Manipur Against Corporate Plunder and Loot: Interview with Jiten Yumnam

Malem Ningthouja

Campaign for Peace & Democracy Manipur

 

 

Manipur is a strategically militarised economic zone of an expanding empire of Finance corporates. It is strictly regimented and indirectly ruled by Centrally funded local kleptocracts, who function in collusion with elements of Finance imperialism. Unrestraint extraction of super-profits by external forces causes heavy loss to the indigenous masses and diversion of their nation from linear progress. Corporate plunder and loot are, however, covered up by deceptive propaganda about the capitalist growth model as the only ultimate schema to achieve development, equity, and peace. This deception traps many into perpetual ignorance, oblivion, and misadventures. Many are seduced into a fantasy of building development, equity, peace and democracy under this schema. Such fantasy could not hold on for any longer as vexed crisis and unrests are exploding. Take the case of India’s Act East Policy and its impact on Manipur. AEP is a Finance project, that, in practice, partially materialises temporary economic relief for some local vested sections. The larger chunk of the relief is accumulated by a coterie of socially parasitic kleptocrats, who shamelessly eulogise self-aggrandisement for a tiny share of the trickled down spoils of the overall corporate plunder and loot. Many took for granted a leap towards development by misreading the deceptive face-value of the ongoing projects such as railways lines, dams, mining, oil drilling, massive infrastructure projects, militarisation, administrative and commercial buildings, sports university and Finance intrusion. The bitter truth is imperilment in various forms — the perpetuation of economic underdevelopment, ecological destructions, domination by settlers, suppression, exploitation, institutionalised terrorism and concealed pogroms, deprivation and pauperisation, and the overall organic murder of Manipur, i.e., its history, current pillars, and future. Precisely, the propaganda hype surrounding Act East Policy, as it is enforced in a militarily occupied territory and policed, to achieve maximum extraction of super-profit at the cost of the colonised, could not satisfactorily redress the deeply rooted crisis cited above. On the contentious edge, therefore, there are frustrations with the existing growth model, evolution and dissemination of revolutionary hope, democratic struggles, and the consequential vicious cycle of State repression and mass resistance. In this regard, Beyond the Horizon brings to our readers the views of Mr. Jiten Yumnam1 to throw some lights on the basis of his grass root experiences.

 

Editor: Greeting to you!

Jiten: Same to you!

 

Editor: Beyond the Horizon is grateful for this opportunity.

Jiten: My gratitude to Beyond the Horizon for highlighting the issues and our activism in Manipur

 

Editor: You are critical about the ongoing ‘development’ projects in Manipur.

 Jiten: Yes, Government aggressively pursued unsustainable development processes, diluting and introducing new policies and constructing a series of projects in the name of development. This includes a series of extractive investments, hydropower projects, and other massive infrastructure projects. These projects have benefited corporate bodies and a section of elites. On the contrary, these projects are responsible for large-scale displacements, environmental catastrophe, militarization and suppression of communities’ fundamental rights. These projects are introduced practically in an exclusive, undemocratic, and are incompatible to the wishes of communities. The State and corporate bodies forcefully enforce these projects through repressive forces, including the military. But I have a different understanding. Development, I believe, should address the needs and wishes of communities. Communities must be involved in decision making. Their rights must be recognised and respected. Projects must cater to the need of fulfilling environmental sustainability. There should be accountability of all stakeholders. There should be a mechanism and process for justice delivery.

 

Editor: So, you are confident about the locus standi of your activism!

Jiten: The locus standi is to keep people at the centre of the development process. It means, development processes, policies or projects must adhere to universal development and human rights standards. Communities should be consulted, involved, and their consent should be mandatory for any ‘development’ processes, affecting their rights, land, and future.  Any development process, suppressing community rights, voices and space is simply arbitrary. There are several examples. The initiatives to exploration and drilling of oil have been done arbitrarily, without the consent of the peoples, initially by Jubilant Energy, and continued by Alpha Geo and others, in collusion with the State. It involves corruptive and manipulative practice, causing confusion and tensions amongst peoples. On the other hand, the 105 MW Loktak Multipurpose Hydroelectric Project have caused havoc. It had caused large displacement. More than 80,000 acres of agriculture land are still submerged under water. People are demanding to decommission of the controversial Ithai Barrage to reclaim their land. But, National Hydroelectric Power Corporation continues to insist on construction of another 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project. The project destroys ecology and diminishes food production.

 

Editor: Can you theoretically interconnect ‘developmental’ projects, militarisation, and repression?

Jiten: One can analyse it in this way. First, there is an armed liberation movement to create a sovereign Manipur. The State invests in militarisation to suppress this movement. A repression law known as Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 has been enforced, to empower the State’s repressive forces to function with impunity. Second, several projects are extensively taken up for the purpose of capitalist extractions and exploitation. Many people are badly affected by these projects and they are rising up against the projects. In this scenario capitalist projects, militarisation and repression are reinforcing to one another. The military, para-military, police and other auxiliary forces are the handy tools of defending capitalist project and suppression of democratic agitations. The project sites are fortified and heavily guarded by them. They are taking advantage of repressive legislation like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, the National Security Act, 1980, and etcetera. Empowered by all these special laws, they indulge in targetting mass leaders and activists.

 

Editor: Your phrase “developmental aggression” sounds very powerful. Would you like to elaborate on it?

Jiten: Selfish and greedy agenda of the exploiters are manifested in various forms of aggression. In other words, capitalist (or Finance) corporate expansionism incorporates militarisation and repression. It comes, as mentioned earlier, in the form of destructive projects. Corporate elements, in collusion with State, adopt aggressive tactics to enforce their projects. The aggressive deregulation of progressive policies and systematic destruction of the environment to the advantage of capitalist forces has been an absurd reality. For instance, the North East Hydrocarbon Vision 2030 and the Manpur Hydro Power Policy 2012 envisaged full harnessing of Manipur’s water and oil resource without recognizing peoples’ self-determined rights over their land and resources. They are least bothered about promoting ecological balance, community rights, and equity. They violate constitutional fundamental rights and other universal human rights standards. In short, when the capitalist growth model, that primarily serves the interest of finance imperialism are enforced, devoid of conducive mechanisms to deliver equity, transparency, and justice; the process becomes “developmental aggression.”

 

Editor: It seems you are unhappy with Mapithel Dam.

Jiten: Mapithel Dam stands out a significant edifice of corporate plunder that was carried out in collusion with local collaborators. It is a dam created by means of blocking the Thoubal River; on the pretext of fulfilling electric supply, water supply, and irrigation. People have demanded proper impact assessments in regards to ecology and the rights of those who would be forced located in either upstream and downstream areas. However, the State has constructed the dam in a hasty and arbitrary manner. People rose in protest. The State suppressed it, and, subsequently fortified and militarised the dam site. Politicians, contractors and construction companies like Ansal and Progressive Construction Limited, Coastal Private Limited have benefited from it. The longstanding delays of project and cost overruns involved massive corruption and loot. Overall consequence is devastation. Community customary norms and Indian Forest Rights Act, 2006 were violated. Affected peoples have not been adequately compensated and rehabilitated. Ecological destruction remains irreparable.

 

Editor: You seems to be saying that Finance is global in character. In that case, is there a Corporate violation of international human rights norms?

 Jiten: First, ICCPR/ ICESR 1966 and UNDRIP 2007 were created in the spirit of promoting and defending the principle of UDHR 1948. The UDHR principle, in a broader sense, includes the right to self-determination of nations (nationalities or indigenous communities). Second, Manipur belongs to the indigenous peoples inhabiting it, and, accordingly their political, economic and socio-cultural rights had to be protected and promoted. They must enjoy the rights to self-determination over their land, resources, and the conducive environment to enjoy free prior and informed consent making. Manipur, however, has been in a state military occupation, under whose protection corporate plunders are carried out with impunity. Plunder, in whatever sense and forms, violates universal humanitarian principles and norms cited above. Financial institutions like World Bank and Asian Development Bank, abetting corporate expansionism in Manipur and across India’s North East have resulted into recorded blatant violation of not only the laws they have enacted to safeguard people but also international human rights norms.

