Top NPA leader arrested in Bohol
MANILA, Philippines – Combined government security forces on Tuesday arrested in Bohol a top New People’s Army (NPA) leader in Central Visayas. Arrested for illegal possession of firearms was Ruben Nabas, who is also known as Ka Ebyong, Ka Elmer, Ka Padi and Ka Rex in the underground movement. Nabas was arrested by policemen and Army soldiers manning a checkpoint at Barangay Catbigian in Bohol province.
Capt. Cresencio Gargar, spokesman of the Philippines Army’s 302nd infantry Brigade based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, said that Nabas is the overall head of the NPA’s Special Partisan Unit (SPARU) in Central Visayas. Gargar said that Nabas was wth his security aide, Cristituto Lastomen alias Ka Onyot, when he was arrested. Seized from the two suspects were a .45 pistol, a 9mm pistol, P18,200 in cash and several documents of alleged high intelligence value. Nation ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Gargar said that aside from illegal possession of firearms charges, Nabas also has a standing warrant of arrest for rebellion before the Regional Trial Court Branch 63 in Bayawan City, Negros Oriental.
Rebel leader denied bail
The arrested New People’s Army leader facing raps for robbery with homicide and physical injuries has been denied bail by the court, Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday. Joel Danioso, an alleged commander of the Yunit Militia of the NPA Northern Negros Front Committee, was nabbed by a combined team of policemen and Army soldiers last week in Sitio Minatipik, Brgy. Winaswasan, Calatrava.
The arrest warrant was issued by San Carlos City Regional Trial Court Judge Kathrine Go. Lactao said Danioso has been endorsed to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in San Carlos City, for detention. Danioso was also linked to the summary execution of an Army detachment commander in front of his daughter and the disarming of government militiamen, two years ago.
The rebels shot and killed detachment commander, SSgt. Efraim Bagonoc, in front of his daughter, disarmed the militiamen, and took 23 high-powered firearms from the detachment, military records showed. Danioso is the younger brother of Rogelio Danioso, commander of the NPA Northern Negros Front, who was arrested in previous years for robbery-in-band charges, but managed to post bail.
Police arrest rebel suspect involved in plantation attack in Bukidnon
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Feb. 28 — Joint elements of Libona Municipal Police Station and the Regional Public Safety Battalion a suspect in Barangay Sil-ipon, Libona, Bukidnon at about 10 p.m., February 26. He has a pending arrest warrant for attempted homicide issued by Judge Lourdes Eltanal-Ignacio of the Municipal Trial Court (MTC) of Bukidnon. His arrest was a result of the continuous manhunt operations conducted jointly by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after New People’s Army (NPA) rebels harassed Del Monte and Dole plantations in Bukidnon on February 19.
Two more rebel suspects were arrested on this date. Local police of Libona received information from a confidential informant that the first suspect was last spotted in Barangay Sil-ipon where he stayed with his wife’s uncle and was recuperating from the injuries he suffered in an encounter with Army personnel last February 23.
Protesters target state office with Molotov cocktails in Mansoura
An unidentified group threw Molotov cocktails into a second-storey Mansoura government office during mass protests in the area Wednesday evening. According to report, the subsequent fire destroyed the office’s air conditioning unit, blinds, furniture and numerous documents. Building security personnel attempted to put out the fire using extinguishers, but failed to douse the flames completely.
Civil defense forces and central security officers arrived on scene after 20 minutes and were able to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings. Daqahliya Governorate has been a flashpoint for unrest recently, with protesters taking to the streets against President Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood. More often than not, the protests results in clashes and tear gas. Demonstrators have also blocked streets and set tires on fire in acts of civil disobedience.
Injured protesters trapped in building by police: Egyptian Popular Current
The Egyptian Popular Current stated on Thursday that security forces have surrounded the group’s office in Mansoura, where many injured protesters are sheltering, and are refusing to allow medical aid into the building. According to a Thursday statement by the opposition group, there are dozens of people inside the office suffering from asphyxiation, due to the numerous volleys of teargas fired Wednesday night during clashes at the building. Clashes erupted after the Central Security Forces attempted to disperse protesters who had been staging marches across the city to muster support for a planned civil disobedience campaign. “Security forces, with the help of the Brotherhood and its member Saber Zaher, have been following private cars who have been volunteering to save the injured,” read the statement.
