28 October 2000
In this issue:
Globalisaton: Challenge to the People's Movement
Korea: The Spirit of Seoul
Philippines: NCCP Calls for Estrada to Resign
Malaysia: 17 NGOs Issues Memorandum to Abolish ISA
China: Three gorges Dam
Thailand: Update on Durable Textile Workers
New Conference papers available
Pakistan: Save Dr. Shaikh
New Conference papers available
|1. FEATURE - top|
|2. NEWS in Brief - top|
The Spirit of Seoul
October 20, 2000
Between ASEM 2 and ASEM 3 a profound re-structuring of the East Asian economies has taken place. The rules now governing Asia's political economies have been so thoroughly re-written that new liberalism is now the new development orthodoxy. Structural Adjustment has been severely imposed and has according moved the region from crisis to the recovery. According to the World Bank " East Asias recovery has gained momentum...is now creating jobs at a quickening pace...external balances remain favourable'. In other words it is back to business as usual in Asia - or is it?
The evidence on the ground from civil society actors throughout the East Asian region is that the effects of the crisis are still intense in the destruction of people's livelihoods whether as workers who are being laid of or as farmers whose produce is being made worthless by the massive import of agricultural produce.
This was the starting point for the ASEM 2000 People's Forum which was organised around the theme "Solidarity and Action Challenging Globalisation". An additional reason for addressing neo-liberal globalisation was the fact that the economic pillar of the official ASEM is very much constructed on a commitment to further "rapid libleralisation of trade and investment" which further re-enforces the tying of the East Asian economies into the paradigm of economic globalisation.
The situation in East Asia is also reflected globally. The number of people living in poverty that is, on less than a dollar a day increased from 1.1 billion in 1985 to 1.2 billion in 1998, and is expected to reach 1.3 billion this year.(1) According to a recent World Bank study, the absolute number of people living in poverty rose in 1990s in Eastern Europe, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa all areas that came under the sway of adjustment programs.(2)
The unrestricted flow of speculative capital in accordance with Washington Consensus Doctrine was what the governments of East Asia institutionalised in the early 1990s, under the strong urging of the International Monetary Fund and the US Treasury Department. The result: the US$ 100 billion that flowed in between 1993 and 1997 flowed out in the bat of an eyelash during the Great Panic of the summer of 1997, bringing about the collapse of the East Asian economies and spinning them into a mire of recession and massive unemployment from which most still have to recover.
In several workshops during the ASEM 2000 People's Forum, analysis and discussions led to the conclusion that the ASEM's economic interventions in the post-crisis development debate is focused on engineering and legitimising neoliberal reforms. In the meeting between representatives of the ASEM 2000 People's Forum and the Senior Officials of the ASEM, this message was made very clear. Delegates indicated that the neoliberal juggernaut driving economic co-operation in the ASEM process was highjacking the other developments in ASEM which could now also take a bold initiative in the political dialogue given the new conjuncture on the Korean Peninsula which has profound implications for peace and security in the region.
The more than 800 delegates from Asia and Europe representing social movements, trade unions, people's organisations, women and human rights organisations who participated in the ASEM2000 People's Forum also addressed the question of what is the alternative?
Ideas of an alternative route to the future de-globilisation which are being formulated based on discussions in the Third World, and especially focused on Asia, were articulated during the ASEM 2000 Peoples Forum by Walden Bello.
The ASEM 2000 Peoples Forum concluded with articulating a 'People's Vision' which is also being popularised as the 'Spirit of Seoul'. This vision calls on the peoples of Asia and Europe to push for the replacement of the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO as the unacceptable and de-legitimised architecture of the global economy and to urge the ASEM Governments to decisively turn to the pursuit of a paradigm of economic development that can eradicate poverty and usher in a sustainable future for the peoples of Asia and Europe.
NCCP CALLS FOR PRESIDENT ESTRADA TO RESIGN
"Mr. President, the hour has come!"
"But this is what the Holy God of Israel says: 'You ignore what I tell you and rely on violence and deceit. You are guilty. You are like a high wall with a crack running down it; suddenly you will collapse. You will be shattered like a clay pot, so badly broken that there is no piece big enough to pick up hot coals with or to dip water from a cistern."--Isaiah 30:12-14
Could this be a prophetic judgment on the powerful of this country?
