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DAGAinfo

23 October 2003
No. 142


In this issue:
  1. FEATURE
    The Philippine Model
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Malaysia - From a common faith to a common agenda
    Burma - Thailand wins backing for Burma talks
    Thailand - Thaksin stakes a claim to be the region's leader
    India - The flight to India
    Iraq - A Toothless Resolution
    - Private firms look to invest in Iraq
  3. Urgent APPEALS
    Malaysia - 12-month Imprisonment for Exposing the Truth
  4. ANNOUNCEMENT
    3rd JustPeace Workshop
    Calling for Volunteers

 

1. FEATURE - top
 

The Philippine Model

by Stephen R. Shalom

 

Addressing a joint session of the Philippine Congress on Saturday, President Bush said to skeptical critics of his Iraq policy, "Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were once expressed about the culture of Asia. These doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democratic nation in Asia."

Much in Bush's speech was utter nonsense -- such as his claim that the war in Iraq had resulted in the closing down of a terrorist sanctuary, when in fact the U.S. "has taken a country that was not a terrorist threat and turned it into one," in the words of terrorism expert Jessica Stern. But Bush was right when he suggested that looking at the U.S. record in the Philippines can help to illuminate what is in store for Iraq.

What does the historical record tell us about the U.S. commitment to promoting democracy?

A hundred years ago, the United States defeated the Spanish colonizers of the Philippines only to take over the islands for itself. (In Bush's speech on Saturday this was summarized as "Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule." And in the words of presidential press secretary Scott McClellan, national hero Jose Rizal's martyrdom in 1896 inspired the Philippines: "And later, revolution broke out and Asia soon had its first independent republic." Well, yes, but that independent republic was promptly conquered by the United States.) When critics of the U.S. annexation of the Philippines charged that Washington had not obtained the consent of the inhabitants, Senator Henry Cabot Ledge replied that if consent of the inhabitants were necessary "then our whole past record of expansion is a crime."

What did Filipinos want back in 1898? What was their democratic wish? According to a U.S. general testifying before the U.S. Senate, Filipinos had so little notion of what independence meant that they probably thought it was something to eat. "They have no more idea of what it means than a shepherd dog," he explained. But shortly afterwards in his testimony, the general stated that the Filipinos "want to get rid of the Americans." "They do?" asked a confused Senator. "Yes, sir," replied the general. "They want us driven out, so that they can have this independence, but they do not know what it is."

This U.S. inability to understand the real meaning of self-determination was not just a turn-of-the-century myopia. Consider the following scene from the 1945 motion picture "Back to Bataan." In a 1941 Philippine schoolhouse, an American teacher asks the students what the United States gave to the Philippines. "Soda pop!" "Hot dogs!" "Movies!" "Radio!" "Baseball!" scream the pupils. But, the teacher and the principal correct the erring youngsters by explaining that the real American contribution was teaching the Filipinos freedom. At first, however, says the teacher with a straight face, the Filipinos did not appreciate freedom for they "resisted the American occupation."

Indeed they did. And many thousands of Filipinos -- combatants and non-combatants -- were slaughtered by U.S. military forces to teach Filipinos the U.S. meaning of freedom.

In 1946, after nearly half a century, U.S. colonial rule in the Philippines came to an end. But U.S. domination continued and Philippine democracy remained thwarted. This was not the first instance where a colony was given independence and colonialism was replaced with neocolonialism. To take one example at random, Britain gave Iraq independence in 1932, but not before it had signed a 25-year treaty granting London access to Iraqi military bases and western oil companies had attained a lock on Iraqi oil.

The pattern in the Philippines was similar: Washington retained two huge military bases and many smaller ones on a 99-year, rent-free lease. The Philippine city of Olongapo became, in the words of a 1959 account in Time magazine, "the only foreign city run lock, stock and barrel by the U.S. Navy." The terms of the bases agreement were revised several times over the next few decades, but as U.S. officials acknowledged even in the 1970s nowhere did the United States have more extensive and more unhindered base rights than in the Philippines. These bases served for years as the logistic hub for U.S. interventions from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf; Washington, not Manila, decided how these bases would be used and against whom, and the Philippine people were not informed of the presence of nuclear weapons on their soil.

The independent Philippines was also subordinated to the United States economically. The Philippine government was prohibited from changing the value of its currency without the approval of the U.S. president and U.S. investors were given special investment rights in the Philippines. U.S. officials insisted that Filipinos democratically accepted the special investment rights, but in fact, the enabling legislation passed the Philippine Congress only after dissenting legislators were improperly suspended, and Filipinos ratified the investment rights in a referendum only because Washington made rehabilitation aid to the war-ravaged Philippines dependent upon Filipinos voting yes.

