Rising Suicides Shine Spotlight on Malawi’s Mental Health Burden

There is a critical shortage of qualified healthcare staff in Malawi to deal with the growing mental health burden in the country. Credit: Charles Mpaka

By Charles Mpaka
Lilongwe, Malawi, Dec 13 2021 – When a former deputy speaker of Parliament shot himself dead within the National Assembly buildings in Lilongwe in September 2021, it shook Malawi. It also turned attention to the mental health burden in the country.

Experts say that a sharp rise in suicide cases has become the most visible expression of the burden of mental health challenges in Malawi.

“There’s depression, stress and many other silent forms of disorders. More often, we act quickly on a mentally challenged person because he is causing havoc,” says Harry Kawiya, a psychiatric clinical officer at the Zomba Mental Hospital, Malawi’s only referral mental health facility and one of the two specialised institutions in the country. “But the rising of cases of suicides recently tells us the severity of the mental health problem among us, which we are not adequately addressing.”

National police records show that suicide cases have increased drastically in Malawi over the past three years. For instance, between January and March 2021, the country registered 76 suicides – an increase of nearly 50 percent over the same period last year.

One police station in Lilongwe registers an average of six cases every month, the station’s spokesperson, Foster Benjamin, tells IPS.

“This is a steep rise, and it’s worrying,” he says. “The reasons [why people are committing suicide] range from family disagreements to financial troubles. In almost all the cases, those that kill themselves are men.”

The former deputy speaker, Clement Chiwaya, 50, left a suicide note detailing frustrations with sorting out benefits, including an official vehicle which he had bought, as the reason.

In a village just outside Lilongwe, a man hanged himself around last year due to debts related to his small-scale tobacco farm.

His wife, Christina Makwecha, says she lost her 43-year-old husband in October 2020 after the tobacco marketing season had just closed.

“We made heavy losses such that we could not pay some of the debts for labourers and the inputs we got from agro-dealers,” says Makwecha, a mother of four children.

One evening on her return from a village savings group meeting in the area, she found the man hanging in a tree in a field not too far from their home.

“It was then that I remembered that for almost two weeks before the incident, he had become increasingly restless, unusually angry and started skipping meals,” she says.

While the country is registering a rising number of suicides, many Malawians lack the awareness of mental health disorders that lead to people killing themselves, says Dr Charles Masulani, Chief Executive Officer of the St John of God Hospitaller Services Ltd, a Catholic Church mental health hospital in Malawi.

“Just as people would know where to go when they have malaria because there is a lot of knowledge about malaria, we do not know about mental health disorders in Malawi. So, people tend to struggle within themselves without seeking help from counsellors, faith leaders or therapists, or any other who would offer help,” Masulani says.

Records at the hospital show that it registered 7,671 mental health patient consultations last year – including 4,142 men and 3,529 women.

The mental health disorders diagnosed included anxiety, bipolar disorder, psychosis, dementia, delusional disorder, depression, delirium, epilepsy, hippomania, antisocial personality disorder, learning disability and schizophrenia.

Experts say that the COVID-19 impact on businesses has worsened the high prevalence of mental health disorders in Malawi, and the government’s response has been falling short.

In 2017, the Office of Ombudsman investigation found glaring deficiencies in mental health management in the public health system.

It faulted the government for failing to fund district health offices adequately for them to be able to handle patients before sending them to the referral hospital.

The Ombudsman also blamed the Ministry of Health for the persistent acute shortage of psychiatric staff, which compromised the quality of care for patients with mental disorders.

The inquiry established, for instance, that in two districts in the central region, the mental healthcare worker to population ratio ranged between 1:80,840 and 1:558,470.

According to the report, the problem of staff shortage starts with how the training for doctors in Malawi is designed.

“Whilst the undergraduates are exposed to the different aspects of the medical profession including psychiatry, during the internship psychiatry is completely shunned thereby further depriving [the system of] additional and potential psychiatric staff,” reads the report.

