own authority was challenged, explained Anastassia Tsoukala, a legal scholar. “They were bitten by their own snake,” she said. And Greece is not alone. Golden Dawn’s rise has parallels across Europe, and its significance should be of Continental concern.

An Open Letter to Kim Jong-Un

Dear President Kim Jong-Un

Supreme Leader of North Korea

We write this letter to you to raise a number of points that would demonstrate the depth of international concern about your country. In so doing, our wish is to help you improve your country’s image, strengthen your leadership and help the people of North Korea.

kim jong un1

2013 can be a time of opportunity for you to open a door that has long been shut without regard to the shifts in the world around. You can start off by reworking some policies and practices perpetuated since your father’s time—for the wellbeing of your own people.

More than 200,000 men, women and children are still being held in prisons and gulag camps in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most of them have been incarcerated for political reasons and are not guilty of any internationally recognised crimes. Prisoners have to endure conditions that resemble the worst forms of human rights abuse and many die of starvation.

The human rights of the people of North Korea are routinely violated, despite its ratification of numerous international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

People are living in constant fear and insecurity, knowing if they do not follow the government-scripted codes of conduct it could result in the loss of their freedom, basic human rights, and their lives. They are subject to enforced disappearance, “unfree labour”, torture and execution.

The DPRK government stands guilty of crimes against humanity and flagrant violations of international laws. It is accused of arresting people on false premises and giving harsh penalties for small offences.

Image

Millions of North Koreans are suffering from hunger, malnutrition and inadequate health care. According to our understanding, the DPRK government has the capacity and resources to offer a minimum level of care to people but apparently it is neglecting it.

Let’s face it. People’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of religion are not acknowledged in your country. Access to and sharing of information is restricted. The voices of dissent are ruthlessly suppressed. Whatever we know and hear about North Korea—considered to be the most tightly closed-off region in the world—come through the filter of a state-controlled media.

Food Shortages and Famines

Image

In March 2011, a joint UN survey estimated that over six million people in North Korea urgently required international food assistance to avoid famine. The World Food Programme called it the worst famine in a decade. Several NGOs and media outlets reported hunger-related deaths.

Some of the causes of the famine are harsh winters, destruction of harvests through floods, economic mismanagement, and the government’s discriminating food policies that favour the military, government officials, and other loyal groups.

Since 1995 the United States has provided North Korea with over $1 billion in help, about 60 percent of which was given as food aid and 40 percent for energy, according to a Congressional Research Service report in 2008. The aid was suspended halfway through due to a lack of transparency in aid distribution and the escalating tensions caused by the North’s nuclear missile tests and restrictions on international monitors.

More recently, reports surfaced about a ‘hidden famine’ in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae, killing up to 10,000 people so far. People were so desperate to ward off starvation that incidents of cannibalism rose dramatically. Yes, it is hard to believe in this modern age but ‘numerous testimonies’ have confirmed the shocking findings.

The international community is always willing to provide assistance to a people in need. But it is ironic that when you ask for food aid, the first question that comes to their mind is: will it be really delivered to the people for whom it is given, or it will be manoeuvred like before? They fear the fund might be used for military purposes.

Torture and Abuse of Human Rights

Individuals arrested on criminal charges often face torture by officials aiming to enforce obedience and extract bribes and information. Common forms of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings with iron rods or sticks, kicking and slapping, and enforced sitting or standing for hours. Prisoners are subject to pigeon torture, in which they are forced to cross their arms behind their back, are handcuffed and hung in the air tied to a pole, and finally beaten with a club causing loss of circulation or limb-atrophy that often leads to death within weeks.

Guards sometimes rape female detainees. One study done in 2010 found that 60 percent of refugee respondents who had been incarcerated saw a death due to beating or torture. Incidents of cannibalism were also reported in some prison camps as a result of confiscation of meat rations by prison officials.

Executions

North Korea’s Criminal Code stipulates that death penalty could be applied only for a small set of crimes, but these include vaguely defined offences such as “crimes against the state” and “crimes against the people” that could be and are applied broadly. What is concerning is that your government exercises inhuman methods of torture and execution.

In 2001, a condemned inmate had got his body torn apart by guard dogs as executioners fired. Three bullets shattered his skull, splattering blood near other prisoners who were forced to watch.

According to statements of some defectors, forced abortions have also become a common practice, and if babies are born, many of them are killed, sometimes before their mothers’ eyes.

Forced Labour Camps

Image

Testimonies from escapees have established that persons accused of political offences are usually sent to forced labour camps, known as “gwalliso”, operated by the National Security Agency.

The Kwan-li-so are gulags or concentration camps that, as of 2003, unlawfully detained about 200,000 North Koreans in a total of six to eight camps in remote valleys guarded by high mountains, in the country’s northern provinces. The Kwan-li-so violates international laws on multiple grounds and are generally charged with various crimes against humanity such as forced internment, forced labour, torture, rape, forced abortion, starvation, and death without charge or trial.

It is unfortunate that your government still practices collective punishment, sending people to forced labour camps to work under a “guilt-by-association” system (yeon-jwa-je), where not only the offender but also his or her relatives such as parents, spouse, children, and even grandchildren have to work. Some defected guards have said that they were taught to treat prisoners as national traitors who must suffer condemnation up to three generations of their families.

These camps are notorious for their inhumane living conditions and gross human rights violations, including severe food shortages, little or no medical care, lack of proper housing and clothes, mistreatment and torture by guards, and executions.

Forced labour at the gwalliso often involves strenuous manual labour such as mining, logging, and agricultural work, all done with rudimentary tools in dangerous and harsh conditions. Death rates in these camps are reportedly extremely high.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

north korea6

Your government has criminalised leaving the country without state permission and those who leave face harsh punishment if caught, including interrogation, torture, and other penalties. Those suspected of religious or political activities, including contact with South Koreans, are given lengthier terms in horrendous detention facilities or forced labour camps with chronic food and medicine shortages, harsh working conditions, and mistreatment by guards.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled since the 1990s, and some have settled in China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Beijing categorically labels North Koreans in China “illegal” economic migrants and routinely repatriates them.

A number of North Korean women and girls have been trafficked into marriage or prostitution in China. Many children of such unrecognised marriages have been forced to live without a legal identity or access to elementary education, because their parents fear that if they register they would be identified by Chinese authorities and forcibly sent back home.

Government-Controlled Judiciary

Your country’s judiciary system is not independent as all staff including judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court clerks and jury members are appointed and controlled by the Supreme People’s Assembly. The judges remain highly vulnerable to threats from the government which can subject them to “criminal liability” for handing down “unjust judgments.” The penal code, with definitions of offences and penalties often ambiguous and open to interpretation, is not also consistent with the principles of modern criminal law.

Anything done in opposition to the regime is treated as political crimes, leading to strict punishment and subjugation. When a person is arrested for political crimes, suspects are not even sent through a nominal judicial process; after interrogation they are either executed or sent to a forced labour camp, often with their entire families.

Your government uses fear by threats of forced labour and public executions to prevent dissent, and imposes harsh restrictions on freedom of information, association, assembly, and travel.

Your government periodically investigates the “political background” of the citizens to review their level of allegiance to the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WRK), and forces those who fail such assessments to leave the capital.

Military-First Policy

A strong leadership for a battered economy like yours is essential. But you seem to have chosen your father’s military-first policy instead of a peaceful and diplomatic process. Your actions stand in direct contrast to your pronounced resolve to rebuild your country’s moribund economic condition.

This was proven once again on Saturday (26 January) when you decided to take the path of “retaliation” in response to an American-led United Nations sanction on North Korea. You have reportedly ordered your party officials to take “substantial and high-profile state measures” to conduct a third nuclear test to show your ability to “target” the U.S. But the sanction, which was also a response to your government’s December 12 rocket launching, was not uncalled-for. Carrying out such expensive and destructive experiments is not the way to boost an impoverished economy.

Last words

Dear President Kim Jong-Un, have you ever paused for a moment and considered how you really want to be remembered by your people? As a dictator? Or a people’s leader? Perhaps you should. How you are remembered would be determined by how you act as a statesman.

The fact is, your treatment of your people resembles the way some former dictators used to treat their people, sending them to camps or execute them. Hitler organised the execution of the Holocaust, the systematic extermination of six million Jews and millions of other non-Aryans. Josef Stalin deliberately orchestrated the famine that claimed between 7 and 11 million lives in Ukraine and in parts of the Soviet Union. Pol Pot, through his hegemonic agrarian socialism, caused the deaths of approximately 26 percent of the total Cambodian population.

These dictators died a very disgraceful death. Not to mention, their people hated them for what they did and associated them with all that is evil and heinous. We urge you to take lesson from their fates and end all violations of human rights in your country.

We urge you to abandon the decades-long systematic pattern of human rights abuses committed by Pyongyang against its people and sincerely hope that you will create your own legacy. You can restore the North Koreans’ trust in their rulers and gain their respect by upholding their human rights.

If you want to be remembered as the man who stood against the current and abandoned a brutal legacy, it is the time. Your people need democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion. We are in the 21st century and there is no room for dictatorship at the expense of precious lives and basic rights.

Your late father, Kim Jong-II, isolated your people from the modern world, so much so that those few North Koreans who managed to escape had to spend several months in special care schools to adjust themselves to the ways of the 21st century.

Whom are you trying to punish? The western world doesn’t suffer from this, only your people do. Last year’s rocket launch failure cost your government $850 million, enough to feed millions who are starving to death.

Women suffer the most in a famine situation; every 40 of 1000 women had died in the previous famines. They also suffer due to the gendered structure of North Korean society. Women face problems like anaemia, premature birth and haemorrhage because of vitamin deficiency.

Children also face high mortality rates. The main reason behind the deaths of infants under two is the lack of breastfeeding. A child may die because of various reasons such as prenatal, neonatal and postnatal complications. A child may die even long after it was born owing to reasons of malnutrition, infections and so on. So, a high-impact prevention policy is necessary to redress the mortality problems.

Another thing that you should look into is the violation of individual’s right to privacy. Every home in your country is forced to set up a portrait of the “Great Leader” Kim II Sung and the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong II. Inspectors come on a surprise visit and hand out fines if the portraits are not well-kept. Every adult citizen must also wear a button of Kim II Sung!

It is quite ironic that since its establishment, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea could never justify the purpose of its official name. When a country’s name says it is democratic, it has a moral obligation to be so. Its leadership should work towards uplifting the democratic values and allow people to apply their choices to elect or change their own representatives. If North Korea is a democratic state, it is indeed the worst kind of it in the entire history of democracy. There can be no justification for Mao Tse-Tung—styled “people’s democratic dictatorship,” which is only an extended version of dictatorship sustaining repression and regimentation.

A democracy should serve its people’s interests and work for their prosperity by empowering them with the power of their rights and freedom to choose their path of livelihood. The citizens of North Korea under your leadership are far from getting any such privileges. Over the years their lives have been made miserable and their rights deliberately denied.

We, on behalf of your people who have no means to express themselves, would like to pose a few questions which may provide some food for your thought:

Q.1. Being a young leader of this country, what are the ways you seek to bring the lives of the people at par with the lives of those on the other side of the DMZ?

Q.2. Do you and your regime still think you have the consent and mandate from common people to continue your job?

Q.3. In this world of globalisation, is this right to keep North Korea isolated and its people more like distant aliens away from the advancements of civilisation?

Q.4. Is it not your duty to respect the rights of your people who have obeyed your family’s leadership for decades, albeit with little improvement in their living conditions?

