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DAGAinfo

31 May 2002
No. 131


In this issue:
  1. FEATURE
    Bush's Hit List At the United Nations
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Vietnam - Internet Activist arrested
    East Timor - East Timor faces hard times after euphoria
    Burma - A Quiet Revolution In Burma
    Pakistan - Oil Trails Brings US Official to Pakistan and India
    India - Where religion divides and rules
    Middle East Watch
    - Israel's Systematic Destruction of Palestinian Society
    - Apartheid in the Holy Land
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    SRI LANKA: Frequent and cruel tortures by the police
  4. ANNOUNCEMENT
    NEW Graduate School for the Study of Life

 

1. FEATURE - top
 

BUSH'S HIT LIST AT THE UNITED NATIONS

by Ian Williams

Quietly, and without the fanfare that accompanies the campaign in the mountains of Afghanistan, the administration has begun a long march through multilateral institutions. At the UN and elsewhere, the U.S. has mounted a campaign to purge international civil servants judged to be out of step with Washington in the war on terrorism and its insistence that the U.S. have the last word in all global governance issues.

The first and most prominent to go was Mary Robinson, the former Irish president whose work as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has been acclaimed by human rights groups across the world. Officially, she retired after a one-year renewal of her contract. In fact, the U.S. ferociously lobbied against here reappointment. UN officials and Western diplomats also said she was "difficult to work with" -- the usual euphemism for not willing to be dictated to. Most human rights activists see this as precisely her strength in an organization where not rocking the boat seems to be genetically engineered into many officials.

The U.S. could not forgive her for her stands on the Middle East issues or for her endorsement last year of the results of the UN's Durban Conference on Racism, which both the U.S. and Israel walked out of. The rest of the world stayed and adopted a toned-down document, and subsequently Washington began its campaign to force Robinson out.

Another recent victim of the U.S. campaign was Robert Watson, the much-respected chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. On Apr. 19, the U.S. administration succeeded in replacing him with Rajendra Pachauri, an Indian economist. The panel is (or perhaps was is the correct tense) an independent scientific body established to assess the degree of climate change and the contribution made by human activities such as burning fossil fuels. The panel's work had come to a consensus, not shared by the Bush administration, that human activity is a factor in climate change.

A leaked memo from ExxonMobil had previously asked the White House, "Can Watson be replaced now at the request of the U.S.?" The memo goes on to recommend that the administration "restructure the U.S. attendance at upcoming IPCC meetings to assure none of the Clinton/Gore proponents are involved in any decisional activities." Apparently, the administration heeded ExxonMobil's recommendation. Pachauri himself attributes his selection to being the developing world candidate, but environmental NGOs ascribe it to U.S. lobbying.

A few days later, on Apr. 22, the U.S. right achieved a new level of success with the deposition of Jose Mauricio Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a mere year after he had been unanimously elected for a second five-year term. The voting was 48-7 with 43 abstentions. The OPCW was created by the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production of chemical weapons. It arranges regular inspections of member countries' facilities to ensure that no one is cheating. Bustani, a Brazilian, has headed it from its creation five years ago, and his inspectors have overseen the destruction of 2,000,000 chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world's chemical weapon facilities in the past several years. They have carried out 1,100 inspections in more than 50 nations.

From the beginning of 2002, however, the U.S. has treated Bustani almost as if he were some form of bureaucratic Bin Laden. Bush administration officials accused him of "ongoing financial mismanagement, demoralization of the Technical Secretariat staff, and ill-considered initiatives." Only last year he had been reelected unanimously, with plaudits from all, including Colin Powell. Moreover, his staff pointed out that the organization's finances and management were controlled not by Bustani but by a U.S. government appointee.

So what had changed? Not Bustani, but Washington. His main persecutor was John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Bolton earned his right-wing credentials when he served as the house UN-basher for the Heritage Foundation. But his anti-UN convictions have never stopped him taking money from the organization himself. Most recently he served as assistant to James Baker on the failed Western Sahara mission. For years, Bolton had argued that the U.S. should get out of the United Nations. At the same time, however, Bolton served as a consultant to Taiwan advising the government how it could get into the UN, according to The Nation. Although Bolton may have flexible principles, like many of Bush's hard right entourage he has a rigid line in grudges and he soon developed a major one against Bustani.

Having Bolton in charge of disarmament is like letting a pyromaniac have the run of a fireworks factory -- as his recent hardnose attitude to nuclear limitation talks with Russia, and staunch advocacy of the "Star Wars," Strategic Defense Initiative suggests. Bustani first started running into problems when he resisted American efforts to dictate the nationality of the OPCW inspectors assigned to investigate American facilities. What's more, he had opposed a U.S. law allowing the president to block unannounced inspections in the United States and banning OPCW inspectors from removing samples of its chemicals.

Diplomats suggest that Bustani's biggest "crime" was trying to persuade Iraq to sign the convention, which could mean that OPCW inspectors would inspect Iraqi facilities. The hawks in the administration resented these "ill-considered initiatives." If Iraq would sign the convention and allow UN inspectors, it would deprive Washington of a quasi-legal justification for military action against Baghdad.