 

Editor: Don’t you think India’s Act East Policy can be used as a privilege to speed up a defensive strategy of the people?

Jiten: Corporate onslaught or Finance imperialism is deeply rooted in Manipur. India’s aggressive push for Act East Policy is revealed in several Memorandum of Understandings that were signed for oil exploration, lying of oil pipelines, mining, road constructions. The North East India Business Summit on 21st and 22nd November 2017 exemplified, that Asian Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, and World Bank were making an inroad in an unprecedented scale. Manipur must raise up if it had to withstand the challenges. The exploitative agenda of the corporate bodies embedded in India’s Act East Policy needs to be exposed and opposed. It must pursue struggle; (a) to assert for self-determination over their land and resources, (b) to strengthen the indigenous economy for sustainable management of land and resources, (c) to adopt a model of equity in the economic organisation of the people.

 

Editor: What holds back the movement for people’s democracy?

Jiten: The obstacles are manifold: (a) State repression on democratic movements and mass leaders; (b) State divisive policies; (c) sectarianism and communalism amongst mass organisations and leadership, and (d) rapid spread and consolidation of external market forces at the cost of indigenous polity, economy, social fabric and communal harmony. To overcome these obstacles, there is need to: (a) understand the overall context, agenda and strategy of Finance imperialism; (b) respond at multiple levels according to the changing tactics of the State and market forces; and (c) building strong mass base solidarity and unity across communities of Manipur and beyond.

 

Editor: Let’s hope for development, peace, and democracy sooner or later!

Jiten:  Thank you very much.

 

End notes:

1 Jiten Yumnam is a journalist, human rights advocate and environmental activist from Manipur (India). He is the Secretary of the Centre for Research and Advocacy Manipur(CRAM). He was arrested in 2009 for his active role in the protest against fake encounter. He played important role in establishing CRAM in 2004. The objective of CRAM is to contribute to advancing human rights of indigenous peoples of Manipur, through research and advocacy.

 

Published in

Beyond the Horizon

Quarterly Economic, Political & Social Views

Volume II, Issue 4.

December 2018

 

 

IPMSDL slams attacks to Lumad schools and arrest of IP advocates and activists in the Philippines

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) strongly denounces the arrest and imprisonment under trumped-up charges of 18 advocates, church workers and teachers participating in the Philippine National Solidarity Mission (NSM) to rescue the students and teachers fleeing from military and paramilitary harassments in their schools and community in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Mindanao last November 28.

“The NSM which aimed to investigate and assist the Lumad schools and communities being bombarded by the military is now, yet again, being defamed by state forces to curtail the rights of indigenous peoples seeking redress against abuses in their villages. The rescue activity has been used as an opportunity to criminalize and harass human rights defenders and activist! And with the existing Martial Law in Mindanao, the glaring extrajudicial killings, and culture of impunity under the Rodrigo Duterte presidency, the state has enabled an extremely alarming human rights atmosphere,” Beverly Longid, IPMSDL Global Coordinator.

Among the 18 charged with ludicrous “human trafficking” case and arrested by Talaingod Municipal police were former BAYAN MUNA Partylist Congressman Satur Ocampo, Act Teachers Party-List Congresswoman France Castro, the Executive Director of Lumad school Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) Meggie Nolasco, reverends from United Church of Christ in the Philippines and United Methodist Davao, ACT Partylist staff, and STTICLC teachers.

Around 60 more students and teachers also evacuated. 14 of the students were held in custody by the police and municipal social work office, alleging they were illegally “trafficked and abused” by the NSM participants.

Before the arrest, the NSM delegation, teachers and students experienced harassments during their travel as several army checkpoints halted them, spikes were placed on the road consequently damaging their vehicles, and rocks were also thrown at the vehicles, according to an account by Pya Macliing-Malayao, Secretary General of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, who was also part of the solidarity mission.

“Since November 2017, two STTICLC schools were continually harassed then forcibly closed down by the 56th Infantry Battalion of Philippine Army with the local paramilitary group Alamara. For two weeks, food blockade and humanitarian assistance were also imposed on the school and community in Talaingod prompting the teachers and parents of Lumad students to seek help from the NSM to aid immediate evacuation”, said the Save Our Schools Network report.

The army and police working with the paramilitary Alamara and so-called “tribal leaders” of the Talaingod Tribal Council have been repeatedly accused of endangering their fellow Lumad’s lives by echoing the counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism programs. Both have been instruments in the attacks against Lumad schools, and are known for supporting destructive state and corporate programs with adverse environmental effects in the Pantaron Mountain Range, according to PASAKA-SMR Confederation of Lumad Organizations.

“The deep unity of the indigenous Lumad communities, their Lumad schools and the broadening movement among tribes in defence of ancestral lands stands on the foundation of the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples. In the grave absence of respect and protection of this right by the Philippine government, which has publicly pronounced threats to bomb Lumad schools and sell out Lumad lands to extractive, energy and plantation investments, the assertion for the land, territory and ways of life is urgent more than ever,” Longid said.

The 18 individuals detained were ordered release by Regional last December 1 after posting bail, amid the insistence of police to hold them in custody due further investigation for “kidnapping.”

“We urgently demand that the government uphold the basic rights and freedoms of Lumad, and indigenous peoples in the Philippines, and stop the impending genocide of Lumad peoples and their culture. This is also a challenge to everyone to strengthen international solidarity and linkage with oppressed sectors in the struggle against the rising trend of attacks on indigenous leaders, human rights advocates, defenders, and activists to ensure the lives and safety,” said Longid.

Reference:
Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator
ipmsdl@gmail.com

_
Translated to French by DeepL Translator.

L’IPMSDL dénonce les attaques contre les écoles Lumad et l’arrestation de défenseurs et de militants de la propriété intellectuelle aux Philippines

Le Mouvement international des peuples autochtones pour l’autodétermination et la libération (IPMSDL) dénonce fermement l’arrestation et l’emprisonnement, sous de fausses accusations, de 18 militants, travailleurs religieux et enseignants participant à la Mission de solidarité nationale des Philippines (MNS) pour sauver les élèves et enseignants fuyant les harcèlements militaires et paramilitaires dans leurs écoles et communautés à Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Mindanao le 28 novembre dernier.

“La MNS, qui avait pour but d’enquêter et d’aider les écoles et les communautés Lumad bombardées par l’armée, est maintenant, une fois de plus, diffamée par les forces de l’État pour restreindre les droits des peuples autochtones qui cherchent à obtenir réparation contre les abus dans leurs villages. L’activité de sauvetage a été utilisée comme une occasion de criminaliser et de harceler les défenseurs des droits humains et les activistes ! Et avec la loi martiale en vigueur à Mindanao, les exécutions extrajudiciaires flagrantes et la culture de l’impunité sous la présidence de Rodrigo Duterte, l’État a créé un climat extrêmement alarmant en matière de droits humains “, Beverly Longid, coordinatrice mondiale de IPMSDL.

Parmi les 18 personnes accusées de “trafic d’êtres humains” ridicule et arrêtées par la police municipale de Talaingod figuraient Satur Ocampo, ancien membre du Congrès du Bayan Muna Partylist, et France Castro, membre du Congrès du ACT Teachers Partylist Congressswoman, Meggie Nolasco, directrice générale de l’école Lumad Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC), Meggie Nolasco, révérend de l’Église unie du Christ des Philippines et du United Methodist Davao, du personnel de la liste des partis ACT et des enseignants du STTICLC.

Une soixantaine d’élèves et d’enseignants supplémentaires ont également été évacués. 14 des élèves ont été placés en détention par la police et le bureau municipal du travail social, alléguant qu’ils avaient été illégalement ” victimes de trafic et d’abus ” de la part des participants aux MNS.

Avant l’arrestation, la délégation de la MNS, les enseignants et les étudiants ont été harcelés au cours de leur voyage alors que plusieurs postes de contrôle de l’armée les arrêtaient, des pointes ont été placées sur la route endommageant leurs véhicules et des pierres ont également été lancées sur les véhicules, selon un témoignage de Pya Macliing-Malayao, secrétaire générale du Katribu Kalipunan et Katutubong Mamamayan et Pilipinas, également membre de la Mission de solidarité.

