Asia Briefs: Mahathir quizzed as political tensions rise

Mahathir quizzed as political tensions rise

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysian police yesterday questioned former leader Mahathir Mohamad over his alleged insults of a seafaring ethnic group when he attacked Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Political tensions are rising ahead of elections, with Tun Dr Mahathir - who was premier for 22 years - gearing up to take on Datuk Seri Najib. Elections must be called by August.

At a rally in October against a massive financial scandal embroiling the government, Dr Mahathir had said Mr Najib was descended from "Bugis pirates".

The comments sparked anger among the Bugis community and, last month, the Sultan of Selangor called for Dr Mahathir to face a sedition probe as the remarks insulted the Sultan's family, who claim descent from the ethnic group.


Japan court rules against reactor restart

TOKYO • A Japanese court yesterday ordered Shikoku Electric Power not to restart one of its reactors, overturning a lower court decision and throwing into turmoil Japan's protracted return to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster.

The decision by the High Court in Hiroshima in western Japan has no immediate effect on Shikoku Electric's operations because the reactor in question has been idled for maintenance, but it casts into doubt any restart.

The ruling also marks a victory for Japan's anti-nuclear movement, which has won a number of lawsuits seeking to halt or prevent nuclear operations in recent years, only to see them overturned by more conservative higher courts.


Pakistan orders 10 aid groups to close

ISLAMABAD • Pakistan has told at least 10 foreign-funded aid groups to close, an umbrella agency said yesterday, including a charity founded by hedge fund billionaire and philanthropist George Soros.

Pakistan has toughened its stance towards domestic and international non-governmental groups in recent years, accusing some of espionage.

A representative of the Pakistan Humanitarian Forum, which represents 63 international aid groups, said the Ministry of Interior had issued 10 of its members "letters of rejection", meaning their applications to register had been rejected.

The forum did not identify the 10 groups but two international groups, the Pakistani branch of Mr Soros' charity the Open Society Foundations, and ActionAid, said they had been told they had to close.


Bangladesh arrests cleric over fatwa

DHAKA • A Muslim cleric accused of issuing a fatwa banning women from working on farms has been arrested in Bangladesh, police said yesterday.

The imam and five mosque officials face charges after their announcement prompted locals in the western town of Kumarkhali to try to prevent women from going to work in the fields.

"They took the decision after prayers on Friday, banning women from going out of their homes," local police chief Abdul Khaleque said.

Bangladesh is officially secular, but Muslim clerics are hugely influential, particularly in the more socially conservative rural areas of the country.

Fatwas were banned in 2001, but the nation's highest court in 2011 ruled that they could be issued on personal and religious matters if they did not impose physical punishment.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2017, with the headline 'Asia Briefs'. Print Edition | Subscribe