Earlier this year the U.S. asked Brazil to recall him, but the Brazilian government pointed out that Bustani was not a Brazilian appointee but rather was elected unanimously by the entire OPCW. Then Bolton, personally, asked Bustani to resign. After he refused, the U.S. then attempted to have the OPCW Executive Council sack him. Failing that, Washington called for a special session of member states to fire him, threatening that the U.S. would not pay its dues if he were reappointed. Faced with losing an effective and popular disarmament agency, a majority of states succumbed to this blackmail. This acquiescence to Washington was in stark contrast to the willingness of so many countries to defy the U.S. by ratifying the Rome Treaty establishing the International Criminal Court only two weeks before.

In the end, it seems most members of the OPCW, with varying degrees of pragmatism and reluctance, decided that the survival of one of the most successful disarmament organizations was more important than the fate of its director. However, they set an ominous example -- and possibly gave the hawks in Washington a strong scent of blood to follow. As Bustani presciently told the kangaroo court, "By dismissing me... an international precedent will have been established whereby any duly elected head of any international organization would at any point during his or her tenure remain vulnerable to the whims of one or a few major contributors. They would be in a position to remove any Director-General, or Secretary-General, from office at any point in time."

To Play, U.S. Must Get Its Way

The right wing has long had a reflex hostility to international and multilateral organizations. But during the Reagan administration, which was the first time that the right wing exercised such control over U.S. policy, there was the fear that the U.S. could not pull out of the UN and leave it in the hands of its cold war enemy. Today, however, the U.S. has no counterweight at the UN, and the Bush administration officials are unabashedly insisting on exercising the influence that comes from being the world's only superpower. Playing upon its indispensability in this unipolar world, the Bush team is playing hard ball at the UN-in effect, threatening to render the multilateral organization impotent unless it gets its way.

It bodes ill for global affairs the way the administration has managed to achieve these recent coups with little or no public awareness, let alone discussion. In the case of Mary Robinson, the U.S. did fear that any open campaign to unseat her would upset Irish American voters. Instead of tapping its public diplomacy, the administration used stealth tactics against Robinson. Human rights organizations complained, but this administration has successfully sidelined these organizations from foreign policy decisionmaking and now routinely dismisses the concerns of these organizations.

Who is the next target? It may be Hans Blix, who heads UNMOVIC, which is the UN organization established at the end of the Persian Gulf War to inspect Iraqi arms facilities. It's been reported that Paul Wolfowitz, Under Secretary of Defense, ordered a CIA investigation of Blix. One reason that the administration is concerned is that under the framework supported by Powell, if Blix's team goes into Iraq and gives the regime a clean bill of health, then the sanctions regime against Iraq will be largely terminated. For Wolfowitz and other hardliners, this eventuality would remove another main causus belli against Baghdad. Deposing the highly respected Blix, who formerly headed the International Atomic Energy Authority, would facilitate the administration's case for launching a war on Baghdad.

It's also likely that included on the administration's hit list are the individuals on the proposed fact-finding mission to Jenin that have found disfavor with the Sharon government. One was Mary Robinson, who has already been ousted. The others were Terje Roed Larsen, one of the main agents in establishing the Oslo channel that led to what was once the peace process, and currently the UN's special coordinator for the peace process. Although half-heartedly defended by Shimon Peres, it will be difficult to keep him in position when he has "lost the trust" of Sharon, and presumably his allies in the U.S. administration.

The third person the Israelis regarded as biased is Peter Hansen, the recently reappointed Commissioner General of UNRWA, the U.S.-funded agency that helps Palestinian refugees. Hansen was appointed by the Secretary General Kofi Annan, who angrily sprang to the defense of all three individuals criticized by Israel. But Annan may find it hard to stand behind monitors criticized by the U.S. and Israel, especially if the U.S. would threaten to cut off its funding of UNRWA, which would likely result in starvation in the Palestinian refugee camps.

Kofi Annan, himself, may also be targeted soon. Even though he has only just started his second term, and even though he is immensely popular, Kofi Annan has recently become stronger in his public exasperation with Sharon's behavior. Given the recent pattern of arrogant American diplomacy, one cannot help but suspect that, but for Colin Powell and Shimon Peres -- who have a strong rapport with the secretary-general -- the anti-Iraq and pro-Sharon hardliners in the Bush administration will soon begin a campaign to invite Annan to retire.

It's likely that they will first suggest that he could retire with honor and that this decision would be for his own good. If that strategy doesn't work, they will likely accuse him of managerial incompetence and inability to work well with member states combined with yet another threat to withhold dues.

If the U.S. purges continue and rise to higher levels, other UN member nations may regret their pandering to Washington as they see the entire post-World War II framework of multilateralism start to disintegrate.

[Source: Foreign Policy in Focus 9.5.02]

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

VIETNAM

Internet activist arrested in Vietnam

Once again, Vietnam has taken a drastic step to curb the processing of information in that country. In late March, the Vietnam government arrested Pham Hong Son, an anti-government dissident, for publishing texts critical of the nation's communist regime on the Internet.

Son is the third dissident arrested in recent months, following the arrests of Tran Khue, Bui Minh Quoc, and Le Chi Quang on similar charges in March. He was arrested by detectives of the country's Ministry of Public Security in order to "clarify the level of his infringement," said a government statement.

The statement further explained that Son had sent and received anti-state and anti-Vietnam Communist Party documents. "Although he was reminded and educated many times by authorities and functional agencies, Son still deliberately infringed," said the statement.

According to reports Son, a doctor and sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, was detained for translating and publishing an article titled "What is Democracy?" on the Internet. The article had previously been published on a United States embassy web site.

