Chinese whistleblower granted political asylum

‘Rebecca’ Jun Mei Wu has told SBS News she is relieved to have been granted asylum in Australia.


Ms Wu worked for the digital arm of the People’s Daily state media empire from 2012 to 2016. She fled the city of Wuhan for Sydney after being detained and questioned by security officers over her affiliation with an underground Protestant church.

“I’m very thankful to the Australian government for saving me from certain imprisonment in China,” Ms Wu told SBS.

“My relatives are still under surveillance back home. The situation journalists face in China is dire.”

In a series of interviews with SBS last year, Ms Wu described the personal crisis she underwent when she was confronted by the systemic repression and censorship involved in the state media which is controlled by the Communist Party.


“I left because I didn’t want to work in party propaganda anymore,” Ms Wu said.

“Telling the truth was not how we did business.”

Her husband remains in China, where authorities have placed him under a domestic travel restriction, which prevents him from leaving the city in which he works.

Ms Wu’s flight from China provided a rare insight into the workings of state media there, which has seen an increase in censorship directives and online surveillance under the watch of President Xi Jinping.

The former Communist Party member also documented several cases of extortion involving the People’s Daily, in which reporters were told to find evidence of corruption before blackmailing companies.

“It was cash for silence, basically,” she told SBS.

In one instance, she alleged that the Daily’s Wuhan bureau extorted more than 627,000 RMB every year from chemical manufacturer Chuyuan Technologies, which had done massive ecological damage to nearby villages after dumping effluent in the Yangtze River.

“This was our arrangement: Chuyuan would pay us $119,000 per year, and we would hold off on reporting any of these things that were affecting local people,” she explained.

“In addition to that, Chuyuan would get advertising space – as well as good press in our reportage.”

Ms Wu was detained by public security officials last year after managers discovered psalm notes at her workplace.

After intense questioning, she was asked to “infiltrate and monitor” her church group and to pass the information to security forces.

Her detention came at the height of a state crackdown on underground churches in China, in which a prominent pastor Father Gu Yuese was detained by authorities alongside his lawyer.

Reverend Bill Crews of the Uniting Church in Ashfield, who gave Ms Wu sanctuary upon her arrival to Australia, praised the Immigration Minister for his decision to grant asylum.

“I am so pleased by this decision,” Reverand Crews said.

“The immigration department and the minister have acted commendably.”

Watch The Feed’s interview with Jun Mei Wu about her case:

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Listen to coverage of the case on SBS Mandarin.

To contact this reporter, email [email protected]苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,苏州美甲课程,

Turnbull backtracks on GST promise in WA

Six months after getting a standing ovation for promising to fix the GST system that was short-changing WA, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backtracked and now says the floor he promised to set for the states is years away.


The comments are a significant election blow to Premier Colin Barnett, who said over the weekend he wanted an answer from the prime minister during his visit this week about where the floor would be.

“The GST is our one major financial issue. I’ve been banging on about that for the last eight years, and I’ll continue to do so,” he said at the Liberal Party’s campaign launch.

The state’s GST share fell to 30 cents in every dollar raised by the tax in WA last year, equating to a $4.7 billion shortfall compared to the state’s population share.

It is blamed by the Barnett government for its record $3 billion-plus deficit.

Mr Turnbull now says WA will have to wait until its share increased to about 70-75 cents in the dollar.

He wrongly said that was forecast to be in about 2020, but Treasury says it will only be about 60 cents.

“Clearly you want to set a floor at a time when no state will be a loser and we need to wait a few years until the Western Australia share under the current formula climbs back up to a more normal level,” he told reporters.

It will also require the agreement of other states, he says.

Mr Turnbull said he was being consistent with last year’s promise, but last August there was no mention of the change taking until 2020 or requiring the agreement of the other states and Treasury being unable to act.

He also said Labor leader Mark McGowan should not be promising to divert federal funds to help pay for Labor’s flagship election policy – the $2.54 billion Metronet train system.

Labor plans to scrap the $1.9 billion controversial Perth Freight Link road project, tear up contracts already signed for it and redirect part of the $1.2 billion in federal funds to Metronet.

“That’s not his money … the Perth Freight Link project is one of the top priority projects and was assessed very carefully by Infrastructure Australia, was fully costed and engineered and is ready to go,” Mr Turnbull told ABC radio.

“If he wants federal money for another project, he will have to make a case for it.

“Mr McGowan has no business case, even if this is the best idea in the world it will take years before it gets through all those hoops and governments can responsibly allocate the funds and get the work started.”

Mr McGowan says he is prepared to “have a war” with the federal government.

“We’ll get the money out of the commonwealth and if I have to have a war with the federal government I will, but they will cave in because Western Australia will not be intimidated or bullied,” he told reporters.

Mr McGowan said the federal and state Liberals had failed WA by not delivering changes to the GST.

Pence reassures Europe, demands NATO funds

Capping a European trip aimed at allaying fears about the new administration’s support, Pence said Washington’s backing for the EU remained “steadfast and enduring”.