Today, violence circumscribes peoples' lives -
TODAY, deceit wraps its mantle on society, choking decency and truth -
Indeed, there are cracks in the ruling class as disgruntled business persons, erstwhile bosom friends, demoralized cohorts one by one disengage to join the broadening movement to dislodge the Chief Executive. The Filipino people, seeing through the veneer of a deceptive campaign slogan, are now calling on the President to step down. For how can he continue to govern when the mandate is no more? For how can he perform his functions when his administration is shrouded with doubt? For how can he lead when many followers have forsaken their leader?
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) cannot but stand up and be counted with the myriad Filipinos who are challenging the President Joseph Estrada to voluntarily divest himself of his presidential powers - an act that could unite the people in collectively realizing their hopes and aspirations for justice, truth, and freedom.
"Righteousness exalts a nation..."
MS. SHARON ROSE JOY RUIZ-DUREMDES
THE MOST REV. TOMAS A. MILLAMENA
71 ORGANISATIONS HAND OVER 'ABOLISH ISA' MEMORANDUM AT PARLIAMENT
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 - Representatives from 71 organisations today gathered at the Parliament entrance to hand over a memorandum calling for the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) to be abolished.
The memorandum, endorsed by 71 NGOs, political parties, students groups, workers unions and consumer associations described the ISA, which allows the government to detain anyone it deemed a threat without the need to go to court, as as "immoral and cruel".
"It [ISA] condones torture and humiliation. It is opposed by all major religions practised in Malaysia," it said.
The ISA, originally introduced in the form of the Emergency Act by the British to fight communist insurgency in Malaya, was modified in 1960, providing for detention without trial.
Since then, the Act has been used against political dissidents and opposition leaders, especially during the last 20 years since Mahathir Mohamad took over the premiership from Hussein Onn in 1981.
In 1998, Mahathir, who was then Home Minister, ordered his sacked deputy Anwar Ibrahim to be arrested under the Act, claiming he was a "threat to national security".
Hours later, Anwar was beaten up by then police chief Abdul Rahim Noor, causing the infamous 'black eye' that sparked anti-Mahathir protests in Kuala Lumpur lasting several weeks.
Several other individuals close to Anwar was also arrested only to appear days later recounting how they were tortured under custody.
Among others, Anwar's former speech writer Dr Munawar Anees has issued a shocking affidavit documenting how he was tortured into making a false confession to implicate Anwar in a homosexual relationship.
At about 12.00 pm, activists and members of the public armed with anti-ISA banners gathered at Parliament entrance but were refused entry.
They later displayed banners at a nearby bridge overlooking the busy Mahameru highway, prompting passing motorists to honk as a mark of support.
A group of policemen from the controversial Federal Reserve Unit was rushed to the scene.
Parliamentary Opposition Leader Fadzil Noor led other leading opposition MPs to march towards them, and accepted the memorandum which was also addressed to the Prime Minister and Dewan Rakyat Speaker.
Both however failed to appear to accept the memorandum. Jamaludin Jarjis, chairman of the Government Backbenchers Club was later seen receiving the memorandum on behalf of the ruling party.
PRESS ADVISORY ONTHE THREE GORGES DAM
October 3, 2000
As violence grows in the Three Gorges resettlement areas, international NGOs call for immediate action by government and investors to address affected peoples' grievances
Reports from the areas to be flooded by the mammoth Three Gorges Dam tell of an alarming rise in violent incidents sparked by resentment against resettlement. Officials summoned troops to quell one protest.
On Friday, Sept 29, the South China Morning Post reported that long-standing complaints that resettlement plans are ill-conceived, funds inadequate and that monies allocated for this purpose have been embezzled by corrupt officials continue to be ignored, while the date for filling the reservoir grows ever nearer. In many cases, years of peaceful petitioning has brought no relief, and frustrated residents are increasingly resorting to public protests, sometimes resulting in clashes with police or local officials. The homes of between 1.2 to 1.9 million people are to be flooded.
Reports of growing tension and violence contradict official statements that the first stage of resettlement is proceeding smoothly. They also demonstrate that the Chinese government's resettlement regulations and policies, praised by the World Bank as a model for the developing world, are often nothing but empty promises for displaced people. In addition, they reveal the serious inadequacy of complaints mechanisms in China, where the constitutional right to petition the authorities for the redress of grievances generally means little in practice.