Q.5. In what context does your leadership thinks that North Korea could be a role model for peace and humanity for the world?

Q.6. Are nuclear weapons more important than your people’s prosperity? Should they remain hungry and half-fed to fuel your baseless ambitions?

Q.7. Does North Korea’s age-old socialistic framework, which has no acceptance and practicability in this age of democracy, still holds the future for its people?

Mr. President, before you answer these questions, you must first think that even those whom your regime has followed as leadership models were washed over by the tides of time and their system had to be remodelled to suit the needs of a changing world.

You should analyse your position in light of that. The direction in which you and regime have being heading has outlived its relevance. You must change your direction now and democracy is all you have at the moment. You are standing at a crossroads in history and a bold decision can seal your place permanently in the heart of your people. Even with a functional democracy you can continue your lineage and continue to serve your people.

Our humble wish is that you would be able to rise to the occasion and do what must be done today or tomorrow.

On behalf of ‘The Oslo Times’

Yours Sincerely,

Hatef Mokhtar

Editor in Chief

Oslo, Norway

Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times interview with the Hungarian Ambassador Mr. Géza Jeszenszky

Oslo – This is to inform to our readers that today a meeting was to conduct an exclusive interview at the embassy of Hungary with the honorable Ambassador Mr. Géza Jeszenszky.

Image

The interview was held successfully under the supervision of our editor in chief Mr. Hatef Mokhtar who had gone and conducted this exclusive interview session with the honorable Ambassador. It was a 40 minutes session of questions and answers.

Various issues and concerns were raised during this interview that range from simple economics to the concerning issues like of human rights and democratic transition.

The best part and most vocal message which The Oslo Times got from Mr. Jeszenszky was that he has been an open critique of Communism which he defines it as a long date of the world politics.

The interview session has clearly put across the most vital and strategic point across on the position of Hungary towards global politics, economic crises in Europe, situation of democracy / human rights / media in the erstwhile Communist states that are now progressing towards a major shift to democratic framework in particular Hungary which is experiencing the great leap forward towards the integration with the rest of Europe and the world at large.

In a few days of time The Oslo Times would be going to publish this exclusive interview and wish its readers would find something extra that rest of the media misses out these days.

Stay connected to The Oslo Times for more news updates.

New Year message from the Editor

Image

It is the time of the year when we reflect over the past and hope for the best in the days and months to come. We carry with us the lessons we learned and the memories we hold dear. As we enter the New Year, we are perfectly aware of the realities of our world—a world that poses formidable challenges yet leaves ample room for new rays of hope to come in.

 

No doubt 2013 will also have its fair share of prospects and challenges. But each challenge will make us stronger and further united in what we do and what we believe in.

In the past year, there have been a lot of challenges, difficulties and tremendous losses. From The Oslo Times, we did our best to update our readers on all important developments. We worked hard to promote human rights and freedom of speech—the two issues fundamental to our movement.
 

There are still a large number of media workers, bloggers and human rights activists behind bars, imprisoned unlawfully for raising their voices for the right causes. People living under corrupt and oppressive regimes are still afraid to speak up and stand for their fundamental rights.

 

They are afraid of consequences if they protest against repression, discrimination and violations of their freedom of expression. All these challenges may very likely be with us in 2013 as well.

 

I would like to thank all our readers and contributors for their support in 2012, and hope that they would continue their support for us. I would also like to thank those who inspired and enriched us with their insightful feedback and lighted our ways with their visions.

With our readership continuing to grow, we could not be more enthusiastic about 2013 and what we can accomplish together with your feedback and continued support.

As the first dawn of the New Year is about to break very soon, let us take a pause and think. Have we come all the way up here, after all the struggles and sacrifices for a just world, only to lapse into silence at this stage?

 

If we cannot join the protests on the streets, let us do what any thinking person can do: share news of HR violations and use our pens to unmask the violators. As Winston Churchill once wrote: “You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police…yet, in their hearts, there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”
 

HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

Hatef Mokhtar

Editor in Chief

The Oslo Times

Assistant Chief of Jewish community in Kazakhstan met with Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times for Exclusive Interview Session

 

 

 

with jewish head in almatyn

In the image above: (L) Asst; Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan’s Jews community with (R) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar in an exclusive interview session in Almaty.

Almaty, Kazakhstan, December 12 2012 – The honorable Mr Rabbi Bezalel Lifshitz met with the editor in chief hatef mokhtar for an exclusive interview that will be published in a couple of weeks. They spoke about religious freedom, Judaism and the Jewish community in Almaty KZ.
There are approximately 12,000 to 30,000Jews in Kazakhstan, less than 0.2% of the population.

Most Kazakh Jews are Ashkenazi and speak Russian.There are synagogues and large Jewish communities in Almaty where there are 10,000 Jews. According to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, “Anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Kazakhstan and rare incidents are reported in the press,” contrary to incorrect perceptions in popular culture caused by the country’s portrayal in the 2006 film Borat as a “hot-bed of anti-Semitism.

Rabbi mentioned the 7 commandments for humanity.

In ancient times, these 7 commandments were called “The Noachide Laws.”   They were preached by Noah which all people of the new world were required to follow. (Hebrew)

1 – Do not murder (Shefichat damim).
2 – Do not steal or kidnap (Gezel).
3 – Do not worship false gods (Avodah zarah).
4 – Do not be sexually immoral (engage in incest, sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery) (Gilui arayot).
5 – Do not utter GOD’s name in vain, curse GOD, or pursue the occult(Birkat Hashem).
6 – Set up righteous and honest courts, and apply fair justice in judging offenders, and uphold the principles of the last five (Dinim).
7 – Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed (Ever Min HaChai).

 

TOT News Agency / The Oslo Times

The National Coordinator and UN Representative in Almaty Kazakhstan meets with Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times

SERGEY

In the image above: (R) UN Representative Mr. Sergey Karpov, the national coordintor of UN in Almaty Kazakhstan in an exclusive interview session with (L) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar.

Almaty, Kazakhstan – December 11 2012 – Today at the centrally heated and guarded complex of UN in Kazakhstan a historic meeting has taken place between The Oslo Times Editor in Chief and UN Representative to the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The meeting was scheduled in the city of Almaty, the cultural capital of the country. In the meeting various issues and progress related to the role of UN and operations of the organization in Kazakhstan were discussed.

The distinction of this meeting comes when the cooperation between the UN and Kazakhstan were discussed related to human rights, press freedom and democratic status of the region’s republics.

The interview with the honorable representative would be scheduled for publishing on The Oslo Times within a span of few days.

It would be a very rewarding experience as the insider for our readers who are eager to learn and to have a knowledge of the republic’s stand and position in the region.

The Oslo Times is committed to its readers and will continously bring the exclusives like these to clear the misconcetions and undermine propaganda spread by the rise in yellow journalism around the world.

Rest for information it is advised to check our interview section at regular intervals for further happenings and updates through our exclusives.

TOT News Agency / The Oslo Times

A moving tale of love and conflict in Afghanistan

Image

“Life is a journey and every man must bear the burden of conflict between his own free will and the vicissitudes of destiny. The heart endures the trials and tribulations that accompany us through life and stores the sorrows and joys that make us who we are.”

Asif, a young boy lives in Afghanistan with his two siblings and parents from a highly respected family. As a teenager Asif falls in love with Latifa, a girl he is not able to marry because of cultural beliefs and traditions.  

When his father, who is a inspirational leader and opposed to Communism, is arrested by the Russians and found murdered, the family flee to a refugee camp in Pakistan where unspeakable tragedy befalls the family.

After stuggling to survive and support his family Asif return, years later, to a very
different Afghanistan that is now ruled by the dictatorial Taliban.  

Again faced with appalling hardship Asif strives to escape. This is a journey between two destinies, of love, sorrow and prosperity and the value of life.  

Born in Afghanistan, author Hatef Mokhtar grew up in a refugee camp in Pakistan and is now working as the Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times in Oslo, Norway.  
He says, “The pain of separation from my homeland, the cries and sorrow of my people inspired me to write this book.”  

Image

The Red Wrath
By Hatef Mokhtar

Available on

THE RED WRATH: A JOURNEY BETWEEN TWO DESTINIES (ISBN: 978-1-61897-459-4) is now available for $24.50 and can be ordered through the publisher’s website:

http://sbpra.com/HatefMokhtar or at www.amazon.com or www.barnesandnoble.com.

WHOLESALERS: This book is distributed by Ingram Books and other wholesale distributors. Contact your representative with the ISBN for purchase. Wholesale purchase for retailers, universities, libraries, and other organizations is also available through the publisher; please email bookorder@aeg-online-store.com.

This book is also available on:

Official Site:  http://sbpra.com/HatefMokhtar/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Red-Wrath-Journey-between-Destinies/dp/1618974599/ref=sr_1_1?s=booksie=UTF8qid=1344990362sr=1-1keywords=the+red+wrath%3A+a+journey+between+two+destinies

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Red-Wrath-Journey-Between/dp/1618974599

http://www.amazon.co.jp/The-Red-Wrath-Journey-Between/dp/1618974599

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-red-wrath-hatef-mokhtar/1112442872?ean=9781618974594

Adlibris: http://www.adlibris.com/se/product.aspx?isbn=1618974599

Q&A: I was a better person than what was in front of my peers says Rebecca Rifai

Image

In the image above: (L) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar & in (R) Speaker, Artist & Author Ms. Rebecca Rifai of Canada.

REBECCA RIFAI

Speaker, artiste, author:

She has been chiseling her path in the arts for most of her life. Working as a celebrity speaker, actor and recently becoming an author. More importantly, as a humble woman, Rebecca Rifai speaks about the boundaries and opportunities of her industry and world at large. These are her thoughts on public speaking, the arts and everything else.

Rebecca Rifai is not only a very good, humble, honest and refined human being with a lot of sincere good feelings for one and all, she is also a person who has a great understanding and insight as well as respect for freedom, democracy and human rights, for every individual in the globe.

The versatile Rebecca Rifai is also a delightful and charming woman with keen wisdom emanating from her being and added to this is her  gracious personality which radiates like a beam of enlightenment for each and everyone who meets and talks to her.

Madam Rebecca Rifai: “The Oslo Times” feels honoured and privileged to be interviewing you. We are sure that your views will be a boon for our worldwide readers.

Image

TOT: Well madam, today, you are an authority in the realm of speech making and presentation.  But this hasn’t always been the case for there was a time when you were terrified of public speaking.  Could you share with us the details of a certain blunder or a crippling moment emanating from a sense of stage or crowd fright that occurred early in your life or career?
Rebecca: I always knew that on the inside I was a very confident woman, but having to let this expression surface was difficult for me. Giving a speech at an assembly, conducting class orals, school camps, at Rotary and workshops, these were all opportunities that presented a major challenge. Time and time again I felt embarrassed after speaking to an audience. I knew I was a better person than what was in front of my peers; I just lacked the knowledge to conquer my crippling fear and knew it would take a lot of perseverance to get through this.

“I knew I was a better person than what was in front of my peers; I just lacked the knowledge to conquer my crippling fear and knew it would take a lot of perseverance to get through this.”

As a child, and even now as an adult, surprisingly I am quite shy. It is however the opportunities that I have been blessed with that have allowed my personality to shine. I have been given a voice to inform, inspire and excite. And so as I embrace my career I find myself opening up many opportunities for those that want to build their confidence, to find their voice, to communicate effectively and to become champion speaker.

As the author of Presenting 101, I can relate to those that get nervous. And so what I aim to do with this book is to demonstrate how these nerves can be turned into a positive experience on screen, the microphone, and on the stage. Public speaking is a fearful experience for many, but I will show readers how to run with this and to turn their energy into an empowering experience.