“Today it is my privilege on behalf of President Trump to express the strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union,” Pence said after talks with EU president Donald Tusk in Brussels.

European allies have all been unnerved by Trump’s criticism of the EU as a vehicle for Germany, his praise of Britain’s decision to leave the bloc and his dismissal of NATO as “obsolete” even as he praises Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Pence pledged the United States would keep working with Europe to boost the world’s two biggest economies, fight terrorism and defend eastern EU states against Russian encroachment.

Tusk, a former Polish premier, said that Europeans “truly needed” the meeting with Pence and that the 28-nation bloc counted on “wholehearted and unequivocal” US support.

“Too much has happened over the past month in your country and in the EU … for us to pretend that everything is as it used to be,” Tusk said.

Pence also met European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, a former Luxembourg premier, who stressed that the United States “needs a strong united Europe.”.

NATO ‘actions not words’

Scores of protesters gathered in the EU quarter of the Belgian capital during Pence’s visit, criticising the Trump administration’s attitude toward women, gays and climate change.

Two female protesters went topless and carried banners saying “Pence get out of our pants,” while another placard read “Love Trumps Hate”.

At NATO headquarters, Pence said Trump expects NATO allies to make “real progress by the end of 2017” towards meeting a goal they set in 2014 of raising defence spending to two percent of GDP over a decade.

“If you don’t yet have a plan — these are my words, not his (Trump’s) — get one. It is time for actions, not words,” Pence told a press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

So far, of the 28 NATO members, only the United States, Britain, Poland, Greece and Estonia have met the two percent target.

“America will do our part but Europe’s defence requires Europe’s commitment as much as ours,” Pence said Monday.

US Defence Secretary James Mattis delivered a similar message at a NATO defence ministers meeting last week, saying Washington could “moderate” its commitment if allies fail to pay up.

Pence, Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have stuck close to established policy during their first foray into Europe despite Trump’s previous pronouncements.

But they have also been left to cope with their president’s unpredictable remarks, and by a growing scandal over the new White House’s links to Russia.

Pence admitted on Monday he was “disappointed” that former US national security adviser Michael Flynn had given him “inaccurate” information about his contacts with Russia over US sanctions before he resigned last week.

However he said he fully backed Trump’s decision to accept Flynn’s resignation.

‘Very positive’

Pence’s visit came two days after Trump referred, during a rally in Florida, to a non-existent Swedish terror incident and urged people to “look at what’s happening in Brussels” as he listed a series of European cities struck by deadly terror attacks.

Pence said the United States would remain “full partners” with the EU in fighting terrorism, a Trump priority.

He also pledged it would defend Europe’s “territorial integrity” and said the Trump administration will “continue to hold Russia accountable” for the violence in eastern Ukraine and demand that Moscow honour the Minsk agreements for a ceasefire due to begin Monday.

Trump is expected to attend a NATO summit in Brussels at the end of May and he has also been invited to meet EU leaders.

An EU source told AFP that Pence’s meeting with Tusk was “very positive”.

“Will it allay all Europeans fears about Trump? No but it was the best we could have hoped for,” the source added.

Hurricane Irma expected to be downgraded before reaching Florida

Irma, at present a Category 5 storm packing maximum sustained winds of  285 km per hour, is moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the NHC says.


The hurricane has become a little less organised over the past few hours but the threat of direct hurricane impacts in Florida over the weekend and early next week continues to increase, the center says.

Hurricane watches were in effect for the northwestern Bahamas and much of Cuba.

At least eight people were reported killed on four different Caribbean islands by Irma, which weather forecasters have described as a “potentially catastrophic” Category 5 storm, the highest US classification for hurricanes.

The dual-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda was especially hard hit. The northernmost island, Barbuda, home to roughly 1,700 people, was “totally demolished,” with one person killed and 90 percent of all dwellings there leveled, Prime Minister Gaston Browne says, according to island television broadcasts.

Rain and high winds hit the French island territory of Saint Martin on Wednesday (September 6) as Hurricane Irma churned through the Caribbean.

Video shot inside Le Beach Hotel showed hallways flooded with water and debris carried in by the storm, and a deserted atrium with palm trees blowing in the wind.

Irma, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in a century, churned across northern Caribbean islands with a potentially catastrophic mix of fierce winds, surf and rain, en route to a possible Florida landfall at the weekend.

The eye of Irma, a Category 5 storm packing winds of 185 miles per hour (295 km per hour), moved away from the island of Barbuda and toward the island of Saint Martin, east of Puerto Rico, early on Wednesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reported.

0:00 CNN’s George Howell on Hurricane Irma Share CNN’s George Howell on Hurricane Irma

Prime Minister Browne describes Barbuda as “barely habitable” after the powerful Category 5 storm struck early on Wednesday.

“This rebuilding initiative will take years,” Browne tells local ABS Television Radio after a visit to the island, where he confirmed one person died in the storm.

Describing the scene as “absolute devastation,” he said the storm, which also snapped a telecoms tower, had caused estimated damage of some $US150 million ($A187 million).