“Depuis novembre 2017, deux écoles STTICLC ont été continuellement harcelées puis fermées de force par le 56e bataillon d’infanterie de l’armée philippine avec le groupe paramilitaire local Alamara. Pendant deux semaines, un blocus alimentaire et une aide humanitaire ont également été imposés à l’école et à la communauté de Talaingod, ce qui a incité les enseignants et les parents des élèves de Lumad à demander l’aide de la MNS pour une évacuation immédiate “, selon le rapport du Réseau Save Our Schools.

L’armée et la police travaillant avec les paramilitaires Alamara et les soi-disant “chefs tribaux” du Conseil tribal de Talaingod ont été accusés à plusieurs reprises de mettre en danger la vie de leurs compatriotes Lumad en faisant écho aux programmes anti-insurrectionnels et antiterroristes. Tous deux ont joué un rôle dans les attaques contre les écoles Lumad et sont connus pour soutenir les programmes destructeurs de l’État et des entreprises ayant des effets néfastes sur l’environnement dans la chaîne de montagnes Pantaron, selon la Confédération PASAKA des organisations Lumad.

“L’unité profonde des communautés indigènes Lumad, leurs écoles Lumad et le mouvement croissant des tribus pour la défense des terres ancestrales sont à la base du droit à l’autodétermination des peuples autochtones. En l’absence de respect et de protection de ce droit par le gouvernement philippin, qui a publiquement menacé de bombarder les écoles Lumad et de vendre les terres Lumad pour les investir dans l’extraction, l’énergie et les plantations, il est plus urgent que jamais de revendiquer la terre, le territoire et les modes de vie “, a déclaré Longid.

Les 18 personnes détenues ont été libérées par le bureau régional le 1er décembre dernier après avoir payé leur caution, alors que la police insistait pour qu’elles soient maintenues en détention en raison d’une enquête plus poussée pour “enlèvement”.

“Nous exigeons de toute urgence que le gouvernement défende les droits et libertés fondamentaux des Lumad et des peuples autochtones des Philippines, et qu’il mette fin au génocide imminent des Lumad et de leur culture. C’est aussi un défi pour tous de renforcer la solidarité internationale et les liens avec les secteurs opprimés dans la lutte contre la tendance croissante des attaques contre les dirigeants autochtones, les défenseurs des droits humains, les défenseurs et les activistes pour assurer la vie et la sécurité “, a déclaré Longid.

_
Translated to Spanish by DeepL Translator.

La IPMSDL ataca de golpe a las escuelas de Lumad y detiene a defensores y activistas de los derechos de propiedad intelectual en Filipinas

El Movimiento Internacional de los Pueblos Indígenas por la Autodeterminación y la Liberación (IPMSDL) denuncia enérgicamente el arresto y encarcelamiento bajo cargos falsos de 18 defensores, trabajadores de la iglesia y maestros que participan en la Misión de Solidaridad Nacional Filipina (NSM) para rescatar a los estudiantes y maestros que huyen de los hostigamientos militares y paramilitares en sus escuelas y comunidades en Talaingod, Davao del Norte, Mindanao, el pasado 28 de noviembre.

“El NSM, que tenía como objetivo investigar y ayudar a las escuelas y comunidades de Lumad que están siendo bombardeadas por los militares, está siendo difamado una vez más por las fuerzas estatales para restringir los derechos de los pueblos indígenas que buscan reparación por los abusos cometidos en sus aldeas. La actividad de rescate ha sido utilizada como una oportunidad para criminalizar y acosar a los defensores y activistas de derechos humanos! Y con la Ley Marcial existente en Mindanao, las flagrantes ejecuciones extrajudiciales y la cultura de impunidad bajo la presidencia de Rodrigo Duterte, el Estado ha creado una atmósfera de derechos humanos extremadamente alarmante”, Beverly Longid, Coordinadora Global del IPMSDL.

Entre los 18 acusados de un ridículo caso de “trata de personas” y arrestados por la policía municipal de Talaingod se encontraban el ex congresista del Partido Bayan Muna, Satur Ocampo, y la congresista del Partido de Maestros de ACT, France Castro, la Directora Ejecutiva de la escuela de Lumad Salugpongan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) Meggie Nolasco, los reverendos de la Iglesia Unida de Cristo de las Filipinas y United Methodist Davao, el personal de ACT Partylist y los maestros de STTICLC.

También se evacuaron alrededor de 60 estudiantes y profesores más. 14 de los estudiantes fueron detenidos por la policía y la oficina municipal de trabajo social, alegando que habían sido “traficados y maltratados” ilegalmente por los participantes de NSM.

Antes del arresto, la delegación de NSM, profesores y estudiantes sufrieron acosos durante su viaje, ya que varios puestos de control del ejército los detuvieron, se colocaron picos en la carretera que dañaron sus vehículos, y también se lanzaron piedras contra los vehículos, según un relato de Pya Macliing-Malayao, Secretario General de Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, que también formaba parte de la misión de solidaridad.

“Desde noviembre de 2017, dos escuelas STTICLC fueron continuamente acosadas y cerradas por el 56º Batallón de Infantería del Ejército de Filipinas junto con el grupo paramilitar local Alamara. Durante dos semanas, el bloqueo de alimentos y la asistencia humanitaria también se impusieron a la escuela y a la comunidad de Talaingod, lo que llevó a los profesores y a los padres de los alumnos de Lumad a pedir ayuda al NSM para ayudar en la evacuación inmediata”, dice el informe de la Red Save Our Schools.

El ejército y la policía que trabajan con los paramilitares Alamara y los llamados “líderes tribales” del Consejo Tribal de Talaingod han sido acusados repetidamente de poner en peligro la vida de sus compañeros Lumad al hacerse eco de los programas de contrainsurgencia y antiterrorismo. Ambos han sido instrumentos en los ataques contra las escuelas de Lumad, y son conocidos por apoyar programas estatales y corporativos destructivos con efectos ambientales adversos en la cordillera de Pantaron, según la Confederación de Organizaciones de Lumad de PASAKA.

“La profunda unidad de las comunidades indígenas Lumad, sus escuelas Lumad y el movimiento de ampliación entre las tribus en defensa de las tierras ancestrales se basa en el derecho a la libre determinación de los pueblos indígenas. En la grave falta de respeto y protección de este derecho por parte del gobierno filipino, que ha amenazado públicamente con bombardear las escuelas de Lumad y vender las tierras de Lumad a inversiones extractivas, energéticas y de plantaciones, la afirmación de la tierra, el territorio y las formas de vida es más urgente que nunca”, dijo Longid.

El pasado 1 de diciembre, Regional ordenó la liberación de las 18 personas detenidas, después de pagar la fianza, en medio de la insistencia de la policía en mantenerlas bajo custodia debido a una investigación adicional por “secuestro”.

“Exigimos urgentemente que el gobierno respete los derechos y libertades fundamentales de los Lumad y de los pueblos indígenas de Filipinas, y que ponga fin al inminente genocidio de los pueblos Lumad y de su cultura. Este es también un desafío para todos para fortalecer la solidaridad internacional y el vínculo con los sectores oprimidos en la lucha contra la tendencia creciente de ataques contra líderes indígenas, defensores de los derechos humanos, defensores y activistas para garantizar la vida y la seguridad”, dijo Longid.

From Kathmandu to Tarai: Fast-Tracked Destruction of Indigenous Lands and Communities

Ten kilometers from the busy streets of Kathmandu City lies the simple Indigenous Newari Village of Khokana. This village is one of the first, if not the oldest, civilization of Nepal dating back to the Malla Era in the 13th century. It is also the first place in Nepal to be lit by electricity in 1911.

This tiny village has a population of around 15,000 Newar people, much of them depending on agriculture for a living. Although the villagers also gain income from wood carving, handicrafts, and tourism-related jobs, subsistence farming is still their primary means of livelihood. The village is well known for its traditional production of mustard oil.

