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Your vote is to elect a humane PM, urges Stalin

The Chief Minister hit out at PM Modi for blaming Congress and DMK over the Sri Lankan Navy’s action against Tamil Nadu fishermen…reports Asian Lite News

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin urged the people to utilise their votes to elect a ‘humane Prime Minister’.

While addressing the voters in Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli, CM Stalin said that the people’s vote will decide if someone who respects the state and not hate the Tamilians becomes the PM.

The DMK leader was campaigning for the party’s candidates in Tirunelveli.

“Your vote is to elect a humane Prime Minister. If someone who respects Tamil Nadu and does not hate Tamils should become the Prime Minister, then it is in your hands. Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to lose the election for that. If Modi becomes Prime Minister again, they will ruin India by sowing seeds of hatred,” Stalin said.

“One central minister calls Tamils beggars, and another central minister calls Tamils terrorists. Why so much anger towards Tamils? They think that they can create hatred and division among the people and do politics. But it never happens,” he said.

The Chief Minister hit out at PM Modi for blaming Congress and DMK over the Sri Lankan Navy’s action against Tamil Nadu fishermen.

“There is no other Prime Minister in the history of India who has hated the people of Tamil Nadu as much as Prime Minister Modi. Prime Minister Modi has said that the Congress and DMK are responsible for the attack on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. I want to ask one thing. Who has ruled for decades? The Modi government watched silently when more than three thousand fishermen were arrested,” he said.

He further criticised the Prime Minister for not allotting relief funds for the state post-floods.

“A few days ago, Modi visited Tirunelveli and Kumari districts. But where were you when the flood came? Not a single rupee was given as a relief fund. It’s okay, even if you don’t give relief funds, have you consoled the people?” he said.

The Chief Minister further informed the state’s decision to approach the Supreme Court against the central government.

“We asked for compensation of Rs 37,000 crores to restore the flood-affected places, but it was not given. We are going to file a case in the Supreme Court against the central government, which is refusing to give us what we are asking for. I am announcing this publicly through this meeting,” CM Stalin said.

“We are seeing how the governor’s nose is cut off and the governor is sitting in that position without shame, dignity,. We are going to approach the court. (ANI)

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Imran Khan Votes from Adiala Jail via Postal Ballot

Only inmates with valid computerised national identity cards (CNICs) were allowed to vote, Dawn reported quoting jail authorities as saying…reports Asian Lite News

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf founder Imran Khan on Thursday cast his vote for the general elections by a postal ballot from Adiala Jail, local media reported.

Other incarcerated leaders who could vote included former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, former Punjab province chief minister Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid, and former information minister Fawad Chaudhry.

However, Khan’s wife, Bushra Bibi, could not vote as she was convicted and arrested after the completion of the postal voting process.

Only inmates with valid computerised national identity cards (CNICs) were allowed to vote, Dawn reported quoting jail authorities as saying.

In a post on X on Wednesday, PTI Central Information Secretary Raoof Hasan had said that former prime minister Khan had dedicated everything, including his life, to restore the country’s dignity, honour and sovereignty and ensure the welfare of people.

“As citizens of the country, we have a debt to pay. We must use our vote to change the face of Pakistan by dismantling a rotten system that has cast a vicious stranglehold on the country and its people,” Hasan said.

General Elections Begin Amid Tight Security

Polling for Pakistan general elections began on Thursday at 90,000 polling stations across the country amid tight security.

The polling began at 8:00 a.m. local time and will end at 5 p.m.

Minutes before polling began, mobile internet services were temporarily suspended across the country, Dawn reported.

“The step has been taken due to recent surge in terrorist activities,” the country’s interior ministry said,

Islamabad police said security is in place and polling stations are being manned since Wednesday morning.

Polling for the four provincial assemblies is being held on the same day.

Over 128 million people, or more than half of the country’s total population, are eligible to vote in the general elections.

Elections were to be held for 266 seats in the lower house, but the elections for one of the seats had been postponed due to the death of a candidate, according to the ECP.

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-Top News UK News

Tory dy chairmen resign over vote

In April 2022, the UK reached a deal with Rwanda, under which illegal immigrants and asylum seekers would be sent to the east African country to have their claims processed there…reports Asian Lite News

Two deputy chairmen of the British ruling Conservative Party have resigned as the lawmakers in the UK voted on amendments to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s emergency legislation on immigration.

Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith announced their resignations on Tuesday evening after voting in favour of an amendment to the legislation, Xinhua news agency reported.

They wrote in a joint letter to the Prime Minister regarding the amendments that “whilst our main wish is to strengthen the legislation, this means that in order to vote for amendments we will therefore need to offer you our resignations”.

In April 2022, the UK reached a deal with Rwanda, under which illegal immigrants and asylum seekers would be sent to the east African country to have their claims processed there. If successful, they would be granted permanent residency in Rwanda rather than being allowed to return to the UK.

However, the scheme has met with resistance. The first flight scheduled to take seven migrants to Rwanda in June 2022 was cancelled after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights. Two months ago, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that the government’s scheme was unlawful.

The British government later introduced emergency legislation that would override domestic and international human rights law, and Members of Parliament (MPs) voted in favour of the new bill last month.

On Tuesday, British lawmakers rejected amendments to the bill proposed by the Labour Party by 336 votes to 262. A main vote on the bill is expected on Wednesday.

Jane Stevenson, another Conservative MP, also offered her resignation as a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) over the vote on Tuesday evening.

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Around 3.5 mn overseas British citizens now eligible to vote

UK elections ignore the parties’ overall vote counts, instead electing lawmakers under the first-past-the-post system in 650 individual constituencies…reports Asian Lite News

An estimated 3.5 million Britons living overseas will from Tuesday be eligible to vote in UK general elections, in one of the biggest increases in the country’s electoral franchise in a century.

The expansion in the electorate follows a change in the law, approved by parliament in 2022, scrapping a previous curb on UK citizens voting if they had lived overseas for over 15 years.

Implemented ahead of an election set for later this year, it is the most significant change to the voter rolls since a 1928 law granted women equal voting rights, and a 1969 move to lower the voting age to 18 from 21.

Britons worldwide will now be able to register to vote online, regardless of how long they have been overseas.

Under UK election law, once registered they will also be permitted to donate to political parties and campaigners.

Around 233,000 overseas voters were registered for the last election in December 2019, a significant Brexit-attributed bump on the numbers seen in previous contests.

The government estimates Tuesday’s change could enfranchise around 3.5 million people — nearly treble the 1.3 million votes that was the winning margin in the 2016 referendum on European Union membership.

It is also greater than the difference in the vote totals for Britain’s two main parties — the Conservatives and Labour — in five of the last six general elections.

But UK elections ignore the parties’ overall vote counts, instead electing lawmakers under the first-past-the-post system in 650 individual constituencies.

It remains unclear how many of the newly eligible 3.5 million UK citizens living overseas will successfully register to vote. They will need to provide details of the address and time they were last registered to vote or living in Britain.

Local authorities, which are responsible for the electoral roll in their areas, must be able to verify an applicant’s identity and past connection to the area, according to the Electoral Commission. Unlike some countries, there is no provision for in-person voting overseas and all ballots have to be cast by post or by using a proxy in the UK.

The Electoral Commission is launching a publicity campaign and working with partner organisations to raise awareness of the rule change.

“We know there are eligible voters in every corner of the world so we’re calling on those with friends and family abroad to help spread the news,” communications director Craig Westwood said. Research by Britain’s Office for National Statistics suggests the largest numbers of British emigrants are in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and European Union member countries.

The election law change follows campaigning by various advocates, including the long-running “Votes for Life” campaign led by an overseas arm of the Conservatives.

Heather Harper, chair of the Conservatives Abroad group, said it put Britain on a par with the United States, France, Italy and New Zealand “in recognising the importance of their citizens worldwide”. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must call an election by January 2025 at the latest, and said earlier this month that his “working assumption” was to have the contest in the second half of this year.

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Visually impaired candidate denied right to contest, determined to fight  

Sabar wants to develop his village, Dabripada. He said, “The government has provided so many schemes that everyone can live comfortably…reports Darshan Sharma

The nomination of 40-year-old, visually impaired Shantilal Sabar, a candidate for the Sarpanch of Gandamer Gram Panchayat, Nuapada district, was rejected because he signed the nomination papers in Braille. This has triggered a demand for amendment in the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act and reservations for the differently-abled and highlighted the discrimination and insurmountable challenges faced by the community.

