Wednesday, 6 June 2012

House of Lords to investigate Baroness Warsi over expenses fiddling

British Pakistani politician Baroness Warsi is to be investigated by the House of Lords over allegations she fiddled with her parliamentary expenses.

The co-chairman of the Conservative Party referred herself to the Lords Standards Commissioner following reports that she claimed accommodation allowances while staying rent-free with a friend in 2008.

The rules for expenses claims by members of the House of Lords, as set out on the Parliament website for the year 2007-08, say members living outside London can claim a maximum of £165.50 a night.

Separately, Lady Warsi has apologised after it emerged she failed to declare she and a relative, Abid Hussain, had stakes in the same firm before travelling together to Pakistan on a government trip in 2010.
The prime minister said he was "very happy" with Lady Warsi's assurances but has referred the matter to his adviser on the ministerial code.

- UKAsian Staff

Channel 4 producer denied entry to Sri Lanka

A senior executive at Channel 4 has been denied entry to Sri Lanka.

Stuart Cosgrove and his wife Shirani Sabaratnam were turned away at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo because of the Lankan government's displeasure at a Channel 4 documentary alleging the country's armed forced had committed war crimes.

Mr Cosgrove, 59, is the head of Creative Diversity at Channel 4 while Mrs Sabaratnam is a Commissioning Editor for UKTV.

The couple are said to have been the driving force behind the airing of 'Sri Lanka's Killing Fields' documentary, which alleged widespread rights abuses by the Sri Lankan Armed Forces during the final days of the country's bloody civil conflict in 2009.

Channel 4 confirmed Mr Cosgrove had been denied entry to Sri Lanka on Wednesday but insisted that the Glasgow-based executive had no role in the production of Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields.

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 said: “Stuart Cosgrove’s passport and visa were both valid but his passport was rejected on a technicality on arrival in Sri Lanka – as the middle name on his new passport did not match the one on his visa.

“He and his wife were not granted entry to the country and are now on their way back to the UK.”
An unnamed official in charge of immigration told the BBC that the incident "was not a deportation" and that Mr Cosgrove had merely been "instructed to leave".

The official told the BBC the reason for the denied entry was "because they are from Channel 4, which without reason has harmed Sri Lanka's reputation".

Speaking at the time of the original broadcast, the Sri Lanka High Commission said: “The Government of Sri Lanka categorically denies the allegations that it has deliberately targeted its own civilians, as the Channel 4 alleges in its film Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields".

- Viji Alles

Bollywood royalty set to thrill Singapore

The weather forecast is set to the 'Damp' setting but Singapore is in for a scorcher this week as Bollywood royalty descends on The Lion City for the 13th annual International Indian Film Academy weekend and awards which kicks off Thursday.

From veterans such as Salman Khan and Hrithik Roshan to young guns like Sonakshi Sinha dn Abhay Deol all the way to the evergreen Rekha and Rishi Kapoor, a glittering array of Bollywood actors and filmmakers will enthral fans in the tiny nation state.

The younger generation's appearance at the Festival is particularly significant as this year's edition of the popular awards show is focussed on providing a platform for fresh young talent.

Sabbas Joseph, director of event organizers Wizcraft International told IANS: The freshness in this year's edition, is across multiple perspectives. It is a much younger approach, something that represents the youth of the country on global platform".

True to its approach, the gala will see young and budding talent taking centre stage.
Shahid and Farhan Akhtar are set to entertain the audience with their wit and humour as the hosts of the glitzy awards ceremony.

The pre-finale celebrations will include a race on Singapore's F1 track as part of the promotional campaign for Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 'Ferrari Ki Sawaari'.

Writers like Javed Akhtar and Prasoon Joshi, composer Shantanu Moitra and filmmakers Zoya Akhtar and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, will host music workshops, where they will discuss what goes into creating the music that is such an integral part of Bollywood.

