NPA rebels torch construction equipment in Agusan del Norte
MANILA, Philippines – Communist rebels in Agusan del Norte torched on Wednesday two construction equipment owned by a local official who refused to pay revolutionary tax, the military said. First Lieutenant Joe Martinez, chief of the 42nd civil-military operations company, said the rebels burned one dump truck and one mixer in Barangay Curva in Santiago town at about 1 a.m. Martinez said the atrocity occurred after the owner of the equipment, Misamis Occidental Vice Governor Henry Oaminal, had refused to yield to the extortion demands of the rebels. Local policemen and members of the 3rd Special Forces Battalion are now probing the incident and are now running after the suspects.
Industrial unrest in construction spreads
PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias has ordered a full investigation into the violent scuffles on Tuesday at a Paphos building site between striking builders and police, Justice Minister Loucas Louca said yesterday. Trouble erupted in Paphos on Tuesday when police confronted striking builders who tried to stop strike-breakers who were brought in to take over the work at a hotel construction site. Three people were arrested during the trouble on Posidonos Avenue. Police intervened in a bid to restore order, arresting two striking workers and a female union official in the process as both police and builders pushed and shoved each other. Unions accused police of using excessive force, and Christofias later criticised the police for their actions.
“The President’s instructions are clear, and I am awaiting the report of the incident to uncover what really went on so we can act accordingly with the police,” Louca said yesterday. Asked what information he had received so far the minister replied that he did not want to rely on rumours but on the facts, and once he had the report in his hands he would be able to comment further. Louca was asked by reporters whether police were planning to adopt new methods of dealing with an increase in incidents from protesters. “I have been informed by the chief of police that orders have been given for necessary action to be taken,” he replied.
“We have discussed the subject so that we will not see a repeat of Tuesday’s incident,” he added. Louca was also asked to comment on several small incidents that were reported in Ayia Napa yesterday of striking builders who had visited several sites with trade unionists, armed with bats, in attempts to bully strike-breakers and contractors who were continuing work. “I am not aware of any incidents in the Ayia Napa area,” he said. “As far as I am aware the Chief of Police has given orders to members of the force on how to act appropriately in these cases,” he added. Head of the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises, Akis Vavlitis, and the Federation of Construction Contractors’ (OSEOK) representative Nicos Kelepeshis both claimed to state broadcast radio that striking workers and trade unionists ransacked and vandalised hotel construction sites in the Ayia Napa area yesterday.
“Members of both trade unions, PEO and SEK, armed with bats, stormed into hotels looking for strike-breakers,” Vavlitis said. “We are sending out a message abroad, that the strikes are adversely affecting the tourism industry, instead of trying to overcome the crisis,” he added. Kelepeshis claimed police had received many complaints from hotel owners that striking workers had harassed them on yesterday morning. PEO representative, Michalis Papanicolaou questioned the accusations, stating that the striking workers would continue their strike until they get what they deserved. “How did they know these people that ransacked the sites were from PEO?” he asked.
“Did they ask them for identification?” he continued. “For the moment these workers have an uncertain future and they will continue striking until they receive assurances that their jobs are safe,” he concluded. Yiannakis Ioannou, the head of SEK’s construction branch, claimed yesterday that both SEK and PEO had acted accordingly and had not committed any crimes. Ioannou said builders had already agreed to cuts of around 8.0 per cent but contractors also wanted to reduce provident fund contributions by 3.0 per cent, cut Christmas bonuses by 50 per cent, and take away one day from the Easter holidays.
“All they [the workers] want is for the collective agreements to be met,” Ioannou said. The ministry of labour would continue to actively search for a solution to the problem in the construction industry and will continue talking to both sides in order to resolve the issues, according to minister Sotiroulla Charalambous. Charalambous said that during the attempt at reconciliation both sides had introduced new demands which had not been discussed before, making matters even more complicated. Asked by reporters whether she felt that they had reached the point of no return, Charalambous said that she believed that with will and commitment, any solution would be a compromise.
Cop killed in Moi University riot
Moi University students stoned to death a police officer. The students were rioting following a power black out at their hostels in Eldoret town. Wareng OCPD Nicolas Maina confirmed the officer was hit in the head after the students started throwing stones to protest over the power black out at the hostels located in Pioneer area, Eldoret town.
