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13 May 2000
No. 105

In this issue:
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Philippines - Labour groups use May Day to protest gov't polices
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    INDIA: Man killed, women and children tortured during illegal detention
    APRN Conference on Poverty and Financing Development


1. FEATURE - top


by Thea Ormerod
Pax Christi, Australia.

"Jubilee South rejects the Koln debt initiative as a cruel hoax. For moral reasons, the debt of the South is illegitimate. Furthermore it has been paid over and over again. We demand total, unconditional cancellation of all the debt of the South." These are the words of Jubilee South, after the G7 summit in June last year.

Notice the contrast in tone with the report on the Koln initiative which came from Jubilee 2000 USA: "Jubilee 2000/USA welcomes the high priority placed on the vital issue of debt relief for impoverished countries at the recent summit of the world's wealthiest nations, grouped in the G7. While pleased by some positive aspects we have significant concerns about the overall thrust of the G7's proposed Koln Debt Initiative."

In part, the contrast between the statements reflects the diversity in the movement. It cannot reasonably be expected that a very broad based coalition of churches, unions, artists, academics and NGOs from across the globe will be completely uniform in its demands. Hence, just prior to the British announcement on 100% cancellation of HIPC debt owed to the UK, Bob Geldof wrote an open letter to his government talking about the need to "acknowledge that the grotesque conditions imposed upon the broken back of the already weak are onerous and pointless". Similarly the World Development Movement in the UK has been researching and promoting the repudiation of "odious debt" which has tended to be a focus more of Southern campaigns.

Then some Jubilee 2000 campaigners of the South concur with a form of conditionality for debt relief, in consultation with international institutions. This is seen as a useful tool to put pressure on governments to democratize and/or use freed funds for poverty reduction. This contrasts with the trend of South campaigns which is to see conditionality with any input from international institutions as an intrusion into national sovereignty.

Yet there do seem to be trends which characterize Southern Jubilee campaigns as different from their Northern counterparts. Not surprisingly, Northern campaigns are better resourced and make the most of information technology. We have most of the websites, lobby via the internet and undertake most of the research. We're more able to get to Conferences and produce reports.
The North has its high status supporters: the Pope; Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Harvard
Institute of International Development; Clare Short, UK Secretary of State for International
Development; Bono of U2.

Northern campaigns have focussed the goals of the international campaign to what is thought to achievable and pragmatic, i.e. the cancellation of debt owed by the 52 poorest countries by the end of the year 2000. Helen Wangusa of the African Women's Policy Network commented: "Most of the Southern groups feel they are playing 'catch-up', on a campaign that is well advanced in most Northern countries on a narrowly defined agenda that has been set in the North". (New Internationalist May 1999 issue p. 29)

Some South campaigners advocate cancellation of all international debt owed by all impoverished countries. Certainly each South campaign seems to advocate the cancellation of debt owed by their own country. These are "Don't pay, won't pay" campaigns. There is much reference made to how the debts were incurred in the first place, with loans proffered by greedy lenders to corrupt dictators who spent money imprudently or in the oppression of their own people. One-fifth of all debt owed by impoverished countries was from loans given to prop up compliant dictators. Now the people are being required by their all-powerful creditors to pay the bill for their own oppression. These are the "odious debts" so frequently referred to by Jubilee South. The term was first used by the US in 1898 when it captured Cuba from Spain and refused to pay Cuba's debts to Spain because they had been "imposed upon the people of Cuba without their consent and by force of arms." The US argued that "the creditors, from the beginning, took their chances."

Various Latin American and Southern African campaigners go further still and argue that reparations should be made to their countries for past and present exploitation of their resources. "Southern Africa is shackled by debt owed to the same forces which initiated, enforced, condoned and sustained slavery and colonialism ... there is a debt we do recognise - a moral debt. This is the debt that our governments, the governments of the G7/8, multilaterals and international commercial banks owe us for unbuilt and broken down schools, for women and girls who continue to bear the burden of poverty, and for the jobs, homes, clean water and all the fundamental human rights we do not have. We believe reparations are long overdue as our initiative to regain control over our destiny and to ensure that the African holocaust will never occur again." (Gauteng Declaration March 1999)

There is an intensity about the Drop the Debt campaign which characterises both North and South campaigns, but it seems to me more passionately present in the South. Before the US Congress decision in November 1999, 10,000 North Americans went on a rolling hunger strike, and one man fasted for several weeks. This was Rev. David Duncombe, who not only fasted, but made hunger visible to Congressmen by visiting each of them once a week. Going back to May 1998, the 70,000 people-strong human chain around the G7 summit in Birmingham certainly put Debt on the map as a political issue.