The investigation further exposed inefficiencies in the procurement of psychotropic drugs for patients with mental disorders, leading to their unavailability most of the time.

Four years after the investigation, these challenges remain.

During the commemoration of World Mental Health Day in October, Dr Michael Udedi, a mental health expert in the Ministry of Health, admitted the critical shortage of specialised personnel in the public health system.

He said while the country does have some mental health clinicians and nurses in almost every district hospital of the country, there is only one psychiatrist based at Zomba Mental Hospital and no psychologist in public hospitals.

He also disclosed that in May this year, the Ministry of Health advertised vacancies to recruit psychologists; there was no response.

In addition, there is no dedicated budget for mental health, Udedi told IPS in an interview last week.

“Therefore, it is not easy to track the funding for mental health per se,” he says.

He, however, says the ministry does disburse some funding to the referral hospital. He also says it falls on district health offices to dedicate part of their funding from treasury towards mental health activities such as drug procurement.

In her report, the Ombudsman attributed the apparent lack of attention to mental health as a primary healthcare problem to a weak and old legislative framework.

The treatment of patients with mental disorders is catered for in the Mental Health Act passed in 1948 – when Malawi was still under British colonial rule.

“This law is out of touch with the current trends in mental health service delivery,” reads the report.

In 2000, Malawi developed its first National Mental Health Policy. But this too has had no significant impact on mental health service delivery. The policy has, thus, been under review.

Now the government hopes that the challenges in the sector will be addressed once a bill, currently being drafted, is tabled, and passed in Parliament, possibly in February next year.

The Mental Health Bill has a provision for ring-fenced mental health funding. According to Udedi, this is key to addressing most of the challenges in mental health.

“This will see to it that mental health is adequately funded. This would have an implication on human resources for mental health, that’s including support in training,” he says.

But Udedi also challenges communities to play their part in raising awareness, minimising stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems and linking such people with service providers for assistance.


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CPJ’s Census on Jailed Journalists Reveals Distressing “Intolerance of Independent Journalism”

CPJ’s annual report gives alarming figures of journalists jailed for doing their jobs.

By Naureen Hossain
New York, Dec 13 2021 – Governments are determined to control information and are prepared to imprison journalists to achieve this mission, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said following the release of their annual global census tracking journalists who were imprisoned and killed in 2021.

For the sixth year in a row, the census reported record numbers of incarcerated journalists. The census accounts for journalists held in government custody and remain imprisoned because of their work.

This year set a new global record with 293 journalists imprisoned as of December 1, 2021. Twenty-four journalists were killed during dangerous assignments, like reporting from conflict zones, in protests turned deadly, or in retaliation for their work.

What these numbers suggest, said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon is that “governments are determined to control and manage information, and they are increasingly brazen in their efforts to do so.”

Along with the census, a special report from CPJ Editorial Director Arlene Getz, explained the trends.

Across different regions, many factors contributed to the common and “increasing intolerance of independent journalism”.

Government authorities, particularly in autocratic leaderships, have bolstered their efforts to silence dissent and criticism, which in turn has stifled press freedom in those regions.

Through the implementation of legal rulings and policies, journalists not only face the threat of imprisonment with alarming alacrity, but authorities manipulate legislation to extend their sentences or keep them in police custody.

Technological and legal policies to increase online surveillance impacted journalists’ ability to share stories online because they face the increasing risk of censorship and retaliation.

The report also says journalists now face diverse tactics to censor them through increased surveillance, internet shutdowns and legal rulings.

The special report reveals that at least 17 journalists were charged with cybercrimes, which could result in criminal prosecution for news reported and distributed online.

The CPJ census lists the countries with confirmed cases of jailed journalists.

This year, China topped the census list, with 50 journalists imprisoned.
This year marks the first time Hong Kong has been included in the census. Eleven journalists from Hong Kong-based news agencies were detained under mounting tensions from the pro-democracy protests and the implementation of the National Security Law in 2020.

