R & Interview

Interview with Raj Saini: MP for Kitchener Center

By Saifullah Muhammad

I had the opportunity to interview Mr Raj Saini, the Member of Parliament for Kitchener Center. This is the first interview of my journalism career in Canada. MP Saini was well-known as a pharmacist and an award-winning businessman for nearly 20 years in Kitchener. His success as a small business owner comes from his focus on helping people achieve their health goals using evidence-based protocols to enable healing and encourage healthy lifestyles.

During the first conversation of the interview, Mr Saini shared that about his life and a brief background that he always kept track of the events and studied political events in particular. He studied Pharmacy. He was always involved politically but never come in front. “In 2014, some people came up to me and asked maybe I should consider running for the election,” Mr Saini said. “I found that it was the right time and place for me to serve more. What motivated me was very simple that I was very fortunate to come to Canada at the very young age. I have been able to accomplish that I wanted to come and wanted to do something for my community. Something above and beyond the pharmacy, my motivation was simply to serve. I consider myself as a servant and I am serving a broader community ultimately the country.”

 “I was very fortunate to come to Canada at the very young age. I have been able to accomplish that I want to come and want to do something for my community and I consider myself as servant” —MP Raj Saini

When asked about anyone, who might inspire him to come into politics, Mr Saini said, One of the people that inspired me to come to the politics is my mentor Dr John English. Dr English was a professor for the Political Science at the University of Waterloo, an MP from 1993 to 1997. He was also the one who wrote the biography on Pierre Trudeau. He was one of the people encouraged me to come to the politics.”

Mr Saini was elected for the first time, when I wanted to know about the advantages and challenges confronted during the election campaign, he mentioned “it was really a different kind of campaign. It was a campaign of positive politics and it was also a campaign of that every voice is heard. It was a campaign of reengaging the whole world. Actually, it was challenging because I had to talk to as many as people. For me, I was very fortunate that I had a lot of energetic volunteers. They motivated me to keep inspired and different levels people such as younger, older and professional came to my campaign to support. I was very humble that too many people wanted me to succeed. Being positive and optimistic, I knew that our country needed to change to a new direction and I wanted to be a part of the team.”

When asked why is he liked by the people so much? His response was very clear, being a pharmacist for more than 20 years, he believes that really helps him because people got to see him in a different way. They saw him as a healthcare professional and pharmacist. Many people came to the pharmacy and saw the job he did.

 “The City of Kitchener is going right through the changes,“ Mr Saini said. Among the all infrastructure development, we are first in the country. We have a lot of Hi-tech companies. We have major educational institutions where we have pharmacy and medical school level. I find that Kitchener is a great trajectory because we are now tracking so many people. We have rich vibrant community and we really attract so many people from diverse communities.”

I am single and that makes a lot easier for me to work,” Mr Saini mentioned when asked about family maintenance and relationship with them. My parents and extended family live in Mississauga. I always try to see them. I always try to maintain the family relationship as it is very important. I have many good friends here. I love my job and serving people is my passion.”

Mr Saini recently announced the Youth Council in the constituency to help the young people. “That was an initiative started by Prime Minister,” Mr Saini stated. I just want to know that what kinds of challenges youth are facing. If you want to serve public life, you have to listen to the people you want to serve. I think sometimes, we don’t listen to the young people. That is very important because they have their own dream, aspiration and ambition.”

“We are very fortunate to live this country.  We have a responsibility to do our part to build for future generation. Young people are so talented, connected and technologically advanced. They could change the face of this country they want to. In my generation, youth are the leaders of tomorrow. I say that they are leaders of today and we need their leadership, capacity and ability to build a better society as well as the country.” — MP Raj Saini

“We have a strong plan and we are trying to improve the environment and want to build infrastructures,” Mr Saini said. “We want people faster and more efficiently and to make sure to improve schools and higher institutions. I made an announcement. We also engaged with the provincial government in partnership with them creating two ways between Kitchener and Toronto. We also developed child benefit plan which is very effective. Nine out of ten families get that benefit which eliminates poverty.”


Redraft Rohingya return deal

HRW asks Bangladesh, Myanmar to involve UN in the process

UNB Dhaka

Terming Rohingya return deal a bad one, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said Bangladesh and Myanmar should invite UNHCR to join the drafting of a new tripartite agreement.