My passion for effective communication transcends through the words on the pages. I want nothing more than to see people succeed at public speaking.

Image

TOT: In the face of true or imagined fear, people resort to their ‘flight or fight’ mechanism.  What made you choose to fight this specific fear instead of simply avoiding it altogether?
Rebecca: I was a bright student and did extremely well in my areas of interest, which were drama, art, sport and English. The acknowledgement from my teachers helped to feed my desire to do well at what I would commit myself to. Along with this I developed an interest in motivational books. As I read I found other authors who had similar struggles in life and had turned their challenges into something great.

“I learnt at a very young age that I was capable of achieving a lot more that I ever would have thought.”

The authors, my mentors, taught me that it was okay to stand out, that life would reward me with dividends if I took opportunities when they presented themselves to me. They told me to embrace fear; that we never achieve anything great when we live within our comfort zone. And so, I knew that some day, somehow, I would be able to speak up to those that I couldn’t before and create a fruitful life.

Image

TOT: Well madam, in your opinion, what made you succeed in this domain?  What are the defining qualities that helped you evolve as a presenter?
Rebecca: I believe what it comes down to is the willingness to get the most out of life. Walking with a fear that we believe we cannot overcome is detrimental. Pushing through these fears is empowering. Life is to be embraced. We all have an interesting story to share and we all have the ability to achieve amazing things. A positive mind, trust in yourself and taking the leap of faith is what will build the strength in one’s character and makes one stand out as a leader.
Procrastination is one of human’s biggest flaws. Complimentary to that is a lack of belief in one’s own self. Sometimes the best part of life is about trusting our instincts and challenging others when they say that we can’t do something. If you believe you can’t then at least give it a shot and surprise yourself instead of giving in. If I listened to all of the gremlins in my life that told me to quit I wouldn’t be where I am now.

“Life is a journey. We live and we learn but we must make the most out of it.”

I trusted in myself that through all of my flaws and mistakes I would succeed in public speaking and I am proud of myself for doing so.
Image

TOT: Well that is nice to hear. Now madam, what was the tipping point in your career?
Rebecca: I had learnt very early on that a career in the entertainment industry meant not worrying about being embarrassed. And so I always took a chance at putting myself forward for interesting roles. Did I feel embarrassed at the time? Sometimes, yes. But I kept taking chances in the hopes that something exciting would eventuate. I had heard that the Commonwealth Games were approaching and that this could possibly be the opportunity that I was searching for, to speak at the event.

At the time I was working for a radio station as a field correspondent. I was young and ambitious and had been recording myself on camera while I would go to the stations events. What I recorded were little pieces to camera about random exciting topics out on the road.

I was never asked to do this; it was just something I liked to do for fun. I never knew, at the time, that this video I recorded would come in use for submitting me for the Commonwealth Games.
So I edited this video together and sent it off. Little did I know that soon I would get a call back to say that I would speak in front of millions of people for the gymnastics at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.

I would be running the show, interviewing the athletes, completing voice over’s and speaking on behalf of the network stations. That was a moment in my life that I will never forget and a moment that is one of the greatest memories I have to be grateful for.

TOT: Your new book, “Presenting 101”, has been launched recently.  In it, you describe the means to develop and hone one’s presenting skills – be it for TV, radio or at events and functions.

However, the book could also help in many ways all those who aren’t necessarily pursuing a career as presenters.  Could you explain in which ways your book might help non-professionals?
Rebecca: This book is about harnessing readers’ confidence to speak to an audience and giving them the tools to ‘think outside the box’. Public speaking is part and parcel of everyday life, be it at a seminar, a wedding or in an office meeting and so why not make it fun? Right? I want readers to develop a passion and excitement for their next public speaking engagement.

It’s an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to get up in front of an audience and to feed off their energy. Readers will develop an enthusiasm for improving their public speaking skills and walk away from the experience with a new open mind.

Periodically I conduct “Presenting 101” workshops. In these, there have been a whole array of people attend. Health care professionals, construction managers, CEOs, teachers, dentists and the likes have celebrated these workshops as being something that has changed their life in a positive way.

I am so proud to say that I have enriched their lives with an experience that they will never forget. I am rewarded by their successes and that is the greatest gift I could ever hope to receive.

TOT: Well madam, some people are naturally eloquent and quick on their feet while others are not.  Do you believe that such qualities could be developed?  If yes, how much could one improve such skills?
Rebecca: Absolutely. As an eternal student of the arts, improvisational skills are an asset. To be able to think quickly on our feet can be developed by tapping into our imagination, developing good listening skills and overcoming the notion of being embarrassed.

The improvisational skills taught in “Presenting 101” will help one muster their inner confidence so as to avoid and overcome being caught out. Readers will learn how to not get stuck on a script, work in synergy with an audience and harness the unexpected.

One of the greatest gifts I can offer in the book is how to overcome mistakes. People often ask me what to do if they fall over on stage, if they forget their lines, or make fools of themselves. What I teach is largely improvisational based, meaning that now people can embrace these moments and turn them into something truly magical, while speaking to a public gathering.

And so it is with learning improvisational skills that someone can overcome being nervous, because all of their greatest fears are addressed and solutions are provided, for each of these. But not only this; it’s also about making speaking memorable words. Some people also fear being boring but now they’ll be anything but this.

Image

TOT: How long does it take one to start noticing results or improvements – assuming that he/she avidly practices your methods and exercises?
Rebecca: For every person, it is different. But I know that changes can be immediate. Through teaching people in the book and in the workshops I have seen instantaneous improvements.

It’s important to have a mentor who knows the craft you want to learn and so as that mentor I am able to give students the confidence to practice the techniques I teach through example. Sometimes we know the answer to a challenge but lack the guidance to implement these skills.

I give readers lots of options to choose from and with this array of delicious choices come the excitement to surprise themselves. Reading is one thing, if they apply these skills miraculous things will happen. I know … I’ve seen it.

I pride myself as a positive mentor who only wants my students to excel in the art of public speaking. If readers of the book keep an open mind, which I know they can, step by step, they will become brilliant at public speaking.

Image

TOT: Alright madam. Now please tell us what are you currently working on?  And what is the next step for you?
Rebecca: The book and speaking are my main priority. However my other love is acting; this is something I took up at the age of six. The first half of this year has been very exciting. I’ve recently signed a contract with a leading talent agency and management company in North America and have found a great acting coach named Daniel Bacon.

They’ve been keeping me very busy sending me out on all sorts of wonderful auditions, booking several TVCs and so forth.
My latest role was on a feature for Tides Canada and a shoot for“Jugo Juice”. Canada feels like the right place to be at the moment and so I am taking each day as it comes.

So fingers crossed, I hope the momentum keeps rolling. Other than that I look forward to learning how “Presenting 101” has positively impacted people’s lives. I am truly excited to hear of the results and something tells me that there’s going to be many moments to celebrate.
TOT: Since being attached to the theatre from a long time, do you have any future plans for the promotion of this side of entertainment in your country and the world at large?

Rebecca: The more I think about my craft, the more I keep reflecting on my childhood studying theatre. That part of my life was there for a reason and propelled me into the career I have now.

So, despite my focus for the film and TV industry, I feel that at some stage the theatre will call me back. The stage is a unique platform that captures moments in time that can never be replicated. And because each performance is unique, stepping inside a theatre has always been a magical playground for me.

It’s the experimentation of emotions, serendipity, and subtle changes that an actor is encouraged to bring to the stage that breathes life into each performance. I do have a strong bond with the theatre and while nothing is planned at this stage, I feel that it won’t be long before these changes.

Image

TOT: In the world, as you know, there are lots of struggles & campaigns going on, so as an artist what is your message to the world audience?

Rebecca: While I am very focused on acting, one of my passions is supporting projects that contribute to the greater good of humanity. Although the film industry can be quite fickle, it is a very powerful medium for providing influential messages. And because of this, I am motivated to establish my own production company and create work that has strong content and humanitarian value. I’m not there yet; it’s only the beginning of my film and TV career.

I know it will be a long and tough road ahead but I am very passionate about the industry, as passionate as I am about public speaking. In the future I see the two of these merging to form a solid alliance of projects that have a positive impact on the world. But to answer your question, my message to the world is an old one but a good one; treat others how you’d like to be treated. If we all lived by this, the world would be a much happier and peaceful place.

TOT: What are the qualities, which are necessary for being a good artist?

Rebecca: Show business is tough. A lot of people enter the business seeking fame and fortune and are greatly disappointed. After all, it is easy to watch an actor in a movie and fantasize about replacing them on the screen, doing what they do but better. Show business is just that, a business.

We are all born a star in our own right, but to make a career out of it takes a lot of courage, discipline and skill. As artists we put ourselves in situations that truly test us. We have to face fears, endure and share pain, overcome continual rejection, sacrifice financial stability and through all of that, we need to keep believing in ourselves when it feels like no one else will.

I believe there are three groups of people in the industry. Those that quit, those that persevere and succeed, and those that are just born lucky. The vast majority of us sit in either of the first two. Those that quit are not without talent, however it is likely that the pressures put upon them pushed them toward quitting.

Those that succeed are not necessarily the most talented; however have the discipline and business acumen to navigate their way through the industry. And those born lucky, well they were born lucky!

Above all, being an artist requires an awareness and understanding of two fundamental things; our social environment (human relationships), and our physical environment. It’s through understanding these complex human elements that we are able to interpret our medium, whether it is a story, music or painting, and present it to our audience.

TOT: Who is your inspiration in the world of art and drama?

Rebecca: As an artist I feel that it necessary to stay true to my journey. While actors like Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis inspire me, it is important to carve my own future rather than becoming an idealized reflection of those who are admired.

Instead, it’s the people on the streets, the lady at the grocery store, the fighting neighbors, and the person running for the bus, the homeless man sleeping in the alley, the lost child, the sadness behind a smile, the romantic couple and the unspoken words that intrigue me.

I derive my inspiration from human interaction and from observing what goes on in the world around me. I want to know what’s on the minds of others, why people do what they do, how did they get to where they are, why do they hold themselves in a certain way, what are their obstacles and motivations.

There is a lot to be learned from observing and asking these questions and because of this, I see a strong correlation between being a journalist and an actor. Both fields satisfy my desire to learn about people and how we as humans fit into the broader spectrum of life.

Image

TOT: What other traits do you think are essential to become a successful artist? I mean the standards, conduct and ethics?

Rebecca: I think the three most essential traits for a successful long-term career as an artist are honesty, quality and trust. Do you like how I specifically threw in long term there? We’ve all seem what some people have done to get their fifteen minutes of fame. I think that an honest approach, a focus on quality work and an ability to gain peoples trust will get you very far in this business, as well as any other business.

By way of example, people buying my book [Presenting 101] are putting their trust in me to ensure that the book is top quality and that I have their best interest at heart. The same applies to everything I do, whether it’s filming, speaking or presenting.  Without honesty and quality, it’s hard to build trust. And without trust, it’s hard to do anything.

TOT: What are your goals, which you want to accomplish in the near future?
Rebecca: This is a tough question to answer! I have so many things that I’d like to achieve. Ok, here goes.

Firstly, I’d like knowing that my book, Presenting 101, is out there helping people overcome their fear of public speaking or making them an even better speaker than they are today.

Secondly, I’d like to firmly establish myself as an actress in film and TV within the North American market.

Finally, I have been writing two feature film screenplays. One is a comedy set in world of unusual circumstance and the other is a conspiracy thriller. So, I’d really love to see these films made within the next couple of years.