Another storm-related fatality, that of a surfer, was reported on Barbados.

At least six people have been killed in the French part of the Caribbean island St Martin after the hurricane tore through the region, Guadeloupe prefect Eric Maire said.

“This is not the final toll. We sadly risk further discoveries,” Maire tells journalists.

The previous toll given by France’s overseas ministry was two dead and two seriously injured on the eastern Caribbean islands St Barts and St Martin.

“It’s an enormous catastrophe. Ninety-five percent of the island is destroyed. I’m in shock. It’s frightening,” top local official on St Martin Daniel Gibbs tells local radio.

Irma, with top sustained winds of 185 miles per hour (300 km/h), was on track to reach Florida on Saturday or Sunday, becoming the second major hurricane to hit the US mainland in as many weeks.

While Irma’s intensity could fluctuate, and its precise course remained uncertain, the storm was expected to remain at least a Category 4 before arriving in Florida.

⚠St-Martin et St-Barthélémy sont actuellement au cœur de l’ouragan #Irma, avec le passage de l’œil du #cyclone ▶ 苏州美甲培训学校,长沙SPA,/2qQnReB4b8 pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/J7sRRyELb4

— Météo-France (@meteofrance) September 6, 2017

Two other hurricanes formed on Wednesday. Katia in the Gulf of Mexico posed no threat to the United States, according to US forecasters.

But Hurricane Jose in the open Atlantic, about 1,000 miles (1,610 km) east of the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles islands, could also eventually threaten the US mainland.

The flurry of severe storm activity comes after Hurricane Harvey claimed about 60 lives and caused property damage estimated as high as $180 billion after pummeling the Gulf Coasts of Texas and Louisiana with torrential rains and severe flooding.

Florida emergency management officials, chastened by Harvey’s devastation, began evacuations days in advance of Irma’s arrival, ordering all tourists to leave the Florida Keys, a resort archipelago off the state’s southern tip, starting Wednesday morning.

Evacuation of residents from the Keys was to begin Wednesday evening.Image taken from a video posted on Facebook by Stefany Santacruz showing the view from her balcony as Hurricane Irma hits the Island of St Maarteen (Getty)Getty

In Cuba, just 90 miles (145 km) south of the Keys, authorities posted a hurricane alert for the island’s central and eastern regions.

The eye of Irma was passing just north of Puerto Rico late Wednesday, buffeting the US island territory’s capital, San Juan, with heavy downpours and strong winds that scattered tree limbs across roadways.

Earlier in the day, the storm passed over the northernmost Virgin Islands after crossing the half-French, half-Dutch island of St. Martin-St. Maarten, the US National Hurricane Center said.

Just spoke w/ Governors Rick Scott of Florida, Kenneth Mapp of the U.S. Virgin Islands & Ricardo Rosselló of Puerto Rico. WE ARE W/ YOU ALL! pic.twitter苏州美甲培训学校按摩论坛,/k92cslgKFa

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017

On its current path the core of Irma, which the Miami-based center said marked the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean and one of the five most forceful storms to hit the Atlantic basin in 82 years, was expected to scrape the northern coast of the Dominican Republic on Thursday.

It was on a track that would put it near the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas by Thursday evening.

Karel van Oosterom, the Netherlands ambassador to the United Nations, said Irma had hit the Dutch islands of Saba and Sint Eustasius before overrunning St. Martin.

“First information indicates that a lot of damage has been done, but communication is still extremely difficult,” he said at a UN meeting.

0:00 Webcam in St Maarten captures full force of Irma Share Webcam in St Maarten captures full force of Irma

Irma began lashing Puerto Rico with rain at mid-morning. Governor Ricardo Rossello told residents to stay inside as the storm bore down on the island.

“There is no reason to be in the street,” Rossello told a midday press conference.

Businesses throughout San Juan were closed and many buildings were covered with storm shutters. Occasional shoppers were out making final purchases of water, ice and food to prepare for what they feared could be several days without power.

Power was knocked out on both islands, according to prefecture officials on Guadeloupe. At least four buildings were damaged and low-lying regions had been flooded, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said.

The UN World Food Program prepared to provide emergency aid to Haiti if it was hit by Irma. The country was ravaged by a 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew last year.

0:00 Trump praises first responders to Irma Share Trump praises first responders to Irma

US President Donald Trump said he and aides were monitoring Irma’s progress. “But it looks like it could be something that will be not good. Believe me, not good,” he told reporters at the White House.

Trump, whose waterfront Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, could take a direct hit from the storm, has already approved emergency declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilising federal disaster relief efforts.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said Irma could be more devastating than Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm that struck the state in 1992 and still ranks as one of the costliest ever in the United States.

Residents of low-lying areas in densely populated Miami-Dade County were urged to move to higher ground.

“We can expect additional evacuations as this storm continues to come near our state,” Scott told a news conference in the Keys.

He said 7,000 National Guard troops would report for duty on Friday, ahead of the storm’s expected arrival.

In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster also declared a state of emergency and urged residents to prepare for Irma’s potential landfall there.

