The Himalayas: Literature Can Displace Anthropology

September 2nd, 2018 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

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Featured image: Cover of the novel Yogamaya

When I was well into my career as an anthropologist specializing in Himalayan peoples, I came across an historical episode concerning two no-longer living but obviously brilliant women who had performed remarkable political feats in the early 20th century. I undertook to uncover their stories, determined first because, inspired by feminist revelations, I myself was in search of women heroes, and second because I had had enough of anthropology’s imperialist claims of scientific impartiality. This meant my breaking from both traditional research methodologies and from academic writing conventions.

I’d been a social anthropologist (ethnographer, of the British School) relying on intensive interviews, and, as we claimed, ‘objective participation observation’. (Ethnography is in fact more akin to journalism than academics will acknowledge.)

Since my subjects were no longer alive I could not apply face-to-face interviews or behavioral observation– the women were already becoming mythical characters– and the few people alive who’d known them were quite elderly. Moreover, those leaders had been political activists at a time when criticism of Nepal’s monarch, its officials and the powerful Hindu priest class was prohibited; any resurgence of interest would be stifled for another decade after my arrival at the site of the early protests.

Those women’s fantastic careers happened on the steamy shore of the roaring Arun Kola deep in the Himalayas. It was possible to imagine past glories there, however isolated and overlooked it now seemed. So I pressed on determinedly.

I was dealing with individuals wildly unrepresentative of their culture. Both were outrageous, atypical characters. A sociological approach was out of the question. And, although the women died only four decades earlier, there was no written record I could find, not initially. My determination proved rewarding because at the time (1980-85) I was welcomed by a small community of ascetics, all women, who’d known both of those radicals. Now quite elderly, they felt impervious to any government retaliation for assisting me.

These ladies enthusiastically spoke about Shakti Yogmaya and Durga Devi—the first a revolutionary, the second a reformer– who they‘d once followed. Recluses, now in their 70s and 80s, they vividly remembered how fifty and sixty years earlier, they’d been filled with fervor and faith in social reform.

Based on their accounts I managed two academic reports. But these stories needed a more creative approach; I began my first attempts at biography. I was aided by the contemporary Nepali poet Parijat who introduced me to the perilous political sttuggle she herself was engaged in. She and I worked on translating the provocative quadrants of the long dead Shakti Yogmaya which in turn initiated me into Nepal’s political realities.

Nepal was still a dictatorship in the 1980s and attention to events surrounding Yogmaya was risky. A known dissident across Nepal, Parijat was not to be intimidated, and she encouraged me to persist.

My book Heir to a Silent Song appeared 17 years ago, published in English in Kathmandu. That effort propelled me out of the academic world and set me on my career in journalism. Meanwhile more revelations about Yogmaya, the most radical woman Nepal had ever produced, attracted a new generation of capable, dedicated Nepali scholars.

Some historical characters, like this Nepali rebel of the early 20th century, are too wild and unwieldy for normal history to grasp. And today, we have a wonderful example of how literature can overtake and outshine scholarly efforts. Shakti Yogmaya, the subject of the eponymous novel published early this year, has just won The Madan Puraskar, Nepal’s most prestigious prize in literature. It’s authored by the US-based Nepali writer Neelam Niharika who writes in Nepali language and is already known for her ambitious historical novels.

Of course I am thrilled that this novel builds on my and other scholars’ efforts starting almost forty years earlier. (It was a colleague of Niharika at Radio Nepal four years ago, who reading those histories, suggested she turn her creative energy to Yogmaya.)

Niharika had no obligation to remain within the boundaries of our accounts. Yet, she undertook more research. In a recent conversation she explained how she interviewed whomever she could in the very hills where Yogmaya’s political campaign occurred almost a hundred years ago. Not herself from the Arun Rivervalley region, Niharika launched a visit there to know more about where Yogmaya was born. (This, after she’d reached locals through social media and phone, to schedule onsite meetings.) The area is much changed but this novelist still conducted her own fieldwork, using modern communications to her advantage. Not only this; she made a video of her arrival in the area, its ecology, recording conversations with local notables of what they remembered of that history.

The novel “Yogmaya” begins with an imaginary conversation between me and the novelist Parijat, thus emphasizing a line of women who helped shape Niharika’s own historical inquiry.

“Yogamaya”’s recognition by the nation’s highest literary prize rewards not only a skilled young author. The subject itself—a local woman warrior—will gain wider traction, inspiring a following which no amount of scholarly articles might. At a time when Nepal is sodden with questionable gender development projects that dwell on the ‘poor and vulnerable victim’ and where many educated urban women, following western feminists, express hardly more than institutional sympathy for their ‘deprived’ rural sisters, this novel offers a fresh look at what a village woman can do.

Perhaps anthropologists too may learn how to honor the people they study with the creation of quality biographies they deserve.


This article was originally published on the author’s webpage:

Aziz is a veteran anthropologist and radio journalist, also author of Heir to A Silent Song: Two Rebel Women of Nepal, published by Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and available through Barnes and Noble in the USA. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

The Kerala Deluge: Global Warming’s Latest Act

September 2nd, 2018 by Dr. S Faizi

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Ten days of incessant downpour has turned the peninsular Indian state of Kerala into a theatre of destruction. Three hundred and sixty deaths, thousands of homes inundated, over a million people in relief camps, roads and the major airport  flooded and damaged- an unparalleled tragedy in the history of the state renowned for its high social indices and progressive political ambience.  The Kerala deluge is a man-made calamity predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 2007 report.

As predicted by the IPCC the number of rainy days were less and the volume of precipitation far greater than the normal average. Uninterrupted rains lashed most of the 38852 sq km broad state from 9 to 15 August, which was over 257 per cent of the normal rainfall this period in the past years. And this unending rain was falling on a soil that was already soaked by rains that started on June 1 which was already in excess of the normal by 41 per cent.  The carrying capacities of the water bodies to hold the run off water were also exhausted. The irrigation and hydel dams on the Western Ghats mountains bordering the eastern part the state were already getting to their peak storage capacity.

The rain on 15 August was an unbearable 130 mm against 10 mm average of the previous years’ on the same day. What followed was a tragedy of unprecedented scale- floods across the state and landslides in the mountain areas. Deaths and destruction as never seen before in this part of the world. Kerala has the memory of a 1924 flood that was calamitous but the present one surpasses that in the scale of the havoc. Kerala enjoys a moderate climate, with no  pronounced summer or winter, and characterised by two seasons of monsoon- the present southwest usually starting in early June and northeast monsoon starting in mid October, and the rains are spread across the season with interludes of sunny days. Winter clothes are alien to Kerala and air conditioners are an unwanted luxury. Kerala was unprepared to face the challenge of the deluge in the making of which it barely had any role.

Kerala has a forest and tree cover of 23280 sq kms which is 60 per cent of the terrestrial area of the state, in comparison with the 21.54 per cent forest coverage of India, as reported by the latest  report on forests in the country by the Forest Survey of India in 2017. It also reports a net gain in forest coverage by 1043 sq km in Kerala during the reporting period, though this is attributed to the increase in commercial plantations. As for the water bodies in the forest districts, the state expanded its spread by 71 sq kms during the decade of 2005-15, the report records. Obviously, the local environmental factors hardly had any influence in the making of the tragedy. There are cases of stone mining in some parts of the state, which I have also been opposing at a few locales, but that cannot be attributed to the deluge as some tend to argue. The sheer volume of the precipitation  inundated the entire landscape, and wrought landslides.  Global warming operates as an invisible process and one can miss it and get engaged with local factors digressing from the central issue.

The damages wrecked by the deluge are astronomical. Tentative estimates put the figure at Rs 200000 million (about US $ 3 billion).  The flood mortality was kept to the minimum by the dedication and unity of the people in rescue and relief operation. The coastal fishermen took their boats on elevated trucks to the inundated  areas and rescued about 100000 people marooned on rooftops. The army too played a commendable role although the scale of deployment of their logistics was disproportionate to the scale of the disaster. The people showed remarkable solidarity and sense of sharing in helping the affected in the relief camps spread across schools, public halls, churches, mosques and temples. The greatest ever tragedy in the state also witnessed  a great display of human solidarity.

IPCC had predicted the change of floods of 100 years cycles to 4-5 years. With the atmosphere having over 400 parts per million warming gases, the highest ever in the past three million years, this prediction is set to become a reality. And the Kerala deluge is one more proof. Half of the 48 million people exposed to river flooding is in Asia and this is set to increase with the growing incidents of floods. The losses from floods across the world are set to escalate from the current staggering figure of Euro 110 billion per year. And the victims have barely any role in the making of this tragedy. According to a World Bank study of 2013 the US per capita emission was 16.4 metric tonnes while India’s was only 1.6 metric tonnes. All developing countries have similar or even lower rate of carbon emission than India. And this is not considering the disproportionately huge levels of carbon emission by the US in the past, and the same is the case with other industrial economies as well. Yet the Paris Agreement is inherently weak in reversing the climate change and the US is seeking to sabotage even that.

This is a debilitating blow to Kerala’s economic order that spends heavily on education, has a renowned primary health care system and an egalitarian social profile. Yet the relief assistance from the federal government has been meagre in comparison to the scale of damage. Rupees six thousand million is offered when the devastation is to the tune of Rupees two hundred thousand million. This figure is not exactly because of a scarcity of funds as far more amounts have been spent by the current regime on items such as personal publicity for the prime minister, statue making, aid for asingle religious festival and so on. This discrimination is perceived as due to the progressive politics and syncretism that characterise the Kerala society, in contrast to the xenophobic and fundamentalist politics of the political formation at the federal government. Unfortunately the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP) of the Rashtreeya Swayam Sevak Sangh, a  fundamentalist outfit that was banned for a term following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, did not stop there. Their men went on calling on people not to donate money to the relief fund set up by the Kerala chief minister, describing the Kerala tragedy as a divine punishment for eating beef, for disrespecting a certain god and so on. 

That is a tragedy within a tragedy, stooping to the level of a TV anchor close to the prime minister disparaging, on air, the people of rain ravaged Kerala. A federal minister, interestingly hailing from Kerala, publicly stated that all that the battered state needed was only plumbers and electricians. An unprecedented tragedy followed by unheard of campaigns, reflecting the new xenophobic political ambience in the country. And the federal government diplomatically denied any UN support to the flood affected people. The UAE government was contemplating to provide an unconditional grant of US$ one million, but that was rejected by the federal government even when India is a leading recipient of foreign assistance from multiple countries and multilateral banks. India is encumbered with a staggering debt of Rs 460000 million to foreign countries and multilateral agencies during 2017-18, according to the Ministry of Finance. And India paid back Rs 57680 million to foreign donors in interest alone during the same period! But foreign assistance for the helplessly sinking state was denied, even as the federal government itself is declining to contribute to Kerala matching its massive financial need for rehabilitation.  Denial of the UAE aid offer came, intriguingly, after the prime minister’s tweet welcoming the support of UAE. 

The global community, the developed countries in particular, has a responsibility not to let Kerala sink as it is reeling under the onslaught of global warming in the creation of which it has little role. And this should be based on the principles of polluter pays and common but differential responsibility enshrined in international law. With the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change projecting the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the lethal 55 gigatonnes in the year 2030, it is important for the global South to see how the world responds to the onslaught of global warming in Kerala.



Dr S Faizi is an ecologist specialising in international environmental policy, a member of the Biodiversity Convention’s Expert Group on Poverty and Biodiversity and President of  the Ethological Society of India.

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Heaps of plastic waste cover the shores of Manila Bay in the Philippines. Myrna Dominguez remembers when an abundance of fish inhabited its waters—locals would catch enough to feed their families and sell at the market. Today, she says, they are catching more plastic than fish.

“We’re very afraid that if this is not addressed, the bay, which 100,000 small fishers rely on, will no longer be viable for them,” Dominguez says.

In May, Dominguez and Indian labor organizer Lakshmi Narayan visited communities in the U.S. that are affected by pollution from oil extraction and plastic production, to show the effects that these processes have on communities overseas. The “Stopping Plastic Where It Starts Tour,” organized by #Breakfreefromplastic and Earthworks, is part of a project that aims to reduce plastic consumption and production by raising awareness about the impacts of plastic production on the communities at either end of its supply chain.

Dominguez and Narayan, representing communities in Asia experiencing the effects of plastic pollution, visited places in the U.S. experiencing the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) oil and gas production—an industry that is producing the raw materials to build plastic.

#breakfreefromplastic activists in front of a petrochem facility in Pittsburgh. Photo courtesy of #breakfreefromplastic. (Source: YES! Magazine)

Dominguez is the policy and advocacy adviser of the Asia Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty, which campaigns to protect the rights of small food producers such as fishers and farmers, and to preserve fishing grounds and cultural lands of indigenous communities.

Click here to read full article from YES! Magazine.

The Illegal Entry of GMOs into India

August 25th, 2018 by Colin Todhunter

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Despite five high-level reports (listed here) in India advising against the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops, the drive to get GM mustard commercialised (which would be India’s first officially-approved GM food crop) has been relentless. Although the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has given it the nod, GM mustard remains held up in the Supreme Court mainly due to a public interest litigation by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues.

Rodrigues argues that GM mustard is being undemocratically forced through with flawed tests (or no testing) and a lack of public scrutiny and that unremitting scientific fraud and outright regulatory delinquency has taken place. She is seeking a moratorium on the environmental releasee of any genetically modified organism (GMO) in the absence of: comprehensive, transparent and rigorous biosafety protocols; biosafety studies conducted by independent expert bodies; and access to biosafety protocols and data in the public domain.

On Friday 24 August 2018 and in relation to the ongoing court proceedings surrounding GM mustard, Rodrigues filed an additional court application concerning the ongoing illegal imports of GM seed, GM soy cultivation in Gujarat and the presence of GMO imports in processed foods and oils. All of this represents a back-door entry of GMOs into India.

The application is scathing about what it calls proof of ultimate ‘regulatory delinquency’ and of the regulators and attendant government ministries mortgaging the public interest.

This new 78-page submission to court asserts that the GEAC has provided cover for the illegal trade in imports of GM processed foods, including huge quantities of GM seeds as well as processed and crude soy oil. The GEAC is also accused of deliberately allowing the contamination of India’s food chain with untested GMOs, thereby potentially endangering the health of Indians.

In addition to the illegal cultivation of herbicide-tolerant (HT) soybean in Gujarat, there have also been reports of HT cotton illegally growing in India (insecticide-containing Bt cotton is the only legally sanctioned GM crop in India).

Interestingly, this 2017 paper discusses how cotton farmers have been encouraged to change their crop planting practices, leading to more weeds appearing in their fields. The outcome of this change in terms of yields or farmer profit is no better than before. These changes, however, coincide with illegal HT cotton seeds appearing on the market: farmers are being pushed towards a treadmill reliance on illegal cotton seeds genetically engineered designed to withstand chemical herbicides.

The authors, Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs, say that traditional planting practices and ox-plough weeding are:

“… being actively undermined by parties intent on expanding herbicide markets and opening a niche for next-generation genetically modified cotton.”

They observe:

“The challenge for agrocapital is how to break the dependence on double-lining and ox-weeding to open the door to herbicide-based management…. how could farmers be pushed onto an herbicide-intensive path?”

In 2018, the Centre for Science and Environment tested 65 imported and domestically produced processed food samples in India. Some 32 per cent of the samples tested were GM positive: 46 per cent of those imported and 17 per cent of those samples manufactured in India. Out of the 20 GM-positive packaged samples, 13 did not mention use of GM ingredients on their labels. Some brands had claims on their labels suggesting that they had no GM ingredients but were found to be GM positive.

The situation has prompted calls for probes into the workings of the GEAC and other official bodies who seem to be asleep at the wheel or deliberately looking the other way.

But this wouldn’t be the first time: India’s only (now legal) GM crop cultivation – Bt cotton – was discovered in 2001 growing on thousands of hectares in Gujarat. The GEAC was caught off-guard when news about large scale illegal cultivation of Bt cotton emerged, even as field trials that were to decide whether India would opt for this GM crop were still underway.

In March 2002, the GEAC ended up approving Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in India. To this day, no liability has been fixed for the illegal spread.

The tactic of contaminate first then legalise has benefited industry players elsewhere too. In 2006, for instance, the US Department of Agriculture granted marketing approval of GM Liberty Link 601 (Bayer CropScience) rice variety following its illegal contamination of the food supply and rice exports. The USDA effectively sanctioned an ‘approval-by-contamination’ policy.

In her evidence submitted to court, Aruna Rodrgues argues that what is happening must invite the gravest charges. At least four institutions stand accused of unconscionable gross maladministration: The GEAC, Ministry of Commerce, the Food Safety Standards Authority, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade the Directorate of Plant Protection and Quarantine & Storage.

Corruption at the core of the global GM project

Corruption and illegality go hand in hand with the global GM project. For instance, a jury in San Francisco recently found that Monsanto had failed to warn former groundsman Dewayne Johnson and other consumers of the cancer risks posed by its weed killers. It awarded him $39 million in compensatory and $250 million in punitive damages.

The jury’s verdict found not only that Monsanto’s Roundup and related glyphosate-based brands presented a substantial danger to people using them but that there was “clear and convincing evidence” that Monsanto’s officials acted with “malice or oppression” in failing to adequately warn of the risks.

The warning signs seen in scientific research about the dangers of glyphosate dated back to the early 1980s and have only increased over the decades. However, Monsanto worked not to warn users or redesign its products but to create its own science, designed to appear independent and thus more credible, to show they were safe.

To have Roundup removed from the market or its use heavily restricted would pull the rug from under much of Monsanto’s GM endeavour to date, which has relied on the roll-out of two crop traits: herbicide tolerance and bt insecticide. Monsanto genetically engineered crops to withstand direct spraying of Roundup (HT trait): these seeds and the herbicide are huge money spinners for the company. It comes as little surprise to many therefore that the company would use all means necessary to protect its product and its bottom line.

Glyphosate-based herbicides are widely used around the globe. Residues are commonly found in food and water supplies, and in soil, air samples and rainfall. Regulators, however, have failed to heed the warnings of independent scientists, even brushing aside the findings of the World Health Organization’s top cancer scientists who classified glyphosate as a “probable human carcinogen”.

Another trial will take place in October in St Louis involving roughly 4,000 plaintiffs whose claims are pending with the potential outcomes resulting in many more hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in damage awards. They all allege that their cancers were caused by exposure to Monsanto’s herbicides and that Monsanto has long known about, and covered up, the dangers (it is no coincidence that in Argentina, where glyphosate is liberally sprayed on GM HT crops, there has been dramatic increases in birth defects and cancers).

Unsurprisingly, many in India have called for a ban on HT tolerant crops. The Supreme Court appointed TEC Committee recommended a ban on HT crops (2013) and the Swaminathan Task Force Report (2004) recommendation was that HT crops are completely unsuited to Indian agriculture. Health dangers aside, in a country of small farms where multi-cropping is common, sanctioning the liberal spraying of herbicides on GM HT crops would be grossly negligent. Even in the US, with its huge farms and mono crop expanses, the spraying of the herbicide dicamba is causing big problems for farmers, many of whom claim the chemical has drifted onto their fields, damaging crops that are not genetically modified to withstand it.

But India’s regulators and attendant ministries have tried to introduce GM mustard which is tolerant to another herbicide, glufosinate (contained in Bayer’s brand ‘Basta’), a neurotoxin even more toxic than glyphosate.

Prof. Dave Schubert (Salk Institute for Biological Studies) in his document ‘A Hidden Epidemic’, says that we have reached the point where the evidence against probable carcinogen, glyphosate (active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup), is “directly analogous with DDT, asbestos, lead and tobacco, where industries were able to block regulatory actions for many years by perpetually muddying the waters about their safety with false or misleading data.”

Where GM is concerned, we are witnessing an unnecessary gamble with the genetic core of food, the environment and human health. Unnecessary because the US authorities themselves have conceded that GM crops have failed to achieve desired benefits. For example, regarding drought tolerance, the USDA has admitted that Monsanto’s drought-tolerant corn performs no better than existing drought-tolerant varieties of non-GM corn.

Regarding yields, in 2016 the US National Academies of Sciences concluded,

“The nation-wide data on maize, cotton, or soybean in the United States do not show a significant signature of genetic engineering technology on the rate of yield increase.”

In India and Burkina Faso, Bt cotton has not been a success. Moreover, a largely non-GMO Europe tends to outperform the US, which largely relies on GM crops. In general, “GM crops have not consistently increased yields or farmer incomes, or reduced pesticide use in North America or in the Global South (Benbrook, 2012; Gurian-Sherman, 2009)” (from the report ‘Persistent narratives, persistent failure’).

“Currently available GM crops would not lead to major yield gains in Europe,” says Matin Qaim, a researcher at Georg-August-University of Göttingen, Germany.

Consider too that once the genetic genie is out of the bottle, there may be no way of going back. For instance, Roger Levett, specialist in sustainable development, argues (‘Choice: Less can be more, in Food Ethics, Vol. 3, No. 3, Autumn 2008):

“If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GMO foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GMOs. It’s a one-way choice… once it’s made, it can’t be reversed.”

HT crops have also led to serious problems (as set out here) in countries where they are used.

Moreover, non-GM alternatives can outperform GM, yet officialdom in India seems to be facilitating the contamination of agriculture with illegal GMOs.

And what of India’s only legally permitted GM crop to date? The peer reviewed study “Deconstructing Indian cotton: weather, yields and suicides” concludes that “annual farmers’ suicide rates in rainfed areas are inversely related to farm size and yield and directly related to increases in Bt-cotton adoption (i.e. costs)”.

Despite evidence of the failure of Bt cotton, Aruna Rodrigues notes that for the regulators it nevertheless strangely remains the official template of ‘success’ for other GM crops.

GMO based on a fraud

GM has not delivered as promised, is not ‘substantially equivalent’ to non-GM counterparts and poses unique risks (previously discussed here).

And the corporations behind the roll-out of GM have done little to inspire confidence. According to Steven Druker, we can see that GMOs were approved fraudulently in the face of scientific warnings: clear, early warnings right from the start of possible harm. As the latest application to India’s Supreme Court states:

“These early warnings have been confirmed and reinforced up to the present time, through independent studies; this despite great difficulties faced by scientists, which include ‘persecution’, and sackings, nothing short.”

There are major uncertainties concerning the technology (not least regarding its precision and health safety aspects), which are brushed aside by industry lobbyists with claims of ‘the science’ is decided and the ‘facts’ about GM are indisputable. Such claims are merely political posturing and part of the plan to tip the policy agenda in favour of GM. Tipping that agenda also involves corruption and the subversion of democratic institutions.

Following the court decision to award in favour of Dewayne Johnson, attorney Bobby Kennedy Jr said the following at the post-trial press conference:

“… you not only see many people injured, but you also see a subversion of democracy. You see the corruption of public officials, the capture of agencies that are supposed to protect us all from pollution. The agencies become captured by the industries they are supposed to regulate. The corruption of science, the falsification of science, and we saw all those things happen here. This is a company (Monsanto) that used all of the plays in the playbook developed over 60 years by the tobacco industry to escape the consequences of killing one of every five of its customers… Monsanto… has used those strategies…”

He then went on to say glyphosate is ubiquitous in the food supply and is related to so many terrible life-threatening conditions, which he listed.

Given the failure or lukewarm performance of GM technology, the risks to health and the environment and the devastation caused by India’s only legal GM crop to date, many might be wondering why Indian authorities are facilitating the entry of (chemical-dependent) GMOs into the food system.

Why is there so much support for a technology mired in fraud that has to date created more problems and risks than benefits?

Why – despite increasing support for highly productive, sustainable zero-budget farming in places like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka – is a bogus technology being pushed?

Why, based on India’s unnecessary and rising import bill, is unadulterated (non-GM) food, self-reliance and food security an anathema to policy makers?

In other words, whose interests are ultimately being served: the public, the farmers or those of transnational agrocapital?


Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Asia-Pacific Research.


Seeds of Destruction: Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

Author Name: F. William Engdahl
ISBN Number: 978-0-937147-2-2
Year: 2007
Pages: 341 pages with complete index

List Price: $25.95

Special Price: $18.00


This skilfully researched book focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread. “Control the food and you control the people.”

This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms.

The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.

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It is a continuation of Malcolm Turnbull by other means.  The new Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison and his freshly appointed Deputy, Josh Frydenberg have ensured that the “insurgents”, as Turnbull deemed them, did not come through. Both were respective architects – failed ones at that – of the company tax plan, voted down in the Senate, and the National Energy Guarantee, torn up by the Liberal Party room.  Both claim that this was a “new generation” of leadership.  These claims were extraordinary in their repudiation of reality.  

Turnbull, who has promised a swift exit from federal politics, was never a comfortable fit with the Liberal Party.  He was never counted amongst them.

“It was, and always has been,” observed Annabel Crabb, “the inability of the party to accept collectively that Malcolm Bligh Turnbull is one of them.”

He did not drink from the same watering holes, nor dine at the same venues with hack and operator.  And he had more than flirted with the big power stalwarts of the enemy: the Labor Party.

Turnbull started with a bruising entry into federal politics, overthrowing incumbent MP Peter King in the seat of Wentworth in the 2004 pre-selection process.  He was a beast who terrified the Liberal party apparatchiks.  Through the course of his political stint, he was keen in a field deemed toxic by his colleagues: climate change.  Never the party man, never true blue, and only reluctantly pro-coal.  He called in the consultants, the experts, the various figures who would give him options. But in politics, numerous options can be fatal to the vision; certitude demands distillation.

On the ABC, Crabb seemed to worship Turnbull’s multitasking, merchant banker-barrister brain as it was making its exit from Parliament.  In conversation with fellow journalist Andrew Probyn, both reflected on his achievements as the figure who was a creaky politician but could still doodle on his phone and master the agenda of a meeting while reading an article on Roman architecture.  They admired his doggerel as a student, which sounded awfully like a steal from Rudyard Kipling.  (Lawyers can be such frightful plagiarists.)

None of the individuals who found themselves in the leadership roles had articulated any specific vision of the country prior to entering the party room where the bloodletting process was ceremonially affirmed.  Now, a man ruthless as immigration minister (“Stop the Boats” was Morrison’s crude sloganeering contribution that served to show the Australian voter that he would be remorseless about irregular arrivals), and blustering as treasurer, has become the accidental prime minister.

The media circus has also been high up on the detail, a reminder about how closely tied the scribblers and talking heads are with the political establishment in this country.   Journalists were beamed from the respective electorates of the various candidates armed with straw poll methods, taking snatches of opinion from the café patron, the dog walker, and, in one instance, the bowls club.  Photos of the contenders were shown: few were recognised.  Turnbull was being assassinated by the unknown and the anonymous.

At his outgoing press conference, Turnbull got interesting after the usual platitudes.  These involved references to the very policies he assisted fuelling: suspicions about race, big-end of town back-rubbing, reactionary tendencies, and ambivalence to climate change within his own party.  He spoke about the greatness of Australia, and was hardly modest about that.

Then came observations about the coup within his own party, the red mist that had fogged up Parliament for an entire week.

“It was extraordinary. It was described as madness by many. I think it is difficult to describe it any other way.”

It was the madness that involved supporters of challenger Peter Dutton and long term rival Tony Abbott “who chose to deliberately attack the government from within… because they wanted to bring the government down.”  He mentioned the influential outside forces which had also had their disruptive say in the process.

The saboteurs, in falling five votes short for their intended candidate, have gotten their comeuppance – richly deserved spoliation that will, in time, enable the opposition Labor Party to canter to victory.  Turnbull bent over listening to the conservative factions, and capitulated.  On capitulating, he was accused of being weak.  Such village idiot navigation culminated in this week’s vicious machinations, a true variant of what Kingsley Amis described as a “Sod the Public” policy.

It was violence without need, a curious attempt to achieve a false unity that, in any case, has not been achieved.  These Cassius types, without the same tutored way, have been attempting to identify false lines: this was a disagreement between left and right within the party, leaving the centre to come up for air.  A more simple answer is in the offing: it was a matter of personalities with oceanic gulfs between them.  Old scores needed to be settled; revenge was to be exacted from the previous knifing in 2015 inflicted on then prime minister and Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott.

The divisions within the party suggest the split in the right that has proven lethal.  And it was unnecessarily encouraged.  Senator Mathias Cormann’s intervention was vital and undertaken with “great sadness and a heavy heart” (treachery tends to be such) but premised on a capitulation to sentiment.  In shifting loyalties from Turnbull to Dutton, he stood on the grass of Canberra’s parliamentary lawn along with other mind changing loyalists, ministers Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash, suggesting that the prime minister had lost the confidence of the party.  This was highly questionable: at that point, a mere 20 signatures had been obtained to force a vote (or a spill, as its termed) on his leadership.

The damage done by backing the stalking horse of Dutton yielded a Turnbull-lite solution, when it was intended to yield Dutton, the shock jock’s choice and Murdoch press punt.  Morrison, Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister, will hope that evolution (or the divine) gifts him eyes in the back of his head.  In the meantime, the Australian voter can sod off.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

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The process that’s required to train baby elephants to give rides to tourists is devastatingly cruel. Now, animals rights groups and travel agencies are taking a stand against this practice.

Baby elephants in Southeast Asia have become subjected to the practice of international trafficking. This trafficking is feeding Thailand’s booming tourism industry, where one of the most popular tourist activities is taking a ride atop an elephant through the jungle.

But once you understand the horrifying training process that’s necessary to make an elephant capable of giving these rides to humans, and the lengths that captors go to achieve this, chances are you won’t even think about wanting to ever experience an elephant ride in your life.

Elephant Calves Are Separated From Their Mothers

The first step in the elephant training process is for poachers to find baby elephants in the wild and separate them from their families. Baby elephants are highly sought after because they’re much easier to train, and thus will command higher prices on the black market.

Some poachers will go as far as to kill the calf’s entire family, namely the mother elephants that try to protect their young. This practice likely has contributed to the significant decline in the population of the Asian elephant over the last century.

According to Trafalgar CEO Gavin Tollman, a travel and lifestyle brand, at one point the Asian continent was populated with more than 3.5 million wild elephants. Today there are only an estimated 415,000 wild elephants left. Elephants aren’t only harmed for tourism, but are also hunted for their ivory tusks — both of which contribute to the significant decline in their population over the past 100 years.

“Phajaan” — The Soul-Crushing Process Baby Elephants Endure

After poachers capture baby elephants, they’re subjected to a barbaric practice called “phajaan,” which essentially translates to “breaking of the spirit.” The goal is to render the calf totally submissive to humans, and as you may have guessed, it’s an incredibly cruel process.

Baby elephants are isolated and tied down, usually confined to a small cage where they have little or no ability to move. They are then subjected to extensive torture, which typically involved stabbing their bodies repeatedly with sharp objects or hitting them with pieces of wood.

This is done to train baby elephants to be afraid of humans and submit to their disposal completely — which has physical as well as psychological effects on the animal.

A news report by Link TV uncovers how elephants in southeast Asia are being smuggled for the tourism industry.

Nora Livingstone, founder of Animal Experience International, says of the “phajaan” process, “Imagine being a 5,000-kilogram [1,100 pound] social animal and only being allowed to walk two steps in either direction because of a chain around your leg that digs into your sensitive skin and causes you to bleed. And now, imagine being completely alone from your family.”

These baby elephants exhibit symptoms once this “training” is complete that can only be described as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS, explains the elephants that are used for riding in India “have been observed as displaying behavior indicating extreme mental distress and deterioration, such as head bobbing and swaying.”

An International Wildlife Crisis

The staggering rate at which the elephant population has declined in Asia has alarmed animal rights advocacy groups as well as travel agencies. Intrepid Travel co-founder Geoff Manchester, a travel agency based in England, has explicitly asked tourists traveling to Thailand to not seek out elephant rides during their stay.

Intrepid Travel explains why they stopped elephant rides on their tours.

Manchester admittedly sold the elephant riding experience to his customers, but stopped doing so in 2014. “The evidence is so overwhelming that it had a big impact on all of us who’d taken elephant riding,” he said, stating that according to his own independent research, only 6 out of the 114 elephant riding locations treated the animals properly.

By 2016, about 160 travel companies have stopped offering elephant ride experience excursions, and TripAdvisor has stopped advertising such places entirely.

Thai Tourism

A tourists rides an elephant at the Maetaman Elephant Camp in Thailand.

The torture of elephants isn’t specific to Southeast Asia — the senseless killing and battering of elephants for commercial purposes is rampant across the world. Of the approximately 2,000 elephants that are currently being used for entertainment, about 200 reside in Africa.

Poaching elephants in Africa is most commonly done for the purpose of obtaining their ivory tusks, but training baby elephants to give rides to tourists is a trend that on the rise on the continent.

According to the London-based advocacy group World Animal Protection, there are currently 39 sites that offer elephant rides in southern Africa.

Vetting Your Elephant Experience While Traveling

While riding elephants is certainly out of the question, there are definitely other ways to experience these majestic creatures while visiting countries with elephant populations. One way is to look into travel agencies that explicitly state that they do not support elephant experience sites that they’ve found to abuse and torture their animals.

True elephant sanctuaries will never offer rides, forced tricks, or anything that might humiliate the animal, according to Wildlife SOS’s Satyanarayan.

“A reputable sanctuary will keep the interests and welfare of the elephants first and foremost. They’ll have veterinary staff on hand. And they’ll be known for truly rescuing elephants from abusive situations.”

Readying Knives: The Mortality of Australian Prime Ministers

August 20th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

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The opinion poll prime ministership is a modern Australian disease.  Not only does it suggest an ailing in the Westminster system, but a profound contempt for the democratic sensibility on the part of party representatives, hacks and the industry that supports them.  Prime Ministers are merely the icing, to be whipped off and replaced on going stale.  Little wonder that the Australian politician can never be permitted to be an authentic representative, ever hostage to sentiment and the astrological deceptions of polling. 

This conditioning is so total it has even bewitched the journalistic classes, who have also done their best to feed the complex of the short-term prime minister.  Twenty-four hour news tends to do that.  A veteran ABC journalist let it slip on Monday morning that the elections were about the party strategists, the politicians and the polls. It was easy in such an assessment to avoid the Australian voter, whose relevance has declined as the influence of party brokers has risen.

A canon of politics is that support expressed with fervent enthusiasm in the public domain is bound to reverse behind closed doors.  Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has the firm support of numerous members of his front bench, expressed publicly.  This is exactly why he should be worried. Such enthusiasm could be lethal.

Even potential challenger, the one-dimensional oafish Peter Dutton of the Home Affairs portfolio, has claimed Turnbull has his support, though he has left a tantalising morsel for political observers.

“If my position changes – that is, it gets to a point where I can’t accept what the government is proposing or I don’t agree – then the Westminster system is very clear: you resign your commission, you don’t serve in the cabinet.”

Finance minister Matthias Cormann has attempted to adopt the “nothing to see here approach” while giving the Canberra press gallery every reason to presume that something is afoot.  He claims to have heard no talk about conservatives pressing Dutton to mount a challenge to Turnbull.  This, despite four 5.30 morning walks with Dutton, a fellow hardline conservative with whom he keeps on good terms with.  To Sky News, he claimed that,

“We are both very committed to the success of the Turnbull government and to wining the next election.”

Turnbull had done himself no favours.  He remains weak but more to the point, has appeared to be weak.  He took his party to the last federal election and received a thumping which imperilled his majority.  He has been unsuccessful holding the sniping conservatives within his ranks at bay while embarking on an obsessive campaign to wound the opposition leader, Bill Shorten.  The latter aspect of this strategy failed to materialise in the last round of by-elections which saw no Coalition gains, notably in the Queensland seat of Longman.  As Queensland promises to be critical in any future election for the fate of the Coalition government, strategists are getting tetchy, eyeing Dutton as a form of insurance.

Turnbull also failed to hold on to the National Energy Guarantee plans that were hammered out last week, wanting to please worried backbenchers that energy prices would not fall while wedding the government to a carbon emissions reduction target of 26 percent set by legislation.  The version cheered on with premature enthusiasm was the version that was subsequently torn up.  (The term used here is “consultation”, a political version of euthanasia.)

What will take its place remains to be seen, but the environment is bound to find a subordinate position in any such scheme. Climate sceptics remain irritations with purpose.  The current form of the plan has been watered down: instead of legislation, the target will be set by an executive order of the relevant minister.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would also tailor a report to parliament on the impact on prices as a result of the reduction.

Former prime minister, the deposed Tony Abbott, is excited.  The great disrupter smells blood and revenge, and even though he is unlikely to take Turnbull’s place in the event of any leadership challenge, he is having a vicarious thrill.  After the party meeting on August 14, Abbott landed a right royal blow, suggesting that “most explanations of how the NEG (as it stands without price targets) might theoretically get prices down sound like merchant bankers’ gobbledigook.”  He is seeing the leader of his party being readied for execution.  Fitting – Abbott was himself knifed by Turnbull in 2015 as being of questionable competence, notably on matters economic.

The media vultures have done little to stem the tide, parasites finding value in the speculation fanned by the Coalition dissidents.  Newscorp has willingly supplied the soapbox, effectively arming them with weapons of sabotage.  With each suggestion of a leadership spill come manuals – one supplied by The Sydney Morning Herald – on how to approach a prime ministership that awaits early termination.

As this week goes on, this may have simply been another spat in Turnbull’s unsteady term, wishful thinking on the part of the rabblerousers whose world view is markedly clipped.  But a prime minister without authority can only ever be a prop for other forces who will, eventually, seek his removal.  This state of affairs again shows the decrepitude of Australian politics, marred by a special form of impermanence mired in revenge, provincialism and ill-gotten gains.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

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When 12 boys and their coach were trapped in a Thailand cave, the international community rose up as one. Thai Navy Seal took up the lead in rescuing the kids. Several international agencies sent in their experts to support the rescue operations. Tesla chief Elon Musk took his mini-submarine to the rescue operation’s command centre. It was all over news internationally.

Sadly the momentous Kerala flood is not even national news, not to speak of international news. The Kerala floods is a disaster thousands of times more vast in its magnitude. Tens of thousands of people are stranded in remote areas, in the upper floors of the houses, on trees and even on roof tops. Reports of people dying in their shelters of starvation and disease have started coming out. Dead bodies are floating around in flood waters. And nobody moves.

Places like Ranni, Aranmula, Kozhenchery, Chalakkudy, Varappuzha, Angamaly, North Paravoor, Chengannoor, Pandalam are completely under water. The rains are not letting up. Flood waters keep rising. It is completely beyond the control of the state government to manage the rescue operations.

A press information of bureau press release said 57 Teams of NDRF involving about 1300 personnel and 435 Boats are deployed for search and rescue operations. Five (5) Companies of BSF, CISF and RAF’s have been deployed in the State to carry out rescue and relief measures. A total of 38 helicopters have been deployed for rescue and relief measures. 20 Aircraft are also being used for ferrying resources.

This is way beyond the needed resources and personnel to rescue ten of thousands of stranded people. Hundreds of boats of fishermen are operating in the area. They are also not able to do much. Saji Cheiyan MLA, law maker from Chengannur of Pathanamthitta district warned yesterday that Kerala floods will turn into a calamity of unimaginable proportions if help is not forthcoming. He warned that at least ten thousand people will die from starvation if more rescue teams and supplies are not deployed in the area.

Supplies have started dwindling. Many shops are empty or closed. Food supplies are not coming from outside the state. Soon there could be food shortage and medicine shortage.

More central teams are needed for the rescue operations. It’s incredulous that the third largest military force in the world can’t deploy enough helicopters and personnel to rescue the stranded people. The political difference between left ruling Kerala and the right wing BJP ruled centre should not come in the way of saving the lives of people caught in a natural calamity.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to the state last night. He could make an aerial survey of only a few places due to bad weather. In the high level meeting he promised Kerala an additional Rs 500 crore central help. It is in addition to the Rs 100 crore already allotted. This will in no way meet the billions of dollar damages the flood has caused. More importantly he failed to declare it as a ”National Disaster”. If it were declared as a national disaster it would have been much more easier for Kerala to get national and international support.

One thing is clear. The Kerala government and the central government have failed miserably in handling the disaster. It’s time for international community to step in. The support of UN disaster management team should be sought.

A Bangalore based entrepreneur Anuraj Ennai has put forward some solid suggestions:

As the relief efforts are going on full swing for #KeralaFloods few points need to be made

1. #KeralaFloods are a national calamity of the highest order. It should be declared #NationalDisaster immediately and full force of India should be deployed immediately.

2. If Indian forces are not able to manage – we have to get UN and international Disaster Management Help urgently. Dinghys, Choppers and disaster management planners are in short supply. Both state and central government should ask for help without ego.#UNHelp

3. Disrupted supply lines have to be opened on war footing. Army corps has to intervene to clear the roads. Provisions and medicine needs to be urgently procured. Railways have to be used urgently for getting food provisions and medicines – that should be the priority. Roads have to be primarily opened for goods movement and disaster relief. There should be added attention on this aspect

4. Distribution points have to opened in each district from where important provisions have to be delivered to places. Create a hub and spoke model now to avoid future shortages now.

5. Enough doctors and medicinal provision should be provided to all relief centres across the state.

This is a time for concerted effort. Request Indian government to provide all resources under its command to do effective disaster relief. #Keralafloods #NationalDisaster.

The international community that stood as one to save the Thai kids should wake up to the disaster in Kerala. It is a disaster of several magnitude in scale.


Binu Mathew is the editor of where this article was originally published.

Featured image is from the author.

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Born in Toyama Prefecture, Kamanaka Hitomi entered Waseda University and joined her friends in a filmmaking club. Kamanaka won a scholarship from the Japanese government and spent time in Canada and the US between 1990 and 1995 studying at the National Film Board of Canada and working as a media activist at Paper Tiger in New York. Kamanaka then returned to Japan at the time of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake that caused over 6,000 deaths and displaced over 300,000 people in the greater Kobe area of Japan in 1995. While working as a volunteer for the victims of the earthquake, she began to produce documentaries for NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) as a freelance director. Kamanaka’s first nuclear-related film, Hibakusha at the End of the World (Radiation: A Slow Death, 2003), won several awards, including one from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs for excellence in documentary. The film shed light on the transnational links of nuclear policies and their fatal consequences by comparing radiation effects at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in the State of Washington, the effects of depleted uranium on Iraqi citizens during and after the first Gulf War, and victims of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Hibakusha was the first of three works that came to be known as Kamanaka’s “nuclear trilogy.” Her second work, Rokkasho Rhapsody (2006) covered Rokkasho village residents’ rifts and struggles resulting from the still ongoing struggle over construction of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture, Japan. Her third work, Ashes to Honey (2010), documented local residents’ struggle against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture. In 2015, Kamanaka released Little Voices from Fukushima that followed the mothers in Fukushima who made every possible effort to protect their children from external and internal radioactive exposure, especially the effects of radiation on the thyroid glands of children following nuclear meltdowns, after the 3.11 nuclear disaster. By comparing their stories with those of Chernobyl victims’ ongoing struggle in Belarus, Little Voices highlights the necessity for measures to protect against radiation. Kamanaka is the only film director who has worked as a nuclear documentarian for over two decades, raising awareness about the gigantic profit-making structure known as the “nuclear village” or “nuclear mafia” consisting of international nuclear agencies, government, energy companies, and financial institutions and underscoring the overwhelming power exercised by this conglomerate of political and financial powers over local residents. Concerned with the fundamentally undemocratic nature of nuclear energy policies, Kamanaka combines her filmmaking and activism. Kamanaka taught filmmaking at Tokyo University of Technology from 2003-2011 as an associate professor and is currently affiliated with Tama Art University as a lecturer. I interviewed Kamanaka in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Kyoto in 2015 about her views of 3.11, filmmaking, and activism. This interview is based on those meetings. Professor Margherita Long offers an accompanying essay that puts Kamanaka’s idea of Fukushima, media, and democracy in a comparative perspective, and offers a reading of Kamanaka’s two most recent films. Katsuya Hirano.

What it means to make films after 3.11 

Hirano: You’ve been addressing issues of nuclear power and nuclear exposure for a long time. Prior to 3.11 you made your “Nuclear Trilogy” with the three films Hibakusha at the End of the World (2003), Rokkasho Rhapsody (2006) and Ashes to Honey: Toward a Sustainable Future (2010). Your most recent film Little Voices of Fukushima (2015) is a documentary shot after 3.11.1 Has the Fukushima nuclear accident changed your approach to filmmaking, or your thinking about filmmaking?

Kamanaka: Let me start by saying that my core motivation in making the nuclear trilogy was to lessen nuclear exposure worldwide. The more humans have used nukes – whether we call them “peaceful applications” of nuclear technology or “nuclear deterrents” to war – the more toxicity the planet at large has had to absorb.

What I came to understand in Iraq making Hibakusha at the End of the World was that as this toxicity spreads into people’s daily lives, future generations are the first to be sacrificed. As I was realizing that humanity would seal its own fate if it didn’t change course, and as I myself was meeting so many children who were dying, their futures cut short, I wanted to take some sort of action. This was my starting place.

Over the course of making the trilogy I was pondering, debating, and filming questions of what could be done and how the status quo could be changed. Yet as soon as I started searching for a way to capture that status quo on film, it became clear that even discerning it would be no easy task: the propaganda-driven manipulation of information blocks our view, nuclear power is imposed on us by a powerful lobby that robs us of our options for protecting the infrastructure of daily life, and basic facts are simply not understood. Also, while I could see that this was true on the one hand, I also came to appreciate the assumption, held by the great majority of Japanese people, that it is impossible to resist powerful stakeholders like the government and the electric companies. People have only a faint awareness that they are themselves the bearers of sovereign power in a democracy; this became clear to me for instance as I made Ashes to Honey and saw how hard it was for the people of Iwaishima to resist the Chugoku Electric Power Company.2 So what I wanted to put forward as I documented these various issues was a method for implementing positive solutions.

Then on March 11th 2011 the reality of a worst-case scenario nuclear accident took precedence over all the solutions that might have materialized if we hadn’t run out of time, and I was overwhelmed with a feeling of powerlessness.

A Poster for Hibakusha

H: So when you say you ran out of time, do you mean that all the films you had made had in a certain sense failed, with respect to the unfolding disaster?

K: Yes that’s exactly what I mean. My intention had always been that no one be exposed to radiation, but the 3.11 accident had not only exposed a huge number of people, but was continuing to expose them, and would keep exposing them into the foreseeable future. Meanwhile to look at Fukushima, the most severely affected area, was to see the same “safety myth” propaganda as before the meltdowns sweeping up everything in its path, so that people continued to have no awareness of risk even as they were awash in radiation.

To some extent the harmful effects will manifest themselves with time and a sense of crisis will finally be born, but by then it will be too late – my films can’t simply deliver the truth now when it’s needed; they don’t work like television or the mass media. So I worried that anything I did might be useless. Yet as I kept pondering what course to follow, I couldn’t help concluding that people really need to know the truth.

It’s like the adage that what goes unrecorded never happened. If we never make a record of what is unfolding, if we never grasp what is actually taking place, all is forgotten: the past, present and future are rewritten at the convenience of a designated few. Nothing illustrates this as well as the problem of war memory. So I made up my mind to make work based on facts, work with a high-impact message. That’s why my first project [after 3.11] was Living Through Internal Radiation. I made it with the goal of increasing radiation exposure literacy, as a kind of tool for viewers.

When I’m making a film I’m always conscious of the fact that viewers will be looking for an answer. They want instant gratification, a kind of fast-food response to the question “Well, what are we supposed to do?” This was true especially after 3.11. I know the desire well myself, and that’s why I had such a feeling of powerlessness. What would be the point, if I couldn’t provide something that would be useful right away? But I knew I had to shake this conviction; I knew the most important thing was to convey the truth carefully and accurately, if only to one or two people at a time. That’s why I made Internal Radiation.

When faced with a critical situation like Fukushima, we tend to think in terms of miracles: “If only the world would mend its ways right this second!” But I came to understand that the only honest way forward was to start with the possible, with what we can do with the reality before us, even if it yields no immediately useful results.

H: Listening to you I’m hearing two salient points. First is that those in economic and political power hold on to their positions by ensuring a lack of proper record-keeping, of documentation of fact that are inconvenient to them and their organizations. So it’s important to keep recording what has been unfolding in various places, and to oppose their attitude of moving things along in the absence of documentation. That’s the first point.

The second is that the government responded quickly to the triple disasters and especially the nuclear accident with propaganda, disseminating a new safety myth to counter the prospect of radiation damage in Fukushima and elsewhere. Meanwhile, to leave a record in opposition is to disseminate facts at odds with government propaganda, even if those facts don’t sink in right away. My sense is that your [immediate post 3.11] work shows not only that this is possible, but that it can represent a timely, concrete political intervention into the “state of emergency” that the government uses to conceal the truth and make it legal to trample on human rights.

In other words, what you’ve accomplished by means of your documentary filmmaking is to intervene both in history (by carefully recording facts and memories) and into the political status quo (by resisting the propaganda of the government, the electric company, and the mass media). Without your intervention, everyone would have fallen in line with the safety myth.

K: Well, in fact people are falling in line. It’s because of the overwhelming power of the government, TEPCO, and the media.

H: True enough. The government offers these simplistic resolution policies: “A little soil decontamination and you’ll be all set to move back!” “There’s no need to worry about radiation!” Although people harbor doubts, it’s natural to want to indulge the fantasy. Meanwhile, the message you’ve wanted to send in opposition is that things are not so simple; that we need a firm grasp of what’s really happening, so that we can start from a place of comprehension.

K: Right. But even that is still beyond most people. So the question is how to construct an alternative media, and how to use filmic media to sustain connections. What I’m struggling with most now is this problem of continuity: of funding streams, and also of networks.

Tokyo University dining halls are currently serving 500-yen lunch specials with names like “Fukushima Plate” and “Namie Dish.” They feature Fukushima rice and vegetables and are enormously popular with women students, selling out in a flash to comments from the students along the lines of “It must be safe, because it’s within radiation limits set by the government!” and “If anything, it’s tested food from Fukushima that we can eat with confidence!” These sorts of scenarios really hit home how resolutely the pro-nuclear energy establishment has been trivializing the accident.

With what sort of filmic technique is it possible to address this mindset, and relay a truth that is for them unspeakable and unknowable? It’s not clear one could ever secure enough funding for such a task!

H: This strategy of replacing the prospect of internal radiation with images of eating right, then selling the package to women college students is horrific, isn’t it? It’s unbelievably underhanded to satisfy students’ ethical impulses by convincing them they’re supporting Fukushima’s economic recovery by consuming Fukushima food.

K: It seems to me that the nature of discourse within Japan has changed dramatically since 3.11. We’ve seen the birth of a psychology that can recognize a lie perfectly well, then internalize it regardless.

H: I know what you mean. People know the line they’re being fed smells fishy, but they end up accepting it because it’s what they want to hear and it makes them feel safe. They’ve stopped being able to think properly, buffeted since the disasters by catch-phrases like “recovery” (fukkō), “bonds” (kizuna), and “Hang in There Fukushima!” (ganbare Fukushima). This is why they cast reason aside and fall in line with whomever offers the quickest solution.

K: Yes, it’s as if people are living only by their reflexes, playing some sort of mindless video game. They no longer think in terms of contexts and narratives; there’s no sense of history, or reflecting on cause and effect within the flow of time and the particulars of chronology. What we’re seeing is the proliferation of a style of living only with what is right in front of one’s eyes.

Within this sort of ephemeral atmosphere, Abe Shinzō’s regime can push through whatever it wants because its majority in the Diet is so secure. Things they’ve been unable to accomplish for seventy years of Postwar Democracy they’re accomplishing now in the blink of an eye. Those of us who can see what’s happening think how awful it is, and that we’d better do something, all while being dragged hopelessly along.

One example is the easing of the Three Principles on Arms Exports; apparently it’s fine now for Japan to sell weapons.3 Very few Japanese are even aware of the fact that Mitsubishi has been allowed to manufacture and sell tanks. While policy-makers are advancing their own projects the whole process is obscured in a black box, and ordinary citizens go about their lives with no inkling of what’s happening. By the time the flames come licking up around them it will be too late! But they don’t know this either. In my observation, we have already headed down a pretty dangerous path.

H: Here we arrive at the topic of the picture book (2004) and film project (2015) with which you’ve been involved, “What Happens Before War”?4

K: Indeed. And of course one of the issues addressed by both those projects is how to resist being swept up in the flow of time, to resist the inevitable militarization. That’s why when I’m asked whether my way of making films has changed since 3.11, I have to say that fundamentally it has not. My films have always aimed to provide the viewer with a full understanding of historical context, and his or her place within it. It’s only by means of such an understanding that we can solve problems. That’s why I think filmmaking is crucial.

H: It seems to me that in fact the act of thinking historically is exactly this act of pondering our historical situation in as broad a context as possible, and grasping its topology or phase as specifically as we can. This is what being a historian has in common with your way of making documentaries.

It’s precisely at times like this, when everyone is agitated and we feel like the rug is being pulled out from under us, that we need an approach that doesn’t lose sight of the big picture becomes that much more essential.

K: It seems that documentary films, like history, force us to think about what it means that we’re socially positioned the way we are. Prior to 3.11, I focused on getting people to ask why we (people in Japan and other “advanced countries”) are able to exist amidst such wealth. I wanted them to consider the aggression inherent in achieving this affluence at the expense of the rest of the world’s poverty. Wasn’t it the very fact of our living in wealthy societies that made each of us in some sense a perpetrator of suffering? This is one of the points I tried to get across with my film Hibakusha at the End of the World.

H: Hibakusha was a film that took up the injustice of Global North versus Global South.

K: You’re right it was, of people being trampled underfoot from deep in the past until far in the future, and as a structural problem, rather than mere coincidence.

H: Exactly. Within an unjust and asymmetrical world structure.

K: Asymmetry. It’s such an important concept. When 120-odd people are killed in Paris there’s not a single world leader or “developed country” media outlet that doesn’t call it a “huge tragedy.” But when 600,000 Iraqi children fall victim to American and NATO bombs, or are sacrificed to civil war, it never makes the news.5 This is the exorbitant asymmetry of our world. Without understanding this distortion it’s also impossible to understand where terrorism comes from, and why it proliferates.

H: I couldn’t agree more.

K: That’s why I think it’s crucial for us to realize that if we’re all being used as leverage to squeeze the Global South, we can also remove our personal weight from that equation, one by one, and counter the distortion by standing against it. It’s not unrelated to the warped relationality between Fukushima and Tokyo, between the cities and the provinces.

H: Being committed to theorizing this relationality or structure is really important, I agree. It’s what your film Hibakusha succeeds in doing so well.

K: I’m so glad you think so.

Information Control: The State and the Nuclear Industry 

H: Hibakusha at the End of the World shows how tightly the nuclear energy industries in Japan, the U.S. and the former Soviet Union controlled information about nuclear risk. Watching the film we feel that an entire system of concealment has developed to obscure the realities of exposure after a nuclear accident.

K: Right, and in this sense Chernobyl represents a total failure of the system. That accident harmed a wide area, and the idea that radiation exposure is terrifying was fairly widely disseminated across the affected area. So from the perspective of international nuclear power advocates, Chernobyl was completely mishandled.

There was a great deal of work done on the realities of exposure, and it became clear not only that children would be born with congenital defects, but also that the effects of radiation would be passed on to the next generation. This created a situation in which, all around the world, just the word “Chernobyl” immediately conjured a nuclear accident. Regretting this, nuclear advocates began stepping up their efforts to control information.

H: This needs to be seen as something that happened on a global scale, doesn’t it, through offices like the IAEA.

K: Exactly. What’s more, the IAEA has direct ties to Japan, in the sense that those who promote nuclear energy in Japan are intimately connected to key players in the IAEA. After all, Japan’s position within the global nuclear energy industry is increasingly central.

With Toshiba purchasing a controlling share of Westinghouse, and Mitsubishi investing heavily in Areva, it’s not an overstatement to say that Japan is assuming a leadership role in the global nuclear industry.6 Areva ran up a huge deficit on the construction of the Olkiluoto plant in Finland, and just when it was facing fiscal crisis Mitsubishi Heavy Industries stepped in.7

As you’re well aware, however, we mustn’t forget that the roots of controlling information about nuclear exposure and the risks of nuclear energy stretch all the way back to policies developed at the time of the first nuclear bombs. There’s historical continuity here. Directly after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or even before that, during the process of developing the technology, the minimization of exposure and the concealment of harm were already taking place on a grand scale.

H: Do you think it’s accurate to view what happened with 3.11 as an instance of this larger operation of information control? Immediately after the triple-meltdowns the Japanese government dispatched “government scholars” (goyō gakusha) like Yamashita Shun’ichi to give public lectures at dozens of places in Fukushima, and these lectures were covered with zero criticism by television, radio and newspaper companies that disgorged their contents without changing a single word.

K: Yes, that’s how I view it. Of course, Yamashita Shun’ichi is a unique character who played a specific role. Because he is a Chernobyl specialist there were very few people who could rebut his arguments. It was he after all who had taken the initiative to produce the most comprehensive epidemiological survey after Chernobyl. True, the Y500,000,000 ($4.5M) he spent on the survey came from the Sasakawa Foundation, but still . . .8

The government and TEPCO were well aware of this. Because Yamashita was president of the Japan Thyroid Association, in dispatching him they were forming a precise battle formation, with someone who seemed unbeatable out in front. As for the media simply disgorging everything he said, that set up the basic structure of information dissemination that started right after the Fukushima nuclear accident and continues to this day.

H: Still, a scholar like Mr. Yamashita — surely he knows what he’s doing when he manufactures and disseminates supporting evidence for the safety myth? Don’t you think he’s aware that he is concealing the truth?

K: Yes I think he is definitely aware. But I think he and all the other “government scholars” have bought into the government and nuclear industry’s logic of collateral damage. This is how I read his notorious statement “I am a Japanese. I will honor what the Japanese nation has decided.”9 He’s tacitly acknowledging that nuclear contamination and radiation exposure will be explained away as unfortunate but ancillary events. It’s the reasoning that this is the most appropriate way to avoid the escalation of fear toward radiation, and to avoid the extensive damage of social panic and community destruction that would be caused by mandatory evacuations.

H: So they deal with the accident as an unavoidable ancillary event caused by chance rather than as a structural problem, rather than as a case of criminal negligence resulting in death and carrying criminal repercussions. In turn, this generates even bigger profits and shores up the system that drives the whole operation. A certain number of people have to sacrifice themselves in order not only for profits to continue to flow, but also for the nation not to descend into chaos. This is the logic.

K: Right, and we can see how it lines up perfectly with the American logic we’ve heard repeated since 1945, that dropping atomic bombs and killing 200,000 people was regrettable, but far better than the deaths of 1,000,000 Americans. In other words, the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sad but ineluctable sacrifices necessary to end the war. They get justified as collateral damage.

H: This is where I’ve come to see an analogy between the way war works and the way nuclear power works. It’s true as well for the modern state. The logic that a certain amount of sacrifice – it differs whether we’re talking about democracy or dictatorship – is necessary to industrial and political prosperity has already been made immanent from the start. In other words, this sort of structure in which it’s possible to force the country’s citizens to sacrifice themselves when necessary is always operating as an essential precondition to the creation and maintenance of so-called “prosperity” and “sovereignty.” In English we call it the logic of the “national sacrifice zone,” which functions even within democratic societies. Those who are sacrificed tend to come from the ranks of the socioeconomically and racially disempowered. What both war and nuclear power keep at the ready is the evocation of a “state of exception,” in which the law will be temporarily suspended and civil rights will not be protected. This is how it’s possible for the nuclear power industry to cause a catastrophic accident and never face criminal charges, and for the government to ask people to die on behalf of the country without anyone talking about murder.10 Quite the contrary, the dead and dying are glorified as heroes of the state. Your film Hibakusha at the End of the World does a magnificent job of showing how this sort of violent structure is expanding on a global scale.

K: That’s right. I could never have said it quite so theoretically, but it’s precisely what I have in mind as I make my films. When you’ve got a group of people who know full well the persistent risks of nuclear energy but fall under its spell and become advocates nonetheless, there’s got to be some sort of righteous pretext or moral obligation for them to rally around. You come to feel it especially keenly when you’re involved in the process of making a documentary film.

H: What I sensed in the scenes of Hanford, Washington from your Hibakusha film was the righteous pretext “This is how we defeated the Soviets;” “This is how we protected the Free World.”

Another element in the Hanford scenes is the attitude of emphasizing the invincibility of scientific knowledge, of declaring ad infinitum that if one looks at the data scientifically, the likelihood of actual harm to bodies and health is extremely low. Meanwhile lots of the residents are dying of cancer.

K: It’s because they can’t see the cause and effect relationship; because they’re able to make themselves not see it. The structure of discrimination you mentioned earlier figures in here as well, toward those who are being sacrificed.

H: Well, it’s too bad for those folks, but if we hadn’t done it we wouldn’t have been able to protect America and protect the whole world. That’s the rationale – that a certain amount of sacrifice is unavoidable. And so we see how the state of affairs that gives rise to national policies (kokusaku) is premised on the possibility of sacrificing human rights, of ignoring them. And when it comes to the nuclear energy industry, military power and industrial profits are intimately connected. It’s the story of industry profiting handsomely when the state maintains its nuclear weaponry capacity.

K: That’s certainly a valid point; in Japan they say an already-built plant with a generating capacity of one million kilowatts makes Y100,000,000 ($904,000) a day. But isn’t the nuclear industry in the U.S. in decline? Because the risks are too high not a single plant is under construction,11 and in Europe as well everyone is keenly aware of Areva’s failure [with the Olkiluoto plant in Finland].

True, places that have grown rich selling oil like Dubai and Saudi Arabia are hurrying to build nuclear power plants before they exhaust their fossil fuel resources. It makes sense, given that they only have about 40 years left. Probably less than 40 years, truth be told. But eventually they’ll spend more decommissioning these plants [than they ever made generating electricity with them].12

And there’s also the whole issue of nuclear reprocessing, which American scientists are now saying is a dead end. What [both nuclear reprocessing and] decommissioned nuclear warheads produce is plutonium. But the United States has no need for plutonium from reprocessing plants because it still has a surplus of decommissioned nuclear bombs. Using this surplus for power won’t work either. When we think of current plans to develop a reactor that could burn plutonium as fuel, and the amount of time these plans have been in the works, what we see worldwide is nothing but failure. Japan is the perfect object lesson here, with the Monju plant leaving its negative legacy of having sat completely idle since causing an explosion [in 1995].13 Globally, reprocessing is over.

Nevertheless, where energy policy is concerned Japan remains as fixated [on nuclear] as ever, even though globally the fundamental thinking, the philosophy itself, has been changing. Of course the reason people dig in their heels is because they’ve been able to set up [nuclear power] as a profit-making enterprise. But in the grand scheme of things it loses money.

H: Still, it’s been contrived to earn money for a certain segment of its proponents?

K: Right, because that’s the sort of system that’s been set up. In other words, of Japan’s roughly Y600 billion ($5.3 billion) annual Energy Development Budget, roughly 60 or 70 percent goes to nuclear, and this has been true for over thirty years.

So for example, in the case of the Kaminoseki plant which I document in Ashes to Honey, the Chugoku Electric Company spent Y450 billion ($4 billion), but when you consider that over several years the Energy Development Budget (enerugii kaihatsu yosan) incentivized them with annual sums of Y100 billion ($887 million) and Y50 billion ($443 million), it’s clear they were able to build it for next to nothing. Then in addition they’re allowed to take a 3.8 percent profit on capital expenditures, which they tack directly onto peoples’ electricity bills. That’s the system we have.

Given that there’s also something called a Subsidy for Electricity Generating Locations (dengen ritchi kōfukin) paid directly from the tax base, we can see that electric companies, far from exposing themselves to risk, have actually set up a system for nuclear power that guarantees they make money hand over fist. The more plants they build, the more they profit. This is the single biggest reason nuclear power expanded at a breakneck speed in Japan.

H: And it is also how depopulated areas came to hear so much about how nuclear power would fill town and village coffers, and provide plenty of employment. “Japan is poor in natural resources so relying on nuclear is the only way!”

K: Exactly. “It’s because electricity is essential to Japan’s trade and industry.” “It’s because nuclear is the lynchpin to economic growth.” This is what we are told, and yet Japan experienced no energy shortages when every plant shut down after 3.11. So why all the talk about restarts? In a country with so many earthquakes? We’ve gotten by just fine for the past 695 days without a single reactor in operation (laughter).

H: Seen in an international frame, the Japanese standard of living even without nuclear power has been excessively extravagant. The high level of energy consumption has continued unabated.

K: I agree: excessively extravagant. I mentioned earlier the fixed assumption that arose from within the dire poverty of life right after WWII, namely that life is only as affluent as the amount of energy you consume. This assumption is still alive and well.

The same assumption helps us understand how it’s possible, despite 695 days without nuclear-generated electricity during which there were no restrictions and no brownouts, and during which we maintained extremely high levels of energy consumption by international standards, for government officials, government scholars, and business leaders to reproach the anti-nuclear contingent by saying “It’s not like we can just return to the Edo Period!” The number of people who say this is staggering.

So we see how difficult it will be to change the collective consciousness. That’s how deeply and indelibly [the assumption that affluence equals energy consumption] gets imprinted onto peoples’ consciousness, time after time.

H: You’ve given us a vivid picture of the way nuclear policy and economic growth get imprinted, or shall we say naturalized, in the collective consciousness, and how the Japanese media has largely failed to problematize this. What is your view of how the major media outlets responded to this most recent accident at Fukushima? What do you make of how it continues to be handled in the press?

K: The only truly serious coverage has been in the Tokyo shinbun. And maybe a little in Chūnichi shinbun. Beyond that I feel like the press is just not covering it. Of course to some degree they can’t get away with not reporting the facts. “Yes, reactor one exploded;” “Yes, reactor three blew up.” That’s about the extent of it. But beyond that they offer no investigative reporting, for instance, on the state of nuclear contamination in the environment, or what is planned for the melted-down fuel inside the reactors, and the spent fuel still stored on-site.

Oh yes, the Asahi Shinbun has been running its “Prometheus’ Trap” series.14 That’s quite good. But the problem is that Japanese people just got so tired of Fukushima. After the accident, information that had never been disseminated suddenly came gushing forward as if a dam had broken. People felt completely saturated, hearing nothing but that day after day. Past a certain point people couldn’t bring themselves to tune in and consume it. In addition, during those first six months the news became obsolete incredibly quickly.

H: It’s a small step from becoming obsolete to being forgotten entirely.

K: “Enough is enough!” That’s generally how people felt. But I don’t think that exonerates the media from accurately covering how much the government is minimizing the accident and dodging its aid responsibilities, or how each successive policy strays from its stated intention.

Television coverage was the worst. Television stations stopped talking about Fukushima sooner than any other media outlet. It’s the same with their coverage today: nothing, zero. It’s because the biggest sponsor for most of them was TEPCO.

In 2011 I received a prize for something or other and at the party there were a lot of producers from local commercial broadcasting stations saying I should appear on their programs. When I replied I would if it were feasible they responded, “Oh it’s fine now! Because TEPCO is no longer sponsoring us . . .”

But in the end they never once reached out to me. The people who come to me for material are all from French newspapers and TV, or the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), or the BBC. Places like that. The Japanese media never come. Never.

