29 March 2001
In this issue:
A New Language for Divinity: Critique of the Ideology of Market
Philippines - Militants Flunk Arroyo In Her First Month
Burma - Intensify the Pressure on Burma
Korea - Sunset for South Koreas Sunshine Policy?
Indonesia - Stop Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance in Indonesia
Malaysia - Activists Arrested for 'Fashion Action'
Sri Lanka - extrajudicial killing and torture by police
Hong Kong - Baseline Research on Racial & Gender Discrimination
|1. FEATURE - top|
A New Language for Divinity:
|2. NEWS in Brief - top|
MILITANTS FLUNK ARROYO IN HER FIRST MONTH
By JOJO GUAN
A month after helping Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assume the presidency, militant and progressive groups gave the new president a performance mark below satisfactory.
According to them, Arroyo failed to meet the people's most basic expectations. The failure to immediately prosecute the deposed Estrada is a major botch to the new administration's integrity. Likewise, her neo-liberal policy, which they claim is a copycat of the Ramos policy, has made the anti-globalization activists apprehensive.
Political and economic analyst Antonio Tujan Jr. of Ibon Foundation, an independent policy research institution, gave Arroyo a rating of 5. "She may have good points - like being responsive to the people's comments - but most of her decisions and economic policies cannot be distinguished as pro-people," he explained.
Dr. Carol Araullo, one of the convenors of Estrada Resign Movement, preferred to give Arroyo "a below five rating." Araullo explained, "She aims to be a good and not great president. Her standard is so low - similar to Estrada's - which means she won't do anything commendable since she failed to see the historic opportune moment for her to change the government into something truly for the people."
"She did not have any groundbreaking policies that will uplift the condition of the people. All were rhetoric. She even intends to continue the neo-liberal policy of Ramos at a time when the concept of globalization is under attack all over the world," Araullo added.
Tujan cited the recent approval of almost half a million metric tons of rice as an effort of the Arroyo government to maintain former President Ramos' neo-liberal policies. Importation of rice has aggravated the condition of and poor peasants, as experienced in Ramos' six year term (1992-1998).
Arroyo recently approved the importation of 450,000 metric tons (MT) of rice through the National Food Authority (NFA). The imported rice will come from Vietnam, Thailand and China.
The country will also get 104,000 MT of rice from the United States as part of the US Public Law No. 480 (PL 480) program. Such US "soft loan" program, Tujan surmised, is just part of US importation scheme to Third World countries.
"Such importation of rice further displaces the poor peasants. The underlying factor of such importation is to fulfill the minimum access volume (MAV) commitment to WTO," explained Tujan.
Data obtained by Ibon reflects that the NFA over-imported 41,000 MT despite an increase harvest of 11.8 million MT in 1999. In the same year NFA also approved the importation of 800,000 MT of rice. This resulted in oversupply and led to the decline of farmgate prices of locally produced palay.
Imported rice covered about 95 percent of the total volume of rice distributed by NFA nationwide from 1996 to 1998. "In what is considered to be an agricultural country like the Philippines, such figures are very disturbing, if not staggering," commented Tujan.
According to Tujan, Arroyo's desire to lead the country into economic recovery could only be achieved by laying down clear economic agenda that will benefit peasants, workers, small and medium enterprises.
"There should be a clear enterprise development for the small and medium-scale enterprise. A credit program for rural folk should also be encouraged. And job generation should be ensured. But these things will never be achieved if the government continues to promote the policies of privatization and liberalization indicative of Ramos's Philippines 2000 program," Tujan said. With Ramos's policy in place, only the big businesses will again prosper, leaving the small and medium enterprises bankrupt.
The progressive movements' disappointment with the Arroyo government is aggravated by its seemingly lack of political will to convict deposed president Estrada. The recent temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court was an indication that Estrada's cohorts, even in the judiciary, are still very much in command.
"We have learned our lessons from people power 1 and 2. We should remain vigilant to let the spirit of People Power remain alive. Politics is too important to be left to traditional and reactionary politicians," commented Araullo.
