31 October 2001
In this issue:
Radical-Islam and the Imperialist Onslaught
Japan - Japan Sinks, Koizumi Soars
China - Shanghai trains WTO professionals
Philippines - Summary Executions cONTINUE Under Arroyo Administration
Indonesia - Indonesia at the Crossroads
Malaysia - AI concerned with health of ISA 6
Burma - Cooking Oil Consumers Turn to Grease
Pakistan - Urgent Call from Pakistan Churches for Peace, NOT War
Afghanistan - Airdrops jeopardise Afghan aid operations
APEC - Apec unites against terrorism
Sri Lanka - Arbitrary detentions/Torture
DAGA Dossier - The Struggle in Mindanao
|1. FEATURE - top|
RADICAL-ISLAM and the IMPERIALIST ONSLAUGHT
The nature of the discourse
Neo-imperialism founded on pax-America has been replaced by a new phase of world capitalism conveniently known as globalisation. There is, however, one part of the globe where it is very much alive and this is the Middle East. There are special reasons for this - Israel and oil, or perhaps more accurately, oil first and secondly the grave regional tensions arising from the creation of the state of Israel and its subsequent sustenance in a special relationship with the United States. Although historians may discover interesting roots reaching into earlier times the political fundamentals in the Middle East are heavily driven by these two post war determinants.
One of the most significant consequences of the peculiar combination of these two factors is the emergence of radical Islam as the principal anti-imperialist force on a regional, if not global, scale. At present there is little standing in the way of rampant American imperial global hegemony but radical Islam and its ability to mobilise greater Islam behind it. However, a rather careful definition of categories is necessary in order to obtain a clearer description of the forces that are likely to be mobilised by radical Islam as it prepares to face a global American onslaught.
The term radical-Islam is not used here to indicate armed Islamic movements nor fundamentalist currents although it certainly includes the former and a varying cluster of the latter who drift in and out of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles. The relationship between the fundamentalist currents in Afghanistan and the CIA is a nice illustration of this labial nature of fundamentalism. The term radical-Islam is used in this document to include, and to forcefully denote, a broad current of Arab, Persian, North African and Asian (mainly Indonesian and Filipino) mass movements composed of a shifting alliance of subaltern classes and militant organisations driven by the deep social contradictions in their societies. What needs to be emphasised is the agenda of struggle on mass political issues, not Islamism per se, since in the case of some organisations this may only be loosely tacked on. Hence, while the rise of radical-Islam in far-flung parts of the world cannot be explained solely in terms of events in the Middle East to the exclusion of local dynamics, nevertheless, oil and indignation with America's oppressive client states in the region remain crucial to the motivating ideological core.
The term greater-Islam is used to denote a much broader compendium of religious, cultural and political organisations that bind an Islamic population together on a national and to a degree an international scale. In recent years, as the Middle Eastern conundrum become more inflamed and globalisation intensified domestic hardship, mass organisations fell in behind radical-Islam. The huge Muslim organisations in Indonesia, for example, have swung from near-fascist anti-communism and anti-Chinese racism in the mid-1960s to mass populism. An example of the vacillating relationship of a more fundamentalist version of greater-Islam with imperialism is the chequered history of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. What we exclude from the definition of greater Islam, in the context of this paper, is the state itself and the feudal, and indeed the conservative or indeed modern capitalist (vide Mahathir) political elite in control of the state. These agents, at this time, play a purely client role.
This article will not attempt to recall the post war history of the Middle East culminating in the rise of radical Islam and Islamic fundamentalism since there are many good studies available and numerous excellent summary articles have appeared in the press and on web sites recently. The mention of a few names and dates is adequate. The almost unending massacre in Palestine, Mosadegh in the early 1950s in Iran, Nasser the Suez and three wars, the Bathist uprisings and regimes in Syria and Iraq, the near destruction of Lebanon in the 1970s, Sabra and Shatila in 1982, the intifada, and much more, but enough. This history has created its own radical and militant organisations; oil and Israel bind America deeply to the region. In consequence, Islam and the relationship of radical-Islam to America have become the core political issue of our time. In this incendiary crucible the rise of radical fighting mass movements as well as terrorist entities was inevitable, equally inevitable that Islam would stand at the ideological core of these organisations. At this particular moment of writing (Sept. - Oct 2001) radical-Islam stands as the only force that has the gall, the ideology, the determination and the ability to stand and fight American global economic, political and military hegemony on a world scale.
