RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s industrial sector is set to see closer integration of its digital platforms and the development of new online products thanks to an agreement between the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and the Digital Government Authority.
Under the deal, the MIMR will provide advisory support regarding decisions and regulations related to digital transformation and digital government work in order to enable the ministry to activate all industrial sector services, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Moreover, the Digital Government Authority will also be transferring knowledge and experience in the field of digital transformation, as we all offer help to implement and complete pending works.
The agreement was signed by the Undersecretary of the MIMR for digital transformation, Muhammad bin Muhanna Al-Muhanna, and the Deputy Governor of the Digital Government Authority for Business and Digital Transformation, Yasser bin Faleh Al-Shammari.
Also present at the signing were the Minister of Industry and Mineral Resources, Bandar bin Ibrahim Al-Khorayef, and the Governor of the Digital Government Authority, Ahmed bin Muhammad Al-Soyan.
The new agreement will also back the digital transformation plan for the industrial sector by activating the concept of comprehensive government, developing the customer experience journey, and offering joint digital products that cater to the sector.
The new agreement is projected to contribute to improving the experience of beneficiaries and investors in the industrial sector as well as raise the efficiency of spending on digital businesses.
As worldwide business leaders integrate automation and digitalization into their strategies, the Kingdom has been calling for local initiatives to drive digital transformation into its economy.
As the world adopted digital strategies after the pandemic saw a shift in how people interacted, Saudi Arabia worked to establish a framework for digital transformation in sectors including finance, commerce, logistics and information technology.
A three-phase action plan, the Smart Government Strategy which aims to create a new seamless government experience for beneficiaries by 2024, is now in its final stage.
TUNIS: Tunisia’s president on Monday blamed ultra-low turnout for parliamentary elections on hatred among voters of the parliament, not to a decline in his own popularity.
The electoral commission announced that only 11.4 percent of the electorate had voted on Sunday in parliamentary runoffs. Critics of President Kais Saied said the empty polling stations were evidence of public disdain for his agenda and seizure of powers.
Opposition parties called Saied to resign after what they called a “huge failure,” saying early parliamentary and presidential elections were the only route out of the crisis.
Saied rejected accusations, calling his critics “traitors.”
“90 percent did not vote. … This confirms that Tunisians no longer trust this institution. … During the past decade, Parliament has been an institution of absurdity and a state within the state.,” Saied said.
“Our popularity is greater than theirs,” he added during a meeting with prime minister Najla Bouden.
Saied closed parliament with tanks in 2021, dismissed the government and started ruling by decree, a move the opposition called a coup.
He accused lawmakers of accepting huge sums of money in return for passing laws.
The newly configured parliament has had its role shrunk as part of a political system Saied introduced last year.
Many Tunisians appeared initially to welcome Saied’s seizure of powers two years ago, after years of weak governing coalitions seemed unable to revive a moribund economy, improve public services or reduce stark inequalities.
But Saied has voiced no clear economic agenda except to rail against corruption and unnamed speculators, whom he has blamed for rising prices.
Unlike the previous parliament, the new one elected on Sunday will have limited powers. The formation and dismissal of governments will be in the hands of the president.
Over the past decade, parliament has been powerful and has appointed and dismissed governments. Despite the political tensions that took place in the previous parliament since the revolution, it had the ability even to dismiss the president and hold all officials accountable.
LONDON: The UK’s Metropolitan police is facing calls to prosecute a former senior Iranian government official accused of endorsing the fatwa against author Sir Salman Rushdie.
Met officers are examining a legal case file that accuses Sayed Ataollah Mohajerani, who lives in London, of violating the Terrorism Act 2006 by promoting terrorism, the Guardian newspaper reported on Monday.
The fatwa against Rushdie, following publication of his 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses,” was issued in February 1989 by Ayatollah Khomeini, who was Iran’s supreme leader at the time. It has never been lifted. In August 2022, Rushdie was stabbed several times and seriously injured while appearing on stage at a literary festival in New York.
A complaint was filed against Mohajerani that same month by Iranian human rights lawyer Kaveh Moussavi and British solicitor Rebecca Mooney, according to the Guardian. It states that Mohajerani was deputy to the Iranian prime minister in 1988 and vice-president for parliamentary and legal affairs between 1989 and 1997, a period of time during which the regime in Tehran ordered the assassinations of hundreds of dissidents in Europe.
