On march 19, the Madhya Pradesh government agreed to meet some of the demands of the survivors of the 1984 chemical explosion and deadly gas leaks at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, which killed thousands of people and left tens of thousands with severe health problems. After hunger strikes by survivors and an international solidarity campaign, the government agreed to provide clean water, medical care and rehabilitation to victims, as well as to release information about the water and soil contamination around the abandoned factory site and to construct a wall to contain it. Pragya, a Bhopal activist, said following the decision, Thanks to all who sent their prayers and faxes and other good vibes. Bhopal remains not only ground zero of the chemical industrys global wounding, but also ground zero for the fight for peoples basic human rights to live in a poison-free environment, to drink water that is free of toxic chemicals, and receive basic medical care for their injuries. If the government fails to implement its promises, protests will take place in India and around the world during April and May. For more information visit <http://bhopal.net>.
If the Howard government thought that it’s battery of anti-unions laws had completely intimidated workers not to take so-called “illegal” industrial action then they must be disappointed. For the first time in more than a decade all work on the nation’s waterfront came to a halt on March 23 when more than 11,000 wharfies walked off the job. The stop work coincided with the Melbourne funeral of Bobby Cumberlidge, who died in an industrial accident at Toll’s Westernport wharf on March 16.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has declared it will go ahead with an April 3-4 “stay away” by workers despite the wave of repression suffered by opponents of President Robert Mugabe’s regime and authorities’ threats to crush the ZCTU strike. Already ZCTU members have been arrested, their offices raided and material relating to the stay away confiscated.
The deputy commander of Fijis military has threatened public sector unions including the Fiji Public Service Association, the Fiji Teachers Union and the Fiji Nurses Association that it will intervene to stop a planned strike against a 5% pay cut and reduction in the retirement age from 60 to 55. According to Fijilive.com on March 17, Teleni said that it will enforce the Public Emergency Regulations, which restrict strikes and public gatherings. He also declared that workers would lose their jobs if they joined the strike. The March 23 Fijionline.com quoted Fiji Nurses Association general secretary Kuini Lutua as saying her union would continue to fight until the government withdraws the proposed pay cut. Currently I have 98 per cent of support from members of the association and when we plan to go on strike nothing will stop us.
On March 22, some 1500 protesters on Parliament Lawns denounced Tasmanian Labor Premier Paul Lennon’s push to fast-track the building of a $1.5 billion pulp mill in Bell Bay, in northern Tasmania’s Tamar Valley.
The most important elections for many years in the Victorian branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) are set for mid-April. This election will be a showdown between the incumbent unified Victorian branch leadership and the conservative vehicle division of the union and its supporters.
Survival International reported on March 19 that the government of Botswana has banned Bushmen in the Kalahari Game Reserve from using their own water. The government refused the Bushmens request to install, at their own expense, a pump at a borehole on their land. The government justified its decision by arguing that the land is owned by the government. In December, Botswanas High Court ruled that the 2002 eviction of the Bushmen from their land was illegal and that they had a right to live there. According to Jumanda Gakelebone of the Bushman organisation First People of the Kalahari, The court said we could go back to our land, but now we see that the government is doing everything it can to stop us. Why else would it stop us using a borehole that nobody else is using? Without water we cannot live in the Kalahari. For more information, visit <http://www.survival-international.org>.
Over the last few weeks, the family of Mamdouh Habib, former Guantanamo Bay prisoner and independent candidate for the seat of Auburn in the NSW state election, has been subjected to greater police harassment.
There was something very sad about the debate in federal parliament around the Labor opposition’s grand plan to bring Australia up to speed on internet broadband. Behind the noise and smoke of the furious jousting was the sobering fact that both sides of the House embrace the corrupt logic of privatisation.
We refuse to be subtle in our outcry against this war, we refuse to do nothing and be silent while people are killed in our name for profit for the rich and we refuse to be sent overseas in a war for oil.
Activists gathered on March 22 to discuss the campaign to free David Hicks. The meeting, called by the Geelong Anti-War Coalition, was chaired by Socialist Alliance member Bronwyn Jennings and heard from Amnesty International, the Greens and Civil Rights Defence (CRD).
On March 22, World Water Day, more than 40 people were arrested in New Delhi while protesting against water theft by Coca-Cola and Pepsico. The India Resource Centre reports that more than 300 people marched to the planning commissions offices to demand action from the government over the soft-drink companies creation of severe water shortages and contamination of soil and groundwater. An organiser of the march and one of those detained, Nandlal Master from Lok Samiti and the National Alliance of Peoples Movements, said the protest was aimed at one of the worlds worst abusers of water, the Coca-Cola company, which has destroyed the lives of thousands of people in India as a result of its thirst for water. For more information, visit <http://www.indiaresource.org>.