3.11 happened just as I was taking my film Ashes to Honey on the road for its premiere. The Japanese media covered this correspondence only reluctantly. It’s hard not to conclude that they simply don’t comprehend the seriousness of the nuclear accident.

When you ask journalists from the local news outlets like the Fukushima Minyū and Fukushima Minpōnewspapers or the Fukushima Hōsō television station why they didn’t respond immediately to the nuclear explosions by reporting that this was dangerous for the people of the prefecture, that they should evacuate, that according to Japanese law a certain level of radiation designated a place an uninhabitable nuclear regulation zone, they claim it was because they didn’t know; because they themselves were without the proper knowledge. Instead, they waited to see what the government would say and simply broadcast that, with no analysis or interpretation.

During the postwar period, as the “Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy” slogan gained strength, it was taboo for the media to talk about risks in the future or environmental damage in the present. So local reporters deemed it futile to spend energy investigating and writing about these topics. Either they knew their findings would never see the light of day and therefore omitted them, or they held back from doing the reporting in the first place. As a result no one accumulated this knowledge and no one handed it down, so even when it seemed something might be happening there was no interest and no attempt to understand.

Exercises in Democracy: What Documentary Film Can Accomplish

H: What was it that first made you think you would like to make documentaries about nuclear problems and nuclear exposure?

K: It was definitely my trip to Iraq. Many children were exposed to radiation as a result of the US invasion of Iraq and its use of depleted uranium bullets [rekka urandan].15 I was moved by the fact that once a body is exposed, it can never completely recover. I’ve since learned from the case of Belarus that it’s possible to reduce the effects of radiation exposure to some degree through recuperative care outside the contaminated zone. But in the cases of both Iraq and Chernobyl of course it was not possible for the entire population to move, and in any case a certain amount of harm is unavoidable.

As I myself resolved to learn as much as I could about these issues I came to discern various elements, one by one. I needed for instance to trace the history of nuclear energy, to speak with people in the “nuclear village,” and to understand how the “nuclear fuel cycle” works.16 I also needed to study what happens to the human body when it is exposed to ionizing radiation.17 Although of course I consulted the literature on the topic, there was a lot I could only learn in the field, at the sites I was studying.

H: Your experience making Hibakusha at the End of the World seems to have influenced the content of the film on many levels.

K: It’s true it did, because that was the very beginning for me. First I had to consider, in both the American and the Japanese contexts, who had first made nuclear bombs and nuclear weapons, and for what purpose, with what results. Then I also needed to consider the harm being done by depleted uranium bullets used in modern warfare during the Iraq War: about low-dose radiation and chronic exposure. When I was making Hibakusha at the End of the World no one in the mainstream was asking these sorts of questions. They were considered minor.

H: I see. I’ve always admired the way you were able to connect those three places – America, Japan, and Iraq – both spatially and temporally. It’s a really original approach, and beautifully executed. Usually documentary filmmakers train their sights on just one place. Then they isolate the problem. But you illustrate so effectively how, structurally, the nuclear problem is always a global problem, and has been from the beginning.

K: I tried to draw both axes into the film – both the depth of vertical time as it relates to the problem of the nuclear, and the breadth or horizontality of space.

H: It comes across wonderfully clearly. We start in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and move to Hanford in the United States, then to Iraq. So we get spatial continuity and also temporal expansion at the same time.

K: When we talk about time it’s important to focus on the temporal process by which radiation exposure manifests in the individual bodies of those who experienced the bombings. That time is internal to each hibakusha – the time it takes for the radioactive material to establish itself in the body, and for the body to begin changing in response. Because this is something that requires the passage of time, I wanted to trace the existence of what we might call the life that lives that interval: human existence, flesh-and-blood existence.

H: I think I know what you mean. Dr. Hida is a great example.18 Dr. Hida Shunsuke definitely embodies that interval.

K: Exactly.

H: He’s both a first-person narrator of the Hiroshima bombing, and a medical doctor who grappled with addressing its effects his entire life.

K: Precisely. And what’s really marvelous about him is that he never lords his status as a scientist over his patients. Instead he gives each one of them his intimate attention, asking how he can support not their illness but their life. This is what I find incredibly human about him – that as a doctor he takes this approach.

H: There were doctors who responded like this in Iraq as well.

K: Yes there were. Dr. Jawad. Jawad Al-Ali.

H: He once said that the tragedy of watching children succumb to cancer one after another made him so sad he feared his own heart would give out.19

K: And I would say that, among the Iraqi people I’ve met, the type of deep humanity that Dr. Jawad exemplifies is not at all rare. Islam is perceived negatively in the West today, but what does it mean to turn toward God five times a day and pray? Isn’t it also turning toward oneself to reflect? We’re talking about a people who set aside time morning, noon and night, five times, to face themselves and face God.

When I first set out for Iraq I did not have a positive image of Islam, but I was impressed by this introspective quality that Muslims have. And their humor! I found them to have a keen sense of compassion.

H: Yes, this comes out quite naturally in the documentary.

K: I think so, too. When I left for Iraq the image of that country constructed by the Japanese media was a negative stereotype, personified almost entirely by Saddam Hussein, of a belligerent people: dictatorial, violent, and warmongering. It was discriminatory.

It makes sense when you consider the relations between the American media and the Japanese media on this point. Like a Russian doll, the American version of Iraq opened to a Japanese version of Iraq inside, exactly the same, as if Japanese reporters had no ability to refashion the stereotype on their own.

So when I took the clear position that these Iraqi people whom it was supposed to be obvious deserved bombing were actually just as human as we are, and have pride, and human rights, and are not aggressors but victims – when I took this position it became difficult for NHK to accept my work. Because originally I had gone to Iraq on a shoot for NHK (laughter)! You’re never supposed to give the “enemy” a human face. A stereotype is an ideological device for dehumanization.

H: They felt uneasy about your shattering the stereotype that they had helped create.

K: Precisely. Yes. There’s an element of the mass media that only functions to strengthen stereotypes – that may just be its destiny. Of course this is not true of all mass media. On the contrary, I myself try to break stereotypes, to grasp a more multi-faceted, three-dimensional reality.

H: This is an objective you’ve said you first encountered through the media activist group Paper Tiger during a stay in New York, isn’t it?20 Participating in that group and developing this kind of thinking was a formative experience?

K: That’s right. Before I went to New York I was already working in Japan making films and television programming. But like most people in those fields I wasn’t much interested in questions of why and for whom we make our works. My priorities as a filmmaker and as a television director were how to make successful, high quality images. I wanted to express my individuality, and I cared about how critics responded. The question of for whom we make our works was unimportant because it was obvious: I make works for myself! But I came to realize that media has a crucial additional role to play.

Because I worked more in film than in television I had convinced myself that authorial style was paramount. But when I started working with Paper Tiger in New York almost every single person in this citizen-directors’ group was a minority. There were undocumented filmmakers from Mexico and black filmmakers with AIDS. Hispanic worker filmmakers. And of course there were also middle class white people, but what they wanted to make films about were radical changes within their daily lives, like implementing a Canadian-style single-payer national health insurance in the US. Mainstream American media couldn’t muster any enthusiasm whatsoever for such topics. It was only through Paper Tiger that I was able to discern this contrast. And so I resolved to make films at Paper Tiger – to make our own media as a counter-culture to the existing media culture.

Of course the people who wanted to produce this sort of alternative media had only rudimentary skills – many had never picked up a camera before. What they did have was vision and conviction. “This is what we want!” “This is what we need!” In contrast, I had skills. I began to wonder what would happen if I used them for someone else — for their cause rather than mine. This was a real stroke of luck for me.

H: They had an internal vision that they wanted to express, and you were able to back it up not with your authorial style but with a shared sense of political commitment.

K: That’s right; we wanted to address our own problems, and to solve them through media. We definitely had political commitment. But we struggled because we didn’t know how to put a film together. We also had no budget. Still, I had skills. And the experience helped me appreciate, not that I should use them in America, but that I should take them back to Japan, This is what I had in mind when I returned to Japan in 1995.

H: What kind of issues did you want to address? Did you have a clear vision of the perspective you wanted to bring to bear on certain issues in Japan?

K: I was in a bit of a daze for a while after I returned, and then the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck. Because I had no job and lots of free time I went to Kobe as a volunteer, and all of Japan’s problems came tumbling down on me. They were problems of the Japanese family, of the sort that had been invisible while peoples’ houses still stood, but that were exposed when the walls fell and the families were driven out.

My job was to drive to Kobe and deliver special meals provided by a sponsoring group in Tokyo for children with food allergies who were living in cardboard evacuation shelters within school gyms. It was when I visited the families of these children with allergies that I sensed there was something terribly wrong. It wasn’t just gender problems between the parents, or the extreme environment in which the children were placed, or administrative problems, or problems of medical treatment and PTSD. It was all of them together. This was the place from which I began.

H: So, completely by chance, the same Kamanaka Hitomi who in New York had been drawn into a political consciousness and acquired a new way of making films found herself face to face with the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

K: Yes it was a real encounter! For me the act of filmmaking always is. I never set out conceptually with the idea to make this or that kind of work. Instead I encounter it on site, and it either draws me in or it doesn’t. I feel it or I don’t. I don’t think metaphysically. I just start digging and that sets the filmmaking process in motion.

H: Still, when we consider the films you started to make at that time, there’s a certain continuity isn’t there? I’m not sure whether to call it continuity or a sustained political sensibility, but it’s at work in all of them.

K: Yes, well, for instance it was in the process of making Hibakusha that I came to see what my next film would address. After all, the problem of the nuclear is quite deep, and it is intertwined with our modern lives in a staggering number of ways. So it was natural that in the midst of making Hibakusha the theme of my subsequent film Rokkasho Rhapsody, namely, the current state of the nuclear industry in Japan, would come into view.

I like to exhibit my work in a way no one else does, by attending the screenings in person, getting feedback from the audience immediately afterward, and using my camera to make a record when new social movements arise, like I did when I took Rokkasho Rhapsody on the road. That was when what was needed was the theme of Ashes to come into view: not “What should we do about nuclear energy?” but “What should we do about the future of energy writ large?” One of the most important questions of this film is how to offer positive solutions.

Rokkasho Village

Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant

Anti-Rokkasho Demonstration in Tokyo

H: Watching Ashes to Honey I was struck by the way a glimmer of hope keeps appearing and disappearing, even while there is no explicit vision of exactly what should be done in the future. The film suggests a certain sense of possibility – that if we only make up our minds, something called community can form itself from the bottom up, while we’re in the process of devising new forms of renewable energy and taking various measures.

K: In Japan, even if people know this phrase “from the bottom up” (botomu appu), they’ve usually never created that kind of community. But that’s not true of Sweden. We can really learn a lot from observing what happens there, for instance, when a cattle farmer realizes he can achieve energy self-sufficiency using methane gas from his herd’s manure, and when local people invest in his project.

It’s a way of thinking in the direction of local autonomy, in the direction of being able to do things independently without relying on the national government. Compared to countries such as Sweden, Japan is weak at this. I made Ashes to Honey in 2010, in which I addressed the issue of local autonomy, but the theme is still very much on my mind because local autonomy is fundamental to democracy. Especially when faced with “national this” and “the Abe administration’s that,” I think being able to decide how to solve problems at a local level – the problems we face in the places where we live, and where we’ve put down roots – is crucial to cultivating a democratic society.

That’s why I don’t spend much time at weekly protests in front of the Prime Minister’s Office. If I’m always making the rounds with my films between the far corners of Hokkaido, remote places in Tohoku, Shiga Prefecture, Shimane Prefecture, and Kyushu, it’s because I’ve come to believe that the center has no hope of changing if these other places don’t change.

What we see in Sweden and in the places I filmed for Ashes to Honey are not the actions of a centralized state but rather humble struggles on the part of people living in small towns and villages to bring about, on the strength of their own actions, a wholesale transformation in the way energy is produced and used. In point of fact the people of Iwaishima are up against centralized nuclear energy policies that rob them of their right to self-determination. Although whether or not to build a nuclear power plant is something that people who live there should be able to decide by themselves, they’re left with no say in the matter whatsoever. So it’s in places like this that the change must begin.

Iwaishima, the focal point of Ashes to Honey 

Anti-Iwaishima/Setouchi Power Plant Protest in Tokyo. Koide Hiroaki21 is second from left.

H: When we think about nuclear energy policy it’s really this part that feels most violent. All at once the logic of the state and the logic of capital arrive on the scene and people are robbed of their communities, their land, their way of life: everything is gutted. Meanwhile local people are bought off. “What’s to complain about? Haven’t you got more money now than you’ve ever seen in your lives?” But what it means to live, to experience life’s happiness, is not a matter of purchasing power or consumer confidence. With the influx of cash comes the gradual destruction of the quality of food, water and air — of the condition of not having to worry about their safety — and also the pleasure of work, the pleasure of encountering nature. These are lost together with the community. Your films make us feel this especially keenly; they make us feel your conviction that democracy is fundamentally a matter of building community in the place where you live, by your own will and determination, according to your own vision.

K: That’s exactly right. If you think about Fukushima’s problems past and present, they all stem from the uprooting and destruction of autonomy. It’s clear if you look at my screenings by region. My films are only screened if an independent group brings them to town, so they only find an audience when invited by local people.22 The number of times they’ve been screened in Fukushima Prefecture is extremely low.

H: I see. Does this point to an absence of civic groups?

K: Yes it does. Civic groups exist but they’re weak, and few and far between. In comparison, someplace like Nagano Prefecture has quite a lot. There is a great variety of groups, and their regional initiatives are lively. The sense of autonomy is strong. It makes a huge difference.

When the accident at Fukushima occurred, if a variety of civic groups had already existed I think they would have mobilized right away. Especially in the dissemination of information. We would have seen an immediate attempt from within the region to share facts and communicate locally.

One advantage of diverse and active civic groups is the accumulation of knowledge and experience around collective action. People know how to work together toward a single goal even with those with whom they disagree. In Fukushima it seems this was lacking. And while there were any number of complicated contributing factors — historical, political, social and economic – those same factors were what predisposed Fukushima to its dependence on nuclear policies in the first place. So while we saw many civic groups take shape after 3.11, we also saw them quickly splinter and dissolve. It was the same kind of splintering and dissolution as when the plants were constructed. Buying up farmers’ land to build the reactors, the government and TEPCO used money to eradicate their way of life. The community was splintered into supporting and opposing factions, and only after these factions had been set to battling each other did the authorities make their move. It’s what’s called “nipping solidarity in the bud.” It’s a method of dismantling solidarity, whether solidarity exists from the start or arises in opposition to nuclear construction. We saw it in Rokkasho. We saw it in Iwaishima. We saw it in Fukushima.

H: So what you’re saying is that on top of a comparatively weak tradition of civic groups invested in local autonomy, Fukushima had its weakness doubled by the divisive policies rolled out by TEPCO and the government after the accident. The disaster gave rise to a sort of twice-enfeebled situation.

K: Yes that’s exactly my point. I’m a big supporter of Mutō Ruiko but I can’t help feeling she’s up against quite a lot in Fukushima.23 It would really be disastrous for the movement in which she’s participating to become isolated. Because there are so many people throughout the country who want to support Ruiko-san, I feel confident that things will work out, but it’s harsh there inside Fukushima.

H: I was speaking with Mutō-san recently and she too spoke of how “government scholars” wasted no time making their way to Fukushima after the accident to start spreading the safety myth all over again. When these scholars said they knew Chernobyl and that Fukushima was nothing in comparison, even people who had been allies in the anti-nuclear movement, and who had attended study groups, would applaud and exclaim their admiration, saying “What a splendid person.” Mutō-san said she had witnessed this moment of surrender time and time again.

K: Well, isn’t it the same thing we saw at Hanford, Washington? The local people listened to the scientists’ explanations and quickly capitulated. “Oh I see, so there’s nothing to worry about.” The main challenge with solidarity is whether a community can maintain itself without falling into the traps of capitalism and power (division, bribery, safety myths). That’s why what my films attempt to discern is the structure that sets the traps. The viewer quickly comes to recognize that he or she is not only complicit with a

structure that requires sacrifice, but that the policies that sustain it will eventually bring about the destruction of his or her own way of life as well. “I’m next.” That’s the point.

What’s crucial is that we learn to extricate ourselves from positions of support. So it’s not a matter of ad-hominem attacks or forcing two or three people to take responsibility, but of gaining a comprehensive perspective on how the problems presently unfolding are connected and mutually determined: of seeing things from an objective, high-angle view. This is what I want my documentaries to accomplish – the birth of a new consciousness; the feeling of a new self, out of alignment with the old. I call it a “chemical reaction of consciousness.”

H: When a local group self-screens your films, I wonder if you would call it an exercise in democracy. I’m asking in relation to the phrase you just used, “a chemical reaction of consciousness.”

K: I would! It takes time, to be sure. After a screening we never fail to make time for discussion. When you make a space for conversation people start speaking out, even general audience members, and there’s a cultivation of debate. For instance, at a post-screening discussion in one town a Fukushima evacuee spoke up and said that in order to save her three children she’d had to leave behind her husband, who refused to acknowledge the dangers of internal radiation. But evacuation rent subsidies had been cut off, and she’d never received any support from her husband, so she was wondering how she and her three children could get by. In the course of the discussion, this woman ended up declaring that she was going to go to the local administration and petition that her housing subsidy be extended. This is a woman who had never once in her life done anything remotely political. There are lots of evacuees like her. When you talk to them you hear that they’re lower middle-class, income-wise. So at a screening to which, say, 100 people come, you’re face to face with the fact that people like this are not getting any state aid at all. Little by little, as the concrete details of their lives become clear, the injustice of policies toward refugees is vividly exposed, together with the criminal irresponsibility of the government.

Listening to the discussion, it’s impossible not to start thinking, “what am I myself going to do about this?” At one screening there was a city council member who told everyone that, having been consulted that night by the evacuee, he now planned to go with her to petition the prefectural office, and that everyone else should come too. That was how the conversation developed! By the end, two more people in the audience had declared that they would also make the trip.

H: So by means of the screening they are able to see how they are already connected to each other, and how they should be connected. It’s the spontaneous birth of activism. Having come to see the film they come to this realization and, exchanging conversation and ideas, discover a new relationality.

K: Exactly, they have a connection. And to make this discovery, watching the film together and discussing it amongst themselves are really important.

What the mass media is saying and what Kamanaka’s film is saying are totally different. How to take this in? People feel unsettled. So to keep them from going home like that, I ask them to wait a bit, to stay and discuss it together for 30 minutes or an hour, so that they can return with something a little more organic.

I also always ask them to fill out a questionnaire. This way, in addition to watching the film and the discussion, and listening to my lecture, they don’t leave without making an effort to verbalize what they themselves felt. The return rate is extremely high. People write a lot. This way each person has a chance to give feedback. It helps connect them with the group that organized the screening as well. I work hard to facilitate these connections.

H: When fellow humans are forced to speak to each other face to face, and especially when they come from completely different backgrounds, one for instance from a difficult economic situation, and another rich but perhaps ignorant of social realities – from the coming together of such different perspectives a diversity of voices is born, and what they have in common is the ability to achieve a certain kind of exercise in democracy.

K: Right. This is precisely what the Paper Tiger excelled at: gathering extraordinarily diverse people and giving them all a voice without affixing any hierarchy to their opinions. Every Wednesday ten people would get together and one by one all ten would say what they thought. Because there was zero tolerance for interruptions we had to listen to each person to the end, and it took forever! The process was so arduous that we all worried we would never be able to make a program or any kind of coherent work. But that was how we did make films, one by one, very slowly. Because that was how I came to understand democracy, I’m fully aware that democracy is a major hassle.

Hirano: Yes. Democracy happens in the practice and operation of everyday culture, doesn’t it?

K: Shouting in front of the Prime Minister’s office is incredibly important. But even more important I think are the small acts that one undertakes oneself in one’s own daily life.

H: To create a democratic society requires an enormous amount of time, and the task is never finished; if it is not sustained, it disappears.

K: Exactly, and it can’t be a matter of saying, “Oh, let’s do this or that.” There has got to be a collective conviction, “This is something we must do.” It’s only from such conviction that real action begins, that everyone commits their abilities, their brain power, their power to act.

Kamanaka’s citizen-led independent film screening.

H: Is it that people have never given themselves license to exercise their potential? Or that great swaths of the population aren’t even aware they have it? If I think about a democratic society in which, by some means or another, each person is able to express what they feel and think in daily life, transmitting this collectively, nurturing it, transforming it into action.

K: You’re exactly right. The notion that I might be free, that it’s fine to feel, think and speak freely, and live freely, so long as I take responsibility for my feelings, thoughts and speech: this notion is very weak. It’s weak that people are free to express themselves, and that it’s only through self-expression that they realize their potential. The history of nuclear power is built on that kind of political culture, and has had the unfortunate effect of strengthening it.

The Japanese education system restricts that sort of potential.24 What I try to cultivate at my documentary screenings is exactly the sort of space that has never been nurtured within the Japanese education system, in which people know they can speak freely because they themselves are free, their choices are theirs, and no one will harm them if they give voice to their thoughts and feelings. Quite the contrary, people will all listen, their opinion will be respected, and everyone else will be free to speak as well.

H: Yes, and one more principle applies here: that we are equal to the end.

K: Exactly. Without hierarchy. Whether we are women or men, old or young, college-educated or not. A level playing field. Completely flat. I always remind people that we are equal.

H: Do audiences feel a sense of emancipation after participating in these discussions?

K: Yes, they go home extremely satisfied! One way or another they feel gratified, emboldened.

H: It’s empowering isn’t it?

K: Empowering! Exactly!

H: I can see how this would be transformative, given that the sense of empowerment, the experience of potential, has been locked away until then.

K: That’s right, because the powers that be are intent on keeping it confined; they want to restrict people’s open debate, and the sense of connection that arises. They want to keep “chemical reactions of consciousness” under lock and key. But when people in Fukushima are worried about radiation and ask about the effects of ionizing radiation, and possible harm to children, this shared emotion itself, this overwhelming worry itself is an injury. For people to narrate their experience it is to narrate a violence that has been done to them, and to protest.

Those in power want to control and confine the growth of a movement that arises when a collective consciousness is born from this sort of protest. “You’re crazy getting all worried like that! It’s because you’re ignorant. If you go on saying those things you’ll be conspiring with harmful rumors (fūhyō higai)! You’ll be standing on the side of those who discriminate!”25 This is how those in power preempt protest. This is how they root out and eradicate voices that speak out against violence.

H: One thing that’s always left a deep impression on me in your films is the way they introduce different voices even-handedly, even pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear voices. In academic language it’s called “polyphony,” from the music theory term for the sound of multiple voices. Independent melodies stand out variously in time, intersecting, colliding, and reverberating, and the result is called “polyphonic.” Do you keep this sort of thing in mind when you are shooting a film?

I also want to ask a little bit about the viewing experience, insofar as your audience is invited to keep track of these various opposing, colliding and harmonizing voices and interpret what they’re saying. It strikes me that this gets to the heart of the democratic potential of documentary cinema, because the viewing itself is an exercise in democracy.

K: The emphasis is less on my own message than on those of the people who appear in the film. This sort of space for discourse is rarely opened within Japanese society. So my job is to prepare a receptacle and ask how it’s possible actually to listen, to pay attention.

Opportunities to make diverse voices actually resonate are rare. But for instance, when I made Rokkasho Rhapsody, even though the pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear factions almost never had the occasion to exchange opinions in real life, it was possible to make them talk to each other within the reality constructed by my film.

H: Yes I think you wrote about this somewhere, that it was only after they had seen your film that the people of Rokkasho started talking to each other.

K: I never make just a film; for me it’s crucial to follow up and talk about “what happened after that.” So after Rokkasho Rhapsody I made something called Dispatches from Rokkasho 1-4, and in the fourth dispatch we see people from the opposing sides begin a dialog.26 I think it’s really important that this takes place at the grassroots level. My role is to be the facilitator.

H: Both in your work and in your way of life, you take dialog very seriously. So of course as you outlined earlier in your filmmaking you always begin by finding out what people want to say, and make listening your point of departure for coaxing out dialog. Then in turn your audience members absorb the film and negotiate its dialog internally, as we’ve discussed. And finally, after the screening, they engage in a dialog with each other. So the emphasis is on the creation of binding relationships through dialog.

K: That’s right. It comes from my own experience of not necessarily getting my best ideas while lost in thought, alone. What happens far more often is that you get inspired in conversation with someone completely different from you, and discover within yourself an unknown voice. Preaching to the choir doesn’t work. It’s this dialog with difference that’s lacking in Japanese society I think. So when I teach young people I always emphasize the importance of putting thoughts into language. Maybe because they seem to communicate only through images, young people try to get by on obfuscation, in a rush of imprecise words. I want them to appreciate the importance of working toward effective verbalization. I’m thinking here for instance about the way someone like Mutō Ruiko communicates. Her words are precise and powerful. I really admire them.

A Revolution of Feelings: The Politics of Everyday Life 

H: You’ve written about new citizens’ movements in terms of “a revolution of feelings” and “a revolution underfoot.” Could you speak to this idea, of the potential inherent in new ways of doing things? I imagine it’s hard to separate this from the problem of filmmaking.

Of course in the 1960s and 1970s political movements were very organized; they had clear leaders, and factions, and a kind of compunction to declare allegiance to right or left – that’s how they worked. They were always pursuing questions of who was orthodox and who was not. That sort of thing. But now we’ve entered a completely different age, and it seems to me that this is reflected clearly both in your method of filmmaking, the way you distribute your films, and the way you participate in movements. I wonder if you could say a little bit about that potential, in terms of “a revolution of feeling” and “a revolution underfoot.”

K: Well it’s really about daily life, isn’t it? True transformation emerges from everyday living, not from historical principles or dogma. In this sense I have to say that, like Mutō Ruiko, I believe in the sensitivity of women (“onna” to iu kanjō). It’s because women are the ones who live daily life most intimately. Whether they live in the city or the countryside, women cook, women do laundry, and women sort the trash. They think about what kind of trash they’re putting out; it’s inevitable that the person who takes out the trash be conscious of its contents. And they think about food: what ingredients should be used? Are they safe? Are they healthy? Then there’s the choice of clothing, and whether or not it has been conceived ethically. It seems to me that the self who coordinates all these aspects of daily life experiences a kind of satisfaction: a kind of happiness.

Where the maintenance of daily life is concerned, women are really the ones who do it closest to the source. Of course one could object that statements like this presume natural gender differences. But my point is that in society as it actually exists, it’s undeniable that it’s overwhelmingly women who do this work. Isn’t that why women are the ones who are best able to sustain political movements that derive from daily life? The discovery of potential within the act of living itself seems old, but it’s quite new.

When I made “Ende’s Testament: A Fundamental Interrogation of Money,” (1999) the reaction it elicited was unheard of for a television program.27 People were fascinated with the question, “what is money, actually?” They were eager to rethink the value system that has completely overtaken Japanese society, in which it’s possible to exchange anything for money, and substitute money for anything. It became possible to consider the slightly utopian notion of a lifestyle that could sustain daily existence in the absence of money.

But concern for food – where it comes from, how far it travels – has really increased. People are more and more aware that a wholesale shift in the way we use energy can only begin from a reconsideration of lifestyle, because “energy” means so much more than just electricity. What we see increasing is the sensitivity that comes from examining, at every step, our own ways of living, eating, and moving.

H: Yes and this is what you mean by “a revolution of feelings,” isn’t it? A reexamination of the priorities and values that sustain our everyday lives?

K: Definitely. It’s important to appreciate that living in accordance with the same values as always simply won’t work anymore. It takes a great deal of time both to achieve this appreciation with one’s brain, and to enact it with one’s flesh.

But unless consciousness is reformed first it’s impossible to take control of our own way of living; we just remain sunk in a kind of addiction to “common sense.” People need to ask themselves whether living as they are is really okay. They need to wake up to the fact that to go on living in blind pursuit of an excessive, material, money-oriented wealth is complicit both with the sacrifice of people and with wholesale environmental destruction. What’s revolutionary is when this awakening begins to happen, person by person.

H: Is this what you mean when you talk about “the consciousness of the directly concerned” (tōjisha ishiki)?

K: Exactly. To the extent that we live in a modern society it’s impossible not to bear some responsibility for harm, but what’s imperative is to think actively about how to lessen the violence. What we’re seeing now are communities of people who’ve realized this – people much younger than myself – banding together and finding really marvelous ways, online especially, to share information about how they’re living. So even though it’s my policy not to call this “politics,” I see it as the most political possible choice.

Respite Care: Hope in Learning From Each Other 

H: You’ve mentioned that your current focus is saving the maximum number of people from radiation exposure. In the case of Little Voices from Fukushima, you depict something called “respite care” (hoyō) as one possible protective measure, one possibility for relief.

K: Yes, that’s right, I’ve been proposing it as one possible approach because I want to offer positive solutions. Rather than simply rail against the problem, the trick is to figure out how we can come to grips with it, as humans: how we can solve it. And essential here is the wisdom of our predecessors.

After all, the mothers of Belarus are a group of people who have been fighting this hand-to-hand battle for more than 30 years. Since the same situation is unfolding in Fukushima, there’s a great deal we can learn from the struggles of these women.

H: Was it because you knew that respite care had been set up by the people of Belarus and offered consistently all these years that you first thought of connecting Belarus to Fukushima, and thinking about the two places together?

K: Well, what’s happening now in Fukushima is chronic low-dose internal radiation. What I really wanted to know was how people had coped and continue to cope in the case of Chernobyl, when they went through the same thing.

H: Watching your film I was struck by how effective it was to compare Belarus and Fukushima. What the mothers and children of Fukushima want to know most is how to lessen the risks and effects of internal radiation. Especially for people under constant psychological pressure, to pose an answer is to provide a ray of hope amidst great darkness.

K: It’s true! And the point is that human beings never give up on learning from other human beings.

H: Your conviction in the experience and wisdom of other people is one of the great strengths of your documentary.

K: People learn so much from failure, from trial and error. It’s undeniable. That’s why simply not being judgmental is a key tenet of my documentary-making. It’s so important not to pass judgment on the other person. To be human is to harbor contradictions, by definition. That’s why calmly accepting contradictions just as they come is the first step toward discerning more essential problems, and how to solve them. We have to ask after the origin of the contradiction, and the status of those who have no choice but to live inside it. When you’re caught up in the vortex yourself, you can’t understand. But if from that same position you’re able to observe others objectively, to observe them as if you were observing yourself, you come to understand quite clearly. That’s the effect I always aim for with my filmmaking.

In the absence of judgment, I can gather up voices with equanimity and impartiality, no matter what the position. Impartiality does us the favor of presenting things extremely simply.

H: Extremely simply, yes, but we also sense that the conversation is quite layered; that a great deal lies behind it.

K: Exactly.

H: So is that what you mean by simplicity? The simple fact of recognizing this?

K: That’s right. The contradictions arise and present themselves as such.

H: You do a beautiful job of introducing a world that cannot be separated straightforwardly into good and bad. Although you certainly have your own opinions, you never impose them, or skip suddenly to a conclusion. Instead you present the complexities of reality. As a result, audiences are reminded that although they are bearing up under the same dilemma, the same contradictions, they’re also still living everyday lives. And the conversation opens onto what choices they can make.

K: Precisely. It’s crucial for people to make these issues their own, and think about them deeply. That’s really what I think is missing most in Japanese society today. People are simply in survival mode with their minds in neutral, having severed all ties to empathy. “I simply can’t empathize with every last person,” they say. Put crudely, it’s an extremely lonely kind of society. The only kind of common feeling that gets supported is the warped empathy of patriotism and nationalism. That’s why I want to move forward with a firm conviction in the hope and empathy born of building relationships and learning from each other, through the moving image.

H: Thank you so much for talking today.

I would like to thank Kamanaka Hitomi for her friendship and many stimulating conversations over the past 3 years. My many thanks also go to Margherita Long for writing an excellent accompanying essay for this interview and making the interview available in English. Norma Field and Mark Selden offered very helpful comments and suggestions as always. I am grateful to them. Lastly I also want to extend my thanks to Akiko Anson who kindly transcribed the interview, provided notes, and proofread the English version.


Katsuya Hirano is Associate Professor of History, UCLA. He is the author ofThe Politics of Dialogic Imagination: Power and Popular Culture in Early Modern Japan (U of Chicago Press). He has published numerous articles and book chapters on early modern Japan, the colonization of Hokkaidō, settler colonialism, cultural studies, and critical theory, including “The Politics of Colonial Translation: On the Narrative of the Ainu as a ‘Vanishing Ethnicity’”. You can also find the series of interviews related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in the Asia-Pacific Journal, a project which Hirano started in 2013. He can be reached at [email protected] 

Margherita Long is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures, UC Irvine. She is the author of This Perversion Called Love: Reading Tanizaki, Feminist Theory and Freud(Stanford). Her current project is a study of post-3.11 public intellectuals, artists, and writers called On Being Worthy of the Event: Thinking Care, Affect and Origin after Fukushima. She has published a number of essays from it, including “Ōe’s Post-Fukushima Activism: On Shame, Contempt and Care.” She can be reached at [email protected]


This is Kamanaka Hitomi’s third co-authored piece for Asia Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. She discusses her 2006 film Rokkasho Rhapsody in Kamanaka Hitomi, Tsuchimoto Noriaki and Norma Field, “Rokkasho, Minamata and Japan’s Future: Capturing Humanity on Film,” trans. Ann Saphir, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 5, Issue 2 Dec 1, 2007. She discusses her 2011 film Ashes to Honey: Toward a Sustainable Future in Kamanaka Hitomi and Norma Field, “Complicity and Victimization: Director Kamanaka Hitomi’s Nuclear Warnings, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 9, Issue 18 No 4, May 2, 2011.

2 The Chugoku Electric Power Company is one of ten government-regulated electric companies supplying power over two separate grids. Three companies cover the Eastern Japan grid (Hokkaido Denryoku, Tohoku Denryoku, Tokyo Denryoku (TEPCO), and seven cover Western Japan (Hokuriku, Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa Denryoku). In 2008 Chugoku Electric was granted a license to begin landfill in the Seto Inland Sea to build two reactors at a new Kaminoseki Plant. It made slow progress amidst the active local protests Kamanaka documents in Ashes to Honey. Operations were suspended in 2011 after Fukushima but in 2016 Yamaguchi Prefecture renewed its landfill license citing national energy policy.

3 Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs English website states “On April 1, 2014, in accordance with the NSS, the Government of Japan set out the Three Principles on Transfer of Defense Equipment and Technology as a set of clear principles on the overseas transfer of defense equipment and technology that fits the new security environment. The new Principles replaced the previous ‘Three Principles on Arms Exports and Their Related Policy Guidelines.’”

4 In 2004, in response to legislation that allowed the LDP to override opposition and send Japanese Self Defense Forces to fight in Iraq without a UN Mandate, a group called Ribbon Project collaborated with the publisher Magazine House to produce a bilingual children’s book titled The Way War Is Created (in Japanese) and What Happens Before War (in English). In 2015 an animated version was produced by a group of filmmakers and artists concerned that 3.11 and the Fukushima nuclear accident were also being used as a pretext for militarization. Kamanaka sells the dvd for educational use on her web shop and it is also widely available online. 

5 This interview originally took place in October and December 2015. Here Kamanaka references the Paris terror attacks of 13 November 2015. The figure “600,000” corresponds to the World Health Organization’s estimate for the number of children under fifteen who died during seven years of the Iraq War. Kamanaka discusses this figure in the first chapter of her book Hibakusha: Dokyumentarii eiga no genba kara [Hibakusha: From Ground Zero of Documentary Filmmaking] (Tokyo: Kageshobō, 2006), 23.

6 The nuclear businesses of the American conglomerate Westinghouse were sold to British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) in 1999 after Westinghouse purchased the communications company CBS in 1995, renamed itself CBS, and divested from non-broadcast operations. BNFL sold a 77% share in Westinghouse to Toshiba for $5.4B in 2006 at a time when the global market for nuclear power was expected to grow in China, India, the UAE and Eastern Europe. In late 2015 when Hirano interviewed Kamanaka, Toshiba had already weathered an accounting scandal centered in part on its failure to disclose Westinghouse losses. But it had yet to suffer the full impact Kamanaka predicts, which the Financial Times would call in February 2017 the “Downfall of Toshiba, a Nuclear Industry Titan”. In early January 2018, Toshiba sold Westinghouse to the Canadian company Brookfield for $4.6B.

In contrast, Mitsubishi remains sanguine about its investment in the French multinational group Areva, with which it began partnering in the early 1990s to sell nuclear fuel and established a joint venture in 2007 to make reactors. Here Kamanaka references Mitsubishi’s decision to purchase more shares in Areva just as the German company Siemens was pulling out, in part over failures at the Olkiluoto NPP in Finland. Losses of almost $9B motivated Areva in 2017 to spin off its reactor unit as “Areva NP,” selling about 50%to the French Government company Electricite de France (EDP) and 20% to Mitsubishi. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Mitsubishi’s investment in Areva is now $621M.

7 The Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant in Finland had two reactors built in the 1970s and in 2005 commissioned Areva to build a third. Originally scheduled to be completed in 2010, the project has gone 200% over budget and is still not finished. 

Wikipedia’s English entry on Yamashita is incomplete but indicates the controversy that surrounds him. He served as chair of the Japan Thyroid Association after co-authoring several Chernobyl papers under the auspices of the Sasakawa Foundation and in collaboration with the World Health Organization. The Sasakawa Foundation was funded by Sasakawa Ryōichi (1889-1995), a controversial right-wing figure who made money in China and Manchuria during the Fifteen Years’ War and through a gambling empire in post-war Japan.

It is worth noting also that many regard the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO), with which Yamashita collaborated, to be compromised by the close relationship with the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) mandated by a 1959 agreement in which the two agencies promise always to act in “close collaboration.” The WHO rebutted this argument in a 2001 statement

9 Kamanaka is quoting a line from Yamashita’s 3 May 2011 public meeting in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima, in which he defends the claim that exposures of up to 100 millisieverts per year are safe. One of the people who asks him a question is Jodo Shinshu priest Sasaki Michinori, who appears in both of Kamanaka’s post 3.11 documentaries. A transcript and video of the 70-minute meeting is available from

10 An important exception to the tendency for perpetrators of nuclear disasters to go legally unpunished is the mandatory indictment (kyōsei kiso) seeking criminal penalties (keijibatsu) for three TEPCO executives currently making its way through Tokyo District Court. See here

11 As 2016 ended, 99 U.S. reactors produce 19.5 percent of U.S. electricity. Many of these reactors will reach the end of their current licenses and could close by mid-century. A number of these reactors are at risk of near-term closure due to market competition and the possibility that expensive major components will need replacement. Two reactors are currently under construction in the United States. Georgia plans to go ahead with two new reactors, just after South Carolina backed off. See an August 2017 article from New York Times as well as World Nuclear Association website updated February 2018 (KH)

12 It should be noted that Saudi Arabia decided to build two large nuclear power reactors in 2015. This is a significant scale-back from its original plan to build 16 reactors over next 20-25 years at a cost of more than $80 billion. It projects that nuclear reactors provide 15% of energy by 2040, along with over 30% of solar capacity. This indicates that Saudi Arabia is investing more resources into the development of solar and other renewable energy than nuclear even though nuclear energy is by no means insignificant. (KH)

13 In 1995 the Monju “fast breeder” nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture suffered a sodium leak and explosion that was subsequently covered up. The close of the plant was announced in September 2016.

14 The series ran from October 2011 to March 2016 and has since been edited into nine total volumes by Gakken Publishing.

15 Weapons enhanced with depleted uranium (DU) were used by the US military for the first time in the Persian Gulf War in 1991 to penetrate Iraqi tanks. They were subsequently used in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq again in the Iraq War of 2003-2011. Widely reported health consequences led to requests for a global moratorium on their use.

16 “Nuclear fuel cycle” (kakunenryō saikuru), refers to the multi-stage process by which uranium is mined, enriched and burned in a standard reactor, then either stored as spent fuel (nuclear waste) or reprocessed into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in a “fast-breeder” reactor. 

17 Kamanaka gathered what she learned into a book co-authored with Dr. Hida Shuntarō. See Naibu hibaku no kyōi: genbaku kara rekka urandan made [The threat of internal radiation: From nuclear bombs to depleted uranium bullets] (Tokyo: Chikuma shobō, 2005).

18 Hida Shuntarō (1917-2017) survived the atomic bombing in Hiroshima and devoted his life to caring for victims of radiation exposure. He became a mentor of Kamanaka after her return from Iraq; she describes the process in the first chapter of Hibakusha: Dokyumentarii eiga no genba kara. Dr. Hida plays major onscreen roles in her films Hibakusha at the End of the World (2003) and Living Through Internal Radiation (2012).

19 Dr. Jawad Al-Ali of the Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basrah is quoted widely in global media accounts of cancers caused by depleted uranium in Iraq. See for instance here.

20 Founded by media activist Dee Dee Hallock in New York City in 1981, Paper Tiger Television continues to pioneer alternative community media and curate an extensive archive of independent and DIY programming.

21 See Katsuya Hirano’s interview with Koide.

22 For the first few years after release, Kamanaka’s films are generally shown only through jishu jōei or self-organized screenings. Her website gives detailed instructions on how to book, advertise, and stage events. For a detailed account of their significance for community formation and social activism see Hideaki Fujiki, “Networking Citizens through Film Screenings: Cinema and Media in Post-3.11
Social Movements,” in Patrick W. Galbraith and Jason G. Karlin, eds., Media Convergence in Japan (Creative Commons, 2016).

23 Mutō Ruiko is a long-time antinuclear activist based in Fukushima and a key figure in the movement to hold TEPCO executives and government officials criminally liable. To understand the movement’s evolution from a group of “Complainants” to “Supporters of a Criminal Lawsuit,” see this video at the Fukushima genpatsu keiji soshō shiendan website. For Asia Pacific Journal pieces about Mutō, see Tomomi Yamaguchi’s essay from 2012, Katsuya Hirano’s interview from 2015, and Norma Field’s essay from 2016.

24 Japan’s Basic Law of Education (kyōiku kihonhō) enacted in 1947 was amended under the leadership of Abe Shinzo in 2006 to de-emphasize equality and critical thinking and emphasize “patriotism.” For facts see Wikipedia. For analysis, see McNeill and Lebowitz.

25 “Those who discriminate” can refer to school bullies calling Fukushima evacuees “radioactive,” or people who practice marriage discrimination against prospective partners who have been exposed, or those who exert social pressure on parents who speak openly about thyroid cancer. Norma Field provides an overview and a wealth of citations in her essay “From Fukushima: To Despair Properly, to Find the Next Step.” As Kamanaka notes here, however, the term “discrimination” (sabetsu) has also been appropriated by the pro-nuclear faction to silence those who speak out about radiation’s effects, on the grounds that they too are practicing sabetsu.

26 All four “dispatches” (tsūshin) take the form of documentaries. The four-disc set is available from ILL and also from Kamanaka’s website.

27 Kamanaka’s program about the German fantasy and children’s book author Michael Ende (1929-1995) aired on NHK in May 1999. A book version by Kamanaka’s production company Group Gendai and NHK producer Kawamura Atsunori was published in 2000 by NHK Press. It remains in print in a bunko edition by Kodansha.

The Abe State and Okinawan Protest – High Noon 2018

August 16th, 2018 by Gavan McCormack

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Base Islands

For more than two decades, the Asia-Pacific Journal has paid close attention to the “Okinawa problem.” However, today that “problem” becomes increasingly complex and difficult to grasp, even as it enters a major, possibly decisive, moment. The more the crisis deepens, the less it is covered by mainstream national and global media. This essay resumes the situation as of August 2018, and reflects on the significance of the 27 July move by Okinawa prefecture towards halting base construction works at Henoko-Oura Bay.

Fundamentally, the “Okinawa Problem” is nothing but the problem of much of the prefecture’s land, sea, and air space, including twenty per cent of its flat, accessible, fertile land, remaining in US hands so long after the war that brought them there, despite the nominal “reversion” of Okinawa from US military control to Japan in 1972.

Okinawa (otherwise known as the Ryukyu Islands) is a region in Japan incorporated into the Japanese state, both pre-modern and modern, by force (in 1609 and 1879). In 1945 it was scene of the final battle of World War Two and between one-third and one-quarter of its population were killed. It suffered a death rate comparable to Hiroshima or Nagasaki, made so much even more horrendous by the fact that a significant number of the casualties were those executed or forced to commit suicide as spies or impediments to the mission of the then Imperial Japanese Army. It was then severed from the rest of Japan under direct US military rule for another 27 years during which military bases were built to Pentagon convenience, unfettered by Japanese residual sovereignty or Okinawan sentiment.

Its “reversion” to Japan that took place in 1972 was a sham because the bases remained intact. In the continuing post-Cold War era Okinawa faced the pressure of state policies designed to reinforce that base system, not only by construction of the Henoko facility but also by the building of “helicopter pads” for the Marine Corps in the Yambaru forest of Northern Okinawa and by the accelerating fortification of the chain of “Frontier” (Sakishima) or “Southwest” (Nansei) islands that stretch from Kagoshima to Taiwan (including Amami, Miyako, Ishigaki, and Yonaguni).

Twenty-two years ago, Okinawan outrage at the rape of a twelve-year old girl by three US servicemen brought simmering discontent over the prolonged appropriation of their islands to the surface. The two governments then promised that MCAS (Marine Corps Air Station) Futenma – a sprawling military complex situated about 10 kilometers east of the capital, Naha – would be returned to Japan within “five to seven years.” The occupation was from the outset in breach of the 1907 Hague Convention which forbids occupying armies from confiscating private property, and has also long been in breach of US safety requirements that prescribe a significant “clear zone” at either end of runways since the Futenma base is surrounded on all sides by the residences, schools and hospitals of a burgeoning city. Military aircraft have a disturbing tendency to crash, make emergency forced landings, or drop bits onto Okinawan farms and schools. One crashed onto Okinawa International University in 2004, another – a Futenma-based MV22-Osprey – into the sea off Okinawa’s north shore near Nago City in December 2016, and another, a CH-53 helicopter. onto a farm in Takae hamlet on 11 October 2017. Okinawans have reason to be fearful of their “defenders.”

Futenma reversion turned out anyway to be conditional, to occur only when the Marine Corps could move to alternative facilities, a new Marine Corps base to substitute for the old. This “Futenma Replacement Facility” gradually evolved into something much grander and more multifunctional than Futenma. It became known as the Henoko, or Henoko-Oura Bay, project.

Protest began the moment the Henoko project was announced in 1996, and for twenty years it was successful in blocking the state from acting to implement its plans. In Abe Shinzo, however, Prime Minister 2006-7 and 2012-) the Okinawan people came up against their most formidable opponent. No previous government had shown such determination in pressing construction and crushing opposition. The “break-through” for the Abe government in Tokyo in overcoming the Okinawan opposition occurred in December 2013, when Nakaima Hirokazu, elected Governor of Okinawa in 2010 on a pledge to demand relocation of Futenma outside of Okinawa (i.e. to oppose any new base construction), reversed himself while under heavy Abe state pressure while ensconced in a Tokyo hospital supposedly for medical treatment. The permit he then granted for the state to proceed with construction despite overwhelming opposition in Okinawa gave the government the legal basis for construction. Nakaima’s unexplained shift so angered Okinawans that in the subsequent November 2014 gubernatorial election he was defeated by a majority of over 100,000 votes. His opponent, Onaga Takeshi, pledged to do “everything in my power” to stop base construction.

No head of local government in Japan had ever attempted to oppose the national government and its policies for so long and on such a key issue (base construction) as Governor Onaga Takeshi, whose prefectural administration came in effect to be a regional government in resistance. Between 2015 and 2017, prefecture and nation state fought a series of court battles, likely to be renewed in the near future. Onaga also became involved in a prefectural suit launched in a Californian court in 2003 by NGO and nature conservancy groups against the Pentagon to try to protect Oura Bay and the dugong (on which see below, section 8).

At various times, Onaga has found himself pleading the prefecture’s cause to members of Congress in Washington, to the United Nations (the Human Rights Commission) in Geneva, and to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Gland, Switzerland. No other head of regional government in Japan would be likely to employ such passionate invective denouncing the national government as Onaga, accusing it before the UN Human Rights Commission in September 2015 of “ignoring the people’s will,” or referring to it in various forums as “condescending,” “unreasonable,” “outrageous” (rifujin), “childish” (otonagenai), and even “depraved” (daraku), He speaks of the inequitable and increasing burden Okinawa bears, building upon the initial illegal seizure of Okinawan land and in defiance of the clearly and often expressed wishes of the Okinawan people; of a struggle for justice and democracy and for the protection of Oura Bay’s extraordinary biodiversity (which he describes as being at least twice that of the sea around Galapagos). Alone among heads of sub-national governments in Japan, he lambasts the national government’s weakness in being “completely lacking in ability to say anything to America.”

Onaga, elected in November 2014 on his pledge to stop new base construction, after painfully slow deliberation proceeded almost one year later (on 15 October 2015) to cancel (torikeshi) the Oura Bay reclamation license by then in place for almost two years. Cabinet, meeting two weeks later in Tokyo, insisted that works must go ahead because otherwise “the US-Japan alliance would be adversely affected,” and works at Henoko resumed. In July 2016 the national government filed a suit with the Naha branch of the Fukuoka High Court demanding that the Okinawan government comply with the government’s order and amend (reverse) its cancellation order The government made its case on grounds of its prerogatives in foreign affairs and defense policy, while Governor Onaga put the prefectural case on grounds of the “fundamentals of regional self-government and by extension fundamentals of democracy.” In September, the Naha court upheld the state’s claims in all particulars and ruled that Okinawa’s governor was in breach of the law. Three months later (20 December), the Supreme Court brusquely dismissed the prefecture’s appeal. Onaga submitted to that ruling and, though not formally obliged to do, so cancelled his own cancelation order, thus reviving the Nakaima reclamation permit.2 The Governor, though not formally required to do so by the judgment, nevertheless quickly cancelled his cancellation (of the reclamation license on Oura Bay), thereby restoring the original (Nakaima) license of 2013.

In April 2017, works resumed (after a year’s suspension). The Government’s ODB mobilized a land and sea force of bulldozers, riot police, coastguard officials, and private security company staff to escort a daily convoy of hundreds of trucks carrying equipment and materials to the construction site. It set about construction of a series of seawalls around the designated area in Oura Bay off Cape Henoko. On 19 July 2018, two of those walls were joined, marking the first actual enclosure of part of the bay. On 12 June, the government advised the prefecture of its intention to begin reclamation proper on 17 August. During this process, Governor Onaga procrastinated, promising time-and-again that he would issue a “rescission” order, stopping the Bay works, when the time was ripe. It was July 2018, his term in its final months, before he judged the ripeness to be sufficient (discussed in section 7 below).

Sea Wall Construction at Henoko, Ryukyu shimpo, 19 July 2018.

Henoko has become the grand, signature, national policy (kokusaku) project of early 21st century Japan, expected to take between ten and twenty years, cost “about” one trillion yen, and host an American Marine Corps presence through at least the end of the 21st century. The plan calls for dumping of 21 million metric tons of sand and soil (around 3.5 million truckloads) into the Bay,3 thereby filling in a 160-hectare site, eventually constructing a concrete platform rising ten meters above sea level with two 1,800 meter runways, a 272-meter long wharf and elaborate ammunition storage facilities (on a site that in the past, likely until around 1971, was used for the storage of nuclear weapons). The project is on such a scale that even if the recently surfaced problems of the geo-physical properties of the site (discussed below) are able to be met, the construction process threatens to overwhelm the island’s transport system as well as its ecology.

Much less well-known than Henoko, “reversion” for this forested northern area centred on the village of Takae also spelled substitution and military upgrading, not simply handover. To replace the helipad landing zones located within the land to be returned, Japan would construct six new ones. They were to be substantial structures, 75 meters in diameter and fed by access roads built by clear-felling forest. Some were just adjacent to Takae hamlet (population 150). When the detailed plan was revealed in 2006, the village assembly unanimously protested against it and set up a roadside “sit-in” camp the following year. As it had done at Henoko, the government proceeded anyway to brush aside the protest, intimidating the village residents by employment of SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) procedures against them.4 The Higashi Village Assembly adopted unanimously a resolution declaring that the construction contravened the wishes of the local community and banning US aircraft from using them. Days later, ignoring the protest and ban, the Osprey began training flights.

From July 22, 2016, the helipad construction process, constantly delayed by protest, was moved to accelerated mode. Where the original (2006) plan had been to build one helipad at a time so as to minimize damage to the forest and nuisance to the local communities, under this “accelerated” plan all four that remained would be built simultaneously, cutting the estimated time for works completion from thirteen to six months while quadrupling the daily number of trucks delivering materials and equipment, and sending major police reinforcements from mainland Japan to help stave off the Okinawan opposition. Thereafter, the government stepped up its assault on the protesters, periodically sweeping aside their tents and vehicles and closing or limiting traffic on Highway 70. As Ryukyu Shimpo pointed out, it was the sort of mobilization of force with which a major assault on a gangster headquarters might be launched. For the mostly elderly people carrying on the resistance, the experience of being overwhelmed by state force, outnumbered roughly five to one, was “akin to martial law” as novelist Medoruma Shun put it. Life for the people of Takae became virtually unbearable.

Nor are the US military aircraft that came to be deployed to the “helipads” mere replacements. The MV 22 Osprey flies twice as fast, carries up to three times as much load, and has an operational radius four times that of the CH-46 helicopter it replaces. Marine Corps Osprey in Okinawa ignore the agreed 150-meter height limitation and fly as low as 60 meters over the village, The Osprey is also noisy and notoriously prone to mishap. They became especially feared because of their emergency landings, high-risk night parachute drops, and refuelling and equipment hauling exercises. Over the five years of Osprey deployment from 2012, the level of noise in excess of sixty decibels increased twelvefold. Increasingly night training flights were conducted, especially terrifying when conducted without lights.

As of 2018, twenty-three years after the promise of Futenma reversion by at least 2003 (“in five to seven years”), there is no sign whatever of it happening, but a 4,000 hectare parcel of Marine-occupied land, half of the Northern Training (or Jungle Warfare) Area in the Yambaru forest (about 40 kilometres from Henoko) also promised in 1996 was returned, amid considerable official fanfare, in December 2016. It gave little joy to the people of Henoko, however, who in despair at the continuing noise and military incursions had begin to abandon the village, and such is the level of concentration of US military facilities in Okinawa that the 2016 reversion merely reduced the Okinawan proportion of American base land from 74 to 71 percent.

The Environment

Oura Bay is an ecological hot-spot, home to over 5,300 marine species, 262 of them endangered, including coral, sea cucumber, seaweed, shrimp, snails, fish, tortoises, snakes and mammals, not least the specially protected dugong. It is in the category of “class one,” meaning subject to special prefectural protection measures. The bay is also connected to the ecosystem of the Yambaru forest in northern Okinawa Island, which, along with three other islands of Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures, the Japanese Ministry of the Environment nominated in 2017 as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. That nomination was withdrawn in June 2018 as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), UNESCO’s advisory organization on natural heritage issues, recommended that deferral, seeking clarification as to the compatibility of World Heritage site with the presence of the US military’s Northern Training Area within the site. One of the IUCN’s senior officials, marine biologist François Shimard, having observed the impact of works for construction at Henoko-Oura Bay, “regretted” and referred to it as a “pity” that “the impact of construction upon such globally precious seas with their unimaginably fine coral reefs was obvious and inescapable.”5 He was implying that the Government of Japan had to choose: either militarize or celebrate and conserve.

The government of Japan insists that it conducted between 2007 and 2011 the environmental impact study required for major works projects such as the Bay reclamation. However, that study was conducted not by an independent expert body but by the Japanese Ministry of Defense itself, the party seeking to do the works. It therefore lacked the independence necessary for scientific objectivity. It was subsequently denounced by specialists in environmental law as the “worst ever” such survey.6 In 2012, the Okinawa Prefectural Government’s Environmental Impact Assessment Review Committee listed 150 cases of insufficient and understated adverse effects on the environment in the EIA and Governor Nakaima found that it would be “impossible, by the environmental protection measures spelled out in the EIA, to maintain the preservation of people’s livelihood and the natural environment…” Despite that, shortly afterwards he issued the permit. His successor, Governor Onaga, in 2015 appointed a “Third Party” Commission of experts to advise him on this matter and its report in July was equally clear that the necessary environmental conditions for construction had not been met.

The project pursued with single-minded determination by the government in Tokyo is one that, in military and strategic terms, makes little sense. Experts on both Japanese and American sides agree that there is no reason why functions of the projected new base (if indeed there is need for them) could not be dispersed elsewhere in Japan. The price Japan pays is the fouling of one of its most bio-diverse and fertile marine environments. Such is the scale of the project that even if it were at some point to be cancelled it would be difficult to restore the Bay or to resuscitate its many life forms. The bizarre fact is that the Government of Japan signals its contribution to the International Year of Coral (2018) by taking steps almost certain to lead to the death of one of the world’s finest coral colonies, inhabited by some of Japan’s longest-lived creatures.

The People

Okinawan citizens (many elderly and some well-known figures in their seventies or eighties) have long declared their opposition to both Henoko and Takae projects. Having exhausted all democratic and conventional means to express their refusal to host any new base, they express heir position by non-violent, sit-in protest. Many have been doing this on a daily basis for years. One of the grand and moving spectacles of today’s Japan is that of these resolute and determinedly non-violent old folk being insulted and dragged away by uniformed young men who could be their sons or even grandsons, only to get up, brush themselves down, and return to repeat the process. Okinawan opposition to the base project hardens and begins to be directed against not only the Henoko-Oura Bay construction but against the bases as a whole. The Okinawan parliament has twice called for withdrawal of the Marine Corps altogether from Okinawa (in May 2016 and November 2017). Okinawans want their land, sea, and air back.

Residents of towns and villages adjacent to Futenma and other bases are systematically deprived of the quality of life supposedly guaranteed them by the constitution and subjected to high levels of stress and sleeplessness, or to suspension of class in the schools. One Japanese court referred to the intolerable “mental distress, poor sleep, and disruption to their daily lives” from “serious and widespread” violations that “could not be defended on any ground of public interest.” But the courts say they have no jurisdiction to order the Marine Corps to stop the nuisance, or even to put a stop to night flights, since the airspace over Okinawa is controlled by the United States military and is therefore beyond and above Japanese law. Noting the complicity of the government of Japan in enforcing the suffering of its people, the Okinawan newspaper, Ryukyu Shimpo, comments, “How could a government that enforces continuing illegality upon the citizens of one of its regions be considered a law-ruled state?”

And there is an even deeper level of insecurity surrounding the bases. The frame of the Okinawan struggle over decade after decade has been one of fear and insecurity, especially on the part of women and girls. Between the reversion of Okinawa to Japan in 1972 and 2015, by official count US forces and their dependents and civil employees had been responsible for 5,896 criminal incidents, one tenth of them (574) crimes of violence including rape.

As the government chafed under the continuing delays in its projects to construct the bases at Henoko and Takae, it sought to allocate blame. The sixty-four-year-old retired public servant Yamashiro Hiroji became the target of state outrage, Japan’s “public enemy number one,” so to speak, conducting the assembly of protesting citizens day after day, month after month, in song, dance, and debate, baffling and infuriating the state by his wit and nonviolence.7 Arrested in October 2016 on various charges – inflicting damage to public property” (cutting a strand of barbed wire to gain access to the construction site), “forcible obstruction of public business” (piling concrete blocks to try to obstruct entrance to Camp Schwab base), and “shaking a contractor by the shoulder causing bruising,” he was held without trial for 152 days in solitary confinement, treated as a suspected terrorist, denied repeated requests for bail, forbidden visitors (including his family), subject to what can only be described as deliberate humiliation (forced to submit to “body searches” and interrogated daily or twice daily). His prolonged detention would appear to have contravened both Japan’s constitution (A 34, forbidding detention without probable cause) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 9.3, restricting pre-trial detention).8 Despite his serious illness, he was refused (while in the Nago police cells) even the right to take delivery of a pair of socks. Only after widespread protest did the authorities eventually relax that rule, but then only to allow one pair of socks, which had to be short and which he was forbidden to wear inside his cell. He was eventually (March 2018) found guilty and given a suspended two-year prison sentence.

Protesters Demand Yamashiro be Allowed Socks, Okinawa Times, 12 December 2016

The 22-year sustained Okinawan protest is framed by two especially shocking cases: from the 1995 case already mentioned, leading to the promise of Futenma return as a kind of recompense, to the 2016 rape-murder of a twenty-year-old Okinawan woman (to which an American ex-Marine base worker confessed). The protest that burgeoned after the latter led to a series of demands: the Prefectural Assembly or parliament on 27 May 2016 calling not only for closure and return of Futenma and abandonment of base construction at Henoko but also the closure and withdrawal of all Marine Corps bases and soldiers, and a prefectural mass meeting on 19 June bringing together 65,000 mourning citizens who listened silently to the victim’s father ask for prefectural unity to demand withdrawal of all bases, American or Japanese. The prefectural sentiment was clear. Were they ever to be offered such a choice, it seems likely that the Okinawan people would choose to demilitarize Okinawa altogether, restoring their islands to the peace and security they had once enjoyed when defenseless and without enemies.

Law and Constitution

Okinawan opposition to the construction of a new base has been constant, reaching at times over 80 per cent in surveys (most recently in September 2017) and affirmed in elections (not least that of Onaga himself in 2014). No Okinawan candidate for office has ever been elected on an explicit pro-base construction platform (though it is not uncommon for a candidate – such as Nakaima – to be elected by appealing to Okinawan voters’ anti-base sentiment but later to reverse himself. Base construction flies in the face of three major constitutional principles: popular sovereignty (Preamble and Article 1), state pacifism (Article 9) and regional self-government (Articles 92-95). Yet it is extremely unlikely, following the principle laid down in the Sunagawa case of 1959, that the Japanese Supreme Court would ever rule against the national state in a matter involving the security relationship with the United States. The Supreme Court held in that case held that such matters were not to be subjected to judicial contest because they were “highly political” and concerned Japan’s very existence.9

If laws were broken at Henoko and Takae, there is a strong prima facie case for thinking that the government, police, and the Japan Coast Guard should be included among the guilty. The police and coast guard mobilization to enforce a government construction project was scarcely compatible with the provisions of the Police Duties Execution Act and the Coast Guard Act. The mobilization of Self-Defense Forces helicopters to transport construction equipment was probably counter to the Self-Defense Law and the Coast Guard Law lacked any provision that could justify the organ supposedly entrusted with the defense of Japan’s shores and bays treating protesting canoeists and kayakers as enemies of the state. The state’s clear-felling without permit of some 24,000 forest trees as part of its Takae “helipad” construction bore contrast with the savagely punished snipping of a strand of barbed wire by protestor Yamashiro see below). Contractors for the state at Takae were also in breach of the Okinawan road traffic law in that many of the trucks used lacked license plates.

When riot police brought in from Osaka abused protesters as dojin and shinajin (natives or Chink/Chinese), the government refused to treat it as hate speech, and when Prime Minister Abe, opening the special session of the Diet in September 2016, conveyed special appreciation for the work being done by police and military personnel, he drew a standing ovation.

The Nuclear Dimension

Despite the claims to embody democracy, the rule of law and human rights, and despite its constitutional commitment to pacifism, Japan under Abe Shinzo has been increasingly driven by military priorities, de facto revising the constitution by the adoption of legislation making possible recourse to war, stepping up military spending and purchasing large quantities of weaponry from the US (Abe publicly assuring President Trump that he would increase those purchases), 10 sending Japanese Self-Defence Force units to join multilateral, US-led exercises rehearsing a new Korean War, urging the harshest and most uncompromising sanctions against North Korea, and positively endorsing the most controversial of US policies, the insistence on the right to maintain, develop, and deploy nuclear weapons.

While it denounces North Korea’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons after almost 70 years of suffering nuclear intimidation (commencing 1950), Japan rests its own national defense on (US) nuclear weapons. It resists global pressures for denuclearization and sits on an enormous stockpile of plutonium (36 tons of it in Britain and France, 11 tons in Japan) enough for about 6,000 nuclear bombs with the prospect of increasing as more reactors are switched back on and with no plans for shrinkage or disposal.11 Part of the works underway at Henoko today is the expansion and upgrading of the Henoko Ordnance Ammunition Depot, the very place where nuclear weapons were stored in the past.12 Despite its unique nuclear victim country status Japan stands together with the Security Council super-powers against the small and middle powers of the General Assembly in opposing any ban. In the General Assembly of the United Nations Japan stood aloof in 2017 when the vote was taken for a formal treaty banning not only the use or threat but also the possession of nuclear weapons. To the contrary, when the Trump administration published its “Nuclear Policy Review” in February 2018, insisting on the right to develop “flexible,” “credible” (i.e., usable) nuclear weapons, 13 Foreign Minister Kono expressed Japan’s “high appreciation.”

The Trump nuclear enhancement program was in line with what Japan had recommended nine years earlier. In a February 2009 document, headed “Japan’s Perspective on US’s Extended Deterrence,” the then Aso Taro government had urged the United States not to cut back but to diversify and reinforce its nuclear weaponry and to reserve an entitlement to their pre-emptive use.14 Japan gave its “positive approval” to the idea of storing nuclear weapons, again, at Futenma (and the US Air Force base at Kadena). Okinawans know that up to 1,300 nuclear weapons were stored at Okinawan sites including Henoko in the 1950s and 1960s, at a time when Pentagon planners assumed a major role for Okinawa in scenarios involving the destruction of all major cities in the then Soviet Union and China, killing around 600 million people (sic) and very possibly bringing human civilization itself to an end.15

Okinawans are naturally sensitive to the suggestion that their islands might be re-assigned such a role in the 21st century. If in due course the UN adopts the nuclear weapon ban treaty currently gathering support among member states, to the extent that Japan continues to base its security on “extended deterrence,” along with its patron, the US, it is set to become an outlaw state.

The Governor

Onaga Takeshi, Governor from 2014, is no radical. He is rather a lifelong (to 2014) member of the Liberal Democratic Party who believes in the Ampo security system and in the need for US bases. He is also, however, an Okinawan “nationalist,” a believer in the priority of “identity” over “ideology,” who resents what he sees as Okinawa’s colonial subordination to Tokyo (and, for that matter, Washington). He is therefore a complex and somewhat enigmatic figure to be leading the prefecture in a historically unprecedented confrontation with the national government.

Onaga has been careful to limit his differences with Tokyo to the three specifics: closure of Futenma, cancellation of any Futenma replacement (i.e., Henoko) within Okinawa, and withdrawal of the MV-22 Osprey aircraft. He remained silent during the nationwide summer of protest against the Abe government’s secrecy and security bills in 2015, suggesting that he supported, or at least did not oppose, Abe’s controversial interpretation of collective self-defense and security legislation package. He supported the Abe government’s scheme to deploy Ground Self-Defense Forces, including missile and anti-missile units, along the chain of islands from Kyushu to Taiwan. He remained silent also through the heated confrontation of 2016-7 over Osprey pad construction at Takae. When riot police reinforcements were sent from mainland Japan to enforce works at Henoko from late 2015 and at Takae from July 2016, they were sent under the provisions of the National Police Law (1954) at the request of the Prefectural Public Safety Commission, whose members are responsible to and nominated (or dismissed) by the governor. At least in theory, Onaga might have dismissed any or all of its five members and appointed others who would represent Okinawan principles, but he chose to reserve his criticism for the reliance on force, the police “excesses” rather than their actual deployment. On a February 2017 visit to Washington, he assured his hosts at the US State and Defense Departments that he saw the US bases and the security treaty as important “for the defense of freedom, equality, democracy and human rights,” formulating his objection to the Henoko project in terms of the damage it might do to the alliance if a base had to be imposed by force.