“After the widespread atrocities, safe and voluntary return of Rohingyas will require international monitors on the ground in Burma,” said Bill Frelick, refugee rights director at HRW.

This means, Frelick said, a central role for the UNHCR, the only UN agency with a statutory mandate to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of refugees.

“This should include some existing provisions, such as encouraging refugees to return voluntarily and safely to their own households and original places of residence or to a safe and secure place nearest to it or their choice,” the global watchdog body said given the “critical flaws” in the agreement.

Headquartered in New York, HRW is an international non-governmental organisation that conducts research and advocacy on human rights.

The agreement by Bangladesh and Myanmar to send back Rohingyas to Myanmar by January 23, 2018, creates an “impossible timetable” for safe and voluntary returns and should be shelved, HRW said in a letter to the two governments.

International donors, who would be needed to fund the massive repatriation effort, should insist that Bangladesh and Myanmar invite the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to join in drafting a new tripartite agreement that ensures adherence to international standards, it said.

Since late August 25, more than 645,000 Rohingyas have fled a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s security forces and sought refuge in Bangladesh.

HRW has interviewed more than 200 of the refugees. Many said that they wish to eventually return home, but they do not believe it is safe to return to Myanmar for the foreseeable future and until their security, land, and livelihoods can be ensured.

“Burma has yet to end its military abuses against the Rohingya, let alone create conditions that would allow them to return home safely,” said Frelick.

“This agreement looks more like a public relations effort by Burma to quickly close this ugly chapter than a serious effort to restore the rights of Rohingya and allow them to voluntarily return in safety and dignity.”

On November 23, Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an “Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State” on behalf of “residents of Rakhine State” who crossed Myanmar to Bangladesh after October 9, 2016 and August 25, 2017.

The agreement makes no reference to the cause of most of the forced displacement: a campaign for killings, widespread rape, and mass arson carried out by Myanmar security forces that amounted to crimes against humanity.

The HRW said the agreement also fails to identify the displaced either as Rohingya or as refugees.

It said voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity as required by international law will not be feasible until the Myanmar government demonstrates its willingness and ability to ensure full respect for returnees’ human rights, equal access to nationality, and security.

The agreement also makes no direct reference to non-refoulement, the principle of international refugee law that prohibits the forcible return of refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

And the agreement restricts returnees’ freedom of movement to Rakhine State in “conformity with existing laws and regulations,” many of which discriminate against the Rohingyas.

Several Myanmar officials have spoken about putting Rohingyas in “camps”. This would be an unacceptable approach to their return as camps set up after previous anti-Rohingya violence have led to de facto detention and segregation.

While the agreement says that Bangladesh will immediately seek assistance from UNHCR to carry out safe and voluntary returns, Myanmar agrees only “that the services of the UNHCR could be drawn upon as needed and at the appropriate time.”

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News Writing

Slug: Ramblewood

A mysterious explosion that demolished a house at 12 Ramblewood Way, Kitchener, Ont. last night “found nothing criminal in nature,” Waterloo Region Police say.

A family of four living in the home was sleeping at the time of the explosion. Kitchener fire responded to a 911 call at 11: 40 p.m., together with two fire trucks from Kitchener and one from Waterloo to assist.

When firefighters arrived, they saw that an explosion had levelled the house and it was fully engulfed in flames, but they were able to comb through the wreckage and rescue the family.

According to Region of Waterloo ambulance services, all four family members were taken to hospital. Three family members have already been released from hospital this morning while another is in serious condition with non-life-threatening injuries, fire officials stated.

Neighbours reported, they smelled natural gas outside a few hours before the blast. hearing a loud sound some other ran to the wreaked home to see what had happened.

Priya Jani, another neighbour on the street, has started a Kickstarter campaign to help the family.

Kitchener Utilities spokesperson Wally Malcolm said “the utility shut off natural gas to the neighbourhood at around 1 a.m. today. In terms of work on gas excavation or repair work, nothing was being done in the neighbourhood.”

Kitchener Fire is continuing its investigation and has called in the Ontario fire marshal’s office to assist.

(Class Exercise).

News Writing

A Via Rail carrying 45 passengers partially derailed in southern Ontario

KITCHENER: A Via Rail halted services for three hours between London and Kitchener after derailment occurred at west of the Hamburg road, at about 7 :15 a.m.

While three passengers were sent to hospital with minor injuries and a young girl received minor burns spilling hot coffee on her.