A number of recent examples of disturbances illustrate the seriousness of the problems in the Three Gorges area. In mid-September, about 300 peasants from Gaoyang Township in Yunyang County attacked officials in charge of the county Resettlement Bureau, injuring at least one. In another protest in September, farmers hurled objects that injured some officials, including the deputy party chief, who was hit with a brick. Officials summoned troops to quell the violence. Earlier this year in Gaoyang, more than 1,000 peasants staged a protest and demanded a meeting with county leaders to demand more equitable compensation and access to official policy documents detailing the terms and conditions of resettlement.
A group of 300 farmers resettled in Zhanjiang in Jiangsu Province is returning to the Three Gorges area because each household had received the pitiful sum of only 9,000 yuan ($1,200 dollars) to build new houses. Last week, another group of 300 farmers sent to Taofu state farm in Hubei Province returned to Gaoyang and assaulted local resettlement bureau officials, accusing them of embezzling money earmarked for the construction of their new homes.
Farmers have signed dozens of petitions to complain that their representatives had been detained and threatened by local officials and even charging that petitioner representatives had been knifed by local gangsters on the orders of a local official.
These are just a few among a catalogue of incidents resulting from severely inadequate resettlement planning, endemic corruption and mismanagement, problems the International Rivers Network and Human Rights in China have been warning for some years create an explosive situation in the Three Gorges area as large numbers of people began to be moved under the resettlement program.
For over eight years, the International Rivers Network has been lobbying financial institutions to ensure they will not support the project. "We call on the international community to cease involvement in Three Gorges Dam until abuses of civil rights are addressed. By financing the project, U.S. banks are aiding in the creation of the most development refugees for a single project ever. Until Morgan Stanley Dean Witter implements necessary environmental and social policies governing core business operations, International Rivers Network is spearheading a consumer boycott of the firm's Discover Card and I-Choice brokerage services. Financial institutions don't deserve our business if they don't take responsibility for their environmental and social impacts" said Doris Shen, IRN program officer.
Since 1995, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's joint venture, China International Capital Corporation based in Hong Kong, has served as the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation's advisor on raising overseas capital. In May 1997 and 1999, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter helped underwrite $830 million in bonds for the China Development Bank (CDB). Three Gorges Dam is listed as CDB's top loan commitment. (see www.floodwallstreet.org for more details)
Human Rights in China is disturbed at the evident failure of the authorities at all levels to address the grievances of people forced to move by the Three Gorges Dam. "As in so many cases, promises made to people displaced for hydropower projects are proving to be not worth the paper they are written on?said Sophia Woodman, HRIC research director. "People whose rights are ignored have no effective means of redress, and their efforts to organize to protect their interests are met only with repression. This kind of approach is a recipe for instability and unrest. In the Three Gorges, it could mean out-and-out violence as the resettlement program advances.?
"We call on the Chinese government to act immediately to ensure that the rights of people displaced by the dam are fully respected, and to undertake serious, good faith investigation of all complaints. We recommend that foreign investors suspend their involvement in the Three Gorges Dam project until these problems have been satisfactorily addressed," Woodman added.
Companies that are currently involved in the project include: GEC Alsthom of France, ABB of Switzerland and Sweden, Agra Monenco of Canada, GE Canada, and Voith Hydro and Siemens of Germany.
Financing firms involved in financing include: Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, China International Capital Corporation, Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney of Citigroup, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston. For a complete list of foreign involvement in Three Gorges: http://www.probeinternational.org/probeint/ThreeGorges/who.html
UPDATE ON THAI DURABLE TEXTILE WORKERS' STRUGGLE
(28 September 2000)
The strike of Thai Durable Textile Workers is entering the fifth month on 1 October 2000. The workers went on strike at the night of 30 May 2000 in front of the factory in Samut Prakan, and occupied the factory later. On 1 August 2000, about 500 workers set up their tents in front of the Government House in Bangkok, to pressure the government for positive interventions.
The Ministry of Labour of Social Welfare has arranged few meetings between the employer and union representatives. The employer hardly turns up for most of the meetings but his representatives. The negotiation process was slow and had little progress. The conditions offered by the employer could hardly fulfill the demands of workers.
The employer agreed conditionally to reinstate 200 workers out of 390 workers, who were illegally fired since the strike began. The 200 workers will be re-employed only if the workers agreed to sign the agreement with following conditions:
The employer offered compensation to 79 voluntarily resigned workers, and 3 months salary to 111 dismissed workers. According to the Thai Labour Law, 3 months salary should be given to workers who voluntarily resigned as compensation.
The employer threatened that if the workers did not sign the agreement by 25 September, he would pull out from negotiation.
No confirmed date for reinstatement of 200 workers.
