Vol 13, No.12
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A COMMISSION OF INQUIRY ON RELATIONS BETWEEN BUDDHISTS AND MUSLIMS IN MYANMAR The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) concluded its biennial conference on November 4 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, our first such meeting in a Muslim-majority nation. The conference theme — Inter-Faith Dialogue for Peace and Sustainability — points to the interdependence of Buddhists and Muslims throughout Southeast Asia. A long history of harmonious relations across all the
nations of this region has been challenged in recent years by interreligious conflicts rooted in a complexity of economic, political, social, and cultural tensions. INEB’s mission is to respect the integrity of all religions and people, restoring harmony wherever possible. A significant outcome of this unique gathering was the affirmation of the
establishment of an international forum for Buddhist-Muslim relations, drawing from members of INEB and Malaysiabased International Movement for a Just World (JUST). At the close of the conference, a special session brought together Buddhist monks and laypeople, Muslims, and concerned friends from inside and Turn to next page
STATEMENTS . IRAN’S INTERIM NUCLEAR AGREEMENT: AVERTING ANOTHER WAR
BY CHANDRA MUZAFFAR......................P3
.THE BLOCKADE AGAINST CUBA - AN ASSAULT UPON HUMANITY’S CONSCIENCE BY CHANDRA MUZAFFAR........................P5
ARTICLES . A DIALOGUE OF HEARTS AND MINDS
BY HASSANAL NOOR RASHID...............................P 2
. US MILITARY BUILD-UP CONTINUES IN PHILIPPINE DISASTER ZONE
. THE SUNNI- SHIA DIALOGUE IN GREECE
. LIBYA ALMOST IMPLODING, STATUS QUO UNSUSTAINABLE
BY CHANDRA MUZAFFAR.......................................P 6
BY JOSEPH SANTOLAN...........................................P 7
BY NICOLA NASSER...............................................P 9
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continued from page 1 outside Myanmar to consider conflicts and violence that have taken place inside that country over the last two years. Participants in this session, including people of four religions and from interfaith partners inside Myanmar, called upon this interfaith forum to establish a Commission of Inquiry to examine relations between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar.
bodies inside Myanmar, this Commission of Inquiry would have three objectives:
Collaborating with local civil-society
Guided by these objectives, an open-
1. to bring forth the facts of Buddhist Muslim conflict in Myanmar; 2. to ascertain the causes of this conflict; 3. to develop resources and proposals for the establishment of inter-religious peace and harmony in Myanmar.
By Hassanal Noor Rashid
Hosted by the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) between 1st and 4th November the INEB Conference Inter-Religious Dialogue for Peace and Sustainability in Kuala Lumpur saw the gathering of many groups from various religious, philosophical and cultural backgrounds. Through this conference held once every two years, the opportunity is provided for many spiritual leaders, practitioners, academics and engaged peoples, to exchange insights, share ideas, and highlight their concerns and issues which they are facing in present times. In the first opening day of the conference, co-organized by the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Institut Kefahaman Islam Malaysia (KIM), various issues were raised, highlighting the present state of the socio-cultural relationship between the Buddhists and Muslims. Here, representatives from each religious community, from Dr Chandra Muzaffar and Sulak Sivaraksa to Prof Azizan Baharuddin and Reverend Alan
L E A D A R T I C L E minded interfaith group will research conditions inside Myanmar and offer advice and support for the restoration of inter-religious and inter-ethnic stability. Members of INEB see this work as the embodiment of our vision of peace and sustainability across the region and among all peoples.
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) 20 November, 2013
Senauke were present, each giving his or her insights into the conflicts and issues which concerned many communities. Many of these issues were not confined simply to each community. There was a shared moral concern among those who attended. How one addresses the issues of the rights and securities of other communities reflects whether oneâ€™s own community should be afforded the same as well. The conference over the next few days revolved around myriad issues, particularly the idea of peace and sustainability. To some, the topic and discussion seemed rather wide, with seemingly no focus on any particular issue or subject matter. However there is much truth to this approach I find, as any discussion on sustainability cannot be confined to one particular issue, nor can any discussion on peace be considered if all issues and all parties concerned are not there to engage with one another. Peace and Sustainability concerns not just any single group, but the human family as a whole.
