Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Journalist-activist arrested in India; IP rights advocate James Balao still missing

The recent arrest of activist-reporter Jiten Yumnam says that justice and freedom is a continuing movement to realize worldwide. In India, the police are actively pursuing the arrest of "insurgents: working for justice. Arresting “insurgents” actively working for justice and democracy, especially journalists and activists, continue to be perpetrated by Governments who in most cases side with multinational companies’ big business of dams and mines which destroy natural habitats and sustainable livelihood in Indigenous Peoples lands.

Jiten Yumnam, a staunch eco-activist who writes with India-based Imphal Free Press and a freelance writer with Manipur Mail and Sangai Express, has been arrested September 14 by the police at Imphal Airport, Imphal Free Press reports.

Yumnam was on his way to Bangkok for a meeting on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) when the arrest happened. He was supposed to proceed to New Zealand for the Indigenous Climate Connections (ICC) afterwards.

Jiten Yumnam is the Joint-Secretary of Citizens’ Concerns on Dam and Development (CCDD) that had been vocal and active in motivating youth engagement in constructive dialogues with Governments in North East India. He is a founding member of the Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN).

Some of his writings include “Insidious Intrusion of International Financial Institutions in India’s North East” (2008); “Militarization and human rights violations in Manipur” (December 2006) published by Asian Human Rights Commission in Hong Kong; “Mapithel Dam amidst Militaristic Development in Manipur” published in The Sangai Express last 14 December 2008; “Damned Hearings of Tipaimukh High Dam in Manipur” published in New Nation, Bangladesh last May 5, 2008; and “Development Aggression: Imphal Airport and University Expansion” published in the Imphal Free Press (March 15, 2008).

On the same day, Imphal Free Press reports, seven identified executives of the All Manipur United Club Organization (AMUCO) were also arrested after a combined team of Singjamei Police and Imphal West Police Commandos raided their office. The seven executives are Sungchen Koireng, Likmabam Tompok, A. Soken, Irom Brojen, Toarem Ramanda, G. Sharat Kabui and Thiyam Dinesh.

Reports say First Information report (FIR) case has been registered against the eight arrested men (including Jiten Yumnam) and booked under Section 121/121-A of Indian Penal Code (IPC), Section 16/18/39 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section O of the Official Secret Act. Section 121/121-A of the IPC deals with “attempting to wage war” and “conspiring to commit offences against the state”. Sections 16/18/39 of UA (P) deal with “unlawful acts of supporting or motivating” of what the State considers as “insurgents”.

Labeled “insurgents” by the State, other activists working justice in other countries as well including the Philippines, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand and developed countries were and are either harassed, detained, or killed. Activists share common work with the oppressed that need support including Indigenous Peoples who live on communal lands and natural resources where big dams and mines are being forcibly built by big commercial companies in partnership with Governments and the State’s military forces.

Link here to voice your protest against the arrest of Jiten Yumnam and the other seven activists.

In Malaysia as it commemorated its 46th anniversary on September 16, indigenous Sarawakians have been detained by Kuching police for trying to send a memorandum of protest on the building of big dams in their areas, to the Sarawak Chief Minister. Among those arrested are Mark Bujang (BRIMAS), Raymond Abin (BRIMAS) and Hellan Empaing (WADESA), all leaders of the Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (Indigenous Peoples Network of Malaysia) and representatives from the Kayan, Kenyah and Penan communities of Sarawak.

In the Philippines, we are reminded of Indigenous Peoples rights activist James Balao who disappeared September 17 last year strongly believed to have been abducted by the government’s military forces. He remains missing. Activists Romy Sanchez disappeared in 9 March, Pepe Manegdeg in 29 November and Albert Terradano in 30 November, all in 2005 also believed to be abducted by elements of the government’s military forces. They are all young men full of dreams for the upliftment of justice and human rights, choosing a path not many would like to tread.

Very recently, 26-year-old Noriel Rodriguez was reportedly abducted by suspected military agents in Gonzaga town, Cagayan province, last week. Noriel is affiliated with the militant Akbayan. She went to Cagayan as part of the group’s peasant integration program that involves medical missions and literacy classes.

Noriel is the 15th Anakbayan member who had either been abducted or killed under the Arroyo administration, reports say. Among them were University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen EmpeƱo, missing since 2006.

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