“The current will however continue its support for ongoing calls for civil disobedience and will endorse any move that seeks to press ahead with the demands of the revolution.” Three members of the current were arrested during clashes that erupted across the city over the past few days. According to an Ahram Online reporter in Mansoura, which is the capital of Daqahliya governorate, clashes were ongoing from Monday until late on Wednesday between security officers, hundreds of anti-government protesters and a handful of journalists, in the vicinity of the governorate headquarters.
Police fired teargas and birdshot at stone-throwing protesters. Calm, however, descended on the city Thursday morning. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Socialist Popular Alliance Party alleged that security forces stormed the party’s headquarters in Mansoura late on Tuesday where those injured during violent clashes with police were being treated. In a Wednesday statement, the party asserted the “right of Egyptians to peacefully strike and protest against the Brotherhood hegemony,” and renounced “the use of violence and repressive measures against angry protesters who seek to push ahead with the demands of the revolution.”
The party urged the police to repudiate that strategy of “turning a blind eye to crimes” carried out by what it described as “the Brotherhood militias.” It also called upon protesters to avoid violence which is used as an ostensible reason to “tarnish the image of the revolutionaries.” For its part, Egypt’s Nasserist Karama Party in the governorate of Daqahliya has also condemned the violent crackdown on protesters. In a Wednesday statement, the party held the interior ministry responsible for recent clashes in Mansoura. It also deplored the indiscriminate arrest of “peaceful protesters,” including Islam Fouad, a member of the party and the Egyptian Popular Current.
Daqahliya, north-east of Cairo, has been the flashpoint of unrest in the past few days, with sporadic clashes breaking out between police and anti-Brotherhood protesters. Political discontent has been growing over what opposition sees as a return of Mubarak-era heavy-handed tactics. Calls for the campaign in Daqahliya governorate came along the lines of a similar drive in the canal city of Port Said.
The move was provoked by anger over the death sentences handed down to 21 Port Said residents for their involvement in last year’s Port Said stadium disaster, in which scores of rival football fans were killed. The verdict triggered violent riots across the canal city, which led to clashes with police in which at least 40 people were killed and 250 injured. On Sunday, hundreds went on strike and blocked off main roads in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla in the adjacent Gharbiya governorate as part of a parallel civil disobedience drive.
Morocco protesters jailed over Marrakesh clashes
MARRAKECH, Morocco – A Moroccan court on Wednesday jailed six people for up to two years over violent protests in the southern city of Marrakesh last December in which dozens of policemen were wounded. Ten people arrested in connection with the clashes had already been handed prison terms in January ranging from 18 to 30 months, while two teenagers were separately jailed for two months. The six convicted on Wednesday were accused by the court of first instance in Marrakesh of forming an “armed mob, damage and destruction to public buildings, insulting officials performing their duties and disobedience.”
Two of the accused were jailed for one year, another two were given 18-month sentences and the last two were jailed for two years, an AFP correspondent reported. On December 28 and 29, protests were held in poor neighbourhoods in the ochre city, Morocco’s top tourist destination, against high water and electricity prices, which degenerated into clashes with the security forces. More than 60 people were wounded in the violence, according to official figures, including 52 members of the security forces. Witnesses said the police fired tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowd.
Dozens of Injuries during Clashes near Ramallah
On Thursday 28th February, a number of protesters were injured during confrontations near Ofer military camp and Atara checkpoint near Ramallah, said witnesses. Witnesses told Palestinian official news agency WAFA that clashes erupted between Israeli soldiers and protesters near Ofer prison and that several Palestinians were injured and some suffered suffocation due to tear gas inhalation. The protesters were transferred to Palestine Medical complex for treatment. The demonstrations continue as prisoners continue their hunger strike for long periods to protest their illegal detention without charge or trial.
Burmese Workers in Jordan Strike for Better Pay, Conditions
Striking Burmese workers at a garment factory in Jordan say they will continue to push for better pay and working conditions, two weeks after walking off the job to protest what they describe as discrimination by their employer. “Our demands are to be provided with Burmese-friendly food, an end to discriminatory treatment based on racial background and an increase in our salary from the current amount of US $155 to $200,” Kyaw Zin Oo, one of the protesting workers, told The Irrawaddy.
He said there are more than 1,200 female and 100 male workers from Burma currently employed at his factory, which is owned by the Century Miracle Apparel Mfg. Co., Ltd and located in the northwestern Jordanian city of Ar Ramtha. The strike began with around 30 workers on Feb. 14, and has since grown to include almost all of the Burmese workers at the factory, he said. The workers said they have contacted the Burmese embassy in Israel for help because there is no Burmese diplomatic mission in Jordan, but it remains unclear what, if anything, the embassy will do to resolve the issue.
