Thursday, July 2, 2009

Indigenous victory - here, there and everywhere

There are many indigenous struggles around the world, and many small but significant victories.

"On the same day Peru’s Congress voted to repeal two controversial laws, signaling an end to the National Mobilization of Indigenous Peoples of Peru, the Ngobe People of Western Panama won a major victory of their own.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) called for the suspension of all activities connected to the Chan-75 Dam, which is being built across the Changuinola River on traditional Ngobe lands by the government of Panama and a subsidiary of the Virginia-based AES Corporation."

Hmmmm we don't hear much about the Ngobe people of Western Panama on TV1 or TV3.

"For the past two years the Ngobe have been subjected to cruel and vicious abuses for speaking out against the dam and refusing to sacrifice their livelihoods for it. Pregnant Women have been stripped and humiliated, Community members have been forced to sign documents at gunpoint, and many others have been physically beaten."

"The commission's ruling results from a petition filed last year by the Ngobe, after AES-Changuinola began bulldozing houses and farming plots. When the Ngöbe protested the destruction of their homes, the government sent in riot police who beat and arrested villagers, including women and children, and then set up a permanent cordon around the community to prevent anyone from entering the area.

"We are thrilled to have the commission take these measures to protect Ngobe communities," said Ellen Lutz, executive director of the nonprofit Cultural Survival and lead counsel for the Ngobe. "We are hopeful that this will help the government of Panama and AES recognize their obligation to respect Ngobe rights."

The government must adopt necessary measures to guarantee the Ngobe people's basic human rights, including their rights to life, physical security, and freedom of movement, and to prevent violence or intimidation against them, ordered the commission, which is a body of the Organization of American States."

Basic human rights!

And what about this damn dam.

"Chan-75 would inundate four Ngöbe villages that are home to approximately 1,000. Another 4,000 Ngöbe living in neighboring villages would be affected by the destruction of their transportation routes, flooding of their agricultural plots, lack of their access to their farmlands, and reduction or elimination of fish that are an important protein source in their diet. It would also open up their territories to non-Ngöbe settlers.

The dam also will cause grave environmental harm to the UNESCO-protected La Amistad Biosphere Reserve, an international World Heritage Site that upriver from the dam site. Scientists believe that there is a high risk of losing important fish species that support the reserve’s wildlife, including several endangered species, because the dam will destroy their migration route."

So the fight for right continues and just as maori can feel proud of the victory yesterday with the call for a repeal of the bogus Foreshore and Seabed Act, so the Ngobe people can feel proud of thier victory in slowing down (and maybe stopping) this dam. But as we rest in victory the next battle and injustice looms.

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