Inexplicably, Governor Onaga even appeared at times to be cooperating with the state’s base construction design. In July 2017, to the consternation of many in the anti-base camp he issued permits for the state to use the facilities at Oku port in the far north of Okinawa Island for loading and unloading of construction materials for the Henoko site, thereby facilitating and speeding things up, seemingly at odds with his commitment to use “all means at my disposal” to prevent reclamation. On November 15, a defensive governor confronted civic critics at the prefectural offices. He argued that he had no legal alternative but to consent, and he issued two further such permits, for Motobu and Nakagusuku, in December, even while protesting that he would still, at the appropriate moment, rescind the permit that underlay ongoing construction.16 In July 2018 he approved the application by the Okinawa Defense Bureau for permission to remove (transplant) coral from the construction site,17 despite evidence over a three-year period that the average success rate for transplanting Okinawan coral was less than thirty percent and in some locations as low as ten per cent.18

From March 2017, although Onaga repeatedly insisted that he was sticking to his pledge to not allow construction of the new base, his prolonged failure to act on that pledge – even as the sea walls snaked their way out into Oura Bay and trucks by the hundreds delivered materials to the base construction site – led to fear that he might be inclining to repeat the surrender of his predecessor to state pressure, procrastination in his case the functional equivalent of Nakaima’s submission. Such doubts will be either quelled or confirmed as he proceeds (at last, as his critics would say) with the many times promised tekkai(rescission).

The (Coming) Crunch

On 12 June 2018, the Okinawa Defense Bureau (the ODB, the government of Japan’s Okinawa section) served notice on Okinawa prefecture that from 17 August it intended to commence reclamation proper (the actual dumping of sand and soil) into the area of Oura Bay bounded by a sea wall at Henoko and intended to be the site for the new Marine Corps base. A gathering of 2,000 people at Henoko on 7 July declared its determined opposition, a group of prominent citizens and NGO representatives began a one week-long “sit in” at the prefectural offices on 15 July and a prefectural mass protest meeting was called for 11 August. It planned to mobilize an unprecedented 30,000 people to the relatively remote village of Henoko. On 17 July, Governor Onaga served what may be seen as his final warning shot to the ODB, demanding that it cease works in the Bay, for two reasons: because of failure to meet the obligations entered as “provisos” on the December 2013 prefectural license to reclaim the Bay granted by then Governor Nakaima,19 and because of technical and engineering problems that had only come to light as preliminary site works progressed. The ODB refused. So the prefecture followed on the 27th by the Governor issuing formal instructions to prefectural staff to initiate proceedings towards revocation of the license for reclamation issued almost five years earlier by his predecessor.

“Today I have instructed the relevant officials (in the prefectural government) to begin procedures towards revoking approval given for land reclamation. Facts that were not yet known when the permit for land reclamation was given have come to light, and the appropriate conditions in terms of land usage are no longer being met.”20

The process would involve, he said, a phase of notification and a hearing with the relevant government body (the ODB) that would take “about two weeks,” followed by “about two more weeks” in which the prefecture would “analyse the contents of the ODB’s response.” The Okinawan media responded with enthusiasm, acclaiming Onaga for implementing his pledge, but the timing of the processes he was launching was consistent with the government proceeding as planned. It could, if it chose, commence landfill works on or soon after 17 August.

In his statement and follow-up press conference, Onaga gave a series of reasons for his decision: procedural, technical and engineering, environmental, and political. He declared that the “public interest” could not be served by the construction underway and impending. He complained bitterly of the haughtiness (bojaku bujin) of the national government in pressing ahead with the works while refusing to meet or discuss the project with him, and declared it unacceptable that the ODB was “about to commence reclamation works without revealing its overall design or environmental protection measures, without solving the problem of rescuing coral and other species, and employing measures different from those prescribed in environmental protection literature.” It was, inter alia, in breach of the 2013 agreement on which the legitimacy of the state’s actions rested (as elaborated in detail in the 17 July letter and the 27 July dossier).

The “facts not yet known” at the time of the Nakaima license included in particular those to do with the geo-physical properties of the Bay site, some of which only became known in 2018 from documents released to civic groups under freedom of information. Geological investigations conducted between 2014 and 2016 showed that the technical difficulties of reclaiming the deep waters (60-plus meters) of Oura Bay far exceeded the state’s anticipation. The Bay floor on the eastern end of the site was found to be extraordinarily soft, from a depth of around 30 metres extending through a forty-metre thick layer of “mayonnaise” like sludge, its “strength” being ranked as N-Zero in geological terms as against the N-50 stipulated as necessary for heavy engineering works (let alone the giant mountain of concrete planned for this site). The state’s design was therefore being repeatedly and substantially revised. Construction engineer Kitaueda Tsuyoshi commented, “to improve/fix a [bay floor] sector of 300 metres width by 1800 metres length would be virtually impossible.”21 The Bay was also understood to be on a geological fault line, i.e., potentially vulnerable to earthquake. Either of these facts, and the concerns they raise about possible site instability, subsidence or liquefaction, should be serious enough to rule out any major construction project and, long after completion of the environmental impact study survey the state’s contractors were still undertaking “boring surveys” of sites not part of the original design. Yet the state refused repeated prefectural overtures to discuss these problems.

In political/diplomatic terms, Onaga made much of the contrast between Japan, attaching its national priority to construction of a major new American military base, and elsewhere in Northeast Asia where, thanks in particular to the “dynamism” of Trump diplomacy, it seemed that momentum was building towards peace and tension reduction. He referred in particular to the Korean South-North and US-North Korea talks, the North Korean demolition of some of its nuclear weapon or missile plant and the US suspension of joint naval exercises with South Korea. He expressed concern that Japan, forcefully pressing ahead, without revision, to construct a base according to a decision adopted more than 20 years previously, “might find itself excluded from Asia,” or “left behind in the grand flow of peace” and that “the government’s stance of attaching priority to the Henoko new base construction plan agreed more than twenty years ago is simply unacceptable.” In a remarkable elaboration of this theme, he alluded to

“… the dependence of today’s Japan upon the United States, to the extent that there is a SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) above the constitution of Japan, and a Japan-US Joint Committee above the Japanese Diet. In such circumstance, Japan is unable to say anything to the US. … When bits fly off from US Air Force F 15 fighter jets the matter is referred to a joint committee without becoming cause for fuss or debate in the Diet.”

These were surprising views because Onaga has been known as a supporter of the security treaty and the base system,22 reserving his antagonism for the Futenma Marine Corps base, the Futenma replacement project at Henoko, and the Osprey aircraft. His references to the “dependent” Abe state may perhaps be best seen as a rhetorical flourish designed to bolster his image as a protagonist for demilitarization and would be unlikely to form any part of the prefectural case in future court hearings.

Ryukyu shimpo, Special, July 27, 2018 “Governor, Declaration of Rescission”

One critic suggested that there might be even a two-faced Onaga, pretending to align himself with the general anti-military spirit of the Okinawan electorate even while continually postponing any decisive action to stop works on Oura Bay. One year and seven months passed from the defeat of the prefecture in the Supreme Court in December 2016 without rescission, though he regularly promised that he would take that step when he judged it right to do so. What he offered on 27 July was not itself the long-promised rescission but one more promise to take steps towards it.

Even while declaring periodically his intent to rescind, Onaga had quietly cooperated with the Abe state, permitting (as discussed above) the use of northern Okinawan ports for transport of construction materials and allowing the transplanting of coral from the site. Furthermore, as Ryukyu shimpo revealed on 28 July, on the very day of the announcement of “intent to rescind,” the prefecture completed its inspection of the documents concerning prevention of red soil runoff from the fill dumping, clearing the way to commencement of the works even earlier than 17 August should the state wish.23 In other words, even as attention focused on the Governor’s speech declaring that the reclamation would be stopped, elsewhere in the same building the prefecture’s Civil Engineering and Construction Department was in effect issuing the “Go” sign for the process to begin.24

Governor Onaga also included in his Statement and press conference of 27 July reference to the “petition for referendum” movement. Initiated by a group of students and younger Okinawans, the “Okinawan Prefectural Association for a Vote on Henoko” (Henoko Kenmin Tohyo no Kai) began in May collecting signatures for a request to the Governor to conduct a plebiscite on the Henoko issue. They believed the question had to be put in a form that would be answered simply “yes” or “no” to the Henoko projected base, such as had not happened in any previous election. In his late July speech, Onaga mentioned the figure of 77,000 who had so far signed but by the end of the month the real figure was more than 100,000, around 6 per cent of the electorate and far in excess of the 2 per cent required under the local plebiscite ordinance. It was surprising that Onaga should make positive reference to this movement as he had been thought unsympathetic to it.

However, whatever its eventual outcome, the legal requirement is for the signatures to be checked against electoral lists for each electoral district before submission to the Governor, who should then, within 20 days, convene a sitting of the Prefectural Assembly to debate and adopt appropriate measures. As to how long this would take, Ryukyu shimpo estimated that ”provided procedures went smoothly, a prefectural referendum could be held by, at latest, April next year [2019].”25 While much time and energy would have to be mobilized to such an initiative (and Tokyo-supported pro-base forces would be certain to mobilize strongly against it)26 it could have no bearing on the immediate crisis facing Henoko-Oura Bay. Those who had given much of their lives over many years to making clear prefectural opposition to any new base must have felt peeved that somehow the matter could still be seen as requiring the seal of such a process.

As the clock ticks down to the “High Noon” deadline for Oura Bay of 17 August, it remains unclear whether the prefecture really has the intent to act decisively to stop the reclamation. The three and a half years of Onaga government had been marked by nothing so much as procrastination. However, on 31 July it did indeed serve notice of hearing to be held with the government’s ODB on 9 August and posted a substantial dossier (20 pages) of its case.27 Three days later came the ODB response, requesting to postpone the hearing for four weeks (instead of two) on grounds of the volume of material involved.28 That would allow the ODB to proceed with its plan to start dumping fill into the bay from 17 August, creating as fait acompli precisely the situation that the rescission order was supposed to prevent. .

Even should the long promised rescission order be forthcoming, and the delay sought by the state be denied, the state might or might not then suspend site works, but it would certainly have early recourse to the courts, and the prefecture has no more, and probably even less, ground for optimism about court action late in 2018 than it did in 2016 (when its case was dismissed). With almost zero possibility of a favourable judicial outcome, it is hard to see how resumption of full-scale works some time late in 2018 or early 2019 could be prevented.

Okinawa in the US Courts, 2003-2018

In a court case launched in San Francisco in 2003, representative non-governmental conservation groups from Okinawa, Japan, and the US, together with the Okinawa dugong (listed as one of the plaintiffs) sued the Department of Defense under the US National Historical Preservation Act that requires US federal agencies to consider the effects of their undertakings on historical properties, where-ever located, and to ensure that preservation is fully integrated into them. The court ruled in 2008 that the Okinawa dugong was such a property, and in August 2017 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Okinawan plaintiffs had legal standing to demand that the Department take necessary measures to minimize negative effects on dugong survival. Following that ruling, the dugong-defense team sought to persuade the court that the process of determining that base construction would not significantly affect the dugong was in breach of the NHPA and should be halted forthwith. Among other things, it presented materials from previous court hearings, not public at the time, in which some experts referred to the Japanese environmental assessment process was unscientific and even “worthless.”29 Governor Onaga lent his weight to the dugong defense and conservationist cause by calling (April 2018) on the US government to “halt FRF [Henoko] construction work” until it consults with Okinawa prefecture, Nago City, and independent marine mammal experts.30

Judge Edward Chen would have none of this. He ruled (1 August 2018) that the ODB had discharged its obligations to “take into account” possible adverse consequences of base construction and operation, and their conclusions had been “not arbitrary or capricious.” Those four words constituted the core of his judgment, Chen was not impressed by the opinion of one expert witness (in a 2010 email) to the effect that the initial environmental impact assessment had been “extremely poorly-done and does not withstand scientific scrutiny,”31 although he quoted positively the view of that same witness that cancellation of the FRF would in itself do little to help the dugong since what was called for was “an integrated management plan. Such a remedy was of course not within the jurisdiction of Chen’s court. Nor did he pay much heed to the protest from Governor Onaga, which he noted, not unreasonably, had taken an extraordinarily long time (“four years after the process was completed”) to issue.32

The outcome was a severe setback for the Okinawan anti-base cause. It was a bizarre coincidence – and a measure of the complication of the case – that the US court judgement accepting the legality of the Henoko project should have been issued just one day after the announcement by Governor Onaga of his contrary finding. For Chen, the environmental measures adopted to warrant base construction were “not arbitrary or capricious,” but for Onaga they were both (although he did not use those precise terms).

It had been perhaps too much for Okinawans, including the Governor, to have hoped from a US court for the redress that ought in the first instance to come from Japanese courts but the Chen judgment did not augur well for the resumption of Japanese judicial proceedings between the prefecture and the nation state such as was expected to follow the rescission process launched by Governor Onaga in July.


For all Abe’s grandiloquent oratory before the United Nations or the US Congress about shared universal values and “proactive contribution to peace,” Okinawans experience his government as fundamentally opposed to them, to pacifism, and to the constitution. Commonly, they perceive the struggle as one between a nation state oriented towards war (potentially nuclear armageddon), and insisting on imposing on Okinawa an intolerable and unnecessary military burden to that end, trampling on the constitutional principles of peace, popular sovereignty and local self-government on the one hand, and a prefecture and its citizens intent on demilitarization and peace on the other.

Never in modern Japanese history had the national government concentrated such effort on trying to bend the government and people of a region to its will. And yet between 1996 and 2017 the “weak,” by their determined, non-violent resistance, delayed and frustrated the “strong” state. Blocked and denied the consent he needed, Abe resorted to deceit, intimidation, and the day-to-day violence meted out by the state to protesters at the construction site. The relentlessness and scale of the national policy project, and the partiality of the court system, meant that protesters who stood in the state’s way enjoyed little prospect of serious impact beyond that of their moral witness. The struggle was further complicated by the hospitalization of Governor Onaga (for the removal of a cancerous pancreatic tumour) in April 2018. Despite the inevitably uncertain prognosis that followed, he seemed determined to stand for re-election in November.

As Onaga recognized in his July press conference, as of mid-2018 one could sense in East Asia the possibility of something unimaginable even half a year ago: a Korean peninsular peace, rooted in a negotiated settlement, de-nuclearized and subject to multilateral security guarantees. Today the Cold War barriers are rapidly lowering on and around the Korean peninsula. As former Secretary of State (long responsible for US policy on North Korea) William Perry says, the direction of Trump diplomacy is towards resolution of the Korean division such that would make redundant not only the projected new base at Henoko but the existing US base complex in Okinawa as a whole.33 If peace in and around Korea could be negotiated and the Cold War knots tied around the Korean peninsula nearly 70 years ago untied, foreign troop occupations, in Japan as well as Korea, could be withdrawn, opening the door to a post-San Francisco Treaty, post-Cold War, even perhaps post-US hegemony, regional order.

No historical settlement or framework of alliances lasts forever. The San Francisco Treaty arrangements, which first detached Okinawa from Japan and appropriated it to the US as military colony, in place for 66 years, have been hugely eroded by the rise of China and the relative decline of Japan. Just 30-odd years ago, China made up roughly 3% of global GDP and Japan 15%. Now it is the reverse.34 Okinawa can either serve as a bridge linking Japan with continental Asia and the Pacific, as in the peak days of the Ryukyu kingdom, or it can be a war base. It can scarcely combine the two.

The people of Okinawa deserve support for their non-violent struggle, against absurdly unequal odds, for peace, dignity, human rights and protection of their environment, and the Abe state deserves much closer scrutiny for its hostility to such agenda as it strives at all cost to demonstrate its faithfulness as “client state” towards the United States. Okinawa Island becomes a gigantic fortress, and the militarization of the chain of Frontier Islands (Sakishima) that throughout the Cold War were virtually military-free, also proceeds apace. It is time to rethink the “fortress” role assigned to Okinawa by successive national governments and to formulate a different vision for it, as centre to a de-militarized community to be built around the East Sea/Sea of Japan. Cancellation of the Henoko project and an end to the militarization of the Frontier Islands would, more than anything, signal a commitment to the construction of such a new order.


Gavan McCormack is emeritus professor of Australian National University and an editor of The Asia-Pacific Journal. His most recent books are Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, co-authored with Satoko Oka Norimatsu, [Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2ndedition, 2018] and The State of the Japanese State, [Folkstone, Kent: Renaissance Books, 2018].

Global Research Editor’s Note: Our thanks to The Asia Pacific Journal, Japan Focus for having brought this incisive article to our attention


This paper is based on the talk by the author at Leeds University on 29 May on the occasion of the launch of the second, revised (paperback) edition of his co-authored (with Satoko Oka Norimatsu) Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, (Lanhan, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018). It draws on some material from the book, updates it, and includes a discussion of the dramatic Okinawan events of late July 2018 (see section 7 below).

A further court case, details omitted here, was launched in July 2017 by the prefecture seeking to stop the state’s moving to reclaim without prefectural license to crush coral and rock. It was dismissed in February 2018. 

“Dosha tonyu jiki semaru, umetate no menseki no 4%,” Okinawa taimusu, 27 July 2018.

McCormack and Norimatsu, Resistant Islands, pp. 166-172.

“Henoko ‘koji no eikyo rekizen,’ IUCN senmonka ga shisatsu,” Ryukyu shimpo, 24 March 2018.

McCormack and Norimatsu, Resistant Islands, pp. 53-54.

For my translation of a Yamashiro interview, see “There will be no stopping the Okinawan resistance: An interview with Yamashiro Hiroji,” The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 1 August 2017.

In most democratic countries a suspect may be held in police custody for up to four days before indictment or release. In Japan it is 23 days. (Silvia Croydon, The Politics of Police Detention in Japan: Consensus of Convenience, Oxford, Clarendon Studies in Criminology, 2016). The term was arbitrarily extended in Yamashiro’s case by resort to serial arrest on slightly different charges.

McCormack and Norimatsu, Resistant Islands, pp. 53-54.

10 “So one of the things, I think, that’s very important is that the Prime Minister of Japan is going to be purchasing massive amounts of military equipment, as he should. And we make the best military equipment, by far. He’ll be purchasing it from the United States,” (The White House, Press Secretary, “Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Abe of Japan in Joint Press Conference,” Tokyo, 6 November 2017.)

11 The Associated Press, “Japan Pledges to Reduce Plutonium, but Doesn’t Say How,” New York Times, 31 July 2018. 

12 Akiba told the 2009 Commission in Washington that he found “very persuasive” the idea of re-establishing nuclear storage facilities at Henoko.

13 Department of Defense, Nuclear Posture Review, Washington, February 2018. 

14 That document is known as the “Akiba Memo” (from Akiba Takeo, then Minister at the Japanese embassy in Washington and as of 2018 Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs. For photographic reproduction of the document, Haruna Mikio, “Akiba Memo – Amerika kaku senryaku e no Nihon no kakusareta yokyu,” Sekai, April 2018, pp. 69-78. For discussion see Gregory Kulacki, “Nuclear hawks take the reins in Tokyo,” Union of Concerned Scientists, 16 February 2018, also Yukiyo Zaha, “Foreign Affairs Vice-Minister Akiba denies making his 2009 statement that proposing nuclear storage site on Okinawa or Guam would be ‘persuasive,’ recorded in U.S. Congressional memo,” Ryukyu shimpo, 6 March 2018; and interpellations in the Diet’s Defence and Foreign Relations Committee on 20 and 26 March 2018 between the Japan Communist Party’s Inoue Satoshi and Foreign Minister Kono Taro.

15 See the reminiscences of Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Bloomsbury Publications, 2017, and Ellsberg’s interview with Fairfax media in Peter Hannam, “Setting the world alight,” Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 2018.

16 Hideki Yoshikawa, “US military base construction at Henoko-Oura Bay and the Okinawan Governor’s strategy to stop it,” The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 16 January 2018.

17 “Umetate kai-iki no ‘Okinawa hamasango’ saiho, Okinawa ken ga kyoka,” Okinawa taimusu, 14 July 2018

18 Abe Mariko and Okubo Nami, “Okinawa-ken Henoko, Oura-wan no kiki kara,” Kagaku, (Tokyo: Iwanami), Makito essei, August 2018.

19 “Futenma hikojo daitai shisetsu kensetsu jigyo ni kakawaru bunsho no hasshutsu ni tsuite,” Governor Onaga to ODB, Press Release, 17 July 2018.

20 Ryuichi Yamashita, “Onaga declares intent to revoke approval for U.S. base work,” Asahi shimbun, 27 July 2018. For full text (in Japanese) of the prefectural announcement and the following press conference by the Governor, see Okinawa taimusu and Ryukyu shimpo of 27 and 28 July.

21 “N-value”is the term for “standard penetration resistance.” See Kitaueda Tsuyoshi, quoted in Doki Naohiko, “Henoko unetate, cho-nanjaku jiban,” Shukan kinyobi, 20 April 2018, p. 6. Also C. Douglas Lummis, “Futenma: ‘The most dangerous base in the world,” The Diplomat, 30 March 2018, and (same author) “On a firm foundation of mayonnaise: human and natural threats to the construction of a new base at Henoko,” The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus, 15 May 2018).

22 For some recent Onaga statements of his pro-Security Treaty stance, see Kihara Satoru, “‘Onaga chiji tekkai hyomei’ o kensho suru,” Part 2, ‘‘Tekkai’ riyu,” 31 July 2018.

23 “Kyo kara dosha tonyu ka, ken, kuni shorui no shinsa shuryo,” Ryukyu shimpo, 28 July 2018.

24 Onaga chiji tekkai hyomei’ o kensho suru,” Part 1, “ ‘Dosha tonyu’ to no kankei,” 30 July 2018.

25 “Henoko tou kenmin tohyo, 6 man 5 sennin no shomei wa omoi,” editorial, Ryukyu shimpo, 25 July 2018, and “Kenmin tohyo motomeru shomei 10 man sen hitsu ni,” Ryukyu shimpo, 30 July, 2018

26 As of mid-2018, 10 of the 11 local governing bodies that make up Okinawa are headed by Tokyo-backed “Team Okinawa” members, with only Naha, the capital, in “All Okinawa” (i.e. allied to Onaga) hands. Ten of the 11 would therefore be almost certain to withhold their cooperation from any referendum.

28 “Henoko tekkai, dosha tonyu go no kanosei, boeikyoku, Okinawa-ken ni chomon no enki yokyu,” Ryukyu shimpo, 4 August 2018.

29 “Okinawa jugon sosho Futenma asesu hyokasho Futenma isetsu mondai, Henoko shin kichi jugon,” Okinawa taimusu, 19 April 2018. See also the several essays by Yoshikawa Hideki, dugong international campaign director, in The Asia-Pacific Journal – Japan Focus and Maria Dinzeo, “Jurisdiction debated in Okinawan military base,” Courthouse News, 1 July 2018.

30 Takeshi Onaga, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, letter to James N. Mattis, Secretary of Defense, “Request for consultation regarding Okinawan dugongs under the US National Historical Preservation Act,” 6 April 2018.

31 Dr Thomas A. Jefferson, “Biological assessment of the Okinawan Dugong: A review of information and annotated bibliography relevant to the Futenma Replacament facility,” quoted here from Judge Chen’s ruling, ibid, pp. 5-6 and (the Jefferson email of 2010) p. 34. 

33 Tim Shorrock, “Perry: Korean peace would remove rationale for US military in Okinawa,” Lobe Log, 16 March 2018. 

34 For sources, see The State of the Japanese State, passim.

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Swami Gyanswaroop Sanand is an important figure in the field of environmental engineers in India. Formerly known as Professor G.D. Agarwal, he has been a faculty member in the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Member-Secretary Central Pollution Control Board.

At the age of 79, the engineer took diksha and became a sanayasi. He has played an important role in stalling 3 hydroelectric projects to ensure uninterrupted flow of Bhagirathi, which becomes Ganga after meeting Alaknanda, for the initial 175 kms.

The swamy now, 86, has undertaken another unto death at Haridwar since 22 June, 2018, demanding a law for conservation of river Ganga.

Close to Rs. 500 crores was spent as part of the previous Ganga Action Plan and now Rs. 7,000 cr. out of Rs. 20,000 cr., proposed budget for Namami Gange project under the current government, has been spent but most of industrial waste and sewage continues to flow untreated in Ganga similar to other rivers like Sabarmati in the country because, firstly, the installed capacity of Sewage Treatment Plants and Common Effluent Treatment Plants is woefully short of the total waste generated and, secondly, whatever capacity has been built remains non-functional for various reasons, including corruption.

The scientist turned swamy is unhappy with the state of affairs at the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). He is sure that the Clean Ganga-2020 mission will also fail as the previous mission Ganga Action Plan launched in 1986. In both these projects crores of rupees have been invested.

It is shocking that this government which projects itself as champion of Hindutva and changed the name of Water Resources Ministry to include Ganga Rejuvenation in its name is completely silent on Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand’s fast and the media is colluding in this conspicuous conspiracy.

Several activists, intellectuals, film makers, theater artists, former colleagues and students of the swamy and academicians have all demanded the government to take corrective steps to save the rivers and other water bodies and enter into dialogue with the Swamy thereby stopping his fast and saving his life.   Some of the prominent names are that of Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Mallika Sarabhai, Ram Puniyani, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Samar Bagchi.

Those interested in joining this demand and want to add their names may mail to Prakarsh Srivastava at [email protected] or call or send sms to 9818554465.


Featured image is from TCN News.

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This time it was really supposed to work! The turbo-capitalist, anti-Communist and obedient Indonesia got so used to hearing bizarrely inflated compliments from its Western handlers, that it began to believe that it finally could do it – to build at least one dignified, livable urban center complete with sidewalks, public parks, public transportation, sport facilities and decent cultural institutions. At least one showcase city that could shine and attract millions of visitors from abroad, while all its major urban centers like Jakarta, Surabaya or Medan have been, for years and decades, collapsing and increasingly resembling a hell on earth.

A bright star on that polluted and dark sky over Indonesia was supposed to be Batam, a series of isles called Riau Islands Province, near the Strait of Malacca, only some 20 km from Singapore’s South coast.

The dream was big, but unrealistic. Now almost everything is lost.

Even the otherwise pro-establishment English language Indonesian daily The Jakarta Post reported on June 16, 2017, in the most panicky ‘voice’:

“Batam Mayor Muhammad Rudi said he has reported to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Economic Coordination Minister Darmin Nasution about the island’s worsening economy, though it had been designed to serve as the center for Indonesia’s economic growth.

‘I underlined in my report that Batam was in an emergency state. The central government needs to take immediate action to save Batam,’ Rudi said in Batam, Riau Islands, on Thursday.

The Batam Manpower Agency recorded that about 300,000 of the island’s workers have lost their jobs this year.

‘During the recent visit of President Jokowi to Batam, I told him about massive layoffs from the closing of factories. He promised to take immediate action, but the promise has not been fulfilled yet,’ Rudi added.”

Wherever one goes, or more precisely wherever one drives (as elsewhere in Indonesia, there are hardly any sidewalks or public spaces on the islands of Batam), the faces of the people of Batam radiate deep disappointment, sadness and confusion.

They usually do not start talking unless approached. But when they begin, their speech turns quickly melancholic. 

Mr. Bely, a driver of the PT. Ananda Aditya company in Batam, expressed brutally what exactly lies behind the official numbers:

“Recently, there were 180 companies that closed down their branches here, and all of them had to lay off their employees. So it was back to ‘sin industry’.

Batam’s most lucrative business used to be gambling and prostitution. But now, they also closed down many gambling dens. Prostitution survived and number of women selling themselves is increasing, but women in this sector are more and more desperate. Many tourists stopped travelling here, because there is no more gambling. Batam is not washed with money, anymore.

These islands are a popular destination for those who are urgently trying to find a job, so many people come here, from all over Indonesia. They don’t know that jobs are not as easy to find as before. The unemployment numbers are rising.

Batamindo is the area where various industries of Batam are located. Among them are electronics and cosmetics. Or they used to be… Lately, anything goes: they say that even the sand for the reclaimed land used for the iconic Marina Sands in Singapore, has been extracted and exported from Batam.”


On this chain of islands, nothing went as expected.

Batam was supposed to be the first urban area in the turbo-capitalist and corrupt Indonesia: a huge modern city with tree-lined avenue, sidewalks, public transportation and – some even dared to hope – public parks and playgrounds for children.

Across the water, just a 50 minutes sail from ‘downtown’ Batam, one of the richest cities on earth, Singapore, boasts one of the highest quality of life on Earth. There, a futuristic metro (MRT) that covers almost the entire island, and modern double-decker buses take well-groomed and educated passengers to elaborate bookstores and avant-garde art galleries. Top research institutions, public libraries, museums, concert halls and exhibition halls both educate and entertain the citizens. Almost everywhere in Singapore people live in high-quality, subsidized public housing.

Socialism and capitalism are rubbing shoulders in Singapore. Some love it, others hate it, but one thing is undeniable: healthy and educated Singaporeans can stay and enjoy life in their city-state. Or they could go anywhere in the world (visa free), and be certain that they will make it – as artists, academics, researchers, managers, whatever…

Most of the poor, uneducated people from fundamentalist-capitalist Southeast Asian countries can only end up as untrained laborers in the Gulf, or worse.

Indonesian ‘planners’, including one of its former presidents – Habibie (he took over the presidency after Suharto stepped down) – saw Singapore and they salivated. They wanted something similar or even precisely the same. 

But Singapore cannot be replicated, as China cannot be, as Russia cannot be. To build these countries, took generations and generations of dedicated and educated, optimistic men and women.

Batam tried to copy the facades and skyline of Singapore. But its foundations were made of clay, lacking ideology, enthusiasm, talent and determination.

At the beginning, as bulldozers and cranes went to work, everything looked vaguely familiar, at least from a great distance. Then, nothing looked recognizable, anymore. Entire structures began collapsing, before they were completed.


Breaking of fast or the oldest profession?

This time, I visited Batam during the Muslim fasting months of Ramadan. In the evening, during the breaking of the fast, three stunningly beautiful and elegant women were sitting at a nearby table. They were modestly dressed, and one of them was holding a baby in her lap. Their heads were covered.

But my friend, Ms. Monica, working at a front desk of an international hotel, destroyed all my illusions:

“Have you seen them? These are upper class escort women. I am ashamed with Batam’s reputation as prostitution island, but what can we do – it is true. Prostitution is everywhere here. Guests of this hotel often bring their women with them. Men using these services are not only Singaporeans, many are also Indonesians. Even girls who look like pious Muslims are selling themselves.

The sex workers are not only those who are working in the raunchy night clubs or bars, but there are also many students from the local universities. We called them ‘ayam kampus’ (‘campus chicken’). I think they call them the same in Java.”

I asked Monica about Batam’s dream of becoming the second Singapore. She replied, gloomily:

“It is a very big contrast between Singapore and Batam. Yes, the Indonesian government used to promise that Batam would be like another Singapore. I don’t know what went wrong. Now Batam Authority (Otorita Batam) is under the Central government again. Not much is improving.”

She added another cliché, after a while; one that many have been told to repeat, all over Indonesia:

“But Singapore only has 5 million people to take care of while Indonesia has more than 200 million. It is much easier for Singapore to thrive, isn’t it?”

I mentioned China, with at least four times more people than those living in Indonesia; a country that has left most of the Southeast Asian nations far behind.

Monica remained silent. She has never visited China or any other part of the world. She only knew Indonesia and Singapore.


Mr. Masrun Sinaga, a waiter at the Golden Fish Restaurant, sees with his own eyes how Batam is losing jobs at an increasing speed:

“I can confirm that many companies closed down their factories here. Some moved to Thailand, others to Malaysia. One of the biggest of them – McDermott – dramatically reduced its operation here, recently. I know, because they had their farewell party at this restaurant. Those who were at the party were mostly their foreign employees and managers. Poor fired employees were not invited.”

300 thousand jobs lost in just one year, on an island with roughly 1.2 million inhabitants!

Like the rest of Indonesia, Batam does not produce almost anything ‘indigenous’ – it is hosting maquiladoras, mainly from the West, Japan and South Korea. Practically, still relatively cheap and unskilled labor is assembling what was developed somewhere else. When minimum wages move higher (as happened in Batam), most of the companies migrate somewhere else. As there is hardly any Indonesian industry to speak of, such places as Batam go down, into free fall.

Mediocre technocrats like Habibie (‘educated’ in Germany), were heavily indoctrinated by the pro-market dogmas. Their theories failed, reducing Indonesia to a country which keeps plundering its own resources on behalf of mostly Western multi-national companies, while keeping its citizens in servitude to big business and modern-day feudal lords.

The results are predictable: environment is ruined, while the cities and villages are precisely like in the feudal days, now only with stereotypically assembled malls and a few international hotels; with dangerous and cheap scooters (wishfully called motorbikes) and, because of the notorious lack of public transportation, legendary traffic jams – something that should be absolutely ridiculous in a desperately poor country like Indonesia.

At the Sekupang neighborhood, I saw two middle-aged women, sitting aimlessly near a polluted waterway. One came from Jember, East Java, while the other from Palembang in Sumatra. They stared at me, a foreigner, in surprise. I asked them about ‘the second Singapore’. They replied, still amused:

“Yes, the previous government promised Batam to become a second Singapore. It has not been realized yet, as you can see.

Life is difficult. I don’t even think about going back home to Palembang for Idul Fitri holidays. I cannot afford it – it is so expensive to go there. Life is so expensive.”

These women are not losing hope. Perhaps one day things could change, improve:

But it depends on the Mayor. We still hope that Batam will be more like Singapore in the future.”

A few steps from where they sat, a child suffering from malnutrition, is absent-mindedly munching on blue paint he peels from a window frame.

There are slums all over Batam, there is misery, like everywhere in Indonesia. It does not appear richer or poorer than the other cities of the archipelago. Things look familiar: no concert halls and no research centers. Only five bus lines that are operating tiny and primitive buses – that is all that is disguising itself as ‘public transportation’, in an urban area of more than 1 million inhabitants.

There is hardly anything to look forward to, here. Only, perhaps, a trip to Singapore, or marriage to a foreigner, an escape.


Ramadan. During the fasting month, the whorehouses of Batam are open only from 9 pm to 1 am, but they are open. Speedboats from Singapore are still packed, shuttling concerned-looking men, sugar daddies, husbands in need of second wives.

Chilli Bar in Batam

I spoke to Ms. Mira, who works at a small store (warung), which doubles as a bar in Batam’s neighborhood called Nagoya. She laughs, bitterly, whenever I ask some uncomfortable questions:

“I don’t know why I came to Batam, but I did; from Lombok. It was not easy to get a job here. I finally worked at Chilli Bar here at Nagoya Town, at that corner, look… not far from here. I used to make grand total of Rp. 3 million (about US$ 240). And that already included my salary, tips and drink commissions. I heard that in better bars, women could earn up to Rp. 5 million, with the same structures of payment.”

Finally, I went to Chilli Bar, and it was clearly a brothel, a den, with girls dancing in their skimpy clothes, with a transvestite mixing cocktails; a place where there are no secrets, where everything is raw and open. A middle-aged sex-worker, Ms. Jemmy, is from Palembang. She is bitter and tough, and at the same time as melancholic as a character from Chekhov’s play:

“I have 17-year-old kid now. I was pregnant when I was very young, her age, at 17.

First, I went to work in Singapore, then I moved to Batam to work in a casino. At that time, gambling was thriving here. But then it became restricted, only five places that could have gambling on their premises. So, I would work for 2 weeks and then not work for 2 months. I have a kid to raise, so I moved; I began working in this bar in order to make ends meet.

I would do anything to survive. If customers want to be with me for a night, that’s OK. At one point, I became a ‘second wife’ of a Singaporean businessman who had been travelling regularly to Batam. But then, things did not work out as planned. We broke up.

I don’t have plans to go back home to Palembang for Idul Fitri holidays. I have to earn more money first, to be able to do that. Anyway, I am not looking forward to the holidays. It is already bad during Ramadhan – the bars can only operate from 9pm to 1am. Such a short time. Yes, not enough time to get many customers. That means less earning for us. Usually we started to open at 3pm and could stay open until early hours, especially on the weekends.”

Tens of thousands of Indonesian women are drawn to Batam, as hundreds of thousands are drawn to Bali. The legend goes: anything could happen here. Life could change. Prince Charming may appear from nowhere.

But miracles hardly happen. Charming Princes that travel here, are usually just some tough Singaporean businessmen, who know precisely what they want. Most of them, once they get it, rush back to their bubble, to a highly conservative lifestyle.

But Indonesian reality is too dreadful and the dream of easy escape too bright. Desperate women keep coming.


Can the economy of an entire island with more than 1 million inhabitants be sustained by such ‘dreams? It appears that it has to be. Factories are closing down. Real, ‘decent’ tourism has nothing to offer to foreigners who are drawn as if by some powerful magnet to the neighboring lights of Singapore. 

Indonesian Batam cannot compete. It has only those few second-rate malls, mainly stuffed with counterfeit merchandise. There is nothing unique here, nothing impressive, nothing truly beautiful.

What was the former Vice-President B. J. Habibie really thinking? What did he want to achieve here in Batam, in those ‘heady’ (but in truth, totally wasted) post-Suharto years?

What is here, really; what is here now, in Batam? A few pits from terrible mining ventures, few badly paved roads and dirty polluted waterways. One huge sunken ship. Few slums. Few ‘white elephants’ – unfinished tall buildings, hotels and condominiums.

Fundamentalist capitalism is badly failing in Indonesia, as it is failing all over Southeast Asia. (please refer to my latest book: “Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism”). It is good to know that it is. The sad thing, however, is that local people, indoctrinated and programmed, are being forced to pay a terrible price. They are not protesting, not rioting; they are mostly suffering silently.

Entire generations are wasted. Almost no one in Indonesia is still aware how bad things have really got. It is ‘top secret’, hidden by the corporate media, hidden by the indoctrinated academia.

Those few who are aware are blaming the circumstances, and the corrupt individuals. Almost no one is blaming the regime – the entire system – injected by the West.  


One bizarre relic on the islands of Batam, is a former refugee camp for Vietnamese ‘boat’ people. It is located on the island of Galang. This gloomy compound has been turned into a badly maintained, but still fascinating museum. Or you can call it an anti-Communist propaganda monument. Barracks are on display, as well as now rotting boats that used to bring opponents of the Vietnamese Communist Revolution to this part of the world.

Now, Vietnam which had been reduced to a rubble by the imperialist assault from the West, is a Communist (with mixed economy) middle-income country. It has bypassed Indonesia in many fields. Its population is educated and enthusiastic, and its cities are blooming.

I asked a construction worker from East Java, who was working on the premises of the museum, what he knew about the Vietnam War. He was curt: 

“This island was for the refugees from Vietnam. But I don’t know about the history. Nobody told me anything. I just started this work on repairing the boats, because they are already falling apart.”  

Mr. Adi, now a resident of Batam but originally from Pontianak, knew much more:

“Refugees in Galang Island were the results of the civil wars in Vietnam, and the intervention from the West, just like what is happening now in Syria.”

On the way back to the main, northern part of Batam, I noticed a fence. I stopped the car and went to look. Behind the wires, there was a lake. At the edge of it, an eerie site – a sunken village. Only roofs of houses and a mosque were now visible. All the rest was under the water. “What is this?” I asked. A dam. A badly planned artificial lake. Another disaster, another failed ’project’.

One hour later I photographed a slum, but it was biasa, a ‘usual stuff’, just like anywhere else in Indonesia.

Next day I landed in Singapore, and it was biasa again, but only from the point of view of one of the richest places on Earth: tickets for the concert of my favorite Argentinian concert pianist Martha Argerich, were hopelessly sold out. But I managed to attend a great (free) concert at a magnificent Esplanade concert hall. Changi Airport, the best in the world, just opened its Terminal 4, which was designed as a cozy ancient Chinese town in Southeast Asia. The Singapore metro extended enormously, since my last visit. Biasa, you know, usual stuff… for Singapore.

There is no place on Earth where the contrasts between the super-rich and poor worlds would be so close to each other.

Only 20 kilometers between a bizarre crypto socialist and monstrously rich Singapore and the colonized, robbed, poor and brainwashed super-capitalist Indonesia.

Two different planets. Two different realities.

This contrast never appears in the European or North American mainstream press. The West loves Indonesia as it is now: plundered, defeated, indoctrinated.

No matter what the Western demagogues say, Southeast Asia cannot be governed by capitalist doctrines. When it is, its people are forced to live in unimaginable misery.

But the truth is: there cannot be a “second Singapore” or “second Shenzhen”, not even “second Danang”, anywhere in an Asian country which puts greed and profit above well-being of its people and the social structures.


This article was originally published on New Eastern Outlook.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are Revolutionary Optimism, Western Nihilism, a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

Rossie Indira is a writer and publisher at PT. Badak Merah Semesta, an independent and progressive publishing house. Her latest book “Bude Ocie di Maroko” is about her travel to Morocco. With Andre Vltchek, Rossie co-wrote “Exile”, conversations with Pramoedya Ananta Toer (This book had been translated to Korean, Spanish Indonesian). Rossie was translator and production manager of a documentary “Terlena – Breaking of a Nation”about genocide in Indonesia in 1965. Rossie can be contacted through her website or twitter.

All images in this article are from Andre Vltchek.

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It may well go down as one of the most appalling conferences in the history of the International Political Science Association. The World Congress is one of those hot air events that ventilates academic views in limited circles while shutting them off from actual discussion in the broader community.  In this setting, academics with the oxymoronic title of “political scientists” can give the false impression that what they do is both of a political order and scientific.  (True politics, more appropriately, is either high art or lowly muck.) Models are exchanged and poured over with pedantry; theories are pondered, number crunching pursued.

The Sunday began poorly.  A dear trip from Brisbane’s domestic airport yanked at purse with a certain savagery.  Held in the sterile monster that is the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, a string of yellow clad volunteers resembling the youth wing of a fascist movement awaited guests for registration.  “That will be $30,” snarled one of the attendees at the desk, keen to impress with her distinct lack of interest in assisting the newcomers.

That amount, it should be said, was for the conference program, which, for the first time in living memory, had to be paid for. This, despite the hefty sum of $400 as a registration fee.  Another attendant was indifferent, suggesting that, in a world of the smart phone, there was hardly any need for a gratis program on paper. “Download the app on your smart phone and then read the program from there.”

This proved to be merely the start. There are numerous stands placed through the Convention centre, but there is no tea and coffee.  Delegates and participants are soon stunned to realise that two places in the building offer coffee, tea and juice at some price.  The rest is water.  There are queues reminiscent of the dying days of the Soviet Union, and many of the offerings at the café are on the lean side.  Pre-purchased lunch is a humble sandwich, or a wrap and some fruit, at the princely sum of $20.  Participants are warned that the food outside the centre, along South Bank, is expensive.

The opening ceremony is characterised by a formal, if tired resignation, and its setting is a reminder of a Party Congress of gouty officials who clap wearily at the waffle knowing that they must do so.  Two aboriginal ladies are retained to do the “Welcome to Country”, Australia’s excuse for an emotional cleansing.  School grade descriptions are offered of an indigenous background deemed continuous and living for sixty thousand years.  There is talk about ancestry.  The presenters hope to capitalise on the expansive guilt drawn from colonisation and describe how their “welcome to ceremony” events are all part of an extensive circuit.  These women are for hire.

An Indian delegate starts to yawn noisily.  His wife prods him and chuckles noisily.  The dance ceremony begins, men half naked covered in strips of paint.  This offers conference attendees the anthropological musings that give a false credence to confected songs and rituals.  But the ensemble is certainly catchy in its enthusiasm.

What follows, in contrast, is pompous: string music, adjusted accordingly, with a background montage of images ranging from atrocity to President Barack Obama in the situation room the day Osama bin Laden was gunned down.  All in all, the organisers are keen to stifle the life of the participants.  There are too many speakers, and the platitudes seem endless.

The actual sessions of the conference – all too many and running in the hundreds –  are held in facilities of varying quality, veering between plush rooms of high standard to an open area more akin to those used for detaining refugees.  Cheap makeshift partitions mean that noise can be heard from neighbouring panels and sessions.  Participants risk pushing these over in leaning on them.  Clapping moves with disruptive menace across the spaces. Voices are drowned, and questions cannot be heard.  Only realising how such an arrangement would effectively kill any engagement between the participants, organisers decided to scold those who had dared be noisy on the day. On Monday, “Jazz clapping” was suggested as a remedy.  The order was not abided by.

Such conferences tend to be acts of phenomenal irrelevance, vacuums of time wasting and motions.  The big wigs who change history rarely turn up, and the plenary sessions tend to be vague pokes in the ether of knowledge. The only politician to turn up to the event was a state minister from Queensland who shared a portfolio with multiculturalism, local government and racing, a certain Stirling Hinchliffe. “What’s this racing about?” came a quizzical Glaswegian academic currently working in Canada.  Racing, as he found out, was a source of revenue and electoral interest to Queensland politicians.

What matters at such gatherings is its slave, meat market concept, fashioned by years of academic goosing, obsequiousness and envy. Such an international conference as IPSA is self-referential and circular; there is nothing beyond it and not much within it. But the people who do venture to such a gig are in search of solid patronage, and some senior academic figures who feel honoured enough to be chased might condescend to give out their details.

IPSA 2018 in Brisbane was, however, extortionate, dull and indifferent to the actual global chaos that is proving far more interesting.  Political scientists lack the science, or the means, to understand the Trump phenomenon.  For them, tenuous models of analysis come before evidence; theory before history.  They are incapable of understanding the intrusions of radical contingency, and the panels, however diverse, failed in one fundamental respect: accepting the discomforts of reality.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

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The Lasting Condition: Drought in Australia

August 8th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

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Humans are a funny species.  They create settlements along fault lines that, on moving, can create catastrophe, killing thousands.  They construct homes facing rivers that will, at some point, break their banks, carrying of their precious property.  Importantly, they return in the aftermath.  Existence continues. 

The same follows certain settlements of parts of the planet where hostile, environmental conditions discourage rather than endorse a certain form of living.  Changes in weather have been vicious catalysts for the collapse of civilisations; extreme climactic variations prevent and retard stable and sustainable agriculture.

“The flourishing of human civilisation from about 10,000 years ago, and in particular from 7,000 years ago,” notes earth and paleo-climate scientist Andrew Glikson, “critically depended on stabilisation of climate conditions”.

This had its due results: planting and harvesting of seed; cultivation of crops; the growth of villages and towns.

Australia, the second driest continent on the planet, has never been exempt from such patterns of disruption, and those stubborn, pluckily foolish farmers who persist in the notion that they can make a living in parts of it risk going the same way.

Australia’s agrarian purveyors have certainly been persistent, hopeful as pilgrims in search of holy land.  Disasters have not discouraged.  A sense of a certain attendant fatalism can be found in the scribbles of Nancy Fotheringham Cato’s “Mallee Farmer”:

You cleared the mallee and the sand blew over

Fence and road to the slow green river;

You prayed for rain but the sky breathed dust

Of long dead farmers and soil’s red rust.

You ploughed up the paddocks with a stump jump plough

But the gates were open and the drought walked through. 

The Settlement Drought (1790-1793) threatened but did not overwhelm early European settlers. The Goyder Line Drought (1861-5) savaged but did not kill farming in parts of South Australia.  The recent Millennium drought (1997-2009) was spectacularly ruinous, but Australian agriculture moaned and stuttered along.

Farming in Australia remains precarious, an occupation of permanent contingency.  Droughts ravage, kill and annihilate.  Crops and livestock perish with gruesome ease.  But the Australian farmer, rather than being portrayed as a dinosaur awaiting extinction, is seen as resilient, durable and innovative.  Yet each drought brings a certain narrative.

One aspect of that narrative is the sense of singularity.  Droughts are often seen as unprecedented.  This alleviates the need to consider stark realities and inefficiencies that characterise the problem of farming in naturally dry environs with inappropriate crops or livestock, to up stakes, as it were, and finally admit to the brutalities.  Such determination often flies in the face of the work conducted by climate science researchers, who tend to occupy a certain high terrain of gloom.  Recent publications float the suggestion that the droughts this year may be some of the worst in 800 years.

The response from the prime minister has been an urging against the predations of nature: to fortify “resilience” in light of more unpredictable rainfall.  The fear from such figures as former Nationals leader John Anderson is that matters of climate change will be co-opted in an act of politicisation.  This would suggest inevitability, doom and acceptance.

Climate change watchers Andrew King, Anna Ukkola and Ben Henley do not shed much light on these matters, logically pointingout that drought, being a “complex beast” can be “measured in a variety of ways.  Some aspects of drought are linked to climate change; others are not.”  The entire field of drought studies reads like a sophisticated, taxonomical manual of expertise and foreboding, noting variations in their spatial effects, duration, seasonality and intensity.

Such studies are intriguing, and tend to ignore the withering human consequences that invariably follow.  Figures like Edwina Robertson of Trangie, west of Dubbo supply the viewer with a pathos and desperation, her tears the only moisture in an arid setting.  The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, was there to capitalise.

“It’s worse,” he was told, “than anything you are seeing in the media, it’s far worse.”

Drought brings with it a whole platoon of agents and variables.  Cash relief payments are provided through the Farm Household Allowance (additional payments of up to $12,000 have been promised); mental health services are boosted (the Rural Financial Counsellors feature in this scheme).  Australian farmers are being encouraged to come forth with their anxieties and strains.

These are salutary reminders that some parts of Australian farming can only be kept on life support for so long.  As Richard Eckard, director of the Primary Industries Climate Challenges Centre at the University of Melbourne explained in 2015, the limits to adaptation are unavoidable.  The odds for the more fortunate wheat farmer in a hotter, drier climate will be better than those cultivating chickpeas, walnuts and peaches.  No matter, argues Eckard; Australia’s farming adaptation technologies will ensure that the country never has a food security problem.

“We’re heading for quality, rather than quantity.”

Perversely, as the federal government and a host or bodies tend to the drought, and as is in the manner of the Australian environment, northern stretches of the country have been and are being drenched.  More flooding and cyclones are being promised in the future.  Australia, that most untamed environmental miracle of all; but Australia’s agrarian inhabitants, permanently subject to trials they are often poorly prepared for, buttressed by an obstinate faith that sustains them.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

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India celebrates its independence from Britain on 15 August. However, the system of British colonial dominance has been replaced by a new hegemony based on the systemic rule of transnational capital, enforced by global institutions like the World Bank and WTO. At the same time, global agribusiness corporations are stepping into the boots of the former East India Company.

The long-term goal of US capitalism has been to restructure indigenous agriculture  across the world and tie it to an international system of trade underpinned by export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the global market and debtThe result has been food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on agricultural imports and strings-attached aid.

Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatized model centred on transnational agribusiness and the undermining of both regional and world food security. The global food regime is in effect increasingly beholden to unregulated global markets, financial speculators and global monopolies.

India of course has not been immune to this. It is on course to be subjugated by US state-corporate interests  and is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many might think. As I outlined in this previous piece, the IMF and World Bank wants India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture and has been directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of western agricapital. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

One of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

“The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.”

The drive is to entrench industrial agriculture, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work (India is heading for ‘jobless growth’). Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly degrading to become a mere repository for a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides.

The plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer farm bill subsidy of around $100 million annually.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms. The result is that hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic liberalisation.

The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising their income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (Sept 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian government provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma, subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

In the book ‘The Invention of Capitalism’, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means. In India, we are currently witnessing a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and turn farmers into a reserve army of cheap industrial/service sector labour. By moving people into cities, it seems India wants to emulate China: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, migrants – stripped of their livelihoods in the countryside – are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as it is not creating anything like the number of jobs required and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

India’s high GDP growth has been fuelled on the back of debt, environmental degradation, cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories per head than it did 40 years ago.

Amartya Sen and former World Bank Chief Economist Kaushik Basu have argued that the bulk of India’s aggregate growth occurred through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder. Furthermore, Global Finance Integrity has shown that the outflow of illicit funds into foreign bank accounts has accelerated since opening up the economy to neoliberalism in the early nineties. ‘High net worth individuals’ (i.e. the very rich) are the biggest culprits here.

While corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans, they have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

The World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds with farmers working to supply transnational corporations’ global supply chains. Rather than working towards food security based on food sovereignty and eradicating corruption, building storage facilities and dealing with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

Foreign direct investment is said to be good for jobs and good for business. But just how many get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place to import seeds or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so that Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

Image result for globalization of poverty michel

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In ‘The Globalization of Poverty’, he says that economies are:

“opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished.” (p.16)

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world (as in Punjab) farmers still face massive financial distress. Clearly, productivity is not the problem: even with bumper harvests, the agrarian crisis persists.

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food, retail and agriculture sectors. What could this mean for India? We only have to look at the business model that keeps these companies in profit in the US: an industrialised system that relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed many small-scale farmers’ livelihoods.

The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies’ taxpayer-subsidised business models are based on overproduction and dumping on the world market to depress prices and rob farmers elsewhere of the ability to cover the costs of production. They rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

Various high-level reports have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies. There is also a need to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals. However, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. Some 60% of the population live in rural areas and are involved in agriculture but less than 2% of the annual budget goes to agriculture. Sharma says that when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

It is worth considering that the loans provided to just five large corporations in India are equal to the entire farm debt. Where have those loans gone? Have they increased ‘value’ in the economy. No, loans to corporate houses left the banks without liquidity.

‘Demonetisation’ was in part a bail-out for the banks and the corporates, which farmers and other ordinary folk paid the price for. It was a symptom of a country whose GDP growth was based on a debt-inflated economy. While farmers commit suicide and are heavily indebted, a handful of billionaires get access to cheap money with no pressure to pay it back and with little ‘added value’ for society as a whole.

Corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it. The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neoliberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property being enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs are trying to eradicate traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’ (soil, water, land, food, forests, diets and health) but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities, which have spiralled since India adopted neoliberal policies), US capitalism regards ‘development’ as a geopolitical tool.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

“American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.”

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could further accelerate the corporatisation of Indian agriculture. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights and lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated. This model brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalis ed social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems, many of which are rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to note that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Unfortunately, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seek to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s paper on  path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of maintaining and creating jobs, managing water resources, regenerating soils and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are now making a concerted effort to roll out and scale up zero budget agroecological agriculture.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the worlds) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which could be the lynchpin of rural development. However, successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to the grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated their allegiance to corporate power. The danger is that without changing the capitalist relations of production, agroecology would simply be co-opted by corporations and incorporated into their global production and distribution chains.

In the meantime, India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices has placed enormous strain on water resources. From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

“… our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.” – Jason Hickel

While politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this economic model and all it entails for agriculture, it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’. Surrendering the nation’s food sovereignty and the incorporation of India into US financial and geopolitical structures is the current state of independence.

Final thoughts

Neoliberalism and the drive for urbanisation in India have been underpinned by unconstitutional land takeovers and the trampling of democratic rights. For supporters of cronyism and manipulated markets, which to all extents and purposes is what economic ‘neoliberalism’ across the world has entailed (see thisthis and this), there have been untold opportunities for well-placed individuals to make an under-the-table fast buck from various infrastructure projects and privatisation sell offs.

According to the Organisation for Co-operation and Economic Development, the doubling of income inequality has made India one of the worst performers in the category of emerging economies.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, struggles (violent and non-violent) are taking place in India. The Naxalites/Maoists are referred to by the dominant class as left-wing extremists who are exploiting the situation of the poor. But how easy it is to ignore the true nature of the poor’s exploitation and too often lump all protesters together and create an ‘enemy within’. How easy it is to ignore the state-corporate extremism across the world that results in the central state abdicating its redistributive responsibilities by submitting to the tenets of Wall Street-backed ‘structural adjustment’ pro-privatisation policies, free capital flows and largely unaccountable corporations.

Powerful (mining) corporations are shaping the ‘development’ agenda in India and have signed secretive Memorandums of Understanding with the government. The full backing of the state is on hand to forcibly evict peoples from their land in order to hand it over to mineral-hungry industries to fuel a wholly unsustainable model of development. Around the world, this oil-dependent, urban-centric, high-energy model of endless consumption is stripping the environment bare and negatively impacting the climate and ecology.

In addition to displacing people to facilitate the needs of resource extraction industries, unconstitutional land grabs for Special Economic Zones, nuclear plants and other projects have additionally forced many others from the land.

Farmers (and others) represent a ‘problem’: a problem while on the land and a problem to be somehow dealt with once displaced. But food producers, the genuine wealth creators of a nation, only became a problem when western agribusiness was given the green light to take power away from farmers and uproot traditional agriculture in India and recast it in its own corporate-controlled image.

This is a country where the majority sanctifies certain animals, places, rivers and mountains. It’s also a country run by Wall Street sanctioned politicians who convince people to accept or be oblivious to the destruction of the same.

Many are working strenuously to challenge the selling of the heart and soul of India. Yet how easy will it be for them to be swept aside by officialdom which seeks to cast them as ‘subversive’. How easy it will be for the corrosive impacts of a rapacious capitalism to take hold and for hugely powerful corporations to colonise almost every area of social, cultural and economic life and encourage greed, selfishness, apathy, irretrievable materialism and acquisitive individualism.

The corporations behind it all achieve hegemony by altering mindsets via advertising, clever PR or by sponsoring (hijacking) major events, by funding research in public institutes and thus slanting findings and the knowledge paradigm in their favour or by securing key positions in international trade negotiations in an attempt to structurally readjust retail, food production and agriculture. They do it by many methods and means.

Before you realise it, culture, politics and the economy have become colonised by powerful private interests and the world is cast in their image. The prevailing economic system soon becomes cloaked with an aura of matter of factuality, an air of naturalness, which is never to be viewed for the controlling hegemonic culture or power play that it really is.

Seeds, mountains, water, forests and biodiversity are being sold off. The farmers and tribals are being sold out. And the more that gets sold off, the more who get sold out, the greater the amount of cash that changes hands and the easier it is for the misinformed to swallow the lie of Wall Street’s bogus notion of ‘growth’ – GDP.

If anyone perceives the type of ‘development’ being sold to the masses is actually possible in the first instance, they should note that ‘developing’ nations account for more than 80% of world population but consume only about a third of the world’s energy. US citizens constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy. On average, one American consumes as much energy as two Japanese, six Mexicans, 13 Chinese, 31 Indians, 128 Bangladeshis, 307 Tanzanians and 370 Ethiopians.

Consider that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed.

We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.

Levels of consumption were unsustainable long before India and other countries began striving to emulate a bogus notion of ‘development’. The West continues to live way beyond its (environmental) limits.

This wasteful, high-energy model is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, from Libya and Syria to Afghanistan and Iraq, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources.

The type of ‘progress and development’ and consumerism being sold makes beneficiaries of it blind to the misery and plight of the hundreds of millions who are deprived of their lands and livelihoods. In Congo, rich corporations profit from war and conflict. And in India, tens of thousands of militias (including in 2005, Salwa Judum)  were put into tribal areas to forcibly displace 300,000 people and place 50,000 in camps. In the process, rapes and human rights abuses have been common.

If what is set out above tells us anything, it is that India and other regions of the world are suffering from internal haemorrhaging. They are being bled dry from both within and without:

“There are sectors of the global population trying to impede the global catastrophe. There are other sectors trying to accelerate it. Take a look at whom they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward, indigenous populations – the First Nations in Canada, the aboriginals in Australia, the tribal people in India. Who is accelerating it? The most privileged, so-called advanced, educated populations of the world.” – Noam Chomsky.

Underpinning the arrogance of such a mindset is what Vandana Shiva calls a view of the world which encourages humans to regard man as conqueror and owner of the EarthThis has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering and nuclear energy. Shiva argues that it has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.

And therein lies the true enemy of genuine development: a system that facilitates such plunder, which is presided over by well-funded and influential foreign foundations and powerful financial-corporate entities and their handmaidens in the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Is India willing to see Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations deciding on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

“The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.” – Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.


Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Asia-Pacific Research.


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Justice Postponed: Ito Shiori and Rape in Japan

August 2nd, 2018 by David McNeill

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In June 2018, the BBC broadcast a documentary called Japan’s Secret Shame, a distressing tale of sexual violence toward women pegged to the experience of Ito Shiori. The documentary, by one of the world’s most respected broadcasters, was the climax so far of Ito’s struggle to win recognition and justice for rape victims in Japan, but it inadvertently served to highlight how little impact she has made in her home country.

Since braving a room full of journalists to say she was raped by one of their own last year, Ito says she has been largely shunned in the mainstream media in Japan and endured relentless online abuse. Cyber-activists have accused her of being a slut, a North Korean agent, and of setting a honey trap to destroy journalist Yamaguchi Noriyuki or even to unseat Abe Shinzo, the prime minister. She now lives in London after fleeing from what she calls threats on her life.

“Some of the messages I was getting really scared me.”

The documentary might serve as her riposte, but the response has been predictable, if disturbing. A politician in Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) appeared to blame Ito for her assault.

“There were clear errors on her part as a woman; drinking that much in front of a man and losing her memory,” Sugita Mio told the BBC crew, dismissing Ito’s claim that she had been drugged. “With things like this I think men are the ones who suffer significant damage.”

Compounding her decision to speak out, Ito incited the nationalist cyber mob by bad-mouthing Japan to the foreign media. The mob singled out – not without justification – the BBC title, which appears to convict a whole nation for her treatment (The Daily Mail, The New York Times and other non-Japanese publications have also covered her story in some detail . . . but not the major Japanese media). Some pointed out that rape statistics are higher in the UK than in Japan, while ignoring the startlingly low number of victims who report sexual assault in Japan, their shocking treatment in police stations and the role of powerful prosecutors in ensuring they never see their day in court.

Image result for Ito Shiori

Image on the right: Ito Shiori

Rage at this injustice, not revenge, politics or hunger for attention was what pushed Ito in front of the cameras last year, she says. Since then, Japan’s #MeToo movement briefly flared but failed to take root in the thin topsoil of Japan’s civil society. The nation’s top finance bureaucrat, Fukuda Junichi, was forced to resign after claims he had harassed a female reporter but his boss, Aso Taro, stayed in his job despite saying, outrageously, that the way to stop harassment of women reporters is to replace them with men. Tellingly, the female reporter who outed Fukuda remains anonymous.

In journalism, Ito’s profession, the percentage of women reporters has nearly doubled to about 20% since 2001 when the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association began counting. But women occupy just 5.6% of managerial posts in newspapers and wire services (they fare better in broadcasting: 13.7%). How long can they be held down in journalism and other professions?

The Fukuda scandal seems to have opened a great well of anger, frustration – and guilt in Ito’s industry.

“Many women feel guilty because they haven’t fought and a new generation are coming in and they’re not able to take it,” said one of over 80 journalists who formed the Women in Media Network Japan (WiMN) in May. “We report on these things sometimes but we are unable to confront it in our own industry. We have this mission to become the voice of the voiceless but these women realize they themselves are the voiceless.”

The network was formed partly to generate solidarity for victims like Ito (their hashtag is “WithYou”) and to “expose harassment and abuse,” said one of its leaders, Hayashi Yoshiko. Women reporters were taken aback by the way TV Asahi handled the case, says Nakatsuka Kumiko, president of the Asahi Shimbun Workers’ Union Osaka branch. The company ignored their reporter’s complaint then threatened to reprimand her for recording the conversation without the consent from her source and taking it public (she remains anonymous).

“This involved a corporate journalist,” Nakatsuka said, a reference to the bifurcated world of full-time media workers and the vast pool of part-timers and contract workers that prop up the industry. Many full-time female employees began to worry whether their employers would protect them if they faced the same problem, she said. “It felt too close to home.”

In the meantime, Ito struggles on. She fled Japan after finding pictures of herself and her family online but returns to make legal depositions. In September 2017 an inquest panel rejected her petition to overturn the decision by prosecutors to drop charges against Yamaguchi. She has since launched a civil suit in an attempt to air the assault in court. The suit may clear up one of the most puzzling aspects of the affair – the eleventh-hour suspension of Yamaguchi’s arrest warrant at Narita Airport. The man in charge of the police investigation, Nakamura Itaru, is a former political secretary to Cabinet Minister Suga Yoshihide. Ito’s persistence is startlingly rare but as she said in this interview a year ago, If she runs from her own fight, how can she fight for others?

When Ito Shiori was 10, her mother took her to Tokyo Summerland, an indoor pool. Wearing a new swimsuit, she splashed happily in the water until she was sexually assaulted.

“A man came from behind and touched me on every part of my body,” she recalls, crying at the memory. Shaking and terrified, she told the grownups, but their response was bewildering. “My friend’s mother said it was because I was wearing a bikini.”

The emotions forever associated with that incident – powerlessness, fear, humiliation – flared again after a press conference in June this year, where Ito now 28, told fellow reporters she had been raped. She had hoped to trigger a debate about the treatment of victims in Japan. Instead, she says, the response was a flood of hate mail. She was a ‘prostitute’ who had brought it on herself. Among her sins, it seems, was unbuttoning the top of her blouse during the press conference.

Ito says she awoke in an upscale Tokyo hotel in the small hours of Saturday April 4th, 2015 to find a man lying on top of her, inside her. She pushed him off and fled to the bathroom. Groggy and in pain, she tried to remember where she was. She’d had a night out with the man in Ebisu during which she believes her alcoholic drink was spiked. One of the last things she recalled was being in a taxi with him where, the driver later confirmed, she pleaded to be dropped off at a train station. The plea was ignored. Video footage from the hotel lobby would later show her being carried through the hotel lobby.

In the bathroom she realized she was naked and had to return for her clothes. “Everywhere was hurting,” she says. When she went back to the bedroom, she says the man tried to rape her again.

“I had a really rough fight with him and I was hurt. I didn’t know how to curse in Japanese so in English, I said, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ And he hadn’t worn a condom. I asked: ‘What did you do to me?’ He said, I’m sorry, let’s go and get the morning-after pill at the pharmacy…All I could think was, ‘I want to go to a safe place and wash myself.’”

Yamaguchi said,

“let me at least have your underwear as a souvenir.” (Yamaguchi denies rape and has given conflicting accounts of what happened, including that they had consensual sex.)

Later, alone at her apartment, she called a rape helpline. The woman on the other end said she would have to come into the office for counseling. Shiori did not have the strength to get up from her bed. A doctor prescribed the morning-after pill, barely looking up from her notes or bothering to ask why she needed it. Friends told her to get on with her life; a nurse said all traces of the drug had already left her body and she would never be able to prove it had been there. It was five days before her mind cleared and she went to the Harajuku Police Station.