“Burmese officials in Israel told us that they were unable to come and see us, but would call the authorities in Jordan and settle the dispute,” said Kyaw Zin Oo. However, a report by the state-run newspaper The New Light of Myanmar on Wednesday indicated that little help would be forthcoming, as the embassy had “found that the employer is fulfilling clauses in employment contracts.”
Workers Adding to Egyptian Chaos as Strike Wave Disrupts Economy
For 16 days earlier this month, not a single shipping container moved into or out of Egypt’s principal port for Asian trade. Laborers at Ain Sukhna, on the Suez Canal east of Cairo, were busy protesting management’s plans to continue using short- term employment contracts. The roughly 1,200 striking dock workers, who slept each night in empty containers while campaigning for permanent jobs with port operator DP World Ltd. (DPW), hung a white banner reading “Our one demand is to be hired,” alongside a large Egyptian flag. “I’m not demanding more money,” said Mahmoud Mustafa, a married father of two girls who earns the equivalent of about $500 a month. “I just want stability for myself and my family.”
The standoff, which ended Feb. 17 when the government agreed to give the strikers jobs with a new state-controlled port company, showcased workers’ growing activism two years after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. More than 1,000 independent unions are colliding with an Islamist government that has been unable to arrest the economy’s deterioration and is pushing to prevent the rise of alternative political forces. “The government’s ability to control workers ended with Mubarak,” said Mohammed Abdeen, 36, general coordinator of legislation for the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) in Cairo. “It doesn’t exist anymore. You can’t control them.”
For investors, labor’s strength — and its weakness — may prove equally vexing. Egypt’s workers are strong enough to interrupt commerce, yet too divided to force a resolution of the country’s political stalemate.
Since the 2011 revolution, Egyptian workers have launched more than 3,000 strikes or demonstrations over wages, working conditions and political demands, Abdeen said. Ceramics workers, police officers, teachers, municipal tax collectors and doctors all have walked off their jobs in recent months, even though the government doesn’t recognize their unions as legal. Labor discontent has been building since 2004, when Egypt launched a wave of market-oriented policies that included the sale of state companies to private investors.
Between 2003 and 2008, public sector employment fell by more than 270,000, according to a 2011 International Labor Organization report. As Egypt averaged 7 percent annual growth in the three years before the 2008 financial crisis, the promise of a compliant state union and low wages was instrumental in attracting investors from the U.S., Europe and the Persian Gulf. Foreign direct investment soared to more than $13 billion in 2008 from $2 billion four years earlier.
Even so, three fledging independent labor unions emerged and major strikes, including in the textile center of Mahalla, shook the regime. With Egypt now trapped in a protracted transition from dictatorship to democracy, foreign investment has evaporated. The prospect of continuing protests and work stoppages represents “significant deterrents for potential investors,” concluded a Feb. 8 report by Maplecroft, a risk-management firm based in Bath, U.K. In the months ahead, transport strikes with “the potential to cause considerable disruption to business operations and supply chains” are likely, the report added. Magdi Tolba, chairman of clothing maker Cairo Cotton Center, frets over a “breakdown of discipline” in Egyptian factories as endless political debates distract workers from their assembly lines.
“Someone has to go and say: ’enough is enough,’” he said. “The economy is bleeding.”
The government is taking steps to improve Egyptians’ standard of living, Finance Minister El-Morsi El-Sayyed Hegazi told reporters in Cairo today, including raising the income-tax exemption to 12,000 pounds ($1,781) from 9,000 pounds. Still, he said, the current strikes and port closures are hurting efforts to revive the economy: “If it affects the economy, it also affects those workers who want to work.”
Labor unrest is just one element of the country’s broader disorder. From the capital to Suez Canal ports, Egypt in recent weeks has come close to unraveling. Protests are a routine occurrence in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square where a burned-out police van symbolizes authority defied. Lawlessness even touched Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez, when five armed gunmen on Feb. 13 stole his official car en route to collect him for work, killing one of his bodyguards. Work Stoppage At the Sukhna port, also idled for two weeks during a November labor dispute, the recent work stoppage blocked imports of raw materials for plastics, petrochemical and textile factories and exports of phosphates, marble and citrus fruits, said Ayman Badawy, commercial manager for Dubai-based DP World.
