Thursday, March 15, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of t...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of t...: Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of the Atis of Boracay JUST like any paradise beach that lures tired bodies and souls ...

Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of the Atis of Boracay

Blood and money in the sand: The tragic story of the Atis of Boracay

JUST like any paradise beach that lures tired bodies and souls to soak in its waters and bask in its sands, there is a narrative that is conveniently hidden behind the poster-perfect scenery of Boracay.

And it is one that is written in the narrative of blood and money.

In February 22, 2013, a 26-year-old Ati youth leader named Dexter Condez was brutally murdered, shot six times by an unknown assailant as he was walking with two female companions after attending a meeting. Condez was the spokesman of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (BATO). As such, he was at the forefront of the Ati struggle to assert their ancestral rights over their land. The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), as supported by anthropological studies, has established that the entire Boracay Island is the ancestral domain of the Atis in that they were its earliest settlers. In fact, the island’s name is in their language.

But like the fate of many indigenous peoples, the Atis were displaced and forced to retreat into the forested areas of the island when tourism investors began to descend on Boracay in the 1970s. But before that, local peoples from the Panay mainland began occupying parts of the island and later were able to secure land titles over what used to be legally considered as common property, and historically should have been considered as Ati ancestral lands.

A competing narrative is used by these local migrants to negate the ancestral domain claims of the Atis. They argue that the latter are also from the Panay mainland and only go to the island to forage during certain seasons. However, this is a weak argument since it only affirms the characteristic nature of Atis as nomadic tribes, and it even strengthens their claims not only on Boracay but even on those other areas mentioned. After all, the festival that has become a symbolic representation of the culture of Panay is named after the Atis, and historical accounts validate the claim that they were the very first people encountered by the Spanish colonizers there.

But the Atis were not even fighting for the entire island anymore, more so the entire Panay mainland, but only for a piece of land, some 2.1 hectares, which was awarded to them by the Philippine government in 2011 and for which a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) was issued. However, this was contested by local migrants who claimed that they hold land titles over the area covered by the CADT issued by the government.

Until today, the murder of Condez has yet to be finally resolved even as a suspect, a security guard working for a major hotel in the island, was arrested in 2014. Still to be clearly established is the motive behind the murder. Friends of Condez, including the nuns who were helping the Atis, said that he had no personal enemies, and that the only issue in which he was involved was the land dispute over the CADT.

As of today, the Atis remaining in the island, now estimated to be around just 20 families, have yet to occupy the land awarded to them. They are now confined in an enclosed complex called the Ati Village, which is in fact a former dumpsite. Fenced-in, isolated from the entire island, but still linked to it as a tourist attraction, the original settlers were symbolically dumped there. While some can consider the fact that the Atis are now living in more convenient houses, and no longer foraging, hunting and gathering like they used to, as evidence of development, others see this as a pathetic image of how the original settlers of the island have been reduced to, becoming an enclosed and controlled spectacle, disoriented and uprooted from their culture.

Now, their ancestral lands from where the Atis have been alienated, with its white sand beaches and pristine waters, and which developed in leaps and bounds to become a prime tourist attraction, have literally turned into a dumpsite for uncontrolled and unregulated development. A rough estimate reveals that more than half of the island’s establishments are not connected to the island’s sewerage system, even as they do not have their own to show. A significant number of these establishments are unregulated, and operate under the radar, if not with the tacit consent of the local government which has continued to issue building permits even in the absence of environmental clearances from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, during an onsite inspection visit, was reported to have been shocked at the scale and magnitude of environmental violations in the island.

The lure of tourism profits is just too much to resist, that even beaches and forests were encroached into by developers, even as human waste was dumped into the waters of Boracay, undermining the very resources that the island was capitalizing on. Ecological Marxists call this the second fundamental contradiction of capitalism, where the pursuit of profit leads capitalists to destroy the very physical base of their production.

In the process, it is not only Condez who suffered physical death. The blood that was spilled in the sands of Boracay on that fateful evening of February 22, 2013 is but a physical reminder of the many other deaths that attended this so-called development. The death of culture and the silencing of indigenous rights is revealed when the original settlers are now confined, contrary to their very nature, in a village that used to be a dumpsite. Their ancestral land is now home to an alien culture that fed on cash but has produced garbage.

But there is another side to this tragic story unfolding in what otherwise would have been paradise. In cleaning up the mess, the underbelly of the Boracay economy, the small-time establishments run by locals, and the migrant labor force that dominate even the bigger hotels and resorts, may suffer the same fate as that of the Atis that were displaced by the very economy within which they now exist and benefit from. (Next: The fate of the local economy and small-scale tourism industry, and the local migrant labor force)



Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesian province considers beheading as murder ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesian province considers beheading as murder ...: Indonesian province considers beheading as murder punishment   - Implementation of sharia law has become increasingly harsh in conservat...

Indonesian province considers beheading as murder punishment -Implementation of sharia law has become increasingly harsh in conservative region of Aceh

Indonesian province considers beheading as murder punishment  -Implementation of sharia law has become increasingly harsh in conservative region of Aceh

 A man being caned in public last year after he was convicted of gay sex. Photograph: Heri Juanda/AP

The conservative Indonesian province of Aceh, which already carries out public caning of gay people, adulterers and gamblers, is considering the introduction of beheading as a punishment for murder, a top Islamic law official has said.

Syukri M Yusuf, the head of Aceh’s shariah law and human rights office, said the provincial government had asked his office to research beheading as a method of execution under Islamic law and to consult public opinion.

