New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 118

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] INDONESIA[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Stones from glass houses
It was certainly about time that a little focus was given to Indonesia’s colonies, West Irian(the annexed half ofNew Guinea) and East Timor. My attempt to report on resistance to the Indonesian military occupation resulted in harassment and interrogation in West Irian not so long ago. I was lucky. Five Australian journalists were executed in East Timor in 1975.

And yet Indonesia as a member of the A SEAN bloc of countries repeatedly condemns Vietnam for its occupation of Kampuchen, a monumental hypocrisy that hardly any news reports on the region have bothered to point out

Whilst ASEAN’s anti-communist group, backed by the West, has become almost obsessed with the notion of getting the Vietnamese out of Kampuchea — despite the positive aspects of overthrowing Pol Pot and forming the only credible defence against his return to power— they have shown no regard whatsoever for the self-determination of the peoples of East Timor and West Irian.

Torn Fawthrop,
Bangkok, Thailand

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Ouch!
Do I detect a slight left-wing bias in your country profile report on GrenadaNew Internationalist October issue. At a glance 'Freedom' is given a three star — fair — rating with the note that there are about 100 political prisoners. Comparing this with the population figures that you give (110,000 people) leads one to suppose that 0.1 per cent of the population or one person in a thousand is in gaol for political reasons. A similar figure for the United Kingdom would mean about 50,000 people imprisoned for their beliefs. Would this receive a ‘fair’ rating in your publication?

But then our politics are slightly right of centre, aren’t they?

Jacqueline Staniforth
Brussels, Belgium.

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Crackpot and wishy-washy
I take issue with you for publishing Albert Elder’s letter, ‘Rivers of blood’. Are you some sort of crackpot body that is wishy-washily obsessed with ‘liberal’ balance by airing views of marxists and fascists?

Albert needs glasses or a radical rethink. Where and how does he ‘see’ that blacks have all the jobs and houses? He provides no facts or figures but an appeal to irrational emotionalism. Black unemployment in Liverpool was last estimated as 65 per cent or more, whilst white unemployment runs between 14 and 35 per cent in different ncighbourhoods. This dismal picture is consistent with the rest of Britain. How can blacks have all the jobs?

Jean Anderson
Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Editor’s note: We publish letters that we judge will interest our readers. They are not censored to correspond to our editorial position. After all we have the rest of the magazine.

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[image, unknown] BIAS[image, unknown]

Scotland the brave
In a feature article on objectivity and truth, ‘How to get ahead’, you abuse nationalism by assuming that it is no more than some of its worst aspects. Yet it was nationalism which led to most of the poor countries breaking free from government by foreign powers. It is nationalism for me to want independence for Scotland as the only way in which the Scottish people can at least have the opportunity to contribute fully to world development by, for example, participating in the United Nations organisations, gearing up for world trade rather than the regional trade of the profoundly misnamed Common Market, by banishing foreign nuclear waste and weapons from our country, by freeing our foreign policy from the awful distortions imposed by Whitehall and so on.

There are clearly more urgent and tragic issues in the world today than Scottish independence. But the people of Scotland will not be able to fully contribute their solution until they themselves have political power.

For ‘nationalism’ in your article, read ‘jingoism’ and an otherwise excellent piece of writing will have its integrity restored

John Shada
Lethanz
Angus, Scotland

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Campaign coffee: a bitter sweet brew
I would like to comment on Traidcraft’s promotion of Tanzanian coffee in the New Internationalist,which is justified as follows: ‘The Tanzanian government is making every effort to put the money it earns from exports into schemes for the benefit of ordinary people.’

Most coffee growers are ‘ordinary people’ and constitute one of the most exploited groups of Tanzanian peasants. In the 1970s, producer prices fell by a third in real terms and the proportion of the export price received by the growers fell from 80 per cent to less than 50 per cent (all coffee beans are sold to the government which decides on the annual price). Consequently peasants are reluctant to continue growing coffee, and in some areas by-laws have been introduced making the neglect or uprooting of coffee trees a punishable offence.