There were many sessions covered during the course of the conference, with topics ranging from those focussed upon the economy, gender discrimination, spirituality, climate change, modernity and conflict. It is this authorâ€™s regret however that as the sessions were running parallel to one another, all sessions were not available to everyone. The ones that I managed to attend provided me with the insights into the concerns that many wanted to address. The first was a session to do with tradition and modernity, understanding spirituality in a time when our understandings of present day realities are continuously changing. The meshing of new ideas and discoveries with our religious traditions inspired many to relook at their own understanding of spirituality and consider their relations to the issues presented. One which was rather thought provoking was a presentation on the exploitation of the Dalits and a critical look at the Caste system in India which continued next page
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highlighted how life roles were determined for people who lived under this particular form of religious orthodoxy. Can traditional religious values and practices co-exist with modernity, or is it time to re-analyse our respective religious traditions with respect to what modernity has revealed to us? The second session had to do with conflict and social transformation, which is an age old dilemma. Religion and conflict are sometimes synonymous and many can understand why given the conflicts around the world at present times which unfortunately carry an unfavourable religious rhetoric. This applies not only to the various tensions happening in the Middle East, pre/post Arab Spring, but also to issues happening regionally in South East Asia as well, such as the incidents involving the Rohingyas. However in a pleasant way, the session didn’t start off straight away by highlighting the various conflicts, but instead started off with a simple notion.
What is a harmonious society to you? Many answers were given, but it wasn’t the answers that were notable, it was how many of them were similar, asking for engagement, understanding and peaceful coexistence. By highlighting the shared vision of what people see as a peaceful and harmonious society, can a roadmap to peace be plotted out? Perhaps so, especially if this roadmap, this vision of peace, is one that is shared by many people from many faiths and cultures. The Conference ended on the 4th day of November. Many laughs were had, many insights were given, and many lives were shared. The closing ended with a shared agreement between these diverse communities, that a commission of inquiry be established to look into the Buddhist-Muslim conflict in Myanmar. Both the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) and the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) will lead this inquiry and spearhead the
L E A D A R T I C L E effort to promote a much more meaningful dialogue, which will lay the foundation for the return of a sustainable peace in Myanmar. Some would argue however that all this talk of peace and sustainability would be left at that should no affirmative action be taken to implement what has been discussed. It is arguable however that conferences like this are as important as any affirmative action. For while we may be able to create awareness campaigns to highlight each of our respective issues, peace and sustainability among the human family can only be achieved if there is communication and engagement between people whose ideas and concerns are waiting to be shared. It is through sharing and engaging that we are able to build the most important foundation for any peace to be sustainable, namely, Trust. 11 November, 2013 Hassanal Noor Rashid is a JUST Member
STATEMENTS IRAN’S INTERIM NUCLEAR AGREEMENT: AVERTING ANOTHER WAR pinned so much hope on the newly elected President, Hassan Rouhani, to bring about changes that would ameliorate their situation. But that is not the only reason for the willingness of the present leadership to limit its uranium enrichment to a maximum of 5% or dilute its stock of 20% enriched uranium or cease the construction of the Arak reactor. The dominant Western media have been telling the world that it is because of the sanctions imposed upon Iran that it has agreed to curb its nuclear activities for six months in exchange for partial sanctions relief. It is true that inhuman, unjust sanctions especially on Iran’s oil trade and its banking arrangements have hurt its people which is why they had
In 2003, Iran, under President Muhammad Khatami, with Rouhani as his chief nuclear negotiator, had voluntarily suspended its enrichment programme for two years and allowed intrusive inspections by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in order to allay US and
European fears about its nuclear programme. The then US President, George W. Bush, ignored this gesture and ratcheted up sanctions. He was acting in accordance with the diabolical agenda of the neo-conservatives (neocons) who in turn were in collusion with Zionist lobbies in the US and the Israeli elite in Tel Aviv. In defiance of the US, Khatami’s successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, escalated uranium enrichment and increased the installation of centrifuges from 164 in 2003 to 19,000 in 2013. His defiance, compounded by his belligerence, lent credence in Western circles to the erroneous view that Iran continued next page
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continued from page 3 was on the verge of acquiring a bomb.
