During the debates in Parliament this week, several Parliamentary Questions were put regarding the Metro Express project to the Minister of Land, Public Transport and Infrastructure. One was in regard to the Beau Bassin roundabout, whether ‘a Traffic Impact Assessment has been carried out to assess the impact of additional traffic likely to be generated thereat by the Metro Express Project?’ Another one was about ‘where matters stand as to the (a) proposed construction of a jogging and leisure park in Ebène in replacement of the Promenade Roland Armand, and (b) identification of an alternative site for the Jardin Bijoux in Beau Bassin–Rose Hill?
The one of particular interest to us is, ‘whether, in regard to the Free Public Transport Scheme, he will state if consideration is being given for the application thereof to the elderly and to persons with disabilities when travelling in the Metro Express and, if not, indicate if consideration will be given thereto?’
The Minister replied as follows: ‘As I stated in my reply to Parliamentary Question B/134 on 04 April 2017, the Free Travel Scheme (FTS) was introduced in 2005 with a view to providing free public transport to students of primary, secondary and tertiary students for their educational needs as well as to old aged pensioners and disabled persons for their personal needs. This scheme has been maintained since then and today students can travel free of charge on the journey between their residence and their educational institution on school days. Old aged and disabled persons are allowed to travel free of charge without any restriction.
I am informed that since its introduction, Government has been compensating bus operators in Mauritius and Rodrigues for the loss of revenue incurred as a result of the implementation of the scheme which cost some Rs 1.2 billion to Government annually. The compensatory mechanism is being completely re-engineered to make it more transparent and bring in more accountability.
The Government, in line with its philosophy of improving the life of its citizens, will maintain the free travel scheme for the Metro Express Project. Old aged and disabled persons will be allowed to travel free of charge whilst students will be provided with the opportunity of travelling free of charge on the journey between their residence and their educational institution on school days. Special features will be considered in the design of stations and urban terminals for the elderly and disabled.’
This assurance is a comfort to the elderly and disabled, especially the special features that will be factored into the design of stations and urban terminal. We lag far behind in provisions for these two categories, the disabled in particular, in our public infrastructure and buildings, and it is high time for the government to pass the appropriate legislation in this regard for all future construction. And if possible, as a humanitarian gesture perhaps all existing buildings – both public and private – should be considered for retrofitting so as to meet the needs of the elderly and disabled. We hope that this appeal will not fall on deaf ears.
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Amnesty International report on massacre of Hindus in Myanmar
Writing in The Independent Online UK on 22nd May 2018, Jeremy B White from San Francisco comments on an Amnesty International Report which has given explicit details about the massacre of Hindus, also from the Rohingya community by sadly, their fellow Rohingyas who form part of a militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), whose leader was born in Bangladesh and trained in Saudi Arabia.
Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director of Amnesty International in a statement remarked: ‘It’s hard to ignore the sheer brutality of ARSA’s actions, which have left an indelible impression on the survivors we’ve spoken to.’
The Amnesty International Report released on 22nd May 2018 is titled: ‘Myanmar: New evidence reveals Rohingya armed group massacred scores in Rakhine State’. The report is based on a detailed investigation carried out by Amnesty International, and included dozens of interviews conducted there and across the border in Bangladesh
‘A Rohingya armed group brandishing guns and swords is responsible for at least one, and potentially a second, massacre of up to 99 Hindu women, men, and children as well as additional unlawful killings and abductions of Hindu villagers in August 2017, Amnesty International revealed today after carrying out a detailed investigation inside Myanmar’s Rakhine State, as well as photographic evidence analyzed by forensic pathologists.
‘According to Tirana Hassan, ‘Our latest investigation on the ground sheds much-needed light on the largely under-reported human rights abuses by ARSA during northern Rakhine State’s unspeakably dark recent history,’ adding that ‘accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State.’
The report gives chilling and heart-rending accounts of massacres of Hindus that took place, such as in Kha Maung Seik village and on the outskirts of the neighbouring village of Ye Bauk Kyar, as well as documents ARSA’s involvement in other killings and violent attacks against members of other ethnic and religious communities.
‘At around 8 a.m. on 25 August 2017, ARSA attacked the Hindu community in the village of Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik, in a cluster of villages known as Kha Maung Seik in northern Maungdaw Township. At the time of the attack, the Hindu villagers lived in close proximity to Rohingya villagers, who are predominantly Muslim. Rakhine villagers, who are predominantly Buddhist, also lived in the same area.’
This is part of the Report: ‘Armed men dressed in black and local Rohingya villagers in plain clothes rounded up dozens of Hindu women, men and children. They robbed, bound, and blindfolded them before marching them to the outskirts of the village, where they separated the men from the women and young children. A few hours later, the ARSA fighters killed 53 of the Hindus, execution-style, starting with the men. Eight Hindu women and eight of their children were abducted and spared, after ARSA fighters forced the women to agree to “convert” to Islam.’
‘In this brutal and senseless act, members of ARSA captured scores of Hindu women, men, and children and terrorized them before slaughtering them outside their own villages. The perpetrators of this heinous crime must be held to account,’ said Tirana Hassan.
The Report also mentions that ‘At a UN Security Council meeting last week, Myanmar’s permanent representative criticized some in the UN for only listening to “one side” of the story and failing to acknowledge abuses committed by ARSA.
It is pertinent to underline Amnesty International’s observation that ‘At the time of the unlawful killings, none of the victims were armed or endangering the lives of ARSA fighters or other Rohingya.’
The Amnesty International Report concludes that ‘no atrocities can justify the massacre, abductions, and other abuses committed by ARSA against the Hindu community, as documented in this briefing.’ It refers to the restrictions placed by the Myanmar government on granting access, but that ‘despite the restrictions, Amnesty International has now determined that ARSA fighters are responsible for the unlawful killing and abduction of members of the Hindu community in northern Rakhine State. These are serious crimes and abuses of human rights. They should be investigated by a competent body, and where sufficient, admissible evidence is found, those responsible should be held to account before independent civilian courts, in trials which meet international standards of fairness and which do not impose the death penalty.’
The concerned and competent national and international authorities must now act on Amnesty International’s Report.
* Published in print edition on 25 May 2018
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