The workers have refused offers from the employer based on following reasons:
The 15 committee members have decided to continue the court case against the employer of the use of violence and violation of workers rights.
The employer filed court cases against the workers, at the civil court on payment for utility expenses during strike; at the criminal court on illegal occupation of factory; and at the labour court on the dismissal of 15 committee members.
The employer claimed that he planned to close down some sections in the factory. The workers believed that this could be the employers tactic to employ new workers to replace them.
According to the reliable source, workers from another factory were sent to the Thai Durable Textile Factory to work. There are 300 workers, mostly administrative staff, and some new workers are operating the factory.
The Ministry of Labour of Social Welfare has requested the workers on strike to move out of the area of Government House. To date, there are 1500 workers go on strike. They are stationed at the Government House and the factory.
Since the strike began, the workers have lost their income. They have to meager donations made by fellow workers from other factories. Many of them are relying on the donations from friends for living and children education. There are 129 families with 183 children need help urgently. Some of them have been forced to take their children out of school. Quite a few with little ones cant even afford simple things like milk powder. Some of workers spend nights at the tents after the dormitory closed by the employer. Despite the hardship, these middle age women workers are determined to continue their strike until their demands are met.
The workers are planning to set up a labour fund to support their long-term struggle. The fund will be used to assist the living of workers and their family, and to cover the expenses incurred during strike. Meetings with local trade unions are going on to update the struggles and consolidate their networking. The workers will hold press conference with local media to get publicity for the issue.
Information for donations
15 February 2000
24 April 2000
29 May 2000
1 June 2000
7 June 2000
14-15 June 2000
21 June 2000
22 June 2000
27 July 2000
1 August 2000
18 August 2000
|3. RESOURCES Received - top|
DAGA receives a lot of juournals, periodicals, newsletters and many other forms of printed resources from its network of Action Groups in Asia and around the world. Please click on "Resources" in the left bar for an extended listing.
|4. Urgent APPEAL - top|
PAKISTAN: Can you help save Dr. Shaikh?
Dr. Younus Shaikh is founder-President of 'Enlightenment', a Pakistan based organization which is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (www.iheu.org). Dr. Shaikh is a doctor and a teacher at a medical college in Islamabad. He lived and worked in the UK before returning to Pakistan. If you were at the IHEU's 1999 World Humanist Congress in Mumbai you would remember his amusing speech; or you may have received his numerous e mails about Humanism, about his collaboration with liberal minded Pakistanis to promote Human Rights, or about his other passion - the South Asian Peace Movement. On 4 October 2000, Dr. Shaikh was arrested by the Islamabad police and booked under the dreaded Section 295-C (Blasphemy) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The police First Information Report was not readily available, but in it he is alleged to have defiled Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, by pointing out that the Prophet did not become a Muslim till the age of 40 (ie. until he received the first message of God), and that the Prophet's parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam was proposed by the Prophet. It is for stating these facts that Dr. Shaikh will be killed by the State, if he is found guilty: we should not forget that he did not abuse, he did not threaten, he did not scorn or sneer.
45 year-old Dr. Shaikh lives alone, has no family, and has been sacked from his job following his arrest. To build popular pressure, an Islamabad-based Urdu language newspaper, Khabrain, is carrying a campaign, demanding the death penalty for him. In Pakistan, Blasphemy is a non-bailable offence and attracts the mandatory death-penalty. Dr. Shaikh is currently held in Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi, in judicial remand.
Today, 19 October 2000, Dr. Shaikh was presented before the court, but he had no lawyer. Frequently lawyers are intimidated by the mob, so they do not take up blasphemy cases. Even judges are afraid of trying them. A group of 20 clerics - menacing and aggressive - came to the court, to pursue their case against Dr. Shaikh. They represent the Majlis-I-Khatam-I-Nabuwat (Organization on the Finality of the Prophet) one of the groups responsible for Pakistan's descent into lawlessness. Dr. Shaikh's reading glasses were broken when he came to court, he was unable to read well, and was not allowed to speak to anyone. Fortunately he has not been tortured by the police during 2 weeks of custody. If we do not act in time, he will be doomed.