From 1946 to 1972, the Philippines was a formal democracy in the sense of having contested elections. But it was a political system in which two coalitions of the wealthy elite, indistinguishable by ideology or program, competed for power, with a major determinant of success being the overt or covert backing of the U.S. government. It is true that there was an issue separating the candidates in 1965 when Ferdinand Marcos ran on a pledge not to send Philippine civic action troops to Vietnam, but since Marcos violated his campaign promise as soon as he won the election, this is hardly a meaningful exception. This may have been another instance of U.S. political tutelage of the Filipinos -- recall that during the 1964 U.S. presidential campaign Lyndon Johnson had pledged "No Wider War" and then promptly escalated U.S. military involvement -- but more likely Marcos's reversal was swayed by the U.S. funds secretly sent his way.

By 1972, despite the best efforts of the Philippine elite and their U.S. allies, Philippine democracy was finally beginning to express itself. Politicians were finding that their usual vote-buying no longer worked ("They take money but vote for the man they think is qualified," complained one politician.) Peasants, students, and workers were increasingly challenging the status quo. Reacting to the popular pressures, the Congress and even the Supreme Court were moving in a more and more nationalistic direction, threatening U.S. interests. And so when Marcos, approaching the end of his second and final term as president, declared martial law, there were no denunciations emanating from Washington. On the contrary, as Marcos closed down Congress and the press and arrested his political opponents, Washington stepped up its military and economic aid. As a U.S. Senate staff report summarized the U.S. reaction, "military bases and a familiar government in the Philippines are more important than the preservation of democratic institutions which were imperfect at best."

For the more than decade-long dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos, he was backed by the United States government. When he cosmetically lifted martial law in 1981, but retained all his martial law powers intact, the U.S. vice president George H. W. Bush visited Manila and raised a toast to Marcos: "We love your adherence to democratic principle and to the democratic processes."

In 1986, the Philippine people, showing that they, unlike their leaders or those in Washington, really understood democracy, ousted Marcos, while the Reagan administration hung on to him until the last possible moment.

Corazon Aquino replaced Marcos and initially she had several progressives in her government and announced a program of social reform as the way to deal with the country's long-running insurgency problem. But under pressure from the United States and the Philippine armed forces, the progressives were removed and Aquino's agenda became one of military action instead of social reform.

Despite Aquino's best efforts, the new post-Marcos constitution stated that "foreign military bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate." Nationalist sentiment was strong enough in the country that in 1991 the Philippine Senate voted against extending the U.S.-Philippines Military Bases Agreement. But almost as soon as the vote was taken, the U.S. tried with the help of cooperative Philippine officials to get around the constitution.

In 1999, an agreement was concluded giving the U.S. "access" to Philippine bases and in 2002 hundreds of U.S. troops were sent to the Philippines to help fight the Abu Sayyef guerrillas. Today, according to an Agence France Presse report, "the Pentagon is working to maintain on the islands what US Pacific Command head Admiral Thomas Fargo called 'critical tactical mobility platforms,' including UH-1H helicopters, C-130 transport aircraft, heavy trucks and patrol boats that could be used in case of major U.S. military operations in the region."

Of course, these U.S. troops and equipment need not violate the Philippine constitution if only President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would submit the appropriate treaty to the Senate. But suspecting that such a treaty would be voted down, the Arroyo administration and its U.S. counterpart have chosen to simply ignore the constitution. This is the hallmark not of democracy but of neocolonialism.

In Iraq today, there is plainly no democracy: the U.S. runs the show. As an adviser to one of the members of the U.S. appointed Iraq Governing Council put it, "The population of Iraq perceives correctly that it is the occupiers who are running things. Everybody else is there in some secondary or subservient role." But even if and when elections are held, and an Iraqi government formally takes over, one can expect a neocolonial relationship, one where the U.S. helps make sure that the Iraqis in charge support U.S. interests.

Already we see indications of U.S. goals. The New York Times reported on April 29, 2003, "The United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region, senior Bush administration officials say." One senior administration official stated that "There will be some kind of a long-term defense relationship with a new Iraq, similar to Afghanistan. The scope of that has yet to be defined -- whether it will be full-up operational bases, smaller forward operating bases or just plain access." Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld denied the story, but five months later (9/21/03) another Times story indicated that Bush administration officials "say the future Iraqi government will decide... whether to allow the United States to establish permanent bases here, should the Pentagon seek them."

In terms of economic policy, the Independent commented (9/22/03), "Iraq was in effect put up for sale yesterday when the American-appointed administration announced it was opening up all sectors of the economy to foreign investors.... The initiative bore all the hallmarks of Washington's ascendant neoconservative lobby, complete with tax cuts and trade tariff rollbacks. It will apply to everything from industry to health and water, although not oil." And as for oil, the U.S.-appointed chair of the U.S.-established "advisory" committee for the Iraqi oil industry, Philip J. Carroll, former head of Shell Oil, has said that the one near-certainty is that the future expansion of Iraq's oil industry will be driven in part by foreign capital.

In his speech to the Philippine Congress, George W. Bush thanked "the citizens of Manila who lined the streets today for their warm and gracious welcome." He may not have seen the thousands of Filipinos protesting his visit. Bush's motorcade was delayed for an hour while the Secret Service worried about his security and U.S. and Philippine authorities (there's that democratic tutelage again) kept the demonstrators -- and real democracy -- penned behind traffic barriers and blockades of military vehicles.

[Source: Zmag - 21.10.03]

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

MaLAYSIA

From a common faith to a common agenda

It is perhaps indicative of the bias of so much western reporting, with international news agendas set by Christians and Jews in New York and London, that when the heads of 57 Muslim nations have a triennial meeting, they get minuscule coverage compared with that which attends such circuses as the annual Apec meetings.

Let us not pretend that these western media do not have their inbuilt cultural preferences and prejudices, based on their own histories and religious traditions. Despite the significant size of the Muslim minorities now found in Europe and North America, they have scant voice in the media, as any analysis of the ethnic and religious origins of correspondents and columnists would show.

That is not to say that the just-concluded summit of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), held in Kuala Lumpur, was more than an outward show of Muslim solidarity that hides deep political divides. The idea of a pan-Islamic political grouping is almost a contradiction in terms. At one level, it makes no more sense than a Christian one embracing Armenia, Ireland and Peru. But to the extent that anti-Muslim prejudices of non-Muslims, especially in the west, are so widespread, the OIC may have some merit.

Anyway, it should be hard to ignore a meeting of so many political leaders of countries where Islam is either the faith of the majority or a large minority. Note too that this meeting was also attended by presidential guests from two countries with large (and currently rebellious) Muslim minorities, Russia and the Philippines. That was very much a Malaysian initiative - and a first. It raises the interesting possibility that the likes of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and France's leader Jacques Chirac may get invites next time. Even US President George W. Bush may be on the list, should he dare acknowledge that there are now probably more Muslims than Jews in the US.

Malaysia also did the OIC a service by reminding the Middle East Muslims, and in particular the Arabs who have traditionally dominated the OIC, of three things which many of them find unpalatable.

In the first place, they comprise only 20 per cent or so of the total ummah (Muslim community). They have tended to dominate, partly because of the role of Mecca and Arabic in Islam, partly because of the wealth of the Arab oil producers, and partly because the number of Arab states is large compared with their populations. In reality, most Muslims live east of Iran, in south and Southeast Asia, in countries with very different social traditions. In many cases, they are either a minority (in India), or there are large non-Muslim minorities (in Indonesia and Malaysia). Muslims in these regions feel the same hurt of prejudice and sympathy for the Palestinian victims of aggression. Yet they have scant interest in the mores and politics of the Middle East, and a degree of contempt for the way Arab regimes have put self-preservation before either helping the Palestinians or modernising their societies.

The Muslim obscurantists, who mostly reside west of the Indus, were reminded in Kuala Lumpur that the way to respect and influence, now as much as in the glory days of Islam, lies through learning and science, rather than dress codes and 7th century practices.

They were also reminded that Islam is, in theory, the most commerce-friendly of all the major religions. Its prophet was himself a trader and laid down rules for the proper conduct of business. (Christians and Confucians alike were long suspicious of the merchant class.) Thus, Muslims should be in favour of freer trade across political borders, bringing benefits to all. The reality, of course, is that the Muslim Middle East exhibits the highest levels of protectionism in the world. Countries cling not to the wisdom of the prophet, but to quasi-Marxist or statist notions, borrowed from Europe's fascist and socialist failures. These inhibit all trade, whether between Muslims or others.

For all his other faults, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was in a good position to lecture his fellow Muslims on the merits of foreign investment, trade and technical education. Malaysia made a real effort to focus on these, adding a business forum and economic issues to the agenda.

Some ideas bandied around at the summit are pie in the sky - an Islamic common market or an Islamic currency, for example. If Muslim-majority nations are to increase trade and knowledge flows, it will have to be on a regional or international basis, not on a spurious notion that religious community can be the foundation for commerce. But the summit was a reminder that trade and intellectual exchanges are the key to the Muslim world improving its position and its negative perception of itself, and anger with others.

**Philip Bowring is a Hong Kong-based journalist and commentator.

[Source: SCMP 20.10.03]

BURMA

Thailand wins backing for Burma talks

Thailand says it has won support from the mainland to hold talks this year among "like-minded" nations on reconciliation with Burma. Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing met his Thai counterpart, Surakiart Sathirathai, on the sidelines of the Apec forum yesterday and expressed support for the idea. Thailand and China have hailed Burma's recent "road map" to peace, which critics say is designed to keep the ruling military in power, as a viable alternative to western pressure for reform and democratic change.

Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sihasak Phuangketkeow said the meeting would include countries with a history of engagement with Burma, including representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He said the Burmese government had yet to be invited to the talks, which should begin "before the end of the year". The objective of the meeting is to allow the Burmese government to explain its road map and work towards engaging the international community in the process.

"For things to progress further, it's essential the international community... has a real understanding of the situation in Burma."

China is a key economic and political ally of Burma and, along with other Asian neighbours, has resisted western pressure to punish the repressive regime.

Thailand argues that stiff US sanctions on Burma, imposed after the recent crackdown on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, are not the best way forward.

Although US officials raised the issue of Burma and the plight of Ms Suu Kyi during bilateral talks with Thailand, Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation delegates said Burma was not discussed at the summit that ended recently.

Burma's junta, which often crosses swords with the US, seemed to have anticipated a lashing and released a statement before the summit ended. US President George W. Bush - a staunch supporter of Ms Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest - had been expected to badger Asian leaders to do more to push Myanmar's generals for her release. "We did not discuss Myanmar at all," Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said.

Ms Suu Kyi is still under house arrest in Yangon after a violent attack on a convoy of her supporters in May.

[source: SCMP 22.10.03]

THAILAND

Thaksin stakes a claim to be the region's leader

As the final Apec forum delegates bid farewell to Bangkok and head home, many will take away vivid memories of Thailand's cultural fanfare and slick hospitality. After months of security drills, cleanup campaigns and preparatory talks, this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit went off without a hitch.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra will hope they also carry away a strong impression of a Thai leader firmly in the driving seat, both at home and in the region. Observers said Apec provided a glitzy international coming-out party for Mr Thaksin, whose star had risen fast within Asia in the past two years.

The summit also marked the final fling for the combative Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who hands over power to his deputy next week. That coincidence, coupled with continued political drift in Indonesia, formerly a diplomatic powerhouse in Southeast Asia, has created an opening for Thailand.

"Thaksin is proving himself to be the leader of the region," said Thitinan Pongsuhdirak, a political analyst at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. "He has all the attributes: political longevity, strong leadership skills... He even has a brand of economic development: Thaksinomics."

Speaking at the close of Apec, a weary-looking Mr Thaksin sought to play down his emerging role as Southeast Asia's top statesman. "It's the duty of every leader to make initiatives and put them into action," he said.

Since taking office in 2001, Mr Thaksin's emphasis on domestic consumer spending, as well as export growth, has put Thailand back on its economic feet for the first time since the Asian crisis six years ago. That revival in national confidence has bolstered his standing at home and sparked a flurry of diplomatic and economic initiatives from Bangkok. These include getting Japan to join a US$1 billion Asian bond fund, setting up a forum called the Asian Co-operation Dialogue and a joint push with Singapore for faster economic integration within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Mr Thaksin has also burnished his image as a free trader by signing bilateral deals with China and India, and angling for similar accords with the US and Australia. Foreign firms are sitting up and taking note. The US-Asean Business Council, a US lobby group, told a conference in Singapore that the baton of Southeast Asia leadership has passed to Thailand. "If you look around the region and think of a current leader of a country who is going to be... leader for the next decade, Mr Thaksin really could be there," said council president Ernest Bower.

In an interview this week with the Bangkok Post, Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who is due to step down by 2005, also hailed the changing of the guard. "Dr Mahathir would be the leader of Asean, but he is retiring this month, so Malaysia will have a new prime minister. In Singapore there will be a new one in a matter of one or two years. I think the one who can drive things is Mr Thaksin."

But to critics at home, Mr Thaksin's popularity on the Asian stage is anything but encouraging, particularly when praise comes from authoritarian governments. Activists in Thailand were infuriated by a clampdown on public protests during the Apec summit and a visa blacklist imposed on foreign anti-globalisation protesters.

Some accuse the country's millionaire prime minister - who has approval ratings of 70 per cent - of using his wealth and power to build a one-party state and snuff out critical voices. "Thaksin has learned from the models of Malaysia and Singapore how to exercise power through the parliamentary system," said Somchai Homlaor, a human rights lawyer. "If civil society isn't strong enough to monitor and balance the government, it will be dangerous."

But Mr Thaksin denies he is clamping down on free speech and says Thailand's constitution provides ample checks and balances on his parliamentary majority. "Don't worry that I can be a dictator, I can't," he said recently. "The system can't allow it." His aides point out that the constitution was rewritten in 1997 to promote stable governments over the whims of seat-swapping coalitions that persisted in the past.

[Source: SCMP-23.10.03]

INDIA

The flight to India

The jobs Britain stole from the Asian subcontinent 200 years ago are now being returned

George Monbiot

If you live in a rich nation in the English-speaking world, and most of your work involves a computer or a telephone, don't expect to have a job in five years' time. Almost every large company which relies upon remote transactions is starting to dump its workers and hire a cheaper labour force overseas. All those concerned about economic justice and the distribution of wealth at home should despair. All those concerned about global justice and the distribution of wealth around the world should rejoice. As we are, by and large, the same people, we have a problem.

Britain's industrialisation was secured by destroying the manufacturing capacity of India. In 1699, the British government banned the import of woollen cloth from Ireland, and in 1700 the import of cotton cloth (or calico) from India. Both products were forbidden because they were superior to our own. As the industrial revolution was built on the textiles industry, we could not have achieved our global economic dominance if we had let them in. Throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries, India was forced to supply raw materials to Britain's manufacturers, but forbidden to produce competing finished products. We are rich because the Indians are poor.

Now the jobs we stole 200 years ago are returning to India. Last week the Guardian revealed that the National Rail Enquiries service is likely to move to Bangalore, in south- west India. Two days later, the HSBC bank announced that it was cutting 4,000 customer service jobs in Britain and shifting them to Asia. BT, British Airways, Lloyds TSB, Prudential, Standard Chartered, Norwich Union, Bupa, Reuters, Abbey National and Powergen have already begun to move their call centres to India. The British workers at the end of the line are approaching the end of the line.

There is a profound historical irony here. Indian workers can outcompete British workers today because Britain smashed their ability to compete in the past. Having destroyed India's own industries, the East India Company and the colonial authorities obliged its people to speak our language, adopt our working practices and surrender their labour to multinational corporations. Workers in call centres in Germany and Holland are less vulnerable than ours, as Germany and Holland were less successful colonists, with the result that fewer people in the poor world now speak their languages.

The impact on British workers will be devastating. Service jobs of the kind now being exported were supposed to make up for the loss of employment in the manufacturing industries which disappeared overseas in the 1980s and 1990s. The government handed out grants for cybersweatshops in places whose industrial workforce had been crushed by the closure of mines, shipyards and steelworks. But the companies running the call centres appear to have been testing their systems at government expense before exporting them somewhere cheaper.

It is not hard to see why most of them have chosen India. The wages of workers in the service and technology industries there are roughly one tenth of those of workers in the same sectors over here. Standards of education are high, and almost all educated Indians speak English. While British workers will take call-centre jobs only when they have no choice, Indian workers see them as glamorous. One technical support company in Bangalore recently advertised 800 jobs. It received 87,000 applications. British call centres moving to India can choose the most charming, patient, biddable, intelligent workers the labour market has to offer.

There is nothing new about multinational corporations forcing workers in distant parts of the world to undercut each other. What is new is the extent to which the labour forces of the poor nations are also beginning to threaten the security of our middle classes. In August, the Evening Standard came across some leaked consultancy documents suggesting that at least 30,000 executive positions in Britain's finance and insurance industries are likely to be transferred to India over the next five years. In the same month, the American consultants Forrester Research predicted that the US will lose 3.3 million white-collar jobs between now and 2015. Most of them will go to India.

Just over half of these are menial "back office" jobs, such as taking calls and typing up data. The rest belong to managers, accountants, underwriters, computer programmers, IT consultants, biotechnicians, architects, designers and corporate lawyers. For the first time in history, the professional classes of Britain and America find themselves in direct competition with the professional classes of another nation. Over the next few years, we can expect to encounter a lot less enthusiasm for free trade and globalisation in the parties and the newspapers which represent them. Free trade is fine, as long as it affects someone else's job.

So a historical restitution appears to be taking place, as hundreds of thousands of jobs, many of them good ones, flee to the economy we ruined. Low as the wages for these positions are by comparison to our own, they are generally much higher than those offered by domestic employers. A new middle class is developing in cities previously dominated by caste. Its spending will stimulate the economy, which in turn may lead to higher wages and improved conditions of employment. The corporations, of course, will then flee to a cheaper country, but not before they have left some of their money behind. According to the consultants Nasscom and McKinsey, India - which is always short of foreign exchange - will be earning some $17bn a year from outsourced jobs by 2008.

On the other hand, the most vulnerable communities in Britain are losing the jobs which were supposed to have rescued them. Almost two-thirds of call-centre workers are women, so the disadvantaged sex will slip still further behind. As jobs become less secure, multinational corporations will be able to demand ever harsher conditions of employment in an industry which is already one of the most exploitative in Britain. At the same time, extending the practices of their colonial predecessors, they will oblige their Indian workers to mimic not only our working methods, but also our accents, our tastes and our enthusiasms, in order to persuade customers in Britain that they are talking to someone down the road. The most marketable skill in India today is the ability to abandon your identity and slip into someone else's.

