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Idle No More: What do we want and where are we headed?

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Across the world, Indigenous and colonial peoples alike are heeding the call from Canada’s First Nations – to be Idle No More.

idlenomore.png

But what is it exactly that they stand for?

In Canada, the Harper regime (which won a second term of ‘majority’ government with only 24% of the eligible vote amid serious and unresolved allegations of electoral fraud) has been busy compiling hundreds of pieces of legislation into Omnibus bills, ostensibly budget related, so as to sneak them past the electorate and the usual democratic processes of debate.

Within these illegitimate omnibus bills the Harper conservatives have hidden major revamps of environmental legislation that has, for example, reduced the number of protected Canadian streams, lakes and rivers from millions to just hundreds. Deep in the pocket of the oil and gas industry, Harper’s most egregious changes remove barriers and limitations on tar sands development.

It doesn’t stop there. Knowing that most economically profitable resources are buried beneath un-ceded Indigenous territory, Harper has ‘proceeded with an aggressive legislative agenda that will include upwards of 14 bills that will devastate our First Nations in various ways.’

The Indigenous response? Idle No More. Pamela Palmater explains:

‘First Nations represent Canadians last best hope at stopping Harper from unfettered mass destruction of our shared lands, waters, plants and animals in the name of resource development for export to foreign countries like China. Why? Because only First Nations have constitutionally protected Aboriginal and treaty rights which mandate Canada to obtain the consent of First Nations prior to acting. These rights are also protected at the international level with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.’

Read the entire article by Pamela Palmater here: http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/pamela-palmater/2013/01/what-idle-no-more-movement-really

How and why can you get involved with Idle No More? http://thetyee.ca/Life/2013/01/19/Idle-No-More-List/

PS. One of the comments beneath this article is worth addressing briefly:

Submitted by tdot on January 9, 2013 – 12:51pm.

Dear Madam,
You ask the government “This means Canada must respect our sovereignty and get out of the business of managing our lives.” Does this also mean the government should stop giving your nation billions of dollars? If a specific reserve in your nation after being given hundreds of millions of dollars allows its people to live in abject poverty and asks for more money (despite not accounting for the millions it did receive), the government should just give your nation more money? Isn’t this the opposite of what you want?

In response, I would say that while Canadian governments are making billions in tax revenue by allowing and assisting Canadian and foreign companies to profit from the resources on Turtle Island, I think it is fair that the people of Turtle Island receive something in return.

– S

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Written by Sean Bozkewycz

January 24, 2013 at 06:36

Australia’s Heatwave: Officially Brought To You By Climate Change | The Global Mail

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At the weekend — as roads melted in parts of Queensland, trains crawled on heat-buckled tracks and long-standing temperature records disintegrated in the outback — Australia’s climate change agency slipped out a report confirming that the warming of the planet is behind our record-breaking heatwave and severe bushfires.

It is unlike the Climate Commission — headed by Professor Tim Flannery, a scientist notably not unwilling to share his opinion on the doom of climate change — to mask its reports. But no press release announcing the report appears on the commission’s website; unhappily the commission’s report, Off the Charts: Extreme Australian Summer Heat, received only the barest media attention when it was released early on Saturday morning, an odd hour for any attention seeking.

We think it worth a fuller account — especially as another recent study shows that Australia’s media has largely failed to connect the January heatwave to climate change. Simon Divecha is the business manager at the Environment Institute of the University of Adelaide. A week ago the website The Conversation published his study which showed that fewer than 10 of the 800 articles published in the previous five days about the heatwave had mentioned climate change, global warning or greenhouse gas.

<p>Mike Bowers/The Global Mail</p>

MIKE BOWERS/THE GLOBAL MAIL

September 2012 to January 2013 were the hottest four months in recorded Australian history, according to the Climate Commission’s report.

Off the Charts: Extreme Australian Summer Heat [From This Heatwave: Officially Brought To You By Climate Change | The Global Mail]

Written by Sean Bozkewycz

January 21, 2013 at 14:34

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The terrorism lurk | Overland literary journal

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This intelligent article from the Overland literary journal discusses ‘terrorism creep’.