After publishing the article, Son was questioned by police. Later, Son's home was searched, and personal belongings, such as his computer equipment and personal papers, were seized by the police. Unable to retrieve his belongings, Son published an article on the Internet protesting the search of his home and the seizure of his papers, and was detained shortly thereafter.

Son is also the author of a number of articles, including "Democracy promotion: a key focus in a new world order" and "Sovereignty and human rights: the search for reconciliation," published on the Internet forums www.Danchu.net and www.Ykien.net, both dedicated to promoting democracy.

On March 6, Son sent one of his articles, entitled "Promising signals for democracy in Vietnam," to the Secretary-General of the Vietnamese Community Party, General Nong Duc Manh.

Khue and Quang were arrested for publishing articles on the Internet critical of the conditions under which the Vietnamese government signed border agreements with Beijing officials. Two other dissident writers, Ha Sy Phu and Quoc, are also currently being held by the Vietnamese government.

[Source: Digital Freedom Network 24.4.02]

EAST TIMOR

East Timor Faces Hard Times After Euphoria

EAST TIMOR is celebrating its independence under a spectacular show of international goodwill, with hostility coming only from the darker corners of Indonesia's military and political elite. But when the party is over and the euphoria has vanished, the new nation will find some menacing guests in its front room: economic crisis, political turbulence and confused identity.

The economic crisis: Through trust funds and bilateral arrangements, international donors have provided generous funding for the new nation's development needs and capacity-building in the first years of independence. In the long term, Timor Gap gas and oil promise to provide a rich income for the country for several generations. This money is expected to come on stream from 2005 and may amount to $15 billion over 20 years.

But behind this rosy picture lies a worrying fragility. The international community has already begun to turn its attention away from East Timor. After the first year of independence, revenue from aid, bilateral and multilateral, is likely to decline, possibly quite quickly. As the United Nations withdraws, taking its money with it, thousands of its East Timorese staff will find themselves looking for a job.

In stages, the country will have to take on the big and essentially unproductive financial burden of its Defence Force. Coffee, the country's only significant export crop, will continue to experience its current depressed prices into the immediate future. Indeed, some economists predict that East Timor's gross domestic product will decline as much as 5 per cent in the first two years of independence.

This initial malaise will turn around when Timor Gap revenues turn from a trickle into a flood. But when will this happen? The year 2005 keeps getting mentioned, but it is notoriously difficult to predict with certainty how long the development of oil reserves will take. Contract disputes and differences over technical questions have already delayed progress, and 2005 will very likely prove to be an optimistic date.

Despite the confident predictions of oilmen and politicians, the amount of revenue that will come from the Timor Gap is very uncertain. In fact there is a better-than-even chance that Timor Gap revenues will be far below the stratospheric amounts lighting up the dreams of economists.

East Timor is a poor country. Most of its people live on an income less than $400 a year. Even if, against all odds, the country were to manage a growth rate of 5 per cent a year in the early years of independence, it would take 12 years for it just to catch up with its giant, but economically moribund, neighbour Indonesia. It will take a full generation, at least, for a well-trained cohort of indigenous administrators, professionals and entrepreneurs to competently occupy centre stage in the nation's life.

Until then, living conditions will remain precarious and the potential for disappointment, even rage, at thwarted expectations will be very great. This can, and almost inevitably will, beget political crises.

Political turbulence: East Timor's parliament is overwhelmingly dominated by Fretilin, the party that spearheaded resistance to Indonesia's occupation. The emerging defence force is headed by and numerically dominated by ex-Falintil fighters, Falintil being the military arm of Fretilin.

In the war-tempered intimacy of this alliance there are big dangers for democracy and for the representation of minority opinion. Given the size of its win in last year's election it is almost inevitable that in the first election after independence Fretilin will find its majority in parliament slashed.

If, as seems likely, the election is held in an atmosphere of economic malaise and disappointed expectations, Fretilin could conceivably even be ousted from government. If this happens, the army will likely see it as a duty to support its resistance twin by bringing military pressure to bear on Fretilin's opponents, perhaps even by intervening in the political process to "save" the government.

This is not a wild scenario. There is no tradition in East Timor of a separation between the military and politics. Until its very recent rebadging as the East Timor Defence Force, Falintil's models came from the Portuguese armed forces which overthrew President Caetano in the Carnation Revolution of 1974, and from the heavily politicised guerrilla movements of Mozambique and Angola, possibly even from the "double-function" that underpinned the armed forces' domination of Suharto's Indonesia.

The management of political turbulence in East Timor will depend a lot on the huge authority of President Xanana Gusmao. This authority is not without its cracks, however. Gusmao has played an impeccably statesman-like role in East Timor's political life, but in seeking to be politically neutral and in distancing himself from Fretilin he has alienated some of Fretilin's powerful current leadership.

His conciliatory attitude towards Indonesia and towards pro-Indonesia militia remnants is also a big problem, especially among people returning from the diaspora. It is possible, moreover, that, having repeatedly expressed reluctance to take on the job of president, he may, like Nelson Mandela, stay around for just one term as a "transitional" president. Any of these factors could hobble his effectiveness as an arbiter in political disputes.

The identity crisis: East Timor is far from secure in its national identity. As the referendum of 1999 showed, and as the refugee camps in West Timor continue to show, a very substantial minority of East Timorese identifies with Indonesia. Many in the resistance leadership, on the other hand, are strongly stamped with various trappings of Portuguese identity. For most ordinary people in rural areas, identity is still decidedly local in character and neither Indonesia nor Portugal (nor "East Timor" for that matter) means very much.