Jeff Johnson, who had been a passenger on the train, said: ” I was working on my laptop computer when I felt a sudden jerk and the ride got extremely bumpy. I expected it to roll over and go into the ditch”.

the Shakespeare and Wilmot fire departments got to the derailment within about nine minutes.

Paul Langan, a spokesperson for Transport Action Canada said “the derailment clearly shows that the rail lines in Southwestern Ont., need to be repaired and improved. It’s a rude awakening for people when this type of thing happens. The quality of the rail infrastructure is suffering.”

Catherine Kaloutsky, a spokesperson for Via stated “The derailment caused a puncture in a diesel tank. The minor leak was contained. The damaged rails are expected to be repaired by this evening.”

The Transportation Safety Board is investigating, she said.


Rohingya rape survivors tell their harrowing stories

December 7, 2017
Mumtaz Begum, 30. She fled to Bangladesh shortly after the Aug. 25 attack from Tula Toli village in Myanmar. She says that one night the military attacked her village and burned homes. Everyone ran and hid but the military found them. They shot her husband in front of her, and as he lay dying she told him, “I have lived many years with you, if I made any mistakes, please forgive me.”  
The military took her and 5 other women to a house, with some of their children. They started raping her and the other women and when the children screamed, they hit them in the head with machetes. They hit one of her sons, splitting his skull open, and he died. They also hit her daughter, but she survived and escaped the house. When the military was done raping her and the other women, they lit the house on fire. Mumtaz crawled through the flames as her clothes caught fire and the roof caved in, and was the only woman who managed to escape. The other 5 women burned to death. She hid in the forest until a group of people found her and carried her to the border and into Bangladesh.
“I want justice and I want to tell the world all the things the military did,” she said. “They raped and killed us. We want justice.”
December 7, 2017
 Minwara Begum, 17. One morning she was cooking when she heard shooting. Her mom went out to see what was happening and saw the military throwing petrol bombs on all the houses. “All of us started running and the military shot us in the back. They shot me, my mom, sister, sister in law, nephew, 2 of my brothers. I lost 6 members of my family. I just kept on running. The military found us where we were hiding and took me, my sister and cousin and other women to a house. They tied our eyes and legs and hands with a black cloth and started to rape me. I don’t know how many men raped me. There were 6 of us in the room and they killed 3 of the women. When they were finished they left the house and threw a petrol bomb on it. The whole house caught fire and I used the fire to burn the cloth off that was keeping my legs and hands tied.”
She says she hid in the paddy field and forest until a group of other people came through and helped her. She spent days walking with them to the Bangladesh border, where she took a boat across to Bangladesh. She spent a week in a hospital in Bangladesh until she recovered.
“Here in Bangladesh, I feel so restless and worried,” she said. “People say they’re going to send us back to Myanmar, and once again they’ll shoot and beat us there. I’m so worried.”  
December 7, 2017
Roshida Begum, 22, shows where the Myanmar military slit her throat. One day the military came to her village and threw petrol bombs and set houses on fire. They randomly shot anyone they saw. She fled and hid on a riverbank, where the military found her and other people. Her husband swam across and escaped. They shot the young boys and stole the jewelry the women had. They took little children and babies and threw them into the river. Then they took us to a pond and made us kneel up to our necks in the water.”
She shows a head wound she received during the Aug. 25 attack. “My baby was 25 days old. They grabbed him from my arms and smashed him on the ground so hard, he died. The military took me and 5 other women into a house and raped us. After they were done, they slit our necks with machetes. They thought I was dead and they left and set the house on fire. I was the only one who escaped.”
She says she hid in a paddy field and in a forest until she came across another woman and her daughter, and together they crossed into Bangladesh. For 8 days they walked, surviving by drinking water from the paddy fields. They took a boat into Bangladesh and she went to the MSF clinic, where she spent 18 days recovering. Her husband found her there, and when she was discharged they moved into a camp. In the attack, she lost her mother, father, brother, all together she lost 17 members of her family.
December 7, 2017
Sunuara, 25. She says before the Aug. 25 attack, she had a good life in Myanmar. She was wealthy, she had 42 cows, 2 cars, and rice paddy fields. One day the military attacked her village and soldiers came to her home. Her husband was staying in another village with relatives and her other children were staying with her parents. Only her 16-year-old son was home with her, and in front of her eyes the military shot him in the stomach and then cut off his head with a machete. Then they tied her wrists and ankles with rope to her bedposts and 9 men took turns raping her for 6 hours.
She was 8 months pregnant at the time, and the military punched and kicked her stomach. She lost consciousness and when she woke up, her husband and brother found her. For 6 days they carried her to the border while she drifted in and out of consciousness. They crossed into Bangladesh where she gave birth at a hospital, but the baby died a day later.
December 7, 2017
Dildar Begum, 30. She says that one day the military came and opened fired on her village and stormed into her house. They took her husband out of the house and to the riverbank and shot him. Then they came back into her house and grabbed her baby from her arms and stabbed him in the head
They killed another one of her children by cutting his throat, and another by beating her over the head with a rifle. Two soldiers held her arms while another raped her. They then beat her and she pretended to be dead. When they left, they set her house on fire. Her 10 year old daughter, Nurkalima, was severely injured when the military beat her over the head with the blades of machetes, but she helped her mom crawl past the burning bodies of her children and out of the burning house. 
For 5 days she hid in the hills and when the military left, she went back to Tula Toli on her way to the Bangladesh border. All that was left of her village was smoke and ask where houses used to be. There were bodies everywhere, so many that they were uncountable. She came across some men who carried her for two days to the border, where they were able to cross into Bangladesh by boat. “I don’t see any future for me here in Bangladesh. My husband is dead, who will earn money for me and my daughter? I want justice. My kids were killed, I want justice for them,” she says.
Source: NY Post
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Myanmar forces may be guilty of genocide against Rohingya, U.N. says