After twelve years of the War on Terror, US authorities are using the ‘terrorism’ label to attack animal rights activists, Occupiers, hobby scientists, hacktivists and Wikileakers.

200px-EdwardAbbey_TheMonkeyWrenchGang.jpg

In Australia, Melbourne’s Age newspaper branded a recent activist’s hoax press release ‘financial terrorism’ after it (briefly) devalued a coal company’s shares upwards of $300 million.

But as Edward Abbey is quoted in the piece, ‘Terrorism’ means violence or death used to coerce or influence. Not economic inconvenience or political protest.

“Besides, who can say with certainty that downloading academic papers has not crossed that terrorist line?”

[From The terrorism lurk | Overland literary journal]

Written by Sean Bozkewycz

January 21, 2013 at 14:28

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Extremism: So Hot Right Now | The Global Mail

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More on the ANZ coal investment hoax, this time from the Global Mail. MIke Seccombe puts perspective to the ridiculous statements made by Liberal Eric Abetz, calling the Greens extremists and communists for congratulating Moylan on his protest against the rape and pillage of state forests in NSW.

Extremism: So Hot Right Now | The Global Mail:

By Mike Seccombe January 10, 2013

According to Liberal frontbencher Eric Abetz, the Australian Greens Party is the ‘epitome of extremism’. Talk about the pot calling the kettle extremist.

Abetz was inspired to his alliterative epithet because a couple of Greens Senators, notably party leader Christine Milne, refused to condemn the anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan, over a hoax which — for about 90 minutes, until it was discovered — decreased the value of Whitehaven Coal by more than $300 million on Monday.

It was the simplest of hoaxes. Moylan dummied up a press release, purporting to be from the ANZ Bank, saying it had withdrawn a $1.2 billion loan for a new coal mine.

(The trick, we might add, would not have had its effect if members of the financial media had bothered to check the veracity of Moylan’s fake press release before publishing stories.)

Milne described the hoax as being part of ‘a long and proud history of civil disobedience’ in Australia.

This was, when you parse it, a pretty mild endorsement, more a statement of the bleeding obvious, really.

…..

“Nobody who is under 28 has lived through a month of global temperatures that fell below the 20th-century average, because the last such month was February 1985,” it reported.

Got that? Nobody. In the world.

And here in Australia we have two major political groups: the Coalition parties which don’t know whether they believe in climate change or not, and the Labor Party, which pays lip service to the need to do something but is intent on extracting more fossil fuels as fast as possible.

And then there are the Greens, who accept there is a crisis, and actually have the temerity to suggest it is unethical to mine ever-increasing amounts of the stuff which is causing the crisis.

Is this extremist? Or just logical?

Read More: Extremism: So Hot Right Now | The Global Mail

Written by Sean Bozkewycz

January 12, 2013 at 03:25

Talk About Politicizing Intelligence! Meet John Brennan, CIA Chief Designee – WhoWhatWhy

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Obama’s newly appointed Director of the CIA has an intriguing background – quite becoming for a career spook. WhoWhatWhy investigates the history of the man who led the ever-changing narratives about the Osama murder, including asking the Saudis what to do with the body.

 

Talk About Politicizing Intelligence! Meet John Brennan, CIA Chief Designee – WhoWhatWhy:

John O. Brennan, nominated by President Obama to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a crafty character. Not surprising for a spy.

The Washington Post says that his nomination may generate a debate about the policy of using drones to kill terror suspects, and that there’s some dispute about what Brennan’s position was on the use of torture during his lengthy career in the spook business. But the fact that his own role in the torture debate is even subject to disagreement is just the beginning of this gentleman’s craftiness.

It actually gets much, much more interesting. Brennan’s nomination is a great time for the public—and its elected representatives—to demand answers to a host of questions, not just about Brennan’s values and activities, but about whether the resources of the presidency are routinely used for nakedly political purposes.

Man From R.I.Y.A.D.H.

As Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, Brennan played a central role in two episodes that provided the President with much needed image-boosts. In one, Navy SEALs bagged the numero uno prize, Osama bin Laden. In the other, Navy SEALs rescued a young American woman from Somali pirates.

As we noted here previously, neither of these operations is free of controversy. You can see some of the issues we raised on the Abbottabad raid, shortly after it took place, here,herehere, and later here.

With the bin Laden operation, Brennan has provided a shifting panoply of details concerning what went on that have never been rationalized, and that raise fundamental questions. In that linked article, we reported that

Brennan…was the principal source of incorrect details in the hours and days after the raid. These included the claim that the SEALs encountered substantial armed resistance, not least from bin Laden himself; that it took them an astounding 40 minutes to get to bin Laden, and that the White House got to hear the soldiers’ conversations in real time.

[snip]

Almost all that turns out to be hogwash—according to the new account produced byThe New Yorker three months later. An account that, again, it seems, comes courtesy of Brennan. The minutes did not pass like days. Bin Laden was not armed, and did not take cover behind a woman. And the commandoes most certainly were not on the ground for 40 minutes. Some of them were up the stairs to the higher floors almost in a flash, and it didn’t take long for them to run into and kill bin Laden.

Perhaps the most troubling of many troubling assertions was the final explanation Brennan provided for why Osama bin Laden’s body was hastily dumped in the ocean—rather than being made available for autopsy and identification procedures, or buried somewhere unknown to the public but where the body could later be exhumed if necessary (a common occurrence when identity issues arise). ). Here’s what Brennan said: he consulted the Saudis on what to do with the body, and they said sure, good idea to toss the terror leader into the deep.

Brennan, it should be noted, has close ties to the Saudi leadership from his years running the CIA station in Riyadh, 1996 to 1999. (He then returned to Washington and was CIA deputy executive director at the time of the September 11 attacks.)

There’s a great deal of irony in taking advice from the Saudis on deep-sixing a valuable piece of evidence, given questions about the Saudi leadership’s knowledge of what was afoot with the 9/11 hijackers. For one thing, there’s the well-known rapid departure of Saudi royals from around the United States immediately following the carnage in New York and Washington.

But there’s a meatier, documented Saudi connection. If you’re not familiar with it, be sure to read our multi-part piece here. As we reported, in the weeks prior to the attacks the alleged hijackers were hanging out at the Florida house owned by a top lieutenant in the Saudi hierarchy. Is Brennan not interested in that? Shouldn’t some Senator ask him about it?

And why did the SEALs kill the unarmed bin Laden, when it would have seemed strategically wiser to exert every effort to capture him alive? Imagine what stories this Saudi black sheep could tell! To explain why he was summarily killed, we were first told that he was armed, then we learned he was not, then that his fate was left up to theSEALs themselves.)

Brennan—who ran the National Counterterrorism Center for George W. Bush while Bush was seeking re-election in 2004 and pushing the “terror alerts” button like crazy—has plenty of questions to answer.

Operation Damsel-in-Distress

The bare details of the Somali raid, aka Pirates of the Arabian Sea, immediately suggest that something more was going on. What was this American woman doing in such a crazily dangerous place? Charity work, OK, but it is hardly standard procedure for the US military to launch such a risky and expensive operation—moreover, three months after the abduction occurred—because one civilian in purportedly declining health has been kidnapped abroad.

Was it simply a coincidence this operation came early in the election year, literally just as Obama was delivering his 2012 State of the Union Address? The media, unsurprisingly, did not ask questions but played up the derring-do of the operation and the decisiveness of the Commander-in-chief. Again, we see Brennan at the helm when an opportunistic military adventure unfolds. Is the timing of this operation a legitimate question for his confirmation hearing?

Even back when Obama was merely a presidential hopeful, Brennan showed up at the nexus of intelligence work and image issues. In March, 2008, around the time that rumors and speculation about Obama’s country of birth began circulating, the State department revealed that the passport records of presidential candidates Obama, McCain and Clinton had been breached. Subsequent reporting by the Washington Times revealed that those accessing the records were actually government contract employees from two private firms. One worked for The Analysis Corporation, a Virginia company run at the time by Brennan—who was also then an advisor to the Obama campaign.