Finally, finally, I’d also like to focus on film and TV projects that empower women. It is far too often that we see women portrayed in demeaning or submissive roles. I think we need to see some more kick-ass girls in film and TV.

Rebecca Rifai – Some of her projects include: The Concours d’Elegance, The Commonwealth Games, CNBC, The World Travel Awards, Virgin Radio, Property TV, B105 and Triple M and has launched various media events for such groups as: Maserati, Ferrari, Bvlgari, Asprey, Crate & Barrel, Bloomingdales and Panasonic.

To find out more about the book Presenting 101: for Television, Radio & Events please head to the website – http://www.presenting101.com

TOT: Thank you madam. We are delighted to have been provided this opportunity. We very much appreciate the fact that despite being involved in several fields you have an independent and open mind with candid and unbiased perception of freedom, democracy and human rights, on the vast vista of the global scenario. We are very much sure that our worldwide readers will benefit a lot from this exclusive interview. Thanks yet again!
Interviewed by Hatef Mokhtar, Editor-in-Chief, The Oslo Times
***********************************************************

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

“We still lack the air force which is the back-bone of an army” says Afghanistan’s Politician Jamil Karzai

Jamil Karzai – Politician and Parliamentarian of Afghanistan


“A growing voice of Afghan’s Youth and Democracy, who has set his mark in the young & religiously cultural rooted society of Afghanistan in this new era of politics and progress.”

alt

Honorable Mr. Jamil Karzai, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Chief Editor and Editorial Board panel. It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important national & regional issues…

TOT: After 2014 the Coalition Army will leave Afghanistan. This means that the Afghan Army will have to take charge of national security. Do you think that Afghan security forces are capable and efficient enough to handle the growing threats and challenges within the country and outside its borders that make Afghanistan more vulnerable?

Jamil Karzai: First of all thanks for having me here and it’s my pleasure. Coming back to your key question, Afghanistan has been at war for more than three decades, during which, we suffered a lot and all of our institutions and infrastructures were destroyed. One of the key institutions was our “Army”.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Afghanistan had one of the strongest army personnel in the region. This was deemed to be a sort of threat against our neighboring countries, particularly Pakistan with whom we have a border dispute for more than 100 years.

Thus, one of our neigbouring country’s policy was, by any means, to reduce the overwhelmingly strength of our Army, This, together with the arrival of Mujahidin (Western and Pakistani backed groups) and the first Islamic state during 1990s, resulted in the substitution of a well-trained and disciplined army with guerrilla militias, who were mainly trained by the intelligence services of Pakistan.

After 9/11 and during the interim and transitional administrations, we had to start everything from scratch. For me, this was the source of problem. During this period, only a handful of former Soviet-trained army personnel were recruited to the Afghan National Army, the rest were told to go home. Now, after spending billions of Donors’ dollars, still we have not been capable of forming a strong army that could respond to any threats posed by the insurgents or neighboring countries. The Afghan government, along with its international partners, has put huge efforts in forming the new army, rather than re-forming the cadres that we already had.

During the past 11 years, though billions of dollars are spent, the outcome is not acceptable to our people. The process of training is very slow, the equipment is not satisfactory, we still lack the air force which is the back-bone of an army. More than that, the penetration of Anti-Governmental Elements in the army is high.

Therefore, considering all these challenges, one can simply conclude that after the withdrawal of the coalition forces from Afghanistan in 2014, the Afghan Army will undoubtedly, face so many challenges, particularly when the insurgents have sanctuaries on the other side of border with Pakistan, and they enjoy the full support and facilitation of the Pakistani army and related intelligence services.

I do not underestimate the high moral of our brave army personnel. Through history, they have shown their bravery to the Afghans, but practically, there still is a long way to go. Parallel to that, the Afghan National Police has suffered the most during the fight against terrorism, and now needs to be more focused on maintaining law and order, rather than fighting against the insurgents which is unprecedented in other countries with a similar situation to Afghanistan.

alt

TOT: How will you define the role played by the media in Afghanistan? Is the role negative or positive? Give reasons…

Jamil Karzai: One can claim that of the biggest achievement of the Afghan Government since 9/11 is the freedom of speech and freedom of the media.

During the past decade, Afghan media played an important role of awareness and access to information and there has been a significant development in this field. Changing of analog to digital technology is a good example of these developments.

Now coming to your question that whether the media plays a positive or negative role in Afghanistan; there is no doubt that media played a positive role in Afghanistan, though there are several radios/TVs and publications that are run by some people who either represent a particular ethnicity or belong to some of the past war factions and, who in the eyes of many Afghans, are notorious and unpopular.

In particular, these people receive funds from foreign countries which in several cases are not transparent. That‘s one of the concerns Afghans have.

Cultural wise, there is also a dominance and monopoly of foreign media products in Afghanistan, specially the neighboring countries. I feel relying too much on foreign countries’ products will not only kill the sense of creativity among the Afghan media owners, but also avails an indirect, but massive opportunity for interference in our culture.

We need to be more aware of that, and we need to reduce the importing of foreign media products to Afghanistan, and instead, use this opportunity for our own initiatives.

On the other hand, the government needs to draft some clear policies towards the Media, particularly those which are funded from abroad and to make them more transparent.
alt

TOT: Since the start of the American War on Terror in Afghanistan, the nation suffers from serious violations of human rights, which undermine its position and progress on the international platform. How do you look into such a situation?

Jamil Karzai: Well, I think it’s a very important question. Since the Start of the coalition war in Afghanistan, the Anti Governmental Elements, the international military forces,particulary the coalition forces, the Warlords within the Afghan government structures ( in different capacity) were all responsible and accused of serious violations of human rights in Afghanistan. The night raids and bombardments, arbitrary house arrests and searchers that were carried out by the international military forces in Afghanistan are unforgettable and unforgivable by the people of Afghanistan.

There have been some serious violation of human rights and a breach of international humanitarian law (IHL). When the major violators are the international forces, how can one say that this will undermine Afghanistan’s position and progress on the international platform?

Yes, I also believe that the Afghan government is equally responsible for the current dire human rights situation in the country. The warlords enjoy full power and impunity in the Afghan government. Most of the human rights violators are among the top officials of the current government. So in Afghan public eyes, both the Afghan government and the international community are accountable.

The most recent and up to date examples of human right violation is being committed through the Afghan Local Police (ALP)  that consists of former war lords and criminal commanders who are unpopular in their areas. This was initiated by and is being funded by the US forces in the Afghanistan, which has now become a big threat to the local communities in Afghanistan.

alt

TOT: There has been talk of making peace through the peace commission in Afghanistan, to allow the dialogue process between the opposing parties /groups, , and by encouraging mutual partnerships of cooperation between the various factions of the Afghan politics and society to bring stability to our country.

How will you define the peace commission’s role in Afghan society in terms of promoting real peace and how will you rate its success so far in this regard?

Jamil Karzai: It’s always good to see talks and diplomacy going on parallel to military action.
But the important question would be how honest the Afghan leadership is to bring peace and stability to the area.
Since the establishment of APRP commission, there has been little done on the ground.

In my view there should have been several approaches in the process of peace and reintegration:

1.    Top-down approach: The Afghan government needs to open talks and dialogue with the leadership of all insurgent groups.  Once they agreed, the middle and low level of insurgents’ commanders will, undoubtedly, put down their weapons and join the process.

2.  Talks on the regional bases: The Afghan government needs to talk with its allies and international partners to pressure Pakistan to stop supporting and funding the insurgents and make them to talk with the Afghan government.

3.    Public should not be kept in dark: The people of Afghanistan are interested to see the transparency in this process. I think we do have the right to know who is talking with whom? Where? And on what conditions and bases? The Secret talks will lead us to nowhere.

The current APRT commission has failed to deliver its promises and has been unsuccessful. Maybe it’s time to revise all components of this commission and bring on board those who have a ‘WILL’ for peace. As the former late president of Afghanistan, Shahid Dr. Najibullah once said: “Love and support for peace are not enough, one must struggle for achieving it.” So, as long as there is no struggle for achieving it, forming the commissions will not be a remedy for the pain.

alt

TOT: How will you define the level of progress made by the civil society in Afghanistan?

Jamil Karzai: The civil societies in Afghanistan are on the right track. They have been very useful to pressure the Afghan government or to bring many matters to the attention of the government.

Meanwhile, the civil societies were given good representation role in many international conferences on Afghanistan to discuss the current affairs in Afghanistan, particularly the status of civil societies.

That is a green light, but there is more that needs to be done. First for the civil societies to be more harmonized and coordinated among themselves and for the government, to fully support them in their activities.

alt

TOT: What is your stand on the strategic cooperation agreement signed with USA? Many people view this strategic agreement as a negative development which, as they say, seeks to keep the people away from the control of the national government.

Jamil Karzai: Well honestly, let’s look into this matter from two different angles. First pre and than post 9/11: this country was the hub of all national and international terrorists. We were disconnected from the rest of the world. All the national infrastructures were destroyed.

Our neighboring country, Pakistan was deeming Afghanistan as their fifth province. The Durand line and other borders were out of control. Afghanistan was going through many economic and unemployment crisis. And we were the FORGOTTEN NATION.

After the 9/11 everything changed. We regained our lost identity. Now during the past decade there have been some significant developments in various walks of life in Afghanistan which cannot be ignored. Yes I do agree that we could have done a lot, but still a tremendous change in comparison to the 1990s. From my current view, we do need to support our long strategic agreement not only with the United States, but also other regional powers. We are still suffering from terrorism.

There are still threats for the territorial integrity of Afghanistan. Thus, we do support such agreements only if it’s based on the mutual interests of two states. We want a long term support for our security institutions. We need especially to back up them with providing training and equipments.

On the other hand, our borders need to be fortified from any neighboring ill-intentions against the sovereignty our country.
Additionally, the Afghan government needs to consider the balance within its relations with regional powers. In other words, getting close to US shall not end with distancing ourselves from Russia, China and others…

alt

TOT: The relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have always remained thawed and with recent shelling reportedly being done by the Pakistan Army against extremist groups in response to the growing cross border threats, it has now become a new bone of contention between the two states. So how do you look into the future of the relations between the two countries and what would be the consequences if these proxy challenges continued between the two?

Jamil Karzai: Afghanistan and Pakistan have never enjoyed good relations ships throughout the history. Since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, when Afghanistan cast its vote against the creation of Pakistan at UN assembly, none of the Afghan regimes (with the exception of the Taliban Regime) enjoyed good ties with Pakistan. Our animosity even goes beyond that. Afghans never recognizes the Durand Line which separates two States.

Because it’s based on the policy of “Divide and Rule” inherited from the British emperors. Pakistan has always wanted to have a puppet regime in Afghanistan. The current issue of border shelling is not a new phenomenon. There were several failed attempts of forwarding the border lines in our southern and south eastern regions. By doing so, Pakistan has two ill-intensions:

1.    By shelling toward the Afghan soil, the Pakistani Army and ISI want to clear the area for their backed-up terrorist groups in Afghan soil, as there is a huge pressure on Pakistan by the international community to take action against the insurgents in Pakistan, including the Haqqani Network.

2.    They want to put pressure on the Afghan government to give them an upper hand in talks with the Taliban who already enjoy immunity in Pakistan. The Afghan government won’t do that.

3.    The consequences of this breach will have dire results. Afghan nation is united in defence of their land with the cost of their blood. We have shown a unique patience regarding this matter so far. We still believe in diplomacy and trust our diplomatic machinery to engage Pakistan into a dialogue about this, or else the people will stand and take the matters in their own hands.