Other highlights include a world premiere of Dibakar Banerjee's Shanghai.
IIFA Rocks, a fashion and musical night, featuring designers like Masaba Gupta, Suneet Varma and Varun Bahl, will be held a day before the main award function.

VJ-turned-actor Ayushmann Khurrana and actress Chitrangada Singh have been roped in to host IIFA Rocks, where new kids on the block -- Nargis Fakhri, Zoa Morani, Aditi Rao Hydari and Shazahn Padamsee will take to the ramp as showstoppers.

The awards night Saturday will see performances by Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Sonakshi Sinha, Bipasha Basu and Ranbir Kapoor in dance sequences choreographed by the mind-bogglingly flexible South Indian superstar Prabhu Deva.

Other Bollywood stars expected to attend the event include Vidya Balan, Preity Zinta, Malaika Arora Khan, Rani Mukerji, Parineeti Chopra, Dia Mirza, Emraan Hashmi and Anil Kapoor.
- Poonam Joshi/Reports

Delhi High Court dismisses petition against 'Shanghai'

The High Court in New Delhi has dismissed a petition by the Hindu nationalist Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena (Bhagat Singh Revolutionary Army) seeking to prevent the release of Dibakar Bannerjee's new political thriller 'Shanghai'.

BSKS President Tejinder Pal Singh Bagga filed a 'public interest litigation' objecting to the lyrics of one of the film's songs, 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', stating the song's writer had presented India in the most "humiliating, outrageous and insulting manner".

Judges however ruled that there was "nothing insulting in the song and it merely depicted the existing state of affairs in India".

Justice Rajiv Shakdher and Justice Vipin Sanghi said in their ruling: "We do not find anything objectionable in the said song.  In a democracy, every person has a right to voice his views and opinions... the same right to speech and expression cannot be curtailed except under some circumstances."

"The author of the song has merely sought to portray the existing state of affairs in India, once considered a golden bird... is now infested with diseases like dengue and malaria", the judges added.

The film stars Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol and Kalki Koechlin and has created considerable buzz ahead of its release this weekend with multiple storylines casting an inhibiting eye on the murky underbelly of Indian politics.  

Bagga contended that the song showed that its writer had no respect for India, depicting India as the land of the homeless, full of misery and despair.

Justice Shakdher however, disagreed: "Similar kind of accusations were being made against great film maker Satyajit Ray that he used to sell the darker side of India abroad," adding that "you cannot restrict artistic freedom".

'Shanghai' is released June 08.
- Poonam Joshi

Tamil protests greet Mahinda Rajapakse at Queen's luncheon

Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapakse was forced to cancel a speech in the City of London Wednesday after more than 3000 Tamil protestors converged on a Jubilee event attended by the Queen.

President Rajapakse was attending a luncheon in honour of the Queen organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat and attended by Commonwealth heads of state and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The more than 70 guests were greeted by angry scenes as they arrived at Marlborough House in Central London.

Several effigies of Rajapakse were burned as the crowd protested his presence at the meal citing alleged war crimes committed by government forces in the final days of the country's Civil War in 2009.

Mr Rajapakse was jeered as he swept through the main gate in a Range Rover.
His car did not carry a flag because of security concerns.

Mr Rajapakse had earlier been forced to cancel an appearance as keynote speaker at a £800-per-head event organized by the Commonwealth Economic Forum in the City.

The Queen spent a brief moment with Mr Rajapakse and appeared to fleetingly shake hands with him as she met guests at the pre-lunch reception.

The protests come after a Sri Lankan man, who was left scarred and suicidal after two weeks of torture, accused the British government of forcibly deporting asylum seekers who are then tortured in Sri Lanka.
The victim told the Guardian newspaper he was tortured over the space of 17 days after being deported from the UK last year.

His torturers accused him of passing on to British officials information about previous beatings at the hands of state officials and other human rights abuses to ruin diplomatic relations between the two countries.
- UKAsian Staff