The Khokana Museum. The sign reads: “This is the first house with electric light provided in Nepal”

This historic village was one of those gravely affected by the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake which led to the destruction of most of the Newar houses, local businesses, and cultural heritage sites. Three years later, it could be seen that the village is still recovering from the devastations brought about by the earthquake with construction materials from adobe bricks to metal poles lying around. Nevertheless, it still remains one of the major cultural tourist attractions in the country.

On top of a hill, a 20-minute walk from the village center, sits the Sikali Temple dedicated to the Goddess Rudrayani. One of the most awaited celebration in the village is the week-long harvest festival called Sikali Jatra. During this time of the year, the community, together with devotees and some tourists, come together to feast, dance, and perform various rituals. The whole celebration is put together by the three selected members of the community’s religious and cultural institution, the Ta-Guthi, Sala Guthi, and Jhahu Guthi.

Another feat of the Sikali Temple is the seven ancient alphabets painted on stones believed to be the scripts used by the community when they have begun writing.

The Sikali Temple

From the hill top, one gets a majestic view of the mountains and rice terraces. And below the hill runs the Bagmati River which serves as the border between the districts of Kathmandu on the west and Lalitpur in the east, where Khokana is located.

Despite the seemingly rich lands and vibrant culture of Khokana, this sacred place is once again under threat – not by an earthquake or any natural disaster – but by the construction of the Kathmandu Fast Track Expressway. The said expressway is planned to run through 58 villages, which includes Khokana, threatening to displace at least 150,00 villagers and destroy agricultural lands and cultural and religious sites, including the Sikali Temple and several other sacred temples and ponds along the way up to the hill.

A marker stone indicating the site through which the Fast Track Project shall pass

The Fast Track infrastructure project has begun construction work in May 2017. The Lawyers’ Association for Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP), an organization helping the community on the case, said that it has been very hard to negotiate with the Nepali Government and it seemed that the ultimate compromise might result in re-routing the Fast Track.

The 76-km fast track project, under the management of the Nepali Army, is just one among the many infrastructure projects laid out by the government for Khokana. The government has also drawn up plans for an Outer Ring Road, the Bagmati Corridor, a smart city, and a high voltage transmission line. According to the villagers, these were all decided without community consultations nor a comprehensive plan for compensation and livelihood.

On a national scale, the Government of Nepal is undertaking numerous road and energy projects in partnership with Chinese Government under the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative. Nepal entered the OBOR scheme, along with its fellow South Asian countries Pakistan and Sri Lanka, in the hopes of creating connectivity with other regions and opening up new economic opportunities for the country thru multi-billion dollar loans and foreign investments.
However, the OBOR scheme has become a ‘debt trap’ for least developed countries incapable of paying back billion-dollar loans as in the case of Sri Lanka who was force to turn over its Hambantota port to China as collateral.

At a micro-level, OBOR projects continuously cause damages to indigenous communities by forcefully displacing them out of their ancestral lands. The OBOR has also high chances of taking its toll on Nepal’s already vulnerable environment. Large-scale construction on the fragile terrain pose a serious threat to the country’s mountain ecosystem. Given the present record of companies always failing to conduct Environment Impact Assessments (EIAs), it is most likely that the country’s environment and its peoples will pay the extra price for these projects in the long run.

The concept of development has been watered down by governments and international financial institutions to mere infrastructure building and road expansions that will supposedly “ease traffic jams”. Those who proclaim this kind of development fail to see that genuine development is one that is people-centered. Development is not merely measured by the abstract changes in percentages of a country’s GDP but by how the ordinary people live, or attempt to get by, day by day.

These profit-driven ventures guised as development projects have shown to always put profit before the peoples’ welfare and thus, it cannot be expected that they will carry out the process of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) that is fair and in favor to the rights of the people. Studies from other parts of Asia reported that the FPIC processes has been repeatedly manipulated, circumvented or intently bypassed by multinational and transnational corporations and other private entities, while the government either remains toothless or complicit towards land-grabbers.

One of China’s ODA projects in Nepal is the restoration work of the nine-storey Basantapur Tower, a World Cultural Heritage Site at the Durbar Square in Kathmandu

International Financial Institutions (IFI) are just as involved in these projects. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) played a significant role in the fate of Khokana as it was their feasibility study that was used as basis for the initiation of the fast track project. The ADB is not entirely reputable with Indigenous Peoples in the country either. Road expansion projects funded by the ADB and the World Bank (WB) have blatantly violated not only international standards and national policies, but also their own human rights policies.

The negative implications of forced displacement, systemic land-grabbing, and cultural and environment plunder is not concerns the indigenous peoples but consequently jeopardizes the entire community’s welfare and human rights. Last March, three people were arrested as state police forces violently dispersed protestors calling out the destruction of heritage sites and displacement of Indigenous communities in Kathmandu.

A challenge to recognize the Indigenous Peoples and put an end to all forms of attacks against them and all IP and human rights defenders in Nepal is posed by the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL).

In addition, the genuine implementation of the FPIC process with respect to the new federal constitution the Government of Nepal, especially the concerned ministries, is yet to be realized. As the Government prides itself for having an inclusive provisions on the rights of Indigenous Peoples in writing, it is time to hold it true in practice. FPIC must not merely offer a certain amount of compensation or a relocation site to the villagers. Rather, it is the people’s legitimate right to accept or reject the project based on their collective decision as a community.

The Nepal Constitution states in the section on state policies relating to social justice and inclusion that “indigenous nationalities are to participate in decisions concerning that community… to ensure the right of these nationalities to live with dignity, along with their identity, and protect and promote traditional knowledge, skill, culture, social tradition and experience of the indigenous nationalities and local communities.” Moreover, earlier this year, a landmark decision by the Nepal Supreme Court supports the importance of the affected community’s participation in decision making.

 

PM: Sabah and Sarawak want autonomy, not independence

This article was written by Tracy Patrick for FMT News

Dr Mahathir says he is granting Sabah and Sarawak the autonomy they are seeking. (Bernama pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad believes Sabahans and Sarawakians will not ask for independence, even though there is no provision in the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) that they cannot do so.

Speaking at a dinner event with Malaysians in New York on Friday, Mahathir said he was given the impression that Sabahans and Sarawakians only want autonomy over some matters.

“They never asked for independence but they asked to have autonomy over certain matters, so we are granting them that autonomy.

“In fact, when I made an announcement in Sabah that we will recognise the three states of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaya, people cheered heartily because that is what they want, but not independence,” he said.

Mahathir, who became a prime minister again for the second time, was asked whether he would support the Bornean states if they wished to assert their right to self-determination to achieve their independence.

This followed Mahathir’s promise to restore the special status of Sabah and Sarawak as territories that form the Federation of Malaysia.

“No. I do not support their independence but we told them that we will go back to the 1963 agreement in which the participants were Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.

“It was a tripartite agreement that we wanted to form a federation. That was the agreement,” he said.

Historically, the agreement to form Malaysia was sealed by the British, as colonial masters of Sabah and Sarawak and involved a few leaders from both provinces who were handpicked by the British themselves.

‘Consider wishes of people’

According to International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation Asia coordinator Andrew Ambrose, the process failed to consider the wishes and voices of the people which could have been achieved through a proper referendum as was done in Singapore and Malaya.

Sabah and Sarawak, he said, are now left in the limbo because of this lack of democratic process and disregard to the principle of self-determination by the colonial powers and their successors.

For this reason, he said the Philippines still wants to claim Sabah.

“The people of Sabah and Sarawak have the right according to international law to self-determination.

“The New Malaysia must not repeat the previous government’s mistakes and must now carry out the due process.

“The people of Sabah and Sarawak can stand on their own feet now and thus they should be given the opportunity to move forward and decide their own future,” he said.

Ambrose believed the federal government has nothing to fear in allowing a proper referendum in both provinces, as shown by what happened in Scotland in 2014.

In the referendum, the Scottish voted not to be an independent country, preferring instead to stay with the United Kingdom.

“Now, after 55 years, the time is ripe for Sabahans and Sarawakians to have a similar referendum.

“This due process is important for Sabah and Sarawak to realise their potential and reconcile with their past in the context and challenges of today as self-determined indigenous people,” he said.