We believe in peaceful neighborhood and always want to have good ties with our neighboring countries. If not so, then we also ask for a reciprocal act. If they continue their interference, we will do the same. We have a proud nation and we know how give the intruders a historical lesson.

alt

TOT: Recently; there have been reports on the mistreatment of US soldiers in Daud Hospital and of human rights abuse incidents which took place in several hospitals, due to the corruption which exists in Afghanistan, which even now the foreign signatories to Afghanistan are worried about.

What do you have to say on this?  Has the government taken significant steps to control this mess which has made the Afghan nation more vulnerable and unstable?

Jamil Karzai: There is no doubt that the corruption in different Afghan institutions is at  its peak and the international community, particularly the PRT, military contractors, are equally responsible.

The Shahid Sardar Daud Military hospital is one of the best hospitals Afghanistan has.
For the first time, I did hear about this scandal from media. Honestly I don’t know about the details of  this “Million Dollars” allegation, but one thing I can confirm is that the patients have always been treated properly and based on the resources the hospital has.

I may not agree with the allegation that some of the patients were starving to death and there was no food for them. Or they have to buy the food and other stuff needed. But I am happy that there is a commission looking at this allegation, particularly if the previous management of the hospital was involved in corruption or money embezzlement.

Meanwhile, the US congress is also interested in this issue and willing to investigate further. So let’s wait for the   outputs and findings of these commissions.

alt

TOT: How will you define the role played by Iran in Afghanistan as the former is an important and one of the most active countries at large in Afghanistan?

Jamil Karzai: I would not see a much different approach of Iran in comparison to Pakistan. We see both states in one eye. But with a little difference that Iran is naturally not happy with the presence of US in Afghanistan and see it a big threat. The Afghan government raised its concern several times that Iran is fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan by supporting and equipping the insurgents.

In many occasions, the weapons confiscated from the insurgents in Afghanistan, had the Iranian Mark. On the other hand, Iran wants to support some of the Shia-belonged political parties and make a disturbance for the Afghan government whenever needed. On the other hand, the forceful expulsion of Afghan refugees from Iran, the ban on their children’s education, and mistreatment, are all the bitter truth that will definitely affect the relations between the two nations.

TOT: There were recent intelligence reports that claimed Iran is supporting and financing extremism in the country specifically the Taliban and its leaders. Even the local media is reportedly being brought under a greater influence of Iran. Please, your comments on this, and explain your own point of view?

Jamil Karzai: I have no doubt about it and have tried to explain it in the earlier question.

alt

TOT: How you will rate the progress of the current ruling by the Government of Afghanistan in terms of welfare and development of the country and society? What are the steps that have been taken so far for the development of the judicial and civilian administrative systems in the country?

Jamil Karzai: It will not be fair if we say there hasn’t been any progress in term of welfare and development in the country. We have hundreds of schools, clinics, and other welfare institutions build. Thousand Kms of road has been asphalted.

Free access to health and education has been promoted throughout the country. The foreign investments have been increased and thousand of employment opportunities have been created. But despite that, we could do a lot and achieve a lot.

The volatility of security situation in different parts of the county affected the local communities to have full access to the basic facilities of life. On the other hand, the deterioration of security situation limited the Afghan administration to deliver its services to the remote parts of the country.

In the civil administration section, there have been lots of challenges. No doubt that there have been lots of positives changes and developments seen. The civil service and reform commission has tried to make all the civil administrative recruitments more transparent, based on merit and open competition, but still the nepotism and recommendations of well connected powers, have a significant role in recruitment process.

On the other hand, corruption within the civilian body of the government hampers all the efforts made to reform the administration. So gradually, people’s hope for a transparent administration was fading away.

The judicial section is one of the most corrupted pillars of the Afghan state. To the extent that most of the people have no tendency to take their case to the Afghan courts, rather they prefer to settle any dispute through local mechanism and Elders’ Shura. In some parts of the country, the Taliban courts are functional and much speedier than the official courts.

People living under the Taliban governed areas believe that in Afghan courts, justice delayed is justice denied, while in Taliban courts not only justice is not denied , but also not delayed.

Despite all these challenges, the afghan government has struggled to fight with the corruption first and trial some of the judges who took bribes during their duty. On other hand, there were many training activities for the judges to upgrade their capacity. I think there is a strong need for a massive reform in our judicial system.

Read more on: http://www.theoslotimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6540:qaa-qwe-still-lack-the-air-force-which-is-the-back-bone-of-an-armyq-says-afghanistans-politician-jamil-karzai&catid=168:ex-interviews&Itemid=714

Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office: Yurii ONISCHENKO

TOT: How does Ukraine see the strengthening of its ties with Norway and what are the areas where a better cooperation can be established between the two nations?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Over the 20 years of diplomatic relations with Norway, our countries signed 25 international treaties, including interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements and memorandums. Regular exchange of visits of foreign ministers, defense ministers, parliamentarians prove the partner character of the political dialogue. This autumn we expect the first official visit of the Ukrainian Prime Minister to Norway, which will mark another important milestone in bilateral relations. The two countries have close cooperation within international and regional organizations. Ukraine highly appreciates Norwegian support in financing a number of important initiatives, including the Chornobyl Shelter Fund projects in Ukraine.
Despite the many examples of successful cooperation, the potential of our bilateral ties has not been fully revealed so far. The most promising areas for further development of trade and investment is shipbuilding, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, information technology, fish trade and processing.

We hope that another push for vivid trade cooperation will be given by a visit of Norwegian Trade and Industry Minister Trond Giske to Ukraine, as well as by the opening of the representative office of the Norwegian-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce (nucc.no) in Ukraine later this year.
Research and development is another important area for further development of cooperation. A number of Norwegian research and academic institutions, like SIVA, NGU, NIVA, SINTEF, University of Nordland, University of Ås, University of Telemark have established strong ties with their Ukrainian counterparts. The strong academic traditions in Ukraine are major prerequisites for other joint initiatives in basic and applied research.
Also cultural ties possess a deep potential for vigorous development. For example, Maihaugen Museum in Lillehammer enjoys fruitful cooperation with the Open Air Museum in Lviv under the support of the Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage. I believe, that we should utilize the historical ties between our peoples dating back to the Medieval times, when Norwegian konungs sought kinship with rulers of Kyiv Rus’, and promote stronger ties between the Ukrainian and Norwegian nations.

TOT: After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has always remained in serious political turmoil, inside or outside its border. Could you shed some light on this situation?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: After the collapse of the Soviet Union the new country with its unique geographical position, rich natural resources, industrial and scientific strength as well as highly qualified human capital started to search for its own niche in the global world. At the same time, during the first years after the proclamation of independence, Ukraine had to shape a new system of state administration, national legislation, establish or re-establish economic ties with the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world.

It is obvious that such transformations cannot be accomplished overnight, and are often accompanied by political turmoil. Since 1991 Ukraine has done significant progress in democracy building and development of a market economy. Unlike in most of the former Soviet Union countries, all conflict situations in Ukraine have been resolved in a peaceful and democratic way.

The country is now implementing deep structural reforms, which have been long overdue. We have headed for the European integration as a transformational process addressing a number of the key issues, such as strengthening of national security, economic development, consolidation of democracy, and respect for human rights.

TOT: The Euro Cup tournament recently hosted and organized by the Ukraine has been criticized as the most scandal hit event in Europe. What would your take be on these allegations made by various factions and countries in Europe?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Let me disagree with your statement. According to UEFA, EURO 2012 turned out to become a unique event with the best legacy that UEFA could have ever produced. The decision to bring the final round of EURO 2012 to the East was a historic one both for Ukraine and for Poland. Yes, it was a challenge in terms of economy and infrastructure. But we succeeded. Before the tournament there were a lot of speculations about the failure of the future Championship, rumours and unfounded allegations prevailed in media.

During the first days of the tournament all the allegations vanished. And I am really proud of the high level organization of this fantastic tournament by Ukraine and Poland. The Polish and Ukrainian peoples have shown their enthusiasm, tolerance, hospitality traditions and have set a high bar for the future tournaments that will be difficult to match.

The Ukrainian government delivered on all of its commitments to demonstrate that we can host major international events as a part of the common European family.

TOT: Prior to the Euro Cup the EU and its members particularly Germany, the UK had tried to boycott the tournament in support of ex- Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who is serving a jail sentence in Kharkiv region, where she was on a hunger strike from the 20th of April to the 9th of May 2012. Please explain a bit about their stand and their contentions? Was this stand an act of discrimination against Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Attempts to politicize the European Football Championship EURO 2012 were destructive, and its boycott would undermine the image of the Championship itself. Moreover, sport events have since the ancient times played an important role in the process of establishing interstate understanding and unity. After winning the right to host the European football championship in 2012, Ukrainian and Polish peoples have taken great efforts and have done tremendous work to secure a top level organization of the tournament.

Boycott of EURO 2012 would practically harm the feelings of millions of ordinary Ukrainian citizens as well as European fans who vote for different parties or are not interested in politics at all. Reformation of the Ukrainian judicial system, strengthening of democratic institutions and the rule of law – all these issues belong objectively to the field other than a football festival, which is in its essence beyond politics and cannot be used to address political and judicial issues.

TOT: Yulia Tymoshenko, who led the Orange Revolution in Ukraine against the Kuchma government, is behind bars which the European Union and other international organizations have criticised by saying that “the conviction is seen as “justice being applied selectively under political motivation”.  What do you have to say on this?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Yuliya Tymoshenko is serving the sentence for the abuse of power while in office and not for her political activity. She was sentenced by the court in the result of the criminal investigation. This was the court’s decision which is to be respected — both domestically and internationally. The only way to challenge it is to appeal to a higher court of law.
I would like to point out, that Ukraine is now paying an enormous price for the Russian natural gas, the price we are obliged to pay according to Tymoshenko’s notorious gas deal with Russia in 2009. It is ridiculous, but it is cheaper for Ukraine now to import the Russian gas from Germany than from Russia itself.
Another issue to mention here is, of course, the system of justice in Ukraine, which definitely requires further reformation. Our government and parliament are now carrying out reforms of the judicial system in general and, in particular, in the part of criminal investigation.

In April 2012 the new Code of Criminal Procedure was approved by the Parliament of Ukraine. The main purpose of the reform is to create equal opportunities for each of the parties in criminal process and to secure a real implementation of the adversarial principle.

TOT: Ukraine is looking forward to its acceptance in the European Union as a full fledged member. So what are the steps the Government of Ukraine has taken so far in that direction so as to meet the required EU standards?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The EU-Ukraine relations officially started from the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 1994. Many Ukrainian experts regret that Ukraine did not sign an association agreement in the 1990s like other Eastern European states, referring to this as a “missed time and opportunity”, because the PCA only deals with cooperation and not integration.

However much progress has been made since 2007, when Ukraine and the EU decided to elaborate a new type of agreement based on political association and economic integration. Political association means harmonization of our policies, including foreign policy and deeper cooperation in different spheres. It’s also about values, so the future Association agreement will be based on the same values as the Lisbon treaty.