Moussavi and Mooney allege that Mohajerani did not attempt to prevent the killings and, since moving to the UK, he has on several occasions lauded as an Iranian national hero Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, who was killed by a US drone strike in January 2020 in Iraq.
They also say that in his 1989 book, “A Critique of the Satanic Verses Conspiracy,” Mohajerani defended the fatwa against Rushdie and clearly expressed his view that it was religiously justified and irrevocable, and therefore impossible to withdraw.
Mohajerani denied the allegations and said his book is simply a critique of Rushdie’s novel that aims to shed light on its religious origins, the Guardian reported.
“When Salman Rushdie was attacked by an American citizen, I tweeted that I hope Salman Rushdie will recover from this event, and based on William Falkner’s advice, write a novel through concentrating on the beauties and moral values, at the service of human beings,” Mohajerani told the Guardian.
“On the contrary, in ‘The Satanic Verses,’ he added a huge amount of oil to the fire. Hopefully he will find a proper chance to correct himself.”
Mohajerani also said that because of the separation of powers between the judiciary and the executive in Iran, he had no role in the executions of prisoners in 1988.
Moussavi condemned Mohajerani’s defense as being “indicative of his culpability.”
“The idea that this is or was an independent judiciary is plain absurd. That he repeats it confirms again who he really is,” he told the Guardian.
“In law, he was required to protest and do his utmost to stop these crimes and, if unable, he must resign. I doubt very much if his defense counsel will offer these concoctions in a court case, as defense or mitigation.”
Police in London have reportedly said that the complex issues raised by the case file will require significant resources and additional time to investigate.
Mooney, representing the human rights charity Ending Immunity, highlighted the obligations on UK authorities to prosecute international crimes under international law.
“The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens — that requires preemptive, prosecutorial and punitive measures where appropriate,” she said. “That is why we have terrorism laws, including (laws against) promoting terrorism through speech. It is meaningless to have these laws if we do not prosecute.”
LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak defended his record on integrity and decisiveness Monday, amid criticism of the way he has handled ethics scandals involving senior Conservatives.
Sunak said he acted “pretty decisively” to fire party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday after the government’s standards adviser found that he’d breached ministerial conduct rules by failing to come clean about a tax dispute.
The adviser, Laurie Magnus, found that Zahawi hadn’t told the prime minister that he’d settled a multimillion-pound (dollar) unpaid tax bill, and paid a penalty to the tax office, while he was in charge of the UK Treasury. Magnus said Zahawi’s failure to tell officials about the tax investigation was “a serious failure to meet the standards set out in the ministerial code.”
“What I have done is follow a process, which is the right process,” Sunak said Monday during a visit to a hospital in northeast England. “When all these questions started coming to light about Nadhim Zahawi, I asked the independent adviser to get to the bottom of it and provide me with the facts.”
He said that on the basis of those facts “I was able to make a very quick decision that it was no longer appropriate for Nadhim Zahawi to continue in government.”
Sunak took office just over three months ago, vowing to restore order and probity to government after three years of turmoil under predecessors Boris Johnson — brought down by ethics scandals — and Liz Truss, who quit within weeks after her policies rocked the UK economy.
But critics ask why he did not ask more questions about Zahawi’s tax affairs before appointing him to the key job of party chairman in October, and allege that the government is riddled with bad behavior.
Sunak lost one Cabinet minister, Gavin Williamson, in November over bullying claims, and an investigation is under way into allegations that Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab bullied staff. There is also a separate inquiry into ex-leader Johnson, over claims he secured a loan with the help of a Conservative donor who was later appointed chairman of the BBC by the government.
Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said Sunak “needed a backbone” and should have sacked Zahawi sooner.
“Why do we see our prime minister continuing to prop up such a rogues’ gallery of ministers?” she said.
TAIPEI/PRAGUE: Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen held a telephone call with Czech President-elect Petr Pavel on Monday, a highly unusual move given the lack of formal ties between their countries and a diplomatic coup for Taipei that is sure to infuriate China.
The two leaders stressed their countries’ shared values of freedom, democracy and human rights during their 15-minute call, their offices said, and Pavel said he hoped to meet Tsai in the future.
Most countries avoid high-level public interactions with Taiwan and its president, not wishing to provoke China, the world’s second largest economy.