As happens often in cases of malfeasance, the person working for Brennan’s company was described as a lone wolf, and “disciplined”—but not fired. Because the matter was laid to rest before the “birther” controversy took wing, no connection between the breach and the issue was made. In retrospect, though, since McCain’s and Clinton’s place of birth were not in doubt, it is reasonable to wonder whether these improper accesses—which were never explained—were to find out what government records revealed about Obama, and that the searches on the other candidates were conducted to supply that old staple of the spying game, “cover.”

Flash forward four years. We do not yet understand what role if any Brennan might have played in the still mysterious affair that brought down David Petraeus, the man Brennan replaces at CIA. If you don’t think there are power struggles going on that determine, for example, which adulterous relationships in high places come to light and which don’t—then you don’t know Washington very well.

Unfortunately, it will take a quantum leap in America’s investigative journalistic energy (what we’re about) to generate the kind of heat that might be felt by the Brennans of the world—or their bosses. But why waste the opportunity to grill one of the key players in our ever-expanding security establishment?

May We Ask A Single Question of Our Protectors?

The Senate hearings on Brennan’s nomination at CIA will likely focus only on bite-sized, partisan controversies like the death of America’s ambassador to Libya. We’re not likely to witness Brennan opening up about the highly delicate topics of recent vintage discussed above. But why not at least broaden the inquiry to quiz Brennan on current policy toward murky security matters that are still unresolved decades later? A good place to start: the long-overdue declassification of documents that American citizens need to inform themselves about their own history.

As we previously reported, the CIA has been refusing to release records on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And the new person in charge of declassification at the National Records and Archives Administration is a former CIA counterterrorism officer. In this, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death, might Brennan be compelled to do the right thing—and release all of the records in what the government still says was nothing more than the doings of a “lone nut?”

Surely, this is a nonpartisan issue. Who wouldn’t feel comfortable asking their Senator if he or she would push for prompt attention to this shared national concern?

We may not have access to information we need to understand what is being done, right now, in our names. But perhaps we can find out what went on half a century ago. Maybe then we can begin coming to terms with our past as prologue to the strange state of American democracy circa 2013.

(Via WhoWhatWhy.)

Written by Sean Bozkewycz

January 12, 2013 at 02:02

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En Passant » Jonathan Moylan, stunts, the working class and fighting climate change

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Jonathan Moylan faces a possible 6-figure fine and or ten years in prison for his hoax press release that suggested ANZ bank had found its backbone and stopped funding coal mines.

His stunt brings coal mining and climate change to the minds of the masses, albeit with the rage of the right wingers calling for his blood.

But ultimately, as John Passant argues, we will never satisfactorily address climate change within a capitalist system that promotes profits over all else, externalising the destruction of the life support systems of the planet.

Do we have time to work from within the system, to bring around the minds of the masses,  tax polluters and create a renewable energy economy in Australia?

Or is it time for more aggressive action?

 

En Passant » Jonathan Moylan, stunts, the working class and fighting climate change:

Front Line Action on Coal member and environmental activist Jonathan Moylan issued a fake press release from ANZ Bank that they had withdrawn their $1.2 bn funding for Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal project.

When a media outlet published the email the share price quickly fell from $3.52 to $3.21 before trade was halted. Once the hoax was exposed the shares traded at normal market prices, regained almost all the price lost and yesterday were selling at one stage at pre-hoax prices.

There have been headlines about $300 million lost. Let’s be clear. Market capitalisation may have dropped by that amount. In other words the fall in price from $3.52 to $3.21 meant a fall in market value of the company by about $315 million. But the losses on the drop of share price would only become real if investors had sold their shares on the basis of the fake press release.

Trades did increase but the level of the trading indicates any losses would have been in the order of $100,000. And was it Mum and Dads who suffered any loss?

Many traders have automatic stop loss orders in place. A not insignificant fall in price will trigger them. Investors with margin loans may also have lost a little. But working class Mums and Dads? No way, unless they have a hedge fund or are day traders.