PRESS RELEASE | IP and Moro bring self-determination and ancestral land issues to International People’s Tribunal

Philippine indigenous peoples (IP) and the Moro people will have heard in the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) 2018 cases of violation to ancestral land and right to self-determination this week in Brussels, Belgium. Represented by their organisations KATRIBU Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KATRIBU), Suara Bangsamoro, Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) and the International Indigenous People’s Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), particular cases will be heard during the IPT.

The IPT 2018 is organised in the context of the worsening situation of human rights in the Philippines under the Duterte regime. Philippine human rights group KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), has documented 126 extrajudicial killings (EJKs), 235 frustrated EJKs, 272 illegal arrests and detention, 930 illegal arrest without detention, 426,590 victims of forced evacuation, 39,623 cases of use of public places for military purposes, 362,355 incidents of indiscriminate firing from July 2016 to December 2017.

These figures do not include the unprecedented number of killings as a result of the administration’s supposed anti-drug war Tokhang now estimated to be at least 10,000. While Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Chief Superintendent Dionardo Carlos denies that there are extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration, the PNP reported that there had been 6,225 drug-related deaths between July 2016 and September 2017. Furthermore, the PNP released a report that as of April 23, 2017, 7,080 people had been reported as killed in the “War On Drugs” since July 1, 2016. The victims of this bloody campaign are largely poor people, including minors and youth.

Well-documented cases of these human rights violations have been brought to the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) by several concerned Philippines-based and international civil society organizations through the Universal Periodic Review on the Philippines (UPR) process in Geneva in 2017 and the Special Procedure mechanisms. A number of national and international entities have likewise conducted fact-finding solidarity missions and have issued reports, recommendations and condemnations of the Philippine government’s inaction to stop the killings and other serious human rights violations in the country.

In the case of indigenous peoples, exercise of the right to self-determination and right to resist has been met as well with State terrorism and fascism. KATRIBU has documented 27 incidents of bombing of indigenous communities affecting at least 354,000 individuals, 47 extrajudicial killings of IP human rights defenders (IPHRDs), 58 incidents of forced evacuation affecting 400,000 individuals, and the attacks on Lumad schools in Mindanao that forced 56 schools to close and at least 2,600 indigenous youth affected. Over 100 fabricated cases are filed by the State armed forces and police against IPHRDs, including the Department of Justice (DoJ) terrorist proscription list that names some 600 individuals.

The regime´s crimes against the Moro people will also be heard in the IPT 2018, to include the Marawi siege and declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao, the religious discrimination, arbitrary detention and torture committed against Suara Bangasamoro Chairperson Jerome Succor Aba by agents of US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) on April 17-19, 2018; and the massacre of seven Tausug youths on September 14, 2018 in Patikul, Sulu.

These victims of human rights violations under the US-Duterte regime are seeking justice. They have organized themselves and are working closely with various organizations in strengthening efforts to hold perpetrators to account, and it is at their behest that the IPT 2018 is being convened by the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH), Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), IBON International, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

Victims, survivors of attacks and experts shall present concrete evidence of violations of the Filipino people’s individual and collective rights under international law. They hope to raise the awareness of the international public of the ongoing violation of peoples’ rights in the Philippines, and help generate further political pressure on the governments of the Philippines and the US to heed the calls of the Filipino people. The perpetrators will be brought for judgment before the broadest possible international audience.

The Tribunal’s verdict shall be based on a thorough and fair assessment of the evidence by a body of jurors composed of leading public figures of recognized achievement and high moral stature, in accordance with applicable legal standards. The body of evidence and verdict of the IPT 2018 shall be transmitted to the United Nations, International Criminal Court, various Parliaments and governments, as well as broad international organizations. The IPT 2018 shall serve due notice to the perpetrators of these violations that impunity shall not go unchallenged by the people.

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Beverly Longid, IPMSDL Global Coordinator, info@ipmsdl.org
Pya Malayao, KATRIBU Secretary General, katribu.phils@gmail.com

PRESS RELEASE | Police releases “terrorist list” memo targeting IP activists

International Indigenous Peoples (IP) group expresses its utmost condemnation in the recently discovered top-secret Philippine National Police (PNP) intelligence memo ordering surveillance on several IP leaders from the Cordillera, including International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) Global Coordinator Beverly Longid.

Recently this September, human rights group Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) obtained a copy of the said confidential memo dated May 28, 2018 and signed by PNP Intelligence Division OIC Alexander Rondal listing 21 names – several are IP leaders, rights advocates and activists in the Cordillera region. The memo addressed to all PNP Chiefs and Regional Intelligence Units orders them to supply a “Summary of Information” on alleged New People’s Army (NPA) ICRC (Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee) leaders and members.

“This is part of the systematic attacks of the Duterte government against progressive organizations critical of the government policies, land defenders, or IP communities against resource plunder. It is an institutional directive of the state that confirms our long belief of surveillance operations to monitor the movements of those they consider as “enemies of the state.” It is a desperate move to supplement the hollow and bereft of evidence DOJ Prescription case against activists. The memo further puts at threat the lives of those under surveillance by tagging them as communist armed rebels due for surveillance,” Longid said.

The confidential memo has 21 names including United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Co-convener of the Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development Goals Joan Carling, former Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) Chair Atty. Jose Molintas, Co-Chair of Sandugo Joanna Cariño, current CPA Chair Windel Bolinget, Regional Coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Cordillera Jeannete Ribaya-Cawiding, and former Secretary General of the Ilocos Human Rights Alliance-Karapatan Sherwin De Vera.

In February 2018, a DOJ Petition for Proscription to declare NPA and Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as terrorist groups also includes the above names in the police memo.

A motion filed in Manila RTC 19 last August 31 by Atty. Pablo Sanidad II, Longid’s legal counsel, states that the case “without any basis and with pure malicious intent” is only used as an “arbitrary and malicious targeting measure to weaken the IP movement and an unacceptable attack to those who speak up to defend Human Rights.” Cases like this is considered as “travesty to the exercise of the fundamental rights and freedom,” the motion stated.

The trend reflects a global scale of IP attacks notably in developing countries like Latin America, Africa and Asia. A recent UN report underlines two reasons: “lack of respect for indigenous peoples’ collective land rights” and “failure to provide indigenous communities with secure land tenure” favoring big corporations’ mega infrastructure plans, extractive, plantation, logging and eco-tourism development projects located in IP ancestral lands.

“The IP struggles for land rights and self-determination further expose the state and its armed forces’ servitude to investors and companies by using anti-terrorism and anti-insurgency campaigns to target IP activists, silence them and endanger their lives,” Longid added.

A call for “broader and stronger unity against all forms of attacks against those who cry just demands and criticizes oppressive government policies” is echoed by the International IPMSDL.

According to Longid, “the international community must strongly denounce big businesses using state forces and policies to its favor at the extent of our community leaders’ lives. IPMSDL believe that criminalizing dissent do not silent the demands for justice of the IP movement but only fortify their struggle for the achievement of rights, lands, and justice.”

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Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator, info@ipmsdl.org

NEWS | Human Rights activist seeks removal from terror list

Krixia Subingsubing, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Taking a cue from the two UN members and two militant leaders cleared from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) proscription petition to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) and 600 individuals as terrorists, an indigenous peoples’ rights leader also asked a Manila court that she be declared as a nonparty to the petition.

On Friday, human rights activist Beverly Longid asked Regional Trial Court Branch 19 Judge Marlo Magdoza-Malagar to clear her from the terrorist list as she was neither an officer nor a member of the CPP-NPA.

She argued that the petition, which was filed in February, not only failed to prove her association with the Maoist rebel group, but also did not apply to her as an individual as a proscription petition can only apply to organizations, associations or group of persons as per Section 17 of the Human Security Act.

Same grounds

Her “unfounded, malicious and irresponsible” inclusion in the list, she said, posed serious threats to her life.

These were the same grounds used by fellow defendants UN Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former UN member Jose Melencio Molintas, former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and peace talks consultant Rafael Baylosis.

They were among the over 600 individuals—some of whom were activists, leaders of mass organizations and former Catholic priests—named by the DOJ as alleged leaders and members of the group behind Asia’s longest-running insurgency.