“Police officers who were on patrol went to the estate and in the process some of the students used a hard object to hit the officer on the head,” said the OCPD. He said the officer sustained injuries on the head and was rushed to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital where he died while undergoing treatment. Maina said investigations had been launched into the incident. Police shot in the air to disperse the students who then responded by throwing stones at the officers and other people around. “We will not condone lawlessness and its unfortunate that the officer lost his life in such a manner”, said Maina adding that investigations were at an advanced stage.
China jails anti-pollution protesters after riot
China has sentenced 16 people to up to a year-and-a-half in prison for involvement in an environmental protest last July when a crowd of thousands ransacked government offices, the official Xinhua news agency reported. A court in Qidong city, 65 km (40 miles) north of Shanghai, charged the group of demonstrators with “gathering to assault state organs, damaging property and theft” during the July 28 demonstration against a pipeline for waste from a paper factory. The protest exemplified a growing environmental awareness and willingness of urban people to voice concern about industrial pollution.
At the same time, the ruling Communist Party worries that protests can undermine social order. Throngs of people marched through the streets before pouring into a government compound where they turned over cars, ransacked offices and tossed documents out of windows. One of those sentenced on Wednesday was Zhu Baosheng, who state media previously reported forced the Qidong mayor to put on a T-shirt printed with an anti-pollution slogan. The protest came within days of a similar violent protest in the town of Shifang, in the southern province of Sichuan.
All 16 defendants in Qidong were sentenced to 12 to 18 months in prison, but 13 were given a reprieve on the grounds that they had confessed and repented, Xinhua said. One planned to appeal while the others did not, it said. The sentences come during a particularly smoggy winter that has renewed widespread concern over China’s environmental problems. Air quality levels in Beijing have regularly been labelled as unhealthy or hazardous.
Steelworkers clash with riot police outside French-based EP
The protests of hundreds of steelworkers have broken out into scuffles with the police outside the European Parliament (EP) in France’s eastern city Strasbourg. On Wednesday, workers of the world’s largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal, came from factories across Europe to demonstrate against the company’s job cuts and restructuring plans. The workers who were throwing buckets and breaking glass on the roadside, faced tear gas and batons flung from squads of riot police dressed in full protective armor.
Management of ArcelorMittal in January announced the planned closures of plants in Europe, leading to thousands of job cuts across the continent. The angry protesters flocked in from plants in neighboring countries Luxembourg and Belgium as well as from Lorraine’s northeastern commune of Florange in France.
The protest comes on the day the Luxembourg-based company said global steel consumption would top last year’s two percent with a rise to three percent in 2013. The French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT) union backed the rally. CFDT union member Edouard Martin said the company “has shutdown around ten factories in Europe,” allowing the steelmaker to slash “nearly 60,000 jobs.” The company says the decision was made due to the weak European demand for steel in the wake of the eurozone debt-crisis.
The workers call on Members of EP to protect them and accuse ArcelorMittal of targeting European employees saying, “they want Europe to collapse.” ArcelorMittal has promised there will be no forced layoffs in France after the French government threatened to nationalize the Florange plant. The steel giant posted over 200 million euros in losses in the first three quarters of 2012 and has forecasted major setbacks in the market this year.
After 120 Day Hunger Strike, Prisoner Al-Rekhawi to be Released
Israeli Occupation authorities decided on Wednesday, 6 February, to release prisoner Akram al-Rekhawi, from the city of Refah, in the Southern Gaza Strip. His release had been promised on the 23rd of January, and he has waited out a long delay. Al-Rekhawi was arrested in 2004 and was sentenced to nine years in prison and is accused of being a member of Hamas.
His complete time had been served as of early June of this year, but he was not released. He then began his 120-day hunger strike, which led to a sharp deterioration in his health. At that time, the prison administration agreed to release him on the 23rd of January. Abdullah Qandil, a media representative from the prisoner association “Waed” said that “the court agreed to release him due to his deteriorating health, especially following his hunger strike,” which he ceased after promises to release him in January.
He added that Rekhawi had threatened to return to his hunger strike after authorities refused to release him. Qandil explained that the occupation authorities held a hearing today to consider Rekhawi’s request to be released, as per the agreement that had previously been made with the prison administration following the start of his hunger strike. They decided to release him. There is to be a welcome ceremony for the prisoner at the Beit Hanoun crossing tomorrow, Thursday, with various special events, a tent and speeches, concluding with a speech by Al-Rekhawi, who is married and has eight children.
Workers strike over poor terms
Some 80 workers of Hi-Tech Cables Company in Nantabulirwa in Mukono District went on strike yesterday demanding higher payment.