GENEVA (Reuters) – Myanmar’s security forces may be guilty of genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority and more of them are fleeing despite a deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh to send them home, the top U.N. human rights official said on Tuesday.

The United Nations defines genocide as acts meant to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group in whole or in part. Such a designation is rare under international law, but has been used in contexts including Bosnia, Sudan and an Islamic State campaign against the Yazidi communities in Iraq and Syria.

Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, was addressing a special session of the Human Rights Council which later adopted a resolution condemning “the very likely commission of crimes against humanity” by security forces and others against Rohingya.

Myanmar’s ambassador Htin Lynn said his government “disassociated” itself from the text and denounced what he called “politicization and partiality”.

Zeid, who has described the campaign in the past as a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing”, said that none of the 626,000 Rohingya who have fled violence to Bangladesh since August should be repatriated to Myanmar unless there was robust monitoring on the ground.

He described reports of “acts of appalling barbarity committed against the Rohingya, including deliberately burning people to death inside their homes, murders of children and adults; indiscriminate shooting of fleeing civilians; widespread rapes of women and girls, and the burning and destruction of houses, schools, markets and mosques”.

“Can anyone – can anyone – rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” he told the 47-member state forum.

Shahriar Alam, Bangladesh’s junior foreign affairs minister, told the session in Geneva that his country was hosting nearly one million “Myanmar nationals” following executions and rapes.

Mainly Buddhist Myanmar denies the Muslim Rohingya are its citizens and considers them foreigners.

These crimes had been “perpetrated by Myanmar security forces and extremist Buddhist vigilantes”, Alam said, calling for an end to what he called “xenophobic rhetoric..including from higher echelons of the government and the military”.


Prosecutions for the violence and rapes against Rohingya by security forces and civilians “appear extremely rare”, Zeid said.

Marzuki Darusman, head of an independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar, said by video from Malaysia: “We will go where the evidence leads us.”

His team has interviewed Rohingya refugees, including children in the Bangladeshi port city of Cox’s Bazar, who recounted “acts of extreme brutality” and “displayed signs of severe trauma”.

Myanmar has not granted the investigators access to Rakhine, the northern state from which the Rohingya have fled, Darusman said. “We maintain hope that it will be granted early in 2018.”

Pramila Patten, special envoy of the U.N. Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict, who interviewed survivors in Bangladesh in November, said: “I heard the most heart-breaking and horrific accounts of sexual atrocities reportedly committed in cold blood out of a lethal hatred of these people solely on the basis of their ethnicity and religion”.