Super funds? Well, maybe they panicked and sold, but their portfolios are so large and varied the impact is likely to have been insignificant for most contributors.

The reaction of the media and right wing has been apoplectic. For example the Sun Herald the day after the hoax had a headline which said ‘Hoaxer Jonathan Moylan cost Nathan Tinkler $180 million after Whitehaven share plunge’

The article makes no mention whatsoever of $180 million but mentions $50 million based on a drop in price from $3.52 to $3.21. So the ‘loss’ is a market capitalisation one, not a real one. It was on the writer’s estimates $50 million not $180 million and because the shares almost went back to the pre-hoax level after Whitehaven exposed the hoax and are now trading at normal market levels, Hinkler in fact has lost $0 as a consequence of the hoax.

So the hoax hasn’t produced any major loss. Indeed it is a zero Sm game. The losses fo some would be offset by the gains of others who for example bought at $321 and saw the price rocket to $3.50 or thereabouts.

On the other hand the share price of Whitehaven has fallen since 18 April 2012 from $6.03 to today’s $3.41. Mum and dad investors who bought at the high of $6.03 have lost $2.62 per share since then. This is a loss in market value of 43% in just 9 months. Where is the outrage and outcry about that on behalf of Mums and Dads? Should the people overseeing this fall in value be charged with an offence too?

The difference of course is that it is ‘the market’ pricing the loss and you can’t jail people for the ‘normal’ operation of the blessed market. Or can you? Unfortunately not.

The rage of the right against Moylan is because his action challenged the dominance of the market over human relations, even if just for a moment. That is his real crime. That and exposing the market for what it is – a casino that runs on rumour and innuendo, an anarchy that destroys lives, an unseen all seeing Sauron, master of the living wasteland.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is investigating the hoax. According to an ABC News Report Moylan could face charges dealing with false and misleading statements made in respect of securities under section 104E of the Corporation Act, and have a maximum penalty of up to $765,000 and 10 years in jail imposed on him

The wolves of capital are baying for Moylan’s blood. In the last 6 months there have been two other major hoaxes. One was McMahon holdings where fake emails suggested a takeover might be brewing. The other was David Jones where UK based ‘EB Private Equity’ launched a supposed takeover bid. its share price went up 20% before the hoax was exposed.

Both of these hoaxes were done for private gain.

No one has been prosecuted for them. Perhaps it is because of the fact they reflect the good morals of the share market nothing has been done. Maybe too if those hoaxers were prosecuted questions might be raised about all the other dealings based on innuendo, rumour and insider trading. It looks like ASIC is the regulator you have to keep the robber barons safe from environmental activists but not from themselves.

It also appears that despite the fact Whitehaven denied that ANZ had withdrawn funding one media outlet published the fake ANZ press release knowing of this denial and may have started the run. If Moylan is guilty of anything then that media organisation looks as if it should bear a major responsibility for its actions. Unfortunately you can’t jail corporations. You can only fine them.

It appears that no Mums and Dads in the colloquial working class sense were harmed in the making of the hoax. So the moralistic and market left have no grounds for condemning Moylan’s actions.

Why did he do it? Moylan told Reuters:

The future of our farmlands, our forests, our health, our climate, these are the biggest threats humanity faces and they are far more important than concerns over liability.

Moylan also told Reuters that ‘he was head of a little-known group called Frontline Action on Coal that has been camped out near the proposed mine for five months to protest its development and would continue to pressure ANZ Bank over financing of coal mines.’

The mass media is too busy telling us the travails of the former billionaire Nathan Tinkler and current billionaires Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer, that protests like Moylan’s camp to save Leard State Forest from three planned coal mines never gain a wider audience.

There are two reasons for this. Obviously the media aren’t interested in small protests which don’t threaten production, at least while they are ineffective. Moylan’s stunt changed that, at least for a while. It put the plans to destroy the Forest for green house gas producing coal on to the agenda of the public, for a short time at least.

There is another reason why the message about climate change and coal mining and protest haven’t won an audience. Much of the working class as working class isn’t listening.