The workers, who stormed the factory in the morning, also accused their managing director, only identified as BK Patel, of disrespecting them. They allege that Mr Patel abuses them in public, slaps them like children, suspends them unnecessarily and reduces their salary in case they make mistakes. “We earn Shs15,000 a month and yet we do a lot of work in this factory. Worst of all we are never given protective equipment,” one of the workers, Mr Enock Kazibwe, said. Indifference Mr Kazibwe added that work that should ideally be handled by five people is done by one person and despite their complaints to management, nothing has been done. Mr Patel, however, said if the workers are not willing to work, then they are free to leave.
“I will advertise and get new workers if they are tired of working for this company,” Mr Patel said. The workers also said their working conditions were bad and that sometimes the machines and iron bars harm them. “So far two workers have lost their lives in this factory, while another lost an arm but our manager does not mind. Even when someone gets an accident he only offers Shs2,000 and directs us to go to the government-run Mukono Health Center IV,” Mr Kazibwe said.
Clashes sweep Tunisia as general strike called
Tunisia was hit Thursday by fresh protests, clashes and strikes sparked by the assassination of outspoken opposition leader Chokri Belaid, as the ruling Islamists broke ranks over how to defuse the crisis. The country’s main trade union called a general strike on Friday to coincide with the funeral of Belaid, a lawyer and vocal critic of the ruling Ennadha party who was shot dead outside his home by a lone gunman.
In the capital, police fired tear gas at demonstrators marching on the interior ministry to protest Belaid’s assassination in broad daylight on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent said. The protest march came despite a heavy deployment of police in Habib Bourguiba Avenue, epicentre of the 2011 uprising that toppled ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and where thousands had gathered Wednesday in scenes reminiscent of the revolt. Shops reopened in the centre of the city, but many of them kept their shutters down to save their windows from being smashed.
Clashes also erupted in Gafsa, in Tunisia’s volatile central mining region, with protesters throwing petrol bombs at police who fired tear gas in response, correspondents said. The Gafsa demonstration was organised by the Popular Front, an alliance of leftist parties to which Belaid belonged. Thursday’s unrest follows violence the day before that left one policeman dead in Tunis and saw protesters torch and ransack offices of the Islamist party Ennahda in a number of towns, including Gafsa. Tunisian lawyers, judges and some teachers began a strike on Thursday while the General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT) announced on its website it had called a general strike on Friday.
Public hearing on power plant turns violent
Hearing of proposed 100-MW thermal power plant of KPR Industries postponed after stones thrown at dais The public hearing on the proposed 100 MW thermal power plant of KPR Industries (India) Limited on Wednesday between Dontamuru of Rangampeta mandal and Balabhadrapuram of Bikkavolu mandal in East Godavari district was disrupted by villagers and some ‘outsiders’. A total of 40 persons, including four policemen, were injured in lathi-charge and stone-pelting. Police took 20 persons into custody. Tension mounted as police used force against a group of people that threw stones and ‘chappals’ on the dais where District Collector Neetu Kumari Prasad and other officials were seated and also on the Collector’s vehicle.
As the situation threatened to get out of hand, the Collector postponed the public hearing. KPR Industries, which runs a chemical factory in Bikkavolu mandal, acquired land for the captive thermal power plant for its proposed caustic soda plant and another pesticide factory between Dontamuru and Balabhadrapuram. It is alleged that the villagers were given information about the hearing only two days before it was supposed to be conducted. People from the two villages began coming to the venue since morning and the number swelled to 5,000. Some of them carried placards and banners and raised slogans against the proposed power plant.
Apprehending trouble, the administration mobilised a large number of policemen. Padala Rama Reddy, former ZPTC member, led the villagers in raising slogans against the management just before the Collector arrived. As soon as she started the proceedings, a woman began talking in favour of the plant. There was utter chaos as she was shouted at by the villagers. Amid slogan shouting, a youth hurled footwear at the dais and the Collector ducked just in time. When the police tried to detain the youth, the protesters resisted, leading to a tussle between the two sides.
The Collector then announced the postponement of the hearing. As she was leaving the place, more footwear were hurled at her vehicle forcing the police to resort to lathi-charge. Ms. Neetu Prasad told The Hindu that one could register protest peacefully or make a representation, but the people who had come for the public hearing were violent and were brought from other districts such as Visakhapatnam. The management had already acquired the land and the villagers were aware of the situation.