Following China, Myanmar has risen in this year’s census in the wake of the military coup on February 2021 and the crackdown on media outlets with 26 jailed journalists.

However, the report suggests that this number may be much higher, and the situation is graver than reported. Several journalists have either fled the country in exile or gone into hiding. The deeper concern is that this crackdown on independent reporting will return to the harsh media censorship of previous military regimes.

Ethiopia has become the second-worst jailor of journalists in 2021 after Eritrea in sub-Saharan Africa. Many journalists have been arrested in the wake of the civil war in Ethiopia, between the federal government and armed forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, with nine journalists still in custody.

Though they ranked lower than the top ten countries in the census list, the rapid decline in media freedom still comes as a shock because past reports indicated greater freedom than under the current government.

The report says that further investigations into these cases and those in other countries with confirmed imprisonments and deaths show a startling and disturbing attitude toward press freedom.

What the CPJ report reveals, that for all the international community’s calls for action to improve press freedom and protection for journalists, for all the public outcry when cases are made public, the countries which are most demonstrably guilty of suppressing press freedom have done little to address impunity or to change their tactics.

They are resorting to increasingly violent, intrusive, and invasive tactics to impede freedom of expression with a greater frequency. Even in the United States, 56 journalists were arrested or detained this year, primarily during protests.

The findings in the CPJ report reflects the continued tensions between governing authorities and the media. Without the media to hold them accountable, some governments will continue to act with impunity, sending the message of the lack of regard for freedom of expression if it threatens their power.

There is little hope that the number of jailed journalists will not be topped in the next year as long as countries act with impunity.

The CPJ will not give up its efforts to safeguard journalists.

In 2021, their advocacy contributed to the early release of over 100 journalists worldwide. In addition, they have recently launched a People’s tribunal to address impunity in journalist killings, which will rely on investigations and legal analysis to provide a framework for justice and accountability.

The CPJ’s Annual Report can be read here.


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Extremists Harm Image of Islam and Pakistan

Family members of Priyantha Kumara, who died in the Sialkot mob attack, taking part in religious rites at his funeral.

By Ameen Izzadeen
COLOMBO, Si Lanka, Dec 13 2021 – Every time, breaking news of a barbaric crime or terror act is reported from anywhere in the world, peace-loving Muslims the world over feel dejected and wish it had not been another tragedy that will make others glower at them with suspicion as though they too are complicit in the crime.

But often, what they dread is the case, for more than 90 percent of such inhumane and barbaric acts – like the Sialkot slaying of a Sri Lankan factory manager and the Easter Sunday massacres — are associated with Islamic extremism.

Last Friday’s lynching of factory Manager Priyantha Kumara Diyawadanage in Pakistan by an extremist mob will not be the last of such acts.

No amount of ‘We Are Sorry Sri Lanka’ placards, flowers and candles at makeshift memorials and political statements denouncing the crime can bring back his life that was cruelly brought to an end as a burnt offering on the altar of bigotry in an expression of savagery that has no place in civilized society.

However much Pakistanis who are humiliated by extremism dissociate themselves from the horrible act, however profound their apology is, however remorseful Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who decried the incident as Pakistan’s day of shame, is, the country will continue to be plagued by violent extremism unless and until extremism is rooted out by radical social reforms in line with the peaceful message of Islam.

The Priyantha Kumara lynching by a mob linked to an extremist outfit called Tehereek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, for tearing off a political poster that allegedly had some religious verses in Urdu warrants the immediate revocation of Pakistan’s blasphemy law or its amendment in keeping with the Islamic virtue of tolerance and magnanimity.

Research shows a higher prevalence of extremism in countries that have blasphemy laws than in countries that do not have such laws. Blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute the minorities or treat them as second-class citizens. Such laws are incompatible with the Islamic teaching which calls for protection of the minorities and non-interference in their worship.

If the Pakistan Government fails to make use of this heartrending incident as an opportunity to bring about radical reforms, it itself will be committing an act of blasphemy because its inaction allows the badly constructed law to distort and disgrace Islam.