The relationship of radical Islam to greater Islam is a fluctuating one; its relationship to fundamentalism an overlapping one. A defiant Afghanistan has generated waves of support everywhere in the greater Islamic world, forcing even the most reactionary Islamic powers such as the Saudi rulers on the back foot for fear of a backlash. The Pakistani military rulers live in fear of being overthrown by mass opposition if they are seen as stooges of an anti-Islamic America. The huge Muslim religious and civilian organisations in Indonesia have placed Megawathi's grip on power on a knife-edge in the event that hostilities in Afghanistan become protracted. At this time it is not possible to forecast how the war will develop as it depends on too many imponderables that least of all the American ruling class can foresee. It depends on the contest between strategic and long-term business objectives that this class is struggling to balance. It is possible, however, to tentatively foresee, that radical Islam will become greatly strengthened in the coming years and will be able to drag greater Islamic mass movements and even some governments in Islamic countries along with it. Economic marginalisation of the majority of the population in the wake of capitalist globalisation and widespread political oppression has pushed the mass of the people to the wall. A left movement of the type familiar in other parts of Asia failed to take deep root in these countries because it could not be disassociated form a Western ethos and a modernist and workerist discourse is still alien to a semi-feudal and culturally unrelated society. Radical Islamic, militant Palestinian and similar movements emerged to fill the vacuum and take leadership in the daily struggles of the landless, the homeless, the bombed out, and the oppressed and abandoned sections of society.
In a review of "Eurocentrism and the Emergence of Islamism by Bobby S. Sayyid (Zed Books, 1997) Tanju «ataltepe argues as follows:
The answer Sayyid suggests lies in the collapse of the attempt to modernise the Islamic Middle East on a Western model after the fall of the Caliphate in 1870. The deep contradictions of the Western project leading to the crisis mentioned in the first paragraph of this article, culminated in the collapse of the whole project. The Islamic revolution in Iran being the most decisive turning point. Liberalism and socialism could not form a rallying point since they were too tainted with the Western discourse and Stalinism, additionally, had bungled the socialist dream.
Why is an alliance essential?
It can be cautiously forecast that America's power in the Middle East will be more and more seriously contested in the coming years. US strategic interests in the conflict with Afghanistan are related to access to Caspian oil reserves, constituting one eighth of the world's oil resources and filling a power vacuum in the region. Both are likely to be contested. Even a scenario that credits the American and British governments with the strategic ability to avoid a prolonged war which in a long-term geopolitical sense will result in a net reduction of their power, still implies compromises which will diminish their influence. The writing is on the wall for America, in the long run, whatever military blows it inflicts on Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechniya and elsewhere in the immediate months ahead.
Radicalisation of Middle Eastern and sub-continental politics is now unavoidable in the coming years. However, realisation has come too late in the West although the Islamic Revolution in Iran set the scene three decades ago. The next stage was when the Saudi client state underwrote the major portion of the Gulf war - $71bn to a US share of $7bn only. When the US then sold over $20bn worth of arms to the Saudis the Middle Eastern populations observed that the Muslim states busted their budgets on things other than schools, hospitals and economic development. A profound economic crisis is shaking Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine, to name but four, to the very core. When compounded with infuriation about foreign policy it is a recipe for conflagration. Radical-Islam has been schooled in the conflict and born with the cultural roots to take advantage of this imbroglio. It is against this background that the left world-wide, must rethink its options.
The left whether traditional, new or marxist, is no where near influential enough to play a role even remotely comparable in importance to these radical mass movements in containing the current ambitions of American imperialism. The working class in the West is splintered and lacks political direction and material cohesion. The new stage of world capitalism is a historic crisis of overproduction overshadowing all previous crises of overproduction. The rise of productivity, automation and a knowledge-based economy is making the category labour itself increasingly redundant. Unemployment, underemployment, part-time employment and exclusion from the very process of social production portend what has been called a 'world without work'. The nightmare that Marx foresaw is finally coming to us as the gift of the third industrial revolution. For this, and for other more immediate reasons, the traditional forces that could have been mobilised to forestall imperialism's colossal military, diplomatic and media offensive are no longer in the vanguard. Maybe only socialism, not radical Islam, can save us from eventual barbarism, but in the meantime we need to seek out our allies now, not in the next world.
