Wednesday, June 17, 2009

June 10-16, 2009: Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues

Five Key Indigenous Peoples Issues for the Week of June 10 - 16, 2009

Peru: Milagros Salazar Interviews SALOMÓN AGUANASH, Leader Of Native Protests In Peru’s Amazon Jungle

The Peruvian government described the recent deaths of police officers in clashes with indigenous protesters in the country’s Amazon rainforest as "genocide" at the hands of "extremist savages."

But Awajún leader Salomón Aguanash said the violence broke out after the protesters were tricked and were surrounded by the police, who came with express orders to shoot to kill.

Aguanash, president of the regional protest committee that led the two-month demonstration and roadblock in Bagua, says the local police chief, General Víctor Uribe, had promised the night before the tragic events of Friday, Jun. 5 to give the protesters until 10:00 AM the next day to pull out.

He said the indigenous people manning the traffic blockade were getting ready to return to their towns and villages on Friday morning when the police showed up at the roadblock before 6:00 AM and opened fire.

"They wanted to catch us off guard," said Aguanash, who is the chief of the village of Nazareth, a 3.5-hour drive from the town of Bagua in the northern province of Amazonas, where the violent incident took place.

The first shots against the protesters who were preparing to lift the roadblock at a spot on the highway near Bagua known as Curva del Diablo (Devil’s Curve) came from the surrounding hills as well as three police helicopters, said the native leader. Read more of the interview here....

Bangladesh: 17 Hurt As Locals, Settlers Clash In Khagrachhari

A clash between indigenous people and settlers over disputed land left at least 17 people seriously injured at Boroitali under Guimara upazila in Khagrachhari district yesterday morning.

Four people went missing after the incident and aggrieved people kept roads blocked for over four hours demanding return of the missing people.

The injured were admitted to Khagrachhari Adhunik Sadar Hospital, Guimara Army Hospital, and Matiranga Upazila Health Complex.

The four missing people have been identified as Hafiz Bandari, 55, Habibur Rahman, 55, Solaiman 32, and Rabiul Islam 36.

Locals and police said the incident began at about 8:30am when a group of indigenous people attacked the settlers to take control of the land, which was provided to settlers in 1981-82.

Later army, police and Ansar members took position to avert further untoward incident, they said. Read more about the clash in Khagrachhari here....

Australia: Macklin Endorses Income Quarantining

INDIGENOUS Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has strongly endorsed a key plank of the Howard government's intervention into remote Aboriginal communities, indicating that income quarantining of welfare payments will continue despite the reintroduction of the Racial Discrimination Act.

Consultations will begin this week in several central Australian communities over the future of the billion-dollar intervention into 73 remote indigenous communities and town camps.

But the hopes of Aboriginal rights activists that income quarantining would have to become a voluntary rather than a compulsory measure once the Racial Discrimination Act was reinstated look set to be dashed.

Ms Macklin indicated yesterday she was in favour of a continuation of compulsory income quarantining, whereby 50 per cent of a recipient's welfare payments must be spent on essential items such as food and clothing, describing it as a measure that was beneficial to Aborigines.

Under the Racial Discrimination Act, special measures that are deemed to be beneficial to a particular racial group can trigger an exemption from the provisions of the act.

"My personal view is that these (income quarantining) measures have been beneficial to the Aboriginal people living in these remote communities," Ms Macklin said yesterday.

"The women tell me that now that they've got more money to spend on food, their children are getting better fed, that there's less money being spent on alcohol and drugs, less money being spent on gambling."

One option to be considered is a voluntary system of income management, as recommended last year by a review panel headed by indigenous leader Peter Yu. Read more about income quarantining in Australia here....

Chile: Mixed Reception For Indigenous Protection Code

Although it is still in the process of being drafted, a "code of responsible conduct" promoted by the Chilean government to regulate public and private investment in indigenous areas has already drawn resistance.

"The code is an inadequate mechanism, because it does not resolve the deeper underlying problem: achieving sustainable management of Chile’s natural resources, with full respect for environmental rights and the rights of citizens, especially indigenous peoples," Nancy Yánez, co-director of the non-governmental Observatorio Ciudadano (Citizen Observatory), told IPS.

"What the code does is validate the practice that has been followed up to now, in which the state washes its hands of the political responsibility of having to decide how and where investments are made, based on strategic planning for natural resources," said Yánez, a lawyer and expert on the rights of indigenous people.

The approval of vast forestry plantations, paper pulp mills, mines, hydroelectric dams, highways, airports and other mega-projects in the ancestral lands of indigenous people, who number over one million in this country of 16 million, is today one of the main sources of conflict with government authorities.

The so-called "indigenous code" promoted by the centre-left administration of socialist President Michelle Bachelet is aimed at bringing Chile into compliance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which is set to go into effect in this country on Sept. 15. Read more about the indigenous protection code here....

Sweden: In Sweden's Far North, A Convergence Of Fighter Jets, Reindeer, And Hurt Feelings

'Lapistan,' where NATO is conducting war games, is fictional. But the exercises are testing real-life relations with the Russians as well as the indigenous Sami people.

A NATO rapid-reaction force is on a war footing in Swedish Lapland this week.

Ten countries, 2,000 troops, a strike aircraft carrier, and 50 fighter jets – including the US Air Force's F-15 Eagle – are participating in war games near contested Arctic territories.

Choosing this place for war games reflects the growing strategic importance of the Arctic, which is estimated to contain a quarter of the Earth's oil and gas, say analysts. But the exercises could escalate military tensions with Russia over NATO (read more here) and endanger the livelihood of indigenous people, activists say.

The maneuvers got under way on Monday and will continue into next week. The exercises are based on a fictional conflict in "Lapistan," a revolutionary, oil-rich dictatorship that has attacked a neighboring country.

The mission is to enforce a UN resolution, using mainly air forces based near Sweden's largest northern city, Luleå. The exercise spans a massive land area stretching from Östersund in southern Lapland to the Norwegian border, near the Barents Sea.

Nonaligned Sweden and Finland are participating as members of NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Read more about the Samis and NATO war games here....

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

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