Pakistan was carved out of the British Raj for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah promoted a theory of two nation two state, saying that the Muslims and Hindus were two different nations and belonged to two different civilizations and therefore needed to live in separate states.

The world’s first nation-state to be formed on the basis of religion, Pakistan, however, has never been a theocracy.

In a 2017 BBC interview, historian Ayesha Jalal pointed out that Jinnah envisaged Pakistan as a “homeland for India’s Muslims”, as opposed to an Islamic state. But she said that his theory had been used by Islamists “as an ideological device” to justify claims for Pakistan to be a theocratic state.

This is Pakistan’s existential crisis. While the extremists fight for the setting up of a theocracy, secular politicians skillfully make use of Islam and side with Islamists to swell their vote banks or to whip up nationalistic emotions against archrival India.

Perhaps, this was why Pakistan’s Defence Minister Pervez Khattak was seen belittling the gruesome murder of Priyantha Kumara, by calling it “youthful exuberance of Muslim youngsters” and “happens all the time”.

He reportedly added, “When the youth feel Islam has been attacked, they react to defend it.” This was while Premier Khan vowed to bring the murderous mob to justice and Pakistan police arrested more than 130 people.

If we play with fire, we get burnt. Pakistan has been burnt enough, yet it appears to have not learnt enough. Seven years ago this month, extremists carried out a gruesome school massacre in Peshawar. In this terror attack some 134 schoolchildren, aged between 8 and 18, and 16 staff members were brutally gunned down by the Pakistan Taliban. So why pamper the extremists?

In 2011, Pakistan’s Punjab Province Governor Salman Taseer was shot dead by a police guard over his opposition to the country’s blasphemy law that calls for death sentence to those who insult Islam or its holy personalities.

Taseer was also calling for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was falsely accused by her neighbours of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Taseer’s assassin was hailed as a hero by a large number of extremists who took to the street to celebrate the murder.

As a result of violent extremism, many non-Muslims find it difficult to accept the Muslims’ assertion that Islam is a religion of peace. What many do not understand is that there is little Islam in today’s world, although about 2 billion Muslims constitute one fourth of the world’s 8 billion population.

In Islam, jihad or holy war is not the norm, but a last resort exception to defend the oppressed. Vigilante justice has no place in Islam. The accused should be heard, Islam commands.

To whatever religion they belong, the problem with extremists is their ignorance of the teachings of the religion they are supposed to follow. As historian and comparative religions expert Karen Armstrong would say, “Terrorism has nothing to do with Muhammad, any more than the Crusades had anything to do with Jesus.”

Certainly, violence is not the answer to blasphemy. According to the Quran, the Prophet Muhammad was heaped the worst form of scorn. He was called a liar, a magician, a madman, and possessed. Garbage was thrown over his head and stone-throwing street urchins were set upon him.

Yet as commanded by God, he exercised beautiful patience — Sabran Jameelan — and when his companions sought permission to retaliate, he would teach them the virtues of patience and remind them that he was sent as a mercy to the whole world. He befriended his persecutors by practising the Quranic injunction which exhorts the Muslims to “repel that which is evil with that which is good (and virtuous)”.

Unfortunately, the verses on defensive wars the Prophet and the early Muslims were forced to fight were misinterpreted by latter day Muslim rulers and terrorists for political purposes. Glorification of violence in the name of Islam became the norm. Islam’s peaceful message was forgotten.

Also overlooked is the Quranic message against violence as explained in the story of angels who expressed their deep concern over bloodshed and mischief on earth when God wanted to create man. (Quran 2: 30.)

It appears that instead of Islam, some Muslims are following a violent creed and calling it Islam. The fake Islam is largely practised while the real Islam remains buried. The task before the Muslims is to search for the buried Islam, resurrect it and live it.

Ameen Izzadeen is the deputy editor of the Sunday Times, Sri Lanka. He also writes a weekly column for the Daily Mirror, Sri Lanka, on international politics and good governance issues; and is a visiting lecturer in journalism and international politics.