Jose and Katia upgraded to hurricanes 

Tropical storm Jose in the Atlantic Ocean has been upgraded to hurricane status, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

Jose was 1,040 miles (1,675 kilometers) east of the Lesser Antilles and packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour), the NHC said. 

It was considered a Category One hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale.

Tropical storm Katia in Gulf of Mexico has also been upgraded to a hurricane, forecasters say.

Related Reading

Historic walk-off for childcare staff over $21/hr pay

More than 3,000 childcare workers walked out of centres nationwide as part of a campaign for better pay.


After stopping work at 3.20pm on Thursday – the time the union says they start working for free – staff took to city streets flanked by children and supporters holding balloons and brandishing signs calling for fairer wages.

“What do we want? Equal pay. When do we want it? Now!” the early childhood educators chanted at rallies in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Hobart and through wet and windy conditions in Melbourne.

If we changed the title “childcare worker” to “small human engineer” they’d make more money without any resistance #childcare #strike

— Amelia Yaron (@SlayAtHomeMum) September 7, 2017

The strike action was also supported by parents at centres in Sydney, Canberra and Darwin.

“They are qualified, they are committed, they are experienced and yet they can be paid as little as $21 an hour,” the United Voice (UV) union’s assistant national secretary Helen Gibbons said in Melbourne.

“And everybody knows why.

“Historically, it’s been seen as women’s work that they did for the love of it alone. But love does not pay the bills.”


Melbourne early childhood educator Lucy Luzza joined the strike.

She said the current pay rate just isn’t enough. 

“I love my job, I love working with children, however saying that, love doesn’t pay my bills and I think it’s unfair that we ask our parents or families to pay extra money towards early learning.”

Parents were forced to leave their own jobs early to pick up their children as a result of the largest walk-off in the sector’s history in Australia.

But despite the inconvenience, many parents, like mother Amanda Richmond, said they support the strike. 

“Our inconvenience is incomparable to the injustice that’s going on around Australia with the wages that these workers are being paid. It’s unacceptable and we’re not going to stand for it,” said Ms Richmond. 

UV says it was the biggest walk-off by childcare workers in Australian history, affecting about 10,000 Australian families, and follows a similar protest in March that failed to influence the federal budget.

0:00 Childcare workers protest, demanding higher pay Share Childcare workers protest, demanding higher pay

Ms Gibbons said about 180 people leave the industry each week due to financial struggles.

“They are calling on the federal government to improve their pay rates, arguing $21 an hour is significantly less than men with equivalent qualifications earn in other sectors,” she said.

“They are saying squarely to the federal government that you need to fund this sector properly.

“If we don’t get an outcome today, I am pretty confident the educators are not going to give up.

“They are going to get bigger and bolder and stronger.”

RelatedChildcare by the numbers

* About 80,000 ‘long day care’ educators, 97 per cent of which are female

* About 700,000 children cared for across 6900 centres

* Qualified educators are paid as little as $21.29 per hour, or $42,218 annually

* The average wage in Australia is $40.62 per hour, or $80,555 annually

* Education unions have filed an application for a 35 per cent wage increase with the Fair Work Commission

(Source: United Voice; Australian Bureau of Statistics)

‘And then they exploded’: How Rohingya insurgents built support for assault

When the former UN chief Kofi Annan wrapped up his year-long probe into Myanmar’s troubled northwest on August 24, he publicly warned that an excessive army response to violence would only make a simmering conflict between Rohingya insurgents and Myanmar security forces worse.


Just three hours later, shortly after 8pm, Rohingya insurgent leader Ata Ullah sent a message to his supporters urging them to head to the foot of the remote Mayu mountain range with metal objects to use as weapons.

A little after midnight, 600 km northwest of the country’s largest city Yangon, a rag-tag army of Rohingya militants, wielding knives, sticks, small weapons and crude bombs, attacked 30 police posts and an army base.

“If 200 or 300 people come out, 50 will die. God willing, the remaining 150 can kill them with knives,” said Ata Ullah in a separate voice message to his supporters. It was circulated around the time of the offensive on mobile messaging apps and a recording was subsequently reviewed by Reuters.


The assault by Ata Ullah’s group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), was its biggest yet. Last October, when the group first surfaced, it attacked just three police border posts using about 400 fighters, according to Myanmar government estimates. The Myanmar army is now estimating up to 6,500 people took part in the August offensive.

Its ability to mount a much more ambitious assault indicates that many young Rohingya men have been galvanized into supporting ARSA following the army crackdown after the October attacks, according to interviews with more than a dozen Rohingya and Rakhine villagers, members of the security forces and local administrators.

The brutal October response led to allegations that troops burned down villages and killed and raped civilians.

The crisis in ethnically-riven Rakhine state is the biggest to face Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and her handling of it has been a source of disillusionment among the democracy champion’s former supporters in the West.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Myanmar authorities on Tuesday to end violence against Rohingya Muslims, warning of the risk of ethnic cleansing, a possible humanitarian catastrophe, and regional destabilisation.