Blasphemy in Pakistan Blasphemy in Pakistan is a cognizable offence, punishable mandatorily by death, but Section 295-C does not even precisely define the crime it is meant to punish. This law has a history of abuse : it is a convenient means to settle personal scores. In this case, it is a disgruntled student Mr. Muhammad Asghar Khan who complained to the fundamentalists. Even those not present at the time of the alleged 'offence' can file a complaint - this is the case as regards Dr. Shaikh. A cleric, Maulana Abdur Rafoof, registered the case in Islamabad's Margalla police station. Despite the severity of punishment, Section 295-C empowers a police officer to arrest, without obtaining a warrant from a judicial magistrate. Dr. Shaikh is in custody since 4 October 2000.
The Blasphemy law in Pakistan is a shameful relic of the British Raj's 1860 Criminal Law. It was modified in 1926 before Pakistan was born, and again as recently as in 1986 and in 1991 when criminal law was Islamicised by the then dictatorship.
Now, under the regime of Islamic punishments, the evidence required is 'at least two Muslim adult male witnesses who are supposed to be truthful persons who abstain from major sins'. It is required at the trial that the Presiding officer must be a Muslim. Islamic law of evidence declares that the evidence recorded by minorities and women has a status inferior to that of Muslim men.
In the case of Blasphemy, very often the accused is murdered either in police custody or even in the court room itself by blood thirsty zealots. So few cases are even brought to fruition. General Pervez Musharraf's recent attempts to improve the law has been met with vehement opposition from the clerics, and he immediately climbed down, in deference to the Islamic fundamentalists. The law remains as barbaric as it was. And so is the mob.
3% of Pakistan's 140 million citizens are non-Muslims; and there are at least 20 million Shiites, a minority Islamic sect in Pakistan. The situation for these minorities is desperate. The main victims of Pakistan's discriminatory and repressive legislation so far have been the Ahmadias, the Christians and the Hindus - and the most victimized are the Christians and Ahmadias. Their evidence is not accepted, their rights to freedom of religion or belief not protected, they are not allowed high-positions in the Army or in the bureaucracy, and they are forced to vote under the separate electorate system, where non-Muslims vote for non-Muslims.
But the main concern of Pakistan's Human Rights activists are the Blasphemy laws. Blasphemy of Islam is punished differently and much more severley than Blasphemy of other religions. There is no Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan. Bishop John Joseph, Roman Catholic Bishop of Faizalabad even killed himself in protest in front of the sessions court of Sahiwal, on May 5, 1998. But even this ultimate sacrifice did not move the administration or the legislature.
Pressure must mount from all quarters to enable the law to change, and to protect the victims. Pakistan's theocracy is depriving many honest citizens of their liberty and their life.
What Can you Do?
If you live in the UNITED STATES, please write to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and invoke the provisions of the International Freedom of Religion Act, 1998. Better still, call them on phone. The law obliges them to take up the case with the US Ambassador in Islamabad, and to follow it up. If Pakistan's government fails to protect Freedom of Religion, there will be automatic and mandatory sanctions imposed on Pakistan.
If you live in a European Union Member State, ask your own country's EU Ambassador to explore possibilities of asylum for Dr. Shaikh. Taslima Nasrin was saved similarly from Bangladeshi fundamentalists. Point out that Pakistan's present Blasphemy law violates international standards of justice; point out that to term religious criticism as 'blasphemy' isprimitive; death penalty as punishment for it is terrible; and that mandatory death penalty is even more savage.
Write to your Foreign Minister, and demand that the Minister summon the Pakistani High Commissioner to share concerns about the state of Freedom of religion or Belief in Pakistan. Ask your Minister to arrange for an observer at Dr. Shaikh's trial, if he is not released immediately.
Wherever you live, Fax your MP and ask him to take up the case of Dr. Shaikh. Ask your MP to bring pressure on the Pakistani government to release Dr. Younis Shaikh, and to ensure his physical safety. Ask your MP to call the Pakistani High Commission / Embassy in your country.
Write to Amnesty International, asking them to adopt Dr. Shaikh as a prisoner of conscience.
Write to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The Special Rapporteur has the mandate to take the matter up with the government on a diplomatic level.
Dr. Abdul Fatteh Amor
Please also write to General Musharraf, with the respect due to a Head of Government.
Please write to
General Pervez Musharraf
PLEASE SEND A COPY OF ALL YOUR MESSAGES TO firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send Letters of Support to Dr. Shaikh also to this e-mail address.
|5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top|
Conference on Development and Liberation in the third Millennium
The following papers presented at the recent conference on "Development and Liberation in the 3rd Millennium" will be available at our website from next week:
* Tht Imperative to Build a Debt-Free New Millennium by Rebecca Lozada
Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA):