International in brief

Issue 

ANC minister calls for limits on human rights

A senior member of the ANC-led government of national unity, justice minister Dullah Omar, has called for key sections of South Africa's current interim constitution that protect individual rights to be diluted in order to fight crime. Omar was quoted in the South African Weekly Mail and Guardian as saying he supported amendments to articles in the constitution and bill of rights that protect the rights to privacy, freedom of information and of an accused to bail and legal representation. He also called for greater censorship. In the absence of significant economic progress, the most important gains of the post-apartheid period have been the institutionalisation of democratic and human rights. Omar's suggestion has surprised many supporters of the liberation movement. Omar admitted to the Weekly Mail and Guardian that his call was controversial but said, "A starry-eyed and over-romantic approach to the question of rights is costing our country too dearly".

20,000 workers rally in California

More than 20,000 building workers have rallied outside the state capitol in Sacramento in protest at Governor Pete Wilson's drive to cut construction workers' pay on state projects. Workers also opposed Wilson's right-wing program to cut health and welfare benefits.

Tonga arrests journalists

Tongan police raided the office of the kingdom's leading newspaper, the weekly Taimi 'o Tonga, and detained four journalists on February 23. The journalists have been active in the pro-democracy movement or have reported on the movement's activities. Leading pro-democracy activist 'Akilisi Pohiva also reports that a member of the pro-democracy movement was detained on February 22. Tonga's pro-democracy movement has been calling for full elections for all members of parliament. Under the present constitution, the 30-seat parliament is composed of nine members elected by the people, nine elected by the 33-member nobility and 12 appointed by the king. Elections for the nine popular seats in February gave a significant majority to pro-democracy forces.