New Internationalist

Update

Issue 310

new internationalist
issue 310 March 1999

Update

AUSTRALIA

Leave it alone
Outrage over one-way uranium exports

Australia has rejected a UN recommendation that uranium mining be ceased on indigenous land. The Jabiluka uranium mine is being constructed on the sacred land of the Aboriginal Mirrar people in the heart of Kakadu National Park. The World Heritage list of UNESCO placed Kakadu as one of the few sites of value for both its natural and its cultural heritage and stated they would be threatened by mining.

The conservative Liberal Government, led by Prime Minister John Howard, has branded the findings of the international delegation ‘biased’. The Government, which has plans for 23 more uranium mines, has continually ignored national opinion polls showing over two-thirds of Australians are opposed to the mine.

The campaign against Jabiluka has gained unprecedented momentum, becoming the biggest land-rights and environmental battle Australia has faced, with thousands of protesters regularly taking to the streets to express their opposition. ‘Land rights, not mining rights’ and ‘Export Howard, not uranium’ are the mantras chanted across the country in peaceful, colourful weekly rallies.

A blockade situated next to the Jabiluka mine site has been running since March 1998. Over 2,500 people, including many concerned international backpackers, have visited the blockade camp, and 527 blockaders have been arrested, mostly for trespassing. Many face jail terms under the Northern Territory’s new ‘zero tolerance’ mandatory sentencing laws.

STOP URANIUM MINING Yvonne Margarula, the senior traditional landowner of the Mirrar people, says: ‘We live with the environmental damage and negative social impact from mining development.’ Her people have been fighting uranium mining on their land for over 20 years.

Environmental assessments of the neighbouring Ranger uranium mine have revealed over 100 breaches of Ranger’s ‘Environmental Requirements’ (the rules laid down to protect the national park from the impact of mining) in the last two decades.

Meanwhile, the Australian Government has refused a request from one of President Clinton’s top advisors and the American company Pangea to use central Australia as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. Green groups argue that as one of the world’s prime uranium exporters, Australia should consider the ramifications of its increasing exports, including the moral obligations concerning disposal of radioactive waste.

Janine Israel
For more information: http://www.jabiluka.net
Photos by Janine Israel

Sweeping changes - millions more lose their jobs.
CHRIS STOWERS / PANOS PICTURES

Unemployment peaks
The number of unemployed and underemployed people worldwide is at the highest level ever, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Some 150 million workers are actually unemployed, seeking or available for work – 10 million have become unemployed in 1998 alone due to the financial crisis.

Some 750-900 million people in the world, or 25-30 per cent of the population, are underemployed – working substantially less than full-time, though wanting full-time employment. Some 60 million people, 15-24 years old, are actively seeking employment.

In Asia the picture is particularly grim. Indonesia, for example, has seen steep increases in unemploy- ment and underemployment, accompanied by food shortages. One in every five Indonesian employees lost their jobs in 1998 and unemployment is around 15 per cent.

Chakravarthi Raghavan/Third World Network Features

Costly sentences
Britain jails a higher proportion of its population than any other country in the European Union. One in six prisoners has defaulted on fines.

The number of women in prison has doubled in the past few years despite the fact that the vast majority are serving sentences for giving false information to social security, shoplifting and other types of non-violent crime.

A study conducted by the Kent Probation Service suggested offenders under supervised probation were 22-per-cent less likely to be convicted of a further offence within five years than those who were sent to prison. It costs the taxpayer $38,400 a year to keep an offender in prison whereas the Kent practice is estimated to be much less costly.

The Economist Vol 347 No 8067

NIGERIA

Deadly collusion
More blood is spilled over oil.

Living in Shell's shadow - Ijaw people protest.
SARA LEIGH LEWIS/ PANOS PICTURES

Clashes between soldiers and local protesters continue in Nigeria where hundreds of Ijaw people were killed during one week during a bloody backlash against non-violent civil disobedience. The killing started when soldiers opened fire in Yenagoa, capital of Nigeria’s main oil-producing Bayelsa State, on 30 December. Youths had gathered there to protest the expiry of an ultimatum to oil firms to leave the region. Some unconfirmed reports from Nigeria allege that the military used Shell helicopters to bomb Ijaw towns.

The demonstrators planned to stage a series of non-violent occupations and protests against gas flares, pipelines and other oil installations. They are demanding the withdrawal of the operating companies.

‘Operation ClimateChange’, as the youths dubbed it, has been amazingly effective at demonstrating that these local communities need to be taken seriously – 40 per cent of production in the region was shut down by activists. Almost two-thirds of Nigerian oil flows from Ijaw territory.

But the Nigerian military authorities declared a state of emergency on 30 December and created a ‘Naval Special Security Task Force’ to police the Delta to ‘protect oil installations against vandalization’. Tanks, warships and hundreds of troops have been sent into Beyelsa State. Soldiers have scoured villages, searched cars, and arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured individuals in search of the organizers of the protests. Although the state of emergency has technically been lifted, the Task Force remains operational.

‘This is a serious backward step for Nigeria. These killings in Bayelsa State raise concerns that the current Government is returning to the repressive methods used by the Abacha regime,’ says Peter Takirambudde, speaking for Human Rights Watch which has condemned the killings. Oronto Douglas, a spokesperson for the Ijaw Youth Council explained: ‘All we want is dialogue. What they want is force. We are asking the multinational companies to withdraw from Ijaw areas immediately.’

Drillbits and Tailings Vol 4 No 1
For more information subscribe to shell-nigeria-action by sending an e-mail to: listproc@essential.org
Write: subscribe shell-nigeria-action.