While economic integration is about our integration into the Single market with the extension of all the four EU’s freedoms to Ukraine. This process is very difficult primarily because the free movement of people is a highly debated issue in the EU member states.
The association agreement is a unique framework for further reforms in Ukraine and is a real toolbox that will bring Ukraine closer to the EU. Last year we successfully completed negotiations with the EU on the Association agreement. This year the text was initialled, concluding the five years of negotiations. Now the 600 page document has to be translated into 23 languages, signed, ratified and finally implemented.
The process of visa liberalisation, which is another extremely important issue for Ukrainians, is also progressing very well. The European Commission has recently published a positive report of Ukraine’s implementation of the Visa Liberalisation Action Plan and Ukraine hopes to launch the second phase of this Action Plan soon.
Finally, I want to say that relations with the EU are very important for Ukraine. Support of European integration is the issue that unites almost all Ukrainians. The country’s European perspective enjoys over 70% support in all parts of the country, so it is a crucial priority of Ukraine’s foreing policy. The interesting point is that the high level of support is not about the financial benefits that European integration would bring.

Enlargement of the EU to the East of Europe is about reunification of the space of common history and common mentality. For Ukraine, integration with the EU is a civilisational choice.

TOT: How do you see the progress from the European Union while considering the candidature of Ukraine as its member country and how long will Ukraine take to arrive at a decision on the same?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The Comprehensive association agreement will bring benefits to both of the parties – Ukraine and EU. I already mentioned the overwhelming popular support of the EU membership in Ukraine. At the same time, we understand that further progress will depend of the results of the reforms in our country.
Now we feel the real interest from both sides. For example, the representatives of European business circles are more and more actively calling for abolition of visas for Ukrainians to the EU. We are also working hard to deliver on our part. I am sure, this two-way drift will give positive and prompt results.
We are very optimistic. And Europe is steadily growing ready to embrace Ukraine. According to the last survey of the GfK, almost half of the European guests, who visited Ukraine during EURO 2012, stated that Ukraine deserved to enter the EU in the near future. The survey results revealed that EU citizens generally support Ukraine’s European aspirations and believe that Ukraine deserves the visa-free regime as a component of European integration.

According to the same survey, 52.4% of European fans would like to cancel the visa regime between their countries and Ukraine already today, while only 4.8% did not support the visa-free initiative. 42.56% of the respondents wanted Ukraine to become a member of the 27 nation block in a short term, while 30.92% believed that Ukraine could join the EU in the medium term under the condition that the political and economic situation in the country improves. Notably, only 2.77% of the surveyed EU citizens said they did not want to see Ukraine as a part of the Union.

TOT: Russia has been a major gas supplier to Europe and Ukraine has played a transit point to its gas supplies. But time to time the dispute has remained alive between Ukraine and Russia where at some point Ukraine has always warned Russia of stopping its gas supplies to Europe. This has resulted in Russia considering another transit route through Turkey via the European Union?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The South Stream is economically disadvantageous both for Ukraine and for Russia. Ukrainian gas transit system is the most secure and prospective for the Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

Its modernization would cost for us and the international partners almost 50 times less, than construction of the South Stream, while the Ukrainian GTS is able to deliver 100% of the Europe’s demand in Russian gas.
Referring to the second part of your question, Ukraine has never used its gas transit system as a political or geopolitical instrument and has never stopped or warned of stopping deliveries of the Russian gas to the EU.

We are a loyal partner that maintains its international agreements and obligations. Above all, we want to maintain good relations with Russia as well as strengthen cooperation with the EU.

TOT: In the context of the previous question is the next one: How will you describe this situation and the rift which has caused Europe a crucial shortage in its gas supplies?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Secure gas transit to Europe has always been a priority for Ukraine, sometimes even at the expense of our own benefits. The gas negotiations of 2009 were carried out in the extreme international pressure, and in that crisis situation Ukraine stood firm to deliver on its obligations before Russia and the European countries.

Moreover, I already commented on the economic consequences of the gas contracts signed by the former Prime Minister without the due governmental appraisal. Now the Ukrainian economy has to cope with the dramatic prices on the natural gas, on top of the consequences of the global financial crisis.

TOT: Recently the Venice Commission advised Ukraine not to reconsider its mixed election system for its upcoming elections in October this year. Has Ukraine done something in accepting this new draft proposed by the Venice Commission? If so, then what are the steps which have been taken in this direction?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: As you justly noted, Ukraine is now approaching parliamentary elections. The President and the Government of Ukraine have publicly stated their commitment to secure free and fair elections in accordance with our election law of 2011, drafted according to the European standards.

The law was endorsed by both coalition and most opposition parties, and reaching a consensus decision was namely one of the main recommendations of the Venice Commission. We believe that the mixed system will better serve the interests of the Ukrainian people, providing for increased accountability of the MPs. According to many Ukrainian experts, closer ties with respective constituency results in a higher awareness of local needs and challenges.
Now the Ukrainian government strives to make the election process as transparent as possible. According to recent regulations, the voting process will be broadcast via web cameras online at the corresponding web-site. Video surveillance system will be recording the whole process after voting and up until the signing of protocols by election committees.
Ukraine has also sent early invitations to the international observers to monitor the election process. In this context we are working closely with many countries and with the international organizations, in particular, OSCE, the Council of Europe, NATO and others. We hope that Norway will send own observers as well.

TOT: In April, Ukraine was hit by a series of blasts in its industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, which claimed many lives of hundreds of innocent people. How will you comment on this act of terrorism and who in your view is to be blamed or held accountable?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: The tragedy in Dnipropetrovsk on April 27th of this year left 29 people injured. The criminal case was opened according to part 2 of the Article 258 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (the act of terrorism). Until the final examination is carried out, it is not possible to state if the explosions were an act of terrorism, whether it was  a homemade bomb or a military explosive.
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych has called on the to the Prosecutor General, Chairman of the Security Service of Ukraine, and Interior Minister to take comprehensive measures and carry out an investigation of the explosions in order to establish those involved in the bombings in Dnipropetrovsk city.
Unfortunately, terrorism is a global challenge which requires a better cooperation between security services of different countries to prevent sufferings of innocent people.

TOT: How you will describe the situation of human rights in Ukraine?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: We recognize that further political transformations in Ukraine and the reforms are required to strengthen the system of the protection of human rights. Respect of human rights is one of the priorities of the President and the Government. We appreciate the attention and desire of the international community to promote the legal and democratic institutions in our country.

In this context, all the recommendations of the international community or non-governmental organizations are studied and analyzed in order to implement them in Ukraine.
There is still much to improve in Ukraine’s judicial system and procedures, but it needs to be done consistently. Such work has already started and we welcome the initiatives aimed at bringing the legislation in this area in line with the international standards.

TOT: Does the press and the electronic/Internet media enjoy freedom in your country or does it still face the state control over the press and media activities just like it used to be at the time the Soviet Union existed?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: I don’t even want to compare the present freedom of media in Ukraine with the Soviet time. There are both public and private mass media now in Ukraine. The share of non-public television and radio broadcasting stands at over 96%.

With the development of information technologies and the advance of the Internet, many independent Internet media have emerged. Of course, there are challenges we face but the state makes every effort to secure freedom of media in Ukraine.
According to the World Press Freedom Index 2011/2012 of the Reporters without borders, Ukraine is rated at the 116 level which is a 15-point better position compared to last year. Basic principles, standards and provisions of the existing Ukrainian laws today correspond to the international legal standards and the international conventions of human rights.
At the same time the existence of modern legislation is not enough to guarantee the rights of the society to free and unbiased information. We have to continue our work to ensure that the laws are practiced in full, and the real protection of the rights of journalists and mass media is secured.

The President of Ukraine has repeatedly issued strong demands to the law enforcement agencies for a greater protection of the rights of journalists and freedom of media. The Head of State is convinced that it is one of the main duties of the authorities to create all the necessary conditions for free and independent journalistic activities in Ukraine.

TOT: How will you rate the progress which your country has made after achieving its independence?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Despite the challenges we are still facing, Ukraine has achieved a lot indeed. Back in 1991 we inherited a ruined economic system, acute social tensions and political vacuum, not to mention the bitter burdens of the Soviet legacy. Now Ukraine may boast of a growing middle class, emerging but manifold civil society, strong business community and large-scale investment projects.
In 1994 Ukraine joined the Non-Proliferation treaty refusing its nuclear arsenal, the third largest in the world. It was the first precedent in history for a nation to voluntarily give up its strategic weapon. We managed to reach a high level of dialogue and cooperation with international organizations as well as deep comprehensive relations with many foreign states developing the strategic partnership with the key players on international arena.
Since the declaration of its independence in August 1991, Ukraine determined membership in the United Nations as one of its foreign policy priorities. In 1997 Hennadiy Udovenko, then Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine was elected President of the 52nd UN General Assembly session.

Ukraine’s election as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2000-2001 became an acknowledgment of our state’s authority and role on the international arena as well as of its consistent and unbiased foreign policy. Ukraine was elected also to the UN Economic and Social Council for five times. Representatives of Ukraine served as chairmen of a number of main committees of the UN General Assembly sessions.
Ukraine became a productive member of the Council of Europe and the last year we held a successful presidency in the Committee of Ministers of this important European institution. In 2013 Ukraine will chair the OSCE. After all, we have successfully co-hosted the EURO 2012 tournaments this year, showing our utmost hospitality to the world. This August we celebrate yet another anniversary of  freedom. All in all, we have achieved much over the 21 years of independence, but have to look ahead and work hard for further achievements.

TOT: What kind of role has Ukraine played so far in promoting democracy and freedom of the human individual in the fullest sense of the term, in the region as well as on the global stage of the present day?
Mr. Yurii ONISCHENKO: Ukraine enjoys a unique geopolitical position at the crossing of the main transport corridors between the East and the West, the North and the South. Ukraine is the key to strengthening democracy, freedom and security in the Balto-Black Sea-Caspian region. Our country plays the key role in this geopolitical space, which largely defines the structure of European security.
Committed to promoting democracy and freedom in the region Ukraine co-founded the Organization for Democracy and Economic Development – GUAM, now uniting Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. With the headquarters in Kyiv, this international organization primarily works to promote democratic values in the region, ensure the rule of law and respect for human rights, support sustainable development and strengthen international and regional security and stability.
Ukraine’s future Chairmanship in OSCE in 2013 will focus on promotion of democracy in the OSCE area, settlement of protracted conflicts, including the Transnistrian conflict, as well as in the improvement of the Organization’s effectiveness in response to new challenges and threats.
We believe that efficient functioning of the organizations such as the OSCE, EU and NATO does not only promise security for their member states, but also development and prosperity, compliance with the fundamental human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. Ukraine develops close and active cooperation with these organizations in the context.
Speaking globally, I would like to mention that Ukraine was one of the ardent supporters of the establishment of the Human Rights Council. In 2006 Ukraine was elected one of the first members of the Council and in 2008 it was re-elected to this leading UN body for the period up until 2011 with a strong international support.
Ukraine’s membership in the HRC is a contribution to strengthening of the international stability and security, spreading of the democratic standards worldwide, increased international cooperation on important international projects on human rights, as well as active involvement in elaboration of balanced approaches to the solving of crisis situations. It has also opened for promotion of Ukrainian initiatives in the field. Recently in June 2010, the HRC adopted the resolution “On the role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights” initiated by Ukraine and co-supported by about 30 countries.
Now Ukraine is a party to the majority of the international human rights instruments, including the seven core UN human rights conventions and the optional protocols thereto, first of all: the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on Rights of Person with Disabilities.

…Thank you Reverend Ambassador. We are sure that The Oslo Times worldwide readership will benefit immensely from the interview.
________________________________
©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Indonesia is deeply concerned with the situation of Rohingya Muslims

In the image above: (R) Ms. Esti Andayani – The Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway with Hatef Mokhtar Editor in Chief The Oslo Times (L)

Honorable Ambassador of Indonesia to Norway, ‘The Oslo Times’ welcomes you to an exclusive interview with its Chief Editor and Editorial Board panel.