The decision to make Portuguese the principal official language exemplifies the problems arising from this diversity of identity-markers. The decision was motivated by a desire to create a national identity in East Timor that decisively distinguished the nation from the surrounding, and culturally very similar, areas of Indonesia. The decision was also a brutal, parochial political act, helping the tiny Portuguese-influenced minority to consolidate its elite status. Barely 5 per cent of people and few public servants speak the language.

The decision threatens, however, to disempower a majority of East Timorese. Although many people have a smattering of Portuguese, no more than 5 per cent of the population are truly fluent in Portuguese. In most government departments only a handful of officers have a working command of it. Even with the current campaign to teach Portuguese on a mass scale, it is touch and go whether the language can take root as a mass medium.

It is very possible that most East Timorese will "vote with their feet" (linguistically speaking), opting for Tetum, Indonesian and English, and leaving Portuguese to suffer the fate that Spanish suffered in the Philippines.

Irrespective of how the campaign to teach Portuguese ultimately turns out, in the crucial early years of independence, confusion over language and other identity-markers will do nothing to improve mass participation in the political process or in development programs.

Like all newly independent nations, East Timor faces a dilemma. It can try to live by the myths that have driven it to independence, or it can creatively debunk them in the greater interests of policy realism. Contrary to myth, East Timor's future has not been financially secured, its democracy is far from an established reality, and its identity is still confused. The window of opportunity to fix these misconceptions is very small, perhaps two or three years. But if East Timor is to be another Brunei, Qatar or Bahrain, they must be fixed immediately.

[George Quinn heads the South-East Asia Centre in the Faculty of Asian Studies at the Australian National University.]

BURMA

A Quiet Revolution In Burma

Nobel Peace Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi now walks freely. Aung San Suu Kyi's recent release marks and end to 19 months of house arrest in the Burmese capital of Rangoon -- the result of patient, quiet negotiation between the pro-democracy movement she leads and the brutal military dictatorship that has terrorized Burma for over a decade.

Aung San Suu Kyi called the day a "new dawn" for Burma, a country renamed Myanmar by the junta that in 1990 invalidated the free elections that named her the country's leader with over 80 percent of the vote. Since then, she has spent much of the intervening time in prison or under house arrest; other members of her National League for Democracy, elected to parliament at the same time, remain imprisoned after 12 long years. Their release is Aung San Suu Kyi's next focus.

Meanwhile, the junta has slaughtered ethnic minorities throughout Burma's mountainous outbacks; an international pariah, it has funded its domestic terror primarily through the lucrative drug trade that, along with every other facet of the country's wretched economy, Burma's military takes a substantial cut from.

When charlatans like George W. Bush declaim the United States' commitment to ensuring freedom and democracy around the world, one wonders why Burma is not on its, or virtually anyone else's, radar. Like the Taliban before Sept. 11, Burma's military junta practices its tyranny in relative isolation. Neighboring countries deal with (or exploit) its refugees, and western democracies look the other way, preferring to target evil-doers in countries with more interesting spoils to divvy up.

Which, in the long run, may be a blessing for Burma. Rather than being carpeted with Washington's humanitarian bombs, Aung San Suu Kyi has set a course whereby her country's tormentors are slowly, inexorably losing their grip on their power. When they are, eventually, supplanted, the lack of bloody warfare -- whether by armed resistance groups or high-tech Pentagon missiles -- vastly improves Burma's chances for building a permanent, positive peace.

The alternative is all too familiar. Country after country in past decades has liberated itself, only to be plunged into yet another era of pseudo-democracies or kleptocracies or worse, cycles of bloody factional wrangling and/or illegitimate U.S. puppets or yet more juntas and guys with foreign weapons and ancient grudges.

For any Third World country, the effort to establish a civil society that can support democracy, support a wide spectrum of political views, and improve its peoples' standards of living is a formidable challenge. Add on top of that the increasing inability of any country to chart its own course, rather than becoming an economic captive of the IMF and big transnationals, and the challenge of leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi is beyond formidable -- it will literally require an approach nobody has tried before.

The traditional model for Third World liberation in the Cold War era was the armed guerilla movement. Those still exist, but the most remarkable grass-roots victories in recent years have been nonviolent. And there have been dozens. From the former Soviet bloc a few years ago to the Venezuelan counter-coup a couple of weeks ago, the preferred method for standing up to forces of Third World repression has become massive peaceful resistance.

To that approach, Aung San Suu Kyi is adding two more layers -- a slow, careful cultivation of a resolution, and direct engagement (ala South Africa) with one's oppressors. The process does not make headlines, even when there are breakthroughs like her release from house arrest and newfound ability to move about freely. But the hope is that over time, fewer people die and more people are free -- and made free not by the strings-attached intervention of a foreign power, but by their own hands and hearts. That's worth headlines.

[Source: Alternet 7.5.02]

PAKISTAN

OIL TRAIL BRINGS US OFFICIAL TO PAKISTAN and INDIA

The popular obsession in India and Pakistan with their bilateral tensions and a possible US role in defusing these has masked a crucial aspect of US envoy Christina Rocca's recent visit to South Asia. Central to the discussions which the assistant secretary of state for South Asia will have in New Delhi and Islamabad is an important trilateral summit to be held in Islamabad.

The summit, which will bring together Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov and Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf is about the single issue which is at the heart of long-term US policy in South and Central Asia: the oil and gas resources of the region. It will discuss funding for the $2-billion Central Asia Gas - CentGas - pipeline project headed by American oil giant Unocal, which was abandoned in 1998 because of the Taliban.

The 1,460-km pipeline, which will supply natural gas from Turkmenistan's Daulatabad field will pass through Herat and Kandahar, crossing into Pakistan near Quetta. If India agrees to an extension of this pipeline and import of gas, as US firms want, the project will cost an additional $500 million.

The trilateral summit was to have been held in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabad, but was hastily shifted to Islamabad. This was done to coincide with the visit of Russia's energy minister to Islamabad. The minister will be accompanied by a delegation from Gazprom, Russia's oil conglomerate.

Officially, Gazprom's top decision-makers will be in Islamabad to talk about their possible role in the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, but behind the scenes, they are interested in replacing Unocal as the lead company in the CentGas consortium.

Gazprom's president Rem Vyakhirev was a member of Vladimir Putin's official delegation when the Russian President visited India. He also took part in official meetings when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in Moscow last year.

There is a feeling in oil industry circles that a Russian leadership role in CentGas will make India more amenable to the import of Central Asian energy even if it has to come through Pakistan.

One of Rocca's briefs, especially in Islamabad, would be to see that the Russians do not get a foothold in Central Asia's lucrative energy business and to advance US interests in this field.

[Source: SCMP 13.5.02]

INDIA

Where Religion Divides and Rules

Gujarat is probably the only place in the world where Hitler is presented to millions of schoolchildren as something of a heroic figure. It is also the only major state where the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been in power on its own since 1995, unhindered by the presence in Government of secular political allies, as is the case in New Delhi.

The school textbooks extolling Hitler for having "instilled the spirit of adventure in the common people" are a direct result of the BJP's extended rule. So is Narendra Modi, who was made Chief Minister late last year to help salvage the party's sinking support in time for the assembly elections due next March.

In a state where children are taught to admire Hitler, Mr Modi, 51, was an inspired choice. He leaves an indelible impression on whoever he meets.

Political sociologist Ashis Nandy met Mr Modi a decade ago when he was a lowly party functionary. "I still remember the cool, measured tone in which he elaborated a theory of cosmic conspiracy against India that painted every Muslim as a suspected traitor and a potential terrorist," Mr Nandy said. Many Gujarati Hindus appear to share Mr Modi's views.

He is something of a hero, and is hailed as "the Lion of Gujarat".

Human Rights Watch has accused Mr Modi's police and the BJP leaders of complicity in the anti-Muslim violence that has claimed about 1,000 lives and destroyed the homes and businesses of more than 100,000 people.

An inquiry headed by retired judges charged this week that the state-wide carnage was planned at least six months in advance by radical Hindu groups. Yet a large number of Hindus, especially in the commercial centre of Ahmedabad, believe that it is their community which has suffered. They harbour a deep hatred and fear of Muslims, a minority community with high levels of poverty and illiteracy.

Factory worker Saurabh Patwa is convinced Muslims disturb the equilibrium of society. "The loser is the Hindu community after every riot," Mr Patwa said. "Muslims have all sorts of weapons - AK-47 rifles, rocket launchers . . . Some people say Pakistan has given them 400 crore rupees [HK$650 million] to fight and resist."

Hindu perceptions are conditioned by the Muslim dominance of Ahmedabad's underworld during the 1970s and 1980s. The gangs no longer exist, but the stereotype survives, fuelled by recent television images of Islamic terrorism worldwide.

Pakistan is just across Gujarat's western border, and although its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has been blamed by BJP leaders for the horrific arson attack on a train in February that killed 59 Hindus and sparked the anti-Muslim fury, Gujarat has never been a stomping ground for ISI agents.

According to Raju Bhargava, police chief of the region where the arson occurred, no Muslim has ever been arrested for suspected ISI or al-Qaeda links in his district. And the Muslim head of the local municipality, accused of being the chief conspirator in the arson case, actually came with the fire brigade to the burning train.

Gujarat's Muslims are among the least radical Islamic communities in the country, probably because their elite consists of businessmen from insular Islamic sects whose members will not even inter-marry. But like the Gujarati Hindus, in recent years the Muslims have also come under the sway of proselytising groups advocating a dogmatic brand of religion. The religious revival has further widened the distance between the two communities.

Gujarat has also witnessed the rise of shrewd Muslim entrepreneurs who, until the riots, were making a mark in selected sectors - restaurants in Ahmedabad and along roadsides, and in retailing and money-lending. Many of these businesses lie in ruins today.

"More than anywhere else in India, business envy in Gujarat is extreme," said hosiery maker Safi Bastawala, suggesting economic rivalry played some role in the religious carnage. But Gujarat had become a communal cauldron long before Muslim entrepreneurs took over restaurants, or before the BJP came to power. The state has the highest per capita deaths per million population in religious violence - 120, against 42 in neighbouring Maharashtra.

This reflects the spread of nationalist Hindu ideology in recent decades. Gandhians in the state, birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, have been unable or unwilling to oppose the violence. "They have lost their political clout, and their institutions are heavily dependent on government subsidies," said retired judge A. P. Rawani.

Until February, analysts were convinced the BJP would lose the next assembly poll due to its poor record in Government. The signs were there - the party was consistently losing to the Congress in local and by-elections. But the violence has suddenly made Hindu-Muslim relations the dominant issue, and taken a large number of anxious Hindus back into the BJP's Hindu nationalist fold.

