The Week That Was

The Week That Was

Chaos in post-Taliban Afghanistan

February 25 2002
The Week That Was

The Week That Was

Chaos in post-Taliban Afghanistan

February 25 2002

The Week That Was

Chaos in post-Taliban Afghanistan

Chaos continued in Afghanistan last week, underscoring the difficulty of establishing a lasting peace in the war-torn nation. At the airport in Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold, U.S. soldiers came under fire during a 20-minute gun battle on Feb. 13 (Canadian forces were not involved, and only two injuries were reported). A day later the country’s aviation minister

Abdul Rahman was killed in what appeared to be a mob attack on his plane at Kabul airport; Prime Minister Hamid Karcai said the killing was motivated by a longstanding feud between Rahman and a number of army generals. That attack was followed by more violence when a soccer game in Kabul between peacekeepers and an Afghan team turned bloody as an

unruly crowd tried to get through the stadium gates.

In Washington, meanwhile, officials raised new fears of impending attacks against the United States. At the same time, the administration focussed on widening the war on terrorism and targetting Iraq. George W. Bush said he is considering a wide range of options, including military strikes, to oust Saddam Hussein and destroy Iraq’s ability to produce weapons of mass

destruction. But Canada joined most European countries in urging Bush not to invade Iraq. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and Russian President Vladimir Putin, meeting in Moscow during a Canadian trade mission, both said the U.S. must show restraint. While Canada continues to support Washington, Chrétien said, the production of weapons in Iraq is an issue for the United Nations and “is completely different than terrorism.”

Milosevic takes aim

After listening to a two-day-long litany of the war-crimes charges against him, former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic accused the West of plotting his downfall. Milosevic, indicted on 66 charges of crimes against humanity in Croatia and Kosovo, as well as genocide in the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, ridiculed the UN tribunal in The Hague as an instrument of Western policy. The former dictator said he will call as witnesses world leaders

who were “direct actors” in the Balkan conflicts-former U.S. president Bill Clinton, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Prime MinisterTony Blair among them. Milosevic, 60, faces life in prison if convicted on any of the charges.

Enron’s heavies

Enron Corp.’s whistle-blowing executive described an environment in which the company’s shaky financial situation was widely known but no one wanted to confront the two

executives most responsible for it. Sherron Watkins had famously warned In an Aug. 15 memo to then-chairman Ken Lay that the company would “implode in a wave of accounting scandals.” At a congressional hearing, she fingered former CEO Jeffrey Skilling and former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow as key men in establishing and protecting the off-books partnership deals at the heart of the scandal. She said Lay was largely unaware of the severity of the

problem. Earlier, Lay invoked his constitutional protection against self-incrimination to avoid testifying.

A national registry

Federal and provincial justice ministers will work together to establish a mandatory registry for sex offenders. “We want a system right across the country available to all police forces,” Solicitor General Lawrence MacAulay said at an annual meeting of provincial, territorial and federal justice ministers in Moncton, N.B.

Ontario, currently the only jurisdiction to have a sex offender registry, offered help to Ottawa.

Pearl’s fate unknown

A British-born militant who’s the key suspect in the abduction of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl told a Pakistani court the journalist is dead. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, contradicting testimony he gave just a day earlier when he told Karachi police Pearl was still alive, provided no details about the alleged killing. Police said they believe they will find Pearl alive.

Searching the farm

Vancouver police and the ROMP continued to search a 4.5-hectare pig farm in Port Coquitlam, B.C., for clues into the disappearances of 50 women. Their focus last week: a trailer they say is now the subject of an “intensive forensic investigation.” Det. Scott Driemel of the Vancouver police said investigators have taken items from the trailer that contain DNA samples. More than 30 individuals responded to a police request for DNA samples from those who’d been in the trailer-testing aimed at ruling out certain people from the investigation. Meanwhile, family and friends of some of the missing continued to show up at the site, lighting candles and placing photographs at the gate.

Assassination plot

A Montreal-based political consulting firm is behind allegations of a plot to kill Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, company president Ari Ben-Menashe acknowledged. The bizarre tale came to light when an Australian television program broadcast a grainy video of a Dec. 4 meeting during which the “elimination” of Mugabe was discussed. SBS Dateline identified two of the participants as Ben-Menashe, president of Dickens & Madson, and Zimbabwean Opposition Leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Both men conceded they were in the video, but Tsvangirai said he was set up as part of a smear campaign before next month’s presidential elections. Ben-Menashe, a long-time Mugabe

lobbyist, acknowledged secretly taping the meeting.