Image result for Yamaguchi Noriyuki

“At the reception desk, I asked to talk to a female cop. I talked to her about what had happened. It was really hard. After two hours she said, ‘Well, I’m from the traffic department, you need to speak to an investigator.’ She retold her entire story to a male police officer who said she was at the wrong place and needed to file a complaint at the Takanawa Police Station, closer to where the assault occurred. And so, she again found herself explaining the assault to another male officer, who paused sympathetically before telling her to forget about what had occurred. “He said, ‘These things happen a lot and there is no way to prove it. Your life will be ruined.’”

One of the first things many Japanese women do while still shivering and bleeding at home is to read online about the experience of others – and deciding it’s just not worth pursuing. Even when the police and prosecutors can be persuaded to take up a rape case, the odds against conviction are high. In many cases, the police will try to broker a financial deal between the rapist and victim rather than risk airing their testimony in court. In the most recent high-profile example, actor Takahata Yuta apologized for raping a hotel maid last year but escaped trial when the Maebashi District Public Prosecutors Office in Gunma Prefecture waived prosecution. In 2015, the Tokyo High Court acquitted a man of attacking a 15-year-old girl because it said she hadn’t fought hard enough.

Still, Shiori persisted. A sympathetic officer in the Takenawa Police Station was persuaded to watch footage at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel, which proved at the very least that she had not been a willing participant. The taxi driver testified to several unusual details, including Shiori’s verbal pleas, and the fact that she had vomited undigested sushi on the taxi floor. The hotel bellman recalled the man struggling for three minutes to get the unconscious Shiori out of the taxi. A DNA sample was collected from her underwear. She endured a humiliating ritual in the careful marshaling of evidence: reenacting the rape using something resembling a crash-test dummy as male officers looked on, taking photographs.

Rape statistics in Japan are among the lowest in the developed world. (Source.)

Victims of sexual assault in Japan are even less likely to tell the police than elsewhere; fewer then 5% of Japanese women officially report rape. (Source.)

Less than a third even talk about it to friends or relatives, according to a 2014 Cabinet Office survey. Campaigners say the actual numbers of rapes and sexual assault far exceed the roughly 1,300 cases sent to prosecutors per year. (Source.)

Similar problems are reported in China and other parts of Asia. (Source.)

The vast discretionary powers of Japanese prosecutors mean that conviction rates are high – if the decision is made to proceed with a criminal rape case. “The highest hurdles to getting justice…occur in the pre-trial stages,” according to a paper by Harriet Gray, School of East Asian Studies, University of Sheffield. Of particular concern, says Yamamoto Jun, a campaigner and herself a victim of sexual assault, are the actions of the police.

Victims often describe their first visit to a police station as traumatic. There are few officers trained to deal with victims. In many cases, the reaction of beat cops is to treat women victims with suspicion. Potentially recoverable DNA evidence is routinely neglected. Shiori’s experience of having to announce her assault to a room full of uniformed men is typical, says Yamamoto, as is the advice to forget about what occurred. Many cases conclude with “suspended prosecution,” meaning guilt is assumed but the perpetrator is not charged, often in return for financial compensation.

Ito’s decision to badger the police into investigating her assault, then to publicize it, is very rare. She says she too might never have said a word but for her budding career as a journalist. If she couldn’t face the truth of what had happened to her, how could she continue? Whatever her attacker did to her, she says, it could never be worse than the psychological damage of running from herself by remaining silent.

Two months after the assault, Takanawa Police Station finally issued an arrest warrant for quasi-rape (where consent is impossible) against Yamaguchi Noriyuki, a former Bureau Chief of Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS)’s Washington Bureau. On June 8, 2015, investigators waited to serve the warrant on Yamaguchi at Narita Airport. Instead, Shiori says, one of the investigators called her and said he had been ordered to let Yamaguchi go. “Even now, I vividly recollect this call.” The investigator said: “He just passed right in front of me, but I received orders from above not to make the arrest. I’m going to have to leave the investigation.” The case was transferred to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. In July 2017, it was dropped by prosecutors at the Tokyo District Court. Ito was offered a financial ‘settlement’ from Yamaguchi via her lawyer and the police. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says.

That startling denouement, which the police deny (though they won’t discuss it), had the whiff of political conspiracy. Yamaguchi is the author of two soft-focus books about Abe Shinzo, the prime minister, and the men reportedly became close. He had won praise from Abe supporters for reporting on allegations that the South Korean military had operated military brothels across South Vietnam during the Vietnam War, which they saw as a riposte in the long diplomatic battle over Japan’s wartime system of brothels in Korea. Now, this star reporter of the nationalist right was himself accused of sexual assault.

The story was largely ignored by the mainstream media but taken up in Japan’s weekly tabloid magazines. On May 18, 2017, Shukan Shincho published the rape allegations in detail, including comments from Nakamura Itaru, the senior detective who stated that he had cancelled Yamaguchi’s arrest overruling the Takanawa Police Station. The article carried a photo of Yamaguchi and described him as ‘bettari’ (tight with) Abe. The claims spread rapidly online, fuelling criticisms that the Abe administration was corrupt; that it protected its cronies and smeared its enemies.

As the Diet prepared a rare revision to the legal provisions for rape crimes in May 2017, Shiori decided to go public. Before her press conference at the Ministry of Justice, friends told her to wear a business suit, and to shed a few tears or she ‘wouldn’t be believed.’ “That made me very sad,” she said. “If that’s the way people see me what chance have I got? This is how I look; I wear jeans and T-shirts. Someone said, ‘button your shirt’ but I said ‘no.’ There were 50 journalists in the room, with cameras and lights…I couldn’t breathe.”

“Becoming a rape victim myself made me realize just how small our voices are, and how difficult it is to have our voices heard in society,” she told the reporters. “I know there are countless women who have gone through the same experience. I know that, both in the past and today, many of these women have given up. How many media have published this story? When I saw Mr. Yamaguchi repeatedly broadcasting his side of the story through his powerful connections, I couldn’t breathe. Where is the freedom of speech in this country? What are the laws and media trying to protect, and from whom?”

From her perspective, the subsequent media coverage was thin or slanted in favor of discrediting her charges: Most of the big media outlets ignored it; Nippon News Network interviewed the head of the criminal investigation department at Tokyo Metropolitan Police, who said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. The backlash, however, was excruciating. She was accused of inviting the assault, and of political opportunism. She had connections to the Democratic Party, some said, which wanted to unseat Abe. Her family name was revealed, despite her pledge to protect her parents from the glare. Broken, she went to the hospital and stayed in bed for four days. “I had a panic attack; I thought I could deal with it but I couldn’t.” In trying to show women they could talk about rape, she says, crying again, “I instead showed that what happens is this.”

Yamaguchi has since been fired by TBS and has largely disappeared from public view. Ito filed a request with Tokyo prosecutors to reinvestigate the case – subsequently rejected 1 She says she has no interest in revenge against the government, or even against the man she says raped her.

“Everyone wants to take me to a place where I am fighting against Abe Shinzo; I don’t care about him,” she says. “I don’t even care about Yamaguchi. I do care that the justice system works. The people around me are furious but I don’t have that emotion because it is so hard to deal with.”

Ito Shiori introducing her book Black Box at the Foreign Correspondents Club Japan

The day of our interview at a friend’s house, Japan’s 1907 sex crime law was amended, mandating longer sentences and allowing for broader definitions of rape, including assaults on men (anal and oral sex). The revisions, welcome though they are, would not have helped Ito, says Yamamoto Jun. “For that to happen, we must change how things are done, and that takes time.”

Ito says she will “never forget” her sense of helplessness when told the police had stopped her case. Like the frightened 10-year-old girl at the pool, she had looked for protection that was not there.

“Laws do not protect us. The investigation agency has the authority to suppress its own arrest warrants. I want to ask…all people living in Japan. Are we really going to continue to let this happen?

She now waits for the results of a review by the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution – she must convince eight of the 11 members to pursue an indictment.

“For the past two years, I often wondered why I was still alive,” she said in May. “The act of rape killed me from the inside. Rape is murder of the soul. Only my body was left, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I had become a shell.”


David McNeill is the Japan correspondent for The Independent and other publications, including The Irish TimesThe Economist, and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He covered the nuclear disaster for all three publications, has been to Fukushima ten times since 11 March 2011, and has written the book Strong in the Rain(with Lucy Birmingham) about the disasters. He is an Asia-Pacific Journal editor.


In May, 2018, Ito applied to host a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, which declined (full disclosure: I am one of 12 journalists who sit on the FCCJ’s Professional Activities Committee, which votes on press events). Letters and emails flooded into the inboxes of FCCJ members, falsely accusing them of buckling to political pressure from the Abe government. Katsumi Takahiro, a secretary to a senator with the Democratic Party, sent an open letter demanding to know why Ito’s request had been turned down.

Featured image is from the author.

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Like many countries, India’s food system was essentially clean just a generation or two ago but is now being comprehensively contaminated with sugar, bad fats, synthetic additives, GMOs and pesticides under the country’s neoliberal ‘great leap forward’. The result has been a surge in obesity, diabetes and cancer incidence, while there has been no let-up in the under-nutrition of those too poor to join in the over-consumption.

Indian government data indicates that cancer showed a 5% increase in prevalence between 2012 and 2014 with the number of new cases doubling between 1990 and 2013. The incidence of cancer for some major organs in India is the highest in the world.

The increase in prevalence of diabetes is also worrying. By 2030, the number of diabetes patients in India is likely to rise to 101 million (World Health Organization estimate). The figure doubled to 63 million in 2013 from 32 million in 2000. Over 8% of the adult male population in India has diabetes. The figure is 7% for women. Almost 76,000 men and 52,000 women in the 30-69 age group in India died due to diabetes in 2015, according to the WHO.

study in The Lancet from a couple of years ago found that India leads the world in underweight people. Some 102 million men and 101 million women are underweight, which makes the country home to over 40% of the global underweight population.

Contrast this with India’s surge in obesity. In 1975, the country had 0.4 million obese men or 1.3% of the global obese men’s population. In 2014, it was in fifth position globally with 9.8 million obese men or 3.7% of the global obese men’s population. Among women, India is globally ranked third, with 20 million obese women or 5.3% of global population.

According to India’s 2015–16 National Family Health Survey, 38% of under-5s are stunted (height is significantly low for their age). The survey also stated that 21% under-5s are significantly underweight for their height, a sign of recent acute hunger. The prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world; at the same time, the country is fast becoming the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world.

India’s mineral deficient soils haven’t helped. This has been made worse by Green Revolution practices. Green Revolution crops, unlike their predecessors, fail to adequately take up minerals such as iron and zinc from the soil. So even though people might consume more calories (possibly leading to obesity), their intake of these key micronutrients has fallen. A quarter of the world’s population are affected by Green Revolution iron deficiency and research indicates that the condition impairs the learning ability of more than half of India’s schoolchildren.

Many of the older crops carried dramatically higher counts of nutrients per calorie. The amount of cereal each person must therefore consume to fulfil daily dietary requirements has gone up. For instance, the iron content of millet is four times that of rice. Oats carry four times more zinc than wheat. As a result, between 1961 and 2011, the protein, zinc and iron contents of the world’s directly consumed cereals declined by 4%, 5% and 19%, respectively.

While it is true that many other factors, including pollution, poor sanitation, working and living conditions, lack of income and economic distress, lack of access to healthcare and poverty, contribute to ill health and disease, a range of conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers and obesity, have all been linked to modern food production and diets.

‘Free trade’ and poor health

To improve health, lifestyle change is often promoted, as if poor health is a matter of individual responsibility and personal choice. This message conveniently sidesteps wider issues concerning the global capitalist food regime and how our access to food is shaped.

If we look at the North American Free Trade Agreement, we can see how the subsequent flood of cheap US processed food into Mexico adversely affected the health of ordinary people. Western ‘convenience’ (junk) food has displaced more traditional-based diets and is now readily available in every neighbourhood. Increasing rates of diabetes, obesity and other health issues have followed. This report by GRAIN describes how US agribusiness and retailers have captured the market south of the border and outlines the subsequent negative impact on the health of Mexican people. This could be what is in store for India.

Western agribusiness, food processing companies and retail concerns are gaining wider entry into India and through various strategic trade deals are looking to gain a more significant footprint within the country. The opening of the food and retail sector to more foreign direct investment and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (see page 13 here) have raised serious concerns about the stranglehold that transnational corporations could have on the agriculture and food sectors.

Image result for India's oilseeds revolution

We can already see one outcome in the edible oils sector. India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils up till the mid-1990s, using healthy practices to extract oil from for example indigenous mustard, linseed, ground nut and sesame, all of which are deeply rooted in Indian culture. Due to the unscrupulous undermining of the indigenous edible oil seeds sector  and the influx of cheap subsidised imports, some 70% of the population now consumes a narrower range of oils, not least (rain forest-destroying) palm oil and (GM) soy, processed using unhealthy solvents. To facilitate this, thousands of small-scale food oil processing enterprises were put out of business to make way for grain trader and food processor company Cargill, whose role in drawing up health and safety rules was instrumental in driving the competition out of business.

It is part of the wider push by the global industrial food processing lobby to impose standardised, less nutrient-rich products and manufacturing processes along with unhealthy fats, sugars and chemical additives – courtesy of compliant regulators and policy makers in India – in order to consolidate its grip on the country’s food base. As with the edible oils sector, it entails displacing more diverse, indigenous foodstuffs and healthy low-input food production processes, while robbing hundreds of thousands of their livelihoods.

We not only have Wal-Mart making inroads to complete the global food regime chain from seed to plate in India, but Western style fast-food outlets have already been soaring in number throughout the country. For example, Pizza Hut now operates in 46 Indian cities with 181 restaurants and 132 home delivery locations (2016). KFC is in 73 cities with 296 restaurants, a 770% increase over five years. According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Applied Research, the Indian fast food market is growing at the rate of 30-35% per annum (see this).

Heart disease, liver damage, stroke, obesity and diabetes are just some of the diseases linked to diets revolving around processed ‘convenience’ food. Frequent consumption of this food has been associated with increased body mass index as well as higher intakes of fat, sodium, added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages and lower intakes of fruits, vegetables, fibre and milk in children, adolescents and adults.

Modern processed food also tends to have higher energy densities and poorer nutritional quality than foods prepared at home and in comparison with dietary recommendations (see this). To further appreciate just how unhealthy today’s food is, a 2015 report in the Guardian reveals the cocktails of additives, colourants and preservatives that the industry adds to our food.

Moreover, in many regions across the globe industrialised factory farming has replaced traditional livestock agriculture. For example, just 40 years ago the Philippines’ entire population was fed on native eggs and chickens produced by family farmers. Now, most of those farmers are out of business.

As world trade rules encourage nations from imposing tariffs on subsidised imported products, they are compelled to allow cheap, factory-farmed US meat into the country. These products are then sold at lower prices than domestic meat. There is therefore pressure for local producers to scale up and industrialise to compete.

Factory farms increase the risk of pathogens like E coli and salmonella that cause food-borne illness in people. Overuse of antibiotics can fuel the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, the use of arsenic and growth hormones can increase the risk of cancer in people, and crowded conditions can be a breeding ground for disease.

The Modi administration’s restrictions on cow slaughter – making it difficult for many livestock farmers to operate – are regarded by some as a tool to facilitate the running down of small-scale livestock farming, paving the way for the industrialisation and corporatisation of the livestock industry.

Green Revolution, micronutrient-deficient soil and human health

We often hear unsubstantiated claims about the green revolution having saved hundreds of millions of lives, but any short-term gains in productivity have been offset. This high-input chemical-intensive model helped the drive towards greater monocropping and has resulted in less diverse diets and less nutritious foods. Its long-term impact has led to soil degradation and mineral imbalances, which in turn have adversely affected human health (see this informative report on India by botanist Stuart Newton – p.9 onward).

Adding weight to this argument, the authors of this paper from the International Journal of Environmental and Rural Development state:

“Cropping systems promoted by the green revolution have increased the food production but also resulted in reduced food-crop diversity and decreased availability of micronutrients. Micronutrient malnutrition is causing increased rates of chronic diseases (cancer, heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis) in many developing nations; more than 3 billion people are directly affected by the micronutrient deficiencies. Unbalanced use of mineral fertilizers and a decrease in the use of organic manure are the main causes of the nutrient deficiency in the regions where the cropping intensity is high.”

India might now be self-sufficient in various staples, but many of these foodstuffs are high calorie low nutrient, have led to the displacement of more nutritionally diverse cropping systems and have effectively mined the soil of nutrients. The importance of renowned agronomist William Albrecht, who died in 1974, should not be overlooked here and his work on healthy soils and healthy people.

In this respect, botanist Stuart Newton’s states:

“The answers to Indian agricultural productivity is not that of embracing the international, monopolistic, corporate-conglomerate promotion of chemically-dependent GM crops… India has to restore and nurture her depleted, abused soils and not harm them any further, with dubious chemical overload, which are endangering human and animal health.” (p24).

India is losing 5,334 million tonnes of soil every year due to soil erosion because of the indiscreet and excessive use of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research reports that soil is become deficient in nutrients and fertility.

Newton provides insight into the importance of soils and their mineral compositions and links their depletion to the ‘green revolution’. In turn, these depleted soils cannot help but lead to mass malnourishment. This is quite revealing given that proponents of the Green Revolution claim it helped reduced malnutrition. Newton favours a system of agroecology, a sound understanding of soil and the eradication of poisonous chemical inputs.

Although this system is certainly gaining traction in India – there are encouraging signs for agroecological farming in places like Andhra and Karnataka –  what we are also seeing is GMOs illegally creeping into the food system. Recent reports show GMOs are in commonly used food products and GM seeds are prevalent. The fear is that approval by contamination is what the GM industry has desired all along.

There are well-documented economic, environmental, ethical, social and health implications associated with GM. And unlike the Green Revolution, once the GM genie is out of the bottle, it can’t be put back in and the changes to the genetic core of the world’s food will be the legacy bequeathed to subsequent generations.

Pesticides, food and the environment

There are currently 34,000 pesticides registered for use in the US. Drinking water is often contaminated by pesticides and more babies are being born with preventable birth defects due to pesticide exposure.

Illnesses are on the rise too, including asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and several types of cancer. The association with pesticide exposure is becoming stronger with each new study.

In Punjab, pesticide run-offs into water sources have turned the state into a ‘cancer epicentre‘. India is one of the world’s largest users of pesticides and a profitable market for the corporations that manufacture them. Ladyfinger, cabbage, tomato and cauliflower in particular may contain dangerously high levels because farmers tend to harvest them almost immediately after spraying. Fruit and vegetables are sprayed and tampered with to make them more colourful, and harmful fungicides are sprayed on fruit to ripen them in order to rush them off to market.

Research by the School of Natural Sciences and Engineering (SNSE) at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore has indicated disturbing trends in the increased use of pesticide. In 2008, it reported that many crops for export had been rejected internationally due to high pesticide residues. Moreover, India is one of the largest users of World Health Organization (WHO) ‘Class 1A’ pesticides, which are extremely hazardous.

Research by SNSE shows farmers use a cocktail of pesticides and often use three to four times the recommended amounts. It may come as no surprise that a recent report about children in Hyderabad are consuming 10 to 40 more times pesticides in their food than kids in the US.

Forced-fed development

In 1978, T.N. Reddy predicted in the book ‘India Mortgaged’ that the country would one day open all sectors to foreign direct investment and surrender economic sovereignty to imperialist powers.

Today, the US-led West, clings to a moribund form of capitalism and has used various mechanisms in the face of economic stagnation and massive inequalities: the raiding of public budgets, the expansion of credit to consumers and governments to sustain spending and consumption, financial speculation and increased militarism.

Under the guise of globalisation, we also see an unrelenting drive to plunder what capital regards as ‘untapped markets’ in other areas of the globe. International agri-capital has been moving in on Indian food and agriculture for some time. But as an agrarian-based country underpinned by smallholder agriculture, it first needs to displace the current model before bringing India’s food and agriculture sector under its control.

Devinder Sharma describes the situation:

“India is on fast track to bring agriculture under corporate control… Amending the existing laws on land acquisition, water resources, seed, fertilizer, pesticides and food processing, the government is in overdrive to usher in contract farming and encourage organized retail. This is exactly as per the advice of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as well as the international financial institutes.”

In return for up to £90 billion in loans, in the 90s India was instructed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange. According to the World Bank’s lending report, based on data compiled up to 2015, India was easily the largest recipient of its loans in the history of the institution. To push through the programme, hundreds of millions are to be shifted out of agriculture.

Successive Indian administrations have been quite obliging. While India’s current government talks about ‘make in India’ (self-sufficiency), the reality is subservience to western capital. Agriculture is deliberately being made economically non-viable for small-scale farmers: financial distress and ‘economic liberalisation’ have resulted in between 300,000 and 400,000 farmer suicides since 1997 with millions more experiencing economic distress and over 6,000 leaving the sector each day. This lies at the root of the ongoing agrarian crisis. But it goes much further. We are witnessing not only the structural transformation of India’s rural base but an all-encompassing strategy designed to incorporate India into the US’s corporate-financial-intel architecture.

Whether it involves the displacement of indigenous food and agriculture by a model dominated by western conglomerates or it is the selling of pharmaceuticals and the expansion of private hospitals to address the health impacts of the modern junk food system (in India, the healthcare sector is projected to grow by 16% a year), either way, it’s a lose-lose situation for the population.

But it all forms part of the holy grail of neoliberalism, GDP growth. A notion based on an economic system defined by bad food and ill health, joblessness, mass surveillance, spiralling inequalities, environmental degradation, militarism and debt on one hand; on the other, by bail outs, tax havens, massive profits and subsidies for large corporations and banks.

So, what can be done? Whether we are discussing India or elsewhere, the scaling up  of agroecology based on the notion of food sovereignty offers an alternative. Much has been written on agroecology as a model of agriculture but also as a movement for political change. Part of the process involves resisting the dismantling of rural economies and indigenous agriculture and instituting a sustainable food system rooted in local communities, whereby producing for local and regional needs takes precedence over supplying distant markets.

It also entails rejecting the agenda of the WTO which subjugates local agriculture to the needs of global markets (determined by agribusiness interests). And, unlike the current system, it includes supporting healthy and culturally appropriate food, encouraging diversified food production and recognising that food is not simply another commodity to be traded or speculated on for profit.


Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Asia-Pacific Research.


Seeds of Destruction: Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation

Author Name: F. William Engdahl
ISBN Number: 978-0-937147-2-2
Year: 2007
Pages: 341 pages with complete index

List Price: $25.95

Special Price: $18.00


This skilfully researched book focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread. “Control the food and you control the people.”

This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms.

The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.

Migrant Labor: A Central Pillar of Nepal’s Grim Economy

July 28th, 2018 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

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They appear a hapless collection of desperate village lads lured by false promises, making their way to a hostile place fraught with peril. A small but significant number perish while working abroad, shipped home in a stark wooden box. Yet millions of Nepal’s youths take the imponderable risks. They remain away four or more years, subjected to severe climate conditions, often misled about their assignments and salaries, dismissed for minor infractions. Yet their numbers swell year-after-year, with remittances back to their families mounting correspondingly.

After almost two decades of accelerating numbers feeding this global labor market and the growing dependence on cash remittances home, up to 44% of Nepal’s GDP derives from young citizens’ flight abroad.

Is this trend inevitable? And who really benefits?

Inevitable, if a) merchants in Nepal’s cities continue to reap benefits by renting lodgings and supplying goods and food for a lopsided consumer economy generated and sustained by migrants’ remittances, and b) the home government continues to disregard chronic joblessness, avoiding a genuine commitment to develop industries and enhance agriculture. That’s what’s needed for real growth and jobs at home.

Given the poor economic prospects for the vast majority of Nepalis and their disenchantment with a new democracy where parties dish out generous grants to friends, one needs to ask if Nepal’s government itself may be exploiting foreign labor demand to keep citizens’ energies directed elsewhere.

The lure of jobs overseas is irresistible for Nepal’s able young men and women. They leave wives, parents and children; many with jobs at home relinquish them; students abandon schooling and take on debt — all to become one of the daily 1,200+ migrants who board a plane for the Arab Gulf or Malyasia. (A 2015 Nepali Times report notes 2,500 arrive or leave daily)

Ganesh is one of them. He set off on his Dasain holiday to the village four years ago, but never returned– not to his part time job in Kathmandu, not to continue his schooling, not to free lodging at his cousin-auntie’s house.

“He’d stayed with us since class two; he was a good student with only a year left to complete class 10. Had there been a family crisis”, she recalled, “I’d have known.”

Her suspicion that Ganesh had gone to the Arab Gulf was confirmed after six months. His sister Didi visited Auntie-Ma’m to collect Ganesh’s bedding. She herself had left their village for Kathmandu with her baby and Ganesh’s mother.

“They rent a room here in the city; she says life is easier now; there was no one to work their fields and anyway they can live in Kathmandu on what her husband and Ganesh send them.”

Didi’s husband was in Qatar too.

“Every Nepali family has someone in The Emirates, Qatar, Saudi, Malaysia” sighs Aunti Ma’m. “Here in Nepal, we can’t find carpenters to repair our building; no helpers in the kitchen; no boys to serve in the local cafes; a shortage of motor mechanics.”

Ganesh is one of more than 4.5 million –some estimate 7 million, if migrants to India are included — Nepali youths working in the inhospitable atmosphere of Arab Gulf states. They choose hazards abroad over farming their terraced hillsides, over whatever a middle class family may pay them as gardeners, cleaners or drivers, over the ten dollars a day they can earn (in season) as a porter hauling trekkers’ supplies through the mountains.

This exodus of healthy young men and women from Nepal increased sharply twenty years ago when Malaysia and Arab Gulf states were recruiting unskilled laborers. At home, the situation looked unpromising, with Nepal entering a period of instability; the Maoist revolution was spreading through the countryside; development projects produced insufficient jobs and anti-monarchy protests were widening.

Overseas work for low wages seems to be the best option for millions of workers in a country with no industrial development and where farmers produce barely enough to meet household needs. In the 1980s, young people left villages to work in an expanding Tibetan carpet industry in Kathmandu Valley. Factory managers were unconcerned if workers were as young as 12, if they had no education and if they slept on the floor near their looms. Eventually, exploitative conditions and heavy use of child labor in the industry drew international ire. A human rights campaign on behalf of underage workers essentially shut down the carpet factories; tens of thousands became jobless. Labor brokers supplying workers for the expanding Arab Gulfmarket tapped that void and, year-by-year, the number of Nepalis working there rose.

Seeking work outside is not new to Nepal. A 2005 overview notes how, more than a century ago, Nepalis migrated to India to work in tea plantations. Starting in the 19th Century village men were recruited into British Gurkha military regiments, their numbers increasing through the two world wars. (Today, Gurkhas serve in the Indian army and with British regiments posted in Afghanistan as well.)

Returned workers with substantial capital from their overseas work happily share evidence of improvements to their lives, changes otherwise impossible. Take Ram, for example; he set up a small factory in Nepal with his earnings. Gyelmi Lama boasts:

“As a driver in Qatar, I earned 150,000 Nepali rupees ($1,500) monthly; nowadays I’m with my family in Kathmandu, and I support my parents in our village in Hetara.”

He’s one of countless taxi drivers in Kathmandu Valley returned from overseas, now owning their own vehicles. Chetri was returning to Dubai where he runs a shop, mainly serving Nepali clients. KP, another outgoing passenger, manages a Nepali restaurant in Abu Dhabi catering to migrant workers, and tells me of his plans for a travel agency specializing in tours for Europeans living in the Emirates; “It’s barely four hours away; they can visit Kathmandu for a weekend!”

Remittances sent monthly sustain workers’ families back home. (One survey indicates that by 2009, average annual income of Nepali households from remittances reached the equivalent of $1,400 and $2,100.) This allows villagers to hire a poorer relative to mind a few animals in their village, rent lodging for themselves in the city, and send children to a private school. (Government schools are so bad that even inexpensive private schools are preferred, and these too are flourishing because of remittances.) Purna who worked in Saudi Arabia spent 8,000 rupees ($80.) monthly for his daughter’s school fees. Since she’s heading to college, he has new plans for himself;

“I keep my two taxis, but I stop driving; too much construction going on now; I make partner in a new business in Kavre near my village. We buy a bulldozer and make contracts to build roads.” Yes,” he asserts, “lots of business opportunity now.”

What percentage of returned migrant workers can duplicate Purna’s, Gyelmi’s and Chetri’s endeavors is hard to calculate.

Image below: cover of the author’s book, Heir to A Silent Song: Two Rebel Women of Nepal (click to order)

Human rights investigations and early reports of migrants’ conditions in the Nepali press highlighted the human toll—extortion, fraud and abuse were widespread. (Anti-Muslim feeling in Nepal has been fueled by early reports of workers’ mistreatment by Arab employers.) Investigative journalist Devendra Bhattarai writing for Kantipur,and filmmaker Kesang Tseten drew attention to migrants’ troubles in 2010. And while improved conditions curbed severe exploitation, many migrants still suffer. Laborers’ hardships are compounded by the inability or refusal of Nepali embassies abroad to intervene on behalf of distressed citizens, or to assist them. (When one ambassador called Qatar an open jail, she was recalled.)

Only recently has the Nepali press been willing to more closely examine the context of labor migration. The result is a sobering account of exploitation by labor brokers, mainly Indian and Nepali, beginning before workers reach their destination. (Nepali Times, 2015) Some bilateral agreements to protect workers have been negotiated and a $50. million fund in Nepal (hardly used to date) was set up for needy cases.

Notwithstanding all the obstacles and difficulties, at the apex of those responsible sits the Nepali government. This is addressed, finally, in an excellent 2018 Nepali Times series that points to the administration’s policy failures, and exposes how officials enrich themselves off fees and bribes from would-be migrants. It asserts what others have avoided saying:– the government is evading the need to rectify unemployment at home. “…Successive elected rulers since 1990 have masked their failure to create jobs within the country by taking the easy way out– to export labour.”


Aziz is a veteran anthropologist and radio journalist, also author of Heir to A Silent Song: Two Rebel Women of Nepal, published by Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and available through Barnes and Noble in the USA. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

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A busy air route between Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan Airport and overseas is via the communications hub of The Arab Emirates. Several direct flights between Abu Dhabi or Doha and Nepal depart and arrive daily. Appearing unremarkable (on any day or year over the last decade), any assemblage of passengers, outbound or inbound, itself informs the character of Nepal’s impoverished (sic) economy:- workers remittances–the major sector– foreign aid, and tourism.

Making my way into and from Nepal through Arab Gulf airports on a regular basis over many years, I note a consistent composition of the 200 or so people on these flights. Inbound and outbound, they offer as genuine a portrait of the country’s economy as any generously funded study by a team of economists.

Travelers on these flights fall into three distinct groups—

1) Nepali youths employed overseas;

2) tourist-trekkers;

3) economic development personnel.

Those occupying the majority of seats, 75% or more, are young Nepalese– mostly men, most under 30. They dress similarly—a simple shirt and trousers, maybe a thin jacket. They check into their flight with a light knapsack or carry-on suitcase. If outbound from Nepal they sport fresh haircuts; around the necks of some hang silken kathak— good luck scarves offered by well-wishers.

In the departure lounge at Tribhuvan Airport, these men may appear shy. Once boarded and secure in their seats, their emotion blooms as if, until then, they’d remained uncertain if they might leave the ground. Now Nepali phrases sweep around the rows of seats throughout the four-hour flight, a relaxed animated dialogue that suggests these men are old friends. In fact most, until now, were strangers.

These Nepalis’ demeanor contrasts with the minority passengers, ‘westerners’ –European, American, Australian or New Zealander– varying in age from 20 to 70, sometimes older and generally traveling in couples. They too carry little more than a single backpack, but double or triple the size of the Nepali youths’ gear, each branded with a recognizable sports logo. Whatever the weather, these vacationers clutch water bottles and wear sturdy climbing boots.

If a Business Class is designated on these short flights, you’ll find there a handful of sedate travelers, a mixed but mainly white group. Dressed casually–no sign of backpacks or climbing boosts here—they’ll tote only a computer bag. These subdued women and men are ‘development’ experts– in Nepal to assist (with anything)– Red Cross, UNICEF, Medicine Sans Frontiers, Norwegian hydroelectric engineers, Microsoft educational consultants, democracy monitors, Australian gender analysts, pollution appraisers and endless other NGO project staff. From the moment they’re seated, they flip through graph-laden reports, phone in hand — all destined for yet another conference. (At the time of Nepal’s 2015 earthquake, journalists’ crowded these flights alongside NGO emergency personnel, temporarily replacing tourist travelers. Although most seats were taken by Nepali sons rushing home out of concern for loved ones.)

There you have it: the Nepal economy in a single flight.

The young Nepali men on the flight are all migrant laborers drawn from every corner of the nation, from a range of ethnic group. They are drivers and masons, carpenters and farmers– lads with a few years of schooling, all new to international travel, all hopeful. Some are urban born, others villagers who’ve taken on debt to pay the fees necessary to secure overseas work. A fraction of these youths head to Malaysia; most are destined for The Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Together they constitute a force estimated to be as high as seven million Nepali laborers (officially reported as close to 4 million) employed abroad in estates, stadiums and museums, restaurants and malls, offices, houses and farms. See this. (Some drivers or cooks are recruited by American security agencies in Iraq. A few migrants, mainly women, become domestics in the Arab Gulf, but most travel to Lebanon and Israel to work for families there.)

The white passengers in economy class are tourists. They’re working people who’ve saved for a year or more for their enchanted Himalayan holiday. They are a happy lot, the tourists—people infinitely patient over delayed flights and uncomplaining about days bedridden with an intestinal disease. Once airborne, they speak in whispers, while engaged writing blogs.

Tourists toNepal number nearly a million annually. Their contribution to the economy (contrary to claims in Wikipedia) however amounts to barely five percent because the business is highly centralized, visitors’ stays are short, and cheap lodgings are plentiful. (Following the earthquake, Nepal’s sophisticated tourist industry bulletins sounded an alarm of the quake’s impact on tourism. Although exaggerated, this helped mobilize funding for immediate restoration of notable temples and trekking routes. Tourist needs seemed to take priority in contrast to thousands of damaged village dwellings and public schools– a responsibility of the Nepali government—still awaiting repair.)

As for the non-governmental organizations, their economic impact derives less through assistance to the needy, than from their bureaucratic structures centered in the capital. Charitable fees for visiting consultants may come from headquarters. No, it’s in the sprawling local agencies where we find a significant impact on Nepal’s economy. Here, tens of thousands of salaried staff dispense (foreign aid) money into the market to sustain themselves and their offices. Together with civil servants whose salaries are supplemented by payoffs from agencies and businesses, this community now constitutes the core of Kathmandu’s sizable middle class. House owners rent to NGOs, restaurants and shops offer an atmosphere and cuisine worthy of internationals, along with staff (gardeners, drivers, cleaners, etc.) who manage their homes and offices. Many tens of thousands live off aid flowing into Nepal. They in turn need vehicles, electrical generators and washing machines; they build gated homes and hire local agencies to arrange their travel and chauffeurs to drive their children to exclusive private schools. They gather at the glass malls and shop at brand-named stores and restaurants along Durbar Marg.

This conspicuously wealthy population of Kathmandu has emerged out of the 20,000 or more NGOs based here that offer Nepaleverything— from city sanitation services to a surfeit of agencies sheltering women and researching hydro-power–whether or not the nation really needs them.  Although a substantial element in the city’s economy, NGO financial input does not register in any official assessment of Nepal’s economy.

In any case, the mainstay of the nation’s economy lies elsewhere. It derives from the accumulated impact of cash remittances to their families from those anxious lads who boarded planes for jobs abroad—feckless workers often characterized as exploited labor.

Some mistreatment is undeniable, just as contract freelance workers catering to the needs of New Yorkers or Londoners are exploited. But these millions of migrants laboring where they can never become citizens transfer billions of dollars in earnings home. That is having a profound impact on Nepal’s economy. And even though that economic stimulus may be misplaced—because it drives consumerism rather than labor-intense local industries, it still transforms the life of these youths and their families that economic development plans could not.

(This dynamic, we will explore in the next of our series on Nepal.)


Aziz is the author of Heir to A Silent Song: Two Rebel Women of Nepal, published by Tribhuvan Universityin Nepal, and available through Barnes and Noble. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from an Asia Society report.

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There was a sudden outbreak of violence last week in the Indonesian Province of Papua.

Local elections were marred by two separate incidents of violence when armed individuals attacked state security representatives in remote parts of the island’s interior, raising concerns that separatist violence might be returning to the region. The Indonesian government has downplayed the influence of these forces for decades by attributing similar events to “bandits” and other “criminals”, though the so-called “Free Papua Movement” that’s been active since the territory’s de-facto incorporation into Indonesia in 1963 following the Dutch withdrawal and especially its formal one in 1969 after the controversial “Act of Free Choice” claims to still have a popular following in the province.

The Papua Conflict is complex, but to concisely summarize its underlying dynamics, this underpopulated but mineral- and LNG-rich western half of the island of New Guinea used to be under Dutch control and remained so even after Indonesia’s 1949 independence from Amsterdam. The colonizers argued that the majority-Christian Melanesian people of this island have nothing in common with the mostly Muslim Javanese majority in the rest of Indonesia and that the archipelago nation itself had never been a unified political entity in history despite some islands having a shared socio-economic and religious identity. Indonesia, however, maintained that it is the legal successor of the entirety of the Dutch East Indies and that the Netherlands had ulterior geostrategic motives for remaining in Oceania, sometimes likening Amsterdam’s activities to what Brussels wanted to do in Congo’s similarly mineral-wealthy Katanga region immediately after that country’s independence.

Free West Papua Protest in Melbourne

Free West Papua Protest in Melbourne, Australia, 2012

After military-political pressure and Cold War calculations led to the Netherlands surrendering its colonial-era outpost to the UN and then Indonesia in 1963 prior to its contentious 1969 “Act of Free Choice” that officially made it a part of the latter, Jakarta initiated a policy of so-called “transmigration” in incentivizing Muslim Javanese to migrate to the country’s newest province, which eventually “demographically re-engineered” West Papua. Local opposition to this policy of what is legally “internal migration” was put down through concerted military and police efforts, after which some of the world’s largest mining deals were struck with Western companies, agreements which some believe have never benefited the island’s still-impoverished people.

There’s almost no realistic chance that the “Free Papua Movement” will succeed in its quest to secede from Indonesia, and the latest violence might even backfire by provoking a more intensified security presence there in order to stop what the state has always considered to be a spark that could lead to an uncontrollable “Balkanization” chain reaction all throughout the archipelago, but the recent attacks might generate enough renewed international attention to their cause that politicized pressure could be put on the Indonesian authorities. It’s unlikely that this would lead to any governing reforms, let alone an independence referendum, but it could be weaponized for anti-Chinese strategic purposes.

To explain, even though there’s probably no American hand in what happened, the US could still exploit any follow-up events by exerting pressure on Indonesia under the guise of so-called “human rights” and “democracy” in order to press it into committing more solidly to the “Quad”. Indonesia has thus far refrained from joining this anti-Chinese “containment” coalition, but it might be compelled to reconsider its choice if the US takes advantage of highly publicized violence in Papua to threaten it with sanctions or even “suggest” that Jakarta allow the Pentagon to set up a base in the country to assist it with “anti-terrorist operations”. Even so, everything might just fizzle out as quickly as it happened, but it’s nevertheless important to pay attention to this topic in case it doesn’t and the US decides to exploit internal events in Indonesia in order to advance its grand strategic objectives vis-à-vis China.


This article was originally published on Oriental Review.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from Al Masdar News.

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India is under siege from international capital. It is on course not only to be permanently beholden to US state-corporate interests but is heading towards environmental catastrophe much faster than many may think.

According to the World Bank’s lending report, based on data compiled up to 2015, India was easily the largest recipient of its loans in the history of the institution. Unsurprisingly, therefore, the World Bank exerts a certain hold over India. In the 1990s, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to £90 billion in loans, India was directed to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies, run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for the growing of cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

The plan for India involves the mass displacement of people to restructure agriculture for the benefit of powerful corporations. This involves shifting at least 400 million from the countryside into cities. A 2016 UN report said that by 2030, Delhi’s population will be 37 million.

Quoted in The Guardian, one of the report’s principal authors, Felix Creutzig, says:

“The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.”

The drive is to entrench industrial farming, commercialise the countryside and to replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India. It could mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work given that India is heading (or has already reached) ‘jobless growth’. Given the trajectory the country seems to be on, it does not take much to imagine a countryside with vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly turning into a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides, dirt and dust.

The WTO and the US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture are facilitating the process. To push the plan along, there is a deliberate strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India’s small farms and to get most farmers out of farming. As Felix Creutig suggests, the aim is to replace current structures with a system of industrial (GM) agriculture suited to the needs of Western agribusiness, food processing and retail concerns.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have taken their lives since 1997 and many more are experiencing economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to (GM) cash crops and economic liberalisation. The number of cultivators in India declined from 166 million to 146 million between 2004 and 2011. Some 6,700 left farming each day. Between 2015 and 2022 the number of cultivators is likely to decrease to around 127 million.

For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture: the running down of the sector for decades, spiralling input costs, lack of government assistance and the impacts of cheap, subsidised imports which depress farmers’ incomes.

Take the cultivation of pulses, for instance. According to a report in the Indian Express (Sept 2017), pulses production increased by 40% during the previous 12 months (a year of record production). At the same time, however, imports also rose resulting in black gram selling at 4,000 rupees per quintal (much less than during the previous 12 months). This has effectively driven down prices thereby reducing farmers already meagre incomes. We have already witnessed a running down of the indigenous edible oils sector thanks to Indonesian palm oil imports on the back of World Bank pressure to reduce tariffs (India was virtually self-sufficient in edible oils in the 1990s but now faces increasing import costs).

On the one hand, there is talk of India becoming food secure and self-sufficient; on the other, there is pressure from the richer nations for the Indian government to further reduce support given to farmers and open up to imports and ‘free’ trade. But this is based on hypocrisy.

Writing on the ‘Down to Earth’ website in late 2017, Sachin Kumar Jain states some 3.2 million people were engaged in agriculture in the US in 2015. The US govt provided them each with a subsidy of $7,860 on average. Japan provides a subsidy of $14,136 and New Zealand $2,623 to its farmers. In 2015, a British farmer earned $2,800 and $37,000 was added through subsidies. The Indian govt provides on average a subsidy of $873 to farmers. However, between 2012 and 2014, India reduced the subsidy on agriculture and food security by $3 billion.

According to policy analyst Devinder Sharma subsidies provided to US wheat and rice farmers are more than the market worth of these two crops. He also notes that, per day, each cow in Europe receives subsidy worth more than an Indian farmer’s daily income.

How can the Indian farmer compete with an influx of artificially cheap imports? The simple answer is that s/he cannot and is not meant to.

The opening up of India to foreign capital is supported by rhetoric about increasing agricultural productivity, creating jobs and boosting GDP growth. But India is already self-sufficient in key staples and even where productivity is among the best in the world, farmers still face massive financial distress. Given that jobs are being destroyed, relatively few are being created and that as a measure of development GDP growth is unsustainable and has actually come at the expense of deliberately impoverished farmers in India (low food prices), what we are hearing is mere rhetoric to try to convince the public that an increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a relative few corporations – via deregulations, privatisations and lower labour and environmental protection standards – constitutes progress.

We can already see the outcome of these policies across the world: the increasing power of unaccountable financial institutions, record profits and massive increases in wealth for elite interests and, for the rest, disempowerment, mass surveillance, austerity, job losses, the erosion of rights, weak unions, cuts to public services, environmental degradation, spiraling national debt and opaque, corrupt trade deals, such as TTIP, CETA, RCEP (affecting India) and TPA.

Making India ‘business friendly’

PM Modi is on record as saying that India is now one of the most business-friendly countries in the world. The code for being ‘business friendly’ translates into a willingness by the government to facilitate much of the above, while reducing taxes and tariffs and allowing the acquisition of public assets via privatisation as well as instituting policy frameworks that work to the advantage of foreign corporations.

Image on the right: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and India PM Narendra Modi

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When the World Bank rates countries on their level of ‘ease of doing business’, it means national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more ‘compliant’ national governments make their populations and regulations, the more ‘business friendly’ a country is.

In the realm of agriculture, the World Bank’s ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture‘ entails opening up markets to Western agribusiness and their fertilisers, pesticides, weedicides and patented seeds. Rather than work to eradicate corruption, improve poor management, build storage facilities and deal with inept bureaucracies and deficiencies in food logistics, the mantra is to let ‘the market’ intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the very transnational corporations that receive massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the ‘free’ market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

According to the neoliberal ideologues, foreign investment is good for jobs and good for business. But just how many actually get created is another matter – as is the amount of jobs destroyed in the first place to pave the way for the entry of foreign corporations. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people; but what about the agricultural jobs that were deliberately eradicated in the first place or the village-level processors who were cynically put out of business via bogus health and safety measures so Cargill could gain a financially lucrative foothold?

GOP .jpg

The process resembles what Michel Chossudovsky notes in his 1997 book about the ‘structural adjustment’ of African countries. In ‘The Globalization of Poverty’, he says that economies are: 

“opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished.” (p.16)

If people are inclined to think farmers would be better off as foreign firms enter the supply chain, we need only look at the plight of farmers in India who were tied into contracts with Pepsico. Farmers were pushed into debt, reliance on one company and were paid a pittance

India is looking to US corporations to ‘develop’ its food and agriculture sector. With regard to what this could mean for India, we only have to look at how the industrialised US system of food and agriculture relies on massive taxpayer subsidies and has destroyed farmers’ livelihoods. The fact that US agriculture now employs a tiny fraction of the population serves as a stark reminder for what is in store for Indian farmers. Agribusiness companies (whose business model in the US is based on overproduction and dependent on taxpayer subsidies) rake in huge returns, while depressed farmer incomes and massive profits for food retailers is the norm.

The long-term plan is for an overwhelmingly urbanised India with a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Walmart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of highly processed, denutrified, genetically altered food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

The alternative would be to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and trade deals and to implement a shift to sustainable, localised agriculture which grows a diverse range of crops and offers a healthy diet to the public.

Instead, we see the push for bogus ‘solutions’ like GMOs and an adherence to neoliberal ideology that ultimately privileges profit and control of the food supply by powerful private interests, which have no concern whatsoever for the health of the public.

Taxpayer-subsidised agriculture in the US ultimately promotes obesity and disease by supporting the health damaging practices of the food industry. Is this what Indians want to see happen in India to their food and health?

Unfortunately, the process is already well on track as ‘Western diseases’ take hold in the country’s urban centres. For instance, there are massive spikes in the rates of obesity and diabetes. Although around 40 per cent of the nation’s under-5s are underweight, the prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world; at the same time, the country is fast becoming the diabetes and heart disease capital of the world.

Devinder Sharma has highlighted where Indian policy makers’ priorities lie when he says that agriculture has been systematically killed over the last few decades. He adds that 60% of the population lives in the villages or in the rural areas and is involved in agriculture but less than two percent of the annual budget goes to agriculture: when you are not investing in agriculture, you are not wanting it to perform.

Support given to agriculture is portrayed as a drain on the economy and is reduced and farmers suffer yet it still manages to deliver bumper harvests year after year. On the other hand, corporate-industrial India has failed to deliver in terms of boosting exports or creating jobs, despite the hand outs and tax exemptions given to it.

The number of jobs created in India between 2005 and 2010 was 2.7 million (the years of high GDP growth). According to International Business Times, 15 million enter the workforce every year. And data released by the Labour Bureau shows that in 2015, jobless ‘growth’ had finally arrived in India.

So where are the jobs going to come from to cater for hundreds of millions of agricultural workers who are to be displaced from the land or those whose livelihoods will be destroyed as transnational corporations move in and seek to capitalise small-scale village-level industries that currently employ tens of millions?

Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Now we have dogma masquerading as economic theory that compels developing countries to adopt neo-liberal policies. The notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and the concept of poverty depoliticised and separated from structurally embedded power relations, not least US-driven neoliberal globalisation policies resulting in the deregulation of international capital that ensures giant transnational conglomerates have too often been able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

Across the world we are seeing treaties and agreements over breeders’ rights and intellectual property have been enacted to prevent peasant farmers from freely improving, sharing or replanting their traditional seeds. Large corporations with their proprietary seeds and synthetic chemical inputs have eradicated traditional systems of seed exchange. They have effectively hijacked seeds, pirated germ plasm that farmers developed over millennia and have ‘rented’ the seeds back to farmers. As a result, genetic diversity among food crops has been drastically reduced, and we have bad food and diets, degraded soils, water pollution and scarcity and spiralling rates of poor health.

Corporate-dominated agriculture is not only an attack on the integrity of ‘the commons’, soil, water, food, diets and health but is also an attack on the integrity of international institutions, governments and officials which have too often been corrupted by powerful transnational entities.

Whereas some want to bring about a fairer, more equitable system of production and distribution to improve people’s quality of lives (particularly pertinent in India with its unimaginable inequalities  which have spiraled since India adopted neoliberal policies), Washington regards ‘development’ as a way to further US interests globally.

As economics professor Michael Hudson said during a 2014 interview (published on under the title ‘Think Tank Times’):

“American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.”

Of course, many others such as Walden Bello, Raj Patel and Eric Holtz-Gimenez have written on how a geopolitical ‘stuffed and starved’ strategy has fuelled this process over the decades.

Capitalism and environmental catastrophe joined at the hip

In India, an industrialised chemical-intensive model of agriculture is being facilitated that brings with it the numerous now well-documented externalised social, environmental and health costs. We need look no further than the current situation in South India and the drying up of the Cauvery river in places to see the impact that this model has contributed to: an ecological crisis fuelled by environmental devastation due to mining, deforestation and unsustainable agriculture based on big dams, water-intensive crops and Green Revolution ideology imported from the West.  

Image result for Bhaskar Save

But we have known for a long time now that India faces major environmental problems rooted in agriculture. For example, in an open letter to written to officials in 2006, the late campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save (image on the right) noted that India, next to South America, receives the highest rainfall in the world. Where thick vegetation covers the ground, and the soil is alive and porous, at least half of this rain is soaked and stored in the soil and sub-soil strata. A good amount then percolates deeper to recharge aquifers, or ‘groundwater tables’. Save argued that the living soil and its underlying aquifers thus serve as gigantic, ready-made reservoirs gifted free by nature.

Half a century ago, most parts of India had enough fresh water all year round, long after the rains had stopped and gone. But clear the forests, and the capacity of the earth to soak the rain, drops drastically. Streams and wells run dry.

Save went on to not that while the recharge of groundwater has greatly reduced, its extraction has been mounting. India is presently mining over 20 times more groundwater each day than it did in 1950. Much of this is mindless wastage by a minority. But most of India’s people – living on hand-drawn or hand-pumped water in villages and practising only rain-fed farming – continue to use the same amount of ground water per person, as they did generations ago.

According to Save, more than 80% of India’s water consumption is for irrigation, with the largest share hogged by chemically cultivated cash crops. Maharashtra, for example, has the maximum number of big and medium dams in the country. But sugarcane alone, grown on barely 3-4% of its cultivable land, guzzles about 70% of its irrigation waters.

One acre of chemically grown sugarcane requires as much water as would suffice 25 acres of jowar, bajra or maize. The sugar factories too consume huge quantities. From cultivation to processing, each kilo of refined sugar needs two to three tonnes of water. This could be used to grow, by the traditional, organic way, about 150 to 200 kg of nutritious jowar or bajra (native millets).

While rice is suitable for rain-fed farming, its extensive multiple cropping with irrigation in winter and summer as well is similarly hogging water resources and depleting aquifers. As with sugarcane, it is also irreversibly ruining the land through salinization.

Save argued that soil salinization is the greatest scourge of irrigation-intensive agriculture, as a progressively thicker crust of salts is formed on the land. Many million hectares of cropland have been ruined by it. The most serious problems are caused where water-guzzling crops like sugarcane or basmati rice are grown round the year, abandoning the traditional mixed-cropping and rotation systems of the past, which required minimal or no watering.

Salinization aside, looking at the issue of soil more generally, Stuart Newton, a researcher and botanist living in India, says that India must restore and nurture its depleted, abused soils and not harm them any further with chemical overload. Through his analyses of Indian soils, he has offered detailed insights into their mineral compositions and links their depletion to the Green Revolution. In turn, these depleted soils in the long-term cannot help but lead to mass malnourishment. This is quite revealing given that proponents of the Green Revolution claim it helped reduced malnutrition.

Various high-level official reports, not least the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge and Science for Development Report, state that smallholder, traditional farming can deliver food security in low-income countries through sustainable agroecological systems. Moreover, given India’s huge range of biodiversity (India is one of Nikolai Vavilov’s strategically globally important centres of plant diversity) that has been developed over millennia to cope with diverse soil and climate conditions, the country should on its own be more than capable of addressing challenges that lie ahead due to climate change.

Instead, policy makers continue to look towards the likes of Monsanto-Bayer for ‘solutions’. Such companies merely seed to break farmers’ environmental learning ‘pathways’ based on centuries of indigenous knowledge, learning and practices with the aim of getting farmers hooked on chemical treadmills for corporate profit (see Glenn Stone and Andrew Flach’s 2017 paper in the Journal of Peasant Studies, ‘The ox fall down: path-breaking and technology treadmills in Indian cotton agriculture’).

Wrong-headed policies in agriculture have already resulted in drought, expensive dam-building projects, population displacement and degraded soils. The rivers are drying, farmers are dying and the cities are creaking as a result of the unbridled push towards urbanisation.

In terms of managing water resources, regenerating soils, and cultivating climate resilient crops, agroecology as a solution is there for all to see. Andhra Pradesh is now making a concerted effort to roll-out zero budget agroecological agriculture across the state. However, in the absence of this elsewhere across India, agroecological approaches will be marginalised.

India faces huge problems in terms of securing access to water. As Bhaskar Save noted, the shift to Green Revolution thinking and practices (underpinned by geopolitical and commercial interests: World Bank loans; export-oriented monocropping, commodity crop trade and dependency on the US dollar; seed sovereignty issues and costly proprietary inputs, etc) has placed enormous strain on water resources.

From glacial melt in the Himalayas that will contribute to the drying up of important rivers to the effects of temperature rises across the Indo Gangetic plain, which will adversely impact wheat productivity, India has more than its fair share of problems. But despite this, high-level policy makers are pushing for a certain model of ‘development’ that will only exacerbate the problems.

This model is being driven by some of the world’s largest corporate players: a model that by its very nature leads to environment catastrophe:

“… our economic system demands ever-increasing levels of extraction, production and consumption. Our politicians tell us that we need to keep the global economy growing at more than 3% each year – the minimum necessary for large firms to make aggregate profits. That means every 20 years we need to double the size of the global economy – double the cars, double the fishing, double the mining, double the McFlurries and double the iPads. And then double them again over the next 20 years from their already doubled state.” – Jason Hickel, writing in The Guardian (July 2016).

Politicians and bureaucrats in Delhi might be facilitating this model and the system of agriculture it is tied to, but it is ultimately stamped with the logo ‘made in Washington’.


Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Asia-Pacific Research.

Militants in northern Myanmar have once again put China’s One Belt, One Road initiative on hold. It should come as no surprise that Anglo-American history played a direct role in their creation, and currently fund and back networks supporting them. 

The BBC has mounted a recent propaganda campaign aimed at once again placing pressure on Myanmar’s military, within a wider effort to drive a wedge between Myanmar and China.

Amid an already ongoing and deceptive narrative surrounding the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar’s southwest state of Rakhine, attention is now being focused on the nation’s northern state of Kachin.

Nick Beake of the BBC produced a narrative aimed at intentionally preying on the emotions of viewers. The report revolved around alleged hardships suffered by Kachin villagers fleeing from a supposed government offensive. The report was absent of any context or evidence and was based entirely on hearsay from alleged villagers Beake claims to have interviewed.

Beake would conclude that his report represented the “first eyewitness accounts of the Burmese military targeting civilians in their latest offensive in Kachin State.” And supposed eyewitness accounts were all Beake presented. At one point Beake’s report even cited third-hand reports of torture and rape – stories fleeing villagers claimed they had only heard from others, but did not directly witness themselves.

The only specific death Beake cited was of a man of military age he claims was killed during the supposed fighting. Beake avoided mentioning whether the victim was a Kachin fighter or a civilian caught in crossfire.

The BBC’s Nick Beake makes little mention of the actual conflict and no mention at all that Kachin militants are among the most heavily armed and well organized in the divided nation of Myanmar.

And while the BBC report briefly claims that Kachin militants “have been fighting for independence for decades,” it never mentions the central role the British government itself played in creating Kachin militant groups during World War II to protect their colony, how Kachin militants played a role in resisting Myanmar’s bid for independence, and the role these militants have played in preventing Myanmar’s progress forward as a unified nation ever since.

Manufacturing Crisis, Foiling Chinese Interests 

The BBC report and an uptick of sudden concern over Kachin State come at a time when Beijing has been working to foster peace deals to end the chaos unfolding along its border with Myanmar.

An April 2017 article in Foreign Policy titled, “China Is Playing Peacemaker in Myanmar, but with an Ulterior Motive,” would include a revealing subtitle:

Beijing is trying to end the long-running conflicts along its border with Myanmar — but only because it can’t exploit the region’s resources at will anymore.

While Foreign Policy attempts to cast doubts on China’s motivations, it inadvertently reveals that Kachin militants and their conflict with Myanmar’s military are impeding Chinese interests, providing an essential clue as to who the fighting benefits and who is likely encouraging and enabling it.

Foreign Policy makes mention of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy coming to power and and the role that Suu Kyi herself played in protesting and obstructing Chinese-led infrastructure projects – including dams, roadways, ports, and pipelines – in Myanmar. Foreign Policy fails to mention the decades of US-UK funding that created and propelled Suu Kyi’s government into power.

Foreign Policy does claim however (emphasis added):

In 2015, elections raised up the Nationwide League for Democracy, an opposition party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, though the military retained control of important ministries and substantial influence in the parliament through a new constitution. Instead of a client state on its southwestern border, China had to deal with a government that was keen to find great powers to balance Beijing’s influence. 

Of course, those “great powers” being referred to reside in Washington, London, and Brussels. And despite hopes that Myanmar would bend entirely before the West, it appears that many deals are still being pursued by Beijing and there are still receptive parties in Myanmar working to meet Beijing half way.

Conveniently, Kachin militants have renewed fighting along China’s borders, threatening to complicate development projects in ways mere politics cannot. Foreign Policy would admit:

China’s hopes to restart the [Myitsone] dam were complicated by a resumption of fighting between the KIA and Myanmar’s military after a cease-fire had broken down after two decades in 2011, shortly before the dam was put on hold. The instability has often closed the border and threatened China’s huge business interests in timber, gold, and jade.

Repeated claims that Myanmar is now a “democracy,” and that China must answer to protests and opposition to their projects, sidesteps the fact that opposition to Chinese projects is anything but “democracy” in action. Those behind these protests are funded and directed by US and UK government organizations.

Foreign Policy even cites one – the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG) – but fails to disclose its foreign funding. KDNG is mentioned in a US State Department cable disclosed by Wikileaks titled, “Burma: Grassroots Opposition to Chinese-Backed Dam in Northern Burma.” The cable also admits (emphasis added):

An unusual aspect of this case is the role grassroots organizations have played in opposing the dam, which speaks to the growing strength of civil society groups in Kachin State, including recipients of [US] Embassy small grants.

KDNG general secretary Steve Naw Aung would make a point about China’s close relationship with Myanmar’s military and the resistance to Chinese-led projects from the new – and very much US-UK-backed – government headed by Suu Kyi.

This is why more recent reports like Nick Beake’s BBC segment often insist atrocities are carried out solely by Myanmar’s military with Suu Kyi’s government portrayed as a helpless onlooker. Similar narratives have been applied to violence carried out against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, despite the most violent and aggressive forces assaulting Rohingya communities are drawn from Suu Kyi’s support base – not the military.

The Foreign Policy piece reveals how Kachin militants may still yet be persuaded by China to choose peaceful development over conflict driven by whatever promises have been made by the “great powers” likely underwriting their cause, or at the very least, trying to encourage it. Foreign Policy makes mention that beyond infrastructure projects like dams and natural resource extraction – China also seeks to create transit routes through Myanmar to both India and to the Bay of Bengal.

It is no coincidence that conflicts closely minded, even openly cultivated by the US, UK, and other European governments have erupted and now burn precisely in the path of these planned transit routes.

Routes to India pass through contested Kachin State. Routes to, and a port facility on the Bay Bengal so happen to be located in Rakhine State, the heart of the ongoing Rohingya crisis.

Kachin Militants – An Anglo-American Time Bomb    

The Irrawaddy – a media platform funded by the US government via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – wrote a 2012 article titled, “Memories of WWII Run Deep for KIO [Kachin Independence Organization].”

In it, the article admits that Kachin fighters formed part of the British Empire’s colonial army. It also mentions the strategy of divide and rule used by the British, stating (emphasis added):

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the Kachin, along with the Karen and Chin ethnic groups, comprised the overwhelming majority of local troops who served in Britain’s Burmese colonial army, a force that also consisted of Gurkha from Nepal and Punjabi troops from India. The Kachin and the other groups were all considered trusted “martial races” by the colonial authorities. In contrast, Burma’s colonial army had few if any members of the Burman majority, a deliberate policy of divide and rule whose legacy is still felt in the country today.

The article also mentioned the US government’s role in training factions of Kachin fighters during World War II, stating (emphasis added):

Although the KIO did not begin its armed insurrection against Burma’s government until 1961, more than 16 years after the end of World War II, a good portion of the founding leadership of the KIO, including the group’s first head Zau Seng (no relation to the aforementioned major), were veterans of the Second World War who were trained in guerrilla fighting as part of Detachment 101 operated by the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a predecessor of the CIA, or under a similar group organized by Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) called the Kachin levies.

As revealing as this is – it still enables Western governments and media to claim Kachin fighting after the World War was done on their own accord. However, a revealing history is laid out by Kachinland News in a piece titled, “The Biography of Du Kaba Lahpai Naw Seng (Part III),” which published  part of a British officer’s speech to his Kachin fighters at the conclusion of World War II.

The officer stated (emphasis added):

You endured many hardships displaying extraordinary stamina and perseverance. Due to this, you have vanquished the more powerful, better-equipped Japanese troops despite having much less manpower. Defeating the Japanese is just the beginning of your legacy. Now to protect and safeguard the recaptured lands, we will begin creating all-Kachin Battalions.

Of course, this “safeguarding” was being done on behalf of the British Empire as a means of re-consolidating control over British Burma. Those “all-Kachin Battalions” would eventually be formed and would form the foundation of Kachin militant groups now fighting in Myanmar today.

An All Too Convenient Conflict 

It is clear that Kachin fighters were formed as part of the British Empire’s strategy of maintaining control over Myanmar – then called Burma – and it was clear that the British saw Kachin fighters as a means of consolidating power after World War II concluded.

It is also confirmed that the US has funded fronts in Kachin to impede Chinese-led development projects – development US diplomats themselves admit the region desperately needs and are not receiving from either the government of Myanmar itself, or from Kachin “freedom fighters” who amass wealth for themselves and leave nothing behind for the rest of Kachin State’s population – according to another Wikileaks-disclosed US cable.

While evidence is scarce concerning what sort of backing Kachin fighters may or may not be receiving from Washington and London today, their representatives are revealed to be in contact with US diplomats in neighboring Thailand in the northern city of Chiang Mai.

Recent fighting all too conveniently spoils Chinese efforts to move projects forward. It also places additional pressure on Myanmar’s military at a time when the US seeks to cut back or co-op its power in favor of the Suu Kyi government Washington and London spent millions of dollars over decades placing into power.

Regardless of who is encouraging and enabling Kachin fighters today, the BBC and other Western media organizations are clearly coordinating their narratives to leverage the conflict against both Myanmar’s military and in a bid to impede Chinese-led development.

Should sufficient traction be made, the stage the BBC and other media organizations are setting with their familiar “humanitarian” narratives, will soon be occupied by Western governments and Western-funded fronts seeking to displace Chinese interests in northern Myanmar and setting back its wider, regional One Belt, One Road initiative.

Understanding the US desire to impede the rise of China reveals what appear to be otherwise disparate conflicts as linked together, both within Myanmar itself, and across Southeast Asia as a whole. Once this is understood, it is easy to decipher emerging conflicts as they unfold – especially as the Western media attempts to leverage them to suit Western interests.

Beijing can be expected to continue seeking peace along its borders in order to move long-delayed projects forward. In the coming weeks and months, China’s patience and resilience will be put to the test by the West’s capacity to both create chaos, and wring from it a sense of order more to its liking.


Tony Cartalucci is a Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. Tony is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

All images in this article are from the author.

Five Years Since the Suspension of Proactive Recommendation of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine in Japan

July 8th, 2018 by National Attorneys Association for the HPV Vaccines Lawsuits in Japan

National Plaintiffs Association for the HPV Vaccines Lawsuits in Japan

Representative Nanami Sakai

National Attorneys Association for the HPV Vaccines Lawsuits in Japan

Joint Representative Masumi Minaguchi

Joint Representative Yoshiaki Yamanishi

It has been five years since the Japanese Government halted proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine on June 14, 2013, claiming that it could not provide the public with enough information. Compared to other routine vaccinations, an average of over seven times the number of serious adverse effects per one million HPV vaccinations have been reported, and the number of disability certifications by the Adverse Drug Reaction Relief System is almost ten times higher. The government has put in place research groups and selected cooperating medical institutions for the HPV vaccine, but measures to prevent adverse effects and to provide treatment have yet to be established. The public cannot use the HPV vaccine with peace of mind.

The government officially endorsed the HPV vaccine nine years ago, and many of the victims who were junior or high school students at the time of their HPV vaccination have now grown into adults. However, they have received no effective medical treatment until now and suffer from serious adverse effects, not only pain spreading all over their bodies and involuntary movements, but perceptual disorders, impaired mobility, sleep disruption, impaired memory, and learning disabilities. While their classmates became working adults, they have been incapable of fully attending classes and have abandoned their plans for higher education or getting a job. With no medical institutions able to give them sufficient treatment, they see no bright future and live under a shadow of uncertainty as they struggle to cope with agonizing symptoms every day.

Similar cases have been also reported overseas. Groups of victims from five countries, UK, Spain, Ireland, Colombia and Japan, participated in an international symposium held in Tokyo in March this year, and published a Joint Statement in April, calling for the necessity of a fact-finding investigation, development of treatment methods, and support for daily life, education and employment.

In the meantime, studies on the adverse effects of the HPV vaccine have made solid progress and a number of results have been reported. Based on analysis of multiple cases, one study clarified that the adverse effects of a range of symptoms develop in a multi-layered manner over time. Another study reported changes in cerebrospinal fluid, cerebral blood flow, and peripheral nerves, etc. A third study reported that the HPV vaccine causes impaired mobility among other effects in vaccinated mice due to neurological damage. Finally, a fourth study indicated that individuals develop chronic ailments soon after receiving the HPV vaccine. A paper written by researchers from the WHO Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring argues that previous signal evaluations and epidemiological studies have relied primarily on reporting of a specific diagnosis or single-symptom concept, and thus a focus on symptomatology and seriousness in combination with an investigation of the underlying pathology may be required to fully elucidate the safety signals.