Like his predecessors, Mr Modi may not achieve much for the people of Gujarat, whether Hindu or Muslim. But he may yet prove to be the BJP's saviour in the state.

[Source: SCMP 16.5.02]

MIDDLE EAST WATCH

Israel's Systematic Destruction of Palestinian Society
One element in a rampage of hate and destruction

It's a scene that is repeating itself in hundreds of Palestinian offices taken over by IDF troops for a few hours or days in the West Bank: smashed, burned and broken computer terminals heaped in piles and thrown into yards; server cabling cut, hard disks missing, disks and diskettes scattered and broken, printers and scanners broken or missing, laptops gone, telephone exchanges that disappeared or were vandalized, and paper files burned, torn, scattered, or defaced - if not taken. And it's all in rooms full of smashed furniture, torn curtains, broken windows, smashed-in doors, walls full of holes, filthy floors and soiled bathrooms. Here and there, the soldiers left obscene graffiti or letters full of hatred, but compared to the data that was destroyed or taken, the insults read like poetry. Even the overflowing toilets look more like human weakness compared to the organized vandalism reflected in the piles of smashed computers.

It's not merely the expense of the hardware that has to be replaced. The loss is immeasurable in shekels or dollars. Years of information built into knowledge, time spent thinking by thousands of people working to build their civil society and their future or trying to build a private sector that would bring a sense of economic stability to their country.

These are the data banks developed in Palestinian Authority institutions like the Education Ministry, the Higher Education Ministry and the Health Ministry. These are the data banks of the non-governmental organizations and research institutes devoted to developing a modern health system, modern agricultural, environmental protection and water conservation. These are the data banks of human rights organizations, banks and private commercial enterprises, infirmaries, and supermarkets. They all were clearly the targets for destruction in the military operation called Defensive Shield.

The Israeli public has been spared the sights of the destruction. Here and there, a photo of some demolished office sneaks into the TV news shows. But Israeli TV news doesn't find a few seconds to report on a Palestinian woman or a child of nine who was shot dead from a distance, inside their homes, by an anonymous Israeli soldier, so how can it find time or reason to report on the crazed destruction perpetrated by a unit of soldiers in one office.

The IDF has given up denying that some soldiers looted - money, jewels and video cameras - private homes. That can be explained by officers too weak to impose discipline on their soldiers and by soldiers too weak to fight material temptation. But the systematic destruction of the data banks was not a matter of personal weakness by either officers or soldiers.

Let's not deceive ourselves; this was not a mission to search and destroy the terrorist infrastructure. If the forces breaking into every hard disk of every bank and clinic, commercial consultant's office or PA ministry, thought that a list of weapons or wanted men was inside the disk, all they had to do was copy the information and pass it on to the Shin Bet. If they thought incriminating evidence was hidden in the Education Ministry and the International Bank of Palestine and in a shop that rents prosthetics, the soldiers would have examined document after document, and not thrown the files on the floor without opening them.

This was not a whim, or crazed vengeance, by this or that unit, nor a personal vandalistic urge of a soldier whose buddies didn't dare stop him. There was a decision made to vandalize the civic, administrative, cultural infrastructure developed by Palestinian society. Was it an explicit order or one given with a wink? Was it an order or was it the result of permission given to soldiers to do what they want? Did the order - or wink - come down from the battalion commander or from the brigadier? Was it from the headquarters of IDF forces in the West Bank or from IDF Operations? Did it come from the general in command of the Central Command or from general headquarters?

Either way, the scenes of systematic destruction show how the IDF translated into the field the instructions inherent in the political echelon's policies: Israel must destroy Palestinian civil institutions, sabotaging for years to come the Palestinian goal for independence, sending all of Palestinian society backward. It's so easy and comforting to think of the entire Palestinian society as primitive, bloodthirsty terrorists, after the raw material and product of their intellectual, cultural, social and economic activity has been destroyed. That way, the Israeli public can continue to be deceived into believing that terror is a genetic problem and not a sociological and political mutation, horrific as it may be, derived from the horrors of the occupation.

[Source: Tikkun 24.4.02]

 


Apartheid in the Holy Land

by Desmond Tutu

In our struggle against apartheid, the great supporters were Jewish people. They almost instinctively had to be on the side of the disenfranchised, of the voiceless ones, fighting injustice, oppression and evil. I have continued to feel strongly with the Jews. I am patron of a Holocaust centre in South Africa. I believe Israel has a right to secure borders.

What is not so understandable, not justified, is what it did to another people to guarantee its existence. I've been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like us when young white police officers prevented us from moving about.

On one of my visits to the Holy Land I drove to a church with the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem. I could hear tears in his voice as he pointed to Jewish settlements. I thought of the desire of Israelis for security. But what of the Palestinians who have lost their land and homes?

I have experienced Palestinians pointing to what were their homes, now occupied by Jewish Israelis. I was walking with Canon Naim Ateek (the head of the Sabeel Ecumenical Centre) in Jerusalem. He pointed and said: "Our home was over there. We were driven out of our home; it is now occupied by Israeli Jews."

My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short. Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about the downtrodden?

Israel will never get true security and safety through oppressing another people. A true peace can ultimately be built only on justice. We condemn the violence of suicide bombers, and we condemn the corruption of young minds taught hatred; but we also condemn the violence of military incursions in the occupied lands, and the inhumanity that won't let ambulances reach the injured.