A deal undone

The Ontario Securities Commission rejected a staff-negotiated deal with flamboyant former Corel Corp. CEO Michael Cowpland to settle a charge relating to insider trading. Cowpland would have paid a $575,000 penalty and been barred from serving as a director for two years. But OSC vice-chairman Paul Moore, who presided over the judicial panel in the case, declared: “Insider trading by its very nature is a cancer that erodes public confidence in the capital markets. There must be real consequences to illegal conduct.” A day earlier, Cowpland’s holding company pleaded guilty in

an Ontario court to a separate charge of insider trading and was fined $1 million.

Regan can be tried

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled former Nova Scotia premier Gerald Regan can be tried for indecent assault. The seven charges date from the 1960s and 1970s and involve females who were then between the ages of 14 and 24. In a 5-4 decision, the high court ruled that the Nova Scotia Provincial Court was wrong to impose a stay in proceedings in April, 1998. Regan, 74, also faces one count of indecently assaulting a teenager more than 30 years ago. Crown prosecutors must still decide whether they will pursue the cases any farther.

Discord within the Parti Québécois

Just a few weeks ago when Bernard Landry remade his cabinet, there was talk of an early election in Quebec this spring. Now, the Parti Québécois government is reeling over a controversy involving allegedly improper ties between some of the premier’s close advisers and private lobbyists. The furor was so intense that Landry was forced by his cabinet to accept the resignation of his top campaign organizer and former staffer, PQ director general Raymond Bréard, despite the objections of the party executive. Natural Resources Minister Gilles Baril, Landry’s political lieutenant in cabinet, quit tearfully a day later, saying the

media scrutiny was too much for him and his family.

Both men reportedly had a close relationship with a highprofile firm called Oxygène 9, which earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions by securing government money for non-profit groups. Attempting to quell the controversy, Landry announced a tough new ethics law to govern lobbyists. But some insiders claimed the scandal was generated by hard-core separatists within the party who want to destabiilize Landry’s leadership and perhaps force a review before an election, which must be held by November, 2003.

The Week That Was

Bidding farewell to Princess Margaret

Even in death Princess Margaret, whose clamorous lifestyle often defied royal tradition, chose to break with convention by being cremated rather than buried. The younger sister of Queen Elizabeth passed away on Feb. 9 at the age of 71 after suffering a stroke. As hundreds of mourners gathered at Windsor Castle’s gates to pay their last respects, the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and the 101-year-old Queen Mother were among the 400 people who attended a private funeral service inside. At times, the occasion was upstaged by concerns over the health of the Queen Mother, who fell from a chair and cut her arm on Feb. 6. But she was flown by helicopter to Windsor Castle, where she said a final farewell to her daughter.

In a way, Margaret had been the

Diana of her day-the first royal to become a media obsession as Reet Street debated everything from the length of her hemlines to the colour of her cigarette holder. But as glamorous as she once was, Margaret was unlucky in affairs of the heart. In 1952, the 22-year-old princess fell in love with Peter Townsend, a dashing air force captain. But in the conservative Britain of thel950s, the relationship was controversial-Townsend was divorced, and Margaret had to choose between love and royal duty. She chose the latter, saying she was “mindful of the Church’s teachings that Christian marriage is indissoluble, and conscious of my duty to the Commonwealth.”

She eventually married Antony Armstrong-Jones, a magazine photographer whom she met in

1958. The couple had two children, but the relationship ended in divorce in 1978 after both engaged in a series of affairs (in 1968, Robin Douglas-Home committed suicide after the princess ended their liaison). With the end of the marriage, Margaret’s personality seemed to change; she became

known as the “house guest from hell,” on some occasions prickly and on others boorish.

Heavy smoking and drinking also took their toll. She suffered strokes in 1998 and 2001, which impaired her sight. The public also seemed to tire of her, and she met with little sympathy as she aged. In her last days, one editorial mused, “The only constants in the blindingly mediocre life of Princess Margaret would appear to be privilege, illness and lashings of alcohol.” But for many, she will always be remembered as the princess who, as Charles said on her passing, “loved life and lived it to the full.” Margaret’s ashes were placed in the Royal Vault at St. George’s Chapel, close to the tomb of her father, George VI, whose own funeral took place at Windsor Castle 50 years ago.