Interview at press club in Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Second left: Ms. Nanami Sakai, Representative of National Plaintiffs Association) June 14, 2018

Interview at press club in Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (Second left: Ms. Nanami Sakai, Representative of National Plaintiffs Association) June 14, 2018

The drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. have long ignored this progress and insist on resuming proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine, adding that the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety (GACVS) in WHO and other overseas authorities have already approved the safety of the HPV vaccine. However, the epidemiological studies they rely on were not conducted with proper understanding of the adverse effects of the HPV vaccine and thus cannot be a basis for confirming safety. It has also become clear that there are conflicts of interests and a lack of neutrality in WHO.

At the current time, the overall Japanese HPV vaccination rate has dropped to less than 1 percent, and few new cases have been reported from clinical practices, but new victims will obviously emerge if the government were to resume proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine. In January this year, although the government updated their HPV vaccine leaflets, those for girls to be vaccinated and their parents intentionally omit the risk of impaired memory and learning disabilities, delivering misleading information to the public. Far from resuming proactive recommendation of the HPV vaccine, what the government must do now is to remove the HPV vaccine from its routine vaccination list.

We call again for the government and drugmakers not to spread harm any further, and demand that they compensate for all the harm caused based on their legal liabilities, and take the necessary measures to develop treatment methods and establish a medical treatment structure to prevent more suffering, so that victims can live in peace in the future.

The Hidden History of the Women Who Rose Up

July 8th, 2018 by John Pilger

Like all colonial societies, Australia has secrets. The way we treat Indigenous people is still mostly a secret. For a long time, the fact that many Australians came from what was called “bad stock” was a secret.

“Bad stock” meant convict forebears: those like my great-great grandmother, Mary Palmer, who was incarcerated here, at the Female Factory in Parramatta in 1823.

According to nonsense spun by numerous aunts – who had irresistible bourgeois ambitions — Mary Palmer and the man she married, Francis McCarthy, were a lady and a gentleman of Victorian property and propriety.

In fact, Mary was the youngest member of a gang of wild young women, mostly Irish, who operated in the East End of London.  Known as “The Ruffians”, they kept poverty at bay with the proceeds of prostitution and petty theft.

The Ruffians were eventually arrested and tried, and hanged — except Mary, who was spared because she was pregnant.

She was just 16 years old when she was manacled in the hold of a ship under sail, the Lord Sidmouth, bound for New South Wales “for the term of her natural life”, said the judge.

The voyage took five months, a purgatory of sickness and despair. I know what she looked like because, some years ago, I discovered an extraordinary ritual in St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.

Every Thursday, in a vestry, a nun would turn the pages of a register of Irish Catholic convicts — and there was Mary, described as “not more than 4ft in height, emaciated and pitted with the ravages of small pox”.

When Mary’s ship docked at Sydney Cove, no one claimed her as a servant or a skivvy. She was a “third class” convict and one of “the inflammable matter of Ireland”. Did her newly born survive the voyage? I don’t know.

They sent her up the Parramatta River to the Female Factory, which had distinguished itself as one of the places where Victorian penal experts were testing their exciting new theories. The treadwheel was introduced in the year Mary arrived, 1823. It was an implement of punishment and torture.

The Cumberland  Pilgrim described the Female Factory as “appallingly hideous … the recreation ground reminds one of the Valley of the Shadow of Death”.   

Arriving at night, Mary had nothing to sleep on, only boards and stone and straw, and filthy wool full of ticks and spiders. All the women underwent solitary confinement. Their heads were shaved and they were locked in total darkness with the whine of mosquitoes.

There was no division by age or crime. Mary and the other women were called “the intractables”.  With a mixture of horror and admiration, the Attorney General at the time, Roger Terry, described how the women had “driven back with a volley of stones and staves” soldiers sent to put down their rebellion. More than once, they breached the sandstone walls and stormed the community of Parramatta.  .

Missionaries sent from England to repair the souls of the women were given similar short shrift.

I am so proud of her.

Then there was “courting day”. Once a week, “bereft gentlemen” (whomever they might be) were given first pick, followed by soldiers, then male convicts.

Some of the women found “finery” and primped urgently, as if an inspecting male might provide a way out of their predicament. Others turned their backs should an aspiring mate be an “old stringybark fella” down from the bush.

During all this, the matron would shout out what she called “the good points” of each woman, which was a revelation to all.

In this way, my great-great grandparents met each other. I believe they were well matched.

Francis McCarthy had been transported from Ireland for the crime of “uttering unlawful oaths” against his English landlord. That was the charge leveled at the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

I am so proud of him.

Mary and Francis were married at St Mary’s Church, later St Mary’s Cathedral, on November 9th, 1823, with four other convict couples.  Eight years later, they were granted their “ticket of leave” and Mary her “conditional pardon” by one Colonel Snodgrass, the Captain General of New South Wales — the condition being she could never leave the colony.

Mary bore 10 children and they lived out hard lives, loved and respected by all accounts, to their ninetieth year.

My mother knew the secret about Mary and Francis. On her wedding day in 1922, and in defiance of her own family, she and my father came to these walls to pay tribute to Mary and the intractables. She was proud of her “bad stock”.

I sometimes wonder: where is this spirit today? Where is the spirit of the intractables among those who claim to represent us and those of us who accept, in supine silence, the corporate conformity that is characteristic of much of the modern era in so-called developed countries?

Where are those of us prepared to “utter unlawful oaths” and stand up to the authoritarians and charlatans in government, who glorify war and invent foreign enemies and criminalise dissent and who abuse and mistreat vulnerable refugees to these shores and disgracefully call them “illegals”.

Mary Palmer was “illegal”. Francis McCarthy was “illegal”. All the women who survived the Female Factory and fought off authority, were “illegal”.

The memory of their courage and resilience and resistance should be honoured, not traduced, in the way we are today. For only when we recognise the uniqueness of our past — our Indigenous past and our proud convict past — will this nation achieve true independence.


John Pilger gave this address on the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Parramatta Female Factory, Sydney, a prison where ‘intractable’ women convicts from mostly Ireland and England were sent to Britain’s Australian colony in the early 19th century. John Pilger is a frequent contributor to Global Research

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The Untold Story of Japan’s Secret Spy Agency

July 3rd, 2018 by Ryan Gallagher

This story is the product of a two-year collaboration between U.S. news website The Intercept and the Japanese broadcaster NHK. The project began in mid-2016, and was initially focused on investigating three U.S. military bases in Misawa, Okinawa, and Yokota. In April 2017, we revealed that the bases were an integral part of the global surveillance network controlled by the U.S. National Security Agency. With the help of a batch of leaked U.S. documents, we showed that the Japanese government had spent more than half a billion dollars to fund the facilities, and received in return powerful surveillance equipment for its own spies to use to eavesdrop on emails and phone calls.

After we published that information, sources in Japan came forward and provided us with new details about the inner workings of Japan’s little-known spy agencies. That was an extraordinary development for us, because prying classified information out of the Japanese government is not an easy thing to do. I have reported on the activities of spies in countries across the world, and never before have I encountered a group that is more institutionally secretive than the Japanese. For decades, basic details about the structure, size, operations, and funding of Japan’s intelligence community have been withheld from the public. Even within the Japanese government, only a select few officials at the highest echelons of power are provided with any information about the shadowy people in control of the country’s surveillance systems.

With this story, in an effort to serve the public interest, we chipped away some of the secrecy, and in the process documented that Japan’s spies may be carrying out covert actions that violate the country’s constitution. I hope our disclosures will not be the last, and that they will help to contribute to greater transparency – and more informed debate – about the Japanese government’s surveillance powers in the future.


Every week in Tokyo’s Ichigaya district, about three miles northeast of the bright neon lights and swarming crowds in the heart of Shibuya, a driver quietly parks a black sedan-style car outside a gray office building. Before setting off on a short, 10-minute drive south, he picks up a passenger who is carrying an important package: top-secret intelligence reports, destined for the desks of the prime minister’s closest advisers.

Night view of the C1 building, inside Japan’s Ministry of Defense compound in Ichigaya. Photo: NHK 

Known only as “C1,” the office building is located inside a high-security compound that houses Japan’s Ministry of Defense. But it is not an ordinary military facility – it is a secret spy agency headquarters for the Directorate for Signals Intelligence, Japan’s version of the National Security Agency.

The directorate has a history that dates back to the 1950s; its role is to eavesdrop on communications. But its operations remain so highly classified that the Japanese government has disclosed little about its work – even the location of its headquarters. Most Japanese officials, except for a select few of the prime minister’s inner circle, are kept in the dark about the directorate’s activities, which are regulated by a limited legal framework and not subject to any independent oversight.

Now, a new investigation by the Japanese broadcaster NHK — produced in collaboration with The Intercept — reveals, for the first time, details about the inner workings of Japan’s opaque spy community. Based on classified documents and interviews with current and former officials familiar with the agency’s intelligence work, the investigation shines light on a previously undisclosed internet surveillance program and a spy hub in the south of Japan that is used to monitor phone calls and emails passing across communications satellites.

According to the current and former officials, the Directorate for Signals Intelligence, or DFS, employs about 1,700 people and has at least six surveillance facilities that eavesdrop around the clock on phone calls, emails, and other communications. (The NSA, in comparison, has said it has a workforce of more than 30,000 and Britain’s signals intelligence agency claims more than 6,000 staff.) The communications collected at the spy facilities are sent back to analysts who work inside the C1 building, which has four underground floors and eight above ground.

“Very few people know what the DFS is doing and can enter the building,” according to an active-duty official with knowledge of the directorate’s operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The official agreed to share details about the directorate after The Intercept and NHK last year revealed that the spy agency had obtained a mass surveillance system called XKEYSCORE, which is used to sift through copies of people’s emails, online chats, internet browsing histories, and information about social media activity. The official said that they believed the directorate’s use of XKEYSCORE was “not permissible” under the Japanese Constitution, which protects people’s right to privacy.

The directorate – known in Japanese as the “Denpa-Bu,” meaning “electromagnetic wave section” – currently has 11 different departments, each focused on a different subject, such as information analysis, public safety and security, and cryptography. However, the departments are kept separate from each other and there is limited communication between them, the active-duty official said. Each department in the C1 building has a different lock installed on the rooms it uses, and these can only be accessed by a select group of people who have the appropriate security clearance, access codes, and identification. The directorate operates as the largest arm of Japan’s Defense Intelligence Agency, which has other divisions focused on, for example, analyzing satellite imagery, sources said.

Miyata Atsushi, who between 1987 and 2005 worked with the directorate and the Ministry of Defense, said that his work for the spy agency had involved monitoring neighboring countries, such as North Korea, and their military activities. But the agency’s culture of intense secrecy meant that it was reluctant to share information it collected with other elements of the Japanese government. “They did not share the data inside of [the] Defense Ministry properly,” said Miyata. “Even inside the Defense Ministry, the report was not put on the table. So the people did not understand what we were doing.”

The directorate is accomplished at conducting surveillance, but has a tendency to be excessively secretive about its work, according to classified documents The Intercept disclosed last year. A 2008 NSA memodescribed its Japanese counterparts as being “still caught in a Cold War way of doing business” and “rather stove-piped.” The U.S. continues to work closely with Japan’s intelligence community, however, and collaborates with the country to monitor the communications of countries across Asia.

DFS surveillance facilities in Higashi Chitose (first), Tachiarai (second), Kofunato (third), and Miho (fourth). Screenshots: Google map. 

About 700 miles southwest of Tokyo, there are two small towns called Tachiarai and Chikuzen, which have a combined population of about 44,000 people. Japan’s military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, has a base situated on a patch of grassy farmland in between the towns. But the base is not used to train soldiers. It is one of the country’s most important spy hubs.

For years, the large antennae inside the secure compound, which are concealed underneath what look like giant golf balls, attracted concerns from local residents who were worried that the powerful radio waves they emitted might damage their health or interfere with their televisions. The Japanese government sent senior officials to reassure the locals that there would be no problems, and the government began paying the Chikuzen council an annual fee of about $100,000 as compensation for the disturbance caused by the base. But the function of the antennae was never revealed.

The large antennae inside the secure compound at the Tachiarai surveillance facility. 

A top-secret document from the directorate offers unprecedented insight into some of the Tachiarai base’s activities. The document – an English-language PowerPoint presentation – appears to have been shared with the NSA during a meeting in February 2013, at which the Japanese spy agency’s then-deputy director was scheduled to discuss intelligence-gathering issues with his American counterparts. The presentation was contained in the archive of classified files provided to The Intercept by Edward Snowden. No internal documents from Japan’s surveillance agency have ever been publicly disclosed before.

According to the presentation, Japan has used Tachiarai for a covert internet surveillance program code-named MALLARD. As of mid-2012, the base was using its antennae to monitor communications passing across satellites. Each week, it collected records about some 200,000 internet sessions, which were then being stored and analyzed for a period of two months. Between December 2012 and January 2013, Tachiarai began using the surveillance technology to collect information about potential cyberattacks. As a result, its data collection rapidly increased, and it began sweeping up information about 500,000 internet sessions every hour – 12 million every day. Despite this, the directorate indicated that it was only able to detect a single email that was linked to an apparent cyberattack. It struggled to cope with the amount of data it was harvesting and asked the NSA for help. “We would like to see processing procedure which the U.S. side employs in order not to affect traditional SIGINT collection,” the directorate told the NSA, “and would appreciate your technical assistance.”

Chris Augustine, a spokesperson for the NSA, declined to answer questions about the agency’s cooperation with Japan, saying in a statement that he would “neither confirm nor deny information concerning potential relationships with foreign intelligence services.” He added: “Any cooperation among intelligence services is conducted lawfully, in a manner that mutually strengthens national security.”

The directorate’s work at Tachiarai appears to focus on monitoring the activities of foreign countries in the region. It is unclear whether it collects Japanese citizens’ communications, either deliberately or incidentally, through dragnet programs like MALLARD. The law in Japan prohibits wiretapping landlines without a court order, but monitoring communications as they are being transmitted wirelessly across satellites is a gray area, Japanese legal experts say, because there are no legal precedents in the country that place limitations upon that kind of surveillance, though there is a general right to privacy outlined in the constitution.

According to Richard Tanter, a professor at the University of Melbourne who specializes in researching government surveillance capabilities, more than 200 satellites are “visible” from Tachiarai, meaning the base can intercept communications and data passing between them using its surveillance systems. Of the 200-plus satellites, said Tanter, at least 30 are Chinese and potential targets for ongoing surveillance. Moreover, he added, “satellites owned or operated by Russia, South Korea, Taiwan, and even the United States or European states may be targeted” by the Tachiarai facility.

Snowden, who worked at a U.S. military base in Japan as an NSA contractor between 2009 and 2012, told The Intercept that Japanese spies appeared to have targeted “entire internet service providers, not just any one customer.” Referencing the MALLARD program, he said that there were not “500,000 terrorist communications happening in one year, much less one hour. … Is this authorized in law in a way that’s well-understood, that’s well-regulated, to make sure they are only targeting bad guys and not simply everything that they see?”

A spokesperson for Japan’s Ministry of Defense refused to discuss MALLARD, but said that the country’s “information-gathering activities” are necessary for national security and “done in compliance with laws and regulations.” The spokesperson acknowledged that Japan has “offices throughout the country” that are intercepting communications; however, he insisted that the surveillance is focused on military activities and “cyberthreats” and is “not collecting the general public’s information.” When pressed to explain how the country’s spy systems distinguish ordinary people’s communications from those related to threats, the spokesperson would not provide details on the grounds that doing so “may be a hindrance to effective future information activities.

In October 2013, the Directorate for Signals Intelligence was planning to launch an operation aimed at what it described as the “Anonymous internet,” according to the 2013 presentation. This suggests that the directorate wanted to collect data about people’s usage of privacy tools such as Tor, which allows people to mask their computer’s IP address while they browse the internet. Tor is often used by journalists and dissidents to evade government surveillance; however, it is also used by child abusers and other criminals to plan or carry out illegal acts. In April 2013, it was reported that Japanese police were urging internet service providers to find ways to block people who were using Tor to commit crimes. In 2012, the country’s police investigators were repeatedly thwarted by a hacker known as the “Demon Killer,” who posted a series of death threats online. The hacker used Tor to successfully evade detection for seven months, which was a major source of embarrassment for Japanese police — and likely fueled demand for new surveillance capabilities.

The directorate’s activities at Tachiarai and elsewhere are aided by an organization called J6, which is a specialist technical unit connected to Japan’s Ministry of Defense, according to sources familiar with its operations. However, the cooperation between the directorate and J6 has been inhibited by the extreme secrecy that is pervasive within the Japanese government, with each agency apparently reluctant to open up to the other about its respective capabilities. In the 2013 presentation, Japanese officials from the directorate described J6’s role to the NSA, but admitted that they had relied on “assumptions” to do so, because “J6 function is not disclosed to us.”

According to the presentation, the directorate’s role is to carry out surveillance and analyze intelligence. The role of J6 includes analyzing malware and developing countermeasures – such as firewalls – to prevent hacks of Japanese computer systems. A third organization, called the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Organization, or CIRO, is the ultimate beneficiary of intelligence that is collected. Headed by a powerful figure named Kitamura Shigeru, it oversees the work of both the directorate and J6 and is connected to the prime minister’s office, based out of a building known as “H20,” a short walk from the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo’s Chiyoda district.

Between 2000 and 2005, prior to development of the MALLARD internet surveillance program, expansion work took place at the Tachiarai facility. At that time, the then-town council chair, Miyahara, was shown a map of the construction plans, which revealed that a tunnel was being built below the base. Miyahara Hitoshi was allowed to visit the construction site, he said, but was prevented from entering the underground area. The current town council chair, Yano Tsutomu, had a similar experience. He visited the facility about four years ago and was shown around a gymnasium, a cafeteria, and a conference room. He was prevented from accessing the underground tunnel and a space he was told was used for “communications.” Yano said he repeatedly questioned the Self-Defense Forces about the Tachiarai facility’s function. But he never received any answers.


Ryan Gallagher is an investigative journalist and editor with the U.S. news website The Intercept. His work focuses on national security, human rights, counterterrorism, and technology. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

Ed Noguchi contributed reporting and translation.

In 2012, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Open Source Center published a manual for U.S. officials advising them on how to shape Okinawan public opinion about the large U.S. military presence on their island. Categorized For Official Use Only, the 60-page CIA report is titled A Master Narratives Approach to Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa. It was released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and the full text is now available here.

The manual:

  • advises U.S. policy makers to claim that the U.S. military benefits the economy, promotes cultural exchange and provides disaster relief
  • warns U.S. officials not to mention military deterrence or the environment
  • criticizes the Japanese government for being insensitive to Okinawan issues
  • describes discrimination against Okinawans as a problem solely involving the island and Tokyo; the U.S. bears no blame
  • outlines five “narratives” which, the CIA claims, enables Americans to understand Okinawans’ character

Brief background: the U.S. military presence on Okinawa

Between 1945 and 1972, Okinawa was directly ruled by the U.S. military and its bases stored a vast array of nuclear and chemical weapons. The island was used to launch wars in Korea and Indochina; during the U.S. occupation (1945-52), Okinawans’ were driven from their land, much of which was turned into US military bases, and were victimized by frequent crimes and accidents involving military personnel.1

In the run-up to Okinawa’s reversion to Japanese control in 1972, residents were promised hondo nami, that the proportion of military bases on their land would be reduced to a comparable level to those on mainland Japan. However, not only were all military bases retained, but today the prefecture is host to 70.28% of the U.S. military presence in Japan – and the Japanese government is currently constructing a large new USMC base in the pristine waters of Oura Bay, Nago City.2

Today, the 31 U.S. military bases on Okinawa take up approximately 15% of the main island while contributing only 5% to the prefecture’s economy.3 These installations continue to contaminate the environment but under the U.S.-Japan Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), the U.S. is not responsible for clean-up costs. Meanwhile, crimes committed by U.S. service members target local residents; indeed, internal military reports obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act reveal previously-unreported sexual offences against women and children in recent years.4

From “Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa”

Since the early days of the U.S. occupation of Okinawa, the CIA has maintained a constant presence on the island. Prior to Reversion, its large base at Camp Chinen coordinated operations in Southeast Asia and the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) at Yomitan was the service’s largest overseas monitoring post, compiling reports on Soviet, Chinese and Japanese media broadcasts.5

Economic, cultural and humanitarian benefits

The CIA report, A Master Narratives Approach to Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa, states that most influential Okinawans understand there is no credible economic alternative to military bases and, it claimed, that at least prior to 2012, the Prefectural government had been “unable to articulate a concrete funding source for a vision of Okinawa without bases.” The CIA also states that “pragmatic elements within the prefectural government seek to preserve the economic quid pro quo with Tokyo over US bases.”

Consequently, the CIA advises U.S. policy makers to adopt economic arguments to justify the U.S. military presence. “Okinawans might be receptive to the message that US forces in Okinawa provide security and stability if they saw a connection with Okinawa’s goals of economic integration with and outreach to the rest of Asia.”

From “Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa”

Furthermore, the report states

“the bases in Okinawa help to keep the region safe and thereby enable enhanced regional economic and cultural exchange.”

The CIA advises manipulating Okinawans’ pacifist spirit by propagating messages about how the military can help in regional humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. The manual urges U.S. policy makers to mimic the Japanese Self Defense Forces’ Public Relations model of emphasizing “peace, family and community.”

At the same time, the CIA warns policy makers that, if they tried to use humanitarian operations to justify the military presence, it “would probably be viewed skeptically by Okinawa’s media, although the public might be more open-minded.”

“Communication pitfalls” – deterrence and the environment

Both Tokyo and Washington have long claimed that U.S. bases on Okinawa provide deterrence from attacks by North Korea and China.6

However, the CIA manual recommends that U.S. policy makers not mention military deterrence because it might exacerbate Okinawans’ resentment of being burdened with the majority of U.S. bases in Japan: “Okinawans may react with frustration to messages about the deterrence value of U.S. forces because that does not answer their ‘why us’ question.”

The CIA also cautions policy makers that “skeptics of the deterrence argument will almost certainly look for ways to undermine it.”

The manual advises officials to side-step any mention of the military’s impact on the island’s environment: “Okinawan support for environmental preservation presents challenges to alliance managers.” The CIA warns that “Okinawa may pressure Tokyo to expand environmental guarantees for base land – including revision of SOFA provisions on environmental remediation.”

On Okinawa – and mainland Japan – environmental contamination has delayed redevelopment projects and cost Japanese tax-payers millions of dollars to treat.7 Citing reports from the newspaper, Okinawa Times, and TV station, Ryukyu Asahi Housou, the Agency seemed particularly concerned about revelations that Agent Orange had been stored, sprayed and dumped on Okinawa.

Discrimination and Okinawa

The CIA claims that Okinawans’ sense of discrimination is solely due to their mistreatment by Tokyo – and Washington can do nothing to improve the situation. Moreover, the Agency claims that that media and local leaders are responsible for linking the prefecture’s military burden to the discrimination issue.

The CIA identifies the fact that Okinawans’ feelings of discrimination are rooted in three commonly-held beliefs: “The Japanese government used Okinawa during WWII to save the mainland,” “Okinawa was left out of postwar economic growth” and “Japan permits higher concentrations of US bases in Okinawa.”

The summary is correct but it omits the U.S. role in perpetuating discrimination against Okinawans.

The CIA argues that Okinawans’ feeling of discrimination are due to “Okinawa’s complex relationship with Tokyo” so “it is not likely to be countered by any direct action on the part of the United States.”

Given the provenance of the manual, unsurprisingly there is little mention of many of the wrongdoings which the U.S. committed during its 27-year occupation of Okinawa (1945 – 1972) and in the years since. Only briefly cited are the 1950s forcible land seizures (which relocated more than one third of the main island’s population) and the 1959 Miyamori Elementary School jet crash (which killed 18 and injured more than 200 civilians).

The manual states, “Tokyo can be tone-deaf to the narratives and historical events that have shaped Okinawan attitudes.” There is no mention of the tone-deaf narratives favored by US policymakers.

The CIA cites instances of Japanese government comments that angered Okinawans. For example, in November 2011, the director of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, Tanaka Satoshi, compared the construction of the new USMC base in Nago City to rape. In December 2011, Defense Minister Ichikawa Yasuo admitted that he knew little about the details of the 1995 gang rape of an Okinawan girl by three U.S. service members that touched off the largest protest demonstration in Okinawa’s history.

However, the CIA report fails to cite many other similar disdainful comments from U.S. officials. In November 1995, for instance, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Richard C. Macke was dismissed from his post when he suggested it would have been cheaper to hire a prostitute than the car the three rapists used to abduct the young girl.8 Likewise in March 2011, U.S. diplomat Kevin Maher lost his job following reports he had called Okinawans lazy and manipulative.9

In addition to attributing Okinawans’ feelings of discrimination solely to Tokyo, the CIA blames the prefecture’s politicians and the media for incriminating the U.S. in the issue: “Okinawa’s political leaders and media have shaped the discrimination narrative to implicate the United States by making their central grievance with Tokyo the ‘disproportionate burden’ of hosting US Forces.”

The CIA report identifies former governor Ota Masahide (1925 – 2017) as the “key figure in shaping narrative (of discrimination)” citing his policies as governor and his writings about Okinawan issues.

From “Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa”

Extensive monitoring of Okinawan media, entertainment and the “five narratives” to understand Okinawans

Base Politics in Okinawa reveals that the CIA has been collating data from the island’s media for decades; the OSC, and its predecessor, the FBIS, compiled daily summaries and in-depth reports to guide officials on how to influence public discourse about the island.

Among the manual’s contents are examinations of some of Okinawa’s most successful pop groups and TV dramas, including Begin, Mongol800 and local superhero, Ryujin Mabuyer.

The CIA report seems critical of Okinawa-set dramas produced by Japan’s state broadcaster, NHK. The series, Winds of Ryukyu (1993) and The Tempest (2011), are criticized for presenting “idealized versions” of Okinawan history. The report claims that such shows may encourage residents to see their island as a crossroads to Asia with the ensuing risk (to the U.S.) that they might be able to sustain themselves economically without a Pentagon presence.

The report also tracks the number of newspaper editorials between May 2008 and September 2011 which connected the disproportionate U.S. military presence on Okinawa to discrimination by mainland Japan. It concludes the increase in such editorials was due to Democratic Party of Japan Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio’s acceptance of the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Nago City in May 2010.

In 2009, Hatoyama was elected Prime Minister of Japan on the back of a manifesto that included a promise to move the Futenma replacement base outside Okinawa. His u-turn on the pledge caused widespread anger on the island and his popularity plunged. He resigned in June 2010.10

Figure 5 From “Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa”

Drawing on its interpretation of the island’s history and popular culture, the CIA claims Okinawans can be understood on the basis of five “master narratives”- “the historically grounded stories that reflect a community’s identity and experiences, or explain its hopes, aspirations, and concerns.”

The CIA has also produced master narrative manuals to explain the attitudes of people elsewhere, including Syria, Afghanistan and Muslim communities in France (see below).

According to the report, Okinawans’ attitudes can be explained in terms of the five master narratives: Victimization, Discrimination, Peaceful People, Beautiful Island and Asia Crossroads.

From “Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa”

  1. “Victimhood (sic)… is central to their identity,” states the report, citing historical events such as the Japanese government’s 1879 seizure of the island and the 1945 Battle of Okinawa. The CIA claims this belief bestows military accidents and incidents with a “greater symbolic meaning,” noting that the 1995 rape “continues to have currency in Okinawa.” Elsewhere in the report, another comment implies that Okinawans use the U.S. military as “scapegoats”, without going into further detail.
  2. A sense of discrimination is also prevalent among Okinawans, claims the CIA report. Such a feeling is attributable to mainland Japan’s mistreatment of Okinawa but, as explained above, the report relieves the U.S. of any responsibility for this discrimination or ability to reduce it. The Japanese government is “tone-deaf” to Okinawans’ attitudes and history, the report states.
    The two narratives of victimization and discrimination are strongest among Okinawans, according to the report, and they “present the greatest challenges for the United States when it comes to messaging and alliance management.”
  3. According to the CIA, the third narrative via which Okinawans can be understood is the idea of a Peaceful People. Grounded in Okinawans’ experiences in World War Two, Okinawans “claim a special moral authority” of being a peaceful people. The report accuses mainland Japanese groups of exploiting Okinawa’s peace activism to protest against the U.S. military. However, hypocritically, the report also advises U.S. policymakers to play upon islanders’ peaceful attitudes by stressing U.S. military support during relief operations. In its discussion of “Peaceful People”, the CIA also conjectures that fewer members of the younger generation may “identify with pacifist ideals.”
  4. The Beautiful Island narrative is “relatively new, but it is widely shared”; Okinawans “see their natural environment as a source of pride” claims the report. Its authors warn U.S. policy makers that new base construction and the discovery of contamination on former military land creates problems for them in convincing Okinawans of the benefits of the military. To influence Okinawans’ feelings, the CIA advises policy makers to conduct better “actions and examples” vis-a-vis environmental incidents.
  5. The final narrative is “Okinawa can again become a crossroads of Asia” which the Agency describes as “loosely inspired by historical accounts” of the Ryukyu Kingdom’s Golden Age when it prospered as a trading nation. The CIA advises U.S. policy makers not to be overly-concerned with this narrative because “it does not appear to present a compelling alternative vision for the future of the island” and so “does not present a near-term challenge to the bases.”

From “Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa”

The report suggests that the narrative “presents positive opportunities for the United States” by persuading Okinawans that military bases “enable enhanced regional economic and cultural exchange.”

From theory to practice: The impact of the CIA’s Okinawa guidance

The guidelines found in Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa have been widely adopted by the U.S. military on the island.

The report advises that humanitarian relief operations can be used to persuade Okinawans of the advantages of military bases. Following the April 2015 earthquake in Nepal and April 2016 earthquake in Kumamoto, Japan, the military extolled the role of Okinawa-based Marines in relief operations. Particularly emphasized was the deployment of MV-22 Ospreys from MCAS Futenma – an apparent attempt to justify stationing the unpopular aircraft with its record of numerous crashes on Okinawa.11

From “Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa”

The CIA’s claim that U.S. bases encourage cultural exchange seems to have been taken up by military PR directors on social media such as Twitter and Facebook where the USMC frequently uploads posts promoting English conversation lessons on- and off-base taught by U.S. service members, sports events and other U.S. cultural outreach programs. 12 Such messaging frequently targets young Okinawans, a generation which the CIA speculates, is losing its pacifist attitude.

The clearest impact of the CIA’s advice is in the briefings given to marines newly-arrived on the island. As reported by The Asia-Pacific Journal in July 2016, so-called Okinawa Cultural Awareness Training lectures contain numerous inaccuracies and denigrate Okinawans as having “double standards.” 13 The contents of these lectures from February 2014 include distinct phrases from the CIA manual, including descriptions of Okinawans’ attitudes vis-a-vis victimization, discrimination, “Asia Crossroads” and the “Beautiful Island narrative.”

The addition of these phrases in 2014 lectures seems almost certainly a direct result of the CIA manual published in 2012.

CIA and media monitoring

The Okinawa report is the latest in a long history of CIA investigations into foreign open source intelligence. Since the 1940s, the Agency has monitored overseas media and compiled its findings into reports for U.S. agencies such as the State Department and Department of Defense.

The CIA section initially tasked with this work was the FBIS which intercepted radio, news wire and TV broadcasts to determine how overseas events might impact U.S. interests and how the U.S. might influence other nations.

During the Cold War, FBIS ran approximately 20 listening stations around the globe with the largest at Yomitan, opening in 1949. Staffed with American and third country nationals, the office compiled information on the Koreas, China, the Soviet Union and Japan. The majority of the land of the Yomitan FBIS was returned in 2006.14

In 2005, the CIA announced that the Open Source Centre (OSC) would take over the work of FBIS.15 The OSC’s goals included the analysis of material and its wide dissemination throughout the U.S. government, stated the CIA at its inception. Approximately six years later, the CIA apparently launched its “Master Narratives” project with the goal of analyzing (1) the attitudes of foreign populations and (2) the ways in which these attitudes could be exploited by the U.S. government to manipulate public opinion. Classified For Official Use Only, only a handful of these reports have been released to the public, including ones about Afghanistan (January 2011), Al Qaeda (September 2011) and Syria (June 2012). 16

Created during the brief period of rule by the Democratic Party of Japan, the publication of Understanding Base Politics in Okinawa suggests that the CIA perceived the administration as a possible threat to the U.S. military presence on Okinawa.

The CIA renamed the OSC the Open Source Enterprise in 2015 but its functions remain the same.17


Jon Mitchell is a British Journalist and correspondent for The Okinawa Times. He was awarded the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan Freedom of the Press Award for Lifetime Achievement for his reporting about human rights issues – including military contamination – on Okinawa. He is the author of Tsuiseki: Okinawa no Karehazai (Chasing Agent Orange on Okinawa) (Koubunken 2014) and Tsuiseki: Nichibei Chiikyoutei to Kichi Kougai (U.S. Military Contamination in Japan) (Iwanami Shoten 2018). Mitchell is a visiting researcher at the International Peace Research Institute of Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo, and an Asia-Pacific Journal contributing editor.


For example, see Gavan McCormack and Satoko Oka Norimatsu, Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States, Rowman and Littlefield, 2012.

Government of Japan, “U.S. military bases” (Zainichi beigun issetsu), Ministry of Defense, January 1, 2018.

Okinawa Prefectural Government, U.S. Military Base Issues in Okinawa, Washington DC Office.

Jon Mitchell, U.S. Marine Corps Sexual Violence on Okinawa, Asia-Pacific Journal, February 1, 2018.

Jon Mitchell, Base on Okinawa used to monitor media throughout Asia, (Asia zenikino houdou, Okinawa de bouju), Okinawa Times, April 6, 2018.

For example, see: Bruce Klinger, Top 10 Reasons Why the U.S. Marines on Okinawa Are Essential to Peace and Security in the Pacific, Heritage Foundation, June 14, 2011.

Jon Mitchell, Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement and U.S. base contamination, (Nichibei chiikyoutei to kichi kougai), Iwanami Shoten, 2018.

Irvin Molotsky, Admiral Has to Quit Over His Comments On Okinawa Rape, New York Times, November 18, 1995.

Justin McCurry, US sacks diplomat over remarks about Okinawans, Guardian, March 10, 2011.

10 For example, see: Masami Ito, Retired Hatoyama still on Futenma quest, Japan Times, January 1, 2013.

11 For example, see the USFJ press release (May 17, 2015) on the Nepal earthquake here and a USMC press release (April 20, 2016) on the Kumamoto earthquake here.

12 The most illuminating Twitter feeds for the U.S. military in Japan are those run by Kadena Air Base, III Marine Expeditionary Force and U.S. Forces Japan.

14 Mitchell, April 6, 2018.

15 Central Intelligence Agency, Establishment of the DNI Open Source Center, November 8, 2005.

16 One of the best resources for other OSC Master Narratives – including Afghanistan and Syria – is the website Public Intelligence.

17 Steven Aftergood, Open Source Center (OSC) Becomes Open Source Enterprise (OSE), Federation of American Scientists, October 28, 2015.

Such moves should trouble any constructive dissenter and civil libertarian: the vesting of powers in a military force to be used against domestic disturbances.  While the United States has a troubled history with it, posse comitatus still remains something of a letter restricting the deployment of the US armed forces on the streets of the country’s cities. That doctrine has effectively seen an expansion of the FBI’s role to occupy what might have been seen in the past to be traditional military roles.  

In Australia, no such reining in powers and impediments exist, though States have been hamstrung by the requirement of making a request to the Commonwealth to initiate military action in the event that their police forces lack the means to protect themselves or the Commonwealth’s interests.    

This has left the prospect of enlarging the army’s role in civilian life disturbingly possible in times of perceived crisis.  Utterings since the 2014 Lind Café hostage taking by Man Haron Monis, absurdly described as a “siege” by the counter-terror fraternity, combined with other foreign terrorist incidents that call out powers be broadened have become regular. 

Image result for Attorney-General Christian Porter

Last week, the Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter (image on the right), who occupies a position where this sort of thing shouldn’t happen, announced that members of the Australian Defence Force would be vested with “shoot to kill” powers to be used only in “reasonable and necessary” circumstances to protect life.

Porter’s arguments give the impression that such military operations will be governed by the protocols of good sense and reason, notwithstanding that the ADF is a killing rather than justice machine.  Matters of evidence matter less than those of expediency. 

“The use of force by the ADF in a battle situation off Australian soil in a war zone is somewhat different and this is a much higher and more stringent standard, and the same standard in effect the police have been operating under for many decades in our variety of jurisdictions.”

The ADF will also be given pre-authorised power to respond to threats on land, at sea and in the air, and given expanded powers to search, seize and control movement at the scenes featuring terrorist incidents. This power would also apply to quelling riots.

Porter also uses the creaky argument that changing security environments have warranted the move.

“The terror threat we face today,” he says tediously, “is greater and more complex than that we faced when these laws were introduced almost 20 years ago.”

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin has felt besieged by a movement that can only be described as a militarisation of civil space.  Pressed for comparisons between the effectual nature of a police operation against terrorism last year with its military analogue, Colvin made the following observation:

“Of course [the military] are in a better position to deal with some situations than us.  But the concept that we aren’t trained or capable to deal with the domestic terrorism situations that we see, I think, needs to be challenged.”

Specific interest here is focused on Part IIIAAA of the Defence Act 1903, covering the “Utilisation of Defence Force to protect the Commonwealth Interests and States and Self-governing Territories.”  Porter’s aim was to ensure “that law enforcement agencies around Australia can easily request ADF assistance to respond to these threats where necessary and are available to states and territories to assist with major incidents, such as geographically dispersed or otherwise widespread, coordinated acts of violence of other domestic incidents that threaten the security and lives of Australians.” 

But critics of encouraging military deployments in local counter-terrorist situations have been sharp enough to note that the Lindt operation,  which resulted in three deaths including the hostage taker was, in Allan Orr’s words,

“not the NSW Tactical Operations Unit (TOU), it was the competitive and jealous quarantining of tactical skills, resources and budget entitlements by the ADF that left the frontline TOU without the training and equipment it needed to do its job properly.”

Orr’s sensible appraisal has been put to one side by such individuals as Neil James of the Australia Defence Association, who takes the line of Australian exceptionalism and creativeness with the historical record. 

“The whole concept of this goes back centuries back in the days when they didn’t have police forces and governments used to call on the military to do things that the police do now.  All this is doing is putting in a statute was is a century-and-a-half of precedent.”  

This blotching of the historical record ignores the fundamental wisdom of separating the functions of police and the functions of defending the realm in an industrial society.  Muddling these merely serves to doom the security of citizens, rather than enhancing them.  Such is the danger of amalgamating, rather than dispersing, forces. 

As with matters affecting liberty, the bungling nature of proto-authoritarianism is what spares it.  While the ADF might well have these new powers, police are still vested with the lion’s share of dealing with terrorism incidents. The powers in Canberra have also insisted that the military’s Tactical Assault Groups specialised in anti-terrorism activities can only be deployed nearer their bases in Sydney and Perth.  Changing legislation, for all the aspiration of the drafters, does not necessarily change operational realities.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Australia Is Attempting to “Contain” China

July 2nd, 2018 by Andrew Korybko

Australia is attempting to tighten its vise-grip of control over the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

The tiny nation has sought to strategically liberate itself in recent years by realigning closer to China as a means of “balancing” out Australia’s excessive influence, but the rapid success of this policy fed into fake news fears from two months ago that the People’s Republic was planning to build a secret military base there just a few hours’ flight from the Australian coast. In hindsight, this was a carefully crafted signal designed to send the message that Vanuatu must immediately cease its “balancing” strategy with China and return to the Australian hegemonic fold, which has since seen the two lopsided “partners” negotiate a prospective military deal during Prime Minister Charlot Salwai’s trip earlier this week to Canberra.

It’s too early to tell whether Vanuatu has folded or not, but this development allows one to obtain a deeper understanding of Australia’s intended role in the New Cold War. As part of the so-called “Quad” together with the US, Japan, and India, it’s widely assumed that the continent-sized nation will inevitably carry out anti-Chinese “containment” functions in one capacity or another, with it now becoming apparent that these efforts will center on the South Pacific islands within Australia’s historic “sphere of influence” that China has recently made enormous headway in. Naturally, the Australian public needs a galvanizing rallying cry for recommitting to this region, which is why the country is emulating the West’s anti-Russian witch hunt in attempting to do the same with China.

Canberra passed a “foreign agents law” late last year that’s very similar to the one that the US has in effect, thereby “securitizing” legitimate economic concerns among its citizenry in order to manufacture geopolitical tensions that could then be exploited for the regional strategic ends that Washington wants. It should be reminded that the US’ “Lead From Behind” paradigm of adapting its unipolar Washington Consensus to the irreversible multipolar trends of recent years envisions delegating ambitious leadership responsibilities to its regional partners who have a self-interested stake in preserving the US-led system of International Relations. Just as the US behaves as the “big brother” in Latin America, so too does it want India to do the same in South Asia, Japan in East & Southeast Asia, France in Africa, and Australia in the South Pacific.

On the topic of France, Macron recently travelled to the South Pacific in an attempt to reassert his country as a regional power there via its colonial-era territorial holdings, thus encouraging Australia to be equally assertive given that it was led to believe that it could rely on France for support. This probably contributed to Australia reassessing all Chinese Silk Road infrastructure projects in its “backyard” as having dual military uses in possibly threatening to sever the Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) between it and the US one day, a misleading narrative that relies too much on prevailing stereotypes from the old paradigm of International Relations to scare the public into going along with the US’ anti-Chinese “containment” policy.

China doesn’t need to build bases in the South Pacific and risk militarily provoking the US and Australia when it can just continue employing economic and financial means to expand its regional influence. Without offering a developmental model that respects the South Pacific nations as equal partners, neither Western Great Power will be able to sustainably compete with China here, though that explains why they’re resorting to aggressive strategies that emphasize the military dimension over the economic one in order to intimidate these countries into submission. This approach might yield the short-term results that Australia and its allies are looking for, but it risks alienating its neighbors in the medium- to long-terms and predisposing their people even more to Chinese influence.


Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

GM Crops in India: Approval by Contamination?

June 30th, 2018 by Colin Todhunter

The regulatory system for GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in India is in tatters. So said the Coalition for a GMFree India (CGMFI) in 2017 after media reports about the illegal cultivation of GM soybean in the country.

In India, five high-level reports have already advised against the adoption of GM crops:

  1. The ‘Jairam Ramesh Report’, imposing an indefinite moratorium on Bt Brinjal [February 2010];
  2. The ‘Sopory Committee Report’ [August 2012];
  3. The ‘Parliamentary Standing Committee’ [PSC] Report on GM crops [August 2012];
  4. The ‘Technical Expert Committee [TEC] Final Report’ [June-July 2013]; and
  5. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment and Forests [August 2017].

Given the issues surrounding GM crops (including the now well-documented failure of Bt cotton in the country), little wonder these reports advise against their adoption. Little wonder too given that the story of GM ‘regulation’ in India has been a case of blatant violations of biosafety norms, hasty approvals, a lack of monitoring abilities, general apathy towards the hazards of contamination and a lack of institutional oversight.

Despite these reports, the drive to get GM mustard commercialised (which would be India’s first officially-approved GM food crop) has been relentless. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has pushed ahead regardless by giving it the nod. However, the case of GM mustard remains in limbo and stuck in the Supreme Court due to various pleas lodged by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues.

Rodrigues argues that GM mustard is being undemocratically forced through with flawed tests (or no testing) and a lack of public scrutiny: in other words, unremitting scientific fraud and outright regulatory delinquency.

Moreover, this crop is also herbicide-tolerant (HT), which is wholly inappropriate for a country like India with its small biodiverse farms that could be affected by its application.

GM crops illegally growing

Despite the ban on GM cops, in 2005, biologist Pushpa Bhargava noted that unapproved varieties of several GM crops were being sold to farmers. In 2008, Arun Shrivasatava wrote that illegal GM okra had been planted in India and poor farmers had been offered lucrative deals to plant ‘special seed’ of all sorts of vegetables.

In 2013, a group of scientists and NGOs protested in Kolkata and elsewhere against the introduction of transgenic brinjal in Bangladesh – a centre for origin and diversity of the vegetable – as it would give rise to contamination of the crop in India. As predicted, in 2014, the West Bengal government said it had received information regarding “infiltration” of commercial seeds of GM Bt brinjal from Bangladesh.

In 2017, the illegal cultivation of a GM HT soybean was reported in Gujarat. Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), a national farmers organisation, claimed that Gujarat farmers had been cultivating HT crop illegally – there is no clearance from the government for any GM food crop.

There are also reports of HT cotton illegally growing in India. In a paper appearing in the Journal of Peasant studies last year, Glenn Stone and Andrew Flachs show how cotton farmers have been encouraged to change their ploughing practices, which has led to more weeds being left in their fields. The authors suggest the outcome in terms of yields (or farmer profit) is arguably no better than before. However, it coincides with the appearance of an increasing supply (and farmer demand) for HT cotton seeds.

It doesn’t take a dyed-in-the-wool cynic to appreciate that the likes of Bayer, which has now incorporated Monsanto, must be salivating at the prospect of India becoming the global leader in the demand for GM.

All of this is prompting calls for probes into the workings of the GEAC and other official bodies who seem to be asleep at the wheel or deliberately looking the other. The latter could be the case given that, as Stone indicates, senior figures in India regard GM seeds (and their associated chemical inputs) as key to modernising Indian agriculture.

CGMFI spokesperson Kavitha Kuruganti says that the regulators have been caught sleeping. It wouldn’t be the first time: India’s first GM crop cultivation – Bt cotton – was discovered in 2001 growing on thousands of hectares in Gujarat, spread surreptitiously and illegally by the biotech industry. Kuruganti said the GEAC was caught off-guard when news about large scale illegal cultivation of Bt cotton emerged, even as field trials that were to decide whether India would opt for this GM crops were still underway.

In March 2002, the GEAC ended up approving Bt cotton for commercial cultivation in India. To this day, no liability was fixed for the illegal spread.

The tactic of contaminate first then legalise has benefited industry players before. In 2006, for instance, the US Department of Agriculture granted marketing approval of GM Liberty Link 601 (Bayer CropScience) rice variety following its illegal contamination of the food supply and rice exports. The USDA effectively sanctioned an ‘approval-by-contamination’ policy.

Illegal GM imports

Despite reasoned argument and debate having thus far prevented the cultivation of GM crops or the consumption of GM food in India, it seems we are to be witnessing GM seeds and crops entering the food system regardless.

Kuruganti says that a complaint lodged with the GEAC and a Right to Information (RTI) application seeking information regarding the illegal GM soybean cultivation in the country has stirred the apex regulatory body to bring the issue to the notice of the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), months after the issue became public.

In reply to the RTI application, the GEAC responded by saying it had received no complaint about such illegal  cultivation. Kurauganti says this is a blatant lie: the BKS had collected illegally cultivated soybean samples for lab testing and the report was sent to the GEAC along with a letter of complaint. GM HT soybean has not been granted permission for field trials, let alone large-scale cultivation.

It is also understood that apart from the BKS, the Government of Gujarat also alerted the GEAC to the illegal cultivation.

Kuruganti says:

The fact that the GEAC is writing now to the DGFT to take action (on preventing the illegal GM imports), makes it clear that it lacks any real intent to take serious action about the violations of its own regulations. It also indicates that it is putting up a show of having “done” something, before an upcoming Supreme Court hearing on PILs related to GMOs.

Her assertion is supported by Rohit Parakh of India for Safe Food:

Commerce Ministry’s own data on imports of live seeds clearly indicates that India continues to import genetically modified seeds including GM canola, GM sugar beet, GM papaya, GM squash and GM corn seeds (apart from soybean) from countries such as the USA… with no approval from the GEAC as is the requirement.

Kuruganti concludes that the regulatory system is a shambles and is not preventing GMOs from being illegally imported into the country or planted. Moreover, the ruling BJP has reneged on its election promise not to allow GM without proper protocols.

Offshoring Indian agriculture

It is not a good situation. We have bogus arguments about GM mustard being forwarded by developers at Delhi University and the government. We also have USAID pushing for GM in Punjab and twisting a problematic situation to further Monsanto’s interests by trying to get GM soybean planted in the state. And we have regulators (deliberately) asleep at the wheel.

The fact that India is importing so many agricultural commodities in the first place doesn’t help. Relying on imports and transnational agribusiness with its proprietary (GM) seeds and inputs is not a recipe for food security. In the 1960s, Africa was not just self-sufficient in food but was actually a net food exporter. Today, courtesy of World Bank, IMF and WTO interventions, the continent imports 25% of its food, with almost every country being a net food importer.

Is this what India wants? Based on its rising import bill, self-reliance and food security seems to be an anathema to policy makers. In response to the government’s decision to abolish import duty on wheat in 2017, Ajmer Singh Lakhowala, head of the Punjab unit of Bharatiya Kisan Union, said sarcastically:

The import of cheap wheat will bring the prices down. It appears the government wants the farmers to quit farming.

As previously outlined, at the behest of the World Bank and courtesy of compliant politicians in India, it certainly seems to be the case.

Self-sufficiency is not to the liking of the US and the World Bank. Washington has for many decades regarded its leverage over global agriculture as a tool to secure its geostrategic goals.

Whether it involves the import of subsidised edible oils, wheat, pulses or soybean – alongside the ongoing neglect of indigenous agriculture and farmers by successive administrations – livelihoods are being destroyed, food quality is being undermined and Indian agriculture is slowly being offshored.


Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Asia-Pacific Research.

The tradition is represented as noble, the confiding link between confessor and penitent, a bridge never to be broken, even under pain of death.  Taken that way, the confessional is brandished as the Catholic Church’s great weapon against the wiles and predations of secular power.  The State shall have no say where the priest’s confidence is concerned, for all may go to him to seek amends. 

“The sacramental seal,” goes the relevant code of canon law, “is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for the confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.”

Those points certainly have merits, even if these seem a touch faded after the sex abuse imbroglio the Church has found itself in.  Confession, which functions as a barometric reading of Catholic guilt, has developed its own succour and relish, an ecosystem of ritual and understanding resistant to the prying of the criminal law.  Not merely does its ironclad protection provide a dispensation from the laws of the land in certain troubling cases; the confession, in effect, serves as an economy of ordered guilt, reassurance for the next binge of sin. To remove it, or at the very least heavily qualify it, would be an unsettling challenge to a distinct Weltanschauung.

The process effectively permits all – including erring priests – to engage the process from either side of the grille. Historically, the process also imperilled children.  Pope Pius X, in decreeing in 1910 that confession should commence at the tender age of seven, permitted an army of celibates access to vulnerable, an in certain instances titillating flesh. 

Legislators troubled by the enduring force and fascination with the seal of the confessional have gotten busy, most notably in Australia.  This was prompted, in no small part, by the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“We are satisfied,” went the Australian report, “that confession is a forum where Catholic children have disclosed their sexual abuse and where clergy have disclosed their abusive behaviour in order to deal with their own guilt.”

One recommendation specifies that institutions “which have a religious confession for children should implement a policy that requires the rite only to be conducted in an open space within the clear line of sight of another adult.” But the members of the Royal Commission went beyond the spatial logistics of the confessional.  Institutional jolting was required. 

Each state and territory government, argued Commission members, should pass legislation creating “a criminal offence of failure to report targeted at child sexual abuse in an institutional context”.  This, it was suggested, would extend to “knowledge gained or suspicions that are or should have been formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.”  The law would also exclude existing excuses, protections or privileges. 

Despite treading delicately, such recommendations were not merely matters for demurral by the Church, but considerations to be sneered at from the summit of spiritual snobbery.  President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart reduced the matter to one of neat sophistry veiled by religious freedom. 

“Confession in the Catholic Church,” he reasoned in August last year, “is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest” being “a fundamental part of the freedom of religion”. 

Hart’s protestations did not go heeded in the South Australian legislature, making it the first in Australia to legally oblige priests to report confessions of child abuse from October 1.  Omitting to do so will result in a fine of $10,000.  Bishop of Port Pirie and acting Adelaide Archbishop Greg O’Kelly, much in Hart’s vein, saw the move as having “much wider implications for the Catholic Church and the practice of the faith.” Such comments could only come across as archaic and insensitive, given the conviction of his predecessor, Archbishop Philip Wilson, for concealing child sex abuse. 

More to the point, the remarks by Bishop O’Kelly are brazenly selfish, permitting the priest an all-exclusive gold card for reasons of amendment, “that the penitent actually is sincere about wanting forgiveness, is sincere about anting reparation”.  The conspicuous absentee here is the victim, always abstracted, if not totally hidden, by matters of the spirit. 

While accounts such as John Cornwell’s, whose stingingly personal The Dark Box makes the sensible point that abolishing the confession and its lusty pull would essentially address the problem, the Church is already finding fewer penitents.  In a sense, it is already losing the appeal, the allure, and even the danger, of the confessional.  Musty physical convention has given way to digital releases and outpouring.  Social media, crowned by the confessional fetish that is Facebook, takes the disturbed soul and expresses it to the globe. 

From the vacuity of the Kardashian phenomenon to the newly enlisted grandparent keen to reflect on banal deeds, these platforms have stolen an irresistible march on those in the land of Catholicity.  Such confessions of sin or achievement – the distinctions are not always clear – have become the preserve of Facebook, rather than a local priest desperate to remain relevant. But that age old resistance against the laws of the civic secular domain remains the Church of Rome’s stubborn, practised specialty. The elusive spirit, in dialogue with an unverified Sky God, continues to be its invaluable alibi for crimes of the flesh. 


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.  Email: [email protected]

Hong Kong’s Paradoxical “Independence” Movement

June 29th, 2018 by Tony Cartalucci

Prominent Hong Kong opposition leader Edward Leung was sentenced to 6 years in prison for assaulting police and his role in leading riots in 2016.

The Guardian in its article “Hong Kong jails independence leader Edward Leung for six years,” would report:

Hong Kong’s leading independence activist has been jailed for six years for his involvement in some of the city’s worst protest violence for decades.

Edward Leung was convicted in May of rioting over the 2016 running battles with police, when demonstrators hurled bricks torn up from pavements and set rubbish alight in the commercial district of Mong Kok.

Western pundits decried the jail sentence as the breakdown of the “rule of law” in Hong Kong. Yet the riots were violent and destructive, and most certainly against the law. For Hong Kong not to jail Leung for his role in criminal activity would constitute an actual breakdown of the rule of law. 

Edward Leung had been serving as spokesman and by-election candidate for the Hong Kong Indigenous political group. The group seeks the unrealistic goal of stopping influence from mainland China as part of a wider Western-sponsored political movement to maintain Hong Kong as a pressure point vis-a-vis Beijing.

The movement also attempts to hold Beijing to the parting demands made by British occupiers in 1997 including the “One Country, Two Systems” principle which serves as the legal framework Western-sponsored agitators use to justify their activities and notions of “independence.”

Hong Kong “Independence” = Dependence on Washington  

And while the Hong Kong “independence movement” claims to represent the “indigenous” people of Hong Kong and its autonomy – it is in reality a creation of Washington and in no way represents the people of Hong Kong or the concept of “independence” in any way.

Other groups among Hong Kong’s opposition have already been exposed as US-sponsored agitators. This includes the entire core leadership of the 2014 so-called “Occupy Central” protests, also known as the “Umbrella Revolution.”
The Western media has attempted to dismiss this. The New York Times in an article titled, “Some Chinese Leaders Claim U.S. and Britain Are Behind Hong Kong Protests,” would claim:

Protest leaders said they had not received any funding from the United States government or nonprofit groups affiliated with it. Chinese officials choose to blame hidden foreign forces, they argued, in part because they find it difficult to accept that so many ordinary people in Hong Kong want democracy.

Yet what the protest leaders claim, and what is documented fact are two different things. Accusations of US interference are based on evidence – some of which recipients of US funding have attempted to erase or hide. But even the New York Times article itself admits that:

…the National Endowment for Democracy, a nonprofit directly supported by Washington, distributed $755,000 in grants in Hong Kong in 2012, and an additional $695,000 last year, to encourage the development of democratic institutions. Some of that money was earmarked “to develop the capacity of citizens — particularly university students — to more effectively participate in the public debate on political reform.”

While the New York Times and Hong Kong opposition deny this funding has gone to protesters specifically, annual reports from organizations opposition members belong to reveal that it has.

“Occupy Central” leaders and organizations receiving US support include:

Benny Tai: a law professor at the University of Hong Kong and a regular collaborator with the US NED and NDI-funded Centre for Comparative and Public Law (CCPL) also of the University of Hong Kong.

In the CCPL’s 2006-2007 annual report, (PDF, since deleted) he was named as a board member – a position he has held until at least as recently as last year. In CCPL’s 2011-2013 annual report (PDF, since deleted), NED subsidiary, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) is listed as having provided funding to the organization to “design and implement an online Models of Universal Suffrage portal where the general public can discuss and provide feedback and ideas on which method of universal suffrage is most suitable for Hong Kong.”

In CCPL’s annual report for 2013-2014 (PDF, since deleted), Tai is not listed as a board member but is listed as participating in at least 3 conferences organized by CCPL, and as heading at least one of CCPL’s projects. At least one conference has him speaking side-by-side another prominent “Occupy Central” figure, Audrey Eu. The 2013-2014 annual report also lists NDI as funding CCPL’s “Design Democracy Hong Kong” website.

Joshua Wong: “Occupy Central” leader and secretary general of the “Demosisto” party. While Wong and other have attempted to deny any links to Washington, Wong would literally travel to Washington once the protests concluded to pick up an award for his efforts from NED subsidiary, Freedom House.

Audrey Eu Yuet-mee: the Civic Party chairwoman, who in addition to speaking at CCPL-NDI functions side-by-side with Benny Tai, is entwined with the US State Department and its NDI elsewhere. She regularly attends forums sponsored by NED and its subsidiary NDI. In 2009 she was a featured speaker at an NDI sponsored public policy forum hosted by “SynergyNet,” also funded by NDI. In 2012 she was a guest speaker at the NDI-funded Women’s Centre “International Women’s Day” event, hosted by the Hong Kong Council of Women (HKCW) which is also annually funded by the NDI.

Martin Lee: a senior leader of the Occupy Central movement. Lee organized and physically led protest marches. He also regularly delivered speeches according to the South China Morning Post.  But before leading the Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, he and Anson Chan were in Washington D.C. before the NED soliciting US assistance (video).

During a talk in Washington titled, “Why Democracy in Hong Kong Matters,” Lee and Chan would lay out the entire “Occupy Central” narrative about independence from Beijing and a desire for self-governance before an American audience representing a foreign government Lee, Chan, and their entire opposition are ironically very much dependent on. NED would eventually release a statement claiming that it has never aided Lee or Chan, nor were Lee or Chan leaders of the “Occupy Central” movement.

But by 2015, after “Occupy Central” was over, NED subsidiary Freedom House would not only invite Benny Tai and Joshua Wong to Washington, but also Martin Lee in an event acknowledging the three as “Hong Kong democracy leaders.”  All three would take to the stage with their signature yellow umbrellas, representing their roles in the “Occupy Central” protests, and of course – exposing NED’s lie denying Lee’s leadership role in the protests.  Additionally, multiple leaked US diplomatic cables (herehere, and here) indicate that Martin Lee has been in close contact with the US government for years, and regularly asked for and received various forms of aid.

Interestingly enough, much of the evidence was first exposed by independent bloggers. Evidence that was picked up by larger media networks was admitted to. Other evidence that was not, has since been deleted. One wonders if the evidence had not contradicted denials by “Occupy Central” leaders regarding US funding, why would they have systematically deleted entire webpages and even annual reports from the Internet.

In terms of foreign ties, Edward Leung is no exception. He and his associates have also been implicated with maintaining inappropriate relations with the US government.

Edward Leung and other “Independents” Caught Meeting US Diplomats


In one South China Morning Post article titled, “‘Not some kind of secret meeting’: Hong Kong Indigenous leaders meet with American diplomats,” the Post, Edward Leung and fellow “Hong Kong Indigenous” member Ray Wong would attempt to explain why they were caught secretly meeting with the US consulate in Hong Kong.

The article would claim:

The photos, published by news website Bastille Post on Wednesday night, showed three members of the group – including Edward Leung Tin-kei and Ray Wong Toi-yeung – meeting two consulate staffers. The quintet reportedly chatted for around an hour and a half, speaking in Putonghua at times, before going their separate ways.

Some mainland media and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have both claimed that there were foreign forces behind the city’s pro-democracy protests of 2014.

And of course, foreign forces – specifically Washington – is confirmed to have been funding and backing virtually every aspect of the 2014 protests.

Ray Wong would claim:

I think it’s perfectly normal to meet with consulates of different countries. I know it is a practice for consulates of different countries to meet and communicate with civil organizers and politicians. Our meeting with the US consulate was not private. It took place at a rather public setting.

In the past, for them to understand localists and us, they did it through foreign media and (other) media. But most of the media have established views, or are bias in order to create news value. I guess the most direct way is for us to tell them our beliefs and stances. 

When asked if he had been approached by other consulates apart from the US, he replied while laughing:

Yes, but I cannot discuss that. 

Virtually every comment Ray Wong made was untrue. Had photos of his and Edward Leung’s meeting not been leaked online, he and the rest of Hong Kong Indigenous would have categorically denied any ties or meetings with the US government – just as many other Occupy Central groups have attempted to do.

It is also unlikely that Leung and Wong were simply informing the US of their “beliefs and stances” since the US has been underwriting their movement and the rest of Occupy Central for years now. What would Leung and Wong have told the US consulate that Martin Lee and Anson Chan hadn’t already told representatives of the US government during their over one-hour talk in front of the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington D.C. in 2014? Or during numerous other meetings stretching back for years and documented within Wikileak’s archive of US diplomatic cables?

Ray Wong’s final answer about not being able to discuss other meetings with foreign consulates speaks for itself – indicating impropriety that only additional documentation and evidence will be able to force an acknowledgement of – along with excuses – regarding an “independence” movement apparently and completely dependent on Washington.

As Beijing dismantled and diminishes this foreign-funded network in Hong Kong, it is important to not only keep the above facts in mind, but keep them in mind in regards to the intentional and repetitious lies told by the Western media to portray individuals like Edward Leung and organizations like Hong Kong Indigenous as “pro-democracy” rather than the US proxies they truly are.


Tony Cartalucci is Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook” where this article was originally published. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

All images in this article are from the author.

India’s maximalist position towards the Kashmir Conflict and its resultantly unflinching resistance to CPEC haven’t changed despite New Delhi saying that it has no problem with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank funding that project, as this is nothing more than India playing “hard to get” with America and improving its position before the forthcoming 2+2 talks with the US.

India shocked the world earlier this week when its Finance Minister declared on the sidelines of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) summit in Mumbai that his country doesn’t object to the institution being used to fund CPEC despite it passing through the Pakistani region of Gilgit-Baltistan that New Delhi claims as its own per its maximalist stance regarding the Kashmir Conflict. This seemed to signal a softening of India’s hitherto unflinching resistance towards these two interconnected issues and a possible opportunity for it to expand its incipient Eurasian “rebalancing” act that the author discussed in his recent piece about “The Indian Crossroads: Will Modi Choose Putin Or Trump?

The general idea of that analysis is that the US’ CAATSA sanctions threats against India for its possible acquisition of Russia’s S-400 anti-air missiles and the ones that it’s hinting it will impose if the country continues its oil trade with Iran are forcing New Delhi to make an irreversible choice between continuing with its pro-Atlantic pivot or to “rebalance” its grand strategy by redirecting its focus back to Eurasia. This will be a monumental moment for global geopolitics and the overall trajectory of the New Cold War, being pivotal in every sense of the word, and that’s why India is positioning itself to have the greatest possible leverage against the US so that it can try to obtain the best possible “deal” from it.

The now-postponed “2+2” talks that were supposed to take place during the first week of July between the US and India’s Defense and Foreign Ministers will provide a glimpse at which direction New Delhi intends to go, and it’s with this pivotal meeting in mind that the country has been sending symbolic overtures to the multipolar world, particularly in this instance through its acceptance of the AIIB’s financing of CPEC. This charade would be much more convincing, however, if it wasn’t for the fact that India pretty much has no practical choice other than to go along with China’s CPEC-financing plans in the AIIB because it simply lacks the voting power to veto this decision.

Not only that, but going against this initiative would be extremely counterproductive for India because it would jeopardize New Delhi’s membership in the AIIB and therefore deprive it of an alternative source of financing, or in other words, undermine the “financial multipolarity” aspect of its “multi-alignment” policy. Understood in this manner, India’s acceptance of the AIIB being used to finance CPEC projects begins to look much less like the dramatic volte-face of a geostrategically “repentant” American ally returning to the multipolar Eurasian fold and more like the self-interested passive “compromise” that it actually is, all of which is in spite of the current leadership’s Bollywood-like projection in portraying it otherwise.

As with a playful cat that thinks it’s hiding someplace but leaves its tail wide out in the open for all to see, most of India’s Chanakya-like “cunning moves” are evident to almost everyone else but itself, thereby greatly diminishing their strategic effectiveness and contributing to the latent distrust that Russia, China, and now even the US are beginning to feel towards it. Playing “hard to get” is in principle a solid strategy, so long as one recognizes the obvious impossibility in doing so indefinitely, but it loses its edge when the practitioner’s intentions are so transparent that none of the potential suitors trust it anymore, which is exactly the self-made trap that India has fallen into.


This article was originally published on Eurasia Future.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Worse than super typhoon Yolanda of 2013, is the calamitous effect of TRAIN Law on Filipino households today.  Philippine’s Duterte regime has implemented the horrible Republic Act No. 10963 otherwise known as the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law starting January this year. TRAIN Law expected to lessen taxes for poor earners had triggered a staggering inflationary condition in return. As a form of regressive taxation, TRAIN Law’s exemption for income taxes at P250,000.00 and below has not lightened the burden of taxpayers and consumers as the extensive excise taxes on petrol and sugar-based products take away the supposed tax gains in return.  

Since then the prices of crude oil has been raised 16 times and gasoline 15 times. Rice had jacked up to additional P11.00 this time, while meat products had increased by P50.00 more. Vegetables at P60.00 last January is now at P80.00 to P100.00 or a margin of P20.00-40.00 up per kilo. Electricity is again up this June by P00.80 per kilowatt hour. 

Will Filipino households survive the next round of excise taxes and inflationary rates since TRAIN Law is a 5-package scheme for 3 years?

Prices of Commodities 6 months after TRAIN Law Implementation:

TRAIN Law started in Jan. 2018.  This survey was conducted June 2, 2018,  University of the Philippines Cebu, College of Social Sciences.

Massive population of low-income earners and contractualized labour:

The Philippine government’s most recent wage order has pegged it to P366.00 on daily basis (DOLE Wage Order No. 20).  At the same time the mass of Filipino work force of about sixty (60) million are a mix of minimum wage earners, contractual labourers, and undocumented underemployed labour attached to the agri, agro-forestry, agri-fishery occupational lines of haggling bases, or the odd labor of carpentry, welding, laundry, driver, auto-mechanic, electricians, and other assorted work not covered in the formal industrial system (Ibon Foundation, May 2018). Hence, the TRAIN Law is not beneficial to the mass of the population but simply extracts from them what amount they could shell off for food and other inflation-driven items in the market. 


Prof. Phoebe Zoe Maria Sanchez is an Associate Prof. of History and Sociology at the University of the Philippines Cebu.

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Featured image: Near Malaysian border, total destruction

Would you ever think of the third largest island on Earth – Borneo (known as Kalimantan in Indonesia) – as one of the cradles of the world’s democracy? Perhaps you wouldn’t, but you should.

While Europe was engaged in myriads of internal as well as expansionist wars, in the once lush, tropical Borneo, people who belonged to the ancient local cultures, used to decide things communally, by consensus, or should we use the Western term, “democratically”. Judged by today’s standards, they were also living the lives of determined ‘environmentalists’, showing great respect for the nature around them – for all living creatures, plants, deep forests, wide rivers as well as humble creeks.

True, local people – Dayaks – were often marked as “headhunters”, at least by the European Orientalists. But that was only one of many features of their culture. Dayaks spoke at least 170 languages and dialects, enjoying complex fabric of cultures, customs and laws.

The bottom line is: in many ways and for many centuries, traditional Dayaks were able to co-exist perfectly well with their island and with the surrounding environment. 

Dayak people surrounded by their nature

If left alone, that is what they would still be doing now – living their own lives, in their own place, and most likely, living well.

Unfortunately, that was not meant to be.

Borneo was attacked, colonized and devastated by European invaders. For a short period, the Japanese occupied the island, and then the Europeans came back again, before “independence” saw the island divided between three sovereign countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.

Things did not get much better. The brutality – almost madness – of the Indonesian plunder which took place after the 1965 Western-orchestrated military coup (backed by foreign mining and logging interests); the plunder of the natural resources of Kalimantan, has been legendary. For Jakarta and for its foreign handlers, the so-called transmigration made looting much easier, while turning local people into a minority and into serfs on their own land.

Dayak culture is now only truly ‘alive and well’ in a few untouched pockets in the deep interior.

There, people still remember and know how Borneo used to be. They also understand what should and could be done in order to save it. But no one seems to be willing to learn from them, or even to listen.


Travelling through the so-called Heart of Borneo (HOB) is not easy. But it is possible, and while collecting footage for our documentary films and for the book, we managed to visit, in May 2018, several remote communities located between the Indonesian city of Putussibau, and the border with Malaysia.

A couple that lost the house in Patussibau

Putussibau lies on the shores of the mighty Kapuas River – on its upper stream. Unlike other major cities in Indonesian Kalimantan, it is still mainly surrounded by untouched primary forests, as it lies inside the protected areas.

After the almost absolute devastation of Kalimantan that we have been witnessing in western and southern parts of the island for months, the HOB appeared to be remarkably pristine.

The inhabitants of various traditional ‘longhouses’ located tens of kilometers outside the city appeared to be very well-informed about the present state of Borneo, and even willing to fearlessly comment on the situation. They were also knowledgeable about the history and traditional cultures of their geographical area, and of the island in general.

Borneo native, Paulus Tulung Daun (image below), an old Dayak man who is the head of a traditional longhouse, explained:

“We, especially the Dayak Taman (the name of one Dayak sub-ethnic community living in  the interior of Borneo), have wisdom and traditions from our ancestors. We know how to live in harmony with the nature. That’s why here we don’t destroy the environment. Without nature, there is no life. We teach our young people, to keep this essential value in their daily existence, and we tell our children not to be easily influenced by the immigrants from other part of the country and from abroad; from those who are coming here and keep devastating Kalimantan. 

We will also continue to live in this longhouse because we believe that there is wisdom in living in a longhouse, compared to conventional houses. Here we live in harmony with the entire community; we help each other and share our possessions. All important decisions are made after the consultations with the members of our community.

Palm oil companies came to us on many occasions, offering to buy our lands, but we always refuse because we know that palm oil would bring harm to the nature and to our lives. In other places, I think people are lured by money and promises from the companies, so they sell all they have, and as a result lose their forest.”

A younger man, Hendri, joins the conversation. He is very enthusiastic; dreaming about working in the health sector and improving the lives of his community. It is soon clear that both generations are on a very similar wave:

“Selling land to the businesses is not a good idea. First, there is never a clear MoU between the companies/government and the local people, so we do not trust them.

Second, the palm oil could maybe bring some benefits, but only for the short-term period. But what about our future generations? We don’t want our water to be contaminated, we don’t want to lose our forests – to rob our children and grandchildren of their future.

“What about the gold mining?” We ask. It is clear than in other parts of Kalimantan, the ‘illegal’ (although in reality fully protected and even sponsored by the government, police and the military) extraction of gold from the rivers and shores has already poisoned entire communities and waterways with mercury and other highly toxic substances.

Hendri (known only by his first name) does not hesitate: 

We do now allow any gold mining here. In this traditional area, even when people cut down one single tree, without the permission of our leader, we will punish them using our customary law. So, we do not allow gold mining here at all, because we know how bad the devastation caused by the gold mining can get.”

We want to know about the “democratic principles” that have been governing the local communities and dwellings (like longhouses) for decades and centuries.

“Yes, in a way we live our own form of democracy, for many years and decades. But for us, it is just a natural form of life.”


Democracy. ‘Rule of the people’ in Greek. It is officially promoted by the West, but in reality, it disappears, is immediately blocked from being practiced in the places that are conquered and colonized by the Europeans and their offspring.

In Borneo, there was the LanFang Republic (Chinese: 蘭芳共和國).

According to the Lan Fang Chronicles (a multi-faceted project inspired by the histories and investigations of the 18th century Lan Fang Republic, which was founded by Hakka Chinese in West Borneo):

“The Lan Fang Republic was the first democratic republic in South East Asia, set up by the Hakka Chinese in West Borneo. Founded by Luo Fang Bo in 1777, the Republic existed for 107 years with 10 presidents until its reigns came to an end with the Dutch Occupation in 1884.The Chinese first came to Borneo as gold miners and formed various clans grouped by the area of their origins. Originally known as Lan Fang Kongsi (Company), Luo Fang Bo united all the Hakkas in the area to form the Lan Fang Republic.

After the Dutch invasion, the descendants fled across the region to Sumatra, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Many scholars believe that one of the descendants later became the founding father of Singapore. While the Hakkas are a minority in Singapore, it is the Hakkas who played an important part in the establishment of Singapore as a cosmopolitan city-state today.”

As quoted by various sources, including (Sarawak Museum Journal, Volume 19” 1971):

“As Dutch imperialism encroached upon modern-day Indonesia, Luo established the Lanfang Republic in 1777 (with its capital in East Wanjin) to protect the Chinese settlers from Dutch oppression… The settlers subsequently elected Luo as their inaugural president. Luo implemented many democratic principles, including the idea that all matters of state must involve the consultation of the republic’s citizenry. He also created a comprehensive set of executive, legislative, and judicial agencies. The Republic did not have a standing military but had a defense ministry that administered a national militia based on conscription…

While I discussed this impressive republic, in Nagasaki, Japan, with a leading Australian historian Geoffrey Gunn, he expressed great admiration for its achievements:

“Yes, it was enormously advanced. Not only politically, but also technologically – in terms of hydraulics, building dykes…”

Prof. Mira Sophia Lubis, a native of Kalimantan, who has been researching the island for many years, explained:

“In Jakarta and elsewhere, many people believe that the inhabitants of Kalimantan are too simple, lacking knowledge and intellectualism. But let’s face what really happened here: the great and progressive Lanfang Republic was destroyed by the Dutch colonialists. The Japanese then murdered almost all educated people in West Kalimantan, many of whom were of Chinese descent. And then, in many ways, Kalimantan has been marginalized by the government in Jakarta, especially during Suharto era.”


We drove with Mr. Hendri all the way to Ensanak Village, some 200 kilometers from Putussibau. There, again, oil palm plantations are covering enormous sprawls of land. “Protected areas” are far away from here. As everywhere else in the Indonesian Kalimantan, the creeks passing through these plantations are dark red or black from the carcinogenic chemicals that are used by the companies.

Mr. Hendri wanted us to talk to his relative, Mr. Mawan, who used to be a true firebrand activist, fighting against the oil palm plantations. He even used to block the company trucks and to initiate legal cases on behalf of the local communities.

But after the long and arduous journey, Mr. Mawan was unwilling to speak about the terrible ordeal of the local people. 

His tiny village was fully encircled by the plantations. There was no tiniest piece of pristine land left, in a radius of tens of kilometers. Yet he spoke about the benefits of the oil palm plantations, not about their devastating effects on the people.

“They bought him!”, shouted Hendri in the car, on the way back. “They keep buying our people.”

Back in Bali Gundi longhouse, chief Paulus Tulung Daun floated his important theory:

“People who go to schools in Indonesia, they think they are getting smarter, but in fact they end up working for the government and private companies, and they do nothing to help their villages and hometowns. As long as they get money they do not care anymore. In brief: The more “educated” people are, here, the more they support corporations. They return from schools and begin promoting destructive activities. Political system here, too – is clearly destructive.”


Putussibau may be in a somehow better state than other provincial cities of Kalimantan, such as Sintang (a city badly devastated by nearby gold mining). But even here, the situation for the local people is pitiful. The collapsing giant – Indonesia – is still somehow surviving because of the unbridled extraction of natural resources from Papua, Sumatra and Kalimantan, but it gives very little (or close to nothing) back to the people inhabiting these islands.

According to Greenpeace:

“Indonesia’s rainforests are a biodiversity hotspot, rich in endemic species, and vital in regulating the Earth’s climate. But these forests are being torn down for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations – making Indonesia the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter and threatening endangered species such as orang-utans with extinction.”

Indonesia is now the world’s largest producer of palm oil in the world (over 21 million tons), Malaysia being close second. This business generates incomes of tens of billions of dollars. Yet the native population in Indonesian Kalimantan remains dirt-poor.

In the evening, before leaving Patussibau, we crossed the river from the city center, to the area which was recently devastate by a landslide – Kedamin.

There we saw a parcel of land which literally broke in half, one part remined standing on the hill, while the other one collapsed and fell down to the river. The house was gone. There were only some debris left. 

The owners of the house – a man and his wife Yeni – were sitting on a makeshift bench shaded by what was left of a tarpaulin roof. 

Dispassionately first, they recounted what happened to them two weeks ago:

“The water of Kapuas River kept rising and it was moving with great speed. Suddenly it hit our house, at 3 am. Land facing the bank of the river suddenly cracked and fell down. Part of the house – the kitchen and the dining room – disappeared in the troubled waters. The remaining part of the house was reduced to rubble.”

At one point, the woman began to cry. Now she and her family have to rely on the help of neighbors and relatives. One of the neighbors had offered them a temporary shelter.

As always in such situations, the government did close to zero. It did not asses the danger before the tragedy occurred, it did nothing to reinforce the shore. After the family became homeless, it only offered one-time ‘relief’ – a blanket!

Local people can count on nothing. There is no place they can turn to when they need help. Everything has been taken away from Kalimantan, but nothing is being given back, with the exception of some “infrastructure” – meaning roads, which are built in order to facilitate even the greater extraction of the natural resources.

Not far from where Ms. Yeni was sitting, a man was defecating into the water, crouching on the jetty behind his house. A few meters down the stream, someone was washing clothes, and then bathing.

Clearly, in the cities, not much is left of the former glory of Borneo, and of the deep and proud Dayak culture!


Had it not been attacked, colonized and enslaved by the Dutch, British and Japanese invaders, had it not later been taken over by tremendous greed and Machiavellian politics streaming from Java, the island of Borneo would have most likely developed into one of the most traditional and at the same time, prosperous parts of the Southeast Asia.

Here, when left alone, both Dayak and Chinese people were co-existed peacefully. Both cultures had their own, democratic ways of governing. Both respected the nature. But both were too weak to fight the superior weapons and unbridled greed of the invaders. They were defeated, humiliated and forced into submission.

We know what followed. It is clearly visible all over the island: almost everything is burned, mined out and destroyed. The misery in which the people are forced to live, is appalling.

In the old longhouses, deep inside the forest, people still resist, by living their lives as they did before the occupation.

Inside those splendid longhouses, can be found the secrets of Borneo, as well as the answers to those countless questions, including the most burning of all: “why the disaster has taken place”.

There, in the minds and hearts of the local people – those people who are still able to resist the mainstream ‘education’ imposed from Jakarta and from abroad – may also lie solutions, the way forward and the salvation for this once most beautiful island on Earth. 

To support Borneo films and book, click here.


This article was originally published on New Eastern Outlook.

Andre Vltchek is a philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. Three of his latest books are his tribute to “The Great October Socialist Revolution” a revolutionary novel “Aurora” and a bestselling work of political non-fiction: “Exposing Lies Of The Empire”. View his other books here. Watch Rwanda Gambit, his groundbreaking documentary about Rwanda and DRCongo and his film/dialogue with Noam Chomsky “On Western Terrorism”. Vltchek presently resides in East Asia and the Middle East, and continues to work around the world. He can be reached through his website and his Twitter.

Mira Lubis is a lecturer and researcher in urban studies, Tanjungpura University, West Kalimantan.

All images in this article are from the authors.

Becoming a Democracy—The Example of Nepal

June 28th, 2018 by Barbara Nimri Aziz

Hardly noticed on the world landscape of emerging democracies lies Nepal. This new republic now has its first government, newly formed this past February, under a secular constitution. It’s a route scattered with the detritus of its becoming a republic, though still a relatively nonviolent path.

Why is the international press not following Nepal’s embryonic struggle? 

Perhaps it’s the stunning northern horizon that distracts observers from realities across the populated hills and plains. Perhaps it’s the pollution in Kathmandu Valley, a choking haze that matches the gaseous airs of Delhi in India and Beijing in China. Or, it may be because this democracy has been largely brought about and led by Nepal’s Maoists and Communists.  

Last autumn, many among the Himalayan nation’s 28 million people were themselves surprised when two veteran, leftist leaders KP Sharma Oli (UML-United Marxist Leninist) and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (CPN-Communist Party of Nepal) agreed to form a coalition. That step was taken not after, but before, the nationwide election. Agreeing not to compete with one another and selecting candidates from their combined ranks, they prevailed in the polls. Together they won a majority of seats at national and local levels, and in rural as well as urban regions. See this. (The prime-minister’s post as head of the new government was also chosen by mutual consent.) This coalition furthermore drove the once dominant Congress Party to the margins of power across the country.

Last month, these former contenders went a step further, announcing that this victorious joint force is no longer CPN/UML but a new entity, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). See this. With 174 seats in the 275-member parliament, the NCP leads the most powerful government modern Nepal has seen. A highly unexpected development, this could finally convince a skeptical public that the inter-left competition that had caused years of instability and fed corruption is over… for the present. (The legal term limit of each administration is five years. But given Nepal’s history of unstable coalitions, this could change.) 

Both Oli and Dahal had each previously held the post of Prime Minister, interrupted by short periods when the office was held by a Congress Party leader. Gently ousted after a few months of infighting, none was able to lead effectively. Constant changes of leadership cultivated an atmosphere for corruption and also thwarted implementation of any sustained policy. (E.g. opposition parties would promise to support a weak leadership in exchange for appointments for their members and funding for various personal ‘projects’. With the result that, for example, the prime minister found himself with a cabinet of some 30 members, and an office full of deputy prime-ministers almost as dense.) 

Nepal’s federal election last autumn was particularly significant. It was the first poll undertaken under the new constitution that defined the republic created in 2008, following the 2006 peace accord with the Maoist insurgents, and the (bloodless) 2007-2008 abolition of the ancient and despotic monarchy. (See Nepal’s political timeline from 1768 to 2017.) 

The nationwide citizens’ vote was delayed for years; endless disputes and disagreements had undermined the work of the Constituent Assembly. Without laws defining the shape of the republic–administrative districts and provinces, powers of office, quotas for Nepal’s many ethnic groups and women—(finally agreed upon in 2015) an election could not go ahead. 

Nepalis queueing to vote. (Source: Bing stock file)

The public did not know what to expect once the vote was scheduled (in November, 2017). After the two leftist party leaders announced their coalition, few observers in Kathmandu believed it would work out. When the unified plan actually succeeded in winning a comfortable majority, citizens still remained cautious. Interviewing women and men in the capital recently, in the early months of the new government, I found less enthusiasm than I’d expected. The election did not yet assure them real stability, it seemed. In Nepal’s non-affiliated press, I read neither expressions of satisfaction nor pride. News reports were not as celebratory as expected. 

“Let’s see”, cautioned several individuals who I questioned. “It’s too early to say; other factors will be operating”, one journalist hinted. (Whatever the nature of Nepal’s governance, India is a major player, and she was referring to India’s expected claims on the new leadership.)

Doubts about the durability of the new alliance are not unreasonable. Nepal’s leftists have been squabbling and undermining each other for so long that an enduring union seemed unlikely. Then there was the threat from the large bloc of Madhesi parties. They had earlier disrupted the efforts of the Constitutional Assembly with their regional/ethnic demands. (The strip of Nepal bordering India is known as Madhes or Terai. Nepal’s Madhesi maintain close economic and cultural ties to its southern neighbor and there had been fears that, if not mollified, the Madhesi parties might try to secede to India.) In the recent election, the majority of Madhesi voters unexpectedly backed the joint MLN-CPN. 

After the election, citizens next waited to see how the coalition would handle the single office of Prime Minister. Again skeptics were surprised by an easy resolution. The partners agreed without rancor that the job go to KP Sharma Oli. (Today, after holding office for four months, Oli remains the unquestioned leader.) He has just returned from a visit to China, following an initial obligatory meeting with his Indian counterpart, Mr. Modi. 

Nepal relies on major assistance from both its northern and southern neighbors. Increasingly, with the economic ascendancy of China, Beijing’s role in Nepal is expanding. One sees an enhanced Chinese presence in the tourism industry– on the streets of Kathmandu, in yoga centers and along trekking routes– as well as in major infrastructure and health projects. 


Barbara Nimri Aziz is an anthropologist, journalist and producer at Pacifica-WBAI Radio in New York. Author of numerous academic articles on Nepal and Tibet, Aziz’ book Heir to a Silent Song: Two Rebel Women of Nepal, was published by Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu and is available through Barnes and Noble in USA. She is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from the Nepali Times.

It is a credit to the venality of Australia’s refugee policy that much time is spent on letting others do what that particular country ought to be doing.  For a state so obsessed with the idea of a “rule-based order”, breaking those rules comes naturally – all in the national interest, of course. 

Canberra’s policy makers, since the 1990s, have been earning their morally tainted fare evading international law with an insistence bordering on the pathological.  The reasons for doing so have been cruel and vapid: target the market of people smuggling my moving it to other regions; harden the Australian electorate against dissolute “queue jumpers” who don’t know their place in the international refugee system; and speak to the idea of saving people who would otherwise drown.

In a tradition reminiscent of secret treaties, clandestine compacts underhand arrangements, Australia has done well for itself. The Turnbull government, spear tipped by the one-dimensional former policeman Peter Dutton of the Home Affairs Department, has shown itself to be obsessed with the clandestine when it comes to dealing with asylum seekers and refugees.  Its invidious sea operation, termed Operation Sovereign Borders, continues to deter refugee-carrying boats approaching Australia.  Last month, it took the revelations of a Taiwanese official to The Guardian to show that Australia had forged a deal with Taiwan on treating some of the most dire medical conditions afflicting refugees on Nauru.

The memorandum of understanding was made with Taipei in September last year. Since then, some five refugees have been flown to the state – some 5,500 kilometres – to receive treatment.

“The government has been clear,” came the cold, unchanging line from a spokeswoman for the Department of Home Affairs, “that people subject to regional processing arrangements will not be settled in Australia.”

The punitive dimension here has been stressed.  Medical transfer would not be used as “a pathway to settlement in Australia”.  Besides, Taiwan’s medical system was more than adequate, being “consistently ranked as having some of the best hospitals and medical technology in the world”.

There is an element of the police state grotesque about this, a whiff of the tyrant in search of satisfying a sadistic whim.  Those who have found their way to treatment in Taiwan have been in particularly acute medical distress.  There have been questions about incomplete understanding on the part of patients, and problems with informed consent.  But such vulnerability is not one to prompt Australia’s officials to well up.  No excuse will be accepted in permitting resettlement in Australia.

Such conduct continues to rattle human rights advocates who continue skirmishing with the Home Affairs department.  Refugee lawyer David Manne sums up the issue.

“The fundamental concern must be the person’s need for medical treatment.  Once again, we see the absurd spectacle of the Australian government searching the globe to hive off its basic obligations… to properly care for people subject to its policies which inflict such devastating harm.”

To that end, such individuals as an Iranian woman in need of critical heart surgery was sent to Taiwan to be treated, after which she was returned to Nauru.  (This resembles, in part, the ailing person awaiting execution treated to ensure his good health on being hanged.)  A 63-year-old Afghan man has been offered a similar option in terms of treating his lung cancer, but has been eminently sensible, and damned for that reason, for wanting to go to Australia.

The scrap over outsourcing medical care to third countries, and not merely the processing and housing of refugees, has also received attention in the Australian Federal Court.  Lawyers from the National Justice Project this month won a bid to prevent a 30-year-old Somali woman from being sent to Taiwan.  The lady in question had been a victim of female genital mutilation, and was seeking an abortion.

Expert evidence was given that the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, or the Westmead Hospital in Sydney, would be appropriate venues to treat victims of infibulation.  The Taiwan Adventist Hospital, it was suggested, would not be up to scratch to supply either the medical expertise or the psychological ballast for the patient. Taiwanese physician Dr Sheng Chiang told the court that experience in performing pregnancy terminations on women with female genital mutilation was conspicuously absent in Taiwan.

In Justice Alan Robertson’s words,

“infibulation carries significant emotional and psychological implications and those aspects of care need to be expertly managed.”

Risks also came with later terminations, becoming “increasingly complex and dangerous”.

As for Taiwan’s side of the bargain, Shyang-yun Cheng, deputy representative of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK, has written glowingly about Taiwan’s commitment “to cooperating with like-minded countries to provide high-quality medical support and humanitarian assistance.”  Encouraging, indeed, if for the obvious point that is permits Australia to evade its obligations while showing Taipei to be a good international citizen.

It is about time that Australia withdraws from the Refugee Convention and cognate documents protecting refugees and asylum seekers.  In making arrangements with Taiwan, a non-signatory to the Refugee Convention, the point is clear enough.  At the very least, it would be an honest admission that the legal order of the time is up for dissolution and repudiation.  While US President Donald Trump scours the world for deals to abolish and arrangements to upend, Australia can be looked upon as a prime example of disruption in a field that is now crowded with contenders from the United States to Hungary.  A disturbing accolade indeed.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.  Email: [email protected]

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Communal politics has been viewed from different perspectives. The left primarily regards religion as opium of people, instilling false consciousness, giving them a high, and diverting their attention from their real issues related to material improvement in their lives like jobs, better wages, housing, health, access to medical facilities, quality education for the poor, and so on. However, majoritarian communal politicians promise their followers that their government would not only ensure religio-cultural adherence, further the cause of Hindu nationalism, but also that they are the best bet for the development of the nation and their material needs. They promise Hindutva with development. Hindutva, according to them, brings out dedication and commitment to the nation, spirit of sacrifice for the nation would ensure development.

The BJP had given all sorts of promises during the 2014 general elections to the youth regarding jobs, to the farmers about ensuring 50% profits over their costs and inputs, development of infrastructure – roads, electricity, etc. and building 100 smart cities, security for women, lowering of fuel prices, and such other promises ensuring that all sections of the society would have good life. Their tag line was “sabka saath, sabka vikas” (solidarity with all and development of all) and “achchhe din aanewale hai” (good times would arrive). In this article, it is not our purpose to evaluate the performance of the Central Govt. However, we are examining case study of Aurangabad city where many promises were made by the Shiv Sena which has controlled the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation since about three decades. We wish to look at the performance of Shiv Sena – BJP alliance in Aurangabad Municipal Corporation and try to locate the communal violence which hit the city on 11th May just before mid-night through the wee hours of 12th May 2018.

Religious identity politics

Religious identity politics, which misuses religious rituals, customs, traditions and other cultural dimensions of religion, is better known in South Asia as communal politics. Communal politics exploits outer manifestations of religion, like festivals, sacred symbols, to construct an exclusive political identity that is superior to other communities, instil the followers of the religion with pride in the superiority of their religion, and constructs an ideological justification to exclude ‘other’ communities. The ‘other’ is stigmatised, demonised, dehumanized and targeted. The cause of non-development or slower rate of development, economic crisis, joblessness and all other problems of the society are attributed to the ‘other’.

Communal politics seeks to instil fear the ‘other’, often exaggerated and illogical. The ‘other’ would over populate the majority in matter of few years, or they are existential threat to the majority through their foolish and violent means like terrorism and triggering off communal riots. They conspire to lure women from the majority community, get married and convert them to increase their population. They resort to conversion of members of the majority community using coercion or using fraudulent means or by offering inducements. They are intolerant and insensitive towards the culture and religion of the majority community. It ultimately calls upon the followers to close ranks to marginalise ‘other’, establish an authoritarian cultural state that would ensure instruments in the hands of the state to marginalise the other, and ensure that they are relegated to secondary citizenship status if they do succeed in expelling them from their territories.

A fact finding team of the CSSS and CPI recently visited Aurangabad from 19th through 21st May to investigate the communal riots in the city that broke out on 11th May 2018 on a filmsy issue of a Muslim man denying use of his mobile phone to two youth from Valmiki community whom he did not know. The denial later led to beating up of the Muslim man and triggering off the communal riot that night which went on till the wee hours of next day, until the violence was controlled by the police. During the fact finding visit, we came across general complaint from all respondents irrespective of their community, caste or gender regarding failure of the Aurangabd Muncipal Corporation (AMC) in discharging its statutory responsibilities. It was evident that the city of Aurangabad, ruled by the Shiv Sena for about three decades was in utter mess.

Aurangabad Municipal Corporation

In the elections held for the Municipal Corporation in April 2015, the partywise position is: Shiv Sena – 29, BJP – 22, AIMIM – 25, Congress – 8, NCP – 4, others – 24. Shiv Sena Mayor was elected and the present Mayor is Nandkumar Ghodele and retained its 25 year long hold (Wajihuddin 2015). The City has elected Chandrakant Khaire, Shiv Sena as its MP. Two of the three MLAs of the city belong to Hindutva parties – BJP MLA – Atul Save from Aurangabad East and Sanjay Sirsat from Aurangabad West. After the winning AMC elections, Aditya Thackeray – one of the most important Shiv Sena leaders said they would not sleep after winning and work hard to fulfil all the promises.

The roads on which we were driving had large potholes and even the main city roads were in bad shape and narrow. The city, we were told receives water once or twice in a week, even though the metered water charges have been increased several times. Citizens of Aurangabad are furious as the supply of water is decreasing and charges increasing. Some of them have found an easy way out – drawing water from Municipal pipelines through illegal connections. It is these about illegal connections that were sought to be disconnected which contributed its share towards communal riots on 11th May. The Valmiki community in Gandhinagar alleged that their water post outside the Hanuman temple was damaged by a Muslim Maulvi to take revenge for the water disconnection of water supply to the Dargah by the Municipal Corporation. The Valmiki Community members however, could not back up their allegations with FIR or any other evidence. When we talked to the members of Muslim community, they told us that it was true that water connection to the Dargah in Motikaranja was disconnected, but they were assured that after a few days they could reconnect and continue to draw water for the Dargah when monitoring of the illegal connections was relaxed. Someone would be foolish to seek revenge in this manner and denied the allegations.

The reason for letting water scarcity in the city along with higher charges seems to be deliberate measure by the Muncipal Corporation. The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance wants to promote a private company to take over water supply of the city. The private company they seek to promote is owned by BJP Rajya Sabha member Subhash Chandra – Essel Utilities. Essel Utilities has floated a subsidiary company – Aurangabad City Water Utilities Co. Ltd. (ACWUCL). The water problem of the city can be solved by transporting water form Jayakwadi – largest reservoir in Marathwada located 50 kms. south of Aurangabad. AMC was to construct pipelines connecting Jayakwadi reservoir with Aurangabad since 2008.

The AMC gave water distribution rights to ACWUCL for the entire area of Aurangabad Municipal Corporation and Cantonment Area which has population of 12 lakhs and 1.25 lakh consumers. ACWUCL in its contract with AMC had right to supply water for 20 years and increase water charges by 10% every year. It was a Rs. 782 Cr. Project and running far behind schedule and not investing money. While supplying water to the residents, its contractors would call the consumers to pay up high charges and threatened to disconnect if they failed. The contract with ACWUCL had many loopholes and the Municipal Commissioner Om Prakash Bakoria ultimately had to terminate the contract in 2016. ACWUCL is being promoted by the Shiv Sena – BJP combine and has unwritten / undeclared support from the Central leadership. Shiv Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire and the Shiv Sena – BJP are trying to re-engage the Company and give it water distribution rights. The civic body is also facing flack for allegedly not carrying out any audit of funds worth Rs 190 crore allocated to ACUWCL for installing a parallel pipeline project in the last few years.

Water scarcity would soften the citizens towards higher charges to be paid to a private company. The ACWUCL has to replace cement pipes with metal pipes to plug leakages and to maintain 8 pipelines. It is unfathomable why should AMC require ACWUCL to do the job on Public-Private Partnership (PPP) basis and enable it to earn Rs. 22 Cr. according to a senior journalist Pramod Mane.

Waste management

The AMC utterly failed in another of its statutory duty – managing waste of the City. The AMC was dumping the City’s waste for 35 years at its dumping site at Naregoan village leaving the village with 10-20 lakh cubic metres of untreated waste and causing health hazards for the villagers. Naregaon waste dumping site was earmarked as grazing land for cows. The BMC had given directions to the AMC in 2003 to shift the dumping site within 6 months but for a good 15 years AMC made no alternative arrangement and continued to dump its waste in Naregaon. As the waste was being dumped illegally, the villagers approached Bombay High Court and obtained a stay mid February 2018. The AMC thereafter began to dump 436 metric tonnes of garbage a day onto a new site at Padegaon Mitmita village. The of residents of Padegaon Mitimita witnessed the value of their property coming down drastically and burnt two AMC trucks which were dumping waste in t heir village. As a result, the AMC trucks for days could not lift the City’s waste! There were mass protests in the City.

Communal politics

Bad roads, scarcity of water, lack of waste disposal, and other problems of the City has left the citizens of Aurangabad dissatisfied with the functioning of the Municipal Corporation. Most persons we talked to, irrespective of the community and caste they belonged to and their political affiliations were unhappy. The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) – a Muslim interest party and functioning as an opposition in the AMC as well as Shiv Sena BJP survive by communalising the scarcity. Which community gets larger portion of scarce resources. the Imtiaz Jaleel, AIMIM MLA from Aurangabad Central told us that his partymen had to grab water pipes to be installed in Muslim dominated areas as they were being denied their fair share. The Shiv Sena convinces its political base that whatever scarce water supply or lack of waste disposal or bad roads, they are better than the Muslim community because of them!

Hindu supremacists’ claim that Hindutva and development go together has not proved to be correct in Aurangabad. However, Aurangabad may not be an isolated example. We see that promises of development and welfare even of the Hindus has proved to be jumlas at national level as well. Communal polarisation allows the communal politicians not to worry too much about development and welfare even of their community. They are easily tempted to serve the interest of elite and the richest confident that they are not answerable and accountable and can get away. In UP the Jinnah vs. ganna contest in the by-polls in Kairana proves that Indian people are not so gullible. They may be misled once, but they have become wise now and would ask hard questions. In Aurangabad, Shiv Sena usually campaigns around the theme of “Khan ki Baan” – Muslims (Khan) or Shiv Sena (Baan – arrow – election symbol of Shiv Sena) and Aurangabad vs. Sambhajinagar (Shiv Sena calls Aurangabad as Sambhaji Nagar). The secular and social justice forces will have to work harder even though their resources are scarce to organize people for their real issues. The choice before lower classes and castes of Hindu community is Hindutva or development. However, we will have to educate people and inform them about their limited choices.


Irfan Engineer is Director of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism.

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Vietnam Protests Against Special Economic Zones (SEZ)

June 20th, 2018 by Andrew Korybko

Scores of people gathered in several cities all across Vietnam in order to draw attention to what they fear is China’s imminent exploitation of a proposed bill on Special Economic Zones (SEZ) that will give investors 99-year leases on land in three coastal regions. Their concerns are just speculation at this point since there’s no evidence that this would be the case, but anti-Chinese sentiment is a strong galvanizing force in Vietnamese society given that its people are still very sensitive about their country’s nearly 1,000 year-long occupation by their northern neighbor over a millennium ago, which persists in their psyche to this day and is periodically brought up whenever discussing Vietnam’s dispute with China over the South China Sea.

The protesters fear that their government will use the new legislation to cut a quid pro quo deal with China by granting it nearly century-long leases in parts of these three strategic economic regions in exchange for what might be Beijing turning a blind eye to Hanoi’s offshore drilling operations in contested waters, though it must be emphasized that this is all just conjecture for the time being no matter the patriotic intent of the demonstrators. Some of the challenges that have arisen since last week’s protests is that the government is now aware that civil society representatives are capable of organizing spontaneous rallies all across the country, something that could be taken advantage of by third parties eager to exploit Vietnamese nationalism for destabilizing ends.

Special Economic Zones

Relatedly, the government’s arrest of some of the protesters has spawned accusations from fringe members of this movement that the police overstepped their constitutional authority, thus threatening to turn what had originally been economic demonstrations into political ones that are just as anti-communist as they are anti-Chinese, though provided that the coordinators are skillful enough to manipulate the masses to this Hybrid War end. As the final point, regardless of the current protest movement’s staying power – which isn’t expected to be much – the latest outbreak of demonstrations makes it all the more difficult for Vietnam to reach any pragmatic deal with China in the future no matter what the terms might be now that Hanoi sees just how controversial any agreement – whether real or imagined – with Beijing is to its citizens.


This article was originally published on Oriental Review.

Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

There is a lot of tattle going on about why the Australian National University rebuffed, after a series of talks, the offer for the establishment of a specific bachelors degree that would feature Western Civilisation as its content. It would have been managed under the auspices of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation. Besides, universities have been directing their attention to meaningless, tarted guff for decades, whether it be a bachelors degree in surfing, or the various toilet roll supplements that degrees in media and communication provide. 

This, however, was deemed different.  It’s not popular to talk about Western Civilisation these days, notably in capitals, and certainly not in an environment where sexual politics and identity platforms count.  The term suggests dead white men of scolding gravitas, even if a few of them were unnervingly bright and ahead of their time.  But in Australia, the issue seems to be that much touchier, and uglier.  Education is periodically packaged as a diorama for culture wars, and the commanders and grunts are uncompromising in their ideological positions.

In a country given over to the ad hominem stab, and the physical, as opposed to verbal putdown, victories are won through beating contenders into oblivion.  The issues here are motivations, political agendas, and visions.

The effort to set up a funding stream for a Western Civilisation degree was imperilled from the start by the two front men in the endeavour, notably former Australian prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard. Both are members of the Ramsay Centre, the latter being its current chair.  The very fact that these men had become advocates for the enterprise suggested a program and a platform beyond an offer for money and mere cultivation.  On the table was essentially a program of inculcation to be controlled by the Centre, a form of soft power a grade above the norm.

There is much irony in this.  Both Abbott and Howard were the conservative stalwarts who have done wonders to convert Australia into an arid world of accountants and price watchers, rendering the country a collective of aspirational voters crushed by mortgages who salivate, or despair, at the next economic forecast.  Such principles have little to do with the civilizational purpose of Athens and its peripatetic walk and certainly nothing to do with the philosophe punchers who made up the Encyclopaedists.  As for talk of liberty, Abbott’s meditations soon veer into the territory of the Vatican, whose values he cherishes with parochial dedication.

Australia’s perfected political suicide Abbott arguably lobbed a grenade of considerable proportion when promoting the merits of the Ramsay program in a piece for Australia’s foremost conservative magazine, Quadrant. In its pages, his praise for late health mogul raises an assortment of questions.

He writes about the acquisitive Cecil Rhodes, a person distinctly out of favour with anti-imperialists and not indifferent to looting for empire, with infantile enthusiasm. He then charts Ramsay’s vision about a syllabus that would “foster undergraduate courses in the Western canon at three leading Australian universities with scholarships” to contend with “life’s biggest issues and history’s greatest challenges” and so forth.  (Whether this is Abbott talking, or Ramsay, is hard to say.)

Then Abbott starts laying his own booby traps.

“The key to understanding the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation is that it’s not merely about Western civilisation but in favour of it.”

This made it “distinctive”. “This is an important national project.” The only thing to fear here was the dictum of John O’Sullivan, current international editor of Quadrant: “every organisation that’s not explicitly right-wing, over time becomes left-wing.”

In the schemes of negotiation, this did not play well.  Australia’s national university was essentially being told that autonomy over the program – selection of staff, selection of students, and the program itself – would not be exercised by autonomous academics and officials within it, but by those without.  Take the cash, but accept the strings.  ANU Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt subsequently claimed that “academic autonomy” was at risk, terminating the conversation.

A group of academics at the University of Sydney, having gotten wind of negotiations being conducted between the Centre and their own Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence, claimed any collaboration with the Ramsay Centre “a violation of our crucial role in promoting a society of diversity, inclusiveness and mutual respect”.  Their open letter deemed the enterprise to be promoting a “conservative, culturally essentialist, and Eurocentric vision” mired in “chauvinistic, Western essentialism.” Besides, subjects on western civilisation were already being studied “intensively” at the institution.

There are, of course, other hypocrisies when it comes to money, donations and the tertiary sector.  Universities, when they are teased of their component parts, are fractious creatures, divided to fail rather than prosper and bound to harm that most precious resource of all: the student.  If the open letter from the University of Sydney academics was right in their claim that the Ramsay Centre could be successful in creating “a cadre of leaders”, that would have been a near miracle.  What universities tend to do now is create gluttonous, beige products that pride management and the harnessing of specialist skills over notions of any Renaissance man.

As for the structure of the university itself, management, in whatever curious cloaking of convenience they choose to pick at any given time, see themselves as head boys and girls keeping the academic workers in check, trying to turn the modern teaching institution into a technical ant hill; the workers, generally weak, loathsomely middle class and in search of misplaced spines, tend to be compliant.  Rents, mortgages and quotients of weakness need to be paid.

When a questionable money supply finds its way to the university, the issue of compromise varies.  The Ramsay Centre’s mistake here was to be obvious, overt, rather than covert and clandestine.  Soft power funds can be received but never described as such. Funding for Australian universities, for instance, can be traced to various states officially out of the good books of Canberra: Iran and Turkey, for instance.

Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also taken the additional steps of attempting to control the way Islam and Middle Eastern studies are taught in Western universities.  Then comes that most discomforting of realities: the role played by philanthropic funding and donations to the profusion of China Centres that dot the research and education landscape.  Forget the Enlightenment; this is business.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

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The Print is a Delhi-based, online news magazine that began operations in August 2017. On 9 June, it published a short article by Sandya Ramesh under the title ‘EU study trashes anti-GM paper by French expert who Jairam Ramesh cited to ban Bt Brinjal’.

Sandhya Ramesh is a senior assistant editor (science) at The Print. Preceding the piece was the headline: ‘EU investigation of the paper by Gilles-Éric Séralini comes as much-needed validation for scientists and farmers in India who have been pushing for GM crops.’

It set the tone for what followed: a careless and misleading attempt to rubbish the scientific research of Professor Gilles-Éric Séralini along with the decision in 2010 taken by Jairam Ramesh to stop the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal. This would have been India’s fist genetically modified (GM) food crop. Jairem Ramesh was at the time Minister of the Environment and Forests (MoEF).

Shortly after the publication of the piece, environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues submitted a substantive rebuttal for publication by The Print (possibly in two parts, given the length). However, given that outlet’s lack of response (to date), Rodrigues has decided to publish her refutation elsewhere.

The reason Rodrigues decided to respond is because she says:

“Readers have the right to expect fair reporting and a decent jab at the truth.”

Sandhya Ramesh’s piece fell short on both counts.

Image on the right: File photo of Jairam Ramesh | Commons via The Print

Rodrigues accuses Sandhya Ramesh of dubbing anything that is a proper critique of GMOs based on ‘independent’ science (the distinction is important) as the work of ‘anti-GMO’ activists. She argues that a properly researched piece would have entailed weeks of serious research into the various studies carried out by Seralini and his team over the last decade as well as the reappraisal of Bt brinjal (October 2009 to February 2010) ordered by Jairam Ramesh.

Both are daunting tasks by any standard. Yet, Rodrigues notes that no one involved in these matters was even approached by Sandhya Ramesh or interviewed for a briefing. What we have instead is an astonishing telling of alternative ‘facts’:

“Yet, it would be hard to find, even with a magnifying glass, a semblance of a factual basis in reporting the facts. Instead, we have ‘instant’ journalism that connects several imaginary dots. This article is clearly an unabashed support of GMOs and Bt brinjal. The problem with this position at present, is that the science, socio-economics and perhaps the most clinching, the empirical evidence worldwide, do not support such a position.”

Aside from the distortions and misrepresentations, something that is conveniently missing from Sandhya Ramesh’s piece (and similar pieces by others over the years) is any discussion of the role of industry in fuelling the push for GM, whether in India or elsewhere. All we tend to hear are accusations about anti-GM ‘activists’ (aka ‘luddites’) with an ‘agenda’, which is little more than industry-driven spin designed to deflect attention from how the global agritech corporations have undermined democratic processes and subverted science through their massively funded lobbying campaigns and high-level political clout. Nothing is ever said about this which is revealing in itself, nor anything about the small army of groups and ‘journalists’ it uses to propagandize, smear and write hit pieces on its behalf.

Instead, we must turn to the likes of Steven Druker or Aruna Rodrigues herself to shed light on this. Indeed, Rodrigues points out that Monsanto and industry influence have penetrated regulators and Institutions, including Indian Regulators (amply documented in the Supreme Court over 12 years). It includes EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) in a long list of proven conflicts of interest and the US Environmental Protection Agency, which has known for 30 years that Monsanto’s glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor that causes cancer! These matters are currently under investigation as a result of several law suits in the USA.

Presented below is Aruna Rodrigues’ direct response to the Sandhya Ramesh piece.


Aruna Rodrigues’ rebuttal of Sandhya Ramesh’s article in The Print

The Seralini study of 2012 with its reverberations is well documented. I will limit myself to a few points made by Sandya Ramesh (SR). Of course, irrespective of the debate on the Seralini study of 2012, it is improper to link it with the Seralini critique of the raw data of Bt brinjal in 2008-09, an assessment that was subsequently published in summary in ‘NatureNews’ 2009. This was not a study!

The Seralini Study of 2012

Related image

Image on the left: Aruna Rodrigues (Source:

The study was designed as a toxicological study, not as a carcinogenesis study. This is of great importance. Therefore, the tumour incidence and mortality results were reported, according to OECD guidelines for chronic toxicity studies, as secondary observations requiring follow-up using a study design intended to systematically assess carcinogenesis.

In November 2013, the editors of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) retracted Seralini’s research paper, with implications for public, animal and ecosystem health against the desires of the authors. FCT created a new position, Associate Editor for Biotechnology, to which they appointed Richard Goodman, a past employee of Monsanto. The major agricultural biotechnology companies continue to fund his research at the University of Nebraska.

Goodman has been closely linked to the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), an industry-funded organization with a history of lobbying for industry-friendly risk assessment regulations for GM crops and pesticides. The World Health Organization (WHO) has barred ILSI from participating in WHO safety standards setting processes. The essence of the retractionnotice is as follows:

“A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to over-all mortality or tumor incidence —–“Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive.”

The question of inconclusive data

Schubert, Meyer, Hilbeck, Heinemann and others have pointed out, that if Wallace Hayes’ (editor of FCT) reading of this recommendation were applied uniformly, most of the scientific literature would have to be retracted. It is the nature of research results that they are inconclusive. Regarding this, Portier et al ((2014) ‘Inconclusive findings: now you see them, now you don’t!’ Environ Health Perspect 122(2):A36) state:

 “To our knowledge, there is no precedent for ‘inconclusive data‘ being a reason for retraction for Elsevier or other publishers, or elsewhere in the scientific literature. To single out this one study for retraction is almost certainly due to the controversy following its publication.”

In January 2015, Hayes was replaced as senior editor at FCT and Goodman is no longer listed as part of the FCT editorial board, but not before they were allowed by the FCT to do great damage to the cause of truth and science.

In June 2014, Seralini’s  paper was republished in the refereed journal Environmental Sciences Europe (ESEU).

The question of peer review 

Seralini’s paper was indeed peer reviewed by Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) as Reznick makes clear: “inconclusiveness, by itself, is not a sufficient reason for retracting an article…”

“How was a paper that the editors said did not meet the journal’s scientific standards approved for publication in the first place?” The author concludes, “Journals that are reviewing studies with significant scientific and social implications should take special care to ensure that peer review is rigorous and fair.”

And the reason why its republication in the ESEU (journal of Environmental Sciences Europe) was not peer reviewed, but instead the “role of the three reviewers that ESEU hired was to check that there had been no change in the scientific content of the paper,” is clear from this: Henner Hollert, editor-in-chief of ESEU, is quoted as saying that this approach was taken because a scientific peer review “had already been conducted by Food and Chemical Toxicology, and had concluded there had been no fraud nor misrepresentation”.

EU funded EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) Study 

On the other hand, this supposed recast of Seralini’s study has not yet been peer reviewed and published, yet lobbyists have passed judgment that the findings disprove the Seralini study and do not support Seralini’s demand for long-term studies on GMOs. The Julius Kühn-Institut, a federal research institution of the German Ministry of Agriculture, recommended that in light of the study results, the EU animal feeding trial requirement should be discontinued. This conclusion is a major misrepresentation and throws lumens of light on the regulatory agenda for GMOs. It is a large discussion in itself. I will confine myself to the following comments:

The first point to make is that the EU study was NOT a replication of the Seralini study, thus cannot be used to dismiss the findings of the latter. They used a different strain of rats; they used a different strain the KN603 Roundup tolerant GM maize; most crucially they did NOT use a Roundup/glyphosate alone comparison group.

The second point is that the full results have not been published, so it is impossible to judge whether there were or not any adverse effects in any of the feed groups. It is unscientific and out of order to announce study findings such as this prior to publication and without access to all the raw data for independent scientific scrutiny. We should wait.

SR is probably not aware of this. This matter is far from over. It also brings us to a revealing double standard in operation regarding GMO safety studies. It appears that it is a cardinal scientific sin to go public with such claims prior to peer-reviewed publication – but only if the message is that the GMO causes harm. If the message is that the GMO is safe, there’s no problem with jumping the gun and going public with claims before the study has been published.

It is moot to mention that the report of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that glyphosate is “a probable human carcinogenic” (Group 2A chemical) and California now labels the herbicide glyphosate in this way.

Bt brinjal and the Jairam Ramesh reassessment process

I provide a background to this debacle for a rounded understanding of the issues. ABSP II (Agricultural Biotechnology Support Projects), headquartered at Cornell University, USA, is funded by USAID and led by Cornell University.  It teams up with Monsanto to promote and spread GM crops as was done with Bt brinjal in India.

The official remit of ABSP II (backed by USAID) is to “integrate GM into local food systems.” Under this programme, Bt technology of the US seed multinational Monsanto was transferred to public sector institutes in India: TNAU, (Tamil Nadu Agricultural University), University of Agricultural Sciences and Dharwad, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research, Lucknow. These with Monsanto’s Indian arm Mahyco are a part of the ABSP-II network.

Therefore, and clearly, at the first juncture India entangled itself with a major conflict of interest in the matter of Bt brinjal in particular and GMOs in general.

In the Supreme Court, an additional battle ensued. In early 2007, petitioners obtained a major Order in public interest that biosafety data must be in the public domain. When the regulators did not comply, a Contempt of Court Application was filed. Eventually, to cut a long story short, 16 months after the Order, respondents were forced into publishing the raw data of the self-assessed Monsanto Bt brinjal bio-safety dossier on the MoEF website on 16th Aug. 2008. At that point, I sent out an appeal to leading independent scientists worldwide to critique the raw data.

SR ascribes the Jairam Ramesh moratorium to his citing of a Seralini study in 2008. As clarified above, there was no study. Seralini undertook a critique of the raw data in 2008-09.  However, according to SR, whether in 2012 or 2008-09, Seralini delivers junk science and the moratorium was similarly junk. This is the message.

However, the facts of the case cast a different light on his 2012 study. Notwithstanding these matters, Seralini was by no means the sole scientist involved, not even in the specific matter of the feeding studies and their assessment. (In this discipline a total of three scientists held in common that Monsanto’s feeding studies presented several significant problems, which meant that Bt brinjal could not be judged safe). At least eight other scientists in key disciplines related to the science of GMOs, including advisors to the UN/CBD/FAO on GMO risk assessment protocols, also obliged.

Between September 2008 and February 2009, the developers’ Bt brinjal biosafety dossier was examined and contested by international scientists. As lead petitioner, I challenged the GEAC in the Supreme Court on the basis of these appraisals of the developers’ dossier.

EC II (Expert Committee II) was convened in February 2009 to answer criticisms, from international and Indian scientists, of the conclusions of safety based on the applicants’ dossier, as well as concerns expressed from civil society. GEAC accepted the recommendation of EC II, in a hastily convened ‘meeting’ in October 2009, that Bt brinjal be approved for commercial cultivation. The GEAC steadfastly maintained that it had sufficient information to evaluate the safety of Bt brinjal for both human health and environmental release and that the information provided to the regulator by Monsanto-Mahyco justified GEAC’s high confidence that the product was safe for consumption and environmental release.

However, Jairam Ramesh, the then Minister for MoEF, following a nationwide outcry, intervened and instituted a review over the next 3½  months concluding in January 2010.

On 9 February 2010, as a result of the review including public hearings, J Ramesh announced a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal. In coming to this decision, the Minister rejected GEAC’s advice. After a careful consideration, the Minister concluded that:

“it is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt-brinjal, till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country” (emphasis mine).

It is to be noted because of its implications that on the morning of the 9th Feb. 2010, Nina Federoff, Scientific Advisor to the US Secy. of State went on TV to advise the Indian Government that Bt brinjal was good for India! Tie this in with ABSP II (above). This is the extent of the domination sought to be exercised by the US on India, a country where GM crops are virtually deregulated.

It is pertinent to focus on the assessment, albeit as briefly as possible, of key international scientists with regard to their appraisal of the Bt brinjal dossier. In doing so, let me emphasise at the very start that GMO contamination of the environment and of Non- GMO crops, is the OUTSTANDING concern because it is irreversible. For India, a country with a rich genetic diversity, including that it is a centre of origin/diversity of several crops species, the concern is particularly acute. India is the world’s centre of brinjal diversity. It is now accepted that with a commercialised GM crop, contamination is a certainty.

Dr MS Swaminathan needs no introduction. He informed JR Ramesh that if Bt brinjal were commercialised, brinjal in India would be contaminated, and that we had an enviable diversity in brinjal.

Prof Schubert: Salk Institute, USA:

“It is logically false to claim that because there is no evidence of illness following the introduction of a GE product, therefore the product is safe to eat.  In fact, perhaps my major concern with the introduction of any GE food is that even if it did cause an illness, it would not be detected because of the lack of epidemiological studies and the technical limitations for detecting such an illness.  For example, to detect an epidemic of a disease, an incidence of at least of two-fold above the background rate of the disease is required. Therefore, if Bt brinjal were to cause a disease like Parkinson’s which has an incidence of about 20 new cases per year per 100,000 people, then in India 200,000 new cases per year would have to be diagnosed and tabulated in order to identify a significant increase, and there would still be no way to associate the disease directly with a Bt crop.  In addition, many environmentally caused diseases take many decades of exposure to develop symptoms.  Clearly, once Bt brinjal is commercially released, there will be no way to monitor adverse health effects caused by the product.”

And there are “at least four mechanisms by which the introduction of the Bt toxin gene into the brinjal genome can cause harm. – There are scientifically documented examples of all four toxic mechanisms for Bt crops. – It should be emphasised that the majority of this material has been published in peer-reviewed journals and reproduced in more than one laboratory therefore, ruling out the possibility of an individual investigators bias. —my conclusion – Bt brinjal is not worth the risk and that it would be a profound disservice to India if Bt brinjal were allowed to enter her food supply.”

Prof Jack Heinemann: University of Canterbury, NZ:   

“The claim made by Mahyco is that the safety of Bt proteins (such as Cry1Ac) “is attributed to the mode of action and specificity.” These claims are made on page 93 (section 6.3) of the Toxicology and allergenicity studies vol 1 and elsewhere. The long-accepted version of Cry toxicity is not the actual mechanism. Thus, the range of organisms that will find Cry toxic may not be predicted from knowledge based on toxicity screening of the Cry proteins alone. The toxin is necessary but not sufficient for killing. It appears that the Cry toxins permeabilize the gut epithelium and this creates an opportunity for commensal bacteria to cause septicaemia. In the context of cry-expressing (Bt) plants, there is the possibility of exposing a vast new array of gut ecosystems, because the variety of insects and the variety of microbes inhabiting them is very large. The new model of how Cry toxins kill raises issues of uncertainty surrounding effects on non-target animals. As Mahyco does not cite the literature on  the new model, it is unlikely that their thinking and therefore their experimental design was influenced by the latest research on Cry toxin activities. Since current understanding of how insects die after ingesting Cry proteins differs from Mahyco’s expressed understanding, there are safety concerns that they have not addressed.

In my opinion, the studies summarised here and the few more covered in detail in the Appendix would not be of sufficient standard to publish in any peer-reviewed journal much less to satisfy the scientific community that a proper molecular and microbiological characterisation of this genetically modified plant had been done.”

Prof David Andow: Dept of Entomology: University of Minnesota: Distinguished McKnight University Professor: 

Andow is an acknowledged international expert on the environmental risks of GE crop plants:  In his assessment of Bt brinjal Event EE 1, ‘The scope and adequacy of the GEAC environmental risk assessment’ he raises critical issues. I address three because of their added relevance to our Bt cotton experience and its now admitted widespread failure. Bt brinjal was of course patterned on Bt cotton with 2 Cry toxins:

“The GEAC set too narrow a scope for environmental risk assessment (ERA) of hybrid Bt brinjal, and it is because of this overly narrow scope that the EC-II is not an adequate ERA”. -–“most of the possible environmental risks of Bt brinjal have not been adequately evaluated; this includes risks to local varieties of brinjal and wild relatives, risks to biological diversity, and risk of resistance evolution in BFSB” (brinjal fruit and shoot borer). India is the centre of the world’s biological diversity in brinjal with over 2500 varieties grown in the country and as many as 29 wild species. Some local varieties have significant religious and cultural value.” (This year the variety ‘Mattu Gulla’ was given GIS status – AR).

“The EE-1 transgene may be a second-rate Bt brinjal product. Efficacy of EE-1 is low. It provides only 73% control of BFSB in the MST (multi-site trials) field trials (Dossier vol. 6). Given these considerations, it seems clear that the applicant has invested little in the development of a useful Bt brinjal product for India. Indeed, an inflammatory characterisation of the process so far would be a case of “transgene dumping.”

Resistance: “Any major pest control practice will select for resistant individuals in the target pest population. If enough individuals become resistant, the control fails, the pest becomes abundant and crop yields decline. The evolution of resistance to Bt crops is a real risk and is treated as such throughout the world and the evolution of resistance in BFSB to overcome Bt brinjal is a real risk that must be managed. EC-II does not acknowledge this risk and the Dossier does not propose effective means to manage it. Event EE-1 Bt brinjal poses several unique challenges because the likelihood of resistance evolving quickly is high. Without any management of resistance evolution, Bt brinjal is projected to fail in 4-12 years.”

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, 2012,  in its report on the ‘Cultivation of GM Crops —‘  made the following comment on Bt brinjal:

“The Committee have been highly disconcerted to know about the confession of the Co-Chairman of Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (Prof. Arjula Reddy) that the tests asked for by Dr. P.M. Bhargava, the Supreme Court nominee on GEAC for assessing Bt. brinjal were not carried out and even the tests undertaken were performed badly and that he (Prof. Arjula Reddy) had been under tremendous pressure as he was getting calls from industry, GEAC and the Minister to approve Bt. brinjal.  Convinced that these developments are not merely slippages due to oversight or human error but indicative of collusion of a worst kind, they have recommended a thorough probe into the Bt. brinjal matter from the beginning up to the imposing of moratorium on its commercialization by the then Minister of Environment and Forests (I/C) on 9 February, 2010 —.” (Recommendation – Para No. 2.79)

I also reproduce the PSC scathing comment upholding the evidence of conflict of interest in our Institutions of governance of GMOs. A Constitutional Bench has ruled that is now permissible to submit reports of the PSCs as evidence in Court.

“Noting with concern the grossly inadequate and antiquated regulatory mechanism for assessment and approval of transgenics in food crops; the serious conflict of interest of various stakeholders involved in the regulatory mechanism; the total lack of post commercialization, monitoring and surveillance, the Committee have felt that  in such a situation what the Country needs is not a bio-technology regulatory legislation  but an all- encompassing umbrella legislation on bio-safety which is focused on ensuring the bio-safety, biodiversity, human and livestock health, environmental protection and which specifically describes the extent to which bio-technology, including modern bio-technology, fits in the scheme of things, without compromising with the safety of any of the elements mentioned above.  ——”   (Recommendation – Para No. 3.47 & 3.48)

Jairam Ramesh’s moratorium on Bt brinjal was curiously prescient and Andow’s warning that Bt brinjal would fail in four to 10 years was spot on in the light of the subsequent escalating failures of Bt cotton in various states as a result of rising pink bollworm (PBW) resistance to cry toxins in Bt cotton. Desperate and high levels of pesticide use by farmers to try and save their crop, rising farmer deaths from pesticide poisoning and suicides are the tragic and unforgiveable fallout of faulty regulatory decisions surrounding Bt cotton. Eventually, the Central Govt. in early 2016 was forced to admit in the Delhi High Court that Bt cotton was a victim of pest resistance to Bt toxins, which is a “natural phenomenon”. And so we come full circle — QED

Be wary of the Chinese technological behemoth, goes the current cry from many circles in Australia’s parliament. Cybersecurity issues are at stake, and the eyes of Beijing are getting beadier by the day.

The seedy involvement of Australia in the Solomon Islands, ostensibly to block the influence of a Chinese company’s investment venture, is simply testament to the old issues surrounding empire: If your interests are threatened, you are bound to flex some muscle, snort a bit, and, provided its not too costly, get your way.  Not that Canberra’s muscle is necessarily taut or formidable in any way.

The inspiration behind Canberra’s intervention was an initial contract between Huawei and the Solomon Islands involving the Chinese giant in a major role building the high-speed telecommunications cable between Sydney and Honiara. Even more disconcerting might be the prospects that it would work, supplying a cable that would enable the Chinese to peer into the Australia’s own fallible network.

What made this particular flexing odd was the spectacle of an Australian prime minister congratulating himself in securing tax payer funding for the building of a 4,000 kilometre internet cable even as the domestic National Broadband Network stutters and groans.  Another juicy point is that Huawei was banned from applying for tendering for the NBN in 2012.

As the world’s second largest maker of telecommunications equipment was told,

“there is no role for Huawei in Australia’s NBN”.

The then Attorney-General Nicola Roxon explained that the move was “consistent with the government’s practice for ensuring the security and resilience of Australia’s critical infrastructure more broadly.”  Better an incompetent local provider of appropriate “values” than a reliable foreign entity.

The move against Huawei has largely centred on fears voiced by the intelligence community in various states that Beijing might be getting a number up on their competitors.  In February this year, the FBI Director Chris Wray expressed the US government’s concern “about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks.”  Doing so would enable them to “maliciously modify or steal information” and provide “the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Such comments tend to suggest envy; the US intelligence community chiefs know all too well that they, not a foreign entity, should have the means to conduct their own variant of undetected espionage on the citizens of the Republic, not to mention the globe.

The concerns fomented by Huawei’s alleged profile are such to have featured in the telecommunications sector security reforms pushed by the Turnbull government.  When they come into effect in September, they would permit the government “to provide risk advice to mobile network operators or the relevant minister to issue a direction.”

Labor backbencher Michael Danby has also pushed the line that Huawei is materially compromised by its links to the Chinese Communist Party, a point that only becomes relevant because of its expertise in technology infrastructure.  By all means allow Chinese companies to “build a fruit and vegetable exporting empire in the Ord and Fitzroy River” but be wary of the electronic backdoor.

“On matters like the electronic spine of Australia, the new 5G network which will control the internet of things – automatically driven cars, lifts, medical technology – I don’t think it’s appropriate to sell or allow a company like Huawei to participate.”

Certain figures backing Australian intervention can be found, though they tend to take line of ignoble Chinese business instincts.  Robert Iroga of the Solomon Islands Business Magazine noted that no public tender was made, with Huawei getting “the right… this is where the big questions of governance comes.”

Ruth Liloqula of Transparency Solomon Islands spoke of “paying under the table to make sure that their applications and other things are top of the pile.”  None of these actions, however, are above the conduct of Australia’s own officials, who tend to assume that matters of purity seem to coincide with those of self-interest.

The message from Canberra has fallen on appropriate ears.  Penny Williams, Canberra’s Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told her counterparts in the Solomons that a study had been commissioned on the undersea cable project.  Miracle of miracles, it “found a number of solutions that would provide Solomon Islands with a high speed internet connection from Australia at a competitive price.”

DFAT’s head of the Undersea Cable Task Force Pablo Kang also had the necessary sweeteners for his target audience; the project, appropriately managed by Australia, would be cheaper than the Huawei alternative.

It will be a delightfully grotesque irony should the Internet speed on the Solomons be quicker than their Australian counterparts, who specialise in lagging behind other countries.  In May, the Speedtest Global Index, which provides monthly rankings of mobile and fixed broadband speeds across the globe, found Australia languishing at an inglorious 56 on the ladder.  (A relatively impoverished Romania comes in at an impressively kicking number 5.)  Should that happen, the political establishment in Honiara will feel they have gotten the steal of the decade.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected] 

“Further into the Afghanistan mission, after multiple deployments, soldiers began to refer to members going ‘up the Congo’.”
Chris Masters, The Sydney Morning Herald, Jun 9, 2018

They operate with impunity in areas already deemed lawless by their civilising superiors. Afghanistan, derided as a country of anarchic sensibilities, was never going to be a place for those abiding by armchair rules. Whether it was the Soviet army engaged in strafing operations indifferent to combatant and civilian, or those subsequent intruders of the Global War on Terror – the forces of the US-led International Security Assistance Force and associated allies – the complement of atrocities was only set to grow.

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Curt, Fatou Bensouda, has had an eye on Afghanistan for some time for that very reason. In 2016, she claimed in a report that,

“Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014.”

The Central Intelligence Agency was not to be left out sulking on the side, with Bensouda suggesting that 27 detainees in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania had been subjected to “torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape” between December 2002 and March 2008. A true smorgasbord of violence.

In November 2017, Bensouda concluded, after a seemingly interminable preliminary process,

“that all legal criteria required under the Rome statute [of the ICC] to commence an investigation have been met”.

The investigation specifically into the conduct of forces in Afghanistan, she suggested, would cover the alleged perpetration of crimes against humanity including murder, targeting humanitarian workers, and summary executions.

Afghanistan has again become the site of interest for the maligned side of human nature, this time from the Australian angle. The weekend began with Canberra in a tizz over allegations that Australia’s special forces have committed war crimes since commencing operations in 2001.

On Friday, Fairfax Media revealed certain contents of a report written by Defence Department consultant Dr Samantha Crompvoets in 2016 alleging the commission of such crimes suggesting a “complete lack of accountability”. It had been instigated at the behest of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF) examining “rumours… [of] possible breaches of the Laws of Armed Conflict by members of the ADF in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016”.

Various “unsanctioned and illegal” applications of “violence in operations” entailing a “disregard for human life and dignity” had purportedly taken place. There were “allusions to behaviour and practices involving abuse of drugs and alcohol” peppered with instances of “domestic violence”.

The report by Crompvoets points to “problems deeply embedded in the culture” of the Special Operations Command. The account of one interviewee is studded with suggestion though little detail.

“I know there were over the last 15 years some horrendous things. Some just disgraceful things happened in Kabul… very bad news, or just inappropriate behaviour, but it was pretty much kept under wraps.”

A central theme emerges here: ignorance in central command and amongst the civilians at the helm. Unvarnished, necessary, practised, Australia’s national security remains detached from an understanding of its elite, anointed arm which does its best to keep bloody in conditions of utmost secrecy. Such ignorance extends to matters of “mentality” and the logistical makeup of the Special Air Service Regiment itself and the Commandos.

Chris Masters has tailed the culture of the SASR for some time, being himself “embedded” within the organisation in Afghanistan that yielded No Front Line – Australia’s Special Forces at war in Afghanistan.

“The long deployment to Afghanistan had worn at the character of some members, who were beginning to act as a law unto themselves.”

Such are the ugly disfigurements produced by small, endless wars.

Evidence would be planted on the dead to throw off beady-eyed investigators; detainees would be slaughtered in acts of “competitive killing” to prevent the endless questioning that awaited them back at base. By 2010, the butcher’s bill for Oruzgan province, euphemised by the term EKIA (enemies killed in action) had become so lengthy as to raise eyebrows back amongst the paper shufflers in Kabul.

The report has produced its own precipitate in the form of another inquiry, this time fronted by Australia’s judicial arm. A dozen or so men of the Special Air Service Regiment have been subject to lengthy periods of questioning by New South Wales Supreme Court Justice Paul Brereton.

Concern of this ugliness is tempered with well-seeded praise.

“The SAS is in my electorate,” Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop took care to point out, “they are regarded as some of the finest men prepared to put their life on the line in conflict situations to defend us and our freedoms, they are one of the finest fighting forces in the world.”

The opposition minister for defence, Richard Marles, was similarly tiptoeing with a pseudo-psychologist’s hat, wanting a killing force that was doing its bit in accordance with decency.

“Our soldiers, particularly our special forces, work in difficult and complex environments. It’s important that we know, as a country, that they’re doing it in a professional and legal way.”

Elite forces trained to liquidate their opponents with ruthlessness do not suggest law book observers and the scrupulous reading of statutes. Their very existence is owed to being unorthodox, to operate outside convention in contempt of local rules and the encumbrances of red tape.

The issue, as ever, is not their operational doctrine so much as the political masters who put them there, inspired by fatuous assessments of what the defence of freedom might look like. The crimes will happen, but the mandate to do so will always come from high and farther afield, those tut tutting types back in the bureaucracy who insist that small wars in vaguely defined theatres are necessary for the national interest.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

By 2050, if current policies continue, India could have numerous mega-cities with up to 30-40 million inhabitants and just two to three hundred million people (perhaps 15-20% of the population) left in an emptied-out countryside. Given current trends in the job market, it could mean tens of millions of city-based rural migrants without much work: victims of the ill thought out policies we currently see being pushed through.

In the book ‘The Invention of Capitalism’, Michael Perelmen lays bare the iron fist which whipped the English peasantry into a workforce willing to accept factory wage labour. English peasants didn’t want to give up their rural communal lifestyle, leave their land and go work for below-subsistence wages in dangerous factories being set up by a new class of industrial capitalists. A series of laws and measures served to force peasants off the land and deprive them of their productive means.

In India, what we are currently witnessing is a headlong rush to facilitate (foreign) capital and the running down of the existing system of agriculture. While India’s farmers suffer as the sector is deliberately being made financially non-viable for them, we see state-of-the-art airports, IT parks and highways being built to allow the corporate world to spread its tentacles everywhere to the point that every aspect of culture, infrastructure and economic activity is commodified for corporate profit.

GDP growth – the holy grail of ‘development’ which stems from an outmoded thinking and has done so much damage to the environment – has been fuelled on the back of cheap food and the subsequent impoverishment of farmers. The gap between their income and the rest of the population, including public sector workers, has widened enormously to the point where rural India consumes less calories than it did 40 years ago. Meanwhile, corporations receive massive handouts and interest-free loans but have failed to spur job creation; yet any proposed financial injections (or loan waivers) for agriculture (which would pale into insignificance compared to corporate subsidies/written off loans) are depicted as a drain on the economy.

Let them eat dirt

Although farmers continue to produce bumper harvests, they are being put out of business by underinvestment, the lack of a secure income and support prices, exposure to artificially cheap imports, neoliberal reforms, profiteering companies which supply seeds and proprietary inputs and the overall impacts of the corporate-backed Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture.

For all the talk of ‘helping’ farmers, the plan is to displace the existing system of livelihood-sustaining smallholder agriculture with one dominated from seed to plate by transnational agribusiness and retail concerns. To facilitate this, independent cultivators are being bankrupted, land is to be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation and those farmers that are left will be absorbed into corporate supply chains and squeezed as they work on contracts, the terms of which will be dictated by large agribusiness and chain retailers.

Some like to call this adopting a market-based approach: a system in the ‘market-driven’ US that receives a taxpayer five-year farm bill subsidy of around $500 billion.

This clearly a con-trick and not the way forward:

“If government can be convinced or forced by the power of the global grassroots to reduce and eventually cut off these $500 billion in annual subsidies to industrial agriculture and Big Food, and instead encourage and reward family farmers and ranchers who improve soil health, biodiversity, animal health and food quality, we can simultaneously reduce global poverty, improve public health, and restore climate stability.” Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association

Well over 300,000 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1997 and millions more are experiencing economic distress. Over 6,000 are leaving the sector each day. And yet the corporate-controlled type of agriculture being imposed and/or envisaged only leads to degraded soil, less diverse and nutrient-deficient diets, polluted water, water shortages and poor health.

Although various high-level reports (as I outlined previously) have concluded that policies need to support more resilient, diverse, sustainable (smallholder) agroecological methods of farming and develop decentralised, locally-based food economies, the trend continues to move in the opposite direction towards industrial-scale agriculture and centralised chains for the benefit of Monsanto, Cargill, Bayer and other transnational players.

The plan is to shift hundreds of millions from the countryside and into the cities to serve as a cheap army of labour for offshored foreign companies, mirroring what China has become: a US colonial outpost for manufacturing that has boosted corporate profits at the expense of US jobs. In India, rural migrants are to become the new ‘serfs’ of the informal services and construction sectors or to be trained for low-level industrial jobs.

Even here, however, India might have missed the boat as jobless ‘growth’ seems to be on the horizon and the effects of automation and artificial intelligence are eradicating the need for human labour across many sectors.

If we look at the various western powers, to whom many of India’s top politicians look to for inspiration, their paths to economic prosperity occurred on the back of colonialism and imperialist intent. Do India’s politicians think this mindset has disappeared? The same mentality now lurks behind the neoliberal globalisation agenda hidden behind terms and policies like ‘foreign direct investment’, ‘ease of doing business’, making India ‘business friendly’ or ‘enabling the business of agriculture’.

Behind the World Bank/corporate-inspired rhetoric that is driving the overhaul of Indian agriculture is a brand of corporate imperialism which is turning out to be no less brutal for Indian farmers than early industrial capitalism was in England for its peasantry. The East India company might have gone, but today the bidding of elite interests (private capital) is being carried out by compliant politicians, the World Bank, the WTO and lop-sided, egregious back-room trade deals.

And all for a future of what – vast swathes of chemically-drenched monocrop fields containing genetically modified plants or soils rapidly turning into a chemical cocktail of proprietary biocides, dirt and dust?

Thanks to the model of agriculture being supported and advocated, India will edge nearer to having more drought vulnerable regions, even more degraded soils (which a is already a major problem) as well as spiralling rates of illness throughout the population due to bad diets, denutrified food, agrochemical poisoning and processed food laced with toxic ingredients.

Monsanto-Bayer, Cargill and other transnational corporations will decide on what is to be eaten and how it is to be produced and processed. A corporate takeover spearheaded by companies whose character is clear for all to see:

“The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture with agribusinesses like Monsanto, WalMart, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and ITC in its Board made efforts to turn the direction of agricultural research and policy in such a manner as to cater their demands for profit maximisation. Companies like Monsanto during the Vietnam War produced tonnes and tonnes of ‘Agent Orange’ unmindful of its consequences for Vietnamese people as it raked in super profits and that character remains.” – Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) could accelerate this process. A trade deal now being negotiated by 16 countries across Asia-Pacific, the RCEP would cover half the world’s population, including 420 million small family farms that produce 80% of the region’s food.

RCEP is expected to create powerful rights an lucrative business opportunities for food and agriculture corporations under the guise of boosting trade and investment. It could allow foreign corporations to buy up land, thereby driving up land prices, fuelling speculation and pushing small farmers out. If RCEP is adopted, it could intensify the great land grab that has been taking place in India. It could also lead to further corporate control over seeds.

The dairy trade could be opened up to unfair competition from subsidised imports under RCEP. According to RS Sodhi, managing director of the country’s largest milk cooperative, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, the type of deals being pushed under the banner of ‘free trade’ will rob the vibrant domestic dairy industry and the millions of farmers that are connected to it from access to a growing market in India.

India’s dairy sector is mostly self-sufficient and employs about 100 million people, the majority of whom are women. The sector is a lifeline for small and marginal farmers, landless poor and a significant source of income for millions of families. Up until now they have been the backbone of India’s dairy sector. New Zealand’s dairy giant Fonterra (the world’s biggest dairy exporter) is looking to RCEP as a way in to India’s massive dairy market. RCEP would give the company important leverage to open up India’s protected market. Many fear that Indian dairy farmers will either have to work for Fonterra or go out of business.

In effect, RCEP would dovetail with existing trends that are facilitating the growth of chemical-intensive farming and corporate-controlled supply chains, whereby farmers can easily become enslaved or small farmers simply get by-passed by powerful corporations demanding industrial-scale production.

RCEP also demands the liberalisation of the retail sector and is attempting to facilitate the entry of foreign agroprocessing and retail giants, which could threaten the livelihoods of small retailers and street vendors. The entry of retail giants would be bad for farmers because they may eventually monopolise the whole food chain from procurement to distribution. In effect, farmers will be at the mercy of such large companies as they will have the power to set prices and will not be interested in buying small quantities from small producers.

Corporate concentration will deprive hundreds of millions of their livelihoods. RCEP is a recipe for undermining biodiverse food production, food sovereignty and food security for the mass of the population. It will also massive job losses in a country like India, which has no capacity for absorbing such losses into its workforce.

Current policies seek to tie agriculture to an environmentally destructive, moribund system of capitalism. RCEP would represent a further shift away from real, practical solutions to India’s agrarian crisis based on sustainable agriculture and which place the small farmer at the centre of the development paradigm. Once you begin to consolidate land, displace the small-scale farm and amalgamate land into larger parcels for industrial-scale agriculture, you implement a more inefficient model of agriculture and undermine food security.

In a future India, people might eventually ask, why did India let this happen when far-sighted and sustained policy initiatives based on self-sufficiency, food sovereignty, smallholder-based regenerative agriculture and agroecology could have been implemented?

They might also ask why was the countryside emptied out and more effort not put into developing rural infrastructure and investing in village-based industries and smallholder farmers?

And not least of all, they might ask why did policy makers buy into neoliberal dogma, the only role of which is to seek to justify a corporate takeover?

Ultimately, it is a case of asking does India want – does any country want – industrial-scale agriculture and all it entails: denutrified food, increasingly monolithic diets, the massive use of agrochemicals, food contaminated by hormones, steroids, antibiotics and a range of chemical additives, spiralling rates of ill health, degraded soil, contaminated and depleted water supplies and a cartel of seed, chemical and food processing companies that seek to secure control over the global food production and supply chain to provide people with low-grade but highly profitable food products.

Solutions to India’s agrarian crisis (and indeed the worlds) are available, not least the scaling up of agroecological approaches which would be a lynchpin of rural development. However, in India (as elsewhere) successive administrations have bowed to and continue to acquiesce to grip of global capitalism and have demonstrated an unflinching allegiance to corporate power. It is unlikely that either the Congress or BJP, wedded as they are to neoliberalism, will ever undertake initiatives for seriously developing agroecological alternatives:

“But even if for argument’s sake… the present governance structure were to embrace agroecological alternatives, the problem of extreme inequality that results from the structural logic of capitalism… would require mitigation. Without tempering the ravages of the market, hunger will continue, as will the disempowerment of small producers. Indeed, an agroecological alternative would simply be co-opted by capitalist relations of production and distribution, with community-based initiatives becoming mere decentralised production points within a supply-chain logic that centralises power and profits in the hands of seed corporations.” – Milind Wani.


Colin Todhunter is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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In those seemingly interminable refugee debates being held in various countries, cruelty is pure theatre. It is directed, stage managed, the victims treated as mere marionettes in a play of putrid public policy and indifferent public officials.  Barriers have been set; barbed wire has been put in place. Open zones such as the European Union are being internally bordered up, the principle of mobility derided and assaulted.   

In all of this, Australia has remained a paragon to be emulated. It first began with tentative steps: the establishment of onshore detention facilities at Villawood, Sydney and Port Headland, Western Australia, in 1991.  Then came that vile concept of mandatory detention, introduced in 1992.  The hobgoblin of offshore detention, financed afar by the Australian tax payer, would come with the Howard government.

The worded rationale since the Hawke years has tended to follow variants of the same, only differing in terms of shrillness and savagery.

“Australia,” came the grave words of the Hawke government, “could be on the threshold of a major wave of unauthorised boat arrivals from south-east Asia, which will severely test both our resolve and our capacity to ensure that immigration in this country is conducted within a planned and controlled framework”. 

The list of obituaries arising from such a policy is growing and should be chiselled into a wall of remembrance.  There is the Kurdish-Iranian refugee Fazel Chegeni, who perished on Christmas Island in November 2015 after escaping the North West Point detention centre.  His state of mental deterioration had been documented, along with three reported attempts at suicide. 

There is the youthful Hamid Kehazaei, who succumbed to sepsis after his request for a medical transfer was sternly refused, only to then flounder before the overgrown resistance of Canberra’s bureaucracy. The details of his maltreatment laid before the Queensland coroner Terry Ryan have proven to be kaleidoscopically torturous: the refusal to supply intravenous paracetamol for two nights in a row; suffering hypoxia; being left unsheltered at the airfield un-sedated.

Screenshot from ABC News

The case of Manus is particularly grotesque, given the decision made by the Papua New Guinea Supreme Court in 2016 that detaining people indefinitely was decidedly illegal, a constitutional violation of personal liberty. Those facilities replacing the camp have done little to arrest the decline of health of the remaining population.

Earlier this week, a Rohingya refugee by the name of Salim was found dead in an apparent suicide, taking to seven the number of asylum seekers and refugees who have met gruesome ends on Manus since July 2013.  He had jumped from a moving bus near the refugee transition centre, and duly struck by its wheels.  The Refugee Action Coalition’s Ian Rintoul was adamant:

“He should not have been taken there in 2013, and he should not have been returned there after he was brought to Australia for medical treatment in 2014.”

Farce became tragedy when a call by a staff member of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to Salim’s spouse revealed, prior to any notification from Australian officials, that her husband had committed suicide.  The worker in question, a certain Kon Karapanagiotidis, was, by his own admission “lost for words”. 

During Question Time, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton (image on the right) exercised his long held approach of rebuking the heart sleeve wearers.

“I’m not going to take a morals lecture from the Greens when it comes to border protection policy.” 

His own department, also adopting another standard line to questions on Salim’s death, deemed it “a matter for the PNG government.” 

What is in place in Australia’s singularly styled gulag is a measure of calculated degradation, a brutal hierarchy of violence manufactured to defeat the spirit and aspiration of the UN Refugee Convention.  Few countries of the nominal democratic world have been so avidly dedicated to this cause, citing counterfeit humanitarian considerations even as the noose – quite literally – is being tightened. 

Adding to the heavy handed attempts by those in Canberra to deter refugees and asylum seekers from contemplating a journey to Australia, resources and services are being trimmed back.  Nait Jit Lam, the UNHCR’s Deputy Regional Representative in Canberra, offered the following observation on May 22:

“With the passage of too many years and the withdrawal or reduction of essential services, the already critical situation for refugees most in need continues to deteriorate.”

Medical care in acute situations is being refused, notably when it requires treatment that would only be possible on the Australian mainland.  The oldest Afghan Hazara held on Nauru, one Ali, is said to have advanced lung cancer.  He is being housed at the Australian-built RPC1 camp, a woefully inadequate, threadbare facility which is bearing witness to his last days.  Doctors have had the ear of the Australian Border Force, but the establishment remains stony towards calls for help.  The Department of Home Affairs has preferred to remind Ali that he best shove off his mortal coil back in Afghanistan.

The growing list of deaths, the burgeoning number of psychological wrecks, the casualty list in what can only be deemed a planned campaign against refugees and asylum seekers, is such that even the extreme centre, the Australian consensus approving such treatment, might be changing.

The Victorian State Labor conference, by way of example, will consider an urgency motion calling on the party, on winning federal office, “to close offshore detention centres, transit centres and other camps on Manus and Nauru within the first 90 days, and to bring all the children, women and men who are refugees or seeking asylum remaining there to Australia.”

As ever, such moves stem from the left wing of the party, those condemned as bleeding hearts or soggily wet with teary sentiment.  But in federal parliament, refugee advocates could get some hope at the remarks made by Labor MP Ged Kearney, fresh from her by-election victory in the Melbourne seat of Batman. 

Still untainted by the wearing grime of the Labor Party apparatus, she could still state in her first speech to the federal parliament that Australia’s refugee policy was not only vicious but corrosive.

“We are a rich country. We can afford to take more refugees. I doubt, however, we can afford the ongoing cost to our national psyche of subjecting men, women, children to years of indefinite detention in camps.”   

Psyches captive to the police mentality that afflicts Dutton and government front benchers happily tolerate such ongoing costs. As would many of those on the opposite of the aisle.  For such political creatures, deterring refugees who arrive outside that planned controlled framework stated by the Labor government of the early 1990s is not merely a job but a duty.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image is from Radio NZ.

Did the movements of “1968” change societies fundamentally worldwide? This article examines “1968” from the perspective of Japanese history. Japan’s “1968” shared such common elements with “1968” in other countries, as the social background, development of visual media, and progress of modernization. This article investigates Japan’s “1968” in light of the common background and characteristics of the movements in Japan and globally. I conclude that “1968” was a product of the resonance of unrelated phenomena throughout the world, and many evaluations of “1968” confuse the general trend of modernization with the specific influences of the movements.


“1968” is said to be the heart of an era in which new social movements rose up “globally”. A book titled 1968 in Europe published in 2008 claimed that “Nobody today seriously doubts that European societies were fundamentally transformed as a result of the events of ‘1968’.”1 In the United States, there seems less of a tendency to emphasize the year 1968 exclusively, noting the rise of the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the women’s movement and others that transformed society in the course of the decade.

I would like to contribute to the discussion of “1968” from the perspective of Japan, drawing on research on the Japanese student and citizen movements in the 1960s. This work was published in a two volume work of 2000 pages 1968 in Japan.2 My previous English language article, “Japan’s 1968”, investigated the characteristics of Japan’s “1968” and the social background specific to Japan.3

In this article, I would like to reflect on the common features of “1968” throughout the world in light of Japan’s “1968”.

1. The Setting

How can we discuss “1968” in the world through the lens of “1968” in Japan? To do so, it is necessary both to identify common elements and show how the global situation affected Japan’s “1968” and vice versa. To do that, it is necessary to recognize the diversity of world phenomena at that time, collectively referred to as “1968”. Not only were the phenomena diverse, but many were also unrelated.

For example, did the people who rose in the “Prague Spring”, the students in Paris, and the Red Guards in China’s Cultural Revolution have direct relationships with one another? Certainly, images of both were broadcast throughout the world, and many Western students were stimulated by the events in Paris and Beijing, and to a lesser extent in Prague. While most participants throughout the world were only dimly aware of the issues that drove the movements elsewhere, the sense that movements were taking place throughout the world, and the spirit of rebellion that animated them, magnified by the visual images of TV, film and mass media, inspired movements elsewhere and conveyed the sense that they were somehow linked. This article considers the processes in which diverse local movements with little knowledge of the causes and character of movements elsewhere came to be viewed as constituent parts of a “global 1968”.

Prague 1968

Indeed, it was often the case that even movements within a single country had little understanding much less direct relationship to other movements unfolding simultaneously. This was certainly true of the diverse groups that would come to be recognized as part of “Japan’s 1968”. Two movements that were widely cited as emblematic of the events of 1968 in Japan are the student movement and anti-pollution movement. It is interesting to note that the National Diet Library in Tokyo holds some 5,000 flyers and pamphlets issued in the course of the student revolt at the University of Tokyo from 1968 to 1969. Most of these artifacts center on issues of student action including seized buildings and criticism of university administrations. Seldom was there mention of the pollution issue.4 Indeed, Ui Jun, the pioneering environmentalist who was then a Tokyo University lecturer, wrote a memoir criticizing the indifference of new left groups to issue of pollution.5 On the other hand, it is striking that the writer Ishimure Michiko, who played an important role in making Minamata disease (mercury poisoning resulting from pollution caused by the discharge of factory wastewater) a cause célèbre throughout Japan and spearheading the movement for redress of Minamata victims, made no mention of the Japanese student movement or the anti-Vietnam War movement in her influential 1969 book.6 These movements would become related to one another in the 1970s, but in 1968 they were no such links.

I have no intention of denigrating these movements by pointing out that they were unrelated to one another at that time. We should not be surprised even to learn that Malcolm X and Rachel Carson personally had no strong interest in each other’s activity at that time. I do not think that such recognition would hurt the evaluation of their contributions. Rather, we should reflect on our framework of thinking if we unconsciously assume that they were linked simply because they were prominent activists in the 1960s. The same is true of various European and Asian movements within and among countries.

In other words, many events that were largely unrelated, and whose participant were even unaware of their mutual existence at that time, subsequently came to be collectively referred to as “1968”. Many books and films are titled “1968” in various countries, but most are just collections of events that happened in that era.

Then what was “1968”? Is it an “invented memory” compiled of simultaneous but largely unrelated events from the perspective of posterity? There were such aspects. However, here I discuss three important structural factors central to grasping the wider context of “1968” in the world including Japan.

  • Media Development
  • Modernization
  • Dislocation of the Cold War order

I will discuss how these three developments affected Japan’s “1968”. The first is widely recognized as important background to the movements in the 1960s. The third refer to the impact of the declining ability of the United States and the Soviet Union to shape the global agenda, and the disruption in the Cold War order.

Let me explain more about the second, modernization. Although the 1960s was a time of economic growth and industrialization, modernization is not limited to these phenomena. According to the sociologist Anthony Giddens, the driving force of modernization is “reflexive monitoring of actions”.7 When humans start to reflect on their actions, they will change their ways of action that were limited by tradition, authority, and community boundaries. In other words, modernization is a process of increasing choices and possibilities. In the early stage of this process, it may lead to liberation from authority, expansion of space for activities, and economic development. However, as this process proceeds, the existence of numerous choices and possibilities may give rise to individualism, instability, and demand for authorities who seem to provide stability. Giddens, Ulrich Beck, and Scott Lash called the latter stage “late modernity” and discussed issues of neoliberalism and globalization such as destabilization of employment and family conflict.8 In this article, I use the term “modernization” drawing on this theory and its representation of Japan’s “1968.”

2. Media Development

Despite the great variety of events that were eventually encompassed in popular understanding of the symbolic events of “1968” underlying all of them were the powerful visual images disseminated through new media, above all TV, that spread rapidly throughout society in Japan and many other countries in the 1960s.

Yasuda Hall, the University of Tokyo, under siege in 1969.

For example, consider the following memorable images: people surrounding a tank during the “Prague Spring”. The battle between the police and helmeted Japanese students at the University of Tokyo under siege. The US Embassy in Saigon occupied by National Liberation Front forces during the Tet Offensive. The photograph of the Earth taken by an Apollo 8 astronaut. Hippies dancing during an American rock festival. These phenomena were quite unrelated. Nevertheless, as people absorbed and shared these images through television, movies or photographs, they became emblematic of “1968”.

In the 1960s, TV rapidly spread throughout the world. The diffusion of TV sets per household reached 80% in 1958 in the United States and in 1963 in Japan. TV spread more slowly in Europe but it reached 200 sets per thousand people in 1965 in West Germany and in 1970 in France.9 On June 25 1967, a special program “Our World” was broadcast simultaneously in 24 countries using communication satellites, and people watched the Beatles in performance. In 1968, color television began to connect the whole world.

People saw images that they had never seen before. Of course many knew little about the situation and background of events occurring in distant areas. Nonetheless, these startling images conveyed the impression that the world was changing. Indeed, as the media environment changed dramatically, it was reasonable that the idea that “the world is changing” spread among people everywhere. The simultaneous broadcast by satellite communication and the photograph of the earth made the idea of ​​”one world” compelling.

Under these circumstances, students and youth in France, Japan and the US among many others watched TV news and photographs of Chinese Red Guards in the years 1966-1969. Of course, many of the students understood little of Chinese politics and society. However, the images of the Little Red Book and Mao Zedong reviewing millions of Red Guards in Beijing excited and inspired many beyond China’s borders.

In Japan in January 1969, a new left group inscribed the Chinese Cultural Revolution slogan “in resistance the truth is born (造反有理)” and raised a photograph of Mao Zedong at the gate of the University of Tokyo. The personal memoir of a student activist from this group reveals that she actually knew nothing about Chinese society and politics but sensed that something “revolutionary” was happening at that time.10 Nevertheless, images of the Red Guards inspired many and conveyed the appearance of an international relationship. In this way, while the media reported on individual movements, participants sensed that they were part of something larger. Perhaps this was also true of various movements throughout the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.

“1968” was not the first time that a change in the media environment created a resonance of various movements. For example, “1848” in Europe was a time when print media were spreading. However, in contrast to print, visual images broadcast in TV or color photo printing could transcend language divisions. It made possible wide geographical influence and had the capacity to stimulate the imagination, while being less demanding in terms of understanding. This resulted in a qualitative change in the mutual resonance of the movements.

Furthermore, new techniques of simultaneous live reporting affected global understanding of contemporary events. On June 15, 1960, a radio reporter broadcast live the anti US-Japan security treaty demonstration. The sounds of explosions of tear gas and firing in the police assault were heard, as were the words of the reporter saying ” I am now broadcasting, but a policeman just beat me over the head” vividly conveying the atmosphere of the moment and the intensity of the clash.11 This was the first episode in Japan of live broadcasting of a social movement. By “1968”, simultaneous live TV broadcasting of social movements would become routine.

Anti-Vietnam War demonstrators in Chicago 1968

Activists were quick to grasp the possibilities of television coverage. Todd Gitlin titled his book on mass media and the new left in the United States “The whole world is watching,” referencing a comment by demonstrators in Chicago in 1968 and picked up and chanted by activists everywhere.12 Japanese activists were also conscious of the media. For example, Japan’s new left groups wore colorfully painted helmets. According to the recollection of a veteran activist, when he asked young activists in his group why they painted their helmets red during 1967 demonstrations, their reply was “red is a good color for television.”13

The movement presence multiplied through the work of the media. One example is the protest of new left groups in January 1968 when the US Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise called for the first time at Sasebo Bay in the south of Japan. The 50,000 demonstrators organized by the Socialist Party and the Communist Party far exceeded the protests by 1,000 or so new left student demonstrators. But television coverage focused on students wearing helmets clashing with the police. The rough handling of demonstrators by the police was televised, and audience sympathy went to the students. One police officer regretted that “we could have done well if TV had not be there.”14

Small groups could gain wide influence if they received TV coverage. This encouraged the movements to focus on visual images. In January 1969, when police and students fought at the University of Tokyo, new left groups raised their flags above Yasuda Hall inviting TV coverage.15 In November 1970, when Minamata disease victims marched in protest at abuse by the Chisso Corporation, they raised black flags with the Chinese character “anger (怨,“On”)” in both an expression of fury at their treatment and a powerful bid to be televised and photographed.

Minamata victims and supporters demonstrate demanding compensation

Changes in movement style also sometimes took the form of ‘extreme’ actions by small groups. Joachim Scharloth points out that terrorism became a “media event” in “1968”.16 Terrorism was previously carried out covertly, but from this time on, some radical groups turned to terrorism with the expectation of media reportage. A Japanese journalist got a phone call from a new left group which threw a Molotov cocktail into the Self Defense Force grounds asking his newspaper to cover of the story.17 TV broadcast the terrorist event simultaneously with live reporting. The March 1970 airplane hijacking by the Japanese Red Army, and the harakiri suicide of right-wing novelist Mishima Yukio at the Tokyo headquarters of the Self Defense Force in November 1970, highlighted this transition.

The fact that the movements were visually appealing, often provocative or exciting, made it possible to capture the attention of a wide range of people, and in some cases to extend the reach of protest nationally and even internationally. The Japanese movements had an impact not only on one another but also on Western movements through international dissemination of visual images such as zigzag demonstrations and helmeted youth clashing with police. If there was little international understanding of the issues that drove the situation in Japan, the vivid sense of protest and the call to action could be conveyed—and shared—across nations and languages. In this way, participants of “1968” and observers throughout the world identified with one another on the basis of a shared desire for liberation from authority.

There were cases in which visual effects had political consequences. The march of Minamata disease victims attracted sympathy of many people throughout Japan and abroad, and Chisso, the company that discharged mercury waste into the water was eventually forced to compensate the people recognized as victims. Students in the Beheiren, anti-Vietnam war civic movement in Japan, who handed out flowers to policemen to display their non-violent civil disobedience had an impact on public opinion with visual images quite different from those of helmeted students clashing with police in their own way spoke more powerfully than words. Elsewhere, the occupation of the American embassy in Saigon by the South Vietnam Liberation Front, while short lived, changed public opinion throughout the world including the United States and Japan with TV images conveying the sense that the powerful US military had been defeated.

However, media events when staged by isolated individuals or small groups did not necessarily lead to systemic social or political change. For example, the LDP, the ruling conservative party in Japan, again won in the general election in December 1969 following the 1968 struggles. Following movements of “1968” in Western developed countries, subsequent elections also often produced results at odds with movement goals, even in cases in which the movement received extensive media coverage.

3. Modernization

The broadcast media was one element of the new market consumption culture indicative of the progress of modernization. Forces of modernization led to myriad changes that impinged powerfully on youth in general, university students in particular. The rapid economic growth and modernization of this period generated intense conflicts that were most evident in the conflict between young and old generations.

The prelude to the student revolt in Japan included rapid changes in the college environment. The rise in college enrollments, coinciding with rapid economic growth, from 8% of high school graduates in 1960 to 20% in 1968, created intense entrance examination competition and tensions over rising tuition. The increase in the number of students was one factor in the decline in the quality of university education which came to be criticized as “Mass Production Education”.

A survey of the Japan teachers’ union in 1964 reported the case of a junior high school which was conducting 320 tests a year to prepare for entrance examination competition. In 1966, the student newspaper of Keio university reported that many courses enrolled over 1000 students in a huge auditorium with a microphone, and the student newspaper of Chūō university estimated that campus space per student was only 0.5 square meters.18 The Keio report was titled “The real situation of Mass Production Education at Keio.” This was the background of the student movement which protested tuition increases and various university administrative policies. Many student activists at the time wrote that intense entrance examination competition and poor quality education first led them to become aware of social issues.19

Class in Auditorium in the 1960s

As Universities expanded in the 1950s and 1960s, university administrations remained unchanged. A small number of administrators made decisions to raise tuition, and closed faculty meetings routinely rejected student demands for educational reform out of hand. Exploitation by professors of graduate students as cheap labor was a big factor behind the student revolt at the University of Tokyo.20 These situations show that the consciousness of older generations had not kept pace with rapid modernization, resulting in intense conflict. These circumstances added to these movements the characteristics of rebellion against the authority of elders and professors.

Japanese students in “1968” criticized professors who preached free thinking from the constraints of authority but imposed their own authority. Giddens and Beck note that one of the features of late modernity is that the spread of modern thinking and science reflexively returns as criticism of the authority that preached the new thinking.

Students also chafed at the declining job opportunities for graduates. In 1953 43% of Japanese college graduates obtained white-collar jobs or positions in big firms (salary men) while only 3.5% worked in lowly sales jobs. But by 1967, the composition had changed to 31% and 19%. A professor estimated that in 1968, of 164,000 Japanese college graduates, only 20,000 obtained jobs in big companies and government. The professor pointed to this situation as background to the student revolt at that time.21

A Japanese newspaper in 1968 reported that similar issues surfaced in the French student movement. It noted that while the number of French university students rose from 170,000 in 1958 to 600,000 in 1968, there were only 23 universities. Some 160,000 were enrolled in Université de Paris and 30,000 in Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. The report noted that the quality of education in France had declined and described the administration of French universities as “very old fashioned as it was in the Napoleonic era.” Along with the increase of university graduates, the quality of job after graduation declined compared with the era when graduates were limited to a small elite. The report described this as the background to the French student revolt of 1968.22

Students of Japan University protesting administrative corruption in 1968.

The progress of modernization increases choices and possibilities but the growing numbers of college graduates resulted in narrowing opportunities and failed expectations for many. This is the reflexive process of late modernity noted by Ulrich Beck.23 The fact that this contradictory situation led students to revolt against authorities was widely shared in the developed countries, contributing to the sense that they were participating in something “large” and important. We might say that “1968” was a critical moment in the appearance of late modernity with its opportunities and contradictions.24

Another aspect of modernization appeared in the organizational structure of the movement. Groups that voluntarily formed networking relationships, rather than traditional hierarchical organizational structures, emerged in Japan as in many countries. This was a period when “network society” or “late modernity” began to appear, in contrast to “Fordist” modernity symbolized by the huge organization of the mid-20th century factory in the United States.

Whereas the older Zengakuren (The national federation of student associations) was a pyramidal organization that maintained the hierarchical leadership of its central committee, the 1968 student movement spearheaded by Zenkyōtō (The collaborative conference of students) was characterized by voluntary networking. The Beheiren (The Citizens League for Peace in Vietnam) movement which attracted many students as well as citizens was also based on voluntary networking.25 These movements claimed direct democracy without formal leadership, fixed organizational structure, or fixed membership.

New media technology at that time facilitated these new forms of networking in Japan. The introduction of simple printing machines and the spread of family telephones made it possible for small groups to utilize communication power that had previously been monopolized by political parties and labor unions. At the universities occupied by students, information about breaking incidents was distributed by flyers printed by simple printing machines, a new technology that became available to activists.26 Urgent actions were organized by communication networks of home telephones that activists called the “telephone web”. The philosopher and activist, Tsurumi Shunsuke, wrote in June 1960, “I never imagined how useful the telephone could be” for organizing the protest campaign against the US-Japan security treaty.27 Oda Makoto, the Beheiren spokesperson, organized a simultaneous anti-Vietnam War demonstration in the United States, Japan, the UK and Ghana in 1965, and wrote “With one phone, we can carry out a unified action in various parts of the world.” “Many activists and intellectuals do not yet realize this new situation.”28

That said, movement activists at that time had complex reactions to these new technologies, products of the market economy and mass production. On the one hand, the development of the media expanded the movement, and jeans and guitars became symbols of the youth culture and the student movement. On the other hand, however, there was a backlash against consumer culture and mass production. In Japan as elsewhere, the “natural” and “organic” became popular, folklore was rediscovered, and books on anthropology attracted many readers. These were also representations of the gap between rapid modernization and people’s consciousness which often had not kept up with the rapid change.

Detlif Siegfried saw anti-consumerism and interest in non-Western culture in “1968” in Europe as “a critique that emerged from modern society itself,” referencing Ulrich Beck.29 I agree with this evaluation, but the elements of late modernity that appeared in “1968” were not limited to such a tendency.

The progress of modernization in this era is seen in three ways. First, new technology and culture enabled more flexible movements. Second, modernization, which brought an increase in college admissions and criticism of authority, and a decline in the quality of education gave rise to the student movement. Third, the gap between modernization and popular consciousness caused conflict between new and old generations, new movements and old hierarchical organizations, modernization and reactions to it. Although activists at that time thought that they were a new generation and thought their activity constituted a new movement, their movement was also a reaction to modernization. All of these showed that features of late modernity were significant in the movement, suggesting that it was the spearhead of social change.

4. Dislocation of the Cold War order

Political directions of the 1968 movements were diverse and often unrelated. Who can say that the participants in the “Prague Spring”, student activists in Tokyo, anti-Vietnam War activists in the United States, and Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution in China shared the same goals?

Nevertheless, they did share a common milieu of media development and rapid modernization. And politically, they shared criticism of the Cold War order.

“Prague Spring”, the May Revolution in Paris, US anti-Vietnam War activists, and the Japanese movement against the US-Japan Security Treaty (Ampo) did not have common political goals and there was little coordination among them. However, in diverse ways, all were critical of the Cold War Order dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States. China’s Cultural Revolution also leveled criticisms of the world order dominated by the United States and the Soviet Union. The Vietnam War became the most compelling international symbol of the Cold War Order with the Vietnamese people viewed as the victims of an East-West struggle. The anti-Vietnam War movement galvanized social movements in the US, Japan, France, Britain and many other countries, notably, but not exclusively, those whose governments supported the US war in Vietnam.

That was another reason why many participants in “1968” shared the sense that their movements were taking part in something “large” occurring throughout the world. The movement in each country rebelled against the “existing order”. The common background was the progress of modernization throughout the world. Even if many activists were only dimly aware of the issues that drove the movements elsewhere, rebellion against the “existing order” in each country inevitably led to resistance against the Cold War Order because each regime was part of the Cold War Order. At the same time, the movements of Western developed countries generated “new left” criticisms of the ruling Communist Party in each country that was part of the Cold War Order. This was patently the case throughout Eastern Europe. Participants in the movement in each country resonated with the movement in other countries. All were rebellions against the existing world order. “Prague Spring” would not be understood simply as a movement to resist authority in the Soviet bloc, but could be viewed sympathetically by Western and Japanese students who simultaneously rebelled against their own governments.

New left groups and Beheiren in Japan were not only critical of their own government’s support for the US war in Vietnam, they were also critical of the Soviet Union and the Japan Communist Party. In Japan, the major postwar social movements had been organized under the leadership of the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. However, partly due to progress of modernization resulting in liberation from authority, and the development of new media technology enabling independent actions, and partly due to the decline in popularity of the Japan Communist Party which had strong connections with the USSR in the 1950s, movements that were independent of the Communist Party flourished.

This situation also led to the emergence of women and minority movements. By the mid-1960s, although women and the Korean ethnic minority were involved in political activities in Japan, many were under the leadership of the Communist Party or the Socialist Party. Women activists found that criticism of gender discrimination was unwelcome in movements that accepted their subordination. Although in the fifties and sixties many women activists worked in the consumer and anti-nuclear movements, their work was often presented as the work of “housewives” or mothers to protect their families, thus reifying the traditional roles of women.30 However, in October 1970, women activists began distributing flyers criticizing gender discrimination inside new left groups. One woman activist wore a white mini skirt emblematic of consumption culture at the time, when distributing flyers which were printed on a simple printing machine.31 The development of new media enabled her activity, and her self-presentation was influenced by the progress of modernization in consumer society. At the same time, her challenge reflected the fact that “new issues” rooted neither in capitalism nor Marxism, had started to gain momentum. The political parties that prioritized the Cold War order had not addressed these issues including the power structures in the movement.

In these contexts, Japanese student activists evaluated positively those movements that seemed independent of the United States and the Soviet Union. Those included the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution, the people in Prague, and the Chinese Cultural Revolution.

In short, Japanese student activists evaluated positively the range of challenges to the existing world order, anything that seemed independent of American and Soviet power, or that challenged or was excluded from existing capitalism and existing socialism. Multiple, and in some cases mutually contradictory, things such as ecology, anthropology, Trotsky, Marcuse, flower and peace, and the armed Che Guevara and Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton, were among myriad global symbols of the movements of “1968 worldwide.

Image on the right: Che Guevara in occupied Kyoto University, 1969.

The late 1960s was a time when the US and the Soviet Union, which had maintained the Cold War order, declined and the order was weakening. The fact that the US, whose economic power was undermined in part as a result of the financial burden of the Vietnam War forcing suspension of the dollar’s conversion into gold, was emblematic of the weakened US position. At the same time, Washington achieved an entente with China that opened the way for US-China mutual recognition, rapidly expanding trade and investment agreements, and China’s resumption of its UN Security Council seat. The results included strengthening both the US and China while weakening the Soviet Union.

The bipolar Cold War Order emerged following the Second World War. Led by the United States and the Soviet Union, each with its own alliance structure, it provided a framework for global geopolitics. The domestic order of many countries also originated from the Second World War. In defeated countries such as Japan and Germany, in countries that were established after World War II such as China and many former colonies, and countries that had experienced occupation and regime change such as France, war memory was the foundation of legitimacy of the domestic order. The clashing memories of the history of World War II was the source of legitimacy both of conservative parties and the communist party in each country, including Japan, Germany and France. The late 1960s was a time when a new generation who did not share the memory of World War II became students and protested against the existing order. In Japan and West Germany, debates over the history of World War II became an important element of “1968”.32

“1968” was the prelude to the collapse of the Cold War order and a milestone in the process leading up to “1989” and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Immanuel Wallerstein and Sharon Zukin have argued that “1968” brought worldwide resistance to the World System which was dominated by the US and the USSR.33 I accept this view, but here I describe how such macroscopic trends shaped the character of the movement in Japan.


So what was “1968”? And what is it to us today?

The process of modernization always transforms the existing order in successive waves. Sometimes, the transformations resonate, like the movement of the mantle in an earthquake. The late 1960s and early 1970s was a time when the international order and domestic orders, which were created after WW II, were changing profoundly in numerous realms. The transformations included the 1971 end of the dollar’s convertibility to gold, the US-China entente, political changes in the Middle East precipitating the 1973 Oil Shock, worldwide protests against the US-led war in Vietnam, and protests targeting the Cold War Order and the “existing order” in each country. It can be said that “1968” was a part of the “earthquake” which resonated in many places throughout the world. It also could be called the tip of the iceberg, the visible portion of “something large” and less visible.

Several factors gave rise to “1968”. Most important were the progress of modernization and new media, particularly the global expansion of TV Also significant was the emergence of a new generation that did not share the memory of World War II, which had legitimated the existing Cold War Order.

After 1968, the development of satellite communications and the penetration of consumption culture were among the factors that would lead to the next “earthquake” in 1989. This was not a story that was limited to Eastern Europe. Actually “1989” in Asia may be said to have begun with the democratization of the Philippines in 1986 and its international TV coverage, followed by the democratization of Korea and Taiwan in 1987. It was not that the domino effect that American leaders had warned of since the 1950s would result in a wave of new Asian Communist regimes. Rather, the dominos marked the collapse of many military dictatorships, which were relics of the Cold War order, with mutual influences provided through CNN television, and information diffusion by facsimile and copy machines in many countries. The wave of democratization in Asia ended in Myanmar in 1988 and Beijing in 1989. However, this wave would be followed by the democratization of Eastern Europe in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the elimination of apartheid in the Republic of South Africa in 1994. This could be considered a series of democratization processes spanning Asia, Europe, and Africa. We might call it a “long 1989”.

And after 2011, numerous movements throughout the world, including the Occupy movement centered in New York and Hong Kong’s umbrella movement, also adopted networking organization without fixed leadership, and effectively utilized new media technology. Movements since 2011 in Tokyo that I have researched also shared these characteristics.34 Although these characteristics were shared with the movements of “1968”, we cannot say that the movements of the 2010s were the direct effect of “1968”. Contemporary Japanese activists knew little about the networking organization mode that spread widely in “1968” in Japan and elsewhere. They conceived of such a non-hierarchical approach as their own invention under new conditions such as the development of Social Networking Services (SNS). This shows the progress of modernization, not the impact of the movement of “1968” in shaping recent activity. Today, flexible organizations and activities without fixed leaders are increasing in many areas other than social movements. These changes have spread due to the collapse of structures of authority, the breakdown of boundaries on activities, and rethinking of traditional behavior. We should not confuse phenomena due to the progress of modernization with influence from the events of “1968.”

Anti-nuclear energy rally in front of the prime minister’s office in Tokyo, June 2012.

If the methods and influences of 1968 did not directly shape contemporary social movements, what was the meaning of “1968”? How should 1968 be evaluated now?

First of all, the movement collectively called “1968” has been overestimated. The largest rally of new left student groups in Japan at that time took place in November 1968. It involved approximately 20,000 participants. Beheiren’s biggest protest action was a demonstration of 70,000 people in June 1969. These are small compared to the anti-nuclear rally in June 2012 (200,000 participants) and the rally protesting the Abe administration’s expansive new security legislation in August 2015 (100,000 participants). The Japanese Red Army, the subject of much media coverage, involved only a few dozen members, though it was capable of violent struggle and a plane hijacking. From the perspective of numbers of participants, some rallies organized by labor unions, the Socialist Party, and the Communist Party in Japan involved millions of people in the late1960s. But in the TV era, they presented far less spectacle and therefore attracted less attention.

Japan’s new left movement may be compared with that in West Germany, where the biggest march was 60,000 in Bonn in May 1968.35 Although the best and only measure to evaluate the impact of the movements may not be the number of participants in large actions, my point is that the movements of “1968” in general, not only Japan’s “1968”, have often been overestimated.

There are several factors that resulted in the overestimation. One factor was the impact of TV coverage. The movement of “1968” included many small activities which were widely reported. Also, as there were many appealing visual images, the media often reused footage, and it continues to do so.

Another factor in the overestimation is that the movement mainly involved students, especially in the developed countries. In particular movements centered on elite university students readily attracted attention, even if their numbers were small. One reason is that among the graduates of leading universities were many people who later became influential in politics, economics, culture and academics. Some of them talked and wrote about the movement then and later. Many of the writers were not leading activists, but their writings tended to exaggerate the impact of the movement. This pattern would be found in Europe and North America as well.

Other factors contributed to the high evaluation of “1968”. These evaluations tend to privilege international collaboration of movements at that time, including the emergence of global feminism, activism among minority groups in the civil rights movement, and ecological activism. 1968 had multiple impacts, some far from the goals of activists. David Harvey has observed that “the movement of 1968 whose goal was greater individual liberty and freedom from state power” paved the way for the subsequent emergence of neo-liberalism.36 Indeed, economic factors including an affinity with neo-liberalism and the emergence of media technology, the Internet, flexible networking organization, and freelance work style may be seen in retrospect as factors whose origins can be traced to “1968”. However, I have some criticisms of these evaluations.

First of all, these evaluations tend to overestimate small or unrelated phenomena at that time. For example, in Japan, Beheiren’s organization of simultaneous demonstrations in four countries mentioned above is often cited as a compelling example of international solidarity activism. This was certainly a pioneering activity, but it was also an exceptional episode. And not only for Japan. The movement did establish international links, especially with the United States and Europe. But most of its activity involved Japanese, and much of it centered on local issues. The evaluation that the movement at the time was international tends to overestimate the role of a limited number of students or intellectuals, and “influence” from televised images abroad.

Second, these evaluations conflate the general trend of modernization with the influence of the movement. Certainly since 1968, gender equality and minority’s rights have advanced while networking type organizations expanded, individualism spread, neo-liberalism emerged, and the Cold War order collapsed. However, it would be an overestimation to regard these outcomes as the impact of the movements of “1968.” These phenomena were products of the progress of modernization, in which “1968” was a part of the process. People may know that morning has come by hearing the rooster’s crow. However, the crow is not the cause of the morning, but a part of the morning, which is caused by the passage of time.

Third, and most important, these are evaluations of historical facts from a contemporary perspective.

For example, as noted at the beginning of this article, the introduction to the book 1968 in Europe states that “Nobody today seriously doubts that European societies were fundamentally transformed as a result of the events of ‘1968’.” However, in Japan, many people regard “1968” as a fad, a moment in the past. This is not due to the fact that the scale of Japanese movements at that time was insignificant. The Japanese new left movement at that time was by no means small in terms of the number of participants compared with the movement in Germany and a number of other countries.

The difference between the evaluations in Japan and Europe is due to the difference of historical trajectory after 1968. In Western European countries and the United States, with the worsening economic situation in the 1970s, there was an expansion of the role of women in the workforce, flexibility of employment, and network organization. By contrast, Japan continued economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s, and politics and society remained stable. For that reason, although “1968” involved comparable scale social movements in Japan, the conservative order did not change significantly. Many Europeans regard the causes of contemporary social change, such as increasing gender equality, flexibility of work culture, and the rise of the new right, as the aftermath of “1968”. By contrast, many Japanese believe that the causes of the same contemporary social changes are the result of the stagnation of the Japanese economy since the burst of the economic bubble in the 1990s and the spread of information technology. However, all of these could be explained by the progress of modernization. From this perspective, which derives from investigation of Japan’s “1968”, it could be said that the evaluation of “1968” in European countries confused subsequent social change with the impact of the events of “1968.”

History is a mirror of the present, and how we understand history depends on our understanding of the present. I am not in a position to comment on the historical dynamics of other countries. My intention is to offer a view from Japanese history to contribute to further discussions and research on global 1968.

I have to add one thing as a Japanese intellectual. The preservation of the Japanese old order in the 1970s and 1980s is the cause of many contemporary problems, notable among them being gender inequality. In Japan, as a result of the strong economy and stable employment in the 1970s and 1980s, social movements in the wake of 1968 were sluggish. It was only after 2011 that social movements gained momentum in Japan in response to the 3.11 nuclear disaster and protracted economic stagnation. In the future, Japanese may say “Nobody today seriously doubts that Japanese society was fundamentally transformed as a result of the events of ‘2011’.” This would not necessarily mean that the movement spurred by the 3.11 Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown itself transformed Japanese society. We are still experiencing modernization, which proceeds differently in each society.

At the same time, how we promote the “positive” elements and mitigate the “negative” elements of modernization is the responsibility of people who are living today, not those who acted in “1968”. It is our responsibility to understand the relationship between “1968” and the present society.

Let me conclude. What was “1968”? My answer is that “1968” was an “earthquake” that was touched off by the modernization of the existing order at that time. And what is “1968” depends on the kind of society that we are making today.


This article is substantially revised from Oguma Eiji, “’1968’ towa Nande Attaka, Nan de Arunoka (What was “1968”, and What is now?),” Shiso, No.1129, May 2018, pp. 6-19.

Oguma Eiji is a professor in the Faculty of Policy Management at Keio University. His research focuses on national identity and nationalism, colonial policy, and democratic thought and social movements in modern Japan.


Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth, “1968 in Europe An Introduction”, in Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth ed. 1968 in Europe, New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, pp. 1-9, p7.

Oguma Eiji, 1968, Tokyo, Shinyōsha, 2009

Oguma Eiji, “Japan’s 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol. 13, Issue 11, No 1; April 1, 2015.

Oguma, 1968, vol.1, p. 229. I examined 23 volumes of about 5000 flyers and pamphlets. However, I could not find any mentions of pollution or Korean minorities except some information of student workshop groups referring to these issues as among the topics they studied.

According to Ui, when he discussed pollution with one of the leaders of the new left group Kaku-Maru, the leader viewed pollution as trivial compared to questions of capitalism. He said, “such a trivial issue will be easily solved if we seize power”. See Ui Jun, “Uragaeshi no Tennō Sei no Replica”, in Watanabe Ichie, Shiokawa Yoshinobu, Oōyabu Ryusuke ed., Shinsayoku 40 Nen no Hikari to Kage, Tokyo, Shinsensha, 1999, pp.297-302.

The term “New Left” in Japan at that time was problematic. Radical groups that committed violent actions and upheld their own understanding of Marxism such as Kaku-Maru and ML were called “Sects” in Japan. “New left” was a general and vague term for the new movements which emerged in the 1960s and were not associated with the communist party. Sects, non-communist civic movements such as Beheiren, and student activists who were not members of sects, were generally called “new left” in the mass media. However, some intellectuals called sects “new left”, while others did not. In addition, student activists at that time often moved from one group to another, such as from Beheiren to a Sect. I use the term “new left” in the meaning of non-communist leftists in general including Beheiren and “new left groups” to include sects in this article.

6 Ishimure Michiko, Kugai Jōdo, Tokyo, Kōdansha, 1969.

7 Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge, Polity Press, 1990.

8 Ulrich Beck, Anthony Giddens, and Scott Lash, Reflexive Modernization: Politics, Tradition and Aesthetics in the Modern Social Order, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1994.

9 Göran Therborn , European Modernity and Beyond: The Trajectory of European Societies, 1945-2000, London, Sage Publications, 1995, p.142.

10 See Kashiwazaki Chieko, Taiyō to Arashi to Jiyu wo, Tokyo, Nobel Syobō, 1969. The new left group known as the Shagaku Dō ML faction (known as ML), claimed that it was employing Maoism.

11 This is recorded in Tsuji Kiyoaki ed. Shiryo Sengo 20 Nen Shi : Seiji, Tokyo, Nihon Hyoronsha, 1966, p. 164. On the media environment and its impact on the anti US-Japan security treaty movement of 1960, see Chapter 12 of Oguma Eiji, Minshu to Aikoku, Tokyo, Shinyōsha, 2002.

12 Todd Gitlin, The Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1980.

13 Mikami Osamu, 1960 Nendai Ron 2, Tokyo, Hihyōsha, 2000, p.81.

14 Oguma, 1968, vol.1, p.530.

15 An activist at Tokyo University criticized the new left groups, recalling that “It was highly regrettable that our activity provided publicity for new left groups.” NHK ed. Chisso Minamata, Todai Zenkyoto, Vol.3 of Series Sengo 50 Nen Sono Toki Nihon ha, Tokyo, NHK Publications, 1995, p.339.

16 See Joachim Scharloth, “’1968’ and Mass Media”, in Shisō, No.1129, May 2018, Tokyo, Iwanami Syoten, pp.13-145, p.139.

17 Miyamoto Mitsugu, “Keishichō Kisha Club Monogatari,” in Mainichi Shimbun ed. Rengō Sekigun, Òkami Tachi no Jidai, Tokyo, Mainichi Shimubunsha, 1999, pp. 290-291, p290.

18 On these reports, see Oguma “Japan’s 1968” and Chapter 1 of Oguma Eiji, 1968, vol.1.

19 On these memoire of activists, see Chapter 2 of Oguma Eiji, 1968, vol.1.

20 See Chapter 10 of Oguma, 1968, vol.1.

21 On these statistics, see Chapter 2 of Oguma, 1968, vol.1. The estimation of the professor is Miura Shimon, “Nihon Daigaku yo Amaeru Nakare”, Chūōkōron, vol. 83, issue 8, August 1968, pp. 287-294. Miura was a professor of Japan University where student revolt was strong.

22 Mainichi Shimbun, Student Power, Tokyo, Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1968, p130, 131. This book was a compilation of Mainichi Newspaper’s articles on student movements in Japan and the world.

23 See Chapter 6 of Ulrich Beck, Risko Gesellschaft, Frankfurt, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1986. English translation is Ulrich Beck, Risk Society, Towards a New Modernity, London, Sage Publications, 1992.

24 As I mention in the later, Detlef Siegfried mentioned Ulrich Beck when he evaluates anti-consumerism and interest on non-Western culture in “1968” as “a critique that emerged from modern society itself”. I agree this evaluation but the features of late modern are not limited within these kind of “positive” elements. This article is also discussing “negative” elements of late modern, such as neoliberalism, which has been argued that its origin was “1968”. 

25 On Beheiren, see Chapter 15 of Oguma, 1968 , vol.2 and Thomas R. H. Havens, Fire Across the Sea: The Vietnam War and Japan 1965–1975. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1987.

26 The simple printing machine was called “Gari Ban Insatsu Ki” in Japanese, and the technique (Gari-Kiri) of using this machine was critical to activists at that time.

27 Oguma Eiji, Minshu to Aikoku, op. cit., p. 522.

28 Oda Makoto, “Sekai he Hiraku Undō wo”, in Beheiren ed. Shiryō Beheiren Undō, vol.1, Tokyo, Kawade Shobo Shinsha, 1974 (the original text was written in 1965), pp. 12-14, p.14.

29 See p.68 of Detlef Siegfried, “Music and Protest in 1960s Europe”, in Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth ed. 1968 in Europe, New York, Palgrave Macmillan op cit., pp. 57-70.

30 For example, Shufu Rengo Kai (Housewives association) which was established in 1948 as a consumer movement, and Nihon Haha Oya Taikai (Japan Mother ‘s Association) which was established in 1955 as an anti-nuclear weapon movement, claimed that they were only aiming to protect their family without any political ideology. That was a strategy to compromise with anti-communism conservative local leaders and attract conservative women.

31 See Chapter 17 of Oguma, 1968, vol. 2.

32 The attitude of the new left toward article 9 in the Japanese Constitution was complex. Article 9 was enacted by the United States to prevent Japanese rearmament and militarization, and the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party has long sought to amend it, while the Communist Party and Socialist Party supported it. The new left after 1970 criticized Japan’s war actions, but said little about Article 9. For them, both the Constitution, including Article 9 and the Communist Party that supported it, were part of the “existing order.” New left students preferred to proclaim their movement as “anti-war” and privileged regime change rather than a “peace” movement that sought to maintain the existing order. Some sympathized with the right wing novelist Mishima Yukio because he declared his opposition to the existing order including the Constitution, which was something they could not say openly. The intellectuals who experienced World War II and became leaders of Beheiren were critical of this trend among young. See Chapter 14 and 15 of Oguma, 1968, vol. 2.

33 Immanuel Wallerstein and Sharon Zukin, “1968, Revolution in the World-System: Theses and Queries”, Theory and Society, Vol. 18, No. 4 (July, 1989), pp. 431-449.

34 Oguma Eiji,  “A New Wave Against the Rock: New social movements in Japan since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown,” The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol. 14, Issue 13, No 2; July 1, 2016.

35 Martin Klimke, “West Germany”, in Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth ed. 1968 in Europe, New York, Palgrave Macmillan op cit., pp. 97-110.

36 David Harvey,“Neo-Liberalism as Creative Destruction,”Geografiska Annaler, vol. 88, Issue 2, June 2006, pp145-158, p.151.

All images in this article are from the author unless otherwise stated.

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Featured image: Apo Island seen from Negros

When Europeans first visited the east Atlantic seaboard, the hyperabundance of cod would not go unnoticed. In 1602, English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold named the peninsula, where the Nauset and Wampanoag people lived, Cape Cod after its fish stocks.

The Grand Banks of Newfoundland and Georges Bank of Massachusetts and Nova Scotia were immensely rich fishing grounds that were plundered by the early 1990s. Subsequently, a moratorium was imposed on the fisheries in hopes of recovery. [1]

In the case of the Grand Banks, one analysis laid the blame squarely on technology, draggers, factory trawlers and “the expansionary dynamics of capitalism [that] caused Canadian vessels to scour the seas for ever increasing profit…” [2] “[O]verfishing, primarily driven by the capitalist ethic, was one of the major causes of the collapse of the North Atlantic Cod fishery.” [3], [4]

In his book, The Plundered Seas, Michael Berrill called the Grand Banks and Georges Bank maybe the saddest story of overfishing. [5] Berrill recognized the problem of protecting straddling stocks, as projections of the Grand Banks were outside Canada’s EEZ; moreover, Spain and the EU ignored the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization quotas. [6]

Worldwide, Berrill pointed to a peak in captured fish stocks in 1989, that signaled a maximum sustainable global catch having been approached. [7] The FAO concurred, finding that “unregulated fisheries were often leading to resource depletion.” [8] Given that the global fisheries are considered important for the food security and nutritional needs of the world’s population [9] this should be a cause for concern.

Berrill’s solution was the management of Large Marine Ecosystems. [10]

There is much evidence for the efficacy of marine reserves and site management. For example, crab fishery data from 1996 to 2013 indicated that the decrease in catches after closure to trawling and gillnetting was significantly greater outside than inside closure zones. [11]

In the face of uncertainty, adherence to the precautionary principle seems prudent. [12] Prudent and logical, but not easy.

“Fishers, like most other people, don’t like to be managed at all,” Berrill noted. [13]

Consequently, rules to protect the environment and its ecosystems are faced with difficulties posed by cheating, lack of enforcement, and insufficient funding. [14]

To overcome this these challenges, Berrill advocated that the marine reserves for protecting fish stocks should be managed by local communities. [15]

Apo Island: Community management of a marine sanctuary

Among the over 7,000 islands in the Philippines, lies Apo Island, a diminutive tropical island, nestled at the bottom of Cebu and southeast from nearby Negros. A sign on Apo Island’s main beach informs that the island is 72 hectares of protected landscape and 619 hectares of protected seascape.

The seascape includes 106 hectares of coral reef. The reserve lies on the south-eastern side of Apo Island and was established in 1982 as a no-take area. It consists of 22.5 hectares along a 0.45 km stretch of the island that represents about 10% of the coral reef. Fishing is the major income-generating activity in the area.

The island is distinctive. There are no roads or motorized vehicles. You get around by walking. Electricity is available only from 6 PM to 10 PM each day. All the lodgings are simple backpacker style. To some this island is paradise.

Main thoroughfare on Apo Island

But people in paradise must not be complacent as a sign affixed to the side of a thatched bamboo hut warns. Titled “Threats to Philippine Biodiversity,” those listed were deforestation, mining, hunting and wildlife trade, pollution, population growth, lack of education, and illegal fishing.

Apo Island is very dependent on fishing for sustenance. But over the years, a decline in catch was noticed and fishers were having to venture farther offshore to catch fish.

Apo Island found a solution: the establishment of a marine sanctuary. This venture was led by Dr. Angel Alcala, a marine scientist from Silliman University. Apo Islander Mario Pascobello, owner of a family-operated diving and homestay business, told of the sensitive negotiations to persuade fisherfolk to accede to a sanctuary and halt deleterious fishing practices among them dynamite fishing, cyanide fishing, muro-ami, and using nets with overly small mesh.

Pascobello related that initially the islanders agreed to 10 percent of the waters being designated a marine sanctuary. When they results turned out favorably, with an increase in near-shore catch, the Apo Islanders agreed to expand the sanctuary.

Pascobello noted that the Apo Island success has led to the establishment of over one thousand marine sanctuaries throughout the Philippines. Pascobello even was invited to Bunaken Island in Indonesia to share the Apo Island experience that helped to set up a marine reserve there.

Image on the right: Blue sea star on Apo Reef

Apo Island is indeed a picturesque underwater realm. This I experienced on several dives, from finning over a sandy plain speckled with gently bubbling vents that belied the volcanic origin of the island to admiring the kaleidoscopic color provided by nature’s marine garden of hard and soft corals — all this backdropped by a clear blue seascape. There are a multitude of sea creatures to be encountered. Anemonefishes danced in their namesake homes, sea snakes poked their heads under coral ledges in search of a meal, sea turtles glided by in ungainly fashion, while schools of big-eye trevallies and barracuda rode the currents of the outer reef. Apo Island is a testament to restoring a vibrant fishing ground, preserving the environment for future generations, and creating economic opportunities through tourism.

Turtles abound in the waters surrounding Apo island

Pascobello averred that community leadership, community monitoring, and education are the keys to the success of the marine reserve.

A 2018 UBC study suggests caution, finding that destructive illegal fishing practices still persist in the Philippines. It seems increased vigilance along with continuing education are ever more needed.

Nonetheless, Apo Island is a testament to land and marine sanctuaries as a winning proposition for the entire community.


Kim Petersen is an avid scuba diver and former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: [email protected]. Twitter: @kimpetersen. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.


  1. It may well be that a recovery is underway, as there are signs that the the cod stocks are bouncing back. See Aaron Beswick, “The cod are coming back to Newfoundland — and they’re eating the shrimp that had taken over,” National Post, 23 March 2017.
  2. Fred Mason, “The Newfoundland Cod Stock Collapse: A Review and Analysis of Social Factors,” Electronic Green Journal, 1(17): 4-5.
  3. Fred Mason, 7.
  4. In his book 2030: Confronting Thermogeddon in our Lifetime (Arcade Publishing, 2003), Robert Hunter told of an Atlantic fishboat captain who admitted that every country’s fishers had knowingly pillaged the east coast cod for the sake of immediate personal gain.
  5. Michael Berrill, The Plundered Seas: Can the World’s Fish Be Saved? (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1997): 124.
  6. Michael Berrill, 125-129.
  7. Michael Berrill, 2.
  8. FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2016, 83.
  9. FAO, 200.
  10. Michael Berrill, 40-56.
  11. Kate Kincaid, George Rose, “Effects of closing bottom trawling on fisheries, biodiversity, and fishing communities in a boreal marine ecosystem: the Hawke Box off Labrador, Canada,” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2017, 74(9): 1490-1502.
  12. Michael Berrill, 55-56.
  13. Michael Berrill, 57.
  14. Michael Berrill, 38-59.
  15. Michael Berrill, 83-84.

All images in this article are from the author.

Malaysia: Debts and the Push for Reforms

May 28th, 2018 by Dr. Chandra Muzaffar

On 21 May 2018, Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad disclosed that Malaysia’s debt has reached more than 1 trillion ringgit. The next day, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng  elaborated that the debt to GDP ratio stood at 80%.  However, he also emphasised that “in the financial sector capitalisation is high, non-performing loans are low, liquidity in the capital market is high. The fundamentals are there but we need to improve the fiscal situation.”  One should add that Malaysia has also accumulated foreign reserves to the tune of 110 billion US dollars which can finance 7.7 months of retained imports.

If the Pakatan Harapan government has been candid about the debt situation, it is because it is sincere about transparency and accountability. These are important traits of good governance. Its predecessor through partial revelation of statistics gave the impression that the debt to GDP ratio was only 50.8% 

There is an earnest attempt on the part of the present national leadership to overcome the debt problem. Its determination to get to the root of the 1MDB scandal is a manifestation of that commitment. If it can recover some of the loot, it would alleviate the financial situation to an extent. 

Dr. Mahathir and his team are also trying very hard to reduce public expenditure.  Entities and departments such as SPAD,JASA and the Malaysian External Intelligence Organisation are being abolished. The contracts of some 17,000 political appointees have been terminated. A leaner Cabinet has agreed to a 10% salary cut.

In this connection, the abolition of the tax-payer supported National Professors Council (MPN) has elicited criticism from some academics. Their criticism has little merit. Research that the State deems necessary can always be undertaken by universities and research institutes through academic clusters and the like. What the State should do is to increase funding for solid research activities. The MPN from a research perspective is superfluous. 

While a handful of academic elites may not be able to appreciate the larger challenge facing the nation, it is significant that ordinary citizens have chosen to step forward to help the government tackle the debt problem. A couple of them have launched initiatives of their own to mobilise funds from the general public.  Private endeavours of this sort may not yield very much but one hopes that they will inspire well-heeled individuals and rich corporations to voluntarily contribute to a national fund that will boost public coffers. 

Government leaders and planners should also seize the opportunity provided by the debt problem to affect some fundamental changes to the economy. Since domestic debt is one of the contributory factors to our national debt, a serious attempt should be made to increase the wages of the B40 and M40 categories substantially. This should be accompanied by more systematic endeavours to elevate the skill level of our workers and enhance their productivity. Identifying new sources of wealth through innovation would be priority as we seek to liberate ourselves from the debt burden. All this would be part of a larger mission to create a just society through the redistribution of wealth as envisaged by the Rukunegara. 

Beyond debt and the economy, Pakatan Harapan leaders are also talking about rescinding laws such as the Sedition Act, the Prevention of Crime Act ( Poca) and the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA), apart from abolishing the mandatory death sentence. The Minister of Home Affairs, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, has also promised to look at provisions in the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma), Peaceful Assembly Act 2012, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 ( Pota). Changes in these laws would help to create a new atmosphere that is more conducive to the flourishing of human rights and human dignity.   

Based upon intentions and actions so far, the Pakatan government is undoubtedly reform oriented. This is why civil society groups that have always advocated reform should lend their support to those aspects of government policy that have the potential of affecting change that will benefit the people. At the same time however they should not hesitate to admonish moves which are obviously detrimental to the values and principles of governance that the Pakatan itself claims to espouse.  What this means in concrete terms is that while a pardon for a political leader may be defensible from a humanitarian perspective interpreting it as a repudiation of  earlier judicial verdicts may have far-reaching implications for the system of governance itself. Likewise, one wonders why a senior Minister had to be sworn in when he is facing a trial related to issues of integrity?

There are other concerns. Why have Ministers from Sabah and Sarawak not been incorporated into the Cabinet almost 20 days after the May 9th General Election? What sort of impact does it have upon people in the two states? Certain crucial portfolios such as Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Sports and Youth have yet to be filled. Equally important, vague niceties in its manifesto aside, what is the Pakatan’s thinking on national integration or on the role of Islam and other religions in the public sphere?   

It is incumbent upon civil society groups to raise these questions. To play this role effectively, they have to remain independent of the State even if they are on the same page with the State on various issues. The powers-that-be should understand and empathise with their independence. They should view it as a vital dimension of a thriving democracy and of their own quest for justice and reform.       


Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yayasan 1Malaysia. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research.

Australia’s China Syndrome

May 23rd, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Syndromes can make for cringe worthy, nervous laughter.  To see the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, struggle with reconciling China the bully of influence with China the resource hungry friend supplied the press with one such spectacle on Tuesday morning.  Larded with suffocating clichés, Turnbull could speak of the greatest multicultural society on earth (forget the United States or any other comparisons) and those million or so members of the Australian-Chinese family who had made Australia what it is.  Lurking, as ever, is the next diplomatic storm, and the next allegation, of Chinese influence in Australia. 

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has been doing his own bit to ruffle Australian policy.  Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang quoted Wang’s remark that

Australia “take off tinted glasses [and] see China’s development from a positive perspective”. 

He also spoke of the “difficulties” that had beset relations between the countries “which even inflicted impacts on bilateral cooperation in some respects.”

Australia’s own Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has been very busy keeping her own tinted glasses on. 

“I get on very well with Foreign Minister Wang Yi, we’ve known each other for a very long time.” 

Recent discussions with Wang were “very warm and constructive”.  Pure deceptive theatre indeed. 