This isn’t because in the abstract they aren’t interested in the future or climate change and what to do about it. In an objective sense they are the future.

Partly it is because workers are disengaged from the political process. The day to day routine of work or looking for work, plus families, does that to many workers. So they look to others to do the politics and mostly the industrial work for them.

They are led rather than leaders.

On top of that the destruction that the Accord and the class collaboration it set in train has wreaked on workers and their unions has reduced even the ideas and practice of defensive actions to mere platitudes from union bureaucrats on most occasions. What is good for capital is good for labour is widely accepted.

So the destruction of the environment through mining, the destruction threatened and in train through green house gas emissions, and the combination of both in mining and exporting coal, are left to politicians to deal with.

On top of that the unions that could defend the environment from coal mining and global warming and develop policies and actions to do so and convince its membership of this (with consequent threats to mining jobs) are, not unreasonably, defending jobs rather than the future.

That is because under capitalism that is the choice.

It might be trite to suggest that socialism provides the answer because it replaces production for profit with production democratically determined to satisfy human need. But as global warming of 4 to 6 degrees by the end of the century now appears locked in, what is trite is becoming more and more a necessity.

The contradiction between the short term of profit and the long term of defence of the profit system, and the systemic disengagement of workers short and long term may make solutions to climate change within capitalism impossible.

Moylan has substituted himself for an inactive and mainly uninterested working class. His action might wake up some but it won’t change the world. It won’t challenge in any fundamental way the power that wants to mine state forests, that wants to frack New South Wales and wants to export more and more coal to the polluting industries offshore.

Moylan himself identified part of the problem when he said, after an ASIC investigator raided his campsite and confiscated his computer and phone:

I have no experience of ASIC, but then I don’t think they have any experience of activism with just cause, or civil disobedience, like this situation. They usually deal with millionaires who try to cheat other millionaires.

It is the democratic overthrow of those millionaires and the system that creates them that offers the hope for the future. This means, to me, that our focus needs to orient to the one class in Australia with the power to turn society on its head and stop mining, exporting coal and other fossil fuels and to develop mass renewable energy sources to make Australia a totally renewable energy country. That class is the working class.

This is no easy task. Convincing the CFMEU, one of the few unions in Australia prepared to defend it members, and convincing its membership that they should end their support for mining when mining workers are an important section of the union, appears not only mad but impossible. True, but in the day to day struggles of the union across Australia over bread and butter issues of pay and conditions, especially safety on site, the opportunity to win some over and then the majority exists, at least intellectually.

To address the jobs issue, it seems to me that a campaign around taxing the rich to make Australia a totally renewable energy society by 2023 is the way forward, with guarantees of more jobs for mining workers than currently exist in mining. That would also mean a massive retraining program, guarantees about current income continuing and paying for relocation costs where needed. Only massively taxing the polluters and increasing income tax on business can do that.

That might seem utopian in the extreme. But as the barbarism of climate change under capitalism begins unfolding with little challenge to the powers nd drivers that have generated it the choice becomes more stark – socialism or climate change barbarism.

Stunts like Moylan’s will draw attention to the issues at least momentarily and I defend his actions. But to really address climate change, to stop the mining of fossil fuels and to move rapidly to a totally renewable energy society requires the working class entering on to the stage of history and overthrowing the impediment to real change – capitalism. The working class has to be our focus for fundamental change.”

 

(Via .)

Written by Sean Bozkewycz

January 12, 2013 at 01:56

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En Passant » Why we should boycott Sri Lankan cricket

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Until I read this article by Andrew Cheeseman, I had no idea what was going on in Sri Lanka with the Tamils. Like me, you’ve probably heard of the Tamil Tigers, but the systematic terrorisation and near genocide of the Tamil people by the Sinhalese is truly shocking.

As a boycott of all things Israeli is a necessary and legitimate response the the apartheid conditions Palestinians suffer, the call for a boycott of the Sri Lankan cricket team is an excellent way to increase awareness of the ongoing atrocities, including 40,000 Tamils murdered in 2009.

 

En Passant » Why we should boycott Sri Lankan cricket: “In recent weeks a campaign has developed momentum calling for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket matches to protest both the Sri Lankan regime’s genocide of Tamils and the Australian government’s attacks on Tamil refugees.  Andrew Cheeseman in Socialist Alternative explains why.

Outside of the Australian Tamil community, little is known in this country of why so many Tamils are fleeing Sri Lanka and of the history of oppression that they have endured. With Gillard so hostile to Tamil refugees today, this is a history that must be shared.”

Colonial Domination

Sri Lanka was seized by Portugal in 1505, marking the beginning of nearly five hundred years of colonial domination. Prior to this, the island had long been divided into a Tamil kingdom in the northeast, and two Sinhalese kingdoms in the south and west. Tamils and Sinhalese spoke different languages, mostly followed different religions (with most Sinhalese following Buddhism and Tamils mostly following Hinduism with a large Christian minority), and had totally separate state structures throughout this time.

The Portuguese colonialists, and also the Dutch after they seized the colony, maintained this separation and treated the island as multiple colonies. Things would change greatly, however, when the British seized control in 1815.

The British colonialists forcibly amalgamated the disparate kingdoms into what they termed British Ceylon, then from 1827 imported large numbers of additional Tamils from India to work on tea plantations. Today their descendants are generally referred to as “Indian Tamils” while the descendants of Tamils from the pre-colonial Jaffna Kingdom are called “Sri Lankan Tamils”.

In response to agitation for reforms by the Ceylon National Congress, a united Sinhalese and Tamil organisation, British governor William Manning went out of his way to stir communal tensions and to turn Tamils against Sinhalese by encouraging communal representation. In a cunning move the British granted proportionally more representation to the minority Tamils and underrepresented the Sinhalese majority. Partially this was an attempt to get Tamil support for the colonial project, but more important for the British was the way it turned the Sinhalese against Tamils. As in many other countries dominated by colonialism, the seeds of hatred sowed to divide and rule would in time lead to a war that would outlast the colonialists by decades.

Independence

Sri Lankan independence in 1948 did not heal the tension that had been building – in many ways it heightened them. Sinhalese chauvinist parties quickly came to power and enacted several extremely discriminatory laws.

Within a year, the Ceylon Citizenship Act was passed. This law denied citizenship to Indian Tamils, taking away their right to vote and eventually leading to the mass expulsion of six hundred thousand people. The regime’s motives here were political – denying citizenship and voting rights to such a large number of Tamils allowed the Sinhalese chauvinist parties a significant majority in parliament and dramatically reduced Tamil representation.

Worse was to come.

In 1956 the Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike became Prime Minister and quickly legislated to make Sinhalese the only official language of government. This resulted in a nearly-complete purge of Tamils (very few of whom were fluent in Sinhalese) from the civil service. It also made it nearly impossible for Tamils to access government services for almost all of the 1960s.

When protests were organised against the Sinhala Only Act by the fairly moderate Federal Party, Sinhalese chauvinists including a government minister organised counter-demonstrations that led to riots and looting in Colombo. Days later, as news of these disturbances spread and were exaggerated with every retelling, Sinhalese chauvinists massacred an estimated 150 Tamils in the Gal Oya valley. Local police watched as the rioters murdered Tamils with knives, sticks and by burning them alive. Similar events would be repeated in 1958, alongside the first organised violent retaliation by Tamils – which led to the banning of the Federal Party and the arrest of a majority of Tamil parliamentarians.

Over 20 years of oppression led to the formation of the Tamil United Liberation Front which stood for secession from Sri Lanka and the formation of a new state, Tamil Eelam, in the majority Tamil north and east of the country. It stood for election in 1977 and won the support of most Tamils. In response Prime Minister Junius Jayewardene gave all police a week’s leave and mobilised armed supporters to Tamil areas. His supporters burned houses of leftists that supported Tamil rights, and killed hundreds of Tamils in a week of pogroms.