India's High Commissioner in Colombo, Gopalakrishna Gandhi, writing in Sri Lanka: Global Challenges and National Crises, about why "mega" ideas like socialism and marxism must come to terms with the special conditions of individual societies writes as follows. "In seeking solutions to some life-threatening issues of our times, complex societies like those of India and Sri Lanka need to be mindful of the equal claims of ideology and the nature of those for whom the ideology is being promoted. The need, in other words, to run a 'local' weft across the warp of any 'mega' idea, if the weave is to hold. For we are not made of monochromatic yarn. We are, rather, a shot-silk of multiple texture, tint and tone".
Socialists and marxists have not been shy in the past to form alliances with national liberation movements, armed and unarmed struggles of national minorities and anti-imperialist entities even when their ideologies contained elements that, in our view were limited, backward, primitive or to a degree reactionary. For example, however unwilling to endorse some animistic or "primitive" ideology, we have not hesitated to throw our support behind anti-colonial struggles of simple communities or tribal peoples determined to keep their lands and their societies free from colonial plunder. The issue now is the need for a new global alliance, an alliance that must be formed with radical Islamic and populist movements; a force that has the credible ability to hold the line against the advancing global hegemon. The issue is not new, only the scale and implication is bigger. It is time to work out the parameters along which we will form an alliance in struggle with radical Islam. And we had better do it before American neo-imperialism buries or silences us all.
The absolutely essential parameter to work out is how we deal with the deep ideological divide that separates socialists from the ideology (ideologies) of the various radical Islamic currents. The community-oriented traditions of sharing, support and responsibility of the basic Islamic code, originating in the needs of the early societies, actually provide a useful point of connection. Today crushed by modern capitalism the subaltern classes led by radical Islam see these support mechanisms in the way that the working class we hope sees socialism at the level of community life. The vision of decentralised self-governing communities is a healthy alternative to creeping global control of society by big business and the big state. It is not incompatible with advanced technology or economies of scale in socially rational production.
Therefore the problem lies not here but elsewhere. The issues of concern are the place of women in society, the form of the state (theocratic or secular) and notions of personal liberty. The last named not merely in its truncated bourgeois form of political-man but rather the enjoyment of the multifaceted opportunities that modernisation has made possible. Fundamentalist ideology poses an obstacle to both political democracy in its limited bourgeois sense and, because of its philosophical obscurantism, to the fuller freedoms and free associations that the technical and material advancement of the last three centuries have made possible. Both the Enlightenment project and the achievements of Newtonian mechanics constitute the divide.
There is however a difference of time scales that provides the only way to resolve the essence of this dichotomy. The alliance is a matter of urgency, the critical distance to maintain is a matter of measured consideration. This resolution of the difficulty is the way forward to practical action at the present time without sacrificing a critical stance against fundamentalism.
Checks and balances
There should be no confusion that Afghanistan's Taleban movement represents an appalling fundamentalism, whose medieval ideology and horrific and cruel misuse of the Shari'ah, every sane socialist must reject. There should be no confusion that the acts of 9-11 are acts of terrorism. Indeed those of us who implacably oppose US foreign policy, and emphasise that 9-11 was a response driven by desperation against this policy, must be the first to make this stand clear. Socialists must do this not as a concession to the maudlin patriotism now sweeping the US, nor in cringing fear of the US led machine of global repression. No, socialists need to do this in order to get their hands and minds free precisely for the purpose of opposing this policy.