The proscription petition stemmed from President Duterte’s promise to clamp down on the rebel groups following the collapse of peace negotiations between the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

‘Virtual gov’t hit list’

Human rights advocates and militants alike have assailed the petition as a “virtual government hit list” meant to harass and threaten progressives and critics of the Duterte administration.

Some of the 600 names included double entries, dubious aliases and generic names—to which Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had admitted not having vetted.

In August, Malagar’s 14-page resolution cleared Corpuz, Molintas, Baylosis and Ocampo on nearly the same legal bases now being used by Longid.

Longid, a member of several local and international human rights groups, said in an interview that the proscription petition was nothing more than a harassment suit meant to target the “increased resistance” against the abuses committed against indigenous peoples.#

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Story posted in Inquirer.net on August 3, 2018.

 

PRESS RELEASE | Indigenous Groups Descend on Manila Court to Protest Terror-List

The groups gathered to press for the dismissal of a proscription list that labels indigenous leaders as “terrorist.”

International Indigenous Peoples (IP) group and several IP organizations from the Philippines marshaled at the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) on August 31 to rally for the dismissal of the Department of Justice (DOJ) proscription list that labels indigenous leaders as “terrorists.” The gathered groups also filed a motion to clear the names of indigenous leaders.

The International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-determination (IPMSDL) joined the protest action along with Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu), Philippine Task Force for Indigenous Peoples Rights (TFIP), and BAI Indigenous Women’s Network. The protest was mobilized in time for the submission of a motion and court hearing for the terrorist-tagging case, which includes IPMSDL’s Global Coordinator Beverly Longid. The proscription petition filed by the DOJ, which seeks to declare the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) a terror group, also includes 649 names of alleged CPP-NPA leaders and members. It was filed in the Manila RTC on February 21 following President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 374 and Human Security Act (HSA) 2007.

Last August, the Manila RTC cleared the names of Satur Ocampo, Rafael Baylosis, Jose Melencio Molintas, and United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. In the same month, the DOJ admitted in a congress budget hearing that it did not verify the 649 names, many of which are aliases and code names, as supplied by the intelligence of Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.

“There’s an irresponsibility in the part of DOJ for just listing names of activists and tagging them as terrorists without even submitting an iota of evidence to prove that the names in the Petition for Proscription is involved with CPP and NPA,” said Attorney Pablo Sanidad II, Longid’s legal counsel.

The motion to delist the names states that the HSA 2007 may only be applied to organizations and not individuals, and that the DOJ has not given any summon or any substantial evidence. The delistment of the earlier four names were also on the same grounds as ruled by the court.

“The national and international track record of Longid and all the IP leaders included as an advocate for the recognition and promotion of IP rights and welfare clearly shows that they are not terrorist or anything that the government says they are,” Sanidad II added. “And we pray that the court stands for its duty to protect the rights of rights defenders.”

Longid said, “The state harassment and attacks on activists, human rights defenders, and IP leaders every time they step up their struggle for social change, for the protection of their lands and rights, and against destructive extractive projects and plunder of their ancestral territories shows this systematic targeting of those who rightfully criticize the government policies or corporate businesses. And given the track that President Duterte is treading, this will continue and intensify.”

Since Duterte’s presidency began in 2016, reports of political attacks, civil rights and human rights violations and abuses against IP have been documented. As of February 2018, 178 IP have been illegally arrested based on the monitoring of Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas. Cases of military, paramilitary, and police vilification of IP organizations in Cordillera, fabricated criminal charges against Lumad groups’ council members in Mindanao, forced surrenders of Dumagat IP in Quezon Province after being tortured and threatened, and many others killed and assassinated, have been filed on Commission of Human Rights and state offices.

“The increasing records of gross human rights violations under the state’s counterinsurgency Oplan Kapayapaan and extension of Martial Law in Mindanao is consistent with the global crisis involving legal maneuverings and government policies that favors big businesses and victimize IP communities,” Longid said. The criminalization of IP and land defenders opposing the transformation of ancestral lands into mono-crop plantations, mining and energy projects, and eco-tourism destination smears their reputation and makes them vulnerable targets, as in similar cases in Guatemala, Brazil, India, Columbia, and Africa.

Recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) announced that it will open more “areas of mineral reservations” to attract mining companies and pump government income. “It’s not surprising that these areas are also ancestral lands and villages of IP, and also the areas heavily concentrated with military forces and wanton records of human rights violations,” Longid added.

“But it is during these dangerous times when people’s unity and solidarity grow stronger. The people’s movement against the human rights violations of state forces and officials, and against the plunder and dispossession of ancestral lands expands and intensifies to defeat the oppressors,” she said. Several local councils and organizations have submitted petitions to delist the names in the proscription.

A “letter of concern on the increasing harassment and intimidation of indigenous peoples’ leaders and human rights defenders” was endorsed by 16 international organizations and 205 national organizations from 38 other countries from different global regions. An online petition was signed by more than 11,200 individuals from 113 countries.#

Article originally published in The Diplomat .
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Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator, info@ipmsdl.org

Chico Once More: Legacy of Resistance in Cordillera Highlands

The Rice Terraces of Banaue, Ifugao in North Philippines. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

“When you run, gold will gather in your feet”

Traversing along the rugged, pothole filled, steep and slippery mountainous roads towards Camandag Barangay in Ifugao in mid July 2018 revealed mesmerizing landscapes of the Cordillera in North Philippines, fringed by lush forest greeneries, mystic bluish mountains and lofty clouds. The mountainous landscape and biodiversity in akin with terrains of Manipur in India’s North East. The Cordillera with 1.7 million people is blessed with opulent biodiversity and natural resources. Tribes like Bontoc, Kankanaeys collectively known as Igorot people, were able to maintain their distinctive cultures despite Spanish colonization, due to their affinity with land. “When you run in the Cordilleras, gold dust gather in your feet”, an Igorot elder exclaimed, during an interaction in Camandag village, signifying the abundance of the land. Indeed, most of gold and copper in the Philippines is extracted from the region.

“Welcome to the Philippines, Province of China”

The Cordillera region for long has been exposed to the neoliberal policies of the Philippines, leading to intrusion of multinational companies and increased financing from international financial institutions (IFIs) like Asian Development Bank, World Bank and countries like Japan and China, targeting its land and resources. Of late, the overwhelming financing from China in the Philippines including in the Cordilleras impelled considerable debate. Indeed, the Philippines government signed three loan agreements on economic and infrastructure cooperation with China during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in November 2017. The loan agreements cover the $234.92-million New Centennial Water Source-Kaliwa Dam project and the $72.49 million for the Chico River irrigation project over Chico River in Cordillera. On 12 July, 2018, banners welcoming visitors to the Philippines as a “Province of China” were seen hanging on footbridges in Metro Manila on the second anniversary of The Hague’s ruling on 12 July 2016 invalidating China’s claim to South China Sea. The incident exposed how Philippines is being increasingly influenced economically and militarily by China and become subservient to the domination of neoliberal forces for its economic and political survival.

“Build, Build, Build”

The Philippines including the Cordillera region is subjected to massive infrastructure projects as Government reinforces it neoliberal development processes. The Philippine and Chinese Governments have signed the Peso 3.135 billion loan agreement for the Chico River Pump Irrigation Project, the first flagship infrastructure project to be financed by China under the “Build, Build, Build” program. The National Irrigation Administration and China CAMC Engineering Co. Ltd. announced the signing of the P4.37 billion Chico River Pump Irrigation Project in March 2018. The World Bank initially planned to find the project, but abandoned due to massive protest by Igorot people, who revered the Chico River, as “river of life” The project will displace at least 100,000 people and submerge their land.

The “Build, Build, Build” vision of the Philippines Government led to aggressive push for infrastructure projects, extractive industries, hydro power and other energy projects, targeting of indigenous peoples’ land and resources. Cordillera possesses 25% of watershed areas of the Philippines and new hydel projects are extensively planned over almost all Rivers in Ifugao, Kalinga and other provinces. The Philippines’ Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the first comprehensive legislation on renewable energy in Southeast Asia, likewise aims to increase the country’s power generation from renewable energy by three times, approximately 16,200 MW by 2030 . At least nine dams are planned over the Chico River and several of its tributaries in Kalinga. The Department of Energy (DOE) has been fast tracking approval of renewable energies, primarily hydel projects. In Camandag village, villagers’ rejected the plan for hydel project in their village, fearing it will submerge their land, forest and livelihood sources.

Developer SN Aboitiz Power-Ifugao is preparing to construct the 390 MW Alimit hydropower project in Cordillera. The SNAP Group, a joint venture of Norway’s SN Power and Aboitiz Power Corp., applied with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in March 2014 to complete the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) process stipulated under the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA), 1997. The Aguinaldo, Lagawe, Lamut and Mayoyao communities will be affected by the dam . The DoE is also planning to construct the 11 MW Tinoc II Mini Hydroelectric Power Plant project at the Tinoc River in Ifugao with the Quad River Energy Corporation, a joint venture of AC Energy Holdings Inc. and Sta. Clara Power Corporation as project proponent. In Kalinga, the DoE has approved the Renewable Energy Service Contracts (RESCs) of 15-megawatt Upper Tabuk Hydro Power Project in Sitio Saranggani of Barangay Dupag proposed over the Tanudan River. The Kalinga Hydropower, Inc. (KHI), which is the project proponent of Tanudan dam misinformed affected communities and undermined their traditional decision-making processes while also causing social division.

Geothermal Energy development is another focus of the corporate bodies and the Government of Philippines to exploit the hot springs in Cordillera. In 2010, US based Chevron entered into a joint venture with APC Group Inc., a subsidiary of SM Group, and Guidance Management Corp., to explore, develop and operate the Kalinga geothermal prospect covering 25,682 hectares. APC, that invested $300 million to set up a 100 MW geothermal plant, targets to generate 300 MW in the long run . In Kalinga, Chevron is failed to take consent of Dananao and Uma tribes. The two others, one to be put up in Mainit, Mountain Province and in Daclan, Bokod in Benguet cover approximately 76,000 hectares. In Chevron’s Kalinga project, the NCIP ignored community objections to the project, while causing social divisions and conflict. Air and chemical pollution, drying of hot springs and geysers in the surrounding area, toxic waste water entering clean aquifers due to lowering of water table, violent explosions, accidents killing workers are others concerns with such plants. Terrible noise is caused by geothermal plants during drilling and operation, often reaching above the pain threshold of 120 decibels.

Mining of minerals has long been a controversy in Cordillera with affected communities resisting mining operations. Mining companies, including Philex Mining Corp, Lepanto Mines, Benguet Corporation mined copper, silver and gold in several provinces of Cordillera. Policies on mining and other extractives, plantations, and other exploitation of land and natural resources continue to trample indigenous peoples’ rights and encroaching upon their ancestral domains. Mining destroys and contaminate indigenous peoples land and territories. Militarization and human rights violations goes along with operation of mining, setting up geothermal energy plants and in constructing dams in CAR.

There is clear cut violation of Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, 1995 in pursuit of such aggressive development. The non-recognition and violation of Indigenous peoples’ collective rights to their ancestral domain is perpetrated through regalia doctrine, forestry code, Philippines Mining Act etc. The non-recognition of IPs socio political system, manipulation of FPIC under IPRA law, institutionalized discrimination through religious, media and educational institutions also facilitated violation of IP rights.

The aggressive nature, the massive infrastructure focus, the involvement of multinational companies, the financing by IFIs in the Cordillera and militarization is much similar to the intense push for oil exploration, mining, plans to build multiple dams all over the Rivers of Manipur. The Barak River and Manipur River system are now subjected to plans to build around fifteen dams, including the 1500 MW Tipaimukh dam, the 190 MW Pabram Dam, the 66 MW Loktak Downstream Project, the 50 MW Irang dam etc. The Jubilant Energy Private Ltd, the Oil India Limited is conducting forceful surveys to drill oil and gas. Massive infrastructure projects like Trans Asian Railway and Roads are also pursued, to facilitate dam building, mining, oil exploration etc in Manipur as part of India’s Act East Policy.

 

The Igorot people of Cordilleras practiced such sustainable farming with superb land, forest & water management with their traditional practices for millennia. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

“Full Blooded Ifugao”

The aggressive development push in Cordillera involves extensive scale of violation of indigenous peoples’ rights over their land and primarily their right to free, prior and informed consent. Villagers of Huhlukan Barangay in Ifugao complaint the real FPIC process prescribed by NCIP was not followed for proposed hydel projects as information was denied to them by Santa Clara Company for the dam proposed in Tinoc. Villagers are rather misinformed that villagers will have roads, electricity, and employment with the dam construction.

The Field Based Investigation conducted by NCIP for FPIC for dam building in Huhlukan, Binablayan led controversy and violence. Based on notification by DoE, NCIP conducted field based investigation (FBI), targeting only selected villagers of community supporting the project. In Huhlukan village, the FBI is referred to as “Full Blooded Ifugao”, indicating the threats, violence, bloodshed, associated with dam building and the FPIC process, which also involves the murder of Ricardo Mayumi for rejecting the dam and the manipulative FPIC process. Already blood have spilled in the Ifugao during the field based investigation and FPIC process for building a hydel project.

“Flatten the Hills”

Indigenous peoples’ effort for defense of their land, lives and future is often perceived as anti-development and leveled as terrorists, and often responded militarily with direct attacks. Direct military operations, such as Oplan Bayanihan, Oplan Bantay Laya, with the tacit military support of US, have led to series of human rights violations on communities in various parts of Cordillera, in Ifugao, Kalinga and Abra provinces. Military atrocities and violations have been reported in Abra and in Nalapunan, where the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) bombed civilian areas. Forest areas of Gubang and Malacato communities in Bangillo were set on fire due to bombing.

The direction of the president of Philippines in early 2017 to “flatten the hills with bombs”, have led to intensification of aerial bombing in Mindanao and in Cordillera highlands, with severe repercussions, viz, displacement, killings, destruction of environment within indigenous communities . Militarization is an entrenched reality among indigenous communities employed by the Government to counter the liberation movement of New People’s Army and to support corporate bodies to exploit the land and natural resources, like dam building in Camandag village and Halludan village in Ifugao province, gold mining, and geothermal plants in Kalinga. During military clash between the armed forces and liberation groups, civilians are harassed and villagers could not also go to their farms. Military occupation in schools is widespread and youths are subjected to search, verifications and other harassment. Soldiers also indulged in rape and sexual abuse of indigenous women. AFP personnel also forced villagers to sign papers to desist hosting NPA. The AFP officials also indulged in violations of customary laws such as forcing villagers to sell liquor in villages where liquor is prohibited. There are reports of military interference in resolving inter-tribal conflict in Kalinga province.

Similarly in Manipur, the promulgation of the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 not only derogated the fundamental right, “right to life”, but also conferred immunity to the Indian armed forces operating in Manipur to subdue indigenous self-determination but also to facilitate the plunder of land through dam building, mining, oil exploration, road and railways building with IFI financing. The pattern of perpetuation of extreme forms of violence and persisting culture of impunity is much similar.

The enchanting land & the rivers of Cordillera in North Philippines. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

Gray-May, June-Gloom, No Sky-July

Indigenous leaders and organizations are subjected to harassment, surveillance and attacks by Philippines National Police (PNP) and AFP for defending peoples’ rights over their land. Officials of Ifugao Peoples Movement (IPM) and CPA Ifugao chapter are threatened with trumped up charges, surveillances and death threats using social media. In 2015, ten members of the IPM, including Mayumi, have received death threats using the picture of ‘Gamong’, the Ifugao fabric used for the dead with words inscribed, “Gray-May, June-Gloom, No Sky-July”. On 2 March 2018, Ricardo Mayumi, an IPM member in Tinoc, Ifugao, who also received the ‘Gamong’, was murdered in Kiangan town . Mayumi opposed the Quad River mini hydro projects in Tinoc town in Ifugao. William Bugatti was earlier gunned down after attending a court hearing on 25 March 2014. The filing of trumped up charges against seven indigenous leaders of Cordillera in early 2018, among the list of 600 activists across the Philippines, led to international condemnations. Five women were also arbitrarily arrested in July 2017.