Rohingyas: The victims of ‘hidden genocide’

Naureen Rahim

With an aim to collect the narratives of atrocity that the Rohingya people started facing after the 25th of August, 2017 in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, a team of young researchers from the Center for the Study of Genocide and Justice (CSGJ) of Liberation War Museum visited Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar on 13-14 October 2017. After visiting a total of eight camp sites, the team collected testimonies of discriminations and atrocities from the Rohingya survivors, victims and eyewitnesses who recently fled violence to Bangladesh.

Based on the field visits to refugee camps, the CSGJ in November published ‘The Testimony of Sixty on the Crisis of the Rohingyas in Myanmar’ as a sequel to Oxfam’s 1971 publication titled ‘The Testimony of Sixty on the Crisis in Bengal’. In the context of humanitarian crisis and genocide in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), Oxfam published ‘The Testimony of Sixty on the Crisis in Bengal’ in order to draw the attention of the global community and gather public opinion in favour of Bangladesh’s cause of independence.

The atrocities against Rohingyas is nothing new. Historically, they have been targeted, persecuted and forced to flee genocidal violence. But the authoritarian regime including the present one of Suu Kyi time and again denies the fact of Rohingya genocide. In the words of survivors, witnesses, aid-workers and journalists, the present Testimony of Sixty intends to give a message to the world community that the ‘hidden genocide’ in Rakhine should widely be investigated into and immediately be stopped, and the world community specially the United Nations and neighbouring countries have significant and crucial roles to work together towards ending the ongoing genocide in Rakhine. All the testimonies, both in the form of statement and photography, give the glimpses about the extent of the Rohingya genocide and great human suffering of present time. It is a unique contribution from a research institution to give voices to the voiceless Rohingya population.

One of the objectives of CSGJ’s research has been to find out the elements of international crimes if committed and genocidal element if any from the testimonies of Rohingya survivors and victims. It also focuses on legal analysis of those testimonies as per international legal framework on the crime of genocide.

Major findings of this research suggest that Rohingyas are historically and systematically deprived of fundamental human rights under the legal framework of Myanmar. Discrimination and deprivation includes, among others, the denial of citizenship/national identity, limited access to education and public heath service, controlled access to market, limited right to land/property, controlled freedom of religion and association, restriction upon marriage and family, less support from police during and post violence. The differential treatment of Rohingyas as against Burmese populations is well reflected in one testimony of Hamid Hossain who is from Chakaiya, Mundumoron, Myanmar: “Most of the Chairmen (local representatives) were Maghs, hardly any Chairman was from Muslim community. They would meet the government officials every month and receive leaflets stating ‘new’ rules for the Rohingya Muslims to follow. It was their duty to make sure all Rohingyas were following the rules. The leaflets were also distributed in the locality sometimes. The leaflets were in Burmese language and stated rules about banning them from talking in groups of more than two, restricted movement after 8 PM and banned religious practices like ‘namaz’ and ‘tabliq’.”

The research also finds that Myanmar’s Military Force, in collaboration with local ultra-nationalists and extremists (specially the Maghs), has been committing international crime of genocide such as: (a) mass killing in the way of gunning, slaughtering and burning alive; (b) arbitrary arrest and detention in concentration camps; (c) torture and rape and other forms of sexual violence; (d) killing and burning children; (f) forced displacement of Rohingya population; (g) enforced disappearances of right-conscious Rohingyas; and (h) arson, plundering and destruction of villages as well as religiously significant places.

The following testimony of Rafiq from Charukomba, Rakhine, shows as to how the present atrocities is rendering the possibility of the Rohingya returning to normal lives and livelihoods in the future almost impossible: “We have been forcibly displaced and we are being asked if we burnt our own house down. They threatened to kill us if we didn’t put our own house on fire. They even took picture of it. After we did so, we are asked to run, and then they fired bullets at us. Fearing for our lives we fled from our homeland and crossed the Teknaf Border.”

The important elements of genocide under the UN Genocide Convention are present here. The ongoing atrocities are taking place as a systematic attack on Rohingya people, not because they have been targeted as an individual, but because they are members of a particular group. The group identity is dual here, namely ethnic identity as Rohingya and religious identity as Muslim, and it is sufficient to establish that the Rohingyas are targeted and persecuted because of their group identity. Further, the intent of the perpetrators is to wholly and permanently erase the name ‘Rohingya’ from the social, cultural and political landscape of Burma’s history. All these prove that the atrocities in Rakhine are as brutal as a clear case of genocide under the legal framework of international criminal law.

The writer is a Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Genocide and Justice, Liberation War Museum.


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