This allows the left to come to terms with the apparently difficult question of the relationship, on the one hand, with radical-Islam in opposing US global hegemony, and on the other hand, differentiating itself from the philosophy of state imposed fundamentalism (individual and personal religious beliefs are not relevant here). Let us put the question in a stark form. What if one was living in Afghanistan at this moment? Would one support the US bombing and invasion, that is turn one's gun (if one had one) on the Taliban, that is, ally with the US in whatever guise. Or would one fight the invader - that is, ally in some sense, in whatever way one explains it, with the Taliban? When the chips are down, when it comes to the stark reality of war, there is no pacifist fig leaf or political void in which one can hide. Conditions demand an answer.
It is clear that notwithstanding the denunciation of the ideology of the Taliban in the previous paragraphs, the greater need at this time is to roll back the truly imperialist threat in the Middle East and the Caspian region, and therefore to the whole world. The global issue is the dominant one. Let us also not forget the need to contain the neo-McCarthyist backlash now spreading across the US since global opposition will play a useful role in its containment. Furthermore, the US assault will only unify the Afghan people around an until recently unpopular Taleben regime. Anti-US protests have broken out in the refugee camps along the Pakistani and Iranian border and it is said that Hektmayer's forces have also allied with the Taleban.
The democratic and left movements and especially women have some serious accounts to settle with the Taleban and similar governments and organisations. This indeed has to be done, but not at the price of supporting the US impetus to global domination. To broaden the issue beyond Afghanistan, which is the point of this article, the radical Islamic and Arab mass movements and militant organisations, as argued earlier in this article, are major bulwarks against this drive domination. It would be nonsensical sectarianism for the left to play ostrich with this basic reality. Only enhancing popular democratic movements whose credibility comes from deep involvement with the people can contain fundamentalism and terrorism.
Why should radical-Islam be interested in such an alliance? Well, Islam is on the back foot, Western political powers identify and designate the present world crisis as a problem with an Islamic focus. Even Pakistan's Musharaf bemoaned that all the crisis, all the conflicts, all the trouble in the world were located in Muslim countries. Islam, therefore, needs allies - even the puritanical versions will learn this when the refugees starve and the Patriot missiles come gliding in. It is indeed the duty of the left and the enlightened to oppose this demonisation of Islam that is fast becoming current. Urgent examples include the need to counteract the "the bomb the bloody Pakis" syndrome so widespread in Hindu India today, and the vilification and denigration of Islamic identify in Anglo-America. Radical and greater Islam needs friends and allies and will reach out to a democratic civil society or a left that reaches out to it. Remember, 9-11 did change the world.
|2. NEWS in Brief - top|
JAPAN SINKS, KOIZUMI SOARS
The Bank of Japan recently revised fiscal-year growth expectations from 0.8 percent to -1.2 percent. For Japan to achieve even that, its economy needs to perform far better in the next six months than it did in the last. But rather than focus on the economy, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is using the issue of remilitarization to distract the public following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
The Japanese government revealed Oct. 30 that unemployment jumped from 5.0 percent to a record high of 5.3 percent in September, its sharpest one-month gain in 34 years. The rise highlights Japan's spreading economic cancer and the government's impotence in mitigating, much less treating, the problem.
Yet despite the situation, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is successfully using the events of Sept. 11, which are driving the economy from recession to depression, to bolster his own popularity. Koizumi's policy of delaying economic measures while focusing on the country's remilitarization will continue. And although Japan's neighbors will become even more distrustful of its intentions, Koizumi will only be boosted higher.
Heizo Takenaka, minister for economic and fiscal policy, also this week confirmed the Bank of Japan's previous call that the economy wouldn't see positive growth for at least two years. The bank now forecasts the economy will shrink 1.2 percent instead of growing 0.8 percent in the April 2001-to-March 2002 fiscal year.
SHANGHAI TRAINS WTO PROFESSIONALS
Shanghai has launched a training programme to help professionals gain proficiency in World Trade Organisation (WTO) affairs.
The three-year programme aims to train 100 senior professionals for the Shanghai municipal government, state-owned enterprises, service institutions and industrial associations. It will also provide human resources for the municipality after the mainland's WTO accession.
A local official said Shanghai, as a major commercial centre, needed professionals proficient in international trade, WTO working languages and information technology.
"China will be in urgent need of such professionals," said Li Yueyin, director of training of a Shanghai-based company offering consultancy on WTO affairs.