The Khatami-Rouhani approach towards the nuclear question, in contrast to Ahmadinejad’s, helps to explain why there was a breakthrough in the negotiations that culminated in an interim nuclear agreement between Iran, on the one hand, and the five UN Security Council members (Britain, China, France, Russia & the US) and Germany,(5+1), on the other, in Geneva on the 24th of November 2013. Rational, realistic and reform-oriented and yet conscious of the importance of adhering to ethical principles, Iranian leaders of this ilk reflect the sentiments of their people. After a hiatus of eight years, this type of leadership has re-emerged in Iran and is determined to prove to its most sceptical critics that its nuclear programme is truly peaceful and transparent. Given this commitment, the Rouhani government should now embark upon a massive campaign to eliminate the whole of West Asia and North Africa(WANA) of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction(WMD). The people of WANA will give enthusiastic support to such a cause. It should be the first phase of a worldwide campaign to get rid of WMD everywhere. In mobilising the people of WANA, Iran as an Islamic Republic has an advantage. As its leaders have repeatedly reminded their people, nuclear weapons are haram (prohibited) in Islam. They are haram because they invariably kill the innocent, bring death to unborn generations, and devastate the natural environment. The one state in WANA that possesses a nuclear arsenal with perhaps 400 nuclear warheads can be expected to
oppose this noble struggle to ban nuclear and other WMD. Its opposition will reveal what Israel really means by its concern for its “security.” Israel has always equated security with hegemony. It is because of this equation that Israel is obsessed with the perpetuation of a WANA where no other state or movement has even an ounce of strength to mount the tiniest challenge to its military and technological supremacy. Hence its preoccupation with ensuring that it remains the sole nuclear weapons state in WANA ad infinitum. This is why it wants to destroy Iran’s entire nuclear programme, however peaceful it maybe. For Israel, the targeting of Iran goes beyond its nuclear programme. In the last five years or so, Israeli elites have often exploited the Shia-Sunni divide as a way of creating hatred and animosity between Shia Iran and its Sunni neighbours. Of course, there are other states in WANA that are also actively involved in fuelling this sectarian antagonism which often leads to violence and massacres. But it is not Israel’s indirect involvement in the Sunni-Shia conflict or its venom towards Iran which has had a negative impact on the State, especially in Europe, and to a much lesser extent, in the US. It is Israel’s cruel and often oppressive treatment of the Palestinians which has eroded its standing in countries such as Italy, France, Germany and Britain. The extreme, aggressive positions adopted by leaders like Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu over the last fifteen years have revealed to many in the West the ugly side of Israel. The new media in particular have played an important role in exposing Israel’s stark injustices against the Palestinian people. Pro- Palestinian movements in different parts of the world ¯ the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions(BDS)
L E A D A R T I C L E network is a good example¯ have also become more organised and focussed in raising awareness about the plight of the Palestinians.
These are some of the reasons why the Israeli elite or pro- Israel Zionist lobbies in countries such as Britain and France no longer command as much influence as they once did. In fact, in the US itself ¯ still the bastion of Israeli and Zionist power ¯ the Zionist lobbies appear to be less united and more divided in exercising their influence over the political process. They were split for instance on the question of Barack Obama’s re-election in 2012 and, indeed, the segment opposed to his return to the White House lost the battle. The decline of Israeli and Zionist influence in Europe and, to a limited degree, the US is also linked to the growing disenchantment in the West with war and violence associated with war. Israel is seen especially among anti-war activists in Europe as a state that is constantly pushing for war. This was obvious in the case of Iraq in 2003. It has become even more obvious in the case of Iran. More and more people now know that it is Israel ¯ more than any other state ¯ that wants the US to take military action against Iran. But people in most places today have no appetite for war. What this means is that they have very little sympathy for Israel’s posturing. Because their citizens have turned against war, leaders in the democratic continued next page
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West have no choice but to follow suit. This is true of Britain as it is of France and Germany. In the US, it was partly because of the popular mood that Obama pulled back from a military strike against Syria. And in Iran, Obama is fully aware that the alternative to a negotiated settlement of the nuclear crisis is war ¯ a war which the American people will not support.
Besides, Obama himself ¯ it is becoming more apparent in his second term¯ does not want to be remembered as the President who got his people embroiled in wars. He would rather be honoured in history as the leader who extricated his nation from wars or desisted from going to war. This may well be the real significance of the interim agreement between Iran
S T A T E M E N T S and the 5 plus 1. It may have averted yet another war, another unimaginable catastrophe.
Dr. Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST). Malaysia. 27 November 2013.
THE BLOCKADE AGAINST CUBA - AN ASSAULT UPON HUMANITY’S CONSCIENCE There are few other issues in international politics on which the nations of the world have been so totally united over so many years. On 29 October 2013, for the 22nd consecutive year, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) called for an end to the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba. 188 states supported the Resolution, 2 voted against it, namely the US and Israel, while 3 (Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau) abstained. In 1992, when the Resolution against the unjust blockade was first introduced in the UNGA, the vote was 59 against 2 (the US and Israel). 10 years later, in 2002, it was 173 against 3. The Marshall Islands joined the US and Israel. In 2012, it was 188 against 3, this time Palau teamed up with the two anti-Cuba states. It is not just the UNGA that has condemned the blockade. Various UN agencies — The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have all at different times criticised the trade sanctions against Cuba. Religious institutions, human rights
groups and prominent international figures, from Muhammad Ali to Jimmy Carter, have also pleaded with the US government to lift the blockade.