“Beheading is more in line with Islamic law and will cause a deterrent effect. A strict punishment is made to save human beings,” Yusuf told reporters. “We will begin to draft the law when our academic research is completed.”

The public flogging of two gay men and what it says about Indonesia's future

Aceh is the only province in Muslim-majority Indonesia to practise shariah law, a concession made by the central government in 2005 to end a decades-long war for independence.

Its implementation has become increasingly harsh and also applies to non-Muslims. Last year, the province for the first time caned two men as punishment for gay sex after vigilantes broke into their home and handed them over to religious police.

Yusuf said if sharia law was consistently applied, then crime, particularly murder, would decrease significantly or disappear.

He said punishment for murderers had in practice been “relatively mild” and they could re-offend after release from prison. He pointed to Saudi Arabia as an example to follow in carrying out severe punishment for murder.

Indonesia has the death penalty for crimes such as murder and drug trafficking, which it carries out by firing squad. Its last executions were in July 2016, when three Nigerians and one Indonesian convicted of drug offences were shot on the Nusa Kambangan prison island.

Associated Press in Banda Aceh

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Beware Of The New Xi Jinping: China’s President Fo...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Beware Of The New Xi Jinping: China’s President Fo...: Chinese President Xi Jinping is now officially the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong who died more than 40 years ago afte...

Beware Of The New Xi Jinping: China’s President For Life – Analysis

Chinese President Xi Jinping is now officially the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong who died more than 40 years ago after the National People’s Congress voted overwhelmingly in favour of a constitutional amendment which gives Xi the right to remain in office indefinitely. Not that there was any doubt about it but when it finally happened it seemed to be marking another red line in China’s evolution as the pre-eminent global power of our times.

It was only last month that China’s ruling Communist Party had moved a proposal to remove a constitutional clause limiting presidential service to just two terms in office. This is one of the most significant developments in global politics today given China’s growing heft in the global order.

Xi began his second term as head of the party and military last October at the end of a once-every-five-years party congress. His real source of authority emanates from him being the CPC’s General Secretary — a post that has no term limit — as well as being the head of the powerful Central Military Commission. His political doctrine, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, is now part of the amended constitution. This takes China back to the good old days of Mao when he was the supreme leader, deciding on the fate of millions based on his whims and fancies. Xi’s elevation also marks a significant change in Chinese  political thought. Recognising the dangers of one man rule, Deng Xiaoping got the limit of two five-year presidential terms written into China’s constitution in 1982 after Mao’s death. That seems to have been put aside for now.

 There have been some isolated critical voices in China, mostly on social media who have compared their changing political system to that of North Korea or underlined the dangers of a Mao-type cult of personality, but mostly there has been support for the move in the name of protecting the country’s long-term stability. Some have argued that as Xi’s anti graft movement and his key Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) are still in their infancy, and whether such a move was necessary.

But let there be no doubt that this is all about Xi’s ambition. In a marathon address to the 19th party congress last October, Xi had unveiled his vision of China’s future of achieving ‘moderate’ prosperity in the next four years, and emerging as an advanced socialist nation by 2050.

Underlining that China would pursue its own path of developing “socialism with Chinese characteristics” and inviting “peoples of all countries to join China’s effort to build a common destiny for mankind and enduring peace and stability,” he was building a case for the “Beijing Consensus” as an alternative to the so-called Washington Consensus.

Like the rest of the world, India will also be affected by this change in manifold ways. New Delhi has no option but to deal pragmatically with whoever is ruling China, given the enormous stakes in Sino-Indian relations. Yet at a time when Sino-Indian bilateral ties are passing through one of their worst times, a centralising figure in China’s governing system will only complicate matters.

China has always managed to have a consistent strategic approach towards India — to contain Indian within the confines of South Asia by assisting Pakistan to balance India. It has refused to recognise New Delhi’s global aspirations and not budged an inch on key issues pertaining to Indian interests. But the growing power disparity between India and China as well as lack of any effective leverage vis-à-vis China has also meant that India has not been in any position to challenge China.

The Modi government started off promisingly by resetting the terms of engagement with China. Its principled position on the BRI has been effective in shaping the global discourse and its effective handling of last year’s Doklam crisis enhanced its stature. But there is a danger now of slipping back into the old mode of China policy where a mistaken belief that only if India can brush aside the hard issues, a semblance of normalcy will return to Sino-Indian ties.

It is a myth and especially now when Xi who remains unambiguous about his desire to make China a global superpower and has all the time and resources at his command to do so. It is highly unlikely that New Delhi can attain a win-win outcome from Beijing.

Xi’s growing authority will mean that he will double down on his efforts to militarise the Indian Ocean and expand Chinese influence in South Asia. His pet project BRI will also see a renewed focus and Indian opposition will rankle at his ambitious outreach. He will also wait to teach New Delhi a lesson for what many in China feel was a diplomatic drubbing for Beijing in Doklam. And this will happen when India goes into election mode and political bickering will attain new heights.

The Indian political class is yet to learn to speak in one voice in national security matters. How easy it is to divide the Indian polity was clear when even at the height of the Doklam crisis, the leaders of India’s main Opposition party decided to get a briefing from the Chinese Ambassador than its own government! So as Xi’s power rises to its zenith, there are many reasons to worry, but mostly it is India’s own ability to get its own house in order which should concern us the most.

This article originally appeared in DNA.

Observer Research Foundation  By Harsh V. Pant


Wednesday, March 14, 2018