Rohingya leaders and some policy analysts say Suu Kyi’s failure to tackle the grievances of the Muslim minority, who have lived under apartheid-like conditions for generations, has bolstered support for the militants.

Major counteroffensive

The fledgling militia has been transformed into a network of cells in dozens of villages, capable of staging a widespread offensive.

Myanmar’s government has declared ARSA a terrorist organisation. It has also accused it of killing Muslim civilians to prevent them from cooperating with the authorities, and of torching Rohingya villages, allegations the group denies.

Rakhine State chief minister Nyi Pu (C) listens to report from officials in Sittwe, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 31 August 2017. EPA

The latest assault has provoked a major counteroffensive in which the military says it killed almost 400 insurgents and in which 13 members of the security forces have died.

Rohingya villagers and human rights groups say the military has also attacked villages indiscriminately and torched homes. Myanmar government says it is carrying out a lawful counter-terrorism operation and that the troops have been instructed not to harm civilians.

Nearly 150,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, leading to fears of a humanitarian crisis. Some 26,750 non-Muslim villagers have also been displaced inside Myanmar.

Suu Kyi has said she would adopt recommendations of Kofi Annan’s panel that encouraged more integration. She has also previously appealed for understanding of her nation’s ethnic complexities.

In a statement on Wednesday, she blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the strife in Rakhine. She made no mention of the Rohingya who have fled.

Suu Kyi’s spokesman, Zaw Htay, could not be immediately reached for comment.

On Monday, however, he told Reuters Myanmar was carrying out a counterterrorism operation and taking care of “the safety of civilians, including Muslims and non-Muslims.”

Related’Not how humans live’

In an interview with Reuters in March, Ata Ullah linked the creation of the group to communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine in 2012, when nearly 200 people were killed and 140,000, mostly Rohingya, displaced.

“We can’t turn the lights on at night. We can’t move from one place to another during the day,” he told Reuters in previously unpublished remarks, referring to restrictions placed on the Rohingya population’s behavior and movements.

“Everywhere checkpoints: every entry and every exit. That’s not how humans live.”

Photo taken July 15, 2017, in a village in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine shows women and a child of the country’s minority Rohingya Muslims. Kyodo

A Rohingya community leader who has stayed in northern Rakhine said that, while the rest of Myanmar enjoyed new freedoms under Suu Kyi after decades of military rule, the Muslim minority have been increasingly marginalized.

Support for the insurgents grew after the military operation last year, he said.

“When the security forces came to our village, all of the villagers apologized and asked them not to set the houses on fire – but they shot the people who made that request,” he said.

“People suffered because their sons got killed in front of them even though they begged for mercy, their daughters, sisters were raped – how could they live without constantly thinking about it, that they want to fight against it, whether they die or not.”

Reuters couldn’t independently confirm the villagers’ accounts.

Last month, a Myanmar government probe – led by former head of military intelligence and now Vice President, Myint Swe – rejected allegations of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing during the crackdown last year.

Cell network

Villagers and police officers in the area say that ARSA had since last October established cells in dozens of villages, where local activists then recruited others.

“People shared their feelings with others from the community, they talked to each other, they told their friends or acquaintances from different regions – and then they exploded,” said the Rohingya community leader.

Rohi Mullarah, a village elder from the Kyee Hnoke Thee village in northern Buthidaung, said the leaders sent their followers regular and frequent messages via apps like WhatsApp and WeChat, encouraging them to fight for freedom and human rights and enabling them to mobilize many people without the risk of being caught going into the heavily militarized areas to recruit.

“They mainly sent phone messages to the villagers, they didn’t … move people from place to place,” he said. He said his village was not involved in the insurgency and even posted a signboard in front of it that said any militants would be attacked by the villagers if they attempt to recruit people.

Many Rohingya elders have for decades rejected violence and sought dialogue with the government. While ARSA has now gained some influence, especially among young, disaffected men, many Rohingya elders have condemned the group’s violent tactics.

Campaign of terror

In recent months there had been reports of killings of local administrators, government informers and village chiefs in the Rakhine region, leading to speculation the insurgents were adopting brutal tactics to stop information on their activities from leaking to the security forces.

Myanmar policeman stands guard at the Shwe Zarr muslim quarter in Maungdaw township, Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 06 September 2017.EPA

“They cut out the government communication by instigating a campaign of fear and took charge in the region,” said Sein Lwin, police chief in Rakhine. .

An army source directly involved in operations in northern Rakhine also said it was now much more difficult to get information on ARSA’s plans.

The strategy resulted in the “shut down of government mechanisms” in some places “because no government servants dared to stay there”, the army source said.

A village head from northern Buthidaung township, who asked not to be named, said the insurgents called him several times pressing him to allow some young villagers to take part in their training – an offer he refused.

“I tried to stay safe and sometimes I had to sleep at the police station and local administrator’s house,” he said.

Intercepted messages

Despite the largely successful clamp down on information by the insurgents, it was a tip off by an informer that stopped the Aug. 25 attacks from being much worse for the Myanmar security services, the army source said.