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When the Glass House by the East River Exploded in Laughter….

By External Source
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 13 2021 – Created in 1945 following the devastation caused by World War II, the United Nations was mandated with the task of maintaining international peace and security as one of its primary political missions.

But the seriousness of its far-reaching mandate has been tempered by occasional moments of levity which have rocked the “glass house by the east river” with laughter — as recounted in a newly-released book on the United Nations titled “No Comment –and Don’t Quote me on That”.

Over the years, the UN has remained a rich source of anecdotes originating in the General Assembly, the Security Council, and the UN’s watering hole, the delegate’s lounge.

One of the memorable anecdotes, recounted in the book, is a confrontation that took place in the General Assembly Hall in October 1960 during the height of the Cold War, when Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev removed his shoe and kept banging on his desk on a point of order.

As the shoe-banging continued, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, whose speech was being rudely interrupted, turned to the President of the General Assembly and remarked: “Mr. President, I am waiting for a translation”, as the entire Assembly erupted in laughter.

The two working languages of the United Nations have been primarily English and French, although there are four other official languages recognized by the world body: Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Russian—with translations available in all six languages to delegates on their earphones.

A former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, was fluent in three of the six languages: English, Arabic and French. Asked at a briefing with reporters about his fluency in languages, he jokingly said his primary language was Arabic “because when I fight with my wife, I fight in Arabic.”

A former US ambassador to the United Nations once provided an amusingly light-hearted definition of diplomacy: 97 percent alcohol, 2 percent protocol and one percent Geritol, a multi-vitamin drink probably meant to energize negotiations.

But diplomacy at the UN is much more than socializing– even as receptions and cocktail parties take place every day – until the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world body to a virtual standstill temporarily suspending the routinely heavy drinking, mostly duty-free liquor (and according to some diplomats,” the best things in life are mostly duty-free.”)

When the annual election of the President of General Assembly resulted in an unprecedented 73:73 tie in the 1970s, the outgoing President decided to break the deadlock with the flip of a coin, as agreed to by the two candidates. But according to a joke circulating in the delegate’s lounge, the tossed coin apparently had two heads and no tail. Rigged elections at the UN?

Just after a band of mercenaries tried to oust the government of the Maldives, a tiny island nation with no army, navy or air force back in the 1980s, I ignorantly asked a Maldivian diplomat about the strength of his country’s standing army. “Standing army?”, the diplomat asked with mock surprise, “We don’t even have a sitting army.”

When the right-wing, hardline conservative John Bolton was US Ambassador to the UN (2005-2006), he notoriously remarked: “There’s no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” The punchline, however, came from a New York Times columnist who said Bolton would do better as an urban planner than a US diplomat.

Meanwhile, when Ambassadors and other lower-ranking diplomats arrive in New York, most of them experience “culture shock” being forced to adjust to New York city living– including food, language and apartment living.

In the 1970s, the New York Daily News recounted a story, widely circulated in the UN delegate’s lounge, of a newly-arrived diplomat from a conflict-ridden country who was posted to New York– considered a safe-haven– following death threats against him by a rebel group in his home country. A few weeks after his arrival, he found a note slipped under his Manhattan apartment door with an ominous message: “The exterminator will be here tomorrow.”

Panicked at the thought the rebel group had extended its reach, he was about to rush to the nearest police precinct when he accosted the clerk at the reception desk in the lobby, who told him: “Sir, the exterminator will be here not to kill diplomats, but to exterminate roaches, bed bugs and mice.” That was one of the first diplomatic lessons in Manhattan apartment living.

Meanwhile, Thalif Deen, author of the book, “No Comment – and Don’t Quote me on That”, who was recently interviewed by Thanos Dimadis, executive director of The Association of Foreign Press Correspondents in the USA (AFPC-USA), recounts some of the even more unforgettable moments both inside and outside the UN.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: You are a veteran journalist who has covered UN affairs for decades. Could you share a few of the lessons you have learned over the years as a UN correspondent? And when it comes to following and covering UN news, what has been the most difficult part of your job?

