Tuesday, September 9, 2008

September 3 - 9, 2008: Five Key Indigenous People's Issues

Five Important Indigenous People's Issues for the Week of September 3 - 9, 2008

An Ignited Assam Baffles United Liberation Front of Asom

Assam is a northeastern state of India with its capital at Dispur, a suburb of the city Guwahati. Located south of the eastern Himalayas, Assam comprises the Brahmaputra and the Barak river valleys and the Karbi Anglong and the North Cachar Hills.

Assam, for the last few weeks, is in an uprising mood. The civil societies, advocacy groups with political parties and student organizations of the Northeast Indian State have come to the streets one and all raising voices against the hundred thousand illegal Bangladeshis living in the alienated region of the country. The local media, in fact, remained full of news, analysis and editorial columns on the issue since a high court verdict observed that illegal migrants from Bangladesh would soon emerge as the king makers in Assam.

But if any organization maintained silence on the issue is none other than the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). The underground group, which is fighting New Delhi since 1979 for a 'Sovereign Socialist Asom', had not issued a single statement regarding the illegal Bangladeshis. Their stand is understood as usual that the ULFA leaders continues to demand deporting of all foreigners (read Nepali, Hindi speaking people from mainland India with Bangladeshis) from the region. They never, as their press statements argued in the past, distinguished illegal Bangladeshis with the mainland Indian population living in the State. Read more about Assam struggles here....

Indigenous Fiji Charter in Unchartered Waters

On Aug. 5, the much anticipated draft Peoples' Charter was released in Fiji. The charter, among other things, calls for a common identity, electoral reforms, removal of compulsory power sharing, strengthening of indigenous affairs, development of comprehensive social justice programs, and an end to discrimination at all levels of government. It is anticipated that the final version of the charter will be released sometime in October.

Besides the charter, the interim prime minister of Fiji, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has cast doubt over the possibility of a general election in March 2009, leading to a strong rebuke from the Pacific Islands Forum. Bainimarama has called on all sections of Fiji's community to embrace the charter and warned that all recommendations in the document must be implemented before any general election.

The deposed Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party and the Methodist Church have rejected the charter as a transgression on democracy. The Indo-Fijian National Federation Party has raised concern over the proposal in the charter to remove reserved communal seats. Furthermore, some influential indigenous chiefs have joined the campaign against the charter arguing that the proposed reform of indigenous affairs and a common name undermine indigenous traditional authority and culture. These issues, together with the draft Peoples' Charter are examined in detail below. Read more about indigenous Fijian's Charter here....

Indigenous People as Nation Builders

Aborigines are keen to improve their own lives

KEVIN Rudd's move to have Aborigines recruited to work on new roads, ports and railways is a welcome, pragmatic initiative that will help tackle indigenous unemployment and disadvantage. While contractors should be able to maximize efficiency by hiring staff of their choice, it makes sense to put the jobs in the way of indigenous workers, who need a leg up to the mainstream economy.

As Helen Hughes and Mark Hughes explain today, about 270,000, or half of all 540,000 indigenous Australians, are welfare recipients. Of these, more than two-thirds live in mainstream labour markets within commuting distance of jobs. This is why investment in training programs to support businessman Andrew Forrest's Australian Employment Covenant, involving indigenous leaders such as Noel Pearson and Warren Mundine, as well as the Prime Minister's business adviser Rod Eddington, is so worthwhile.

While most of the 270,000 indigenous Australians receiving welfare are "doing it hard" to some extent, the retiring Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, who has traveled the length and breadth of Australia, is correct when he points out that it is the people in remote settlements who are most severely disadvantaged. His main point, about the successful integration of urban Aborigines into the general community, was well made. Read more about indigenous Australians building the nation here....

NICARAGUA: Name and Identity for Thousands of Indigenous Children

Some 250,000 indigenous children and adolescents who had no legal identity in Nicaragua are in the process of being registered -- an essential step towards achieving recognition of their basic human rights.

This was achieved by the "Right to a Name and Nationality" programme run by Save the Children, Plan International, UNICEF (the United Nations children’s fund), Nicaragua’s Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) and regional and municipal authorities.

"A person who is not registered has no last name and not even a first name, because rural families and society call children whatever they want, which means children grow up without even having their own name," UNICEF official Hugo Rodríguez, a consultant for the programme, told IPS.

Five years ago, human rights groups and universities in Nicaragua expressed concern about the fact that around 500,000 youngsters in indigenous communities in the eastern North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) and the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) had no birth certificates. Read more about Nicaragua and indigenous children here....

Peru's Battle Over Subsoil Threatens Tribes

Little international attention has been paid to the recent conflict between the Peruvian government and thousands of indigenous people in the oil-rich Amazon region over President Alan Garcia's attempt to make it easier for tribal communities to sell their land. The issue contains lessons for the entire continent -- in which the tension between modernity and tradition is a recurring source of strife.

In May and June of this year, the Peruvian government passed two decrees that reduced the consent necessary for peasant communities, including tribes, to sell their land from a two-thirds majority vote to half of the participants in an open assembly. The norms, aimed at native communities all over the country, triggered a monumental rebellion in the Amazon jungle, an area rich in hydrocarbons that has largely been earmarked for oil and gas exploration and where about 300,000 indigenous people live in abject poverty.

Under pressure from nongovernmental organizations and leaders of indigenous movements, the Peruvian Congress repealed the decrees, but the government is trying to rescue part of its proposal through some form of negotiation. Read more about indigenous struggles in Peru here....

Last weeks Five Key Indigenous People's Issues can be found here.

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