Mr Li said all 100 trainees were aged between 23 and 45, with good educations, English and computer skills.
Training sessions will be in the mainland and abroad. They will cover principles of the multilateral trade system, China's economic reforms and WTO protocols.
SUMMARY EXECUTIONS CONTINUE UNDER ARROYO ADMINISTRATION
Government soldiers have summarily executed at least 61 persons since Jan. 22 this year, the day President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed power. Thirty-five persons were killed in seven incidents of massacre, while another 26, including a five-year old boy, died in various cases of summary execution.
The report does not include other cases of summary execution and other atrocities involving military and police forces in other operations against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in southern Philippines. Similar cases of human rights violations have also been mounting in Basilan and other southern Mindanao provinces where operations are ongoing in government's futile bid to flush out the Abu Sayyaf extremists. All these have remained largely unreported.
One of the most recent cases of massacre was that of five fishermen in Pantabangan, Nueva Ecija, some three hours drive north of Manila last Oct. 8
EMJP reported documenting a total of 205 cases of human rights violations under the Arroyo government. A total of 326 individuals and 50 communities were reportedly victimized by AFP troops' disregard for human rights.
INDONESIA AT TEH CROSSROADS: US WEAPONS SALES AND MILITARY TRAINING
Indonesia's new president, Megawati Sukarnoputri, finds herself in at a difficult crossroads in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
President Megawati was the first Muslim leader to travel to the White House and pledge her support to President George W. Bush's war against terrorism. As the leader of the world's largest Muslim nation, her visit allowed Bush to deftly counter criticism that the new war on terrorism was a thinly veiled war on Islam. President Megawati condemned the attacks as "barbaric and indiscriminate" and "pledged to cooperate with the international community in combating terrorism."
President Bush promised Megawati more than $700 million in economic aid, including money for police training and civilian courses in defense. He also expressed his desire to resume regular military contact, and lift the embargo on the sale of "non-lethal" weapons to Indonesia. This was viewed as the beginning of a valuable new partnership between the two nations.
Megawati's support for the U.S.-led bombing of Afghanistan has led to violent protests in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta and elsewhere in the nation. She now finds herself between a rock and a hard place. Will she have to choose between friendship with the United States and stability in her country?
AI CONCERNED WITH HEALTH OF ISA 6
Amnesty International today expressed concern over the health of six Keadilan leaders and reformasi activists who are undergoing a two-year Internal Security Act detention and reiterated its call for their release.
The human rights watchdog said the six have lost weight and are suffering from various health problems such as blood in the urine, high blood pressure and migraines. "They have also been boycotting prison food since September in protest of their treatment," said AI in a statement.
The organisation also called on the authorities to provide the detainees, who are being held at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak, with nutritious food, appropriate medical care and access to independent doctors. The six detainees are Keadilan leaders Tian Chua, Mohd Ezam Mohd Noor, Saari Sungib, Dr Badrul Amin Baharom, Lokman Nor Adam, and social activist-cum-malaysiakini columnist Hishamuddin Rais.
They were among the 10 people arrested in April under the ISA for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government via militant means. Four were subsequently released unconditionally but the rest were sent for two-year detention in June on orders by the home minister. The six have since been adopted by AI as prisoners of conscience.
AI stressed that the six should not have been imprisoned in the first place as the charge of trying to overthrow the government by militant means was never substantiated. They have been made to suffer for their peaceful dissenting political activities.
Among the maltreatment meted out to the detainees are solitary confinement in tiny windowless cells, denial of access to lawyers for two months, intensive interrogation which amounted to psychological torture. Police interrogation focused on the internal organisation of Keadilan. There was no mention of any alleged plans to use violence.
Keadilan was set up in 1999 following the sacking and subsequent jailing of former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. The party is currently led by his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Recently, the Human Rights Commission or Suhakam said it would release a report next month which recommends better rights for detainees at Kamunting. The recommendations include better food for detainees and no barrier to separate detainees from their families during visits.
AI today reiterated its condemnation of the use of ISA against political dissidents in the country. The law is a harsh piece of legislation which has been used by the authorities for decades to stifle legitimate dissent and to instill a climate of fear.