Why is the whole world against the blockade which prohibits US firms from selling or buying any product or service from Cuba? The blockade denies Cuba access to technology which would have helped to boost the efforts of the government to raise the standard of living of the people. It also prohibits trade and commerce with one of the world’s biggest markets which in turn would have increased Cuba’s national revenue and contributed to its economic growth and development. It has been estimated for instance that the blockade which began in 1960 has deprived Cuba of 1.126 trillion US dollars over the last 52 years. Governments and peoples everywhere cannot comprehend why the world’s only superpower would want to strangulate a small, poor country of 11 million people with meagre
resources which — contrary to what the US elite says — poses no threat to its security! It is because the US blockade is such a travesty of justice that the human family has come together over and over again to defend Cuba. Starkly put, the blockade is an assault upon the collective conscience of humanity. US leaders have sought to justify the blockade as a sort of punitive measure against an allegedly gross violator of human rights. While there have been transgressions against civil and political liberties, the US establishment ignores the fact that there is considerable grassroots participation in political decision-making in Cuba and a great deal of debate on public policies which includes criticisms of the political leadership. In any case, the US which is more of a plutocracy than a democracy has not been able to ensure some of the fundamental rights of its own citizens, including their right to affordable health care. Worse still, it has in the decades that the blockade has been in force, colluded and conspired with harsh, brutal dictatorships in numerous countries with a hideous reputation for suppressing their people. The real reason why the US imposed the blockade in 1960 was because of the Cuban Revolution of 1959. It was a popular Revolution which swept aside continued next page
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a regime which was a mere US puppet. Since then, Cuba has been steadfast in its determination to chart its own destiny in spite of all the attempts by its huge neighbour to crush it. Apart from trade sanctions, the Cuban people have withstood a botched invasion, germ warfare, terrorist attacks and numerous plots to assassinate the leader of their Revolution, Fidel Castro. If the resilience of the leadership and the people has incensed the US elite it is also because of Cuba’s embrace of Marxism and its close relationship with the Soviet Union in the era of the Cold War. Though the Cold War ended in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, US elite antagonism towards Cuba has not abated. The only explanation for this is because the Cuban nation insists on its independence and refuses to kow-tow to US hegemonic power. What is even more remarkable is the progress that Cuba has made in crucial spheres of society since 1959. Its health care programme — one doctor
to 159.2 persons — is universally acknowledged as an outstanding accomplishment, without precedence or parallel. It has also succeeded in ensuring full literacy, access to education from kindergarten to university for a huge section of its populace, gender equality in most areas and harmonious inter-ethnic relations in a multi-ethnic society which before the Revolution was marred by White racist attitudes. Within the Global South, Cuba is one of those countries that has established a sound scientific base and has done commendable research in medicine and biotechnology. All this does not mean that Cuba has overcome the many challenges that confront it. It is trying hard to incorporate the strengths of the market — individual enterprise, private ownership of property in specific spheres, a notion of reasonable profits — into its economy. It is also seeking to enhance public accountability and reinforce the rule of law.
S T A T E M E N T S that the Cuban leadership has, over the decades, looked after its people better than many other governments in the Global North and the Global South. Is that one of the reasons why the US is hell-bent on perpetuating its blockade? Is it because Cuba is an example that it does not want others to emulate? If a small nation under such enormous pressures can achieve so much what sort of message does it send to people in other countries who are also determined to resist US, or any other, hegemonic power? If this is one of the motives behind the blockade, then it has obviously failed. In the last 10 to 15 years, Cuba has emerged as an inspiration to a number of Latin American countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador which are also keen to shape their own futures without the hegemonic dictation of the US. It suggests that the inhuman, unjust blockade of 53 years has been defeated — in accordance with the will of the people of the world! Chandra Muzaffar 13 November, 2013
Nonetheless, there is no doubt at all
ARTICLES THE SUNNI- SHIA DIALOGUE On the 3rd of October 2013, a Plenary Session on “Sunni-Shia Dialogue” was held as part of the Rhodes Forum on the island of Rhodes, Greece. The Plenary stretched from 3.30 pm to 8.00 pm.
The Session made the following observations about these conflicts.
have contributed to the escalating tension and violence through their bigoted, venomous misinterpretations of religious texts. Distorted rhetoric of this sort serves their narrow religious and political agendas geared towards the pursuit or perpetuation of power.