The military action of recent days, I predict with certainty, will not provide the security and peace Israelis want; it will only intensify the hatred.

Israel has three options: revert to the previous stalemated situation; exterminate all Palestinians; or - I hope - to strive for peace based on justice, based on withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state on those territories side by side with Israel, both with secure borders.

We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition. If our madness could end as it did, it must be possible to do the same everywhere else in the world. If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land?

My brother Naim Ateek has said what we used to say: "I am not pro- this people or that. I am pro-justice, pro-freedom. I am anti-injustice, anti-oppression."

But you know as well as I do that, somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal [in the US], and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed anti-semitic, as if the Palestinians were not semitic. I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group. And how did it come about that Israel was collaborating with the apartheid government on security measures?

People are scared in this country [the US], to say wrong is wrong because the Jewish lobby is powerful - very powerful. Well, so what? For goodness sake, this is God's world! We live in a moral universe. The apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but in the end they bit the dust.

Injustice and oppression will never prevail. Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful: what is your treatment of the poor, the hungry, the voiceless? And on the basis of that, God passes judgment.

We should put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people and say: peace is possible, peace based on justice is possible. We will do all we can to assist you to achieve this peace, because it is God's dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers.

Desmond Tutu is the former Archbishop of Cape Town and chairman of South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission. This address was given at a conference on Ending the Occupation held in Boston, Massachusetts, earlier this month. A longer version appears in the current edition of Church Times.

[Source: Znet, April 30, 2002]

 

3. Urgent APPEAL - top
 

SRI LANKA: Frequent and cruel tortures by the police

"AHRC-UA-19-2002

CASE DETAILS

- Torture resulting in loss of the use of both hands (likely for the rest of his life).

Name of victim: Mr. Girissa De Silva (32)
Address: E. Perera Mawatha, Magalla, Galle, Sri Lanka
Date of violation: March 22, 2002
Tortured at: Habaraduwa Police Station
Suspect police officers: O.I.C. Satisgamage, S.I. Ariyaratne, S.I. Lekamvasam, Sergeant Chandra Soma and others in civilian clothes

Girissa De Silva was the manager of Green Garden Hotel, Katugoda. He was taken into police custody on 22nd March 2002, together with one Buddhika, a relative of his while travelling in a three wheeler taxi, by police officers from Habaraduwa police station. Both of them were taken to the Habaraduwa police station in a police jeep. Both were asked to sit on a bench and the Officer In Charge - OIC of the police station talked to some one over the telephone. Girissa heard, the O.I.C. telling, "We have brought in Griissa. O.K. Sir.Right Sir"

Then Girissa was told, "Tell the truth, if you want to be saved. "The officer was talking about a murder, which took place on the 9th March. Grissa answered "on that day I was with a group of tourist at Nuwara-Eliya. I do not know anything about this."

Then the OIC took Girissa to the police barrack at Ahangama. Girissa's cloths were removed by force. His hands were tied from the back. He was hung on the beams. He was beaten with wooden poles and S-Lon pipes by O.I.C. Satisgamage, S. I. Ariyaratne, S.I. Lekamvasam, Sergeant Chandra Soma and others in civilian clothes. He was hung and beaten five times the same way by the same persons. He was also hung by the fingers. He asked for water and was told, "when you tell the truth, the water will be given," He asked, "How can I tell something that I do not know"? He was not given water.

He was brought back to Habaraduwa police station. Buddhika has been released then. Girissa found his hands to be numb and he could not even take any food with his hands. Buddhika was told by some sympathetic officers that he was assaulted on the "orders from above". Girissa was visited by Attorney Chandrika Ranmalla on the same night and Girissa told the whole story to his lawyer.

Girissa was released on the noon of 23rd March.

Girissa was hospitalized from 23rd March to 11th April. He was examined by Professor Niriella, a well-known forensic specialist in Sri Lanka and was told that the loss of the use both had is unlikely to be recovered.

Girissa has made a complaint to the police station at Galle through his lawyer Kumara Bandara. A representative from Deputy Inspector General recorded a statement from him while he was in hospital.

Under the law in Sri Lanka, torture is a crime punishable with a minimum of 7 years imprisonment. The Convention Against Torture Cruel And Inhuman Treatment Act. No 22 of 1994, has defined torture as a crime, with no defense, to be tried in high court. The filing of indictments rests with the Attorney General (AG). AG's office has a special unit to investigate crimes committed under Act No.22 of 1994.

THE STATE OBLIGATIONS:

  1. Investigate the crime immediately and prosecute offenders. There is a Special unit in Attorney General's Department for investigations. Under the criminal procedure code the suspects of the crime must be immediately taken into police custody and produced before a magistrate.

  2. The Inspector General police is under obligation to initiate disciplinary inquiries and pending finalization of such inquiries to interdict the suspect officers

  3. State is under obligation to provide special medical help and if necessary even provide specialist treatment for examination to see the possibility of recovery of the victim.

  4. Provide protection to the victim and family and endure the suspect police officers or their agents do not interfere with the victim or his family.

  5. Compensate the Victim in terms of international standard to be observed on measuring such compensation.

  6. Given the frequency and the horrific nature of torture taking place in Sri Lanka, the State must address the general issue of prevention of torture and implementation of its own law (Act. No 22 of 1994) and for that purpose start an inquiry with participation of UN agencies concerned.