About an hour after Ata Ullah’s men headed for the jungle in the evening of Aug. 25, the army received a signal from the Rohingya informer saying the attack was coming.

The 9 p.m. message mentioned imminent multiple attacks, but it did not say where they would occur. The warning was enough for the security forces to withdraw some troops to larger stations and to reinforce strategic locations, saving many lives on the government side, the military source said.

The raids by the insurgents came in waves from around 1 a.m. until sunrise, and took place mostly in Maungdaw township where Ata Ullah staged his three attacks in October. This time, though, the distance between the northern- and southern-most points was as long as 100 km (60 miles). The Rohingya also struck in the north of the neighboring Buthidaung township, including an audacious bid to storm an army base.

“We were surprised they attacked across such a wide geographical area – it shook the whole region,” said the army source.

Related reading

WA budget slugs gold miners, big business

Western Australia’s new Labor government has turned to big business in its bid to repair the state’s diabolical finances, imposing a payroll tax levy on large corporations, while gold miners will be hit with higher royalties.


For five years starting on July 1, employers with a nation-wide payroll between $100 million and $1.5 billion will be taxed at a rate of six per cent, up from 5.5 per cent.

Those with a payroll exceeding $1.5 billion will be taxed at a rate of 6.5 per cent.

The increases are expected to trim $435 million from net debt over the forward estimates and affect 1200 business or 0.5 per cent of the state’s corporate world.

“I understand fully they’re not going to appreciate it,” Treasurer Ben Wyatt told reporters.

The Business Council warned the levy could make larger companies reconsider creating new jobs in WA, while the gold royalty rate hike would undermine investor confidence in the state and erode its competitive edge.

The royalty changes are expected to shave $392 million off total net debt, which is projected to peak at an eye-watering $43.7 billion in 2019/20.

That compares to $41.1 billion in February’s pre-election financial projections statement.

The state’s books are tipped to finally return to surplus in 2020/21 after a $3.039 billion deficit this financial year, which is roughly in line with the PFPS estimate.

Premier Mark McGowan reiterated his government had inherited the worst set of books in the state’s history and had to make tough decisions.

“It hasn’t been easy – we always knew it wouldn’t be,” Mr McGowan said.

The premier said he wanted to protect struggling families, which had already been slugged an almost $440 per year increase in utilities and other fees in June’s mini-budget, and small-to-medium enterprises.

Mr McGowan said he was confident the right balance had been struck – but still apologised to gold producers and corporate giants.

“It is not fair to leave the task of fixing the mess just to everyday West Australians,” he said.

“It’s only fair we ask the state’s largest companies and largest industries to help recover the huge revenue hits to our budget.

“I acknowledge that for large corporations and gold miners, we will be forced to breach the commitments we made before the state election. We are sorry about that.”

Opposition Leader Mike Nahan described it as a “budget of betrayal”, saying Labor broke election promises to reduce debt and not increase taxes, add new taxes or cut frontline services.

“One of the key themes of the McGowan government was to be a job-creating premier … payroll tax is a tax on jobs,” Dr Nahan said.

“He has failed his own clearly set KPIs.”

Mr Wyatt, Australia’s first Aboriginal treasurer, said he was determined to meet the surplus target, but noted the mining royalty-dependent and GST-deprived state was vulnerable to dramatic revenue stream changes.

He said he expected WA’s credit rating would remain the same.

Lyon bowls Australia to series-levelling victory

Chasing 86 for victory, Australia suffered a mini-collapse of their own, losing openers David Warner and Matt Renshaw as well as captain Steve Smith before reaching the 50-mark.


Glenn Maxwell made a breezy 25 not out, though, and sealed the victory with a six off Nasir Hossain to avenge Australia’s 20-run loss in the series opener in Dhaka.

“I thought we played some good cricket at times in this test match,” Smith said at the presentation ceremony.

“I’m proud of the way the boys got over the line here in the end to get the 1-1 draw.”

Earlier, Australia were not able to add to their overnight score as Lyon fell for a duck and were all out for 377, a first innings lead of 72.

Paceman Pat Cummins drew first blood for the tourists by dismissing opener Soumya Sarkar before Lyon’s three-wicket burst in the morning session unhinged the home side.

By the time they had erased the first innings deficit, Bangladesh had lost the top half of their batting lineup and the lack of a partnership down the order effectively condemned them to defeat.

Captain Mushfiqur Rahim topscored with 31, while Mominul Haque (29) and Sabbir Rahman (24) also got the starts but none of them were able to move on to the sort of big knock that might have set Australia a bigger test in the fourth innings.

Lyon claimed a third successive six-wicket haul to take his series tally to 22 wickets, the most by an Australian bowler in a two-test series.

“I thought Nathan Lyon was remarkable in that first innings. There wasn’t much in the pitch for him, and I think he got 22 wickets for the series, really good effort,” Smith said of his spin spearhead.

Lyon won the man-of-the-match award and shared the man-of-the-series honour with team mate Warner who scored back-to-back centuries in the series.

