September 2-22, 2006
Medan and Parapat, Indonesia
The Human Rights Solidarity Workshop 2006 with the theme Poverty and Conflict was conducted last September 2 to 12, 2006 in Medan and Parapat, North Sumatra, Indonesia, and attended by 30 youth and students from WSCF AP member movements in Asia and the Pacific namely, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Australia, Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. The workshop was hosted by the students of the Medan branch of GMKI (SCM Indonesia) and was coordinated by the regional office of WSCF AP.
Working on the theme “Human Rights, Poverty and Conflict”, the participants learned through the different inputs, sharing, group discussions and exposure the impact of neoliberal economic policies on the economic, civil and political rights of people. The objectives of the workshop were as follows:
The resource persons invited were Dr. Philip Watunga, Senior Program Director of the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) who provided the tools in understanding basic human rights concepts, the human rights situation in different Asian countries and mechanism and remedies available locally and internationally to address and respond to the violations of rights in all forms. Dr. Tony Waworuntu, Executive Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) elaborated on the context of the geo-political situation in Asia-Pacific and how it is affecting the massive violation of people’s rights in the region, the role of US in the worsening peace and conflict situation in many countries around the world. Suchjar Effendi from Institute of Global Justice focused his presentation on the historical development of neoliberalism, its present form and its impact on the growing poverty in the region. The three bible studies led by Rev. Leritio Panjaitan from HKBP Church in Indonesia provided biblical reflections on the theme focusing on the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25), a community of sharing (John 6), missionary community (Matthew 9). The students and youth response was facilitated by Rey Asis of Asian Student Association (ASA).
The sharing and story-telling prepared by SCM Philippines chairperson Dion Ceraffon highlighted extra-judicial killings among the youth and student activists in the Philippines and appealed to all the SCMers to join them in their campaign to stop the killings. Immanuel Gopala Kitnan, general secretary of SCM Sri Lanka, presented reports on the escalating violence brought about by the on-going armed conflict between the LTTE and the government forces in the north-eastern part of the country. He added that the failure of the Human Rights Commission to respond to this situation and the collapse of the rule of law in Sri Lanka have further escalated the violence. Myanmar SCM representative Tuntun Oo talked about forced labor and migration in Myanmar, while SCM India representative Preeti Abraham discussed prevalent child labor and oppression of women in India brought about by the caste system. These stories have allowed the participants to reflect on the similarities in the issues and draw an analysis on human rights and neoliberalism as an over-arching theme.
The exposure to Porsea village in North Sumatra, where the indigenous Batak people have been struggling against the giant pulp factory called the Toba Pulp (TPL), formerly known as the IndoRion, enabled the participants to see, observe and listen to the stories of the people on how the factory has destroyed the environment, the people’s means of livelihood and community life in general. In addition, community leaders in Porsea were imprisoned, intimidated and some were even killed in their struggle to resist the operation of the factory. The case in Porsea clearly illustrates the impact of neo-liberal policies adopted by the Indonesian government in collusion with private companies and the military in the massive violation of people’s rights to their ancestral land, right to livelihood, and civil and political rights. This exposure experience was truly an eye-opener for all of the participants.
At the end of the workshop, a Human Rights Action Plan was agreed by the participants which includes the following recommendations:
In the long-term, support the struggle of the community to close down the factory of TPL in Porsea, North Sumatra, Indonesia. In the short term:
We, the Student Christian Movements representing the World Student Christian Federation of the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, gathered in Parapat, North Sumatera, from the 3rd to 10th of September 2006, have discussed and addressed neoliberalism and its impact and relation to the burning human rights issues in the Asia-Pacific region. [read on]