The strike also deprived the cash-strapped government of more than $2 million a day in customs duties. “We’re trying to encourage investors to come to Egypt,” Badawy said. “By all of these things happening, no one will come here and invest.” The benchmark EGX30 stock index is less than half its 2008 peak and the premium investors demand to hold Egyptian debt over similar-maturity U.S. securities has more than doubled since the January 2011 start of the uprising.
President Mohamed Mursi, elected in June, and his Muslim Brotherhood allies have been no more hospitable to union organizing than was Mubarak. The linchpin of the government’s economic plan is a proposed $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan that would require tax increases and social benefit cuts the unions oppose. On November 25, three days after declaring his actions beyond judicial review, Mursi moved to seize control of the state-sanctioned Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the only legal outlet for worker representation.
A presidential decree forced more than half of ETUF’s executive board into retirement and replaced them with Brotherhood members. Labor activists describe the move as part of a broader campaign to “Brotherhood-ize” all Egyptian institutions. By taking over the wealthy state union, Mursi can attract workers to its docile ranks with benefits such as subsidized vacations, said Ahmed Borai, the former manpower minister.
He resigned in late 2011 after a transitional military-led government refused to grant legal status to independent labor federations. Egypt’s state union, which has automatically drawn dues from millions of workers’ paychecks since 1957, enjoys an enormous financial edge over independent unions, which usually can’t get employers to recognize them and deduct dues. “The Brotherhood still thinks in the same way Mubarak did and the same way Mubarak’s predecessors did,” said Kamal Abbas, head of the non-governmental Center for Trade Union and Worker Services in Helwan. “Their approach is to dominate the unions.”
Abbas, who was jailed for three months after leading a 1989 strike at a steel factory in the Cairo suburb of Helwan, said he suffered kidney damage during a beating by security forces during a 2005 protest. Though workers can more easily protest today, the government is steadily clamping down, he said. The new constitution describes strikes as “aggression against the right to work” and treats them as criminal acts.
In September, a court in Alexandria sentenced five union leaders to three years in prison for leading a strike at the Alexandria Port Containers Co., the harshest term for union activists since Anwar Sadat’s 1970-81 government, according to Joel Beinin, professor of Middle East history at Stanford University near Palo Alto, California.
In the past six months, 650 workers were dismissed from their jobs for union activities — almost 12 times the number cashiered for similar reasons during the final five years of Mubarak’s tenure, said union activist Abdeen. “Independent unions and their members have no legal protections,” he said. While capable of disrupting the economy, already limping along at its slowest growth rate in 20 years, a divided labor movement can’t pose an existential threat to the Islamist government.
EFITU, formed in Tahrir Square five days after the Jan. 25, 2011 anti-Mubarak uprising began, and the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress vie for leadership of the independent union movement. “The labor movement is missing, first, the solidarity; second, the strategic planning; and third, their natural leaders are overwhelmed by the political atmosphere,” said Marian Fadel, Egypt program officer for the Solidarity Center, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO U.S. labor federation. “They’re not focused enough on how to build this movement on the ground.” For workers, who profited little under Mubarak, the last two years have brought scant improvement in living standards. The revolution’s disappointed expectations were on display on a recent afternoon in Tahrir Square.
Hamed Mahmoud, 57, worked as a bartender at the Sheraton Hotel in Heliopolis until the dwindling tourist trade cost him his job. Now, he sometimes works in a local candy shop, earning 35 Egyptian pounds, or a bit more than $5, for a 12-hour shift. He says his employer denies him breaks and confiscates his tips. “No matter how many tips I made, I only get paid 35 pounds,” he said, visibly tearing in frustration.
With unemployment at 13 percent — compared with less than 9 percent before the revolution — and inflation rising, Egyptians are growing poorer. In September, 86 percent of households surveyed reported insufficient funds for food, shelter, and clothing, up from 74 percent in June, according to the Egyptian Food Observatory, a joint project of the government and the World Food Program. Another man in the square, Ahmed Samy, 53, said he struggles to feed his family of five on a monthly civil servant’s pension of 370 pounds. “I’ll do any job. I’ll run errands. But there’s no real work,” he said.
Since Mursi’s Nov. 22 constitutional decree, the Egyptian pound has surrendered about 10 percent of its value against the dollar. The decline, which makes imported goods more expensive, helped push up prices an annualized 6.3 percent in January. Traders expect the pound to lose an additional 16 percent of its value over the next year, according to non-deliverable forward prices.