There were 9 speakers — Ali Alawi, Aly El-Samnian, Asma Afsaruddin, Ghomali Khoshroo, Mohd Faisal Musa, Nader El-Bizri, Seyyed Javad Miri Meynagh, Syed Farid Alatas, and Yasien Mohammed. About a dozen participated from the floor. The moderator was Chandra Muzaffar.
One, the massacres that have occurred in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and Pakistan in recent times targeting Sunnis and Shias represents a colossal catastrophe which threatens to tear asunder their social fabric.
Three, Sunni-Shia conflicts, it is evident, are also being manipulated by regional and global political actors for their nefarious goal of dominance and control of resources and strategic routes and hegemony over states and regions.
The speakers and participants provided in-depth analysis and proposed
Two, some religious elites and politicians in these and other countries
In the medium term, the end of
solutions to the on-going Sunni-Shia conflicts in certain Muslim countries. Fresh insights emerged in the course of the deliberations.
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hegemonic politics at the national, regional and global level would help to create an environment that will be more conducive to the cessation of sectarian conflicts such as the SunniShia conflict. Justice and equity within nation-states and across regions and the globe, especially the eradication of poverty, the reduction of socioeconomic disparities, the provision of jobs and social mobility would undoubtedly also curb sectarian violence. So would respect for dissent and differences of opinion and space for popular participation in the political process. The Plenary Session recommends to the World Public Forum that it plays a constructive role in addressing the Sunni-Shia Conflict in the following ways:1) Revives and propagates the Amman Message of 2004 that
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calls upon Sunnis and Shias to rise above differences that separate them and emphasize the commonalities that unite them as a single Ummah. 2) Encourages institutions, organizations and individuals to educate Sunnis and Shias about the actual history and evolution of Sunni-Shia relations; the attempts at reconciliation between the two sects from the past to the present; the ethical manner in which disputations and differences were handled in earlier periods; and the fundamental affinities between Sunni and Shia doctrines and practices. The family, the school, the media and religious bodies and personalities in particular would have a critical role in education. Education should also aim at confronting extremist and fanatical ideas that breed sectarianism. 3) Supports any initiative that seeks to organize an annual international intra-faith meeting
between Sunnis and Shias. Endorses the publication of a book that contains the presentations and proceedings of this SunniShia Session in Rhodes. 5) Communicates the concerns and proposals from this Session to international, regional and national institutions committed to intercivilizational and inter-faith dialogue and understanding. 6) Arranges meetings with government leaders, religious elites, media practitioners, academics and activists to discuss issues pertaining to Sunni- Shia relations. 7) Encourages dialogues between Sunnis and Shias as a continuous exercise aimed at demolishing misconceptions and enhancing
8 October, 2013 The above report was prepared by the moderator of the session.
US MILITARY BUILD- UP CONTINUES IN PHILIPPINE DISASTER ZONE By Joseph Santolan
The death toll in the central Philippines continues to mount in the wake of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan. The current official count of the Philippine government National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) was 4,881 dead as of noon, November 18. This number will continue to increase sharply, as mass casualties in more remote areas begin to be processed. An estimated 2 million people are homeless, while a total of 11 million are reported to have been affected by
the damage. Vast portions of the islands of Samar and Leyte have been laid waste by the storm, and the city of Tacloban is in ruins. The islands are in the grip of an immense humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands are without access to food, potable water, medicine, or sanitation. Roads throughout the islands remain impassible, and entire communities are completely isolated. Washington has deployed a massive military force to the region. The nuclear
powered aircraft carrier USS George Washington, with 5,000 sailors and 80 aircraft, is in the Leyte Gulf, along with its strike group of two guided-missile cruisers, two guided-missile destroyers, a cargo ship, an oceanographic survey ship and a submarine tender. These are to be joined by 3 amphibious warfare ships and 2 littoral combat ships. Some 850 US troops are on the ground in Leyte and are to be joined by an additional 1,000 US Marines in the next two days. continued next page
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Joint Task Force 505, under the command of Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John E. Wissler, has set up headquarters for the US forces in Camp Aguinaldo, the military headquarters of the Philippine Army.
all those employed in the Philippines, have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan. The United Nations World Food Program stated that, as of November 19, around 600,000 residents of the Eastern Visayas region had not yet received aid packages.