However, it is naturally in the South that the fervour for change seems to me to be most widespread and intense. Over a million people across Latin America participated in last October's "Shout of the Excluded", demonstrating against debt and economic injustice. A month before that, Colombia's main trade unions called a general strike which lasted over a week in response to their government's proposed acceptance of further structural adjustment in exchange for debt relief. In Peru, the global petition was signed by 1.8 million people. The latest New Internationalist reports on a children's movement in Peru named Manthoc, which has 5,000 young members who educate each other about the link between debt and poverty.

While there are notable differences, the commonalties of the Jubilee 2000 Debt campaigns are more powerful. It is historically remarkable that this is a relatively unified movement in which millions of people from enormously diverse contexts have a consensus on a number of issues. At a minimum, we want to see the people of the poorest 52 countries freed from their slavery to debt, through complete debt cancellation by the end of the year 2000. We propose mechanisms by which the funds released are used for poverty reduction, and want to see an end to the structural adjustment programmes which continue to cost the lives of 7 million children each year. We want to see life put before debt, human rights put before economic systems.

In the words of the most Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane, Archbishop of Cape Town, in an address given on November 18th at the Jubilee 2000 South South summit: "We have to challenge this ideology that encourages the idolatry of money and wealth. We have to challenge it with our own humanity, our own compassion. Above all, we must challenge it by joining hands across continents, by linking up with like-minded people in the North and in the South; by standing together. We should always be guided by the Lund principle: "Never do alone what we can do together."

Sources: New Internationalist (May 1999 and January-February 2000), 'Crumbs of Comfort', April 1999, report written by Joseph Hanlon and John Garrett of Jubilee 2000 UK, and websites: and


2. NEWS in Brief - top



The Malaysian Trades Unions Congress (MTUC) is working towards achieving a minimum wage law for Malaysian workers by the end of the year.

Its secretary-general, G. Rajasekaran, told malaysiakini that MTUC has been fighting for the establishment of a minimum wage law for 50 years, and a 10-member committee has been set up recently to come up with recommendations to be submitted to the government soon.

"The committee will revise the proposal we made in 1996, in which we recommended the minimum monthly wage to be set at RM600 (US$150). Now, we have to review the proposal taking into account the workers' basic needs of the day with the current cost of living," he said.

The News Straits Times today reported that the government could not immediately set the minimum wage at RM1,200 (US$300) as all workers, including executives would then have to be paid more. Instead, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad urged workers to increase productivity and not to have a test of strength with employers as a way to better wages.

"It (the commitee) will also set a time frame to achieve our objective of establishing the minimum wage law. We will call for a nationwide picket as a last resort if the establishment of a minimum wage is rejected," Rajasekaran said.

MTUC was established in 1949 and represents about 500,000 workers in Malaysia. It primary objectives are to improve the economic and social conditions of workers and to ensure that policies which are conducive to the welfare of the workers such are implemented.



Labour groups use May Day to protest gov't polices

WORKERS belonging to militant and moderate groups and allied organizations marked Labor Day yesterday with nationwide mass actions protesting the government's economic policies and reiterating demands for wage increases.

In Manila, the Kilusang Mayo Uno unveiled a new sticker--depicting a white lightning bolt on a black background--to symbolize the workers' campaign to oust President Estrada. KMU chair Crispin Beltran said that the sticker signalled "Storm Signal No. 1" which workers launched yesterday with the street protests.

An estimated 5,000 workers belonging to KMU-affiliated unions joined a rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio. Later, they marched to the US Embassy where they held a brief program before proceeding to the Manila Hotel to show support for the striking employees there.

Around 1,000 members of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage) joined the protest march to press a P3,000 salary increase. They included employees of the National Food Authority; Metro Manila Development Authority; Bureau of Customs; Departments of Labor and Employment, Agrarian Reform, and Agriculture; the Caloocan City government; and the Economic Intelligence and Investigation Bureau which was "deactivated" effective April 30.



Human Rights Watch reports that Vietnam's human rights performance continues to fall far short of international standards, despite economic and social changes since the late 1980's.

In a new 34-page report, "Vietnam: Silencing of Dissent," Human Rights Watch details how the Socialist Republic of Vietnam continues to harass, isolate, place under house arrest, and sometimes imprison its critics. Among those singled out are senior party leaders calling for political reforms, long-time critics from the academic community, members of the press, and religious leaders whom the government fears may be able to attract large followings.