A: The United Nations has long been described as “the glass house by the east river.” But regrettably, the glass house is more opaque than transparent—particularly for news reporters.

The political reporting at the UN is largely focused on military conflicts, civil wars, genocide, human rights, peacekeeping, nuclear disarmament and war crimes—mostly underlying its primary mandate, namely, maintaining international peace and security.

But at IPS, our coverage was primarily on the UN’s socio-economic agenda, long neglected by the main stream media and international wire services. We aimed to fill that gap.

The author at the IPS Office in the UN Secretariat in New York.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the job was that journalists, rarely if ever, were able to get any on-the-record comments or reactions from ambassadors, diplomats and senior UN officials because most of them follow the advice given to Brits during war time censorship in the UK: “Be like Dad, Keep Mum”.

As Winston Churchill once remarked: “Diplomacy Is the art of telling people “to go to hell’ in such a way they ask for directions.” But as a general rule, most ambassadors and diplomats avoided all comments, particularly on politically sensitive issues, with the standard non-excuse: ”Sorry, we have to get clearance from our capital”. But that “clearance” never came.

Still, it was hard to beat a response from a tight-lipped Asian diplomat who once told me: “No Comment” – “And Don’t Quote Me on That.”

And most senior UN officials, on the other hand, never had even the basic courtesy or etiquette to respond to phone calls or email messages—or even an acknowledgment. The lines of communications were mostly dead.

When I complained to the media-savvy Shashi Tharoor, a former Under-Secretary-General for Public Information and a one-time journalist and prolific author, he was explicit in his response when he said that every UN official – “from an Under-Secretary-General to a window-washer”—has the right to express an opinion in his or her area of expertise. But that rarely or ever happened.

A Brazilian diplomat once gave me an exclusive inside story, but warned it was “not for attribution and strictly off the record”. But being familiar with the New York City’s cultural scene, he added: “Off, Off, Off the record. Like Off, Off Broadway.”

Still, there have been rare instances of UN officials, mostly former UN officials, who have no qualms about providing on-the-record comments. As I was doing a wrap-up of the historic, two-week long Earth Summit in Rio in June 1992, I approached Dr Gamani Corea, a former Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and a member of the Sri Lanka delegation, for a final comment on the disappointing results of the much-ballyhooed conference.

“We negotiated the size of the zero”, he said, with a tinge of sarcasm, as he held out his fingers to indicate zero. But that comment would come only from an ex-UN official.

Q: What were some of the historic moments during your journalistic career at the UN?

A: When the politically-charismatic Ernesto Che Guevara, once second-in-command to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was at the United Nations to address the General Assembly sessions back in 1964, the U.N. headquarters came under attack – literally. The speech by the Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary was momentarily drowned by the sound of an explosion.

The anti-Castro forces in the United States, backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), had mounted an insidious campaign to stop Che Guevara from speaking. A 3.5-inch bazooka was fired at the 39-storeyed Secretariat building by the East River while a vociferous CIA-inspired anti-Castro, anti-Che Guevara demonstration was taking place outside the U.N. building on New York’s First Avenue and 42nd street.

But the rocket launcher – which was apparently not as sophisticated as today’s shoulder-fired missiles and rocket-propelled grenades – missed its target, rattled windows, and fell into the river about 200 yards from the building. One newspaper report described it as “one of the wildest episodes since the United Nations moved into its East River headquarters in 1952.”

After his Assembly speech, Che Guevara was asked about the attack aimed at him. “The explosion has given the whole thing more flavor,” he joked, as he chomped on his Cuban cigar.

When he was told by a reporter that the New York City police had nabbed a woman, described as an anti-Castro Cuban exile, who had pulled out a hunting knife and jumped over the UN wall, intending to kill him, Che Guevara said: “It is better to be killed by a woman with a knife than by a man with a gun.”

