Noble selected as leader
Nuku‘alofa’s first popularly elected parliament selected a noble as prime minister-designate yesterday, edging out a pro-democracy activist in a victory for conservatives. After almost a month of horse-trading and alliance building following the Nov. 26 ballot, Lord Tu’ivakano was named prime minister in waiting by interim parliamentary speaker Lord Tupou. Tu’ivakano won support from 14 of the 26 politicians in the new parliament, beating his only rival, veteran pro-democracy campaigner Akilisi Pohiva, whose Friendly Islands Democratic Partyholds 12 seats.
Paid holidays decreased
President Benigno Aquino III yesterday cut the number of paid holidays next year amid complaints from foreign business groups unhappy over mounting overtime pay. “The point, number one, is to pay the proper respects, and number two it reduces disruptions on the economy,” he told reporters in Manila after decreeing that only 16 public holidays should be observed next year, down from 21 this year. He said the country tended to go off work even when it was not observing religious holidays or the death anniversaries of heroes, such as when a regular working Friday or Monday is sandwiched between a holiday and the weekend.
Storms take toll on sailors
Forty-seven sailors were missing, most of them from a cargo ship and a fishing vessel, and six others were confirmed dead after storms hit the South China Sea, officials said yesterday. A source at the national search and rescue center said 20 fishermen were missing and presumed dead after their boat overturned on Friday. The officials quoted the only survivor of the accident as saying none of the sailors was able to put on a life jacket. Another 23 missing seamen belonged to the Phu Tan container ship that capsized and sank on Thursday about 185km west of Sanya city on China’s Hainan island.
Gay Muslim cautious
A Muslim gay man in Kuala Lumpur who posted an Internet video to speak about his sexuality says he is taking safety precautions and consulting a lawyer after being hit by death threats and government accusations that he had insulted Islam. Azwan Ismail’s clip, titled “I’m Gay, I’m OK,” has been viewed more than 140,000 times on YouTube in just six days. It features him encouraging other gays to be confident and hope for change in this Muslim-majority country, where sodomy is punishable by 20 years in prison.
‘Prisoner’ sentenced to jail
An elderly man has been sentenced to four years in jail for lying about being a prisoner of war in order to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension payments. Judge Marshall Irwin of the Brisbane District Court on Tuesday said 84-year-old Arthur Crane would be released after six months on a good behavior bond. Crane claimed he was captured and tortured by the Japanese during World War II. In reality, he had never served in the military. Before his lies were uncovered last year, Crane claimed nearly A$690,000 (US$687,560) in war pension and disability payments. He was not entitled to A$464,409 of that amount and has been ordered to repay the money. Crane pleaded guilty to defrauding the Commonwealth.
Big quake topples villages
A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck the southeast late on Monday, wrecking villages, bringing down power lines, and killing up to seven people and injuring hundreds more, media reports said yesterday. The quake was followed by more than 30 tremors, including one of magnitude 5, the Mehr news agency said, quoting the geophysics department of Tehran University. Mild tremors continued into yesterday near the epicenter of the main quake near the town of Hosseinabad in Kerman Province. “Considering the damage, the death toll is expected to rise,” Mehr quoted Kerman Governor Esmail Najjar as saying. Nearly two dozen villages were partially or completely destroyed, the reports said.