 

It is indeed a privilege to be with you and exchange views with you on a range of important global issues.

 

TOT: To start with we shall start with Indonesia-Norway ties. Not long ago, your predecessor, Ambassador Retno Marsudi said that, “Indonesia and Norway have had a very intensive relationship in the last couple of years. What makes this relationship to appear so busy and fruitful, and what should we anticipate in the future?” We would like you to dilate on this in detail so as to enlighten our readers worldwide?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: The long standing bond of friendship and bilateral cooperation between the two countries have always been good and grown stronger. Several instruments of cooperation were signed during the tenure of Ambassador Retno Marsudi in Oslo. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Norway twice in 2006 and 2010 during his tenure. In reciprocal, the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made a state visit to Indonesia in 2007.

The bilateral relations between Indonesia and Norway have been strengthened and enhanced following the signing of Dynamic Partnership (November 2010) which is not only on the framework of bilateral cooperation but also multilateral dimension.  Most of the bilateral issues are interlinked with multilateral issues such as human rights, climate change and environment, energy, security, global health, MDGs. To this end, Indonesia and Norway enjoy continuous close cooperation on Dialogue on Human Rights; cooperation in REDD+ (Reductions of Emission from Deforestation and forest Degradation); Security Policy Consultation; Foreign Policy and Global Health; MDG 4 and 5 and other international issues.

Whereas in the areas of economic cooperation, the ongoing negotiations on Indonesia – EFTA Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IE-CEPA) are running smoothly where up to now five rounds of negotiations have taken place. The bilateral relations focus also on increasing trade and investment and energy security. With rapid changes in global situation, these issues would be fundamental for future cooperation.

 

 

 

TOT: What are the key strategic areas where Indonesia and Norway can function together as successful partners and cooperate together for the development and improvement of existing bilateral ties with each other? While answering this question we would like you to speak also on the areas that can provide a boost to Indonesia’s economic prospect vis a vis Norway?

Ms. Esti Andayani: The strategic area of cooperation between Indonesia – Norway is the REDD+ cooperation. This is one of core bilateral issues between Indonesia and Norway, which has been highlighted during the meeting between President of the Republic of Indonesia and Prime Minister of Norway, in the margins of Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, 26 March 2012. Indonesia and Norway Partnership on REDD+ cooperation should serve as a model of bilateral cooperation in the multilateral dimension. Indonesia promotes that kind of partnership in the sidelines event of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD)/Rio+20, 20-22 June 2012.

 

Besides the cooperation in the field of environment, there are more sectors that are potential to be enhanced such as energy, maritime, fisheries and infrastructures. Indonesia is now become more attractive for foreign investors due to its enhanced investment climate and recent upgrading  of Indonesia’s investment grade by two global and well-known rating agencies, ‘’the Fitch’’ and ‘’Standard and Poor’’. The Indonesian fundamental economy remains strong, showing resilience growth coupled with low government debt and prudent policy. This is a promising and saleable factor in the middle of increasing concerned on the prospect of global economy.  Therefore, it is a high time for Norway and Indonesia to improve their trade and investment activities.

 

As you might already be aware of, that in 2011, the bilateral trade volume reached                USD 309.5 million. This number is still considered small compared to the potentials of the two countries that still can be explored by setting target and focus on particular commodities or sectors. I warm-heartedly welcome Norway’s decision to reopen the office of Innovation Norway in Jakarta in 2012.  I expect that Innovation Norway could not only encourage Norway’s business sectors to expand their cooperation with Indonesia’s counterparts but also acts as a matchmaking agent for bridging business opportunities between big companies and small medium enterprises for both countries.

 

 

 

TOT: Now, expanding our vista here, let us come to what your Coordinating Minister for People’s Welfare Agung Laksono said on the 19th of July – as reported in almost all the Indonesian newspapers and also aired by the BBC — Indonesia has been selected to host the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management which will operate starting this year. “The heads of state/government of ASEAN member countries have agreed that the AHA Centre should be set up in Indonesia this year” …We would like to have your concise and precise response and views on this statement by your minister?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: According to Synthesis Report on Ten ASEAN Countries Disaster Risk Assessment (December 2010), the region reported 1,211 occurrences of disasters with over 414,900 casualties over the last 40 years (1970-2009). These numbers could be higher as there were also unreported cases. Most of ASEAN countries, including Indonesia, are prone to disasters. Disasters affect on ASEAN countries’ economies, and the lives of millions of people in the region.

In the light of constant disasters and humanitarian situations in the region, ASEAN agreed on a legally binding pact to establish national and regional structures to deal with disasters, and endorsed the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) in July 2005, which mandated the establishment of AHA Center. The center is the hub for disaster information, coordination of relief mobilization, coordination of joint emergency response, administration coordination, and disaster research and study. In fact, AHA Center has started its operation in June 2011.

Having experienced the biggest disaster in the 2004 with the Aceh’s tsunami, Indonesia has learned about disaster management and made it a government priority by establishing the National Agency for Disaster Management and its regional offices through the Act No. 24/2007 on Disaster Management. Many countries have recognized and also learned from our experiences and successes in dealing with disaster management and disaster risk reduction.

Given the above facts, I can reaffirm Indonesia remains committed to actively participate in enhancing international cooperation in disaster management and humanitarian situations. Those facts also show that we are more prepared and ready with the infrastructure and human resources to host the AHA Center. Indonesia welcomes cooperation in the field of disaster management at all levels: bilateral, regional, and multilateral. Although we understand that cooperation among the ASEAN member states and other states or parties can be in form of bilateral cooperation, such cooperation should not overshadow ASEAN cooperation, internally or with a third party, in the regional level through AHA Center.

TOT: Your country has had a traditional history of ties with Australia and this long range of bilateral relationship and cooperation was highlighted by former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in his speech on a seminar held on Australian-Indonesian ties sometime back (Reported by the press and electronic media of both the countries and also available on Youtube on the Internet). Mr. Rudd also spoke on both the countries bonding with ASEAN member states and also on the scope of further cementing of ties between your country and his. Do explain this to us in detail for the benefit of our readers?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Yes, I remembered his speech very well. Indeed, Indonesia and Australia has a long history of friendship, and what used to be a love-hate relationship is now a mutual love for each other. I myself see that the care and attention given by Australia and the people of Australia after the Bali Bombing in 2002, and later at the event of tsunami in 2004 as a turning point, and from there on our relationship never looks back.

Australia is our biggest neighbor, not only in term of territory but also cooperation. Our cooperation ranges from political, to economic, development, security, education, health, and you name it.  We are now partners, we benefit from each other, and one’s problem or suffering is also of the other’s interest. Therefore it is important for us to maintain this good relationship.

And that is also the reason we support and welcome further cooperation with Australia through ASEAN. Australia is also one of ASEAN’s biggest neighbor, and having always supporting ASEAN, I think involving Australia as ASEAN’s dialogue partner was the correct path. Australia has also been included in East Asia Summit since the very beginning in 2005. In 2010, the ASEAN-Australia Summit was held in Hanoi, and it highlighted ASEAN – Australia relations and cooperation, including in trade, in which the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) entered into force in January 2010.  But not only in economy, on that summit we also underlined cooperation in ASEAN’s other pillars, that is in political-security cooperation, and socio-cultural, which I think is good for both parties.

TOT: It is also a known fac

t that both Norway and Indonesia are energy sufficient and oil producing nations, even though the former after being an observer and the latter having left the OPEC in 2008, on the grounds of becoming a net importer. Delve on this and tell us as to how you will assess the possibilities of further joint cooperation between the two countries and also tell us about what has been done and achieved so far?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Although Indonesia is no longer member of OPEC, it does not mean that we do not have anymore energy potential. Indonesia is one of the fastest growing country in the world and our interest now is more to fulfill domestic needs. We still have many unexplored potentials and we see that Norway has technical experience and capability to help us in exploring our energy potentials.

 

Energy cooperation between Indonesia and Norway in the form of bilateral consultation on energy has been regularly conducted following the signing of MoU between the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Indonesia and the Ministry of Industry and Energy of the Kingdom of Norway Concerning Cooperation in the Energy Field in Jakarta, 1995.  In the last bilateral energy consultation held in Yogyakarta, 6-7 October 2011, Indonesia and Norway were committed to implementing concrete cooperation in the future.

 

Indonesia is highly interested in further promoting bilateral cooperation in renewable energy to support its green economy policy, including to materialize concrete cooperation in renewable energy sector. This sector is believed to become the priority of future cooperation among others in hydropower, geothermal dan off-shore wind.

 

I would like to share you an example of one finished projects, which is the Baron Technopark Project in Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta funded by Norwegian Development Cooperation           (NOK 6.5 million, equivalent to US$ 1 million). This project is a prototype of new and renewable energy (solar, wind and geothermal) which not only is purposed for research and development of renewable energy, but also as a center of education and social activity in the energy sector for the general public. Norway also invest in mini hydropower in Manipi, South Sulawesi valued at USD 22 million and is currently investing in other hydropower projects.

 

Besides renewable energy, there is also a cooperation on oil and gas sector. For your information, Statoil has operated in Indonesia since 2007 and currently has been appointed as operator in Karama and Kuma block in Makassar Strait and six other locations in eastern part of Indonesia.

TOT: The President of your country, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, said on the 22nd of this month that Indonesia will never leave ASEAN despite its growing role in the Group of 20 rich and developing nations (G20). Being an important member of ASEAN and APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), could you explain the position of Indonesia in promoting the significance of your country and also highlight the cause and vision of its being in the two groupings?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: What I can share with you is that ASEAN is our root. We grow up together, as family. And just like members of family could live or work elsewhere, they will always come home. That is what ASEAN to us. Indonesia is one of ASEAN’s founding fathers, and also one that initiated that there should be an ASEAN Community. Indonesia also has its role in envisioning the ASEAN Vision 2020. Not only that ASEAN States grow together and ASEAN nurtures us, but we also nurtured ASEAN, making it big and strong as it is today. And I believe that it will getting stronger.

 

In terms of statistics, ASEAN covers an area of 4.46 million km2, with a population of approximately 600 million people, which is about 8.8% of the world’s population. That is a big number, not only in terms of human resources but also potential market. Most of us have similar state of development and it is growing rapidly much to the world’s envy. For ASEAN, being united provides better chances in growing than if we are on our separate ways. And Indonesia wants to keep it that way.

As with APEC, all members of ASEAN are also the member of APEC. ASEAN states do not leave their root in APEC, and we walk together. Every decision taken should be beneficial for all ASEAN members, not only for one. Together we are stronger, and having more bargaining power, which we hope in the future are comparable with super powers such as China and the US at the APEC Forum.  Indonesia wants to be and is committed to be the driving force for that to happen.

We are proud of our active role in the G20. It really signifies the recognition of our growing economy and our potentials to grow even further and faster. But then again, being in the ASEAN is also one of the reasons we got so far.  I think Indonesia’s admission to the G20 will not only strengthen Indonesia’s role and position in the world, but will be beneficial for ASEAN as well, as we can say that being the only ASEAN country in G20, Indonesia represents the region in the forum.

TOT: Now, Honourable Ambassador, highlight and explain to us the significance of being a country with the largest Muslim population in the world and tell us this too – for the benefit of our readers worldwide — about your country’s take on human rights violations which are being committed in Myanmar/Burma by the Rakhine Buddhists against the Rohingya Muslim community? Being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population what do you think about the genocide being carried out under the very nose of the Burmese military junta as well as in front of Nobel Peace Winner Aung San Suu Kyi?