Beijing views Taiwan as being part of “one China” and demands other countries recognize its sovereignty claims, which Taiwan’s democratically-elected government rejects.
In 2016, US President-elect Donald Trump spoke by telephone with Tsai shortly after winning the election, setting off a storm of protest from Beijing.
Tsai said she hoped that under Pavel’s leadership the Czech Republic would continue to cooperate with Taiwan to promote a close partnership, and that she hoped to stay in touch with him.
“Bilateral interaction between Taiwan and the Czech Republic is close and good,” her office summarised Tsai as having said.
Pavel, a former army chief and high NATO official who won the Czech presidential election on Saturday, said on Twitter that the two countries “share the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights.”
Earlier, China’s foreign ministry had said it was “seeking verification with the Czech side” on media reports that the call was to take place.
“The Chinese side is opposed to countries with which it has diplomatic ties engaging in any form of official exchange with the Taiwan authorities. Czech President-elect Pavel during the election period openly said that the ‘one-China’ principle should be respected,” the ministry said.
Pavel will take office in early March, replacing President Milos Zeman, who is known for his pro-Beijing stance.
Zeman spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping this month and they reaffirmed their “personal friendly” relationship, according to a readout of their call from Zeman’s office.
The Czech Republic, like most countries, has no official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but the two sides have moved closer as Beijing ratchets up military threats against the island and Taipei seeks new friends in Eastern and Central Europe.
The center-right Czech government has said it wants to deepen cooperation with democratic countries in the India-Pacific region, including Taiwan, and has also been seeking a “revision” of ties with China.
In 2020, the head of the Czech Senate visited Taiwan and declared himself to be Taiwanese in a speech at Taiwan’s parliament, channelling the late US President John F. Kennedy’s defiance of communism in Berlin in 1963.
MIAMI: Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro, who is under investigation for his supporters’ storming of government buildings, is seeking a six-month visa to remain in the United States, his lawyer said Monday.
Bolsonaro flew to Florida in late December as his term ended rather than watch the inauguration of his leftist successor President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
He is understood to have entered on a visa for visiting world leaders, which expires on Tuesday as he is no longer on official business.
AG Immigration Group, a California-based law firm known for its work with Brazilians, said that Bolsonaro has requested a six-month visa to stay in the United States.
“We look forward to achieving the highest level of satisfaction and desired results for our client,” it said in a statement.
Bolsonaro had previously told CNN Brasil that he had planned to return by the end of January, and was considering moving his departure earlier for health reasons.
The far-right leader was injured in a knife attack in 2018. He has suffered ongoing health complications from that assassination attempt, and received hospital care during his stay in Florida.
But Bolsonaro has since come under scrutiny over the January 8 riot in the capital Brasilia by his supporters who refused to accept Lula’s victory.
The new government has ordered a probe of Bolsonaro, who for years has sought to cast doubt on Brazil’s electronic voting system, which has historically won praise around the world.
Bolsonaro’s last justice minister, Anderson Torres, was also visiting the United States during the riot and was arrested on his return.
Thousands of Bolsonaro backers broke into the presidential palace, Congress and Supreme Court buildings in Brasilia in an unsuccessful attempt to seek the overthrow of Lula.
The State Department did not immediately comment on Bolsonaro’s application. Visa records are confidential under US law.
Several lawmakers of Biden’s Democratic Party have publicly called on the administration to send Bolsonaro back to Brazil, saying he no longer had a right to stay in the United States as a visiting head of state.
“The United States must not provide shelter for him, or any authoritarian who has inspired such violence against democratic institutions,” said a letter signed by lawmakers including Representative Gregory Meeks, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Joaquin Castro, a prominent progressive Democrat.
Brazilians require visas to enter the United States including as tourists.
Bolsonaro was one of the closest international allies of Donald Trump, another former president living in Florida who has made baseless allegations about electoral fraud.
The Brasilia riot mirrored the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol by Trump supporters who did not accept his defeat to President Joe Biden.
Steve Bannon, a far-right populist strategist who worked for Trump, has developed close ties with Bolsonaro’s supporters and raised questions about last year’s Brazilian election.
Bolsonaro, however, has largely kept a low profile since flying to Florida. He has been staying near Disney World at the Orlando home of Brazilian former martial arts champion Jose Aldo and was photographed eating fried chicken alone at a KFC restaurant.