Opposition parties and civil groups have claimed that the government has used the security law which allows indefinite detention without trial to silence its critics, but this has been denied by the government.
Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently said the Act has worked well in combating terrorism within the country. The premier said without the ISA, it would have been difficult to bring Muslim radicals such as members of the Malaysian Mujahidin Group (KMM) to book as normal court procedures would entail adducing proper evidence which would have been difficult to obtain.
Last month, nine people, mostly PAS members, were placed under a two-year detention for allegedly being involved in the KMM which was said to be responsible for the bombing of a church and a temple, a spate of robberies and the assassination of a politician. Early this month, another six KMM members were arrested under the ISA. A total of 4,190 people have been detained under the ISA since the law was enacted in 1960 to battle a communist insurgency. Some 69 people are currently being held under the law.
COOKING OIL CONSUMERS TURN TO GREASE
Due to a continuing shortage of vegetable based cooking oils in Burma, consumers have turned to the cheaper and more readily available cooking grease, according to a business source in Rangoon. Burma has been facing a cooking oil shortage since May of this year due in part to a ban on cooking oil imports by non-staterun companies.
In Rangoon ten viss (16 Kg) of cooking grease costs only 700 kyat (US$ 1) where one viss of the popular palm oil costs 1,000 kyat. Many consumers not wanting to ingest the unhealthy cooking grease and cannot afford palm oil have also turned to fish oil as a cheaper and healthier alternative. The fish oil costs around 350 kyat per viss.
"We can't afford to buy the palm oil. Despite the smell (of the fish oil) it's very cheap and I don't think it is as bad for you as the grease," said Ma Ohmmar, a housewife in Rangoon.
The fish oil is a locally manufactured product but in order to satisfy the consumer demand for cooking oils in Burma, oil traders began importing cooking grease last month from Malaysia and Indonesia, according to a businessman from the Bayint Naung wholesale market in Rangoon. The government has not yet restricted the importation of cooking grease by non-staterun companies.
"The grease is now the biggest seller in the market," said a vendor in Rangoon.
Lt Gen Khin Nyunt said last Tuesday, at a ceremony marking World Food Day, that Burma does not face any food shortages presently and will not face any in the future.
Myanmar Economic Holding Co Ltd (MEHCL) is currently responsible for the importation of all cooking oils in Burma. [Top]
URGENT CALL FROM PAKISTAN CHURCHES FOR PEACE, NOT WAR
The General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in Pakistan, Mr Victor Azariah has called on the world community to seek peace at this time and to stop the war in Afghanistan. "Peace is the most important thing," he said in Hong Kong whilst attending a meeting today of Christian Conference of Asia. "War is not the answer to this political problem. Negotiation and respect for each other's rights is vital. Churches in Pakistan have supported the government of Pakistan in letter and spirit in the desire to eliminate terrorism, together with the international community. But they also feel that attacking and killing innocent people in Afghanistan is extremely unwise and should be immediately stopped. "
"Many people in Pakistan and the international community question Americans 'what is the crime of the people of Afghanistan, the vast majority of whom do not have the least idea about this sophisticated terrorism committed by someone in the US'", he said. "Whether bombing and other acts of war are deliberately directed to civilians, the reality is that civilians are being hit and made homeless through war, which is a one-sided act by the superpowers."
Christians are doing all they can to assist the refugees. "We mobilising the Christian community to extend every assistance to refugees, including blankets. The main groups willing and able to assist the refugees are NGO's and churches. Only Pakistanis are able to get into the refugee camps. We call on the Christian community internationally to assist with the relief effort, but it is even more important to advocate peace and an end to this war. That should be our first and main priority, so that people can go home".
Pakistani Christians are also actively engaged with inter-faith discussions with Muslims. Says Victor: "This is vital for social harmony and understanding. The Christian community in Pakistan always feels a backlash when something goes against Pakistan at the behest of the West. Sometimes Pakistani Christians are considered stooges of the West, which we are not. So we have met Muslim dignitaries and tried to assist them to understand the way we view things. We are Pakistani Christians. We love our country and are loyal citizens of our own country, no one else's."