SUGGESTED ACTION

Write letters to the Sri Lankan authorities, requesting an urgent investigation into this torture case and asking them to prosecute the suspected police officers. Please send copies to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Chairman of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear ...

Re: Torture resulting in loss of use of both hands (likely for rest of life)

Name of victim: Mr. Girissa De Silva (32)
Address: E. Perera Mawatha, Magalla, Galle, Sri Lanka
Date of violation: March 22, 2002
Tortured at: Habaraduwa Police Station
Suspect police officers: O.I.C. Satisgamage, S. I. Ariyaratne, S.I. Lekamvasam, Sergeant Chandra Soma and others in civilian clothes

I am shocked to hear Girissa De Silva's case and the brutal and inhume treatment of this young man. I am requesting you immediate inquiries under Sri Lanka law against Torture (Act No 22 0f 1994), immediate arrest of the suspected officers, quick prosecution of the case, disciplinary action against suspect officers and their suspension from office pending finalization of inquiries, and also adequate medical treatments, protection and compensation to the victim and family in terms of international standards.

Further, I request an inquiry by the state into so frequent and cruel torture taking place in Sri Lanka, with participation of UN Agencies.

Hope to hear your quick responses.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

CC: UN Special Rapportuer on Torture
The Chairman of the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission
---------------------

SEND LETTERS TO:

Honourable Prime Minister
Mr. Ranil Wickremasinghe
Cambridge Place
Colombo 7
Sri Lanka
Tel/Fax: +94 1 682905
Email: ranilwickremesinghe@www.com
SALUTATION: Hon. Prime Minister

Hon. Mr. K.C. Kamalasabesan
Attorney General
Attorney - General's Department
Colombo 12
SRI LANKA
Fax: +94 1 436 421
SALUTATION: Dear Attorney General

SEND A COPY TO:

Mr. Fais Musthapa
Chairperson
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
No. 50, Dr. N. m. Perera Mawatha
Borella, Colombo 8
SRI LANKA
FAX: +941 694 924
E-mail: sechrc@sltnet.lk
SALUTATION: Dear Mr. Musthapa

Mr. Theo C. van Boven
Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the question of torture
OHCHR-UNOG
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10,
Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 917-9016
E-mail: secrt.hchr@unog.ch
Please mark "URGENT ATTENTION: MR. VAN BOVEN"

* For more information, please contact AHRC Urgent Appeals: ua@ahrchk.org

 

4. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

New Graduate School for the Study of Life

The Asia Pacific Graduate School for the Study of Life will be an advanced study institute, alternative to the existing academic system of sciences as well as an alternative theological education system. It would be based upon the paradigm of life. The paradigm of life is to overcome the reductionism of the modern sciences, which fragment the wholeness of the life and compartmentalize the integrity of the life through narrow specializations. Modernization, based upon the modern science and technology, is the driving force of the globalization today on the one hand; and the global capital, which is manifested in transnational economic institutions and corporations, has been the dominant dynamic of the global market on the other hand. It thrives the global market. It promotes the corporate greed of unlimited economic growth and profit maximization, based upon new liberal ideology of individual freedom and private property.

The study of life will seek to liberate the life from the modernistic academic captivity. It will be an integral study towards the wholeness of life. Initially the Graduate School will set up two faculties: the faculty of Christian study of life (Theology plus interrelated disciplines) and the faculty of ecological study of social sciences (Multidisciplinary study, inter-relating ecology, geopolitics, economy, politics, sociology, cultural anthropology and arts, and religions). The entire study program will be devoted to the integral study of life in its interconnectedness and to the training and education of the social and ecclesial leadership which is committed to the whole of life on earth.

A special character of the Graduate School will be the formation of the consortium of about two dozen research and study institutes. The cooperative community of scholars in the consortium will pursue the advanced study of life in cooperation of the global network of scholars to support the ecumenical movement of life on the global level as well as on local and national levels.

In the context of the current globalization the Asia Pacific Graduate School will seek to overcome the forces of destruction of life through study and learning and to enhance the whole life in its fullness.

  • On the basis of the paradigm of the whole life, Asia Pacific Graduate School will pursue creative cross fertilization of the Eastern civilization and the Western civilization to seek clues for a new civilization for wholeness of life. It will seek to overcome reductionist method of sciences and to restore the miulti-disciplinary approach in study and learning.

  • The Eastern religious, philosophical and historical wisdom will be integrating the modern Western sciences to build interconnectedness among natural, social and human sciences to advance the integral study of life.

  • The spirit, body, community and the ecology will be viewed as an integral whole of life for the future of nations, the global community and the cosmos of life.

  • The study of life will seek to overcome ideologies of destruction of life and to promote theories and practice of liberation movement of life from the forces of death and destruction. This will involve the gender justice, socio-economic justice well-being , political sovereignty of the people, geopolitical peace, social justice and security, ecological integrity, cultural identity and creativity and religious spirituality.

  • The study of life will cross-fertilize all diverse cultural and religious wisdoms, arts and spiritualities to enrich the whole of life. It will enhance spiritual, artistic, perceptual and cosmic sense of life, while it will seek the internal integrity of the "organic" whole of life.

  • The study of life will be carried out by a community of the people, who are committed to the movement of life, affirming the conviviality of all forms of life.

For more information on the Asia Pacific Graduate School for the Study of Life please contact Dr. KIM Yong Bock at oikozoe@kornet.net

 


END

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