Regional parties support Sangma for president *Kuwaiti parliament approves death penalty for blasphemy

May 18, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-lead

New Delhi, May 18, 2012: Sangma, a Catholic who has been campaigning for a tribal president, thanked the two parties for the decision.

Making a strong pitch for a tribal president, regional parties from the east and south have picked former Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma for the top post in India.

Chief Ministers of Odisha and Tamil Nadu, Naveen Patnaik of Biju Janata Dal and J Jayalalithaa, who met last week in Chennai, announced their support to the 65-year-old tribal leader from northeastern India.

“I think Mr Sangma ought to be candidate for …. Rashtrapati Bhavan,” Patnaik told reporters in Bhubhaneswar, adding he has had discussions with Jayalalithaa on the issue.

Later, Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) issued a statement in Chennai saying her party has decided to support the candidature of Sangma for the highest office after “due consideration.”

Recalling Sangma’s May 15 meeting with her, Jayalalithaa said he “not only belongs to a tribal community but is also eminently qualified to be the president of our great nation.”

Sangma, a Catholic who has been campaigning for a tribal president, thanked the two parties for the decision but Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar pleaded ignorance about the development.

“I am not aware of any such development. Sangma has not spoken to us. We have had no discussions. We feel that with such a limited strength, we cannot aspire for such a major post,” Pawar said.

Sangma himself said he was not lobbying as an NCP leader but in his personal capacity.

This is the first announcement by any political party to back a particular candidate for the presidential polls scheduled for July 25.

Parties like Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), Bahujan Samaj Party and Left parties are keeping their cards close to their chest.

When asked whether he will support any other tribal candidate, Sangma said he was not the only tribal who could be president. “Any one tribal. It can be (Tribal Affairs Minister) Kishore Chandra Deo, Arvind Netam (Congress), Kariya Munda (Bharitya Janata Party- BJP)…It has to be a tribal this time.”

“I am extremely grateful to both the leaders (Patnaik and Jayalalithaa). They have been very responsive to our (tribals) aspirations. So on behalf of tribals in India, which is more than 100 million, I would convey my sincere thanks to them,” he said.

He also appealed to other parties to follow suit and support the tribal cause.

In this case, he said, he was not representing NCP but the whole tribals.

“We belong to different political parties but we belong to tribal community. We are representing tribal community,” said.

Sangma’s own party has not taken any decision on what it proposes to do in the election.

Meanwhile, the former parliament speaker met the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha BJP’s Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley.

Senior party leaders said Sangma does not fit the bill as far as BJP is concerned and hence it is highly unlikely that it will support the tribal leader from Meghalaya.


Kuwaiti parliament approves death penalty for blasphemy


Kuwait, May 09, 2012: Kuwait’s Islamist-dominated parliament has passed a bill that would make insulting key Islamic figures and the Quran punishable by death.

The amendment, intended to strengthen the country’s existing blasphemy legislation, gained overwhelming support in the second – and final – vote on 3 May. It will now go to Kuwait’s ruler, Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, for approval before becoming law.

Under the draft, cursing the god of Islam, Muhammad, his wives, other key Islamic figures, and the Quran become capital offences for Muslims. Non-Muslims who commit the same offence face a jail term of at least ten years.

Defendants who repent in court will have their sentence reduced to five years in prison and/or a fine of $36,000.

MP Ali al-Deqbasi said:

We do not want to execute people with opinions or thoughts because Islam respects these people… But we need this legislation because incidents of cursing God have increased. We need to deter them.

Kuwaiti MPs proposed the death penalty for blasphemy following the arrest of Hamad al-Naqi in March for allegedly cursing Muhammad, his wife and some of his Companions on Twitter.

“Massive step backwards”

The bill has been condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights groups. Amnesty said it “would be a massive step backwards” and “a flagrant breach of the country’s international human rights obligations”.

Under international law, Amnesty added, “religious” offences do not fall under the category of “most serious crimes”, the minimum threshold prescribed for crimes carrying the death penalty.

Defamation of religion is already prohibited in Kuwait and currently carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine.

Such a dramatic increase in the severity of the punishment for the offence is the latest hard-line measure to be put forward by the Islamist-led parliament. Since gaining a majority in snap parliamentary elections in February, a coalition of Islamists, al-Adala (Justice) Bloc, has made a number of moves to strengthen Islam. 

A law to prevent the construction of new churches and other non-Islamic places of worship has been proposed, as have constitutional changes to impose sharia. These concerning developments take the country in a similar direction to that of neighbouring Saudi Arabia, where there is no freedom of religion and the government does not allow the public practice of any un-Islamic religion. 

Kuwait is over 80 per cent Muslim but has a sizeable Christian community, most of whom are expatriates, comprising nearly 14 per cent of the population. The Kuwaiti Church already faces numerous restrictions, and its freedom looks set to be further curtailed by the al-Adala (Justice) Bloc.

– barnabas team

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