AIR DROPS JEOPARDISE AFGHAN AID OPERATIONS
An international network of church aid agencies has criticised humanitarian airdrops linked to US-led military strikes in Afghanistan, saying they compromise other aid efforts in the region.
Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, based here but uniting church-related relief efforts world-wide, called the drops of food packages from military planes "ineffective" and even potentially "dangerous" for the civilian population.
The airdrops were "jeopardising the credibility of humanitarian aid in the region and were not an effective means of meeting the desperate needs of the people of Afghanistan", said Thor-Arne Prois, director of ACT's co-ordinating office, in a statement released on 15 October.
Prois said the airdrops violated basic tenets of humanitarian aid, including the need for neutrality and impartiality.
"Simultaneous air strikes and airdrops constitute a total confusion of humanitarian and military actions," he said. Future relief efforts could be delayed or blocked if this confusion led Afghan authorities to question the agencies' neutrality.
Pilots dropping food had no way of ensuring that it reached the needy, said Prois, who for four years worked in Afghanistan as a representative of Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), one of ACT's member organisations. In addition, people could be injured if they tried to gather food that has fallen on mined fields.
"At best these airdrops are a symbolic gesture," Prois said.
US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has reportedly admitted that airdrops are less effective than delivery of aid by land.
Rainer Lang, ACT press officer, told ENI that while some people were eating food from the airdropped packages, others were burning the packages because they thought the food was poisoned, according to refugees.
"Everybody knows people need long-term aid to get through the winter," Lang said in a phone interview from Peshawar in Pakistan. "Even if they could airdrop 100 000 [packages] daily, it would not be enough."
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that more than 7 million people in Afghanistan need food aid.
Even before the US-led military operation against the Taliban, the UN had already declared the situation in Afghanistan, which has suffered a three-year drought, a humanitarian crisis. After more than two decades of war, about 3 million Afghans had already fled to Pakistan, and another million people had been displaced within the borders of the country.
Since the military operations began on 7 October, thousands more people have been fleeing Afghan cities. The UN, which has removed workers from border areas due to security concerns, does not have precise figures.
With neighbouring borders officially closed to Afghan refugees, getting humanitarian aid into the country by road has been haphazard.
Aid workers talk of individuals crossing the border into Afghanistan carrying supplies on their backs, but aid convoys have been held at border crossings for days due in part to security concerns. Demonstrations in the Pakistan border city of Quetta and other areas, and political strikes yesterday have further hampered movement.
"Here everything is guarded," Lang said. "There's a massive presence of police and army on trucks. It's difficult to move around."
A convoy of lorries from Church World Service - a US ecumenical relief agency and a member of ACT - today passed the border at Quetta carrying 500 shelter kits for central Afghanistan, where people have fled to escape the air attacks in the cities - the second such shipment in two days. Eight CWS lorries had been stuck at the border for a week.
NCA has been providing two months' worth of wheat and cooking oil to more than 3000 families in the outskirts of Kabul, the Afghan capital. The agency and its local partners are aiming to supply food to 20 000 of the neediest families here and in the mountainous central areas of the country.
NCA, CWS, the Middle East Council of Churches and Christian Aid, an ecumenical relief organisation based in Britain - all ACT members - are working with their local partners to get aid to the needy, especially to mountainous regions which could be cut off with the first snow, perhaps as early as November.
These organisations have moved substantial food and supplies to border areas in Iran, Tajikistan and Pakistan.
To gain access to the Afghan civilian population, ACT's Prois advocates the creation of "safe corridors", which would have to be protected by authorities on both sides of the border.
His position has received support from the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). In a statement today, Manfred Kock, the EKD chair, called on the German government to exert pressure for "secure and easily attainable zones of safety for the civilian population" in Afghanistan.
"Instead of dropping food indiscriminately from the air, it would be more sensible to create a safe passage for aid organisations to reach the people who are suffering," he said.
APEC UNITES AGAINST TERRORISM
Leaders of Asia and Pacific countries have condemned the 11 September attacks in the United States as "murderous deeds" and urged international cooperation in fighting terrorism. It is the first major political statement in the twelve-year history of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation group (Apec), a body normally dedicated to trade.
In their final statement at the end of two days of talks in Shanghai, the leaders said terrorist acts are a profound threat to the peace, prosperity and security of all people, of all faiths, of all nations. The declaration, read by Chinese President Jiang Zemin, continued: "Terrorism is also a direct challenge to Apec's vision of free, open and prosperous economies." Russian and China, however, want the US-led military campaign to end soon.
On economic matters, the leaders also said they were committed to maintaining public confidence by fighting protectionism and launching a new round of talks to tear down barriers to global commerce. They also committed themselves to speed up the progress of achieving free trade among developed members by 2010 and for developing countries 10 years later.
|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: ARBITRARY DETENTIONS/TORTURE
The International Secretariat of OMCT requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Sri Lanka.
Brief description of the situation
The International Secretariat of OMCT has been informed by a reliable source of the arbitrary arrest, detention and torture of Mr. Subramaniam Thavarajingram in Pettah, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
According to the information received, 32 year-old Mr. Subramaniam Thavarajasingam was arbitrarily arrested by Officer Ravindra from the Criminal Investigation Department's (CID), which is attached to the Pettah area. Mr. Thavarajasingam is the owner of two communication business outlets, known as Maruthy Communication, located on Kethereson road and Bankshall street respectively.
According to the information received, Mr. Thavarajasingam was summoned by the police to their offices on September 18th, 2001, at which time they interrogated him concerning a phone call that had been made by one of his customers at the communications shop in March 2001. Mr. Thavarajasingam denied all knowledge about this call during the interrogation.
According to the information received, the police raided the Bankshall street shop at around 3pm on September 23rd, 2001, and arrested the customers, helpers and employees present at the time. Having heard about the incident, Mr. Thavarajasingam went down to the CID offices to find out what had happened, at which time he was arrested. He is being detained on the 4th floor of the CID building. No reasons were given for his arrest, although it is thought that the police are likely to justify it under the auspices of their operations to combat terrorism in the country. Most of the others that were arrested were released soon afterwards, although it is believed that 25-year old Mr. Mohanathas Kamalathas, a shop employee, is still being detained. It is thought that one other employee may also still be being detained, but no further information concerning this was available at the time of this appeal.
According to the information received, Mr. Thavarajasingam's mother and wife were able to visit him on September 25th and 28th, and October 4th, 8th, 11th, 15th and 22nd. On September 22nd Mr. Thavarajasingam told that that he had been tortured in several ways, including: being beaten by the CID Superintendent in order to force him to sign a document; being hit with an iron on the head; and having his eye pricked with a nail. His hands also reportedly show signs of being swollen and there were blood stains on his shirt.
According to the information received, the police have closed his shop and have confiscated the keys. It is believed that there is a risk that thieves may break in to the shop, as there is valuable equipment there, including computers and telephones.
According to the information received, there is no indication that the Sri Lankan Authorioties intend to bring these men before a Judge to be tried, and OMCT fears that they will be detained and tortured until they give in and make false confessions.
OMCT is gravely concerned for Mr. Thavarajasingam's physical and psychological integrity, given that he has already been tortured during his detention and that there is a risk that he may again be subjected to ill treatment by the police officers. OMCT is also concerned for Mr. Kamalathas' physical and psycholoigcal integrity, and, despite the fact that very little is know about his conditions of detention, fears that he too may be being subjected to torture. Furthermore, OMCT condemns the arbitrary nature of these arrests and detentions, for which no valid legal reason has been given, and more generally condemns human rights abuses conducted under the veil of Sri Lanka's anti-terrorist operations.
Please write to the authorities in Sri Lanka urging them to:
Her Excellency President Chandrika B. Kumaratunga,
Mr. Mangala Samaraweera,
Inspector General of Police,
I.P. Pradeep Ratnayake,
Please also write to the embassies of Sri Lanka in your respective country.
|5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top|
DAGA DOSSIER - The Struggle in
This dossier is a collection of articles that give a wider perspective to the issue facing the people in Mindanao. The articles range from background materials on the island of Mindanao to various discussions about the nature of the conflict that has simmered on for so long.
The dossier in PDF is now available for download in our website. Write to us if you would like to have a printed copy of the dossier.
Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA):