Monday, March 10, 2014

Royal News Roundup

This week, we will start for a change in Asia. In Japan, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress welcomed the President and First Lady of the Baltic nation of Estonia at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, a return for the 2007 imperial visit to Estonia. The President also met with Prime Minister Abe, naturally discussing the situation in Ukraine. PM Abe offered financial support for human rights observers but earlier refused to go along with U.S. President Obama on sanctions against Russia for fear that this would harm Abe’s efforts to negotiate the return of the North Territories, just off the north coast of Hokkaido, which the Soviet Union illegally occupied after World War II. Which would make more sense if Russia had ever shown the slightest possibility of doing the right thing on that front. In southeast Asia, the bodyguard of the ex-wife of the Sultan of Brunei was found ‘not guilty’ by a jury in England of stealing £12 million in diamonds. Back at home, the Sultan of Brunei is urging people to embrace the implementation of Islamic law in the country which goes into effect next month. Ever since the move was announced, international human rights organizations have been in an uproar about it though the laws will only apply to the 66% of Brunei subjects who are Muslims and not the non-Muslim minority. Religion has also become a sensitive subject lately in the normally tranquil Kingdom of Malaysia. In Kelantan Sultan Muhammad V said last week that he is disappointed in how the ‘new media’ is being used to hurl slander, hatred and offend religious sensibilities, warning everyone that if “the prevailing peace and security is destroyed, nobody will benefit from it, instead everyone will suffer”.

In the Middle East, the monarchy at the center of all the news last week was the Emirate of Qatar. At particular issue is the Qatari network Al-Jazeera which is widely viewed as a propaganda tool of the Muslim Brotherhood which remains widely banned in the region as a threat to stability. The reach of Al-Jazeera and funds from Qatar have also begun to rival the influence of Saudi Arabia with many seeing the two monarchies as being in competition. Qatar, for example, supported the Morsi government in Egypt while Saudi Arabia cheered the military coup that ousted him. Last week the situation became worse, however, as more countries seem to be taking exception to the support for the Brotherhood coming from Qatar to the extent that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as the influential United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain have all recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, citing Qatari interference in their internal affairs. The Brotherhood is believed to have been behind outbreaks of protest and political unrest in several gulf states. Qatar began a more activist foreign policy under the former Sheikh Hamad and it seems that policy has not changed with the succession of his son Sheikh Tamim. Those breaking off formal diplomatic relations have said they tried to persuade Qatar to stop using Al-Jazeera to support the Brotherhood and encourage dissent but were unsuccessful. Most also believe that the change in policy in Qatar is being supported by the Republic of Turkey and is ultimately aimed at weakening or eliminating the monarchies of the Middle East to allow the Turkish republic to fill the void.

Europe has been rather preoccupied with the situation in Ukraine to the extent that not much royal-related news made the papers (so to speak). However, members of the Greek and Spanish Royal Families got together to commemorate the late King Paul of Greece (who reigned from 1947 to 1964). Prince Albert II of Monaco visited the Kingdom of Morocco for a couple of days (Princess Charlene took in a fashion show in Paris) and in Sweden everyone is still fussing over the birth of Princess Leonore (did a little black bird give them that name?) and the proud parents Princess Madeleine and Mr. Chris O’Neill couldn’t be happier. A message from the couple said, “She is a little angel and like her name, she brings sunshine even on cloudy days. From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank each and every one of you for your lovely best wishes for our daughter. She feels very loved.” In Great Britain, Prince Harry won just kudos for his continued work to help disabled military veterans which included, last week, launching the “Invictus Games” for disabled vets. However, the chattering class still found something to moan about when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge flew off to a holiday in the Maldives, leaving Prince George behind -as if there is absolutely no one around to take care of the little prince. Most disturbing though was the news from New Zealand where headlines have been trumpeting a possible rise in republicanism. It started when a Maori native threatened to destroy a monument at the historic Waitangi site after hearing that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge would not be stopping there on their visit to New Zealand next month. Next, Maori King Tuheitia said he will not meet with the royals after being told that he would not be allowed more than the 90 minutes allotted to everyone else wishing to have some one-on-one time with the Cambridge couple. Hopefully, the papers are blowing this out of proportion. Some have pointed to poll numbers showing support for the monarchy slipping while adding that this may be a sign of declining monarchist sympathy in the Maori community which is 15% of the population and influential because of their native status. Hopefully, the people of New Zealand will remain steadfast in their loyalty to the Crown and the historical ties that have brought them to the place they are today.

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