Tanzania is a typical African country in more ways than is generally admitted. It nonsense to think that buying Tanzanian coffee helps ‘ordinary people’ in some obvious way.

You should buy Tanzanian coffee because it is very good and because you think North-South trade is an essential element in Third World development. But don’t buy it to fool a liberal/Christian conscience into thinking that you are helping ordinary Tanzanians.

Brian Cooksey
University of Dares Saloam, Tanzania.

Traidcraft’s reply: Tanzanian coffee growers were, and to a large extent are, one of the more affluent groups within the peasant community. The decline in coffee prices largely reflects the decline in real terms of coffee prices on world markets. Tanzania is desperately short of foreign exchange and coffee is the major source of foreign exchange. Without excusing the weakness and possible mis-management within the Tanzanian economy it is understandable that such income is needed to keep the country ticking over.

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[image, unknown] ENVIRONMENT[image, unknown]

Tasmania underwater
The August issue of the New Internationalist describes how the earth is being squeezed by overconsumption and waste. Nowhere is this more obvious than in Tasmania where the battle continues to save a unique temperate wilderness. The threat is from a dam to be built on the Gordon River, built only in the vain hope that it will attract multinational companies.

It is a fine example of how a western country allows itself to be exploited, as the 400,000 Tasmanians will have to pay over one billion Australian dollars for 178 megawatts of power which they will never use.

Maria Rolls
Ravenswood, Tasmania

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[image, unknown] AGEING[image, unknown]

Setting the record straight
The heading to Jane Batey’ s letter on Help the Aged (‘Help the racists’) was not worthy of your journal. Our fund raising in South Africa in 1978 was in no way an endorsement of the prac of apartheid In fact the 10 per cent of income of the Durban organisation given to help non-whites was at the direct request of Help the Aged in the United Kingdom. Until that time, that particular organisation had only helped white people in need. This change of attitude and practise was surely of some significance and worth achieving.

When Help the Aged raised funds in South Africa for two University Chairs in geriatric medicine it chose two universities which are ‘open’ to black and coloured students. We believed that medical students coming out of those universities, whether black or white, would be better equipped to go into the community helping elderly people of all races.

Help the Aged’s fund — raising operations in South Africa were concluded in 1978. We continue to send modest grants to South Africa and these go to help black or coloured people only. Help the Aged is in no way in support of apartheid.

Hugh Faulkner, Director.
Help the Aged.
London, United Kingdom.

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Book donations
It is a pity before castigating me for sending English children’s books to Kenya (see August issue NI 114) Ms Vince did not check on a few facts. There are over 30 languages in Kenya which are in everyday use. To use all of these for countryside communication would clearly be impractical. Both Swahili and English are taught in primary schools. Apart from its widespread use, English is a good choice because of the wealth of technical, trade and other literature published in English. The children are not cut off from their own culture and speak their own language outside the schooL

The scheme I am helping was started by Barnabas Mulubi who is headmaster of a mixed primary/secondary school Virtually no primary school in Kenya has a library so the children have only their textbooks to read Mr. Mulubi has recently told me that, as a result of receiving English books from the UK, he has been able to allocate more of his very scarce money to buy books in Swahili.

John Humphries,
Caithness, Scotland

Editors note: correspondence on this issue is now closed.

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Parent priorities
Margaret King’s rejection of breastfeeding (NI 113, July Letters) as incompatible with a career makes me very sad. Surely we should all be working towards a society where parenthood is fully accepted Parents are not second-class citizens, permanently anchored to the kitchen because we want to breast-feed Similarly children should not be denied the best possible start in life because breastfeeding and careers cannot be made to fit.

In our society mothers usually breastfeed for less than a year, and from six months the child will only be having one or two feeds a day. So it is only in the early months that breastfeeding could cause some difficulties at work. And adequate creche facilities, a little planning and the cooperation and understanding of colleagues and employers should solve any problems.

The acceptance of breast-feeding and parenthood would be life-enhancing and perhaps help us all to get our priorities right.

Madeleine Graf
Middlesex, UK

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