Despite the draw, Australia slipped to fifth place in the official test rankings.

Home captain Mushfiqur said his team should have batted better in the first innings when they scored 305.

“Credit goes to Australia. We knew they are a very strong team and will come at us harder,” the stumper-batsman said.

“If we could score 350-400, a target of 150-200 in the fourth innings, you never know. Our first innings cost us the game.”

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Greg Stutchbury/Nick Mulvenney/Pritha Sarkar)

Catalan government angers Spain after voting for independence referendum

Catalans are set to vote on whether or not they want to be independent from Spain in a referendum.


The decree was signed by Catalonia’s president Carles Puigdemont and the rest of his cabinet in a bid to show a united front in the face of threats of legal action by Madrid.

Catalonia’s regional government approved on Wednesday a law to hold an independence referendum, setting up a clash with the Spanish government that has vowed to stop what it says would be an illegal vote.


After 12 hours of often chaotic debate in the Barcelona parliament, a majority voted for the referendum and the legal framework to set up a new state, under which the assembly would declare independence within 48 hours of a ‘yes’ vote on October 1.

Politicians who opposed independence abandoned the chamber before the vote, with some leaving Catalan flags in their empty seats.

The winners, led by Mr Puigdemont, sang the Catalan national anthem once the votes were counted.

“We call on the citizens of our country to decide how they feel it is necessary to orient the future of Catalonia, whether by the current path of autonomy and trimmed statute or by a new road as an independent state in the form of a republic,” Mr Puigdemont said after signing the measure into law.

Spain’s government has asked the country’s constitutional court to declare the referendum law void.

The government has labelled the move as a “constitutional and democratic atrocity” with deputy prime minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría saying it was a “shameful and embarrassing” betrayal, according to The Guardian.

Seventy-two MPs voted through the legislation while 52 opposed the move.

“The government will defend freedom, democracy and coexistence,” Ms Sáenz de Santamaría said. 

“We won’t allow the law to go unheeded in Spain. Let no one doubt that we know what we have to do and that we will do it.”

The Spanish constitution states the country is indivisible.

Relieved Aussies escape Test series defeat

Relieved after Australia dodged a humbling Test series defeat to Bangladesh, skipper Steve Smith says his side must address their constant batting collapses or risk losing the Ashes.


Australia escaped from their first visit to Bangladesh in 11 years with a 1-1 series draw after winning the second Test in Chittagong by seven wickets with a day to spare.

Set a target of 86 runs to win after bowling out Bangladesh for 157 in their second innings on day four, Australia needed just 16 overs to claim victory on Thursday.

Nathan Lyon was named man of the match after becoming the first Australian to take 13 wickets in a Test in Asia.

He shared man of the series honours with David Warner, who backed up his drought-breaking triumph in Dhaka with a gutsy century in stifling heat during Australia’s first innings.

Warner’s heroics helped to minimise the impact of batting collapses in both Tests but Smith admitted it was an issue the Australians desperately needed to address.

“We would have much preferred 2-0 but it’s nice to get over the line here and have a 1-1 draw,” Smith said.

“I still think we have a lot of improvement in us. We probably let ourselves down at times throughout this Test match.

“I thought our first-innings bowling was very good to restrict them. Our first-innings batting, obviously the partnership between (Peter Handscomb) and Davey was fantastic.

“And then we got ourselves into one of our collapses that we’ve had.

“I think we’ve had 15 collapses in our last 14 games … that’s not good enough for an Australian cricket team.

“That’s something we really need to work on. We need to rectify that come the next series and the Ashes.”

Offspinner Lyon proved the hero for Australia in Chittagong, backing up his seven-wicket haul in Bangladesh’s first dig to record career-best match figures of 13-154.

Australia were forced to endure some nervous moments with Warner and Smith departing cheaply before Glenn Maxwell scored the winning runs with a six over midwicket.

A 2-0 series loss would have sent Australia tumbling to No.6 on the world Test rankings, their lowest point in almost 30 years.

Lyon’s 6-60 in the second innings took his wicket tally for the tour to 22, just one shy of Sri Lankan tweaker Rangana Herath’s record for the most dismissals in a two-match Test series.

An innings victory for Australia had looked like a genuine possibility when Bangladesh collapsed to 5-43 before lunch.

But Mushfiqur and Mominul Haque (29) led a spirited rearguard action to keep the hosts in with a chance.

Pat Cummins (2-27) was forced to battle through stifling heat but still managed to rattle the Bangladeshi batsmen with sheer pace and an array of short-pitched deliveries.

Matthew Wade made an important contribution with the gloves, stumping danger man Tamim Iqbal (12) and Shabbir Rahman (24) both off the bowling of Lyon.

‘David and Goliath’ marriage survey begins

Both sides of the same-sex marriage campaign are claiming underdog status in a “David and Goliath” battle to win over 16 million Australian voters.


Forms for the voluntary postal survey will go out from Tuesday after gay rights advocates lost a High Court bid to stop the $122 million process.

Human Rights Law Centre director of legal advocacy Anna Brown says the survey is unnecessary but the advocates will now focus all their efforts on securing a resounding “yes” vote.