Predictably, this spelled the end of mass support for peaceful change among Tamils and the beginning of mass support for armed resistance. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE or Tamil Tigers) rose to prominence during this period. Their popularity only increased when Sinhalese policemen burned down the Jaffna Public Library in 1981, killing four and destroying irreplaceable artefacts of Tamil history. Throughout this period it was widely accepted that police and the military could kill Tamils with impunity.

Black July

The Black July massacres of 1983 would ensure that that year would become the worst year for Tamils until 2009. The Black July massacres are documented by many groups, particularly the Canadian Tamil Congress, who set up a website as a memorial to those murdered. There were various other government provocations such as the banning of Tamil language newspapers and the following extraordinarily vile statement from (by this time President) Jayewardene:

“… I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people [Tamils] now… Now we cannot think of them. Not about their lives or of their opinion about us… The more you put pressure in the north, the happier the Sinhala people will be here… really, if I starve the Tamils out, the Sinhala people will be happy… “

In response, the LTTE attacked a military convoy and killed thirteen soldiers. This was exactly the opportunity the regime had been preparing for. Within hours, roadblocks had been set up by Sinhalese chauvinists, at which cars were searched. In one incident witnessed by many tourists a bus containing Tamils was torched and all of its passengers burned to death.

Eyewitnesses reported the active military involvement in the massacres, including officers using electoral rolls to determine which houses held Tamil families and then directing rioters to burn them down and kill anyone inside. One harrowing account from survivor Shanthi Sachithanandam described the terror of the pogrom in Colombo:

“In the lane there were about 50 to 75 people in a mob carrying all kinds of sticks and clubs and knives. They were shouting; it was like the sound of an ocean, a chilling sound.”

After Sachithanandam got into a car, the attackers banged on the windows demanding to know if there was a Tamil inside. Luckily she escaped. Her husband also escaped, hiding at the house of a Sinhalese friend who was brave enough to tell the pogromists who held a knife to his throat that there were no Tamils in his house.

During a week of nationwide race riots Jayewardene made an address to further stoke communal hatred. When the pogrom finally ended, an estimated 3,000 people were dead and most Tamils in Colombo had fled to Jaffna or out of the country. In the aftermath over 100,000 Tamils fled to Canada, and many more went elsewhere.

The Civil War

As a result of the Black July pogrom, the previous banning of the mainstream moderate Tamil opposition parties and the LTTE’s ruthless attempts to absorb or destroy its political rivals, the LTTE became the main organisation of Tamil resistance. A protracted civil war developed, punctuated by intermittent ceasefires. The LTTE used a combination of conventional warfare and terrorist tactics, while the government used airstrikes as its form of terrorism. During this period the LTTE was essentially the government of the north and east of the island.

In the context of the US “War on Terror”, the Rajapaksa regime in 2008 began a serious military offensive in the north. This culminated in the horrific concentration camps and massacres of May 2009 that made even the Black July slaughter look tiny.

It is impossible to know how many Tamils are still in concentration camps in the north and how many are dead – particularly as aid groups are still denied access. Most estimate that 40,000 were killed, with as many as 10,000 killed on the night of 9 May 2009 when the Sri Lankan military shelled one of the “safe zones” civilians had fled to.

Rajapaksa, the man responsible for the massacres in 2009, is still running the country. Political dissidents are still tortured whether they are Tamil or Sinhalese. Attending a protest march means putting your life at risk, and supporting the right of Tamils to secede from Sri Lanka to form their own country will get you labelled an LTTE terrorist.

We need to make Sri Lanka a pariah state until Rajapaksa has faced justice for the 2009 atrocities and Tamils are free to make their own decision as to whether to remain part of Sri Lanka or to secede. Boycotting Sri Lanka’s cricket team is a small step in that direction.

The Australian Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket Campaign will be holding a protest at the first day/night match at the MCG tomorrow (Friday) at 1 pm. Activists will then embark on a “Freedom Ride” to Adelaide on Saturday before protesting at the match at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.

(Via En Passant and Socialist Alternative.)

Written by Sean Bozkewycz

January 12, 2013 at 01:35

Posted in Repost

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