Small Farmers Resist Palm Oil Ban in Malaysia

Picture: Channel News Asia. Farmers take to the street in demonstration at Kuala Lumpur Indigenous farmers and activists in Malaysia have launched a campaign to combat the European Union’s proposed ban on palm oil in biofuels from 2021. This is an attempt to reduce the demand causing human rights abuses and environmental destruction that comes hand-in-hand with mono-production of palm oil. The European Union looked to introduce this ban as palm oil production in massive quantities causes “socio-environmental disasters without exception.” Groups of small farmers have united in their approach: a photo campaign accompanied by press release statements, a petition, and a street protest in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. They call for a more nuanced take on the ban, an examination of how palm oil farming appears from an indigenous farmer’s perspective. Yesterday Jan 16, over 1,700 farmers collected in the center of the Kuala Lumpur and marched to the diplomatic offices of European representatives to deliver a petition. The petition had garnered over 103,078 signatures from around the country. The next step is possible retaliation from Malaysia “by banning all EU imports if the ban was to go ahead”. The organizers of this campaign, Dayak Oil Palm Planters Association of Sarawak (DOPPA), released a statement in which they thank the efforts of NGOs attempting to protect indigenous communities from exploitation, but insist it is time for indigenous peoples themselves to be heard. The group points out that if the heart of the ban on palm oil is to reduce deforestation, and then Malaysia should be an exception to the rule as large swaths of forest are already...

See No Evil, Hear No Evil – Censorship in Lebanon

Since its inception, the film industry has always stirred up controversy within countries. Whether for political reasons or moral ones, film censorship or review organizations uphold standards for the banning of controversial content. More specifically, censorship is a widespread phenomenon in Lebanon. Some films, especially within the last few years, have been explicitly prohibited from public screening, causing great controversy amongst the Lebanese population. January 2018 – Steven Spielberg BANNED AGAIN Days before its release, it has come to the attention of the Lebanese citizens that “The Post”, yet another of acclaimed Hollywood director Steven Spielberg’s movies, has been banned. Initially passing the government’s usual screening procedures, the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon (CBSIL) has influenced the government to block the film due to Spielberg’s ties to Israel. The Arab League’s Central Boycott Office blacklisted Spielberg due to his $1 million donation to Israel at the time of the 2006 conflict with Lebanon. Due to Lebanon’s official status of war with Israel and laws dating back to the early 1930s, any affiliation with Israel is explicitly prohibited and banned. As a result, a six-member committee from the Ministry of Economy relayed their concern to the General Security Agency, a mechanism of the Ministry of Interior. The message was consequently elevated within the Ministry of Interior, which makes the final decision. Criteria for Censorship Criteria for censorship in Lebanon are depicted in numerous laws, some of which date back to 1934. At times, these laws are vague to an extent that they are paradoxical: “they permit the censoring institution to censor something, while at the same time allowing it”. Mainly, the categories under...

Crumbling Democracy and Protest Movements in Evo Morales’ Bolivia

Picture: Early December, an egg-protest depicted the lack of courage to stand up against the Morales-administration. “This is a peaceful protest, we do not get anyone to throw eggs, we only bring eggs to business people if they are missing,” said María Belén Mendívil, spokesperson for the protest.  Published 10. January 2018 In the last week of 2017, CANVAS wrote about the rising tension in Honduras, after the November 2017 elections turned into a true stand-off. A little further to the South in Bolivia, citizens are also faced with an increasingly authoritarian government. As President Evo Morales tries to sideline the country’s constitution to assure himself of another term in office, Bolivian citizens are rising to restore democracy in their Andean country, using nonviolence as one of their main weapons. Morales’ path to the Presidency Evo Morales’ political career originated from protest movements against former President Sánchez de Lozada (in 2003) and his successor Carlos Mesa (in 2005). These movements evolved around the grievances caused by two decades of so called “pacted democracy”, in which three main political parties governed the country in changing coalitions. Their market reforms, involving liberalization, deregulation and privatization, had an exclusionary bias that caused most of Bolivia’s poor and indigenous people to feel excluded and marginalized. The grievances associated with neoliberal reforms added to this. Already during the 1990s, indigenous and social movements increasingly challenged the system of agreements between elites. Between 2000 and 2005, a series of political crises caused massive social protests and forced two President’s out of office. The protest movement also paved the way for Morales, a union leader and...

Tension is Rising in Honduras, as Election Standoff Continues

Picture: Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla march in protest for what they call electoral fraud in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Dec. 3, 2017 – Credit: AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd Mainly outside the scope of the mainstream media, tension has been rising in Honduras, over the 26th of November election results. Most recently, the United States of America have recognized the re-election of Honduran President Hernández, despite massive allegations of fraud. What do you need to know about the developments in the central-American country? November 2017 Elections Juan Orlando Hernandez, who became the country’s President in 2012, has not been famous for his stunning human rights record. Several journalists and human rights activists have been killed over the last couple of years, almost always with impunity. Where the Honduran Constitution strictly allows Presidential candidates to only one term in office, those rules were declared “inapplicable” to Hernandez by the Supreme Court in 2015, paving the way for his reelection bid for the 2017 race. Despite the ruling National Party’s abuse of public resources, the electoral campaign offered Honduran citizens several alternatives for President. The opposition, however, was heavily divided between the center-right Liberal Party and the center-left Opposition Alliance. It was therefore a huge surprise when, with nearly 60% of the votes counted, Salvador Nasralla led by five percentage points. One of the magistrates on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, called his win “irreversible,” and Liberal candidate Luis Zelaya publicly recognized Nasralla with his victory. Then, the ruling party’s authoritarian forces started working, and after a 24-hour radio silence, the electoral council announced Hernandez as the winner. This dubious shift triggered accusations...

Inauguration Day Protesters’ Trial Could Set Dangerous Precedent For Government’s Handling of Civil Disobedience

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images (Via The Intercept) On 20 January 2017, the United States saw mass protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump as the country’s next President. Where most protest-efforts, better known as J20, were focused on disrupting the official event in a nonviolent way, over 200 people were arrested in Washington that day. Activists clashed with the police close to the White House, “in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration,” according to Reuters. Black block anarchists smashed windows, threw bottles and rocks at the police, and set cars on fire. Police encircled a large group of protesters and thereafter arrested them. Now, almost a year later, 194 of those who were arrested face their trials in small groups, with charges including felony property destruction, misdemeanor rioting, and misdemeanor conspiracy to riot. Salient feature in their process is that the public prosecutors never made the argument that the defendants actually broke the windows or otherwise destroyed property. To make its case against nearly 200 defendants, the prosecution is using the Pinkerton liability rule. This rule attributes every crime committed during what is judged to be a “conspiracy” to all those involved. In this particular case, by marching with those who committed violence, wearing the same style of clothes, and chanting the same slogans, the suspects “provide[d] cover for the ‘sea of black’ and those [who were actually] committing destruction,” argued assistant US Attorney Rizwan Qureshi. A conviction would mean that all defendants on trial for the protests can be sentenced for all crimes committed during the action by mere virtue of their proximity to the crimes committed. As...

Music as a Tool in Protest and Nonviolence? – Yes!

Photo: “Martello (L) also played with the crowd as he brought his grand piano to what was the center of a battlefield a day earlier.” (Hürriyet DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL) Published on 19/12/2017 Last Wednesday, The Hill featured an article by Judy Kurtz, addressing the topic of protest songs. Making reference to different artists in the past and presence, Kurtz examines the current role of protest-music in what she calls a “noisy political climate”. Different voices made various claims to why, but mostly agreed that protest songs are largely missing in the US today. Not saying they are totally absent, there at least seems to be a lack of big names or wide reach. This is unlike in the 1960s and early 1970s, when songwriters and musicians “gave voice to a generation, as Vietnam sparked violence at home and Watergate toppled a president, by capturing the angst and pain of a tumultuous political climate.” What is different now? The arguments range from claims of a lesser urgency of what is happening, through a scattered pop culture, to a different media landscape today in comparison to before. Music analyst Bob Lefsetz further claimed that, besides frequently voicing criticism, artists seem reluctant and afraid to be ‘too’ political in their songs, fearing to alienate fans. In this context, Lefsetz makes reference to the country music band Dixie Chicks. Their music was widely stopped from airing on country music stations, after a comment by its lead singer criticizing then-President Geogre W. Bush at a London concert which some fans perceived as “unpatriotic”. But maybe, it is also a matter of perspective. Pitchfork and Stacey...