So is the flight to India a good thing or a bad thing? The only reasonable answer is both. The benefits do not cancel out the harm. They exist, and have to exist, side by side. This is the reality of the world order Britain established, and which is sustained by the heirs to the East India Company, the multinational corporations. The corporations operate only in their own interests. Sometimes these interests will coincide with those of a disadvantaged group, but only by disadvantaging another.

For centuries, we have permitted ourselves to ignore the extent to which our welfare is dependent on the denial of other people's. We begin to understand the implications of the system we have created only when it turns against ourselves.

[source: Guardian 21.10.03]

IRAQ

A Toothless Resolution

Even if the Security Council approves the U.S. proposal, it won't change a thing in Iraq.

By Fred Kaplan

Hip, hip, but not hurray. The U.N. Security Council is expected to approve the Bush administration's revised draft of a resolution designed to legitimize the U.S.-led occupation authority and the U.S.-commanded security force in Iraq. However, the vote will probably be close and, in any case, the support is certainly tepid.

There is good reason for this lack of enthusiasm. The resolution essentially changes nothing. Its drafters have paid lip service to accelerating the process of Iraqi self- governance and strengthening the United Nations' role in this process. But a close reading of the resolution indicates that all power remains in American hands, that no real authority is transferred to the United Nations, and that a new Iraqi government remains a long way off.

The resolution may pass, but the act will have no effect. It will not compel or persuade other countries to donate money or manpower. Nor will it convince anyone who needs convincing on the ground in Iraq that the U.S. occupation is short-term or legitimate. In short, the resolution fails to accomplish the main diplomatic tasks at hand - to share the burdens of building postwar Iraq and to quell the violent resistance so the rebuilding can proceed securely.

Take a look at Section 1 of the resolution. This contains the much-quoted passage that notes the "temporary nature" of the U. S.-led occupation authority, and emphasizes that the authority's functions "will cease when an internationally recognized, representative government established by the people of Iraq is sworn in" and takes over the authority's responsibilities.

Sounds good, but two things are amiss here. First, most members of the Security Council want authority to pass from the United States to the Security Council itself - or to some body representing the Security Council - before moving into the hands of a new Iraqi government. Section 1 explicitly rejects this position: The U.S.-led authority will cease only when the new government is sworn in; there is no provision for an interim U.N. (or any other international) body.

Second, nothing in the resolution indicates that this transfer is going to take place any time soon. Many press reports have noted that the resolution gives Iraq's current Governing Council a deadline of Dec. 15 to come up with a new constitution and a procedure for holding democratic elections. Some reports have depicted this deadline as a sign of the Bush administration's newborn realization that power must be transferred quickly.

In fact, the deadline does no such thing. It merely "invites" (not "requires") the Governing Council "to provide to the Security Council, for its review" (with no provision for how long the review will last), "a timetable and a program for the drafting of a new constitution for Iraq and for the holding of democratic elections under that constitution" (not a new constitution, not the drafting of a new constitution, but merely "a timetable and a program" for the drafting). How long will it take to go from a) an invitation to submit a timetable and a program to b) a review of the timetable and program to c) the actual drafting of a constitution to d) the approval of a constitution to e) the holding of elections to f) the elections' winners taking power?

Judging from the resolution, the Bush administration assumes it will take at least a year. The telltale sign here is Section 15, which notes that the mandate of the U.S.-commanded multinational security force "shall expire - when an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq has been sworn in and assumed the responsibilities of the Authority." However, Section 15 also notes that the U.N. Security Council shall review the requirements and mission of the multinational security force "not later than one year from the date of this resolution." Put those two provisions together, and one can infer that Bush assumes the multinational force will still exist - meaning the new Iraqi government will not yet have been sworn in - a year from now. The resolution does contain a few compromises by the Bush administration. In Section 15, it is a new concession that the Security Council is given any role in reviewing requirements and missions of the multinational force. It is also new that, in Section 7, the Security Council reviews the Governing Council's timetable for a new constitution. Previously it had been assumed, if not laid down in stone, that the U.S.-led authority alone would have these roles.

However, it should be noted that these sections do not give the Security Council any power to do anything as a result of its reviews. And the review provided in Section 7 is explicitly to be conducted "in cooperation with the Authority." Those compromises will probably be enough to push the resolution through. They do reflect, albeit to a very limited degree, a realization that the United Nations must be more actively involved in the occupation if a new, democratic Iraq is ever to take hold. James Dobbins, former head of peacekeeping operations in the Bush and Clinton administrations, thinks this will be but the first of several resolutions that move steadily in a more multilateral direction. The other member-states of the Security Council are thinking along these same lines - which is why they will probably approve this resolution, however half-heartedly. Another reason for its likely approval is that, in the meantime, just as it poses no real obligations for the United States to share power in Iraq, it also poses no obligations for the rest of the world to share burdens.

As with previous resolutions on the subject, it merely " welcomes the positive response of the international community"; " urges member states to contribute assistance - including military force, to the multinational force"; " calls upon member states - to contribute to the training and equipping of Iraqi police"; " appeals to member states and international financial institutions to strengthen their effort to assist the people of Iraq in the reconstruction and development of their economy"; and so forth. Nowhere does the resolution determine or demand or insist that assistance be rendered. (Emphasis added.)

The other countries of the Security Council no doubt have, to some extent, self-aggrandizing motives for their demand to be included in Iraq's transitional rule. They want a hand on the lever of power, they want a share of commercial contracts. However, they also have objectively reasonable motives for this demand. Why should they spend their taxpayers' money and risk their soldiers' lives for a cause that most of them never believed in without a substantial say over how their resources will be used?

**Fred Kaplan writes the "War Stories" column for Slate.
[source: Slate 15.10.03]


Private firms look to invest in Iraq

About 100 private companies, mainly from Britain and the US, gathered in London recently to discuss investment opportunities in post-Saddam Iraq.

The companies, mainly oil and banking, were invited by the US and British governments to move in as soon as security is restored. McDonalds, which has a branch in most parts of the world, was predicted by the conference organisers to open in Baghdad next year.

Brian Wilson, Tony Blair's special representative on trade and reconstruction in Iraq, told the conference: "A major drawback for companies wishing to visit Iraq is, of course, the continuing problems with the security situation." He added that the bombing of the Baghdad Hotel recently had "provided another grim reminder of the dangers which exist".

But he said the British government would send trade missions to Iraq "when the time is right".

Among the Americans attending were the energy giant, ExxonMobil, Delta Airlines and the American Hospital Group. McDonalds is to attend a follow-up conference at Portland, Maine, next month. Rubar Sandi, the chairman of Corporate Bank and founding director of the US-Iraq Business Alliance, said MacDonalds was "not yet" ready to go to Baghdad.

Mr Sandi, one of the owners of the Baghdad Hotel, said of McDonalds: "I have spoken to the top management but probably (they will not go until) next year. That would be a sign of normality."

The conference - Doing Business in Iraq: Kickstarting the Private Sector - was organised by the US-Iraq Business Alliance, which was set up in June last year and which, its supporters say, has attracted the support of 145 multinationals. The alliance has close contacts with the Pentagon.

About two dozen people from Voices UK, a group opposed to the war in Iraq and which campaigned against pre-war sanctions imposed on Iraq, protested outside. A spokesperson, Emma Sangster, said: "A neo-liberal economy is being imposed on an already impoverished country with unprecedented haste and with absolutely no democratic process."

Ms Sangster, who visited Iraq last year, said: "Instead of a reconstruction process that involves Iraqi companies, who have the necessary experience to do the job properly, foreign companies will be buying up sectors of the Iraq economy for a quick profit."

But Mr Wilson, a former minister with the trade department and the Foreign Office who has been asked by Mr Blair to encourage investment in Iraq, said outside the conference: "What they are essentially saying is that Saddam Hussein should still be there and, in that case, no-one would be talking about investment and reconstruction."

Addressing the conference, Mr Wilson said: "Let me say straightaway that this conflict in Iraq, now thankfully behind us, was not about business or about oil. It was about liberating the people of Iraq and giving them the chance to enjoy a life free from tyranny."

He said the aim was for Iraqi oil to benefit the Iraqi people. "The operation of this sector, which is so core to Iraq's future, should be returned to the Iraqi people as soon as practically possible."

[source: Guardian-14.10.03]

 

3. Urgent APPEAL - top

 

MALAYSIA: 12-month Imprisonment for Exposing the Truth

Irene Fernandez, Director of Tenaganita, was found guilty by the Magistrates Court, Kuala Lumpur of the offence of "publishing false news with malicious intent" through the Memorandum entitled, "Abuse, Torture and Dehumanized Treatment of Migrant Workers in Detention Camps."

She was sentenced to a prison term of 12 months. Upon application by Irene’s counsel (which was vehemently opposed by the Prosecution) the Court granted a stay of execution of sentence pending appeal to be filed on Friday 17th October, 2003. Irene remains on bail and intends to file an appeal against the conviction.

The sentencing of Irene Fernandez to 12 months imprisonment has very serious implications on freedom of expression and on human rights defenders. In the conclusion of the Memorandum, Tenaganita called on the government to set up a Royal Commission of Inquiry to investigate the concerns in the memorandum and to hold the relevant agencies accountable for any omission or commission. The sentence now shows clearly how the government uses institutions to cover up its wrong doings, violations of rights and accountability to the people. The hope that a more independent judiciary will emerge is now completely nailed.

The objective of the sentence seems to be, as expressed over and over by the Public Prosecutor that the sentence should be a deterrent to NGOs and human rights defenders. This harsh sentence does not reflect recognition or respect for the rights and responsibilities of human rights defenders and activists. The Malaysian government's recent challenge to the international community to respect the rights of people of poor nations is mere rhetoric and hypocratic because it does not respect the rights of its own people. This is clearly reflected in this harsh judgment, in the repressive laws and institutions.

The irony

The Sun newspaper team that carried out an independent investigation into the conditions of migrant detainees at the Semenyih detention camp came to the exact and same conclusions as contained in the Tenaganita''s Memorandum. The Sun investigation titled Shattered Dreams, won a cash award of RM 3,000 and certificates from the Prime Minister for investigative journalism.

In her oral submission to the court on 15 October 2003, Irene said, "The Sun Team won an award and recognition for the same truth and conclusions. What will I get? What did I get? I was charged for publishing false news under Section 8A (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984. And now the court is clear of the truth, the court must ensure Truth prevails".

Please send your messages of solidarity and support to Tenaganita
11th Floor, Wisma Yakin,
Jalan Masjid India,
50100 Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia.
Fax:603-2970273
e-mail:tnita@hotmail.com

HK Statement:

Justice for Irene Fernandez! No to repressive laws!

Statement of Support to the Campaign of Justice for Irene Fernandez, Director of Tenaganita

October 17, 2003

We, with the truth and justice by our side, shall prevail!

The Hong Kong-based organizations of migrant workers, youth, students and human rights advocates condemn in the strongest possible terms the conviction of Dr. Irene Fernandez, Director of Tenaganita, for "malicious publication of false news" under the Printing Presses and Publication Act.

Irene was sentenced to 12-month imprisonment although she was allowed a stay of execution pending to appeal to the High Court with a bail of RM3000. Irene was arrested in March 1996 and has been on trial for the last seven and a half years for exposing the dehumanised conditions in immigration detention camps.

The publication pertained to by the court was the memorandum Irene made disclosing reported beatings and sexual violence against detainees by prison guards, and inadequate food and water in Malaysia's immigration detention camps.

The Kuala Lumpur Magistrate's Court recognized all statements made by police department and authorities but denied all evidence provided by Irene and her defence. Furthermore, the unprofessional Malaysian police only took action to investigate based on results of the report after a year. They took years to investigate the case but did not look into the real issues: the number and causes of deaths in camps, mainly from a condition of abuse and torture.

The verdict of the court only showed the atrocity of the Malaysian government’s attitude and treatment to the migrant workers’ rights, enshrined even in international human rights standards. The court, riddled with corruption, nepotism and repression, develops a new meaning to the word "justice" - justice for the rich, justice for the powerful, justice for the ones in control.

As a member of the United Nations, the Malaysian government, should recognize, respect and adhere to democratic principles and human rights enshrined in the various international conventions and instruments.

We condemn the statement made by the DPP Augustin who said that Irene’s case should serve as a warning to NGO’s. Such a threat is unbecoming of one who is tasked to uphold justice and fairness.

We remain in solidarity with Irene Fernandez in her struggle for justice as well as the people of Malaysia who call upon the government to withdraw the charges on Irene. We demand as well for the immediate repeal of the undemocratic and repressive Printing Presses and Publication Act.

Justice for Irene Fernandez!
Junk the repressive Printing Presses and Publication Act!

 

4. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

Third JustPeace Workshop

The third Justpeace Workshop/Training by the Center for Justpeace in Asia was held in Cambodia from September 15-20, 2003. Khmer Ahimsa hosted this meeting which was attended by twenty-five participants from Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, India and Philippines. One focus of the meeting was stories about survival in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos during the time of intense conflict and how/why people have been able to forgive and begin working for reconcilliation with justice. The report of this meeting, which will also contain the many stories shared, will soon be completed and will be placed on the website of the Center for Justpeace in Asia.

Calling for Volunteers

DAGA is looking for volunteers to help in the digitizing of its documents and publications. This is part of our plan to make more of our documents and publications available in electronic format. If you have a scanner and would like to volunteer your some spare time to help us scan and proof read our documents/publications, please contact us at this email: dagainfo@daga.org.hk
Thanking you in advance...

Books recently scanned books and added to our website:
1. Economese for beginners
2. Globalisation and Third World Trade Unions
3. The Plight of Asian Workers in Electronics

 


END

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