“We lost the court case but we need to win the plebiscite,” she said.

Australian Marriage Equality co-chair and plaintiff Alex Greenwich said supporters of marriage equality now had no choice but to campaign hard for a strong yes vote.

“This is going to be a tough campaign but we are in it to win it,” he said.

“But certainly the task ahead is daunting and clearly, having had this process imposed upon us in these circumstances, we are clearly the underdog.”

Those pushing for a “no” vote have also claimed underdog status.

Coalition for Marriage spokesman Lyle Shelton urged prospective no-voters to donate to their campaign to ensure it can be competitive.

“It’s a David and Goliath battle,” the Australian Christian Lobby managing director said.

“We don’t have the resources that the other side do.”

Marriage Alliance CEO Damian Wyld said it was extraordinary that those pushing to redefine marriage went as far as taking the government to court to stop the Australian people having a say.

Both legal challenges – one led by independent MP Andrew Wilkie and the other by Australian Marriage Equality – failed.

They had wanted the full bench of the High Court to stop the postal survey, arguing the government should not have bypassed parliament in funding it.

The government found the $122 million by using laws to make an advance payment to the finance minister in circumstances where there is an urgent need for spending and the situation was unforeseen.

Public Interest Advocacy Centre CEO Jonathon Hunyor said the case was an important test of the limits of government power.

“This was a very important case to run because it raised fundamental issues about how governments exercise power in this country and about the role of parliament in our democracy, particularly when it comes to deciding important issues of rights,” Mr Hunyor said.

“We are obviously disappointed with the outcome but we now need to focus on ending discrimination against same-sex couples and making marriage equality a reality.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull encouraged every Australian to have their say in the survey.

Storm’s McLean happy to dodge spotlight

There has been little talk about Jordan McLean’s Melbourne NRL career fast coming to a close.


And that’s just the way the giant prop likes it.

Ahead of the Storm’s qualifying final against Parramatta at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon, all of the spotlight has been on the departing Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith’s record 356th NRL match.

McLean will join North Queensland next season after signing a three-year deal that ends his Storm journey, which started with their youth team in 2009 alongside the Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny.

The 25-year-old said he was happy to have escaped the bulk of the attention heading into the finals.

“There hasn’t been too much of a fuss and that’s the way I like it,” McLean said.

“I’m happy with all the focus to be on Coops and Cam. They deserve all of the spotlight.”

With two young children, the move to Townsville is about being closer to his wife’s family and while McLean is excited about a new opportunity he says it is bittersweet.

“I love this place and everyone here but it’s the best thing for my family,” he said.

“When the time comes it’s going to be tough to go, I came to Melbourne when I was 17 and have a lot of good mates here.”

That bond grew even tighter back in 2014 McLean was suspended for his part in the tackle that left Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon in a wheelchair.

McLean said the support from the club and his teammates helped him through.

“The club has supported me through the good and bad and the bonds with certain people have helped me through the tough times,” he said.

Second-rower Tohu Harris, who joined the NYC team in 2010, is also leaving for the Warriors, ending an era for the forwards who have grown into one of the game’s best packs.

“I haven’t really thought about it being end of an era but I do want to finish on a good note with those fellas,” McLean said.

Hardwick expects big AFL game from Rance

Swingman Harry Taylor became one of the very few players to get the better of Alex Rance when Geelong extended their winning streak against Richmond to 13 games last month.


Ahead of Friday night’s massive qualifying final, Tigers’ coach Damien Hardwick is confident that lightning won’t strike twice.

With regular spearhead Tom Hawkins missing through suspension, Taylor went forward at Simonds Stadium back in round 21 and booted a match-winning four-goal haul opposing the four-time All-Australian defender.

“Champion players often respond,” Hardwick said on Thursday.

“I think I’ve seen (Rance) lose four one-on-one contests in his career and I I think three of them were on that day.

“Harry is a really good player as well, so we expect that similar match-up to occur.

“We learnt some lessons from that, Alex will certainly learn some lessons.

“He’s a very proud man.

“We know he’s got a role to play that’s important for us and if he plays that role it certainly increases our chances of winning.”

With Hawkins back in the Cats’ line-up, it is unclear where Geelong coach Chris Scott will choose to deploy Taylor at the MCG on Friday night.

Tom Lonergan is likely to get first crack at Richmond’s only genuine key forward Jack Riewoldt, so there is scope to again switch Taylor into attack.

The Tigers’ most recent finals victory was way back in 2001 against Carlton.

But Hardwick is confident the 2017 Richmond team, one he labelled “by far the best side I’ve coached”, is playing the type of hard-nosed, contested football which is tailor-made for September success.

“Defensively we are an incredible side,” he said.

“You look at our pressure numbers and our pressure rating and we haven’t performed like this before.

“Offensively we’ve allowed some things to happen and the players to play to their strengths which is great, but our one-wood is our defence and we know that.

“If we come to play with that sort of pressure and that sort of intensity we’re really hard to beat.”