So price increases are likely to escalate to an annual rate of 8.3 percent, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Coupled with a sinking Egyptian currency, the IMF-decreed policy changes will only make life more expensive — and the clash between government and labor more dangerous. “The Muslim Brotherhood’s policies will impoverish the Egyptian people even more,” said EFITU’s Abdeen, adding: “Egyptian workers won’t go back. They won’t retreat.”
50 injured in housing clashes in Algeria
More than 50 people were injured on Wednesday in the Algerian city of Bordj Bou Arreridj in violent clashes caused by differences over the distribution of subsidized housing. Mass protests in the north began on Tuesday, when the government announced a list of 935 persons who are entitled to subsidized municipal flats. Unhappy with the list demonstrators gathered outside the prefecture building with placards reading: “We demand our right to housing!” and “Down with corruption and nepotism.” Riot police dispersed the demonstrators with tear gas.
Liberia: 18 Student Rioters Suspended
The Administration of the Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County, has suspended 18 students in connection with the January 27th violent student riot on the campus. During the students’ riot, several vehicles assigned to senior staffers were damaged along with homes of instructional staff members. The riot was said to have been prompted following a pronouncement by the CU administration to shut down electricity at 10:00 p.m. each day.
The decision by Cuttington University apparently did not go down well with the students for which they engaged in a violent protest. The suspension of the students followed an intensive two weeks investigation by CU. At the end of the probe, 18 students were held liable for being the master-mind of the protest.
Mozambique: Police Disperse Demonstration by Demobilised Troops
Maputo — The Mozambican riot police (FIR) on Tuesday morning used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse a demonstration by a group of demobilised soldiers in central Maputo. This was the first time water cannon have been used on the streets of any Mozambican city. In September 2010, when rioting broke out in Maputo over price rises, the police were severely criticized for not using non-lethal methods such as water cannon, and resorting to live ammunition instead.
But there was no riot on Tuesday. Instead the police struck to prevent members of the Forum of Demobilised Soldiers, led by Herminio dos Santos, from gathering at the Antonio Repinga athletics circuit, near the office of Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina. The Forum has held sporadic demonstrations here, the last one on 12 February, demanding an increase in pensions paid to demobilised troops. The current demand is for a pension of 20,000 meticais (about 664 US dollars) a month. This sum is more than three times higher than the largest of the current statutory minimum wages.
The monthly minimum wages in force since April last year range from 2,300 meticais for agricultural workers to 6,171 meticais for workers in financial services. It is not clear how many people, the Forum gathered on Tuesday. Judging from the TV footage of the clashes it was considerably fewer than the several hundred who demonstrated ion 12 February. According to a report in the independent newsheet “Mediafax”, former agents of the state intelligence service, SISE, who are also demanding higher pensions, joined the demonstration.
Nigeria: Ex-Militants Stage Violent Protest in Bayelsa
The militants said they were opposed to a new proposal by the Nigerian government. Hundreds of former militants staged a violent protest in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, on Wednesday, smashing cars ad harassing passersby, to complain against new terms they have been offered under the federal government-run amnesty program. News site, Sahara Reporters, reports that the ex-fighters, who enjoy monthly government allowances, smashed car windscreens, and looted shops, injuring at least one person.
Trouble reportedly started after a government authorized verification exercise announced that ex-militants would be entitled to one amnesty training slot for every 15 guns handed over by a militant camp. The ex-militants insist that every member who surrendered a weapon be given a slot on the programme. The demonstration was quelled after hours by operatives of the Joint Taskforce, JTF, anti-riot policemen, officials of the State Security Service and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defense Corps, the website reports.
A spokesman for the Presidential Amnesty Office, Daniel Alabrah, was quoted as condemning the violence, saying it was uncalled for since the Inter-Security Agency carrying out the verification would only recommend number of slots to the Amnesty Office. One ex-militant, Tonye Bobo, quoted by the website rejected the proposal to offer one training slot per 15 guns turned in. “The federal government should abide by the agreement reached between [the] late President Umaru Yar’Adua and the ex-militant leaders. The proposed 15 guns to one slot won’t be acceptable to us,” Mr. Bobo was quoted as saying. The amnesty programme launched by Mr. Yar’Adua, successfully ended years of unrest in the oil rich region, raising oil production levels that had once plummeted badly.