While this build-up is referred to as “providing assistance,” it is clear that the US military is just not “assisting” their Philippine counterparts, but commanding them. US forces are operating the air traffic control tower at the Tacloban airport, controlling which flights are allowed to land and take off there. “We are controlling 250 ops (operations) per day,” U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clinton Dykes told the US military publication Stars and Stripes on November 15. The number of operations has increased significantly since then. The Philippine military is being deployed as armed crowd control in the city of Tacloban, implementing a de facto system of martial law, with an 8 pm–6 am curfew. The hundreds of armed military and police patrolling streets are further supplemented by the armed private guards who defend the homes and property of the wealthy. The chapel and museum in Tacloban constructed by, and dedicated to, Imelda Marcos still stand. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, as tens of thousands desperately sought shelter, armed guards threatened to kill anyone who attempted to enter the locked museum, whose 21 rooms housed countless treasures including Ming dynasty vases and gifts from Mao Zedong. The International Labor Organization (ILO) announced on Tuesday that 5 million workers, roughly a quarter of
Reports from volunteer workers surfaced in social media over the past two days, revealing that one of the reasons for the Philippine government’s delayed delivery of food supplies was that international aid packages containing bottled water, canned goods and powdered milk were being individually opened and repackaged with labels from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Other aid packages were labeled with the names of individual local politicians; many bags went out labeled as being from the Vice President Jejomar Binay. The population in Tacloban is now being subjected to a “food for work” program. The distribution of food aid to the residents of Tacloban has been made contingent upon their completing a certain amount of unpaid work for the city. What aid has been made available to the Eastern Visayas by the Philippine government is allocated on the basis of the National Disaster Relief Law. The portion of the emergency disaster relief budget allocated to any particular local government unit (LGU), such as a town or city, is based on a
A R T I C L E S percentage of the LGU’s revenue. Thus, a wealthy city will automatically have greater aid allocated to it, while a poorer town or city will receive a significantly smaller amount. No money had been set aside to prepare for natural disasters. In 2011, President Aquino vetoed the allocation of any funds for so-called “pre-disaster preparations,” including the construction and stocking of evacuation centers. Aquino declared at the time that any allocated funds should be used for “actual calamities and not for the preparation of relocation sites/facilities, and training personnel engaged in direct disaster.” With its massive deployment of armed force, Washington is seizing the opportunity afforded it by the catastrophe to stage an immense photo op. It is using the devastation in the central Philippines to demonstrate the capacity of its armed forces in the region and to open the door for its military buildup throughout the region directed against China. The irrationality of capitalism is laid starkly bare by the fact that in order for aid to be delivered to a humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people, it is the military that is deployed, as rescue operations and infrastructure are absent. Despite the construction of huge numbers of cargo ships in the region, warships are the only vessels made available to deliver food aid, and amphibious assault vessels carry basic medical supplies. 20 November, 2013 Joseph Santolan is a regular contributor at World Socialist Web Site. Source: wsws.org
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LIBYA ALMOST IMPLODING, STATUS QUO UNSUSTAINABLE By Nicola Nasser More than two years on since the “revolution” of Feb. 2011, the security crisis is exacerbating by the day threatening Libya with an implosion charged with potential realistic risks to the geopolitical unity of the Arab north African country, turning this crisis into a national existential one. Obviously the status quo is unsustainable.
“Libya is imploding two years after the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi” was captured and killed on October 20,” Patrick Cockburn wrote in British The Independent on last Oct. 10. Libya’s oil industry has become the target of violent attacks and civil protests, closing export terminals in east and west or/and creating an oil black market. “Security guards” at the country’s main ports are on strike and selling oil independently in spite of a 67% in pay for employees of the state oil sector on last Oct. 31. Libyan oil minister, Abdulbari Ali al-Arousi, told the Financial Times on last April 29 that disruptions to production and export cost the country about $1bn over the previous five months only. On Nov. 11 Reuters reported that Protesters shut Libya’s gas export pipeline to Italy, its only customer, in the Mellitah complex, some 100 km west of Tripoli, after shutting down
oil exports from there as well. A day earlier, Reuters reported that the separatist self-declared autonomous Cyrenaica government set up a regional firm called “Libya Oil and Gas Corp” to sell oil independently after seizing several ports in the east of the country, where Libya’s two most important oil ports, Sidra and Ras Lanuf, were blockaded by protestors.
for the NATO military intervention that contributed mainly, if not created, the security crisis in the first place by destroying the military and police infrastructure of the central government and turned the country practically into a sponsor of regional terrorism in general and an exporter of arms and “Jihadists” to Syria in particular.
Libya is Europe’s single largest oil supplier. Cutting the Libyan oil and gas supplies to Europe on the eve of a winter that weather forecasts predict to be a very cold one would be an excellent pretext for inviting a European military intervention in the country, which seems the only option left for the transitional government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan that ran out of options for its survival.
Zeidan’s warning of foreign “intervention” could also be interpreted as an implicit threat to ask for it to help rein in the security crisis lest it boils to an implosion of the country.