Lighting up

[image, unknown]
CHRIS STOWERS / PANOS PICTURES

The IMF has come under fire for helping open markets in South Korea and Thailand to global tobacco corporations. Both countries are a rich market for US-based tobacco giants – South Korea smokes more than 100 billion cigarettes and Thais smoke 50 billion cigarettes a year. Now their state-owned companies must be privatized due to the IMF’s requirements for emergency loans.

Anti-smoking campaigners say the ambitious tobacco giants will increase the number of smokers in Thailand and South Korea. They point to Turkey, which has become one of the fastest-growing cigarette markets in the world since the Government scrapped price controls that had propped up the state-run tobacco monopoly.

The impact of privatization may be greatest in Thailand – which has some of the strictest anti-smoking legislation in the world including a complete tobacco-advertising ban and a requirement that all cigarette packs include a warning that smoking can cause impotence.

Wall Street Journal 16 December 1998

[image, unknown] [image, unknown]

AFRICA

Chilly reception
Mixed feelings about Europe's roaming fridges

Too good to refuse : CFC-emitting fridges sell fast.
RON GILING / STILL PICTURES

African countries that have agreed to reduce the use of CFC-emitting refrigerators have also become the dumping ground for phased-out fridges from Europe. Developing countries have until the year 2010 to stop the use of CFCs, according to the internationally-agreed Montreal Protocol. In Zambia, a lax import-control regime has worsened the situation. Some local companies – in collusion with European firms – are cashing in on a demand for cheap refrigerators by dumping models that have been phased out in Europe.

In Zambia CFC-emitting refrigerators are around half the price of new non-CFC ones and are sold under an attractive scheme so that payments can be made in instalments over six months. For the average Zambian consumer the refrigerators are just too good a bargain to pass by.

‘This is just one small fridge, surely it can’t be compared to those big factories which smoke heavily. I doubt if it can really have much impact at all,’ remarked Jones Mwale, a low-income civil servant who was negotiating payment terms in a refrigerator shop.

And a freezer has helped fishmonger Muleya Hachilala expand her business: ‘Whatever this CFC means, all I know is that the deep freezer has been a big asset for me.’

While the Zambia Association of Chambers of Commerce and the industry are tight-lipped on the issue, dealers insist they are serving the public. They claim that with an increasing number of Zambians unable to afford such items, they provide a valuable service.

‘Although inadequate legislation has hampered our efforts in checking the dumping of such refrigerators, we are now determined to take it head on,’ Environmental Council of Zambia spokesperson Sadreck Nsongela said. According to Nsongela, CFC-refrigerators will not be allowed into Zambia after the year 2001.

Some 64 million domestic refrigerators are manufactured worldwide annually and the sector is growing at the rate of 15 per cent in countries like China, India and Indonesia, according to Greenpeace. Campaigners say developing countries will save money by switching to non-CFC-technologies that are now freely available from industrialized countries. Greenpeace Germany, which has developed one such technology – the Greenfreeze – has offered it for free to developing countries.

Vincent Zulu/Third World Network Features

T-shirt terror
Two years after his death, rap star Tupac Shakur lives on in Sierra Leone’s civil war. In September more than 100 of the Revolutionary United Front rebels raided the northern town of Kukuna wearing a new uniform – T-shirts bearing Tupac’s picture. Regular uniforms are too expensive for the rebels, while the T-shirt is available in major cities of the country and sells for $3. A Sierra Leonean military official says: ‘Dressing in Tupac’s T-shirt perhaps reinforces the rebels’ love for violence because Tupac is not a good role model.’ This is not the first time that music icons have played a part in the conflict. In the early days of the war, rebels wore T-shirts with a picture of the late Bob Marley and many people just wearing his image were detained or lynched. Now to wear a Tupac T-shirt in Kukuna risks interrogation or punishment.

World Press Review Vol 45 No 2

Rich pickings

Militart are first in line for foreign aid.
JEREMY HOMER / PANOS PICTURES

The humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (DWB) has cancelled operations in North Korea saying food and medical aid are reserved for the military and party officials. ‘We are certain that the food and medical aid is being allocated according to political connections,’ says Eric Goemaere, general director of DWB. These statements have been questioned by the United Nations operation in North Korea. A spokesperson for UNICEF says: ‘We have no evidence whatsoever that any aid has been diverted.’

Meanwhile, refugees arriving in China report that thousands of orphans wander in search of food, corpses are dragged off and disposed of by the authorities and there are widespread epidemics of diarrhoea. These refugees also claim that the political and military élite gets more than 70 per cent of the food.

World Press Review Vol 46 No 1

Take the bombs too
The US is to withdraw from Panama towards the end of this year – but many Panamanians are most concerned about what they leave behind. They want the US to clean up a century’s worth of unexploded bombs and chemical pollution. One Santiago paper claims more than 21 people have been killed by US bombs since 1979 and residues from tests of herbicides and biological weapons may have contaminated areas. US Colonel David Hunt says the US does not have the technology to conduct a full cleanup. He also says the bombs are too old to be dangerous, with some dating from World War Two and earlier. But Rick Stauber, former US military consultant, says: ‘The idea of a limited life for these munitions is false. They are just as dangerous now as they were 50 or 60 years ago.’

World Press Review Vol 46 No 2

Quote

‘Gnomes have no place in the gardens of the vulgar petit-bourgeoisie where they are being made ridiculous.’

Spokesperson for the gnome-snatching Garden Gnomes Liberation Front

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