Ms. Esti Andayani: We are deeply concerned with the recent situation in Rakhine, Myanmar. We understand that that kind of situation could happen everywhere in a world of multi-ethnic society. Without more detailed information, I would not engage myself for further comments. However, I believe that the Indonesian government will take any necessary measures through various mechanisms in settling the issue, including bilateral, regional ASEAN, OIC and the UN.

 

TOT: Our next question is a continuation of the previous one. Give us your views on the recent press and electronic media reports (Newspapers and television channels of India, Pakistan, Iran and Bangladesh and also published prominently by The Oslo Times a few days ago) some of the escapees/ survivors of the Rohingya Muslim community were saved by the Indonesian Navy. The Rohingyas were left as stranded people right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Did your country do something or intends to do something positive to take an account of this fleeing of a people belonging to a segregated and downtrodden community of Myanmar and yet without doubt happen to be, beyond the shadow of a doubt, its citizens too? Give us your answer in a nutshell?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia always withholds its national law in dealing with refugees and asylum seekers with respect to various ratified International Human Rights Conventions, in cooperation with the UNHCR.

Indonesia treats every illegal migrant including refugees and asylum seekers equally regardless of their nationalities, including the Rohingyas. Although there are a number of Rohingyas refugees to Indonesia, their numbers are insignificant compare to those coming to Malaysia.

Indonesia is not a party of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees; therefore it is the duty of the UNHCR to independently determine the status of illegal migrants. The Government of Indonesia basically supports the decisions of the UNHCR and promotes durable solutions through 3 alternatives i.e. voluntary repatriation, resettlement in third country, and local settlement in Indonesia.

 

TOT: Now, respected Ambassador, coming to your ties with Australia, do share your views on the growing refugee crisis which has been fueled by the Australian immigration policy, in which human traffickers are taking advantage to provide asylum to people fleeing your country to Australia by illegal methods?  If your country has been affected gravely by this activity then what is it doing to cope with it and curb it? Also, what has been the Australian response and cooperation with the authorities of your country in this regard?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia notes the increasing numbers of refugees from Middle East countries (Afghanistan and Iran) and from neighboring countries (Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka).  The numbers of illegal migrants heading for Australia via Indonesia has multiplied since 2008 and this has become the concern of the Indonesian Government. In dealing with this matter, Indonesia and Australia has established cooperation by signing the Lombok Treaty in 2006.

At regional level, the Bali Process is a regional forum co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia. This forum discusses the solution for people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational organized crimes in the region. The activities within the Bali Process are technical, voluntary and non-binding with the focus on capacity building.

In recent development, the members of Bali Process agreed to continue the cooperation through Regional Cooperation Framework (RCF) which in operational level is conducted by establishing the Regional Support Office (RSO) in Bangkok.

TOT: Now coming to the human rights situation in the West Papua it is important to mention the latest Amnesty International report on Indonesia which says that there is a critical situation in West Papua– a humanitarian crisis – which needs to be addressed and resolved at the earliest possible. We shall be delighted to have your thoughts on this situation in West Papua and the problems which are threatening to build up more and more with each passing day?

 

Ms. Esti Andayani: First of all, I would like to make sure that we refer to the same definition when we address West Papua. Currently, we have two provinces in Indonesian Papua, namely the Papua and the West Papua. We recognized that there are some incidents of violence happened recently in Papua and West Papua. I would like to ensure you that the incident and the issue of Papua are not issues of sovereignty, but rather a political, social, justice and welfare issue.  There is no such humanitarian crisis as reported by the Amnesty International.

Since 2005, the Indonesian government has promoted welfare and justice approaches in developing Papua and West Papua. Both provinces have received special autonomy, including a policy allowing them to accelerate development in a special budget allocation. Furthermore, the implementation of the master plan for accelerating and expanding the development of Indonesia’s economy (MP3EI) has made the region, along with Moluccas, a potential territory in the economic development strategies with concrete project, budget and agenda.  The Indonesian government has also established a Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B), to help resolve development problems that might arise. From political side, the government has actively engaged in dialogues with various stakeholders in the region to deal with various problems.

To further accelerates the improvement of human capacity in both Provinces, the Indonesian Government implements several affirmative actions, such as quota for education i.e. in police forces and the position of ‘’putra daerah’’ (people of local ethnicities) in the local government. Meanwhile, the government also continues to intensify efforts to build and promote a more conducive situation in both Provinces, among others, by making various efforts to increase welfare, law enforcement and respect for human rights and continues to develop a more democratic political life.

The fundamental policy of the Indonesian Government concerning Papua and West Papua has undergone a significant transformation, altering the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach, within the context of Indonesian territorial integrity. The implementation of special autonomy has shifted sweeping powers and authority from Jakarta to Papua and West Papua allowing them to regulate and manage based on their own interests. However, the acceleration of economic and social development is still a challenge ahead. This is due to the least developed infrastructure and public services caused by geographical aspects as well as different traditional legal systems. Therefore, the focus of the Government is to deal with these challenges with various measures.

TOT: Now, let us inform you that quite recently The Oslo Times met with Benny Wenda, a representative of West Papua movement in Oslo — who was invited to the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012. Benny Wenda explained to us about the situation in West Papua and the discrimination which Papuans face in Indonesia especially at the hands of the Indonesian Army. Please clarify on this?

Ms. Esti Andayani: As I have mentioned before, the Government has altered the security approach applied previously into prosperity and justice approach. Since then, the Government has pulled out military units that were no longer necessary in Papua and West Papua, and kept only a small number of units that are essentials to maintain security and protect the people. Nowadays, the police have more roles in maintaining order. The various incidents happened in Papua and West Papua recently were more of criminal acts, which were handled in accordance to Indonesian laws and regulations.

The people of Papua and West Papua have never been discriminated. They are even given special treatment to sit in various positions within the local government that only they can withhold, which people of other ethnicities are not entitled.

TOT: Reverend Ambassador, Indonesia, as is known to the world is a country which, despite being the world’s largest Muslim nation in terms of population, is resilient and tolerant to the people belonging to all faiths, cultures and historical genesis. It is indeed highly appreciable. We would like you to tell us on the struggle going on against extremism in the world and highlight Indonesia’s stand and efforts directed against fundamentalism of all kinds, extremism and fanaticism as well as militancy. Our question assumes more relevance as it is clearly visible that since some time in the past extremism and militancy are threatening the stability of your own country?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indeed Indonesia is the country with largest Moslem population in the world, but Indonesia is not a Moslem country. We respect differences and hold the values of tolerance. Differences indeed exist. The emergence of groups with extreme-right views has posed a challenge to Indonesia, such as acts of terrorism and militancy. Globally, this kind of trends also emerges in other democratic countries.  I believe you share the same opinion, that in several Western countries, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam groups are in the political mainstream, and they have positions within the Parliament which could be influential. In comparison, such groups and activities are not recognized in the political mainstream in Indonesia.

The problems arise from the practice of religions you hear here in Norway and many other Western countries are actually quite minor. Unfortunately, international community is not very well informed about religious harmony exists in Indonesia. Regrettably the minor scaled problems receive more media coverage, nationally and internationally, as if the voice of that minority affected represents the voice of the majority.

Through you, I expect that the media would be able to deliver a more balanced coverage so that the public in the country and abroad would have comprehensive and contextual understanding about religious life in Indonesia.  At the same time, I do hope that the majority in Indonesia, who have been silent all along, would express their views and opinions to better represent the voice of Indonesia.

Meanwhile, in combating terrorism, extremism, and militancy, the Indonesian Government, since the 2002 Bali Bombing and 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, has engaged actively in many cooperation to improve capacity building in countering terrorism. We are now even considered as a role model for other countries in combating terrorism.

TOT: After having tackled the sensitive yet most significant problem of recent developments in the world comity of nations – threats of extremism and unbridled militancy – we would like to have your impressions and opinion on the role Indonesia has played so far in terms of promoting democracy, freedom of speech and human rights on the regional as well as on the international level?

Ms. Esti Andayani: Indonesia has always put forward constructive efforts in the cooperation of promoting and protecting human rights, through various dialogues and international cooperation. Indonesia has a role in bridging different views and positions regarding human rights which are often vary between the developed countries and the developing countries. Indonesia, on one hand, supports the efforts to promote civil and political rights carried out by developed countries while on the other hand, continues to promote economic, social and cultural rights as well as the right to development which are the priorities of developing countries.

At the regional level, Indonesia puts forward the cooperation through ASEAN and supports the democratization process of the ASEAN member countries in accordance with the principle of non-interference. At the global level, this commitment is reflected by initiating the Bali Democracy Forum which convenes annually since 2008.

Democracy is a home-grown process, emerged from within the community in each country, and is a process that cannot be imposed by others. That is why Indonesia is of the view that democracy should deliver, meaning that it has to be accompanied by development which will be beneficial for the people’s welfare.

I wish to reiterate that democracy is reflected by the freedom of expression, which in Indonesia is guaranteed by Constitution and related laws. Bearing this, the Indonesian people are aware that the freedom of expression is not absolute as it cannot infringe the rights of others.  We, Indonesians, adhere tolerance and rule of law and putting the principles into practice when we exercise the right to freedom of expression.

 

 

In the image above: US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama (L) meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani Yudhoyono (R) at the State Palace Complex Istana Merdeka in Jakarta Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

TOT: In a lighter vein Reverend Ambassador, you too must be quite informed and aware like most of our readers are about present US President Barack Hussain Obama’s growing up in Indonesia especially as an adolescent and a youth. Thus Obama has a bond with your motherland. Anything remarkable that you can share with us in this regard?

Ms. Esti Andayani: President Obama lived in Indonesia only for four years during his early childhood. However, he is still bounded with Indonesia and its people. He knows full well about Indonesia, its culture, values, motto, and he even could still speak Indonesian. All of these were well reflected within his lecture before the students of the University of Indonesia.

In that lecture, he compared the values of the United States and the values of Indonesia that turned out to have a lot of similarities.  In the United States, E pluribus unum — out of many, one – has similar meaning with Bhinneka Tunggal Ika — unity in diversity. The United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values. Just like in the United States, the spirit of tolerance is also written into Indonesian Constitution; symbolized in mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other.

He reminded us again about the Indonesian values which we ourselves sometimes often forget, Pancasila. Hearing that coming from such a prominent figure has really made us appreciates our own values even more.

 

He also mentioned that development is inseparable from the role of democracy. This is what our government is now doing, promotes development while at the same time building democracy. With all those shared values, we hope to further increase our close cooperation in various fields.

 

Other thing that impressed me and most of Indonesian people, is when President Obama mentioned that he was surprised to see how far Indonesia has developed ever since he left Jakarta. There was only one 5-starred hotel and a mall at that time, but now he saw many skyscrapers and malls in every corner of the city. I was also caught by surprised that President Obama still well remembered his Indonesian favorite food, satay and baso (meatballs).

TOT: Finally honourable Ambassador, would you like to give any message to the readers of The Oslo Times, who are constantly on the rise worldwide with each passing day?

Ms. Esti Andayani: The Oslo Times is an online media that is easy to be accessed by people all over the world. Online media has various timeliness, accuracy of the content and ability to deliver to the readers about various information, news and reports. Therefore, the readers should be smart and have a broad and open mind in choosing and digesting the news they are reading. I believe The Oslo Times have such good quality for an online media, just as its readers have good understanding towards the context of information contained. I hope by reading this article, your readers would have a better understanding and interest about Indonesia.

Thank you respected Ambassador. We think that this session has indeed been informative and beneficial for The Oslo Times and its readers. Thanks yet again!


 

©The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

Tag Cloud