A second historic moment was the visit of Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). On his 1974 visit, he avoided the hundreds of pro and anti-Arafat demonstrators outside the UN building by arriving in a helicopter which landed in the dead of night on the North Lawn of the UN campus adjoining the East River.

Arafat was escorted by security men into the UN building and to the Secretary-General’s 38th floor where he spent the night in a temporary bedroom. But that bedroom had not been used for years, and the color of water was brown when the bathroom’s faucet was opened. Mercifully, it was not an attempt by Israeli intelligence to poison the PLO leader.

There was also a legendary story of how Arafat, who was on an Israeli hit-list, never slept on the same bed on two consecutive nights. So, the chances are he never took that risk even inside the UN building.

Incidentally, when anti-Arafat New York protesters on First Avenue shouted: “Arafat Go Home”, his supporters responded that was precisely what he wanted—a home for the Palestinians to go to.

When Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi visited the UN in September 2009, the London Guardian said he “grabbed his 15 minutes of fame at the UN building in New York and ran with it. He ran with it so hard he stretched it to an hour and 40 minutes, six times longer than his allotted slot, to the dismay of UN organizers”.

Incidentally, according to one news report, there were 112 different spellings of the Libyan leader’s name, both in English and Arabic, including Muammar el-Qaddafi, Muammar Gaddafi, Muammar al-Gathafi, Muammar El Kadhafi, Moammar el Kazzafi, Moamer, El Qathafi, Mu’Ammar, Gadafi, and Moamar Gaddafi, amongst others.

The Wall Street Journal ran a cartoon making fun of the multiple spellings, with a visiting reporter, on a one-on-one interview in Tripoli, telling the Libyan leader: ”My editor sent me to find out whether you are really Qaddafi, Khaddafi, Gadafi, Qathafi or Kadhafi?”

Q: As a UN correspondent, how has covering UN affairs changed your view of the UN and its role on a global scale?

A: The UN’s biggest shortcoming is its failure to resolve some of the longstanding political issues, including Palestine, and more recently the military conflicts and civil wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ethiopia and Myanmar, amongst others.

In most of these conflicts, the five veto-wielding permanent members (P-5) of the Security Council, namely the US, UK, France, China and Russia, are sharply divided and protect their allies– and their million-dollar arms markets because the P-5 are the primary arms suppliers to the warring parties in several of these conflicts.

Meanwhile, a new Cold War -– this time, between the US and China —is threatening to paralyze the UN’s most powerful body, even as military conflicts and civil wars are sweeping across the world. The growing criticism against the Security Council is directed largely at its collective failures to resolve ongoing conflicts and political crises in several hot spots.

The sharp divisions between China and Russia, on one side, and the Western powers on the other, are expected to continue, triggering the question: Has the Security Council outlived its usefulness or has it lost its political credibility: a question which also changed my views on the UN and its political effectiveness?

The five big powers are increasingly throwing their protective arms around their allies, despite growing charges of war crimes, genocide and human rights violations against some of these warring nations.

At the same time, the Security Council has come under heavy fire for the misuse of its veto powers, held by the Big Five, while discussions on the reform of the Council have dragged on for over 20 years.

The bottom line is that the P-5 want to hold onto the monopoly of the veto power. A proposal for the expansion of the permanent members, from five to maybe ten, comes with a catch: if new permanent members are appointed, they should have no veto powers.

The countries knocking at the Security Council door for permanent memberships include India, Brazil, Japan and Germany. But the opposition to these candidacies have come from Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Pakistan and South Korea. So, the reform of the Security Council remains deadlocked.

Meanwhile, the UN’s successes are largely in the field of humanitarian assistance, plus in development funding and environmental protection. During September through November 2021, the UN and its NGO (non-governmental organization) partners provided 7.2 million people in war-ravaged Afghanistan with food assistance; reached more than 880,000 people with primary and secondary healthcare consultations; assisted almost 199,000 drought-affected people through water trucking; and treated more than 178,000 children under five for acute malnutrition, according to the latest figures.