The new report takes note of positive changes in Vietnam in recent years as it has opened up to the international community, including human rights improvements. Tens of thousands of political detainees and re-education camp inmates have been released, thousands of Vietnamese
who had fled abroad as refugees have returned, and the government has shown an increased willingness to cooperate with the U.N. on human rights issues.

At the same time, significant human rights problems remain. Freedom of expression, free association, and other basic rights are still seriously constrained. Corruption purges have been used, in part, to target party leaders advocating economic reforms while hardline conservatives appear virtually unaccountable. Vietnam's domestic media remains under strict
state control. Critics have few sanctioned outlets for independent expression. Communication among dissidents and between them and the outside world is hampered by interception of mail, blockage of telephone lines, and suspension of Internet accounts. When dissidents do speak out in criticism of the Party or call for democratic reforms, they are subject to interrogation by officials and heightened monitoring of their activities.

Legislation remains in force authorizing surveillance of released prisoners convicted of national security offenses and the arbitrary "administrative detention" of anyone suspected of threatening national security, with no need for prior judicial approval. A new press law passed in May 1999 effectively encourages media self-censorship by requiring journalists to pay compensation or publish retractions not only for inaccurate stories but for all writing deemed to violate the "honor of any organization or the dignity of any individual."

Because of lack of access to Vietnam's prisons by independent monitors, it is not possible to provide a comprehensive listing of all individuals currently imprisoned or detained in Vietnam for political or religious beliefs. The government continues to insist it has no political
prisoners, although the director of the Public Security Ministry's Prison Management Department stated recently that the inmate population included more than 100 people convicted of crimes against national security alone.

In the report, Human Rights Watch urges the government to release unconditionally all those currently being imprisoned, detained or whose activities are restricted because of their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression or belief. The international monitoring group further calls on Vietnam to take other steps necessary to bring Vietnam's law and practice into full conformity with its international human rights obligations. Human Rights Watch also encourages the international community to support such reforms, advocating that
technical assistance for legal reform programs from bilateral donors and the World Bank include reforms of criminal, press and national security laws, and not only laws dealing with commercial matters.

The report is available through the internet at Human Rights Watch's website,



Thousands of demonstrators have pushed past police lines in protest against policies of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which is holding its annual meeting in Thailand. Up to 3,000 Thai activists, farmers and students chanted slogans "ADB go to hell" and blocked traffic in the northern town on Chiang Mai.

Many of the protesters claim they have lost their land or livelihoods as a result of ADB-funded projects. They say the bank's policies have worsened poverty and damaged the environment.
Police officials at the demonstration are quoted as saying they have never seen such a large and determined crowd. However, there was no violence and no serious casualties.

The activists, many wearing brightly coloured headbands and carrying flags and banners, belong to a number of non-governmental and student organisations. They were joined by poor farmers from around Chiang Mai, the town in the middle of Thailand's agricultural heartland.

Protest leaders submitted a letter demanding that ADB loans to Thailand be scrapped. They also want Thailand to resist ADB pressure to charge for water used in farming.

The ADB's representative Craig Steffensen, who met the protesters, told them that the issues need to be discussed. "We promise that we will listen to you and we need to meet more," he said.

But the protesters refused to leave the venue. "If the ADB continues to refuse and respond to these issues and demands in a meaningful and sincere way we are concerned it will increase the likelihood of confrontation," their statement said. "You have a legal and moral responsibility to respond, you have an opportunity to do so now, and we urge you not to miss it."

The ADB has lent $1.2 billion to Thailand as part of its contributions to help it to recover from the 1997 economic crisis. Some of its projects deal with irrigation for agriculture, waste water management and the operations of government health care and education. Governors of the bank were meeting to discuss poverty alleviation projects and expanding the ADB's soft-loan facility.




Asian leaders meeting at a UN trade conference have expressed concern about the growth and increasing power of huge multinational corporations. A number of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) said the trend towards big corporations merging made it hard for smaller companies in developing countries to compete.

In a speech to the conference, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that international organisations such as the UN and World Bank had not been able to cope with the challenges facing the developing world.

Dr Mahathir said he was "worried and frightened" by the speed at which companies were merging to seek domination of some global industries. "Now many of these corporations are financially more powerful than medium-sized countries. While we welcome their collaboration with our local companies, we fear that if they are allowed into our countries unconditionally they may swallow up all our businesses," the Malaysian prime minister said.

Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said globalisation was unstoppable whatever an individual country's feelings about the process. "It is in our interest to maximise the opportunities and minimise the risks and costs of globalisation. What we urgently need is a new framework - a new global order - to sustain a global consensus on open markets and to moderate its worst excesses," Mr Goh said.

Leaders of developing countries are hoping that this meeting will produce pledges from the richer countries to open their markets to goods from the developing world.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had earlier called for a "Global New Deal" in which the rich nations extended a helping hand to poor countries. Mr Annan said globalisation was not the enemy of development, but he said that those who do best from it had an obligation to look after the casualties. "How and why is it that such large parts of the world are excluded from benefits of globalisation? In part, it is indeed because development is held back by the barriers which industrialised countries still place in the way of exports from developing countries," Mr Annan said.




The first tri-partite consultation on labour issues and the future labour law was concluded recently in Dili. Organized by UNTAET, the workshop gathered representatives of East Timorese labour organizations, experts from the International Labour Organization, UNTAET and participants from human rights organizations, student groups and the Church. Regrettably, no representatives of employers attended the workshop.

The event was organized with the aim of securing participation and input from East Timorese in drafting of the future labour law. A working group comprised of representatives of seven different organizations was formed to prepare the final report on the workshop. This report will be then distributed to all relevant stakeholders and should provide substantive input to the labour legislation which is to be drafted by UNTAET Legal Affairs Department and presented to the National Consultative Council for approval.

The regulation is expected to be passed by the end of June. In the meantime, the International Labour Organization will prepare a set of general guidelines which will be discussed by the Working Group and passed for signature to the Transitional Administrator within a month.

In a related development, an official notification was issued today by UNTAET establishing 1 May a public holiday in East Timor.



Radical students hurled a volley of firebombs at riot police Monday in a violent May Day protest against the planned sale of the ailing Daewoo Motor Co. to a foreign buyer.

"Scrap government plan to sell off our prized auto firm to foreigners," shouted the protestors, who also urged President Kim Dae-Jung to stop his economic reform drive. The students also scattered leafleats reading "We support a strike by Daewoo Motor workers."

Daewoo Motor's union has been on a wildcat strike since February 15, after the government announced an international auction to sell off the troubled auto firm. US giants Ford Motors and General Motors Corp., Italy's Fiat, Germany's DaimlerChrysler, and South Korea's leading Hyundai Motor Co. have all applied to take over Daewoo Motor. But the auction of Daewoo Motor, once the nation's second largest car manufacturer, has been clouded by a wave of labor protests that crippled the country's entire auto industry for a week before the April 13 parliamentary election.

South Koreans regard their car industry, the world's fifth largest, as a symbol of their economic progress, and selling off national firms is a sensitive political issue. Some 4,000 members of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU), an umbrella labor group, held an indoor rally in Seoul, demanding Daewoo Motor be nationalized. "We need an all-out strike unless our demands are met," FKTU chief Lee Kwang-Nam warned in a speech.


3. Urgent APPEAL - top

INDIA: Man killed, women and children tortured during illegal detention
AHRC UA Index:000504 4 May 2000

We have received very reliable information describing the torture, molestation and illegal detention of at least 12 women, and 2 minors, in connection with the torture, illegal detention and murder of a man in Chennai, Tamil Nadu State in the South of India. The man murdered is one Nathan, s/o Nagappan of Chennai, who died on Febraury 17, 2000. All of these serious human rights violations were at the hands of the police at the F-1 Chintadripet Police Station, Chennai between the 10th and 17th of February 2000. The events are summarized below.

Nathan, s/o Nagappan, of Chennai was detained on 10/2/2000 by plain clothes police in a private car in connection with the robbery of the 'Bombay Electronics' store in Chennai. He was taken to the F-1 Police Station and seriously tortured, by using needles tied together and inserted under his nails, being cut on the inside of his mouth and forced to swallow liquor, being tied to window bars and beaten among other means. He was detained until his death. According to his wife, Sala, who was with him through the entire period of his detention, he was not even coherent, nor able to eat, speak or walk properly from 13/2/2000.

The police and magistrate claim that Nathan appeared in court on the 16th, while the women who had been detained claim he never left the police station on that day. Either way, Nathan died the next day (17/2/2000), from the injuries he had received at the hands of the police.

11/2 Sala, Nathan's wife taken in and tortured by bending her fingers backwards over a pen and forcing her to bend over a stool and beating her

12/2 Renuka, Bhavani, Umayavalli, Chelli, Amutha all detained and tortured - grabbed by the hair, beaten on the back and buttocks, verbally abused and sexually molested.

13/2 Torture and illegal detention of women: Nagarani, Palayam, Kannagi and Veerammal (mother of Nathan), Velankanni and Nagarani's daughter Indira, 24, were all beaten, verbally abused, molested, and their hands injured.

The women were detained illegally at F-1 station during day, where tortured, then most were detained at the All-Women's Police Station at night from 11pm under different, false names entered in prison records. This is clearly an offence of wrongful confinement and violates section 160 of the Criminal Procedure Code. None were brought before a court, even though they were detained for much longer than the maximum 24 hours allowed before they must be brought to court by the police.

Many of the women named a particular policeman Venkatesh who was the most brutal amd abusive, encouraging the other police to help him torture the detainees. The women also claimed that the police were in a drunken state for much of the time of their illegal detention.

13/2 The two minor children of Nathan, Anand and Mani, were also taken to the police station, beaten, abused, stripped naked and threatened by Venkatesh and other police. Anand was pierced with a needle in his genitalia. Mani was detained until the night of 16/2, Anand until the morning of 17/2. They were also forced to watch the police torture their parents and other illegal detainees.


From the 1998 US State Department's report on Human Rights in India: "The law prohibits torture, and confessions extracted by force are generally inadmissible in court. Nevertheless, torture is common throughout the country, and authorities often use torture during interrogations. In other instances, they torture detainees to extort money and sometimes as summary punishment."

From Amnesty International's 1999 Report on India: "Thousands of political prisoners...were detained without charge or trial. Torture and ill-treatment continued to be widespread, and hundreds of people were reported to have died in custody. Conditions in many prisons amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

From the South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre: "Torture is a sanctioned practice in the administration of justice in India. The police regularly violate the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the guidelines for the use of fire arms. Torture, extortion, and rape take place with impunity in police custody across the country."

This is not an isolated case, but part of a pattern of police brutality that continues unabated and with impunity. Some of the brutality in this case may relate to the crime involved - robbery of a successful business. In such cases, businesses may 'generously assist' police in finding the culprit (offering use of a car, providing gifts, etc.), which encourages the police to use any means possible to get the money back. Also, police may be able to find ways to extort suspects or to 'skim off' some of the money recovered.


Write to the President and the Prime Minister of India and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, with a copy to the head of the National Human Rights Commission, requesting that an immediate, independent enquiry into the illegal detention, molestation and torture of the women and children named in this appeal, and the death of Nathan.

Please also include the following recommendations, made by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), who conducted the fact-finding mission:

  1. All police officials responsible for the death of Nathan be charged for murder and prosecuted immediately before the Human Rights Court;

  2. The investigation into the case be done by a high police official of known integrity, since the accused themselves are police personnel; the accused be charged and prosecuted for illegal confinement, causing grievous hurt and molestation of the women and children; stern action be taken against the officials who violated the Juvenile Justice Act 1986; and an identification parade be immediately conducted so that the women can identify the police officials who are responsible for the death of Nathan and for the torture and molestation of the women and children;

  3. Post-mortem reports be made public documents and the victims and human rights organisations given access to these documents;

  4. Compensation be given to all the women and children who suffered illegal detention, torture and sexual molestation in the hands of the police;

  5. The RDO enquiry be prevented from protracting or stalling the investigation into crimes committed by police officials;

  6. Contempt proceedings be initiated against all police personnel concerned with violation of the directions given by the Supreme Court in respect to providing arrest memos;

  7. Every Magistrate make the provision of a proof of service of arrest memo a pre-condition for remanding any arrested person to either police or judicial custody;

  8. All Women Polic Stations not be used as illegal detention centres for women.


President K. R. Narayan
Office of the President
Rashtrapati Bhavan
New Delhi 110 001
FAX: 91 11 301 7290

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
South Block Gate NO. 6
New Delhi 110 001
Fax: 91 11 301 9817

Hon. Dr. M. Karunanidhi
Chief Minister
Tamil Nadu State
Chennai 600009
FAX: 91 44 536 6929


Justice J. S. Verma
National Human Rights Commission
Sardar Patel Bhavan
Sandas Marg
New Delhi 110 001
Fax: 91 - 11 336 6537



APRN Conference on Poverty and Financing Development

Date: 21-23 August 2000
Venue: Jakarta, Indonesia

This conference aims to provide forum on the varius aspects of the issue of financial development and financial liberalisations core issues for people's advocacy, education and information affecting all countries in the Asia and the Pacific.

The Asia-Pacific Research Network (APRN) is a network of 23 active and leading research NGOs from 11 countries in the

For more informatin, contact the APRN Secretariat <>



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