Bayan Muna president Satur Ocampo agreed that the people could not rely on the conventional hands of power. According to Ocampo, a leader should be actively involved in the people's struggle. "Any policy that a leader makes should primarily reflect the need of the people. A leader should invoke the people's will, hence the people must remain vigilant," Ocampo stressed.
"We want this government to suceed, that is why we the people should be on guard always," declared Araullo.
INTENSIFY THE PRESSURE ON BURMA
Burma democracy supporters from around the world have urged the international community to escalate efforts to ensure that talks between Burma's military regime and democratic opposition are transformed into a genuine tripartite dialogue between its military regime, democratic opposition and ethnic nationality groups.
Representatives of 53 organizations from 28 countries expressed support for the talks. However they also urged governments to intensify to intensify pressure on the military junta and called for concrete action to implement the International Labor Organization (ILO) resolution on Burma. The representatives were attending a three-day International Strategy Meeting on Burma that was concluded last night at an undisclosed location in Thailand.
A statement issued by the meeting declared: "Despite these talks, the results of the 1990 elections have not been recognised. Furthermore, serious human rights violations and humanitarian crises continue unabated in Burma."
The statement demanded that the SPDC demonstrate its good faith and sincerity by immediately acting to release all political prisoners, allow the NLD and all political parties to function freely, cease all military hostilities and cease all forms of forced labor.
The International Strategy Meeting appealed to governments to refrain from providing any form of official economic or development assistance until a genuine tripartite agreement could be reached. They called for ASEAN to officially support the talks process and to urge the SPDC to commit to a genuine tripartite dialogue.
*Write to us if you would like to have the full text of the statement.
SUNSET FOR SOUTH KOREA'S SUNSHINE POLICY?
South Korean President Kim Dae Jung reshuffled much of his Cabinet March 26 amid weakened domestic and international support for his Sunshine Policy toward North Korea. Key among the appointments is the shift of former National Intelligence Service chief Lim Dong Won, a key facilitator of secret inter-Korean talks that led to the breakthrough inter-Korean summit, to unification minister. But despite the Cabinet realignment, time is running short for Kim to fulfill his presidential legacy - achieving meaningful inter-Korean reconciliation.
Kims recent summit with U.S. President George W. Bush emphasized the widening gap between Washington and Seoul regarding Pyongyang. The summit, coupled with North Koreas unilateral decision a few days later to indefinitely postpone inter-Korean ministerial talks, has fueled internal political opposition to Kims Sunshine Policy. But as Kim struggles to revive support for his North Korea policy, presidential hopefuls from his own party have already begun positioning for the 2002 presidential elections.
Despite the fact that Kim was the first South Korean president to travel to Pyongyang less than a year ago, his North Korean policy has recently hit a roadblock with the inauguration of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Moreover, the recent death of Hyundai founder Chung Ju Yung casts a pall over the Sunshine Policys already cloudy future. Chung helped to pioneer early economic and political contact with Moscow, Beijing and Pyongyang. When Kim Dae Jung won the election in 1997 and laid out improved relations with North Korea as a key goal of his administration, he quickly found an ally in Chung. Hyundai then took the reins in building the initial contacts between Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
Bush's apparent hard-line attitude toward the North stands in stark contrast to the conciliatory policies of his predecessor. In the past, Kim could call upon support from Washington when faced with internal opposition to his North Korea policy, but there is little of this near-unconditional support from the current administration.
A Hyundai employee looks at photos of Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju Yung, who died March 21 at the age of 86.
This has created a gap between Seoul and Washington and triggered Pyongyang to unilaterally postpone a planned ministerial-level meeting in March. As well, Pyongyang has again opened the taps on its anti-Washington rhetoric, issuing threatening statements and calling South Korea a colony of the United States.
Pyongyang's recalcitrant attitude and Washington's changed heart have fueled calls from South Korea's opposition Grand National Party for an overhaul of Seoul's North Korea policy. GNP leader Lee Hoi Chang, a close second to Kim Dae Jung in the 1997 elections, said the Sunshine Policy should be replaced with a policy based on "strategic reciprocity," according to the Chosun Ilbo.
