- South Korean Ex-president Park Interrogated by Prosecutors
South Korea’s ousted president Park Geun-Hye was questioned by prosecutors Tuesday about the corruption and abuse of power scandal that brought her down, after using executive privilege to avoid them for months while in office.
Park apologised to the public as she arrived at the prosecutors’ office in Seoul, adding: “I will undergo the investigation sincerely.”
The nation’s first female president was impeached by parliament in December as millions took to the streets to demand her removal over the sprawling scandal, which has exposed the links between politics and business in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.
Her dismissal was confirmed by the country’s top court earlier this month, ending the political career of a woman who grew up in the presidential palace as the daughter of army-backed dictator Park Chung-Hee.
As a private citizen once again, Park’s convoy drove at walking pace through crowds of flag-waving supporters lining the street outside her home — some of them lying on the pavement to try to block her exit before she left.
Every inch of the journey was covered live on television, with cameramen trailing the vehicles in cars and on motorcycles and at fixed points along the route.
Questioning by prosecutors is a key step in South Korea’s judicial process before a suspect is charged. It can last for many hours, late into the night, and can be repeated if officials deem it necessary.
Park faced two prosecutors and an investigator and was accompanied by one of her lawyers, but standard procedure bars him from interjecting, only allowing consultations during rest breaks — which could be an issue for her.
The 65-year-old has a reputation for fastidiousness and as president reportedly refused to use toilets that had been employed by others.
She had a packed lunch of seaweed rice rolls and sandwiches brought by one of her security guards, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.
“She has been cooperating well,” it quoted a prosecutor as saying, adding she would return home after the questioning.
The interrogators were addressing her as “Madam president”, he added, but in the transcript she was referred to as “suspect”.
– Secret confidante –
Park faces multiple charges ranging from abuse of power and coercion to bribery. She is the fourth former South Korean leader to be probed or jailed over corruption scandals.
Two former army-backed leaders who served in the 1980s to 1990s — Chun Doo-Hwan and Roh Tae-Woo — served prison terms for bribery after they stepped down.
Roh Moo-Hyun, who served from 2003 to 2008, killed himself by jumping off a cliff after being probed by prosecutors over corruption allegations in 2009.
Park has been named as an accomplice to her secret confidante at the heart of the scandal, Choi Soon-Sil.
Choi allegedly used her presidential ties to force local firms including Samsung, the world’s biggest smartphone maker, to “donate” nearly $70 million to non-profit foundations which she allegedly used for personal gain.
Park is accused of offering governmental favours to the business tycoons who enriched Choi.
The former leader is also accused of letting Choi, who had no official title or security clearance, handle a wide range of state affairs including nomination of top officials or diplomats.
Park also allegedly forced her aides to create a “blacklist” of thousands of artists who had voiced criticism of her, in order to stop offering their projects state subsidies.
Prosecutors have accused her of pressing local businesses including Hyundai and steelmaker Posco to award lucrative deals to firms or individuals linked with Choi.
The ex-president has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and blamed her friend for abusing their friendship.
Choi is on trial at Seoul Central District Court — a few hundred metres from the scene of Park’s interrogation — on charges including abuse of power and coercion.
Samsung heir Lee Jae-Yong has also been arrested and indicted for bribery and other offences.
Park won the 2012 presidential vote largely thanks to the popularity of her late father among the aged conservative voters who benefited from rapid economic growth under his iron-fisted rule from 1961-1979. But the scandal sent her once-bulletproof support ratings to record lows.
An election to choose her successor will be held on May 9 with Moon Jae-In, her rival in 2012 and a former leader of the main liberal opposition Democratic Party, leading polls by large margins.
Lagos- Ibadan Rail Project Delayed Due To Technical Issues- Amaechi
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday attributed the delay in inaugurating the Lagos-Ibadan rail project to infrastructural and technical issues within the seaport in Apapa.
This, according to him, would be resolved at a meeting involving all stakeholders and experts to proffer solutions to the problem.
Amaechi, during an inspection tour of the project within the seaport axis yesterday in Lagos, said he could not say exactly when the project would now be launched.
He said: “This project is very technical. If I have given you a timeline, how would I have found a solution to the customs building, so we are working hard to find these solutions; it is only after when the engineers have come up with proper solutions and time-based solutions that I can speak on time. Now I cannot speak on time until when that happens.
“You know, you can actually commission this project without that because it is not just one track, there are several tracks; that is one of the tracks we are going to fix. I am not an engineer, am just a policymaker; I am the head of the ministry.”
Amaechi, however, expressed the determination of the government to complete the project despite the challenges.
“All I am doing is to make sure that out of the three tracks one or two can get to the quays so that we can commission, pending when the other ones are completed as a result of challenges we are meeting inside the seaport. It means this is the difficulty we are having and we want to face them. The fact that we have not gone to other places means other places are functioning. But this one we have this crisis and we have to find a solution to it.
“We are going to have a meeting now, and in that meeting, everybody will be there both the experts and once we make a decision, then we can convey it to the public. We have about three tracks coming into here, is only one that we are having problems with.”
Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fridet Okhiria, expressed the need to have the rail fully operational at the seaside of the port.
”The essence of the rail is to move freight, passengers and to provide service and we have to get to the port meaningfully, not just getting to the port. We have to get to the seaside so that the ship can load directly to reduce multiple handling of goods and by doing so it will reduce the cost of the movement because presently we now get ourselves in multiple handling.
“You have to pay for a truck to take it to the railway head that is why the minister is insisting that we must get to the seaside and which is the best way to go for Nigeria. We should earn more revenue and reduce cost and the goods will get to the market and eliminate double handling of goods,” he said.
INEC Plans Expansion Of Polling Units For 2023 General Election
Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to make polling units accessible to the electorate to remove voter apathy during elections.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara, Malam Garba Attahiru-Madami, made this known on Monday in Ilorin while declaring open two-day training on “Implementation of expansion of voters’ access to polling units”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training was for Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) in charge of Administration, Operations and Cluster Registration areas drawn from the 16 local government areas of Kwara.
He noted that many eligible voters refused to vote on election day because of the distance of polling units to their residences.
The REC told the participants that the training was very important to INEC, just as election was important, adding that without polling unit, there would be no election.
“Election start from polling unit, if there is no polling unit, there would be no election and collation, that is how important polling unit is,” he added.
He therefore charged the participants to take the training very serious as the outcome of the training would offer opportunity on what they would do on the field.
“I don’t need to re-emphasise why access to polling unit is very important. We already know that this exercise was carried out in 1996 and it was to serve 50 million voters.
“In 2019 election, we have greater voters of 84 million; you can see that the polling units now are grossly inadequate.
“By the time general election will take place in 2023, our projection is to have over 120 million voters.
“The number of polling units we have now cannot serve the 120 million voters, so the training is very important,” he said.
According to the REC, one of the reasons for voter apathy is because the polling unit was not accessible to them.
He said that some polling units have over 1,000 to 5,000 voters that were spread to polling points.
“So, we want to see how we can convert some of these voting points to polling units to meet the need of the people on election day.
“In some communities with communal clash, having their own polling unit would solve such conflict, because you will see a villager that will say, I will not go to that village to vote,” he added.
He said the idea of expansion of polling units was to remove voter apathy and reduce distance from home to the polling unit. (NAN)
African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.
The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.
Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.
The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.
The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.
Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”
The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.
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