It is noteworthy here that while the U.N. Support Mission in Libya can obviously “support” nothing, France, Italy, the UK and the U.S., who spearheaded the NATO campaign to topple the former ruling regime, in a joint statement on Nov. 8, expressed their concern “at the instability in Libya and the threat that (it) poses to the successful achievement of the democratic transition” and reiterated their “support to the elected political institutions,” i.e. to Zeidan’s government. Ironically, Zeidan on Nov. 10 warned his compatriots of a possible “intervention of foreign occupation forces” in order to protect civilians under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter because “the international community cannot tolerate a state in the middle of the Mediterranean that is a source of violence, terrorism and murder,” which was the same pretext
Forbes on last Aug. 30 reported that Libya’s “energy protection” was failing and quoted PM Zeidan as saying that his government would impose “order by force” when it came to protecting the oil and gas industry and expanded the Petroleum Facility Guards (PFG) to 18,000 members. Months on, his efforts and threats failed to deter targeting pipelines, refineries and export terminals. His renewed threats since early last September to “bomb from the air and the sea” any oil tanker entering Libya’s territorial waters illegally and trying to pick up illicit Libyan oil have proved hollow and without teeth. Libya is the second largest oil producer in Africa and the continent’s fourth largest natural gas supplier and already dominates the Southern Mediterranean’s petroleum sector. According to the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC), more than 50 international oil companies were already present in the Libya on the eve of the “revolution.” The country’s continued next page
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potential is more promising; Austria’s OMV said on last Oct. 21 it had struck oil in Libya in its first new discovery since 2011. On last Oct. 18, CNBC.com quoted Paolo Scaroni, the CEO of the Italian oil and gas firm ENI, which is Libya’s largest foreign partner, as saying: “Everyone is going to be wealthy” in Libya, citing statistics of what could be: “Five million people and 2 million barrels of oil (per day), which means that this country can be a paradise, and I am doubtful that Libyans will not catch this opportunity of becoming the new Abu Dhabi, or the new Qatar or the new Kuwait.” Libyan Copy of Iraq’s “Green Zone” Yet Libyans seem determined to miss “this opportunity.” “Revolutionary” Libya, reminiscent of the U.S. engineered “democratic” Iraq after some ten years of the U.S. invasion, is still unable to offer basic services to its citizens. Real unemployment is estimated at over 30%. Economy has stalled and frustration is growing. Gone are the welfare days of Gaddafi’s state when young families could get a house with benefits for free, people’s medication and treatment were paid by the state and free education made available to everyone. About one million supporters of the Gaddafi regime remain internally displaced; hundreds of thousands more fled for their lives abroad. Remnants of the destroyed institutional infrastructure of law, order and security is hardly capable of protecting the symbolic central government in Tripoli, reminiscent of its Iraqi counterpart, which is still besieged in the so-called “Green Zone” in Baghdad. Late last October Libya’s central bank was robbed of
$55m in a broad daylight robbery. More than one hundred senior military and police commanders were assassinated. “Libya isn’t just at a crossroads. We are at a roundabout. We keep driving round in circles without knowing where to get off,” Libya’s Minister of Economy, Alikilani al-Jazi, said at a conference in London last September, quoted by The Australian on last Oct. 14.
On last Aug. 30, the Swiss-based group Petromatrix said: “We are currently witnessing the collapse of state in Libya, and the country is getting closer to local wars for oil revenues.” Four days later Patrick Cockburn reported in British The Independent that “Libyans are increasingly at the mercy of militias” and that the “Government authority is disintegrating in all parts of the country.” Ironically, an estimated one-quarter of a million heavily armed militiamen, who are the main obstacle to creating and empowering a central government, are on government payroll. Writing in The Tripoli Post on Oct. 31, Karen Dabrowska said that, “Local notables, tribal groups, Islamists and militias are all vying to keep the centre from extending its authority to their fiefdoms and this explains why disparate social groupings can only
A R T I C L E S unite temporarily to prevent the centre from gaining power over them.” It “goes without saying that the post – Moammar Gaddafi Libya is purely a failed state” governed by militia, Adfer Rashid Shah of the Jamia Millia Islamia, Central University in New Delhi, wrote on last Oct. 15. Following the heavy infighting in the Libyan capital on Nov. 7, Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino told newspaper La Republicca that the country was “absolutely out of control” and the situation is worsening, hinting that Italian oil and gas firm ENI was prepared to close its oil wells. Zeidan’s abduction from his Tripoli’s Corinthia Hotel on last Oct. 10, which the British Economist described as “the shortest coup,” highlighted the country’s deteriorating security crisis. It was interpreted as a “reprisal” for kidnapping five days earlier of Abu Anas al-Libi on suspicion of links with al-Qaeda by U.S. special forces, an act which exposed the inability of the central government to cooperate and coordinate with the American “ally” in his arrest on the one hand and on the other exposed its failure in protecting Libya’s sovereignty against a flagrant U.S. violation thereof. Last July Zeidan threatened that his government may have to “use force” in Benghazi, the cradle of the “revolution” and the current focus of insecurity, tribalism, separatism, Islamist rebels, decentralization of government, assassination of regular army and security officers and attacks on foreign diplomatic missions who mostly closed their consulates in Libya’s second largest city, where the U.S. ambassador was killed in September last year. continued next page
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Ahead of his visit to the eastern city on Monday, when he promised reinforcements and logistical support to the security forces there, Zeidan launched a show of force into the city the previous Friday with hundreds of armored troop carriers and army trucks mounted with guns. But Zaeidan’s threat to “use force” will inevitably be counterproductive, not only because his government’s lack of “force” would compromise his credibility, but because, within the current balance of power between his government and the militias, it will make the security situation worse if it does not ignite a civil war. Zeidan said his government would give the “revolutionaries” who have turned into rival and vying militias and warlords until next Dec. 31 to join the regular army and police or they will be cut from government payroll, that is if his coffers could afford to sustain their payroll if they accepted and if they did not accept his offer it will be another reason for more mutiny and rebellion. More likely the government payroll may not be rolling because the government is facing a budget crisis and “from next or the following month, there could be a problem covering expenditure” according to Zeidan himself, as the security crisis has brought oil production to a standstill or out of its control because the “militia groups are behaving like terrorists, using control over oil as political leverage to extract concessions,” according to Dr. Elizabeth Stephens, head of political risk at insurers Jardine Lloyd Thompson, quoted by British The Telegraph on last Aug. 29. An imminent constitutional crisis could create a power vacuum that in turn
would worsen the security crisis. Published by RT on this Nov. 7, analyst Nile Bowie wrote: “In accordance with the transitional roadmap adopted by the transitional government in May 2011, the mandate of the current government in Tripoli is set to expire on February 8, 2014. Failure to implement a new constitution by then would either force Tripoli into extending its mandate – a move which is seen as highly unpopular – or a potential power vacuum scenario which could set off a chain of events that could lead to a civil war or dissolution.” Pentagon’s Plans No Help Short of western “boots on the ground” it is doubtful that Zeidan’s government will survive. The U.S. administration of President Barak Obama was repeatedly on record against any U.S. boots on the ground in the Middle East. With the exception of France, which might be ready for the appropriate price to repeat its recent limited and temporary military intervention in Mali, Europe seems against it too. Zeidan, with less than three months remaining for him in office, seems relying on Pentagon’s plans to arm and train, through “AFRICOM,” a new Libyan army called “a general purpose force.” But “the case of a separate and underreported U.S. effort to train a small Libyan counterterrorism unit inside Libya earlier this year is instructive,” Frederic Wehrey wrote recently in Foreign Affairs, adding: The absence of clear lines of authority — nearly inevitable given Libya’s fragmented security sector — meant that the force’s capabilities could just have easily ended up being used against political enemies as against terrorists. In August militias launched a pre-dawn raid on the training camp
A R T I C L E S which was not well-guarded. There were no U.S. soldiers at the camp, but the militia took a great deal of U.S. military equipment from the site, some of it sensitive. The U.S. decided to abort the program and the U.S. forces supposedly went home. The obvious alternative to Zeidan’s western supported government would be a stateless society governed by militia warlords, while the survival of his government promises more of the same. At the official end of the NATO war for the regime change in Libya on Oct. 31, 2011 U.S. President Obama proclaimed from the White House Rose Garden that this event signaled the advent of “a new and democratic Libya,” but more than two years later Libya is recurring to the pre-Gaddafi old undemocratic tribal and ethnic rivalries with the added value of the exclusionist terrorist religious fundamentalism wearing the mantle of Islamist Jihad. In the wake of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s death on October 20, a Saudi Arabian Arab News’ editorial said: “The point about Qaddafi’s death is that it makes the next transition stage that much easier, that much safer. As long as he remained at large, he would have been in a position to destabilize the country.” More than two years after Gaddafi’s death, Libya is more destabilized, insecure and fractured that its future is now questionable enough not to vindicate the Saudi daily’s prediction.
13 November, 2013 Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli- occupied Palestinian territories. Source: Countercurrents.org
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