Within Australia’s own parliament, members are itching to lob grenades at China’s channels of influence, a tendency that is now producing a form of avid competition.  Andrew Hastie, chair of the intelligence and security committee, availed himself of parliamentary privilege to out a certain “Co-conspirator 3 or CC-3” from the shadows, a person familiar to both the Liberal and Labor parties. 

Businessman Chau Chak Wing, it seems, had not only busied himself lining the pockets of both sides of the parliamentary aisle to the tune of some $200,000 (donations are not bribes, it seems); he had also been attempting to woo the former president of the UN General Assembly, John Ashe, with a tidy sum.  He had, in Hastie’s words of forced concern, “close contact with the United Front, the influence arm of the Chinese Communist Party in 2007”.

“I share it with the house because I believe it to be in the national interest.  My duty, first and foremost, is to the Australian people and the preservation of the ideals and democratic traditions of our Commonwealth.” 

The Chinese Communist Party, Hastie claimed, was “working to covertly interfere with our media, our universities and also influence our political processes and public debates”.

While such revelations are delivered with a sense of heavy moral responsibility, much of it is stretched.  Trade Minister Steve Ciobo was almost dismissive in claiming that the content was hardly novel.  Turnbull dumped some cold water on Hastie’s fire by claiming that “the specific allegations that were made… were not new.” But getting on the China bandwagon of condemnation is all the rage.  Parliament has already sought to curb that vague and immeasurable term “influence” with legislation that muddies rather than clears the water.  When the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 was introduced, it signalled a new front in an inchoate war that, on closer inspection, merely looks like a good stab at civil liberties and an attempt to harness paranoia.  

A “new and balanced secrecy regime” criminalising the disclosure of “inherently harmful information” was introduced alongside “offences that criminalise covert and deceptive activities of foreign actors that fall short of espionage but are still intended to interfere with our democratic systems and processes or support the intelligence activities of a foreign government.”

Such words are hard going in the wake of one overwhelming reality: Australia’s satellite status and broader importance in the US imperium.  Should Australia ever wish to bend over for Beijing – and here, Hastie and company should take comfort – a few Pentagon goons are bound to be dispatched Down Under to right matters.  Washington’s indifference to sending an ambassador of clout, or any ambassador at all for some eighteen months is simply an acceptance that the good politicians of Canberra will behave.  Head boys and girls are simply not required. 

Acknowledgment of Australia’s efforts has also been forthcoming.  One senior official in the Pentagon with a brief covering US defence policy in Asia, Randy Schriver, was rather pleased by the spurt of legislative activity seeking to rein in those nasty foreign influences. 

“I think [Australia’s] woken up people in a lot of countries to take a look at Chinese activity within their own borders.” 

The country had “done us a great service by publicising much of this activity and then taking action.”  With such rounded approval from empire, what could go wrong?

The field of political influence will always be a hostage to trends.  As things stand, Australian citizens are being treated to daily doses of anti-Chinese hysteria.  It is hardly surprising that such distractions are necessary consumption for a government desperate to keep its oar in regarding the electorate.  Villains are always necessary in political bouts, even if they pay your bills, buy your products, and fill the coffers.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Former long-time Prime Minister and nonagenarian Mahathir bin Mohamad returned to office after incumbent Najib Razak suffered a humiliating loss that many analysts attribute to the multibillion-dollar 1MDB corruption scandal that he’s implicated in. A whistleblower leaked incriminating documents about this scam a couple of years ago that have since been used as the basis for the US Department of Justice to launch a multicontinental criminal investigation into what really happened. Suffice to say, the ordinary problems of most Malaysians took on a qualitatively new character after they began to believe that their situations wouldn’t be as bad had the government reinvested the billions of dollars that it’s accused of stealing into the economy like it originally promised it would do through that fund. Naturally, the civil society anti-corruption campaign that emerged in the wake of this ended up unseating Najib and could even lead to formal charges against him now that he’s no longer in power.

Prime Minister Mahathir campaigned on a platform of investigating every deal that his predecessor signed, including Silk Road ones with China such as the East Coast Rail Line (ECRL), and this has led to concern that Kuala Lumpur might renege on some of these contracts on the pretext that they were agreed to on corrupt pretenses that don’t serve Malaysia’s true national interests. Some of the projects have indeed proven to be controversial, such as the ECRL that Prime Minister Mahathir railed against on the campaign trail, but irrespective of this particular project’s ultimate fate, it’s highly unlikely that Malaysia will become “anti-Chinese” because its latest and previously longest-serving leader has a proud multipolar track record. What the new government wants to do is restore a sense of balance to Malaysia’s international economic relations that avoids any perceived (key word) overreliance on China, especially after Trump pulled out of the US-led TPP that the country was signatory to during his first day in office.

These steps to strike a multipolar middle ground that’s neither anti-Chinese nor pro-American is an emerging trend among some countries that altogether points in the direction of creating a new Non-Aligned Movement (or Neo-NAM) in the New Cold War to replace the presently existing but practically defunct one that was inherited from the Old Cold War. This time around, however, instead of balancing between capitalism and communism, this “third force” would walk the line between the American-led and Chinese-led globalization models, picking and choosing the best projects offered from each of them in order to acquire the most advantageous development portfolio for their specific national interests. For example, while the ECRL veritably fulfills a long-term strategic significance in the grand sense of multipolarity by helping Chinese traders avoid a potentially US-blockaded Strait of Malacca, the medium-term costs imposed on the Malaysian economy through loans and other means have understandably become a lightning rod of controversy in the country.

It’s for these reasons why Malaysia under the returned leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir is expected to remain multipolar, even if it changes the manner in which it has hitherto expressed this geostrategic vision by rebalancing its relations with China and the US.


Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: Bt cotton. (Sources: Abhishek Srivastava / Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

In an another legal blow to Monsanto, India’s Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Delhi High Court’s ruling that the seed giant cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.

Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robert Fraley, who just announced that he and other top executives are stepping down from the company after Bayer AG‘s multi-billion dollar takeover closes, lamented the news.

Fraley tweeted,

“Having personally helped to launch Bollgard cotton in India & knowing how it has benefited farmers … it’s sad to see the country go down an anti-science/anti-IP/anti-innovation path…”

Monsanto first introduced its GM-technology in India in 1995. Today, more than 90 percent of the country’s cotton crop is genetically modified. These crops have been inserted with a pest-resistant toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Citing India’s Patents Act of 1970, the Delhi High Court ruled last month that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented, thereby rejecting Monsanto’s attempt to block its Indian licensee, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd., from selling the seeds.

Because of the ruling, Monsanto’s claims against Nuziveedu for unpaid royalties have been waived, as its patents are now invalid under Indian law. Royalties will now be decided by the government.

Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, who is known for her fierce activism against corporate patents on seeds, called the top court’s move a “major victory” that opens the door “to make Monsanto pay for trapping farmers in debt by extracting illegal royalties on BT cotton.”

She also said in a video Monday in front of the Supreme Court,

“Our sovereignty is protected, our laws are protected. Our ability to write laws in the public interest [and] for the rights of farmers through the constitution are protected.”

“The Earth will win. Seed will win. Monsanto will lose,” Shiva added.

A Monsanto India spokesman told Reuters the case will be submitted for an expedited preliminary hearing on July 18.

“We remain confident on the merits of the case. India has been issuing patents on man-made biotech products for more than 15 years, as is done widely across the globe,” the spokesman said.


Featured image: Old growth forest in the vicinity of Kingvale Station, near rivers that flow into the Great Barrier Reef. (Source: Australian Conservation Foundation)

Federal officials plan to back the destruction of almost 2000 hectares of pristine Queensland forest in a move that threatens the Great Barrier Reef and undermines a $500 million Turnbull government rescue package for the natural wonder.

A draft report by the Department of the Environment and Energy recommends that the government allow the mass vegetation clearing at Kingvale Station on Cape York Peninsula. The area to be bulldozed is almost three times the size of the combined central business districts of Sydney and Melbourne.

The draft recommendation comes despite the department conceding the native forest is likely to contain endangered species, and despite expert warnings that runoff caused by the clearing may damage the reef.

Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg will make a final ruling on the proposal. It will test his long-stated willingness to protect the reef from poor water quality, which is triggered by land clearing.

Last month the government announced it would spend more than $500 million to protect the reef, including $201 million to improve water quality through better farming practices.

Read complete article here.


Nicole Hasham is environment and immigration correspondent for The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times and WAtoday.

The Commercial Heavens: The New Australian Space Agency

May 18th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Politicians have been clambering to the top extolling something that has yet to exist.  Scientists are claiming a job boom that has yet to transpire.  Much fantasy and speculation dominate the creation of Australia’s Space Agency, an organisation that remains inchoate despite being launched on Monday by the appropriately named Michaelia Cash.

Former CSIRO boss Megan Clark has found herself heading the zygotic agency.

“You ask yourself – why are we doing that?  And it’s really to improve the lives of all Australians and I think to inspire Australians about what Australia really can do in the space industry.”

Space has been turned into patriotism, cash and incentives; and there is a sense that Australia has been lagging.  No matter, suggests Andrew Dempster of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research – the time is ripe for celestial exploitation.  “

It seems clear there is a real appetite on both sides of politics for an agency for our times, that embraces the excitement being generated by ‘Space 2.0’ – that is, commercial entities, low-cost access to space and avoiding some of the baggage of the older legacy agencies.”

This point was more, rather than less iterated by Innovation Minister Cash, who launched the ASA in Perth on Monday with a disconcerting, grating enthusiasm that should have terrified scientists.

“Space technologies are not just about taking people to the moon, they open up opportunities for many industries, including communications, agriculture, mining, oil and gas.”

The report from the Expert Reference Group behind Australia’s Space Industry capability is every bit as enthusiastic as Cash, seeing space as having very terrestrial effects (“a key contributor to the growth and diversification of the Australian economy”).

“No longer restricted to government agencies and budgets, space has become a fast-growing and fiercely competitive commercial sector”.

This is a field of estimates and projections, of wistful glances at budgets, investments and outlays.  Clark provides an elastic forecast: “We think we can add another 10 to 20 thousand jobs to 2030.”  The Australian federal government put the value of the Australian space sector in 2015-2016 at $3.94 billion. Of that, a dominant 80 percent of contributions came from the private sector.

Australia remains a curiosity in one fundamental respect: a country continent so ideally placed for observation yet indifferent historically to having its own agency, ever in the bosom of NASA and an annex of broader power goals. Subordination to other space programs has tended to be normal, most notably the role played during the Apollo 11 moon walk by such radio telescopes as “The Dish” at Parkes.

Now, money-greased collaboration is the watchword.  Other agencies and entities are being sought.  The market of competitors has swollen the field: the China National Space Administration, the Indian Space Research Organisation, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, have made Australian entrepreneurs and officials envious and eager.

The head-over-heels delight that Australia is getting its own space agency has not masked that old problem with organisations of national prestige.  Nothing is ever too big to be diminished by the pettiness of political dispute. Disputes and disagreements have arisen.  Parochialism tails the scientist’s endeavour, and bureaucracy risks insinuating itself into the experiment and initiative.

Some cities and states feel more suited to host the bulk of the ASA’s incipient activities; sites are being fought over with playground brutishness. The premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklianhas dreams of ASA being placed in precinct known as “the Aerotopolis”, which will feed both her narrow understanding of science and tailored electoral ambitions.

“NSW has the dish (at Parkes) and we should be the home of space innovation.”

Clark has pitched for the national capital, Canberra, a point that has been seen as eminently sensible.

“We need to engage internationally and also to co-ordinate nationally and part of that activity (is) best to be centred on Canberra.”

Well noted, though the Australian capital has shown a certain tendency to outsource its public service jobs to other regions, a point that might risk a resource deficiency.

The last time a local Australian effort was made to supply administrative form to the exploitation of space came in the 1980s.  The Australian Space Board remained a project in miniature, an office hiding within the Department of Industry, Technology and Commerce.  After ten years, it vanished with little trace, killed off by bureaucratic stasis and boredom.

Other centres – NASA, which runs 11 research centres, and the European Research Agency, which has nine, have eye-popping resources that the ASA can only dream of.

“This is not a model,” claims Alice Gorman, Director on the board of the Space Industry Association of Australia, “that is sustainable.”

Despite the question of sustenance and sustainability, the picture now may well be different, though hardly in the broader name of science per se.  The Australian Strategic Policy Institute has defence on its mind in Australia establishing “a sovereign space industry” to make the country “an active space power”.  The ASA also promises to be a mercantilist organisation for the skies more than the radical, insatiable discoverer of the galactic frontier.  This is no time for scientific curiosity for its sake.  Pocket books and bank balances rather than petri dishes are the order of the day.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image is from The Conversation.

Revisiting “Love Serenade” in Australia

May 8th, 2018 by Dr. Binoy Kampmark

Australian life can seem defiantly absorbed, the defiance induced by insularity and isolation.  The characters that inhabit the continent are mere specks of life before the enormity that is its nature, one bound, at any point in time, to swallow them up.

Those in the city are thereby invested with a certain transcendental life, the big smoke adventure energetic and lusty. In a place like Sunray on the Murray River, the town of Shirley Barrett’s 1996 Love Serenade, a person from a larger city famed in radio descends from Olympus, which is, in truth, merely the Queensland town of Brisbane.  Two sisters, Dimity (Miranda Otto) and older sibling Vicky-Ann (Rebecca Frith) perform roles of catching the subject in question.

Is thrice divorced disc jockey Ken Sherry (George Shetsov) an exemplar of the other world?  Hardly; there is not much to recommend him, a fairly nonplussed, passive character who plays the Barry White set (Love SerenadeNever Never Gonna Give You Up) and Van McCoy’s The Hustle in a hut that counts as a radio station.

The sisters think otherwise.  His visitation might well be extra-terrestrial, or one induced by hallucinogenic import. Brisbane hardly counts as plumed exotic, but being “odd” or “strange” is entirely relative.  The fantastic realisations, notably by the young Dimity, are striking. Gills appear on the lover she craves; a huge Marlin on Sherry’s wall starts moving, and in her preoccupied mind, she knows that he does not like fish. But to the few characters who matter in this production, all outside Sunray is peculiar.

The film projects two aspects of the same problem.  There is the instinct to be predictable, dull, safe.  Then there is the instinct to grow, to find things anew, to taste fruit newly available.  To do so has its inherent dangers, the Promethean fire that may singe you, if not kill you altogether.  Indeed, innocence, on being ruined, demands vengeance and its share of shallow retribution, something Sherry duly discovers.

The sisters plot, conspire and engage to be rid of the music aquatic hybrid who has bedded both of them. But the he cannot, and will not be silent.  The exemplar, dead or alive, lives in water, in a fashion.  He might just as well have lived in space.

The film uses space to convey the lonely idyll of heat and dusty isolation, the routine that is interrupted by a person of flesh and blood needs.  The wide street and faded Chinese restaurant, itself an isolated relic of discontent, conveys the solitary mightiness of the environment.  There is total engulfing emptiness, with the exception of a few shots where people seem to have suddenly appeared, hidden hands otherwise lost in wilderness. All are inconsequential to the roles played by Sherry, Vicky-Ann, Dimity and the fabulously sinister proprietor of the Chinese restaurant.

The oppressiveness of friendliness is also clear: the need to incessantly feed the radio personality to win favour; the simpleton compassion, the base need, the elemental desire.  This is the primary approach of Vicki-Ann, though it is something that her younger sister also partakes in.

Finding himself between the sisters, Sherry plays to a traditional role of bonking with arid detachment, enjoying flesh without possession or commitment.  Eerily, Sherry’s character has a connection through Perspex – or at least some medium that disassociates his emotion.  He pursues his catch, if only because the catch is so willing to be caught. Dry and impassive, his calm remarks are almost hypnotic: “Take off your dress.”  His encounters are devoid of the erotic spell.

There are delightful observations of resentment.  The suspicion eventually comes in.  Sherry the outsider keeps insisting on black bean sauce.  He refuses to partake in the seafood, and certainly not the prawns.  This tendency sparks suspicion, and it hardly matters that Sherry emulates aquatic tendencies.  (Barrett claimed to have had “no respectable answer for that” other than to be inspired by a streak of magical realism, much of it with the cement and mortar of Cortázar.)

There are certain scenes shot as if in tribute.  Even more striking than Hispanic magical realism in Love Serenade is the allusion to the flying fantasy of Emir Kusturica, whose films such as Podzemlje (Underground) are filled with rich distortions and plays of historical record and fantastic scenery.  Vicky-Ann, dolled up in wedding dress under some mistaken impression Sherry wishes to wed, floats like a Kusturica dream figure through the town on being rejected.  Such themes of float and flight can also be found at points in Arizona Dream.  Given that Underground won the Palme d’Or in Cannes the year before Barrett won the Caméra d’Or at the same festival, the question of influence might well be asked.

Such a film would never be made today, when social media outrage counts for formed, if not uninformed activism, and where the threshold of offense is so low it has founded catacombs and build graveyards to expression.  But Barrett’s work is delightfully estranging, glassily so, a true minor classic worthy of its experiment.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]

Featured image: Prof. Sharma

The evidence is all there. With soil fertility declining; excessive mining of groundwater sucking aquifers dry; and chemical inputs, including pesticides, becoming extremely pervasive in environment, the entire food chain has been contaminated.

As soils become sick, and erosion takes a heavy toll leading to more desertification, crop productivity is stagnating thereby resulting in more chemicals being pumped to produce the same harvest. A former Director General of Indian Council for Agricultural Research had rightly said:

“In 1980s, farmers used to produce 50Kg of wheat by using 1 kg of fertilisers. Now farmers are producing only 8 Kg by using 1 kg of fertiliser”.

The warning of an ‘Ecological Armageddon’

As farmlands become more toxic, and with modern agriculture becoming a major contributor to Greenhouse Gas Emissions leading to climate aberrations, a startling study has gone unnoticed. A study by the University of Sussex finds that three quarters of flying insects in a nature reserve in Germany have vanished in past 25 years. While the alarming decline in population of honeybees had raised international concerns, that 75% of the insect population has disappeared -even inside a nature reserve – raises the warning of an ‘ecological Armageddon’.

This is happening at a time when not only in Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh in India, the dreaded bollworm pests on cotton have become resistant to genetically modified cotton in America too. From Carolina to Texas, bollworm insects have renewed their attack on cotton.

The Green Revolution has already run out of steam, leaving behind a trail of misery, the catastrophic consequences manifest in the form of farm suicides. With input costs growing, and farmgate prices remaining almost stagnant, if not declining, farmer’s income is swiftly on the downward slide.

ds green rev

In America, hundreds of dairy farms have closed down in the past 4 years. In Europe, many farms would be unprofitable if European subsidies were to be removed. In France, farmers’ mutual insurance association (MSA) believes that in 2016 “a majority of farmers earned less than Euro 350 a month”.

In India, the government’s own Economic Survey 2016 records that the average income of a farming family in 17 states, which means nearly half the country, has been computed at a paltry Rs 20,000 a year. Another study by Niti Aayog tells that real farm incomes have remained virtually stagnated in the five year period, 2011 to 2016.

And yet more of the same is being pushed as the solution

Despite all the laudable objectives, the world is almost at a tripping point as the International Panel on Climate Change had warned us a few years ago.  ‘Business as usual’ is not the right way forward, we are repeatedly told. But despite warning, there is no policy change that actually keeps environment protection as a non-negotiable.

Even the report of the International Assessment for Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), which was ratified during an intergovernmental plenary in Johannesburg, April 7-12, 2008, and had called for a shift towards sustainable agriculture has been lying in limbo ever since.

The more the world tries to change, the more things remain the same. Every disaster is an opportunity. But it invariably ends up as an opportunity for business.

Business leaders from 17 private companies had announced at the 2009 World Economic Forum the launch of a global initiative — New Vision for Agriculture — that sets ambitious targets for increasing food production by 20 percent, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per ton by 20 percent, and reducing rural poverty by 20 percent every decade.

The 17 agribusiness giants include Archer Daniels Midland, BASF, Bunge Limited, Cargill, Coca-Cola, DuPont, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Metro AG, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SABMiller, Syngenta, Unilever, Wal-Mart, and Yara International.

The rhetoric has been the same and the solutions have remained the same too: more aggressive push for industrial agriculture. Just to illustrate, to ensure that the world does not witness a repeat of the 2008 food crisis — when 37 countries faced food riots — the international community has been swift in proposing a roadmap (not one, but a plethora of similar privates-sector driven blueprints).

In these difficult times, it is heartening to see the Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledging the ecological crisis the world faces.

Addressing the National Congress of the Communist Party in Beijing last October, he acknowledged that

“Any harm we inflict on nature will eventually return to haunt us… this is a reality we have to face,”

and then went to specify in more detail his plans to

“step up efforts to establish a legal and policy framework … that facilitates green, low-carbon, and circular development,” to “promote afforestation,” “strengthen wetland conservation and restoration” and “take tough steps to stop and punish all activities that damage the environment.”

He has called for 21st century to be the beginning of an ‘ecological civilisation’.

Back home, as we get half way through 2018, the script for an ecologically sustainable agriculture, which brings back the smile on the face of farmers, without leaving any scar on the environment, is being rewritten.

Andhra Pradesh has launched a massive programme to promote natural farming.

This programme, Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, aims to bring 5 lakh farmers in all the 13 districts during the period 2017-2022 to adopt natural farming practices (read more here and on their Facebook page). I recently visited a number of villages in Kurnool district to meet some farmers who have moved away from chemical agriculture to natural farming practices.

I was amazed to learn that yields are increasing across all crops

In groundnut, yields have gone up by 35 per cent; Cotton productivity has increased by 11 per cent; Chilli by 34 per cent; brinjal by 69 per cent; and paddy by 10 to 12 per cent. So far, 1.63 lakh farmers have switched to natural farming. If crop productivity can increase without using chemical fertiliser and pesticides; if the net income in the hands of farmers goes up considerably; and if natural farming ushers in a climate resilient agriculture,

I see no reason why other states cannot emulate the pioneering efforts being made by Andhra Pradesh.


Devinder Sharma

All images in this article are from the author.

John Mathews with Xin Huang

China’s green energy shift is now attracting increasing attention, as its strategic implications become clearer. In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, Amy Myers Jaffe has argued that China is effecting a “pivot” to green and clean energy that puts the country on a superior footing in international competition – particularly competition with the United States, that remains committed to its fossil fuel industries.1 

Jaffe cites a number of statistics and trends, such as the shift to green power generation and the shift to electric vehicles (EVs) – but she does not offer any definitive demonstration of China’s greening. We tackle this central issue in this article, and offer fresh evidence that in a fundamental sense, China is indeed greening its total energy system. What we do is construct a picture of China’s total fossil fuel consumption over the past decade where coal, oil and gas consumption are aggregated not just in terms of coal-equivalent or oil-equivalent but in electric power-equivalent (in TWh) – so that a direct comparison can be made between burning of fossil fuels in aggregate and generation of electric power from renewable sources (i.e. from water, wind and sun). What we show is that in each of the past six years, from 2012 to 2017, China’s increase in fossil fuel burning in aggregate has been exceeded by the generation of green electric power. In this precise sense, where “blackening” is defined as the increase in fossil fuel consumption in aggregate (across the entire economy), and “greening” is defined as green electric power generation, we can demonstrate that in each of the past six years, China’s greening has outpaced its blackening – as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1 China’s increase in fossil fuel consumption each year vs WWS electricity generation in the same year 

We provide the details of this demonstration below, in Table 5. What it demonstrates is that China’s green power generation is relentlessly rising, doubling every six years, and increasing at an average rate of 20% per year. Up until 2011 the yearly increase in fossil fuel burning exceeded the green power generation each year (fluctuating according to global economic conditions, with a steep dip in 2009 following the global financial crisis). But green power generation after 2012 has consistently exceeded the yearly increase in fossil fuel consumption. The point to make here is that this is a definitive demonstration that encompasses the entire Chinese energy system which has until recently been totally dominated by the burning of fossil fuels. Indeed, on its way to becoming the world’s largest manufacturing system and largest trading system, powered by the world’s largest energy system, China followed the pathway blazed by all previous industrial powers (from Britain and Germany et al through the US and then Japan, Korea and Taiwan) in building an energy system based on burning fossil fuels. In China’s case this meant building domestic systems for production and distribution of coal, then oil and gas – and then expanding these systems to encompass imports. China has now become the world’s largest importer of oil and gas, and a growing importer of coal – all increasing its vulnerability or diminishing its energy security. And China is by far the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels, reaching a total of 4 billion tonnes of coal-equivalent in 2017. Most observers see this and the associated carbon dioxide emissions, which overtook those of the US in 2006 to make China the world’s largest emitter of carbon, and conclude that China is doomed to decades of fossil fuel dependence, threatening the future of our civilization (even if China did not invent and propagate the fossil-fuel model of industrialization). We seek to demonstrate that this gross picture of an enormous ‘black’ fossil-fuelled economy conceals the real trends towards greening that are sprouting within it.

Our project of keeping a close eye on China’s green shift now has greater relevance than ever. Our practice has been to focus on the electric power system in China as proxy for the economy as a whole. We have been demonstrating for many years now that the green power generation each year exceeds the increase in coal fired power generation. Data has now been released from China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) that enable the changes recorded in the year 2017 to be integrated into previous analyses. The headline result is that China’s steps in decarbonizing its electric power system have continued into 2017. When these steps are linked to the decommissioning of portions of its carbon-intensive heavy industry and promotion of an electric vehicle industry, continue to deepen. China maintains its role as driver of the global green shift.

How real is the “green pivot” referred to by Amy Myers Jaffe, or what we have been calling China’s “green shift”? It is indeed very real, reflecting the fact that China’s leadership recognizes that its continued reliance on fossil fuels would lead to intolerable levels of urban pollution as well as geopolitical pressures that would undermine energy security. So China has been greening its energy system as fast as it is able to do so – across all sectors but in particular in power generation through greater reliance on renewables, in transport through greater reliance on EVs, and in industry through greater reliance on electrification (with rising levels of renewable power) rather than fossil fuel burning.

So there is a green shift operating at the level of the entire economy. The green shift is more sharply evident when we narrow the focus to the electric power generating system. In this article we present detailed data on China’s green shift in electric power, taking the story up to the year 2017 and updating previous work.2 We offer new analyses that take the story up to targets for 2020, by which time China is likely to have achieved clean energy targets (utilizing water, wind and sun) with capacity of more than 800 GW – meaning that China would be the world’s dominant clean energy power with more than 1 trillion watts (1 terawatt TW) capacity of clean power by the early 2020s. At the same time, however, China, the world’s leading producer of greenhouse gases, maintains a continuing dependence on coal for electric power, albeit with declining dependence. The Chinese government seems to be maintaining a cap on coal utilization for electric power generation of 1,100 GW (1.1 TW). This is consistent with the apparent attempt to maintain a cap on total fossil fuel consumption of 4 billion tonnes of coal-equivalent.

The scale of China’s continued reliance on fossil fuels, and in particular on coal, remains staggering. In 2017 China remains a black economy, with severe dependence on coal-fired power. China’s coal consumption in 2017 appears to have risen slightly – according to still-provisional data. While coal-fired power stations continue to be closed, those remaining appear to have burnt more coal in 2017 than in 2016, making China still the world’s largest coal-burning country. The slight increase in 2017 is nevertheless still well below China’s peak coal consumption and production reached in 2013; it does not reverse the downward trend in China’s coal dependence. If we translate China’s total fossil fuel burning system of 4 billion tonnes per year into equivalent electrical units, namely around 32,000 TWh (or 32k billion kWh), and compare that with the scale of generation of green electric power (derived from water, wind and sun) at 1.6k TWh, we see that China’s green power production is still only equivalent to 1/20 (5%) of the country’s total fossil fuel burning system. Another perspective on China’s fossil fuel burning is to examine the whole-of-economy data on fossil fuel consumption, which has risen from 1.36 billion tonnes of coal-equivalent in the year 2000 to 3.78 billion tonnes coal-equivalent in 2015. So in 15 years China added nearly 2.5 billion tonnes coal-equivalent to its annual burning of fossil fuels. (For details see Table 3B below.) It is greening at the margins – but there is still a long way to go to green this enormous black system.

In this article we also update the trend which shows that China’s growing utilization of green energy outweighs its small and barely increasing reliance on nuclear power. To the extent that China continues to build nuclear reactors, this appears to be largely for business reasons and overseas consumption. It seems to be a case that “If you want nuclear power, China will build it for you.” That is, China’s continuing development of nuclear power appears to be more for overseas sales than for domestic production – as we discuss below.

China’s electric power trends

As in previous articles we focus on China’s green power shift in electricity generation, as proxy for the country’s wider energy trends. Of course China consumes a lot more energy than it generates in terms of electric power (such as the burning of coal in heavy industries like steel and cement) and the burning of oil in transport) – but the shift in electric power from “black” (largely coal fired) to “green” (largely based on renewables) is striking.

China’s energy story can be told through two principal charts, one showing annual electricity generated from various sources up to and including 2017, and a second chart showing China’s domestic capacity additions and the rising proportion attributable to water, wind and sun – again including data for the year 2017.

Fig. 2A. Annual electricity generated in China, 2000-2017 (TWh)

Fig. 2B. Proportional electricity generation 2000-2017, sourced from WWS vs thermal

Fig. 2A reveals that total power generation in China has risen from around 1400 TWh in the late 1990s to 6,400 TWh (or billion kWh) in 2017 – by far the largest of any country in the world. By contrast, the US power generation in 2017 was 4,015 TWh. (At the same time it needs to be noted that China’s per capita power generation remains far behind that of other industrialized countries like the US – with China’s per capita power generation in 2016 reaching 3,776 kWh compared with the US at 11,957 kWh.) It is this electric energy system that powers China’s vast manufacturing system – with a clear inflection point in 2001 when China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and effectively declared itself ‘open for business’. The annual rate of growth of the power generation system in the period from the year 2000 to 2017 has been 20.9% — an astonishing rate of growth for a system as large as this. The orange stippled line shows the overall system’s expansion (reaching 6,400 TWh in 2017) while the red interrupted line shows electricity generated from thermal sources – essentially, burning coal. This source reached 4,551 TWh in 2017 – or 71% of the total, and can be seen to be flattening in the last two to three years. Meanwhile renewable sources (which we define as electricity generated from water, wind or sun) have been rising even faster than the total system, at 30.2% per annum (shown as triangles on the chart), reaching 1,618 TWh in 2017, or 25% of the total.

It is the trends that are important and which bring out the greening tendencies of this system. Fig. 2B shows the rising proportion of power generated from WWS sources as a bold green line, reaching 25% in 2017, while the black line shows the falling proportion from thermal sources, dipping to 71% by 2017. The bold green line shows that WWS sources increased proportionally from 15% in 2007 to 25% in 2017, or a 10% increase in the proportion of WWS sources in a decade, with major gains in the years 2012 to 2017. This is a clear measure of China’s greening of its electric power system; no other country comes even close to this pace of green change. Meanwhile the black proportion of power has fallen from 81% in 2010 to 71% in 2017 – or a 10% change downwards in less than a decade. This is another indication of the pace of change, namely China’s falling dependence on fossil fuels for power generation.

When we turn to capacity additions made in 2017, the picture is even more striking. Fig. 2 shows that the proportion of electric generating capacity sourced from water, wind and sun exceeded 35% by 2017 – up from 20% in 2006 when China’s green shift started in earnest. This is a 15% shift towards green power capacity in just over the past decade – an even more striking rate of change of the green shift. If carried through at the same pace over the next decade, China’s power capacity would be more green than black– by 2028. This is why China’s leadership can confidently make assertions that the country’s carbon emissions will peak before 2030.

Fig. 3. China: Proportion of electric capacity and power generated from WWS, 2000-2017

A comparison with the situation in Germany is instructive – as shown in Fig. 4. Here we see the country’s dependence on coal-fired power reduced, and its dependence on nuclear drastically reduced, while reliance on renewables steadily grows. Germany’s two major parties – which have just renewed their coalition agreement – are committed to phasing out dependence on coal altogether.

Fig. 4. Annual electricity generation in Germany, 2000-2016

Germany’s total power generation reached 520 TWh in 2016 (around one twelfth of China’s) while under the influence of German federal government policy (Energiewende, or “Energy transformation”) the proportion attributable to WWS sources approached 35%.

China however is still a largely black energy power, with dependence on coal for power generation marginally increasing in 2017 over the level in 2016 – after successive falls each year since both coal consumption and production peaked in 2013. We discuss these trends in detail below.

China’s electric power statistics 2017

Detailed data for China’s energy revolution, couched in terms of (1) capacity additions; (2) electricity generation; and (3) investment in new capacity, are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. China’s electric power generation, 2010-2017: Capacity, Electricity generated, Investment

By 2017 China’s electric power capacity reached 1,777 GW, or 1.8 TW – by far the largest of any country in the world (compared with around 1 TW for the US). Capacity from renewable sources (water, wind and sun – WWS) reached 635.1 GW – making China a world leader in green energy with 25% of renewable energy in 2017 even as its fossil fuel consumption continues to rise. Capacity added in 2017 reached 131.2 GW, with 52.1 GW coming from thermal sources (coal, gas) and 77.0 GW from WWS sources. So new capacity from thermal sources accounted for just 40% of new capacity, while WWS sources accounted for 59% of new capacity. This is powerful evidence for the greening trend of China’s power system. But it is still a black system. By 2017 the system had thermal capacity of 1,106 GW compared with 635 GW for WWS sources; this means in terms of the total system that 35% capacity is reached by WWS sources. In terms of growth, thermal sources increased in 2017 only by 5% compared with 14% for WWS sources. Thus the green growth exceeds black growth. As for nuclear, just 2.2 GW new capacity was added in 2017, accounting for just 2% of new capacity added. What is striking is that solar capacity additions in 2017 exceeded those from thermal sources – with 52.9 GW being added from solar, compared with 52.1 GW from thermal sources. That’s a new solar power station at 1 GW being added each week, as well as a new coal-burning power plant being added each week. These trends are captured in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5. China, new electric capacity added in 2017

Table 1 (2) confirms that China’s electric power generation totalled 6,418 TWh in 2017, up 7.1% from the level in 2016. Power generated from WWS sources increased to 1,618 TWh, an increase of 9% on the level in 2016, and accounting for 25% of the total power generated.

When we look at investment (Table 1 (3)) we see that investment in the power system totalled RMB 801 billion in 2017 – marginally down on the level reached in 2016. The level of investment in WWS sources was down 10% on 2016 levels, which is concerning – but the level of investment in thermal sources declined even more, being down 37% on 2016 levels.

Trends over the past three years, spanning 2015 to 2017, offer striking confirmation of these greening trends in capacity, power generation and investment, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2. China’s electric power system trends, 2015-2017

The data in Table 2 reveal that in terms of capacity added in 2015-17, WWS sources outranked thermal sources by 34%; power generated over the three years saw WWS accounting for 34% of the total; and investment in WWS power sources outranked investment in thermal sources by more than threefold. Investment in WWS sources in 2017 totalled RMB 156.5 billion (or US$ 24.8 billion at an exchange rate of 6.3). Note that these estimates are markedly different from those provided by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) in London. BNEF have issued their estimates for 2017, where they state: “Overall, Chinese investment in all the clean energy technologies was $132.6 billion, up 24% setting a new record. The next biggest investing country was the U.S., at $56.9 billion, up 1% on 2016 despite the less friendly tone towards renewables adopted by the Trump administration.”3 In April, the BNEF together with the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management issued their widely read report on ‘Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018’, in which it is stated that China invested $126.6 billion in renewable energy in 2017. Clearly China’s NEA is using very different definitions of clean energy investment from those utilized by BNEF. This remains an anomaly that we put to the parties involved and seek clarification.

Let us now look at the three WWS sources – solar, wind and hydro – and the targets for 2020.

Solar PV emerged as a major player in 2017, with 53 GW new solar PV capacity added (at a rate of more than 1 GW per week) exceeding new capacity from thermal sources (52 GW). This is the first time that China has added more solar PV capacity than coal or gas capacity in a single year – providing yet another indicator of the pace of the green shift. The solar PV capacity added in China in 2017 represented a 68% jump on the level recorded in 2016, and accounted for around half of global solar PV capacity additions. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) team in London calls this China’s 53 GW solar boom.4

China’s cumulative solar PV capacity has now reached around 130 GW, with an official target set for 2020 at 165 GW – a target very likely to be exceeded. Some observers are predicting that China will reach a solar PV capacity of 250 GW by 2020.5 China’s record rate of solar PV capacity additions is clearly driving the accelerated rate of installation globally.

In 2017 China added 15.1 GW of new wind capacity, bringing the cumulative total of wind capacity to 163 GW. The target is to reach 260 GW installed wind capacity by 2020 – a target that appears to be eminently achievable.

In terms of hydropower, China added just 9.1 GW capacity in 2017 (upgrading existing dams) bringing the cumulative capacity to 341.2 GW – making China again the largest deployer of hydropower in the world. However, hydropower has reached close to its maximum practicable capacity in China, and the target for 2020 is set at just 380 GW – which on present trends seems unlikely to be exceeded.

China’s 2020 targets

According to China’s 13th Five Year Plan for Energy, issued by the National Energy Administration (NEA), the country’s targets for green power generation continue to emphasize a green shift. The official targets for WWS green power capacity by 2020 (as updated by the 13th FYP for Energy) are:

Hydro 380 GW
Wind 260 GW
Solar PV 165 GW
Total WWS 805 GW

The combined WWS target for 2020 is thus 805 GW. Indeed if the 2020 target for solar PV is raised in line with observer expectations, to 250 GW, then China’s green power capacity would be expected to reach 890 GW by 2020. China could then be expected to pass the 1000 GW (1 TW) milestone for green WWS power by 2021 or 2022 at the latest – the first country to do so. These targets, and cumulative capacities reached for hydro, wind and solar PV by 2017, with official targets for 2020, are displayed in Fig 5A.

Fig. 5A. Water, wind and solar capacity in China, with 2020 targets under 13thFive Year Energy Plan

In terms of annual generation targets, NEA’s plan in 2016 set a 2020 hydroelectric generation target of 1250 TWh, with wind power reaching 429 TWh and solar PV power 150 TWh (based on capacity of 110 GW as in the original plan). In July 2017 the NEA adjusted these targets upward by 50 GW for each of wind and solar PV, and inserting these new capacities the generation targets become: hydro 1250 TWh; wind 520 TWh; and solar 225 TWh – making 1995 TWh in total as target for generation in 2020 (as displayed in Fig. 5B.)

Fig.5B. Water, wind and solar power generation in the 13th FYP

Levels of curtailment in 2017

A striking feature of the 2017 results is that the levels of curtailment of renewable power consumption have markedly declined. It has been a source of great concern in China (and a source of foreign criticism) that much of the power generated by renewable systems (mainly wind and solar PV) is not actually supplied to the grid, because of grid integration issues. The news conference of National Energy Administration (NEA) (see here) of Jan. 24, 2018 confirmed that in 2017, 12% of wind power production was curtailed versus 17.2 % in 2016. Thus curtailment of wind energy production dropped 5.2 percentage points compared to 2016 even as the system absorbed much more of the wind power generated. For the case of solar PV, 6% of wind power production was curtailed in 2017 versus 10.3% in 2016; thus curtailment dropped 4.3 percentage points compared to 2016.These are becoming close to “normal” levels of curtailment.

China as an international renewables power

When the build-up in renewables capacity in China is compared with that found in other countries, China emerges as a global leader. The chart below (Fig.6) shows the situation utilizing data up to 2015; as data for other countries is made available for 2016 and 2017 the trends will likely be strengthened. Note that China’s WWS capacity has increased from 493 GW in 2015 to 558 GW in 2016 and reached 635 GW in 2017. At this rate, China will be a ‘terawatt renewables power’ by the early 2020s.

Fig.6. Renewables capacity (WWS) in China compared with USA, India, Germany

China’s black, coal-fired energy system

Alongside the greening of China’s electric power system there is the continuing issue of its black, coal-fired system, which also continues to expand (after a couple of years of contraction). China’s continuing reliance on coal for its electric power system is vividly captured in Fig.7. This chart reveals the reliance of China’s electric power system on coal; after contracting in the years 2015-2016 it expanded again in 2017. That is clearly a trend that is of great concern in China.

Statistics for total Chinese coal consumption in 2017 are not yet available. However, we can gain a feel for the likely level of consumption by examining the amount of total coal production in 2017 (3.45 billion tonnes) and total coal imports (0.27 billion tonnes). By adding these two totals, we see that the (apparent) total domestic consumption should exceed 3.72 billion tonnes, which is close to Brookings’ forecast of 3.82 billion tonnes.6 We use this figure of 3.82 billion tonnes in our charts below.

Firstly, we indicate the extent to which China remains a ‘black’ economy, in Fig.7, which indicates rising levels of coal-fired power generation and corresponding rising levels of coal consumption (largely in power generation), which peaked in the year 2013. The slight (apparent) rise in 2017 does not reverse the overall downward trend in coal dependence.

Fig. 7 China’s black electric power

Source: Based on CEC data

This black face of China may be compared with the green face, captured by the increases in wind power in China, shown in Fig.8.

Fig. 8 China’s green face: rising dependence on wind power

The significance of this rapid build-up in wind power becomes clear when it is contrasted with the case of nuclear power.

China: wind power vs. nuclear power

Since so many prominent international scientists (like James Hansen) continue to promote nuclear as a “clean” energy source for China, it is important to monitor the choices that China is making in its domestic energy investments. The chart (Fig.9) reveals that in terms of capacity additions, wind power outranked nuclear as early as 2008, while in terms of electricity generated, wind outranked nuclear by the year 2012 The gap between wind power and nuclear has only widened since then, as revealed clearly by Fig.9.

Fig. 9. Wind power vs nuclear power, China

We interpret these data as revealed in Fig. 9 to mean that China has little intention of promoting nuclear power for its domestic consumption. But there is still a strong market for nuclear power in other countries (such as in Britain), and China is doubtless calculating that it can sell its advanced nuclear technology to countries that are prepared to pay for it.

China’s continuing enormous fossil fuelled energy appetite

To put China’s green shift into perspective, we take this opportunity to report on the latest data revealing the scale of China’s burning of fossil fuels, across the entire economy. Table 3A looks at the scale of coal consumption, as well as oil consumption and gas consumption, and aggregates these fuels consumed in terms of million tonnes of oil equivalent. In Table 3B we reproduce the same data in terms of million tonnes of coal equivalent. It is in Table 3B that we can see that there is an apparent cap on fossil fuels consumption of 4 billion tonnes coal-equivalent. In both Tables we also provide the energy-equivalent in terms of electric power generation, denominated in TWh. (It is technically possible to do this because it is all energy that is being measured, albeit with different units.) This will enable us to make direct comparisons between fossil fuel burning and green electric power generation.

Then to give a sense of the comparative scale of fossil fuel burning as between China and the US, and carbon dioxide emissions, we reproduce the latest data (up to the year 2016) in Table 4.

Table 3A: China’s fossil fuel consumption 2000 – 2017 in million tonnes oil equivalent (toe) and TWh

Table 3B: China’s fossil fuel consumption 2000 – 2017 in million tonnes coal equivalent (mtce) and TWh

Table 4: U.S. vs China: CO2 emissions, Renewables and Nuclear Energy Consumption (2000 – 2016)

We display the most significant features from Table 4 in Figure 10, which includes data for carbon dioxide emissions.

Figure 10: U.S. vs China: CO2 emissions, Renewables and Nuclear Energy Consumption (2000 – 2016)

Figure 10 shows that China’s CO2 emissions level surpassed those of the U.S. in 2006 and kept increasing before flattening out in 2013-2014. In this sense, one may say that China’s carbon dioxide emissions have already peaked. From 2007 to 2016, the rate of increase of the emissions level was 2.6% per annum {calculated as [(9123-7224)/7224/10]}, which is lower than the growth of China’s total fossil fuel consumption by 0.6%.

In terms of per capita level, China’s CO2 emissions are less than 40% (6.6 vs 16.6 tonnes) of those of the U.S. in 2016.

Figure 10 clearly depicts the different choices of U.S and China between renewables and nuclear energy consumption. By 2017 China was generating 1,618 TWh of renewable power from water, wind and sun (up from 1,543 TWh in 2016). This was more than seven times what China generated from nuclear power stations, which in 2016 came to 213 TWh. In the 10 years from 2007 to 2016, the U.S. consumed 8,386 TWh nuclear energy and 4,887 TWh renewables energy whereas China consumed 1,086 TWh nuclear energy and 9,708 TWh renewables energy – with renewables energy consumption more than nine times its nuclear energy consumption. The average annual growth rate of the renewables energy consumption was 20.8% [(1543-501)/501/10] for China and 7.9% [(632-353)/353/10] for the U.S.

The efficiency of China’s renewables generation

China had to start its renewables trajectory by using technology leveraged from the West, and its early efforts at generating green power were at a low efficiency level. While its efficiency has improved over time, through technology leapfrogging, China still lags the US in terms of the capacity factors involved in wind power and solar power generation. China’s capacity factor for solar PV generation is, for example, around 12% (meaning that China generates solar power at 12% of the theoretical maximum), while according to the US Energy Information Administration, the US capacity factor for solar PV and CSP is 27%.7 If this is indeed the case, then it represents a great opportunity for the US to offer its solar PV technology to China to improve China’s solar power efficiency, and thereby its contribution to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.

Is China greening its energy system faster than it is expanding its black system?

By putting all energy consumption data into common units, namely TWh of electricity consumption, we gain a feel for the relative growth of the ‘black’ fossil fuel energy system and the green power system. From Tables 3A and 3B, we see that the black, fossil fuel (FF) system expanded each year and reached a kind of plateau in the years 2013 – 2017.

Here we come to our crucial demonstration. In Table 5 we construct a picture of China’s total fossil fuel consumption each year since the year 2000, and then the increase in aggregate fossil fuel consumption each year (noting how it plateaued and actually reached below zero – or contracting — in the year 2015) – all shown in electric power generation equivalent units, or TWh. We then compare China’s green power generation (from water, wind and sun) each year with this increase in aggregate fossil fuel consumption. The yearly increases accelerated after China’s accession to the WTO in 2001, and suffered a major reversal in 2008 after the global financial crisis. But it is the recent trends that are of interest. What is striking is that the green power generation in each of the past six years – from 2012 to 2017 — exceeds the increase in aggregate fossil fuel consumption for the corresponding year. In a precise sense, and in aggregate across the entire economy, China’s greening exceeds its ‘blackening’ in terms of yearly increases in fossil fuel consumption, for each of the past six years. This is a greening trend across the entire economy that can only be interpreted as continuing – and leading within very few years to an energy economy that would be greener than blacker. The results are tabulated in Table 5 and illustrated in Fig. 1 above.

Table 5. China’s total energy system: Fossil fuel consumption vs green electric power generation

Table 5 reveals that over the years until 2011 the increases in FF consumption exceeded green power generation – so that the rate of blackening outpaced the rate of greening. But from 2012 on, the green power generation in each year exceeds that of the increase in FF consumption, so that the greening trend has been outpacing the blackening. China’s green power generation has been doubling every six years, and increasing at an average annual rate of 20%. This is a trend that is very likely to be continued, because it is based on the fact that renewables devices are all products of manufacturing, not of digging or drilling stuff out of the ground. This is the key difference between the energy strategy pursued by China and that pursued by the US. China pursues a strategy that is linked to manufacturing and electrification, driven by rapidly dropping costs (due to the experience curve) – while the US has been pursuing a strategy based on non-conventional oil and gas, where there are no links to manufacturing and the cost future is highly uncertain. So what is driving China’s green shift?

What is driving China’s green shift?

There is a dominating factor driving China’s energy choices. While much of the commentary on China’s green shift assumes that it is motivated by climate change concerns, it seems to us that the factors driving China’s green shift are more prosaic and pragmatic. There are immediate pollution issues which are coming to be viewed with growing seriousness in China, and there is the issue of energy security. – growing dependence on fossil fuel imports, particularly oil imports for transport and coal imports for power generation. The growing gap between domestic production and consumption is worthy of close analysis, a topic that we propose to tackle in a subsequent article. As the gap between production and consumption expands, and dependence on imports grows, so the geopolitical limits to China’s energy expansion become more pressing. Without China’s shift to renewables, all of which are products of manufacturing, China would be facing extreme energy insecurity – with all the implications this would carry for dependence on fossil fuel geopolitical hotspots.

While many point to the enormity of China’s fossil fuel consumption, we seek to identify the process that has the potential to reduce and eventually bring China’s enormous levels of fossil fuel burning to an effective end. We see only one factor that offers any chance of this happening within the next two decades, and that is the shift to green power production, which is steadily accounting for more and more of China’s energy production, as well as the shift to electrification in industry and transport, with the opportunities so created to shift to green power. And we see the drivers of this green shift as being China’s concern to clean its filthy pollution problems, and relieve itself of the environmental consequences of an energy policy associated with continued reliance on fossil fuels.

China’s greenhouse gas emissions

Finally, it is important to note that China’s green power shift is already having an impact on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, which are now the largest in the world. We depict China’s CO2 emissions in Table 4, and Fig. 10, as contrasted with those of the US. We note the recent comments from the China Climate Action Tracker:

China’s CO2 emissions appear to have peaked more than a decade ahead of its Paris Agreement Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commitment to peak its CO2 emissions before 2030. The latest analysis from the Climate Action Tracker, indicates that COemissions may, in fact, already have stopped increasing and reached peak levels.8

We concur with this expectation based on our 2017 analysis of China’s green power shift.

Xin Huang is a research assistant and financial analyst. She has worked in the financial sector in Australia and China


The Environmental Consequences of Chinese Development: A Comment

Mark Selden

In a book and a series of articles, many published at The Asia-Pacific Journal, John Mathews and collaborators have made a case for Chinese global leadership in renewable energy. That case centers on documenting the initial stages of a relative shift from fossil fuel-driven electric power toward renewable energy.

In the most recent article, Mathews and Xin Huang offer a detailed assessment of China’s fossil fuel consumption and its ambitious program highlighting conversion to renewable sources of energy within a framework of rapid expansion of energy use through 2017 and looking ahead. They observe that

“in each of the past six years, from 2012 to 2017, China’s increase in fossil fuel burning in aggregate has been exceeded by the generation of green electric power. In this precise sense, where “blackening” is defined as the increase in fossil fuel consumption in aggregate (across the entire economy), and “greening” is defined as green electric power generation, we can demonstrate that in each of the past six years, China’s greening has outpaced its blackening . . .9

This is an important finding. Yet China’s green energy program, widely touted as national policy by the Xi Jinping government, has stirred controversy.

China’s prioritization of renewable energy is an important phenomenon. Some have seen it as laying the foundation for global leadership, particularly at a time when the United States has effectively rejected the dominant conclusions of climate science and has effectively withdrawn from the Paris Agreement.

The question I wish to pose is how to assess the significance of these new green programs in the context of a comprehensive energy and development program in which China’s total power generation increased from 1400 TWh (billion kWh) in the late 1990s to 6400 TWh in 2017. China is presently the world leader in power generation, in the consumption of coal and other fossil fuels, and in the production of greenhouse gases, even as it lags far behind the US and a number of other rich countries in per capita production of greenhouse gases. To achieve the world’s highest economic growth rates in recent decades, China not only became the world leader in overall production and consumption of fossil fuels, it also became “the world’s largest importer of oil and gas, and a growing importer of coal.”

Mathews and Huang emphasize that even as China continued to expand its consumption of fossil fuels (at a rate of 20.9% per year over the last two decades), its renewables grew at a significantly faster pace (30.2% annually) with renewables increasing at their fastest pace in the years 2012-2017. A US comparison is fruitful. Between 2007 and 2016, “[t]he average annual growth rate of renewables energy consumption was 20.8% for China and 7.9% for the U.S.” Nevertheless, despite the steady growth of renewables, by 2017 China’s green power electricity generation was just 5% of that of its total consumption of fossil fuels. These figures are inclusive of fossil fuel consumption for automobile use at a time when China is the world’s largest builder and buyer of automobiles. By the early 2020s, according to government growth projections, China would not only be the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases, it would also possess the world’s largest capacity for green energy production with one trillion watts (1 TW) of electric power.

Mathews and Huang recognize that China’s fossil fuel consumption is projected to continue at least well into the 2020s as a foundation for China’s high-speed growth. Their positive assessment of Chinese development strategy is premised on a projected transition based on continued expansion of renewables together with a steady reduction in fossil fuel consumption overall that is not slated to begin for some years. 10

For the present, China continues to expand black energy consumption while renewables occupy a steadily growing but small share of the nation’s rapidly rising total energy consumption. This outcome is a product not only of China’s high growth rates but also of expanded coal, oil and natural gas consumption and the low efficiency of Chinese renewables—less than half that of the US and other technologically advanced countries. In 2016 fossil fuels accounted for 87% of China’s primary energy consumption compared with 85% in the US. The result is that China continues to drive global warming on a scale beyond that of any other nation.

An environmental perspective, one that recognizes the necessity to question the God of Growth measured by GDP, requires assessing the consequences of China’s massive production of steel, coal, aluminum, cement, plastics, and other energy-intensive and polluting products. By 2015, China produced half or more of the world’s steel, aluminum, and cement, and 48% of its coal.11 As energy specialist Vaclav Smil observed, China consumed more cement in the years 2011-13 than the US did in the entire twentieth century.12 The pace of Chinese construction, moreover, continues to accelerate both domestically and internationally.

For example, Chinese officials have announced plans to complete 165,000 miles of roads by 2030, nearly 3.5 times as long as the US interstate system. In addition, China has launched a Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with the participation of 42 countries (as of April 2017) pledging to provide major financial support for developing countries throughout the Asia-Pacific and beyond.13 All of these initiatives mean expanded demand for fossil fuels. Without addressing the developmental consequences of these programs, it is certain that in each of these realms China will increase the already extreme burden on the environment, initially in China and eventually regionally and globally.

In short, it is essential to look beyond the accelerated production of renewable energy to assess the overall impact of Chinese development policies at home and abroad on climate crisis and the human prospect. Indeed, this is perhaps the central challenge to global development theory: China’s high speed growth of recent decades has achieved important goals including substantial increases in per capita incomes, extensive urbanization, and rising consumption associated with its advance to middle income status. In the process, it has shared with many other countries sharply rising income inequality, precarity of employment with the dismantling of substantial parts of state sector enterprise and the rise of temporary and contract work. It is time to place environmental degradation at the center of the discussion in assessing human development in the Anthropocene age.


John A. Mathews is Professor of Management, MGSM,Macquarie University, Australia, and formerly Eni Chair of Competitive Dynamics and Global Strategy at LUISS Guido Carli University in Rome. His research focuses on the competitive dynamics of international business, the evolution of technologies and their strategic management, and the rise of new high technology industries.

Xin Huang is a research assistant and financial analyst. She has worked in the financial sector in Australia and China

Mark Selden is the editor of The Asia-Pacific Journal. His home page is


See Amy Myers Jaffe 2018. Green Giant: Renewable energy and Chinese powerForeign Affairs (March-April 2018).

See J. Mathews, ‘China’s electric power: Results for First Half 2017 demonstrate continuing green shift’, Sep 15 2017, Asia-Pacific Journal, or JM, ‘The green growth economy as an engine of development: The case of China’.

See ‘Runaway 53 GW solar boom in China pushed global clean energy investment ahead in 2017’.

See BNEF, ibid

See Frank Haugewitz at Asia Europe Clean Energy Advisory.

See the estimate published by Brookings.

See the EIA report here.

See China: Climate Action Tracker.

“China’s greening of its energy system outpaces its further blackening: A 2017 update.” The Asia-Pacific Journal. 

10 A recent article by Dan Murtagh, drawing on data provide by the International Energy Association, “China Is Over Coal, Bored With Oil as it Charts Green Future,” provides an extreme version of the view that China has essentially solved its black energy problem Nov 14, 2017.

11 Hao Tan, “A Global Industry Rebalance: China and Energy Intensive Manufacturing,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, May 1, 2018. 

12 Ana Swanson, “How China Used more cement in 3 years than the U.S. did in the entire 20th century,” Washington Post, March 24, 2015see also David Owen, “The End of Sand,” New Yorker, May 29, 2017, 28-33.

13 See for example Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Latest News. China with $29.8 billion provided 31% of the investment capital. The Belt and Road Initiative, while focusing on the countries of the silk road, like the AIIB, is also global in scope with 72 nation participants in April 2017. . . including many US allies but not the US. See HKTDC Research for participating countries; Alexandra Ma, “Inside ‘Belt and Road’, China’s Mega-project that is linking 70 countries across Asia, Europe and Africa,” Business Insider, Jan. 31, 2018.

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Election politics have taken an unusual turn in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, now heads an opposition alliance against the corrupt government of Prime Minister Najib Razak, which has done its utmost to destabilize his candidacy.

Mahathir is now accused by Najib of spreading “fake news” following a press conference in which he accused the government of “dirty tricks”. 

Kuala Lumpur police have said they are investigating Mahathir under a new law banning fake news after complaints over Mahathir’s claim that his chartered plane was sabotaged last week to prevent him from filing his candidacy in the northern resort island of Langkawi. (AssociatedPress)

In Malaysia, if you criticize PM Najib, you can be arrested and indicted under a new law which bans fake news.

The fake news law was hastily adopted by parliament with a view to curbing dissent against the corrupt Najib government prior to the May 9 elections.

Mahathir, 92, has said he believed there was a “deliberate attempt” to stop him from going to Langkawi last Friday after the pilot found some damage to the jet just before departure. He said he tried to source for other planes but was rejected by three people, including one who claimed he was under pressure. Mahathir eventually found a plane and made it to the island to register Saturday for the polls.

“We are dealing with a government party which is known to use all kinds of tricks in order to win the election. And one of the tricks, of course, is to stop me from being nominated, and especially me, because I happen to be the leader of the opposition,” (Associated Press, op cit)

The outgoing Prime minister Najib is involved in financial fraud.”Hundreds of millions of dollars were paid into the account of Mr. X [PM Najib] “by a Saudi prince described as “mysterious”, and two British Virgin Island companies characterized as “shadowy”:

The revelations about the prime minister’s account are connected to the so-called 1MBD scandal involving Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund. The fund has been an utter disaster, “mislaying” some $4 billion in total – and its advisory board is chaired by none other than Najib Razak. (See Mr X,, 2016)

Needless to say, reference to corruption and embezzlement at the highest levels of government is categorized as “fake news” for which you can be arrested.

Mr. X – the codename that has actually been assigned to him at AmBank – has evidently been spared such indignities. The reason is that he is otherwise known as Najib Razak and has been Malaysia’s prime minister since 2009. (Ibid)

Tun Mahathir is leading the opposition in our general elections this coming Wed 9th May. At 92 years old accompanied by Tun Siti, Mahathir is leading a “punishing” campaign trail throughout the country.

Tun M has only one goal – to rid the country of Najib and his cronies, all guilty of unbelievable corruption.

Tun has offered himself as the fall guy but he has succeeded in garnering overwhelming support for his mission despite the blatant cases of payouts by the ruling authorities. He is out everyday- day & night; speaks to crowds till past midnight. And of course his health is being challenged.

By looking at the mammoth support at rallies for him & Pakatan Harapan, we could assume that the opposition will win; but will all this overt support translate into votes on Wed? That is the question!

Please say a prayer for Tun Mahathir and for a better Malaysia.



new report on the economy of Papua New Guinea will reopen the case for the Australian government to be held accountable for the negligent decision to lend AU$500 million taxpayer money to the PNG-LNG project.

Jubilee Australia’s new report, Double or Nothing: The Broken Economic Promises of PNG LNG’, is co-authored by Paul Flanagan and Dr Luke Fletcher. Paul has worked for the Australian government in senior executive positions and with the PNG Treasury where he was Team Leader and Senior Advisor to the SGP Program from February 2011 to August 2013. Luke is the Executive Director of Jubilee Australia.

Summary of findings:

  • Despite predictions of a doubling in the size of the economy, the outcome was a gain of only 10% and all of this focused on the largely foreign-owned resource sector itself;
  • Despite predictions of an 84% increase in household incomes, the outcome was a fall of 6%;
  • Despite predictions of a 42% increase in employment, the outcome was a fall of 27%;
  • Despite predictions of an 85% increase in government expenditure to support better education, health, law and order, and infrastructure, the outcome was a fall of 32%; and
  • Despite predictions of a 58% increase in imports, the outcome was a fall of 73%.

PNG LNG is an Exxon-led project which supplies about 8 million tonnes of LNG a year to Japan, South Korea and China. It is projected to run for 30 years. In 2009, Australia’s Export Credit Agency, Efic lent AU$500 million to Exxon, OilSearch, Santos and the Government of PNG. Efic’s decision was based on advice from DFAT provided to the then-Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, on advice from DFAT. This is the largest loan ever made by Efic.

“In 2008 Australian economics consultants, ACIL-Tasman provided inflated projections of growth in employment, essential services, household income and the broader economyif the PNG LNG project went ahead. This new analysis proves just how misleading these promises were and how PNG has slipped back into the poor policies associated with the resource curse. Currently, on almost all economic indicators, the people of PNG would have been better off had the project not happened at all,’ said Paul Flanagan.

“Australia’s Export Credit Agency, Efic is an agency that is out of control. It has deplorable due diligence and accountability; as a result, it makes decisions like this that not only undermines the livelihood and prosperity of our neighbours in PNG, but also our own nation’s security,” said Dr Luke Fletcher, Executive Director of Jubilee Australia.

“The Australian government continues to withhold the secret advice that was used by Efic to loan AU$500 million of taxpayers money to Exxon and its project partners.

“In light of this damning new evidence of economic regression, the advice provided to Trade Minister Crean in 2009 which recommended Efic support the PNG LNG project should be released alongside all related risk analysis.

‘‘Exxon and Oil Search should be paying half a billion dollars (AUD) to the PNG government every year, since the gas started to flow in 2014. Instead, they are paying a fraction of this amount, partly because of their use of tax havens in the Netherlands and the Bahamas.

“Unless there is greater accountability on the use of foreign loans and a crack down on the use of tax havens by companies like ExxonMobil and OilSearch, the pattern of Australian governments and corporations causing harm to our region simply to create profits for big business will continue,” concluded Dr Fletcher.

‘Double or Nothing: The Broken Economic Promises of PNG LNG’ is the first of two papers on the PNG-LNG pipeline that has been commissioned by Jubilee Australia. The second paper will discuss the unpaid royalties and development benefits and the escalating violence as a result of the PNG LNG project.

Download the report here.

It has all the elements of a crudely crafted if effective tale: banks and other financial services, founded, proud of their standing in society; financial service providers, with such pride, effectively charging the earth for providing elementary services; then, such entities, with self-assumed omnipotence, cheating, extorting and plundering their clients.

This is the scene in Australia, a country where the bankster and financial con artist have been enthroned for some time, worshipped as fictional job creators and wealth managers for the economy.  Impunity was more or less guaranteed.  All that might be expected would be the odd sacking here and there, the odd removal, the odd fine and limp slap of the wrist. But then came along something the Australian government never wanted: a Royal Commission.

While Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s Royal Commission into the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services industry initially promised to be a fizzer, one that risked being stage managed into oblivion by a conservative former High Court justice, the contrary has transpired.  Even in its infancy, it has produced a string of revelations that have sent the financial establishment, and those supporting them, into apoplectic worry.

The Turnbull government, long steadfast in treating Australia’s banking and financial sector like a golden calf, has found itself encircled by misjudgment and error.  Former front bencher Barnaby Joyce had to concede error in arguing against a Royal Commission into the sector.

“I was wrong.  What I have heard is [sic] so far is beyond disturbing.”

Ministers have been more mealy-mouthed, in particular Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer who has given a string of performances featuring stellar denial and evasion.

“Initially,” she told the ABC last Thursday, “the Government said that it didn’t feel that there was enough need for a royal commission.  And we re-evaluated our position and we introduced one.”

Such a view ignores a strain of deep anti-banking suspicion within some conservative circles – notably of the agrarian populist persuasion.  The National rebels George Christensen, Llew O’Brien and Barry O’Sullivan were repeatedly noisy on the subject.  (The unregulated free market sits uneasily with them.)

The undergrowth of abuse has proven extensive and thorny.  Clients, for instance, have been charged services they were never supplied; monitoring systems to ensure that such services were, in fact, being provided, have been absent.  Not even the dead have been spared, with the Commonwealth Bank’s financial business wing knowingly charging fees of the departed.

One revelatory report stretching back to 2012 from Deloitte found the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) particularly egregious on this score.  According to the authors, 1,050 clients were overcharged to the hefty tune of $700,000 for advice never received, as their financial planners had left the business prior to 2012.

At times, the hearings have made for riveting viewing.  Commissioner Hayne found himself in the position of reproaching Marianne Perkovic, head of the CBA’s private bank some three times for hedging responses to Michael Hodge, QC, senior counsel assisting the commission.

“You will get on better if you listen to counsel’s question – if you have to stop and think about the question do it – but listen to counsel’s question and answer what you’re asked.”

Perkovic had remained oblique on the issue of the CBA’s foot dragging – some two years of it, in fact – regarding a failure to inform the Australian Services & Investment Commission (ASIC) on why it did not supply an annual review to financial advice clients of Commonwealth Financial Planning.

Scalps are being gathered; possible jail terms are being suggested; promises of share holder revolts are being made. The most notable of late has been AMP, whose board, after the resignation of chief executive Craig Meller risk a revolt from shareholders at a meeting on May 10.

“At this stage,” announced Australian Council of Superannuation Investors CEO Louise Davidson, “we are thinking of voting against the re-election of the directors.”

This is not the view of Institutional Shareholder Services, a proxy firm that maintains the front that caution should be exercised in favour of the three directors in question. Stick by Holly Kramer, Vanessa Wallace and Andrew Harmos – for the moment.

“Given that the Royal Commission is in its early stages,” go the dousing words of the ISS report, “and although information presented thus far would be of concern, it is considered that shareholders may in due course review the findings of the Royal Commission, once presented, and any implications for their votes on directors at the appropriate time.”

It is precisely such attitudes of disbelief, caution and faith that have governed Australia’s financial sector during the course of a religiously praised period of uninterrupted growth.  AMP’s value has been dramatically diminished, losing $4 billion from its market capitalisation.  In naked terms, this constitutes a loss of 24 percent of shareholder value over the course of six weeks. But that is merely one component of this financial nightmare, which has stimulated a certain vengeful nature on the part of shareholders.

What, then, with solutions?  The regulator suggests greater oversight; the legislator suggests more rigid laws of vigilance.  The penologist wishes to see the prisons filled with more white collar criminals.  Yet all in all, Australia’s financial service culture has been characterised by shyness and reluctance on the part of ASIC to force the issue and hold rapacity to account.  Central to such a world is a remorseless drive for profit, one that resists government prying and notions of the public good.

One suggestion with merit has been floated.  It lies deep within structural considerations that will require a return to more traditional operations, ones untainted by the advisory arm of the financial industry.

“Financial institutions,” suggests Allan Fels, former chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, “must be forced to sell their advisory businesses.  This will remove the unmanageable conflict of interest inherent in banks creating investment products while employing advisers to give purportedly independent recommendations to consumers about their investments.”

Now that would be radical.


Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  He is a frequent contributor to Global Research and Asia-Pacific Research. Email: [email protected]