- South Korea Parliament Votes to Impeach President Park Geun-hye
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s Parliament voted on Friday to impeach President Park Geun-hye, an aloof conservative who took a hard line against North Korea and rose to power with strong support from those who revered her father, the military dictator Park Chung-hee.
The vote against Ms. Park, the nation’s first female leader, followed weeks of damaging disclosures in a corruption scandal that has all but paralyzed the government and produced the largest street protests in the nation’s history. Her powers will now be suspended as the Constitutional Court considers whether to remove her from office.
Ms. Park has been accused of allowing a shadowy confidante, the daughter of a religious sect leader, to exercise remarkable influence on matters ranging from choosing top government officials to her wardrobe, and of helping her extort tens of millions of dollars from South Korean companies. The scandal, which gained national attention less than two months ago, has cast a harsh light on collusion between the presidency and big business in one of Asia’s most dynamic economies.
A total of 234 lawmakers voted for impeachment, well over the required two-thirds threshold in the 300-seat Parliament. The vote was by secret ballot, but the outcome indicated that nearly half of the 128 lawmakers in Ms. Park’s party, Saenuri, had joined the opposition in moving to oust her.
Parliament’s motion for impeachment, accusing Ms. Park of “extensive and serious violations of the Constitution and the law,” will now be taken up by the Constitutional Court, which has six months to decide whether the charges are true and merit her ouster.
Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, a former prosecutor and staunch defender of Ms. Park, will serve as acting president in the meantime. If the court votes to remove Ms. Park, South Korea will hold an election for a new president in 60 days.
The political turmoil ushers in a period of uncertainty as South Korea faces a slowing economy, a growing nuclear threat from North Korea and a more assertive China. Ms. Park had adopted a tough stance toward the North, focusing on stronger sanctions, and had agreed to deploy an American advanced missile defense system that infuriated the Chinese.
Her unpopularity increases the chances of a liberal candidate winning the next election, possibly upending her North Korea approach and steering the country closer to China.
Domestically, her undoing provides the latest example of how corruption and influence-peddling remain entrenched at the top echelons of political and corporate life in South Korea.
The nexus of industry and political power has fueled South Korea’s transformation from a war-torn agrarian country into a global economic powerhouse, yet the ties between government and business have yielded recurring corruption scandals.
Ms. Park, 64, came to power in early 2013, backed mostly by older Koreans who had hoped she would be a contemporary version of her father, often viewed as the modernizer of South Korea.
Instead, she became the least popular leader since the country began democratizing in the late 1980s, according to recent polls. Critics said she was authoritarian and used state power to muzzle critics while shielded by a coterie of advisers.
The vote for impeachment in the National Assembly, South Korea’s Parliament, was a victory both for the opposition and the huge crowds of South Koreans who filled central Seoul for the past six weekends demanding that she resign immediately or face impeachment. Recent surveys showed that a vast majority of South Koreans agreed with the demonstrators.
“It is a victory of the people’s will and Korea’s democracy,” said Kang Won-taek, a professor of political science at Seoul National University. “It is Korea’s glorious revolution, achieved without blood and without any serious violence.”
The last time South Koreans took to the streets to kick out an unpopular leader, in 1960, they had to fight bloody battles with police officers armed with rifles.
That uprising forced Syngman Rhee, the country’s founding and authoritarian president, to resign and flee into exile in Hawaii. Vice President Lee Ki-poong, a Rhee confidant who was at the center of a corruption scandal, and his family ended their lives in a group suicide as mobs approached their home in Seoul.
In subsequent decades, when South Koreans demanded more democracy, their military dictators, including Ms. Park’s father, brutally suppressed them through martial law, torturing and even executing their leaders.
In 1987, violence erupted again as people took to the streets to demand free presidential elections, forcing the military government to back down.
This time, in a sign of how far South Korea’s democracy has matured, peaceful crowds achieved their goal without a single arrest. Increasingly large numbers of protesters gathered in the capital, including about 1.7 million people on Saturday — the largest protest in South Korean history.
The protesters sang and danced to rock music and put flower stickers on police buses. They marched, some pushing baby carriages, while uniformed officers stood aside. And they neared Ms. Park’s presidential compound, chanting that she should step down immediately or face impeachment.
Ms. Park became the first South Korean president to suffer such a fate since 2004, when the National Assembly moved to impeach Roh Moo-hyun for violating election law. Two months later, the Constitutional Court ruled that Mr. Roh’s offense was too minor to justify impeachment and restored him to office. But Ms. Park faces much more serious accusations.
Still, it is difficult to predict when and how the Constitutional Court will rule on Ms. Park’s fate. The process will buy time for Ms. Park’s embattled party to recover from the scandal and prepare for the next presidential election if the court decides to formally unseat her.
If a liberal candidate wins the next election, the plan for the American missile deployment could be in trouble. Although none of the politicians cited as potential presidential candidates has specified that they would reverse the plan if elected, liberals have criticized the deployment, saying that South Korea should pursue a more balanced diplomacy between Washington and Beijing.
That may present a challenge for the incoming administration of Donald J. Trump, as he deliberates over whether to adjust Washington’s approach toward North Korea’s advancing nuclear-missile program.
Ms. Park joins the ranks of South Korean leaders who have been disgraced near the end of their terms, with their relatives or aides implicated in corruption scandals. An exception was Ms. Park’s father, who was assassinated in 1979 at the height of his dictatorial power and before anyone dared to bring corruption charges against him.
His and subsequent governments had favored a handful of family-owned conglomerates with tax benefits, lucrative business licenses and buy-Korea and anti-labor policies. In return, the businesses were accused of returning the favors with bribes and suspicious donations.
Through the years, top corporations have been rocked by recurring corruption scandals, including the one that implicated Ms. Park and her confidante, Choi Soon-sil.
In 1988, business tycoons were hauled into a parliamentary hearing to be questioned about millions of dollars they gave to a foundation controlled by the military dictator Chun Doo-hwan.
The scene repeated this week, when nine business leaders, including Jay Y. Lee, the vice chairman of Samsung, and Chung Mong-koo, the Hyundai chairman, appeared at another parliamentary hearing to be questioned about millions of dollars they gave to two foundations controlled by Ms. Choi.
Ms. Choi has been indicted on charges of leveraging her influence with Ms. Park to extort the money from the businesses. Prosecutors have also identified Ms. Park as a criminal suspect, a first for a president, though she cannot be indicted while in office.
The businessmen admitted giving the money, confirming that the requests had come directly from Ms. Park or her aides.
Hur Chang-soo, chairman of GS Group and the head of the Federation of Korean Industries, the pro-business lobby group that coordinated the donations, put the situation this way: “It is difficult for businesses to say no to a request from the government. That’s the reality in South Korea.”
Nigeria Immigration Service Reopens Portal With New Passport Application and Payment Process
The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has announced the reopening of its passport application and payment portal.
The assistant comptroller of immigration, Mr Amos Okpu announced in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.
In the statement, Mr Muhammad Babandede, the Comptroller-General of the service, said the portal became effective for new applications from 12 midnight on Tuesday.
Babandede further said that the portal would allow eligible applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of passports of their choice.
Mr Muhammad Babandede explained that with the reopening of the portal, a new passport application and payment regime had begun.
The statement in full:
“The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (CGI), Muhammad Babandede MFR, has announced the reopening of the Passport application and payment portal effective 8th June 2021 by 12 midnight to allow eligible Passport applicants to apply and make payments for the various categories of Passports of their choice.
The Passport portal was closed following the directives of the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola on the 17th of May, 2021to afford the Service the opportunity to clear all backlogs of applications that have piled up across Issuing Centres in the past few months.
With the reopening of the portal, a new Passport application and payment regime have commenced. Under the new Passport regime;
Applications and payments for Passport services shall be made through the Service website www.immigration.gov.ng;
- applicants are expected to visit the portal to apply and upload their support documents for vetting and processing;
- a chat room facility to guide applicants through the application and payment process has been provided on the portal;
- upon successful applications, applicants shall make their online booking interview/enrollment appointment on any day, time and location they consider convenient;
- that the new timeline for Passport production and issuance after a successful enrollment at the selected Issuing Centre shall be six weeks for Fresh applications and three weeks for Re-issue (Renewal applications);
- that no applicant who is yet to make an online application and payment shall be allowed into any of the Passport Issuing Centres for Passport processing;
- applicants will be contacted through email and phone number they provided during application when their Passports are ready;
- a helpline with the number 08021819988 has been provided for feedback mechanism on any challenges.
The Comptroller General, Muhammad Babandede MFR wishes to use this medium to call on Nigerians and indeed Passport applicants to avoid patronizing touts as the entire process has been made seamless for effective and efficient service delivery. He warned Passport racketeers to desist from acts capable of undermining the reform efforts to avoid very strict sanctions.
Signed AMOS OKPU MNIPR
ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER OF IMMIGRATION
SERVICE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER
For: COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF IMMIGRATION 8TH JUNE, 2021″
INEC To Publish The List Of New Polling Units Next Week
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has pledged to publish a comprehensive list of its new polling units across the nation next week.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed this on Monday in Abuja.
Yakubu was speaking at the formal handing over of a new state of the art fire truck, deployed to the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja by the Federal Fire Service (FFS).
He said that details of the locations of its registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration for resumption of nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) would be made available in the second week of May.
He expressed appreciation of the commission to the FFS and all security agencies for the demonstration of their support to protecting INEC facilities
He said that the support was coming on the eve of the resumption of the CVR nationwide in the next three weeks.
“We earlier assured Nigerians that we shall conclude work on the expansion of voter access to polling units and make the new polling units available to citizens ahead of the CVR exercise.
“I am glad to report that we have accomplished this task for the first time in 25 years.
“A comprehensive list of the new polling units will be published next week.
“Similarly, details of the locations of the registration centers and the procedure for the commencement of online registration will also be made available after a series of regular consultative meetings with stakeholders next week,” Yakubu said.
He said that as a member of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) FFS had been as concerned as other security agencies about the recent attacks on our offices across the country.
“This is particularly so because out of the 42 attacks on our facilities nationwide, 18 incidents resulted from arson and three more by a combination of arson and vandalisation.”
Yakubu recalled that concerned by those incidents, the commission convened an emergency meeting of ICCES last week of April, where the security agencies renewed their determination to collaborate more with the commission.
According to him, they pledged to assist the commission address the challenge beyond the routine protection of INEC assets and the security of its officials, voters, observers, the media, candidates and their agents during elections.
“On its part, the Federal Fire Service offered to deploy an additional state-of-the-art fire engine to the INEC headquarters to complement the two existing trucks.
“At the same time, it directed its state offices to take additional protective measures around other INEC facilities nationwide.
“Today’s inauguration of the new fire engine is another affirmation of the support to the commission from the FFS whose personnel, already deployed permanently to the commission
“The personnel will continue to operate and maintain the fire engines and other firefighting equipment installed by INEC,” Yakubu said.
Speaking earlier, the Controller-General (CG) of FFS, Alhaji Liman Ibrahim said the deployment of the firefighting truck was premised on recent fire attacks on INEC offices in different parts of the country.
Ibrahim, represented by the Assistant Controller-General of the service, Mr Samson Karebo, said the deployed truck would serve as fire cover for the premises of INEC headquarters and the entire Maitama vicinity of Abuja.
“The FFS is taking this step as a proactive measure to protect our critical infrastructure and help to protect our economy by forming synergy with all stakeholders in protecting our environments.
“Our center is focused on bringing firefighting operations to every part of the country as part of our statutory duties by having a presence in virtually every state in Nigeria
“The FFS will very soon be moving into all senatorial headquarters in the country. That is how we want to operate for now so that we can touch every corner of this country,” Ibrahim said.
He called for the cooperation of all for the service to better serve the nation by not molesting FFS staff in the line of duty.
In his remarks, the National Security Adviser (NSA) retired Maj.-Gen. Babagana Monguno, who is also Co-Chair of ICCES, described the deployment of the truck as a demonstration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to sustain Nigeria’s democracy and address insecurity.
Monguno said that the gesture also symbolised commitment to a clear affirmation of Buhari toward protecting institutions of government, toward securing their property, toward fighting acts of irresponsibility, vandalisation and outright criminality.
“The President is determined as much as he can within the confines of legality to suppress any kind of criminality and destruction of public property.
“This is something that he is determined to do regardless of whatever the challenges are.
“He will apply all the resources in his disposal in his capacity as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to ensure the wider Nigerian society is safe, stable and is allowed to carry out its legitimate undertaking, free from any act of insecurity,” he said
Monguno urged all other security agencies not to relent in ensuring that they continued to protect lives and property.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Usman Baba pledged commitment to security agencies to work with INEC and protect INEC’s facilities, citizens’ life and property.
Also at the occasion was the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, represented by Director of Joint Services, Mr Peter Obodo; as well as the representative of Director-General, Directorate of State Services, Tony Adikweruka.
Recovered Assets: Ad-hoch Committee Gives Emefiele, Others 72 Hours Ultimatum
The House of Representatives ad-hoc committee, investigating recovered assets, has given the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno, 72 hours to appear before it.
The committee also issued same ultimatum to the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali, and the Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh.
The summon was issued on Monday, after Mr Emefiele and the others failed to appear before the committee.
The government officials had sent representatives, but the committee chairman, Adejoro Adeogun (APC, Ondo), said they failed to forward letters to that effect.
He said allowing representatives without a proper letter of introduction would be akin to allowing “impersonators.”
“You are indirectly insulting the House of Representatives. You are undermining the House of Representatives,” an angry Mr Adeogun said.
Moving a motion to give the agencies 72hours to appear before the committee, Ibrahim Isiaka (APC, Ogun), said the agencies created by Acts of the parliament “should not be undermining the parliament”.
The motion was unanimously adopted by the committee.
Mr Isiaka suggested that the House should shut down its activities if the agencies fail to appear before them.
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