Mayors ask Ban to aid nuke ban treaty

The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday to hand over about 210,000 signatures of citizens calling for negotiations on a treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

The signatures were collected over the past year by Mayors of Peace in 6,000 cities all over the world, including the two cities the United States A-bombed during the war in August 1945.

During the meeting at U.N. headquarters in New York, Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue also made a written request for Ban to play a leading role in giving birth to the nuclear ban treaty at an early date.

In the request, Matsui and Taue stressed nuclear weapons are “the ultimate inhumane weapons and an absolute evil.”

“Hiroshima and Nagasaki were reduced to ruins, in both cases by a single atomic bomb, and more than 210,000 people from the two cities lost their precious lives,” the mayors said. “Even today, many A-bomb survivors still struggle with radiation aftereffects.”

According to Matsui, Ban said municipal governments play extremely important roles in tackling nuclear problems. In response, the Hiroshima mayor expressed hope that the U.N. chief will ask leaders of member countries to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“If lawmakers of each country visit A-bombed sites and think of the importance of lives beyond state boundaries, people’s determination to abolish nuclear weapons would be strengthened,” Matsui said.


Lam points to meeting of minds on election reform

Lam points to meeting of minds on election reform

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Acting chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor says a couple of the points in the Bar Association’s views on how elections should run match the administration’s thinking.

Speaking ahead of the weekly Executive Council meeting, Lam noted that the association believes only members of the nominating committee can put up candidates for the chief executive election.

“This point is consistent with our secretary for justice’s article, which stated that civil nomination or nominations by political parties do not comply with the Basic Law,” she said.

The association also said any proposal to add the entire electorate to the nominating committee would violate the Basic Law.


“This is because it would not comply with the principle of being broadly representative,” Lam remarked.

Lam went on to point out that officials are still studying the composition of the nominating committee, the electoral base, the number of candidates and whether there should be a ceiling.

But Lam did not address the Bar Association’s remarks about a “love country, love Hong Kong” requirement for chief executive being highly questionable as a matter of law.

She did say that submissions in the first phase of consultations on reform point to people wanting the “one person, one vote” system for electing the chief executive while complying with the Basic Law and decisions of the National People’s Congress.

In the second phase, she added, the administration will weigh such views in offering its own ideas.

The first phase of consultation closes on Saturday. KELLY IP

Canadian aid group accused of helping Hamas branded as ‘terrorist’

TORONTO – A Canadian organization that provided humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has been formally branded a terrorist group before the start of a court battle over the revocation of its charitable status.

In a letter to the International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy, the RCMP said the federal government had added the group to a list of “terrorist entities” as of April 24.

“IRFAN is now classified as a ‘terrorist group’ under Canadian law,” the letter from Supt. Stephane Bonin states.

“As a consequence, any property or asset belonging to IRFAN is now frozen.”

The letter offers no reason for the listing decision but Canada Revenue Agency has said the organization supported Hamas, itself branded as a terrorist organization.

A statement Tuesday from Public Affairs Minister Steven Blaney noted CRA’s contention — which was to be argued in court next week — that IRFAN provided aid to groups run by officials of, or who supported Hamas.

IRFAN, based in Mississauga, Ont., sent about $14.6 million in resources to “various organizations associated with Hamas” between 2005 and 2009, the statement said.

The non-profit IRFAN was due in Federal Court of Appeal on May 6 to contest a 2011 CRA decision to revoke its charitable status because of its alleged ties to Hamas and failure to keep proper records.

No one for IRFAN was available to comment, but a lawyer speaking for the group condemned the listing as an attack on humanitarian support for Palestinians.

IRFAN did not know the terrorist listing was in the works and had no opportunity to respond or offer its side of the story, Ottawa-based lawyer Yavar Hameed said in an interview.

There’s no evidence the group did any direct funding of Hamas, he said.

“This listing happens days before we are to present arguments for the first time to the Federal Court of Appeal, so we’re very concerned about the timing with which this listing happens which completely undermines any ability for this organization to work as a charity,” Hameed said.

“On its face, we believe it is an unfair and unconstitutional decision that has been taken.”

Hameed also said the listing was a “nail in the coffin” for Canadian humanitarian support for “orphans and destitute” Palestinians and wondered if the decision was politically motivated.

Even acting for IRFAN as a lawyer puts him in a “tenuous” position because any support for the group could be seen to run afoul of the Criminal Code, he said, adding it is only the second time a Canadian domestic organization has been listed as terrorist group.

Blaney’s statement noted “severe penalties” are in place for those who run afoul of the listing law.

“Canada will not tolerate terrorist activities including the financing of terrorist groups,” Blaney said.

“IRFAN-Canada has knowingly financed Hamas, a listed terrorist entity, for many years.”

In revoking its charitable status that followed two audits over 10 years, CRA referred to unproven suggestions from the U.S. government that IRFAN had ties to an Hamas-linked American aid group.

It also claims IRFAN “repeatedly misrepresented its fundraising activities to the public” and that the revocation decision was fair and legal.

It was not immediately clear whether the Federal Court of Appeal case against CRA had been rendered moot by Ottawa’s listing decision.