Thalif Deen, Senior Editor & Director, UN Bureau, Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, served twice with the Sri Lanka delegation to the UN General Assembly sessions and is a Fulbright scholar with a Master’s Degree (MSc) in Journalism from Columbia University.

The link to Amazon via the author’s website follows: https://www.rodericgrigson.com/no-comment-by-thalif-deen/


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Mullen To Showcase The FIVE EV Crossover and Level 5 Autonomous Vehicle Technology at CES® (Consumer Electronic Show)

BREA, Calif., Dec. 13, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — via InvestorWire — Mullen Automotive, Inc. (NASDAQ: MULN) ("Mullen" or the "Company"), an emerging electric vehicle ("EV") manufacturer, announces that its next stop in showcasing the Mullen FIVE EV Crossover, including the debut of level 5 autonomous vehicle technology, will be at CES in Las Vegas, Jan. 4 "" 8, 2022. Mullen will showcase the FIVE and vehicle technology with media presentation Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, at the Mullen Booth, located in the West Hall of the LA Convention Center.

"Our next stop is CES in Las Vegas this coming January. We had tremendous, overwhelmingly positive reaction to the FIVE at the L.A. Auto Show, with many people saying it was the best–looking vehicle at the show and winning the Top SUV EV category, beating out both Rivian and Lincoln," said David Michery, CEO and chairman of Mullen Automotive. "CES is a one of the best, if not the best, consumer technology event in the world. We are looking forward to starting 2022 in Las Vegas at CES with the Mullen FIVE EV Crossover."

Mullen Automotive and the FIVE EV Crossover will be at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES ) in Las Vegas, Jan. 5 – 8, 2022. Mullen will be featured in the West Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center for the duration of the CES , showcasing the FIVE, including autonomous, powertrain and battery technology.

The FIVE is built on an EV crossover skateboard platform that offers multiple powertrain configurations and trim levels in a svelte design that is "Strikingly DifferentTM" and exciting to experience in person. Learn more about the Mullen FIVE at MullenUSA.com.

About Mullen

Mullen is a Southern California–based automotive company that owns and partners with several synergistic businesses working toward the unified goal of creating clean and scalable energy solutions. Mullen has evolved over the past decade in sync with consumers and technology trends. Today, the Company is working diligently to provide exciting EV options built entirely in the United States and made to fit perfectly into the American consumer's life. Mullen strives to make EVs more accessible than ever by building an end–to–end ecosystem that takes care of all aspects of EV ownership.

Forward–Looking Statements
This press release contains “forward–looking statements.” Words such as “may,” “should,” “could,” “would,” “predicts,” “potential,” “continue,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “future,” “intends,” “plans,” “believes,” “estimates” and similar expressions, as well as statements in future tense, often signify forward–looking statements. These forward–looking statements include, without limitation, statements relating to the reverse merger, the Nasdaq approval process and proposed debut date of the Mullen FIVE (formerly MX–05) midsize crossover. These forward–looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties.

Forward–looking statements should not be read as a guarantee of future performance or results and may not be accurate indications of when such performance or results will be achieved. Forward–looking statements are based on information that the Company has when those statements are made or management's good faith belief as of that time with respect to future events and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual performance or results to differ materially from those expressed in or suggested by the forward–looking statements, including factors beyond the Company's control. As a result of these and other risks, uncertainties and assumptions, forward–looking events and circumstances discussed herein might not occur in the way the Company expects or at all. Accordingly, readers should not place reliance on any forward–looking information or statements. The Company assumes no obligation to publicly update or revise its forward–looking statements as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. All forward–looking statements herein are qualified by reference to the cautionary statements set forth in this section.


Mullen Automotive, Inc.
+1 (714) 613–1900

Wire Service Contact
InvestorWire (IW)
Los Angeles, California

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/e9297637–6743–449a–afdd–c230a337dfa4