The prevalence of culture of impunity, systematic denial of justice for human rights Violations by PNP and AFP, such as in the case of William Bugatti, is widespread. There is lack or insufficient investigation by law enforcing agencies and concerns abound this lack of investigation is on account of their involvement in these violations. Community leaders who challenged AFP and PNP in judicial processes are subjected to extra judicial execution like Ricardo Mayumi. Investigations often failed to identify and charge perpetrators. Villagers fear filing complaints for fear of reprisal. Even the investigation by Commission on Human Rights (CHR) failed to identify and prosecute perpetrators.

The NCIP and CHR etc are ineffective to address peoples’ rights. Villagers complained the NCIP’s role is more to help corporate bodies with their business, instead of supporting communities’ rights. Lawyers deputed by NCIP even denounced indigenous peoples’ rights over their land during consultations on proposed dam in Tinoc. During aerial bombing by AFP in Abra and human rights violations, the CHR only issued advisory to the warring parties, instead of efforts to stop the violations, The administrative functioning in Cordillera closely resemble a military state, with the military dictating the civilian affairs and silencing voices of dissent and call for democratic spaces, for indigenous peoples rights and justice.

Farming in Binablayan, Ifugao, Cordillera in the Philippines. Photo by Jiten Yumnam.

“This is our land, we lived here, we will die here”

Sustained people’s resistance has prevented dam building companies and mining companies from pursuing their operations and expansion in the Cordillera. The combined legal and political actions of the Bakun communities have delayed Royalco’s exploration for the Gambang Copper-Gold Project. In Benguet province, sustained community barricades have prevented Lepanto and the South African mining company Goldfields from conducting exploration drilling for the Far Southeast Gold Project. In Kalinga province, the Silages tribe opposed mining plan of Lepanto. Kalinga communities affected by hydropower projects registered their opposition to these projects, including the Karayan Dam project. The Naneng, Dallak, and Minanga tribes in their letter to NCIP in the region rejecting the project stated, “… this land is our source of our living and also where we buried our ancestors. …we are afraid that rebellion will arise and blood will be shed” . The effort to build dams is despite the presence of 200 MW Ambuklao, the 1,000 MW San Roque Dam etc. The Cordillera remains one of poorest in the Philippines despite its rich mineral resources and subsequent exploitation by the multinational companies. One has to ride on motor bikes on rugged, narrow and steep road revealing the hardship endured by villagers to avail education, health facilities and to market their agriculture produces.

The serene landscape conceals the manifestation of persisting unresolved armed conflict situation within which indigenous peoples are forced to endure for generations in Cordillera. The people however are much adamant about their rights, land, cultures, traditional and survival of their coming generations. Land is life, land is the livelihood source and they have nurtured with their sweat and blood for generations. Allowing corporations to plunder their land will affect their identity, impoverish them and destroy their future. An elder from Camandag Barangay said, “This is our land, we lived here, we will die here”, highlighting the anger and the spirit of his people to resist all forceful, destructive development process. Another elder from Binablayan said, “Younger generations need to appreciate the importance and value of land and natural resources and strive to protect it for coming generations”.

“Chico once More”

An obvious reality within indigenous peoples land is change, rooted in deepening of State’s oppressive nature, the onslaught and savagery of neoliberal forces, destroying peoples’ land, lives and their future. Across Ifugao, one could perceive realities of how the land, forest, rivers, resources and peoples’ lives are subjected to aggressive efforts for economic and political domination by State and neoliberal forces, relegating communities inhabiting the land for generations to extreme forms of oppression and violence.

However, the aggressive push for unsustainable development and deepening of the involvement of neoliberal forces, such as massive plan for hydropower generation, geothermal plants, mining with tacit support of the Philippines States and its machineries posed enormous challenge for the people of Cordillera to defend their land. The aggressive development onslaught have provoked the Indigenous peoples to recall the struggles and sacrifices of leaders in 1980s and to drew inspiration, build unity and solidarity within communities. The indigenous peoples of Kalinga and Mountain Province successfully opposed the US$ 50 million World Bank-funded Chico River Irrigation Project, also known as the Chico Dams Project, from 1976-1985. The martyrdom of Mcling Dulag in the resistance had long been a source of inspiration to resist imperialist forces and to assert their self-determination over their land.

The unfolding adverse reality is a big challenge for the present generation and leaders in Cordillera. Indigenous peoples assert that the recognition of their right to self-determination, to their ancestral lands, territories and resources, and to free, prior and informed consent, as per provisions of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007 will foster meaningful and genuine sustainable development in Cordillera. Forging and deepening solidarity among indigenous peoples is perilous to combat state oppression, offensive and militarism of imperialist forces and in asserting their self-determination and liberation. One recalls the sacrifices of Mcling Dulag while listening to deeds, spirits and efforts of Ricardo Mayumi, during the tribute in his village at Huhlukan, Binablayan. Indeed, community leaders commenced sacrificing themselves. “Chico Once More’, is already the slogan among community leaders, reflecting the resolve to continue the legacy of resistance and struggle of their leaders for their land and rights. Leaders like Mayumi already followed the footsteps of their elders, showing the light to others, with his indomitable spirits, relentless struggles and sacrifices. The legacy of resistance and the sacrifices of leaders, appreciating the sanctity of the land will continue to inspire and guide in all moments of struggles for self-determination and liberation in the Cordillera highlands and far beyond.

 

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Story written by Jiten Yumnam of the Centre for Research and Advocacy – Manipur and International IPMSDL. This article is originally posted in Imphal Free Press.

2nd Peace and Humanitarian Mission in General Nakar, Quezon

The Dumagat are the Indigenous Peoples from Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions of the Philippines. The Dumagat people live simple, semi-nomadic lives: they build temporary shelters and collect their food from the natural resources around them and after these sources are depleted, they move to another place while letting the resources in the previous settlement recover. This time, they are moving out of their homes, not as part of their traditional practice but because of the militarization of their communities.

Katribu Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, a national alliance of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines and one of the member formations of the IPMSDL based in the Philippines, led a National Peace & Humanitarian Mission in the Dumagat Evacuation Site on May 24-25, 2018. See report and photos from the 1st mission here.

A 2nd mission was conducted on June 29-30 with Protect Sierra Madre and other volunteer organizations including IPMSDL to obtain updates since the 1st mission and to provide a second wave of relief for the evacuees.

On May 14, 2018, the 80th Infantry Battalion and 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army illegally arrested and tortured two Dumagats, namely Rockey Torres and Dandoy Avillanida, accusing them as members of the communist New People’s Army.

“Nung dumating sila, parang nasakal kami” (When [the soldiers] arrived, it was like we were being suffocated)

Over 600 Dumagat villagers from the upland communities of General Nakar, Quezon were forced to leave their homes and seek refuge along the nearby Umiray River. There they set up makeshift shelters made of pieces of wood, tree branches, and tarpaulin. But after some time, barangay officials asked them to leave the site claiming that the settlement has made the area unsanitary. The makeshift shelters were also burned by the officials and the soldiers to ensure that the evacuees really leave the site. 

One of the Dumagat evacuees said that their people are decreasing in number because of inaccessibility of social services such as health services. For the residents of Barangay Umiray, the nearest hospital is at least an hour of travel and their meager income is hardly enough to  cover for the medicine expenses. One of the Dumagats claimed that he is able to earn 70 pesos (approximately 1.30 USD) for 1 sack of rattan but it takes 4 days to fill a sack, including transportation on river and land.

Pushed into isolation, and far from the mainstream, Indigenous Peoples are among the marginalized sectors of the Philippines. The intrusion of military forces in the communities further aggravate their marginalized state by depriving them of their rights to ancestral land and ways of life. We at IPMSDL condemn the militarization and harassment of Indigenous communities and its members.

We urge the Philippine Government to give attention to the rights and welfare of the Indigenous Peoples in the country. Further, we hold the government and its armed forces accountable for these acts of ethnocide. Instead of providing basic social services to its people, it has invested more in its military activities that puts civilians at risks and violates their economic, social, and cultural rights 

PULL OUT MILITARY TROOPS FROM INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES!

 

Reference: Beverly Longid, Global Coordinator | info@ipmsdl.org