28 September 2000
In this issue:
2. NEWS in Brief
4. Urgent APPEALS
|1. FEATURE - top|
|2. NEWS in Brief - top|
Civilians at risk as armed forces launch massive attack
18 September 2000
Amid reports that at least 600 civilians have been killed or injured since the Philippine armed forces launched its Saturday attack on rebel bases on the southern Philippine island of Jolo, Amnesty International appeals to the Philippine authorities to take urgent steps to ensure the safety of all civilians on the island.
"Indiscriminate bombing of the civilian population must be halted immediately. No security crisis can justify a military offensive which involves the killing of civilians," Amnesty International said.
The Philippine armed forces have committed human rights violations within the context of counter-insurgency operations against armed opposition groups throughout the country, including extrajudicial executions, torture, "disappearances" and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Amnesty International is appalled by reports that the armed forces have denied Jolo based medical and relief workers access to areas where innocent civilians, including children, are reported to have been killed or injured. A news blackout imposed by the government has made it impossible to confirm the numbers of civilian casualties, but government sources have so far admitted that four civilians have died.
Several thousand local villagers are reported to have fled their homes as bombings continue on the island, one of the poorest in the country. All transport links to and from Jolo have been severed.
On Saturday, President Estrada ordered thousands of troops to launch an attack on bases of the armed Islamic separatist group Abu Sayyaf in an attempt to rescue 22 hostages being held by the group. The hostages include 16 Filipinos, three Malaysians, two French journalists and an American. At least one of the Filipinos has been in captivity for nearly five months. Other hostages, including several foreign nationals, were released recently reportedly for large sums in ransom money.
Amnesty International called on both the Abu Sayyaf group, which has committed human rights abuses including hostage-taking and killings, and the Philippine armed forces, to respect the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
"All parties to any conflict have a responsibility to respect the lives of civilians, and of combatants who are wounded or have laid down their arms" Amnesty International said.
Indonesian Military Build-up in West Papua
Following moves towards independence in West Papua, the Indonesian armed forces are moving towards a violent response, with the introduction of new Indonesian troops into West Papua and the arming of anti-independence militias. West Papuan leaders are calling on the international community to speak out against this militarisation, and support dialogue on self-determination.
BETWEEN 29 May and 4 June 2000, the Second Papuan Peoples Congress was held to discuss the issue of a transitional government for West Papua (the western half of the island of New Guinea, which has been occupied by Indonesia since the 1960s). Over 3,000 West Papuans attended the Peoples Congress in the capital Jayapura (Port Numbay), including representatives from the central government and provincial administration, Papuan leaders living in exile, supporters of the OPM (Free Papua Movement) as well as observers from other parts of Indonesia. The Congress issued a Declaration of Independence on 4 June 2000. Independence activists stressed West Papua has been independent since December 1961 and the subsequent Indonesian take over through the 1969 Act of Free Choice was illegal.
Indonesia has responded with a major military build up. In the first week of August 2000, about five hundred KOSTRAD (Land Command Strategic Troops) were deployed to each of the thirteen regencies in West Papua (amounting to 6,500 new troops). The troops were deployed six hours after Indonesian President Wahids statement to the Indonesian Parliament outlining his willingness to offer West Papua autonomy, but not independence. On 8 August, Indonesias MPR (Provisional Peoples Consultative Assembly) agreed to reject the West Papuan Congress demands for independence, and instead to grant autonomy to West Papua.
Indonesian troops normally based in West Papua include several thousand regular and special forces (Kopassus) troops. Indonesia is also planning a new naval base for 3,000 marines in the district of Sorong in West Papua. There are also plans, announced in July, to send 2,000 troops of the police mobile brigade (Brimob) from Jakarta.
Already, the Indonesian military are supporting the creation of new anti-independence militias in West Papua, such as the pro-Jakarta Satgas Merah Putih (the Red and White Taskforce - the colours of the Indonesian flag). In 1999, this tactic led to massive human rights violations in East Timor, and the death of thousands. The Organ isasi Papua Merdeka (Free Papua Movement) fears that the Indonesian military is bringing guns from overseas to provoke West Papuans into responding with violence.
Militias armed by Indonesia caused a human tragedy in East Timor in 1999. This year, thousands have also died in clashes in Maluku, in militia attacks supported by elements of the Indonesian military. It is not too late for the international community to act to halt a similar tragedy in West Papua. Melanesian countries (through the Melanesian Spearhead Group) and the wider Pacific community (through the South Pacific Forum) can play an important role in the peaceful resolution of the current crisis.
West Papuan activist Jacob Rumbiak writes: "West Papuans urgently request international institutions, especially the United Nations, to protect West Papuans in West Papuan territory, so that another human disaster in the Indonesian Republic can be contained. West Papuans hope that the international community will not wait until West Papua is destroyed by the Indonesian government (that is still dominated by its own military) before it addresses the rapidly deteriorating situation. West Papuans consider that direct intervention is the duty of the United Nations, which must protect indigenous West Papuans. The problem is not an internal political problem, but rather one that has to be addressed by the international community. Thank you for your attention. Please help avoid our disaster."