This mirrors remarks from Washington's Republican leadership, who have also criticized Pyongyang's failure thus far to reduce the threat of war on the Korean peninsula. With South Korea's economy again on shaky ground, the thought that Seoul may be giving handouts to Pyongyang for nothing in return is weakening public support for Kim's policies.
With public support waning, the GNP on the warpath and Washington's new attitude at odds with Seoul's, time is rapidly running out. Already, presidential hopefuls from Kim's own ruling Millennium Democratic Party are positioning themselves for the 2002 elections. North Korean policy is likely to be relegated to a back burner.
As South Korean presidents are currently only allowed to serve a single term, Kim Dae Jung cannot run for re-election. Instead, he will be called to endorse his party's chosen candidate, possibly at the cost of continuing the Sunshine Policy. Already Kim has had to answer to opposition criticism of his policies, replacing much of his Cabinet.
For Kim and the Sunshine Policy, the curtain appears to be closing. Washington is unlikely to be readily convinced to return to Clinton's conciliatory North Korean policy. Hyundai, the economic backbone of the Sunshine Policy, has lost its founder and mentor at a time when it is in financial chaos. South Korea's elections, while still more than a year off, are already beginning to drive politics in Seoul.
Unless Kim can come up with a breakthrough in inter-Korean reconciliation shortly, like convincing North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to pay his long-awaited reciprocal visit to Seoul, the evening has come for the Sunshine Policy.
STOP RACISM, XENOPHOBIA AND INTOLERANCE IN INDONESIA
Meeting on the International Day for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, individuals and representatives of 43 NGOs in Indonesia have called for a stop to racial and segregation politics that are rampantly practiced by the Indonesian Government. Such politics from the Dutch colonial era have been continued by the New Order Government to effectively maintain its power for 32 years.
The meeting charged that many of the Indonesian Government's policies have been discriminative, causing "segregation of citizens based on ethnical, racial, religious, descendency and other issues". These policies gave rise to prejudice that in turn manifested itself as racial conflicts that occured in various parts of Indonesia. Instead of protecting the rights of minority groups and promoting a spirit of pluralism, the government has used its legislative tool to marginalise the civil and political rights, cultural and social rights and economic rights of the citizen. The meeting charged that "there are at least 62 discriminative legislation products".
Racial riots in Tasikmalaya, the Mollucas, in Pekalongan, in Langgau Ledo and Sambas, in Pekan Baru and Sampit have shocked everyone. Such hatred and violence are "explosions from the 'time bomb' created by the New Order Government for 32 years".
In commemoration of the International Day for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the meeting called on "all national components do some soul searching about this current situation". It also called on all people to join hands and work together to end all forms of hatred, vilence and racial criminal acts and to stop all forms of racial politics.
In its final joint statement, the meeting expressed its condemnation for all policies of racism and segregation and all practices of racial violence, direct or indirect. Among others, it also urged the government to:
* This statement was signed by representatives from 43 NGOs in Indonesia. Please write to us if you would like a copy of the statement.
ACTIVISTS ARRESTED FOR 'FASHION ACTION' AT BURMESE ARMY RECEPTION
Wednesday, March 28, 2001: Four activists, 3 Malaysian and a Burmese, were arrested last night for staging a 'fashion action' at a Myanmar Embassy reception to celebrate armed forces day.
They have been detained by the Dang Wangi police and their colleagues harbour grave concerns for the safety of the Burmese in detention.
The detainees were part of a group of 20 people who walked into the reception that was hosted by the Myanmar Embassy Naval and Air Attache. To the amazement of about 200 guests, the group took off their shirts and blouses to reveal Aung San Suu Kyi T-shirts underneath.
Altsean-Burma was able to speak briefly with KP Lee of the Burma Solidarity Group Malaysia as he was being admitted to the police lock-up at the Jalan Stadium police station.
"There were about 200 guests, mostly from the Malaysian military and government. Many diplomats from Asean countries were also there. They were all very surprised. The Burmese military officials were extremely embarrassed and angry," he said.
Mr Lee said the group had not expected the reception to be so accessible. "We thought we could just stand outside, but we were tempted to walk in because it was so easy.
"We wanted to highlight the fact that while these people were partying, tens of thousands of ethnic people were suffering from the Burmese military's atrocities. Over a thousand people are political prisoners in Burma.