Three-tier panchayat elections are to be held in Odisha in five phases from February 16 to 24. On January 21, Sabar had filed his nomination. During the scrutiny on January 22, Election Officer cum Komna Block Development Officer (BDO) Sushant Rana cancelled his nomination, stating that a candidate who cannot read and write Odia is ineligible for the post of Sarpanch under section 11(b) of the Orissa Gram Panchayat Act 1964.

His case has also attracted the attention of the Odisha film industry (Ollywood), he said, and a few people have expressed interest in making a film based on his life. “They said they will visit me in my village soon,” said Sabar.

Without rhyme or reason

In 2012, the nomination of another visually impaired candidate, Golak Gauda from the Sanakhemundi block of Ganjam district, was rejected because he had placed a thumb impression instead of his signature. Sabar said that there was a call to amend the Act at that time; however, even after ten years, nothing has changed. The uproar only lasts during elections and fizzles out once the polls have concluded. Nevertheless, Sabar is determined to pursue his case and fight for reinstating his nomination.

Many visually impaired officers are employed across the nation despite their disability, including the IAS and IFS. Their contributions to the country, notwithstanding, Nuapada Sub Collector Taranisen Naik told The Hindu, “Shantilal’s nomination had been cancelled as he could not read and write Odia. A visually impaired candidate cannot hold a highly demanding post like a Sarpanch who has to handle a fund of almost Rs 1 crore. The work of Sarpanch requires multi-tasking. Under various government schemes, they have to go through hundreds of applications seeking houses, pensions, etc. Blind candidates may face problems in grievance redressal.”

The sub-collector’s statement disappointed Sabar. He said “When an officer has this perception of visually impaired people, how could the general public trust him? The treasury officer of the district is also visually impaired. He is doing his job well. If I become the Sarpanch, I will discharge my duties responsibly. I can do my job well with the advancement in technology with the help of screen reading software, scanners, etc. Also, it is in the guidelines that I can have a helper to assist me.”

Sabar wants to develop his village, Dabripada. He said, “The government has provided so many schemes that everyone can live comfortably. However, their benefits are not reaching the villages. If I become the Sarpanch, I will provide all the facilities available in towns in my Panchayat. My priorities are building proper roads, providing clean drinking water, a good mobile network and a public library. I will install a big screen in the village centre so that the villagers can be up-to-date with news and information.” He said that if elected Sarpanch, he would develop a model Panchayat in two years and set up a fund of one crore rupees towards the development of the village. Based on the success of his endeavour, he would then contest elections for the post of MP or MLA in 2024.

Living and dreaming beyond disabilities

Sabar has been blind since birth and has studied at a school for the visually impaired in Kalahandi district. He completed his tenth board examination in 2003 through correspondence conducted by the Board of Secondary Education, Odisha. He had scored 50 marks out of 100 in the Odia language in this exam. Due to personal reasons, he then had to discontinue his studies. However, he is currently pursuing his final year BA from IGNOU. In 2012, he started Samarth, an organisation in Gotia village, Kalahandi, which works for the upliftment of the visually impaired. They are currently working with about forty persons who are blind, helping them with skill development, technology access and training in music and handicrafts. They are also assisted in their chosen subject of studies. The organisation also has a manufacturing unit of phenyl, dish wash liquid, sanitiser and candles.

He has also contested the Panchayat elections in 2007 but was initially stopped from filing his nomination, for the same reason. The Election Officer cum BDO informed the higher officials of the Panchayati Raj Department, who had instructed the BDO to accept the nomination because of the candidate’s educational qualifications. Although Sabar had lost the 2007 election by nearly 200 votes, he did not lose his spirit. In 2012 and 2017, he wanted to contest elections again, but the post of Sarpanch was reserved for women. This time the seat is unreserved, and therefore, he had filed yet another nomination.

Demand for equal opportunities

Sabar has demanded that the Gandamer Panchayat elections be postponed and that he be given the opportunity to contest the elections this time. He said that differently-abled people were deprived of their rights by cancelling their nominations despite having necessary educational qualifications. He plans to approach the Odisha High Court with support from Odisha Blind Association and Odisha Viklang Manch, and initiate a district-wise protest.

In Sabar’s case, senior advocate and social activist Murlidhar Panda said, “The Gram Panchayat Act does not say that the candidate should only read and write the Odia alphabet. The defendant can read and write Odia in Braille. In Section 25 of the Act, it is not specified that a blind person can be disqualified for the post of Sarpanch. Under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, no person can be classified based on disability. The cancellation of his nomination is unconstitutional.”

The Odisha Viklang Manch has written a letter to the State Election Commission, Odisha Human Rights Commission and State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, demanding amendment in the disputed Act and immediate validation of Sabar’s nomination.

Sabar is hoping to set a precedent for all differently-abled candidates. He said, “I do not have any specific knowledge of the law, and due to my financial condition, there may be some problems in fighting the legal battle. However, if the verdict is in my favour, other people like me will also stand a chance in future.”

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8 countries lose vote right to vote at UN due to unpaid dues

Iran and Venezuela are among the eight countries whose rights to vote at the UN have been revoked due to unpaid dues…reports Asian Lite News

In his letter to the General Assembly on Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a total of 11 countries are behind in their payments, Paulina Kubiak, Spokesperson for Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, said at the daily press briefing.

Under Article 19 of the UN Charter, a member state in arrears in the payment of its dues in an amount that equals or exceeds the contributions due for two preceding years can lose its vote in the General Assembly, Xinhua news agency reported.

An exception is allowed if the member state can show that “conditions beyond its control” contributed to this inability to pay. The UN Chief added in his letter that this will be the case for the Comoro Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia in 2022.

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Iran, Sudan, Venezuela, Antigua and Barbuda, Congo, Guinea, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu are the eight countries that no longer have the right to vote, according to Guterres letter obtained by Xinhua.

For each of them to recover their vote, the UN Chief outlined the minimum amount they must pay. Iran needs $18.4 million and Venezuela $39.8 million, for instance.

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India abstains from vote on UNGA’s Myanmar resolution

India has been calling for greater engagement with the objective of peacefully resolving all issues…reports Asian Lite News.

India has abstained on a UN General Assembly resolution on Myanmar, saying its views have not been reflected in the draft and New Delhi does not believe the resolution, tabled hastily, is conducive to “aiding our joint efforts towards strengthening democratic process” in the country.

The UN General Assembly adopted the draft resolution ‘The situation in Myanmar” on Friday with 119 Member States voting in favour, including Myanmar while 36 nations abstained, including Myanmar’s neighbours – India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Laos, Nepal and Thailand. Russia also abstained.

Belarus was the sole country voting against it.

“This resolution was tabled in the UN General Assembly in a hasty manner without adequate consultations with neighbours and regional countries. This is not only unhelpful but may also prove counter-productive to the efforts of the ASEAN to find a solution to the current situation in Myanmar,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador TS Tirumurti said.

In the explanation of the vote in the General Assembly hall, Tirumurti said as Myanmar’s immediate neighbour and close friend of its people, India is cognizant of the “serious impact of political instability” and the potential of its spillover beyond Myanmar’s borders.

India has been calling for greater engagement with the objective of peacefully resolving all issues.

“We already have such an ongoing initiative under the aegis of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). It is important that we extend support to the ASEAN efforts,” Tirumurti said.

“During the discussions on this resolution, we had engaged in a spirit of finding a constructive and pragmatic way forward and had accordingly shared our suggestions to those who piloted this resolution. However, we find that our views have not been reflected in the draft being considered for adoption today. We would like to reiterate that a consultative and constructive approach involving the neighbouring countries and the region, remains important as the international community strives for the peaceful resolution of the issue,” Tirumurti said.

He emphasised that the fact that there is a lack of support from all neighbouring countries as well as several countries in the region itself “should, hopefully, serve as an eye-opener to those who chose to pursue a hasty course of action.

“We, therefore, do not believe that the tabling of this resolution for adoption at this juncture, is conducive to aiding our joint efforts towards strengthening the democratic process in Myanmar. We are therefore constrained to abstain,” Tirumurti said.

A demonstrator stacks bags on a street as a barricade during a demonstration against the military coup and the detention of civilian leaders in Myanmar(ians)

The resolution expressed “grave concern” at the February 1 coup and called upon Myanmar’s military junta to immediately and unconditionally release President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other government officials, politicians and those arbitrarily detained or arrested.

It also called “upon all Member States to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar”.

The resolution called on the Myanmar armed forces to end the state of emergency and respect all human rights of all the people of the country.

It also called on Myanmar to allow the sustained democratic transition, “including the opening of the democratically elected parliament and by working towards bringing all national institutions, including the armed forces, under a fully inclusive civilian government that is representative of the will of the people.”

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