Senior church and NGO leaders in Jayapura have issued a statement this week seeking international support. Bishop Leo Labaladjar for the Catholic Diocese; John Gobay Chairman of the Synod of the GM Church of Irian Jaya; Robert Korwa for the Jayapura Legal Aid Institute; and other NGO leaders have stated:
In the interests of upholding human rights and democracy, we offer the following recommendations:
Firstly: The name Papua represents the cultural identity of the people of Papua land and the unfurling of the Papuan flag throughout the land is a symbol of the aspirations of the Papua people that were repressed during the New Order. We feel that the right of all people individually and collectively to express their opinions should be respected, and this includes the right of Papua people to call themselves Papuans and to unfurl their flag. We vigorously protest against the policy of the government, in this reform era, to repress this.
Secondly: We reject the proposal to amend Article 29 of the Indonesian Constitution, which would allow the state to interfere in peoples religious freedom.
Thirdly: We call on the government, both civilian as well as the TNT and police, and the regional government to respect the principle of dialogue. The government and the legislature should not open the way for the re-emergence of militarism in Indonesia. We therefore demand the immediate withdrawal of all the newly arrived non-organic troops. We are totally convinced that violence will never resolve our problem; on the contrary it will only bring new problems.
Fourthly: the wishes of members of the MPR to adopt a law on special autonomy for Papua should be postponed and there should first be dialogue regarding the matter with the Papuan people,
Fifthly: We call on all sections of the community, in particular the Papuan Presidium Council, religious leaders, traditional leaders, Satgas Papua, Red and White Satgas and the general public to stress the need for dialogue in resolving the conflicts. We should do everything possible to restrain ourselves so that we are not dragged into violent conflict, which can only result in loss of life and property for the ordinary civilians.
Sixthly: We urge the central government and the various components of the Papuan people to enter into dialogue to seek an overall solution to the Papuan problem.
[Pacific Concerns Resource Center (PCRC) has prepared a briefing paper on current developments in West Papua, in the lead up to this year's South Pacific Forum, to be held in Kiribati in October To obtain a copy, contact PCRC on email: email@example.com or fax: (679) 304755.]
Mainland firms ill-prepared for WTO
Mainland officials and analysts on Wednesday hailed the trade deal approved by the US Senate overnight, which would give China the permanent normal trade status and remove the last major stumbling block for China's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). However, they cautioned against over-optimism about WTO entry, saying that membership of the global trade body would bring problems as well as benefits.
They said that while WTO entry would bring long-term benefits for the mainland's economy and its full integration into the international market, expectations of an immediate boom in trade and investment were inappropriate.
"The WTO benefits for the mainland should come gradually, particularly in the area of foreign investment," Xu Xiaonian, executive director of research at the China International Capital Corp (CICC), an investment bank, said on Wednesday.
He said foreign investors would need time to see how the mainland would restructure its economy and implement the WTO rules.
Mr Xu and other mainland economists said the expected WTO entry was just the first step in a long march for mainland firms that have a lot to learn about how best to exploit the advantages of economic globalisation.
They said mainland businesses were ill-prepared for the challenges ahead.
"Solid and down to earth preparatory work is scarce, although officials and entrepreneurs have long been crying wolf," leading government advisor Lu Zhiqiang told the China Daily on Monday.
"As far as I know, few serious studies have ever been conducted into relevant laws on foreign trade, overseas investment, and rules and regulations of the WTO so that Chinese firms can meet challenges while undertaking their obligations," Mr Lu, the deputy director of the State Council's Development Research Centre, said.
Mr Xu of CICC said many mainland firms have not taken the WTO entry and its probable impact seriously.
He said that the mainland government has come under increasing pressure from industry groups to erect WTO-allowed trade and regulatory barriers to protect against an onslaught from foreign investors.
Many of the businessmen still have this 'so-what?' attitude that goes: even after China opens up its economy following the WTO entry, foreign investors will still need licences to do business on the mainland. They would urge the government to exercise tough approval standards to stunt foreign competition and protect domestic industries.
"While it is tempting to do so, the government should resolutely resist the pressure [from those lobbying groups]," he said, adding that failure to do so would only slow the pace and increase the costs of mainland economic restructuring.
Economists said the mainland authorities are also faced with the urgent and difficult task of restructuring and improving the mainland's legal and regulatory frameworks in accordance with WTO rules.
The government said it had already begun revising old laws and drafting the necessary new regulations.
Economists said that the government should focus its efforts on laws governing the industries that are largely regulated by government directives.
One such area is the capital market. For instance, the mainland has so far approved just one joint venture investment bank, China International Capital Corp. CICC is controlled by the China Construction Bank and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.
"It has been approved as an exceptional case and there are no laws governing this area at all," Mr Xu of CICC said.
"But things will have to change once China is a WTO member."
Other economists said the government should step up the training of government officials and businesspeople as a matter of urgency.
Shi Wei, a senior economist at the State Council Office for the Restructuring of Economic Systems, said some provinces had started to invite him and his colleagues to give lectures to the officials over the impact of the WTO entry.
However, other economists said as mainland factories and institutions have been accustomed to relying upon government help, many of them were still waiting for the government to sort everything out for them.
"Those companies will never be ready until the day comes," Mr Xu said, adding that that could mean some mainland firms were likely to be forced into bankruptcy.
Why the US trade votes matters
The US Senate has voted to grant permanent normal trading relations with China. BBC News Online's Steve Schifferes explains why that vote matters to the rest of the world.
What are permanent normal trading relations (PNTR)?
During the Cold War the US decided that it would only grant trading privileges to Communist countries after reviewing their record on human rights and immigration each year. This provision still applied to China, although Congress had never actually voted to block trade. China wants to join the World Trade Organisation and has agreed to open its markets to Western investment. In return, the US government promised to end the annual vote on PNTR.
Why does it matter?
If the US congress had voted to continue with the annual trade review, it would not have been entitled to gain the benefits of any trade liberalisation that China undertakes. Although China would still be able to join the World Trade Organisation, the uncertainty over its trade relations with its largest trading partner would undermine the significance of the move. Many supporters believe that integrating China - the world's fourth largest economy - in the world trading system is crucial to persuading China to liberalise its political and economic system. If the US had turned in a protectionist direction, it would have made trade negotiations with other countries, including the EU, more difficult.
What happens next?
To gain membership of the World Trade Organisation, China has to reach deals with all members of the WTO on measures to open its markets to foreign competition. It reached such a deal with the US in November, but only finalised agreement with the European Union in May. It could well be the end of the year before the WTO's technical panel approves Chinese membership - and some years after that before all of China's market-opening measures are completed.
Why had the issue become so politically charged in the US?
The vote to grant PNTR to China was only passed by the House of Representatives in May after much heated debate. The vote had a huge symbolic significance in the US, where it was the centrepiece of a battle between free traders and protectionists. Those Americans worried that free trade and globalisation had gone too far, including many unions, mobilised against the deal. They had support from many in the Democratic Party who were sensitive to the concerns of its heartland voters in an election year. President Clinton, a Democrat who cannot run for re-election, wants to make his mark in history by agreeing to the landmark trade deal with China, thus securing good relations with Beijing. He has sought the backing of the Republican Party and the business community, who were worried that a rejection would fuel the fires of protectionism across the US.
Why is it so important for China?
China's opening to the West since the l970s has led to a dramatic transformation of its economy which has quadrupled in size. Joining the World Trade Organisation would ensure that China continued on its path towards economic modernisation. China's economic reformers know that opening up the Chinese economy to Western competition could cause massive disruption and job losses. They believe that it is a necessary price to pay to strengthen China's power and prestige internationally. The annual vote on PNTR was seen as a humiliation for China as a great power. That is why China remains bitterly opposed to any human rights commission which the US Congress proposes setting up.
How will it affect the rest of the world?
The opening up of China will have a major effect on the whole world economy. China's market of 1.3 billion people will, over time, become a more attractive place to sell goods and services from the industrialised countries of Europe, Japan and North America. In so far as the deal stimulates China to grow faster, investment opportunities will be even greater. In the short term, Western industries could face more competition from Chinese imports in sectors like textiles, clothing and steel. And if China becomes an economic powerhouse it may become more assertive about playing a bigger role in Asia, challenging Japan and the US.
European Parliament Resolution on Burma
The European Parliament, having regard to its previous resolutions on Burma, in particular its resolutions of 16 September 1999 and 18 May 2000, having regard to the two declarations of the EU Presidency on Burma (25 August 2000 and 2 September 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|
Extra-judicial killings in Aceh
The two student leaders who were abducted on 19 September at 5 pm in Banda Aceh were released on 20 September at 7.00 pm. Muzakir and Mohamed Saleh of Sira were seized from a car repair shop by seven men in plain clothes armed with pistols and long rifles. They were taken away in two jeeps.
Since the kidnapping and brutal murder of human right activist Jafar Siddiq Hamzah and the killing of Professor Safwan Idris, Rector of IAIN Ar-Raniry, the TNI has threathen and kidnapped student/human rights activist.
Professor Safwan Idris was a member of the Independent Investigation Commission that investigated Human Rights Violations in Aceh. He was a leading candidate for the position of governor of Aceh.
Violence and extra-judicial killings are escalating in Aceh. The list
of Acehnese leaders kidnapped or killed since the beginning of the Humanitarian Pause in
Aceh are as follows:
Requested Action: Imnediately write emails and letters to
SEND APPEALS TO:
Col. Sumantyawan Hadidojo Soedardjo
Dr Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab
Mr. Kofi Annan
Ms. Mary Robinson
and to diplomatic representatives of Indonesia accredited to your country.
|5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top|
Conference on Development and Liberation in the third Millennium
The above conference is being jointly organised by the Urban Rural Mission and Develop & Service desks of the CCA. The conference is being proposed to assess the social development outlook in Asia and its impact on the lives of the poor.
Date: 16-21 October 2000
Documentation for Action Groups in Asia (DAGA):