"We hope we will be freed soon. It would be silly to jail us because we wore the 'wrong' clothes to a party," added Mr Lee. The group did not attempt to actively disrupt the event or cause any property damage, he emphasized.
The Burmese arrested was Mr Peter Hee Man, an ethnic Chin. Malaysian activists are gravely concerned that Mr Hee Man will not be released on bail, but instead be transferred to an Immigration Detention Centre and deported to the Burmese military authorities.
There is also concern that the SPDC is pressuring the Malaysian authorities to take drastic action against Burma pro-democracy supporters in an effort to stamp out growing activism in Malaysia. Many Burmese nationals based in Malaysia have gone into hiding, in anticipation of a crackdown in Kuala Lumpur and its surrounds.
Altsean-Burma urges you to send an appeal to the following authorities, urging them to:
Ybhg Tan Sri Musa Hitam
Inspector General of Police
|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|
SRI LANKA - EXTRA JUDICIAL KILLING AND TORTURE BY POLICE
AHRC-UA-07-2001: 33 year-old Tortured to Death by Police
UCHITHA THUSSARA KUMAEA, 33 years old, married and the father of two children, was tortured to death by Police at Ja-ela Police station, Sri Lanka on 24th March, 2001. Mr. Kumaea was arrested by the officers from Ja-ela police station on the morning of 24th March, using a warrant for a minor offence. Mr. Kumaea was sent to the remand prison in Negambo on the evening of the same day.
On the 26th, when his family made inquires about him, they learned that he had died and that remand authorities had informed Ja-ela police about the death, with an instruction to inform the family. To this date, no such communication has yet been made by the police.
The Magistrate of the area visited the remand prison to see the body and made an order for the body to be sent for examination by the judicial medical officer of the Ragama Hospital. This examination has been completed and the sealed report has been sent to court. The family, on making inquiries, have found that the medical officers' report states that the death was due to internal injuries. The family is of the view that the injuries were caused at the police station before the prisoner was handed over to remand custody. Prison authorities have a responsibility to examine the person before receiving him.
An urgent and thorough inquiry is required at this stage if justice is to be done in this case. The offences involved are Murder under the Penal Code and Torture under the 'Convention Against Torture' Act no.22 of 1994.
Please write urgently to the Inspector General of Police and the President of Sri Lanka, and send copies to the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka and the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Extrajudicial Killings. The sample letter is provided below, along with the necessary contact details.
Dear Inspector General
RE: UCHITHA THUSSARA KUMAEA, 33, tortured to death by Police at Ja-ela Police station, Sri Lanka on 24th March, 2001.
We draw your attention to the above-mentioned case, the reported details of which are given below. We urge that a through inquiry be undertaken and that the culprits be brought to justice. The relevant offences are of Murder under the Penal Code and of Torture under the 'Convention Against Torture' Act no.22 of 1994.
The details are as follows:
Please use every means available to you to ensure that this matter is addressed expeditiously and with the full force of the legislation available to you, and that it will not be repeated.
CC sent to the following:
SEND LETTERS (preferably by fax) TO
Mr. B.L.V. Kodituwakku
Her Excellency President Chandrika B. Kumaratunga
SEND COPIES OF YOUR LETTER TO
Mr. Fais Musthapa
Sir Nigel Rodley
Ms. Asma Jahangir
|5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top|
HONG KONG: BASELINE RESEARCH ON RACIA & GENDER DISCRIMINATION
The Asian Migrant Center and the Coalition for Migrants' Rights recently published "Baseline Research on Racial & Gender Discrimination Towards Filipino, Indonesian and Thai Domestic Helpers in Hong Kong." The report stands as the most recent effort in HK to document the abuses and discrimination that migrant domestic workers face here. The research provides empirical evidence of widespread violations and discrimination among the nationalities interviewed.
Though many have been aware of many such violations due to previous research and ongoing organising work with migrant domestic workers, the baseline research provides a solid and objective basis for advocacy efforts with the HK Government and concerned consulates.
A complete version of the report can be downloaded from the AMC website: www.asian-migrants.org
Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA):